Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Year of the Owl?

A few years back - 21, to be exact - my aunt Miriam passed away. She was a widow who had never had children. After the funeral, any of her belongings of value were distributed more or less fairly among her remaining siblings - there were 9 of them altogether. After that, a table was set up full of little tshotshkes and mementos for us nieces and nephews to sort through. We were each encouraged to take something by which to remember our aunt. I took a lovely pink depression glass bowl and her sewing kit, thanks for asking.

After we were all through, several items remained on the table. Most of them were tacky and cheap (and by using the term 'most' I'm being generous and respectful of the dead and stuff...) Even among the tacky and cheap, though, there was one item that stood out. A bright pink ceramic owl.

One of my cousins had a young daughter at the time, and she decided that this owl was the most beautiful thing she'd ever laid her little eyes on. She was two or three years old at the time. There's a reason you don't see many toddlers being consulted on interior design. Anyway, she thought it was beautiful and really wanted to have it. Her father told her no and gave her some silly reason which I do not remember. My sister overheard the exchange and asked the toddler, "Do you like this, sweetie?" "I love it" she replied with hearts and stars in her eyes. "Then it should be yours" my sister said, carefully wrapping it up for her and handing it to her like a prize. Then my sister caught my cousins eye and said (to the toddler, she said) "Something so beautiful should be displayed in your living room where everyone can see it, not tucked away in your bedroom." The toddler solemnly nodded her agreement and my cousin glared at my sister.

Later that year, when our extended family gathered together to exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, my sister recieved a beautifully wrapped package from my cousin. I don't imagine I need to tell you what was inside. He instructed her to display it prominently. The next Christmas she presented the owl to someone else and so it has gone for the last 21 years.

This year, Tom received the owl. The rules are that the owl must be displayed prominently in your home for the entire year, at which point you must pass it on.

Several cousins have done little photo albums documenting their year with the owl. One wrote a poem - an ode, if you will - a few years ago. Us? We started a blog for it.

Upon arriving back home, we chose a prominent spot in which to display the owl then started planning posts and photo-ops.

I sat down at my computer to set up the new blog and glanced at my page-a-day calendar. I always have a yarn/knitting related calendar because I am just that super-cool. My pattern for the day? 'Birds of a Feather' - a PINK OWL done in novelty yarn intarsia on a black bag. I think I know how the owl will be presented to it's future caretakers next Christmas...

But wait, there's more!

Sitting in my inbox is a notification that I have a new follower on Twitter - a chick who posts (with alarming frequency - I tried to follow her back, as is, I'm told, polite, but it was overwhelming) as an OWL. Sometimes. And sometimes as a chick. Whatever her issues are are not what I'm here to discuss. Though I bet they're interesting.

So - all of these owls and owl references fell into our laps in a pretty condensed period of time. I spent hours researching the symbolism associated with owls (ok - busted - I did a quick google search and this is the first thing I found) and learned this:

Throughout many cultures, the symbolic meaning of owl deals with:

  • intelligence
  • brilliance
  • perspective
  • intuition
  • quick-wit
  • independence
  • wisdom
  • protection
  • mystery
  • power
Not bad, eh? So if all this owl business is indeed prophetic rather than simply coincidental, I think I'll take it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

His Heart Grew Three Sizes That Day

I had the nicest conversation with a friend last night.

He is a stubborn man who had, several months back, gotten himself embroiled in a feud with an equally stubborn man. I like both of them, but definitely thought my friend was in the right. Not that it matters what I (or anyone else) thought, because this feud was ON. I mentioned they were both stubborn, right?

Last night my friend told me he ended it.

He walked right up to the other guy and said I want this to be over. I don't want to start the new year angry at you and I sure don't want to start it with you angry at me. The other guy hugged him, thanked him, and accepted the olive branch that had been offered. Accepted it graciously and enthusiastically.

When I asked my (I mentioned he was stubborn, right?) friend what had prompted him to do this, he said something along the lines of having been moved by the holiday spirit. He said this had been such a wonderful holiday and he didn't want it to be marred by a feud.

I was so proud of him. What he did was hard.

This of course led me to ask him about his holiday - what made it so wonderful, that it prompted such a massive change of heart?

His answer, as it is with most things magical and wonderful, was that he couldn't quite explain it. Due to the failing economy, there were less presents under the tree, and the ones that were there weren't as extravagant as they'd been in years past. So it sure wasn't that. He didn't know - it was just - something.

When he left, I thought about that. Since returning from Christmas at my parents', many people have asked if I had a nice holiday (I did, thank you very much for asking) but not one single person has asked, "what did you get?" or "was Santa good to you?" or any variation on that. I haven't asked, either. Hmmmmmm. I think I have always asked/been asked that in Christmases past. What's going on? Could the failing economy actually have us finding pleasure in simpler things? That was one cloud I was pretty sure didn't have a silver lining, but maybe it indeed does.

We have been spending the week between Christmas and New Years sleeping in, napping, eating comfort food, and generally indulging our lazy decadent selves. And it is kind of wonderful.

So - how were your holidays?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Picture This

So my sister says to me (she says): "We've got to wear boob shirts."

We were getting ready to go to the holiday party hosted by the pizza shop where we regularly schlep the pizzas to earn the big bucks. Wendy had missed last years party and I told her it had been a boob-a-palooza - the battle of the boobs - I could go on... she knew exactly what I meant, but in case you don't, the young girls who work there, they like them some low cut clothes. They like those scary low cut clothes that put one in constant danger of slippage. They liked those for work - it was astounding what they liked for a party. She could imagine. And she thought we should get in on it.

So I put on a boob shirt. I was a little uncomfortable and was asking all of my family members - in a manner which was probably quite annoying - is this ok? Are you sure this is ok? This is too much, isn't it? I'm gonna change. No? I'm at least gonna put a camisole under it. No? Ya think? Really? Eventually I added a long thick lariat necklace and that made me feel a little less - vulnerable. (anyone who read that last phrase as Tim Curry's Frankfurter gets bonus points, because that is certainly the tone in which it was written) It's COLD outside so I added a long scarf/shawl to the ensemble and thank goodness I did! When I picked my sister up, she looked lovely. She did not, however, look boobalicious. She was the one who, hours earlier, had asked if my daughter had any body glitter... I felt betrayed. Now I was going to stand out, and not in a flattering way.

Lucky for me it was cold in the restaurant, so I kept the scarf/shawl on and managed a little coverage. Still one or two folks commented. "Whoa! You're showing boob!" I might have felt better if they'd said it with a tone that was more admiration than observation, but such was not the case.

All of this was really just a set-up, though, to talk about pictures. (I know - Wuh!?! Stick with me, all shall be revealed. Wait - following a story about boobage, perhaps that was misleading. Let's just say - read on, it will all hopefully come together...)

Although I felt vulnerable and a little out of my league, I also felt like the outfit was flattering. I walked out the door feeling like I looked good. Pictures were taken and, as is almost ALWAYS the case when I see myself in pictures, I was appalled. Surely I don't look like that! Who is that yooge old woman wearing my clothing? And why are her features so crooked? Surely that can't be what I look like... then someone will say: Wow! That's a great picture of you! And I want to weep. That? Right there? That is a GOOD depiction of my appearance? Really? Because that's not even close to what I see in the mirror and it's even farther from what I see with my minds eye. Hate the pictures. But I know between pictures, mirrors and minds eye, they are the least likely to lie.

So for a long time I stayed out of them. Avoided them at all costs. Developed a sixth sense which was keenly aware of any camera in my immediate vicinity and an uncanny ability to step out of its scope. If I didn't see it, I wouldn't know. And maybe if I didn't know, it wouldn't be true. Don't even bother trying to point out the inherent flaws in that argument. One doesn't have to be rational when arguing with oneself.

Tom hates being in pictures, too, but his reasoning is different. Tom is really not very photogenic. If you've ever seen the episode of 'Friends' where Monica and Chandler go to have their engagement portraits taken - that's Tom. He's a very handsome dude, but when the cameras come out his smile freezes in a way that is not his smile and his eyes do that deer-in-the-headlights thing. It gives me - hopefully gives both of us - comfort when he hates a picture of himself and I can say with honesty - that's not a good picture, you are way better looking than that.

So we've both sort of resolved to allow more pictures of ourselves to be taken. His motivation, I assume, is to become more comfortable with the camera so that he becomes less conscious of it and will eventually look more natural in photos. My motivation is to be able to view myself more honestly. That is painful right now. Hopefully it will get easier with time.

So for now - no pictures of the boob shirt. Delete, delete, delete. But in a couple months? If I do indeed succeed in recognizing and coming to terms with my new old self? Who knows.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Went to Sleep With Gum in my Mouth and Now There's Gum in My Hair, and I Could Tell: It Was Going to be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

So Lea says to me (she says), "Mom, I think there's gum in my hair."

Her panic begins to escalate as she realizes that this is indeed true.

"How did you get gum in your hair?"

"I don't know. There was no gum in my room. I didn't have any gum. There was no gum anywhere. But I went to bed with clean hair and I woke up with gum in my hair."

"You realize that's impossible and doesn't make any sense... "

"It just got there and now I need you to GET IT OUT!!!!!"

She approaches me with scissors in hand.

The last time I touched her hair with scissors resulted in the micro-bang incident. We shan't speak of it...

So we went to the hairdressers and this is what she came home with:

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons...

Not our first haircut related incident that's had a happy ending. (I told you not to mention the micro-bangs...)

When Olivia was getting ready to start pre-school she had long beautiful hair. She very much enjoyed tossing it around. She also wore dresses every. day. Anyone who knows Liv now knows - well - she still has pretty hair...

Several days short of that first day of preschool, Lea and Liv were playing beauty parlor and with one snip of the safety scissors, Liv had a nice chunk of hair cut to cheek length. I took her to the salon, all three of us may or may not have been crying, and said, "fix it". She left with an adorable bob that made her hair look even thicker. It was beautiful. And she hated it.

She was still at an age when a great deal of her gender identification dealt with hair and dress and she was pretty much convinced that now that her hair was short she would have to be a boy. And she liked being a girl and didn't want to be a boy and now no girls would want to play with her anymore because girls don't like to play with boys.

She cried intermittently until that first day of school.

When she came home that first afternoon, she was beaming. (Insert spiritual leader of your choice here) was smiling on me, because Liv's teacher that year was a very attractive young lady with a super-short pixie cut. Without saying a word, she restored my daughters sense of femininity and the short hair was never mentioned again, not even once.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

And So It Begins

Sometime in late December, 1961 or early January, 1962 two people I don’t know anything about hooked up somewhere in western Pennsylvania and made a baby. In September of 1962 that baby was born and she was me and that’s the end of the part these two people play in this story. I have, throughout the years, come up with many dramatic, romantic and tragic stories about how all of this came to be, but the truth is probably a much simpler matter: Roe v. Wade was still in the future and this woman had enough sense not to pursue a back alley abortion.

The next three months were spent with more people I don’t know anything about. Foster parents who saw to it that my basic needs were met.

Meanwhile, in another part of western Pennsylvania, the woman who would become my mother was making some difficult choices. She was only in her mid twenties and she had already suffered through more miscarriages than any woman should have to endure in a lifetime. Her doctor had warned her that another attempt at pregnancy would be more likely to result in her death than in a baby’s birth. Her heart and her body were at odds. She knew in her heart that she was destined to be a mother, but her body had had its final say. She would not be making a baby. She mourned the babies she would never carry, and then let her heart win. She and the man who would become my father made the decision to pursue adoption.

Just a few days before Christmas, the call came. The adoption agency had a little girl for them. Were they interested? Indeed they were. When they met me, before any papers were signed, the man who would be my father did a little inventory. Fingers and toes? Check. He was an informed consumer. He was not going to accept delivery of damaged goods. Apparently I passed the inspection, because they signed the paperwork and got the gears in motion.

Most parents get nine months to anticipate the arrival of a baby, but my parents only had a couple days. And they were a couple days right in the midst of the general Christmas hustle and bustle. In just a couple days they had to acquire all the things a baby would need - a crib, diapers, bottles, clothes, blankets – no baby showers thrown by friends or sisters or aunts or cousins – no time for it. (Fortunately, in 1962, babies needed far fewer items than they do now, so this task was less oppressive than the one which you might be imagining.)

They got everything together in time to accept delivery of their infant on December 18, 1962. One week before Christmas. I went home for the first time at the age of three and a half months. I knew love for the first time at the age of three and a half months.

Apparently when they met me for the first time – inspection day – I had been dressed and groomed very nicely. When they picked me up to take me home, I was wearing a dirty undershirt with a medal of a saint pinned to it. False advertising! They were not delivered the same degree of cuteness that they’d been promised. Lucky for me, grooming and clothing are issues easily rectified, or I might have been returned before my warranty expired.

As it was Christmas, of course they viewed me as the best gift ever. I was placed under the Christmas tree to illustrate that fact in a more tangible manner. Unfortunately, I was allergic to the tree (a pesky allergy that persists to this day). The symptoms that developed as a result of this threw my new mother into a panic. The final papers weren’t yet signed and she was pretty sure they were going to take me away, since the first thing she did upon bringing me home was to allow me to get sick. It doesn’t work that way, of course, but try telling that to a woman who’s been through what my mother had been through to find herself in the position of parent. She was rather understandably distraught.

My sniffles cleared up, the adoption was finalized, and we were a little family of three.

Each year I celebrate the anniversary of that adoption - a day which doesn't mean anything to anyone except me, my mom and my dad. It means the world to us.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Nutcracker - SWEET!

My family went to see The Nutcracker tonight. This was particularly exciting for us because our friends' daughter was dancing the part of young Clara. She did an excellent job, and we were proud to know her. Tom and I both commented on that pride during intermission and tried to imagine what it must have felt like to be her parents sitting in that audience on her opening night. I'm certain our wildest imaginings fell short.

I was a little concerned that our girls were perhaps a little old for The Nutcracker. You always picture little girls in fancy dresses going to the ballet as a part of their Christmas tradition. To be sure, there were a lot of them there. But I think perhaps our girls were the perfect age for this experience. Some of the younger kids acted bored - they had a hard time sitting still and remaining attentive for a 2 hour show. I felt particular sympathy for the parents who rushed crying young 'uns back the aisle and out of the theater, trying to be as minimally disruptive as possible. But my girls - they were enthralled. The magic began the moment we stepped into the Ohio Theater - a beautiful theater any time - all decorated for Christmas. It wasn't the first time we'd been there, but I'd be lying if I said we went often. I wish we did, but that's not the case. Anyway. Our seats were amazing. We were on the floor - far enough back to have a good view of the full stage, but close enough to actually see the expressions on the faces of the dancers. Awesome. It was so neat watching the girls straddle that line between childhood and the teens. They looked so grown up. Stunningly so, if I might be so bold. Lea gets dressed up sometimes, so she didn't shock me so much, but when Liv came downstairs in a dress, looking all grown-up girly - well, that was a little bittersweet. It swayed more strongly to the sweet side, though, when the show started. My little girl was captivated. Looking at the childlike wonder on her quickly maturing face was just - well, it was perfect. I leaned over and saw similar looks gracing Lea and Shelby's faces. Too good to be true.

We had also been concerned that they might be dancing to taped music, as there have been some (major) issues with the Columbus Symphony this year, but a live orchestra was indeed in the pit. Tom and the girls walked up and checked it out during intermission and were duly impressed.

As I watched some of those moms deal with children who were less than enthralled, I was reminded of the story of the first time my parents took my sister and I to the ballet. We were in Washington D.C., visiting my uncle and doing some sight-seeing. My dad wanted to see the Kennedy Center, so we stopped, just to see the lobby. A well-dressed gentleman approached my mother and asked if we were there to see the show. She explained, no, we were just there to see the facility on our way to the zoo. He asked if we'd LIKE to see the show, as he had tickets he would be unable to use. He told her she'd be doing him a favor by taking them. She reluctantly accepted and we, in our sight-seeing clothes, were led into the theater. We just kept going, and going - past many oppulently dressed and bejeweled folks - to incredible seats. Something like the 4th row. An amazing opportunity that fell right into our lap. Except that my sister and I were bored and we made sure our parents knew it (without causing a scene or being loud, of course). At intermission, we left. You see, my sister and I had been promised pandas. We were, as I mentioned, on our way to the zoo. All this dancing stuff was nice and all, but PANDAS, YA'LL!!! It is with no small amount of shame that I retell that story. We've both, I think, made it up to our parents (as well as we could - we've never managed to drop 4th row seats in the Kennedy Center in their lap again, but we've been otherwise gracious).

I'm so glad, as I mentioned earlier, that we waited until our kids were at an age where they could really appreciate the experience for what it is. The best part: All of them, Tom included, left the theater wanting to go to the ballet again.

What a nice Christmas present.

And on a more random closing note, why don't more men wear capes? Why don't more people wear capes? Capes are awesome. I think I want, perhaps need a cape. Maybe Lea's not the only drama queen in the family...

Friday, December 12, 2008


As an avid knitter and a less avid all-round crafter, I am a huge fan of embellishment.

Mistakes and flaws are going to exist in handmade work.

I was made aware, a few years ago, of an old Amish custom whereby the women would make elaborate quilts with very small pieces and would quite purposely place one patch with the wrong orientation. The reason for this was that “Only God can create perfection.” They referred to this as a humility block*.

I liked that concept, and adopted it immediately.

I know some knitters who will frog** rows and rows – sometimes entire pieces – because of one incorrect stitch. I am not one of those knitters. As long as the integrity of the piece will not be compromised, I leave the error. If it is small and difficult to notice, it becomes my version of the humility block. If I fear that it will be noticeable to the average observer? Then it gets fun. Let the wild rumpus begin! I will sometimes spend more time embellishing a piece than I actually spent making it. Embroidery, beading, I-cord trim, appliqué – all of these are methods by which errors both small and large can be camouflaged.

Sometimes when I really get on a roll with the embellishments I understand the appeal of those garish sweaters women of a certain age roll out around the holidays. (I understand the appeal as a crafter of garments, not as a wearer of garments. Because that stuff is really never ok. But it sure looks like fun to make!)

The best part of choosing to cover up my mistakes rather than correct them is that the embellishment is usually what garners the most attention. “Oh! Look at that delicate beadwork around the border. The detail in your work is amazing!” Or “The crocheted appliqués add such an unexpected touch of whimsy to your work!” I smile and say thank you. No one needs to know that that appliqué serves the purpose of covering up a missed stitch or an unsightly bump or some other form of imperfection. They just need to see the whimsy.

Another advantage is that I feel like the embellishments I choose make someone else’s pattern my own. I have volumes and volumes of patterns (as well as intermittent subscriptions to various magazines and other publications and, you know, internet access…) but I have a few very simple patterns that I return to time and again, because the simpler the pattern is, the more embellishment it can handle before it starts to look overwhelmed.

I was thinking, recently, about how we do the same thing with our memories. When we tell the stories of our glory days, often a few embellishments sneak in. Sometimes that's purposeful deception, but I think more often it's just that we remember things sweeter (or uglier, or more beautiful, or kinder, or meaner...) than they actually were. The story becomes the story of our memory, not a factual recounting of an incident. And I think that's ok.

* That this was actually a custom has never been proven, so it remains theoretical (and, some feel, unlikely).

** frogging is a term commonly used among knitters to signify the process of ripping out work. “Rip it – rip it”. Oh, we’re a wild, witty bunch.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

When I Was Your Age We Walked 5 Miles to School in the Snow, Uphill Both Ways. And We Liked It!

Remember when your parents said something similar to this to you? Maybe it was your grandparents. All of us like to let the generations which follow us know how much tougher it was for our generation and how we paved the way for their easy lives through the hardships we endured.

When I was an undergrad in the early 80's, I remember discussing this very thing with a friend of mine. We worried that we weren't going to have anything to tell our kids about. We had it pretty sweet, and we knew it.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of the things that we did NOT have when that conversation took place:

A dishwasher (although most of our parents did have that luxury at home)

A microwave (again, many of our parents did have these - they were huge and very expensive. I did get one shortly after graduation)

A computer (though we did have access to the 'computer room' at school. Our papers were researched by looking through books in the library, then typed up on our typewriters. One of my roommates had an electric typewriter, so we were pretty spoiled.)

A VCR (the technology existed, but, much like computers, hadn't really made it into the average home yet. DVD's and DVR's, of course, were still science fiction at the time. When one of us had to miss Guiding Light due to circumstances beyond our control, the others would draw a cartoon strip to illustrate what was missed. Yes, for real. )

CD's or a CD player (We did have cassettes, and yes, we did make mix tapes.)

Cell phones (several years later I dated a boy with a 'car phone'. It was enormous. My friends died of jealousy when I told them I was calling from a car. A few years after that I got my first 'mobile'. It was huge, heavy, and insanely expensive. I only used it for the most dire of emergencies.)

Answering machines (If no one picked up the phone when you called, it just rang and rang until you gave up. If you weren't home or didn't make it to the phone when the phone rang, you didn't know who called or what they wanted. Also, if you called someone and they were talking to someone else, you got a busy signal.)

Personal, handheld, or home gaming systems (yeah, there was Pong and stuff. We didn't have it, though. We did, however, go to the video arcade with what we thought was alarming frequency.)

MTV (it existed, we just didn't get it where we went to school. We got Friday night videos, though. When we visited someone who did have MTV, we were transfixed. The year after graduation, when I finally did get it - I don't think I watched anything else for several years...)

Digital cameras (I think at that point I was using an instamatic. You bought flashbulbs. I was pretty stingy with the flashes. They weren't free, you know. And then you had to pay to get them developed. And it took about a week. We also had a Polaroid. It was almost as big as the typewriter...)

Well, like I said, this list was not comprehensive, it's just an off the cuff list. I'm sure there are many more things that I could mention if I put some thought into it. But that's not the point I want to make. The point I'm going for is that we didn't have any of those things, so we didn't miss them. We truly believed ourselves to be the most privileged generation. We couldn't imagine talking about this time with our kids and comparing it negatively to what they had. And now? Wow. Could you live without your computer, your cell phone, your microwave or your dishwasher? Could you even imagine a life without those things? (actually, we lived without a dishwasher for years and a microwave for months. The responses we got when we told people this were funny. Suffice to say, "no, we're not Amish" was actually uttered once or twice.)

So what will our kids be telling their kids they had to live without? What amazing strides will take place in the next 20 years or so that will make today's technology and products look archaic?

What a fun ride it will be, finding out.

Year of the Tiger

This post might've been better saved for Chinese New Year's, but I'm thinking about it now. Delayed gratification? Not my thing.

I don't set a lot of store by zodiacs. I don't completely dismiss them either - how arrogant would I be if I presumed something so many believe in to be unworthy of consideration? Lately I've been thinking about the Chinese zodiac and how it relies on the year in which you were born rather than the month in which you were born to determine your characteristics.

For a long time, I thought this made even less sense than a monthly zodiac. But recently I've been thinking about how we label entire generations and assign characteristics to them. Depending on who you talk to, I'm a very young Boomer or a very old GenX-er. You probably got a little stereotypical mental picture when you read each of those terms. For the purposes of this post, stereotyping, something I am usually pretty adamant about my distaste for, will probably be more than a little bit necessary.

Recently I was talking with an old friend from high school. Remember, please, that my dad taught at my high school. That wasn't traumatic or anything. Whatever. (Whatever - the GenX-er in me showing its face...) She said that, upon looking at some pictures of folks from our class as opposed to pictures of folks from classes a few years behind us - a few years younger than us - she felt that our class as a whole was aging more gracefully. I told her my dad would probably have a theory about that. He taught at that school for several decades and he still maintains that our class was the biggest bunch of slackers to ever grace its halls. And while some of us did go on to achieve some level of success in our chosen fields, it really does seem true that we were - if not slackers, certainly late-bloomers. As a whole. Don't start telling me about all of the exceptions. I'm sure there are some. I already said - we're going to be talking in broader stereotypical terms today. But hey - apparently it's manifesting itself in less wrinkles and gray hair. So that's cool, I guess.

So could there be something to it? Could the day, or month, or year, or generation in which you are born have an effect on your lifelong personality and characteristics? Does telling you I'm a Virgo Tiger Boom X-er tell you anything about me? When I look at the characteristics associated with each of these things sometimes I am struck by how well some of them fit. But some of them do not fit at all. I suspect I might have similar results if I compared myself to other signs. Or would I? Does it have, perhaps, less to do with the alignment of the planets and more to do with the world into which we were born and into which we come of age?

And does any of this matter? Really? If it didn't, would we keep trying to find apt labels? Too many questions, not enough answers.

Virgos do tend to over-analyze situations, you know. So I can't help questioning. And Tigers hate to be ignored and like attention. So I can't help blogging about it. I don't really care one way or another if the questions ever actually get answered, though. Gen X attitude coming through. See? It's all starting to make sense...

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future

We put up our Christmas tree yesterday, but it was no big deal. I honestly believe it only made it up this year at all because Olivia was so insistent. My mom called the other day to tell me she'd finally finished her outdoor decorating. I said I had, too. She said, "Oh! What did you do this year?" I said, "I changed my wreath."

I'm finding myself feeling very blue this year and I'm having a really difficult time summoning up my Christmas spirit.

As we put up our little artificial tree yesterday, that spirit became more and more squelched rather than coming more and more alive. I think I know why.

When I was growing up, Christmas was rich with tradition. The tree, for example: We would go to a local tree farm with a saw and traipse through the woods - usually through the snow - to find the perfect tree. Dad would cut it down and we would drag it back to the big shelter where a price was determined. They always had a big fire going in the huge stone fireplace and the smell was divine. The smell was Christmas. We would have glazed donuts and Coke out of a bottle. That's a glass bottle, kids. Dad would have coffee. We would linger there till we were warmed up from our winters walk, then one of the guys who worked there would help dad secure the tree to the top of the car. When we got home, the tree was set up and lights were tested then strung around it. Multi-colored lights with great big bulbs. And so it stood (despite my sister and I jumping at the bit to decorate it) until my uncle and his family would come over that evening for dinner and a tree trimming party. Each ornament was lovingly unwrapped and reminisced over before being carefully placed on the tree. The finishing touch was strands and strands of silver tinsel.

Compare that to us putting up our tree this year: An artificial tree was lugged up from the basement. We had to give up real years ago because all of us suffer from such ridiculous allergies. We can visit homes with real trees, but we have a hard time sleeping in them and breathing at the same time. Breathing is kind of a good thing, so we opted to keep doing it, even if it meant going with a yucky artificial tree. So. So the artificial tree with attached lights was popped into place and plugged in. Sort of like an electric umbrella. It's small and in a corner, so there really was no way for us all to work on decorating it. Obviously Tom and I left that task to the girls, who were much more excited than we were. I kept knitting on the couch, sometimes offering words of encouragement or advice. Tom left the room completely and sat at the computer. They strung bead garland (Liv asked why we were putting Mardi-Gras beads on the tree. Heh!) and, at least this part remained familiar: unwrapped and reminisced about each ornament before placing it on the tree. They did not prioritize the way I would have, so some of my favorite "front and center" ornaments wound up on the back of the tree while precedence was lent to some that, well, let's just say I wouldn't have chosen them to receive such honored spots... but that was the chance I took when I opted to stay back and let the girls have at.

It's up.


When did this happen?

When I was in college, we always got a tree and celebrated together, even though our semester was over well before Christmas. My roomates, myself, and several significant others would get together and trim the tree and have a few cocktails. Or get a quarter keg or something - who can remember exactly? We decorated extensively - I remember there not being a single thing in our little apartment that was not lit up or decorated. It was quite festive, in a tacky overdone sort of way. We taped Santa hats to the photographs of people that decorated our home on less festive occasions. (less festive being relative, of course. We were a celebratory lot. We celebrated Friday pretty faithfully. And we held a big party with invitations, decorations, and champagne when Beth and Phillip got married for the first time on Guiding Light...) When our semester was over and we went to our separate homes for Christmas, we donated our still quite usable tree to a local women's charity to brighten up the lives of the kids there. It wasn't all parties and lights.

When I was single, there were a few years I had to force myself to decorate, but after I did, I was always glad. Sometimes I had to drag the spirit in kicking and screaming, but it always arrived.

This year, I'm not so sure. I'm trying.

Oh man, and as I type this? All this business about spirit and lacking spirit and trying to find spirit has caused a little ear worm to find its way in and now all I can hear in my head is Barry Manilow:

Up, down, tryin' to get the feelin' again
All around tryin' to get the feelin' again
The one that made me shiver,
Made my knees start to quiver...

Sorry about that, yo.

I suffer, you suffer. Could've been worse.

And now I'm sort of smiling, because Barry led me right into "Can't Smile Without You" (and now you're hearing THAT in your head! Hah!)

Maybe Barry will help my heart grow three sizes this year and effectively save Christmas.

As for Christmas future - I hope it's not too late to make some really special Christmas memories with my kids before they go off and start making them for themselves.

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Why I *Heart* Facebook (and other confessions)

I didn't go to my last High School Reunion.

Why? Those of you who read my blog with any degree of frequency have probably guessed: It's because I got fat.

What's the first thing one does when one finds oneself in a reunion situation? One does the little inventory. Who got gray, who got bald, who's hotter than their spouse (and whose spouse is hotter than them), and, of course, who got fat. Part of that inventory involves the comparison game. "I look older than her, but younger than her." "I'm fatter than her, but not as fat as her." We've all played it.

That becomes a lot less fun when you become the negative basis for comparison.

So I've avoided it.

But now Facebook has afforded me the opportunity to get to know people from my past in a way that allows me to sidestep superficialities. Sure, there are pictures, but I can pick and choose (and crop, and soften, and...). It has allowed us to reconnect in a way that doesn't begin and end with, "damn, girlfriend got FAT!".

This has been such a thrill for me.

And next time there's a reunion, I'll know there's at least a little group of people who will be happy to see who I am, not just gleeful to have someone against whom to compare themselves positively.

Maybe next time I'll go.