Thursday, December 17, 2015

Can I Get An Amen and A Refill, Please?

“Free Coffee”

Despite the nearly illegible type style and relatively small font size, the phrase caught my eye from half-way across the bank lobby.

“Free Coffee”

When I was in junior high and making posters by hand (dinosaurs roamed the earth, the school still had a spirit duplicator machine – please take a moment to recall the smell of those fresh, damp copies) for the bi-weekly roller skating parties (again, dinosaurs blah blah blah), we were told to: A. Print neatly; B. Write BIG; 3. Use bright colored markers (but not yellow because it's impossible to read).

No one ever told us to include the phrase “Free Coffee.” Of course, back then a random picture of
Made you look!
Shawn Cassidy would have had the same eye-catching effect for me as “Free Coffee” does now.

But my point is, despite all the theoretically terrible typographical errors, the phrase “Free Coffee” caught my eye and thus brought my attention to that little 8 1/2x 11 flyer posted on the Community Bulletin Board in the bank lobby.

They had me at “Free Coffee,” but I was compelled to read further. After all, if it seems to good to be true... it probably doesn't involve coffee, free or otherwise.

“Fun for Kids”

The Little Prince was, at that moment, sitting in the car practicing his eye-rolling technique and texting his friends about being forced to go shopping with his lame-o Mom.

As long as I had “Free Coffee” I would be less likely to “Slap Someone Silly,” so I figured “Fun for Kids” was redundant.


“Relevant Life Message”

Is there a more “Relevant Life Message” than “Free Coffee”?

I suppose an argument could be made... although I'm not sure why.

But my point is, whoever put this flyer together for their church (because it was, indeed, for a church service), knew enough to lead with their strength. In this case, apparently, that is the “Free Coffee.” I'm not sure what that says about their church, but I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing.

I consider myself to be religiously tolerant. I don't care what or who you believe in or don't believe in, as long as you recognize a force greater than yourself which inspires you to treat others with respect and humility and does not inspire you to cause intentional harm to them. And on occasion maybe, just maybe, you are inspired to look at something with awe and amazement and recognize that you are a very small, albeit somewhat important, cog in this vast universe.

I have long suspected that coffee might be the key to spiritual enlightenment, but I think maybe, just maybe, “Relevant Life Message” should have been the lead in this particular message.

Then again, I have suggested setting up a coffee maker in the entryway of our church and installing cup holders in all the pews. The other congregants just smile and laugh in a polite “I think she's kidding, isn't she?” kind of way. (No. Not really.) All I'm sayin' is we have Hospitality Sunday with coffee and donuts once a month, so why not “Free Coffee” every week?

I was raised a Methodist and converted to Catholicism, so I still have many faith-related questions. Like, are we sure Jesus changed the water to wine at the wedding in Cana? Maybe he changed it to coffee. That would appeal to my Methodist roots.

The Queen Mother used to recall a brief stint as a “Happy Lutheran” (not sure if there was an “Unhappy Lutheran” phase, or if that was in contrast to the occasional “Contentious Methodist” moments). My paternal grandmother attended an Assembly of God church, although stories are told of a fundamentalist service which involved speaking in tongues (which triggered a vast and immediate improvement in my church service behavior). There were also rumors of Baptists, Mormons and Episcopalians mixed up in the family tree.

Perhaps that crazy-quilt of religious heritage contributed to my “live and let live” (or “worship and let worship or not”) attitude. After all, it was The Queen Mother who told me my favorite joke (and repeated it after every church basement ladies function): How can you tell what religion someone is? When their place of worship burns down a Catholic rescues the blessed sacrament, a Jew rescues the Torah, a Lutheran rescues the Jell-O molds, and a Methodist rescues the coffee pot.

Second only to: What's the difference between a Catholic and a Baptist? A Catholic will wave to you in a liquor store.

But my point is, and maybe the point of whoever put up that flyer is, we should focus on our similarities instead of our differences.

“Free Coffee” is as good a place to start as any.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (My Way)

Let the Christmas battles begin.

To maintain familial harmony, one must choose their battles wisely. This doesn't change just because Santa is watching.

Trust me.

Being The Queen Mom, Supreme Ruler of All Things Domestic Which Require Cleaning, Feeding, Mending, Signing, Cooking or Washing/Drying/Folding (and part-time Taxi Driver), I usually get to set the rules for general holiday decorating and celebrating at our house. I'm also the only one who knows where the decorations are stored (because I'm the one who puts them away every year), and the only one brave enough to venture to the dark recesses of the storage room where they are stored (which made it a great place to hide Christmas gifts), so I have a leg up.

With the house in disarray due to The Great Remodeling Project, I was really, really, NOT looking forward to putting up the Christmas tree this year. It's a hassle most years trying to find a home for all the crap that needs to be put away to make room for the tree. This year all that “other” storage space is already in use... as well as any flat surface I can find.

But over the weekend I decided that we didn't need a 24-inch wide path through the family room when a 18-inch wide path would do. And besides, it's not gonna get any better before Christmas, so what the heck?

Up went the tree.

Well, it wasn't quite that easy.

Despite the fact that I am a horrible housekeeper, I have a fairly involved cleaning process (some might call it anal retentive) when it comes to Putting Up The Tree. The pre-tree steps include, but are not limited to: putting away the crap that is already out (cramming everything in storage boxes and stacking those boxes on top of the boxes already in the storage area/family room), dusting (for the first time since last Christmas), vacuuming (for the second time since last Christmas), moving all the stuff that has been piled on top of the Christmas tree box since last Christmas (and cussing), hauling the box upstairs (cussing), trying to remember how to put the tree together (less cussing since I wrote myself notes on the box), carrying in the box back downstairs, piling the crap back on top of the box, and vacuuming again (cussing all the way).

Usually the rest of the family members and the cat try to “help”. This year they all made themselves scarce. I think they've finally learned.

There was a lot less cussing this year, too. Coincidence?

Once the tree is up, the real battles begin. The children would leave the lights on 24-7 if they could. The Husband would turn the lights on in the morning when he gets up and as soon as he gets home if he could and the children hadn't already beaten him to it.

I have a strict dusk to bedtime schedule for lights. This means I spend most of my daylight hours turning the Christmas lights off.

Despite my very militant enforcement of lighting hours, I would go full-on Griswold (as in Clark Griswold of “Christmas Vacation”) when it comes to exterior illumination, if I weren't so lazy and cheap, that is. (Nope, not gonna pay someone else to do it for me.)

The Husband, on the other hand, requires any exterior lights to be tasteful (Ya' lost me right there. Can you say Flamingo Santa?) and in keeping with the theme of the season. The children both now have strings of lights hung in their rooms – All. Year. Long. – so it could be three to one if we put it to a vote. But since the husband is the one we make climb the ladder, his vote counts for like, four.

As zealous as I am about appropriate lighting times, I am even more fanatical about Christmas music. Look it up in the Bible, the Constitution (both US and Russian), the Laws of Robotics, and the Prime Directive: “No Christmas Music Shall Be Played Prior to the Evening of Thanksgiving.”

Trust me. It's there.

Right after: “Thou Shalt Listen to Arlo Guthrie's “Alice's Restaurant” Prior to Noon on Thanksgiving Day.”

Unfortunately, The Husband has, due to weighted voting, ratified the “Snoopy's Christmas” Amendment, meaning that The Royal Guardsmen's “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron” can be played immediately following Arlo Guthrie's “Motorcycle Song” (which must be played immediately following “Alice's Restaurant,” because, well, I only dust off the CD once a year), and must be played ad nauseam until February (or until The Wife hides the CD). Personally, I would listen to my Harry Connick Jr. Christmas CDs all season (and longer), if I could only find them. Hmmm....

The Little Prince and Princess have no input on the Christmas Music Debate, as they typically roll their eyes, retreat to their rooms, and put on their head phones whenever the topic is brought up for discussion.

Although, the Princess switched the radio in my car to the XM station “Holly” November first, thus losing her driving privileges for at least... until she needed my car again.

And the Little Prince routinely takes the ukulele out of my hands mid-performance (?) of Mele Kalikimaka and proceeds to play it much, much better than I can. Despite my many, many sessions of ukulele lessons and his total lack of ukulele lessons.

It's a good thing I still have a hot line to Santa.

And I'm not afraid to use it.