Friday, November 16, 2007

News of Today....Shocking Stuff....and a Sad Commentary on Our Nation's Unwillingness to Help the Less Fortunate

Today's Headlines:

Okay. May I just say....fascinating story. Really. Another Hollywood starlet drives drunk, again, and is harshly punished by having to spend less than an hour and a half behind bars. For those of you who have failed to keep up with this riveting case, let me recap: Ms. Lohan was cited for drunken driving offenses twice, the first time when she crashed her Mercedes into a tree. Both instances, Ms. Lohan was found to be in possession of cocaine. But hey, they were small amounts of cocaine so let's not get too carried away with the condemnation of the poor dear. The judge, a severe taskmaster if ever there was one, sentenced her to four days in jail, which is the mandatory minimum for a second drunken driving offense. (He then gave her credit for 24 hours already served.) Ms. Lohan then opted to complete 10 days of community service (would love to know what that entailed!) in lieu of 48 hours in jail (thank goodness she was given that choice!), thereby bringing her total plea deal to this: she had to enter treatment (and goodness knows she could afford the best in rehab/spa locations), spend a day in jail (since when did a day translate to 84 minutes????) and perform that mysteriously unknown community service. Wow. When I think of that pitiful child languishing behind bars (or rather, in the inmate reception area) for those long, painful 84 minutes, I get all choked up. Luckily, I've become nearly immune from the outrage I used to feel at the way our justice system treats sad, defenseless girls like Lindsay and Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton. I mean, after suffering along with Paris in her tribulations and then witnessing the degradation that sad little Nicole endured with her 82 minutes in jail (also for her 2nd DUI conviction, but who's counting, right?), well....I'm pretty much drained of my ability to stand up and fight against such atrocities. That's what happens when we, as a society, don't stand up and defend the first becomes that much easier to stand silently by when the next person is targeted. And the next. And the next and so on. Soon, we've lost the ability to defend even the most precious amongst Little Lindsay Lohan. (heavy sigh, heavy heavy sigh). Seems like our nation's willingness to show sympathy and support for those less fortunate has gone the way of my Christmas Decorating spirit...that is to say, into a black hole from which I fear it may never be recovered. Ah well...what can you do? Lindsay, Paris, Nicole...they're all young and strong and I'm sure they'll bounce back from what our country has done to them. Now Britney? Whoa, now. That's a whole different story. Just don't even get me started!

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P.S. I have got to quit reading the news online. Remember when your mom used to tell you that if you "kept rolling your eyes like that", they'd stick that way? I'm afraid that's what's going to happen to me if I read one more piece of "news" like this. And what is "news" anyway? I thought it was stories of things we needed to know. But I was wrong, Scooter. "News" is whatever titillates our senses...the dumber, the more salacious and the more vacuous the better, apparently. Geez. I weep for the future of our country. I truly, truly do. The good news is, we'll be too stupid to realize we're sinking into oblivian because our I.Q.'s will have been lessened so much by garbage like this "news" story. Hey, who says there's not a silver lining in everything, eh?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Book Reports

I thoroughly enjoy reading Dick Francis books. (Are any of you fans of his also?) I recently read Dead Heat, which was written by Dick and his son, Felix Francis. I wasn't too sure how good it would be. You know how it is sometimes when a really good author starts "sharing" writing duties and credits with someone new. But I thought I'd give it a chance since I've been such a fan. And am I glad I did! Dead Heat was a pretty good read, well worth the cost of the book and the time it took to read it. And here's a little bonus part (for me). Some of you may have read on my blog that Sophie at Sophie Honeysuckle's English Decor sent me a package a while back. She had included a little box of something called OXO (something I had never heard of before but which I've since come to know is actually beef bouillon cubes used for cooking). Anyway, somewhere around Chapter 7 of the book came this passage:

"We were in the restaurant of the OXO Tower, on the eighth floor overlooking the City of London Skyline."

I was thrilled! Here was this book by one of my favorite authors and it was mentioning something that my good friend Sophie had just introduced me to! Yeah, okay, so maybe it's kind of goofy that I was so thrilled to read that, but I was and, in fact, still am. So there. The passage continued on for a bit, explaining the architecture of the OXO Building, which was fascinating to read. All in all (and even without the reference that reminded me of Sophie! ha), this was a very good book and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a good murder and/or mystery. Er...I mean a good fictional murder and/or mystery, of course! For a synopsis and other reviews of this book, click here.

Next, I read Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson. This was, in my humble opinion, a terrible read. Absolutely terrible. I couldn't even finish it, it was so bad. I was going to outline exactly why I thought this book was so stupid, but really...I just don't think I can bear to relive it enough to do that for you. Suffice it to say, I thought the writing was juvenile, rife with redundancies and sometimes, just downright ludicrous. For a synopsis and other reviews of this book, click here. But if you make the mistake of attempting to read Sweet Revenge, don't say I didn't warn you!

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P.S. Before anyone starts sending me hate mail because you disagree with my "reviews" of these books, please keep in mind that this is just my opinion. I'm entitled to have it. And you're entitled to disagree with it. Just keep it clean, will 'ya? It won't be necessary to question my parentage and/or my mating habits in order to point out our differences of opinion. Understood?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My Christmas Mea Culpa

This is a pretty long post. (I am long-winded, aren't I?) If you want to read it, you might want to grab yourself a cup of coffee first! lol Here's a newsflash for everyone who knows me: I LOVE CHRISTMAS! I love it, love it, love it! I love the glitter, the sparkle, the sounds, the shopping, the food, the joy, the laughter, the music, the glow....I love it all. I can't get enough of it. But there's one thing I don't like anymore and that's all the work of putting all of our Christmas stuff up. And make no mistake about it. It. Is Work. Now I don't know about the rest of you, but for equals stress. And stress equals crankiness. And crankiness equals me arguing with anyone crazy enough to present me with a problem. That crazy person happened to be Randey this year. Randey really got into decorating the outside of the house this past year. He and the neighbor had a bit of a competition going on (although I think Paula may have gotten the best of him when she bought the Santa's Sleigh Landing Strip Lights. lol). After last Christmas, Randey went and bought more lights. A lot more lights. Great idea, right? Yeah. Except we live in a two story house on a lot that slopes rather sharply on the north side and we also only have 2 electrical outlets on the outside of the house. I don't care who you are, it's just too damn difficult to try and attach lights to the roof line of a two story house with nothing to stand on but a too-short ladder. And can we just stop and think a minute about the safety factor in trying to plug approximately 3500 lights into only 2 outlets? (And if you think I'm being sarcastic here, you should have heard me in person. I was shameful. Truly shameful.) Obviously, these two things...lack of a tall enough ladder and a shortage of electrical outlets, are a problem. Randey, in all his eagerness to get the lights up, didn't take the time to consider these problems. At any time. All year long. From the end of last Christmas until this past weekend, he never sought to obtain a taller ladder and/or scaffolding, nor did he ever call an electrician to see about installing a couple of extra breakers. Lucky for him, he had a very frustrated and overwhelmed wife (that'd be me) who was knee deep in interior Christmas decorations to point out to him just how poorly planned his lighting extravaganza mission was. Oh and I didn't just point it out...I pretty much hammered it in. Why you ask? Well...when my screeching reached a decibel level that has been known to break glass, I stopped and asked myself that same question. Why was I so ticked at him? The answer was very simple. I was overwhelmed with my part of the Christmas decorating and was taking it out on him. Randey's interest in outdoor decorating is fairly new but every year, I'm the one who decorates the inside of our home for Christmas. Randey and the kids would help get the Christmas stuff out of the garage or the attic or wherever it happened to be stored and then I would put it up. It's my fault that I'm the one who always did it. I was a perfectionist. The ornaments has to be put on "just so" and the ribbon garland had to drape, wind and curl at "just the right angles" and the lights had to be put on the tree and in the evergreen garland a certain way. Blah, blah, blah. (Although, in my defense on that one, I did ask Randey to put the lights on the tree one year with instructions to be sure and wrap the lights around and along the branches - you know, deep into the tree! He thought I meant wrap every twig on every branch. That little 6 1/2 foot tree had 1535 lights on it before he was done! lol You could have landed an airplane by it. In fact, it was so bright, we had to put flashers in because it hurt to look at the tree with all the lights on at the same time!). The kids did get to help put the hooks on the ornaments, etc. and, when they got older, they got to help put the ornaments on the tree. But there was never any doubt that the Christmas decorating was my bailiwick. Well, over the years...our collection of Christmas decorations has grown a little. Oh okay, so it's grown a lot. Like I said in a previous post, we have 43 boxes of stuff now. However, you have to understand that 2 of those boxes are outdoor stuff and about another 5 or 6 are the Christmas trees themselves. So see? That means we only have about 35 or 36 boxes of stuff. (Okay so that doesn't sound as reasonable when I see it in print as it did when I thought it in my head). But anyway, we now have so much stuff that it absolutely overwhelms me when I go to put it all up. A few years ago, I even went through it all and gave a good bit to Nick and Jodie (my son and his wife) but I just can't seem to help myself...I'm always getting more and more and more. I love seeing all the stuff up. I do. It warms my heart like you wouldn't believe. But it's just too much to do by myself. And there's no little kids, like Maddy, around to love it with me. Kaleb and Jacob like it, sure. But they don't like it enough to not see it as a chore when they're asked to help with it. So...where was I headed with this story...oh the middle of the knock down drag out that Randey and I were engaging in over what I thought was his severe lack of planning, I realized that we have one of these fights every year over something. You can almost set your calendar by it. Then I started questioning why we have this annual screamfest. And the answer is stress, I think. I'm so stressed out by my house being basically trashed for the week it takes me to put everything up that I'm almost certifiable. I mean geez, you know, it's more than just putting the Christmas stuff up. First you have to pack away your every day stuff...the knick-knacks, pillows, throws, etc., etc., etc. Then you have to clean everything in sight (and even some stuff that's out of sight!) and then you have to put up all the garland...garland over the windows, the shelves, the archways, the doors....garland everywhere (I love that. A room all decked out with twinkling evergreen garland. Ahhhhh. And this is why I have such a problem...I can't even explain why I'm not decorating every inch of my house this year without going on and on about how much I love seeing it done! I. Must. Seek. Therapy!) Then you have to rearrange your furniture to put the tree in a good spot and then you have to make sure you have all the electrical things evenly spaced out so you're not overloading any one circuit and then before you know it, you're overwhelmed!! Or at least, I am. So I stopped in the middle of decorating this year. I had gotten the garland up in the living room and the pre-lit tree put up (with the boys' help - see? they will help, just not for hours on end! lol), I got the ribbon garland wound around that tree, the village set up on the bookshelves and I got a few knick-knacks unpacked. But that's as far as I got before The Big Blowout. Afterwards, I decided that fighting every single year was a horrible way to "celebrate" the holidays. I'm crushed to think that my kids have had to hear this probably just about every Christmas season of their lives and that's what they remember! Not the glitter, the wonder, the joy...but their crazy, stressed out mother screaming like a fishwife at their father over something that really should have been "discussed", not fought over. So I stopped unpacking the Christmas stuff and sent everything back up to the attic. I've got my house back in order and I'm working really hard on thinking about the meaning of the season and not the "winter wonderland" I always want to create in our home. It's not the decorations that matter, it's the feelings we have for one another. Having said that, I have to admit that I miss the "stuff", though. I look at my snowman advent and I miss seeing all the other snowmen we've collected over the years. I see the big snowglobe Susan got me one year and I miss seeing all the other ones, too. I see my "Yule Burner Talking Log" my sister gave me for my birthday back in 1999 (?) and I miss the animated Dalmation named Dipstick that I bought in '97. I see my walls, laid bare in spots, and I miss the Christmas wall decorations that I put up year in and year out. But these are things I miss. I think I've been very selfish every year at Christmas and have decorated mainly for myself. As much as I miss seeing it all this year, I just can't bring myself to ask Randey and the boys to help me put it up. I'm sure they would do it, but I don't think they'd do it out of joy. They'd do it as a chore, I think. And that's not what the season is supposed to be about. They have chores enough without making Christmas one, too. So I'm learning to adjust to what is probably "normal" to everyone else. lol And if I could just look at our Christmas tree with it's "minimalistic" ornamentation without thinking "geez, that's the MOST unattractive tree we've ever, ever had", I'm sure this would go a lot easier for me! (I usually have so many ornaments on the tree that you can barely tell it is a tree underneath them all!)

So what's the lesson to be learned here? I'll tell you...don't just love the pageantry of the season yourself...teach your children to love the wonder of creating it with you! (Or maybe the lessen is even more basic than that...maybe you should just have fewer decorations than a crazy woman such as myself feels the need to collect. lol) Seriously though, I've managed to teach my children over the years that I love the atmosphere of sparkle and wonder. But I failed to teach them to. I wish I'd asked them to help way back when they would have thought it was fun and I particularly wish I had kept in mind that "perfect" is best left to God. Maybe then our decorating would have been a fun, family event instead of a time of stress and fighting. Live and learn, eh? (But I have really got to work more on that whole "learn your lesson while the lesson still counts" concept, you know it?) And I have really, really got to learn to love that fugly tree....

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christmas Jars

***Edited to Add: If any of you get the urge to pass this idea along, please feel free to do so. As I said, I "borrowed" the thought from Kathy at Remembering the Moments and she got the idea from a message board. I read her post and thought "oh what a great idea", but didn't think of blogging about it myself until she responded to my comment and actually suggested I could do so. Thank you, Kathy!!!

Kathy, over at Remembering the Moments, did a post the other day about the book Christmas Jars. A brief synopsis of the book is as follows:

In the book, a journalist happens upon a human interest story that winds up teaching her lessons about love and forgiveness and renewing her own faith in human kindness. On Christmas Eve, twenty-something Hope Jensen is quietly grieving the recent loss of her adoptive mother when her apartment is robbed. The one bright spot in the midst of Hope's despair is a small jar full of money someone has anonymously left on her doorstep. Eager to learn the source of this unexpected generosity, Hope uses her newswoman instincts to find other recipients of "Christmas jars," digging until her search leads her to the family who first began the tradition of saving a year's worth of spare change to give to someone in need at the holiday. (The above information was taken from a review by Publishers Weekly on Amazon)

More than just it being a Christmassy type story though, what really grabbed my attention was the actual concept of having a Christmas jar. I think it's a wonderful way to touch someone's life during the holidays. When I think back on all the hard candy Christmases before I met Randey when I couldn't afford anything special for Nicholas (and later Des, when she came along), I ache a little bit inside at how alone I often times felt. Luckily, I did have people to help me. My mom, Aunt Ginger, Uncle Mike, my grandparents, my sister and brother-in-law...all these people (and others) reached out and helped to give my children some happy memories of opening presents on Christmas morning. And even after Randey and I were married, when Kaleb and Jacob came along, we had some pretty tough Christmases then, too. Again, we had family that reached out to help us. But, after hearing of these Christmas jars, I thought how wonderful it would have been to have received the kindness of strangers. The thing about family helping is that sometimes, you think they probably feel obligated to help you. Do you know what I mean? I'm not saying they didn't help out of love, but sometimes I had to wonder if they felt like there would never come a time when we didn't need their help to provide things for our kids. I think that to have had a stranger, a total and complete stranger, reach out to us during the holidays would have felt...oh, I don't know how to say someone out there saw us for what we were...a young family struggling to give our children happy memories of that most special holiday. And that someone decided to help us with that. Not because they felt sorry for us or because they knew us or because they wanted recognition for making our lives just a tad bit brighter, but because they just wanted to give joy. Period. I don't mean to lessen the love and the help given to us by people we knew. I'm merely trying to explain how it might have felt to have a stranger look on us with kindness at a time when the world could feel awfully big while we felt awfully small. Anyway...this concept of the Christmas jars has captured my attention in a big way. I read that some people are even giving a copy of the book along with an empty jar to people on their Christmas list so that they, too, might come to understand and participate in what could grow to be a treasured Christmas tradition for their families. Me and mine will be talking this over. I just have to convince Randey that all his change should go towards a complete stranger instead of towards his "mad money" stash. lol He's kind of a softie at heart, though, so I don't think it'll take much convincing. And Kaleb's always generous of spirit so he's a shoo in, too. Now Jake...Jake may take some talking

Look what I saw when I turned around after having checked my e-mail. Sydney the Wonder Dog had followed me upstairs...that part's normal...but he usually curls up on his giant pillow or on the couch. This morning, though, I guess the baby Vader and baby Yoda looked like good company because that's where he decided to spend his morning. Is this not the cutest dog in the whole wide world? Yes, he is. Say it. Yes, Sydney the Wonder Dog is the cutest dog in the whole wide world. There you go. It's good to tell the truth now isn't it?

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Generation of Heroes

This is a picture of my son Nick with his fellow aircrew members from a couple of years ago. That's Nick on the left. All of these young people...heroes every one. I came across this picture when I was looking for some of the military pictures for the previous post and every time I see this, I have to pause and reflect on how brave these individuals are...and how they don't see themselves that way. As Nick's mother, I have to say I am oh so proud of his spirit and his heart and yet I am terrified because of them. They are what give him the courage to do his job, a job that sometimes involves our country's enemies firing upon the aircraft he's flying in. And that is almost too much for any mother to think of on any given day because these are our babies, our sons, our daughters, our precious children. And perversely, they are the ones keeping us safe with their bravery. It boggles the mind.
Nicholas, you are my definition of a hero (yeah, that smart mouth of yours are a hero, son.) And I love you.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For the Veterans in Our Family

Many, many members of my family have served (and some are still serving) this great country of ours. Today, I would like to honor them for putting their lives on the line for our freedoms. My father, Joe. Dad served in 3 branches of the military, finally retiring from the United States Air Force Reserves. Pictures are, from left to right, of Dad in his Air Force blues, Dad when he was in the United States Navy and Dad when he was a member of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. (He joined the Guard illegally, at the age of 16, then did a hitch in the Navy and then signed up with the Air Force. )
My husband, Randey, who is currently serving in the United States Air Force Reserves after having spent 10 years on active duty.
My precious son, Nicholas, who is serving in the United States Air Force and has flown in too many combat missions for me to count.
My mother, Betty, who retired from the United States Air Force Reserves.

My darling Uncle Wally, who retired from the United States Navy (yes, guys...this is Aunt Sandi's husband).
My brother-in-law, Ken, who retired from the United States Air Force Reserves after first having spent around 10 years in active duty.
My nephew, Joseph, who is currently serving in the United States Air Force Reserves.
My step-father-in-law, Wally, who retired from the United States Navy.
My Uncle Mac, who served in the United States Navy.

My brother-in-law, Andrew, who is retired from the United States Army.

I have many other relatives that served in the military whose pictures aren't shown. They include my Uncle Lonnie, who retired from the United States Army; my step-father, Jack, who retired from the United States Navy; my cousin Alonna, who served in the United States Air Force Reserve; my cousin Don (Dutchie) who retired from the United States Air Force; my uncle Don, who served in the United States Air Force; my cousin Stephen, who served in the United States Army; my cousin Frank, who served in the United States Army; my husband's step-brother, Scott, who is currently serving in the United States Air Force Reserves; my Great Uncle, Sentiff Charles McBride, who served in the United States Navy back in the 1930's; and my Great Uncle Hiram Wallace McBride, Jr., who served with the Office of Strategic Services back in WW II and is a true, blue American hero. In fact, all of these people are heroes to me. You all have done, or are doing, a job that can often times be downright thankless. But I thank you...every moment of every day that I breathe free air, I thank you.

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