I went to Lloyd’s funeral this morning.  It was a gut-wrenching experience.  As I had feared, there was an open casket.  It killed me to see Lloyd’s lifeless body lying there.  And when they closed the casket and his relatives wailed their grief, I thought I was going to lose control.  I did cry, pretty much through the whole service.  But I managed to suppress the sobs that were on the verge of bursting out of me, and ended up with an excruciating headache from the effort.

I almost lost it another time when service programs were passed out, and there was a photo of Lloyd on the front.  It was taken at his high school graduation.  He had a smile that could melt the most hardened heart.

I attended the funeral with two co-workers.  One of them was Lloyd’s English teacher.  When we received our programs, she leaned toward me, pointed at Lloyd’s picture and said, “He wouldn’t have been able to wear that cap and gown if it hadn’t been for you.”

I guess that’s true.  In order to graduate, Lloyd had to turn in an English Anthology – a portfolio project that is the equivalent of a final exam.  Lloyd was having a lot of trouble with this project.  His teacher tried to help him, but she became frustrated because she couldn’t give him the one-on-one attention he needed.  (She had a class full of needy students, and there’s only so much time in a day.)  Since Lloyd was a special pet of mine, I made it my mission to help him with his Anthology project, which would ensure that he would walk the stage with his class on Graduation Day.

For weeks, Lloyd came to see me every day during his free period.  We worked together to find the required components of the project, and I helped him to write his essay.  (I made him write it, and then I made corrections and suggestions.)  I helped him to create a Works Cited page.

After the projects had been graded and returned to the students, Lloyd raced to the Computer Lab to share the good news with me.  There, at the top of his Anthology folder, was a big, beautiful 98.   He was so happy and proud.   It was the highest grade Lloyd had ever received.  And he earned it.  I didn’t do the work for him.  I just helped him to understand the requirements of the project.  While we were working on the Anthology, Lloyd would frequently say that he didn’t know what to write.  I would then ask a question about how the magazine article or artwork or song lyrics related to his theme.    He would tell me, and I would say, “See?  You do know!”

So many of our students doubt themselves.  They don’t want to answer questions or join class discussions for fear of looking foolish, or, even worse, stupid.  It’s terribly sad.

But, on the day he showed off his 98, there was no sign of self-doubt in Lloyd’s shining eyes.  There was pride and there was joy.  And there was gratitude.  He gave me a hug that lifted me off the ground.  He thanked me for everything, especially for helping him to graduate.

Sadly, all that potential will not be lived up to.  The streets have claimed yet another young life.

My spirit is so heavy.  I don’t know how many more young people I can bear to say goodbye to.  This one leaves a really big hole in my heart.

P.S.  Right after I posted this entry, I checked the online edition of our local newspaper and was dismayed to read that two former students were shot around 2:00 pm this afternoon.  I sat next to them at Lloyd’s funeral this morning! Fortunately, their injuries are not life threatening.   Still, this is too much.   Much too much.

Song of the Day:  Candle in the Wind by Elton John

The holiday gathering at my house was very nice.  At least that’s what I heard.  I wouldn’t know because I was on my feet in the kitchen from 7:30 am until 9:30 pm.

Actually, I did sit down a few times, but the breaks only lasted for a few minutes.  I didn’t even have a chance to eat.  Just about the only socializing I did was when someone would come into the kitchen to either lend a hand (my sister, Michele, and my sister-in-law, Stephanie) or to get in my way (everybody else).

My mother came over in the morning to help stuff shells, thank goodness.  (By the way, Nancy, I followed the recipe on the Ronzoni jumbo shells box.)  If she hadn’t done that, I would have been greeting guests in my pajamas.

It really was a brutal day.  Little things were piling up and wearing me down.  For one thing, my ex MIL kept asking for coffee and ice cream, and this was before dinner, mind you.  Never mind the fact that I didn’t have any ice cream.  Anyway, I had a mini-meltdown at one point, and had to keep my face averted to hide the tears.

I’ve been feeling pretty awful since then, both physically and emotionally.   A lot of people have had a sad Christmas this year, and I know I should be grateful that all my family members were together, with everyone in festive spirits, but I can’t help feeling like I was left out. I feel like I missed Christmas.

And then there’s this god-awful pain.  By the end of the day, I was in agony.  Yesterday I was hurting so bad I could barely move, and today doesn’t look like it will be much better.  Every muscle in my body is aching.

Fortunately, my niece, Kristen,

took over the bulk of the photographer duties again this year.  I’m glad of that because there wouldn’t have been many pictures otherwise, since I was trapped in the kitchen for most of the day.

While Kristen was busy snapping photos, her sister, Rachel, curled up under a blanket with an Archie digest.

My ex MIL loved the afghan I knitted for her.

I wish this shot of my mother had come out better.  Her outfit was gorgeous.  Of course, she bought it at a thrift shop.

Penny was chillin’.

Ellie hung out with my grandmother and ex MIL.

Speaking of my grandmother, here she is in all her ninety-seven year old glory.

This is me in the kitchen, putting on the brave, false face.

And here I am on one of my rare excursions out of the kitchen.  This smile is more genuine because I’m finally relaxing.  (You will notice that I chopped off a lot of hair.  I was getting bored with my hairstyle and needed a change, but didn’t want to do anything too drastic… yet.)

By the way, in my last entry, I mentioned that we would be squeezing twenty-three people into my small house, but we actually ended up squeezing in twenty-six people.  My sister, Patti, called in the morning to ask if she could bring a friend who had no family and would be spending the holiday alone.  Of course I said yes, and even wrapped up a bag of Lindt chocolates I had bought for myself (I love those things) so she wouldn’t be left out during the opening of gifts.  Then I invited my cousin and her friend, Bob, to come over for dessert.  What the hell.  The more the merrier.

I do have to say that I received some really nice gifts.  I’ve always wanted a red pocketbook, and, thanks to Rebecca, I now have one.  She and her boyfriend also gave me a gift certificate to the restaurant that My Friend and I call “Our Place.”  Leigh gave me beautiful leather gloves with a cashmere lining.   The gorgeous boots and comfy slippers are from Daniel.  My ex MIL gave us money, bless her heart, so I guess that made up for the repeated requests for coffee and ice cream.

I have a dentist appointment for root planing and scaling this morning (oh joy, more pain), and a party to go to this evening, so I’d better get moving.

Song of the Day:  It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over by Lenny Kravitz

Make the Yuletide Gay

December 25, 2008

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for the good mojo. Leigh’s ultrasound revealed a cluster of cysts, but they look benign. She’ll know more when she goes for her follow-up visit in two weeks.

Secondly, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Including me, there will be twenty-three people crammed into my small house. I set up three tables, but there’s still only room for 20. My brother’s two young daughters will have to find someplace else to eat, and so will I, if I get a chance to eat, that is. Hostessing duties will keep me pretty busy throughout the long, hard day I have ahead of me.

Today’s menu for 23 people:


Crabbies (The recipe can be found in this entry.)

Mexican Chili Cheese Dip:

Spread softened cream cheese (8 oz) on bottom of a pie plate or quiche dish. Add contents of 15 oz. can of chili. (I use Bush’s or Hormel.) Spread contents of small jar of salsa over the chili. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, approximately 20 minutes. Serve with Tostitos Scoops.

First course:
6 lbs stuffed shells
meatballs (I “only” made 50, so people will have to be considerate.)

Second course:

18 lb glazed spiral ham

Corn casserole (I have to double the recipe):

Melt one stick of butter. Beat 2 eggs. Drain 1 can whole kernel corn and put in bowl with one can of creamed corn. Add 8 oz. sour cream and 1 box Jiffy corn bread mix.   Mix all the ingredients together. Bake in a 2-quart, buttered casserole dish with a lid in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Remove lid for last five minutes so the top gets golden brown.

Crunchy Cole Slaw (Everybody loves this, so I have to triple the recipe.)

1 cup oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup whie vinegar
2 packets beef flavor (comes with Ramen noodles; the block kind, not the noodles in a cup)

1 lb. cole slaw
2 packages of Ramen noodles. Break them up and cook them according to package directions, although they should be slightly undercooked for this recipe.
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered almonds
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 carrots cut into strips

**Prepare dressing 2 hours early and do not add to slaw until ready to serve.

Dinner rolls


I made fudge, and Mike’s girlfriend is making cookies. My mother and brother, Frank, are also bringing desserts. Michele and Patti are providing the wine. I think I’m going to need it to get through this holiday.

Click here for an interactive Christmas message.

Follow this link to see another special greeting from me to you.

Song of the Day: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Bad News Travels Fast

December 24, 2008

Ms. T, one of my favorite co-workers, had been trying to reach me since Sunday.  She left a message on my answering machine saying she had to tell me something.  I returned her call the next day, but she wasn’t home.  Then I was out when she called back.  I was finally able to reach her yesterday morning.   My stomach knotted when I heard her speak the words, “I’ve got bad news.”

Lloyd, one of our former students, died last Friday.  Ms. T knew that Lloyd and I had a special connection, and she wanted to be the one to tell me about his death.  I really loved that young man, and was devastated upon hearing this terrible news.

The facts of his death are sketchy.  Some people are saying it was suicide, but Ms. T and I don’t believe that.  Others are saying it was a drug overdose, and, sadly, that seems more likely.

Lloyd was a victim of the streets.  Back in high school, it was well known that he sold drugs, as well as used them, but it was just weed, nothing stronger.  I guess he moved on to crack after he graduated from high school.

Before his descent into crackhead hell, he tried to go straight.  He came to visit me at the school a few times, and one of those times he was so excited and hopeful.  He told me he was “going legit.”

He had enrolled in college, and wanted to get a real estate license, just like his stepfather.  His stepfather was a very positive role model, and Lloyd admired and adored him.  Unfortunately, his stepfather became ill and died not long ago.  I guess that was the beginning of the end for Lloyd.

I mentioned Lloyd in an entry I wrote on May 13, 2006, back in my Diaryland days:

A couple of weeks ago, Lloyd and I were having a conversation during which he said, “Miss, I need a shorty” (girlfriend). I assured him that he was a good-looking guy, and shouldn’t have any problem in that department. He went on to say, “Yeah, but you don’t understand, miss. I need an older woman.” I swear I did not see where this was headed. I figured he meant he was looking for a twenty-year-old. Therefore, I told him to go for it. He gave me a big smile and asked, “So, how about it?”

Rest peacefully, Lloyd.

Yesterday brought more bad news.  During a routine exam, Leigh’s gynecologist found a lump in her breast.  She’s going for an ultrasound today.  I’m sure it’s nothing serious, but would still appreciate any good vibes you can send our way.

P.S. I just received some more sad news.  GBW’s beloved father passed last evening.  All I can do is offer sincere condolences to her and her daughter.  My heart goes out to them.

Song of the Day:  Bad News Travels Fast by The Fuzztones

Fifty-nine Out of One Hundred

December 21, 2008

Saw this Meme at Summer Fever’s place.  The ones in bold are the things I have done.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars – I went camping a couple of times, but I’m not really into it.
3. Played in a band – No, but I briefly dated a bass player back in the 70s.
4. Visited Hawaii. How many times? – Once.  I’d love to go back.  It truly is paradise.
5. Watched a meteor shower – It was in the early nineties, and I was on a sailboat in Maine.  What a spectacular night that was!
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (and DisneyWorld) I went to Disneyland during a trip to California with my grandmother when I was 13 years old.
8. Climbed a mountain – Well, I didn’t actually climb a mountain, but I have been mountain climbing.  There is a distinction.
9. Held a praying mantis – ARE YOU KIDDING ME????  I’m deathly afraid of those critters!!!
10. Sang a solo – In the privacy of my own home when no one was listening.
11. Bungee jumped – I have no desire to do such a thing.
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea – While I have spent nights at sea, it was never during a storm, which suits me just fine!  Anyway, I was on land when I saw storms out at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch – Does teaching myself to cast on count?  (My aunt taught me the basics of knitting, but I taught myself to cast on.)
15. Adopted a child – I have adopted fur children.
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train – from San Francisco to Los Angeles during the aforementioned trip to California
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked – Many times.  I was a damn fool.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb –At the Catskill Game Farm petting zoo, I fed a lamb with a baby bottle.
26. Gone skinny dipping – at night in a pool in the backyard of our old house
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice – No but my mother and daughter, Rebecca have done that, those lucky stiffs!
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset – that’s especially glorious at the seashore
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors – I want to go to Italy so bad!
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language – no, but I’ve made up some curse words
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt – that was during a cross country trip.  We saw lots of amazing sights!
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business – with my Ex-husband (building contractor)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching –went out on the boat, but we didn’t see any whales.
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma – What an unpleasant experience that was.  I was hooked up for 45 minutes, but couldn’t fill the bag, so they had to toss it.
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp – No, but Rebecca went to the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter – in Kauai, Hawaii.  We flew under a rainbow!
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy – it’s a book, actually
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square – many times, including New Year’s Eve once.
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone – I got hit by a moped on Block Island (in Rhode Island), and suffered a tibia plateau fracture (knee)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle – I’ve been on motorcycles, but they weren’t speeding
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person – twice
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating – lobster
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life – I performed the Heimlich Maneuver on my daughter, Rebecca, who had swallowed and was choking on a lifesaver (!) when she was a little girl
90. Sat on a jury – No, but I did have to sit through the jury selection process.  And I just received a jury duty notice for January 5th, unless I hear otherwise before then.
91. Met someone famous – See this entry and this one.
92. Joined a book club – As much as I love to read, I don’t like to do it under pressure.
93. Lost a loved one – I miss my brother so much.
94. Had a baby – had two!
95. Seen the Alamo in person – I’ve been in Texas, but mostly we just drove through it during our cross-country trip.  We didn’t really do any sightseeing there that I can recall.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake – no, but we drove by it.
97. Been involved in a law suit – after I got hit by the moped
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee – Many times, but the worst was when I walked into a bee’s nest and was stung thirteen times.
100. Read an entire book in one day – There have been several, including a couple of the Harry Potter books and Mama by Terry McMillan

Song of the Day:  Things by Bobby Darin


December 20, 2008

On November 18th, I received an email from a local company I’ve been doing business with for the past few years.  They make the best toffee I have ever tasted.  The email advertised free shipping, and informed me that I could pick a date for receipt of the shipment.  I wanted to give toffee to some of my co-workers, so I submitted an order the same day I received the email, and chose the delivery date of December 17th.  It did not arrive on that day.  I sent this email to the owner:

December 17, 2008 6:02 PM


I was supposed to receive my order today (December 17th), but I did not.  I really need to have this order by tomorrow at the very latest.  Please advise.

Thank you.

This was the response:

Sent: Dec 17, 2008 7:03 PM
To: Stephanie
Subject: Re: Order Confirmation No: 359


Thank you for your email.  Looking at our records, your order was shipped last evening.  You can expect it no later than December 18th. (Yeah, right.) Your desired delivery date is not guaranteed as stated on our website.  “Selected delivery date is approximate, not guaranteed.” (For the record, the email neglected to mention that fact.  Also, why would they mail something the evening before the requested delivery date??)

Unfortunately, we do not have control over your package once it leaves our hands.  (Excuse me, but they do have control over when the package leaves their hands, which is the issue here.) We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.  We ship hundreds of packages during the holidays and the best we can offer is an approximate arrival date.  For future orders, just write us a note in the comments section at checkout and we would be happy to fill and ship your order sooner.  (Why should I have to write a note in the comments section?  Common sense dictates that you don’t ship a package the evening before the requested delivery date!) We appreciate your business and wish you a very Merry Christmas.

The next day, I sent this email:

Dec 18, 2008 2:29 PM

I just wanted to let you know that I still have not received my order, which means I spent an awful lot of money on boxes of toffee I won’t be able to give to the co-workers for whom I bought them, since tomorrow is our last day of work before the holidays.  This is a most distressing (and costly) situation.

The response:

Date: Dec 18, 2008 11:54 PM


We hope you receive this email in a timely manner.  Our suggestion to you is to check with your local PO first thing in the morning (before your postman leaves for his daily run) if this is at all possible.  I’ve seen cases where the postman does not deliver the package the day it arrives and we have found that our customers have found their purchase sitting at their local PO.  This does not happen often but has happened.  It has got to be there…It was shipped out the evening of the 16th.  We apologize for your inconvenience and please notify us that you have received your package.

This is the email I sent on the 19th:

Sent: Friday, December 19, 2008 2:22 PM
Subject: Re: Order Confirmation No: 359

I received my order today (December 19th).  For the record, the package was postmarked December 17th, the day I was supposed to receive it.  (You say it was shipped the evening of the 16th.  That was too late to ship an order that was supposed to be received by the 17th.)  I’m really disappointed due to the fact that,  as I mentioned before, I can’t give the toffee to the intended gift recipients because I work for a school district, and we are out until January 5th.

The response:

Sent: Dec 19, 2008 3:42 PM
Subject: Re: Order Confirmation No: 359

Once again, we are not responsible for the length of time it takes the post office to deliver a package that is 10 minutes away from our bakery. (Huh?  WTF does that mean?) It clearly states on our website “A desired delivery date and not a guaranteed one”.  We do our very best to estimate timeframes and get our packages out in a timely manner and do not want any of our customers disappointed with our service. We have shipped hundreds of packages this holiday season and have had no delivery issues with our customers.  Something we pride ourselves on.

In saying that, please feel free to return the unopened package for a full refund.  Once we receive it, we will issue your refund.  Have a Merry Christmas.

My response:

Dec 19, 2008 6:57 PM

Of course, I already opened the package.  So, instead of a refund, all I want at this point is an apology and acknowledgment of an error on your part.  You yourself said that the package was shipped out the evening of the 16th.  Surely you have to admit that a package that was shipped the evening of the 16th could never reach its destination by the 17th.

It was not my intention to make such a big deal out of this, but there was something in the tone of your latest email that bothered me.  It was not necessary, for example, to tell me about the hundreds of packages that have been shipped without delivery issues.  The fact remains that there was a delivery issue with my order, regardless of the timeliness of your other deliveries.  There is also no need to defend the integrity of your business.  I never suggested anything to the contrary.  I merely expressed disappointment over receiving my order too late to give the toffee to the intended recipients, and pointed out that the package was shipped too late to be delivered in time.  The post office cannot be blamed for that.

I really like your products, and have enjoyed doing business with you in the past.  It would be a shame to have this incident leave us both with hard feelings.

Merry Christmas to you, too.

Is it me???  Am I turning into a Scrooge?? Or am I justified in feeling frustrated by the owner’s refusal to assume responsibility for the late delivery?  I just want her to admit that it was her fault, instead of blaming the post office.  The package was actually delivered in a timely fashion, considering that it was brought to the post office on the evening of the 16th.

Oh well.  At least it looks like we’ll have a White Christmas.

Before I go, I want to share a couple more photos with you.  This happened the same night we had the torrential downpour (and the leaking roof).  And we don’t have a chainsaw.

Oy gevalt.

Song of the Day:  Scrooge by The Muppets

Five Golden Rings

December 19, 2008

Schools are closed today, in anticipation of the big snowstorm that’s headed our way.  This means that I won’t get my last gift, and my Secret Santa won’t be revealed until we go back on January 5th.  Aww, isn’t that a shame.  NOT.

Actually, I am kind of curious to find out who would give me such crap.  I finally began to receive gifts on Wednesday, when I found three presents in my mailbox.  I guess the person was absent on Monday and Tuesday, or else they just plain forgot. Anyway, after opening the first four gifts, I have to say that I was better off with nothing.  Everything I’ve received has gone straight into the garbage.

It is very obvious that I am a victim of re-gifting. For day one, I got an ugly makeup bag.  It looks like one of those freebies you get when you make a purchase.  Day two: a sample size of stinky body wash.  Day three: a sample size of stinky body lotion.  Day four: a sample size of stinky body spray.  I imagine that day five will be a sample size of stinky bubble bath, or something like that.  Everything is from Bed, Bath and Beyond.  What I think is that my Secret Santa received a gift basket of all these items last Christmas or for a birthday, and is giving it to me, piece by piece.

It is possible to give tasteful gifts on a low budget.  I am living proof of that, having spent less than twenty dollars on the five presents for my co-worker.  On day one, I gave my gift recipient Crate & Barrel snowflake soap; six soaps individually wrapped and stacked in a clear box.

Day two: Pirouline rolled wafers filled with cocoa and hazelnut cream.

Day three: A Crate & Barrel twig kissing ball

Day four: Stefani Tadio’s popular sticky notes (That link doesn’t take you to an active purchasing site, but it does show a good sampling of this terrific item.)

Day five: A ceramic bowl with decorative potpourri

Last year I had a wonderful Secret Santa.  She gave me a really cool holiday candle, a gourmet candy apple, and pretty earrings. (I can’t remember what the other two presents were, but I do remember that I was pleased with them.) Oh well.  Maybe the real Santa will bring me something nice to make up for this year’s disappointing Secret Santa.

I know it’s supposed to be the thought that counts, but thought was most definitely not involved in this fiasco.  Bah, humbug.

Song of the Day:  The Twelve Days of Christmas

I took Penny to the vet yesterday.  She had a fever, so the vet wanted to check for Lyme disease.  The test came back negative, thank goodness.

So, what was the diagnosis?  Intestinal colic.  I looked it up online and the symptoms include restlessness and whimpering.  Yup.  I’m so relieved it was nothing more serious, and am happy to report that Penny seems to be back to her old self.

Since I wasn’t at work yesterday, I asked My Friend to check my mailbox to see if there was anything from my Secret Santa.  There was nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  A big fat goose egg.

I wasn’t going to participate in the Secret Santa gift exchange this year, but the organizer talked me into it.  The morale in the high school (actually, the whole district) is very low.  Ms. Organizer believes that the Secret Santa thing is a way to lift our spirits and promote friendly feelings.

Unfortunately, my spirits are being deflated by this whole thing.  I know that it is better to give than to receive, but not in this case.  The whole point of a Secret Santa is to give and receive.

This really sucks.

Song of the Day:  You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch by Dr. Seuss

Penny Lane is in Pain

December 16, 2008

When I got home from work yesterday, the first thing I did was hitch Ellie to her lease to take her out to do her business.  As I was closing the door, Penny got in the way and the door hit her.  Not hard, though, so I didn’t think anything of it.  When I came back inside, I fed the dogs, got dinner started, and sat down to watch General Hospital and work on the afghan I’m knitting as a Christmas present for my father.

Penny was lying on a fleece doggie bed at my feet.  She kept moving around, as if she couldn’t find a comfortable position.  What’s worse, she was whining, whimpering, and crying.  I picked her up and sat her on my lap, but the moving around and crying continued.  I put her back on the floor and she surprised me by going to her crate.  (There’s another doggie bed in there.)

I was getting very worried.  This was not like her at all.  I called Daniel to see if he would be able to leave work to take her to the vet if I could get an appointment.  Unfortunately, the receptionist at the vet’s said they wouldn’t be able to see her until the next morning.

Besides constantly changing position and whimpering, poor Penny was shaking uncontrollably.  When Daniel got home, he took her upstairs and put her under the covers. At one point, her head snapped back and she made a scary sound, sort of a strangled yelp.  She continued to squirm around, but finally settled down.

During the night, her yelping woke me up, but she went back to sleep pretty quickly, so I was able to do the same.   She seems better this morning, but I still want to have her checked.

In other news, our Secret Santa gift swap at work started yesterday.  Each day this week, we are supposed to leave a present in the mailbox of the person whose name we picked.  As luck would have it, I picked the name of one of the few co-workers I can’t stand. Nevertheless, I placed gift number one in her mailbox yesterday morning.

I checked my own mailbox at various times throughout the day only to come up empty handed by the time I left.  Perhaps the person who picked my name was absent… Still, it was disappointing.   I’ll be absent today, but made arrangements for My Friend to put gift number two in Ms. Co-worker’s box.  Even though I’m not crazy about her, I wouldn’t want her to feel left out the way I did yesterday.

Song of the Day:  I’m Gettin Nuttin’ For Christmas (‘Cause I ain’t been nuttin’ but bad.)

The Christmas edition of “Getting to know you.” (My Friend sent this to me via email.)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Both.  Bags are easier, but unwrapping presents is part of the fun, so I always make sure to wrap some gifts.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Real.  This year, we have a gorgeous Fraser Fir.

3. When do you put up the tree?
The first or second weekend in December.

4. When do you take the tree down? The first weekend of the New Year.

5. Do you like eggnog? It’s okay…

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A Mary Poppins doll.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

8. Easiest person to buy for? My brother, Mike.  (A gift certificate to Outback.) Even though my siblings and I have agreed not to exchange gifts this year (and that includes the kids), I wanted to get something for Mike because of all he’s been through.  He owes $60,000 in medical bills, and can’t afford to eat out anymore, so I thought this would be a nice thing to do for him and his girlfriend.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, but I haven’t put it out in years because there’s no place to set it up.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Snail mail.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I don’t think I ever received a gift for which I wasn’t grateful.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Nightmare Before Christmas

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? The day after Christmas (for the next year, obviously)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I can’t remember ever doing that.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

16A. Lights on the tree?
Yes, multi-colored.

16B. Lights outside? No; we don’t have an outdoor outlet.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh holy night.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I’ll be home for Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner) Blitzen and Rudolph.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A star made out of grapevine.

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Having to be super frugal.

23. Favorite Ornament theme or color? I’m not into themes.  Since red is my favorite color, I guess that’s what I’ll go with.

24. Favorite food for Christmas dinner?
We typically have a pasta dish (this Christmas, I’m making stuffed shells) and some kind of meat.  I usually make a turkey, but wanted to do something easier this year, so I’ll be making a spiral ham.  Personally, I hate ham, but most of my family members like it.  Maybe I’ll make a turkey on New Year’s Day, just for us.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
Frosty the snowman.

26. Who is least likely to respond to this?
The Grinch.

Song of the Day:  Getting to Know You from The King and I