Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Family

We returned from our short holiday cruise last week. Just me and the boys- Fermin, my brother, and my dad.

When we booked the cruise a few months ago, we just sorta assumed a "Mexican Cruise" would be warm, beachy and water-sporty. We didn't realize the temperatures would be in the mid-60s. So although it wasn't bikini weather, we still found ways to occupy our time...and laugh a LOT.

I have one particular family to thank for much of that and it is-- Steve, Laura, and their kids, Makala, Elizabeth and Joshua. We noticed this family the very first day of the cruise. They were 2 very stressed out and loud parents, with 3 little kids. The first day at breakfast the mom, Laura, said in a loud booming voice, "NO ELIZABETH, YOU ARE NOT HAVING ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST" and she shoveled in loads, and loads of lord knows what into her own mouth. Because that caught our ears, we started paying attention to their table, and it soon became an obsession. We learned everyone's name just by listening as Laura screamed at everyone. We eventually had an actual conversation with she and Steve and got her name as well.

If you keep up with my blog much, you've probably read a few posts about how I feel about the news (bleh), and how I feel about the fear-based society that many people seem happy to live in. I realize now, it starts with the news, and it trickles down into parents who then pass it along to their kids.

Here's a great example, as illustrated by The Family.

The morning we were docked in Ensenada, Mexico, we of course were stationed at a nearby table, eavesdropping on The Family at breakfast time. As was the morning routine, Laura and the girls showed up first, and then Steve and Josh would wander in. Once the boys got there, Laura left briefly to drop the girls off at the Kids Camp.

After shoveling in about 4 plates of food in about 4 minutes flat, Steve wiped the napkin all over his face, cleared his throat and began the big speech getting Josh ready for the big day of fun out in Mexico.

"Ok. Listen to me Josh. I need to tell you a few things about where we're going today.

FIRST: Don't touch anything, and don't put your hands up to your face. There are a lot of dangerous germs in Mexico. It's a dirty, dirty place.

SECOND: DO NOT drink the water. There are parasites in the water that will give you something called DYSENTERY. That means diarrhea. So no matter how thirsty you are, DO NOT drink the water.

NUMBER 3: There are kids there are trained to pick pocket all the visitors. So if you have ANYTHING in your pockets, you need to leave it on the ship.
and finally...

NUMBER 4: The people in Mexico KIDNAP Americans to get a lot of money. So at all times you need to stay with Mommy and Daddy. I want you stuck to us like FLIES ON SHIT."

(** And yes, that is really the phrasing he used to his 8-ish year old son. Awesome.)

Josh looked so sad and worried as he dug around in his pockets, making sure he had nothing of value in them. And then he said, "Then why are we going?"

No kidding. His dad had just described a place that hardly sounded worth getting off the ship for.

And his dad replied, "Because we're gonna have FUN!"

Yay. Good times!

This is just one of the many over-heard conversations that made our trip very memorable. Thanks to... The Family!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

This is my friend, Deville (my brother's sweet Bull Mastiff). I can remember when he was a little puppy and I could pick him up and hold him in my arms. That was obviously many, many months and pounds ago. His face is now the size that his entire body was when I first met him. I can't hold Deville anymore, but I'll always think of him as Little Nilly Devilly.

This picture of the ever handsome Deville is my analogy of the changes that happen over time and is so apparent to me at Christmastime.

When I was a kid I loved Christmas. And I mean LOVED it. I would certainly have named it my favorite day of the year. I always had tons of presents, and I loved having both of my grandmothers over for the eve and day. I loved decorating Christmas cookies with Mom. I loved watching all the Christmas shows and singing all the songs. I loved going to visit Santa and writing a little note to him each year. And I loved driving around in the car with my family looking at Christmas lights.

As I became a young adult, some of the traditions changed but still, I loved Christmas. Back in the early 90's, my husband/my then-boyfriend started spending Christmas with our family. My sister who moved to Seattle many years ago would always come in town with her family. I looked so forward to seeing her and my brother-in-law and my cute niece and nephew. Christmas just became bigger. We started a Gingerbread House contest in my family that became a pretty huge competition and something we thought about for weeks in advance. In the early years of the contest, we built houses, but eventually we built cathedrals, and even great cities! Mom continued to buy us all tons of gifts and there was always so much under the tree! I have to admit, I loved getting gifts. As I grew up, I learned to give them, too.

And now, here I am in 2009. Like I have since Mom died, I'll be going out of town for Christmas. I'll be out of town, and it won't even feel like Christmas morning. It will just be my dad, my brother, Fermin, and me. My sister's family has grown up and there's been some separations so we won't see them this year. There isn't a tree this year, and there aren't loads of gifts under it. And the most obvious and profound--- Mom's no longer here to make it all feel like the good ol' days.

Ah, transitions... We're still trying to figure it all out.
I like to think it's like growing up- There are some awkward stages, some years are better than others, but ultimately, your striving to be better, and to be wiser.

Maybe next year we'll all be ready to stay home for the holidays, because as the song says, there's no place like home for the holidays. Maybe we can get back to the gingerbread houses, and some of those other traditions we had to set aside for a few years. I think I'll be ready to get back into the Christmas spirit next year.

Don't cry for me, Argentina or anyone else! I know I'm still very lucky- and I'm lucky to get to be going on a trip with my little family this year. I just hope Christmas gets a little bigger next year...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

On the Rebound

After weeks of being rapt up in the 4 Twilight Saga books, (thank you Young Adult Fiction!) I am now ready to dive into a brand new book.

There's a bit of pressure involved in the picking of this next book. I'm coming out of this thrilling ride I've just had with all those Stephanie Meyers books. The books have been a phenomenal hit. Clearly, they had some kind of magical mass appeal. Whatever book I pick up next most likely won't be quite as enthralling. I've just come out of a pretty long and serious book relationship. It lasted for 4 long books.

You see, that's what I mean about the pressure on this next book. So, I'm going to look at it as just my rebound book after that torrid affair that just ended. It might not being as fast paced, it might not have an Edward, it may not hold my attention in all the ways that damn Twilight Saga did, but it will help me move on, and I'll be a stronger reader for it!

I do the bulk of my reading in the bathtub in the evenings. With the Twilight books, my baths took about an hour. Now that I just started a new book- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-
my baths are a lot shorter, and I debate over reading my latest Yoga Journal, or the book. Granted, I'm only about 70 pages into this new book, but I'm just not caring about the characters at all. I miss Edward. I want Jacob back. These new characters with their Swedish names are just not doing it for me!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today is Mom's birthday. She would've been 73 years old.
She only lived to be 69- and what a young and beautiful 69 she was. I never really saw my mom grow old. She never turned into a little old lady. For obvious reasons, that makes me sad.

I find myself in tears at the drop of a hat over missing her, still. It starts with just some strong feeling of her, that then just turns into sadness and longing. I'm sure anyone who has lost someone they love so much can relate. Fortunately though, sometimes my memories of Mom just make me laugh. Mom and I did a lot of laughing together, so those kinds of memories come at me often.

None of us know what comes after life until our own ends and then the secret is pretty safe. But since I knew Mom was going somewhere, I asked her to please visit me in some sort of way. I wanted her to know seeing a ghost of her wouldn't freak me out at all. She told me she would.

Maybe she has visited me. In dreams. In nature. Thru a song I hear. But she's just so subtle with the way she goes about it. I think all along I've been expecting an apparition of Mom- looking much like she did alive, only there would be a ghostly-ness about her.

It would not freak me out at all.

Anyway, Happy Birthday, Mom! I miss you...

Friday, December 4, 2009

All I Want For Christmas

I can remember when I was a kid, I'd go thru the holiday catalogs and circle the things I wanted for Christmas. Picking out stuff I wanted and dreaming about the possibility of getting them was just as much fun, or almost as much fun anyway, as opening up my gifts Christmas morning. It seems like I got most of the things I really wanted. I don't think I ever wanted anything too over the top, plus my parents were uber-generous. Them, and Santa!

The other day I was combing through the inserts in the Sunday paper to see if I could find some ideas for my Christmas wish list.

The days of simple gifts like Slinkies, my old Raggedy Ann and Andy Alarm Clock, and View Finder are long gone.

Now, instead of a View Finder, there are Digital Video Glasses. You can watch movies and listen to audio and look ridiculous all at once! For only $200 bucks!

For added comfort while you watch your movie in your little weird glasses, you could put on the uCrown Head Massager. It's basically a little space cadet helmet you put on your head that has heat, vibration, and soothing music all in one! Yay!

There's a new alarm clock named Moshi that you can have a conversation with and boss around with commands like "Set the alarm, Moshi!" and "Give me a night light!" Not as cute as my Raggedy Ann clock of days long ago, but more convenient I guess. Using your hands to set your clock is just so passe.

And while I'm on the topic of convenience- I found a really stupid grocery list maker- It's voice activated so you just tell it what you need and it types it out and prints it. Does that really save time? I'm pretty sure writing down "milk" on a list wouldn't slow me down anymore than saying "MILK", and then hitting a print button would.

Just like in the days of yore, going through the catalogs brought me great pleasure, but for entirely different reasons. This time, I want for none of those things. A slinky would be plenty!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Down with Diet Coke

It's been over a month and a half since I've had a Diet Coke. I don't want to get too cocky about it, because I've given it up before, only to return to it. But I do want to give myself a little high five!

On the day I stopped drinking it, I didn't say, "Never again." I just promised myself, "Not for one month." That made it seem much easier. Once the month was up, I was so proud of myself I just wanted to continue (to discontinue). I still don't think of it as having given it up forever. But each day I'm able to choose not to drink it. So far, so good. One day at a time, Sweet Jesus! ;)

There were definitely some times I have been very tempted: Going to the movies and getting popcorn, but no Diet Coke- that was a tough one. The first time I ate Mexican food and just had a water as my beverage. Every now and then, when I see other people sipping on a soft drink that looks oh so refreshing... But those feelings of temptations pass. And then, when it's all said and done, I'm so happy I have resisted.

Although I haven't noticed significant changes, there are some subtle things that have happened since I stopped using. For one, I drink more water, and therefore, I know my body must be better hydrated. Secondly, although I've rarely had a headache lately, if I do, I know the cause isn't related to caffeine or Diet Coke. Thirdly, and most charming, is knowing that I do have will power... that I can give something up that I think isn't the best thing for me.

High five!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Santa Exposed!

I was at Northpark mall last week- on Wednesday, before Thanksgiving. It was early in the afternoon and although it wasn't as crowded as I'm sure the mall is by now, after Thanksgiving, there were lots of people there- including lots of little kids.
Obviously, the mall was already decorated with holiday stuff- Lights, trees, candy canes, gingerbread houses, etc. In one of the little "houses", I saw a man with white hair, and a long white beard, wearing jeans and a t-shirt.

The man was taking books and stuffed animals out of a bag putting them out in the little room he was in. I wondered, "Is that Santa?!"

So I went over and asked him, "Excuse me, are you Santa?" And he said yes. I asked him what he was doing. He didn't really answer so I just said, "Are you just getting things ready?" I'm not even sure he answered me. Then I asked him how long he's been Santa. He said, "Ma'am, there are kids all around, so be careful about what you're asking." Um, hello?? Santa? If the jig is up here, it's not my fault. Isn't Santa is suppose to be wearing his red suit? Isn't he suppose to be jolly? And what about that twinkle in his eye?

Not sure why that guy couldn't figure out if he didn't want to be seen out of costume, maybe showing up in the Santa house on a crowded afternoon at the mall wasn't his best idea. Maybe being grouchy also wasn't doing much for his image either.

I'm sure I wasn't the only one a little disenchanted by "Santa" that day. But I know that guy isn't the real Santa. That guy was just an impostor. The real one is up at the North Pole making sure the elves get everything good and ready by Christmas morning...