Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ciao, 2009!

Dear 2009,

Thank you for such a rich year. Thank you for the love, the tears, the conundrums, the fabulous thrift scores, the time I got to spend with family and friends. And all those IDEAS.

You know what I really liked? The very best thing about you? That this year I set out on the path to adopt my child, and took the steps I needed to become part of this pool of waiting, eligible parents. (I don't know if you're reading this, 2007 and 2008, but I know you introduced the ideas, but really, it was 2009 that things really got moving.)

There were, of course, some things I'd rather you hadn't brought around. Like my collapsed lung, for example. And this terrible economy and the accompanying plummeting value of my properties. And those icky wars.

As you usher yourself out, I want to say goodbye to you, and to please do not be upset if I like 2010 better ... especially as I iron out some of those ideas and make them real.



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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Orphan Christmas

First Annual Holiday Note to Self:

Each year, you try to have a lower-key Christmas. You try to lessen your waste footprint and do only the things that are meaningful. But it mounts. You think you can get off easy after the note to the friends and family, "Hey, I love you madly. But I am laying low this season and will get back with you in January!" You think you can hibernate and make recycled cards from two years' worth of cards collected for this very purpose. You are humbled that people you haven't spoken with in years still send you cards with their breathtakingly gorgeous and grown up children on them. (Hey! Those teen twins! Weren't they just, like, 2?")

But then Annie, who is your inspiration and laugh-riot girlfriend, comes over and says, "Hey, what do you say we do Nochebuena Thursday night? I bought a ham! Can we do it here? And can I invite a couple artists who don't have anything to do?" And of course you say yes because you would never deny holiday orphans, which, by the way, you are this year for reasons too sad to delve into for this semi-humorous note.

And you go to the store and get a bunch of food to feed other holiday orphans you never met, and you make your fourth batch of rum balls this week (where DID they all go? Hmm?) so you are sure to not run out and so that you can bring some to the OTHER holiday orphan parties this year.

And you sit, scrunched over at your desk, developing a knot like a billiard ball between your shoulders, looking for the exact right funny Santa to cut out from an old card and paste onto a somber religious scene with a peacefully lit tree. Because it is soothing and arty and fun and nobody can tell you that you did it wrong.

And your dog has had a terrible time of it with something too gross to post publicly, and she is sleepy and hungry but you can't feed her per vet's orders, even though she's giving you that WTF look. And you are broke, broke, broke from said vet visit, but relieved that she will be OK for at least another 12 years.

And you remember the Christmastime you got away from it all and spent three months in Southeast Asia, swaying in a hammock on a Thai beach on Dec. 25, listening to Nat King Cole on your Walkman, scoffing at the lights wound round the palm trees. And so, so, alone and sad.

And this, dear Self, is why you are so very grateful to roast beets and clean spinach and go back to Trader Joe's yet again because you forgot the feta and the pecans. To feed people you love and people you never met.



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Sunday, December 13, 2009

In Praise of the Generic Gift

Mom and me celebrating Christmas, Port Townsend style

This month marks six years since my dad left this world. I miss his bear hug and the accompanying smell of his signature Paco Rabanne cologne.  I miss flopping down on the soft leather couch in his office and thumbing through magazines, as I waited for him to get off the phone so I could tell him something huge or insignificant. I especially miss him this time of year.

My dad was good at a lot of things, and terrible at a lot, like anyone. But he was at his best at Christmas. His history with the holiday, to be sure, was fraught with trouble. As kids on Christmas, he and my uncles Mike and Seamus would have to brave the absence (or worse, the mean drunkenness) of their barrel-chested father, a former Marine. Uncle Mike stopped celebrating Christmas when, at about 10, he was sent by his mother to go and recover Grandpa Pat and his suitcase from the bus station. But maybe those lousy holidays supercharged my dad.

As far as I can remember, Dad went all out. I have a fuzzy recollection from the very early '70s of being at my godmother's house, with all the grownups talking about the reindeer on the roof, which they would not let me see. And then being scared and suspicious as Santa came through the door ... with my dad nowhere to be found.  Each year, there was a tree and presents for us -- some years were better than others, depending on the ups and downs of his freelance writer's career. But the most amazing thing about my dad, despite the fact that the rest of the year he gambled away the equivalent of my college tuition and that he exercised no self-restraint for early e-mail scammers offering Viagra and get-rich-quick schemes, is that he made sure EVERYONE had a present. It didn't matter if you were the guy who came to fix the computer ... shaving cream warmer. Cousin of the friend of the wife who came for dinner on Christmas Eve ... Nordic-themed mittens. UPS man who had a flat and needed to make a call in the house ... light-up picture frame.

See, Dad would buy a bunch of generic gifts and then quickly excuse himself to wrap them when someone came in the door, and write their name in his Catholic school cursive with a black fountain pen on the tag. And then he'd hand it over modestly, as if giving a personal gift to an almost perfect stranger were the most natural thing in the world.

As much as we can all agree that Christmas is not about presents, it is the way that he took such joy and responsibility in making sure everyone was covered that makes him a saint during this season. This year, I am making it a point to scoop up electric tie organizers and bath salts and kitchen mitts ... because you never know who will show up.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Is it still self promotion if someone else has done it?

I don't do a lot of things right. I speak too soon. I fall in love too quickly, often with the wrong person -- frequently many times over until I've learned my lesson about that one. I am not a patient painter, or sewer, or organizer. And I am not sure I choose flattering eyewear for myself.

But what I have done well in this lifetime, from the 40licious P.O.V., is populate my world with amazing people. Like this bright and beautiful young woman, Carlin, who was my intern a couple years ago. She finished her gig, and then she just kept hanging around even after she graduated. She's an ace networker and quick learner and waaaaaay too complimentary about me in this piece she wrote about Gen Y.

And if you know anyone who needs a communications whiz, have him or her give Carlin a shout.

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