Category Archives: Christmas

Red Sweater Likes to Prank

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Red Sweater Likes to Prank

I know we’re all crazy busy with the holidays. A quick, cute story from my day at the office. Bear in mind, my office is an Assisted Living Facility where my job is to bring joy to my clients. I’m a cynic by nature so some days I have to dig deep. Today was easy.

I took Helen to a Christmas Carol sing-along in the activities room. Sometimes it takes a while (a solid hour or more) to get my friend ready. Today she was dressed when I arrived. I think I heard distant trumpets blaring and the sound of angels singing at this good fortune. We were soon on our way downstairs.

We found a spot and got seated. A nice lady was playing the organ and the residents were singing along to carols. We followed along with the program which, thankfully had lyrics printed for all 33 carols. There was a tenor about four seats to my right who had an impressive set of lungs. Across the room someone was dressed as Santa. It was obviously a female Santa based on the boots and the range of her voice. I love it when people go all in to make things special. She was definitely all in.

After the singing there was cake. One thing I really enjoy about seniors is their love of sugar. Any occasion is an excuse for dessert. After cake, Helen and I stood and I hustled to make a clear path for her. A gentleman sitting to our left took a dramatic pause to put his right foot out in Helen’s path in a faux effort to trip her.

Helen gave him some side eye to which he replied “what, I didn’t feel a thing”. Upon closer inspection, I realized our red sweater friend had a prosthetic leg and a good sense of humor.IMG_3373.JPG

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

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My Clients, A (Brief) Love Story

I don’t mean to brag but my job is better than yours. I started a business a few years ago to fill in the gaps for families. I run errands, let the dog out, greet kids at the bus stop, take people to appointments; a variety of services for people that need help. Sometimes it’s a one time deal, other jobs are long term. As the business has grown, it has taken a definite turn toward the more mature client. Most of my steady clients have been in their 80’s and 90’s, their families hire me to check in on them with a social visit.

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I have always been fond of the elderly, even as a child. My cousins would pair off during holiday gatherings and I would visit with Nana and Pop-pop. I loved their stories and their inability to filter themselves. Even as a kid, I found it refreshing to be around people that simply spoke their mind without fear of reprimand. This fondness has followed me my entire life.

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I currently visit a couple twice a week. Ralph and Helen have been married for over 60 years and they still kiss each other goodbye and say “I love you” when one is going out without the other. These are usually outings to a social activity within the assisted living facility where they reside. Ralph is a frequent participant in Wii Bowling and Helen likes to beat me at tabletop shuffleboard.

The featured image for this post is the face of the card that they gave me the other day. Here’s what Helen wrote inside:

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I adore these people.

Damn it, Dog

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Damn it, Dog

Last night I had an “aw sh*t” moment on the way to my daughter’s choir concert. I realized that I left a closed pizza box on the counter and wondered out loud if the dog would eat it before we got home. There wasn’t a bet to be had, as myself and both my kids all agreed that it would be gone before we got home. There wasn’t time to turn around.

My husband wasn’t with us because I helped him secure his “get out of jail free card” to avoid this show. I’m pretty sure that makes me Wife of the Year (wild applause, trips on the steps going up to accept the award). Last week the hubs mentioned that some of his work guys were in town for a new project. I suggested that Tuesday would be a spectacular night to take them out to dinner.

“Why” he inquired?

“Because Thing 2 (kidding, I used her name. I just won’t do it here, privacy y’all) has a choir concert from hell that night and that’s a damn good excuse to get out of it” I replied.

Plans were made for a Tuesday Business Dinner lickety-split. I’ve already cashed my gratitude points by booking a Sticks & Stones Massage on an upcoming snow-boarding trip. I’ve prepared a list of acceptable names for the Masseuse to call me (sticks and stones may break your bones but names …never mind either you got it or you didn’t). I do not partake in snow-boarding activities.

I grew up poor, only rich people could ski when I was a kid. I tried skiing for the first time at age 29 with hopes of impressing a guy. I was petrified of skiing and the guy turned out to be a felon but, that’s a story for another day. At any rate, at the precious age of damn near 50, I do not wish to start hurling myself down icy mountains. I will read books and drool while some woman puts me in a trance with hot stones and Mu-Xing therapy (yes, I had to Google that).

Back to the concert, it was pure hell. That critique was unanimous. My daughter is in choir to avoid another semester of robotics so her heart isn’t into it. My son went because he thought there would be some food prize at the end (there was). I went because I can be a sh*t mom sometimes, but I’m not at the level of dropping her off and having her text me when the show is over mom (perhaps next year).

My son and I at least got to watch the show (and scour menus from nearby restaurants), my daughter was stuck in the cafeteria for an hour and a half between performances. The Middle School Choir opened the show with three songs and then they were herded to the cafeteria to await the final number where all participants would sing. This scam is used by schools and all kinds of kid activities – plays, dance recitals, karate, gymnastics. Basically, they have everyone’s kid in the last number so you don’t run from the building like your hair is on fire after your precious child performs. It’s effective, those bastards know what they are doing.

The show lasted over two hours. We got our take out and went home. Upon entering the house, the dog (we’ll call her Bonnie) greeted us with the usual fanfare. My son raced to check on the pizza slice, for which he had dibs. The pizza box was closed. Upon further inspection and much to the disappointment of my son, the box was empty.  “Bonnie” has impressive clean up skills. Not a crumb remained and how she managed to  close the box after the theft astounds me. At least she had the decency to look guilty when we asked about the pizza.

Fast forward to this morning and I am going about my routine. I prepare lunches for the kids so they can sleep an extra 5 minutes. Now, I typically make a sandwich for my son and then place it in the microwave so Miss-Steals-A-Lot can’t get it and I did that. However, when I reheated my coffee I placed the sandwich on the counter and forgot to put it back in for safe keeping. Bonnie struck again when I was distracted and helped herself to a turkey and cheese sandwich.

I blame myself of course, I’m a mom it’s always our fault. Bonnie agreed to wear a Santa hat as penance for her sins. And this is the closest we are getting to a Christmas Card this year. Happy everything to everyone!

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Skipping the Christmas Card

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Skipping the Christmas Card

I’m skipping the annual Christmas Card this year. My kids are 12 and 14 and have an opinion about what photos can be shared. I asked them a few times to let me know which photos were “OK” to send out, no response. To be honest, I’m not that heart broken about it.

Sending out cards started out with such enthusiasm when the kids were young. I genuinely loved sending out a card each year which featured several photos of our family experiences over the course of a year. And people seemed to enjoy the updates. It’s amazing how fast the littles grow and close friends and family seemed to enjoy the annual progress report.

I would always include photos of places we had visited and some fun experiences. As the years ticked by family photos of trips took center stage. I love to travel so it isn’t surprising that I would focus on these moments to document. In the back of my mind though, I wondered if this was a little too much. And at some point the card list expanded to people that were business associates and others that are not necessarily close friends or family members. What was once a loving family tradition turned into a holiday chore.

The family I have created with my husband has been blessed. As a couple we still like each other 20 years in, we are all relatively healthy and our kids are solidly good humans. We have been lucky enough to travel to fantastic places – Italy, Switzerland, Iceland, Hawaii, California – a bunch of wonderful memories in amazing locations. Not everyone gets to do this and maybe my card isn’t well received by all recipients.

I hadn’t really thought of the last bit when the cards were sent to people that truly know us. Those people know that I was raised by a single parent, was on Welfare as a kid and worked full time to put myself through college. They know my husband was raised by immigrant parents whose first language was Italian. He was brought up with two loving parents who worked their asses off to get him a good education. An education that he absorbed, coupled with the mind of an entrepreneur which, led him to create a successful business.

To the people that don’t know us well, those cards might seem like an opportunity to boast. They never were. They were always an expression of gratitude with a sprinkling of – can you believe we get to do this! Sure I could thin the herd and only send cards to a select few but even that seems elitist. It’s time to let go. We still have the memories and the photos, I’m just holding them a little closer now.

 

 

Life Hacks for Surviving the Holidays

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Life Hacks for Surviving the Holidays

Geezus it’s barely December and I’m already feeling the anxiety swell. So many events, gifts, decorating, cooking, cleaning and our family calendar is exploding. Trying to take a deep cleansing breath to prepare myself for the madness. Here are some things I may or may not do to get through the next month.

Refuse to get offended. That’s right, I won’t get offended over much of anything. Parties I don’t get invited to (phew I needed a night off), gifts I don’t get and people that say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”. I think you need to tuck your privilege in if you get insulted by a salutation that doesn’t start with “Hey @sshole”, that’s just my opinion.

I will not force traditions. Traditions are great, until they aren’t. I make seven fishes for Christmas Eve. It’s a nod to my Mother in-law who passed away in 2007. I am not Italian by birth so I was excited to embrace this as something my kids will reflect on later in life (thankfully they like fish). That one is a keeper. Seeing some variation of A Christmas Carol or the Nutcracker every year is repetitive and expensive so we gave it up.

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Speaking of traditions….maybe you are one of the millions who has that Elf on the Shelf creature living rent free in your home. Sick of moving it? We watched this in mid November, oddly enough the kids have lost interest in Dash.

Just say “No.” No is indeed a complete sentence which does not require further explanation. You really don’t have to go to every event that crosses your path. Scale back if you are so inclined. I go to a cookie throw down each December. It’s a great time and people that bake need to bring 10 dozen cookies. It’s a fun competition and I still attend the party I just don’t bake 10 dozen cookies to cross the threshold. The hostess has cleverly turned this into a charitable event by encouraging non-bakers to donate to a local Ronald McDonald House. Everyone wins and there are still cookies.

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Back up gifts. This one has saved me a thousand times. Have some back up gifts on hand, already wrapped and ready to go. I keep extra gift cards, bottles of wine and a few generic toys and books on the ready in case it’s needed. It doesn’t have to be expensive just something to ease that awkward moment when someone  hands you an unexpected gift.

 

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Meditate. This always invokes an image of the Dalai Lama sitting crossed legged, breathing in exaggerated “Aaaaaaaaaaaaahs”. Sure that works but it isn’t the only way to meditate.

According to Psychology Today – Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment.

Yesterday, I worked on a 1,000 piece puzzle. It calms me and clears my head. Your meditation can be anything – walking, knitting, exercise – as long as it takes your full concentration and shushes your brain.

Whatever and however you celebrate, I hope it’s great!

Oh Gag Me (Gifts)

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Oh Gag Me (Gifts)

Are you like me? Do you hate shopping with actual people, in real stores? Rest, my anti-social friend….grab a cup of whatever you drink and join me. I hate shopping. I have been concerned that my woman card would be taken from me over this but so far, so good. I have varying degrees of hate for shopping. My worst nightmare excursion would be Black Friday shopping at the King of Prussia Mall. Online shopping, not so bad.

Buying gifts is tricky business and I lack in the consistency department. I love it when I find what I think is the perfect gift for someone. It’s a great feeling when you know you’ve nailed it. Sadly that doesn’t happen often – most times I’m winging it, hoping the gift is practical or appropriate. One thing I actually enjoy shopping for is gag gifts. This time of year they are “White Elephant” gifts. The price limits vary by event – I’ve noted some of my personal favorites. Sorry for the Amazon links….I’ve accepted that Jeff Bezos is the New World Leader (Prime Member y’all):

The People of Walmart 2018 Calendar – This is tacky perfection that I didn’t know existed…I may have squealed a little when I stumbled on this – https://www.amazon.com/2018-People-Walmart-Boxed-Calendar/dp/1492650013/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&linkCode=li3&tag=whiteelephant03-20&linkId=f110107df92005e72407d997d653f907

Adult Coloring Books – I still don’t know how this crap caught on and yet here we are – coloring books for grownups is a thing. I prefer the ones with naughty words and plenty of snark. These vary in intensity – I’ve selected one of the tamer versions. https://www.amazon.com/Make-Life-Your-Bitch-Motivational/dp/1540633616/ref=sr_1_11?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1511562498&sr=1-11&keywords=adult+coloring+books

Beer Belly Fanny Pack or Belly Pack – This has a bit of an ick factor and really who would actually use this – still it’s funny. https://www.ericdress.com/product/Ericdress-Creative-Beer-Belly-Design-Dad-Waist-Pack-12999109.html?currency=USD&gclid=CjwKCAiAo9_QBRACEiwASknDwW-NNDAcreP8oSD-no0-lLm_wq7-YuEKjVIS4KtiKWupPSp_5byUUxoCZSMQAvD_BwE#5420834&tb_from=paid_adwords_shopping&adword_mt=&adword_ct=93280202675&adword_kw=&adword_pos=1o3&adword_pl=&adword_net=g&adword_tar=&adw_id=7162179455_351227435_24926471315_pla-66403242728

Sarcastic socks – These make me unreasonably happy. The possibilities are endless – If you can read this….Fetch me wine/chocolate/Xanax (I made that last one up) and a plethora of pretty socks with curses on them (why yes I do own several pairs)….sadly this one is sold out. https://www.joyofsocks.com/products/i-hate-everyone-too-socks-womens?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=googlepla&variant=37611290561&gclid=CjwKCAiAo9_QBRACEiwASknDwTa7No5yNPUF-lvyktQjos9yfkSpkhF-OKXXwOI_RpvwR7_NqFDhPhoCWLUQAvD_BwE

Tipsy Elf – I spent an obscene amount of time looking at their offerings today. Perfect for the ugly sweater holiday party. I like the sweater with Santa’s face which has – “Ask Your Mom If I’m Real” framing Santa’s face. Lots to choose from here if you’re so inclined. https://www.tipsyelves.com/?gclid=CjwKCAiAo9_QBRACEiwASknDwWJcdAFBqCVIi8IJ5Yewv85sOZN1yWHhHVoU147Ny-szfmJEBiBUHhoC6mUQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds

And bonus – you can buy any of these items online, like God intended. Happy-Whatever-You-Celebrate.

 

 

 

Traditions…

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Traditions…

Every year sometime after November 1st,  I watch Home for the Holidays. It came out in 1995 and was directed by Jodie Foster. This movie hits all the feels for me. It is perfectly cast – the writing is authentic, funny and heartbreaking at times. It is my favorite movie of all time. I usually watch it alone because this blend of humor and poignancy isn’t a hit with all of the humans here.

I make time for it every year since I discovered it in 2000 when I found a used copy on VHS at a store on Hollywood Boulevard. That year my twin brother moved to California and was sad to be so far from home at the holidays. I was single and kid free at the time, so I scraped up the cash for a ticket to LA. We hung out for a few days until I left late on Christmas Eve.

My family likes to watch Trains, Planes and Automobiles. It’s on a repetitive loop between late October and Christmas. This is one we all belly laugh to even though we know it verbatim. My kids are finally old enough that I don’t have to mute the scene where Steve Martin loses his sh*t at the car rental counter. It’s amazing to see how much some things have changed (no laptops, cell phones or tablets) and how the important stuff remains (being kind, family, dealing with adversity).

 

Of course we got sucked into the Elf on the Shelf scam about 5 years ago. My kids were young enough when we started that they believed in it for the first year or two. I’d fall asleep and wake up in a panic when I’d remember that I forgot to move Flash. In my mind I call him Jumpin’ Jack Flash because I feel like less of a dork for buying into the whole ridiculous scheme (humor me). Now my youngest moves it around because I’m lazy and tired most nights. We aren’t ready to let it go completely, yet.

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We also adopt two children to buy gifts and clothes for during the holidays. We buy for one boy and one girl. I try to get kids the same age as my children. This one is sacred to me. The Christmas my brother and I were 7 years old, a Secret Santa made a delivery to our apartment.

I have never forgotten the kindness of that act and how happy it made me feel as a kid. I remember standing in the kitchen with my mother and brother as we emptied the overflowing hefty garbage bag. It was full of gifts – Candy Land, toy trucks and gastronomical delicacies, like Peanut Butter and Fluff. It was truly magical and I want to sprinkle some of that around and teach my kids through actions, not just words.

As for hosting, I get all the holidays. It’s practical as we have the largest dinning room. I have also taken on the task of serving seven fishes on Christmas Eve. It is a nod to my mother-in-law who passed away when my children were young. I didn’t have strong roots or family traditions growing up and I welcome the opportunities to give that to my kids. What I really try to give them is memories. That is the point of this entire holiday thing – making memories with your family and friends. Something that will last beyond a turkey carcass and some crinkled, torn wrapping paper.

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Tell me some of your traditions….what do you love to do during the holiday madness?