Writer of Soul-Searching Snark

Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned.

Lessons Learned

As a PMP (project management professional,) the 5 stages of a project have been pounded into my head:

  • Initiation
  • Planning and design
  • Execution and construction
  • Monitoring and controlling systems
  • Completion

No matter what I do, making a quilt, writing a book, hosting a Christmas party, I follow the steps for project management. Of course, my favorite stage is ‘completion.’  The satisfaction of completing a project on time and on (or under) budget is usually combined with shock when I review the lessons learned.  Most PMP gaze in wonder at their completed project and smile. I look back at my completed projects and think  WTF? How’d this damn thing get done without the insurance adjustor’s involvement?

The most important message of all. Relax and enjoy the moment. It's about the love and laughter. It's not about the perfect table and biggest present!

Yesterday, as I recovered from my family’s visit on Sunday night, I reviewed the week-long preparations and jotted down lessons learned to be reviewed before the 2012 Christmas fiasco. I thought I’d share a few with you:

  1. Check the prime rib before time to bake it and ascertain if it is boneless or not. It takes about an hour longer to cook a 13# boneless prime rib than it does one with the bones.  Fortunately, I discovered the roast was boneless in time to roast it and have it ready by 5, but if I’d waited 15 minutes longer, that wouldn’t have been the case.
  2. Check the rum supply! I thought I had a full bottle in the pantry. I didn’t.  I’m pretty sure Ma sneaked up here in the middle of the night and appropriated the extra bottle. Fortunately, I was able to use bourbon and brandy in place of the rum, but that’s not the point. A rum-free Christmas is a Christmas without….well, rum!
  3. Do NOT trust Ma with the baked goods. Since she has a chest freezer, she had room to store the cookie sheets filled with cookies, toffee, fudge, truffles, etc. To be fair, it wasn’t the storage that was the problem. It was the transport of said items back to my house. In all the hustle and bustle, she forgot she left a bag in the front yard. I went outside to discover a group of dogs growling over something on the ground. Turned out, they were gathered around the bag of toffee (by far the best I’ve ever made!) They ate all the toffee, all the fudge and every single one of the ginger snaps. I was not happy!!  (Short note to all my writer friends who are laughing. Let me put this into perspective for you. Consider losing 30,000 words of your current WIP. 30,000 words gone! No backup copy. No way to ever get them back. Ever! That’s how much work went into all those dog treats.  Still laughing?!)
  4. Have you ever seen plywood bow under the strain of holding up too much food?

    Count the number of guests who are attending, before buying groceries and setting up tables. We’re used to 18-20 guests.  This year we only had 12. Of course, I realized this after I’d thawed out 2 prime ribs and set up the table to accommodate 20 guests. Counting is very important.

  5. This is a doozie and should be applied to every day use, not just Christmas: don’t curl your hair in the nude. I was rushing around, trying to get ready before the guests arrived. I dropped my curling iron and grabbed it by the cord. It landed my stomach and got stuck. Peeling skin off with a hot iron is not the best way to celebrate Christmas.
  6. And the most important lesson: heed the messages. Songs sent by Pops, the cats plopping on my lap so I’d slow down and chill out, and virtual hugs for the Great White North.

After all was said and done, the Christmas dinner was a success. No one missed the food that the dogs ate. The prime rib turned out perfectly. The table was beautiful and we had room to spread out. There was plenty of brandy to soak the flaming desserts and most importantly, there was plenty of laughter.

God, I love that motley group of misfits. Love them.

All in all. The perfect Christmas.

Nothing classier than a plywood set up on saw horses for a table!

If you cover the table with high-quality wrapping paper, it becomes redneck-festive

Aren't these adorable? Ma made them out of velvet and satin. I have no idea what to call them: silverware cozy, perhaps?

When PMS and the Christmas Spirit Collide

When PMS and the Christmas Spirit Collide.

When PMS and the Christmas Spirit Collide

Several years ago, I was in Anchorage for a conference and had to go to Fred Meyers to get groceries and supplies to ship back to Barrow. I couldn’t figure out why the sea of people would part every time I entered a new aisle. When the mob of people circling the outrageously expensive, but fresh, strawberries scattered upon my approach, I scratched my head in bewilderment. It wasn’t until I reached the cashier and started unloading my cart that I figured it out. Can you imagine the message two gun cases, a bag of Oreos and a box a Midol transmitted?

Most people would say they have no idea when I’m suffering from PMS. As a matter of fact, a 9th grade student once gave me a little pink button that read: It’s not PMS. I’m always bitchy. Needless to say that little brat failed Civics. 🙂

Yes, I do get irritable. Yes, I have hardcore narcotics to deal with the cramping. And yes, I crave ice cream, but refuse to eat it, which leads us back to being irritable. So, yes, I’m an absolute delight to be around.

My biggest problem with PMS is I become overly emotional. Those of you who know me well are probably laughing at that statement. I cry constantly. Remember those long distance commercials? The crying Indian looking down into the polluted valley? Those ads for ASPCA with the puppies in cages. Shoot, I can’t even hear the word: “Sounder” without tearing up. Drives my friend Amethyst nuts. Although, God’s getting even because she’s dealing with some seriously wicked new-mama hormones and has become a weeping mass. Ha! Now, she knows. My normal weepiness is intensified during a lovely little bout of PMS. When it hits during Christmas, it’s deadly.

I was listening to Christmas music earlier and burst into tears when The Little Drummer Boy started playing. How sweet is that? He had nothing to give the newborn King except his music. Touching! Don’t get me started on how those mean, horrible reindeer treated little Rudolph! And Frosty….poor, poor Frosty. He was thumpity, thump, thumping around the square with all those little kids…and, and, sob!sob! He MELTED! He was so jolly and happy!

Oh, God. I can’t take it anymore. Where’s the fudge?!

The Spirit of Christmas Past

The Spirit of Christmas Past.

The Spirit of Christmas Past

Every year my family looks forward to the Christmas flop. You see, no matter how hard I try to have the perfect dinner and most beautiful house, my inner Martha Stewart gets eaten alive by snark-filled reality. And the reality is, I ain’t very creative. When I was younger, that upset me. Now, I sit back, relax and watch as my plans unravel. I’d like to think this change was brought about by maturity, but honestly, it’s because I discovered wine.

Last year, I think the only thing that went wrong was a batch of fudge. So far this year, (and we still have 5 days to go!) the silver bell sugar cookies aren’t bright and shiny. They look like something Quasimodo would’ve rung–dark and Gothic. The Christmas tree cookies look like they have a bad case of the measles–the swirls are big blobs of green. Remember my question about creepy gingerbread men? I thought they might be freaking me out because they were dancing naked on my kitchen table–apparently, they discovered the beauty of wine as well. So, I decided to dress them. White and red frosting in hand, I painted on faces. As I added clothing, several of them insisted on fancier fare than the lovely gumdrop buttons. Who am I to deny them their voice? It turns out that most of my gingerbread men are cross dressers.

Since my cooking exploits weren’t going so well, I turned my attention to decorations. Years ago, Ma and I came home to the loveliest of sights. Pops had gone into the woods and cut down some cedars and made a beautiful swag to put over the windows in the living room. It was breathtaking. Of course, it took Pops about 20 minutes to do the entire endeavor, but it takes me hours. I wasn’t going to do it this year. It’s really pretty, but it’s messy and time consuming.

As I cook and play Mrs. Claus, I listen to music. I had the iPod on shuffle and I was bustling around the house getting nothing accomplished, but looking really busy, when the hymn In the Garden started playing. Time stopped. I collapsed on the couch and burst into tears as every word of the song filled the living room. It was as if the room grew to double its size in order to contain the music. It was so rich, melodic, fulfilling. As I sat there sobbing, I nodded my head and said, “Got it, Pops.” The song ended. I blew my nose and grabbed the loppers. It was time for a walk in the woods.

In the Garden was Pop’s favorite hymn and we played it at his funeral. Talk about a message from beyond. I can’t tell you how happy I was lopping off cedar branches and hauling them to my house. It was a lovely day. The dogs gathered around as I tied boughs together on the deck. I broke out in a rash and I can’t breathe because I’m allergic to cedar, but I don’t care.

My house is literally filled with the spirit of Christmas.

Warm Fuzzies

Tis the season, right? Time to be jolly. Time to be nice to the people who are waiting with you in the slowest moving line in the history of retail. Time to give freely to the Salvation Army and adopt an angel from a Christmas tree so you can buy a child Christmas presents.

My question is why is that a seasonal thing? Why shouldn’t I give freely year round and God knows that a slow moving line at Dillard’s is always more fun when you chat up the hot guy standing behind you. When I think friendliness, kindness and generosity should be a daily thing, my friend tells me, “Hey, at least it does happen once a year.” So, I take solace in the fact that mankind can be jolly at least a couple of days a year.

One of my main gripes about Christmas is the commercialism of the holiday. Yes, I’m one of those people who can’t write X-mas because it crosses out Christ–the reason for the season. I’m all for gift giving and I particularly like gift receiving, but Christmas has become too complicated. There’s too much pressure to be happy, to have the perfectly decorated house, to give the biggest and best present, to cook the most spectacular meal of the year. It’s too much.

My friend, Ruth Burkett Weeks, did a (blog) earlier this week about spending time with her great-nephew. Quality time. No money was spent and I guarantee he’ll remember the day spent with his auntie way longer than he’ll remember what gift she gave him.

So, my friends, think about your approach to the holidays. Is it filled with pressure, anxiety and possibly depression? Well, get over it. It’s the season to be jolly. Don’t worry about a damn thing. Do what YOU want, not what society tells you. If you want to eat Chinese takeout and spend your days watching horror flicks go for it! Remember to take pleasure in the simple things in life.

I was reminded of this message the other day when I was frantically trying to get my Christmas decorations up. Why do I bother? I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s not like anyone is ever going to see them. As I flung boxes across the room and sighed in frustration, Mr. Taster Editor said, “Take a break.” Okay, he yelled it, so I’d pay attention.

I plopped in the recliner and decided to check my e-mail. That’s when it hit me–smacked me right upside my head. Jasmine and Kadee crawled up on my lap and wrapped me in a big old warm fuzzy. It made me happy. Made me realize that the beautiful decorations won’t make Christmas special. What makes it special is being surrounded by my family and friends and celebrating our lives. Sure, I’ll still go all out when cooking Christmas dinner because that’s what I do, but if I served frozen pizza my family would be okay with that too.

I really am a fortunate!