Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas I'll Never Forget

A couple of weeks ago, after a successful blog hop about Christmas ornaments, I suggested a blog hop about the "Christmas I'll Never Forget."  One of the bloggers thought it would be okay, but "not everyone has a Christmas miracle story."  This is not a Christmas miracle story. This is not "It's a Wonderful Life." It is a mixture of "Christmas Vacation" and "Christmas Story." 

December 1983 was a horribly cold and miserable month. The week of December 18-24 was the coldest ever seen in the month of December. We had lots of snow already and the temperature never rose above zero. The average was -16 degrees F and windchill ranged from -50 to -70 degrees F. 

I had graduated from college that spring and was gainfully unemployed and living at my parents. On Christmas Eve day, my brother and his family (well, wife and 2-year old daughter) arrived in the afternoon. My mom was working that day at the Roadrunner - a 24/7 roadside gas station she co-managed. The station was just on the outskirts of town, right off I90. 
My brother and I were driving out to pick her up and because of the slick roads and my brother's lack of fear of said road conditions, we ended up in the ditch. The windchill was dangerous and even a couple of minutes exposure could mean frostbite. Fortunately, another car came by, picked us up and took us back home. 

Opening the door to go back into the house, the metal handle of the storm door snapped off in my hand. 

I insisted on driving for the second attempt to pick-up Mom. As I was backing out of the garage, I noticed that there was a small drift of snow in the driveway, so I started to steer the car to avoid it. Unfortunately, the front end of the car was still in the garage. In my parents' new garage. The side of the car hit the garage door mental track and bent it.  
If you believe that everything happens in threes, you are going to have to continue counting. 

The car was drivable and while I was a bit upset about the whole garage thing, I was determined to still drive out to the Roadrunner. Mom was waiting for us and ready to go home. Yes, it was a 24/7 station, but it would close Christmas Eve at 5 and re-open the following morning, so Mom had to lock the place up. Which she did. When she tried to remove the key, it was frozen in the lock. As we pulled on the key to get it out, it broke. Half of the key was left frozen in the lock. At least the place was locked. 

When we finally delivered Mom home safe and sound, my sister and her hubby and two-year old son and 6-month old baby girl were now there. We had our Christmas dinner and when my sister started to mix the baby's formula, the can of formula was bad with what looked like grubs in the mixture. Since the two-year old had an allergic reaction to milk, we didn't trust just giving her regular milk.  It's Christmas Eve, there's a -70 degree windchill factor outside and there is no place open to buy formula and it's not like you can just walk over to the neighbors to borrow a cup. 

I don't remember how we solved the formula issue. But I do remember the decision I made that week. A friend of mine was going to attend graduate school at Rice University in Houston the next year and she thought I should go with her. One year later - January 1985 - I said goodbye to snow and windchill factors and I moved to Houston, Texas, bragging to my friends how I would never have to deal with those concepts ever again. 

It was my second day in Houston when the weatherman announced that snow was on its way and because of the cold temps, he warned Houstonians about the possible windchill and explained what it was. As I pounded my head on the table, they announced that the schools would be closed the next day because of the chance of snow.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It's the Holiday Season

It will be a strange holiday for me. New job, new town and a temporary living arrangement.  So, I'll have a Christmas tree, but it won't be my Christmas tree since I'm living at my sister's. Who, by the way, really gets into decorating the house for the holiday, as I witnessed when she pulled tub after tub of holiday decor out from storage. This ADD kid got a bit overwhelmed by it all.

Christmas is really very distracting for those with ADD as it is truly the holiday of bright shiny objects! Lights, tinsel and ornaments. 

I'll be honest and say that there were many years when I didn't even put up holiday decorations if I was too busy or not in the mood. Besides, the last thing I would need is something to further distract me. Plus I think single people have to be really motivated to decorate for the holidays.

If your home is small (like my condo), trees can take up a lot of space. I own two "wall trees" that I would hang on my ever-gawdy mirrored wall. These are half trees, so on the wall, they sort of looked fuller - or at least I thought so.

The two trees have different themes. One is my angel tree and the other - no big surprise to anyone who knows me - is a skating tree. (Suddenly I get a visual of tree skating, but I digress.) 

I am SO NOT an angel person, but WAY back in 1988, my mom - who is also a holiday fanatic and should have owned stock in Hallmark - started giving me a Hallmark ornament series - Mary's Angels. As those you who are good with numbers have figured out, I have 21 of these ornaments, with #22 under the tree (hopefully). They are named for flowers and the first one was Daffodil. At least that's my memory of it. I can't be sure because all of my holiday decorations are packed away in a storage unit about 100 miles away from where I am right now. (The photos here are from a website called "Hooked on Hallmark")

I remember opening the gift and looking closely at the ornament and getting a weirded out feeling when I saw the artist's signature on the bottom of the ornament - Mary -was dead-on to my signature when I sign my full name Mary Elizabeth. If you look closely at the ornaments, they also have a very tiny, ridiculously small triangle with a number in it that tells you what number it is in the series.  Even when my eyes were younger, I couldn't read it.

My other tree is the Skating tree that has so many ornaments that I may have to get a bigger tree to hold all of them.  Many of the ornaments were gifts (hmmm, what do you give a skating judge at Christmas???) and sadly, I might not be able to tell you from who or when I got them - except for one. It was the first one and it was also from my mom. It was Christmas 1978 - my senior year in high school. Mom and I were at the Hallmark store at the Mall and I spotted the ornament and begged her to buy it. I really wanted something special to remember my senior year and an ornament with a skating theme seemed perfect. It hung on the family tree for many years. I don't remember precisely when she gave it to me for my own tree, but I've had on my tree for at least the last 10 years.  

It, too, is packed away in storage, in its original box with an old rubber band wrapped around it (that was how my mom would secure all the ornament boxes).  Mom wrote on the back of the box the date it was purchased and "This is Mary's." And it is.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm A Shopping Machine

I am not, in any way, a power shopper. No one with ADD could be a power shopper as there are far too many shiny objects out there to distract us. But it doesn't keep me from shopping on Black Friday (and Saturday)

I will also claim that I'm not one of those crazy people who stands outside of Target or Best Buy or any other big box store for "doorbuster deals." (How can it be a doorbuster if the deal lasts until 1 p.m.? hmmm???)

I've seen the people camped out in front of Target on Thanksgiving Day. I have to wonder if the person you are buying for would rather have time with you on Thanksgiving instead of the materialistic item you are waiting for? And if not, are they really worthy of your generosity?

Traditionally, I go Black Friday shopping with my two sisters and while we check out the ads and plan our travels around town, we start very slow, with breakfast at 8 am and then shopping by 9 am. 

This year, my sister Chris couldn't make it, so her daughter Kelly took her spot.  After a good breakfast at Perkins, we headed to Rosedale. Walking through JC Penney's was a bit disturbing with very, very long line at the registers. We learned from one of the workers that their computer system had crashed about 30 minutes prior and while the system was back online, the programming was messed up and none of the sale prices were ringing up. They had to look up all the sale prices by hand! Talk about a retail nightmare. 

As we exited JC Penney's (without buying anything - not surprising), we walked by a woman with several packages, slumped over on the bench, asleep. Underneath the bench were several empty 1/2 & 1/2 cups, perhaps for the cups of coffee she was trying to ingest to keep her awake.  I would have taken a photo, but thought it would be rude.

Herberger's was almost as bad, except they hadn't had a computer glitch. The lines were long in the housewares department, but not in the women's department, so while others waited 30 minutes in line, we had maybe 5 minutes to wait. Those shoppers were obviously novices! 

When it was time to leave a couple hours later, we discovered that a tire on my sister's car was flat (not until we were driving - ugh!). Got to a service station close by and filled it back up with air.  Re-checking it several times that day and it was solid from that point on. Thus, I concluded that we perhaps ticked someone off by taking the parking spot they wanted and they got their revenge by letting the air out of the tire.
We spent the afternoon in Woodbury, teasing my sister as she kept referring to it as the Woodbury Outlet Mall. It isn't an outlet mall, it's just outside. 

We ended the shopping day at the Mall of America. I know Black Friday at MOA may strike fear into the heart of many, but we learned long ago that after 5 p.m. on Black Friday, MOA is relatively normal.

We finished the day with dinner at my favorite Hawaiian steak house - Outback Steak House. (That's sort of an inside joke that has to do with my only visit to Hawaii, several margaritas, drunk dialing and lots of time in the bathroom.) 

Kelly had to work Saturday, so Sue and I were on our own. We started at Best Buy at 8:30, but they didn't open until 9. So, we went to the Galleria in Edina (Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn!), but they didn't open until 10! Ok,back to Best Buy (which was just opening when we got back). After a few hours at the Galleria and lunch at Chipotle, we traversed down I-35 to the Medford Outlet Mall - which really is an outlet mall, but has seen better days - and then to Cabela's to spend quality time looking at stuffed animals. I'll admit the place really creeps me out. 

Finally, we got back to Kasson-Mantorville and our final stop of the day was the Kasson Hardware Hank store.  Yes, I certainly covered the full spectrum of retail from the Galleria to a Hardware Hank store.

Did I get all my shopping done? Hardly - since many of my purchases were for self-gifting.  One of the best gifts I got myself are these "baby beads." They are brightly colored wooden beads that I can fidgety with during long conference calls. Although primarily for babies, the guy did say that people with ADD really like them. Must be the bright colors - now if they were only shiny!