HOLIDAY GIFT HELPER

While waiting at the AT&T store the other day, I came across a website that has been more entertaining to me than Pinterest. You see, Pinterest is all this perfectly beautiful food, craft projects, closet organization, and lists of delightful and entertaining projects to do with your children over the weekend that include more than ten supplies you do not have on hand and will end with you feeling like a terrible parent. Who needs that? Nobody. What we need are gift ideas that don’t suck and that can be ordered online.

As I’ve been perusing my new addiction, fancy.com, I’ve come across some items I thought would either make GREAT Christmas gifts or stocking stuffers. In the interest of good deeds and the brotherhood of man, yadayadayada, I’m sharing the ideas I’ve found. They’re mostly very affordable and often are not alcohol related. (Gasp!)

Except this first one. This is a carry on cocktail kit, capable of making two delicious old-fashioneds.

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Then there’s this – what guy doesn’t want a switchblade mustache comb? You can bet he won’t already have one, that’s for sure.

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Selfie sticks are all the rage, but the next big thing? The bike selfie. This can’t possibly go wrong.

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This is in honor of someone I know who apparently used to spend some time at work doing exactly this, only without the handy-dandy nap apparatus.

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Know someone who’s artsy or a Warhol fan, or both?

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Have a friend or family member who likes walking in the rain? Give them their own rainbow. Or color wheel. Whatever.

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This heart shaped umbrella is adorable. Looks like a scene from a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie. Yes, I’m old.

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Goth coffee lover? Pirate pal? Try this spoon.

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Okay, here’s another alcohol related gift. You know there had to be at least one more.

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Personally, that glass is almost cool enough (no pun intended) to make me drink liquor straight like that. Almost.

Let’s just get the last wine-o gift out of the way. In my defense, it’s also coffee related.

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Let’s say someone has had a few cocktails and is stumbling to the bathroom later that night, but doesn’t want to turn on that BRIGHT bathroom light. I give you the toilet light. The light also alerts the ladies to the potential for that horrible moment we’ve all experienced at some point in life. (Shiver.) Priceless.

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I have no idea who to give these to, but I love them and you should too.

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Everyone has that geek friend. Watch them go nuts for this. I thought it was a fancy belt buckle at first.

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Just plain silliness? Yes, please. Pizza nails, anyone?

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How about cupcake liners that tell your fortune?

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And if you just give up and don’t purchase anything for your friends and family, distract them by wearing this.

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I think I’ll buy 7 of these to wear every day of the week.

Thanks, fancy.com!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL, HEAR ME SNORE

I missed a golden opportunity over the holidays to write about something very important to me. Something that is a special part of my life.  And by “special” I mean “sucky.”  I used to think women were exaggerating about being “football widows.” Now I think, “AMATEUR.” 

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(This was my expression through much of the holiday.)

I’ve been married for ten years. Every year is the same, yet I seem to block out the pain in blissful forgetfulness until it happens again. Each year I look forward to the 2 weeks of vacation I’ve hoarded so I can spend time at home, relaxing and enjoying some well deserved time off. 

And then reality strikes.

This vacation time is not about me.

It’s not about this celebratory time of year, the birth of Christ, the First Noel, Away in a Manager, family, togetherness, or even food.   

It’s about College Bowl Games.

It’s about a living room that is rearranged to accommodate two televisions and three men. Instead of Christmas carols, the house echos with the hum of the DVR, chanting crowds and achingly repetitive marching band horn sections.

Do you know how many Bowl Games there are?

I do.

35.

Thirty-five games between December 21st and January 6.

Thirty-five games that my college football addicted husband HAS to watch.

He’s in nirvana.

Seriously. Who needs to watch the Valero Bowl? Russell Athletic Bowl? Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl?  WHO? 

It’s times like this I decide I am either the most boring, unattractive woman on the planet, unworthy of time or attention… or I am married to a crazy person. (I lean toward crazy because he says things like, “We’d spend plenty of time together if you’d sit and watch the games with me.”)

Right. That’s happening.

He DID participate in the actual Christmas morning and Christmas eve traditions. But other than that I didn’t really get to enjoy the pleasure of his company until January 5th, when there was just ONE conveniently timed game.

Between you and me, by then, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted his company any more.

Lucky me! We actually made it to breakfast and American Hustle before the GoDaddy Bowl.

So this is my official notice. I am NOT taking 2 weeks off during the holidays next year. As Pete Townshend says, “I won’t be fooled again.”

No. Next year, after the last whistle of the LAST bowl game of the season, I will return to my home where I will re-introduce myself to my husband and pry the remote control from his death-grip.

And I will enjoy two weeks at home without football.

Just in time for the Super Bowl pre-pre-pre-game shows.

* Disclaimer: I DID watch the BCS National Championship and it WAS exciting. Maybe that’s because it was the last one of the season and I was drinking champagne.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Somehow, my whole life has become food related.

“What did you do for Easter?”

We ate at the club.

“What did you do this weekend?”

Ate at that new restaurant.

“What did you do last night?”

Ate blue point oysters and fresh halibut.

“What are you doing for Mother’s Day?”

Eating at a buffet where I can continue to stuff my face with cheese, crab, shrimp and pasta salad until I explode. Oh, and after that, have a big heaping helping of prime rib, thank you.

For someone who exercises maybe five times a year, I need to tap the brakes on this.

Robert isn’t helping. This weekend he became totally obsessed with what we were going to do for dinner Saturday night. He started emailing me about it Friday afternoon.  By Saturday afternoon he was in bad shape. The good news is, he KNEW he was obsessing, but somehow couldn’t stop himself.

The same thing happened in France. We had restaurant reservations almost daily for lunch and dinner. Again, I’m not complaining, but this cannot be good. What to eat. Where to eat it. How best to photograph it so you can show people on Facebook.  “Look! I’m eating! Isn’t it amazing!”

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How about this?

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Annoyed yet?

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What about now?

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Okay, now I’m depressed I have so many food pictures to choose from.

I can tell you for a fact, there are only two people interested in what you are eating. You and your mother.

And your mother doesn’t really care. She’s just being supportive because for once it’s not a picture of you with a drink in your hand.

(There may be a few exceptions.)

Sandy and I are currently planning a trip to London. The good news is, we don’t make a big deal out of lunch and dinner plans. We’re usually too busy trying to view every castle within a 20 mile radius and then get off our feet. We know for certain we will be eating fish and chips. Other than that, I have no gastronomical expectations. (Fill in your own joke about English food here.)

Regardless, I’m sure a few pictures of menu items will appear on my Facebook timeline. Or Twitter. Or both. After a couple of pints I will no doubt decide there are people out there waiting with breathless anticipation to see what I’m eating during my vacation. Apologies in advance.

Bon appetit!

 

* Picture #3 above is Robert’s invention. The Meat Tower. Sausage and bacon rest upon a bed of hash browns with grilled onion, drizzled in maple syrup. Heart attack on a plate, but oh so good.

THEY CALL IT “HOLIDAY SPIRIT” BECAUSE IT MAKES YOU WANT TO DRINK

Due to medication and someone having the terrible judgment (sorry, Mom, but it’s true sometimes), I was left to my own devices in the mall. As the story goes, Mom met me at Northpark Center to generously purchase my early Christmas present, birthday present and perhaps Easter gift, all in one.

Once she departed, I drifted over to Brookstone where I bought a FABULOUS new cover and keyboard to go with my FABULOUS new ipad. So far so good except the part that I left out about how my iPhone charger “socket?” is corroded, which is highly unusual and caused my numero uno IT contact at work – to whom I immediately sent an email from the store – to respond to my email with probing technical questions like,

-Are you using some “odd ball” charger?
-Are you working on the beach at the ocean?
-Have you tried not breathing on it?

He has promised to help me Monday if I bring him a flaxen haired fair maiden and two pigs. Not necessarily in that order.

ANYWAY, off I go with my new stuff… oh, I forgot to say I moved the car because this mall is BIG and I HATE malls, so I moved my car closer to where the Brookstone was so I would have to deal with less people NOT GETTING OUT OF MY WAY. (Can you even imagine how stressed I am when not on 10 mg of Valium?)

I do the deal at Brookstone and stroll (or power walk with elbows jutting out to take up as much space as possible so I don’t get knocked over by people) to the nearest exit (right by Macy’s) and drive happily away. Until I am 5 minutes from home in my medicated stupor and realize I did NOT go into Macy’s (the other reason for going to the mall) and pick up my new black riding boots and scrumptious patten leather pumps. You see, I had purchased them days ago but had to wait to pick them up until after the 28th to save 25% – and so they “THE MAN, i.e. Donald Trump” could lure me back into the shoe department.

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Instead, I had to return to the mall on Saturday. Saturday. In December. A MALL. I searched – and I am not joking – 40 minutes for a parking space which I found far, far away from my destination and put on my game face. You’ll have to take my word for it. Game face is SUPER SERIOUS and has been known to make people clasp their small children a little closer.

Guess what happens at Northpark Center in December? Holiday Events. LOTS of them.

EVERYWHERE.

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I passed Santa’s Toy Shoppe Puppet Theatre, Gingertown Dallas, and the Holiday Performance Area. Not sure what was happening there, but it involved a choir, then I saw them shove a bunch of semi-nude dancers on stage. The only explanation I can come up with for the costumes was that the next group – possibly the Cirque Dreams Holidaze – had absconded with every sequin in the tri-state area.

I made my way back out of Macy’s and crossed the mass of humanity watching the latest festive performance. Then and there, a Christmas miracle happened.

I was speeding unencumbered toward the exit, when from behind me in the performance area, I heard the strains of… Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries – and I smiled in victory.

HOLIDAY SIDE EFFECTS

For those who read A Pain in the Neck, you will understand that there is no possible way to take five prescriptions without there being some side effects. Mine range from heart burn, nausea, blurred vision, slurred speech, hallucinations, drowsiness, and a sudden desire to be crafty. As in MAKE CRAFTS.

It all began when Derek arrived home on Tuesday from Mizzou. I knew he was home because he’d parked the car in the driveway which makes it impossible for me to drive UP the driveway and pull into the garage. Austin arrived Wednesday. Once the boys are here, the world revolves around football. Wait, I take that back. Whether the boys are here or not, the world revolves around football. College football.

Despite the drug cocktail, I knew I was licked. As I tossed back a Valium with a glass of Chardonnay I had a brilliant idea. It normally takes a wild pack of dogs to get the boys to bring the trusty artificial tree out of the garage and set it up. This time, I would motivate them in a way they’d never expect.

“Guess what we’re going to do this year with the Christmas tree?” I asked the three statues in the den whose eyes were focused on the TWO television screens that were maniacally playing marching band music as inane announcers solemnly intoned, “They’re really going to have to come out in this next half and take control of the ball or they’re going to lose this game.”

Obviously riveted by this insightful commentary, I tried the dazed trio again. With an enthusiastic holiday frenzy I did not feel I enthused, “You’ll never guess!”

Sigh. “We’re going to forget all about those precious, handmade Christmas ornaments my late grandmother made from SCRATCH and INSTEAD have a football themed Christmas tree. Mizzou, Baylor – all the schools that accepted my sometimes under-achieving yet personable men (including Robert’s TCU) would be represented. Alabama would also be included by default as it is “grandfathered” in. (For a formal ruling, please contact Ralph Holt.) NOW I had their attention. For about 30 seconds.

“Cool.”

“But how?”

“Is this a trick?”

Indeed. How I was going to carry this off was anybody’s guess, but when you’re a Valium and a painkiller into the day, the details just tend to take care of themselves. First, the color theme. We needed to incorporate black and gold, green and gold, deep red and white, and purple and white? Or black? Whatever.

I didn’t even have to Google or Pinterest to know I would have trouble with the black Christmas ornaments. I did the only thing that made sense. I left the house the next morning before the boys were awake and made my way to Michaels.

I still had no plan. Michaels is no place to be without a plan. I headed for the Christmas ornaments, elbowed an adorable gay couple out of my way, and found packages of eight for 50% off. (50% off ornaments, not gays.) I quickly scooped up red, purple, white, green and opted to pick up a couple of packages of clear ornaments as well. In order to destroy the clear glass, I grabbed a can of glossy black spray paint and a nifty glitter spray called “twilight.” A few glitter pens of gold, silver, white, platinum, black and handsful of red, silver and gold letter stickers signaled the end of the shopping trip – until I spotted thick wire-edged ribbon in red, gold and purple. Because you just never know.

I returned home and spread my bounty on the dining room table. Then, I strung the clear glass ball ornaments in the garage and began to spray paint like there was no tomorrow. (And before Robert could come out and tell me I was doing it wrong/and or was going to blow myself up.)

Back at the dining table, a Christmas miracle happened. Derek and Austin pulled up chairs and began “crafting” right along with me. It took us HOURS, and some creative slogans, but I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve spent with them in ages. The best part about it was we weren’t really DOING anything. There was no TV. Derek played some Christmas music, and we just CHATTED. Truly, I thought they’d drift in and out as I did the work, but they were right there the whole way. We laughed, we encouraged each other, we helped each other spell challenging words like “Missouri.”

Who’d have thought I’d be hosting a Christmas ornament decoration committee with my 20+-year-old boys? For proof, lest it actually be one of those hallucinations mentioned earlier, I have evidence.

Derek and Austin “crafting.”

Christmas miracle number two? By the time I got home from errands this morning, the tree was up and lit. The two TVs were still in place – or out of place – but every miracle comes with a price.

I have no idea how the tree will actually look, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s our first tree to make as a family. I’m just sorry it was overdue. I’ll post pictures when complete. In the meantime…

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Update: I was pleased to see the boys insisted on adding some of Grandma’s old ornaments. I guess those little felt and sequined ornaments remind them of their childhoods as well.

Now, if we can only find a Heisman Trophy replica to place on top of the tree, we can all burn in hell together.

THINGS I HAVE NO BUSINESS DOING

In the season of the naughty and nice lists, I’d like to add another: Things I have no business doing.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s the end of the year, or because I’ve simply lost all good sense by the time the 12th month rolls around, but it’s wreaking havoc on me.

As I commented in my previous post, for some reason I have this yearning to be creative at Christmas time. However, as I was unable to locate a single wreath shaped piece of styrofoam at Michael’s, my creative itch remains fundamentally un-scratched.

However, thanks to the office pot luck, I was able to channel some of that creative energy into baking. As hubby is typically the chef in the house, this was one of those things I haven’t done – from scratch – in probably ten years. I decided to make Ginger snap cookies in snowflake shapes. (Ah, how adorable!) Yeah, right. I get this genius idea on a work night and start the process of grating a real ginger root at about 6:00.

Challenge number one: When a recipe tells you to use a standing mixer with paddles, they are NOT jacking around. I do not have such a machine, however, so I mixed it by hand. No big deal, right? Wrong. My wrist began to spasm and twitch so badly I spilled my old-fashioned all over myself while trying to take a sip. Now THAT’s tragic.

Challenge number two: Icing. I don’t have one of those icing decorator squeezy things, (people who know their way around baking tools, please stop yelling at me), and I bought the wrong size decorative tip to go on the tube of icing I purchased, so I had to give up and just spread the icing on the cookies with a knife. This really isn’t a tragedy, but I had a picture in my head of these lovely cookies decorated with lacy white icing, so it was disappointing to someone who is crazy, like I am. Plus, I was up WAY past my bedtime.

By the end of this little process I hated the cookies and the icing, and the pot luck idea. Some people actually liked the cookies though, so in the end, it was all worth it.

Not really. But what I do know now is WHY I haven’t baked in umpteen years.

Strangely, this didn’t dampen my adventurous holiday spirit. I actually decided to do something else I hadn’t done in forever. Ride a bike. Seriously, I have not been on a bike in eons. Even the early news to friends and family (casually) that I was going on a bike ride in the afternoon resulted in gasps and in one case (my mother) begging me not to do it. “Not right before Christmas, Ann! We don’t need another injury!” In response I did what I have done since I was 6. I waved away her concern and told her I’d be fine. Hey, I’m EVENTUALLY fine, after a period of recovery.

So my husband, (whose idea this was), and who obviously has it out for me, decides to put me in shorts and big gloves and a helmet and ear covers and some sort of goggles and points a terrified, unbalanced (in many ways) me toward the street on a bicycle – with him in the lead. I won’t go into detail, but we rode too far, too seriously and on streets that were too bumpy and too up hill on our way to the lake. Then we headed back. Somehow both ways were up hill. I swear. Really.

There was one brief moment when I thought I was going to get hit by a car, but I have been reassured that the guy saw me and was totally NOT going to run me over. Truthfully, I don’t think I really would have minded being run over at that point. In fact, it might have been the bike’s attempt to commit suicide when it stopped in the middle of the three lanes of northbound traffic. Maybe bikes are like horses and can smell fear and inexperience.

I also discovered that extreme exercise when your body is not used to doing more than walking up a flight of stairs at a leisurely pace results in the vocabulary of a sailor. A very salty sailor. Plus, at one point, in an attempt to motivate myself up one of those hills, I pedaled in rhythm to this mantra as I glared at hubby’s back – “I will get you… I will get you…must sleep some time…must sleep some time…”

I think I will go back out on the bike again sometime. Maybe when the sun is out and it’s a little warmer than 58 degrees. Now it’s a challenge and I HAVE to win.

Plus, I’d rather attempt crossing 6 lanes of traffic on the bike than blend that cookie dough by hand again.

Other things I have done in the past week I have no business doing? Speaking to homeless people, mailing anything to an international destination, pretending I can design attractive things on Zazzle and shopping online.

I think there’s something I’m forgetting about handing a three-year old a glass of chocolate milk when she’s sitting on my antique Chippendale sofa, but surely even I wouldn’t be as insane as to do something like that.

‘TIS THE SEASON TO MAKE A HOT MESS

Someone make it stop. It’s that holly jolly time of year when I inexplicably forget all evidence to the contrary and decide that I’m “crafty.” Not “plot a coup” crafty. “Grab a glue gun and get busy” crafty.

The problem with that is – well, there are multiple problems with this. There’s a difference… a WORLD of difference between creative and crafty. If I were truly a craft-type person, I would own a glue gun. I don’t. In fact, I’m kind of afraid of the damage I might do with hot glue. So far, I have managed to refrain from purchasing one, although I do eye them warily in the store and have reached for one every now and again before regaining control. It’s as if I realize we COULD have a relationship, but it would be an unhealthy one.

How do people do this? Everyone I know is busy making homemade biscotti or sewing quilts, or knitting or making photo books or basket weaving or making a homemade nativity scene out of paper mache and spit. It’s annoying. It’s enough to give a girl a complex. Especially this girl.

The urge to craft must be genetic. Years ago, my mother, who had the good sense to work with florist wire instead of glue, made Christmas wreaths. I still have the one she gave me almost 20 years ago. I’ve refurbished it a bit, re-attaching parts with wire and replacing items as they become too weathered or broken, but I still think of it as hers.

 

Then there’s my fraternal grandmother. She was an amazing seamstress. Gertie made rag dolls, clothes, decorations and quilts that were truly works of art. Many went to the church bazaar each year, but I have a collection of her Christmas ornaments I use every year on my tree. Sometimes I get the urge to leave them in the closet and decorate with beautiful glass or fabric and gemstone / glittery ornaments – color coordinated in jewel tones or shades of blue and purple… but I scrap the idea when I think of a “decorator” tree versus the “handmade” tree.

Here’s a selection of some of my favorites.

    

Seriously. Look at the detail on these. The eyelashes are little tiny stitches.

I adore this little rosy-cheeked Eskimo. The fringe, the little toothpick (spear) in his hand. (Don’t think about the baby seals.)

Then there’s the Snowman and his mittens and scarf. His eyelashes are stitched as well.

So perhaps you can see where I might get the impression I’m supposed to CREATE something for Christmas. Something the boys can share with their kids someday. Something that generations to come will pull out of a dusty box and say, “Oh! I remember this! Crazy old Ann made this!”

Therefore, against my better judgement I am pondering a trip to Michael’s, where I will wander about staring blankly at decorative ribbon, styrofoam, felt, glitter, fake evergreens and holly. In the end, I will spend $45+ dollars to come home and make a mess. I know this because it’s an annual event, and as you may have noticed, you are not viewing any pictures of anything I made. That would be because nothing exists. I might as well go to Michael’s and pay the guy at the floral desk $45 dollars to mock me. The end result would be the same but my fingers wouldn’t be glued together.   

Wish me luck on my creative adventure. If nothing else, maybe someday, when one of the boys is playing with his son or daughter on the rug they “inherited” from us, they will find a tiny sequin superglued to a bit of fringe and say, “Hey! I remember this! This is from that year Ann tried to make homemade ornaments! Man, could she cuss!”

THANKSGIVING RESERVATIONS

Today’s LetsBlogOff topic is about Thanksgiving and food. 

I was having a really hard time coming up with anything particularly unique about our Thanksgiving, until last night, when this year’s got canceled.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic. Actually, it’s only canceled for my mother, who fell and broke her pelvis during game 6 of the World Series. I know it was Game 6 because having lived almost my whole life in Dallas, with a baseball team that was a major joke for years, Game 6 nearly killed me. I also know that when I got the call from my stepfather at the hospital, part of me was really depressed that I was going to have to head to the emergency room and miss the end of the game. (I know. I know. I’m ashamed and going to hell. I know.)

However, as it turned out, we were told NOT to come to the hospital. I talked to her on the phone briefly as the sedation was kicking in and got to stay home to watch the end of the game. And that’s when God smited me for my insensitivity by making it impossible for the Rangers to get ONE OUT. ONE LOUSY OUT… 

 

Sorry. Back to Thanksgiving. We don’t do anything terribly exciting. No cooking all night. No days and days of baking. We used to go to Grandmother’s, (who probably DID cook all night) but once she sold the house, the gathering became more of a moveable feast  – every year at someone else’s home.  The most memorable thing about Thanksgiving at my grandmother’s was not the food so much – though the dressing was AMAZING, but the fact that she jumped up from the table to run into the kitchen for some forgotten item so often we actually videotaped her end of the table one year so we could show her what she was doing.  I don’t know what on earth was so important in the kitchen that kept her popping up and down like a crazed jack-in-the-box, unless it was shots of vodka.   – Which explains why the rolls always burned. And my predilection for martinis.

When my mother married my stepfather a new tradition was created. I call it, “Thanks for giving me a stepfather who knows how to make a reservation.” Each year we eat Thanksgiving “dinner” at a restaurant. For years it was Les Saisons, then they moved or went out of business. (And yes, the French Thanksgiving theme was a little odd.) Then we tried some other location, and eventually settled on the country club.

Let me just say, Thanksgiving at the country club is a glorious experience. The turkey is stacked neatly on a cushion of cornbread dressing, the squash casserole is to die for, and there are cocktails. Shrimp cocktails, crab claws, smoked salmon, oysters. Champagne, Bloody Marys, wine. The only strenuous thing you have to do is wind your way around the buffet tables with a plate laden with 10 lbs. of yummy goodness.

Anyway, up until last night, Mom kept insisting she was going to be able to attend this three hour food fest, somehow ignoring that broken pelvis / sitting situation. The pain medications must not be keeping her in La La Land anymore because she announced she would NOT be attending our annual festivities. Instead, she proposed that we all go to the club without her, stuff ourselves (or as Granio would say, “Have sufficient,”) and return to the house with a “to go” selection of buffet items.

I was hesitant at first to accept this proposition, but it seemed to be what she wanted, so I agreed. (Part of me thought it could be a trap. People on pain medication can be crafty.) But so far, no repercussions. It looks like Thursday will indeed be a Thanksgiving without Mom. At least temporarily. And for that reason alone, it will be memorable, if a bit melancholy. (Yet still delicious.)

Wait a minute. I just had a horrible thought. Please tell me I wasn’t supposed to volunteer to keep her company while everyone ELSE goes to the club. 

Uh oh.

To see what others in the #LetsBlogOff are sharing about Thanksgiving, click the logo below.

FATHER’S DAY CHORES

Father’s Day is next weekend, the 19th. In the past that meant going to one of Dad’s favorite restaurants – Outback Steakhouse or Red, Hot & Blue. On Saturday I’d pick up something amusing for him – like lottery scratch-off tickets (always a big hit) or maybe a DVD of some TV show he’d just discovered – like Everybody Loves Raymond. (I don’t know why, but both sets of parents seem to discover TV shows a decade after they’re over.)

To me, family events like this always seem a bit of a chore. Not that I don’t enjoy my family. I’m just selfish and don’t like giving up any of my weekend for something I’m “supposed” to do. Plus, I’m not a great gift giver. I’ve NEVER known what to give people. I also never enjoyed trying to get two boys and a husband out the door in time to meet people half way across the metroplex for lunch – or dinner. (For some reason this is reversed in my house. Men are never waiting on me. I wait on them.) Really, that part alone was such a beating it just didn’t seem worth the effort to even take them along. Lord knows I threatened to drive off without them enough.

Last year, as usual, we had lunch with Dad and my stepmother, my brother and sister-in-law. During the meal, Dad went off on some crazy tangent about how the 50s were the best decade of them all, and why. Then, he moved on to bowling and everything he’d learned about it since he started working on the Bowling Museum. (Both discussions were actually connected, although bowling is NOT what made the 50s great.) After lunch we went our separate ways to await the next holiday that would bring us together. As we drove home with a sense of accomplishment, I sighed, relieved to be on the way back to the house for my other weekend chores.

Dad passed away unexpectedly in July. That makes this upcoming Father’s Day the first that I don’t have to wrangle people into the car or freak out about being late, get annoyed with Dad for repeating the same story I’ve heard a thousand times, OR for asking me (again), “You still haven’t seen Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo? Funniest movie EVER.” I also don’t have to stress over what gift to buy. His scratch-off lottery tickets are with him.

A word of advice: Spend time with the people you love. Don’t just squeeze it in.

Losing a parent is losing a part of yourself. Your history goes too. Who else can say “I remember when you were 4 years old and so afraid of the dark we had to sit in your room until you fell asleep.” Or from MY dad it’s more like, “Remember when you were 8 and I used to pants you in the grocery store?”

You miss those stories once they’re gone. But mostly you miss the person who told them. Turns out, you can even work up some serious nostalgia for being pantsed in the grocery store.

This year, I know a few things I never really knew before:
1. There will never be another individual in my life who finds no real fault with me, despite proof to the contrary.
2. Father’s Day is not a chore.
3. For the rest of my life, I’ll be watching Deuce Bigalow on Father’s Day.

DID YOU SAY EATING OR BEATING?

Dinner with the folks is losing what little luster it once had.  Sure, we go to expensive restaurants that are not in my normal operating budget, but I also have to sit with my mother and stepfather for 2.5 hours. During that 2.5 hours, I spend a lot of time praying for the waiter or waitress. “Please Lord, don’t let them overfill the water-glass. Please Lord, let them bring hot bread, and butter that is not frozen solid.”  Believe me, if these prayers are not answered, we are going to hear about it for the rest of the meal, and in a loud enough tone that the entire restaurant will be aware of the deficiencies.

At one delightful Sunday family brunch I was sawing away at my wrist with a butter knife as I listened to my mother complaining about the temperature in the room, the glare from the windows, and the way the hostess had looked at her.  When the waiter placed a champagne cocktail in front of her that did not contain the requisite cube of sugar with a drop of bitters, I thought the world had ended.  “Oh my goodness…they can’t be serious. No sugar cubes? Well, I don’t want this…”

My stepfather interrupted from the other end of the table in an effort to resolve the issue. “Annette! What do you want?” As we waited for her response, my brother piped in, “To complain.” 

I swear the waiter giggled.

Each extravagant meal takes on some hellish theme involving the food, the service, or the atmosphere. Sometimes, if we’re really lucky, it’ll be a combination of the three. But regardless of what happens during the appetizer, entrée, and dessert, the tension mounts as we anticipate the waiter’s arrival to clear.

This can go badly in so many ways. If you are in the food service industry, let me give you a couple of tips on dealing with my parents. (And probably others of that older generation.) First, do not try to take the plate of someone who has finished while others are still eating. This  spawns at the very least a reprimand / etiquette lesson and at the worst, a call to your mother telling her she’s incompetent as a parent. Trust me.  Do not remove plates until everyone has “closed” them. Second – and this sometimes happens in unison with removing the plates too soon – DO NOT ASK “Are you through working on this?” If you do ask such a thing, you will be on the receiving end of a glare from my stepfather that is so potent it can render you unconscious. He will then explain to you that he is NOT, in fact, WORKING on anything. He is enjoying his dinner. YOU, my friend, are WORKING, and obviously not doing a very good job of it.

I still remember my birthday dinner a few months ago ending this way:  A manager at our table, and a ten minute lecture on teaching his staff that diners / customers are not WORKING.  This is when I typically excuse myself to the ladies room (a.k.a. bar).

Good luck to us all out there. Easter is coming and Mother’s Day isn’t far behind. May your plates be full, your waitstaff competent and your butter knife handy.