Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry and Bright, Alright

You may have noticed by this point that I am the teeniest, tiniest bit excitable. I love a holiday, and/or any chance to celebrate. I'm a devotee of anything sparkly, shiny, or bedazzled, and I generally think that more is more. Go big or go home. I am wild about birthdays--and isn't that what Christmas is--the most fabulous birthday party of all? Add all of this up and you may have guessed how I feel about Christmas. Giddy, ecstatic, jubilant, merry, merry, merry!

Some of you have seen my collection of tacky Christmas sweaters, so you know that I dress the part. The current count on Christmas CDs is somewhere around ten, which was the magic number to prompt Clint's ban on buying any more. We spend as many nights in December as possible driving around looking at lights (the tackier the better), seasonal flavor lattes in hand. Shopping, wrapping, baking. Christmas cards, Christmas movies, Christmas ornaments from each new place we visited over the last year. In my humble opinion, it really is the most wonderful time of the year, and it always has evidenced by a few of my favorite memories from Christmases past.

For my 6th grade Anchor club holiday meeting, I rewrote the Twelve Days of Christmas and in my version, my true love gave to me: an MC Hammer CD. I think there may have also been mention of slap bracelets in place of the five golden rings. Instant classic. My parents must have been so proud of that compilation, performed in the Big A Elementary school cafeteria with musical accompaniment from the "property of 4-H club" boom box. I wonder why it never went top 40?

Growing up, one of our traditions was spending Christmas Eve at my grandparents' house, enjoying all kinds of homemade Christmas goodies and opening presents. My Mimi had a lovely centerpiece she always put on her table with gleaming red candles, setting the scene for our holiday family gathering. My cousins and I could not freaking wait for the adults to leave the room so that we could spend the remainder of our quality time together burning pieces of homemade Chex Mix in the candle flames. Ah, nothing says Christmas like the smell of pretzel sticks incinerating.

One year, I desperately wanted a trampoline from Santa. When I woke up Christmas morning, I found a note on our tree that read: "Susie, your main gift is outside." I jumped my little pajama-clad legs off all morning on my new present! Later, I asked my parents how they managed to hide the trampoline from me...and found out it had been out there for over a week. I think I was still enrolled in the gifted program at the time (probably a good thing I dropped out of that voluntarily). Let's hope my powers of observation have improved over the years. Wait, is there a trampoline behind me right now?

At my December wedding reception back in 2001, we decorated Christmas trees with ornaments for our guests to take home as favors. Knowing that I am a) a stickler for the rules and b) prone to having somewhat of a temper, two of my lifelong friends spied guests taking more than their one allotted ornament off the trees (think: arm loads). They approached the folks who were hoarding the ornaments and just warned them with, "Whoever you are, you obviously do not know the bride." Back away from the favors, folks.

Ah, 'tis the season for holiday traditions and memories abounding. I'll also never forget the year we got our Nintendo and met the Super Mario Brothers for the first time, or our family trip a few years ago to New York City for all the yuletide magic the Big Apple has to offer. So, take a big swig of your eggnog and let your mind wander to places fonder when you find yourself a bit smothered by the warm embrace of  kith and kin. Maybe watch Ralphie and family unwrap the leg lamp, find out what happens to an angel every time a bell rings, and get in on the Griswold's happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny Kaye. It's Christmas! Make it merry, y'all!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Marriage Mystique: What They Don't Tell You

The very first day of this most Christmasy month was my and Clint's twelfth wedding anniversary--an even dozen years of wedded bliss. In typical male fashion, Clint didn't seem overly enthused about celebrating the milestone, until I pointed out that we have managed to coexist together for 12 whole years without causing each other any serious bodily harm. And that, my friends, is reason to celebrate.

We took a three-day weekend to the Virginia mountains and spent a fabulous time at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs. Twenty-six Presidents, including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, have stayed at the Homestead...and now they can add "Stancil" to their very distinguished list of guests. We arrived to find afternoon tea in full swing in front of the fireplaces in the Main Hall. Every square inch of the place was covered in both charm and Christmas decorations--a very winning combination in my book. As if that weren't enough, we woke Saturday morning to find almost a half a foot of fluffy white snow on the ground.

Dressing for dinner Saturday night, I discovered that I had forgotten my deodorant. Without hesitation, Clint told me I could use his. "Of course I can," I matter-of-factly replied, already in his toiletry bag digging. Off we went just in time for our reservation, dressed to the nines and both smelling sweetly of eau de Right Guard Sport. You see, upon marriage, not only do the two become one; all the personal belongings also become community property. Toothbrushes, restaurant entrees, t-shirts--it's a free-for-all. Last week, I gleefully bragged that even though Clint had meticulously  marked all his old college CDs with "Stancil," that's my name, too, which gives me free reign to pilfer and use what I want. Call it the John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt effect.

There are plenty of things about being married that no one warns you about. When you are engaged, you hear tons of clichés about how married life will be and how you should act in order to maintain harmony in the house. People offer up pearls of wisdom like "treat your spouse like your best friend," "listen more than you speak," and tons of tips about compromising. But there are other survival skills and warnings that are left unsaid. These things are learned through pure marital experience, and boy, are they an eye-opener.

The first phase is "getting to know you." What's that? You honestly believe you know the person you married? Wrong! That is precisely why you vow to stay in this conjoined state for better or worse. Maybe your fiancĂ© promised that he doesn't will discover on your honeymoon that he rattles the windows with his zzzzs. Perhaps you were dating a self-confessed neat freak? Um-hmm. You'll wake up one morning and discover that they left yesterday's dirty underwear on the bathroom counter, right next to your toothbrush. And those dirty dishes left in the sink? Why, those are just "soaking" until the time is right (which will turn out to be half past never). I will spare you the gory details of sharing a bathroom--you can earn those nightmarish stripes all on your own.

We were also offered the sage advice to never go to bed angry. This is much easier said than done. Clint really, truly, absolutely (well probably) has narcolepsy, and he can and will fall asleep any old time he wants. He can be mid sentence, mid thought, mid argument...Rip Van Stancil will get his solid 8+ hours of deep slumber. I have been in full rant mode, only to watch him pull the covers up under his chin and drift right off into REM sleep. Sometimes you will go to bed angry. You will hug the side of the mattress to stay as far away from the other person as you possibly can, and you will drift off to sleep with a scowl in your face and visions of continuing the feud in the morning will dance through your little married head.

I once heard Oprah say that sometimes in a relationship, you have to decide, "Do I want to be right, or do I want to have peace?" I think her point was to persuade viewers to pursue peace. I have to be honest with you, though, and tell you that sometimes you just want to be right. And it is worth digging in, holding on, and risking wrinkles from keeping your angry face on for a while. Even married martyrs need to hear their partner admit to being wrong once in a while. Peace on earth, good will toward those stubborn enough to wait for the apology.

Remember that part where you vow to love your partner in sickness and in health? Oh sure, it seems like a no-brainer, but you want to really consider this one. Because the time will come when your partner will have commandeered both the couch and the remote control and turned your entire home into their very own sick ward. You will hear every possible complaint about the condition and deterioration of their health. They will assure you that no one has ever had any sickness that comes close to the epidemic they are battling, and because of those vows, you are now the nurse on duty. I wish you many years of good health, for your sanity's sake. And maybe register for matching hazmat suits.

You will, inevitably, tell each other the same stories over and over. Once you get a few years of matrimony under your belt, you will each learn the "trigger words" that set off such tried and true tales. When one of these triggers is uttered, you will reflexively wince and wait for the story to be set in motion. And it will. Every single time, until death do you part. Some days I pretend the story is new information, other days I assist in the storytelling to speed things along, on less jolly days I make it known that the story is more stale than leftover wedding cake. And vice versa on my husband's end. Even fairy tale romances will wind up in the anecdote twilight zone, you wait and see. Once upon a time, these stories were new. Now is definitely not that time.

Another little thing I discovered after a decade or so: don't try to pick out an anniversary card while you are angry. You will read all those sweet, flowery sentiments and think, "None of these describes that doofus I married." A week later, you will return to the same store, read the same cards, and think, "Awww, this perfectly describes that doofus I married." A short memory is one of the best tools for a happy relationship. That, and learning how to smile and nod while having your other half completely tuned out. The heart wants what it wants, and sometimes it wants to be left alone. Hallmark chooses not to recognize that fact.

There are plenty of other little surprises that crop up once the knot has been tied, but there's no sense in spoiling all the fun by telling you. Part of the joy of marriage is discovering these truths, rolling your eyes, and sticking it out. In return, you'll get a partner for life, someone to share your days and your memories with, and a backup deodorant any old time you find yourself in need.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Don't Mind if I Do(nuts)

Consider this post breaking news: I need to tell you about something really special. And dangerous. And delicious. Wednesday, I heard about a new bakery here in Charlotte called Your Mom's Donuts. Ever the skeptic, I set aside my love of all things carbohydrate and furrowed my brow first at the spelling of these fine confections. You see, I really do think that only Yankees spell it "donuts." And like any true belle, I want my doughnuts Southern. My allegiance to Krispy Kreme over Dunkin Donuts does not waiver. After taking a look at YMD's fine product, however, I would spell it "dohknutz" if that was a requirement to get my hands on these goodies.

Your Mom's Donuts doesn't have an actual store. You email them your order and they deliver the doughnuts straight to your door. Let's review: you don't even have to pick up the phone and talk to a human being to make this deliciousness happen. You don't even have to put on shoes. You just email and then--the hardest part--wait.

Clint and I are trying our best to avoid holiday weight gain. Weight loss would be a marvelous, miraculous thing, but in our world of gluttony and food giddiness, we are just trying not to literally burst at the seams this holiday season. But when I saw the flavors of these pastries--flavors like eggnog custard, cranberry with lemon buttercream, apple cider with caramel pecans, and Mexican chocolate with candied banana chips--I almost choked on my Lean Pocket and I threw my carrot sticks right into the trash. I dare anyone with taste buds to resist.

I immediately emailed my order. Foolishly, I had plans of dining on doughnuts that very afternoon, but it was not to be. They had already reached capacity for both Wednesday and Thursday, but wanted to know if Friday would suit my schedule? Well, I suppose I can make room in my life for a gourmet doughnut delivery. It's hard being me, but someone has to do it.

My doorbell rang this morning and my box of awesomeness arrived. Here is what I found when I opened it up:

I know, right? Now, ever the dutiful wife, I am not-so-patiently waiting for Clint to get home before I devour these confections of perfection. (It's only fair, since I would kill him if he sent me to work and ate doughnuts without me at home. Do unto others and avoid homicidal rage, I always say. Or in this case, donut unto others.) I can confidently tell you that if they taste a tenth as good as they look...jackpot! I have already read rave reviews, and I can't wait to confirm it for my greedy little self. As a bonus, my entire kitchen smells like I have been slaving away and baking all day.
Some of you are no doubt experiencing doughnut envy at this point, especially if you aren't in Charlotte and you can't order yourself a dozen or five. You are thinking, "who cares about these long distance, North Carolina doughnuts?" Never fear, (as always) I have a solution for you. Just come for a visit--it will be the perfect excuse occasion for me to place another order. Hey, it's Christmas! The calories don't even count!