Happy Holidays, You Old Biddy

Happy Holidays, You Old Biddy

You may remember (or you may not, who knows?) that I live near Branson, MO.  The heart of the Ozarks.  The place that The Shepherd of the Hills was written about.  By the way, you can still see a live performance of The Shepherd of the Hills if you visit Branson, and I highly recommend it.

Depending upon whom you ask, Branson is known for many things:  live music, country music, God & Country, veterans remembrances, traffic, family values, chicken-fried everything, bass fishing…..and Christmas.  Branson loves Christmas.  Christmas shows, Christmas lights, Christmas parades, and ugly Christmas sweaters as far as the eye can see.  As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago, Branson even began getting some national recognition as a place to enjoy Christmas.

https://www.yahoo.com/travel/s/america-s-best-places-for-holiday-lights-184214027.html

Branson Christmas

I tell you all that to tell you this:  lots of people come to Branson in November and December.  When flying into the area this time of year, it’s pretty likely that you will be sharing that crowded space with people who are coming to celebrate the season.

And so it was yesterday on my flight home from Texas.  Families with small children, retired couples, a few ladies groups, and I think even some residents of the area.  It’s a short flight from Houston, just over an hour, and the Saturday afternoon passengers seemed in good spirits.  With Thanksgiving less than a week away, I was ready to get home and start indulging my holiday spirit.

My seat mate was Ruth,  a retired lady traveling with a group of friends to Branson for Christmas shows. They’d left their men folk at home so they could enjoy some girl time.  If I were asked to guess, I would think Ruth was mid 70’s, though she looked younger.  She was bubbly, smiling, and excited for the coming week.  She was really quite sweet.  She told me about some favorite Branson experiences from prior years, and we shared a genuine sadness over the loss of Andy Williams.  She asked me if I’d ever seen Shoji Tabuchi (which she’d be doing on this trip), and what I thought.  In all honesty, my favorite part of the Shoji experience is the bathroom, and that’s exactly what I told her.  She laughed because that wasn’t the first time she’d heard that answer.  She complimented Branson as if I was somehow personally responsible for it, like Branson was my 12 year old child who consistently made the Honor Roll.  Not that I minded; I’m quite proud of this little part of the world.

Shoji Tabuchi's Famed Restrooms

One thing she especially appreciates about Branson is the beloved “Merry Christmas” greeting.  While I have real mixed emotions about that particular subject, I smiled and concurred that, yeppers, Branson rejects the theory of wishing anyone “Happy Holidays”…. it’s all about Christmas.  Ruth told me that she was a devout Christian, and she loved the fact that Branson was (in her words) “a Christian place”.

As we took off, there was some crying from several rows back, obviously one of the toddlers.  I’ve learned over the years that no matter what tactics parents employ to keep a child from crying on a plane, it’s a crap shoot….especially when the change in air pressure hurts those little ears.  I really appreciate the parents who prepare for travel, and have books and snacks and patience, even when all that preparation is for naught and their 2 year old just freaks out.  You win some, you lose some.

You can understand my surprise when Ruth went on a little rant about rude parents letting their children “howl” on a plane.  A) This child was NOT howling; and B) what are parents supposed to do?  Duct tape?  Time out?  Since the Mom was  having a lucky day, the child stopped crying just about the time Ruth finished her diatribe against the spoiled little humans who cry willy nilly and their inconsiderate parents.  Soon, though, the crying episode was forgotten and we were talking about the best places for dessert.  (Sugar Leaf Treats in the Grand Village shopping center for bakery items, and Andy’s Frozen Custard for a frozen treat, in case you were wondering.)

Sugar Leaf Treats

As I said, it’s a short flight.  Before I knew it, the flight attendant announced that we had started our initial descent.  Apparently, the Crying Child was made aware that she was now “almost there”, and she got excited….and loud.

“ALMOST THERE!  WE’RE GONNA SEE  YAYA & POP-POP!”

First of all, I love kids who call their grandmothers “YaYa”.  If I had it to do over, I would have started that with my own grandchildren.  YaYa is just cute and precious.  Second of all, I love it when children are filled with anticipation.  Unbridled excitement and joy is just good for the soul, and if you’re not feeling it, witnessing it is pretty darn good.

“FROOOOOOOOOOSTY THE ‘NO-MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN” filled the inside of the plane.  Hearing her belt out a Christmas song made me realize how restrained the earlier crying actually was.  This kid had a set of lungs on her.

“TWO EYES MADE OUT OF COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLL”

Shushing from the Mom.  Something about an inside voice, which was ridiculous even to me because we were soaring through the clouds.

“A, B, C, DDDDD, E, F, GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG, H, I, J, K, L & M & PPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP”  Not bad for what I was now thinking to be the little brunette imp that I’d noticed before boarding.  Maybe 3 years old or so.

Ruth had had enough.  Pursed lips.  Almost imperceptible shaking of the head.  Best of all, the sucking of air through her teeth during the long notes.

Conspiratorially, “Isn’t that the most annoying thing?”  Clucking her tongue against her teeth for emphasis.

Yes, Ruth.  Yes, it is.  The level of annoying is off the charts.  Tell me again about what a devout Christian you are.  Tell me again how this is your favorite season because it celebrates the birth of your Savior.  Speaking of Him, would He be sucking air through his teeth at the sound of a child singing?  Didn’t Jesus love the little children, Ruth?  Do you think He only loved quiet children?   Was He annoyed by their exuberance?  Their uncontrolled excitement and joy?

Did Jesus cluck in disgust at the little children, Ruth?

This is where I struggle.  I should display patience and kindness towards Ruth just as I think she should towards the little munchkin 6 rows back.  I don’t want to display patience.  I want to turn off my filter and let all those cutting, spiteful words that are bouncing around in my brain come pouring out of my mouth.  I want to justify my urge for bad behavior, since I don’t boast about being a devout Christian.  On the contrary, I’m pretty open about the fact that it’s a battle for me to demonstrate the virtues that I know I should strive for.  My freakin’ acid tongue has caused mountains of hurt over the years, more than I can ever make amends for.

Ruth is still looking at me, waiting for me to concur.  I smiled and said “Well, at least she’s not crying” and immediately hated myself.  I had just betrayed that little elf back there, the one with a YaYa and Pop-Pop that probably can’t wait to see her.

What’s worse?  Slinging some verbal venom at Ruth, or not defending someone who doesn’t even know they’re being disparaged?

How many times have I been “Ruth”?  How many times have I made snap judgments, not shown any tolerance, been thoughtless and hurtful in my interactions with people?  I think those times probably outnumber the Christmas bulbs in Branson.

“WE’RE HERE!  WE’RE HERE!  WE’RE HERE!”

As I retrieved my bag from the luggage cart, I told Ruth that I enjoyed meeting her, and thanked her for the nice chat on the flight.  Every word of that was true.

Then I wished her Happy Holidays and walked away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin (Pie) Eater

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin (Pie) Eater

I have so many fond memories of Thanksgiving traditions as a child:  the carefully set table; the beautiful presentation of the turkey before my Father expertly carved it; going around the table recounting the things we were grateful for that year.

Oh wait, those weren’t our Thanksgiving traditions.  That was the 1970 Brady Bunch Thanksgiving episode.

A Very Brady Thanksgiving

Our family holidays seemed to start out on a good note, with the good china coming out of the hutch, and beautiful brass candleholders nestled on the table.  Great classic albums played from the console stereo, like Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Neil Diamond, and Andy Williams.  To top it all off, there would be a big bowl of nuts in the living room, complete with nutracker and little picks, to serve as an appetizer before the meal was served.  It was downright festive.

Suffice it to say that at some point, the festivities would turn ugly.  I don’t recall what would start the shift, likely because I wasn’t great at picking up subtleties when I was a kid.  Certainly not when I had a whole bowl full of pecans and Brazil nuts to eat to my heart’s content, anyway.  In my memory, we would all be enjoying a lovely day with parades on the TV and Sweet Caroline bouncing off the walls, and the next thing I knew there was crying, cussing, slamming, and occasionally a small kitchen appliance sailing through the air towards my Father’s head.  On a few occasions, there were actual physical confrontations, squealing tires, and police involvement.  Ah, memories.

Once I had my own family, I was determined to have traditions that my children would hold dear and pass on in their adult lives.  I don’t know why, but it seemed incredibly important.  I think I watched too much TV, and certainly my monthly devouring of Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal didn’t do anything to discourage me.

(Speaking of those magazines, have you ever noticed that virtually every woman’s magazine has 2 consistent cover focuses?  1.  Some sort of weight loss story; and 2. a fabulous picture of some decadent dessert.  They get ya comin’ and goin’!)

ww-cover-558

Anyway, I developed an obsession for Happy Holiday Events, and Thanksgiving was like Opening Day of my Happy Holiday Season.  Tablescapes.  Ridiculously elaborate menus, with 2-3 appetizers, 2 main dishes, 5-7 side dishes, and at least 3 desserts. I planned what time we would wake up, when the parades came on, and who would set the table.  I made sure beer and bourbon were left off the list, as I had picked up on the relationship between spirits and the haywire holidays of my youth.

The first time I met Steve’s parents was over Thanksgiving weekend.  They made the trip from Jackson, MS to Denver, CO to meet this divorced woman with 3 teenagers, a dozen years senior to their only son.  As much as Steve kept telling me to not worry about it, that they didn’t like ANYBODY when they first met them, I was intent on winning them over with a Happy Holiday Event.  I approached Steve about 3 weeks before the big day, and in all seriousness, presented him with 3 different turkey recipes.  Should I go with the citrus zest?  The traditional herbed turkey?  He laughed at me.  I burst into tears.  He laughed harder.  THEN he called his Mother and told her about my dilemma over the recipes, and they both laughed.

I married that jackass anyway.  Oh, and despite his warnings, his parents loved me.  Probably because of the amazing turkey, whole smoked salmon, two varieties of stuffing, and the stunning tablescape.

monochromatic-thanksgiving

Fast forward 15 years.  I am lucky enough to be near my children, their spouses, and my grandchildren.  I am still obsessed with Happy Holiday Events.  The girls and I make menus, plan, schedule movie nigths, make decor, bake, and create traditions.  I am Matriarch, hear me roar!

Last year, due to conflicting schedules and extended family obligations, we decided to forego our traditional Thanksgiving meal. Instead, we carved out a 2-hour window in the morning to go out for breakfast.  It was great.  Certainly less complicated.  Less expensive.  How wonderful! No stress.  No house preparation.  It was fine.  My kids didn’t have to drive to different corners of the tri-county area and stuff themselves with 2 full meals and 3 dessert stops, but we still had “together time”.  I’ve got the photos to prove it.

tday2013

 

Once was enough for me.  A few weeks ago, I opened the conversation about Thanksgiving, and was relieved when all the kids admitted that they missed having a real Thanksgiving dinner here.  YES!  TRADITIONS!  I was more than ready to get some menus going, and spend my evenings devouring the Pinterest boards.  (I’ve long since given up the print versions of Good Housekeeping and Ladies’ Home Journal.)

Steve was the lone hold out.  He thought last year’s breakfast was a perfect Thanksgiving celebration.  WHAT?!?   No stress, no shopping, no prepping, no dishes, no housecleaning, just a relaxing day.

“But, honey, don’t you remember that later that day we tried to find somewhere to eat and everything was closed?  We ended up at a bad Chinese buffet.  It was sad.”

“Right, you’re right.  We’ll go earlier this year and hit Denny’s.  They do the whole plated dinner thing.”

“Seriously?”

After about an hour of Point / Counterpoint, we reached a deal.  We are having a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner with our family.  In a restaurant.  No stress, no shopping, no prepping, no dishes, no housecleaning….but turkey and decor and dressing up and desserts on fine china.  I think it’s cheating, but what the hell…..it’s still better than the days of small kitchen appliances being zinged at my Father’s head.

Oh, and we’ve already agreed that Christmas is untouchable.  Probably even accelerated a bit.  More outdoor decor.  Maybe some new furniture.  There’s a 6 ft. Santa statue I have my eye on.  And, as always, there will be a big bowl of nuts and the sounds of Andy Williams floating through the house.

There is much to be thankful for.

 

 

I Hope My Dog Dies In His Sleep

I Hope My Dog Dies In His Sleep

It’s so easy to be selfish towards those that are the most giving.  I think each of us has or at one point had a Giver in our lives.  They are always available, nothing is ever any trouble, and they possess a strange knack of being there when you need them most.

It’s quite difficult to not take advantage of the Givers, even if unintentionally.   There’s certainly no lack of appreciation, and there is a tremendous depth of emotion, but reciprocation is often difficult.  The Givers always seem to come by their talent naturally.  It comes off as effortless.  One has to wonder if the Givers are equipped with a secret vault of time and resources to be so darn helpful all the time.

I have Givers in my life.  To be honest, I have more of them than I deserve.  Oh, and I kind of suck at reciprocity.

One of the biggest Givers I’ve been gifted with is the Moose dog.  My Moo-Pie.  Our little Schmoopie Moopie.  Most dog owners will agree that their dogs are Givers, because they’re always happy to see you, always want to be with you, and are simply happy to make you happy.  I’ve got nothing against those dog owners, or their canine companions.  However, Moose is different (i.e., better).  I’m not biased, I swear.

There are no trade offs with Moose.  Going to the lake or creek?  SURE!  He loves the water.  Going to work in the yard?  YIPPEE!  He loves to be a porch dog.  Kids coming over?  GREAT!  He has a ball hanging out at the playground.  Is one of us sick?  GOTCHA!  He will force himself to go outside once in the morning and once at night, then stay next to his patient the remainder of the day.  Road trip?  YAY!  He loves the car.  Food Network marathon?  WOOT!  He’ll make a day of curling up on the couch.  Wanna go for a walk?  ABSOLUTELY!  Let’s get some fresh air.

He is happy no matter what.  He finds a reason and a way to wag that tail every single day.

One little tangent here:  a story from the past that will give you some insight into the mind of Moose.  When he was a puppy, he would run to the door when anyone said the word “outside”.  There was no differentiation between a direct “Wanna go play outside, Moose?” and “Steve, you need to take the garbage outside.”  So, utilizing our superior human intellect, we began replacing the word “outside” with spelling “O-U-T”.  As if this dog, who clearly associated the two-syllable word “outside” with the door, could be  fooled for more than a couple days by the switch to the three-syllable “O-U-T”.  Yes, we’re geniuses (dumbasses).

Everyone who knows me even a little bit, or reads this blog at all, knows that Moose is an old man now.  He recently turned 12, which is well past his expected lifespan.  He has severe hip dysplasia, and just in the past couple of weeks, he’s developed a “click” when he walks.  That is the sound of a ball joint snapping against a socket when he moves.  His eyesight is compromised, and I suspect complete blindness is not far away.  His appetite is only a fraction of what it once was, resulting in about 20% reduction in his body weight over the past year.  He can’t get in and out of the car any longer without a ramp and some help from his humans.

The hip leaves him in pain often.  We give him aspirin, and joint support supplements, and vitamins, and cherry extract, and anti-inflammatories, and all sorts of stuff.  If it’s especially bad, we give him the pain pills from the vet, but they make him woozie and he is more likely to take a fall after one of those, so we try to not do that.  He still tries to follow me from room to room during the day.  My office is in the basement, the kitchen/living/dining area is on the main floor, and my bedroom is on the second floor.  That’s lots of stairs.  I try to tell him to stay when I run up to the kitchen to grab a coffee, but normally when I’m on my way back down, he’s hobbled half way up the steps.  Some days I work from the back deck so he can just lounge on the porch and keep an eye on me when I step into the kitchen.  Some days I work from the couch so he can snuggle up next to me.

Winter is coming.  Winter is hard on him.  The cold combined with the dampness has had a noticeable effect on him the last few years.  I don’t want Winter to come this year.

Just this evening, Steve brought up acupunture.  Should we try it for him?  Would it help?

Help.  Help is a curious word.  Would it help whom with what?

Would it help Moose feel better?  Maybe.  Temporarily.

Would it help US feel better?  Would it make us feel like we’re doing everything we can for him?  Probably.  Even if it doesn’t work.  Even if we make him tolerate the ride to Springfield and the discomfort of acupuncture for nothing.  Would it help us avoid the discussion of how much longer we let him limp through the day and whimper through the night?  Would it make us feel less selfish because we don’t want to even talk about the end of Moose’s life?  We’ve faced this decision 3 times before, with Bug, Harley, and Echo.  I didn’t falter when those times came, and it was the right choice.

I don’t want to make the decision.  Not this time.  Not with Moose.   I don’t want him to suffer, and I don’t want to lose one good day with him.  I don’t want to be responsible for the end of his life.  I want to wake up one morning and find that he’s died peacefully during the night, snuggled into his bed.  I want him to be the Giver one more time, by making sure his passing is quick, painless, and totally not my decision.

Like I said, it’s easy to be selfish towards those that are the most giving.

I hope my dog dies in his sleep.  That’s shameful and cowardly and unscrupulous and gutless and 100% honest truth.

The Old Man

The Old Man