Archive for December, 2010

The Christmas Gift
December 30, 2010

Take comfort when you think of me,
Keep my love alive in your heart…
– Allison Chambers Coxsey (1996)

Faithful pewperson readers will remember our family’s grief and anguish over the sudden loss of my sister Mary’s husband Bobby last May.  ( https://pewperson.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/the-valley-of-tears/)  Even after seven months, it has been very hard for me to grasp the finality of it all, given his huge presence in all of our lives. 

One of Bobby’s biggest fans was their little dog, Lacey, a wirehaired dachshund. Lacey was actually Mary’s dog before she married Bobby, but when Bobby entered into the picture, she loved him totally. And he loved her back. 

Before his death, Lacey was just an adorable bundle of love whose tail never stopped thumping; I don’t think I ever saw her not wagging her tail! 

Afterwards, she distanced herself from us all, particularly Mary, who thought that maybe Lacey blamed her for Bobby’s absence. How do you explain such a thing to a dog? 

It got to the point that Lacey wouldn’t even go on walks with her, much less sleep with her. She just shut herself down into a doggie depression. There was nothing to do except just love her and hope that she would eventually come around. 

Mary came to our house on Christmas Day, and was jubilant that Lacey had all of a sudden on Christmas Eve returned to her loving self, happily went on a walk with her and Joey (a lanky greyhound… talk about Mutt & Jeff!) and then slept with her that night. 

I can’t help but think that Bobby had a hand in this transformation on this particular day. It was his Christmas gift to Mary, and she treasures that thought, as do I. It was a whisper from heaven into a little dog’s ear. 

And now, once again it’s New Year’s Eve, a day that always brings a sense of anticipation of a bright and shining future, with hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow. A year ago was no different, and yet 2010 turned out to be not so happy for us. Saying farewell to it won’t be hard, as we  look forward to what 2011 will bring. 

Should all plans fall neatly into place, 2011 will bring a summer wedding for our daughter, a new baby for our niece, assorted graduations and a new start in law school for our son in law to be. There is much to look forward to! 

My wish and prayer is that your 2011 will be filled with blessings, peace, happiness, faith, love, family, good health and successful endeavors. And if, my friend, you have all these things, then you are rich, indeed!

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Faithful to the End
December 17, 2010

Repeat business or behavior can be bribed. Loyalty has to be earned.         – Janet Robinson

Today I read about the passing of Bob Feller, who was an ace pitcher for the Cleveland Indians for 18 seasons. He was a fiercely proud patriot and a diehard Cleveland Indians booster to the end. Back in his day, athletes didn’t switch teams in the quest for the almighty dollar, and I truly think that fan loyalty has diminished because of the nomadic nature of today’s players. 

Loyalty is a rare virtue in this age of immediate satisfaction. Many people look out only for themselves, chasing the money or the next fad whenever the wind blows in a new direction. 

Me? I tend to stick with a good thing, even though it may not be the latest exciting or state of the art opportunity. 

For instance, I use the same hairdresser that I’ve used for the past 29 years. We were both very young when I started going to him, and hairstyles have really changed over all those years! When I think about how I used to get perms in the 1980’s, I shudder. 

Danny and I are the same age; I like him because he does a good job, but also because he is a good friend. He and his wife work together, and it’s been fun watching their family grow. They are now grandparents! We joke about how he will someday transition me into gray hair (himself, as well) and have to learn how to avoid making it look blue. 

When Shannon was 8 months old, I took her to Danny for her first hair cut. She still goes to him. He also cuts Joel’s hair, which means I can’t ever complain about my husband to him, or vice versa. I would never dream of going elsewhere, despite the fact that his salon may not be the trendiest in town. I really don’t care. 

The same applies to our tailor, who has been making our clothes look good since 1980. Tom is hardworking and talented; he and his wife rent a space not far from Danny’s salon, so it’s convenient. It is not a fancy place; as a matter of fact, it’s pretty spartan by most standards. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that he is skilled, reliable and trustworthy, and can do just about anything. He and his wife know us well, and it’s a pleasure to do business with them. 

The funniest challenge I ever gave Tom was to replace the elastic in the legs of my favorite bathing suit. I loved that suit, but it was getting kind of saggy baggy in the rear, so I had the idea for Tom to take a look at it. I still recall the puzzled look on his face, but he did it, and it worked! 

I could go on and on about favorite restaurants, stores and other establishments. Maybe I’m foolish and boring for not trying new things as a general rule, but for me, the key is building customer relationships. Once that has favorably taken place, I’m all yours.

But there’s another sticky loyalty issue these days, and it has to do with being an employee at an establishment that depends on one’s commitment to work for an agreed period of time. If another really good job opportunity arises, what do you do about that? 

 If you are someone like me, you stick with your commitment. But I’m not sure that’s the nature of people these days. And given the current working environment, there are many people who have taken certain jobs as an interim situation, while hoping for something better. 

Which brings me back to the question, is there a place for loyalty in this day and age? And at what cost? 

Merry Christmas to all!! Pewperson will take next week off and return on December 31.

Oh, Christmas Card, Oh, Christmas Card!
December 10, 2010

 

Tradition, tradition! Tradition!                                                                             ~ Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof

 

My parents used to send personalized Christmas cards with a clever photo montage of us kids yearly, and when Joel and I married, well then, so did we continue the tradition of sending annual Christmas cards.  Our early cards were rather generic until Shannon appeared, and then an annual photo of our precious baby angel girl was sent to all on our list.

 

“The List” has grown exponentially as the years have passed. It’s easy to get on our list, but hard to get off. You either have to pass away or move with no forwarding address.

 

Over the years, we’ve established a pattern of sending cards one year with just Shannon’s photo, alternating with one of the three of us. Adding in our dogs and cats, and now her fiancé and their dog calls for some logistical planning!

 

I sometimes grump about sending this massive mailout, but then we hear from so many people who say that they can’t wait to see this year’s card, or that they just love getting them. How does one step away from such a thing?

 

Shopping for hundreds of cards used to be daunting. If I found one I liked, there were never enough. But one year I happened to wander into a neighborhood church’s fall marketplace, where vendors set up tables to sell their wares, with a cut of the proceeds going to the church.

 

There I met a lovely woman who had books and books full of ready to order personalized Christmas photo cards. They would be delivered to my house, and all I had to do was order them, take the photo, reproduce it, stick it on the cards, stamp and mail. So simple! Ha. Ha. ha.

 

We did business for years. She eventually semi-retired, but would still come to my house for an exclusive appointment, which really made me feel special. I was so spoiled. But then two years ago, she retired for good. And so I was on my own after years of having someone guide me through the process of card selections.

 

In 2008 I went to a nearby shop that specialized in invitations and the like, hoping that they could help me with the perfect Christmas card/invitation to the engagement party for our daughter and her fiancé, which was going to take place the day after Christmas.

 

I’ve got to say, we managed to cobble together something that worked, but somehow, I wasn’t quite pleased with the end product. “Personalized” is the key word here. We had to be really creative to make this happen. It ended up being fine, but I knew this wasn’t going to be the place to go in the future.

 

It was about this time that I started to notice the really cute photo cards from friends who had created them using various on line vendors. This prompted a conversation with myself to investigate these options, but luddite that I am, these conversations never went anywhere.

 

And so in 2009,  I went to the local camera store to make our card… and the end result was also very disappointing to me. Cute photo, but inferior product.

 

This year’s Christmas card was going to be one with a photo of the whole family, including Kat AND their enormous dog, Lucas. I enlisted my sister and niece to help make it happen; I wish I had made a video of the process… it was so funny!

 

Focusing the dogs’ attention was the key, and that was Mary’s job. She danced and whooped while waving a feathery cat toy in the air to distract them. Megan took various photos, with and without flash, and that was that.

 

After downloading them, I edited as best I could, then sent an SOS to my secret hero, Robert to tweak the best of them on Photoshop (I know I need to learn how to do this myself!).

 

And then it was time to face the music and make our own dadgum Christmas cards. I got on Snapfish and found one that I liked, personalized it, used the suggested discount code and VIOLA!! (my all time favorite misspelling) It was finished.

 

When I think of the cutout photos my parents used to use to make their annual cards (like the one below in 1958- that’s me on the left), and the rudimentary copying equipment they had back in the 1950’s-60’s, I can’t help but think that my dad would have LOVED how simple this process was.

 

 

Wait. Am I actually getting into the program? Next year, will I finally organize my list to make computer labels? Don’t hold your breath! It was a really big deal for me to order the cards online this year, and that will have to suffice for my first baby steps into the 21st century… albeit 10 years later.

 

So here is our official Merry Christmas photo to all of you who are not on my snail mail list. There I am with Bailey, then Joel, Shannon and Kat corralling Lucas. We sure laughed a lot during the photo shoot!

 

For the time being,  I’ll be busy hand addressing envelopes, but will resurface once that task is done. And then it will be Christmas Day, which is reason enough to celebrate… but add to that joy the success of getting this annual massive mailout done just in time, and you can bet that there will be one very happy pewperson, indeed!

You Better Watch Out!!
December 3, 2010

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover as the love of the giver.  ~Thomas á Kempis 

Have you ever seen that “dog house” video where the clueless guys order thoughtless gifts for their wives and are subsequently banished to eternal laundry folding until they see the error of their ways? Of course, it’s just an amusing ad for diamond merchants, and I’m sure it’s caused many husbands to tread lightly when selecting that perfect gift for their beloved spouses. 

I recall the days when I worked at Neiman Marcus during the Christmas season of 1980. Joel had just graduated from law school at SMU, and we had returned to Houston that summer when he began working for a local firm. After I spent three months repairing and repainting our rent house in West University Place, I was ready to earn some income, but didn’t want to work full time quite yet. 

(note: the house we rented was in terrible shape, but it only cost $150 a month, and after I fixed it up, it still only cost $150 a month as compared to $450 a month for the one across the street.) 

Back to Neiman Marcus, I was a seasonal worker who “floated” as needed. So there I was in the stationery department in late December, when I helped a customer who was looking for a special gift for his wife. 

He asked me, “What gift from your husband would make you especially happy?” I pointed him to the Halcyon Days collectible boxes, particularly to the one that I loved the best. On the cover it said, “This and the giver” and then when you opened it up, it said, “are thine forever.” I don’t know why that still calls to me, but I made a sale. 

Weeks later, that same man returned to the store to report to me that his wife had cried when she opened it. I have to admit, I think I would have done so, too! 

So here we are 30 years later, and while I can still be romantic, I am also quite sensible. We flipped through the Christmas catalogues tonight and laughed a lot! 

Things that we won’t be ordering:

  • the Slanket (a blanket with sleeves)
  • Lowboz (chair leg pads)
  • jolly Santa (chair covers)
  • wine monkey (gift wrapper)
  • egg pet plant (rye grass grower)
  • the King worktop saver (with an Elvis image on a cutting board-dishwasher safe!)
  • colorful zipper pulls
  • tickle monster kit (let’s not torment children)
  • men’s briefs underneath lounge pants (probably something my mom might give to Joel… would it top the famous headlight slippers gift? )
  • REM spring facial hair remover (maybe I’ll need this someday, but please don’t give it to me!)
  • Decolette pad (wrinkle remover for your chest). Maybe I might need this someday? But again, don’t give it to me.
  • Subtle Butt (discreet odor neutralizer). Not going here.
  • Sassy Bax (eliminates bulges). Not going here either.
  • Confidence Panties (for those with incontinence). Not there yet.
  • Legendary Mr. Bill Talking Dog Toy (oh nooooo!) 

So what do I want for Christmas? I honestly don’t know. I really don’t need anything personally… How about peace on earth and goodwill among all mankind? I guess that will have to start with me, so pass it on! 

We do have some things on our house/yard remodeling/renovation list that I’d like to see happen, but how do you wrap up automatic sprinklers? To tell the truth, with all the home improvements we have done this year, I am perfectly happy to just revel in our blessings and look forward to 2011 and a very special wedding on June 25! 

I know that this blog post is totally not helpful to anyone in my family, and I apologize for my vacuity. Oh! Gardening gloves. I need some new ones. Size medium. There you go.