Thursday, November 27, 2008

Handmade Holidays

Y'know, there's always a big push this time of year to give handmade gifts for the holidays. Well, in my (perhaps somewhat biased, interest-wise) circle there is, anyway. I always try to do so for all the usual reasons. I make a lot of things myself, and I also try to buy handmade whenever possible.

So this morning, as I'm knitting away - more slowly than usual due to a particularly nasty and painful (and well-earned) callous on my left pointer finger - I sit down to watch last nights episode of my very favorite currently doomed TV show, 'Pushing Daisies'. Perhaps another day I'll lament why every time I fall unconditionally and irrevocably in love (why yes, I saw 'Twilight' with all its promises of unending love last weekend. Why do you ask?) with a TV show it meets an untimely death. But none of that is relevant to this story. What IS relevant, is that one of the characters on 'Pushing Daisies' is a knitter (How much do I love that, you ask? Only a lot, is all.) and, well, long story short (too late for that, perhaps...) a comment is made about (I'm paraphrasing) 90 year old grandmothers making gifts nobody wants.

Now this came on the heels of reading Kal Barteski's [i] Love Life blog this week, where she mentioned wanting to hand paint nesting dolls to resemble their family and give them to her very young daughter with the hope that she'd treasure them into adulthood, but the realization that she'd probably just try to flush them down the toilet.

These two reminders, in such close succession, made me almost want to put down my needles and head to the store. Because, while, to my knowledge no one has ever tried to flush one of my handmade gifts down the toilet, I have seen them show up at garage sales and in Goodwill bins. Ouch. I have come to the realization over the years, that there are people who appreciate items that are handcrafted and people who don't. Often it's a gamble. So I carefully choose my yarns and patterns, trying to find something that I think will not only suit, but please the recipient. I put more hours than folks could possibly imagine into it. I think about the recipient during all those hours of work, so, cliche as it is, there really is love knit in.

When I give that gift, it really is like giving a little bit of myself.

So when those gifts are rejected, I do tend to (rightly or wrongly) take that rejection very personally.

Sometimes I just want to quit. It's so much time, and I don't really save any money. You can almost always buy a decent sweater (scarf, hat, pair of mittens, etc.) for less than the yarn to make it would cost.

But every now and then, I get the reaction I'm seeking, and it's like crack. I know I'll never quit.

Last year I knit a cap for a casual acquaintance. He wore that cap all the time. It made me want to go home and knit him 10 more. I crocheted an afghan for an old high school friend when she got married over 20 years ago. When I ran into her at our 20th high school reunion, she said she still has that afghan over a chair in her family room. Awesome.

So, yeah.

I'm making a lot of gifts this year. Some will inevitably find themselves on the handmade equivalent of the Island of Misfit toys. Most of them, probably (to be realistic). But if even one gets to be a skin horse (come on, admit it, you've read 'The Velveteen Rabbit'. You know what I'm talking about), then it will all be worth it and I'll do it all over again next year.

Bottom line: The bad reputation handmade gifts get through popular culture is ridiculous. Not every handmade sweater is twice as long as it should be with three sleeves. Not every color combination a handcrafter chooses is garish and/or random. And the gamble is worth it for just one of those few and far between wins. Give handmade.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I'm Thankful for Cliches

I know, I know - a post about thankfulness at the end of November? - does it GET any more cliche?

But here's the thing: cliches become that way for a reason. So is thinking about the things for which I am thankful around Thanksgiving week ground-breaking stuff? No, of course not. But is it relevant? Does it make sense? I think the answer here becomes a resounding yes.

Even the things I'm thankful for are cliche - I'm thankful for my wonderful husband, my beautiful healthy children, my home, my deep friendships (and my shallow ones, too!), and at this point, I know, you're hearing blah, blah blah. This stuff has been said a million times before, by people both more and less eloquent than I.

But there's a reason these things are cited so often by so many people. Ask anyone who's lived without a couple of them.

The love of a significant other, our health, our relationships; all of these things are easy to take for granted. It's a good thing to really think about how important these things are, how much they mean to us, how truly, truly thankful we are for them. If it takes a holiday in November to make us slow down and do it, so be it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We've Got the Biggest...

Balls of them all.

Because we took our 12 year old to see AC/DC.

Honestly, and I've been thinking about it, I don't recall ever having more fun at a concert. I don't know if it was just that awesome (I suspect it was) or if it's because it was such an amazing bonding experience for us to have with our daughter.

Some highlights:

They started out with a little cartoon video that was really quite good. Then it became kind of overtly sexual (I know! They're usually such masters of subtlety! There was no way I could have anticipated!) and I got a little uncomfortable. Lea was uncomfortable too (between her parents? really?), so that made me feel a little better.

They came out ON and stayed on all night. I mean they put on a SHOW! Watching the stage, I completely forgot how old these guys are (watching the screen, I was pretty much forced to remember). And by the way - does anyone know what Angus Young is on and where I could get some? I mean, the dude is 53 and he just didn't slow down once. It felt like watching someone 1/3 his age. No lie.

When he did his traditional strip tease, Lea turned to me and said, "he's so bony!" At one point she high-fived me. Maybe that was a little wrong... Later, when we could hear a little bit, I said, "I'm sorry your first strip tease was old and bony." Tom added, "It really has nothing to do with age. All guys look like that with their shirts off. It's really not worth pursuing." Tom is a good dad.

At one point early on, Lea did have to ask, "what smells weird?" I'm sure I don't have to tell any of you... Apparently Officer Batman (Our local D.A.R.E. instructor) neglected that particular lesson. Now she knows.

When a whacked out kid was acid-dancing and climbing on the railing, she really couldn't enjoy the concert until security took him out.

Mullet count stood at a mere 2. But they were quite spectacular! Quality over quantity! I expected more. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough.

The music was, as I believe I've already stated, nothing short of amazing. It just never slowed down. I think the memory of triple fist-pumping (Done!Dirt!Cheap!) in unison with my husband and daughter is one I'll cherish for a long time. Something I'll pull out and keep warm with next time Lea decides I'm too horrible for words.

I head banged. And I screamed. TOM danced, for Pete's sake. (Those of you who know him know that doesn't happen just every day.) He didn't head bang. But he should have, cause with his mane, it would've been glorious.

And here's a bit some of you may not understand (and some of you almost undoubtedly will): I did not, for one second, worry about the people behind me having to look at my fat ass. In the past, I have seriously worried about that. People paid good money for this show, I don't want to ruin it for them by making them look at my posterior. So I'd sit, or lean, or stand very very still. Not tonight. My fat ass paid as much for its ticket as any perky ass paid for its. It had just as much right to not only be there, but to dance. FTW.

I'm hoping Tom - or someone - posts a more musical review. I am ridiculously unqualified to do so, so I won't attempt. I can just tell you that I had more fun than ought to be legal. We had both balked at the ticket price, and we both agreed that we'd gotten every penny's worth and then some. During the guitar solo in 'Back in Black' I turned to Lea and said, "Your concert going experiences may never get better than this." She responded, "Yeah, we've just set the bar pretty high."


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Maybe it's About Forgiveness

I have not been proud of myself the last couple days.

You won't be proud of me, either.

I haven't been very nice, and I'm sorry about that. I feel bad.

But I decided I need to forgive myself, like I would forgive anyone else I love if they screwed up.

Then I need to give myself a second (third, forty-three millionth) chance and try to do better. Try to learn from my mistakes.

Mistakes like these:

My sisters birthday was Saturday. Now, a little background info to give you some perspective: My sister has a lot of friends and goes out a lot. She has a very active social life. I do not. Her birthday fell on a rare day when I had plans. Lots of plans. Plus a surprise visit in between. So I didn't call her. I didn't think it was any big deal. Figured she wouldn't be home anyway. Figured I wasn't that important (I figure that a lot - maybe something else I need to work on). Figured it was no big deal and I'd catch up with her later in the week and we'd celebrate. I figured wrong. Turns out a lot of people who were important to her figured the same thing. She was so disappointed and sad and I felt horrible for having contributed to it. I didn't think my acknowledgment would've meant anything, but it would've.

Lesson learned from this one: I need to stop bringing my own self esteem issues into everything and pay attention to others feelings and needs. Even if I think my input won't matter. It just might.

My next faux pas was even worse.

Lea has been talking all school year about how they have assigned seating at lunch and she has to sit with "the nerds". Her father and I have talked to her from the beginning about not labeling these boys - about being nice to them - about being compassionate and treating these boys like individuals - about giving them a chance. Sometimes we guilt her into a mumbled "I know" and sometimes she screams back at us, "but they're NERDS!". Yesterday after school she and her friend were talking about these boys again and, again, I interrupted them and told them they weren't being nice or thoughtful. Then her friend said, "But Tammy! He locks his pencil bag!" It was so unexpected that I laughed. I knew it was wrong to laugh, which for some stupid reason made me laugh harder. It turned into that uncontrollable silly laughter usually associated with staying up way past your bedtime. Mid-giggle I started consciously trying to stop, but I just couldn't. I was hysterical. This, of course, reinforced for Lea and her friend everything they'd been feeling all along. That these boys were different, and, worse yet, that they were deserving of ridicule. When I finally calmed myself down (and was overwhelmed with guilt and shame) I talked to both of them about how inappropriate my reaction was and how it really was important for them to be nice to these boys. They both very solemnly agreed. I think they were mocking me.

Lesson learned (hopefully!) from this one: I need to stay on guard. If need to control those reactions and not let my kids see me behaving in such a hypocritical manner. I just - need to be better. I need to practice what I preach.

We all let people down from time to time (including ourselves).

That's the third lesson, I guess. That we screw up. We're human and fallible. We hurt people, even when we don't mean to. All we can do is try to make it better, try to minimize (if not eliminate) future incidents, and, when we make mistakes, learn to forgive ourselves and keep on trying.

I feel a little better.

But not a lot.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dear Mr. Michaels

Lorne, that is.

Anyone who has had any sort of in depth conversation with me has probably heard me quote something from SNL. I'm pretty sure I've inserted SOMEthing into every conversation I've ever had. With anyone. Ever. If that's an exxageration, well excuuuuuse me!

I've been proudly on board since day one and I've stuck it out through the downswings and reveled in the upswings. And I may be in a minority when I say, even the universally agreed upon low points had some redeeming qualities.

Last Saturday, Justin Timberlake did a surprise cameo. This was not a low point. Not at all.

Now here's the thing: I don't love Justin Timberlake. So anyone who is currently singing (out loud or just in your head) "Tammy and Justin, sitting in a tree..." can just stop it right now. 'Cause it's not funny. It's like - Horatio Sanz levels of unfunny. I don't like his music and I've never really seen his serious acting. But when he's on SNL? Oh my goodness. This week he had me laughing so hard I couldn't see straight. I had to re-watch his Weekend Update sketch because I was laughing so hard the first time I missed good stuff. He is just gold on this show. Gold I say! A match made in heaven.

So. If I were the queen of SNL - here's how I'd distribute hosting duties for a 4 week month:

Week 1: Justin Timberlake
Week 2: Alec Baldwin
Week 3: a former cast member
Week 4: some flavor of the month hawking their latest project

I'd ditch athletes altogether. Maybe I'd allow them to do cameos sometimes. I don't know. I'd have to think about that on a case by case basis. Peyton Manning was pretty funny... Politicians doing relevant cameos will always be welcome.

I think it would work! And I'd love to see former cast members. There sure are enough of them, enjoying various degrees of success.

Well, I'm not the queen of SNL, of course, so I don't reckon we'll be seeing my plan go into action any time soon. And it's just possible that Mr. Timberlake and Mr. Baldwin wouldn't be as enthusiastic about performing monthly hosting duties as I would be about sitting on my couch watching them perform them.

So I'll content myself with whatever the real king of SNL sees fit to offer me. And I'll continue to get warm and fuzzy every time I see the Mr. Bill Mastercard commercial.

Also: I mourned Gilda longer and harder than I mourned a few people I actually knew. Maybe I should've saved that for Post Secret...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Day the Music Most Assuredly Did Not Die

So today was the beginning of a week chock full of live music. 7 days, 6 concerts, 3 genres. This is usually summer stuff, so it's pretty swell to be enjoying this much good music in the midst of the nasty cold, wet, dreary weather.

First up: PBJ&Jazz. Let me take a moment to get you up to speed. Tom, he loves him some jazz. Like any of us who become passionate about something, he wants to turn everyone else on to it. I've always had a soft spot for jazz, so it was easy with me. It's been a harder road with the girls. Liv has remained pretty indifferent. But Liv doesn't like concerts. She wants to play, not watch others play. (I'm reminded of a fisherman I once knew who likened watching fishing shows to watching porn: he liked DOING both of the activities represented, but got NOTHING out of watching other people do them). Lea, on the other hand, has made no bones about the fact that she does NOT like jazz. Not a bit of it. No redeeming qualities, in her book.

So these are the girls and the attitudes we're dealing with.

Tom hears about this PBJ&Jazz program. His bass instructor is playing and he figures, what a great kid-friendly environment in which to introduce the girls to real jazz. We were promised sandwiches, cookies, juice, and an afternoon of kid-friendly jazz. Tom gets both girls to agree to attend (he must've caught them at a weak moment). When they tried to change their minds, I talked to them together and individually, explaining how important it was to their dad and convincing them to give it a chance. An hour or two out of their lives.

As we were pulling into the parking lot, I began to feel uneasy. There were a LOT of toddlers and pre-schoolers heading into the building, but I didn't see ANY older kids. Certainly no other pre-teens. Oh boy. What have we done?

When we got to the door, Tom asked the woman taking the cover charge if this was going to be an appropriate concert for older kids. She assured us that the music would not be watered down and that they would love it. She was unaware of their initial reservations and of how hard Tom and I had had to work to talk them into going in the first place.

To be fair, everything we were promised was delivered. There were sandwiches, cookies, juice, and jazz that had not been watered down. So we can't actually claim to have been mislead.

But it was SO geared towards little little ones.

About half way through the second song, Lea remarked to me, "I notice a lot of the adults have coffee..." Me: "Would you like coffee?" Lea: "Can I HAVE some?" Me: "Yep" We head over to the snack table and I pour about 1/4 cup coffee and add about an equal amount of cream and a couple packs of sugar. (I know, right?) She's pleased to have some "adult cred" and I figure no harm has been done. She comments several times on how good the coffee is here. But less than 5 minutes pass before her sister accidentally knocks the coffee out of her hands and onto the floor. And me. And her sister. And her sisters favorite jacket. Liv cries silently while Tom and Lea clean up the mess. (Thank goodness I'd had the foresight to only pour 1/2 cup total...)

Shortly after this Liv is still sobbing and I'm somehow holding 2 coats while both girls lean on me and Tom, bless his heart, says, "maybe we oughtta cut out early".

The upside of the whole thing was, though, that both girls "kinda liked" the music and Lea admitted that there might be something to it, even if it wasn't My Chemical Romance.

Win or fail? Hard to say. (Especially since I'm way too old to be using either of those terms in their current incarnation. They must be 5 minutes ago. Wait. That probably is, too. Shit.) I think we'll call that one a draw.

Next up? The grand opening of the Rock Factory. If you've seen School of Rock, you know a little bit about how the Rock Factory works. Kids not only take lessons individually, but are also taught the finer points of being in a band. They learn to play together and really put on a show. They also learn a little bit about writing and performing their own songs. It's a neat program. The program has existed for a couple years, but today was the grand opening of their own digs. They're also featuring artwork throughout the facility done by local high school students. So it's being billed as an art gallery, rehearsal hall, and performance venue. Pretty heady stuff for such young kids!

Our friends daughter has been involved with this project for quite some time and today she debuted a song she wrote. She is a talented guitarist and bassist, but has lately turned her attention to vocals, and I gotta tell you - she rips 'em up. Her voice has sounded great since day one, but her stage presence is really coming into its own. And she's starting to master the rock screams, which I've gotta admit, I don't hate. And the song she wrote? Only awesome.

Lea and Liv love going to these shows - and why not? It's kids they can relate to getting to be on stage as rock stars. Liv was particularly impressed tonight and talked about it ad infinitum in the car afterwards and at dinner. She especially liked the drummer, who she enthusiastically described as, "both loud AND fast!" If there are two things she likes in a drummer, it's volume and speed.

This one was made of win. No question.

With barely a break in between, Tom and I dropped the girls off at home and headed to BoMA to hear the Gene Bertoncini Trio, consisting of Gene Bertoncini, Doug Richeson and Dane Richeson. This was a really neat venue. BoMA is an old church which has been re-purposed into an upscale restaurant, various bars, and at least one dance floor. We've seen this trio many times before and have always been impressed. Doug is Tom's bass instructor and we really enjoy listening to him every chance we get. Dane is his brother and he is a rather amazing percussionist. We've seen Gene play a few times before and we always enjoy his mad guitar skillz as well as his utterly enchanting stage presence. Genes style is a little more romantic than I'm used to hearing. What I'm used to hearing is whatever Tom plays, and his tastes tend to run a little more towards hard be-bop. I've probably misused a couple terms. On accounta the fact that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I don't know music, but I know what I like.

And this was another one for the win column.

Draw, win, win and the opportunity to hear 3 bands in one day. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One For The History Books

This isn't the first time I've lived through a moment of historical significance.

I was a baby when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As I was a baby, I don't have any true recollection of this, but my mother has recounted the story enough times for me to know I was at the pediatricians office wearing a yellow dress.

I clearly remember the day the Vietnam War ended. My mother hugged my sister and I and told us it was the first day in our lives that our nation was at peace and that we should be grateful. We didn't quite grasp the fullness of that statement at the time, but we were grateful. Obviously it had some impact, since the moment is such a salient memory for me so many years later.

I remember watching the first moon landing on TV. I was at my Aunt Jennie's house. I remember going outside to look at the moon to see if I couldn't see that flag I'd just watched the astronauts plant on it. (I couldn't, and was very disappointed.)

I remember the day of the 1977 Johnstown Flood. Although more localized history, it still had that feeling. I knew I was living through something important.

And who of us can forget where we were or what we were doing when that first plane hit the Twin Towers on 9/11?

And here we are - collectively living through a moment that will be highlighted in the history books of our children's children. It is almost surreal. President Elect Barack Obama. I am so hopeful - so pleased.

A couple years ago I was visiting a friend in Pennsylvania. When our bartender found out I was from Ohio, she said to me, "Ohio? Thanks for ruining my LIFE in the last election." I assured her that I had stood in the rain in the dark at 6 am with my kids in tow (to see democracy in action) just to try NOT to ruin her life, but that it hadn't gone very well. I want to find my way back to that bar today so I can proudly proclaim, "I'm from OHIO!" Maybe she'd buy me a shot.

I am so very excited to watch this play out over the next several years.

So take a moment and raise that virtual shot glass with me: To change!