Nipped by a Bug

Standard

It is one minute before ten (at night) and Andy just emerged from his room to scrounge for some dinner. He had salad on his mind, but could not find dressing he likes, because we got sidetracked in the grocery store yesterday when we needed an ingredient for the BBQ French dressing he likes me to make that was not on our list. We were so worried about forgetting to buy Barbecue sauce, that we ran right by the shelves of dressing in the produce section that offer instant gratification. Making salad dressing now is not on my radar or his, so he is making a sandwich. Natural consequences can be a bite.

I feel a little bad though, because I meant to show him how to make the BBQ French dressing yesterday, so he could have it on hand, and this would not happen — but I got sidetracked from that too, first by setting up the Christmas tree, and then by exhaustion. I have been worn out at the end of most days, lately, and I think I found out why…

I got nipped by a bug. It is going around, and people are dropping like flies at work, at the schools, everywhere. Today, it got me. So I left work early, came home and worked on taking care of myself by lying low. I am feeling a little better, so I am choosing to believe it helped. Now I am going to keep that up by calling the day done, instead of making salad dressing.

It’s Beginning to Look a Little Like Christmas…

Standard

Andy and I have been needing a little Christmas lately, which means there are halls (or at least a living room)  to be decked and movies to be watched.

So today we did it. After a month plus of putting it off, we went to storage. We did not find the sweaters and other winter clothes I actually need to stay warm for the next few months, but we did find some books and knick-knacks Andy wanted for his room, and more Christmas stuff than I remembered keeping last spring.

We left storage with 10 boxes plus a few stray items. Andy, a Dr. Who fan, declared my Corolla was a Tardis (the Dr.’s time machine that looks like a Police Call Box from the outside, but is endlessly spacious, on the inside) when I had it all packed, with room to spare in the trunk, but not for his legs in the front seat.

The next stop on the itinerary was the store for some groceries, new earbuds and a Christmas tree. Getting the Christmas tree was an “event” of the holidays, in our former lives,  meriting a double page spread in the scrapbook. When Andy touted the “efficiency” of getting a tree from the grocery store after leaving storage, I did not know if I should be proud, or sad, so I was a little of both, believe it or not.

Andy took it even further, by suggesting we buy an artificial tree, as we walked in. I did not know what to think of this. The kids had artificial trees in their rooms for years, but with the exception of  last year, when we used Andy’s 6′ tree with lights, and nothing else as our main tree, we had real trees.

Ours were big and beautiful trees that involved a process that became a rite of Christmas, for our family. Sometimes a week could pass between picking it out at a tree lot, and the final step of placing the skirt beneath it. Getting the ornaments and house decorations from the storage shed or the attic above the garage was a planned family activity, the first weekend in December. I wound strings of lights around the branches, from trunk to edge, to trunk again for days. Then I started on ornaments. The kids would help a bit each year, or most years, but I did most of it at night, after they were in bed, because that was the way it started when they were little and late night was the only time I had to decorate a tree.

The first time was our first Christmas in our first house. Zoe was going to be turning five in January, and Andy turned one that fall, so I was determined to make it magical, and my plan started with a big, beautiful tree.

I had left my outside job in August to do home daycare, so I could be home with our kids and actually generate income, rather spend my earnings on day care. By Thanksgiving, I had 7 kids coming and going each day, the first set arriving at 5:30 in the morning, the last set leaving at 6:00 p.m. Sitting on the floor with a glass of wine, wrapping the glowing strings of multi-colored bulbs around and around to the soft beat of Christmas music was a nice way to launch the Christmas season, at the time. So nice that I left nary a sprig was unilluminated, and ran out of lights twice  before I finally wound a cord around the needle-bare stick at the top. I used a total of 21 strings of 100 count lights on our eight foot Christmas tree that year, and  everyone who saw it reveled at its splendor. It was radiant.

It was also hot, with all those lights, so by Christmas Day, the tree was so dried out that we only dared let it shine for 10 minutes at a time, while both sides of the family filled our home for dinner.

From then on, all of our trees were like that…glowing spectacles of thousands of miniature lights and hundreds of memories hung by hooks. It was what we did, or I did, at least.

So, I was surprised today, when Andy suggested we buy an artificial tree, and I agreed. And I was surprised when I guessed that five sets of 50-count LED lights would be enough irradiation for the seven foot cone-o-wires and plastic shred, and it turned out that four strings were enough.

I like our tree, just as it is, because today, Andy and I found the Christmas we were needing came in making it happen together, and the joy of the season doesn’t get any better than that.

Unable to connect to the Internet

Standard

*

Written Saturday, December 8

I am a planner. Planning is how I get everything, anything done. I had plans for today. To have coffee with friends, go to yoga, get some groceries and go to storage to get winter clothes and Christmas decorations, then to study for the tax exam I take next Saturday,  work on a Microsoft training course, and write this blog entry.

The universe had different ideas for me though. I have been feeling like I am coming down with something this week. I have been achy, and had the chills. When I got home from yoga around 1:00 I was exhausted, and decided to take a nap. I did not set an alarm, and woke up at 6:30 this evening. I slept the light away, and was thrown off.  I was foggy. How am I going to get to sleep tonight? Should I study?

I should return the videos we rented last weekend, I realized. They might have been due yesterday, but could be due today, and if there is a chance I can avoid late fees, I want to. So I drove to Hastings, returned the videos, and rented a new one, to do something with the time I seemed to need to figure out what to do about sleeping.

When I got back, I was chilled and achy again, but ready to study, and write my blog entry. A different entry, that I will share another time, if it feels right. But the universe had different plans for me.  Its message was Unable to connect to the Internet, and I knew it was right.

My exam prep, the Microsoft courses, and the posting of my blog all depended on getting online, so I saw it as a sign. I stopped worrying about what I was not doing, and focused on curling up under a blanket, relaxing, and enjoying the movie I rented tonight. I probably could have figured out the problem with my wireless connection, but chose not to try. I chose to connect with what my body was telling it me needed most, instead of what my brain was saying I “should” do.  I stopped.

Tomte, Klompens, A Rocking Chair and St. Nicholas (A Story)

Standard
A Tomten and Klompens

My Tomten and Klompens – December 6, 2011

I wrote the first draft of this story last year on December 6th, St. Nicholas Day, then revised it a few days later to share at the December meeting for a women’s writing group I belonged to then. I planned to share it on this blog last night, but did not have the energy to proofread it, and write the update I wanted to include, so I slept last night and am sharing this today.

*

On December 5th, 1966 I sat on my bed, like I did every night when I was 3, and waited for my mom to read me a story. That night, she carried a book into my room, rather than picking one from the shelf or asking if I had picked one myself. It was The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren.

I was excited before she lifted the cover.  Tomte – Swedish gnomes – were notorious mischief makers in our family.  They stole socks from the laundry, dropped mittens onto the back stairs, and were unquestionably blamed for eating the ripe cherry tomatoes in my grandma’s garden. That there was a book about them meant they MUST be special.

The Tomten of the story lives on a small, lonely farm nestled deep in a forest of Northern Sweden. We enter his world, on a clear winter night. “The snow lies white all around, the frost is cruel,” we are told, the people have gone into their warm, cozy houses. The farm is quiet. “Everyone is sleeping. All but one…”

By the soft glow of moonlight, The Tomten moves from building to building, making tracks in the snow.  He cares for the animals as he makes his rounds, and talks to them in tomten language, “a silent, little language” they can understand. As he tends to their needs on this bitter night, he reminds them that spring will come, of the blessings in what they have, about friendship, faith and love.

I was mesmerized by the tale and its charming illustrations.  When it was time to leave the Tomten’s farm, I was bursting with enchantment, and my mom knew it.

So it was at that very moment that she told me about St. Nicholas Day, December 6th. On St. Nicholas Day, she told me, St. Nicholas visits towns and villages, where they have parties and feasts in his honor.  On the night before, she reported, children in Sweden and “other countries” left their shoes outside their door. If they had been good, they would wake to find St. Nicholas had filled their shoes with treats.  Because we were Swedish, mom continued, St. Nicholas visited our house, too. Today is December 5th, St. Nicholas Day is tomorrow, she explained, so I would probably want to pick of a pair of shoes to set outside my bedroom door. I was skeptical, I remember, because I knew St. Nicholas was Santa, and Santa came on Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve was a looooong way away since we had opened Door 19 on the Advent calendar that morning.  I expressed my doubts. “OK,” mom said, “but don’t expect your brothers to share their treats with you tomorrow.”

After I climbed out of bed, a slight detour toward the door allowed me a glimpse my MUCH older and wiser brothers’ Sunday shoes in the hall. If they, of 9 and 12, set their shoes neatly against the baseboard of the wall between their bedrooms, I should put a pair of my shoes outside my door, too. I slid the heavy closet door back on its track so it thunked against the frame and scared the trolls living in the closet into the walls, just as my brothers told me to do.

I was leaning in, surveying the dark void to make sure it was troll-free when my brain sounded the alarm. Would my Sunday shoes be good enough?  I wondered. I had called my cousin Ginny a brat that day and tattled on my brother.  I needed to put out my VERY BEST shoes, I realized as I inspected the mound of footwear on the floor.

Then I saw them, in the corner where they landed after bouncing off the laundry basket during night time clean up – my klompens – the wooden shoes my mom bought me at the Holland (Michigan) Tulip Festival, the spring before.  If any shoes could get me treats despite my errant three-year-old ways, it would be my klompens.

The next morning, when I emerged from my room, one my shoes and each of my brothers’ were filled with a glistening ruby-red apple and a candy cane, and the other contained a small wrapped gift.  My gift was a Millie Middle Little Kiddle doll. It was magic, I proclaimed as I ran from room to room. Magic that can wait for daylight, my older brother said, as I tried to roust him from his bed.

That morning was the first of many enchanting December 6ths. As I grew, the trinkets grew with me, and when I stopped putting my shoes outside my door, St. Nicholas came anyway. He sneaked books into my Moon Boots, Lip Smackers into ski boots left in the breezeway, and earrings into a stray Candie’s clog on its side on my bedroom floor. It was a tradition, for our family.  Every year there was something, and it always felt like magic, for a moment, at least.

***

On the night of December 5th, 1994, my daughter sat on her bed, as she did every night when she was almost 3, and despite her objections to my reading  MorMor’s Story, I read her  The Tomten.  It had been a gift from my mom, her Mormor, when we gathered for Thanksgiving that year.  After I finished, and she conceded that it was OK this time, I told her the story of St, Nicholas Day, and how I had chosen to put my klompens outside my door, when I was her age. I told her she could use my klompens, too, if she wanted.

But my daughter did not inherit my skepticism or doubt concerning whether she was “good” enough to get treats. She jumped from the bed, pulled her pink Converse high tops from the closet, and placed them outside her bedroom door.  That year and the next, we were both enchanted on the morning of December 6th, Zoe by the treats that magically appeared in her favorite shoes de jour, and I by the comforting exuberance of continuing traditions steeped in love.

Something happened after that, though, and St. Nicholas Day got lost in the melee of parenting, work, holiday shopping and the ongoing stress of a bad marriage. Each year, around Halloween, I would want to remember, but December 6th would come and go before I would think of it again. My son Andy, who is only three years younger than his sister has never known the simple joy of finding treats and trinkets in his shoes. The tradition died.

***

On December 6, 2011, I sat in bed as I do many mornings, and wrote in my journal. When I finished waxing on my hopes for the day I went downstairs to get new tax class information I wanted to organize. When I picked up the papers and workbook, I realized the binder I planned to use was too small, so I went out to the garage where I keep the overflow stock. Mission accomplished, stuff on a makeshift table fashioned from floorboards laid across strategically spaced plastic bins, grabbed my attention. It was a garage sale table, one of several currently filling my garage as I try to sell off and get rid of what we don’t want or can’t take with us when we lose our house and move, soon. This one is different from the other tables of “junk” though, it holds trinkets of memories  –  a little girl’s jewelry, beanbag toys , resin figurines from birthdays past. Memories better held in hearts than in our hands, I chanted to myself, as I stuck colored dots declaring 25¢ and 50¢ and laid them out for sale.

On top of the wood crate “shelf” in the center of the table, were my klompens.  It wasn’t the first time they caught my eye since they were relegated to liquidation in August. I’ve wanted to pick them up a hundred times since I put them there, but wouldn’t or couldn’t touch them out of fear that I would not put them back down, and a frenzied reclamation of knick-knacks would ensue. “Let them go,” I told myself as I walked into the house with the binder tucked under my arm. Then I remembered it was St. Nicholas Day, and the memories you’ve been reading started swirling in my brain. I went back out to the garage, picked them up, peeled the red dot with a Sharpie scribbled $1 off the toe, and carried my klompens back into the house.  Once inside, I set them on the floor next to the chair I sat and rocked my children in, on long, dark nights, while everyone else was asleep. Then I sat down, and pulled The Tomten from the wooden rack next to the rocker.

“Winters come and winters go,

Summers come and summers go,

Soon you will be in your clover field.”

The Tomten said, in tomten language, a silent little language I could understand.

It’s been 45 years since I woke up that first December 6th.  Life has proved more challenging and amazing than I ever imagined as a child, or while raising mine. My klompens are outside my bedroom door, now, empty of treats but overflowing with memories and dreams. I don’t know whether I will keep them or not, now that I know I can hold onto memories without keeping stuff. But for now, they will stay, in honor of St Nicholas, my loving mom, the Tomten, and me.

***

2012 Update: When I wrote this story last year, my son Andy and I were living in “our” house, the house he and his sister were raised in for the previous eight years. The house was on the market, and in foreclosure then, because the divorce I needed to refinance the mortgage the year before was not final until after I had left my job on the promise of another that fell through, and I had been unable to find a job that provided the income I needed to qualify for a new mortgage or modification.  We did not know what the future held…I had work starting in January, which would turn into two jobs, by the end of December, but whether they would provide enough income in time to apply for a mortgage modification was something only the future could know. As it turned out, the income was a week late. Exactly one week before I had the pay stubs I needed to apply for the mortgage, an offer was made on our house. Our garage was set up as a garage sale until spring, when the sale of the house closed, and everything was either sold, donated or put into storage.  A lot has changed since then. After Andy and I moved out of our house, we moved to St. Louis for a job after school let out in June, and back home to Boise in late August, in time for him to start at a new school this year.  A school he loves. In October, I got the job I have now. The job I love.

Almost everything has changed in the past year, and in the process, Andy and I lost much, and gained more. But some things have not changed… St. Nicholas Day eluded me again, this year, and I still  have my klompens.

 

Some Days Require More Coffee

Standard

*

When I turned off my light at 10:30 last night, later than I hoped, but not as late as most nights, I had big plans for today. I was going to go to morning yoga at 5:45, and see if it gave me fodder to divulge the meaning of the “Yoga Pants” portion of the blog title.

When I blew out my candle, and sunk under the blankets, I was ready to get up and go. My yoga clothes were stacked neatly on the foot of my bed, with my slip on shoes on the floor below. My work clothes were hanging from the hook on my wall, and my bags with everything to get ready at the yoga studio and get through my day were packed. My lunch was gathered in a grocery bag in the fridge, and my lunch bag was on the counter. All I needed to do this morning was get up, get dressed, grab and go.

My body had other plans, though. I don’t remember turning the alarms off, just the voice calling in to see if I was awake. I wasn’t, so I thanked the voice as I looked at the clock, and saw it was 5:52, also known as seven minutes past yoga time. I felt good, rested, so I was OK with that.

Another ten minutes passed, when I realized it was 7:02, and I need to put my glasses on before checking the time from now on. Normally, I am in the final stages of morning take-off at 7:02, if I haven’t left already. This morning, I was in my pajamas, sucking down my first and only cup of coffee, trying to figure out how I would take a shower and get to work on time.

The nice thing was I didn’t freak out about being so late, like I would have a year, or even a few months ago. I simply went into fast mode, and figured out what parts of my hair care and face construction could wait to be done in the car and after I got to work. I did what I NEEDED to do, let the rest wait, and made it to work with wet hair and 6 minutes to spare.

Apparently, this took a lot of energy, because after I was at work for a few hours, I felt like I hit a wall, so I drank about 3 cups of coffee more than I usually do in the morning. Then, I went to an off-site meeting at noon, came back and drank 3 more, hoping it would get me through the afternoon while knowing I would probably regret it tonight.

When I got on the computer to write this post, I hoped I would recover the brilliant, witty ideas I conjured as I walked to the meeting and back this afternoon, and lost before leaving work.  NOTHING was coming to mind, so I decided to see what my Swedish “Word of the Day” was, before logging in to WordPress and admitting I had nothing to say, today. Learning Swedish is hard for me. I stopped counting how many times I quit “before getting out of bed” in February, so I am “starting” to learn for the fifth or fifteenth time this year, this week.

The Swedish Word of the Day: 

att kräva – to require

The sentence using it:

Vissa dagar kräver mer kaffe än andra.

Some days require more coffee than others.

I don’t think I will have a hard time learning this lesson.

Quitting

Standard

One of the things I have not managed to get the hang of is “quit while you’re ahead”. It is not that I never quit, it is that I generally quit at inopportune times.  I “quit while I am still in bed,” before I really start, or I “quit when I’ve beaten it dead,” which I am guessing you can figure out on your own.

Not stopping when I need to has been a major theme of my life for big deals, little stuff, and everything in between.  I tried to make things work that couldn’t. ..I was chronically late for years, because I would not stop what I was doing, or from doing one more thing before getting myself out the door. I stay up too late, because I don’t stop my day when I should.

I am working on this…but I will have to talk about it more tomorrow, because Tuesday needs to end now.

This and that

Standard

Yesterday I admitted that the “work” I face and that is fueling this blog is me, and left it at that.

Why? Because learning to leave things “at that” (what IS that that, anyway?) is one of the things I am working on.

And on this note, I leave it at that, because tonight I am getting a good night of sleep…something else I am working on.

See you tomorrow.

Why Work Works

Standard

*

Yesterday I told you that NaBloPoMo’s December theme of “Work” was a catalyst to start this blog, because it is all about work.  Today, I will try to reveal what I meant by that…

*

It seems the best way to explain myself, is to start with what I don’t mean.

This blog is not about my employment. Though I have a job I go to each day – a job I love, by the way – it is not the work that launches a thousand words.

The work I am going to share here is much more daunting than 8 to 5 in a cubicle can ever be. The time, effort and fortitude required to see it through to completion makes most other tasks I need to complete seem totally doable. Easy, even.

The work I have to do is me. And I don’t like being the center of attention, especially not my own.

So, as the ironies of life so often show us, I have created this blog for the very reason I avoided it, for the past few years, because it is going to be all about me.

The thing is, I suspect a lot of people will feel it is about them too.

That is my hope, at least.

More on this tomorrow, of course.

A 2×4 and an IRS Exam

Standard

Sometimes, I need to get whacked on my head to get something started, other times I just need to be avoiding something else more.

This blog took both. I have crafted posts in my mind as I drive and shop and flit about Facebook for years now. Most of them have gone to the place of the “To Dos” I pretend I will remember even if I don’t write them down. But that ends now, because the forces have collided. NaBloPoMo’s December theme of “Work” is the figurative 2×4 I need to organize my thoughts, and starting my blog has become the only thing I can do to avoid studying for my IRS Return Tax Preparer Exam without guilt.

Why? Because my blog is all about work.

You’ll have to come back tomorrow to see what that means.