Forgettable Christmas

When my boys were growing up, we always had a real tree. I didn't have any extra money, so I would wait until Christmas Eve and find a tree lot with a scattering of Charlie Brown trees. I am not ashamed to admit I had a madness to my method. I usually got the tree for free or for little money, like five bucks. It helped that the three of us looked like orphans, Mama orphan and her two little orphans, huge eyes, hollow cheeks (but rosy just the same), worn coats that looked like they needed to go out in the garbage behind Goodwill, not in Goodwill. The decorations were handmade. I also used old Christmas cards and cut out balls, bells, angels, and Santa's and strung them on the tree. Very frugal and creative.

When my boys were 20 and 21, my Dad was very ill. On my son's 21st birthday, December 10, my Mom called to say Dad was dying and didn't have long. So I rushed to Eugene, Oregon along with my sister from Seattle. We played with, cared for, and loved and petted our Dad for his final days. Nine days later, after a bittersweet, beautiful, and terrible time with our Dad, he slipped away. Mom, my sister, and I watched the hearse drive away down the road, we silently waved, said goodbye, and immediately went into a rote mode. We gathered up all the clothes that needed washing in the house and drove to a Laundromat and washed several loads of clothes like we had nothing better to do with our time. It was so eerie and unreal – there were a couple people in there, doing their laundry and we just sat, numb, stoic – I kept thinking "do you know my Dad died?" It was ethereal.

I took a Greyhound bus home, arriving the next morning, the 20th of December. After sitting around in a fog for a couple days, I realized I had to do something for Christmas. My oldest was in the Army, stationed in Korea. The Red Cross brought him home because my Dad was his main father figure. I decided I wanted to have some semblance of Christmas spirit in the house. But I couldn't muster up the spirit. Christmas in 1993 was a real afterthought.

Finally I raced to Wards in the evening; a spur of the moment, last minute thing. I ran through the store and bought three of everything, one each for my sons, one for my significant other.

And then I found an artificial tree in the back of the upper floor of Wards – all alone, all by itself. The store lights were dimming for all the shoppers to get done with it, buy it, pack it, take it, and just get out. The salesman came up to me as I was looking at that little artificial tree. He said it was 60% off and now only nineteen bucks. I bought it.

Ran home, wrapped shirts, sweaters, slippers. Slammed the tree inside a tree stand, decorated it quickly with every decoration I could find, discovered that the lights actually worked this year, for some unknown reason, and called it good.

That year we were having my mother-in-law over and her mother, who was 93 years old. I couldn't cook. Well, I could cook, but poorly and I plainly just did not want to and in any case I had nothing to make. So we decided to go out to dinner. On Christmas. We went to Granny's Buffet on the north side and were shooed away by the line that went a block down the sidewalk. We tried fast food places. We drove all over town trying to find something open for Christmas, all the time I am mentally reviewing my freezer and I know all I have are ice cream and jalapeƱo pepper poppers.

We ended up at a new Chinese Restaurant that I will never name because I could be sued. It was dreadful. Nobody spoke English. They just opened THAT day. We waited an hour for anybody to take our order, the place was packed. We waited for an hour for our barbecued pork. Then we waited another hour for our food. While we were waiting, a family of about 20 Asians walked through the restaurant to the kitchen and disappeared. We assumed that they were eating OUR dinner. A waitress flew through the front door, tied an apron on and then came to our table to check on our order. She was from Spokane and they hired her over the phone because she could speak English. I wanted to leave but I didn't know what to do with Grandma. Ninety-three. She couldn't go much longer without food. And my soldier son was fighting the smell of kimshee (fermented cabbage in holes in the ground; a constant odor all around him 24 hours a day). The sooner he ate and we were out of there, the happier we would all be.

The restaurant is still open after 15 years – it might have improved.

So that was our Christmas, and that little tree is still the tree I use. (I now do all my shopping for Christmas in September in case some traumatic emergency befalls me.) (I also stock my freezer with enough food to last a month.)



Collection Obsession

I have a collection of collectibles obsession. I am an eclectic collector.

I'm not sure if it is a bad thing or a good thing.

The good thing is – I know a little bit and sometimes a lot about glassware, pottery, Betty Boop, Duncan Miller, Fenton animals, Mickey Mouse, John Deere Tractors, children's porcelain tea sets made in the early 1940s, Santa Claus statues, and other Christmas items like snow globes, music boxes, Moose, miniature tree decorations, and Mr. Christmas decorations. Oh, and Liberty Falls Americana villages with pewter figurines.

A "score" would be two in one – Santa on a John Deere tractor; or a Santa on a musical John Deere tractor – or my best – A (1) musical (2) snow globe of (3) Santa on a (4) John Deere tractor with a (5) moose riding a miniature Santa train around the base of the Snow Globe. (I don't collect trains, but my brother does.)

I have a huge collection of Fenton Glass animals – they are on my piano. I don't have any duplicates – that's the goal. I have a pink elephant, a blue cat, a green frog, a cobalt blue kitten, an amber deer and several others. I'm looking for a hippopotamus and not sure what color.

I have a collection of Duncan Miller fluted glassware that is done in a Canterbury pattern. The glass is old enough to have manganese in it – pre World War I. The sun makes the manganese change color from clear to a soft lavender or a pale blue. In newer glass, the manganese was removed and used during the war effort.

I have probably two dozen miniature tea sets from the 40s on up. I found that it was easier to find miniature tea pots or a single cup and saucer. So I revamped my collecting to whole sets or to one tea cup and saucer or one tea pot with lid – so I have 40 or so unmatched solitary pieces from sets.

The bad thing: No space. I do not have a big enough house with the number of shelves needed to display all my collections without it looking like a flea market. So, I'm rotating them. Right now, I am in the Fenton animal theme. In two weeks, I will go for the Santa - Music Box - Snow Globe – Miniature tree decorations theme.

This is all to say to my friends, you WANT to pull my name for the Christmas exchange. I am so easy to shop for.




The boys are growing faster and faster
every day, it seems.
They have moved up from Teddy Bears, trucks, and Lego’s,
Their interests now lie in girls,
How to get them
How to avoid them.
And pimples,
How do you get them
How to avoid them
I enjoy their height, their long arms and gangly legs.
But I miss the winters of their infancy,
Their little tiny bodies stuffed into all kinds of woollies,
Mittens, and gloves, and hats, and boots,
And snow pants, and over-coats,
Waddling waist deep in the snow,
Looking like creatures from Star Wars, like Ewoks.
Here they are, taller than me,
Growing taller,
Walking always out the door
Someday to have fat little Ewoks of their own.
ages 6 and 7

(c) D. Jean Buchanan

Working Mother's Lament

Working Mother's Lament

Hectic mornings are such a common thing,
Rise and shine,
Fly to the kitchen, start the oatmeal,
But one son wants Cheerios instead.
He gets oatmeal (and a kiss),
But, he’d rather have Cheerios.
Fly to the bathroom, brush their hair, their teeth,
don't forget to brush my own hair, own teeth.
Put make-up on, rush to find one son’s lost shoe,
(it’s somewhere. . .)
Lay out boys’ clothes, ask them kindly to dress themselves
For a change.
Rush to my room, dress in whatever is still clean,
Must remember to wash clothes (tonight, maybe).
Rush to their room, they’re not dressed.
Please get dressed,
And find your shoe!
Rush to car, warm it up, rush back to bedroom,
Bend down, get them dressed
(but I won’t do it tomorrow),
And find lost shoe.
Socks don't match, maybe no one will notice.
Rush car through town, nobody is likewise rushing.
Leave sons off at sitter after two hugs, two kisses, two loves.
Arrive at office, coffee, relax, remember. . . .
I forgot to tie their shoes,
But I tied mine in a double knot.

Ages 6 & 7

(c) D. Jean Buchanan


Weird things your kids do

I have never ever shared this story with another soul. My boys were 6 and 7 when I had minor surgery. Well, what I had was, I had my tubes tied. I loved my little boys – but they were total boys and I didn't want to have two more like them, so I had my tubes tied. It was to be a short, in and out, slice and dice teeny surgery and I'd be home again in four hours, fulfilling my Mommy role with aplomb. That is before I discovered that I am a tad bit allergic to anesthesia. I'm not really allergic – I am just plain nauseated by the whole thing, all day long, every 15 minutes.

So, finding out that I was pretty much totally incapacitated, a very close girl friend came by to watch the boys and let me rest. She brought dinner, too – Kentucky Fried Chicken. Yummmm. Only my little aversion to anesthesia seemed to cover chicken too. So the boys and Sherry ate to their hearts content.

I vegged on the couch being careful to keep my nose pinched shut.

And then Sherry went to the bathroom to wash little boys' hands free of chicken grease.

She came back and said – "so, I realize every time you've gone in there that you have had your head hanging down in preparation for praying to the porcelain god – but you have missed some interesting artwork on the ceiling. . . ."

My curiosity peeked – I shuffled in to the bathroom and looked at the ceiling and tried to fit it in my brain. What is that? What are those things? It looked like white rats with tails splotched to the ceiling – a dozen of them. All over the ceiling. And then I saw my now empty box of tampons on the floor. Those creatures were soggy tampons, soaked in water (thank God), and flung to the ceiling with little boy hands, splayed out like spread eagled squashed mice, tails hanging down in defeat.



The Turkey and the Chicken

When my sons were 8 and 9, they were in Boy Scouts and we had the annual bake sale/raffle, Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I remember this day very well. I had $6.00 to my name and knew I couldn't possibly afford a turkey and all the trimmings. It was going to be a pretty grim Thanksgiving. I was eyeballing chickens and wondering how fooled the boys would be.

There was a family at the bake sale that evening that I had kind of put on a shelf in the back of my mind – affluent, intelligent, married (I was the only divorcee in the room of 20 families), and beautiful with equally beautiful twin boys, age 9. I wasn't in their realm.

The scouts were supposed to make their own cake. Home made by the boys. There would be a prize for the best cake – a 20 pound fresh turkey, and all the trimmings including a Pumpkin Pie.

My mind slithered back to the soap box derby, where the boys are supposed to make a screaming racing car out of a block of wood, *by*themselves* At the derby, the twins showed up with a cherry-red, cherried-out, speed demon race car that won hands down! My son showed up with a hand carved by him (with a little inadequate help from me), lemon colored (for a reason) obviously home-made car that wouldn't even roll an inch without help.

So here we are at the bake sale/raffle, the rich twins sporting an absolutely beautiful beehive cake with yellow and white striped icing, and little furry bees on toothpicks "hovering" over the beehive which looked to be done by some elite French chef. And our cake, Mr. Happy Face, which was bumpy and wavy, black frosting smeared into a half-assed circle with a crooked little smile and two globs for eyes – the saddest cake I have ever seen.

I grumbled to myself. I had decided I was going to buy the cake back for $2.00, leaving me $4.00. I could still get that damned chicken.

It was getting darned close to disaster time in my family as our misshapen cake, made totally by my son, was sitting forlorn and lonely as all the other cakes were being raffled off – it was down to the beehive cake or the happy face cake.

Bee Family bought my cake AND theirs!

I felt a strange twisting in my gut – I was bitter and angry and jealous and peeved and crabby. They could have bought all 20 cakes! And of course, Bee Family won the turkey dinner. It was a test for me to practice sweetness in the face of total disaster.

I told myself that this was a good thing. I still had SIX dollars to buy my "chicken" dinner. And spare change to get two ice cream cones for two pretty sad little boys.

We got to our car and I was loading the kids in, when Mr. Bee came up to me with this HUGE box, the hump of a gigantic turkey peering over the edge; potatoes, stuffing, Pumpkin Pie, the WORKS. "We've already got our turkey – this would just go to waste – would you mind taking it off our hands?"

Well, I tell ya, I could hardly talk to him as I choked up and teared up and tried to wrestle all those nasty feelings that were turning around in my head.

There are many things to be thankful for. I am always thankful that my thoughts didn't come out of my mouth.



Bumper Cars

So, an interesting thing happened to me just five minutes into my drive home last night. I could see the lane in front of me opening up to two lanes, so went for it. The driver in front of me, though, didn't see the two lane opening and was hell bent for leather to dive into the Taco Time parking lot and not signal his intent. Our two cars met at my left front bumper, which scraped, scratched, and clawed at his right-side doors. Because I was too impatient to actually WAIT the five more feet to get to the additional lane, I got a $175 ticket. Stupid me! So – two little anniversaries here. The last time I got a ticket was maybe 30 years ago. The last time I wrecked my car was 11 years ago to the day. Happy Anniversary!

My history with cars is a rollercoaster ride. It's always something.

I have had a car that had frequent flat tires until I could finally afford a new wheel. I mean, once a week!!!

I have had a couple cars go through a quart of oil a week, to the point that I automatically got a quart of 10/40 oil along with bread and milk – it had become a staple.

I had a car that went through starters like candy. It was so bad that my significant other (coincidentally, my mechanic as well), showed me how to jump start my starter to keep on going. So, there I'd be, in the middle of an intersection at a light now turned green, and me in my work dress and heels, leaning inside the engine with a screwdriver touching the starter and sparks snapping at my fingers as I would jump back and the engine would start. I was my very own Keystone Cops entertainment. This got even worse when my emergency brake handle fell off. Then, I was given a pair of pliers so I could pull the emergency brake on; leap out of the car; jump start the starter; and drive away.

So I finally got a little Suzuki Swift. Great little car. I got extra warranty on it because Mechanic Man was not ever going to hand me another tool to fix something in my car. It did me well. It was 18 years old and still running great, 40 mpg, when, in the middle of the night, a drunk driver crashed in one whole side of the car from front to back and pushed it up against boulders on the other side, continuing the carnage on that side as well. It looked like it had snuck itself to a demolition derby, played itself to death, and then was dropped back in its parking place acting all innocent, like nothing happened. It still sits in the garden at Mechanic Man's house waiting to be rebuilt.

Now this. Almost $3,000 in damages, can you believe it??




To be organized is to be "prepared, planned, ordered, controlled, well thought-out, structured."

All things I am not.

I have many bosses and I get their baggage too (their specialized assistants). I find files, search for files, file files, pull files, close files (in your dreams). They ALL keep their files that they are working on in order received – which is NOT alphabetical or numerical! They also have mysterious piles of files in stacks on chairs, tables, couches, floor and any space in their office that is big enough for a new pile. I blitz through each office daily and try to memorize the various locations of a myriad of files that are in no sensible order.

My biggest hurdle though is being organized. Ha! And how do I make each one of those bosses and each one of those specialized assistants feel like they are primo number one, top dog, big kahuna, king/queen of the universe?

What I am is higgledy-piggledy. And, yes, that is in the dictionary!

At the end of the day, this is how I feel:



Friendship: the Staff of Life

I have mentioned my friends before. I value my friends like nothing else. They are someone to lean on, listen to, cry on, giggle with, play with, and hold high as exemplary people that make me better than I would be without them.

I have recently developed a friendship with someone new - a freelance writer for the Spokesman-Review and several other publications. Her name is Cindy Hval. She enriches me and subtly reminds me to see the lighter things in life. What sets her apart from others is her sense of humor, quick wit, and eloquent compassion.

I invited her to share dinner with my friends a month ago; she in turn wrote a column about us – a sequel to a Spokesman-Review article about us done in 1993 – so 15 years later, we are hardly changed at all. If anything, we imbue the phrase, we aren't getting older, we are getting better.

I am one of the luckiest people on earth to have so many very close and dear friends, and to count Cindy as one of them.

Please read the beautiful Article by Cindy Hval in the Spokesman-Review today.


What goes around comes around

Are you a bad neighbor??

I have what I call the Neighbor From Hell. We moved into our two houses the same weekend 20 years ago, under the same county program to help first homeowners. For 20 years, NFH has risen at sunrise every weekend to run every power toy he owns: leaf blower, lawn mower, weed whacker, chain saw. This will start at 6:00 in the morning and by the time I have been thoroughly annoyed and wide awake and have slammed the window shut (after debating which is worse, the oppressive heat in an unairconditioned house or the obnoxious clatter and clamor from ten feet away), NFH will put all his power toys back in the garage and slink into the house, never to be seen for the rest of the day. I've thought of calling the police – but as soon as I lift up the phone – you got it – he's gone.

NFH also tosses limbs from my trees that land in his yard, back into my yard. He stands on the roof of his garage and pushes leaves off the roof over into my yard. He trims branches from my trees hanging over his yard and tosses them into my yard – and not just by the property line. NOOOOO, he heaves them to the middle of my yard. If I would approach him, he would slither back into his cave and hide.

Finally, he did the unthinkable – he hacked down my wild rose bush that grew along my driveway, on my property, but next to his patio. He hacked what was a ten-foot tall beautiful wild rose bush to the ground with just a two-inch stub showing. He did this three times over the spring.

The poor thing would try to recover, grow a few inches, and WHACK, down to the ground. And try again and WHACK, down to the ground.

This guy is a piece of work. Finally, I threatened to take him to small claims court this last spring, after his millionth desecration of my wild rose bush. I had to mail a notice to him since I could never catch him outside, nor would he answer his door.

Wonder of wonders, he responded by immediately putting up a fence.

I danced a jig.

About four weeks ago he put up a For Sale sign in front of his house.

I danced another jig out on the sidewalk. Things are looking GOOD!

Then, last week I was raking leaves and uncovered my rose bush, hacked AGAIN within the last week. I cursed, flailed my rake, cursed some more, said really bad words, and finally muttered, "I wish you would just DIE."

So, this weekend, his obituary was in the Sunday paper. Don't get excited – I don't have awesome powers. He died two days before I wished it upon him.

There's a moral here. Don't mess with thy neighbor – especially if she is menopausal.



President Obama!

Yes We Can!

Wow! What a phenomenal day Election Day was! Even my significant other who voted for McCain felt an emotional high at realizing that history, extraordinary, unparalleled, over the top, history was being made right in front of his eyes.

I felt that McCain's speech was very gracious and exceptional. He was genteel and kind. In the end, he asked the nation to unite as one. That's, bottom line, all I want, too.

While he was talking so magnanimously, it occurred to me that if his campaign was run in the same way – with kindness, generosity, talking about his issues and his platform – if his campaign would have left out any of the negative and questionable non-facts on Obama, this could have been a very tight race. He could have been a contender.

I think Obama is a very kind man, very steadfast and constant in his determined effort to relentlessly overcome hurdles and obstacles in his way. He never went down to the gutter level of the innuendos and smears hurled at him. He stepped over them. I imagine that is how he will handle his presidency, too. He will not mire himself in rumors – he will instead keep his eye on the goal of unifying our country, healing many rifts. I truly believe he will have a very positive impact on not just our country but on the world. He inspires me!

I came to work this morning and I, too, received an email from Barak, thanking me for my donation to his campaign. What did I donate? $25. That's all. $25. That is where the millions came from that supported his campaign – from average people like me.

Yes We Can!



Another OldTimer's Moment

So, I decided to bake turnovers for my Significant Other and myself. Set the oven for 475 degrees, mentioned to SO that I would probably set off the fire alarm, put the two apple turnovers in the oven, and went to the couch and set up my nest of blanket, pillow, book and wiggled in. 25 minutes later the buzzer went off for the oven.

"What the hell is that?" I cried. "Why'd you set the timer?" I accused SO.

He looked at me like I was totally nutso - and in a flash of miraculous insight, I finally remembered that it was ME - a mere 25 minutes ago.

Then I pulled out the not-quite-burnt-yet turnovers and went back to the box that said "turn oven down to 400 degrees as soon as you put the turnovers in the oven."

And finally, in shock and a daze, I put the glass pan into the sink and just *started* to pour water on it and it exploded in a million razor sharp little slivers of glass.

Boy, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

And, yes, the fire alarm went off without a hitch!



Don't Touch That Dial

There is a double standard in two-car families. Have you noticed? My mate has a car (or three or four) and a truck. I am "allowed" to drive his car, with the firm stipulation that I cannot touch anything in it except the steering wheel. It is verboten! However, once every six months, HE will drive my car (I own one and only one) and the next time I am at the wheel – everything, I mean EVERYTHING, has been changed. The side windows that I spent 30 minutes to a week trying to get just right, the rear view mirror, the seat (I'm 5'2" and he is so much taller than me that clouds are around his head), and the radio (which now plays country while I listen to oldies). I never change the station. Ever. I don't even know my station's call numbers. I again spend a week or more trying to "seek" my station. I finally found it and put it in memory. But the thing with the side mirrors drives me crazy – I have to be driving to see that they are adjusted right. I think there is a law against people (especially non-multi-taskers like me) driving 60 miles per hour while fiddling with the side mirror adjustment button on the left while looking in the side view mirror on the right to see if the vehicle is really closer than it appears, and that it isn't MY car's right rear fender. It's one thing to ask you guys to return the toilet seat to the "sitting" position – when you get that managed, would you please train yourself to do the same when it comes to your mate's car? It gives new meaning to "he really knows how to push my buttons."