Saturday, December 29, 2007

my best Christmas gift

I typically don't like to rank Christmas gifts in order of greatness because I think that any gift has value if someone takes the time to think about it and then goes out and shops (whether in the mall or on the internet).

I have received many thoughtful gifts from family and friends over the years, but this year I recognized that I received the best gift I could ever hope for.

Jack and I have been together for over 30 years. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday that we said our I dos, and other times it seems like we've been together forever, since we were born, like all our lives. The past while has been some of the all our lives time and not always in a good way. All of the issues of the past few years came to a head this autumn and for a while, I didn't know how we could possibly resolve things.

But Jack did. He never lost sight of how good we are together; all of the good things we've done together through the years; and all of the good things we have together in the future. He stuck it out through some pretty deep sh*t and stayed by my side.

That is, without any doubt, the best gift I could ever hope for. A good man who loves me enough to stick around when I totally mess things up and loves me enough to recognize the parts that are his deal to work through and the parts that are my deal to work through and the parts that are our deal to work through together. Even when it truly is work.

Us together is the best gift. I love you, Jack.

Friday, December 28, 2007

saturday was a special day

If you grew up like I grew up, you will recognize that line (with a slight change of verb tense). It was one of my favorite songs in Sunday School as a child.

In case you are unfamiliar with the song, it is about all of the things we should do on Saturday so that we will be able to keep the Sabbath holy. The things that made Saturday special included washing the car and shining our shoes and cleaning our nails and shampooing our hair. (The song also include the line, "We call it our get-the-work-done day," which I thought, even as a child, was just a great line.)

My mother did most of the chores in the song throughout the week, but the one thing she did every Saturday night was to wash my thick long brown hair. Looking back, it didn't strike me as odd that she only washed my hair once a week. I never really gave it a thought. But once a week, we would stand at the kitchen sink (in her 1950's kitchen, complete with white metal cabinets, formica countertops that were white with tiny bits of turquoise and orange, and dark grayish, greenish, brownish linolium, that likely contained asbestos), and she would wash my hair in that sink.

As I think back, I seem to recall that she used Breck shampoo and Breck cream rinse. Does anybody out there remember cream rinse? Did your mom pour a little bit into one of those metal cups that were bright shiny silver or green or red or blue (at least until dishwashers came along and faded the colors) and then did she fill the cup to the top so that after all of the shampoo was washed out, she could pour that cream rinse water over your hair and then rinse that out and wrap up your hair in a towel on your head?

And then did you realize, every Saturday night, that your hair was still tangly even though your mom used the cream rinse? And then you got to sleep on those pink foam curlers so that on Sunday, you would have masses of ringlets?

Yes, Saturday was a special day.

true women in the gardens

Here in the gardens, yet another list has been swirling around for a couple of days, and while it may not be complete, it seems like a good start and has the possibility of being less than six pages long--which seems to be the usual post length when printed...

With that in mind, kindly review our list of traits (in no particular order--remember they are still swirling) that define a true woman:

1. True women allow themselves to express their creativity in whatever form they desire.
2. True women are mostly comfortable in their own bodies but recognize and value their individual physical traits.
3. True women acknowledge that sometimes they are uncomfortable in their own minds, and they seek or accept help when they need it.
4. True women are altos. Yes, there is definitely a place for sopranos in the choir, just as every game of Clue needs a Miss Scarlet, but altos create the harmony, tension, and resolution in a song in the same way that true women live their lives.
5. True women find joy in things simple and great, and they relish that joy, and while they do not live every minute dripping in joy, they do recognize it and store it away for those times when there is no joy to be seen.
6. True women love deeply, acknowledging that loving deeply carries with it great risk, but that is the only way they know how to love.

That is the swirling list. Updates to follow.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

fito (fly in the ointment) update

My how things can change from one day to the next, especially at this time of the year in the gardens.

Since the previous fito post, it has been only five days--how can that be? Can you hear that noise? It's another list approaching--a Reader's Digest version of the last five days:

1. After posting the first fito post, Jack and I decided it was time to do some serious shopping, so we did. We were amazing--the ideas, the implementation, the inspiration--it was truly (!!OVERUSED WORD ALERT!!!) AWESOME!!! We were feeling so ready to move on to wrapping and party preparation. Until we received another call from the firstborn. He was back in the hospital and sicker than ever. We went to the hospital and I spent the night there with him so his wife and daughter could go home and sleep in their own beds. Needless to say, that call evaporated the awesome feeling we were experiencing. (Let it be known that we do not blame the firstborn for the evaporation--it's just one of the things he and we go through some times. We hate it for him and he hates it for us.)

2. For the first time in 30 years, Jack and I did not wake up in the same bed on Christmas morning. That was an odd feeling. While it was good to be with the firstborn and good also when he and his wife let us take their daughter with us for Christmas visits to family, I missed hearing Jack's Christmas greeting as the first thing in my ear early in the morning. Christmas was a long day--longer even than the day that Jack Jr. and I had the flu when he was 1 1/2 years old and I spent the day upstairs in my bed/bathroom and he spent the day downstairs raiding the Christmas stockings. And I spent the day changing his diapers... After the firstborn spent some alone time with Jack, received some infusions of fluids, drank some fluids, and a survived a couple of near catastrophies, the day ended with the firstborn feeling calmer emotionally and better physically. Or at least it felt that way to me.

3. Yesterday and today were spent partly at work and partly visiting family and partly watching old episodes of The Sopranos (the best tv ever, really.) Both days also included lots of treat eating and minimal amounts of tidying up and disposing of wrapping paper scraps.

4. Now it is time to finish up with the pre-Christmas list. The gardens have yet to produce the caramels (or the turtles that were originally planned), the spritz or teacakes (yes Jack Jr. made spritz, but somehow, blue and green spritz are not the same as red and green spritz), or the cheeseballs. We also need to write a couple of notes to friends and family and visit with a dear friend who was diagnosed with an illness that will likely be the cause of her lingering until she passes on. That was not a good Christmas card/letter/update to receive. But that is life. For all of us, it will end sometime, somehow.

While this may seem like another long post, it is really the RD version. It was much longer in real life.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

bra update

The Baker not only bakes, he cleans, repairs, mows, shovels, and also does laundry. I know, he's amazing and we're lucky to have him in the gardens.

Last week, I left a load of laundry in the laundry room, thinking I would get it done sometime if it was closer to the washer. Yesterday morning, I realized that The Baker--okay, wait, I can't call him The Baker, even if that's the name he has given to himself. I think of him as Jack Jr.

So, anyways, Jack Jr. put my load of white clothes into the washer for me and as I was looking for some underwear for Jack, I found the load in the washer, awaiting drying. I started lifting the wet clothes out of the washer and quickly realized that something was amiss in the washer. No, it wasn't a red pen or anything like that. It was just very difficult to get the clothes out of the washer. They were all tied into one big twisty knot. As I started untwisting and unknotting the load of laundry, I saw one of my usual bra shoulder straps that, for some reason, was seriously stuck in the washer. Everytime I pulled on the strap, it seemed like I was lifting the entire washer agitator out of the machine. Eventually, I discovered the problem. My bra shoulder strap had been dropped into the washer over the top of the agitator instead of into the tub, so everything in the washer was caught up and around the bra strap and a giant towel that had wound itself around the bra strap.

When I finally got the bra strap off of the agitator, it was stretched to at least twice its normal length, but amazingly, it didn't tear.

I feel fairly certain though that it was a good thing that one of my big-girl bras didn't get dropped around the agitator, or I would be getting a new washer for Christmas instead of that new milk foamer that makes the chai tea that I love.

fly in the ointment

This is only the 3rd time in 30 years that the usual shopping method is causing more than a little bit of anxiety. The first two times were when the main shopper got the flu in the 20's of December. This time it is a little more complicated. The anxious listmaker in the gardens feels the need to make a list of the complications:

1. Typical slight anxiety from the approaching (yet magical, miraculous even) deadline of December 24.
2. Additional responsibilities as new landlord of the basement apartment of The Amazing Girl's new house, including a bathroom remodel (mostly completed by Jack--aka The Reluctant Landlord), and major cleaning and de-spidering of the apartment (spider webs that have accumulated since 1928, mostly completed by Gilian--aka The On-The-Surface Optimist).
3. While 1 & 2 above have been larger than anticipated (as always with remodels), a new complication entered the picture yesterday when, while remodeling/de-spidering, we received a phone call from our firstborn who was at his home feeling very sick. His firstborn was there with him, and while that situation for most people would be no big deal, we could tell from the sound of his voice that this was a big deal. Without going into detail, let's just say that he lives with an ongoing, serious medical condition that occasionally requires a trip to the emergency room for an infusion of fluids. One of those events occurred yesterday, so when he called, Jack and I agreed that he would stay at the remodel site and I would drive really quickly to be with the boy/man (30 minutes for the usual 45 minutes drive--even more amazing if you consider that it was the Saturday before Christmas and the hospital is located on the same street as the fairly new, giant-sized Costco). I arrived at the hospital before he and his wife (who was able to leave work after all--which was very good news indeed). After the usual battery of tests and hours of waiting, the docs determined that he needed three units of fluid and sent him home to recuperate. Once the nurse started the IV, I left to find parking in the nearby Costco lot, where I purchased ham and gifts for last night's family party. Jack and the remaining crew at the rental completed enough of the remodel to allow the new tenants to move in when they arrived from their journey across Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah. While the hugh storm that arrived late last week may have tricked my little car and The Drummer into sliding around on the freeway and into the wall backwards (only slight damage to the car and no damage to The Drummer), it also slowed the journey of the tenants enough to give us one of the two extra days we needed to finish up the remodel, which feels like an early December 24 miracle.

Okay, we're feeling much less anxious in the gardens now--time to get back to the detailed list.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Too fast for existing conditions or Objects in mirror are closer than they appear

Just yesterday, I noticed on my computer at work that the little time/date thingie in the bottom right corner of the screen indicated that we were officially into the December 20's. For just a few seconds, there was anxiety here in the Gardens, because we have still not made a dent in The List! !! Allow me to say, "YIKES!!!"

But never fear, this happens every year. Somehow the first nineteen days of December get by me and before I know it, we are in the 20's, and must somehow move beyond The (rather vague, sketchy) List! !! to the detailed list version of speed shopping done NOW.

And amazingly, just one day later we now have an extremely detailed list, which is kept under lock and key, even though all members of the inner circle of the Gardens that we will be shopping for are either adults or babies or toddlers. Surprises are a big part of the planning in our wait to begin shopping in the 20's.

For the first two weeks of December, we hardly give Christmas a thought. Or at least the shopping part. We usually have to pick up something here or there for a party, but nothing too substantial. Then, the week before Christmas, we begin the pondering and muddling around. If we find ourselves in a store and see something that we think someone might like, we pick it up, which is why we have purchased something for one of the boys and two sweaters and two long-sleeved tees for me from The Gap. (Okay, I was trying to get to Ann Taylor, but alas, entered the wrong door at the mall and was lured in to the wrong place. Well, not really the wrong place, since I did get two new sweaters and two new long-sleeved tees. And they are cute at that. Of course.)

Once the 20's sneak up on us, it is time to get into action. Okay, well, not really. What really happens is that I start seriously thinking in my head (well, of course, where else would I think?) about what to purchase on the 20th, and I pester Jack about what he's thinking about in his head, and by the 21st, the detailed list is being mentally compiled. After Jack and I confer, I write down what we've agreed to purchase for each person and where we plan to buy it. As I make this list, the number of stores we will visit shortens. One of the rules of shopping at the last minute is that we need flexibility. So if we intended to buy something at the electronics store and something at the home improvement store and something at a certain clothing store, obviously that will be too many stores on the 23rd, so we figure out how to get something similar to the planned items, but all of them must be available at the same store or one close by so we don't have to drive from store to store, and also so we don't have to walk too far between stores or to the car. Perhaps that sounds environmentally conscious, or anti-exercise, but it is really all about time. Or the lack of it when we put off the shopping until two days before Christmas.

We are confident that once again, this plan will work, because we know the miracle of Christmas Eve, which is that if we wait until Christmas Eve to finish up our Christmas shopping, we will find something worthy, at a great price, and the time will run out and then we can put up our feet by the fire, with the glow of the Christmas tree lights in the background, and the carols playing on the cd player, sipping warm chai tea (or cocoa) and let out our breath that we have been holding for five days since we realized it was already the 20's.

ps To those of you who read the 'gentle hint' post--that was not intended to be MY Christmas wish list, it was a big, fat plea for YOUR wish list...remember we're shopping two days before Christmas again and could use some suggestions. And could you all get together and see if we can buy everything at one store? Like maybe Costco so we can get groceries at the same time?

Monday, December 17, 2007


Several months ago, I did one of my absolutely most favorite shopping things. In fact, I love it so much that I do it as often as possible. Sometimes I go years between trips because they are so fun.

Some of you may be able to relate--I went shopping for new underthings, bras in particular. I think the only time I was excited to purchase new bras was the first time my mother took me to Sears, to the lingerie department, and I got three brand-new white training bras--finally, since I was absolutely the last girl in the sixth grade to get a bra. And actually didn't need one even then, but my mom read my diary and realized it was crucial to my development to have that back-slapping strap before I started gym class in seventh grade.

I wore that same type of bra for many, many years--until the feeding of my first child, which required nursing bras. Now there's a sexy bra, that at the time, even I could fill out.

After all of the kids were born and weaned, I tried different styles of bras, always avoiding the lacy ones (they left lines under my shirts on my once again flat chest). Typically, I purchased something very similar to the training bras but in a B-cup size that I barely filled out. Eventually I started purchasing slightly padded bras (this was all before those fetching gel/water-filled bras that seem to me to be just a bit deceptive to the boys, sort of like steroids in sports I guess. How can a flat-chested girl ever compete for boys against a femininely curved girl, much in the same way that a non-steroid user can't compete against a steroid user/denyer? Yeah, I know, get a good personality or be a punter.)

In the past few years, I (along with many women my age) have gained a few pounds. I prefer to think of myself as a woman now, instead of a girl. Somehow that helps with the weight gain.
That weight has been distributed fairly evenly which means I had this idea that I needed some better-fitting bras. Well, that and the store where I buy bras only had two of my favorites available in my new larger size.

For the first time in my life, I entered (with the intention to purchase, not mock) the big-girl bra department of the store and tried on a couple of big-girl bras. Holy smoke they were big everywhere! Big cups, big straps, big back strap, with two, count 'em, two hooks, and even big side straps. I was astounded and a little bit overwhelmed. I had to sit down in the dressing room (on the floor because it isn't a high-end store) to contemplate whether or not I could actually enter this new phase of my life.

After several minutes on the floor, I put on my shirt over the big-girl bra and realized that that big-girl bra felt more comfortable. And I looked better. Something to do with that old Playtex commercial about 'lifting and separating' or something.

I decided it would be safe to buy the two usual favorite bras and then also purchased two big-girl bras that I considered returning, all the way on my drive home. By the time I arrived in my garage, I had decided that I would use the big-girl bras whenever I exercised, which explains why, several months after my purchase, they were still in my underthings drawer last week. And also perhaps why, in addition to my age, I have gained a few (okay, several) pounds.

That none-laundry-for-weeks-day was when I realized that by not doing my laundry for a couple of weeks, I would have to resort to wearing one of the big-girl bras in a non-exercising event, like, oh, life that day. So, I bravely took one out of the drawer, removed the tags, and carefully put it on, making sure it was carefully adjusted.

It only took me a couple of minutes to realize that this was the bra for me! I haven't felt as comfortable in a bra since maybe that first training bra. Apparently I did need that bra in sixth grade, and apparently I needed the big-girl bra now.

I just have one question for my fellow big-girl bra wearers. When you lay down on your back in bed with your big-girl bra on, does it get all wrinkly?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

conversation overheard this morning or Life is so good

"How are you doing?"

"Good. How are you?"



"No, good. Really good."

Followed by matching deep sighs of content.

Friday, December 14, 2007

LIST! !! update

Jake is home from school and is in the kitchen, even as I type, I swear this is true, making Christmas cookies. I've tasted the chocolate chip cookies that are already done and they are goood. I can smell the spritz baking and he's also making the teacakes and the frosted cookies and !!!bonus!!! lemon bars. That means I only need to make the ginger cookies and caramels.

Cross another thing off of the LIST! !!

I love that boy and I love having him back in the house.

Can I just say... kidney stone is enough to cause pain. Not kidney stones, kidney stone. Wee, little kidney stone.

a really gentle hint

If I were Santa and had to fill my own stocking, well, first of all, wouldn't that be just sad? No one who knew me well enough to think long and hard about the things I might like to find in my Christmas stocking, because it would be my job as Santa to fill all stockings. Man, that is sadly sad.

Okay, enough sadness. It's Christmas time. Be happy.

If I were Santa, these are the things I'd put in my own stocking:

Jr. mints
Chocolate covered cherries
Menthol ice lip gloss
Santa Christmas tree ornaments
Socks with prints on them
Socks with no prints on them
Orange sticks
Teardrop shaped earrings
Not too easy Sudoku book
Sopranos dvds
A bag of those cheap kazoos
Butter mints
A love note to me
Something to share with the little girls
A nice apple, clementine orange, and maybe some avocados
A little framed picture of Jack
Movie tickets

Now that's a good start. Gentle readers, how about your stockings? Whatever would Santa fill them with, if you were Santa?


The next post (from earlier tonight) is long and I mean long, like a giraffe's neck or long, like a great winter scarf, or long, like Louise's tail.

Or something like that. You've been warned.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

my mind the internet

For a long time now, (as long as I've known about the world wide web), I've thought of my mind as, (a) a building with many rooms with doors, and (b) very similar to the internet. Oftentimes, I feel like I'm surfing the web that is my brain, clicking on link after link and only staying on each site for a couple of seconds, almost like someone who is viewing porn or some other forbidden sites who doesn't want to stay too long on any one page. (Sorry if that description was a bit disturbing, dear readers--I don't view porn in my mind...or on the internet for that matter...)

Tonight the clicking went from sites about Jessie's car troubles, Herschel and Jake's trip through the snowy canyon (which is nothing like the beautiful six inches mentioned in an earlier post), electronic document retention (a work project), Jake's most recent driving incident (one per year, that's all we ask...apparently), my earliest childhood memories, Stuart's latest doctor appointment, and the 2007 edition of the LIST OF STUFF TO DO BEFORE CHRISTMAS! !!

The LIST ! !! with bullets is as follows:
  • Put up decorations
  • Decorate tree
  • Send out cards
  • Make cheeseballs
  • Bake cookies--spritz, Russian teacakes, and frosted sprinkle cookies, at least
  • Make candy--fudge (Grandma's recipe), divinity (yeah, right. Mom, if you love me, you'll make me divinity again...), toffee (see if I can get it right this year), caramels (I feel very hopeful about caramels)
  • Make list of presents to shop for
  • Shop for presents
  • Wrap presents
So far, I must thank Jake for accomplishing the first two items on the LIST! !! I think I will eliminate the third item (what would I write in the cards, "This year has been ???what???--good because we met Audrey, or crazy, because, well, it's been a bit crazy).

I need to get right on cheeseball production--for neighbors, co-workers, etc. But first, I need to buy the cheese and crackers. Cheeseball production will need to be a high priority, because everybody loves a good cheeseball and I make a good cheeseball, if I do say so myself (if there is such a thing as a good cheeseball since they are made from fake cheesefood...)

As far as the cookies and candy go, there is still a good chance that I'll make all of the usual cookies and perhaps some ginger cookies too. I believe the candy list will shrink to only caramels, but perhaps I'll buy some dipping chocolate and nuts and turn some of the caramels into turtles or whatever those nut/caramel/chocolate things are called.

I've given serious thought to the list of presents to buy and thought I had it all figured out, but there is always the need to discuss it with Jack (the name I'm giving to the great guy I've lived with forever because he is a Jack-of-all-trades and I mean that in only a good way). Jack always has some clever ideas about gifts when we hit the stores, so I'm looking forward to that.

You may have guessed by now that I haven't made much progress on the shopping for gifts. I did purchase my first gift a couple of days ago (unless you count all of the clothes Jake picked out for himself and promptly wrapped and place lovingly under the tree, which is as much as I've completed on the last item on the LIST! !!)

I am certain that now that I've written this all down, I'll be able to go right to sleep, like a baby, because that is the way it goes when you're a listmaker.

And in case you're interested in my earliest childhood memories, they are:
  1. I remember laying between my brother and my dad in my parents' bed when my mom went to the hospital to get another baby, yet another brother. I felt so safe and loved between them.
  2. I remember bringing that new brother home in my parent's blue 1947 Oldsmobile, Old Blue. I rode in the back seat with my mother, who was holding my brother on her lap (no, Virginia, there were no seat belts or car seats back then). My brother was wrapped in a blanket and I remember seeing some little white spots on his forehead that my mom later told me were probably baby powder, but I think they were those baby zits.
  3. I remember a Christmas when I was probably four or five when I got a baby doll from Santa. Apparently I was sick that day (probably ate too much candy or perhaps my mom didn't have it in her to wrestle with me in church--it was a Sunday), but she let me stay home with my dad from church. I remember laying next to him on his bed, he was laying on his side, with me next to him and my doll next to me. He fell asleep with his arm around me and my doll, but I lay awake, trying hard to stay still and not wake him. Again, I felt very safe and loved and protected.
All very good memories.

Time to go to bed so I can think about shopping tomorrow. Keep thinking, Jack.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

a really great job

My friend, Lisa, has a really great job and by that I mean she gets to take her laptop to meetings and everywhere else and she can read her friends' blogs and post to her own blog whenever she wants.

Whereas I have a great job and by that I mean that I get paid good money to do something I love, but I get blocked and logged and receive a warning nastygram from corporate whenever I try to view or post on a blog site. Now that's messed up. So that's my lame excuse for not posting more frequently. Well, that and the basement remodel we've been slowly completing that includes an hour drive each way and nowhere near enough time spent with Breanne.

Oh, the other great thing about my job is the baskets of treats that regularly arrive at this time of year. Have you ever tried a granny smith apple dipped in caramel then white chocolate and finally in cinnamon and sugar. Very Yummy with a capital Y.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

five random thoughts

1. Six inches of fresh powder snow in my yard yesterday. I can't quite believe the beauty of winter. Every tree was covered, just like a postcard.
2. Little Audrey, after refusing to eat or be snuggled, instead laid across my lap while I patted her back and then fell asleep in less than two minutes.
3. The cats were out of food last night, which is always a MAJOR crisis for Millie. I woke up with her standing on my pillow, over my head, staring down at me, begging me to wake up and feed her---please, NOW, meow.
4. Finally, after three weekends, Dollie is brushed. Ginger is next.
5. The love of a good man is so reassuring, so comforting when the breakthroughs have been so painful.