Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Buh-bye, 2008

Remember this time last year? When you were wondering where things would be this time this year? Well, here we are. So, what do you think? Better? Worse? About the same? Here's my humble assessment of 2008:

Thumbs Up:

Kate and Greg. It was a beautiful wedding, and we're all happy they are married. Yea! Plus, no more big weddings to plan and pay for. Double-yea!

Matt and Jessica, Colleen and Mark - more family weddings. Both wonderful, joyous events. New blood for the family!

Barack Obama. It feels like there are lots of positive possibilities now. We'll just have to wait to see how it plays out, though. Still - very hopeful.

"Mad Men" and "Damages." You don't know whether to trust Dan Draper (Jon Hamm) or not. But never trust Patty Hewes (Glenn Close). Never. Television worth watching.

Weight Watchers. Thank you for helping me lose those 25 pounds in 2008. I feel much better.

England. Twice. Two-and-a-half weeks in Canterbury for Lambeth in July and another couple of days at a retreat center in Derbyshire in November. Added bonus, dinner with Jo, Chris, David, and Thomas!

Girlfriends hit New York. All four of 'em. All in my tiny apartment for a solid week. But, boy, did we have a blast! From sun-up to well past sundown, we were on the go, doing the town. One for the books! (Also, great visits - both too short - from Daughter and Sis.)

Tina Fey. I mean, really, she has just done wonders for television comedy - 30 Rock and SNL.

University of Alabama Football. The Tide did roll again (except for that little Florida skirmish). On to the Sugar Bowl!

Facebook connections. A lazy person's way to keep up with everybody. And lots of fun!

Thumbs Down:

The economy.

The economy.

The economy.

So long, Winston. Blogging is not the same without him. I think we're all still stunned by his death.

I'm sure I've missed important items in both categories, but on this New Year's Eve as I nurse a cold, I'm looking ahead to 2009 already. How about you?

May you have an abundance of what really matters - love, health, laughter, joy - and enough of the other stuff - money, work, relaxation, chocolate - in 2009. Happy New Year, dear friends!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Family Christmas Picture

One of the joys of Christmas when I was growing up was having the whole wonderful day to explore what Santa Claus left under the tree without having to worry about putting on proper clothes - unless they were new ones you wanted to try on - or get fancied up for visitors. It was satisfying to just be, just hang out, taking interesting games and toys out of their boxes and seeing how they worked, no schedule, no rush to get anywhere. Yep. That's pretty much the way it was.

Except for the "Family Christmas Picture" years. Daddy's boss, Mr. Earl Taylor, was an amateur photographer back when cameras were complicated things. For some reason that was never really explained to us, Mr. Taylor was keen and generous enough to offer to come to our house on Christmas morning to take a Frazier family portrait. I put "keen" first, because I never really thought of it as being "generous" at the time. It was a pain in the butt.

Seemed Mr. Taylor always came by well before noon, so we had to scurry around, cleaning up wrapping paper and ribbon, organizing our gifts well before we wanted them organized (we were still exploring them), and - eeyew! - get out of our comfy pjs and into our Sunday church clothes. It also meant scrubbing down and curling hair and brushing teeth. It all seemed like a big intrusion to me. All for a silly picture. Just to give Mr. Taylor something to do on Christmas morning.

I don't know the real reason Mr. Taylor turned up on our doorstep, camera and tripod in hand, on Christmas morning. He and his wife didn't have children, I seem to remember, so maybe this was a way for him to get a taste of what a chaotic experience Christmas was when four active kids were thrown into the mix. Or maybe he just wanted to hone his photographic portrait skills and the Frazier family was the perfect set of guinea pigs. Or maybe this was his gift to Daddy for a year's good work.

But whatever the reason we are left with Mr. Taylor's good gift as a reminder of a couple of childhood Christmases and a pretty adorable family (in a 1950's kind of way). So I guess having to leave our Santa goodies behind for a while and dress in our Sunday best early on Christmas morning was worth it after all. You be the judge.

Merry Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A simple "thank you"

I placed an ad on craigslist Friday for a dog-sitter, since my regular one isn't available over Christmas. The response was overwhelming. Over 100 people from all walks of life offered to come over and take care of Bailey while I'm in Atlanta for the holidays.

It's a sign of the economic times, I suppose, as the folks offering to take me up on the not-so-great-paying gig ranged from moms and college students to out-of-work actors and real estate professionals. All need a little cash to tide them over. Boy, can I relate to that (see previous post)!

Anyway, I sorted through the field of prospects and settled on 3 or 4 who seemed best suited for the job (I'm interviewing a couple of them tomorrow). Then I did something that usually doesn't happen on craigslist, or any job search site - I sent each person a "Thank you for offering to help but I've selected someone else" email, just to let them know that I appreciated their time and responses.

Many of the folks have sent emails thanking me for letting them know, as it's not often done. Really. It didn't take me long to do it, since I was using a standard cut-and-paste response, but I did insert the person's name after "Hi," which made it more personal I guess.

The point is that folks need a little (or a lot) extra right now and are searching for ways to make ends meet. The least I could do was send along a "Thanks, I appreciate it" to let them know their offers were welcomed. Now, how hard is that, eh?


I'm burning the candle at both ends, and so far, I've managed to survive. How, I don't know, because my day-job is over-the-top busy right now. Three high-profile projects - and all the little pesky have-to-do's - get me into the office early and keep me later than usual.

But it's been an expensive year - weddings, traveling back and forth to Atlanta, higher costs for food/utility/just plain living. In order to make ends meet, I've taking on a few freelance projects.

The good news is that I've actually gotten the freelance projects, since marketing/writing is what I do, and this is New York City, baby - competition's tough. But I've had to be a little inventive when offering my writing services.

First, I lucked out getting a project with hopes of an ongoing retainer for a biometric access company. It's mostly making all the technical stuff more palatable to read and market - from web writing to brochures and product sheets. That I can do. And fortunately the company was open to giving me a little up-front money, with the rest spread over the next couple of months. A life-saver, really.

However, I'm using my writing ability - specifically, my clear, neat handwriting ability - to do such for-hire jobs as addressing birth announcements and writing and addressing wedding thank-you's (the couple typed out the specifics; I just wrote them on the notes). It's good walk-around money and doesn't take much time to do.

And another potential money-making project was thought up by Bro after a recent visit to New York, land of the $5 street pashmina. Yep. I'm sending pashminas down to Georgia for re-sale at a bit of a mark-up. We'll see how they do in those trendy little mountain gift shops.

When things get tough you have to get creative. Yes, it means working after you finish the day-job. But that extra cash really comes in handy. And as long as that day-job doesn't suffer . . .

Have pen. Will write.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Your Ultimate Christmas Movie Guide

As someone who loves both Christmas and movies, it stands to reason that I am completely squishy for Christmas movies. I posted extensively about holiday celluloid gems back in December 2005. Here's the recap:

After re-reading the listings, I wouldn't change anything. Except, I might add Bell, Book, and Candle (1958) with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart to the pre-1960 list. Great cast, very New York-y, and a cat named Pyewacket. Other than that, nope, I'm happy with what I wrote, lo, those many years ago in 2005.

But just so you don't think I'm shirking my duty here, I do have a brand new resource for you. I found a television listing of all the Christmas movie and holiday specials for this year. This handy-dandy little compilation gives title, network, date, and time of airing. I mean, wow! You can plan your entire Christmas viewing schedule for the next three weeks. (You're welcome.) Mine's already printed and highlighted.

As always, I'm open to additions, corrections - even a disagreement or two (though I'll ignore you, probably, if you disagree with me).

Now, get the popcorn and hot chocolate ready to go, slip into those flannel (shorty) pjs, and spend some time with a few old friends.

I triple-dog dare ya'! Nyaaaaah!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A cure for the midwinter blues

Well, it's official. We're in a recession. Have been since last December. Ya' think?

At this point all we can do is hope for an understanding landlord/mortgage company, forego any new purchases - even for necessities like winter coats (the old one will do for one more year), and moonlight as a cleaning service worker.

It's hard to stay positive, but I think we can all learn a lot from Buddy the Elf and the Elf Code of the North Pole:

1. Treat every day like Christmas.
2. There’s room for everyone on the NICE list.
3. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

From henceforth, and as a way to chase away the midwinter goblins, I aim to treat every day like Christmas, just without the presents. I will try to get back to the very core of the season, delighting in the music, the stories, the memories, and move away from the superfluous stuff.

I will try to find the good in everybody, even the ones that test my very last dendrite, and focus on the "nice" and not the "naughty." After all, I'm pretty darn naughty myself.

Well, I always sing loud, so #3 won't be hard. I've been humming carols for two days now, and I think I can spread a lot of Christmas cheer this year.

And taking a cue from Buddy the Elf, I will try to get the minimum daily requirement of the four food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup. That I think I can do.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Oh, Georgia, stop embarrassing me!

I love the state of Georgia. It has the best state song ever, "Georgia On My Mind" (actually written about a woman named Georgia, not the state, rumor has it). Atlanta is a beautiful city, though it tends to knock down anything with a decade's worth of history. Its neighborhoods are the loveliest anywhere, especially those with "Peachtree" in the name (Peachtree Battle, Peachtree Hills, etc.). Savannah's a beautiful, historic city. A lot of golf gets played in Augusta. The north Georgia mountains are spectacular. Yes, I love my state of Georgia.

However, dear Georgia, you are causing me real embarrassment these days on a couple of fronts.

First, "Real Housewives of Atlanta." Though I must admit that I have not watched one complete episode of this trash, I have watched enough to know that: a) they are not real; b) they are not housewives; and c) they are not from Atlanta. I think the City of Atlanta could legitimately sue Bravo Network for defamation of character (and it does take a lot to defame the ATL). The program is touted as showing "what life is like in the most exclusive areas of Atlanta" and that these are examples of "classy Southern women." God help us! No!

Um, as far as I can tell, none - as in zip, nada, none - of these women actually live in Atlanta. They are all OTP (Outside the Perimeter) - 'way outside. No self-respecting Atlantan would claim an OTP-er, however gated their McMansion neighborhoods might be. And "classy"? I'm thinking 'trashy" better describes it. And, yeah, the Orange County and New York housewives are trashy, too, but don't go attaching the women of this show to the flower of Southern womanhood.

Of course, the show's a major hit. Which is the problem. And the embarrassment. Oh, Atlanta. Your phoenix is going up in flames again!

The other really embarrassing thing for Georgia right now is the Senate race. Specifically, that appalling Thanksgiving Greeting ad by Saxby Chambliss, where his grandchildren call him "Big Daddy." I couldn't believe it when I saw it! And it airs constantly on Atlanta television. Big Daddy? What is this? A Tennessee Williams nightmare? Who calls their grandpaw "Big Daddy"? (Though it's totally Southernized as "Big Diddy.") Oh, geez! And this guy's a senator? Talk about setting us back 100 years! Aargh!

Every blogster out there, except for the ultra-right wing ones, is making huge fun of this spot and the South goes right down with it. I am so mortified that we come from the same neck of the woods. Thank goodness the election's over after tomorrow. And I hope we're spared from seeing what ol' Saxby has up his, er, sleeve for Christmas.

Georgia is full of smart, wise, classy people - liberal and conservative - who would never stoop to "Real Housewives" or "Big Diddy" level. At what point do we refuse to promote these backward, trashy yahoos?

Stop it. Stop it right now. Don't make me have to come home from New York to straighten you out, Georgia!