Where I’ve Been: December, By the Weeks

Week 1

The second week of Secret Santa, and my person is someone with whom I work closely. So I had a small poinsettia for her. It’s kinda hard to hide a plant. So I arrived purposely early, parked the car, and saw her pulling in. Shiiiittt!!! I jumped out of my car and made a run for the door, hoping she didn’t see me. A half hour later she said to me, why were you running across the parking lot? I simply said, I had to pee. End of story.

Saw a urologist for what appears to be an ongoing issue with no obvious etiology. I gave up some bodily fluids at the appointment and he ordered a CT urogram. Two days later I went for an MRI and x-rays of my lower spine for the ongoing back and SI joint pain.

Veruca’s Christmas concert. A dreaded event held in the gym/auditorium where the air is stagnant and we’re all squashed in there like sardines. At least this time the only male leg touching mine belonged to my husband. This poor kid got the solo – Elvis’ Blue Christmas – complete with leather jacket and hair slicked back, and heaven help me I tried like hell to suppress my laughter, which is no easy task. It was awful, and I felt sorry for him to be singled out that way at this age.

Todd’s 50th birthday party. I did this thing, and ran like a maniac picking up food/supplies and texting guests and it was a huge success even though I bagged one of the main courses 15 minutes after the first guests arrived because I’d run out of time. Roughly 40 people came to celebrate Todd’s half-century and no one missed the chicken dish.

Week 2

Work Christmas party/brunch. Same location and the food was fabulous. This is Southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, known for its mushrooms, and the mushroom soup was velvety smooth with bits of mushrooms and killer. We started the Secret Santa reveal and the person I was sure had me didn’t. And then my second guess was wrong too. Eventually we got down to the last two, and the last two standing were ME and MY person. We had a great laugh over that.

Back to the neurosurgeon’s office to review the MRI. Mild degenerative changes with stenosis at L4-5; no nerve root impingement. Minimal disc bulge at L3-4. I don’t know what any of this means other than that it’s likely to get worse, if it’s anything like what happened in my neck. I also found out I have levoscoliosis from the x-ray. Sounds awful, but I don’t believe this is a new condition, just one that was never diagnosed.

Saturday morning I went for the CT urogram which was no big deal until the needle wasn’t placed well and slipped when I raised my arms over my head, and then my arm started filling with contrast. The technician checked it out, asked if I was okay, and then went to get the radiologist to check it. In the two minutes it took for him to come in, I had a lump the size of a tangerine in my right arm and excruciating pain. As in, I don’t want to breath, painful. Wouldn’t expect that to be painful but, damn.

Week 3

Uneventful, except for Opac finally taking and passing his driver’s test. He’s now a licensed driver and I’m officially in need of more anxiety meds. He took the truck out to literally drive up the street to his friend’s (who’s home from boot camp), but he was excited and anxious and it was cute.

Week 4

Sunday we celebrated my father-in-law’s birthday – just the kids and us, Neph, and Nephtoo. Brunch at their house and we picked up a cake at Costco on the way, and Todd bought me the Snoopy book. Sqweee!!

Worked a half-day Christmas Eve, and it wasn’t terrible. I went to the grocery store which was a Really. Bad. Idea. I was so overwhelmed by the zoo in there I bought everything BUT what I’d originally gone in for.

Christmas dinner with mom at her house. Stuffed pork chops and steamed veg and a wedge salad. My mom can cook, yo. We prepared in the restaurant kitchen. I made the wedge salad. It looked so bad I’d have been fired the first night. But it tasted great, and that’s all that matters.

Went to see Jason Momoa – er, I mean, Aquaman. I liked it. All you 80s kids – Dolph Lundgren is in it too, though I didn’t know it until the credits rolled. Amber Heard played the love interest… who I’d never heard of before she was embroiled in that ugly divorce with Johnny Depp. She’s very pretty, of course. I’ve decided I want to color my hair that orange.

District Court. Finally the Mustang killer had her day in court, gambling on getting off because most likely the cop who gave her the citation wouldn’t show up, which he didn’t. But I DID. When the judge asked her what happened, she said, “I didn’t see them.” THEM. I’m a them, ya’ll. She pleaded guilty, and I walked out of there with tears in my eyes. And then Todd took me out for sushi and Pad Thai and all was well with the world again.

Friday night I had the house to myself, so I watched The Book Club and Ellen’s stand-up on Netflix, and cracked open a bottle of wine. Oliver kept refilling my glass and so I say it’s his fault I finished the bottle.

The rest of the weekend was a rollercoaster of high and low… dinner out with friends, and the next morning I was on my way to PA to say goodbye to my grandmother. Not the best way to go out, but she lived to 93 and has wanted to die for the last 10 years. She passed a few hours after we left.

New Year’s Eve. Worked a full day where I became convinced “they” were trying to kill me. There’s no way to count the number of calls I answered, but I can tell you by the end of the day the cartilage in my ears was sore from my headset (WHICH I only put on to answer calls, mind you). There’s a lot of sick kids out there, ya’ll. This week’s special: bad cough, ear aches, and vomiting.

NYE dinner at home with Todd and a bottle of Wente Cabernet, asleep FIFTEEN minutes to midnight.

Miscellaneous:

Jason Momoa was Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones. Like so many others, it was a short-lived role but one that left an indelible mark on many women. He’s married to Lisa Bonet (of Cosby Show fame); he once told his mother while watching her on TV as a child, “I’m going to marry her.” He’s 39, just 9 years older than his stepdaughter, Zoe Kravitz. Dolph Lundgren is 61.

For what you might consider obvious reasons, Veruca and I were discussing cremation today. I was telling her I don’t know that I’d really want anyone’s ashes. I mean really, WHY? I don’t associate the ashes with the person I knew. Same goes for pets. When we discussed where we’d have our ashes spread, I thought of blue ocean and warm air and sunshine. Somewhere in the Caribbean! I said it’d be cool if she could spread my ashes in Disney – one of my favorite places – but she’d probably get arrested. Although… I’d blend right in at the Haunted Mansion.

And, to that end, I already knew that cast members spread fake dust regularly inside the mansion. What I didn’t know was that several times a year people have been caught for trying to spread loved ones’ ashes inside the mansion. Of course! Who wouldn’t try? I find this hilariously funny.

And speaking of Disney, our own Mickey is either dead or moved on. Oliver has stopped sleeping in front of the stove, so I’m guessing that’s a good sign.

 

 

 

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30 Years, Thanksgiving, and the Mouse

The restaurant celebrated 30 years last week. Thirty years of food, drink, and scores of employees both memorable and forgettable. A friend came up with the idea to throw a surprise reunion for mom with employees past and present. I was supposed to be there, but ongoing illness and unpreventable circumstances kept me away, so I missed my mom’s nasty spill outside and bleeding leg, and my favorite “aunt” who worked many of the early and some of the most memorable years.

The official 30th anniversary was the following night. Since I’m not drinking, Todd enjoyed wine and I enjoyed good conversation with an old, dear friend. We laughed about the “old days” when he sat at my bar and we bitched about everything and everyone. We remembered Richard and his laughter. I showed off my new boots and he’s lost a bit of his game I think because he tagged them Kenneth Cole when they were actually Steve Madden. But he remembers my tastes I guess – so I’ll give him a pass.

I mostly kept to myself, and I’m hoping it wasn’t too obvious. I’m not feeling myself so much these days. I just want to fade into the atmosphere. It’s not you, it’s me.

Anyway, the parking lot was full and so I parked behind the kitchen. If this was Disney, that parking area would be designated the “raccoon” section. (Next to the dumpster, for those unfamiliar.) It’s a steep and ominous climb up the staircase to the deck outside the kitchen, which is dimly lit, and I worried briefly about the walk down later in my high-heeled boots and Todd’s insobriety. Since no one in the kitchen expects the back door to swing open in the middle of business and people to walk in, we managed to startle at least one person.

We had some food and celebratory cake and I danced with Jeffrey – who never misses an opportunity to dance – which was perfect because he’s so good, and twirling around like that, even if I was as awkward as a horse in heels, made my heart light and I found myself laughing. Todd and I don’t dance enough. We probably shouldn’t anyway, lest we hurt ourselves or possibly innocent bystanders. Maybe we’ll work on that, yes?

Thanksgiving day we hosted a total of 15, with two turkeys and all the usual accompaniments. Aunt M’s dog Snoopy, whose real name is Hershey but I keep calling him Snoopy, joined us on his first outing away from home which was a huge success. Moses, all 140 lbs of him, followed Hershey around sniffing his ass and generally making him uncomfortable, which I can fully understand because I wouldn’t like that either.

Neph also joined us, after multiple phone calls about directions and issues with his new car – which, I reminded him, IS under warranty and therefore he should be calling the dealer about it – and I think he’s been living alone too long and returned to caveman, since he brought Tupperware containers and asked if it was okay to go through the line and pack up to-go food before everyone else went through the line.

Nephtoo also joined us, and brought a friend who wanted to experience a real American Thanksgiving with, I quote, “real American drama.” What a truly tantalizing request… but, alas, it was a relatively peaceful gathering this year. Nephtoo regaled Grandma with tales of hard work and studies and three jobs and no time for anything else, to which I cried “bullshit!” from across the table and TinVeet erupted in a burst of laughter.

In all, it was lovely. The food turned out great, everyone was happy, and especially me – since I had (almost) all “my kids” under the same roof for a couple of hours. I had a little bit of wine which did not affect me adversely. My friend helped with cleanup even though I didn’t ask, and I finished the rest after dinner with the help of modern appliances. And THEN took Veruca shopping.

Oh yes I did. I promised her Black Friday shopping and so we got started around 9:30 that night. Neph went along. I thought that was great, since he’d offer some degree of protection, but I became more and more worried that he’d piss somebody off as he walked around the store with one earbud in, one dangling, talking like he’d just dropped from the ghetto. Now, Neph is whiter than mayonnaise, and personally – I could be wrong – I don’t care if all your best friends are black – Ebonics just doesn’t look good on a white boy. It’s embarrassing. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut and kept shopping.

In summary, I spent $275 on a shitload of stuff including a new wallet for Neph, who told me it (and a few other things) be a good Hannakuh gift, ya know, if I be thinkin of som’in to get him. A JEWISH WHITE boy speaking Ebonics in a multi-racial Thanksgiving night shopping crowd. Time to check out.

And speaking of checking out, it’s been eight days and counting since a mouse checked into hotel Todd and Tara. Little fucker has been scratching behind the wall in the kitchen all day and night, and Thanksgiving day I frantically emptied the closest cabinet to see if it had chewed its way in. Todd determined it was traveling along the electrical line, which is also NOT comforting. Mom suggested if it was that loud it has to be a rat and a big one, and I told her she wasn’t helping.

If you’ve never had a mouse in your house, let me tell you – it’s maddening. Kind of like the Telltale Heart. You hear it, you know it’s real, and you can’t do anything to make it stop. I can totally see going completely mad and taking a hammer to the wall, because I personally pounded on the wall about eight times which made him stop long enough to see what was going on and then he’d start up again. OMG!

He has finally moved to the space under the stove, as evidenced by Oliver’s sentinel post for the better of the last two days, and I’ve considered removing the drawer under the oven and just let Oliver have at it. And, at this point, I would like to publically apologize for calling my cat fat and lazy last week for lying on his back in the sunshine while the mouse chewed its way through the wall. He was just biding his time, and now the time is imminent.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Miscellaneous:

1. Ebonics: “Yo G, you frontin me?” 
English: “Excuse me, my peer, are you attempting to influence me to engage in a         violent action?

(Honestly, I think the English statement is far more likely to get you jumped.)

2. Few things are worse than a fart trapped in a stairwell.

3. Not only does the dog think she gets treats every time she goes outside, but apparently she thinks she gets treats every time I do.

 

The First Days of 2018

As another year turns the corner, I cleanse my inbox of useless emails and spam, browse the pages of social media for inspiration. I get emails from a website that offers design inspiration for your home and garden and life. One included a reminder about, and how and where, to start decluttering your space.

Purging is one of my favorite things to do. So Tuesday, after everyone left the house and me in it all alone…. I did what any jacked-up-on-coffee housewife would do. I started cleaning out the kitchen drawers, cabinets, the kitchen antique cabinet I use for cookbooks, office and diabetes supplies, and the china cabinet in the dining room. I threw stuff away. I started filling a box to be donated next week to the Purple Heart.

Extra, unused glassware packed up for the bar we haven’t built yet. Old coffee mugs going to Todd’s office. Several hundred corks I’m deciding what to craft with. Trivets for everyone! Or maybe a bustier? Just kidding. I’m not that energetic.

The Christmas tree is still up, though yesterday morning I started pulling ornaments off with the branches attached. This was not intentional, by the way. In this case, the tree completely died before we took it down. And when I say completely, I mean the only stage left from here is petrification.

Todd’s brilliant idea was to get the garden loppers and cut off the branches and carry them out separately. That was supposed to be my job yesterday. Then he would carry out the trunk. I thought I’d get creative and make it look like the Charlie Brown tree. However, I have a very bad elbow and the loppers weren’t working very well and I decided I wasn’t doing it. V picked them up and went all Edward Scissorhands on that tree, making an impressive transformation, and I only stopped her long enough to remind her not to cut off her own fingers or the curtains on the windows.

Together we cleaned up that entire space and I carried what was left of the tree out the sliders and dropped it off the end of the deck. It’s Todd’s problem now. And when he got home he expressed surprise that I’d done it, and I made sure to point out how difficult it was to lop off the branches with my bad elbow, you know… and he picked up the loppers on the counter and said, “you used these?” Because, apparently, those are bush loppers, not branch cutters like the ones in the garage and really – how was I supposed to know the difference, I screamed. But I only screamed in my head, because he’d only just gotten home and I didn’t want him to feel unwelcome.

En medias res, I am still cleaning up the aftermath of the holidays and at least one kid who doesn’t know how to put. shit. away. AND, doing eight loads of laundry, including Todd’s which I swear we just did three days ago but he insists was over a week ago. With the way things are going for the two of us, in another 10 years they’ll be putting us in a home because one of us left the stove on.

And that’s only if we survive ourselves until then, since Todd damn near aspirated a Jolly Rancher last night and I was afraid I was going to have to Google the Heimlich maneuver while he turned blue. Thankfully that didn’t happen. Meanwhile, my body parts just keep turning on me in ways that are not funny and I wonder sometimes if the only way left is down.

Anyway, I have books to read and books to give away, drawers and more drawers in the bedroom to empty and sort, and that walk-in closet with the fallen rod that is overflowing with ironing and other stuff that the cat has assumed is his new bedroom. I have renovations I am capable of doing that are awaiting another day and another pot of crack coffee.

It’s day 3 and I have already finished 6 loads of wash, ran the treadmill, and set up the Roomba – which, by the way, was hilarious. The cat left his coveted spot under the tree to check out this thing running through the dining room and seemed nonplussed by it until it doubled back on him while he was eating from his bowl. Sabra of course jumped out of her bed when it neared the living room and took off for parts unknown, until the kids came home and the thing had recharged itself to vacuum my bedroom.

Veruca came running to tell me it had sucked up the strings of my jacket. The chaos that ensued was nothing short of a circus. Todd called just as I was running to rescue my jacket and, as I stooped over to retrieve it, Sabra body-slammed me from behind and I almost face-planted onto the Roomba. Both kids were hysterical but I was NOT. Todd asked if he could call me back. Because he can’t handle a conversation that includes two hysterical kids and a hyper dog and a screaming wife.

The current temperature is 22 degrees and snowing and 50 mph wind gusts, up from 4 on Monday, and the kids have a snow day. The half-assed lights on the bushes out front are still up, and so are our Christmas pumpkins. We have Christmas pumpkins ya’ll, because we are on the cutting edge of new holiday trends. I was going to put lights on them, but… remember – half-assed. Anyway, it’s too cold to take any of that away.

The only thing I accomplished outside in the 14 degrees on Tuesday was going out back on the deck to toss the cranberries I’d used for decorating into the old horse field for the birds, and getting gas in the rented Expedition, because My Car Is Coming Home – which turned out to be a great big LIE and we still don’t have the car back because some asshole put the whatever-was-being-replaced in backwards and it was screwing up the timing and it took another whole day to figure this out. These are the people who are supposed to know how to fix my car the right way.

Anyway, I was going to put away the holiday wreath made with Christmas balls that I repaired before party 2.0, but since Todd took it out with his backpack as he was entering the house I no longer have to. He was so sweet to collect all the balls that had scattered like a broken string of pearls.

There are more goals for this week and the coming one… but… I’ll save that for another post. Todd will be home soon and I need to look like I’ve been busy all day.

4 Parties and a Hangover

 

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Our Griswold squirrel. Filling a large hole in our tree. And yes – there is an Octopus – because they’re buddies.                                                      Photo copyright TKA and the Tara Chronicles.

 

 

Party #1

Probably the biggest, most decadent party I attended. Always crowded, the room with the bar bursting at the seams, as we bump and squeeze ourselves through the throng of holiday well-wishers in fine dresses and Christmas sweaters. Hors d’oeuvres of tomato bisque and grilled cheese triangles, jumbo shrimp cocktail, sausages, lollypop lamb chops, stuffed sweet and hot peppers, deviled eggs, duck, stuffed mushrooms, fried green tomatoes, grilled scallops wrapped in bacon, oysters. Main buffet with brisket and short ribs and collard greens and Caesar salad and paella and roasted potatoes and chicken. A dessert and coffee station with crème brulee and other sorts of little cakes. Everyone ate and ate and ate.

The hosts moved effortlessly from room to room, chatting with everyone. Three magazine-worthy Christmas trees made the rooms festive. I shamelessly envied the beauty as I pictured my two trees at home, the one in the rec room still without ornaments. Christmas music danced above the noisy heads of chattering folks.

I stood in the kitchen looking out toward the front door as the evening drew later, noting our hostess smiling and laughing with guests who were leaving. Our smiling host stepped up beside her as she talked, tipsily throwing an arm over her shoulder. She never missed a beat as I saw her reach up to touch his hand – I thought, a silent moment of warmth between them. She continued talking, reaching up again to shove his hand off her shoulder in the most inconspicuous move possible. If the guests noticed it, their expressions never changed.

Party # 2

This was our first holiday gathering/unbirthday for Todd I wrote about here. Not much to add there, so we’ll just move on.

Party # 3

Work brunch whereby all Secret Santas revealed themselves. I carpooled with two of my coworkers, which made the ride less stressful and we had a lovely time. We were greeted with mimosas upon. The room in this historic building was chilly – duly noted for next year’s planned outfit.

And, speaking of outfits, I had washed and pressed a black sweater dress for the occasion and when I went to put it on discovered a small hole in the right sleeve that I swear was not there before it went into the machine. Todd was like, I can fix this. No big deal, right? Yeah, no big deal until I discovered hole #2 in the left sleeve while I was in the restroom hours later. Classy.

So, the food was great, my Secret Santa got me some gifts I truly love and have been using. The recipient of my gifts was, now that it’s been revealed, Veruca’s doctor. So – seeing how daunting and maybe not so daunting, all at the same time? I got her two wine glasses painted like snowmen and two beer glasses with Santa’s suit and belt painted on them. I loved them, and hope she did too.

The venue, as I said, was an old historic site… the entryway had gorgeous stone and wood floors and there was a “tree” in the foyer that was actually a dress form with a red taffeta sleeveless top on it and tree branches falling away from it like a long skirt with ribbon threaded through. It was amazing. Wish I’d gotten a picture.

Party #4

Aptly named, holiday gathering 2.0. My father-in-law’s birthday and so everyone who missed party #2 made it to this one. We settled on a brunch that was to start an hour after I got home from work last Saturday, but doesn’t everyone show up late anyway and so the actual start time was more like 3.

Scott brought Todd a bottle of Knob Creek Smoked Maple as a belated birthday gift. I think Todd had one dram of it and a few hours later Scott was seated at the dining room table, adjacent to our liquor cart, with my mother-in-law and aunt, my bestie and me. Scott drained that bottle faster than water leaving a bathtub. I watched him with interest, wondering at what point incoherency takes over, and to my astonishment he never seemed to lose it. In fact, no one did. This time.

Christmas Day

So I got drafted to work Christmas Eve at the restaurant, due to staff shortage (imagine that). Todd worked too, because the grill chef wasn’t coming either. We were so f***ing busy and I had to keep reminding myself it wasn’t New Years’ Eve, though every time I did I wanted to cry because I already knew I was coming back for that.

We had a large party seated in the largest dining room, the hosts longtime guests. It was lovely to see them again, as I’ve known them since my early twenties and I feel a sense of melancholy as the revelation of their ages washes over me. They are essentially part of our extended restaurant family. The hostess, petite and beautiful, hasn’t aged in these 25 years.  The host, always the wine connoisseur, insisted on Burgundies and French wines and I felt his frustration as he speaks so very softly now and is difficult to hear. All in all, it was a great night, nobody flipped out, no trays were dropped, only one person complained about the Christmas music, and we got to celebrate with friends too. B52, anyone?

Anyway. Todd and I spent a luxurious morning in bed opening presents before getting ready to pick up the kids and go to my mom’s for dinner. We arrived about 4, opened gifts, and then started dinner. Todd and I each had a glass of wine from the house pour. And apparently mom decided to bring over two bottles of wine for dinner, and the wine was flowing like water and I forgot my own advice about drinking water. Empty stomach.

We had an eclectic selection of food for dinner – steamed clams in a garlicky broth (my fave), grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon, filet, mashed potatoes, and Andy’s homemade ravioli with mom’s marinara sauce. Still no water. You know where this is going, right?

The three of us (okay, Toddit was just mom and me) finished off two bottles of red wine and I spent half the night crying like my grandmother does every time she sees us, because Opac asked me if he could go to the Eagles/Dallas game on New Years’ Eve with friends and he’s growing up and I’m conflicted because there are no adults going and I’m scared to death of losing my kid in some freak accident. And then I cried because V is looking beautiful and grown up and soon she’ll be seeking more freedom of her own and what is THAT going to look like from a T1D perspective? And I cried about other things I’ve now forgotten about, but it doesn’t matter. It’s hereditary and there’s not much I can do about it.

The drive home was reasonable until we got within 2 miles of the house, when I suddenly had an uncontrollable need for fresh air and so opened the window and allowed the arctic blast inside and everybody in the car yelled at me including Todd. Anyway, I had a nasty headache and queasy stomach most of the next day from the wine and NO WATER… that lasted all day.

So remember people – Tara drank too much wine. Tara didn’t drink any water. Tara was stupid. Don’t be like Tara.

 

 

 

Words of Wisdom This Holiday Season

When your phone rings at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve, don’t answer it.

When your cell phone rings 10 minutes later and you can see it’s your mom calling from her restaurant, answer it anyway, because you can run but you can’t hide.

Some dogs don’t like jingle bell elf slippers. (Seriously, as of this writing, she’s still hiding in her bed.)

Jingle bell elf slippers, all four pairs going at once, recreate the magic of Santa’s sleigh landing on your lawn. Okay, not really, but it does wonders for tinnitus.

When your cell phone service pisses you off for the last time, switch providers and get new phones for everyone! Still wish I had video footage of Veruca’s face when she opened up that iPhone 8. First hug she gave Todd in 5 years.

Best way to keep the cat off the dining room table? Put up a Christmas tree.

Make sure there’s a tree skirt for him to lie on under the twinkling lights, you know, because that’s the real reason it’s there. And for the love of St. Nicholas, don’t you dare put presents over the cat’s new sleeping quarters.

If you buy a cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, fully expect all the branches to be petrified by Christmas day. Ornaments found on the floor at this point are no one’s fault but your own.

When returning to alcohol to celebrate the season, do remember to drink lots of water and pace yourself.

Beware of bourbon-loving party guests who bring gifts of bourbon. One full bottle of Knob Creek kicked in less than 4 hours. (FYI: Knob Creek Smoked Maple smells like French toast. Too sweet for me.)

There’s no such thing as too much food at your holiday gathering. And, adding lasagna to the brunch buffet will ensure you’ll have sustenance later to offset the alcohol.

Be grateful for free rental cars, even if they resemble an army tank. There’s nothing more reassuring to drive in foul weather, even if your feet don’t touch the floor.

When your prescription glasses disappear for three hours at the restaurant while you’re working, don’t send everyone else into panic mode. Remember the St. Anthony’s prayer. Even when you can’t.

The most important thing to have ready at a holiday gathering when time is short: clean toilets and some hors d’oeuvres. Nobody will notice anything else.

Also, turn the light and fan on in your kids’ filthy bathroom and shut the door, to scare off potential users from entering. (P.S. this only works when guests are sober.) Caution tape works well too.

While we’re on the subject, teach your 12-year-old how to use a plunger properly, so that she doesn’t turn her toilet into a mountain of soiled toilet paper.

Don’t try to drag a 70lb box of punching bag from your front steps to the garage by yourself. Remember last year’s weight-bench-in-four-parts debacle.

Set up auto-pay on bills, at least for the duration of the holiday season.

Movie-goers? Buy your tickets ahead of time for the epic movie release of the season. Even if you’re attending the 9 a.m. showing on a church day.

Gifts do not have to be wrapped until Christmas Eve. Unless of course, you don’t enjoy stress and nosy children.

If you suspect your child is getting sick, don’t wait until Saturday before Christmas, thirty minutes before closing, to call your pediatrician. Also, if you are told by the triage nurse to go to urgent care the night before and you choose not to, do not be upset when there are no appointments left on Saturday morning.

When your kid’s sleepover gets cancelled through no fault of her own, take advantage of mother-daughter time by slathering on charcoal face masks and sending selfies to grandma.

Xanax works wonders on nervous energy and anxiety, I’ve heard.

Repeat after me: I WILL NOT get it all done before Christmas, and no animals will be harmed and no one will die because of it.

 

 

 

Where I Wake Up Next to Another Man

Probably not the best followup to my last post but, as they say, what happens tonight goes on Facebook tomorrow.

We planned a small gathering of friends and our parents, and Mother Nature planned a winter wonderland to otherwise shut down what would have been a house-quaking party. Okay, not really a house-quaking. But nearly everyone north of the Mason-Dixon bagged out due to the icy road conditions and the danger of driving home later.

On the menu: lasagna with hot Italian sausage, white vegetarian lasagna, pulled pork, Cuban sandwiches, white bean and spinach soup, mixed greens salad, buffalo chicken dip, chips and salsa, and the standard crudité. The in-laws, who were bringing the cheesecake, opted out of the drive too – so Todd pulled a homemade apple pie out of the freezer, and thank God someone brought brownies and a wicked cheeseball that would put any fancy wedge of cheese to shame.

For such a small crowd, we ATE. Even the crudité, which is always at a party and really – who wants to eat raw vegetables at a party? Would you like some chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse? Oh no thank you, I’ll just chew on this chunk of raw cauliflower.

And, like anything we do in this house which ends up with all the appearance of half-assed – even spending all of Friday night prepping food and 4 hours Saturday prepping the house – the guest room was still unmade and the vacuum lying on the floor next the bed, which to you sounds like no big deal but the room was doubling as a play area for the Oculus.* The artificial tree we put up in the rec room was assembled by Opac and my brother in the final hour, with only lights and no ornaments. (There are still no ornaments on it.)

One of my Christmas boxes with decorations in and on top of it, remained in the living room next to the couch the entire evening. In fact, it’s still there. The wreath I made last year with Christmas balls was lying on an accent chair behind the couch, apparently awaiting hell to freeze over until I could repair it and hang it on the front door.

We have four bathrooms in this house: the master bath, the hall bathroom (aka the kids’ bathroom), the powder room off the living room, and the bathroom downstairs in the rec room. The latter is desperately in need of a massive renovation. As for the hall bathroom, anyone with kids they don’t share a bathroom with can attest to the horrors within the confines of this room. It wouldn’t be a normal day if that toilet was working, and this evening was no different. Thankfully, no one attempted it. Well, except for V who will continue to use a clogged toilet until it rivals the look and feel of a port-a-potty.

Todd found some time to throw some lights on the two trees against the house, which at the time I thought was great until the next day when I saw that a tree and a half were lit. I said, Todd – what happened to the lights? He said he ran out of lights and forgot to look for another strand. And guess what? There’s still a tree and half a tree with lights on them.

I’d work on that today, but it’s freakin’ 19 degrees outside and I just spent 10 minutes righting the recycling can in gale force winds, collecting all the cans and cardboard that blew into my neighbor’s yard. And, if she’s reading this – Kay, I’m very sorry if I missed anything and also I apologize for any strange noises you may have heard in the backyard on Saturday night.

And, while we’re on the subject – I put the brakes on two drunks and one twelve-year-old with a recorder who wanted to go caroling, so neighbors – you’re welcome.

Anyway, the guests. We had a low turnout which was actually nice because of who showed up. The staggering of the arrivals made for pleasant and equal conversation. We got some chat time with one of the couples from our San Francisco trip, and later with a couple Todd used to bowl with whom we shared our Pittsburgh experience, and the last couple were new to me so I had some time to chat with them towards the end before Todd sat down next to me and I promptly passed out fell asleep.

Yes, I had wine. I had wine, because hello! It’s a party. I wasn’t drunk, not even once, but I was definitely pacing myself through food and wine and water until sleep overtook me in the presence of two people I’d only just met. I’m so good with first impressions.

And the next thing I know – I woke up at 3 a.m. on the sectional by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree and the hearth, the lamp next to the couch still lit and the television still on at a volume reserved for rowdy football games… and the room empty but for Robbie, who was asleep completely upright, snoring like a bear at the other end of the couch.

 

Three Days In, and I’m Stabby

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I had planned a nice New Year post or two – you know, reflecting on 2016 and then looking ahead to 2017 and possible resolutions. But, it happened again… PMS rolled in like that relative everybody hates to spend the holidays with and now I’m p-o’d and blocked.

It all started Saturday morning. Or, maybe it was the day before when the pets reminded me that vacations mean nothing to them. But I recovered from that and went on to enjoy a Christmas party with the bowling league that was filled with entertainment for all the senses. It had everything – good food, juicy gossip, drive-by smooches (don’t ask), shots, hilarious stories, … oh yeah, and Todd was throwing strikes. Chocolate Cake shots, by the way, do not taste like chocolate cake. I haven’t been drinking lately, so when one friend ordered the next shot – Duck Farts – and I asked what the hell it was, I knew it was going to be a long car ride home.

So, it really all started Saturday morning. Todd had scheduled an appointment with our solar guy to talk about adding more solar to our existing panels. I knew the house was less than – okay, I knew it wasn’t clean – but I figured they’d sit at the dining room table and so Jim Kirk (I swear to GOD) wouldn’t have to go where no man has gone in three days. I was wrong.

I went to the kitchen for coffee and heard them in the living room. And I saw a dirty pair of socks lying on the kitchen floor that’d be hard to miss on one’s way to the living room. Next to the table covered with the aftermath of our get-together with my dad, stepmom and brother three days before. And the kitchen counters littered with debris and dirty dishes piled in the sink. And I knew that the living room wasn’t much better, between a carpet that had grown its own pet hair and the bed pillows and blanket tossed carelessly aside from the morning before. AND… the Christmas tree wasn’t lit. Why the HELL hadn’t Todd at least thought to light the damn tree? It stood, wilting in its darkened corner, just four feet away from where they were sitting like the fucking grim reaper.  Oh yeah, and my pot of herbs I’d brought inside that looks more like a bucket of weeds I keep forgetting to water, than the succulent herbs they once were. I was mortified. MORTIFIED. And, not a little PISSED.

Jim, for his part, seemed unaffected by the ambience. He’s probably seen worse, but I didn’t want MY house to rank up there with them. Todd told me it wasn’t a big deal. He doesn’t worry about stuff like this, which is infuriatingly both a good thing and a mortal flaw.

PMS also takes me down the road of intolerance, which seems to have hit an all-time high this year. I know it’s only the third day. But this isn’t a safe way to start a new year. At least not for the bystanders.

There’s a very fine line between charity and taking advantage. I’m standing on the precipice of intolerance for what I feel has all the appearances of taking advantage. When one has clearly defined expectations and boundaries – no matter whether those are ignored, overlooked, or forgotten – I’m not very tolerant when things begin to look very different. So, I’m going through this again. It’s an opportunity to reevaluate what we wanted in the first place and how to get back to the original plan.

Meanwhile, I’m sweating the little stuff. Something happened recently, whether by ignorance or intention, that was a clear exclusion of Me. My first reaction was, oh. Quickly followed by thoughts that instantly reminded me that my stepmom wouldn’t have missed this slight, and I know she’d never let us hear the end of it. Sidenote: my stepmom is an exceptional woman I spent my early twenties silently judging only to learn and fully understand (read: eat my words) many of those things as I moved into adulthood, and I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her.

Anyway, I journaled it and now cryptically posted it here just to annoy you. Because misery loves company. Because I’m annoyed that the tent rental company who provided us the tent for my in-laws’ 50th anniversary party sent out a generic email thanking me for my business and… we value you, blah blah blah, and we’re following up to see if  you’re planning a similar event this year and to lock in last year’s prices now, blah blah… and I’m thinking, how many 50th anniversary parties do you think we have? I know, picky picky. That’s what PMS does to you, people.

Which is why we shouldn’t go out in public for two weeks every month. Because today I took Veruca to a dermatologist and the dude seriously thought I was there for the bags under her eyes. Yes, she has bags under her eyes – she’s been on vacation for 10 days and hasn’t been to bed before 11 o’clock since Christmas Eve. BUT. That is not why we were there, and I had to correct him and then insist he take a closer look. Anyway, he confirmed what we thought it was. But it took all I had not to start spitting and snarling at this so-called professional. So not safe for him.

Everywhere else I went today, everyone was off their game. Everyone. I felt like I was surrounded by aliens impersonating humans. Badly. And they’d look at me with their weird eyes, trying to see if I knew.

Where I’ve Been – Holiday Edition

By the dim light from the windows of today’s cloudy day, and the twinkling of a too-old Christmas tree and a fire in our fireplace, I’m finally sitting down to recount the holiday adventures. I’ve been MIA for almost a month. I can’t honestly say what I’ve been doing, as the days melted into one another until I woke this morning and realized it’s two days to 2017.

***

It’s now the next morning, before the crack of dawn because the pets don’t understand holiday breaks and days off…and Sabra decided it was time to go out NOW. I laid in bed trying to ignore the dancing routine she was doing, but I kept hearing these whispy, squeaky sounds coming from her ass and so I jumped up before the dance became more urgent… and possibly more messy.

And, so Oliver decided it was time for breakfast as soon as my feet hit the floor. And he’s not very quiet about it. Which is why we have a squirt gun on the kitchen counter, in case you ever come over and wonder why there’s a squirt gun on my kitchen counter. He is a smart kitty and a very quick learner and so therefore I need only pick up said squirt gun and he stops his verbal assault. Okay, really, the squirt gun was for redirecting his desire to sleep on my dining room table. Except that he still does it anyway. Also, we have this understanding that I get to have my coffee first. Except that it turns out he really doesn’t give a shit what I want.

So now I’m sitting here with my coffee trying not to be pissed off that I don’t have to be up at 6 a.m. today but I am anyway. And you know what? The dog and the cat have both gone back to bed.

So, anyway. I started shopping online on Black Friday because I’m not masochistic enough to enter a store. I worked for Macy’s in King of Prussia in my 20s and I swore after that experience I would forevermore avoid all malls/stores on Black Friday.

Opac has been itching to join a gym and also to own a weight bench. This Christmas he got the latter. It was ordered online and shipped in 3 parts. Which is probably a good thing. Except that the exact delivery time was sketchy and so I quickly learned that if you order big stuff online, you better make sure you’re home to drag it inside before the recipient sees it.

Box #1, which weighed roughly 50 pounds and actually had the word “Heavy” printed on it just in case you wouldn’t know that, was dropped just outside my front door by the postal carrier, blocking the storm door so I couldn’t open it to retrieve the box. How it never occurred to her that WE WERE HOME since there were TWO CARS IN THE DRIVEWAY, I’ll never know. I managed to shove my weight against the storm door enough to stick my arm out and push at the box on the steps until I could pull it inside. Box #2 arrived on another day late in the afternoon, leaned up against the front door, but this time I was coming home to it with the recipient in the front seat of the car. I made Opac stay in the car with his big sheepish grin, and knew it was useless since I was sure he saw the tall oblong box with the picture of the weight bench printed on it.

Box #3 was by far the heaviest of them all, but someone this time had the good sense to leave this in front of the garage door so I was able to just open the door and drag this 120 lb cardboard box of questionable sturdiness inside the garage by those sharp plastic cords that hold the box closed. It wasn’t easy and I had the cuts in my hands to prove it, and I was again reminded of how weak I’ve become in my middle age.

I took Veruca shopping in the mall two days before Christmas, against my better judgement. I felt my nerves tingling close to what could easily have been a panic attack, and decided if I was going to survive this trip I was going to have to just ride the wave. The left turn lane to the mall road was a half-mile long with cars, and V was bitching about the traffic. I told her this was nothing compared to Christiana, the other mall she wanted to go to, and definitely N-O-T-H-I-N-G compared to KoP. And it really wasn’t.

My biggest anxiety stems from parking, and remains an open wound from my youth when my mom would drive around and around the KoP parking lot looking for the ideal spot when all I wanted to do was get out of the damn car. But she wouldn’t give up and a handful of times got in skirmishes with other drivers who also wanted the ideal spot. So when I go to the mall, I park the car in the first empty space I can find – and I don’t care if I have to walk a mile to get to the door. I hope you’re happy, mom, cause I’m in therapy now.

V wanted a gift for Opac so I suggested we go to Spencer’s – a novelty store full of inappropriate paraphernalia, that’s been around since I was a kid. Except that either it’s gotten far more inappropriate or I’m just old now and no longer amused by the inventory. Anyway, they have great t-shirts – of his faves like Tupac, Eminem, and Bob Marley – just inside the door and so the risk of corrupting V is relatively low. We found 2 we liked and then V thought that posters would be a good gift too. The posters for some ungodly reason are located in the back of the store. I heard her say “mom” once or twice and the word “inappropriate” (she likes this word almost as much as the word “mom”) and I realized that my tactic of not looking around was not her tactic and she said something about “boob balls” and THAT’s when I noticed the WALL of dildos just two feet away from us. Yes, I took my daughter into a store that sells dildos. But – in my defense – I didn’t know they did. There are stores for that sort of thing. And I still don’t know what boob balls are, because I grabbed her by the sleeve and ran to the register.

So, this is where I tell you that Christmas was lovely and the kids were very happy, and Veruca forgot about the wall of dildos and I didn’t have to do any explaining. I got some lovely gifts this year, but the greatest gift was the reminder of how good life is today. I reread some old posts from Decembers past for inspiration, and while I don’t often dwell on the past – I do believe in acknowledging where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I highly recommend it to everyone. Keeps you humble and grateful.

The Chronicles: Thanksgiving Edition

The desire to write again is creeping back slowly. I was, as so many were, so deeply affected by the outcome of the election. Many people are talking about it, still talking about it, posting about it …. and I don’t want to. I have no desire to write about it. But what worried me more was that I had no desire to write, period.

So I returned to my writing roots, to my journals where I write only for me. The daily morning ritual of coffee and pen to paper has helped. The impending holidays and several neck and back adjustments have done just enough to turn my frown upside down. And so, without further ado, the previous week’s shenanigans…

About a week before Thanksgiving, Veruca begged me to listen to the Holly channel while we were driving. Please please please?? Fine, I said. It was the Twelve Days of Christmas. At least we could sing along. However, this version, by Straight No Chaser, is like following somebody to a place you’ve never been and they’re driving so fast you end up losing them. These dudes skipped numbers, turned back to those missed halfway through the song, dipped into Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel, and then slipped into Toto’s Africa, Christmas-style. Eight maids-a-milking, and they’re milking just for me…  And I don’t always have a dirty mind but when I do, it’s not in the car with my 11-year-old singing the Twelve Days of Christmas.

And while we’re on the subject of feeling uncomfortable, I recently heard a fun story about a family that sits in a circle after Thanksgiving dinner watching the Sound of Music and rubbing each other’s feet. The whole damn family! In a circle. Touching each other’s feet. For 3 hours. Imagine that! Because I can’t. But if you can, and you like it, that’s great. There’s no judgement here.

So Thanksgiving. The night before, Todd and I drove the kids up to their dad’s and – against my better judgement – decided to have an impromptu date night at the restaurant. The night before Thanksgiving. This is never a good idea, no matter how much food and wine my mother plies me with. I ended up behind the bar – surprise! And date night turned into tipsy-bartender night with hubby rubbing elbows with some of our favorite guests. And then, while totally unnecessary, the staff tipped me out for “saving” them. How many people who aren’t professional escorts can say Date Night turned a profit?

We hosted Thanksgiving at home, as we always do, with a total of 15 people (and four dogs) who came to nosh and drink and watch The Secret Life of Pets before passing out. I’m happy to report it was a peaceful bi-partisan gathering with no talk of all the president-elect’s men. Well there was the whisper of one, which I shut down like a boss by threatening to leave my own house and run away to an unnamed neighbor’s, leaving the targets looking like two deer trapped in the headlights. Nonetheless, I would like to apologize to all of my mothers, who may not have been guilty at all.

It was a lovely day… no smoking bird and no fistfights (really, we’re not that kind of family, but wouldn’t it be fun to say so?), the only casualties a crystal champagne glass and our downstairs toilet, which sustained a mysterious crack in its tank and leaked a rather large puddle of water overnight. Oh – and in keeping with the spirit of lost items at every event, a pair of ear buds were found in the driveway the next morning.

Oliver was extremely pissed to have to share his home with visiting dogs, one of whom spent the night guarding the space between the kitchen and the rec room where his litter box lives, and having the area around his litter box flooded sent him over the edge and apparently onto one of our bathroom rugs, which sent Todd over the edge. Oliver has been banned from the master bedroom indefinitely, and there’s nothing I can say to save him until the smoke clears.

I don’t shop on Black Friday because I’m not suicidal, so I don’t have any good shopping stories yet. But I learned some other things. I learned that people who get really drunk and loud and obnoxious still exist. I learned that some girls really do like older men, though in some cases I can’t for the life of me figure out why. To quote a friend, there’s not enough money in the world to [put up with that]. The latter part is censored because I just can’t write it here without feeling dirty, and believe me I feel dirty enough when two people are hurling accusations of infidelity in front of me and I’m desperately wishing I’d worn my invisibility cloak. I must say I felt terribly sorry for the Uber driver who spent what must have been a very entertaining, albeit uncomfortable, hour locked in a car with these two.

Yet truly, I felt sorry for the two of them. Imagine being in an on-again, off-again relationship for years, punctuated by fancy dinners and expensive wine (if it doesn’t get spilled all over the table), mistrust and hushed yet very public arguments, hopefully some decent Viagra-assisted sex, and constantly having to apologize for your date’s behavior. Where is the joy in that? It’s a very sad, sad situation, and one I would never envy. I’d rather spend the rest of my life alone with twenty-seven cats, than have even one night of that kind of drama.

It’s a gift, to get reminders now and then of just how good I have it.  An old family-drama-of-marriages-past tried its best to suck me  in recently, and I’m relieved and proud to say that I slammed the door on that circus.

I am so blessed to have the love of a good man – who may be old to a 20-year-old but is perfect for this 47-year-old. Life is good.