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Archive for December, 2008

A couple of weeks ago Nathan and I took Autumn to a nearby town in search of a holiday lights display called Gingerbread Lane.  We had been there once before about ten years ago.  It wasn’t anything spectacular, just rows of houses that indulged in a little Clark Griswold enthusiasm for the season, but it was something we thought Autumn might enjoy.

As we pulled into the main drag of this small town, we found ourselves unable to locate the displays we remembered from our previous visit.  The sky was sprinkling huge wet flakes onto our car, visibility was getting more difficult and we just weren’t having any luck.  Just as we were about to give up, I spotted a sign advertising what I thought we might be looking for.

I saw the sign too late for us to make the turn so Nathan turned into in the next available driveway, which happened to be a church.  “I hope we don’t burst into flames,” he said.  This is a running gag with us because we haven’t been to church in a long, long time.  We jokingly refer to ourselves as heathens.

We’re not bad people, but we live in a predominantly Christian community.  I pass no fewer than five churches on my way to work each day.  One of those is the Reformed church where Nathan and I were married and the one across the street from it is the Methodist church we attended on a semi-regular basis about three years ago.  It also happens to be the church where I was taking Autumn to Kindermusik class until my accident last year.

My accident is, in fact, the reason I will not be returning to that Methodist church.  My fall in the driveway happened on a night I was supposed to take Autumn to Kindermusik.  I was actually stepping out into the driveway to get into the car for the drive to the church when I fell.  The Kindermusik instructor, who happens to be the choir director of the church, never once inquired about my whereabouts.  I missed the last several classes and the final party (which happened to take place the night I had my MRI) and she never called.  She didn’t ask my friend Marla, who had been in the class with me, what had happened to me and I had been attending her classes for over a year.

That incident pretty much sums up my church-going experiences.  Finding my community in the church has always been difficult for me.  My parents switched churches when I was nine and the experience was very much like starting at a new school.  I found the children at the new church not at all receptive to the new kid, a fat new kid at that, and I never really became comfortable there.  I would sometimes skip Sunday school in favor of spending an hour in the grocery store across the street.  On the rare occasion I did participate in youth activities, I always brought a close friend with me to act as a buffer so I wouldn’t feel so alone.

I don’t mean these stories to be a critique of the church, just an explanation as to why I no longer go.  I’ve never found a church I can call home, a place where I felt accepted flaws and all.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you probably know I’m a self-described social dork.  I was born with ten fingers and ten toes and a full head of hair, but social grace was left out of the equation and I’ve never been able to fabricate it.  You know those folks who can walk into a room and strike up a conversation with the nearest stranger?  I’m not one of them.  I’m the person hovering by the buffet table hoping to scarf down as many ham and cream cheese wrapped green onions as possible.  Those things serve a dual purpose; they’re filling and make you an undesirable target for conversation.

However, and here’s where I get to the real point of this post, I’ve lately felt as though I should give church another try.  I don’t like the thought of putting myself out there again.  It’s oddly akin to dating after a breakup, but I’m beginning to feel a little untethered.  I don’t feel like part of a larger community.  I don’t have a circle of friends and I’ve forced myself to become somewhat disconnected from those I work with in an effort to maintain boundaries between work and home.  If I didn’t have my family, I’d routinely have Bridget Jones-like fantasies about dying alone and being eaten by my dog.  And if you’ve been reading my blog for awhile you know my dog is exactly that kind of dog.

Aside from the community aspect, I’m beginning to think there is a real value in having faith in something, in believing in a higher power guiding one’s life.  As I approach 40, I’m also starting to realize I’m about to enter a phase of my life in which loss is more real, more immediate and, sadly, more frequent.  Both of my grandfathers have passed on.   Nathan’s mom and all but one of his grandparents are gone.  And what if I lost my child?  That’s the worst loss of all.  It’s the kind of loss that can break someone or make them stronger and I can tell you if it happened to me right now I’d be broken.  Forever broken.  I’d be Humpty Dumpty and no one would  be able to put me back together again.

Faith is what keeps people from breaking during times of intense grief.  If you look around the blogsphere, there are several writers of faith out there who have lost a child but who, remarkably, are not broken.  They have survived because they not only have a community to support them but they take comfort in being able to make sense of the senseless.  A couple of years ago, after reading a post I wrote about the thought of losing Autumn, a woman I work with e-mailed me and told me she had often shared my fears but had to remind herself that her children were hers only for as long as God allowed them to be.  At the time I didn’t like hearing that.  I didn’t like it at all.

Whatever your religious affiliations or non-affiliations, I hope everyone who reads this has faith in something, be it God, family or a spiritual belief in power of goodness.  I hope you each belong to a community who you know will be there when life gets rough.  And life can get pretty rough for us all.

If you’re still with me, and bless you if you are, have a wonderful holiday full of love and warmth.  I plan on taking a little break to enjoy my time with the family and ponder the meaning of life.

I’ll let you know what I find out.

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A Christmas list

Five holiday songs that have run their course this year:

1) Any version of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I’ve heard this one umpteen times so far and I’m just not feeling the love. Maybe because I know it’s cold outside, far colder than it should be. Just the other day I heard a version sung without the female accompaniment and I’m all “Who’s he talking to?” It was awkward.

2) That song about the little boy who wants to buy the shoes for his sick mom for Christmas so she can have new shoes when she meets Jesus. Oh. My. God. This is a sad song. It’s beautiful and so depressing and Nathan has told me he’ll die if he has to hear it again.

3) “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by Dean Martin. He loses me once he starts messing with the lyrics with “Rudy the red-beaked reindeer.” Apparently no one taught Deano the proper way to mess with this song.

4) “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by James Taylor. I like James Taylor, but he’s another one who has fiddled with lyrics. Instead of “From now on our troubles will be out of sight” he sings “In a year our troubles will be out of sight.” In other words, the holidays won’t improve the suck-fest that is your life. Wait until next year. Buh-bye.

5) “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by The Jackson Five. Isn’t it kind of ironic that the song ends with little Michael Jackson trying to convince his brothers he really did see some suspicious intimate activity going on under the Christmas tree? I’m just saying.

Five holiday songs that never grow old:

1) “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole. Beautiful. A classic. I feel like I’m being wrapped in a warm blanket whenever I hear those opening strings. And the voice? Like buttah.

2) “I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas” by The Drifters. I love the bouncy bee-boppity-ness of it. It also reminds me of Home Alone which is a pretty hilarious movie in my book.

3) “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee. I know this one is on some people’s annoying list, but I like it. Also featured in Home Alone.

4) “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins. This isn’t exactly a holiday song, but it’s especially poignant this time of year. I’ve heard it only a couple of times so far this season which is why I tend to like it more than others.

5) “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” by John Denver and the Muppets. Gonzo telling Miss Piggy it’s “figgy” pudding not “piggy” pudding and that it’s made from figs…and bacon. Genius.

So what’s on your list? What songs do you love and which ones would you love to never hear again?

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Name dropping

One of the things I do like about my job is that once in awhile I get to chat with some interesting people. Most of the time the folks who call the university are all business and looking for specific information, but sometimes I get someone who is nice, courteous and entertaining. I like those calls.

Yesterday I happened to pick up a call from a gregarious gentleman who wanted to know when classes start next semester. It was a simple question that usually makes for a short call, but this guy turned out to be anything but simple. Somehow, in the midst of helping him register for some classes, I learned he was previously in the movie business. The conversation that ensued went something like this:

HIM: Yeah, I’ve been in three movies.

ME: Oh?

HIM: Yeah, the last one I was in was (insert dramatic movie name) with Jude Law and (insert name of moody method actor).

ME: Oh, I just saw a movie with Jude Law

HIM: Yeah, all the ladies like Jude Law.

ME: He has a bit of a lisp though, doesn’t he?

HIM: He does. He’s not that great, you know. All he has is the face. And he’s so skinny. There’s nothing there. You know that, right?

ME: Um, actually I wouldn’t know that.

HIM: And his girlfriend was always coming on the set and hanging all over him…

I have to admit to being a little incredulous about his claims, but the guy loved talking about himself and I was more than happy to listen. I liked hearing about skinny Jude Law and his public displays of affection, but I had to steer the conversation back to getting this guy registered, which I did whilst he continued to rattle off his projects as though I was sitting across from him at a juice bar in L.A.

After the call ended I did a little research on IMDB. I found the movie he mentioned but not the man himself. While I have no reason to think he was being less than honest about the work he’d done and with whom he had worked, I imagine he probably thinks more of his cinematic contributions than the rest of world. As well he should.

On a final note, if any of you Hollywood types want to impress me, tell me you’ve worked with Christian Bale. I will promise to swoon at the mention of him.

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Last year I wasn’t really able to get into the holiday spirit.  Trying to do your holiday shopping while on crutches tends to dampen your Christmas cheer.  Nathan and I also weren’t anticipating the season much because it would be the first Christmas without his mom.  This year is a little better.  His mom is still gone, but the loss isn’t as immediate as it was this time last year.  Things aren’t perfect by any means.  If they were perfect his mom would still be alive, but the life we have is the life we have now.

Nathan was able to get through the layoffs again without losing his job.  The company fired around 150 people last week.  It was extremely stressful for Nathan not knowing if he’d still be employed at the end of the week.  He saw a lot of good people go, hard workers just like him whose luck just happened to run out this year.  Maybe next year that will be us.  Maybe not.

Friday Nathan was assigned to help those who lost their jobs retrieve personal information from their company laptops.  It was hard for him to see so many devastated faces.  He said some of them were just numb.  They were in disbelief.  On the way home that night he stopped off at the grocery store for a couple of things and saw one of the displaced workers he had helped buying a lottery ticket.

This isn’t really turning out the be the most cheerful post, but one thing this year has taught us is that we have been blessed in so many ways.  Our lives together are so full that I sometimes wonder what I’ve done to deserve it all; my own home in the town where I grew up, a beautiful, healthy child who makes me smile just about every day, a compassionate, caring husband (and sexy-can’t forget sexy) and a great job with excellent benefits.  Sometimes I need to step back and look at the big picture and realize that although there are always those things I wish could be different, my life does not suck by any means.

This week is my last week of work until January 2.  I’m getting nearly two whole weeks off to enjoy myself and spend some much-needed time with the family.  Today I spent a lot of time in the kitchen making all sorts of goodies I plan to package up for my co-workers.  They’re a hard-working bunch of women who should know how much I appreciate them.  I don’t always show it, so I guess I’m going to express myself with chocolate.  Lots and lots of chocolate.

Appreciation is the theme going into 2009.  Instead of wanting more out of life, Nathan and I have decided to take some time and appreciate what we’ve been given.  We’ve decided to make some changes that will hopefully bring us closer as a family.  Hopefully these changes will also help us get to know ourselves a little better as well.  Sometimes we tend to get lost in the pursuit of things we don’t necessarily want or need, so it will be a nice change of pace to sit back and say, “I really do have it all.  What more do I need?”

Sometimes looking forward into a new year makes me optimistic and sometimes it makes me fearful.  We could be in a much better place as we approach 2010 or we could be in a much worse place.  If we stay right where we are I’ll consider that a victory, though as I’ve told Nathan many times, I don’t really care where we are as long as I have my family with me.

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The light bulb moment

Sunday night the light in the upstairs bathroom went out. Just like that. One moment it’s on and the next moment it’s not and no amount of flicking the switch would make it spark. The bathroom is a tiny cave of a room nestled in between our bedroom and Autumn’s. It has no windows to allow natural light in so for the past two days we’ve found our way around by hanging a shop light over the toilet.

We called an electrician to come out tomorrow to see what the problem is because we can’t really hang a shop light over the toilet indefinitely. Then today Nathan IMd me at work. We forgot to check the other switch, he said.

The other switch.

For some reason our tiny cave of a bathroom has an entrance from the hallway and an entrance from our bedroom. There’s a light switch just outside the bedroom door and Nathan thought it might be stuck in between on and off thus preventing the other switch from working. Sure enough that was the case. Some little person who lives in this house, who can’t keep her paws off the light switches no matter how much we tell her to keep her paws off the light switches, was the reason we’ve been peeing under a shop light for the past 48 hours. When he realized the error, Nathan said he felt like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation when he was finally able to illuminate his 25,000 twinkle lights.

Hallelujah. God, we’re dumb.

Addendum: I should probably point out that we’ve been experiencing a few electrical problems around here and that Nathan did try installing a new switch before making the call to the electrician.  So see, we did try a few things.  We just didn’t try the most obvious thing.

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The truth is out there

My grandmother thinks she has a bobcat hanging around her backyard.

We live in Michigan, a part of Michigan where bobcats are not known to roam the suburbs, yet Grandma adamantly insists she has seen one.  Apparently she has her neighbor to back her up on this.  My grandmother’s confusion, if it exists, is easily explained; she’s nearly blind from macular degeneration and only sees colors and shapes from afar.  She needs a magnifying glass with a light to read even large print, so the chances she’s actually seen a bobcat are pretty slim.  As for the neighbor, my mother wonders if he’s just crazy.

During a recent bobcat sighting Grandma whipped out her disposable camera and started snapping away.  She asked my mom to take the film into Walmart to get developed, but my mom said the only thing she could tell from the photos is that grandma needs to have her windows cleaned.

So the mystery of the bobcat has yet to be solved.  But let’s examine the facts here.  As I stated above, we do not live in a part of Michigan where bobcats are known to hang out.  In case you doubt me, I borrowed a map from Wikipedia to support my argument (because you know Wikipedia is nothing if not accurate).  The green marks the areas in which bobcats live.

As you can see, bobcats are native to most the 48 contiguous states.  But that area devoid of green is where we live and that means we don’t get friendly with the bobcats.  They seem to occupy a small area at the very northernmost tip of the lower peninsula, but I highly doubt a bobcat would migrate as far south as my grandmother’s backyard.

Another fact is that we live in a relatively small city where bobcat sightings would quickly become big news.  A bobcat escaping from the zoo would be huge news.  It doesn’t take much for something to become news around here.  We don’t have a lot going on, least of all bobcats.

And lastly, why my grandma’s yard?  And why is my grandma the only one other than her neighbor to have allegedly seen the creature?  Sure my grandma puts out scraps for squirrels and stray cats, but unless the bobcat is hunting those squirrels and strays he has no reason to make repeated visits to grandma’s house.

I’m intrigued.  I’d really like to know what my grandma is seeing.  She told my mom she’s never seen anything like it in the sixty years she has lived in that house.  Never mind that someone once crashed into the front of her house with their car, whatever amalgamous shape she’s seen out her windows has her spooked.

And if it is a bobcat?  Well, I guess you’ll be seeing my grandma on the news.

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Happy birthday to the best husband and daddy any girl could want.

Cuddling up to daddy 
You make us girls very happy.

And?

You’re getting old.

I’m just saying.

I love you.

P.S. I wasn’t lying when I told you the lines on your face make you look sexier.  I fully expect you to pay me the same compliment when I’m your age.  

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