Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve Thoughts

When I was about 16, I gave up the tradition of written New Year's Resolutions. I was beginning to understand that goals were a good thing, but they should be attainable. My New Year's list usually looked more like something a Fairy Godmother would fulfill, not little ol' me.

So for 2008 I'm going to attempt to adopt my husband's Code for Living....works for him. Then again, he doesn't have that pesky "X" chromosome which controls "worrying".

RULES FOR LIVING LIFE:

Rule #1 Don't sweat the small stuff.
Rule #2 Everything is small stuff.

So whatever part of the Earth you may call home, here's wishing you the very best in the coming year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Consequences of Asking "Why?"

...is receiving a book for Christmas entitled, "Imponderables". It answers over 500 kinds of questions that people have pondered at one point or another. Such as "Why don't we get goosebumps on our face?" or "Why do we close our eyes when we sneeze?" What? Are you waiting for me to tell you?

It's a fun read for those times you only have a few moments to spare...which is why the book currently resides in our Porcelain Library.

Okay, the goose bump thing has to do with the hair on your body and because our faces aren't covered with hair the way our arms and legs, etc. are. But according to the book, dogs can get goosebumps on their faces. But how would you know? And most of your grandfathers probably told you that if you sneezed with your eyes open, your eyeballs would pop out. An exaggeration, but not by much. Did you know that the human body sneezes with such force that at the exact moment of that sneeze, EVERYTHING in the body shuts down?!

Good grief, as much as I sneeze, that could explain a few things about the way I think. :)

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Stocking Says It All

"Dear Santa,
Let me explain"

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas in the '60s

Mom posed and took this shot in our hallway for the Christmas card that year.
I remember trying to look happy while "encouraging" my little sister to be still....or else.
[You know how 2.5 year old kids are. Sigh.]
I'm almost 5 here and I think this might've been the last time I was taller than her too.

At least I still have the hat. :p

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Marvin the Marvelous

This time of year, encountering any worker in a store with an ounce of politeness left is quite a find. If they're smiling and/or friendly....well, that's an unbelievable bonus. Folks, I have discovered a treasure. And if you're ever in the need of an instant jolt of human kindness which comes with a genuine, megawatt smile, I know where to send you.

I encountered Marvin several months ago as he worked the register at the Walgreen's near me. Happy doesn't seem to be a big enough word for this guy. A black man in his mid 20s, Marvin is the kind of person who makes you smile even if you don't think you've got a smile left in you at the end of a bad day. The difference between him and other "nice" employees is that when Marvin asks you questions, you know he's engaging in a conversation with you, as opposed to repeating a training speech aimed at you. Last month I joked that he should be "Employee of the Month". He grinned and said he had been...for the last 2 months. With a nod at the Manager standing behind me, Marvin advised that fact could be confirmed. In fact, he insisted. Calling out his Manager's name, he offered, "This lady has a question." His manager confirmed the fact and I suggested that 3 months in a row wouldn't be a bad thing. You know what the interesting thing was about this exchange? The Manager had that managerial expression on his face before I asked my question, somewhere between serious and who-the-heck-messed-this-up? But when I complimented Marvin, the Manager didn't just answer, he BEAMED as if I'd asked him about a favorite child.

This morning I had to run into Walgreen's on my way to work. Run being a figure of speech, not an actual description of my motion. I'd jammed my knee last week and for the past 3 days I've been Air Traffic Controller for those Christmasy events at my Center. This morning, the knee felt better but the poor muscles which have been playing a supporting role were screaming with every step. Gimping inside, the first person I spot is Marvin speaking to a co-worker. He's dressed in this yellow shirt that I swear looks just like sunshine, with a tie to match. As soon as he sees me, he begins to wave like an over grown five year trying to get an adult's attention as he calls out, "Good Morning!"

He's so cheerful all his enthusiasm drowns out the chorus of would-you-just-sit-down! that my knee muscles are singing. As I pass him, I look at his co-worker and ask with a grin, "What do you feed this guy for breakfast?" She smiles and shakes her head, almost perplexed by such joyfulness. Without missing a beat, Marvin chimes in, "Chicken Eyelashes."

How can you not like a guy with a sense of humor like that?

I grab my items as quickly as possible and head towards the check out with all the enthusiasm of a snail on tranquilizers. Seeing me moving so slow, Marvin stops what he's doing and gallantly races for the counter with a cheerful, "I'm coming Boo. Slow down." We get into one of those interesting conversations that lasts past the return of change and receipt which leaves both of us laughing. Wonderful laughing. You know... the kind that is genuine and makes you feel better.

I wish him a good day and a Merry Christmas, adding that I don't plan on any more last minute purchases prior to that date. He smiles, looking like Jamaican sunshine and replies, "Oh, you'll see me again."

You know Marvin, you're probably right. I wonder if the sun knows it's got a rival?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Memories

Since first grade, Christmas trees have always meant one thing to me: the Gingerbread Man. I won him during our school party that year. Mom proudly put my name and date on the back and thus an annual tradition was born. From then on each child in our family received an ornament with a similar theme: such as a Drum or Angel in a variety of colors to maintain the peace on earth. When we left home, the box went with us, allowing good memories to be built upon in our new homes.

I looked at our tree today and realized the Gingerbread Man had become part of the history of Family Christmas Past. Yes, being interested in my family tree has led to a visual nod to that gene pool each year. Anyone who sees these ornaments immediately thinks, "1950s!" And it's true, because we literally grasp several of the ornaments from our childhood trees when our Moms decided to update their tree motif.

But some of my favorites are the ones I "rescued" after my Grandma died and her daughter went into the nursing home. I've been staring at those ornaments for so long, they're like a part of me. The little cabin and Santa are over 75 years old and so fragile they've almost become transparent. I love the little blue pine cone and remember when Grandma's sister actually had tree LIGHTS like that...along with some little birds that have flown the coop. I love the detail and variety of shapes those ornaments came in...a visual reminder that there are times to slow down and appreciate the beauty of something small and delicate.

Then there are the ornaments that have become legend. Like the year our country home was overrun with mice...and my other grandmother, Memaw, made me an ornament of a mouse sleeping soundly in a walnut shell, complete with quilt. The same year I got the one below it for my husband, who had to set all the mouse traps. Our joke is we put it on the bottom branch to remind the mice whose house this is.


Maybe the best part of these little treasures is all the memories they bring back to life. Grandma and Memaw may be singing "Hark the Herald Angels" with that actual group now, but every year at Christmas they're in the room with the tree and me. Smiling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Finding My Christmas Spirit

It's hard to feel like Christmas when it's unseasonable warm and you're in the middle of a drought. I've been running errands for everyone else but me and haven't baked the first Christmas cookie. Usually our live Christmas tree is what lights my seasonal joy. Yes, a live one. And until they outlaw them, we'll keep buying a live tree because the aroma keeps my childhood joy of the season well...alive. We finally got a Christmas tree, 10 days later than normal, but this year there was a bit of sadness to that tradition. The gentleman we usually get our tree from also has a fireworks stand and his father often helps him. On one of the few nights it actually got cold, the older gentleman went to light the heater and the worst thing possible happened: the fireworks stand exploded. Although good Samaritans ran to help the man, he died 4 hours later. His son disposed of the trees to another vendor. Understandably.

So this morning I decided maybe I could kick start the jolly part by listening to Christmas carols on my morning commute. Harry Connick, Jr. began to croon while my mind huffed in response.

Oh the weather outside is frightful.
Yep, frightful to the tune of 81 degrees today!
But the fire is so delightful.
It would be a delight to use our fireplace.
And since we've no place to go.
Don't even get me started on my list!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Let it rain, needs some rain, come on rain!


I must confess I use that last line, slightly altered, when I'm antsy, irritable or grouchy. When I find myself getting like that, I sing with a grin, "Let it go, let it go, let it go." Doesn't always work, but the fact I'm cheering myself on with an altered Christmas song makes me feel silly enough to adjust my attitude sufficiently.

I turned off Harry Connick and sighed as the grandfather in the red car ahead of me continued his reasonable pace of 1 mile under the speed limit. Wondering if I should pass, I glanced in the rear view mirror to see if anyone was behind me and found another red car. Almost against my will, a smile began to tug at the corners of my mouth. You see, I drive a green jeep. So our little caravan was red, green, red....like a mobile string of lights. As I laughed out loud, something to the right caught my eye. It was mistletoe, growing in the top of a tree.

Some days you just have to take your Christmas Spirit where you can find it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Red Sky, Part II

How could I post just one?
Okay, so I offered the last one first...it was the best.
But these were too pretty to hide.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Red Sky at Night

Commuting isn't so bad when you get a view like this upon arriving home.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Terms of Endearment

Why do we feel comfortable addressing some people with sweet terms of endearment while sticking to "Sir" or "Madam" for the rest? With all the problems in the world, you're wondering why I even care. Possibly because it's a nicer topic than war, famine or politics. But the simple truth is, it's because it happens to me. A lot.

I've never been sure if it's my towering 5'1" height which visually signifies me as a not full grown adult or the fact I have a polite disposition and am nothing to fear. But there's something about me which makes people substitute one of those terms instead of utilizing the name my parents slapped on my birth certificate. Then again, maybe childhood is where it all started and I just got use to it. When I'd call Mom's name to ask for something, she'd often reply with, "Yes my Darling?". Dad use to call me "Shug", which in the south is short for Sugar. I grew up...well, chronologically...but the sweet name calling followed me into adulthood.

Most grown women I know bristle at being called "Honey"...unless it's by a handsome hunk of mankind rather than a guy with a comb over working on his 5th sexual harassment suit. I've gone to lunch with a group of women and everyone was addressed as "Ma'am"....until the waitress cheerfully inquired of me, "And what can I get ya Honey?" Adults have aimed such terminology at me for so long I mentally cataloged it as "Short southern female with normal I.Q. not allowed to age."

Except on Friday, it did matter. Because my ears picked up on intonation which was both funny and eye opening.

Friday is bowling day for my senior citizens and we utilize the alley at the local air force base. They refer to it as "fun socializing" while I consider it "cheaper than a shrink". Hey, where else can you throw things and not get in trouble? I'd missed several weeks due to a head cold and scheduling problems. As the "Go-To" person in charge of making sure everyone else has fun, it's nice when people notice you're missing...and aren't angry about it. The morning started out with my 90 year old lady stating, "We've missed you Dear," as she put her arm around my shoulder and softly kissed my cheek. Another lady, my Mom's age, added, "Hey Darling. Give me a hug". My group hugs a lot. Being in public doesn't slow them down. I just know someday they'll misread a stranger's somewhat taken aback expression and scurry over with arms wide open to include them. After being greeted with another "Hey Honey!", my brain and curiosity started keeping track of Who said What. I listened to the seniors greet each other. By name. Out of fourteen people, not one called me by my birth certificate designation.

The Alley staff is mostly retired military, from the desk help to the maintenance guy. My body went into alert mode the moment Maintenance Guy, in an unusual display of public affection, draped his arm around my shoulder. Translation: I was talking to someone else and didn't notice it was him until too late. Don't get me wrong. There has to be some redeeming qualities to him besides the fact he can fix whatever breaks. At least two women found him attractive enough to marry, even if the first one changed her mind. Envision a small, wiry guy with gray hair and a mustache. Add to that an ego larger than his body and a mouth to match. The seniors have never been sure how to take him because he has two modes: a scowling "Don't bother me!" and the rare "Hi, I acknowledge your presence but I'm busy."

Arm draped around my shoulders Maint. Guy growled, "And where the hell have you been?" This is as close to, "Gee, we missed you," as he's capable of uttering. Answering that I'd been sick, he replied with a disparaging comment about my mental health with all the suaveness of a third grader. Thank heaven I don't have pigtails to pull. Then, sounding much like James Cagney in a 40's gangster flick he added, "Well Sweetheart, now that you're back, try to keep them from breaking the equipment." With that he walked off. As 90% of me internally jumped up and down at being released, 5% of me made a mental note not to launch the bowling ball in his direction, while the remaining 5% muttered quietly,"Sweetheart?"

The Assistant Manager had the day off but he'd come in to see us anyway. He's five years younger than I, but just became a grandfather for the second time. I jokingly call him "Dad" or "Grandpa" because he can't believe I'm the older of us. We use Friday to commiserate on work conditions. Whoever had the worst week talks, the other listens. It's like dealing with a male version of myself...only one who bowls much better. When he asked if he could bowl with us on my lane I answered, "Sure Sweetie." My brain instantly shot back: dear lord, it's contagious. Just because he's like your male counterpart doesn't mean he has to get called that stuff too.

Then there's the new guy at the counter. We've seen him bowl and he's impressive. He's only been there with us a couple of times over the last month but sadly, the seniors seem a little afraid of him. Okay, even supposedly open minded me did a double take the first time he stepped up to the line in the lane next to me. In his late 20s, he's an average white male...except for the number of tattoos, piercings and body hair as art. As I recall, his hair was spiked with a purple streak at the time, he had a wicked looking goatee and his black tee shirt featured an intimidating phrase. The kind that made you take a step back after reading it. When our favorite employee, the Asst. Manager, advised this guy would be working the desk, the seniors' expressions were akin to being told a small version of the world's meanest Hell's Angel was now their caretaker. Now that Tattoo is working the front desk, his hair color and style are back to boringly normal and the face jewelry is at home. Friday the Asst. Manager announced Tattoo had bowled a 300, the first person to do so this year, and was getting his PBA card. The seniors burst into applause, then looked startled at their spontaneous acceptance of him. Later on, when I paused in my conversation with the Asst. Manager to point out that Tattoo needed to ask a question, HE was startled to be acknowledged. As he apologized and offered to wait, I felt somewhat ashamed. Did I actually deserve to be called all these "sweet" names if I had the ability to make another human being feel he wasn't allowed to speak until spoken to? Had my attitude somehow silently conveyed our differences made him inferior?

Nope. Thank heavens. Turns out that like me, he's just polite.

We've bowled there for almost ten years now. Most of the seniors have become accustom to reminding the counter person who they are...every week. After one week, Tattoo knew their names. As I waited in line to pay, I listened to him ask how they were or how they did. By name. When it was my turn, he said, "Hey [insert my birth name here]. Glad to see you! We've been worried about you. And I do apologize for butting in earlier. I could've waited."

Matching my sincere tone with his, I laughed that I'd actually interrupted myself... which was a nice change of pace since most of the time other people did it for me. We talked for a minute and I found myself noting what a nice smile he had and the twinkle in his eyes. I wished him a good weekend and he replied, "Thank ya Darlin'. You too. See you in a couple of weeks."

Redemption comes in the strangest forms. Next time, I'm gonna ask him to tell me about those tattoos. And if he's not careful, my attention to detail might get him hugged by a bunch of grandmas overflowing with love.