The traditional “what the hell?” gift and other Christmas surprises

Inevitably, I receive at least one Christmas gift that makes me wonder, “What the hell made her buy me that?” and it is usually from my Mom.  I am her only child and can only surmise that it is because she buys me so many gifts and gets caught up in a Christmas buying frenzy.  This year it was Hello Kitty sleep pants.  I try not to say, “What the hell?” out loud anymore, but could not stifle my laughter.  Accustomed to my insensitivity, my Mom immediately offered, “They are SO cute!”  But, I am not a cutesy kind of gal, despite the winking kitty and the kitty with reading glasses that make me giggle every time I look at them.  However I create characters who are, so I will wear them when I need to channel a girly girl.  When she reads this she will say out loud, “I gave you gift receipts”, but I would never dream of returning them.  They and everything else quickly faded into the background when I opened the Godiva chocolate bar she gave me.  “Rapture” and “ecstasy” are how I would describe my experience with Godiva.

My Daughter gave me a jar of brandied blackberry jam.  I have not had booze with breakfast before, but this stuff has made me a believer.  Well, at least in brandied jam.  My Dad gifts me with monkeys because the monkey is my Chinese astrological sign.  This year I received a monkey steel bank where the monkey climbs a palm tree to deposit a coin in the top of the tree.  My home office is called “the monkey room” because it houses the majority of them.  They scare the shit out of my husband who knows that monkeys are not always fun.  Hearing how meaningful these monkey gifts are to me, my friend David made me monkey cookies for Christmas.  The cookies were extra special because he had to form them with mix and match cutters, not having a monkey cookie-cutter, and he put spices in them so they were not the usual sugar cookies.  David is not the usual friend; he is a bit spicier.  In case you have not figured it out, my family goes to great lengths to buy thoughtful gifts (I think my Mom does it on purpose).  In the season of consumption it may be our way of separating ourselves from the herd and appreciating each person’s uniqueness.  I really am quite blessed with an unusual group of family and friends who make this absurd world not only more bearable, but lovely and laughable.

Power on a chain

I instantly wanted my own pistol necklace when I spied Whitney Cummings’ version on TV.  My husband, amused by my Christmas wish, warned me that I would not always want a pistol necklace, meaning that I would not always feel a deep need for justice like I do today. But, the necklace is not a symbol of justice or vengeance, but one of power.  If you have ever felt the frustrating impotence of victimization I highly recommend target shooting.  It is cathartic to load, aim, and shoot a gun, more so when I hit the intended target.  Just so we are clear here: I am not referring to a psychotic break during which I shoot people who have done me wrong.  The calculated process involved in successfully hitting my target requires concentration and discipline, attributes that madmen typically lack.  My mind cannot be sullied with bastards and bitches while focusing on my stance, breathing, grip, sighting alignment, and follow-through.  The experience is all about me and I do not think of anything else while shooting.

To my delight I received a pistol pendant necklace, a sure sign that I was on the nice list despite opposing opinions and that my husband supports me even when he thinks I am a bit crazy.  The pistol pendant symbolizes my approach to 2012.  I began taking a beta-blocker to calm those pesky tremors I had since I was twelve, finally accepting that impressions form other’s reactions to me and my tremor was similar to blood in the water for sharks.  My aim has improved, along with my blood pressure.  Back to the bastards and bitches now; in order to hit my target I must focus on aligning the sights rather than the looking at the target.  What is my goal/bull’s-eye?  If I focus on the bastards and bitches rather than bull’s-eye justice, my accuracy will suffer, not to mention my mood.  Good shooting is firmly methodical rather than knee-jerk emotional and not to be rushed.  My pistol pendant symbolizes a disciplined approach and personal power, but the look of confusion on people’s faces when they notice it will be wildly entertaining, too.  I may not wear it to job interviews, though.

40-Something Silver Linings

Recent silver lining searches have been tough, which for me means that it is more important than ever to ferret out positive bits in order to not be overwhelmed by uncontrollable change.  During my latest attempt to shift my attitude toward gratitude it occurred to me that the existence of more clouds equal more silver linings for discovery and focus as this crazy world increases its attempt to spin me off.  Digging through unrealistic cultural expectations and layers of personal emotions I finally unearthed these tidbits:

  • The older I get the better I am at trivia, especially ancient history (1960-1990 trivia).  My daughter has never even heard of the Double-Mint twins.
  • Since I now frequent pubs rather than dance clubs, I no longer have to buy sexy club clothing and can drink a pint in the comfort of jeans and a warm sweater.
  • Sex is better than ever because my husband and I have been together for a long time so we know every erogenous nook and cranny.  For me the most effective aphrodisiac is the intimacy and trust we share.
  • I do not have any credit card debt after learning the lessons of spending tomorrow’s money in my 20’s and 30’s.  I accept that I lack discipline in this area and choose to not tempt fate by adopting a cash-only policy.
  • I am a better cook due to years of culinary missteps.
  • My spiritual life is richer and more satisfying than ever because I do not allow myself to be confused by other’s beliefs, opinions, or hypocritical behaviors.  My relationship with God is as personal and exclusive as my marriage.
  • My pharmacist knows me by name.
  • I travel the well-worn path of foot-to-mouth less frequently and hurt people less often with sarcasm and dry wit.
  • As a remedy for dry hair my stylist advised that I wash my hair less frequently, so I spend less on shampoo washing my hair every other day, which is good because I spend more on lotions.
  • I am not objectified by men often and on those rare occasions that I am, I do not feel an ounce of indignation.
  • My slower pace means I do not sport the bruises so prevalent in my younger years.
  • A cold toilet seat feels heavenly during a hot flash.
  • I get what I need more often because I ask for it.
  • I have no qualms about wearing sweatpants during long car rides, which means my underwear do not become uncomfortably wedged.

They may seem like silly little things to be happy about, but I am willing to take even tiny bits of cheer to offset the inevitable reality of getting older.  Try making your own list and see what a difference it makes in your mood.  It should at least be good for a laugh.

Take-Aways from George Bailey

It’s a Wonderful Life has been a meaningful part of my Christmas season for decades.  I find as I get older small things such as my love for this classic are enduring.  Every year I’m inspired by George Bailey and his truly blessed life.  George is a regular guy with big dreams who feels beholden to do the right thing, which often means foregoing his own desires.  Even as a kid, George Bailey is an unintentional hero who risks his own well-being for the greater good.  He still wishes for a million dollars like everyone else does.  Hot dog! Opportunities to make a difference in other’s lives are usually unexpected, but I love this movie because we and George get to see the impact of his actions.  That there are often unknown ripple effect of our actions is my truth, but then movies and books have gifted me with what some people deem as an unrealistic outlook.  I call those people “cynics” and try to ignore them even when life is tough due to my take-the-easy-way-out inability.

But, I know I am not the only one.  In 2007 Vince Gill released a song written by Al Anderson with the chorus, “All that you can take with you is what you give away”, which is very close to a framed quote under the picture of George Bailey’s dad in the Bailey Bros. Building and Loan.  George is sometimes reluctant to give up his plans to “shake the dust from this crummy little town off my feet” and see the world, but by the time he forks over his honeymoon fund during a run on the bank he has embraced his role in Bedford Falls.  Mary’s hair must have smelled heavenly to him when they were on the phone with Sam Wainwright.  His dreams were thwarted so many times by that point that he trades them in to forge a new life path with his bride.  George didn’t forget his desires, his big dreams, but adjusted to life’s reality, a reality rich in intangible treasures.  The George Bailey line I relate to most is when Clarence explains that he knows so much because he is George’s guardian angel and George says, “Well, you look like the kind of angel I’d get”.  I feel ya, George.

Along those same lines is the trouble he faces when Uncle Billy loses the Building & Loan’s deposit.  You would think that after all the good George spread around he might have softened old man Potter’s greedy mean heart, but that is not the way it works, is it?  A person rarely goes against their nature.  It is George’s friends that come through for him, the very ones that motivated his detour.  Sometimes I think my choices have not been appreciated a whit and are likely forgotten.  It’s a Wonderful Life implies that is not the case and if I consider the impact others have had on my life, my dark thoughts are rendered senseless.  I take away so many lessons from George Bailey.  I may be uncertain of my financial future, but no man is a failure who has friends.  Heehaw!

Deck the jail cell with filet and whiskey

Throughout the world cheese is the most popular food item to shoplift, but in the states steak rules the hearts and minds of one in eleven who walk out of a store without paying for an item.  To deal with that pesky conscience, Jameson whiskey comes in second as the most stolen item this holiday season.  I know, I know.  Everything gets blamed on the Irish, but keep in mind that there are a ton of wannabes in the U.S. that think drinking Jameson makes them Irish.  That is simply how Jameson operates.  Daniall Ashley, a Florida man caught this week while attempting to steal four steaks and 2 candles from a grocery store, may have had a jig or two before he stumbled upon his romantic notion.  While police blame drug addicts for meat thievery, the majority of carnivorous shoplifters caught pinched enough meat for a meal.  One would assume that people are stealing because they are in need and/or young and stupid, but it is estimated that 75% of shoplifters are adults with jobs.  Perhaps they are hard workers that do not have enough money left over after paying for necessities to afford these luxury items that used to be their rewards.  Steak is termed “luxury meat” and while many of us cannot afford filet mignon, a 15% increase in the price of cattle has lassoed all steak cuts of beef into the luxury category.  I understand loving steak and Jameson, but I have never met a steak that was worth jail time.  Jameson on the other hand…let’s just say “stuff happens” when he is on board, but once in a while it is worth the risk as long as I’m not running a tab.

Ousted as a rabble-rouser for all the world to see

Yesterday was a national day of action for supporters of 2012 federal unemployment insurance extensions with demonstrations across the country from 2-3 p.m.  I told my husband that I planned to lend to the numbers in a demonstration outside our local state representative’s office, but that I was not bringing a protest sign.  That was not a problem because the organization We Are The People had a sign for me and all of the other demonstrators.  Within minutes of meeting a few of my compatriots one of the organizers asked me if I would be willing to say something to the crowd because they did not have an unemployed woman on their speaker schedule.  “Just 2 to 3 minutes”, he said.  All of a sudden I faced backing up my values with action that could result in publicity.  One of my former coworkers had already driven by, so I knew the rumor mill would be spinning within the hour, but risking publicity is daunting when I am hoping someone will hire me.  The work world is a precarious and intimidating place with people becoming uber-compliant in hopes of keeping their pay.  Being unemployed has made me careful, too (note the abbreviation of this blog’s author’s name).  However when put to the test I will do what is “right”, to the frustration of many past acquaintances and sometimes to my detriment.    Anyone who knows me would tell you that if you ask for my opinion I will offer it up 99% of the time, often ad nauseam because I deeply desire people to understand what I say.  What began as 2 to 3 minutes speaking to my fellow demonstrators segued into a request from the Grand Rapids Press to print my name along with the picture on this post (we are praying), an interview request from a local labor paper, and another for an on camera interview with a reporter from a local news station.  To say I was uncomfortable and nervous is like saying blue flames are hot.  My only regret is that I had not prepared a statement, something I will be sure to think about PRIOR to attending future demonstrations.  No matter how prepared  though, I would never have anticipated a reporter asking me if in lieu of finding a job as an administrative professional a.k.a. secretary, I would consider becoming an apprentice plumber.  I am sad when I hear remarks like, “if they spent more time looking for a job rather than protesting…” and “they should be willing to take work outside their field for less pay”.  First of all, the slim number of jobs to apply for leaves me with some spare time. Secondly, every business needs secretarial work completed just as much as they need the toilets and faucets to not leak.  Almost as much, anyway.

Muppet-Style Capitalism

In an all-too-familiar effort to draw attention away from the world’s economic and political angst Fox Business Network recently accused the Muppets of brainwashing our children with liberal anti-capitalism ideology.  Anchor Eric Bolling kicked off the discussion by stating that the new Muppet movie teaches children class warfare by pitting the iconic Muppets against the villainous and hugely wealthy oil baron Tex Richman.  Walt Disney furthers their anti-capitalist agenda by energizing Miss Piggy, Kermit, and their friends to revive the defunct Muppet Movie Studio or lose it to Tex who will bulldoze it to drill for oil.  The Muppets do not have the $10 million in the bank needed to save the studio , nor are they good friends with Sam Walton’s family, so their only option is to complete repairs on the run-down property and put on a vaudeville-like Muppet Telethon.  I would definitely scrape up some change for the Muppets if they held a telethon and I think my friends would, too.  In short, they work their little felt bottoms off to save the studio.  Angles Tantaros of Fox News agreed with Bolling’s assessment of this diabolical movie, saying “It is brainwashing in its most obvious form.  I just wish liberals would leave little kids alone.”  In the real world where liberal and conservative parents’ wallets have been lightened by the Walt Disney corporation for decades, our littlest capitalists are immune to such imaginings.  My 4-year-old niece said to her mom last week, “You NEVER buy me anything!”  You gotta give her credit.  Perfect timing with Christmas on the horizon and I am all too familiar with her precocious delivery.  What my niece will likely take away from The Muppets movie is that if the Muppets can raise 10 million dollars by working hard then her mom and dad need to try harder so they can provide her with more of what she desires.  This Christmas she desires a touch-screen phone.  Our children are not in any danger of seeing money as a bad thing because of an evil oil baron that The Muppets trounce with hard-work and help from their community.  If anything, Miss Piggy dripping in jewels and wearing sequined high heels with a feather boa will revive the Muppet dynasty for another generation.