Monday, December 22, 2008

Unintentional Seasonal Humor

I love Christmas lights, although I didn't put any up this year - actually, my side of the street is on Christmas light hiatus for 2008. However, my father's neighbor has a joyful and fairly tasteful display, a few bushes wrapped in lights and 5 inflated things.

Inflatable Christmas decorations are usually cute, but don't make me laugh. Not this year. The animated reindeer helping Santa into and out of a chimney is darn cute, but this week it ventured into the realm of unintentionally funny.



It rained. Sure, not news if you're in Portland, OR, but in Phoenix, we notice rain. The first day after it stopped raining, Dad's neighbor turned on the lights and the reindeer/Santa had slipped and stopped moving as it normally did. It looked like the reindeer and Santa were wrestling - well, more like the reindeer was throttling Santa, but I was trying to be kind. Thanks for the laugh!

The neighbors apparently noticed, because the next day the Santa and the reindeer were upright, but not moving. So, instead of wrestling, it looked like Santa and the reindeer were dancing. (I'm really hoping the reindeer on the roof is Vixen.)

Santa and the reindeer are completely functional again, but to me, their relationship will never be the same. Is the reindeer helping Santa from hate (wrestling), love (dancing), instinct? I'll never really know.

On a humorous side note - the big Frosty the Snowman, a.k.a. the creepiest "Christmas" character ever, was also a small victim of the same disaster. After looking like he'd fallen down drunk for a couple of days, he's back up, but because a light broke that gift he's carrying looks like a tie-top garbage bag. Heaven only knows what that creepy snowman is carrying in that Hefty bag, but it probably isn't good.



Still, both roof-top characters and their weather-related injuries have made me laugh a lot this week.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY CHRISTMAS LIGHT DISPLAYS!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Hymns

I love Christmas. I love music. I love Christmas music.

At the risk of being totally un-cool, I confess that I prefer Christmas hymns. And, I really enjoy seemingly obscure Christmas hymns from England. I don't know if they are obscure in England, but they aren't well known in the US. Just listening to the songs, however, I'd believe a few of them are not sung on every street corner in London.

On the whole, I like non-sacred Christmas songs also, but they don't really elicit much of an emotional response in me, unless I really dislike the song. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree is fun, but Frosty the Snowman is a bit creepy and I won't listen to the song. That BandAid/Live Aid song is stupid. Did no one ever take elementary school geography? Africa is equatorial and largely in the southern hemisphere. They would have huge problems if it snowed at Christmas.

The best part about Christmas music is that you can sing it out loud, in public, to the neighbors, or with a store's PA system. No one looks at you like you are nuts when you're singing it, because it's Christmas music, which is meant to be sung. Christmas songs are sung with more volume, gusto, and joy at church. Christmas music unites people as no other music does. It cuts across generations, genders, and denominations.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR CHRISTMAS MUSIC! FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Time with Kids


I got to babysit for my brother last night. He has 2 children - Hunter (7) and Jordyn (1 week shy of turning 5). It is always refreshing to hang out with the kids for an evening. Kids let you just be who you are and take you at face value. They just want to know that you care about them.

Our rousing evening started off with playing a few rounds of Pokemon. It was a first for me and I have no idea of that the rules are or if we used any of the official rules, but you have to trust a 7 year old to know how to play Pokemon. (It is kind of curious that he has a deck that has a lot of high valued cards and kicked our butts in every game. Hmmmm.) I can knock "Play Pokemon" off my life's to-do-before-I-die list.

We followed the Pokemon game with dinner. Noting that my brother is a Le Cordon Bleu certified chef, you'd think there'd be something good to eat in his house. Nope. Don't go to his house to babysit and expect a gourmet meal. The Kraft Mac and Cheese was supplanted by Chef Boyardee - Spaghetti and Meatballs (nephew ate almost the entire can by himself) and princess Spaghetti-O's. I'm so grateful I ate before going. I think I'm too old to cheerfully ingest Spaghetti-O's - even with/for the kids.

Go Fish and Crazy 8's finished our card games. We had decks of kiddy cards. Jordyn is good recognizing 1-10, but 11 and 12 seem to still be hazy in her knowledge base. My family has a long history of playing card games. Grandpa Dewey loved to play cards and it has flowed down the generations. (No poker, though.) A new generation of card players is in the making. A Go Fish disaster was averted when I pointed out that we all had the same number of matches, so we all win! Kids are so easy to work sometimes.

I was introduced to "Fat Booger, the Blanket Monster." I'm pretty sure "Fat Booger" doesn't get to show up when Mom and Dad are around. I'm just the aunt, so I don't have to be as strict about them abusing the house and it's furnishings as the parents. As my brother said once, "I don't want to know."

I also got invited to a tea party. I haven't been to a tea party since I was the one throwing it. Mormon kids hosting tea parties- anyone else see the slight irony? Soon enough she'll be throwing watery kool-aid parties. (Another tradition passed through the generations. I guess as a people, we've mastered jello salads, but not the appropriate kool-aid to water ratio.) It all sounds so boring when you aren't there, but as you know, when you are with kids, it's fun to see their little personalities and hear their thoughts. They don't hold back and they don't edit. It's instant, honest feedback and a lot of fun.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR BLANKET MONSTERS AND TEA PARTIES AND WHATEVER RANDOM FANTASY PLAY GOOFY KIDS LET ME PARTICIPATE IN.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Good Deals



I was at the supermarket today. Actually, I was at the bank in the supermarket, but why split hairs? I finished my banking and decided to see how much milk costs this week - $2.37 - not bad.

Miraculously, I found the reduced price bakery rack. I can't even begin to speculate why the rack was in the dairy area and not the bakery area, but I don't run the store, so I have to trust that it was due to some great supermarket marketing insight and not a random decision.

I've been looking for the bakery rack for a couple of months. I found it, shopped from it for a couple of weeks and then it disappeared. I was wondering what had happened to the rack and was starting to get paranoid about the store figuring out that I was only shopping from the reduced bakery rack and took it away. Apparently, they didn't take it away so much as they hid it from me.

As I finish eating a "Triple Chocolate Gourmet Cookie" for which I paid $1.49 for 10 instead of $3.49, I must say that

I AM GRATEFUL FOR THE REDUCED PRICE BAKERY RACK AND THE TERRIFIC DEALS TO BE FOUND ON IT.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gotta Love the Geeks

I spent today updating my website. I'm not a complete moron when it comes to websites and I've even created a couple, but my own hosting company sometimes makes updating items difficult - or at least the navigation is difficult. I was at a total stop a couple of times.

I must give props to the help desk people. Web support was done by web chat, which works really well for me. My technicians (I chatted 3 or 4 times on different issues) fixed my problems in short order and it all works right by some miracle.

BTW - you can now order gift certificates for Christmas, so give the gift of time.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR GEEKS! THEY KEEP US ALL GOING.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Winter Wonderland


I hear it's snowing in the northern areas of the world - or, if not actually snowing, it's cold. I grew up in Massachusetts, so I remember cold weather and snow. I used to have to stand at the school bus stop when it was 10 degrees below zero. I used to have snow suits, hats, mittens/gloves, wool socks, boots, ice skates, sleds - you know - all of the required winter gear.

The weather people tell us here that our temperatures are going to drop. Of course, that means that the daily highs will be in the mid to low 70's. Brrrr! When I was a child, I mocked my Arizona cousins when I'd hear they needed winter coats, because it was only going to get up to 60 degrees. In my defense, I was wearing shorts and t-shirts when we got to 60, so I didn't understand how they could be THAT cold.

I live in Phoenix now, so I kind of understand how they could be cold. My house is at 75 degrees as I write and my toes are frozen. It's all relative.

Above is a picture from my front yard, taken yesterday. Yep, my roses are blooming.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR ROSES IN DECEMBER!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Happy Thankgiving



OK. I was so tired after the festivities yesterday that I couldn't have put together a coherent sentence, let alone a paragraph, so no Thankgiving post. The irony does not escape me.

My family gathers at my Aunt's house every year and we have a crowd. I have a lot of family in the area - number-wise, if not actual branches of the family tree. How many people? I don't know and didn't count, but I'd guess 30-40 of various ages (6 months - 81 y.o.) and sizes. We have 2 turkeys, all the sides, and dozens of pies. (One year, we had 1 pie per person.) Sorry, I didn't take pictures. This year, one cousin and his wife were able to join us for the day. It has been a few years since he has been able to come to Thanksgiving, so it was nice that he was there.

When my parents first moved to Arizona, I was still in college. I had grown up on the other side of the country from any relatives and hadn't really seen any of these people since I was 10 years old. It was a rough holiday and I swore I'd never do another Thankgiving with them. It was horrible. Some of my cousins were still teenage boys and acted like it. One cousin was newly married and it was pretty obvious there was some tension with the in-law. There were arguments and outright fights and I thought I had entered a madhouse. (My mother raised a low drama family, so anything like what went on would have never been allowed to happen in our family - ever.)

It's been many years now and there are far fewer moments of high drama at family events. I see this set of people almost monthly. I usually look forward to the parties just so I can catch up and see what's happening in their lives. It took a few years to get used to my family after years far, far away from them.

I AM GRATEFUL I HAVE FAMILY CLOSE ENOUGH TO CELEBRATE HOLIDAYS WITH THEM!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blessings from a Feast



Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so like most people in the US, I've been preparing for the feast. Last spring, my Father was diagnosed with Celiac's Disease, which is an intolerance to wheat and gluten. So, Dad can't have any wheat products, which knocks out some of the favorite holiday sides and condiments - gravy, stuffing, pie, etc. This adds a new dimension to our dinner, because with a group of 30-40 and only 1 gluten-free dieter, it's hard to have the world cater to Dad's dietary requirements.

Today, I made gravy, stuffing, gluten-free Green Bean Casserole (cream of mushroom soup and those canned french fried onions are full of gluten), and a gluten-free, sugar-free apple pie. Wow! It sounds harder than it was; it was just time consuming.

I'M GRATEFUL THAT MY MOTHER DIDN'T MIND HAVING ME HANG OUT IN THE KITCHEN WHILE SHE COOKED AND THAT SHE TAUGHT ME HOW TO COOK!

(However, this did not negate my humiliating defeat when I was a teenager and I came in second to my brother in a cookie baking contest.)

I didn't invent any of the recipes, although I admit to not following a recipe for apple pie. They all came from on-line sources who have a lot more experience cooking for gluten-free diets than I have.

I AM ESPECIALLY GRATEFUL FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE DEVELOPED RECIPES FOR GLUTEN-FREE DISHES THAT TASTE GREAT, SO I DON'T HAVE TO LEARN ALL THIS ON MY OWN!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Love E

unhappy smileys
Today's great thing is easy for me. I just spent 20 minutes on the local library website. I downloaded 2 E-books. The check-out period is 21 days; when time expires, the books disappear from your computer. (OK, I haven't checked the memory on my computer, so I don't know if it lasts there - probably does.) There is no fine for not returning the book, and I don't have to drive to the branch library only to find out that the book is at a different branch. The library has a good selection and I can place books on hold so I can be notified when a book becomes available. If you prefer audio books, the Phoenix library has those available also. All of this for the price of a library card - FREE!

This whole arrangement is pretty slick.

I AM GRATEFUL FOR DOWNLOADABLE LIBRARY BOOKS!

As a side note - I also find the letter "E" quite versatile and indispensable.

Counting Blessings

Free Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.orgFree Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.org
OK, so I met a really nice person a couple of months ago at a Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce meeting. We'd attended a couple of the same events. She told me that she thought I was just a generally happy person and asked if she was right. I had to reflect a minute and then agreed that I am pretty happy most of the time. I don't think my life is perfect. Far from it. However, I have been blessed with the ability to let things go, which makes me fairly unbothered by life's ups and downs.

I'll admit to being one of those cock-eyed optimists occasionally derided as being totally oblivious to real life and the world. I'm not oblivious, but if being upset won't change things, why be upset? You waste a lot of energy and accomplish nothing. I have yet to find that things won't be just fine, even if I totally don't anticipate or even want whatever outcome I get. Seriously, it all works out in the end.

At church on Sunday, Bishop Jones, not for the first time, took a couple of minutes and talked about how we should be grateful and the importance of gratitude (it's the week before Thanksgiving, so thematically on target, but sincerely heartfelt), so I thought I should start a blog just devoted to enumerating my blessings, because I want to be more aware of all the good stuff, and be more grateful for the blessings I receive everyday. I'm pretty sure that along the way, I'll have to figure out new ways I've been blessed, so that there is some variety in my posts. I won't even pretend to promise to post everyday. That's a bit too ambitious for me, but hopefully I'll post often enough.

When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

I AM GRATEFUL THAT BLOGSPOT MAKES STARTING A NEW BLOG SO EASY!