Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sunday Stealing #12

Sunday Stealing: The Christmas Meme

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Depends on the gift. I go with the bags if the shape makes it impossible to wrap.

2. Real tree or Artificial? I have a 5 ft. tall artificial tree, but I doubt I'll get around to putting it up this year.

3. When do you put up the tree? Ideally, I'd have it up now but I haven't been able to get it together.

4. When do you take the tree down? It's artificial, so under better circumstances (like if I had it up), I'd take it down after the New Year arrives.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, but I find a little goes a long way. (Not because of the booze, but because it's so heavy.)

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Blaze! Nothing else comes close. I remember coming into the livingroom and seeing my pinto rockinghorse under the tree and completely believing in Santa.

7. Hardest person to buy for? My uncle. He's very wealthy and doesn't need anything. He also has Parkinson's Disease and can no longer travel. Ironically he enjoyed Key West more than I do, and I still go each year to ring in the New Year. So I made a contribution to the Florida Keys SPCA in his name and will include their note with some artwork I picked up at a Key West art fair during my last visit. This way, when the inevitable hurricanes hit in 2009, he can watch the coverage on CNN, knowing that his gift helped protect the Key West cats. I'm pleased with this gift, and, even more important, I'm sure he will be, too, but it's soooo hard to come up with something engaging for him.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My 16-year-old niece. She loves cooking, the Beatles, body sprays, cash ...

9. Do you have a nativity scene? No.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Nothing springs immediately to mind.

12. Favorite for Christmas dinner? I don't care much about the main course one way or the other, but I love to pig out on the cookies.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I shop all year around. (For example, those small paintings I'm giving my uncle -- I picked them up in Key West a year ago.)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes. This year I'm taking the Burt's Bees gift set I got from my cousin Rose for my birthday and putting the individual items in a little red stocking, adding a little chocolate, and giving it to my admin before our office Christmas party. (Shh!)

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? See #12. My niece is becoming quite the baker, and I'm eager to see what cookies she brings.

16. Lights on the tree? If I put my tree up, it would have white lights.

17. Favorite Christmas song? "I wish I had a river I could sail away on ... " Written by Joni Mitchell. I love James Taylor's version. I think it's because I know at times "I'm so hard to handle, I'm selfish and I'm sad." My favorite traditional Christmas carol is "Joy to the World."

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Just going to my mom's -- two towns over.

19. Angel on the tree top or a star? If I put my tree up, it would have a kitty angel at the top.

20. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve.

Not fair!

Well, here's an ugly turn of events. I've haven't blogged about it until now because it's hard to think about it without crushing my Christmas spirit.

My former boss was very ill last spring. It was a terrible tale. He went in for what promised to be a "minor" procedure for prostate surgery (that is, "minor" for the urologist who performed it, but naturally, scary for the patient). The actual procedure was fine -- he's blissfully cancer free. But the anesthesiologist screwed up royally, leaving my boss literally fighting for his life. He missed weeks and weeks of work, and then when he was ready to return to the office, he could only go in three days a week. He really wasn't feeling better and able to contribute fully until after the 4th of July.

So in all, he was weak and unable to work full-time from mid-April until early July.

Seems his boss decided that, now that times are tough and they have to cut payroll, they can get along without him. After all, they got along without him through spring and into summer.

So now here he is -- a cancer survivor in his mid-50s, out of work at the holidays.

My heart breaks for him.


I have friends who struggle with financial issues, family issues, romance issues, employment issues ... and while I love these people and try to share their burdens, I can objectively point to a moment where they "shoulda/woulda/coulda" made different choices that might have mitigated their current unhappy situations. (I don't say this -- most of the time -- but I can see it all the same.)

My former boss' situation here is different. His doctor caught his cancer early and referred him to a urologist who operates in a world-class Chicago hospital. And look what happened.

The company he worked for is a small not-for-profit, so I understand why they have to make cuts in this economy. The market fluctuations are no more his fault than the cancer was. Yet now he spends his days at home, working the phone and the internet, trying to land another job at a bad time in a difficult economy.

I've sent him a couple cards (snail mail and email) and will suggest a time we can meet for drinks this coming week. I don't want him to feel that I've abandoned him, just because he's a "loser." (That is how he's feeling, like a "loser.") It's all I can do, really, because as I've mentioned here before, my job is none too secure right now. Still, while I can't afford to help him financially (and he hasn't asked), I can listen to him vent and be loyal. And remind him of the bright side ...

1) His wife is employed (though she's a freelancer so they relied on his insurance).
2) His wife is smart and loves him very much.
3) His daughter is done with college.
4) His home is paid for.
5) He is cancer free.

Saturday 9 -- 'Tis the Season

1. Do you enjoy receiving or giving presents more? Giving, most of the time. There are a few exceptions. One is my niece, who at 16 is a fledgling Beatle fan and is burning me a CD of her favorite George Harrison songs. I really look forward to seeing what she comes up with. (I bet there's lots of sitar ... shudder.)

2. What is you favorite holiday film? The Gathering. It's a made-for-TV movie about a rather realistically dysfunctional family who gets together for one last Christmas. It's heartwarming without being sappy, and Ed Asner plays an idealized version of my own father.

3. Have you started or finished your gift shopping? Finished.

4. What does this time of year mean to you? Tradition, family, friends, reflection, and retail.

5. What is your favorite holiday song? Secular: "The River;" religious: "Joy to the World."

6. What do you love about the holiday season? Letting those I care about know how much they mean to me.

7. What do you hate about the holiday season? Crowds make me impatient, but I'm working on that. (The applies more to New Year's -- Every year I travel to celebrate with friends in the Keys and the airports have a tendency to make me frigging nuts!)

8. Do religious ceremonies play a part in your holiday traditions? If yes, how? I attend a midnight candlelight service at my church every Christmas Eve. I have converted to a different religion than the rest of my family, so I go alone. Which is fine. The solitude (if such a thing is possible among a church full of congregants) is important to me because it gives me a chance to really honor the more spiritual side of Christmas.

9. Who will you spend the holidays with? In addition to Christmas Eve with my family, I have a couple other little celebrations that are important to me -- birthday (hers)/Christmas with Kathleen, Christmas/Hannukah with Mindy and her family, and ringing in the New Year with my friends in Key West.

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