Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey Day Dreams and Tryptophan Coma's

It's funny how traditions change over time.

When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was a big deal (and not in the way that it smelled of rich mahogany...). The entire family on both sides would convene on our house, tables laden with my grandmother's china, yellow goblets on the table, tablecloths and nice linens. Gathering around in the kitchen as my mother slaved over the food, ready to feed the masses.

Everyone would sit down around the table, then in the other room at the other table we had to put up to seat everyone, and of course the kids table (damn that kids table...) and we would say "Grace". No literally, someone would just shout "GRACE!" and we would dig in.

Our table dwindled to one and the kids table, year after year getting smaller and smaller. Finally getting that much needed promotion to join the adults.

That promotion was bittersweet. Sure you were now sitting with the big guns, but there were far fewer of them as the years went on. And just like the saying "...and then there were none".

Last year, I took back turkey. Forced my mother and brother to my house (well made her cook, and travel but still). I set an adorned table with cloth napkins and rings, matching place settings, the nines. We sat around a table my father had built and we yelled "GRACE!" and dug in. (ok so I literally nodded off pretty much during dinner at the table from exhaustion, but that's a whole other story...)

I tried to make a tradition, even if it was just 4 of us. And that has been thwarted. Too much of a pain in the ass to lug the fried turkey and pies from one house to another. So thus, this year we are back crammed into my mom's little kitchen, no more fancy plates and cloth napkins. Mission aborted.

And so it goes again, that tradition is overrun by ease.

Poor Thanksgiving, the red-headed step child of holidays lost after the splendor of Halloween, when they started (YES the day after) playing Christmas tunes incessantly on certain radio stations. My child's favorite TV station, interrupted every 5 minutes with a stream of toy commercials, leaving him stating "I want that!" after every one.

I mean sure, I jumped the shark last year by partaking in Christmas-themed goodness the day before Thanksgiving (a huge pet peeve) but it was one day before...

Enchanted Village, Polar Express 4D, a Christmas themed laser light show. It was amazing. Followed by a hope for continued tradition on Turkey day. Food, football and Miracle on 34th Street. That evening taking out all my holiday decor and then spending that much anticipated day off after turning my house into an Elfin paradise.

And so now, 2 days before, I sit and hope that tradition, even dysfunctional, finds its way back into my Thanksgiving. Hoping my Turkey Day dreams don't slip into their own tryptophan coma.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oh Disposable Income, How I Miss Thee

I would like to thank the dollar for pretty much canceling Christmas on me this year.

I mean, what's not too thankful for? I won't have to wait in harried long lines to check out things in stores. No rushing to the post office to make sure things are being shipped out on time. No staying up late, wrist cramping from writing out and sending holiday cards. No papercuts from fast and insidious wrapping on Christmas Eve.

Yes, the lack of money this year will ensure my child doesn't get a visit from an old man sliding down my chimney in B&E fashion into my home. No having to leave out milk to curdle, or cookie crumbs to attract mice or bugs.


Perhaps I can persuade my 6 year old we have become Jehovah’s Witnesses and no longer need to celebrate Christmas….or birthdays….any other gift giving event?

That crisp linen and cotton piece of greenery has made sure that by eliminating it's abundance in my life, that there will be a Bob Cratchet Christmas in my life this year. No gifts or grand feasts. Just a whole lot of false cheer in the ghetto.

It's amazing the power a 5 x 2 1/2 inch piece of paper can have on your life. You can't do anything without its permission.

The buck DOES stop here.

Not only does it stop, it runs in the opposite direction.

Baroque(adj.) - When you are out of Monet.

The last year for me has been a financial roller coaster. Getting hours cut back from a well-paying job I loved to then getting laid off. Filing and collecting unemployment at a fraction (I always hated fractions) of what I made and trying to keep a roof over our heads, food in mouths.

The Hallelujah moment of getting a new job, FINALLY. A job I actually sort of enjoy. Nice and understanding people, but small in corporate structure.

So it was a couple bucks an hour shy of what I had made before, that shouldn't be a big deal right? I cut out my inner city commute time, I was only 20 minutes away now. No more sitting idly in gridlock, bumper to bumper with the angry uncaffeinated masses. No, this seemed blissful, easy.

"Seemed" being the operative word.

Have you ever tried to dig yourself out from underneath yourself? To try and catch up has been like running up an escalator going in the opposite direction. Like you are moving forward, yet a strong invisible force is pushing you back, keeping you in place. Likely laughing quietly to itself. Bastard.

Visions of dollars and change spiraling down into the drain as everything taken in is suddenly sucked away. No Sugar Plums dancing my head. Nope. Just vanishing notes of currency. Like magic.

Suddenly all that help you were getting when you were out of work, disappears. No more assistance in getting food or healthcare. No, you OBVIOUSLY are suddenly independently wealthy in the eyes of the government, even if you bounce every other check you write.

On paper it seems feasible. That you can squeak it all out and be A-Ok. Until that whole math thing comes into play (again, I've always loathed and despised math).

Oh Math, you vile and evil temptress. You start in all loving and sweet, multiplying my hourly rate by the hours I work. Lulling me into that ever false sense of security before you start to slowly subtract from my lifeline.

FICA, State Tax, Insurance, Social Security. You and your gaggle of friends, giddy as you slowly suck the life out of each paycheck. Like a sparkly Twilight Vampire. All cute on the outside with your dollar sign, and then BOOM! All life gone.

It has me stressed beyond belief. In every other aspect of my life, everything has fallen into place. I am the happiest I have likely ever been. And this, this seemingly minute issue has me losing sleep at night. Dodging phone calls as though the Black Plague were to enter my blood stream should I pick up that receiver.

Rent, Utilities, Phones, Car Payments, Insurance. Not to mention gas, food, child sports, school and activities. It's all slowly taking its toll. Eliminating any hopes or memories of disposable income.

Searching and applying for a second job, one that may in fact help to bolster my income slightly, but take away time with my son, my love; essentially my life.

Oh Disposable Income, how I miss thee.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Salute You...

They lay in barren holes, their uniforms sand filled and hot. Temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in the deserts of foreign lands. Hands, fingernails layered with dirt and calluses.

They are loaded up at all times with packs and gear, enough to make even the lightest weighted man instantly gain 50 pounds. Their eyes tired from little to no sleep.

Sounds of silence mingled with the rumble of road side bombs and IEDs, hopeful at each sound not one of their own affected, that it was discovery and intentional detonation. The rapping of gunshots in small villages, ears ringing.

All concepts of their former life, replaced by photos, tattered and torn from frequent viewing. Letters crease-worn from repeated reading. Imagining the voices of their loved ones as they scroll though the words.

They miss out on birthdays, anniversaries. Their families and their own. No more counting down the days, hours and minutes until Friday. The weekend is not a respite for them. Every day melts into the next.

Tactical thought over takes the simplest of ideas. They sleep with one eye open. The once for granted meals of home, now fond memories as they wait for their leave. Brief stints home to see their families, or for it all to be over.

Bunks and barracks, makeshift shelters. No more the warmth and comfort of their familial bedding. No falling asleep in the arms of those they love. Tucking in their children before catching up on TV and falling into a deep and restful slumber.

They are soldiers, sailors, Marines. Pilots and infantry men and women. They fight for our freedoms. They put their lives on the line, every day, hour and minute. They travel the world and partake in conflicts that may not be theirs, but do so without complaint, they do so with honor and dignity.

They return home changed. Some for the better, other's affected more deeply. Wounded mentally and physically. Tired and worn, but proud nonetheless of the work they had done. The peaces they kept, or the battles they were forced to fight for their lives.

They give the ultimate sacrifices. Their lives at times for our freedoms. Their memory for our future.

Today we celebrate the 235 birthday of the United States Marine Corps, tomorrow as we honor ALL Veteran's of all wars, take the time to thank them. To be grateful everyday for what you have because of these men and women.

Boys and girls who leave their homes, their livelihoods as young as high school graduates, to enlist in the United States Military to serve their country. To fight for our freedoms and to keep our Nation what it is today. To give us hope that will spring eternal for all our lives, and for the future of our children.

I salute you all.

It is the
not the preacher,
who has given us freedom of religion.

It is
not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.

It is
not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.

It is
not the campus organizer,
who has given us freedom to assemble.

It is
not the lawyer,
who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is
not the politician,
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the
salutes the Flag,

It is
who serves
under the Flag

I want to give an extra special salute to my Love. Thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for being an amazing man and an amazing father. Thank you for your love, your respect and your honor. You are my best friend. I love you. Semper Fi.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mustache Memories

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with mustaches.

No idea why that furry upper lip was cool to me, probably because my father always had one.

I was just used to see a grown up man with hair on his face. The one time my father shaved off his mustache, I was about 5 years old and I told him "Daddy. shave it back ON".

Granted, I was a child of the late 70's, early 80's so it wasn't all pedophile creeps with Astro vans hovering around playgrounds with facial hair. It was everyone.

I remember as a kid, thinking only normal men had mustaches. I would thumb through the JC Penny and Sears catalogues and think it odd when they DIDN'T have a little fur on their upper lip. Those were the weirdo’s.

I would also pause at the matching bathroom sets....those fuzzy toilet seat covers and matching everything, I was fascinated by them, probably because my mother didn't think toilet seat covers were sanitary....but that's a story for another day.

Nowadays, unless you are a featured guest on To Catch A Predator, or hanging out at a NASCAR event, the mustache is just plain creepy.

People don't get the same prestige sporting a lip rug they did back in the day. No. No more would you hear, "Hey that guy must be upper management, check out the 'stache" kind of props. They are more like, "Ew get that guy a razor".

It takes a certain kind of man to pull off a mustache in 2010. I mean Tom Selleck is an icon for it, and without one he isn't even the same man. My dad had that same kind of Stache Appeal. He wasn't HIM without it. He was just another portly man with no upper lip. Weird.

There are some other iconic face fuzzed men still out there; I mean has anyone even given Alex Trebek the time of day since he went naked up there? Hulk Hogan has his 2-toned handlebar, and without that and his manicotti looking bleached locks, he's just another roided out old guy living out his glory days.

The young community tries to strategically stylize their facial follicles. Shaping them into those absurd looking chin straps. I mean really, why make your face look like you have it holding your hair to your head? Its ridiculous looking.

You either have to full-beard it up like Alan from the Hangover or Al the assistant from Tool Time; or baby face that shit up. Even a 5 o’clock shadow bit of scruff is kind of sexy on some fella’s. Other's just look lazy.

But the mustache, the mustache is a dying art. You must be of a certain age these days to pull one off. A young man in his 20s or 30s just doesn’t have the wherewithal to get away with it. Unless of course, it’s some sort of lost bet or spoof for a Halloween costume solely for the humor in it. No. You don’t have the knack.

It was once such a distinguishment, a testament of a man’s manliness. You could GROW the hair, therefore you must do so, and with panache.

Cartoon villains twirling their mustaches while devising diabolical plans for debauchery. Hitler and even Charlie Chaplin, all you needed to see was that tiny black area under their noses and BOOM! You knew in an instant who they were. Like the bright red lips of the Rolling Stones, that tiny little piece of hair on the lip was an instant identifier.

You must follow the footsteps of iconic men who wore them with style. Whose identities are lost without them. Like that guy from Hall and Oats. I mean he is nothing without his lip hair. Icons like Selleck, Trebek, and Hogan. Super Mario, Geraldo, and Dr. Phil. Wilford Brimley telling us all about Diabetes. Takes a gentleman to pull it off and sell that shit.

Go big or go home.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pivotal Moments and Velvet Rope

A year ago this month, something changed.

All it took was one moment. Fleeting really. Just a look. Eyes locked and BOOM. Everything changed.

A briefly held gaze, heart all a flutter and I realized something major. SHIT, I was in love. (even if I may have been a little skeptical of it, possibly in denial of it.) I was head over heels; I was screwed.

It started out as any other month we'd had up until then really. He and I were always together, were doing things with the kids on weekends, hanging out together when we didn't have them. As the month wore on, I guess it was more and more frequent.

We had always done that though, outings with the 3 kids and each other. A picture on the outside of a nuclear family, even though we weren't exactly. Outings to the aquarium, the Museum of Science. Various carnivals and birthday parties. Kite flying and movies.

It wasn't out of the ordinary for us to plan things that were familial in nature with each other. It was what we did, how we rolled. Even without the kids, we were a picture of a "normal" couple. "Dating" without actually "dating" for close to a year.

So naturally, the day before Thanksgiving last year, it wasn't out of the ordinary for us to make plans. For the 5 of us to meet up and do things, together as we always had.

It's the first time I ever, EVER did something Christmas related before Thanksgiving. It's a huge pet peeve of mine to walk the aisles of stores before Halloween and Thanksgiving and find Christmas paraphernalia all over the place. Or hear holiday music played. It's annoying. Let the other damn holiday's have their 15 minutes before you go sweeping them under the rug as non-important. Sheesh.

However, the day after Thanksgiving, I go no-holds-barred, balls out in all of my Christmas decorating. I spend that entire day pulling out holiday boxes, moving furniture to make room for the tree I would get at the end of the weekend. My entire house resembling that of one lived in by one of Santa's elves. My bathroom, bedroom, kitchen...everything is adorned with holiday decor and snowmen. (I love snowmen, no idea why seeing as I HATE actual snow...but I digress.)

So that day, that random Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving last year, the kids had a half day at school, I had a half day at work, and he had the day off. Seemed as though the stars were aligned for us to so something festive, right?

There we were, lined up at Jordan's Furniture. Santa's Enchanted Village and Polar Express 4D, the motion odyssey ride, all under the roof of a furniture store. Add a 3D Laser Light show, all set to Christmas music, it was win-win.

Time was not on our side however and we had some waiting to do after we moseyed through the Enchanted Village. Looking at the quaint holiday scenes that were transcended from the old Jordan Marsh in Boston of our youth. Faux snow fell from the sky at random intervals, and it was, well, enchanting.

We posed for an impromptu "family" photo, and then we had some time to kill. We went out to dinner. We ate, we joked, we laughed and made our way back to wait yet again for the exciting and fun parts of the day to happen. The real meat-and-potatoes of our evening.

Tickets purchased and hot chocolate in hand, we waited. The kids getting antsy and excited as we neared the time our tickets were stamped with for the next show.

And there, in the lobby of Jordan's Furniture, amidst velvet covered ropes and kids sipping hot chocolate, it happened. That moment.


He and I, talking as we always had. Joking as we always had, and then, there it was. Eyes locked and emotion flooding. A revelation. A brief glance that I will never forget. I was locked in on those hazel eyes. Soft brown and flecked with green, beneath a bevy of long lashes (the kind that make the ladies jealous) and full of more warmth and sincerity than I had ever seen. That’s all it took.

Had it been a movie, the background would have faded to black, or blurred somehow with all focus on just us two. Two protagonists, caught in a moment. Me in my red coat and he in his blue sweatshirt. Standing out in my mind as though no one else was there, no one else mattered. A matter of seconds really. A wrinkle in time that would change our lives as we knew it. At least I know it did mine.

That was it. That look did it.

That look, followed by an up-all-night phone conversation. An acknowledgement that there was something there, something real. It was then followed by a tumultuous couple of months of back and forth. Of questions and confusion and hesitations and maybe a little fear; I believe on both ends. But ultimately, it was followed by one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.

That just 2 short (although seemingly long at the time) months later, that threshold had been officially crossed. No more just talking about it, we had done it. We had left the Friend Zone and were full on smack dab in the thick of it. We were finally together together.

I finally dropped my guard. I toned down the cynicism and sarcasm and insults and realized this man made me happy. Actually happy.

And I have never been happier. I have never been more appreciative of someone. Someone who has been there for so much. The good, the bad and the ugly. Who has been my best friend and more. Who I can't picture another day in my life without in it. Who fills me with so much love and hope yet can drive me nuts at the same time. A perfect balance. And I love him more every day.

To think it all started by breaking tradition. By not adhering to my own Cardinal Rule; by celebrating Christmas a little early. And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Every part of it. I fell in love with my best friend.

Maybe holidays are a time for miracles, because last year, I certainly got one.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Technological Button Pushing

People don't email anymore.

It's becoming like the 2000's version of the Pony Express. Like Pigeon Carriers. Dated and stale and no longer the most up-to-date mode of message transportation.

Not so long ago, people would sit at their desks, idly waiting for that annoying fax-sounding screech of signing on to AOL (the only option at the time) and waiting for that happy little mailbox in the top left corner to fill with iconic letters, touting "You've Got Mail".

I mean it was enough to get Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan back together in true RomCom fashion.

Since the dawn of the internet, things have evolved. Dial-up became a dinosaur, being replaced evolutionarily by DSL lines, by cable and now by fiber optics (Go FIOS!). No more do you sit, hoping to hear that pinging noise letting you know you have a connection to the World Wide Web. No, it's instant; you click a button and POOF! You're online.

Cell phones that were once the size of bricks, and pretty much the weight of them, have slimmed down like a Weight Watchers campaign. New , faster service and the internet in your pocket. Text messages over taking the actual voice calls that were once so rampant you couldn't hear yourself think for all the outside conversations.

And it's made the world a lot more impersonal. No more cute little thank you cards in the mail or birthday cards. You get an Ecard. No more decorative party invitations in the mail to brighten your day amongst a plethora of bills. Now you get a nondescript notification that someone somewhere is hosting something, and you were clearly "special" enough for them to throw your email address in the list.

You don't get people when you call for help. You get "Press 1 for English" and "Press 6 for Technical Support". Leading you through various automated menu's until you press the right button, either getting the pre-recorded computerized answer you want, or you become too frustrated and hang up.

Even banking has lost its muster. People don't waltz in to the branches, rushing to beat the clock before the doors lock at 5pm. No more waiting in lines to see those smiling tellers and getting a lollipop for the kids in the car. It's automated. It's direct deposit.

People are slowly losing their personalities. Losing touch with each other and that tiny little piece of themselves that made it easier and necessary to have contact with other human being. All sensory acts with the public are now electronic transactions.

Text messages cause arguments with family and friends. Phrases left up to non-contextual interpretations of how they tend to read things at the time. All major events in a person's life now a Facebook status, not a "Mom I have GREAT news!" phone call.

Websites built to navigate through life, in all ways possible so you don't have to interact with another living, breathing being.

Where did we go so wrong? How did we lose touch with our humanity?

Hell, we don't even need to be home anymore to set our VCR’s; we can remotely DVR things from our cells phones.

It's all about technology, and it's starting to push my buttons.
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