Almost tired of the holiday

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I suppose there’s a term for holiday burnout.  Perhaps that’s the term right there.  When you get to the point that you really, really want it to be all over with.  A little peace and quiet, and no one wishing you Merry Christmas, or expecting you to be happy all the blessed time because of the holiday.

Certainly (I think at least) it’s worse for those of us in retail.  When you have to be ‘on’ all the time, smiling and helpful to people who may be having a bad day and they (perhaps inadvertently, perhaps not) take it out on you, because they can’t get something that they’ve been wanting, planning for etc.  So, sometimes you have to bear the brunt of their ire, shrug it off and plaster a smile on your puss for the next person.  After a couple of months of that (think Thanksgiving and Christmas) one can get a little frazzled.

Then of course there’s the music.  Stores play over their sound systems music that people over the years have termed ‘Elevator Music’, it’s Muzak, but more increasingly it’s not just instrumentals, but what might be called ‘contemporary music’, ie it’s somewhat current, but it’s subdued, to keep the din of the shopping experience somewhat muted.  So you don’t have a silent store, but there’s something to mask the sounds of what goes on in a typical store, from chattering of the patrons, to other sounds that are normally heard in any brick and mortar retail establishment.  Of course, when you work in such a place, since the music is fairly predictable, eventually you know what song is coming next because you’ve heard it tens of thousands of times.  The music companies aren’t really all that unpredictable with their playlists, only every now and again do they change things up, and with some of them, they have contracts with companies that individual stores can ‘choose’ what playlists they can have piped into the stores, but the contracts generally are for several years in length.  So what you get is what you get all the time.  Try listening to the same playlist for a couple of years straight, 8 hours at a clip.  Try it, I dare you.

The day after Thanksgiving, the Christmas music begins in earnest.  At least in my store.  One solid month of Christmas music.  Old ballads, newer versions, but of course after you’ve heard ‘Santa Baby’ by fourteen different artists in different arrangements, you start to go a little nutty.  Frosty the Snowman, or Jingle Bells are nice songs, but when you hear them played 3 or 4 times in the same hour, you start to wonder if you’re going to make it through the season.  I have to admit, after 30 plus years in retail, I wonder sometimes if I’m going to manage the rest of my time in the same type of job when the wonder and merriment of the season is being sucked out of me.

Sadly, it’s become more and more apparent that I’ll be glad when Christmas is over.  January can’t come soon enough!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings.  Thanks for reading.

Trash Can Roulette

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I just missed the trash pickup.  Again.  And it’s ironic since I’ve been up since 5:45 this morning.  Plenty of time to get the cans and recycling out, only I’ve been doing other things, and a little procrastination since getting up.

Since moving here in 2001, we’ve had 2 different trash haulers.  The first one was sort of the ‘big dog’ in town, pretty much the one almost everyone uses.  They have multiple trucks, they expect you to separate your recycling (paper, cans, plastic) and pick up different parts of town on multiple days.  Of course, since they are the one most often used, they charge a bit more than anyone else.  They provide the bins that you use for trash, and if you use a different can, bin or box, they won’t empty it.  In that, they’re preferential.

About 5-6 years ago, my wife found someone else that’s also local, but they were just getting into the business and needed customers.  They just happened to be friendly with a former co-worker of my wife’s, so we switched to them.  They’re cheaper, they’re not so picky about what can or bin you use, and they (a bit maddeningly) even though we separate out our recyclables, they toss everything together into the back of the truck.  I’m thinking it may not make a difference at this point, that it’s entirely possible at the local landfill it’s all sorted, so this method is acceptable.  I never bothered to explore further, figuring if it wasn’t kosher, they would have been called out on it by now and we’d have gotten a message with our bill saying ‘please separate’.  Which we still do habitually regardless.

The only thing is, they don’t really pick up at the same time every week.  It used to be they’d come at 9, then 10, then within the last six months they’d show up at 11 or later.  Since they’ve become a bit lax, I’ve been allowed to do so as well.  Except for days like today, when they showed up early.  I only knew that, because having finished gathering all the trash and stuff to put out, I heard a large truck coming down the street, and peering through the blinds, I spotted their truck passing us by and turning the corner.  So we missed out again.  Fortunately, its cold outside, so going another week with 2 more bags of trash in the cans isn’t going to be a hardship.  In the summertime…different story!

Need to get back in the habit of putting out the trash earlier.  Or the night before.

One of the many reasons I despise Facebook…

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I rarely use Facebook.  I used to use it a lot when it first came out, but as time has worn on, I’ve been using it less and less.  When I first signed onto the service, I was using it for keeping track of family and HS friends, with the occasional kinky friend thrown in for good measure (most of my kinky friends are located on Fetlife, so there’s not too much crossover honestly).  I’m a member of a group that makes mention of things in the town which I grew up, so I can keep track of things that happen there, for the most part.  It’s a notable town/village, of historical note and being 90 miles north of NYC, there are a good amount of people from there that have purchased property locally and attempt to co-opt some of the local ways and means, sometimes succesfully, sometimes not.  (Add in some celebrities that live in the vicinity, and it makes things a little more eclectic)

Around the holidays, generally one gets memes and things that are shared to your account by friends and family.  Some are cute, some are overly political and yes there are many that are downright idiotic. Try as I might, I make every attempt to ignore the stupid ones, but every now and again I get caught up in one and it grates my teeth thinking I should have left well enough alone.

The current one is the ‘what do you open first’ riddle.  It has had many iterations over the years, but the current one goes like this:

It’s 7:00 am. You are asleep and there is a sudden knock on the door. Behind the door are your parents, who came to have breakfast. In your fridge: bread, milk (pasteurised!), juice, and a jar of jam. To answer, what will you open first?
Send me a message in the form of a PM to reply.

Getting away from the fact that the word ‘pasteurised’ is in the British/Canadian lexicon, the old answer to the riddle was “your eyes“. You were asleep and you needed to open your eyes to do anything else.  Of course, someone decided that this needed an upgrade, so the new answer is involved in the last line of the riddle.  “To answer, what will you open first?”  Since many people use the app Facebook Messenger in conjunction with Facebook, and they’re usually on their smartphones, the answer supposedly becomes ‘Facebook Messenger’.  Of course, not everyone has the app on their smart phone, so it’s not necessarily the answer, even though the people who have been sharing it (ad nauseam) insist that it is.  Because either they didn’t get it right because it was updated, or managed to get sucked in by their friends, neighbors and whoever.  So arguments ensue.  Bad feelings are generated and no one wins these stupid things.  It’s definitely an updated form of a chain letter, though the consequences aren’t put off, they’re right there in front of you and you have the option NOT to participate, but generally, most everyone does.

I try not to.  Though with the having been folded into the birth family 2 years ago, I’m being besot by my half sibling as she messages to our mother, and I get sucked in.  Either on purpose or by accident.  I really ought to know better, but having not been (ever) in the popular group, sometimes I want/desire to participate.  But generally I get peeved through it (like now) and regret even getting involved.

Facebook is good for its original intention.  What it’s become now, I despise.  I’d delete my account, but unfortunately, it’s so ingrained in everything web and Internet, I’d be left out.  So, I manage this way.  Mostly.

My nightcap

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It could be said that I’m starting to lose my hair.  To be more accurate, I’ve been (over time) losing my hair probably for the past 20 years.  I used to tease a former store manager because he has a bald spot and I started to notice it around 1995.  23 years later, my own bald spot far and away outstrips his.  So much so, at night I’ve been feeling a bit of a breeze on my pate, and it’s been keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep more than once.

A couple of years ago, the wife asked me (as she always does this time of year) what I wanted for Christmas.  I’ve never been the sort that liked accepting Christmas presents, even when I was little, it was a chore to tell my parents what I wanted.  For the most part, my mother had to watch me carefully, see what interested me and then extrapolate from what she had learned what my wish list was.  I just never really go out and away and talk about it.  So, my wife inherited that problem.  Even so, she’s managed ok, with some rather weird exceptions. (Naturally talking about the 1960s model Batmobile, the Quidditch set, and the teddy bear she got me last year)

2 years ago, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I’d been bothered by the breeze on my scalp and had been looking at websites that sold nightcaps.  Obviously I didn’t want an overly festive one, or one that was too sparkly, or had a big pom-pom etc, I wanted something that was subdued, useful and not gaudy at all.  Come Christmas morning, I opened a package and was happily presented with a dark blue night-cap.  I actually discovered it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to use.  I have sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP for the last 19 years.  The mask that I use is a bit unwieldy, and when one attempts to wear a night-cap as well, it makes for a little bit of an uncomfortable night.  Almost too much headgear to get a good night’s sleep.

So, for the past 2 years I’ve used the night-cap off and on.  For a time it ended up underneath the bed, and I only discovered it because we were needing to vacuum under the bed, and I stumbled upon it.  I had placed it next to my clock radio, and again forgotten about it.  I found it again last night, since the night before, my head was unusually cold and I thought about it again.  I suppose I was tired enough last night, that the whole headgear and night cap problem basically resolved itself and I slept pretty well…not to mention my head wasn’t cold!  So, it worked!  Just have to make it two for two.

Good night!

Baking up a storm (or not)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I may have mentioned this before, but I worked in a semi-commercial bakery for 12 years.  Though a lot of the work was from frozen ‘puck’ dough that was pre-formed, on occasion I was called upon to decorate cakes, and make things like angel food cake from scratch (50 lbs at a time).

Consequently, when it comes to making things for myself, I at least know how to go about it.  Too, I have the necessary tools, since my mother-in-law ran a dining room out of her home through the 1960s.  (When an Interstate was created and opened nearby, their business for the most part dried up [they owned/operated a motel] and closed said dining room)  I inherited a large part of her equipment, including a vintage Kitchen-Aid mixer.   Not one of the more modern varieties that has the hinged head, this is a beast, and it still has the Hobart label attached to it.  I don’t think I could kill it if I tried.  I expect it will outlive me, and the next 2-3 generations that make use of it.

I drag it out when I have large-scale baking to do.  Like for my slave.  She loves macadamia nut cookies (with white chocolate chips), and I found a great recipe for them.  Now, granted macadamia nuts are hideously expensive ($18/lb fyi) but being able to do a little baking for her, and hearing how much she appreciates the gesture as well as my expertise is thanks enough.  Giddy sounds over the phone (or in person, since the last time I baked them for her, I brought them with me when I hooked up with her in PA back in June) or just getting a message that says ‘I opened the last box!’ tells me all that I need to know.

Holiday baking can be a bear sometimes.  But on occasion, it can be all worth it.  Just have to know your audience, I suppose.

Another of those ‘holiday traditions’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Christmas cards.  The bane of anyone that doesn’t plan ahead.  Every year it’s the same question.  Should I get them done before the 10th, or wait until the last-minute and pray that the post office doesn’t let me down for being procrastinatory?  Usually it’s the latter.

Every year we get in the mail a pile of free cards from one charity or another, so it’s not like I have to go to a stationery store (like there are thousands of them nearby) to get cards.  Sure, even dollar stores nowadays have a small selection of cards for those of us that don’t really give a rip how much the things cost, though I fondly recall my mother going all out to make sure the cards were done every year and sent out across the country to the relatives.  But then again, our relatives for the most part were in two Northeastern states.  Post 1975, two parts of the Ohio contingent relocated to Virginia and South Carolina respectively (due to marriage), but it wasn’t putting a bind on the USPS to get the cards to them in time.

As the years passed on, my mother became less enthused with getting the cards out.  I think it had a lot to do with her becoming bored in her home life, and the more that happened, the more she was drinking. The consequences of that became very obvious.  More things tended to either get pushed aside, or forgotten completely.  Certainly this seemed to have an effect on my brother and I in various ways, but one major effect was, when we’d get birthday or Christmas presents from my paternal aunt, we’d have to be browbeaten into sending thank you cards.  Finally, it came down to a halting thank-you phone call, because we were just becoming too lazy to send a card.

Fast forwarding 30 some odd years, for the most part my wife and I don’t send out cards every year.  Only in the last couple of years has that changed a little bit, but that’s been due to the reconnection between myself and my birth mother.  She still sends out cards for all occasions.  So over the calendar year we get cards for Easter, my birthday, my wife’s birthday, our wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Each one has a personalized note and it arrives on time.  So to counter, I’ve been trying my hand at doing something similar, just not as prolific.  The last couple of years I also sent out cards to my cousins in Syracuse.  To be honest, they are the ones to which I still have addresses.  I have 3 other cousins who live elsewhere in the US.  One of which I’m in touch with via Facebook.  But we were never so close as to be exchanging more than pleasantries.  So she’ll just get a message on FB.  Seems a good compromise.


Christmas Cards from the web

Tree trimming conundrum

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My wife and I go through this every December.  When is the best or most convenient, or proper time to trim the tree?  For a couple of years, when the cat was a bit younger, we didn’t have the 7 foot tree set up, because he (the cat) decided that the lower branches needed fixing, and desired to pull them down and lay on them (we have an artificial tree).  Consequently, my wife purchased a smaller (predecorated) tree and we set that up on a box in front of the large window in the living room and used that as our Christmas tree.  After enduring that for a couple of years, we tried again with the larger tree, and for the most part, kitty has left it alone.  Sure, he occasionally bats at some of the larger balls on the lower branches every now and again, but at least he hasn’t tried to climb the tree, or worse yet dismantle it.  A 20 lb cat can be rather murderous on an artificial tree, no matter how good a base it has.

Getting back to the question at hand, when’s the optimal time to decorate your tree?  From my youth, I remember vaguely doing it on a Saturday or Friday night usually, since Dad was home from work and didn’t work weekends (he was an engineer at IBM).  We’d get out the Christmas albums from his record collection, cue up the stereo, Mom & Dad would troop up to the attic to fetch the decorations, and my brother and I would, either with or without Mom or Dad, go to the basement to get the lights and garland.  We always had a live tree, cut fresh at a Christmas tree farm in Red Hook, NY.  The place is still there today, though the price of trees has gone up significantly.  The last time we bought a tree was probably 1984, and then we paid $25 for it.  I believe the farm is selling them for $75 presently, though there are a lot more people from NYC buying trees and either using them in their Hudson Valley secondary homes, or shipping them down to the city to use in their over-priced apartments and townhouses.

But the timing needs to be right.  Decorating it too early causes it to get stale (like overplayed Christmas music), and doing it too late doesn’t allow you sufficient time to enjoy the spectacle of a fully decked out tree.  Too, considering that you’re putting a lot of effort in getting out the decorations, arguing about how much garland (or not) to put on the tree and a dozen other decisions, you don’t want to spend too many hours before it’s time to separate yourself from your loved one(s), and just spend a little time with the pets, since generally they don’t tell you that you have too many red balls on the left side of the tree.  So it can be a bit of a juggling act at times.  A little patience goes a long way!

I remember one time that my Dad suggested after a contentious row amongst him, Mom and my brother and I, that it might be prudent to cut a hole in the ceiling of the family room, hook the tree to some sort of pulley system, and just hoist it into the attic and lower it every December.  Considering it was a live tree, that wouldn’t have worked out very well in the long run!  But it still tickles me when I think about him suggesting it.

I asked my wife this past weekend when she thought would be a good time to decorate.  Her reply was ‘whenever you want to drag the tree upstairs….’  Well, that certainly settles that!  I’m pretty settled on doing it this coming weekend.  Close enough to the holiday, but not too far away from 12th night, when we’ll be taking it down. (12th night for us is Jan 6, 2019 fwiw)

I wonder where the wreath is?

Tree-rochester-2016Xmas2016-tree    399390_2851748180106_1083546247_n