Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting Carded

So I wrote Christmas cards this year.  I finished them at 1:30 a.m. in the wee hours of Christmas morn', as a matter of fact.

And if you're sitting there wondering, "What's THAT about?," you are, in fact, a straight male.  And I simultaneously am jealous of and hate you.

The rational mind asks: Well, why did you feel compelled to write out Christmas cards until 1:30 in the morning on Christmas?  Wasn't that a little late at night?  Wasn't that a little late in the season??

If you'd asked me that when I sealed the last envelope, my answer to all three questions would have been, "Shut up."

But, time has passed.  I've slept a little since then.  So, to answer all three questions: Guilt.

See, last year I didn't send out any cards.  Not even an e-card.  So, like any good part-Irish American, I was guilt-ridden about it all year.  I imagined how many close (female) family members held a grudge because they got their acts together and sent out cards, while I shirked my duty.  I mean, they knew I wasn't laid up in the hospital or suffering from a broken hand.  Which brought me to feeling bad about the faraway (female) friends who sent cards and didn't get one in return.  Did they wonder about my health and welfare?  Would they, too, be ticked that I didn't send anything?  Was I destroying relationships and alienating myself because I wasn't getting around to caring enough to send the very best via the U.S. mail?

Probably none of that was happening, of course.  Except the part about my family.

Nevertheless, I decided to break out the cards I bought last year but didn't get around to mailing.  Who knows why?  Maybe because 2011 would have been the first year since having children that I wasn't mailing a "picture card."

When they were little, Cara and Ryan graced the cards wearing adorable little holiday outfits.  Ryan wore knit holiday sweaters.  Cara had velvet dresses.  One year we even got  a  Santa hat into the picture.

As they got older, asking them to pose for a picture seemed about as likely as a Middle East peace accord.  So I would head to my computer to pick one that captured how fun-loving they could appear to be.  Who knew it was only for a second or so?

Then there was the time two years ago when I picked a photo and had it made up into 75 greeting cards -- at which point Cara declared she hated it and began mounting a protest to bar me from mailing it to anyone.  Rather than declaring martial law and just shipping them out anyway, I went through the process of picking another photo, getting another card made up and going to the store to retrieve them.  Only to get home with cards that had some other kid's face looking out at me.

So, there was that.

Cut to last year.  On top of everything else, I kept reading about how everyone was sending e-greetings.  Or getting Shutterfly to send their cards for them.  All you had to do was choose a photo, choose a card, choose an inscription, input or upload all your addresses and voila, they'd mail your cards for mere hundreds of dollars.

Well, as 2012 went on those same sources that ran stories about how e-greetings were so now and wow began running stories about the beauty of the hand-written letter.  The excitement of an envelope in the mailbox.  The death of the U.S. postal service.

So, yeah.  I felt bad.  I had taken the excitement out of not just the 2011 holidays, but of someone's overall expectations for the possibilities the mailbox could hold.  And I had contributed to the further decline of a U.S. institution.  My inability to get my #*! together last year would help lead to mass layoffs -- on top of the mass grudges from the family.

Hence, this year I went in a whole new direction.  I made an e-card, and sent it to friends and family.   I also posted it on Facebook.

AND I hand wrote cards.  I looked up addresses for those who had moved but whose location wasn't logged into my ragged address book.  I wracked my head remembering the names of relatives of friends I hadn't seen in a decade or more, just so I could seem more together. I even went to the post office and bought stamps!

Sure, they didn't actually get mailed until the day after Christmas... But hey, I was dedicated.  To saving face.  Saving jobs.  Oh, and keepin' merry.... 

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

First Generation

I was going to write a post about what my daughter calls my "First World Problems."

You know, like when I remote-start my car, I think the car should automatically sense that it needs to go into defrost mode because the temperature dropped 30 degrees overnight and now the windshield is frozen and the air conditioning mode it was left in actually is not needed, thank you.

My thinking is, if I'm going to the trouble of remembering to start my car while standing at the front door in my pajamas, I shouldn't have to drive down the street wasting windshield washer fluid in a desperate attempt to melt the frost off the glass before the cops see me because Cara's late and I didn't realize that was frost on the window, not just morning dew, until I was backing down the driveway.  You know?  The car should sense all of that.

To be honest, on the days when that happens, Cara hasn't broken out the snarky "First World Problems" expression.  Probably because of "self-interest" and the fact that a "poorly placed" snarky remark could land her "walking to school" (her First World Problem) or worse, landing a long-winded lecture on the way there about early morning snarkiness.

But Cara often uses that phrase when what she really means is, "Hmmm, yeah... can we change the subject?"

Like, let's say we're at the mall.  And let's say she's off having fun with a friend at one end of the mall.  While I'm, let's say, at the opposite end of the mall.  With Ryan.  Trying to find jeans that pass the school code of "no tears or holes" even if they're put there by the manufacturer and he's arguing through the dressing room door that they're not dark enough, or he doesn't like the greenish hue that's on the blue jean but he likes it on the black jean so can't I just find a black pair that has the green stuff with no holes??

Let's just say that's the scenario.

Then, a text from Cara comes floating in.

Cara's text: "Hey, where are you guys?"

My text: "Where you left us."

Cara's text: "STILL?????  My God, what's taking so long?!"

My text: "Don't ask."

Cara's text: "Well, I want to shop with you, too."

Translation: She's probably running low on money.

This is when my "First World Problem" kicks in.  Because I can't type what I want fast enough on the iPhone without it changing "you" into "Yiu." And "trade with me?!?" into "read ewith me?!?." And "party in here?!?" into "pert inherent?!?"

So I'm trying to fix the auto-"corrected" mistakes, and meanwhile Cara's texts are raining down onto my screen.

Cara's text: "Hello?"

Cara's text: "Are you getting my texts??  Whatever.  What's his problem?  He's a boy!  Why would buying jeans take so long?"

Cara's text: "Anyway, I saw a really cute sweater.  And I want you to see it.  Christmas, hint, hint."

Cara's text: "Plus, he's been with you for an hour, and I wanted to shop with you."

Translation: She's eyeing way more than the "Christmas gift" sweater.

Meanwhile, Ryan's sticking his head out of the changing room door.

Ryan: "Did you ask the guy if they have those black jeans with the greenish but no holes yet?!"

Me: "Cara's texting me.  Hold on.  I'm trying to type back to her."

Ryan: "Oh, God.  Here we go."

Me: "Give me a second. Please!"

Ryan: "I'm IN my underwear.  Who cares about Cara right now?  What does she want -- more money to go to Aerie?  Or to buy tea?!?"

And this is when -- in the olden days -- a parent would just go to a bar and regroup.

But instead, I press "send" and tell Ryan he can put the pants he owns back on and leave the dressing room.  That he is not, in fact, being held hostage in there.

Ryan: "This is bull.  You care more about her.  I'm IN MY UNDERWEAR!"

On cue, Cara's texting again.

Cara's text: "What?? Do I want to read with you?  What's a pert inherent??"

You know, she didn't even ask if I was having a stroke, or my long-held, self-prediction of an aneurysm brought on by high levels of aggravation colliding with the current American custom of trying to appear "not deranged" when in public with your own children.

And THAT'S when it would be easier to just CALL my daughter.  Except cell service is so spotty at the mall, half the time the calls don't even go through or the conversation sounds something like:

Me: "Hi, Cara.  Where are you?  Are you almost ready to go?"

Cara: "Umm, y... I jus.... w... then... st... ...ale... new shoes."

When we finally get back together again, I let her know how annoying I find her text bombardments.  And that it's made even more annoying because of the iPhone's idiotic auto-corrections when I try to write back to her.  And  why is it nearly impossible to make a cell call on the lower level of the mall?

Cara, with a big sigh: "First World problems.  Can we go down to Aerie?  ...And Teavana?"