Does Bubble Wrap Have a Right Side Up?

The calendar tells me it’s closer to Valentine’s Day than it is to Christmas, and yet until yesterday the stockings were still hung by the chimney with care. There’s no room for Cupid’s arrows and heart-shaped chocolates when your home is still overrun with elves and 8 tiny reindeer.

Traditionally, the family commences de-decorating on the first day of the New Year. It takes all the 12 Days of Christmas and then some to get each turtle dove and leaping lord out of its box, but usually we’ve closed the book on Christmas by January 2nd.

Not this year.

De-Christmasing requires heavy artillery, dogged determination, and a stiff drink.

It’s hard to let go of the holiday spirit when you’re buried under a snow drift. Plus, the 9 dancing ladies find the basement very dreary. My feet were dragging, but eager to begin the march towards robins, daffodils, and bunnies, I finally armed myself for de-Christmasing.

I stood in front of the table and assessed my supplies. It was all there:

A roll of bubble wrap, 4 feet in diameter

3 rolls of scotch tape

2 lbs of tissue paper (acquired for free from an unattended cash register in the menswear department at Bloomingdales)

Empty plastic boxes and large, brown department store bags

2 Sharpies– one red, one black

Bottle of gin

A straw

In the past, stowing away Christmas has been left to my father — which explains why more than one of the reindeer are missing feet. It’s also why I never realized how much more work it is to put away the holiday cheer than it is to spread it. A whole day spent wrapping wreaths in tissue paper and  porcelain evergreens in bubble wrap. A whole day sorting gift wrap into drawers and bells into boxes. A whole day nagged by the question: does bubble wrap have a right side up? I guess I’ll find out in 11 months when I unwrap Mickey Santa.

The glow of LED lightbulbs in the snow -- it's a carnival in ice crystals

One thing I refused to take down and store away are the outdoor lights. The city is swamped in slush. The sidewalks smothered in Mt. Everest-sized snow piles. Winter is growing dreary. Yet, the red, green, and blue lights bring a bit of joy. There’s something about looking out the window at the glow of LED lightblubs playing on the snow that cuts through the gray gloom — it’s a little carnival in ice crystals. The winter promises to be long. Will I be willing to put away the Christmas lights before July?  Here’s hoping.

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A Soundtrack for Yet Another Snow Day

A month and a week into winter and we’ve been bludgeoned by 7 snowstorms. Record accumulations. Headline clean-up catastrophes. Headline clean-up triumphs. Temperatures at historic lows. A persistent winter wonderland.

Enough with all this ice. Winter, I'm over you.

There’s another storm raging outside my living room window. The snow sits so heavily on bare branches that the wailing winds can’t budge them. Yes, if there was ever a January to ignore the world and cozy up in front of the fire with someone cuddly, January 2011 has been the January for it. But the novelty of mornings spent shoveling followed by afternoons spent snowshoeing, has worn off.  After 7 snow storms, I’ve had enough of winter. I’m over cozy. Give me sunny.

I’ve been looking at pictures of my last trips to Cozumel and Cuba, longing for a beach. To get me through another icy day locked at home, I’ve assembled a  summery, sing-alongable playlist that will hopefully get me through another snow day:

  1. We Gotta Get Out of This Place by The Animals — There’s a blizzard. It’s below freezing. Get me outta here. nuff said.
  2. Mercy by Duffy — These snowflakes have me begging the weather gods for mercy.
  3. Temperature by Sean Paul — please, give me some place (or someone) with the right mercury reading to shelter me from the storm.
  4. July, July by The Decemberists– It’s mostly because of the title, but the fact it’s a great sing-along song doesn’t hurt either.
  5. Louie, Louie by Chuck Berry — There’s something about Chuck Berry that always makes me think convertibles, flip-flops, and summer nights.
  6. Brazil by Pink Martini — Smooth and jazzy, a song about June moons and exotic love. Yes, please.
  7. Everything about Sheryl Crow makes me think of sunshine

    All I Wanna Do by Sheryl Crow — …is have some fun. Hypothermia is not fun.

  8. Pacific Coast Party by Smashmouth — Smashmouth always provides the quintessential summer soundtrack. This is a song about California, California sun, and California parties. It’s 40 degrees warmer in California.
  9. Someone to Call my Lover by Janet Jackson — Carefree Janet
  10. Alejandro by Lady Gaga — What’s a playlist without a little Gaga? And when vacations are on the brain, there’s nothing like daydreams about a Spanish lover to take you far, far, away. A winter wonderland doesn’t stand a chance.

The Incident of the Raccoon in the Night Time

I feel I should preface this story by telling you that, despite incidents like the one I’m about to recount, my parents are determined to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary come this September.

Over the years, my father has saved everything from mourning doves to families of squirrels.

My father is a notoriously mushy animal lover. He claims that if he could do it all over again, he’d design fighter jets for the Air Force, but I’m convinced he’d like to be Jane Goodall. When my mother met him, he had a pet turtle that lived in a pot near the stove. Things didn’t end well for the turtle, but let that not become representative of  the fate of animals to come. Over the years he’s rescued mourning doves, sparrows, rabbits, and families of squirrels, all in addition to presiding over our own pack of terriers. But last week, my father’s dogged determination to save all creatures great and small nearly got him killed…by his wife and daughter.

It was just after 10:00PM on Wednesday night. Top Chef All-Stars was still recapping last week’s episode when my 4-year old Irish Terrier started whining and barking as if to warn us the end of the world was coming.

“She probably wants to go out,” my father said as he pulled on his snow boots, acting both martyr and chaperon.

Only minutes passed before he was dragging the barking dog back into the house.

“Aww! There’s a baby raccoon under the porch! And it’s crying. It must be hurt,” he cried.

I’ve never seen my mother move so fast.

“Leave it alone. LEAVE. IT. A. LONE! It might be Rabid. IT. MIGHT. BE. RABID.” It’s hard to know who was more vexed — the dog who wanted to make mincemeat out of the raccoon, or my mother who wanted to make mincemeat out of my father.

“Kathleen! Get me a box and the pick-up-stuff claw,” my father cried over the protestations of both the terrier and his wife.

sure, sometimes a raccoon in your backyard is cute. sometimes, it's just rabid.

“Kathleen! You will do no such thing. Come here! Tell your father he’s being an idiot. He won’t listen to me. Tell him to call animal control!”

“Dad,” I said calmly, “call animal control.”

“Oh, but it’s crying. Maybe it’s just separated from it’s mother. I can save it. Get me the drop cloth.”

“DAD! Leave it alone. We have dogs. It’s a raccoon. That’s a wild animal. Call animal control. It could be rabid.” I swear, it was like trying to negotiate with a deaf hostage taker who was demanding a get away car and amnesty but had turned off his hearing aid.

“Why don’t you call animal control. I’ll wait here with it.”

“No! You will stay away from it! It could be RABID,” my mother and I commanded, in a scary synchronization.

Soon my father was outside with the guy from animal control, searching the hedges for a potentially rabid raccoon with what amounted to two key-chain flashlights and a vaulter’s pole.

After 30 minutes, my father stomped snow and pine needles into the house. “It looks like the raccoon went back to its mother. I don’t think it was rabid. Just lost. Happy Ending!”

The raccoon did not go back to it’s mother. There was no happy ending.

Cute though they may be, in the winter at night time, my favorite raccoon is a vintage fur coat.

12 hours later, the sun was up and my father, 2 men from animal control, and an armed policeman were in a stand off in our yard with a now certifiably crazed and rabid raccoon. The raccoon was exterminated.

“So, ummm, Kathleen, do you want a Davey Crocket hat to go with your fur coat?” he said as he came back into the house. “I have to go back out and do some paperwork with the police officer. Something to do with discharging his firearm.”

My mother and I turned to look at him, “I Told You So” dripping from our eyes like venom from the snake’s fangs.

“While you’re at it,” my mother hollared, “You can search the yard for raccoon poop. We don’t want the dogs eating it. And you know, in 50 years, one ‘I’m sorry, you were right’ wouldn’t kill you!”

“Well, I’ve made it this long without one, so you never know… it might.”

Unforeseen Hazards of Snowdays: Uncovering the Ghosts of Relationships Past

The wintry weather forecast made me feel like a kid again -- snow day? yes, please!

The wintry weather forecast for Tuesday night made me feel like a giddy school girl again. Snow day!? Yes, please! I awoke Wednesday morning knowing that the roads still needed clearing and sovwas slow to advance into the day. Sure, there were things to be done (like laundry and job applications), but why do something productive when the entire tri-state area had braced itself for snowpocalypse and was thus resigned to being unproductive?

Ignoring the stack of cover letters in progress, I began the cathartic snow day activity of clearing out my gmail inbox. Where did those 2,241 messages come from anyways?

As I worked my way backwards, it was somewhere around email 1,950 that I was punched in the heart. Sitting there between backups of old grad school papers  was a lost exchange with “The One I Let Get Away.” The emails were 2 years old and I wasn’t sure if I should delete them on sight or open and read. They had survived several previous inbox purges — there must have been something in the 9 messages worth holding on to.

“Hey there kiddo! Long time no see (could it be that I’m possibly starting to miss you?)” I wrote in the opening email that invited him to join me in my grad school graduation celebrations.

“HEY!!! Well, I know that I definitely miss you!”

I may be a sucker for Snoopy, but I'm no longer a sucker for an "I miss you."

Now I remembered why I saved the emails. “I definitely miss you” was a profound display of sentiment from a guy who was the polar opposite of sentimental.

The first time he told me he missed me was the first time I realized I was in love with him. He had called one summer night because he needed to talk through a rough patch. An hour passed and after we said our good-byes, he threw it in:

“I really miss you, you know.”

“I love you, you know.” But it was too late — we were already disconnected, and I realize now, disconnected in more ways than one.

A few months ago, after years of bouncing around in no man’s land, I finally came to terms with the fact that “I miss you” and “I love you” are not the same thing, even for the most philophobic of men. An awkward Friday night punctuated weeks of silence and sent me home ready to cut the few threads still holding together our threadbare relationship. It took 5 years for the story of us to run its course, but it took less than an hour to delete most traces of him from my every day life. In clicks and swipes I erased old text messages, buried photos of the two of us in the back of already dusty photo albums, removed his number from my phone, and sent old emails to the trash box.

But just as once shared songs have a habit of popping up on the radio or itunes, other specters of relationships-past can loom behind any corner. Some fade as quickly as they appear, others linger, showing their ghostly face every so often in the back of our memory. Luckily, these emails were an easy kill.

Conversation deleted… but not before I hit “print” and tucked the pages away in the back of a notebook. One day, “They Told Me to Find a Rich Husband” might be a book. When that day comes, you can bet The One I Let Get Away will get his own chapter and I’m going to want all the fodder I can get my hands on.

3 Guys and 3 Dates vs. the Blizzard and “Say Yes to the Dress”

The best-laid, over-ambitious plans of mice and single women often go awry.

3 guys. 3 dates scheduled, snowed-out and rescheduled…all for one Friday. Could it be done? The men and the proposed timetable seemed agreeable: one date would be with a doctor for a professional NY sports team who had an afternoon off. The second would be early evening drinks with a guy I had had crush on when I 17 . The last would be dinner with a guy I had uncharacteristically made-out with at a bar. I had the dress, the shoes, and the stamina. They had the charm and the credit cards. What none of us had going for us was the weather.

It was a romantic winter wonderland... but a winter wonderland condusive for 3 dates in one night?

I woke up Friday Power-Date Day to a raging blizzard. Hand-sized snowflakes blurred the trees 10 feet from my window and coated the streets. Date 1: snow-checked, again. Dates 2 and 3: pending.

By early evening, the snow had relented and the streets were being cleared. It would not have been impossible to forsake the new designer pumps in the name of sturdy boots. It would not have been impossible to head out into the night for lightweight flirtations buoyed by liquid fortification. I called Bachelors 2 and 3 — the winter-weather advisory was still in effect until morning. Should we meet wearing our snowshoes or cross-country skis?

3 guys. 3 dates scheduled, snowed-out, rescheduled, snowed-out, and rescheduled.

My dates now canceled, I was content to be snuggled in alone. With my phone turned off and my sweat pants on, I turned my TV on and tuned in to TLC. Sometimes, hot cocoa tastes better when enjoyed along side other guilty pleasures… like wedding-themed reality TV.

Outside, one snow storm settled while another loomed in the coming week.

Somewhere in the city a couple was grateful for sloppy street cleanups giving them an excuse to be snowed-in for a weekend together.

Inside my living-room, a “Say Yes to the Dress” marathon raged and I was a willing, if not unexpected captive.

What to do when your date gets snowed out? Watch a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon, of course!

Unwrapping Christmas Presents Past: an Inner-Child Grows-Up, but Only Just a Little

It was a snowy Christmas morning when I was 4 and found myself standing in front of a large, me-sized box wrapped calico-style and adorned with a shiny, red, stick-on bow. I had asked for an Easy Bake Oven and given its size, I was sure this box was not my easy Bake Oven. I was somewhere between being tickled pink with anticipation and overwrought with disappointment.

It wasn't my Easy-Bake Oven. It was a lavender bike with a wicker basket and streamers. And it was snowing outside.

As I tore away the paper, I quickly saw I was right: this was not my Easy-Bake Oven. Instead, Santa had given me a lavender bicycle with streamers and a white wicker basket. I looked at the picture on the box then turned to the window.  The snow on the lawn was blinding white and the ice clean-up trucks chugged noisily down my street spraying salt and sand as they went. I was doubtful that this present would produce any immediate gratification. But I had seen enough Christmas movies and heard enough stories from my friends to understand that a bike for Christmas was a big deal. So I followed convention and starting jumping with joy, encouraging Daddy to put it together ASAP so I could ride it around the living room.

“No. You can’t ride the bike in the house. We just refinished the floors.” My mother didn’t realize what lasting effects this command would have.

I didn’t learn how to ride a bike until I was 17 and I never mastered turning. Now, the only bike I ride is a stationary spin one. Meanwhile, despite never having got my Easy Bake Oven (I asked for it every Christmas up until I was 11), I’ve become a bake-o-holic. My parents claim that it’s because I never had an Easy Bake that I’ve become such an able-bodied, all-from-scratch cook — I had to learn how to use a real stove, not one powered by a light bulb. One can never argue with a parent’s logic.

So far, my dinner guests have gotten more use out of my guitar than I have. But it's not too late for me to become the next Jewel

Yet while I can now churn out cakes, cookies and pies like nobody’s business, I’ve never gotten over the Easy-Bake Oven. Determined to prevent Santa from once again confusing “bakeware” with “bicycle,” I started writing elaborate Christmas Wish lists, complete with figures, web links, and product numbers. Each list has reflected whatever stage of my life I had entered — from preteen to early adulthood. A remote controlled plane, Backstreet Boys concert tickets, a watercolor box set, a Play-Station 2 with Guitar Hero, a real guitar, books by my professors, Kate Spade flats — for sure, with each item comes a flood of memories from not only that Christmas, but from that year in my life.

But in 2010, I couldn’t be bothered writing a list. Surely, after 25 years my parents knew I was easy enough to please that as long as it wasn’t a bicycle, I would be happy. My mother cursed me as she roamed the mall and racked her brain.

“Look, why don’t you just get me a cookbook or something.”

“You don’t need another cookbook.”

It was nothing short of a miracle that, come Christmas morning, there were presents waiting for me under the tree. My mother handed me an armful of crudely wrapped items with a look of both pride and concern on her face. “I don’t know why I bought you these,” she said. “But I figured we’ll need them later.”

I felt like I was 4 again as I shook the boxes. The sound of liquid sloshing around had me stymied. As I ripped away the paper and bows I was surprised to see a set of martini glasses, a bottle of Tanqueray, a bottle of Rose’s Lime Juice, and a copy of “Vintage Cocktails,” a book featuring recipes from Pegu Club, my favorite cocktail lounge in New York.

“Now, just remember, when you make things out of this recipe book you’ll not only get fat, you’ll get drunk,” Mum said as she cracked open the gin.”Go easy.”

I guess that’s why she neglected to give me a drink shaker.

Unlike the lavender bike, it didn't take me long to put these Christmas presents to use... despite the missing cocktail shaker