Good intentions 2013

Just some things I was thinking of doing in 2013:


1.  Read one book a month (except in the case of Les Miserables by Hugo, which may take two; it’s on my list, and in my stack)


2.  Jazzercise (shopping for this outfit, by the way)


3.  Yoga


3.  Regular meditation


4.  Crockpot Sunday!

5.  And this:

Philippians 4.8


And one more quote to end 2012 for me: “Be excellent to each another.”  Party on…and happy New Year to us all.

2nd annual almost-completely superficial Thanksgiving post

Just took out a lemon cranberry crumble cake from the oven, and I’m waiting for it to cool before adding the lemon glaze.  While this happens, I think it’s time to make a list of those things that I am grateful for on this Thanksgiving.  If you are expecting family, friends, and my dog, not that kind of list. Love you, love them all, but here’s what also floats my boat this year:

1.  Going to the movies – even though the experience isn’t what it was when I was a wild-eyed child, going to the movies is still something that I always set forth to do with the optimistic hope that I will feel the same way that I used to feel when I walked out after seeing “Serpico,” “Sophie’s Choice,” “Cabaret,” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – as if I had been somewhere else, and  could see the world differently now, if only for a little while.  I think the most recent films that have made me feel transformed afterward have been “Midnight in Paris” and “Julie and Julia.” Oddly enough, both films were set in Paris; it’s possible Paris could make this list next year, if I can survive all the happiness this year.

2. Online shopping! (Or what I like to call, “Click, click, boom!” I have no idea why, except that maybe the “boom!” is the sound of my checking account exploding.)

3.  Books.  Don’t roll your eyes and mutter, “Old lady, books are so 20th century…” I bought a Nook, and it’s a slick piece of plastic, really; however, it can’t match turning the pages of a REAL book.  And if it comes to living in a world completely without books, sign me up for the Neptune Society –

4.  Coffee, especially the sound of it being brewed in my handy dandy Keurig coffee maker.  Not to be a shill for this thing, but it was a Christmas present last year, and is a brilliant little machine.  I am also especially grateful  not to have been a married woman in the ’50s, as apparently a woman’s entire reason for existing relied on her being able to make a decent cup of coffee  (check out “Coffee Jerks” on YouTube; it is pretty funny, and explains “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” to me).

5. Finding the funny – sounds simple, but I know that there are souls in the world who can’t find it , and who never even care to try.  Laughing is one of the greatest gifts in life, and what is so cool is that you can give it to yourself and someone else at the same time.

I have to go work out – there is a plateful of carbs in my immediate future.  Many thanks, campers; let’s march on through the holidays with a big drumstick in one hand and a garlic dinner roll in the other! Onward!

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-

Father’s Day – within and without

I miss you, Dad.  Today is Father’s Day, and if you were here, we would probably be having a barbeque at the house; you would cook burgers, and Mom would make her “salad,” which consisted of peas, green peppers, chunks of cheese, and chopped cucumbers in Miracle Whip (I may have to make it today, just because).  You would be drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon, or Milwaukee’s Best (because “beer is beer,” which I believe is one of your armchair quotes, along with “the slam dunk should be outlawed; it’s not basketball!”), and bugging me about eating too many potato chips, even though you never gained a bit of weight in your entire life, except for a little beer belly. Your line (and it used to bug Mom, too, since we were both career dieters) was “Hell, all you have to do is eat less!”  Fabulously uninformed advice, since you never had to go on one diet; still, I loved you for it, even if I just maybe didn’t know it at the time.

Later today, we would hang out in the back yard, or watch baseball on TV. If there wasn’t a game on, we would watch an old movie, and you and Mom would debate who was in the movie:  “Is that Danny Kaye?”  “Nooo, Red Skeleton.”  “Remember his show that used to be on Tuesday nights? It was so funny!” “Who’s the actress? Virginia Mayo?” “I think it is!”  (I remember when I was a kid, waking up on the weekends to the sounds of the radio coming from the kitchen, and you and Mom doing the same thing there: “Who is that? Perry Como?” “I think it’s Frank Sinatra in his younger days.” “Remember when we went dancing that night and they played this song?” )

I know now that part of the reason that I was able to get through the last ten years was because of you, Dad.  You taught me so many things – how to spell and read and ride a bike, how to play basketball, baseball, blackjack and poker; and one of the things that I know that you and Mom both taught me how to do, just by the way that you both lived, was to keep going. I’ve kept going, through all of the pain and the loss of everyone who would have been here at the barbeque today, and I just want to say thank you for everything.  You were so much better at the dad thing than you ever knew, and if I made wishes, I would wish for the chance to tell you in person. Since I’m not able to do that, this will have to do – I wouldn’t have wanted any other dad but you, Dad.

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,...

Image via Wikipedia

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 –