Lyrical Laughs

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dear 2015, I'm thinking about it...

The New Year is just hours away. I guess this means I have until midnight to come up with one or more great resolutions for 2015. The timing of this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. We get ourselves all wrapped up in the panicky days leading up to Christmas, and then we’re supposed to calm down, reflect on the past year, and decide how we can make the coming year better.
I would think not going crazy with shopping, cooking, and just out-and-out stressing would be the first thing to go, right? And yet, by the time this season rolls around again, we tend to forget those good intentions, and our resolutions turn into ‘wrestlelutions’ over who’s going to bring dessert and when we can take the perfect Christmas card photo, preferably before December 25.

There are things I hope to accomplish in 2015, such as eating healthier and going to the gym more. Wait – I mean, going to the gym at all. Another one of my resolutions will be to stop making myself crazy about everything that has to get done for First Born’s May wedding. I believe I can accomplish that by early June if I really concentrate.

One more goal will be to keep the kitchen table cleaned off so that we could use it as an actual kitchen table. Yes, I do realize I've mentioned this lofty goal before, and I will admit that it is more of a housekeeping thing. Have we discussed my housekeeping technique? There are days when I am convinced that running a bulldozer through the place would be the most effective tool in de-cluttering my life.  So if I could start off slowly with the kitchen table, which has spent the past month covered in pre-Christmas sales flyers from the Sunday paper, it might become a regular thing. By the way, none of them enticed me to enter their space, except the candle store whose buy-2-get-2-free flyer has been pushed to the top of the pile as a not-so-subtle hint that went right over everyone's heads. I finally took matters into my own hands when I realized the coupon could be used online, and am now awaiting delivery of four scents that sound good enough to eat... except maybe the patchouli. I wouldn't have trusted anyone to know enough to order a patchouli scented candle anyway.

Getting back to resolutions (and away from the sales), I have to be honest. At the end of 2013, I hadn’t made any resolutions for the New Year, not even one to not make any more resolutions.  In a true show of irony, 2014 has been the most positive and beneficial period for some of my personal goals in several years. Naturally, that took some deciding as to how to go about making it happen. But it wasn’t based on a resolution on December 31 to change things this year. It was the circumstance of several small decisions that were more like steps on the way to achieving some goals. And maybe that’s the secret, for me at least, to stepping into my own expectations for the next year.

Resolving to change means resolving to be open to change. Life shifts with the passing of each day, and if we’re lucky and willing, we can edit those resolutions along the way and accomplish some pretty cool things.

Whether or not you have an actual resolution at midnight on December 31, my wish for you is that you are given the chance to make those edits along the path and feel accomplished in your own way. And if you happen to know the secret to keeping the kitchen table clean, please pass it on.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Good enough

It's Christmas Eve. You don't have time to read this. I really don't have time to write this. And yet, here we are.

This is an odd Christmas in the Talbot household. First Born and The Fiancé are spending this week in Atlanta, Georgia, where his folks live. It's not the first time she has not been home for Christmas - they spent the holiday in Bora Bora two years ago, where The Boy proposed in an enviously romantic setting on the beach. Funny (but not haha funny) how families scatter these days for various reasons that make it more difficult to be together this time, or really any time, of year. I adore his mom and dad, though. They truly raised their boys right and it shows, so I'm happy for their time together.

This is also a healing time, literally, for Second Born, as she underwent a planned surgery last week, just days after arriving home for her college break. It has been a bit of a rough recovery, especially since she has been dealing not only with the pain of recovery, but also the effects of what seems to be an upper G.I. virus... from the hospital. With less than three weeks before she returns to school, you can bet we are taking it easy this Christmas - no skydiving or running marathons.

On our first Christmas together - amidst the sting of adapting to married life - our gifts to each other were based on thought more than action. I wrote a song and sang it to him and we both cried because life wasn't anywhere near perfect, but we believed we would get through it. I believe my gift to him was a paper printed out with the promise of karate lessons, and his to me was guitar lessons. Neither came to fruition, but that was all right - we were simply trying to touch on what meant the most to each other, even if we couldn't really afford to make those things happen at the moment. And we hung our star.
It was made with tin foil wrapped around a Friskie's Cat Food box top, and it was perfect. This morning I snapped this picture of it as it rests among the branches of our tree, 30 years from its debut. Though it no longer sits atop the tree and shows definite signs of wear, it is good enough to have a place among our other ornaments every year. 

A little while ago I was sipping coffee from the coffeemaker with a mind of its own. For whatever reason, this dang machine refuses to make as much as I want it to, always shorting us by half a cup or more. Of all the appliances in our kitchen that are attempting to make me give up and go back to the Little House on the Prairie way of life - like the microwave with the trick Start button that we just keep shoving back in...
or the mystery lights on the dishwasher that suddenly started doing their own thing - none of which has anything to do with actually washing dishes...

The coffeemaker is The One that's probably going to get replaced first. There are priorities. For now we just keep reinserting the stupid microwave button and washing dishes by hand. Good enough.

But of all the things that could go wrong, what has gone right is that I have an awesome Spouse who stayed home yesterday to keep an eye on Second Born during her recovery, so I could get some hours in at work and my desk wouldn't explode. What has gone right is that we have had prayers from all over the place for our kid and her healing, and that is always welcome. What has gone right is that First Born and The Fiancé made it safely to their destination last night, and they were also fortunate to have a cousin insane enough to drive two hours - each way - to pick up their kitten and babysit her for the week. What has gone right is that my sister and I continue the tradition of finding the most warped card to send each other every Christmas season.

What has gone right is that I still feel blessed, even with the stress, the worry, the appliance revolt, the exhaustion of this past week. We may not have the perfect Christmas, if there even is such a thing. But I look at our tin foil star and I realize just how much we have gotten through, bruises and all. We may not always feel like we're going to make it one more day (or one more cup of coffee), but so far we have. We are, as a family, as God's children, good enough.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all.... a good enough.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Christmas Crunch

Christmas is only a few days away and as usual, I am not one of those enviable types that are ahead of the game by a long shot. This time of year my closet is designated as The Area Which Shall Not Be Entered, otherwise known as my hiding place for presents. I’ve been pushing packages in there for weeks, shoving them to the back, piling plain brown bags on top of the plastic ones with more obvious markings. Spouse and Second Born forbidden to follow me through the house as I slip through the hall with packages and close the door to the bedroom, dropping my finds into their temporary digs.

It's not like I have these things protected by lock and key.... or even a door, for that matter. It is just the unspoken threat of what might happen to those packages that usually deters any poking around. When First Born was living here, it was a different story. She was (and I believe still is, according to The Fiancé) a world class snoop. I had to just about booby trap bags and boxes, or wrap them immediately when she was around. Second Born rarely even makes it a challenge, and Spouse is afraid if he goes anywhere near my closet I will demand a door, so he wisely avoids that area at all costs.

Now comes the most challenging part for me - labeling wrapped packages correctly. Since you’re not me, your ability to retain a thought is probably longer than that of a gnat. I, on the other hand, will wrap an item, place it on the bed and turn around to grab a label… and forget who it was for, let alone what it is. This could be dangerous. Nobody wants Uncle Ned to unwrap the Hello Kitty Pop-Up Board Game while little Annie is displaying a collection of Cuban cigars. You get the point even with made up names. I should also really consider keeping some kind of chart to be sure I have accounted for every gift that was buried in my closet, to prevent unearthing items three months later.

It’s the stocking stuffers that are my real downfall, though. Every year the little things I pick up in preceding weeks manage to morph into mounds of stuff that will never fit into stockings. I swore I only got a few things, but it turns out it was more like a few dozen things. I would like to believe that I am not the only one who faces the same struggle at 11 p.m. each Christmas Eve, trying to shove socks, card games and five pounds of chocolate into each overflowing stocking.

When it comes to identifying gifts for those outside the family and close friends, coworkers for instance, it can be tricky to choose the appropriate Christmas label. I am a tad biased about who is given the more festive design, hoarding the delightful reindeer or adorable angel stickers for those who share my love of all things peanut butter instead of the guy in accounting whose name I got in the Secret Santa pick. For his gift a wreath label will suffice.

I should point out that we don't actually have a Secret Santa or even an accounting department in my office - but if we did the guy in accounting would probably get a wreath label.

You may also have to think carefully about what you’re going to write on that label. What if you wanted to bring a small box of homemade cookies to your hair stylist? Should you just stick to the to-and-from format, or can you add a small note that your roots are showing and you need an appointment?

In the last few years I’ve taken to baking cookies as small tokens of my appreciation (also to feed Second Born’s college roomies). There are some folks you probably should avoid giving homemade Christmas treats to because word spreads. I am regretting sending cookies home with the guy who replaced our hot water heater last year. I’m convinced he told the oil tank guy who appeared this year. But I’m on to them. I’m tired of picking out a red ribbon each year to place on an appliance.

Once I’m done with wrapping the hidden presents, stuffing the already overstuffed stockings (along with nibbling on a little chocolate at the same time) and placing everything under the tree for a wonderful celebration on Christmas morning, it is usually close to midnight. The positive side of being up in the middle of the night is that all is calm, all is bright.

At least until I find one more bag hidden in the back of the closet.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Family glue for Christmas

With only a matter of days before Christmas, anyone seeking a little holiday spirit needs only to turn on the television for a deluge of seasonal specials on any number of channels.  If you were searching for an extra boost this past week I hope you came across The Great Christmas Light Fight, a competition featuring two sets of four families from across the country that compete for the best Christmas light display.

I don’t want to say these families are over the top, but I believe I can see the lights on the house in Texas from here.

If you drive by our house in the evening from now until Christmas you can admire the Spouse’s excellent hanging light display across our shrubs and garage as well as our collection of penguins (it’s a thing with us) and even a small lit up spiral tree. Compared to the houses in this competition, we are a single matchstick lost among the floodlights at Gillette Stadium.

Do we do it because our kids appreciate it? I believe they do when they are home, but let’s be real. They are grown, Second Born is only home on college breaks and First Born will be with her future in-laws this Christmas. So we can’t really use them as an excuse. I guess we do it because of the memories and the sentiment it evokes.

For much the same reason, we search for the perfect tree every year, digging it up at a tree farm, lugging it home and decorating it over a string of busy pre-Christmas evenings. This is Second Born’s favorite thing to do, trudge through the selection of trees, choose one, then another, then one more before almost always going back to the first one. She will bargain with her dad as to who will be getting down on the cold ground to make the first cut (usually her) and then who will do the real chopping so that it falls slowly to the ground (usually him).

When First Born was part of this parade, she and I would pretend to be grumbling as we followed, teasing her sister about her indecisiveness. But I realize now it has never been just a matter of her not being able to make a choice. What it really came down to was that this was a family tradition, a moment in time that we shared, whether stumbling over snow mounds or slip-sliding in mud. Her choice kept us there, sipping hot chocolate in the barn once our tree was chosen and awaiting pickup, keeping the outside world and its constant interruptions at bay for a little while longer.

We don’t always recognize the glue that holds our family together. It could be something as simple as a favorite holiday movie everyone gathers for, the banter of siblings as they compare who has the most ornaments on the tree, or a snowball fight on Christmas Eve. It may not always be the prettiest package or the picture perfect setting, and it may take a few years before you realize one day that what seemed inconsequential at the time is what you look forward to the most.

It’s so easy to be wrapped up (slight pun intended) in the angst of the holidays, between shopping and cooking and scheduling our lives to fit everybody’s needs. That is why it is even more important at this time of year to notice those little things that make our family unique. With less than two weeks to go, I hope that in between the rush you and the ones you love are tossing snowballs at each other, griping about trying to find the one light that’s making all the others go out, and creating a competition to decide who gets to put the star on top of the tree.

And I hope that you can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The foot is in the other shoe

In less than six months from now First Born will be walking down the aisle toward the love of her life. I tell you this not only because I am at the point of frequently waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about what has to get done before then (not to mention the shower a month earlier) and I want to share my angst. I am also sharing a little known secret, exposing the fact that this is a serious deadline for me.

I have to learn to walk in heels.

You should know that at one time I was fairly proficient at the heel thing. That’s not to say I sauntered around in stilettos at any time in my life, but at least I could say my feet were somewhat off the ground. These days I am an aficionado of flats like sneakers and LL Bean moccasins. Even my boots are low to the ground, which is to say that they are of the practical variety and not the cool styles I envy on the feet of others who trip by. Not literally – that would be my specialty. It is a simple fact that when it comes to stuffing my feet into anything that might threaten my balance, gravity is not my friend.

Many, many years ago I sang in a band and had to wear all sorts of fancy garb, including dressy heels. Even at the age of 19 I had a fear of falling. Not just falling down where I stood or tripping as I attempted to walk. I mean falling, as in, out of a car or off the stage. If I had ever been one of those dainty fallers I may have been fine with the occasional tilt and topple. But no, unfortunately I am completely void of all gracefulness at times like this.

Throughout parenthood I switched to comfort over fashion, and I have definitely gotten used to it. As long as my kids had cute shoes (and I wasn’t the best at noticing they even needed new footgear until at least one toe was protruding) I let them represent the well shod in our home.

Fast forward to today. Pretty soon I’m going to have to break down and go dress shopping for The Event. I’m excited about that and I plan to bring at least one cheerleader with me so I don’t talk myself out of everything I try on. But the shoes are a different story.

Considering my height (or lack of) never topped 5 foot 2 inches and is now in a slow and steady decline with age, it is almost a guarantee that whatever dress I chose will have to be hemmed. That means by the time I have an actual fitting I will need to know what my feet will agree to wear. This is where I admit to the fear that causes my heart (and bunions) to tremble.

Will the pictures or videos from our daughter’s special day be an indication that Mom should have stuck with sandals or sneakers under her ensemble? Should I warn the ushers ahead of time that two of them are required to walk me to my seat and keep me balanced so the bridesmaids don't have to step over me? Will the family photos have me stumbling into a perfectly manicured floral display or disappearing over a slight incline?

I expect nobody will notice since all eyes will be on the beautiful bride. In the meantime I will work my way up to a slight heel between now and May, temporarily giving up my flats for a slight, nonthreatening incline.

But just in case, I think I’ll slip a pair of sneakers under the reception table.