Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections: Or, A Holiday Postmortem Complete With Underwear, Dendrology, And My Brief (Retail) Sex Change

Later this afternoon I'm going to bribe Rick into taking down the tree and completely deChristmasing the house. I'm tired of all the opulence and luxe and extra stuff. Mostly, I'm tired of the Extra. Extra sweets, extra lights, extra decor, and extra extraneousness.

(Bah Humbug. I know, right? Sigh.)

But before all of that--and playing endless games of newly rediscovered Snood (how terribly sad)--I wanted to inflict upon you share a few reflections with you regarding my Holiday Adventures.

:-) On one of our Marathon Shopping Outings, Rick and I searched for the desired underwear for Sam and Jared. JC Penney seemed hell-bent on not only honing our math skills, but on presenting as many confusing options as possible: boxers, boxer briefs, briefs, bikini briefs, buy one get one half off, buy one get one free, all depending upon the dizzying array of brands available, all of which were placed in varying areas not entirely lined up with their corresponding signage. I was stroking out, but Rick persevered, and undoubtedly using the Pythagorean Theorem, chose this particular brand and took two packages to the cashier immediately before I needed EMTs:

whereupon they rang up incorrectly. Of. Course. Rick politely pointed this out, and the twentysomething woman called her manager over and said--and I quote, "Hey, Eric. These Boulevards aren't ringing up correctly." No. I am not making this up. Can you only imagine what I began to go through, as a real person with education and human sensitivity? Neither Rick nor I dared look at one another. And yes, the manager asked her to repeat herself AND SHE DID. Even as I type this, I want to throw something. (And, just to satisfy anyone's curiosity, here is the origin of the name BVD.) Still not over it.

:-) I am still trying to figure out why we have such a bigass Christmas tree. I distinctly remember saying, when we went out for our tree, "Let's not get such a bigass tree this year. It's time to start downsizing." Yet, we have an absolutely enormous tree. Everyone who walks into the house says, "Wow! That is one huge tree. That's probably the biggest tree you've ever had." What the hell happened? My sister Patti has had a fake tree for years and years and has never looked back. My brother Bob, a major real tree holdout, informed me at the family gift exchange that his tree this year fit on top of a tv snack tray. Then he said, and I quote, "Look at Nance's face." Because I sat there, horrified and mouth agape, realizing that I was the only sucker left in the family (besides my younger sister Susan, who still has two younger kids) who goes all out and gets a bigass real tree. Bob then went on, "Yeah, it's a little fake tree and all the ornaments fit in a shoebox. The lights are already on it." I turned to Rick immediately, and he said, "Nance, you're the one who picked the tree out." Which is ridiculous, of course; reread the top of this section! Next year, for sure: DOWNSIZE IS THE KEY WORD. If only people would listen to me!

:-) This is the first year that I, for various reasons, was a Last-Minute Shopper for Christmas. (I felt downright Manly. Hee hee.) Two words: NEVER. AGAIN. I cannot tell you how many times I physically stopped dead in my tracks in the middle of the mall and told myself, "Nance. You are a Grownup. You can do this. It's Just Shopping." In my defense, I must tell you that I was shopping for The Most Uninspiring Recipient Ever. Who Shall Remain Nameless. And for whom every year, I get to shop for "gifts" like socks, underwear, white teeshirts (V-neck), tennis shoes, and crapola like that. Or a Power Tool for which there are no distinct parameters, for example "a drill," but nothing about voltage or power or if it is to be "3/8 or anything like that. Do not suggest that I take anyone with me, either. Trust me, no one can handle shopping with me. That is how deep my pathology is at this point. No one deserves that. But, I did get it all done and it was fine. Just Fine. But that Last-Minute Shopping Thing will never happen again.

Oh, hey. Happy New Year. This was not The Year I Had Hoped It Would Be, to be sure. Let's keep our fingers crossed for 2010. (Which I refuse to pronounce "twenty-ten." Sounds just terrible.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Wishes From The Dept. of Nance

There's certainly plenty of both in the Dept. Cellar, thanks to our Friends In Canada, so I'm sure to be well fortified for the Holidays.

It is with deep gratitude to my Dear Readers that I greet you this Christmas. Thank you for your faithful and kind attention. To my Faithful Commenters, you hold an ever-glowing warm place in my heart. You are the ones who let me know that I am not simply strutting and fretting full of sound and fury but signifying nothing (to loosely paraphrase W Shakespeare). You're like a Secret Society with elbow-jabbing in-jokes, knowing nods, and sighing commiserations. I always write for me first, but I always think of you.

May this holiday--Christmas, Hanukkah, Festivus, or anything you celebrate--find you all with something that makes you happy. Even for a moment.

And above all, may you find Hope.

Or, may Hope find you.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Morning With Sam, His Blackberry, A Cow, And A Wolf: A Play In Two Scenes

Saturday morning at the Dept. Sam makes a rare appearance, mainly to troubleshoot his Blackberry using Rick's laptop. Rick and I are watching the Cleveland NBC affiliate morning news show.


Nance: (watching a report about a therapy dog) Hey! That's what I'll do. When I retire, I'll use my minicow as a therapy animal! How wonderful would that be? Just imagine: I could take it to nursing homes to visit the elderly, to hospitals to visit sick would be great!

Rick: I'm with you one hundred percent.

Nance: Sam! Wouldn't you love it if you were a sick child in the hospital, stuck there in bed, sad and afraid, watching The Price Is Right reruns all day, and suddenly a gorgeous and cuddly minicow came to see you?

Sam: (not even looking up from his Blackberry) No. Cows don't do it for me, Mom.

Nance: That's not true! You would love it! You would be happy and excited. You know you would. Everyone loves cows. Rick.

Rick: I'd love it.

Nance: Look there. (points to shot of smiling elderly woman on television) That woman would be thrilled to see a happy, well-cared-for cow visit her. For holiday time, I could even put, say--

Rick: (interrupting) --a hat or--

Nance: (interrupting with a disdainful look that lasers his head off and leaves a burning, charred stump at the top of his neck) Rick! No animal likes to be dressed up. It's undignified. As I was going to say, I could put a small bow on it, like a red or pink bow for Valentine's Day, for example. Tell me that a sick kid or a lonely old person wouldn't love to have a beautiful, cuddly cow come visit him on a holiday. Tell me. You can't. It's as simple as that. Sam!

Sam: Whatever. Cows stink. They smell bad.

Nance: Sam! That's just not true. The animal itself has no unpleasant odor. It doesn't. Sure, its manure smells bad, but the cow itself doesn't. I would shampoo it before I took it anyplace.

Sam: (looks meaningfully at Rick) Yeah, right.

Nance: What? What is that look?

Sam: You mean Dad would be out there washing the cow. No way you're out there washing a cow. Especially in cold weather, outside.

Nance: AHA! But we're moving to a much warmer climate when I retire! SO THERE!

Sam: (shakes head doubtfully)


(Segment changes on show. Moves to live weather report from Virginia affiliate. Reporter named "Wolf" stands outside in snow.)

Nance: Sam. Aren't you glad Mommy didn't name you something horrid like "Wolf?"

Sam: Not really. That's kind of cool.

Nance: No, it isn't. It's terrible. Children in elementary school would tease you and howl at you all during recess.

Sam: Then I would bite them.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Grinching And Bitching At The Dept., So If You're The Least Bit Merry, You Might Want To Skip This Post Until You've Had Way More Eggnog

Oh, Heavy Sigh. Today I am valiantly trying to have Christmas Spirit, and no one is helping me. Honestly, what the hell is my problem, anyway? Christmas is not like Easter, a holiday which randomly occurs by some incomprehensible formula devised by ecclesiastical calculations based upon...exactly what, I'm not sure (and please do not feel compelled to enlighten me in Comments). Christmas is the same day every single year. Yet, for many years now, I have been left unready and unmotivated, as if it sneaked up on me like a lurker from the shadows.

It is a strange paradox: I feel stalked and victimized by Christmas.

It's unnecessary for me to rant on about how retailers have begun to allow Christmas to insidiously seep into stores as early as October now, elbowing out Halloween items for shelf space. (When I was little, I used to know that Christmas season had officially begun as soon as I saw the commercial on television where Santa rides the Norelco electric shaver. ) This Holiday Push is nothing new anymore.

What I have begun to feel, I think, is a sort of Christmas Maturation Burn-Out: it's just not fun any longer. It's all a Lot Of Extra Work. Back when Sam and Jared were little, I could wander into Toys-R-Us and zoom down the Fisher Price aisle or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle area and have fun! Or buy zippy crafty stuff like Play*Doh and boxes of Crayola crayons and a Lite Brite, or games and silly bath foam and Spirograph sets. Those littler boys did not have jobs and girlfriends and other commitments that make trying to schedule putting up the tree an occasion for a family meeting.

And buying presents now is...worky. It's all sizes and store preferences and guessing and "I don't know, Mom, I'll email you a list from work if I get time." And don't say, "Give them money or a gift card" because moms can't do that and you know it.

So I soldier on, the Bringer Of All Holidays. I do it anyway. It's My Job. I start up the 30-day Friendship Fruit for the 25th year so I can bake a cake. I throw together a couple of batches of cookie dough. I nag my sister for some ideas for her kids' gifts. I elaborately decorate the fireplace mantel and set out the snowman collection. I buy each of my four long-suffering and indispensable teacher aides a nice gift and make a mental note to get them wrapped and to school before Christmas break. I desperately try to remember how big of a ham I bought last year for the family Christmas Eve open house (held every year at my house) so that I don't have too much left over.

And there's still almost all of the shopping to do. Who are these people who get theirs done so very excruciatingly early? How on earth do they do it? Do they hold the potential recipients at gunpoint and get their lists like, in August? Or do they blithely just get each person whatever the hell they feel like buying for them? If that is the case, then I need to revamp my Entire Gift-Giving Attitude And Approach and get with that program.

TWELVE MORE SHOPPING DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS! some overly perky blond newscaster trumpeted at me this morning as I was trying to have my coffee and read my Plain Dealer at 8 AM. I wanted to hurl my candy cane mug at her pancakey face and shellacked page-boy, but I couldn't because I was immobilized by panic and shock. I have to work until the 23rd! How will I ever get everything done? "Christmas is for children" says a line in one carol. Boy, they're not kidding. Those were the days: all we had to do as kids was write a letter to Santa, show up, and open presents. Even the "being good" part was pretty much optional. I loved Christmas. Now I feel beaten up by it.

Has anyone else lost their Christmas Spirit? Or is it just me? Maybe it's the culmination of a downright crappy year. I'm hoping that, if I keep on keeping up appearances, it will just come back on its own. Wish me luck.

(Oh, and just so you know that I once had a bit more of a sense of humour about This Holiday, here are some of my favorite Christmas Posts Of Long Ago, since my LinkWithin seems to be ignoring them: This about themed trees ; this one about a non-traditional Crocs-wearing Santa ; this one about our family's sacred Christmas rules ; and finally, this one about our rather oddly-shaped Christmas tree a few years ago. I hope you enjoy them as a little Christmas present that I didn't have to shop for!)

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I Am Not An Animal! (And Judging By Their Press, I Am Damn Glad!)

From time to time, as many Alert Dept. Readers know, I like to keep you all abreast of Important Doings in the Animal World. (I also like to give my Shift Key a workout and employ Pretentious Eccentric Capitalization, but I digress.) Well, that time has come again, and with vigor. Two of my favourite animals are in the news, and circumstances being what they are--dire--I must bring these bulletins to you.
ITEM--In a shameless display of bullying, China, who holds almost 800 billion dollars of the United States' debt, has decided to flex a little of its leverage muscle and ask for its pandas back. Especially upsetting to patriotic panda lovers is the imminent return of Tai Shan, the cub resident at D.C.'s National Zoo in our nation's capital. Tai Shan, who was born at the zoo in 2005, will be shipped to China early next year, despite the fact that he is American born--a naturalized citizen of these United States! Plus, let's keep in mind that we're giving the Chinese not the old, hand-me-down pandas that they originally gave us! No. They are getting a brand, spanking new panda. How is this fair? I am also assuming that Tai Shan does not speak Chinese. He has been around American keepers his whole life, and I am also assuming that his parents, who have been in this country now for nine years, have entirely assimilated and are pretty much Americans, too. He is ill-equipped, at the tender age of four, to go off to what will be a foreign country and live among strangers. I am worried about his wellbeing and his happiness. You should be, too, if you are serious about pandas.
ITEM--More bad press about cows, and this time, it is all conjecture and forensic revisionist literary history bullshit. Thank goodness again for my Google News Alert feature, or I would never have been aware of this travesty. This inflammatory headline, of course, drew my ire right away, and I knew right then that I had to take the bull by the horns: WAS JANE AUSTEN KILLED BY COWS? "Of course not!" I shouted at my computer screen. Jane Austen is one of the most beloved of all Victorian novelists, and certainly in the sacred pantheon of woman writers. The last thing cows need is her death on their heads. They've already been saddled with global warming, and now this? The headline leads the casual news skimmer to assume that she was perhaps trampled or gored by rampaging bovines. One has to get past an entire lead paragraph and well into the second to finally read the far more tame and tepid crux of the theory: "Austen may have succumbed to tuberculosis contracted from cows." Oh, is that all? A glass of milk? Yawn. Listen, people, in this day and age we can die from eating spinach. Or drinking water. Lay off the cows, already. But, really, they still have it better than the camels. Read on.
ITEM--Listen, I am not a big fan of camels. I rode one once, and it was okay, but by and large, they don't do a thing for me. Still, no animal deserves this. Okay, maybe snakes. Or the dogs in my neighborhood who never shut the hell up. Or maybe certain republican radio show hosts. But not these poor camels. True, no one wants to be invaded by 6000 rampaging anything looking for a drink--that's for sure--but to round them up by helicopter and then pick them off and allow them to rot (read: die in agony if not killed, only wounded) sounds just terrible. First of all, these camels didn't ask to come to Australia; they were brought to the continent. Is it their fault that the experiment didn't go as planned? Why didn't the conservationists and wildlife experts there control the population before the feral herd topped a million? Why hasn't Camel Control been a priority? Besides, look at the photo of that camel opening a door by using the knob! That camel did that without being trained! Don't tell me that some of those camels don't have a future in the Entertainment Business! Why can't Australians look into Camel Exporting? I feel like there are any number of solutions that just haven't been explored here, the least of which might be: Camel: The Other White Meat.

I think you're all up to speed now with our friends in the Animal Kingdom. Remember, they share our planet. When it's all over, who do you think will come back first? Better be nice!
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