Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa loves little baby Jesus

A friend posted on Facebook around the quandary of what to tell her four year old about why Santa only brings one gift in their family and the rest are from them. 

From Mom and Dad.

This is the type of parenting question that I would never in a million years ask. 

I would never ask, because I believe to my very core that each family has a right to create whatever tradition they need or want to make their thing work. 

I'm not picking on this family. 

Every. 

Single.

Holiday season.

I hear a variation on this theme from alternative parents. 

I might be confident, or perhaps delusional, but I have never wondered such a thing. 

My kid will believe what I tell them.  I am his universe and outing Santa and explaining in painstaking detail why we do what we do is not going to make a young child feel more or less good.  That kind of explanation is for adults, not for children. 

Getting their loot, and eating something special, whatever that looks like, will make them feel good.

If you opt out of the gift scene, your child will not notice (much, or for long) until he is older than preschool age. 

He may invent some personal narrative to go along with the stories of candy canes and Barbie the other children are sharing in preschool.

In my opinion the best thing you can do is believe in whatever thing you are doing.

When I was 20 I had a Jewish lover. 

A man more than twice my age. 

Older than either of my parents.

I loved him insanely much, an admired him even more because he was a single parent. 

He parented his children with a fierceness and defined confidence that was totally foreign to me.

When Christmas rolled around I wondered if I could have a tree.

He laughed at me.

Of course you can have a tree, you can have a whole god damned forest, you can have whatever you want to have.

 My extended family are all very religious people.

Sincere  and deep believers.

We always had the manger and the angels and  and Mary and Joseph, the tax collector, the  

"HARK"

I always had to be the angel, with a tinsel halo, that stood behind the holy family, because I was a sort of second string player in the nativity play, being the granddaughter of a parishioner. 

There are photos of me in my white bed-sheet angel costume, with my cousins and my brother in bathrobes, as shepherds. 

And we always had Santa, even at my paternal grandparents house.

My grandfather was a Baptist minister and he never spoiled Santa for us. 

I guess I don't understand the people that feel that this is deceiving their child.

My mother grew up poor and her parents were foster parents to a gaggle of special needs kids.  In their family, my grandfather would come home from the dairy  on Christmas eve, and clean up and they whole group would walk to the top of the driveway and look for Santa, and by golly, every time they got back to the house, my grandmother would report that they had just missed him and there would be a present for everyone, plus new underpants and socks.  On Christmas day they would go to church.  I grew up going to their house on Christmas eve with cousins and extended family.  Everyone had fun.  No one required a lengthy theological explanation.  No one was duped by the notion of Santa.

In my family we opened our presents on Christmas morning, with my mother and went to my father's on Christmas day.  His mother would make dinner and my grandfather would make some kind of dip out of liver sausage, which I love.  He would put green food coloring in it and my grandmother would say

"oh Dan!"

My brother and I would give him a giant peppermint stick and give our father a package of white handkerchiefs.  We would have a Santa gift, something fun, and something we "ordered" from our grandmother, something special.  When I was an adult and she was an old lady, I would order snicker-doodles. 

I am not a religious person, but I have tried to teach my children to respect all people's beliefs and to be considerate.  I hope that they don't grow up and wonder if they need therapy because their mother "lied" to them about Santa.



Friday, November 28, 2014

Giving Thanks

A rare occasion where Freyja allowed me to fix her hair

Rolf made what could be described as an insane amount of potatoes



Everyone brought wine, so there was a lot of wine, but I was anticipating have to drive several different people home, so I wasn't drinking, and a couple others were thinking the same think, so we wound up having a lot of left over wine. In the end I didn't have to drive, which I was truly thankful for, because my back was killing me and I was very tired.

The sweet potatoes wound up on the appetizer table, due to lack of space.  I made pate, that was really good, and Karen brought a most excellent cheeseball, so it was a lot of richness in one tiny corner.


The unibomber at your table.  He is resolute on keeping the beard, no matter how much I beg.






Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I'm preparing for Thanksgiving. 

I took the day off, as I have managed to do for the past 20 years, or so.

It is a day that is important to me one among very few. 

I lack sentimentality around holidays, having grown up with the frequently spoiled or tainted by the weirdness that envelopes my family of origin.

When I was old enough to make my own holidays I made Thanksgiving everything I wanted holidays to be, as a child, filled with warmth and people that like each other. 

No gifts or obligations.

The Wednesday before became my day, a day to prepare and to be happily alone, with at most Rolf, or my friend Karen to help. 

I cleaned a lot.

I like to clean when I am alone. 

I have a certain order, rhythm of the way I do things, and I am pleased when there is no one half doing things. 

No one resenting the cleaning.

I'm good at cleaning and I like it most of the time. 

I am not afraid of a bit of bleach. 

I am not afraid to stand on a chair on my tip toes and dust the light fixture. 

I am a fearless cleaner. 

A destroyer of germs.

When Rolf's daughter was a toddler, I would sometimes babysit her in my apartment. 

She liked to help me clean. 

I would say "Dirt is our enemy!" and she would repeat it, with great enthusiasm.

I made the creamed onions, two kinds of cranberry sauce and a brussel sprout dish.

All I have to do in the morning is prep the dressing and bake the turkey. The other things can just be popped into the oven to warm.

My Grandma Betty would say "roast the turkey". 

She would roast the turkey in a turkey roaster; a device that sat on her covered back porch on top of a chest freezer.  A device that would both save precious oven space and produce a tender turkey (although not a carveable turkey, a moist sort of stewedish turkey.  There was no skin to be had.  The skin was not a thing, with the device roasted turkey. 

My mother is very anti-skin, so I never knew people love the skin of fowl until I was an adult. 

I know how to carve a bird rather well, and I know how to make skin.  I am not really fond of the skin, but I know it's a thing, so I make it for the people that think of skin as part of the whole deal.

We will have a large group tomorrow, 18. 

In 1996 we Rolf and I hosted four guests.  I used a remnant of really beautiful upholstery fabric, a sort of needlepoint floral pattern, on a navy background. 

When our friend MM arrived alone, without his new wife, we asked after her, or I did, since I am the one that is prone to nosiness, not Rolf, and he told us that she had given birth to their son that morning in a hospital a few blocks away. 

I fixed her a plate and send him back to the hospital to feed her. 

She was newly arrived from the Ukraine and never understood what all my fussing was about (regarding this or any other holiday). I've always gotten the impression that she views me as some kind of frivolous American hussy, with my flower arrangements and my red lipstick. 

One year Karen arrived on the train with a raw cranberry salad.  It was remarkable and to my great annoyance, I have not been able to duplicate the flavor, despite many attempts.

Karen is the only person brave enough to carry cranberry salad in her luggage.  Which might be why she's been my friend for 40 years.  You really need at least one person that brave in your life, to have your back.



 


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Two nights ago I dreamed that I was rescuing dogs from people that didn't really love them.

In actuality I was taking the dogs, stealing them, but it seemed completely good and ethical, until it dawned on me that that the dogs might not like each other.

Last night I dreamed that Mark and I had a huge warehouse, that we were remodeling to live in.  It was a mess, and required a lot of work.  In the middle of all this work, a former friend of Maxwell's came in.
I yelled at him, "I treated you like my own child for ten years, how could you betray us?".  He needed a place to stay.  I let him stay, but I was angry.

It was a mildly cathartic dream.

When I woke up I felt more hopeful than I had in weeks.

I can be a little mafiaish on the subject of loyalty.

My friend Dom called the other night and I said "I feel like people are judging me for quitting my job."

"No one is judging you.
I am not judging you, at least.
You are the classic underachiever though, that is true", she said, and it didn't offend me, because she is right and she knows me well enough to say so. 

I felt slightly better.

My friend Jenny said "being authentic means saying hard things sometimes."  I am usually not very good at saying hard things.

I usually say nothing, when it comes to hard things.  I am a failure when it comes to hard things in my personal life, ironically, I am excellent at dealing with hard things professionally and solving other people's hard things. 

I've been doing a little side work, a little technical writing and a little consulting.

"you need to do less.  A LOT less." I told a teacher I am mentoring.

She told me she slept well for the first time in months, after I left.  After I officially gave her permission to do less.

It made me feel better to help.

"I know you, you need to do something where you think you are making a difference." Is what Mark said, when I suggested that I would just work in an office someplace.

He frequently gives me permission to do less. It is one of the things he does best. 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

"Will you accept VIG?" I asked because Mark can be a bit of stickler for rules.
We both can.
I am typically the one calling him out on small, obscure words.
In sixteen years, he has one every, single game we have played and we have played numerous games of Scrabble.
We have played Scrabble at home, on the beach in Mexico, in Maui, on a plane.
He always wins.

I have the more creative words, but he is very shrewd when it comes to those blocky configurations; skilled at building one word off the side of another in a way that is too similar to math for my brain.

I require things to be in a straight line.

I like order and linear patterns.

I am also horrible at making change, or counting a handful of change.

It is surely a type of dyslexia?

I would be so delighted to have a diagnosis, for my inability to cope with piles of stuff.

When things are all jumbled up, then make me nervous and uncertain.

Mark grew up working the cash register in his grandmother's cafes and drive ins, literally from the time he was three, I am told, he was standing on a stool making change for customers, so he knows what he is doing.

Sadly, both of our children have my math feebleness.

The inability to make much sense of numbers, unless concentrating hard.

Math is not our friend.

Math is a meangirl, that makes you feel like you are wearing the wrong brand of jeans.

I used to play Scrabble often with my college boyfriend.
He had an apartment with charming wooden floors and we would sit on the floor and play Scrabble, with the goal of getting above 200 points. We would sometimes play with other people, but they never were good at keeping the aesthetic of the long, elegant words.
I thought of those games, as I was winning, during this game.
That boyfriend was an excellent Scrabble partner for me, as we both played to get long words.
Creative words.
Substantial words.

Mark is a shark, he will never forgo the short inelegant word, for something more lovely, like I am apt to do.

A friend from college sent me a text the other day  
"do you know we've known each other almost 30 years?"
I had sent him birthday greetings.  I keep up with him, and worry over his well being, which he pretends to find annoying, but secretly likes.
We play online Scrabble. 
I pester him about his atrocious diet, between turns.
I said I did know, and that I had recently exchanged a few messages with the Scrabble playing old boyfriend, and he said that there was no reason that he shouldn't be in touch, and I said, life is very short and precious and that it's foolish to not be.
I have no idea whether, or not he will follow up.
He most likely will not. 
He is not a diligent sort of person. 
He confesses openly to excessive leisure, and has no children or wife to keep him centered.

When I play with Mark, I have to have to board facing me.  It used to be no big deal, because he could play well upside down, but I noticed this time that he kept having to turn the board around, the way I used to when playing with my mother and my brother.

I may be wearing him down!



Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I learned that the child of one of the women I know from Hipmama, was dying from a tumor.

It was a shock, as he didn't know he had the tumor.

He was in his early 20's, by all accounts an excellent boy.

I don't know his mother.  I know of her.

She is the sister of a woman I know.

The sister is a good aunt, one of those aunts you wish you had.

Once that cares and is invested. 

Naturally she is devastated, over her nephew.

The good thing about belonging to a mothering support group for 15 years is the support.

This family has a lot of good support.

They have some lame support too, like me saying "I'm so sorry!" about a thousand times.

I thought about sending my father to the funeral.

He lives nearby.

I thought a proxy funeral attender might be a good gesture.

That is the kind of absurd thing that goes through my mind.

I will send some money, a small donation to help with the costs.

I wonder how people go on after losing their children?

I think about what would happen, if you were just too sad to go to work. 

Surely it happens?

I suspect I would be the person too sad to do anything, which would mean poor Mark, would have to take care of things, like the light bill and cat food.

Who buys the cat food when your child dies?

That is what I have been thinking of since Friday when I heard about the whole thing, how does the profound and the mundane work itself out?




I'll be happy when all of the hubbub about voting has passed.

If I wasn't married to a voting bully, I probably wouldn't vote. 

I am that terrible, cynical non-believer you read about.

I think, short of a revolution, nothing will change. 

The haves will dominate over the have nots and shit will remain static.

I don't really care about whether marijuana is legalized.  

Never having been a stoner, it's just not on my radar. 

If I gave it any thought at all I might think that I worry that what is largely a cottage industry, will be corrupted and co-opted by the government. 

I don't care very much about food labeling, because I believe that the bad guys have enough money to cover their tracks if they really want to. 

Cynical.

I wish the people that get all hot under the collar about voting would volunteer for social service projects. 

I wish they would come out in droves to feed the hungry, or house the homeless, or volunteer at their local school, or any one thing of substance, besides walk around like puffed up rice crisps because they filled out a form.  

I don't believe our government wants to help us.  I don't believe one side is better than the other (by much).  My lack of faith in our system makes Mark crazy. 

He loves politics, he loves to vote, to follow politicians. 

I like to bake cakes and raise money for books. 


Saturday, November 1, 2014

It was the 75th birthday of my friend that lost her daughter in spring.  My friend that is caring for her affairs now that she is ill and indisposed, texted me to come for a lunch and to bring cake.  Naturally I wanted the cake to be lovely and special.  I started baking it around 7:00pm, after a long and stressful day.  Everything that could go wrong with the cake started going wrong immediately.  I have baked hundreds of cakes in my life, each one more or less perfect, but this one was a complete disaster in every way.  I bake in copper, because it give a good crust, but apparently the shining nature of the copper makes my new, fancy oven heat unevenly.  The cake blew up on one side and was flat and raw on the other.  One side was burned.  I had to cut it down considerable to get it to even out.  I'd made two small heart molds too, which I thought would be for my children, but after hacking the bunt cake apart, I needed them to make enough cake to present.  There then became the issue of how to serve a long, low assembly of cakes, that are different shapes.  I mixed up a chocolate ganache that I also have made a thousand times, only to discover that when we moved the kitchen back in, after the remodel, that my mother had filled my powdered sugar canister with coconut, accidentally, so my frosting was all lumpy and gross looking.  I hid that by throwing some shredded coconut over the entire thing and dusting it with shaved dark chocolate.  The next day I bought some obscenely overpriced berries and dolled the whole thing up with some herbs from the garden.  I also baked a second cake, a polenta cake that is very unusual and well received, by most folks, which I thought could distract from the freaky chocolate cake.  I was running late, and had to turn it out, while still oven hot, which resulted in it sticking badly.  I molded the pieces back together, doused it in cherry preserves and covered the mess with more of the berries, and tarragon.  Both cakes were graciously received by all, and sadly, the guest of honor couldn't really eat, because Parkinson's disease spoils your digestion and swallowing.  I tragedy for this lady, who has been a fabulous cook her whole life.



Freyja and Rolf made pizza on Thursday. They also carved a LOT of pumpkins.  I did absolutely nothing to contribute to the whole affair, other than lay out a mise en place with all of the ingredients (mostly to avoid Rolf digging through the cupboards and making a huge mess, which he is inclined toward, when cooking).



Mark persists in keeping the horrible beard, which is literally eclipsing me in this photo- it's that big! We got off rather easy for Halloween this year, as Freyja spent the night with a friend, who also designed their matching zombie twin costumes. I did a short volunteer shift at the place I sometimes work on Friday nights, with exploited and vulnerable women and girls.  We turned off the porch light at 8:00, because we are lazy and wicked and our dog pees on the floor every time a child comes to the door to trick or treat. We holed up in the kitchen watching "Deadwood" and waiting for Maxwell to return from a music show.