Saturday, December 31, 2011

Biking for Bruises

          I hadn’t been on a bicycle in twenty years. And now I have proof—a bruise the size of Nebraska on my left thigh. That old adage, “It’s as easy as riding a bike?” For a five-year-old kid, maybe. For  me, not so much.

            We’d decided to get away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays and spend a few days at the beach. Since we don’t have access to any beachfront property, the best we could do was take the RV and park it near the water. Half Moon Bay had just the site we were looking for, located only a short walk to the beach. And just down the street was the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where we could sneak in, have a drink, and watch the sun set over the ocean while pretending to be rich.

            After arriving in the early afternoon, we couldn’t wait to see the local sights. The only problem was, we didn’t have a car. While we like having a portable condo to take on these mini-vacations, we can’t exactly drive it around town, so we brought along our bikes for transportation.

            When the kids were in school, I used to ride my bike all the time—down to the library or the grocery store or café. I’d pick up whatever I needed (as long as it was lightweight, easy to carry and wouldn’t spill) and be back in time to greet the kids. Back then I could even ride with no hands—and no helmet!

            But obviously some time has passed since my trick-riding days. After hopping onto my bike at the RV park, seconds later I found myself lying on the pavement, entangled in the bike, my leg throbbing. My thigh soon looked as though it had been hit by a meteorite, when in fact I’d been betrayed by my own planet Earth.
“Are you all right?” called one of the many nearby RVers who had witnessed the humiliating scene. I jumped up quickly, brushed myself off, and said through the pain, “I’m okay! I’m okay!”

            To prove I wasn’t a bike wimp, I remounted the bike and slowly made my way out of the park. Ten minutes later I arrived at the Ritz, huffing and puffing like a lifetime smoker at high altitude. And that was after spending most of the ride walking my bike up the small inclines while pretending to stop and take in the stunning view. 

            A woman who had left the RV park at the same time as I had—on foot, mind you—passed me several times during my oxygen-recovery breaks, and eventually beat me to the hotel. I complimented her on her athleticism; she asked me if I needed an ambulance or a defibulator. When we returned to the RV, I admired my humungous bruise in the mirror, swallowed some Ibuprofen, and took a two-hour nap. Later that afternoon, my husband suggested we take another bike ride, this time to a nearby restaurant for dinner. I showed him my bruise, which I hoped would provoke sympathy, but instead brought about mocking laughter and childish name-calling.

            That’s when I called a cab.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Crafting a Christmas Party

'Twas only a few weeks until Christmas and I still wasn't in the holiday spirit. I thought about making cookies (too fattening), going shopping (can't afford it), writing a letter to St. Nick (he doesn't have email), and wrapping gifts (don't have any yet), but nothing seemed to do the trick.

So when my daughter-in-law Sue suggested we host a Christmas crafting party at my house, I jumped at the idea like a reindeer to a roof. Since she's the talented one, I put her in charge of teaching a bunch of our friends how to make festive Christmas cards, gift tags and paper decorations.

Meanwhile, I prepared the snacks (sandwich roll-ups from Costco), desserts (chocolate balls from Costco), and drinks (apple cider from Costco, spiked with caramel sauce). Unfortunately, Costco was out of sugarplums.

I got my husband to haul out the Christmas decorations from the attic and we went through the boxes to see which ones hadn't been eaten by mice. My Santa's Village was chipped, my peppermint stick candles were lopsided, and there were holes the size of oranges in all the personalized stockings we were supposed to hang by the chimney with care.

So my husband and I dashed away to the store to replace our heirlooms and, while we were there, we bought one of those inflatable decorations to set in the yard. They were out of miniature sleighs with eight tiny reindeer, so we opted for the ginormous RV that featured a tipsy-looking Santa who pops out
of the door whenever he feels like it. As soon as we set it in the yard, last week's hurricane immediately blew it into the neighbor's yard.

Finally it was party time. Sue set up tables filled with craft supplies and cookies. I turned on the Christmas Music Channel that plays "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" every hour, and lit the fragrant candles to cover the smell of cat litter down the hall.

When the herd arrived, I sedated everyone with chocolates, cookies and cupcakes. Then Sue showed everyone how to make gift card holders out of brown paper lunch bags. Despite my misgivings, I was impressed with the end result, mainly because I can only make lunch bags out of brown paper lunch bags.

The clatter of women chatting could probably be heard clear up at the North Pole, but it was nice seeing mothers and daughters and friends and family sharing shopping horror stories (the stores are out of Fijits!), recipes for Christmas cheer (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Mojitos), plans for the holiday vacation (returning gifts), and the latest episodes of "Hollywood Housewives" ("Oh no, she did-ENT!")

The time flew by in a flash and, in a twinkling, I had three dozen Christmas cards ready to go. They turned out so cute, I decided to keep them and email electronic cards to all my friends instead.

I can't wait until next year. I'm planning to have a bunch more Christmas parties -- a cookie-exchange party, an ornament-making party, a tree-trimming party, a fruitcake-tossing party, and even a party for every one of the 12 days of Christmas!

I'd better get to work making the invitations. Maybe next week I'll have a party invitation-making party. Meanwhile, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good holiday.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Occupying Disneyland for a Good Cause

    Everybody seems to be occupying some place these days. But I’m confused about all the various reasons. It sounds like some folks want the rich people to give them their money, others want the banks to give them their money, and still others want Wall Street to give their money to someone other than Bernie Madoff. 
Basically, people just seem to want more money.

    Back in the days when we used to protest, we didn’t turn the event into a camp-out/street party/dog park. We held signs, chanted “We Shall Overcome,” then went home and did our homework and fed the dog and took a shower. These days it’s all about “occupying.”

    So I decided to participate in the Occupy Disneyland movement. It required spending a lot of money, but I like to think I was helping the economy while sticking it to the man—or the mouse—as my editor suggested. Truthfully, I just wanted to take the grandkids to the Happiest Place on Earth while I could still afford it.

    Along with my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren, four-year-old Luke and eighteen month-old Lyla, I arrived at Disneyland and joined the other occupiers, who were all in good spirits, wearing goofy grins, goofy T-shirts, and Goofy hats. The park was lit up like a Christmas tree, with more lights than National Lampoon’s Griswold house. We immediately noticed a crowd gathering at the It’s a Small World ride and headed over to find families of protesters riding in little boats, holding cameras, and singing along to holiday tunes. (Apparently previous occupiers had demanded that the annoying “It’s a Small World” theme song be replaced it with “Jingle Bells.”)

    By the time we were done occupying most of the A-list rides, the Castle Fireworks were about to start. As we stood united with our brothers and sisters, all there to help the economy, we watched the sky come alive with actual Disney-made snow! It was, well, magical, and I felt proud that part of my admission fee of eighty dollars helped pay for at least a few flakes of that snow.

    While we didn’t bring any tents to the Occupy Disneyland event, we did stay in a cheap hotel across the street, so we’d have more money to spend on the ten-dollar hamburgers at the park. Each day the grandkids rose at 5:45 am and jumped on my fold-up couch-bed until I awoke and got them the 99-Percenter’s breakfast-of-choice—McDonalds.

As we waited for their parents to wake up, the grandkids played with the mini refrigerator, the hotel key, the ice bucket, the window shutters, the paper cups, the coffee filters, my purse, and the fold-up couch-bed. They probably had more fun than on the rides at the park, but that wasn’t really helping the economy, so we returned to the Magic Kingdom and stayed there until we ran out of cash and credit. Finally we packed ourselves into the car—parents in the luxury front seats, me in the back sandwiched between the two grandkids in their ginormous car seats—and began the seven-hour drive home.

    All in all, we had a great time occupying Disneyland and accomplished our goal of helping the economy. Now, with Christmas coming up, I’ll soon be occupying the mall. For a good cause, of course.