Monday, December 31, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
It's the stock-taking that wears me out. What have I done this year that I meant to do? What did I get myself into that I swore I wouldn't? What fell by the wayside? All those good intentions.
Seems a rather depressing exercise, but I'm not denying that one must take inventory once in a while, lest our ready supply of . . . of . . . stuff runs out. And Lord knows I need stuff to keep me going. Still, it always appears that my short-comings (not staying in touch, losing weight, writing - no! I mean it!, miraculously becoming a kinder, gentler soul, etc.) far outweigh the accomplishments.
But, next year! Next year, by gum! I will repair my damaged, flimsy moral fiber. I mean it. I will make it beyond February on the resolutions. Or not. Well, hope springs eternal. I'm facing a 4-day weekend, and I'll try to think this stuff through. Or maybe I'll just sleep and read. Stay tuned.
After almost two full weeks in Atlanta, I'm back in my little New York turret to ring in the New Year. It's good to be back, but it was a most wonderful Christmastime down home. Much of what happened falls squarely into two camps: wild/crazy, restful/calm.
- Family gathering, including the hayride. You've seen the pictures - food, babies, cows.
- Chuck and Barbara's party. Good conversation, lots of laughs, and unsurpassed salmon Wellington. Oh, yeah - and he didn't hide the "good" stuff: the lovely blue-bottled Bombay!
- Cookie-making frenzy. (Yummy butter cookies and outstanding cheddar cheese nibbles, if you're interested.)
- Children's pageant service the Sunday before Christmas. All those angels and wise folk! I assure you that the Baby Jesus couldn't have slept in heavenly peace with all this racket going on. Hilarious (in a religious sort of way)!
- After-Christmas movie Sweeney Todd with daughter Kate. Fabulous. Amazing. Brilliant. The only thing I missed (from the play) was "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd," but I understand why it wouldn't have worked in the film.
- Time enough to put my feet up by the fire and watch old Christmas movies. Very restful and welcome. Ahhhh!
- Meal-sharing with friends - lunch with Lynne, dinner with Craig, and dinner(s)/present-exchange with Carey & Family. Nothing beats good conversation in conjunction with good food and dear friends. All part of the blessings of the season.
- Low-key Christmas day with family. Amazing stories around the fireplace - some funny, some loving, one scary/disturbing. Nibbling on sweets and chowing down on homemade chili and sandwiches. Calm and bright.
- Going through the stack of Christmas cards when I got back to New York yesterday afternoon. I took my time and appreciated each and every one.
Hope Santa was good to you. Now, I must go find a pen and ream of paper to start making those resolutions for 2008!
Monday, December 24, 2007
But back to the present-counting - I don't remember any of us hollering, "Hey, I got 8! How many did you get?" The focus was on quality - and by that I mean, had those one or two important Santa List wishes been granted? - not quantity. I'm not sure we really asked for much. Oh, there might be a special doll or game that caught our fancy, but I have no memory of having a long list of wants. Once that basic wish had been fulfilled - and it always was, I think - the sheer number of gifts didn't matter. (Take note, Dudley Dursley.)
In the pre-dawn darkness of Christmas 1961, I spied my pile of goodies. It wasn't a pile, exactly; it consisted of only two gifts. But I knew it was mine. There, in the subdued glow of the multicolored big-bulb and bubble Christmas tree lights, I saw the one thing I wanted most that year: a transistor radio! Yea! And next to it was a book about the American Revolution. Imagine! Santa thought I was grown up enough to own my very own hard-backed scholarly (well, to a 5th grader) work! A radio and a book. What more could a girl want? (I still have the book. See?)
I don't remember what the other three had in their gift-stacks. I was totally captivated by my personal stash of music and literature. To the best of my memory, we all seemed pretty happy with the goods.
On these early Christmas mornings, Mother and Daddy usually dragged themselves out of bed once they heard us rattling around. I don't know if they wanted us to have a few minutes on our own to take it all in, or whether their warm comfy bed was just too hard to leave. At any rate, they did manage an appearance within a half-hour or so after the four of us had hit the living room.
That Christmas, Mother came in first. I don't think I noticed her until she said, "Is this all that Santa brought?" There was a bit of uncharacteristic panic in her voice.
All? All? A transistor radio and a hard-backed book? All? Why, this was the mother-lode, as far as I was concerned. But evidently my own mother saw something lacking in the layout of gifts.
"I think Santa Claus must've left some things in the attic. I think Daddy ought to go up and see where Santa dropped them."
Poor Daddy, who'd probably only gotten a couple of hours' sleep, shook his head and headed upstairs. After a few minutes he came down, laden with other goodies. I remember a Flintstones Bowling Set (the "ball" was shaped like a boulder - ha!) and - what? - the Give-a-Show Projector, maybe, plus assorted games and goodies. Wow! I guessed we'd been better that year than we'd thought!
The point is that as wonderful as the additional gifts were, I, for one, was perfectly happy with my radio and book. It didn't matter that in the year 1961 Santa had lost his marbles, not to mention our Flintstones Bowling Set. But it did make for one more memorable and oft-repeated Frazier Family story: "The Year Santa Left All the Presents in the Attic."
Merry Christmas, blog-friends. Wishing you comfort and joy, and the 2007 equivalent of a transistor radio and a book on the American Revolution.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Now, I'm not talking about the real meaning of the season. Nothing beats a Christmas of watching a re-creation of the Nativity, reading Luke chapter 2, gathering with other faithful (and once-a-year faithful) folks at church to witness the 2000-year-old mystery, and singing Christmas carols during a service. But I'm talking about the flip-side, the childhood, Santa Claus part of Christmas.
So, if I had my druthers, here's what I'd hope to find under the tree on Christmas morning (unwrapped, of course, since Santa himself left them for me):
Etch-a-Sketch - Boy, I'd love to have a brand-new Etch-a-Sketch to doodle around on. Mess it up, then flip it over, give it a shake, and start all over.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
- Reading the Daily Mail online. This English tabloid (and it is a tabloid) cracks me up. It oh, so wants to be above the Page 3 Sun-type paper, yet it manages to show as much T&A and harp on as many scandals as anything on the stands. But all in the name of "news," of course. Hilarious! (Apologies to any faithful "news" readers of the Mail.)
- Watching "Snapped." It's a show about women who have reached a breaking point of some kind and have bumped off the old man, boyfriend, or rival. Since only about 7% of the murders in the U.S. are committed by women in any given year, there's usually a damn good reason the killer "snapped." These murders mostly involve love and/or love of money and are divided into two groups (in my mind): a) the woman is a greedy bitch and wants the guy dead so that she can collect insurance or run off with another guy, or b) the woman is abused and the sucker deserved whatever she threw at him. At the end of the show, I'm feeling pretty good about my own life, however pathetic is might be. Snap!
- Eating raw pasta. Guilty. I keep boxes of penne pasta around to snack on. I know. This is terrible for my teeth, and I will rue the day I break one on the stuff. Guilty.
- Eating New York street food (from street vendors - not off the street). Yeah, yeah. It's terrible for you. And who knows where it's stored and whether it's properly cooked? But, mmmmmmm, it smells good and tastes good and it's cheap. OK, I'm not that guilty about this one.
- Nightly, steamy-hot, full-tubbed bubble baths. I'm a great water-conservationist except when it comes to filling the tub full of hot water and having a nice soak at the end of the day. Whenever I feel too guilty and skip the bath, I usually end up getting out of bed at 3am to take one, anyway. It relaxes me. It de-stresses me. And I realize how selfish that is in the big scheme of things. Guilty, as charged.
Got any guilty pleasures you want to own up to? I'll be glad to share my cell with ya'.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Here's Cuz on the tractor, patiently waiting as we decide who's going, who's staying, and where those who are going will sit. At least he has the hat for it.
Before the hayride: I call this shot "It Takes a Village (to Dress Tallulah for the Hayride)." Note her one pink/one purple Crocs. As her mother Amy said, some battles just aren't worth fighting! Amen.
While Cuz used some of our "sittin' hay" to feed his cattle, the hayriders tried to stay warm in the stiff breeze.
And homeward we trundled, up the dirt road to warm our bones and regal the weenies - er, rest of the family - with tall tales of our Christmas hayride.
Thanks, Cuz, for a truly memorable experience!
The Gresham-Bartow-Ross-Nash-Frazier-Clotfelter-Buchanan-Brennan-Wall-Fisher-and soon-to-be Richeson Family Christmas*
A little background: This gathering is a tradition that's happened a week or so before Christmas for as long as I can remember. During those early years, most of the parties took place at the Ross mansion on Avon Avenue in Atlanta, though occasionally the crowd would pile into cars and travel up to the Frazier's estate in Chattanooga. Joking about the mansion (and the estate). The Avon house was tiny, and how we managed to pack in there year after year is beyond me. But we did.
While the tradition of too many people and too much food (both glorious excesses. to be sure) is still being honored, there once was a time of too many presents, as well. Why, you could hardly get into the house for the masses of gift-wrapped surprises under the tree. The Nashes would travel down from Granite City, Illinois, toting bags and bags of wrapped boxes. Aunt Mildred would stick the bows on after she got to Atlanta or Chattanooga. The Fraziers would roll in from Chattanooga with a trunk-load of festive packages to add to the already-groaning tree-area, though Mother never bothered with boxes. She was famous for her "soft packages."
The presents were always little things, or rather, inexpensive things. It was the thrill of seeing all those gifts under the tree and delighting not only in what you received, but what your brothers and sisters and cousins got, too.
But over the years, we did away with the present-giving, much to the dismay of the Kate-generation. Family and food were enough to keep up with, without having to figure out what to buy umpteen relatives.
So. Back to the here and now.
Cuz - of "remember the moosehead in the attic?" dispute - hosted the annual gathering of the clan at his farm in Dahlonega, Georgia, site of the nation's first gold rush (honest!). The cozy cabin-style farmhouse was packed to the rafters with folks of various shapes and sizes ranging from 5 months to 78 years old. It took each of us an hour or two to get through all the hugs and "how're ya' doin's" once we arrived.
It was cold and windy, as those of us who braved the hayride (see next post) can testify, but that only added to our Christmas spirit. The house was festively decorated. Cuz had even broken out Christmas photos of old and posted them on the kitchen cabinets. We saluted everyone who's joined us over the years, even some ex-spouses. Hey, they were once a part of this craziness, so why not?
As mentioned in previous posts, our pot-luck food theme this year was Italian. Now, you must understand how this flew in the face of the time-honored Southern food tradition of our family get-togethers. More than once yesterday, I heard someone say "Mildred/Catherine/Helen/Marie is/are rolling in her/their grave(s) over this!" Whatever grave-spinning we caused, the Italian pot-luck went down a treat. Lasagna and ravioli fit for a king, er, Caesar. Big bro's osso bucco was outstanding. Fabulous salads and antipasto munchies, plus nephew Matt's homemade Parmesan-black pepper biscotti provided day-long nibbling. Yum. And yes, the two Veniero's Italian cheesecakes made it from New York fine and dandy. I added a few blueberries and no one complained. Linda's Italian cream cake and Lil Sis's back-by-popular-demand Christmas cookies sated our sweet tooths. Teeth. Whatever.
In addition to the Italian theme, we also had a "new baby" theme. The family experienced a baby boom in 2007, as we welcomed Rowan, Elliott, and Sarah. They joined Tallulah, Cody, and Dylan (plus Bryleigh and Jaxson, who weren't at the party due to illness) to make up the new generation, as our sons and daughters start adding to the family tree. Yes, it's that season again - the re-birth season. It cycles through every 20 or so years - with the old folks (ahem!), young parents, babies. Then as the kids grow, the family gets to the no-baby stage until the once-babies grow up enough to start families of their own. It's all very reassuring!
And speaking of generations, the clan gathered for the annual generational photo ops. Sort of a State of the Family moment. One husband kept complaining that we always do this and then never see the pictures again. Well, I beg to differ (I have one of last year's as the wallpaper on my laptop at work), but I've posted them here so that you can see what a fine group of folks we are.
Though our mothers - all deceased - vowed and declared we'd never carry on this Christmas gathering tradition once they were gone, I believe they were with us in spirit yesterday(some of them may have been spinning spirits, however). How could they not rejoice that we were still gathering, and we do find family the most important thing, when all is said and done? Who knows us better than, well, us? And even though we went Italian instead of Southern, and though there are lots of new faces that they wouldn't recognize, I'll just bet the Bully Bartow Sisters are pleased as punch from their perches in Heaven.
And the Christmas beat goes on.
* Revised post: I added Cuz's food photo, though it shows just a teeny bit of what we chowed down on during the day. Wish I had that spinach dip in front of me right now!
Friday, December 14, 2007
Another little storm blew through yesterday, but we didn't see much snow in Midtown. Imagine my surprise when I came up from the subway at 116th to find a couple of inches of snow and slush! What a difference 72 blocks uptown make! Another one's due tomorrow night. I should just miss it, as I fly out tomorrow afternoon.
Remember Calvin? Today was his last day. He is now officially retired from the MTA, so I won't hear his "Good Mornings" as I pile out of the #6 Downtown train onto the platform at Grand Central Station. I gave him a fond farewell and a retirement card. I also sent a good word to the MTA folks about him a few weeks back. Maybe they'll give him a little bonus.
Tomorrow, I head out of NYC and back to the ATL for Christmas. So the next time you hear from me, I'll be in the middle "Christmas in Dixie." By now in New York City, there's snow on the ground . . . and in Atlanta, Georgia, there's peace on earth tonight.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Cuz, who occasionally adds his 2-cents' worth to my posts, and his wife are hosting this riotous affair (and let's face it - a family gathering rarely comes off without a bit of rioting). They have added a little twist to the tradition-bound food-theme. This year, instead of our usual down-home Southern pot-luck meal, Wife o' Cuz suggested an Italian theme. Well, why the hell not? Other than the fact that I'm situated in the city with more fine Italian food than the whole of Italy, so why go to Dahlonega? - but what the heck.
Anyway, after polling my resident Italian (hard-working office mate Lisa), I was told to get myself down to Veniero in the East Village and pick up an Italian cheesecake. Or two. I opted for two. I know my family.
At the crack of 10:30 this morning, I walked through the venerable doors of Veniero and grabbed two of the ricotta-filled cheesecakes. I was tempted by the fig ring - sounded wonderful! - but at $12.00 a pound, and it's heavy - I stuck to the cheesecake option. So, the kind folks (well, actually they were kinda snooty) at Veniero boxed up my little cakes and tied them with string. They now coolly reside in my fridge, where they'll remain until I pack them on Saturday. Unless I feel the need to "test" one of them. No, no, I won't - I promise.
I will have to pack them in my checked luggage, since squishy stuff's not allowed through carry-on security, as a friend trying to bring in pumpkin pie filling found out at Thanksgiving. Dear Family, I will do my best to pack the cheesecakes carefully and pray that the luggage carriers slinging my bags around won't turn them into mush. If they do, you're eatin' 'em anyway. I'm sure they'll be yummy, whatever the consistency.
After Veniero, I did a little street shopping in the East Village and at Union Square, where there's a big Christmas market set up. Just trinkets. I'm po', ya' know. Ooh. And had lunch at dear old S'mac - 4-cheese mac and cheese with ground beef and a layer of pepper flakes. Ummmm-umm!
I'll let you know how the cheesecakes fared on their trip South. It will be some kind of fabulous Italian hoe-down come Sunday. Yee-haw and Mamma Mia!
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Does the uniqueness come from our infinite varieties of physical make-up - the bones, the muscles, the eye-hand coordination? How much of it comes from copying a particular style or flourish from a friend or parent? At what age do we make it our own?
I don't have the answers, but the whole thing fascinates me a wee bit. Just a little thing that makes me go "Hmmm."
Do you write like anyone you know?
Monday, December 10, 2007
It's a toss up for me. I do love Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and not just the 5200 film/television versions. It's a story of hope and restoration, plus, it's a ghost story. Oh, yeah. Good stuff.
But O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi" is pretty hard to beat. "One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And sixty cents of it was in pennies." Never fails to bring a tear to me eye.
Given the choice of having only one of the two with me on a desert island, I think I'd have to take "Magi," only because Dickens' language doesn't suck me in as much as the story itself. O Henry, on the other hand, has such down-to-earth writing, that I would want his voice, his actual words with me.
Oh, dear. But I also love Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales." And I do love his words. Such a dilemma!
What about you? Are you a "Grinch" person? "Polar Express"? Something by Washington Irving? Persuade me.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
Starting at the top: The Best Christmas Cartoon - I'm always on the lookout for "Peace on Earth" in the TV schedule this time of year. Imagine my glorious surprise when I found it as an extra feature at the end of my DVD of A Christmas Carol (1938)!
Ho-ho-ho-larious holiday songs - Art Carney's jazzed-up version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" is still No. 1 with me.
Christmas Movies Part I - The Life Lessons - But without A Christmas Carol, because Scrooge has to have a list all his own.
Christmas Movies Part II - Marley was dead to begin with - People do have their opinions about old Scrooge.
Christmas Movies Part III - The Pre-1960 Classics - What's not to love here, eh? Even Shirley.
Words and Music - Bits and bobs of my favorite Christmas carols.
Christmas Movies, Finale: The New-Fangled, Post-1960 Ones - OK, now you get to say "Fuuuuuuuuudge!"
The day before the day before - A tribute to December 23 and my daddy.
O, the wonders of a flashlight and a bit of orange cellophane - "Bring a torch, Jeanette Isabella" to the annual Barger Elementary School Christmas program.
OK. Now we can all move on with our lives. And anyway, I feel the urge to watch Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Cheers!
Thursday, December 06, 2007
We were in a meeting yesterday, when someone said he once heard a kid at a youth conference tell one of the adults, "Hey! Don't bushel-ize my light!" Now, maybe only church-going, Bible readers understand what he was saying (see above bit o' scripture), but you're a smart group so I think you get it. And I hereby officially take it as my new favorite phrase.
Don't we all have folks around us who want to dampen our spirits? Blow out our candles? Cover up the particular way we "shine" in the world? In short, "bushel-ize" our light? Oh, yeah.
And let's face it. We all do a damn good job of bushelizing our own light. C'mon. You know it's true.
So in this season of Advent, whether you're a believer or not, stand firm against the light bushelizers, most especially your own inner bushelizer. Let your light so shine!
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
One addition: Big Bro's favorite. I gave it to him last year for Christmas - bought in Chinatown, NYC. Lovely, with the Christmas tree behind it, eh?
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
- My computer monitor at home is on its last leg. Er, pedestal. It's been taking longer and longer to wake up. Took it 2 days when I got back from Thanksgiving, so I just left the computer on and threw a towel over the monitor to subdue its brightness at bedtime. I foolishly turned the computer off on Saturday, and the dang think hasn't come back up yet. I've tried all my little tricks. Sigh. Alas, no spare change right now for even a cheapo monitor, so all my emailing and blog-posting must be done from work. It's really cramping my style! Aaargh!
- Sunday, I pulled out the boxes of Christmas ornaments I moved from Atlanta to NYC. Looking at everything, I just had to have a good cry. When I put them away two years ago, I had no idea that I'd be leaving Atlanta and moving to Oz. When I moved the furniture up here last February, I brought a lot of the ornaments with me, even though I knew a big tree was not in the forecast for my tiny apartment. The thought of leaving them in storage was just too heartbreaking for me. I'm bringing the most special ornaments to Kate in Atlanta when I come back in a week or so. Still, I'm sad that I no longer have a mantle for the angels and Nutcracker keepsakes. Joy and I are in much the same place with our dear ornaments this year.
- Anybody else watching Tin Man on SciFi Channel? I'm a sucker for anything with Zooey Deschanel and Alan Cumming. And Wizard of Oz-zy. Well, I'm hooked. Tonight's the last part of the miniseries, I think. Love Glitch's head-zipper. I wish my head had a zipper. Or, maybe not.
- The reorganization of the Episcopal Church Center has me reapplying for a job very like my current position (more responsibilities, etc.), plus applying for a completely different job. We're allowed to throw our hats in the ring for up to three of the new positions. I'm not really worried (maybe I should be??), but it has caused a lot of verklempt-ness around this neck of the woods for the past few months. I realize, however, that my corporate experience has prepared me for reorganization situations far better than the non-profit/church experience has prepared others. Anyhow, I've duly applied for the two jobs and won't know the outcome until January 18. Lesson: Spend some time in the cruel, heartless business world before coming to the cruel, heartless church world!
That's it for now. Go have some milk and cookies. And pray that my computer monitor is working when I get home.