Checking In, Part 3

What else have we been up to? Let’s start with the trip back! I probably should have led with that but what fun is that? I’ll take you up to the present and then take you all the way back two weeks.

I got there Friday night. He picked me up. We stopped to grab something to eat along the way home. It was Dairy Queen. It was on the way and it was fast, plus since my plane didn’t get in until after 9:30 it wasn’t like we had a huge selection of choices. He had promised his parents we would stop by on our way home. We didn’t get to their house until after 11. We didn’t get back to his house until around 1 and then of course, he wanted to show off his Air BnB and all the hard work he has done.

It looks gorgeous! He’s done a great job. But the tour meant we didn’t get to bed until around 2 am, which wouldn’t have been a horrible thing but we were meeting his son and his wife, plus his parents he’d invited the night before, for breakfast at 8:30 the next morning (or more appropriately- later that morning). I would like it to be known that I was ready the following morning. He was still in bed at 8:15. We rushed over to the restaurant and had a leisurely breakfast and visit. His son and I are united in our unhappiness over our lack of coverage in the mobster’s father’s Christmas newsletter. T’s new boyfriend got a full mention and a picture in it last year! I’ve been around for four years and my name was not mentioned once! C apparently wasn’t happy with his coverage either. I think he might have been given a single line and he’s been in the family since birth! So it’s nice we can bond over that.

We met up with one of our Pokemon friends so I could do a lucky trade (not that means much to anyone who doesn’t play Pokemon Go) and then headed back to the house so that the mobster could pack. Yes, in all of his zeal to finish up the Air BnB he neglected to pack anything. Thankfully he was only planning on taking clothes until he finds a place and can move everything up. No sense in paying storage fees when he’s got a perfectly good house. Long story short by the time he was finally packed and everything was put into the car and truck (oh yes, he bought his truck back so he drove that while I drove his car) and we had gassed up and were ready to be on the road it was around 4 pm. 

Let me tell you how the original plan was going to work. First, we were both going to be in the same car. We were going to leave sometime in the morning- not super early but probably no later than 11 or 12. We were going to stop along the way at various places and spin new PokeStops and play some- Lover’s Leap, Charleston. I even had hope that if the restaurant at Chateau Morrissette was open again we could have brunch there. It was going to be a leisurely trip. We might stop and actually eat at a sit down restaurant instead of grabbing fast food. And we would spend the night in Chillicothe, having one last night in our home away from home. We would wake up and have brunch at The Pour House. I would have a mimosa. We would go to the park and play Pokemon Go for a little bit. And then we leave again around noon or so and make various stops along the way so that we could play Pokemon Go, because we’re Pokemon Go geeks and that’s what we do. We would stop in Dayton, Van Wert, and Fort Wayne, and finally get into town sometime between 6 and 8 probably.

As you can tell from the previous paragraph this plan did not go well. We drove separate vehicles. We left way later than we intended. We didn’t go by way of Lover’s Leap, which meant we weren’t going to be near the winery. We took the way that was about 30 minutes longer but didn’t include going over a mountain. We stopped at a McDonald’s to get food but the line was so damn long and slow that we ended up going across the street to the Wendy’s which only had one car in front of it. That was a lie though because they were just as slow! We finally got to Charleston right as it was turning dark and we quickly realized it was not a great part of town. Plus, it was very busy! There was a huge, bustling hospital not too far from where we were. We had planned on parking and then walking around to play Pokemon. That was not going to happen. One of us drove, while the other person spun, and all total we spent maybe 20 minutes there before heading back to the truck. I was tired. He was tired. Plus, in the dark with all the bouncing he couldn’t see out of his mirrors real well so we opted to stop for the night as soon as we could. We didn’t make it to Chillicothe. Instead we diverted to Ripley which was another city we had spent time in. The best part was it was only 30 minutes away.

We got to the hotel. They only had king suites available. I didn’t care at that point. We ordered pizza and breadsticks from Dominoes, watched some TV, and went to bed. We were both exhausted.

The following morning we ate breakfast at the hotel and went out to play some Pokemon Go in a new town (while we had been to Ripley before we hadn’t been there since the mobster introduced me to the game). I had already checked to see if Chillicothe was too far out of the way for us and as it turned out it only added about 20 minutes to the trip. So, we drove to Chillicothe, played in our favorite park for a while, met a very nice couple who had just three Great Dane puppies (they were super cute!), and hung out at High Five Cakes bakery for a bit while enjoying the treats there. We were on schedule to be taking off at the targeted time when the mobster got a message about a booking for the Air BnB. That resulted in us not leaving for about another hour. We did not stop in Dayton. We did not stop in Van Wert. We did not stop in Fort Wayne. I’m positive we did stop to eat somewhere but I couldn’t tell you where.

Oh yeah, and on our drive from Chillicothe I had to abruptly pull off the road and find someplace to go to the bathroom because I got intense stomach cramps about 20 minutes into the trip. One too many fiddlesticks, I think. It was almost the bike trail all over again and I wasn’t having it!

We finally pulled into my driveway around 10:30 that night.

It was not the trip we envisioned but it got the job done.

My mom left the next morning to go visit my niece in Kentucky and our cousin in Virginia. That meant we did a lot of eating out or bringing food home. I’m not much of a cooker. I know I did make one casserole that they both wanted.

His first weekend up here I took him to the Farmer’s Market. He was as delighted as I knew he would be. He loved it! We bought a ton of fresh produce, amongst other things. I introduced him to the diner there as well.

Later that day we visited a few wineries. I took him to Lemon Creek first, which is one that my mom and I had been to before. After that we went to The Round Barn and that’s where we stayed for the next several hours. It’s a beautiful venue. We ended up doing lawn seating. For some reason they only offer one pre-designated flight and it includes a beer sample. We each tried a flight and a glass of the cranberry wine. The flight samples were huge although we both dumped out the beer after tasting it. I also ordered chili cheese nachos and a lobster roll for us to share. Later on he went back and got me a frozen vodka lemonade and he had the frozen wine slushie. We hung out in the sweltering heat and watched all the bridal parties come and go. Wineries seem to be the new place to go for your bachelorette party. And everyone is dressed up. I keep forgetting to put a dress on before going.

I don’t remember what we did on Sunday. Saturday took a lot out of me. Wait! I know we went down to Plymouth so he could face off his products in two stores. I also know that during the week between my mom leaving and coming back he spent a lot of time cleaning out the closet room to make room for a dresser and to get my home office up and running, and cleaning out the shed to make more room for all the things I now have placed in bins out there. I have winter clothes I will probably never wear again because they’re out in a shed and I’m not going outside in negative degree weather to dig through a bin to get clothes to wear.

My mom got back on Wednesday and the following night we went to a baseball game. I had some fantastic Philly cheesesteak nachos while I was there. Friday they both came downtown to meet me for lunch. Our city has Playtime on the Plaza or something like that where a band comes and plays from 11:45 until 1:15, and food trucks are on site. Unfortunately the only truck selling food was only selling fries so we ended up going to one of my favorite Mexican places instead. We sat out on the patio though so we could still hear the music.

And now we’re back to the beginning with him dragging me to a park in my jammies after promising me coffee. It’s been a whirlwind. I’m not sick of him and I don’t think he’s sick of me. He’s quite excited about everything that’s going on in my town. Like I said earlier, golf lessons and cross country skiing seem to be in my future. We’ve both sloughed off on our eating and exercising but the trails at that park, along with all the different paths we can explore, have us both excited to strap on our shoes

Checking In, Part 2

Life with the mobster so far has been bliss, aside from the fact that I think he’s going to kill me. Seriously. Just the other morning we were out to grab a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. That’s his most favorite place in the world. We had not gone since he arrived in town so we were woefully overdue for a visit. I jump in the car in my jammie pants and a long sleeve shirt I had just bought because it was a little chilly out in the morning, especially compared to the 150% humidity we had just experienced earlier in the week. I only slightly exaggerate on that statistic. Anyway… we hop in the car, go through the drive-thru and then he says to me, “Where’s the nearest park?” I’m thinking, “Oh that will be nice. We’ll drink our coffee and have our donuts in the park.” That is not what happened.

We drove to a beautiful park that I don’t recall ever going to. It was huge! Trails all over the place. We got out of the car and began walking the trails. Folks, I will remind you. I was in my jammie pants. They were obviously jammie pants. A long sleeve shirt. No bra. I was a walking advertisement for one of those People of Wal-Mart memes. I think we walked a mile. And we encountered numerous people, most of whom we spoke to! By the end of the hike I needed to arrange for golf lessons and buy cross country skis. ‘Cause we’re going to start doing all of that.

We then went to the Farmer’s Market (for the second time), bought way too much stuff, had breakfast, took our wares home and put them away, drove to Ironhand Winery and bought a bottle of East Race Red for the three of us to share (it was cheaper than all three of us buying a single glass) plus an appetizer, picked Picasso up from work, dropped him off, then drove up into Michigan to go to Gravity, another winery. We had samples there and ordered food from the food truck. We stayed until closing time, and then drove back to Indiana and went to McKinley Tap where we had another drink, ate some more food, and then played two rounds of darts. That was Saturday!

Sunday we took the dogs for a walk and then as we finished up he asked me if I wanted to take a bike ride. No! We were planning on going down to the Blueberry Festival and would be walking around for the next four hours or so! I had to stop the insanity.

Again, I bought way too much. Of course, every year I buy my dogs gourmet dog treats from one of the booths. I also bought some other little things. I also ate way too much. We had the most delicious steak tips with mashed potatoes and mushrooms, and then we each had a grilled pork chop. They wrap it in aluminum foil and give you a napkin. It’s amazing! I ended up having a pineapple whip after the fireworks and didn’t eat a single blueberry donut so that’s something to be proud of.

The fireworks were outstanding! They always have an amazing show. Honestly, this is a small town. It’s a mostly rural county. But they have the best fireworks I have ever seen. Mid show they have what would normally be most town’s grand finale. And they do it several times with all sorts of fireworks going off at once. At this year’s grand finale the fireworks created a canopy of color in the sky and the show ended with a loud boom and the hillside on fire. And I do mean on fire. Flames were shooting up from the hillside. I have watched this display every year since 2017 (minus last year when Covid canceled the festival) and every year I know I’m watching it with an expression of awe. The mobster filmed some of it but I’m not sure how well it looks on the small screen. In person though it’s wondrous. Absolutely marvelous. If you’re ever around Plymouth, IN on Labor Day weekend I highly recommend the fireworks at the Blueberry Festival.

Last part of my check in rolls out tomorrow!

Checking In

I meant to publish this at the beginning of the month when I was actually in D.C. but I had some problems with the internet. I wouldn’t mention this except I do mention timelines a little bit so it may be a little confusing. Just imagine you’re reading this at the beginning of September, instead of the end.

My, my, my…. time flies when you’re having fun! It’s been two weeks now since the mobster has made his big move. So far, so good. He doesn’t seem to be sick of me yet. He starts running his new business this Thursday which is why he’s back there and I’m sitting in an Air BnB in Washington D.C., waiting for my son and his friend to wake the hell up so we can get on with our day!

This was my graduation gift to him. We didn’t do anything else. No party. No graduation announcements. He chose not to walk. Hell, he almost didn’t graduate! He had an English final to take by 11 am on a certain date and that day came and went without Mr. Chill Guy bothering to take the final. Must have slipped his mind.

Yes, yes, yes. There was something I was supposed to do today. Can’t, for the life of me, think of what it was. Water the grass? Nah. Feed the dogs? No, that’s not it. Oh yes! I needed to take an English final so I could graduate. Hmmm…. bummer. Oh well! Maybe next year!

I swear to God, when I pressed him about it, all shocked and outraged as a mother with PTSD from arguing with her kid about school since freakin’ 2nd grade might be, he looked at me, not a worry in his eyes and said, “Whatever will be, will be.”

Are you fucking kidding me? You don’t get it, son. This is not about you not graduating. This is about me not being able to take another year of fighting you on the importance of graduating from high school.

I’m dead serious. I have been fighting this kid on the school issue since he was in 2nd grade, rolling around on the floor having a meltdown because “school is boring!” Of course, when I talked to the teacher, who in turn talked to the gifted and talented specialist, he then complained that he didn’t know why he was being punished for being smart by having to do more work. He had seen the other kids, the ones that struggled with school, be rewarded with getting to play video games when they completed their work. Why couldn’t he get that deal? Second. Grade.

He did well in school through eighth grade and then came high school which was a nightmare. He went from being an A/B student to being an A/B/C/D/F student, depending upon the class and the teacher. Sometimes he was pretty much a one A and the rest Ds and Fs student. Except for that one grading period where he got straight As, of course.

I went from, “I’ll support your decision to not go on to college but don’t shut any doors; you might change your mind later,” and “Do your best whether you’re going to continue on with school or not. I know you’re capable of this,” to “Just get a fucking D and pass the class!” And again, he had problems with that stance. I apparently had given up on him. Jesus Christ! I had to explain to him that I hadn’t given up on him but I had certainly given up fighting him. As you can probably tell it has been a blissful four years. Not!

Thankfully, the counselor called me the next morning, also freaking out about this (See? She didn’t want to have to deal with him for another year either!). She let me know that another student also hadn’t taken the final and the teacher was willing to unlock the test so that both of these lovely students who obviously didn’t understand the importance of taking the final in order to receive credit for the class so that they could graduate could, in fact, graduate.

The funny part of this is the final in his English class consisted of two questions- both essay questions. Question 1- Describe your high school experience. Question 2- What advice would you give incoming freshmen? I think the teacher asked for a couple of paragraphs and the boy wrote a book. It basically boiled down to: High school was the worst experience of my life and depressed me beyond belief, and high school is an absolute waste of time and no one should bother with it unless they’re planning on going on to college. He pretty much advocated for homeschooling. Thankfully, he passed.

So here we are. We’re in a lovely basement apartment in the middle of D.C. I passed out around 11 our first night here and all I can tell you is that both boys were asleep when I woke up to take out my contacts at 3 am.

The next day we walked all over the nation’s capital. My phone registered over 26,000 steps. We’re still recovering today. I got up around 9:30 this morning and both boys slept until after 2 pm.

This was supposed to be about the mobster and his big move, though. Sorry. Seem to have gotten off on a tangent.

This seems to be as good a place as any to stop. This check in got way too long so I’m going to break it up a bit.

Busy Weekend, Expensive Weekend

I must note the fact that we have now moved into August. That’s so hard to believe. We are more than half way through 2021. Five months until the ball drops. Five months until Christmas. And, seeing as how it’s August it won’t be long until the temperatures drop and we have to put away our sandals, which is a bit of shame because I bought five pairs over the weekend. This is why I try to be a couch potato over the weekend. If I’m out I’m spending money and this weekend I was definitely out.

Last weekend I spent the entire weekend in my jammies. It was divine. I watched YouTube clips and perused Facebook. Slept naked and put my jammies on in the morning. They were ultra comfortable. Didn’t wear a bra all weekend. Moved from my bedroom to the couch to the table. That was pretty much it. My mother was not happy. She’s always on a quest for adventure during the weekend. 

“Where are we going to go? What are we going to do?” She’ll go places just to be able to say she’s done something. I knew I was not going to get away with another jammie weekend.

Friday I got home a little late. I had an eye appointment at 4:20 and afterwards I did some shopping for my office. I have an office now, you know, and it’s pretty sparse. I’ve been in it for 2 or 3 weeks now and I haven’t really decorated aside from the things I had on my desk previously. So I bought some fake plants and a new lamp because my office is very dark. I got some things for my “office kit”- ibuprofen, chapstick, eye drops, lotion. All those little things you don’t necessarily want to carry around with you but it’s nice to have. I also got some snacks and drinks to store in my office.

Saturday morning we went to the Farmer’s Market. We got a late start so we started off with breakfast. I had an omelet if you’re interested. I also ended up buying some products from a very nice gentleman who makes all sorts of products with lavender. I got 2 Christmas presents because I bought my daughter and my niece a salt scrub. Got myself one as well, along with a linen spray, a tea diffuser, and one single tea bag as opposed to an entire tin so I could sample the tea. Then I bought two cute little air ferns that I’m told will be difficult to kill along with their adorable little planters.

After that we went over to Howard Park to take a walk. We probably walked a good hour. Stopped and got a burger at little tavern right across from the park where we were served by a very nice but barely dressed young woman. Took our food home to put it in the refrigerator and then headed out to Costco so I could get gas and replenish my protein shakes. Plus I bought wine. I didn’t need it but I bought it. And some Keto crackers which I’m excited about. Next stop was the mall where we got mani/pedis.

Oh how I’ve missed this. I’ve been telling myself for the last few weeks I need to get one but I’ve been too damn lazy to move my ass off the couch over the weekend. To give you some kind of an idea of how long it’s been… My last pedicure happened in January when I went to see Rock Star. I used to get them monthly. My last manicure happened in March of 2020, right before everything shut down. I used to get them done every 2-3 weeks. I’m definitely going to get another pedicure sooner than 8 months from now.

Now that my toes were looking pretty again I was ready to buy some sandals. I have been wearing the same pair of cute little black flats all summer. I have worn another pair of black flats maybe 3 or 4 times since the weather has been warmer, but aside from those few times, it’s been this one poor pair of shoes. I desperately wanted some appropriate work shoes since the two other pair I had worn the previous summers had both worn out.

Let me tell you, it was not easy. They had lots of cute shoes on display but most of them were not in my size. They were either a half or whole size too small or a whole size too big. I was getting so frustrated.

We ended up walking the mall from end to end, hitting up different shoe departments before returning to our first stop. I finally found one pair that I could deal with, and I found 4 new blouses that were on clearance.

After the mall we tried TJ Maxx. I did find a pair there as well and I bought my dogs some dog treats since I was already there and they were in the checkout lane.

Then it was onto DSW Shoes. I hit the jackpot there. I paid a little more than I intended but I got two pairs of sandals and a really cute pair of boots that were already on clearance and I got another 40% off.

Written out like that it doesn’t seem like a lot but we left the house around 9:30 in the morning and didn’t finish up our day until around 8 pm. It was a lot of shopping. And we were going to do even more the next day.

We were going to go to Kohl’s on Saturday but it was getting so late we decided to do that on Sunday. Plus, I had forgotten to pick up a few things at Target when I was there the night before. Sunday ended up being a day for Target, Marshall’s, and Kohl’s.

I picked up deodorant, saline solution, Cards Against Humanity, and a crockpot for Rock Star at Target, plus a light bulb for my new lamp. My mom wanted to go to Marshall’s so we walked over there after I put my stuff in the trunk. That’s where I found yet another pair of shoes, two tops, and a few cute signs for office along with two cute plants. One is tiny and the other is an arrangement of sunflowers in a pickup truck. Trust me when I say it’s cute. I also spoiled my dogs and got them another bag of treats along with some new toys.

We made a stop for lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant. I skipped the margarita because I knew it would make me tired but I did indulge in chips and salsa.s

Finally we headed to Kohl’s. I got a $50 gift card at Christmas and I hadn’t used it yet. I got myself a really cute new dress, 2 new bras, and 2 more tops.

I topped off my day with a visit with Sweet J who is finally back home for a little bit.

It was a very busy and very expensive weekend. And that is precisely why I try to stay at home in my jammies all weekend!

Summer Time!

The unofficial kickoff to the summer has come and gone. I spent yet another Memorial Day weekend down in Virginia with my mobster.

Picasso and I left after I got off work on Friday. We were going to stop and drive the remaining distance Saturday morning but I couldn’t find a hotel room and by the time I was actually trying to stop for the night we were only about 2-3 hours from his house. I ended up driving through the night and getting in at 4 in the morning.

The drive was the worst part of the trip. It rained almost the entire trip. It wasn’t terrible through most of Ohio but as I got to the eastern side of the state it began to pour. I can barely see to drive at night as it is, but add in a torrential downpour and I am definitely on edge. I thought I hit not one, but two, potholes. Turns out one of the potholes must have been an animal because when we stopped to get gas (at a gas station that had lost power and therefore had no way for us to get gas into our cars) there was blood splatter on my side of the car. I felt horrible but tell myself that I hit a dead animal. It was pouring so hard out there I find it difficult to believe any animals would have actually been out attempting to cross a highway.

As always we had a great time. He finally took me to a Salem Red Sox game. T actually bought tickets for her and her boyfriend and invited us to come along. Picasso wasn’t feeling well so it ended up just being me and the mobster.

We also played a lot of Pokemon Go, had a bonfire, went out to eat, and took a bike ride where he tried to kill me. Okay, I’m exaggerating but I did fall off the damn bike. I bruised my hip and skinned my knee. I am not real good at shifting gears on a bike and when I tried to shift on one of the last hills I went nowhere and then pitched over. He kept saying, “I don’t understand. The last time we did this you loved it!” The last time I was on a bike with him I shit my pants and had to have him hand wash my jeans for me while I cleaned myself up in a port-a-potty. I don’t know that I would call that love. Plus, I’m not going to lie- I was worried about snakes. Virginia has those dreadful huge black snakes. And, at one point, he yelled, “Try not to fall into the river!” as he cruised over the tiniest of a ridge next to the water. Now, I probably wasn’t anywhere close to falling in but you know how it goes when someone calls attention to it. I’m pretty sure I screamed. Which reminds me- I got going fast, was slowing down, and mistook a dog for a deer. I screamed; there were like four other dogs, and I looked and felt like a complete idiot. But, the good news is I refused to let my disastrous trip to the end of the trail derail me. I got back on the bike, so to speak, and rode the hell out of that trail on the way back. I told the mobster it was very much like ice skating. I went around once, almost died, and was ready to call it quits despite my lifelong dream to be on a hockey team. But, I recalibrated, caught my breath, and got back out there and ended up having a really good time. I did the same thing with the bike. Breathed, recharged, and got back out there. The mobster and I are going to enjoy many long bike rides in our future.

I took Tuesday off so we were able to spend all day Monday with him as well. Sadly, I came down with what I thought was allergies, but turned out to be a cold. I fought through it while with him but once I returned home I crashed, especially once it didn’t go away like I thought it would, proving it was not allergies. I went into work on Wednesday but felt so bad I took my first sick day ever on Thursday. I spent all day in bed and sucking down cold medicine. I needed to be healthy for the weekend because….

Rock Star turned 21 Thursday! Despite being at home sick I called her and sang Happy Birthday to her. On Saturday, Picasso, my mom, and I picked up her best friend’s mom and headed on down to Bad Axe Throwing Company in Indianapolis. My sister-in-law and my niece, Queen B, joined us, as did Rock Star, her bestie, and her boyfriend. We threw axes for 2 hours and then headed to Oliver Winery about an hour away. Rock Star loves their wine. Now how she knows that having only turned 21 two days prior to this is beyond me but it was her one request. We then drove back up to an Indy suburb, had dinner at a hibachi grill, and then headed over to another winery called Urban Vine and Brewery to finish up the night.

It was a great day spent with my two favorite kids. As an added bonus I love my kid’s best friend’s mom! She was awesome. We took a selfie together and started calling each other bestie. She was so much fun.

My summer is only getting started. So much more is yet to come. The mobster, Rock Star, Picasso, Rock Star’s boyfriend, and myself are all heading out to Utah for an amazing ten days, starting on July 2nd. I’m leaving work, driving to Chicago and getting on a plane. Rock Star and the boyfriend fly out on the 3rd. 

We’ve got a family chat going and a bucket list of things we want to do while we’re out there. There are a few favorite food places we want to hit up and between the kids and myself we want to go to Lagoon (the amusement park), Thanksgiving Point (the dinosaur museum), the zoo, multiple hikes, and downtown Salt Lake City. The mobster wants to see the Great Salt Lake and although it’s a dreadful, smelly mess I am willing to take him so he can say he has seen it. Rock Star wants to go horseback riding and we are thinking we might go rafting so we’ll play it by ear. I am so looking forward to this trip. I can’t wait to see my friends and visit all of my favorite places and spend a bunch of leisure time with my family. We are going to be making memories!

Finally, at the unofficial end of the summer, Labor Day Weekend, Picasso and I, and possibly the mobster, are heading off somewhere for a week. I thought my son wanted to go to Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont, but apparently he has changed his mind and would like to go to DC. We may spend a few days in DC and then see about checking somewhere else out. We may spend all of our time in DC. I don’t know. It’s up in the air. There’s also the possibility he’ll change his mind again and we’ll end up going somewhere completely different.

I’m really looking forward to this summer. It should be an amazing season. 

How about you? Do any of you have any plans for the summer months? I’d love to hear them.

A New Word of the Year- Attitude

I wasn’t going to do another word of the year. Last year was a disaster. Change. Look what happened!

I’m not going to say I’m a witch, but I kinda think I am. I once had a dream where I predicted who won the World Series. Another time I was wondering about a person and how they were doing. Next thing I know my mom says she saw this person’s obituary in the paper. I made some comment about dorms at our extension college in that same time period. Shortly thereafter there was an announcement that they were building dorms. That was the first time my mom accused me of being a witch. And then there was the time I used magic to stop a bird that was flying straight at my car. My daughter will testify on my behalf.

We were living in Virginia. We were on our way to her gym for practice and we both noticed this black bird, probably a crow, that appeared to be flying straight towards my driver side window. It was coming in fast, too. I remember taking my hand and making the “STOP” motion, you know, like you see in movies. The part right before the person finds out they have super powers. I kinda swirled my hand around and did the hard stop. And then the bird swerved. Rock Star looked at me and I looked at her and she said, “Did that just really happen?”

So there you have it. I am probably a witch. I’m not very good at it obviously. I have no control over my powers. Yet!

Anyway, I thought long and hard about doing another word. Change resulted in a worldwide pandemic. That was a little more change than I had anticipated.

I decided on attitude. I think I did change things up in my life last year. I lost weight. I began running. I’ve reframed things that have happened. Now it’s time to get a new attitude.

I’ve always thought I was basically a pretty happy person and that over the years Jerry Lee dragged me down and sucked the joy out of life. Over the last few years though I’ve noticed myself always looking at things negatively. Instead of cheering myself on and telling myself I can do this, I find myself saying I’ll never be good enough; those good things will never happen for me.

The part of my life that is the most disappointing has been the job prospects. I’ve always felt like there was no hope. Middle aged women with no work experience the last fifteen years don’t get great paying jobs. That’s been my attitude.

It’s been an attitude of defeat. I want to change that. I want to have a more optimistic attitude when it comes to the job prospects because honestly, that is about the only thing I would change about my life right now. I want to be financially independent. I realize that I’m going to have to take those reigns and make it happen, whether that’s going back to some type of schooling, or finding a different job within the bank, or outside of the bank. I’m hopeful that when our reviews come up that there will be more talk of becoming a project manager and that it will happen sooner rather than later. Regardless, it’s up to me; I can continue to complain about the job but that won’t change anything. I need action and I need a new attitude, one that tells me I can do anything. One that encourages me and says that I am a great employee and an incredible asset to anyone who hires me.

I want to focus on attitude because I think it’s so important. I remember that story of those shipwrecked with The Endurance and how a positive attitude resulted in all members of that party being rescued. 

I think about all of the graduating seniors in the Class of 2020, and probably 2021 as well, and how well so many of them coped with the unfairness of the situation. So many of those kids never got to play their sport their senior year. Three years they waited their turn to be the top dog and when their turn came it was cruelly taken away. Valedictorians that never got to give their speech, or gave it online where who knows how many people even heard it. Prom kings and queens that never were. Last rites of passage for seniors that never happened. No walks across the stage. Instead schools offered to put signs in the seniors’ yards, or parents would hang their senior’s robe between the glass storm door and the front door so everyone could see they had a graduating senior. 

I know my attitude was pretty much, “You can take your yard sign and stick it up your ass. I want to walk across the fucking stage and get my diploma. Screw this bullshit!”

But so many of these kids handled it all so well. In some instances there were some very sweet tradeoffs.

The kids back in Utah who were in my kids’ old school district were all adopted by former teachers. I don’t know exactly how this worked because I know the school my daughter would have attended easily had a graduating class of more than 800. It is a huge school district and they keep building high schools. There must be at least 6 of them now. Not all have 800+ seniors but that’s still a lot of kids. Anyway, each student was adopted by one of their former teachers who dropped off a basket or bucket of goodies to the student.

I thought that was very sweet. It would be lovely if they could continue to do this even during times of no Covid-19, but I understand that it would undoubtedly get expensive for these teachers. And what do you do with the kids who haven’t gone to school in this district very long? I look at my own daughter who switched schools her junior year. Who would have adopted her?

The old me would have applauded these new traditions and thought they were they nice additions while simultaneously wondering what was going to happen to the real rites of passage for your senior year. This new me is trying to change my attitude and be okay with only the new stuff.

So I’m trying to embrace the Halloween candy slides that people built, and the parade of cars that would honk as they drove by the birthday boy or girl. I’m trying to appreciate the smaller, more intimate weddings that so many were forced to have if they wanted to marry in 2020. Realistically speaking if a couple was able to roll with the punches and was more focused on the actual marriage instead of the huge wedding and reception that’s a good thing. Maybe there will be fewer divorces with this round of weddings in 2020.

It’s very easy to have a bad attitude. I think it builds upon itself. It’s much more difficult to have a positive attitude.

I think back to being moved downtown. The supervisor who was moved with us tried to lift our spirits and encourage us by telling us to think of it as an adventure. Looking back on it now it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was. The equipment was actually better. There was a place to eat lunch that wasn’t my car or my desk. Yes, walking those few blocks through bad weather sucked. Dealing with crazy homeless people wasn’t fun. Plus, we were separated from everyone else. Truth of the matter is we’re still separated even though I’m back at the Ops Center. We still have people out and working from home. And it wasn’t like we were stuck in a dungeon.

Being split up in our department is still rough. I feel like pretty much my entire time in Overdraft has been spent flying by the seat of my pants. My partner works from home so any time I have a question I either need to call her, message her through Teams, or send an email. It’s not the simple, easy, leaning over your cubicle and asking a question. There is no having her watch over my shoulder as she teaches me something new. I can choose to look at this as a horrible, dreadful inconvenient thing (which it is), or I can choose to look at it as an opportunity to solve problems in a different way and a chance to spread my wings. It’s very easy to choose the first one and concentrate on the negatives but my desire is to change my attitude and focus on the latter. I am being given an excellent opportunity to show my bosses that I can be counted on and that when put in a sink or swim situation I am able to swim.

We don’t have a lot of perks in our department but what we do have is a huge Ops Center Christmas potluck each year. I was fortunate to be able to attend my first year. Last year I missed due to a family funeral. This year it was canceled due to Covid-19.

Normally our department has a white elephant gift exchange. This year, with the social distancing measures in place, we had a virtual Christmas party instead.

They brought in boxed lunches from Jimmy Johns and those of us who wished to participate drew names for a Secret Santa.

We all logged on to our computers at noon and spent the next two hours online, eating our lunches, sharing traditions, and talking about Christmas related things.

We also had a cubicle decorating contest, an ugly Christmas sweater contest, and daily holiday trivia. We collected donations for the local women’s shelter and received tickets for any donations we made, plus any correct answers to the holiday trivia and on the day of the party one of the supervisors drew names for various prizes.

It was not the Christmas we were used to but it was an effort to celebrate the season and to recognize all of us.

I frequently joke about the fact that I will get over whatever it is that is bugging me; I just need to be dramatic first. It’s so true; however, this year I’m going to try to work on my attitude and take the less dramatic path. I’m not saying I will be perfect each and every time, but I often hear things about how you can choose your attitude and which would you prefer: Being happy or being upset? I want to choose to see my blessings instead of focusing on what I don’t have. What is that they say? Comparison is the thief of joy? So true.

Let’s put these witch powers to work and conjure up a brand new, hopeful, optimistic attitude for 2021.

Reframing Things

Final post for 2020. 

Earlier this year, one day in the summer, I made some comment about Jerry Lee bulldozing my life. My mom replied along the lines of, “Why not look at it as a chance to redo your life?”

I had actually already been thinking along those lines so I didn’t take offense at the suggestion.

I suppose that’s the biggest change for me during 2020. I’m finally reframing what happened to me. I’m not always successful. It’s best if I don’t dwell on it too much, but for small moments I am able to reframe the betrayal and discard, along with the absolute destruction of everything I thought my life was.

When I do this I’m able to tell myself he didn’t blow up my life; no, I got a second chance at a much better life. Sure, there have been speed bumps- financial issues continue to stress me. My kids are in therapy. I’m working a job that isn’t all that personally fulfilling and I feel like I never have enough “me” time, or time to devote to my kids. But it’s not all bad.

I’m back in my hometown. I’m reconnecting with old friends. It’s familiar. I didn’t have to start completely over and figure out how to get around the town.

Living with my mom isn’t a death sentence. She hates it when I say, “I had to move back in with my mom!” or “I don’t have a home of my own.” The reality is she does my laundry which is great because I don’t particularly care for doing laundry. She also has dinner cooked most nights when I come home. I joke with her that it’s nice to have a wife. I realize why so many cheaters don’t leave one until they have another one! I am fortunate enough to be able to spend huge amounts of time with my mom. I get to shop with her, go out to dinner with her, vent to her, and laugh with her. I have too many friends that no longer get to enjoy that with their moms.

Ever since moving back here in 2016 I have seen it as a source of shame- I was too fucking pathetic to be able to stand on my own two feet. I had to move back in with my mommy. I couldn’t take care of myself or my two children. I needed help. It’s very humbling, especially when you’ve lived in your own home for 20+ years. You go from living in a huge home to not even having your own bedroom; I slept on the couch for two years. Perhaps it’s simply the passing of time, but I no longer care. It is what it is. Living at home with her allows her to spend much more time with her grandchildren, allows me to see her all the time, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a mortgage payment or rent somewhere. It allows me to be able to do more because my money isn’t wrapped up in housing. I’m finally accepting that this arrangement works for me.

When he left finding a new relationship was the last thing on my mind. I was in survival mode and honestly, I had spent so much time alone even while being married that I had no desire to ever pair up again. I was perfectly content to be alone for the rest of my life; I was good at it. Yet, him walking out the door finally allowed me the chance to experience a real relationship, one where I’m valued and loved.

The mobster and I have an amazing time whenever we are lucky enough to get together. He is the best and I would have never met him if Jerry Lee didn’t go off and fuck his cousin.

As for finances, well, I recognize that I don’t need as much as I used to have. I don’t need a huge house. I don’t need endless baubles. I do like shopping for clothes and my closet is exploding right now but I’ve always been a sale shopper. As long as I have enough to pay my bills, take care of my kids and spoil them some, and be able to have some fun with my friends, family, and the mobster I’m good. I’d like to be able to take a vacation here and there as well, but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation.

I also realize it’s up to me to make that change as far as finding a better paying job. Writing about how awful it pays and complaining does nothing. I intend to change that this coming year.

Of course, my children and their well-being always weighs heavily on my mind. Fortunately, I am finally letting go of that as well. Not as in an, “I don’t care” way, but more in an, “I can’t change the past,” way. It still tugs on my heartstrings when I hear “Best Day Of My Life” or any of the songs I associate with Harrisonburg. The overwhelming desire to scream, “Why?” is always there, but that scream is slowly fading away. I do my best to reframe it as a wonderful moment in Rock Star’s life, one that wasn’t meant to last. Maybe the lesson to be learned was that her dad is an entitled jackass. I don’t know. Maybe it was to show her she was stronger than she knew.

My son seems happy and content. The medication has helped immensely. He has friends here. He likes his job. He likes living here. Hopefully therapy will soon be a thing of the past for him, but as long as he continues to get something out of it I will pay for it. He graduates this year and no one will be happier about that than me! He’s been complaining about school since second grade. I’m tired of fighting him.

My daughter has apparently resolved all of her issues surrounding her father and his abandonment in approximately three therapy sessions. She works fast, I guess. She has decided she is done with him and she’s no longer expending the effort to have a relationship with him. As she put it, “Why am I putting in all this effort when he’s the one that left?”

Despite Covid-19 wrecking havoc with her college life she is happy. She has a solid set of friends down at college. She loves her sorority and her sisters. She has a great boyfriend who treats her like she deserves to be treated. She is kicking ass in nursing school and will be a wonderful nurse in a few years.

She has said herself that everything she went through led her to where she is. If we were still married and in Virginia, yes, I would probably see her more and she would be happily reconnecting with high school friends over break, but she wouldn’t have this life she loves.

Despite the hurdles and all the worries these last few years my kids are okay. They’re not living the life I had hoped to have given them, but they are good. As my mom always says, “You guys had a helluva run.” Yes, my kids had an awesome childhood and they got to experience a lot of wonderful things. And then they experienced some really shitty things and a lot of loss. They lost their friends twice, and lost their mother in many ways. i wasn’t there the way that I wanted to be; I did the best I could with what I had and I hope in the end that proves to be enough. But ultimately they prevailed and they are both good and happy now. I have a great relationship with both of them, and that’s what counts.

I will never say that Jerry Lee cheating on me and destroying my old life was a blessing, or the best thing to ever happen to me. What I will say now though is he ended up giving me a second chance. He gave me the opportunity to live a much better life than the one I could have ever hoped to have lived with him. I get to frame this one. I get to choose. I can make this new life into whatever I want.

How’s that for change, 2020?

Change- The Year in Review

My word for this year was change. Boy, did I ever pick a doozy. I’m not saying my word caused the pandemic, but I’ve never actually picked a word of the year before. This was my first time and look what happened. Safe to say I don’t think I’ll be picking another word of the year again. I’ll go back to resolving to moisturize more. Floss regularly. Safe stuff.

I did choose the word “change” however so it’s only fair that I look back and see what, if any, change was made in my life. You know, aside from the whole world going to shit and being under lockdown and mask mandates.

When I picked the word I was really hoping that most of the change would happen in regards to my financial situation. As in, I hoped to either get promoted or get another job elsewhere. 

Technically, there were all kinds of changes in regards to my job. I got sent downtown to work for five and a half months. We’ve had to learn to do our jobs in a very different way because we’re not all together. I will probably never see my co-worker/partner again because she is working from home and is retiring no later than June 30th of 2021. We don’t have a lot of hope that everyone will be brought back by that point.

I did put myself out there and applied for the supervisor position. I didn’t get it but I did get exposure and I was told I’m a hidden gem. This little hidden gem had better get a new job title and a lot more money or I’m relocating to a newer mine.

I have been perusing online job postings but I haven’t seen much that excites me. I also checked out grad school but I think that is way beyond anything I can do. For starters, the deadline for one of the programs I was interested in had already passed and I would be looking at yet another year before I could start. Then there is the issue of getting transcripts, and taking entrance exams and getting referrals. Who the hell is going to write a recommendation for me? I’m not in college anymore. Do I ask friends who have jobs to write a recommendation for me? Based upon what? 

Another program would require me to do a bunch of prerequisites before I could start which would mean my two year program would probably take three or four years. Sure- I’d love to get a Masters degree at age 55 and then work for 10-12 years. I’m sure the employers would be falling all over themselves to hire me, a candidate that does not have much of a shelf life left. And no experience to boot.

I see people with no education beyond a high school diploma fall into these amazing jobs that pay well and offer great benefits. Why on earth can I not fall into one of those jobs? Why am I doomed to work a low paying job with crappy benefits?

Way back at the beginning of the year, before Covid-19 changed everything, the mobster and I made a lifestyle change. We began the Couch To 5K program. I am still running, although with the days becoming darker earlier I am not as consistent as I would like to be.

In March I began eating low carb. I say this as I’m coming off of a 5 day holiday from low carb eating. Nonetheless, at this point in the year I am somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds lighter. I say somewhere because I haven’t stepped on the scales in 2 or 3 weeks and I have no intentions of stepping on them for another 2 or 3 weeks. But, at my lowest weight so far I had lost just over 50 pounds. I believe it was 50.6 pounds. I’m wearing clothes I haven’t worn in 2 or 3 years, and in the case of my jeans, they’re all too big now.

I’ve greatly reduced the amount of diet Coke that I drink. That’s a huge change for me. I started that one in May. I have my moments where I go back to it, but I’m pretty good. I certainly drink a lot less than I ever did before.

The mobster has put his route up for sale so now we’re just waiting for someone to sign the papers. After that he’ll make his way up here and we’ll finally be living in the same state! Same town even. That’s a huge change.

I made the transition to being a parent of adult children. Neither of my kids is a minor anymore. After June of 2021 I will no longer have any kids in the local school system. Picasso, God willing and fingers crossed, will graduate this June.

My mom’s dog died earlier this month. He was 15 1/2 years old. He’d been losing a lot of weight recently. My mom took him in and unfortunately he never came back home. I miss that little booger with his big underbite. She swears there will be no more dogs but we’ll see. She said that before she got him, too.

I finally got Jerry Lee garnished. Basically. It’s not through the state but he did sign an agreement which was turned into a court order whereby he directly deposits his payments into my account twice a month. He also knows that if he tries to stop it or attempts to fuck with me I’ll take his ass back to court and from there he’ll find his ass in jail. For the first time since he took off to be with his cousin back in February of 2016 I know exactly when to expect that money. It is a wonderful feeling.

Plus, my saga with Mississippi is finally over! Everything is done. It took forever- it took them more than 3 months for them to return my money- but it’s done.

Bonus- once I got my money from Mississippi I paid off my car so there’s another change for the year. No more car payment.

I got my car in September of 2014, taking out the longest loan for the smallest payment with the intention of paying it off in larger chunks with Jerry Lee’s bonus check. As you all know that didn’t work out as I had planned. I ended up with a large car payment with no job, and then a large car payment with a low paying job. But I had so many miles on it that I didn’t think I could trade it in and by the time I realized it really would be prudent to do so my credit was in the toilet, thanks to Jerry Lee and his machinations. Honestly, it was the last thing left from my old life. I wanted desperately to hold onto it. I had already lost so much- my house, my furniture, probably 95% or more of everything I’d ever owned. I was determined to keep that goddamn car. I worked my ass off to do so. Now it’s paid off. A change in circumstances, and more change in my pocket. Not really. All my additional money is going into my HSA account so I can pay for my kids’ therapy bills.

My son got a job, so both of my kids work now.

And both of my kids are being medicated for depression and anxiety. In Picasso’s case it’s a blessing because he so desperately needed it. After almost a year of counseling which didn’t help the way it needed to he’s finally on medication and it’s working very well. He’s doing things he could not have done before. So that’s a great change. Rock Star, on the other hand, is getting worse and worse, especially now that she’s on nothing while she waits to see our nurse practitioner. As you might recall the medication she was taking caused her to be extremely nauseous so she was switched over to Prozac. That caused suicidal ideations so it had to be stopped. I don’t know why on earth she didn’t prescribe her something in the meantime, knowing she has an in-person appointment in December, but she didn’t so my poor baby has been suffering through it on her own for a few weeks now.

Everything seems to stress her out. She’s this interesting dichotomy where she can be so self-assured and opinionated at one moment and then turn around and be a blubbering mess another moment. She’s back in therapy and she seems to like it, but it’s not doing enough right now and she needs to be properly medicated. She is going to call this week and see about getting some new medication.

Here’s another big change, one I’m not really ready for, but it’s happened. My daughter won’t be returning home. She plans to stay down in Muncie over the summer and work, and then when the lease is up on her house that she is renting this year, she is planning on moving in with her boyfriend. My daughter no longer lives with me. I had no idea until this Thanksgiving break.

On one hand I understand. When I came home for the summer I looked forward to seeing my friends. We went to different schools so we only saw each other on breaks and over the summer. We got to hang out, go to the beach, hit the bars, see a movie. I don’t recall what all we did. I just know it was great being home and being able to hang out with them when I didn’t see them most of the year. Rock Star doesn’t have that. She didn’t make any close friends when she lived up here. Her life is all down at school.

I also didn’t have a serious boyfriend throughout most of college. I broke up with my high school boyfriend right before coming home for the summer freshman year. I broke up with the guy I was dating my sophomore year shortly after coming home for the summer. Hmmm… doesn’t seem to be a good time of the year for me. I just saw that pattern. I didn’t have a boyfriend the rest of college. She does.

So, like I said, on the one hand I understand. I really do. But on the other hand, I am so sick of being blindsided with the last time and never knowing it’s the last time.

I didn’t know that Thanksgiving 2014 was the last truly normal holiday we would have as a family. I had no idea that Christmas 2014 was the last one we would spend together as a family of four. I didn’t realize how much my life was going to change as we left to spend 3 weeks in Indiana and Utah that first summer after we moved. I had no idea what was in store for all of us while we were having fun and spending time with family down in Florida. I sure as hell didn’t realize that August 9th, 2015 would be the last semi-normal day in my old life. I suppose those are all things you never get forewarning on.  “Hey, honey, I’m planning on cheating on you with my gold digging cousin. Enjoy your turkey!” That just doesn’t happen. But other things you sort of do think you get a heads up on.

I watched those proud parents escort their daughters on Senior Night and envisioned myself doing the same. I didn’t know as I watched my daughter at States that February day in 2016 that it was going to be the last time I would ever see her compete in gymnastics. That was it. The end. No more. No warning. No fan fare. No flowers. No big announcement. It was simply the end.

I watched as the conductor would invite all the seniors to stand at their last concert and looked forward to the day my own senior would rise and I would clap and cheer. I didn’t realize that last year’s Christmas concert was the last one I would ever watch Picasso play the cello. He abruptly quit- at the beginning of the year. Look! More change!

And I sure as hell didn’t even consider that last summer was the last summer my daughter would live with me. I thought I had 2 more summers with her. I don’t. Last summer was the last time she was going to live under my roof. 

I wonder sometimes if it’s because I don’t have a home of my own. Maybe if I had been able to buy a house she would have felt like it was her home. Then again, nothing I did or didn’t do was going to change the fact we had to move midway through high school and she had no friends here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because she feels like I’ve replaced her and am living a new life with the mobster, a life where she’s no longer important and doesn’t really have a place.

I really enjoyed having her home over the summer after her freshman year. I loved hearing her stories and spending time with her. In some ways it was more difficult saying goodbye that second year than it was the first year. Maybe because I knew how lonely it could be with her gone.

Last summer sucked. She worked during the week and was either gone or holed up in her room with her boyfriend every weekend. I’m not available during the week because I’m working. When she worked she worked 12 hour shifts and was usually exhausted when she came home.

I guess I was hoping this summer would be better. Turns out there is no next time.

I understand this is the natural progression of things. Honestly, I do. I wasn’t prepared for it at this point, though. I thought I had more time with her. I was prepared for her to move out in December of 2022, after she graduated. I was not prepared for this.

2020 has brought with it a lot of changes. Some good; most bad. I’ll roll with it as I always do. I would pick a word like “prosperity” but it would probably turn into one of those “The Monkey Paw” things where horrible shit would happen instead of it resulting in money in my pocket. So yeah, I think I’m going to be content with trying to moisturize more and floss regularly. My dentist will be happy.

Christmas 2020

For being in the middle of a pandemic it wasn’t a bad Christmas. You don’t always know how the holidays are going to turn out. I think Christmas brings with it a lot of pressure.

Think about it. The stores start putting out Christmas decorations in September. I’ve actually seen Christmas displays in Hobby Lobby in July. Not large displays, mind you, but they definitely have stuff out. Then you have the Christmas ads that begin to run in September. Sometimes that’s just so they can say they’ve had the first Christmas ad of the season but they are definitely appearing by early November, if not in October. You’ve got radio stations that begin playing Christmas music on November 1st. Thanksgiving is treated like a precursor to Christmas a lot of times. There’s Black Friday for in person shopping and Black Monday for online shopping.

Speaking of which, did everyone prefer the way the retailers went about it this year? I was so glad not to be overwhelmed with deals and sales that one day on Thanksgiving this year. I liked how almost all of the stores were closed for all of Thanksgiving. I was never one of those who was planning on boycotting any store that was open on Thanksgiving (I’m also not a fan of Black Friday shopping and do most of mine online) but I thought it was a lovely return to times in the past where holidays were actually spent with family instead of rushing out to begin buying for Christmas.

Anyway, there is tons of stress surrounding the holidays and trying to make everything perfect. And with this year being a year of social distancing and sickness no one was really sure how this was going to play out.

My only disappointment this year was not being able to do the cookie exchange/white elephant gift with my friends. Covid hit a little too close to home right before the holidays so that was scrapped.

I did my Christmas baking and I think I made almost a perfect amount of food. There was probably a little too much and I have definitely been eating way too much. They call it Christmas crack for a reason.

I had a lovely time in Virginia with the amazing mobster earlier in the month. We played some Pokemon Go, did some Christmas baking, opened our gifts to one another, ate some great food, and just enjoyed each other’s company for a longish weekend.

I was a little bit upset about the short amount of time my daughter was spending at home this year. She didn’t come up until the 23rd. I thought she was staying until Tuesday or Wednesday, but it turned out she was scheduled to work so she left on Sunday the 27th. It all turned out okay though. It was good having her home and we have made plans for me to go down there to see her in January.

We weren’t sure how Christmas Eve was going to play out. Our Christmas Eve gatherings used to be so large that we would have appetizers for dinner because people came and went. Many years my mom and stepfather would invite friends over on Christmas Eve. Both of my brothers and their families were present. My stepsister and her kids started coming over. It was a big cheerful bunch. 

Over the years that has changed. The friends of my mom and stepdad have passed. My stepdad passed. My one brother has not been up for Christmas in close to ten years. My niece, Florence Nightengale, hasn’t been up for Christmas since she got married last September and when she doesn’t come up, her brother doesn’t come up either. My stepsister had to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Her daughter who is in grad school in Chicago opted not to come over because of Chicago’s Covid-19 restrictions. Her son and his wife had texted earlier in the week to say that they would be coming over but probably wouldn’t be staying long. My sister-in-law also worked on Christmas Eve.

It turned out to be a really good Christmas Eve though. My nephew and his wife ended up staying for several hours, and they were more talkative than they’ve been in years. Probably because they usually stick together in one little pod of four when they come together. This year they had no choice but to talk to the others.

My friend Sweet J is dealing with her crazy family so she opted to come over for Christmas Eve instead of dealing with them.

My son’s friend came by to drop off a gift for him. I asked him if he would like a plate of cookies to take home with him. He was hesitant to take it because he was dropping off gifts. I’m not sure if he thought he could only have them if he stayed and ate, but I told him I would be more than happy to fix a plate and he could take them with him. He is also friends with my nephew and said his was the last gift he had to drop off. I jokingly said, “If you’d waited until 5 he would have been over here and you could have killed two birds with one stone.” Well, that started off a chain of events that led to him being over at our house until 10:30 or 11:00 that night. He ended up staying for dinner and trying green bean casserole for the first time in his life. He sat with us while we opened gifts. I felt bad because there was nothing for him except for what my nephew had gifted him but it was pretty obvious his mom was not picking him up any time soon and we had a houseful of people waiting to open gifts.

Picasso and I pooled our money together and bought my brother a knighthood from Sealander.  Picasso asked him, “How does it feel Sir Uncle C?”

We had a feast of seven layer salad, deviled eggs, ham, Swedish meatballs, scalloped potatoes, corn casserole, broccoli, cheese and rice casserole, green bean casserole, and Texas Roadhouse rolls (yes, you can buy those suckers frozen and take them home!). There was pie but I don’t think we ever got around to eating it. We also had cheese and summer sausage and shrimp cocktail before dinner.

I got some amazing gifts, including a beautiful Mom necklace from my daughter, 2 bottles of my favorite wine from a local winery, and a giant stuffed Eevee from my son.

Christmas Day I had a full stocking. I had to have a little conversation with my kids about that because last year I was the only one without a stocking. I fill theirs and my mom’s and I had nada. But they made up for it this year. I got a huge coffee mug, another polar bear ornament (in addition to the two my mom gifted me), a wine journal, sugar free chocolate, and some gift cards.

Both of my kids loved their gifts. All of them. The gifts they opened on Christmas Eve and the ones they found on the mantle and in their stockings on Christmas morning. Picasso loved his record player and the vinyl albums he got and Rock Star loved all of the clothes, shoes, and jewelry.

I made a breakfast casserole and cinnamon rolls in the morning. Queen B and my nephew (I need to give him a name- I think I’ll call him C2) came over a little later in the day to play Phase 10. My brother showed up as well.

You’ve never played Phase 10 until you’ve played it with him. He always wants to know who’s in the lead and how many points. Then he’s always sure to tell you who you should be skipping. This year he began the tradition of the Skip Box because people would forget they were skipped. Or rather, they would attempt to play when they were skipped and insist they had already served their skip. So he handed out the Skip Box. You can give it back once you’ve been skipped.

Picasso’s friend came over again because he was interested in playing Phase 10. He took my brother’s spot because he had to go back home. He and my sister-in-law were going over to the neighbor’s house for Christmas dinner.

Queen B left to go meet up with one of her friends and we ordered Chinese food for those of us remaining.

I sent Merry Christmas messages to my friends both near and far and got many back in return. Plus, I had a few video chats with the mobster and his Christmas guests.

It was a wonderful Christmas. I’m hoping next year will be equally wonderful. Maybe a little less food because we have so much left over. My mom and I both have said we are not cooking for several days.

Christmas 2020 is in the books. Time to start planning Christmas 2021.

Thanksgiving, Part 2

Writing my post late at night (early in the morning) brought back memories of Thanksgivings past, and of what could have been this year. It was a good day, especially considering everything that’s going on. At one point I thought my head would explode. That was back when the CDC, or maybe it was Fauci, was telling everyone to stay home for Thanksgiving and giving lovely alternate ideas, such as a recipe swap or a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Really? A recipe swap? What kind of bullshit is that? 

Hey guys! Instead of eating we’re going to do something different this year. We’re going to swap recipes! Won’t that be fun? I’ll tell Nana how I make my stuffing and she’ll tell me how she makes her famous pumpkin pie. Yeah, we’re not going to eat. We’re just going to swap recipes.

That was about the dumbest idea I think I’ve ever heard. Swapping recipes does not compensate for not seeing your family. It’s not even close. Just don’t even celebrate the damn holiday if that’s what you’re going to do.

I’m equally glad we didn’t have to have a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Hey, that stuffing looks fantastic. Can you put some on my plate? Oh wait! I forgot we’re at two separate houses. Of course you can’t. I’ll just look at it and think about how great it would be if I could actually eat it. At least it’s better than the recipe swap. This time there’s actually food there.

What is the purpose of that? To torture yourself with all the delicious food that you’re not going to be able to eat because it’s at someone else’s house? Why don’t I sit here and watch you eat an entire chocolate cake, too? That should be fun.

I know a lot of people were not going anywhere, instead choosing to celebrate with only their immediate family. I detest holidays like that. My other brother’s wife always talked about wanting to have Christmas with just the immediate family. She described it as her dream Christmas. It was my idea of a nightmare Christmas. I never understood that. To me, if you’re with immediate family only it’s just another day but with more cooking. Being with extended family is part of the magic of the holidays. It was the one time of the year that everyone was together. Maybe I spent too many years trying to celebrate holidays with only me, Jerry Lee, and the kids. There’s a big difference between choosing that and having it forced upon you. Once we moved to Utah we didn’t spend very many Thanksgivings with family. 

We spent eight Thanksgivings out in Utah and of those eight we went home only one of those. One other year my mom and nephew came out to Utah. There might have been a year that his parents came out but I’m not sure; probably not. The rest of the time it was the four of us, and it was not pleasant.

The first year I cooked and cooked and cooked. For four people. Hours spent in the kitchen. Maybe twenty minutes spent eating. And then I got to clean up and we had leftovers for days. Side note: My kids are not big fans of leftovers. 

That was it. That was our big Thanksgiving celebration. Me cooking all day, Jerry Lee holed up in the bedroom watching TV, and my two kids doing God only knows what. They were probably watching television as well.

The next year I tried doing turkey Manhattans to keep the leftovers to a minimum. That didn’t go over well, and I’m sure I still made a ton of side dishes. Jerry Lee always had to have dumplings and macaroni and cheese. Probably stuffing, too.

Finally, Jerry Lee suggested I order dinner from someplace so that I didn’t have to cook. Which I did. But, re-read the previous paragraph. There was still plenty of cooking to be done. Those places don’t let you customize the meal much. You may get a choice between this side or that, but you can’t list everything you want and they whip it up for you. He insisted on having macaroni and cheese. The kids wanted dumplings. They all wanted corn casserole. I wanted the green bean casserole. One year he started getting snippy with me and told me the whole point of ordering out was so that I didn’t have to cook. I told him if I was the one doing all the cooking and they were all getting their favorites then dammit I was going to have the one damn thing I really wanted!

One year I ordered from Marie Callender’s and I swear I spent an hour microwaving food. It was pre-cooked and had to be reheated. It was good, but it still took a lot of time. And there was no green bean casserole. It was a medley of vegetables.

Another year we ordered from Cracker Barrel. Their stuffing was horrible! The rest of it was fine but I usually only eat stuffing once a year so that was a big disappointment.

Yet another year we ordered from one of the grocery stores. The thing I remember the most about that meal was the amazing cranberry and orange salad they had. So good!

There was always more cooking to be done though and it always took about 2 hours. For four people. The same four people I saw every day.

I don’t want it to sound like every year was horrible. The first two were a bit wobbly. Then when I realized this was how our Thanksgivings were going to go from here on out I decided to take matters into my own hands and figure out a way to make the holiday more bearable when everyone else in our extended family was spending it together.

That’s when I came across Feast With the Beast at our zoo. Fortunately, Utah weather is fairly mild, even in the winter months, so we bundled up and headed out to the zoo every Thanksgiving morning. We got to watch the animals have their “feast”.

The elephants were always a huge draw. They would give them these huge, thousand pound pumpkins and let them smash them and eat them. One year the little baby elephant, Zuri, climbed into the pumpkin and just sat there in all her glory. It was adorable.

The first year we heard the mountain lions as they got their treats. They were big hunks of meat and bones. Our backs were turned as we were focused on something else but the snarls and sounds coming from their cage was something I’ll never forget. It was truly impressive. The next year we were all set to watch it from the beginning but for some reason we never got to see them get their feast again. I think maybe the feeding time was after the time we needed to leave to pick up our food. 

The monkeys and lemurs were always a treat, watching them pick through the food.

It actually wasn’t a horrible time. Sure, there were times Rock Star was playing chicken with Mother Nature, declaring she didn’t want to wear a coat and then complaining that she was cold. But she wouldn’t wear her coat. But she’s cold. So on and so forth until the end of time… 

And for some reason going to the zoo on Thanksgiving was a very popular idea out in Utah. The crowds started becoming an issue for Jerry Lee. Every year he got more and more disgruntled with the people there, complaining that nobody could see the primates eating or that you needed to get to the elephant exhibit about an hour before they were going to smash the pumpkins because the crowds were so huge.

Another thing we started doing was going to the movies. I can’t say for certain that we went every Thanksgiving but I’m pretty sure we saw both Frozen and Enchanted on Thanksgiving. Different years, of course. Same holiday. 

Let me tell you, movies are even bigger than the zoo out there. Like, theaters sold out big. Because I always celebrated with extended family up until that point and we didn’t leave the house I had no idea so many people went to the movies on Thanksgiving. It was mind blowing.

I never understood why there were so many crowds. I knew why we were there. We were over 1500 miles away from our families. It was just us. We were trying to get out of the house and create a tradition instead of sitting at home, feeling sorry for ourselves. But these people had families in town! Never in my life had I gone off and done “things” on holidays. Well, okay, one time when I was in my early twenties two of my friends and I went to a bar Thanksgiving evening. But that was well after dinner. Holidays were spent at the house with the family. We didn’t go to the movies or to the zoo. We socialized with one another.

When I was younger, or rather, before my parents divorced, my parents would host Christmas Eve at our house. My grandparents, great-grandparents and aunt would come over for our Christmas dinner. We always got to open one gift before dinner. Then we had to wait until the dishes were done before we could head over to the tree. Gifts would be opened. Toys put together. Clothes tried on. Eventually we went to bed and waited for Santa to arrive in the morning.

On Christmas morning we woke to see what Santa had brought us and then we headed over to my grandmother’s house for Christmas lunch. It was the same guest list, just a different location. We typically spent the entire day over there and as the day turned to evening my grandmother would unpack the refrigerator and lay out the leftovers.

Even once my parents divorced and we no longer spent the holidays with my grandparents Christmas Eve was all about celebrating with the family. No one else.

I still remember the time I went to the movies with my neighbor and her daughter on Christmas Eve. It was the first time ever that I had been outside the house doing something on Christmas Eve. I was astounded that people actually went places on Christmas Eve because that was always our big celebration. 

I remember, too, my ex-boyfriend’s younger sister wanting to go to a party on Christmas Eve and actually being allowed to go after opening Christmas gifts. Another one that left me shocked.

Things did change over the years. Once I started driving I began taking my brother down to my grandparent’s house so we could spend Christmas Day with them while my mom spent the day at her future husband’s house with their friends.

Through the years my mom and stepdad often invited friends who had no where else to go to celebrate with us. Even today my sister-in-law’s brothers will often join us for one or both of the holidays. It’s not as though we’re anti anyone-who-is-not-family. But for me, the holidays will always be about bringing people together, celebrating, eating, and making memories.

I’ve tried it though. This whole spending the day with immediate family only. It was probably Jerry Lee’s idea, come to think of it. It was a disaster. It was Picasso’s very first Christmas. As usual we drove the two hours to my mom’s for Christmas Eve; however; instead of spending the night down at my mom’s house and spending Christmas Day with her and my brother, we went back up to Michigan. I think Jerry Lee wanted to celebrate the day in our house with only us and the two kids. All was well in the beginning. The kids woke up. Rock Star, age two, was excited to see what Santa brought her. I think we may have even saved her gifts from us to open that morning instead of taking them all down to my mom’s.

Then we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. Only it wasn’t open. Why? Because Cracker Barrel is closed on Christmas Day. I didn’t know that back in 2002. Long story short, we ended up having Christmas dinner at Denny’s. Instead of a home cooked meal with extended family I had a steak at Denny’s. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the day was spent with Jerry Lee watching TV and me wrangling babies. What a grand holiday!

Then we moved to Utah. The first two years we made it back home for Christmas. The next three years I would take the kids and we would leave the day after Christmas to spend celebrate the holiday with my family. Then after about a week I would drive on down to Jerry Lee’s family and celebrate with them as well. Finally two things happened simultaneously.

First, Rock Star finally became an optional in gymnastics. Their season began in January so taking 2-3 weeks off in December was not going to work. Her coaches would have killed her. Probably thrown her off the team. Secondly, and even more of an issue, was the fact that my kids’ school changed from a year round calendar to a traditional school calendar. When my kids were on the year round schedule they had about 4 weeks off at Christmas time. We had plenty of time to go back home and spend the holidays with family. Once we switched to a traditional calendar they had one week off.

After the first Christmas we spent out in Utah by ourselves, the one where the kids opened their gifts Christmas Eve morning and there was nothing to do the rest of the day, I made it a point to fill that day with activities. We went bowling. Sometimes we went to the movies. We went out to dinner. And then we came home and opened Christmas presents. 

The bowling alley was always packed on Christmas Eve and there was a decent crowd at the movies as well. Not as big as Thanksgiving but not empty theaters either.

I can’t complain about our Christmases out there. Aside from the year I nearly had a meltdown because I had been looking forward to our “Crabby Christmas” at Joe’s Crab Shack for months only to not be able to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack, they were pretty good days. Then again, I jam packed those suckers, too, and it’s not like we sat at home doing nothing.

All of this wandering down memory lane only to say I’m very thankful I was able to spend it with family after all.