Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Prayer

As you spend your Christmas day with loved ones exchanging gifts and drinking eggnog, please keep your hearts and prayers open to those not as fortunate.  No matter how bad you think things are, there is always someone worse off than you are.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers all those who are without the ones they love today whether they are separated due to distance, estrangement or death.  Especially those who are dealing with the very first Christmas without that loved one, as the first is always the most difficult.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers all of our military men and women serving overseas or at home.  Keep their families who are without them this Christmas and those who are mourning the loss of a loved service man or woman in your hearts and prayers.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers the homeless and the destitute.  Those without enough to eat, insufficient shelter and heat, lack of warm clothes or a place to lay their heads at night.  Those without a place to go and be merry this Christmas.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers those suffering from an illness.  Whether that illness be mental or physical.  Those that suffer from addictions, because the holidays are often the most difficult time to stay sober.  Those that cannot recall Christmases past.  Those that cannot get out to see family.  Those suffering great pain.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers the lonely.  Lonely in their hearts whether surrounded by loved ones or truly all alone.

Please keep in your hearts and prayers those around the world living in poverty, war and fear.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy Chanukah.

Merry Christmas Eve

We have had some terrible weather the last week or so.  This month alone, we have had about 20 inches of snow.  I would say at least half of that has been in the past week alone.

If you are from the Chicago area, you know Mayor Daley has decided to lessen the amount of plowing done to “save money.”  The CDOT has sworn that the side streets are being cleaned, so not to worry.  However, our street hadn’t been cleaned in a full week.  All that snow has been packed onto the street, which has created a challenge for all cars, especially those lower to the ground, like mine.

Our street is the only one within a mile not plowed.  I am thinking someone on this block has ticked off someone in power.

Today my family will go to my sister’s house for Christmas Eve.  My uncle and his 2 adult children are the only outside of our immediate family to join us.  My uncle, as I have mentioned before, has MS and is bedridden.  He gets around in a scooter if he gets out of bed, which happens about twice a year.  He looks forward to Christmas Eve all year.

My mom was unable to get a reservation for a handicap accessible van and they were going to use their old van (1993), which they rigged last year for him, but it won’t start and is buried under all that snow.

My grandma had decided not to go and my uncle was told he couldn’t go because we didn’t think my little car would be able to get down the street (I don’t drive it much and haven’t moved it since Saturday – we have had about 5 more inches of snow since then).  My mom was so upset and my cousins said they wouldn’t go if my uncle couldn’t go.  They didn’t want to leave him alone on Christmas Eve.

While my mom was in the basement yesterday, I went out and cleaned my car off.  I decided to see if I could get the car out.  It took a while and a bit of rocking, but I got it out.  Then I had to try to get over the packed mound of snow down the center of the street.  That was difficult, but I managed.  I drove around the block okay.  Parking it again was harder than getting it out, but I did it.

I had my mom call my uncle and he still said no because my grandma wasn’t going, but while she was in the other room talking to him, I talked her into going.  So, our gathering is back on.

My grandma is happy now because her 2 children and all 4 grandchildren, as well as her 2 great-grandchildren, her son-in-law and grandson-in-law will all be together.  She said at any age, but especially her age (90 in 4 months), she may never have her whole family together again.

The snow plows came down our street last night packing the snow against all the cars, but I should be able to get it out again.  I hope.  I will try it in a couple of hours.

I hope that whatever you do today and whomever you are with, you have wonderful and blessed day. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Is He Flirting With Me?

I was in line with my mom checking out at a store and when we reached the counter, the cashier began chatting with me.  Asking about the weather and that kind of thing. 

When we walked away, my mom grinned and said, “without a doubt, he was flirting with you.”

I just smiled and thought to myself, really?  Hmmmm.

Everyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am clueless.  I never have any idea when someone is flirting.  I think they are just being nice or making conversation.  Not flirting.

It happens time and again; I am told after the fact that the guy was flirting.  Waiters, cashiers, bartenders, vagabonds, etc….

There are a few occasions to which I can be certain the guy was flirting.  They usually involve some drooling on the guys’ part and him looking at me like I am a stripper on a pole.  You see, it usually has to be THAT obvious for me to realize he is flirting.

There have been a handful of times when I can tell. 

One of those times, the guy doing the flirting had potential. 

I was with my whole family, which, frankly, is not generally a time I would expect a guy to flirt, but that just shows confidence on his part.  We were in line to have brunch at Marshall Field’s Walnut Room during the holidays and this very handsome, well-dressed man comes directly to me in a line of over 100 people to ask what we were in line for.  He was smiling, a smile that reached his eyes, and making eye contact.

His eyes are burning into my soul and I am imagining a lovely wedding on a beach somewhere and 3 gorgeous blonde children (they would have taken after their daddy, of course) when my mother turns around and answers him before I could open my mouth to form a word. 

He looked stunned and slightly appalled before quickly retreating.  I had the urge to jump over the velvet rope and chase after him yelling, “wait! What about our babies!” 

My all too sensible self took over and I stood firmly where I was and glared at my mother. 

“What?” she asked innocently. 

“What?!” I asked, incensed.  “You are always telling me I don’t know when a man is flirting and this time I do, but what happens?  My mommy answers for me.  If I were him, I would have run too!”

Do you think that is why I am still single? 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

They Crack Me Up!

The kids in my life make me laugh.  The older they get, the more amusing they are to me.

1) My nephew and my sister were over the other afternoon.  My nephew would not talk to my mom or to me.  We kept asking him things, but silence.  He went downstairs to see my grandma.  He loves my grandma so much; she eats it up too.  He ran to her and he babbled away for about a half an hour.

My sister asked him when they were at home why he wouldn’t talk to my mom or to me.  His answer:  I would have if you weren’t there.

He is going to be 4 years old in 2 months.  I can only imagine how he will be when he is 14!

2) I visited my best friend the other day.  She is on maternity leave as her newborn is just 3 weeks old.  I barely saw him because I was playing with my goddaughter who was very much needing to run and get all that energy out. 

At one point, we were running from monsters (she found it amusing that every time she would say she saw a monster, I would run screaming) and took cover in the office.  She said the following with wide, wandering eyes, arms spread out as if settling a boisterous room: We are in the land of nowhere.  Don’t panic.  If we panic, we will get them.

She just turned 3 this month.  I took the “If we panic, we will get them” to mean, if we panic, they will get us.  She’s 3.

3) I talked to my other best friend today.  She was telling me the funny things my godson does and says.  He has 2 girl friends that he is enamored with.  He is the same age as my nephew (only 2 weeks apart), so he doesn’t quite get the whole crush thing, but he adores these girls.  We were talking about how her youngest (18 months) and my godson experience random acts of violence between the two and how all kids taunt each other. 

She said the girls know what things will push my godson’s buttons and will take a certain toy and hold it over their heads while running from him.  He gets upset and she tells him they are just teasing him.

He says: I don’t want to play tease!

God, I love these kids!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ice Ice Baby!

Yesterday it was in the 50’s.  Today, it was 8 degrees when I got up.  Windchills, below 0 degrees. 

It had rained a lot the last 2 days, so when I went out today, my car was one sheet of ice.

That is, after body slamming the storm door open to get to my car.  I have remote start, so I had the car running for about 20 minutes.  The front windshield was clear.  The driver’s side windows were clear, but the back and passenger side windows were solid ice. 

It looked like the rain froze as it was coming down.  I should have taken a picture, but I didn’t have my camera.

After battling to get my frozen car door open, I cranked up the defrosters and drove like that.  It would have taken an hour to scrape it off.

I was only going a mile and got into the lane I needed to be in.  I went in the mall and started the car as I was walking.  By the time I was done, it was clear.

One of the strip malls I went to hadn’t salted the parking lot.  The entire parking lot and walkways were solid ice.  You could have skated if you wanted.

The parking lot around the corner at Borders was as clear as if nothing happened. 

It isn’t even technically winter and it is as cold as it is in February.  If this is a sign of what the rest of the winter is going to look like, I better buy some more sweaters.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Quarter For a Ride

I went with my mom to do some Christmas shopping.  Actually, I felt like her elf carrying everything around.  I didn’t need to do any shopping and she was looking for gifts for my grandma and uncle to give to several people. 

At one point, she told me to go away for a while.  That was her subtle way of telling me she needed to shop for me, so scram. 

I went out into the mall and sat on a bench to wait.  I happened to be facing an area with those little rides for kids.  There were several boys over there climbing all over them.  None of them had fed the machine the quarter(s) to make them go (it used to be a quarter, it’s probably $2 now), they were just climbing and jumping off them.  They were all car or bulldozer rides.

I couldn’t help but wonder why all kids are fascinated by them.  All kids see them and zero in, begging for a ride.  It’s not like they do anything exciting.  They just move back and forth slowly.

But all kids love them.  Why?

Then, suddenly, I had a flashback to my childhood.  I too loved these things.  They were different when I was a kid.  Usually, they were horses to ride; pretending that you were a jockey racing a horse to the finish.

I used to beg to go on them.  I will admit that I never felt fulfilled afterward, which might be why I wanted more. 

I usually got to ride these quarter horses (pardon the pun there) in Kentucky during the summers I spent with my grandparents.  The interesting thing is that my grandparents’ owned racehorses.  You would think I didn’t need to ride a plastic electric horse, but I loved it. 

To be honest, I never really was allowed to ride my grandpa’s horses.  They were racehorses and he always said, only the jockey could ride them.  He did have a few that weren’t racehorses, which he rode sometimes, but we couldn’t ride them alone.  I remember once riding when my aunt was visiting.  She could ride well, so she had me in front of her and took off on that horse.  Scared the crap out of me. 

The quarter horses were too slow, but the thoroughbred was too fast. 

Yet, I continued to want to ride those rides.

I know they put those rides in malls to “entertain bored kids” (really, it is just to sucker a few bucks out of the parents).  The horses I rode were outside the grocery stores.  

Even if a child has never seen one, they immediately are drawn to it and beg for a ride. 

What is it about items we have to put quarters into?  Rides, video games (old school arcade games, that is) and gumball machines.  Children are drawn to them all.  I was one of them.  I bet you were too.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Running on Empty

Actually, it is more like fueled by caffeine.

I got 2 hours of sleep last night.  I couldn’t fall asleep.  I don’t know for sure what time I fell asleep, but I know it was well after 2:00. 

Around 4:20, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I tried for over 2 hours before I gave up.  I got up at 6:30 and took a shower, came upstairs and had a glass of juice while checking my email and dropping Entrecard. 

I finished that about 9:30 and had a cup of coffee in the mean time.  I wrote out the rest of  my Christmas cards as I had only done about half the other day, labeled, sealed and placed stamps on all of them. 

I did a load of laundry and emptied the dishwasher. 

It was 11:30 and it felt like 2:00 pm. 

I filed away all the stray coupons I had accumulated over the last few weeks, ran to Starbucks for a frappucino and then went to the grocery store.  I was home by 2:00.  

After putting the groceries away, I dusted and polished all the furniture in the living room, ran the vacuum, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned the bathroom in the basement, cleaned the dining room table off and wrapped a few Christmas gifts.

We are having some company tonight for a Christmas get together, so I got out the Christmas coffee mugs and plates, cleaned them, filled the sugar bowl, put out the Christmas candle holders and candles and am waiting for the last person to shower so I can clean the upstairs bathroom. 

It’s 5:08 as I type this.  I have been out of bed for 11 hours and have accomplished more today than I normally get done in 3 days. 

My back and legs are killing me, which is a normal symptom of being overly tired.  

However, I don’t really feel tired.  Why?  Because I am fueled by caffeine. 

While at the grocery store, I stopped at a Sicilian bakery for some cannoli to have with coffee tonight.  (No, I’m not Italian, but I grew up with many, so it rubbed off.)  While there, I was looking at the pizzas and focaccia when I realized I hadn’t eaten yet today.

I still haven’t, actually.  I plum forgot, as my grandma would say.  All I have had is juice and coffee.  I think that explains why I have so much energy.  Don’t worry, we’re drinking decaf tonight.  

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Take Two More From the List

I was making my Christmas Card list and going through my list from last year to ensure I didn’t miss anyone the other day.

As I did, I had to pause a few times as my heart sank.

Every year I have to remove someone from the list because they have passed away.  Over the years, it has been my mom’s friends’ parents or siblings, my own grandma, distant cousins, etc.  I always feel for their loved ones in missing them during the holidays. 

When my grandma passed away 6 years ago, I was sad because she was my grandma, but I wasn’t heartbroken.  I didn’t really know her well.  I saw her a handful of times in my life.  She was my dad’s mother and she lived in New Jersey; the distance made it difficult.  The last 10 years of her life, she had suffered from 3 strokes and was unable to communicate.  In the end, she couldn’t eat because she couldn’t swallow.  For many, including my grandpa, it was a blessing to no longer see her suffering.

Two years ago, I had to remove someone I miss very much. 

My parents moved into our family home when my mom was pregnant with me.  The neighbors she had then are still her neighbors.  We have all been very close my entire life.  Shirley, however, my mom and I were very close to.  For my mom, she was one of her best friends.  For me, she was like a second mother. 

She was a chocoholic like I am, so when I was a toddler, I would escape out the back door and knock on her door calling her name looking for candy.  She came over for coffee several times a week.  She knew my mom’s secrets and my mom knew all of hers.  When my parents divorced, she was always there for my mom.  We were like family to each other.

Three years ago, my mom took my step-dad to the hospital for an emergency surgery.  We found out later, that Shirley had been there as well.  She had been in her kitchen doing something mundane, like changing a light bulb, when she fell.  Her husband had come home to find her in a pool of her own blood.

The doctors fixed her up and she was ok.  They felt something wasn’t right, though, and kept doing tests.  They found she had bone cancer.  Shirley had just turned 70 and was very upset about it.  She kept saying she wouldn’t make it beyond 70, maybe she knew somehow that she wouldn’t.  We all thought she was being dramatic.

We never saw Shirley again.  They sent her home and she did not want chemo or any treatment.  She also did not want to see anyone other than her immediate family.  Shirley was always vain and we knew she wouldn’t want anyone to see her without her hair done and makeup on, but we were hurt because we loved her and wanted to say goodbye.

She died in the spring.  Months after her diagnosis and we never got to see or talk to her.  It was closed casket as well, so we never really got the closure that we needed.  My mom and I still are crushed by her loss.  I forget sometimes that she is gone because I can hear her voice in my head.  The other day, I was shopping and an older woman walked by.  She had Shirley’s perfume on and it made me stop and look as if it could be Shirley.

I had to cross her name off of my mailing list.  I still send a card to her husband, but I couldn’t see her name there without getting emotional.

This year, I had to remove my mom’s best friend’s husband from the list.  He died in April from liver cancer.  He was only 59.  (Shirley’s son also died of liver cancer this year.)  It breaks my heart to know that this is a very difficult time of the year for her.  She was the type that never drove far alone or did anything like shovel or take out garbage, her husband took care of it for her.  I know she is at a loss.  They had been married for over 30 years.

I had to take my grandma’s best friend of the list too.  (My mom’s mom, that is.)  Grandma will be 90 in April.  She and her best friend had planned to live to 125 together.  She was a spunky, crude, delightfully country old gal.  Annie fished, baked, canned, quilted and swore up a storm.  She had all the ”isms” of the south.  Her expressions always made me smile.  She called me her girlfriend; I’d known her since I was 7 or 8 years old. 

I’m sad for her family and I will miss her voice on the answering machine terribly.  She always left the cutest messages.  I am sad for my grandma more than anyone else though.  If grandma was down, Annie could cheer her up with her funny expressions and straight-shooter ways.  I feel for grandma because she has no one left.  She has no more friends her age, no one else to call and “shoot the shit” with.  She is lonely as it is, but now that Annie is gone, it is worse.  She has some friends, but they are younger people and none that know or understand what my grandma has gone and will go through.

I had to take her off the Christmas list as well.

I’ve always enjoyed sending Christmas cards to people.  Of course, there are some that I send out of obligation.  Family members I never see or talk to, but still have to send a card to as that’s the only communication with some people throughout the year. 

As I remove more and more people from the list each year, especially those that I love so much, it is becoming more of a disheartening task. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

From Vampires to Godmothers

You might recall that I had been reading Twilight and New Moon a couple of weeks ago.  I was addicted and enthralled by these two books.  However, I had to stop myself from buying Eclipse and Breaking Dawn so that I could put them on my Christmas List.

To break my mind free from these stories, I picked up a book I had received for my birthday, The Godmother by Carrie Adams.

I had been browsing in Borders one day and picked it up because of the title.

The cover described the main character: “Tessa King Has Seven Best Friends, Four Godchildren, And One Big Wish – To Have A Life Of Her Own.”  It also had a rave from one of my favorite authors, Adriana Trigiani, on the cover.

That was enough for me, so I put it on my birthday list.

I had expected to enjoy the story, but not to relate to the main character as much as I did.  

Of course, there are many characteristics of Tessa’s that are nothing like me, like her sleeping around and drinking all too often.  That’s not me at all.

The other things, though, are very much me.  For starters, she has 4 godchildren, as do I.  She’s single in her 30’s and wants children of her own.  She is unemployed after a very unpleasant work incident.  She is very comfortable not working and is terrified to go back to work after having been traumatized, even though she needs to find a job and is looking for work.  She has been living a half-life, floating or coasting through life not truly living.

It takes a series of serious situations for her to see herself clearly and realize what she needs to do to take control of her life.

I felt like I was reading about myself at times.  It was somewhat frightening, actually, but also very comforting to know that there are people that think the way I do.  I also found the book to be very amusing.  The book is set in England and I really enjoy English authors.  There are things most American authors don’t include in their writing that some English authors, this one included, discuss such as gas and using the bathroom.

Makes for some great comic relief.

It took a story about a fellow godmother to break the spell of the vampires in Twilight.  Hoping that I get Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, for Christmas, I am sure that the vampires will suck me in once again. 

In the meantime, I am off to read Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been a tradition with my mom and I since it first came to Chicago over 12 years ago.

My mom, grandma and I went for years.  When my niece was 2, we started taking her.  

My sister joined the group to see my niece’s face.  When my nephew was 1, my step-dad had emergency gall-bladder surgery, so my mom couldn’t go.  We took my nephew instead and he loved it too.

This year, with the economy, we couldn’t afford it.  Everyone is cutting back, so something like seeing the Rockettes is not as high on the list of financial priorities.

Everyone was sad that we couldn’t go.

Last week, my cousin got 2 free tickets from work and gave them to my mom.  She and I went Saturday night.  Sunday was there last show here for the season. 

I find it odd that they end their run so early now.  It used to go until after Christmas, so we would usually go the week of Christmas.  Last year it ended the first weekend in December.  Thankfully, this year that weekend was later than last year.  It just seems odd to end it so early.

I was very excited to get to go since we were not expecting it.  The seats were not what we would have normally had, but they were free.  It was the very last row on the main floor.  Good news was there was nobody behind us to kick our seats and we were in the center of the aisle so nobody was in front of us either.  In fact, it wasn’t a full theatre.  They’ve been running so many specials that I expected it to not be full.  They are feeling the hit from this economy and were doing what everyone else is doing, slashing prices and offering deals.

It was a different perspective.  Where we normally sit we can see faces and focus on only a few dancers at a time, with these seats, it was sort of a panoramic view.  We could see all 18 Rockettes at once.  It made their precision even more awing.  It also allowed us to see the 2 errors one dancer made, but that’s beside the point.

They make some changes to the show every year, some small, some bigger.  Over the years, they have taken out some performances I prefer over some of the newer ones.  For example, I do not like the 12 Days of Christmas.  I can’t stand the song, so the performance they added last year is annoying to me. 

Christmas in New York is one of my favorites, but they altered that over the years too.  In the beginning, there was a small “pond” with 2 ice skaters spinning about on stage.  They took that part out a few years ago and added snow.  It “snows” in the audience too. 
My favorite, though, is The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.  I love it.  It amazes me every year.  It’s my mom’s favorite too.

The addition of Santa as narrator was a good addition; however, it has become the entire show.  A year or 2 ago, they added Mrs. Claus.  They have made her an annoying “Lucy” like character.  Lots of whining. 

The best, though, is the Living Nativity.  It is visibly beautiful with the colors and details of the costumes, but it is also simply beautiful.  The telling of the story, the music and the set combined make it breathtaking.

Most kids get antsy during this part because it is quiet and solemn compared to all the dancing and singing prior.  The sheep, donkey and camels walking across the stage often help.  My sister’s kids love this part. 

In the future, I would not buy those seats, it’s not worth the money; since they were free, they were pretty good!

Saturday was a really bad day for me and seeing the show that night completely made up for it.  It was cold, but we didn’t care.  My mom and I stopped at Baker’s Square and bought a pie, came home and made Decaf. 

The Rockettes always marks the start of Christmas for us.  This year, it made it feel like Christmas too.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ooooh Burr!

It has been quite cold here. 

I was tempted to say very cold, but considering how cold it CAN get here, I changed the wording.

It has been below freezing the last couple of days.  It was 7 degrees yesterday morning. 

We had our first real snow this week too.  We’ve had a few flurries in the last few weeks, but none of it stuck.  This week we had a few inches.  (I really have no idea how cold it is this morning, I haven’t checked.  All I know is it snowed again.)

They are predicting more snow today and tomorrow. 

I don’t mind really, I can always put more clothes on.  I have a house to live in, heat running through the house, warm blankets on my bed, plenty of clothes, etc.

They stated on the news that there have been 5 weather related deaths in the area.

It’s days like this that I think about the homeless people.  The people with slumlords keeping the heat low.  People with little money to pay the heating bill or otherwise keep their families warm.

It’s days like this, especially at this time of year, that I am even more grateful for how fortunate I am.  

Friday, December 5, 2008

More Laptop Woes

Sorry I have been missing for a couple days. 

My laptop connection has been wonky again.  Not the internet connection, the adapter connection. 

It had been fine, and then was suddenly not connecting unless I held it or fidgeted.  It’s like an antennae, I have to move it around and wait for the static to go away, or in this case, the green light to go on.

Because it hasn’t been connecting, I haven’t been able to run a virus scan, so I was doing that Tuesday.  I set it down while I moved furniture and cleaned so we could put up the Christmas tree and the laptop died.  Again.

I couldn’t get it to connect and I didn’t have time to play around with it until last night.  

After I got it connected, it took an hour for it to do the tests and scans before I could even access my files.

In a way, it was good, because I got a lot done.  However, now, I am even more behind.  I’m always behind in returning Entrecard drops because I often get more than 300 a day, so now I’m even further behind. 

Oh well.  Such is life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ohh! That Smell!

Yesterday was an olfactory adventure. 

I went to Borders to scope out some prices on a few books that I want to buy as gifts.  

You’d be amazed how much cheaper they are online and you get free shipping!  I digress.  I got a vanilla latte at Seattle’s Best while there.  I adore the fragrance of coffee.  When at the grocery store, I walk slowly down the coffee aisle inhaling deeply and slowly.  Ahhhh!  What a way to start the day!

I made a few more stops before going to Kmart.  I was spending most of the shopping time scoping out prices of things I hadn’t bought yet to see who had the better deals (online was winning).  I wanted to check out the price of a game, so I walked straight down the center to the back of the store.

I passed a massive display of holiday candles and nearly passed out from the overwhelming pine scent.  Wow!  It was like snorting a fresh Christmas tree.  Bad, bad, bad.  I do enjoy the scent of a fresh Christmas tree, but in moderation and not that fake-car-deodorizer-tree smell. 

I finally got that smell out of my nose. 

While looking at the back wall of games, I moved a few inches too far to the right because I hit a wall of stink.  It smelled like someone took a very large poopy diaper and shoved it behind the games…4 days ago.  I got dizzy from the smell.  I quickly moved in the other direction and began fanning myself to get rid of the smell.

I realized I had done it all backwards.  I should have hit the poopy game wall first, then walked through the smelly candles and ended with the delicious aroma of coffee.  

Hindsight, you know, hindsight.

Monday, December 1, 2008

How Do You Shop?

How do you shop for gifts?

I was thinking about this while watching a TV show discussing some “great gift ideas.” 

Most of those gifts were generic ideas.  Some of them were nice and they were all affordable, but nothing that would make me go, “wow I have to get that for so and so.”

Then while doing some online shopping, I started seeing a lot of “get X for ‘discounted price’ when you buy Z.”

That all got me thinking about how I shop.  Do I think about the person I am buying for and then get them what I know or think they would like OR do I buy what is cheap and available and then figure out to whom I could give it?

I would say, for me, it is 95% thinking about the person I am buying for and 5% buying something and then thinking about who to give it to.

This kind of thing happens in instances like at Toys R Us.  If you have shopped there in the last few weeks you will know that if you spend $50 you can get a $30 Ming Ming (Wonder Pets) for $5.  I bought that and I had to think about who to give it to.  I got 2 actually.  One was already designated for my nephew because he had it on his list.  The other I have to think about.

I have seen my mom do this in the past.  She will see something she thinks is so cool and at a great price and she buys it.  I ask, “who is that for?”  She says, “I don’t know, but it makes a great gift.”

Do you think it is bad to do that?  I know I would prefer someone think about me rather than just give me something because they had it, but I also appreciate that they gave me anything at all. 

How do you shop?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Get That Index Finger Ready!

Ah, Cyber Monday.  How I love it so.

I love to go in stores and shop.  I prefer to touch and feel items before I purchase them. 

However, there are a few reasons that I will do the majority of my Christmas shopping online, and much of it today.

The first is that the items I am buying are things like DVD’s or toys I know are wanted.  Also, clothes someone picked out of a catalog.  Easy enough, right?  They chose it, so I don’t worry about whether they will like the fabric or not.

The second being the free shipping.  I would not be likely to do any shopping online if not for the free shipping.  Sure it would save me gas to do so, but gas is below $2 a gallon and the mall is less than a mile from my house. 

The third, and the biggest reason, is the sales tax.  Most online companies do not charge sales tax.  For many, this may not be a big deal, but for me, it is huge.  The sales tax here in Chicago is 10.25%.  10% in the surrounding suburbs.  That is a significant savings. 

Combine the sales tax savings with the free shipping and discounted items and you can see why I cannot pass up Cyber Monday

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'd Rather Be Sleeping

I’ve never been one to get up early to do the whole Black Friday thing. 

First, I am NOT a morning person AT ALL.  8:00 am is hard enough, so forget 4:00 or 5:00.

Second, I cannot stand large crowds.  The pushing and shoving and overall invasion of personal space irritates the hell out of me.

Put the two together and it makes for one extremely crabby Kelly.

I do not like people to talk to me for at least an hour after I wake up, so multiple voices, let alone massive crowds, is like an assault on my ears.

I have gone to a few stores later in the morning or early afternoon once or twice in the past, but it’s not a tradition for me.  It’s only if the ads that come in the huge Thursday paper have something I am planning on buying at an incredible price.

My mom and step-dad have made it a tradition for the two of them over the last few years.  They got up at 4:00 am today to be at Sears at 5:00.  They went in, got in the line and were out by 5:30 with a 42 inch LCD HD TV at an insane price.

Then they went to Kmart, IHOP (they needed to refuel) and Target and were home around 9:00.  They did their part to help the economy.

Later, around 1:30, my mom and I ran to a few stores, but nothing major and it was not crowded then. 

While not many things in the ads blew me away as far as doorbuster prices, there were a few good deals.  Still a lot of Christmas shopping to do over the next few weeks.

How about you?  Did you venture out on any Black Friday adventures?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanks and Gratitude

My sister and her family were here Saturday, which kind of helps not miss them as much since they won’t be with us today. 

My niece, nephew and I were in the kitchen munching on some snacks and my niece started to tell me that they were talking about things to be thankful for in school while discussing Thanksgiving.

She was very annoyed because when she had gone home and told her mom and brother about it, her brother, my 3-year-old nephew, said he was thankful for his Lightning McQueen car.

She said that you are supposed to be thankful for things like your house.  She said that is what she is thankful for because it keeps her safe and warm.  The 40-year-old 6-year-old told me that. 

I smiled and said that she was right, you should be thankful for things like your house, your food and your family, but it’s ok to be thankful for things like your favorite toys too.

She said, “well, I’m just thankful for my house, that’s it.”

She is such an old soul, smart and wise all at once, but also so young and innocent.  I love it.

This year, I am thankful for the roof over my head, clothes on my back, food on my table and, of course, my family and friends (including my blogger friends).

I’m also thankful to have a car that runs, though it is suffering from issues like windows that don’t roll up or down but fall down on their own, wipers that work temperamentally and tires that leak sporadically.  It takes me where I need to go.

I’m thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones.  With the breast cancer scare, I am extra aware of the gratitude for good health.

I am thankful for my mind and the ability to think freely.

I am thankful for my freedom and my rights.

I am thankful for the men and women that sacrifice of themselves to keep my freedom and those that have fought for those freedoms in the past.

I am also thankful for the little things, like my nephew.  My laptop, my cameras, my books, my TV, my CD’s.  Things I COULD live without, but whose presence makes me happy.

How about you?  What are you thankful for this year?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Table For Four

This Thanksgiving is not going to be as fun as it could be.

My sister and her family alternate between spending Thanksgiving in Chicago with us and going to southern Illinois to spend the holiday with her in-laws.  They do that with Easter too.

I really can’t complain because we get them for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day every year, no exception.
It is boring, though, without them.  When they are gone, it is just my mom, step-dad, grandma and me.  My mom takes dinner to my uncle and his kids because my uncle is only mobile via an electric scooter and he cannot get into our house because of the stairs.

Frankly, that part is fine with me.  I’d rather not deal with my uncle’s family and their drama.  But my sister’s family makes it fun and more like a holiday. 

My mom makes homemade stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, rolls and, of course, turkey.  She also makes chocolate pudding pie, pumpkin pie and Dutch apple pie. 

I act as her sous chef preparing things like the pie crust, chopping the onion, peeling and chopping the celery, cutting the bread for the stuffing and that kind of thing a day or two ahead of time.  The pie crusts and onions were done yesterday.  Today is celery and bread day. 

If it weren’t for those special dishes and desserts that are only made at this holiday, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it would really feel like just another day (just without mail).

Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for everything I have (of which I will post tomorrow), it’s just not as enjoyable without my little nuts. 

What about you?  What do you do for Thanksgiving?

A Son For Thanksgiving!

I woke up to a text message from my best friend’s husband.

It said “Water broke at the hospital still dialating.”

When I talked to her yesterday, I asked what she was doing for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t know if she would be going to her sister’s or her in-laws.  She said she was hoping to be at the hospital.  Thanksgiving is her due date.  Just as it was with her 3 year old.

Her daughter was late by a few days, so she was just praying her son would be on time, but it looks like he will be early.

The last report was that she was sleeping.  I told him to let me know if anything changes or if she wants some company.  With her daughter, there was a brood of us in the room waiting.  After a while, I had gone home. 

She was in labor for hours, so I am guessing she will be again this time.  I went to the hospital that night to see my goddaughter and, unless she tells me not to, I will go see her son tonight (assuming she won’t be in labor through the night).

I hope she has an easy delivery again and that she and the baby are okay. 

Just one more thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Vampires Sucked Me In

The other day I posted about the movie/book Twilight.  I was only about 130 pages into the book at that time and I said that I did not want to stop reading but, I didn’t feel the need to rush back to it to read more.

Well, that has changed.

Not only am I still not wanting to put it down, I am eager to get back to it to find out what happens next.

I have been reading at night when I go to bed, which is always a bad idea because if I like the book, I end up going to sleep at midnight instead of 11:00. 

Not with this book. 

I have been reading since Tuesday; starting Thursday night, I have been so intrigued by the story that I have been staying up until 2:00 am.  Last night it was about 2:30 when I finally fell asleep. 

Of course, I don’t allow myself to sleep past 9:30, so I am pretty tired.  I am itching to get back to the book and am intending to buy the second book in the series today or tomorrow. 

I am not going to discuss the details of the book because I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who might want to read it, so I will just say that initially it was a good story with a lot of interesting dialogue and it was very sweet.  It has become very exciting and currently is suspenseful. 

If you like romance and suspense, I think you will like this book.  Thus far (about 400 pages in), it is not a vampire story like we are used to, so if you are squeamish or not into scary stories, I think you might still enjoy this because I don’t like scary stories either.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gift Card Found 10 Years Later

I was cleaning my bedroom and going through a bunch of boxes recently.  I found a gift certificate for Carson Pirie Scott (known as Bergner’s and other names in other parts of the country).

I had been given the gift certificate 10 years ago.  Yes, a decade ago.  I had been working in a daycare while in college.  The parents always gave Christmas gifts to the teachers and the assistant teachers.  This was one of the gifts. 

It is only for $10, but that’s still a lot of money toward something.  I knew I had the gift certificate and that I lost it, but I thought it was gone forever.

I went in the other day and asked if it was still valid.  They had to do a transaction to change the paper gift certificate for a gift card, but it is still valid for the full dollar amount!

We hear so often about gift cards only being valid for a certain time or losing value after a year.  I was surprised and impressed that they honored it for the full amount.

At least customers are still valued at some stores.

I heard a report that said regardless of the economy, gift card sales for this Christmas will be up from last year and one that said it will be equivalent to last year.  I then heard a conflicting report that said gift card sales will be down because people feel they will get more value for their money buying items that are drastically discounted due to the slowing economy rather than the flat value of the gift card.

What do you think?  Will you be buying discounted items or gift cards?

Be cautious, however, when buying gift cards this holiday season.  With so many stores going out of business, the cards may end up being a complete waste of money.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ramblings: Update on Biopsy & Other Happenings

I got my bill from the hospital for my ductogram and biopsy. 

Over $10,000.  I knew it would be a big bill.  I figured around that much, but it was still painful to see on paper.  Starting with my first appointment inquiring about the issue of concern that ended in the biopsy, the bills were over $15,000. 

I checked with my EOB online and it looks like they are paying the entire hospital bill.  Thank GOD!  It seems I will only have to pay about $450 of that $15,000.  What a relief.  Thankfully, I have good insurance.  I pay for it myself, so I chose a plan that has good coverage with a low deductible. 

It’s not cheap, but not as expensive as a lot of insurance.  Having dealt with the insurance side of things at my old job, as well as handling their Cobra, I know it’s pretty inexpensive in comparison to a lot (including their Cobra).

My bruises are finally fading.  The one on my hand from the IV is almost gone and those around the incision are starting to fade as well.  Yesterday was the first day in about 2 weeks that I wore a real bra rather than a sports bra.  The doctor had me wearing a sports bra 24/7 (except for showering).  The reason being that it helps with the discomfort.  It is still somewhat painful with any jiggling, so I have been wearing the sports bra. 

I went to my goddaughter’s 3rd birthday party yesterday, though, so I thought I should wear a real bra.  I decided to start wearing it more often to get used to it again…it felt weird to wear one after wearing the sports bra.

My poor goddaughter has pneumonia.  They went to the ER this morning because she has had cold-like symptoms and a high fever for a few days.  She is in good spirits during the day, but at night is so pathetic.  She woke up in the middle of the night sick and my friend decided to take her to the ER because it had been going on for so long.  She had called the doctor Friday and they said as long as she wasn’t having neck pain or any other symptoms that it should be okay. 

She felt guilty, but the ER doctor said the pneumonia was barely noticeable so they may not have seen it if she brought her in any sooner.  Poor sweet pea.  My friend is pregnant with baby #2 due in 2 weeks, so she is miserable too.  Good pair, huh?

I have not been posting much, at least content wise, because I have been on other people’s computers or on my desktop, which is so slow.

I had ordered an adapter for my laptop, but it does not connect the way it should.  I have had to sit and hold it at certain angles to get it to charge the battery.  It took days because I can’t sit there all day holding it, but finally, today, my laptop successfully turned on.  I am using it now. 

It’s been almost 2 weeks!  I was getting really antsy because there are documents on my laptop that I can’t access anywhere else.  Phew! 

Therefore, with my laptop back, I should be posting more and about things I’ve been wanting to write about but didn’t really get to write about until now.  Woohoo!!!  

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pet Peeves

Why do they call them PET peeves?

Pet peeves are thing that you can’t stand.  Aren’t pets usually something you enjoy?  If you have a pet, you picked it, brought it home, cared for it and loved it.  You chose to have the pet.  It might get on your nerves sometimes, but you chose to get and keep it, so, why call it a pet peeve?

The term teacher’s pet suggests favoritism, so why a PET peeve? 

I’ve done a search to try to figure it out.  Wikipedia,,, etc all give the same basic definition.  Something that irritates you as an individual; something that drives you crazy that may seem irrational to others.  Okay, well, we knew that. 

But why is it called a PET peeve?  The best understanding of it I can muster is that among all the things that annoy you, this one particular thing annoys you the most, meaning it is your favorite, or pet, annoyance.

While I grasp the concept, it still seems like an oxymoron to me.  Your favorite annoyance?  Really?  Wouldn’t it be your least favorite?  If it annoys you the most, it is the one you like the least. 

While searching the term, it is listed as an “Americanism” which, as much as I love my country, explains a lot.  We have a lot of terms that have been entered into the dictionary as words and phrases that just do not make sense or hurt my ears. 

Perhaps it’s the English degree, but these types of things are, well, my pet peeves.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

He Called Me Mom!

Well not really. 

I went to the pharmacy today to pick up a prescription for my grandma.  At the end of the transaction, the pharmacist said, thank you mom.

Actually, he said, “thank you, mum.”

I think he meant to say ma’am, but it came out mum.  Ma’am is not much better.  I’d prefer “miss,” but having worked in customer service most of my life, I know that “sir” and “ma’am” are the usual ways to address someone.

However, these can be tricky.  Not only are there people like myself that don’t particularly enjoy being called ma’am, it’s not always easy to determine if you are addressing a ma’am or a sir.

Some physically have SNL’s “Pat” syndrome.  You know what I mean; they could pass as male or female.  Some have the “Dude Looks Like A Lady” thing going on or the reverse, lady looks like a dude….  Both of which can make the way you address someone dangerous.

If you have dealt with people over the phone in a customer service setting as I have, you will know the same applies to the voice.  Some voices are just very misleading.  I personally have learned that it is better not to address some people as sir or ma’am.  

Just ask their name and use that because the voice may sound feminine or masculine and it is not matching the gender of the person.  Sometimes the name is ambiguous as well. 

What is the lesson here?  Do not address people by anything but their name unless you are 100% certain of what their gender is, especially if you are on commission.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Funny Little Nuts

My 6 year-old niece called the other night and left a message. 

This is the first time she left me a message; she said, “Hi Aunt Kelly.  Me and my brother did something we wanted to tell you about and he was crying and crying.” 

They always call when they have something remotely traumatic happen, especially if it involves tears. 

She said she walked into the wall and hit her face.  And my 3 ½ year-old nephew hurt his finger. 

My sister got on the phone later and told me what actually happened. 

You know how a dog will run on hardwood or tile and slide right into the wall? 

That’s what my niece did.  She was running through the house into the kitchen and slid across the floor smack into the wall.  Which sent her into tears saying, “I hit the wall!” 

My sister was cracking up telling me this, and so was I because I could envision the little nut doing this.   

While my sister was comforting her, my nephew started screaming bloody-murder running into the kitchen holding his finger in the air yelling, “my finger, my finger!” 

He looked so silly it distracted my niece enough to calm her down. 

My sister got out of my nephew that he was running his hand down the paneling in the family room and got a splinter.  She told him she had to get it out so it wouldn’t get infected, to which he continued to scream and run like a mad man. 

She had to tackle and straddle him coming at him with tweezers.  He was still screaming, but now saying, “don’t touch my finger, don’t touch my finger!”  She managed to pin him down long enough to extract the large splinter.  He suddenly stopped screaming and calmly said, “my finger doesn’t hurt,” very shocked at this concept. 

Later, while talking to my sister, she goes to check on him and see what he is doing.  She walks into the family room and sees him on the floor.  He looked like he was trying to crawl under the raised footrest of the recliner. 

She walks in further to get a closer look and she starts laughing and asks what he is doing.  He says, very matter of fact, that he is trying to close the chair….with his face.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Happy, Dopey, Sneezy...Nope. Grumpy It Is!

I have a headache.

I’ve had one for about 48 hours.

I have always been prone to headaches, including migraines.  I used to be able to tell what kind of headache it was too, but this one, I am not sure.

It just came out of nowhere the other day.  It’s the type that has a bit of sinus pressure along with neck pain, but if I move, it starts pounding. 

I try not to move, but that’s just not realistic, now is it?

This combined with some other unpleasant events which have me extremely aggravated have put me in a foul mood. 

Y’all are lucky you encounter me via blog post rather than live communication.  You would probably run away very frightened.

I’ve tried Tylenol and Advil (not together), but neither do the trick.  I have tried drinking water and coffee (some headaches are from dehydration or caffeine withdrawal), but neither works.

I think it might go away, but someone comes along to do something that irritates me and it gets worse. 

I would like to just hide away from the rest of the world for the remainder of the week.  Unfortunately, that is not realistic either. 

Maybe I will try a shot of tequila….

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thank You!

I wanted to take today to stand and salute our soldiers, present and past.   

Without our soldiers, we would not be here.  We would not have the freedom we have, the luxuries we have, the language we have, etc. 

Every Veteran’s Day, we think of the soldiers of World War I, World War II and Vietnam. 

They, of course, deserve their due respect.  However, there are other wars we often forget about. Wars for which all the soldiers are no longer with us, like the Civil War, but also wars for which there are many soldiers still walking proudly for serving their country, though they do not get the recognition. 

I am talking about the Korean War, the forgotten war.  

If you are like me, you know someone, either family or a friend that has served in every way in the last century up to and including the current war in Iraq.   

Today, let’s all give a big thank you to are veterans. 

Thank you!

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