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Monday, December 29, 2008

Bring on the Margueritas !!!!!!!


Because I will go INSANE if I spend another week in the frozen north....(Yup, we got ANOTHER blizzard here today!), I will be leaving early tomorrow morning for a tropical vacation.

We are visiting family first near Milwaukee, (No, no...that is not the tropics, I know!) (But to where we live, it sometimes feels that way. *grin*) and then flying out EARLY Friday morning to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for a week's vacation.

We will be getting back to Milwaukee on Friday, Jan. 9th (get ready for my depression in following blogs) and hopefully, back home by 1/10/09.

According to the weather watch site I have, Punta Cana has balmy 80's today, with sun. Hmmmm...don't know if this paste-y white girl's body can take it. Where we live, we hibernate (like the bears) from the first snowfall (typically in early November) until spring (which doesn't get to us until the middle/end of April) and so I may go into shock.

So, please please please return to read more of my continuing blog around Jan. 11th or so....I am sure I will have plenty of adventures to share with you upon my return.......

Happy New Year, everyone!!! I am sure I will have a drink for each and every one of you when I am there!! (You know those crazy Americans on vacation!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Power of a Secret Cookie Recipe



There are two camps of folks when it comes to making chocolate chip cookies.

Those who like them soft and goo-ey on the inside, and................Those others that like them crunchy. (In other words, those that are dead WRONG.)

Many years ago, I made the recipe that was on the side of the Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chip bag, and they came out pretty good.

But then...I "tweeked" the recipe, and along with a secret way of cooking them, I started to get people who would overdose on them and despite their profuse sweating, diarrhea, and the sugar high they got after they ate too many,.......... would STILL beg me for the recipe and the "secret" to making them so delicious and soft and goo-ey on the inside.

Being the smart "drug dealer" that I am, of course I denied all of their requests.

It's like crack...give them a free sample, get them hooked and then refuse them some more so they eventually will promise you their first-born children, their home, their car, their jewelry and eventually their dignity until I either break down and make them more cookies or just give them the damn recipe.

As far as the recipe goes, I just changed the amount of butter a little and added just a smidgen more of vanilla, baking soda, and flour. But the secret way of baking them was the true hook.

Some mothers pass on wisdom, philosophies, good looks, beautiful hair, a talent for music, or an aptitude for math on to their offspring.

My gift?

That damn good cookie recipe and secret baking trick.

I have passed on the "trick" to my kids and they do me proud by continuing to hook others on them by bringing them to office potlucks or neighborhood get-togethers, and they say they get the same response.

My eldest daughter swears it gave her the last promotion at work.

Yup, they are that good.

My youngest daughter told me yet another example (of the power of the cookies) that happened this week.

She said she works with a guy that ate one of her cookies during a Christmas potluck at work.

She said he was out in the warehouse and she heard this huge groan. She thought maybe someone was sick (or having sex) and (being exactly like her mother!) went to check it out.

There he was....with chocolate smeared all over his lips, eyes shut....eating one of the cookies she had brought into work.

He said: "Oh, My God ! I swear..this is the best chocolate chip cookie I have EVER had in my life! I have to save part of it for my girlfriend!"

He went home and he was so excited talking about the cookie to her that she immediately baked him her own batch of chocolate chip cookies that very night.

He came into work the next day, shaking his head.

My daughter asked him about how she liked the cookie, and he proceeded to tell her that she immediately made him a batch.

My daughter laughed and said: "That was sweet of her".

Shaking his head no, he told her: "You don't understand.....................There I was, standing in the kitchen, eating her chocolate chip cookies...and all I could do-----------------------------------------------------------------was think of YOURS."

Now, THAT, my friends, is a powerful chocolate cookie recipe.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

So Wrong (on So Many Levels)................




Yesterday I got an e-mail message that I had a Christmas E-card from my youngest daughter (MYD) in Florida.

"How fun!", I thought.

MYD has always had this quirky, funny (and sometimes dark) sense of humor that I love. When we are together we are always giggling about something that others just don't find quite as funny as we do. (Which makes it that much funnier).

MYD is my single (30 yr. old) daughter, and we have been lonesome for her (especially this time of year). She has just broken things off with her boyfriend, so I know she is a little bit blue during this holiday season.

She has had two cats that have been her "children" for the last 10 years. They are fun and entertaining and she is always telling us of their antics. She always says: "Yup, Mom...I will be your old-maid daughter. You know...the one they call "The Cat Lady"........that old lady that never married and has 10 cats." I always laugh when she says this and I kindly remind her that she is only 30, and has plenty of time for another relationship.

So. I click on the E-card in the E-mail to load it.

And it loads....
and loads....
and loads....
and loads....

(By this time, I am getting annoyed.)

And it loads,
and loads
and loads......
(Ok,now I am getting down right pissed).

And it loads some more.

The screen goes black.

"Oh shit!" I exclaim...that friggin' card crashed my laptop!

At this point, I am ready to punt the laptop with a kick straight in the air into one of my I-hate-to-water-those-houseplants anyway.

And................
miraculously, a screen pops up.

There she is....MYD's cute face...but it is stuck in a cartoon figure of a Christmas elf.

The elf starts dancing all over the screen, singing a Christmas carol.

I started chuckling...(thinking: "How inventive! How cute!...that is SO much like her!" "And, what a cute photo of her!")

But then, out of the corner of my eye..................................................................................

I see them.

From left screen (and simutaneously, also from the right screen) comes two more dancing elves......................

Each with one of her cat's faces!


So, THEN......
the screen continues to show her cat elves in an elaborate elf dance with her.....

Dipping and jiving and tap-dancing......

It was hilariously funny (at FIRST).

But...........................then............................

Well, .................

disturbing.

So wrong.....
(on SO many levels.)

I think maybe I better take that trip (that we have already been planning to see her) a few weeks earlier.....
(and maybe find a nice guy to introduce her to).

You know, someone who likes cats, too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

OMG--I am Becoming Like My Mother (NOT)>>>>>>



This time of year forces me inside (out of the cold Siberia-like weather). Therefore, I am forced to look at (and deal with) the summer's months of dust, piles of junk and enough-stuff-to-hold-an-auction-of-my-own-and-end-world-hunger.

When we were first married, I was not working outside the home, so I would actually schedule dusting, vacuuming, etc. so that it got done on a regular basis. (SICK, I know, but hey, it was the 70's and I was trying to find myself....it was before Martha Stewart).

But, I have to admit, things were kept pretty neat and tidy. Company could stop in without notice and I could whip out a homemade dessert and serve it on matching placemats with personalized name tags....

I did not get that from my mother. She was not a dirty housekeeper, by any means. She kept things clean.

But tidy?

Matching?

Ohhhhhh, nooooooooooooooooooooo.

Being the wife of an Air Force lifer husband, they moved every 1 to 3 years to another place, us kids along with them. That meant nothing was permanent in the way of belongings or furniture. Shabby chic was unheard of as a style of decorating back then, but she had the shabby down. We most often had mismatched end tables, lamps that didn't match, carpets that didn't match the rest...well, you get the idea.

Her idea of getting the house ready for company was to shift the pile of Sears Roebucks catalogs and local newspapers from one end table to the other, and maybe move the filled laundry basket out of sight.

She would get excited if some other Air Force family got orders to move to another base, because that meant she could rummage through their stuff that they wanted to leave behind.......which quickly became our "new" furniture. I never figured out as a kid where our old stuff went when this happened.....(It was probably a huge recycling of shit going round and round between families!?)

My Dad wasn't a help, either. He was an impulsive buyer.

Once, he had to go to Montgomery Ward to get new tires and I came with him.

Lucky for Wards (but unlucky for our family budget), there was a stereo/electronics section of the store right next to the Automotive department.

He was wandering in there while they were getting his tires on the car, and saw one of those HUGE cabinet/console-style stereos, complete with a turntable and AM/FM radio built in. (They were considered "state of the art" then and quite the rage back-in-the-day).

Well, his eyes nearly welled up in wonder, and before I knew it, he was trying to load the monsterous thing in the trunk. It was so big, it hung out of the trunk, precariously balancing with each bump.

He brought it into the house, flushed with excitement and like in the movie: A Christmas Story (where the Dad displayed his new fish-netted-stocking lamp in front of the house's biggest window), he shoved all the other furniture aside so that the stereo was the main focus.

I don't recall him ever turning the stereo on himself, and I don't think he ever knew how.

Not that I didn't love it.

Rock and Roll was just starting to come into mainstream life for me, so when Mom and Dad were gone, I would crank that baby up in volume and do my best "Risky Business" type dancing. But, I digress.....

The stereo cabinet was dark mahogony in color, our end tables were blond and our coffee table was cherry. (Not that it mattered, because there were piles of things on them all anyway.)

My mom's method of dusting was by moving everything on a table half over, dusting...then sliding the objects to the other side and dusting the other (remaining)) half.

I don't remember when she dusted or vacuumed, but it sure wasn't on a schedule, (like I developed when I got married).

But then, three things happened.

I had two kids (about 3 years apart) and then I went back to college full-time (while still raising two small kids). After I graduated, I then went directly into a full-time nursing job: varying shifts! You can imagine how my Martha Stewart/scheduled cleaning/OCD life changed then. I became....
well,............
normal.

And then, years and years later: comes retirement.

I retired in June, so I was outside all summer doing all the things (I never had much time for before) that I love....(gardening, fishing, etc.). In addition, we are renovating two (not ONE, but TWO) old houses in our neighborhood...one of which I plan to start a small antique and collectables shop in over the next few summers. So, I painted and scraped and did interior design work, etc. That is, until the Siberia blizzards arrived.

Now, I am inside until spring....Thus: the cleaning jobs waiting to be done are more than apparent.

So, I got out the pencil and paper and reinvented the notorious "cleaning list" schedule.

I did fine the first two weeks.

I dusted corners in the house I didn't even know existed.

I managed to clean out a few closets, medicine cabinets, light fixtures and even storage containers.

But then the holidays came.....and that ended THAT !!

So, like Mom so wonderfully taught me, I have resorted to the art of moving half of the piles over while I dust the other half of the table off, and am proud to report I am doing so without a hint of guilt.

With any luck, I can keep it up until Spring..............

Thanks Mom!!!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Get me a Trowel !!


I don't know how it started. But I have a confession.

Like all pathological, mentally-ill, O.C.D. people, I guess I will blame it on my mom.

(You can see me (the little girl in the picture), soaking up every technique there was back-in-the-day of glamour gals.)

My gotta-bare-my-soul secret is that I absolutely cannot go anywhere or do anything until I have put on make-up for the day.

I know, I know.....pretty sick.....but I tell you I will get withdrawal and anxiety symptoms (like a drunk gets the shakes without a morning belt) if I don't do it.

Oh...I have tried.

I have even made it to the local store (once or twice).

But I did it with gritted teeth and a hoodie (with the hood strings pulled so tight that I could have been mistaken for a condom) so no one would recognize me.

But, wouldn't you know (for negative reinforcement...wouldn't Paavlov be proud?), I ran into someone who knew me and stopped me: "to chat". I am sure she thought I had a personality disorder. I provided absolutely no eye contact and only uttered occasional grunts in response to her inquiries (and then hoofed it back to my car faster than Super Woman catching a high altitude jet stream).

And, not only THAT, (this is how sick I really AM), I even took makeup with me on......

(are you ready?).............

camping trips.

There I was, huddled in a tent corner, sitting on my sleeping bag, balancing my magnifying mirror on my squatted lap, poking myself in the eye (because of the dim light) whilst applying mascara.

Yeah.

It's THAT bad.

The morning routine has become even longer (now that I am past 50).

First is the cleanser, then the moisturizer. (They could lube Air Force One with the amount I am using on my neck these days just to stave off the wrinkles and hanging skin).

And....what ABOUT those moisturizers now?

They aren't what they used to be. They now have collagen, alpha-hydro-whatever, bee's butt wax, you name it....all at over $30 a pop for a miniscule ounce or two of this miracle cream!

And, of course...being a makeup junkie, you can't believe you are using the best, most-effective one on the market (because oh-my-Gosh-did-you-see-the-ad-in-O-Magazine-for-the-new-one)? So, you have two or three in your drawer. But, I digress...

Next is the concealer.

Now, that is a hoot.

Concealer you say?

Who am I trying to kid?

There isn't a magic potion on this planet that will cover those creviced, dark purple valleys glistening under my eyes (only to be magnified by my shiny cheekbones).

Maybe if I spackled it on with a trowel and waited for it to dry (maybe a day or two?) and then sanded it?

There is a technique to the application of this "little wonder", too. One must "pat it on lightly" with the pads of your fingers and pray to God you don't poke your eye out because you aren't wearing your bifocals.

Next, the foundation.

Swirly, creamy liquid tan paint that you must blend lightly everywhere. Now that, I must admit----- does help.

All those red blotches and pillow wrinkles and little I-thought-I-was-through-with-zits-in-my-teens-so-where-the-HELL-did-these-come-from?-pimples miraculously get camouflaged by this little wonder.

I had a Mary Kay demonstration once where the lady said "one must remember that our faces are like a canvas...and every good artist must first "wash" the canvas with color before drawing on a masterpiece." Boy, that lady should have won the Employee of the Year Award, because I bought it like a sinner looking for a new religion.

Next, you say?

Oh yeah, there's about 12 more steps.

Blush is next. Again..an art form to apply. The theory a few years ago was that one was supposed to smile and brush it on under your cheekbones for the most natural look. (Once they figured out that this technique looked a little like the starving kids in Africa, they changed it to recommending applying it to the apples of your cheeks) (spreading it of course upwards, into one's temples).

Then......the eye makeup. To line, or not-to-line...THAT is the question. With a brush or not a brush? Eye shadow or no eye shadow? Light or dark? Smokey or shimmery? Oh...the choices are endless. And, I have the extra bathroom drawers to prove it!


I have been cursed with non-existent eyelashes. I figured my mom must have snuck a few glasses of wine during the first trimester of being pregnant with me-- or something, because honestly, I have more hair on my upper lip then on my eyes (Oh, wait a minute, the hair on my lip is more related to blessed menopause. Oops, I forgot!)

But wait, ladies....I have found the MIRACLE mascara. I honestly do NOT own stock in L'Oreal, but if I met their C.E.O. somewhere I would kiss them squarely on the lips (man or woman, I don't give a crap) for inventing the lash extending mascara that just came out. I now have lashes that I can actually see. Forget that I have to put on two different layers with the preciseness of a brain surgeon...(damn it!)....I now have LASHES!

Lipstick is another dilemma. Now that I have these wonderful spidery lip lines on my top lip...whenever I put on lipstick, it wicks up the crevices faster than a desert flood.
Lovely.
But, not to fear...just "pat on" that miracle concealer on your top lip before applying the lipstick and... voila!...no bleeding lipstick up to your nose!

Eyebrows are another notorious legacy my mother left me.

My mom had (as a teenager) literally shaved off her eyebrows. (She thought the Betty Grable's glamour models had skinny eyebrows, so why not her?)

So, she always had these God-awful drawn-in-with-eyebrow-pencil fake eyebrows.

She had over 20 different eyebrow pencils in her bathroom when she passed away.

She knew it....and was also obsessed with any facial hair she possessed. (So much so...that right before she passed away, she made me and my sister-in-law PROMISE that the moment she died we were to remove any facial hair and re-pencil her eyebrows before the funeral home came to get her).

We did.

(We did it within 10 minutes of her death...both crying and laughing).

But, back to the morning makeup drill.....
Why do I do it? Like I said...I am mentally-ill. And because those few times that I have not done so, inevitably, EVERY TIME....someone turns to me and says: "Are you feeling Okay? You look so pale. Your coloring isn't good, have you been sick?"
My husband included.

So, with years (and years!) of practice, I have perfected all of the steps above into about 10 minutes flat.

But then.....
I have to do my hair.................................................................

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Down Memory Lane


As I mentioned before, Christmas always makes me a little nostalgic.

I was musing on things that were around in the early 60's that just aren't around anymore and wondering if others remember them, too:

1. Remember Fizzee's? (they were like Alkza Seltzers that you put in a glass of water and it made like a fizzied koolaide type drink. Who knows what the hell they were really made of?)

2. Remember Pixie Sticks? (They were straws filled with gritty pure sugar in different flavors that you would pour directly into your mouth. I am sure that dentists invented them when their patient load dropped so that they could make lots of money.)

3. Remember WLS Radio Station in Chicago? (I always lived in a rural area when I was a teen....and we could only pull in the rock and roll after about 8pm from Chicago on the transistor radio we had. The local stations hardly ever played Rock 'n Roll).

4. Remember the Ed Sullivan Show? (He was a Frankenstein looking host who had a stiff neck so he'd turn his whole body when he turned and said things like: "There's going to be realllllly good Shoe (show) tonight!")

5.Remember the very first time you watched the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show?

6.Remember the horror from your parents/elders when they first saw the Beatles? And Elvis? Do you remember their horror over the Beatles "long hair"?

7. Remember your first color television set?

8. Remember your amazement over seeing your first microwave? (And being scared to put paper plates in it?)

9. Remember Twiggy? (She was a skinny-ass model that started all teenage girls into being either anorexic or bulemic)

10. Remember white go-go boots? (And Nancy Sinatra singing "These Boots are Made for Walking"?) (And wanting a pair, even if it meant donating a kidney to get them?)

11. Remember ironing your hair to get it straight? (I can still smell it!)

12. Remember the first "TV Dinners" where you had to put them in a real oven and bake them forever? (And they always tasted awful, anyway....but hell, it was "convenient" so we ate them anyway!)

13. Remember the first "fast food" restaurant in your town? (Ours was a hamburger joint called "Sandies" where we could buy hamburgers for 20 cents each).

14. Remember "black lights"? (and the first time you wore a white blouse under the lights and you could see your white bra clearly through because of the light?)

15. Remember Ford Mustang convertibles and how that was your "dream car"?(Mine would have been red with a white interior).

16. Remember English Leather aftershave? (Your first boyfriend probably wore it).

17. Remember Brylcreme and Vitalis for men's hair? (My dad wore them to "slick" down his hair...it was the first type of hair products for men).

18. Remember reel-to-reel tape recorders?

19. Remember 8 millimeter movies? (and watching them on a big screen in your living room?)


Now, anyone under 50 is probably thinking: "Man, that lady really IS old!!"

Well, maybe that's true.

But let me tell you....it will be a blink or two and you, too will be writing your own list about remembering when you got your first own laptop or cellphone or Nano Ipod.

Your kids will be rolling their eyes behind your back and winking at each other, all while they are flipping thru their newest techy gadget to look up what "home" they are going to put you in......

But like me, you will find some comfort in remembering the past..especially around Christmas time when you get nostalgic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Victoria's Real Secret


I don't know if you experience the Oh-My-God-He-Bought-Me-Lingerie-for-Christmas-Again syndrome this time of year, but it hits this house about every second or third year.

Don't get me wrong.

The sentiment is wonderful. (Not to mention that I am sure in giving you the expensive lingerie, most husbands think they might get a little sumpin-sumpin).

And, it isn't the giving of the lingerie that is the part that gets to me.

It is the fact that most husbands love the slutty, uncomfortable kind. (That would make even hooker's blush).

You know....the cut-off-your-circulation thongs, the bras with the cut-outs in the worst places, and the garter belt dealies. (What IS IT about men and garter belts?) (It is my theory that they all must only have been able to afford the old porn films when they were adolesents...you know...the Mrs. Robinson kind, where ladies wore garters and nylons and slowly, seductively rolled them down, one-at-a-time.....whilst the young, pimply boys drool while they watched).

But the real kicker is that when you unwrap this lingerie (that they have lovingly picked out for you)....you realize (in horror) that they have bought you (every single time): Size 2's.

Bless their heart that they think you would EVER fit into that size.( I may have.......back when I was in first grade.)

But, more than likely, husbands don't even look at the size. Once they see the lingerie on the rack, they probably glaze over (like a dog in heat) and grab it and buy it, with visions of Sugar Plums in their heads.

So, there you are...Christmas Eve....the only lights on are the Christmas tree lights and the fireplace glow....and he pulls out your gift, grinning that Cheashire cat grin you know so well. You immediately recognize "the look" and you immediately know what is in that he-no-way-in-Hell-wrapped-this-himself poofy package.

And, of course.....as you spot the Size 2 label...here......
it........
comes............................
....he says:
"Honey, why don't you try it on to see how you like it?
(Translation: "Why don't you try it on, cause I KNOW I'M GOING to like it". Can ya, huh? Can ya'??? Can ya? Puh-leeeeeeeeze?")

So, first...you don on the encased-in-steel underwire push-up bra with the indecent cut outs.

You pray to God for a miracle that the sliver-thin back hooks have the holding-power of those infom-merical wall hooks that hold up a cement block and 40-wheelers. You tuck in your arms to your side so the under-arm fat doesn't hang over like large saddle bags.

Then you strap on the garter belt, which means sucking in your breath as much as possible and tucking in flesh like putting bread dough into a sausage-casing.

Never mind that you can't breathe (and that your intestines are squished so tight that there will be absoloutely no digestion going on for the next two weeks and that as soon as you do this, it backed up and caused a little unpleasant taste in the back of your throat).

Next, you roll excruciatingly-painful nylons up your thunder thighs and try to walk cute (but careful, so they don't roll down into tootsie-rolls as you do this).

Actually, it is quite a talent to be able to do this, so give yourself a high-five for being able to do this feat. (What was I thinking?....you CAN'T do a high-five due to the bra that you have on!)

Besides, it is quite amazing that you could even bend over to put on these nylons with the grip-of-death garter belt you have on. Fashion hint: lay on the bed (like when you were a teenager trying to zip-up those too-tight blue jeans) and lift one leg in the air at a time....throwing each nylon in the air like a butterfly net catching a Monarch...
(After a few tries you will lasoo that baby in a nylon stocking and be able to slip it down the air-hung leg).

But be careful of the second health risk: attaching the garter belt nylon straps onto each nylon.
I have been known to put a few eyes out with that little gymnastic act...and the circus has no contortionists better than what I have endured to attach the back garters..... I have the permanent leg welts to prove it.

But.......................................you do it for him.

Because, in the end.....you know that this is going to be HIS best Christmas present.

EVER.

Merry Christmas, honey.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blogger Butt

I am no "House", but, as a (retired) nurse, give me a symptom and I can rattle off a list of possible diagnoses that may be the culprit of your ailments that will make you run for the nearest thermometer, hot water bottle and probably also double check your will.

But I didn't see this one coming.

I had no idea that once I started a blog and began to spew out all the writing (that my fingers can barely keep up with on the keyboard) that has been bottled up inside me for years.... that a sneaky physical ailment was attacking me that entire time, also.

First it begins with some tingling.

Then it progresses to pangs in your back and shoulders so tender that even if George Clooney tapped your shoulder, you'd turn around and smack the shit out of him.

If you are a fellow blogger, you know exactly some of the blogger symptoms I am talking about.

Not only that, but now you only talk in grunts to anyone in the same room with you if you are on your computer.

You may have some recollection that they possibly said something to you, but you aren't positive. (Did he just say that he got a penis tattoo?) (You were too busy blogging to know for sure.)

Anyway, the Mother of Symptoms that got to me today was Blogger's Butt.

A numbness so profound that I swear they could have branded me like cattle and I would say, "Geez, that warmth was kind of nice....could you move it a little to the left and a little lower?"

Evidently, (unknown to me)....if one sits and blogs too long without a potty break or position change, Blogger's Butt attacks without mercy.

Who knew?

I am sure the second stage of this horrible affliction is that the butt widens in size and probably sags too.

It just isn't going to be pretty.

The only good thing is that now, when I am people-watching at the Mall, I can easily identify my fellow-bloggers.....

I will instantly spot them. Walking along, they will be slowly rubbing their sagging, slightly-widened behinds, silently mumbling (or absent-mindedly nodding) at whoever is with them (because they are really a thousand miles away, thinking of what they are going to write in their next blog).

But since it may be just a little bit rude to ask if they are similarly afflicted with Blogger's Butt, maybe I need to learn our secret handshake instead?

Anyway, now I know how to get rich quick.......
Hallmark card's for "Hope your Blogger's Butt is feeling better." If Pet Rocks can make it, why not?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blogger Therapy Exercise #2

Since it is Christmas season, it is the perfect time to reflect on Christmas's Past.
(Not like Scrooge did, but in hopes that you have a cherished Christmas memory stored away somewhere that you can dredge up now to make you warm and fuzzy during this cold and snowy winter).

So, here is your second free blogger therapy lesson:

Take a deep breath (if you are not living in below zero right now...if so, don't do it..it will freeze your lungs off).

Ready?:

Think back to when you were a little girl (or boy).

Smell the Christmas tree?
Taste the eggnog?
See the bright Christmas lights and silver icicles on the tree? Maybe those "bubble lights" you used to have on the tree?
The angel at the top?

Now, think hard and name the best Christmas gift you EVER got when you were a kid.

Tell us why that exact image comes to mind for you and how old you were.......

That exact memory is what you need to hold on to this Christmas. Maybe even share it with your mother, your kids, your husband or your best friend.

If you are so inclined, feel free to add your memory to the "comment" section below for the rest of us readers to enjoy.

If you aren't so inclined (to share it), hold on to it tight this Christmas, and silently (in your heart) thank the loved ones that made it possible for you back then.
I just did.............

Here's mine:
I think I was maybe 4 or 5.
I don't remember ever asking Santa for the gift I got.
It was Christmas eve, around the bewitching hour (where you want to stay up and not go to bed, but knowing you'd better get your ass off to bed so Santa will have come the next day).
We had a house full of adults, visiting my mom and dad.
We had eaten and everyone was hanging around our small, crowded kitchen visiting.
My Mom suddenly said: Wait, do you hear something?"
Everyone froze and listened.
We heard noise and quite a bit of commotion just out our back kitchen door, inside the back shed.
It sounded like someone stomping their boots (to get the snow off).
Then, I heard what I thought were bells.
My mother said: "Do you think its Santa?"

All eyes turned toward me.

I was scared shitless.
I could not reply.

She pushed me toward the back door, where I could still hear commotion.

"Maybe you should open the door?", Mom said.

I was at a loss for what to do.

I mean I should have been in bed by now, to remain on the "good" list.

Who was it?

This could NOT be good......

What if HE knew I was up too late and that meant I would get no presents the next day?

And, if it really WAS him, I was too scared to actually meet him or say anything to him.

For God's sake, what on earth would I say? (?Hey there, Santa....mighty cold weather we've been having, hey? How is that darn Rudolf and the gang?)

Our houseguests all had silly grins on their faces. What was THAT all about?

I failed to see the humor. I mean, I truly did not know what to do.

After what seemed like an eternity, my Dad finally walked over and opened the door.

Directly in front of the door was a beautiful, mahogany play piano.

It was about the size of a coffee-table, and had a kid's size little chair to sit in front of the piano to play it.

I was dumbfounded.

It had to be a mistake.

First of all, I had never asked for this. Maybe a doll or a jewelry box, but not a piano.

On some level, I knew my family did not have much money, and therefore never expected more than two or three small, modest gifts every Christmas.

And I certainly never expected a piano.....exactly made for my size. For me????

And I certainly did not expect it to be delivered personally by The Man.

I looked back and forth from my mom to my dad for some hint of an explanation.

Nothing.

They just smiled.

Before I could move, a swirl of the guests swooped to the door to help haul it in.

I have no recollection of the rest of that Christmas eve night..........I don't even remember what other gifts I may have gotten that year.

And, to tell you the truth, I can't even remember actually playing with it a whole lot after that Christmas (or, for that matter... where it went as I got older).

Do I play piano now, as an adult?
Heck no....never had the urge. (Although whenever I see and hear others play the piano, I always envy their talent).

But the sweet music of Santa's bells in my back shed that night? Doing a special-delivery just for me?.................................That, was the best music that this little girl ever heard.

Now, what is your story?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ode to Esther

I remember looking out my window when I was about 13 yrs. old and seeing my neighbor Esther outside with a hammer and cement blocks, doing some project on her driveway, cussing a blue streak.

Seeing a woman doing anything with tools in 60's was unusual. For some reason, even though I was just 13, I wanted to remember the moment.

She was my idol.

You would never catch my mother near a hammer or cement blocks. (Not that she wasn't a tough lady...and determined!) After all, she was the wife of a lifer Air Force man and raised my brother and I (mostly alone) while my Dad was away somewhere on his job. But hammers and cement blocks? Not even close.

Most of the other neighborhood women were like Beaver Cleaver's mother and would also never touch the man's world of tools, either. They would shake their head and wonder what Esther was up to now.

Us kids? We loved her and usually there would be a bunch of us hanging out where she was, just watching her do it.

Esther was a strong Finnish woman whose mission was to keep her house super-clean and orderly. Second only to raising her family. Her daughter Janet was one of my best friends.

Her husband, Cletus worked midnights and most of us kids only saw him around 3 or 4 p.m. when he'd wake up from sleeping after working a midnight shift. You'd see him on his back porch in his bright white T-shirt (no doubt bleached to death by Esther!). He was a round, rolly-polly French man, mild and quiet (which was the ultimate opposite of Esther's loud and demonstrative manner). He worked long hours across town, so you would rarely see him fix things or do projects. That was left for Esther, who performed these tasks better than any man in our neighborhood.

Esther's voice boomed out at you even if you were talking right beside her. Her loud, exclamative statements always ended in a question or a chuckle.

Once, she called me on the phone and boomed: "Can you come over right away?" "I cannot get Janet to start wearing a God-Damned bra. Her boobs are too big now and she won't hear of it!" (As far as Janet was concerned, adolescence descended on her like a curse.) As much as Esther was determined, Janet was equally stubborn. Esther continued: "Don't tell her I called you, OK?". She clicked down the phone, hanging up before I could reply.

I did eventually talk Janet into at least trying on a "training bra" (as they called them then). (What the hell were we training our boobs to do back then, anyway?....Maybe to get them ready for a few years later, when we were told to burn our bras?) I remember after talking Janet into wearing that first bra, and we left for school and Esther gave me a sly wink of thanks. I believe I became her favorite kid in the neighborhood after that.

Esther and I had the same birthday (September 5th) , which always made me feel special.

Whenever I was bored and couldn't find her daughter to play with (or anyone else to hang out with in the neighborhood) all I needed to do was watch Esther's yard and you would spot movement. If she wasn't painting a fence or fixing a screen door, she'd be back by the burning barrels or out hanging clothes on the clothesline. I don't recall the woman ever sitting down.

Her kitchen always smelled terrific. She'd either have something baking, oozing with cinnamon or you'd smell the scent of a hearty, meaty soup simmering on the stove to greet you as you entered her house.

She was diagnosed with cancer when I was in my 30's. She faced that head-on, without flinching or feeling sorry for herself. The last time I saw her, she was bald (from the chemo) with the exception of two long hairs. She chuckled, saying "Isn't my hair pretty? and did a swooping "comb-over" for me with the comb running through her two last, long hairs. We hugged a long time, giggling. It was the last thing she said to me.

To this day, whenever I do a task involving pounding, fixing, hauling, sawing or clamping around the house, I smile inside and say: "This one is for you, Esther!" As a woman, I know I can do them because she blazed the possibility (in my mind) for me to do them when I was only 13.
Training bras?
Nope.
Training MINDS.......now THAT was the most important thing Esther did for all of the girls in our neighborhood.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Retirement Spouse Survival Guide: List #1


I spoke with my sister-in-law yesterday. She retired the same day as me. My brother had already retired a few months before her (and I).

She said she was ready to kill him.

She said the point that made her snap was that after hunting for a deer (it is a sacred tradition in the U.P. to hunt deer every Nov.15th thru Nov. 30th...they even excuse kids from school to do it.) (seriously)............. my brother butchered it ON HER KITCHEN TABLE.

Jeff Goldsworthy would have a ball with that one! You know you're a redneck when your husband butchers his deer ON YOUR KITCHEN TABLE. Can't you hear him now?

But, my brother is not a redneck. Not even poor white trash. He is just addicted to hunting and fishing. It has been his passion since childhood. But now his retirement has blessed him with all the time he wants to do it in....and obviously, it has him in his grip like cocaine.

My advice?....I sent her the "how to start your own blog" website, and told her to start NOW.

But, it got me to thinking. I think there should be an ongoing Retirement Spouse Survival Guide which retired spouse newbies can use and keep adding to so that when one reaches retirement, they can learn from others' wisdom.

So, readers....if there are any of you out there that want to keep the list going, just add on to this post. As I come up with more for the list, I will put Volume #2, etc. on my blog.
You just may save a marriage or two.

Here is my starting advice:

1. Have at least two good-quality television sets in two separate rooms. One must not be in a bedroom (because retirees can slip into naps faster than on a banana).
This prevents the tug-of-war, snips, and flinging insults that come from fighting over what to watch on a continual basis. Or, in my brother's case, will keep my sister-in-law from having to watch hunting and fishing programs 24/7).

2. When you want to be in the same room with one watching TV and the other one reading (or in my brother's case, studying hunting and fishing catalogs), there is a cheap gadget that is a lifesaver. It is a little box that you attach to the TV and a wireless headset to go with it. The TV watcher can turn it up as loud as (s)he wants and watch TV, while the other one is awarded blessed quiet. It cost us about $15.00 and it is worth every cent (and then some). Ladies, you will have to train your husband not to yell a question at you when he has the headphones on (not realizing how loud he is speaking), but it is well worth it.

3. You MUST, without fail....find a hobby to do somewhere in the house where he:
a. can't find you
b. can't fit in with you
c. has some obnoxious smell that he doesn't want to enter (if the hobby doesn't provide this, just open a bottle of nail polish beside you....every husband on the face of the earth hates this smell)

4. Buy a pair of nose-hair clippers for your husband. My Lord, what happens when they retire? Does some male hormone kick in that makes their nose hairs grow a yard a day, like Jack and the Beanstock?

5. Get him drunk once a month, and man-scape his eyebrows. All retired men look like Walter Cronkite. You will have to sit on him to do it, but it is worth it. And, while you are at it, clip those ear hairs. (Must be the same nosehair growth hormone).

6. To be fair, on those once-a-month hair trims of him, go ahead and give him a thrill and shave your legs. Just don't forget when you lean against the bed that you have shaven. Otherwise you may slip and fall.

7. When he is out and about (in my brother's case, hunting or fishing)...go through his underwear drawer and throw out the ragged ones. If he comes home and has no underwear in his drawer, act innocent and bat your eyelashes as innocently as you can and say: "Underwear? What underwear?" "You must have used them all, honey". "Let's go to the mall and buy you some more". (Or in the case of my brother, say: "You go hunting, honey. I will run to the mall and buy you some more.")

8. If you live in the north, constantly check the thermostat. If you live in the south, constantly check your air conditioning settings. Re-set it to what you want it to be. Husbands don't believe in comfort and he more than likely turned it down on you. (In the case of my brother, that is what comes from aclimating to being outside in a deer blind all day).

9. If you are planning to eat leftovers for lunch, better double check. He probably already ate it.

10. Now is the time to claim a bad back, even if you don't have one. You probably do from all the past lifting your partner asked you to do. But now, you have a legitimate excuse...you are retired and "too old" to help lift anything...in fact, make sure you practice this one when it is time to get the groceries in from the car. Besides, you end up putting them all away anyway (right?)

11. Threaten to re-arrange the furniture. (You won't mean it and you don't want to due to the heavy lifting mentioned above, but bear with me here.) When your partner begins to protest, you can graciously agree not to. This earns you huge goodwill points to use when you want him to put on the TV silencer earphones, or when you want to man-scape his eyebrows.


Anyone out there with more to add to the list....feel free to comment......

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Blogger Therapy Exercise #1

With this new-found retirement, I am faced with more time for introspection. Sometimes this leads to funny memories, sometimes not-so-funny (dang it!)

When you are so crazy busy raising your family, working at your job, and just trying to rush through the day-to-day tasks, you have absolutely no time to do anything but swear at the world for not even providing a moment to yourself.

I even remember (more than once) being at work and not even having time to go pee when the urge hit...and holding it for as long as possible.
Seriously.
What job on earth has the right to demand THAT of someone?

Anyway, now that the blush of retirement is over (it has been since June), and winter has hit here with a vengence (we have plenty of snow here in the U.P.) (Upper Peninsula of Michigan...not the glove-shaped part of Michigan, but the part way up north bordering Lake Superior), I am forced to re-visit some of those introspections.

I figure if I am going through this time of life, there must be others of you out there doing the same thing. Or, being introspective for other reasons.

Thus, the brainchild idea of starting "Free Blogger Therapy Exercises "on my blog. Am I a therapist? Hell, no....I don't even LOOK like Dr. Phil, either. But, I have lived long enough to get insights on life and long enough to be able to ask you (and me) some interesting questions to explore.

Come join me on my blog in answering occasional questions to get you thinking inward. Feel free to post your introspections as comments to my blog. You never know, just hearing others share theirs might just help you. (Or, you may feel better by thinking: "Geez, I thought I had it bad, but at least I am not as F****** up as THAT person!" (*grin*)

So:
Here goes.

Answer from your gut, don't censor what you answer, just go with it.

First question in the series for you to answer:
Think of a picture of yourself as a child, the younger you were, the better.
Got that in mind?
Now, as an adult, speak to that child in the photo and tell that child ONE piece of advice for the future. Just one.

Here is mine:

The earliest photo I have in mind is one where my parents woke me up out of a sound sleep to come out and see some company that had arrived (relatives I think). There I am, about four years old, standing barefoot on a red and white lineoleum tile floor, wearing a flannel nightgown down to my toes, hair in a Pebbles-type ponytail. I am rubbing my eyes and shyly smiling.

Here is what I would tell her:
Eventually, you will get confident in yourself. It will take you many years of people-pleasing, hurt feelings, slow-to-try-new-things and quite a few mistakes. Try not to beat yourself up continually about that, it is part of the journey. You will emerge on the other side with humor, happy memories and as a strong woman. There will be times in your life where you absoloutely will NOT believe that. Just remember what I told you and you will see. Oh, and one more thing...don't EVER get a perm.

Now, your turn. Don't think! Just do it...............

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Grandkids....aren't they great?

Over thanksgiving we had the pleasure of a visit from MED (my eldest daughter), her husband and our two grandkids. My grandson's 6th birthday fell on 11/30, so we had an early bday party for him.
I had consulted MED about his Santa list a few weeks earlier to get some ideas for both his birthday and Xmas.
He has long been mesmerized with Super Heros and anything related to Star Wars. It is my belief that his father has brainwashed him into it, but that is for another blog.
Anyway, I bought him a Storm Trooper helmet dealie that when you put it on and talk through the microphone, you sound like you are either Darth Vader or a Storm Trooper.
He LOVED it.
How do I know?
Because he rips open the present, eyes widened, and in his most sincere voice, said:
"I am SO going to bring this to show-and-tell when I home!"

That got me to thinking....if I still had "Show and Tell" ...what would I bring?
How about you?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It Isn't Pretty

Boy, waddle appears out of nowhere.

For those of you under 50 who don't know what "waddle" is...or haven't seen re-runs of Ally McBeal....waddle is that God-awful hunk of skin hanging down below your chin that continues to vibate left and right long after your chin has.

One day, I had nice tight, firm under-chin skin. Granted, most times there are 2 chins (instead of one) but even back in the day, both were still firm.

Then, one day....looking back from you in the mirror is this waddle thing-a-ma-jig.

You wonder when it happened....because I-swear-to-God...it happened overnight.

Maybe there is a Waddle Fairy that delivers it while you are sleeping. I can see her now...dressed in a flannel nightgown, fluffy slippers and gray streaks in her hair....bouncing onto my pillow (ever so lightly, to avoid waking me into another hot flash) and waving her glittered wand over my neck, giggling uncontrollably and then leaving.....

I know my husband still loves me because the other day we were lounging on the couch in our favorite positions....(him sitting up with me laying down, my fluffy pillow in his lap and my head on the pillow). I reached up and was touching his head absent-mindedly during an ad on TV and he laughed and said: "Are you enjoying playing with my waddle?" (Un-noticed by me, I indeed was flicking his back and forth). We both started giggling. Neither of us denied that either of us HAD waddle, he just stated an observation about it, and we did not bemoan our slowly-deteorating, aging bodies.....


Boy, this retirement provides some downright terrific moments.

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REMINDER: All photographs on this blog are COPYRIGHTED.
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About Me

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I retired in June 2008 and started my blog in November 2008. I worked at several jobs as a Registered Nurse prior to retirement. I LOVE being retired! Blogging has offered me a whole new venue to start writing again and to share new hobbies such as gardening, birdwatching and sharing my nature photography. If you like my blog, PLEASE click on "follow this blog". Having a lot of followers reading my blog gives me incentive to continue to do photography and to continue to write. I also LOVE comments, so I encourage you to leave me a comment after you read my posts. Thanks everyone, for taking the time to read me!!

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