Monday, December 31, 2007

A guid New Year to ane an` a` and mony may ye see!

The two things I can accurately predict for 2008 is that 1) I will be getting a new car, and 2) my family will be heavily involved in raising funds and making preparations for a trip to Scotland. The car part is easy, I just have to bite the bullet and pick one out. The Scotland trip though, that involves lots of other people, and lots of planning, lots of drinking, oh... and lots of money!

If all things Scottish hadn't already taken over much of my brain, I've got a growing list of websites in my favorites that have to do with Scotland and travel and fundraising. In my web surfing and blog reading research, I learned that in Scotland, Hogmanay is the word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with a celebration of the new year. During Hogmanay, it is traditional to go first-footing, which, like a lot of Scottish things, sounds like an excuse to go out visiting friends and, I dare say, an excuse to drink! First footing is literally, the first foot in the house after midnight. According to tradition, in order to ensure good luck for the house, the owner of the first foot should be a tall, dark, handsome male. Apparently this stems from the days when the Vikings invaded Scotland. Of course then, if a blonde stranger came to your door it was probably trouble. Here in Lutheran Scandahooviaville, we are hard pressed to find anything but blondes. So anyway, this antithesis of a Viking, must be a male and must come bearing gifts, and these symbolic gifts are coal, shortbread, salt, black bun and whisky. Symbolising, I guess, warmth, sweets, spice in your life and... uh, an excuse to drink!

Since we'll be spending New Year's Eve tonight with one or more sets of "Scotland Bound" parents like ourselves, I decided to try out this old new tradition - heck, we can all use a little luck right? I did a little more time wasting blog surfing research and I found a recipe for Black Bun, which is pretty much a deep dish raisin and currant and brandy pie. So I made that, and some shortbread, got some sea salt - coz its prettier, and more earthy looking than table salt. I couldn't find any coal, so I got some briquettes, and I found out that real Scottish whisky is spelled without the e in front of the y, and never says Scottish on the label, but rather Scotch.

I doubt that I'll find a non-blonde male to be our first footer among the Larsons, Hansons, and Andersons tonight, but it will be fun to do something new! And as they say in Scotland: A good New Year to one and all, and many may ye see!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Frankly Scarlett, I Don't Have Time to Give a Damn

I'm writing this today, or should I say tomorrow... no, if you're reading this, then it's today - but anyway I'm writing this today, or rather yesterday, and using the "post it later" feature. But it's 11:39 p.m. right now, and if I take much longer writing this it's going to be tomorrow for real!

I'm doing this to make sure it actually works because, blogaholic that I am, I signed up for this crazy challenge! I couldn't resist, I just find so many new blogs to read this way. And there are only so many blogs you can read in a day and then still find time to write something to post - right? So, blogaholic, optimist that I am, I figured that I could pre-write like, oh say, a weeks worth of posts (in my free time....) and then schedule them, like little orderly soldiers, to fall into place daily (....insert crazy maniacal laugh here...) Oh, I can't think about that now, I'll think about it tomorrow.... After all, tomorrow is another day!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

'Snot Fair

It wasn't enough that I turned 50 two weeks ago....

It wasn't enough that we've been cooped up with two dogs and two teenagers in a car for 15 hours....

No, it wasn't even enough when I got hit with the mother of all snot-rendering, throat searing colds within the first of those 15 hours - and was laid a-bed for the next two-days....

Now this has to arrive.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Magical Christmas Memories

Once upon a Christmas season, 20 plus years ago, a radio station in Seattle - KEZX - used to play an ecclectic mix of adult jazz and local artists. One of the songs they played this particular season and then never again, was Stop the Cavalry by the Cory Band. It was one of those songs where you absolutely cannot sit still while it's playing! I recorded it on a cassette tape and every year we take it out and play the heck out of it. Every year, I worry that the very fragile old tape will wear out and I won't be able to find the song again. That same year, Beez was three years old, and after listening to me read him "The Night Before Christmas" umpteen million times, he'd memorized it pretty well - even if he did have a killer lisp, and tended to creatively misquote Clement Moore, such as, instead of "away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter and threw up the sash" his very funny interpretation was "tore open the shutter and threw out the trash!" This, I also recorded on a fragile cassette tape, which is taken out to be played every year - worrying, each time we push the play button that it will be our last.

This year, Grandpa G, our families' resident technical wizard, took both those fragile treasures and lovingly burned them onto a semi-durable CD. Now, both of those precious sound memories can be confindently played for years and years to come! And today, through the durable magic of the Internet, I share them, as my gift to you, my invisible friends. Merry Christmas!

Gotta Stop The Cavalry

Twatha Night Before Cwiimith

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Tis The Day Before..."

After a 12 hour drive with two teenagers and two dogs in the SUV, Downtown Dad and I made it to his parents' house in Southern Missouri understandably feeling a little bedraggled! Even without snow this year, their house IS Christmas for us - every wall and flat surface cozied up with a familiary reminder of the season. After the hugs and hellos and the butt sniffing (c'mon, the dogs, not us) and the preliminary catching up - we fell into our beds - sans kerchief and cap - and drifted off for a long winter's nap!

It's Christmas Eve morning and I'm trying to get this post written and published before the whole house wakes up. While the old hubub of coordinating Santa's arrival has lessened some as the kids have gotten older, the familiar patterns will soon take over and the comfort foods will be set out and consumed until we are all groaning. Familiar sounds, like our favorite Chistmas music, and "turn down that TV!" and of course we'll have ceremonious dragging out of the cassette of three-year old Beez reciting "Twatha Night Before Cwiimith." I'm going to see if Grandpa G, with all of his technological wizardry, will burn that 20 year old cassette onto something more permanent and then I can post it here! If we can break away from the talking and the eating and the butt-sniffing!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Newsletter

It has been a while since I posted. I must explain... you see I've been fighting, er writing the annual Christmas Letter.

I see you out there, nodding your heads. You know what its like. You don't want yours to be that two-page yawner about each and every place you've traveled, or the compendium of your family's accomplishments and kids' grades. But this IS your once a year opportunity to let Auntie Edna in Portland know that your kids DID turn out better than your creepy cousin Johnny's... even though you learned through her letter that they've each mastered a foreign language, earned Eagle Scout badges, made mission trips to help rebuild New Orleans, all that AND they volunteer at the soup kitchen every day after school. OK, not bad for 6 and 8 year olds, but really, how are they going to top that next year? I mean really.

You want your letter to be amusing, or at the very least, readable to the end. If, perhaps you've had a messy divorce in the family, or your sister-in-law was sent to prison, or the child you've been raising for your deceased daughter suddenly decided to go live with her estranged father, well lucky you! There are so many things that happen in the space of a year, and so few of them, good, dramatic Christmas letter fodder! Trouble is, the people to whom those things happen, rarely have the literary skills to express the intrinsic drama and humor of those situations.

No, this year, I opted to keep our letter short, and rather traditional. And whether or not some or all of those things actually happened in our family, well, I'm saving THAT for my novel!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Naked In Public

For a long time now I’ve been fighting an internal battle about what I post here. I started posting initially to ‘find my voice’ thinking that by forming the daily habit of writing, I could somehow make writing easier. I have a file folder on my computer full of fits and starts of pieces that fashioned themselves in my head and were able to meander their way out my fingers and onto the keyboard, but then, they failed to thrive past the series of filters I impose on what I actually put out there. This, in itself, is good – we all know there are just some things that don’t make good blog writing or reading. But then, there are some things in that file that probably are worth posting, only, they can’t seem to traverse the mine field of filters I herd them through.

The other day I was having a glass of wine after work with some fellow Realtors. Conversation, as it does, became animated, and I made a comment phrased very similarly to something I must have said that is posted here. One of my friends piped up and said “Oh by the way, I really enjoy reading your blog.” I stopped, my face grew red, and I had that naked-in-public feeling, gripped with the fear of what I may have posted, what I may have said in the pseudo anonymity of the Internet. Conversation stopped dead. “You have a blog?”

It's true, I've only told a select few that I have a blog … that I blog … that I write stuff and I throw it out there for anyone to see. I don’t know why I don’t tell other people I know. Most of them know that I write. Most of them know I’m tactless sometimes, and brutally honest all the time... hence the name Straight Up and Slightly Dirty. Although as Kwach and Ev over at Nowhere IL say, I’m not nearly dirty enough. Touche girls! Touche! The dream interpretation of naked-in-public is representative of vulnerability or shamefulness. Maybe I fear that people will see through to my true self and I will be exposed as a fraud or a phony. Maybe I fear that I'll be ridculed or disgraced, or worse - challenged on something I write! The truth is I’m not trying hard enough. I'm not courageous enough. And so my writing isn't good nor powerful. And that's not me, and it's certainly not why I take the time to write something, hit publish post and hope that some anonymous person will take the time to read it. That naked-in-public moment taught me a lesson.

Oddly enough, in my blog-surfing today I found a site where they encourage and celebrate good, powerful writing on the Internet/blogosphere, in fact, they award prizes! The name says it all - it's called Shameless Lions writing circle. It just made me think about all of the inspiring, good and powerful writers writing posts every day. Every one of them, shameless, truthful, courageous and naked-in-public.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

December 5 Because It's ALL About ME!

Happy Birthday To ME! What better day than this to take advantage of the fact that Grandy at Functional Schmunctional tagged me with this meme! So here are the rules: "List a word that describes you for every letter of the alphabet. Offer as much or as little explanation as you wish. Please keep the words positive (for example, don’t use “fat” for F or “lame” for L), and feel free to get creative. Tag as many or as few people as you wish. Link back to your tagger and forward to your taggees." So... here we go!

A. Articulate. Oh I do like me some piles o’ words.

B. Biotch! Yes, that is a positive word - ask my friends, we all call each other that! Some of us even have numbers! I'm B3.

C. Chop. That’s my other nickname, but only among my very closest coon-ass friends.

D. Domestic. I totally love ironing and grocery shopping. Really – go figure!

E. Effervescent. Yep, that describes me. And, much to the consternation of my friends, that describes me in the morning.

F. Family. Because that’s what I'm all about lately.

G. Guzzler. I am not a sipper. Give me tea, give me fine wine or liquor, give me water... I will guzzle it.

H. Hot. But intermittently so, in a menopausal way.

I. Imaginative. Like Tequila with a jockstrap in a pie, fixing furnaces for the world with Jello.

J. Joker. I’m a joker, not a smoker, nor a midnight toker.

K. Knock-off. I think that if it looks real, then hell honey, it is real. But nevah evah pay full-price!

L. Liberal. I admit it, I’m a Gawtdam, Leftist, broad minded, humanitarian, libertarian, free thinker.

M. Mother. Probably the finest thing I will ever have had the privilege to have done.

N. Neat. A place for everything and everything in its place – DAMMIT!

O. Old. See the beginning of this post.

P. Persuasive. If you are still reading this far into my list then I am totally persuasive. If not, then I am a prevaricator.

Q. Quarrelsome. Especially if I am Hot (see above).

R. Raucous. Rowdy. Rambunctious. Especially when I’m on my cell phone in a public place.

S. Sagittarius. Adventurous, brave, and wise, extroverted, straightforward, benevolent, ardent, idealistic, sincere, intellectual, knowledgeable, creative, philosophical, broad-minded, sexual, funny and free-spirited.

T. Tactless. Oh, honey no! You’re not gonna wear THAT?!?

U. Utopian: In my world, we all speak Esperanto.

V. Verbal. I can’t think of the exact wordage, but I’m sure I can express the correct essence of my love of lingual verbiage without being palaverous, I mean, don’t take me literally, but in the oral tradition – ok not being too rhetorical here, but really, it must be said that as I stated above, I know I can be somewhat verbose, but it can’t be over stated, I can totally use a lot of words to say very little.

W. Writer. Yes. I AM A WRITER.

X. X-husbandry. I am an expert in choosing them. I have two. One on video.

Y. Yoga. Try it. It will change your life.

Z. Zippy. Because doesn’t everyone want to know someone who is zippy?

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Roomette For Two

Ette is the feminine form of the French suffix –et. Adding ette to the end of a word describes a smaller version of an inanimate object such as cigarette, kitchenette, novelette. It seems to imbue these everyday nouns with a fancy romanticism or modern allure. On the other hand, the same suffix ette has also been used to describe something imitation or inferior such as leatherette. Still adding that Frenchified aire, but really puffing up something that might not be able to live up to it’s name without that precious suffix.

On our recent train trip, Downtown Dad and I opted for an upgrade from our coach seats to a Roomette. With seating for just two, our own private picture window, and meals, plus a wine tasting event included, this Roomette would be the perfect venue for our romantic time alone, a getaway-ette. Having made the trip once before in a coach seat – or the Fart Compartment as I called it, I was all for having our own space where we could shut the door and pull the curtains – if not for privacy reasons, for the aromatic ones.

The westbound Empire Builder train, departs from the Fargo station at 3:25 a.m., so after a full day of fulfilling other obligations, an obligatory appearance at a cocktail party, packing, repacking, last minute lectures and instructions, and an 11th hour call to the doctor for antibiotics for one of the kids’ newly discovered bronchial infection, we settled into what would be our home away from home for the next 31 hours. According to the description on Amtrak’s website, this Roomette is “ideal for one or two passengers, with two comfortable reclining seats on either side of a big picture window. At night, the seats convert to a comfortable bed, and the upper berth folds down from above.”

Technically, yes, the two seats do convert to a comfortable bed…but no matter how romantic you are, it's only wide enough for one! And yes, once your porter has performed the acrobatics necessary to accomplish this mechanical magic, the second occupant of the Roomette, can climb the 6 inch wide stairs that serve double duty as shelves alongside one chair, to the windowless top bunk, a cozy 24 inches from the roof of the car - not so comfortable. So much for the romance.

Once entombed therein, the occupant of the upper berth must ask the occupant of the lower berth (the one that drew the longer straw, or the one that all of a sudden has bad knees and can’t climb up there) to hand up her chapstick, oh, and her book, and her sleeping pills – oh and some water … all of which are efficiently stowed under the lower bunk, and cannot be accessed with the cabin doors shut. After much wriggling and grunting and bumping, and after the lucky occupant of the lower berth has whumpped his pillow-ette for the fifteenth time, it is inevitible that the upper berther must now pee. Of course to do that requires leaving the Roomette, and thus more wriggling and grunting, and bumping - again, not even a little bit the romantic kind, but just maybe it sounds that way to the Roomette next door!