Friday, December 25, 2020

Joy to the World

Thought for the day: Hang onto your hat, hang onto your hope, and wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day. [E.B. White]

Well, it's Christmas. Doesn't feel like it... but it is. The house is very quiet, making it easier to hear the ever-present high-pitched monotone ringing in my ears. Both cats sit close beside me, the feeling of their warm bodies a reassuring reminder that I'm not entirely alone. Oh, I could've gone to Alabama to spend the Holidays with my son and his family... but I wanted to stay home. Really. I'm hanging in there pretty doggone well since my husband died five month ago today, but I'm not ready for any raucous celebrations just yet. I seek solace in the quiet... the normal. Not much in the way of decorations here this year. Our same-old, same-old wreath hangs at the front door, and bright red poinsettias sit atop the shelf above the fireplace and on the coffee table in the sunroom. Also on that fireplace shelf are two candles that I've had forever... one of a jolly waving Santa, and the other a snowman with a huge smile. My kissing Santa and Mrs. Claus salt-and-pepper shakers sit up there, too... and one other cheerful snowman figure. Next to the TV is a seated fabric Santa that my mother made years ago, and the hooked rug my father made is in the sunroom. That's it, but don't you dare feel sorry for me. I didn't want all of the trappings this year. No cards, no gifts, no twinkling lights. Just a peaceful day with a minimum of tears. I'm not exactly pretending that it isn't Christmas, but I don't want to be reminded any more than I am every other day that Mike isn't here. 

It seems I'm not the only one who skipped sending cards this year. Mike and I used to get a kazillion cards, but this year, there's only been a trickle. Which is fine. Better than fine, actually, because that makes me feel less guilty about not sending any myself. But holy moley! I got cards from some of YOU. People I've never met face-to-face, but whom I've grown to love, nonetheless. Thank you. Thank you for caring. Thank you for spurring me to sit down to write this message to all of you. I know you care, and that means so much to me. I care about you, too. It's been a hard year for all of us, but today is a day for joy. For hope. Next year, we can celebrate, hopefully, but for today, let's embrace hope. Hope that each day will be a little better than the day before and that normal is right around the corner. Don't despair. We'll get there. You and me. All of us. We'll get there.

One tiny bit of normal is the following post, one I've shared almost every year since I started this blog. It's... a tradition. That's what you guys told me. So fine, let's go with that tradition. It seems I can do quite well without decorations and presents, but who knew? It appears I don't wanta do without Louise...


Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.

We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made by my sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. This year, very few decorations found their way out of the storage boxes. (A RED tablecloth counts as a decoration, right???)

These carolers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

                                         We're more like the house on the right these days:

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning, the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were always left dangling as empty as ever.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll required a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of a bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and she let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning, my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but his poor dog was very confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom every morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's demise. We discovered that she'd suffered from an acute case of hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can sneak out of the house.


             Merry Christmas! May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

                           Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

                                                                As for 2020?

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Gratitude and Joy

Thought for the day:  I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness--- it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude. [Brene Brown]

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. For a number of years, this drawing, along with my silly Thanksgiving poem, provided an easy-peasy starting point for a blog post to celebrate this time of the year. A good way to ease into the Holiday season with a smile.

But this year feels different.

Because it is.

This year is different in many ways, not just for me, but for all of you, as well. How do we give thanks when the entire world is being swamped by the third... and largest... wave of this relentless pandemic? When our healthcare workers are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients, by their own exhaustion, and by what must be utter frustration at the number of people who still refuse to wear a damned mask?  

How do we rejoice when we're still isolated, for the most part, from our families and friends? How do I rejoice without my husband? How do you rejoice without that special person you may have lost this year? How do we keep smiling through our tears?

                                           One day at a time... one blessing at a time. 

image courtesy of Unsplash
It's been four months since my husband died, and I must admit, it's still sinking in that he's truly gone... and each time that soul-sucking reality punches me in the gut, it knocks the wind out of me all over again. Yes, it brings tears to my eyes, but not for long. What good will tears do?

Far better to concentrate on the many blessings that still remain. We can spend all of our time lamenting what is gone... what has changed... or we can choose to accept our circumstances and be grateful for the many good things remaining. Goodness and joy are still all around us... we just have to look away from our sadness and anxiety and pay better attention. 

I betcha turkeys are finding it easier to be grateful this year, eh? Especially the really big ones. Not much demand for 20-something pound turkeys when our gatherings will be so much smaller. My daughter, her husband and a family friend will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with me... but no turkey. Not even a little one. It almost feels like blasphemy to have something other than turkey, but Mike was the big turkey-and-all-the-fixings fan in our family, and it seems almost disrespectful to go through all the hoopla without him. So we won't. New beginnings. New traditions. We'll eat lighter fare, and we'll enjoy each other's company. And we'll shoot pool. Maybe play some board games. The one thing I'll try not to do is cry. Laughter is so much better for the soul. 

For all of you, I wish much joy and laughter, too. Whether you're celebrating Thanksgiving or just enjoying a regular run-of-the-mill Thursday, I wish you a grateful heart and many blessings. In spite of everything, life is still good. Different, yes. But still good. I am soooooo grateful for my kids... my friends... you. Hang in there, people. We've got this.


                                         Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, October 30, 2020

If I Could Turn Back Time

 Thought for the day: If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. [Maya Angelou]

I reckon we've all had to change our attitudes to survive this crazy Twilight Zone of a year. Fine, I can do that... I have done that. I'm sure you have, too.

But one thing I don't want to change is my darned clock. I mean, why in the name of all that's good and holy would anyone choose to nudge the clock back an hour this weekend? Who, I ask you, is delighted at the prospect of prolonging this year from Hades by adding an extra hour to it? Now, if the powers that be really want us to turn back time, I think they should make it worth our while. Why not crank it back ... oh, I dunno... maybe twenty years or so? Betcha that would garner near-unanimous support.

Could be worse, I suppose. 

At least we don't have to rearrange huge stones to change the time, eh?

                                                     A handy-dandy guide just for you...

Yeah, I know it's a pipe dream to think we could dig our heels in and forget about changing the clock. (Now if we could move it forward ... like past the election, past the pandemic, past the insanity...)

I trust that, like me, you've had enough of this stinking year. We've had our fill of the pandemic... the needless deaths... the racial divide... the protests and rioting... the toxic political atmosphere... the lies... the venomous hatred. It sucks. All of it. But wait! That's not all! Let's not forget the horrific wildfires, the hurricanes, and the floods. And how about them murder wasps? The brain-eating amoebae? And of course, for me, the worst thing, the most definitive thing, has been my husband's death. Some of you have lost loved ones this year, too. I say ENOUGH, already! We're full of this year. Fed up! Done with it. Then again, so many bad things have already happened this year,  what else could possibly go wrong?

WHOA!!! Scratch that! I take it back. If the zombie apocalypse is coming, I don't wanta know. This year has been for the birds. I tell ya, it's enough to make a saint swear.

Come to think of it, birds, too. Yep, I've got it on good authority that birds are fed up with this year, too. Specifically, ever since five African grey parrots were adopted (from five separate sources) by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Park in London, those angry little guys have been cursing a blue streak. To keep their fowl attitudes from spreading to the other parrots in the sanctuary, the ornery little potty mouths had to be moved away from the others. Quaranteed. So to speak. Hmmmm, I bet that didn't do much to improve their attitudes...

 On the plus side, this year... this pandemic... this unrest... can't last forever. Before we know it, it'll be winter. Then a new year... and hopefully, a better year. A more hopeful year. Less stress. More joy.

                               But FYI: best to be careful this winter. I mean, it's this kinda year...     

 Sure, this year has given us all a ton of challenges, but it hasn't been all bad.  There's been some good stuff, too. Like I found a really good company to fix our air conditioning when it went belly-up smack dab in the middle of our Georgian summer. I've also gotten pretty darned good at fixing toilets, if I must say so myself. Plus, all that hand-washing and disinfecting has made toilet-cleaning easier than ever. It seems the stuff has permeated my skin, so now the toilet gets cleaned every time I tinkle. Woo HOO!  Oooh, and our younger son got me set up on Netflix. Awesome! I loved it, and quickly developed a brand new binge-watching talent. Until it stopped working. (My TV isn't "smart," so he fed the stream through our DVD player... which decided to stop working. ) BUT... a new TV... a "smart" one... is supposed to be delivered today. I also got a cellphone. A first for me. Something I never ever wanted, but I got tired of my friends and family insisting I "had" to get one. So I did. A week ago. I hope they're all happy now. (Just because I have it doesn't mean I'm gonna use it.) Just kidding. A little. At first, I kept it nearby... in its box. Turned off. (sigh) Fine. It's still in its box, but at least, I turned the darned thing on. Baby steps, right?

Anyhow, chins up, people! (Otherwise, you'd be staring at your feet or your boobs all day. And that's just weird.)  Maybe if we were to rate 2020, we'd struggle to give it any stars at all, and we wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but this, too, shall pass. Honest. Sure, if 2020 were a drink, it'd be hemlock or maybe that yummy colonoscopy prep stuff.. If it were a movie, it'd be ... what? Baby Boss, maybe? Sausage Party? Which song...? Oh, I've got it. It'd have to be the dogs barking Jingle Bells. Come on... help. Which song and/or movie do you think suits the essence of 2020? Sock it to me. I've got nothing but time.

                                     Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.