Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas 2012 : A Christmas Gripe

I'm not one of those ungrateful a-holes who is going to gripe about their presents. I loved my gifts, and I'm so thankful for each and every one of them! And I'm also not going to gripe about not getting gifts from everyone I've ever known in my entire life. I don't care. If you wanted to get me something and you did, that's awesome. If you didn't, that's cool, too! 

No, my gripe, unfortunately, has to do with my family. Once again, I will say that I love my family. Dearly. I love hanging out with you all and having fun together. I love spending Christmas surrounded by those I love! But you know what I don't love on Christmas? Being pressured to have kids.

I know you all want a baby in the family. I get it. I just became an aunt rather recently, and I have another niece or nephew on the way, and I'm totally psyched about it!! So I feel you. But can you please respect the fact that my husband and I do not want children?

I was nice enough not to get overly sensitive about it on Christmas, but in case you want to know how I feel, here's what I wish I could have said.

Argument 1: "Your mom said the same thing!"
Response: Yes, I know. Allow me to point out that 1) I'm not actually my mother (regardless of how alike we can be) and 2) by my age, my parents had changed their minds. 

Argument 2: "That's what I said, too. You'll change your mind."
Response: Well, I think it's pretty common knowledge that some people's minds are sort of changed for them (unplanned pregnancy has a way of doing that). Just because your situation changed, doesn't mean mine is going to. However, should I someday change my mind, that decision is up to me and my husband. Period. No one else's input is going to play a significant role in that.

Argument 3: "Don't you want your mom to have grandkids?"
Response: Of course I do. But if I did everything in my life because someone else wanted me to, I wouldn't be a very happy person, would I? Besides, my mom has a granddog (that she loves very much) and gets to play with kids as part of her job. I don't think I'm depriving her too badly.

Argument 4: "We need a baby in the family!"
Response: Really? Babies grow up, so even if I decided to have a kid, you'd only have a baby in the family for a short time, because I'm not about to turn into a baby factory. Besides, people all over are having babies. Odds are someone in your life will have one in the foreseeable future, so I think you'll be OK.

Again, I love you all dearly, but whether you're friends, family or complete strangers, your opinions on my reproductive habits are not going to get me to just start popping out kids. I don't want kids. Nor does Hubby. If we change our minds someday, then so be it, but don't assume that we will or try to talk us into it. I know a lot of it's in jest, but it gets really old, really quickly, and can make a fun time turn sour. 

Christmas 2012: We Survived (Part 2)

After opening presents, we finally headed upstairs for dinner (probably around 8:30 or so). I look forward to this dinner all year. Why? Because my mom makes some killer prime rib. Sides come and go, but the prime rib is always the star of the show. We had a minor issue during the cooking process this year that led to opening some windows to dissipate some smoke, but all's well that ends well, right?

We sat down to a fabulous dinner of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding, Brussels sprouts, baby red potatoes and a tomato dish with fresh mozzarella. A few minutes into the meal, I had a plate full of amazing food and was about to dig in when my mom reached for something and knocked over her glass. Her champagne drink landed all over the right side of my lap. Mom started apologizing and Dad started working on clean up. In the meantime, I was told not to move, so I sat there, a little cold and wet, and waited. Meanwhile, Hubby and Mam-maw were trying to situate the rest of the food on the table when my rum & coke got bumped and promptly spilled all over the left side of my lap. What did I do? The only thing I could. I laughed. I laughed hysterically. Dad told me to go change, so I put on pajama pants and a dirty shirt (just in case) and headed back up to dinner. The rest of the meal was largely uneventful, but it was tasty and wonderful and I was happy (and dry).

After we cleaned up a bit, we headed downstairs to finish off the evening. When everyone else had headed to bed, Hubby and I grabbed the puppers and headed over to pick up K  to go through the local light display. Finally, a tradition that we could uphold! We went through twice, just because, and though it was short, it was nice to spend some more time with K. I slept a little better that night (probably because I started on the couch, instead of the floor), but morning still came too early for my liking.

Per our family tradition, Christmas morning is for Santa presents, so I handed out stockings and gifts for everyone (except the pooch; she'd already gotten all of her gifts). I got some fun socks and more puzzles (yay!!), and Hubby seemed happy with his new wallet and the sweet mouse shaped like a race car. There was little time to relax, though, as Mom's family was due over around two. After a quick shower and some setting up, we had a few minutes to breathe before the madness.

I should explain that I love my family to pieces. I don't mean to say that the madness was a bad thing. I'm just an introvert, and a group that big (all 14 or so of us) in one house (or sometimes in one room - eep!) can be a bit much for me. I tried to help Mom as much as I could (and as much as she'd let me), but there's only so much I could do in the kitchen with her. Around 2:30 or so we opened presents, and though the adults don't get much, I really liked what I did get. The ornaments that my cousin's kids helped make were adorable, and the hand warmers that my aunt made are perfect for shaking off a chill while I'm working. And, of course, the money from my Grampa is always appreciated. This year, we're using most of our Christmas money to go on a mini vacation up in Door County, just Hubby, the puppers and me. No work, no school, just us and a little cabin and whatever we want to do. :)

Even though she had cleaned the oven to prevent it, Mom had another cooking incident that led to windows and doors getting opened. This one was even smokier than Christmas Eve, and when Dad opened the garage door to get some air moving through, we definitely felt it downstairs. Even so, dinner was fantastic. Mom made a HUGE turkey (24 pounds!), lots of stuffing, potatoes, etc. We had left over salad and cheese from the funeral, one of my aunts brought rolls, my cousin brought green bean casserole, and with the massive amounts of cookies in the house, I strongly doubt anyone left hungry. 

After dinner, my cousin's kids wanted to play a game, so we played Words With Friends. Yep. They have a board game edition now. Picture Scrabble with a slightly smaller board, some differences in point assignments by letter, and change where the extra score points are. There you have it. We played with partners, for the most part. Me not so much, since Hubby sat on the couch and my aunt decided we were too mean to play with. We didn't keep score, but we still had fun.

By around 7 o'clock, it was back to the 5 of us (plus Maxi). We spent a little time chatting and unwinding from the day, but Hubby and I still had to drive back to Milwaukee, so we couldn't stay too long. The drive home wasn't too bad (at least I assume; I was sleeping for most of it). We got the car unpacked, but not much more. I was pretty tired, so I lounged a bit before heading to bed. Then it was lights out for Miss Riki.

Working the day after Christmas is always a bum deal, but at least it was mostly quiet. I still have some wrapping to do, since my Hubby's family Christmas is tomorrow, but at least I'm not helping to host anything else. As wonderful of a holiday as it was, I need a break from all that. In fact, tonight I plan to be my introverted self and enjoy some me time while Hubby goes to the cigar bar to use one of his gifts. :)

Hope you all had a great holiday, and that 2013 begins a new year with lots of love, health and happiness. <3

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas 2012: We Survived (Part 1)

Not the Mayan apocalypse; I already planned on surviving that. But the rest of the holiday, I just wasn't sure.

Let's go back to last Wednesday, the 19th. Things were going fine until I got a call from my mom. She had three things to tell me, and none of them were terribly positive. 

The first was that because of the snow Madison was about to get on Thursday, no one was going to be able to pick my Grampa up from the airport here in Milwaukee. OK, no big deal, we can handle that. Mom booked him a hotel room (we don't have a proper guest room, and I doubt Grampa wanted to sleep on our sleeper sofa or the futon) and all we had to do was pick him up when his flight landed on Thursday around 3:50. Sweet. Sad that Grampa would have to spend the night in a hotel in MKE, but at least we could help.

The second was that Mam-maw (my dad's mom) - who is staying with my parents right now - had gotten in on the 15th, but had already been in the hospital. Ugh. She was dehydrated and sick, but fortunately my dad was able to go pick her up that afternoon and take her back to their house. Again, not good that she was sick, but good that she was being released.

The third had no up-side. My aunt's husband (my uncle through marriage) had been in a car accident and had died. That one made my heart ache. My aunt is one of the nicest, sweetest people you could know (a lot like Mom) and to know something so terrible had happened made the world seem wrong. Even worse was when I found articles online about the accident; it wasn't really a car wreck, it was a "freak accident" that killed him. There are so many questions that might never get answered, and I'm afraid the hurt will stick around for a long, long time.

On Thursday, the snow storm hit Madison, but we only got rain here for most of the day. Regardless, Grampa's flight ended up getting canceled, and Mom had to make arrangements for him to stay at the airport in Orlando and to get another flight booked (which meant Mom was on hold for almost an hour and a half). After my lunch break, Hubby asked me to check our basement for flooding, since  a coworker of his was having some issues. I ran downstairs to check, didn't find any water, and came back to work, only to find that my internet was out. Poor Hubby spent about 2 hours trying to help me troubleshoot (via text and phone call), but to no avail. He called our provider, but they couldn't get out to the house until 2 PM on Friday. Great. There goes the rest of my work week.

Even better was when the guy came and figure out what had happened. Our internet amplifier is in the basement and, for whatever reason, is hooked up to a light switch in the back room. (See where this is going?) When I had gone down to check on the flooding situation, I had flipped the switch, but when nothing happened, I assumed the bulb was out and I just moved on. Instead, I had essentially turned off our connection. (Insert facepalm here.) Thankfully, it turned out that had been only part of the problem; we also had a cable that had gone bad, and had he not figured that out, I might've gone insane trying to make our internet work on my desktop. Aye yi yi.

On the plus side, I got to spend Friday wrapping presents and finishing up crafts. I watched a couple of movies on demand (Mr. Poppers Penguins was pretty sweet) and cleaned some things up a bit. That cleared up some time on Saturday, which means I had time to make all 3 kinds of cookies I'd set out to bake. I made Oreo truffles, peppermint pinwheels, and meringue cookies with mini M&Ms (they were out of the dark chocolate and mint pieces by the time we went shopping). Unlike last year's meringue cookies, these didn't turn out to be globs of gooey messiness, so that was nice. And the Oreo truffles are kind of like crack (my dad told my family that the first one's free, but the rest are $20 each). And Mom really liked the pinwheels, which made me happy. Saturday evening, K got into town, and that night, she and S came by and we went out for dinner. I love having time with my sisters, and dinner was just what I needed.

Sunday we drove into Madison. Our original plan was to have our traditional dinner and gift exchange with K that night, but instead we went to my uncle's visitation and funeral. It was actually nice to spend some time with my family and it wasn't nearly as uncomfortable as I'd imagined (except for the chairs, which were terribly uncomfortable; Hubby's leg even went numb at one point). We also got to have some awesome Italian food after the service (thank you, Biaggi's!), some of which we got to take home as leftovers. That night, we had a fire in the family room and sat around to enjoy it, just Mom, Dad, Hubby, Mam-maw and I. 

Christmas Eve Day meant more cookies! My mom made the traditional sugar cookie dough, and I rolled it out, used the cookie cutters and baked them up. While we let them sit, Hubby and I headed to grab some lunch (more Italian food; I'm not Italian, but I think my taste buds are) and then to the grocery store where K and S were ringing bells for the Salvation Army. Mom gave me $5 to donate (I give my money elsewhere) and we picked up some raisin bread for Mam-maw. When we got home, I made frosting and Hubby and I decorated the sugar cookies. We got to relax for a bit after that, and then eventually we opened presents (before dinner this year; another tradition broken). Hubby got me season 1 of Sherlock on DVD, Dumbo on blu-ray, and a couple other fun things. I also got a puzzle, a beautiful scarf, and we got a ginormous generator. Dad told us the idea was originally for camping, but that the unit he got was a bit bulkier than he anticipated, so we were given the option of keeping it or returning it to Gander Mountain and using the money for other camping stuff. (We're not 100% decided yet, but I think we're leaning toward returning it and getting a new tent and some other things.) Everyone seemed to be happy with their presents, and that's all I could really hope for.

More to come.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Morbid Memories

When I was maybe 5 or 6, my great grandpa died. He's the first relative I remember dying, and I wasn't all that sad. I'm ashamed to admit that I was afraid of him; my understanding is that he had Alzheimer's and spoke almost entirely in German, so I didn't understand a word he said, and he was in a wheelchair (which was completely new to me at the time). I didn't go to the funeral.

Maybe a year later (I don't know the timeline, since I was so young) my great grandma died (also my mom's family, but different side of that family). For her, I cried. My mom was so upset that she actually scolded me for crying because I hadn't cried when Great Grandpa had died. She doesn't even remember saying it, but I did stop crying. That was the first funeral I remember. We had to travel for it, and I don't remember much. It was an open casket, and I saw my great grandma one last time. Otherwise, me and my cousins were in the Curious George room at the funeral parlor, reading books and playing games. 

When my great granddaddy died (my dad's grandpa), I was a few years older. Middle school or even high school, I think. I was sad, but I hadn't known him very well since he lived in Mississippi. He was nice enough to me, though. He didn't talk much, but he let me play with a Mr. Potato Head when I visited, which I just thought was the coolest thing ever. When his wife eventually died, my parents forgot to tell me for months. They had found out while I had a sleepover, and they didn't want to upset me. I found out at dinner one night when they were talking about it in passing. She was a seriously sweet lady and I was really sad for my Grandpa since his mom and dad were both gone.

I'd been seriously lucky since then. My family was all relatively healthy and most were in the same state as me.

Fast forward. When I was 21, I was woken up one Saturday morning by my mom telling me that my Gramma (her mom) had died. I'd just visited her a week or so before, and even though she was on hospice, I was shocked. I called my best friend/pseudo-sister K and she came to pick me up and spent the day with me. I took two or three nights off of work so I could help in any way possible. I helped with the picture boards and kept my mom company. At the funeral, I bawled. The hardest part for me was when my cousin N lost it, but the most vivid memory I have is my cousin P's son asking where Great Gramma was and she told him to remember that we could only see her in pictures now.

6 years ago tomorrow, my cat died. He'd been my 13th birthday present, and though I've always been a dog person, I loved that damn cat more than anything. He was a bitch (blocked a few of my friends in the bathroom, hissed at people, bit some of them...), but he loved me. He was also a tubby tabby (22 pounds!), and probably died as a result (heart failure, maybe). Once again, I was woken up by my mom, this time to be told Zeus had died and to ask if I wanted them to do something with him or to cremate him and bring him home. I wanted him to come home. I tried to work that day, but I only made it a few hours in before I broke down and asked to go home. I had been dating Hubby for a few months at the time, and after work he drove all the way from Milwaukee to Madison to be there for me. He brought me potted flowers and if I hadn't already known he was a keeper, that sealed the deal.

Since then, I've been lucky enough to not lose any family. Friends? Yes. It's been a rough year or two for that, actually. But family was safe and sound.

Until yesterday, when my mom called to tell me that my uncle had died in a car accident. He's my uncle through marriage, but my uncle nonetheless, and I can't possibly imagine what my aunt is going through. We don't know details, nor when services will be or anything like that. Right now, it seems cold to even think about it. All I know is that our family lost someone that we hold dear, and just before Christmas at that. I know there's no good time to lose someone, but this is just shitty. 

I've experienced a decent amount of loss this year, and many others have suffered far more loss than I can possibly imagine. I can only hope that 2013 is a little kinder to those in my life. I hope it's kinder to us all.

Be thankful for your loved ones, and hold them close this time of year. Be grateful for the time you have with them and how they've touched your lives. It can be over far too quickly.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I may regret this...

But I feel like I can't concentrate on anything until I get my feelings out. Eh, who reads this anyway, right?

What's happening in CT is terrible. No, it goes so far beyond terrible that I'm pretty sure a word doesn't exist that adequately describes it. I know that the reports of how many are dead or wounded are all over the board right now, but it doesn't matter. The shooting itself is deplorable and makes this a tragedy. If one child loses a parent or teacher, or one parent loses a child, it's no less tragic than 27 dead (or 14 or 3 or whatever the final count comes to).

That being said, I keep seeing people who are screaming for gun control, declaring that guns should be abolished completely. I love that idea, I really do. I am NOT a gun person. Hubby has one that he keeps in the bedroom; does NOT make me a happy Riki. But really? In what world do you realistically see guns being done away with completely?

Make guns illegal? Sure. Because that works so well for drugs. And stealing. And hate crimes. And murder. These things are all illegal, and all still plague not just this country, but the world.

Get rid of guns all together? OK. Because prohibition worked so well for getting rid of booze. Even if we convinced the rest of the world to join us (which is terribly unlikely), I would imagine it would just create a more aggressive black market for weapons.

Do I think that guns should be handed out to everyone and their mother? Good god, no. Handing everyone a gun is the only thing I can think of that might be worse than getting rid of them all. There have been studies done that show that the mere presence of guns can make people think and/or act more aggressively. Giving guns to people who are already aggressive might make them that much more likely to act on their aggression and then we end up with more of these incidents. No thank you.

To own a gun, I think people should have to go through lots and lots of training, get background checks, be registered, etc. I know that there is no possible way to make sure that everyone who has a gun is OK to have a gun, even with regulations like 3-day waiting periods and certification for concealed carry. People who are responsible for these shootings are not at all well. They could have rage issues, mental illness, or any number of things, but they are not well. And since no one seems to see the shootings coming, these people were apparently able to hide that fact from others, so I'd imagine they could get a gun without anyone blinking twice.

What is the answer, then? I haven't a damn idea. I am as lost as I could possibly be. It's a scary world, but being over-reactive is not going to make anything better. At the same time, neither is complacency. So I've got nothing.

I know these thoughts aren't well organized, but that's kind of where I'm at right now. My brain's trying to sort out how I feel and what is going on. I'm struggling with it. And to top it all off, I have to get back to studying for finals. 

Come on, brain. Let's go look at some puppies and rainbows.