Saturday, December 26, 2009

And Now For a Dose of the Post-Holiday Grumpies

I am tired.

I am tired of trying to take care of everything and do everything for everybody and it not being good enough.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snapping Things Right Back Into Perspective

This morning, after an old high school friend commented on something on my Facebook wall, I thought to myself, "I really should find L. I'm sure she's on Facebook."

For years, L was the only person from high school with whom I kept any contact. It's been pretty much Christmas cards for about six or seven years now, but still. Facebook has changed that a little, and I am in contact with a couple more people there. I last saw L about 10 years ago when C was maybe two and her C was just shy of two - we've talked a couple times since then.

Anyway, I searched this morning on L's married name. Nothing. Hmm. Her C is 13, too, and likely has an account, I thought. I'll try to find her through him. So I put in her C's name.

He died last week. He committed suicide.

I cannot fathom this. I can't.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

How To Get Yourself Removed From My Holiday Baking Recipient List

Each year at the holidays I make stollen, the German Christmas bread. There's a whole back story to how the yearly making of the stollen came about, my childhood memories of stollen, why I rarely eat it myself, and all that. But I'll save that for another time. This story starts with my version of the bread being pretty decent and a family in town that has been receiving it for almost 10 years - yeah, even before we moved to this town, they were getting it. My husband and the husband in that family have known each other almost 30 years.

Last year, the wife in this family - let's call her SS - called in early December and said she wanted to learn how to make stollen herself. Could she come over on one of my baking days to learn? Flattered, I said yes, and we set a time a couple Saturdays away.

The Wednesday before our baking date, SS emails me and says she read something about some versions of stollen having a filling of marzipan, confirmed this with her German mother-in-law, and she really likes marzipan, and could she bring some over and we could try it?

I was a little surprised. Yes, I know some versions have marzipan - regular almond paste, actually - but I prefer the version without. I hemmed and hawed and finally said, sure. I figured that would be "their" loaf then. I considered it amusing at the time, and tried to be open.

The next day, SS emails me that she is unable to find marzipan, and oh well. I do not tell her almond paste can be substituted.

On the Saturday at the appointed time, SS shows up - with almond paste.

We get to baking. While I'm trying to talk to her about some details of the bread ingredients and process, it becomes clear that she's not really interested in that. She opens a bottle of wine, talks about other things and watches me. Then she lets it slip that she just wants to be sure that our family's yearly gift to her family is how she prefers it: with almond paste in the middle. Apparently she didn't "just" hear about marzipan being in stollen. She's loose enough with her lips to reveal that she's been plotting this for some time.

When, after several hours of (me) mixing and kneading, and rising, we - no, I - finally form the loafs, I roll out the almond paste and put it in one loaf. She keeps asking if I want to put some in the others. I decline. I tell her I'm not a big almond paste fan (childhood associations, actually) and I prefer the stollen without. She keeps asking if I am sure. Yes, I am. Really sure? Because she's sure it's better this way. Yup, sure.

She leaves shortly after, with a copy of the recipe in hand. I deliver the almond paste filled loaf to them the next day. They like it, great.

I forgot about all that in the intervening year.

This morning I received an email from SS. She asked to come over again when I am making stollen so she can be sure almond paste gets into "her" loaf.

This family is officially off the stollen recipient list. I'll email her the recipe again and offer suggestions on where to find specific ingredients (finding good quality diced candied citron is a bitch!), but I will not make it for them again.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


My sister called yesterday. She asked if we'd ever been to Whistler, British Columbia. We have been a couple times - though not in almost a decade - thanks to frequent flier miles and mooching of a friend's accommodations. And fewer children and fewer demands. It was wonderful. I'd love to go back some day.

My sister wanted to know if I thought it would be worth it for her to try to get her family there for Christmas. Was the skiing really good? Is the village nice? I said it would be nice, told her a few things about it and hung up. (I also winced as I know it's going to be extremely expensive as it's the run up to the winter Olympics there in February.)

And waited for the follow up phone call from my nephew.

Sure enough, my 16 year old nephew called a couple hours later. He called to try to urge our family to meet them in Whistler for Christmas.

A sweet idea, yes, but it shows the absolute cluelessness of my sister and her family. This scenario happens frequently. She calls talking about some vacation she's thinking of taking, then my nephew (it's been successive nephews over the years) calls to try to get our family to come, too. I can always hear my sister in the background urging the nephew on. It's always late notice. And it's always really, really expensive.

My sister seems to live in an alternate universe. She spends 2-3 months a year "on vacation." Whether it's California (at least 4 weeks a year are spent in Del Mar), abroad (Peru, Austria), skiing (Telluride, Park City), visiting in-laws (Texas), San Francisco or Vegas for long weekends, or somewhere else in the US (2-3 weeks a year someplace "new" - last summer it was a cruise), she and her family are often getting ready to go *somewhere*. Great for them. In her world, this is "normal."

It's nice that she wants to include our family, but she goes about it in a completely unfair way, and without any understanding of the way most people live. She has my nephew call me or - worse - call C. Then, when I have to say no, I get made out to be the bad guy by my own child.

I can't count the number of times I've had to sit down C and explain work schedules and commitments and family budgets - and different tax brackets. Something that, apparently, does not affect my sister and nephew. Each time, C says he understands, but I can see he still thinks I am just "no fun."

At the same time, after I say no, my nephew and sister take it as a personal insult and get all huffy and terse. While it's true that I don't want to spend my hard earned vacation time with them (I love them, but given how I have described my sister before, I think you understand), it's also true that we plain can't afford their kinds of vacations.

I've asked my sister before to please stop doing this: using her son in this way and not respecting that we live a very different life. She doesn't, of course, thus contributing to the already fucked up family dynamic.

Merry, merry, and all that.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


A couple weeks ago, M asked when we were going to go to church again. He's asked before.. I gave him kind of a vague answer, but this time, that wouldn't do. He really wanted to know.

I kinda quizzed him about why he wanted to go and where. He said it was going to be Advent soon and he really likes Advent. (What 10 year old talks about Advent like that? This is not the first time I've considered he might be a priest when he grows up. Or an engineer. I wonder what his love of show tunes means about his other attributes?) And he understood we wouldn't go to the old church. Could we go to that other one a couple towns away, where me and his dad know the rector?

I said we'd find a time. But I'd really been enjoying my Sunday mornings in pajamas.

This weekend turned out to be as good a time as any. My husband is away (he rarely goes/went to church), and C agreed to hang out with S for the morning, so it could be just me and M. (Have I mentioned having a kid old enough to look after the younger kids is just lovely?)

We get there and people are friendlier than they've been in a long time at our old church. Within a couple minutes, M had a compliment on the shirt he was wearing and I had two on what a great color my coat is for me (slightly muted turquoise velvet). We find a pew, and just as I am about to sit down, we see.. Fr. M! The former rector of our old church, the one who's retirement from active ministry set off this whole chain of events at the old place. He gave me a big, warm hug, and an equally warm hug for M.

THAT is what has been missing from the old church! That pure warmth.

Fr. M is not the main priest at this church, though. Fr. G, the priest who did our premarriage counseling way back when in another state. Fr. M is just a regular assistant when not filling in for vacationing priests at other churches in the area.

The service itself was fine - no, very nice. Thoughtful sermon. People were warm. There were parts of the service I've been missing, some bits I've forgotten (I used to be able to NOT crack the Book of Common Prayer and do it all from memory). Seeing Fr. M was lovely, seeing Fr. G was lovely, seeing K, Fr. M's wife was lovely, too. It was a very nice morning.

And I am not at all ready to go back to church regularly. I'm not there yet. I feel okay about going every once in a while, especially if M needs it. But no more. I'm still too suspicious of orgnized religion at this point.

When I left Christian Science (almost 30 years ago!), it took years for me to sort out the difference between institution and faith. It took time for me to figure out that I did still believe in God even though I didn't believe in the Christian Science church. I've been with this denomination for more than 20 years now, and while I feel some comfort in the familiarity of the service, the institution is secondary to my belief in God. Enjoying my Sunday mornings in pajamas doesn't mean I wasn't thinking about faith and God and looking for ways to be a better person or to give more back to my community; it just didn't happen to do it within a specific four walls with a saint's name out front.

It's appropriate, I guess, that even though I'm not ready to go to any church regularly, that going back to any church for the first time since that whole fiasco happened during Advent. It's a beginning, just as the season of Advent is a beginning. I just think it's going to be a long, long while before I feel comfortable being part of a church again.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


That would be me.

I'm all out of energy. It seems it left around the the daylight/standard time switch in early November. I usually have a downturn at this time of year, but it's a bit worse this year. The near constant clouds haven't helped (one sunny day out of the last eight or so). It feels like a real slog to December 21 when I'll know there really will be more light each day.

As people have talked about gratitude in the last week or so, I've winced. I'm an extremely fortunate person - I know I am! - and feel a lot of gratitude in my head - I have MUCH for which to be thankful - but my gut feels somewhat cynical or just plain blah. I then feel guilty for that lack of sentiment.

I feel like I've had to battle with myself to get the basics done. Laundry goes unfolded, if it gets done at all. Dust bunnies go rolling by.

I am eating well, though, and exercising. I'm doing the annual holiday challenge on the rowing machine (which requires some serious meters six days a week). I've kept up my regular walks with the dog and the kids are getting to all their things. I'm making time to try to knit some things (small things - no big projects) and plan our usual holiday stuff, including baking. I've been putting on the holiday music and that's been nice. I've found a sitter for a couple nights and have gone out with the hubby. I've had some good snuggle time with S. M, too. And the kitties.

I haven't felt like taking pictures at all. My effort to take a picture everyday has really failed in November. I'd missed a couple days before now, but the last few weeks it's just felt, "Eh." I'm just not seeing things the same way.

I'd like to find the time to do some problem solving with my printmaking. The prints I've done have gunked up in the shadows too quickly. I'm sure there's a solutions, but I don't feel like I have the brain power to find it or hear it right now - or the time to experiment. I'd hoped to have some prints done by the holidays for a couple of gifts, but right now that doesn't look like it will happen.

There were more book edits and some book politics to deal with. Finally, though, an editor with some real communication skills - I've only had to sell half my soul in the editing process. Then last night one more bit of book politics (too many cooks in that kitchen at this point), and I don't know how it will play out. I've felt slightly bullied at some points. Will it never end? If this is writing a book, I don't ever want to do it again.

Have I mentioned the psychos in town over the school time change are still psycho? They are. I continue to be stunned at how many people want to blame their parenting choices (or lack thereof) on the schools, how much they are blaming on the time change that has nothing to do with it at all. Excuse me, but you do not negotiate with a 9 year old about their bed time, then yell at the superintendent about how "hard" it is to do that. You, as a parent, declare it and follow through.

My friend has asked me, again, to run for school committee. No way.

I know much of this will pass after the solstice. It always does.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. I'll be curled up under the covers until the 21st.