Thursday, January 27, 2005

Just Another Day at a Funeral

Today is the first chance I’ve had to get to my blog. Where do I begin to thank you guys for the kind words? Every one of you who left a comment made me cry. The good kind of cry. The “a lot of people really care about me cry” which was exactly what I needed.

I find my heart touched by those who comment on my blog. I know mine is not always chock full of humor like the Toaster Oven. Hopefully, one day soon, my life will settle down and I won’t find the need to use this forum as therapy. Until then…

Thank you Pony and Duncan and Hot Toddy and Laura and Pua and Knotty Boy and Matt and Chad and Dr. P and Jennir for your comments on the 19th. When I can get rid of the lump in my throat, I will respond to each of you individually. You guys are the best.

So to begin my story…

I picked up Jim’s ashes on Thursday. The minute I had that plastic box o’ brother in my arms, I could feel his presence. The response I anticipated was to feel resolved to it being the last time I would physically be with him. What I didn’t expect was being able to feel him the way I did. Everything would be okay and thanks to him, I knew it. At least regarding this particular chapter. It was as though his spirit penetrated me completely. It was all-consuming. All I could do was smile and talk to him a mile a minute.

On my way home, I stopped for lunch. I took him into Who Song and Larry’s with me – not advertising, of course, it was my brother’s remains. I entered the Cantina and took a table by the window that overlooked the Willamette River and placed him on the table. I ordered a Pomegranate Margarita on the rocks, and toasted him (we had pomegranate trees in our back yard when we were kids).

On Friday morning, I headed over to Toddy’s to pick him up. He stepped out his front door and all I could say was, “Wow!” He looked hot (not hot enough to want a boyfriend though). If I weren’t a lesbian and he weren’t gay, I’d have done him! Black Dockers, Black Turtleneck, Black blazer. His hair was perfect. I was going to be proud to introduce him to my family.

Fast forward past the two hour drive to the coast, and I began introducing him to my family. It was at this point I realized that I should have sent him back inside his house to change when we were at his place. It was a freakin' Levi's convention - my family is so informal.

Let me interject here and tell you that I have given Todd the freedom to blog about his experience with my family. It’s unlike that which he has experienced before. What’s normal to me certainly wasn’t for him. (Sorry Hot Toddy’s Toaster Oven, really! You're a stronger man for it, I'm just certain!).

Just so you have background. I am one of 14 children. 13th of 14. 10 boys, 4 girls. Eight by my parents together. And there are five half-brothers and a half-sister. We were, for all intents and purposes, raised together. As “together” as you can be with the variance of age. There was never a line in the sand with “them” and “us.” We were a family and that’s all we’ve known.

With my brothers having lived through the ‘60’s, they are a wild bunch. Though hardworking, responsible citizens now, they have lived their lives fast and hard. They have had the occasional indiscretion with the law. They are not upper-crust, white-collar types. Toddy learned this first hand last Friday.

To summarize for you:

My bro Bobby was smashed. We were hoping he wouldn’t drink before the funeral but he did. What can you do? He had just lost his best friend, his brother.

When my nephew, Eric (Jim’s son), spoke at the beginning of the service, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

I anticipated more of a biker-type funeral (Harley Davidson’s not bicycles) with people having the ability to say a few words. Instead there was a lot of Preacher-speak. I don’t want this at my funeral. Get my friend The Druid to do a ritual of some sort, let whoever wants to speak do so, and then party.

The preacher-guy was Jehovah’s Witness. My sis-in-law’s preference. This is unfamiliar territory for this Pagan. Between him speaking of things that made no real sense to me and batting around that piece of candy in his mouth, AND the continued flipping through his Bible to find whatever verse he was referencing (mark the pages next time, dumb ass), I thought I would going to die of boredom (this was a bad reference, I know).

Let me just say he made it easy to maintain my composure and not cry.

At the end of the service, when my drunk-bro Bobby picked up the bronze Urn o’ Jim and proclaimed he wanted to say a few words, everyone in the crowd held their breath hoping he wouldn’t drop Jimmy or make a total ass of himself. He pulled it off nicely. It was sad and heartfelt and moving.

My sis-in-law had a gathering at her and Jim’s place afterward. There was quite a spread. Fit for carnivores and vegetarians alike…just ask Toddy!

My family is very much the type to stand around in the yard laughing and joking around. We are a verbose family, none of which are shy. All of which have a great sense of humor and all of which are extremely sexual creatures. It’s a blessing, it’s a curse, it’s a blessing, it’s a curse.

Conversations varied, all were surrounded with laughter. My family tends to separate themselves unintentionally (or intentionally. Whatever). This particular day was no different. It was the Hatfields and the McCoys with regard to who was outside and who was in the house. We’re a tight bunch and protective. It takes quite a bit to be considered part of the family. Again, just ask Toddy!

My nephew, Keoni, flew in from Hawaii. It was nice to see him…just ask Toddy!

HTTO had the… ahem…"privilege" of meeting my ex-husband. I’m sure it was a joy…just ask Toddy. Todd was able to see how much my daughter looks exactly like her Dad.

My ex was pretty liberal with the evil-eye from what I understand. Poor Todd. I suspected that my ex was jealous when he saw me with Todd. You know, I traded in the 5’10” blonde for the 6’6” blonde.

It wasn’t until we were gathered outside bullshitting that he finally asked me, “Is he… uh…” “Just friends,” I replied. “Oh! Then is he, uh…” “Yes, he’s gay.” “Oh, that’s cool.” What an insecure little shit.

On the way home, the Toaster Oven and Auburn Aries and I stopped in Astoria, Oregon to have some Mexican food and a cocktail. This is where Hot Toddy’s Toaster Oven realized just how much my daughter has my personality and sense of humor. I’ll let him tell you about that little story along with all of the other "just ask Toddy" references. The events at the restaurant were a normal occurrence for me, but he found humor in it. In all honesty, it is a cute story.

Hot Toddy was a phenomenal support that day. I don’t know that there will ever be words enough to thank him for all he’s done and continues to do for me. I can’t wait to read his comedic perspective of spending a day with my family.

And I’d like to say thank you to Pua, especially. Your call Friday night from The Orange County Vortex made my day. Okay, it’s made more than my day as your words are still within my heart. Please know the feeling is mutual.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

I want a Maybe.......

As I read my friend Hot Toddy’s post, I find myself feeling jealous. Jealous that “maybe” has found him. “Maybe” has been such a distant cry that I haven’t been able to pinpoint from where it came. I have gotten close only to be pulled away. Pulled toward fires burning so hot, I had no choice but to try and put them out.

My life has been such a turn of events the last couple of years that I’ve often wondered how I’ve come to end up in this place. I am but a Pawn in destiny’s game.

I have lived my life knowing that I am right where I am supposed to be. Some call it (as have I) flying by the seat of my pants. My sister, Skinny Girl, knew in high school that she wanted a good job, a husband, a child, a house. Her goals were clear and she has obtained exactly that. She’s been with the same man for 20+ years. Her daughter is phenomenal and should be a model. Her house is perfectly kept. As for the husband part, I guess it isn’t any different than any other couple that’s been together for that long – there’s good and bad. Overall, she’s pretty satisfied.

Me, on the other hand… I have always marched to the beat of a different drum. I studied dance for 10 years. Ballet, Pointe, jazz, modern, etc. The last few years I danced (studied, taught or rehearsed) almost eight hours a day. It was my passion and I was very good at it. To this day, I still regret giving it up. That’s a story for another blog someday.

My point is, I went against all that was expected in my family. I wasn’t sure where I was going to land by being a dancer nor did it matter because I would be doing something I loved.

I have always been fearless. I don’t get stressed out if I get lost looking for a location or address – I know I will always find my way. I don’t fear or avoid confrontation. In fact, I much prefer being direct with someone compared to the alternative. I have come to expect the same from those with whom I speak.

I’ve never worried about whether I would get “the job” or “the house” because I’ve always believed that if it’s meant to be, it will work out. I have my own motto - “Patience and Faith.” It has saved me more times than I can count. I have the word Faith tattooed on the inside of my right forearm. It’s centered between the zodiac symbols for Aries and Pisces, respectively.

With the last couple of years I’ve had, I find my Patience and Faith to be a thin veil instead of the rock wall it usually is. I firmly believe the only reason I haven’t melted into a puddle on the floor is because I am the strong woman I am. I know you don’t spend a lifetime as a confident, strong-minded woman only to release those values at the first sign of adversity.

But seriously…

In the last two years I have:

Sold my first house in Portland that I lived in with my daughter and bought and/or sold two others that tied in with relationships. Don’t ever do this. It’s a mistake. A big fucking mistake.

Relationships…there’s another trick pony (No not you, Pony). It would seem my partner-picker is broken. I have ended two relationships in the last two years. The one with GG lasted three years. The other, more recent relationship with Daddy D was “the one.” Or so I thought. I often wonder if my broken heart will ever heal (though I am closer now than I have been).

My Mom died in August of 2003. Alzheimer’s is the ugliest disease EVER.

My brother, Jim, just died January 9th. He was on the liver transplant list but his kidneys began to fail and that was it. I was by his side with his wife and my brother Bobby. I watched him softly release his last breath never to take another again. No more pain, no more tests, no more doctors.

The human side of me weeps with sadness because he was one of my favorites and I’ll never hear his sweet voice call me “Sis” again. He loved me unconditionally and often spoke of how proud he was that I did, indeed, march to the beat of a different drum. He said it made me special. The spiritual me is grateful he’s moved beyond this. I will miss him so much.

My finances have fluctuated in waves of highs and lows because of all of the house buying and selling and the relationships. The lows suck. I am currently in a low.

At times I can’t figure out which way is up. Just when I think that “maybe” it’s my turn, something else happens. I know the Gods and Goddesses don’t give you more than you can handle but holy shit, I was strong enough before. Can it be someone else’s turn now?

When my relationship with GG ended I thought “maybe” the next one would be the one. “Maybe” next time I would be lucky in love.

Then Daddy D broke my heart.

Each time I bought and sold a house I thought “maybe” this is the house I’ll watch my daughter grow up in. Goddess knows Auburn Aries is tired of moving.

When my Mom died ten years after my Dad, and eight years after my brother Willie, I thought “maybe” that would be it for a while, then Jimmy died.

I’ve thought about selling the house I am currently in to separate myself from the connection I have with Daddy D because of it, but can’t afford to move right now. I ran an ad for a roommate and think I’ve found just the right one. “Maybe” this will work out okay. Sell it…keep it…sell it…keep it…For the love of Betsy, just find an answer, Aub.

I find myself holding back optimism and not allowing myself to breath simply because I don’t want to let my guard down. The last couple of years, my life has been fraught with difficulties. I’ve gotten through all of this so far (with plenty of tears and talks with close friends) and if I melt into that puddle now, someone is going to have to get a towel to mop me up.

Everyone deserves “maybe.” Everyone deserves to be excited about new adventures, new people, new lovers. For each door that closes, another opens. I just hope I don’t spend so much time looking at the doors behind me that I miss what could be my “maybe.”

This is just where I am today. I’m sure I will be fine. I always am. I'm a Dago girl. Strong is my middle name.

I know one thing is certain. When my “maybe” comes…I’ll be shouting it from the courthouse steps hoping to draw a crowd!

Friday, January 14, 2005

Mommy has to get to the Liquor Store

New Year’s Eve Day was a slow morning. I jumped in the shower at almost 2 p.m. Upon stepping out, I realized that I didn’t have adequate amounts of tequila beverages at my house to celebrate the New Year. It occurred to me that the liquor store might close early with it being a holiday (what do I know). As I got dressed, I asked Auburn Aries to throw some clothes on so that we could “run to the store.”

With the usual slowness of a seven year old watching cartoons, she threw on jeans and gradually became mesmerized by the TV again. Once I had my shoes on and my focus headed toward door, I realized she was still barefooted. I exclaimed, “Aries, put your shoes on, Mommy needs to run to the liquor store before they close!” And I headed off to gather my wallet and jacket.

She put her shoes on and hurried her little butt out to the car.

As we approached the “store” I reminded her that she couldn’t touch anything inside. “I know” she said with an exasperated tone as though she had heard it before (as if). In all honesty, she likes going in there because they rave about her beautiful red hair and always give her suckers.

Obviously, I made it in time!

When I told Hot Toddy this story, he laughed and repeated, “Hurry up… Mommy has to get to the liquor store before they close.” I realized how pathetic it sounded. I, too, laughed so hard I cried (mostly of embarrassment).

He spoke of one of the Yum Yum’s businesses, Balloons on Broadway and a card he has in his shop that shows a little girl telling her mother a story. The caption on the card says, “Monica, darling, that was a lovely story. Now go fix Mommy a martini.”

Since telling him my story, he has teased me about rushing my kid to get to the liquor store and compared me to that card. A well-deserved teasing I assure you – even if just for the comedic value.

Tonight a few of us have plans to attend Cold Comedy Concoction. The game plan is to hook up at The Vortex before leaving for the play. Last night while sitting in C.C. Slaughter’s with the Toaster Oven, I asked him to check the beverage situation at his house for me.

Today while on a break, he lowers his head, smiling and tells me he forgot to check the Margarita inventory. Laughing, I snap my cell phone off my hip and flip it open. “I know The Handsome Prince and The Math Whiz are home. I’ll call them to check it out for me.” Toddy and Ms Karma just laughed at my lack of fear and total disregard for understanding their hectic schedules while they have the furnace replaced today.

The Math Whiz answered the phone.

“Hey you. Could you do me a favor and check out the tequila situation for me?”
“Sure…Wait, it’s not there. Where is kept?”
“Look in the cupboard in the corner bar, lower right hand side.”

Toddy can’t stop laughing. I know the location of things at their house better than they do. That’s either very cool or very pathetic.

“Oh, there it is. You have plenty of tequila.”
“Is is Cuervo or Sauza?”
“That’ll work. Now, can you check out the mix situation in the fridge?”
“Sure. Where is it?”
“Check on the bottom shelf of the door.”
“Oh, there it is. It’s actually a gallon bottle in the bottom of the fridge. It’s about one-quarter to one-third full.”
“Okay, so now tell me what the ice situation is in the freezer.”
“There’s a full bag and a couple of partial bags. We’re okay on ice.”
“So, I’ll pick up Triple Sec and maybe some more mix.”
“What about salt? Is your salt thing full?”
“Yeah, it’s fine.”
Hot Toddy interjects. “Can you tell me if I left any underwear on the sink?!”
“No,” The Math Whiz responds, “No underwear left today.”
“What about socks. Can you tell me how many pair of clean socks I have in my sock drawer?!”
“No, I won’t go check out your sock drawer.”
“Well, Hot Toddy has berated me all day long. So after I drop off Auburn Aries at her Dad’s, I’m coming over The Vortex to have a drink. I’ll just hang out with you and The Handsome Prince and ignore Hot Toddy.”
“Sounds good, we’ll see you tonight. Don’t forget to stop by the liquor store!”
“Oh, I won’t!”

Perhaps Hot Toddy’s Toaster Oven has a reason to laugh...

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Feeling Safe in Someone's Mouth

I find myself searching today. Searching for kindness and peace. My family and I experienced a tragedy this last weekend. I will blog about it when I am able. I was reminded this morning over coffee with Ms Karma and the Toaster Oven, how much our routines and their friendship means to me. They are my anchors during a time I am adrift.

I ran across an email this morning that made me smile. I thought posting it today would make all of you smile as well. Love shows itself in many forms.

A group of professional people posed this question to a group of 4 to 8-year olds,

"What does love mean?"

The answers they received were broader and deeper than anyone could have imagined.

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she
couldn't bend over and paint her toenails
anymore. So my grandfather does it for
her all the time, even when his hands got
arthritis too. That's love."

- Rebecca, age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they
say your name is different. You know that
your name is safe in their mouth."

- Billy, age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a
boy puts on shaving cologne and they go
out and smell each other."

- Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give
somebody most of your French fries
without making them give you any of theirs."

- Chrissy - age 6

"Love is when someone hurts you. And you
get so mad, but you don't yell at them because
you know it would hurt their feelings."

- Samantha - age 6

"Love is what makes you smile when
you're tired."

- Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee
for my daddy and she takes a sip before
giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."

- Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then
when you get tired of kissing, you still
want to be together, and you talk more.
My mommy and Daddy are like that. They
look gross when they kiss."

- Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at
Christmas if you stop opening presents
and listen."

- Bobby - age 5

"If you want to learn to love better, you
should start with a friend who you hate."

- Nikka - age 6

"Love is hugging, Love is kissing, Love is
saying no"

- Patty - age 8

"When you tell someone something bad
about yourself and you're scared they won't
love you anymore. But then you get
surprised because not only do they still love
you, they love you even more."

- Matthew - age 7

"There are two kinds of love. Our love.
God's love. But God makes both kinds
of them."

- Jenny - age 4

"Love is when you tell a guy you like
his shirt, then he wears it everyday."

- Noelle - age 7

"Love is like a little old woman and a
little old man who are still friends even
after they know each other so well."

- Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a
stage and scared. I looked at all the
people watching me and saw my
daddy waving and smiling. He was
the only one doing that. I wasn't
scared anymore."

- Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody.
You don't see anyone else kissing me to
sleep at night."

- Clare - Age 5

"Love is when mommy gives daddy the
best piece of chicken."

- Elaine - age 5

"Love is when mommy sees daddy smelly
and sweaty and still says he is handsomer
than Robert Redford."

- Chris - age 8

Love is when your puppy licks your face
even after you left him alone all day."

- Mary Ann - age 4

"I know my older sister loves me because
she gives me all her old clothes and has to
go out and buy new ones."

- Lauren - age - 4

"I let my big sister pick on me because my
Mom says she only picks on me because
she loves me. So I pick on my baby sister
because I love her."

- Bethany - age 4

"Love cards like Valentine's cards say stuff
on them that we'd like to say ourselves, but
we wouldn't be caught dead saying."

- Mike - age 8

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes
go up and down and little stars come out of you."

- Karen - age 7

"Love is when mommy sees daddy on the
toilet, and she doesn't think it's gross."

- Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless
you mean it. But if you mean it, you should
say it a lot. People forget."

- Jessica - age 8

"Love is that first feeling you feel before
all the bad stuff gets in the way."

- Charlie - age 5

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Liars and Kangaroos

Last week I bought Auburn Aries a snack called Fruit by the Foot, to put in her lunches. She’s been on a kick lately of wanting me to make her lunches. After I do so, I fold up a napkin and put it in her lunch box along with a note (which is sometimes written directly on the napkin). The notes say various things – to have an awesome day or that she’s my pretty girl. She is very fond of my little notes of love.

Last week she asked if she could have one of these snacks while at home. In fact, to be more specific, I was on my cell phone while working on my laptop in my home office when she tiptoed up to me, lightly tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the box.

Not wanting to be interrupted, I agreed.

Fast forward to yesterday…

While walking through the grocery store with Auburn Aries yesterday afternoon, we had this conversation:

“Little One, what kind of snacks do you want in your lunches this week? Do you want more Fruit by the Foot or……”


Laughing at her opening line, I stopped her, “Wait, hold that thought.” I immediately flipped open my cell, speed-dialed Hot Toddy’s Toaster Oven and handed her the phone. When Hot Toddy answered, she unleashed her little seven year old outrage on him without missing a beat.

“I am so mad at the Fruit by the Foot Company. I can’t believe it. I opened every package and I didn’t win….”

Hot Toddy responds to her thinking it’s a friend of his from college playing a prank, “How can I help you, Ma’am?”

(in one breath) “What?! This is Auburn Aries and I’m so mad at the Fruit by the Foot Company. It said right there on the box that I could win $10,000 and I opened every package and I didn’t win a thing.”

It occurred to me while they continued with their conversation, that when she tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the box what she was asking me was whether she could open every package in search of the one that told her she was the lucky winner.

I really need to pay more attention sometimes.

This whole thing rates right up there with the bad dream she had last week.

She was lying in her bed calling out my name. It was around 2 a.m. I dragged my butt to her bedroom at which point she tells me in her little sleepy voice that she had a bad dream. I invited her to come sleep with me and she said she agreed. We snuggled up and fell right back to sleep.

The next morning she never mentioned a word about the dream so I didn’t bring it up either. That evening while I was starting dinner she brought it up.

“Remember last night I had a bad dream?”

“I do remember that. Do you want to talk about it or are you okay now?”

“No, I can talk about it. There was this kangaroo…..”

That’s all I heard before I about died laughing. I reached across the kitchen counter for my voice activated micro cassette recorder. “Wait just a sec and tell me about it.” I pressed the button and recorded the conversation. I don’t have it with me here at work to transcribe. Trust me when I tell you that to an adult, any nightmare about a kangaroo isn’t really scary. Funny, yes. Scary, no. Just don’t tell Auburn Aries I said so.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Somebody Stuff a Sock in His Pie Hole

I was putting on my make-up Monday morning and listening to the news. It's actually the only consistant time I get to the news each day. News Channel 8 did a segment on George W addressing God knows what. I only heard one sentence of the segment as my mind was a million other places that morning. I often find myself staring at GW and thinking about how ridiculous he usually appears when speaking. All. those. long. pauses. Trying to appear as though everything is so meaningful. Blech. One sentence is about all I can stand most days. Sheesh, that guy is an idiot.

The one sentence I heard him say was "...I stand for Social Security reform..." Then something occurred to me. Something that, to me, was both funny and appropriate. When I go out for Chinese with friends, at the end of the meal we crack open our fortune cookies and share those tiny little pearls of wisdom. As many of you may already do, I add the phrase "in bed" to the end of each fortune. It's silly, but I do it nonetheless.

As I looked at George W and that idiotic, blank stare he has, I realized what needed to be appended to just about any statement he makes...

"I stand for Social Security reform, for straight people."

Is that perfect or what?!!! I actually made myself laugh when I said it. Sad part is, it's true.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Don't Call Santa a Dirty Bastard!

I just spent the most wonderful week with my daughter. She's old enough now that she's awesome to hang out with. I took the week between Christmas and New Year's off and we just did stuff. Shopping, eating, making cookies, watching movies, playing Scrabble...

By the way, what's up with Hasbro changing the Scrabble tiles? When we were rattin' around in Toys R Us, I spotted the game and pictured hours of entertainment and learning for AAries. What I found when I opened the box were tiles made of the lightest wood known to mankind that were not lacquered like before. When playing the game, the tiles were so light they moved all over the place. It sucked the fun right out of it. I'm now on a mission to find an old version of the game with the original tiles. What's this world coming to?

Anyhoo, Christmas in the Auburn household is kind of a big deal. Not big in the sense that there's a lot of pomp and circumstance. But big in the she-still-believes-in-Santa kind of way. In order to make things as real as possible, I enlist the help of friends. For instance, I brought in a package of self adhesive gift tags and had Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven write her name and "Santa" on each tag. HTTO went one step further and wrote little messages on some of the tags. "To a pretty girl," "You've been a very good girl" and "I love you" -- things of that nature.

In addition, I enlisted the help of an ex-girlfriend (I've never spoken of this particular girlfriend in my blog before). Let's just say for the sake of argument her name is Grouchy Girl. GG and I were together three years. We connected when Auburn Aries was three years old, so GG was instrumental in my planning at Christmas. Each year "Santa" would leave a note propped up in the Christmas tree. GG wrote the note and I signed it. I have every letter he's left her. This year was no different. I composed the letter and brought in the red construction paper on which the note was to be written and GG worked her magic.

The letter read:

Dear McKenna,

Merry Christmas!

You have been such a good girl this year, you deserve every present I’ve given you! This year you have grown even more pretty. Sometimes I know it’s hard to be taller than everyone else or to have different hair than everyone else. Look at me, I’m Santa – I’m different than everybody. We are each special in our own way. The other kids will catch up to you as they get older. Don’t you worry.

You’ve done so well in school this year. I know that you have tried hard and it shows in all your work. You are very smart and read so well. You should be very proud of yourself. I know me and your Mom and your Dad are all very proud of you.

You have so much love in your heart and such a kind spirit. You make people laugh and that is so important. You will do great in everything you do so keep up the good work. Keep your room clean and keep up on your schoolwork. I’ll see you next year!


Knowing the struggles little Aries has had this past year, it makes me cry each time I read it.

Santa also wraps his gifts in only one type of paper. It's paper that Mom doesn't use. (Mental note to self: Get rid of the rest of that roll of wrapping paper because if she sees it, I'm busted).

We bought a kit especially for making Santa's cookies this year and made cookies on Christmas eve. Unfortunately for me, the damn things rocked and I could hardly stay out of them. We put the cookies on a festive Christmas plate accompanied by a glass of milk and left them on the hearth for The Big Guy. I noticed that AAries had pulled shut the chain curtain-thing in front of the fireplace after she put the cookies down. Apparently she needed some form of verification that he did, indeed, come down the chimney.

After AAries went to bed, I put all of Santa's gifts around a tree already bursting with gifts from Mom (can you say hello credit card debt). I gently propped the letter at her eye level. I took both of the cookies and nibbled bites out of each, leaving crumbs in the half drank glass of milk because Santa is a dunker. I then took the delicately folded napkin AAries leaves by the plate each year and left icing marks on it so she'd continue to believe that "Santa doesn't get messy...Ever." And...I pushed open the chains to the fireplace.

I then went onto the deck and grabbed a handful of fallen pine needs, a few leaves and a couple of twigs and scattered them from the fireplace to the tree - whereever he would have left boot marks. The final touch was to leave a gift from Santa under the Charlie Brown-type Christmas tree we put in her room every year. I know, she's spoiled.

Everything was in place.

On Christmas morning, I awoke at 6 a.m. tired from being up so late the night before. It didn't matter how tired I was, I could not go back to sleep. "Wake up" I kept thinking. Try as I might I could not successfully send her the Christmas morning vibe. I went ahead and turned on the lights on the tree (another of Santa's duties) and finally at 7 a.m. she woke up. She ran in and crawled in bed with me.

"I looked in the livingroom and Santa was here last night."

"He was?!"

"He turned the tree on so I could see the gifts. He left gifts!" (Auburn Aries was convinced she was going to get a lump of coal this year).

"Did he leave gifts just in the livingroom or did he leave gifts under your tree as well?"

"I didn't even look" and she was out the door like a shot.

I followed her into her room. She was sitting criss-cross-applesauce (the new pc term for indian style), holding a small gift. She didn't know what it was but studied the tag carefully. "Auburn Aries, you have been a good girl this year. Merry Christmas. Santa." She then continued, "See Mom, now this tag was written by Santa. See how he makes that big S in his name. It's all fancy. Daddy says Santa leaves gifts at his house but I know Dad's fast handwriting and it's nothing like Santas. I compare every year - Dad doesn't know that I do."

Good gawd, how smart CAN a seven and a half year old be?

Carefully she opened the gift. I had to explain to her the it was a gift card to Build-a-Bear Workshop. She started to cry and clutched it to her chest. "Oh Momma, Santa really does love me. He gave me exactly what I wanted. I got a Build-a-Bear Workshop credit card." All I could do was try to fight back tears as I watched joy consume her. I hugged her, "Of course Santa loves you, baby." Content, she just sat there studying the card. I had to remind her there was another tree with gifts under it just waiting for her.

This was going to be the kicker right here. Was all of my work going to pay off? After hearing the Dad-writing-Santa's-name story, was she going to inspect HTTO's tags as well? I crossed my fingers and watched her as she took it all in.

First she checked out the cookie situation. Yep, he ate 'em. Yep, he still dunks. Yep, he used the napkin. "I'm so glad we leave him a napkin" she stated while holding the napkin by one tiny corner so she wouldn't get anything on her.

I approached the fireplace slowly, looking at my hardwood floor. "What's this?!" I pointed to the floor. "That dirty bastard tracked pine needles all over my clean floor." I tried to sound as displeased as humanly possible without laughing. "Mom," she replied smugly "you can't call Santa a dirty bastard..." I had to turn my body away from her so she wouldn't see me laughing.

With total excitement I pointed out the letter. "Hey, you got another letter from Santa!"

"I did?!! Oh Momma, I did." She walked toward the light eminating from the kitchen and began to read the letter aloud. She traced beneath each word with her right index finger. Her little hands were trembling. As she started reading "Sometimes I know it’s hard to be taller than everyone else or to have different hair than everyone else" her voice started to tremble and the tears started welling up. And through those tears she continued, "Look at me, I’m Santa – I’m different than everybody. We are each special in our own way. The other kids will catch up to you as they get older -- Momma, I'm gonna be alright. It's okay that I'm different. The other kids will catch up. Santa says I'm fine." I held her briefly and told her that I loved her through tears of my own.

She immediately went back to the letter and didn't break until she had completed it. She read that letter through trembling hands, tears, and her voice shaking. It was as though Santa had made everything alright and all of her fears and hurt and uncertainty were gone, even if just for this one day.

It broke my heart on the one hand to realize how much pain she's carried inside. I don't think I had full grasp the depth of her self-esteem issues. On the other hand, I knew that a solution could be found if she was this receptive to "Santa's" words.

Time for presents. We both sat on the floor as she began opening Santa's gifts. I held my breath on the first tag she read. "To Auburn Aries, Love Santa. See Mommy, THIS is Santa's signature right here. See how that S matches the S in the letter? I *know* Santa's handwriting."

Apparently Hot Toddy IS the real Santa Claus. So any of you who need something...special, let me know, I can hook you up. Santa and I are tight!

Needless to say, I was relieved my efforts were not going to be revealed. Not this year anyway. She inspected every tag; she beamed with pride with each personal note Santa left her.

That fat bastard Santa gave her all she had asked for this year and it was a wonderful day spent together, just the two of us. It was a day I'll never forget.

I could never have pulled it off if it weren't for Hot Toddy's Toaster Oven and Grouchy Girl. They both allowed my daughter to hold on to the magic of Christmas for one more year.

Wake me from this nightmare!

This can't be it. I just had the most phenomenal week with my daughter. I awoke feeling rested and ready to head back into the office. I mean, I've missed the Toaster Oven, Ms Karma, Hot Momma, Oak Point Man and Diomedes. God knows my job is too freakin' boring to have missed that! Though I'd much prefer to be wealthy and not have to work, I was optimistic about returning to the chaos office and starting the year out fresh.

Then I walked through the door...

I found the heavy blanket o' indifference still smothers those beneath it. I practically had to belly crawl to get to my cube so I wouldn't appear disheveled from its' weight. As I waited for my system to boot, it started. That over-the-cubewall-talk we now refer to as "barking." It's like that yappin' damn dog next door that won't shut the fuck up. And much like that yappin' dog next door, those that blather over the walls slapping those of us in the face who are trying to concentrate, seem to believe what they are talking about is the most important thing ever. It amazes me how wrapped up people get in their own unimportance.

For chrissake people, walk over to the person and have a conversation. Be respectful you motherfuckers. If I have to hear my boss say popuhlate or calcuhlashuns or dater when she means data one more time, I'm going to start pulling hair out in patches.

Totally taxing my gig and throwing my harmonic vibe outta whack this morning. What they don't realize is I'm much stronger than they are. I can take 'em. Each and every one of 'em. Good Morning Street AuburnPisces, visiting so soon?!