23 December 2006

Ho ho ho

Yesterday my holiday spirit was running on empty. By the end of the day, I had left a snippy phone message for my mom about Christmas dinner, had hung up on Mr Stapler and had let my dog run through a giant patch of poison oak.

At that point I was fairly convinced that I was going to spend the next 3 days by myself eating pop tarts and drinking massive quantities of whatever was within reach - hell, cocoa spiked with cooking sherry was sounding just fabulous.

Then evening came and my friend Alicia arrived and hauled me off for some tasty and filling Mexican food, girl talk and book shopping, all topped off by a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe next to a blazing fireplace.

Dear sweet Alicia listened to me, told me hilarious courthouse stories from her work ("So my boss said, 'Did you notice that she may have been on drugs?'") (with the identities changed to protect the guilty and innocent alike) and generally talked me off my ledge.

See what friends can do? Now the holiday season is back on. As soon as I begin speaking to my family and boyfriend again.

22 December 2006

A Yule Story

In honor of the solstice, I offer a trip down memory lane.

I will never forget a Yule that I spent celebrating with the Unitarian Universalist Pagans. Being exceptionally broad-minded, many Unitarian fellowships have a pagan branch called CUUPS, the covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans.

This ritual was organized by a very earnest and serious woman whom I will call Anna for the purposes of our discussion. Anna was a classic hippie old school pagan with flowing long skirts, a cotton peasant blouse, and long braided hair twisted about her head. If you were going to draw a picture of a California hippie pagan chick (or a milkmaid), Anna would be what you would draw.

She was to portray the goddess in the speaking part of the ritual, but the guy playing the god couldn’t show up. He probably ran away when he got a look at the outfit, which involved wearing an evergreen wreath, complete with hazardous lit candles á la Santa Lucia, on your head. (I think Anna might have had some Swedish in her).

So my friend Jack, a very handsome, muscular blonde guy in his 20’s, kindly stepped in. Jack usually had a graceful dignity, the kind of regal bearing that one would not normally associate with the wearing of be-candled evergreen wreaths as a hat. And he knew it.

I could see him eyeballing me as he took his place next to Anna in the tiny pulpit area of the UU church, giving me a “You better not f***ing laugh” look.

There is usually no way to make me laugh harder than to give me the “You better not f***ing laugh” look, but I did my best to control myself, pasting a smile of respectful paganhood on my face.

Anna had written her little pageant in a florid, poetic style. The original guy probably had his part memorized, but Jack had to read his lines off a Xerox copy as he stood there in his jeans, leather vest (his usual outfit) and flaming head wreath.

I have to admit that I don’t remember any of the text, except for one line Jack said, in the most morose voice possible: “I come like the winter wind.” Unfortunately, he put the emphasis on "come."

That did it. I completely lost it. Lip biting, crying, red, unable to contain myself. Anna probably wanted to brain me with the Yule log.

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one laughing - because a good-looking, muscular young guy with a wreath on his head sadly intoning double entendres? Comedy gold. I’m surprised that Carrot Top hasn’t tried it.

There was still more ritual to come – a symbolic recreation of birth with the all women who were present standing, legs apart, in a snakelike line as the attendees wriggled on the ground on their backs through them. Ridiculous weird California hippie stuff.

But it was hard work. When you were done wriggling 30 feet on your back, you felt like you had been through the birth process all over again, except the first time you did it, you probably weren’t laughing that hard. More fun than Twister or any Christian church I have ever been to, that's for sure.

Every pagan ritual I have ever been to ends with a really nice song:

The circle is open, yet unbroken,
May the spirit of the Goddess be ever in our hearts.
Merry meet, and merry part and merry meet again.

Then you eat, of course.

Good memories. It's almost enough to make me want to be a pagan all over again.

21 December 2006

So this is Christmas

Well, actually it is not Christmas. This is Yule, the shortest day and longest night of the year, a sacred pagan holiday. It is the reason for the season.

I do not have a fireplace to burn a Yule log and I am not up to extinguishing and relighting all the fires in my home (Hello, Gas Company?). I did manage to put the traditional light in my window to show the way for all the travelers (alive and dead) who may be about on this long, dark night.

You may also put Christmas on the list of things I am done with. It really doesn't mean much to me to start with. I don't believe in the virgin birth or the wise men or the star. Nice story, but a little fanciful. I like Jesus just fine without any miraculous backstory, thank you.

The fact that it now starts in early October is more than a little wearying, too. Nothing could be worth THAT buildup. It just loses all its charm by the time the parking lot decorations have begun to fade in the 10 weeks of sunlight. A fifth of the year dedicated to...what?

Tonight took the cake, though. My family is so weird. And we are led by the Queen of the Odd, my dear mother.

Mr Stapler and I had decided to take Mom and Dad out to a nice place for Christmas dinner. My mom first refused, saying we could call out for a pizza or something, but Dad took the reins and said yes. That was about 10 days ago.

Tonight my mom said "I don't think anything will be open on Christmas."

I said, "We're going to the Pierpont." The only grand old hotel in town. Nice ocean view dining room, a good Christmas menu.

Mom: (in an anguished tone that would do Scarlett O'Hara proud) "No! Nooooo! Don't make me go there! Oh, please, no."

Me: "WHY NOT?"

Mom: "Oh, it is so expensive and I feel like a frumpy old lady when I go there and you shouldn't spend all that money and I would be happier if we just ordered Chinese and ate here or something."

Me: "It's Christmas. One nice meal at a nice place."

Mom: "I went to Burger King yesterday and I had a salad that was so good, I was perfectly happy eating that salad."

Me: "We are NOT eating Burger King on Christmas."

Mom: "I wasn't suggesting it. I was just saying..."

Me: "I already have reservations."

Mom: (sighing deeply and in a martyred tone) "I suppose if that is what Mr Stapler wants, then we have to go there."

Me: "Oh no. Oh no. We do not haveto go anywhere."

By then my head hurt so bad that I felt like someone had cracked me across the bridge of the nose with a yardstick.

What IS it with these people? This Great Depression-haunted life, this exaggerated sense of humility, this failure to grab the brass ring, even when people are handing out brass rings for free.

I just can't make my actual family match the well-behaved, charming family that I have in my head. A family who enjoys going out together for Christmas dinner at a place with cloth napkins and who will smile deep into each other's eyes as they toast the holiday with a nice bottle of burgundy. My genteel, imaginary, well-behaved family.

What my mom doesn't realize is that her refusal to let us do nice things for her doesn't make us happy because then, in her words "You don't have to make a fuss over me."

It makes us miserable by denying us the pleasure of providing pleasure, by saying in an indirect way that our gifts aren't wanted, and by making no day any more special than the one preceding it.

Being a gracious receiver is an honorable place to be. It brings joy. Don't say "You shouldn't have." Because sometimes, really, they should have and they want to. Don't ruin it.

Update: I decided that the only thing that would make me happy would be to make Christmas dinner for my family, since I love to cook. I am cooking on Christmas eve, too.

Mr Stapler called and said no. Cooking 2 days in a row is not an option, in his mind. He does not want to be bored out of his mind chitchatting with my parents while I cook a feast.

This made me almost burst into tears. Caught between take out Chinese and a mad boyfriend.

I am now considering running away for the next four days. Please leave your suggestions in the comments section. No locale is too improbable. But I suppose Denver is out.

Update #2. I think I have pinkeye.

19 December 2006

Remains of the Day

I left a comment over on Amanda's blog, Very Zen about how I felt like my life was a mess, but just how messed up it was would be a subject for my own blog post.

Later that day I checked my stats and a bunch of people had come over here from that comment. What a bunch of voyeurs we are! I would have done the same thing.

I don't feel like writing about my existential angst today, so I will stick to my fallback position, whining about the state of the world.

Things I am done with:

- Bloggers who write a long, impassioned post on why they are quitting blogging, only to return to blogging because everyone leaves such nice comments begging them not to. If you decide you want to quit blogging, I will tell you to go for it. There are enough blogs to go around and there are plenty of better things to do than blogging.

- People who are offended because they don't understand the constitution. It is a nice document. Yes, it does let people say whatever they want to say even if what they are saying is batshit crazy. And it does specifically keep religion out of government. Your religion, their religion, all religion. It doesn't matter what the founding fathers said in letters or speeches. The document that is the foundation of our system of government says no religion, so I am going with that.

- To follow that last one up, I am also done with people who claim that science is some kind of religion. Or that religion is scientific. Hint: if it involves taking things on faith, it isn't science. There were no saddles on dinosaurs. Really.

- People who think stopping at stop signs is optional. They just roll up, whip their head around and then take off, hoping no pedestrians or dogs are in their way.

- The argument over whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. People who support the death penalty don't care whether Mr. Murderer feels icky before he goes to his Just Reward.

People who are against the death penalty think that the pain and suffering the condemned feels right before death is only a drop in the bucket compared to what is wrong with the rest of the process.

- The low angle of the sun. Ouch in the morning on the way to work, ouch on the way home. I can't see a freaking thing, either. If I run someone over, I am going to use a "the sun made me do it" defense.
Now - a game to pimp True Employee Confessions. Let's play True Employee Madlibs. Leave your entries in the comments section.

What do you do when your co-worker is so (adjective) that you want to (verb) every time you see them? What makes them (verb) the way they always (phrase or verb)? Do they really think you want to (verb or phrase) all day long? And are they (adjective) or what?

18 December 2006

The Invasion, Day One

Do you have any idea how dusty 25 year-old carpet gets in a stairwell that never gets used, except for bi-annual fire drills? Are you ready for the eeew-factor answer?

It is a pink carpet. The edges are black. Blaaaaaack. THAT is how dusty.

I arrived late at work to find Andres sneezing and sitting in his little corner of the stairwell. In the dark. Yes, no one thought that the security guard might need light if he was going to spend 8 hours a day in a cramped, unheated stairwell.

The words "rueful laughter" do not begin to describe how Andres greeted me. Because of his love for music and his limited English skills, he and I often communicate in little songs.

I am seeeeeeting....in the dark..." he sang. We both cracked up.

I started coughing this special way that my doctor describes as an "allergic barking cough." Bark bark bark. Bark bark bark.

The cool thing about sitting by the entry door is that you get to see everyone come to work, including the 2 cute guys who work in the building - the tall IT guy and one of the Vice Presidents, who is Mr. McDreamy himself.

The only problem is that the Vice President gets to observe you screwing around at your desk, like you do every morning before settling down to a hard day of more screwing around. Ah well. He is not, technically, MY vice president. Yeah, like that will matter when they start canning people.

By noon, they had gotten someone to vacuum the rug, though I fear the black borders are permanent. But Andres sat there in the dark all day long.

Pray for me

Today is the first day of my new Situation At Work.

The building is being remodeled, so the side door, for the next month or so, will be the front door. The side door is usually an emergency exit. Conveniently enough, it is also right behind my desk.

So each and every day, 300 people will be coming in and out my door all day long. Between entries, breaks, and exits, that is only about 1000 door slams a day. Did I mention how sensitive to noise and people I am? And how quiet my little area usually is? Just wondering.

I don't even have it the worst. Our security guard Andres is stuck at a tiny table in a corner of the stairwell, windowless, in an area about 3 feet by 3 feet.

So pray for us. Of course you will find out how it went.

17 December 2006

Who rocks?

Who is continuing an undefeated streak as Champion of All Things Church Potluckish?

That would be me!

Tonight's victory: Raspberry Trifle made with lemon poundcake and cardamom cream sauce. It beat out the chocolate mousse cake by 2 votes. And the chocolate mousse cake woman admitted that she had purchased her cake and just added custom decorations. So there.

Do you want the recipe? Too bad, because it is too difficult for normal mortals. But for those of us touched by the Holy Fire of Kitchen Wizardry, it was a snap. And yes, I made it up myself. Well, I combined the lemon poundcake recipe from Payard with the cardamom pastry cream recipe from epicurious with the trifle recipe from former White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier...and threw in some raspberries just for fun.

Merely 2 days in the kitchen, 17 dirty pans, and 14,000 calories. Easy peasy.

To be honest, it wasn't that much of a snap. At one point when I moved my mixer cord and spilled coffee ALL over the place (there was so much coffee that the animals began scrambling two by two up into the boat) I got so cranky that I tossed my cookbook out the front door into the driveway. In the rain. Oh, yeah, I am mentally well. Sure.

Is it a wonder I never get around to scrubbing the shower?

PS Any NBA fans out there? Did you see that Knicks/Nuggets game/fight? Wow. If you haven't seen it, go over to YouTube. (they took it down) In all my years, I have never seen ANYTHING like that.

Fawlty Bungalow

As my faithful readers know, my neighbor Jay has a big brown dog, Oscar. Jay told me he was going away for 4 days at Christmas and asked me to take care of the dog. Arg.

Taking care of Oscar is a pain because he sleeps inside Jay's house (he can't sleep in my house because it isn't big enough for big old me and 2 big dogs) and needs to go out first thing in the morning.

This would mean a 4-day holiday weekend of getting up before 6 a.m. to let Oscar out. While I'm not a REAL late sleeper, I do like to snooze until 8 or so on weekends...is that asking too much?

So I told Jay no. But he went on and on and pleaded and begged, so I said yes.

Then a couple weeks later I told him I was going out of town for the weekend so I couldn't do it. Not technically a lie, because I am going to spend one night away, maybe.

The problem is that Jay changed his plans and isn't going away after all.

So now I am caught in my own deception, á la Basil Fawlty. I have to either 1) leave town for the weekend or 2) sneak into my own house and not turn on any lights for 4 days or 3) make up some lie about staying here.

Good work, Suebob. You'd think I'd learn that it is easier to tell the truth, but no.
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