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Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: the Mrs. Miniver Year

This was not a bad year. It was a year of drama though. The bads were pretty damn bad when they happened and the goods weren't light and fluffy; they were solid and meaningful. Some amazing things came from left field. There were close calls with last minute saves. For reasons not even clear to myself, I'll think of this as the Mrs. Miniver Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's White All Right!

We got a little white for Christmas Day, which was sweet. But wow did we get white today! There's gotta be 8-10 inches of fluff, and it really is a marchmallow world. Beautiful.

I made it through Christmas Eve, feeling a bit logie, got to bed pretty early, and woke up wanting to die on Xmas morning. Ya know that 'so sick you cry' deal? Yeah, that. Cancelled on poor Stevil, though he took it well. I've been sleeping on and off since. Today I ate and so far it's stayed put so I guess I'm mending, but man, don't want that again. The only thing worse than feeling like total crap is feeling like total crap at Christmas. Tried to not bring everyone down, no sense in deflating others' good times. Bad enough I cancelled the last 3 days of the marathon. As a precaution, called off the Alka Seltzer party too. I won't be in shape for that. As Stevil said, this is one I'll remember. The last time I was this sick at the holidays was 1968. Didn't cheer me any that I haven't even gotten a card from my brother, either, but that's life.

In any event, it's good to have a stomach not in total uproar and no fever. Hoping to have a 2nd Christmas on Sunday with Stevil. Got an email from the Grotkes that they'd like to stop in and see us then, too. We'll see, fingers crossed.

Darkness has fallen over the Shire and I've been up for 4 hours. Think I'll go sleep some more.

I hope everybody has had a great time- or at least better than it's been around here! :D  x

Monday, December 24, 2012

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go!

It's Day 2 of the Holiday Marathon. Had a really nice time catching up with Princess Wendeleh last night, ate some yummy cheeses (ooo, Seelander) and I made a hearty soup. This is Xmas Eve, and Special K will be here in a couple of hours to get an early start so she goes home and I'm asleep at a decent hour tonight so Santa can come. Tomorrow being the Day- get up early, clean up the mess, prep and cook for midday dinner with Stevil- sleep is essential. It's The Day.

And don't forget, if you find yourself  lonely, or having a hard time of it tomorrow, Gary at Klahanie
will be online offering support and comfort to anyone who needs it. He's a great guy with a big heart. It's not easy to get through the holidays, especially if you're alone. I've done it twice, I don't recommend it. So remember all you need do is reach out, Gary's there for you.

Okay, checking my list I see I have stuff to do. At least it's not a big production. Before Special K was a nurse, she was in food service too. We both used to cook like crazy for the holidays. These days, it's noshes and as little cooking as we can get away with doing. Some frozen hors d'oeuvres, Swedish meatballs, shrimp, chips and dip, cheese and crackers, etc. By tomorrow my stomach will be very happy to get a real meal. Next year I'm campaigning for Chinese take away. : )

With best wishes that everyone will have a peaceful, safe and very merry Christmas,

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holidays Back Home

Every year, when we all lived in NYC and my parents were alive, we'd take a drive to go look at the lights. The old neighborhood (Bay Ridge) did its part in making Con Edison rich, but nobody on Earth does it like the next door neighborhoods of Bensonhurst and Dyker Heights. The Griswold's is just another house on those streets:

And in Manhattan,

The Lord and Taylor windows are a treat
These are the things I miss about NY at Christmas. The over-the-top getting carried away of it all. The insanity. The hilarity. The palpable excitement.

New England holidays are sweet, tasteful, mostly conservative. All is calm and partially bright. But I do miss the ridiculous displays, the silliness, the rivalries, the all-out "HEY! IT'S CHRISTMAS!!" of the holidays back home.

Winter Break

If you're reading this, it's officially Winter Solstice, the Mayan hooplah was BS as expected and I'm busy with things to do. Just like yesterday, the day before, and every day since I came out screaming. The closest I've heard about the end of anything is that last night was the last-ever episode of The Jersey Shore. Maybe that's what the Mayan Calendar was really about.

For the disappointed-

Happy Winter Everyone!

I'm on FB hiatus. The very best thing about Facebook is that you don't have to use it. It has already worn out its new car smell to me. The constant bickering and stupidity is soul-sucking and is contributing heavily to a whitewash of apathy that makes me look even paler. I know humanity is a red hemorrhoid, I don't have to watch them itch and swell before my eyes. And so, as a Yuletide present to myself, I'm taking a vacation until the new year. I'm sure it won't miss me; I know I won't miss it. I'm glad I found some old friends. We'll email now.

Facebook is wonderful and horrible. While I'm away from it I'll let it settle in my brains and come up with what I think of it. Right now I'm burnt on it.

Besides, I have something social going on every day from now until the 28th, and then 3 days of prep before the Alka-Seltzer Party on the 1st. Instead of February, I may sleep thru January. Except for the Heat Fund Radio days. And whenever company comes to town. And Special K's birthday party. And to work on the Worker's Center projects. And maybe re-write my fiction book. Well, maybe February it is.

Meanwhile, I still haven't found the Christmas stockings...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Your Fond Cousin

Some years ago I visited a genealogical website and found some cousins. We are the last of a large clan that bred less and less over the centuries and in moving to North America. There is only a handful of us now. I'm still in touch with a couple of them, we email, share jokes and holiday greetings.

One cousin, Nancy, lives in Rhode Island. For years I've owed her photos of her grandmother that I know- or at least think- I have somewhere. With all the moving and repacking in the last few years, I haven't found them to send on. But Nancy's patient, thankfully. Yet another thing on my unending to do list.

Our great-grandmothers were sisters, and their daughters Mabel and Susan were our grandmothers. Being the only girls in their own families they remained close cousins all their lives and wrote letters to each other regularly. They signed their letters identically- "With love, Your Fond Cousin", in their Victorian flourished handwriting.

Nancy and I have sent each other our holiday greetings and it brings a smile when I write my sign off and then see hers: "With love, YFC, Nancy." We don't use the flourishes, or even the whole words, but the tradition is in those initials. Your Fond Cousin. I'm sure Mabel and Susan are smiling, too.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Toast

The Irish cream is finally done, since I just added the heavy cream. There's a gallon of the stuff in the fridge. And so, I raise a toast to the guy who helped make this an unforgettable year.

Here's to you, Greg. Health, happiness and please come to Vermont in 2013!

mmm, that's good. 

Background Sound for the Season

There isn't a lot of time to sit and watch things this week but it's nice having sounds of the season while going about the things we do. Since I just raved about "The Bishop's Wife" and bragged about having a tv channel that plays carols and songs 24/7, I thought I better come up with something for those who don't have these things.

So here's a radio version of "The Bishop's Wife". The sound is somewhat off, especially at the beginning, and gets just a little better as it goes along but it's listenable.

This is a big directory of streaming US Christmas music stations. Just close the pop-ups. A huge selection of genres.

And here's a selection of streaming European stations

My personal favorite single songs:

Don't forget the Radio Beeb has a lot of holiday programming on all its channels

There, that's better. I don't feel so gloaty.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Shining Gifts

The front door and bathroom are decorated. Paul came over and lifted boxes down off the high shelves for me; I damned near wiped myself out trying to get them down. So now the tree is up, the presents wrapped and under it. The Beest doesn't care so long as the packages don't have ribbons (learnt that last year). The bar is set up and ready for business. There are a couple more things to do but all the big deals are done. Not bad, not bad at all. There were surprises today, Stevil made some JibJab ecards that are hilarious. One that stars Muffinpants, Cam, Special K, him and myself that I must've watched a dozen times and still crack up. And Kick, who already floored me with "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", sent me a lovely Irish tea set, complete with cookies (already gone!) and tea. I cried again. Christmas is good, but friends are better and friends that are family are the best. .

I miss my brother Beery. We've been talking more regularly lately, and it brings back the old times of running around in his Camaro, shopping, decorating my Mother's house. We used to take a Christmas morning picture with bows on our foreheads every year. I haven't spent the holidays in NY since 1998. And you can't go home again. But I'm glad for the memories and I cherish them. There are too many who don't even have them.

Beery's favorite Christmas movie is "The Bishop's Wife". Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young as an angel, a bishop and his wife. If you've never seen it, run right out now and find it. It's wonderful. And it's from the bishop's Christmas sermon that I quote:

“Tonight I want to tell you the story of an empty stocking. Once upon a midnight clear, there was a child's cry. A blazing star hung over a stable and wise men came with birthday gifts. We haven't forgotten that night down the centuries; we celebrate it with stars on Christmas trees, the sound of bells and with gifts. But especially with gifts. You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer, and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe. We forget nobody, adult or child. All the stockings are filled -- all that is, except one. And we have even forgotten to hang it up. The stocking for the child born in a manger. It's his birthday we are celebrating. Don't ever let us forget that. Let us ask ourselves what he would wish for most, and then let each put in his share. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand of tolerance. All the shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

I'm not a Christian but that's a universal message. All the religions on Earth, the real ones, teach love. It's the only reason to have religion, to teach love and kindness and sharing. To remind us regularly that the world isn't about ourselves and our problems and egos and little spheres of influence. To make us look beyond our own lives and inspire us to a higher good. A good that isn't corruptible.

Last Friday shook us all. There are many discussions going on about what to do. The entire issue is fraught with reactionary fervor. It's a big puzzle with many pieces and we're all trying to make sense while in shock. If we learned anything from September 11th, 2001, it should be to not go off and make decisions while we're raw. We need to cry and heal a little so our brains settle down and we can do meaningful work to prevent this insanity from recurring. We've avoided it for too long. It's time we face this and deal with it. But when we do, let's put those shining gifts in there. Loving kindness, warm hearts and the stretched out hand. With those, we can change the world.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Bright Elusive Flutterby


This is one challenging holiday season. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. Here and there I've had the small flutters that come with preparations. That bit of joy and gratitude that comes from finding and affording a perfect gift for someone, the satisfaction and soul food that comes from doing good. These are nourishments to the Christmas Spirit. Not easily found, not easily held onto. A lot like a butterfly.

Then we have horrors going on. A madman kills 20 children a week and a half before Christmas. Wars continue. The ills of all the ages remain, unabated. Diseases strike. Hunger. Homelessness. Cruelty. Hatred and all its minions. And we ask, "Why?" with plaintive tones. There are no answers. It just is. Tough as it is to get through, we do. We cry, we rage, we point fingers, and we carry on living, in spite of all these terrible things.

And because of all those terrible things, we need the miracle of Christmas. We need it more than ever when things are awful.

This holiday season is harder than ever for many to make that miracle happen. But we can all help make it happen for somebody else. And the biggest secret is that in helping someone else have that miracle, it happens for us too.

Bill Murray said it so well in "Scrooged":

Go forth and make miracles, everyone, we can do this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't Stop

Apologies to all for this brief stop and drop. It's crazy busy, there's too much to do in a short time, I'm contending with facing things I can't do- like holding carving tools...there'll be no Marley on my door this year- and there are a number of things aside from the holiday crunch going on. I'll catch up ASAP. Thank you for hanging in there with me.

Tonight is not funny anymore. There are times when you need old arena rock, and this is one of them. And so

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Merry Christmas, Mrs. Chaney!

Today started off well anyway. Very sunny and appropriately cold. I was ready for Gal Friday and looking forward to getting things done that I can't do- especially finding the missing light in the bottom tier of the tree so I could get on with decorating. Laundry is piling up, shopping needs doing, etc. Gal Friday comes but she's getting a migraine. She wants to go home ASAP and I don't blame her. All goes out the window but shopping- which has to be done because the Heat Fund Radio Hour is tomorrow and I have a pot of chicken chow mein to make today. Everything else will have to wait.

Fine, as long as the food gets made, I'll get over myself. To hell with Lucia Day and traditions, the tree will get lit when it gets lit. In fact, all the decorating can wait. The set of bell lights have to get a new bulb fitted at Brown & Roberts anyway and that's not happening today either. Laundry will continue to pile, and I'm grateful I have enough clothing to not have to wear dirty things. Fine, just cook and give the rest of the day up as a bad job. But slicing isn't easy because my hand won't hold a knife very long. I'm working in a 1 foot by 2 foot space because this is a little Hobbit house. I can't taste much, as my nose is still a mess. But I cook it and hope for the best. They're always happy to see free food, no matter what- an easy audience. So at least that's done and cooling on the stove right now. I emailed the recipe to the boys, Daryl will be by in the morning to pick up and it's over for another month. Get over yourself, Austan.

But I'm really struggling with frustration. I've never taken frustration well and as I get less capable and it rears up much more often, it gets ugly. I can be an absolute bitch even under good circumstances. After a day like today it's a very good thing I live alone.

Then the mail comes. I hear the mail guy cursing and the sound of a box hitting the floor. Then he shoves a puffy envelope through the slot, struggling and muttering. I go to the door. It looks like a video stuck in the slot, but I didn't order any. I pull it in and go push the box into my apartment. I sit down and open the puffy envelope and it is a video- "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn". This could only be from Kick. I look at the packing slip and yes, it is. And I cry.

This season isn't about the trappings, the lights and hoohahs and trees and everything being done on time. It's about 5 years ago on some dark February night in my old apartment, when Kick and I talked about growing up in NYC and loving this old movie about life in ye olde Brooklyn. And here, years later, she's married and a couple hundred miles away, and remembers.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown. I love ya, Kick. Merry Christmas. x

Saturday, December 8, 2012

December 8th

I put off blogging today. While the rest of the day and all that went with it has been good and constructive, the one thing that sets this night apart for me is what happened on this date. I just tuned in Stevil's regular Saturday night radio show at
and yes, of course, he's playing a tribute to John Lennon.

If John hadn't been killed 32 years ago, he'd be 72 now. I can't get my head around any of those things. My mother saying, "They've killed John Lennon!" with the shock that silenced me. It was one of those times in life where everything stops and a kind of dissociation comes over you. I stood there, towel around my head, ear to the phone, watching the news, dumbfounded.

Today I had a chat with Jose Ortiz about Janis Joplin and all the music we'd missed because she died so young. John was just 40, which seems so young to me now.

Here is the last tv interview re-presented by Tom Snyder the day after his murder

In other news, my Godson Padraig has decided to become a firefighter. I couldn't be prouder. It so perfectly suits him, too. Can't wait to see him in uniform!

GreatNiecely continues to sort out all the things that adults do. It overwhelmed me too, at the start. You can't know all the things that go into adulthood until you have to face them. It's a humbling and scary deal until you get used to it. We all made it, she will too.

Had to walk away from the tree for the day. While fluffing, the strand of lights on the bottom string went out. Oh joy. Another project I didn't need- find the problem lightbulb. That's gonna take hours.

The weekend's goals remain, and I'm off to tick another thing off the list. See you later.

All I Want

It got me tonight. In the middle of the mess, getting frustrated with the tree, half my mind filled with things still undone and that feeling that I've forgotten Something Very Important, it got me.

But I want to start with the build up. Tonight my Niecely posted a pic of my Great Niecely in her just-fitted wedding dress.

Our gangly little girl is gone.
I cried.
She's a beautiful young woman. Not only is she leaving home, she's leaving the US.
I think the cats know something's up, I've never seen them both voluntarily in one shot before.

So after that meltdown, I resumed fluffing (that one's for you Stevil). One of the handbrakes on my walker broke and without them both keeping it in place when I sit down and lean forward it wants to go out from under me. Which makes it tricky to get down in those lower branches while maintaining one's seat. This is, I'm sure, building muscles and I'm sure I'll know which ones tomorrow.

Meanwhile, my friend Karen had put this on her fb page. Loveliness. I miss you, Freddie.

Then my brother and Mac called and I chatted with them for an hour or so. I finally got hungry. So while I made myself an entirely happy and unhealthy plate of chicken nuggets I played some holiday songs posted on and started feeling it. While eating, I pulled up some other of my most- loved Christmas songs

and the one that turned 25 years old just a couple of days ago, that was "our song" the first Christmas I was married, in 1987

and of course

and a flashback to 1985, having Gin n Tonic Sundays at Bras and Girdles in the Village with Doug.

then it happened, a sort of giggle in my stomach, a little choke in the throat, a big smile with brimming eyes.
It's Christmas. Just when I thought I'd walk through the whole season without it, I got what I wanted most.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holly Days Are Here Again

Brattleboro's holiday season starts with the Messiah Sing. That was last weekend. Now we move through all the traditions' holidays- Hannukah, Yule, Christmas, Kwaanza, Festivus for the rest of us- as it gets darker and the snow flies. Right? Well. Not so much when it's in the 40-50'F range. Reminds me of Greg's Christmas song. "But instead it just kept on raining, a veil of tears for the virgin birth." It's Ho Ho Ho-ing time all right and the lights are going up, but there's no snow in sight. Which reminds me, that string of lights needs to get to Brown & Roberts to get fixed.... oh, list... Meh. As I fluff the bottom tier of the tree, and the little white lights shine triumphantly again, I really have no right to complain about my luxury problems. It's just weird to be this far north and be so warm in December.

The styrofoam block to make Marley is in Massachusetts, so that'll get here Monday, by which time I should have the tree fluffed at least. The Irish cream is nearly done, now that Special K made the whiskey delivery. Much cooking will happen this week. The Heat Fund recipe this month is Chicken Chow Mein (a nod to American Chinese restaurants at Christmas) so that'll be Tuesday's mission, then the plum pudding on Wednesday (so it can soak up a couple weeks of alcohol) and Hard Sauce (need more butter). In between times I'll keep decorating and work on Marley. I honestly don't know how I did it all while working and everything. Guess I was much faster then. Right now it looks like Christmas threw up all over my house. 

All right, off I go to bottle Irish cream and rearrange the branches. There's a fun animated version of  "A Christmas Carol" on abc family, the Beest is behaving herself and all's merry and bright around here. Hope it is where you are, too.

If you'd like to contribute to the Windham County Heat Fund, send a tax-deductible check to:

The Windham County Heat Fund
c/o Richard Davis
679 Weatherhead Hollow Road
Guilford, VT 05301

and if you'd like all the recipes I've created to raise funds, include a note saying so. The boys will get them out to you PDQ. Thank you. x

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Krampus Night

You'd think the Feast of St. Nicholas, patron saint of children, ought to be a bigger deal. He's one face of the character we've created known in many guises and sometimes called Santa Claus.

In a lot of the most northern climes, among the Germanic and Scandihoovian folks (Vikings!) the jolly old elf had a helper. The helper was called a lot of different names too, one of those names being Krampus. Krampus was the punisher to Santa's rewarder, and would whip or otherwise harm bad children, and put the worst in the basket on his back and dump them in Hell. And tonight is Krampus Night.

I'd absolutely love to see this:

Happy Krampus Night. I hope he passes you by.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What a Dump!

The holidays are coming. I know this because there's a certain wreckage of home that only happens in early December. And HildieBeesty hurled a total of 9 times today. She hasn't yakked in weeks so I guess it was time to really go for the gold. Always a spectacle. There are boxes to go to the post tomorrow, two boxes of wrapped presents waiting for a tree and random bits of decorations in temporary and odd places. Above it all, staring across the room at me from a bookcase is the cross-stitch Strider made for me that says
Enjoy your holidays.

Yep, perfect.

With the tree going up tomorrow- followed by at least one day of fluffing- I turn a blind eye to the mess. Cat puke on the rug? It'll dry and get vacuumed and cleaned on Friday when the Grand Holiday Cleaning begins. I'm trying to psyche myself for it all. No, really, I am. Started holiday training at Thanksgiving (well, after Strider went home) and I'm up for this. And it's not hopelessly disorganized. It's just that this is a small place. At least nothing is ever out of reach. All I really have to do is keep my shit together, and things'll be fine.

Today was the birthday of 2 guys I like a lot- our Paul, and Ozzy Osbourne. So much for astrology.

Ah it's nearly midnight. Long day tomorrow, so buckety buckety. Night all.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vermont in December

When I moved here I expected to live with the weather. Vermont is a ski area, we have a ridge of mountains and lots of resorts. That first Winter, 95-96, I parked my car in December and next saw it in April. In the early 2000s we had some huge snowfalls. One year, on both Christmas and New Year's Eve, we had massive snowstorms of 30" each. It was breathtaking and a huge hemorrhoid but par for the course.

And so I'm ready, come November, for the winds of Winter. Except these days it's not so much. Last year was a Winter that Wasn't. Tough on the tourist industry, which is  important. It's been chilly enough for the resorts to make snow lately, but we've had little of real cold. And it's December.

Yesterday it snowed. It lasted for the day on the grass. Overnight the temp rose and today has been in the 50s' F. It's all melted and then it rained for most of today. I had my back door open, it was so warm.

This year I hope we get a real Winter. Lots of snow. Very cold. Wind. People only go out if they must. You bake things to ward off the chilly willies. A regular-issued Vermont Winter. Mostly I want all that to happen so I feel some sort of reassurance that things are okay and haven't gone all changey already. Cuz it sure doesn't feel regular.

And if Santa's reading this, I'd really really like a White Christmas.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Inner Face

Facebook is a trip. I can see how people could get lost in it for weeks, because everyone and their brother is in there somewhere. I don't get the game addiction, but then I never did. The thing about Facebook is (I mean aside from all their objectionable bits) that it's endless. One person finding you leads to others finding you, then you find someone and look through their "friends" page and it's- "Wow! Look at him/her! I didn't think s/he'd still be alive much less working in an independent organic grocery and making films on the side!"

Today, for instance. I don't know how Bob Cuccioli popped up on my page but I haven't seen him in 18 years. So I sent him a friend request and voila! We're in touch. Then I saw a comment on a friend's post, made by someone with the same name as a guy I knew in the 80s, which led me to find 2 roomies from back then. Crazy.

It also makes me create characters and backstories, but that's another post...

Anyway, I can easily see how people end up with 4000 "friends". Another part of this experience is realizing how many people have been in my life. There have been A LOT. Schoolmates, coworkers, causes, clubs, loves, roommates, family friends, people I partied with - it adds up over a lifetime.

There's the entertainment value too. George Takei alone is worth joining fb.

Still, I can see that someday I'll start "unfriending" people. I'm already limiting what I get notified about. There are those who seem to live on fb and don't eat a meal or take a shower without having to tell the world.

It's been almost a month since I joined. I've caught up with a couple of people that I'm so happy to hear from, and fb is useful. The day that its minuses become bigger than its pluses, I'm out. For now, I'll keep up with George Takei.

Il Neige!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wheeeeeeeeeee!

The flakes are so tiny you can barely see them fall. But they are falling, and they are sticking and it's beautiful! Not enough to be much of an issue, just enough to frost everything with a powdery white topping. It's one of the things I love about Vermont, sitting here by the window, watching the snow fall.

Some other wonderfulness: our Lawless has put a permanent link to the Windham County Heat Fund info on her front page!!! I didn't even notice til this morning! Thank you Lawless!

It's 3 weeks to Solstice, 24 days to Christmas, 1 week to Hannukah. Get busy time! I have projects up the wazoo, with decorating being the biggest deal. This year I'm doing it up, even outside hoohah. I've ordered the few things I'll need to make the Marley doorknocker (I'll ask Stevil to post a pic when it's up). All the presents that are in-house already are wrapped and the packages to be shipped are ready to go with Gal Friday on Tuesday. Good shape so far.

In the spirit of the tradition of Christmas ghosts, here's some spooky footage taken in a famously reputed haunted house:

Well I've spent the last 40 minutes sitting here staring out the window more than writing anything. Time to get going. There are onlt about 5 hours of light left and I've got some things to do. Later!