Monday, December 26, 2011

Xmas Checklist

  • Spend hours, if not days, decorating the house? Check!

my sister's tree (mine looks like it was decorated by an 8-year-old... which it was)

(also her table setting)

  • Obsess about what to get for whom? Check!
  • Brave the crowds to buy the last remaining Xmas p-j's in the correct size? Check!
  • Kill a small forest to wrap said presents? Check!
  • Obligatory Xmas family gathering? Check! (For bonus points, see the little Miss Em's face light up like a 1000-watts? Check!)

    this one's too big,
    this one's too small,
    this one's JUST right!

  • Xmas morning with the hyper 8-year-old who's been counting days, hours, and minutes to said morning? Check!
  • Give the nice gift(s) to husband to get back the usual "Sorry, I couldn't find anything for you"? Check!
  • Keep Douggy away from the massive pile of torn Xmas wrapping? Check! (Get him not to take off the Santa shirt? Check... for a few minutes anyway)

  • Make pancakes in the shape of a snowman, ornament, Xmas tree, and a blob remotely resembling an elf? Check!
  • Find something like this in the Xmas stocking?

Check :)

What was on your Xmas checklist? 

Monday, December 19, 2011

what's the next big idea?

My niece and I were recently having a conversation about the next big entrepreunal idea. She was lamenting the fact that she and I, budding bakers, totally missed out on the cupcake craze (cupcakes in lieu of wedding cakes, remember that?) which apparently is now dwindling down, much to the chagrin of the many who invested their life-savings in cupcakes-only bakery stores. So essentially, we dodged a bullet there, unless we had become really famous and had our own TV show by now, it coulda happened! We also acknowledged that we were probably too late to get on the food truck* bandwagon, not that it would have made any difference since neither of us are good cooks, by any standard, in a regular-fully-staffed kitchen, never mind the claustrophobic and awkward prep space in the back of a moving vehicle.

*For the uninitiated and/or un-Lalaland citizenry, food trucks were quick to replace (in reputation and bottom-line dollars) a LOT of brick and mortar traditional eateries, here in sunny southern California. They mostly cater specialty items, and those who have "made" it seem to have quite a loyal following.

She of the ripe old age of 18, was wondering what would be big next, so that she could hop on board and reap its first (and handsomer) rewards. At 18, I was having my first and massive existential angst, not entrepreneurial pangs, have times changed that much?

Which led me to ponder about my --and millions of other's-- favorite life-changing ideas of the last few decades, most of them sponsored by the magic that is technology. More specifically, computer technology.

I remember when I was doing my undergrad computer programming on this monstrously huge machine which covered my entire desk, in DOS, the internet as we know it now was not even a glint in Bill Gates' dad's eyes. Okay, I'm exaggerating. Bill was probably in a basement or garage somewhere plotting his future empire, or had maybe even set up his first building by then, I haven't kept track... but you get the gist of it. Then came Windows 93, following by Windows 95, etc, etc. Ahhh, the pleasure of not having to type up EVERY freaking command, but have files, you know, FILES, to click at. So much jubilation ensued!

What about cell phones, you ask? You do ask very good questions! My first cell phone was about 10 lbs (okay I don't remember but it was heavy alright?) and I had to carry an almost similar size battery which I would need to replace after about 10 minutes of talking-time (again, given with a grain of salt, to be taken likewise). Let me put it this way: we had no FaceTime or Skype on it :: gasp:: the inhumanity!

What was a relatively large machine that you strapped to your shoulder, along with its battery pack, and had to rewind when your cassette ended (anyone remember the Walkman or am I really THAT old?) is now a tiny little ipod, and you can fit like five of them in the palm of one hand. You don't have to wait for your song to come on the radio or MTV anymore, you can download it and make it yours forever, with one click!

With the tablets, the satellite spectrums, the possibly soon-to-be-available hologram keyboards, what's left to do? We can already look up people, contractors, maps, weather, and ideas instantly from anywhere. We can sell and buy things from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world. We can store 30,000 books in one little flat device that fits in our purses. We can communicate immediately, i.e. our message is sent even before it is fully formed in our head (remember the Telex that the Fax made obsolete in the mid 80s?). We can even watch TV, without commercials whenever we chose (Who remembers not making any other plans and waiting for Sunday nights to watch the latest episode of Dynasty? Having to wait to do all of our talking and snack-bringing during the commercials?) My DVR-generation daughter doesn't understand the concept of waiting for a televised show, but then again she tries to operate any electronics I give her by touch. (She automatically moves her finger on the screen to change it and gets genuinely surprised when it doesn't.)

The QR code for my blog... neat huh?

The other day, Jon Stewart was making fun of a stamp-sized bar code-ish new application that gave exclusive access on one's iPhone to more information. You take a picture of the code with your smartphone and bingo! you are directly connected to the website embedded in the code. I have started seeing the very same QR codes propagating everywhere. Is that the next It thing?

As it is now, every time I am trying to catch up a friend to the happenings in my life, I find that I quote my blog more and more (I already wrote about it, carefully selecting my words for maximum impact and story telling fluency, why must I repeat myself and mess up the story, on the fly?) Are we going to successfully reduce entire conversations to a simple website address? Will we stop using words altogether? Will pixelated images be our new language? I have one of those already on my iPhone to pay for my usual Venti Vanilla Soy Half-Caf Latte and, for illustration purposes, just created one for you that leads you back to here. Should I get one for each memory or each thought?

So what do you think is the next big idea? But more importantly, how can my niece make some money off it?

Monday, December 12, 2011

life, or something like it

I woke up this morning, once more truly surprised that one week had elapsed so quickly and it was Monday morning again... time for some musings. Last week I was plotting and planning our annual Xmas cookie bakeoff with my friend Pam, and probably would have blogged about that today in juicy, minute details. But my heart isn't in it. Sure, I will snap out of it by next week, in time for our holiday tradition, because life goes on and has a funny habit of dragging you along with it, but, for now, I am pondering bigger issues. Namely, life and death. 

If you're a little finicky about mortality talk, you may want to X this page now and come back next week, for a more cheerful edition.

Last week, a friend of ours died. He caught a cold, which turned into pneumonia, which got complicated, and two weeks later, he was dead. Just like that! No protracted illness, no other health issues, no warning. I still don't know how to feel about it. Yes, I am devastated by the loss, but at the same time, that is sorta how I would want to die: your time is up and poof, you are gone. No long-drawn-out goodbyes, no illnesses plaguing your last years, no fighting a losing battle with an incurable disease. He will be missed, terribly.

The last time he was at our house, he played pool with my husband. He picked a really inconvenient time to visit, we were in the middle of packing and getting ready to go on our vacation (he wasn't really known for his good sense of timing). But that was the last time we saw him alive. Would we do things differently if we had known that at the time? Hell yes! But that's just it, isn't it? We walk around feeling all secure in the knowledge that tomorrow is there for us to have, and enjoy, and bicker about little things...

* * * * * * *

Last night, right about the time when my sister was coming home from a concert, an early Xmas gift from her teenage daughters, another teenager (a friend of another friend's son) was coming home from a party. He was driving too fast. His car flipped when he took a sharp turn at that dangerous speed, and he didn't survive the accident. He just died. Poof. Just like that. 17 years old, senior in high school, all that bright future ahead of him. My heart goes out to his parents, especially his mother. Just the thought of anything happening to my little one physically hurts my chest. I couldn't even begin to imagine their grief.

* * * * * * *

So, on this rainy Monday morning, my thoughts are not exactly what you'd call optimistic. But that's a good thing. As tragic and horribly sad as these two unrelated deaths were, this is what we need (what I need) from time to time to realize how precious and precarious life is. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but it may very well be necessary, in the big scheme of things. So we can put our petty differences aside, forgive the mini-offenses, and rise above unfulfilled but trivial expectations.

But until I can believe my own words and actually start applying the meager positive that I'm totally going out on a limb to juice out of these horrid events, my mood will continue to match the sky outside.

Eventually, the rain will stop. It always does.

And time will fly again as it always does.

If you're still reading this far, I apologize for ruining your mood. And to make amends, I will end this post on a happier note... I give you little miss Em's interpretation of the changing of seasons.

Pretty appropriate picture to go with the cycle of life argument inherent in any morbid discussion, don't you think?

Monday, December 5, 2011

this one's for you, maybe you'll read my blog now...

My parents adore him. Even my sisters have started to warm up to him. All my friends love him. Everybody HE knows thinks he is a swell fella. Our daughter is a daddy's girl, so the love there is kind of implicit. I have been married to him for almost 13 years and most days I too am thankful to have him as my life-partner. But there are days, many days like today, where I just want to smother him with a pillow, mid-snore.

I didn't blur the picture, he had a drop of water trapped in the lens of the camera, the ding dong :)

Ours was a whirlwind romance. We got married literally 9 months from our first date (6 of which we were engaged and preparing the big wedding), after years of kissing the wrong frogs (me) and dating the most cold-hearted bitches (him, or so he claims...he tends to "fabricate" quite a bit, so I take every selective memory of his with a grain of salt, until PROVEN otherwise). For the last 12 years, he has been an awesome partner, the best dad (he did ALL the night feedings, no kidding), and an excellent travel partner, both on vacations and otherwise.

So why do I collect divorce-attorney business cards on the side (don't worry, I'm not gonna use them, just having them gives me the illusion of having options, OKAY?!), let me count the ways:

1. the matter of the travelling shoes
If he allocated a minute portion of the time and energy he spends in trying to find clever places to hide his shoes INSTEAD of just putting them in the closet where they belong, I wouldn't need to mention this at all. He does it on purpose of course, he has to! Otherwise it makes absolutely NO SENSE to move furniture JUST to hide his shoes. And if I suck at training one measly husband to do a simple thing like put his shoes away, I must inherently suck at all behavior modification and therefore am a disgrace to my profession. And my bosses are secretly laughing behind my back at my ineptitude. And my clients must be filing complaints about me with their insurance or with the licensing board. And my friends must be shaking their heads at my obtuseness. That's just wrong!

2. the matter of other things that never get put back
We have lived in the same house for over a decade now. We have had the same amount of rooms, closets and drawers for a good chunk of those years. Yes, he is so sweet as to do some of the shopping on his way home, but must he put everything he bought out on the kitchen counter where it would stay FOR MONTHS if I didn't put it away myself? I have tested this assertion... I am not kidding about the "months" part. The irony is that when we first cohabited, he warned me that he didn't want our kitchen to turn into his mom's (you cannot detect the color of her counter from all the tchotchkes that have accumulated on it throughout the years). He warned ME! Ah the cruel joke!!

3. the matter of "do it wrong and she won't ask your help again"
I used to think that he was just clumsy. He'd do something halfway, in the guise of not knowing how, and of course I would have to finish it. Whether it was folding laundry, swiffering the floors, vacuuming, putting out dishes for guests, making drinks, WHATEVER he didn't feel like doing. But I was wrong. He was not clumsy, he was JUST LAZY ALL ALONG! How do I know this? Because I once caught him advising my brother-in-law on his foolproof method of getting me off his back for good, knowing full well that I was OCD enough to want it done right. AAAAARGGGHHHH the nerve!

4. the matter of the glass being half-empty
Yes I have a lot of ideas, hobbies, interests, and I get really excited about them, like REALLY REALLY excited, consumed actually. But if I want to have my parade shat-upon, I do know where to go. Invariably his first tendency is for laziness or worse, paranoia. Granted he has saved me lots of grief by talking me out of trying dangerous and crazy stunts, but com'ON, some faith.. please? Shouldn't he support me EVEN when I'm making a mistake, ESPECIALLY when I'm making a mistake, whence I would need more of his support than not? Instead, he calls me his Forrest Gump (you know how Forrest would just one day decide to go running, does nothing but run for like three years, then one day abruptly stops, and then starts something else?). I do see the similarity in that I am a self-confessed serial-hobbyist. But that is not what comes to people's mind when you call someone a Forrest Gump, even as a term of endearment, RIGHT?! At any rate this Forrest Gump is into blogging these days, where is the damn support? One comment in 9 months does not a supporter make...

5. the matter of the impromptu gifts
Yes, he is very generous, and sweet, and thoughtful, and surprises me all the time with some gift or something completely off the wall but right on the mark! But I have yet to make him understand that on Xmas, my birthday, and mother's day, I want a damn gift, in a damn box, with a damn bow on top. I don't care what it is, I don't care how expensive it is, it could be a freaking cheesy mug and I would love it. But nooooo, he buys me a fancy coffee machine literally two weeks before my birthday, to come home empty handed the day of, all contrite and apologetic. 12 years of this and I'm at my wit's end. I leave hints, notes, cutout pictures, to no avail. I kid about it, I lie and say I'm used to it, that's just the way he is, but that's not true. Can't I have it both ways?

I get it: These are trivial things which mostly put him in a better light than me. But I want my rant and I'm sticking to it, even if I come off as the ungrateful bitch that I probably am. And maybe if he knows he's the topic of my post, he may actually (FINALLY) read one!

Tell me: Am I alone in this? How does your spouse drive you nuts?