Monday, November 22, 2010

I Fought The Lights, And The Lights Won

It was a few days after Christmas and we were shopping. There was a 90% off sale on Christmas trees. A pre-lit tree that was $199.99 was now $19.99. Are you kidding me? I had spent that much on Christmas lights alone THIS season! I had to get it. And it was tall and trim. The kind of tree that you don't have to move the recliner into your daughter's bedroom for. This tree was going to be my holiday treat to myself. So many had told me about these pre-lit things. Life changing. Saved our marriage. Ok, maybe not, but pretty close. I couldn't wait for next year.

Next Christmas came and I happily hauled the tree up from the basement. This is going to be fantastic I announced to my family. This will alter our lives forever. No more stressing over burnt out lights. No more time wasted switching out light bulbs and manipulating cords. No more extension cords. Life is good. The tree went up so easily. Beautiful lights. We played carols while decorating. Scott and I tucked Gracie in for the night and retired to the living room to enjoy the new tree. What a lovely sight. Our fireplace was warm and we were sipping our cafe mocha. Really, could life be much better? And then it happened. A row of lights went out. I rubbed my eyes to see if I could possibly be wrong. First of all, the instructions read, "if one light bulb should go out the rest will remain lit." And if it was a fuse... Well, we addressed that immediately. Changed the fuse. No go on the illumination front. What the heck?! A few little wiggles of the cord and it was back on. And then off. And so on and so on. Sorry to say I let this pre-lit nightmare consume me.

Really? So these pre-lit jobs are supposed to be the greatest, huh? To make a long story short I ended up buying multiple extra light strands and supplementing the already lit tree. I spent about as much as I did for the tree. And at that end of the season? I cut all of the pre-lit strings off of the tree because I still liked the height and shape of the tree. This only took three hours. Yes, I am a stubborn Norwegian. Those lights are fastened on with these plastic thing-a-ma-jigs that NASA should invest in. There would never be an issue of missing tiles. This year we start fresh with lights and I won't let them get the best of me. I am off to purchase. Hopefully this is it for a long, long time. This year I am going to win the Christmas light struggle. May your holiday season be bright. And not blink, or blow a fuse...

©2010 Ann M. De Broux

Sunday, November 21, 2010

'Tis The Season To Simply Enjoy

Close your eyes. Come on play along here. I want you to think back to Christmases past. Find in your memory the things that really transport you to feeling in the holiday spirit. What did you come up with? Is it family or friends? The sight of Christmas lights? Caroling? Food smells? Tinsel in your hair? Santa accidentally punching his fist through your living room window? Ok, that one needs a little back story. I was probably six and that means my sister was two. Our parents and grandparents had made arrangements for a local man to dress up as Santa and deliver our gifts to us on Christmas Eve. Santa decided to knock on the window of our house and wave. Well, there was ice beneath the window and this plan went sour. Santa slipped and instead of knocking his fist came crashing through the window. Scared us all, but most especially my sister. Poor thing. She hasn't been the same around Santa since. In fact she still takes my daughter to see Santa every year and has been know to break out in a sweat at the sight of the man in red.

Whatever your holiday memory is, I would bet that it doesn't have to do with an actual gift that you received. If it did, it's ok. I'm not judging. But most of us think of the sights, the sounds and the people that we love. So why is there so much effort given to the other stuff? I heard a story once that made a huge impact in my life. A lady who was a perfectionist wanted to get the Christmas lights up on her house. It was a beautiful day and her husband and son didn't want to help, they wanted to play a game of football at the neighborhood park. She was determined and got the ladder out herself. Things were going well until she ran out of ladder. She thought I can do this and reached a little too far. She fell and ended up breaking both arms. She was recovering well, but still was a taskmaster. She wanted things done the way they always had been. But the husband and son refused. There were cards to write and decorations to put up and food to prepare. She kindly reminded the men that at this time of year she averaged only five to six hours of sleep a night because of all of the things that she had to check off of her list. Her husband sat her down one evening and said that her job was to heal and he would take care of the rest---but on his terms.

The woman bit her lip and tried. When December 22nd rolled around she couldn't stand it anymore. Please get the tree she pleaded! Please pick up the turkey and the ham! Please go to the mall! There are so many things to do. Be patient the husband said. It was now December 24th. The family woke up and the son made a great breakfast. Off to do errands the men went. They came home an hour before the rest of the family was to arrive. In they brought the tree. It was free the husband said. There was actually a sign at the tree lot that read "Free and Merry Christmas." The woman said the ornaments and lights are in the attic. The son said, we've got that covered. Out of his coat pocket he pulled two boxes of pink lights. They were the only color left at the local drug store. Up went the tree with pink lights. What about gifts? Oh, we have that covered, too. The husband pulled out a dozen gift cards for the gas station up the road. He placed them all on the branches of the tree. The doorbell rang and the company arrived. A few minutes later the doorbell rang again. Takeout Chinese food had been delivered.
The woman later said that this was the best Christmas she ever had and they now repeat this last minute Christmas every year.

I still believe in gift giving. And Christmas lights and tree decorating. I still enjoy the foods that are prepared at holiday time. But I really think we all need to take a little time out to remember that we can't do it all. Most of us don't want to do it all. We get caught up in the stress of buying too many gifts. Even extra gifts just in case! I know someone who buys multiples of a generic gift every year. This person wraps the gift and keeps several in a closet in her house and a few in her trunk. She's always ready just in case someone gives her a gift and she hasn't gotten them one. It's ok that I tell you this, I checked with her! I dislike the Christmas card writing. I have a rule set only for myself. I only send to out of town friends and family that I don't see often. And I'm done with sending a card to someone just because they sent me one. I try to give gifts of meaning and try to make most of them consumable.

It is a season to relax and not to stress. It is the season to make memories. The season to laugh and spend time with those we love. And yes it's the season for my sister to fear seeing the big guy in red!

©2010 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, November 15, 2010

Simply Nuts

As promised, here I am on Monday with another post. I really believe in keeping promises. I will go to absurd lengths to keep promises because they are that important to me. If I say I will be somewhere, I am. If I say I will do something, I will. That's what you get from me. I'm a bit of a nut that way. There are other ways that I am a nut, too. Believe me.

Have you ever tried to remember a name or a word and it will not come to you? Or you've misplaced something? I have. And I can't just let this go. I'm tenacious. Or maybe stubborn is more like it. Maybe it's the Norwegian in me. No, maybe the German. Here nor there I get it from both sides! I can't let it go. I will think about it all day long. This remembering (or lack there of) will consume me. I will let no other thoughts into my probing mind. People will tell me, let it go. As soon as you stop thinking about what you forgot you'll remember it. You will let a new thought or trigger into your mind and you will remember. Yeah, right? I have pondered something so long that I have even let it occupy my dreams. My husband can tell you how much he appreciates it when I finally remember something in the middle of the night and warrant it important enough to wake him up and share. Not so much.

So the other day, this happened to me. I was crazy out of my mind. Could barely function. I couldn't stop trying to remember a person's name. I had to call her. What was I going to do? I don't even have her name to look her up. This is important. I went through all of the letters of the alphabet. No help. I tried to picture her nametag at our last meeting. No go there either. Practiced some breathing exercises. That didn't work. Went through the recycling bin. Yuck. That needs to be cleaned out. I digress. Couldn't find the piece of paper with her name on it. Tossed cushions on furniture. I checked pockets. And then purses. Aha! I switched purses in the past week. There it was. Once lost, now found after a good five hours of fretting. I called her and acted as though my day had gone well. What she doesn't know won't hurt her.

And here's the thing. I'm actually quite organized. But every once in a while I get a personal reminder that I certainly can do better. I now have this person's name in my phone. I should be set. Unless of course I lose my phone...

©2010 Ann M. De Broux

Monday, November 8, 2010

Commercial Time

Me again. I have made a vow to myself and now to all of you. I will be posting each and every Monday from here on. At least until I run out of ideas and things to talk about. That's funny! Never gonna happen. See you next Monday!

Gotcha Day

A small friend of mine once greeted me with these words---"It's my gotcha day and we're going out to a Korean restaurant to celebrate!" Your what day? Gotcha day he said. It's not his birthday, it's the day that his adoptive family got him---hence his Gotcha Day! What a terrific day to celebrate, I said. I love adoption. My mom was adopted. I know several people who have adopted. These families are whole. They celebrate the fact that someone was missing and reached out to fill that vacancy in the family. Adoption is a beautiful thing.

Now I'm moving on to another kind of adoption. I am not comparing apples to oranges here. I want to talk about the adoption of animals. I am in no way equating the adoption of animals to the adoption of humans. Just wanted to clarify. There are some similarities, though. Our house and our family unit have been missing something since Chester died. I began secretly searching the internet for sheltie puppies. I even contacted a breeder and found out that a litter would be available around Christmas time. Perfect! No need to do any Christmas shopping for the family, I thought. I could already see the Christmas picture in my head. Gracie snuggling up with our new furry puppy. New town, new house, new dog. Then I started asking the difficult questions. How much? Yikes! Are you kidding me? That price was about eight hundred to twelve hundred dollars more than we had ever paid for a dog. Even if I skipped lattes and lunch ( I mean going out for lunch, silly) for the next two months I did not foresee this happening. I felt sad and a sense of relief as the same time. Maybe my dog days are over.

Then my husband had the brilliant idea to look at rescue dogs. Here we go. We contacted the woman who runs the organization and began a daily conversation. Lots of pictures, lots of heartbreaking stories. Who to choose? Scott and Gracie left the decision up to me. He had to work and she had school. I told them, I'm going for one, but may come home with more! They said that they trusted me. I thought, big mistake. I arrived at the sheltie rescue. Couldn't believe it. This is minutes from where we used to live in Appleton. Why didn't I know this when I lived here? Of course I didn't need or want another dog at that time. She started bringing out dogs for me to see. I was in love with everyone. This caused me great heartache. After seeing six dogs and falling for them all, I chose two. I chose a male dog named Bailey. He is such a lover. He spent his first year and a half in a chicken coop. He and I hit it off immediately. Then the inevitable happened. I chose another. Sweet Pea is her name. Health reasons caused her family to give her up.

So last Tuesday was gotcha day at our house. Two dogs were delivered to my house. It already feels like they have been here forever. We weren't trying to replace Chester. He and Winston just taught us what it feels like to have wonderful pets in our lives. And we knew that we had more love to give because of that. So some might say, are you nuts? Ms. Simplify, huh!? Remember, I have always said, if you love something, it's worth having.

©2010 Ann M. De Broux