New Year’s Eve Party Preparations

Brad made me a sausage, egg and cheese bagel sandwich this morning. A good way to start the day. I don’t have enough people in my life willing to make me breakfast.

There is company coming later and I’ve got a house to clean and food to prepare.  Brad’s girlfriend and their dog are arriving today for the weekend. Later, we’re having a few couples over; some friends and my sister and brother-in-law. It could be a mellow kind of party.

Except…

On Christmas night, we saw our friends, Dan and Jenny. Jenny is a wild-child, party kind of girl. She’s a ton of fun! She has this great laugh and says the most inappropriate things at times. I asked her if they wanted to come for New Year’s Eve. She said if they could get a babysitter, they would come. She probably doesn’t remember me asking. I’m pretty sure she was drunk, or at least well on her way. I might have been on my way too, but I remember asking her.

I think I’ll send her a text message and remind her the invite still stands. It could be great fun to throw her into the mix!

Still in the Holiday Spirit

Christmas is over, but I’m still feeling a little holiday-ish. Maybe it’s because the Christmas tree is still shining brightly in our living room. It’s going to stay through New Year’s day, after which I always begin to feel a bit claustrophobic and then it comes down. Maybe this happy feeling is because my oldest son is back home for the week. He’s being a real trooper about being “one of the kids” again when he’s used to being an independent young adult while he’s away at school. He’s been great about giving us the courtesy of keeping us informed of his whereabouts and when he’ll be home.

I love that the rush hour traffic is light. I love that the kids are on break from school and happy. I love that there are shopping bargains everywhere you look. And believe me, I am taking advantage!

I’d gotten a little lazy in December and fell out of my gym routine. It started when I got sick and continued during the days before Christmas when there was so much to do and never enough time. I got up early this morning and got back on the treadmill and it felt great! I’d forgotten how good exercise can be, not only for the body, but the mind and spirit.

I like the way I feel right now. I think for the new year, I need to try to hold on to the things like these that bring me comfort and peace and stop sweating the small stuff so much.

Christmas 2010

So another Christmas has come and gone. And it was wonderful. I think my side of the family had more fun together on Christmas Eve than ever before. We are a silly and fun-loving bunch, but we’ve been known to let our differences come between us in the past, to the point where those differences cast a heavy shadow over various family gatherings. Now, it seems the older we get, the more we mellow. We’re able to enjoy one another in spite of our differences.

Christmas was different this year. For the first time, one of my children spent Christmas away from home. Brad spent his Christmas up north with his girlfriend, Heather and her family. Add to that, a husband who had to work all day Christmas day from 7 am to 7 pm and a younger son who had to leave the family Christmas party to go to his job in the late afternoon. Mark didn’t even get to see his own parents on Christmas. I expected to feel sad and disappointed. I didn’t expect to be able to enjoy Christmas. But somehow, it was alright. I surprised myself and enjoyed Christmas in spite of my family being so disconnected. We’ve reached that time in our lives when our children are beginning to forge their own lives and things won’t always be exactly as I’d like them to be. I know I need to embrace those times when I have them with me.

So our Christmas celebrations were spread out over a few days, spilling over to the day after when Brad came home. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of years worrying that I’ll struggle with letting go when it’s time for my children to fly, but this year was a milestone for me, I think. I figured out that letting them live their lives doesn’t mean letting go. They’ll always come back home. It will be different from all those years when I had them close and we could all be together all the time. But it’s okay. They’re going out into the world and learning to manage on their own, just like they’re supposed to. I could never really be happy if they didn’t.

So though our traditions may be changing, there were little things to help make those changes easier. My best friend and her family were back in town for the holiday, and so after Mark finished working Christmas night, we went and spent the evening with them. Their party was filled with other friends and young children. It was loud and fun and we had a great time.

The only bit of sadness I’m feeling about Christmas is that it is over too soon!

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Christmastime is Here

I’m ready, for the most part. It’s been a very busy week and the days have flown by. The cookies have all been made and the presents wrapped.  The celebrating begins tonight and ends tomorrow night. It will be a whirlwind of parties and activity. Tonight we’ll be at my sister’s house with my extended family. Tomorrow, during the day, we’ll be with Mark’s extended family. And tomorrow night, we’ll be with my best friend, Gina and her family. Brad comes home on Sunday and things will be on the quiet side for a few days until his girlfriend, Heather arrives for New Year’s weekend.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find themselves on Christmas, quietly thinking, “Not yet…” ?

The older I get, the more I’ve come to appreciate the generosity and charm of the days leading up to Christmas more than the day itself. I love the atmosphere of hope and joy, selflessness and kindness.  It’s as if everyone shares this wonderful secret and we can see it in each other’s eyes when we look at one another. Smiles are more abundant, strangers seem friendlier. Even those with hardened hearts seem to have softened a bit. THAT is what I love about Christmas. When I woke up this morning, I felt myself thinking, “Not yet.” I don’t want it to end. I don’t want to go back to normal the day after tomorrow, when we all climb back inside the shells of our own worlds.

I can do without the frantic daily need to shop, bake and make everything perfect. But I would love to have that Christmas feeling every day of the year. And maybe that’s possible, and maybe it has to start with me. Maybe the day after Christmas doesn’t have to be a huge letdown, but a new beginning. Hmmm…. :-)

Christmas time is here! Merry Christmas, everyone!

Holiday Rush

Christmas is coming too soon this year! The snow storm last weekend put me seriously behind schedule on my holiday preparations.

Well… maybe the snow storm isn’t entirely to blame. Maybe the fact that I always seem to be trying to get on top of things is just the nature of my life. Take right now, for instance. I could be making another batch of cookies. But what am I doing instead? Blogging! Oh well. It was time for a break anyway.

Yesterday was a busy day. Kacey had softball games all afternoon inside the athletic dome. While she did that, Mark, Jake and I cleaned house and did laundry. In the late afternoon, I helped Kacey and friends get ready for the semi-formal dance.

Connor and Kacey

After the kids left for the dance, it was time to go bowling. I’m finally getting the hang of my new bowling ball and was pretty happy with my scores! We didn’t stay long after bowling ended because we were expected at a neighborhood Christmas party. We arrived at the party a bit late, but no harm done. We were just in time for the exchanging of the white elephant gifts. I got some rainbow trout napkin rings and I discreetly left them under the bar at the home of our host and hostess. :-) The gift I brought to the party was a big hit and changed hands several times before someone finally got to claim it as their own… A Santa Claus Mr. Potato Head. Go figure something like that would be such a hot item!

This morning, I was up early. There was shopping to be done. Serious shopping. I woke Mark and we left the house long before the kids were awake. And we were gone for hours and hours trying to find just the perfect this and just the perfect that. I was really beginning to feel like one of those Who’s down in Whoville. But I’m happy to say that our shopping is almost done.

Once back home again, some wrapping got done, some Christmas cards got signed and addressed. Some cookies got made and another trip to the store was made.

There is still much wrapping to be done… the kind that Kacey can’t help me with. (And she has been such a tremendous help with the holiday preparations so far.) Like many others, I may be scarce online this week as I try to make sure all is ready for Christmas.

I wish I were better at this. Why does it all have to come down to such a rush?

Less Stressed

The drive in to work was better yesterday. Getting back out of downtown and home again was still slow-going, but I’m hoping the city of St. Paul has plans to do some sort of snow removal over the weekend. If not, it’s going to be a very long winter!

The week has flown by. Christmas is coming and I am nowhere near ready! I still have so much shopping to do.  I’m hoping to knock off a good bit of it this weekend.  Next week I work the early shift (7:00 to 3:00) so at least I’ll have some time in the afternoons to find those last-minute items.

I did do some shopping last night, but it wasn’t quite what could be considered Christmas shopping. See, for bowling on Monday, they’re throwing a Christmas party. We have been told we don’t have to wear our team shirts as long as we wear “Christmas stuff.” Our team discussed what to do and it turns out that no one owns any Christmas-y attire. So I said I would go find us all something Christmas-y to wear. I had something in particular in mind, and of course it was something silly. I went out and found headbands with felt reindeer antlers on them and jingle bells dangling from the antlers. Voilà! We’re ready for the party! It’s gonna be fun!

Speaking of fun, we had quite a bit of it at work yesterday. We are a very close-knit group, especially since half of our department has been laid off. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s not uncommon for us to just talk to one another over the cubicle walls. Yesterday, everyone got a serious case of the giggles… all because Mark had called me to tell me he was at a store doing some Christmas shopping. Before he left the store, he happened across some sweatshirts that caught his eye. He is in need of some new sweatshirts, but he’s not so experienced in shopping for his own clothing. He would much prefer I do it for him, but since I’ve recently found several items in his part of the closet, purchased months ago (or even longer) with the tags still on them, I’ve quit buying things for him. I told him to go buy his own clothes if he wasn’t going to wear the things I buy him. So there he was, in the store, pondering sweatshirts, and he needed my assistance. He dialed me up, and explained where he was and asked, “What size am I?”

I said, “You’re kidding right?”

“No.”

So I explained that I would normally buy him a large or extra-large, but would eyeball it first. I explained that you can kind of tell which one will fit best just by looking at it or holding it up to yourself, or… and here’s a novel idea… take it to a fitting room and try it on!

He’s used to my sarcastic sense of humor, and explained it wasn’t that he couldn’t figure out what size he actually wears, he just wasn’t sure if he needed to consider the fact that the sweatshirt might shrink. I could appreciate that, but I told him if he had questions about the shirt, he should do what I would do. Go ask a salesperson! I mean, I have many talents, but helping him decide between two sizes while I wasn’t even there is asking a bit much.

So immediately upon hanging up, I called over my wall to Shannon. “Shannon?”

“Yes.”

“Guess what Mark just called to ask me.”

“Did he want to know what he should make for dinner again?”

“No. He’s out shopping. He called me to ask what size he is.”

Since I normally have conversations over the wall with Shannon, and no one else really seems to pay attention, I thought I was just sharing some husband humor with her. But when I heard laughter coming from several other cubicles, I knew my story had reached more ears than intended. Word spread and soon, Susan came to my desk laughing so hard she had tears falling from her eyes. She wanted to know if the story was really true. Did my husband really not know what size he wore?

Oops! I didn’t mean to make my husband the butt of the joke, but I hope he’ll forgive me, knowing he provided some comic relief for some very stressed-out women!

So glad the weekend is here!

 

Snow Woes

So, when I last wrote here, I was marveling over the vast amounts of snow that had fallen in my city. I enjoyed watching the snowflakes fall heavily from the sky hour after hour, from the comfort of my living room. I thought it was fascinating. I thought it was pretty! That was last weekend.

And now? Now that the work week is in full swing and I have to travel through this stuff? My attitude has changed. Those twenty-some inches of snow are no longer a miracle of nature to me. They are a pain in my arse!

There is so much snow on the ground that we seem to have run out of places to put it. The suburbs aren’t so bad. The suburban cities seem to have managed to plow their streets fairly well. The snow plows have created massive walls of snow along the streets where they pushed it all out of the way. The Target parking lot a couple of blocks over is lined by a wall of snow that is much taller than me. But driving is possible.

The city, though? Where I work? That is another story. I grew up in St. Paul and I had almost forgotten what a pain it is to live in the city when there’s been a major dumping of snow. There are more houses in the city because they are built closer together. Therefore, there are more people and hence, more cars. And when the plows need to come through and those cars need to be moved, there are fewer places to put all of those cars.

Mark drove me to and from work on Monday. Traffic reports were not good and I was more than happy to let him exert his manliness through the power of a four-wheel drive pick-up truck while I sat back and relaxed and prepared to be dropped off at the front door of my building, thereby avoiding exposure to the single digit temperatures.

Apparently this guy was avoiding the cold too while he watched from his second-story window for his bus to come:

At least I’m guessing that’s what he’s doing. Why else would someone have their window open when it’s that cold?

We took the side streets into the city since the freeway looked like one massive parking lot. And let me tell you, the streets of St. Paul were a mess! The plows had come through, but there were a multitude of cars whose owners had not bothered to move them off the streets for the plows, so the plow drivers simply plowed around those cars, leaving mountains of snow in the streets and sometimes only enough room for a single car to pass. And where the plows had managed to come through, they often left piles of snow overflowing at the corners of the intersections. It was like driving through an obstacle course. And many of the sidewalks had not been cleared, so amongst the rush hour traffic, there were also pedestrians walking in the snowy streets.

I’m sure you can imagine then what a mess there was downtown, with fewer open areas in which to push the snow. Turn lanes were full of snow and again, there was the problem of narrow streets due to the amount of snow. Traffic was a tangled mess. Getting in and out was an incredible test of patience.

Come Tuesday, I assured Mark I would get myself to and from work. I couldn’t rely on him to chauffeur me to and from work every day until spring. I left way early, anticipating the need to cushion my drive time. And it was a good thing too. My normal commute of about twenty minutes stretched out to fifty minutes! The St. Paul streets were still a mess and it seems everyone who would normally avoid the freeway was now on it. And for me and my car, there was no avoiding the freeway. My car doesn’t have enough clearance to navigate the amount of snow that still covered the city streets. Normally I sail down the freeway at about 70 miles per hour. Since the snow storm? Stop-and-go with max speeds of about 10!

By today, I thought things might loosen up, traffic-wise. Not so. Road rage was beginning to set in. People seem to lose all common sense when it comes to driving in this stuff! I was trying to leave my parking ramp this evening, and was forced to navigate a street that would have normally accommodated one lane of traffic going each direction, but due to all of the snow as well as cars parked along the curb, there was only room for one car to pass. There was a big pick-up truck in front of me and a bus heading toward us. The driver of the truck moved over slightly, I assumed so that he could let the bus pass. I followed suit. The bus passed, and then a line of cars behind the bus. And then? The stupid driver of the truck put it in park and got out and walked away!!! There were cars lined up behind me and cars coming toward me from the other direction and nowhere for me to go. I was stuck. I watched the driver of the truck walk away and I shouted at him… something I can’t say here. But it was along the lines of “Are you FARGING kidding me???” (Luckily for me, my window was rolled up, so he couldn’t hear me.) I have uttered a similar phrase more often than I care to admit over the course of the last few days. Seriously! I have developed such a potty mouth since the snow storm. It happens mainly when I’m in my car, and I’m mainly alone while in my car, but I have to say that this potty mouth is often shocking even to me! Once I even reprimanded myself out loud because I took the Lord’s name in vain in combination with the “farging” word. I cringed almost as soon as the words left my mouth.

I did eventually get around the stupid truck and onto the freeway, not without risk, mind you! But I did it.

I think what is so frustrating is that the city appears to be doing nothing about the excess of snow overflowing into the streets of downtown. In the suburbs, I’ve seen crews scooping up the mountains of snow, depositing it into dump trucks and hauling it away. I wondered why the city can’t do the same, but heard that the plowing budget is so overextended already that it’s not an option.

I am really not prepared to spend the rest of the winter utilizing all of my spare time trying to get to and from where I need to go! And winter hasn’t even officially begun yet! And they are predicting more snow in the next few days!

I refuse to spend the winter complaining about the snow! I do. So if you don’t hear from me for a while, assume it is snowing in Minnesota again.

Blizzard!

It snowed all day long on Saturday. Twenty inches of snow fell in our area! It’s been a very long time since we got that much snow all at once. All day long, I kept looking out the windows in awe of the power of a snow storm.

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Let it Snow!

We’re in the midst of another big snow storm!

storm, blizzard

Do I sound excited about this? Surprising even to me, I realize that I actually AM feeling excited. See, it’s still pre-Christmas, and also, I don’t have to go to work today, so the thought of all that snow is thrilling to me. If I had to white-knuckle it down the freeway to work in such inclement conditions, trust me… I’d be complaining. And once Christmas is over, I’m so done with it. But for now, I’ll enjoy it. I like the idea of staying home for the weekend and not having to go anywhere.

In Minnesota, when there is extreme weather on the horizon, it is all we talk about. The weather becomes the top news story and everyone’s favorite topic of conversation. We LOVE to brag about how tough we are. We are HARDY, us Minnesotans!

I did some shopping after work yesterday, first to one store to find a particular Christmas present, then to the grocery store. Everyone else in the state of Minnesota was at the grocery store at the same time, or so it seemed. See, the news reports all told us to do all of our errands yesterday, because it was recommended that there be no unnecessary travel once the storm hit overnight and through Saturday. I think most people were shopping for actual sustenance, as if they had not a thing in the house to eat and it might be days or weeks before we’ll be able to dig our way out of our driveways. Personally, I stocked up on cookie baking supplies. If I’m going to be stuck in the house all weekend, I might as well get some holiday baking done. And I’d rather eat cookies than healthy food any day.

It was funny to listen to the conversations of strangers as I did my shopping. If you just listen, you can hear the same basic words over and over, with only slight variations.

“I hear we’re supposed to get 8 inches… 12 inches…. 20 inches of snow!”

“We’re supposed to be going (insert destination here) tomorrow. Guess THAT’S not going to happen!”

Mark had to go to work last night. I worried briefly about his ability to get home this morning. There’s already a good amount of snow on the ground. But then I remembered, he’s got a suitable vehicle. 4-wheel drive trucks aren’t just for Rednecks. He’ll probably see the drive home as a challenge. Most likely, he’ll arrive with a report of the number of vehicles in the ditch and complaining about how people don’t know how to drive in the snow. Because we do that here too. We complain about how we’ve all lived through snow storms before and yet every time it snows, people seem to forget how to navigate the roads. We love to complain about each other. It never gets old.

But a snow storm is more than a seasonal conversation topic or top news story. There really is something magical about snow. Once the storm finally passes, it brings a hush over the world. There will be a whole new landscape outside the windows. It brings people together too. Wherever you look, you’ll see neighbors helping neighbors with snow shoveling. Those with snow blowers will gladly clear the driveways of those who don’t own one. People will stop on the road to lend a helping hand to someone who is stuck or has had an accident. Snow men will appear in front yards and kids will wear themselves out sledding down hills and climbing back up again to do it over and over.

Maybe that’s why I feel excited about this storm today. A storm like this shakes us up and gets us out of our everyday ruts. We’ll actually stop being so self-centered for a while and we’ll look around us and take notice of other people for a change. A snow storm has the ability to erase the selfishness and cynicism of the world, even if only for a little while.

Yep, I’m welcoming this snow storm with open arms. Bring it on!

Flying Monkeys – the Perfect Christmas Gift!

Well, I did it! I finally started my Christmas shopping.  Oh, I still have a long ways to go, but I’m feeling good about this purchase. A coworker received one of these as a gag-gift from our CEO, and the minute I saw it in action, I knew I’d be purchasing several of them as gifts myself.

It’s a slingshot monkey! And when he flies across a room, he screeches in the most annoying way.

And just because I’m an adult doesn’t mean I’m done torturing my siblings. My tactics are just a little different than they were in my younger days. Now, I can antagonize my brothers and sister through their children.

Yep. Six young nephews and one young niece will each be receiving a flying, screeching monkey for Christmas this year. And if there are any protests from the moms and dads, I’ll just remind them of all of the years my kids received gifts such as the book about farting, and the games about nose picking and toilet flushing.

I suppose I should really get on with the serious shopping, but I wanted to make sure I got the really important stuff taken care of first :-)