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By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Friday, December 21, 2007
Last week I drove to three different stores looking for phyllo dough. I could feel my heart starting to pound and my brain's wheels were turning at a furious rate. How dare everyone in this town buy all the phyllo dough and not leave me any! How was my family going to have a good Christmas without baklava? What would my coworkers say when I showed up empty handed on cookie day?
I cussed and muttered under my breath driving inconsiderately and proceeded to do more cussing at the other drivers unable to merge properly in the roundabout.
And then it hit me. What was I thinking? This isn't what Christmas is about. Nobody cares if I make the baklava. Nobody cares if the tree is perfect, if there are enough lights twinkling, if the best present ever is under the Christmas tree.
And right there as I turned into the parking lot of the third store, I just let it go.
I told myself it didn't matter. I let myself be imperfect. I took the pressure off.
It's the best present I've given myself in a long time.
When we put up the Christmas tree a few ornaments tumbled to the ground. My favorite Christmas CD kept skipping and wouldn't play. Soren ripped off the beard of nearly every nutcracker. Oh well.
And you know what? It was great! There was laughter in my house. My family had fun because all of these things that cause stress during the holidays just weren't there. Our tree isn't perfect but it's still a beautiful symbol of my faith and my family.
There will be presents, maybe not the most presents, maybe not even anything anyone wants, but it doesn't matter. Our bellies will be full of good food and our hearts will be full of love.
I know it sounds cliche but really that's all that matters. It's just not worth the family arguments, the who got what or the stress of creating a perfect Martha Stewart meal.
We are having a great Christmas so far and I encourage everyone to keep in mind that none of the things that "make" Christmas are very important.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Is there anybody out there who can clue me in on how much lower we can go?
The whole vomit-inducing nationwide media fascination with Britney Spears is horrific enough. Now we are doomed to be subjected to more seemingly endless voyeurism with her baby-sister's pregnancy. My God, help us.
Why do we have to listen to this crap day after day after day? Wasn't it enough that we had to endure every detail about Anna Nicole Smith, her fake boobs and who was or wasn't the sperm donor? Then it was Lindasy Lohan, Paris Hilton, Jessica Simpson, Pamela Anderson - the list is endless. What the hell did these people ever do for the good of society at large that they deserve ANY attention at all let alone endless, infinite amounts of it?
Surely there must be somebody, somewhere that is doing something decent, morally corrrect, unselfish and something we can hold up to our children as a shining example of how to live? Especially this time of year? I know they're out there. Why can't we hear about them at least as often as we hear about the trash?
Yeah - I know. It doesn't sell. It's boring. We're jaded. It's not news. Nobody cares.
Rome is burning. I can smell the smoke.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I really love the library. Just the whole idea of it, borrowing on the honor system, the fact it's free, and of course the miles and miles of my very favorite thing ... books.
It was in the library that I discovered a whole world outside of the rural Colorado town I grew up in. I remember spending hours looking at books about the Egyptians and their pyramids. I couldn't wait to touch them and eventually did. What a glorious day!
It was in the library that I learned how to say Ramona the Pest's
favorite cuss word, GUTS
It was in the library that I learned about making maple syrup candy in the snow by Laura Ingalls Wilder
which led to my brief love of bonnets. I'm seriously not joking, I had a bonnet phase because of that book.
It was in the library that I learned from Sweet Valley High
how to attract a boys' attention. It never really worked, probably because I wore bonnets as a kid and boys remember that, and no, I don't still read the books or wear bonnets anymore.
When it's time to vote on how our tax dollars are spent, it's me who's voting for a new library. The thought of books becoming digital like this Newsweek article
suggests makes me sick. I for one do not want to cuddle up to a nice Ipod.
I'll admit I haven't used its services that much in the past few years but Soren's insatiable desire for books has caused me to tighten the bootstraps by whipping out the library card instead of the debit card.
I hadn't stepped foot in the children's section of the library in at least 20 years. Our first trip was a delightful and positive one.
"Itchy Pider," Soren told the librarian.
"Do you have any books about the Itsy Bitsy Spider
," I interpreted for her.
"Yes," and she took him by the little hand, which is amazing in itself as he has a huge fear of strangers, straight to his favorite subject of the week, the itchy pider. Then she filled my arms with ten more books that were age appropriate.
Awesome! In fact we've been back every two weeks to restock. I get really tired of reading Rainbow Fish
and The Very Clumsy Click Beetle
over and over again. We both enjoy trying something new.
Last weekend we attended the puppet show, "Santa's Helper." There weren't that many kids there and the show itself wasn't that interesting but Soren enjoyed it. The show was about Clifford helping Santa deliver presents and Soren screamed DOG DOG pointing from the puppet of the red dog to the picture of him on the wall. He left with a coloring page and a gingerbread cookie.
Then we checked out some books about Santa and his elves, and a copy of The Night Before Christmas, the creepy version, as I discovered when I got home. It is illustrated by some dressed up dog heads attached to human bodies. It's creepy because these dogs have man hands sticking out of their pajamas but it's the version I'll be using on Christmas Eve nonetheless. Bootstraps.
His favorite part of the library is the water fountain. And I guess he thinks the books are okay. I'm hoping he discovers all the places it can take him at an early age.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
On a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy
, Dr. Bailey was faced with saving the life of a white supremacist. Before she took a scalpel to the swastika tattoo on his stomach she raised her eyes upward and muttered to herself, “I am rising above, I am rising above.” She proceeded to perform the operation with her oath to do no harm at the forefront of her mind.
I am no Dr. Bailey.
Then again, I never took that oath.
UPS recently delivered a box to my house for the guy that used to live there. (Trust me, this will tie together at the end.)
Even though I have plenty of my own UPS-ing to deal with this time of year, I made it a point to call UPS last Thursday to ask them to pick up the package and deliver it. After navigating the usual button-pushing labyrinth I got an actual live person, with an American accent, who said they could have somebody out on Monday to pick up the box. I was a little disappointed that BROWN would take 5 days to get there, but so what? I’m not the one waiting for the box.
Monday came and went and nobody picked up the box. So this morning I called UPS again to have them pick up their stupid box and deliver it to the right person. After the button-pushing-for-English fiasco I get disconnected.
Now, I should have taken a deep breath and risen above. But no. I am in considerable pain from my accident, and I haven’t slept more than two hours a night since. I am grumpy and I’m sitting with an ice pack on my back and my neck and they’re cold. Did I mention my boiler is freaking out and the heat in my house won’t turn OFF? Yeah, so I’m cranky by the time I dial again and get some snotty little doofus from Newark.
“What is the tracking number on the package?” She has a voice like nails on a chalkboard.
“I have no idea. But I can give you the address.”
“I need the tracking number.”
“I don’t have it. How about I give you my address and you can tell the driver where to pick up the package.”
“Well, I can’t do that without the tracking number. I have to have the tracking number to tell anybody anything.”
“So you can’t just take my address, look it up, and then get a driver to pick up the box?”
“Why can't you call us back with the tracking number?”
I should have risen above.
“This is the third damn time I called, and really I’m just going to throw the stupid box out and then YOU can deal with it.”
“Well, that’s certainly at your discretion. But I can’t look up the hub without the tracking number.”
IF I HAD RISEN ABOVE, I would have said, “Look, Jersey girl. I know this is a busy time of year for UPS. You’re stressed out. You probably got in a fight with your boyfriend this morning. You probably don’t make a lot of money and you’re thinking you’re doomed to stay in Jersey forever. I understand and I am really sorry about all that. I will keep you in my prayers. I am also sorry that the guy who is waiting for this package to be delivered and won’t ever get it. His children will wake up Christmas morning to nothing under the tree. He will feel awful, his wife will divorce him and he’ll end up in rehab or on the streets. But don’t worry. You can blame it on the tracking number.”
Instead, my two-word response before I hung up on her sent the same message and will achieve the same results.
Next time I will try to rise above. OK Dr. Bailey?
Friday, December 14, 2007
Only nine more days until life takes a turn for the better. Yep, that’s when the days will start getting longer! Yippee! I will no longer come home from work, make dinner, eat dinner, clean up from dinner, think it must be time for bed, look at the clock and see it’s only 6:15.
I mean there is only so much restraint I can practice. One glass of wine per hour watching junk TV until it really is bed time makes it hard to get there! But what else are you gonna do when it’s dark and cold outside?
I used to use that time after dinner and before bed to go for my (mostly) daily hike/run. Now there is a very narrow window of opportunity, like 13 minutes, and it’s not worth changing into sweats for. So my favorite-once-again sister Deanne lent me her Pilates DVD.
“This is great,” I thought. “I can do it my living room in front of the TV, on my groovy little yoga mat I only used once.”
So after dinner Sunday night, pre-accident, I poured myself a glass of wine and popped in the DVD. It gave me several menu options but it makes you review the caution and disclaimer first. So I sat down, sipped my wine and listened to them tell me all the blah, blah, blah about consulting a physician, etc.
OK, that took up 7 minutes. Then you are told to go to the menu item called “BASICS TECHNIQUES.” The Pilates lady said to make sure you watch every routine before performing it. Great! I pour more wine, and watch her twist around in her little black leotard demonstrating the basic moves. Pretty easy so far!
That took up about 12 minutes, and then you can go to the first actual routine. I am warned again by the Pilates lady to watch the whole routine before doing it. Awesome! I open a new bottle of wine, grab a pillow and lie down on my yoga mat, and watch Pilates lady do her thing again.
At the end of the first basic routine, which took 15 minutes, I remembered Pilates lady said not to do any routines after eating. Since I had recently finished dinner, I figured I better be careful and just watch the next routine. Besides, I had been at this for 34 minutes now.
Needless to say, at the end of the DVD, I had finished most of the wine, and the Pilates lady was starting to get on my nerves. Besides, she had kind of a big butt to be the star of an exercise video. So I turned off the TV and went to bed.
It was 7:30.
Here’s to the coming of the shortest day of the year and the beginning of more daylight!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
It all started with the zit on my eyelid. It had to be an omen. Of some kind. I mean - on my EYELID?
The last 72 hours were lots of fun with my son. He enjoyed two days of boarding at Powderhorn in what had to be awesome conditions. I no longer ask what runs he goes on because he doesn’t. He makes up his own with this friends.
On Monday morning I woke him up for school and he started moaning that his neck was stiff and he couldn’t move it.
“Why is your neck sore?”
“Because I was going fast and there was like this pothole in the snow and the front of my board hit it and I flipped like three times.”
“Did this happen yesterday?”
“No, on Saturday.”
Yet he boarded a full day on Sunday. OK.
“Can you wiggle your toes?”
“Then you’re fine. Get dressed for school.”
I have a place in my house for that Mother-of-the-Year Award I’m sure to get.
Later that night we went shopping at Zumiez for a new jacket for him. Something warmer and wind proof.
“So Alex, you like this one?” I held up a brown plaid number.
“Yeah, that’s really cool!”
“Good. I saw it this weekend and asked them to put one aside.”
He stopped in his tracks and looked at me with wonder in his eyes.
actually came into this store
? Ohmigod. I can’t believe you
actually came into this store
Zumiez is kind of a scary place for anyone over the age of 26, with no tattoos and no nose ring. However, the staff is very friendly and polite to old ladies like me.
“It was OK Alex. They even offered me a wheel chair.”
I’m not sure where the connection to the zit on my eyelid comes in. (I’m taking muscle relaxers, so bear with me.) Except when Dan came to the scene of the accident
, he looks at my eyelid, points to the zit and asks, “Did that happen in the accident?”
I forgive him because he was serious AND he let me borrow his car. Ya gotta love a guy like that.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
For all the complaining I hear around here you'd think that people had never actually had FUN in the snow, or that FUN in the snow equals a pretty good part of Colorado's economy, or that it means water for the super hot summer months.
Soren didn't remember what snow was so I for one was looking forward to a little dusting of white stuff so we could get out and play. Here is his very first "No Man."
I think he thought the game of pushing around the snow was a little odd. I kept trying to explain the idea of rolling the snow and he kept trying to explain that it was more fun to kick it. Or to take a big bite out of the side of his head. It wasn't until the addition of the carrot that he understood it was a man.
And then the No Man became his very best friend. We had to keep the front door open so he could check on his pal from time to time. But, then to his horror, it fell over. He showed this to his 2-year-old cousin who announced "Your snow man is dead."
Now each time we leave the house he points to the pile and announces nonchalantly, "No Man Dead."
I'm not sure how to reply to this. Damn snow and your cold and your damn dead snow men. We've had enough now, thanks.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
After I dropped Alex at the bus stop this morning I came home and read the paper while I looked out at this:
I thought about how nice it would be to stay home and make Christmas cookies and watch the snow fall. Turns out, I really should have done that, because maybe I wouldn't have ended up like this:
My head hurts, my back hurts, my knee hurts, I feel like puking. While I try to make sense of it I am very grateful I had no passengers with me since both windows on the passenger side are smashed out.
For now, I'll go with that as the silver lining.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, December 10, 2007
Like many families, we enjoy the traditional ride around town looking at the Christmas lights. It always amazes me how some people really put a lot of time and effort into their displays.
Throughout my entire childhood, my parents and I would load up into our little pickup truck and drive around my hometown looking at the lights. Most were mediocre but we always saved the best for last.
The best was a small flower shop. Through its cottage windows you could peer into a Christmas extravaganza of moving figurines, poinsettas, trains, flying airplanes, and blinking lights. Beginning at the very back of the store there were layers upon layers of Christmas eye-candy. My favorite were a set of moving figurines acting out the "Gift of the Magi"; the girl cutting her hair and the boy holding a barrett. To this day it's my favorite Christmas story.
My favorite flower shop took out a big ad in the newspaper a few years back. Seems some idiot stole some of those decorations and the family decided to end the Christmas display. To this day it brings tears of rage to my eyes.
Last week Soren and I had to go to the store after dark. He pointed and asked "Wuzdat?" at a particularly bright house on the hill. "Christmas lights" I said. I was super excited that he was excited and carefully stalked all the bright houses in my neighborhood. I made certain to drive slowly weaving back and forth from one side of the street to the other so he could see from his side of the car. Each time we'd come to one he's shout, "Itsmas lights itsmas lights."
And this year we saved the best for last. We featured 727 Galaxy Drive in our Sunday Westlife and I wanted to get there before everyone else. I bundled up Soren and took him last week. We had the whole house to ourselves. I got him out of the car, turned up the radio, and stood on the sidewalk. Every time Santa would light up, he'd scream "Ant Cause Ant Cause." He clapped and he danced on the Mac Millan's sidewalk. He cried when the show was over so I let him watch it twice.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Mac Millan for a beautiful display. I'm glad that my son will have this Christmas memory throughout his lifetime.
If you haven't seen it check it out here
And hey, let's send them cards of thanks. It's the season of giving and not for stealing.
It's a great thing they have going and I for one really appreciate all the work they've put into it. I'd hate to see anything ruin it.
Merry Itsmas Everyone!
Friday, December 7, 2007
I recently read an article that asked women to name the best gifts they ever received, Christmas or otherwise. There were some interesting and touching repsonses. It got me thinking about some of the memorable surprises I've received over the years.
Of course the ones Alex made or even purchased are special treasures that are sentimental favorites. But other favorites include:
1. A Swiss army knife. I use that almost daily for something or other. Every woman needs one in her purse. Just remember to take it out before you get on a plane.
2. A toolbox filled with the basics like pink-handled screw drivers, a hammer, a tape measure, assorted screws and nails. I've added to it over the years but I still want needle nosed pliers.
3. A five pound hunk of my favorite extra-sharp cheddar cheese. Yum!
4. Household upgrades arranged and paid for. Like a heater in a master bathroom rigged to be on when any other heater was on. Something I would never think of but was a great luxury.
5. Five-dollar bills I got in college from my grandfather. I could make them last for a week. Sometimes longer.
What are some of your favs? Any hints to anyone you want us to pass along?