Sunday, December 30, 2007

Strangers Among Us

My folks finally made it over today after rescheduling visits a half a dozen times due to one thing or another (mostly thanks to colds, flus and ear infections on this end). They brought birthday and Christmas gifts for Incrediboy, and we all had a ball playing with them. We had a nice visit over brownies and coffee, and I've felt fairly warm and fuzzy ever since.

My relationship with my parents has been a great source of angst for most of my adult life. I have never felt unloved - Yet have never felt that I quite lived up to their expectations of me - it seemed that I was always an unsavory blend of irritation and disappointment for them. Looking back I'm not sure how much of this was reflected by them and how much was assumption on my part - I will fully admit I could be a pain in the a$$. But my brother was a pleaser and bordered on being an overachiever - and while not maliciously, there were plenty of times that I was compared and subtly yet blaringly notified that was found wanting.

I don't think my parents meant to hurt me in any way - and I'm not altogether sure they are even aware they did. I don't hold a grudge toward them for any of it. But much of it is hard to overcome. I have often wondered how deeply it all has affected my self-perception, which has always been erratic.

We get along fine, but are not especially close. Many people talk with their parents and/or see them several times a week. I have often gone weeks or even months without talking to my folks, and it's been a good half a year since I saw them last. Rather strange considering they live less than an hour away from us. Granted, they have both been struggling with illnesses this past year, but it has always been this way.

Many times a visit with my folks has been upsetting. I feel it disrespectful to go into details, but suffice it to say I am very sensitive to their judgment, even as a grown woman of otherwise strong fortitude and confidence. Somehow I am always a little girl of terribly fragile emotion in their presence. And while I don't take sh!t from anyone in everyday life, I have a way of allowing the tiniest remark from them destroy me for hours or even days.

But something seems to have changed in this past year. Most likely hinged upon my Dad's battle with cancer, we are all a bit closer, a bit more comfortable and a bit less guarded.

We are still not a close-knit family as most are - it's more the feeling of extended family rather than immediate. My son knows who they are and is excited at the prospect of seeing them when we do - but shies away from them if a hug is suggested.

I think it bothers them a little. It does me, too.

I often long for the closeness that nearly everyone else seems to have in their families. But my family is mine, and I love them. I will take whatever is given.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


I have had the creeps all day.

My neighbor down the road was killed today. He was stabbed in the abdomen, in his home, by some guy who just got released from prison. Apparently he knew the guy because he told the deputy his name before dying from his wounds. The perpetrator was long gone by then, and could've been anywhere. A statewide manhunt was launched.

The whole thing is particularly troublesome to me, because we moved way out here into Sticksville in order to get away from some of the dangers of city living. There's some sort of Mayberry-esque illusion to life that comes with country living - an ungrounded impression that you are somehow safer. Not that we've ever felt comfortable enough to leave our doors unlocked or anything like that - but you just kind of figure the dangers of modern life are a little more distant from you.

In many ways they probably are. But bad stuff happens everywhere.

Earlier this evening the killer was apprehended and taken into custody. But that didn't help ease the creepy feeling that someone was watching me through our windows.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Silent Night

It's been a busy day for Clew. I got up at 7:30 (which, actually, is sleeping in for me) - Hub was working most of the day so it was just Incrediboy, MBDog and me. I tried to get some chores done but it was difficult, as Incrediboy was in the mood for company and MBDog was being a general pain in the butt. I did manage to get a few loads of laundry done and get the kitchen cleaned, but weeding out toys in preparation for the new deluge in a few days has been slow going. And I never did get my morning plan of mopping and sealing the hardwood done until after Incrediboy was asleep tonight.

An immensely busy day considering I really didn't get too much done. But that's how it goes sometimes. And that's okay :).

I have a lot left to do in the next few days. Incrediboy was sick for the latter half of the week so I'm even further behind on chores than I usually am. But I also have a lot done. Presents for Incrediboy's best Christmas ever are wrapped and hiding in our bedroom closet. The infamous tow truck is in the trunk of my car, waiting to become a part of something amazing in a little boy's eyes. These, the important things, are done.

Hub turned in early after his long day and MBDog joined him. I just got out of a desperately needed shower and am sitting with a nice cozy cup of gingerbread spice tea. The TV is down low and the lights of our Christmas tree are sweetly serenading the corner of my eye. An entire corner of our family room displays Christmas cards from the friends with which we are richly blessed. Our stockings drape gracefully from the mantle, waiting patiently to be filled. Visions of sugarplums are dancing in the blue bedroom down the hall.

I should be doing some more chores instead of sitting on the couch in my fuzzy robe, drinking tea and blogging. My folks are visiting in a few days and I pretty much need to clean every room but the kitchen - and that too will surely need cleaned again by Tuesday. But just for tonight, I wanted to slow down. I wanted to pause long enough to savor the company of the holiday's quieter side. It's been a long time since I've done that.

Merry Christmas, friends.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Canine Design - for Coffeypot

Hello, blog buddies! The holiday preparations are keeping me busy and I haven't had much time to post nor to visit around much. In lieu, I am republishing an old post of mine from April 2006, in honor of my newest blogfriend, Coffeypot - an amusingly grumpy and fussy guy on the surface, but with a heart as big as the moon for dogs. I love that in a person.

Hope you're all well! Be back soon ~

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"It had been (my dog)'s job to raise me. All that time we had been having fun, going for walks, getting into trouble, being companions and friends in some great adventure. And I had spent so much time teaching him to sit, stay, lie down, roll over. But all along, he had been teaching me. It is the child that makes the man, and in this case it was a dog. All along it had been the dog doing the teaching, not me. How do you like that? And I love him for it ... and will for the rest of my life."

- Carlo De Vito

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Anyone who knows me, knows I love my dog to a ridiculous degree. He is my 4 footed son. I love dogs in general, and I firmly believe that anyone who doesn’t like dogs has a serious defect in their wiring.

Dog is God spelled backwards. Have you ever noticed? Probably a random coincidence of English language – as I’m sure this wouldn’t apply in all other tongues. But that is a delightful and poignant little thing to me. Dogs are uniquely special creatures, purposefully designed to hold a precious place in the hearts and lives of mankind. And as in all blessed relationships, the rewards outweigh the annoyances so greatly that the aggravations fade into the shadows before they even brand your heart with a grudge.

Having a dog in your life will award you with the world’s sweetest gifts and most understated lessons. As touched upon in the quote above, we have as much to be taught from them as they have from us, if not moreso. Most Beautiful Dog shows us every day that joy is not only simply found but so easily attainable. He is thrilled to see us whether we’ve been gone all day or only for a few moments behind the bathroom door. He is always up for romping and playing, and is never hesitant about showing his emotions honestly. He senses when we are sad, and responds with gentle quiet sympathy. He’s unpretentious and never puts on airs. And most importantly, if we are harsh with him, he doesn’t hold it against us – he immediately apologizes with a sorrowful gaze of his dazzling amber eyes, and then works on making friends again.

I wish I could be half the good person Most Beautiful Dog is. I try to follow his examples in my interactions with others, though I usually fall short.

Our biggest problem with Most Beautiful Dog is getting him to come when we call. We have taught him to sit, lie down, roll over, even “pray” - but can we teach him to come when we call? No-o-o-o-o! He doesn't come when we call. He only comes when he thinks what we’re doing right now is more exciting than what he's doing right now.

I’d love for MBDog to come when I call him. It’s recently occurred to me that maybe he’s teaching me another lesson. I don’t always listen to my Master, either.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Creating Christmas Magic

I finished up my shopping for what I anticipate to be the best Christmas morning ever – and now in my typical, second-thought style, and in the spirit of “your kids will have more fun playing with the empty box”, I’m wondering if I should have saved what could have otherwise been a new HDTV, for example.

Incrediboy’s preschool class has a variety of toys available for the kids to enjoy during free time. Incrediboy has become particularly enamored with a tow truck that is amongst the toys. It’s blue, about a foot long, with a working hook. It’s made by Matchbox and is probably 8 or 10 years old by the looks of it.

I’ve been trying to find him one of his own since he adores it so much, but I haven’t been able to locate one anywhere. I looked in all kinds of stores, on Amazon, even on eBay. Nothing. I can only assume they don’t make them anymore.

The class talked about their wish list to Santa the other day and Miss S, their teacher, helped them write it on a list and hang up on the classroom door. Most lists had 7 or 8 items of typical fare … Spiderman stuff, Transformers, Hannah Montana, Barbie, a football, a new bike, etc. Every other page is full, though.

What was Incrediboy’s list, of only two items?

Number two item: A new box of crayons. (Easy enough)
Number one item: A tow truck just like the one in Miss S’s classroom.

Miss S informed me that she asked Incrediboy, “That’s all you want?”, to which he replied, “Yep. If I get a tow truck like that I’ll be the happiest boy in the whole world!”


I repeat, I can’t find that truck anywhere. And while I always swore I’d never fall into this kind of game, it really upsets me that I can’t get him the one thing he really wants. We’ve gotten him a lot of nice things, and I know he’ll be thrilled with life on Christmas morning. But oh how I wish I could indulge my little boy’s belief and faith in Santa Claus by giving him the one thing he wants most!

Miss S is aware of my difficulties in finding said tow truck. And God love her, she spoke to Miss M, the preschool director about it. They decided, without me even asking, that if I wanted to bring in a replacement truck - not even a fancy one! – that we could have the old tow truck for Incrediboy.


So here’s what I was thinking. I won’t wrap it, as it’s not new. But I’ll leave it by the empty cookie plate, with a note to this effect:

Dear Incrediboy,

I saw your Christmas list you wrote at school. I do not make this same tow truck in my toy shop anymore, but I talked to Miss S and we agreed that I would leave another truck for your classroom so that you can have this one for your own. Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa

I can’t wait to see his face.

I’d have loved to get him a new one. But the simple fact is, I know he won’t care. He loves that tow truck. I just hope he’ll be interested in some tiny way, in his other sparkly new Christmas gifts. :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Moments of Holiday Angst & Pride

I still haven’t put the icicles on the tree and am considering just skipping it altogether. We haven’t put it up for several years now, and while Hub and I both agree it really adds to the tree’s personality, we have been worried that MBDog will snack on it while we’re not watching, which in turn will be a mess as it exits him – IF it exits him.

Speaking of, our gigundous tree all but blocks the front window, but there’s enough room for MBDog to squeeze in between and check out what’s happening in the front yard. Being a sporting breed, he loses his fool mind if he even thinks he might see a deer, rabbit, bird or chipmunk – springboarding off the windowsill with a coronary-inducing BOO ROO ROO, nails clattering on the hardwood and dining room chairs slamming into the table as he tears to other windows.

The other night, some bird had the audacity to sachet through our front yard, and MBDog threw his standard nervous breakdown at the window. This time, however, the tree was there and he’d worked his way underneath and into it in order to assume his patrolling position. His BOO ROO ROO was accompanied by a quick and violent twisting of my tree and a harsh tinkling and crunching of ornaments. I kneejerk-reacted with a yelp at him as I shot off the couch, and he practically took the tree down trying to scoot out of the room.

I examined my poor tree. Many of the ornaments had swung around to lay on top of their respective branches rather than hang down from them, but miraculously nothing seemed broken. Not that I've found yet, anyway. I could have sworn I heard something fragile go "crunch", though.

I did notice, however, that the internal light strand (the one that twinkles) is no longer lit.

After going through 15 light strands to find only 6 that still work, I’m this close to throwing the whole tree right out the front door.

In brighter news (pardon the pun), Incrediboy’s Christmas Concert was Friday evening. His preschool class did a play in which he and his best friend were two of the wise men. They did exceptionally well – I thought for sure some tomfoolery would be going on.

Well, maybe there was a little bit - but not too bad ;).

After their play, his class sat on the stage and prepared to sing a song as a group. "Away in a Manger". As soon as they started, my son - never one to draw attention to himself – grabbed the microphone from the hand of his teacher who sat next to him and belted out a strong rendition without the slightest bit of self-consciousness. He received an enthusiastic round of applause, and he beamed – with that look in his eye. That look that says, “Ahhh, me public!”

He may look a lot like me, but he’s Daddy through and through.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"I've got the wholllle bed - to myself..."

I’ve been indulging myself the past few evenings. The hub is out of town on a guys’ trip, which leaves me alone with the children (human and canine) in our big ole house. Upon putting Incrediboy to bed and wrapping up my evening activities around the abode, Most Beautiful Dog and I turn in for the night.

Now while we have a strict rule that Incrediboy sleeps in his OWN room, not ours – MBDog has always shared our bed. It was much more convenient and manageable when he weighed 7 pounds rather than his current 70, but the benefits outweigh the hassles. He’s a sweet, affectionate boy that is the perfect shape to spoon yourself around when he’s curled up in a ball next to you. Now if he decides to stretch out, and make room for himself by forcefully pushing on you with his giant paws, that’s another story … But usually it’s all good.

We watch a little TV together before dozing off … I have FULL control of the remote, and MBDog doesn’t complain about what I stop on. LOL. The best part though, is that I get to sleep sideways in the bed.

I have no idea why, but I love to sleep sideways in our bed. I just LOVE it. We have a California King, so there’s plenty of room in all directions. There’s really no reason why I would even need to do such a thing. But anytime Hub’s gone overnight somewhere, I bask in the frivolity of sleeping east to west rather than north to south. So I guess I just do it because I can.

It’s awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having Hub there and I miss him when he’s gone. But I just LOVE sleeping this way. It’s kind of like the time on Seinfeld, when Kramer painted out the middle line on the highway, and Elaine was gushing about how wonderful the extra-wide lane was. It’s not necessary, but it sure feels luxurious!

The bad part is getting up the next day, though. Particularly on a morning like today - where snow blankets the countryside and the temperature is in the teens – where I and my dog have achieved a perfectly comfortable snugglepile and I can feel the convection-oven-like warmth circulating under the blankets – the kind where you let your alarm clock ring way longer than you normally would because you hate to let the warm coziness escape by pulling the covers back because it’s so perfect. I’d have given just about anything to stay in bed today. All day.


Hub will be back tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to it. I miss him! But for tonight, I look forward to one last luxurious sideways snooze in a huge nest of blankets all to myself – just me and my Most Beautiful Dog.

I can’t wait.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

O Tannenbaum

Yes, I'm cheating again ... I'm reposting a piece from a few years ago. But I was thinking of it while I decorated our tree the other night, and just wanted to share these thoughts again.

Hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season!

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I am an eclectic decorator. While I think trees done in department-store-perfect themes and color schemes are lovely, I prefer a homey feel for my own personal tree. We deeply weave hundreds of lights from trunk to branch tips, followed by draping several strands of faceted silver beads halfway in, to catch the light and make our tree even more shimmery. And then, the ritual of the ornaments. I have several boxes of the usual colored glass globes and the satin snowball ornaments. Our tree is large and these make nice fillers. But most items are individuals, very different from one another.

I started to collect bells for my tree several years ago. Not jingle bells, but the classic belfry-bell shape. I have two cloisonné bells, one with snowflakes, the other with holly. I have several character bells – angels, Santas, snowmen – their feet serving as clappers in a hollow skirt or overcoat. Bells with verses of poetry or scripture on them. Bells that tinkle merrily as I hang them. I love to get lost in my own little carol of the bells as I decorate my tree. In later years I’ve had a hard time finding working bell ornaments. I hope they come back into fashion soon.

I have commemorative ornaments with events and calendar years on them. Ornaments displaying favorite sports teams, hobbies, and collectibles. The little racecar from Toy Story that came in a Happy Meal and we turned into a tree decoration. Ornaments from vacation spots, and as souvenirs brought back by friends. A spider made of red and green beads, sitting on a silver thread web woven god’s eye-style, because I love spiders. Miniature power tool ornaments the Hub found at Sears. The resin pet ornament I found on line that looks just like Most Beautiful Dog. A crystal Star of the East. A fancy gold cross. The fuzzy bunny sitting in the crook of a candy cane – the ornament my Mom gave me for my first tree when I went away for college. Countless others, each unique and each meaningful.

I have a whole mess of cheesy cheap junky ornaments that I think I got for 5 for $1. A white plastic reindeer with an iridescent coating on it. Fake peppermint candies made of striped plastic wrap over chunks of Styrofoam. A shiny gold painted Santa Claus boot filled with toys. A sleigh with a half busted runner. A weird looking guy – maybe a soldier, maybe a jester, I’m not sure - made of colorful wooden beads. Things like that. I bought those our first Christmas together. We were both starting over – we’d just bought a house and we were so poor!

They’re really quite ugly, this certain collection (chuckle). But I hang them each year. Why? Because they are a part of our Christmas past. Pieces of the memories we have made and traditions we have established. When I look at my tree, the decorations take me back to past seasons, and I find myself reflecting fondly on where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and how blessed we are in so many ways.

Each year we add a few more items to the collection. I just bought a new train ornament, as Incrediboy is really into trains right now. He half murdered the little flag on top of it as we made our way to the checkout, but in typical Mom fashion, I see this as part if its charm now. I want to hang it each year forevermore in its gimpy, imperfect state, a victim of busy little hands. By next year I’m thinking we’ll be making things together to hang on the tree. Awkward, chunky, messy toddler decorations. Exquisitely beautiful in their own way.

I hope that someday every square inch of our tree will be donned with symbols of love and kindredship. Old and new, silver and gold. Plastic, resin, glass, paper, Popsicle sticks, glitter. These say home to me. These say, Merry Christmas with love.