Triple Word Score

Vists from my parents mean long evenings of the four of us playing board games around the kitchen table. This is fun for me, but torture for my husband, because my parents and I are all in love with words; we play with language, we have huge vocabularies. Fuzzy is smart, of course, but he’s not word-smart, he’s tech-smart, spatial relations-smart. His vocabulary isn’t as extensive as ours (not that I generally USE the words I know – I tend to limit myself far too much), but there is something worse.

He cannot spell.

Now most of the time, this is not a problem. Last night, for example, our game of choice was Phase 10 (I’d lobbied for poker, but…), a card game best described as “gin rummy meets uno.” He did fine with that, especially since the publisher has changed the colors of the cards. (Our set has red, blue, green, and yellow cards; other sets have had red, blue, orange, and yellow cards, and the last two colors were always difficult for my color blind husband to differentiate.)

Tonight, however, we played Scrabble, which is one of my favorite games, but Fuzzy’s least favorite, for obvious reasons. Fuzzy’s a good sport – he mocks himself – but, I know it’s not fun for him, because he can’t spell. And I hate it when he places tiles down, and has to be corrected. I feel bad. And it’s stupid because it’s a game, and it’s supposed to be fun.

Needless to say, I was proud of him, when he came in third tonight, in a very close game (the point spread between the winner and the loser was only 10), and even prouder when he came up with some words that, when challenged, turned out to be allowable. Who knew that obscure knowledge about swords and martial arts could be useful in Scrabble???

I’ve decided that Fuzzy deserves a break, though, and so tomorrow, we’re not playing Scrabble. We’re playing a word game he’s actually good at. We’re playing Upwords. (I hate it, because you can’t use Q without U, but I can live without using such words for one night, I guess.)

But I’d really prefer poker.


I’m tired, and crabby, and I’m tired of being tired and crabby, and my mother and I had a fight today, and god, I sound like a teenager. When I said I wasn’t going to be twelve this year, I guess I was being too literal. Instead I’ve turned from a thirty-four-year-old into a whiny fourteen-year-old. As if I didn’t spend enough time as an angsty teenager. Ah, well, at least this slip into immaturity includes a glass of merlot…care to share?

* * * * *

I have presents – nothing hugely expensive, but I think they’re cool nevertheless – for a bunch of friends, but they’re probably not going out til after the holiday, because I’m so disorganized, unmotivated, stressed. Mostly disorganized and stressed.

* * * * *

My dogs have taken it upon themselves to be as comforting as possible. As a result, I am followed everwhere, even to the bathroom. Ah, you think this is normal? It is, but right now it’s MORE clinginess, not them being a little attached. It’s difficult to explain.

Right now, though, they’re both sprawled on the bed, where I’m sitting as I type this. Cleo looks so soft and cuddly in sleop, like a teddy bear in white and black, and Zorro sleeps with his tongue out, so that he can taste the air, or something. It’s very cute.

* * * * *

The weather people are predicting a chance of SNOW flurries on Friday. Yay for any kind of snow on Christmas Eve.

And yay for sleep.

Gender-Blind Carolling

This is a sort of placeholder for a future entry, but it’s late, and I’m tired (and a little buzzed), and I don’t have the right words for what I want to say….

The gist is this: We went to a lovely lessons and carols service at St. Andrews tonight, and it was my first experience with carols being tweaked to include gender-blind language. An example is from the song, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” The old, familiar, version of the hymn includes the line, “Born to raise the sons of earth,” and the new version (per the 1982 Episcopal Hymal) has this amended to read, “Born to raise us from the earth.” While this jarred me while I was singing, after we left I was able to digest it, and find that I like the change.

When I got home, still giddy from singing, and dessert, and driving around looking at Christmas lights, I surfed the net, looking for commentary on the lyric changes, and was disappointed to find so much negativity, in much the same way that I’m disappointed when someone I like comes out against feminism, because they have some odd notion that feminism means hating men (it doesn’t).

And while I have valid points, I don’t have an essay about what I’m feeling just now, nor am I entirely certain I want to post them, but I will, once I’ve slept and figured out my real point.

So, yeah, this is a placeholder.


We were up til six last night, except that it’s not last night any more, it’s the night before last, and now today has become tomorrow, and I’m posting my Saturday entry in the wee hours of Sunday morning, and, and, and, …let me try this again.

Friday night, I was flitting from cleaning project to cleaning project, and getting too distracted by decorating projects, while Fuzzy bounced between work and helping me. This was in preparation for my parents arrival. We finally turned out the light around six am.

Saturday, which in my universe it still is, because I haven’t yet been to bed, we were up by ten, and did more cleaning – heavy cleaning – like, rug doctor type cleaning – and small decorating bits – and grocery shopping, and by the time we finally stopped it was eight at night, and we hadn’t eaten all day.

My parents plane was half an hour late, but that wasn’t a problem, even though we left early for the airport, because DFW is all funky on Saturday nights – it becomes Road Construction Central – and you have to head north to go south, and make other confusing navigational maneuvers.

Finally, though, we collected my parents, and their luggage, and made it home. They seem to like the house. They seem to be comfortable. They seem to be exhausted, and I KNOW we are both exhausted, which is why this entry is entitled *Yawn* – I’m really not coherent enough for anything better.

Unmutter: 11 December 2004

I say. . . And you think…?

  1. Plot:: plan
  2. Farce:: Moliere
  3. Unexpected:: visitor
  4. Siren:: song
  5. Ben:: Simon (best friend when I was five)
  6. Freshman:: congress
  7. Quicksand:: mother/daughter relations
  8. 24 hours:: not enough time
  9. Spunky:: Cleo
  10. Vicious:: liar

Play along here

This Year, I Will Not be Twelve

My mother is arriving tomorrow night, to spend Christmas week with Fuzzy and me, and I’ve resolved that this year, I will not be twelve from the moment she enters my front door, to the moment she leaves.

I will not react like a small child when she criticizes my housekeeping skills, my taste in decor (or books), the television shows I watch, or the foods I keep in my refrigerator and pantry.

I will not snark at her when she pokes her nose into those aspects of my life where she is least welcome, and asks when we’re planning to have children, or why we spent thousands of dollars replacing the living room carpet with wood, instead of a few hundred on bookshelves for the library, where books are still in boxes.

I will not take it personally when she makes derisive comments about the traffic, the quality of service at the local restaurants, the overtly religious culture, or the weather, because none of those things are under my control, and she is not, after all, criticizing ME, in those instances.

I will remember that she travelled 2500 miles in a flying tin can, in December, to leave her warm beachfront house and spend Christmas with her only daughter, in yet another new home, in yet another new town, nowhere near the beach, where it is cold enough that her feet will have to be wrapped in socks and shoes. I will further remember that she left her dog behind, with strangers, two days after the poor thing had teeth pulled.

I will remember all the times when I was growing up, that she worked extra hours so that I could have dance lessons, a bike, a dog, piano lessons, music camp, Shakespeare camp, and college tuition, even if it meant that she didn’t get home until after seven at night on Christmas Eve, or had to work on my birthday.

I will remember the countless hours she spent making clothes for me, and my dolls, the cookies she always made on time for school parties I forgot to tell her about (despite being a single mother who worked full time), and the amazing homemade Halloween costumes I had, every year, until I turned eighteen.

I will remember that after Fuzzy and I eloped, even though she was bitterly disappointed, she welcomed him into our family unwaveringly, and made an effort to get to know him, and that she later threw us a reception and feast.

I will remember that any time I’ve ever needed money, she’s come through with a loan.

I will remember that her criticism, though often unwelcome, and sometimes badly expressed, comes from a place of love and concern, and that now, just as always, she wants me to be happy and healthy and safe and loved.

I will counter-act my urge to be snarky and sarcastic by brewing tea, and singing songs, and bringing up happy memories.

Or at least, I will try.

But if nothing else, this year, I will NOT be twelve.
Not even for a moment.

Friday Five

1. What is a fond holiday tradition from your childhood?

As a child, I always had an advent calendar, and sometimes an advent candle, as well. I loved this manner of counting down the days. I still have a calendar, even now.

2. If you could start a new holiday tradition, what would it be?

A literary Christmas gathering, where everyone brings, and reads aloud, their favorite Christmas story, while toasting near a fire, and sipping mulled wine or spiced cider.

3. What is your favorite Christmas song and who sings it?

This changes, but right this moment John Denver singing Silent Night comes to mind.

4. Is there a certain event, food, television program, etc. that makes your Christmastime complete?

Christmas isn’t Christmas without pfefferneusse. And brie. (Not together, but, you know…both foods.) Oh, and The Nutcracker is also an essential part of the holiday season.

5. Does it traditionally snow where you live at Christmastime? If not, do you wish that it did?

As far as I know, it doesn’t snow here, except on rare occaisions. And in my fantasy world it snows everywhere from the moment people get to where they need to be on Christmas Eve, to the moment they have to leave that place after Christmas, just enough to make the world look pristine, and make the lights reflect and twinkle.

I’ve answered questions like this before, recently, but I felt the need for a warm-up writing exercise today.

Tell Me a Story

My muse of the moment, Clay, let me do some textual whining about not knowing what to write about, and then sent me to StoryCorps. It’s an oral history project based in New York, that involves people going to their story booths, and capturing personal stories, life stories. (The site also offers story kits for rent, but it’s not terribly cost effective.)

I don’t live anywhere near Manhattan, but I’m intrigued by the concept, and I’ve had a love of oral history as long as I can remember. I think it started with my grandmother talking about how much she loved the Red Cross, and about how she was in Panama with my grandfather during one of the world wars, and had to be sent home (with other military wives) on a commandeered cruise ship travelling a zig-zag course to avoid German submarines. As a child, I thought she was making it up, because the details would change from time to time, but the general structure never did.

I remember her talking about the blackout curtains in the housing in Panama, and how she used to keep the closet light on, when she was alone, waiting for my grandfather, and was terrified by someone walking by and telling her (through the window) “Turn out the light,” because a single beam in an otherwise darkened enclave can be seen miles out to sea.

After my grandmother died, I found the menu card from that zig zag trip – some kind of beef, and “jacket” potatoes, and it clicked that this wasn’t just some tale she made up to amuse small children, it had really happened.

My mother, ever the maverick, chose to flee her Italian Catholic upbringing, after I was born, and as a result, most of the cousins and aunts and uncles and various other loose relations are mere names to me – if they’re even that – and the stories my mother heard, I’ve never dreamed of. I’ve always felt kind of gypped about that. There’s a part of me deep inside that really wants a big family and late night conversations in the kitchen, stoked by strong coffee and canolli, or Stella D’oro anisette cookies. There’s a part of me that feels like my identity is lacking because I don’t know the family stories, and don’t have anyone to ask.

Two nights ago, while re-arranging the remnants of my grandmother’s knitting bags (re-discovered when we packed to move from California to Texas), I came across a folded scrap of paper, labelled “Xmas Struffle.” (At least, I think that’s what it says – my grandmother’s handwriting was cryptic at best.) Inside, it was titled “Pop Natale’s Recipe (also good for basic macaroni)” and there was a fairly basic pasta dough recipe scrawled there.

I googled for the term “struffle” – and you know something is obscure if Google comes up with nothing – and am left with a mystery. Was this a funky attempt at spelling an Italian word, by my grandmother whose language was ripped from her when her father insisted that his children speak only English and be American? Is it a family nickname for a beloved treat? Or did she hate the recipe because it reminded her of long hours in the family restaurant, which she despised being tied to?

I want to be a child again, and sit on the old brown and floral couch, the cushions covered with a soft cotton sheet, because it’s more comfortable that way, in the dim den, with my grandfather snoring in his ugly yellow recliner, and I want to plead, “Tell me a story.”

But there’s no one left to ask.

T3: Christmas is Coming

Onesome: Christmas–Hey, an easy start for you, what with the new layout and all: What is your favorite Christmas song? …and sung or played by whom? You know, the one you tend to listen for on the radio or hit ‘repeat’ on the player…

My favorites change depending on my mood. This year, I’m into Oh Holy Night, and Grown-Up Christmas List, but perennial favorites are Silent Night (I especially like the Spanish version), and I’ll Be Home for Christmas.

Twosome: Is– Is the longer “Holiday Season” this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas making it easier to get your Christmas act together? Last year’s was short; has this year flowed any better for you?

This is the first I’ve noticed that there’s any extra time, but, if you say so, I won’t argue. What I don’t like is that in retail Christmas starts in mid-October. But I’ve never liked that.

Threesome: Coming– Ready or not, here it comes! Are you ready? What do you have left to do with just over a week to go? …or are you just cruising?

I’ve done MOST of my shopping, just have to finish wrapping and sending. But I’m also having a party on 12/22, and parents descending on 12/18, so those things are foremost in my mind. Oh, and the carpets…have to clean those still!


As someone who isn’t particularly religious, I’m always sort of torn when it comes to the concept of angels, and at this time of year, when there are images of angels pretty much everywhere I look, it leads me to ponder both the concept and the image.

I guess it’s the child in me that likes the concept, the watered-down concept. I mean, a posse of higher beings whose whole job is to guard and guide is kind of cool, no matter what ultimate power you pray to, or whether you pray to one at all. The less kindly concept – angels as harbingers of bad news, death, wrath – I reject out of hand. In my universe, if there are angels, they are pure and good, and totally non-judgemental.

Then there are the images. Yes, I have angel ornaments on my tree, though I don’t have either a star or an angel as the topper. What I actually have is a sort of Merlinesque-looking Santa Claus figure, which replaced the moon we had at the top when we first got married (because we both worked nights at the time). We still have that ornament, but we have a bigger tree, now, so we had to get a bigger topper. But I digress.

As I was saying, I do have angel ornaments on my tree, but I don’t attribute any deep meaning to them. They’re part of the trappings of my mostly secular celebration of Christmas, and they’re kind of pretty, but, you know, I don’t think of them as being ANGELS, just, angels.

The point of all this is that tonight, while we were at Cracker Barrell, of all places, I found an angel ornament that I actually love, and that I had to have. It’s made of wire and beads, and is extremely stylized, and I could argue convincingly that I bought it because it LOOKS cool, but that wouldn’t be true.

Well, not entirely.

I bought it because this going-to-church-thing that we’ve started doing is making me examine long-held opinions, and preconceived notions, and while some have not changed, some are expanding. I’m still not sure what I believe, except some very general things: I don’t think the Bible is literal, as much as symbolic, metaphoric. It has some amazing poetry, but it was still written by men, translated, re-interpreted, and changed by men and women. (I also tend to favor a broad interpretation of the Constitution, but that’s another entry.)

But anyway, this ornament spoke to me, and so I bought it. It wasn’t expensive, or terribly special. It was, in fact, some mass-market thing made in China, probably by over-worked, under-paid factory workers, and yeah, I know, buying things made in China is bad, but whether I buy the thing or not, it’s already been imported. It’s not like they’re going to send it back.

It’s sitting in a shopping bag, right now, wrapped in paper. On Sunday, when my parents are here, we’ll be putting the ornaments on the tree (it’s still standing in the entry, lit, but otherwise naked), and chances are I’ll forget I even bought it until the last minute, when I’m searching for ribbon or tape for something completely different. But then I’ll find it, and smile, because for some reason when it spoke to me, it used my grandmother’s voice.

She would have loved to see it.

Muse of the Moment: Ginger.