Thank you for dropping by!

I truly appreciate that you've decided to share part of your day in my world. I hope your time has been well spent and I've made you smile, laugh or think.





Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in Review

Since next year is the end of the world, I thought I might take some time to revisit this past, last year.

It was a hot/cold year for us.  Overall, I would have to say a good year- we're all here at the end, gainfully employed in careers we love, kids are doing well.  If you dissect it, piece by piece, it looks bad on paper.

The first six months sucked at my work.  I could not, for the life of me, find someone who would show up on time and work.  I am not a micro-manager.  People always say they hate when they are micromanaged, however, I have learned that some people never grow up and need constant monitoring.  I am not willing to do it.  Next, please.  In June, I finally found someone fantastic.  This made for the first six months basically being a blur and the next 5 months playing catch up.  Not a terrific year if you look at "the numbers."  But again, on the flip side, I really enjoyed the year.  I spent more time doing what I loved at the office, streamlined a lot of systems and am very excited about 2012, Armageddon be damned.

My husband had a miserable summer.  His first summer without having to take classes in 10 years and it was filled with my reduction surgery, lice (did I mention in the blog that we had a few run-in's with lice this summer?  If we didn't call for playdates, now you know why), broken bones, sick kids.... not great.  But he loves the classes he teaches, he had some fantastic students, and he works with some wonderful colleagues.  And some not so wonderful colleagues.

And the broken bones.  My poor daughter broke both bones in her lower leg on our first day of vacation.  She spent a month in a wheelchair, another few weeks in a walking cast.  Then for one entire week we were good to go.  Then my son broke his arm.  It truly slowed us down. We used to swim every night in the summer.  Nope.  We used to bike ride every weekend.  Nope.  It's been hard to get back off the couch.  The second my back started feeling better and I was good to go, the broken bones started. 

But again, everything happens for a reason.  We were probably a bit overscheduled.  Between soccer and swimming and dance lessons, there was very little time to hang out.  Because we couldn't do any of it,  we had a lot of good family time together.  Even better, everyone healed and their bones are truly even stronger than before. 

Our summer vacation sorta sucked, but our spring break trip was flawless (except for my issue with the towels-- the hotel ran out of towels- really?).  Shane and I both lost some weight, gained some back, lost a little more and are ending the year a little lighter.  And so the year went.

So if I truly had to sum up, it was a perfectly balanced year.  A little good, a little bad.  Nothing fantastic, nothing horrific.  After the last few years, balanced and even a little boring is okay by me.

I don't know what 2012 holds- perhaps Armageddon, perhaps great fortune, perhaps something life changing or perhaps more of the same. 

While I'm not a resolution setter, I am an optimist.  A new year is like crack for me-- it's the present under the tree Christmas Eve.  The anticipation of what's in the package is often better than the actual gift.

So when the ball drops, or in Vegas when the fireworks go off, I'll be ripping the paper off the new year- anxious to see where it leads and completely content if I simply circle back to where I am today.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Holidays

Uh oh, from all the Facebook updates I've seen, that hideous phrase incites anger in millions.

Yes, Happy Freaking Holidays.

I have been living under a rock somewhere and did not realize that saying this greeting offends my Christian friends.

Oh wait, I'm Christian, I'm not offended....

In fact, I have to say that having someone wish me ANYTHING happy makes me smile.

So what's the big deal about this phrase that irritates people so much?

From what I can gather, people feel that it takes away from the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ.

How?

Christmas is one day.  And hey, here's a historical fact, Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th.  It's an old pagan holiday that once the Roman emperor decided to "go Christian" for political purposes, he declared was now the day set aside to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Everyone already had the day off.  Kinda like President's Day and Martin Luther King Day- not Washington, Lincoln, or King's actual birthdays. A date of convenience.

And besides, I think Macy's, Wal-Mart and every other retailer has adequately destroyed the true meaning of Christmas many years ago- not that horrible saying of -- hang on, here I go again "Happy Holidays."  Gives you shivers doesn't it?

When I tell someone "Happy Holidays" (sorry, I can't stop myself) it's for a two reasons.  The first one, I mean it as an all encompassing greeting that covers the time period from Thanksgiving through New Year's.  As in the holiday season. I'm not just wishing you one day of good wishes, I'm giving you an ENTIRE season of yuletide cheer.  And yesterday, Christmas Day, I said Merry Christmas to everyone.  I, however, intend to spend the rest of the week celebrating the wonderful holiday season.  Again, I waited until Thanksgiving to start, so if you're a Christmas Lights Up November 1st person, I'm guessing you're burned out.  I like to pace myself.  (And FYI, the Twelve Days of Christmas are supposed to be celebrated AFTER Christmas, awaiting the arrival of the wise men.)

The second reason I say it, I have friends of many faiths.  No kidding.  I'm crazy like that.  I even have friends who are Hindu.  Wow.  And they are all citizens of my wonderful country.  I think it's what makes my country wonderful.  I love that my country was founded as a place to avoid religious persecution.  You can be yourself here.  That's not the case in a lot of places.  The former Soviet Union, China-- for many years banned religions.  Even they realized they couldn't destroy faith. 

And you know what, with that said, if you want to put a nativity scene on government property, go for it.  Religious freedom allows it- calls for it even.  The separation of church and state doesn't mean the elimination of church from state.  It simply says the doctrine of a faith shouldn't override what's in the best interest of society.  I agree.  There are some crazy religions out there.  Ask people under Taliban rule.  Ask Iranians.  It happens.  My only request is, if someone wants to put up a menorah, you have to be good with that, too.

I also find it ironic that I have never had a Jewish friend or non-Christian friend be remotely offended when someone wishes them a Merry Christmas.  I've even asked if they are put off by my Christmas cards.  Their overwhelming opinion "Um, I'm kinda used to it. No biggie."  But holy crap (literally), if I say "Happy Holidays" some people want to call me a heretic and burn me at the stake.

I never get offended when someone of another faith says a prayer or offers blessings and kindness to me and my family.  I'll take whatever I can get.  I think it's a sign of love and friendship.

So here's the scoop folks, if I happen to say "Happy Holidays" to you it's with the sole purpose of wishing you and your family, regardless of your religion, the same joy and love that my family feels during this time of year, relax.  There is no politically correct undercurrent of me, trying to destroy your faith.  Let's face it, if your faith is that shallow, you should probably work on that.

And the next time someone says something nice, from the heart, that you find offensive, I hope you take the time to get the stick out of your ass and simply say "Thank you."
My children and I in front of the Christmas tree.  We are inadvertently blocking the Nativity-- it is by accident.  Not a statement of protest in my support of people having a Happy Holiday.



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Year of Blogging

A year ago I decided to start blogging.

I never really understood why anyone would want to blog.  The reason I was motivated to start Mama Bean's World was because I started to notice that people's parents were requesting to friend me on Facebook.  People I had never met-- not the parents whose kitchens I hung out in as a kid, but complete strangers.  When I would ask their child "Why does your mom want to be my friend?"  I found out it was because my status updates were being quoted.  Their parent thought I was funny, and hence the friend request.

So I started making my updates a little longer.

Then I thought, hmmmm.... if people find me this entertaining, I might as well start a blog and see how it goes.

I started with about 20 friends who read it.  By the end of the month, it had grown to 75.... now I get about 1,200-1,500 hits a month.  My readers are from all over the world.  Some, I know exactly how they found me, my readers in Malaysia- no idea, but hey, welcome to my world.

I found out that although I often feel alone in my thoughts or stuck in my life, I'm anything but unique.  My stories ring true with many.  My daily frustrations are shared.  My dreams are common.  My politics, well, that might be a different story, but I hope I bring a wider perspective to people who maybe think differently than me.  Or, perhaps, the realization that the US isn't nearly as divided as you might think.

I'm limited on commenting on many things, due to the nature of my job.  The positive impact of that has been that I've really been able to look back and see, over the past year, that I am substantially more than a job title.  My position as a mother, a wife, a citizen, clearly is more important than my business card.  I'm not sure if I appreciated that as much last year.

I started writing this as something fun to do.  I have always wanted to be a writer.  I took a writing class about 8 years ago and the instructor said the best way to improve your writing is to simply write.  Every day.  With free blog space, it's much easier to do.  My hopes, of course, is that my blog goes viral and I can somehow turn it into something more-- but for now, it serves it purpose.  I get to write funny stories about my life, share my opinions and improve my writing.  It's been far more cathartic than I would have thought.  I have records of the silly things that happen to me and my kids will be able to read them and laugh long after I'm gone. Maybe someday Oprah will read it and I'll have my own talk show, but honestly, life is pretty darn good as it is.

People who don't know my kids may question some of my stories.  Trust me- they are as I write them.  They are terrific little philosophers.  They are bright little buggers.  They also love to help me blog.  Sometimes when they do something they tell me "Mom, you HAVE to blog about this."  I love it.  My interview with my son?  He sat on the desk next to me, and I asked him the questions.  They help me edit.  So please don't worry that my new hobby is taking away precious time from my family.  It's not.  As I always say, I don't watch much TV, so I spend that time on Facebook playing Scrabble or blogging.  My kids are fine.  My daughter is snuggled next to me while she gives play by play commentary on my son playing Wii.  My husband appreciates the quiet time when I write.  I had two of my neighbors both comment recently about what a kick they get out of my blogs since they know the kids and often witness our antics first hand.

And my husband has also been a great advocate of my new hobby.  He gives me honest feedback on my blogs- he has his favorites.  I never write anything about him without having him approve it first.  My comment about his Destructo Man Hands is now a common phrase in our household.  He is making me a cappuccino now.  I hope he doesn't break anything.

And as for me, I have loved every minute of it.  One of my favorite moments in the blogosphere was when my friend Julie saw my blog posted on the wall of her friend.  When she asked her friend how she knew me, she didn't.  She had gotten it from a friend of a friend of a friend--- very cool.  It is very strange to be quoted-- I run into people and they tell me they use some of my catch phrases.  It's really fun.

I love that my cousins read my blog.  We haven't done the best job staying in touch over the years and we were all fairly close growing up.  It's nice to see them share and comment on it.  Truly nice.  They are all terrific people and it's fun to see how we still have so much in common.

My most popular blogs are a recent one I wrote in support of gay marriage and the letter that I wrote to my children last year on Mother's Day.  As much as people love the goofy ones where everything in my day falls apart, it's my more thoughtful, political ones that get more traffic.  I find that interesting.  I think my passion about compassion comes through in those.

My favorite blogs are usually about my husband.  I loved the one where I complained about how he breaks everything I own (and to his defense, he says he also breaks everything HE owns-- he just showed me a new shirt he bought that I need to fix because he tore it- like I said I can't make this stuff up) and my all-time favorite is the story about when we signed up for E-Harmony.

I would love to go viral and have 1,000,000 readers, but honestly, I figured 10-20 friends would be all that read it to begin with.  It has exceeded my expectations, but I'm competitive.

But at the end of the day, I did this to have fun, to find my voice and to have some documentation of my existence.  I have achieved all of these goals.

Thank you so much to everyone for reading!  I will keep on writing as long as you keep on reading!

My Awesome Daughter

I had planned on writing a blog about my daughter on her 6th birthday regardless of the past 24 hours.  Yesterday, my facebook status:
Happy 6th Birthday to my very beautiful, funny, smart, outgoing, vivacious, sweet, kind, silly, confident, loving, AMAZING little girl. You are truly my role model.
 Sappy, I know, but the truth.
When I write about my daughter Zoe, I want you to know that I am being completely and totally honest- except about her name.  But truly, she is a pip.  Two of my neighbors told me recently that they can "hear" my kids in my blogs.   I swear I am not creative enough to make up the things they say.
I think what makes my daughter so special is that since birth, she's sparkled.  Not in the "LOOK AT ME!  LOOK AT ME!" way, but in the way that she inherently knows she is terrific.  She was not a pretty newborn- she had the world's largest cheeks, baby acne-- but still she drew people in.  When she was 6 months old, she would make faces in the mirror to crack herself up.  I used to say we lived with a baby Gilda Radner-- her expressions and timing were perfect.
But what really amazes me most about my baby girl and why I really DO want to be her when I grow up, is her quiet confidence.  She is very comfortable being herself.

In pre-school, they have windows to observe.  One day I thought I should drop in and see how she was doing.  She said one little girl was mean because she wouldn't let her hug her.  Zoe is VERY affectionate and touchy.  I am not, so I could see where the girl was coming from.  I asked the mom about it and she laughed and said her daughter was really freaked out by it.  And of course, my baby girl then became obsessed with hugging her.  As I watched through the window, Zoe began her attack, the other little girl said something and Zoe looked like her heart was broken.  It killed me to see her like that.  Then, about 30 seconds later, she started making faces and doing a funny dance.  She got them laughing and the next thing you know, they were all playing together-- no drama.

That was the moment I knew I didn't need to worry about my daughter.  She had found a way to fit in-- her sense of humor.  She was 3 1/2.
I asked her once what made her so happy.  She smiled, but her hand on hip, threw the other hand in the air and said "Me.  I make me happy."  Truer words were never spoken.
She also isn't afraid to ask for what she wants.

When she was 4, we were at Kennywood.  She and her brother were waiting for the kiddie ferris wheel.  Zoe asked if they could ride in the pink car.  If it had been me, green being my favorite color, I would have stood there chanting in my head "I  hope I get the green one.  I hope I get the green one," and if I didn't, I would have solemnly gotten into whatever.  The ride operator said sure, let a few people go in front of her (which she had no problem waiting for what she wanted), and she rode in the pink car.  With my son who is like me and never thought to ask.  



Every time we go somewhere and they give her crayons or a balloon, she always asks for pink or purple.  But the best part- if they don't have it, she doesn't throw a fit, she says thank you and takes what they have. 

Apparently, it's easier to get what you want if you actually ask for it.  And if it doesn't work out, go with it.  Hmmm... interesting concept...
She is a blast to hang out with-- I can take her anywhere.  In fact, the last time she had a temper tantrum was 2 years ago at the pottery place when she learned that they would be putting the worm she had painted into a kiln to fire it.  I can't say I blame her for freaking out. 

My daughter is an original.  She is spunky, yet gracious.  She is confident, yet kind.  She is funny, but not obnoxious.  She is creative, but not flaky.  She is a loyal friend, but also calls a friend out when they are doing something wrong. 
She is everything I could ever dream of her becoming-- and she is 6 years old. 
I feared having a daughter.  I am not a girly girl.  My son and I are a good team.  What I did not count on was how much I would learn from her-- she is magical. I smile more since she's been in my life.  A lot more.

So when you see my posts on Facebook that I want to be my daughter when I grow up, it's because she just did something that I wouldn't have the nerve to do- not at 6, not at 41.
She is my hero and I adore her.
Happy Birthday!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Last 24 Hours

Okay, so after my very uplifting blog about my awesome friend Renee, the past 24 hours have left me somewhat exhausted.

The mission work went off without a hitch.  Well organized, great group of people.  Yeah us!

I picked up my daughter and since I hadn't eaten all day and was starving and we are having a girls' week while the boys are off hunting (don't get any ideas-- we have an alarm system...), I thought it would be fun to have rootbeer floats for dinner.

And cheese curds.

Oops.  Apparently, at Grandma's (she watched her while I was off saving the world), she had made cookies, eaten some batter-- had a fantastic day with Grandma.

My daughter is the kid who loves to eat fruit and has been known to turn down ice cream.  She is NOT a junk food kid.

So at 2 am, she barfed.  Twice.  And went back to sleep.

Luckily, she is crashing in my bed while the boys are gone.

I was awakened by the stench.

In my bed.

I woke her up-- happy she hadn't choked.  Started the bath water and began to strip the bed while trying NOT to barf.  If you don't have children and think that there is some sort of magic shield that makes your child's vomit not gag you, you are mistaken.  It's just as gross as if someone on a plane next to you did it.

She was a good sport- hopped right into the bath tub and washed herself up.  I started the washer.

Here's my first gripe- our washer SUCKS.  I think it handles about 3 socks at a time.

My next gripe- we have a GIANT California King bed.  This is what happens when you marry someone 6'5"- your furniture looks like something from up the beanstalk.

Combine the two gripes and you can't just simply throw everything into the washer.

Oh- and it soaked through the mattress pad all the way to the cover.

This equates to 4 separate loads.

And the bedroom is upstairs.  The washer and dryer are downstairs.

And if you've followed my blog, you know I have an old dog Charlie whose body is giving up before his mind.  He also is attached to me.  When I go up or down the stairs, because he no longer can join me, he either a) whines like he's been hit by a car (how dare I desert him) or b) throws himself up or down the stairs in what can only be described as the most painful process I've ever witnessed.  If I say things like "Stay there-- I'll be right back " it makes no difference.  If I say "Shut the hell up- I'm coming right back after I get rid of the pukey sheets!" it also makes no difference.

And of course, as my daughter is bathing, my old dog, who also has, um bowel issues, has taken a dump in the bathroom.

So it's 2:15 am, I have a naked 5 year old in a bathtub, a 14 year old dog whining and crapping, and I'm trying to shove the sheets (after scraping off vomit) into my washer made for Lilliputians.

On a positive note, I realized that I had forgotten to take out the garbage... 

I finally get back upstairs to find that the old STUPID dog has made it halfway down the stairs.  I get to carry him back up and finally clean up his shit (at least it was nice and firm-- sadly that is a bright spot).

Now I'm on to combing out vomit from my daughter's hair.  She is continuing to be a good sport:

"Look, Mommy, it's night time!"

Yes, yes, it is.

I get her all situated, depukified, dressed and off to bed in her room, because my bed is off limits.  We only have 1 mattress cover and 1 mattress pad because we rarely vomit in bed.  The kids all have back up's.  Anyhow, my room smells like vomit, so I Febreze it to death and immediately start sneezing.

The sheets are done, so then I move on to the mattress cover - since I can't do anything until the bottom layer is done.

Charlie, the old dog, of course is whining and starts to roll down the stairs.  AAAHHH.  I get him halfway and take him outside.  He doesn't have to pee. He just wanted some company.

Then I see Dixie, the young healthy dog, tear past us with a doll.

So I chase her.  It's 3 am.

I try to get the doll- back-- I hear my daughter yelling "DIXIE HAS MY DOLL!!!!"-

So now I'm chasing her around the backyard using the verbal skills I acquired in a prior life as a drunken sailor and the dog thinks I want to play.  I'm tired, smell like vomit and really don't have time for this.

I retrieve the doll, tuck my baby back in and then go to start the next load.

Now there is water all over the floor.

The stupid GIANT mattress cover was too much for the washer.

At this point I decided to grab a hard lemonade. I have drank alone exactly one other time in my life.  I went on Facebook to lament.  And people found it funny.

Those great friends I chatted about in my last blog??  Same people who laughed at my misery.

And I realized I had left Charlie downstairs.  Whining.

So halfway through the lemonade,  I decided I am not the type to drink alone, it's 4:30 am (I had to mop up the floor), I trudged back down the stairs to get my moronic old dog who hates to admit that I have to carry him and I decided to crash on the couch.  I think I finally fell asleep around 5:30 or so.

Then my friend Renee called at 8 am to thank me for helping yesterday.  She logically assumed that since I had kids, it was a weekday that I would be awake.  I told her normally that would be a safe assumption...

Once we chatted, I checked out the condition of the washer, figured it was a balance issue (which I could relate to completely) and threw in the last load.

I spent the rest of the morning wrestling with the @((#*&$(*&# mattress cover on the #(*$&#(*$& ginormous bed.  Picture me, exhausted, holding one corner down, then running around to the opposite corner before the last one pops up since I can't reach both sides at once... thank goodness my daughter was sleeping or she would have learned some new language- similar to what my neighbors heard at 3 am.

The good news, I have a coffee maker and I didn't have to go to work. I was able to finish up everything in my jammies and my assistant is doing everything else.

Even better, my daughter just had the Too Much Junk Food flu, was completely fine and kept me laughing all day.  We made cupcakes for her birthday tomorrow.  We saw "Chipwrecked"-- not the best movie to see if you're exhausted-- the shrill Chipmunk voices (and there are fewer people in this one, I think) are like nails on a chalkboard.  But she loved it.  We had a great dinner.  We bought some cool stuff for her "girls night" birthday tomorrow with her best friends.  When we were icing the cupcakes before bed, she licked the bowl.  We had a "sample" one and she stopped halfway through and said "Mommy, I think I had enough with the icing..."

She is now in my bed, with a bucket and a towel next to her.


Wish me luck.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Crazy Friend Renee

I have a crazy friend Renee.

When they first moved to Las Vegas, they were so compelled to do something about the homelessness and poverty that plagued their new home that they drove around and gave out meals from their car.

Then she offered to help with the City Mission.

Before you knew it, she was providing care packages, homemade cookies, etc etc to nearly 1,000 homeless people.

She coordinated with some local businesses, but in general, she did nearly all of it on her own.

HER OWN.

I told you she was crazy.

She has a group of friends from her Bunko group, her husband Dave and her sister Lynette (also a fantastic crazy person) who help.  And she gets me involved from time to time.

This is how she got me to get involved this year:

In November I get this call:

"Hey, I know you're into all this charitable shit, so you're helping me serve dinner to 300 people at the Casa de Luz down behind the Stratosphere.  Okay, here's what I need you to do...."

Did I mention she's from the Bronx?

So since yes, I am into charitable shit, I said sure.  Sorta.  I think I said sure.  To be honest, we were not going to be in town this weekend, but hey, all plans are adjustable, right?

I played a VERY small role in this event.  I cooked a few turkeys, as did many of the other people.  I made some broth.  I bought some dressing and way too much cranberry sauce.  I put out the info to my friends.  Donna made the corn (which turned oddly to be a HUGE hit on the seconds-- many people passed on the first round, only to come back for giant quantities!).  Shana, Tessa, Caroline and Jan all showed up to help.  Kari and her company Retro Bakery, made 300 cupcakes.

Renee did cookie bags.  She made the gravy FROM SCRATCH.  The stuffing, too.  She made these amazing sweet potatoes over the past month with a whiskey sauce.  She made creamy mashed potatoes from scratch.   For a month she's been peeling, mashing, baking, slicing, dicing-- all for a meal for people who were used to potatoes from a box, processed turkey, stuffing from a box-- institutionalized soup kitchen meals.  Not to knock the meals- I appreciate they need to make the most of very little--but everything was HOMEMADE.

Her theory is that just because you're homeless, doesn't mean you need to eat crap.

She also stepped it up a notch and provided table service, rather than the degrading food line.

Even better was watching Renee interact with the people we were there to serve. One gentleman was throwing a fit because he didn't want to wait.  Rather than be put off (I was ready to clock the guy), she put her arm around him and got him a plate. He came back for seconds and then thirds and was an entirely different, gracious man.

It wasn't the food.  It was the kindness.  But I should also point out, the food was insanely good, too.  The woman can cook. 

She also coordinated with the Venetian and Palazzo for the coat drive, the blankets, the toiletry bags... and on and on and on and on.

My favorite line of the day was from the very skinny man who was clearly an alcoholic.  He had a HUGE smile-- you could tell he appreciated that the food was homemade- and he said while getting his third plate "This fills me up way more than Bartles & James!"  And he thanked us.

So today I worked at a mission in the worst part of town.  And I was reminded that the person's who birth we celebrate this week was really on to something.  We fed the poor in the parking lot of a muffler and tire shop- coordinated by one person- not an agency.  Not by a huge mega church in a multi-million dollar facility that spends more time preaching about the word of God than doing anything remotely related to making the world a better place.  Yes, the pastor blessed everyone, but that was about it for the preaching.  No judgments.  No doctrine other than kindness.

After all, isn't being kind and loving one another what it's all about?

It is to me.

And I have to say, as I watched Renee and all my friends interact with the people whose lives had taken a different turn for whatever reason, I felt like the richest woman in the world- with friends like this, I will never be alone.

Merry Christmas!

For more information on Casa de Luz, please click here.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Many Ways I Fail at Making Christmas Magical

I was reminded today at how I really disappoint at Christmas time.  I read a hilarious blog about those stupid Elf on Shelf things.

Over Achieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies

I think the things are freakish and creepy.  I pointed out that if they had been called Odd Metrosexual in Unitard Child Stalkers they would not have been quite so popular.

Wow. People LOVE their elves.

I apparently am Scrooge.  My friends on Facebook politely defended their little buddy.

Well, here's the scoop, while I do enjoy the holiday season, I prefer Thanksgiving and Halloween over Christmas.  No pressure.  They are one day events.  I can handle one day.

Christmas falls at a bad time of year for me.  My daughter's birthday is the 20th, so I'm always trying to pull something out of my butt to make it look special and not over done by Christmas.  It's also the end of the year for my business, so I'm hurrying to make sure all those silly things that MUST get done, get done.  Real things that if they don't get done, I can get fined or penalized.  Kinda sucks the fun out of it.

Then throw in the fact that the entire point of the holiday has now become shopping (something I hate) and decorating (not my forte)-- it's starting to wane a tad as "the most wonderful time of the year."

So here are the ways that I really screw up at making Christmas extra special:

Gifts
My kids barely get squat for Christmas.  Seriously.  They get 2 gifts from Santa, a gift from my husband and me and some stuff in their stockings like socks, an activity book and a yo-yo.  Between all the relatives, they are happily gifted.  I do go out of my way to make sure they get something they like.  But I swear to you, that's it.  I normally wrap gifts and keep them at my office.  I had a friend ask "Where are the rest of them?"  She further freaked when I explained that was ALL the gifts- aunts, cousins, nieces, nephew, etc.  My mother-in-law asked one Christmas if that was it.  When I said yes, she sorta nodded.  I realized it was because she personally had gotten them more than we had.  I was COMPLETELY fine with this.  I supply the little folks all year with things like lunches, clothing, tuition---- I'm totally fine if someone else wants to buy them extra stuff.

Fortunately, there is enough of a break before school starts that they don't even remember enough to talk to other kids.  If they did, they would know they got screwed.


Decorating
My husband does 90% of it.  He is color blind.  Enough said.

The only thing I contribute is hanging the wreath out of the teeny tiny ledge on our second story.  This is the second year that I have done it without using profanity in front of my children.  Hey, you have your freaking elf, we have our OWN traditions... Mommy talking like a sailor while suspended out a window for all the neighborhood to hear is ours.

Cookies
My grandma made a million cookies.  Before I had kids, I used to make cookie baskets for all my clients.  I make very delicious cookies.

I now have children.  I am fat.  We'll make sugar cookies 2 days before Christmas.

At some point it hit me, as I screamed at my children and my feet were aching while I was trying to unjam the cookie press "Why am I doing this?"

I'll tell you why- because I like to eat them.  To paraphrase our Weight Watcher's leader- I've already eaten enough cookies in my lifetime.

I also was wound waaaaaay too tightly about it. Now, if the sugar cookies come out ugly, I just tell everyone the kids decorated them.  Even when it's the ones I decorated.

So Grandma, I'm sorry.  Not this year.

Shopping
Amazon.  I click.  I pay.  It shows up on my door step.  What a beautiful, beautiful thing.

I Say No
We don't go to every party to which we're invited.  It's not to be rude, it's just that we can't.  We used to run around complaining about all the parties we had.  Then last year, we seriously had none.  It was as if the karmic gods had heard us bitching.  So this year, when the invitations started rolling in, we picked the ones we wanted or needed to go to and that was it.

Traditions
Aside from my potty mouth, we don't really have any traditions.  We don't have an elf on the shelf.  We don't all snuggle in bed the night before reading "Polar Express" or "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  We don't have a Christmas Count Down Clock.  Every year it's a bit of a crap shoot.  Some years we go on the Polar Express.  We went caroling last year- that sorta sucked because none of the kids know Christmas carols since they can't sing them at school any more.  Our holiday activities are a result of how tired we are, if we have any money and if the kids are behaving.  Who knows?  Maybe the free for all holiday thing IS our tradition.  Oh- wait- I do force my family to watch "A Christmas Story."  Is there truly any better holiday movie?? 
 
The Christmas Brag Letter
I did one, once, about 11 years ago when I couldn't STAND reading another bullsh*t letter from friends about their perfect lives.  I had had a bad year.  I shared this with everyone.  It was HILARIOUS.  My aunts were concerned.  A friend from college said he was framing it.  It was darkly disturbed and bitter- the only honest one he had gotten.  I also hate when people only send pictures of their children- particularly people I haven't seen in years.  I don't know your children.  I will probably never meet them.  I just assume you've gotten really fat if you don't include yourself in the family photo.  Or gone bald.  I'm sure you didn't include THAT in your letter...

********************

With all this said, what can I say?  I suck at the traditional American Christmas.  I love the lights, the music, the time with my family, but I'm not going to shove it down everyone's throat until they feel the same.  My husband noticed that last year I actually donated more gifts than I gave to our family.  He thought it was pretty awesome. It's why I love him.  With the exception of a very nice Dora dress, my kids also thought it was terrific.  This year, we're helping a friend make and serve dinner at a rescue mission. I think it's really the whole point of the season.  Today was the only day I've been remotely stressed and it all turned out okay.

So God bless all you overachievers out there with your classy cocktail parties, meticulous decorations, perfectly wrapped presents, homemade goodies out the ying yang, and an attic full of "perfect" presents.  Knock yourselves out.

As for me, I will be kicking back, have some egg nog and truly have a very merry, albeit low key Christmas.












Friday, December 9, 2011

Ivon

This week I'm stealing someone else's story- a friend of mine, Ivon.

I met Ivon about a year ago. She was in my husband's mock trial class.  He invited me to come watch the trials.  He had a group of students that he was very proud of and he thought I'd enjoy it.  I took the morning off and went to watch.

My husband was right to be proud.  Two of the students caught my attention- Ivon and Christian.  The other students were good, but they both stood out in my mind.  I had met Christian earlier (he is now a student at Penn in the very selective Huntsman program), but Ivon I had only known from the stories my husband shared.  At break, I asked him "Who is that sassy girl?  I love her-- she's one smart cookie."  He replied- "That's Ivon- that's the one I told you about.  She's one of our valedictorians.  Isn't she great?"

She was absolutely fantastic- well spoken, professional beyond her years.  Clearly a bright future lay before her.

Over the summer, before she headed off to college- University of Nevada-Reno, where she received the millenium scholarship-- she babysat for us.  She was already working full-time at McDonald's.  She came over after her day shift ended to babysit.  The kids loved her immediately.  My daughter especially.  They shared a joint love of Hello Kitty.

When we showed Ivon around, we were hanging out in my daughter's room.  She looked around and seemed very wide eyed.  She said she wished she had a room like that.  I said "When you were little?"  And she replied, "No now.  I love this..."  My daughter's room is bright and sunny and full of flowers-- much like her personality and much like Ivon's.

It wasn't until later that I learned that Ivon had been homeless during her junior year.  The home they had was in an area of town referred to as The Naked City.  Not exactly the environment where valedictorians are typically found.

This fall Ivon and I become Facebook friends.  She entered a few online scholarship contests and I always made sure my friends voted for her and knew what a fantastic, hard working young woman she is.  She became a finalist for the K-Mart Latina Scholarship.

Then something amazing happened to Ivon.

She entered the Dr. Pepper scholarship contest.

She made the final rounds.

She won $2,500 for her video and the chance to throw footballs into a giant Dr. Pepper can during the SEC Championship game half-time show.

So she did what only Ivon would do-- she worked with the UNR quarterback and had an engineering student help her develop her technique.  She was a drama nerd- an English major-- she had never thrown a football in her life. She came up with a plan.

For the time leading up to the final rounds, she practiced.  A lot.

She made the next round.  The Friday before the game, she needed to finish in the top 2 of the 10 finalists.  She did.  She would get to be one of the students to compete in the half-time contest and she was guaranteed a minimum of another $23,000 of scholarship money.  She was excited to have made it that far.

And here's where a great story gets even better.

She won.

She won $100,000 in scholarship money that she has 25 years to use.  More than enough money and time to pay for her undergraduate studies and her dream of law school.

And so on national television, Ivon broke down.  If you knew her, you knew that in that moment, all her hard work- not just in the week before throwing the football- but ALL her hard work- finally paid off.

Her comment "Dr. Pepper you are the best thing to ever happen to me" made the internet rounds.  Her tears were mocked.  Some people even made fun of her "over the top" reaction and said it was planted by Dr. Pepper for marketing.

I'm here to tell you, it wasn't.  Dr. Pepper did change her life. In that 30 seconds, what was once a far-fetched dream of a young girl in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country became a reality.

In a world of cynics and naysayers, Ivon's win was a welcome reminder that truly in this life, anything is possible.  She could have easily given up, walked away and kept her job at McDonald's.  She didn't.  She found some opportunities, came up with a plan and did the work.  This wasn't luck.  This was tenacity.

Congratulations, Ivon.  I hope that this is only the beginning of the wonderful accomplishments in your future.  You truly deserve it! 




Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Thoughts on Gay Marriage

There's this video going around on Facebook from the MoveOn.Org website.  It's a very well spoken young man, testifying in Iowa on their proposed amendment to ban gay marriage.


Quite simply, he rocks.  He was raised by two women.  He is quite impressive.

And before you ask, no, I am not gay. 

I am, however, human.  I happen to have been born straight, like 92% of most people.  I had my first boyfriend at 6.  I married a man who shoots things and hates cologne. To quote a very good lesbian friend when, after a bad break up I commented "Maybe it's time to change teams"- "Sweetie, you are as straight as they come.  Not that I wouldn't appreciate the cappuccino maker for converting you."

Call me crazy, but I happen to think people are born with their sexuality.  I believe the 1 out of 11 stat.  I have a large family.  On one side, I have 10 cousins.  One is gay  On the other side, I have 14 cousins.  One is gay.  When my parents "told" me about my cousins at various times, I have to say I laughed and replied "And?"  I've known them both my whole life.  I kinda already figured it out. 

I also had a fantastic roommate who I watched struggle with coming out.  I like to say we were "Will & Grace" before Will knew he was Will.  I never would wish that struggle on anyone.  Ever.

I would never choose to be gay in today's world.  If you think someone voluntarily chooses to be ostracized, quite simply, your ignorance frightens me.

As for gay marriage, here's my thought- at the state level it's a legal document protecting two individuals and their property.  I think everyone has a right to that protection.  Period.  I think banning gay marriage is about as ridiculous as banning interracial marriage. 

I absolutely respect your church or religious institution to not allow it.  You have the right to your opinion and beliefs, just as I do.  Your spiritual beliefs are yours.  Just don't force them on me.

I think Jon Stewart said it best when he commented that he changed his mind on gay marriage when he realized he would not be forced to leave his wife and marry a man.

But the parenting issue.... that's always been the big argument against gay marriage.  It'll supposedly turn the kids, our future Americans, into homosexuals.

Actually, it's the opposite.  I've done my own logic proof on this.

Consider this.
  • Straight parenting results in 9% of their offspring being gay.
  • Gay parenting results in 91% of their offspring being straight.
  • Straight parenting accounts for more than 97% of all parenting (27% of gay households report having children under 18.  As 9% of the population, that accounts for just under 3% of total). 
  • Gay parents account for less than 1% of gay offspring (.03*.09)
  • Straight parents account for +99% of gay offspring.
  • Therefore, straight parenting causes gay offspring.
If you are worried about proliferating the gay lifestyle, straight parenting- not gay marriage- is where your focus should be directed.  Let's pass an amendment banning straight parents.

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?

Now maybe you get how ridiculous "banning" gay marriage sounds to me.