Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And though it's been said, many times, many ways...

I thought I had one more blog in me before Christmas, but it turns out that I was mistaken. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Eid al-Adha or just enjoy the time of quiet and carbohydrates, my family and I wish you joy and peace this season and through the new year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What I want under the tree.

As you all know, this blog is free to all readers. I don't take advertising, because I like the idea of doing this for no better reason than it pleases me. I never ask anything of my readers but that they show up once a week or so, read my stuff and, ideally give me a suggestion or two as to how to give a dog a pill. But now, I have a request. Please, please read the letter below and then get yourself into the National Marrow Donor program.

I know that $52.00 is probably more than you intended to spend on me; I won't expect a birthday present this year. But the nephew of my dear friend is really sick, and he needs someone. Maybe it's you. Or maybe you don't help him but you help someone else, someone whose family is terrified and hoping for a miracle right now.

Haven't you always wanted to be a hero?

Dear Friends and Family,

As some of you may know, our nine-year old nephew Nico has been undergoing treatment for leukemia these last 3 and a half years. A few weeks ago, he suffered a relapse. He now urgently needs to find a donor for a bone marrow transplant to save his life. He has only a few months to find a match.

We write to ask if you’d be willing to take a few minutes to go to the
National Marrow Donor Program and register to be a marrow donor. It costs $52 dollars to register: you’ll be sent a sample kit at which time you swab the inside of your cheek and send it back. That’s it.

If you turn out to be a match, marrow donation is a simple, painless procedure, drawing only 5% of your marrow, which your body will completely replenish within a few weeks. Most people experience mild fatigue and soreness for only a few days.

Nico’s mother is asking for as many people as possible to register. Because of his particular genetic makeup, the odds of his finding a perfect match is one in a million, but if enough people registered, we could improve the odds. Even if you don’t register, PLEASE PASS THIS LETTER ON TO AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE. This simple, generous act could save his life now or someone else’s down the road.

If you’d like to be tested only for Nico, we would also be very grateful. You will need to have your tissue typing test done privately so please contact us for information at nicodonor@yahoo.com.

Finally, please pray for Nico, this beautiful, kind-hearted and treasured son, nephew, grandson, cousin and friend.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and we wish you a blessed, healthy holiday season.

Stacey and Chris

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Consort and I had a pointless spousal discussion. Which, of course, led to my finding socks in the dishwasher. Didn’t we all see that coming?

A week ago, I came into the kitchen and found Consort unloading the dishwasher.

I said something supportive like, “Look at you, unloading a dishwasher. I had no idea you knew how to do that.”

Consort looked affronted and said, “I unload the dishwasher all the time.”

Because this was very funny, I laughed heartily. I might have even slapped the kitchen counter a couple of times, such was my glee.

Consort, sensing I was mocking his homemaking skills, said “I do empty the dishwasher all the time. You just don’t notice.”

I sat down, because it’s dangerous to laugh that hard while standing. When I could catch my breath, I gasped “You never empty the dishwasher. Never. You never start the dishwasher, and you never empty the dishwasher.”

He stopped putting away cutlery and gestured at me with a spoon. “I’ll allow that I don’t start the dishwasher very often, but I empty it all the time.”

“Or, you have never emptied the dishwasher in your entire life.”

As I have mentioned before, one of the marks of a truly pointless spousal discussion is the phrase “You always…” or “You never…” I now add a corollary; somewhere in a PSD, at least one participant should wish aloud for a 24-hour monitoring camera in every room of your house or the ability to travel backwards in time. Consort wouldn’t budge on his assertion that I just wasn’t awake when he emptied the dishwasher and then didn’t notice the empty dishwasher in the morning, and I stood firm in my belief that he hallucinates. Finally, he said in frustration, “You’d notice I’d done it if I left something in there, but because the dishwasher is completely empty it doesn’t register with you; I’m too capable for my own damn good.”

I smirked and said, “Yeah, that’s your problem. An excess of capability.” Good humor was restored and we watched “Cities of the Underground” in contentment. A few days later, I got up early to make Daughter her lunch for school and went to put dishes in the dishwasher. The dishwasher was empty but for a clean pair of my socks, draped carefully over the top rack. They were placed so thoughtfully, in fact, that one could say they were mocking me. I took them out, rolled them up and thought. I then took a piece of paper and wrote, “Well played. You still don’t know what to do with the laundry, though.”

I’m not stupid; a whisk in the dryer and Consort’s gloating is a small price to pay for folded clothes.

Friday, December 05, 2008

It's Run By a Big Eastern Syndicate, You Know.

(Yeah, it's a re-run. But I still believe every word I wrote.)

Daughter and Consort are off doing Saturday-afternoon things. This is to say Daughter is spending time with my mother and Consort is waiting to pick her up; a chore more accurately described as "loitering at the Apple Store". I am taking this opportunity to clean out Daughter's closet. This is necessary because our house was built during the era when people owned a single pair of shoes and the entire family shared a sweater. I am also cleaning out the closet because I don't know if you noticed but we're heading into the Crap Accumulation Season. I know, I am bending my rule about working clean, but I chose my word with justifiable precision. A year ago, when it first entered the house all gaily-wrapped and lavishly-bowed, it was a present, a toy, a gizmo, a whatzit, a desirable object of some sort. Now, one year later, having been played with a grand total of seven minutes -- six of which were spent removing it from its package -- it's crap. And it seems to have reached its sexual maturity so it's now capable of mating with all the other crap in our closets, spawning more craplets that Daughter doesn't recognize and I don't want.

So with this in mind, I would like to share a few thoughts -- theses if you will -- regarding the upcoming holidays. There are only five so far (putting me about ninety shy of a reformation)and I promise not to nail them to the front door of the Best Buy. But I am serious. On a superficial level I am a parent running out of closet space. On a deeper level I'm a citizen utterly dismayed by America's economic fragility, a condition based in no small part by our mounting devotion to the twin gods: MasterCard and Visa. So, in no particular order, my Five Theses for the 2007 Holiday Season:

1. MY DAUGHTER HAS ENOUGH STUFF. So does every single child I know. If left to their own devices they could play from Candy Corn season, through Holiday Corn season right up to Easter Corn season without ever leaving their bedrooms. If you are getting something for Daughter because you think it would be wrong to not give her something, please let me give you permission. Stuff-wise, she's full up. Don't worry, she’s going to get a few nice gifts from us, but once you start filling a trash-bag with any kid's previous years’ essentials you can’t help but notice how few toys he or she actually plays with.

2. IT'S NOT ABOUT THINGS. I don't want the season to be about the gathering of more pre-crap stuff. I want it to be about making a fire and watching the "Charlie Brown Christmas Special" [but no more than twice, because that song will get stuck in your brain]. I want it to be about driving home the long way to see the Christmas lights in the neighborhood. I want it to be about a local production of the "Nutcracker", where Daughter's friend is the second mouse from the left. I want it to be about picking out something special for a kid her age in the foster-care system and making felt catnip toys for the cats at our local rescue shelter. I want this time of year to about kindness and family and maybe eating divinity for breakfast one day. It's easy to make it about Her, what with her being an only child, but I have had the singular experience of knowing people who made it All About Me, and I would no sooner raise one of those than I would remove my own appendix with a spork.

3. IT’S NOT A STAGE SET, IT’S YOUR CREDIT SCORE. A mountain of presents spilling out from under the tree into the next room does look bountiful and marvelously excessive in a Ralph Lauren-y, Martha Stewart-y way. But you're not them. If a day’s worth of catalog-worthy snapshots leaves you with a dozen new and persistent phone buddies at a credit card call center in Bangalore, how attractive will that pile look come next September?

4. THIS ONE HOLIDAY ISN’T GOING TO FIX YOUR CHILDHOOD. So your father drank and your mother cried a lot and one year you got nothing but pork jerky from the old lady who lived downstairs? I am terribly sorry. I really am. But spending thousands of dollars to make sure everyone in your life has the best and most wonderful present from you isn’t going to fill that hole. A lot of presents are given for the most generous and high-minded of reasons, but I also think of a lot of money is spent trying to spackle over some really ancient sadness. It won't. Of course, if Old Lady Pork Jerky is still around, send her a nice card.

5. IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT HARD. If you are flogging yourself because you can’t think of a single thing to get a particular person because you just don’t know what they like to do or what their hobbies are, maybe that’s a hint that you don’t need to get them anything. Every year, I wait in dread for the SBFA (somewhere-between-friend-and-acquaintance) to give me a Starbucks gift card. On a practical level, this person just loaned Starbucks money, interest free, until such time as I redeem the card. On a personal level, I’d sooner pay for my own tea than have to endure that stricken “Gosh, thanks! Your present…is…around…here…somewhere…” moment; after which I rush off and get her a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf gift card for exactly the same amount. This has all the warmth and sincerity of an ATM transaction.

I guess I'm looking for a sane place somewhere between Ebenezer Scrooge and Thomas Kincaid. If you think there's some merit in this approach, all my Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa celebrators, let’s try something. At some point over the next three weeks, each of us will be standing somewhere, holding a singing trout in one hand and a digital tire gauge in the other trying to remember if Great-Uncle Ted is still unaccounted for, list-wise. When the saleswoman rushes up to ask if you need something wrapped, I suggest you tell her, in a calm, clear and appropriately cheerful voice, “Thanks, but I have enough”. Then leave the store.