Friday, December 26, 2008

Correction!

Funny isn't it, what an "attitude adjustment" can do?
In spite of my earlier pout, our wee celebration(s) were perfectly blessed! I've only a few thank-you notes to pen -- but that was the Plan afterall (LOL)!
Seeing the smiles on the faces of our "local" grandchildren, then hearing my granddaughters' laughter (in Alabama), made everything Just Right!

May I share a few of the reasons why we smile?


Here's 14-year old Sarah (and dad), taken a few months back.



Newly-11 y/o Chloe. (I've must get out there and score some updated pictures!)


10-y/o Kayla had a keyboard lesson yesterday from "Hubby-claus."


But it seems Santa forgot Victor's new front teeth?!


Brian's already looking forward to his birthday on New Year's Eve! (Love those dimples!)


No doubt, Mom's relieved Estefan won't be sneaking her camera from now on!




Oh my gosh ... I almost forgot someone!

Here's a preview of #7!
Hubby's son and his wife won't get to meet their firstborn 'til late April ...
and they've elected not to learn if it's a "he" or "she" ...
but we're thrilled nonetheless!


I hope you each enjoyed a very Merry Christmas! Let's all look forward to a safe, WONDER-full New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Plans and Stuff

Already, I'm pretty sure of my New Year's resolution. While it's necessary to shed some unnecessary pounds, etc., etc., there's something much more pressing -- if I'm to survive Hubby's clan without developing an ulcer: Seems I need to learn to be more Flexible.

You see, for as long as I can remember there's always been an agenda -- a Plan, if you will, for dealing with Holidays and Life Events. Then "just yesterday" (actually, 4 years ago) I came to be a part of a new, wonderful family. All was going well until I discovered -- not one of 'em has a Plan. Nor do they seem overly concerned! Egads ... this must change!

So, there was a Plan for celebrating Thanksgiving as a family last month. Then the Earth tipped on it's axis for a period, and Hubby and I wound up at my place of employment, enjoying a cheeseburger. (Well, that's what I happened to crave at the time; he had the prime rib.)

We're reasonably assured that tomorrow morning all will be in order at Daughter's house for a lovely Christmas brunch, enjoying four of our grandchildren.

Tonight? To channel Joan Rivers, "Can we talk?"
Sorry, I'm just stinkin' annoyed. In fact, I woke at 1:00 this morning, ready to engage in a spittin' contest with whichever unfortunate soul first happened to cross my path.

Normally we enjoy spending Christmas Eve with Hubby's son and his wife. Her close-knit family has dibs on them Christmas Day. Then, of late "junior" and his sister have been feuding like a couple of adolescents. (Can you say, Peace on Earth?)

Wary of my eyeballing the calendar, Hubby phoned "junior" some 7 days ago to confirm our date. Understandably he wanted to check with DIL, but promised to call right back.
Well, "right back" translated to 8:00 last night. By this time, I'd planned (there's that word again!) our attending candlelight church services, then I'd treat Hubby to a late dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant.

Pardon my jumping to conclusions, but I'm feeling like the high-school wallflower who only gets asked out after every other possibility has been exhausted. To Hubby, "I guess they didn't get a better offer?"
He regards me, "Well, they've been busy working."
(Excuse me, where you do think I go every morning at 5:30?)

For the sake of the Season (and our sanity), we've agreed to disagree and are meeting them at Claim Jumper tonight.
So, I'm going to go put David Foster's Christmas Album in the player, practice smiling ... and try to get a grasp on this Flexibility business. Might have some cheese to go with my "whine" while I'm at it.

Either that ... or spend some quality time daydreaming about running away to the North Pole next Christmas. Anyone want to come along?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

One Silent Night

Note: I photocopied this article several years ago. 'Think it appeared in my folks' December issue of Readers Digest? Unfortunately, I cannot locate the exact source --so to credit the author, an individual named "Shlomo" (I don't know if that's his first or last name).
Still, it's message so moved me.....and I hope it does you, as well.


Of the narrow escapes my sister, Judith, and I had from discovery during our year in the orphanage, one stands out particularly. It was Christmas of 1944 -- a white Christmas, with snow falling outside, but warmth within from extra coal and larger food portions. We even had meat -- meat! A Christmas tree stood in the corner, and we children were seated on both sides of a long table nicely arranged with plates. We were singing Christmas carols, their simple and pleasant melodies totally out of context of the savage war that had been raging for six consecutive Christmases.


The pleasant feeling of food in our stomachs loosened our tongues, and contrary to the usual silence enforced during meals we were permitted by the sisters to converse quietly. Boys and girls were separated as usual, but Judith and I could see and smile at each other.


Then suddenly, the door opens and Mother Superior enters, accompanied by a German officer. Judging by his uniform he must be at least a general.


"Children," Mother Superior says, "the commander of the German garrison in Zilina is a devout Catholic, and he asked to spend the evening with you. He also brought you a nice present."


The present turns out to be a large chocolate cake. It is delicious, but I cannot escape an oppressive feeling. Even on this night must the Germans intrude on the tiny and shaky island of peace I have tried to carve out for myself? I notice, too, the tension on Judith's face as she eats her cake silently, her apprehensive eyes on Herr Commandant.


Again we sing some carols -- one of them "Silent Night, Holy Night," itself so close to a prayer.


When we finish there is a pause, and the commandant whispers something to Mother Superior. After a moment's hesitation she asks: "Is there anyone here who can sing 'Silent Night' in German? It will make our distinguished guest very happy."


Both Judith and I know some German; actually we had learned the German version of this song before the Slovak one. But should I now stand up and sing it for our enemy?


As I hesitate I see Judith slowly rise from her chair and walk toward the commandant. The decision has been made for me, so I stand beside her and we join our voices: "Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht ..." As we sing, the face above the medals becomes animated and involved in our performance -- the lips move together with our words.


Then suddenly Judith gasps and stops, terror in her eyes. She has suddenly realized what I, too, had feared: Why are we two the only children who know the German version? Where are the others? The answer is simple, and surely the German officer knows it. In this part of the land it is only Jews who understand German. The Commandant has trapped us -- he knows we are Jewish.


He motions to us to approach. It seems an eternity before he speaks. Then looking at us, he says softly: "Hab keine Angst, deine Mutter und Vater werden zuruck kommen" -- "Don't be afraid, your mother and father will come back."


For him, too, it was a silent night.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Just Be-Claus

1952: Dig the look on poor Santa's face!


1953: 'Still can't convince me, big guy.



2008: This shot of our management team taken a couple weeks ago.
I've learned to smile .. but still keep a safe distance (front row, left)!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Nut Bread Caper of '85

One of the FEW things Hubby likes about Winter is my compulsion to bake. (Ya, most of the year the kitchen and I don't stay acquainted.)

Not one to substitute an ingredient, toss in a sprinkle of this or a pinch of that, it's the exactness of these recipes I find comforting. My favorite? An ages old version of banana-nut bread. Modesty aside, family and friends have raved about it ... or pretended to, which is really sweet.

Have you ever heard of a
Plantain? I'd not either, until going to live in Florida. Trust me, they are Evil.

Come December, I purchased a sack of "bananas" and set them aside to age. But even after a week they stubbornly remained a canary-p**p yellow.
Hmm, I reckoned to hurry the process via the microwave's "thaw" feature. Nothing.
OK, let's peel and slice. (Note to self: what a strange, thick peel!)
Repeat the thaw cycle, then hit 'em with the mixer ... again, they refused to yield.
Short of slipping a baggie over my boot and stomping them into submission -- I was puzzled ... and peeved.

Tossing remains in the garbage, I abandoned the notion of baking that night.
The next morning, however, I couldn't resist grabbing a survivor to bring to the office. "What do you make of this? Suppose it's a mutant, something of value?"
I caught the look that passed between co-workers; their efforts not to giggle: "That's not a banana. You're holding a plantain!"

Nope I never tasted it, or tried mixing it with other self-respecting food groups. Simply, I was afraid ... very afraid.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ecumania!

"We do not remember days, we remember moments." (Cesare Pavese)

Curious, isn't it, how long-forgotten memories can pop, front and center, out of nowhere? The other day I was up as usual at 4AM -- nursing a cup of coffee out back, marveling at the night sky .. and suddenly started giggling. OK, I'll share:

Not that many years ago, my mother's declining health mandated her relocation to an assisted living facility. Despite initial concerns regarding her assigned roommate, E. and R. became what the staff referred to as "Frick n' Frack, two peas in a pod."

Seemingly the only thing they had in common was the cruel diagnoses of advanced dementia. Yet, they took such delight in one another! Despite her mind's atrophy, mamma was always soft-spoken and courteous. Too, she fiercely remained a "hard-wired" Lutheran. R. on the other hand was Jewish, funny as heck, and well ... let's say, feisty -- you never knew what would come out of her mouth! Hence, this recollection:

One Sunday in December, I arrived at "Shady Oaks" (pseudonym) to assist dressing mamma in her favorite navy shirtwaist for "church" down the hall. Rushing, so as not to be tardy, when R. wheels in, demanding to know where we were going. Announcing that she, too, wanted to go.

Glancing about, I saw no avenue of escape. Uh ... OK. Reasoning, this can't be that bad.

When we entered the chapel, however, I immediately spotted the sacrament on the make-shift altar and realized this was the first Sunday of the month. Uh-oh. Wouldn't you know, the only remaining spot for their wheelchairs was front and center.

"What's that?" R. asks loudly, pointing to the creche. At once, I'm pressed to try and recall the exact teachings of Judaism. Instead, I attempt a diversion, offering her the hymnal. "Let's sing, sweetie."

Nervous as a mother hen, I scarcely heard the clergy. Glancing at the doorway, wondering if R's daughter would suddenly appear, demanding to know what's going on. Dreading the moment of Holy Communion. Oh please God, please don't let him say those words, "This is the body of Christ, given ...."
But I'm prepared: Near enough to cough loudly over R's "Whaaaat?!?"

Later, I felt obligated to share with R's daughter that her mother been to church and had in fact, participated in Holy Communion. Happily, she found the revelations humorous and thanked me for showing her mom a good time. (Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor?)

Sadly, both my mother and R. passed within months of each other after the New Year. But like the song says, "It's the laughter, we will remember....."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good night, God speed

A few days ago Hubby and I were privileged to attend the memorial service of a gentleman who'd finally succumbed to his brave 12-year battle with cancer.

I say "privileged" in that our presence seemed incongruous with other participants, whose wealth and stature were obvious. Accolades came from as far away as the U.S. Supreme Court. Still, we felt certain R. would approve.

What began years ago as a routine job for Hubby (the handyman), evolved into a precious alliance between the two men. While Hubby was careful never to over-step the bounds of familiarity, R would simply "poo-poo" that notion. Only last year, for instance: R phoned to see if Hubby was available for a few days work ... only to discover that "work" involved his participation in a hunting trip for classic toy train parts! (Daughter later exclaimed, "He's paying you to go play with trains?!) Then, when Hubby was undergoing chemo therapy ~ and considering quitting the whole process ~ R told him in no uncertain terms, "I know where you live and I'm coming over to kick your a**!"

Don't get me wrong. I've no prejudice against the Upper Class; nor is there a chip on my shoulder. (I hope!!!) No, I just recognized that we have little common ground -- and remained mute. Had I given voice to my recollections, however, I'd have simply said, "Thank you."

...Thank you for making me feel that my learning curve rose dramatically each time we met (without your ever being condescending).
...Thank you for the day you just tossed us the keys to your brand new car, inviting me to take her for a spin. When I demurred, you took the wheel and gave us a tour of your mountainside 'hood', regaling us with antidotes of each grand home's history and its occupants.
...Thank you for being our cheering section when Hubby's cancer threatened and we were frightened.
...Thank you for taking a real interest in our lives, never once setting off my "insincerity detector."

Doesn't everyone contemplate his or her own memorial at one time or another? I'm pretty positive there'll be no Ivy League Chancellor telling tales at my service. But I sure hope that I live my life in such a way that someone ~ perhaps someone I don't know very well ~ feels moved to offer a silent "thank you."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

All I Want for Christmas

Well, it's official ... I've become my mother.
Normally, this would not be a bad thing; the lady was an Angel on Earth.
No, what I'm referring to is her response to my annual question, "What do you want for Christmas, mama?"
"Nothing, dear." she'd respond with a smile. "I really don't need a thing." (or, if repeatedly pressed, "Oh, I could use a new hankie.")
B-o-r-i-n-g.

Now I find those words falling off my own tongue! (OK, maybe not the "hankie" part.) I sense my son's exaggerated eye-roll through the telephone.

So, what DO I want for Christmas? Peace on earth ... continued good health ... perhaps the winning Powerball ticket in my stocking? Certainly, I am grateful that someone cares enough to ask. In all honesty, I'd rather they save their money and focus on the children. Who'd have guessed, the former "material girl" would morph?

Oh ya, there are electronics and gadgets out here whispering my name. I long to play Guitar Hero on a Wii. But I don't need any of 'em. Theirs is a siren song I'm making a conscious effort to ignore.

I'm pretty sure I can count on Hubby to uphold his end of our pact not to buy for each other this year. And you know what? We're having such fun, discovering all the non-monetary opportunities to celebrate this Holy season. In fact, I'm reminded of a wonderful surprise put on by a co-worker a few years ago:

As part of our Secret Santa exchange, everyone completes a short list of questions, including of course, "What do you really want?" Tongue-in-cheek I'd scrawled, "Snow."

Well, several days later I arrived at my office, hit the lights and just gasped. "S" and several of her teammates had transformed my office into a Winter Wonderland ... complete with a myriad of fat snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and thick cotton batting that covered every inch of desk and credenza! 'Twas delightful, and remains to this day one of my all-time favorite holiday memories!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Fun

Long ago I abandoned the notion of becoming a journalist -- too bashful, not to mention my regard for the media in general (let's not go there).

Nevertheless, my "inner Barbara Walters" pops out every now and then -- aided and abetted by the captivating "Conversation Piece" book by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie.

Ready to have some fun? Here' a sampling! For this exercise, I'm playing both the interviewer and interviewee -- but I'd really like it if YOU would play along, then share your own answers ... or even some new questions!

As the Christmas season draws near, what song is it that you can't wait to hear?
Michael Crawford's "Oh, Holy Night."

Conversely, what Christmas song drives you nuts?
--Blue Christmas (Porky Pig)

If you were playing "Name That Tune," which Christmas song do you think you could identify in the least number of notes? (Think carefully!)

--Frosty, the Snowman.

Besides the 5 Golden Rings, which gift from "The Twelve Days of Christmas" would you be most interested in receiving?
--Those 8 maids ...puleeze!

If you could spend Christmas in any European locale, which one would you choose?
--Vienna, Austria.

In your opinion, what is the best taste the Christmas season has to offer?
--Raw sugar-cookie dough!

If you could spend Christmas Day with any TV family, past or present, with which family would you choose to celebrate?

--The Cartright's (Bonanza).

What is your favorite Christmas decoration in your home? (The tree doesn't count!)

--Antique sleigh bells, worn by my grandfather's team of horses (ca. 1915).

In your opinion, what would be the ideal temperature for Christmas Day?
--50 degrees.

What is one thing you've always wanted to do during the holiday season, but haven't done thus far?

--Ice-skate at NYC's Rockefeller Center.

...YOUR turn!