Monday, December 27, 2010

Resolutions and Reflections

The year is drawing to a close, so it's natural that one might become reflective about the days past and those to come.  I don't usually make resolutions because nothing comes of them.  Sure, each year I hope to exercise more (futile), eat better (a little on, a little off), and myriad other things that amount to nothing special.  And each year I do some of the things and don't do others.  The real resolutions that matter are those that are less of a lifestyle change and are more of a goal--get a new job, buy my own home, travel to Europe. 

What you may not know is that this blog was my New Year's Resolution for 2010.  Sick of spending years thinking that I'd write "someday," I made a conscious choice to spend time this year writing what I want to write about and not simply writing for work.  When you're a flack, you spend a lot of time writing to advance other people's missions.  WashingTina is my mission. And I think I've done a pretty good job of advancing it this year. 

Sure, I know there are things that I could be doing better . . . I would really like to be even more regular about blogging. I'd like to write more frequently. I'd like to find a design that's not quite so generic, that reflects the character of the writing. But overall, I feel pretty good about what I've accomplished this year -- because when I started, I had no expectations.

I can't believe the attention that these thoughts--stories of the absurdities of my life--have received this year.  When this all started, I thought I'd write for myself (which is still the number one reason why I write), and maybe my family and friends and a random stranger or two who stumbled upon the blog. I thought I'd get some creative satisfaction by finally "making it happen" and writing for myself.  I thought I'd have a nice little product to look back on at the end of the year.  What I didn't know was that other people (people who don't know me!) would take notice.  I would have never guessed that other bloggers might take note, let alone media outlets (holy cow!). 

I'd love to be able to say, nonchalantly, that I don't care who's reading, who's paying attention.  But let's be real.  In these days of 24-hour connectivity and billions of pages of inanity on the internet, it blows my mind that I seem to have found a niche for my pieces of inanity.  I never could have imagined that WH would have his own following, that our quirks and quips would find their way to other parts of the country--let alone the world.  I started this for myself, to get some satisfaction out of writing what I wanted to write . . . but what I got out of it was so much more.  An audience.  A voice.  Gratification.  It matters to me that you're reading this, commenting on it, sharing it.  So as I look to the new year, all I can hope is that I keep getting out of this blog what I put into it . . . little pieces of myself.

*And if it's not too much to ask, how about casting your vote for WashingTina as best local blog in The Washington Post #DCTweeps awards (Question #6) by December 31, here: (Oh, and it's an honor just to be nominated, really!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Merry

Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.  This year, I believe I heard the first notes of Christmas music around October 15.  Shortly after that, red, green, and gold started adorning windows and counters and just about anything that wasn't able to run away on its own.  I really love Christmas, but I have to say, this oversaturation is getting more and more out of control each year. 

The one Christmas phenonmenon that really drives me bananas is "Christmas music." I don't mean O Come All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, or even Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  I'm talking about such earsplitting dittys as Christmas Shoes (the story of a poor child who wants nothing more than to buy his dying mother a pair of new shoes for Christmas -- a real spirit-lifter), Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses (which tells about the near misses of a silver-tongued woman and "the guy I'd been chasing all year"), and my personal favorite, the vomit-inducing  "Christmas Eve in Washington."  This last one is really trite and pompous, and that's coming from a Washingtonian.  With such astute lyrics as, "It's Christmas Eve in Washington, America's hometown. It's here that freedom lives and peace can stand her ground." No. I didn't make that up. 

Some of the truly awful songs aren't about the actual song, but about the delivery.  For example, Madonna's version of Santa Baby is particularly cringe-worthy.  Also bad is Barbra Streisand's manic Jingle Bells, where it sounds like the record is skipping . . . but no, it's just Babs having a musical seizure.  And any song by Josh Groban, Celine Dion, or Amy Grant. 

Of course, this is all subjective, and I realize that two of my most favorite Christmas songs are universally poo-pooed.  I can't help it, but I love Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer . . . not for its clever lyrics ("She'd been drinkin' too much egg nog. And we'd begged her not to go. But she'd forgot her medication, and she staggered out the door into the snow") but because my own, now-departed grandmother got such a kick out of it.  Another of my favorites is the condescending Feed the World, which was an anti-hunger anthem of the 80s and brags "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime," and "Well tonight, thank God it's them instead of you." But despite it's lyrical offenses, there's something pretty cool about all those stars coming together for a common cause (before Michael Jackson dreamed it up for We Are the World). 

But really, the issue isn't what songs are good and what ones aren't . . . because none of them are good when played nonstop for 2 1/2 months straight (I'm looking at you WASH FM) and then put away suddenly on December 26th as if they'd never existed, only to return sometime in the late-summer the following year.  I'll leave you with my favorite Christmas song of all time, Judy Garland from Meet Me In St. Louis with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. If that doesn't get ya, nothing will.

What are your favorite (and most cringe-worthy) Christmas songs?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

After the Wedding

I'm trying something new here at WashingTina . . . I've joined a gang.  Not what you think (puh-leeze, if you've been reading this blog for even a little while, you're not thinking gang anyway.  I'm about as likely to join a gang as Justin Beiber).  I've been recruited by my friend Susie Kline over at Motherhoot (and she is a hoot, so check her out) to join her Blog Gang.  The idea is that a group of bloggers all blog on one topic once a month or so, and then link up together.  Today's topic is marriage.  When I got the email about the topic, all I could think of was that scene in The Princess Bride (one of my favorite movies):

As I've mentioned before, WH and I have been married for two years. I can remember our wedding like it was yesterday -- all of our friends and family together for one day to celebrate together with us.  I remember my dress and the flowers and the music and the face of everyone who was there.  I remember the months of planning and all of the trips to the dress shop (Carine's in Georgetown, in case you ever need the best atelier in the city), standing in a giant (and freezing) floral warehouse picking out the flowers, the paper for the invitations, selecting all of the courses during our tasting.  I remember it all.  But that's not a marriage.  It's a wedding.  And there's definitely a difference. 

Every day since then, WH and I have been building our marriage. When I got sick on our honeymoon, that was marriage. Without complaint, WH got up with me, before the sun, and rode in the rickety "taxi" (consisting of benches in the bed of a pickup truck) in the rain all the way to the highest point on the island of St. John to go to the "hospital," which was a small building that could only be entered after having rung the doorbell.  There was one nurse on duty and one doctor on call.   He waited with me for three hours, wandering around this tiny shopping center while we waited for the pharmacy to open at 10:00.  He went with me to the same sushi restaurant three times, just so I could get miso soup (the only place we could find soup on a tropical island).  He held my hand as I cried on the plane home as my eardrums burst. 

We are a team, WH and me.  We laugh at the same things, roll our eyes at the same nonsense, and enjoy the company of the same people.  But even though we are a team, we each have our own interests.  WH is an athlete, enjoying the gym and nutrition.  I'm literary, enjoying to read and write in my spare time. We go out together and we go out separately.  We have had our ups (loads of them!) and downs (a few of those, too--have I mentioned the honeymoon bronchitis?) over the past two years, but at the end of the day, what we have is each other.  And when you have someone who plans for the zombie apocalypse, walks through a blizzard with you to get McDonald's, continues to live with you in a "staged" apartment while it's on the market,  protects you from pigeons in your air conditioner and indulges your love affair with Cher (or whatever it is that's important to you), hang onto it, because there's nothing better. Trust me, I know. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Unicorn vs. Hamster

Let it be said that WH and I love Christmas.  A lot.  Here's what neither of us can stand: the adverstising.  One advertising phenomenon in particular makes us both spew.  It's something you may not have noticed, but that once I point it out, you'll never be able to ignore it again. 

During the holidays, the commercials feature what I've heard called the "Unicorn Man."  He's that guy who is attractive, eligible, and smart, with a chin dimple who gives gifts like Lexuses (or is the plural of Lexus, Lexi?) and diamond tennis bracelets to his unsuspecting, yet adoring wife/girlfriend/mistress (In one instance he even comes home from Africa for a cup of coffee with his little sister, but that's really not relevant here).  He is the man who the commercial people have dreamed up, but who does not exist . . . just like a unicorn.  Evidence below:

WH really hates this commercial.  Every time we see it, it sends him into fits -- and he has good reason.  You see, the Unicorn Man only comes out at Christmas (and maybe Valentine's Day). Sure, he might say he's right here and always will be, but come January third, he's history. Sure, he'll reappear briefly around Groundhog Day, but he'll be back in his hole before you know it.  And as WH points out, the man with whom he is replaced is a "Hamster Doofus."  This guy is more like a son than a husband, and needs to be taken care of, chastised, and generally watched over so he doesn't poke his eyes out with the corner of his Doritos chip.  See proof below:

This particular guy has been dubbed by WH as the Yogurt-Stealing Hamster Doofus.  He also does not actually exist. WH had some deep thoughts on the issue: 
How is it that the the guy who is supposed to be strong and romantic becomes a  hopeless Hamster Doofus two months later?  And how is it that this woman who relies on the strong chest of her partner all of the sudden becomes a controlling witch?   I'll tell you why.  Around the holiday season you must buy diamonds and the rest of the year, you must buy yogurt.   You know what I'd like to see, put that cool guy in the kitchen and the Hamster Doofus in the cabin.  I bet you anything that Hamster Doofus would go hide under the table during the storm.
I agree with WH about the men, but good grief, what about the women!  What is that lady staring out into the dark for anyway?  And why is she so terrified of a little thunder?  It's not the nuclear holocaust.  And let's not even get me started on that shrew with the yogurt.  Why should she care if he's talking on the phone with his buddy?  It's yogurt, not the Yalta Conference, for chrissakes.

The reality is that nobody's perfect like the Unicorn and nobody's completely inept and afraid of eating their wife's yogurt.  Husbands surprise their wives with jewelry, and they tick them off by leaving a half an inch of orange juice in the carton.  Boyfriends leave their socks on the floor and they cook gourmet meals on the fly.  Trust me, WH has the best taste in jewelry of anyone ever, and I've called my friends to tell them about my latest gift.  And even though he has eaten the last yogurt, I have never, in all our years, caught him on the phone with a friend discussing his love affair with pineapple upside down cake. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Meet the Parents

It's the stuff that movies are made of: a couple's two sets of parents meet each other for the first time.  Ben Stiller's practically built a career on awkward family relationships.  But WH and I could give the Fockers a run for their money. 

WH and I had been together for several years when we finally got the 'rents together for dinner.  We met at a neutral location, La Tomate (one of our favorites), for dinner.  Everything went just fine until we got to dessert.  Sure, it was a little more formal than usual, as these things are when people don't know each other well.  But our after-dinner treats really brought out the best in us all.  WH and Dear Old Dad are fans of port, which is perfect with dessert.  There's a particular port called Cockburn's.  You can get your mind out of the gutter (at least momentarily), it's pronounced coe-burn.  But who cares really?  It looks like cock-burn and that's how we say it 'round these parts, because why wouldn't you?  When given the opportunity to act like a sophomoric 12-year-old boy, you really must do so. 

WH said to my DOD, after we had placed our dessert and digestive orders, "I really like Cockburn."  My eyebrow raised, but I thought nothing of it until he continued, "I had it the other night and thought of you."  It was then that I got what I like to refer to as "church giggles," you know that laugh you know you really shouldn't indulge in, but can't control yourself?  My father, who was sitting in the middle of the table, looked at me and started laughing too.  WH went on, innocently, "The first time I had it, you gave it to me."  By then, my father and I were crying, we were laughing so hard, my mother was fuming and WH's parents were looking at us with a mixture of stunned confusion.  Fortunately for all of us, the waiter arrived shortly after that with our desserts and mouths were stuffed so nobody could say anything -- and what could be said after that, anyway?

The good news is that despite the slightly off-color double entendre, our parents really enjoyed (and continue to enjoy) each others' company.  So much so, in fact, that we are lucky enough to spend all major holidays and occasions together.  So . . . as you look forward (perhaps with apprehension) to family gatherings during the holiday season, just remember about the time my father gave my husband Cockburn's. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Traditions

It's the holidays . . . time for traditions.  I'll admit that I am a freak when it comes to traditions.  There's little I love more than a good tradition, especially at Christmas.  There was a while there when I must say we (me) were a little nuts in my family about Christmas traditions.  The list was long and specific. 

Every year when my sister and I were growing up, my grandparents on my mother's side would stay at our house on Christmas Eve so that Christmas morning we could wake up and open presents together.  It just wasn't Christmas if we weren't all together, getting up too early, in our pajamas opening gifts.  Also on Christmas Eve, we would go across the street to my friend the Lady Doctor's mother's house for a party.  My best girl friends were there and we'd exchange gifts before retiring to wait for the sound of Santa's sleigh.  People grow up, parents move, and grandparents get sick -- things change, and so, too, must traditions. 

The first blow was when Lady Doctor's mother moved off of our street.  We revised our partying ways, but still managed to spend our Christmas Eves together.  My grandparents got older and we even ended up spending one Christmas at their house in Rehoboth when my grandmother was too ill to travel.  I think the hardest Christmas of all, though, was the year that my grandmother died.  On Christmas morning.  She had cancer, my grandfather had died earlier that year, and she was spending Christmas in the hospital, alone.  Her biggest worry, which she had expressed to me, was that my grandfather would be alone without her.  Maybe it's a little simplistic, but I believe he came to get her that day so that neither of them would be alone on Christmas.  It was the worst Christmas my family ever had.  After that year, we had a hard time getting our traditions back in order, but when I think back on it, I don't remember specifics.  It's funny how the mind does that for you. 

One year, shortly after, the Christmas Eve party moved to my parents' house.  WH joined the mix seven years ago -- this will be his eighth Christmas with my family.  My parents sold my childhood home and moved into a condo a few years back, so we adjusted our traditions again.  Some years friends are traveling for Christmas, so they miss the party.  We've added new friends, husbands, and babies -- some years bigger than others.  But what's really important is that we are together, my family and whomever can make it that year.  There is always enough food for everyone, a gift for each guest to open, and enough holiday cheer (liquid and otherwise) to sustain us well into the New Year.  And I've learned that the best tradition is one that doesn't just happen once a year, but that embodies a sentiment that builds on the love of family and friends and carries itself all the year through. 

Merry Christmas from WashingTina!