December 28, 2009

They don't just hold shoes together...

Does your wallet look like mine? After a lovely Christmas with family and friends (and Sherlock Holmes and chipmunks), I have scanned my purse and found exactly one piece of lint. Couldn't even afford two!

But cast no worries upon my stubbly shadow... I'll get by. Because along with jujitsu, filleting and slow poisons, I possess the skill of the Shoestring. Not a member of this elite art? Allow me to enlighten you.

Can you fill to bursting three bags of groceries on a mere fifteen dollars? That's Shoestring, baby!

Can you squeeze an extra fifty miles out of a tank flashing the deadly empty warning? That's Shoestring, baby!

Can you pay bills, feed eleven pets, buy presents for nine nieces and nephews and still pay your physician copay without hitting the credit card? All from one paycheck? That's... you get the picture.

Momma's been doing it for years, layering the craft of creative shuffling with the talent of thrift. I learned at the feet of a master. Despite an empty account, a cleaned-out change jar and no further revenue for two weeks (darn you bi-weekly employers!) I am surprisingly comfortable. Because I spent wisely, I have food, gasoline and no impending bills. I have utilized every knotted rainbow Shoestring at my disposal. The trick is not to trip.

I am super-uber-comfy-ish. Which doesn't mean I won't hug the calendar on payday!

December 25, 2009

Yes, but for 24 hours?

What is it with the holiday season and movies?

I dare say no single day has garnered as many cinema experiments as Christmas. If it isn't in the title, it's weighing down the plot with the thickness of figgy pudding. Santa, elves, reindeer and the occasional grinch are unavoidable today. And, of course, we have 24 back-to-back, unending hours of Ralphie and the Quest for a Dangerous BB Gun.

"It's smiling at me!" (Ralphie's dad and the duck)

I'm not opposed to catching Snoopy and Jack Skelligton as I ramble through channels. Quite the opposite. But how many Santa Clauses does it take to complete Tim Allen's career? And no, I don't want to see Arnold and Sinbad slugging it out in the aisles nor every drawn-out, sap-coated version of Christmas romance that Lifetime can think up (it ain't just 'women in peril' on this day).

And that's just the small screen.

Apparently, the sugar high from too much pie keeps people up Christmas night (that or the spiked egg nog) because throngs of over-stuffed patrons will fill the theater tonight. The mere fact that we've all maxed out our credit cards buying STUFF (see last post) should make movie-going the least viable choice. I mean, $4.00 for a teeny box of Even More Sugar? The cost of a slushy is the equivalent of my electric bill and the smallest popcorn they serve would feed Nebraska. And you must take out a loan to pay for it.

Having said that, I shall be among the... um... fruitcakes.

Yup, as part of my Christmas prezzy from my roomie, we shall traipse merrily to the local big screen to see Sherlock Holmes (my choice). See photo below for a sizable reason for the trek. I hope the movie's as good as Mr Downey looks but regardless folks, it's a night out requiring no down payment from me and therefore I will tug down my santa cap and go. Although, with a 10 pm start time, I should be getting home at right about... tomorrow.

December 23, 2009

Mall Santas Don't Try Anymore

When experienced as an adult, Christmas has a tendency to lose a little something in translation.

Remember the magic of waking in the morning with the taste of anticipation and suspense warring on your tongue? Perhaps you still believed that a hefty fella could fit down your chimney (provided you had one) or that a thick gloved man could jimmy open the back door without setting off security alarms (assuming you had those) or at the very least that a red-attired dude could squeeze through the bathroom window to the obliviousness of your neighbors (despite them being ex-Russian spies like ours).

How fast did you fly out of your covers, creating enough static in your Superman or My Little Pony feety pajamas to fuel the mid-Atlantic region, and zoom (and I do mean Zoom) to the living room where tree and presents and grinning parents await? Even the realization that Santa did not bring the goodies did not deter your enjoyment of, shall we say, GETTING STUFF.

Because that's the name of the commercialization game, right? STUFF.

But not in our household. Being on the lesser end of the economic pool as we were, the gifts did not reach the ceiling. Our tree was not real, rather a three-and-a-half foot contraption weighed down with fake snow. And there was, let's face it, not many ways that a giant red-clad jolly guy was sneaking into a single-wide trailer without waking the entire neighborhood (since they were, like, six inches away).

But here's the thing...

We always got what we wanted. The spirograph, hoppy hop and sit & spin were among my still-favorite surprises. The tree was always beautiful, with the red garland dad insisted on, hovering over the more perfect platform you've ever seen (and I'm talking lit buildings, tee pees and a jet black train). Dad would spend eternity and back on the pine fencing, gluing one piece at a time until the old fashioned trim wound around the full length of felt-covered plywood. They don't do THAT at the stores!

One year, my mom-mom bought my sister and I porcelain dolls. Even in the throes of Alzheimer's, she knew that I should have the brunette one while my sister got the blond one. Even today, when I look at that doll I get goosebumps.

As an adult, it becomes mandatory to hand the magic off to the next generation. Now we are the engineers, helping Santa down the chimney, through the door or past the window. We wrap until our fingers spit curses for the paper cuts. We get manhandled by the crowds when, like this year, shopping had to be put off for a 12-20 inch snow storm. And we're the ones who grin as our offerings are torn open while simultaneously praying that the present doesn't end up at the bottom of the toy box by next week. There's a bit of competition amongst family members now; who'll have the preferred gift?

I don't have children (other than the furry sort) so I play Christmas with the nieces and nephews. I suppose it's not the same, but it's what I've got and being the Cool Aunt doth so totally rock. Still, when I scoot from my bed tomorrow morning, I'll be missing the feety pajamas, the tree and the surprise. My house will look no different, the price of having tree-climbing cats, destructive dogs and no kiddies for whom to deck the joint out.

Oh look... the melancholy fairy!

I'm not complaining. Because I have memories of close knit Christmas mornings where five people who really only had each other in this world would Oh and Ah over the number of presents that somehow my financially struggling parents managed to buy. We were never disappointed. And we had each other, something we lack a bit right now. I think that's the womb from which my melancholy has sprung. But my parents still have that same snow-covered tree and while there's no platform this year, there's always the chance next time. My parents' tree-topping angel, the same one they had thirty nine Christmases ago, has never needed a bulb replacement. And I'm still greeted with warm hugs when I arrive for Christmas dinner, although such squishy embraces are a year round thing.

The point? Hang on, let me search under the white tree for it...

Oh yes! The point is that Christmas is no longer surprising, but that shouldn't mean the magic is lost. Santa still drives by on the back of a fire engine, waving to the shivering masses at the curbside and if you close your adult eyes, you just might feel a little something mingling in with the sirens and exhaust fumes. Today my roomie and I entered the Super Walmart (I know... tragic) and a departing woman offered us her cart. Roomie took that as a trick to avoid putting her cart away and that may be so, but I've got just enough holiday spirit to think perhaps she was just being kind.

Because kindness is a big chunk of what the season is supposed to mean (along with love and peace and all that rot). In the end, it's a choice... will you see the worst in human throngs mobbing every aisle in a world where Santa never really came down your chimney (or door or window) or will you accept that, in the midst of commercialized madness, there's still something to be gained by childlike faith and enough optimism to fill a stocking?

I choose to cultivate Holiday Happiness!

December 19, 2009

Ode to the White Stuff

Remember when snow was the entire purpose for the blustery winter months? There was a sled in the shed and the promise of a school closing. I'm an old trailer park kid and would descend upon the little field behind my single-wide and play for all I was worth.

Yes mom, I have my mittens.

The pleasure I soon outgrew, as happens to unfortunate young adults who must now learn to drive in the white stuff. If you were me (which I suspect you weren't unless you've manipulated the space/time continuum) you had to drive your father's Oldsmobile with a learner's permit in your hand while the former drill sergeant keeps his hand hovering between the steering wheel and the emergency brake. Suddenly snow is a thing to be cursed.

And of course, there's all that shoveling. Why, I remember one president's day when we received 17 inches of not-so-fluffy molecules. We got a snow day that day, the entirety of which was spent shoveling. And shoveling. And shoveling. I'd have rather been at work. This was, in fact, the last snow day I received and it was nothing like the romping gaiety I recall from youth.

Except we have dogs.

Because ( as previously noted) you're not me, you may have kids and therefore have already re-discovered the bliss of deep snow. I, however, have come back to the love through four legged nutcases who think the piling mass of coldness is their personal plaything. Oh, they run and jump and frolic in the grand tradition of any kid in a new snowsuit with a well-oiled sled (none of that plastic nonsense if you please). My gigantic pups have made it fun again because watching and interacting with them shrinks me down to an excited ten year old, which height-wise isn't terribly difficult.

So thank you Zaedah, Mysty and Willow. Turns out that despite adulthood, I still dream of snow days!

December 13, 2009

Who needs sleep?

A few days ago, my roommate announced that she intended to go kayaking and invited me along. The offer was made with an expectation that I'd say no since I was already in my PJs and curled up in bed (under fleece sheets!) with a thick book.

Not to mention it was seven pm on a Wednesday in the midst of winter and I'd just been chained to my work desk for 10 hours. Naturally, I said yes!

Of course, kayaking means manual labor, because it's not just the paddling, it's the heavy lifting. As those who know me are aware, I top the scales at a staggering 102 pounds. So the breakdown goes like this: Put two kayaks on car, take kayaks off car and into water, paddle like mad, put kayaks back on car and then take off to put away.

I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, huh?

So there we are on a lake that is off-limits after dusk, my spaghetti arms struggling to keep up with my experienced friend as we fight the current of a flooded waterway. We ducked under bridges that would normally be high above our heads and dodged startled Canadian geese who were trying to bed down for the night. Smart creatures.

Did I mention it was cold? And dark?

Along the way we saw two separate flocks of egrets, which glowed silver/white in the moonlight as they migrated. That was a first. We chatted and teased and mocked (as friends do). When we tumble back home at nearly 11:00 pm, I find my devil-cat has peed on my bed and I must now do emergency laundry. And the alarm goes off at 5:45 am so I can enjoy another 10 hour day of working.

It was so totally worth it!