Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Tree

I didn’t grow up with a lot of family traditions. My parents were so busy trying to keep up with eight kids some of the finer points got missed. We decorated eggs for Easter and danced dangerous pirouettes with burning sparklers on Independence Day, sure. But quiet gatherings around Dad as he read the Christmas story? No, it was never that quiet. Eggnog and cookies while eight kids pushed and shoved to decorate the tree? Would the living room even have survived?

My children, I’m sad to say, were raised pretty much like I was. Oh, I squeaked in a few more traditions here and there, but having three kids in fewer than four years will suck up most of the energy and good intentions you have. Avoiding accidental death and dealing with whining were the major activities. We’re lucky we all survived.

So now that I have grandchildren I pay better attention to traditions. Okay, I pay attention to the daughter who is very conscious of tradition-making. Now we do annual apple-picking trips, visits to the Christmas light village, and try to do vacations as a group.

I wish we had those fond memories to look back on, both in my childhood and my children’s lives.

But I’m very proud to have instituted a new tradition, all on my own. The Thanksgiving Tree. I printed leaf shapes on goldenrod paper, cut them out with a grandchild, hole-punched them, and tied on loops. Then at a recent family dinner (a weekly tradition), we all sat down and wrote the things we’re thankful for. Some wrote three, some four or even more, until we ran out of leaf shapes.

We read them out loud before hanging them on a little tree in the dining room. There are some other answers, but most say, essentially, “family.”

I think we’re doing okay.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Gift Shopping Frenzy

The holiday season is almost upon us, and you know what that means. Everyone gets a gift!

I’m not good at gifts. First of all, I don’t like to shop. Unless it’s books or kitchen stuff for myself. Second, I am not good at listening to others and making note of the books, music or games they’re coveting, and have to ask outright, “What do you want?” or go with a (Thank-God-they-make-them-or-you’d-all-get-sausage-and-cheese-gift-sets) gift card.

Almost everyone collects something. Figurines, sports memorabilia, antique hat pins. Makes it easy to shop for them for Christmas and birthdays—just buy the latest bear figurine in the collection. But I didn’t collect anything. (Well, books. I find them everywhere—gift shops, antique shops, even in actual book stores. And, no, I’m not a book hoarder. Don’t listen to my husband; I never do.)

People have tried to force me to collect things. When I asked my 90-year-old grandmother for something meaningful to remember her by, she gave me an ugly frog figurine. People thought it was so funny my one heirloom was a hideous frog they started bringing me more.

Then I confessed my loathing for squirrels (see my blog post Squirrel Dreams for my rational and intellectual reasons why), and certain family members now look for squirrelly items to torture me with.

So in self defense I decided on a collection I could live with, nightmare-free. (If that doesn’t make sense to you, I remind you of the Squirrel Dreams post mentioned previously. Now maybe you’ll listen the first time I tell you something.) I settled on salt and pepper sets.

But then I added a codicil. Not just any salt and pepper sets. They had to mean something to me, such as the oxen/covered wagon ones to honor my obsession with the 1800s pioneer journey west. Asparagus ones to memorialize the two summers I spent as a teenager picking asparagus for a cool $1/hour. Corn ones for the incredible sweet corn Uncle LaVern grew and shared with us.

My insistence that the s&p’s mean something to me, though, makes it nearly impossible for others to add to my collection. Oops. Kind of defeated my purpose. So last Christmas most of my gifts were books or gift cards to bookstores.

I couldn’t have planned it better if I’d tried.

Remember, if you don’t want a lovely sausage and cheese gift basket it’s time to throw obvious hints my way. Let the holiday shopping frenzy begin!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Rolling with the Punches

I caught myself wishing it wasn’t drizzling with rain so I could grill on my Big Green Egg. (Don’t know what a BGE is? Oh, you’ve got to come to my house for a burger or my Unbelievable Chicken. I’ve tried the same recipes on the countertop grill and blah. The hardwood charcoal does something to the food. Besides adding carcinogens.)

Back to wishing. When it comes to weather, sometimes it feels like I’m wishing my life away. I wish the weather was cold so we could snuggle up in front of the fire—without the TV on, John! Or chilly so we could roast hot dogs over the metal fire pit outside. Or warm so we could eat dinner on the patio, or eat at one of the many sidewalk cafĂ©s downtown. I wish it wouldn’t rain so we could enjoy the outdoors. Then I wish it would rain so we wouldn’t have to go through the guilt of wasting a precious resource to water grass, or the frustration of letting all that expensive “bought” grass die.

I wish a lot of things. I find myself wishing I had one of those automatic doohickeys that scoot all over the floor to clean it so I wouldn’t have to mop. Then I think, as long as I’m wishing, why don’t I wish for a cleaning lady who could do that dang shower, too?

I’m sure you have situations in your life you wish were different. Health, a love relationship, family strife, a sad or tragic loss. We find ourselves looking back and wishing things were different. One little change and life would be so much better.

You can spend a lot of time dwelling in yesterdays, what-ifs, wishing things were different. Or you can work through it, deal with what is, and not worry about how much better it might be if your wishes were fulfilled. Roll with the punches, and you may even enjoy some of the rolls.

I choose to roll.