Friday, December 26, 2014

Santamas Season, continued...

It's interesting to me all the "traditional" things people do for a really long time, then get mad/depressed when they can't do those things anymore. I've said it many times, but as a reminder - I grew up in a "split" family, and as an adult, I've been part of one... there are very few "traditions" that we do; we just go with the flow. No "Day After Thanksgiving" *Black Friday* craziness, no specific day to get the tree or go shopping or do the wrapping, no "Santamas Eve box" filled with jammies & a movie, no "Santamas Day feast" (obviously, we eat, but nothing specific that *has* to be fixed/eaten this day), etc. I've found it's much less stressful to do things this way because family dynamics change -- divorce/separation, kids grow up & move out, grown kids have their own families, etc.

Cards were out by early December, but I still felt this season came at me a little faster than usual. The fact that my older two kids didn't have their wish lists to me until mid-December didn't help matters, either... However, the last three weeks went very smoothly. It has been a whirlwind of gatherings, baking, working, shopping, shipping, & wrapping. Packages for my nephew and my "Littles" went out a little later than normal (December 15th!!) so the post office was pretty busy (45m line), but they did get to them in time.

As usual, all three of us got in on the baking this year... but, not usual, I ran out of goodies before I ran out of friends I wanted to bring some to! I had to add a second baking & delivery day! Next year, Ace will bake a "regular" (which a 4X normal batch) set of M&M cookies, another round of Applesauce cookies, and maybe add a third kind to his contribution. I will need to double up on the three items I make, as well... or, maybe Princess can make a batch of something solo (she usually just helps both of us).

For the first time, I decided this year to have a Wrapping Party (since I've had so many friends say something about "hating" wrapping or "just not getting to it" until a day or two before Santamas), but the turn out was not what I'd have liked. Possibly due to the late notice (I only gave two weeks). I had a few people tell me they regretted not coming. SO, next year, I will give a month's notice, and add that they can also drop off a small donation & their gifts, and WE will wrap for them.

We also, as usual, adopted a family in need. I like to choose a family I know personally, instead of just grabbing one of those Tree Angels at the mall. This year, however, I wanted to go bigger than I normally do (I usually set a budget of $100 or less). This family has four children, so I asked my FB friends/family for help. My SIL, one of my nail sisters, and one of my clientfriends all contributed, and we were able to give them $100 to Target, $100 to Fred Meyer, $15 to any Darden restaurant, and $10 for Walmart, plus I gave them a tin of goodies, a new outfit for each of their twins, and had some Gymboree & Crazy 8 coupons.

I *don't*, however, set a budget for our own family. Ace usually tells me "Don't go overboard" but since I've never heard "You've gone overboard", I'm not sure exactly what that means. I'm assuming that if we ever had trouble paying the credit card bills (as a debt-free family, we pay off our cards in full every month), that would qualify... :)

This year, Squeaks needed a new laptop. She contributed about a third of the cost herself and Ace did all the research to find a good one for her needs. He got it ordered, set up a date for her to come over with her old one, and got everything transferred over & set up for her. There were a few other things on her list, as well, so we took care of those. Gamerboy asked for specific clothing items & new pots/pans, among other things. We got him almost everything he asked for, as well.

Princess didn't have a real "list" (as she said, her biggest wish was granted on October 7th of this year -- her adoption!), but she does have both an Amazon wish list and a Wanelo wish list. LOTS of ideas on those. She got a lot of the new clothes she wanted, another cabinet for her silver spoon collection, new boots, a Michael Kors wristlet, etc. The only thing I wanted to get her but didn't is a new office chair for her room (although she can buy one herself with her money/gift card gifts).

Ace was on top of things this year, and took care of 1/2 my stocking (I take care of things like candy, beauty/toiletry items, gift cards, and scratch-it tickets for everyone), plus I got a new laptop (much needed), some clothing items, and a new stamping set for work. Princess got Ace a tee shirt that said "BEST. PAPA. EVER.", and I got him a scope & stand for his rifle, plus some clothes and kitchen stuff. My bestie found the dragonfly bowl set I'd been eying for a couple years, plus sent me a really cute penguin mug, and she sent a Michael Kors beanie for Princess.

Our Santamas celebrations have one more round, tomorrow at my SIL & BIL's house. All of our kids, furry ones too, will be joining us for food, gifts, and family time. I am making the green bean casserole (at S's request), plus we are bringing some baked goodies, and a couple of small gifts for them. The gifts for the older two kids, and the ones from Squeaks to us that she brought over when she came down for her computer, will be brought down as well.

Next week I have a very light work load, so my plan is to spend a couple hours on Tuesday (before my one evening client) taking inventory, making an order list, restocking/reorganizing a few things, and doing a bit of deep cleaning. Same thing at home at some point, too... Gotta get our end-of-year donations taken care of!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Burn, Baby, Burn...

As I mentioned in my Santamas Season post, I spent part of Thanksgiving day going through the stacks of notes, filings, court orders, emails, webpages, etc that were all part of my divorce paperwork over the last 14 years. For a couple of hours, I went through it; stopping to read certain things that, at the time, pissed me off, upset me, caused me pain... and this time, I laughed. I laughed at how silly & stupid the Wildebeest had been; how she was jealous of the fact that I was married to him and had a child with him before she did; how her actions & words screamed "I have zero self esteem."

Jealousy, in my opinion, is a worthless emotion. It says to the world, "I don't feel I'm good enough for my significant other," and that you truly believe someone else can easily "steal" them from you. Believe me, from experience, if your SO can be "stolen" that easily, they are not worth your time & effort.

Anyway, that, in itself, was cathartic... but, I wanted more. I wanted to watch those 14y worth of papers go up in flame. A few people, my husband & my family law attorney included, said to me, "Why don't you just shred it?" Because it's not the same. Sure, it would get rid of it; same as fire... but I wanted the emotional release that came with burning.

So, I set out to find a safe method to do so. We have a small fireplace, but it only burns wood pellets, so I couldn't use that. We don't have an outdoor fireplace, yet, and I didn't want to buy one that would work for this purpose, only to have it not be what we want for our permanent set up. We searched hardware stores for a metal bin I could use, but nothing was heavy-duty enough (would melt even galvanized if it got too hot) nor did anything we looked at have a mesh top (you don't want little burning bits of paper flying around; that's a fire hazard).

Then, I thought, "Who do I know who has a wood-burning fireplace?" AHA! My friends, A&E, do. I sent A a message, asking if her fireplace would " to help me dispose of all my legal papers" -- hahaha. She said yes, and offered a few times/days for me to come over. I also had a tin of cookies for her & her family, so we made a date.

Yesterday, after work, I went over. She'd moved since the last time I was there, but I easily found it. I grabbed the tin of goodies, and the huge box of paperwork (seriously, it filled a Costco-sized paper towel box!), and went inside. Her husband poured us both a small glass of wine, and I grabbed a stack & tossed it in the fire. A got a few pics of me (for "prosperity" she said... lol), then we both sat on the couch with our wine, catching up, while E fed the fire. I left an hour later; there was still half a box left, but I told them they could keep it for starter.

I'm still waiting for the child support system to delete my court order from the online accounting, but my next steps are to go through my saved emails (I have it all in a folder titled "Legal") and any files/photos on my computer... and probably deleting them all. I see no reason to save any of it any longer.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Back in June, I removed "Gonzalez" from my last name... legally. Then began the process of changing all my information everywhere else; everything from my credit cards & driver's license, to my rewards cards at local grocery stores. What a serious PITA that is, btw. Anyway, in July, Princess accompanied me to the DMV to get a new driver's license. While we were there, we picked up a Driver's Manual.

The rest of the summer and into the fall, she read through that book. Mid-October, she started taking the practice test at the back of it multiple times, she took the two practice tests on the DMV website multiple times, and she found two other websites with Oregon practice tests and took those multiple times. She asked questions anytime we drove together and she insisted on having us "pop quiz" her.

She was out of town over her birthday weekend, so we didn't get into the DMV until the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. I called the hotline to make sure I had everything I needed (because, although it's listed on the website, some of what she needed I don't have yet due to the adoption). Guy over the phone was helpful (& we even double-checked with the guy at the help desk inside), but when we got up to the counter, the DMV worker told us we still needed a few things.

She was able to get most of Princess' information into the system (although for her SS#, she had to input her old name for verification, then change it to her new one -- I don't have her new birth certificate yet so I can't get her a new SS card), gave me a list of what else I needed to bring when we came back, and reminded us that testing stops at 4p.

This past Tuesday (December 2nd), I pulled her out of her last class (Freshman Exploration, which is similar to Homeroom, except they occasionally have a paper or project, and it's graded) at 230p. We got up to the DMV around 3p, grabbed a number, and waited our turn. The numbers weren't moving as fast as we needed them to, so I sent Princess up to the "Driver's Test Check In" desk to ask the dude there if there was any way to speed it up; she was only there to test on the computer, no need for Driving test, and half of her info was already in the system... He said, "I don't know, kid; it'll be close." Ugh.

At 350p, the same woman who was so helpful the week before just happened to be the person in charge of moving the line along (making sure people had the paperwork they needed ready to go, etc). So, Princess asked *her* if we were going to make it, and if there was anything *she* could do to move it along? She said, "I remember you two; let me see what I can do."

At 405p, the announcement went up first for "Anyone holding number 410 and below, line up in order of your number." And, then, right after that, "If you're here for testing, the center is closed. You'll have to come back another day." WHAT?!?!?! NOOOOOO!!!! Then, the lovely woman looked at Princess & me, and said quietly, "Follow me." She opened her own counter back up, finished entering Princess' information, took my $5 for the testing fee, gave Princess her form to put into the yellow box at the end of the counter near the testing computers, and said, "Good luck, hon." I almost hugged her...

Princess took her test (I told her not to hurry; I wanted her focused & paying close attention), and by the time she was done, the testing counter was empty; no one there. So, she went to the guy who was at the help desk last week, at his counter. After some teasing about her hoodie (she had a Ducks one on), he took my check for her Permit, told her congrats, and sent her to the photo counter. Another $23.50 for that, and she is a Permitted driver! They give you a temporary one (paper), and her real one will be here within a couple weeks.

Oregon does not require extra insurance for a permitted driver, but they do require 10 hours of driving practice before you can sign them up for Driver's Ed (which, unfortunately, is no longer offered at the high schools). So, it looks like Ace & I have some teaching to do...

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Santamas Season

The day after Thanksgiving starts the holiday season. For us, as I've said for years, it does not involve any religious celebrations or teachings. We are an atheist household and as such, we celebrate what we call SANTAMAS. If you look up SANTAMAS on the Urban Dictionary, it's defined as, "Santamas is the commercial version of Christmas, centering around Santa instead of Jesus. It's very similar to Christmas, except Santamas avoids religion like the plague.", but that isn't quite correct...

I do "avoid religion like the plague", but it's not the commercial version of Christmas. The Spanish word "mas" means "more"... so, More Santa! An older, Christian, male family member asked me a couple weeks ago, "Understanding that you are athiest and refuse to celebrate what the christian world deems as the birth of Christ. So instead of celebrating what you deem as a fictional character, you celebrate another fictional character (Santa)......Why?" I answered, "Not so much the character as what he stands for... to me, The idea of "Santa" is the symbol of giving, and we (my family) spend the season doing just that -- giving carefully chosen gifts, helping those in need, spending time together baking, etc. For the record, we do it at other times, too, but you specifically asked about this season." Not that it matters to me, but he seemed satisfied with that answer; it made sense to him.

All of that said, Santamas season has begun.
* Friday, we had our annual Day After Feast at my mom's. This year, though, was a little different as mom is currently on a vegan diet (heart issues), she has moved to a smaller condo, and there were less people (although my bonus daughter was able to join us this year!).
* Saturday, I had two morning clients (as usual), but (first time) Princess decided not to join the Littles and their parents for Santa photos. We actually have a different plan, but I'll expand on that at some other point. We did some home chores that afternoon, and settled in to watch the Civil War (big yearly battle between the Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers). Bonus son was supposed to join us, but his plan fell through.
* Sunday, we moved the furniture around a bit, put all the Thanksgiving stuff away, and got our Santamas decorations up. As much as I love the smell of a real tree and the adventure of picking one out & chopping it down myself, to have one in my home would incapacitate my poor husband (migraines). Plus, an artificial has no maintenance!
* Monday, I started on cards. I have a "method to the madness" (of course), so there are three piles - (1) stamped, sealed, & ready to go, (2) unstamped &/or unsealed (needs pic of Princess) &/or missing address, and (3) name but no address or stamp -- these get pics AND will also have a package going out with it (like for my nephew, my nieces, my parents, etc). I actually have a fourth pile this year, too -- A few "nail mail" packages for nail sisters.
* The rest of this week (besides working), I plan to finish cards & get them sent out, wrap any gifts I already have, and do more shopping (probably an afternoon with Princess after school), including gifts for the family we adopted this year.
* This weekend is a local holiday bazaar; Santa will be there so we're planning on doing pics there.
* Next week, we bake & deliver, and next weekend, we're planning on taking the dogs to see Santa, and we're having a Gift Wrapping Party!