Some holiday punch

Happy Boxing Day! For the longest time, I never knew what Boxing Day was. I always thought that it was the day when you finally became tired of all the holiday madness and wanted to punch someone. But no, it’s the day when you put stuff in a box and give it to the help. Seriously. I probably laughed out loud when I read that the first time, because it seems so snooty. So check your calendar. Does it have Boxing Day on it? What does that say about you?

And yes, I will be doing something to celebrate Boxing Day because I enjoy holidays that involve prejudice or any activity that divides people into groups so they can be treated differently. I am going to box up the old coffee maker and give it to the ARC. The coffee maker works just fine and has for the last 20 years or so, but we got a new one yesterday from my mother-in-not-law. The new one is very pretty and modern – stainless steel to match the other kitchen appliances and programmable.

And I don’t know how to use it.

I read the directions last night, which was a Christmas miracle, because I usually just throw them out. And I filled it with water, put in some coffee grounds and punched some buttons to program it to make coffee at 5:30 a.m. Or at least that’s what I thought it would do. Right now I am not drinking coffee and it is 6:30 a.m. I may go downstairs right now and plug in the old coffee maker, so I can have some coffee. Hang on.

OK. Coffee is being made. How do I know? It sounds like a helicopter is taking off in the kitchen. This is the other problem with the new coffee maker. I can’t tell if it’s making coffee, so I just stand there staring at the pot to see if there is any coffee dripping into it. And cursing.

So, all this hubbub is just a friendly little reminder from the people in the world who are trying to do something really nice for me. They are letting me know that change is hard. I like the idea of having a new coffee maker get busy at 5:30 making coffee for me. But right now it’s doing nothing. And I will have to work harder than normal to get it to do what I want. And I don’t like extra work – at least not extra work that I didn’t choose. But I’m going to try again tonight by re-reading the directions and pressing some the buttons to see what happens. And if it doesn’t work, I may just punch someone.

Christmas projection: Some thoughts about the perfect gift

Spoiler Alert!
Doug: This blog will reveal what our mom is getting you for Christmas.

It’s almost Christmas Day. It’s tomorrow, just in case you really haven’t been paying attention or you just woke up from a coma. And in that case, you should stop reading this blog and read the New York Times to find out what is going on and to see a full-page, animated ad for the movie Les Miserables. But I digress.

The gifts are wrapped (almost). Most of the cookies have been eaten. (Please send more.) And I will probably get sucked in to making tamales today, even though I swore earlier that I would not.

Christmas, at least in America, is a time of great cheer and shootings. But most importantly, it’s a time to buy lots of stuff. If you do not buy lots of presents and give them to lots of people, then you are less of a person. Less of an American. I try to live up to this very high standard by doing lots of shopping and TONS of contemplating about what the right gift might be. This year, I started thinking about and shopping for Christmas gifts in March. I’m not kidding. Because this year, quite a few people are getting the best and the worst kind of gift from me: A homemade one.

Now, I know what you’re thinking! Thank god, I’m not actually friends with this woman so I don’t have to pretend like I really love the stupid thing that she spent hours making for me. But let’s get on with it. A number of my friends and my super awesome spouse are getting Christmas ornaments made of felt. I know. This gift idea is SO obvious. Here is an example:

southparkornamentsThese are the kids from South Park, just to reinforce the point that most good art is informed by something that is already beautiful and to try not to get sued. It took me most of a weekend to make these. And yes, I cut out all the little shapes that make up the 3-inch figures and sewed them onto the green back by hand. They are also stuffed with just a tiny bit of cotton batting – the kind that you put into quilts, when you make those. Everyone makes their own bedding, don’t they?

So these are already on our tree. And there are others that are carefully wrapped in tissue and placed in a box or a bag ready to jump out and surprise the next lucky friend! Some ornaments are singles, and some are collections. There is “breakfast” – already delivered – comprised of bacon (of course!), eggs, toast and a cup of coffee all lovingly made from felt. “Sports balls” and “superheroes” are wrapped and under the tree. There is a high-heeled shoe and a football logo and probably some other stuff that I’ve forgotten about.

Whatever the thing is – sports, superheroes, food – it’s supposed to be fun and remind me of you. I also really appreciate sarcasm, as I’m sure you already know. Our Christmas tree is mostly filled with ornaments that we find funny. And we have nicknamed a lot of them. Like “the grudge” – a little figurine that supposed to look like an elf (I think) but looks more likely that extremely creepy spirit from the movie.

But, now it’s time to get serious for a second. Every gift we give is a projection – we can’t help it. (Remember we talked about this earlier this month.) So, ask for what you want if you haven’t already, otherwise you will get what someone wants you to have! Seriously, I can’t read your mind and neither can your husband, your wife or your BFF no matter how long you have been together. Don’t let them project on you. Or if they do, take it as a hint, and divorce them or speak up.

So, my gift is what I think about you. Or at least what I think you would like. Unless you’re my mother, and then your gift is a convenience. She is giving my brother a copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s new book after she reads it on the plane on the way to Germany. She is going to try not to wrinkle the pages or drop it in the toilet, like she did with one book that she gave me one year.

So have a great Christmas whether you’re projecting on someone or being projected on. And I’ll see you on Boxing Day.

A commentary on race, class and gender or why we need to so many Barbies

Our current Barbie count is seven — four adult females, two adult males and one child, also female. We have two blond Barbies. Two black-haired Barbies. A Ken. A little girl Barbie named Chelsea. And Danny Wood. Yes, the guy from New Kids on the Block. I purchased the blond Barbies, as well as Ken and Chelsea, who are also blond. We adopted the other three (the dark ones, I might add) from day care.

For me, every Barbie has a theme, one that the manufacturer intended, and another one which I am using to justify the ownership of so many Barbies.

For example, one of the black-haired Barbies came with knee pads, elbow pads and one rollerblade. No helmet. OK. She’s an athlete and a risk taker. That’s a good role model, right? The only problem I have is the lack of helmet. But even if she had one, it probably wouldn’t fit. Inexplicably, all Barbie hair is approximately 10 times the thickness of ordinary human hair. Putting anything on her head is like trying to shove a marshmallow to the bottom of a cup of cocoa.

Now, onto the child.

One of the blond Barbies, Big Barbie as she came to be known, was in the same box as Chelsea with a miniature toilet and a sink. Is Big Barbie the sister? A single mom? Hey, it’s family helping family. Regardless, this was very handy during potty training time, when my daughter and I could go through all the steps for using the toilet with Chelsea and Big Barbie before we tried it ourselves.

And then there are the guys.

They are fine, I suppose, but having Ken – the Ultimate Boyfriend – has reinforced some behavior that I don’t love. Ken has a recording device in his chest that allows you to say things like “naked butt” and then repeat them in three different tones of voice. Awesome (not). But last night I noticed Barbie wearing Ken’s shirt and jeans. So that’s a good sign. We’re not letting gender stereotypes dictate the dress code.

This leaves Danny Wood. His plastic head is painted with black hair, but he also has a two-inch string of black hair down his back, which makes me fondly refer to him (in my mind only, people!) as sperm head. He’s kind of gross. I don’t share this with my daughter, because I don’t want to be a Barbie racist, but if I had my way, I would not have gone back up to her bedroom last night to help her take off his pants. So I guess that’s my lesson. I need to be more open-minded about Danny, his needs and his sense of style.

In a few weeks, we’re getting two more Barbies for Christmas. Yes, blond! I have already bought them and they are hidden in the trunk of my car – a good place to hide presents, I might add. One Barbie is a doctor and the other comes with the Malibu Dream House. So that’s good. We’ll have one with a post-graduate education and another with the good sense to invest in real estate that will increase in value. Whoever said there is anything wrong with Barbie?

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