Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgivingness Update

I've been trying to sit and write this entry for days now... I had a lot on my mind and really couldn't sit and put into form what I wanted to share with the world and talk about this Thanksgiving.

There isn't anything wrong, per se. I would just sit down here and start typing and after an hour hate what I was saying, so I discarded entry after entry. This one, I want to make stick. Just because you guys deserve an update. In order for me to do an update though, I find myself wanting plenty of uninterrupted time, and a clear head and open heart. So more than a week has passed and many of you feel maybe I've been put into a hospital in traction due to my back. Well, rest assured, dear reader. Not an ounce of truth to that speculation.

My back is better but not perfect. Doug and I took a long walk today and halfway through it I wanted to go back to the car. The dogs needed a run, so I sucked it up but really feel like it is time for Dr. House to do an MRI on me.

I'm too young to be couch ridden, playing video games, against my will and better judgment.

Since my last entry, I turned 41.

The birthday was quiet and uneventful. Doug and the kids met me half way between my office and the house at The Cheesecake Factory. Now, I know I've said here before that we prefer non-chain restaurants, but I had been to a Cheesecake factory and REALLY loved my meal, so I figured for my birthday... well, why not.

It was kind of craptacular. And I'm truly disappointed that we spent the money to get the bland-assed food we ended up with. Our appetizers were ice cold, and it sucked because we each took bites out of the items and sat there looking at each other wondering if we should send them back to get heated up a touch when the entrees all showed up. Mere moments after the appetizers.

I got the "bang bang chicken and shrimp," which was more like "bland bland chicken and shrimp. It was 98% rice, not at all flavorful "Thai" sauce and rubbery chicken. The shrimp was decent... and that was about 1% of the over all meal.

Jess got Shepherd's Pie... which is what she got the last time we were at The Cheesecake Factory and it is her all time favorite thing to get out at restaurants where it is carried. She was stoked for it, and didn't even need to open the menu to see what her other options were. She said it was all salty and not very tasty.

Doug got the Hungarian Goulash, which he said was ALL salt and no other flavor of anything. He ended up waking up in the middle of the night parched, dehydrated and his mouth dry as the Sahara.

Geoff got a cheese pizza, and that boy will eat hot melted mozzarella on a cardboard sheet, so he was perfectly happy with what he had.

After the meal, which some of us finished and others didn't (me being the latter) we wrinkled our noses, paid the bill, and got some cake to go to eat at home... no one wanted to eat cake after that experience. I think I ate mine on Wednesday night after I got home from work.

Fool me once...I doubt I will go back. Hands down, that was a nasty meal in a beautiful presentation. And I'm sorry -- I'm not paying for pretty fixtures. We won't be visiting one again anytime soon. Meh. I could have had really delicious pad Thai if I wanted Thai food, but there I was at a big box restaurant hoping for a decent bite and got nothing.

I honestly blame the "too much on the menu" thing. They have about 65 different entrees on the menu. And that is way too much to specialize, focus, and MAKE a good meal out of something. Sad. I'd rather go somewhere that there are 10 total choices, and you know there is a chef in back preparing them by hand, not pulling things out of pre-portioned containers and slapping it together.

If you have any opinions on the Cheesecake Factory -- feel free to share.

My parents came up for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Doug roasted a brined bird, a la Alton Brown, and it came out wonderful. He made this huge squash casserole that smelled really good, but just didn't taste as great as it looked.

Perhaps we can sell the recipe to The Cheesecake Factory. Heh.

Thanksgiving is a really low-key holiday for us. We don't have 30 people for dinner or have to go from house to house to house visiting and catching up. We talked to people on the phone who weren't with us, because they were in NY or Pittsburgh or Portland Oregon... and we took a couple of walks with the dogs, and that's about it.

I like low-key. Low-key is some good stuff. As much as I miss family far away, to me it is more special to see people in the middle of July when there's nothing going on... or February... bring the love at different points of the year.

After doing that travel thing to NY when my parents lived there, I learned my lesson... just stay home. It's okay. See folks another day. Thanksgiving and Christmas and whatever... they don't have to be these EVENTS that are blown up with stress and expectations. Just get with people who are geographically close, and do Thanksgiving in March if you really really gotta do it.

Also, I don't really get the after-Thanksgiving insanity with the shopping. I know people who go out for Black Friday shopping, and I listen to them tell the tales of woe with the traffic taking 4 hours to get to the outlets, and the "by the time we got into the store and to the counter the laptop that was on special was GONE!"

??? uh... dude? What'd you expect, that you were the only person gonna show up to get that special deal? Wake up. No deal is worth the stupid that you have to deal with in order to get through the door.

I also think it is criminal for retailers and stores to whip folks up into a frenzy. Just open at the regular time. Have a sale. Act normal. Don't be all "door busters insanity!" at 4am. It is just wrong and stupid. And it makes people have to come into work at midnight to get ready for the truckloads of stupid that will be coming down the pike to bust those doors open.

Once upon a time, I worked retail. Once upon a time, I worked for a store credit card company and had to work the day after Thanksgiving. No one appreciates you for it, from the consumer end to the boss end. And you go home with a migraine at the end of the day. You're welcome, America. Enjoy that Wii system.

I deliberately do not shop the weekend after Thanksgiving. I deliberately shop online. I hate malls, I hate stores, I hate crowds. Or, I go to small, unique gift shops in small unique towns and buy different, unique gifts that you can't find at Target or Best Buy.

I'm a snob. With big box store restaurants and malls... I admit to you, I'm a snob. I don't like the homogenous nature of consumerism here in America, where every kid has THAT razor scooter, THAT Nintendo DS, THAT game, THAT cd, THAT iPod. Don't get me wrong, there are things that I like that are really popular, Guitar Hero being one of them. But I'm not waiting outside in the freezing cold at 3am to GET a Guitar Hero. I'm ordering stuff online. And if you pay 20 bucks less than I did, good for you and your wallet but I don't care. I slept until 10am and have a stress-free smile on my face.

This leads me to kind of a point where I'm noticing that we think differently than a lot of people. Last night, Doug sat and watched all three installments of "The Godfather." I watched some of part 1 with him, and went and played the aforementioned video games. I'm not a big mafia movie fan, the genre does nothing for me. He came upstairs to bed and said "Wow. That was incredibly overrated."

I thought that was kind of funny, because I anticipated that he'd enjoy the experience of watching a real American film classic, with the word "classic" echoing through the air. It was presented uncut, unadulterated, uninterrupted, and I really thought he'd be all over it, making the connections between the installments, watching how who got where by part three... Instead he found it underwhelming. He said that the story just isn't interesting. The characters didn't connect with him. He just didn't like it.

It reminded me of this whole thing that comedian Jim Gaffigan does about when you tell someone you don't like or haven't seen their favorite movie and they get PISSED! I know a lot of people who love this movie, all three movies, and they always rank on everyone's top ten American Movie lists when these things are generated.

Well, I'd better keep him away from Star Wars and watching it Episode after Episode... he could really piss someone off without meaning to.

And here's what I've been having a problem really sitting down to write about.

Last week, one of the girls in the Shakespeare program lost her mom.

I never met mom, but I know her daughter well and find her to be simply a WONDERFUL and special, spectacular person. I really like her. When Keri informed me that her mom was sick, it gripped my heart in a way that I had not felt before for someone I didn't even know. Mostly because I was worried for the daughter.

When Keri told me they were moving her to hospice I felt incredibly overwhelmed with sadness, because you know that's the last stop on the mortal coil rail journey. When she died last week, I found myself slammed by the passing of this woman I never ever met.

I found myself pondering why I was so sad, and what it ran down to was I was so sad for her daughter. Knowing the things that would be coming up in her life, from high school graduation, to picking colleges, perhaps planning her wedding, and the next few summers with Shakespeare... knowing that her mom wasn't going to see her do any of those WONDERFUL and mind-blowing things really hit me. I was sad that she wouldn't have her mom beside her, but I was so sad that her mom was going to miss out on all of the above too.

And then, of course, ones thoughts turn inward and then it became all about me and Jess.

You with children, no matter how old they are, think of what it would mean to leave your 15 year old behind. Really look at your child, look at her, and really think about all the steps she'll take without you.

Are you crying yet? Yeah -- I sure did.

My daughter is the same age. Keri's adopted Siberian Princess is the same age. The two of us talked a few times, both of us knowing that the grief is one thing on the surface and that it is normal to be sad for someone dying. But when you can't help but think about yourself and your own child, it becomes an uncontrollable fear. The knowledge that there may come a day when there is nothing you can do, nothing that will change anything... and you'll be dead in a few days.

There were several moments in the past few weeks where I was just racked with helplessness suddenly sweeping over me, and then looking at Jess thinking that... well... she'll just have to make her own way.

Yes, in our house there is daddy... and I know Jess would be cared for, guided, helped, loved, all the more in my absence if (God forbid it a thousand times) I found myself on the way to hospice.

But there is something different with Mommy. And you mommies know that is true.

The memorial service was on Friday and I couldn't really bring myself to go to it. I knew this girl would be surrounded by family and friends. I didn't want to encroach upon that, being on her periphery is okay... she's got many hands to hold her up, and if she ever needed mine, they'd be there in a minute. But her mom's memorial service would not be the time or place for me to go and make that offer.

I also knew that if I went, I would be going for my own selfish reasons.

To thank God that it wasn't me who was gone, and to give him thanks that I have more time here on earth with my incredible daughter, and my incredible son. I would make a corner in my remembrances for the mom who was gone, thanking that He sent her to be here at all, to raise this lovely girl. To thank him for her presence here for the short time many had her. But I knew my prayers would be "there but for the Grace of YOU go I," and I didn't think that was right.

In the meantime, I've done nothing but think about this young girl and how awesome she is. I know many will step in to fill a void, as a mentor, council, friend, guide, muse... and all the while I do hope she keeps her mother close in her thoughts as the years pass.

And I am not going to promise I won't cry when I see her act next summer, because that's a promise I just can't keep.

Alright. It feels better to get that out. I am going to see what's going on for football, and see if Jess is ever coming home from Lizzy's today. I miss her.

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