Merry Happy Christmas Holiday Greetings!

It’s almost Christmas. I know that because the calendar tells me so. Otherwise, the day might come and go without my noticing. Know why? Yes, besides my head being up my ass –  There is a serious lacking in the holiday cheer department this year. Where’s the festive vibe? The good will toward men? I look down my street and there are no Christmas lights up. My husband and I went shopping this weekend for log furniture, toys, clothes, and dog food. That’s a wide variety of things and stores. And you know what? There was no Christmas music playing!

I get it. Money’s tight. News is bleak. Our cities are being run by emergency managers. It’s hard to find the joy when it seems like everywhere you look there is an obstacle. That’s why it’s so important to put up the freakin’ Christmas lights. So that when you wake up in the morning you’re greeted with Christmas spirit blinking outside your front porch. And as you leave in the morning and return from work at night, thoughts of credit card bills and furnaces going on the fritz are softened by giant yard snowmen and nativity scenes. You NEED good things to counter the bad things. Sometimes it’s hard to flip the switch in your mind and do a positive counter point. Holiday decorations flip the switch for you. You see them – you feel warm and fuzzy. So quit being a turd and hang up something that sparkles or jingles. Right now. Then come back.

I am just going to say it. We have  become a collective Scrooge – Grinch – Burger Meister. All I can hear, inside my head and out among the masses, is how expensive everything is. How there was no time to put up Christmas lights and what a pain it is to take them down anyway. People who are experiencing tougher times than normal are consumed by that one fact. People who are doing well are validated by the money they are bringing in and feeling superior about it. Where’s the good will toward men in that?

I think my biggest beef right now is the Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays war. I’mma break it down for you right here. The holiday season spans from Thanksgiving through the new year. Christmas is A DAY. One day. We can stretch it to two days because we often celebrate Christmas Eve. When I say “Happy Holidays” on November 29th, I am not cutting Christ out of Christmas or catering to non Christian groups. I am hoping that you and yours will enjoy the whole season. I hope you eat lots of good food, get to enjoy time with your family, celebrate the year passing and get a good start on the new one. If I see you just before Christmas, at a Christmas party, or on Christmas day, I will say, “Merry Christmas.”  Kapish?

Are there people trying to hijack the season? Highlight their own religion and customs? Create a more generic holiday scene? Probably. But mostly, people are just trying to be nice and spread good cheer. Think about this – what have you heard more in the last couple of months? People complaining about the verbage – “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy New Year” OR actual Christmas tidings? I will answer for you that I have over heard a bajillion conversations and seen countless social media posts bitching about reserving the right to say “Merry Christmas” and about 5 actual season’s greetings.  Think about that.

And don’t get me started on the billboards of Jesus saying, “I miss hearing you say MERRY CHRISTMAS.”  That is SO stupid. As if our increasing commercialization of the day and gross obsession with money and material things at Christmas time was okay with Him as long as we said, “Merry Christmas.”

It’s true. People are not saying “Merry Christmas.” But they’re also not saying “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” either. Their Christmas Spirit is kaput! But so is their Holiday Spirit! They’re exhausted, beat up, stressed out, and focused on all the wrong things.

Here’s an idea. Instead of bitching about the way someone ELSE celebrates the season and spreads their cheer – why not simply appreciate what they have offered you. And then offer some in return. Maybe even offer some forward.

 

 

 

 

Happy Ghoulday!

Big plans for Halloween this year at our house! You may have heard me complaining that we haven’t had a summer vacation in a couple of years. And you like will again. We didn’t even go to Mackinac Island or Cedar Point which is always our back up plan when we can’t swing other things. BUT that’s about to change.

Although Cedar Point’s regular season is closed, HALLOWEEKENDS is in full force. Sarah’s birthday is November 1st and she’s been wanting to go there for her birthday for years, but from what I can tell the experience is pretty scary so I have been hesitate to do it. I think this is the year though.

With all the attention given to Andrew this year, first for his negative behavior, then the summer spent in treatment, Poor Sarah has been like a ghost. Not getting a lot of attention from us, and no one asking about her. Everyone asking about Andrew. She withdrew, her posture changed, her speech pattern changed, her attitude & behavior… but she seems to be bouncing back. I’ve been flooding her with good attention and been real hard on her for the crap she’s been trying to pull that she thought she would get away with because she knows I am swimming in guilt right now for neglecting her. So cunning, my kids! Anyway, some spooky Cedar Point might be just what the doctor ordered for her – and all of us! We definitely need a get away.

I am still concerned that the PG-13 theme might be a little twisted for her 12 year old mind, though. But on the plus side I won’t have to buy Halloween costumes or send out birthday invitations. So I’m calling it a wash.

Have you ever been to Cedar Point over Halloween? Do your kids like scary stuff?

Swimming in My Thoughts Today

I can’t believe summer is almost over. It has flown by for us – and not necessarily because we have been having fun. Because we haven’t. Between the rapid decline in my Father In Law’s health and the recent bipolar diagnosis of my Son, it’s been more hectic than anything else. My Daughter is already looking forward to school. I wish we had a pool so that  when vacation plans don’t pan out or there is no time to go to the lake, we could still cool off from the scorching hot Michigan sun, and relax and have some fun together.

I always wanted a pool when I was a kid. Every year my Mom said, “next year we are getting a pool.” I believe she thought so, and that she and my Dad really wanted to, but the commitment kept them hesitating. When you’re a kid you don’t think about chemicals, pumps, and pool liners. You just think about splashing, diving, and floating. I didn’t get that then, but I do now. As much as I would love to take a dip with the kids every day and know what an impact it would make on the premature summer boredom, I still hesitate.

At $15 to $25,000 as an average cost for an inground pool like we want, cost is definitely a deterrent, especially because we never intended to be in this house for so long. But with the current real estate market and our upside down value, we are not going anywhere too soon, so we have deleted that fact from the minus column. Even so, we can’t help but question the common sense in taking on a new bill in a recession, especially when we have been so affected – as an autoworker and real estate agent. Even just the operating costs, whether for an inground or above ground pool, would cause a little discomfort right now, so ultimately, that’s the reason we are sans swimming pool, I guess. Maybe next year.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if the enjoyment of the pool would outweigh the burden of cost. Pool owners – what do you have to say about that? I have been told that if you want to get a pool next year you should start shopping at the end of this year because pool companies negotiate more and savings could be a bundle. Now I’m confused all over again. :)

I Forgot to Keep the Kids Busy

Wow did I ever make a mistake today. We have had a few very busy, long days in a row after just getting home from a few days on the lake. I didn’t plan any activities for the kids or even make any chore lists. I thought they would benefit from some chill time. Unfortunately chill time for my son comes in the form of Xbox Live HALO sitting right next to me, while my daughter draws Flip Notes & Hatena chats. My daughter isn’t bothering me at all, but I don’t necessarily feel good about her nose in her DSI XL all day. My son’s does bother me. There is loud nonstop shooting coming from the tv and yelling through back and forth through his headset. I think I am going to accept that there’s nothing getting done today and I should chill too. I wish I was back chilling at the lake!

 

 

 

 

Summer’s First Perfect Moment

Been dabbling on the back deck since 6:30 am, trading between wiping down patio furniture and reading Wayne Dyer. It was quiet and still. The time right now is 8:39 am. The soft sound of wind chimes and chatter among the birds is now fighting to be heard over the sounds of children squawking & crying, plastic toys being clanked together, and doors being opened & closed. But there was a moment in between there that was so perfect.

I felt it coming and leaned my head back, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath to experience it- where everything began to wake up at once. Too many sounds came alive at the same time to identify all of them. The volume increase was gradual but quick. A bird, some birds, car doors, cars starting, road noise, lawn mowers… And then the voices. People just can’t keep quiet for very long. Some of them even yammer on in their sleep.

My puppy scratching at the door to come outside snapped me out of my meditation. Then I heard my own voice join the noise of the others as I call Hobo from running into the neighbor’s yard to chase their dog. Then yelling at the kids not to let Hobo in because his feet are wet. Of course from inside someone let him in anyway. Gradually my voice got louder, just like the neighbors and the birds. “Don’t let him on the furniture! Somebody wipe his feet.”

My perfect time is now over. Soon people will be squabbling inside, the garage door will slam up. If I’m going to get breakfast today I better make my sunrise surprise wheat grass smoothie before the first “mom” is uttered and my day is turned over to everybody else.

 

When we get a little deeper into the summer I’ll have some perfect evening moments too, after everyone’s in bed – keeping toasty by the outdoor fire pit, sipping a mojito made from the fresh mint sprigs grown on my patio, and listening to the people, the birds, and the road noise all get quiet for the night.

 

What’s the perfect moment in your day?

Ding Dong. It’s Your Doorbell.

I am a writer by night but a realtor by day. You know what that means?  Yes, I am broke, but that’s not all. I hear a lot of doorbells.  Home buyers like to turn on the faucets, flush the toilets, and ring the doorbell to see how they all work.  I thought I had heard all the doorbells there were to hear. I was wrong. Did you see the doorbell skit on Saturday Night Live at Christmas time? It’s been two months and my family is still imitating it. Think you’ve heard every door bell imaginable? Ding dong… play the clip.

Controlling Christmas

xmas-tree-cropI am a stone cold bitch when it comes to decorating my Christmas tree. At least I have been up until now. It is not easy to admit that because Christmas and holiday decorating are supposed to conjure up images of comfort and joy, not a mad woman barking instructions and rolling her eyes. “Too high! Too low! Too similar! Take it down, do it over, take a time out if your heart’s not in it!”  This year was different, though. This was the year I decided to give up control of the Christmas tree.

My  big beautiful silver & blue tree of my dreams is one of the few things I have managed to remain in control of since becoming a parent so perfect ornament placement is just one of the reasons I struggled with letting go.  Also, my house is not very big, but as I mentioned, my tree is! So I always have this fear that if the tree is a Charlie Brown mess, the whole house will take on a sad, ugly, Charlie Brown quality. I didn’t say it was a rational fear.

There are storage solutions and space savers available to us such as plasma mounts, shelving units, and under the counter numbers, to make more space, but seriously, this tree takes up the whole room.

It is only now that I sit down to write this that have taken the time to think about why it was so easy to let go this year: I think I have realized that life is stressful enough right now. Hopefully I am learning a “don’t sweat the small stuff” lesson in general, but this year in particular has been difficult for people, and me for sure. I am not really excited about Christmas – so much on my mind and so little in the bank has crowded out the holiday spirit that’s trying to tickle me and make me smile.  So as we dragged up the decorations from the basement and I felt the stress mounting, I poured a glass of wine and told the kids to have at it. You know what? It’s more beautiful than ever.

Don’t get me wrong, we still have basic rules about how to space out the spinners and what kind of bulbs go on them, and I was still in charge of the strategic placement of a few key pieces.  It’s still my tree dammit, and I wanted to be able to enjoy it even after the Lambrusco buzz wore off.  Most importantly, all the “special” ornaments, i.e. off color scheme gifts, homemade & those otherwise not meeting top branch criteria, are to be placed on the back of the tree where they can be protected and privately enjoyed by the family.  Win-win.

I caught a report today talking about how December 25, 26, and January 1st are the biggest days for heart attacks and I plainly see why. From the money spent, stress of visiting family to outdoor lights and Christmas tree decorations, this things are supposed to be anticipated with joy and warm our hearts, not break them! How did we get here?  second thought: How do we fix it?


Football & Coconut Oil on my Mind

 

coconut U of M Okay.  There is really no topic today.  Just sharing some excitement about Coconut Oil and football.  If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know I received a bottleof coconut oil for review and am experiencing high energy today after spreading some on my toast.  Actually, to say that I have increased energy doesn’t describe it accurately.  I have diet pill energy.  ROCK STAR energy, even!  Run out and by Metallica tickets and rock out all night ENERGY!  :-)  You have probably also heard me complain the last two weeks about feeling extra lethargic and eating everything in sight. So this is a real change for me!  And speaking of eating…  It is 2pm and I haven’t thought about lunch or had any appetite at all until now.  Been satisfied!  And I don’t really feel excited about eating right now. I just will have something small because I know my body needs nutrition.  You know what else is on my mind today? FOOTBALL!

Crazy right?  I’m not the sports girl at all but I do love University of Michigan football.  Tiger baseball too.  I can see perfectly clear pictures of sitting with my Dad when I was a kid watching the Tigers or the Wolverines play.  If I close my eyes, I can even hear the crack of the ball against the bat as it for a second crowds out the sound of the crickets through the screen of the patio door behind us during night time games in the summer.  And speaking of sounds, I don’t even have to try hard to hear the Michigan Marching Band playing the fight song as clear as if they were in the kitchen with me right now.  One of my favorite school memories is playing flute in the band and every year marching through the school playing HAIL TO THE VICTORS to antagonize the Ohio State fans in anticipation of that big game. 

Although Dad and I went to see some Lions games when I was growing up I have never been to a Michigan game.  Tickets are hard to come by.  I know where you can get Penn State Football tickets or Philadelphia Eagles tickets. (Heehee.  That’s a little jab to my sport loving friend Al in Philly) But I am pretty sure the Michigan Tickets are all sold out. :-)

Anyway, this weather has me all excited for the first Michigan game this weekend.  I am sad to see summer go but I like these hot days with the autumn breeze blowing through.  And just to button up this whole post and tie things together I will share that in my so far brief research into coconut oil I learned athletes prefer it to other oils because it has less calories and converts to energy more quickly. 

Have you tried coconut oil? Excited for college football?  Have anything random to say at all?  I’d love to hear :-)

Saving a Little Money on your Family Vacation

This is our off year as far as big vacations go.  We went to Universal Studios last year so this year’s summer itinerary will consist of closer to home, more budget friendly activities.  Such would likely be the case even if it was not our off year.  Less families are able to take the big vacations this year thanks to our tightened belts and empty wallets, many instead opting for the STAYcation.  But if your summer plans are big enough to include a hotel room and maybe even airfare, I have some money saving vacation tips for you.

The best of our Orlando Vacations was a fluke.  We splurged, didn’t plan, and had the best time of our lives.  It was also the cheapest.  We didn’t realize how much money our “splurge” actually saved us until each year after when our vacation spending seemed to more than double.

THE KITCHENETTE

The secret vacation saver for us is the hotel room.  We have found that by spending the extra money on accommodations with a kitchenette we save a ton of money on food.  It might be hard to see the savings up front when you are planning because your original investment will be higher.  But, especially when you have kids, you are nickel and dimed all day and night for a week on park food that is outrageously priced and most times not satisfying.  In the end, the amount of money spent on your vacation turns out to be much higher, for much less.

A room with some sort of kitchen offers not only the opportunity to save money, but more personalized choices and a better feeling tummy at the end of the day.  I’m not talking about cooking big dinners, necessarily, but having juice, milk, sandwiches, and snacks on hand to feed your elevated appetites and keep your body satisfied and fueled for long days of non stop activity.

GROCERY SERVICE

In addition to the kitchenette, we try to find a hotel with a shopping service.  We leave a grocery list at the front desk on our way out and when we come back the fridge and cupboards are filled.  The shoppers use the local grocery store, not a convenience store, and even search for the best prices and favorite brands for you.  The groceries are billed to your room and the service is free.

FREE BREAKFAST

Different hotels offer different incentives.  Our favorite freebie is breakfast, for a couple of reasons.

  • Obvious is the savings.  Think about how much money you spend at IHOP every  morning when you’re on vacation.  At a free breakfast buffet you will find all kinds of eggs, breakfast meat, bread and pastries, oatmeal, cereal, fruit, and specialty items.
  • the bonus is the timing. I don’t know about you, but we all wake up at different times and we’re usually starving.  It is so nice just to run downstairs and meet up for the breakfast buffet in our jammies, rather than having to wait until we’re all up and showered and ready for the day before we get to eat.

So while planning your vacation and considering your budget, think about the food available to you at the parks.  OVERPRICED pretzels, corn dogs, hamburgers, hot dogs, spaghetti, and chicken dinners.  Pizza delivered or ordered from the hotel is very costly, too.  Now think about a kitchen stocked with bread, lunch meat, pb&j, fruits, nuts, milk, cereal, and snacks.  You can come back to the room for lunch and a nap or pack snacks to nibble when you’re out for the day. And when you get home late at night, famished from swimming all day you have all the goodies you need to avoid overspending at the convenience store or room service.   It will be easier on your wallet and your tummy.

How do you save money on vacation?

So Much to Love About Easter

Easter has always been a favorite holiday of mine just as Spring is my favorite time of year.  Refreshed! Fresh! Reawaken! Rebirth! Anew! Renewal! New beginnings! Hope! Feast! Joy! Rejoice! Reborn! Celebration!  Family! Love!  These are common words surrounding Easter.  How can this single time of year invoke so many different feelings and such happiness?

The religious significance of Easter is at the heart of its celebration.  In Christianity Easter represents the resurrection of Christ.  What better reason to rejoice and celebrate than the rebirth of your saviour?  Part of the beauty of our world lies not only in its variety of landscape and environment, but in its scope of people, culture, tradition, beliefs and religion.    Even though religious beliefs may differ, rebirth and new beginnings are a common theme.

Change of Seasons is a powerful factor in human spirit and mood.  Your lifetime of experiences, good and bad, has been accompanied by a consistent and predictable cycle of weather and landscape.  The light of the day, as well as temperature & smell of the air are a much ignored backdrop in your life, that serves as a reminder and enrichment of memory in days and years to come.  The senses and joy you felt that hot day in June when you exchanged vows will return every June, even when thoughts of your nuptials are not at the front of your mind.  Likewise, the rainy gray day in October that you lost a treasured loved one will come back to you every year in the form of October’s typical rains and uniqueness of temperature as summer’s warm breeze reluctantly makes way for the cool of fall.  Springtime is the most powerful change in season for many as the burdens and confinement of a bitter winter are replaced by blooming vegetation, warm sunshine, and a renewed vigor and inspiration to wake up, get busy, and live life.

The Feast.  Abundant dinner and celebrating with family and loved ones is the tradition of many holidays.  Whether motivated by the celebration of Jesus or general renewed spirit of mankind, people are inspired to “break bread” with their neighbors at Easter.  Bread for Easter is found in abundance in many forms at every dinner table.  Rolls, braided Easter bread, Easter bread rings, even biscuits & gravy and banana bread encourage us to forget we ever even heard the word “carbs” and embrace the smell, flavor and contented fullness that only bread can deliver.

Yes there is so much to love about Easter.  Set your diets, worries and job stress aside for the day and focus on what’s important.  Real life won’t let you wander too long.  Let Easter’s spirit of renewal, hope, and starting over inspire solution to your problems, relief to your worry, and the reminder that you can return to your healthy recipes and workouts tomorrow.