When Men Lose Their Crap

Let’s investigate a well-known (albeit completely misunderstood) fact.

When men lose their crap, women know where to find it.

Two-hundred thousand years of Homo sapiens haven’t demystified this common phenomena.  I’ll bet when Zog grunted that he had lost his hunting club, Unuk growled she last saw it next to the pounding stone.  I’ve lived with three men in my life; a father, a husband, and now Bubba.  So I speak from a fair amount of experience.  Even on television — Lucy and Ricky Ricardo, Carol and Mike Brady, and Marge and Homer Simpson — it’s all the same.  I don’t think much has changed since Zog and Unuk played house.

UntitledWhen we built a bar in the basement, everyone and their brother bought us different gadgets for opening bottles.  We must own twenty different and unusual gadgets just for opening bottles.  So when Bubba, thirsty for an old-fashioned cane-sugar Coca-Cola, went raging through the house roaring that he couldn’t find the bottle opener, I was perplexed.  There are twenty-some behind the bar.  Right?

UntitledThen it occurred to me that he wanted his favorite bottle opener designed like a butterfly knife.

“Check by the coffee pot.”

“Oh yeah!  Hey, thanks, Babe!”

By the coffee pot.  That’s where he left it.  Not only did he leave it there, I knew where it was.

How you choose to explain this mystery depends upon your perspective.

The way women see it:

Marge Simpson

Marge Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Men are like children.  They never matured past having their mother tell them to pick up their things and put them back where they belong or there would be no dinner.
  • Men are incredibly unobservant.  A woman can dye her hair blue and a man will walk in asking how was her day.  They wouldn’t see their fork if it was sitting next to their plate.
  • Men are slobs.  Of course they don’t know where anything is.  It’s wherever they laid it down.

The way men see it:

  • Women have the memories of elephants.  What else would explain them bringing up the time you drank too much at her mother’s Thanksgiving dinner again and again . . . and again?  Of course they remember where you left something.
  • Women are control freaks.  They are in control of where things go, why they should go there, and why they shouldn’t go where you want to put them.  If something is not where they want it, they know where it is.
  • Women are psychic.  If you don’t know where something is, and a woman can tell you just by asking her, why wouldn’t you put that shit to some good use?

 

The way I see it:

I just hate wasting time looking for my stuff.  I want to put it back where I’m going to look for it.  In fact, it isn’t unheard of for me to buy something I thought I had, but just can’t find.  When I get home with it, I think, “Let’s see . . . where can I put this so that when I go looking for it I can find it?”  And when I open that drawer?  You guessed it.  I found the one I thought I had.

When I see something out-of-place, I make a note of it in my head.  The note might be a checklist of things that should be put away.  Or it might be a note that says, “If you’re looking for the butterfly bottle opener, this is where you’ll find it.”  Then I take a picture and file it under “Stuff that isn’t in a logical place” in my brain.  That file is found under “Stuff Bubba is likely to ask about.”

Homer Simpson

Homer Simpson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t think Bubba has a file in his brain.  He just has an overflowing inbox.  When he wants to do something, he picks up whatever is on the top of the pile and does it.  He asks me where the tools are to complete the task, proudly points to his accomplishment, and goes back to his inbox.

Clearly, my brain is way too complicated.

Peace . . .

 


If Women Designed Cars

 

Yesterday the sun was shining, beckoning me, like most Minnesotans, out of my stuffy house into the fresh air.  There was enough of an early spring wind to keep my hat pulled low over my ears.  Yet, it was one of those days that reminds me spring is on its way.

As my car now doubles for a mobile office, I’d been hoping for a day such as this to give the old Neon a little spring cleaning.  Salt and sand brought in from boots and dog lined the carpet, which now looked less like the floor of a car, and more like a beach.  Grime collected in the crevices, and coffee (or was that ketchup?) spotted the seat.

Let’s face it, cars are designed by men.  Men sell them to men, with women leaning seductively against the grill.  If they ever placed a car ad with this guy waxing the front fender, I’d have to buy it.  But they haven’t figured that out yet.

So when I pull out the toothbrushes, rags, shop vac, and steam cleaner to scour the inside of my automobile, it’s likely I’ll have a few sexist remarks to mutter under my breath.

I hate cleaning, and I usually tackle what bothers me the most first.  That way, if I succumb to boredom, fatigue, frustration, or procrastination, at least I have made the biggest difference for my peace of mind.  In this case it was the floor, so I hauled out the shop vac.  Automobile carpeting is a pretty shallow nap.   Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how much dirt it can hold.  And not only does it hold a lot, it won’t let go.  I took those floor mats out, raised them high above my head, and brought them slapping down to the driveway time and again.  I kneeled on them to hold them in place while I vacuumed, little grains of sand bouncing around like it was some sort of disco rave.  And vacuumed.  And vacuumed.

 That was when I remembered.  It doesn’t matter how many times you slam them on the ground, beat them with a bat, or vacuum over the same spot.  There will always be a little sand rave party going on inside the nap of the floor mats.  You just have to get it good enough to look clean when you get in the car.

Then I started on the carpeted floor.  Remember when we all got carpeting in our houses?  It was so that we could get out of bed and not feel the cold hard floor beneath our toes.  Somebody tell me why we started carpeting our cars.  In my house, I can take off my shoes before dragging mud in on the carpet.  Should I dedicate a little floor mat for muddy shoes in my car?  Wouldn’t it make more sense if I could simply run a rag over a vinyl floor and be done?  A woman would have designed it that way.

No, the floor has its own little dance party going on as I vacuum it, and something more.  My long blonde hairs whip around when the windows are open and somehow fall out and weave themselves into the short nap.  The shop vac can suck at that thing all day, but it’s not coming out.  The rug acts like some sort of hair Velcro, which would be great if you wanted human hair carpeting.  I developed a system which involves using the vacuum to lift up the end of the hair.  I then pinch the hair against the vacuum hose while pulling back to draw the hair out of the carpeting.  Once the hair is out, I let go of the pinched end and the hair sucks up the tube.  Apparently a man would rather bitch about a woman’s hair falling out in his truck than design a vehicle with bare flooring.

Untitled

These little details looked really cool when the car was new. And clean.

Next I tackled the dash and center console.  Mostly it’s just dust that gets wiped off, but then there are those crevices.  The little cracks that give the car sophistication when it’s new, make great places for grime to collect as it’s used.  This is where I start losing patience and fingernails.  And believe me when I say I don’t have a lot of either to begin with.

If a woman had designed my car, she would have made the air vents removable.  They would snap out, be dishwasher safe, and snap back in just as easily.  The cup holders would do the same.  Those things are never coming clean.  I literally poured Windex in and let it soak before the coins came loose from the bottom.

Untitled

This thing should be removable and dishwasher safe.

The lid on my center console swings up and over to double as a cup holder for passengers in the back seat.  It houses a mini tissue dispenser as well.  It is the single best thing about my car right after the sunroof.  I’m convinced some dude was given an ultimatum when he designed it.

Untitled“Either design this lid with functionality, or we’re going to my mother’s for the Super Bowl.”

 

But he could have gone further, and possibly secured his place in bed indefinitely.  You see, the dog seems to think that console was made for her.  She stands on it, sleeps on it, and uses it to reach the sunroof in the summer.  I can see a lot of design options here.  My favorite would be a piece that flips up to make a wall, blocking her to the back seat where she belongs.  The second best option would be a dog-safe place to stand or lay that would keep her from flipping up into the front seat when I brake suddenly.    Of course, the best option would be a boyfriend who wouldn’t have botched my attempts to train her to stay off of it in the first place.

As I clean the paw prints off of the console lid, I am reminded of how it all comes down to flaws in the working of the male mind.

Finally, I drag my steam cleaner out to the driveway, and heat up the water tank.  The seats are thankfully black, and made of fabric which is neither too hot in summer nor too cold in winter.  The length to which I would go for a clean ride surprised Bubba.  He asked, “Next is my car?”

He’s so funny.

The liquid the steam cleaner pulled out of my seats was a putrid brown, like that of stale latte, becoming clearer the longer I worked.  Eventually, the results of my efforts pleased me.  I replaced the tools on shelves and in drawers.  Wiping my feet before entering the car, I drove it into the garage.  I filed the shredded edge of my nails to smooth nubs, and I took a wonderful hot shower.

Fully dressed for some errand running, we decided to take Bubba’s Pontiac because my seats were still damp.  As I slid my foot through the open car door, I saw it.  A banana peel lying next to an empty food container.  “Oh my God!  This is disgusting!”  . . . This coming from the woman who just drew sewage-colored liquid from her car cushions.

I plucked the banana from the rubber floor mat and hauled it to the trash.  After returning to settle myself into shotgun position, Bubba smiled at me.

“See?  I knew I could get you to clean my car.”

Men are infuriating.

Peace . . .


A Polite Little Girl

I was young.  How young, I am not sure.  I was still obsessed with drawing horses, which started in grade school and ended in junior high.  Neither of my brothers were along on the trip, so at least nine years of age.  Too young to understand, but old enough to know.

We were on a plane bound for California.  I was going to Disneyland with my parents.  The seats in first class came in twos.  We were three.

Before settling into their seats near the front of the section, they walked me to the last row, double-checked the seat number, and smiled at the man who would share the flight with me.  They introduced him to me, and explained how impossible it was to get three seats together.  He assured them he would watch out for me, and see that I had everything I need.

And then some.

As the plane rumbled toward its runway, he asked me if I had flown before.  I had.  The takeoff pushed us back into our seats, and then lifted us light as a feather until we settled at a gentle climb through the clouds.  The man helped me order a 7UP.  I didn’t need help.  I’d been flying since I was six.  I was beginning to wish he would ignore me.

Once tedium set in, I pulled my carry-on from under the seat in front of me.  Paper.  Pencils.  Erasers.  I flipped past several sketches of horses to a clean page and began to draw.  The man made small talk.  He said my drawing was good.  He asked to see my others.

I shared my work because I was a polite little girl who was taught to be polite to strangers. Not because I wanted to.  Why couldn’t he just read a book or stare out the window or fall asleep?  He asked if I had a horse.  I didn’t.  He asked what I liked about horses.  I don’t remember what I answered.  He asked if I had ridden a horse.  I had.  He asked if I liked how muscular they were.  I did.  He asked if I liked having all that power between my legs.  And something seemed wrong.

A Miniature-Schnauzer.

A Miniature-Schnauzer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because I was a polite little girl who was polite to strangers, I answered this and the other questions he asked.  He asked about the dog I had drawn.  It was a miniature schnauzer.  He was my dog, the one I was missing now.  The one I wanted to be at home with more than I wanted to be on this flight to Disneyland.  He asked if I ever had to scold my dog when he did something wrong.  I did.  He asked if I ever had to spank him.  I said I did.  He asked if I ever had to spank him so hard that my hand tingled afterward.  Why did I say I did?  I never hit my dog that hard.  I loved my dog and barely brushed him away when I was angry with him.  Why had I told him that?  Why did the man enjoy that answer?  Why wouldn’t he just leave me alone?

I put my artwork away and wished the plane would fly faster.  My mom checked back with me.  The man said everything was just fine.  I begged her silently to switch places with me.  But I was a polite little girl who never wanted to cause my parents any worry.  The sun shone through the thin air above the clouds.  When he spoke, he leaned in very close to me.  I could smell his alcohol-laden breath.

He asked me if I knew my eyes were like shimmering pools of water.  I didn’t.

I heard that somewhere before.  It was on t.v., and grown-up men used those words when they wanted to be close to a woman.  When they wanted to kiss her.  When the scene faded out and went to commercial.  I was so confused.  This wasn’t like the boys in the neighborhood who tried to sneak a kiss and clumsily missed and hit my ear.  It wasn’t the blushing, teasing, playful flirting of children.  This was a man who was supposed to watch out for me.  Someone my parents had trusted to help me.

I knew I was safe.  This was a plane full of people.  My parents were near.  It was daylight.  I would never see him again.  But I felt violated.  Right there in front of everyone, and they never knew it.  No one heard me scream.  No one reached out to pull me away from him.  I had no marks to prove it.

As the plane opened up, we gathered our belongings.  I wanted to push through the people to my parents.  I wanted to leave that man behind.  Mom and dad waited for me to reach their row.  They told me to thank the nice man standing behind me.  Because I was a polite little girl, I did.  And then I just let him take my face with both hands and kiss my forehead.  I let him put his lips on my face just like that.

When they spoke later of the nice man who accompanied me on the flight to California, I told my parents I didn’t like him.  They told me to stop talking nonsense.  When I said he was icky, I was told that he was a nice man and I shouldn’t talk that way about him.

And I never spoke of him again at all until I had children of my own.  My message was this; if something doesn’t feel right, it isn’t.  It doesn’t matter who believes you, or who the person is, or what authority they’ve been put in, or if they have actually done anything wrong.  If you don’t like the situation, get out in any way you can.  Talk until someone listens.

It so happened that one day in a group of young people, there was a man who all the girls agreed was creepy.  Not just a little creepy.  They had that feeling that I had that day on the plane.  Something happened that they thought was wrong.  And it would have been if it wasn’t the act of an ignorant man.  My female co-leader and I thought they were crazy.  What had happened was most likely a stupid mistake.  And I still believe that.

But what I think doesn’t matter.  What matters is that young girls felt something was wrong and there was someone who listened.  I told them to make sure they didn’t find themselves alone with him.  Not because I thought something would happen, but because it is very important they listen to that voice inside of them.  The voice may be strong or a whisper.  It may be right or it may be way off track, but it is important that they listen.

As adults we owe this to our children.  And by our children, I mean any children; sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, friends’ children and those for whom we are leaders.  Trust them.  Listen to them.  Believe them.  Empower them.

Peace . . .


The Gift of Now

"Seize the day" (Horace, Odes) Franç...

“Seize the day” (Horace, Odes)                                                  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like most parents, I recorded every first of my children’s early years.  There are pictures of first trips to Grandma’s, first steps, first solid food, even taking their first poop in the toilet.  A post by Emily at The Waiting, reminded me how easy it is for the lasts to slip by unnoticed.

Do you remember the last time you were picked up and cuddled?  I have four children, and found myself searching the dark corners of my memory for any recollection of the last time I lifted each of them into my arms.  There is none.

We acknowledge the achievements, the going-forwards, the milestones of where we are headed and not so much where we have been.  Maybe it’s because we don’t appreciate the significance of what we leave behind until it’s gone.  Or maybe it’s because we just never realize it’s the last time . . . until it is.

Firsts, like lasts, are not eloquent or refined.  The last step we take will most likely be much like the first — feeble and clumsy.  Each brings with it a demonstration of progress.  But one is a beginning and one is an end.  One is noted and one is forgotten.

Humans, unlike animals, carry the burden of understanding time.  We romanticize a past we strain to remember.  We grieve its loss.  The future is hope and wonder, even amidst uncertainty and trepidation.

Between the first and the last is the present.  It is the center.  The now.  We forget to stop and live in this moment.  And this one.  And this one.  Each tick of the clock is another gone by.  The present moment is as steadfast as time is fleeting.  Always here, for better or for worse.

A moment in the present is not reliant on memory, nor hope, nor wonder, nor dreams.  There is no uncertainty or vagueness.  The instant you are in right now is as real as anything is ever going to be.

If we could know the last time we were picked up, or rode in a pedal car, or fit in the shopping cart seat, that it was our last, would we have enjoyed it more?  Would we have whined less?  Would we have grieved the loss?

Probably not.  Children don’t perceive the elapsing of time.  A baby lives in a constant state of “now,” his only concern if he is hungry, wet, or sleepy.  Eventually, he will understand time by experiencing it — what is a minute, an hour, a year?

Maybe this is what allows children to move forward at the speed of light.  If they knew all the wonderful things they leave behind — naps, strollers, wagons, wearing pajamas in the middle of the day and yes, being lifted high above someone’s head — maybe they would want to stay children forever.  Maybe the lack of grief is what allows them to grow.

. . . And maybe our grief of the past is a gift we are given that allows us to relish the present.  It permits us to cuddle their round little bodies one more minute, or stop and watch them as they nap, or slip into their world of imagination, or pick them up just once more before they are too heavy and we too weak . . .

Peace . . .


A Sharp Turn in Life

"Always fasten safety belt" - NARA -...

“Always fasten safety belt” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a kid, we never buckled up.  The cars were big, and the seats were hard and flat.  If the driver took a sharp turn, we’d slide across the back seat until we pressed up against another passenger and flattened them to the door.  Cloverleaf turns were the best because they went on forever, and you just couldn’t right yourself.

Sometimes life is like that.  I’ve taken a big turn, and I’m giggling.  It’s exciting and fun, but I’m pressed up against the side of the car and I can’t seem to right myself.  In the chaos, my purse tipped over and all my belongings are strewn across the floor.

If you’re not a woman or don’t carry a purse, you have no idea what kind of catastrophe it is to have it empty on the floor of a car.  There are cosmetics, credit cards, pills, scraps of paper, keys, and candy that will melt if lost and forgotten under the seat.  This is how my life feels.  It is an upside down purse on the bottom of a car, careening around a cloverleaf off of Interstate 94.  And I’m smooshed against the window giggling so hard I’m in danger of peeing my pants.

I know you were wondering why I hadn’t posted in a while . . .  You were, right?

The car is finally starting to come out of its turn and I’m thinking about how to put my purse back together without stepping on any of it first.  I chose to write here, because it seems to clear my head.  It’s some type of conscious meditation, connecting brain fibers, inducing deep breath.  It feels familiar, like soil under bare feet.

I see that there are two ways to go with this.  I can pick up the most important things first — the credit cards and pills — or toss the scraps of meaningless papers out the window.

No, I don’t litter in real life.  This is all metaphorically speaking.  Try to stay with me, here.

Isn’t there some saying about swallowing your biggest frog first?  Yuck.  It reminds me of a nightmare I once had.  I’m going to pick up my credit cards and pills first, which will make the rest seem like tadpoles.  Gross.

So here’s the plan.  It’s not etched in stone, but the internet is close.

  1. Pick up the credit cards.  I’m going to pay my bills before I forget them and they become overdue.  While I’m doing that, I can check my bank balances.  I’ll put all the tax documents in one obvious annoying place.
  2. Chase down the pills.  Take a walk.  It’s a beautiful day — the sun is shining and the dog is eager.  The fresh air is the medicine I need to complete the rest.
  3. Put the cosmetics back in the case.  Clean myself up — get dressed, from my makeup to my shoes, to gear up for the rest of the day.
  4. Throw out the scraps of paper.  Clutter is caving in on me.  I still have Christmas stuff out for God’s sake!  I’m going to pick up, tidy up, clear out, and throw away!
  5. Pick up my pocket calendar.  I’m pretty sure my son’s birthday was this week.  What was it he requested?  Vegetarian lasagna . . .
  6. Find my keys.  There are errands to run.  Groceries need buying — soy sausage, noodles, sauce, maybe cupcakes . . .
  7. Fish out that bit of chocolate under the seat.  Lastly, I’m going to treat myself.  Maybe I’ll watch a movie with popcorn or find a pair of shoes at the mall.

Another fun thing I remember about the old bench seats is a sharp turn followed by one in the other direction.  I never knew if Mom or Dad did it just to hear us laugh, but sliding from one side of the car to the other was a thrill I will never forget.

One best left to memory, and not encountered in metaphor!

Nowadays we have seat belts, helmets, shin guards, face masks, and anti-lock brakes meant to suck the fun out of everything keep us safe and extend our lives.  When they come up with one for the sharp turns in life, let me know, will ya?

Peace . . .


Working with the Cool Kids

English: This is Fred, and he is inside our co...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a cat with nine lives.  I’ve lived a few of them, and can’t wait to see what the rest bring.  One of them lasted for sixteen years, and in it I was a stay-at-home mom.  I am very proud of it, and wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.  Except I did.

Let me acknowledge that every stay-at-home parent has a different story just like every cashier, or doctor, or educator has a different  story.  My experience was that before I was a SAHM, I hadn’t had a lot of opportunity to establish myself in the world.  I was young, had only worked with my mother in a retail store she owned, and had only been married for two years.  I was twenty-four when I became pregnant with my first of four children, which were born (give or take a few months) every two years.

My husband was a police officer.  He was my window to the world.  His world was dangerous, cynical, and narrow.  I was very thankful to have him to protect me from the big, scary world he told me about.  We were lucky that he made a nice living, but to run a household for six of us on the one income, I needed to be resourceful.  I cooked from scratch, sewed, planned and budgetted.  One day that just wasn’t enough to make ends meet.

When I decided to dabble in the workplace about twelve years ago, I took a 3-month seasonal position as a cashier.  After that there was a weekend catering gig, an educational assistant, and a magazine vendor changer-outer — not my official title, but that’s a descriptive as I can get.  Then one day I saw a sign for the Barnes and Noble being built into the mall.  I just about jumped right out the window of the car.

Barnes and Noble was the place I went when I managed to eke out a night away from the kids.  It’s the one place I could justify buying new things.  I huffed new-book smell straight from the bag, and hid the receipts until the canceled checks arrived in the mail (remember that?).

I worked for that store even before the books arrived.  We dusted and cleaned and then stacked boxes upon boxes in heaps seven feet tall!  It was magical and exciting.  Then one day they told there were placing me in the café.  I know it was due to my catering experience, but I didn’t even drink coffee.

Within a year I rose from the lead to the café manager.  I loved my job, but even more than that, I loved the people — both the customers and the staff.  They came from every walk of life.  There were old women with pink crocheted hats.  There were businessmen in suits and ties.  There were young people with piercings and tattoos.  There were gay people and goth people and mean people and pretty people.

And do you know what?  None of them were as scary as I was led to believe.  The world was a friendly place.  And not only did I like the world, I realized the world liked me!  I found I had a knack for making people happy.  Changing each person’s day in a positive way became my goal, for those who visited and those who showed up to work.

Community Action Services and Food Bank in Pro...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days I work for a food bank.  We distribute food to agencies who feed people who are hungry.  For five years I’ve worked in our Agency Services Department, helping agencies get what they need.

The walls are thin, and a department called Food Rescue inhabited the other side of my wall for many years.  They had a lot of fun.  Sometimes they laughed so hard, I had to plug one of my ears to hear my customer on the phone.  They were the cool kids.  The ones with the quick wit and keen sense of humor.  They came and went, often out of the office for days, on covert missions the likes of which we knew not.

One day I decided it was time to learn more about this great place that employed me.  I ventured out on a ride-along with a couple of Food Rescue staff.  I hadn’t planned to fall in love, but I did.  Head over heels, birds singing, heart-pounding love.  Within a year I managed to land the position I wanted.  I will be executing covert, dangerous food-rescuing missions in hard-to-reach places.  I imagine there will be a cape and super powers involved, although there has been no mention of them yet.

The relationship I established with the world brought me to this place — this yearning to make it smile, to brighten a corner wherever it is, a genuine appreciation for humanity.  I’m obviously still in the honeymoon phase, and I’m not sure I’m a cool kid yet, but I have a good feeling about this.

Peace . . .


A Tactical Guide for the Ill-Prepared, or how I survived Christmas 2014

Christmas gifts

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is Christmas Day, the day most of you are observing the coming of little baby Jesus, born of an immaculate conception in a lowly manger in the middle of nowhere.  I, conversely, am celebrating the triumph of another holiday conquered, the likes of which I have never experienced nor care to again.

What follows is a tactical guide — a collection of intellect, wisdom, instinct and sheer luck for the ill-prepared.

The Basics

These holiday things come every year, based on traditions your ancestors established decades ago.  How hard can it be?

Very hard.  Your ancestors were not trying to update their Facebook status, remember the password to their health provider network, or search Jell-O recipes on Pinterest.  Their kids weren’t juggling three jobs, and they weren’t considering radiation therapy for their dog.  Their traditions evolved while dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh was still a thing.

Career

Unless your job is lawn-mowing, your career does not shut down in December.  Plan for the worst.  I shouldn’t have expected to accept a new position, work nine to ten hours a day, attend two holiday potlucks, one all-staff meeting, a congratulatory lunch, and a two-day regional meeting all while training in my replacement, but that’s what happened.

The whole year sort of went like that.  Time off has been hard to work in.  Rather than lose it with the close of 2014, I practically accepted my new position and asked for three days off all in the same breath.  I don’t recommend that.

Significant Others

We all react to holidays differently.  Most of us want to feel some sort of control over it.  Unfortunately, the minute you join your life with someone else’s, you have to relinquish some of that control through compromise.

Overheard at my house:

“Do you use scissors to cut this wrapping paper, or just chew it with your bare teeth?”

Expectations run rampant at Christmas, and it is important to talk about what each person expects.  I suggest alcohol, or at the very least, chocolate.  No one is right or wrong.  Unmet expectations lead to disappointment and resentment.  What is each person’s deal-breaker for the holiday?  Where can you go with the flow?  If there are contradicting deal-breakers, work that out first.

Finances

The best advice has already been given by those much smarter than I.  Don’t go into debt over Christmas gifts.  Anyone who would wish you to do so, isn’t worth the price of wrapping paper.

So the second-best advice I can give is to remember to pay your bills.  I have every excuse in the book.  I was working extra-long hours, they got lost under the clutter, I thought I had paid them . . .  by the way, none of these will get you out of paying that pesky little late fee.  Grrr….

English: Closeup picture of a miniature Christ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Home

December is not a good time to begin a remodeling project.  Especially one that leaves your bathroom completely out-of-order.  Instead of hanging up lights and tinsel, I was wiping up dust and chunks of sheet rock.  I finally gave in and bought a faux tree, just because I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to keep one more thing alive .

My holiday shopping has been equal parts gifts and food, and shower fixtures and tile.  My head hurt, and my wallet was smoking.

Luckily, I have another bathroom.  The guests were not confined to peeing outside with the dog.  But more than once I asked myself,

“What was I thinking?”

Family

The more people you have in your life, the more complicated this all becomes.  Not only do you each bring a variety of expectations, but everyone has their own set of day-to-day obstacles like work, school, significant others and finances to worry about.  And the more these people mean to you, the more their worries affect you, too.

The day my daughter texted that someone stole her wallet, I had a full-on hot flash even before I read the next text that said,

“Oh wow I just found it.”

Stress leaves us open to the heartbreak of those we love, rather than a foundation they can lean on.

Travel

Bubba’s family lives in northwest Minnesota.  No.  Really.  When I say northwest I mean THE northwest corner of the northwest county.

This map shows the incorporated and unincorpor...

This map shows St. Vincent, Minnesota in red.                      (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are traveling before the holidays, make sure you budget that into your preparation time.  Especially if you will be in the middle of nowhere with no access to malls, grocery stores or even the internet.  Lacking these resources when you are painfully low on days-til-Christmas and locked in a car with a significant other, his son, and a dog is a dangerous experiment.

Pets

Remember that your pets can feel your anxiety.  Poor little Sabbath was lacking her regular walks, listening to the demolition of the bathroom while she was otherwise alone in the house, watching me run around like a crazed woman, and confused about the decorations and gifts.

She opened a gift of olive oil from under the tree, chewed off the lid, and spilled it on the carpet.  Up until then, I was very patient with her.  But at that point, it was T minus 3 hours till guests arrived . . . and me running the steam cleaner, of all things.

To top it off, the weather has been so warm that the back yard melted.  One hour after the oil incident, she came in full of mud.  The kitchen now needed mopping and the dog needed a bath.

Celebration

Make sure you are holding on to traditions because they suit your family, and not simply performing them because that is how they have always been done.  If someone has passed, or a family has split, it may be the right time to change a ritual, or it may be the perfect time to hold it dear.

I make Butter Currant Tarts every year because the recipe was brought to the United States by my Canadian grandmother.  I make them in remembrance of her, although my youngest daughter says it’s because I’m doing weird stuff that old people do like making things that nobody likes.  (For the record, my older son downed about half the batch in one sitting.)

A home in Vancouver with Christmas Lights prof...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I put lights on the shrubs and leave them lit as long as Bubba can stand it, Valentine’s Day if possible.  They cheer me up in the middle of the dark, bitterly cold Minnesota winter.

Exchanging gifts is one of my favorite traditions of the holiday.  I see the joy of giving in the eyes of my adult children, and it pleases me greatly.

In the aftermath, my feet and back ache.  The house is a mess.  Muffin tins and fondue pots wait to be put away.  I ask myself if it was all worth it.  A light snow has started to drift down from the grey sky.  The furnace breathes and the dog shifts.

Christmas is a season when our family spends time thinking of each other.  We contemplate what each person enjoys, what they need, or what growth we want to inspire.  We support them, feed them, pour them a drink, and we delight in their happiness.  I can’t think of anything else as worthy in the world.

Peace . . .

 

 


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