Monthly Archives: December 2004

The Year that Was (or Wasn’t)

Another year is departing, a new year quickly descending. I was going to take some time here to review the last year – or, more appropriately, MY year. The truth is, it seems petty and quite meaningless given the events of the last week.

Soon people the world over will be gathering with loved ones to celebrate the arrival of the New Year.

Many of the celebrations will be tempered, however, due to the devastating loss and destruction of lives and property by the giant tsunamis last Sunday in Southeast Asia. The full extent of the devastation has yet to be realized.

I haven’t blogged about this horrific event mainly because I’ve been trying to get my arms around the scope of the destruction. As the death toll rises hourly, comprehension seems unlikely. I cannot fathom what hell the survivors are going through. Water, food and shelter are scarce. Family, friends and neighbors have been washed away. Those lives spared have been changed forever. The world, shocked by the horror of nature’s wrath, has rallied to provide assistance. The magnitude of the recovery will reverberate long after the new year tolls.

In comparison, I have had a truly blessed year – with family, health, home and employment things that I have often taken for granted.

The wisdom of Erma Bombeck

Growing up, I fondly recall the visits by Erma Bombeck on ABC’s Good Morning America. Her sense of humor, Midwestern in origin, was welcomed in our house. Her musings were always spot-on and more often than not brought about an audible chuckle from those of us in the room watching the TV. Her columns (and, later, books) were always insightful, funny and entertaining. Good writing to be sure.

I stumbled upon the following quote while surfing the Net this morning. It’s so true.

There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
– Erma Bombeck

Merry Christmas, everyone…

A gentle snow has been falling all evening. The world outside the front window has taken on the appearance of a snow globe, with the dusting of snow providing a white blanket.

I’m happy for the kids… I can distinctly recall the excitement of waking on Christmas morning to the glow of Christmas lights bouncing of the snow throughout the neighborhood. It was a magical sight, emphasized by the magic of Santa’s visit.

My family celebrated Christmas on Christmas morning. The night before, we’d attend Midnight Mass at Sacred Heart. I will never forget the many masses where we hustled through the bitter cold (like tonight), braving the frigid temps, dressed in our Christmas ‘best’. We’d leave well before 11pm since we had to stop by Aunt Elaine’s and pick her up. The church, every pew filled, was cold despite the crowd. The burning incense hung in the air. And the constant struggle with my eyelids to avoid falling asleep. Afterwards, wired on the pending excitement of Christmas morning (or, perhaps, just a ‘second wind’), we’d stop by Aunt Elaine’s for some coffee (for the adults), milk and cookies. This was our family tradition.

Unlike so many families of the time, my family wasn’t “in” to recording every event with either a still or motion camera. This is perhaps one of the greatest regrets that I have from my childhood – the actual proof that a family unlike any other family once existed. Instead, I am forced to unearth the recorded memories that hide within the folds of my now-41 year old brain… Sadly, like the Kodachrome color film from the 60’s, my memories are fading.

If I close my eyes, I can see snippets of Christmas’ past… Dad taking his position on the foot stool from the ‘big chair’, Mom on the couch, my brother and I on the floor divvying the gifts out. Charlie, our orange Persian-tabby mix, sitting on the back of a chair or under the tree, watching us wearily, aware that a bow would soon be placed upon her head.

Only a few of the many gifts from my childhood come to the forefront… The doll (with her freakish eyes that popped open when her arms were forced outwards and the giggle that was a cross between a pig squeal and the spawn of the devil – I seem to recall her name as “Giggles”). My first record player – a model from Montgomery Ward – that included the first records that I would own – various Christmas classics, and some pop songs from the era – my all-time favorite Elvis song, “Suspicious Minds”, Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue”, and a song (which I’ve never been able to locate on Google), “Bake me a Woman (who is strong)”…. The big yellow slot machine with the plastic chips from Aunt Elaine. The red guitar that I wanted with all my heart (and the subsequent hours that I played the same three chords over and over – but never seemed to notice that I wasn’t really making music). My first (and only) pair of downhill skis – K2’s – along with boots and poles. The X-country skis that required waxing. The mood ring. The Trivial Pursuit game, that year’s “hot” game, that Mom searched high and low for…

After opening the gifts, there was the obligatory phone call to Aunt Elaine to thank her for her gift(s). Then we’d have a nice family breakfast. The yeast smell from the rolls (served warm along with the sunny-side up eggs) still lingers in my memory to this day.

Later in the day, we’d all gather for a wonderful feast, followed by games and laughter.

My strongest memories revolve around the ornaments on the tree (so many of them lovingly made by my Mom, others that I helped to assemble from kits), the plastic window hangings (a Christmas tree and a candy cane which were hung each year on the sliding glass door in the back), the imitation garland that adorned the railing of our split entry home, the table centerpiece (figurines propelled by the heat of burning candles), the red table cloth with the “best” china and fine silverware… A dining room table filled with delicious foods, lovingly prepared by Mom. Each chair filled with the most special people in the world – Mom, Dad, Kevin and Aunt Elaine. My family. These are my most precious and cherished memories.

To tree or not to tree – that is the question

The clock is ticking down towards Christmas day.

The lights are up on the house and Lizard’s donned his Santa hat.

We’re still kicking around the question of whether to put up a tree or not.

Since we no longer exchange gifts, it’s seems silly to me to put up the tree. If anything, it only serves to be a painful reminder of the loss of tradition in our family now that Mom and Dad are gone… Then, again, new traditions can always be reborn.

Happy Birthday, Mom

As a kid, I thought it was neat that my parents shared so many similarities…

Both of their Mom’s shared the name “Helen” and their Father’s were “John”. Even stranger was the fact that their birthdays fell so close to each other. My Dad was born on the 16th of December and my Mom on the 19th. Only three days and several thousand miles separated their births.

Mom passed away in 1984.

Some days it seems like just yesterday. Other days, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Make no mistake, I loved my Dad, but my Mom and I were best friends. The void left by her loss has never been filled. I had hoped that the pain would one day subside, but I can honestly say that a day rarely goes by when I don’t miss her.

There are so many things that I never got to share with her. So many things that I never got to ask her. I have lived the last 20 years in a semi-state of limbo, wondering just how Mom would handle the various curve balls that life has thrown at me. I miss Dad’s advice and guidance, too, but the bond that Mom and I shared was sometimes closer to sisters – and there were things that she shared with me that I know other girl’s Mom’s didn’t share with them.

For the longest period of time, I could close my eyes and see her face and her hands (the hands of an artist, although a little fatter and more tender) and hear her voice. Her laugh always brought me such comfort. As the years have passed by, my memory of her laugh has faded. Occasionally, I’ll be out in public and hear a familiar laugh that makes my heart skip a beat and my words catch in my throat.

I often wonder if she had not died how different my life might be. Would I have ever gotten in to a relationship with JB knowing that my Mom probably would not have approved? Or would I have settled for a life of wedded bliss with MS and the six kids that we so often talked about having? She would have been a wonderful Grandma – she was a great Mom.

Bell, Book and Candle

Went to dinner with good friends, Cathy and Michael. Ate at Grandma’s near the University of Minnesota Law School. Had a great time catching up on our respective careers – Cathy’s got a great opportunity to change from one great company to another up-and-coming company. Michael and I are both wondering when good fortune will strike us and our dedication and strong work ethics will be justly rewarded. Basically, we were both able to commiserate with the fact that we’re in dead-end jobs that we love….

After dinner we went to see Bell, Book and Candle at Theater in the Round (one of the best places to see theater in the Twin Cities metro area).

The play was very well done – the actors clearly having embraced their roles. I was most impressed, however, with the fact that they used a live cat to play Pyewacket. And, he stole the show.

I came home and shamed the boys – what good are they if they can’t act? Darn cats and dogs. šŸ˜‰

Weather outside has taken a decided winter-turn… Wind was really whipping around, causing a breath-stealing windchill. Lungs didn’t appreciate the cold. Suspect that the cold-air asthma it triggered will keep me awake all night.

Gotta love winter.

What choice do I have? It’s not like I can pack up and move to the sunbelt.

Where’d 2004 Go?

Well, folks, 2004 is quickly coming to a close.

A maudlin pall has fallen over me as I recognize another year has slipped away and I’m no closer to any of my dreams or goals than I was one, five or even ten years ago. The fact is, I can’t even remember what those dreams and goals were…

Funny how living life day to day, going to work to earn money to pay the bills, can so fully stifle ones dreams.

I can’t pin-point the exact date that it happened, but a few years ago when the realization that my “career” was anything but a full-fledged “career” (read: nothing more than a dead-end job with unwanted stress), my dreams, goals, aspirations – whatever you want to call them – all seemed to shrivel up and die. Their death was so protracted, I don’t think anyone heard their plaintive cries for help.

Maybe they were just put on ice. An extended hibernation. Or they simply took off and are officially AWOL.

I don’t know.

I think it’s funny (in a very ironic sense) that every year (like clockwork) I go through this extremely painful self-reflecting period filled with angst-ridden emotion. Worse, I can actually picture Stephen Covey, Brian Tracy and Tony Robbins all sitting in their offices, rubbing their hands together, gleefully laughing at the turmoil their companies are causing tens of thousands of people across the globe.

More on this topic later – I still have lots to say.

Happy Birthday, Dad

On this day in 1926, in the sleepy town of Tarrytown, New York, a baby boy was born. His parents, John and Helen, along with his big sisters, Anne and Helen, would welcome John, Jr. into their family with open arms.

Had my Dad not passed away in 1994, he would be celebrating his 78th birthday today.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.

inĀ·erĀ·tia

n.

1. Physics. The tendency of a body to resist acceleration; the tendency of a body at rest to remain at rest or of a body in straight line motion to stay in motion in a straight line unless acted on by an outside force.
2. Resistance or disinclination to motion, action, or change: the inertia of an entrenched bureaucracy.

I had what can only be described as an embarrassing ‘A-ha!’ moment… I have been living a life of inertia.

In my job.

In my life.

Honestly, the energy expended to remain where I am has to be more than would be required to change. I wonder why I’m working so diligently to resist change?

Ten years of inertia is enough.

Holiday Social Gatherings

I was invited to a friend’s house this evening to enjoy a variety of soups, chili, breads, Christmas sweets and wine.

Should you care to know, I don’t like social gatherings.

Standing around in a room full of strangers attempting to make coherent conversation is worse than a root canal without Novocaine.

At least for me.

Maybe it was the wonderful soups and chili – or the two pieces of white chocolate fudge – that my friend, Karen, prepared and I readily consumed, but I was actually able to participate in some pleasantries with her friends, neighbors and co-workers. And, surprise (!), I had a very nice time. [gasp]

Oh, sure, I still felt like a Koi out of water… But it was a nice evening.