Tag Archives: holidays

10 Reasons Why I Am Grateful This Thanksgiving

I live in the East Fernando Valley. The rest of my family resides in various pockets of the Inland Empire – an hour away without traffic, and a slow multi-hour freeway crawl on a holiday like Thanksgiving. As Spock would say, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” so most holidays I’m the one checking Sigalert and making a pit stop at the In-N-Out drive thru to tide myself over before the big meal.

The last time I hosted Thanksgiving dinner at my home was in 1993. This was pre-kids, and my ex-husband and I prepared a turkey dinner for my mom, siblings, nieces and nephews at the home we rented in Toluca Lake.

Notice that I say: “prepared.”

Sometime mid-morning our oven broke and we finished cooking the turkey in the microwave. The ceremonial slicing of the bird occurred around noon so we could divide it into pieces small enough to fit into the microwave. You didn’t have the option of white meat or dark meat. Instead, it was your choice of “dry as a bone” or “pink enough to cause e coli.”

Besides the long drive and the rising price of gas, the microwaved turkey dinner was probably a good reason for my family to take nearly two decades before allowing me to host another Thanksgiving dinner.

As I write this post, my family will be arriving here in just under an hour to give me another shot. And since my current husband will be doing all the cooking this year (another reason why I think this one’s a keeper), I’m taking a moment to reflect upon the 10 Reasons Why I Am Grateful This Thanksgiving:

1. I am grateful that I get to enjoy a long visit with my Family of Origin, but that they’ll all leave before I remember why I couldn’t wait to move out the second I turned 18.

2. I am grateful that I didn’t have to kill my own turkey.

3. I am grateful that I decided against being cheap enough to make a pumpkin pie out of our leftover Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

4. I am grateful that my family will be so hungry that they won’t notice that we do not own a dining table.

5. I am grateful that that most Americans and I share the belief that Thanksgiving calories don’t count.

6. I am grateful that I am not invited to any social engagements this coming weekend where I would need to try and hide the 5 lbs. I gained on this single day.

7. I am grateful that the turkey’s tryptophane will keep me from waking up early enough to partake in the Black Friday Sales that I can’t afford.

8. I am grateful that there will be a variety of vegetables, but I don’t have to eat any of them.

9. I am grateful that since I am destined to become a football widow today, I’ll have two dozen family members here to entertain me.

10. I am grateful that we had new sewage pipes installed this year, just in case any of my family members have become closet bulimics.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, and I hope that your hearts are overflowing with gratitude instead of bad cholesterol.

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Easter: The Religious Holiday That’s All About the Candy

Jake: My Little Bunny

The evolution of holidays can be a little comical. Who would have guessed that when the Indians (AKA politically correct Native Americans) held a welcome dinner for their new neighbors – the Pilgrims – that that nearly 400 years later it would all be about grown men screaming at their flat screens, trying to urge some college boy with a pigskin to “Run! Run! Dammit! Run!”

Two centuries after a golden child was born in a barn, we celebrate with a fat man (AKA politically correct “slightly overweight male”) stuffing Hot Wheels and iPod accessories into “stockings.” “Stockings” bear no resemblance to actual socks or pantyhose, and instead are just large bags decorated with evergreens, winged cherubs, and magnified snowflake atoms.

And just 33 years after the previous event, we celebrate the rising of a dead man (AKA very politically incorrect zombie [I am so completely kidding with this blasphemy because my God has a sense of humor]) with baby ducks, fluffy bunnies, and sending children off in search of colored hard-boiled eggs and plastic ovals filled with anything that will rot baby teeth.

When I was a child, my mom would hide Easter baskets for my siblings and me. The baskets were filled with shredded plastic hay, foiled-wrapped chocolate eggs and a large chocolate rabbit. Mom was not a very good hider. The basket would be stealthily perched behind the living room drapes, on the top of a bookshelf, or underneath a dining room chair. Within seconds of getting out of bed we’d be munching the ears off defenseless brown bunnies.

My oldest daughter Emily was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 3, so I never started this sugar-filled tradition with my children since they’d be getting their fill of candy later in the afternoon. I can justify that I saved them from the bitter disappointment of realizing that the large chocolate bunny was actually hollow and not filled with fudge or creamy nougat. Or I can think that because I’m a much better hider than my mom, that my kids would be spending all Easter Sunday searching for a basket that was melting in the attic, in the cupboard that stores the mousetraps, or resting on the top of our backyard telephone pole.

With the exception of the whole going to mass thing, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays of the year. When I was a kid, we’d get together with the rest of the Flynn aunts, uncles and cousins at my grandparents’ home and all the cousins would have an Easter egg hunt. My Aunt Helen has a super-8 film of us dressed in our Sunday best as we all ran through the bushes searching for colored eggs. My youngest sister Teri was about 3 years old and the film shows her trying to bite through the shell of a hard-boiled egg. Today Teri’s a charge nurse in Riverside and has to pump the stomachs of children like herself who digest foreign objects that are not meant to be edible. I guess it was destiny.

The Flynns are now spread out all over the western states, so today it’s just my immediate family that travels to my sister Tammie’s house in Fontana for the big Easter egg hunt. Besides my 3 kids, I have 6 nieces, 4 nephews, 2 great-nieces and 3 great-nephews (including one coming in July), 5 step-N&Ns and one nephew/Godson who can’t spend Easter with us anymore because he died in a tragic motorcycle accident last year (but like Jesus – the big Easter Man himself, I believe he’s with us in spirit). We make The Waltons look like a nuclear family.

Every Easter Tammie hauls out a bin large enough to store a Great Dane, and it’s filled with empty plastic Easter eggs. The adults spend a chunk of the afternoon filling the eggs with candy while the kids decorate more hard-boiled eggs than they will probably ever eat in a lifetime. Then we hide the hundreds of eggs around my sister’s backyard, hoping that the hiding spots are not so clever that the kids will bypass them and the candy will instead be eaten by one of Tammie’s many goat-like dogs who will literally eat anything that’s not nailed down. She used to have several pet bunnies (which were appropriate for Easter), but even though they resided in a Fort Knox-like cage, they were attacked by the seemingly sweet dogs.

There aren’t any Easter ducks in Tammie’s backyard, but she does have two chickens roaming around, and for some reason the dogs ignore them. I assume that beaks present a more dangerous weapon than an adorable twitchy nose. During today’s Easter egg hunt, one of the kids found a large pile of non-colored eggs in the bushes and realized that they were not the plastic variety, but instead a hidden stash laid by the chickens. It was a little late in the day to hard-boil and stain them with vinegar-scented coloring, but they’ll probably make a nice omelet tomorrow.

Because it was a beautiful Southern California day, the kids had been splashing in the Jacuzzi so they hunted for eggs in their bathing suits. If you’re reading this from Canada, aren’t you just a tad jealous?

I am writing this blog on my laptop as my husband drives all home on the traffic-filled 10 Freeway. There are lots of other minivans and SUVs around us, filled with people like us who just spent a fun-filled day with friends and family, good food, and a fruitful search for candy-filled eggs. My kids are exhausted, which is a good thing since tomorrow ends LAUSD’s spring vacation, and full bellies and a long car ride home are sure to mean a good night’s sleep.

Now on to the next big holiday: Memorial Day. It’s a day that we honor all our country’s soldiers with charcoal and hot dogs.

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♫♪ Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree! You’ve Overstayed Your Welcome! ♫♪

When I was growing up, New Year’s Day was special. It was a day we didn’t have to go to school or do anything. My siblings and I would spend all morning watching the Rose Parade on tv. And it was the day we dragged our very dead Christmas tree to the curb, leaving a dense trail of tinsel and pine needles throughout our home and yard.

This year my kids had the day off school, but I still had a laundry list of chores to do. The parade wasn’t held, apparently because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. And we didn’t drag our Christmas tree to the curb because it wasn’t actually dead.

It’s now Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the second holiday of the new year, and that damn tree is still perched inside.

This Christmas we broke down and bought an artificial tree. I wrote a blog about it a few weeks ago and mentioned the long term cost savings, the eco-friendly advantage, and how our heavy ornaments would not be dropping to the floor as the branches became more brittle.

There turned out to be even more perks that I hadn’t thought of. There’s a large corner of the living room I haven’t had to sweep because there’s a tree covering the floor. Under the tree is a logical place to store presents that still need to be put away. And we’ve been able to keep our multicolored Christmas tree lights twinkling each night without fear of the 120 degree Fahrenheit bulbs igniting an indoor brush fire.

Without the immediate need to dash for a fire extinguisher, I’ve been putting off de-decorating the house. But like fish and houseguests, the tree has overstayed its welcome.

It’s not just the tree. It’s also the four dozen Christmas decorations scattered throughout the bookshelves and tabletops that need to be boxed up. They’re squeezing out the space of my naked pregnancy pictures (tastefully done – mostly focused on my balance ball-sized belly) and photos of my girls when they had missing teeth. There’s really no good reason for stocking hangers to be sitting idly by more than three weeks after the fat man came down our nonexistent chimney (it apparently toppled down in the Northridge earthquake a decade before we bought our house. I’m jealous every time I smell a fireplace).

We also have a growing collection of Christmas-themed stuffed animals, courtesy of my mother-in-law who seems to think that her only grandson can’t get enough of them. There’s Mickey and Minnie with Santa hats, a plethora of penguins, red ribboned reindeer, snowmen with scarves, and miscellaneous finger puppets which thankfully don’t speak on their own. Last year I stored them all in a kitchen trash bag, but the collection has grown so this year I’m going to need a full-sized outdoor trash bag – the kind that boasts about being 4 ml. thick, which is almost wide enough to measure with a ruler. I think I’m going to have to reverse vacuum the air out so all those winter animals fit.

I’m a little bummed that the tree is still up and I still haven’t bought a pine-scented candle from my friend Paula who sells PartyLites. That was the first thing I had planned to do when we bought the fake tree. The good news is I still have 11 months until next Christmas. I’ll have to ask if there’s also a fireplace-scented candle or if I should just haul our outdoor barbeque into the living room for the month of December.

I need about half a day to pack everything back up into their green and red bins, and since I don’t have any work today, I thought now might be the perfect time.

Or maybe I’ll go see a movie instead.

The next holiday is Valentine’s Day. I can do it then… although I guess that wouldn’t be very romantic. President’s Day? Easter?

If I can just postpone it until July 4th, maybe I can tell people that I’m decorating for Christmas early. After all, isn’t that about the time stores start advertising those artificial Christmas trees?

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