Saturday, December 25, 2010

I don't have it in me today to write a blog post so instead I thought I would post the lyrics to one of my favorite Christmas songs. Someday I'm going to recite it as a blessing for a family dinner.

In the immortal words of Kermit the frog I present:

Bless Us All from A Muppet's Christmas Carol

Life is full of sweet surprises
Everyday's a gift
The sun comes up and i can feel it lift my spirit
Fills me up with laughter, fills me up with song
I look into the eyes of love and know that i belong

Bless us all, who gather here
The loving family I hold dear
No place on earth, compares with home
And every path will bring me back from where I roam
Bless us all, that as we live
We always comfort and forgive
We have so much, that we can share
With those in need we see around us everywhere

Let us always love each other
Lead us to the light
Let us hear the voice of reason, singing in the night
Let us run from anger and catch us when we fall
Teach us in our dreams and please, yes please
Bless us one and all

Bless us all with playful years
With noisy games and joyful tears
We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams
We ask you bless us all

We reach for you and we stand tall
And in our prayers and dreams we ask you
Bless us all

More lyrics:

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Where am I?

I'm sure by now you are all thinking "Where is Lacy? She said she lost her job and so she SHOULD have all this time to be blogging and posting pictures and being funny yet touching."

And you would be TOTALLY right. Except.

I got a job.

My first day of unemployment I got a job offer.

It's an HR Manager at a family owned plumbing company. It's a brand new position. So new that it's Thursday and hopefully this afternoon I will meet with my boss to write my own job description. Which is awesome for several reasons. 1. I've never written a job description and 2. I get to MAKE UP MY OWN JOB!

Although I'm pretty sure blogging on my family blog site will NOT be included in that job description.

So you'll have to wait until after work/holidays for more updates from because unlike my last job I actually have continuous work to do all the time.

Quick FAQ's....

1. Is it more money/better money/same money than your last job?
Yes. Not a ridiculous amount but enough to make my last pay scale look embarrassing.

2. Do you like it?
Yes. A lot.

3. Is it a good company?
Yes. I can't wait for them to replace my mainline.

4. What are you doing?
Working harder in my first week than anywhere else in my life doing things that are so different than anything I've ever done. I'm basically building or revamping every HR process they have. And it's all due the first week of January.

5. How's the commute?
15 minutes from my house to the office. I've used less than a quarter of a tank this week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cookiepalooza 2010

I have fond memories of my mother breaking out her cookie cutters every Christmas and rolling out sugar cookie dough for me to press those shapes into. We would bake them and then decorate them with cream cheese frosting, some of which she tinted with food coloring. We would sprinkle and frost and eat ridiculously sweet cookies for Christmas.

I've tried to do that most years with my girls although I have failed once or twice, especially with the divorce and having to split time. You'd be surprised how fast December flies when I only have the kids for half of the time.

This year for December craft day we decided to do cookies. I brought my mothers cookie cutters and a rolling pin, my sister-in-law brought decorations and my mother-in-law provided the house, the oven, the cookie dough, more cookie cutters, baking sheets, rolling pin and the frosting.

Oh also hats and aprons. At least for the little girls.

Myles, my nephew, and Kylie chose to sit this one out. Myles was working on a school project and Kylie, is, well, 15.

Something about 6 year old girls and the magic of Christmas makes my patience go extra long and extra wide.

My mother-in-law happened to have an adjustable table that was the perfect size for little girls with more flour than sense as my Grandma Mary used to say and cookie cutters. As you can see from the pictures it was very serious work.

I occasionally took breaks to play with my little boy who learned how to turn around and climb down the stairs at Grandma's house.

All of my children have been my play "pillows" at one time or another. This is Will being my pillow while I pretended to snore. He was actually really placid about it considering he doesn't really know what a pillow is.

Overall Cookiepalooza 2010 was a raging success and we went home with far more cookies than I can possibly consume this holiday season (although I'm willing to give it my best shot).

The girls had a pretty awesome time that night too although that is another post for another day.

Someone asked me why the cookies. Because between you and me it isn't always my favorite activity, bending over and scooping flour and dough and sprinkles everywhere for several hours. So why?

I hope that in 20 years both Lizzie and Paloma look back and tell their husbands, their friends, their families about the holiday memories of making cookies with their cousin at Grandma's house. I hope that it will be a tradition for them, the cookies, just like it was for me. I hope that my mothers cookie cutters get passed down to my daughters and to their children and that Julie's legacy of making holiday cookies extends to her great grandchildren and beyond.

That hope, that sincere wish for future generations, makes flour and dough and sprinkles just not seem so bad.

Plus, there is no downside to cookies.

Christmas in California

We lived in Nevada for 9 months and then moved to California. We thought the job situation, at least for Brian, would be better and I was hopeful to finish school. Brian had family in California that we moderately liked and they really talked up the place so in July we moved from Nevada to Modesto, California. Which is farm country, not beach country, in case you wondered.

We had a small Ford Ranger truck and a GMC Safari mini-van so we left a LOT of stuff in Nevada and either sold it or asked my father to store it. Particularly the Christmas items. He promised he would ship them to me when the time came.

He lied.

As December approached I asked him to ship them to me. He instead sent me $20. Neither Brian nor I wanted to buy yet ANOTHER fake tree when we had a small but good one in Nevada. I was also disturbed that many of my Christmas ornaments were at his house.

California had not quite turned into the money pile we had hoped for. Brian was working as a courier for a pet laboratory using his own truck. We couldn't afford child care so Kylie, at age 3-4 rode around with him all day on his runs. I worked part time as a puppeteer (3 ft tall puppets) and also part time at Jo-Ann Fabrics. On the weekends I was also the mascot Splasher the Frog for the water company. I sold Mary Kay on the side as well.

We had more money than in Nevada but we had less to work with over all. We were using a card table and 3 plastic lawn chairs for both dining and watching TV. We finally got a couch from goodwill for $25 that was brown on brown flowers from the 70's. We didn't have a washer and/or dryer. When we finally did get them the dryer almost immediately had issues and I ended up hanging wet clothes around the house in November.

Because we didn't want to buy another tree and frankly didn't have the money to do so I bought a string of red Christmas lights and taped them to the wall in the shape of a tree. I think Brian later came in and put push pins in to better hang the light tree up. We taped some very light wooden and plastic ornaments up inside of it and them placed the gifts at the bottom.

It was stark. It was sad.

It's not a favorite Christmas memory for me because I am reminded that I tried to separate from Brian during this time. I had had enough. I hated California. I was sick with hypothyroidism but didn't know it yet because we didn't have medical insurance. Kylie had no friends. Brian and I eventually worked it out that time but it was a rough season for sure.

After we patched things up that month Brian went and enlisted in the Active Duty portion of the Air Force. January 4th we were moved to Tucson. Life got a LOT better then.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Not too long ago Micah and I were having a discussion except it was more like me just telling him what Christmas' were like when we didn't have any money. I know for a fact he too has experienced Christmas where money was tight and his mom had to be creative with decorations and gifts but he has no memory of it.

I, however, have several memories of less than 12 years ago that are far more recent than his. So as we were discussing he commented about being poor at Christmas and was glad we didn't have to go through that and he's right, it's nice to be solidly middle class and have the option of CHOOSING to cut back for Christmas instead of HAVING to.

That said though, those Christmas' shaped who I am as a person and I think really taught me about doing with less. I thought I would share them with you for the next couple of days because they are not sad memories for me but rather happy ones. I think they explain a little about who I am as an adult as well.

The first Christmas after Brian and I were married we were living in a crappy ghetto apartment in Las Vegas. Our neighbors next to us and below us both did crack and the ones next to us routinely locked their children as young as 3 out of the apartment to wander around the property so they could get high. There was a shooting of another apartment dweller just a month after we had moved in because he had robbed the bank up the road and run back to his home while the police pursued him. Our carpet was officially the color "Burnt Orange" and we had leaks in the ceiling so bad that after one bad rainstorm the only thing holding the massive water from bursting forth in our bedroom were the layers 15 years worth of paint on the ceiling.

I worked at Citibank, the evening shift and Brian worked at Home Base which is/was a Home Depot wanna be. He also worked at night stocking. We both worked full time and bought in less than I alone make now. We couldn't afford daycare and we both worked a night shift but in an odd way so that Kylie was only without a parent around for about an hour and a half at night. One of our neighbors came over and sat on the couch and watched TV during this overlap time and we paid her $30 a week I think.

Our grocery budget, for 3 people was $75 bi-weekly. That means our monthly grocery budget was $150 and when we went grocery shopping it was with lists and a calculator. It was hard.

We lived in the same city as my father and stepmother and they offered us a string of lights and some old decorations for Christmas.

Brian scoured the newspaper ads on his lunch break at work and found us a 4ft tall Christmas tree at a drug store. It was around $30. Our parents from Alaska sent some decorations and stockings and I believe we bought another sting of lights as well.

We strung a set of lights on the tree (which was only slightly taller than Kylie at the time) and another set around the apartment. We hung stockings and Christmas cards on the wall. It certainly wasn't fancy. But once we had a few gifts under the tree it certainly felt like Christmas.

Because it was our first Christmas as a married couple AND we had a small child I think our families went a little overboard. It also could have been the size of the tree. In either case on Christmas morning only the top 4 inches plus the star (made of tinfoil) were visible above the stacks of gifts, most of them for Kylie as they should have been.

That year I remember I bought Brian a tool kit at a large department store and he bought me a sweater and skirt. Kylie got a pressed wood bookshelf from us. I think our total budget for gifts was $100 that year.

We had celebrated Christmas at my fathers house that year which was not a fun experience. At the time it felt like Kylie was the "bad" child while my niece, who was 7, was the golden child. Just prior to the gift giving one of my fathers former step children pulled me aside and informed me that he hadn't purchased any gifts for Kylie as he hadn't realized she was "so old". Then he turned around and gave another infant at the party a fancy package with toys in it. So it wasn't that he hadn't bought gifts for any babies, he just hadn't purchased anything for her.

Kylie was oblivious to any of my emotions that day and just reveled in the excitement and business of Christmas. Brian and I came together, united in our poverty and against my father's family which at the time felt horrific. I have never spent another holiday with them since.

Despite the lack of money that year we didn't FEEL poor though. We described it at the time as newly married. Newlyweds don't generally have a lot of money and we just chalked it up to that.

It's a happy Christmas memory, despite the total cost of it being less than $200.

It's not the cost of the holiday that makes it merry, it's how you view it and live it at the time.