On The Road Again

Finally! I am officially on my way to Connecticut, having been picked up by my friends Bill and Leigh yesterday. We spent the night in Shreveport at Leigh’s dad’s house before heading out this morning.

When I packed all my stuff, my husband thought I was crazy. I filled my daughter’s station wagon (we met up with Bill and Leigh in Hearne, Tx, which is halfway between San Antonio and Shreveport) with winter clothes, electronics, photography equipment, and a third of my yarn stash, including a few WIP (works in progress). I know there is no way I’ll be able to bring it all back on the plane, but much of it is staying at Leigh’s anyway. I’m up there so often, it makes sense to keep a yarn stash at her house, as well as my winter clothes.

This trip is like a six week sleep-away art/fat camp. Part of the electronics that I packed are a set of yoga videos and a walking video. We plan to make exercise a part of every day, so no just sitting on my butt, knitting away. Bill is also wanting to lose a few pounds and has agreed to juice with me, so after my first week of baking/cooking/taking advantage of Leigh’s gorgeous kitchen, we will do a ten day juice fast.

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Of course, all of that is secondary to more photo sessions with Leigh’s gorgeous grandbabies and a whole lot of knitting. I brought all of my photography equipment (lights, stands, umbrellas, tripod, reflector), and we will set up a studio in the corner of Leigh’s giant den. With her youngest daughter about to deliver her second child, a girl, I am looking forward to newborn photos galore. Chloe, her oldest granddaughter, is such a joy to photograph, while Ollie is an absolute ham for the camera. Xander is ridiculously photogenic, but he’s constantly on the move so I end up with a blur more often than not.

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Xander, future supermodel!

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Chloe trying to keep her hair out of her eyes at the beach

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Ollie doing his favorite thing

I adore them, and they make the BEST photo subjects!

I admit, I packed way too much yarn. Four tote sized bags and one giant IKEA dog/pet storage bag is a LOT of yarn. But I have high hopes of getting several projects completed, including Xander’s baby blanket (almost two years too late), my friend Jennifer’s shawl (that I started in June), the Kuura shawl for me, the Simple Lace Scarf for a gift, and a whole lot of squares for my afghan for my bed.

We have a busy six weeks ahead, as Bill is also going to teach me to do some woodwork. I want to make a drop spindle and practice spinning with cotton balls. Leigh and I have three Hefty bags full of fabric samples to play with, and I want to make a few knitting project bags. So much to do! Hopefully, blogging will fit in there somewhere…with photos!

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How Lovely Are Thy Branches

christmas_waveI love our tacky little Christmas tree. It’s an old artificial pre-lit tree, and for the first time, the lights failed this year. While Aubrey managed to get most of it working, there were still two strings that just wouldn’t light up. We wobbled back and forth on whether to run go get a new tree or just add a loose string of lights to this tree for now, and get a new tree next year so we don’t have to store it. We finally went with option two, so Ron put up some lights and it will definitely get us through this year. I’ll hit up a Black Friday sale next year.

Aubrey made quick work of decorations this year. Thanks to allergies, flu, and work schedules, none of us has had the energy to deal with even going through the boxes, let alone actually hanging things and setting out all the snow people, pillows, table toppers, and stockings. Aub got all the ornaments on the tree, dug out the stockings and holders, and arranged the few wrapped presents under the tree. Those are the ones that we get each other, whereas the “Santa” presents aren’t seen until Christmas Eve after everyone goes to bed. We all agreed to keep the decorations to a minimum so that I can have everything put away in time for me to leave on the 29th.

For the first time in ages, Aubrey is off on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Matt and Amanda (his girlfriend) both work on Christmas Day, so we had to figure out our windows of opportunity. Because no one wants to wait until dinner to open presents, Matt and Amanda are coming over crazy early for breakfast and unwrapping. It’ll be almost like they are five and ten again, up at the crack of dawn, peering into the tree and counting how many boxes they have.

Once I got into that whole Christmas spirit, time started flying. Magical boxes arrived almost daily from Amazon, Etsy, ebay, Staples, and Woot (which I discovered is now owned by Amazon). Ron and I wrapped for hours last weekend, as did Aubrey and I, so no Christmas Eve marathon of wrapping. I remember one year, we finished wrapping at around 3 am, and the kids woke up and started unwrapping at 6am. Ugh, all that work for three hours of sitting and ten minutes of tearing open. That was insane.

There was one year when I actually had my shit together. I started shopping in October and was done by the week after Thanksgiving. I even sent out Christmas cards on Black Friday. Then I just sat around and had nothing left to do. It was awful and I swore I’d never do it again.

I’ll never be the Martha Stewart or Hometalk kind of woman, with the designer tree, home made pillows, cutesy decorations everywhere. That’s just not me. I admire their end results, but I wouldn’t want to live in them. We are not monk-like lemon eaters, with no signs of life in any room. At any given time, there’s at least a pound (or two) of pet fur on the floor, coats everywhere, shoes strewn by the door…in other words, we live here.

However, today is our day of frantic cleaning. Ron is tackling the kitchen, and I’m supposed to be sorting through Christmas stuff (with the intent to give away a large portion on the 26th). Aubrey is wrapping the last of the gifts including a giant container of Jolly Ranchers for her quasi-boyfriend (that’s a whole ‘nother post!). We’re fighting the post traditional-Christmas-Eve-Chinese-lunch crash, and obviously I’m procrastinating by writing a blog post. Even so, enough will get done. Will it be perfect? No. Do I care? No.

To us, Christmas isn’t about decorations, lights, trees, or a clean and organized house, although yes, those are all great to have. It’s not even about the presents…it’s about us being together, doing all the same things that we’ve done every year, eating ourselves into food-comas…it’s about playing games and Matt whining about what he didn’t get and Ron whining about what he did get and Aubrey being happy with whatever. It’s about the watching the dogs with their new squishies, someone burning the cinnamon rolls, and me drinking too much champagne (although not this year thanks to an ear infection and amoxicillin). Our traditions are strong, and despite the kids being adults now, those traditions continue. I guess that IS what makes them traditions, isn’t it?

So do what you do, and do it with love. If you are a Martha Stewart kind of girl, rock it. Wear those antlers, eat too much, and do something with that stupid freakin’ elf if that’s your thing. Most of all, have fun. Enjoy your loved ones, especially the kids because they grow up way too fast. Either way…

Do what you do. And do it with love.

Happy Holidays to one and all.

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We Have Gifts To Give The World

Here it is, 11 days until Christmas, and I still had not found my Christmas spirit. I thought it might be in one of the boxes of stuff that Matt brought in from the shed, but no such luck. Perhaps it would show up in one of my many boxes from Amazon? Nope. Maybe I would find it in the bottom of a cup of hot chocolate? No, again. Much like my car keys, that little bastard had disappeared somewhere, perhaps never to be found again. Unlike my car keys, I can’t just run to Lowes and have copies made, either.

I hoped that today’s special lunch would recharge my Christmas batteries. If it didn’t, I was guaranteed that nothing would. Unlike some people, I do not believe in bragging about good works so I’m not going to give details about it, other than that it was something nice for someone else. I was putting all my faith into this random act of kindness; Christmas spirit jumper cables, if you will.

I met with three perfect strangers at 11:30 this morning, and by 12:30, I was actually singing Christmas carols. By 2pm, I was at Big Lots waiting in the line from hell, again singing Christmas carols and joking with my husband while we bought tape and tags and a few other things. This evening, I actually started wrapping presents!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and he found me on Craigslist. I saw a mysterious ad in the freebies a couple of weeks ago and it had a rather odd message, a six digit number, and a URL: www.santa911.org Because I am a curious person (and because I have excellent virus protection software), I went to the website and found an organization that matches people in need with people who can help. While my cynical self scrolled past the majority of the posts, one in particular struck at my heart. I answered it, and today was our day.

What was so miraculous is that these three people were so kind and gracious and grateful, when really, I was the one who benefited the most. My cynical self was washed away with a quiet smile and a whispered thank you. My heart grew three sizes today and all my grinchiness dissipated. Christmas stopped being a chore and once again has meaning.

So thank you, craigslist person with the mysterious ad. Thank you, 2hands.org. Thank you, three perfect strangers. I was reminded that ’tis better to give than to receive…because one receives so much more than they give.

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Here Comes Santa Claus

Ugh. I’m really starting to hate Christmas. The endless conservative bullshit about the non-existent “War on Christmas,” “Jesus Is The Reason For The Season,” “Keep CHRIST in Christmas,” and the fave of the past few years, “It’s Merry Christmas, NOT Happy Holidays.” It’s enough to make me want to stand in the center of the Santa Claus display at the mall and scream, “GET OVER YOURSELVES, PEOPLE!”

Christmas was the pagan holiday of Winter Solstice long before it was deemed Christ’s birthday by the Catholic church in an effort to get the wild naked people out of the woods and into the church. Christmas trees? Pagan. Candles? Pagan. Feasting? Oh! Pagan! Giving gifts as tribute? Wait, sorry, that one is Roman. Because guess what? CHRIST WAS JEWISH! If you really want to celebrate the holiday the way Christ would have, light a Menorah.

Sorry. Now that I’ve gotten my seasonal rant out of the way, on to other things.

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This Friday night is Ron’s boss’s Christmas party. Well, she was actually only his boss for the short time that he was the acting director. Now she’s back to being his boss’s boss. Anyway, Ron has been living in mortal fear of my opening my mouth at any time during the party, unless it is to put food in it. I’ve been given a strict list of safe topics (blogging is not one of them, surprisingly enough…because someone might actually read it!); knitting, crochet, photography, and real estate. I may also mention that Aubrey is an aerial acrobat, and that Matt is a musician. I’m not allowed to discuss religion, politics, medical beliefs, or reproductive rights. Under no condition am I to attempt a conversation with a doctor’s wife. So why am I going, do you ask? Because I love a challenge. I will be doing my bestest to channel Maggie Smith for the evening. Oh, you took that as a compliment? I must have said it wrong.

I can’t believe Christmas is so close! Just two weeks left. This year, I did not even attempt to do cards. I shopped almost exclusively online. The mailman hates my guts, and the dogs are slavering to get at the UPS guy, who also probably hates me. Hey, at least all my stuff is light. The heaviest thing I ordered was a circuit board set for my niece.

This morning, Matt woke me up to come outside and show him which boxes are the Christmas stuff. I stumbled out to the shed in Saturday’s pajamas (I had a cold all weekend) and was awesomely surprised because he had not only already gotten out all the supplies, he had emptied the shed, organized it, and replaced everything. Yay! I can actually walk around out there without fear of tetanus. While I won’t be able to enjoy it until I get back from Connecticut, it will be waiting for me and all the projects I hope to do next year.

Since Matt was here and Aub was off for the morning, we got the living room cleaned up somewhat, moved the sitting chair into my bedroom, and rearranged a few things. There’s still more to do before we can put up the tree, but we should be able to do that by Saturday night. We all agreed that our only decorations this year would be the tree and ornaments. Since I’m leaving on the 28th, there won’t be much time for me to take things down and put them away, especially since I’ll be frantically packing my yarn and other stuff.

I’m hoping that the closer we get to the holiday, the less cynical I’ll feel. For the moment, I hate everything about the most wonderful time of the year. If I actually had to go out and shop, I would likely get physically removed from stores for being rude to other customers. It sucks being blue in a red state. It really, really does.