Christmas list

Hanging out with the LBD (Paco, my ten pounds of terrier/chi terror), and seeing what the day brings. Jamal and I had a very nice time last night with the family, and today I just had a great visit with a long-time friend who stopped by with her husband.  We hadn’t talked in about five years, not because of any drama, mostly because life just kinda kept happening, and we didn’t keep up with each other.  I’m not the most Christmas-ey of people, but seeing Laury and Steve gave me a great gift of good cheer when I wasn’t looking for one today.

Can we look at the list now?

1.  It just seems to me that the Christmas crush was a bit more…pulpy this year.  Granted, it was a broad spectrum of behavior out there, and I’m certain that I allowed some of the bad behavior to affect me more than usual, but… it’s the holiday season, and so many horrible events have taken place recently, that it wouldn’t have killed you grinches (and you know who you are) to be a little nicer, to the retail staff, to other people in the parking lot, even to your own family.  Maybe you didn’t feel like it, but sometimes acting “as if” can put a person into a better sprit – never fear, crabby folk, we’ll give you a chance next year; just hope that everyone in your family is still here for you next year.  For the rest of you, who held places in line for strangers, who wished cashiers happy holidays, and who were aware that there were other people in your sphere of existence besides yourselves – your halos are showing; thank you.

2.  Seeing the Christmas lights is always my favorite part of the season; I love when they start appearing, and I get a little blue when they come down. What I find interesting (and a little bit scary) is the appearance of the enormous balloon figures on the lawns in our neighborhood:

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I gauged this Santa at ten feet tall, but he was taller than the house, so he was maybe more like fifteen.  And what’s a little odd about these decorations (maybe it’s just me) is that they are deflated during the day, then are inflated to monster size at night.  Seems like a Santa (or a giant penguin, like the one on my block) that could suffocate Mom and Dad and take the kids away to his evil workshop at the North Pole where Oogie Boogie lives; wait, I could be mixing up my movies….anyhow, it could be scary, dunno.

3.  I found a cool website: completely-coastal.com.  If you enjoy all things seaside, you will want to take a look; our Christmas tree is covered with seashells and mermaids, and my vision for the master bath (once the guest bath is finished) is that it will feel like the song “Under the Sea.”  (My husband Jamal is on board with my design taste, which is cool.)  And my taste is all over the place, so I have to be careful, because I like this:

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And I like this:

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My coastal living has a little bit of the apocalypse mixed in – works for me (and thankfully, for Jamal).

So I think that’s it for today; I missed writing here, so coming back is my shameless, self-promoting, self-centered gift to you.  And one size fits all! I wish you all good things today – let your heart be light, and I’ll see if I can do the same. Deal? Deal!

I shot my cell phone (but I did not shoot my old PC)

I’m at the end of my four-day Christmas break, watching “The Witches of Eastwick” (Susan Sarandon, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Jack Nicholson – let’s see, Michelle Pfeiffer and Jack Nicholson both played villains in different “Batman” movies; the family had a couple of “Batman” discussions over the break, including how many stars have played Batman, who were the bad guys in each one, etc. Guess my brain hasn’t moved on, plus I love playing “what other movies have these stars been in together?”).

Spent Christmas eve and Christmas day at the family’s house – the whole family holiday get-together has changed over the last couple of years, and maybe you have noticed it at your house, too – while talking and watching television, and eating, we are also checking email, playing games, checking Facebook, texting, and looking up stuff.  (I’m mostly knitting and chasing the dog, but I’ve also been known to take a peek at my email, and lots of peeks at Facebook – in addition to being ADD, I also have a touch of ocd; just a touch, so it’s in small letters).  Everyone has a cell phone, and there are also iPads and laptops lying around, in case someone gets an uncontrollable Angry Birds urge.  (My husband was startled one afternoon, when, out of nowhere, he heard me yell, “Die, pig, die!”  while sitting on the couch with the iPad in my hand.  It’s not a relaxing game, but it is irresistible).

When in my lap, my dog will actually push my hands away from the keyboard so he can be petted – he believes he is the alpha laptop, and isn’t pleased about sharing real estate with my Mac.  I wonder if any studies have been done on animals who live with families who have no computers or cell phones, as compared to those who live with families who have multiple devices, and if there are differences in health, mental state, and behavior. Might make for an interesting experiment, if the variables were controlled (sorry, my psych minor is showing, or should I say, my almost-finished minor – I balked at statistics, so there you go).

I think one of my New Year’s intentions will be to have more conversations, and limit the technology in my life – the phone is silenced more than before, and now I have to work on curbing Angry Birds and Facebook (not eliminating either, I love Angry Birds, and Facebook has brought some wonderful people back into my life.) We’ll see; maybe you can text me and let me know what you think…ha!

(P.S.  I don’t know if this is obvious, but the title of this post is meant to be read to the Eric Clapton song, “I Shot The Sheriff.”  Yes, I am a little bit corny, and a little bit rock and roll…)

Have a happy holiday season, and do it now!

I’ve had to go out to a few stores this weekend to return some things, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t window shop while I was doing it – what is the date? November 13th? You would never know it by what’s going on in the shops; seems to have been an agreement made among the retailers that waiting until after Thanksgiving to drag out the holiday gear is waaay tooo late, so the paraphenalia is now on display, and the madness has begun. And when I say “madness,” I mean parents yelling at their kids, wives and husbands arguing, and the jostling for parking spaces amped up to a ridiculous degree. (Seriously, unless a person has trouble walking, why would you bother waiting for a spot, when there are five spots two rows away?)

Not only have the retailers gotten off the blocks early, television programmers have shot out of the gate with holiday programming this weekend – the most prominent example has been the Hallmark Channel, which had a marathon of movies yesterday with the words, “Mistletoe,” “Christmas,” “Noel,” “Jolly,” and other festive phrases in the titles. I have been known to get warm and cuddly during this time of year, except that “this time of year” isn’t really here yet, is it? No, I don’t think so. With the avalanche of media and retail holiday images, the very phrases that we use will soon be obsolete – “holiday season,” “this time of year,” and even carols like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” will lose meaning, since the most wonderful time of the year will be all-year round, according to Macy’s and Dish TV.

I will say that I am giving it a shot this year; I will put up my pink tree with mermaids and seashells, and have a Christmas party, and bake – this year, I’m going to talk Jamal into dim sum in L.A. on Christmas Day, in place of the traditional Chinese from Sam Woo’s.  (I said I was giving it a shot, didn’t say how – when all of the badness happened, I had to do something to make the holidays good again.  Since I never see snow, I made Christmas into a beach holiday – with chow mein in place of mashed potatoes.)

But when I think of what I’ve been hearing recently, of people who I know who have been harassed by strangers, of others being yelled at and called “an abomination” by people brandishing Bibles like they are weapons, it gets more difficult to understand what the holiday season means. I love what Margaret Cho said in her stand-up (paraphrasing, but the meaning stands):  “I  can’t wait for Jesus to come back and say, “That’s not what I meant!”

How about this – how about we stop yelling at each other?  Here’s a radical idea – let’s be nice, and take care of each other. Give someone else the parking space, open the door for someone, or if you get through the door first, stand there and hold it for them, doesn’t matter who they are – and hug your kids in public, instead of yelling at them for being kids.  Let’s tidy up our behavior, why don’t we?  I think that has to be one of the reasons for the season that should occur all year. Cheers-

Happy holidays?

It’s the aftermath of the Thanksgiving/Black Friday/overstuffed beginning to this holiday season. I’m feeling surprisingly cheerful so far – last year, I was ready to move to another country until January.  This year, I’m feeling agreeable to participating in the festivities – I’m not going to be wearing any antler hats, but I will put up the pink tree and go to the mall (going to the mall is a regular habit, so the only difference will be more people, and the anticipation of having fights breaking out in the food court.

Here’s my tree, in close up; this is from last year, if you thought for one second that I would have the tree up three days after Thanksgiving,  I am truly still a woman of mystery to you…

Christmas sneaks up on me every year – I’m one of those last-minute shoppers, and I don’t see this aspect of my life changing anytime soon.  I read an interesting article about spending money on people, and that rather than buying things for people, the author suggested giving experiences as gifts.  I like that; giving the people I love the opportunity to have a good meal, or a fun day together, seems like it would mean more than another sweater or a gift card.

Most of the people I know buy what they want for themselves anyway; last year, I had the idea that everyone should just buy what they want for themselves, wrap it up, and open it on Christmas.  That way, everyone gets what they want, returns go way down, and you still have good cheer; in fact, you have improved good cheer, because there would be no dashed hopes or destroyed expectations.  Of course, we would still buy for the kiddies until they become employed, then they become self-gifters. Cynical, you say? Practical, I reply.

But that was last year – this year, I’m on board, albeit with my life preserver and my seasick pills,  just in case.  And I’m thinking that instead of eating until I burst, or spending until I’m broke, I’m going to strive to appreciate the great moments with my friends and family. I’m also going to open doors for people when I can, let them ahead of me in line if the opportunity arises, take the parking space that is a little bit farther away from the mall instead of fighting for one twenty yards closer, and keep my sense of humor all the way through to 2011 and beyond. What was the line from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure“? “Be excellent to each other” – be excellent, indeed.

Future ghosts of Christmas past

Queen's Christmas tree at Windsor Castle 1848,...

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Home; sick with some kind of body ache that has come with a slightly sore throat  – not sick enough to go to the doctor yet, just sick enough to be in a mood.  I had one of those dreams last night – whenever anyone in my family has passed away, I always have the dream where they’re still alive, and in the dream, I know they’re not supposed to be, but they don’t know it.  It’s happened with every single one of my family members – last night, it was about my mother, and she was young and vibrant, the way I remember her when I was a kid.  In the dream, we were in the house that I grew up in, not the one that I’m working on to sell now.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been through kind of an unusual situation in that I’ve lost all of my immediate family, as well as my niece, my sister-in-law, and my uncle, in the last fourteen years.  Losing my mother this year has brought into sharp focus the fact that everyone in my family is now gone. It’s a strange feeling that I’m still getting used to; if you look at it one way, I’m freed from the obligations that come with family.  With the holidays approaching, I can go wherever I want to go, or go nowhere if I want to.  My husband’s very large family is on the other side of the world, so we don’t exactly have to make the trip to their house.  I can stay home and eat Chinese food on Christmas under a pink Christmas tree if I want to; the last couple of years, we have actually eaten Chinese food with my mother on Christmas, so I will continue that tradition in her honor.  And as much as Jamal would wish otherwise (although he is indulging me on this one), our tree is indeed pink, with seashell ornaments and mermaids –  as you might imagine, the holidays aren’t the most wonderful time of the year for me, and now these little traditions make them easier.

Here’s what I’ve learned about family and myself, after the fact.  Each family member was a pillar that supported me in a unique way,  just by who they were, and what they meant to me. My family also reflected who I was, and left their impressions on who I am today; now that they’re gone, things are harder. I miss the specific relationships, if that makes sense – sitting here now, I can say that there was a purity to my relationships with my mother, father and brother; we were a smart, artistic, loud, argumentative family, and we might not have been the Cleavers, but we did our best (and really, isn’t being any family but the Cleavers more interesting?).  As much as I might have fought with all of them, the good memories of my family outnumber the bad ones, and I’m grateful for that.  I hope the same is true for you and your family –