Friday, December 26, 2008

Portrait of Our Christmas Tree

Santa brought me a small pink digital camera for Christmas. Being married to a professional photographer for over two decades, I've had little occasion to handle a camera all these years, so this--believe it or not--is my first hands-on experience with a digital camera. So far it's taking a heck of a lot of getting used to. I keep wanting to press the LCD screen on the back of the camera against my eye (Mr. Lucky: "WHAT are you DOING, Karen?") instead of holding it out and trying to focus on the perfect shot the new way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Christmas Tree Up!"

Our Christmas tree is up and ornamented, and if I had a camera, I would post a photo of it here. (I’ve asked Santa to bring me a camera so simple to use that even I, of the many thumbs and wits so dim, can figure it out.)

For over fifteen years now, we’ve had an artificial tree—or as Mr. Lucky calls it, “the tree that saved our marriage.” When he was in the Air Force and we were stationed in California back in the early 90’s, he insisted on driving from one end of the San Joaquin Valley to the other in search of the perfect tree—by his definition, a tall, lush fir that didn’t lose a single needle when he shook it, boasting a retail value of at least $35.00, but sold to him for less than $10.00 because he had a nice face.

We had some hideous arguments that once nearly got us into a car accident. After a whole day of searching in vain for his idea of the perfect tree, we came home without one, and weren’t speaking to each other. After dinner, he stormed out by himself and came home an hour later with the $35.00 tree that earlier that day almost landed us in divorce court.

Two days after that Christmas, he went to Sears and found an artificial tree on sale. It more than paid for itself the following year. It lasted for many years.

A couple of years ago we bought a new artificial tree that stands 7 feet tall, as no one chez Lingefelt is shorter than 5’10”. And God bless whoever came up with the idea of a pre-lit tree! It’s spared me a ton of aggravation. Every January when I put the ornaments away, I would carefully coil up the lights as neatly as possible to no avail. They’d spend the next eleven months in the box tying themselves into knots. Come the following December, I’d spend hours trying to untangle them, laying them out in long trails all over the house, plugging one strand into another to see if all them still worked (every year at least one had managed to strangle itself to death), before they could be added to the tree.

For many years we had musical lights that played seventeen Christmas carols over and over. The lights would blink in time to the music. The Crown Prince loved them, and when he was home and awake, that music had to be on. When the musical lights finally died, we elected not to buy new musical lights. Fortunately he didn’t mind. When he lived at home, he enjoyed helping to trim the tree, and always insisted we put it up the day after Thanksgiving. Failure to do so would result in an endless mantra of, “Christmas tree up, Christmas tree up, Christmas tree up . . .”

For many years we topped the tree with a star that twinkled with multi-colored lights. The Christmas after Fiona died, we didn’t put up a tree at all that year, but went to Georgia to spend the holidays with Mr. Lucky’s relatives. Since then, we’ve replaced the star with a dark-haired angel with outstretched arms. She looks as if she’s supposed to be holding something. Fiona loved pizza, but I have yet to find an artificial pizza the right size for that angel.

But a candy cane fits perfectly in her arms, so that’s what she holds every year. If only I had a picture!

Maybe next year, if Santa brings me that camera.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I Had 100 Days To Write A Book . . .

Back in September, TARA launched the 100 x 100 challenge—to write at least 100 words a day for 100 days, with the ultimate goal being to finish the book in time for our holiday party.

I started out well as evinced
here, even though I didn’t like the story I was writing—this is not a book of the heart, but a book from the bowels—and on most days I wrote over 1,000 words, occasionally topping 2,000.

But alas, I did not finish it. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was hit with a nasty bronchial ailment that took out all engines and instruments, and I spun down in flames before finally crashing and burning on Day 88.

Yet in those 88 days, I wrote 93,603 words. As the book is supposed to be a Regency historical romance (with as much emphasis as you can pile on supposed), the targeted word count was between 90-95,000 words. So even though I didn’t finish the story, I did prove to myself that at least in theory, I can write a full length book in 100 days—but only if I know where the story is going. In this case, who knows. I’ve been stumbling around in the dark with it, tripping over writer’s blocks and falling into plot holes, or I might well have finished it by now.

This book has a very bright future under my bed. To borrow a phrase from the Queen of England, for me 2008 was an annus horribilus in terms of my writing.

Meanwhile, I’m still coughing out what little remains of my innards, yet I don’t seem to have lost any weight. Let that be my penalty.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Our Other Wedding Anniversary

While July 23, 1987 is the day we were married in a civil ceremony in Odense, Denmark, December 5th of that same year is the day we were married again in a church ceremony in Mr. Lucky’s hometown.

I actually forgot this year . . . but he remembered! In fact, it was the first thing he said this morning: “Do you know what day this is, Karen?”

I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and fighting a bad cold, I coughed out half a lung before I managed to choke out something about it being Friday.

“It’s our other anniversary!” he exclaimed. That man doesn’t even need coffee. He wakes up cheerful. I’m grumpy till at least 4 pm.

He gave me a beautifully beribboned gold box of Lindt chocolate truffles.

How I love that man. If staying married to him means chocolate every anniversary, then I’m in for another year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Baby Bear's Inexcusable School Holiday

Upon coming home Monday afternoon from a day of Christmas shopping with Mr. Lucky, we found a message on the answering machine from the nurse at Baby Bear’s school: He had a runny nose, and would I please call her?

The call came around mid-morning. She hadn’t called a second time, nor had she tried Mr. Lucky’s cell, and by the time we got this message, it was past two o’clock and Baby Bear would be out of school just after three. His school, an Exceptional Student Center (ESC) for children with special needs, is next to a high school that lets out at about the same time we listened to this message. The nurse said nothing about picking up Bear, which was just as well. There was no point in trying to go to his school now, especially with the high school getting out.

Several years ago, when the Crown Prince was a student at the ESC, they called me to get him after he cast up some accounts, and I arrived just as the high school was released. By the time I got the Crown Prince in the car, the People in Orange Vests, who patrolled the parking lots and thoroughfares around the three schools (there’s also a middle school on the other side of the ESC), would not let me out. A sign posted at the entrance to this vortex clearly stated “Buses Only 2:45-3:15 PM” and I was not driving a bus. We had to wait in the parking lot till all the buses had left. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince had to open the passenger door to toss more cookies to the ground. The Person in Orange Vest who stood in front of my vehicle glaring at me was unmoved by my firstborn’s plight. Rules were rules.

Never again.

As Baby Bear got off the bus Monday afternoon, the bus driver handed me a letter signed by the school nurse. It was a form letter. “We will call you immediately if your child becomes ill during school hours. You are expected to arrange for your child to be picked up AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE after receiving our call.” (Caps theirs.)

This was followed by a list of the usual maladies that resulted in children being sent/kept home from school. The nurse had checked Item 8: “Excessive mucus from nose (runny nose), particularly greenish-yellow mucus.”

Neither Mr. Lucky nor I saw any mucus of any color seeping out of that kid’s nose Monday morning, nor did we see any Monday night after receiving this letter. But the bus driver was bound by that letter not to pick him up Tuesday morning. We were to keep him out of school for the next 24 hours.

Meanwhile, I read the teacher’s entry for that day in the notebook he and I use to communicate our thoughts about the progress and behavior of our autistic, non-verbal Baby Bear. According to the teacher, Bear was very active on this day, enjoying himself on the computer, etc. His nose ran a little after he was outside, but the weather's been cold lately. Otherwise, there was nothing to indicate he was unwell.

Tuesday, we still saw no sign of any mucus. Baby Bear was in his usual high spirits, banging on and bouncing off walls, dangling from the rafters, swinging from the chandeliers, and running an entire decathlon in the house. He wanted to go out for donuts, we took him out for donuts. He wasn’t sick. But he had a whale of a good time staying out of school.

Then we got a phone call from the school, a recording which informed us that our child (they referred to him by name) had “an unexcused absence”, and would we please call the school to explain.

ARGH! They’re the ones who ordered us to keep him home on Tuesday because they said he was sick—though he clearly (let alone greenly or yellowishly) wasn’t—and now they were calling it “an unexcused absence”? I was too incensed to call them back.

Today, Baby Bear went back to school without incident, and came home this afternoon with no note.

And still no mucus.