Thursday, December 31, 2009

Looking into the Future

No, I didn't get a crystal ball for Christmas. Besides, it probably would've needed batteries, been made in China and only spoken Mandarin.

No, like most humans I'm considering the advancing year 2010. Already experts are arguing about what to call it. "Twenty ten" seems simple enough, unless one is writing a history lesson. Life is complicated enough without arguing over syllables.

It's also too complicated for New Year's resolutions. I don't do those. It seems like setting myself up somehow, all those grandiose promises to go farther, higher, faster. Given the current political climate, I'm pretty sure they'd manage to tax all that. Individually. No, I tend to face the new year with a smile and, "Okay, maybe THIS will be the best year ever."

And that's how I'm going into the future. Eyes open, optimism still in tact. I won't be making a Top 10 review list. Actually, if I see one more sentence containing, "hiking, Appalachian Trail, Argentina, Let me apologize or You lie!", I'm canceling my newspaper subscription. Okay, I've already considered that anyhow. For two months our local paper has sported a weekly column written by one of their new hires, which doesn't mean young and wet behind the ears. I'm guessing her experience might be more apparent to someone like say...our Governor. No, that wasn't catty. It's my understanding that's the general consensus of the newsroom. How else do you explain why an Op Ed piece is featured on the front page, week after week, written by a divorced, former lawyer who'd had a fling with Theology school but must've discovered her condescending attitude, posing as biting wit towards the locals, wasn't God-like?

Sorry, I digress.

This is exactly why I'm looking ahead. Reviewing the year has it's merits, but I don't want it to turn into an exercise where I re-visit all my mistakes, short comings and an incomplete To Do list. I don't need me to nag me.

No, I'm looking 2010 in the eye and thinking, "YOU are the future. I'd like to order a happy future, complete with a new line of employment which will allow me to cheerfully arrive home, rather than crawl through the front door like an exhausted survivor. Hubby deserves more than that. And so do I.

10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1...Ready or not 2010, here I come!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Wow! Would you look at that!

Evidently I was good. Or at least good enough. Santa brought me a new monitor, so I must say you're all looking well. Rather stylish in those new Christmas outfits.

I, on the other hand, am looking like the victim of too much Christmas cheer. Did I eat too much? No. I kept that under control. I seemed to have purchased gifts that everyone enjoyed. Or at least I didn't witness anyone rolling their eyes when they opened a package. Jet lag? No, our route went by car. Snow storm? No, we had a TORNADO watch half the day and it rained so hard our yard is spotting a couple of small ponds.

So why am I looking a little worse for wear?

Because I have a very enthusiastic 10 year old nephew. He's my "Elf in Training", meaning I finally don't have to be the one who hands out the gifts while everyone else sits. Why am I still an elf? I didn't grow very tall, so I fit under the tree and I don't have to lean too far down. Nephew will make a good replacement....for about a year or two. You see, he's already as tall as I am and I fear that next year I'll be back to being the only one short enough to reach beneath the tree without a body part giving out.

Until then, however, I need to temper Nephew's enthusiasm a little. You see, I like to sit on the floor to open packages while all the other adults sit in chairs. So Nephew and I shared floor space. Which was fine. For a while. You see, when he opens a gift, it's like a whirling dervish has been brought in for a performance. Paper flies, sometimes gift parts get caught up in the thrill of it all and go flying. And on occasion, he hops up enthusiastically and swings around to show off his new bounty. Like he did yesterday. Running past me he suddenly swung back around, new toy clinched inside his fist.....and caught me right in the eye. Actually rocked me backwards a bit, causing all the adults to warn him to slow down before he hurt his Aunt Elf.

Too late.

Yes. Today I have a partial black eye.

Ho, Ho, Ho.

So I'm going to turn my attention back to you, with your bright shiny selves all sparkly in my new monitor. You all look marvelous.

And not a black eye amongst you.

[Note to self: do NOT celebrate New Year's with the nephew. You might not survive the sugar high].

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ho Ho Ho!

I know many of you are walking away from the computer for the holidays and into the loving arms of a confused family who wonders...."Who are you again?"

No, we're not permanently attached to our keyboards. We just like the invisible people on the other side of the screen. After all, they don't point out that we need a haircut, wardrobe update or to lose a few pounds. Really...during the holidays?

In a few minutes I will attend the mandatory office party, which this year is a Brunch. Then our employer releases us into the wild just after Noon. And I will not return to my desk until Jan. 4th....vacation is my gift to ME. Yeah, I'll probably check in, just to see who survived the merriment.

So to catch up before I get caught up in the whirl of activity, or as my brother put it last night, before I go out into the crowd of stupid people not paying attention, here's my report.

Monday night was Christmas Tea with the British Wives senior group. This year they decided to celebrate not only Christmas, but England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and South Carolina. So I got to see a "River Dance Line Dance", followed by three of the Brits tap dancing [yes, TAP dancing] to "Carolina in the Morning". Just for the fun of it, we were asked to sing along when we got to the second verse. Let me tell you, for women in their late 60s to mid 70s, it was impressive. And to think we're suppose to worry about falling and breaking hips at that age.

This was followed by toasts...sort of. I was asked to provide toasts from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. When their President stood, my sheet in hand, she lamented that they had no proper English toast. [Because they told me THEY were going to provide one!] One of the ladies in the group had scribbled one down, so it went first. This was followed by Scotland and Shug, you will get a kick out of this. I included the Selkirk Grace you provided for me. The English ladies couldn't pronounce it and the Scottish lass said she had a hard time with it because since no one seemed to understand her, she found it difficult to "read Scottish".


Their President came up with one, but I swear it was Irish...and sounded like the one Map stew had offered.

They used both of the ones Susan provided for the Irish and, although they had insisted I find one for Wales, they merely discussed how the Welsh had their own language which was so difficult, no one could pronounce it. Hmmm, I handed them a toast written in English. They got so carried away talking about the entertainers Wales had given to the world [starting with Tom Jones] that the toast got overlooked. We sang a few pub songs, half of which I'd never heard of, the other half I only knew from this annual shindig. They tried to provide one for each country, although we sang more than one for some countries. We finished with Auld Lang Syne to represent Scotland. And what's the song which has been stuck in my head ever since?

"You take the high road and I'll take the low road and I'll be in Scotland afore ye. For me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond."

This morning hubby caught me singing it out loud.

However, the most fun I've had at any Christmas party this year was the one on Dan's blog. He's a clever and charming host. And he always has nothing but nice things to say about how you look. Thank you Dan. It was a lovely party.

So as you all head your separate ways to spend time with family and friends, I'll be headed to the Mother-in-law's house on Christmas Eve....because it's her birthday. In fact, she gave birth to her first child the day after Christmas....and that daughter married a man born on...yes, Christmas Day.

Here's wishing all of my invisible friends, who mean a lot to me for a variety of reasons, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Microfiction Monday

Welcome to Microfiction Monday, where a picture paints 140 characters...or even fewer. Below is this week's picture. Make sure you tell Susan if you play along!

Believing he actually did ALL the work for Christmas,
Santa was shocked to find
yet another Mom sprawled in a chair
clutching a wine bottle.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Breathtaking tribute

When I was 12, I traveled with a group of five little girls and a YWCA counselor to Washington, D.C. over the weekend. We'd earned the trip by raising money for the Y's teen group. Imagine 5 little girls, three white and two black, on a trip which was probably the first time most of us had ever left home without a parent. I'm no poet, but I tried to explain the emotion of it all back here in "Lessons Learned".

Anyway, one of the sites I will never forget visiting was Arlington National Cemetery, a place of eternal rest for those who served in the military. It was the military precision of all those stones lined up, for what seemed like MILES, that got to me. As we walked away to visit the eternal flame of President Kennedy's grave, I got so choked with emotion I didn't know what to do. I'd never felt so much for people I'd never met. As the rest of the group cheerfully raced to the van, I stood there at Kennedy's grave, remembering. Remembering being a little kid who asked her Mom, "Will he be all right?" Remembering her tears when she had to tell me he was no more.

About the time I thought my little heart would burst from this foreign concept of memorials which almost seemed like an homage to the senseless taking of life, I felt a hand on my shoulder. One of the soldiers we'd watched during the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was standing beside me. It was so cold that day the warmth of his hand was unexpected. I usually would have jumped out of my skin to have someone suddenly touch my shoulder. Especially a stranger. But there was silent understanding in that touch. An acknowledgement that the world can be filled with horror, yet people still care. That there's always hope. The lump in my throat begin to slide away.

He never spoke, just stood with me until I guess he'd decided I'd be all right. Before I could say thank you, he gave me a nod of the head and strode off with a confidence I wondered if I'd ever possess. This gentle stranger became my mental stand in for the "Unknown Soldier".

Today I saw a story about a man who, every year since 1992, lays 5,000 wreaths on the headstones at Arlington. The picture is breathtaking for many reasons.

{NOTE: Sorry, evidently doesn't like to share their pictures and the photo I'd posted was replaced by a ridiculous cartoon face I found offensive, so I removed it. You can see the original photo at the link below. }

If you want to read more about this gentleman who personally donates these wreaths, visit this link, where you can find a 7 minute video explaining it all.

Merry Christmas to those who serve, to those who have served and to my Unknown Soldier who will always remain steadfast and caring in my memory.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday 55

What? A gift for myself? Yes, I'm practicing scheduling a 55 in advance so I don't miss any fun during the holiday season! So be kind and let the G-Man know if you played this write a story in 55 words game.

It was the perfect gift. No worries about size or color. No standing in line to return. It was love personified. The best part was he understood it’s truly the simple things which count.

“Thanks,” she smiled as her husband cooked dinner. “You’re the only one who’s ever given me time for myself. Guilt free.”

Ah yes, here's my little Christmas angel
who is no doubt wishing for something to aid in capturing alligators,
not for a girl who will one day appreciate him as a husband.
Hey, if you had three sisters,
you'd probably do an angelic pose too,
just in case Santa was watching.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Memories

This towering example of kitchen wizardry was one of my grandmothers: "Memaw". No, you're not suppose to have a favorite Grandma, but she was mine. Besides, she was the only person in the family over the age of twelve that I was taller than.

The joke is that I "channel" her in the summer, putting up corn in the freezer that we'll eat in winter soups and stews. In the shadow of her own mother's framed picture of peaches falling out of a basket, once a year I bake Peach Cobbler using Memaw's recipe. She was 98 when she died and even though she's no longer in the kitchen, she's in least in spirit.

So in the spirit of the season, here's one of her cookie recipes that always makes me think of her this time of year. {Susan, it's what I make instead of fruit cake}.

Ambrosia Cookies

Preheat oven to 375/ Makes 14 dozen cookies
(Yeah, if you use a really tiny spoon... and I don't)

1 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 ½ cup rolled oats [meaning uncooked regular oatmeal]
1 cup nuts
1 pound container of mixed candied fruit
1 cup chopped dates

Cream butter, sugars and eggs. Add flour, spices and salt. Stir in fruit and nuts by hand. Drop by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 minutes. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Microfiction Monday

With all the holiday rushing around, what could be easier than coming up with a 140 character story? Especially when Susan provides the picture. Make sure you let her know that you played. Here's this week's mental launchpad.

Not willing to jump through hoops for the holidays,
Rudolph the Red ran away from the circus his family became at Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Friday 55

Yes, time to take a moment away from shopping, wrapping, mailing and all that other fa-la-la-la-la stuff to write a story in 55 words. With that short of a count, you can make time too. Just make sure you tell the G-man that you played along.

She was in holiday mode.
Baking cookies, wrapping gifts, singing carols.
And then, right on schedule, it struck.

Somebody had to schedule the exchange of gifts.

Everybody believed her name was Somebody.

Unfortunately, no one wanted to compromise.

Following the annual tradition… she caved.

“Peace on Earth,” she sighed. “But not at the dinner table.”

Ah, the only time I was ever
Ho, Ho, Ho!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Microfiction Monday

Welcome to Microfiction Monday,
where a picture paints 140 characters...or even fewer.

Be sure to share yours with Susan. Below is this week's photo:

The dryer belonged to Stephen King
so Sue should've known better than
to seek where socks vacationed.
But pink always made her feel brave.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

THAT would teach 'em!

My best friend works in a hospital's billing department and often sends me jokes featuring "Maxine". If you're not familiar with her, she's not Hallmark's standard hearts and flowers card character. No, Maxine is a tell-it-like-it-is senior citizen. Some of the funniest e-mails I've ever gotten had some pearls of wisdom from Maxine. Here's another one, courtesy of my best bud, pertaining to how messing with America's Health Care System might not work out the way Congress intends.

Maxine's Perfect Solution to Senior Health Care

You’ve probably heard the idea that if you're a senior, you need to suck it up and give up the idea that you need any health care. A new hip? Unheard of. We simply can't afford to take care of you anymore. You don't need any medications for your high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, etc. Let's take care of the young people. After all, they will be ruling the world very soon.

So here is the solution. When you turn 70, you get a gun and 3 bullets. You are allowed to shoot one Senator and 2 Representatives. Of course, you'll be sent to prison where you'll get 3 meals a day, a roof over your head and all the health care you need! New teeth...great! Need glasses? No problem! New hip, knee, kidney, lung, heart? Well bring it on. And, since you're a prisoner, you don't have to pay any income tax.

And who will be paying for all of this?

The same government that just told you that you’re too old for health care.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cheers! Um quick... I need a toast or three

Once a year my senior citizens get together with the British Wives Club, who utilize our building for their monthly meetings. For those of you who haven't been here before, our "British Wives" are English ladies who married American servicemen and range in age from 26-86.

Each year the British Wives hold a Christmas Tea for us. [Okay, so it's held at night but tea and English goodies are served].

We usually sing carols and an occasional pub song. But, wanting to do something new this year, the ladies have asked me to help them find Toasts from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The only request, besides the obvious "mixed company grandparent" rule, is that toasts be funny and in the spirit of the Christmas season.

So, my lovely fellow bloggers, got any you can share? Thanks.

Excuse me as I go perform their other request: to print the words for Auld Lang Syne...their tribute to Scotland and Burns. I'm guessing by the end of the week, they'll have added more Ireland and Wales to my list.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Friday 55: dedicated to Dr. John

What better way to be fiscally responsible in these economically challenged times than to write a story using only 55 words? [Bet politicians can't do that!] Once you're done, make sure you visit the G-Man and tell him how you're helping to make the world smile, 55 words at a time.

Now this 55 comes with a Confession. Lots of weird things from my childhood have stuck in the corners of my mind, including jokes which were real groaners. This one, pared down to a 55, is lovingly dedicated to Dr. John. I bow at your feet, Master Punster and Guardian of the Groaner. (And I apologize in advance to me Irish'll understand why).

The old, red bearded Russian known as Rudolph the Red stared out the window at the grey skies. As tiny drops of moisture hit the icy window pane he sighed, “Rain.”

“No,” corrected his wife. “Snow.”



With a huff the man turned toward his wife and declared, “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What's on Your Desktop?

Yesterday Susan took a nap for me, so today I'm returning the favor and pretending I'm in Ireland as the rain pours and smacks against my window. Such weather does make it hard to get into the holiday spirit, even if you try viewing rain as liquid sunshine or pre-melted snow. I've decorated my workplace, which is a second home for many of the senior citizens. This weekend I'll decorate my home.

All this decorating made me wonder: do people "decorate" their computers? Are desktop photos switched to scenes of snow or decorated trees? Hanukkah menorahs or Bah Humbug! labels? For those who are snowbound or tired of irritating weather, are there scenes of Hawaii instead of HoHoHo?

Here's what's on my Desktop.
This is Hubby at about 6 months. The second born, he would be the first and only son. I see the mischievous twinkle in his eye was present from day one. And I swear every time I see this photo, I hear him saying:

"I'm telling ya...when I grow up, I'm going to get a Bow & some Arrows. Then I'm going to go hunt deer and alligators. I'll probably get so good at it, I'll even open an archery shop. Heck, I'm even gonna get me a couple of dogs, name them Smokey & Boo. Then I'll become famous. A Legend even. And I'll have lots of stories so I can keep using this hand motion."

Yep, that's the cover for this year's shop calendar. It's a secret. Don't tell.