26 December 2008

Remembering Miss Kitt

We'll miss you Eartha.

Taking Life on Life's Terms

He'd been complaining about our visit for days. First, his house was dirty and he needed to clean. Then the fence was destroyed when the neighbor's cherry tree fell during the last bad storm a couple of months ago meaning that Billie and Georgia wouldn't be confined to the back yard. Then there were complaints about his split shifts at the hospital. None of this mattered to Cameron and me, we weren't visiting to judge his cleaning abilities, let the dogs run amok or interfere with is work schedule.

Then there was "I don't want to hear one iota about my drinking."

Two weeks before, at a meeting with my sponsor at Starbucks, I had expressed concern to Matthew about staying with Thom. Not because Thom has "fallen off the wagon" after more than five years or that we've been "on it" for three months, but because I didn't trust him not to try coercing or berating us into joining him. Interestingly, after that meeting at the coffee shop Matthew and I drove to my first Spiritual Angle study meeting where the topic dealt with avoiding situations in which we once participated and how such an approach may be considered a contrast to recovery and/or spiritual growth. Since that meeting, many of the others I've attended have been dealing with family, expectations, disappointment, resentment and a myriad of other emotions that surface at any time but particularly during the holidays. What I've taken away from these sessions is that I need to accept what comes my way and be at peace about it.

I suppose by telling Cameron when he returned from Knoxville in October that I may just want to stay home with him and make this Christmas about us -- that we needed some "us" time -- I had been prepared to stay in Memphis. At the time I couldn't wrap my thoughts around the six-hour drive north, the interstate, the usual drama at Thom's, the constant driving from his house, to my mother's house, to my father's house, to my sister Tina's house, to this restaurant to meet this friend, to another to meet that friend, the tired six-hour drive back to Memphis all within two half-days and two full days. I liken the experience to being a deer in headlights for the entire time.

But, around Thanksgiving we had decided that a trip home for Christmas would be nice. I didn't ship any gifts to my family with the exception of my sister, Lisa, who was in Biloxi without enough vacation time to make the trip to "Kentuckiana," because I would be there. I was looking forward to the feeling I get when we drive into Louisville from the south, seeing "my city's" beautiful skyline, calling my mother to say, "we're here," stopping at White Castle for "six with mustard, ketchup, onions and pickle with their delicious crinkle-cut fries and a Big Red before settling in for rest at Thom's for the night, making plans for the next day to share time and gifts at my mother's with my family around the Christmas tree. I could drive to Scottsburg to see Norma at Renslow's Bargain Barn and deliver her some cookies. I could do all the things that run me ragged but keep me connected to people and places I love once a year.

So, to say that I was getting excited about the trip -- finishing laundry, pulling together dog necessities, vitamins, charging cameras, and taking gift inventory -- would be an understatement. I didn't realize that while I was preparing for the trip that my expectations were building. Of course, I knew what to expect, generally, as I have done this for many, many years. I expected there to be some sort of drama with Thom. I didn't, however, expect it to put me in a place to make a decision about whether or not to go home -- at literally the last minute.

Returning home from a Came to Believe meeting around 1:30 on Christmas Eve, hours before we would pack the car and head to Louisville, I got a call from Thom, who said, "you're going to have to find another place to stay. The roof leaked and flooded the living room and soaked the sofa. I'm going to have to dry out everything and wash the sofa cushions." He went on about "him, him, him" as he's so prone to do. I bit my tongue. I didn't say "we can figure it out." I simply said, "Thom, go take care of your stuff. Goodbye."

After I put down my phone, I went to the bedroom where Cameron was napping and said, "we're staying home." I worked really hard at not getting angry with Thom's insipid self-absorption. I realized that getting angry was a sign of my own self-centeredness. I called Lisa and commiserated with her for a minute about not going home. But, during that conversation I realized that both of us were really at peace about being hours away from the rest of our family. I called everyone in Louisville to tell them how our plans had changed and wish them a "Merry Christmas."

Since then, Cameron, Edith, Georgia, Billie and I have had a wonderful Christmas. We still are. The tree is lit. Music has been playing. I talked to Lisa on Christmas morning while she unwrapped her gifts. We're baking cookies and watching movies. We're having "us" time. I'm packing up gifts and homemade fruitcakes today and sending them north. We might even brave the outside world and do a little shopping this afternoon.

Let it suffice to say that I am working at taking life on life's terms while letting go of my expectations. It's difficult to do but I'm learning.

22 December 2008


From Wikipedia: "possessing an inward contentedness and joy that is not affected by the physical circumstances"

Saturday was a partly cloudy unusually warm day for December in Memphis. I got up early and spent some time reading e-mail, going over some paperwork, addressed some "straggler" Christmas cards that were overlooked during the first writing exercise and prepared three gifts for shipping to Biloxi, Orlando and San Francisco. It's amazing to me how quickly time passes when you're busy and under the gun to get things done. I think I made it to The Mail Center on Madison around 2:00 P.M. There, Mark took my three packages and packed them up and surprised me with stamps for the remaining eight cards I had to mail just as the USPS carrier came in. So far, things were going very well.

Leaving there I reluctantly headed east to BFE because Costco had something I wanted to get Cameron for Christmas. Close to my desination on eastbound I-40, about a mile from the Germantown Road exit, I was nearly rear-ended by a giant-white "schoolbus" (read: Chevy Tahoe) and the turquoise minivan behind it because the woman driving the Tahoe was talking on the phone and failed to notice that I had turned on my emergency flashers a mile earlier to indicate "pay attention, we're slowing from 85 to a dead standstill! Screeching tires on vehicles equipped with anti-lock brakes is very unnerving.

After reassuring myself that I hadn't peed my pants, traffic started moving again and I made it into Costco wondering if this whole retailer-driven side of Christmas is all really worth the hassle, safety risk or credit debt. In my heart I felt a resounding "no."

The "item" I sought was conspicuously missing from the shelves where it usually sits amongst it's overstocked siblings. I was mortified. In order to keep the trip from being a complete waste of time I walked back to the meat department and grabbed a package of generously cut New York Strips. Then cutting through the DVD and books section on my way to the cavernous cleaning supply aisles I picked up a "Jethro-sized" jug of Tide HE and made my way to the checkouts. I ran over a half-mile to the Hoover store and was surprised to see it plastered with "Going out of Business" signs. Inside it was nearly empty. There was a lone, white Constellation marked down to $99 among some random models which were also reduced. I knew I wasn't finding what I was looking for there. But I did manage to snag the last bag of Type "C" HEPA filter bags for my hovering wonder.

From the access road leaving the Hoover store I looked at the traffic on Germantown Parkway and decided to scrap my shopping plans for the day. It just wasn't worth the stress or irritation. Once I got home I was mentally worn out. I told Cameron I wanted to take a nap. Four hours later I woke up thinking it was the next morning. We made dinner and I decided I'd try my conquest for his gifts Sunday morning. I was content with that decision.

Sunday morning I got up and performed my rituals. Dog stuff. Cat stuff. Coffee. E-mail. By 10 A.M. I was headed back out to BFE to Best Buy. Looking very much like one of the people whose behavior I loathe, I called my mother from the "item" aisle and talked with her about which model she thought would be best since she has one of these things. Then, Carey called and we talked about the one which was available at Sam's and coordinating a purchase there since I don't have a Walton anything, let alone a membership card. Because Carey lives on the opposite side of the city in Southaven, I called David and John to see if they'd be up to meeting me -- they live on the north side nearer to BFE.

We met there and found that the one at Sam's was a "540", between the "530" and the "560" I was considering at Best Buy. The only difference I could see was an accessory that I can buy online for $40 if Cameron decides later that he wants it. So, all said, with help from Carey, David and John, I saved $80 on the first gift which made it much easier to buy the second while I was there, saving me a trip to the Apple store.

Fast-forward to Wednesday, Christmas Eve, and I am sitting here finishing this long overdue post while Cameron puts away clean dishes and reloads the remnants of last night's inaugural fruitcake baking. It's on to laundry, last-minute gift wrapping, a noon meeting, and packing.

Joy to the World. It's Christmas! May your days be merry and bright.

07 December 2008

Mullets for Christmas

With DirecTV shuffling, deleting and adding music channels after the Sirius/XM merger I have been none too pleased to see that several of my favorites have changed or were deleted altogether and that they've added several new "head-bangin'" channels. According to the DirecTV website, my favorite classic disco is now available at "70's on 7." I fail to see how having a random disco song mixed among every other genre of 1970s music qualifies as a replacement for "Chrome."

When it comes to Christmas music, the Holly channel is back for the season along with the renamed classical channel, Holiday Pops. A third holiday station that was available last year is missing and, of course, it was the one into which I tuned. I have yet to hear a Squirrel Nut Zippers song via satellite, but I have heard enough Michael Bolton to incite an uneasy feeling in my digestive system.

Knowing that in my spiritual pursuits that I should not be judging like I have in the past, I still have to ask, "why are we hearing Michael Bolton?" Losing the mullet a few years ago amped him up on the looks scale, but as evidenced by Erik Estrada's failed attempt at vocal stardom in the eighties, a handsome face doesn't always good music make. And a trailer-park 'do would most definitely have knocked him off the handsome pedastal. (Mind you, this was long before we discovered that he was ugly on the inside.)

I am at a loss for words.

Michael Bolton's rendition of White Christmas, to quote Wesley Snipes' character Noxema Jackson in To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, "is an affront to my delicate nature." OK. I don't really have a delicate nature. But, while I was reveling in Christmas preparations, hanging the Martha Stewart Everyday wirework Christmas Card holders above the dining room doors, I thought I heard two cats fighting in a pillowcase. Or, someone straining on the toilet after eating cheese for a week. The phrase, "just like the ones I used to know" had this awful, painful sound that made my ears hurt. Please give me the White Christmas just like the ones I used to know. Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra or Darlene Love's versions would be nice.

Thankfully, this torture only lasted for three minutes or so and was followed by the obnoxious- but-more-tolerable, Toylandish diddy, I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, written by Jon Rox and recorded by Gayla Peevey in 1953. I read on a YouTube post that Peevey "IS THE ORIGINAL SINGER!!!! And SHE was 11 yrs old." Even with four exclamation points I'm still not impressed.

For the remainder of the season I'm plugging my laptop into the sound system and looking up songs from albums like Cool Yule or Yule Be Miserable. I need some of Louis Armstrong's "'Zat You, Santa Claus?" or Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters' "Mele Kalikimaka."

Oh, and speaking of Mele Kalikimaka, Jones Soda has a new, delicious, limited-time, pineapple-coconut soda by the same name available exclusively at Target. There are
two other Holiday flavors: Pear Tree and Candy Cane. I've had the former, which is good, but haven't tried the latter. Yet.

I'm still stuck on the pineapple-coconut.

May you delight in the music you like and play it loud and often this holiday season. Even if it involves head-banging, questionable hairstyles and prefabricated homes on wheels.