Hau’oli Makahiki Hou

I stumbled across the above video while playing with my new Christmas present – a Roku video thingie.

I wanted the Roku so that I could watch streaming Netflicks on my television rather than on the laptop.  While I understand it also had “channels” – I didn’t think on that too much.  The channels are a heap big bunch of fun – they kind of remind me of the old wild west days of early satellite television. I’ve already wasted enormous amounts of time on this thing reminding me why getting rid of television was such a good move for me.

Thus far I’ve watched several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, classic commercials, old Cary Grant movies, a live stream of the blizzard in New York, and cooking lessons on the preparation of monkfish.

Beach Walks with Rox were a nice little find.  While it wasn’t Maui, I did live in Hawaii as a child within walking distance of a beach nobody but me seemed to go to.

We left Hawaii shortly after Christmas one year and arrived on the mainland to what was a particularly harsh winter.  We drove from San Francisco to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan wearing what passed for winter coats in Honolulu.  I hadn’t experienced snow and certainly not snow of such magnitude.  The initial delight faded when the cold set into my thin bones.

We’ve had a white Christmas this year which has been aggravating, but pretty cool too.  It was nice having the day look like a Norman Rockwell painting.  But I’ve wearied of this now that I’m expected to resume something of a normal life.  My car has been at the bottom of the hill for 3 weeks.  My daily perambulation is getting old.

I’m certain a daily walk on a Maui beach never gets old. If you’re weary of snow, cold and winter, consider the video a small gift from me and Rox.

This is a busy week for me.  If I don’t do it later, let me wish a Hau’oli Makahiki Hou to y’all now.  [Translated:  Happy New Year] 

Love’s Pure Light

All is calm, all is bright.

I just got home after spending Christmas Eve with my folks. It was good. It was all good.

After dinner, but before my son arrived, I came back home to get gifts, check on the dogs, and enjoy a few moments alone. I sat under the tree (note the spiffy new Yak-Traks on my boots – I’m set for the hill now!) – it was a nice interlude – enjoying the calm before the storm of family frivolity – and the potential for drama.

As usual, I and everyone else have been running at 90 mph to get to this point – the point where you can just sit and take it all in.

My son arrived safely from Charlotte (I had fretted). I teased my brother and bonded some more with my sister-in-law. My great-nephews (sheesh, how can I be this old?) are just too cute. My nephew’s wife is ready to produce a baby boy any second. My dad, He-Who-Hates-Christmas, was positively jolly. My mom was exhausted and we managed to make her sit down and just be still. My son’s socks were knocked off by his grandfather’s gift. And did I mention my son brought hand-made truffles, a beautiful wine, and enough foie gras to keep me fat for a year? No? Well, he did. He also brought the puppies. Babette isn’t thrilled, but they are.

No drama this Christmas. All is calm.

Someday I'm going to have a camera that can handle this kind of shot.

Santa was very good to me. Santa is always very good to me.

As I walked back home, the promised snow was falling. I could see the twinkle lights in my kitchen window and the light shining from my son’s bedroom. All is bright.

We may or may not have a snow storm. The gentle flakes of this evening may be a snow-in tomorrow. And that’s fine too. I don’t have to go anywhere, I don’t want to go anywhere. All my people are safe and warm. Come Tuesday, HMO’Keefe will be here and I will have a second Christmas.

I am so blessed. I hope you are too. And may your night be silent while the snow falls and children dream.

I’m a flittery, fluttery, ADD elf.

Merry W. Va. Fur and Root

Yesterday, I started pulling stuff out of one of the closets-I’m-afraid-of with the intention of putting up, out, in or on every single Christmas-type decoration I owned.

Ahem. My ambition is admirable.

Today, I finished denuding the closet, trashed the kitchen, living-dining room, two halls, the staircase and the bay window in the process. I hauled out 4 contractor-sized garbage bags of Stuff-I’m-Never-In-A-Thousand-Years-Gonna-Use.

More of The Boy's Christmas Stuff

In doing all that, I ran across treasures I’d forgotten about – chiefly, the nativity set I “painted” for my son to put under his tree as well as the stuffed animals that lived in his tree’s branches.

[The story of “his” tree will have to be another post.]

The house was trashed and rather than attend to matters at hand, I ended up hanging forgotten dangly lights from the kitchen windows which means tomorrow I have to go in search of ribbon or fabric or something to give it a “finished” look as well as something for extension cord management. While looking for the extension cords, I ended up sort-of cleaning the laundry room and cleaning out the gift-wrap storage box. [You’ll note in the photo that I haven’t, actually, managed to put the decorations on the kitchen counter tree.]

As my dad would say, "Where's the stick?"

While all that was going on, the “big tree” was horizontal in the living room and I continued to flitter and flutter my ADD self about the house doing everything but attending to the mess in that room – a mess my dad would have commented on by saying, “Where’s the stick?” If I hadn’t heard that question several times a year since the year I was born, I might have responded with “What stick, Daddy?”

The stick you used to stir this mess up with.

I have gotten the tree vertical and the lights are all working without hours of futzing – a Christmas miracle. So, I’m cooking with gas now. I won’t finish it tonight, but I hadn’t expected to. Even so, the Barn is beginning to look very festive and I’m feeling virtuous with the dejunking I’ve done.

More importantly, I’m feeling very grateful for the life I’ve lived in which I’ve loved and been loved. Much of this stuff is imbued with memories that have kept me teary-eyed either from laughter or the bittersweet contemplation of people and times past. Decorating the “big tree” has always been a good-cry event. I’ve not even begun and the tears are flowing. If I get into the wine while unpacking the boxes littering the big room, I’m really going to be a spectacle.

The “Little Tree” and The Nutcracker Suite

Godfather Drosselmeier

Well. It’s about time.

I’m in full-blown Christmas cleaning/decorating/wrapping mode. There’s not that much to wrap and if UPS can’t figure out how to get up my hill, there may be next to nothing to wrap.

No matter.

I’m putting up the “little tree” and I’ve got The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture on the VHS player. Yes. Video TAPE. I suppose I ought to go about procuring it on DVD.

Tchaikovsky is filling the air and I’m a ballerina en pointe arabesquing about the house in a Martha Stewart Meets Minny Pearl mashup of holiday décor.

[I keep pricetags on some of the “priceless” ornaments as I think it may amuse my great-great-children to see what my treasures cost.]

The Prince and Clara

Back during a different geologic era when I was a youngun, I happened upon The Nutcracker Ballet on television. I’ve always thought it was PBS, but I’m not sure. This version of the ballet has reached legendary status in my mind because I can’t find a copy of it anywhere and I can’t find anyone who even knows what I’m talking about. I do remember watching it once a year from about the age of 9 or so through junior high – 1968 to 1973. Maybe earlier, maybe later.

This version opened with large double doors opening slowly to show the mother lighting the candles on the Christmas tree. That opening scene took the breath of the little girl I once was. So much so that I have worshipped Christmas trees ever since. To the point that I have candles on my Christmas tree – though never lit. And so much so that it’s just not Christmas without watching The Nutcracker.

Sugar Plum Fairy

In my early 20s, I saw the Milwaukee Ballet and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra perform the piece. Cross my heart, it was one of the best versions ever. I particularly remember the eroticism of “the silk scarf” wrapping herself around the gift recipient’s neck. The entire audience gasped.

Maurice Sendak of Where the Wild Things Are joined forces with the Pacific Northwest Ballet company and the lot of them produced The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture which was released in 1986. It’s a lush, gorgeous, edgy, hypnotic piece of Christmas tradition. It doesn’t haven’t a silk scarf to get the juices of the audience flowing, but it has other charms.

When I first procured the tape, the Ex and Chef Boy ‘R Mine were less than pleased I was pre-empting football playoffs to watch it. The Ex wandered off, but The Boy and I were glued to it. The next year I had it playing while preparing Christmas dinner. My brother arrived early. The next thing I knew, he and my son were sprawled on the floor, hands propping chins, and so thoroughly engrossed my brother didn’t hear me ask if he wanted a beer. [Possibly the first time my brother didn’t hear the offer of a beer.]

There’s a reason these things become classics. Experts will tell you this is one Tchaikovsky’s worst pieces of music. Ballet folk insist the ballet is mediocre at best. The two of them twirled together in snow, candy canes and twinkle lights are a gestalt that defies explanation. Having watched the whole thing, twice through while I decorate the tree, the holidays now feel like a joyous, magical time and not the period of obligations they felt like yesterday.

Lord! Is it ever going to be done?

Christmas trees are my favorite part of the holiday and the “little tree” took flippin’ forever to put up, in part, because I kept resting on Memory Lane. This tree is comprised of all the ornaments most likely to please children, big and small. It’s out of control and tomorrow I have to fiddle with it to find room for the ornaments from my childhood that my mother is giving me. At the moment it’s covered in Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek, The Nutcracker, 12 Days of Christmas, bears, cows, pigs, flamingos, Green Bay Packers, dogs, Santas, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, M&Ms, lobsters and Chef Boy ‘R Mine’s ornaments made in school. It’s a treasure.

Tomorrow, I’ll start the the “big tree” – a truly monumental undertaking.  While the “little tree” is all whimsy and chaos, the “big tree” is all elegance and sparkle.  It too will provoke stop-overs on Memory Lane.  Most of the ornaments were chosen with care to provoke remembrance of people, events, places and things.  And it’s dubbed the “big tree” because the amount of stuff on it is testament to my penchant for excess.

O.K. Mostly done!

But, it’s all good. Last year, what with one thing and another, I didn’t decorate at all. This year, it’s all coming out and going up, down, on or in. Most of it will be up for months as I’m using this time of relatively empty closets to paint them, shelf them, and, ahem, organize the hell out of them.  There will be whining.  Right now, however, I’m glorying in my favorite part of the holiday – Christmas trees.

I hope that right now you are doing what it is that you most love about this time of year. And if you’re not, that you will be soon. Now, of course, you and I both realize that the best part of this time of year is spending time with the folks we love. I’ve been doing some of that and will be doing more of it in the days to come, but right now I’m in a decorating frenzy and loving every second of it.

The Beautiful Babette

The Beautiful Babette

The heat and humidity of this summer is fading. It’s been rough on all of us – all of us being me and the three dogs.

What I thought was just heat-induced malaise turned out to be my incorrigible thyroid further torturing me. And if that wasn’t enough, the monthly shots that have kept my pernicious anemia under control for years became insufficient. It’s a double whammy – both disorders provoke exhaustion.

Like most areas of my life, the puppies were neglected while I slept away every nonworking hour. A routine visit to the doctor led to some blood work and – voila! – I was prescribed an increased dose of synthroid and my monthly B12 shots are now weekly.

I’m beginning to feel like myself again. This is a good thing, because the health department was getting ready to condemn my house and the dogs were fixin’ to run away from home. Indeed, two of them did.

The Traveling Toddlers

Chef Boy ‘R Mine called last spring and broached the subject of whether or not Terrific Trudy and Wonderful Willy could go live with him. Hell, yes, I said.

The three dogs have been a huge part of my life, but I’ve been a terrible dog owner for some time. My work schedule (and malaise) meant that walks in the park and cuddling on the couch came to a complete stop. The puppies spent a lot of time alone. I consoled myself with the fact that they do entertain one another, but it was clear they were puzzled and saddened by my neglect.

The Familiar Boy and the New Yard

Labor Day weekend, my mom and I did a shotgun trip to Charlotte to deliver the two youngest dogs to my son who had just moved into a dog-friendly house. Again, I felt guilty – this time because leaving them produced little sorrow, probably because I know my son will adore them and they now have a huge fenced yard to frolic in. Still, I wonder at the ease with which I gave them up.

So, it’s just Babette, the shih tzu, and I these days – two old grand dames enjoying one another’s company. She was a rescue dog and I’m not certain of her age. The vet guesses she’s about 14.

The vet and I are also baffled by her skin disorder. Babette scratches near constantly which provokes hot spots, lesions and whatnot. All sorts of remedies, prescription and otherwise, have been tried. The only one that works is puppy steroids and her kidneys are too ancient for a daily dose.

Checking out the new yard.

My mother, bless her heart, worried about Babette rattling around alone in the house while I’m at work. Babette was often disgusted by the antics of The Toddlers, but she also was accustomed to sleeping with Trudy and Willy, and, some times, playing with them. Mom is now operating Doggy Daycare. Each morning, Babette and I get in the car, drive the few yards down the hill to Mom’s house and drop her off.

Babette loves going to Grandma’s house. After just a few days of the new routine, she dances and prances, eager to get going, as soon as she sees me pour coffee in my car mug.

Pitiful, I tell you. Pitiful!

Mom is an optimist. She is convinced that with proper care, various lotions, etc. etc. Babette will stop scratching. When her care had no effect, Mom got really serious about it. I arrived home one day to find a pitiful little dog. So pitiful that being the terrible Puppy Mama I am, I burst into laughter.

Mom had shaved every square inch of Babette except for her face. The Beautiful Babette looks like some sort of mutant rat. It’s just pitiful.

And Mom did this when the temps started dropping and nighttime in this house is downright cold. For the first time in her life, Babette shivers. For years, she has refused to get under the dog blankets preferring to sleep on top of them. Both of us now cocoon deep in the down comforter – something else Babette adores about her new life, sleeping with Mom.

Shaving Babette has had no effect on the scratching, but we’re both adapting quite well to life without The Toddlers. Her fur grows fast and I’m afeared that after re-growth, she’ll quit burrowing deep into the covers with me.

We’re both glad to see this long, hot summer come to an end. It’s been a trial, but things are looking up. I can stay awake and Babette is getting lots of attention. It’s all good.