Archive for November, 2011
If you read Monday’s post, you obviously know by now that we put our holiday decorations up over the weekend. If you haven’t ready Monday’s post…why not? Go ahead, here’s the link, do it now. We’ll wait.
What? It’s a long post. I wouldn’t anyone to feel rushed.
So, anyway, yes, la casa de Puddin looks like Kris Kringle rang the door bell, stepped into the foyer, and opened his white-tinged, red fuzzy coat to reveal a explosive device strapped to his bowl full of jelly. When the timer hit 00:00:00, a bomb consisting of red and green, holiday-themed knicks knacks, tchotchkies, and/or bric-a-brac exploded, spreading it’s wintery payload all over the house.
Of course, it wasn’t really some form of benevolent holiday splinter cell led by a grown man in an elf suit that did all the work, it was the Puddinette. Oh, the kids and I did the bulk of the tree work, sure, but the little things, the things that really give a home that holiday feel are all the doings of a very dedicated Puddinette. You can bet your last shiny nickel that I wouldn’t go to the effort of setting up the snowman snow globe, the Santa Claus throw pillows, the Fisher-Price Holiday play set that only comes out in December, or those fancy, snowflake-laden candy dishes.
What truly boggles my mind, though, is where in the name of Comet and Cupid did all this stuff come from?!
Admittedly, it goes without saying that at some point or another everything came from a store. All of it was likely once wedged into three or four chaotic aisles of holiday accessories at Super-Discount-Mart among a thousand fake trees, two dozen plastic menorah, and enough glittery garland to circle the globe thirteen times.
We’ve got an animatronic Santa sitting on a treasure chest of toys that didn’t just materialize out of no where and enough seasonally colored hand towels that I could use a new one each day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s and never need to wash them. But to my recollection, we didn’t buy any of it. So either a) I’m some kind of somnolent kleptomaniac that picks up holiday home accessories like those poor Ambien people that sleep-eat (waking up next to a naked pile of turkey bones that have been picked cleaner than any vulture ever dreamed) or b) cobbler elves visit my basement at night and leave stuff in the boxes marked "Christmas".
All the stuff mentioned above, though, pales in comparison to our collection of Christmas tree ornaments. The Puddinette and I have been married for over 10 years. In all that time, I think that maybe on one occasion, our first Christmas together, did we go out and buy a few boxes of generic glass ornaments.
And yet somehow, when I opened our two ornament boxes on Sunday, it seemed very much as if I could have driven to the local live tree retail stand and fully decorated the three or four dozen Douglas firs they had on hand with bulbs to spare. I swear those things have to have been reproducing during the 11 long, boring storage months where there’s just nothing else to do in their stuffy plastic bin.
Honestly, though, I know better. In fact, as tongue-and-cheek as I’ve been above, I actually do remember nearly each and every ornament we drew out of that box. Grammy Puddin gives me a Seuss ornament every year because I’ll always be fan, and the Puddinette has amassed quite a collection of Precious Moments ones in the decade since we were married. The kids each have several denoting their first Christmas and receive some new ones each year. Nearly every last ornament hanging on our tree has some memory connected with it or a sentimental attachment.
Do we put up all our ornaments? No, because after more than a decade of marriage and a barrel full of children, with everyone acquiring or crafting several new pieces each year, it’s simply not possible anymore to fit them all on the tree. We are now in the enviable position of being able to afford to pick and and choose the ones that matter to us. No more generic colored glass balls, or shiny blue icicles from a pack of 12.
But we do have plenty of little hand outlines made into ornaments, preserved for posterity, laminated pictures of tiny faces that aren’t so tiny anymore, and dozens of other mismatched, yet meaningful, adormments that together have tripled our collection.
And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Even if it ultimately means needing one of those PODS boxes to store them all.
The Puddinette, like all of us, has a few inviolate rules. Socks never go on the kitchen counter, no matter how clean. Clothes that have been sullied by the air of the dirty outside world may not come into contact with the delicate, pristine inner sheets of one’s bed. You don’t wear holey pants to church.
And the holiday decorations? They will be put up the weekend after Thanksgiving.
The four days that, for most people, accompany the Thanksgiving holiday can fill up quickly with activities. There’s the Big Day itself, of course, with all it’s thankfulness, gluttony, and gravy sweats. And then the Black Friday business comes. Personally, I avoid all shopping as if the merest consideration of the act will result in an incurable case of some form of plague, but my wife has been known to get into that foolishness with glee.
You’ll be glad to know, thought, that to date, she has not been pepper sprayed or fought over a crock pot (even given her love for them). This is a thing for which we are all glad.
Actually, this year she did only a bit of reasonable mid-day bargain hunting as opposed to the all-night benders of the past. Some years she left the house so early and was out so long, it made me question whether she’d been sucked into a shopping-induced Dr. Who-vian time-vortex, leaving me to raise my children alone.
Getting back to the holiday weekend events, after the retail escapades, there, of course, are always additional family gatherings and what-not to attend over the course of the break. Plus, the usual gears of life continue to turn, meaning youth basketball games, etc, etc.
When it comes to holiday decor, though, none of that matters. Come Hell or high water, it will be put up according to schedule. I personally suspect that in the event available time was simply not sufficient for the task, my wife would either develop some time-stretching device, waving off Einstein-ian physics in the process as something not to be bothered about, or she’d purchase one in a dark, Victorian back-alley from a toothless fellow with a graying pointed hat named "Grim".
Whatever might be required, she will make time for the holidayification of our home.
Not surprisingly, as this entire operation runs counter to the weekly routine I cling to, I don’t tend to look at the decorating phase with much enthusiasm. It’s such a hassle: furniture has to be moved around, boxes have to be located and hauled up from the dark recesses of the basement’s treacherous storage caverns, delicate (read: easily breakable by someone with a drunken bear’s touch) autumn-themed things must be removed but not mishandled, and replaced with wintery accessories.
And obviously, all that cuts into my football-viewing and post-holiday recuperative nap time.
Nonetheless, every year, on the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving, I drag the multitude of holiday decoration boxes up (inevitably forgetting at least one), and then the Great Decorating begins.
Every year, I want to grumble and moan, whine and cry, and possibly even pitch a toddler-style fit on the living room floor to keep from having to move the loveseat away from the front window, or lug up the tree boxes and holiday linens. That probably wouldn’t set the best example, admittedly, especially for kids who are now old enough to participate in the task.
They ask about it first thing every morning after Thanksgiving, when I’m just awake, barely able to blink at the fuzzy grey shapes out of one eye that are begging to put up some sort of "tree". At that point, my English is limited to roughly that of a mountain troll, so I’m not exactly sure what a "tree" is.
At any rate, rather than having the King of All Tantrums, I grit my teeth every year, roll up my sleeves, and go about the work of making the house Christmas-y.
Erecting the tree—artificial, mind you, because real trees are several steps beyond too much effort for me (but that’s another post)—checking and putting on the strings of lights, supervising the ornament hanging, and adding the garland are all my responsibilities. While it may seem odd that someone so resistant to the entire operation be tasked with the managing the central element, the thing is, I’m a little…particular…about the final result.
Yes, I’m anal about the Christmas Tree.
The lights must appear to hang without any discernible pattern, even though they are strung together linearly. Ornaments can’t be too close to one another, the garland best not obscure them, and for the Love of All Things Good and Holy, small ornaments go on top, big ones one the bottom.
A Christmas Tree lacking ornamental symmetry is a defiant spit-in-the-face to the entire holiday season. It’s wrong, I tell you. Plain Wrong! Designated hitter wrong! Middle-aged man in a diaper wrong! Just wrong Wrong WRONG!
*takes a deep breath*
As you can see, given the…vehemence…I feel on the issue, the Puddinette was quick to assign me Tree Duty early in our relationship, lest I spend all afternoon raving like a madman at her about why that damned green shiny ball must to be placed lower or Christmas would be grinched.
At the time, I believe her exact words were, "Fine, you do it then." A harrumph may have been included for emphasis.
This past weekend being Thanksgiving weekend, so it was that late Sunday afternoon my entire family was clustered around the faux-pine tree in our living room, hanging ornaments together while Christmas tunes played in the background. And when the kids recited the annual instructions for where to put the big ornaments versus the little in that heavy, eye-rolling, "Yes, Dad, we know" tone, I smiled to myself and started whistling "It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." The Johnny Mathis version was a staple tree-trimming tune from my own youthful days of trying not to break glass ornaments under Dad’s watchful eye.
The moment was darn near Rockwellian, a Saturday Evening Post cover. It was also the same moment I remembered that although I resist getting the project started each November, every year, halfway through, I realize that the whole thing is worth a lot more than a hour or two’s worth of napping in the middle of Sunday afternoon.
The thought will bring a smile to my face every day for the next month, when I flip the switch to turn the tree lights on.
And as much as I hate to admit it, the Puddinette’s right, the sooner you get it done, the longer you can enjoy the holiday seasons.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night!
Wait, I might have mixed a reference in there or something. Honestly, I’m too tired to really care anymore. It’s getting late. The turkey has been brined, roasted to juicy goodness and devoured. The fixin’s have all come and magically disappeared. The kitchen has been cleaned up to within an inched of needing remodeling. And more importantly, the kids are in bed, bellies full of appetizers, turkey, mashed potatoes, pie, and sweets.
I’m done beat, but am admittedly considering a turkey sandwich regardless of the fact that three hours ago I swore I’d never attempt to squeeze another bite of L-Tryptophan-laden meat into my pie hole.
Scientifically, one can thus seemingly conclude that "never" can be reduced down to three hours.
At any rate, I was planning to write the customary "Things I’m Thankful For" post today, especially as I missed the boat on doing a full month-long thankfulness itinerary (which is apparently all the rage this year).
Well, maybe next year. And I’m too tired after a day of being thankful to string enough words together to do the subject justice. So then.
Tonight, I’m thankful for all Life I have in my life, and especially for those who’ve been in or out of my life to share it with me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make a big pitcher of ghetto sangria with the three half bottles of wine leftover from dinner (I’ll never otherwise drink) using some of those tasty grapes from the cheese plate and whatever fruit juices I can find in the house.
Is Capri Sun a valid sangria mixer?
After I’ve mixed that up and made a sandwich, I have a feeling I’ll be thankful for my recliner about 5 minutes later.
And that sounds like a pretty good late Thanksgiving night to me.
I’ve been messed up since Tuesday. For some reason, the kids have Wednesday off, the day before Thanksgiving, which means Tuesday was their last day of school for the week. As if they need that extra day to get stuff ready or something. Conversely, I have a list of something like 6,237 things need to be done before Thanksgiving, but I’ll be spending Wednesday at the office.
I was tempted to tell them the make a couple of pumpkin pies and be sure the turkey got rinsed and brined, but I didn’t think the Puddinette would be overly enthusiastic about turning a potentially ptomaine-laden tornado loose in our kitchen while simultaneous making the Thanksgiving turkey we’ll be serving to both our entire families an inedible disaster.
Seriously, I’d have come home to find whipped cream dripping from the ceiling and the turkey basted in peanut butter.
You know, for extra browning.
At any rate, the kids have Wednesday off, which gave Tuesday a last-day-of-the-week feel. Except Wednesday is the last day of the work week for me. My brain therefore spent most of the day trying to reconcile those two things, but failed miserably. Ultimately it ended up just assuming Wednesday would be The Big Day.
With that in mind, here’s how I expect my Wednesday to go:
7:30 AM: Wake up, walk the dog, shuffle to the refrigerator to get the Attitude his morning apple juice cocktail. Panic momentarily at seeing the turkey still in the ‘fridge, wrapped as purchased. Consider the possibility of McGuyvering some form of "pressure brining device" with a vacuum bell jar, duct tape, and vice grips.
7:31 AM: Remember with relief that’s it’s actually Wednesday, and that there’s still plenty of time to brine. Frown while considering the list of all 6,237 things needing to be done before Thanksgiving.
8:11 AM: Tell the kids goodbye. Attempt to make them feel guilty that while they’ll be gaily persecuting the Puddinette all morning and afternoon, I’ll be slaving at my desk.
8:32 AM: Arrive at work, note tumbleweeds rolling down the hallway in lieu of half the usual workforce. Consider lying about "intestinal issues" and going home, but then realize that as an adult and parent, you’re supposed to be a "role model".
8:57 AM: Overdose on black coffee and donuts in an attempt to make yourself feel better about "doing the right thing".
9:24 AM: Exhibiting jittery hands and twitching eyelids, consider the possibility that you’ve got a caffeine and sugar high versus a permanent twitch in the deep recesses of your brain (likely where your childhood Transformers memories live) that will forever have people asking if you have Turrets. Mumble that at least the insanity twitch would get you of work sooner.
9:27 AM: Curse at clock for withholding lunch time. As a last resort, turn to email, consider how you’d spend that 56 million dollars you would earn by helping the "Prinsce Ministor of Nigeria" (sic) illegally import his cash. Giggle slightly and then turn to actual work projects.
11:44 AM: Decide it’s close enough for lunch. Consume lunch with hearty aplomb.
11:48 AM: Curse self that lunch was consumed in less time than it takes your Uncle Irving the Drunk to get into and out of a bath room.
12:02 PM: Curse others just beginning their lunches while you again resort to actual work in a last-ditch effort to prevent insanity.
2:14 PM: Consider taking a 23 minute, completely unnecessary, "restroom break", because, hey at least it would break up the day. Reject plan on basis that nothing good will likely result.
3:24 PM: Curse clock for going too slow on purpose.
3:25 PM (Gah!): Curse clock for going too slow on purpose.
3:25 PM (Ugh!): Curse clock for going too slow on purpose.
3:25 PM (STILL—WTF?!?): Curse clock for going too slow on purpose.
3:27 PM: Answer a wrong number, curse clock for going too slow on purpose.
3:39 PM: Review mental list of all 6,237 things needing to be done before Thanksgiving
3:58 PM: Log off computer, shut laptop
3:59 PM: Fantasize about pumpkin pie, grimace at mental list of all 6,237 things needing to be done before Thanksgiving
4:00 PM: In a cartoonish puff of smoke and wavy lines, disappear out the office door.
4:17 PM: Arrive home to find the kitchen still in one piece, the Puddinette only slightly the worse for wear, and your darling children mostly unaffected by your (at last) return.
4:18 PM: Orally review Puddinette’s hand-written list of 6,237 things needing to be done before Thanksgiving. Die a little bit on the inside.
4:19 PM: Grumble as you begin checking down list of 6,237 things needing to be done before Thanksgiving. What was the rush for, again? Why did the work day have to go by so fast?
I’d like to wish everyone a happy Day-Before-Thanksgiving! I hope all that brining, mixing, injecting, baking, cleaning, vacuuming, and, well, drinking, goes well.
And may tomorrow be full of mahogany birds with crispy skin, dressing just like mom’s, an overabundance of fixin’s, and hearts full of real thankfulness.
Remember a few weeks ago, that post about the weddings and the photo booth and my shoe? Yeah, this one.
Well, the bride and groom recently returned from their warm, adventurous honeymoon. And while those of us not traveling the world have been burning with the envy of a thousand suns because they went someplace fun while we’ve been here dealing with the bi-polar Ohio Valley Weather of Doom, we’re glad they’ve returned safe and sound and hope they had a good trip.
What’s more, to offer further evidence that the ancillary family is full of the good crazy, my cousin, the bride in question, sent me a tweet last night including a link to the the photo booth picture itself. Because obviously, if I wrote a post about it, then I’d want a copy, duh.
And so it is that following her generosity and general good-nature, I am thusly able to give you…duh duh duh…the photographic evidence:
See it?! There’s the shoe! What do you mean, you don’t see it? Oh, for the love of…
There. Is that better? Well, I suppose it’s still a little bit like trying to find the, um, stem on the apple—if you know what I mean—in one of those baby ultrasounds. But hey, this isn’t the Zapruder film and I’m not exactly a Photoshopping virtuoso.
Thankfully, I am skilled enough to make faces blurry to protect the "innocence" of family photo booth participants.
See? I wasn’t making that business up.
And hey, look, SHOE!
That is all.
Yay! Monday! Well, OK, maybe that’s a little too much. I mean, it is drizzly and kind of cold and hella overcast here in the Queen City this AM, which is an awful lot to deal with when you’re looking at a new work week too. But, it’s a short work week for many. So even though it’s difficult to look outside without being reminded of Axl Rose playing a piano on a balcony, at least it’s actually kind of like Wednesday already, right?
I guess, then, Happy Humpday?
Oh, and don’t forget, for all my fellow US residents, there’s a pants-button-loosening feast at the end of that short week. I don’t know about you, but I fully plan to OccupyTurkeyAndDressing a few days hence. So, quit complaining.
Speaking of complaining, I’ve got quite a bone to pick with the local football team. They lost yesterday is a gut-wrenching piece of sports drama that included two quarters of shiny inconsistency, a boatload of missed opportunities, and a reversed TD call that still has my dander up.
And yes, I know the officials called it right after replay. But it’s a stupid rule that should be changed. I don’t get how the ground can’t cause a fumble but apparently can cause an incomplete TD pass.
I’m tempted to write my Congressman about it; it’s not like he’s doing anything else productive, anyway.
So the Bengals got the "L" yesterday but made it a heckuva game considering they were down by 17 with 14 minutes and change to go. Surprisingly, the fact that they lost yesterday after losing last week to the Steelers is not what I need to kvetch about. They could of have been better in the first halves of both games, sure, but they pulled themselves up by the athletic supporters in both cases and made those games come down to the last 30 seconds or so.
Like it or not, they’re bringing some real NFL entertainment home, and I’m finding it difficult to maintain my jaded, brittle exterior when it comes to this team.
They were supposed to be God-awful this year. Horrendous. The Eleven Stooges. Local high school teams were lining up before the start of the season hoping for a shot at taking them down. Old ladies with support hose were mocking them roundly in August.
It was gonna be ugly.
So I steeled myself for the worst, and took the attitude that, hey, at least they’d get a decent draft pick. I swore I wasn’t going to care when they lost; I wouldn’t let it ruin my Sundays. I promised myself that this year I’d spend time with my wife and family on game day; everyone would break out a Cosby sweater and play wholesome family board games like Parcheesi. Sundays would be all cocoa and kumbaya.
But dangit, this team is hard not to be enthusiastic about. They’re young, full of brashness and swagger, and are either too immature or too ignorant of the way the NFL works to realize they were supposed to lay down, rollover and play dead. Sure, they make plenty of mistakes, but they also appear to never give up, no matter the odds they’re facing.
This team sort of reminds me of being eighteen again. Well, or how I imagine it was for other people. I was a nerd at eighteen and filled with more words and memorized movie quotes than swagger. Ahem.
At any rate, I was all prepped to be disappointed this season by another lackluster pro football campaign. It turns out that they’re disappointing me, alright. They’re disappointing my expected disappointment, that is.
Which is just fine, if you ask me. As long as they keep it up.
Although it wouldn’t hurt if they’d, you know, maybe try in the first half of games too?
Friday evening, after assigning my printer the unenviable task of printing out the entirety of my manuscript, I tweeted and posted this comment to facebook:
Turns out a 414 page manuscript is a hefty stack of paper when you print it out, even double-sided. In other news: my printer hates me
That earned me some very positive, supportive replies, which leads me to believe that there might actually be people out there who want to see this thing go well for me other than the poor woman who birthed me and the more pitiable one who married me. Now, I don’t know about you, but I certainly thought it was nice to see some affirmation that there are genuinely good people in the world still.
How I managed upon them I’ll never know, but that’s a mystery for another.
At any rate, it’s well known that the first rule of the internet is "picture or it didn’t happen". Well, actually I guess the real first rule is "always clear your browser cache before your wife comes snooping around your web history".
No, wait, I suppose "don’t get into a flamewar with trolls unless you’re really, really sure you’re right and that jack-bait needs to shut the hell up" might actually come first.
Huh. I guess there are a lot of important internet rules.
Anyway, in the spirit of "pics or it didn’t happen," I proudly give you evidence of my printed manuscript ("Flyboy Fred" Lego pilot included for scale):
"Look at how big that is!"
"I can climb this thing!"
"Someday I want to be that tall!"
So, internet, there you go. Proof positive that someone’s still dumb enough to print out 414 pages of words, double-sided, just to put into a binder.
And yes, that person is me.
Occasionally someone will ask me how the revisions are going on the novel, and may even politely wonder when I might let someone peek at it. Well, as you can tell from the graph to the right, I finally made it through all 45 chapters. Does that mean the first revised draft is finished?
Well, no, not necessarily. In addition to the chapter-by-chapter hunt for filters and telling, there were other whole-manuscript type tasks required as well as several parts that needed a little extra detail, if not a little less.
For instance, Thursday night, I spent half an hour scrutinizing Every. Single. Last. Use. of the word "very" in the text. "Very" is a very innocuous little word. It’s also largely unnecessary. People say it, sure, which makes it useful in dialog, but in most cases, it’s just not very helpful in describing something.
What’s that? An example? Oh, fine….
Puddin huffed at his reader, very irritated at being made to perform like a circus monkey.
Puddin huffed, aggravated at his reader for being made to perform like a circus monkey.
See? "Very irritated" there is kind of weak and lifeless. "Aggravated" is sharper, much more specific. It also conveys a certain tone.
The lesson is this: better word choice beats the dancer tights off unnecessary adverbs every day of the week, and once on February 29th every four years.
The good news is that at this point, I’ve crossed all the tasks off the Editing list. So, yes, Virginia, the first revised draft is done.
Now, having completed Revision Pass number 1 of however-many-it-takes, I am comfortable saying that with the possible exception of doing long division at the chalkboard* or being taught to parallel park by a driving instructor that resembles the "Where’s The Beef" grandma, editing a book—especially editing draft 0—might be the most humbling experience available to a modern human.
When you first pound out those two magic words, "The End", you get a giddy little high, which is often enhanced by the consumption of celebratory tequila. But the next day, when Jose’s left you low, dry, and feeling like your cat’s litter box, you’ll sit down to edit your new masterpiece, which is going to be simply smoothing out the rough edges that might separate John Q. Public’s sad first novel from yours, which is destined to be The Great American Novel.
And then, about 30 minutes into your revisions, you’ll also wonder if, in fact, you weren’t largely high on a combination whippets, white out, and NyQuil when you first wrote the thing.
The long and short of it is that throughout this first pass of editing, I came across plenty of spots in the manuscript written such that I’d feel compelled to (choose two):
- Recoil in editorial horror
- Reach for the Ole Grand-Dad
- Give the manuscript the stink eye
- Swear off writing forever
- Reach for a match
- Weep softly to myself and pray for sparkly vampires to come save me
The good part is that today’s version, Draft 1, is leaps and bounds better than the original version, if I do say so myself. Which, of course, is the point of editing, although it will feel an awful lot like the process is actually a superlative method of torture.
Is my novel perfect yet? By all means, no. I’m thrilled with parts of it. Other parts? Meh. I’m sure it needs even more revision before it’s time to talk submissions for publication. But I know it’s a stronger work than it was before, which is a step in the right direction.
The lesson in abject humiliation was just a convenient bonus.
*Chalkboard: (noun) A smooth hard panel, usually green or black, for writing on with chalk, commonly found in schools during the Triassic period.
It turns out I’m not much of a role model for my kids. Somebody apparently needs to teach them how to share, because it seems I’m not so good at it. Granted, I’m only talking about the sharing of beer here, and rare, special ones at that. In my latest post for Hoperatives, I explain why I leave a little something to be desired when it comes to being magnanimous with hard-to-find brews. And also why, really, it’s not all my fault. So click over there and get the dirt.
Believe it or not, today is the Puddinpop’s 9th birthday. Nine. One less than 10. Which means that this time next year, he’ll be in double digits and I’ll have been a parent for a decade.
I’ve haven’t held the same job, driven the same car, or lived in the same house for 10 consecutive years.
Seriously, though, it’s very hard to reconcile that nine entire years have slipped by since the day the Puddinette and I welcomed our first little wrinkled, mewling bundle of pinkishness into the cold, hard world. We never could have imagined how much our lives would be changed, almost instantly, when our impatient little man popped his warm, watery cocoon, taking it upon himself to decide he was ready.
Quite the forecaster of things to come, by the way.
At any rate, can I get you all to join me in wishing the Puddinpop a happy sports-and-Pokemon-filled birthday? Yeah? Great. So…on three: 1…2….3
Happy Birthday, Puddinpop!
Now, could I get you to maybe slow down on the growing up a bit?
And stop throwing balls in the house.