Tag Archives: holidays

It’s time to NOT talk turkey!

28 Nov
Screen Shot 2019-11-28 at 5.39.42 AM

My friend Marcy texted this to me. She knows I hate the word moist.

For the first time in ages (maybe ever?), it’s just Alan and me for Thanksgiving this year, and I have to say, while I usually enjoy holidays being about family, this year it feels wonderful to just take a time out for the two of us. We’ve both had hectic falls, and between my work trip to LA and his two weeks in Michigan hunting, we barely saw each other this month.

So how do we plan to celebrate since we’re not tethered to others’ expectations? Well, for starters, we haven’t even asked ourselves the question that most people probably discussed ad nauseam yesterday: what time will we eat? Because the answer (whenever we feel hungry) doesn’t really matter when you’re only coordinating two people.

Also? We’ve totally scrapped the traditional menu. I’m not a big fan of turkey, and while I enjoy the side dishes (specifically: mashed potatoes, green beans, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes), I make them all regularly, so they don’t feel like a special treat to get all excited about. Fortunately, Alan’s easy-going and also a bit of a foodie, so he was totally game for a menu overhaul.

Here’s what we landed on: whole roasted branzini, lemon risotto, and a shaved brussel sprout salad. I’ve never roasted a whole fish with its head on before, and Alan’s never made proper risotto from scratch, so today’s focus on food is more on experimentation than it is on eating. (Which is probably a good thing, since we might end up ordering a pizza if our experiments go sideways.)

[Ethical side note: when people say they don’t eat anything that had a mother, does fish count? To my knowledge, they just lay eggs and abandon them, so I’m including them in my guilt-free column because I’m judgmental and that’s not very maternal.]

Food aside, the other benefit of it being just US: we can stay in our pajamas all day. No dressing up and making ourselves presentable. No posing for family photos. Just us in pjs with Miss Moneypenny and a fire. And since I’m a nerd, we’ll be working on the second installment of “Hunt a Killer” (a monthly mystery box) at some point during the day, because nothing says “Happy Thanksgiving” like discussing crime and naming the criminal.

I guess in that sense – talking about criminals – our holiday won’t be that different from most Americans this year. We just won’t be arguing about it.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Thanksgiving – let’s make it more than a day!

28 Nov

We rise by lifting others quote

I have so much I’m grateful for. I can’t even begin to list it all for fear of either sounding boastful or – maybe more frightening – accidentally cursing it. Suffice it to say that at night when I reflect on all my blessings, I fall asleep before I finish the list. THANK YOU.

That said, Thanksgiving drives me a bit nuts. Given its name, you’d think it’s about giving thanks. But based on the media, it tends more often to be about: A) Gorging yourself repeatedly until your pants don’t fit, B) A day off work – two if you’re lucky, C) A jumpstart on Christmas shopping, and D) NFL games.

The only thing on that list that excites me is B, so it’s not really a holiday that prompts me to do backflips – despite my attempt to cultivate gratitude in my daily life.

This year, I attempted to shift the focus in my small corner of the world. On Thanksgiving Eve, I shared this post with my Facebook friends.

Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.08.43 AMI’ve seen your daily posts of gratitude and they’re lovely. And I know that tomorrow we’ll all reflect on what we’re thankful for and realize that we are – on the whole – abundantly fortunate.

While you’re feeling the love tomorrow, might I suggest that you consider paying it forward? Thank someone who doesn’t hear it enough; make a donation (big or small) to a cause you’re thankful exists; perform a random act of kindness for a stranger who might need a reason to be thankful.

And if you DO something, please share it. We hear enough negative stories in the news – I’d like to hear about people’s hearts growing three sizes in a day! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

So this Thanksgiving morning I woke up early to deliver on my own request. I knew exactly how I wanted to pay it forward this year…

Earlier this month I posted about Cecil –  the eternally cheerful concierge at my office. When I asked what he was doing for Thanksgiving, he replied with his usual smile, “Working!”

“You’ll be HERE on Thanksgiving? That stinks! Will you at least get some turkey when you’re done with work?” I asked.

“You can be assured I will certainly get some into my claws,” he replied. (And yes, that’s actually how he talks. He also calls us his “cherished tenants.”)

Cecil usually arrives at work sometime between 7-8am, so I wrote out an anonymous thank you card, inserted some cash for a Christmas splurge, and made it to my office at 6:45 Thanksgiving morning to give it to the night guard to relay to Cecil when he arrived. While I didn’t get to see his expression, I can only hope that this random act of kindness cheered his holiday and made it a bit more tenable to be on his feet and away from his family all day.

And I’m hoping that the 50 friends who “liked” my post all ended up taking action of their own to pay it forward. From the initial comments, it sounds like some senior citizens in Montana will be receiving care packages from a group of thoughtful nurses, a woman in Michigan was delighted to have her Thanksgiving groceries purchased by a stranger, and someone in New York has a Secret Santa taking care of them.

In the wake of the senseless killings in Paris (and so many other places), when we have governors screaming about closing our borders to refugees, these are the stories I want to hear – stories that speak to love for humanity, and a mindset of abundance and compassion. Let’s let Good get a bit more of the spotlight.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

And now we wait…

7 Dec

Image Source: http://gooddogcoaching.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/xmas-cat-w-ribbon.jpg

When your *best case* scenario relies on hoping for your cat to shit out three feet of Christmas ribbon, you know some poor choices have been made somewhere, by someone.

In my case, I can’t decide if I’m at fault for pulling out green curling ribbon when wrapping a birthday present for my friends’ baby. Or if Miss Moneypenny – who suddenly decided that curling ribbon looked DELICIOUS – is to blame.

Regardless, one minute I was sitting there listening the Christmas carols and wrapping a present. The next, I was online googling “cat ate ribbon” and finding that I probably needed to rush her to an emergency vet.

Nevermind that it was 9pm on a Saturday and it was pouring rain outside and I don’t have a car. And the vet is located up near Maryland. Sigh.

Don’t get me wrong – I did consider just riding it out and seeing what would happen. After all, Miss Moneypenny didn’t seem to be distressed. In fact, she seemed oddly sated – and newly obsessed with curling ribbon.

Let me back up.

After wrapping my friends’ baby’s gift, I decided it would look better with a wee bit of ribbon on it. So I pulled out a spool of thin green curling ribbon – ribbon that I’m pretty sure was out frequently last year during the holidays and that seemed to have escaped Miss Moneypenny’s notice at the time.

I cut a four foot section of ribbon and draped it over the back of my chair while I returned the spool to its drawer. When I turned around, the ribbon was on the floor, Miss Moneypenny was sitting on top of it, licking her lips – and only a foot of it remained. I was baffled.

“Did you just eat that?” I asked. By the way she attacked the remaining foot of ribbon, it was obvious that she had. If I hadn’t moved quickly, that last bit of ribbon would’ve been down her hatch as seamlessly as a snake swallowing a tiny mouse. (This, from a cat who is super picky about her REAL food.)

Immediately, I thought of my childhood friend’s dog, Toby, who had once eaten an entire spool of dental floss – all 25 yards of it. My friend’s family had returned home to find the plastic dispenser hanging out of his mouth, and were able to pull about three yards of it out before it seemed to stick on something. They took Toby to the vet, where a chunk of his intestines were removed. Apparently that’s common when an animal eats an excessive length of a linear object.

I did what everyone does when faced with the prospect of bundling up their animal for a weekend/late night ER trip. I a) posted a query on Facebook, hoping my cat-owning friends would tell me I was over-reacting and could just stay home, and b) googled to see if the wider internet community could offer some reassurance that cats regularly ate three feet of curling ribbon and lived to tell about it.

Sadly, on both counts the response was, “Better get to the vet.”

I made one last attempt at avoiding the vet by calling the emergency line and asking if I could just monitor Miss Moneypenny and bring her in if she seemed distressed? Answer: No, get thee to a vet.

So we did. Thank you, Uber, for making that relatively easy. And the animal hospital was surprisingly well-staffed at 10pm on a Saturday. There must’ve been at least a dozen people working, and they were all really friendly. Fortunately, it was also a quiet night, so there were only two other people in the waiting room: one was a woman whose Labradoodle was having an allergic reaction to his vaccines, and the other was a man whose two daschunds had gotten into a tin of pure cocoa and needed their stomachs pumped.

Explaining that my cat had just ingested 2-3 feet of curling ribbon made me feel like they might send us home with a Darwin Award.

Instead, they sent us home without treatment and instructions to just monitor her for lethargy, vomiting or any other evidence that the ribbon had created an intestinal blockage. (I’d like to point out that that was the plan I’d originally proposed, and which they’d shot down over the phone.) There’s a 50% chance she’ll be able to pass it on her own, and a 50% chance we’ll need to go back for emergency surgery.

“Was there nothing that could be done NOW?” I asked, hoping to head-off both the possibility of surgery and having to monitor her litterbox for evidence that it had passed. I also didn’t want this trip to the vet – which would end up costing $200 – to be in vain. “Can’t we pump her stomach and make her puke it up? Or do an endoscopy and retrieve it before it works into her intestines in the first place?”

Apparently the answer to both questions is, “Not unless you want to spend an even crazier amount of money” – at least at 10pm on a Saturday night when their Surgical Internist is home in bed.

So I packed up Miss Moneypenny and we returned home.

Side note: The Uber driver on our way home puzzled me. He seemed to really like animals and was awesome about letting me bring a cat into his cab, but had some questions that indicated a lack of familiarity with cats. To wit:

Driver: How often do you need to cut her hair? 

Me: Cats don’t really need haircuts.

Driver: I take my daughter to PetSmart to see cats get their hairs cut. But there are never any cats. Just dogs.

Me: Yeah, I don’t think cats ever really get their hair cut.

Driver: How long can their hair get though? Very long? 

Me: No, it stays a pretty set length. You know how they have a winter and a summer coat? Maybe they just lose all their fur frequently enough that that’s why we never see it grow past a certain length.

Driver: Do you shampoo her? 

Me: No. Cats do a good job of grooming themselves.

Driver: What does the groomer do then? Just cut their hairs? 

????

So now we’re home. I’m monitoring her. And while I certainly don’t want to return to the vet for emergency surgery, I can’t say I’m looking forward to seeing that three feet of ribbon resurface.

My friend Andrew reminded me that he had an equally distressing situation some years ago when his doberman ate a box of dryer sheets. How’d it work out? According to his roommate, who witnessed the entire thing: “He looked like a tissue dispenser for about 20 minutes.”

At least dryer sheets smell nice.

Progress and pool drains.

3 Dec

Image Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5d/Mountain_Dew_sign_Tonto_Arizona.jpg

I’ve been making good progress on my 40×40 list.

In case you’re keeping tabs, I haven’t consumed a single Mountain Dew of any variety since October 30. Oddly, I also find that I’m now less interested in Nascar and have started questioning the wisdom of allowing cousins to marry.

At this rate, Miss Moneypenny’s brown snaggletooth will practically straighten itself and people won’t think they’re entering West Virginia when they cross my threshold. Might be time to start a meth lab, just to maintain appearances around here.

[I joke, but my sister once lived across the street from a house that functioned as a meth lab and had no idea. The DEA has created a registry of homes that functioned as clandestine labs. Probably worth reviewing if you’re hunting for a home. Screwy as it sounds, realtors don’t have to disclose a home’s illicit history – even if it can make you sick. How was THAT for random?]

Screen Shot 2013-12-01 at 9.03.47 PM

Back to my 40×40 list… I’ve been making good progress on my commitment to swim 50 miles this year. I already have 7 miles under my belt, and – aside from the first one, which was UGLY – it’s just like riding a bike. Except without the wheels and handlebars.

I find that my mind wanders when I’m cranking out laps, and I think of the weirdest things. That bike analogy wasn’t even one of them, until I considered what it would be like to swim while wearing a bike helmet.

This weekend I had a lane that is lined with four drains along the bottom. It made me think of childhood, and the oft-repeated warnings to, “Never sit on the pool drain or you will have your intestines pulled out of your ass.” I’m not the only person who heard that line, right?

As I counted my laps and stared at the drains, it struck me as an urban legend. So when I got home, I googled “death by pool drain intestines.” Brace yourself: It is actually a real thing. Wow. Just – terrifying.

On a related note – related to swimming, not intestinal loss – I had a weird experience when I went to the pool on Saturday. All the lanes were occupied, so I sized them up, trying to determine where I’d have the best luck sharing. I felt like Goldilocks as I observed the swimmers: that one’s too fast… that one’s too slow… that one’s too sloppy…

I finally found one who seemed to be, “just right.” Unfortunately, he must not have thought so, because when I approached him and asked to share his lane, he got all huffy and moved to a new lane so he was sharing with someone and I had his old lane to myself. Confused about what happened, I said, “Hey – sorry – didn’t mean to run you out of your lane.”

To which he barked, “We wouldn’t be compatible.”

I was taken aback because I wasn’t sure what he was basing that on. At that point, he hadn’t seen me do anything. I shrugged and started my laps, keeping one eye trained on his workout to see what he had meant.

I was never able to figure it out, so I can only surmise that he thought I was seeking a dick-free lane. And I guess he was right.

Next time, I’ll make sure I’m sporting one of these awesome swim caps from Kiefer.com so I know why he’s judging me:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Perspectives on Christmas

26 Dec

Image Source: http://www.fantom-xp.com/en_35_~_Christmas_magic_laptop_backgrounds.html

At 14 and 10, my nephews are at challenging ages to shop for. When they were younger, I could hit an easy  home run by springing for the one gift on their wish list that they were sure even Santa wouldn’t bring.

Now, however, their tastes run more expensive. While I could afford to pull the “Crazy Aunt” card and get them the electronics they’re pining after, I don’t think it’s healthy for kids to keep up with the Joneses.

So yesterday morning, while we waited for my sister and her family to arrive at my parents’ home, I looked at their wrapped gifts under the tree and had second thoughts. I imagined them opening my presents, then looking at me with the eager eyes of puppies, convinced I had hidden their “big” gifts as some sort of game.

After gifts had been opened, however, I realized my second guessing had been ridiculous. Although we tend to go a bit sparse on the gifts compared to many, we were still surrounded by much, much more than most people in other countries would even dream of.

And – silly me – I’d forgotten: they’re not *those* kinds of kids. They appreciate what they have. So if there was disappointment, they did a good job not showing it and only expressing gratitude for what they had received. Besides, once we started playing some board games together (Taboo and Smartass, to name a few), the pile of “loot” was even less important.

~~~

Meanwhile, I wondered about another Christmas scene unfolding some 500 miles away.

Continuing one of my favorite traditions, my friend Betsy and I adopted a local DC family for Christmas. It’s a win-win-win as far as I’m concerned: I can indulge my urge to do some legitimate Christmas shopping (since I tend to either make donations or shop for my nephews online), spend time with a good friend, and do something truly in the spirit of the season.

This year a mother, a father and their two-year-old son comprised the Alexandria, Virginia-based family we had adopted. The program’s coordinator emailed us their wish list and included a note, “They’re a nice young family, working hard to make ends meet.”

So three weeks ago we walked to Target and picked out some nice outfits, toys, a few things for their home and a generous gift card. The gifts looked lovely when wrapped – enough to neatly fill the space beneath a tree come Christmas morning.

Although they’re down on their luck, I hope they were able to forget it for a day – and carry with them the knowledge that they aren’t in it alone, that people really do care.

~~~

Image Source: http://bloggingtothemaxey.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/coexist1.png

Then, as I got ready for bed to put an end to my Christmas Day, I happened to see a story on the news about Mitzvah Day in Detroit.

Talk about a lovely idea… Jews and Muslims work with church groups in the Detroit area and go around playing Santa, taking toys and meals to homes of the disadvantaged. As one man on the story said, “It may be as close to World Peace as I’ll see in my lifetime.”

~~~

Today we visited some friends who are hosting an exchange student from China. This was her first American Christmas, and although the family kept things low-keyed and only gave her two small gifts and a stocking full of toiletries, she kept sorting through the contents of her stocking, examining it all with quiet incredulity. Noticing her interest in all the gifts, someone asked if her family exchanged presents for any holidays.

Nothing like this, she said. Including birthdays, this was the most she had ever received in terms of presents.

And this is a kid whose family can afford to send her to the US in an exchange program. Not exactly poor.

~~~

So… for those of you who stressed about finding the perfect gift, or who are about to buckle under the weight of January’s credit card bills, something to keep in mind for next year:

The magic of Christmas doesn’t have to cost a penny. You don’t have to have a small child in your home to find it. Just be grateful for all that you have. Share with those who don’t have as much. And I promise: you’ll feel rich. It won’t matter what you put under the tree.

[And now, in my next post, back to your regular, snarky/pithy/biting programming.]