Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Never Knew His Name

As we run here and there during this holiday season, we often find ourselves getting lost in the hustle and bustle. But as this story will demonstrate, it's not always the holidays that keep us busy, but rather just life in general.

How many times have you driven away from your home and wondered just who lives in that house three doors down? We often take the time to meet our next door neighbors, but beyond that, many of us do not know the families who live on our street.

Case in point happened to me sometime in 1987. I was in eighth grade. We just had a snow storm so there was no school that day. My brother and I with a few friends decided to go and offer to shovel some sidewalks. Most of our neighbors had already gotten a start on the job so the idea of paying someone to do it for them never crossed their mind.

We made it half way around the corner when we happened on a house with a large driveway. The man who lived there took one look at the children carrying shovels and called us over. He offered $20 to shovel the whole driveway. Each of us would receive $5.00. We were happy,he was happy; and so we began.

We seriously underestimated the size of the driveway. Turns out, the job took a couple of hours to finish. But once done, we received our $20, and our neighbor could now pull his pickup truck safely onto the road.

We took our new found riches down to the corner store where we invested in hot chocolate and some goodies. We didn't shovel another driveway that day.

Every now and again we would see the man driving his pickup down our street. We'd give a wave, he would give a nod. I never knew his name.

Now twenty some years later I return to my old neighborhood when visiting my parents. I've seen the man in the pickup truck (now replaced by a newer model, but still a pickup). Some time over the years we stopped waving. Maybe it was the years that passed between those short meetings. We both grew older, and didn't recognize each other any longer as the old man in the driveway or the child holding her shovel.

I received word the other day that there was a fire in my old neighborhood. Turns out the house belonged to the old man in the pickup. I drove by only to find what was left of the beautiful rancher that once sat around the corner from my home. Now covered in soot, most of the windows had be broken out by the firefighters. The man was working night shift when the fire broke out. His wife was not so lucky. From what I've gathered, she is still in the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation. The sight barely resembled what I remember that cold snowy day as me, my brother and our friends carved a path in the snow.

The world is a strange place. We hold our children so close, teaching them to fear strangers. Even our own neighbors take a back seat to our systems of protection, and the high fences we build around ourselves.

Take time this holiday season. Wave to a stranger. Meet a new neighbor. Or even better... shovel a driveway.

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Home for a Candy Cane (A Black Friday Tale)

Happy Black Friday to All. For those of you who ventured the outside world today you may have noticed the million other people who ventured with you. (i.e.- ME)

Despite the warnings and mockings from my own family members I treat the day after Thanksgiving like a kid in a candy store; or a bull in a China shop, depending what time of the day you ask me.

For the first time in five years I managed to get a bad parking space at my local mall. I leave at 5:30 am every year, make a pitstop at Dunkin Doughnuts, then venture to Willow Grove Park. Despite this minor setback I entered the mall with my normal enthusiasm and of course my mother (A.K.A.- Black Friday Buddy).

We were greeted at the front entrance by members of a local radio station. They were handing out free duffel bags which I believe were mistakenly thought to be stuffed with cash by some of the eager shoppers. For I was trampled not once but twice. (P.S.- No cash was found).

As we made our way to Macy's (My mother's stomping ground, and location of future burial plot- She requests the Dooney and Bourke Wing) I noticed the lines that formed in front of many of the mall stores.

I think my favorite reaction came from the woman opening the door at Victoria Secret's. The look on her face was priceless as she dodged the many women pushing their way to grab anything with a red tag. Those of you that have shopped this store before may have noticed that many of their selections are no bigger than a red tag anyway.

After an hour in Macy's I came to the realization that I didn't really need anything in there anyway. (Getting my Mom to accept that same train of thought was a little harder).

I recharged my batteries with some orange juice and a trip to Coach. A few more stores and twenty pounds of merchandise later, we finally walked out of the mall.

To Toys R Us we go. To Toys R Us we bid farewell. I needed just one doll, just one stupid doll. I headed to the front of the store to make payment when I was quickly told that the end of the line was somewhere around the same place where I picked up that stupid doll. Needless to say, Stupid Doll was given a new home on top of Hungry Hippos. After I finish this blog, I will devise a new plan on how to purchase Stupid Doll in time to put a smile on a little girls face.

Next stop: Bed Bath and Beyond. A need for decorative bows brought me to this store. A need for valour lined hangers, lit candy canes that line your sidewalk, and a drink mixer kept me there. Sadly when I get home, Hubby asks me to return the candy canes. (He call's it a waste of money, I call it a unique landscaping experience. O.K. they're going back)....wiping a tear.

Off to Target. An hour later we are practically crawling out. Once at the car we begin to realize that we are running out of room to place all our new purchases. We could go home and unload or press on to the liquor store. (Like I have to tell you what we decide).

Like every other store today, the liquor store kept me shopping by offering unheard of prices. While not as long as a stay as Macy's, I found that by the time I was leaving, my bags, I mean my cardboard box weighed the same. And like the last stop; we magically found a piece of car carpet to place it upon.

Onto A.C. Moores. I thought this would be the perfect place to get a few baskets. Again, everything was 50 percent off. Had it not been for the woman in front of us complaining that her Play doe was not ringing up the right amount, we may have made record time. Sadly, another half hour had passed.

Two more stores to go when we realized we hadn't eaten a bite since 5:30 that morning. If you haven't had the chance to sample a Five Guys hot dog; I highly recommend you make some room in your schedule. There are a few things you need to know before you visit: the only food on the menu is hot dogs and hamburgers, and because of it's popularity, they need more than five guys to cook all of it. Where the name Five Guys actually comes from still remains a mystery.

Stomachs full, we drove over to Kohls. (Oh my God!) Apparently while we were eating lunch the crowd from Toys R Us changed direction and decided to shop at Kohls. While I only needed one thing, our trip still took 45 minutes. Luckily, I was able to use my mother as a line holder while I finished my shopping. I stood in line for only 30 minutes.

When we finally reached the van we used a new technique. We opened both side doors at the same time and pushed to the middle. This gave us each the little room we needed to lay down our bags and quickly shut the door.

Last stop: Party City to pick up the paper goods for the upcoming party. Since it appeared that no one was in party mode today, we were able to navigate the store in about 10 minutes.

Safely at the van again, I had no choice but to give a good "heave ho" to my Party City bag and hope for the best. It landed right in one of my A.C. Moore baskets. Score!

As we pulled up to my house I was greeted by a pleasant surprise. My husband, Step Dad and boys had decorated for Christmas. It looked beautiful.

It just needs one finishing touch. Let's say some lighted candy canes for the sidewalk?!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Open House and the Case of the Missing Avatar

By the end of this week, most of you will have received your invites to our Open House. We are looking forward to seeing everyone. While some of you we see everyday, others we haven't seen in years. To those few, I must warn you, we have changed. While the normal pounds have been gained, hair dyed, redyed, fallen out, and growing in places it shouldn't; Oh you know, the regular changes.

Before writing this article I attempted, like the techie I am, to create an avatar of myself to post on my blog. After two hours, all work has come to a screeching halt. I am convinced that these websites are geared for children who were born after the Reagan years. While I believe I followed all the directions to a T, when my avatar was finally posted, it failed to bring with it the wardrobe I had chosen. As hysterical as this may sound, I am embarrassed that a cartoon likeness of myself stood on my Facebook page posing in my Birthday suit.

Needless to say I tried deleting this violation, but you know what they say: "You never really delete anything on the Internet." I don't really know who "they " are, but they're quoted a lot.

As for now I sit wondering if when someone googles my name will my naked avatar appear on the screen? If you should spot a likeness of me could you shoot me an email?

On other topics, as you may have read, we are sponsoring a family this holiday season. A sidebar will be created on my blog for all those that email their gift information to me.

Enjoy the holiday season. Give thanks for all your blessings, and I will see you all soon. That is, if you don't spot me first. (I swear, I tried to delete it!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Case of the Writer's Clog

After several hours/days in front of my keyboard with very little to no writing appearing on the screen, I've come to terms with my condition. While most writers at some time during their careers suffer from writer's block; I'll have you know that isn't my problem. I suffer from a rare form of Writer's Clog.

I coined the phrase recently after searching the web for some possible cures. While both block and clog involve a temporary inability to begin or continue writing; those that suffer from "the clog" know exactly where their story is going. In fact, if you ask someone who is suffering from "the clog" to tell you about what they are writing, they could orally recite their story from beginning to end. But hand them a pen or keyboard and BAM, "the clog" returns.

I recently read a writer's blog that suggested one way to rid yourself of writer's block was to talk to monkeys. He explained that if you talk to a stuffed animal or cardboard cutout about what you're really trying to say; you're thoughts will eventually turn into writing. While although very hysterical, be cautious fellow cloggers. Talking to monkeys (real or stuffed) can lead to problems this blog is not ready to discuss.

I became hopeful this past weekend when my Y.A. novel which has been sitting at 14,000 words for the last month actually grew in size to 14,302 words. Excuse me, I mean 14,303 words. After editing I realized I had forgotten a preposition. (Every word counts!) Just as I was creeping up on 14,304 words I again felt it coming on. The clog had returned with a vengeance. It took a grip sometime around 3pm Sunday afternoon. I can't say what brought it on, but it seems to want to stick around again. Maybe it missed me since it had such a strong grip just the day before. Yeah, sure I'll start talking to monkeys. Right after I get this one off my back.

As I sit on my couch typing these final lines I take a look over my blog. Had I not been suffering from this terrible ailment, the words I write now could actually be included in my word count. As usual I will press on and search for inspiration from all outlets. Until then, I'll probably just sit down with my son and watch an episode of Curious George.

If you're interested in reading about more remedies for writers block according to the blog I referred to above, please follow this link:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Golden Crap Award

With all the award shows available, you would think that one would have come up with this idea before me. I am a great fan of the Oscars, the Emmy's, and even the Grammy's, but they all have one thing in common; they celebrate achievement.

Don't get me wrong, I think this is a wonderful thing. Most people consider me to be an optimist. My glass is for the most part half full. But even I have seen a lack in the workmanship that goes into the simplest of things we purchase these days. I rarely complain about these products, but recently I've noticed that even big ticket items are falling into this category.

Take for instance my minivan. Because I believe in the "American Dream" I dare not write the make or model of my minivan in this blog. But I cannot help but wonder what type of day the man on the assembly line was having when he was putting my van together. Maybe his mother didn't let him play with puzzles as a boy. Maybe he had some bad Chinese the night before and forgot to push the stop button on the assembly line when he rushed into the bathroom. The van just kept rolling, and before anyone caught on, it was driven into my driveway minus a few hundred parts.

Thank the Almighty for warranties. For without such a thing, there quite possibly may be more murders. I'm not saying that I would do anything crazy like that, but after it began to rain inside the car, yes that's right, I said inside the car, I didn't know what I was capable of doing. If that had been the only problem I may have just gone home and made myself a cocktail. But because the problems multiplied times three, I was forced to drink the whole damn bottle. The steering broke, the door rusted, the tie rod cracked, the paint chipped, and the gas cap was replaced. And the list goes on. I'm still wondering if the whole thing just decides to simultaneously combust, what are the odds that I will be saved by an airbag?

So I sit and blog about this piece of @*$# sitting in my driveway.For in its own way it is gaining celebrity. I am currently looking for a buyer that will give it as much love as our family did. Maybe it will have a change of heart and be at it's best behavior for the next owner. In the time being I continue to watch countless hours of car commercials. I think my favorite is the one for Cadillac when the redhead is going no less than 90 miles down the road then turns to the camera and says: "You have to ask yourself, when you turn on your car, does it return the favor?" I want to reach through the television and strangle that women. An orgasm while driving my minivan? You must be kidding! A stroke, heart attack, and flat line are more like it.

So it is with great honor that I bestow the first ever Golden Crap Award to my minivan. For it's countless hours at trying no less than to unsuccessfully (so far) end my life. This belongs to you.

Until then, if Virginia there is a Santa Claus, could you send him a text about a certain family wishing for some shiny new wheels. Tell him I heard a Cadillac will bring a smile to my face!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

If You Could See What I Hear

There are some things that just can't be explained in life. This week, there were no exceptions to that rule.

When my youngest was two years old we had tubes put in his ears due to the numerous ear infections he was experiencing. I went back and forth with the idea before actually deciding. Most of the doctors we spoke with advised us to have the procedure done, while there was only one that told us to hold off. She said that probably within a year the infections would be under control.

A year is a very long period when you have a sick child. There are sleepless nights, endless crying, continuous trips to the pharmacy, and a million prayers asking for that miracle drug that will put an end to the infections.

So we went forward with the surgery. And indeed everything did turn out alright. That was until about four months after the surgery. It was then that I noticed a very peculiar thing happening to my son. He began to hear things that were almost too quiet to hear. For example, my husband and I were whispering about something while he was in the other room. The following day, he repeated some of that conversation to me. I began to worry when he started complaining about the volume of certain things. So much so that he was unable to attend events like parades, fireworks, and parties where they were playing music. He even shied away from going to the movie theater.

His doctor insisted that he was fine, and that some children do indeed become sensitive to sounds since for so long what they heard was muffled. This seemed to be a likely explanation, but I couldn't help but be sad for my little boy who seemed to be missing out on so much. It was hard to determine just what sounds would set him off. Before the surgery he loved going to get his hair cut, but afterwards the buzzing from the razor was too much for him to handle. One doctor even suggested that it wasn't his hearing that was the problem, but that I may want to talk to a neurologist.

We tried ear plugs, which by the way, don't work that well in little ears. Then one day while taking a ride in our minivan, my son put on the earphones that come with the DVD player. It was as if a light bulb went off. From that day forward, we never went anywhere without those earphones. They became his safety net... and our sanity.

But just last week, nearly two years after the surgery, another breakthrough occurred. My son asked me to take him for a haircut. For the past two years my husband has been cutting our sons hair. Well, that's putting it nicely. In actuality it often would look like a horror movie was being filmed on our back porch. From the crying to the screaming to the down right temper tantrums, most of the time our son would reappear with a not so even trim. My husband would enter behind him dripping in sweat and swearing: "This is the last time!" Needless to say, when my son asked me to take him to get his hair cut, my van couldn't drive fast enough.

I did my civic duty by first warning the hairdresser that this was the first time in a year that my son had gone to a salon, and chances were good that the situation could go very bad. Turns out, the warning wasn't necessary. He was an angel. He looked so handsome. The hairdresser gave him a lollipop and we were on our way.
I tried not to cry, but I'm sure some tears slipped by. Our car ride home was filled with so much excitement, especially since my son had one more request to make. "Hey Mom," he said. "I think I'm ready to go to the theaters now."

We shared a bucket of popcorn.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some Bubbly Please

Maybe it's a bit too early to have caught the Christmas Bug, but I sure got it good this year. I love shopping for others. Set aside the tons of bills that roll in come January, the bumper to bumper traffic every night, and the occasional grumpy shopper, Christmas is truly my favorite time of year.

Because I have been able to take advantage of the incredible sales that the stores are offering, I can say with great enthusiasm that my shopping is practically complete. While many of you will be fighting over parking spaces and searching for the last Talking Elmo on Christmas Eve; I will be sitting pretty in a tub of bubbles.

Why a tub of bubbles you ask? Well, it's like this. Of all the rooms in my house I can say without hesitation that my bathroom brings me the most peace of mind. It is not my vanilla candles, the soft scent of eucalyptus from my eco-friendly bathroom cleaner, or even the furry new rugs I purchased that draw me to this room. Although, they are all part of the package. But rather it is that beige hole which sits behind the bathroom door, waiting patiently for someone to fill it to the brim with a bit of bubbly. It is my bathtub.

My love for baths started very young; although I had little chance to take advantage of such a luxury while growing up. Like most homes, ours had only one bathroom. Hot water heaters weren't as forgiving in those days. You actually had to wait for it to refill before the next person went into wash. Nowadays one can simultaneously bathe, run the dishwater, and water the flowers..(Go figure). Every now and then when time warranted and all members had cleared from the home front I would take my chances at grabbing a quick dip. Luxury!

It is those few minutes in my youth that shaped how I feel about baths as a whole today. I remember when my husband and I were looking at new construction. Some of the bathrooms that we saw were so incredible. I decided at that moment, I must have this. And although our new bathroom may lack some of the latest bells and whistles, it has what I've always wanted...a large bathtub.

One need not look to far when I disappear, for I have only a short flight of stairs to climb before I arrive at my utopia. It may sound strange to those of you who have chosen the shower for years over the bathtub. But as I glance over my shoulder at those glass doors, I know I have chosen wisely.

My bathtub may lack the fancy jets, but it is handsomely decorated with a white fluffy pillow embroidered in pink letters with the words: Don't Bother Me. This pillow was given as a gift from my mother the first year we moved into our new home. She must have known how many hours I would be wracking up in that room. It's quite possible if it weren't for my fear of electrocution, I may be writing this very post from my bathtub.

I encourage those of you who have not gotten that chance to relax today to take a nice hot bath tonight. Maybe you'll be able to go over that Christmas list again, or maybe the thought of sitting in mucky water will disgust you so much you'll need to take a shower anyway to wash it off.