Happy Boxing Day

Every year in December, sooner or later, I happen to glance at a calendar and notice that it designates December 26th as Boxing Day, usually with “U.K., Canada” in parenthesis after it. But what the heck is Boxing Day, anyway? I’ve always wondered, but have been too lazy to find out up to now.

I’m ashamed to admit that until extremely recently, I assumed it had something to do with the sport of boxing, and I always found that a bit jarring for the day after you’re supposed to be celebrate Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Men. But I’d just sniff and say, “Well, those crazy Brits, you know…”

It turns out that I got it all wrong.

According to Wikipedia, there are several theories about how this holiday came about, but the most popular one seems to be that it was a time for the upper classes to bestow a box of money or gifts on their servants. The poor servants, of course, had to stick around and serve their masters on Christmas Day, so they were allowed to go home and see their families the day after. The rich people, probably to assuage their mild guilt for having treated these servants abominably all year long, would give them a gift to share with their families, pat them on the head and send them on their merry way, with the expectation that they’d be back to scrubbing by the day after.

I can see why this holiday never caught on in the U.S. While we have pretty much identical and outrageous income inequality, we would never admit this publicly. We certainly wouldn’t celebrate it. All Men here are supposed to be created equal, after all. The fact that we cling to this myth is why we don’t get a handout every December 26th. Yay us.

But Boxing Day has evolved over time. As fewer families had servants, Boxing Day turned into a day where you would relax and spend time with family. I’m told by a Canadian friend that it was also known as a day when you passed on gifts you don’t need to people whom you think could use them. You might slip a discreet envelope of cash to the postman. It also became a time to watch and participate in sports, and a time to raise money for charities.

For a while, it was also a big day for fox hunting in Britain. For the uninitiated, this was dressing up in finery, tearing up the countryside on horseback with your buddies, as a pack of your dogs chased down and wore out a poor unsuspecting fox for its ultimate demise, for no good reason other than that it was tradition. I mean, it’s not like people crave fox meat after all. But fortunately, that sport has been banned. Now people still do the riding bit, but without the killing bit, which must look just as appalling even without the blood.

For an equally gory take on Boxing Day, check out this article, which describes what they used to do in Ireland. There, it was known as St. Stephen’s Day. Good old Steve was apparently stoned to death for believing in Jesus. So what did the Irish decide to do to commemorate this man? A group of boys would go out, stone wrens to death, and then carry their little bodies from house to house asking for money. I’m glad that tradition has fallen out of favor. But much like with fox hunting, these Wren Boys still do the parading about town bit without the crushing in the birdie’s little skulls bit. Go figure.

I wish Boxing Day had ended there. But no. In recent years it has turned into a time to take advantage of sales, with the same kind of horrifying frenzy of consumerism that we Americans indulge in on Black Friday.

This transformation mirrors that of society at large. First, your betters throw you a bone. Then you passively celebrate, perhaps with a macabre twist. Then you trample your neighbors to buy things that you can’t afford and don’t really need. Because Capitalism is just wonderful. ‘Tis the season.

Happy Boxing Day.

Boxing Day.jpg

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BWI: Blogging While Irritated

So, I’m in a foul mood. I’ve been ensnarled in an idiotic bureaucratic bit of insanity, and the only one who will suffer is yours truly. To say that I’m irritated is putting it mildly.

I’d get it if it made sense. I’d roll with it if the hoops I’m being forced to jump through were mandatory. But no. I’m being put through my paces simply to avoid inconveniencing everyone except me.

And the worst part about it? My brain is sputtering. I can’t think of a single thing to blog about.

I’d really rather not turn into one of those bloggers who does nothing but rage against the machine. Okay, yeah. I do that every now and then. But I don’t want to only be known as the voice for the malcontents. I don’t want to simply rant so that no one else has to.

I want to be both light and dark, happy and sad. I want to be nuanced. I want to be layered, like an onion, only without bringing tears to the eyes of everyone who comes in contact with me.

So I’ll simply say that today I’m annoyed, and here’s a picture of a kitten. See? I can be nuanced, gosh darn it.

Kitten

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Tradition with a Twist

Traditions can be quite comforting, especially during the holiday season. They remind us of celebrations past, and of loved ones far and near. They bring us together, and connect us with the generations that came before us, who made our lives possible.

While I find it soothing to be able to run on automatic pilot, know exactly what’s expected of me, and rest merrily on the back of decades, sometimes centuries, of tradition, I’m also someone who loves to be different. I like to think outside the box. I like to zig when everyone else is zagging.

These two conflicting desires came into play for me recently, and resulted in a very unique and delightful experience.

I am someone who likes to have a live Christmas tree. I’ve had one pretty much every December of my life, and I can’t imagine switching to an artificial one at this late date. Part of the tradition, of course, includes obtaining the tree. On this, the second Christmas of my marriage, we’ve incorporated a new tradition that we started last year. We went to Pfaff’s Old Time Christmas Tree Farm to cut our own tree.

Pfaff’s is an amazing place, and not just because I like saying Pfaff. It’s a 30 acre tree farm in the middle of the otherwise densely populated coastal region of the Pacific Northwest. It’s fun just to walk among the wide variety of fir trees, searching for the perfect one, and breathing in the smell of pine sap.

We had pretty much braced ourselves for a long search, but in fact we came upon our tree almost instantly. This tree was like no other tree on the lot. That reason alone made us know it would be ours.

First of all, it was a blue spruce, and Pfaff’s has only 5 or 6 of those to begin with. We were told that that was because blue spruce spread disease among other trees. I have no idea. But I have a weakness for blue spruce. And this was like no Christmas tree you’ve ever seen. It wasn’t conical. In fact, it was a flat disc. Imagine a pancake. A pancake that is 7 feet in diameter. That’s our tree.

Apparently someone had taken the top of this tree off a few years ago, and probably had a nice, normal shaped tree as a result. Over time, what was left of the tree healed itself and prospered, to become what we were seeing on this day. Our weird, pancake tree.

Tree1

It took us a minute or two to convince each other that yes, we really both wanted this quirky tree. The fact that we were of the same mind about this is one of the many reasons I married this guy. He started sawing away while I stood by, giggling quietly. (Note to self: bring the chainsaw next year.)

In no time, we had it upside down in the bed of our truck. I was convinced that Pfaff would pay us to get this strange tree off their property, but it was pointed out that its limbs would have provided many a valuable holiday wreath, so yeah, we paid up. (They did ask us to send them a picture once it was decorated, though!)

I wonder what other cars thought when they saw the long, naked tree stump sticking up from the back of the truck as we made our way home.

Tree2

We had to rearrange a lot of furniture before we brought the tree into the house. This tree may not be tall, but it’s still the biggest tree I’ve ever owned. It was no mean feat just getting it in the door.

Decorating it was fun. We needed a grabber pole thingy to reach the back corner, and most of the ornaments were placed on top, kind of like Miss Muffet on her tuffet, rather than hanging beneath the branches. We both decided that a star on top would not be appropriate, as the whole tree was basically a top. But we stuck a few plastic yard flamingoes on there because we could.

We’ve yet to have any visitors over to weigh in on the results, but I’m very proud of our tree. The dogs are surprisingly indifferent about the whole thing. I suppose they’ve already accepted the fact that we are strange. To that I say that there’s nothing wrong with letting your freak flag fly.

Happy Holidays!

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McWhat?

The airline industry is pretty big here in the Pacific Northwest. I pass by one of Boeing’s fields quite frequently. (It looks like a graveyard for 737 MAX’s at the moment, since they’re grounded.)

So it didn’t surprise me to discover that a portion of the local Highline Heritage Museum is dedicated to the aircraft industry. It’s part of the reason that this region has been able to thrive. Folks around here are quite proud of that.

But there was a little something nestled within this display that I suspect its curators didn’t look at very closely. Hiding amongst some pins that were supposedly given out as gifts by airlines was something quite unexpected. It was a McDonald’s pin, with its distinctive golden arches.

Innocuous enough, one would think. But rather than saying McDonald’s it said… wait. That can’t be right. Was I really seeing what I thought I was seeing? Doesn’t it say “McShit”?

McShit

What do you think? I had to ask my husband to confirm, as my eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Yup. It says McShit.

Needless to say, this raised a lot of questions. Why would anyone mass produce such a pin? Would an airline give this out to people? Surely not.

So I Googled it. So you won’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Urban Dictionary claims that about 30 minutes after eating at this fine establishment, you get McCramps, which then evolve into McFarts, and then… well, you get the picture. It also talks about the phrase “McShit with Lies” which is, apparently, when you ask a cashier for the bathroom code, assuring him that you’ll be back to purchase something afterward, but, in fact, you leave without doing so. (I’m guilty of that. Sometimes you do what you have to do to stay healthy.)

In my search I also came across several McShit t-shirts, so apparently it is a thing. But one suspects the pins were not given out by the airlines. Corporations tend to stick together.

Am I going to point out this little historical error in their exhibit to the museum? Nah. It makes me happy to think about that pin being on display, and only being noticed by an observant few.

For once, I’m in with the in crowd.

___________________

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Dog Mom Diaries

My dog Quagmire is soft and warm and relaxed at 5:30 am. It’s so sweet. I almost hate to disturb him. Almost. Then I remember the millions of times he’s woken me up out of a sound sleep without even a hint of remorse. So…

“Wake up, Fuzz Head.”

He groans. Burrows deeper into the blankets. Gives me the hairy eyeball.

Quagmire is not a morning dog.

I pick him up. He’s as limp as a dishrag. He’s hoping that if he plays dead, I’ll leave him alone.

“It’s time to go pee.”

As I carry him toward the back door, I notice that the rain is coming down in buckets. And it’s cold. Great.

I open the door and put him down. He looks at me as if I’ve taken leave of my senses. He attempts to come back inside.

“Errr.. no. Go potty.”

Maybe I have taken leave of my senses. I’ve only had about 2 hours of sleep myself, as is pretty much standard on Friday mornings, given my insane work schedule. The room is kind of spinning, if I’m honest. I need caffeine. But first, I need this dog to go outside.

He attempts to scoot past my legs. “Quag. Mire. Go. Pee.”

He reluctantly steps out onto the covered deck. He considers doing his business right there. But he forgets that I can read his mind. “Nooooo. Go potty.”

Appearing really resigned and grievously put upon, he trudges out into the downpour. I am so grateful that I’m not a dog. He can’t grasp that this is for his own good. He just knows that no one should have to get one’s paws wet.

He does his thing and runs back inside. He shakes. I towel him off and give him a hug. I put him back to bed, and he falls back to sleep instantly. Okay, maybe I do wish I were a dog.

I put on my raincoat. I grab my backpack. I trudge out into the downpour.

Somebody has to bring home the kibble.

Quagmire
Quagmire

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Evil Mind Control

Help! I have the Baby Shark song stuck in my head! And now you do, too, if you’ve ever heard it. You’re welcome.

The reason for this is that they were discussing it on NPR during my commute home from work. I went home and watched my husband cook dinner. We talked about our days. And the whole time, inside my head, I’m going, “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…”

We settled in for a cozy evening in by the fire. We binge watched Better Call Saul. My dog Quagmire snored on my lap.

And yet, inside my head, here was the narrative. “Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…Argh! Stop! How do I stop this? Maybe I should replace it with another ear worm. How about Mna Mna? That should do it.”

Hoo! Blessed relief. But for only a second. The minute my mind wandered, Baby Shark slipped right back in there, and I must have done about 10 choruses of that before I even realized it was back.

I tried everything. Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. I Can Sing a Rainbow. It’s a Small World After All.

You get the picture. (And if you’ve clicked on any of the links provided in this post, you are officially a masochist, in the same way that writing this post makes me a sadist.)

I think earworms are a unique form of torture. Lock someone in a room and play nothing but earworms continuously, and I guarantee they’ll tell you everything you want to know, if only you’ll stop. But even after you stop, they’d STILL be hearing those songs for the rest of their lives. And no one around them would know.

As I sat on the couch with my husband, enjoying a pleasant evening at home, he had no idea that I was in the throes of an internal battle with a baby shark. That’s what makes it so insidious. It’s so loud inside your head that it practically blocks out all other thought, and yet no one hears it but you. I even had dreams about it that night.

I find it extremely creepy that it’s so easy to control what someone else thinks about. I mean, 5 minutes after you read one of my blog posts on any other day, I suspect you’d be hard pressed to tell anyone what it was about. But today, you’ll be singing Baby Shark. All day.

I’m up inside your head. And there’s nowhere to hide.

Baby shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo…

earworm

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We Bought Ourselves a Boulder

I never thought I’d buy something that weighed over 900 pounds unless I was planning to drive in it or live in it, but the other day we did just that. We kind of had no choice. People love to do u-turns in our driveway, not realizing how soft the ground is if you leave the paved area. And they always leave the paved area. We have the deep, muddy trenches in the lawn to prove it.

We tried putting several cantaloupe and watermelon-sized rocks there, but they’d just drive over them or shove them aside. We’d just look away and shake our heads as these people sped off with nary an apology for their destructive natures. But now we have our little free library out front, and there’s the fear that some fool would slide up in there and take out a pedestrian or the library itself. So it was time to get serious.

So we went rock shopping. Now that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. Who goes rock shopping?

You don’t realize just how much rock variety there is out there until you start looking. All different shapes and sizes and compositions. You kind of have to have an open mind when making this sort of purchase, because you’re never going to find one that is exactly the right shape and size for your purposes. You can’t be inflexible. You can’t be rocklike when rock hunting.

Personally, I fell in love with a thick granite slab with golden streaks through it. It was beautiful. It had a nice flat top, and when the sun hit it just right, it sparkled. I could have gazed at that rock all day long. Images of kids sitting on it to read books from the library. I mean, I really, really, really wanted that rock.

But dear husband made a good point. It was too low to the ground. Our neighborhood truck driving fools would probably just drive right over the top of it, or a smaller car wouldn’t see it in the dark and would rip out their undercarriage.

Well, shoot. There’s nothing more annoying than practical observations when you’ve already fallen in love. But yeah, I had to reluctantly turn my back on that gorgeous boulder. I will remember it fondly.

There was a better option. It was ugly compared to its golden-streaked neighbor. I was just a lopsided chunk of basalt. It didn’t speak to me, really. You might even say it maintained a stony silence. (Sorry. Had to.)

But it was the right size, and tall enough so that it couldn’t be overlooked or driven over. And basalt is a very dense rock. Nobody is going to move this sucker without some heavy equipment.

In fact, they had to use a forklift to get it over to the scales so we could find out how much it would cost. This place prices their rocks by the type and by the ton. And it turns out that this particular rock weighed 900 pounds.

Think about that for a moment. The average male deer weighs about 150 pounds, and we all know what one of them can do to your car’s front end. This boulder is one to be avoided. It’s your basic working class, utilitarian rock. I became convinced that it was what we needed.

So, we bought ourselves a rock, and it was delivered a few days later. There was much conversation with the forklift operator, because as he said, once this thing was off the pallet and on the ground, it wasn’t going anywhere. There would be no tweaking its position. Welcome home, rock, you’re here to stay.

I had grown up around large rocks in Connecticut. I used to love climbing on them. Then we moved to Florida, the land of sand and limestone. I missed the rocks of my youth. It’s lovely to be in the Pacific Northwest amongst rocks again. But I never thought I’d own one.

It’s kind of sad that we’ll never know for sure where our rock came from originally. Boulders, as a general rule, don’t come with certificates of provenance. But I can’t imagine anyone would bother to transport it very far. It may not weigh a ton, but it weighs a lot.

But the bulk of the Columbia River Gorge right here in Washington State is made up of basalt. So I’d like to think that this rock was once along the banks of that mighty river. It’s kind of romantic, if you think about it.

And just like that, I became attached to the thing. So that’s how we bought ourselves a boulder. I’ll say it now so that you won’t be tempted to clutter up the comments section: Yes, we rock.

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