Monthly Archives: December 2006

An Unusual Christmas

This was an unusually happy Christmas for me this year.

I have very few family members in my area. So holidays are usually spent with my husband, mother and close friends, which is wonderful. I am not a huge advocate of big family gatherings anyway, I believe family is where you find it, and I have so many great friends that I consider family, and are indeed, closer to me than my blood family. Here’s an example: I have a cousin who moved here from Germany some years ago that lives just 5 miles from me and I hadn’t seen him in 5 years until he threw a Christmas party last week. Are we estranged? No. My cousin is great! It’s just how things work in our family (It doesn’t help that I never got to see this particular cousin very much when he lived in Germany, so a strong relationship was not forged). However, this year even that cousin threw us a wonderful Christmas dinner party. Six of us with common blood in one house – extraordinary indeed!

Anyway, this year, my aunt Margaret came to visit from Pennsylvania, and my cousin Ed came from New York. This aunt was like a second mom to me, we lived in the same New York town, and her sons (my cousins Ron and Ed) were just like brothers to me. After I moved at age 14 to California in 1974, we naturally kept in touch, but after awhile, contact kind of drops off a bit. It’s natural. I see Margaret and Ron occasionally, but never Ed.

So when I saw my cousin Ed for the first time in 20+ years, I was floored. It’s amazing how people retain characteristics their whole lives which come instantly alive for you when you see them again. My cousin has the same posture, voice, sense of humor, and general demeanor he had when we were kids. It felt like we had just picked up where we left off; like we had just seen each other yesterday.

Ron, Ed and me at the Golden Arches in 1977…


Ron and me now…

Ed and me now…

Ed’s brother Ron also threw a party and we sat around and talked about things we did together as kids. I felt like I really belonged there, like time had thrown us together in the same place basically the way we were years before, same on the inside, different on the outside.

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Butt Crack Prevention

My cousin Ron is a painter in the San Diego area. He’s a big guy and needs extra long shirts. A friend of his gave him such a shirt for Christmas. It came in this hilarious container that had all of us at Ron’s Christmas party rolling with laughter:

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Our Sponsored Child

Bill and I made a decision several years ago not to have children. It’s not that we don’t like kids, we do, very much (especially Cory!) But I have some physical problems I didn’t want to pass on, plus joint pain that prevents me from kneeling on the floor to play with the kids and lift them. I didn’t feel I would be able to provide the attention I would want to give.

We have our two “kids” at home, Gizmo and Gobi, who, as my readers know, are parrots. I change “diapers” everyday, and they will never grow out of that! Pets go a long way as companions and many people have them as child substitutes. We have them because they are smart, amusing, and entertaining. But I digress…

One evening Bill and I were at home watching the video “About Schmidt”. This movie stars Jack Nicholson, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s about a retired man who has trouble coming to terms with his lonely life after his wife dies. He starts sponsoring a child in Africa and starts writing letters to the boy about his life. Of course, the letters are the narration of the movie and go into much detail about Schmidt’s life (pity the poor child who would actually read these letters!). After we watched the movie, we began thinking about the idea of sponsoring a child. Since we had none of our own, how wonderful it would be to know we are helping a child in a poverty-stricken land who could use a helping hand.

So we discovered a charity called Plan USA. We sponsor a child in Africa and every six months we get a progress report about her and some photos. We are able to send her letters (which are translated for her by staff members) and sometimes she sends us drawings she has made. We can also send emails to Plan and they forward them to the field office in the child’s area. It only costs $24.00 per month to help this child.

Apparently her favorite subject in school is Arabic and she wants to become a teacher. She also likes to “hang” with her girlfriends. She lives in a modest home with her extended family. At this time there are unfortunately no plumbing facilities in individual homes, so the people in the village use an open field when nature calls.

Pictures of our sponsored child as she grows…

The funds we send are used to build classrooms, provide immunizations and medical care, adult education and numerous other human services.

Here is a recently constructed classroom:

If you are interested in sponsoring a child, or just curious about the organization, check out this website:

www.planusa.org

We feel good about this charity and perhaps will sponsor another child in the future.

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Christmas Greetings

We’re off to our traditional Benihana Christmas Eve dinner. It looks like we’ll fill an entire cook top table tonight, 8 or 9 people are going with us. Bill and I, and my Mom started this tradition 10 years ago, then we started inviting our friend Dave and other people who had nothing to do on Christmas Eve. Now Sheila, Dave’s wife, is part of the regular club. We get different combos of friends every year so the conversation is new and people get to meet new people.

Then it’s off to my Mom’s house for German Christmas! We sit nice and cozy in front of the fireplace and reminisce. She does her house up very festively with wreaths, garlands, little villages, a Nativity scene, and a beautifully decorated tree. We pig out on lots of cookies, cake, booze, and then open presents. Usually we’re so full after Benihana that it takes just a little while for us to break into the cookies. But once we start…watch out!

Instead of putting proper names on our gift tags, we make up goofy ones that fit the recipient or giver. Last year Bill gave Dave a gift marked “To Dave, From Caucasian Dance Sensation”. Or I’ll create a tag that says “To Snoreman, From the Ball & Chain” (yes, from me to Bill).

After a few belts, Dave and Sheila like to sit on the couch and snuggle and giggle; the rest of us simply eat more cookies.

Gobi helps me wrap gifts…

Here are some funnies to help you relax after all the Christmas obligations have been met!

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Gizmo’s Search

I just know it’s here someplace…

Or maybe it’s over here?

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Orange and Yellow

With this weird hot weather we’ve had, there have been some confused trees out there. It took a long while for their lush green leaves to turn colors; now that they have, they’ve been holding on to their colorful leaves like tight-fisted little misers. Finally, they have begun to fall. Yes, we actually have autumn and winter in Southern California. It actually gets quite chilly at night, sometimes into the 40’s.

Me in our California backyard

I lived in the New York City area until I was 13. One thing I can say about that area is that in the summer it’s very muggy and it stays muggy all through the night. I can remember my pillow being soaked with sweat in the summer because opening the windows just didn’t do anything. Few houses had air conditioning in my old neighborhood, so mostly we all survived the summer with fans running, at least that created an air current, though not a cool one. And then there were the winters. Dry, cold air that cracked your fingers and lips was common. Snowsuits, boots, hats and mittens were necessities. When you went inside, the hot, dry air from the radiators would make your skin crack and bleed even more.

Me and Mom in New York; our house in the winter – got shovel?

Where am I going with all this? Well, I would not move back east for any amount of money. We have warm days and cool nights here that promote sleep – open windows on a summer night provide cool breezes. Winter is not an exercise in black ice avoidance when you drive or falling on your ass when you slip on ice.

Some people put California down (“too many weirdoes”; “too many liberals”; “too much traffic” etc.) but we are glad people think that way – then they won’t move here because of the weather!

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Wordless Wednesday #4

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