All I Want For Christmas

file0001571619565Do you remember when you were a kid and this was the most exciting time of the year? We didn’t have Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Hell, we didn’t even have the internet. My sister and I lived for the day the toy catalogue would arrive in the mail (think it was Sears or Penny’s). We’d sit side by side and study each page of every toy available to man (at least those living in our mailing district) and pick our favorite. Such an exciting time. A wonderful memory.

Jump forward forty-five years. Even my kids are past the toy age. Their lists consist of fun things like money and iPhones (dream on, girlfriend). I’m not much better. I don’t have an easy-to-shop-for wish list. I don’t NEED anything, thankfully. My wants, however, would require a Christmas miracle.

  1. A family photo. Sounds simple, but this one would involve all parties willingly participating without complaint. All parties would dress appropriately. I’m not even asking for matching clothes. Just take a shower. Don’t dress like you’re clubbing.enchanted-april1
  2. Family movie night. One in which I get to pick the movie and everyone stays in the room. They wouldn’t make fun of every line or twist in the plot. They’d pay attention and end up loving it. We’d all talk afterwards, sharing our favorite parts. We’d have a family hug just because our hearts are so filled with joy.
  3. A personal trainer who is also a physical therapist. They could lead me through a fabulous workout, then treat me afterwards, when I’m barely able to walk.
  4. A spot on the New York Times Best Sellers List.
  5. World peace. Hell, I’d just settle for peace among my friends on Facebook.

A tough list, I’ll give my family that. But one can always dream. ‘Tis the season, right? Leave a comment with your dream gift. I’ll draw from those of you who post before midnight December 1, 2016, and send the winner a $25 Amazon Gift Card. It’s not world peace, but it could buy you some fabulous fruit cake.

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Toy photo by cohdra

Thanksgiving

Thanks for the Memories

file0001510816847I’m thrilled that this year we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with thirty-some friends and family. I’m especially thrilled that my sister is hosting. (Yeah! No mopping or dusting for me.) I’m not thrilled—in fact, I’m terrified—that I volunteered to cook the turkey. Two weeks ago, when we were drinking wine and divvying up the menu, it seemed like a worthy challenge. But now, as I wrestle a 25 lb. turkey that is still frozen (dinner to be served in 31 hours), I’m wondering why the hell I thought this was a doable option. And better yet, I’m wondering why my mom and sister, who both know my culinary talents consist of doing the dishes, allowed me to take on the center piece of the Thanksgiving feast.

But this morning at 5 am, while I lay in bed, worrying over the fowl beast, I had an epiphany. I thought back to the Thanksgivings of my past and realized I don’t remember the turkeys. I do remember the fellowship.

The years my mom’s family gathered were the definition of bounty. Four sisters and my file000541128033
grandmother, all great southern cooks, would bring homemade dishes, somehow preserved, from Tennessee to Illinois. Those holidays were spent around the table, morning and night. When we weren’t eating, we were playing cards. Tripoley.

When my dad’s family gathered, it was always at my grandmother’s. She often stored extra dishes on her back porch, yet we never got sick. There was only one TV, and that was in the living room where the adults gathered (and smoked). The kids would hang on her front porch. No iPads. Not even checkers. We’d use our imagination, granted it was tough. Playing house consisted of “cooking,” with our dishes being ashtrays and our food being berries (probably poisonous) picked off the bushes. Strange, but these memories warm my heart.

I’ll never forget Thanksgiving 1985. My dad was in the hospital losing his battle with cancer. We all got the call to come immediately, “it was happening.” Miraculously, it didn’t. Not then. But each of us, his mom and siblings included, had a chance to spend time with him and say our goodbyes. And for whatever weird reason, we put on a play. Yes, a Pilgrims and Indians play, with costumes, right in the middle of the oncology ward of Decatur Memorial Hospital. We took poetic license and my very pregnant aunt wore an “A” on her chest. In the midst of sorrow, we laughed.

emxuwn6eSo my turkey may suck. I’m not even sure it will fit in the Reynold’s baking bag everyone swears by. But it’ll be okay. We’ll break bread with friends and family and there will be love. And for that, I am thankful.





Wooden Turkey Photo by taliesin

Cards Photo by chelle

Turkey Photo by Seemann

A Chair Is Just A Chair

Unless It’s An Addiction

When I cook, it's not this pretty.

When I cook, it’s never this pretty.

My extended family gathers most Sunday evenings for delicious food, much vino and many laughs. At this time, the whole gang totals twelve. When we host the celebration, we add table leaves and even a card table to make room for the celebration. Fortunately, I have enough real chairs (no folding) for everyone, as we spend the whole evening at the table.

I share this to lessen your judgement of my condition. See, I’m a junk collector. Specifically, I’m addicted to collecting old, wooden chairs off the side of the road. Now I don’t go for just any old chair. Nothing upholstered. Nothing laminated. I like the older seats, ones with character. Though some consider them trash, these wooden souls still hold value.

Unfortunately, when you shop at Boutique Le Curb, character can include some 1409207276ych27challenges. Like missing seats, missing legs, and okay, sometimes missing backs. But the craftsmanship on what remains is beautiful. Truly.

I currently have twenty-four wooden chairs. I only paid for eight. And that was at the Salvation Army. I haven’t shopped there for a long time, because, come on, after you get free stuff off the side of the road, $6 a chair seems pretty steep.

Thirteen are inside my home, used in various rooms. They’ve been refinished, the seats recovered, some painted and aged.  Three are stored in the garage, pulled out for events. Eight are stacked in the back of the garage awaiting their transformation. They’ve been waiting a few years.

So why am I sharing this today? Today is neighborhood bulk trash day, the wonderful holiday for us collectors that comes once a year. Treasures and junk decorate every other home on the street. As I was driving my son to school this morning, I saw the first pile. FOUR dining room chairs! (Okay, really three and a fourth comprised of broken pieces). But they were straight out of the seventies – Spanish style gone wild. If I had a room with red velvet wall paper and a bronze sword and shield, they would be perfect.

Thankfully, my son is aware of my struggle. As we approached the collection, my pulse racing, he blocked his window and yelled, “Look away, Mom! Look away!” And I did. But after I dropped him off, I drove by three more times. I never stopped. I’m waiting until night, when I can sneak them into the garage under cover of darkness. Help me.

Food photo by MaxStraeten. Chair photo by Dogerton Skillhause

Help us out, Hallmark

My husband and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this summer. It was a fabulous day. Yes, a big milestone, but more importantly, we celebrated during a peak.

Anyone who’s been married for more than a year, knows that the path of marriage consists of peaks and valleys. The peaks are what keep us going. They remind us why we married our soul mate.

And then there are the valleys. You’ve heard of “the seven-year-itch?” In my house, it was “the seven-year-hate.”

Hallmark thrives on peak times. The week of my anniversary, overflowing with emotion, I skipped down the aisle, reading every card with tears in my eyes, so moved by the words that reflected my love. I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so I bought several, including one of those expensive, “extra-postage-required” cards. (Now that’s some love!)

But during the valleys, when it’s time to buy the obligatory card, we’re left hanging. There’s nothing out there that conveys our true feelings. We scan the cards, cringing at the words we can’t stomach to send. And it’s not just anniversaries. Think of Boss’ Day.

So I’ve come up with some ideas that Hallmark should consider.

Anniversary:

As we celebrate the day of our marriage, I want you to know… I hate your ass right now, but I’m sure it will pass. Happy Anniversary!

Daughter’s Birthday:

I can’t believe you’re sixteen. Through the years, my love for you has only grown… But if you don’t stop your smart-mouthing, you’ll be at your grandmother’s before you can say, “Facebook.” Happy Birthday!

Mother’s Day:

Mom, we’ve been through so much over the years, I could never put into words all that I feel for you. But on this Mother’s Day, I’m so happy to share… My therapist says I don’t hate you as much as I used to.

Hallmark, you can’t use these, but I’d be happy to start a new line for you. Maybe something like:

Get Real. When You’re Mad Enough to Tell the Truth.

Time Travel – Dinosaurs Not Needed

Over spring break, my daughter went to Broadway on a field trip, my husband took my son fishing on the coast, and I stayed home. I got the best deal of them all.

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve been alone in my own home. I’m talking overnight-alone. What wonder, what joy, what freedom. No interruptions. Let me repeat, no interruptions. All of you who share a house know the beauty of this gift. It reminded me of the days when I was single. No one to care for. No one to take into consideration. Dinner consisted of Grape Nuts.

It was a lovely trip back in time. Not a place I’d want to stay, but so enjoyable for a few days. This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were time travel? I’m not talking about hanging out with Abraham Lincoln or telling off the guy that broke your heart. Just a day to go back for a taste of something special.

  • Nursing my baby in the middle of the night. Hearing his contented sigh when he was done.
  • Falling in love with my husband, feeling my chest explode with joy when he walked into the room.
  • Sailing with my best friend in high school, talking about boys and all the adventures that were ahead of us.
  • Living the life with my husband when we were DINKs and could be as spontaneous as we wanted.

But alas, there is no time travel. Just memories and photos that make up what we have now. And despite the lack of privacy and single income, the kids that claim we’ve ruined their lives, and the challenges a couple faces in twenty-some years of marriage, the here and now is pretty damn good.

Now if I could only convince my family that Grape Nuts is the best dinner ever.