It's definitely time to blog.
Usually when I blog, I have an idea or I'm upset about something. Not this time. I believe I'll be launching into what my English teacher used to call "stream of consciousness."
Or was it "stream of conscience?"
I'll tell you what's been bugging me for a long time lately. The cowboy on the Canyon Center.
You know, the shopping center with Big Lots and T.J. Maxx and my favorite Starbucks on Soledad between Camp Plenty and Whites Canyon Roads. It recently underwent a renovation and façade "improvement" that must have set back the owners a few million simoleons.
But the cowboy, the loyal mascot that has graced the entrance monuments ever since that center was built (maybe 30 years now?) is a chipped and fractured styrofoam embarrassment.
It's bad enough that the only cowboy-themed business (Rattlers BBQ, still the best in the valley) left with not so much as a slap of the saddlebag. Sadly, the Canyon Center cowboy, once proud and playful and representative of all that is great and good about Canyon Country (our high school - Canyon - ROCKS, thank you very much) gazes wistfully over the driveway with one eye, one arm and one foot, chipped away by indifferent and rowdy rustlers.
Fix him, please. Restore his luster, his prairie gusto and grandeur. Let us be lassoed in by a deal, a meal or cup o'java that makes us yell "YIPPEE-YI-O-KIYAY" before we tackle our mundane daily tasks.
I can see the wink in his eye. Or I want to. So fix him.
It's the least you can do for our Western hero. And will be infinitely cheaper than the fake second story you put on all those stores.
* * * * * * * *
All right, enough about the symbolism in the valley (I'm saving an even better one for next time...)
Let's talk about the holidays.
Were they as different for everyone else as they were at our house?
And were they as FANTASTIC?
My family and many of my theater rats were involved in putting on the Christmas show, "Miracle on 34th Street" at the Canyon Theatre Guild this year, so we were hardly ever home. We knew going in that the show would close on the 21st, so if we were going to do any preparation for Christmas, we had three days.
I had already invited 20 people for dinner on Christmas Day. Piece of cake.
It was the tree and presents and decorations and other stuff that got dramatically changed.
Mid-November, the weekend before the show - also known as hell weekend for set building - we went to the Festival of Trees, which gave us an opportunity to purchase a wreath and inspired me to bug my husband to put lights on the house and get out the decorations.
After set build and dry tech, of course.
A few more days, an hour here and there, and the inside of the house was half-decorated.
No tree. No plans for tree, either. No time.
Show opened and it was Thanksgiving. Our son came home from Virginia and we were the fabulous five for a week. Non-stop togetherhood, as we like to refer to it.
Somehow we also earned the title of Backyard Beer Pong Center of the Universe.
Don't laugh, I have the deer bell to prove it.
December began and we were full-tilt into the show and the other holiday ennui of parties, gatherings, meetings and Things That Take You Out Of Your House.
Mid-December, still no tree. Christmas is closing in.
Did I mention that even if there was a tree, I hadn't had time to shop for presents? I think I had one stocking stuffer in the closet.
Worse than that, the economy dictated that, should I find shopping time, there wasn't much to contribute to the local economy except my best wishes.
But a tree would help.
2009 brought a big change in my life, replacing my beloved SUV with a sedan that believes itself far above ferrying an evergreen on the roof from tree lot to home.
Luckily, one of the boys who hang around my house drives a truck. Asking politely, we headed off for the lot after work (yes, the sun had gone down, but there's an amazing flashlight app on the iPhone) and picked out a tree. A few strokes of the saw and the tree was in the truck bed, where it stayed until after the show, when we stayed up late to put it up and attempt decoration.
My husband and daughter lit the tree and the boys and I decorated. Kind of.
In the daylight, the gingerbread man on steroids was the only thing that set our tree apart from Charlie Brown's. But it was a tree.
Still no presents. No time. Didn't matter.
One night was especially ecumenical - I attended both "Follow the Star" (a wonderful gift to the community from Bethlehem Lutheran Church) and my BFF's Hanukkah party.
Latkes and "disciple" coffee - what a gourmet feast!
Our son came back for Christmas (thank you, United Airlines, for losing his luggage and giving him a $300 "we're sorry" credit), and we resumed the togetherhood crusade. Lots of food was involved, lots of people at the house and a little bit of running around.
What we did different this time was stopped and caught our breath.
We made time.
There was time for a drink at Fridays.
There was time for a walk around the mall.
There was time to admire the streetscape in Newhall.
There was time to visit with people we hadn't seen in a long time.
On Christmas eve, we exchanged unwrapped gifts - no time and didn't want to waste the wrapping paper - but enjoyed mostly the gift of being together.
We had our traditional taco salad dinner, and the kids cleaned up after.
One daughter and I went to church. I saw puppets fly into the "Manger Zone" and sang carols my daughter marveled that I knew.
(There's a lot of choir loft dust in my past, sweetie. Let's talk)
Back home, more warmth of family and the extra kids who show up for Sunday dinner.
One of them played Santa while we watched "White Christmas" and they sat around the fire pit. Later, we followed Bing and Danny with "The Hangover," which will now become part of our Christmas tradition.
The next day, 20 people showed up for the gift of food and the beer pong tables rocked into the early morning. It was heavenly.
And when I came back to work a few days later, I was chatting with the dentist next door. She asked me how my Christmas was, adding that several of her patients mentioned that they didn't have a lot of money, but spent the holiday just being with friends and family and seemed to have a better time.
Smiling, I reassured her that we were with them. In fact, I'd say it was one of the best Christmases.