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Margaret Dilloway, American Housewife

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Christmas

Super Strange True Christmas Voicemail

I forgot about this, but last Christmas, Cadillac got a strange voicemail from a restricted number.

Was it a singing Christmas-gram? Was it meant for a kid? (Soooo scary if so). Who knows?

Anyway. Now you can experience my little nightmare, too.

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Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve just washed the incense out of my hair. Sitting in the front pew of a Catholic Christmas Eve mass can be dangerous. I like Christmas Eve mass the best, because we always sing Angels We Have Heard on High. I was in the high school choir and we had to learn the hell out of that song, and I still remember the alto, so I always sing that. After mass, we went to my in-laws’ house; it was Cadillac’s nephew’s 24th (I think?) birthday. Cadillac got people lottery scratchers, and actually five people won money. The most was $10. Then my father in law got out air poppers that shoot ping-pong sized foam balls, and all the kids (by kids I also mean all the men-folk) had a chaotic game where nobody was safe.

Now the head elf is wrapping presents. That is Cadillac. There are some things Cadillac does better than I do: folding towels, washing dishes, and wrapping presents, so I leave him to do those chores when possible. However, I cook better and make sure kids stay off high cliffs, so there’s that. There are some activities you get better at with practice. For example, he usually shuffles the cards for me when we play card games, and I always think I’d get better at it if I actually practiced it. However, I am still forced to fold and wash a fair amount of time and have not gotten better. I always leave a crumb on the dish that I don’t see until it’s dry and ready to be put away. I don’t begrudge him doing those chores, believe me, because I am a pretty lazy person when possible. He probably should have been the stay-at-home parent.

Most of my friends complain that their husbands are purposely incompetent at some tasks so their wives will give up on them and do the chore instead, but in our case it’s me. I guess we have reversed traditional roles in some ways. I am also the baby when I get sick, which I understand is how men usually act, while Cadillac will not admit to being sick. Once he had an ear infection and wouldn’t cop to the pain until his entire right side of his face swelled up and he pretty much passed out on the bus on the way home.

So anyway, Merry Christmas! I hope you get to spend the day with loved ones, or whatever you love to do.

Oh, and tonight the Mass gospel reading was this. It seems to go on forever. Anyway, check out the names. I had the strangest feeling of deja vu during it– like maybe it was in a Monty Python skit? Usually they read the bracketed version, so I guess I never really read through the long one.

***

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa, and Asa the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of She-alti-el, and She-alti-el the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

[Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away. But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a Son; and he called His name Jesus.]

No Black Friday for Me: Mall Memories

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My daughter wrote “BLACK FRIDAY,” on our calendar for the day after Thanksgiving. “I do not think that means what you think it means,” I said.

“It’s the biggest shopping day of the year,” she said.

I stared at her in mute horror, planning to limit television, turn off the computer, keep her away from all retail establishments until she turns eighteen. “Oh,” I said.
“I’m going to make presents because that’s when you get Christmas presents.”

Well, phew.

These days, I try to avoid the mall, unless there is a big need to go. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like searching through a billion racks. When I go, I go early or late. Have you noticed whenever you have money and need to get something, it’s hard to find? Then you’ll see it a year later on sale but you don’t need it any more, or you need to like pay the gas bill or whatever.
There was an era when going to the mall was sport and fun. Not when I was a teenager. When I was a kid. My dad worked retail. Sometimes he’d get a Saturday off. Usually he’d get Wednesday and Sunday off. Sundays were the Sabbath, which meant no shopping. No church for me, either. Lots of TV watching and waiting for it to be Monday.
On those Saturdays he had off, he’d usually take us to the mall. We wouldn’t get anything. My brother used to go with us, before he started doing more interesting things on Saturdays. My mother rarely went. My dad was the shopper in our family.

We would start at one end and work our way to the other, looking in the major shops. “Do you like this?” Dad would ask, and then he’d make mental note of it. Later, I might get the outfit when it got marked down.

It was also when I learned my most important math: how to calculate discounts. This is still the only math I know well. Let’s say an item is $50 and 20% off. Subtract the percentage from 100. That is 80, or .8. Multiply 8X5. $40 is the total. Cadillac takes 50 and multiples by .2 which is $10 off, then he has to subtract it, which to me is harder, because the total will sometimes be a more random number. He does not think my method is better.

At lunchtime, I’d get hungry, and my father would take us into See’s and get a chocolate. Plus the sample. That made two chocolates. That was my lunch. Dad knew all the See’s ladies by name. “How are you?” they’d ask. Dad told me I should work at See’s when I was old enough. They got paid more, I think at the time it was a few dollars above minimum wage. “Plus you get the samples!” With the sugar hitting my bloodstream, I’d be ready to go back into the mall.

Dad also knew everyone at Neiman-Marcus. The sales ladies would flock over. They’d tell him when things would be on super discount and when the new line of Lalique whatevers would come in. When I was a teenager, they would help him choose clothes for me. One Christmas, when I was about 14, I received some fabulous clothes from the middle-aged rich lady cruise line. They were wide-legged bright orange silk satin pants. They looked like pajamas and made a cellophane-like noise as I walked. It was some time ago, but I’m pretty sure I burst into ungrateful, bratty tears when I put them on. Mostly because I was not looking forward to getting beaten up when I wore them to school. My dad obtained a new sales lady, who a few years later recommended much better clothes for me. One Christmas gift was a pair of black pants that zipped up the back that were the best fitting trousers I ever owned. Plus, I’m pretty sure they caused my husband to fall in love with me. I still remember those pants fondly, because I’ll never fit into them again.

The best memory I have of Neiman-Marcus is of some rich guy (though perhaps he just had the air of richness) who had a huge black Newfoundland dog. The dog would come in and lie down by the escalator, and everyone would pet it while the guy shopped. It would put its massive head down on its paws, and when it got up there’d be a puddle of drool. This was probably the eighties or early nineties, before people schlepped their little dogs into stores. It was not a service dog, it was just the guy’s pet. I think that would be one of the best perks of being rich. If I were rich, I’d have a small Shetland pony and bring it into the store and make everyone water it while I shopped.

I never feel quite in place at Neiman-Marcus, which Cadillac calls Needless Markup. Right before my publisher sent me on a book tour, I went in to Neiman-Marcus to get a particular kind of make-up they carry there. It was a special occasion (one that, for all I know, may never come around again) and I was excited and feeling like I’d arrived. Thus, I should have felt like I belonged there, right? The sales people looked me up and down and then went on to the next customer. Walking into Neiman-Marcus is like being a contestant in some kind of strange pageant, complete with judges wearing quite a bit of makeup. Apparently my father gives off an air of luxury, while I give off the Ross sales rack aura. I am pretty tight, though, so maybe the sales ladies merely have a really good sixth sense about who’s going to help out the economy.

I don’t know what it is about me, but I generally don’t get helped in any store. I worked a few Nordstrom sales and attended their sales training. They told us that people had to be greeted within two minutes of setting foot in your carpeted section or it was a FAIL.

Years have passed since that training and I have come to a conclusion. I am invisible. I once proclaimed, “GOSH, I really need an evening gown and I have this huge budget, whatever shall I do?” and the sales people continued polishing the racks with wax paper or categorizing the clothing by shades of blue. Usually I don’t care, because I don’t like people hovering; but if I am actually searching for a specific item, I don’t want to go through ten areas. In this case, I will pretend to faint and lie down in the middle of the floor. Then, when the sales people help me up, I say tremulously, “I’m just looking for a gray blazer.” Though I wouldn’t recommend trying this on a sale day, because you will surely get trampled.

‘Tis the Season for Forced Giving

Time for another guest blog– by Leah Singer. What do you think? Do you agree, or do you think she’s the Grinch incarnate? Let us know in the comments!

When most people think of December, the usual thoughts of holidays, baking, greeting cards, and décor come to mind. But December also comes with another side; a side that I have come to name, the season of forced giving.

As we all know, this is the time of year that includes solicitations of money, clothing, toys, and food. It’s not uncommon for the number of holiday greeting cards in the mailbox to equal the number of requests for monetary gifts.

Before I go further, let me explain that I am NOT against philanthropy and giving to others in need. I am NOT advocating that people stop donating. What bothers me is that December seems to have become the time when you are expected to donate to a dozen charities and buy new toys for every worthy cause out there. From the schools to the workplace to the local grocery stores, every organization takes up a cause. And while all of these are worth causes, it comes down to two issues for me.

First, I resent the fact that December seems to be the catch-all month for donating and it is rarely focused upon the rest of the year. My family and I make it a priority to give all year long. Every two months we donate clothing, books, baby items, toys and the like (many of which are new items) to Goodwill and Salvation Army. When my 4-year-old daughter, Sophie, and I clean out her clothing drawers every month, we talk about donating her clothing and toys to other kids who really need it. She has come to understand this and even suggests things to donate to other kids. We also give to several organizations from January through December because I feel it is so important to give back monetarily as well.

Secondly, the forced giving mentality really puts those of us who do not have a lot of extra money on the spot. I am not rolling in cash. My husband and I do not buy each other birthday and holiday gifts. And we do not buy Sophie these things either. It is important to us to instill in her now the importance and experiences surrounding the holidays, rather than the materialistic emphasis on getting and gifts. This is not to say we do not buy Sophie things throughout the year. I have been known to pick up a few books for her, or a new toy and pair of shoes. And that’s how I like it – giving that is not attached to holidays.

My daughter’s school recently participated in an Embrace-a-Family program with the caveat that the items we donated needed to be newly purchased. I resent the fact that many of the requested items included new king sized comforters, vacuums and expensive video game equipment when – in reality – I can’t afford these things for myself. And no matter what people say, there is an unspoken resentment toward those that do not participate in such programs.

I guess my point is this: Why can’t organizations and the community give all year-round? Why do we have to take December as the month to focus on giving? Why not instill the importance of helping others throughout the year? Is society trying to make itself feel better in December because most people spend beyond their means on gifts and toys for the holidays?

So on this December day – with the holidays slowly approaching – I will leave you with one suggestion. Consider making one of those December donations in the summer when the culture of giving is at the lowest point during the year. I guarantee a July donation will help a family who can’t wait until December.

Happy Holidays!

Leah Singer is a freelance writer and blogs about family, motherhood, traditions, cooking, writing, and other such topics at Leah’s Thoughts. Blogging is a way for Leah to journal, share ideas, essays, musings, frustrations, recipes, funny stories, and – most importantly – exercise her lifelong passion for writing. Read more about Leah at: www.leahsthoughts.com.

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