Monday, December 31, 2012

Eyesight without Eyes

This doesn't look stable

Chad was graduating with his AA degree and the girls and I decided to make a weekend trip out of it without the kids.  None of them could get off work anyway, so it made the decision easy.  Char was eager, not having seen mountains since she was a toddler.  We booked a room and planned to bookend graduation day with plenty of sightseeing.  The first stop was Walker Mountain.

We spent the first half hour seeing sights we hadn’t exactly planned on seeing because, well, we were lost.  Sometimes, you discover the most interesting things that way.  Eventually, we found the winding, two-lane road that led up to our distinct destination.  We found a ghost town along the way that you could rent out for whatever you wanted.  Imagine renting an entire town for a weekend!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Jumping from the High Dive

I despise heights.  Some may see this as an irrational fear, and perhaps they’re right, but ridiculous or not, it freezes me up.  It’s quite the hindrance to enjoying quite a few things, as well, like walking along a street curb.

A couple of years ago, the girls and I toured the St. Augustine Lighthouse, the first of many such excursions they wish to take.  Two hundred and fifty tiny steps made out of metal with holes to enable you to see the plummeting depth below you as you climb.  The guard rail was a thin metal bar I could easily wrap my fingers around.  There was no safety there, really, except my sense of survival, which kept me away from the edge.  I made it to the top, however, I’m proud to say, although the pace was slow and we were often passed by other tourists who had no such fear of falling hundreds of feet to their death.  I, on the other hand, have a deep respect for gravity and took great, tedious care with each trembling step.  The stairs had lasted over a century I was assured, but with my luck they would pick that very moment to disintegrate into dust and decay, leaving me dangling by a scrawny railing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Depression Sets In

For a month, the world has been lit up like a literal Christmas tree.  Houses and businesses, streets and neighborhoods, once barely illuminated with a porch light or street lamp have been aglow with festive holiday brightness in celebration of the big day.  The music has changed from the normal bump and grind to jingle bells and harking angels.  Even people who are normally grumpy have a smile splitting their face and I actually saw a Democrat hugging a Republican.  It’s a magical time of year, a joyous celebration of the best in people.

Then Christmas arrives with a burst of family and exploding wrapping paper.  There are Christmas dramas, school plays, and Girl Scout caroling.  Add to all of that extra church services and charity participation, not to mention the shopping and shopping and more shopping.  December is an explosion of activity that has us constantly running this way and that trying to get it all in.  We’re busier than normal, but we love every minute of it as we find ourselves snatched along in the jovial atmosphere.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Lines of Exchange

Next to Black Friday, this is the worst day of the year to walk into a department store.  People are already passing through the door dissatisfied and grumpy.  The sales clerks are anticipating the rude consumer and everyone’s tempers start the day flared and ready to explode.  Ironic that less than twenty-four hours after shouting that giving and love, as well as the sense of family, is what the season is all about, the human race shifts right back into “It’s all about what I want!”  The lines at Customer Service will be longer than the checkout lanes and it will almost feel as if you’re awaiting a ride at Disney World with Grumpy.  For many, this day will not end well.

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the gift exchange.  We have to do it this year, but that’s not because the items received weren’t enjoyed.  It’s because they were broken, missing pieces, or the wrong size.  They won’t be exchanged for different merchandise, but rather, the proper item unbroken.  I know many don’t agree with my philosophy, but as I see it, the person who handed me the Christmas present took the time to scour the quickly diminishing shelves, fighting the crazed shoppers just to buy that specific gift for me.  I respect that effort and the gift means something more to me because of it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

It’s Christmas!

My living room looks like the aftermath of a Christmas Wrapping Paper factory explosion.  Santas are torn in half, reindeer mauled and snowmen reduced to puddles of afterthought.  For days they were safe under the tree, admired as they reflected the colored lights above them.  Now, it is merely a barrier to be shredded in order to retrieve the prize inside.  Ribbons are ripped, tags are tossed and paper plowed through as the gifts are brought to life.  Stockings are dumped, candy unwrapped, and I already need another cup of coffee.  It’s Christmas!  It’s finally arrived.  I’ve waited long enough.  The fat old man - no, not me - with the red suit has made his magical appearance and the anticipation has been brought to an ecstatic end.

Monday, December 24, 2012

One More Sleep

The morning dawns just as every other morning but this day is different.  It’s not like yesterday or the day before.  This day is filled with joyous anticipation.  Stand still and take a deep breath.  You can smell it in the air, which is also filled with an electrical charge unlike any other day.  You can literally feel the wave of excitement breaking upon the world.  Streets that are normally hidden in darkness now flash with blinking lights and even the crotchety old neighbor waves as you drive down the road.  The music piped through department store speakers calls you back to earlier, happier times and you smile at childhood memories.  It’s the day before Christmas, just one more sleep to go, and soon the anticipation will be over.  Christmas will be here!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bah Humbug

Today’s post was going to ridicule the Scrooges of Christmas.  The idea was to ponder how anyone can be grumpy when surrounded with blinking colored lights and music that includes jingle bells and Bing Crosby.  There’s a Santa Claus everywhere you turn around and snowmen decorate the yard.  Children are bursting with giddy excitement and dessert has become the main course.  Mailboxes are filled with special greetings from people you haven’t heard from since last Christmas and everyone is wishing you a bright and cheerful Happy Holidays!  How can anyone not be caught up in the Christmas excitement?

As I said, I was going to write about that.  I’m not now.  Now, I get it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Season of Charity

It starts around Thanksgiving.  Schools send notices home asking for food donations.  A note on my mailbox tells me the Boy Scouts will be picking up can goods on Saturday for a local food bank.  Churches are doing food drives for their holiday baskets.  The Marines begin their Toys for Tots program and ministries promote their shoe box packages for Third World countries where little children will receive nothing else for Christmas except for what you donate.  Charities begin calling asking for financial donations to help their organization because they know that most people are in the giving mood.  Even Scrooge was asked to do his part.  The holiday season is the season for charity, after all.

And that’s good.  We need to give to those who truly need it, and I stress the “truly need it” part, although I’ll leave my definition of what that means for another post.  However, there is sadness, as well, to the fact that this is the season of giving.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Break Is No Break

I understand that children should be released from school to celebrate Christmas.  (Yes, I know, it sounds like a prison term.  Have you heard the kids talk about it?)   They need to open their bright packages from Santa Claus, after all.  I know teachers deserve the day off, as well.  I mean, almost everyone else has the day off, so why not teachers?  Furthermore, I’d even say they deserve Christmas Eve off, even though most everyone else is, at least, working a half day.  But two whole weeks off?

This Thursday is the 8-year old’s last day of school until next year.  It sounds drastic, doesn’t it?  Next year.  To be precise, and I am always precise here at The Mess as you’ve seen in my deep research on previous posts, it is just over two weeks.  Fifteen days.  And, I swear, it feels as if they just started school.  Do they really deserve two weeks of vacation already?  I don’t get two weeks.  Ever.  They get student holidays throughout the year.  I don’t receive student holidays.  Nor do I get those teacher in-service days that educators receive in order to catch up on their plans and grading of papers.  I have to deal with people every day whether I am prepared or not.  There is no such thing as a break.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I Received the Liebster Blog Award & My 11 Nominations

I think that’s my longest title, yet.  Thank you very much, Hannah Warren, for nominating me for the Liebster Award.

What does this mean?  I know, I asked the same thing.  Here’s the scoop.

- When you receive the reward you post 11 random facts about yourself and answer the 11 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
- Pass the award onto 11 other blogs (While making sure you notify the blogger that you nominated them!)
- You write up 11 NEW questions directed toward YOUR nominees.
- You are not allowed to nominate the blog who nominated you.
- You paste the award picture into your blog.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Mom was Pissed!

“Bobby says that Santa’s not real.”  We were in the car heading towards the bridge, going beachside for some odd reason.  “He says it’s just you and Dad who put the gifts under the tree when we’re asleep.  Is that true, Mom?  Are you and Daddy Santa?”

“What do you believe?”  She snapped.  “It doesn’t matter what this Bobby believes.  It matters what you believe.  Do you think I look like a bearded old man?”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Merry Holidays and Happy Christmas

Before continuing with today’s post, I feel I must make this public service announcement.  WARNING:  The following blog post contains material that may cause you to think and reconsider certain behaviors.  It has religious content, even though it is not religious in nature.  It is more of a get-over-yourself-people rant, and if you are overly sensitive, you may wish to read yesterday’s post on Santa Claus or come back Monday.  My feelings won’t be hurt, whereas yours might, and as we know I am a very sensitive man who would never hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose.

Stop laughing.

It’s funny that this blog coincides with a Facebook post I made the other day.  I usually ignore all political and religious conversations.  Mainly because the ones yelling the loudest about what everyone else should be doing are mere preachers of the Word and not so much Doers.  As Edgar A. Guest writes, “I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I'd rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way: The eye's a better pupil and more willing than the ear, fine counsel is confusing, but example's always clear.”  Yet, Christmas is the loudest month for religious rhetoric nitpicking over things that really make no difference.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Breaking and Entering

You may find it silly, but then again, you’re an adult and have probably long forgotten all of the Christmas worries that kept you on the edge of your seat from Thanksgiving until Christmas morning.  At that point, we were all so wrapped up in our new train sets and bikes that the million questions that kept us up at night were long forgotten.  But, I had fears - worries - about Christmas traditions and the man who was to bring me gifts.

My biggest fear, of course, was how jolly old St. Nick was going to get the hundred things I had put on my wish list into my house Christmas morning.  However, I would wake and underneath my Christmas tree overflowed with gifts and I no longer cared how they arrived.  They were there and that’s all that mattered.  I have a short attention span that’s easily distracted.

However, prior to that I was chewing my nails.  I mean, I had heard the songs.  “Down the chimney with lots of toys,” Gene Autry sang.  “Down through the chimney with Good St, Nick.”  I had seen the Christmas specials, as well.  Television doesn’t lie!  Santa comes down a chimney.  Even the Grinch trying to steal Christmas from all the cute little Whos shoved his loot back up a stack of sooty bricks.  That, for me, was a problem.  We lived in Florida.  We didn’t have a chimney.  I mean, who needs a fireplace in the Sunshine State?  We had to move, and quick

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I’m Going to Get Fat, Well, Fatter

I was doing well.  My pants were coming down - in size that is - and I moved up a couple of holes in my belt.  I was losing weight.  Not quick, perhaps, but it was going down.  The scale was no longer calling 911 and filing assault charges.

Then it all went to Hell as the holidays hit.  I feel like I busted my gut for eleven months just so Santa could leave me twenty extra pounds in my stocking.  The notches I gained were quickly lost and suddenly I’m poking new holes in my belt just to make it fit.  The bottom of my shirt never touches my pants as it now hangs from my belly like a canopy for pets who want out of the sun.  I’ve sacrificed all year, but it’s all for naught at the first slice of pecan pie or chocolate covered cherries.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Why Am I Buying This Gift?

“Dyl is participating in a gift exchange for her Girl Scouts.”  Sarah was filling us in on the upcoming holiday celebrations.  “They wanted the adults to do one, but we quickly said no.”  I just added it to the “Must Buy” list.

“I need a gift Thursday for a company party,” Char said the other day as she walked through the front door.  “No more than fifteen dollars.”  It went on the list.

Teri handed me a Christmas card.  “The pool guy left this.  It’s tip time.”  On the list it went.

I just added it all to the list and as I did, the pressure kept building.  There’s Dyl’s school teacher, relatives in other states, our closest friends, the lawn people, mailman, and the list keeps getting longer every year.  Some of these are a joy to buy for, such as the nieces and nephews and our dearest friends.  Others I’m left doing as I grumble.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas through Different Eyes

The Christmas lists grew every year and when they stopped growing in number of items, they grew in how much the gifts cost.  It wasn’t just a ten dollar action figure anymore, but a ninety dollar remote control car.  Then it became “If you only get me one thing this year, I would love” some two hundred dollar gizmo.  My children have lived with me since they were born.  They’ve watched as we had plenty and when we had nothing.  Furthermore, they know how I feel about gifts.  I’m never buying just one thing and I will never be able to spend over two hundred on a gift.  Still, they think it’s worth a shot, I guess, and so they keep asking.  It is, after all, the season for it.

The one thing I will say about my kids is that they are never disappointed.  Or if they are, they hide it very well, because all I see is the appreciation on their faces for what they did get.  If anyone is disappointed, it’s usually me at not being able to get them everything they really wanted.  I’ve listened to people grumble about what they received and for a while I just shrugged my shoulders and ignored it.  We all receive those gifts occasionally that make us wonder what in the world the person was thinking when they picked that out for us.  Still, we make all the right noises and quickly add it to the garage sale box.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Little Stockings

At the beginning of this week, I mentioned how we bought stockings for new family members.  Now the significant others of our children are there dangling beside their partners.  Well, Char also bought three tiny stockings, as well, and while the children’s names went across the top of their stockings, the abbreviation of names went across the top of the itty bitty stockings.  Skim was glittered on for Skimbleshanks, Bags for Baghira and Took for, well, Took.  My son had a reason for the name, something along the lines of “We took him from the pet store,” which makes him sound more like a thief than a new, legitimate pet owner.  Yes, Took is a dog.  The others are cats and not one of them live with me, which is why I stared at my wife like she was crazy when she wanted to buy the little stockings.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Lights of Friendship

After Christmas last year, I took my time.  With care, I unplugged the Christmas lights, wrapping them in those gentle loops like rope I was holding for a lasso that I would never learn to twirl.  I layered them gently in one of my gazillion storage tubs for our Christmas decorations, hoping that this year they wouldn’t get in those insufferable knots, even though I knew the wish was wasted thinking.  I then moved on to the lighted deer that grazed on our front lawn and stacked the lighted presents that had spent December displayed in front of the rose bushes.  The icicle lights came down as well as the wreath wrapped in white lights.  For a month, the front of my home was lit up in a holiday version of the Vegas strip with colorful lights and magical displays of decorations.  Once New Years hits, however, it’s all put away and the front of my house is reduced to one lone porch light.  It’s a striking difference, to say the least.

Everything is packed away with careful precision and care and I’m already eager for the next year.  The storage tubs are piled like Legos in our garage, left to sit and be ignored for the next eleven months.  No one touches them.  They’re protected from the elements and other harsh abuse, such as the 8-year old and her friends.  They’re safe, even if they’re lonely.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas in Flip Flops

I have a confession to make.  As much as I love this time of year with its Christmas music and festive lights, I’m finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit.  I could be wrong, but it just might be because it’s ninety degrees outside and I’m in shorts and flip flops.  Okay, maybe not shorts because anyone who knows me knows I don’t wear shorts, but I do wear flip flops.  Well, I do sometimes.  Sometimes I just skip the shoes altogether.  It’s so hot, I’d skip the pants, as well, but I never know when the kids are going to come barging through the door followed by their giggling friends.  That’s another post, however.  The point is it’s hot.  Very hot.

I suppose that comes from living in an area where we decorate our palm trees.  Where others go snowboarding and build snowmen, we go to the beach and play shirtless volleyball.  The children don’t have to wait for the spring thaw to ride their new bikes.  They’re already out there tearing up the streets.  The house is closed up, but the heat isn’t on.  The air is, instead.  As a matter of fact, last Christmas I turned the thermostat down to 65 just so I could feel the chill that many associate with the holiday season.  Only then could I enjoy my hot chocolate without sweating into the mug.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Now It’s My Turn

“What are you planning on doing for the kids this Christmas?”  It may seem like an odd question to you, but the kids aren’t kids, anymore; they’re adults.  The girls are wondering if I’m doing the same for them this year as I did the year before and the year before that.  To be honest, I’m wondering, too.

When they were little a pattern was pretty well set.  There were three presents from the parents and then five or seven from Santa Claus, plus their stocking which overflowed all over the floor as if Santa had gone on a drunken binge and vomited Christmas all over the place.  That continued up until about three years ago, even the Santa part.  That year, however, it ended because we were visiting my parents and sister and didn’t want to confuse Laurie’s little ones with the jolly old man coming to grownups when he hadn’t before in their house.  So, we reduced Santa to stockings and bought five gifts from the girls and me, the Parentals as the kids call us, and that was the new way of doing things for the next couple of years.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Two Types of Decorators

The holiday season is in full force as we move into December and houses and yards are being smothered in Christmas cheer.  Storage tubs are being pulled out of garages and Santa figurines along with glittery snowmen are being stacked on counters and kitchen tables waiting to be placed in just the perfect place to help bring Christmas to the home.

Or maybe not the perfect place, but merely a place.  It all depends on the person doing the decorating and over the past few years I have discovered that there are two types of holiday decorators.  There are those who prefer order and themes, decorating their home as if for a photo shoot in Luxury Living with everything in perfect sync.  Then there are those who decorate as if they could be on an episode of Christmas Hoarders.  There is no rhyme or reason to where the cute decorations go, except that they do go up somewhere.  I am a mesh of the two and could start my own show, Luxurious Holiday Hoarders.