Push This Button, Win a Prize!

It’s here! It’s here! The end of the year!

A giant “THANK YOU!” to each and every one of my readers, you make my day, you really do!

To celebrate all that’s wonderful about writing this blog, I’ve set myself a flash-goal.

Flash-goal: noun, to suddenly realize you are short by X number of Subscribers and decide immediately to hold a give-away drawing to fill the gap.

I need at least twenty-four honest, hard-working, upright ladies and gentlemen to Subscribe to this blog in the next 24 hours.

Okay, okay, a handful of scoundrels would be perfectly acceptable, too.

“I put my email address into the box right here,” you’re asking, “but even though I’m a scoundrel, I’m super worried…what will happen if I DO push this little Subscribe button?”

  1. My posts drop quietly into your email inbox. The minute they publish. I will never know if you read them or not. I will not hear you laugh or scream “I told you so!” at your kids.
  2. You won’t miss random postings because you have been relying on Facebook to see them. Facebook is notoriously unreliable, even with your BFF status’, am I right? You may have no idea that I generally post every Tuesday and Friday all year long.
  3. Your name gets put into the hat for a drawing tomorrow. If I draw your name, you win a prize!! (I’ve done this before: in March and June.)
  4. Next year, I will start sending out a monthly story that will only go to my personal Subscribers…that’s YOU! The first one will come out January 1st! Oh wait, that’s Friday. This is me, shaking a leg.
  5. An angel gets his wings….well, something like that. Because so far, the one thing you can expect from these chaotic stories is that we really, really keep our angels on their toes.

That’s it.

24 Subscribers in the next 24 hours.

C’mon, guys, you got this.

What? You are already a Subscriber?? And you want a prize, too?

Excellent point, I love that enthusiasm.

Write to me in the comment box below, and tell me which of my blogs was your favorite this year. Honestly, go ahead and make it up if you’re like me and can’t remember what you had for lunch, let alone what you read last week. I love you regardless!

Scoundrels can use an alias. It’s fine by me if you want to be known as “Scooby Doo”.

And if you have friends who would enjoy my writing, please forward this to his/her email or share this post on your Facebook page, or print it out and staple it to the street-corner telephone pole.

Because sharing is caring.

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Oh, right. The prize will be a random sampling of my favorite teas. Perhaps you don’t care for tea? You must have me over immediately. I can fix that.

The Sampler Platter

Good morning everyone!

I hope that you are having a day full of counting blessings, from the big, beautiful sky out your window to the brave little song humming in your heart.

The one you have to get very very quiet to hear.

Today as I reminisce over this blog, I can tell you that quite a bit of it sounds like the brave little song that hums inside of me.

It’s exuberant watching snatches of my melody float off into cyberspace, my one little song mingling with the choir of the universe.

From what I can figure out, it’s traditional for bloggers to share their top reader picks from the year right about now. Sometimes they post reruns when they go on vacation or simply leave the blog silent and unattended for a while, neither of which appeal to me.

Sitting down to write feels exactly like a vacation, minus the bugs and sunscreen.

Why wouldn’t I want to do it as often as I could?

And so, dear readers, I present to you, in Grand Blogging Tradition,

your Top Five Favorite stories

from 2015.

Pour some tea, and enjoy with your feet up.

 

Thanks so much for riding the crazy train with me. I love every minute of it.

“If it Tastes Bad, It’s Good For You” came in at number 5. I still have the apple cider vinegar gathering dust in my pantry. I haven’t been in for a massage in months. What’s Italian for, “Why don’t you love me?”

“When it Rains, It Pours” came in at number 4. Our water bill for July was a doozy, but it’s a small price to pay for learning the Magic Plumber Words. No, you’ll just have to have your own crisis and discover them yourself. They work, though.

“Brawn Before Brains” came in at number 3. I know it was a bit of a tear-jerker, but man, real life happens and I don’t know what you do except love harder and pray harder. The kid rides a motorcycle now so for the love of mothers everywhere, look for him on the road and help him stay safe.

“When Your Second Grader Gets Suspended” was a hit in the number 2 slot. I hope it was helpful to all of you parenting young Jedis, and perhaps if you get the parole officer to read it, little Anakin can get off on good behavior.

“So You Want to Date My Kid?” was this year’s number 1 hit, sweeping the top of the charts. I can’t imagine why. All my kids read it and I got the reaction I used to get when I taught in the classroom, the few times that 30 kids were going south and needed a firm re-direct: 29 startled, wide-eyed kids frozen in obedience, and 1 kid totally ignoring me, doing what he wanted.

One of my sons nonchalantly handed my blog back and smiled.

“Mom,” he said with a shrug, “you’re all bark and no bite.”

Oh, I can’t wait till that one starts dating.

It’s a Wrap

Last week, a girlfriend invited a bunch of us ladies over to her place for a morning of crafting.

It’s like she doesn’t love me.

Everyone was supposed to bring an art project to work on.

Quilting. Watercolor. Ice sculpture.

There were last minute Christmas presents being needled and actual gift wrap being wielded, and I kept my two left hands where they belonged: wrapped around a large tea mug.

I don’t do fragile and I don’t do fancy and I don’t do fussy.

Unless it can be done in five minutes or under.

Because I don’t do ‘focus’.

I will be working a cross-stitch, notice a bird fly by the window, and go immediately into the garage to build a bird feeder. No.

I’m lucky to wrap a gift to where you don’t actually see the gift peeking out.

For example.

When I did my classes in Canada this fall, I put together these lovely little packages to go with the lessons.

That’s code for: I was standing in a room one morning, by myself, surrounded with gift bags, drifts of tissue paper, and piles of little trinkets, hyperventilating.

Cue the “Jaws” theme song.

I was already dizzy from having my west coast body clock yanked into the east coast time zone.

(Go east coast! Way to be first in line for the sunrise! Overachiever much?)

Now this project was a great idea, but let me tell you right this minute now: Gifts are not my Love Language.

I know this because one of my other classes was adapted from “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman.

(You can take the test HERE if you want to know your own Love Language, the way in which you feel loved. I’m “words of affirmation” which is really no big surprise, people, but it is indeed the quickest way to my heart.)

So I understand that people feel loved when I hand them artfully wrapped tokens of esteem or thanks or congratulations or I-just-bought-you-a-birthday-present-last-year-why-are-you-still-having-birthdays??

But my forte, they are not.

“You and your big ideas,” I mumbled to myself, snatching at some yellow tissue and wadding up an item, “I thought you loved me. I thought this was gonna be the best fun ever.”

The tissue ripped in the middle.

I jammed it into a lavender polka dot bag before it could all fall apart.

It looked pretty good.

If a zombie with two left hands had attempted a festive origami Easter gift.

I only had 75 more to go.

Torture at it’s finest.

Anyway.

According to my Love Language, my favorite part of this holiday is receiving cards in the mail, not the tree, not the presents, not the air hugs or group caroling.

None of this girlfriend bonding at the mall, maxing out the credit cards stuff.

Okay, maybe the part where everyone pitches in and cleans the house.

Oh, wait.

That Love Language is older than Ye Olde Englishe.

Not even a caveman can do it.

So.

For the sake of those I love, I shall sally forth into the blizzardy malls and throw money randomly into stores and ask them if anyone who isn’t a zombie can please wrap the things up pretty.

And my little fam will feel loved.

And I will curl up by the fire with a good book and feast on delicious words.

As my ice sculpture melts into its wrapping paper.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

A Christmas Miracle

Having a BFF with a good memory is both blessing and curse.

You never know what people remember about you, especially if you don’t remember it yourself.

We were sitting among girlfriends over wine one evening, and she said, “Remember the time we took our boys to the Wild Animal Park?”

“Pick any year out of the last twelve…help me out here. No.”

She proceeded to tell, with gusto, a story that was not remotely flattering.

I couldn’t kick her shin under the table, so I did the next best thing: feign indifference.

It seems we had our small tykes out for a morning adventure, and she overheard a chat I had with my youngest just before we entered the gates. He had some spending money in his fist and was hopping up and down in delight at his prospects.

I stooped down and gave him some good advice: “Kid, you have some money that is very special to you. It’s important. You want to put it somewhere safe, so you don’t lose it. It’s easy to lose money when you’re busy having fun.”

I suggested some options: “If you want to, I can hold it for you in my purse. I will keep it safe for you and when you are ready to use it, I can give it to you. You can put it in your pocket, but it might fall out. If you hold it in your hand, you might want your hand for other things.”

He chose to keep it close, in his pocket.

“That’s fine,” I said, “but if you lose it, it’s lost. I won’t replace it.”

And off we went into the wilds of Africa.

“Of course he lost it,” says my BFF, sipping her chardonnay, “and here’s this poor heartbroken little boy and she wouldn’t just give him another dollar. I couldn’t believe it!”

This, people, is why I was never in the running for Mom of the Year.

It’s also why certain girlfriends aren’t going into the running for BFF of the Year.

Ahem.

Actually, I wonder if it helped her be a little stronger with her own firm parenting.

If it didn’t, and you all need more (sigh), here you go:

Money management doesn’t come easy to everyone, anymore than time management or sock drawer organization.

But they are skills our kids should grasp, preferably before the big bad world gets ahold of them.

My daughter is working and going to college and dating and basically living a busy, industrious life from a room that looks like a train wreck, but I digress.

She has a paycheck that covers both her simple needs and her silly ones, and I’m happy to support her finishing what she started, before moving out into the big bad world.

She is going to graduate debt-free which is so huge, she may have no idea until years later, just how huge that is.

Words like ‘priorities’ and ‘budget’ and ‘savings account’ get floated around fairly regularly.

I offer to tell her (and any kid who will listen, aka nobody) stories of back when I was her age, how I had no problem eating beans from a can if it meant I could make rent that month.

All the kids who aren’t listening just roll their eyes.

Fine.

But there was a wee mix-up at the bank last week in which the sudden collision of college tuition, Christmas shopping, and paycheck timing went into a tailspin, and college came skidding into home plate, leaving Christmas in the dust.

Oops.

I heard my girlfriend’s voice in my head, “And here’s this poor heartbroken little girl and she wouldn’t just give her another dollar! I couldn’t believe it!”

I heard my daughter’s voice in my head, in my texts, through my door, “I just can’t believe it!”

“I can’t buy presents for my friends!” she cried.

“Tell them the truth. I’m sure they have tight budgets, too. Make a new tradition that doesn’t involve gifts.”

“But I love them!”

“Love comes in many languages. Maybe you could write poems for them. Maybe you could bake cookies. Maybe you could clean your disaster of a room and recycle treasures to give away.”

Maybe I could just move to Siberia where all the cold-hearted mothers are sent.

And take some wine with me.

“Mom!” she explained, “just because the Grinch is your role model doesn’t mean the rest of us hate love and joy and puppies and orphans! I have a heart!”

Her look contained pity and horror.

“And re-gifting is just wrong. People want pretty little shiny new things. It’s Christmas!”

“Kid, haven’t you heard of saving the planet? Recycling is cool. Re-purposing is all the Pinterest rage. When you have things lying around ignored, give them to someone who will appreciate it. It’s the young 20-something female consumer like you who should be telling the big fat American marketers that shiny new things are overrated.”

My pouting collegiate huffed from the room, “Oh brother, I can’t wait to see what we get for Christmas this year….”

Three days later, the miracle occurred.

She gave up being rescued from her own hand-crafted fiasco and took the first step.

She started cleaning her room.

And literally found buried treasure.

Who knew there was that much pocket change in the world, scattered thoughtlessly in drifts of laundry and in the bowels of dust buffaloes under furniture?

She’s getting socks for Christmas.

Used ones.

In Sync

It’s finally happened.

You know why the sultan never, ever, enters the harem tent?

Because once a month every single female in it cycles simultaneously, but he never knows when.

So he will die.

Even if he brought chocolate.

Have sons, oh ye females of the maternal instinct. Have sons.

They will punch each other and spit and wipe paint on the sofa, but they will never lock themselves in the bathroom sobbing hysterically over the color of nail polish.

Almost never.

Daughters will play sweetly with dollies and their tiny kitchen until they hit the twilight tweenage years.

Then they will morph into Gollum, mulling over this new ring of power.

They will follow you with their eyes, waiting to pounce, tail twitching, nostrils slightly flared, wondering if you shrank their favorite shirt in the laundry this time. Again.

Or if you spent the day preparing a big batch of chicken enchiladas and she can’t believe you made those again because you know I don’t like enchiladas….ever!

“Good morning!” you will say, sauntering into the kitchen for tea.

Dark and brooding silence will greet you and if you have any brains at all, you’d better saunter quickly out the other door without making eye contact.

The tea can wait.

Their brothers went through the basic stages of training, the stuff you learn growing up in a house with females in it:

  1. You’re too new to the territory, so you pretend your sisters are just having “a bad day” and go along with whatever they want. If they tell you to bring them the TV remote, the hot water bottle, a box of tissues and a Coke, you do.
  2. You’ve wised up a bit, so you decide to not go along with anything the ladies demand. Enter: WWIII. Sometimes you leave a manly presence in the bathroom, just to reestablish your right to exist, and they firmly elucidate otherwise. Everyone else abandons the building.
  3. You’ve finally wised up enough, so you do the only realistic right thing: take up fishing.

Hey, I’m not saying I’m any more rational.

I have been known, on occasion, to lose my cool over socks left in the middle of a room.

But as I continually chant to anyone who will listen to me (aka nobody), “I’m the mom! I get paid to nag over socks!!”

Lately though, I’ve been looking sideways at those socks like maybe they’re from Mordor, and not at all during the right times of month.

And here I was, thinking my mother was finally right about something.

She has been waiting for years for me to go into menopause. Even just a little bit. She went early and insists that, in all genetic fairness, so should her daughters.

My body is still prepared to conceive triplets if necessary on any given month.

Too much information later, I couldn’t figure out why Aunt Flo was getting capricious on me.

Until I began to notice the looks on my daughters faces around the same times.

And that they were all twitchy-eyed over the laundry. And the weather. And the look of my face.

Oh, I’m suddenly all kinds of on track again, but it’s not my track anymore.

I’ve been shanghaied by the Hormone Express.

And I want off.

Holly Jolly Folly

I took the Hubby to Christmas on the Prado, or whatever they’re billing it nowadays, hoping some of the frantic holiday cheer would rub off on me.

A local Baptist church puts on the show

A local Baptist church puts on the show

Thinking maybe I’ll come home smelling of cinnamon sprinkled sugarplums and inspired to deck my halls.

How can I put this?

I took an hour just to find a parking spot.

We had to fight off three out of state vehicles and a wino with a shopping cart to get it, but we got it.

And then you get out of your car and walk into the light.

Take a million frantic holiday NASCAR fans, march with them shoulder-to-shoulder down the middle of the streets and circle the International Houses (you want the Scottish one, you really do), tallying your rounds because you’re not ever going to actually get into the tiny building for some “Death by Chocolate” because the line stretches all the way back to the House of Norway’s booth which, so far as I could tell, was selling actual Vikings.

Or maybe just the horns. Who knows. Maybe they were just drinking.

We finally nabbed a tray with dessert samples which we sat down on the spot (concrete curbs: don’t underestimate this prime real estate) and devoured, which was a bad idea for a handful of reasons like the dim lighting which led to my actually ingesting a raisin that was hidden in the bread pudding.

Who does that?

Don’t even get me started on raisin poisoning.

Halfway through my chew I realized my mistake and had to mentally chant “swallow, swallow, swallow” so I wouldn’t spit it directly onto the festively festooned Who-ville child passing by.

Toured the Old Globe Theater, all set up for “The Grinch”

There’s a mini carnie towards the back for shrieking children who are competing with the children shrieking from Santa’s photo booth.

Everyone’s having a marvelous time.

En masse.

We walked five feet, and ate stuff, walked five feet, and ate stuff.

We toured exhibits, enjoyed live entertainment, calmed our indigestion with a soft pretzel the size of a manhole cover, and eventually shoved our way back to the car.

We only trampled a handful of wayward children, but we found Jesus, literally, on the way out, so we’re all okay.

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The event is only for one weekend a year, and really it’s a great way to see Balboa Park and the surrounding neighborhoods.

All the NASCAR enthusiasts hopped into their cars, which were parked up for miles in all directions, and spent an hour or so swerving around the local homeless and tallying laps before fading off into the night, horns honking in victory.

I came home smelling of grilled onions, Indian curry and au de carnival grime.

The only thing I really want to deck are the inventors of the Port-a-Potty.

Because, no.

Traditionally Challenged

For lack of cooperation, the photo wasn’t made.

For lack of a photo, the Christmas card wasn’t made.

For lack of a card, distant relatives forgot we existed.

For lack of distant relatives, we lost the inheritance.

For lack of money, our kids didn’t get all those fancy new toys.

I would like to say they would have cooperated had I held up the fancy new toys.

But probably not.

If my kids see me with a camera, they scatter like roaches.

Our holiday traditions have gone the way of the Dodo, and I’ve been searching for some new ones.

Driving around neighborhoods looking at lights is something I could get into.

Similar to an ugly sweater contest, only I don’t have to buy it or wear it.

It’s amazing what the average homeowner will voluntarily place on his house for the holidays.

And leave up until March.

Inflatables are a popular choice.

You will never see this in Texas.

Talk about target practice.

If I used these at my place, I’d definitely go with helium and a 500’ extension cord.

Not only is it harder to hit a moving target, but my out-of-town guests could finally find my home.

There are a lot of Santas out there.

Some have the entire sleigh and reindeer bolted to the roof.

Other homes have a live Santa sitting next to his Hibachi, in a folding chair by the sidewalk, a beer can in one hand.

I’m fairly certain you don’t want to sit in his lap.

The 2014 Guinness Record for number of lights on one house (601,736) goes to the Gay family in LaGrangeville New York, USA.

This is a motivated family.

I myself will be happy to get the slimy concave pumpkins off the back porch.

If I were ever that motivated, you can bet my place would break a record or two.

Possibly a window.

I’m thinking a giant sky bat signal, straight out of Gotham City.

I need lasers, a circling helicopter, and Batman rappelling off the chimney.

But Costco doesn’t sell any of that.

And we have better things to do than TP our own house.

The only enthusiastic family member around here is our cockatiel, Maurice, who thinks he’s a cat and wants to sit on my shoulder and snuggle.

And also lays the occasional egg, which makes him a her, and strongly suggests a name change.

And once in a while, the bird brain, he flies off across the room and makes beautiful snow angels on the mirrors.

Splat.

Here’s your warm fuzzy photos.

Merry Christmas.

Which is Easier?

When the shadows win and the newsfeed is grim and despondence seems a decent option, I steep myself a cup of tea and sit down to comfort my heart.

I stop that fear in it’s tracks with a cold hard evaluating stare as I swirl the milk.

And I question it until it loses it’s power to harm me.

Like fog, it dissipates in the beam of bright hot spotlights.

And then I can see clearly again.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

When I became a mom, I changed the way I handled my fears.

Not the worries, the deep-down gut-twisting life-altering ones.

They were no longer allowed to be in charge and certainly not allowed to make my decisions.

Pre-kids: giant hairy spider in house = burn down house, move states.

Post-kids: giant hairy spider in house = find Thor’s hammer and hunt to the death.

I have come to realize that my own heart is just as worth protecting as my children from things that go bump in the night.

And I don’t sit around entertaining fears. I annihilate them if I can.

And I’m practical enough – down into my DNA I suppose – to see the way to the light and try to turn it on.

There is a distinct method to my cleaning madness and don’t be fooled into thinking this ordering of my universe is casual or one dimensional.

To me, it’s logical.

When you touch a small thing, the motion moves outward into many larger, undirected and undetected things.

It’s easier to replace the oil in your car than the transmission.

It’s easier to clean a dish as you use it than face an overwhelming kitchen mess at midnight.

It’s easier to take one step and then another than take one medicine, and then another, because you skipped your walk again or lifted your fork again, one bite and then another.

Parenting. Any version. Any child.

Never underestimate the weight of this opportunity to change your world to a better one.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.*

Not easy.

Easier.

Easier to teach the child right from wrong, that “no” will not be the end of him, that empathy, understanding other people, understanding themselves, understanding sane ways of walking the earth with our neighbors is mandatory…

than blink and realize a grown man still has fears and angers and hurts and no way of soothing, reassuring or healing himself.

It is so easy to discount the small things. The desperately human things.

And when they become huge and masks go on and guns are lifted and there appears to be nothing left to lose, understand something…

At some point, a small thing was lost. Missed the mark. Discarded or left behind. Never had a chance to sprout.

These are things with which I struggle.

Because it’s easier for me to arrange my cupboards than arrange my child’s attitudes.

It’s easier to pass more laws than help people heal their hearts.

And yet it must be attempted.

He was born to challenge the whole wide world, to pit himself against the boundaries life imposes. He needs to feel the crashing and know it’s real and in the knowing, feel safer.

He is learning about others and himself and walking this earth.

And he looks to me all the while, to see if I notice and to hear if I have opinions and most of all, to get reassurance that yes, he is okay and yes he is capable, and yes he is still loved world without end.

And these also, he will challenge. To make sure they are real, too.

And that reality will shape everything: him, his choices, the world around him.

He will be able to put his insecurities and ignorance to rest and rise to the higher ideas of respect, honor, value of life, love.

That there is nobility and self-respect in doing the harder things.

Instead of worrying so much about getting, he can feel full enough to start giving.

Inevitably, this is where my point comes full circle.

The small things, the intangibles, the harder things, are the things that will change the world.

What the world needs in terms of cleaning, healing, and clarity, is you.

Look into your mirror and remember the small things and give them to yourself.

Remember you are capable.

And loved.

And things will be okay.

Because you decided they will be.

Turn on your light, and the shadows will be no more.

*This quote is widely attributed to Frederick Douglass. You should look the guy up

The Yams Did It

Farewell, November

I tried, I really did.

For like, three whole days.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month.

It’s a wonderful website for setting aside the month of November to finally write that novel.

Of course, I signed up three years ago, and I spend the last week of October every year daring myself to jump in the deep end and not look back.

I’ve been wobbling on the diving board for ages and my novel is all of two chapters long.

Maybe next year.

I had much better success with No Shave November.

My sons participated along with me.

They twirled imaginary mustaches and massaged two blond chin hairs, trying to encourage a goatee.

Tomorrow they get to shave.

Frankly, I have a bigger beard on my kneecap.

But whatever.

There were a lot of options for November, some of which are simply on my list of “some day”: International Drum Month, National Inspirational Role Model Month, National Fun With Fondue Month.

What I really feel good about, though, is my unwitting participation in Sweet Potato Awareness Month.

If there’s one thing my family demands on the Thanksgiving table, it’s candied sweet potatoes.

Not yams.

(Whole ‘nother tuber, that is, and very rarely sold in the produce aisle, even if the sign clearly states “YAMS”. Nope. It’s a sweet potato.)

We are very, very, highly aware of the massive steaming tray of candied sweet potatoes that my mom makes faithfully every year.

She makes another whole pan-full and leaves it at home, just for herself, because she knows her daughters won’t be leaving any leftovers.

After all, I’ve been known to rate restaurants entirely on the merit of their sweet potato fries.

Sometimes I’ve made them with pecans and maple syrup instead of brown sugar, butter, and marshmallows.

Once in a while I’ll cheat and buy canned sweet potatoes, mashing them up in the casserole dish, but they aren’t the same.

My sister recently opened my eyes to a new way of preparing them, and really, I should’ve thought of this years ago.

I mean, I am the oldest sister. I know stuff.

Usually, you need to bake whole sweet potatoes on a tray for an hour or so until they are soft; then you peel the wrinkled, sugar-blackened, drippy skins open and scrape out the stringy orange flesh.

I haven’t done a potato in the microwave since the unhappy debacle of 2009.

Enter: the crockpot.

Half inch of water, whole sweet potatoes, low for a few hours or high for three-ish hours. It depends on the fatness of your roots.

But you don’t have to poke them with a fork or scrape burned bits from your pans, and the taters aren’t stringy at all. Just moist and mashy.

Technically, I observed National Gluten-Free Diet Awareness Month, Vegan Month, Gratitude Month, Native American Heritage Month, and Diabetes Month all at the same time.

Take that, November.

Not only did the native americans know you could live off of sweet potatoes in a famine, but these little spuds stabilize blood sugar, and are full of all the good vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Sweet potatoes are also used in estrogen replacement therapy.

Not that I’m looking sideways at my mother or anything.

But it would explain my kneecap.