"Thank-you very much. This will look good under heavy boxes in the garage."
"Why thank-you so much, but you really shouldn't have." But because you've screwed up so much this year on the job you figured this gift under $25 should compensate for losing the Griffin contract. Oh look, you're still smiling at me. I'm thinking you want me to open this now, and here's me run out of ways to try and sound gracious. Quick! Think of something else to say. She's waiting for you to open,..what probably is a paper weight. It's heavy. It's small. Yep it's a paper weight. Now hold it to the light. Show other people around the room and ooooo and awwwwww over it. "This is exactly what I needed! You know how windy it can get in the office." If ever a window on the 27th floor were ever to have someone jump through it trying to escape this lame office Christmas party.
Yes boys and girls it's that time of year again. A time when adults are inundated with gifts they never really wanted. Useless gifts for around $25 that retailers make 27% of their annual revenue from. Gifts so lame and unnecessary they have to be given by a secret Santa. Is it anything like a Victoria's secret? Or is Santa in some witness protection program from young school children. Little tykes who laid open their hearts to ole St. Nick at the shopping mall, who of recent years found out he was a fraud? Are the beard and suit just a cleaver disguise?
Well I know how to pick out secret Santa's in the stores. They're the ones standing in front of coffee mugs with the stupid sayings. They're the ones humming and hawing over which Chia Pet the guy in book keeping would want. Want? Or they're the ones all happy with themselves over the 'Breaking Bad' cutting board with 'Let's Cook' written on it that they got for $10 off an already over the top asking price. And to my wife, I only followed that women into Victoria Secret because I thought it had something to do with a secret Santa. It was research for this story. How was I to know she was going to ask me my opinion on bras.
Yes the good people of Asia, -who make this crap-, thank you for buying everyone you know a little something.
It's a chance for them to use up left over material from cell phones and TVs and,...well everything else you bought in the last year. Then they make some piece of crap from it, rather than filling their dump sites with it. They then ship it over here, and we give it to people we care about. Just don't let little Jessica chew on her doll as there has been trouble with the paint in past years.
And if you just can't find that perfect piece of junk to wrap up all pretty, for the love of candy canes don't ask for help from anyone in the store. Because you have to know they've had staff meeting that morning where the boss is saying 'I've got a container load of this crap and I expect my loyal employees to move this junk -(Junk I got for $2 a unit and am selling it for $25, after $10 off coupon)- out the doors. Why they'll just love the after market ashtray for their Stairmaster.
Or worse yet you'll walk into a store with cash that you can spend anywhere and walk out with a plastic card equivalent to the cash you had in your pocket that can now only be spent in that store. And perhaps with the stipulation that you have only a limited time to do so. Thank you very much secret Santa. Now I have to go to a candle store and spend 45 minutes picking out a candle, I didn't want in the first place, and then had to lay out an extra $10 bucks to your generous $25 to pay for taxes and a vanilla scent which I can use to cover up the poop smell in the bathroom when guests come over. I mean, why else do you think a dude would want a candle.
I know I sound down on gifts. And I am. Especially when two fully grown people spend silly amounts on gifts neither one of them really needed. If I had wanted such a thing I'd of bought such a thing. Oh 'it's the thought that counts' you say. Then buy me a card from the dollar store and write it out. Or buy me a pork chop and say it. I'll eat eat it, have the memory and be satisfied and fed.
Or here's an idea, take the true meaning of this season and donate what you were going to give to me, in some form, and take a picture of what you did. Put that picture on your computer and challenge others to match your random act of kindness that you experienced for $25. Maybe we'll surprise ourselves on just how much this time of year brings out the best in us all.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Christmas Gone is my Christmas Present
As I've aged, I have realized that Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas until it's over.
It's not until after all the baking ingredients are bought, baked and consumed that I find Christmas.
Christmas for me happens long after a turkey is stuffed, baked and devoured. It's not until after the gifts are all purchased, wrapped and given, and family has come and gone, that I can find that childhood Christmas peace the season's about. The gift of peace that became evident because of that first Christmas.
The house is now quiet from it's annual Christmas Day celebration. The fancy nut and chocolate dishes are left with a small array of what once was. The baking that earlier slid from overladen platters is evident only from crumbs on the many dessert plates scattered and hidden around the room. Punch glasses in varying degrees of half empty and half filled compete with dessert plates for position. The kitchen is filled with dirty plates, cups and bowls that we only use for fancy occasions. It's a special kind of mess, thats all around the house that's only at Christmas.
"Let's leave all this cleanup till tomorrow and go to bed." The wife directs as she tops the stairs. "You coming?" She asks, more out of courtesy than a need to know.
"No" I'm just going to drain the last of the coffee from this pot and enjoy the lights on the tree for a while." I respond, knowing she can't hear me anyway behind the bathroom door.
I turn off the little orange light on the Mr. Coffee maker as the upstairs goes dark leaving only the Christmas tree to guide my way back to my old favorite chair.
Oh look, I can see the floor under the tree again. For weeks it's had a condition where colorful boxes and bags would appear at it's base, blocking floor access. And by doing so, any way of watering the now fire hazard that's been in the house for three weeks.
Tomorrow,...I'll water it tomorrow, I think to myself as my butt is halfway to the chair beyond the point of I'll stand up and do it now before I forget. But it's today! I see only three numbers on the digital display of some gadget around the TV. I was expecting four. I try to convince myself it's still Christmas Day. But, it's not.
Christmas is over. Done, complete, finished. That was a short two months, of everything and nothing but Christmas. I guess I'm glad it's over. Maybe I can breath again. That was a lot of work to get to this moment. All the 'they need, they want, they gotta have or it's not good enough', is done.
I exhale at the thought, blowing across the top of my coffee as I take the first sip. As I focus on the level of coffee in my mug I see a reflection of Christmas tree lights in the coffee. It's just me and the tree now. I don't know how I'm going to break it to him that he's now trash. The now highly decorated, illuminated but poorly irrigated, fire hazard will soon be striped of all it's illumination, man made bobbles and bangles. Soon to be tossed aside and then dumped in a yet unknown location. It's once proud eight foot splendor has started to become a needle dripping, unloved eyesore.
Pondering on which neighbors are away on holidays, and would enjoy an eight foot horizontal Fir on their front lawn upon their return, I'm visually drawn to a childhood memory. Back in the tree behind the 20,000 or more bright LED lights, hidden by plastic ornaments from China and Korea is my childhood Christmas memory. A glass ornament of a choir boy holding a hymn book, mouth open, eyes closed, singing Pop Goes the Weasel. Well, probably not, but as a kid it was fun to think that he was. He was with two other singers back then. The first hand painted boy band from Germany,
They originally had been my grandmothers which would make the last remaining member of the group about 100 yrs. old. Which would make him old enough to be in the Rolling Stones. Nothing says Christmas like a little glass figurine of Mick Jagger hanging in the tree.
As a kid I would lay under the Christmas tree and enjoy the colored lights, ornaments and the smell that the tree held. It smelt like the little cardboard tree dad had around the rear view mirror in the car.
Ornaments would sparkle under the colored lights and compete with tinsel to see who could outshine the other. Christmas carols would play on the big stereo HiFi. A source of pride for my Dad, who would brag that it was big enough to bury him in.
All these sights and sounds would combine with the heavenly smell of Mom's Christmas baking. All together, creating an outdoor cinnamon kind of aroma.
My problems back then were too few to worry, which is the luxury of the young. I had needs and wants that money could still buy. My whole life was ahead of me and it looked exciting and good. It was a time, that as a kid I could lay under a Christmas tree without someone dialing 911. Just lie there in peace and be hypnotized by the sights, sounds and smells of home comfort.
I take another sip of coffee and wish for more sugar.
My little singing old choirboy is looking straight at me through,...I was going to say lights and ornaments, but time, seems more correct. He looks across the time that's been my life. From my youth filled with happy Christmas memories with all the family there. To what my life's become 55 yrs. later.
My Dads gone now, but we didn't bury him in the HiFi. We wished we had of though. It would of been easier having six guys carrying him out in it, than trying to recycle its 7 ft. HIFI splendor. My Mom can still bake but infrequently is her main dish now. And me, I only lay under the tree to water it now. Which if not done in a speedy manner scares the wife.
I've married, twice, and am now happily into my 25th year with my second wife. We share three wonderful children and four even better grandkids. We've worked together to build a family we're proud of. I'm lucky to have lived long enough to where money can't buy me what I want anymore. And all my problems I thought were a problem are in my pine scented rear view mirror.
The furnace kicks in and reminds me to turn down the thermostat before I make it to bed. My coffee's cooled to where gulps replace sips. And my shoulders relax as I breath deep the satisfaction of another happy family Christmas.
Was all the work and effort worth it? Yes it was. All through my life, every Christmas has been with family. Thank you Mom and Dad. You made memories that will last more than your life times. It's was your solid foundation that you set for me, so that I can build on for my family. The one my wife and I are forming, that's being enjoyed and remembered by my kids, and their kids. We're building on solid rock, sitting strong in these stormy times.
Ahhhh I breath out and reach over to squeeze the wife's hand...Oh ya.
All is right in my world little choirboy. Even though outside my door trouble, hate, disease, and wars abound. I'm at peace. Bethlehem peace. An inner peace, found only because of that night so long ago. A comforting peace, that spans throughout all time. An all encompassing peace to surround the grandchildren. One to shelter and comfort their fears of wars, disease and home grown terror. A peace that's anchored by strong roots in my humble home. Now reminded by an old, still precious, almost hidden symbol. One that was once celebrated at the forefront of our family Christmas tree. So much like the real meaning of Christmas for most of us. It's still there. Once you get past all the glitz and noise of the season. Down deep behind the lights, ornaments, presents and other distractions. So precious, still valued,...that quiet kind of Christmas peace.
Dedicated to my big Brother Ian who was with us every Christmas and for many more to come.
Monday, November 23, 2015
> Secret Agent Man
> It's starrrr--ted, the whole Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Happy Festivus multi cultural onslaught of advertising we've all come to expect at this time of year. A season bombed with every imaginable product to make it all happy and bright. Magazines, television, billboards, bus stop shelters and every newspaper are heavily pregnant with gift ideas for every person you ever knew. And my granddaughter wants it all.
> She has learned, through my wife, 'Ask and You Shall Receive'.
> Now she knows better than to try that tactic out on mom and dad. They, as most parents do, give the kid the reality check and let them know 'You Don't Always Get what You Ask For'. And, to be fair to my wife, when our kids were growing up that rule applied too. But then God invented grandchildren for retail suppliers. And they with their wants, and gotta haves, fill the retail hoppers to overflowing at this time of year.
> And you're welcome! On behalf of my wife and her gold Visa card may this time of year carry you through the leaner months ahead in 2016.
> Me? I have little to do with getting out there in the trenches for the hand to hand charge card transactions. All that lining up before dawn, in single line formation out side the business you're about to invade,......not my style.
> I'm the spy kind of guy, more of a James Bond. I find out what information the grandchild posses in regards to their wants. I find out what makes them happy. Their desires. Sometimes I'll play the game of double agent and steer the kid into what they want because the wife bought it when it was on sale in July.
> Mine is not an easy life at this time of year. Me being a spy, is not all the glamor filled Casino Royale nights one would expect being a spy. No, my days are filled in front of a TV with a forty pound child standing, squirming and jumping on my lap. Preschool television to the point of brain dead boredom. Then, shockingly interrupted by a foot filled Dora the Explorer sock to the groin. This then is usually accompanied by 'Grandpa! Grandpa! I want that or Christmas!'
> The number of jumps on my swimsuit area determines how well the gift is liked. One jump being, I'd play with it until the next gift is in front of me. Two being, I'd play with it as much as the box it came in. And three being, I like it enough to take it home from grandma and grandpa's. And if there is ever a fourth jump, I've either gone numb in the once treasured swimsuit area, or it's an iPad commercial.
> This is the torture I must go through to find out what the little boogie eating, lap stomping, I need a drink (well so do I!) Beefaroni gulping, cartoon watching, I want everything kinda kid wants for Christmas. All, so I can tell grandma what to buy.
> Sean Connery never had it this rough!
> The whole 'Grandpa!..I want that for Christmas' starts about two days after her birthday in July. I soon tire of all her over information and do the old 'If you ask for one more thing you will never get anything'. To which she responds in quick fashion to,.. 'Gabriella (the other granddaughter) would like that for Christmas'. So now we're on to Gabriella would like that! Gabriella would love that!
> Apparently Gabriella would like to have a under garment to handle bladder control because 'Hey we all Pee' as the commercial says.
> "Why would Gabriella want underpants ( and here I'm assuming without a 'Barbie' on them) that these old ladies are wearing." I ask.
> "Well they're dancing and having a good time and Gabriella likes to do both of those things." she reasons.
> The conversations I have and punishment I take just to narrow down the gift field is brutal. If she could only write like Gabriella and make a Christmas list all this lap dancing she does could stop.
> But then my spy days would end. No more deciphering drawings for gift ideas or listening in on toy cell phone conversations. Me, following her around toy stores seeing what she shows an interest in. Or the hours in front of the bright lights of a television made to watch the very commercials I avoid like the plague when I'm watching TV on my own.
> But maybe I like being a spy. Maybe I don't want to turn in the remote and drink box. I like the interaction had in getting inside their little heads to see what makes them tick.
> Oh sure they lie and give misinformation. 'No! No! I don't have to go to the bathroom!"
> I won't get fooled by that one again!
> Suddenly I'm brought back to the now, and the present. The present she wants from this commercial. "Grandpa! Granda! I want that for Christmas!" Its a two jump, no three before I can stop her. So I'm shaken, not stirred by a remote T-Rex dinosaur whose eyes can change color when angry. It's a strong contender to be under the tree this year. It's, it's fourth strong showing with two weeks to go before cutoff and shopping begins. Then there'll be no more Grandpa I want this! Or I want that, it'll all be over.
> Mission complete.
> The wife, little Miss Money Penny will refer to me as The Man with the Golden Card and start her mission using my intelligence as her guide. She approaches her buying for the grandkids as The World is Not Enough. And then come January and the bills I just give them to her and say its For Your Eyes Only. That bill in that envelope is A View to a Kill and a License to a Kill if seen by me. It scares The Living Daylights out of me.
> She blames me, letting her go on her own! Me, Dr. No, is suppose to be there to hold her back.
> Me? I blame that little cute boogie eating, lap stomping, I need a drink, Beefaroni gulping, cartoon watching I want everything kind of kid! And the fact that we are lucky enough to be grandparents we can Never Say Never Again.
> Bob Niles (007)
Monday, November 16, 2015
Mars calling Venus, is dinner ready?
Reality TV has brought me to the realization that my wife and I live in two different worlds. We share the same house but are in different universes when it comes to likes and dislikes on TV.
Her unscripted TV choices consist of rich catty housewives fighting each other over.....? Then we have heavily manscaped real estate agents putting each other down so one can look more successful than the other? Then there's the every day joe, like myself, trying to renovate bathrooms and kitchens by themselves. Lost and under budgeted sinking into renovation overload. Or worse, they pay someone to do it and then they take off leaving them helpless and hopeless to finish. But then to their rescue comes a saviour ripping it all down while repeating over and over again minimum code requirement.....Then we have couples looking to buy homes near or afar and how much work and money it will cost to make it to their liking.
I watch Yukon, Alaskan, northern, crab catching, mining, trappers digging holes with big machines and skinnin critters in shacks.
The only thing our shows share in common is both trappers and high class housewife wear fur.
My shows make the money her shows spend the money. My guys live in an 8x8 log cabin or a trailer on wheels. Her shows aren't happy no matter where they live. My guys seem like they are dirty all the time her guys are,.....? No, her real estate guys and housewives are dirty too. Just in a different way.
My parents never entertained the thought, mind or visual senses of anything but same likeness. And if they did my brothers and I certainly weren't aware of it. My grandkids all they have to do is walk in the house to realize grandpa and grandma have nothing in common. Grandmas upstairs watching rich ladies yell at each other, and grandpas downstairs watching a hermit skin, gut and eat a member of the weasel family. The poor kids don't know where to go to watch their own programs.
And that's another thing. Kids now have their own networks. They too can zone out to their personalized tastes. And thank God for it. There's too much explaining and trauma to them viewing our TV interests. I don't think my mom or dad ever had to tread softly over any issue raised by Andy, Barney or hillbillies from where rich housewives now live in my formative years.
TV use to bring us together, now it isolates us. My friends and I growing up shared the same three or four networks. We were a closer in our likes and dislikes because of the lack of choice. And we were happy with that. The wife and I drifted to two TVs then to two different worlds.
The whole men are from Mars and women from Venus thing has us now back on our originating planets thanks to TV programming. Oh sure there are times when we both meet on earth to watch men fight each other on a playing surface for sports, but she just likes the fighting. Me, I think about how much gold it takes to pay these suckers to play. So really we're still off in our own little worlds. Maybe if rich housewives were to play beach volleyball we could each sit in the same room and appreciate it for what it is. Me, the little man that I am, and her enjoying the fight in the sandbox.
Maybe if they wore fur bikinis?
Monday, November 9, 2015
See the rainbow. Taste the rainbow. Now eat his chocolate friend.
"Honey what did you do with the leftover Halloween candy?" My wife asks in a yelling kind of accusing way as she slammed open and closed kitchen cabinet doors and drawers in need of a sugar fix.
I manage to swallow the soft chewy caramel centred chocolate bar and through calorie laden teeth yelled "Who's Al O'Ween? Honey leapt over Al O'Ween's caddy? Never heard of him. Who does he caddy for?" This buys me time in the living room as I try to clear the crime scene of incriminating evidence. Wrappers, foil, cups, tiny boxes, little bags and peanuts with the chocolate sucked off of them.
"No dufass! HALLOWEEN,.. HALLOWEEN CANDY! Where?" She corrects as she rounds the corner to the crime scene.
And here let me set the record straight that when she entered there was not a chalk outline of me on the hardwood floor but by the end of our conversation,....no, inquest, I would totally expect there could be one.
I had been caught with my hand in the candy jar. No really, I couldn't get it out. If I'd of been smart enough to let go of the 'Mars' bar I could of, but chocolate makes me dumb. Plus in my haste to wipe clean the crime scene the back of my other hand was covered in chocolate. I'd used it to wipe sweet sticky evidence away from around my mouth from ear to ear.
"Oh Halloween,....." I pause. I realized that Halloween cannot be said without showing ones teeth. And I realized that she probably can't see my teeth as there is a thick layer of caramel and chocolate making one great big brown coloured un-toothy grin. I try to recover, realizing my mistake and say "Hallowan? Let me tink." I say this through teeth that are easily stuck together.
"Gigs up Willy Wonka! Hand em over!" I pass her the soggy un-laden chocolate peanuts and the empty candy jar with my fist in it.
She talked me down from the 'Mars' bar and I was able to remove my hand. This was then followed by ten minutes of 'What did you do? How could you? Think of your health. Why would you treat your body this way?' And the ever popular ' I could kill you!' I took comfort in the word could, because it wasn't should. I was safe for now.
I tried to defend my actions as best I could. But it sounded all so empty through my dumb chocolate grin, all the while licking off the back of my hand, like a cat, and trying to justify my unthinking selfish ways. I then asked her, and I probably shouldn't have, if I could have that last 'Mars' bar back.
Then the word could didn't change to should but rather gonna. "I'm gonna to kill you! Or should I just let the chocolate do it for me?" I voted for the chocolate and she left with her arms in the air. " Like ya just don't care." I fool heartily added. It's the chocolate talking.
I take her departure as approval to me having the last chocolate bar. I figure if she had wanted it she would of stayed.
I blame the chocolate for my behaviour. It makes me dumb. So dumb that I justify small amounts of its creamy goodness over many and long periods of time as harmless. One little bit here, and another here and one little bit more........All good. It isn't until a couple of weeks later, when things get a bit tight and pinching that you say 'It's the dryers fault.'
Why can't they invent fat that makes you fat right away? Don't make me full! Make me fat! Then the ten little candy bars I was thinking of eating, after the first five, might live to see another day. I want to know the damage now, not a month from now as I'm kicking my hat to the curb so I can pick it up easier.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want everything now. Can't afford it? Charge it! Take that trip. Buy that outfit. You deserve it, have it all now. That is all except fat, and the removal there of. It sneaks up on you then stays forever.
My kindergarten class - class of 1960 - is having a reunion. I can't go! I've gained 150 lbs. since those crazy days. How could I justify the weight gain? "Well yes I've gained a few but I now know my phone number and can tie my shoes, if I could see them."
If they can't invent a way to make you fat right away then they should find a way to streamline fat removal. If I waddle up a flight of stairs I want an instant way of knowing that this is better than taking the elevator for my health. Not me gasping for air as I'm puking my guts out on the top step thinking this is good for me. Feel the burn. It's called stomach acid.
But my pleas go unheard, for the scientific world makes fortunes from feeding frenzies of fat fools. Hearts that stop on a dime and arteries clogged up tighter than a hair ball in the Kardashian's plumbing makes companies like Phizer very wealthy. No it will take the fashion world to bring rolie and polie back to make me enjoys this time of year again. Fashion must be ready for a change, enough with the skinny! How many models have to fall down road drains before something is done about it.
Now's the time fashion world! From October to January it's Thanksgiving then Halloween then Thanksgiving again -- if you speak American-- Christmas, Hanukah and several other merry and happy times. And then to top it all off, New Years. And all of them to the tune of food which impede my progress of making the top stair. So then I make a resolution to eat better at the start of every year. Here we go again. Ten days of trying, and 355 days of guilt. All thanks to making the stairs so high and Calvin Klein!
"Honey I'm sorry you can have the last,....last half the 'Mars' bar. And the peanuts have dried out a bit more now. You're absolutely right, you can kill me instead of the chocolate if it'll make you happy. You were kidding,...right? BUUURRRP whoa! Feel the burn, taste the burn. Must be getting healthy.
Monday, November 2, 2015
"HELLO! HELLO? EXCUSE ME! HELLO!"
(a WW11 Vet talking to Santa)
"Excuse me......Hello?....Excuse there,....yes you, ah, Santa...........Oh no, no problem, I guess you couldn't hear me cause of you ringing them bells.........Oh and a Merry Christmas to you too! And a Happy New Year. I was just wondering, could I just get around you there?......Oh yes it is quite a big job, LOL as the kids say.......Could I just step past you there?............Yes it is very crowded with all this Christmas display....very pretty. ......where has the year gone eh? Well you know there's just about two months left in the year so we're really only 10 months into the year..........Yes, yes so much to do before the 'Big Day'.....If you could just stop ringing for a moment, I need to get around you....well yes if you could just step aside that would be great!.......Yes of course be careful, don't want to break anything with only 2 months before your big night.......Yes, it's right behind you there that I need....No, no not the Christmas decoration.....Yes, that's it the box with all the poppies, I want to purchase one..... Well, maybe that's best, why don't I just hand you the money, there seems to be too much Christmas in the way of me and my poppy..... .....Thank-you......Yes I do wear it proud.....It's on November11th, Remembrance Day,......Great! You'll be there. Good for you! But, maybe next year, and here don't take this personal, it's okay if you and Christmas don't hit town till the 12th. I hope this doesn't put me on the bad list? I mean I love Christmas, but if you could just wait, hold off all the Christmas noise till we have our moment of silence to remember the fallen. They that paid the ultimate price, to be remembered.....Greatly appreciated!"
(2 minutes later) RINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRINGRING