Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Already?

Can it really be Christmas already, I'm not ready for it to be here. This year has gone by much too fast and it seems like it just quit being summer. sigh! I think the part I dislike (can't say hate its a bad word) the most is all the stuff you have to do to get ready to enjoy Christmas. Me I could really just slide into Christmas and it would be fine but what I've learned after 23 years of being married is you have to prepare for Christmas. (This goes for every other holiday as well but Christmas is the big one) So here is my list of Christmas preparation:

1. Decorations. Ok, I'm not a Scrooge. But I have to say I question the sanity of puting up a bunch of lights that do nothing more then drive up my electric bill. The same for the ribbons and bows on the windows and the wreaths that never die but keep appearing at this time every year. I'm not doing the lights outside but we have to have lights inside so that when I have to get a drink of water in the middle of the night I can be blinded walking into the living room. These lights are always on. We will have to get a tree and when I mentioned getting a fake one this year you'd think I offered to shoot the dog! Oh by the way, fake trees are quite expensive unless they are ugly, then they are cheap. Ugly=cheap. So now we have the inflatable snowman riding the Harley on the front lawn and I'm done.

2 Christmas letter. This goes out to all of our friends and family. Even if your friends know everything you write you still retell the tale. Its great for looking back on the year and realizing that you haven't done much with your life and probably won't do much more next year either. You can try and put some type of spin to it like using words such as potential and expected but its just grammatical fluff. It can only be one page long so that means each person in the family gets 2-3 lines of verbiage. Try and sum up a year in 2-3 lines and really paint the picture. Can't be done. Still it has to go out before we are ready for Christmas.

3 Christmas events. These are those events that teachers plan all year to inflict upon you. Christmas plays, musicals, dance recitals, tournaments...etc. It also includes ward/office parties and nativity pageants. Everyone just has to go to these show pieces and every kid must participate in order to get his or her parent to come. This usually requires extra practices, uniforms, and costumes too. Got to get into that Christmas spirit. They are so long! How many times can you hear Jingle Bells before you scream? Silent Night is not so silent when heard a 1000 times. The echo in your mind lasts until the fireworks on the 4th. But all of your time is spent preparing for these events then you can be ready for Christmas.

4 Christmas baking/cooking. Ok, I like this one to a point. I usually get some good treats at this time of year and I can see how that might put me in a Christmas state of mind. The sugar buzz from cookies, and candy does wonders for bad attitudes. It can wire up the kids though and that leads to problems. There is just so much of it that it becomes not so much a gift of love as a chore. Especially when making a list of who can have what. My wife makes the ultimate gift, orange rolls. You would kill for those orange rolls, in fact I've had neighbors remind us about them in August, just to make sure that we would be doing them. You have to eat them hot too, not as good cold. Still our house is like a orange roll assembly line when we are making them. Rolls raising in odd hot areas of the house and that wonderful smell that means don't touch them they are for our friends. Still it must be done to be ready for Christmas.

5 The last thing really doesn't happen as much when the kids are older. Visit Santa and see the lights time. How many malls have you been to just to take your kids to sit on Santa's knee and take a picture. How many pictures do you have with screaming kids wanting to get away from Santa? The crowds, the lines, the parking lots filled with cars. Got to do it though because how else will Santa know what is wanted for Christmas. Then there is the trip around the city to see the light shows in neighborhoods where people have more spare time then they really should have. I'd just love to see their power meter and see the dial spinning fast enough to be used as a power saw. Everyone else has the same idea so there are long traffic jams along streets that weren't designed to have that much travel. In fact city planners need to take this into consideration. If you like to decorate so much you are not allowed to live in a circle or any place that can't be reached from both ends of the street. Same with one way streets too.

So after all of this getting ready you can finally enjoy Christmas. If you have any strength left. I'm thinking next year we should just take a vacation to Hawaii. Eliminate the readiness.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Home repairs, who really wins?

Owning your own home is not as great as it appears from the outside. Sure you get to write off your interest on your taxes, it provides shelter from the environment, you can decorate it the way you want, but there are consequences too. Biggest one I've found is repairing things that go wrong or break. For example we have had a drippy faucet in our master bathroom tub. Not a lot of water just a drip. Well as kids use the tub they can't tighten the knob as tight as I can and the drip increases. No one tells me this until it becomes a stream and even with a pair of vice grips you can't shut it off.

So its an easy repair right? Just turn off the water to the tub, pull out the faucet stem unscrew the seat and get them replaced at Home Depot. Wrong. Whoever installed the faucet never provided access to the shut off valves at the tub without removing the stone covering. I therefore had to shut off the water to the whole house, interupting the normal cleaning process for Mondays. In addition the same bright man installed the faucets from below so there was not sufficient acess to get at the nuts holding the stem in place. I had to cut the stem off, and then rout out the hole in the tub surface to be able to install a wrench. I didn't have the right size wrench so off to Home Depot, trip one. Got the wrench in there and removed the stem in pieces due to its location and then traveled back to Home Depot for new stem and seat, trip two. In any home repair there will always be two trips to the hardware store. In fact just buy a house in close proximity to those type of stores for this reason.

I get to Home Depot and finally get a plumbing specialist there who looks at my part and says "I've never seen one of these before you need to go to Fergusons for specialty parts." Yeah I'm excited now, never seen this part, good start. I go to Fergusons and they too have no idea who made this stem and they don't have anything to match. It gets better. They send me to this hole in the wall plumbing specialty store that has an older gentleman that has seen it all. They send people to him when they can't figure out whats happening. I drive to his store which is a ways away and he looks at my part and looks at his catalog and finds some obscure manufacturer of plumbing parts that somewhat matches my rusted piece of plumbing. He thinks, thinks mind you, that this may be the part but he does not have it in stock and will have to order it, it'll take 5-7 working days to arrive. This he does in more time then the doctor takes to examine me for my yearly physical. That probably tells you more about my doctor then the plumbing salesman. I order the part then have to return to the house and cut open the tub stand so that I can turn off the water to the tub only so I can turn on the water to the rest of the house. Now I wait til the new part arrives!

Now if this was the only occurance of these type of problems I wouldn't mind, it might be fun in fact learning new things. It happens at every repair we do though. And its not just me, my story is not the exception to the rule. Most of my friends have the same or worse horror stories of fixing sprinklers, repairing lights, installing new appliances. It's almost frustrating enough to sell the house when something breaks and move away. Remember that ladies when you laugh about your husband not fixing things around the house, its way more work then you think.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

6 Worthless items of clothing

OK, everyone and their dog/cat is making lists. Rather then informing you of how my thought process works I thought I would convey my true feelings about certain so called articles of clothing that I think have no business in any one's closet. Closet space is somewhat scarce at the Stewart household, especially with 3 girls and Matt on his mission. The boy was a clothes whore! Here is my list:

1. Got to be shawls! A shawl is just a substitute for a blanket and most of the time its not even a full blanket its one with holes in it for what? Ventilation? If the idea is to keep warm why try and do it with something that lets the cold air through. No this article is for old people to use so that people don't confuse them with the homeless. Just get your favorite blanket out and tell people you are cold.

2. Scarfs are the next to go. What a waste of material. A muffler serves a purpose, so does a bib, they protect and serve. A scarf is a whimsical piece of cloth that blocks nothing and does nothing more then call attention to your neck which leads to your face and acts as the big neon sign point to you as if to say "look at me now". The fact that scarves are most often used as a murder weapon by serial killers indicates that this choice of clothing does not belong in the well balanced persons wardrobe.

3. Mittens. OK the biggest difference between us and the apes is the fact that we have opposable thumbs that allow us to grasp objects. Why then do we invent a hand covering that restricts this motion. Might as well get woolen bags and place them over each hand for as much good it does. Maybe it might serve a purpose if all you have to do is pack snowballs together but if you actually need to hold something these things are useless. And then there is the string thing that ties them together so you don't lose one, yeah that doesn't constrict you in any way. Get a good pair of gloves and leave the mittens for cat toys.

4. Leather pants. I know the first thing is that they are made for bikers. Have you really seen any true bikers? Not just the guys who take their "cycles" out once a year to drive to the bar and back, true riders of the motorcycle. They wear chaps so that they can take them on and off, similar to cowboys of the old west. Leather pants are not comfortable, they stain easily and unless you like to be chaffed between the legs are not of any use where you might actually need to move. Leather pants don't breathe and they absorb all of your sweat and smell so they really can get ripe after a few uses. Hey anyone smell a cow lately? That's what they are stuck wearing. Leather pants should have a one use then dispose of policy, what use that is I haven't found. The only ones that they look good on are wannabe stripper/pole models that have the appropriate proportions to pull it off. Even they don't want to have them on for long periods of time. I could also include the knee high boot in this category but I've been told that if you were wading through a jungle they would come in handy. Like that happens enough to justify the space.

5. Visors. Explain to me the value of a visor? Its when you want to shade your eyes like a ball cap but want the top of your head to be scorched by the sun. Maybe its a training device to break people into using the hat. For non-committed people that want to go slow. It leaves the same marks in hair as any other hat so what purpose does it serve?

6. Half tee-shirts never had a place anywhere. Same with tank tops, tube tops and the like. Why pay for portions of a shirt, pony up and buy the entire thing. There is a tiny portion of the universe that can actually wear those things but unfortunately there are so many others that try to and its just not working. They should have licenses for these type of coverings that people would have to have in order to purchase and wear. Men with skinny arms and no shoulders should not wear a wife beater tee shirt unless it is covered up. If we want to see that type of bone structure we'll go to the supermarket and watch the butcher cut up the poultry.

If we were to eliminate this waste from our closets think of our space that would be saved, that could be used to store more important items that are closer to our hearts!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day

Valentines day is here again. I read that next to Christmas this is the most advertised holiday for retailers. Take a sample next time you watch television. Jewelry ads, candy, heart shaped stuff, all of it designed to tell that special someone how you truly feel about them. "Tell her how you really feel with a diamond from Zales jewelry store", for example. What a crock! People only want to hear how you feel about them when its something good. What if you are only luke warm in your feeling should you give a gift of comensurate value? "Well I just met you and am not ready to marry you, here's a piece of coal which is what a diamond starts off as and that depicts my level of commitment to this relationship." Elementally it is the same thing, one gift is more processed and refined then the other but its just carbon. Yeah tell me the guy who gives his girlfriend a charcoal briquette as a present isn't going to the emergency room to remove it from some portion of his body.

Why do you have to give anything at all? This is the part that I really don't get, where does it say that on this day you must go out of your way to bestow gifts on those you care for to show your love? Somwhere in history a marketer started that falsehood and all other comercially minded corporations got on the band wagon in a big way. From my research St. Valentine was a Catholic priest martyred in Africa for marrying other Catholics and therefore promoting Catholicism. He was stoned then beheaded by the Roman emporer Claudius. His feast is celebrated on February 14 by the Catholic church. Now thats sexy huh? Think about that next time you see one of those Victory Secret advertisements for lovers, beheaded priest will get the heart pumping. If thats where it started how do we get to heart shaped candies, and bling bling? Once again comercial spin distorts reality to pick your pocket.

Now am I really such a cynic? Maybe! I just don't feel that we should do things because public opinion tells us to. I like to pride myself on my romantic side. I think in my life I've done very well in being romantic to my wonderful wife. I have given gifts on Valentines day and probably will in the future. The difference is that I don't think I have to wait for a comercialized holiday to express my love for my wife and children. I also don't think you should wait to do it only on one day a year. If you truly care for someone it should be shared all the time. Not just the 2nd week in February. Love is something that grows and blossoms over time. I love my wife, Marlene, more now then I did when we first "fell in love". In fact if I look at how I loved her then I realize that I didn't really love her that much when compared to my feelings now! Every day I am lucky to have the opportunity to tell my beloved that I love her more then ever and that I would be so much worse without her. I don't need any candy, heart shaped teddy bears, flowers, or jewelry to do that. To me that is whats important!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is it cold or am I old?

I've lived in Las Vegas almost all of my life. Well I was born here lived away til 8 years old, came back, went to the Y, mission, back to Y, graduated moved to California, then came back. So yes its all my life. I like the heat in the summer, doesn't bother me much. If it does there is air conditioning and I stay inside. But I've noticed that the winters here seem to be much colder then I remember. I have memories of playing in shorts on Christmas day. Going water skiing in late February and now I have to wear a jacket to type on the computer. Everyone is talking about global warming and I think its more like a ice age coming then a hot spell.

When I try and tell people about my concerns that another ice age is occuring they tell me that I'm getting old. Whats that got to do with glaciers extending? Does your blood get thinner when you get older? If it does thats the only thing that gets thinner with age. If it did why all the hype about cholesterol and blood clots, no if it got thinner it could slip around any blockages. I think people just want to call others old. Thats the rub of it. You can't insult anyone directly but you can discreetly cut them to the quick and remind them that they are aging as we speak. Old people allways seem to be cold. For instance the shawl is not well used on the teen age set. But walk around the mall and look at the benchs and its shawl city. Go to the library and its even worse. I think the shawl is like a hole filled blanket, it would look kinda homeless to walk around with a blanket on but the shawl is a fashion statement. Still why do you have to get colder as you age? You should have more insulation to cover those vital organs, that should keep you warmer. But it doesn't. You still just feel cold.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Thoughts on Matt

Ok, now its been 6 months since the first attempt to blog. That went so well I figured I could take some time and really let the ideas percolate. Decay would be a better word. Its 2009 and in some ways it feels like 2008 again. Not really, there are some noticible difference in my life and the life of our family. We still do a lot of the same things that we did in 2008. We still go to church on Sunday, call for shotgun in the car (unless Marlene comes). Spencer's playing football, Jenna's playing the field, and Emily plays the Viola. But things are different. My oldest son, Matt, is in El Salvador. Whooooo. Yeah when I tell people that he's there I get some interesting looks. Most people still feel there is a war going on there and in a way they are right. Matt is in a battle, a battle between whats good and whats better. What he is teaching the people in El Salvador is changing their lives. Making them better people, closer families, happier for what they have. His cousin Loren Denton is doing the same thing in Colorado, in fact there are over 50,000 people throughout the world passing along the same messages. They are helping families be together for not only this life but the life to come. Teaching them to be happy no matter what circumstances they may find themselves. He's making a huge difference there and here.

See him being there doing what he's doing is making me realize that I need to be better here with the family I have now. Since he left in September his corespndance has influenced me and my family to be better then we were. We are more thankful for what we have, more involved in each other's lives. He's caused us to open our eyes and recognize things that we've always taken for granted and see them in a whole new light. Its like a great gift has been given to us, one I hope we never forget. In this changing world, where all things apear to be filled with dark and gloomy thoughts my hope is that we may all remember who's children we really are and that He still cares for us and wants us to suceed. He loves us. My son reminds me of that every day, and he probably doesn't even know it.