Monday, December 29, 2008

Prepping for New Resolutions--PLEASE!!

It's almost that time. . . New Year's, the time to reflect and make resolutions. I hate New Year's. It always makes me depressed. The same blasted resolutions each year makes life seem futile.

I was reading Refuse to Regain--a post by psychologist Barbara Berkeley, called How Is Your IBM Doing? IBM is an acronym for Intake Balance Mechanism. She's using it about eating and food, mostly about sugars and starches. Of course, it's an interesting concept to apply to all of life, don't you think?

Anyhow, in her post, she talks about NOWs (never overweight people) and POWs (previously overweight people) and SAD (the Standard American Diet), but I didn't see an acronym for currently overweight people. (Afterall her site is about Refusing to Regain.) I commented on this. Surely, she wouldn't call us COWs, nor SOWs (still overweight people or struggling), so I guessed maybe just "OWs"?? That fits, I think.

She says, "Neither do I believe in many of the accepted theories about how we gain weight." Nor do I. I just, as of yet, don't have the thinner present to reckon with this. . .

So I have a few days to get ready to think about the new year. What I will and won't put on myself. Think specifically. Maybe think in only 2 week increments. . . Put more on actions than on rules. . .

Must go. . . told Dad I was going to get a shower 45 minutes ago. . .

Saturday, December 27, 2008

More Ahhhh. . . .

Another ahhhh day. I took vacation days while my dad is here for the week. We're sitting around--Dad reading a Ken Follet book; Hubby roaming aimlessly about, now playing the piano, now doing laundry, now God knows where, but not with his feet up in the room with us--he is just not a good relaxer.

Guess I need to get around and dressed. Hubby wants to go to the store. I want to get ingredients to make cassoulet one night. I love the rosemary with the white beans. . . and the garlic. We'll also splurge on Beef Wellington one night.

I'm looking forward to having some time to enjoy all my X-mas books. Hubby got lots and lots on my Wish list: a few books by This American Life writers, as well as Roy Blount, Jr., Bailey White, and Hate That Cat--a kind of sequel to Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech. He read both of them aloud to me and Mom on X-mas night. Such lovely stories. And my sister read A Christmas Memory aloud to a roomful of people the weekend before for our X-mas exchange. Hubby gave me the DVD version with Patty Duke that I am looking forward to watching.

My oldest stepson's family was really great about giving me gifts from my wish list to inspire me to get back on track: Half-Assed by the Pastaqueen and a Moosewood cookbook and a pair of Thorlo walking socks!

I gave Hubby several books about walks around Atlanta, and he's committed to getting a puppy! The stipulation is we have to read the two raising puppy books first so we will know what we are doing. We are strongly leaning toward a golden doodle.

I haven't taken pictures yet, but seredipitiously 2 of our Santa ornaments fell off the tree during gift distribution. They both fell on their backs, legs and arms sprawled as though they fell into an exhausted, baby-in-the-cereal sleep.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ahhhhh. . . .

It is 11:10 AM on Christmas Eve.

For many many Christmas Eve's in the past, this was the time when my table would be set and decorated and we'd either have a few guests here for brunch or be waiting for the first ones to arrive.

I had been feeling a bit sad about the loss of this tradition. This year my office's holiday schedule felt very stingy. We get only tomorrow off--and only New Year's Day off-not the days after nor today, the day before. It was making me feel cranky and a bit persecuted--never mind that it was happening to all the rest of the people not getting the holiday either. Thankfully, I have paid vacation days.

But right now, I'm sitting with my feet up, laptop actually on lap, listening to Christmas music, with the tree lit (thought the day is now bright enough for the lights to no longer have much of the required backdrop for best viewing). And, you know what? It may not be the tradition, but right now it is feeling pretty good.

I've been sick. I need the break. I need the relief in my head from the anxiety of this crazy economic time. Is anyone else experiencing anxiety from all the layoffs and lack of shopping and mortgage issues? My overall feeling is just this impending doom and hearing over and over in my head, "what to do? what to do?" Cutting back on Starbucks isn't going to be enough. . . .

Brushing that aside. . . sweep . . . sweep. . .

Here are a few random holiday memories, feel free to share yours too!

Memory 1
I remember one Christmas in Missouri at my Grandparents' house. My sister and I had gotten walkie talkies for Christmas. It was snowing lightly. Two of my uncles took off in the neighborhood in different directions, each with a group of cousins in tow. Up hills, down hills around corners, it was like a 20-year early (more?) premonition of the cell phone commercials: "Can you hear me now?" So much giggling, for such mundane conversation over the wires. . from David St. to Leroy, to Masters Drive. . .

Memory 2
Our first Thanksgiving in Boston was my first one as an "adult," where I didn't go to my grandparents'. It made me very sad. Hubby & I awoke to a foot of snow, feeling grateful then that we'd bought a duck to cook and didn't have anywhere we needed to drive. The field across the parking lot from our apartment complex was a big plane of ice--a solid, crunchy layer on top of the snow. My sweet Katie dog was light enough to stay on top. To her delight, when I crunched through, little balls of ice cracked from the surface. One piece skated a bit away from us. . . and that was the start! Ice hockey! I'd throw an ice puck and she'd run across ice and slide, spinning tail first to catch it, then poof! Head first into a snow bank. Hubby said he could hear even the echos of my laughter from inside our apartment. We played for hours.

Memory 3
One Oct. my friend, Karen , and I took a road trip from Boston to her home in Turbyville, SC then to my mom's in Atlanta. While in Turbyville, I got a glimpse of one of her family's Christmas traditions.

All the way down 95, eating bologna sandwiches in the car because Karen was determined to stop as little as possible, she told me stories of her elderly cousins Lurleen and Dicey. Yes, their real names. I'm not sure if they were her mother's cousins or her grandmother's or maybe not even true cousins at all.

A few days into our visit--after the surreal night at Grandma Reena's who was watching Lawrence Welk when we came in, who lived across from a cotton field, and whose house was the darkest I have ever been in at night with absolutely no ambient light, we took a drive to Lurleen's and Dicey's.

As we passed the kitchen, we spoke to the cook who came in every day for them. Were we going to stay to eat fried pork chops and black eyed peas and greens for lunch? To my surprise and dismay, Karen said no. . . we didn't want to intrude. (One of the things I love most about Karen is how she intrudes into families. . . )

Dicey & I sat on Dicey's double bed, and Karen sat next to Lurleen's side on her bed, which she never left anymore, and that was directly across from Dicey's. It was one of the largest bedrooms I've ever seen. There were 2 bedrooms, but the sisters had always shared one.

We chatted about Karen's family. And she told Lurleen and Dicey stories about me--spats we'd had in the car ride down (she claimed I drove like Mr. Magoo--oblivious to the devastation I left behind me); how she'd eaten the last pieces of bologna at my house before I could say anything--even though we were leaving hubby without a car for more than week; how her niece had sucked me in with tall tales about baby chickens on their chicken farm.

After lots of laughter and some tears from both joy and sadness, Dicey asked Karen if she would be able to come back for Christmas. Karen apologetically told her no that she didn't think she could afford another visit so soon. And while we expected a sad response, instead, Dicey clapped and brightened and said, "Well then, you get your Christmas Lipstick now!"

"Oh, you're in for a treat," Karen said to me.

Bags removed from the closet had their contents poured onto Dicey's bedspread. Piles of tubes of lipstick. Every color. Every name. Every brand. Pick the one you like, Dicey tells us. Some like 'em bright, some don't. Take the one you want.

Karen tells me this is what they've always done, these 2 sisters. All year they collect lipstick. Enough lipstick for all the women in the family, all ages of females--girls and grands. Mostly all Southerners, and a few displaced ones, like Karen and now me. They can't afford more, but they want to give this. This bit of a lady's indulgence, this bit of seduction or church polish, this bit of bonding between only women.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Holiday or Detour? Part II



(For my philosophy, read part I)

Hubby does not view this time as a holiday, rather for him, it is a big detour--and all the aggravation detours bring.
The first Christmas tree Hubby & I put up together wouldn't stay in the stand, and kept falling on his head. I guess this was a BIG sign; one that I missed!
I'm not saying he's not generous, he is--very. I'm the one who gets curmudgeonly, feeling like people don't even know what I've given them, much less appreciate the time I took, the money I spent, or the great deal of consideration I made in the purchase. I'm the one who gets sad and unattractively annoyed about the people in my life who are eternally disappointed with gifts because they think I should be able to afford so much more.
He's quite childlike in spirit and fun. He draws the cutest teeny pictures on my gift tags and signs gifts from all sorts of inventive people (the mechanics for Santa's sleigh, for instance). And he's always saying he wants to socialize more and be around more people--as well as do cultural things, like go to concerts and plays--those very things we do more of during these holidays.
Despite these efforts, the holidays fill him with angst. They are a big detour from the clean, well-lighted life he leads. For one thing, he hates the mess. He has zero patience for the clippings of gift wrapping. He obsessively insists on carefully placing each gift under the tree so it doesn't look haphazard. He gets physically anxious to have the leaf in the table any days after the leaf-requiring event.
The "holidays" also create a detour from the simple, comforting routines in our relationship: hanging out watching TV, shopping for groceries on the weekends, eating lunch out on Sun. As well as the newer things. . . me cooking dinner--carefully selecting our healthy meals; me keeping up with the laundry. He fears for my health and for the backlash he'll be a victim of after the holidays if I get all depressed about gaining weight. These are not unjustified concerns.
He worries about the money. His work slackens in Dec. & Jan. and the economy is really frightening right now. My company just laid off people and my old company in MA is completely closing its doors. And more than that, he really has an "I-hate-to-shop-on-demand, and I don't believe in this consumer-pushed gift-giving crapola" attitude. It largely comes down to being aggravated that he is culturally compelled to buy for others. My husband, the Christmas Rebel.
I admit that I let the spending go out of control. I tried this year. . . but . . .it's hard. . . But even to me, in cases where I buy from lists or feel forced to find a gift for someone I am completely uninspired to give to, it starts to feel a bit ridiculous. Why should I buy you what you want and you buy me what I want? Why not just buy it for ourselves?
Or worse, why are we just exchanging checks? Are these gestures so necessary to sustain our relationships? This year I tried to remedy some of those negative feelings by not getting so caught up in buying the exact same amount--package or money wise on people. I've tried to focus on one thing at a time, so the demands felt a little more spread out.
We've decided to go ahead and just give some people money--a huge step (cop out?) for me. They haven't seemed to help Hubby. We've often done more creative money-free things for each other, but not for the extended families. . .
The problem is, it's bigger than all this. He won't admit it, but this detour just represents the most fearful thing in this life--that time is running out. (Not so unlike ol' Ebeneezer's biggest fear, eh?)
Since the cancer, this has only been amplified. His fear seeps into me. . .the panicked eating and depression I went through during and after his treatment. He wants a straight course to get to the things he wants and any detour is panic causing because he is not sure of the path.
He doesn't have the confidence that he knows how to get there on his own--that he is talented enough. He thinks he needs me like a child thinks he needs training wheels. It's not that he just wants us to be together. . .or he would be more willing to take my holiday detour. He'd shop with me, watch TV in the room where I wrap presents, chat about menus. Instead he stays at home, blocked by the detour of the holiday, feeling abandoned as I wind through the holiday maze.
He sees this as a detour of the focus on him. A focus he is panicked about keeping. Like if he looks away--if I look away--he will disappear. He's not unhealthy. Not on his deathbed. He's just always feeling like he's sliding down the chute instead of climbing up the ladder and the game is coming to a close. And it leaves me lost.
I feel like my delight in the holidays crushes him, like that first tree. A time I want to feel closer makes him bruised. He's angry; I'm defensive.
It will be fine, I know that. . . until it resolves. . .we'll fill in with Falalalalas.
So how do you see Christmas--as a Holiday from the routine? Or a Detour from your goals or directed course?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday or Detour? Part I


OR ARE YOU LIKE THIS? If so, you're like my much beloved hubby.



I'm one of those people who likes Christmas. And Thanksgiving. Not so much New Year's. . .

I like visiting with family--at their houses or mine. I like entertaining for friends. . .figuring out the recipes, the right combo of foods that will blend and compliment each other; the right combo of complexity in recipes, some that are super simple, some that are more complex. I like deciding on how to decorate the table, using dishes that basically only get used for this season. I even like accomplishing some de-cluttering --removing that stuff that usually just sits around the rest of the year

I like setting up my collections of Santas and snowmen and birds for my Christmas tree. I can't help myself; I pick out new things to add every year.

I like the holiday music. I like hearing 18 different versions of the same Christmas song, especially if they are quite different instead of just a little different. (Who couldn't be struck by the jubilant rhythms from Black Nativity?)

One the the greatest things I've ever heard was our friend Mark singing the bass part of Handel's Messiah at the church he sings for (he's one of those HIRED singers); I was so amazed at the beauty of his voice, I nearly wept.

I love the communal holiday excuse that makes it OK to sing aloud--that everyone sings along. Once in New England, we went to RI for this outdoor Christmas festival. . . it was cold. . .but people were in Victorian costume on the sidewalks singing, ringing bells. . . just like out of Dickens. It was like a sugarplum dream come true.

I love A Christmas Carol. I own Scrooge and The Muppets' Christmas Carol and watch them both more than once a year. I watch other TV versions if I find them. It's the same with It's a Wonderful Life.

In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, every time I see the dog Max (I admit I had to look up his name) on the back of that sleigh with his tongue hanging out, I at least smile--but I'm more apt to have a hearty giggle.

I adore the music from A Charlie Brown's Christmas, even though my friend, Anma said it was the saddest, saddest music and that she always found the Peanuts specials depressing because the background behind the characters is so dark.

I love Gene Autry's Christmas music and can't get beyond thinking that a child's holidays would be bereft without it.

I get a great deal of pleasure shopping for gifts for people I love. These are the easy ones: buying for people who need a lot of things but can't afford them or who spend on others first (who usually don't need it as much )--like MY MOTHER; buying for people who appreciate anything I pick for them and who squeal with delight--just in the gift selection process I am taken back to warm and happy times--like for My SISTER. I like picking out small cute or beautiful things to surprise people who aren't expecting anything from me.

I love colored lights. During the holiday season, even a red stoplight on a midnight blue sky somehow seems more beautiful and vivid to me.

I love fat Santas.

I like Christmas shopping in a light snow, and I am heart warmed by stores that gift wrap for free.

And I love the little surprises and elegant delights that make up stocking stuffers. My favorite will always be the little bottle of White Shoulders perfume my mom gave me one of last years my parents were still together.

I consider Thanksgiving and Christmas and the time in between and until New Year's a holiday. I'm not saying I get the whole time off from work. . . but it's a holiday from my usual life. I fill in all my spare minutes with shopping online, looking at catalogs & sales papers, creating lists--people to send cards to, things to do, grocery items--wrapping gifts, decorating, and shopping. It's tiring. But I like it.

I debated this year whether I should really do these usual things or if I should toe the line and stay focused on going to the gym and the pool and planning and cooking healthy dinners. All that is new enough for me that I can't really fit it in and have a holiday. I decided I would feel worse to give up the holiday. The holidays invigorate me and cheer me. They get me ready for January--the only real winter month in Atlanta. (Thank goodness!) I need the color and songs of this holiday to make it through the bleak midwinter. And there have plenty of years where I didn't have the energy and spirit to get out of depression to feel this energized for celebrating.

I talked to PhD about it. She advised taking the holiday in chunks--not abandoning all healthy eating and behavior, but paring back on it. In the last week, with the laryngitis, I've been less than stellar at following her advice, but still. . . I felt this huge burden of anxiety leave me when we talked about it. I mean, it's either let myself have the holiday, or let myself have it with a HUGE, weighted burden of GUILT on the top of it. This year, I tried to let go of the guilt. I'll take the consequences--good and bad. Or at least I'll try to. Because after all, 'Tis the season . . .

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Christmas Gifts to You

These are some of my favorite books. They are really for people of all ages. I often give them as gifts to people I love.

A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote. I've linked to my favorite illustrated version.

This is the kind of story where you know from the first paragraph that you will love it. Every word is so carefully chosen.

Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago. Consider the kitchen of a spreading old house in a country town. A great black stove is its main feature; but there is also a big round table and a fireplace with two rocking chairs placed in front of it. Just today the fireplace commenced its seasonal roar.
I want to write stories like this that set such scenes. And with lines that put you so in the very moment with like this last one, " . . . it [a dilapidated old baby carriage] has winter uses too: as a truck for hauling firewood from the yard to the kitchen, as a warm bed for Queenie, our tough little orange and white rate terrier who has survived distemper and two rattlesnake bites. Queenie is trotting beside it now."

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. This is a story in verse. You'll fly through these little journal sketches by a boy learning about poetry for the first time as he experiments with the form himself. It's wonderful and touching. Hubby & I read it out loud together.

Another of my favorites is a story in free verse: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Here's its wonderful beginning:
As summer wheat came ripe,
so did I,
born at home, on the kitchen
Ma crouched,
barefoot, bare bottomed
over the swept

This one is just as delightful, but more work to read: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard. I give this away much more selectively. It takes concentration. So the good thing is that each chapter stands alone as a thoughtful piece. I read this with a Unitarian church group--a delightful experience.

Anything by Bailey White! My favorite story is "Something Like a Husband" in Mama Makes Up Her Mind. These stories are beautifully tight in miraculously few pages. She's great to listen to as well, and she has several audio cassettes.

Zippy by Haven Kimmel--this was a gift from one of my best friends. It is laugh out loud funny. I don't think I ever finished reading the last 10 pages or so because then it would have been over. Zippy is now one of my favorite characters--right there with Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, Ellen in Ellen Foster, and Frankie in Member of the Wedding.

A Bit of Holiday Spirit

Snowman in our MA home
My fav: roly poly
An attempt at homemade

More snowman in MA

I've had laryngitis--3 days with barely a whisper. I'm still hoarse, but so improved!
Last night we had my editorial team over for a party. I did lots of cooking. Turned out pretty good, I think. The best was one of the simplest: crostini (just a sliced baguette, baked until golden) with caramelized onions on top and dollop of goat cheese. Yummy.
I am so relieved to have it behind and on to the next X-mas venture. That means shopping for family (my Mom's asked me to get her a new bible. . .) and getting the package ready for Scott.
Has anyone else had trouble with Amazon? They claim they keep delivering packages to my doorstep that aren't there. (And yes, I live in a safe neighborhood.)

Monday, December 1, 2008

Feeling Thankful

I am feeling particularly cheerful today, so I thought I would share. I think a lot of it is afterglow after spending Thanksgiving and the weekend with our two adorable granddaughters. They are 6 and 2 and were just so much fun this visit! I don't even mind the touch of a sore throat and sniffle I have--probably from their "vewy, vewy bad coughs"--because the snuggling was so good & worth a few passing of the germs.

Plus, for lunch, I am eating leftover turkey Mexican casserole that their mother (my lovely stepdaughter) made! Yummy!

And the good thing about PMS is that on those weeks your weight goes up (last week I stayed the same weight on the scale), it usually comes down after. So this week, even though I was NOT especially diligent over the holiday--I showed a 1 lb. loss! YIPPEE! Nothing is as great as skipping the post-holiday-I-hate-myself-for-eating syndrome! It's very inspiring!

(I did do a few diligent things--like eating only half a sandwich at the Atlanta aquarium and spending a whopping $4.25 for a cup of fruit to go with it to make sure I would. . . it's very unlike me (but probably very much like MizFit) to leave half of anything on my plate!)

I have passed my goal of doing all the stair climbing to pull down the Christmas decorations. I did passably well. Perhaps not as energetic, with as many times up and down as I had hoped for, but enough to make my calves sore and to feel like I at least helped my son-in-law. (We won't ask him if he felt the same way.)

And! My house is almost completely decorated for Christmas. This is no small challenge with all the stuff I have! I've been POOPED the last 2 days getting it all up.

I am feeling especially grateful for the memories I will keep of my sweet , sweet granddaughters who helped me. Their distractions to stop and play with the Christmas village and interrogate--err I mean interview--(complete with pad & pencil to mark the responses) of the various stuffed Santas was as much of a help to me (maybe more!) than their literal help of hanging ornaments or making decisions about what to put where.

Oh, and there was also playing with the Peanuts figurines from my little skating pond by putting them in the red dress-up gloves I have that were way too big for little one's hands, but oh such a cute fit for the feet! (Think chicken "toes!")

Work beckons. . .