Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 - The Year in Review

In case you were wondering, no, I didn’t write a post on future Christmases because I was to busy doing stuff. Important stuff that I can’t remember, but I know I did it and it was important.

The cats will agree.

2011 started out pretty much like most years, full of promise and hope, with a whole calendar of potential waiting to be used in the best manner possible. Tam and I spent quite a bit of it playing Diablo II expansion pack.

This year saw a lot of new and exciting things:
--Spawn turned 28.
--My job nearly killed me.
--Tam became temporary (but long-term temporary) kitchen manager.
--Middle Minion turned 21!
--Tam and I spent two weeks visiting my parents.
--Middle Minion moved out while we were gone!
--We discovered having extra space in the garage was rather nice, even if we did miss the former resident known as Middle Minion.
--I discovered that my phone likes to send texts that make me sound like an angry Goblin. “Gassy universalX!” is what my phone said instead of Happy Anniversary. It seems to really like being gassy more than it likes being happy.
--The Hair got a job and is moving up the ladder very quickly.
--Then she turned 25!
--We pondered and planned for the future and a purchase of a lovely little shop.
--We watched those plans shift and settle and potentially change, although I’m still not giving up all hope…yet…
--We discussed the possibility of moving in with my parents in order for me to take care of my father.
--Tam’s son, Beans, turned 21, but has not quite achieved employed status.
--There was the birth of the third book in my Fantasy series (as well as an open door for the next one!)
--Most Minor Minion turned 20!
--Li’l Red has fully embraced his obnoxious teenage years and his chances of surviving them grow slimmer each day.
--I tried and decided I hate facebook with a passion and deleted my account.
--We deleted our television.
--Spawn got a job.
--Most Minor Minion quit his job and started college.
--The former LOTM got engaged to a very nice lady. Here’s hoping she doesn’t give him nearly as much trouble as I did.
--I began “paper sculpting” greeting cards again.
--Tam began sculpting darling figurines in heat-cured modeling compound and I’m trying to convince her to start selling them. Goblin butts are darling. Really.
--We experienced new twists on old holidays and I spent them with Tam’s family.
--We attempted a Christmas bakeoff with the kids. Next Christmas’ bakeoff will be better, I promise.
--We did some cleaning, just not enough to even remotely call the place organized.
--I did some editing and planning out of future books in the series.
--Best of all, I figured out the direction I’m going to take in order to get published!

It wasn’t the best year I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t quite the worst either. There was a lot to appreciate in 2011, and I expect there will be a lot to appreciate in the coming year as well. New friends and old blessed my life and I am thankful for all of them.

In 2012, I will be thankful for the job I have and strive to keep it as long as possible (unless an office position that doesn’t involve being hit or requiring me to change diapers opens up, then I’m jumping for that one).
I will remain hopeful for the future.
I will do my best to keep writing and aiming for the goal of publication.
I will do my best to keep reading your blogs and commenting on them, not just reading them and wandering off with the intent to make a comment “when time permits.”
I will do my best to keep up with my Monday Love Texts.

Thanks for the good time, 2011!

Love to you all,

Karen, Tam, and family.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

My Gift of Christmas Presence

How’d you like that play on words in the title? Yeah, gird your loins, you have a long ramble ahead of you.

December came in with gritted teeth and a bad attitude. It spent the first couple weeks picking at scabs and spitting in our food. It brought in lingering sickness that is still trying to ruin shit half way through the month. But despite all of that, things have settled down and the month is beginning to behave itself. School let out for the two-week winter break and we started it off with a bang. It was Tam’s idea to have all the children over on that first Saturday in order to get all of our holiday baking done. All six children in one house. All those bodies. All those recipes. All those dirty dishes.

It didn’t turn out quite the way we’d planned, which was fine, considering we’d somehow forgotten how tall some of our offspring have gotten now that they’ve moved out. Fudge was made, along with nut toffee (yay for candy maker Spawn! The girl is magic with a candy thermometer). Tam’s son, Beans, made snickerdoodles, and her daughter, The Hair, made strawberry marshmallows. My male offspring didn’t make anything, but they did contribute their brawn when it came to stirring, lifting, and tasting.

That night, we got to see the living room filled with grown male offspring sleeping in various places: Middle Minion on the couch, Most Minor Minion on the floor, and Beans in my recliner (which, by the way, is much shorter than he is).

It was an awesome time, one that I will not soon forget.

* * *

On another good note, the former Lord Of The Manor announced his engagement. He even came over and gave us all the details, including the part where he dropped to his knees to pop the question. After he left, I turned to Tam and said, “He never got to his knees when he asked me to marry him. Maybe he knew what he was in for and wanted to be sure he was ready to run for the hills.”

* * *

Humor played a part in the holidays as well. One day Tam stood up and I heard a strange “hiss.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“I farted.”
“Why is it when you fart, your ass imitates a cat hissing, but when I fart my ass imitates heavy machinery or agitated water fowl?”
“Not always. Sometimes your ass sounds like a perturbed pachyderm.”

My phone hogged most of the humor points, however, as it began altering my texts to the point of total ridiculousness. For instance, I have wished “many gassy years” to two people. I was thinking “happy,” but my phone had other ideas.

I told my ex he could come over on baking day and “nag a infidel or two” and he thought I wanted him to have a “chat” with our children. What I really meant was he could “snag a morsel or two” since we were making all those goodies. I tend to refrain from calling anyone, especially my children, infidels. I’m not even sure why the hell that word is in my phone in the first place!

Poor Middle Minion was offered a supper of “turd scrub” salad, when in reality it was “tuna pasta.”

It changed Spawns name twice, once to “Prawns,” and again to “Spaz.”

ASAP is Crap.

More is Nope.

From this: “Yes, it might make more sense to talk face to face,” to: “Yes, it MIGHT nclo Nope rose to talk dad to dad.”

And: “Orange on baker Annie’s” was “Orange no bake cookies.”

My phone. It hates me real bad.
* * *

I took Spawn to the mall. I did not go into the mall because I didn’t feel the need to be on the six o’clock news. I’m not a big fan of crowded malls and cranky shoppers and immersing myself in the midst of them rarely ends well. Besides, I needed to go elsewhere for my last gift, so we made arrangements on where to meet and off we went. I arrived first, so I sat in the car and watched stuff happen.

At first it was pretty dull, people getting of the bus, drivers looking for parking in the rapidly filling lot, and finally, the parking lot cop directing said traffic. This guy was awesome. He wouldn’t pay any attention to the pedestrians, so he’d wave cars around the corner just as the crosswalk was occupied. Fortunately, the drivers were paying better attention and there were no casualties.

But the best part happened when some dork stopped in the middle of the intersection, rolled down the passenger window and asked the cop for directions. The cop, being of such awesomeness, answered the question, using his hands to emphasize his point. The very same hands he had, only moments before, been using to direct traffic… you can see where this is going probably better than the cop did. Fortunately people were careful and again there were no casualties, but the intersection began to resemble something out of a cartoon or Keystone Cops movie.

* * *

For Tam’s most important gift, I placed an order with a bookstore a mere three-hour drive away. One of the options I had was free shipping. I like free shipping, so I selected it. I placed my order on the 12th of December. On December 20th, it still hadn’t arrived so I got online and attempted to track the package. According to the website, it had made its way to my fair city on the 15th, but after that, no one seemed to know what was happening. I figured they handed it over to the sloth division of parcel delivery, either that or they took it for a lovely tour of Seattle, going up to the Space Needle and showing it a nice time.

I was in a panic, attempting to find my package and the USPS was not much help at all. When I called them, I was treated to 35 minutes of “hold,” listening to the same irritating messages over and over. Finally someone deigned to pick up the phone and it took the woman seven minutes to make me feel like an idiot, infuriate the hell out of me, and verbally shrug her shoulders telling me it’s not their fault.

And they wonder why no one wants to use them any more?!?

The good news is the package finally arrived on the 22nd, nine days after it was shipped from Portland. I was all excited for Christmas until I realized I still had to wrap that stuff.

* * *

For the majority of gifts, we broke out the craft supplies and went to town. Tam has been staining and painting small pine boxes for people, making them unique to each person. When she’s not staining things, she’s creating the most marvelous sculptures from modeling compound. I’ll try to put up pictures later, but that requires breaking out the good camera and I no longer have a computer that accepts the memory card it uses.

I, on the other hand, have been working with my favorite medium, paper, making note cards and wall hangings for friends and family.

We’ll be hosting Christmas breakfast for my side of the family and Spawn has requested cream cheese frosted cinnamon rolls, scrambled eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns. Sounds pretty damn good to me, but I’d better get busy. Tam and I will be finishing up the baking Friday and Saturday (Christmas Eve! Ack!) and I will attempt a new recipe for peanut butter and bacon cookies.

Yes, peanut butter and bacon. Cookies. Happy Holidays! Have some cholesterol!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

My Ghosts of Christmas Past

Tam and I went out to find our tree Monday night. Unlike my own experiences of years past, we went to one place with pre-cut specimens, wandered around until we found one light enough to lift, and made our purchase. I have no idea what it’s going to look like once we have it in the house, mainly because it’s still outside waiting for someone to brave the attic long enough to find the goddamn tree stand and the decorations.

In my life, there have been many Christmas trees. More than my years, as there were a number of times in my childhood when I was allowed to have a tree of my very own in my bedroom. It. Was. AWESOME!

Getting the tree was never a particularly easy process, as I’m a picky person when it comes to dead foliage for the living room. I’ve always been a fan of the natural look, turning my nose up at the cropped and shaved cones harvested from local tree farms. Finding something that remotely looked like it came from a forest instead of a can is impossible unless you go to the forest and cut down a tree.

When I was a kid that was pretty much what we’d do, although we didn’t always get to the official forest. Sometimes we were lucky to get headed in the right direction before my father became so annoyed at the excitement exuded by his six-year-old offspring, that he would stop at the side of the first country road we found, climb through the barbed wire fence, and bag himself a tree.

When the forest service opened up their territories, we were able to go up there legally and fetch us a tree. We’d get about half way there, and my father would get annoyed with the 10 year old offspring, that he’d stop the car, wander a few feet off the road, and once again, bag himself a tree.

Finally, I became old enough to get my own damn tree. Sort of. It had snowed heavily, so my father drove me all the way up to the forest service area. The snow was deep and the whole world looked like Christmas. I was decked out in my winter finest of snow boots, nylon ski overalls, and matching jacket. I shushed with every move. We drove for miles and miles up and down narrow snow-covered forest service roads, his knuckles turning whiter and whiter with each passing mile as I looked for the One Tree.

“Stop the truck!” I yelled, “I see it!” I leaped from the cab of the truck, bow saw in hand, and headed to the side of the road. Looking over the edge, I could see it was a little steep, but The Tree was there, waiting patiently for me to kill it and bring it home. When I took my first step I realized the snow was camouflaging a LOT of uneven ground and deadfalls from clearcutting. I lost my footing and, according to my father, disappeared in a cloud of white. He said he tracked my descent by watching the small trees shudder as I pinballed off them.

What he didn’t see was the deep ravine I was heading for like an out of control juggernaut. At the last moment, I struck out with the saw, which bit into the trunk of The Tree, halting my descent. Once I had secured myself, I thanked The Tree by cutting it down and hauling it up the steep slope. My dad said all was quiet at the top, when a tree suddenly came hurling over the embankment onto the road, followed by a saw and finally me.

Tam and I did the forest service trip a couple times, and once it was pretty fun. The other time, it was ok, and the last time was ridiculous because my fiancĂ© made a mess of the hood of his car because he was getting frustrated with his inability to tie down the trees well enough so they wouldn’t fly off. We stepped away to give him plenty of space to swing his macho while standing on the hood of his 82 Honda Civic.

When the former LOTM (Lord Of The Manor, a.k.a., my ex) and I went tree shopping, it was an event that was limited to one tree farm near our house. We’d wander for an hour or so in usually nasty weather, toting small children on hips and in back packs. Sometimes we’d go opposite directions, find a good tree, then lose track of it while attempting to hunt each other down.

One year, we tried to eliminate that problem, by playing the Christmas version of “Marco!” “Polo!” Instead of hollering for a Mongolian explorer, we’d shout, “Merry!” and the other party would yell, “Christmas!” This game only works when there is no cranky woman there by the name of Mary who was NOT amused. “Mary!” “Now what the hell do you want?” is not a fun game.

Then came the advent of cell phones and we tried using those, but… “Where are you?” “I’m over here” is also not much fun at a tree farm. Texting was worse, because then we had the kids with us and they were no help at all. No one could agree on where to look, so they’d all head different directions, leaving their father and I to wander aimlessly around hoping someone would give us a hint they were actually looking at trees and not sulking in the car, texting a friend to complain at how lame parents are, or getting lost on a 100 acre tree farm an hour before closing and realizing your phone battery has died.

Once the tree was purchased, it had to be secured to the top of the vehicle, a feat that, if left to my ex, would require no less than 1,000 yards of twine, two spools of duct tape, and thirty bungee cords. Even with all of that, we usually ended up driving home with the sunroof and/or windows open and someone hanging on to the damn tree so it wouldn’t fly off. One year we figured it would make more sense to tie LOTM into the car seat while I secured the tree to the roof rack.

Back at home, the quest for ornaments and other decorations would begin. Offspring would be distracted with the task of keeping the cats out of the attic. This always involved catnip and laser pointers, and someone would find the lamest Christmas CD’s and stack them on the player where they would stay for the duration of the holidays, filling home with the repetitive obnoxious sounds we heard at every store we visited. Despite my dire warnings and pleadings of caution, my extra fragile antique ornaments always ended up in the box at the bottom of the pile.

Decorations changed over the years, going from fragile glass antiques, to unbreakable plastic, fabric, and other sturdier materials that could withstand small children and large dogs. Then there was the year of the fake tree, which was a lot of fun… for the kitten. Many times I would be sitting back, enjoying the decorations only to realize one of them was looking at me. He would sleep in one spot until the wire arms were bent and there was no recovering the original shape from that. We discovered that Spawn was allergic to the fake tree because the damn thing collected dust. Thing is allergic to the real trees, but not quite as bad.

There was the year of the “TIMBER!” tree; it got knocked over several times when our 100 lb dog got over-excited and crashed into it. There were the under decorated years, where we began with a lovely tree, but ended up moving the ornaments out of the reach of cats, kids, and dogs, leaving the bottom half of the tree devoid of decorations. The year the dog wagged her tail and yanked out the lights; the year we anchored the tree to the curtain rod and ended up with the rod and the curtains hanging in the tree, much to the delight of two small boys. The playpen tree (it was easier to put the tree in the playpen than the kids because the tree did not sit there and scream bloody murder at being cooped up).

Each tree has held a special place in my heart, and every year I do my best to reconnect with those marvelous beauties of my childhood; those trees that somehow got more beautiful each passing year. I will take a little time by myself and marvel at the colors, the sparkles, and that faint echo of Christmases past that allow the child within a few moments to shove adult worries off to the side and revel in the magic.