Thursday, December 31, 2009

January 1st Seems An Odd Time For A New Year

I'm not a fan of what is officially dubbed New Year's.

I know that January 1st is the start of a new calendar but it's never felt like the start of anything profound for me.

In my teens and 20s, it was just an excuse to party harder with more fanfare than other nights out. It also usually meant spending more money and ringing in the new year with total strangers. Exactly, what about that says "fresh start", especially when you're waking up the next day around noon with a headache.

During my married life, things have been a bit different. We've rung in the new year with friends, but more times than not, we've spent it at home quietly passing the time until the ball dropped in Time Square on TV. In recent years, we've been asleep well before then.

Do you think me a complete loser? You are of course, entitled to your own opinion but I'd have to say, what about December 31st into January 1st means stay up late to see the clock strike 12m? It's just another day on the calendar. And frankly, if it's new beginnings we're talking about here, shouldn't you be in bed so you can get an early start on all those changes to your life you want to make?

No, January 1st means nothing to me outside of having to change the calendars and the batteries in my smoke detectors. My "new year" has always been, for as far back as I can remember, and will always be, as long as I live, the first day of school, or to be more specific the Tuesday after Labor Day. My daughter goes back to school each year a full week earlier than that but I still think there is something to that Tuesday in September that really means "fresh start". A new school year with new pencils and new notebooks and new shoes (back to the shoes are we?) and new friends and new possibilities to improve and grow. All that and the weather is warm and sunny.

That's when I make my resolutions for change. Who can think about change when all you really want to do is hibernate until the cold and grey January days are gone. I'd venture to guess that most people put exercise and eating right at the top of their lists each year only to be sidetracked by the gloomy weather that makes you want to sit on the couch under a blanket watching TV eating hot cream soups. Not a good start to those resolutions, my friend. Maybe it's spending less that's on your agenda this year? Always a good call after all that holiday shopping. Well, when you're snowed in with nowhere to go and nothing to do, online shopping to the rescue, and look at that, it comes to you. Another broken promise to yourself.

No, January 1st is just a bad time to start a year. Or rather, a bad time to begin New Year's Resolutions. For me, I'll stick with the Tuesday after Labor Day. And when I start to break those resolutions to myself, well then, I always have 1/1 to put me back on track. I guess you could say that Jan. 1 is my 2nd New Year. And with that in mind, I'd better get some sleep so I can start on all those resolutions tomorrow.

My resolutions for 2010:
>Exercise More / Eat Less
>Save More / Spend Less
>Have More Patience / Be Less Reactionary

They're the same resolutions I've had as far back as I can remember. Looks like no matter when I make 'em, I break 'em ;-)

Happy New Year Blogosphere Family!
Here's hoping the year ahead brings us all a little closer to our goals. Or at the very least, gives us the material to keep writing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I've Got A Good Rage Going & I Don't Want To Waste It Seeing The Bright Side

I started the day off with the early stages of packing up my kitchen. With Christmas this Friday and plans to be away for a week, I had to get a head start on moving items out of the kitchen for the renovations that "were" scheduled for January 4th. While I was sorting items into keep, donate, pitch, and will need in my makeshift kitchen, my husband called.

Let me backtrack by saying that I am a doer. You hand me a task, you can expect that it will be done to perfection and on time, sometimes even under budget. So months ago, when my husband said, "the kitchen is a go, this is your budget, you can start the first week of January", well, I ran with it. The kitchen plans are drawn up with the contractor, on target with budget, start date 1/4.

While I handle the household finances, I don't handle the investments... or more importantly, make the money. So as I was sorting and packing this morning, waiting for the contractor to arrive to write him his first check, my husband called to say that his part in this endeavor would not be available until mid-February. What!? And again, What?! See, he started, and then he didn't follow-up, and then he waited some more, and then he dropped the ball which set off a chain reaction I was in charge of having to clean up. Had it not been a snow day and my daughter was not home with a friend over to play, the expletives would have been flying!!!

What can I do? What's done is done. I suppose I should be happy I'm still getting a new kitchen just not in two weeks. But I've got a good rage going and I don't want to waste it seeing the bright side. So who should I rail against? My husband, who's already feeling my wrath. The contractor, who is rescheduling his life around me. My daughter, who I kept asking to "leave Mommy alone right now, I don't want to yell at you for something you didn't do". No, it's me. I always remember in hindsight, to keep big news to myself until it's happening or has happened. Because now, since I posted on my Facebook page (Christ, I've got to get off Facebook) all the plans for the kitchen and now that it's all on hold, I'm getting the pity comments.

"Oh, Bonnie, what happened?"
"I'm so sorry."
"Yikes! What went wrong?"
"Hope your marriage survives."

Where's the comment... "Damn, that stinks. But now you don't have to pack up the kitchen before you head to NJ." That's a true friend's response. I'd even take "(Husband's name here) is a moron. I hope he makes up for this blunder with an awesome Christmas gift." One friend wrote "It's never too late to start drinking." That I liked. Humor folks, not pity. Don't feel sorry for me. Don't feel better about yourself at my expense. Don't you dare pity me. Let me deal with my own "stuff". Buoy my spirits with wit and intelligent sarcasm, not condescension and sad smiley-faces. Ugh!

Tomorrow, I will unpack those items I started to pack away. No need now. I've got some time. Then I plan to find what's left of my Christmas spirit and fan the flames a bit so that I can at least get through the week without this pit in my stomach. Why is the pit there? Surprisingly, not because I'm not getting a new kitchen the first Monday in January. It's there because I let people feel superior to me. And that's all my own fault :-(

Damn those sad smiley-faces! ;-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I Got Nothin'

Since I started blogging, I've never missed a week; not one. In fact, most weeks I've posted more than once. But here I am, sitting down to write, with nothing to say. Yeah, I can't believe it either. The minutia of life, the craziness of the holidays, the altercations with the public at large... NOTHING!

I met a friend for a quick Starbucks today and came to the realization that if I'm not bitching about something or railing against one thing or another, she and I don't have much of anything to discuss. How sad. I sat there listening to her complain about her last shopping experience and I just couldn't muster my usual enthusiasm to be the company to her misery.

Have I become, dare I say, too happy to partake in daily kvetching. What will become of my finely tuned sarcasm? Will I have to start wearing floral prints in sunny yellow, instead of my urban uniform of black? What will I write about if I'm not yelling?!

Well, this is just unacceptable. I'm clearly exhausted from the "to much to do and not enough time to do it" syndrome. I'm sure that once the holidays are over and I've spent a week with my family and I've come home to a construction zone, I'll be back to posting 3, 4, 9 times a week.

Until then, I'll be humming a happy tune and hoping I don't scare any of the kids at my daughter's school with my crazy lady grinning. Better keep wearing black so I'm somewhat recognizable ;-).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Awards To Pay

I know I'm supposed to be graciously handing out awards to worthy recipients but I have a dilemma. I don't read any blogs that aren't already award winners. OK maybe 3 haven't yet won anything but that may be because they don't post very often.

So what is a blogger to do? I'll tell you what I'm going to do... wait. I'm going to wait until I read more blogs and are impressed by more blogs and then I'll share the wealth.

In the meantime, here are a few previous blog of note winners that I follow regularly and am a huge fan of for various reasons. Hope you find something in the mix that you enjoy.

Compromises Made

On the first Monday in January, our kitchen is being gutted. Down to the studs - as they say. I don't want a shred of the original in my house by Wednesday of that week.

Let me tell you about the kitchen I've lived with for the last 10 years. It's original to the house which was built in 1965 - getting a picture yet? It has brown appliances (that is, the ones that still work) and harvest gold linoleum floors with a sunflower pattern - are you ill now? The countertops are formica with cuts and burns in it and the cabinets, well, the cabinets aren't all that bad except I hate them. I hate it all. I hate that for the last 5 years since the original refrigerator died, I've been walking to my garage to get milk. I hate that there is a cabinet over the buffet counter so you have to duck to see into the eating space. I hate that there is not enough cabinets to house all my stuff, of course, I could get rid of some stuff, but I use my stuff, so why should I.

Of course, having barely survived my last mini remodeling project (I had an outside wall replaced with a wall of windows) I am already feeling the pressure. You see, with the holidays here and too many distractions to number, coupled with being out of state from Christmas Day until New Years Eve, I'm looking ahead to a house full of construction dust over not only my everyday stuff, but all the holiday decorations I put out. Unless by some miracle of packing karma I can rid my 1st floor of all the Christmas flair and all the gifts, and then pack away my regular odds and ends, I'm looking at a full blown OCD ridden small particle freak out meltdown. (Please read past post:Dust to Dust...). I'm hyperventilating just thinking about it.

In light of future events, I had to make some compromises to my traditional holiday hoopla. No Christmas village of houses and shops, no snowglobe collection, no artificial tree with all the fragile gold ornaments, and only half the usual Christmas ornaments on the real tree. More than half of all my Christmas decorations never even made it out of the storeroom this year. I just can't count on time being on my side as I feverishly pack everything away before the first sledgehammer is thrown. I'm sad about that. I only get to see these wonderful trinkets once a year and now it will be two before they see the light of day.

We've made the best of it. To be honest, I have way too much and I should be rotating the stuff in and out on alternating years anyway. The casual observer wouldn't notice anything missing, but I do. Only the dream of a new kitchen makes it all OK. Yeah!

I've started to clear through the kitchen cabinets and purge old items I don't want cluttering up my new kitchen. I've decided I'm not buying any more pantry items in an attempt to have less to move. And I've been imaging how we can make do without a stove or sink for a month or more. We'll be setting up a makeshift kitchen in the mudroom - just a microwave and a toaster oven - but since it's right off of the garage, hey, I'll be closer to my refrigerator ;-).

Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Award For Me?!

Today I received an early Christmas gift from my blogosphere friend Gavin at This Santa-fied Lemonade Stall Award has been given to me with the task of choosing 5 blogs I enjoy to introduce you all to. I'm not sure what this award means - do I leave a sour taste in my readers' mouths or am I refreshing to read on a Summer's day? But an award given in kindness and mutual respect is a gift I'm more than willing to accept... greedily ;-).

As for my task at hand, I'll have to give it some thought. There are blogs I enjoy that have already received a good number of awards so I'd rather share the wealth. Additionally, there are friends of mine that have blogs I'd like you to read but they're so bad about keeping up with them that there wouldn't be much to read.

I promise to pay my good fortune forward within the week.

Thank you again, Gavin. I'm so honored, dare I say pleased as punch... or rather, lemonade ;-).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas Comes But Once A Year. Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling. - Part 2

I've officially caught the Christmas spirit bug. Truth be told, it's been itching at me for weeks, but only the crazy (or the retail driven) start thinking about Christmas in mid-November.

I wrote this at the end of my last post:
"Coordinating the pageantry of Christmas is like staging a huge glitzy Broadway musical, but harder... because after every minute detail has been tended to, Christmas has to look completely effortless. Will she do it all and still have time to run to her stylist for a cut and color to cover the greys that popped up during her parking lot brawls? Stay tuned..."

Well, so far so good. I'm on schedule, or to use a phrase my 7 year old used the other day that she clearly learned from me, "I'm on task". We pulled out the Christmas dishes to use everyday and the holiday CDs to play until we can't stand it anymore and changed the phone message to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Hello".

All the gifts are purchased; which seems easy enough until you realized that I have 75 people (give or take) to buy for. From family and friends, to teachers and coaches, to service people who make my life easier, they all get a little something (and in some cases, a lot a something). But while the presents are present, they are not wrapped. Which leads us to a photo of "Mommy's Christmas Workshop" (ignore that oatmeal can in the center of the shot - that will eventually become the damsel's tower to our gingerbread castle; what this photo doesn't show is that queen sized bed is covered with stuff as is the floor on the other side - yikes!):

Come Thanksgiving, the guest room is off limits to everyone but Mrs. Claus. The door is shut and posted is a sign that reads "Mommy's Christmas Workshop" DO NOT ENTER! My daughter loves a surprise so she doesn't peek and she knows I won't give her anything she spies. She also respects the Santa rule of naughty and nice and the fact that "he's watching" makes a big impression. Add to that, that she just this week had her 1st Reconciliation (confession) at church and you've got a powerful combination. For now, the fear of Mommy, Santa, and God is far too strong to be tempted by a look see.

So we have presents bought, workshop in place to help sort, wrap, package... hmm, what's next? Christmas cards! All 118 of them (not including the ones that we hand deliver) to be exact went out on Monday so that my very nearest recipients received them on December 1st. Last year, I was late (by a week) in getting them out and you should have heard phone messages: "Bonnie, it's the 3rd and I haven't gotten your card. Is everything alright?" "Bonnie, what's happening? You're card is usually the first one I get. Where is it?" And so on. To avoid a repeat of last year, I made certain to get back to my usual standards... which include writing a message in each card, signing it, and hand addressing. Sorry, any other way is just a waste of a stamp. Just sayin'. A photo of your kid with your names printed on the bottom and a sticker label with my address doesn't really wish me a happy holiday. It says "have a photo of my kid". And don't even get me started on those family newsletters with the print so small you need a magnifying glass. Why are they always written in the 3rd person as if some author penned the year in review memories of the Smith family? If you send one my way, you should know, I usually don't read them.

With cards out, there's decorating to attend to. Truth be told, I could whip this house into a holiday frenzy in a day or two, but now that my daughter wants to be involved, how can I deny her the joy that comes from discovering Christmas treasures that have been packed away for a year and finding the perfect home for each for the next month. So the process is much slower. A bin, a few bags, maybe a box - after a full day of school, homework, on some days an after school activity, she's beat. It may take a week or so to get everything up and out. This weekend, we'll go and pick a tree. That will be the last of the decorating to do. Then we can sit and inhale the pine scent... and I can add vacuuming up pine needles to my daily list of chores.

The calendar is filled. I honestly don't think that we could accept another invitation (neighbor open house, cookie swap), book another Christmas field trip (light shows, holiday concerts) or host another holiday themed event (gingerbread house decorating, Christmas movie night). I could probably squeeze in a quick Starbucks get-together with a friend but I'm trying to be so good - which means exercising every chance I get (I am loving Gilad on FitTV), not drinking high calorie hot beverages (is there any point to a skinny latte?), and avoiding spending any more money on frivolities (on top of Christmas, we are gutting and redoing the kitchen next month - we're broke). But while the calendar is full, I have literally worked in free time where nothing can be booked so we don't forget to slow down and enjoy the best of the season. If I didn't, we'd be running through the holidays.

One more thing to do - there is still tons of baking and crafting ahead. You can't bake cookies and breads and cakes today and expect it to be fresh on the 25th, now can you? So I'm stuck waiting until the week of and then it's non-stop beating and batters and baking and boxing. If I get a bathroom break I'll be lucky. For now though, I can get all the crafting done which could mean decorating grapevine wreaths for friends today and making photo scrapbook calendars for grandparents tomorrow. I used to knit, but I forgot how. I leave all actual artwork to my daughter and my sister, the professional artist, but I find ways to work in a little of my artistic touch. Usually it's in my wrapping. I love to wrap gifts with big satin bows and some kind of decoration on top. I have dreams of having a manse with a gift wrapping room - that's how much I love to wrap. Dreams aside, Mommy's Christmas Workshop serves me well (I'm lucky to have the extra space at all).

So I've nothing really to complain about... so not like me, right? For now, things are going according to plan. I've even managed to find something pretty to wear on Christmas up in NJ, which is always a chore since no designers make clothes for short, fat, fashion conscious people. But if you know me at all, you know that I live at the nexus of yin and yang - if everything is going right, something is about to go very wrong.

Remember that cut and color I mentioned earlier? I'd better get into the salon before my luck changes; green is Christmasy, but not on my head ;-).