Fix-it Santa

I was having a really lovely day, with the house all to myself, well, as all to myself as it ever gets with three dogs of my own, two fosters, a husband, and a temporary housemate. And then I went to rinse my coffee mug, and realized the kitchen sink wasn’t draining.

I ran the disposal. It hummed and whirred and turned itself off.

I tested the other half of the sink, the part without the disposal; it was fine.

Aha! I thought. Someone has put something bad down the disposal, and the trap is jammed.

Sadly, knowing what the problem is and knowing how to fix the problem are not enough if you do not have the necessary arm length to reach the pipes that need to be cleaned.

So, I had to wait til said housemate arrived home, as Fuzzy is still in Utah.

Fortunately, I spent enough years doing tech support to be able to walk our housemate (Ben) through the necessary steps, which I did, while listening to him tell me that we should call a plumber, or that the pipe I’d identified couldn’t possibly be the problem, or, or, or.

“Trust me,” I said, “This has happened before. It’s an easy fix. Sometimes the even easier fix works, but as you can see I already tried that,” and I brandished the old wire coat hanger that I’d turned into a sort of snake.

NO WIRE HANGERS may be the rule for clothing, but trust me on this: keeping a couple of them around can SAVE YOUR LIFE when you have plumbing issues.

Anyway, Ben did as I instructed, and twisted and turned, handing me the u-bend with the attached p-trap, and I cleaned both of them out, and then guided him through re-attachment, plugging in the disposal (because of course the first thing I did was UNPLUG it) and showing him where to find the RESET button.

So, maybe I didn’t do the physical labor, though if I could have reached, I would have, but I still claim credit for the fix, because I knew what to do.

Today’s Santa: It seemed appropriate to share Fix-It Santa today. He doesn’t do plumbing, but a few small repairs to your gingerbread house are totally in his repertoire. Source: Cracker Barrel.

Dancing Memories

Christmas Tree 2013

Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance – each beautiful, unique and too soon gone. ~Deborah Whipp

My Christmas tree is finally finished. I took it out to ‘rest’ just after Thanksgiving, and we began decorating it that weekend (it took one evening just to open my ornaments) but then we all got busy, and so it sat, lonely, half finished, and half forgotten, in the dining room window.

Tonight though, I coaxed our temporary housemate into helping me with the outside lights. Then, after I bribed him with homemade chili and homemade chocolate chip cookies and cocoa, we finished the tree.

He patiently let me tell the stories of the ornaments, like a litany rolling from my tongue. “This is from the mobile that hung over my crib when I was a baby. This is from my first Christmas package. My mother made this when I was six or seven…I remember her cursing about all the French knots.”

The ornaments spun on their strings, slow pirouettes slowing into stillness that could be broken with the hint of a breath. The green of the plastic tree began to take on a healthier color.

“That one is from Ocean Grove, New Jersey. We lived there when I was nine. And that one is made of shells from my mother’s beach.”

The glass pieces – birds, fish, fruit and vegetables – glittered and glistened in the soft glow of the white tree lights.

“That was the tree-topper on all the trees my mom and I had, for most of my life. That one is older than I am. That one was my mother’s gift to Fuzzy. That one was a gift from Jeremy.”

The last hook was attached to a branch. The last plastic icicle given it’s place, the center of a triangle of three lights.

“Can you feel it?” I asked him. “Now it’s a Christmas tree.”

“It’s always been a Christmas tree,” he said.

“Nope,” I answered. “It was just a fake pine tree before.”

The memories danced in my mind as the decorations shone on the tree, and I texted my husband to tell him it was done.

He sent a smilie and the three words that matter most: I love you.

Santa Claus Boogie

Santa on a Tractor

Tonight’s post is all about today’s Santa.

I bought this ornament a few years ago, after we spent a cold October weekend helping to pack up Fuzzy’s father’s farmhouse. At one point, all the combines and tractors were lined up, awaiting auction, and it was both so hopeful and so sad. To me, it spoke of the way rural small towns are disappearing, because family farms can’t compete with corporate factory farming, and the kids who grow up in those towns typically will do ANYTHING to get out.

If I’d had the cash, I’d have bought the farm, remodeled the house and barn, and turned it into a prairie writers’ retreat. After all, it was only half an hour from De Smet, the “Little Town on the Prairie” where the latter half of the Little House books take place.

Later that year, we took houseguests to the National Cowgirl Museum, and when I saw this ornament, I had to have it. It reminds me that behind my father-in-law’s gruff exterior there beats a truly good heart.

And while I have tractors on the brain, here’s a video to lighten the mood. It’s the “Santa Claus Boogie,” performed by – you guessed it – The Tractors:

Gone to the Dogs

It’s nearly eleven PM, and I’ve been awake since 4:45 AM, except for a brief nap from 7:30-8:30 this morning. Why? Because this was my day:

3:45 AM: wake from a really awesome dream with undeniable need to pee
4:30 AM: wake to raucous alarm from my husband’s side of the bed. Send him off to shower.
4:45 AM: admit that I really can’t steal another few minutes of sleep, and get up.
5:15 AM: actually get out of bed
5:45 AM: drive with my husband and housemate to take the former to the airport
6:30 AM: arrive home, have breakfast and coffee and let the dogs out
7:30 AM: admit that I’m really not all that awake, and go to lie down for an hour
8:34 AM: get back up, get dressed again (this time, with makeup)
8:55 AM: go to church
11:00 AM: leave church, go home, let the dogs run around, give them water, contain them again, and put foster-dog in the car to go to adoption fair
12:00 PM: arrive at adoption fair, say we’re only going to stay a few minutes
5:08 PM: leave adoption fair, bringing foster-dog Madison, who did NOT get adopted, and foster-puppy Marco, who would have had to go back to the shelter since he also did not get adopted.
6:37 PM: housemate and I have dinner
7:40 PM: housemate and I go grocery shopping
8:53 PM: get home with groceries (note to self: BUY DOG FOOD)
9:30 PM: email stuff from upstairs computer to downstairs computer
9:40 PM: go outside to play with the puppies.
10:15 PM: come in to write this post end up watching the end of a cheesy Christmas film instead
11:00 PM: finally write this post

So, no pictures. In fact, no complete sentences. Just…me…being exhausted. Yeah.

Stars and Stories

Blue Christmas

We spent last weekend enshrouded in ice that glittered like stars in the soft illumination of the porch light. We ate soup and played board games, and remembered what it was like when winter was a full season and change, instead of an isolated weekend here and there.

Yesterday, I was involved in a friend’s Facebook conversation about the perceived and actual ethnicities of Santa Claus and Jesus, and ever since then Margaret Gooding’s poem “Why Not a Star,” which I first encountered in the UU hymnal, has been running through my head:

Why Not a Star
They told me that when Jesus was born a star appeared in the heavens above the place where the young child lay.

When I was very young I had no trouble believing wondrous things; I believed in the star.

It was a wonderful miracle, part of a long ago story, foretelling an uncommon life.

They told me a super nova appeared in the heavens in its dying burst of fire.

When I was older and believed in science and reason I believed the story of the star explained.

But I found that I was unwilling to give up the star, fitting symbol for the birth of one whose uncommon life has been long remembered.

The star explained became the star understood, for Jesus, for Buddha, for Zarathustra.

Why not a star? Some bright star shines somewhere in the heavens each time a child is born.

Who knows what it may foretell?

Who knows what uncommon life may yet again unfold, if we but give it a chance?

When I went looking for the text to that poem, I found the LiveJournal page of one John Heaton, a man whose writing I used to follow when he used to be a fellow participant in Holidailies. His post today was another poem. It’s by Naomi Shihab Nye:

How Palestinians Keep Warm

Choose one word and say it over
and over, till it builds a fire inside your mouth.
Adhafera, the one who holds out, Alphard, solitary one,
the stars were named by people like us.
Each night they line up on the long path between worlds.
They nod and blink, no right or wrong
in their yellow eyes. Dirah, little house,
unfold your walls and take us in.

My well went dry, my grandfather’s grapes
have stopped singing. I stir the coals,
my babies cry. How will I teach them
they belong to the stars?
They build forts of white stone and say, “This is mine.”
How will I teach them to love Mizar, veil, cloak,
to know that behind it an ancient man
is fanning a flame?
He stirs the dark wind of our breath.
He says the veil will rise
till they see us shining, spreading like embers
on the blessed hills.

Well, I made that up. I’m not so sure about Mizar.
But I know we need to keep warm here on earth
And when your shawl is as thin as mine is, you tell stories.

That last line, especially, really resonated with me: And when your shawl is as thin as mine is, you tell stories., but it’s just one more strand that’s been plucked, one more string that is vibrating in my life. Another came the other night when I was watching the HBO documentary Six by Sondheim. Talking about his process, he said that when he was writing, he was acting, that he played all the parts in his head as he figured out their songs.

Sometimes I feel like I’m playing all the parts in my head, too, and other times I feel like I’ve stepped sideways, outside of the flow of time, and am just an observer, meant to remember everything and then use it in a piece of writing, or an improv character.

Another note, bowed, legato is Madeleine L’Engle’s assertion that the Judeo-Christian God is made of/from/by stories.

And so I sit here, and I read these poems. I get up, I pad, barefoot, through the house, and I stand at the back door and gaze up at the moon, smile at the stars. I let the chilly night air caress my face, and tickle my toes, and then I step backwards and slide the door shut.

We think we are made of flesh and blood and bone, and maybe we are, but we’re more, too.

We are stories and songs.
We are the stuff of stars.


Ornamental 2013

When I was a very young child, one of my favorite record albums was the Marlo Thomas creation, “Free to Be…You and Me.”

I loved many of the songs and stories, and can still quote the version of “Atalanta” that she and Alan Alda performed, but the song that I’ve always really connected with is “Glad to Have a Friend Like You.”

There’s a lyric in that song that goes like this:

Pearl told Earl that they could do a secret code
Earl told Pearl there was free ice-cream when it snowed
So they sent funny letters that contained myst’ry messages
And nobody knew just how they made it
And they raised up the window and they scooped all the snow together
Put milk and sugar in and ate it

And except for the names, that could have been me and any number of my friends. The year we lived on 16th street in Golden, CO, Heather and Kerry and Ben and I would beg our parents to let us make maple syrup candy with the fresh snow, and we’d make up codes and ciphers, and we were in and out of each other’s houses and apartments, and shared beds the way six and seven year olds do.

The codes and ciphers were my favorite, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the children’s novel, Alvin’s Secret Code was a favorite, not just because the story (deciphering codes to find a lost treasure) was great fun, but because it actually taught you how to read the codes you found all around you. Of course, that was before bar codes on price tags, when SKU numbers actually meant things you could understand without a scanner, but still.

Later, when I encountered Sherlock Holmes for the first time, one of my favorite stories was “The Adventure of the Dancing Men,” because a code (really a cipher) was integral to the plot.

Cut to tonight. Our friend Ben (a different Ben), and I have spent the evening making cookies and working on the code that came with the first envelope of the “12 Days of Holiday Bullshit” trinket from Cards Against Humanity. Well, really I’ve been baking, and Ben has been decoding/deciphering.

But, you see, I’m pretty good at codes and ciphers after all the practice I had as a kid…so he spent a few hours working on it, but I looked at it, figured out one of the keywords, and solved it in about five minutes.

Yeah, I’m annoying like that sometimes.

Solving the code to read the message was fun, but the walk down memory lane that I got in the process was even better.

And if that other Ben, Benjamin Simon, born 8/15/1970, is out there somewhere, I hope he remembers me as fondly as I remember him.

Happy Holidailies.

No Santa today. Instead, the entire spread of ornaments, which, in the picture, look like mass of junk until you start to decode the specific shapes.

Sometimes You Cave, and Order Pizza

Not-Chocolate Santa

I woke up feeling kind of stuffy-headed today. In truth, I’ve been fighting a cold, on and off, for the better part of a week. Kind of halfway between a mild and mildly annoying cold, and a full-on sinus infection. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except I haven’t been listening to my body, drinking enough water, or remembering to drink Eco-Drink (I much prefer Zeal, but Eco-Drink is $20 for a month supply, and Zeal is significantly more), or sleeping enough.

So this entry is perfunctory, and I don’t want you to think that I’m whining, because I’m not. I’m not feeling well, it’s my fault, and I’ll deal, and one of the ways I’m dealing is by writing this post to tell you that I’m not writing a post.

How very meta, I know.

Instead of writing a post, I’ve got cuddly dogs and a stack of good books, and I’m considering either cold meds or a hot toddy. The latter would taste better, but the former would not require me to leave the bed where the cuddly dogs are.

Yeah, I know.

Early tonight I ‘dealt’ by canceling plans to make a lovely meatloaf, mashed potato, and buttered carrot dinner, and instead we got pizza (Pineapple and Pepperoni, if you must know.), because sometimes you just have to admit that you’re tired and crabby and don’t want to cook.

Sometimes you suck it up and deal, yes, but sometimes, you cave, and order pizza.

Happy Thursday.

Today’s Santa: He’s an ornament my mother gave me several years ago, and it’s hard to tell in the picture, but he LOOKS like foil wrapped around a chocolate Santa, only nicer. Every year, I have a brief flash of disappointment when I realize that there’s no chocolate inside, after all.

Bathtub Reading

Reading Santa

I read a lot. I mean A LOT. I may review one or two books a week, but I read a bunch more than that. The bulk of what I read is catalogued over at my book blog. Anyway, Rob did a “ten books that have stayed with you” thing over on Facebook, and since I’m tired and crabby and really wanna finish decorating my tree, I’m going to participate.

Again, these are in the order they occur to me. And I’m posting them without comment. Some are good literature, some are media tie-ins. All had something in them that has stuck in my brain.

  • The Eight, by Katherine Neville
  • Certain Women, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
  • A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
  • Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
  • Paris to the Moon, by Adam Gopnik
  • Mothers, by Jax Peter Lowell
  • Maiden Voyage, by Tania Aebi
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  • Outside Lies Magic, by John Stilgoe

It should be noted that these are not a TOP ten, or BEST ten, they’re just ten books that I go back to from time to time.

Honorable mentions go to Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg, and anything Keith R. A. DeCandido has ever written, especially his stuff within the Star Trek universe, but his original work as well, because he’s just so damned readable, and because he always has these details that seem insignificant until you realize that they make his characters sing. Seriously, go read Dragon Precinct (and its sequels) because they’re just AWESOME.

So, why is this called “Bathtub Reading”? Because my measure of how much I adore a book is how long I’m willing to stay in the bath with it. Really good, gripping, compelling writing leaves me cold and pruney. Books that are just okay don’t cause me to linger that long.

Today’s Santa: A Santa ornament with a book (perhaps the book of Naughty and Nice Names?) seemed an obvious choice for this post. He’s very heavy. Ceramic. Hand painted.

The Love/Hate of Holiday Rescue Memes

Homeless Pooch

I’m not using a cute Santa picture tonight, even though my collection probably seems endless to people who don’t know me (and possibly to a few who do). Instead, I want to draw your attention to the photo in this post. I stole it from Facebook, and I think it’s lovely. A hopeful dog face, a Santa hat, a wistful wish for a home.

As an animal lover, a dog person, the human “mother” to three fur-kids and foster-mom to a fourth (not including my own former pets who have gone to the rainbow bridge, and the other fosters who have passed through my home, usually to forever homes of their own), this image makes me want to adopt one more, or hug my own pups super tightly, or buy bones for the entire shelter.

But, as an animal lover, a dog person, etc., it also makes me a little bit angry, for two distinct reasons.

First, it makes those of us who work in rescue sound like hypocrites.

On the one hand, we’re urging people to adopt homeless dogs and cats so they won’t have to be stuck in shelters, or worse, in line for euthanization, over the holidays, holidays, I might add, that they neither understand nor appreciate.

On the other hand, we’re reminding people left and right that puppies and kittens should never be adopted, purchased, or otherwise acquired as gifts. We know, of course, that there’s a difference between parents bringing home a longed-for puppy or kitten, or adult dog or cat, on Christmas Eve, and people buying or adopting animals for other people (boyfriends, girlfriends, etc.) but it’s still a mixed message, especially since every reputable trainer will tell you that the best time to add a pet to your home is when your life is at its most normal, most mundane – a time the holidays are most assuredly NOT.

The other reason I hate images like this is the same reason I dislike the annual holiday drives to remember homeless people, children in need, or soldiers who are deployed overseas. It’s not that I don’t believe these people should be remembered or cared for. I’m a strong believer in supporting those in need (whether it’s emotional or physical need), and my tax returns will prove it.

It’s that we seem to think of them ONLY at the holidays. But what about in January, when our goodwill has been replaced by the grudging return to work and school? What about in July when the summer sun is baking those homeless people?

It’s the same with shelter pets. Of course I don’t want any animal to spend winter in a kennel without a family of his or her own, but that need doesn’t end when the holidays do. It’s ongoing. It will continue to exist as long as we humans refuse to spay and neuter our pets, as long as we purchase pets from retail stores, as long as we treat them as disposable objects to be cast off when they are old, or ill, or grow too big to be ‘cute,’ or become bored, destructive, or aggressive.

There’s another meme going around Facebook, one that suggests that there should be a pound where pets could send bad owners. That meme, I’m completely behind.

As for holiday pet drives…if you’re looking for a pet, consider an adult dog or cat from a shelter or rescue. Many rescue groups are having pet adoption fairs this weekend, not because we’re pushing pets as presents, but because the colder the weather gets, the more lost and unwanted animals show up at shelters that are already overstuffed.

If you aren’t ready to commit to the care of an animal, donate time to a local shelter – help them with social media, with taking pictures of the animals, etc. Donate blankets or pop by CostCo and get a couple huge bags of food, and donate that. Maybe consider fostering a pet – you aren’t responsible for the expenses, then.

This message is approved by Maximus (adopted Feb, 2009), Perry (adopted March, 2009), Teddy (adopted Feb 2013), and Madison the foster pooch, who is available for adoption. For more info, check out her Petfinder profile.

Do Androids Dream…

Birdhouse Santa

While I’ve been enjoying the new(ish) series “Almost Human,” for some reason, I can never remember the correct title. Most weeks, I just refer to it as, “the show with Karl Urban,” which, while accurate isn’t really title-worthy.

Tonight, as we were getting ready to bring dinner to the living room, Fuzzy, Ben (our houseguest) and I were talking about what to watch, and I said, “Nearly Human.” They corrected me, but also pointed out that my title wasn’t exactly inappropriate.

Of course, this led me to start riffing on other title options. I came up with:
No Ordinary Crimefighters
The Six Million Dollar Police Partners
The Bionic Cops
Bicentennial Cops
and, my personal favorite
Do Android Cops Dream of Electric Perps?

So, with apologies to Philip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, and many other people I’m not bothering to name, this concludes today’s entry for Holidailies entry.

Except for this:
Today’s Santa: I don’t remember where I bought this one. It might have been a gift. I like him because he sort of has that wild and wooly feel.