Out with the old year, in with the dark haired man.

Do you like the year end lists, the years in review and best ofs?   I do, so I tried to compile a personal Best of 2012 list for you.

I started with Best Non-fiction Book I read.  I could not choose.  How do you compare a holocaust memoir to a book about breasts to environmental disasters to the assassination of a president?  I couldn’t.  So I scratched that off my list.

Similar problems with choosing Best Fiction, so I scratched that, too.

Then I couldn’t remember any movies I watched more than a month ago.

I made these cauliflower fritters last week, and they were definitely the best cauliflower I’d had all year.  So there is that.

But there is no list of Year’s Best from me.  Sorry.  Not even highlights or a year in review.

Instead, let’s talk about Superstitions.  Do you adhere to any New Year’s superstitions?  Or customs?

NewYearsList

My family was woefully lacking in cultural traditions and superstitions.  We don’t even have a traditional meal.  No black eyed peas; no pork in sauerkraut; no long noodles.

I didn’t even realize how many people had New Year’s traditions until I was in my twenties.  Then a co-worker told me about the many superstitions she’d grown up with.  I think of her every year at this time and pray that the new year brings her many blessings.

Her family strongly believed that the first person to cross the threshold in the new year must be a man.  She said none of the women would leave their homes until a man had visited them on New Year’s Day, so all the male relatives had to go from house to house, in the morning, to ensure good fortune for the new year.

It had to be in the morning, both because the women wanted to visit each other in the afternoon and because they didn’t want to risk a neighbor stopping by and crossing the threshold first.

This list specifies it needs to be a dark haired man.  My coworker didn’t mention that, but all the men in her family had dark hair, so maybe she didn’t think about it.  In my family, it would mean my husband would have to visit every household while the rest of us stayed home.  My sons would doom a family to bad luck all year.

NewYearsSuperstions

It’s probably good that we don’t follow that particular custom, but I like the kissing at midnight and not breaking things superstitions.  I’m all for kissing and not breaking things every day of the year, actually.

Does your family have any special customs for the New Year?  Traditional foods?

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True love and cold feet.

I know that we are about to embark on a New Year, and there is talk of resolutions and new beginnings everywhere, but winter never feels like the start of anything to me.

It’s not the end, either, but the long dark nights and the biting cold make me want to hibernate.  But not alone.  I need to glom the heat off my husband; otherwise I might freeze.  I wonder if Mrs. Berlin warmed her feet by scooting them near her husband, too?

You know it’s true love when he doesn’t mind your popsicle feet.

WinterLove

Had any brilliant ideas lately?

I invented the gingersnap icebox cupcake yesterday.  Layer thin gingersnaps (I used Nyakers) and whipped cream in a custard cup or what have you.  Refrigerate a few hours.  Eat.  It’s good.

(I learned about icebox cakes watching Mr. Rogers as a child.  He made one with chocolate wafers one day.)

I’m not going to google it, but I am fairly certain that thousands before me have invented the gingersnap icebox cake.  That’s how it always happens:  I have a brilliant idea, then learn that it is already in production.

For example, the credit card accepting parking meters – my idea!  I thought of them when searching for quarters for a meter one day at the city library.  Told my husband.  He said they had them in other cities.  A year later, I was sliding my card through a meter by the library.

I know I’m not the only one.  What did you invent (after it had already been invented by someone else)?

This is not how you regain trust in a relationship.

Would you find it suspicious to receive a package that lists one of your children as the shipping and billing address?  Knowing that said child did not order it?

My husband thinks I over-reacted.  Tell me what you think.

I was 99% certain who sent it, but there was that 1% of me that was thinking I should put it out in the yard away from the house in case it was a bomb.

Am I the only one who thinks like that?

UPS delivered the package just before we left for church on Christmas Eve, so I didn’t pull the shipping label until 10:00pm.  The box was plain brown, but the shipping label (a folded piece of standard paper with the faded low-ink look of a home printer) said the box was from Sears.  (Anyone could cut and paste a logo onto the top of a piece of paper, right?)

I’m phone averse, so I went online.  The customer service chat window showed me a photo of all-American-girl-next-door Randy, but I’m fairly certain I was chatting with a very polite Randisha half a world away.

Randy and I went several rounds of me explaining that I had not ordered anything from Sears, and I wanted to verify that the package had, indeed, been sent by Sears, followed by Randy asking for the billing address, then telling me there was no record of an order from my address.

I was beginning to wonder if Randy was an automated responder.  I’m still not sure, but eventually, she/he/it seemed to grasp that the billing address was not helping and moved on to asking for other sets of numbers on the packing label.

After several tries, Randy verified that Sears had sent the package, and after a bit more coaxing told me who the sender was, but would not tell me what was in the box.

I thought that was amusing.  The one thing she would not tell me was the only thing I could have learned by opening the package.

Although I am certain that Randy has no say over Sears’ policies, I told her that I found it creepy that Sears would allow senders to list recipients as the billing name/address.

Of course the package was from the sender whom I suspected.  I think this has pushed her over into the creepy stalker category.

Who sends anonymous packages to minors in this day and age????  Even if, for some strange reason, you wanted to send a child a “secret admirer” gift, wouldn’t you send an email to her parents telling them to expect a package?  You know, so the gift seemed sweet, not creepy.  (I send packages to my nieces and nephews for holidays and birthdays, but I always email their parents so they know to expect a box from Amazon and tell them what should be inside.)

Obviously, my relationship with this sender is already strained and weird.  I’m not going to delve into the reasons for that today, but suffice it to say, spending an hour of my Christmas Eve wondering if I should hang up on Randy and call the bomb squad has done nothing to improve it.

O, Come Let Us Adore Him

Gerrit van Honthorst; Adoration of the Child, c. 1620

Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
Born this happy morning;
Jesus, to thee be glory given!
Word of the Father,
Now in flesh appearing!
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Oh, come, let us adore him,
Christ the Lord.

(John F. Wade; Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful, 1767)

This is a great party; when can we leave?

What do two introverts talk about at a Christmas party?

Exit strategies.

ExitStrategies

After an hour at last night’s party, my husband had asked me if it would okay to leave yet.  I told him that we had to stay a minimum of 1.5 hours to be polite.

Moments later, a fellow introvert told me she had just had the same conversation with her husband.  She, too, had set their departure at the one and half hour mark.  Then she asked, “What reason will you give for leaving early?”

I told her that my daughter doesn’t like to go to sleep when she’s alone in the house, so we need to be home before nine.  It’s conveniently true, so it’s an excellent excuse.

I asked what she’d prepared.  She said her son was flying in the next morning, and that she would say she still needed to get a bedroom ready for him.

She agreed that it was not as good a story as mine.  Then we asked ourselves, why do we feel like we need an exit strategy?  Why don’t we feel that it’s enough to say our thank yous and good byes without explanation?  Do people really expect one?

Both introverts, we both felt slightly overwhelmed at the crowded party, even as we enjoyed our own conversation.  I’d honestly enjoyed all the conversations I’d had, but I was tired before I left the house, and being in a crowded, noisy room was just increasing my fatigue.

A half hour later, our husbands, who had been tracking the time until departure, came over to let us know that the hour had come.  I said thank you and goodbye to the hostess, who immediately responded, “Oh, you’re leaving so early?  I didn’t even get a chance to talk to you!”  So I gave my prepared excuse, to which she said, “Oh, yeah, I understand.  That would be hard.  I’m glad you could come!”

Yes, I need exit strategies.

What about you?  Are you the life of the party, or do you plan for your exit before leaving home?

Sunday Funnies, discontinued

I feel foolish for not knowing this, or investigating it, earlier, but when putting together the funnies this week, I finally did realize that all the comics are under copyright that forbids sharing them online.

When I started, I had noticed that some comics were clearly marked on each individual strip as somehow blocking any form of copying.  I naively thought that the ones that were not so labeled were okay to use as long as I was not claiming them as my own.

Wrong.  Displaying them requires permission and payment.

So far as I can tell, linking to them does not, so I am in the process of deleting the comics that I have shown in the past, replacing them with links.

I don’t think links are any fun, though, so I won’t be posting new link-only funnies.

I’m sorry that I can’t continue, and I am sorry that I did not research the copyright on the comics before I began posting them.

I’m trying to think of something fun to replace the funny pages on Sundays.  Any suggestions?

 

My baby is my middle child.

My baby is home!  I get him for almost a full month; I am one happy mom.

My baby is my middle child.  Which may seem weird.  Let me explain.

I gave birth to two sons, nineteen months apart.  They were babies together, preschoolers together, often mistaken for twins because they were gorgeous and the same height.

They could not have been more different.  My eldest was, from the very start, his father’s son, which delighted me.  Is there anything more amazing than holding your firstborn child?

My younger son was, in many ways, my boy.  He loved being my baby, being held and snuggled and, yes, babied.  Is there anything sweeter than a contented baby?

They were and always will be my firstborn and my baby.  My boys.

When my boys were in middle school, we adopted our daughter.  She is my one and only girl.

I am certain she was a beautiful infant, because she was a beautiful six year old when we first met.  I missed her baby years; her first steps, her first words, all those milestones belong to someone else’s memories.

She was never my baby, but she is my girl.  If there is anyone more joyful than parents who have waited years for a child, it is a child who has waited years for a family.

So there it is, I have my firstborn, my baby, and my girl – in that order.  Each unique and precious to me; I could not love them more.

What’s the birth order in your family?

Do you ever feel helpless?

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the sadness of the world, wanting to help, but not knowing how or where to start?  I’ve heard many people express that feeling over the past several days.

There is always something you can do to help others.

Does that mean we can prevent bad things from happening?  No, sadly, it does not.  We live in a broken world, full of messed up people, and bad things will happen.

Good things will happen, too, and we can be among those doing good.

A gift catalog arrived in my mailbox on Saturday that reminded me of this.  The timing was perfect; it is full of needs I can meet, ways I can help.

I can’t solve every problem, but I can buy gifts that will solve some problems, for some people.

For $25 I can buy a family two chickens.  For $30 I can buy five ducks.  With their eggs, a family can feed its children and earn extra income.

For $75 I could buy a dairy goat.  Five dollars less would pay for one year of education for an orphan.  $85 would buy a girl a bicycle.

Did you know that one of the reasons many girls stop going to school is (the very real) fear of being attacked or kidnapped as they walk along lonely roads to school?  A bicycle is more than fun to them; it’s safety and access to an education.

There are lots of other ways to help, too, everything from mosquito nets to prevent malaria to clean water projects to rescuing girls from the sex trade.  Take a look and see if there isn’t something that tugs on your heart.

If you do not want to send money to a Christian organization like World Vision, there are secular charities that do similar work, like Oxfam.

I know these may not be the issues that have drawn your attention recently, but there are families suffering and mourning the loss of their children all over the world.  If we can save one child anywhere, isn’t that something?

ps – I am not affiliated with World Vision in any way.  This is not a sponsored post.

How to drive your family crazy, Christmas edition.

In case you want to know…

Rearrange your mantel, or some other highly visible area (focal point:  the experts call them focal points) to an asymmetrical display.

I decided to take down a picture from my mantel and give it a more Christmas-y look.  Nothing fancy.  I like things simple.  I moved the candlesticks, and painted a blue backdrop for the stocking holders.  My daughter drew and cut the star.  Simple.

My daughter, my husband, my eldest son all  – independently of one another – told me that the blue board should be horizontal.  Or moved on center.  They flipped the board to show me what they meant.  I assured them that my choice was intentional.

My husband readily accepted that I’d achieved more or less the look I wanted, and moved on to other things.

My eldest, who strongly dislikes asymmetry, rearranged it several ways, showing me layouts he found less jarring.  One of his arrangements was rather nice, and I did agree that a wider blue board would have been better, but this was a zero cost project.  I’m not going out to buy a bigger backdrop.  (The blue board is a piece of foamboard that was purchased and not used a couple years ago, painted with leftover navy blue paint.)

My daughter, after seeing the star in place, asked, “What are you going to do with all that negative space?”  I told her I was going to leave it negative.  Her eyes widened in horror.  She likes to fill in all blank spaces.  Her bedroom is evidence of this.  I told her that I want uncluttered, so the eye would go to the star, then to the tiny nativity below.  She remains dubious.

I’m waiting to see if my youngest son says anything about it when he gets in later this week.

You can’t tell in the photo, but the star is glittery.  I am tempted to take a can of white spray paint to the stocking holders, but I’m undecided on that.

What do you think?  Honest opinions, please.  Would my mantle drive you crazy?