Thursday, November 28, 2013

A different kind of family celebration

I grew up in a small family.  It was just me, my mom and my brother.  My brother moved out when I was nine so then it was even smaller.  Yes, I have aunts, uncles and cousins, but not many and they weren't really a part of my life except on holidays.

Twenty years ago I moved to Maryland.  Since then I've found a new family.  My girls and I call these families our family of birth and our family of choice.  I love my family of birth.  I cherish my family of choice.

This is my first holiday without any of my family of birth.  I'll see my mom in the morning but dinner is provided where she lives and we all know there is a high likelihood of their food being better than what I can cook.  My kids are with their dad.  I'm not a member of my boyfriend's family.  It's a strange feeling.

Some members of my family of choice are in the same boat.  This is why I love them.  When one of us is in need, we support each other.  I had concerns about Thanksgiving.  I understand that I have to share my children and I do so without reservation.  But it makes for lonely holidays sometimes.  I will say that my ex and I do a good job of making sure neither is alone on a holiday.  He invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at his home - with his girlfriend and her children.  They are nice and we've made that work before but some holidays work better than others and Thanksgiving isn't one I want to make into a modern day Brady Bunch holiday.

This was a great Thanksgiving - dining out with two of my favorite people.  There were lots of laughs.  No family drama.  No forced conversation.  No being on my best behavior.  Just fun.  Exactly what I needed.

My girls come back to me tomorrow and we'll have a family dinner with my mom on Saturday.  That will be nice, too.  Today was just what I needed.  Not traditional but perfect.  I'm grateful for this family.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Worth The Price of Admission

There are few acts I'm willing to pay to see. Paul McCartney (of course!).  But luckily I was able to interpret for him instead of paying to see him.  Marillion.  Kate Bush (but she doesn't tour so that doesn't really count).  Matt Nathanson (I'm a stalker).  Indigo Girls.  Always.  Pink.  Wow.

My friend, C, and I went to the Pink show last night.  Wowza.  First, the seats were awesome!  That helped.  We made a few observations last night:

1.  Abs.  'Nuff said.

2.  How does she get insurance for that show?  Okay, that was my thought, not C's.  She's the sane one.

3.  The girl can ROCK.

4.  Probably the most interesting to me - we were the norm in the demographics for this show.  We both thought we'd be on the older side but we weren't.  There were a fair number of moms who brought their daughters.  I would totally do that - I think the message in most of the songs is stuff my kids need to hear, though this show was a little risque for them.  Pink has provided the soundtracks for both my and C's divorces.  Looking around the insanely large crowd, it was easy to see we weren't the only ones.  There's both comfort and sadness in that.

In my next life, I'm going to be like her.  Minus the rough childhood.  But definitely with all the ink.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Holidays that aren't

During a conversation with some co-workers yesterday, I came to the realization that my world is a little different than others.  My girls and I celebrate Chinese New Year by going to the parade (fun!) and eating Chinese food.  We make latkes for Hanukkah (though we celebrate in no other ways).  We make cookies for Christmas. I grew up celebrating things that others didn't - but I had no idea.  Wikipedia knows about them (see definitions below).

For example, until someone asked the question on Facebook, I didn't know that Mischief Night wasn't celebrated all over the country.  I knew Detroit did it a little differently (read: scary!).  But until the question was asked, I hadn't thought of the fact that I've never seen a yard here covered in toilet paper.  Interesting.

The separation of Halloween tricks from treats seems to have only developed sporadically, often appearing in some areas but not at all in others nearby.[2] In Northern New Jersey's Bergen CountyEssex CountyHudson CountyMorris CountyPassaic CountySomerset CountyUnion County, and parts of Sussex County, it is called "Mischief Night". Also noted in Delaware. In some towns in Northern New Jersey, and parts of New York State, it is known as "Goosey Night". In South Jersey and the Philadelphia region (as well as Westchester County in New York andFairfield County in Connecticut), October 30 is referred to as "Mischief Night", where mischievous teens rub soap bars on car windows, throw eggs at houses, adorn trees with toilet paper, and run away after ringing doorbells. In some areas of Queens, New York, Cabbage Night involved throwing rotten fruit at various neighbors, cars, and buses. Pre-teens and teens would fill eggs with Neetand Nair and throw them at unsuspecting individuals. In the mid-1980s garbage was set on fire and cemeteries were set ablaze. In Camden, New Jersey, Mischief Night had escalated to the point where widespread arsons were committed in the 1990s. Over 130 arsons were committed in that city on the night of October 30, 1991.[3]

I also didn't know until I arrived here that Mardi Gras didn't mean the arrival of Santa to most people.  Growing up in Lansdale, I sat through many, many very cold Mardi Gras parades on Main Street, waiting for Santa.  I have very happy memories of sitting with my mom and my friends and a big thermos of hot chocolate under a blanket.  I miss those parades.

The 63rd annual Mardi Gras Parade will be held downtown Lansdale on Saturday, November 23rd.  Parade starts at Main Street and Mitchell Avenue at 1:00 PM and travels east on Main Street to Park Drive.

I also didn't know that the world didn't celebrate Fasnacht Day.  Mmmmm......donuts!  It's the beginning of Lent.  But apparently not nationally, though I did find fasnachts at the grocery store a few years ago here.  Actually, it wasn't fasncachts I found.  It was paczki.  They still count.

Fasnacht, Sometimes spelled Fastnacht, Faschnacht, Fosnot, Fosnaught, Fausnaught, is an English name for a fried doughnut served traditionally in the days of Carnival / Fastnacht or on (Shrove Tuesday), the day before Lent starts. Fasnachts were made as a way to empty the pantry of lardsugarfat, and butter, which were traditionally fasted from during Lent.[1][2][3]
The Pennsylvania Dutch in the area surrounding Lancaster, Pennsylvania celebrate Fastnacht as well. Most chain supermarkets in eastern Pennsylvania offer fasnachts, although WalMart offers Pączki instead. Pączki are traditionally eaten in Poland on the Thursday prior to Fasnacht Day, although in Polish communities of the US, the tradition is more commonly celebrated on Fasnacht Day. Commonly pączki are round, rather than having straight sides, and they are filled with jelly, or sometimes creme filling.[1][2][3]
In parts of Maryland, the treats are called Kinklings, and are only sold in bakeries on Shrove Tuesday. The German version is made from a yeast dough, deep fried, and coated or dusted in sugar or cinnamon sugar; they may be plain or filled with fruit jam. Pennsylvania Dutch fasnachts can often be potato doughnuts, and may be uncoated, dusted with table sugar, or powdered with confectioner's sugar.[1][2][3]
The term is synonymous with the Carnival season which is called Fasnacht in southern Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria. Although usually written "Fastnacht", there are many local spoken varieties: Fasnacht, Fassenacht, Fasnet etc.[1][2][3]
The word Fastnacht originates from the German words "fast", which is the shortened version of the verb "fasten", which means "to fast", and "Nacht", meaning night, indicating the eve of the traditional Lenten fasting period observed by many Christian denominations. It is the equivalent celebration to Mardi Gras or Carnevale.

A friend told me that when she lived in Ohio, her friends celebrated Sweetest Day.  I've never heard of that.

Sweetest Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the Great Lakes region, and parts of the Northeast United States, on the third Saturday in October.[1] It is described by Retail Confectioners International as an "occasion which offers all of us an opportunity to remember the sick, aged and orphaned, but also friends, relatives and associates whose helpfulness and kindness we have enjoyed."[2] Sweetest Day has also been referred to as a "concocted promotion" created by the candy industry solely to increase sales of sweets.[3] It is also a day to bestow romantic deeds or expressions.[citation needed]

I wonder what other holidays I'm missing.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hair Chronicles: Volume 1

I have issues with my hair.  First, let me say I don't have fabulous hair.  I have good hair but it has a mind of its own and often I don't feel like arguing with it.

When my world starts spinning out of control, I feel an urge, a need to cut my hair.  When I was young and stupid and didn't care, I would go to work with a razor blade.  It didn't really matter because my hair was spike and normally punked out so no one could really tell.

Last night, at 8:30 on a Saturday evening, I sent a text to my friend:   "I need to cut my hair.  Now."  Lucky for me, she gets it.  We met at Bubbles salon at the mall, but they wouldn't cut my hair.  So we took a chance and went to Master Cuts.  I don't usually go to places I don't know.  I've had the same stylist for years - until she went out on maternity leave.  This oh-so-nice woman in there recognized the "I need a hair cut right now" look.  No shampoo.  No blow dry.  But success:  several inches gone and I look different.  More importantly, I feel different.  That was exactly what I needed.

This morning I woke happy with my hair.  Except for that glaring, glowing gray strand that I noticed the other night at dinner.  It needed to be colored.  Now.  This isn't too hard except I found a flaw in this plan: I need to remove my glasses to apply the color.  I don't want my glasses to become purple but I would like even color.  So this is kind of a crap shoot.  In about 10 minutes I'll know where I missed. I won't even go into my argument with the instructions: put on gloves first.  Try opening the application bottle with gloves on.  That was amusing.

Off to see what damage I did.....

Ah, the dilemmas of hair.

Breaking that screen addiction

I'm kind of a tv addict. Rarely do I veg out and just watch but it's usually on while I'm doing other things.  I like the sound.  I like the distraction.  I like not being able to hear the mouse in the wall.  I'm used to it.  And I'm not one for change.

Then one day recently, the cable sort of froze and the cable box showed all 8s.  Then it shut off.  After a few minutes, I could turn it on again but then the process would start again.  Eventually I realized I can't fix this.  Several calls to Comcast made me realize the rumors are true: their customer service sucks.  They're polite enough, sure.  But when they tell me I have no signal and I can't watch tv while I'm watching the cable tv, I realize this is not the company for me.

My kids like tv, though they're limited in what they can watch.  We like Palladia and HGTV and Good Morning America.  We're simple people.  They like Dr. Who.  I like the Real Housewives.  So we made a list of all the things we would miss if we had no tv.

Then I realized WE HAVE OPTIONS!!

Roku is cool.  There's all sorts of weird channels for free on that.  I like it but it's not the first thing I think of turning on when I need to be distracted.  I actually have to pay attention to those movies and strange shows.

While talking to my friend-in-the-know for geek things, Nicole, she mentioned getting a digital antenna.  Fabulous!  I get the local news and a bunch of other channels I've even heard of.  Family Affair was on this morning.  I had my coffee with Mr. French!!

There's all sorts of stuff on Netflix.  I share that account with my ex, thankfully.  And I just activated HuluPlus (for $8/mo).  I'm watching Luther as I write this.  Happy as a freaking clam.

Now, if I could figure out a way around the crazy cell phone bills.......

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Taking a time out

What a busy weekend.  I had one goal:  to accomplish ONE thing.  I'm the queen of starting stuff but then something shiny appears and my attention is drawn away from the thing I'm supposed to be doing.  So I wanted to FINISH something.

I did.

My kid weren't thrilled with the agenda - clean up the yard, clean out the shed and get rid of stuff.  Simple, right?  Not in this house.

We also learned a lesson: leaf blowers look much more fun than they really are.  It was fun for about 5 minutes.  By the third hour, it wasn't so fun.

But the result is we filled the compost pile with leaves (and other stuff), 90% of the left over leaves are in one pile (and damn those other leaves that fell after we were done), and the oregano is replanted (and the rotted flower box is gone - and we discovered plants we didn't even know were there).  The shed is now clean - for the first time in probably about 15 years.  Lots of stuff gone, thank you Freecycle.  And I apologize in advance to the trash collectors.

ONE THING DONE!  Actually, three things done.  Shed cleaned, check!  Flower box gone and oregano replanted, check!  Leaves piled and driveway cleared, check!  Finally!

Saturday was busy so Sunday was less so.  The reward for my girls was something they really wanted: going to see Enders Game.  I can't remember the last time the three of us went to the movies.  It was a fun Three Musketeers day.  I think I need more of those in my life.  I always love those girls but sometimes I need to be reminded how much I really like them.  We laugh a lot.

We ended the weekend sharing the joy with my mom.  I realized today how hard it is for her to be dependent on me and unable to do the things she really wants to do.  But something simple like bringing dinner over and laughing a lot with her makes up for some of it.

Sunday was a good time out.  I want more.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Getting dressed up

Halloween has never been my favorite holiday, though I have no good reason for it.  My kids love it.  That's making me like it a lot more these days.

This year they were the twins from the movie The Shining.  They were super creepy, which made me kinda proud.  It was fun walking around at the Silver Spring Zombie Walk and then again trick or treating at Scary Perry.  More people were creeped out by them than anything else.  There were the few people who screamed and told them to go away.  Others just thought they were cute girls. It was fun.

I was thinking about Halloweens from the past today.  I loved their first outfit.  They did not.  I shoved them in peapod costumes.  They cried.  I beamed.  I seem to recall we ignored a few years but the one I really remember was when they were about 3 or 4.  They were Thing 1 and Thing 2.  They didn't care at all about candy.  When people opened their doors to give the girls a treat, the girls wanted to go in and play.  There were a lot of tears that year.  It still makes me laugh.

I have to give kudos to their dad.  He's the creative force behind most of the costumes.  They've been normal things for a few years- cats, acrobats, non scary things.  I loved Raggedy Ann and Andy.  These costumes were started by their grandmother and finished by their dad - at the 11th hour.  Talk about stress.

Our first venture into the world of weird costumes was a few years ago.  A was a roller coaster - that was fun.  M was Fred.  Fred was a monster that was holding a baby.  This made kids at the mall cry.  It was a our first experience with people who wanted to touch the girls and take pictures with them.  It was all very weird.

This is so different from my Halloween experiences growing up.  I think I was a gypsy almost every year.  I got to wear a lot of jewelry and make up - that's all I wanted.  I remember walking around the development where I lived with a friend, Bridgette.  She was a princess.  To have princess boobs, she wore her mom's bra.  I remember hitting the boobs, deflating them. I don't remember many other Halloweens.  I certainly don't remember people having scary costumes.  Or zombies.  Or the big elaborate event that it's become.  Maybe it was because neither I nor my mother was particularly creative.  

I do remember the hospital offering to x-ray candy before kids ate it.  I'm pretty sure they don't do that any more.  My boyfriend was commenting the other day that a lot of the stories of tampered candy is urban legend stuff.  Then I saw on the news tonight that someone found a needle in a snickers bar.  And there was the year my girls got anti-psychotic drugs with their candy.  

Why do we celebrate this?  I can't remember.  Oh, yeah.  The girls (and the grown ups) get to be I remember.