Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dinner Prep Interuptus

I'm sitting in my den with a load on my mind. DH is laying down, not feeling well, my teen and adult sons are playing video games, and I'm feeling particularly passive aggressive.

My writing time today was spent fighting traffic and grocery shopping. The van was emptied out, and now cloth bags, full and empty, litter my kitchen floor. Chili sits partially assembled in a pot, missing a vital ingredient. The diced tomatoes I thought to use are unusable, and frankly I'm too exhausted to go out and get more.

A ready to cook meat loaf by Sprouts is now the meat entree'. It's waiting to go in, but I'm tired and feeling abandoned by my kids.

The garbage needs to go out, dirty dishes lay about, sprouted after I cleaned. I was told by one son that he would pick up his stuff, laundry laying in a chair, old dishes, etc. Not yet though.

I'm just not feeling the team spirit here. Eventually my husband will drag himself out of bed, and pitch in. He's willing to help out all the time, and does. The kids, will if nagged, but it's Christmas, and I don't want to nag anyone. 

I hate cooking, despite collecting cookbooks, after one too many nights of shopping, cooking, then cleaning. The kids don't get it, and suddenly a lot of take-out's on the horizon until they go back to college.

Years ago when multi-generational homes existed, the meals were shopped or grown, cooked, and cleaned up by multiple hands. It really is too much for one person, and yet it happens. 

When I was a kid in a single parent household, we often ate after 10 pm. My mom taught school and dinner was often late. I look back and wish I'd tried to help, instead of waiting to be fed like a goldfish.

Maybe one day my kids will too. For now I smell half-cooked chili, and sit waiting.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

On the Bittersweetness of Christmas Cards

This is the year I decided to start writing Christmas cards again, but I have a problem. Looking through the four cute and efficient Mary Engelbreit Christmas organizers yield few usable for mailing. These books each encompass four or five years of Christmases, and should contain cute pictures of kids decked out for holiday concerts, vintage family recipes for sugar cookies, and other such stuff.

Mine are just like my brain: disorganized and disjointed.

Looking through the four was like facing twenty years of mortality, career moves, industry downturns, divorces, and just people moving. Quite a few are addresses of people we knew through the oil industry in New Orleans, or maybe during Dan’s sojourn working as a contractor for Oakridge National Laboratories. Most of them are far too old to use.

There was a time when I sent out over 36 Christmas cards, each hand addressed and personalized, stamped with real Christmas stamps from the USPS, and sealed with wax. If I was really organized, then I sent out pictures. I did that until the year my mother-in-law snapped after getting a handful of photos from us. She said there were so many grandchildren the pictures were overwhelming her. Wow and ouch. I didn’t make that error again.

The INTERNET came and ecards were so fun and precious. No stamps, no hurried attempts to photograph surely children and spouses for the cards. The trouble for me was that I liked opening my mailbox and getting the cards as much as sending them. When someone stopped, I wondered why, other than economics. This year I think we’ve gotten two cards so far.

I looked through the address section of those Mary Engelbreit books, at the addresses crossed out because someone had died, and remembered the friends, their houses, the times we spent together. It’s bitter sweet. There was one awful stretch in Knoxville where I lost four friends to car accidents, Multiple Sclerosis, and cancer. Spouses remarried, had kids, sold the houses in the book, and we lost that thread of connectedness.

There’s the listing for my late sister-in-law who was killed with her youngest daughters one Ash Wednesday morning. By her husband. Her name still makes my hair stand on end.

I suddenly realize that I’ve not ordered flowers for my mother’s grave, that I haven’t talked to my surviving stepmother in too long. Should I order flowers for my dad’s grave? No.

Those Christmas books are like a hot poker to my memory. Regrets, sadness, loneliness for a parent. Irrational wishes for a time machine.

It starts to dawn on me why stopping these Christmas cards makes sense to a lot of people. When just the Holidays alone make people blue, why pile on more sadness looking at these names and useless addresses? Maybe it’s time to donate the rest of my card supplies and just sleeping elves sleep. Let memory blur the losses into something manageable and bearable.

Yes, makes sense, but I’ll probably change my mind again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Thanking My Rescuers

Thanking my Rescuers

The other night I watched in horror as protesters subjected police officers to spitting, heavy items tossed at them, screaming, yelling, and insulting even their families. I’m not an innocent, and I know there are bad cops just like there are bad people in other professions. The difference is that except for firemen, no one has ever come to my rescue like a police officer.

My relationship with the police has been one of respect and humility when confronted. When a Louisiana State Trooper pulled me over for an expired inspection sticker, I accepted my responsibility. When I turned right into an intersection in Baton Rouge, right in front of three motorcycle policemen, when I was supposed to wait for an arrow, I was angry but owned up to the ticket. Not long ago a tiny Texas state trooper stopped me on one of the busiest roads in Houston and asked me if I knew why I’d been pulled over. It wasn’t just because I was going over the speed limit, which everyone in Northwest Harris County does on that stretch, but because I once again had an expired inspection sticker. I said yes sir, no sir, and didn’t argue because that’s the way my mama taught me. No matter what the color of your skin, you don’t argue or provoke a law officer. Living in New Orleans, especially with NOPD and Mardi Gras, reinforced that. Even if you think they’re wrong, you back down and never, never argue.

There are other reasons I give lawmen and women my respect. My mother was physically abused by my father, beaten by his huge hands, by his ugly words. We were stalked at night when I was a child, not by him, but someone else. One rainy night on 1-10 a Louisiana State Trooper rescued me when my low flying guardian angels were getting exhausted. Another night two Jefferson Parish deputies came out to rescue me from another stalker. Then there were the two Louisiana State Troopers, who worked the accident where my sports car had been forced off 1-20 into a marshy ditch by an 18 wheeler.

Lastly, there are Harris County deputies who responded to my store robbery and attempted break-ins, vandalism, and neighborhood theft. These guys never know what they’ll find reporting on a call. Each one may take their life, widow their spouses, and leave their children with one less parent. These folks are heroes, and deserve our respect, our children’s respect, good pay, excellent equipment and community support.

These lawmen keep us safe at night, snug in our beds while they take care of the bad guys and keep our communities strong. They are not the enemy.

There’s no place for racism or bad cops in the United States. Nowhere. And we need to encourage more people of every ethnic group to enter law enforcement, to see it as a good career supported by the good people of our country. If it’s a career vilified by all, why should good people want to make a career of it? To be seen as the enemy, despite their innocence?

I’m not fooling myself when I say I sleep because sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, police officers and other law enforcement professionals are keeping watch in my city and county. Thank you very much.