This Christmas Monday, Dec 26 2011 

I feel like I won this Christmas. On the homefront, I had peace and love. You cannot buy that.
I felt a sun in my chest beaming with maternal pride as I witnessed my children open presents and then balance raw jubilation with deep, mature gratitude. I like who they are. They are on their way to becoming thoughtful, conscientious adults.
I liked having a budget and staying within it, all while getting what everybody liked.
I loved shopping and getting gift cards from retailers to further my dollar. Thank you Toys R Us and Target — the deals were quite good.
The time spent with my husband was awesome.  Coming up with a solid game plan for the shopping with him, getting a lot done in a little time and being a great team. Yeah, that and going out for Starbucks = good times
Not getting too annoyed with Jingle Bell Rock or All I Want for Christmas is You, was nice. Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time is Here made me melt. Baby It’s Cold Outside couldn’t have been further from the truth. It was downright balmy. I loved it.  Hearing Donnie Hathaway’s This Christmas, added some soul sprinkles to the airwaves.
Having Italian food and trying my hand at three dishes I hadn’t made before, and having them come out beautifully brought about feelings of adventure and triumph, and a connection to a part of our family’s roots.
The  warm and happy memories made are priceless. There is nothing like a functional family gathering together in celebration of our faith.
I being relaxed and really analyzing the real significance of the day. Wrapping my mind around the greatness of God’s love for us was overwhelming. Understanding the enormity of the sacrifice for us.
It was, indeed, a merry Christmas.

Making Lemonade with an American Car Tuesday, Dec 6 2011 

My husband and I bought a lemon. It was brand spanking new and the answer to a lot of prayers. I now call it the Heep Liberty. The things my husband calls it are not fit for print.

In the past six weeks, lots of things have gone “kaploing” on this  vehicle. It’s out of its extended warranty. Whammo. What hasn’t gone wrong in the past few weeks?

I sometimes imagine that an evildoer must be sticking pins in a plush Jeep toy somewhere. But I know the truth. We did what any good citizen should do–we bought American. And we are still paying…

What do you get for buying a Heep Liberty? You get  a rebuilt transmission at 6 years old.  You get windows that don’t work or sound like Chewbacca when you roll them down. You get to replace the water and fuel pumps as bookends to the transmission repair. An excess of $3,000 has been spent on this truck in just the past 6 weeks. 

I watched my parents buy American cars exclusively. My father had a GMC “Jimmy” truck in the 70s and 80s. The thing seemed to last forever. My parents had American-made sports cars too. Good old American cars. Vroom-vroom.

Now it seems the big boys in Detroit want to make crappy cars. My Heep has been the subject of some critical recalls. One of which was discovered AFTER my vehicle stopped on the very busy 405 fwy in Los Angeles, right at Getty Center Drive. Did I mention my kids and a neighbor’s kid were in my car? How does that go– Give me Liberty…? Well, it almost gave us death.

These same companies that make these awful cars had their hands out for help from, you guessed it, the American taxpayer. We kind of paid for our whip twice. Where was their patriotism?

Is it too much to ask for things to actually work? Why is the shelf life so short on cars now? Shouldn’t things be getting better and lasting longer?

I find myself fast becoming a “good old days” person. I remember when things lasted. Now, as soon as your payments are up–or sooner, your car is a piece of crapola.

The old refrain of  “buy American”  is now lost on me. I’ll buy what keeps me safe, gets good mileage, and endures.

Where does the lemonade come in? Now that the Heep is up and running, I’m going to trade this hoopty in sheep’s clothing in for something better.

Vacations…Can You Ever Really Leave Work? Sunday, Dec 4 2011 

It was relatively easy to go on a 7-day cruise shortly when I still had that new car smell at my job. My workload, in retrospect, was pretty  (honeymoon period) light.  Preparations were made so that while I was gone, no projects needed my attention. I was off with my family, sunning in the tropics, rolling 14 deep, without a care–smart phones used only for taking pictures and keeping track of the days.

Fast-forward a few months and I am up to my hips in alligators. The major deadline for my industry looms around Turkeygeddon while I plot a few days off to entertain my parents who are visiting from out of town. The first two days of their visit, I spent running back and forth to my computer, checking emails and putting out small fires at work. I mellowed out and it became less and less. The final two days, I soaked up the time with my parents. I figured I had work whipped.

For the luxury of two days incommunicado, I was smacked in the face by emails of things unattended to or worse, poorly done. Yikes!

I realized that I can’t reeeeaaally go on vacation. Not really. Like a lot of folks, the nature of my job has that “hamster-on-a-wheel” feel. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do. But, what I do is what I do. It is not who I am.

I have been on the other side. I went from being an at-home mom to unemployed in a single thought. Translation: when sales started to slump at my husband’s job, the at-home position was eliminated and I was to actively pursue a new gig. Having been out of the market for a nice chunk of time (10 years!), it was exceedingly hard to find something–anything that would help pay the bills.

After much discussion and financial trauma, we packed up and headed to parts unknown to start a new life. And so we did. It’s been mostly very nice with a few challenges thrown in. Having a job is most appreciated. Having a gig I like is even better.

Even the most diligent of us long for moments of repose. I find myself fantasizing about being from Europe, where long lunches and napping are not luxuries, but essential. It is a place where the pleasure of being a human enjoying the family they created is never tinged with moments of guilt.

Work is honor here in America. We have lots and lots of honor and our families break rather than our backs.

What do you think? Can you ever really go on vacation?