Monthly Archives: December 2012
Happy New Year’s Eve, guys! Let’s party, man…let’s get drunk and wooo and…well, maybe not. Could I perhaps interest you in some appetizers and board games? My NYE celebrations have pretty much varied from one extreme to the other over the years. How about you?
I used to expect a lot out of this one day. As a kid, I would watch my beautiful mother get ready for that year’s New Years Eve party. I still associate the smell of hairspray, perfume and cigarette smoke with watching her carefully apply her makeup and do her hair before heading out to a mysterious event while we stayed home with a babysitter. It was so fun to get the little trinkets when my parents came home – they would always bring us something: a noisemaker, a horn with the paper that unrolled when you blew into it, or a hat (sometimes like a tiara!) with the new year emblazoned on it.
Sometimes my parents would host the party themselves, and my brother and I would be in charge of greeting guests and taking their coats. That was fun too, seeing everyone dressed up, hearing the music downstairs (where the party was happening) and feeling the general air of excitement. In the morning I would get up early and helpfully clean up the downstairs and the bar area. I loved doing this, for some reason – clearing away the cups and plates, emptying ashtrays, and (ahem) pouring all the leftover alcohol down the drain. (I think I thought it went bad if you left it out.) I don’t remember my parents ever yelling at me for this – I don’t know if they didn’t realize I did it or if they did correct me and I’ve just forgotten.
When I got old enough to attend parties myself, that’s when things went sour. I always built the evening up in my head and it never matched up. I was usually left alone at a party with nobody to talk to, or I’d actually get in a fight with whatever guy I went with. The crowning glory was the year I was 18, and I went with my boyfriend to a party held in a hotel. He took off to do something (get us drinks? I don’t remember anymore) and I was in this room with a bunch of people I didn’t know. They were all involved in their own conversations and nobody talked to me. After about an hour of sitting there getting increasingly bored by the minute, I decided to just walk around the huge hotel and see if I could find him. And find him I did: walking through the large double doors into the lobby, holding another girl’s hand. You can imagine how the rest of the evening went.
In my 20s, before the kids came along, my first husband and I would sometimes get a reservation at a restaurant with my parents. They’d have a whole deal with drinks, a fancy meal and sometimes dancing afterward. We did this a couple times until we got tired of the usual routine: we’d have a reservation and still have to wait for hours to be seated. (I remember playing many games of cards with my mom while we waited.)
When the kids came along, we’d usually do parties with the neighbors who had kids near their age. Somebody would host, everyone would bring some kind of food, and it was a nice time for the whole family. After just a few of these parties, the group of neighbors broke up as some moved away and we stayed put.
When I met Dave in 1998, we settled into a nice routine, one that doesn’t have me dreading New Years Eve anymore. We would buy a bunch of appetizers and stay in, making lots of gooey bad-for-us food that we indulged in for the one night. If the kids were with us (some years they were at their dad’s), we would play board games until midnight. We’d bring them with us to the store so they could pick out the appetizers and desserts they wanted. One year we made hot fudge sundaes. We always played games: Sequence, Phase 10, Yahtzee, Cranium…sometimes Pictionary, Apples to Apples, Pass the Pigs – whatever we were in the mood for. We’d watch the ball drop on TV and kiss and whoop as the new year arrived.
This year will be a little different as Dave and I transition back to NYE with just the two of us. We don’t drink, and I’m not in the mood for the appetizer thing this year, so we are making a homemade lasagna and apple pie for dessert. A little decadent but what the heck, right? We are very much not party people…in fact, I can’t imagine anything I would enjoy less than to go to a party on NYE. So we’re going to be here, starting in on Season 3 of Breaking Bad while Dave nurses this terrible cold he still has. We’ll see if we make it to midnight. We’ve never gone to bed before midnight on NYE but there’s a first time for everything!
Here’s to 2013, my friends. ::raises glass::
I’m not much of a new year’s resolution person. Instead, I tend to make goals throughout the year because I forget my resolutions if I just make them at the start of the new year. Priorities change too – so much can happen in just six months, let alone a year.
The weight loss/get in shape goal, which is almost a punchline these days because everyone seems to vow to do this, is always there. I mean, I will always, always strive to lose weight and get in better shape. I always vow to eat less and move more. As someone who dealt with an eating disorder in the past and who still has body image issues, it’s almost impossible for me to not think about this (often to an unhealthy degree). So I have those goals, yes, because I want to be healthier but more importantly, I try to be kinder to myself. I try to remember that if I slip up diet-wise or get off the exercise bandwagon, I am not a horrible, disgusting person – I just need to do better the next time. It is very hard for me to love the body I have right now and not spend my days thinking that when I’m thinner, that’s when I’ll wear shorts again or go swimming in public or perhaps be happy seeing myself in photographs. I have to remind myself that even when I was bulimic and under 100 pounds, I still thought I was fat and my thighs were too big, and I still compared myself to every female in the room (and usually felt like I was the fattest one there).
I had a goal last year to eat less (which I often didn’t achieve, because now I like food too darn much). But little things were successful: we bought smaller plates and took smaller serving sizes. I figured, if I’m going to be eating this food, at least let it be healthy. So we added more vegetables, less meat, experimented with new ingredients and cooking methods. This was a big success and one I’ll definitely continue. This year I’m probably going to include a couple vegetarian meals each week, as well as at least one meal with lean meat and vegetables but no potatoes or pasta. It’s been hard to get away from the idea that I need a potato or starch with a meat/veggie meal. Instead of going full force and doing away completely with an ingredient, I do better if I replace one meal with something healthier…and then another meal. I don’t completely cut out certain foods, so I don’t do “diets” – I know I can’t go the rest of my life never eating pasta again, or bread, or dairy, or sugar, so instead I go for moderation.
Money – well, that all hinges on what happens with the house this year. If we sell it, how much we sell it for, when we sell it … it’s a very stressful thing for me to even think about because I have a bad habit of imagining a doom-filled future with us homeless and the cats dropped off at the pound. So my goal, and I’m doing much better at this, is to deal with things one day at a time. Today, I can pay these bills and buy this food and I still have a roof over my head. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it comes.
I had a goal to write more and I have to say, I failed miserably at this until I decided to participate in Holidailies. I am so very glad I decided to do this, because now I’m not afraid to sit there in front of an empty Word document and just start filling the page with words. I’ve gotten over my fear of thinking I have nothing to say. In 2013 I hope to be here much more often than I was throughout 2012. You can’t be a writer if you don’t write!
Looking back, 2012 was not as bad a year as it seemed. I think the main stressor for us (or me, since I’m the one who deals with the bills) was money because we cut back so much on the candle business. (Luckily, this is secondary income…but it used to enable us to have some extras and pay off bills, which was nice.) There were some months the business didn’t even bring in $100, and in the Good Old Days we had sales between $3,000 and $4000 a month. But we adjusted, and we live very frugally now which can be a little exhilarating at times now that it’s not so terrifying. None of us had terrible illnesses to deal with, Eric ended the year in a blaze of glory with his newfound independence, Paige is on her first tentative path to independence as well (fingers crossed for second semester at NIU!) and Dave and I have a marriage that seems to just get better by the day. I can’t imagine spending 24 hours a day with anyone else and being as content as I am with him, so it’s really a joy to get this time with him; I make sure to be thankful every day. We had heartbreaking losses when our guinea pig Cruiser and our dog Toby crossed the rainbow bridge earlier this year, but our four kitties are doing well and Spike the hedgehog is as feisty as ever.
I’m trying to look forward to 2013, because it has the potential to be an amazing year with lots of changes for us if we can sell this house and move to Michigan. My goal is to see the possible good in the future instead of imagining every bad scenario that could come about. I will try to live more fearlessly in 2013.
I was around five years old when I fell prey to my first obsession…Donny Osmond. Even now, I can close my eyes and perfectly remember hearing him croon, “Hey there lonely girl…” I was absolutely mesmerized, and read everything Donny-related that I could get my young hands on. I had his posters on my wall, and the first album I ever purchased (for $4.99 plus tax at K-Mart) was by the Osmond Brothers.
I stayed devoted to Donny up until junior high, although I never abandoned him…I just moved on to other fellas like Shaun Cassidy, Andy Gibb and, oddly enough, Rod Stewart.
As I went through my childhood, I dabbled in other hobbies…things I wanted to become obsessed with but it just never really happened. Stamp collecting, various crafty things like the weaving loom with loops of fabric (I made a lot of pot holders!), those projects where you nailed small nails in a pattern and then you would weave/wind thread to make an image (maybe these were called String Art?), and latch hook projects.
It wasn’t until I saw an ad for the American Sharing Program when I was about 12 years old that I hit upon my next serious obsession…pen pals. This ad was in the back of something similar to the Weekly Reader, a little in-class magazine that we used to receive. The concept was simple: mail them a piece of paper with your name, age and address along with a SASE, and they would send you the names of three people near your age who also wanted pen pals. I was already in love with writing and this just seemed amazing to me. Getting my own mail! Talking to people all around the country!
I used ASP for years and it was always so exciting to receive a new envelope full of potential pen pals. Not everybody wrote back, but I kept in touch with many of those people all through high school. At one point I had 98 pen pals, and my poor father was scrambling to keep up with my requests for postage stamps. But it was so exciting! Every day (except Sunday) I had something to look forward to as I waited for the mail. I absolutely loved making friends this way.
Eventually somebody sent me a friendship book, which was a little homemade ‘book’ made of pieces of paper stapled together. They were always made for somebody, usually by someone else (although sometimes people made them for themselves). The first page would list the ‘owner’ of the FB. Each person would take a page, stick in an address label and perhaps list their interests. Some people would only request pen pals from certain states. Some would sign the book but put “NNP” (no new pals) and then pass it on. You mailed the FBs (as they were called) along with your letter, so they traveled the country. After a while, this was how I found my new pen pals. FBs morphed into “slams”, which were made the same way but had a sign-in page on the first page (you would stick in an address label and assign yourself a number) and the following pages had questions on them. Each person would answer the question (labeling their answer with their assigned number). When these FBs and slams were all filled up, the last person to sign was supposed to return them to the person they were made for.
I knew people who swapped these by the box-full, but I usually just got 2 or 3 per envelope from those who swapped them. It was a little side-obsession to go along with the act of writing letters. Ah…but eventually, once I was done with high school, I was introduced to cassette tapes as a medium for communication. (I still remember the pen pal who sent me my first tape: Allen Siu from Hawaii. A super sweet guy, that I actually got to meet when he visited Chicago.) Eventually I was sending tapes to probably half of my pen pals – I had a Walkman that I would use, and dictated my letters while I was driving to and from work or just relaxing in my room.
Pen pals were a huge part of my life until the kids came along. Even after Eric was born, I still managed to find time to write long, long letters and send multiple tapes out to my good friends. But once Paige came along, and especially when I became a single mom, I found myself too pressed for time and had to stop writing to most of my pen pals. (Now I’ve reconnected with many on Facebook, which is such a gift!)
After the kids came along, I had other obsessions: rubber stamp art, fabric art, quilting, and creating graphics with PaintShopPro (back in the late ‘90s). Rubber stamping and quilting were the most serious (and the most expensive!) and the day I sold my last rubber stamp on eBay was kind of a sad one. At one point it seemed like I would never, ever lose interest in this hobby that consumed me (I had a library index card file cabinet filled with rubber stamps), and now I look back and wonder how I spent so much time doing it. I used to attend classes and workshops, I was on stamping forums on Delphi and Prodigy (remember Prodigy?)…I was obsessed!
I know ‘obsession’ is kind of a nasty word…some of these things could be called ‘hobbies’ or ‘creative pursuits.’ But the way I fell into most of them was rather obsessive, so I’m just owning up to it. I had my obsessive moments with musicians too – Tom Petty (I used to go to every concert he played in the Chicago area), Depeche Mode (ditto) and Toad the Wet Sprocket. (I just ran across their signatures on quilt squares that I was collecting for a Toad quilt I planned to make for myself…I actually did make the band a quilt, with squares signed by their fans and road crew, and gave it to them at the last concert they played in this area before they originally broke up…House of Blues Chicago, Dec. 31, 1997. It was actually pretty easy to get the chance to talk to them after their concerts, and I was so happy they all signed quilt squares for me! I have got to make that quilt someday soon.)
I guess my last obsession was making candles, which I started in January 2000 and ended up turning into a business by the following year. With the candle business winding down, I’m curious to see what I turn to next. It seems like I always have to have a creative outlet of some kind. I’m drawn more and more to food and cooking these days…hmmm….who knows?!
When I opened my eyes this morning, Dave was already up and out of bed. One of our kitties (we call her Baby Grace) was cuddling with me – she’s very shy and this is pretty much the only time I can coax her over for chin scritches and snuggling.
I was reading on my NookColor, petting Baby Grace, and she suddenly jumped up and shot off the bed. I knew Dave must be heading toward the bedroom, and sure enough he came in and came right up to my bedside. It was dark, I had my glasses off and of course I couldn’t hear (I don’t wear my CI processors to bed) but he was signing very expressively and even without my glasses I could tell what he was saying. It’s snowing! Big flakes!
I’ve been reading all kinds of Facebook statuses across the country from people who are getting tons of snow. I’ve seen pictures of snowed-in backyards, and envied people in Arkansas and Arizona their many inches of snowfall. But here in the Chicago suburbs, we still have yet to have enough snow to even cover the grass. There’s a few little patches of snow here and there, and if I look just at our deck (where the snow doesn’t melt as fast) I can convince myself that we have “snow.” But really – nah. We don’t.
So this morning was a delight, with big flakes falling gently and the snow starting to cover our driveway and lawn. I had high hopes! We went out to the post office to ship a couple of orders. (Lately we spend more time shipping candle-making supplies rather than actual tarts – we’ve been selling all the extra supplies on eBay, and we’re down to mostly wicks at this point.) I got to walk in the snowfall as I took the orders in, and it was starting to feel magical.
Alas, it didn’t last. And the snow we were promised over Christmas turned out to be a few teeny-tiny pellets of snow-like stuff, barely visible. Seriously – you’d think we’d be buried in snow living where we do, but every year it seems to snow less and less!
This has been another quiet day – Dave is fighting off another cold (he says he feels like he’s caught three different colds back to back, poor guy). I’m about to finish a book I’m reading (Close Encounters of the Third Grade Kind – I highly recommend it!) and start dinner in about an hour (a clone of Outback Steakhouse’s onion Walkabout Soup). All the boxes from Christmas have been sorted and nested and are ready to be packed away for another year, Spike the hedgehog’s cage has been cleaned, I watched the outdoor kitties come for a snack and wondered (yet again) whether they have homes or if they are actually living outside in this cold weather. (Then I looked at my former-feral girls and said a silent prayer of thanks that we were able to rescue them and they have a warm, safe home.) I decided I’m over-plucking my eyebrows and I need to let them grow in, then I researched brow kits to help during the transition. I made Dave lunch, which is progress; it might be the first lunch he ever allowed me to make for him while he was feeling sick. I spent some time on Facebook and silently commiserated with my son, who moved into his very first apartment on Wednesday but found out he has no utilities or water (no heat!) until Monday. Tonight we’ll probably pick up where we left off on Breaking Bad (episode 8, season 2) and plan to finish the season over the weekend.
I don’t usually appreciate these slow, low-stress, hanging-out kind of days like I probably should. So I’m going on record today: It was a good day (even without a lot of snow). I’ll take it.
Well, I skipped another writing day yesterday…I was deep in the throes of a Christmas Hangover and just couldn’t bring myself to put fingers to keyboard. The day after Christmas I always feel sad, tired and like I didn’t drink enough water. After all the anticipation and the activity associated with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I kind of wander around aimlessly, missing the kids and the commotion and needing to hit my Reset button to get back on track.
Happily, this is the effect of a really wonderful Christmas and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m fine after a day of readjustment, and looking forward to New Years Eve and a brand new year.
I got an extra gift from the kids this year because they worked it out with their dad to go to his house on the morning of the 26th instead of Christmas afternoon. Getting the whole day and evening with them was such a treat! We spent Christmas afternoon/evening at my mom’s house; she threw together a dinner at the last minute and it was absolutely terrific. We got to spend time with my brother and his family, and the kids got to see their cousins (a rare event now that Paige is in college and Eric is working and living in the Big City).
There were two gifts that were kind of funny this year, as far as coveting and envy go. First Paige opened a quilt that I made for her (there’s a back story I’ll get to in a second) and Eric was seriously jealous. His mouth fell open and he said, “Wait…I want a quilt! Mine is so old it’s starting to fall apart.” He looked a little sheepish as he admitted this, and I had to remind him that his childhood quilt is really old now; he was 5 when I made it and he’s 22 now. (Both kids got twin-sized quilts at that age – I let them pick out the pattern and we shopped for the fabrics together.) Then he reminded me that a few years ago he asked me to make a quilt with the Bauhaus (band) face logo on it. (That’s being put off til after we move and I have the mental energy to figure out a pattern.) So we continued opening gifts, and Eric got to his last gift which was…a quilt. 🙂 I figured he’d need a new lap quilt for lounging around in his new apartment!
I got the idea when Paige was home for Thanksgiving break, because she was mending her childhood quilt (fixing some squares that were worn away). She was going through my boxes of fabric and came across a bag; when she opened it up, there was a huge Millennium quilt top inside. This was a project the whole family got involved in back in 1999. I signed up for various swaps where people would send a certain number of 3” fabric squares to other people in the group; the idea was to get 2000 squares and make a quilt out of them to commemorate the year 2000. We printed out a map of the US and taped it to a cabinet in the kitchen; as the envelopes came in, the kids would color in the state the fabric squares came from. Our goal was to get fabric from every state in the US and I believe we either met or came very, very close to that goal. (I still have the map somewhere.)
Dave and I had pieced the squares together in general color groups, 25 squares to a block. I had two sections done and they were pinned together, ready to be joined into one big quilt. That’s when I put the project in a bag and forgot about it for 13 years. (!) I decided to unpin those two sections, which were each lap-quilt-sized, and finish them so each of the kids could have a new lap quilt for Christmas. All I had to do was add the batting and backing and quilt them. I’m really glad that the kids enjoyed the quilts so much!
The other gift that surprised me was a Camelbak filtered water bottle. This was originally going to be for Paige, since she was filling her regular water bottle up with tap water in the dorm and I figured it would taste better with a bottle that filtered the water. I ended up getting a great deal on two bottles, and Eric had mentioned almost passing out at work this summer because he was dehydrated and it was so hot, so I figured he could use a bottle as well.
Eric opened his first and Paige just freaked out, talking about how much she had researched Camelbak (she wants to do some hiking trips this summer and was researching the paraphernalia involved) and just generally getting very excited about the water bottle he had received. She really squealed when she opened her own water bottle a little while later! After we were all done opening gifts and I was in the kitchen making sausage pepper gravy (while Dave made biscuits), she confessed to me that she had been a bit put out that Eric got the water bottle instead of her. She was laughing as she admitted this, and it really was funny that both of the kids had their moments of envy because that never, ever happens – they usually both want very different things and would never covet something that the other one received.
I’ll sign off with a picture that Eric took Christmas morning while I was cooking. I’ve discovered that I prefer pictures taken from above (it seems to lessen the jowly effect) and since Eric is over a foot taller than me, he was definitely taking this photo from above!
Some vignettes from the past couple days:
- Talking to Paige about her schooling and finding out she’s interested in midwifery. She was delivered by a Certified Nurse Midwife and I kind of love that this is a possibility for her.
- Eric proudly showing us photos of his very first apartment (in the Logan Square area of Chicago). It was great seeing the look of excitement and pride in his eyes.
- All the squirrels visiting our deck on Christmas Eve. We got to hand feed them and watch them cavort and play; Eric called it our ‘cavalcade of squirrels.’
- Paige missing her college friends. Although I’m not glad she’s sad about being away from them, I’m glad to see she’s made some good friendships after a rocky start with a bad roommate situation.
- Eric telling us happily about his job, which he really enjoys (the people as well as the work).
- A forecast for snow flurries on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the following day. Not enough to be a nuisance but just enough to make it pretty and Christmas-y.
- Paige telling me that she’s not really anticipating Christmas like she did when she was a kid; she’s more excited about watching people open the things she gave them. Spoken like a true A-dult (as opposed to a B-dult, as Dave would say).
- Eric grinning and telling us that he’s finally “A real boy!” as he describes all the positive moves he’s made in his life this year.
- Kissing my husband under the mistletoe – this man that I’m madly in love with…he’s my favorite, favorite thing.
- Having my family all under the same roof, happy and healthy and together.
To those that celebrate it, Merry Christmas Eve and, since I’ll be taking the day off from writing tomorrow, Merry Christmas!
We usually do our weekly grocery shopping on Monday, but since that’s Christmas Eve we decided to go a day early. We pulled into the parking lot and Dave exclaimed, “What’s going on?! Why is it so busy?” I reminded him that Christmas Eve was tomorrow and lots of people run out the day before to stock up. It was basically choosing between the lesser of two evils (today or tomorrow) so we took a deep breath and headed in to do battle.
Things went along fine until we got to the deli counter. Neither one of us likes to do deli duty, but it falls to Dave about 75% of the time. Here’s how it works for someone with hearing loss at a busy deli counter in a grocery store:
You go up and pull your paper tab, then see how far your number is from the one displayed on the digital sign. Whether you’re 10 numbers away or 2, you stick by the counter and go on hyper-alert because you can’t hear a freaking thing. People are calling out their orders, the clerks are calling out numbers or asking questions (it’s hard to tell which) – you can’t just hang out and look around, counting on being able to hear your number when it’s called. Instead, you stare at every clerk in turn. (Today was super-busy, so there were probably 6 back there; sometimes it’s as low as 2 or 3, which makes it easier.) You watch them hand back the wrapped items and notice whether the customer asks for something else or they walk away. If they walk away, you stare at the clerk and hope to figure out the number they call by a combination of reading their lips and hearing what you can. You assume it’s the next number on the board but sometimes they move right past it to the next number and then don’t change the board. This is trickier when there are so many people milling around and so many clerks working, because sometimes a clerk all the way on the other end of the counter will call out a number and catch you unawares.
Once you successfully realize it’s your turn, then you have to tell them what you want and hope you can hear/understand their questions if they have them. Many of them have accents which makes it even harder. (One time I was ordering arancini and the clerk asked me, with a heavy accent, if I wanted meat or spinach. I was caught off guard because I didn’t see two varieties of arancini on display so I didn’t expect the question and I had to ask him to repeat it 3 times before I kind of figured out what he was asking. I couldn’t tell if he said “beef” or “meat” but I just said “meat” and figured it would be okay. [It was beef, by the way.]) It is a truly stressful experience from start to finish, but our store has such a good deli that we always brave it.
This brings to mind other situations we avoid and/or loathe as hearing impaired individuals. We never, ever go to bars and rarely to restaurants. When we had our company Christmas party Friday night, we tried a new place for our food. It’s a local sports bar, known for good (if not necessarily healthy) food and so we called in an order and went to pick it up. We made sure Paige went with so she could be our ‘ears.’ We had to go in and walk through the bar to an area where the food pickup was, and it was SO loud and so crowded. We got our food with no problems and as we drove home, Paige said, “Why do people enjoy going to places like that?! It’s so loud and you can’t hear anything!” This is coming from somebody with perfect hearing. I told her it’s even worse when there’s loud music playing. It is so far from enjoyable for us that I can’t really imagine any scenario when we would go to a bar or lounge.
The drive-through is always an exercise in frustration. Even Paige has a hard time understanding what they say through those crappy speakers. One place in our area, Portillos, has a great system though. They are usually incredibly busy (because their food is that good!) so they have employees walk down the line of cars and take the orders in person. It’s great because they lean in your window so you can hear and read lips. They stick an order number on your windshield, then somebody else comes along and takes your payment. By the time you reach the window, all you have to do is grab your bag and be on your way. We very, very rarely get fast food but when we do, we tend to choose Portillos now.
On a happier note, my CIs do make it a little easier to navigate these challenging situations compared to when I had hearing aids. The ClearVoice program does a much better job with background noise. Because of this, if I can handle the communication in a loud place I’ll do that to help Dave, who just has the one hearing aid and his deaf ear, which makes it even harder for him to tell where sound is coming from (i.e., where the deli clerk who called his number is standing in relation to him). Between the two of us, we do a pretty good job of the ‘Deli Dance.’ 🙂
It’s been a long, productive day. I made a bunch of things I’m planning to give as gifts (this is an extra frugal Christmas but I enjoy making things anyway), then Dave and I spent the afternoon doing a final declutter downstairs. All we really have to finish is the bathroom and some painting in the entryway, which should go quickly. It’s hard to even remember what it used to look like now – very, very satisfying!
I made dinner, we watched “Seeking A Friend for the End of the World” which we really enjoyed (Paige bailed early on) and then I made some more Thin Mints and wrapped some gifts and here I am.
We got the happy news that Eric will be here tomorrow instead of Christmas Eve, which is fantastic! He just got a new apartment in Chicago (moves in about a week) and a new job as well, so I wasn’t sure how much of him we’d see this year. Since the kids are going to their dad’s on Christmas Day, we’re having our big celebration/dinner on Christmas Eve although we’ll still open gifts in the morning.
Yesterday we had what was probably our final ‘Company Christmas Party.’ This is something we started in 2001, when we started the candle business. The first year caught us completely by surprise when November rolled around – we were so busy, unbelievably busy, and it seemed like we barely saw the kids until we closed the business for a holiday break. The day I put up the “Orders will be processed in January” notice on the website, we decided to have a Company Christmas Party to celebrate with the kids. They were young, 7 and 11 years old, and we ordered dinner from their favorite restaurant, then played a variety of board games all night. We took them to the store and let them pick out dessert trays and we let them stay up until they got tired. It was so much fun, and it became a yearly tradition. I printed up fancy invitations that I would set out by their plates at breakfast a couple days before, and sometimes we changed it up – we might go to a movie in the afternoon, drive around to see Christmas lights, etc. but we always did the big dinner, dessert, a small gift each for the kids, and board games.
Now business is pretty slow and the kids are grown. Eric wasn’t here, and Paige was tired and went to bed before we did last night, but we still had a good dinner and a great time playing Phase 10 and Yahtzee. It’s sad to see a tradition die off, but I’m glad we had so many years of fun with them when they were kids. I’m sure we’ll come up with some new traditions as everyone moves on to their new stage of life.
We still have a dusting of snow from the non-storm we got the other day, all the gifts are bought and wrapped, and I’m just looking forward to spending lots of time with my family over the next couple of days. Life is good.
Well, I was going to write about how the world didn’t end today, but that seems a bit Five Minutes Ago now. Instead we’ll tackle the always beloved topic of aging.
I started thinking about this when I was shaving my legs this morning, and tried to wipe away what I thought was a hair on my leg. (An aside: It’s pretty dark in our shower and my bifocal contacts don’t work well in bad light. It’s hard to see things close up so shaving is always interesting.) After a couple swipes, I looked closer and saw what I thought was a varicose vein. !!
It’s always startling to get these unavoidable signs that we’re getting older. Some things I’m used to – gray hair, for instance. I think I was 17 or 18 when I found the first gray hair nestled in with the rest of my very dark brown curls. Over the years the gray is overtaking the brown, but I still color my hair so I can pretend it’s not happening. The need for reading glasses/bifocals cropped up when I first hit my 40s, so I’m used to it now although it gets a little worse every couple of years. The best thing I ever did was get multifocal contact lenses, which helped do away with the reading glasses and gives me the illusion of having young eyes again. As long as I have good light, that is! And obviously, I have the hearing loss thing down pat. 🙂
But with every birthday that passes, I find myself thinking more about being older. It’s hard to believe in only two years I’ll be celebrating my 50th birthday. I like to think I’ll handle it with grace and good nature. Turning 30 was no big deal to me; I was so preoccupied with newborn Paige, who came into the world exactly two weeks before my 30th birthday. Turning 40, though, was a tough one. I kept doubling my age and thinking, “I’m halfway to 80! Oh my God!” Once you get to the point where you’ve probably lived more of your life than what you have ahead of you (going by standard life expectancy, that is…who knows what could happen tomorrow?) it’s hard not to be a bit introspective.
I don’t really have many wrinkles and usually I look in the mirror and like what I see. I could stand lose a few (er, many) pounds but in general, I don’t think I look too old. Then I’ll see myself in a photo and think, “Good God, is that what I look like?!” Even though my weight hasn’t changed in many years, I can look at a photo of myself from 3 years ago (same weight) compared to now and think that I just looked so much better back then. Recently I saw pictures we took over the summer and told Dave sadly, “I have jowls.” He looked at me like I was crazy and I continued, earnestly, “Really, look at me. I look like a troll now.” As I fought back tears, he laughed and told me that I never see myself the way others do – I’m always too hard on myself. But it’s enough to keep me behind the camera rather than in front of it, or with as much of myself possible positioned behind someone else in a group photo.
I know we all get old, and it’s what’s inside that counts, and all that good stuff. But I still remember so well what it was like when I was younger, and it’s hard to believe so much time has passed. I remember on my 25th birthday thinking, just out of nowhere, that someday I was going to wish I was this age again…old enough to not be dealing with teenage angst, young enough that my youth was enviable. I can remember being in junior high, when the teacher had us all calculate how old we’d be in the year 2000. When I realized I’d be in my 30s, it seemed so far, far away…like it would never really happen.
Ah well…time marches on, and every day I accept the changes in my aging body a little bit better. And 50 is the new 30, as they say. And Dave swore what I saw was not a varicose vein, and after I Googled it I had to agree with him. Guess I’ll live to fight another day!
Well, okay…I’m being sarcastic with the title. There is no storm to ride out. The snowstorm I was promised by Mother Nature never materialized, so I did my Christmas cookie baking and watched the rain drizzle out of the sky all day long.
Dave promises I’ll wake up to snow tomorrow: “It says here there’s 100% chance of snow tonight! I definitely think we’ll get snow.” And he’s probably right – I can see that the temperature is dropping now that the sun has gone down. So that’s cool, and I’m glad we’ll probably get enough snow to actually coat the (still green) grass. But man, I was hoping to watch the snow, to feel all cocooned and safe in my house while I baked Christmas cookies for my family and watched the pretty snow fall. It’s no fun when it’s dark and it all happens when you’re sleeping. It’s like thunderstorms – most of the time we get them in the middle of the night, and even if I do happen to wake up and get to see a little bit of lightning, I still can’t hear anything because I don’t sleep with my CIs on.
But the cookies got made, and that’s a good thing. I think I’m gonna stop for a while; we’ve reached the point where we can’t possibly eat all these cookies, especially not if I keep making them, but at least we have a good variety to choose from and I have enough to give away as well. When I was a young bride (first time around), I was so excited to get to make cookies…in my own kitchen! Any kind I want! For as long as I want! I would bake and bake and start to get kind of crabby because my back was starting to hurt and it wasn’t really as fun as I wanted it to be but dammit, I was going to make these cookies!
Then the kids came along, Eric first, and I had visions of baking cookies with them, letting them decorate sugar cookies and all that. Turns out my kids like to eat cookies, but helping to make them is really boring. Even now, Paige doesn’t jump at the chance to make cookies with me, although she will if I ask for her help. After a few definitely not-fun sessions when they were little, I gave up on trying to make them enjoy this activity that only seems to be fun for me.
So now I know my limits – gone are the days of making massive batches of cookies for 5 or 6 hours because I know I get tired and crabby, and that defeats the purpose of what should be a fun, festive activity. I make a single batch of two, maybe three different kinds of cookies and I stop. If we run out of cookies or I need them to give away, I make more. I have a good time while I do it, the house smells great, the family comes through and happily grabs cookies off the rack as they cool … sometimes I even have Christmas music playing. It’s all good, it’s not stressful, everybody wins.
I tried my hand at biscotti today, because I was feeling nostalgic. My (Italian) dad always loved biscotti and I can remember him dipping biscotti into his cup of coffee. I remember my mom and one of my aunts making it around Christmas. As a kid, I would get excited because oftentimes the biscotti would have a white glaze with those round red, green and white candies scattered over the top. They looked so pretty! But they weren’t a super kid-friendly kind of dessert…not quite sweet enough for me, and so crunchy.
The recipe I made today seems a lot sweeter than I remember them being – I’m not sure if it’s because my palate has matured, or this is just a sweeter recipe than my mom and aunt used. In any case, I love them and didn’t even glaze them because I think it would make them too sweet. I cut the dough in half and did one half vanilla, one half with anise seeds (the way I remember them). I was pretty apprehensive about making them but I’m so glad I did.
I’m signing off to look wistfully out the window for snow…