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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Story from my past: Welcome to the Family

Merry Christmas and good morning!

Today I'm sharing a story from my earlier life, a story involving the week Hubby and I got engaged.  This was originally posted in 2010.  

May all your Christmas wishes come true!  Peace on earth, good will to all!







In the fantastic TV show "Designing Women" the great actress Dixie Carter had a quote that sticks with me decades later regarding family:

I'm saying this is the South. And we're proud of our crazy people. We don't hide them up in the attic. We bring 'em right down to the living room and show 'em off. See, Phyllis, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they're on.

In my case, I think history will reflect that crazy was on both sides, though not always the same people and not all the time.  My extended family embraces moments of eccentricity tightly like a cherished family tradition.  Keep that in mind, my friends, as you read this.  I tell this story not to mock, but to amuse and comfort.  It's completely normal for family members to lose their mind, especially during the holidays. 

So, with that in mind...sit back and enjoy "Welcome to the family...Part 1"

We got engaged at Christmas, Hubby and I.  I was the only one in the family who didn't know it was happening apparently.  He and I had been dating for more than four years, but I lived in Detroit and he lived in the Milwaukee area during 1989, so he was able to make engagement plans without any attempt at secrecy.

We got engaged on Christmas Eve and then made the rounds of family gatherings.  (More on that tomorrow.)  The day after Christmas was the family gathering for my mom's side of the family.  (This was the group of the Flashlight Christmas fame.)  The gathering that year was held at my uncle's home up in the Northern part of Wisconsin.  I always liked going up there.  First of all, my uncle, the pastor of a small country congregation, had keys for the church and the school which meant we had access to a lot of space away from the adults.  Second, the parsonage where he lived was a big, sprawling home on a huge lot.  Plenty of snow and climbing trees all around.

There were a few quirky rules, however, about water usage.  I know there was a technical reason for the rules, but over the years I've forgotten what those reasons were.  Something about a filling a holding tank too quickly or something.

I'm sure if you lived in the house, rules such as "All dishwater must be thrown out the window and not drained down the sink" made sense.  And, if you're just a small family doing your daily business, the "NO FLUSH" rule wasn't a problem.  However, when you have a group of nearly 45 people roaming around, many of whom were teens, the concept of not flushing was inconceivable!

To be fair, and to quote the Fockers of "Meet the Fockers" fame, the real rule was, "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down.

It wasn't like Hubby hadn't met these people, by the way.  A couple of my cousins attended the same college I did, and, being in the family for more than four years, he had a working knowledge of the family.  What he didn't know, though, was there's a way the family behaved around a "boyfriend" and a way they behaved around a member of the family. 

The flushing thing was a start.  DO NOT FLUSH.  I'm not saying my aunt and uncle were obsessive, but I will say this:  I walked out of the bathroom once, and my aunt was standing there, a stern look on her face.  "Did you flush?"

"Uh, yes..."

"You're really not supposed to."

"Uh...that's sort of gross."

"Yes, but it saves money to not flush."

"Oh...okay.  Sorry."

(For the record, it's the only time I've ever apologized for flushing after using a toilet.)

The bigger issue, for Hubby at least, was the dishes.  See, he's a good guy, my hubby.  He was raised by women  (more on that some other day) and he knows how to help out in the kitchen.  So after dinner that night, he offered to wash the dishes.  No small feat, given, again, the number of people and the fact that while they had a dishwasher, aunt and uncle didn't like to use it.

So Hubby spent a solid hour washing dishes while the rest of us dried and put away everything.  He was very good about using the little pink plastic bin that aunt had in the sink, instead of just using the sink.  He got all the dishes, the pots, the pans, the silverware, all clean.  And then...when he was done...he dumped the water from the bin...down the drain.

I'm not saying my aunt over reacted.  I will say this:  There would have been less yelling had a nuclear missile landed in the front yard.

"HOW COULD YOU DUMP THAT WATER DOWN THE DRAIN?  YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO DUMP IT OUT THE WINDOW!"

This in front of all the cousins and the other adults.

"I'm sorry...I forgot."  Says hubby.

"Well, you're not doing the dishes anymore!"

(For the record...well, you know.)

Hoping to escape more punishment for his crime of dumping water down a sink drain, Hubby wanted to go to bed.  The good news was, everyone under the age of 25 was not sleeping in the house, we were sleeping in the church basement.  The bad news?  Aunt and Uncle had separated the church basement with a curtain, boys on one side, girls on the other. 

Before I go one word further, I will say that I was raised in a very conservative, very religious home.  I hold to many of those beliefs even today, and when I was 22 I was certainly NOT going to break any of those rules in front of my extended family, CERTAINLY NOT the "no premarital anything!" rule.  And let me also say, I was the GOOD cousin.  I was never in trouble, and was always very polite.  Okay, so I flushed!  But other than that, I was a very well behaved child.  Mostly because my mother took great pains to make sure I didn't step out of line in front of the family...ever.  What I'm saying here is that no one involved in this story had any reason what so ever to think that Hubby and I were going to do anything remotely improper.

So there we are, my cousins, my new fiance, and I.  Settled into sleeping bags on either side of the curtain.  And then....

"Sarah, you can't sleep anywhere near the curtain."  This from one of my female cousins.

"Why not?"  asks I.

"Because you and Hubby are going to try and have sex, and we're supposed to make sure you don't."

Across the church basement, from the other side of the curtain, I could hear Hubby laughing.  As if there was anything remotely erotic about sleeping bags, a church basement, and a multitude of cousins all around.

Later that night I had to get up and use the bathroom...a bathroom in which I could flush!  Of course, this meant crossing past the curtain to the girls bathroom.  I stood up and took a step and a chorus of "Sarah's trying to have sex!" rose from the row of sleeping bags.

It was purely coincidence that the next morning we made our escape...I mean we to to leave early. (We had to drive several hours to see his mom...the story I'm saving for tomorrow.)  Hubby and I packed up after breakfast.  We did not flush, and we did not help with the dishes and, most importantly, we did not have sex!

Welcome to the family!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Apparently Sarah needs to explain to Hubby what does and does not keep him out of the blog.

Poor Hubby.  Poor, poor Hubby.  He so very hard to stay out of this blog.

And yet, today, last night, he crashed his way into so completely I could NOT resist.

See, we went to a movie, a rare thing for us these days since movies are now $10 ($8 for a matinee, but only if it's not on a big screen or in 3D or it's before 4 PM...seriously, matinees back in the day were half price and as long as the movie kicked off before 6:30 it was half price. Period.) and with Netflix and Direct TV and our favorite local video store, we just figure it makes more sense to wait a couple months and watch it on video.  That way we can watch and drink wine and whatever we want and if I fall asleep, hey no biggie.

 ANYWAYS, we went to see "Exodus."  My review will be posted on my writing blog, It's Just a Writer's World later this afternoon.  AFTER the movie, we had to run to Blain's Farm and Fleet for a
couple last minute Christmas things for this weekend.  

For those of you who don't know the whole "Farm and Fleet" store thing, these are stores all over Wisconsin...and they might be all over the country, I don't know, that sell farming, fishing and hunting gear.  Not nearly the size of Cabela's or Gander Mountain, Farm and Fleet and Fleet Farm stores are pretty much the original store model for that type of crowd.  I like Farm and Fleet because, like Menards, they offer more than just hunting rifles, fishing poles, and udder balm.  (Udder balm is a thing...)  This time of year Farm and Fleet is probably the BEST place for Christmas stuff.  They have a fantastic TOYLAND...although at this
point in the season it's pretty picked over...and they have racks and racks of ornaments and lights.  Also, it's a good place to get name brand jeans cheap.

As we were checking out I noticed Hubby purchased two mini packs of Kleenex.  He's got a pretty severe cold and for the last week if we are out together like at church or shopping or the movie, he's asked me for a tissue.  Typically I don't have them, but this time of year around here you just have to have them because you never know when the person next to you is going to need one.

As we walked out of the store I commented on the fact that he got those.  He said, "Well, I've been asking you for yours, I figure I should probably have some of  my own."

This is a valid point, however, I really don't mind sharing tissue with him.  I told him that.  "I don't mind, I'm happy to give you my tissues."

"Oh no," says he.  "I'm not going to use up all your tissues.  Because then there'll be a moment when you need one and you're digging in your purse and you can't find one and then at that exact moment Randy Mantooth is going to come walking by and there you are with a big snot bubble hanging out of your face and you're going to just stand there cursing me.  And THEN, you'll put me in your blog.  So yes, $0.82 is a good price to pay for staying out of the blog."

I waited a moment, letting this amazing, and clearly well thought out argument echo through the Farm and Fleet parking lot.  I wanted to say, "Honey, it's unlikely Randy Mantooth would be in Wisconsin in
December. It's more likely Rick Springfield would pop up since his wife has family
here."  But I didn't.  I was really in awe of his thought process.  And I was amused because he thought that sharing that rant with me was going to keep him OUT of the blog.

Clearly, he doesn't understand exactly what does and does not make the cut.  And I believe this rant might be the best blog material I've had outside of a public restroom.  So, hey, thanks there Hubby!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sarah plans...God has a good old chuckle.


Somewhere, probably in the Bible, it's said, "Man plans and God laughs."  I actually used that line in my newest work in progress, because it's a phrase that's so true about our lives so often.  

Never was that more true than last night.

See, a couple weeks ago I figured I'd need a day to get the Christmas letter done/wrap presents/edit the new book for an end of December release.  So I took a random vacation day off to do all of that...today.


Last night I decided that my Nora Hill book series was one I was going to try and market to an agent instead of self publishing.  I'm very excited about this because I feel like Nora Hill is a character many, many people are going to love and this book series is going to be one that's going to break that final barrier between me and my dream of writing for a living.

BTW, if you'd like to get a hand on one of my OTHER books...books make great gifts....you can just close your eyes and JUST CLICK HERE!.

Anyway, with the imminent deadline no longer a thing, much to my relief and the relief of my team, I figured I'd still do some present wrapping and card getting out.

Ah, but man plans and God laughs. 
How many kids can you fit on a futon?


See, Skippy was expecting friends for the evening.  Rather, Skippy was expecting an acquaintance to come over and spend the night in our TV room on the futon because said acquaintance was going to be going to the Fall Out Boy Concert at the RAVE.  One friend turned into two and by the time I arrived home from work last night at 8, there were four rentals in my TV room.  So, getting a jump on laundry and wrapping wasn't happening last night, but the was okay. Their plan was to leave here at 6 AM anyway and go sit on a street in Milwaukee and wait for a concert that wasn't going to start
until 9 Pm tonight.  Ah...youth.


Peaches had a baking project for her French class. She had to make 3 apple tarts.  They smelled amazing.  She left them on the counter to cool.  Remember that for later.

Hubby went to bed at 10, thinking all was well.  Peaches also retired soon after.  I hung out on the couch to catch up on my DVR. (Now that everything's in "fall finale" I can finally get caught up on "Gotham" and all those other new shows I was going to watch this year.)  Around 11:30, Peaches emerged from her room and said that a dear friend was having major drama and was sitting at a George Webb's crying and she needed to go be a friend.  Well, it's a school
It's where all the drama happens after midnight.
night, but it's the last week before Christmas break, so really, what are they learning?  So I said fine, but to text me when she got home.


I dosed a bit, waking when one of the rentals came upstairs to use the bathroom.  I always forget when there are new people in the house that they don't understand our quirks.  My kid's friends are used to seeing me asleep on the couch.  Hey, if they don't claim it first, it's mine!

Starting around 12:45 I checked in with Peaches because, it was still a school night and friends are friends, but come on...

Well, around 1:55 she said she was on her way.  At 1:59 she said she'd hit a curb and one of her tires was complete popped.

Ah yes, man plans...

I knew Skippy was up, and he knows how to put a spare on, so I didn't want to wake Hubby, who, unlike Skippy and me, had to work today. However, the more I texted Peaches back and forth, the more I figured he should be there, so I called Skippy back, put hubby in a car with him and sent them on their way.  

Peaches dragged herself home by 2:45 and went to bed.  Since the rentals were getting up and leaving the house at 6 and I needed to get Peaches up at 6 for school, guess who was up at 6?

The rentals, for reasons I don't understand, packed up everything  (they are coming back tonight) and loaded the car. Now, when you put 4 people in my kitchen, and those 4 people are carrying bags and pillows...

Yes, one of the apple tarts hit the deck hard.  And, as is true of all
upside down on my floor at 6 AM.
bread and pastry with sticky topping, it landed face down.


Upon hearing of the pastry tragedy, Peaches said she was too tired to be angry.  Hubby took her to school, took the car to the tire shop and then he went back to work.  

I did not go back to bed.   Nope, I got to hit the grocery store before the crowds and thusly I was home and ready to edit by 9 AM.

And after a couple hours of futility, I gave up and made a casserole for dinner.  Skippy and had lunch and watched some TV...and then I took a nap.  And that is why, in spite of the fact that I took a day off of work...I haven't wrapped, carded, or edited one single thing.  

The rentals are coming back late tonight, I think.  They did leave one apple tart covered pillow behind, so they have to be coming, right?

God must just be wiping His eyes at this point.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Christmas miracle of Biblical proportions...

Good morning!

I'm up early on Sundays typically, but not usually dressed and ready for everything this early.  I couldn't sleep.  Last night was one of those nights I lay in bed and just mentally counted how many more minutes I had to stay in bed before I could get up.  I haven't done that since I was nine.

While getting dressed I realized I couldn't sleep because I had something I needed to share.  Yes, once again, Sarah went out and about and something ridiculous happened and since I didn't share it with you right away, I lost sleep over it.  See how I suffer for my art?  :)

Anyway, here's what happened:

I'm done Christmas shopping.  Yes, this year I' completed the task yesterday, purchasing the very last Christmas gift.  Everyone one my list now has SOMETHING.  In celebration, Hubby and I headed to Kohl's because 1)  We had a 30% coupon and 2)  I wanted to see if I could get some new black pants since the ones I wear for work are looking a bit tatty.  (And, if you read my last blog, the zipper is somewhat suspect.)

Go ahead...buy office casual
trousers for this body type without
weeping.  See if you can.
Feeling optimistic, I spent way too much time in the skinny girl department looking for those same magical pants I found last summer that fit and don't have that embarrassing W after the size number.  No luck.  In fact, the only pants I found in the entire store that would fit me had the W and the bigger number.  I was crushed, but I'm tired of feeling like a pillow tied in the middle with twine.  Most of my pants fit me just fine except in the waist.  Yep, I've become one of those fluffy women whose gut is growing instead of the butt. No, I can't get all curvy like some fluffy girls...I have to get very round like the Staypuft Marshmallow guy.

Anyway, defeated, I dragged myself around the fluffy girl department looking for a top on the clearance rack to cheer myself up.  (I'd just cleared out two bags' worth of clothing for Goodwill, so I figured one top was okay.)

While searching a woman came up to me.  That's not abnormal.  I guess I just have that face that tells people yes, I work in this department, store, shoe warehouse, grocery and yes,  I can answer any questions you have, get things off the high shelf, recommend a good fitting boot.  She was tall, skinny, had perfect hair and wore a very nice set of boots, the kind I can't wear because tall boot makers seem to feel that no matter what your shoe size, your calf size is always going to be "willowy."

"Excuse me," says she of the beautiful skinny boots, "but is XL and 1X the same thing?"

Honey if XL and 1X were the same thing I wouldn't be standing in this cramped corner of Kohl's, I'd be frolicking in the acres of clothing on the other side of the store.

I didn't say that.

"No," says I, "XL is smaller than 1X."  

"Oh, really?"

Skinny girl wanders into fluffy girl territory and pushes the point that fluffy girl clothes are bigger than skinny girl clothes and skinny girl thinks she's going to leave the department with both her eyes not scratched out?

"Yes, really.  See,"  I suck in every inch of my temper, "I'm a 1X, sometimes a 2x.  But XL and XXL always wind up being too tight or too short."

Skinny girl stares in the sweater in her hands.  Clearly she's trying to buy something for that one fluffy friend she and her skinny friends all have, but a trek into the fluffy department might as well have been a trip to the interior of China.  "Okay..." she says.  "Thanks."

Skinny girl walked away not knowing just how must restraint that conversation took out of me.  She'll have no idea how much internal tongue biting I had to do to keep from yelling something about the inequity of clothing makers' offerings to the fluffy and the completely random way they make pants and tops so that it crushes a fluffy girl's heart every time they have to buy pants because suddenly the pants have gotten smaller.  (And NO, I haven't gained weight since the last time I bought pants.)

Now I know how David felt in Biblical times when he could have killed King Saul but didn't. It's a good feeling, this ability to restrain myself from howling at random people.

Not sure it'll happen often.  So let's just call this our Christmas miracle.

Friday, December 12, 2014

5 for Friday: These things happen to me so they won't happen to you!

Good morning!

When I started writing this blog a couple years ago, I did it for a couple reasons...as an outlet for my rants from time to time, as a commentary on everyday life...and as a way to disprove something I've heard all my life, "It can only happen to Sarah!"

Turns out...that last thing?  That might actually be true.  The past few weeks went a long way to convince me that some things just happen to me and no one else.  Here are five things that have happened to me recently.  Let's see if anyone else can sympathize.

5)  I'm not saying God's talking to me...but....

Two weeks ago I announced to people in my real life that in 2015 I was going to "do" a 5K.  This was something I was going to do in 2013, but after the car accident in 2012 I spent a lot of time in physical therapy and a deep funk and didn't bother to train.  The last two years have been rough on me physically and I've packed on some serious pounds.  But, the car accident is now settled and in my rear view mirror.  I'm starting to feel better and it's time to address my huge gut, butt, and chins.  So I was really excited to announce that I was actually going to work on myself enough to endure a 5k.  Maybe not running it, but for sure doing it.

Not one day after I made the announcement, I decorated my house for Christmas and in the process I somehow managed to really, really wreck my right knee.  Where it was simply a little gimpy from time to time before the last two weeks I've been seriously hobbled.  Yes, my workmates enjoy watching me try to find the one position I can walk in without pain.  And all I did was put a Nativity scene on my piano.  What the what? I'm starting to feel like maybe God just wants me to be fluffy.

4)  I'm not, I'm not, I'm NOT buying more candle holders...oh...wait...

Go ahead, you resist that face.
Ok, I gave up being a Partylite consultant because I couldn't control my addiction to all things candle.  Seriously, I have a closet full to exploding with candle holders and candles.  The joke around my social circle is that if we ever have a house fire, it'll be the BEST SMELLING house fire EVER.  

In an effort to slim down my collection, I've been giving away the pieces I don't use all the time, and I was doing really, really, really well.  Plus, while I have two parties a year, one of them I don't even get the hostess items.  I give that to someone at the party.  (If you're interested I have it the first Thursday in December, three years running now.  It's a blast.)

So you'd think I'd have almost nothing left, right?

Nope.  No, apparently this year I realized that even if I'm not getting it for free or at some ridiculous reduced price, I'm still going to buy it.  Which would explain the new menagerie I have of hedgehogs, owls, bunnies...and in January I'll have kittens.  Like I need more kittens in my life!

3)  And speaking of candle holders...

I was going to do a favor for two friends and this is what happened.
So pretty, so delicate, so will turn to dust if you
drop it.

My one friend was having a partylite party and my other friend was going to be the consultant, but couldn't do it on the date friend 1 wanted.  So hey, why not?  I have a bunch of current stuff...I'll do the party no problem.  One of the items I took along was a beautiful glass angel, one of a set of three.   I took the middle one along to show people.

In Candle Camp they taught us to raise things up, so if you go to a partylite party, you'll see things sitting atop boxes.  I put the middle angel, the one I brought along, on a box.  And then I put something else on the table.  Well, the table wasn't big enough so I nudged a few things around, one of those things being the box...with the angel on it.  

The angel wobbled...and then everything sort of went into slow motion...and then the angel hit the concrete floor...and turned into dust.  It didn't break.  It didn't shatter into small pieces.  It turned into DUST.

And oh yeah, Partylite doesn't sell these separately.  And I took the middle one, so look at the picture. the other two would look silly next to each other.

Kathy, my Partylite friend, saved the day, however, and I now have a complete set.  If you'd like to get in on Partylite fantasticness, check out her site by clicking here!  Tell her Sarah sent you.

2)  I keep forgetting I don't like them, that's why!

Last weekend Hubby and I headed to a very large store to buy a very important Christmas gift.  It took us several hours to wander the store because apparently we can't just walk in, get what we want, and walk out.  That would be silly.  (His words, not mine.)  So while he was checking out, I needed to rest my knee (see #5) and get a bite to eat.  The little food place in the store had a lunch special:  2 hot dogs, bag of chips and a drink, $2.50.  I thought that was a great deal, and then I could share with Hubby.  

Here's the thing: They didn't have trays or plates or carrying cases of any kind.  So the guy hands me two naked hot dogs on buns and I'm already carrying my purse and gripping tables and railings to keep pressure off my knee and now I have these two dogs in my hand and I have to pick up the chips and drink.  What do I do?  Well of COURSE I put ketchup on the dogs. which only makes them messier and I wind up with ketchup all over my hands, my purse, my drink.  Also, I can't find a place to sit down, so I'm leaning on a table when Hubby gets through check out and he looks at them and says, nope he's not hungry.  I bite into one of the dogs and realize it's the kind of hot dog I DON'T LIKE:  It's not a Kosher dog, or a natural casing dog.  Nope, it's a grey, dirty water dog that at this point just looks like a bloody finger.  For reasons I can't explain I forget every time that I don't like these.  And thusly, I tossed both dogs in the dumper and walked out, covered in ketchup, with my chips and drink.

1)  For one second I was rejoicing...

Wednesday was a good morning because I sat down at my desk and felt like my pants were a bit looser than normal.  AH!  Maybe this whole "staying off my feet" thing was the secret to weight loss after all!

Mid morning I took out the mail and then, as is my habit, I used the ladies room.

And that's when I realized I had NOT lost weight.

No, instead, I realized, having been at work nearly 4 hours, that I'd actually forgotten to pull up my zipper.  I'd hooked the hooks and buttoned the button, but nope, the zipper was fully in the DOWN position.  

Awesome.

So you tell me...this stuff happens to other people, right?  RIGHT?


Sunday, December 7, 2014

'Tis the Season to "TAKE IT DOWN!"

Good morning!

As most of you know, I tend to rant about people leaving up their Christmas decorations past Groundhog day.  So one would that that right now, smack dab in the middle of twinkle lights season, I would be at peace and happy and content.  And, you know, not ranting.

Nope.  I found a whole new home decoration issue to rant about.  

PEOPLE:  It is DECEMBER 7!  TAKE DOWN THE HALLOWEEN AND THANKSGIVING DECORATIONS!

I get it:  Not everyone decorates for Christmas.  That's fine.  I'm not here to say everyone needs to put candy canes and snowmen and the three kings out on their front lawn.  BUT...Halloween and Thanksgiving are OVER.  The plastic Jack-o-Lanterns and the rows of pumpkins, carved or not, NEED TO GO!

If your pumpkins look like this GET RID OF IT!
I witnessed this not once, not twice, but multiple times on my own street!  Someone still had one of those stuffed headless scarecrow men things people put on their porches to scare little kids.  And the rotting pumpkins up and down the street...WHAT IS GOING ON??????????????????

Did I miss a memo...is this the new standard of lazy?  Are people taunting me?  

It's not like I'm jumping on the Halloween people on November 1.  Hey, I left my floating heads up until almost mid November.  But once Thanksgiving hits, that's the time to get rid of the ghosts and goblins.  Basically, you get a MONTH.  

So pretty...but if you don't get this cleared up by December 1
the display, like the baby, are going to get over
ripe and awful.
If you decorate for Thanksgiving...and I do, indoors...that's fine.  But that's one of those things where you best be a quick change artist because on the day after Thanksgiving most neighborhoods turn into an electric landscape and your hay bale with the scarecrow dressed like a Pilgrim surrounded by pumpkins and gourds is going to look really, really terrible, and it's going to rot.

Honestly, I've never noticed a problem before this year. I mean, there's always that house that leaves the stuffed guy out on the porch year 'round...but they put a Santa hat on his headless shoulders.  I can respect that level of lazy. At least it's an attempt.
At least they tried.

What I'm really saying is this:  I get it if you don't want to put up four miles of lights on your house.  I get it if Christmas isn't your thing.  But buddy...NO ONE WANTS TO LOOK AT ROTTING PUMPKINS AND MOLDY STRAW BODIES.

TAKE THEM DOWN!







Friday, December 5, 2014

Five for Friday: Holiday movies that get it right.

Merry Christmas to all!

And if you celebrate something other than Christmas, then happy holidays to you!

Today I'm rerunning one of my favorite (and yours) holiday posts.  Not because I'm too lazy to write a new one, that's coming, but because once the presents are opened, the food is eaten and the carols are sung, what's really left of your Christmas celebration?  I'll tell you what...staring at relatives.  So this post is to help alleviate that uncomfortable time of "well now what?" at your Christmas gathering!  




It's the holiday season, and regardless of what you celebrate, this is the time of year when everyone loses their minds.  Need proof?  Head on over to 1029thehog and listen to Bob and Brianread their listener's holiday horror stories.

Personally, this is the time of year when I really just want to sit in my comfy chair, stair at the Christmas Tree and watch holiday movies.  I'm not going to be allowed to do that because, you know, work holiday parties, family holiday parties, extra church services, social gatherings,  all of that.  And oh yeah, get the novel in some sort of shape so that I have a prayer of getting it out before the end of 2015.  LOL!

You can lose yourself in holiday classics that "It's a Wonderful Life" or "White Christmas"  (My favorite of all time.)  Or maybe you like the funny family fantasies like "Elf" or "The Santa Claus" films. But there's a whole genre of holiday films that look at the other side of this time of year...the darker side of things, and they are hilarious, heartbreaking, and spot on truthful.  These are my top five favorite because I identify so completely with what's going on.

5) Christmas with the Kranks (2004)

Based on a very short, not read enough novel by John Grisham (Skipping Christmas), "Kranks" looks at Christmas from a different point of view:  That of a man who has ceased to understand the point of all the traditions and MONEY shelled out for the holiday when all he really wants to do is spend time with his wife.  But hey, it's the holidays and there is no law in the land stronger than the bind chain of traditions.  Frantic, non stop, hilarious and touching.  Sure, the book is better...but not by much.
  
4)  Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. (1987)

This is a Thanksgiving movie...sort of.  Steve Martin, John Candy team up for the buddy road trip picture gone horribly, horribly wrong.  Written and directed by the late, great John Hughes, this one hits all the marks in hellish American travel.  While the
technology might not hold up...much of the problems could be solved today with a smart phone, the frustrated panic that is a natural by product of holiday travel is spot on and eternal.

3) Home Alone (1990)

I know, I know.  Everyone loves this film.  Yes, well, take away the cute kid battling stupid thieves and what do you still have?  That's right...you still have a horrifying amount of family dysfunction and holiday travel.  Again, written by John Hughes, which means it's going to be awesome, and directed by Chris Columbus, which means it's going to be very pretty, "Home Alone" gets it so right in so many ways when it comes to big families, airports, holiday travel, creepy neighbors, and skeevy Santas.  

2)  National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)

I'm going to argue that this is the best movie in the Vacation collection.  Clark Griswold, determined
to have the PERFECT Christmas?  Both sets of grandparents visiting?  Crazy relatives?  Too many Christmas lights? (As if there is something like that.)  And, of course, the stress of waiting for a work bonus that may, or may not show up.  Any Christmas party that involves chain saws and police is going to be winner.

1)  Home for the Holidays (1995)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, and I'll say it until I die...this is the best holiday movie ever made.  Sure, it's technically a Thanksgiving movie.  But for any of us who have had to go home for the holidays...and live under our parents' roof for
more than ten hours while we're still trying to keep a grip on our own lives as they spin...we know.  We just know.

One movie I wanted to add to the list, but simply can't, thanks to TBS's 24 hour run every Christmas Day..."Christmas Story."  There is so much very, very right about that movie, from the cursing father to the frazzled mother to the younger brother who won't eat...it's a classic, but unfortunately is so omnipresent in the US that to put it on any
list with would seem pointless because we are all going to tune in on Christmas Day and just let it run all day.  We know we are, don't deny it.  
So that's my list of must see movies.  Oh sure, I'll pop in "White Christmas" because it's beautiful and the music is great and I spend days this time of year humming "Sisters."  But when I need to know there are others who feel the way I do when it comes to the insanity of the holidays, these are the films I find hilarious and comforting.


(ALSO, just in case you're looking for more movies, my fellow author, Linda Schmalz, and I have just released our first in a series of movie review books!  


Available in paper back now on Amazon, and coming soon as an e-book!)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sarah goes out in public and we all know how this will end.

Hello everyone!

Whew!  It's been a while, I know.  And I'm still not quite ready to emerge from my NANOWRIMO fury.  I've got some 14000 words I have to come up with between now and next Sunday, and frankly, I'm not sure how that's going to happen, but it's going to happen!

Anyway, I have to share this with you because, well, why not?

Couple Sundays ago it was my birthday. Yes, I got older.  And make all the comments you want about fine wine...I got older. 

My b-day bash was held here...
One of my fantastic birthday presents was a trip up to Lambeau Field in Green Bay Wisconsin to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers take on the Philadelphia Eagles.  (For those of you who don't know, this is American Football.)  I was very excited because 1)  I love the Packers and 2)  I've never been to a game at Lambeau  Field.  (I know, how did I get to be this old...)  Granted, I was NOT excited about sitting outside on a cold November day, (and by cold I mean below 25F) but I was going to put on enough layers of clothing and it was going to be fine.

I had it all planned out. Two pairs of socks, one of them wool.  Snowboots. Long underwear, heavy jeans.  Long underwear, longsleeved shirt, light jacket, hooded sweatshirt, heavy coat.  Wool mittens, headscarf and ear muffs.  Yes, my legs were a little undercovered, but I figured it would be okay,
I'm ready!  Bring on the game!
since I was going to be jumping up and down plenty.

The minute we entered the concourse, I knew I was in trouble.  I was so cold...and we were forty-five minutes away from kickoff!  And that's why I now have a year's subscription to the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel...see, the guy there was giving away fleece blankets if you signed up for a six month subscription.  I wanted two blankets, one for my front and one for my back.  And thusly, I now get the Sunday and Wednesday paper...which promptly goes into the recycle bin because honestly who has time to read an actual newspaper?  But I got two nice blankets, so I was a bit happier about sitting on a metal bench with 76,000 of my new best friends.

Well, except for the woman behind me.  The woman who kept dropping her stupid mitten and then she tapped me on the shoulder and said, "I dropped my mitten."

Do you get how stiff and clumsy I was in all those layers?  Bending down to pick up a mitten and then reaching back to hand it to her involved shifting blankets and removing my own mittens.  I was about to go all Cheri Oteri on her and yell, "It's mine!  I keep this now!"
Shoes, mittens, whatever.  If you drop
it again, I'm keeping it!
I'm pretty proud of myself, I made it all the way to halftime without going inside.  Actually, it didn't matter because "Inside" meant the concourse, which was just as cold, if not worse, than the stadium itself.  But by the middle of halftime I was pretty frozen and besides, the call of nature was to the point where I couldn't ignore it.

And that, as my faithful readers know, is the whole point of why I took time out of NANOWRIMO to tell you this story.  Ah yes, Sarah has to use a public restroom.  What could possibly go wrong?

Oh let me count the ways!

First of all...remember the GROSSEST STORY I'VE EVER TOLD? (If not, click HERE and read it.  We'll wait.)

Anyway, so once again, my two least favorite things:  Using a public restroom and my female punctuation come into play. Now let's add multiple layers of clothing and stadium full of freezing cold and let's see what happens...

Halfway through halftime I knew I had to get into to restrooms. Not so much because I had to, you know, GO, because those who know me know I can make it many, many hours without using a restroom...but I was frozen solid and the only place that had heat was the restroom.  No problem, thinks I, I'll get into the bathroom and warm up in there for half an hour. It'll be great. 

No, no it won't be great, but it will make a great blog.

See, I wasn't actually expecting my punctuation to be so...forceful that day.  Ladies, you know we have the cycle within the cycle where you have days that are fine and then there are days where you should probably just put on plastic pants and lie perfectly still for about 9 hours.  And that commercial years ago where the woman stood up and looked horrified because, as the announcer shared with us, a woman's flow can increase 200 times when she stands up?  Yes, all true and oh yes, all happening to me right there in Lambeau Field.

Now a normal person in normal circumstances would simply hustle to the restroom and take care of things.  But I am not a normal person, and I was not in a normal circumstance.  I was, instead, in a very long line in a very cold concourse waiting to get into a very small restroom. Nope, there was no time saving clothing removal for any of us in that line.  I honestly believe the powers that be were purposefully blowing cold air on us.  Why I do not know, but it was way colder in the concourse than it was on my metal seat in the stadium.  So we're standing there, thirty of us, waiting outside in line to get into the restroom.

I finally get into the blissful restroom to wait in line there.  But at least it's warm.  So warm...so lovely...  I look around and I realize people are HURRYING.  WHY?  WHY IS EVERYONE IN A HURRY TO LEAVE HERE?

I actually said that out loud.  "Hey ladies,"  says I, "we can hear the game here, and it's warm, why don't we just stay here?" 
Yes, see, there are just days
a woman should not leave
the house.

The restroom attendant was NOT on board with that idea.  And she gave me the stink eye the rest of the time I was in there.

So okay, I'm not going to just camp out in the rest room and listen to the game as planned. Nope, I'm going to have to go through the motions of using the restroom.  And the problem with that is in the process of using the restroom, I'm going to dislodge certain punctuation protections that won't, and probably shouldn't be easily relodged.  My best hope was to just stack more protection on top of what I already had.  Which would amount to a mattress between my legs.  Which is attractive.

So I finally get into the stall and I would like nothing better than to strip down to my long underwear and just sit there for an hour.  But I'm not going to be that girl, the one the restroom attendant already has the stink eye on.  So I feel like I have to rush just like everyone else.  Which means I don't remove a lot of layers. Which means my reach isn't exactly as long as it might be without layers and layers of clothing.


I don't need to go further, because those of you who know where this is going, you're already choking on your coffee and those of you who don't know where this is going...well, go put a heavy coat on, and then try to use the toilet.  Good luck.
By the time I got out of the stall I'd given up any hope of hygiene.  I was sweaty, I was disheveled, but I was, hopefully, protected against a punctuation leak, what with the Temprepedic wedged between my underwear and my jeans..  I managed to kick my one coat across the floor  (The one layer I did remove.)  and I washed my hands.  Looking over my shoulder I saw women reapplying makeup. 

The PACK!  The PACK!
That was one of those moments when I realized I'll just never be what people think of as a beautiful girl.  I just won't. I can lose weight. I can learn to be more graceful.  I can even maybe curb my impulsive sense of humor. All that will take a mountain of work, but it's possible.  But here's the thing:  I'm one of those women that sort of put it together once a day and then it all deteriorates so that by the time we get up the next morning, we're something out of a freak show.  I'm not one of those people who can simply be remade in the mirror of a stadium bathroom.  I didn't even look in the mirror because I knew two of the following three things would be true:  1) portions of my hair would be standing straight up while other portions would be hopelessly flat and the only fix for that would be a complete wash and redo.  2)  The makeup I was wearing was long gone and it would require a complete redo of that...and possibly some added spackle for good measure, to reach any level beyond horror film. 3) given the amount of clothing I was wearing, what was happening from the neck up didn't matter because from the neck down I looked 70 pounds heavier than I actually am and honestly the only person attracted to me at that point would be the team from Biggest Loser trolling for contestants.  In short...watching the girl fluff her hair and reapply lip gloss, I knew it was pointless for me to try because I was at Quasimoto stage anyway. 

Self reflection is good...right?

Anyway, I did enjoy the game, cold and all. And the Packer won, which was great.  And, once home, hubby and I had a good laugh as we stripped off layers and layers of clothes and got clean and looked human again.

Great day, overall, great birthday.  And, of course, something to share with you!

Happy Thanksgiving my friends...and remember, be thankful for what you have, and be thankful you don't live the comedy that is my life!









Sunday, October 12, 2014

Well, the kid won the battle of the sippy cups...but I'll win the war.

Good afternoon!

I wasn't going to write a new blog for a while, but today in church something happened that just sort of forced my hand.  And, like most blog posts born of something unexpected...this doesn't make me look all that great.

I don't know when it was that Hubby and I started taking travel mugs of coffee into church.  I mean, we made the diaper bag of snacks to single Life Savers roll jump pretty well when the kids got older.  But at some point a few years ago the two of us started bringing our coffee to church.  We weren't the only ones, and we weren't the first, but we are the most consistent coffee drinkers.  Since our pews don't come with cup holders...and seriously, can someone just get on that please...we typically put our travel mugs on the floor under the pew in front of us.  That way we can see the mugs, reach for the mugs, but the people in front of us won't kick the mugs over.

And it's been a practice that's served us really well without a hitch or without comment.  

Until today.

Today we sat a few pews further back than we normally do.  Regular church goers get the whole, "This is my pew" thing.  It's not that we OWN the pew, really, it's just that that's where we always sit and frankly if a visitor, or, worse, a SECOND SERVICE person sits in our spot, well, that throws the whole thing into commotion.  It's why special services, like on Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter tend to throw regular church people into a bit of confusion.  SOMEONE is sitting in the WRONG spot.  

Well today we sat a bit further back, which put us behind a family that had a couple young ones.  Diaper bag snacks and sippy cup young ones.  Bring all sorts of books and quiet toys because face it, church is dull for little ones and they simply won't be quiet and the worst thing in the world is for a kid to belt out "ARE WE DONE YET?" young ones.

The elder of the juniors seemed to have some sort of innate distrust for me.  He kept staring at me, like I was really, really, really creepy and he was going to pierce my brain with the strength of his mental waves.  

Okay, maybe church isn't always supers thrilling for grown ups, either.

Anyway, Elder Junior got tired of trying to stare me down, and got a hit off his sippy cup before sitting on the floor and playing with trucks, using the pews as a sort of table.


I love watching kids play on the floor during church.  I mean, think about it.  All the adults are super busy sitting, standing, singing, chanting, praying, whatever, but you, as a little kid, you haven't a clue what that's all about.  All you know is that if you are very quiet, they'll give you a sippy cup and a bag of Cheerios and you can sit on the floor and be in a world all your own. 

And the best part of playing on the floor in church is that magical spot UNDER THE PEW.  It's like endless tunnels and the only thing between you and complete escape are miles of legs.  

Well Elder Junior decided to move his trucks to the floor, where 1)  there was more space and 2) he entered that magical under the pew world.  We were pretty deep into the sermon when Hubby nudged me.  Apparently, Elder Junior was playing really, really, really close to my travel mug.

Now, I could have said that I moved the mug because it contained hot coffee and I didn't want the kid to burn himself.  And that would be true, except, not completely.  I wasted no time moving my travel mug out of reach because, well, THAT'S MY SIPPY CUP!

Elder Junior understood that we were now in a territorial battle, but that he'd won.  Victorious, he stood up, and got another hit off his sippy cup.  I took a sip of coffee and we eyed one another.  For a moment, we were equals.

And then he got to return to playing on the floor while I had to return to listening to the sermon.

Well played, Elder Junior.  Well played.

But someday, child, you will be too old to play on the floor.  Your parents and grandparents will not allow you to bring a sippy cup to church.  You will languish under this rule as you watch me drink coffee to my heart's content. 

And then I will be victorious.

Meanwhile...I wonder who I'll be displacing for the next fifteen years now that I have a new place to sit.  Too bad.  They should have been in church and then I would have sat in my usual spot and none of this would have happened.




Friday, October 3, 2014

My greatest childhood fear might kill me yet.

Irony, that is the name of  my life's story.

When I was in kindergarten (through fourth grade, but this story takes place in kindergarten), I went to school in a two room school.  My classroom was home to 36 students in grades K-4.  (So you'll pardon me if I don't weep for educators now who talk about overcrowding in classrooms.  Mrs. Zimmerman, my teacher, juggled all subjects except gym for give grades and we all learned how to read, write, spell, do math, follow the rules, and be kind to each other.  It was crowded, but we all had a desk, most of them from the Flint School District after a school burned down...they smelled of smoke, but we didn't know any better.)  Anyway, as the youngest kids in the room, we got to listen to the classes the older kids were doing because when you're packed into a room with 35 other kids, you spend time coloring and listening.  And reading and listening.  And silently participating with a class at your desk...while you're listening.

I was mostly interested in what the first graders were doing because, frankly, I wasn't quite sure exactly what was going on with the way older kids, the fourth graders.  They were talking about things called fractions, which sounded strange, although there was a lot of talk about cutting pies, which was nice.  But first grade, I figured I'd listen to that and get ahead for the next year.

One of the things I just knew, I just KNEW was going to be a problem for me was something they called "fill in the blanks."

It would break your arm if you had to
crank out more than 5 copies...but
the smell was worth it!
See, it was the seventies, and there were 36 kids in five grades in the room.  Mrs. Z. relied on worksheets.  And one of the worksheets she used for first grade was the "fill in the blanks" worksheets.  It was part of their reading class and the deal was they had a sentence that had a missing word, a blank, in it.  Below the sentence were three words that looked alike and the student had to pick the correct word and write it in the blank.

At age 4/5  (I started school very young, another story for another day) I was convinced I wouldn't be able to read well enough to pick out the right word.  I watched some of those first graders crash and burn as they read their choices out loud. (As a side note, people wonder why I've never ever had a problem with public speaking...I give a lot of the credit to my young years in a multi grade classroom...you had to speak up and you had to do it in front of people.)

I snuck a peak at those sheets when Mrs. Z was busy with some other class.  All those blue letters on that white paper with the grainy blue dots from the mimeograph machine in the office.  I knew the 8th graders were the only ones allowed to crank copies out on that machine.  I loved the smell of freshly mimeoed pages...and I wasn't alone.  It was the first high most of us in the 70's enjoyed.  I looked at those sheets and I was convinced I'd never get out of the first grade because fill in the blank was going to kill me.

 

Anyway, I shared my fears with my mother and she told me I would be just fine.  

Flash forward some forty years.  Sitting at my desk I realized something yesterday:  I'm living my greatest childhood fear.  I spend my days sitting at my desk filling in the blank on paperwork, on plumbing forms, on computer credit card payments, on financing payments. All day long I fill in the blank.   

It might just kill me yet.




Okay, just a few fun things that happened this week because I love to share.  With PM gone now two weeks, we've learned to be a little self sufficient.  Well, okay, NGTJ and I have.  Captain Nubbin just runs around with his cell phone to his ear swearing.  And when he does sit down, it's to call an irate customer who's irate mostly because we're short installers  (they keep quitting.)  and in order to get our stuff installed, we have to get what I call "rent-a-mules" from the corporate office.  One would think the corporate guys would be super excellent at installing stuff.  

One would be wrong.

Anyway, so while I'm learning new skills and NGTJ is learning new skills some things don't change.  Last week I took a call from a little old lady who informed me that the shower doors we'd installed for her needed service.

"What's wrong with them?"   I ask.

"They aren't working properly."  says she.

"Are they not closing, or are they leaking?"  You would be amazed at just what can go wrong with shower doors.  You'd think it would be simple.  If it opens when you want it opened and closes when you want it closed, and kept the water in the shower when you were using the shower, that should be it, right?

Again, you'd be wrong.  People call me all day long with gripes about shower doors.  I want to tell them that shower doors get wet when the shower is on and when you open a pivot shower door after running the shower, a few drops of water are going to get on the floor.  See, because when you wave a wet thing over a dry thing a little wet is going to get on the dry. People believe because they bought a door it should keep the floor bone dry no matter what.

People are wrong.

But that wasn't this woman's problem.  "Well, see, they are too loud."

"What's too loud?"

"The shower doors."

I looked at her records. She had slide by shower doors, the kind you see in most tub/shower combinations.  When you slide the doors there's a bit of a rumble because the doors are mounted on wheels over head.  But it's not that loud.

"Ma'am, are you saying the doors are banging into each other?"

"No.  They make a loud noise when I close them."

"Like what kind of a noise?"

"A rumble."

Okay...."Are they hard to open and close?"

"Oh no. They move just fine."

At this point I just want to bang my head on my desk.  "Ma'am are you saying that when you move the doors you hear a rumbling noise and that's the only problem?"

"Yes.  They are just too loud."

I'm short handed right now and I'm just not sending a tech out to look at doors that are operating exactly the way they should be.  "Ma'am, I have to tell you, I believe the doors are fine.  There's going to be a certain amount of rumbling when you open and close them because they're mounted on wheels."

"But are they too loud?"  At this point she holds the phone up to the doors and moves them.  Ah...the elderly with cordless phones.

"No, Ma'am, I'm going to tell you, those doors are the exact amount of loudness for the type you bought."

"Really?  Oh, okay them.  We're quite happy in that case."

See, in order to be good at customer service, all you have to do is know how to communicate with the dimwitted.



One final note all.  It's October and I promised you a book by the end of December.  If that's going to happen, I have to get at it and really, really work.  So I'm starting my own NANOWRIMO a month early.  I'll be away from the blog for a while until I get a good grip on the new book.  But I promise you, it'll be worth it!

While I'm gone go ahead, read back blogs.  I know you all haven't read all of them!

 

5 for Friday (On Monday) Shocking Weekend Discoveries!

Good day all! Sometimes the 5 for Friday takes a little bit because I'm in the middle of living my life and don't realize how absu...