Friday, December 31, 2010

In and Out for 2011

There are some things that I hate, that just irritate me to my very core, and yet I can't stop subjecting myself to them. Like the idiotic comments that people make on news articles and on Yahoo's Shine page. Seriously, many of those comments make me worry for the future of the human race.

More specifically, and the point of this post, is that I'm addicted to lists that come out around New Year's that talk about the "Best Of" the year we're finishing up or things that were "in" in the year that is closing that are now "out" and things that will be "in" for the upcoming year. I guess the "Best Of" lists don't really bother me that much. Sometimes I'll read them and wonder why a certain thing or event was included or left out, but for the most part the don't stir up much of a reaction. It's the "In and Out" lists that drive me nuts.

I think my main problem with these lists is that I really resent the implication that I need some faceless (and often nameless) writer telling me what is cool or not cool, like I'm supposed to immediately discard anything on the "out" list and promptly adorn my life with everything on the "in" list.

There was a feature insert in the paper from today that included one such list. I could give a sarcastic and snarky response to every single item on the list, but there was something like 40 comparisons and I think it would just end up getting redundant. So here are the highlights.

In: Jeggings Out: Bell bottoms/flares - Ok first of all, I don't think bell bottoms have truly been "in" since I was in junior high, and even then, not so much. Second of all, don't even start with the jeggings. They look good on maybe 2 people in the whole world, and I don't care how "in" they are - no one wants to see my flat, wide mommy butt in jeggings. (You see, newspaper author, one of the keys to writing a good piece is knowing your audience. You might want to work on that.) Finally, don't try to tell me that flared leg pants are out. A tastefully flared leg is going to do way more for my body than an airtight jegging ever will, and I will rock my flares even if you think I'm "out". So there.

In: Cell Phone Cameras Out: Digital Cameras - Seriously? Digital cameras are out? I'm going to take a wildly uneducated leap here and say that I'm pretty sure the cameras on our phones are digital, so strike one for lack of accuracy. Strike two is because there is no way I will ever believe that a camera phone can take as good a photo as a real camera. And strike three for the sheer idiocy of this statement.

In: Neighborhood Bistros Out: Chain Restaurants - I am ALL for buying local, supporting local entrepreneurs, keeping the money in the neighborhood, etc. But try to tell me that it is "out" to eat at Olive Garden and you're looking at a punch in the nose.

In: Teen Designated Drivers Out: Drunks - This must be the one that Captain Obvious wrote. And also, Captain Vague. (Is it possible to be obvious and vague at the same time? I didn't think so, but this one proved me wrong.) Are they trying to tell me that if I want to go out and get drunk (which, believe me, I do. I want to get drunk real bad but I've been pregnant for the better part of my recent life and it's just not possible right now.) that I should get a teenager to be my designated driver? Is it saying that if teens are going to get drunk, they should have a designated driver? Either way, I'm thinking they're saying that drunk driving is out. To that, I'll offer a big, fat DUH!

In: Purple and Jewel-toned Cookware Out: Matte Gray Cookware - Oh yeah, I forgot that part about me being rich and having the luxury of buying new cookware every season in the latest trendy colors. For some reason, I thought I was the opposite of rich and I also forgot that the cookware I do have is total crap and that I've wanted new cookware since I first pulled the crappy cookware out of the box after I got married. So I've been using the same crappy cookware for over 3 years, but yeah, this brilliant list has inspired me to go out and buy purple pots and pans. I mean, not that I wouldn't buy purple pots and pans, but what I'm trying to say is that this one is just stupid.

In: Red Bull with anything Out: Four Loko, aka "Blackout in a Can" - Hello, List? The nineties called, they want their reference back. Something tells me that the author just wanted to say that Four Loko is out and they really couldn't come up with something comparable to put as the "in". I love how they are telling me to drink Red Bull with anything, as if Red Bull is the latest and greatest earth-shattering invention in the drink market. And honestly, I could just drink four beers then down a couple Red Bulls and it would have the same effect as a Four Loko, so I just beat you at your own game, List. And you won't have anything to say about it because you told me that Red Bull with anything is "in".

In: Cork Wine Pub Out: Detroit's Breakfast House and Seldom Blues - I've never been to either of these restaurants, so it's not like I have a pre-existing loyalty or anything. But seriously, how pissed would you be if you were Detroit's Breakfast House and Seldom Blues?

In: Tax Breaks for the Rich Out: Empathy for the Poor - In fairness, I'm sure this was meant to be sarcastic and/or tongue in cheek. But it's already difficult to translate sarcasm in print, and the fewer words you have to work with, the more likely you will be taken seriously. So this just makes the author sound like an a-hole.

In: Velvet Out: Corduroy - Crap, there goes my entire summer wardrobe.

Well, there you have it. The worst of a really bad list. But I've got to run, it's time for me to go drink a Red Bull and buy velvet jeggings in purple and jewel tones. Don't worry, I'll be sure to take a picture for you all with my phone's camera while I'm eating at the Cork Wine Pub.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas is coming and my eyes are beginning to twitch

Right around Thanksgiving every year, I get all giddy and little-girl excited for the holidays. Since my extended family is so large and since there are so many other people who are far more capable than I, I never have to live in the fear and stress of actually hosting Thanksgiving. Therefore, I'm able to happily bring the rolls and enjoy not having to deep-clean a house in preparation for dinner for 30. Also, I don't have to make a turkey. Which is good for everyone.

Pretty much every Thanksgiving of my married life has been the same. I eat, I visit, I enjoy. And I bask in the delight of the coming Christmas season. In theory, Christmas is my favorite time of year. I like the colder weather because I can wear cute sweaters and pants that hide my ever-expanding butt. (Side note: Having been pregnant in both summer and fall/winter, I vastly prefer winter so far because it's a lot easier to look chic and polished when you're working with pants, rather than capris and skirts that show off your pregnancy-induced cankles and varicose veins.)

I love the lights and the snow and the hot cups of apple cider. I love buying gifts for the people in my life, and I especially love searching for the gift that I just know will make their day. I love the wrapping. I love the baked goods (refer back to expanding butt). I love the music. I love the decorating and the parties and the friends. I love, love, love it.

In theory.

But sadly, theory and reality don't often seem to match up. Need an example? Ok, in theory, laying out clothes for the day for myself and L the night before saves time. Simple, right? In reality, morning comes and I dress myself and L in the clothes I've laid out the night before. Then I give L his banana and sippy cup of milk. L turns his sippy cup upside down and pounds the spout on his highchair tray until pools of milk form. When he reaches across the tray for his banana, he soaks his sleeve in said milk pools. Then, he mashes the banana in his hand, puts it in his mouth and smears it in his hair and on his face.

In reality, instead of being 5 or 10 minutes ahead because I've pre-selected his outfit, I'm actually 15 minutes behind because I have to once again wrangle his squirmy, uncooperative body, take off the now dirty clothes, mourn the fact that those perfectly clean clothes are now relegated back to the overflowing laundry basket, search for new clothes (which, depending on how long ago laundry was done, can take a significant amount of time - thus the PURPOSE of setting out clothes the night before) and somehow put them on L's person. And if I'm being honest, reality also includes hastily smearing a wet paper towel over his face, hands and hair and combing his mysteriously golden locks over the places where the banana was a bit more stubborn.

So there's just one example of how "theory" and "reality" don't even out. Back to the point.

Around Thanksgiving, I get all swept away by the "theory" of December. In theory, I'll have endless evenings where I can sit with D, warming my hands on a mug full of hot, delicious cider, talking and cuddling and watching Christmas movies by the glow of the fire and Christmas lights (aka my definition of bliss). In reality, every second of every day seems to be booked to the gills, leaving no time for fire gazing and cider drinking.

This year is particularly mind-boggling. I know it seems obvious why I would be much busier this year - I have a one year old. But really, I can't blame it on L. D and I made a commitment to each other that we would not get carried away with the unnecessary hullaballoo of the season, especially since L won't remember it. We aren't going berserk buying him tons of gifts. I saw this little rhyme someplace online - "Something to play with, something to read, something to wear, something you need" - and D and I agreed that it was a great way to keep ourselves in check. So we bought L one thing to fall under each category and that was that.

And even still, this year seems to be nothing short of pure madness. D and I don't buy each other a ton for Christmas, and we try very hard to stick to a feasible budget. (Actually, we kick butt at sticking to our Christmas budget, and I had to throw that out there because it's just about the only budget we somehow manage to stick to and I want to pat myself on the back a little.) And every year seems to follow a pattern. Right around Thanksgiving, when all the sales start showing up, D will usually decide that he never buys himself anything and that right before Christmas is the perfect time to go out and get himself a few things he wants. Right before Christmas. Right when I want him to give me a list of things he wants so I can buy them for him as presents. Knowing this about my husband, I usually can just go out and buy him whatever I want him to have, since he seems to think that it's a-ok that he is his own Santa.

This year, I finally saw fruits from all the nagging and teasing I subjected D to about his habit of buying himself presents at an extremely inopportune time. D has not bought himself a single thing. But not really because he listened to me; more-so because he couldn't commit to wanting anything specific. So instead of doing what I usually do and making my money stretch as far as possible at my annual outlet shopping trip with my mom, I waited until he could tell me what he wanted, thinking it would be a bigger gift that would use most of his budget.

And do you know what he wants? A wallet. That's it. A wallet. That's all he could come up with. So now I'm scrambling to not only figure out what else to get him, but also find the time in which to do it. No small task. I literally had to pull out my calendar this morning, grab some paper and do a good deal of creative planning. And basically what I could come up with was shopping on the 3 lunch breaks I have between now and Christmas that do not have meetings or appointments or work lunches scheduled. Now if I could get those 3 hours in one chunk, it might be productive, but having them spread out over 3 different days? Not so much.

And the decorating the house and putting up the tree? Unfortunately, it's become something my mom and I are trying desperately to "squeeze in". We both had to come together and enforce an iron-clad blocking off of this Sunday afternoon (in addition to the baking I need to do in lieu of gifts for my bosses and co-workers) because if we don't do it then, we seriously doubt it will happen at all.

Which makes me sad, because decorating for Christmas has always been one of my most favorite things to do. So I'm vowing to myself that it will be a cheerful, enjoyable time. I'm going to make sure there's Christmas music playing and a ban on any Grinchy moods will be enacted. No irritation, frustration or general unhappiness allowed. And of course, hot cider will be made. We will have fun decorating the house for Christmas if it kills us.

Then there are the Christmas cards. I actually really wanted to do Christmas cards this year, but the universe seems to be working against me in this one as well. I had planned to do a photo card with a printed message on it so that I didn't have to do anything but stick the card in the envelope and address it.

But that means there has to be a good, holiday-ish photo to use, and since there was no way in the world I would ever get D to agree to professional holiday pictures, it would be up to us (us = me) to come up with something. Unfortunately, our camera is one small step up from a rock, and the quality of pictures it takes is not so good. Further unfortunately, we don't have the $600 it would take to buy a semi-decent SLR camera that takes better pictures. And perhaps most unfortunate of all, I can't even find the crappy camera that we already own. Needless to say, all of this combined with the fact that it's already December 7 means it's not looking good for the Christmas cards this year.

This morning at work, I realized just how stupid I've been rendered by all the hustle and bustle (and I mean "stupid" as literally as possible). I have a new boss (and I know I'm not allowed to talk about work because I don't want to lose my job, but I have to say - you know those distant "Hallelujah" choruses you've been hearing and you can't figure out where they're coming from? Yeah, it's me.) and it's been a little crazy for me trying to help him get settled into our office.

One thing I had to do was order him a wall clock. So the clock comes this morning and I'm taking it out of the package and getting the time set and everything. And I get it to the right time but the hands aren't moving. And I'm looking all over the clock, trying to figure out why the heck it's not working, and I'm reading the little pamphlet that came in the box, trying to see if there's a special tab I have to pull or some magic words I have to say to get it ticking. And I'm getting pissed off that the pamphlet doesn't have any instructions on how to set it or how to get it going, because it's not like it's common sense or anything.

Want to know why the stupid clock wasn't working? It didn't have a battery in it. I. Am. An. Idiot.

I am going to make a conscious effort to take it a little bit easier and not put so much pressure on myself to get everything done. What gets done gets done, what doesn't, doesn't. This is usually the attitude I adopt approximately 2 or 3 days away from whatever event is stressing me out, when I'm completely fried and my brain is on overload and I'm ready to burst into tears at the smallest thing. But I'm going to adopt it early and give myself a break.

I want to enjoy Christmas this year, and every year in the future. I don't want to be the scary mommy who yells and self-medicates with cheap wine from Kroger. (Well, I don't want to be the scary mommy who yells, anyway.) So I'm resolving to be more go-with-the-flow, less crazy lady from the Target commercials.

We'll see how it goes.