My Calendar Fetish


Isn’t Daniel Craig dreamy? There were no calendars like that available, and besides, I don’t buy man candy calendars. That would be sexist . . .

Just Like Books, You Can Never Have Too Many Calendars

So today, we did one of my favorite after-Christmas things: We went to Barnes & Noble to scope out the 50 percent off calendars. Now some years, I buy calendars for everyone before Christmas and wrap them as presents, but lately, I’ve found that buying them after Christmas is not only more cost effective, but it also allows the kids to pick out the calendars that they want as opposed to my buying what I think they might want—big difference.

I mean, when they were smaller, it was pretty easy: Thomas the Tank Engine, or then later, Sponge Bob, or something like that. But now, they have branched out. This year, Brett picked out a calendar with black and white pictures of trees. This after first picking up a star chart, then a night sky calendar.

Eamonn shopped by phone. His first choice was a Red Sox calendar, but sports calendars sell fast; then he wanted a Venice calendar (?), no Venice, but could I interest you in a landscapes of Italy? No. Then I remembered that he liked motivational quotes. I mentioned that. He wanted to know if it was too girlie, so I had to describe the pictures. That one seemed to meet his approval.

Moving on to Alexis. She has pretty eclectic tastes. One year it was Jimmy Hendrix, the next Bob Marley. Far Side always works. This year, I knew that I could win with a Family Guy, so I grabbed what appeared to be the only one in the store. I could not find, however, a daily planner, lots and lots of weekly ones, but no daily ones. That search was quickly sapping the little energy I had left (we had made two stops before Barnes & Noble). Not to mention, my daughter is very persnickety about her planners; i.e., they must be a certain size with the pages laid out in a certain way. No way I was going to chance that one.

Then it was my turn. I used to buy four calendars: one for work, one for the kitchen, one for the bedroom, and one for my purse. Now I don’t have to buy one for work, even though I dreamed this morning that I had to go back to work on Monday for a former female boss whom I absolutely loathed, and I hadn’t done any of the projects that I was supposed to do while I was out of work. Don’t you hate those kinds of dreams?

We won’t discuss the number of calendars that I actually ordered at work or you might think that my OCD was/is truly out of control. And it was three, by the way, not counting the one that I brought from home, or the one that I had in my purse. And yes, I used all of them . . . moving right along . . .

So I found my first calendar right away, the kitchen calendar: it was an orchid calendar, beautiful miniature orchids in very simple vases with lots of open light. The bedroom calendar was giving me fits. That’s the one that I write all of my doctor’s appointments on and keep on the wall next to the computer, so it needs to have fairly big boxes, and be of good quality paper. I also need to like it a lot. I looked at the motivational one that I had picked out for Eamonn, which is why I knew about it in the first place.

I looked at other flower calendars, a Celtic calendar, a wildlife calendar, a fairy calendar (I like fairies if they don’t look too overdone), and a Dalai Lama calendar. I knew that I wasn’t in the mood for a country (as in Italy or France or whatever, which I’ve had before) or an animal (which I’ve also done before). What I really wanted was black and white, and the only one that I had seen was the tree one that Brett grabbed. And then there it was, on the bottom shelf of course where it is hard for me to bend down to see, a black and white Zen calendar. I grabbed it and put it in the basket.

Then I picked up a small weekly planner for my purse to duplicate all of the doctor’s appointments, etc. But I still manage to confuse times and days somehow, even though I check the calendar on the wall and the calendar in my purse. Don’t ask me how I do that because I’m still trying to figure it out. And don’t suggest that I use the calendar on the computer, because I’ve done that, too, with the reminder system and everything. I still show up at the doctor’s office on the wrong day or at the wrong time because I really don’t remember what day it is.

I didn’t have this problem so much when I worked because my body clock was set the same as normal people’s, but when you find yourself finally closing your eyes at 5:35 in the morning, it’s hard to be in sync with the rest of the world, and unlike one of my regular correspondents who can get by on four (4!) hours of sleep a night, I now need at least 9.

What’s really hard to believe is that I used to get by on five hours of sleep without any problem, and I would wake up early on purpose to get in at least 30 minutes of work out time, including 150 crunches every week day morning. This was when I was a single mom and had to fit in the work of two parents into one parent’s body.

You adapt. Then, I was buff and strong. Now, I’m a slug.

So back to Barnes & Noble . . . Brett and Corey are off looking for reading material because Brett has decided to try to spend less time playing video games and more time reading, and I am trying to find just one book (which is very restrained of me): the sequel of Into the Woods by Tana French. I don’t know the name of the sequel, but I know that it is out because of  Publisher’s Weekly, a really wonderful online publication that I receive that keeps me up-to-date on new releases and things that are happening in the publishing world.

So Corey finds out from the help desk that the sequel is indeed out, that there is supposed to be one in the store, and an associate walks him over to where the book is supposed to be located, but of course, it is not there. Of course it isn’t because I could spend all day in bed tomorrow reading it. It would be wonderful. I can just imagine it. Ah me. Reading nirvana.

By the way, if you like mysteries, read Into the Woods. It’s a first novel by French, and it is masterfully written. I finished it, and I started having a tantrum to which Corey asked, “What’s wrong now?”

“It’s just not fair,” I whined in my most petulant only child voice. “This is her first book, and it’s wonderful. And, it’s a cliffhanger. I hate her and I want to be her.” Yes, Lola logic at work once again.

So we left the store with just one little problem: I set off the security alarm, which I had done when I walked in. I had asked the people at the checkout to scan my purse and explained to them that I had set off the alarm when I came in, and when I entered and left Kohl’s and had no idea why. They obligingly scanned my purse, said there was nothing there, asked if my coat was new, to which I replied, “nope.” We walked out the door perplexed until I realized that I was wearing new jeans that Corey had bought me for Christmas from Old Navy. Maybe there was a magnetic strip somewhere inside one of the seams?

Why me? When I get home, I take off the jeans, and lo and behold, there is one of those bulky tags that says, “remove before washing.” It’s one of the new security tags. No wonder I’m setting off alarms. I’m just glad that I look too much like a goofball to be thrown to the ground and manhandled by some security guard because my back couldn’t take it.

Speaking of Kohl’s, Brett’s jeans were exchanged, and so ends the great Levi’s 569 saga of 2008. Let peace reign again. I left a message on his father’s voice mail and told him that we were near a Kohl’s (true) and that we exchanged the jeans without any problems (also true), so everything was taken care of (also true). Now if he can accept that, everything can be fine. (We’ll see).

Also ends the great calendar quest as well as the jeans saga of 2008 as we approach the end of the year, and I have to say that I am awaiting 2009 fervently hoping that I can find a curse breaker to end this long-running streak of bad juju that has befallen our family. If you know of any good curse breakers who aren’t complete frauds and charlatans, ask them to send some good juju my way.

More later. Peace and goodwill to you all.

Who Nurtures the Nurturers?

What is it about Christmas that Makes Women Go a Little Crazy?

Don’t You Dare Say Anything About Hormones . . .

Every year from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I go into this mode that drives everyone around me more than a little nuts. It’s my holiday mode, and I have decided that I don’t like it any more than the rest of my family, but I truly cannot help myself. So let me explain . . .

It all began when I was actually quite young. I remember when I was a teenager that I started to put up the tree for my mom. She was all for handing over the responsibilities of tree duty. That was how most things were in our house since I was an only child. Little by little as I grew up, I took on more and more responsibility for things. Because our home was so dysfunctional in a lot of ways, I found myself trying to be the nurturer out of the three of us as my mom and dad grew further and further apart.

So I started to develop habits about Christmas that I came to depend on to get me through the holidays, and with my OCD, it had to be done this way every year. I sent out cards, wrapped the packages with ribbons and bows, never just a stick on bow, decorated the house throughout with candles, a nativity set and creche, my set of nativity-setsSantas, my various snowmen, my Santa boot with candy canes that no one ever eats, even a special angel candle holder in the bathroom.

Then there are the lights. I put lights in the windows, just single candles with clear lights, and then icicle lights on the roof and some lights on the bushes, not too many. I used to have a couple of white wire trees and a couple of reindeer, but I think that they have somehow disappeared in the great cleaning out of things in the attic. At one point in time, I used to climb the two trees in the front yard and wrap the limbs with clear lights, but the trees got too tall, and I couldn’t climb them any more. I’ll admit that I really enjoyed doing that, but I didn’t enjoy taking them down, so my daughter used to climb up in the trees and complain the entire time that she was taking them down that she didn’t understand how I could get the lights up so high in the branches. I used to tell her that I had monkey toes and I could climb really high if I wanted to.

And then every year except for this one, I make a homemade wreath. I buy a fresh wreath, and then I add cones and bells and ribbon and a bow. I like to leave the wreath up pn the front door as long as possible so that we still have the smell of a fresh tree since we don’t have a real tree in the house because of allergies.

And of course, there are the homemade stockings. It started with the stocking that my mom made for me, and then she made one for Alexis when she was born. I made one for each of the boys when they were born. I asked my mother to make one for Caitlin even though she didn’t make it to Christmas. It’s never been filled, but I like to hang it each year in remembrance of her. I made one for Corey when he joined the family, and the dogs have their special stockings, too. But the fun part is finding new things to put in the stockings every year: special chocolates, gummi bears, miniature games, picture frames, maybe special jewelry. I stay on the lookout during the year for things for the stockings.

Doing all of these things brings me a lot of pleasure, but at the same time, I get very stressed out because I still am very much of a perfectionist  about getting all of it done, and Corey just doesn’t get excited about Christmas in the same way that I do. Not that he has to because everyone has different histories with Christmases, and granted, my need to do all of these things didn’t necessarily grow from the healthiest of sources. But I can’t help but get testy with him because he doesn’t get filled with the same childlike, over-the-top, isn’t all of this wonderful spirit that I do, instead of the, ‘do we really have to do this again this year’ kind of exasperation . . .

I don’t really do any kind of baking any more. When I taught at Old Dominion University, I used to bake homemade cookies for my students before the end of the fall semester when everyone went home for Christmas Break. I would bring in huge batches of cookies for them to eat during exams. I would also make some for home as well. Those were fun times.

But just about every woman I speak to around the holidays asks the same questions: Are you ready yet? And the answer is always the same: No. I’m running behind. How many men do you think actually ask each other that question? I mean, Corey likes to shop. He likes to shop for clothes for him, and he likes to shop for clothes for me, but he gets tired of shopping in general, and when I start to ask Christmas shopping questions such as, do you think so-and-so will like . . . he starts to wander into men’s jeans. If I start to look at Christmas decorations for the house, I get looks like, ‘are you seriously going to add one more Christmas figurine to our over-crowded house?’

So even though I want to do this, it becomes the bane of my existence for about six weeks, and I work myself into a stress-induced kind of mania. So who cares for the emotional nurturers when they are walking bundles of stress? When they are ready to snap at the least little thing? When they will consider taking their 17-year-olds to Wal Mart and ask for a return or exchange because Wal Mart agrees to take anything back even without a receipt?

Well, I’m pretty lucky. In my case, it’s my Grinch of a husband. Even though he’s not big on the whole idea of Christmas, he’ll still take me shopping, and bring me home and pull off my boots for me, and make me a cup of tea on top of everything else. And he’ll do that even when it’s not holiday season, so men may not want to talk about Christmas, but they can be nurturers.

Unfortunately, too often, and I know this firsthand, we have to be our own nurturers. We have to work eight to ten hour days, come home, fix dinner, go shopping for presents, send out the cards, decorate the house, play Santa, and nurture our kids’ hurts by ourselves. And sometimes this leaves us short. The cup doesn’t have enough on some days, and we find ourselves short: short on patience, short on time, short on all of the necessities we need to be good moms and still take care of ourselves in the process.

painted-toenailsOn those days, we might fall into bed with our make-up on and our feet hurting and wonder why life can be so unfair, wonder why we can’t get a fair shake, why we can’t find the time to paint our toe nails (oh, I painted my toe nails every time I went into labor before I went to the hospital. Oh yes. Believe me). I remember nights when I would curl up in bed with a dog and think with regret what a bad mother I had been that day because I didn’t take the time to play with one of my kids when he asked, or I skipped the bedtime story because I was too tired.

We can be so hard on ourselves. Years pass, and we still remember these things. Christmases come and go, and we still try for that perfect holiday. Is it because of what we see in magazines? For me, probably not. I stopped trying to live up to Victoria and House and Garden years ago. I did finally realize that my living room was never going to look like those pages, and my children’s rooms were never going to have toys neatly stacked in quaint little nooks.

Being a mother can be one of the the most difficult jobs in the world. We need to stress less, truly learn from our mistakes, and like most everyone else in our lives, be more forgiving of ourselves.

More later. Peace.

Boxing Day in a Non-Anglican Household

December the 26th

Well, It Wasn’t So Bad After All . . .

Christmas turned out to be almost perfect this year, in spite of the many hiccups along the way: The presents were all wrapped in time. The tree was decorated and in place, but the Labrador’s first Christmas is still a little iffie (as in she has already tried to eat three to five ornaments; we aren’t exactly sure as we have only found exoskeletons of what we believe were ornaments. I know that two of them used to be bird ornaments that I have had for at least fifteen years). Also, I have forgotten about Labrador tails, as in the damage a happy swishing one can wreak on the bottom limbs of a tree. Yes, Tillie is enjoying her first year with Santa.

Christmas Tillie

The kids all fared well. Brett ended up with two berets, one fedora, and one kind of old man’s hat. Lots of solid color t-shirts to wear under his jackets, a thrift store camera, and a few other goodies. But we’ll come back to Brett in a moment.

Eamonn received a very handsome sweater from “some girl he’s been dating for a while” (newsflash, newsflash, hello?), and lots and lots of clothes, which is primarily what he wanted. He also got two new hats: a deer hunter’s cap, I believe they are called; really I don’t know, just ordered and paid for the thing, and another stocking cap with a bill on it, black of course. And the ex bought him yet another mp3 player.

Alexis and Mike received some nice gifts. She loved the Buddha plaque and stand that I had found in the thrift store. It looks like it might be bronze with a greenish patina. I bought it the same night that I got her lamp, the now famous $135 lamp, the one I got the night my wallet was lost/stolen. That’s the most expensive $5 lamp I’ve ever purchased.

Corey liked all of his presents, especially since he picked them out, but he didn’t know about the gourmet dark chocolate covered cherries. And I got five new pairs of Christmas socks to add to my collection. Whoopee!

The Problem, My Friends, is With the Man on the Phone

Levi's 569 Jeans

But getting back to Brett, his father said that he would get Brett jeans for Christmas. Brett really only likes one style of jeans: Levi, dark-wash 569, loose, straight. How hard is that? After much trial and error, he finally found a style that he really feels comfortable in. They are Levis for criminy’s sake. Not Calvin Klein or some other designer label. And I even told his Dad where he could find them on sale. I told his father what size and style Brett prefers. Said father does not manage to get dark wash or 569. But he does manage to get Eamonn a brand new Sony mp3 player that will hold over 5,000 songs.

This is the third mp3 player that Eamonn will have had. He is very hard on them. I recommended the Sony player instead of an ipod this time because ipod’s are too fragile, and he has managed to kill two of them already, and they are too expensive to replace. But his father has replaced them, just as he has replaced Eamonn’s cell phone twice, and we have replace his cell phone three times. Eamonn is just plane hard on electronics.

Now my ex is free to do whatever he wants with his money—obviously. I just really wish that he weren’t so patently obvious in his  preference of one son over the other. When confronted with this observation, said ex will get very angry and  claim that someone is starting things. However, I have only made this claim once, and for the most part, our ex-ness has been fairly amiable.

But I just reached a limit this Christmas that made me do something that I usually don’t, and that’s to get on the phone and start something. I regretted it as soon as the phone began to ring, but I truly felt that it needed to be done. Like St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr for whom Boxing Day was originally named, I felt as if were about to be stoned in a market square for daring to tread in these waters, i.e., question the motives of said ex.

St. Stephen, who cared for widows and the poor, died, and Boxing Day or December 26, became a day on which to bestow boxes of food  and gifts of cash to tradespeople and servants as an expression of gratitude. It was also the day that the alms boxes in churches were opened, and the alms were distributed among the needy. So with St. Stephen’s will in mind, I began my journey.

I called the ex, and told him that I really didn’t think that it was right that he so blatantly treated his sons differently. Essentially. There were a lot of words in between. The “conversation” began on pretty negative terms, but over the hour and a half settled into a calm detente. We agreed to disagree on a few things . . . Before that, he accused me of calling him just to make him feel guilty, which of course, I denied, but that was so one of my motives. The things we do to the people we used to love, the people who are still significantly in our lives.

Love lost in a divorce from a marriage that has just worn itself out, with two people who don’t really hate each other but simply cannot live together any longer is probably the most pathetic kind.  Divorces full of acrimony might be better. Then you can call each other horrible names and snarl at each other at every turn. But I don’t hate this man. I want him to be happy. I want him to find someone to be happy with.

But I also want him to treat his children better. I’m just not sure that he ever will. And that’s a really hard reality to face gracefully and quietly.

But Then Comes the Dawn*

“Murmur of Eos” by Wayne Gruver, acrylic

The good news is knowing that their stepfather will always be there for them. For every time that my ex has not been there, Corey has been there. When they have been sick in the middle of the night, Corey has been there. When Eamonn wanted a stuffed Charmander (from Pokeman) years ago, Corey didn’t stop trying until he won one out of one of those grab-it machines.

When Brett wanted to duel every Saturday morning with his Yu-Gi-Oh cards at the card store, Corey would drive him and Eamonn thirty minutes each way, and buy them new packs of cards whenever new sets came out so that they would have good cards for the tournaments.

He has been there for off-key chorus performances, honors programs in hot auditoriums with screaming toddlers and babies; he has attended every one of Eamonn’s basketball practices and Saturday games that he was in town for. He even showed up at the emergency room soon after we started dating when Eamonn was kicked below his eyebrow during recess. Paul was not there.

My children have been very lucky to have a man who loves them unconditionally, whole-heartedly, without reservation or conditions. And I am truly blessed to have this man in my life as a father to my children and as my best friend and true companion.

All in all, it was a very happy Christmas for us all. I need to remember the good, look past the bad, and not let the assholes get me down. Unlike St. Stephen, I have been blessed with more good than bad. The new year is coming soon, which means a new chance to start over and maybe get it right this year.

I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas, and here’s looking forward to a peaceful new year in which we all have the chance to follow our muse, wherever she may take us. Peace.

*Isn’t this painting in acrylic by Wayne Gruver absolutely gorgeous? I came across it when I was looking for an image to represent Eos, the goddess of dawn. This wasn’t what I was looking for, but I’m so glad that I found it. I really wish that I had the money to purchase this (ha!). I find it incredibly sensuous and peaceful at the same time.