Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve in the pool

I SWAM this morning! I can't recall the last time I swam in a public pool at all, much less swam laps. I feel very proud of myself, plus it was cool to spend New Year's Eve floating in a pool, watching the sun peeking through palm trees!

This hotel has two pools, but no one swims. The chaise lounges are full but the pools themselves are empty. This confuses me, but then, more room for me to splash so what the hey.

We also went to a museum devoted to the history of turtling here in the Keys. My nephew would have loved it. Tonight we're celebrating New Year's with dinner at a restaurant on the beach.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm here, safe and sound and rather happy

Here I am at the Tiki Bar in Key West. I only have 6 mins. left on this prepaid session, so this won't be very long, nor detailed.

Just kudos to US Airways in both O'Hare and Charlotte. I was so afraid to fly this morning, what with the failed terrorism attempt on Christmas. But security, while a bit more thorough than usual, was very organized and efficient. I made my connection in Charlotte easily, and, starting tomorrow, I will begin enjoying my time with my friends here.

9/11 is never far from my mind. But being down here, travelling anyway, keeping to my plans, is my little way of defying the forces that try to change my way of life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Like a force to be reckoned with ... sort of

My brand-new Roller Derby Name is
Auntie FatalAttraction

Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

First time this millennium, last time this decade

While I didn't lose as much weight this year as I would have liked, I lost enough and shaped up enough to actually bring my swimsuit (that's it right there) along with me to Key West tomorrow.

Monday Movie Meme -- Historical Films

Share on your blog those movies that take place in the past, covering a specific period in style or subject, and link back here at The Bumbles. And don't forget to visit your fellow participants!

All The President's Men
(1976). Is it paranoia if there really are dark forces conspiring to corrupt the government? This movie takes us back to a critical loss of innocence, when we saw how rotten the Watergate apple really was, and in many ways we still haven't recovered from the resulting cynicism.

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). There have been movies more graphic about the Holocaust, but for me, this is the most moving because it makes the claustrophobia and the unfairness and the horror so much more personal.

Gone with the Wind (1939). This MGM epic takes us back to the Civil War and the Reconstruction as seen through the eyes of socially-prominent (if no longer wealthy) Southerners. Aside from being a glorious example of cinematic storytelling, and a terrific tale of love and loss, it unintentionally tells us almost as much about the 1930s as it does the 1860s. MGM's POV seems to be, "slavery wasn't THAT bad, and 'damn' is a controversial oathe but the 'n' word is acceptable.'"

Sunday, December 27, 2009

It's what we do in this family

I called my mother, speaking to her for the first time since our awkward parting on Christmas Eve. I figured that she's old now, she's forgetful, she's not well and she's not going to change. Whatever happened on Christmas Eve shouldn't ruin whatever time we have left. (My sister, though, she's a more prickly situation …)

Anyway, my mom was very chatty, thanking me time and again for my gifts, merrily reporting on my niece and nephew. More than once I was tempted to say, "Do you want to talk about it?" OK, I was dying to SHOUT it! But that's me, that's not my mom, nor my sister. Their style is passive-aggressive. To act out a bit, and then spackle over the problem, pretending it's gone away.

Their style is not my style. For I believe (to quote Carrie Fisher) that nothing is every really over, just "over there." But my mom was raised by a pair of alcoholics and is desperately confrontation-averse. She's also 70+ and my mother and I love her despite of her flaws. Her parents messed hers up, mine messed me up, and if I had a daughter, I'd probably mess her up, too. It doesn't mean she doesn't love me. It means we must accept one another in order to enjoy the time we have left.

PS I got your message and thank you, Snarkela. You're so dear. I'm afraid, though, that what our dustup refers back to is too painful to discuss just now. But I'm so grateful that you're out there.

Of Zoey and Jeremy and Neil

It wasn't a good Christmas and I just can't shake it. Perhaps someday I will blog about the details, but I can't right now. Instead I'm comforting myself by wondering how the kids at the children's home -- Zoey and Jeremy and Neil -- enjoyed their presents.

Zoey got the coat she asked for, in pink, with along with a pair of Dora the Explorer sunglasses. I tossed in the sunglasses because I wanted her to have a little fun, just in case the coat is a tad utilitarian a gift. I bought Jeremy sweats and a miniature book about Rudolph because a clothes gift can be lightened with some reindeer games. And Neil got the pajamas he asked for, plus a picturebook tie-in to Disney's 3-D Christmas Carol with Marley's apparition on the cover because ghouls can be cool to an 8-year-old boy.

I also think about my donations to the toy drive at work -- especially the special retelling of Marley and Me and the package of holiday-themed lipglosses, hoping that a kid with an affinity for pets and a girl who dreams of make-up received them.

I am fortunate that giving can fill me with joy. That I have enough imagination to visualize faces to go with the names. It means I have happy memories to attach to Christmas 2009, no matter what. I don't want to become like my friend, John, who refers to December 25 as "just a day."

New Year, New Template

It was time for a change. This is bolder and cleaner. Perhaps it's foreshadowing what's in store for 2010. (What do you think, Snarks?)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Unconscious Mutterings

I haven't "muttered" in quite a while, but here goes:

Classified :: Information
Praised :: Flattered
Censored :: Redacted
2010 :: Champagne toast
Lamp :: Light
Alternate :: Girlfriend (with apologies to The Barenaked Ladies)
Script :: Font
Handsome :: Crush
Eager :: Anxious
Meeting :: Appointment

To play along yourself, click here.

An exceptional movie

Up in the Air is smart and sexy and funny and very believable -- even with a rather daring plot twist toward the end. George Clooney plays a grown up, which bodes well for a long and graceful career (meaning he doesn't embarrass himself by wooing women half his age the way Jack Nicholson did).

Since so much of this movie is about downsizing, and what a profitable industry it can be for some, be sure you're emotionally prepared to see firings onscreen. Really. I imagine that if this movie came out a year ago, when I expected to be fired every other Monday, I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much.

On the other hand, watching it reinforces why when earlier in this decade, as three people who worked for me were let go, I'm glad I insisted on being there. There is a dignity to handling it correctly, and a kindness to letting employees vent their anger to your face. I believe it makes it easier for them to move on.

This day may be shot to hell

What can compete with an NCIS marathon? Thanks alot, USA Network.

And Santa, even though I forgot to specifically ask for Gibbs, couldn't you have left him for me Christmas morning anyway?

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Sam's Last Stand of 2009

1. What did you think of 2009? It was better than I thought it would be, but it still kinda sucked.

2. What do you think was the news story of the year? Barack Obama's inaugural.

3. What happened this year that you never want to hear another word about? TIGER WOODS!

4. What was your favorite song of 2009? "My Life Would Suck without You" by Kelly Clarkson

5. What did you accomplish this year? It's all health-related. I have a work-out regimen now (not that you can prove it by my behavior since Thanksgiving) and I have my complexion under control.

6. Did you learn anything new this year? Lots of little things related to #5.

7. What are you looking forward to in the new year? A bit more tranquility.

8. What are your plans for New Year's Eve? I don't know yet. I'l be in Key West, and will just go with the flow.

9. What's the best thing you ever did on a New Year's Eve? I was in a new relationship, that really "hot" phase. So we made out, went to dinner at a comedy club, came home, made love, messed around on the futon while watching a Bogart-Bacall movie ...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yea! Buddy's On!

Thank you for showing Elf, USA Network! I love Buddy.

A rather more Christmasy memory of 2009

My uncle is a complicated man. Until about 20 years ago he was driven by success and money. He believed (perhaps still believes) that success and money give him power, gain him acceptance, if not love. This attitude makes him a bit of a dick at times. His slow, slow but inexorable deterioration due to Parkinson's has not improved his disposition or his outlook.

To tell our story, his and mine, two things must be included: (1) His life was shaped in large part by his service in Viet Nam and (2) while he may have been unpleasant to others in my family, I have never had a gripe about how he has treated me personally. I have many girlhood recollections of his kindness and fun we had together, and I keep those always at the forefront of my memory when I deal with the sick, grumpy, difficult old man he has become.

Which is why chatting with him last night (Christmas Eve) was so touching.

He doesn't join us for family holiday celebrations anymore. His days are often bad ones and he isn't up to having many people around. But he sent a gift for me to over to my mom's house, and he called to be on the phone with me when I opened it. The package mostly contained old family -- OK, old family pet -- photos. But there were also a pair of old notes, one from 1994 and one from 2003, that I sent him. I was thanking him for introducing me to the Beatles back in February 1964. I was very moved that he had kept them all these years, that he had moved them with him from house to house, and saddened that he returned them to me. It was his way of letting me know he appreciates me, and of making sure they aren't disposed of when he dies.

I was sad to learn, too, that he didn't understand my Christmas gift to him. Enclosed with his card were a letter from Operation Shoebox and a list of goodies donated to soldiers in his name. He said he saw "something" in the card but couldn't really "follow" it.

Oh well, I guess it doesn't matter, really. He seemed just as happy that I sent him a card, and two soldiers in Afghanistan had a happier holiday because of the stuff they received.

Portrait of Amy

WARNING: This is not a Christmasy, sentimental post. It's just something I need to get off my chest (and into my blog) so I can get past it and feel Christmasy and sentimental. If you're not prepared for a bit of bitchy today, please don't read on.

Recently my friend Mindy and I were discussing the March sisters and wondered if anyone reads Little Women, meets the character of Amy and says, "Hey! That's me!"

I don't know if my kid sister has ever read Little Women, much less seen herself in the character of Amy, but she certainly could. For the description of the baby of the March family on SparkNotes reads, "She is given to pouting, fits of temper, and vanity; but she does attempt to improve herself."

My 44-year-old baby sister is sharp-tongued, yet insists on seeing herself as weak and put upon. She also has a tremendous sense of entitlement. Her happiness, her comfort, is everyone else's responsibility and she never fails to view me in the worst possible light because it supports her self perception as sensitive, powerless, unappreicated heroine.

I don't want to go into detail on the Christmas 2009 manifestation, but let's just say I wish she was more comfortable smoking indoors at my mom's house. In holidays gone by, she would have gone downstairs with my mom, had a cigarette and complained about how awful I am. Then, once she had her smoke, she would calm down a bit. I never knew exactly what was said about me, but I could tell by the looks she would shoot me that I was in her doghouse. However this year, she stood in the kitchen, washing dishes with my mother, and complained about how awful I am while I was within earshot. I was on the phone with my uncle, who asked to talk to me and my mom but no one else in the family -- maybe that's part of why she's so bitchy, I don't know -- but I heard every word she said about me. I was only a few feet away.

As the tension between us mounted, I left the room and called a cab to come take me home. I wanted to get out of there, I ached to get to church, I wanted to remember the true meaning of Christmas. My niece, the other most-frequent target of "Amy's" ire, followed me and wanted to make sure I was OK. I assured her that I was and kept my feelings about her mother to myself. My niece knows what her mother is like, after all, and besides, IT'S CHRISTMAS!!!!

I was distracted all through the candlelight service. I am angry at myself for that. I was just suddenly so weary, so angry, so hurt that I couldn't be in the moment. So I'm trying to cleanse myself of the upset by posting. I want to feel Christmasy on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I want for Christmas is Professor Bhaer

Had my annual holiday lunch with my friend, Mindy. We've known each other 30 years (I met her at the same company where I met John and Cathy) and while our lives have both changed tremendously over the decades, she has remained fundamentally the same: Sweet, guileless and romantic in her world view.

One of the first things we bonded over back in those long ago days was books. So it wasn't unusual that before we exchanged gifts we happened upon two of our favorite characters -- Agatha Christie's Poirot and Jo from Little Women. I reminded Mindy that she is the only girl I know who related to Beth, the middle sister who dies, as she read the Little Women. She laughed and said the dying part does make Beth kind of a bummer role model, but says as a girl she was just as shy and dreamy as her favorite March sister. There's still a lot of young Beth in grown up Mindy. We agreed that I remain ineffably Jo: independent and impatient.*

When I opened my gift, I was happy to find a key and lock necklace (not unlike this one) and matching earrings! We both expressed the hope that I will find my own Professor Bhaer, Jo's supportive and accepting lover, who proposes to her as they stand together in the rain, sharing an umbrella. Since it was raining today, we figured it would be easy for me to find my professor today because so many men had umbrellas. It's an umbrella that would really be the key to unlocking my heart.

It's a sweet fantasy and a generous wish for the New Year. Which makes it very Mindy.

* We can both name women we know were Megs as girls. Jo is one of the first heroines I ever related to. And, of course, Mindy saw herself in Beth. But do any girls see themselves as Amy (spoiled and superficial)?

Done for the decade

Most of my coworkers and many of my clients took today off, so I got into work very late this morning. I cleared up a few loose ends, organized my messy files, and literally filled a dumpster with boxes and manilla folders and bags and files from spring 2004. (I think if no one has asked for them in five years, it's safe to part with them.) I also took down all my holiday directions and tucked them away till next year.

Then I left he office at about 2:00, not to return until 1/4/2010.

It hasn't been a terrific decade for my career or for my industry. Here's hoping that 2010 ushers in both a new decade and new leaf.


After a little over 5 hours, I am down to four gifts left to wrap. But I just can't go on. I still have to go to work tomorrow. (OOPS! Make that today!)

I've got bags and bags and bags littering my livingroom. Old Navy, Borders, FYE, Kohl's ... If it wasn't for my love of the planet, and my fear of Al Gore, I would just toss them. But no, I will shmush all the littler ones inside a big one and hopefully find a place to recycle them.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Queen's meme

1. What is the most annoying Christmas song? Today, anything by Sammy Davis, Jr. It's a mood I'm n.

2. Name one annoying thing that happens to you each time you get together with your family during the holidays. My mom will rhapsodize over one of our relatives who is a real repulsivo, and I will bite my tongue. The illusion of a healthy, happy family is so important to her that I just send my mind to the happy place.

3. What is eggnog? Think about it. Does anybody really know? Eleven secret herbs and spices.

4. Don't take this personally but there are lots of fruitcakes walking around. Have you encountered any real live nuts lately? All the people who bitch and complain about the families blocking the sidewalk as they check out the Macy's State Street windows. Duh. Christmas comes this time every year. The holiday windows are famous. What do these grumpy nutballs expect? Walk on the other side of the street!

5. Why were the nine Lords a'leaping in those annoying tights???! Chafing.

6. What is the most annoying Christmas gift you've ever received? What did you do with it?? Someone gave me Barbie doll clothes when I was clearly a mature, sophisticated junior high school-aged woman who was beyond such frivolity! I don't recall what happened to them.

7. Let's admit it: Christmas, with all its splendor and goodwill, can also be a pain in the royal patootie. How do you plan to circumvent annoyances this year and enjoy the season? I think most of the frustration and annoyance will be behind me once I get all the gifts wrapped. But I've been getting through it by reminding myself that the annoying moments will pass and I shouldn't let them ruin my holiday. Oh, and I drink alot.

To play along, and avoid spending the holidays in the dungeon,
click here.

Sorry, Sam

Sammy Davis, Jr., is bugging me today. I don't know why, since I'm the one who knowingly downloaded his renditions of "The Christmas Song" and "Jingle Bells," but every time he comes on he sounds smug and silly to me and I skip him.

Sometimes Dino's carols sound a little too schmaltzy for me, too. I guess the only Rat Packer who doesn't ever wear out his welcome with me is The Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra. Maybe that's how you can tell the "good" from the "great."

I loved hanging out on this corner

The musical In the Heights is set primarily on one street corner -- with a cab company, bodega and beauty salon. Those who live and work there -- Nina, Benny, Abuela, and especially Usnavi -- seem like friends by the end of the evening. It's an uplifting story about change (the neighborhood goes from Irish to Hispanic, the kids grow into adults) and love and family. It's a warm and energetic night at the theater.

I really wanted to go last night because it was the last time I'd see my theater buddy Barb before Christmas. Of course we had a good time (though over dinner she was so distracted by work intrigue and family issues that I almost took her iPhone away from her). But the play was a spectacular, unexpected treat.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Perhaps I should feel bad, but I don't

Instead I feel quite important.

The two freelancers my boss brought in were huddled together. One began, "She just has a way ..." Then he saw it was The Gal Herself on the approach and lowered his voice to inaudible. I like to think he ended his assessment with, "… a way of busting me when I get all pretentious and take my sweet time on a project, just to run out the clock and make myself an extra buck or two."

After Wednesday I don't believe I'll ever see him again, so what the hell. For now I'll just add a touch of swagger to my walk, as befits She Who Has a Way.

Office Observations

Everyone seems to be in a good mood. Perhaps it's because today is "Kids Day" here at the office, and none of us wants to use the F word in front of a wee one.

I have a project I could get started on, but ... well, I don't feel like it. The deadline is January 14, and I don't know how far off that is because I haven't hung my new calendar yet.

Also, my feet are cold. How can I be inspired to great work with cold feet? I have an extra pair of socks (in an awful melony color) in the bottom drawer. I may just have to break them out.

My boss left much of his work undone before he went off for vacation. So far, no one has asked me to pitch in. Which is good, because while I appreciate that the Christmas-y thing to do would be to accept the added responsibility and dive right in, I'm also still pissed that he wasn't nicer about my gift to him.

Listening to carols, which leads me to inventory the Christmas decorations I have displayed through my humble work abode:
• Santa on the door
• Christmas dog and snowman on the windows
• Little Drummer Bear above the file cabinet
• Red and green bows on the file cabinet
• Ornament and stocking hung on bulletin board
• A tiny creche beside my pencil sharpener. Just Mary, Joseph, the Baby and a lamb. It's too small for anything more, but that's OK. It's my favorite.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Monday Movie Meme -- Holiday Favorites

Share on your blog your favorite movies that either take place during the holidays, are about the holidays or just have a special personal connection for you with the holidays and link back here at The Bumbles. And don't forget to visit your fellow participants!

Elf (2003). I'm not a big Will Ferrell fan, but I love him for creating the enduringly adorable Buddy. When Buddy goes through the revolving door over and over again, it cracks me up every time. Who doesn't smile at the thought of a diet of candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup? I was between jobs when this came out and one afternoon, while Christmas shopping and worrying about how much I was spending, I slipped into a matinee and Buddy lifted my spirits immeasurably.

The Gathering (1977). The Thornton Family reunites and tries to get past their differences to enjoy one last Christmas together … before Dad dies. The family has realistic, relateable problems and their reconciliations ring true. And I don't know how he knew, but Ed Asner gives a touching performance as my father.

Mr.Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962). Oh, how I love this one! Especially the big musical finale at the Cratchit holiday table. "We'll have the Lord's bright blessings in knowing we're together, knowing we're together heart and hand. We'll have the brightest Christmas, the whitest, brightest Christmas, a Christmas far more glorious than grand!"

It's A Wonderful Life (1946). Jimmy Stewart had a long career filled with tremendous performances, but do any of his characters live on in our hearts like George Bailey does? My favorite scene has nothing to do with Christmas but everything to do with romance and lust and longing: watch for George and Mary sharing a single telephone receiver ... they're so close he can smell her hair and they're dying to kiss.

Poor Rodney Harrington

I have been ensconced in the DVDs of the first season of Peyton Place, the first nighttime TV soap. Back in 1964, Rodney Harrington, played by Ryan O'Neal, was a heartthrob. The rich, handsome playboy-college freshman, pursued by brunette Betty even as he pursues blonde Allison.

It's so strange and sad to see him as he was, and how he is now. I think it's more than just time that has taken its toll on O'Neal.

As a child, I was forbidden to watch Peyton Place, which means I snuck to friends' homes to catch it. I had a crush on Norman, the more sensitive second Harrington boy, played by Christopher Connelly and shown at the center of the photo. He didn't have a girlfriend in the first season, but I recall that he eventually married a girl named Rita from the other side of the tracks.

Take the Christmas Pledge

1. Remember those people who truly need my gifts

2. Express my love for family and friends in more direct ways

3. Redirect myself to the spiritual growth of my family

4. Examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas

5. Initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends.

Thank you, Kwizgiver.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunday Stealing

1. What is your favorite holiday show/animated show? Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. I always watch that as I wrap Christmas presents.

2. What holiday character do you think you're most like? Jo in Little Women (there's more than one Christmas celebration in the book/movies)

3. What holiday character does your spouse think you're most like? Dunno, seeing as he doesn't exist.

4. Favorite Christmas/holiday song? Silent Night

5. Most hated Christmas/holiday song? Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

6. If you have an all holiday music radio station when do you start listening to it? Today. I was spinning the dial and found "Merry Christmas, Darling" by the Carpenters. (I have rethought the Carpenters, who I previously dismissed as a joke. She had a terrific voice and poignant phrasing. It's Richard's schmaltzy arrangements that so annoy me.)

7. If you have an all holiday music radio station do you love it or hate it? Yes. Hate it until the week before Christmas. Now I love it.

8. Have you ever wrapped yourself as a Christmas present? No.

9. Who is Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer's father? Donner. Duh.

10. Do you drive your neighborhood or one near you at night to look at other people's holiday decorations? No.

11. When you see a heavily decorated house do you think, 'oh that's lovely'? Or do you think, 'oh criminy, that looks like Christmas threw up all over their lawn'? I think, "Is this a good use of electricity?"

12. Are you counting the days to Christmas with excited anticipation or dread? Anticipation.

13. When was the last time you had your photo taken with Santa? Did you sit on his lap? 1966. Yes.

14. Do you make a Christmas list for your spouse or significant other or do you rely on them to pick your gift(s) without a clue from you? Since my "spouse or significant other" is imaginary and lives in my mind, he knows exactly what I want without being told.

15. When do you put up your tree? When I have a tree, I put it up over Thanksgiving weekend. Alas, this year I never quite got around to it.

16. Real or fake? Fake

17. When do you take your tree down? As soon as I return from Key West in the New Year (if I put up a tree to take down, that is)

18. Do you shop the day after Christmas sales? What do you shop for? No. I used to run out to stock up on next year's wrapping paper, but I find time is not imperative for this. You can easily find it for days and days after Christmas.

19. Is your work/office having a holiday party this year? Will you attend? Yes. No.

20. Do you have your New Year's Eve Plans set yet? No specific plans that I'm aware of yet. I'm going to be in the Keys, but don't know if we're going out to dinner, eating in, or attending a party. My friends down there make the plans for me and I merrily roll along with them.

To play along yourself, click here.

The first snow fall

Let's see now ... what did I do with this Saturday?

I got up early this morning and filled another bag for Goodwill. That's three donations this month. This morning's included 4 pair of slacks that I decided I wouldn't wear even if I lost the dress size required to fit into them. Honestly, it was as though Clinton and Stacy were in the room with me!

Then I went to Petco and bought my last sack of kibble for the year ... for the decade! Got my final haircut for the year (for the decade) and collapsed onto the sofa. This evening I watched a little Wizard of Oz -- always good for the soul -- and finally finished the Lisa Scottoline novel I've been working on for weeks and weeks.

It was all made prettier by the first snowfall. I don't think it stuck, but it was fun to be out in it. So much gentler and quieter than rain.

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: White Christmas

1. If you live where you get winter weather, do you prefer your Christmas to be white? If you never see snow, do you wish for it? Yes. I love a White Christmas. (It's those White Easters here in Chicago that can get on my nerves.) I especially love it when it's snowing at 12:01 AM on Christmas morning when I'm walking home from the candlelight service at church.

2. How many holiday cards did you receive from people you hadn't sent cards to, after the "mailing deadline?" Did you send a card anyway? So far, just one. I mailed a card to my Cousin Kathy and her family this morning.

3. When the clock strikes Midnight on New Year's, will you be at home, at a party, or somewhere else? I know I'm going to be in Key West, wrapped up snug as a bug in a rug in the love of my friend, Edgardo.

4. Have you ever taken the keys and driven home a friend that you felt was too drunk to drive? If not, do you think you would attempt to if that situation ever arose? No. I don't drive. Though I'd be happy to put us both in a cab.

5. Tell us about a gift that you either bought or made for someone else that you wanted for yourself! Nothing comes to mind. Though earlier this week and I went to Border's to pick up toys for a toy drive and left with the DVD of That Girl, Season 5. Does that count?

6. What chores do you have left for the holidays? I haven't wrapped a precious thing yet. And I want to go through my den one more time and put things aside for Goodwill. I must part with the old to make room for the new!

7. If you could buy one gift for yourself where money was not an obstacle, what would it be? A portable electric generator. I know, I know ... even my dreams are glamorous.

8. What is one of your family’s favorite holiday traditions? Going around the horn, opening our gifts one at a time at my mom's house on Christmas Eve.

9. If you could give a fellow blogger a holiday gift, which would it be and what would you give them? I'd give Miss SnarkyPants her favorite most "Cookie." (Nudge, nudge; wink, wink.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Singin' the Holiday Blues

I'm troubled today. So many things are bothering me and I can't shake them.

The tree at Whole Foods is decorated with little hearts from the kids at the village children's home. Some kids live at the home 24/7, waiting for appropriate foster homes or for their parents to get it together enough to take them back. Others are there because their parents are taking advantage of the sliding scale daycare. Anyway, each heart has a kids' name, age, and Wish List items. Since the children's home is, literally, next door, I always participate by taking an ornament and fulfilling a Christmas wish. Many of the kids ask for gift cards, just as many want expensive items, like video games. But some of them really tug at the heartstrings.

Like Zoe. She's 4, and her only Wish List item was a winter coat. How sad is that! So I went to Old Navy and picked up a little pink coat for her, plus a pair of Dora the Explorer sunglasses, so that she'll feel styling this Christmas. I dropped the gift off at Whole Foods and checked out the tree.

Most of the hearts are gone, which is a good thing. But what about the kids whose hearts are left? Do they simply not get anything at the party next week when the gifts are distributed? I couldn't bear it. So I took another one. Jeremy. He wants is gym shoes. Unfortunately he wears 11 1/2 and I couldn't find shoes in that size. So I got him sweats (his other sizes were listed on the ornament, too) and a minature picture book -- smaller than a playing card, it features Rudolph, Clarice, Hermie, et al.

I dropped Jeremy's gift off at Whole Foods and on the way out I picked up Neil's heart. He's 8 and only asked for one thing -- pajamas. Oh, break my heart! So I got him the sale pajamas from Old Navy and a long-sleeved Spiderman t-shirt. And a Disney tie-in book based on their 3-D Christmas Carol, which has a very scary Marley Ghost on the cover. I know little boys like gory creepy things, as long as they're not too gory or creepy. I will drop Neil's gift off Saturday or Sunday.

I have to stop doing this. It doesn't make me happy, it makes me ever-more sad because I realize how bottomless the need is, and how limited my resources are -- or should be. I mean, I really can't afford to keep doing this.

But what about the kids whose hearts aren't chosen? Will they be mad or sad or confused at the children's home Christmas party when the gifts are distributed? I'm sure the staff is prepared for this, but still, this situation forcefully reminds me that many people won't have a Merry Christmas.

And I almost wish my best friend hadn't come in last week, because now I miss him so much. Plus, I learned something disturbing. Regular readers know he often just slides under the radar and goes incommunicado. The other night we had a heart-to-heart talk about this, and the reason really saddened me. His wife feels we are "inappropriate," and, in his words, she "wonders why I tell you things and not her." So he takes care not to call me when she can hear and not to touch base with me every day, because she asked him not to. He loves her, she is his wife, and I agree that we have to respect her feelings. Here I am, fat and 50. (OK, 52.) It never occurred to me that I would really be making a beautiful 42 year old uncomfortable. But I am. I realize this is serious and important. It's his marriage -- and I have no place in it. But this all makes me so sad.

So right now I'm not feeling so holly-jolly about this Christmas. And damn, I wish Cubs baseball was year-round.

I wonder why ...

Ashton Kutcher is more attractive and more interesting in a 30 or 60 second Nikon commrcial than he's been in any movie so far.

Me, according to Blogthings

You Like the Holidays

You definitely have a good time during the holidays, but you aren't obsessed with them or anything.

You shop for a few presents and participate in a few traditions... but that's it!

You may be accused of being a grinch, but you're simply not a fanatic about holiday traditions - especially commercial ones.

You get into the spirit of the season by being kind, compassionate, and not clogging up the stores!

Thank you, Santa!



The Chicago Cubs acquired right-hander Carlos Silva and cash from the Mariners on Friday in exchange for outfielder Milton Bradley. Silva, who has two years and $25 million left on his four-year deal, was 4-15 in 28 starts in 2008 and 1-3 with a 8.60 ERA in eight games (six starts) last season.

Bradley, who has two years and $21 million remaining on his deal, batted .257 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs for the Cubs this season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Merry Christmas Meme

Naturally I stole this from Kwiz.

Name 5 Favorite Christmas Songs

* James Taylor, "River"
* Barbra Streisand, "White Christmas"
* The King will have a "Blue Christmas"
* Frank Sinatra, "The First Noel"
* Andy Williams, "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

Name 4 Gifts You Plan To Buy For Others.
All my gifts are purchased, but I'll list the ones I can see from here
* Old Navy pink coat for Zoe, one of the children in need whose ornament/wish lists are on the Whole Foods Christmas Tree
* Old Navy Flirt jeans for my niece (a girl who knows exactly what she wants)
* A plush rat named Scabbers for my nephew
* That Girl! The Final Season DVD (OOPS! I bought that for me, but it's the fourth gift I can see from here)

Name 3 Things On Your Christmas Wish List.
* Pedicure stuff, esp. foot scrub
* Adam Lambert's CD
* Facial scrubs and masks

What 2 Places Do You Plan To Be On Christmas?
* Mom's
* Church

What Is 1 Important Person, Place or Thing You Love About Christmas?
* Singing "Silent Night" at the close of the candlelight service. It reminds me of the meaning of Christmas.

Why is this man smiling?

John Edwards is on top of a poll again! According to the WSJ/NBC: "But given a choice between Edwards, Tiger Woods, singer Chris Brown, Balloon Boy’s parents, David Letterman, Jon and Kate Gosselin, or New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez as the public figure who was most disappointing in 2009, Edwards took a solid one-third of the vote with 33% for cheating on his wife while she is being treated for incurable cancer."

I couldn't agree more. And I fear this isn't over. It's possible that Elizabeth Edwards could live out her days watching her husband, to whom she will leave two young children, fighting charges that he violated finance laws. That gallant lady deserves so much better.

Have a nice day, you douche.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to me, pt . 10

Ah, the rapture of a Pumpkin Pie Martini!

I drank my frou-frou holiday cocktails while my best friend drank beer. We celebrated my birthday at a bar, then went out to dinner and exchanged Christmas gifts, and then settled back at Eno, a favorite of ours, for flights of chocolate and wine.

I really love having him here. Everything is just a bit more right in the universe when he's around. We compared notes on the kids in our lives, our families, our jobs, our feelings about the state of the world ... I never run out of things to say to him. I wish he could stay longer.


This is the last holiday gift I bought this year, and one of the first I gave. It's a lightly-scented spray moisturizer for my boss. I explained in the card that it was make sure he had a comfortable new year, no matter how itchy his sweaters are. I chose this for him because he is forever rubbing his back in my doorway to scratch that unreachable itchy spot on his back.

When he stopped by to give me farewell instructions before heading out for the year, he didn't mention the card or the gift. I asked him if he opened it and said, yes, and that now all he has to do is worry about is his jock itch.

So, did my gift offend him? Was he embarrassed that he didn't have anything for me and now, between his vacation and mine, he won't see me until the New Year? Or is he just a putz?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Queen's Meme -- The "ex" files

My queen can be quite the despot, so make her happy and do the meme.

When is the last time someone did something
EXtra-special for you? My 10-year-old nephew made my birthday card. He had to find the right Cubs image (an autographed Mark Grace baseball card) and upload it into a card of his own design. He was very proud of his accomplishment, and it made me very happy.

2. Name one EXciting thing that happens in your life daily. I go to work 5 days a week in Chicago, the best city ever. I commute past the Chicago River and can see Millennium Park from my office window and Lake Michigan from the art department.

3. Tell us the good, the bad and the uglies of your online EXperiences. Good: the support I have received from the blogosphere. Always unexpected and always appreciated. You know who you are, and I thank you. Bad: Ages ago, when both the Internet and I were younger, I was in an AOL chatroom and someone sent me a photo of some very weird, twisted shit. Ugliest: People of Walmart.

4. What makes an ordinary day EXtraordinary and EXceptional? Hearing from my best friend.

5. Name one embarrassing incident you had to EXplain to your mother when you were a child. One spring, when I was very young and very bored by having to take a nap in the afternoon, I cut my lip. I took a catnip bunny, placed the bell in my mouth and pulled it back as far the elastic would allow and then let it snap back. I got blood all over, and unfortunately, my poor cat lost his bunny in the process. (Hey! Didn't you get bored when trapped in your bed for an afternoon nap?)

6. If you could FedEX yourself anywhere in the world, where would you go? Atlanta. I can look up and see a postcard of the grounds of the spa I went to last spring and it looks very inviting.

7. Who would you like to EXray and why? My heart. I wonder if it's really as strong (in every sense of the word) as I demand it be.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The A&E film crew will be here any minute

Christmas has ex-ploded all over my home. There are presents and shopping bags and gift receipts and STUFF all around. My best friend is supposed to be in town tomorrow and I actually couldn't find his present! I almost started to cry. I simply must restore order here.

I had this fantasy of getting it all orderly -- gifts here, Goodwill donations there, recyclables in a third area. Then, once I dispose of the Goodwill donations and the recyclables, enjoying a pleasant night of wrapping while listening to carols.

I wonder if I'll accomplish all that before Easter!

Not the smartest sentiment to share in this economy, but ...

… I actually have more to do at home than here at work! None of my presents are wrapped and they are scattered all over from room to room. Plus I simply must put another bag together for Goodwill.

And yet here I am, just sitting in my office, waiting for my art director to get back to me with the letters I gave him Friday and this morning.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Movie Monday -- All About the Music

Share on your blog movies with a music related theme and link back here at The Bumbles. And don't forget to visit your fellow participants!

Dreamgirls (2006). The lives and loves and struggles of the artists who created The Motown Sound. OOPS! I didn't mean to say "The Motown Sound." This is pure fiction, not at all about Diana Ross and the Supremes and Berry Gordy and Marvin Gaye.

A Hard Day's Night (1964). The black-and-white Beatles classic I mentioned last week. This week it makes the list because the catalyst for all that follows is a scheduled TV appearance by The Beatles, and all the havoc that ensues because of Beatlemania. The concert sequence at the end is unforgettable.

Loving You (1957). Elvis as Deke Rivers, a naive delivery boy who knows how to swing a guitar. Lizbeth Scott and Wendall Corey are the sophisticated showbiz types who recognize The Next Big Thing when they see it. They train him and groom him and eventually Deke goes from making girls swoon at local sock hops to a major TV appearance. It's so close to the true story of a certain poor, young Memphis truck driver who knows how to swing a guitar it's almost cinema verite.

A White House Christmas

I'm positively hypnotized watching Oprah and the Obamas discussing Christmas on Pennsylvania Avenue. I admit that I'm tickled to know that Santa will be stopping by for the first time since (I believe) Caroline and John Kennedy. And I'm happy to see that Bo has nobly taken over from India and Barney.

But I'm sad that it looks like I won't be getting a White House holiday card this year. The Clintons were very good about keeping me on their Christmas List. This is their 1994 card, my favorite because it introduced me to Thomas McKnight. I now have McKnight prints in both my living and bedrooms.

He has his good moments, too.

Reynaldo, I mean. Yes, he's a nutball feline. Yes, he's destructive. Yes, he's hyper. Yes, he's manic. But he's also affectionate and happy. He loves me and the other two cats and he fills our little home with activity and joy.

Like today. I don't interfere with the cats' toys, except to toss them back into the toy box on those rare occasions that they get in the way of my vacuuming. Yet somehow today, Rey has dug out his old Christmas themed catnip toy, all on his own, and is merrily singing and batting it about. It's as though he knows it Christmastime.

Good, gimmicky fun

As I was finishing my Christmas shopping, I impulsively slipped in and saw Jim Carrey as Scrooge in the 3-D Disney Christmas Carol. A pretty faithful retelling, the movie reinforced my holiday spirit, and it was fun to sit there in the dark wearing those goofy glasses.

I am now done with my Christmas shopping. Last gift: moisturizer spray for my boss. Hopefully the pump spray will enable him to treat the dry skin on his back, and he won't have to wriggle against my doorway to alleviate that itch anymore. I mean, he' s supposed to be an authority figure. Perhaps this will help him maintain his dignity.

Sunday Stealng

Sunday Stealing: The 6 Ws Meme


Is easy to love? Don Draper from Mad Men. Sigh.

Do you just wanna smack? Kathie Lee Gifford. Admit it. You want to smack her, too, don't you?

Do you trust? My friend Kathy. She's scrupulous-bordering-on-sanctimonious. It makes her a pain in the ass at times, but I never doubt her trustworthiness.

Do you talk to when you're alone? Neely, the pill-popping, booze-guzzling, leather-lunged diva played by Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls. Who else?

Dangerous things do you do while driving? Since I haven't been behind the wheel since the Reagan years, the very act of driving would be dangerous.

Are you allergic to? Bee sting.

Is Satan's last name? Ono.

Is the freakiest thing in your house? You mean other than me?


Is it time to turn over a new leaf? Tomorrow morning.

Will you be all that you can be? When I join the army.

Is enough enough? When it hurts.

Do you go to the dark side? When my temper gets the best of me.


Are your pants? In the hamper.

Is your last will and testament? In a safety deposit box.

Is your junk food stash? I don't keep any in the house because it's such a weakness of mine.

Is Carmen Sandiego? I don't care anymore.

Was the Lone Ranger alone? Why are you dissing Tonto?

Was The Scarlet Letter scarlet? To highlight Hester's bloodshot, tear-rimmed eyes.

Are musicians sexy and plumbers not? Faulty premise --check out Mike Delfino on Desperate Housewives.

Are there no seat belts on school buses? I didn't know this. There should be seat belts on school buses!

Would you...
Swim the English Channel for a doughnut and coffee? If not that, what? There is nothing I would do for a cup of coffee. I hate coffee. Sorry.

Forgive someone who deliberately hurt you? Yes. Haven't we all?

Rather believe a lie if it hurt you less than the truth? Perhaps. I need more information before I can answer this.

You still be alive if you were sucked out of an airplane window? Gee, thanks. I'm flying at the end of this month. This is a mental picture I really appreciate.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mediocre movie, great time

My oldest friend and I got together to celebrate her birthday and Christmas. We went to see Hillary Swank as Amelia Earhart and then stopped for dinner and drinks. The movie was just OK -- the performances were fine but the script was pretty anemic. The dinner was good and the conversation was better. We laughed so much and so long and so hard that I'm actually a little hoarse.

A colossal battle of wills

Reynaldo is at it again.

I crashed on the sofa last night, and my cat finds this exciting. All bets are off. The regular routine is trashed. Chaos now reigns. Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together. Mass hysteria.

By sleeping on the couch, Reynaldo feels I have abandoned our established MO, which is that he doesn't fed until after my shower. Since a little after 6:00 AM he has been trying to goad me into feeding him. Since a little after 6:00 AM I have been trying very hard to ignore him.

So far he has knocked over the family photos in the dining room, knocked over and burrowed through the GAP bag containing my niece's Christmas gift, and caused much crashing in the kitchen. I refuse to get up and see what he's done in there.

He sings while doing all this.

I am not giving in. I have a bigger brain and opposing thumbs. After I hit "publish post," I am getting up to take my shower without responding at all.

I will win this battle. But since I have to clean up after his rampages, I sometimes wonder exactly what I'm winning.

Oh, this cat!

Friday, December 11, 2009

So much for my sainthood

One of our art directors is very likely the nicest man in the world. Which is why I feel like such a bitch on wheels for being impatient with him. Ours is a deadline driven industry and he seems almost constitutionally unable to hit the ground running and start work on a project. He also has a hard time making decisions for himself. I find myself explaining things to him over and over.

Because he works hard, is a conscientious dad and a loving husband and even a good buddy to his collie, I have tried to disguise my frustration. I hope I'm doing better than I fear I am.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kathleen's card

The handwritten note my friend Kathleen added to my card touched me deeply. "You bring so many people joy all year. Enjoy the season for yourself."

I admire Kathleen so. She's gone further in her career than I have in mine. Her kids are growing into happy, contributing members of society. Her husband is a complex, challenging (in a good way) man. She's tall and long-limbed. She even teaches Sunday School!

Her life seems so complete and challenging (in a good way), that I didn't realize how much I meant to her, or how I appear through her eyes.

This made my day.

A Proud Day for the United States

Today President Obama became a Nobel Laureate. He was humble -- acknowledging that he is not in a class with the "giants of history" who have also received the Nobel Peace Prize, like Schweitzer, King and Mandela. He was pragmatic about Afghanistan -- he doesn't delight in using force, but he's acknowledging the "imperfections of man and the limits of reason" even as he recalls Dr. King's words, "violence never brings permanent peace." He was proud -- reminding the world that America has helped preserve global security with the "blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms."

I'm not sure how I feel about the Afghanistan surge, but I was proud to see my President on the world stage, speaking responsibly as both peacemaker and peacekeeper.

All Better

I woke up this morning feeling much better, and today my appetite has returned. I'm so glad. With the holidays almost upon us -- and my best friend in town next week! -- it would be just too gruesome to be really sick.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In the mail

This year's cards are in the mail. Makes me happy to share the Christmas spirit with those in my life.

My cards are store bought -- not special, one-of-a-kind, personally-designed ones like Vivian creates -- but they do benefit the American Humane Association, one of my favorite charities. Dogs and cats are like corks on the water who have little or no control over where they end up. It's important to remember our responsibility to them during the holiday season.

Speaking of remembering ...the cat on this card looks a great deal like my Tara, one of my shelter rescues. She and I had almost 10 years together before she died in the 1990s. A petite girly-girl and a gallant little soul.


I don't know what's wrong with me. Tired, tired, tired. If I wasn't focusing on anything specific, I found myself on the verge of dozing off. My tummy trouble comes and goes. Now that I'm home, I'd be happy to never leave this spot on the sofa.

I'm happy. In a good mood. I just wish I had more energy.