I’m so Vain

These posts are all about myself… not to be vain.

“I’ve Been Standing Here Waiting Mr. Postman, Soooo Patiently!” – (Karen Carpenter and Me)

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Deliver the letter, the sooner – the better…

The Christmas greeting has morphed considerably over time. When I was younger, most of the cards we received were just that – cards. These were of the secular or non-secular variety, designed by a stranger and signed by the sender -relatively boring compared to today’s greetings, but we enjoyed them nonetheless.

Since then, our communication styles have been radically altered by social media. Nowadays, one can have daily (or at least weekly) communication with their Ex-college Roommate, their 5th grade Art Teacher and their Next-door Neighbor’s Cousin. We are “reaching out and touching someone” constantly…

But, we still love receiving our Christmas mail. I don’t know what it is about the allure of the Christmas Greeting, but this is the only time of year I actually walk out to the street, and check my mailbox. January-November, I leave all the bills and the junk mail for Jimmy to retrieve, but the holidays are a different story.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, I check the mail once or twice a day – racing my kids to get to the mail first.

Approximately 10% of the greetings we receive are generic cards, 80% are Photo Cards and perhaps another 10% are sent by the overly ambitious writers of the much-maligned Christmas Letter!

THE HUMBLE CHRISTMAS CARD:

These are sent to us mostly from the older generation. For whatever reason, these folks don’t care to send us a picture of themselves or a letter updating us on their lives, so they buy a box of cards and sign them. We love hearing from the Card-Signer Generation, and are touched that they thought of us. It’s reassuring to know they are still kickin’ and it’s a reminder to keep them on our list for next year.

THE PHOTO CARD:

This is by far the most popular Christmas greeting. Snapfish and Shutterfly have elevated this genre to an art form. You simply go online and choose a design you like. There are a plethora of available styles, with spaces for you to drag and click your favorite pics of the year. Some of the designs are created for just one large picture (the whole fam), some for a grouping of 2, 3 or 4 smaller pictures (each child individually featured). But, the really challenging designs might have a variety of spaces in different sizes, requiring you to prioritize your very own kids- the decision as to which child’s face goes in the larger ornament and which goes in the smaller, could potentially stir up some holiday drama. One of my friends met this challenge head-on by featuring her dog in the larger space. Who can argue with that?

We adore poring over the picture cards and are heartened to see our friends and their offspring posed in front of such exotic locales, as The Great Wall of China, The Eiffel Tower and The Parthenon. It quite literally fills our hearts with Yuletide Joy, to know that, while we are slugging around in the trenches of our common everyday lives, you and the kiddos are checking items off our Bucket List. Receiving your Photo card is the fulfillment of our every Christmas Wish – its almost as if we had been there with you….

THE DREADED CHRISTMAS LETTER:

Why does the lowly Christmas letter have such a bad rep? I’ve been composing an annual Christmas letter since way back when my kids were cute. By the time we settled down in Oklahoma, we had a Wait-List of people who wanted to receive our letter, should someone happen to die and create a vacancy…

So, it was with a large and generous heart that I randomly decided to include our new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. _, on my Christmas Mailing List, the VERY FIRST year we met them!! One day, a week or so after my letter went out, I asked Mr. _, if he had read it. To which he responded, with a dismissive wave of his hand, “Oh, I never read those!” I was livid…. Much to the despair of his wife Mrs._, (who, seemingly can’t control her spouse), I made sure my letter never darkened their mailbox again. Surprisingly, Mr. _ has managed to push on successfully through life, but only because he doesn’t know what he is missing.

In Mr. _’s defense though, most people have bastardized the original intent of the Christmas Letter, with their transparent attempts at Self-Promotion:

“And then, in July, we almost missed our Red-eye from Rome, which would’ve prevented us from attending Junior’s Eagle Scout Award Ceremony”

Or:

“As this year’s Valedictorian, Sissy was faced with the difficult choice between giving her Class Commencement Address or singing the Star Spangled Banner at The Olympic Opening Ceremony that same weekend”

Some people even brag about their spouses:

“When she isn’t carpooling the kids around, volunteering at our Local Homeless Shelter, teaching Step-Aerobics or facilitating a Ladies Bible Study in our home, Honey continues to pursue her passion for 18th Century Chinese Poetry!”

These Seasonal PR Campaigns are the REAL reason people avoid reading Christmas Letters. If you really want your friends and loved ones, dotted around the country, to know how superior your life is to theirs, don’t insult their intelligence on top of it…

Just get on with it, like this :

“Merry Christmas! Our kids are straight A students, as well as accomplished award -winning athletes. Our marriage continues to be a Beacon of Hope in a Fallen World. We bought a new Porsche with the money we saved on the great interest rate we got, when we built the new house. If you ever find yourself in our neck-of-the-woods, we’d love to give you a tour of the place, but call first, to make sure we aren’t abroad!”

I, on the other hand, compose a letter every year delineating the mishaps, humblings and utter embarrassments of my family’s year. I consider this Tell-All an act of pure and genuine selflessness, as nothing puts the “Merry” in Christmas like an honest and realistic glimpse of someone else’s Failings and Family Dysfunction…

 

She Was Pinterest, When Pinterest Wasn’t Cool (Barbara Mandrell and My Mother)

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With Thanksgiving swiftly approaching, I’m spending an outrageous amount of time on Pinterest. If you’re unfamiliar with this enormously popular app, google it and have a look. It’s sort’ve a modern-day version of the “Quilting Bee,” harkening back to a time when women used to sit around advising other women on how to run their lives and homes, with efficiency and creativity.

Pinterest is like your Mom, both of your Grandmothers and all your Aunts got together and threw a gigantic Family Reunion in Cyberspace. There are recipes, decorating ideas, and tips on what to eat and how to exercise. You can log on to Pinterest if you need to tie a pretty bow on a package, lattice a pie crust, organize your linen cabinet or whip up a vegetable smoothie. Lost for what to wear? You can even click onto the fashion section for a style to emulate.

The ideas on things to do with a leftover Mason Jar, is reason alone to get lost on this website. Thanks to Pinterest, the humble Mason jar isn’t just for Vegetables and Moonshine anymore!! (For the record, I really don’t believe these “pinteresters” have all these empty Mason jars lying around their cozy-country homes; they’re out buying them by the crate-load at Walmart…) Undoubtedly, the “Mason Jar Craze – 2014” has caused the sales of Mason jars to skyrocket, triggering a surge in Mason Jar stock on Wall Street, ensuring a very Merry Mason Christmas this year, for a host of wealthy Jar-Makers and their heirs!

Pinterest revives the Mason Jar Market

Pinterest revives the Mason Jar Market

But, back when I was growing up, we didn’t have Pinterest, we just had our Moms…

My Mom, Doris, was a (p)interesting woman, way back when the Internet was just a twinkle in some Nerd’s eye. She was the End-All/Be-All Arbiter of creativity and pizazz in her considerable sphere of influence. Admittedly, without the help of social media, her range was limited to her friends, offspring and acquaintances, but she was quick with the advice and managed to get her ideas out there, nonetheless.

Doris: NEED A QUICK, HEALTHY, ECONOMICAL MEAL?

“Brown 1 pound of ground beef, while you simultaneously follow the directions on a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Then, when no one is looking, mix the two together! The kids will wolf this down and come back for seconds!”

(I actually get physically ill just thinking about this Meal Prep Tip. Not because I was so culinarily sophisticated that I didn’t appreciate this dinner, but, because some chic named Betty Crocker, poached this idea and called it “Hamburger Helper,” making millions off of my own mother’s brilliance. We knew intuitively, even back then, that Doris was far too generous in sharing her ideas with everyone and their cousin. Something like this was bound to happen. Kiss my Trust Fund goodbye)

Doris: HATE TO TOSS OUT ALL THOSE GREETING CARDS?

“Who wants to throw away all those beautiful Birthday and Christmas cards we receive in the mail? Just cut around the lovely design on the front of the card, in whatever shape works, punch a hole in it and VOILA! You have a darling gift tag – you can now write your message on the back and attach to a package!”

(This was years before anyone ever used the word “re-cycle” and decades before the term “re-purpose”! The Depression-era generation did stuff like this, because they quite literally couldn’t bear to throw anything away..)

Make your own gift tags out of last year's Greeting Cards!!

Make your own gift tags out of last year’s Greeting Cards!!

Doris: QUICK SALAD DRESSING?

“Who doesn’t have ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise on hand? Just mix those all together! Add a little pickle relish if you have some, but that step is optional. This dressing never fails to please the family, when generously ladled over a head of Iceberg!”

(No need to make the Kraft family any richer by buying their Thousand Island Dressing, for Pete’s sake-We are already buying their Macaroni.)

Doris: LAST MINUTE SNACK FOR GIRL A SCOUT MEETING?

“Take one container of Cool Whip and divide into 3 bowls. Add a few tablespoons of liqueurs (left over from your own Adult Christmas Party) to each bowl. Creme de Menthe makes a festive green mint dip! Creme de Cacao will turn your Cool Whip into a Chocolate Sensation! And who doesn’t love Kahlua mixed with cream? Serve these as “dips” with Vanilla Wafers!!”

(This actually happened. She forgot to bake/buy something, when it was my turn to furnish snacks for my Brownie meeting one January afternoon, and “improvised” by serving Alcohol to Minors… I couldn’t have been prouder of my innovative and creative ‘Cookie Dips’. It was the 70s – no one thought a thing of it…)

And that’s just the things I readily recall, but certainly not all….

-My friends would come over to our house, before dances, to have my mother tie the bows on backs of their dresses.

– She made a Fruit Topiary for a Christmas party out of a styrofoam tree form, covered in foil, long before anyone ever heard of Martha Stewart.

-She could turn a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup into a casserole faster than you could say, “Hand me the can opener!”

Reminiscing about how talented my mother was in the pre-Pinterest era, has left me inspired for Thanksgiving… I now have all the motivation that I need to go spray paint some Mason Jars, to use as candles for my Thanksgiving Tablescape, and assemble that tiresome Cream of Mushroom Green Bean Casserole!

I’m sure somewhere in this country, next week, some families by the name of Kraft, Crocker and Campbell will all join hands, bow their heads and Give Thanks for Doris and all the other Pinteresting Pioneers who made them the Macaroni Millionaires they are today…

“I’m not Afraid of you Running Away” – Tom Petty and Me

Adoption day - likely stoned on Benadryl

Adoption day – likely stoned on Benadryl

Sooner or later I was bound to blog about the adversarial relationship I have with my dog. Recent events prompt me to do so at this time.

It seems that Hazel “made a break for it,” as my son so eloquently stated it, last Sunday. Apparently, when The Hubs took Hazel along to pick up our son  from a sleepover, Hazel jumped out of the window of his moving vehicle! Visibly shaken, my guys rescued her and brought her home, relaying the entire story to me.

I instantly saw this as the shameless ploy for attention that it so obviously was. But- before I attempt to explain our relationship, let me explain how we came to have Hazel in the first place….

We weren’t really in the market for a dog when we got Hazel. Have you ever bought anything you didn’t need because you couldn’t resist a BARGAIN??? The simple explanation is that we were trying to help our daughter get a small “apartment sized companion.” One Saturday morning, we went around to local pet stores; my spouse, (who rarely shops for anything) was appalled at the prices they were charging for puppies.

In my husband’s  experience, you don’t PAY for a dog, you are doing the world a FAVOR by taking a dog off of someone else’s hands. Anyway, we saw these two adorable Chihuahuas in a small cage at Rich People’s Pet Store. There was a sign above them that said, “Chihuahuas – $400”.

My husband can read, however, he said to the clerk, “how much for one of these Chihuahuas?”

The clerk, looked dispassionately over at the sign, and responded, “$400.”

My husband can also do math, but his next question was, “How much if we take them both?”

The clerk nodded over at the sign and responded, “$800.”

The Hubs was incredulous. He said later, “There has to be a Chihuahua Rescue somewhere in this city!”

Fast forward a month or two: We were driving home from church and as we passed Petsmart, I read a sign aloud, “Chihuahua Rescue -here today!” If I had been staring out of the other window, I would have read, “Milk on sale at Braums, $3.50 a gallon!” But, alas, fate was not my friend that day….

The Hubs (whose love for being right is second only to his love of a bargain) said, “I knew it!” and whipped the car into the parking lot. Before you could say, “think this through,” we were holding the little Mexi-mix and picking out a name. There was about 24 hours of joy knowing how we “put one over” on Rich People’s Pet Store. We showed them all right! We got 4 1/2 pounds of LIVING HELL absolutely free!!

Throughout the adoption process, that morning, she was a docile, grateful and timid little creature, shivering and humble. I have since come to believe that they must dope those dogs up on Benadryl, because within 24 hours of bringing her into our home, she bore no resemblance to her pre-adoptive self. When the drugs wore off, the REAL HAZEL emerged….

Much to the consternation of all my friends, who insisted that I would grow more and more attached to her with each passing day, that is not the case…Hazel and I have a complicated relationship. Have you ever watched the show “Sister Wives” and puzzled over how two alpha-females can live under the same roof, and remarkably BOTH believe that THEY have the upper-hand?

While it’s true that there were many years that I pined for a “Live-in” (another female to occupy the extra guest room and share the load) this is clearly not what I had in mind.

On any given day, Hazel appears to have the better end of the deal . She lays around, eating and sleeping and yapping at anything/anyone that gets within 300 feet of our property.

She doesn’t cook, clean or do laundry, and yet, when my husband walks through the door, you’d think she had been working her puppy-ass off all day in service to him. She gets so excited when his truck rolls in the driveway, that she literally pees on the floor. Undoubtedly flattered, he has commented several times that I am never quite that enthusiastic to see him….

Which brings me back around to Hazel taking a flying leap for herself out of a moving vehicle. I have always subscribed to the popular life philosophy “If you love something, set it free…”

 

If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?

An actual artist "Fixing" my work

An actual artist “Fixing” my work

A friend of mine threw herself a milestone birthday party at one of those paint-a-picture places recently.

My initial reaction which lasted about 5 seconds was – ohhhh not interested in that…

But I do adore this particular friend. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from celebrating with her; And I would dig ditches on the side of the road with this entire group of  ladies, so I was going.

We kicked off the party with a popular new cocktail, The St. Germaine’s Martini. I was the bartender, as usual.

I don’t mind. ( Life Tip: I try to contract my abs when I shake a martini and am pretty sure it works to flatten the tummy.)

After the martinis got us all limber and loosened up, our instructors introduced themselves and got the ball rolling. One of the instructors looked at me and said,

“Hi! Don’t I know you?”

Hi! I don’t think so,” I responded.

Haven’t you been here before?” 

Nooooo…I’ve never been here before!  I’ve always wanted to, but never have!” I added, practically cooing.  The last part was a complete falsehood.  I’ve never had a desire to go there, but couldn’t resist an opportunity at Teacher’s Pet.  
About that time, one of my friends chimed in with, “Leslie has probably been coming here every afternoon since she found out about this party, taking private lessons, so she could “win” the night!”
Another friend asked,  “Uh-Oh, is this a contest?”
If Leslie’s involved, then it’s a contest!” another added.

A rumor is loosely circulating that I’m Uber-Competitive because, when our tennis team caravanned to St.Louis in August, for Sectionals, I took a wrong turn that took the group in my car off-course for about an hour.

These girls are still bitter because I wouldn’t stop to let anyone eat or pee until we caught-up with, passed and beat the other vehicles to our hotel. In my defense, it was the perfect kick-off for an extremely competitive weekend. It got our competitive juices flowing.

Besides….we won.

Nonetheless, they just know me too well. It could well be time to consult my wait list. (Another life tip: Keep a wait list of prospective friends. I find that life is too short and time too limited to be friends with all the fabulous people one meets, so keeping a wait-list of prospects lined up is a quick way to replace friends one may alienate along the way…)

We started our project by putting on an apron. I am naturally wary about anything that begins by tying on an apron, but I cooperated. The extremely patient instructor walked us step-by-step on how to paint the peacock that our hostess selected .

We painted for what seemed like several weeks.

It was fun to watch everyone so intent on their painting. I was more intent on watching everyone else’s intentness, to listen to the instructions. In this way, not much has changed since my high school days. I had to keep asking the others, “which brush?” and “which color?”

I feel everyone should try to express themselves in this world. We should all make an effort to find our “medium.” After an hour or so of painting, the instructor walked over to mine and said, “Here, let me fix yours…go visit with your friends!

So I guess painting isn’t my MEDIUM.  But, in all fairness, I’ve known this since the first grade.

Obviously, this man was concerned I would tell people I painted it at his studio and they might lose business.

After everyone finished painting, we posed for a group picture.   I continued to add paint to canvas after the instructor “fixed” mine, so mine was definitely the worst in our group and possibly the worst ever done by a grown adult in the history of this particular business model.

After the picture, I hugged everyone goodbye, tucked my martini shaker and painting under my arm and headed home. When I arrived home, I promptly hung my painting on the wall for Jimmy to admire.

And then I sent everyone a text proclaiming my victory.  I was the first one to get mine on the wall.  Of course it was a contest…

Oh, and Jimmy’s response to my evening’s effort?  “Woman, it’s a damn good thing you excel at other things, because you sure as hell can’t paint!” 

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