Friday, December 10, 2010

(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.
~T.S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"


Can't let the holidays slip past without appreciating the most underrated skeezy but catchy "Christmas" song ever invented.

"Baby It's Cold Outside" plays on the Holiday Traditions XM radio station in my car pretty much every other hour by my estimation. The 6 hour drive we took recently included at least three different (but equally creepy) versions.

The song was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, he of Guys and Dolls fame, to sing with his wife at their "housewarming" party for a hotel (wonder why hotel warming never caught on. . . ). Legend has it his wife was charmed by the "our song" aspect until money grubbing hubby sold the rights five years later, at which point she was infuriated. This is the same guy who wrote the wartime song "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition" so probably not the quietest of households to begin with. Add to this the tidbit that first wife Lynn's friend Jo became the second Mrs. Loessner later that decade, and the romance of the song is seriously doomed.

Admittedly, 1944 Hollywood probably doesn't hear the lyrics the same way and the woman's question, "say what's in this drink?" is almost assuredly referring to some alcoholic cocktail the gent has served the lady in a swingin' martini glass instead of the possible roofied liquid in a paper cup that flashes through my mind when imagining the interplay.

But DUDE: "the answer is no" is pretty much where you need to just stop the bus, call the lady a cab, and try not to guilt her into the end of the world doom if you don't get some lovin' tonight.

Not to let her completely off the hook, since depending on the singer, you can hear all kinds of coy "no means yes" interpretations, but regardless of who sings it, I can't shake the borderline date-rape vibe. Just. . . skeezy.

Ok, so the bit in Elf with Will Farrell and Zooey Deschanel is probably the most homogenized, safe rendition around, which comes off being cute and naive even when she is naked in the shower, but we also don't get into the section of the song where Buddy the Elf would have to be making his move and talking about how delicious her lips look, either.

So, as a mom, I just need to go on record here: Sammi, if you're stuck trying to get home in a blizzard, the safest place to take shelter is NOT the place where the guy is trying to rock a smoking jacket, handing you drinks, and stoking the fireplace a little too aggressively (and why is there always a bear skin rug in my imagination?)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forgetting Pearl Harbor

I wonder if it will be my grandchildren's generation that only vaguely remembers 9/11/2001.

At the speed of society today, it might be my own kids who, in their status updates (which won't be status updates, but something I can't even imagine) mention the tragedy of the day without ever feeling its impact or spending more than a passing moment in consideration.

As I walked back to our offices on Sept. 11, having just watched the second tower collapse in disbelief on the only television available in the student commons (where hundreds of us huddled together), I said to my friend Lynne, this is our Pearl Harbor.

I was feeling for the first time the sheer terror of living in a world where 747s are now used a bombs, filled with civilian passengers who must have realized at the very end, only obliquely and in blind panic, that these hijackers weren't going to land the plane. I thought about those people a lot for weeks after that. I put myself in their place, had I been strapped into the plane with my kids between me as we hurtled lower and lower and grazed the tops of Manhattan buildings. What would we have been able to do but hold one another's hands, look into each other's eyes, and pray for it to be quick?

I think of the people on the 90th floors of the first tower who never had a chance to even consider their lives before they were gone. And all the humanity trapped above them who would.

And you see, in those moments I only began to understand the feeling that galvanized the nation after Pearl Harbor. It was only then that I tried to piece together how those men, so many of them teenagers, trapped on burning sinking ships in the harbor must've looked at one another, their shipmates and friends, in those last seconds.

And then it faded.

Instead of spending the next years watching almost every young man I know ship out for World War II, with only half of them coming home, I knew of a few men who went to Iraq and Afghanistan, and none who died.

The reality is 9/11 was little like Pearl Harbor.

3000 people lost their lives in the attack on 9/11, which is more than the 2400 killed on this day 69 years ago.

But the most liberal estimates of those killed in the War on Terror exceed one million people.

Let that sink in for a minute. A million lives.

The death toll from WWII, also using the most liberal estimates?


This is the day we are supposed to remember the catalyst, the terrible day when the world changed.

But that generation who buried half their town's sons has mostly gone on to join them in the quiet cemeteries of faded headstones.

And we forget.

And even when we try to remember, there just isn't a way to become that society who listened raptly to the one news outlet on the radio, who waited weeks for letters, who saw pictures of the destruction at Pearl Harbor only statically in grainy black and white pictures in the newspaper, and who waited agonizing months before receiving definitive word that their loved ones were indeed killed in the attack, or in all the other attacks half a world away.

Perhaps it was the slowness of information, of life even, that allowed them the ability to remember, to soak up the tragedy and embrace its sadness in a way that we cannot.

Today is the day that will live in infamy.

As will 9/11.

But not much infamy anymore.

And less and less as the years pass.

And we catch just a transient sense of what we are losing --

because there's the rub of remembrance and forgetting, of life and death.

So there will be a few parades today with the last men who knew those who died at Pearl Harbor by name, by face, by their own memories.

The rest of us will try, in our limited way, to appreciate what it means, even if that really means appreciating what has been lost to all of us and forever will be.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


We have a new holiday in our house. I was going to say it is much better than Festivus, but honestly, it involves putting up the outside Christmas lights, so the Airing of Grievances is still a part of it.

Bob and I, shocking though it might be, both have tempers. And detangling rats nests of Christmas lights, only to find multiple strands that are only half lighting, working out the mathematical formula that will allow 20 plugs to converge into one socket, hanging off of the ladder to space things EXACTLY right (because SOMEONE is a little anal about perfectly spaced lights) . . . It's not Feats of Strength, more like Feats of Impatience.

Things went okay with the window "snow" . . .

But after placing the roof lights exactly 12 inches apart with individual gutter lights and then putting away the ladder, one blue light went out. And we had no replacements.

THEN, I got my little artistic bent going while Bob was away at the store getting replacement bulbs and created a tangle of old multi-colored icicle lights, knowing some of the bulbs were out, thinking a mound of them would still look cool, which led Bob to try to perform micro surgery on the fuses, and ended in me pulling everything off again . . . followed by the aforementioned Airing of Grievances.

But by nightfall, we had Peace on Earth. Or at least in our house.

The one rule we do agree on is absolutely no white lights, ever. Yes, they are classical and interior decorator adored, but they aren't Christmas to me. As a kid, everyone had the big multi-colored bulbs that could get hot enough to burn your roof down and you drove around listening to Christmas carols and looking for streets where not one house was dark. THAT's Christmas.

And thus, the birth of Thankcember.

So let it be written, from this year forward, Thankcember will take place on the first Sunday of each December, complete with turkey, dressing, and all the sides at the evening meal, preceded by (and perhaps to make up for) the hanging of the multi-colored lights on the house.

A big spread with all the Thanksgiving favorites, holiday songs on the iPod, is just the thing to sooth over the jangled nerves that Christmas decorating always seems to produce. Because honestly, earlier in the day "merry and bright, my butt" was probably uttered at least once.

Note where the spiced apples sit on the table ;)

And, just to mess with Bob, I stacked my seconds ala Gorden Ramsay. (I still need to work on my saucing technique. . .)

The joke here is Bob's reaction, having ordered meatloaf and mashed potatoes with green beans at Jim Croce's restaurant in San Diego, staring in amazement at the plate served him. Lowell asked, "Is something wrong" when he saw Bob's stare. "They stacked my food," Bob replied. I do admit, eating meatloaf at the Bad Bad Leroy Brown spot doesn't exactly scream fine dining, but his reply has gone down in the annals of "never live it down" remarks.

And thusly, some version of stacked food shall forever have its place at Thankcember.

(All rights reserved, and the creator specifically reserves the right to make changes, deletions, or additions to her holiday as the mood strikes her. And she, too, finds tinsel distracting.)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Evan's Escape, redux

Evan ran away again this morning. Quite the rude awakening for a Saturday morning. I shuffle downstairs in my snoopy pajama pants and tank, hair wild, having just grabbed my glasses so I don't kill myself on the stairs to let the dogs out in the back yard, fix the coffee, fill up the food bowls, and then turn to let them back in.

Katy sits on the deck with a look on her face I can't help but describe as smug. "See? I AM the good one."

"Evan?" (kiss, kiss, whistle, whistle) as I step out onto the deck barefoot (temps currently hovering in the mid 20°s) with a dawning dread.

The side gate is hanging open.

Ok, no worries, there's a second gate on the front of the house. He's just sniffing around the section of the yard he doesn't usually access. . .

"Evan?" and I walk over to the hanging gate and the side of the house.

The front gate is also hanging open.

Here is the part where I barefoot sprint into the front yard and realize, yes, my dog is gone.


Evan had been with us exactly one week the last time he headed for greener pastures. It was Nick's birthday and we spent the day frantically chasing him, finally losing all sight of him, and believing him gone forever.

Memories of that day are always with us, it was so emotional. Then, the ground was covered in a foot of snow, Nick had a broken foot, and Sammi and her friend Lauren had taken off after him in houseshoes. This dog runs so incredibly fast. It was hours of calling and whistling and walking through snowy fields with numb feet. Every time we drive through those roads (and we do so every week) flashes of that day haunt us.

So standing on the front driveway this morning, all that came flooding back, as I futilely called his name and whistled and realized he was not in sight.

I sprinted back through the side (but closing the gates as I went), letting Katy inside and taking the stairs three at a time to wake Bob up, throw on jeans, a hoody, and slippers, grab my phone and keys and head back out. Bob went the other direction.

My first inclination was to trace one of the routes we often walk to the dog park.

No dog.

I park near the off road trail and hoof up to the top of the hill, calling and hoping and wishing.

No dog.

Back to the car, back down the street, over to the next street, all of them with openings out onto miles and miles of off road open space.

The phone rings and Bob says, "He's home."

Bob had taken the left road and spotted him at the start of the open trail, kicking up dust like he loves to do. When he called him by his name, Evan had started wagging his tail and came running back toward him. But Bob reached down and over him to try and grab his collar, which sent him shooting away. He ran right back down the street, raced to the house, tried to get back in the side gate I'd closed, and then trotted over to the front porch and sat down at the door.

This, my friends, is progress.

Heart stopping, adrenaline rushing, why-did-we-have-to-test-this-at-7-am-on-a-Saturday-morning progress, but progress.

So now, although I probably do NOT need it, I'm nursing my coffee, blogging to deflate the stress, and incredibly grateful that I have my dog back at my feet.

Katy is still miffed that the bad one is getting all this attention (prodigal son story, anyone?) so we're loving on her extra this morning, too.

And until we can get the latches on the gates secured, we've barricaded the doors.

I might let Evan out into the backyard again today. On a leash.

Stupid dog. God, how I love him.

Herewith, I present the past year's retrospective, albeit a fraction of the pictures I have taken of the big goof generally in order from January - December 2010:

Our first picture of Evan on the day we brought him home, watching Katy show him how fetch is done.

He has never been sure about the stuffed border collie. Would it help if he thinks this is what happens if you run away from home?

That was the first week ;)

And here is the evening after the first escape, on Nick's birthday:

Now Katy has someone to cat watch with her.

And my feet are never cold.

This is the "stop in the name of love" tummy scratching picture we took a week ago. It was the same tune I could've sung to him this morning, but happily there are no broken hearts at the end of this story. :)