Sunday, December 25, 2011

Nana Celebrates Christmas

Our presents have been opened and the Christmas meal devoured. We have enough leftovers to feed us for the rest of the week, but if past history is any indicator, we'll tire of turkey by Tuesday and order a pizza.  This has been a low key Christmas.  We stayed home, just the spouse and I and our adult son.  The spouse and I agreed not to exchange gifts because we didn't need anything and if we did need or want something, then we'd just buy it for ourselves.  So we bought ourselves a new television and the spouse ordered new fancy binoculars and next week I'll hit the after-Christmas sales and probably find something I can't live without.

We had dinner about 2:00.  I've never been able to determine how long everything will take to cook, so we don't plan a meal time.  We just eat when everything is done.

We had Christmas crackers at our dinner table.  There's a picture of a Christmas cracker above.  They're one of those things that you always see in pictures of English Christmas celebrations.  You hold one end and someone else holds the other and you pull until the cracker pops.  Inside there's a small plastic toy or charm, a paper hat, and a fortune or joke.  In those English Christmas pictures everyone is sitting around the table wearing the paper hats.  When I've visited England, I've always purchased crackers to bring home.  My children enjoyed the tradition when we could find crackers.  Now I can order them online, but it seems a little silly to get them for three adults.  Unless the grandchildren come visit us for Christmas  the four crackers I found this year in a dusty box when I unpacked the Christmas decorations will probably be our last.

So at dinner the spouse, our son and I held on to the ends of the crackers and tugged them open with a pop.  The tradition is that you have to pull the cracker open with someone else.  I got a lovely pink paper crown, a small plastic top, and a joke.  The problem is that none of us understand the joke.  I figure it must be an English thing.  Can any of you Brits explain this joke to me?

What do you call a fish with letters running down its middle?
Answer:  Rock Salmon 
None of us get it...and that's as exciting as our Christmas conversation got this year!

There's a part of me that longs for the excitement of Christmas past when we had small children giddy with anticipation for Santa.  This year I had to settle for talking with my granddaughters on the phone. 

I'm learning that in retirement the one thing that doesn't slow down is change.  Our Christmas is different now that our children are adults, but I've learned to appreciate however we celebrate the holiday.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Nana's New Hat - Let's Try This One Again

I got to try out my new winter hat today. It has turned cold and I bundled up before venturing outside to tidy up the flower beds for the winter ahead. My friend Shawn and I attended a craft fair in Spokane a few weeks ago and I found two different hand knit hats. I love hats, but they look better on other people. I wish I could carry off wearing a hat and looking stylish. Instead I ...well, I can't think of a good simile. I look like a pinhead.

The last time I worked in the flower beds I was surprised by a snake.

"What kind of snake was it?" the spouse asks me. Like I'm some sort of snake identification expert in my spare time.

"How the hell do I know...It was a SNAKE!!!"

I do tend to believe that all my questions can be answered on the Internet, so I googled "snake identification." Several websites have tools to assist in identifying your snakes, but this is perhaps a better idea in concept than in practice. (Try it yourself here.)

The identification process starts off pretty easy. There are pictures of two snakes and you have to select which one looks most like your snake. Second question, rattles or no rattles? Again, pretty easy. Third question: longitudinal stripes or no stripes? My snake had stripes. Fourth question: belly with four brown stripes running the length of the body or belly without stripes.

Wait a minute! I have to pick up the snake, turn it over, and look for stripes!!!

The only way this identification process is going to work for me is if I've chopped off the serpent's head with my shovel, and, let's get real here, if I were brave enough to slay a snake and not run screaming in terror, why would I care what kind of dead snake it was?

One more thing to worry about. I'll be found dead in the garden from a snake bite and I'll be wearing my new hat and the emergency response people will stare at my lifeless corpse and remark "Wow, look at her pinhead!"

Update: I wrote this a few weeks ago just as the weather was turning cold. Today is the official first day of winter and it's cold every day now. I've taken to wearing my hat all the time...even in the house. The spouse says I look like a homeless person...yeah, he's full of complements, that one!  I'm not worrying about looking like a pinhead; I just want to be warm! One good thing about slows down the snakes!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Chrismas Memories from the Blog Vault

I put the Christmas tree up last weekend.  We have a fake tree.  As much as I love the smell of freshly cut evergreen, I like not having the mess even more.  The ornaments on our tree trace the history of our family.   The following is a reposting of the third post I made to my blog almost two years ago.

December 28, 2009

Memory Tree
I took the Christmas tree down today.  Each ornament holds a memory of a past Christmas.  My mother died at Christmas two years ago.  When we cleaned out her house, I kept several of her ornaments.  I think of her as I wrap the tissue around a small plush crown with rhinestones.  Ours was not an easy relationship, but as I’m wrapping up the Christmas ornament it’s not the challenges that I remember.  Together we would shop the after Christmas sales for half-price ornaments.  I have fond memories of teaming with my mom against the crowds to score my discounted decorations.  Our bargain hunting treasures were the start of my family’s Christmas collection.

As the years have gone by, we’ve added a few new ornaments every year.  This year we picked up a souvenir ornament on our retirement cruise to Alaska, It hung on the tree alongside the green salt dough dinosaur one of the kids made in kindergarten.  My son will be thirty this year; his “baby’s first Christmas” ornament dangled alongside the double-decker bus from the Rayner Reunion in 1997.  The decorations document births and deaths, major life changes, and the spirit of Christmas past.   I remember the love as I put each shiny or tattered ornament in the box.

When my grandchildren were born we started the tradition of buying each of them an ornament every year.  I try to find one that reflects their current interests.  This year I bought my oldest granddaughter a cow, because she says, “the cow is my favorite animal.”  I hope years from now, when she is putting her own tree away, she will remember when cows were her favorite animal and how much her Nana loved her.

Update:  I helped my granddaughters decorate their tree this year when we were in Austin for Thanksgiving.  We hung the cow ornament on the tree, but the cow is no longer Megan’s favorite animal.  When she was four and was asked why the cow was her favorite animal, she always answered “Because they’re tasty!”  Now when I see that cow ornament I am reminded of that time in her childhood…and how quickly she has grown up.   I haven't bought this year's ornaments yet.  Maybe I should wait for the after Christmas sales?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflections on an Uninteresting Life

The spouse doesn’t read my blog.  I’m not sure if it’s because he isn’t interested or if it’s just that his technological skills haven’t advanced enough for him to be able to find it.  I expect, though, that he just prefers to be in denial.  So, last week he saw me chuckling at my computer screen and asked, “What’s so funny?”

“I wrote about your ear wax and I’m reading the comments from the readers.” I innocently replied.

“Well, THANK YOU for sharing my issues with the world.” (If we had a sarcasm font, that sentence would be in sarcasm bold!)  But, I like the idea that he believes that people the world over are waiting breathlessly to read my words.

Yesterday I told him I was going to write about his weekend project…I am not making this up; he says he is going to “organize my rock piles.”

“If your life is so uninteresting that you have to write about mine,” he tells me, “maybe you shouldn’t be writing a blog.”

Damn, I hate it when he’s right!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nana Learns Something New

The spouse got hearing aids last year.  For some time he had been accusing me of mumbling, denying that I'd ever told him about various events, and watching TV with the volume set at levels that caused  most humans to run screaming from the room.  These symptoms, however, weren't enough for him to realize that he had a hearing problem.  Then his brother got hearing aids and it made such a difference in his brother's life that the spouse thought maybe he should get his hearing checked too.  A month (and thousands of dollars) later he was sporting hearing aids that were nearly invisible, but allowed him to once again hear. 

He's had some challenges in adjusting to using hearing aids.  He still has trouble distinguishing conversations in a room with a lot of background noise.  He temporarily gave up using his aids at Thanksgiving with a room full of noisy relatives and our granddaughters' constant chatter, but the hearing aids have allowed him to once again be a part of the conversation of daily life.

In the past few weeks the volume on the TV has been creeping up and I was repeating myself constantly.  The spouse said "My hearing aids have stopped working for me."  So he made an appointment with the hearing aid technician to get them adjusted.  There was nothing wrong with the hearing aids, but when the technician looked in the spouse's ears they were packed with wax.  Turns out that when you wear hearing aids it can, over time, pack the ear wax into the ear canal. 

The next day the spouse went to the doctor to get his ears roto-rootered.  He reported that there were chewing gum sized wads of gunk in his ears!

Who knew that hearing aids could cause the formation of giant wax plugs that interfere with hearing.  Since the wax vacuum sucked the gunk out of his ears he can hear again and the TV plays at a reasonable level.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I learned from this experience was after writing the above I googled "ear wax images."  I was looking for a picture for the top of the post.  Take my word for it, you don't want to see those images!

Ear wax,  one more thing I get to look forward to on my journey to old age. 
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