Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Battle of the Bulbs

The holiday season is upon us.  And that means holiday decorations are going up all around.

Here in the Moore household we tend to go for a more subtle approach.  White lights and a candle in each window.  Most of our neighbors seem to fall into this category as well.

Some people, however, use the holidays as an excuse to go all out in the decorating department.  There was  house in the neighboring small town that used to follow this approach.  The house and every window, eave and piece of siding was bordered in lights.  The roof was completely covered in lights as well.  We are talking probably tens of thousands of lights on this house. Frankly it reminded me of the Griswold house in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

I have to admit I admire the hard work that goes into decking the entire house for the holidays.  I would not, however, want that electric bill.  Nor would I want to be their neighbors.  Never mind all of the gawkers and onlookers crowding your street.  You would probably need blackout curtains to sleep at night.

Sometimes I am a bit confused as to the holiday theme to which our neighbors are striving.  There is a house near us that has kept the same lights up since Halloween.  The porch is outlined in orange lights with a bright green spiderweb on one of the bushes.  I cannot figure out if they are being lazy or if they are going for a Nightmare Before Christmas theme.

Another house has had a plastic alien peering out the front window, also since Halloween.  Last night I noticed he was sporting a Santa hat.  At least he is getting in the holiday spirit.

Some houses have no lights on the exterior.  I often wonder if they don't go all out in the Christmas decorating department, or if they simply choose to keep their celebrations more subtle and personal.

After all, Christmas is not about lights, gifts and all the external trappings.  It is about home and family.  The happiness we feel inside when we give, whether it is the perfect present or simply the gift of time to those we care about.

So whether you choose to deck the halls with a thousand glittering lights or put up a small tree on a table, may your Christmas be full of love, happiness and light.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Talkin' Turkey

Next week we will celebrate that all-American holiday of Thanksgiving.  And nothing says Thanksgiving like a good old, all-American turkey.

The turkey has become both the symbol of the holiday and the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving table.  You would be hard-pressed to think of a picture of the Thanksgiving celebration that does not showcase a juicy, golden-skinned bird presented on platter surrounded by seasonal garnishes while the family practically drools in anticipation.

But with that tradition comes a lot of pressure to present the perfect bird.  Produce an epic turkey fail and your Thanksgiving dinner does not have a drumstick to stand on, so to speak.

Both my mother and mother-in-law can produce a mean turkey.  My grandmother was also an expert at the art of turkey preparation.  That is a lot of pressure to live up to at the holiday table.

Fortunately I have had some turkey success stories over the years.  The worst scenario I have endured was underestimating the time a turkey would take to thaw or cook through.  I myself do not have any personal horror stories of birds gone wrong, but do know of a few.

I have a friend who cooked her first Thanksgiving dinner shortly after she was married.  She stressed about producing the perfect bird as she was anxious to impress her new mother-in-law.  When the big day arrived, her bird came out of the oven golden and juicy.  It seemed her first endeavor was a success, until they began to carve and un-stuff the turkey.  Unfortunately it was discovered she neglected to remove the little bag from the cavity containing the giblets.

My sister also had her own near turkey disaster one Thanksgiving early in her marriage.  Not wanting the turkey to soil her newly-cleaned oven, she lined the interior in aluminum foil.  This kept her oven from becoming splattered, but it also prevented the turkey from cooking as it greatly affected the oven temperature.  She could not figure out why her turkey was not browning after several hours in the oven until her mother-in-law decided to take a look.  The foil was promptly removed and her turkey eventually cooked through, several hours later than anticipated, in her now less-than-spotless oven.

I have come to understand, however, that a turkey fail can be as valuable to the holiday as a turkey success.  A dried-out turkey that no one could eat without smothering in gravy or the deep-fried bird that nearly set the garage on fire can become the stuff from which family stories grow and are passed on.

 I still remember the stories my Great Uncle Emil used to tell about his wife, my Great Aunt Tillie, who could not bake to save her life.  One of my favorites was the one he told about when she baked banana bread. It was so hard he wanted to use it as a brick, which he jokingly said he would put in front of the tires of his car to keep it from rolling down the hill.  Or the holiday when she produced a beautiful apple pie from the oven.  Unfortunately she had used the wrong kind of apples, which had apparently evaporated and left only a nice golden crust behind.

So whether your bird is Norman Rockwell picture-perfect or rivals the one on the Griswold table in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, remember that memories that you make with those around the Thanksgiving table matter much more than what is placed upon it.

Have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving.  And remember to baste that bird.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Half-Century Mark

Next week I will mark one of those milestones in life. I will hit the half-century mark next Monday.

I had been feeling pretty good about my looming 50th birthday until this past weekend.  I was in a store when the woman at the register asked if I would qualify for a senior discount.  I asked at what age the discount started, and she replied "Sixty or older."

Talk about a blow to the ego.

Either I looked particularly bad that day, or I am starting to look much older than I think I do.

Granted there are days when I feel much older than fifty.  I have noticed that things are starting to ache for no apparent reason, it takes a little more time to get up in the morning, and I can no longer read anything without glasses.

However, I am still competing in 5K races and consistently place in the top three.  And I wear the same size clothing as I have for the last 25 years. Nevermind the fact that size 4 has become a little snug in a few spots. And the phenomenon of going into a room and not remembering why I walked in there in the first place is happening more often.

I am usually inclined to believe the saying often attributed to Mark Twain: "Age is a case of mind over matter.  If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."  Most days, I don't give my age a thought.

But the next time a sales clerk wonders if I a might be over 60, I may need to give that person a piece of my mind.  If I can find it at that particular moment.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Merry October!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a disgusted text:

I am at Target and the Christmas decorations are already out.

I probably would have been a little more surprised and slightly disgusted to hear of Christmas decorations for sale in September if I had not seen the Kmart commercial for Christmas lay-aways several weeks before that.

Forget Christmas in July sales.  It is now Christmas in July, August, September, October and November.  Pretty soon we will just skip these months and have six months of December.

A few years ago a local radio station began playing all Christmas music on November 1.  The Hallmark channel will be switching to holiday programming on October 31.  Personally I would rather get my Halloween decorations put away before I start hearing The First Noel and Jingle Bells.

The Today Show had a report this morning that said 26 percent of people have already begun holiday shopping.  They featured a woman who was already done with all her shopping and is in the process of wrapping gifts.

I have to admit that I already have few things purchased.  If I see something in a catalog that I know a family member would like, I will get order it before it runs out of stock or, a more likely scenario, I will have forgotten about it.  But will I be finished before those Black Friday sales begin?  I doubt it.

There is something about being part of that holiday rush that puts me in the Christmas spirit.  Warm weather and Christmas shopping just don't go together as far as I am concerned.

So even though I hope to have the bulk of my shopping complete before Thanksgiving, it wouldn't be the holidays without being part of that Christmas shopping crunch, for better or worse.

Let's give Halloween and Thanksgiving a little respect and keep Silent Night and eggnog to a minimum until then. Lest I turn into the Grinch long before December.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Saddest Part of the Journey

Yesterday was one of those difficult days that all pet owners dread having to face.  We had to make a decision to end the suffering of one of our "fur-babies."

Our 15-year-old cat Rascal began showing signs of a urinary tract infection over the weekend.  I called our vet on Monday morning and was able to get him in.

What I thought was a bladder infection turned out to be so much more. Tumors were wrapped around and inside his bladder and urinary tract.  His kidneys were full of blood and beginning to fail.  And the vet found a heart murmur from a valve that was not closing properly.  He had clearly been sick for some time but had given us no indication of his deteriorating condition.

Because of the seriousness of the situation and the assurances of our vet that our beloved cat was dying and there was very little we could do, we made the sad decision to end his pain.  He was still under anesthesia from the exploratory surgery when I sat down next to him, talking to him and petting him while the vet gave him the final shot.

I told him that even though the rest of the family could not be there, we all loved him.  I told him what a wonderful cat he had been and that it was okay to let go.  I watched as he took his last breath and left any pain he may have been in behind.

I fully expected to bring my cat back home with some antibiotics.  Instead I brought him home in a box to bury him in our backyard.

The decision to love and care about anything, be it a person or an animal, always come with the risk that we will experience the pain of loss at some point.  With an animal it is almost certain to end in heartache, simply because their life spans are so much shorter than our own. I know people who have experienced the death of a dog or cat and can never bring themselves to take on the responsibility of pet ownership again, simply because the pain and grief are too much to bear.

Bringing an animal into your life can be difficult, in both the beginning, as they go through the puppy and kitten stages, and at the end when letting go is inevitable.  It is the time in between, however, that keeps me bringing animals into our lives, and always will as long as I am able to care for them.

They give love unconditionally with no strings attached.  They help us exercise, comfort us with their silent presence when we are down, and make us laugh with their antics. All they ask in return is that we care for them for the duration of their lives.

I have never understood how anyone could surrender an animal when it becomes old or sick to a shelter or vet's office.  Pet ownership should never be conditional.  When you take on the responsibility of an animal, I believe it is your obligation to see them through their entire journey, no matter how sad that ending may be.

We still have several pets at home, including Rascal's two 15-year-old sisters.  We know we will take this road again sooner rather than later.  But it is a journey I am willing to conclude with them, all the way to the bitter end

Rest in peace, Rascal.  We love you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

With my children now at the ages of 21 and nearly 18, I thought the parenting finish line was in sight.  But the reality is that there is no such thing as an end to the parenting journey.

Three weeks ago Shannon ended up in the emergency room with an extremely high heart rate and numbness on her entire left side.  That is a medical mystery we are still trying to solve.

Two weeks ago Sean had his wisdom teeth removed.  We had to make several trips back to the surgeon's office when two of the sockets were not healing properly.  This past weekend, he developed an infection on the left side and had additional surgery this past Monday.  He is now even more swollen than after his wisdom teeth initially came out and in even more pain as well.

In the midst of all the doctors, tests, surgeries and MRIs, there is something they both needed the most--their mom.

I had visions when my children were young about how life would be when they were both grown.  I would have more freedom, be able to work more hours and resume life as I knew it before parenting because they just would not need me as much.

But the truth is that life is complicated.  The older we get, the more complex the situations and experiences.  This is true for both parents and children.

No matter what age, our children still need our support and guidance.  And as parents, we still need to know we are an important part of their lives.  That we still matter.

I have found that as my children grow older, they often need me more now than they did when they were small.  I will be a parent for as long as we all shall live.

 And that makes me happier than I thought it would.  Because to certain people in this world, I will always matter.  No matter how old we all get.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short

Just this past weekend, my daughter returned to Michigan State University and moved into her first apartment.  After taking more than a year off to recover from some health issues I have gotten used to her being here, and the house seems so quiet now.

My son is still at home but will be starting his senior year of high school in just a couple of weeks.  His time here, too, is limited.

I often think back to when they were small and how long and chaotic the days felt.  Now it seems like it has gone by in the blink of an eye.

Years ago I heard an expression regarding the time spent raising your children.  "The days are long, but the years are short."  When you are in the middle of play dates, school plays, sports, scouts, and the myriad of other things in which your children are involved, it feels like the time you spend carting them around will never end.  Now it seems it has ended far too quickly.

If parenting has taught me anything, it is the virtue of patience.  Patience not only is needed to deal with children on a daily basis, but also with the time and energy that is spent guiding, teaching and just plain giving of yourself to them.  For that precious time will one day come to an end.

For those of you still in the midst of raising young children, enjoy every moment, even the difficult ones, and resist the urge to wish them away.

Like it or not, one day that wish will definitely come true.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

DVR-ing Through Life

A few years ago I discovered something life-altering: the magic of the DVR.

This wonderful device now allows me to watch a half-hour show in a little over 20 minutes.  It has spared my hearing from the obnoxious advertisers who still insist on recording commercials at ten times the volume of the program I was viewing.  I have been able to escape from the endless array of product promotions extolling the woes of PMS, incontinence and, my personal favorite, erectile dysfunction.

There are a  few commercials I find clever and funny, like the Allstate "Mayhem" commercials with the guy who declares himself to be a tree branch, a raccoon, or an annoying child in the back of a car to demonstrate what could happen if you aren't insured for these situations.  I love the one where he is the streaker on a football field and declares, "I'm 300 pounds, painted blue and wearing nothing but cleats."

Most commercials, however, are downright annoying.  The Pier One commercials with the tag line "Find what speaks to you" get on my nerves, but that is mostly because the only thing the items in Pier One say to me is "You can't afford me."

The commercials I absolutely cannot stand are the Cottonelle toilet paper commercials where the woman with the British accent walks up to strangers in shopping malls and airports and asks them "How's your bum?'  Clearly this is staged since the people in the commercials cheerily discuss personal hygiene with a perfect stranger.

If some woman walked up to me on an airport concourse and began firing off questions of this nature, I would not be so lively and forthcoming.  I would whip out the pepper stray and start screaming for a TSA agent.

So these days I happily skip through the feminine hygiene commercials and get to the good stuff.  It's a shame we can't do the same with the little everyday annoyances in life.  How nice would it be to press a button and skip the traffic jam, the long lines at the grocery store or the endless wait at the doctor's office.

But life doesn't work that way.  Like commercials, you have wade through the annoying to get to the gratifying part.  If you get into the habit of skipping through what you think is unnecessary too often, you might miss out on something good.

Sometimes you just need to resist the urge to hit that fast-forward button.  You might just discover a hidden gem.

Then again, you may also come across an advertisement for adult diapers, but that's a chance you take.