Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pink Toolboxes and Pooping Reindeer

It’s nice to have a good report about Christmas!  Once again, this year I had fun!

Christmas Eve silliness

I think widow Christmases require a strange dance of managing expectations that it’s never gonna be like it used to be, but also planning to have a good time so that you don’t ruin it for everyone else.  That was my strategy this year, anyway, and it worked!

We started our morning the way we have at my parent’s house since I was a kid:  with birthday cake for Jesus (we sing Happy Birthday, as well).  This year Ellie and I didn’t even fight over who got to blow out the candle. 

As we were finishing up the last lines of the song, my brother called from Afghanistan.  We decided to try to Skype, so after about 15 tries, we had had about a 30 minute conversation.  It was great fun.   He’s clean-shaven again, and looked more like his normal self (not the Hairy McShaggerson that he had been at Thanksgiving).  He is hoping to return soon, so we’re all so excited!

Next, we opened presents.

My favorite present:  I got tools, but in a girly, pink toolbox.  Yes, please!  I’m so stoked, and my dad obviously picked them because they’re Craftsman (that’s his tool brand of choice).

I also got hilarious stocking stuffers.  Not actually in a stocking, as mine is still nestled in it’s box (sigh. maybe someday), but piled on a table.  This was my favorite item:

What can I say?  We're classy.

Later we went to a movie, an old tradition that went away but has re-surfaced (and we were joined by my bestie), then got together with the rest of the family for the rest of the presents, dinner, and games (That sounds much more boring than the rip-roaring good time it was.  You should all be jealous of my family.  We’re really cool and really fun.). 

It was a good day.  I was surrounded by those I love, I only got sad a few times, I got cool, thoughtful gifts, I got to give fun presents, I laughed a lot, and, it’s over for one more year.  Phew.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Somehow, not because it was Sawan’s family tradition or mine, we ended up always putting a toothbrush in stockings and Easter baskets. 

For him, I always chose either purple or orange.  Those were his favorite colors.  The last one I bought for him did this really cool vibrate thing, without being a rotating toothbrush.  He thought it was about the coolest thing, ever. 

He always picked pink for me.  I finally had to tell him that my teeth were sensitive, and, even though pink is definitely my favorite color, it was more important that I have soft bristles.  Otherwise I couldn’t use it.

Today, I felt a little sad about the fact that I didn’t have a new pink toothbrush from my stocking, so I bought a new one for myself.  I picked a really cool one, with a spinning head.  I’m pretty stoked about it. 

As I used it tonight though, it made me remember a detail about Sawan that I totally had forgotten.  By tonight, the third night that he would have been using a new toothbrush from a Christmas stocking, he would already have had the bristles all smashed down and sort of…tangled.  I have no idea how he did this so quickly (or at all…I’ve never done that to a toothbrush).

These are the details that seem so weird to be losing.  I feel like it’s good that I don’t stress out about remembering every little thing.  But when I remember them it makes me feel sad that it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.  It’s part of the tug of war of grief, I suppose (the letting him go versus the holding him close). 

At the end of the day, my new toothbrush makes me happy.  Here’s to the little things.  Like new toothbrushes.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

I didn't get his picture taken with Santa, but couldn't resist the hat...

As Arthur is one of my greatest comforts these days, I thought it only appropriate that he be the one to wish you a Merry Christmas from the Nail Household:

Oh Tidings of Comfort and Joy!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year,
Noel and Arthur

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The holidays and...Gibbs?

As a fresh widow, I think my very best friend was my TV in my bedroom.  Who am I kidding?  It’s still my bestie.  It’s my companion when I eat (yep.  I have salt and pepper on my nightstand…I figured…own it.), when I go to sleep, when I exercise, when I’m afraid, it helps me to get my mind on something else when I need to.  I logically can think of lots of reasons that this is unhealthy.  I don’t care about any of them.

This time of year, all the shows that I program on my DVR quit airing new episodes.  They take a hiatus for the holidays, assuming that their audience will be too busy going to holiday parties and being with their families.  I am busier with those things this time of year but I still need distraction on a regular basis (so I’m currently taking suggestions for old shows that are in syndication to start watching).

As I was cruising around looking for something to distract me today, though, I saw one of the very first episodes that I ever watched of what has become my favorite TV show…NCIS.  Let me tell you how the love affair began.

I had been widowed for only a few weeks.  I was on an airplane coming back to the states from a London visit with my sister and her family, and the movie choices were lame, but there was a TV show…I watched all of the offered episodes of NCIS and NCIS: LA.  When I came home (right after Thanksgiving), I caught a few episodes on “on demand” and then began the USA network’s marathons that they have frequently on the weekends.  I think that Gibbs, Abby, Tony and McGee helped me survive my first holiday season as a widow.  With sleep being a distant memory, I could catch up on old episodes of NCIS.

The characters are great, the writing is good, and there’s always an episode on.  When I tell people that I watch it, they always say, “Oh, my dad watches that.”  So I joke that I like “old man TV.”  But, the reality is that old men must have good taste. 

It seems silly to be so thankful for something inanimate like that, but I am, and this time of year I feel especially warm and nostalgic toward the little NCIS family that helped me through.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Home Stretch

Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow…

I used to love that song.  Now it makes the bile rise in the back of my throat.  We’ll never all be together again, at least not on earth. 

I’m doing my best to negotiate the landmines of this season.  I’m trying to find my new normal.  Christmas was always something that I loved.  I loved to decorate.  I can’t stand to see my decorations that Sawan and I packed and then vacuumed up the needles the last time.  I can’t even open the box.  The idea of my stocking next to his just seems right, and since his won’t be coming out, then mine can stay in there, too.  It’s all just…nauseating.

So this year I decorated, slightly, with new stuff.  My nephew sold Christmas wreaths for Cub Scouts this year, and they had an option to buy a tiny little pine tree, that came with a string of lights and ornaments.  I bought that.  I have turned the lights on twice (and once was to take a picture for the blog).  I hung up a black and white vintage poster of a Christmas tree, and I got out my table linens and dishtowels that had a Christmas theme to them, because they were in a drawer and not in my Christmas box.  That was the best that I could do.  After I put the stuff out I was so depressed about it that I promptly drank too much wine and spent the next day throwing my guts up.  

The tiny live pine tree
 I have, so far, only had to leave one store because of the song playing (an improvement from last year).  It was the theme from “The Year Without a Santa Clause,” the one about the Heat Miser.  Sawan loved that movie, that song.  I didn’t see it until I was an adult, until we were together, and I loved the song, but didn’t care for the movie, as it offended my feminist sensibilities, and he teased me that I ruined everything.  His actual favorite Christmas movie, though, if you asked him, was Die Hard.  Oh, I miss him.

The vintage tree poster
I’m trying to be gentle with myself.  To not beat myself up.  To say, “Yes” as much as I can.  “Need to have Starbucks today?  Twice?”  “Need to be in your jammies today by 3:30?”  “Need to have popcorn for dinner three times last week?”  The answer to all of these in December is “Yes.”

Ok, six more days to go.  I can do this.  We’re in the home stretch now.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Care Package for my Favorite Soldier

In my family, we draw names for Christmas.  Rather than by individual, we do it by “unit,” meaning, my parents are a “unit”, and each of the four original “Hoggatt” kids are a “unit”, regardless of how many people are in their family now.   We set one budget, so if you get my younger sister or myself, it’s pretty easy, if you have to spread the same budget over a whole family, you have to get way more creative.  It’s lots of fun.

This year, I got what we affectionately call “The Mini Hoggatts,” my brother’s family of four.  When I read what name I got, I did a fist pump.  “Yes!”  But, then I realized that I’m not really sure who I wouldn’t have been stoked about buying for.  I love to buy presents.  Confession:  I slightly cheated.  I had a family to buy for that is currently state side, and then a soldier in Afghanistan.  As to what I counted to come out of my “budget” from my soldier’s care package: I counted what was his actual gift, the football.  As long as I was mailing a football all the way to Afghanistan, I thought I would send some other stuff, too.

I thought you guys might like to know what some of the stuff was that the boys over there like to have. 

I sent a little tree.  Ellie and I found a little skirt, a tiny star, and mini ornaments.  We thought it would make his room look festive.

Candy and treats.  He always shares, so I sent lots of “shareable” stuff.  There’s regular and mint M&Ms (we call them “yum yums” because that’s what Jake, Gabe’s 5 year old, calls them), Dots, Tic Tacs, gum, Sours, and Mint Nougat, my favorite. (Not pictured:  Christmas Oreos from my mom, Coffee for the Keurig machine that another friend sent, plus flavored creamer, microwave popcorn, both regular and cheese flavored, and individual water bottle sized drink mixes and maybe other stuff that I forgot but since it wasn't in the photo I don't remember...)

Books.  Gabe was on a small base so they didn’t have the normal library of books that some of the bigger bases have.  He reads them and then passes them on and they all share.  The same is true of magazines, but for some reason my magazine photo wouldn’t upload to the blog.  I sent Men’s Health, GQ, Entertainment Weekly, Bicycling, and 5280 (the local Denver Magazine).

The football.  For them to play around with if they get bored.

Flat rate boxes from the post office.  They have a weight limit but it’s pretty high, and I’m not sure what it is.  It’s $12.95 to mail one, and we could send ours to an “APO” or Army Post Office, then the Army sends it overseas, so it counted as a domestic package, sort-of, but we still had to fill out a customs form, which is a pain in the hiney. 

Then I dreaded going to the post office, but when I got there, I didn’t even have to wait in line and the woman who helped me spoke English fluently and was extremely cheerful and the whole post office experience took only about 5 minutes, so it was definitely preferable to going to the dentist, and that’s not what I usually say!

One more photo, of my soldier.  I'm pretty proud of him.  Thanks for defending my freedom.  Merry Christmas, Bubba.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Your parents named you what?

It hadn’t happened in awhile.

I was at a Christmas party, flying solo as usual.  There were those lame games that make a party fun.  Draw a name out of the basket, find the person whose name you have while you mingle and talk to them.  You’ll have to introduce them later with a detail that no one would have known about them.  I find my person.  Introduce myself. 

My own name is alliterative.  I have four letters in my first and last name, and they also end in the same letter.  Plus, added together, my friends like to point out that they sound like a stripper name (and that’s the PG version).

When I introduced myself, the woman immediately chuckled and said, “That’s not your real name is it, I mean, did you change it?”  I told her it was my married name, that my parents hadn’t done that to me.  I hadn’t thought through my response; it was just what came out.  I didn’t think about the fact that I was speeding down the road to an uncomfortable conversation.  Her next question…”And where’s your husband?”

Ah, the awkward moment.  Crap.  “Well, I’m widowed.”  Now I’ve made you uncomfortable.  It’s made me feel weird.  I just want to run.  I hate parties like this anyway. 

I will say that the more it happens, the better I am at dealing with it, and it doesn’t devastate me to the degree that it used to.  Plus, I think I’m getting better at putting people at ease with it.  But it’s still no fun, and I’m ready for my stretch of holiday stuff to be over.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Muppet Movie

I grew up with the Muppets.  Muppet Babies was my Saturday morning favorite, and I saw all of the movies (I think I must be slightly too young for the Muppet Show, because I don’t remember watching that).  I think they were PTA movies, remember those?  Did they do those in your town?  Somehow the PTA got some sort of deal with a particular movie theater and they would show movies for like 50 cents on Saturday afternoons during the summer. 

Anyway, when they started showing previews for the new Muppet movie, I wanted to see it so bad.  I also didn’t want to be the creepy adult that was there without a kid.  So I brought it up to my nephews that live here in town.  They’re seven and nine.  I was completely shocked at their response.  It was like, “No way, Aunt Noey, I think it looks so dumb.  I’m way to cool for that.”  Really?  The Muppets?  Dumb?  You don’t want to go to the movie?  Even if it looks slightly dumb, but someone else is paying?  And there’s popcorn there?  Seriously?  And the answer seemed to keep being not “No,” but “Hell, No.”  Ok, not really, they don’t talk that way, but that was the attitude.

Luckily, just as it was coming out, my niece and nephew came into town from Montana.  My younger sister and I offered to take them.  They were stoked about it.  At 2 and a half and five, they’re more the right ages for it, anyway.  We decided to make double sure with the big boys; I didn’t want to hurt their feelings when they found out that I was taking their cousins to the movie.  Caid, the seven year old, said politely, “No thank you.” Bridger, the nine year old, said basically, “If I don’t have anything else that I could be doing, then I’ll go.”  Wow.  Thanks, B.  So it ended up that he went, after all.

Afterward, I asked him if he liked it and he said, “Well, it could have been better.”  I told him it was ok if he didn’t like the movie, but there was no way it could have been better.  It was just the exact amount of sad and sweet and cheese.  I completely loved it.

It was a bit of a comedy of errors, what with the two adults (that are not overly practiced at hanging out with kiddos) to three kids ratio, plus a service dog.  But we all made it in one piece, and they didn’t have too much sugar shock from the candy we fed them.

Jake, the five year old, was the perfect age for it.  His favorite part was when Miss Piggy banged her head on the desk.

Bridger didn’t have a favorite part.

Addy’s favorite part was:  “Um, I like Pink.”  I don’t think she quite got the question.

My favorite part was the chickens, but I won’t give away the joke.  I will say that I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. 

This was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time.  I highly recommend that you borrow a five year old and go see it.

This was the best one I one was stoked about getting their photo taken.