Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trick Or Treat

I don’t like going to haunted houses – I’ve never liked being scared. Jack-o-lanterns do have their charm I suppose, but carving them is messy and a lot of work for the short time you can enjoy them before they rot or hooligans bash them in the street. We’ve tried roasting the seeds to try to get more out of the whole thing and they just don’t taste good. But going Trick or Treating – what’s not to like? Beggar’s night is still my favorite part of Halloween.

When I was very little, I had one store-bought costume – sort of a rabbit I guess, probably made from some kind of highly flammable material, with one of those plastic masks that are more than likely outlawed now because they block your vision. Another year, after our 1st grade play (I was Mama Bear), I wore the homemade chocolate-brown terrycloth costume (envision something like brown footy pajamas complete with hood with ears, and a small tail tacked on the back). But beyond that my costumes were bits and pieces of things thrown together (not like today where parents spend outrageous amounts of money on rubber masks and complete costumes). Some of my many costumes I came up with were: a bum, a football player – uniform borrowed from a neighbor, and a gypsy – flowing skirt, a shawl and tons of my mom’s old jewelry. We’d go door to door filling a pillowcase with as much candy as we could carry. It seemed like we stayed out all night.

In trying to pass this experience along to our kids, we’ve only purchased minor accessories (a witch’s hat, fairy wings and such) to create their costumes over the years. I did sew parts of them, but we created their looks mostly from things around the house. No expensive masks – we used make-up when needed.

So we would get the kids sufficiently disguised and ready. Walking with them when they were younger, we’d go with them to the door till they got the hang of it. But as they got older and went to the doors without us, we’d stand on the sidewalk waiting for them – and my husband and I came up with our own holiday tradition: we take a 6-pack and 2 red cups in a bag. That way we can walk around with the kids, visit with neighbors as they follow their kids around, and enjoy a frosty beverage or two or three. As our supply diminishes, we empty the kids’ candy buckets into the bag. Ahh … the candy! The girls don’t notice when we sample their candy as we walk (especially the candy bars). Beggar’s Night may be geared toward the children, but it’s one of our favorite holiday events.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lunches with Rules

I have a couple of friends at work that I go to lunch with a few times each month. (First rule: everyone pays for their own meal.) But each time, the predictable conversation would ensue: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t care. Where do you want to go?” Then we’d drive around and end up at one of the usual 2 or 3 sit-down restaurants near our office. One of us came up with a suggestion – nothing very original or earth-shattering actually, but it put an end to our indecision. We each wrote 5 restaurant suggestions on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Now when we are planning to go out, we just pull a slip from the jar and the choice has been made – we have to go to that restaurant (that’s rule #2 and there are no re-draws). This added a little element of chance, and made our lunches less stressful and more fun.

After doing this a couple of times, we decided to add yet another rule. Rule #3: wherever we go, you have to choose something that you’ve never had at that restaurant before. No more ordering the same old thing you always get, try something new. You don’t have to order something crazy, just explore the menu, see what other choices you might like. We each have discovered new likes (and dislikes) that we wouldn’t have tried without rule 3.

We were having fun with our lunches, and we even told some others at the office about our excursions and our rules. Now to take it the next step: Why not share the fun with others? But, who should we ask to join us? The jar idea worked to make our restaurant decisions, why not a jar for this too? There are 40-50 people in our office, so we put everyone’s name on a slip of paper (okay, so we actually cut apart our staff roster) and put them all in a cup. Now we choose our restaurant slip and see where we’re going, then (rule #4) draw a name and see who we’ll invite to come along. Okay, this could be a scary prospect – some invitees would see this as an opportunity to gossip or talk shop. So we instituted rule #5 – absolutely no talking about work or things related to our office. When we invite the “chosen” individual (who very likely is someone we don’t regularly interact with), the initial puzzlement becomes eager anticipation as we explain our lunches and the rules.

Our lunches with rules may seem a bit structured – but in actuality, they have become more enjoyable, it has become a game, and something we really look forward to each month. And since our game has us branching out talking to people we wouldn’t otherwise, we are finding out more about them on a personal level. As a bonus, it seems to also be creating more of a cohesive workplace.

If you ever find yourself struggling to decide where to go for lunch at work or for dinner with your spouse, try playing your own game. You don’t have to come up with rules. But, why not try out #3 – order something new? Or maybe #4 - invite someone along, someone you normally wouldn’t ask. You’ll break up the monotony and expand your horizons.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Strange Bedfellows

If you haven’t noticed (ha, ha – yeah, right), it’s election time. Many people use their blog as an opportunity for posting their opinions on their choice for president.

My political post is not to state my party preferences, but to share my presidential election pet peeves.

A. Political ads - Why do they advertise for a year (or more) ahead of time? Are there regulations about how soon they can start campaigning? I have such overload at this point that I tune them out and pay no attention to them.
B. Recorded phone messages - Shouldn’t you be able to put yourself on a “do not call” list for political calls? Why are they exempt from it? Does anyone even listen to those recorded messages?
C. Mailers - What about a “do not mail” list? I walk straight from my mailbox to the trashcan – they never even make it to my counter for later perusal. The amount of paper wasted on political ads mailed to my household alone is staggering, imagine the truckloads sent out nationwide over the course of the campaign.
D. Personal opinions - Why does everyone assume you’re voting for the same candidate they are? Neighbors, co-workers, friends – from both sides of the fence – they just start talking about the opposing candidate in a derogatory manner, slamming anyone who would vote for the other - without even knowing who I support.
E. Debates - What is the purpose of the debates? No one seems to actually watch them with impartiality or to gain insight on what a candidate’s stance is. They have their preconceived ideas, and look for every example that backs their ideas, pro and con.
F. Media - The media with their supposed fence-straddling – every story seems to have a particular slant, depending on which channel you watch or listen to, or which paper you read. Can’t someone just give the facts without bias?
G. Prejudice - Why does it play into it at all? Does race or gender really matter? Shouldn’t it be about what they stand for, not whether they’re standing in high heels or if they are descended from Africa? Their physical bodies - the color of their skin and whether or not they have a penis - should be totally irrelevant.

Someday, a presidential candidate will announce their candidacy and give their viewpoints. Then they will announce that they will not spend the typical small fortune for campaigning – they will not send mailers or make commercials. They will donate any campaign funds – to the American people, to the national debt, something. That’s a president I would vote for and support.

With the state of things in this country, whoever is elected in a couple of weeks, I will support them as they serve as President of the United States – they’re going to need it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spirit of Fire

This past weekend was Homecoming at the high school my daughter attends. As times are evolving, things are becoming more electronic and so much is geared around the internet and social networking, but I’m happy to say that some things haven’t changed at all. Long-standing high school homecoming tradition is alive and well!

The entire week featured various spirit days (dress like your favorite teacher day, “what not to wear” day, green and white day, etc.). As expected, Friday evening was the football game - and as their school’s tradition goes, they lost. Saturday was the dance - boys looking uncomfortable, girls in pretty dresses, corsages, going out to dinner - the whole bit.

But the part that impressed me took place on Thursday. Late afternoon featured a parade consisting of the marching band, guard, ROTC, cheerleaders, football team, homecoming queens and kings, and floats for various school groups and each grade. They paraded through the streets and wound up back at the school parking lot where everyone assembled in a huge circle. With the fire department looking on, the bonfire was lit. You could see the flames from blocks away. The marching band played various school fight songs. It seemed the entire community was there showing their support and cheering on the school.

I always thought these storied bonfires were a small-town tradition or something out of my parents’ high school years. The pep rallies we held in our gym during the school day were nothing to compare with the spirit and tradition I saw that night. I hope it is a tradition they will continue for years to come.