A Very T.V. Special Gift

Growing up, my siblings and I lived for television specials. You know the ones. Specials were television programs such as The Wizard of Oz and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. We were especially excited for the Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas.

They were called television specials because they were just that. Special. Before the VCR came along, you couldn’t watch a program any old time you wanted. You had to wait for a television network to decide to run a particular program and this typically happened once a year!

My siblings and I were giddy with excitement over the opportunity to see a t.v. special. We’d discuss it with great anticipation with our neighborhood friends. No one would be outside playing in the neighborhood on the night a special was on t.v. Everyone was inside, stationed solidly in front of a television.

Mom would time dinner to be sure we could finish eating before the special began. She might even allow us to skip kitchen clean-up duties in honor of the once-a-year program. Sometimes she would pop a batch of popcorn in the electric popper and pour it into her big stainless mixing bowl. The popcorn would have a nice un-healthy dose of butter and plenty of salt sprinkled over. We’d all gather around the popcorn bowl on the living room floor and hush each other in anticipation of the program beginning. We didn’t want to miss one word of dialogue or one song of a soundtrack. We always knew when Charlie Brown was about to begin. That’s when the Dolly Madison commercials would come on. It seems like the only time I saw those commercials was when there was a Charlie Brown special on t.v.

Once a special had begun, we glued ourselves to the television. We found the commercials to be an annoying interruption. (Some things never change.) And when the program was over, I always found myself feeling a heavy sense of disappointment that it would be another whole year before I could spend time with the movie characters again. I got lost in those specials and relived them over and over in my mind.

Some of my favorites from long ago are still around and can be easily found in the DVD section at many stores. Some of them are pretty much relegated to the past, being too politically incorrect for the general public these days. The Little Drummer Boy was one of these, although, with a little effort, I did find it on VHS years ago for my own kids.

One of my sister’s favorite specials was one that was run annually between 1972 and 1977. It was called The House Without a Christmas Tree. I had only a vague recollection of this movie when Cori began to reminisce about it one year when we were in the early parenthood stage of our lives. I remembered watching and enjoying the movie whenever it aired, but it didn’t have a lasting effect on me. For Cori, though, it was clearly one of those programs that was dear to her heart.

The movie centered on a young girl, Addie, whose father never quite recovered from the death of his wife at the time of Addie’s birth. A Christmas tree was a painful reminder of his wife, and so he never allowed one in the house, much to Addie’s despair. One December, Addie won a contest at school, the prize being a Christmas tree which she hauled home and erected in the living room with the hopes that her father would soften and allow the tree to stay. He did not, but eventually found it in his heart to allow Christmas back in his home that year.

My sister talked about this movie and how much she loved it. She talked about how sad she was that it never aired on television anymore. It wasn’t one of the selections available in any of the retail holiday movie sections and she lamented how much she wished she could see it again.

An idea began to form in my head. Online shopping was still a fairly new concept, at least to me, but it occurred to me that I might be able to find a copy of the movie online for Cori. It didn’t take long and I was ecstatic when I found it. I knew she was going to love it.

That Christmas Eve, while celebrating and unwrapping gifts with my extended family, it was Cori’s turn to open a gift. She selected the one I had bought for her. Tearing off the wrapping carefully, the movie she remembered so fondly appeared.

My sister is rarely speechless, but at that moment, she couldn’t seem to find words. She held the movie in one hand, the torn wrapping paper in the other. Her mouth fell open with disbelief as she looked at me, trying to form a complete sentence.

“How…. where … I can’t believe …,” she stammered, looking at me with wide eyes.

Finally, the words came. “Where did you find this? I’ve looked everywhere and have never seen a copy of it available for sale!”

I explained how I had searched for it online and had ordered a copy just for her. She seemed truly astounded that I had listened to her when she spoke of it, and that I had cared enough about her love for an old, low-budget movie to search for and purchase a copy for her. She absolutely, completely and totally loved it and over the years, it became tradition for Cori to watch the movie each Christmas season with her own daughter.

It wasn’t an expensive gift. It didn’t require a lot of effort. But it was something my sister never expected to receive in a million years. The   surprise and joy on her face was priceless and it was the first time I really knew what it felt like to give a gift truly from the heart. It was one of the best gifts I ever gave.

*Inspired by today’s NaBloPoMo prompt: What is your favorite gift you ever gave someone?

I Wanna Ride in the Cash Cab

So the day is coming to a close and I’m coming dangerously close to not posting something for the first time this year, so I guess I’d better put some words down on this page, huh?

I had a really good day today. It felt great after the earlier part of the week just seemed to drag on, dull and lifeless. I had things going on at work today that allowed me to really dig in and I love when I can do that. It makes the hours go by fast. They may have gone by a little too fast, since I ended up staying late to finish things up.

Came home after work and Mark was just waking up for the day. (No, he’s not that lazy. He’s on the night shift this week.) He wanted to get an early dinner since he had to go in to work early tonight. We grabbed some SmashBurger, of which I’ve decided I’m not a fan. The food tastes great but it’s too greasy. Anyway, we got our food to go and came home to eat it in front of the t.v., watching several episodes of Cash Cab, where, according to the website, “Unassuming people enter the ‘Cash Cab’ as simple passengers taking a normal taxi ride, only to be shocked when they discover that they’re instant contestants on Discovery Channel’s innovative game show!”

Now, I know you’re not going to be the least bit surprised when I tell you that I’ve discovered I’m really good at this game. I was on fire, answering questions left and right!

The practice of growing plants without dirt? Hydroponics!

A cotton-like fabric with wrinkles that keep it from sticking to the skin? Seersucker!

Author of Free to Love, Free to Heal? Deepak Chopra!

Okay, you got me. I didn’t really get Deepak Chopra. But I got a scary number of answers correct. Mark was very impressed. (Alright, you got me again. It doesn’t take much to impress him.) Some people have the itch to go to Vegas and try their luck. Me? I want to go to New York and take a ride in the Cash Cab.

Time to pack up the kitchen

I enjoyed a sleep-in morning, this being my day off and all. I stumbled out to the family room and the scene out the window is one that’s been holding steady here for a few days.  Fog. Lots of it. It’s been raining off and on since early this week.  The mountains of snow are dissipating, slowly but surely.

I plopped myself in the recliner and while Mark watched an episode of American Eats featuring famous breakfast cereals on The History Channel, I grabbed my laptop to check up on blogs and such. While I was absorbed in what I was reading, I thought I saw a flash of light out of the corner of my eye, but the gas fireplace was flickering next to me, so I attributed the flash to the flames. However, the massive clap of thunder that followed made me practically jump out of my chair and I soon realized that flash was lightning and we were going to enjoy a rare sight out the windows; a thunderstorm while the ground is still pretty well covered in snow.

Weird.

Does everyone else hear a musical back-drop to the days of their lives? I do. I know Rock Chef does. Since the clap of thunder, I’ve been hearing Amii Stewart singing, It’s like thunder… lightning…. The way you love me is frightening….:

Today is the day I start packing up all the contents of the kitchen cupboards. Mark bought a bunch of boxes for me yesterday, then ripped out the soffits while I was at work. After dinner, he asked me how soon I’d be ready to part with the dishwasher. (NEVER!) The microwave? (DITTO!)

(The microwave is one of those over-the-stove kind. It hangs below a cupboard. The cupboards come down this weekend. Hence the reason I have to part with my microwave.)

I know I need to give up my stuff for a while, I just hadn’t given any serious thought to living with out my daily conveniences. I guess the next trip to the grocery store will have to include lots of crock-pot and grill cookable foods. And paper plates.

And wine. For medicinal purposes, of course.

Well, I better get off the internet now. I’ve got to go pick out a new sink and faucet today and the kitchen is not going to pack itself up.

Have a GREAT day!

The past week

Oh, hey!

I’ve been absentee for a few days. Guess I took an unplanned break. Then I realized I missed writing and missed reading all of your words and communicating with everyone through our blogs. So I realized it was time to come back. I’m afraid to look in my reader and see how far behind I am! And thanks for worrying about me, RC.

Last weekend didn’t go quite as planned. The bowling tournament was a complete loss. I ended up bowling under my average and didn’t even come close to competing. And then some friends of mine ended up struggling with some issues and, well… it was just so hard to see them hurting and feel so powerless to help them. It wasn’t the kick back and relax weekend I had envisioned. It was actually kind of a relief to get back to work on Tuesday.

So, since I wasn’t participating in blog activities, I did some real reading. Yes, I mean an actual book, with pages. I haven’t gotten lost in a book for a long time and it felt good to escape into the story. (Alright, if you must know, it’s one of those Twilight books; the ones all the 12-year olds and 25-year olds and…umm…40-year olds(?) are reading. I can’t help myself. I’m hooked.)

And I also got hooked on a television show. Yes. Me. The one who doesn’t watch t.v. There was a marathon on ABC Family on Labor Day. The television just happened to be on while I was cleaning, because someone walked away from it, and I started watching episodes of  The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Molly Ringwald is on this show and she looks TERRIBLE! Everyone on the show is beautiful (except Molly Ringwald.) And the premise of the show is terrible too. Molly Ringwald, mother of two teenagers,  is pregnant while not yet divorced and the paternity is in question. It could be her soon-to-be ex-husband’s baby (who just happens to live in the house next door with one of their daughters.) It could be her new boyfriend’s baby. I didn’t watch enough to find out for sure. And her oldest teenage daughter has a baby because she got pregnant on her first day of high school. (So that would have made her…what? 14 years old? And having sex?) And all the parents talk to their teens about having sex, but in an almost encouraging manner. I absolutely questioned why this show was airing on ABC Family, but couldn’t tear myself away from it. Weird.

Last night, Gina and I bowled, just for fun. Of course, I bowled way ABOVE my average, getting a four-bagger (four strikes in a row) in my last game and a score of 192. Of course…when it doesn’t count. Oh, well. It was fun.

saintsgame 2007 by you.Today was a good day. I was checking out my work email from home this morning and saw something with the subject line, Saw this – thought you’d like it. Upon opening it, I found an attachment with this picture taken of Mark, me, Jake and Kacey at one of my company events a couple of years ago. We were at a St. Paul Saints baseball game and the weather was abnormally cold for baseball season, as you can see from our attire. My kids have matured so much in the two years since this picture was taken! I can’t believe it! The picture was sent to me by the woman in charge of our Communications department at work. She had recently been working on something that included a picture of every employee and must have stumbled across this one. Her email was short and sweet, saying, I love this picture of you – you are so beautiful. Enjoy. I was humbled and speechless. She made my day, and I sent her a thank you note telling her so.

I did my once-a-month volunteer gig at the high school today with my friend, Tammy. We always enjoy it. The freshmen look younger than ever. Guess that means I’m getting old. I’m always fascinated with all the personalities in high school. The clothing styles have changed, but the kids are the same as they’ve always been. There are the confident, outgoing kids, destined for popularity. There are the shy, scared kids and the geeky, oblivious kids. I’m kind of jealous of the geeky, oblivious ones. They’re comfortable in their own skin and don’t feel the need to conform. How much happier would we all be if we carried that same attitude?

But the best part of the day was lunch with my mom. My sister and I took Mom out for lunch and had a great time. Mom talked about what it was like for her growing up. I always knew there was quite a gap between her and her three sisters, but it was fascinating to hear her tell it first-hand. I never realized that my mom doesn’t remember her oldest sister living with the family. It seems that by the time my mom was old enough to start remembering such things, her sister was working and living on her own. She said all three of her sisters got jobs while they were still in high school, working for other families and actually living with them at the time. I had no idea! How strange that must have felt to her. Even though she had three sisters, her life was more like that of an only child. We talked about all kinds of family stuff while enjoying our lunch and shared a giant brownie sundae for dessert. I’m going to miss these parent-dates when Mom and Dad head back to Arizona in November.

So… that’s what’s been going on with me. And I’m looking forward to a more mellow weekend ahead.

Eye Daggers

Wreggie thinks women need to come with a “check engine” light. His hypothesis is that this light would give men fair warning when “hormones exceed a safe level.” He thinks this warning light would allow him to escape to safety before all female-crazy-hormonal-hell breaks loose.

Hey! Do you ever watch That 70′s Show? I was watching tonight. It was episode 53, Red Sees Red, to be exact. Are you all familiar with this show?  The cast of characters includes Red, the cynical, no-frills dad and Kitty, the sweet, kind, loving mom and the kids, Lori and Eric who are fairly typical teenage kids (who happen to wear a lot of ugly bell-bottomed pants) and a whole host of Eric’s teenage bell-bottom clad friends. Lori and Eric and the friends are always getting in trouble for things like smoking pot, or getting caught making out in Red’s car or some such thing. In episode 53, Red decided to inflict a curfew on the kids for their bad behavior. The kids kept pushing the limits and Red kept inflicting harsher punishments. Red was not succeeding in getting the kids to see the error of their ways. They kept sneaking out of the house so the punishments just got bigger and more over-the-top. Red continued to yell and punish and was only contributing to the kids’ desire to run away from home. Red was nailing windows shut, performing bedroom checks to make sure no members of the opposite sex had snuck in, and hanging jingle bells on all the doors so he could hear if anyone tried to sneak out. Kitty hoped that Red would try reasoning with the kids but could only watch as the wedge between her family grew and grew. At one point she looked at Red and said, “Stop it already! Enough with all this discipline!”

Red looked at her impatiently and asked, “Kitty, what would you like me to do?”

“I don’t know,” Kitty replied. “Maybe you could act more…  LOVING?”

You see, Kitty was growing more frustrated by the day because she wanted her family to communicate and love each other and all they were doing is digging in their heels and fighting harder. (Hmmmm!) Kitty wanted Red to impose logical consequences and discuss the problems with the kids calmly instead of acting like the alpha-male and threatening to plant his foot in their *sses. (His signature threat.)

I love that show.

The moral of the story? Wreg, the thing you don’t understand is that it’s not going to matter if you can equip us with the hormonal warning light. It is not going to help you because you are going to HAVE TO come back at some point and WE… we  women have the ability to shoot DAGGERS with our eyes. You know that uncomfortable feeling you get when you suspect you’re being watched, but every time you look to see, your wife is just minding her own business? Mmm hmmm. Eye daggers.

And it IS your fault.

Maybe it’s NOT hormones.

You brought this on yourself.

And also…

“Fine.”

“Whatever.”

“Nothing.”

“And I have a headache.”

Hey! I have an idea! Instead of a warning light, how about you just give us a foot rub instead?

I'm NOT watching Idol this year!

I do NOT want to watch American Idol this year.  I am NOT watching American Idol this year.  I’m NOT.

“Dude MOM! We have to watch Idol!”

“Dude Mom? Now I’m Dude Mom? What the……….Ok, we’re getting off track here.  I’m not watching Idol. You guys can watch all you want.  I’m not watching.”

I HATE the early episodes of Idol.  I hate suffering sypathy embarassment on behalf of those people that somehow convince themselves they stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting an approving nod from Randy, Paula and Simon.  I hate that feeling of wanting to crawl under my chair in the fetal position after watching some poor, stupid schmuck make an idiot of themselves on national t.v.  Nope.  Not going to watch.  Just going to sit here and read my book. 

Oh, but wait.  I can still hear the t.v.  There’s a voice that’s so good it gives me chills.  Maybe I’ll just take a peek.  I could be an American Idol JUDGE.  I don’t need a trained ear for this.  All I have to do is wait and see if I get chills up my spine.  If I get the chills, you’re going to Hollywood.

Damn it!  I’m getting sucked IN again!  I’m going back to my book!

But wait.  What the…..?  This guy is showing Ryan Seacrest a baggie full of fingernail clippings he’s been saving since the seventh grade!  Americans are so WEIRD!  But hey!  He can actually sing!

Ok, that’s it.  I’m going back to my book.

Alright, wait.  I’m just going to watch this girl.  She survived a near-fatal car wreck and she has an unbelievably positive outlook on life.  Look at the judges!  They LOVE her!  SIMON gave her the first thumbs up!  She can’t sing a lick, but SIMON said YES!  Sometimes I love him!  Oh, no!  Paula said NO!  Come on, Paula!  We all know she can’t sing but she’s so HAPPY and it’s addictive.  Randy?  Come on!  Say yes to this girl.  Please, please, please!  I’m shouting at the t.v.  Come on, Randy!  YES!  He said YES!  I’m cheering out loud now!

Damn it!  Look at me!  I knew this would happen.  I’m GOING. BACK. TO. MY. BOOK!

But wait.  I’m just going to watch this guy.  LOOK at him!  He’s awful!  They’re begging him to stop, but he won’t STOP!  He sounds like a wounded dog!  They’re escorting him out and he WON’T STOP SINGING!  I hope they’re taking him to a good psychiatrist.

Oh, damn it.  Look at me.  Book?  What book?  I have no time for reading.  I have to watch America’s favorite freak show.