Monday, December 29, 2008

The curmudgeon strikes again

How dare I pay with cash?

I felt like the hapless customer in the debit/charge? commercial where everything is going along at a great fast-food pace and then he pulls out cash. Cash? No one deals with cash.

Would that I had learned my lesson last July when I bothered to spend leftover traveler's checks. On our trip to Houston, I had varying degrees of luck and blogged about them here, determining that I was indeed an old curmudgeon if I expected the debit card generation to recognize them as legal tender.

Some of us don't learn our lessons--or at least not quickly--but I thought I was safe with a fifty dollar bill.

Having made a DVD purchase at Best Buy, I pulled a fifty from my wallet and handed it over. The sweet young thing at the register had seen them before because she reached for the magic test-it-to-be-counterfeit pen and marked it. It passed the test. The test it didn't pass was the one with the little strip running through it. She held it to the light, she crinkled it, she sighed and looked at me.

Could I help it if it wasn't this year's model? It was an old fifty, one I'd received from cashing a check at the bank earlier in the week. And then, in a crowded store, two days before Christmas, things ground to a halt at my register.

She called the girl at the next desk. She explained the situation. I tapped my foot and waited for the manager to appear. Surely someone had seen a fifty which was older than themselves. That didn't become necessary because the second clerk, whether she had actually seen one or not, declared it to be good. Fine, my clerk answered, if it was fake, it wasn't her fault.

Things quietly resumed and, glare or no, I gathered my packages, smiled, and wished for a little more world-wisdom in the retail world.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Love's pure light

We sang Silent Night, Holy Night in church this morning, and I was once again reminded of a personal revelation from several years back.

For the majority of my life I'd merrily sang the first verse from memory. After Latin classes in high school, I'd long to sing it once again in Latin and occasionally, a more daring choir director would allow it. After college, there were the German words, the ones which happen to be printed in our Methodist hymnal, but in the 20 years I've been in choir I think we've gotten away with it only once.

So I heave a mental sigh in what I am sure is sympathy from the congregation who also want to sing it in another language, then I glance at the beginning of the second verse and sing on. (In looking through hymnals for this, I found that the Broadman Hymnal, standard of the Baptists for years, has an entirely different set of verses after the first.)

But it was in the third verse that revelation came. "Silent Night, Holy Night, Son of God, Love's pure light." In my mind's eye, it had always been "Son of God loves pure light." Well, of course He would, but it didn't necessarily make sense. Then, at some point, I actually read what I was singing. I noted the comma and the apostrophe. I had an entirely new interpretation, one that made sense!

I wish I knew it in German.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Logic wins out for the holiday

It was a sad, but logical, moment in our Christmas Season. We had realized last Sunday, the 21st, that our in-house Christmas Season was over. I had the house looking very 'holiday', but the grand party we gave was over and the houseguests had left. We ourselves would be leaving Christmas Eve to spend two days in Dallas having Christmas with the kids and their in-laws. It was only logical to go on and take everything down.

Monday the 22nd dawned very cold. The spouse had taken the week off, the better to visit with the English relatives, and it was too cold to golf, his activity of choice. He was, he informed me, available to help where he had never (made himself) available before. It was a watershed moment if I would but see it as such and take advantage of him to cart and carry. He figured we'd have it done by lunch (we did) and then, his household duties discharged for the season, his afternoon would be open to something more his liking.

I was reluctant to take it all down, but also I didn't relish the idea of arriving home on the afternoon of the 26th and staring at Christmas. My family traditions in no way allowed for the tree to be left up to Epiphany. If anything, we usually spent the afternoon of the 25th boxing it all back up.

Logic won out and we took the tree down. Most of the bric-a-brac associated with the holiday also was boxed up. I left the colorful linens and one Nativity. The reindeer collection came out of the china cabinet and my cat/Texas brag/local vintage items went back in.

But, as last year, I missed most the lights and greenery up the staircase.

I'm over it now. Glad it's down and put up. Waiting under the attic pull-down stairs are the final offerings for storage. By tomorrow, I'll be ready for the New Year.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

And to all a good Knight

Little did Edward Bulwer-Lytton know that his (in)famous opening line, "It was a dark and stormy night..." in the 1830 novel Paul Clifford, would inspire such nonsense as the contest run in his name and the wink-wink-nudge-nudge of many a semi-literary discussion. Romance authors themselves love the "He was a dark and stormy knight" aspect to it.

Which is just one reason why I so love English. It probably helps to be a native speaker and to be educated among people who loved a double entendre and puns. Myself, I love crossword puzzles and I know that those of the Wall Street Journal have polished my skills at looking at clues from more than one angle. English seems to be the most flexible of languages, adding and subtracting as its speakers want. That's an amateur wordsmith's opinion of course. The linguists might know another as versatile.

But for the moment, I want to combine the ending of Clement C. Moore's The Night Before Christmas with a romance twist. "And to all a good Knight." May you come across someone kind and honorable, valiant and trustworthy, male or female. May you be, to someone else, a good knight.

Merry Christmas. To all a good knight.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The greening of my fruits and vegetables

For some time now, I've noticed the Debbie Meyer Green Bags at Wal-Mart and other retailers. A package sells for $10 and is supposed to keep the new in fruits and veggies stored therein. Skeptic that I am, I mentally pooh-pooh'ed the idea (what a gimmick!) and moved on.

Then I sat at lunch with friends who are not easily fooled and somehow the conversation turned to products we were surprised that worked. Guess what was number one on everyone's list? Yep, the green bags.

Never one to fall behind in the newest gadget and gizmo category, I bought a package. Knowing how susceptible my green bananas were to turning black almost overnight, I made them my guinea pigs and put a bunch in.

Well, wasn't that nifty? I was able to enjoy them all.

What else might Ms. Meyer have up her sleeve? At another retailer, I found red bags for cold cuts, blue for cheese, and beige for bread. And yes, I do own them all.

How have they held up to their promise? The red seems to be doing well by the salami and the cheeses, which we consume in rather large quantities, but not always quickly, is okay, too. The bread and I are not getting along as well, but it could be that I'm storing so-called artisan breads in it and then not eating them as quickly as a normal family would. I haven't thrown them out.

On the other hand, the rest of the family had better take note: Christmas! I've packaged several sets, one for each daughter-in-law's kitchen and one for the large family gift exchange. I'll be able to explain to the DILs how great they are, but I've put a warning label on the one that might get lost in all the family hoopla: "Don't laugh until you try them."

I know I shouldn't have.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Lights in the sky

My town is on the fly-way for all flights arriving at Dallas-Ft Worth International Airport from the northeast. Perhaps from the north even. They take some sort of instrument check near here and buzz on by. At night, when they're easily seen, it's like a slowly moving meteor shower there are that many. (And on the days after 9/11 when all flights were grounded, it was VERY lonely.)

Whenever we've been flying in from that direction, we can pick out the local landmarks, especially the high school and Wal-mart. It's fun to do and oh-so-tempting to say, "Can't I get off here? Otherwise, it's an hour and a half back!" And that's if we're lucky with the traffic.

So Friday night, I stood in my front yard, watching the beautiful moon rise full to the north of east, while many, many flat bed trailers with Christmas themes lined up down our street. The annual Christmas parade had arrived. Our property was host to number 12, 13, and 14 so I knew I'd get to see most of it without moving from the comfort of my own sidewalk. The temperature was mild, I turned on all my Christmas lights in response to all those in front of me, and shouted appropriate Christmas cheers to passersby and parade participants.

Then I looked up into the sky. First one plane, then another, and another, et cetera, came over. What did the people in the window seats think? Among all the regular town lights, there would be the static Christmas lights on houses and downtown areas. And in the middle of it, there would be a snake of light, moving very slowly, down my street, three blocks to the square, and around it, then reconfiguring and returning to the home base to dump its elves and angels.

Did the people in the planes see a Christmas parade too? Did they smile as I did? Did, perhaps, they just wonder what the heck was going on?

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Starbucks' library

Each Tuesday I stop at my favorite on-the-way-out-of-town Starbucks. The store has been remodeled with comfy chairs and a few couches. It's very much a cozy place. And since every cozy place needs books, someone with a lot of foresight has provided a lending library shelf. Customers are encourage to take and return, take and replace. Just take.

This is, of course, too much for an author to resist. As soon as I spotted it, I determined to put one of my own up there. I chose A SUITE DEAL, the 2003 HOLT Medallion winner from the Virginia Romance Writers chapter of Romance Writers of America. It's a small book with a bright pink spine which I thought would attract prospective readers. I put it on the shelf, patted it for good luck, got my coffee and left.

The next week, I checked again. It was gone! Someone was reading it!

The next week, it was back. Did they return it unread? Did they enjoy it so much, they've put it there for others to enjoy also? I'll never know.

Over the weeks, the shelves have become full with all sorts of books. There's Nora Roberts and baby care. And squeezed in there is still mine.

I think I'll take another.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Where life and a Parable intersect

I make no pretense at knowing the Bible the way I should, but a lifetime of Sunday School and weekly sermons has given me a certain familiarity with the stories. Occasionally, I can relate one to real life and it happened with the Williams-Sonoma Christmas catalog last night.

In Matthew 20:1-16 (don't get excited--I looked it up. At least I knew which book to start with, and by that I mean Matthew and not the New Testament) Jesus tells the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. In brief, the landowner hires a group in the early morning and they agree on a day's wages. A few hours later, he knows he needs more help, and so he hires more. This goes on all day, and each time the wage settled on is the same. When it comes time to settle accounts, he starts with the last group hired. By the time it gets to those who've worked all day, they're thinking they'll get more. They don't. Miffed, they challenge, and he tells them they're getting what they all agreed on. Therefore, the first shall be last.

This is not the lesson I take from this. Perhaps I blend it with the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) who takes his half the inheritance and squanders it, then is welcomed home with a feast (much to the chagrin of the older brother). The father tells number one that he always had it all and the younger brother could have died with nothing.

Similar in tone, but same in lesson, to my way of thinking. The workers hired first knew they'd be getting a wage and the others were standing around all day just hoping they would.

What does this have to do with Williams-Sonoma? Well, in October, I treated us to a Nespresso coffee system for espresso and cappuccino. We have enjoyed it for 2 months. Then in the catalog I see where if you purchased it now, you'd get a $75 credit toward more of the little coffee capsules. Huh?

Grouse, grumble. Where's my bonus? Oh, yeah, I've had special coffee for two months.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Tipping 180

I had lunch today at PF Changs, a Chinese-esque restaurant the spouse and I are quite fond of. It was early, I needed a quick lunch, and their Lunch Bowl specials were just that. I had the Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and if someone told me I had to have it again for dinner, I'd just smile and hold out my bowl for more. Price for this deliciousness which included soup? $8.50. Add tax and the bill was $9.20.

I looked at it, doubled the tax and rounded up and went to my wallet for $11. I didn't have the correct bills, so I put a twenty in the case and the waiter took it. I figured I'd get back either the exact change, $10.80 in a five, five ones, and coins, or a "round down" to $9, where I get a five and six ones.

That's not what happened. I got back $10, a five and five ones. I counted them three times. What happened to my 80 cents? He just took it as his due? Since when do waiters "round up"?

And why, more importantly, did I feel guilty just slipping a one dollar bill in there? He got the tip I intended, $1.80, but I still felt used.

Has this happened to anyone else?

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