Thursday, December 31, 2009

What a difference a year makes...(PKW)

...and I tell you this tale to...

... Oh, what is the PKW you ask? It is a "possible kleenex warning". I've had some e-mails and comment requests asking for a kleenex warning when I switch from wearing my normal smart-alec hat to my more somber serious hat...I'm not saying it will make you cry but it might...OK, resuming serious now)

OK, hmmm.... yea. Oh yea.

I'm not telling this tale to you for any pity but to let you know that the impossible can happen. And I'm not telling you this story for you to judge me. Judge me you may...and I cannot stop that but unless or until you have a child in this situation the way you imagine you will handle it never seems to be the way you do. Or maybe it is. But this is what happened for me.

Last Christmas found me sitting outside in the shivery star-filled night playing my guitar and singing "Silent Night" trying to regain my sanity and to subdue the pain that was ripping my heart apart.

My sweet husband found me there and wrapped a blanket around me and led me to bed where I cried until I literally thought I might die.

Oh, I wanted to. I really did.

There is nothing that can cause pain like one of your children suffering. And suffering by perceived choice and not by unlucky chance.

Our youngest daughter is a heroin addict.

The whole full-on hoodie wearing junkie with track marks you see living on the streets.

To say this has been a horror is beyond an understatement. I have probably written 500,000 words trying to rid my soul of this pain. To no avail.

Our last attempt at "saving" this beloved girl resulted in me being away from my home and family staying in shivery-cold Minneapolis for six weeks while she went to a naturopathic rehab. An experience that could result in a thousand or more blog posts if I ever choose to share it.

I saw a miracle in Minneapolis. A true, honest to God, miracle. I saw my daughter return to to me...laugh with me...have honest light and life in her dimmed and delusioned hazel eyes.

It was a revelation.

And a heartbreak.

Because when we returned to "real life" she fell back into her old habits. Immediately.

And with great sorrow in my heart I let my soul die and began letting her go. A process that might seem easy. A process that is anything but easy.

But I decided that I had to do this to save myself. And that there were others in the family that I loved and that loved me. And that putting myself into the grave trying to save someone who did not want to be saved served no purpose. No matter how much I loved them.

It broke my heart. Almost literally.

So I did not see her or talk to her. I left food and blankets outside for her to pick up on our cold winter nights. The thought of my child living on the street was beyond anything I could even wrap my mind around.

I went to all the NA support meetings, I did all the "stuff" you are supposed to do but nothing helped.

And there was no light and music in my soul.

And right before Christmas she called and said she was clean and sober and asked to come to Christmas Eve. And against all the discordant clamor of my inner warning bells I said yes.

Last Christmas was brutal. Beyond brutal. It was like what I imagine hell to be. Because she wasn't clean or sober. And I tried to pretend for my Granddaughters sake that it was all OK. But it wasn't. Not by a mile. Not by a million miles. And when that night ended and I watched my big, tough son and my husband who can control emotions like nobodies business reduced to sobbing tears I thought my heart had broken even more. Something that seemed impossible.

So I sat under the stars in the backyard playing my old 12-string guitar until I actually felt my finger-tips bleeding. But still I couldn't stop. I could not release that horror and all the previous horrors from my mind.

In January when I encountered one of my long last cousins through her blog. And somehow just meeting her let the music come alive in my heart again

Just a tiny bit.

And as months passed I learned to laugh again. In spite of the fact that I felt I had lost my daughter. We had endured so much through this addiction and not being around it let me finally breathe.

And even though each breath was painful it was possible.

And through each breath the tiny kernel of hope inside of me sat untouched. Just waiting.

In April when she called me she sounded oddly quiet and composed. And she told me she was working on getting clean and staying sober.

I wished her luck but kept that kernel of hope locked up tight, tight, tight. Because it was really and truly all I had left.

But something happened because weeks began to pass and she stayed sober. She stayed off all the drugs.

But I still kept that hope locked up...because it had been beaten down and trampled so many, many times before that I was afraid to loose it entirely.

But I watched.

And I waited.

And the days clicked after they do whether we want them to or not.

And she found a place to live.

And she enrolled in college.

And she picked up the tiny fragments of her life little by little.

And she came back into our lives...little by little...and we let her...very, very carefully.

And now over eight months has passed and she is still finding her way back.

And she has become part of our family again.

And that tiny little kernel of hope has grown a tiny sprig of green and there is a leaf there that is about to bud.

Christmas morning she came with her boyfriend and they opened their stockings and laughed and kidded and joked and then went to my parents.

And the entire day I was on the verge of tears.

That we had, indeed, had a miracle in our lives.

And by prayers and perservance and by taking any and all help we could get to survive intact ... we actually had. Survived.

I know this is not a cure...but each and every day she stays on this path is one day farther away from the life she led.

And we are grateful and overwhelmed with the miracle of this.

I have seen the power of prayer.

I have witness to the amazement of miracles.

And now we are living one.

I listen to so many of your stories and they sadden me and I wonder how you manage to cope with the overflowing troubles you carry. And I admire your courage. I hope you can keep going and keep your head up and work on keeping the music and joy inside of you intact. No matter what.

One of my favorite quotes is "Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark." We have gone through the dark of night to find hope blooming again.

And I wish that for you, too.

No matter how dark it feels.

Keep your faith. There is always possibility. And always hope.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Of all the weird New Years traditions...

...I've oftened wondered about the whole eating black-eye peas and/or cabbage ones.

I don't know about you but those two particular items make me... ummm.... ummmm... ummm....

OK, let me phrase this a bit more delicately by quoting a great poet of another generation:

"Beans, beans the magic fruit,
the more you eat the more you toot."

And you can pretty much substitute the word "cabbage" there. At least for me.

But actually I have to tell you I have to use a different tense when referring to this problem....because it actually only USED to and it doesn't ANY MORE!

And no, this isn't an blog-ad for bean-o.

It's not a blog-ad at all.

It's really just part of the full-service I want to offer to you, my lovely and beloved readers.

And here's what it is.

Crystallized ginger.

Yup, you just whip up your favorite "poetry inducing" pot of something but throw in a few finely diced up pieces of crystallized ginger into the pot. It doesn't effect the taste at all AND it eliminates the possibility of having to quote that little poem to a room full of people.

AND ginger is supposed to be very healthful for you!

So pick up a big jar of this stuff and keep it in your fridge.

So that your New Year can be spent in endeavors other then reciting poetry.

You're welcome.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Crabby just because...

...does that ever happen to you?

You wake up crabby "just because" and you can't shake it.
And it just follows you around all day like an obnoxious shadow that pokes you in the butt and just irritates the heck out of you?

Well, it happened to me today.

So I decided it would be a good day to be irritated with my husband.

Unfortunately I think he woke up in a "crabby just because" mood, too, cuz we had a fight.

It all started because he didn't listen to me. I sent him an e-mail AND told him and left him a note but he still forgot.

What he forgot isn't important. True facts are never important when "crabby just because" is involved.

It's just important that he did forget. Cuz when you are in a "crabby just because" mood that translates to...obviously he doesn't love me anymore. Or something like that. Which I, sweet, calm Jenny know isn't true. But which I, "crabby just because" Jenny, believes probably is.

But that dang cranky shadow kept poking me in the butt and even though I told myself don't get mad at him cuz he is wonderful so much of the time I STILL GOT MAD!

And when I got annoyed with him he got a bit short back with me.

Seriously, how dare he?

I am the only one allowed to be "crabby just because" in my house. I guess he forgot that important rule though.

I have to segue off the story for a moment to tell you that my husband and I never get sarcastic with each other AND we never call each other names. It's a rule we started early in our marriage. We have other rules but they don't apply here so I will save those to spring on you at another time during another story.

But now back to this story. And now you know that important rule you will be shocked when I tell you that I told him "you never listen to me AND you are DUMB!"

At first there was dead silence.

And then he said, "right back atcha!"

And then I said "wow, so you can listen to me once in awhile!"

And he said "oh, geez, I said I was sorry."


And ummm...then I'm ashamed to say he was mature and said "I'm going into my office because I think that's best right now!"


You can't just go off into your office and shut the door quietly when I am in a "crabby just because" mood.

Get back here!

But he didn't.

So I stomped around the house for a good long while, toying briefly with packing his suitcase to teach him a lesson.

I'm telling ya, when "crabby just because" attacks you, it does one of those Vulcan mind control things on you.

And you are at its mercy.

So after I felt sorry for myself awhile, and found a stale Christmas cookie to eat, and watched a rerun of "What not to Wear" I began to feel "crabby just because" leave my house.

And I made him a cup of tea.

And took it into his office.

And gave it to him, sweetly, without spilling any of the boiling liquid on him.

And we've decided to talk again.

And I think if "crabby just because" didn't come to my house today I would never have gotten that annoyed because he didn't listen.

Because to be honest he does listen to me 99.9 percent of the time.

So .... ACCCCCKKKK!!!!

There's a small possibility I might have over-reacted just a bit.


I hate when that happens.

Now I have to apologize.

But maybe if I'm lucky he won't listen!


And I can't even blame "crabby just because" on PMS cuz I had all that excess girl stuff removed decades ago.


Monday, December 28, 2009

OK, you know how some people

...don't like you?

And you have to act all cool like you don't care that they don't like you even though you really do?

And you act all tough pretending it doesn't matter to you one way or the other because you can totally take them or leave them?

How do you learn that?

Because I am need of that particular skill at this particular moment.

And it's because of Pioneer Woman.

I'm trying not to be a hater here...I'm all filled with glee over her big success an all...

...but I don't understand why she doesn't like me.

I tried and I tried and I tried to win her Christmas giveaways. Each day I went out there with the other 20,000 people or so and put up my little comments, confident that each and every day would be my day to win.

But was it?


I mean, seriously. The last drawing there was only like 15,312 people and did I win?


She doesn't like me, I tell ya. I don't know why. Really. I'm fun. I'm clever. I can channel vintage TV personalities (not sure who, actually, but I know I could if I put my mind to it!).

I think perhaps she feels threatened by me...after all I put up so many amazing recipes. Who can forget my recipes for snacking almonds...or my stupendous recipe for dulce de leche!

Yea, that is definitely the reason.

But somehow it's not making me feel better.

I had planned to use one of my Borders gift cards from Christmas to order this... But now because PW doesn't like me I will have to order this instead... And somehow that just doesn't seem fair.

Cool recipes or learning how to deal with rejection?

Really, I am so sad I have been forced to this decision.

But I need to find a way to cope with the obvious dislike she has for me.

Because if I can't...

I will continue to eat all the Christmas sweets...

And soon my fingers will be too fat to even type an entry into a PW giveaway...

Not that I would even enter again in a million years...

Because when people don't like me I don't like them either.
oh...and, by the way, she's not having a giveaway today.

Not that I checked.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Please...I'm begging you...

...or threatening you...

...or whatever it takes...

Yea, I'm gonna go with the threats.

Sorry but I'm feeling violent.

Consider yourself warned.

We have traded in our meek little weiner dog for this... AND...

...we haved protected our front door and windows from you by doing this... AND...

I am now officially begging you to please... BECAUSE...

Whoever left the new batch of cookies and the homemade peach preserves on my front step...listen...really...please...

I know you are lovely and sweet and all that blah, blah, blah...

...but I'm in serious risk of a sugar coma here and ...

What's that?

What did you say?

Willpower? Self restraint?

Ummm.... well, yea, there certainly is that as an alternative...

...I think.

Just let me know where you found yours cuz, honestly, I must have missed that sale.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

On the day after Christmas....

...but first...the prelude.

On the twelth day before Christmas,
My neighbor brought to me
12 pieces of toffee
Which to be polite I had to quickly eat.
On the eleventh day before Christmas
I received in my morning mail
11 festive fruitcakes
which I ate and still lived to tell the tale.
On the tenth day before Christmas
I found by my front door
10 pans of fudge, thank goodness
there wasn't 11 cuz I couldn't have eaten any more!
On the ninth day before Christmas
I waddled to the table
To find 9 bowls of hershey kisses
which I ate to please my favorite cousin Mabel.
On the eighth day before Christmas
My husband said "oh ick,
please eat these 8 banana breads
Because frankly I feel sick!"
On the seventh day before Christmas
A box came UPS
Containing 7 sugar cookies
Which put my sweet tooth to the test!
On the sixth day before Christmas
My Mother brought to me,
6 pieces of peanut brittle
which she made me eat right beside the Christmas tree.
On the fifth day before Christmas
On the 4th day before Christmas
My daughter said to me
"Mom, I'm coming over to bring you
4 special Christmas sweets!"
On the third day before Christmas
I had a terrible stomachache,
But then my son showed up
with 3 special Christmas cakes!
On the second day before Christmas,
I was feeling slightly frownie,
When my very sweet nephew Tom
brought over two big pans of brownies!
On the last day before Christmas
I was in a sugar coma
When our dear friends Steve and Cyndie
Brought us a bag of Christmas donuts!
On the actual day of Christmas
my mouth said to my eyes
I'm sure it's not gonna hurt to eat
just one more piece of pie!

So now, on the first day after Christmas
My jeans say to my tummy,
"Time to get on a diet,
eating Christmas cheer ain't funny!"
Sigh. But not too big cuz I can't really exhale very far at the moment.


PS I just cracked up when I went to one of the blogs I follow cuz here's what Julie posted!

Friday, December 25, 2009

I'm thinking of filing for divorce....

...sure, I've been all deep and thoughtful in the days leading up to Christmas trying to impress you all with my tear-provoking prose.

But this morning I just gotta be real for a few minutes.

Hope you don't mind if I vent here.

And really, what are bloddies (blog buddies) for?

So here's the conversation.

It's not gonna be pretty, though, and I'm sorry to subject you to this on Christmas morning (oh yea, Merry Christmas, BTW, but sorry this is all about me, me, me at the moment)


Take a deep breath.

Steve: Quit wiggling, go back to sleep.
Me: I can't.
Steve: Seriously, Jenny, it is only like 4:30 am
Me: Sorrrrrry.
Steve: Merry Christmas now go back to sleep.
Me: I can't.
Steve: Well I can't sleep if you're so wiggly. Really, you are like a little kid.
Me: Well, maybe we should just get up then.
Steve: I need to sleep a little longer.
Me: Well, maybe I'll just go out and watch Martha for awhile.
Steve: No, you're gonna poke around at your presents.
(We had a fifty dollar limit for each other this year and our goal was to buy the most amount of presents for that money...we do weird stuff like that usually)
Me: Well, there is a big pile.
Steve: Jenny! Go back to sleep.
Me: Well, I can't. I'm getting up.
Steve: OK, but no shaking presents.
Me: Oh?
Steve: And no touching presents.
Me: Oh?
Steve: And no poking presents.
Me: Oh.
Steve: And no opening your stocking stuffer box until I get up.
Me: (silence)
Steve: You were going to open that without me weren't you?
Me: (silence)
Steve: Jenny?
Me: Ssssshhh....I'm trying to go back to sleep.
Steve: sigggggggghhhhhh

What do you think? It is now 6:49 am and he is still not up.

I'm gonna have to go "accidentally-on-purpose" slam the bedroom door or something.

It won't be my fault if I trip over the dog or my slippers.


That would be OK, right?

Cuz, seriously.

I am not getting any younger here.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'll have to say Merry Christmas in a song...

..and since very few people ever hear the actual songs I write I'm gonna use a wayyy better songwriter to wish you a Merry Christmas.

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and a silent night.


I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying
To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears
Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow
Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

What was it like back there in Bethlehem
With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Every shepherd's out in the field
Keeping watch over their clock by night
And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid

And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
To end this crazy day with a silent night

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

This is the end...

…of the innocence.

If someone ever made a very, very boring movie of my life that would be the soundtrack for the story I am about to tell you.

I was seven years old.

My sister was eight.

She was worldly and knew what was what. And she knew what she thought I needed to know.

And she thought I needed to know there was no Santa Claus.

Sure, I had heard a few things from kids at school but I was working hard back then at developing the skill of sticking-my-head-in-the-sand which would serve me well even until this day.

To make me pull-my-head-from-the-sand, my sister came up with a plan that was going to prove to me once and for all that “no Jenny. There is no Santa Claus.”

The plan involved a stack of presents that she found in the back of my parents closet.

This stack of presents had our names written on them in ink right on the tape on the wrapping paper.

How my sister figured this out I have no idea.

But she did. And she decided it would be a good thing to show me. Our next younger sister was too little and could be a potential risk of blabbing so she wasn’t included in this momentous plan of anti-Santa revelation.

I have it in my memory that my Mom was busy in the kitchen when my sister and I snuck into her room. From the depths of the closet my sister brought out a bounty of eight boxes. Four with each of our names. She cleverly slit the tape at the end of the package and very, very carefully shook out each shiny, white gift box.

And then she very, very carefully opened each box to reveal the tissue wrapped contents.

I saw a sweater for me. And some socks. And some books. And a Barbie doll with a black and white swimsuit.

And I don’t remember at all what was contained in her four boxes.

And after we looked at each item my sister very, very carefully put each box back into the wrapping paper sleeve and retaped it in the exact same spot and put them back in the closet.

My heart was pounding. I felt sick. And I felt sure that this would only prove that our parents bought SOME of our Christmas presents and that SANTA brought others. My sister laughed at my theory. But I continued to believe this.

Until Christmas morning when the tree had four boxes underneath with my name. I unwrapped each item slowly…with great dread…to see a sweater and some socks and some books and a swimsuit clad Barbie doll. And nothing else.

There were some things in my stocking but I was too heart-broken to care.

All day I felt sad and sick. And my heart hurt with that heavy ache that comes from reality thumping you firmly on top of the head.

This was the first time I felt that ache. And it would certainly not be the last as I discovered that innocence ends and that unsticking-your-head-from-the-sand could sometimes cause a lot of pain.

I don’t remember anything else about that Christmas.

I do remember, though, that the next year I firmly declined my sisters offer to preview presents. I didn’t want to see. I wanted to pretend that everything was the same.

But it wasn’t.

And it really never, ever was again until the day I had my own children and I watched their amazement and joy warm my entire universe as they saw the blazing tree on Christmas morning stacked high with possibilities and promises. That lovely, glittering tree surrounded by boxes containing simple wishes that could make their lives perfect for that single moment of time.

So I learned that filling someones simple wishes brought Christmas to my heart. And the ache was finally gone and Christmas found me once again.

And I found that Christmas always came with the giving.

Whether the giving was filling a wish for a warm coat or whether the giving was merely take the time to listen.

Whether the giving was to my child, or my child’s child, or the child of someone I had never met.

And each year Christmas came and went as it has since the beginning.

And each year it came back, magical and sparkly, as long as I was willing to make the effort to share and give honestly of myself.

Some years I find it hard to give.

I find it hard to step outside of the troubles in my life to look beyond me.

And on those particular years what I have learned is that is the time I need to dig deeper. To reach into the depths of pain or disillusion or illness or fear because it is when it is the hardest to give of myself …

…is always the time when I truly, honestly find Christmas glowing the warmest in my heart.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Can I show you Christmas?

Technically her name is Riley, and she is our middle Granddaughter. Our dreamy, sweet, heart-driven, lovely Riley who is six years old. And who has one of the kindest hearts I've ever been around. Although she is wearing a pink and white dress and is holding a puppy in this photo, that's not why she is Christmas.

She is Christmas because of this drawing. And many others like it. Espcially because of who she has been drawing them for.

But I think for me it is this drawing in specific that whispers Christmas into every particle of my being. May I tell you about this picture?

This picture is drawn for a wonderful man who is suffering from so many awful things it would take me an hour to tell his tale. He is the son of one of the most loving friends I have.

This picture was drawn at Riley's own initiative. When she saw an envelope on my desk and asked who it was for and I told her "Mike" she immediately ran for the colored pencils.

This picture was drawn with two legs because Mike has had one amputated and Riley says he wants to see himself the way "his heart wants him to be."

This picture was drawn with the two of them getting onto an airplane because Mike goes back and forth between bedridden and the ICU unit at the hospital and Riley says he wants to see himself going on a trip. With her. To Disneyland.

One morning several weeks ago Riley was here in my office actually drawing a picture to send to Mike when my friend called to tell me her husband had suffered a stroke. All this in addition to dealing with the sadness and medical horrors that encompass every single moment of their life.

Riley listened to my conversation and then looked up at me to ask "Grandma, who is Bob?"

I replied "sweetie, that is Mike's Dad and he is very, very sick now, too."

And Riley said to me "oh boy, Grandma, I have a lot of drawing to do here."

And went to get another piece of paper.

Did I say that this picture whispers Merry Christmas to my soul.

It doesn't. It shouts "Merry Christmas!" to every atom that makes me who I am. It makes my heart swell with carols and pride and love and certainty.

Certainty that because this little girl exists there is still hope and love and joy and possibility and kindness in a world that sometimes feels otherwise.

And Mike, I hope this dream of walking sturdily and confidently onto an airplane to take a trip to somewhere wonderful soothes your soul and eases your pain for just a moment.

And Riley? Sweet, sweet girl.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I wasn’t dreaming of a “White Christmas”…

Probably because we were living in Montana at the time and we already had lots and lots of snow to play in.

My father was stationed at Malmstrom AFB and I was a Brownie.

And even though I wasn’t dreaming about snow I was, however,spending a lot of time dreaming about the Brownie Christmas gift exchange…an exciting concept for almost-seven-year-old-me.

For the gift exchange we were supposed to buy a present for a girl. It was supposed to be a dollar gift, a sum that seemed like a fortune to me at the time.

I shopped for my gift with great and serious intent. I tried to choose but it was so hard. What gift to purchase for this momentous event?

I finally decided on a little doll. She was awfully cute. Little plastic molded on hair, a little plastic heart-shaped stand for her little plastic feet to slide in.

Oh, she was a beauty.

And I could scarcely contain myself in the days leading up to the Brownie meeting.
But finally the day arrived and my Mom left me at the meeting. Our Brownie leader carefully affixed little numbered slips of papers with scotch tape to each gift. I handed her my gift proudly. Did I mention the little molded on high heels the doll was wearing?

I was hoping that Susan would get my little gift in the exchange. I really liked Susan. She had long, curly brown hair and a gap-toothed smile and I was certain we would be best friends forever.

The meeting and the craft and the refreshments dragged on and on and on and on.
It felt like forever to almost-seven-year-old-me.

But the moment finally arrived and we all drew little folded-up pieces of paper from a shiny, green plastic bowl . The number on your slip of paper told you which gift you would receive. I got number 8.

The Brownie leader handed out the gifts. Number 8 was a box wrapped in red Santa Claus paper. There was a little red curling ribbon bow tied jauntily around the box.

I could hardly contain my excitement.

But I did.

I watched each Brownie open up her gift. What riches! There were some Christmas coloring books, one girl got a big box of crayons, there were barrettes and a hairbrush shaped liked Santa Claus. After each gift was opened the giver would proudly say “I picked that out!”

My gift finally got opened and although Susan didn’t get that number, the Brownie who received it opened her eyes wide in excitement. She fingered the little molded on hair and her mouth made a little “O” of enthusiasm. “I picked that out!” I told her proudly.

Finally it was my turn. I was almost last so it seemed like I had been waiting forever.

I carefully un-wrapped the Santa Claus paper.

I lifted the lid off.

Oooh. Tissue paper. I had tissue paper in my box. It was white and rustly.

All the little Brownies gathered around the box to watch me fold the paper back carefully.

And there on the tissue was a set of three little girl white panties.
I looked again.

Surely this could not be correct.

Surely someone did not give me UNDERWEAR for the Brownie gift exchange.

But someone did.

We all just sat and looked at the underwear for a minute. Or ten minutes. I’m not sure but it felt like an eternity. My Brownie leader tried to be enthusiastic, “oh my, now you will have some nice new underwear for Christmas, Jenny!” but I have to be honest that my joy didn’t match her perky, happy voice.

I wanted to cry.

But I didn’t.

No-one spoke up and said “I picked that out!” so I never knew who actually gave the gift of underwear.

The final two girls opened their little gifts and neither of them received underwear. I don’t remember what they got but I’m certain it wasn’t white and stretchy.

And I’m certain that the song “White Christmas” wasn’t written for a brown eyed Brownie who got white underwear in a gift exchange but this is often what pops into my head when I hear this song…

“I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your gifts of underwear be white.”


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dulce de wwwwwhhhatttt????

I have been working on neighbors gifts today. Making the dulce de leche I made yesterday look pretty. Making little tags for it to tell people what they can use it for. Getting a stomachache from eating too many of these addictive cheez-it ranch crackers.

It's been a good day!

The dulce de leche is something we see a lot of here in Arizona. It is a thick, very caramely mixture. So you can use it like caramel. Thin it a bit and pour it over ice cream. Use just as it is to frost cupcakes or cookies. It is fantastic swirled into your favorite brownie batter. You can use it to fill crepes or jelly roll. Or take a nice teaspoonful and stir it into some hot cocoa or hot coffee. If you swirl it into hot cocoa it is nice to put a little whipped cream on top and then add a tiny sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

It is just a delicious, smooth, sweet mouthful of caramely goodness.

Oh my.
I know I posted the recipe earlier for the addictive cheez-it snacks but here's a picture of all the stuff I use to make them and what they look like!
And now I am off to have more holiday merriment. Too many things to go to this weekend. I just want to lay on the couch and watch TV with the fire crackling merrily and the cheez-its going merrily into my mouth!

But since that's not gonna happen I need to go get a shower and start getting ready!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Non-fluffy hair, making something yummy for the neighbors AND exposing a big lie about physics...

...Wow! Now you can officially never say that I don't cover a wide variety of subjects on my blog.

Well, actually, you can say it but then I can say "liar, liar pants on fire" in the mature way I have of dealing with things like this.


Last night I went to Guy's show with UNFLUFFY HAIR and I got a great seat not surrounded by any gaseous people whatsoever! And I decided that lack-of-surrounding-flatulence or not I might have been too old and/or too tired to truly appreciate all the alcohol, fire, rock music and other shenanigans! (And if that word doesn't make me sound old and/or tired I don't know what would!) But it was interesting. And I will say that Guy really has the charisma...shenanigans or not!

And about the neighbors? I may or may not make the infamous cheez-it cracker snacks to giveaway but I wanted to try and make dulce de leche as a gift as well. I love dulce de leche. Do you know it means "milk candy"? And it definitely is milky-caramely-candy-like goodness.

And it is super, super, super easy. Especially if you have a pressure cooker. Or even if you only have a big pan.

I'm going to give you the recipe now so you might want to grab a pen cuz this stuff is seriously delicious.

OK, write this down.

Cans of sweetened condensed milk.

Got that?

Next, write this down...

Oh wait. There's nothing else to write down cuz that is the entire list of ingredients.

So...because I am momentarily channeling Pioneer Women here's how to do it...

The cast of characters...hee hee! I love this part. And now for the step by step instructions.

Rip off all the labels. Put the cans in the bottom of your pressure cooker and cover with water PLUS an additional extra inch or so over the top of the cans. Bring to a boil, put your pressure lid on and cook at low pressure for 30 minutes. Don't worry about that pan and whisk in the front of the pressure cooker. It is custard filling for a Boston cream pie I was making. Let pressure drop naturally. (If you don't have a pressure cooker you can put the cans into a big pot and cover with water the same way). Bring to a high boil, lower temp to slow boil and cook for 2 1/2 hours. Yes. 2 1/2 hours. But it will add moisture to your dry winter home while it cooks so it's really a two-fer.

After the cans cool, open one up to make sure it worked... And it did! Look at all this caramelly, dulce de leche yummy goodness! It tastes amazing.

Now all that's left is some pretty packaging...
and you are done!

Hey, I'm not channeling Martha tonight so this is the best packaging I could do for the moment.

Actually tomorrow I will put this yumminess into cute little jars and make them look a little more attractive.

Oh gosh, and as exposing the big law about physics? OK. I feel kind of bad I have to break this to you and all but I need to be honest here. Look at this picture for a it carefully. Did you see?

Could you see it?

Yes. I'm sorry to tell you but A WATCHED POT DOES ACTUALLY BOIL.

And with that incredibly stupid remark and picture I am slinking off in utter shame.


Friday, December 18, 2009 heart is stupid....

OK, you might want to know why.

And I'm willing to tell you.

I know you know this because I am willing to blather on about almost nothing for, oh say, three or four hundred words.

And guess what?

Today is no exception.

Only I'm gonna limit my words today because I have a date.

Yes, I do.

It's with my husband and our son and his girlfriend and we are going to see Guy Fieri.

And I need three or four hours to trowel some make-up on so I look like a hot middle-aged frumpy woman in case Guy wants to invite me on stage or something.


Just so you don't think I make stuff up... I give you these three photos as proof positive that Morgan might be right in taking out Nadias eye and ear.

This child sticks to Mo like a magnet.

I mean it.

Morgan cannot go anywhere without being closely followed and bullied by Nadia.

But, hey, a picture is worth a thousand words (which is a good thing...did I tell you about need a few hours to get ready to see Guy's roadshow at 7:30? Oh yea, I might have mentioned it a time or two earlier...sigh)

OK, hmmm.... yea, picture, thousands words, blah, blah, blah....

I mean...seriously. Anyone would want to hang out right next to this sweet little girl... And the stupid heart part?

Nadia was the only child with no-one there. Not a Mom. Not a Dad. Not a Grandma. Nobody.

So I helped her spread her chocolate frosting on her sugar cookie.

But don't tell Morgan, OK?

Cuz I think I need both eyes and both ears to go to Guy's Road Show tonight!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

I know you're busy with Christmas, but could you please run by Home Depot...

...and buy me a 2 x 4?

...and then, if you could spare just a teensy moment more could you whack me alongside of the head with it?

I'd really appreciate it.


Because I am an idiot.

Several months ago my daughter-in-law and I went to K-mart and put stuff in layaway.

I haven't attempted layaway in about 138 years but it seemed like a good idea because a) my granddaughters wouldn't find everything and b) my husband would have less sticker shock if the payments were spaced out.

OK, here's the problem with doing layaway at my age.

Actually that should be PROBLEMS!

First of all who the heck can remember what they got? Sure I had a 17 1/2" long receipt but that would be too much work to read it and try and remember.

Second of all because of the first reason I pretty much went out and bought all the stuff I put in layway anyway.

And third of all, there is this major reason... Oh yea. Big time.

Every single time I've tried going in there the line looks pretty much like this. Only no-one is smiling. And there are a lot more kids with runny noses in line.

So I tried asking the girl at the service desk when would be the best time to come. And she replied "oh between 3:00 pm and 3:01 1/2 pm but only on days that start with the letter T" or some such nonsense.

So I've been waiting and stewing over the whole depressing K-mart layaway fiasco.

Until this morning.

I woke up around 6 and I said to my husband "that's it! I'm going to go to K-mart as soon as they open and get my layaway stuff." He was oddly unimpressed by my brilliant idea. And less impressed still when I turned on the light.

Obviously he did not read our marriage contract rules that state quite clearly "If my wife is awake I will immediately awaken and do her bidding."

When I called K-mart I said "what time do you open?" and the cranky lady said "we open at 6 am" and I said "so are there people in line for layaway" and she said "honey, there isn't even anybody in the entire store."

Yee haw!

I threw on some clothes, threw in my contacts and headed for the big K.

Although I didn't see any blue lights flashing during my mad dash back to the layaway department I actually didn't see anyone else either. Maybe two employees.

And all the chairs and benches lining the hallway leading up the layaway counter were empty. The layaway girl was reading a magazine!

And I got my layaway in something like 15 minutes.

And since they have to check off each item against the receipt I made piles of stuff to return because I had already bought something like it. Or because with several items I actually thought "who the heck did I even buy that for?"

I returned more then I kept.

And then bought the stuff I thought I had bought the first time.


Are you confused now?

No matter.

Just take my advice here.

When you go by Home Depot to pick up the 2 x 4 DO NOT PUT ANYTHING IN LAYAWAY.

It is just not worth the suffering.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Uh oh, better watch out Nadia...

...cuz Morgan is really steaming now.

Today when I picked her up she said "Gamma, Nadia hit me. Nadia threw sand. Nadia is not a nice girl!"

And I said "Mo, there are a lot of mean people in the world. You just have to stay away from them. Mostly people are mean because they are unhappy. So maybe we should say a little prayer that Nadia will find a way to be happier."

And she said "No, Gamma. No pay. No mean peoples. Only Nadia is mean people. And then proceeded to name each child followed by this statement "is nice people." As in "Cade is nice people. Eisa is nice people. That boy with 'de red shirt is nice people.", etc. etc. etc.

And after I got her lunch ready she finally stopped the litany of the meanness of Nadia and I thought we were done for the day.

Ha! I have underestimated, again, the wrath of a three year old.

After lunch she wanted to play with the Fisher Price Christmas sets before her nap. There are several sets AND 18 reindeer.

The first set of reindeer was originally lost by our oldest Granddaughter. I ordered a replacement set for them at Fisher Price online (did you know this? It's a cool thing.)

Eventually when our sons speakers started making funny noises he had to take them apart and low and behold they were filled with 9 little plastic Fisher Price reindeer.

So we have a lot of reindeer here.

A whole stable of reindeer power for the Fisher Price sleigh.

Where was I going with this?

Oh, yea.

So Morgan is out there mimicking Santa and the elves and making reindeer noises. And then I hear "Dat reindeer is Nadia."

And I go out to see her surrounded by all the good reindeer with one reindeer off by itself. A reindeer with a chewed off ear. Apparently our weiner dog likes to "play" with the FP stuff, too. I ask Morgan to show me the messed up reindeer and she does and then very seriously says "Nadia no have ear Gamma," and looks really solemn.

The rest of the reindeer are whole and happy sitting in Mo's lap. (can you see the little chewed off ear there by Nadia the injured reindeer?) So now Nadia is down an eye and an ear.

She better not pick on Morgan any more on Friday.

I think we are moving into the further dismemberment stage.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Breaking Financial News

The Postmaster General announced today that the Post Office is officially financially viable for another year thanks to one person.

Yes, that person is me.

I have single-handedly cured the financial woes of the US Post office today by mailing about 47,123,605 boxes and cards. Don't roll your eyes.


It's true. Would the USPS have released that official picture above if it wasn't?

OK, well maybe it's only darned close to true.

Judging by my thumb being permanently locked in the rolling packing tape position AND my mouth hermetically sealed shut from licking and sealing so darned many envelopes.

And yes, you can say it out loud.

My husband is doing the dance of joy for a night of silence.

But the bad news is...

I can still type with my toes!


Monday, December 14, 2009

Morgan is struggling with the true spirit of Christmas...

...maybe because she's three.

Or maybe just because she's not super interested in being a victim.

There is a little girl in her pre-school that she really dislikes. Nadia is her name. Nadia is mean. Nadia is a bully. Nadia takes Morgans graham crackers.

So today we were attempting to fill 18 envelopes with 18 stickers and cards preparing for the big pre-school sticker exchange this Friday.

Morgan happily draws her smiley faces inside the cards. Some are drawn in red marker. Some are drawn in green marker.

But all have a circle with two eyes a big smiling mouth and two arms and legs sticking out.

Finally we get to Nadias card.

"I no draw picture Gamma," she says with great determination.

I say "No, Morgan, we are going to draw a picture in every card."

"No Gwamma. I no draw picture for Nadia. Nadia is mean!"

I say "Mo, it is Christmas, let's just draw a picture."

She sits.

She finally draws a half-hearted circle.

She finally sticks some legs and arms on it.

She sits some more.

Finally she puts one dot on for an eye.

I say "Morgan, where is the other eye?"

She says "I no like Nadia" and goes to stick the card in the envelope WITHOUT a sticker.

I say "Mo, you only drew one eye and you didn't put a sticker in."

She sits some more.

She thinks some more.

Finally she says "OK, Gwamma, Nadia have sticker but she only have one eye."

And that is that.

She is not going to draw another eye.

And I give up.

I suspect Nadia will not notice.

And I kind of admire Morgan for sticking to her convictions.

Cuz she is strongly following the biblical rule...and eye for a graham cracker.

And she's not backing down.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snowflake Quesadillas!

Have you seen these? I think these are the coolest thing since ...well ...ummm...ummm....ummm....

Well, I just think they are cool. But remember I don't get out all that much so I might just be unduly impressed.

You can go to Martha Stewarts website to see the extremely complex (NOT!) directions on how to make these! Or you can just wing it! Unless my tortillas were really soft I would probably nuke the top one for a few seconds to make it very pliable before I folded it. Oh wait!

Oh, oh, oh! I know! I know! These are the coolest thing since pre-shredded cheese! Nice little reference there...get it? Quesa (Spanish for cheese) and shredded cheese!

Get it?

Hey, don't hate me because I'm all intellectual!


PS. I really do think they are a "good thing"!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cheese to the world!

And joy and happiness, too!

My prize came from Buckeye Grove Farms ! The wonderful cheesemakers in Ohio that do the raw milk, no preservatives, additive free artisan cheese!

This cheese is really delicious! I sent some to my favorite cousin for Thanksgiving and she adores it now, too!

If you like great cheese give them a try. The link is above. They ship soooo well. Even to hot climates like Arizona.

My husband and I had an absolute wonderful time unwrapping this fanastic prize and oohing and aaahing over each wonderful gift inside.

(why do these pictures do this? It is horizontal in my file but then rotates. I'm sorry, you have to turn your head!) We cut into the cheese right away. I'm tellin' ya. It is good stuff. And we both are excited to try the preserves and the crackers and the tea... And there was all kinds of little yummies in there, too, like a little cookbook, and spreaders and dips...and wonderfully scented Christmas candles and oh me oh my! And this amazing cutting board that is made of all kinds of native Ohio woods and is totally a work of art!

Thank you Renae, Al and especially sweet, little Emily for picking my name for the drawing.

This is just the most wonderful prize ever!