Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Well, there are only a few spaces (two to be exact) left on the advent calendar, and the long-anticipated morning will be upon us…crushing us with joy and merriment. (The anticipation of a long winter’s nap is the only item on my wish list.)

Holidays can be so dang much fun, that often the boredom of January becomes quite alluring. Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not Bah Humbugging the season, but there is just a little inherent stress pulling off the whole ho-ho-ho thing. And I confess that sometimes I’m tempted to cut corners…like not hanging stockings by the chimney with care, but hiding them in the attic to see if Santa can find them there.

Last week, our five-year old grandson, Carter, The Observant, looked at me in alarm. (This in and of itself is not that unusual, as many people often do the same thing!) But he said, “Grandma, your eyes are cracked!” I went to the mirror to see just what cracks he was referring to. (And I had my plastic surgeon’s number of permanent speed dial, just in case.) Staring back at me from the mirror were two startlingly bloodshot eyes. I mean, these eyes were not just cracked…they were shattered! We were both traumatized, but in an effort to reassure him that everything was OK, I said, “Oh, there’s nothing wrong, Carter…it’s just Christmas!” Carter became more alarmed than ever, and staring up at me with his lids so widely extended, they resembled cartoon eyes in the dark, he asked, “Grandma, are my eyes cracked?”

Well, needless to say, I went straight to the fridge, took out six cans of anything wet that was liberally laced with caffeine, and, after imbibing the entire contents of those (and watching every episode of the old “Andy Hardy” movies), I decided it was time to recalibrate just what we are trying to celebrate, and how the holidays should be observed. Cracked eyes are an integral part of the holidays. Now, I do not expect to look in the mirror and appear feloniously attractive, but when it requires daily triage and a tub of industrial strength mortician’s putty to make me socially presentable, and still I scare little children, I’m doing something wrong somewhere. Being recognizable, but awesomely unlovely as something I strive to achieve, I fear there is enough mounting evidence to convict me of spiritual dwarfism.

I do not think it necessary to be haunted by three ghosts during the night. (Obviously I’m the scariest thing in the house at present.) But I have given considerable thought (which has required inordinate pressure on my one firing neuron), and I have come to some conclusions. One can become a victim of progressive but imperceptible transformations that lead to a descent into the insipid and vacuous.

First of all, I think that it is possible for dense forest to obscure vision and intrude upon unobstructed views. Forests are deep, dark, musky and fragrant, and generally to be admired. But larger grandeurs can go unheeded as we are propelled through the overambitious celebrations inherent in the season. The gift of “second sight” is a spiritual and intuitive gift, often the result of trial or tribulation. It should not be rendered impotent by the tedious but irresistible.

Secondly, earthly success is not the criterion of merit, nor the measure of true greatness. Nor are acquisitions.

Finally, especially at this time of year, to accept the gift of this miraculous birth is to acknowledge the responsibility of giving something back. I intend to.

So for now, these are my holiday observations, which will influence my 22 top ten resolutions for 2009.

In the meantime, I am including a list of our favorite words of 2008, an idea I borrowed from Brodi: (I think they’ll make my “favs” list in ’09 also)

Survivor, Dr. Mulvihill, resect, fu-fu, NED (No Evidence of Disease) Whipple, Prayer Warrior, Clot, Gratitude, Zofran, “Pissy,” Family, Friends, Angels, Miracle, Love.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Clot

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Well, in an effort to prove that good intentions pave the way to…heck, (actually, the way is less “paved” than “oiled”), I am more convinced than ever that I am being held hostage in some kind perverted sit-com. My neighbor, Margaret, and I had one of those recurring “Lucy and Ethel” moments I would very much like to attribute to “caffeine withdrawal delirium tremors” or lack of oxygen to the brain due to ascending dizzying heights as we try to summit Mt. Everest. Sadly, this is not the case.

I plan to record the incident exactly as it took place, no embellishment or “deranged dumbing down” to mitigate the graphic effects in order to maintain a PG rating. Viewer discretion is advised. And in order to protect Margaret’s privacy, I will call her, “Ethel.”

So here are the facts, in no particular order.

Recently, a neighbor of ours had shoulder surgery. Now, there is no convenient time to be incapacitated by pain, but the holidays are the worst. Ergo, in an effort to render aid to the afflicted, Margaret and I decided to take dinner in to Linda and her family. We’ve done dinners together before, with tolerable success, and, by now, we pretty much know the routine. Margaret would make the soup, and I would do the rolls and dessert. I mean, it isn’t exactly rocket science. Two reasonably bright adults could carry this off without a foreboding sense of impending doom.

We had our menu, our assignments, our designated time of arrival, and that over-all furry feeling that we were rendering service and helping lighten someone else’s burden. What could possible go wrong?

Well, Margaret picked me up right on time. She had carefully placed a large (and I mean large) pot of home-made tortellini soup in the back of her Highlander, and the aroma was so good, I enjoyed schnucking the steam up my nostrils. In fact, I had garlic breath just from inhaling second-hand condensation.

So the two of us, complete with our feast and holiday mirth, drove the few houses up to the Barker home. Margaret parked, put on her emergency brake, and pressed the button of her remote control rear door lifter. And that sucker lifted. Boy Howdy, did that door lift! Now, this is where we ran into disaster. The one and only circumstance that we had not factored into the routine, was the fact that the Barkers live UPHILL from us. I mean, WAY UPHILL! I’m talkin’ Mt. Killimanjaro uphill.

As the two of us sat there, we heard a sickening whooooosh in the back seat, and it does not require a deep understanding of quantum physics to know what was about to happen. It was one of those moments when things seem to proceed in slow motion, and one cannot get to ground zero in time to prevent disaster.

The massive tureen of soup began its precipitous descent with a downward trajectory toward the asphalt. Now here’s where it gets interesting. In perfect symmetrical synchronization, Margaret’s “SSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHIIIIIIIIIHHHHHHHHHHHH…matched exactly the length of time it took for the soup to slide out of the back seat. And the staccato “T” at the end coordinated in flawless harmony with the clatter of metal colliding with pavement. Dang! She really did herself proud. Talk about big finale! (Not to mention perfect timing. No orchestra conductor could have done better.)

The oath pierced the tranquility of the silent night like the plaintive bellow of a love sick elk in the wilderness. It was awesome.

And so we did the only thing that rational people can do at times like these…we laughed hysterically, maniacally, preposterously!

We tried to mop up the mess with my rolls. However, they were not intended for industrial waste management incidents, and it was a comically useless exercise. There was a massive oil slick that extended the length of Mt. Springs road, but curiously did not reach down to the front of our particular homes. Unfortunately, for weeks now, our entire neighborhood has smelled like an Italian restaurant run by a chef with a garlic fettish.

It was a pity that Margaret is so shockingly expletive-impaired. Had she learned the elocutionary skills I did, she could have stuffed the atmosphere with many more words and melted the snow from the street at the same time. Aaah, but I was duly impressed with the simplicity, power and timing of her chosen obscenity. I gave her a 9.9 for her dismount, and her masterful coordination of cuss and clatter.

Our impeachment as neighborhood hospitality chairmen is pending. In the meantime, we have decided to comply with multiple suggestions that we voluntarily place our names on the “marauding culinary offenders” list and register our good intentions as lethal weapons!

The Clot is currently in the midst of celebrating our little brains out for the holidays, and we have met all the demands of the dictatorial traditions that would have made Charles Dickens envious. Our place looks like the centerfold for Currier and Ives, and the adults are on the verge of nervous collapse.

But we are unrestrained in our joy that it is this year and not last…although I do admit that Christmas 2007 taught us more about the Nativity and the life of our Savior than any prior, and those lessons have continued to today.

Recently I came upon a parody of a poem that I wrote in a facetious attempt to relate the realities of the holidays, and as I re-read it, I rather thought it was fairly accurate. I include it just in case it may reflect what others may be experiencing at the start of the holidays.

‘Twas the month before Christmas,
And all through each mother’s heart,
She was counting the moments
Before the frenzy would start.

The Thanksgiving turkey
Causes mothers to smirk,
For before it’s leftovers,
We must go to work.

Yes, it’s that holiday panic
And for six weeks we’re sick,
For without some slick tricks,
There will be no St. Nick.

So armed with our plastic, checks,
And don’t forget cash,
We brave hail, sleet and teen drivers,
And to crowded stores we dash.

On sales clerks, on charge card,
On to the next mall!
Now wrap it up, wrap it up,
Wrap it up, all!

I’ve made out my list,
And I’ve checked it twice.

Each year this old scramble
Gets progressively absurder.
My gift list now includes
Gold, Frankincense and myrrh…der!

I buy clothes, I buy bows,
I observe all traditions.
I buy flour and sweet stuff
To make sugar plums for visions.

I make out our bills,
I made out our will.
And I decorate
Till I nauseate.

I buy and I lie,
I bake till I ache,
I join choirs, build fires…
Is that the budget I just heard break?

I’m more like the Grinch
Than that right jolly old elf.
And I cry at my thigh size
In spite of myself!

Did someone else buy
More than I bought???
There’s no twinkle in MY eyes…
There’s only bloodshot!

I’m no longer merry.
Great! The tree just drooped.
I’m hassled and harried.
And I’m just plain pooped!

Yes, ‘tis the month before Christmas,
And I say with a sigh…
If I survive this darned season,
Just let me sleep till July!

Merry Christmas, loved ones.
The Clot

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I cannot believe it has been so long since my last blog entry. I have some explanations, but no excuses. Somewhere along the way, I lost control of the steering wheel, and my vehicle took quite a detour.

Suffice it to say, Murphy’s Law has become a dictator of late.

To begin with, our computer was down. OK! OK! I know. That’s like saying my oven isn’t working, so I won’t be cooking. Yeah, like that’s gonna fly! It doesn’t exactly constitute a seismic shift in my daily routine. However, in order to arrange for IPS (Internet Provider Service for my geek-impaired comrades), Dennis made no fewer than 38 appointments for technicians of dubious background who pledged to arrive sometime within my lifetime (roughly between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on non-specific days of unspecified seasons). He then left for work in an exceedingly agreeable mood under the na├»ve assumption that all is well…all is well.

Well, the first two guys who eventually appeared looked like refugees from central casting for extras in the latest horror flick. Each had scrupulously ensured that no two spiked hairs on their heads or other body parts pointed in the same direction simultaneously. That must have taken some doing, because both looked like offspring of Sasquatch. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against spikey hair. Each morning when I drag my saggy, groggy carcass out of bed, my coif could strike envy in the hearts of every severely deranged Goth. It’s just that it was a little unsettling to be alone in the house with two guys wearing black fingernail polish and armed with drills!

I won’t repeat the monologue Dennis and I shared that evening, since some of the language was graphic and may be disturbing to younger audiences. Suffice it to say, the computer is up and running and resuming its usual distractions…and Dennis is satisfactorily apologetic. (By the way, check out my new pearl earrings!)

I also spent a week one day at Welfare Square… canning. I know. I know. The thought strains the limits of credulity. Nevertheless, it is true. My assignment was to screw the lids on jars of pear sauce. No brainer, right? I watched as the pear sauce foreman demonstrated the technique with admirable dexterity, barely able to conceal a yawn. I mean, really, how hard can it be?

The jars move in lines of four along a conveyor belt. Four women, two on either side of the conveyor belt, take a lid from a nearby box, and twist it on the pre-assigned jar. My jar was #3.

We assumed our appointed positions, hair nets claustrophobically bound to our scalps. Suddenly, the belt began to move with a jerk. I was armed with my lid in hand, ready for my pre-emptive strike in anticipation of bottle #3. It arrived. I slapped the lid on the jar, I twisted with the exact amount of foot pounds of pressure per second per second, and #3 bottle of pear sauce went merrily on its journey around the corner and out of sight. Slick. Bring it on!

Things proceeded with astonishing regularity for the course of about 3 lids, and I felt myself easing into a tranquil tedium. However, there must have been a defect in the #4 lid. It did not settle into the grooves at the mouth of the bottle as its predecessors had. In a panicked attempt to rectify the deviant, I leaned over my sister-in-law trying to readjust the miscreant lid. By that time, the next quartet of jars was coming at me with obvious sinister motive…malevolent and intimidating. I was trying to grasp a lid from a mountain of unrecognizable metal, while resuming my position on my stool, but I missed. My alarm transitioned instantly to frustration, and the cursive mutterings under my breath became curiously amplified. Before long, I couldn’t grab a lid nor even locate my #3 bottle before it rounded the corner with a vengeance. Vicki managed to salvage several of my #3’s while maintaining her unbroken rhythmical cadence by seamlessly placing a lid on each of her #1 jars. (No wonder my in-laws always liked her best!)

I feared the retribution of the pear sauce warden, but the situation was so reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory. It was my worst nightmare…trapped in a 50’s sit com with Lucy Ricardo and a hair net!

Of course, I started hysterically, maniacally laughing till the mascara tears blurred my vision, and several bottled quartets with steamy pulpy contents undulated in parastaltic hiccoughs past my station in mocking contempt. Mercifully the machine temporarily broke down, and we got a momentary reprieve before it was up and running again, and I
was forced into confrontation with an endless onslaught of demon Mason jars.

After an eternity (actually it was about 2 &1/2 hours) our team was replaced by the next shift. (I’m sure it was a humanitarian gesture on the part of the pear sauce warlords) But we were allowed to purchase 7 cases of the pear sauce…available only to those who had taken a shift with the cursed lids. This pear sauce is like mother’s milk to us. For several months, it was the only food Dennis could eat and retain. The stuff is like pulpy gold. My happiness to see the end of my shift was exceeded only by the joy of the entire canning staff, and I emerged into daylight staggering and disheveled…bloodied, but not bowed. (And my car was triumphantly loaded with 84 jars of pear sauce and one discarded hair net.)

I am happily retiring my hair net in the rafters of Welfare Square…at least until we finish off jar # 83!

We cannot keep count of all we are thankful for this year. Dennis actually has muscle mass ( due, no doubt, to copious helpings of pear sauce). I have been known to sleep in excess of six hours without interruption. When sleep eludes me, however, I count canning jars by fours until, by degrees, utter boredom over-takes me, and I fall into a stupor.

We will celebrate Christmas with greater simplicity…and greater intensity, and count dear friends and family as life’s sweetest gifts.

The Clot