Friday, December 21, 2007

A Soldier's Night Before Christmas

        by Michael Marks (Also titled The Soldiers Night Before Christmas) 

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.

Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
Transforming the yard to a winter delight.
The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.

My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
Then the  sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.

My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
And I crept to the door just to see who was near.
Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
A lone figu re stood, his face weary and tight.

A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.
'What are you doing?' I asked without fear,
'Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!'

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..
To the window that danced with a warm fire's light
Then he sighed and he said 'Its really all right,

'I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night.
It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
That separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore me,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at Pearl on a day in December,  '  
Then he sighed, 'That's a Christmas Gram always remembers.'

'My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam,
And now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile. ' 

Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
'I can live through the cold and the being alone,
Away from my family, my house and my home.  

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..

Who stand at the front against any and all,
To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.'
'So go back inside,' he said, 'harbor no fright,
Your family is waiting and I'll be all right.'

'But isn't there something I can do, at the least,
'Give you money,' I asked, 'or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
For being away from your wife and your son.'

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
'Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone ,
To stand your own watch, no matter how long.

'For when we come home, either standing or dead,
To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
That we mattered to you as you mattered to us.'
Authors Note:

A Soldier's Christmas was the first in this series of patriotic writings, drafted on Pearl Harbor Day 2000 when in the wake of the 2000 Presidential Election our nation saw the right of US Armed Forces personnel openly questioned and debated. I felt it unconscionable that at the onset of the Christmas season, those serving to defend our nation would hear anything but our love and support. It is our challenge to stand for their rights at home while they stand for our lives and safety overseas. This poem went out and quickly spread around the world in emails, letters, magazines. I received letters from Marines in Bosnia, soldiers in Okinawa, from a submariner who xeroxed a copy for everyone on his sub. Moms wrote, dads, brothers and sisters. I have saved and cherish every letter and set out to continue writing throughout the year. 

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gift Wrapping - From a Male Point of View

by Dave Barry

This is the time of year when we think back to the very first Christmas, when the Three Wise Men; Gaspar, Balthazar and Herb, went to see the baby Jesus and, according to the Book of Matthew, "presented unto Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh." These are simple words, but if we analyze them carefully, we discover an important, yet often overlooked, theological fact: There is no mention of wrapping paper.

If there had been wrapping paper, Matthew would have said so: "And lo, the gifts were inside 600 square cubits of paper. And the paper was festooned with pictures of Frosty the Snowman.

And Joseph was going to throweth it away, but Mary saideth unto him, she saideth, 'Holdeth it! That is nice paper! Saveth it for next year!' And

Joseph did rolleth his eyeballs. And the baby Jesus was more interested in the paper than the frankincense."

But these words do not appear in the Bible, which means that the very first Christmas gifts were NOT wrapped. This is because the people giving those gifts had two important characteristics: 1. They were wise. 2. They were men.

Men are not big gift wrappers. Men do not understand the point of putting paper on a gift just so somebody else can tear it off. This is not just my opinion: This is a scientific fact based on a statistical survey of two guys I know.

One is Rob, who said the only time he ever wraps a gift is "if it's such a poor gift that I don't want to be there when the person opens it."

The other is Gene, who told me he does wrap gifts, but as a matter of principle never takes more than 15 seconds per gift.

"No one ever had to wonder which presents daddy wrapped at Christmas," Gene said. "They were the ones that looked like enormous spitballs."

I also wrap gifts, but because of some defect in my motor skills, I can never completely wrap them. I can take a gift the size of a deck of cards

and put it the exact center of a piece of wrapping paper the size of a regulation volleyball court, but when I am done folding and taping, you can still see a sector of the gift peeking out.(Sometimes I camouflage this sector with a marking pen.)

If I had been an ancient Egyptian in the field of mummies, the lower half of the Pharaoh's body would be covered only by Scotch tape.

On the other hand, if you give my wife a 12-inch square of wrapping paper, she can wrap a C-130 cargo plane. My wife, like many women, actually likes wrapping things. If she gives you a gift that requires batteries, she wraps the batteries separately, which to me is very close to being a symptom of mental illness. If it were possible, my wife would wrap each individual volt.

My point is that gift-wrapping is one of those skills like having babies that come more naturally to women than to men. That is why today I am presenting:


* Whenever possible, buy gifts that are already wrapped. If, when the recipient opens the gift, neither one of you recognizes it, you can claim that it's myrrh.

* The editors of Woman's Day magazine recently ran an item on how to make your own wrapping paper by printing a design on it with an apple sliced in half horizontally and dipped in a mixture of food coloring and liquid starch. They must be smoking crack.

* If you're giving a hard-to-wrap gift, skip the wrapping paper! Just put it inside a bag and stick one of those little adhesive bows on it. This creates a festive visual effect that is sure to delight the lucky recipient on Christmas morning

YOUR WIFE: Why is there a Hefty trash bag under the tree?
YOU: It's a gift! See? It has a bow!
YOUR WIFE: (peering into the trash bag): It's a leaf blower.
YOU: Gas-powered! Five horsepower!
YOUR WIFE: I want a divorce.
YOU: I also got you some myrrh.

In conclusion, remember that the important thing is not what you give, or how you wrap it. The important thing, during this very special time of year, is that you save the receipt.

My Inner Geek


Free Online Dating from JustSayHi

In other news...

Courtesy of Danielle

Your Score: Juniper Berries

You scored 100% intoxication, 25% hotness,
75% complexity, and 75% craziness!

You are Juniper Berries! You're a drunk. No, really. Cool it with the hooch. Just kidding. You're really good at adding flavour to boring old life. You can be astringent at times, but once the harshness passes, you're quite relaxing. And you smell good, too.

The Which Spice Are You Test

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Rather Spectacular Party

Lindi and I really had a fantastic time at my company party. They rented out the Olympic Ice Oval for a Casino Night. We were treated to delicious food and 100 “points” to turn into chips for gaming. We mingled and she got to meet the important peeps at work, and sit with all my friends, who just adored her and said the nicest things about me. We played 21 and roulette, but the real fun was at Craps. For the first couple of hours, I couldn’t win much, but the last 30 minutes was a blast.

For every 100 points you had, you received a raffle ticket. So, with only 20 minutes left to go, and me on the dice, we turned our little 200 points into 900 points! Every time I rolled the dice, it was a winner. Our whole table was hootin’ and hollerin’ like it was Vegas – Very, very fun.

They had some amazing gifts for the raffle – probably about 30 total. iPods and CD players, NBA tickets and dinners to nice restaurants, all sorts of things. I put our tickets in the tumbler and just knew we were going to win something. Then I glanced over and could see people with 40-50 tickets – obviously we were outnumbered.

They went through all of the prizes and we didn’t win anything, although I had a premonition the lady across from me would win a large prize, and she did when I said she would. Not bad for one out of 800 employees.

Then came time for the Grand Prizes. I looked at Lindi and focused on her, then closed my eyes and pictured her winning the Grand Prize. I concentrated on it until they called the number. I opened my eyes just in time to watch her stand up, rip the top ticket off her roll and say “I’ll be right back.” When I realized she had just won the Grand Prize, I was the one doing the screaming! She was calm and cool as ever.

She had her pick of the three Grand Prizes – but she chose what I was hoping she would – a Wii system with sports package! I have been trying for the last 2 Christmases to get one for her. The other two prizes were a 27” flat screen TV or a weekend stay at the Anniversary Inn, which would have been nice since our Five year is in 2008. Honestly, we would have been pleased with ANY of the prizes, but it was so sweet to see her win. My sister said the reason we won is because I wanted it so bad for her, I wasn’t selfish wanting something for me. I think it’s because she has been through so much with me this past year, she deserves something nice.

We braved the snow storm and got home around 11:30, unwrapped the Wii, and played until 4am. It felt just like Christmas Morning! It is a blast – we will definitely have to have a Wii party.

We received an invitation to MaryEtta’s 50th b-day party on Friday and we are so excited to go. It came delivered with an old time 45 record from the year she was born. I can’t believe she’s turning 50. Her spirit is so young and happy and I love being in her energy.

The Craft Fair went very well – I made enough money there to cover all my expenses for my craft projects for my family – now that’s success.

Tuesday and Wednesday I was pretty sick with the stomach bug, so I stayed home. I didn’t even get to play the Wii. That’s okay. Now I'm back at work and working hard, as you can see…

We’re going to work on our Christmas Cards tonight together and get them in the mail. I really wanted them to be done before now, but I haven’t had the time, really. I am so excited to be able to gather with friends this season and enjoy them that the other tasks often get missed. That’s why I have Lindi – to keep me sane.

Fwd: ... A Note from the Universe

From: The Universe
Date: Dec 13, 2007 2:48 AM
Subject: A Note from the Universe
To: crimsondove

Doesn't it happen like that, Connie? I mean, isn't your entire life proof? One day you're scrimping, the next you're in the money.

One day you're lonely, the next you have friends.

Lost, then found. Ill, then well. Low, then high.

Yet with hindsight, it becomes ever so clear that the only thing that ever really changed was your thinking. Even though you were free to think as you pleased the whole time.

History need not repeat itself -
The Universe

PS: Think of the money we just saved on self-help books.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Holiday Party

Tonight is my company party. I am really looking forward to it, but I almost feel like some yahoos have taken all the fun out of having a Holiday gathering with the people you work with.

I've been told because of the behaviour of past parties, the alcohol will be limited to two drinks per person, which is okay with me, and we received an email reminding us that our behaviour at an outside venue reflects on ths company as a whole.

I want to know exactly what happened last year that made the management afraid of having a Holiday Party - but no one is talking. Something about some chick laying across the tables, maybe showing a little more of her body than appropriate... something about a group of guys and dirty dancing... I don't know, but I wish I would have gone last year!

So, in the spirit of company parties the country through, I've posted the do's and don't of holiday partying on a corporate level.

Don't party your way to a pink slip

OK, so I read through the article and it bored me to tears, so I decided to just list the highlights... and add some of my own. See if you can guess which is the real advice.

• Pace your drinking -- or don't drink, period. Booze doesn't give you license to do anything that wouldn't be appropriate at the office between 9 and 5.

Don't be such a stiff jerk that you can't be around people who imbibe. Shoot, we didn't marry you, so you don't have to agree with our glass of wine or judge us for our beer. You could probably use a drink yourself.

• Don't hit on, and don't hit up: Don't use the party to hit on a co-worker (if things go badly, you'll live with awkwardness daily) or to hit up your boss for a promotion or raise (socializing at the event is fine, but save requests for the appropriate forum).

The only time you are really going to get your manager to listen to you is after the second round of Seven and 7's. Take it from there. But don't stick your tongue down anyone's throat. That's just tacky.

• Eat before you go. Don't assume you'll get enough ballast from whatever's served at the event.

Eat before you go. Don't assume the food that's served is even edible.

• Photos live on. Don't dance yourself into a sweaty mess or do anything else you'd cringe to relive in photo form.

Photos live on. Be sure to bring your own camera for "job advancement opportunities."

• Leave before it's obvious that you should. No one will remember that you left early, but they will remember you asleep on the coats. The top brass are usually long gone by mid-evening. Follow their example.

No one pays attention to when anyone leaves. Seriously. And if they do, they are probably just making sure no one is stuck in the bathroom.

• Can't trust yourself to get through the party without a misstep? Don't go.

Oh my hell. Are you really that much of a loser you can't go to a cocktail party? How about a wedding reception? Been to one of those?

Bottom line, have fun, don't be a jerk and get home safe. I fyou are too worried about what you look like, everyone will notice and it will be a complete waste of time and booze.

You're Gonna Look Better in your Holiday Sweater

OK, so it's no secret I love shopping and hanging out with gay men. I am of the opinion that you can never have too many gay men in your life.

I read the Ross Blog daily because I think he is just hilarious and fun and it's like a visit with a gay man every single day. Plus, his talky blogs are to-die-for-funny.

Today's sample is HILARIOUS! I can imagine me and Shane S. doing the same thing.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I Forgot All About Enid Greene

So I am sitting at my desk, wrapping things up for the day when a call comes in, quickly flashing on my screen, then dissapearing. Apparently the caller realized he'd called the wrong desk. But as the name flashes on my ID, I am transported back to 1991, working on the SLCC Newspaper, and having a new reporter shadowing me as we do restaurant reviews and interviews ...Brandyn.

Could it be? Naw, it's not possible. He does have a unique name, though.

So I call the number back and get voicemail.

"Hi Brandyn, this is Connie in Operations. You called me. Then hung up, so I am sure you probably didn't need to talk to me. But you should call me back. I think we went to College together."

The next morning, Brandyn calls back, "OH HELL! It really IS you!"

The next 15 minutes were spent catching up on life. He's worked at my company for 13 years and is the Manager of IT. The Manager. He remembers all about our exploits and interviews, even reminding me that we had interviewed Enid Greene and what a wack job we thought she was. I had completely forgot all about that. We reminiced about the crazy Editor and Assistant Editor, who were getting married, and who honestly scarred me. It was great to catch up.

Oh, and he dialed my number completely on accident. Completely. What are the odds?

The Universe is responding to my quest of positive and fun people. We'll be having lunch next week and I am sure it wil be as if 15 years haven't passsed at all.

Just pure awesomeness.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oh, the Connection via Text

Me; “So, I had a dream about you last night. And Nicole. I dreamed the three of us were on top of a building, on the roof, taking a photography class. But we didn’t have any cameras. Ironic, no?”
Corinne; “Ha ha! Weird! I just signed up last night for a photography class for next semester!”
Me; “Shut up!”
Corinne; “For real!”

Time and distance – small insignificant things between true friends. Miss her guts, but she will be coming to visit me this week for milk and cookies, or somesuch.

Last night shaped up to be a very nice evening. Sarah came over and we had chicken garlic pizza, chocolate chip cookies and I started my craft making projects. I came home early from work because my migraine was starting to come back, so I took my anti-nausea meds, and they made me a wee tired, so sewing on my machine wasn’t the best idea I’ve had, but I did get a lot accomplished. Then we watched the masterpiece Nacho Libre.

“Chancho, when you are a man, sometimes, you wear stretchy pants in your room. It’s for fun.”

Tonight will be more Sewing with Connie projects, and hopefully some incense making, depending on if I get my supplies in the mail today. One can hope!

LOVE out to Toni – good thoughts on the new meds and healing.

My message from the Universe for today:

Here are 3 sure-fire steps that will take you from wishing upon a star to being one:
Imagine your dreams as if they already exist.
Speak as if they already exist.
And act as if they already exist.

Have a great Tuesday!

Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne)

I’ve been receiveing the 12 days of Christmas Cookies from the Food Network, and it’s really fun – cookies from all over the world. They had a traditional Greek cookie recently, too, which made me smile. I may make those for Christmas.

Here’s one that caught my eye. I’m going to have to try it. Soooo Pretty!

These are a classic German Christmas cookie; you'll find them in most every German household as soon as St. Nicholas' Day (December 6) rolls around. These gluten-free cookies are a cross between a macaroon and a meringue, with a hint of nutty spiciness. We find them truly addictive. They're designed to keep for a long time - they get chewier as time passes.

Difficulty: Medium
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 2 dozen stars

2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling
15 ounces sliced almonds, with skin (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Sift the confectioners' sugar.

Put 1/2 cup of the sifted confectioners' sugar, 10 ounces (3 heaping cups) of the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.

Whip the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more. Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies.

Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off a sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.

Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Excess dough can be rerolled.) Use a small spoon, brush or offset spatula to spread the reserved meringue over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. Press or sprinkle remaining sliced almonds in a decorative pattern into the meringue.

Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Busy baker's tips: The dough can be frozen between the sheets of paper for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days.