Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Job Opening: Christmas Decorations Taker Downer

I have a big ugly bruise on the inside of my right arm and I don’t know for sure how it got there.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  For instance, I can unequivocally state that I did not let anyone practice karate kicks on me. Nor did I fall out of bed last night.  And I’m fairly certain that I haven’t walked into any telephone poles lately.

What I think happened was that I sustained this horrible injury while I was taking down Christmas decorations over the weekend. 

Yeah, it was probably when I was hauling the heavy box containing the 7-1/2 foot artificial Christmas tree back down the stairs to store it until next year.  That sucker weighs about fifty pounds.  And if it doesn’t, you can’t prove it, so I’m sticking with the fifty.  Felt like it, anyway.

So now I’m thinking that maybe being the Christmas Decorations Taker Downer is too dangerous a job for me.  That task is probably better suited for a big, strong man – right?! 

Oh, who am I kidding?  There is NO WAY Vince is going to be suckered into taking over that job.  I could barely get him to agree to help me remove the ornaments.  And I think he was glaring at me when we had to unwind the extra lights on our pre-lit tree, but I can’t be certain because the branches were partially blocking my view. 

But, hey, it wasn’t my fault that half of the pre-lit tree wouldn’t light.  At the time I was in a hurry to get that tree decorated, so I didn’t try to figure out why they wouldn’t light, I just grabbed another strand of lights and wrapped ‘em around the tree. 

Clearly, I wasn’t thinking long-term about how all those strands of lights might get tangled.  Oops.

Oh well. I’ve never been very good at checking each light to make sure it is seated properly in its little plastic housing, nor can I ever locate those little replacement bulbs that come with every strand of lights.  Hey, I’m no engineer, people.  I’m just a woman who likes a pretty, well-lit Christmas tree.

Besides, I always buy lights that purportedly stay lit even when one bulb burns out.  Yeah, right. What a bunch of hooey.

So big bruise notwithstanding, at least all the decorations have been removed and stored in their plastic bins to await Christmas 2013.  At which time I will, of course, forget that half the lights on the pre-lit tree don’t work and I will wonder where the extra strands of lights are, and when I do find them and put them on the tree I will get them all tangled up again and Vince will probably glare at me when we try to remove them.

And so it goes… 

But I have to admit that I miss all the twinkling lights and pretty decorations.  The corner where our Christmas tree stood looks rather barren and empty – even with the table and cool amber vase that have taken the tree’s place. 

Believe me, I’ve toyed with the idea over the years of keeping the Christmas tree up all year long and changing the lights and decorations for whatever holiday approaches. Red and pink twinkling lights and red hearts for Valentine’s Day, green lights and 4-leaf clovers and leprechaun ornaments for St. Patty’s Day, pastel eggs and bunny ornaments for Easter and so on. 

The problem with that idea is that (a) it would require a whole lot of extra boxes of decorations and lights, and (b) it would require too much work on my part.  Yep, just call me lazy.  I do not wish to put that much effort into decorations for anything beyond Christmas.  And I’m even beginning to question whether I’m going a tiny bit overboard on that one.

Besides, no matter what color lights and decorations were on the tree people would still walk into our home and say, “Your Christmas tree is still up?” they’d ask with a puzzled look on their faces.  “It’s July, Jane. What’s up with that?”

And I’d have to shake my head at their denseness and point out all the little flags and strands of red, white and blue lights that so clearly indicate it’s an Independence Day Tree.

So…no.  I’m glad the tree is down and friends won’t be secretly calling me the Crazy Christmas Tree Lady.  With the big bruise.

But still. I think I’m going to hire someone to decorate for me next year. And take down the decorations once the holiday is over.  I don’t like big, ugly bruises.  And I’m lazy.  And I don’t need my husband glaring at me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Snow Shovel Fairies, aka Angel Neighbors

So it’s already the second week of January and this is my first blog of 2013.  So much for my resolution to write blogs more frequently, eh?  Ah well. Let me attempt to remedy that situation right now.  Keep your fingers crossed that I finish this one.

Oh, and Happy New Year, by the way.

As you probably know, I live in Ohio.  And we’ve had snow and ice.  Lots of it.  We even had a white Christmas and everything. 

Currently, the temperature is hovering right around freezing, but I’m hearing happy news that the temps are going to rise to the 50s soon, which means that all this dirty white stuff should melt away and we can stop taking those mincing little steps so as to prevent us from slipping on the ice and landing flat on our backsides.  Sadly, at this stage of the game we need to worry about things like broken hips.

So while I can get all warm and fuzzy and Bing Crosby-ish over the idea of a white Christmas just as much as the next guy, the reality of snow during the holidays usually puts a slight crimp in plans.  And probably I should delete the word “slight” from that last sentence.

Like, for instance, it took my sister and her family TWELVE hours to make the eight hour drive to Ohio from Wisconsin the day after Christmas. 

My sister said she has never seen as many spin-outs and cars off the road as she did on this trip.  Sounded a little bit like Armageddon.  Needless to say, I was happy that I wasn’t the one sitting in the car that moved a mere two miles in an hour.

On the upside, if the lasagna that I served them was a little on the dry side, I could simply blame the delay.  Gosh, if they’d only been there four hours earlier, it would’ve been perfect!

Yeah, that’s my story, anyway.  Fortunately, they were so starved and exhausted by the time they finally arrived, I don’t think they paid much attention to the quality of the food they were forking into their mouths before donning their PJs and heading off to bed.

Interestingly, Vince was at work every single time it snowed from Christmas through New Year’s.  And, curiously, I was at home every single time.  So I knew the daunting task of shoveling our driveway and front walk was going to fall on my shoulders. 

But I figured it wasn’t really fair of me to expect the guy to work 10-12 hours and then come home and have to tromp through deep snow to retrieve the shovel from the garage so he could clear the driveway before being able to park his car.

So I considered leaning the shovel against the mailbox at the end of the driveway so he wouldn’t have to tromp through the deep snow to the garage to retrieve it.  Nice of me, huh?

No, I would never really do something like that.  But there I was sitting in the kitchen all comfy and cozy talking with my mother.  We were looking at the pretty snow falling on the trees outside.  But I was eyeing the ever-increasing level of snow piling up on the front porch and walkway, so I sighed and said the “S” word. (As in “shoveling.”  What were you thinkin’?!) 

“Why in the world would you go out in that cold to shovel snow?” mom asked.  Then she started reminiscing about her childhood and about how her father never let her or her sister shovel snow; that it was not “women’s work.” 

Oh, mom, I thought, that was SO last century.  I might have even rolled my eyes a little, but I won’t swear to it.

I reminded her that I had been a single woman for a lot of years and had to work for a living. For some weird reason bosses didn’t look favorably upon employees calling off work because they didn’t want to clear their driveway to make it in to the office.  So I had to break out the ol’ snow shovel myself. And, sure, once in a while I found a guy who was willing to help a girl maintain her manicure and not wind up with a nose redder than Rudolph’s, but I couldn’t count on it.  And that stinkin’ magical snow shovel fairy never showed up.  Ever.

So with another heavy sigh, I hauled out the boots with the thick tread that I rarely wear.  I pulled on my winter coat. I added a hat, scarf and ski gloves that have never been in actual contact with an actual tow rope or ski lift.  And then I trudged outside and hit the garage door opener button.

And – lo and behold – I discovered that our driveway was completely cleared of snow!  One of our angel neighbors had done it for us. 

Snow blowers rock, by the way. 

They’d started the front walk, but didn’t go all the way up to the front door, which is why I hadn’t realized most of the work had already been done.  So I got to work on the walkway when our neighbor, Kevin, called over to me to say that he’d finish it.  There were only maybe another half dozen shovelfuls left, but I didn’t want to pretend that I enjoyed the process – so I effusively thanked him, and then ran back into the house all happy.

What wonderful neighbors we have!!

And this was not an isolated incident either.  Twice more during the holiday week, I went outside to find the driveway and walkway cleared.  And not only that, but I saw neighbors helping other neighbors out.  There were snow blowers and snow plows starting up all over the cul-de-sac making quick work of removing all that white stuff so no mincing steps had to be taken and no hips had to be broken.

Sure, we could say it was all done in the spirit of the season, but I don’t think that’s it. I really believe that Vince and I stumbled upon a group of nice people who are happy to help each other out in times of need. You might find yourself a great house to move into, but you don’t always find such great neighbors.  How fortunate we are.

I suspect, however, that we will soon be investing in a snow blower of our own. No matter how generous and helpful our neighbors are, they aren’t going to want to spend their entire winter clearing off our driveway and winding up with noses permanently redder than Rudolph’s.  That’s only a good look at Christmas-time. 

Oh, who am I kidding?  That’s never a good look. 

Yeah.  Guess we’d better start checking sales ads.  Because I don’t think that stinkin’ magical snow shovel fairy is ever going to show up.