Sunday, December 18, 2011

Friday Frothingslosh Fellowship...

Well well well, this has been quite the week this has. Yes sir and mam up here in The Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea we've been busy as one armed wallpaper hangers. Ya know, now that we're in our middling years, you think we would figure out that pretty much this time each and every year, we go from manic to spastic to exhausted? And usually there's one point in particular where it all goes straight to wherever and what are these hand baskets for?

This week was *that* moment, and it certainly was? The week started
out innocently enough, but then everything kinda piled up on top of us, all at once? We start the week with a sparkling clean house, and a tidy interior. Somehow, as soon as the tree goes up, the annual Christmas devastation begins? Soon, there's wrapping paper and bows, boxes and gifts all strewn about the place in a willy nilly fashion with no further thought to organization, much less fire safety. It looks like the wrapping department at Macy's suddenly jettisoned their entire workload in our living, family and kitchen rooms? But that's really not the worst of it as we usually do sort and wrap together, and soon enough the house looks quite festive and fun.

On Wednesday, however, we drive about two and a half hours downstate for a funeral of a close family friend's mother. Then luncheon after the funeral, stop for shopping quickly, and onto one of their homes for some social times. Also, as the family rarely gets all the kids together, they ask me to take some pictures. Mind you, I really don't care for doing family photos and portraits, but how can I say no? So really a good time (funeral notwithstanding) and we get back home late Wednesday evening.

Thursday we make a bit of progress on the gift front, even thought we have far more boxes set upon out front stoop than under the tree. We are also on-call with Red Cross as local Disaster Action Team volunteers, and guess who calls? Aye yup, right around 5pm the phone rings and guess who it was? So Barb and I don our RC shirts and vests, and go see what we can do to help. When we arrived at the scene, it was a single family dwelling fire, and the house, along with all of the contents, was completely destroyed! The family was at a regional hospital as two of the children has suffered minor inhalation and minor burns. So we provided the volunteer fire department with water, Gatorade, cookies and coffee for awhile. I also obtained the owner's name and phone number, and left a message. After about two hours there, we come clumping home through the very cold rain and wind. We stopped in our town at the local watering hole and had a quick dinner, then home again, yay. So after we clamber into our jammies and watch a bit of tv, guess what? Aye yup, the phone rings again (?!) and the home owner had called RC again and was now requesting to meet with someone. At this point it's half past ten, and we re just about to think of turning in, alas. So, once again we clamber into our RC togs, and drive out to meet with him. Happily we were able to provide some much needed money to assist in his recovery plans. He has a family of six there, and Red Cross helped him with the cost of food, and clothing for the next two days. Since he had a place to stay we didn't need to put the family in a motel. But doing all that takes paperwork, which takes time, which means we didn't get back home till 1:30am. Ah well, we helped someone in a real and physical manner, and so polished our halos a bit.

Thence comes Friday in all it's glory and splendor. We did sleep in a bit, but knew we needed to start sorting thru the gifts and doing the wrapping. so we get up and get going. And, as I'm wrapping, I'm *also* multitasking. (just had to be, huh?) I needed to burn 50 dvd's of a movie that we made for the Youth Christmas Play at Church. (another very long story for a different blog) At about 1pm I was outside and a silver van sweeps up our driveway. It parks, and then four guys proceed to exit the vehicle, all dressed in typical Up North style (jeans, flannel shirts, hunting jackets, etc) and they merrily, and loudly proclaim that they were all there to drink beer with me as each one raises a cooler of beer to show me? Huh?! What?! We had met the guys last September, at a social event in the nearby village. After the event (The Other Bridge Walk) we had all finished by hoisting a few cold ones together, and (of course) invited each other to come around "anytime" and we'd do it again. So for the first time since September, these guys decided that *now* was the time to come see Jamie? Oh... my... gawd... and yup, this is *that* moment when it all fell apart. They really are a great group of guys, and it was nice to see them... but did they have to do this now? Apparently so. Seems they had been drinking since about 11am, and finally got around to taking the adventure on the road? Nooooo.... oh yeah. They weren't sloppy or sloshy drunks, and they did behave well, and were simply having a good time, and a pub crawl. So... we finally got rid of them about two and a half hours later. *giggle*

Then, that evening we had a Solstice Party to attend at Barb's sister and husband's place, which featured a buffet done by a chef friend of theirs. Very swank, lots of good food and more drinks, and great people. We manage to make it home relatively unscathed. Which leads to Saturday, which finds us still wrapping, and burning and such... and then yet another Solstice Party that night, at one of the Friday Frothingslosh Fellowship friends. Less swank, better fun, more food and drinks. This time the specialty was eggnog. Family recipe that went way back, and is aged for a week before serving. This stuff is so smooth and mellow you don't taste the alcohol (brandy and bourbon) until about your third glass, and then it's too late! Oh did I mention that when we got home I needed to design and print out labels for the dvd's? Oh and did I forget to mention that today at Church, not only was the movie shown (in place of the sermon, yay) but that I was the liturgist? Yeah... *that* moment... *giggles*

Well, Church goes off well enough, everyone loved the Christmas Movie (which Barb pretty much did all the production for, it was great!), and I only lost my place one time? On the way home, we chat about how we really are kinda tired of the constant partying and need to get stuff done... yeah right. When we get home we call the next On Call couple for Red Cross to make arrangements for delivery of all the RC "stuff" that goes with being on call. And yup, you guessed it, they invited us over for a glass of wine! So much for that afternoon nap!

It's all good though, we had a busy week, we really did wrap a few gifts, and we did some good. So really, even though sleep deprived, we're happy to have the love of good friends, and the joy of the season. And so it's our wish to each of you that get to do some good, and spread some joy! Merry Christmas to all...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Time To Give Thanks

Well, in our annual trip around the sun, the planet Urth has inevitably returned to almost the same spot as last year, when we Americans take a day to give thanks. Granted the idea of Thanksgiving is nothing new, nor uniquely American, but a tradition that we follow enthusiastically. And since the Hundred Acre Woods By The Inland Sea is firmly contained within the borders of this country, our own home's traditions have been formed by the cultural milieu of being stateside since inception. Yet, I find that as I get to know, and befriend, more good people from all over this globe, the real ideas and main points, are really quite universal in reach.

And much like America, our personal Thanksgiving tradition has changed over the years, and been updated, or even upgraded, as we go along. So just where did this mighty tradition really originate?  After all, "Turkey Day" as it's known colloquially, had to  start somewhen? As a much younger lad, in school, we were all fed the notion that during Autumn, the locals (Indigenous People, although we always called them Indians. Wouldn't old Chris Columbus be proud?) brought turkeys to the Pilgrims. As soon as Chief Woo Hoo arrived with the baked birds, then all the Pilgrims and Indians sat down at one really, really, really long table, in the yard, and proceeded to pig out. Or would that be poultry out? Later they all played touch football, and the Pilgrims cheated to win. (oh wait...)

In the pictures that accompanied the text, I always wondered how an Indian would walk through the woods with an already baked turkey sitting atop a silver platter, with a bounteous variety of fruits and veggies surrounding the bird?  And how come each and every Indian looked like they were clones of each other? And what's with the feather that all the guys wore in their hair? Suffice it to say that I really was the child that just had to ask "why"! Happily my teachers mostly put up with me. Mostly.

Ahhh... what a wonderful myth. So warm and cozy. Too bad it's not true. The real first Thanksgiving was a much more disparate event. Seems the Puritans and the other Pilgrims didn't get along at all. In fact, they argued and fought so much about the event itself, that it was finally decided that each family  would enjoy a dinner in their own home. If there were any Indians around, they were not invited as guests, and probably just stood on a nearby hill to look and laugh at the new neighbors.

So we Fast Forward to my little corner of this planet, in this time zone, and just what do we get? This year, we get a house burgeoning with families, dogs, food, laughter and love. Both sons, with families and dogs arrived Wednesday evening. Older SuperSon DJ, and WunderWife Katie rolled up in the Soccer Wagon (MiniVan ~ Maxi fun) and took the requisite three and a half hours to unload their two children, and then all "that stuff" they need for a quick trip to GranMa's and GranPa's house. As soon as GranDotr dearest is released from the prison like setting of her  The World Will End And I will Survive Child Safety Seat (she's in her Terrible Two's now... has been since birth really) she flies out the door of the van, and with all the unmitigated joy and volume that only a toddler can muster, screams for our dog, Ace, at the top of her lungs. Having said animal in her sights is reason enough to let the chase begin! Then BabyGrant gets unloaded, and in his six month old phase he's a happy caterpillar, eating, pooping, and burbling away merrily at Life. Soon WonderSon Rob and SuperWomanWife Megan pull up, with their dog, and now it's a party.

So yes, we had a full house! Happily, we own a farmhouse next door, that we have remodeled to accommodate Summer Vacation Renters, s well as Holiday Family Members and guests. This is probably the only reason Barb and I still have eardrums, or some shred of sanity? Part of the beauty of having the house next door is that when anyone wished to nap, or shower, or read a book, they are not constrained by the activity at Turkey Central over here. It means that you really can find a quiet corner somewhere and take a break from the kitchen shenanigans, constant conversation, tv, toddler tantrums, and doggy chases. And believe me, everyone appreciate a nice quiet moment here and there!

But back at Turkey Central, that's where the action is! Family members milling about, strolling through the kitchen, flopping on the couch, playing with the GrandKids, noshing, and simply being under the same roof and enjoying each other. I also need give some wonderful props here as the kids really did a great job of helping in the kitchen! Each couple picked a meal to be in charge of, and made a side dish for the feast! This was thier own idea, and Barb and I couldn't have been more happy or proud! My favorite was when Megan decided that for her meal, we all needed to go out to Fusions (Asian food, very yummy!) for dinner! It's her (and mine) fave eatery up here, and (by her own admission) she really doesn't cook. Although she can frost the heck out of a cupcake, and no longer uses the smoke detector as a timer to boil water?

Barb got smart this year too as she (yes with my help) prepped as much as we could beforehand. Everything seemed to be going well, but the bird was taking for fracking ever? I know we thawed it properly, and we had all the side dishes lined up and ready to go go go! Well our gobbler took an additional two hours, but seems that's just another part of the whole tradition? Next year we're thinking of cooking the bird a day ahead to be done with it? As I was scooping the stuffing out of the bird, I discovered just what went wrong with our well planned effort. Apparently, leaving the neck inside the bird, even after having removed the boggy o' bits, interferes with cooking time? Who'da thunk?!  But in the end, it just delayed our dinner, and in the meanwhile we each grazed on snacky stuff and it was just fine!

So yes, GranDotr dearest did her part by having as many tantrums as possible, and sometimes would pitch such a hissy fit that only the dogs could hear her. And sure, one of the dog's tail did sweep an end table clean of those half empty (empty or full, never really know for sure) drinks and plates, and yes the house was a complete Disaster Area with FEMA asking if we needed assistance. At one point, we decided that Grandotr was truly a Democrat (to the sheer horror of her staunchily Republican parents) as she was "redistributing the wealth" of her toy box, and also of Ace's toy box, to far ends of the family room. Apparently the family room is the 1%?! And yeah, at the end of one meal, she was helicoptering around the table, basically in Helen Keller fashion, to grab bites from each plate. So what does she do when she gets to the end of line at my plate? Aye yup, that's where she spits all those bites back up! This brings much sudden laughter, and my only comment was along the lines that I'm glad was done anyway! ;)

And GranSon is such a delight too! As an earnest six month old lad, he is in the eat, poop, be cute phase of life. And he does it quite well too! Barb has remarked that every time I come into the room, he looks for me, and then lights up. He smiles and burbles merrily, and when you hold him, you just know that life really is good! And it has befallen to me to teach him how to burp. Seems that he just wouldn't get a good one off unless he's in my arms? Well, always go to an expert when you wish to learn is my motto!

As for the rest of it, sure we watched football, the girls went shopping, everyone (except Barb and I) napped, and later dessert was phenomenal! (Pumpkin Lust Dessert... bye bye good old pie). As Americans, I think we forget just how much we have to be truly thankful for? We let our careers, or our children, or our parents, or pets, or whatever, get in our way of realizing that this is where the good stuff is! This moment, this now, this reality, this place... it's where our hearts and our minds come together to simply be with those we love. That is the basis of my Thanksgiving, and I hope you find something with Love to give Thanks for as well!