Monday, December 31, 2007

Outside the Oasis

There are a plethora of gated communities here in Florida, man made villages of homes tucked behind lush landscaping and pastel colored stucco walls. Many of them are associated with golf courses, and the astronomical maintenance fees that go with all that. Our community is not such a one, but, in my estimation, the lack of golf greens is more than assuaged by the miles of inland lakes and arched bridges. Within easy walking distance are tennis courts, fitness center, and a large, sparkling pool. Also a cafe to grab lunch, and a salon for hair and nails. Add to that a bank, post office, gas station, and life is nearly complete within the confines of these five square miles. Real estate advertising often refers to Island Walk as "resort style living," and that isn't hyperbole.

So we find ourselves rarely venturing outside this oasis. It's our personal paradise, quiet, calm, and lovely. The city of Naples is a continual bustle of beautiful people enjoying their very riche lifestyle, and I certainly don't fit into that mold. It's fun to watch (for a while) but it's not me.

The outside world intruded on us yesterday morning when we awoke to find egg splattered on the screen of our lanai and on the slider door outside the master bedroom. This happens occasionally in our suburban Detroit neighborhood, and we shake out heads but aren't terribly surprised.

We were surprised that it happened here, and aparently we've developed a false sense of security. Island Walk is obviously not as insulated from "the real world" as we liked to believe. And while an occasional egg tossing/toilet papering spree isn't the harbinger of doom, it serves to remind me that perfection is simply not possible-even in "paradise."

So I'll adjust my expectations a bit. After living on planet earth for 50-plus years, I'm accustomed to doing that. We cleaned off the screens without too much fuss, and used the opportunity to hose down the lanai floor (which needed doing anyway). The dogs had great fun playing in the water, and now everything is clean and shiny once more.

Except my image of our oasis, which is just slightly tarnished.


Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Scribblings-Now and Then

It was an odd feeling, Terry thought, this sensation of standing outside her life looking in. It happened now and then when she was particularly harried. Like this morning, stuffing baby Jack into his quilted snowsuit while Jessica danced around the room frantically singing "Have to go potty, Mommy! Have to go right now!" In her mind's eye, an image of herself appeared, dressed for work in her favorite Donna Karan suit, her Coach bag neatly packed with her laptop and ideas for the next issue. This sleek, put-together version peered disapprovingly at this morning's Terry-black knit pants bagging at the knees, and tattered Eddie Bauer thermal t-shirt with a suspicious looking stain just below her breast.

She sighed, and abandoned Jack in favor of Jessica, whose need seemed the most pressing. She wondered how long it would take the six month old to realize he had been ditched - left lolling in his crib while his mother hustled his older sister toward the bathroom and her pottychair.

"Wahhhh!" Terry heard, before she and the wiggling Jessica even reached the bathroom door.

Obviously, not long at all.

How long had it been, Terry wondered, since she felt even nominally in charge of her life? Back then, in her PTP (prior to parenthood) days, she had managed a successful monthly magazine, kept writers, photographers, and a slew of assistant editors in line, while maintaining a creative presence in each department. Now, she was exhausted before 9:00 in the morning, trying to satisfy the demands of two individuals whose combined weight was less than 30 pounds.

Terry blinked rapidly to dispel the image of her former self with pure disappointment etched across her face, observing the fumbling inefficiency of this current, clearly inept, version. With renewed energy, she hustled her daughter through her morning ablutions, and back into Pull-Ups. Hurrying back to the nursery, she went to work on baby Jack, who seemed startled by her grim purposefulness and stopped screaming long enough for her to work his sturdy legs into the snowsuit and snap it up to the apex of his chubby chin.

Twenty minutes later (a new record!) Terry was on line at Starbucks, Jack nestled happily in the Baby Bjorn, Jessica tucked into her stroller, content to arrange her Cheerios's in neat lines on the tray. The usual morning crowd stood desultorily ahead of her - college students, bleary eyed and toting grungy overfull tote packs, young executives in pressed suits and overcoats.
Terry took a deep breath, sending a silent prayer heavenward that her two children would remain calm until she had her mocha latte firmly in hand.

The middle aged woman standing in front of Terry snapped her cell phone firmly shut and turned briskly. Terry recognized the rigid set of her shoulders and felt the aura of intense concentration - she's had a call from the office, Terry thought, remembering those panicked phone calls requiring her instant attention on some seemingly earth shattering dilemma. The woman's face softened when she noticed the sleeping baby, and a smile brightened her face as she looked down at Jessica's tousled blond curls.

"So precious," she said wistfully, looking at Terry with obvious envy. "God, I remember those days when mine were small. Life seemed so much simpler then." She stuffed the sleek cell phone back into her Coach tote and pulled on black leather gloves. "Now I can't even take time for a decent cup of coffee," she muttered. Sighing, she pulled out of line and headed for the door.

"Enjoy!" she said, barking the word like a command.

A mental image emerged in Terry's mind, this time of her power suited self 20 years into the future, rushing to catch the train into the city and carrying nothing but a cold leather briefcase. She wrapped her left arm tightly around Jack's solid torso, snuggling him closer to her heart. Perhaps her life was pretty good right now after all.

"Mommy," Jessica suddenly cried out. "Have to go potty! Have to go right now!"

for more now and then stories, go here


Friday, December 28, 2007

Hosting Help

I've been thinking about branching out into more sophisticated blogging - getting my own domain name, some advertising perhaps - setting up shop in a more professional way. All this thinking was probably spurred by the sleek new laptop I got for Christmas. Whatever, my little brain has been working furiously.

However, I know next to nothing about webhosting.

No worries, though, because I found an excellent resource to help answer my basic questions and point me in the right direction. Web Hosting Choice is a complete website that provides all the basic information about what I need to host my site, as well as offering a guide to web hosting services that fill the bill. There clear, concise format is easy to navigate, and the explanations are complete and user friendly.

Like a good host should, this site made me feel right at home.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Frump City

The mirror is definitely not my best friend these days. With great dismay, I feel myself drifting across that invisible line into OL-ism. Perhaps it's the elastic waist pants I've come to favor, taking great pains to conceal the waist band by layering blouses over T-shirts. Or maybe it's my hair, which seems bent on misbehaving badly in the Florida humidity, turning my usual soft waves into unmanageable frizzy curls. My skin looks unhealthily pale amidst the sunshine and bright colors of the tropics, and my makeup seems fruitless in its quest to conceal an ever growing numbers of lines and creases.

I don't consider myself terribly vain about my appearance, and although I like to dress stylishly, I'm not a trend fiend. I generally buy a couple of nice pieces a year, at Talbots or Coldwater Creek, and the rest of my clothes are pretty casual pants and sweaters which suit me for work and for leisure activities.

But in the past few years, it's become more difficult to stay current without looking ridiculous. The new "baby doll" tops are a case in point. I wore that very same style in the late 60's when I was a tiny waisted teenager. The effect now is simply not the same. I merely look like exactly what I am - a slightly puffy middle aged woman trying to appear stylish. Sad.

A while ago I saw an elderly woman ( a real OL!) tottering through the airport in spike heels, tight black low rise pants, and a fake fur jacket. My god, I thought, spare me from ever being so foolish! At least elastic waist pants don't send everyone around me into fits of derisive laughter.

Nevertheless, especially when I'm here in Southwest Florida, a land of beautiful people wearing very expensive clothes, I feel especially old and out of date. I haven't updated my Florida wardrobe in a few years, and it's in desperate need of revitalizing. I simply must have one or two outfits to wear downtown for dinner at
Bistro 821 or lunch on the patio at Campiello's. But I dread the whole shopping experience, which just serves to make me feel frumpier than I already do.

Alternatively, I could just stay home, which becomes ever more appealing as the crowds and traffic thicken for the "season." Then I can be comfy in my old (elastic waist) Capri's or the soft, flowy cotton sundresses my daughter-in-law brings back from Thailand.

Besides, frumpy feels better than fashionable anyway.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

And So This Is Christmas

Or the day after, to be exact. It's a bit peculiar for this Michigander to be sitting outdoors on a December afternoon, listening to palm fronds whisking in the breeze, blessedly barefooted and wearing tank top and Capri's.

Peculiar, but not unpleasant. Not at all.

We arrived late afternoon on Christmas Eve, just in time for all the grocery stores to close. No matter - we made do with some of the emergency rations from the freezer (Stouffers lasagna and garlic bread). There was plenty of wine in the rack to wash it down with.

Christmas morning dawned cloudy and cool, but the dogs woke us early anyway, so excited to be here, anxious for a walk and a game of fetch. We spent a quiet afternoon with Brian and Nantana, and then all drove to my dad's house where his wife prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. It's funny, but if someone had told me five years ago that I would one day sit down to dinner with my father and "that woman" and actually enjoy it, I would have said they were completely crazy. But I realize now that all the anger and animosity I harbored toward them at the time of my parents divorce was more detrimental to me than anyone else. It's good to let go of that - not easy, certainly, but necessary in order to be healthy.

Today was back to business as usual, and a trip to Publix was definitely in order.
The thing about having a vacation "home," (as opposed to staying in a hotel) is that someone has to do all those "homey" things. That someone is usually me.
So, a couple of hours and $200 later, the larder is well stocked once again. Some fruits, vegetables, and yogurt for snacking, fresh organic chicken breasts (some for us, some for the puppies), fixings for salads, and a restock on the emergency freezer rations (Bertoli Dinner for Two in a bag).

After another hour with a broom and some spray cleaner, the lanai was ready for use. And that's where I've landed, bare feet propped up, a dog on each side, blue sky overhead, a cold drink, and you :)

Definitely the preferred way to spend an afternoon in December.

How about you? How's your day after Christmas?


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tales from the Road

Dateline: Macon, Georgia, Sunday, 11:00 p.m.

We've exhausted the channel lineup on the tv here at the LaQuinta Inn. The dogs have made their last trek around the perimeter of the hotel. Magic has watered every lamppost and sniffed every tree. Molly is stretched full length on her purple blanket, nose tucked neatly between her front paws, while Magic has appropriated the left side of the king sized bed (Jim's side -ha!)

My dogs are amazingly flexible creatures. From the moment we set out on this three day journey, they seemed to know we were in for a long haul. They accommodate themselves nicely in the car, taking turns lying on the pillow in my lap or perching on the console between the two front seats. They communicate in silent signals, rising from one spot in unison and trading places efficiently and neatly before going back to sleep. Like any couple in a long term relationship, they've learned the give and take required to keep things on an even keel.

I'm happy to say, we all seem to be faring quite well on this trip - I'm resigned to eating junk food for three days, and Jim has accepted the fact that there will be crumbs on the black suede seats in his car. And, by the way, we are cruising smoothly and easily, courtesy of the Hemi engine in his new Dodge Charger. We traversed the hills and dales of the Smokies without a hitch.

Speaking of the Smokies, I am in love with those glorious Smoky mountains, even on a day like today, when the trees were all brown and bare, and the mountain tops were wreathed in wisps of grey fog. They are majestic and fearsome, emerging victorious after the endless flatlands of Ohio. I am most proud of my southern heritage when I travel through those mountains, imagining Daniel Boone (a distant relative of mine, so I'm told) trekking across that green land, and fording the Cumberland River. Yes, in terms of the view from the road, today was my favorite day.

Now we've reached the tail end of Georgia, and there's nothing really pretty to look at anymore. Tomorrow brings the endless wilderness that is I-75 in Florida, the view unbroken save for high brick walls shielding the latest luxury community from the eyes of prying motorists. It's always a bit disheartening crossing the border into Florida, and knowing there are still about five hours of driving left to do - and that's if you're lucky and don't find yourself embroiled in one of the Florida's famous traffic jams (shudder).

And I'm thinking I should probably go to bed, so I'll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the remainder of my road trip.

It's been a quiet trip so far - and quiet is good.

I'll see you on the other side.


Sunday Scribblings-Holiday Memories

Long standing traditions are one of the most comforting aspects of the holidays. Children especially, cherish those recurring once a year events - the cookie making, the tree trimming, gatherings with cousins rarely seen. As a child, I looked forward to the big holiday party at my Aunt Mary's house, where all my cousins and I would gather on Christmas eve in giddy excitement, wondering what presents we would be opening in the morning.

But my favorite Christmas tradition was mine alone, both in its invention and execution. I grew up in the 60's, and for a number of years we had one of those shiny aluminum Christmas trees -it's branches like sticks of silver tinsel. I have no idea where the concept of such a futuristic looking tree came from, but trust me, they were extremely popular. Instead of stringing lights on them, you aimed a motorized color wheel at them, which cast a different colored glow on the tree as it rotated.

Weird, huh?

Anyway, my own special tradition was to lie on the floor each evening, the only light that crazy color wheel, and read my special Christmas book- "Jo's Boys," by Louisa May Alcott.

It says a lot about me, I think, that the memory of reading a book all by myself has become my central memory of childhood Christmas.

We don't really have holiday traditions in our family anymore - at least not right now. I tell myself that's alright - after all, there are only the four of us adults in the "immediate family." Holiday traditions are really for children, right?

It occurs to me that this lack of traditional celebration, the absence of some sacred ritual (and I don't mean that in a religious sense necessarily) is one of the reasons I have trouble with Christmas.

This morning, I'm sitting in a hotel room, preparing to set off on the second leg of our journey. We often travel at Christmas now, and perhaps this has become a tradition of its own. A pilgrimage of sorts, which is appropriate, given that this holiday commemorates a journey made by a couple in Bethlehem so long ago.

But I sort of miss the aluminum tree and the color wheel, and "Jo's Boy's."

for more holiday memories, go here


Friday, December 21, 2007

Loose Ends

It's been a gathering up sort of day, a day of sweeping all the loose ends together, fumbling to tie them neatly into some sort of functional bow. I feel a bit like the pioneer women must have felt, trying to muster their families together before that huge trek across the prairie and over the mountains. Oh sure, I'm just traveling 1200 miles in a very nice car with two little dogs and one middle aged man (and all our respective "stuff"), but the journey looms large, and the loose ends today were many and scattered.

Although we frequently travel back and forth between our northern and southern homes, we usually go via air, and typically spend less than a week away. It's been two years since we've made this road trip with dogs in tow. That last time, I remember looking forward to it with a childlike enthusiasm, anticipating a big adventure. This time, it seems somehow more difficult, both physically and emotionally, and the whole event smacks of drudgery more than excitement.

I'm a terrible artist, but if I were to draw a self portrait (in stick figure style) you would see a tiny person with very long arms being stretched in two different directions. One part of me pulled inexorably toward my only child who lives so away in Florida, the other clasped tightly around my first home, my family, my friends, here in Michigan. Recently, it seems harder to leave all that behind. I worry more - about my mother, who seems to grow more frail before my eyes, my aunt and uncle, afflicted with physical and mental infirmities, even my old house, the roof covered with snow, foot long icicles hanging from the rafters. I feel loathe to desert these people and things who need me, I feel guilty about stealing this time for myself.

But there is one loose end that dangles in the back of my mind, and this is the one that I must always force myself to acknowledge, and then whisk firmly away, much as I do the cobwebs that form in ceiling corners.

Among the women in my family - my mother, my aunt, my grandmother- lies this penchant to become so entrenched in the safety of home that they never leave. A reluctance to travel on long trips, becomes a reluctance to go out to dinner, becomes a reluctance to leave the house at all.

I'm starting to understand that. I'm starting to feel that.

But, I'm fighting it. And this trip is a major battle.

I'm sitting now in my study, surrounded by wrapped gifts for my son and my daughter in law, and for my father and his wife, suitcases with books, tote bags with food (doggy and human) - some of the loose ends I've been trying to tie together all day. It's long past the time I should have gone to bed. Yet, I'm reluctant to let this day come to an end. Because tomorrow means a huge journey, and there is reluctance in my heart...

Tying up loose ends, putting all the pieces together - some of the things I'll be thinking about as I travel the interstate over the next three days.

I'll keep you posted.


Thursday, December 20, 2007


Should you be wondering whether I managed to complete my gargantuan list of "must do" tasks at the office, I'm happy to reassure you that, yes indeed, through an effort of superhuman willpower, I did complete every report, letter and other sundry assignment (including collecting for and purchasing a group gift for my boss) right on schedule today at 12:00 p.m.


And now, I can officially turn my attention to the business of holiday making. You see, I never seem to become fully cognizant of the fact that it's Christmas until about three days before the actual day. Oh, you mean today is December 20th? That means we're leaving here in two days, so anything I'm going to accomplish for Christmas festivities in Michigan has to be done - tomorrow?



As I was blog surfing today, I read the words of a
very wise woman who reassured me that it's okay if I'm not in a "happy, elfin, north pole place" at this time of the year. I'm not alone, she reminded me gently, in the kind of sad, Eyyore-ish place I tend to visit every December.

And then she gave me this advice:

"If you are to make this month bearable, or even good, you must try to be alone with yourself some — in a good way, not in a dour, isolated way. Doing that is the spiritual and psychological equivalent of standing up straight, with your weight evenly distributed on your feet. When you stand that way, no matter how hard the gales blow, you won’t fall."

And of course, that's what is lacking, what is always lacking for me - enough time to be alone with myself in a good way. As I write those words, I think you all must get tired of hearing me whine about my persistent lack of time. Why doesn't she just fix her schedule, you're probably thinking. Why doesn't she just become better organized or change her life so she has more time?

That's a good question.

But I can't really answer it now - or even think about how to answer it - because tonight I'm visiting my aunt and uncle, tomorrow I will be hitting a bunch of stores helping get my mom prepared for being on her own for two weeks, picking up a few last minute gifts, wrapping things, doing laundry, checking in on my mother in law, and trying to figure out what/where/how to pack all the things I want to take with me.

And it may be that I actually have more time than I think, more time than most people have. But it also may be that I simply need more time - to be alone, to brace myself against the world. I crave simplicity and order, two commodities that seem awfully hard to come by in this 21st century world.

So I'll be looking for some of that "good time alone" during the next couple of weeks when I'm in Florida, some time to stand straight with my feet firmly planted on the ground. But I'm not sure if I can put myself in that "elfin, north pole kind of place" this month, even thought it sounds like a good place to be.

Maybe next year.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007


It's not the snow that's melting - it's me.

You see, I had this grand plan for getting all my office work done before we pack up and hit the highway on Saturday. I've been working "ahead" in my job for the past couple of weeks, so that I could have all the work for next week finished and turned in before we leave.

Oh yes, I had it all figured out so perfectly. And I was right on schedule, too -even enough ahead of myself that I felt comfortable going in an hour later than usual, stopping to do some errands on the way in.

But it all went haywire. The nurses seemed to have worked overtime this week, and my boss (whose Executive Assistant I have recently become) decided to catch up on all her paperwork and correspondence. The result was a veritable cascade of new reports, letters, reviews, etc. -all for me to finish by Thursday.

I had a moment of real panic, about 1:30. In addition to everything else, I missed lunch, so my blood sugar chose that moment to plummet, sending my spirits with it.

After a bowl of hot chicken noodle soup, I rallied a bit, and came up with a plan. I took a few extra minutes to organize my thoughts and my paper flow, and settled in to work. A marketing rep from a home health care agency stopped by with a big box of truffles, and that perked me up even more. I' m not out of the woods yet, but I think I'll make it - barring any more unexpected assignments!

There was a point in all this madness today when I felt like throwing in the towel. Forget traveling, I was tempted to say, there's simply no way I can ever get it all done. There's still shopping to do, still people to visit, still Christmas-y type things I need to get done. Not to mention trying to figure out all the things I need to pack for three days in the car (with dogs).
I need diversions big time - books on CD, movies to watch on my laptop, snacks (truffles?). I'll never make it!

Then I thought about my lovely, quiet house in Florida. Being able to talk walks around the lakes every day, go to the pool, lie in the sun, eat meals on the lanai. Oh, my.

(Deep breath.)

Time to buck up and get the job done.

I'll save the melting for the Florida sunshine.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Winter Wonderland

For once, the weather forecasters were right on the we slept, peacefully unaware, the snow kept coming, silently, stealthily, and so we awoke to bushes laden with heaping helpings of white, to the wind whistling around the south side of the house, and to the faint rumblings of thunder - yes, thunder snow, the meteorologists are calling it. It sounds like a locomotive traveling along a far distant track.
Here's what I love best about snowstorms -they force me to be quiet. After all, no one in their right mind would go out this morning. (Notwithstanding those crazy folks just featured on the news who made their way to Target at 7:00 a.m. just to get a Wii - remember, I did say no one in their right mind.) And so I have to stay home - there's no reason to risk life and limb for groceries at the market, or toiletries at Walgreen's, for a rehearsal at church, or even books at the library.
But it's sad, isn't it, that it takes an act of God to make me be still? It's a measure of how much I need this quiet that last night and this morning are the most content, the most relaxed, dare I say the most happy, days I've experienced in the past three weeks.
Why can't I impose stillness on myself once in a while? Write a prescription for it, deliver an executive order straight from the head honcho in charge of my life (that would be me, believe it or not!)
Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom, has given me this snowy, blustery day. A day to hunker down, put on another pot of coffee, maybe whip up a batch of cinnamon waffles or a rich ham and cheese omelet. There's a tall bookstack on my bedside table, a batch of Christmas cards that still need addresses, and a pretty new notebook I've been thinking about writing in.
The TV news people call it a blizzard.
I call it a gift.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Weath of Information at Your Fingertips

A number of years ago we bought our son his first car - a used Pontiac Grand Prix. It only had about 40,000 miles on it, but it was out of warranty, and we decided to purchase GM's extended warranty policy. Normally, we never buy extended warranties, but on a car, we thought it could prove beneficial.

Had we known about Finance Genius, we would have been able to do some comparison shopping before shelling out an extra 560 bucks for the GM warranty. Finance Genius provides a one stop shopping place on the net for Extended Auto Warranty, as well as auto and home loans, and savings institutions.

It's a wealth of information at your fingertips.

And, by the way, the warranty came in handy when the car blew it's transmission - normally a $2000 fix, which cost us only the $250 deductible.

A Mantel of White

They've been promising it all day, those weather forecasters relishing the role of doomsayer, announcing it with childlike glee and an unnatural twinkle in their eye, this impending snowstorm that could layer as much as eight inches of snow on our nice dry ground. "Punishing winds," they warn, "hazardous roads" and "blizzard conditions" will prevail, so be ready.

I've been out and about all day- running errands this morning, attending a matinee performance at a local theater this afternoon, stopping for a quick dinner before Jim went off to a rehearsal - and though there were no visible snowflakes, I could feel them hanging over my head, the cloud covered sky thick with cold moisture that seeped over the earth, penetrating even my warmest winter coat.

In the time it took for us to scarf down an Arby's (fast food-a sure sign of an overly busy schedule) the clouds let loose and snow started falling, leaving a light coating on the pavement. Luckily, it wasn't yet heavy enough to require brushing off the car. But since I've been home, cranked up the heat, hurried the dogs outside to take care of business before things get too dicey, and changed into my warm fuzzies, it's started to increase in intensity. The grass has disappeared, and so has the pavement, the flakes fat and wet as they fall in the reflection from the floodlight on the garage.

I like snow, when I'm warm and toasty inside. My stereo is playing
Josh Groban's new Christmas CD, because the weather outside seems to call for such seasonal songs. I'm about to open a bottle of red wine, because I need something with a little more heft than the icy Chardonnay I generally favor. I have a Netflix I've been hoarding for just such a night, when the big screen TV is mine alone. Dare I say it -I feel content - a welcome change from the general malaise of the past few weeks.

The week ahead will be fast and furious. I'm trying to squeeze in a two week's worth of work, in preparation for leaving town on Saturday. I have to get in all my Christmas visits, get the dogs haircuts and baths, make sure my mom is stocked up on groceries and all her medications before I go, wrap some presents, send out the Christmas cards...

Oh, stop, I'm ruining my own mood already.

For the moment, let me just have a little peace and quiet, while the snow falls gently and silently onto the ground.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Distancing Myself

Although the poet says "April is the cruelest month," in my experience, December bears that distinction. Every year it becomes harder for me to bear the expectations, the obligations, the commercialization, the frenzy that surrounds the holidays occurring in this last month of the year.

In my childhood, I adored Christmas - especially the tree. I was enthralled by the concept of bringing a real tree into the house! My dad and grandfather struggling to straighten it in the red metal stand, my mother and grandmother shouting directions - "over this way!" "No, it's leaning forward!" "to the right a little more!" - until finally it was secured, and we could hang the ornaments. Each one of my favorites would could out of a little nest in it's plastic container, and I could carefully hook the skinny metal wire over the tree branch. Once the ornaments were hung, the multi-colored lights casting a rosy glow over the room, I would get my favorite book and blanket, curl up under the tree, and read until bedtime.

Of course, the food was wonderful at Christmas time. My grandmother, a true Southern cook, always filled the house with smells of pies and cakes, baked ham, roasted turkey with her incomparable homemade cornbread's no wonder I had to buy my clothes in the the "Chubby" department.

My childhood Christmas' were idyllic - at least in retrospect. I wonder if the adults in my family felt as harried and cynical about the season then as I feel about it now. I hope not - I like to believe in the image of a simpler time, when life was less driven by consumerism and greed.

I blame my husband for the way my feelings about December have changed - or at least, my husband's family. My in-laws were two of the most difficult people I have ever met. They were argumentative, pessimistic, and generally joyless. Yet they had this "thing" about holidays - the family was supposed to be together, even if "the family" was fractured, dysfunctional, and miserable. I rarely enjoyed Christmas - or any holiday for that matter - after I met Jim.

Even though they are no longer in the picture - my father in law long dead, and my mother in law lost in her own demented world where holidays no longer exist - the holiday season is fraught with too many unvoiced obligations and expectations. They weigh on my mind and heart, collecting steam like an avalanche, as the days of the month roll by.

In recent years, I've been distancing myself from December, backing up to the periphery of the month and peering in at all the hype and hoopla. I procrastinate all the December duties as long as I can, somehow hoping that the spirit will strike me before the stores have sold all the good gifts, and I've let all the postal deadlines pass.

I would like to be able to throw myself into the preparations for this season, to have high hopes and glorious expectations. I want more than anything to have one shining moment during these December days when I feel at peace. But, I can't bring myself to step closer, to bridge that distance between me and December.

So here I am, on the outside looking in, a wallflower at the December dance.

Biding my time 'til it's over.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Seven Things About Me

It's been said that all things happen for a reason~a few minutes ago, Blogger ate the post I'd been stewing over for several days. Truthfully, that post was depressing, and whiny, and probably revealed more about the inner workings of my psyche right now than I should reveal.

So, consider yourself saved.

Instead, I will drag myself out of the funk I've been in, and run with the Seven Things About Me meme, which Melissa tagged me for several days ago.

My name should be Annie~ as in Ado Annie, the character from the musical Oklahoma who sings "I'm just a girl who cain't say no." Sadly, the things I'm unable to refuse aren't nearly as much fun as the activity Annie can't resist. Hence, the fact that I'm always too busy for my own good, setting myself up for funks such as the one I'm currently wallowing in.

I am seriously obsessive compulsive about making my bed. If I leave the house with the bed unmade, bad things happen all day long. I've proven this.

My favorite comfort food~is cinnamon toast made with white bread and chocolate flavored Ovaltine (hot). When I awake at that dreaded four-o'clock-in-the-morning time, I just make myself this treat, wrap up in my favorite soft flannel "blannie," and before long I'll be drifted off to sleep.

Please don't throw tomatoes at me for this one, but I hate Christmas music. (Ouch! I said please don't do that!) It seems like a terrible thing for a musician to say, but perhaps its because I have to play it so much, all the time. And when the radio stations start playing "All Christmas Music All the Time" on October 21st - well, suffice it to say, we're on a radio ban here until January 10. My all time most dreaded Christmas song - The Hallelujah Chorus. Only when you've taught it to high school kids for 15 years will you understand what I mean.

However, I love Christmas lights, and people can put those up early if they want - yes, go ahead, you have my permission.

Coffee is serious business at my house. I only make Gevalia coffee at home. I've been using it for years - long before coffee was "cool." It's a Swedish blend, and it's rich and smooth tasting - never bitter. And I like it strong. My favorite coffee shop is a little independent place near my house. It's called First Cup, and it's all organic coffee, along with whole food breakfast and lunch. I will also drink the Cafe Blend at Panera Bread.

My biggest fashion obsession is purses. I have so many purses on the top shelf of my closet that they cascade down on me when I'm trying to extricate one from the pile. I'm mostly drawn to tiny, cute, little purses, and I waste an inordinate amount of time every morning transferring my essential items for the day from one little bag to another.

So, there are seven random facts about me...I left out that I get depressed at Christmas time, but you might have gathered that from my introductory paragraph.

I don't know why, but I do.

However, writing this meme has cheered me up considerably.

Thanks for the tag, Melissa :)


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Surrounded by Life

Standing on the Edge
having no words of wisdom
to offer
no pithy observations
about life in general
or my own in particular
I'm only stopping by
to assure you,
my gentle reader,
that I have not fallen
from the face of this round earth,
have not succumbed
to the tyranny of obligation
threatening my very existence
have not thrown myself head first
from the nearest bridge
but if i did
i hope i would land in
a nest of soft words
delicate phrases to cushion my fall
simple thoughts of joy
expressed with love and attention
by you
my faraway, faceless friends
whose love inspires me
to stand tall