Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.

-Norman Vincent Peale

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Decorating for Christmas

Decorating for Christmas is something I look forward to and dread at the same time. I look forward to it, because I like the feeling of knowing the holidays are near and seeing the Christmas tree lit up and the nativity scene shining in the lights. I like wrapping presents and the anticipation of waiting for them to be opened. All of those things evoke warm feelings inside of me.

What prompts the thud in my stomach and the dread in my heart is decorating outside the house. Let's just say my husband likes to be creative. Dangerously creative.

I don't mind the inflatables staked out in the yard. I think they look great when they're full of air. I love the animated bear and deer as they nod and swing their heads when lit in all their glory. Even the spiral Christmas trees that line the sidewalk look pretty. It's the rest of the decorations.

The lights.

What to do with the lights.

We have a lot of lights. Strings and strings of lights. Mostly clear, but some colored ones as well. My husband likes to use the clear ones. He'll stretch the strings across the front yard, one next to the other, making sure not to touch or cross wires. Then he'll have me plug each one in to test them to make sure they're still working. They usually are, minus a bulb or two. All of this is fine, until he walks out of the garage with the big ladder.

Not the step ladder. The big ladder. The one that can go eighteen feet into the air.

He usually has a plan around this time. He'd have been thinking about it for a few days, deciding where he was going to put the lights. He wouldn't tell me his plan, though. It would give me a head start on trying to talk him out of it. No, he waits until the day he's putting up the lights to spring it on me.

It starts out like this.

Him: "I'm going to finish decorating."
Me: "You mean put up the lights?"
Him: Yeah, I'm going to put up the lights."
Then there's a pause.
Me: "Please don't fall off the ladder."
Him: "You're no fun."
Me: "Most holiday accidents are from men falling off ladders while decorating for Christmas."
Him: "I'll be fine."
Me: "I'm too weak to carry you from the yard to the car and drive you to the hospital."
Him: "That's why God invented 911."
Me: "Please don't fall off the ladder."
Him: "You might want to stay out here."

And, so it goes. By this time, he's placed the ladder where he's going to climb. One year, it was against the house up to the roof. He laid out all the strings of lights in an outline of the house's roof. I have to admit, after all the scares of watching him slide across the roof and walk the peak, the house looked very pretty.

Until the squirrels chewed through the wires and blinked out half the lights. Then it just looked like the lights were haphazardly tossed on the roof in any which place.

But, this year he had something special planned. Something that he'd been talking about for years, but I'd managed to talk him out of it so far. This year he wasn't listening.

The ladder went up against the large oak tree in the front yard.

Me: "You're really going to put lights in the tree?"
Him: "I've got it all planned out. It'll be easy."
Me: "Please don't fall out of the tree."
Him: "You're not going to climb up this ladder, no matter how much you think you should."
Me: "Yeah, right."

He coiled up all the lights that were strung across the yard and placed them just so on the ladder and branches of the tree. This way they'd all be within reach while he was up in the tree.

My job? Stay away from the ladder.

I looked up at my husband as he balanced himself in the crook of two very large branches as he took note of his surroundings. He grabs the first set of coiled lights and tosses them onto a higher branch.

Him: "Oh."
Me: "What?"
Him: "I didn't think about that."
Me: "Think about what?"
Him: "How I'm going to wrap the lights around the branch. It's too big for me to grab from my other hand."
Me: "Oh darn. Guess we'll have to stop."

Not hardly. My resourceful husband wasn't going to be swayed so easily. Determined, he thought and then offered up me as the solution. I was to stand under the tree and catch the lights as they were tossed over the branch, then toss them back up to him.

And, so it went. He draped strings of lights around branches, dropped, and I tossed back up. Then we plugged in more strings and continued our drape, drop, and toss ballet.

Up one branch, then over to another. He stretched higher into the tree. I swallowed the lump in my throat. Finally, he was done. He climbed out of the tree and down the ladder. The big moment had arrived. Plugging the lights in. That was my job.

Him: "Oh no! %@#&, some of the lights aren't working. Two strings are out."
Me: "But they worked when we tested them."

Of course, that was no help at all. My first thought was, well, we can just take them all out of the tree but then I had visions of my husband climbing back into the tree and I quickly tossed that idea aside.

Dear husband had other ideas. He was going to find the errant bulb that caused the lights to not work.

Him: "All I have to do is find the bulb that is out but it's not going to be easy because the filament is so tiny."
Me: "Maybe they don't work because there's a bulb missing?"

I'm delegated to finding replacement bulbs. Easy enough. But, they don't match the light bulbs from the other string. Great. Ever resourceful, my husband pulled the bulb apart and fitted it into the new socket. He places the bulb in the empty socket and we sigh with relief as the string lights up. One down. One to go.

Once again, my husband starts scrutinizing the light bulbs looking for the one that could be broken. But, luck was on his side. He twisted a bulb, and viola! The string lit up. It was only a loose bulb.

My husband was happy. He'd put lights in our tree.

Him: "I'm not sure how I'm going to get the lights down."
Me: "Really?"
Him: "Maybe they'll stay up there." Pause. "Maybe I'll cut them down."
Me: "Maybe the squirrels will eat through the wires."

Come on, squirrels.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

When a person doesn't have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.

-Elie Wiesel

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Holiday Stress

Before the holiday stress starts, now would be a good time to put together a plan for handling the stressful issues that come up during the holidays.

Cooking, cleaning, decorating, gift buying, parties, family, they all can add to the usual stressors of the day.

Give yourself permission to cut out stress by saying "no". Let someone else do the cooking this year. Clean the rooms necessary and let the others go until after the holidays. Decorate if you want, and as much as you want. Only if it isn't stressful. If you don't want to decorate - don't. Don't be pressured to doing something just because everyone else is.

Gift buying can be a major stressor. Just managing the shopping is enough to give anyone an anxiety attack. Make things easier on yourself. Give gift cards. Or, ask people not to give you gifts and tell them that you will not be giving gifts this year. Donate to a favorite charity instead.

Parties can be fun, but they can also be a place where inhibitions disappear. Watch the alcohol and sugar intake. Leave early, it's okay. You don't have to be the last one at the party. Go with a friend who can be there for you if you have a panic attack or anxiety attack.

Families can be families. With all the drama that goes with them. Holidays and forced togetherness can be a set up for confrontations. Walk away. Don't let yourself get sucked into an argument. It's not worth it. Even if you are right, and your sister did pull the head off your favorite doll when you were six years old.

Give yourself permission to relax this holiday season. Take time for yourself. Make time for yourself. It's important to your mental, emotional, and physical health.

Have a happy and peaceful holiday season.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Contest Winner

Congratulations to our winner, Karen Snyder of Olympia, WA. She won the gorgeous pair of paperback earrings that I was giving away for my birthday. I hope you enjoy them and treasure them for years to come. Congratulations!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How much do I love my dog?

I have an American Eskimo named Jack. Jack Frost. He's the greatest. He's three years old and is becoming an adult. He's gone through a lot with me. I don't know what I would have done if he weren't with me. We're inseparable. I even take him on vacations with me. He's a great traveler. Finding hotels that accept dogs takes a little research work, but it's worth it.

I stay at home all day and Jack is with me. He'll spend time under my desk or sleeping on the bed. Wherever he feels most comfortable. We take walks in the neighborhood where he thinks he owns the place.

Do you want to know how much I love my dog? I created a blog just for him. You can see it here at Jack's Blog.

Take a peek at his blog and see if you can resist his loveable little face. Maybe you can leave him a bone while you're there. Jack barks his thanks!

Friday, November 10, 2006

United States Marine Corps - 231 years old

Once a Marine. Always a Marine. That's what they tell us. That's what the instill in us through boot camp and beyond. It's been twenty-five years since I wore a Marine Corps uniform. But, I still feel that sense of pride and privilege on this special day. The USMC birthday.

Do I ever regret joining the Marines? Not for a minute. Being a Marine was one of the best things that happened to me in my life. They taught me how to stand on my own two feet and be proud of what I can accomplish, and most of all, they taught me to respect myself.

I think boot camp can help a lot of young men and women find faith in themselves. It can teach them self respect, respect for others, and give them a sense of pride. I would support our government if they chose to implement mandatory service for our young people. After high school graduation, too many times, our young people are cut off from the support of their family and their community and set adrift to try and make it one their own. Mandatory service could be their life line.

The skills that are learned in the Marine Corps boot camp will last you for the rest of your life. These are skills that can't be taught anywhere else. They must be experienced. Lived. Ingrained until they are second nature.

Most of all, I think the best thing that you can learn in the Marine Corps is pride for your country. Pride in your country. Pride in yourself. As an individual. A Marine.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy Birthday to Me Contest

Did you ever have one of those birthdays, that just seemed like you hit a major milestone? Well, the one I have coming up, is a major milestone for me. I'm going to be forty-five. Five years from FIFTY! And, I just celebrated my oldest daughters 25th birthday. In the words of Kitty Forman "I'm so freakin' old!" But, I'm not going to let it get the best of me. I'm going to meet it head on and do something different. I'm going to give away the presents.

So, Happy Birthday to me! Well, it's not my birthday yet. But, in celebration of my 45th birthday, I'm giving away a pair of paperback book earrings to one lucky reader. They're gorgeous and made by Tibetan artisans. I saw these earrings and just knew I had to give them away to one of my readers. You deserve the best.

The contest is easy. Just send me an e-mail to with the subject line "Earrings" and include your name, address, and e-mail address. I'll have the drawing on November 16, 2006, my actual birthday. Good luck!

Friday, September 15, 2006

When It's My Turn To Go

Last night, I went to a viewing for my neighbor. She died a few days ago. It reminded me of the one and only other time that I'd been to a funeral and that had been my grandfather's when I was about fifteen or sixteen.

A very serious affair, they'd cordoned off all of the grandchildren into a separate alcove with a curtain. I remember sitting there with all of my cousins, and a aunt whispering to us that if we wanted to cry we could, it was okay. She even handed out tissues to everyone. Once the funeral service was over, they made all the grandchildren stand up, form a line and walk past the open casket. A shiver ran through me then, and it ran through me again as I write this.

Last night, was also a somber affair. Lights were low and voices were hushed. The open casket commanded the front of the room, while rows of chairs were set up in the middle of the room. In the back, photo albums lay spread open on the tables for people to browse through and see the deceased in happier times.

I really didn't know anyone personally. I had gone at the request of another neighbor. I'd only met the woman a few times and we talked about various mundane things. I remember her daughter and children living with her for a while as their house was built just down the road. They girls were so small, and full of life. At the viewing I hadn't recognized them. They were teenagers now. I introduced myself as a neighbor to the grieving family and told them I was sorry for their loss. What else could I say? I had no memories that I could share with them. But, it was interesting listening to their memories as they tried hard to remain brave and stoic.

When I returned home, the first thing I did was go to my husband and tell him that I do not want a viewing when I die. I reminded him that I wanted to be cremated and only a memorial service for my friends and family to gather and remember the good times we shared and smile and be happy for me. Then, I want my ashes scattered along the beaches of the Florida Keys.

I want my family and friends to have happy memories of times we've shared. I'd rather that, than having them take one last look at me as I lay in a casket, stiff and cold. Made up and polished into an unfamiliar expression; no smile on my face. No dimples showing as I grinned. So, no somber moods or hushed voices at my memorial. Laughter and happiness only. That is my final wish.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Summer Goodness

It's summer here in Florida and hot. Hot and muggy. So, I thought I'd share a sure fire way to cool off.

Key Lime Pie.

If you can keep a secret, I'll give you my favorite recipe. Right here. Right now. Shhhhh.

Key Lime Pie

1 graham cracker crust (make or buy)
1 1/2 cans condensed milk
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
1 c. key lime juice (don't substitute. Get the real stuff.)
1 pkg Dream Whip (make and set aside in refrigerator until needed.)

Blend together condensed milk and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy.
Add key lime juice 1/4 cup at a time. Blend well after each addition. Taste before adding next 1/4 cup. Most people will stop after 1/2 or 3/4 cup juice.
Garnish with Dream Whip (Do NOT use Cool Whip.)

Let sit in refrigerator for at least 2 - 3 hours before serving.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Life Goes On

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.

-Robert Frost

Life does go on, doesn't it? How many times do you hear that in your life time? When you were a child, and maybe you didn't get the pony your heart was set on for your eighth birthday. Or when you were fourteen and the most popular boy didn't ask you to the school dance.

The disappointments were sometimes devastating, but life did go on. As time passed, the hurt faded and healing occurred. Eventually, the pain of the event grew less, until you hardly ever thought about it again.

My family experienced one of those moments this month. My daughter discovered she was pregnant and we all rejoiced with happiness. This would be the first grandchild on both sides of the family so many plans were made and talked about.

But, it wasn't meant to be. Only a few short weeks into the pregnancy, my daughter lost the baby and miscarried. For her it was anguish; for us bitter disappointment at the loss of so much potential. We mourned for our lost family member, the tiny child that would strengthen the bonds of our families. We mourned for my daughter, having to lose something so precious. And, we mourned for each other. The loss affected each one of us so differently.

However, each day the sun rose and each evening it sat again. The days passed. Life went on. The world didn't stop to honor our grief, even though we expected the whole world to understand. The dark days passed and the light grew brighter. Now, we can talk about it without tearing up.

And, best of all, my daughter is talking about getting pregnant again.

Life goes on.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Ever have your AC replaced?

Well, I can now answer 'yes' to that question. Not less than half an hour ago I shut the door behind the AC service techs and wave good-bye. They're done.

So, let's start back at the beginning.

My alarm went off at 7:30 am to prepare for the AC company's "we'll be there between 8 and 10" spiel. I have to tell you, it's a big deal for me to get up at 7:30 am because I usually sleep until 10 am.

Now, it's going on 9 am, so that's an extra hour I could have slept in. Oh well, that's also one extra hour we got to keep the air conditioning on. When they get here they're going to turn off the AC to pull the old unit out and replace it with the new unit. How long did they project the AC to be turned off? A mere 6 - 8 hours. In Florida. In June. With humidity.

I've prepared for this long adventure and will be confining myself to my bedroom where my husband thoughtfully installed a window air conditioning unit. I've brought plenty of magazines, work, and of course I have the TV in case I want to watch a movie. I'll share my little oasis with my bird, Bailey and my dog, Jack. Can't have those poor little critters suffering in the hot, humid air with now AC.

Hey, the crew arrived before 9:30 am. It's an overcast day and kinda drizzly. At least it wouldn't be too hot outside to work. The two service techs are actually excited to be here and overly confident that they'll be finished in 2 hours. 3 tops. I'm going to hold them to it. We'll see.

My dog Jack doesn't like strangers. And, he really doesn't like anyone invading his space. Having strange service techs in the house is invading his space. How does he let everyone know he's displeased? Barking. And lots of it. It got to be a little annoying, so I did what all good doggy mommies do at a time like this and gave him a calmative. Just a gentle herbal calming biscuit that should help take the edge off his nervousness. And mine.

Around noon, one of the service techs told me they'd have to leave for awhile. Apparently they ran out of "gas" for thier torch. I think they just wanted to go get something to eat.

The service techs returned with plenty of gas to weld and cut their pipes.

At the 3 hour mark, they're still not done, but I'm told they'll be finished within the hour. Uh huh.

At least the weather is cooperating. The house temperature hasn't climbed over 80 degrees and the small window AC unit in the bedroom is actually getting a bit chilly.

Oh, remember the torch they needed to cut and weld pipes? Well, they forgot to tell me that it sets the smoke alarms off. Oops. Guess it was lucky mine wasn't connected to the Fire Department.

Four and a half hours later they're all done. Still well ahead of the original projected estimate of 6 - 8 hours. I'm happy. And, I'll give the service tech an extra 'attaboy'. He asked for a broom and dustpan to clean up his mess.

Now, that's service.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Womanly Sufferings

You know, we women put up with a lot. We have fluctuating hormones every month for years and years, not to mention the unpleasantness of dealing with a menstrual cycle as well. Of our species, we're the one to carry the child and give birth; no daddy seahorses for us pushing out those babies.

And, the fun just never seems to stop. We're poked and prodded in extremely uncomfortable and violating ways when it comes to physical examinations. Okay, so I'll give the guys the prostrate exam. Nothing fun or exciting about that, I'll grant you that.

But, breast exams, now there's a torture device right straight from the last century. I went through such torture today as part of my yearly physical exam. I've got to admit, over the years, the compassion in the technicians have risen, even though they're still squeezing the life out of your breasts. Who came up with the bright idea to flatten your breasts into the size of pancakes so that a cancerous lump could be located on an x-ray?

Men don't have to get their testicles squashed until they're flat to look for testicular cancer, do they? Who's bright idea is that? Why do they get special treatment?

If breast exams weren't enough for inhumane suffering, ask any woman who's going through menopause how they feel and then step back for the hormonal explosion. First, I'm hotter than an asphalt road in the middle of the Arizona desert in August then the next hour I'm freezing my toes off. I knew perfectly well what my neighbor's name was yesterday because I just talked to her, but for the life of me, I can't remember it now. I always thought I was emotionally balanced, but play a Hallmark commercial in front of me and watch the waterworks flow. There's no making sense out of it. It's just not possible.

And, what horrible affliction do men have to suffer from? A drop in testosterone. Darn, they won't want sex as often. Gee, I really feel for them.

This really wasn't meant as a rant, but I guess some things needed to be said. Good thing this only happens once a year.