Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Lessons from Grandma

It happens every year, at least once but often more than that.

I'll be wrapping a Christmas present and suddenly I'm transported back in time to the age of about 7 and I'm standing at the edge of the bed in grandma's back bedroom, about to get my first (and as it turned out, only) lesson in Gift Wrapping 101. I had never wrapped a present before and grandma had taken my brother and I shopping to get something for my mom. I'm not sure why I was picked to be the wrapper instead of him, but it was a lesson I'm glad I was given.

Grandma was meticulous about every detail of wrapping. First you lay out the gift then you pick the right paper. I'm not sure if she was this particular about every gift she wrapped but she was with this one. She picked out the prettiest paper she had, then had me roll it out. She showed me how to lay the gift on the paper then turn it this way or that, to see how it would fit best. Then, you bring up the edge of the paper just so, and put your first piece of tape on it. Very carefully turning the gift over to roll it up in the wrap until the entire gift is covered. That's when the Magic Scissors came out.

Grandma had the sharpest scissors in the history of humankind, and she showed me a trick to cutting paper. You sort of nick it just a little, hold the scissors at an angle and you just slide them right through the paper without ever chopping once. I learned over the years this only works with awesomely sharp scissors like grandma had, but it's the coolest way to cut paper, ever, especially if you have a large amount of gifts to wrap. It saves a ton of time. After the paper is cut, on goes the next piece of tape (which by the way were already ripped off the roll in roughly 1-2 inch strips and placed carefully in a neat little row on the footboard of the bed - no fumbling with the roll of tape during the actual wrapping process). Once that was done, the fun part begins. Turning the gift so that one end is facing you, you carefully fold down the top paper over the end of the gift so that the paper on the sides sort of forms what looks like wings. Then, you carefully put a crease in those wings and wrap them over the end like it's hugging the end of the box. Each wing gets a piece of tape and then you bring up the V shaped paper on the bottom and carefully tape that. She showed me how to do it first, and it took her about 3.5 seconds to complete the entire process. She didn't actually put the tape on, or make the real creases/folds in the paper (she just showed me where it goes), and then she unfolded everything and said "now you do it". I think I was in that back bedroom for a week or so trying to get my wrapping job to look exactly like hers. My "wings" were deformed then I ripped the paper, then the white underside of the paper showed through and no matter what I did I couldn't get it right. Over and over again I unwrapped it and tried to re-wrap it. Eventually, it was pretty close to being a good job and she told me to go ahead and tape it. "Now turn it around and do the other end exactly the same way" she said.

The movie Jaws hadn't even come out yet, but I'm sure I heard the Jaws theme music as I turned the box around. It didn't take me as long to get the other end wrapped the same way, but it was one of those weird/annoying/difficult challenges that it turned out I would learn later in life that I would love facing, just to get it right. Besides, this present was for my MOM, so it had to be as perfect as I could make it!

Once the wrapping was done, it was ribbon time. Oh ribbon time!! This was the most fun, ever. Grandma showed me how to slide the ribbon under the upturned box, twist it, flip the box and pull the ribbon up over the top. Again, it took her about 2 seconds to do it, then she pulled the ribbon off and handed it to me and said "now, you do it". Again with the Jaws theme music, just a little softer and further away in the background this time. As it turned out, I nailed it the first try! Somewhere in my little 7 year old head I became Super Christmas Ribbon Woman for just a few seconds. After that, it was just a matter of doubling up more ribbon, tying it at the X on the box, cutting the folded ends and going crazy with the edge of the scissors to make it curl.  Using a different level of pressure on each ribbon makes big bouncy curls or tight boing-y curls so you have to do each one just a little different. :-)

It's funny how every year for the last 40+ years I will start wrapping a Christmas present, and that entire lesson pops back into my head. When I think of it, it's usually just a flash but there I am, back in the back bedroom with the wall heater going, the bag of potatoes leaning against the wall there where she always put them and the smell of "grandma's house".

I think the last Christmas I was at grandma's house would have been in 1997, right before Kev and I were married and we moved 2500 miles away, but her wrapping lesson stuck with me, so in a way, grandma has always been with me at Christmas.  Just last night while I watched Kevin wrap the last few gifts I had to smile when I thought of how grandma would react, watching him.  She would have shifted her weight to one side, put her hands on her hips and say something along the lines of "Oh Kevin, you're NOT going to wrap it like that!" I just let him wrap it, like that.   (In our family we always joked that we're Irish when grandma got frustrated because our names changed from Carla to Oh Carla or Gary to Oh Gary, no matter who you were, you got the Oh at the beginning of your name).

My grandma passed away this year in January and it feels especially fitting that I document this memory of her because no matter what, as long as the Lord sees fit to let me stick around and wrap stuff, grandma will always be there wrapping it with me. Funny thing is, while I watched Kev last night, I had my hands on my hips.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Once again, Facebook has made a bunch of changes that you may or may not be aware of. It seems like they do stuff like this all the time, and it's usually a fluke when you discover it (or someone else posts about it). I discovered a couple of things yesterday and someone asked me to share it, so here we go.

Login to FB and click your name so the page redirects to your wall/timeline.  Once there, click "activity log".

When you click that you'll see in the left sidebar a list of options to choose from

From here, click on "All Apps". You'll see all the FB apps you use, down the middle of your screen.  Now here is what you might not know - it seems all these apps have a default setting to show all your friends you're using them.  Which is fine, if you don't care who sees what.  If on the other hand, you don't want to flood your friend's newsfeed with everything you're doing on FB, or if you're using an app that you don't want anyone to know about (for example, an upcoming surprise for someone or if you're just testing it out to see how it works or even if you like it), you need to select the app and adjust the settings:

I selected my twitter app for this and as you can see, it's set to show all my friends.  On your page, click the button next to whichever app you want to adjust the settings for:

And then select who you want to make your activity on this app available to.  I don't have a lot of apps on FB but you might, so scroll down the page to view the settings for all of them and adjust them accordingly.

Here's another FB setting you might not be aware of.  Facebook "privacy" is pretty much a joke, but there are things you can adjust to keep your info a little more to yourself.  On your main page (your newsfeed page) you'll see this in the top bar:

Click the little gear icon and scroll down to privacy settings.  Click that and you'll see this in the left sidebar:

Click on Apps and read this very carefully under your list of apps:

Click the edit option to the right of this paragraph and be prepared to be surprised at how much of your info is being shared by your friends (bless their hearts, lol) whenever they're using different apps on FB:

The copy here says it makes your friend's experiences better and more social.  What they really mean is, your info is being plastered all over FB whether you like it or not, because your friends are using certain apps.  I was surprised at all the categories that were checked when I first looked at mine, so I unchecked them all. What you choose to allow is up to you, just be sure you hit SAVE CHANGES when you're done.

Hopefully this has been helpful.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Take the Fudge Poll!

Just for fun (and because I'm in Fudge Making Mode today!), I've added a poll.  You can see it at the top left side bar.

Feel free to take the poll and/or leave a comment if I didn't add your favorite Christmas fudge flavor.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Because He Understands

I've been tossing around the idea for this post for a couple of weeks now.  There were really only two things stopping me from writing it. 1. Time and 2. Criticism.  The time part is easy to explain: I'm just constantly busy with design work, housework, cooking, working out, running errands & all those other things busy moms are always doing.  Any "free" time I have these days is almost always spent in my comfies, on the couch with my husband, watching a movie (completely disconnected from my desktop, laptop or phone).  Today I've decided to make the time, because it matters to me.

The other thing stopping me was criticism.  Because I'm about to sing the praises of my husband, I thought of a blog post I read some time back that actually condemned wives for doing that.  Yes, you read that correctly.  There are people out there who believe women (and men) with great marriages should keep that to themselves and not upset those among us with rotten marriages by saying anything good, about ours.  On the one hand (a very small hand) I can understand the reasoning behind that.  No one with any amount of compassion wants to purposely upset someone.  On the other hand, our culture has become so backwards in it's attempt to be politically correct, good has seemingly become bad, and bad has seemingly become acceptable and encouraged. I don't subscribe to that kind of thinking so if there's anyone reading who does, feel free to write me off as a lost cause because I have a great husband and I want to tell about him.

First, please note that I did not say perfect.  Kevin is far from perfect and I am utterly thankful from the bottom of my heart.  If he were, or if he were a perfectionist personality, our marriage would have been doomed from before it began. I am someone with a boat load of flaws and faults and quirks and petty annoyances.  If he were perfect, he'd never be able to deal with me.   I did say he's great though, and now I want to tell why.  There is a "headlining" aspect of our marriage & family that it seems like no one on the planet understands, except for him. (I know there are others out there that do understand it, it just often seems like no one does).

Midnight Shift is who we are, like it or not. Like many families, I have a husband who works midnight shift.  Not only does he work this shift, but he works a rotating (2 weeks nights, 2 weeks nights), continental, 12 hour midnight shift.  In case you don't know what that means, it looks something like this, from his 2nd week into midnights: Fri., Sat., Sun (on - midnights 7pm-7am), Mon., Tues (off), Wed., Thurs (on midnights), Fri., Sat., Sun (off), Mon., Tues (on - days 7am-7-pm) and so it goes. To further complicate it and confuse anyone reading, because we live roughly 45 minutes from his workplace he actually leaves at 5:30 (either am or pm) and usually doesn't get home until after 8 am or pm and usually heads to bed within an hour or two after arriving home.  So all that to say, he's gone from home a lot on his work days.  Especially when he's on midnight shift, his days off are spent preferrably sitting in his comfy pants, doing a whole lot of nothing, trying to recover from such a grueling, demanding schedule.  When he's on days it's a little easier and those are the days we'll often go to lunch, or make a Costco run, or something enjoyable together.  Now while I don't work midnights myself, I'm actually on this same shift myself, as well as our family.  When he's on days we eat dinner without him and when he's on nights we eat dinner by 4:30 so he can eat with us before he leaves for work.  When he's on days I get up at 5am so we can spend a few minutes together in the morning and pray together before he leaves for work, and when he's on nights, I don't sleep.  Okay, I technically do sleep, but I don't sleep well, at all.  Of course I still get up early with the kids for school but there are many many days where by 9am I feel like I've been hit by a fleet of buses and I have to lay down before I croak.  There is just something about him being gone that doesn't allow me to sleep soundly at all.  Almost without fail, there is one night during his two weeks of midnights that my body finally crashes hard and I end up sleeping like a log.  It's usually one of his last nights of the shift and I look forward to it more than anything.  Not so unusual, it takes him about two weeks to finally adjust to the shift as well and just about the time it's time for him to start turning around for two weeks of days, he's sleeping a little better during the day and finds it extremely difficult to sleep at night.  This, is our life.  This has been our life for the last few years and we deal with it the best we can but it's not an easy trick.

Because of this kind of work/family schedule we can't do a lot of things the same way other families do.  Oh I've heard stories about women with a houseful of kids who homeschool them all and who's hubby keeps a midnight shift like Kev, and they still manage to mind the kids, the house, make quilts, be on every church committee and do it all while holding a baby & correcting math homework.  No, I am not being sarcastic or poking fun, I am serious.  Frankly, those women deserve a day spa trip and an award.  I know it's possible to do it because I used to.  Key phrase there: used to.  It finally hit me about a year and a half ago that I just can't do it all anymore.  I can't even do most of it anymore, it's just too exhausting. It's not so tough when you're 35 but when you're nearly 50 it's a different story.  People used to tell me ALL THE TIME "oh goodness you look so tired".  I always wanted to look at them like Spock from Star Trek, with one eyebrow raised (I can't raise one eyebrow or I might have done it) and simply reply "gee... ya think?!"  But I never did.  I'd always just smile and say something like "yeah".  I'm sure they didn't mean anything malicious by it but it sure doesn't make a dead-tired mom feel any better knowing she looks exactly like she feels.

Our family cannot do mid-week evening stuff, for the most part.  I can't see to drive at night and if Kev's on days he doesn't get home in time and if he's on nights, he's not here.  We can't do birthdays on actual birthdays (or anniversaries or any other special family things), we have to wait until his next weekend off and hope that works for everyone and no one gets sick or anything.  We can't attend church on a regular basis and haven't for a long time.  I wont even drive to the store alone if I haven't slept well, let alone put all the kids in the van and drive the 30 minutes to church.  I tried that once and it scared the life out of me how easy it would have been to fall asleep while driving.  This is just the way it is, and the way it will be until our circumstances change.  I'm not complaining about it, I'm just stating how it is.

The thing is, I don't have to explain any of this to Kev.  He understands it all because it's his life too.  He never tells me I look tired, he just says "baby I love you".  He never asks why I didn't do this, or that, he already knows.  He knows it's because there just wasn't enough time, or I was tired, or something else came up and I had to juggle tasks around.  He's the only one I can talk to about certain things because he gets it.  He doesn't expect me to be super-mom or super-wife and any effort I do make at either (and I still try) he appreciates and makes sure I know it.

But it's not just midnight-shift related stuff.  He understands my faults, my flaws, my insecurities, my hopes, my goals, my passions.  He supports me and encourages me and not a day goes by that he doesn't ask me about something that's important to me.  And every single day, without fail, he thanks me for dinner.  That might sound trivial but I know of women who's husbands never say thank you and trust me, the lack of that simple little two word phrase is very noticeable.

When I think about how blessed I am to have a husband like this, it makes me want to cry.  I know it's not common anymore.  I know it's not something that most women have and can be proud of.  I don't know why  God blessed me with Kevin, but He did and I cannot express enough how thankful I am for that, and for his understanding of me.