December 31, 2007

-image-more Christmas snippets

I just write this all down so that I can remember it, really. Nothing is all that fleshed out here ……

~ My 13-year-old nephew’s favorite class in middle school is drama, so he went around making bold pronouncements about who all the bad actors and actresses are. He is now in the know, you see.

~ As his loving aunt, I saw it as my duty to tease him about girls. He’s one of those 13 year olds. Very cute, confident for his age. A babe magnet. Plus, I already know from my sister that calls come to the house every week from giggly mystery girls who ask for him and then hang up. He’s clearly on the middle school chick radar so someone’s gotta tease him and it might as well be me, I figure. At one point, I had him blushing and bowing his head after a particularly grueling cross-examination, and I said, “‘Member when you used to love me?” “Noo,” he said. Then, of course, the wrassling began. Later on, though, while we watched Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, he lay on the couch with his head in my lap for a long time. He still does stuff like that. It’s so sweet.

~ Every Christmas for as long as I can remember, we gather near the tree in the evening and have Circle. Circle is when we sing Christmas carols — uhm, my dad passes out these — for lack of a better way to describe them — Christmas carol brochures that were made by a company he worked for years ago. I mean, these things are probably 35 years old and they still get passed out every year despite the fact that we all know all the words to every verse of every carol on that darn brochure. It’s just what’s done: Dad passes out the carol brochures. So we hold the brochures and we sing. Middle nephew (see above) sat between MB and me and between verses I would whisper to him, “Oh, here comes your solo. Ready, Go!” and he’d start giggling. Terrible boy. Sheesh. Control yourself, kid. I am aghast. Baby Jesus can manage not to cry in the manger and you’re sitting here laughing. For shame.

~ After carols, someone reads Luke chapter 2 from this huge old family Bible. It’s someone different every year. Then we hold hands in a circle — usually all sitting on the floor — and pray together. Whoever wants to pray something. Anything. Even Piper, if she wants. And Banshee chimed in at great length this year but it was very soft and high-pitched, so it was pretty much a private moment between her and her God. Maybe it was “Please keep me from killing Nana, Jesus. Thank you. Amen.”

~ After Circle time, my parents went home. Because of mom’s chronic illness, she can’t sleep overnight in a strange bed anymore. My brother and family went home because of Baby Banshee. So it was just us and my sister’s family. Very mellow. Low key.

~ We had NO problem whatsoever getting Piper to bed. She requested to have MB and I put her to bed. She put out a plate for Santa — Hershey’s kisses and candy canes and milk — got in her jammies and jumped into bed. One story, where we alternated reading pages. Then she was completely ready to sleep. Kiss, kiss, kiss, you go now, I sleep now. It was that easy.

~ Later that night, as we were putting out presents from Santa, my brother-in-law opened a tiny package under the tree that said “To Santa From Piper.” “You have to see this,” he said. He handed the box to me and inside was a handmade wooden bead bracelet with four letter beads that spelled out “HERO.” The R was backwards. Piper had made that and wrapped it herself and put it under the tree for Santa. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes. I said, “What’re you going to do with it?” “Keep it hidden away for a few more years, then I think I’ll give it back to her when she’s old enough.” “That’s a good idea.” “Yeah.” And then we just stood there in the glow of the tree, together but quiet, for a long minute.

~ The Santa Ana winds were blowing fierce on Christmas morning, starting around 3 a.m. It’s hilly at my sister’s house and the wind was literally howling through those hills outside our window. Couldn’t sleep because I was lying there just waiting for ol’ Santa to come crashing through the window on his wind-tossed sleigh. Found out later that the gusts were up to 80 miles an hour that night. Lots of downed decorations in people’s yards that morning. Broken candy canes. Dead reindeer. Headless Frosties. Your basic natural disaster. Ho ho ho.

~ About 6 a.m., I heard the thud of Piper’s feet on the floor above me. Sheeee’s up! Then ….. thud-thud-thud-thud-thud, rapid fire as she bounded down the stairs. Then a pause. I knew she looking at the stash from Santa under the tree. “Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY!!” And she thudded up the stairs again. It was the best way to wake up ever.

~ I got up, joined my sister in the kitchen, helped with Christmas breakfast. Piper hugging anything in sight. She was literally glowing with anticipation. “Where’s Uncle Beloved?!” “He’s still asleep, sweetie.” He wasn’t, really, but she likes to go in and “wake him up.” I tiptoed to the door of our room and through a crack in the door, told MB that he needed to be asleep, Piper was coming. He obligingly faked sleep and Piper burst through the door, climbing on him and tickling him awake. She just loves her Uncle Beloved.

~ Piper got the blue Sharpei (sp?) dress from High School Musical. She was over the moon. She wants to wear it to the next father-daughter dance, she said. Hahaha. We’ll see.

~ Santa had eaten all the kisses and candy canes and left her a thank you note for his bracelet. She made sure to point all this out to us. She was so proud and happy.

~ Oh, I forgot to mention my favorite gift! Christmas Eve, my brother was acting all wiggly with anticipation to give my sister and me our presents. “You have to open them together; they’re the same thing.” I had no idea what it could possibly be. Just two small boxes. We opened them up and I gasped out loud when I saw it: a CD of a verrry obscure Christian duo that the three of us were completely obsessed with back in the ’70s. We listened to our tape (back then) CONSTANTLY. They were IT for us. They had it together. All figured out or something. They gave us hope, helped us believe, made the Christian life seem …. well, a lot easier than it is. But they were so of a time for us, if that makes any sense. The music by most anyone’s standards would be seen as totally cheesy and yet, I can’t see them that way at all. I see them through much younger eyes and I’m sure I always will. I’m still not entirely sure how my brother put this all together. I mean, these guys are OB-scure. Over the years, I’ve tried to search them out online, but to no avail. My brother just said, very matter-of-factly, “I found a guy online and he made me these copies.” He’d also had the guy copy the photo from the old cassette cover and put it on our CD’s. So sweet, so thoughtful. The three of us were instantly transported back, back, years ago, to that secret place we shared because of this music. It was my favorite gift. Maybe one of my favorite gifts ever.

~ After breakfast, after the gift opening, after all the commotion, my sister and I tried to sneak away just to talk. We climbed on their bed — and — oh Sweet Jesus! — my BIL’s side of the bed has this memory foam dealie that I instantly fell in love with, so SO comfy, like floating. We chatted quietly for a few moments, until middle nephew barged in. “What’re you doin’?” He climbed into the bed between us. Sister time over. Moments later, BIL came in, collapsed on the bed. Four of us now, sharing a bed, sister and I wrassling nephew, BIL trying to sleep on the very edge. Moments later, oldest nephew. “Hey! Here’s where you all are!” Thunk. On the bed. Getting crowded. Can’t breathe. “Let’s watch a movie,” someone said. (They have a flat screen in the bedroom, conveniently, for all of us lazybones.) We ended up watching, appropriately, Independence Day and digging into the big ol’ bucket — literally, bucket — of caramel almond popcorn I’d made for all of them. Five of us, plopped on the bed, snuggled together, all third world and cozy, littering the bed with caramel corn. Only 2 of us were missing but, apparently, Piper had kidnapped MB and he was buried deep deep deep in “My Li’l Pet Shop” assembly and play time. We could hear their voices. Just so cute. He’s so patient with her. They played Pet Shop for like an hour and a half.

~ Finally, the two of them came wandering into our Very Third World Christmas Bed. “Oh, I see what’s going on here.” Piper plopped onto the pile. BIL and older nephew climbed off and took spots on the floor. MB climbed on. The revolving door of bed personnel. Sister, nephew, MB, Piper, and me. All happily crowded. Tickling nephew. Snuggling Piper. Eating caramel corn. Watching Independence Day.

All very lovely and cozy and Christmasy.

Enjoy the last day of the year, everyone!!

December 29, 2007

-image-finally saw it!

We just got back from finally seeing ALL of “Sweeney Todd.”

And, oh, do I have a lot to say about it! Lots. A lotty-lot-lots.

On the other hand, it’s New Year’s weekend, for poosake, and I have to gather my scattered thoughts and recover from my attempt to magically heal my plague-ridden husband last night with a feast of turkey and stuffing and garlic mashed potatoes and Riesling gravy and blood and sweat and tears and swear words. Huge pearly onion tears. Huge pearly onion swears. Frankly, I blame Martha Stewart and her unrealistic expectations of what it means to be a turkey-roastin’, gravy-makin’ woman in this world.

Stupid Martha Stewart. Back to the hoosgow with you!

So my review will appear, oh, sometime in the next few days, I think.

Being a turkey shaman is so very draining.

Also, I burnt the roof of my mouth last night because my hot cocoa with marshmallows was way too hot.

So this is suffering on a grand scale, you see.

December 28, 2007

-image-Christmas snippets

~ I am still not over clicking through the channels last week and pausing long enough to watch Olivia Newton-John in a gorgeous slinky gold gown singing Xanadu for “Christmas at Ford’s Theatre.” Everyone else was singing, oh, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or Silent Night or Feliz Navidad, but Olivia Newton-John came out and just nailed that perennial holiday classic, Xanadu. I was beside myself with joy.

~ Driving up the coast to my sister’s, I could not get over the huge char areas from the recent fires. For Thanksgiving, we drove up north to the deep dark middle of nowhere and saw miles of it. And that was a different freeway. This was the good ol’ I-5. The freeway that runs from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. At one point, around Camp Pendleton, the scorched areas came literally to the edge of the freeway. And the freeway at this point is probably about 300 yards from the ocean. So … immediately to my right — vast grey-black hills. Immediately to my left, vast dark blue ocean. It was surreal.

~ When we arrived, Piper was sitting at the edge of the driveway waiting for us. She’d just been sitting there. Waiting. For a while.

~ She was “so escited.”

~ She told me all about her “letter from Santa!” “Tee Tee, he tole me he knows I’m good!!” That seemed to be the most important thing to her. Well, that, and the fact that her drawing was apparently hanging front and center in his workshop. She then dragged me up to her lavendar-and-yellow bedroom and proudly showed me “THE ACTUAL LETTER!!” stuck to her bulletin board. I oohed and aahed and laughed the entire time.

~ Baby Banshee (new niece), now three weeks old, showed up a few moments later. Not by herself, of course. I mean, her legs are probably too short to reach the pedals. And I don’t think her arms can reach the steering wheel. And she can’t hold up her head unassisted. Or focus on things more than 18 inches away or something like that. I’m no lawyer or anything, but the weight of the evidence seems to suggest that she did not drive herself up to my sister’s house. Plus, my brother and his wife were also there with their long arms and long legs and working eyeballs, so I think we can safely conclude that one of them was the driver. Although, The Banshee was there, too. She’s precocious and kinda scary. In all fairness, we really can’t rule her out as the driver in this scenario.

~ This was the first time I had seen Baby Banshee and it’s always hard for me to see a new family baby at first, no matter how much I may end up completely in love with them. I always have to psych myself up. Ignore the pit in my stomach. Pretend no one’s watching my reaction. Pray I don’t cry. Act as normal as possible which is nearly impossible to do when you’re just “acting” normal. Baby Banshee slept a long time off in a corner in her carseat thingy so I kept walking by when no one was around, getting closer each time, just kinda circling her. She’s smushy and delicate with lots of dark hair poking out of her head. I don’t know where she ever got hair that dark. Later, when she woke up, I asked, heart pounding, if I could hold her. As she relaxed into my arms, I relaxed a bit and said, “Hey, little munchkin” while she stared up at me for a long time with her blue-black eyes. So I had done it. And I was okay. I didn’t start blubbing or shaking or breaking out in hives. I suppose it sounds strange, but it’s always a small internal victory when I do this. I have to fight my baser resentful self who doesn’t want to hold the baby, who wants to stay safe under the familiar warm blanket of bitterness. But beyond all that, far above all that, a new baby deserves to be greeted with as much love as her aunt can muster. And looking down into her smushed little face, it wasn’t that hard, really.

~ Upon arrival, Big Banshee stood in the doorway singing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” in her red velvet dress. (She is always ready for her close-up, Mr. DeMille.) She then immediately grabbed Piper’s hand and enforced cousin play time commenced. Later, there was an incident where Big Banshee hit Piper with a doll. This was NOT okay with Tee Tee. Even later, there was an incident where Big Banshee was freaking out about the bows on her dress being crooked. Her Nana (my mother) said, “Banshee, if you keep acting like that, you will never have any friends.” This was also not okay with Tee Tee. Sigh …..

~ My dad pulled me aside so he could perform one of his comedy routines for me. Let me explain. My dad has been in his church choir for ages now. He — according to him — is the resident comedian, the comic relief. Dad is a financial planner but once told me, years ago, that he’d always wanted to be a stand-up comedian. It was so touching to me. What he said. That he told me. Dad doesn’t share stuff. He just doesn’t mostly, so that was a big deal. For some reason, I’m the child he turns to when he wants to do his comedy. He always tells me the context first, “This is the routine I did at the choir retreat.” Or “I did this one at the choir banquet” or something. The routine is always typed out on paper. He doesn’t perform it that way for his peeps, but he types it so he can give me a copy. Still, for me, he starts to read it — with great feeling — and then immediately dissolves into great shaking laughter. He can never get through it straight when he performs it for me. I know he can for the choir because I’ve seen plenty of videotapes, believe me, and he never breaks. But for me, he’s gone. And then I’m gone. And then we are both just out of our minds laughing. Not laughing, even. Giggling. Like little kids. Uncontrollably. Honestly — and God help me — it’s not that I find his routines so funny; it’s that he cracks himself up. It’s totally irresistible to me. I’m just helpless against my dad’s great shaking laughter at himself. It’s adorable. I’m laughing right now just picturing it. That’s the little kid in my dad — my 71-year-old dad — that I just love love LOVE to see.

(more snippets to come — I’m just gonna post this part now!)

December 27, 2007


I’m back.

So …. did you all have a good Christmas?

I’ll be posting for real later today, hopefully. There’s some icky plague floating around the house here that I’m trying hard to dodge. Stupid icky plague.

December 21, 2007

-image-how could this be??


We saw “Sweeney Todd” today. Don’t worry. This isn’t a review.

So, yes. We saw “Sweeney Todd.”

All 10 minutes of it.

Until the projector malfunctioned or the newbie running the projector malfunctioned — repeatedly.

And we all left the theatre en masse with our hands out for refunds, moaning in collective despair things like how could this happen and this was the one movie I really wanted to see this year and “I will have vennnngeance” and stuff like that.

Oh, how could this BE!!??

“There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit and it’s filled with projectors that are full of sh*t ….”

Still …… the ten minutes we saw? I am drooling. Cannot WAIT to go back and finish it.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to be more excited than I was before, but I AM!

“Sweeney ….. Sweeney …. Sweeney ….. SWEEEEE-NEEEEY!!!”

December 19, 2007

-image-flashback: “a christmas carol”

Years ago, I was in a local repertory theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” It was a small cozy cast and we each played a couple of roles in the show. One of my parts was Belle, Scrooge’s long-lost love. At one point, the Ghost of Christmas Past shows Scrooge his heart-wrenching farewell scene with Belle from years ago where she tells him that he is changed now, that a golden idol has displaced his love for her, that Gain has become his master passion, that she releases him from their agreement to marry. Blahdie blah. She actually kinda lets him have it. Nicely, but still. After that, Scrooge is shown another brief scene of his lost love, the scene causing this random flashback. Belle is now married, surrounded by a throng of noisy children, happy in her loud and crowded life. Her husband enters and is instantly mobbed by his delighted feral children. Finally, he turns to Belle and this is the scene as we had it in our show — basically, straight from Dickens:

“Belle, I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.”

“Who was it?”


“Tut, don’t I know! Mr Scrooge.”

Now, they are laughing, smiling, as if there is some private — but not unkind — joke between them about old Mr. Scrooge.

So that’s the scene. Those were my lines in that short short scene. I was supposed to say, “Who was it?” and I was supposed to say, “Tut, don’t I know! Mr. Scrooge.”

Not hard, right? Really really not hard. I’m not talking about the nuances of that short scene; that’s a separate thing. I simply mean that those are not hard words to get out of one’s mouth correctly. As a matter of fact, I had no problem at all with “Who was it?” I nailed it every time. I also had no problem with “Mr. Scrooge” there at the end.

But at some pivotal point during rehearsals, the line “Tut, don’t I know!” became the bane of my existence. The angel of death. The worst line that anybody anywhere ever had to say. Worse than when Leonardo DeCaprio bellowed ridiculously “I’m the king of the world!” to a cold and callous Atlantic Ocean. I felt pretty bad for him then, but not as bad as I felt for myself when “Tut, don’t I know” started tightening its hideous vise grip on my psyche. I don’t remember how it happened, exactly, but I began to have complete and utter dyslexia about these four little words and at this pivotal fatal rehearsal, I blurted out in my proper British accent, displaying a staggering mastery of my craft: “Tut, I dunno!”

The scene instantly stopped. My “husband” stared at me for a brief second, then burst out laughing.

“You ‘dunno’?” he said.


“You said, ‘Tut, I dunno!'”

“‘Tut, I dunno??’ No, I didn’t!”

It was totally unconscious. Some kind of hidden frustration coming through, obviously. I started laughing. Everyone around was laughing and repeating it, with that certain annoyed edge I’d inadvertently given it. Little did we all know that lingering over that blunder, laughing about it, repeating it would just mess with all our psyches, doing irretrievable theatrical damage. We didn’t care, though. It became THE stupid backstage joke: “So Mike, when are you adding that gobo?” “Tut, I dunno!” “Becky, where’s that candelabra?” “Tut, I dunno!” “Tess, what is the meaning of life?” “Tut, I DUNNO!!” It became the answer for nearly every question.

Now saying it like that — “Tut, I dunno” rather than “Tut, don’t I know” completely changes the nuance of the scene because Belle DOES know whom her husband is referencing. But — it shames me deeply to say this — my psyche was now ruined and I blamed myself while publicly and loudly blaming everybody else. “Tut, I dunno!” had spread like wildfire and was now part of our lexicon, our lingo, the secret shared language that every show always has. People used the accent; people changed the accent. People imitated my inflection; people changed the inflection. The possibilities of “Tut, I dunno!” were an endless comic horizon and we seemed to be deeply committed to exploring it — forever!!

But … once the show opened and real people were really watching …… oh Sweet Jesus. The vise grip that stupid phrase had on my psyche — on everyone’s psyche — was still so tight that when the moment for that line came up, the air went cold, time went backwards, genetic mutations sparked in my brain on a subatomic level. The actor playing my husband would stare at me, wild-eyed with fear. What will she say? What will she say?! What will she say?? Tut, I DUNNO!!! There was an eternal pause between his line and mine which never should have been there. And when I say “eternal” I mean eternal. The Rapture happened. The Apocalypse. The Second Coming. But “Belle” and her husband were outside of the time-space continuum whilst we waited for my pea brain to process four little words in their correct order. The white-faced look of horror on my husband’s face as he gazed down at me was no acting. It was real.

Miraculously, every night of the show, my brain fought back against mutations and time and eternity and I did manage to eke out a feeble “Tut, don’t I know!” But the line was ruined. The moment was ruined. Because although my brain finally rallied every night, we couldn’t look at each other when I said it. We simply could not. There were always ominous twinkles threatening in the corners of our eyes. The edges of our mouths twitched to hold in the shrieking laughter that was always waiting to break. Desperate to fight it, we both stared shakily at some neutral point offstage, which, of course, is what the scene is all about.

It was a warm, touching moment, rendered professionally, lemme tell ya.

Was Dickens spinning in his grave from his mistreatment at our hands?


December 18, 2007

-image-for the week before Christmas

I’m posting links to the exerpts I posted last year from Philip Yancey’s brilliant book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Because I love Philip Yancey, in case I’ve never mentioned that.

I hope, even if you read them last year, you’ll visit them again to help you get into the spirit of the season. If you’ve never read them, give ’em a try. Yancey really does give a wonderful, totally different perspective on Christmas. Seven parts for the next seven days! (You’d think I’d planned it ‘er somethin’.)

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Uh …. oops. There are 8 parts. I am now twirling in a shame spiral brought on by poor planning and misguided boasting about great planning. Well, it’s not really Christmas until someone’s twirling in a shame spiral, right? Fa la la!

Part 8

December 17, 2007

-image-r.i.p. dan fogelberg

Oh, I’m just so sad about this. So sad. Too young to be gone. I wrote about him briefly here. How his soaring music was the soundtrack to a certain phase of my life.


“Scarecrow’s Dream”

Seldom seen
A scarecrow’s dream
I hang in the hopes of replacement
Castles tall
I built them all
But I dream that I’m trapped in
the basement.

And if you ever hear me calling out
And if you’ve been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe
I can be found.

Plans I’ve made
A masquerade
Fading in fear of the coming day
Heroes’ tales
Like nightingales
Wrestle the wind as they run away.

And if you ever hear them calling out
And if you’ve been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe
I can be found.

Garden gate
An empty plate
Waiting for someone to come and fill
Scarecrow’s dreams
Like frozen streams
Thirst for the fall
But they’re running still.

And if you ever hear me calling out
And if you’ve been by paupers crowned
Between the worlds of men and make-believe
I can be found.

Farewell, Scarecrow. Thank you for your music.

December 16, 2007

-image-a favorite place

Just a tiny picture of my old stomping grounds in college: my alma mater’s theatre. I virtually lived in this building for 4 whole years. It was home. When I had to be elsewhere, I just itched to get back. When I was there, I never wanted to leave. I have never felt this way about …. well, any other place, really. My entire LIFE was up those wide concrete steps, past those columns, hidden behind those secret brick walls. It’s ridiculous in a way; I mean, I HAD a dorm room. I had roommates over the years. But I saw that dorm room only to collapse into a deep dead sleep. And if the roommates weren’t in the theatre program with me, I saw them, oh, maybe in the hall on the way to the bathroom or maybe at the row of sinks brushing our teeth at the same time. I was a lunatic with complete self-absorbed tunnel vision.

To this day, I can’t look at that lower right window without a lump in my throat — the office of my most beloved ornery demanding professor who died five years ago on my birthday.

I can’t look at the window on the lower left and not think of my other dear professor whose door was always open, any time, all the time. He was just there for all of us and it seemed he was available, without fail, just when you needed someone. You could always find a fellow theatre student in there, laughing, crying, freaking out about life. I mean, the door was, quite literally, always OPEN, so you’d just peek around the corner, join in whatever was going on — laughing, crying, freaking out — and if we all had a free period, dear professor would say, “Oh, c’mon. Let’s all go to lunch.” I’m not even sure something like that could happen anymore. And that’s just one of the secrets of this place. Spontaneous lunches at Red Robin with your professor and friends. Big dripping hamburgers that somehow made everything better. Don’t be fooled; magical crazy things happened inside this staid-looking building. Things that you just don’t forget. Things that — you know now, but didn’t know then — defined you. Things that linger now because, somehow, life seemed bigger back then.

Oh, you beautiful long-suffering old theatre! The things you saw, heard, endured! I will love you forever for all of it.

You were the warm refuge where I felt my very best, most open self.


-image-tee-shirts, lovey!

Recently, I was clicking around the Internet for tee-shirts for my nephews. At 16 and 13, they’re both into that very tee-shirt intensive phase of their lives. But I found several on Threadless that even I, their fusty old aunt, really liked.


Uhm, I think this one’s called “There, They’re, Their.”

This one is called “Defend the Kingdom” and I am in love with it. Seriously. I am making this tee-shirt a mix tape posthaste.

“Really Exist.” Aww. Your cuddly, Velveteen Rabbit manifesto.

Hmmmm …. this reminds me of something … what is it?
Hmmm ….. well, I can only assume it’s an homage to the famously bitter protege.

“Biblical Disaster.” Uhm. Okay. So I am officially torn between two lovers here. Okey-dokey. Make that TWO mix tapes. Better get crackin’.

“Gold Rush.” I just love the old-timey look of this one. Plus, uhm, I love brown.

Gasp! Do I have yet another favorite?? Look, there are only so many mix tapes a girl can make for her insensate tee-shirt paramours.

Go over to there-they’re-their site and have some fun clicking around. Lots of other great designs for nice last-minute gifts!

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