Dec 27, 2007

The Christmas Update

Ok, I'm slow these days - blame it on "the baby ate my brain" syndrome! But after reading Greta's great Christmas rundown, I really have to.

The best thing I can say about Christmas is that it's over. I didn't used to feel that way but these days it seems like one unending round of duty and obligation - and, no, I don't mean the shopping. I enjoy the shopping... and the wrapping. It's the being social with people I don't particularly have anything in common with (i.e., John's family) that is absolutely drag out tiring and, really, when it comes down to it, being short on cash sucks.

But there were some good things...

The absolute highlight of my Christmas was singing the Lessons & Carols service with the choir at South Church in New Britain. The choir is quite good and very nice, the music was challenging, the director is awesome, and they made me feel really welcome and valued as a guest.

The next best thing was that my rolls came out wonderfully and I was able to co-opt John's niece who went to culinary school into making the gravy so I didn't have to. Yes, for some reason, making gravy scares the shit out of me. Probably because the first time I made it, it turned out more like chicken-flavored jello than gravy and my family has never let me live it down. And, yes, I do realize it's sad that the second best thing about Christmas was great rolls.

Beyond that, it was pretty typical. Christmas Eve, we hosted dinner here for 15 (John's family; was supposed to be 20 but one family came down with a nasty puke bug - ugh!). It went well. I meant to get a picture of the table but forgot in the rush to get stuff done. I made the cutest little place cards tied to miniature candy canes.

My home choir had the 10 a.m. Mass to sing on Christmas morning so we woke Katie up at 8 to check out her Santa loot. After spending 1.5 hours blowing this damn thing up the night before, she couldn't have cared less. Not only was my ass killing me from using the footpump, I was brokenhearted because I was sure she was going to love it. She did wind up liking some of her wrapped non-Santa presents that we opened after Church - including her favorite which was a box of toy pots and pans and dishes that were mine when I was a kid. Then we spent the afternoon with John's family at his sister's house. An absolute madhouse but Katie got some lovely (and non-annoying!!) stuff. And then I worked Christmas night.

So what did I get? I got a Starbucks card from a WONDERFUL fellow blogger - it was a huge surprise and Very, Very Appreciated. I got the aforementioned resin snowman lamp (by the way, it's no longer on offer - I was able to regift it to a woman who loved it thoroughly!) from my work draw. And from John's family draw, I got a donation to Habitat for Humanity and a $25 Nordstrom gift card. I was thinking shoes but then I realized (a) $25 isn't going to buy much in the way of shoes at Nordstrom and (b) Nordstrom has a MAC counter... Hee hee!

What was cool is that John's teenage niece (not the culinary school grad) absolutely *loved* the scarf I got her. It's pretty hard to impress a late teenager - all that insufferable ennui - but I did and I was very happy about that.

So, that's our Christmas in a nutshell - which seems appropriate coming from this nut. I hope you all had a wonderful day!

We are headed out to my brother's house in PA for this weekend and I will be without my laptop in a house of tremendously early risers so you probably won't be hearing from me for a while so Happy New Year!!


Dec 23, 2007

Of Christmas Lights, Grab Bags, and Loneliness

Topic 1:
First off, we are all ok. The house is ok. BUT it might not be so if a guy driving by didn't happen to look at our house from exactly the right spot at exactly the right time.

Our outdoor Christmas lights caught fire! We think that, with the bad weather, something got wet and there was a short in one of the light sets but who really knows. What we do know is this: the Christmas lights went out at some point, John was out blowing the driveway, a guy in a big van stopped, got out, and raced down the driveway to John. (I was watching from the house wondering "why are the Christmas lights out? I could've sworn I turned them on!".) Then they both come racing to the house. There is a small electrical fire right by the base of the door frame that flamed up just as the guy happened to look out as he happened to drive by. It melted the prongs of the plug off into the extension cord but, fortunately, we caught it and unplugged everything before the porch or the doorframe caught fire. There was a lot of soot but the wood all appears to be whole and unburnt.

So, even if I receive nothing else for Christmas, I am grateful that we are unscathed.

Topic 2:
If anyone out there wants a resin snow man lamp that I got in our office gift exchange, let me know. It's a snowman holding a banner that a cat is sleeping on. The light bulb comes out of a pole that starts at the base and curves around the snowman and straightens over his head. It takes a nightlight bulb and has a countryish lampshade. It's certainly cute but it doesn't fit my house in the slightest. (I tend toward Craftsman and Victorian eclectia rather than kitsch.) I'd love someone to have it that would have a place for it! (I'm too lazy to get up and take/upload/post a picture - sorry!)

Topic 3:
Have you ever noticed how lonely one can be even if one is surrounded by people? Everyone is home now but I'm feeling awfully lonely tonight. I think, in part, it's the post-performance letdown (I sang with a local church choir this afternoon for their Lessons & Carols service - it was nice to do some more challenging music including a fascinating, tonally shifting, 8+ part divisi Magnificat (Finzi - interestingly, the piece was commissioned for the Smith and Amherst College Choirs back in 1952 - small world kind of thing)). At any rate, we did go to the party afterward and I'm glad we went though we had to leave really early because we didn't have a sitter. I had a pretty good time which is more than I usually do at parties - they are a real effort for me: too many people. At any rate, somehow, now that we're home and Katie and John have gone to bed and I'm working (technically), I feel even more alone than normal. It was a great time - the rehearsals and the performance - and I got to be with grownups sans kid. As with the bad things, the good things also fall under the "this, too, shall pass" description.

I probably won't post again before Christmas so let me wish you all holiday filled with all good things and, most especially, peace on Earth and good will to all.

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Dec 16, 2007

Baby Update

We had our first Level II ultrasound on Thursday.

The baby looks healthy and "normal". Growth rates are right on target. She weighs about 9 oz now.

Yep, "she". Looks like we'll be adding another little girl our family. John's a little disappointed but not nearly like he was when Katie was in utero. He's realized that he can, indeed, have fun with a little girl too.

She's kicking me in the bladder right now - LOL. Glad I can finally feel her occasionally - reassures me to no end.

P.S. That wonderfully inappropriate Santa candleholder? (The one with the tree star stuck up his, er, boomba?) Katie knocked it off the table yesterday and it broke. Sigh. She also shattered my carved soapstone egg with the carved swan inside it. It was a destructive day.

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Dec 11, 2007

You Asked For It... Or, Rather, Someone Did...

I didn't realize how carried away I'd gotten taking pix of the holiday decorations until I put them up at Photobucket. Logically, this means I should trim down the number I post here, right? Since when was I ever logical? If you didn't catch my prior post on Midtown Plaza, please make sure to read that one too! Ok, lots and lots of pictures, coming up.

First, the party specific pix:
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These tables did, actually, wind up being much fuller by an hour into the party when I was finally really ready for company!

Ok, then here's what those same areas look like without the party food:
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Ok, then I started feeling bad for the parts of the house that weren't party specific. (Remember, hormonal pregnant woman here...)
The front hall:
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
The living room:
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(those were the appropriate Santas)
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(these are the inappropriate ones below)
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The tree, hidden by the child/cat proofing cat:
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And finally:
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Dec 9, 2007

They Paved Paradise to Put Up a Parking Lot

Of course, a mall isn't exactly paradise, I suppose, and a corporate headquarters isn't exactly a parking lot either, for that matter.

But what "paradise" is, of course, depends on the person defining it. To a kid from East Nowhere in Upstate, NY, paradise was Midtown Plaza in Rochester.

Midtown was the nation's first enclosed shopping mall and was completed in 1962. It had a couple of office buildings and department stores attached and/or linked by skyway. My dad worked for Lincoln Rochester Trust/Lincoln Alliance/Lincoln First Bank/Chase Lincoln First in the Plaza and related office buildings for 29 years, I worked a couple of college summers as a bank teller in the Midtown branch and a summer in the leasing department in the Seneca building, my mom and my sister also worked for the Bank in the attached buildings. In fact, in this video (Midtown Plaza in 1963), you can actually see my dad. In the scene where there are people looking through little windows at the construction, he's the third man from the left (the big guy with no hat).

But, when I was little, Midtown wasn't a place to work. Oh sure, people worked there - my dad did, of course - but, no, for a five year old, it was a fantastical kingdom, a place where Santa was real and lived on a glistening mountain that a monorail went through. After gingerly visiting Santa, we'd cross the skywalk to Sibley's department store and walk through their holiday dioramas to a little shopping area they'd set up just for kids.

From the glittering palace that was B. Forman (another department store) to the high-ceilinged dining room at Sibley's with its two-story, drapery clad windows where they served your milkshake still in the metal mixing cup so that you could have seconds, from McCurdy's (also a department store) with it's wonderfully helpful staff, a "lunchroom" that was nicer than most restaurants today, and a bakery filled with innumerable treats, even the long shiny escalators that went from the underground parking garage and the clock - that magical clock that featured hourly music and dancing marionettes from countries around the world - it was a place of unparalleled elegance to a kid from a cowtown that never saw much more than pastures and orchards.

Now, it's 85% vacant and scheduled to be demolished next year to make way for the corporate headquarters of a telecom company. I understand, oh I do understand, but it makes me so sorrowful to lose a place that was symbolic to me of all that was to be yearned for as a child.

You see, homesick isn't about geography; homesick is about a state of mind, a state of being and, try as we might, we truly cannot go home again and recapture what was in the same way we experienced it the first time. I know this. But I did so hope to bring my daughter there one day and see her delight in the monorail that run a circuit around the center court and through Magic Mountain where Santa sat in stately array waiting for good little boys and girls to present their fervent pleas for their heart's delight.

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Dec 6, 2007

For Jade

Because I didn't manage to make her puke last night...
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Don't Click if Easily Offended

This One Either

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Dec 3, 2007

I'm Proud of You

"I'm proud of you."
"Pride goeth before a fall."
"It is better to lose your pride with someone you love rather than to lose someone you love with your useless pride." (unk.)
"And nothing to look backward to with pride, and nothing to look forward to with hope." (Robert Frost)
"Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves; vanity, to what we would have others think of us." (Jane Austen)

What is it about pride? We strive for it; we disdain it. We both commend and condemn it in others. But, really, what is it? Is it the self esteem we crave or, as Jane Austen suggests above, the esteem of others?

I have been thinking on pride today in a roundabout way today - about how much reward there is in hearing someone else say "I'm proud of you." I do not ever recall my parents saying that to me - I'm sure they must have at some point but my mother, in particular, was (and is) one to whom there is no superlative, no high compliment appropriate for her children as there is always room for improvement and, after all, they might get too proud of themselves.

Is it, therefore, pride in ourselves that is so abominable, pride in our achievements? Or is it the craving of the approval of others? The satisfaction of having someone else be proud of you? I am beginning to think that, like most things, there should be a middle-of-the-road word that covers the appropriate amount of "pride" - enough so that it is healthy but not so much as to be obnoxious.

It is unfortunate, I think, that many of the women I know do not take pride in their achievements. They downplay what they have accomplished if, indeed, they take note of it at all. I find this reflection brings me much sorrow for I know many, many women with many, many accomplishments to be proud of. For some, it may be a grand achievement of publishing a book or building a self-sustaining business; for others, simply making it from one end of the day to the other given all the burdens they must shoulder; for still others, fighting a constant battle against seemingly neverending forces to work toward their best and highest good.

I think that one of the most heartwarming things to hear from someone is not necessarily "I love you" but "I'm proud of you." "I love you" carries so many burdens and uncertainties with it but a heartfelt "I'm proud of you" brings nothing more than a real sense of accomplishment and gratification that someone else noticed your perseverance, your struggle.

I want each of you to know that, for so many reasons, I am proud of you and my wish for you this holiday season is that you experience genuine pride in your accomplishments and continued struggle against strife. You have each come through so much. Be proud of yourselves. You deserve it.

As Mr. Rogers sang, "I hope that you are proud of you too."

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