Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There are disadvantages and advantages to having a birthday in the month of November.

Some of the disadvantages are
The last one in the gang to turn 13
The last one in the gang to turn 16
The last one in the gang to turn 18
The last one in the gang to turn 21
It’s too close to Christmas
You tend to be forgotten because of the holiday rush
A turkey is more appealing than candles and party hats

On the other hand, there are some advantages to a November birthday:
The last one in the gang to turn 50
The last one in the gang to turn 60

It warms my heart when I receive a lot of cards in the mail during my birthday month, sending me best wishes for a wonderful birthday. I have them lined up all around my desk so I am constantly reminded how loved I am. The cards so far this year are from my insurance company (it’s their job to keep track of people’s age), Talbot’s, SW Airlines Rapid Rewards, Hallmark Stores, DSW Shoe Factory. I can’t wait to check the mail tomorrow.

I have had some memorable birthdays.

Like the one when my children were still living at home – they were teenagers – and you’d think they were capable of thinking for themselves. It must have been on a weekend, because I remember painting the bathroom. I know, I know, who the hell paints the bathroom on their birthday – I can assure you, that will never happen again. As I was sponging along, dap by dap…sponging? the newest craze in decorating…I realized the sun was going down. Pretty soon the family will stand in a line outside the door with their smiling little faces and say, “Mom, stop painting now, we want to take you out to dinner for your birthday.” 5:30…dap, dap, dap...6:00…still painting...6:30…football game just ended, here they come. At 7:00, I was pissed. So I got down off the ladder, changed my clothes, and announced that I was going to go get Chinese – by myself. The family told me later they didn't think I wanted to be interrupted from my project. Yeah, right – it thrills me to death risking my life on a ladder that’s too short, getting paint all over my hands and face, and choking on fumes in a tiny cubicle with a toilet when I could be drinking apple martinis. A mother never forgets.

Turning 50 can be very traumatic. I certainly did not want to repeat the bathroom debacle, so I made sure there were plans in the works for dinner out with friends. Yes, smiling faces all agreed, so we set the date and time to meet at the friend’s house before heading out to the restaurant. I had no clue what was awaiting me. When we arrived at the house, twenty people yelled “Happy Birthday.” My first surprise party ever – thanks to the work of my daughter. She had made invitations, gone through my rolodex of names and addresses, and had everyone sign a little wiener autograph dog. The biggest surprise of all came when my mother and brother walked out of the bedroom door – they had flown over 400 miles to celebrate my half-century mark. I asked my daughter when she managed to pull off the perfect surprise party while we lived under the same roof, and she said it wasn’t easy. Since I am a bit of a night owl, she had to wait until after midnight when I went to bed to use the computer. Turning 50 wasn’t so bad after all.

However, turning 60 brings the realization that time will not go in reverse and being viewed as a senior citizen has reluctantly arrived. People in the stores behave a little differently. They talk louder and slower. They ask if you want help out to the car. I didn’t want to let go of my youth so quickly, so I requested 3 things for my birthday. I wanted to go dancing, I wanted to shoot pool, and I wanted to go to a piano bar. Once again, the children were full of surprises - with a party bus that took me, my family, and my friends out on the town. The party bus was equipped with a wet bar, sparkly decorations that screamed 60, and mood lights strung all over the black interior. First we dined on Mexican food, complete with a mariachi band and maĆ®tre d’ who tolerated the noise. Then off to Mill Avenue in Tempe - the Avenue where ASU students stumble in and out of pubs on Friday and Saturday nights – OK, every night of the week – after all - it is ASU. First we attempted to shoot pool, but the players heard there was a Farr on site ready to hustle so they got cold feet and monopolized the tables. Then we went dancing and had a few fluffy drinks at Fat Tuesday’s. After that it was off to the piano bar where they played Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and I danced on the stage along with the other birthday boys and girls who were a mere 39 years younger than I. Reminded me of my college days dancing on the tables. We finally rolled home around 2 am. Gosh, 60 is going to be fun.

What do you have planned for my 70th, children?

Saturday, November 7, 2009


You can always tell the beginning of the holiday season by the displays of candied cherries and blocks of mincemeat that you trip over when you walk into the grocery store the day after Halloween. What the hell is mincemeat anyway? It’s not little tiny cut up pieces of beef. It amazes me how anyone would think the words “mincemeat pie” would sound appetizing enough to eat. This blog is about holiday traditions – and eating mincemeat pie has never been a tradition in our house.

I noticed today on the holiday display at the grocery store the bags of Pepperidge Farm dressing – now that is a tradition in our house. It’s been my custom to mix the herb stuffing and the cornbread stuffing, and it has to be Pepperidge Farm. That’s what my mother used, so that’s what I have to use. Such a simple task is not so easy. Safeway has not only one type of herb stuffing, it has two – cubed and crumbs. However, the cornbread stuffing is nowhere to be found. That means it’s off to another store to find the cornbread. After forty years of preparing a holiday meal, it has occurred to me that everyone must have the same food traditions – five women grabbing for the last tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls is not a pretty sight.

The next tradition is to make green pepper jelly to give to neighbors and friends. It’s not really hard to make – a little time consuming perhaps – and husband does not like the smell of vinegar and peppers simmering, so I have to burn lots of candles and open all the windows. Then there is the task of finding the right jars. If I wait until after Thanksgiving, there are no jars to be found on the grocery shelves. My pepper jelly contains fresh jalapeno peppers – yum. However, one must be careful when taking out the seeds, because if one scrapes out the seeds with one’s fingers, and then scratches a delicate orifice such as an eye or ear (or wherever it may itch), one will truly suffer with a burning pain. I found this out the hard way – so I am armed now with gloves when cutting and slicing the jalapenos. My pepper jelly is fun to give – until I opened a friend’s refrigerator last year and there were two jars of it just sitting there from the last two holidays. Maybe it’s time to make fudge as a give away.

Our Christmas tree has the same type of lights that my parents used. As a matter of fact, I think I have 2 strings that adorned my mom & dad’s tree 30 years ago. This is why we have the fire extinguisher sitting in the living room on Christmas day. Preparation is the key to trimming the tree. First, put the Christmas carols on to get into the mood. Second, check the strings of lights to be sure the bulbs all light up. Third, fix myself an eggnog and rum. The size of the tree determines how many eggnogs & rum it’s going to take to decorate it. I always start stringing the lights from the top, or else I will have to get a designated driver to climb up the step stool. By the time the tree is finished, the eggnog has kicked in, and I really do not care that I have put all the red bulbs on one branch - and Bing Crosby begins to sound pretty good.

And finally, the obligatory Santa’s hat. I make my children wear their Santa hats while opening their stockings – so every year I have cute little pictures of the children in their Santa hats. My “children” are 28 and 33 – maybe it’s time to re-think that tradition.

So, whatever your traditions for the holidays are, enjoy them, make new ones, and be sure to buy the French Fried Onion Rings early.