Friday, December 31, 2010

It's going too fast

Love my hotel. It's just up the street from Margaritaville, where we had dinner last night. Being a local, my friend endured it with good grace. But being both a tourist and a Jimmy Buffett fan (I don't qualify as a Parrothead, but I do know all the lyrics to "Fins"), I had a wonderful time.

The time is racing by. I am having fun. I haven't been able to reach my oldest friend on the
phone, and I'm still worrying about her. And, of course, John is still on my mind.

But Key West was one of my uncle's favorite places, and in a way, that makes being down here more special and joyous.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

It took combined efforts

To paraphrase the Lads, I got by with a little help from my best friend (who uses his "dad voice" at times like this to reassure me), Xanax, and a distractingly blabby seatmate named Debbie who has only lived in Key West for three months and was interested to learn about Fausto's, which is a much cooler grocery store than Safeway.

Flying is still difficult. But I do it. And, according to my shrink, that's the important thing. I don't let the fear interfere with my plans.

Got tons of bad news yesterday, just when I was least equipped to hear it, about my oldest friend and my friend, John. More on that later.

Right now, I'm just gonna relax and enjoy being on such a friendly and pretty island. I can see the dock where the cruise ships depart from my hotel room!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I Want Wednesday

I want today's travel to go smoothly. GAWD! I HATE FLYING!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

New photos!

At least, new to me.

The b&w photo of the most glam couple ever is from November 1956. The color shot is of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis toward the end of her life, but before illness took its toll, as she walks through Central Park in the late 1980s or early 1990s.

I love discovering new photos of her. I keep hoping I'll see something that unlocks the secret of the sphinx. In that way, my most enduring heroine is the opposite of my newer one -- Elizabeth Edwards. Whereas Elizabeth inspired by sharing how she faced and handled the unendurable, JBKO fascinates because she just did it.

But I wanted indigo!

Endomental got indigo! Oh well, jade is pretty, too. And the analysis is very complimentary, isn't it?

Your Life's Path is Jade

You seek connection and security. You want nothing else more than to love and be loved.

You believe that gratitude and appreciation are the key to a happy life. You try to thank everyone who ever helps you.

You are generous and compassionate. You have deep resources and a lot to give.

You are intelligent and love to learn. Some may say you're even addicted to learning new things.

10 on Tuesday -- Instead of Blogging

Here are 10 ways I SHOULD be using my time today.

1) Trying on clothes. I have to figure out what I'm wearing on New Year's Eve in Key West, but since I feel -- and, well, AM -- fat, it doesn't seem like too much fun.

2) Packing. I leave tomorrow, you know.

3) Calling Delta Airlines. They're only giving me 45 minutes between flights when I return through Atlanta, and it doesn't seem like enough. Yet something tells me they won't be happy to talk to me today.

4) Sorting books. I promised myself I would make one more run to Goodwill for 2010, and there is still time today (if I take the bus).

5) Making lunch. Please note I said "making lunch," not "ordering lunch." There is food in the kitchen, after all.

6) Recharing. Phone. iPod. Camera.

7) Taking out the recycling. Yes, there's snow out there. But it's not reasonable to wait until April to use the back door.

8) Decide what to do with my Christmas presents, currently by the front door.

9) Vacuuming whatever floor is visible, between the gifts and recycling.

10) Switching purses. Of course, first I'll have to decide what clothes I'm taking with me tomorrow ...

Monday, December 27, 2010

"I've never been so scared in my life. But at least I have a husband!"

Yes, I'm watching Airplane! again. And it's still as funny as ever. I realize this may not be the most productive way to spend a day off, but I don't care.

I'll get there fast and then I'll take it slow

One of the first non-holiday songs to come through my shower radio, and it put me in the mood for my Key West getaway later this week.

I'd like to thank whoever is in charge of weather for making it clear and in the 70s down there all this week. Just what the doctor ordered!

But what was the point?

While I recognize that John Wayne is an iconic movie star, I've never been a big fan. Like Bogart, Wayne is more star than actor, and like Bogie, Wayne's screen persona generally leaves me cold. And as with Bogart and Casablanca and The African Queen, there is the rare John Wayne performance that captivated me: his Oscar-winning turn in True Grit.

"Fill yer hands, you sonovabitch!"

Jeff Bridges is more actor than movie star. There's no "typical" Jeff Bridges performance, no screen persona he inhabits. Small town bad boy in The Last Picture Show, injured but still ethical football player in Against All Odds, remorseless killer in Jagged Edge, and, of course, Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges has disappeared into his characters and captured my imagination in role after role for the last 40 years.

But this time, he suffers in comparison to John Wayne. Matt Damon is so good as LeBeuf, miles better than Glen Campbell in the original. And Hailee Steinfeld as Maddie is a delight because she is a real girl, not a twenty-something playing a girl, the way Kim Darby did in the original. I kept wishing Damon and Steinfeld could have been in the original True Grit with the real Rooster Cogburn.

So if you enjoyed the original True Grit as much as I did, skip the remake.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yea! There IS a Sunday Stealing this week!

Sunday Stealing: The Quick 2010 Fandom Meme

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. Your main fandom of the year: Same as every year ... my Chicago Cubs

2. Your favorite Film this year: Never Let Me Go. If at all possible, see this thought-provoking little movie.

3. Your favorite Book read this year: Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. A story of friendship, loss, and dogs.

4. Your favorite Album or Song this year: Streisand. Here's to Love. The girl's still got it!

5. Your favorite meme site of the year: Sunday Stealing. Duh.

6. Your Fandom that you haven't tried Yet, but want to: Maybe I should jump on the Chicago Bears bandwagon ...

7. Your best new Fandom Discovery of the Year: I loooove that site!

8. Your biggest Fandom Disappointment of the Year: Jennifer Aniston. I'm still Team Jen, but it would help if she made a good movie for a change!

9. Your TV Boyfriend of the year: Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS

10. Your TV Girlfriend of the year: Mika Brzezkinski of MSNBC's Morning Joe

11. Your most Missed Old Fandom: Law & Order

12. Your Biggest Anticipations of the New Year: Rumors that Sir Paul will grace Chicagoland with his presence. (Please, my liege ...)

13. Your favorite post (of yours) of the year: Damn! I talk soooo much! Impossible to choose. I did enjoy completing the 30 Days of Honesty Challenge, though.

14.Your favorite new blog (to you) of the year: Nothing springs to mind

15.Your favorite new website of the year: Another shout-out for

16. Your favorite news story of the year: The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell -- and the fact that Illinois' newly-minted Republican Senator, Mark Kirk, broke with his party to support it. Isn't it great when people turn out better than we think they will?

17. Your favorite actor of the year: Michael Douglas. I enjoyed him in both Wall Street 2 and, especially, Solitary Man. I hope he gets well and stays well.

18. Your favorite drama TV show of the year: NCIS

19. Your favorite comedy TV Show this year: That stellar Comedy Central hour of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert

20. Your favorite cartoon of the year: Sorry, I don't have one.

Holidailies -- Day 26

What was your favorite gift to give? Kirby Canvas Curse. This Nintendo game came out in 2005, which made it a little hard to find. But my nephew really wanted it, and I was glad I could come through (thank you, eBay). Even though it meant that for part of the night, all I saw was the part of his hair as he bent over the game, thumbs flying furiously. That's the sign of a successful gift!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Diva as Scrooge

From the final concert in A Diva's Christmas Carol, starring Vanessa Williams as pop star "Ebony Scrooge." Enjoy!

The joy of Christmas

During last night's service we heard the story of a missionary in Africa who received a beautiful seashell as a gift from a student. He had walked a long way -- to the coast of Africa to get the special shell for his teacher.

"You've traveled so far to bring me such a wonderful present," the missionary teacher told him.

""Oh, teacher," the boy replied, "long walk part of gift!"

I must remember this -- today and all year.

Holidailies -- Day 25

My new favorite Christmas carol. Last night, during the candlelight service, we sang "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and though I have probably heard and sung this a thousand times over the years, last night it really touched me.

Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinner, reconciled

This has been my first Christmas without my uncle. Because of the toll his illness took, our last meaningful contact was a phone call last Christmas Eve.

Being in church, singing those words, helped heal my heart. For there would never be any peace on earth for my uncle, not any more. Ending his life was one of God's mercies, and now He and my uncle are "reconciled" -- together in peace, now and for all eternity.

This was undoubtedly the Merriest Christmas my uncle has had in years.

I miss him still, of course, but I'm very glad he's at peace and at rest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holidailies -- Day 24

The wrapping is done! I'm looking at three bags filled with gifts, ready to be ferried over to my mom's for tonight's celebration. I feel very satisfied with myself, and am filled with anticipation, imagining my niece and nephew ripping the paper off and enjoying the presents I chose so carefully.

I'm also going to be sure to bring the O'Mara's Irish Creme, just to be safe. To borrow from Don Henley, sometimes it doesn't hurt to have "a shot of courage" nearby when my family gets together.

A little romance, anyone?

Before we saw White Christmas the other night, my friend Barb told me about she celebrated her husband's 56th birthday.

She took him to New York for the weekend. They have traveled there before and while he was excited to see The Big Apple decorated for Christmas, he kept tweaking Barb that his birthday present was really an opportunity for her to shop.

That's what she wanted him to think.

For near the very narrow, overcrowded vintage shop she always visits in New York, the one filled to the brim with handbags and accessories, the one her husband cannot stand being in, is a music store specializing in Fenders. It's in the music store he finds escape as she searches for her dream one-of-a-kind bag or belt, and it's the music store's website he now frequently visits to gaze at the Stratocaster of his dreams.

So before they left, Barb called the music store and bought him the Stratocaster. She told the store owners when they'd be in and asked them to put the guitar in the window with a sign reading, "For Harold, Love Barb."

Their first afternoon in Manhattan, Barb and Harold head for that vintage shop. Harold is unexpectedly grumpy ... really resenting the boredom and claustrophobia that accompany watching his wife rummage through the handbags and costume jewelry. So she expected him to be happy when she volunteered that they bypass the boutique and check out his favorite music store first.

He stares at the guitars in the window, sighs at how expensive all the top-tier Stratocasters appear to be, and starts to turn away. He never even noticed the "For Harold ..." sign.

So Barb points it out to him.

He actually thinks it's some kind of wacky coincidence, that somewhere in New York is a Barb who also loves a Fender-loving Harold. He reluctantly goes along with allowing her to take his photo next to the sign. She showed me the photo. He looks almost pained.

Then he notices that the sign is beside his dream Stratocaster. It finally dawns on him that this may not be a coincidence after all. In the next photo, he's inside the shop, posing proudly with his new axe.

A newly 56 year old, bald accountant, looking like a kid again, thrilled as can be with his dream red Stratocaster, ca. 1965.

Feel free to say, "aw ...."

I love Old Bodger

When I was a little girl, as a family we went to see the original Incredible Journey at a drive in. Ever since I have wanted a bull terrier like old Bodger.

Some feel their egg-shaped heads and triangular eyes are ugly. I think their faces have an extra dimension, making them look kinda silly and sweet. A cousin to the pit bull, they're gentler and easier to train, but still very loyal and protective of their owners.

I love my cats very much, but I still hope that some day my living situation will allow me to have a bull terrier, like Bodger.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mary Peeples, You Rock!

Last night, my friend Barb and I went to see White Christmas at the Bank of America (nee LaSalle Bank, nee Shubert) Theater. For the most part, it ... well ... sucked. But two things redeemed the performance for me:

1) It snowed indoors during the finale! Real wet, white snow, not soapflakes or confetti. I can attest to this because I caught a few flakes in my palm and watched them melt. I was unabashedly thrilled.

2) Mary Peeples in the role Susan. Only 11 years old, this girl can really belt. She was completely charming with the hat and cane as she danced. She was a highlight for me, outshining castmates two, three and four times her age.

Holidailies -- Day 23

Have any holiday acts of giving brightened your Christmas this year? I played Santa in three different places this year. First I dropped off books in the Toys for Tots box.

Then I bought a winter coat and fleece vest for a girl from the village children's home. I choste her heart-shaped ornament off the tree at Whole Foods because I thought i was touching that, instead of a video game, she asked for a winter coat. I also included gloves and a necklace that said, "LOVE."

Then there was a toy drive in our office building, where I contributed a bag of toys, including the helicopter kit I bought at a sidewalk sale last June.

I admit I was suffering from the holiday blues this week. I still slip into it now and again. But then I think about the helicopter kit, the books and the LOVE necklace. Those physical manifestations of the spirit of Christmas help. Like the reformed Ebeneezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol, I find it's healing to honor Christmas in my heart.

Thanks to Snarkypants and Boliyou for their support and inspiration.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Want Wednesday

I want Christmas to get here already!

Holidailies -- Day 22

Did you buy any holiday gifts for yourself? Yes. Over the past two months of serious Christmas shopping I purchased myself a 9 West purse (I know I said I imposed a "no purse" moratorium, but it's Christmas!), an official MLB Cubs watch (it goes with everything I own!) and this O'Mara's Irish cream gift set for just $10 (insurance to make sure Christmas Eve with my family goes well).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 on Tuesday -- Search Engine Madness

Ten Weird Keyword Searches
that Brought Readers to My Humble Blog

Huh? What? Don't ask me to explain 'em. I just report 'em.

1) "Just shut up and be funny"

2) Jeanette s gorgeous breats

3) voka voka song

4) all men are rats and cannot be trusted

5) joey's love life

6) principal secret

7) happy to be horned

8) Big mature Gals

9) Peggy Noonan dob

and my absolute favorite ...

10) 65 aunt godmother pantie butt

Holidailies -- Day 21

Battling the holiday blues. I bet it happens to everyone -- we imbue the holiday season with so many high expectations that it's impossible to maintain that cheery, joyful high every day from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. I've got the holiday blues today. A vague sense of dissatisfaction with the world -- free floating, non-specific, but undeniably there, nevertheless.

Some of it is financial. My niece, a very good kid, probably won't be able to get into the school of her dreams because my sister and brother-in-law won't/can't cosign for a federal loan. With the economy here in Illinois so bad, it's likely she won't get any other funds beyond the $9000 the college granted her. Nothing would make me happier than to say I'd cosign for a Sallie Mae loan except ... well, I can't and shouldn't. I haven't had a raise in years and my finances aren't as solid as they might be. Plus my mother seems to need my support more and more. And while part of me thinks my sister expects me to foot the bill for her daughter's college, the other part of me thinks she'd resent the living shit out of it. Knowing my kid sister, perhaps both are true. So I'm staying out of it. But it still leaves me sad. And I'm so sick of worrying about money!

Some of it is mourning. I still miss my uncle, and insist on remembering him as he was -- neither as wonderful and blameless as my mom needs him to be, nor as shitty as other members of the family insist he was. He was a complicated man and I loved him. This will be my first Christmas without presenting him with a special gift, and I feel a loss.

Some of it is hopelessness. I've donated my toys for tots and my canned goods for the food drives, but still, it seems there's so much want and need in this city. I wonder if my meager efforts matter at all.

Oh, and I got an embarrassing red stain on the front of my cream colored sweater.

Gee, I'm a veritable laugh riot today, aren't I?

Hope about you? Do you ever battle the holiday blues?

Monday, December 20, 2010

This just in

Had a pair of conversations with my accountant today regarding that ScaryGram I received from the IRS.

She went over everything about my 2008 return with a fine-tooth comb and then discussed it with her boss. Our response is going to be an amended return, which not only shows that I do not owe money but, in fact, deserve an additional refund of about $200!

Don't you just love happy endings?

I told her that with the holidays, I may not be able to get the form filled out and returned to our federal friends until after the New Year. She told me it won't make a difference, that they aren't known to be prompt about processing amended returns and issuing refunds and I probably won't have cash in hand until after April, anyway.

No matter. Not only do I not have to worry, I have a few bucks coming my way ... someday.


Holidailies -- Day 20

On the subject of Christmas music ... Usually I gravitate to the classics, and to me, "the classics" include Andy Williams and Elvis. But this year, has introduced me to Dig that Crazy Christmas by the Brian Seltzer Orchestra. Don't think I could love it more.

For your listening and viewing pleasure ... (the Grinch's poor pup still cracks me up).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Movie Monday -- Like Counting Sheep

Has a movie ever put you to sleep? Share the ones that have caused you to doze off, linking back here at The Bumbles.

Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Denzel Washington. I have no idea what it was about. None. As soon as the lights went down, I fell asleep. It was me, not Denzel. We saw it at a second run movie house, very close to Christmas. We'd been Christmas shopping all day and then had dinner -- with drinks -- and settling into that theater seat was the warmest and stillest I'd been in hours, maybe even days, and ... zzzzzz

I hear it was very good, and I feel I owe it to Denzel to watch it all the way through, start to finish, someday.

My least Christmas-y day of the season, so far

I find myself hypnotized by the Law & Order: SVU "More than Partners" Marathon on the USA Network. I realize that spending hour after hour watching episodes about violent sex crimes isn't very holly jolly. On the other hand, I love watching Olivia and Elliott. Or rather, I prefer watching Olivia and Elliott watch one another. Their unconsummated love is the lotus that grows in the mud (and drek) of their gritty job.

Day 19 -- Holidailies

Do you buy holiday gifts for your pets? Not for my own, but for other peoples'. Quality kibble can be expensive, my brother-in-law spent a few months out of work this year, and they have two cats and a turtle. So there will be cat food and a kiwi under the tree for their pets this year.

No need to feel bad for my cats. Every day is Christmas for those pampered babies!

Sunday Stealing

Sunday Stealing: The Ninja Meme, Part Two

Cheers to all of us thieves!

26. Whose responses to Stealing do you want to read the most? Bud's. I'm a sucker for non-Google-endorsed, objectionable content.

27. What color shirt are you wearing? Green with a narrow, cream-colored stripe.

28. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? I don't know, as I don't believe I've ever done it.

29. Can you whistle? No. And I wish I could.

30. Favorite colors(s)? Cubbie blue. Especially now that Kerry Wood is back!

31. Could you be a pirate? Dunno. What's Pittsburgh like in summer?

32. What songs do you sing in the shower? I sing along with radio. Tunelessly. Most recently I butchered classic Rod Stewart: "I laughed at all of your jokes, my love you didn't need to coax ..."

33. Favorite girls name? Emma or Chloe.

34. Favorite boy’s name? Michael

35. What’s in your pocket right now? Chapstick

36. Last thing that made you laugh? Watching my massive cat Joey try to tuck himself into a small space. I don't think he has any idea how big he is.

37. Best bed sheets as a child? Decorated with Peanuts characters

38. Worst injury you’ve ever had? I broke my left little finger. (Don't laugh. It hurt!)

39. Do you love where you live? Yes.

40. How many TVs do you have in your house? How many HDTVs? Two. None.

41. Who is your loudest friend? Carlos.

42. How many dogs do you have? No real ones. But I do have a plush Ren doll. Does that count?

43. Does anyone have a crush on you? Yes.

44. What are the most fun things you ever did? The first things that come to mind are special moments with my best and oldest friends.

45. What are your favorite books? See the bar at right.

47. Favorite Team? You don't come here often, do you?

48. What songs do you want played at your funeral? "Let It Be."

49. What were you doing at 12 AM? Snoring

50. What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up? "What day is it?"

Lazy Day

I did nothing of value on Saturday. I suppose I should feel guilty, but I don't.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Holidailies -- Day18

Liberated from Endomental ...

What's the favorite gift you ever gave? An American Indian rag doll, similar to this one. I rescued her from a bin at the local grocery store, and she cost me less than $10. I donated her to a toy drive, so I have no idea where she ultimately ended up. This happened years ago (during the Disney Pocahontas craze), yet somehow this little doll has stayed with me. When I think of her looking somehow forlorn in that wire barrel at the grocery store, I have often hoped that both she and the girl who received her found happiness together.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: How's It Gonna Be

1. How's it gonna be in 2011 for you? Hope springs eternal. As I wrote going into 2008 (and, probably, 2009 and 2010), I resolve to "lose weight and organize my home."

2. What is your idea of a perfect romantic evening? It must include what Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) memorably referred to as, "long, slow, deep, soft kisses that last three days."

3. What strategy would you implement to deal with drug abuse in today's world? I'd legalize pot so those who sell it to minors could be singled out and prosecuted, as with cigarettes. I'd also pour more attention and energy into creating more green jobs and rebuilding our nation's infrastructure so that there are reliable, long-term jobs available for non-skilled laborers (the way we used to have factory work). With respectable employment at a livable wage for those without higher education, there would be less despair and citizens would be less likely to turn to drugs -- both using and selling.

4. What thing about your family are you least proud of? Nothing. It's all perfect, we're all perfect. (Actually, to those who are familiar with Ordinary People, sometimes I feel like a Conrad in a family of Beths.)

5. What part of the holidays are you really looking forward to? Watching my niece and nephew open their gifts.

6. Who is the last person you high-fived? Why? My friend's 14-year-old daughter. She thought it was awesome that I have slapped the hood of a car that came too close to me in the cross walk. She was only impressed because she's too young to have seen Midnight Cowboy.

7. Have you ever made out at a drive-in? No. Last time I was at a drive in I was still too young to date.

8. If you had only enough energy left in you for one last smile, who would you give it to? I hope I'd reserve it for something authentic and genuine, not one of my reflexive "just to be polite" smiles, like when I hold the elevator for someone.

9. Tell us about that time when you were the “life of the party.” Friday we had a department lunch and I helped keep the conversation going.

Holidailies -- Day 17

Is your tree real or artificial? It's artificial -- flocked white and only 4" tall.

It's not the only Christmas decoration in this office. In addition to bows and a stocking and a Santa, a Snowman and a Little Drummer Teddy Bear, I have Christmas Dog. I have been displaying this plucky little fella, purchased at Woolworth's back when there was Woolworth's, every year since 1986.

Thanks to, I always have carols on, too. Right now it's "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing."

Gotta give it to her

Something really icky happened yesterday. I can't post about it right now, because I am strenuously channeling my inner Jackie and keep repeating the mantra, "Just put on your sunglasses and keep on going."

But instead of indulging in the bad, let's take a moment to exult in the good. Last night my oldest friend was really there for me. Talking me down, chatting me up, making me laugh. She may not make the wisest decisions about her own life, but you gotta give it to her: she's there when I need her. I told her twice how much I appreciated it last night, and I hope she heard me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A night of local color

My best friend is a foodie, so we went to a very nice restaurant in the cool, foodie part of town. The service was excellent and the meal was almost as tasty as it was pretty. We were having a wonderful time ... and then he came back from the restroom.

"Good thing all I had to do is pee," said he. Since I know nothing of mens rooms, and since he is not known to share details of his output, I was confused by this comment. He went on to explain that the mens room stall was being used by a heterosexual couple who were ... coupling. He said the woman -- who was wearing tooled boots -- was rather pretty bossy.

As we were discussing it, the busboy came by and apologized for the mens room as he refilled our water glasses. This is not the kind of place where things like this frequently occur.

To tweak my bud, whose oldest girl is in 8th grade, I said, "You know that woman is someone's daughter."

"No, Gal," he replied, watching the couple emerge from the restroom area, "she's someone's mother." She was easily 45, short and stout. He also had 40 in his rear view mirror and sported a droopy mustache. The last couple you'd imagine to be swept away by passion into semi-public sex in a bathroom stall.

Then I caught a cab home. The most amazing cab I have ever seen. Turns out it's something of a Chicago legend! Here's a video. Ride along with me, won't you?

Holidailies -- Day 16

Which of your Christmas gifts is traveling farthest? A Better Homes & Gardens decorating book for my cousin Rose is about to cover 1,184 miles to reach Pinellas Park, FL. I'm mailing it this afternoon.

Sometimes he makes me want to cry

Look what I got home to last night. My cat Reynaldo objected to my late hours and acted out.

I know just what to do with him

My best friend gave me a digital frame for my birthday and, to get me into the Christmas spirit, a bag full of holiday gifties -- candy dish and chocolates and scented candles and this gentleman. I know HE thinks the frame was most important gift, but this sturdy yet intricately painted Santa is my favorite. I know just what to do with Saint Nick. If you look closely, you can see my grandmother's ring nestled in the belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.

We had a great dinner and my friend loved the framed poster I gave him. He really isn't enjoying his job but I enjoyed hearing about his daughters (he's such a good dad) and this morning I am happy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holidailies -- Day 15

How do you get on Santa's Nice List?

When I was growing up, I heard "try not to fight with your sister" a lot. So there must be something to that. Santa is totally into this stuff, as well:

If you get too much change at the cash register, give it back.

Keep your germs to yourself -- sneeze into a tissue or sleeve.

Say "thank you" to store clerks, bus drivers and food service staff.

Think more about giving than getting.

I Want Wednesday

I want my best friend to enjoy his gift. I'm presenting it to him tonight and I'm so excited. It's my favorite gift this year -- a handbill from perhaps a decade ago, commemorating the night his favorite singer performed at a bar in his new neighborhood. I had it framed and hope it will look great in his office.

Fun song, sad feeling

For the last year or so, my oldest friend has wanted desperately to live in Southern California. Her closest living blood relative, her cousin, lives in Hesperia, CA, in the Mojave Desert. She longed to be in the sunshine, the warmth of family, to help her cousin deal with an aging spouse and have her cousin help her with her own troubled daughter.

For reasons I never quite understood, she interviewed over and over again at UCLA Medical Center. Yes, that's where the jobs currently are and yes, it was flattering for her to have a world-class hospital want her so badly as one of their administrators, but there were some things that bothered me.

1) Hesperia is 90 miles and at least 90 minutes away from Beverly Hills, where she's living. So no way could she just drop in on her cousin or drop her daughter off there.

2) The housing market here in Chicagoland is seriously depressed. Combine that with the fact that a few years ago my friend unwisely refinanced into another 30 year mortgage and has no equity in her home, and you have a problem.

3) Her daughter is a handful, and it seemed unwise and unfair to have the girl start high school here in Chicagoland and then, after a month, move her 2000 miles away and put her in Beverly Hills High.

4) While the hospital was willing to give her a big raise, they were inflexible about reimbursing her for moving costs or helping her with temporary housing.

And yet, she took the job. My oldest friend wanted out of Chicago so badly, hated the thought of (I'm not kidding) snow and cold so much, that she took the job at UCLA.

Even though I wanted her to wait until the housing market improved so she could at least get something for her house and move at the end of a school year so her daughter would have time to make friends and get acclimated before classes started closer to Hesperia, I swallowed my concerns and concentrated on helping her get out there. That's what friends do. And besides, it's not impossible I was wrong. I'm often wrong -- as you regular readers no doubt have gleaned.

But, alas, I'm not. I went out and found my friend smoking more than ever -- even though she had a heart attack at age 40, works for cardiologists and knows she's killing herself. She's exhausted because her daughter is so high maintenance -- smoking cigarettes and pot, lying, acting out and embracing the Beverly Hills lifestyle with a vengeance ("My friend Skye and I spent $400 riding around in cabs." "My friend Skye gets $2000 a month from her parents." "I hate all cops, except the one that sits in his car with Skye and gives her doobies."). She's still living out of boxes and is too exhausted to even go out for dinner after work (which means I actually, no shit, ate carry out for every meal after traveling 2000 miles to visit her for her birthday). And her weekends aren't relaxing because she's forever in the car, driving to and from the mountains.

Worst of all, her credit rating took a hit and she has no money because she took a short sale on her home here in Chicagoland. (A practice I think should be reserved for people who can't pay, not those who simply want to move to California, but my friend is too desperate to sense the moral imperative.) She has dreams of her older son (the high school drop out with a record of DUIs) going to college near her and getting his own place, but with her finances in a mess I don't see how that will happen.

Her teeth hurt. She's depressed. Her feet hurt. She's exhausted. She's beginning to smoke every day again and she could lose 50 lbs. And yet she works in a hospital! I finally nagged, pleaded and relentlessly harped until she made an appointment with a new general practitioner. Hopefully the next step will be getting her back on antidepressants, then to a counselor, a dentist and a podiatrist.

I love her and I worry about her. Constantly. I know perspective is always clearer when focused on someone else's life. But I just wish she'd stop seeing herself as a victim and take the reigns! She made this move happen, and now she simply has to make it work.

So, like Grace, I could sing The Told You So song. But instead I will just concentrate on trying to help her be happy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holidailies -- Days 12, 13 and 14

The official Holidailies prompt-writer is being a bit pissy and has relinquished the prompt-writing duties. So I am turning instead to Kwizgiver for inspiration. Even though she's a little under the weather, I know she won't let me down!

Day 12 -- What's your favorite holiday book? The Christmas Cookie Club by Ann Pearlman. From the publisher: "Every year at Christmastime, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather in the evening with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone has to bring a dessert and a bottle of wine, but this year, it's their stories that are especially important."

Day 13 -- What's your favorite holiday snack? Gingerbread anything. I love gingerbread. Followed closely by spiced anything or pumpkin anything. This is a very fragrant, tasty time of year!

Day 14 -- What puts you on Santa's naughty list? Picking on those smaller or more vulnerable than you. Or disparaging someone's race, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. Santa seriously hates that shit.


Look what I found in my mail! A bill for about $1600 from the IRS ... dating back to 2008.

I do not owe it. I had two different IRAs with an investment firm and that company merged them into one. The $7000 that IRS swears I took and, I guess, used to buy shoes was never actually in my possession: the investment firm simply took it from one retirement fund and put it into another.

I have until January 5 to respond to this. Considering that the holidays are involved, that simply isn't going to happen, so I will ask for an extension.

Then I will try to figure out whether I'm handling this myself or pawning it off my accountant. Right now, I'm leaning to the latter.

But, like Scarlett O'Hara, I'll think of that tomorrow.

Today I'm gonna try to retain my Christmas spirit.

Holidailies -- Days 9, 10 and 11

Day 9 -- The strangest thing in the room
Five pair of sandals. Strange because it's 19º outside. I have a hard time putting shoes away. Don't know what this has to do with Christmas, but there you go.

Day 10 -- Religion in the holiday season

This is what it's about for me. My favorite part of Christmas Eve is the candlelight service. Singing "Silent Night" in the darkened temple truly restores my sense of "heavenly peace." It's magic, thinking of the birth of Christ and what it would mean to me.

Day 11 -- Unique traditions

Balling up wrapping paper and throwing it at my mother. It's not as hostile as it sounds. It began years ago as she was collecting paper in a separate recycling bag and my brother-in-law tried to hit the bag she was holding with a ball of giftwrap. He missed. We all laughed, paper began flying, and a tradition was born.

10 on Tuesday -- My Trip to California

1) People in Beverly Hills are in love with living in Beverly Hills. My oldest friend lives in a lovely 2 BR/2 BA walkup, on a block with lots of similar buildings (in short, no "swimming pools, movie stars"), and yet here's her street sign.

2) It's nice to see mountains. I love Chicago, but it's very, very flat here.

3) I loved admiring my pedi in natural sunlight again.

4) But all the holiday decorations looked out of place and a little sad. No one sings, "I'm dreaming of a verdant Christmas ..."

5) Even though it was in the 70's, I had a helluva time finding a pair of shorts! No shit, you can buy winter coats, hats and gloves when it's warm out there, but not shorts. I went to Old Navy, Loehmann's, Nordstrom Rack and Marshall's, and only found summer clothes at Marshall's! However, they were marked down from $26 to $3 (yes, three dollars), so my story has a happy ending.

6) We went on the Dearly Departed Tragical History Tour. Here's the home where Marilyn Monroe lived ... and died. It's a lot of good, clean, twisted fun, especially if (like me) you're not a stickler for good taste. If you're ever in Hollywood, you should take the tour. I may post more on this later.

7) Finally went to In and Out Burger. I have been reading for years about what good corporate citizens this company is, how much greater their commitment is to quality, the environment and their employees than other chains. The food was fine, the service was good and the prices were comparable. I have a feeling, though, that my friend will never be back. She deemed it "not as good as Carl's Junior" and I know she thinks it's silly that I view even decisions like which burger I eat as political.

8) I don't know what everyone who whines about airport security is bitching about. I didn't encounter any TSA reps at O'Hare or LAX that were anything but professional and courteous.

9) It was good to get away. I didn't realize how rough the last few months have been until I got on a plane and got outta Dodge. I'm feeling far more positive about my life today.

10) I wish my oldest friend was happier out there. I'll probably post more on this later, too. But I've got a lot to do today and I'm happy and I don't want to blow it!