Sunday, December 30, 2007

At Least My Character Didn't Burst Into Flames: Part 2

To re-cap from yesterday:

Kendra's post about her Sims experience reminded me of some problems I once had with a computer game.

Several years ago, I bought a Star Trek game (which I can't even see right now... I'm sure it's here somewhere) because it had a virtual reality "walk through" of the starship Voyager as an included "extra." I loved Voyager so I bought the game for a few dollars on Ebay. The VR wasn't really true to Voyager but it didn't cost me that much so I decided to try it out. [I had a few problems. Part 1 of the story is here.]
Later, while I was exploring the ship, I decided to check out Engineering. After exploring the lower level, I decided I wanted to see the upper catwalk area as well, so I stood where I believed the lift should be and pushed the button on the control panel. I waited and nothing happened. Then suddenly the room shook violently and I started to hear a strange repetitive sound, and each time I heard the sound the room shook violently again and turned red. I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. "Red Alert" maybe? Weapon's fire? But nobody in the room was acting as if the ship were under attack. Then I noticed that my "life points" were going down with each sound (which according to an email I wrote at the time, sounded like "WHAM! UNGH!" "WHAM! UNGH!") and that's when I realized... The room wasn't shaking. I was being bonked on the head repeatedly by the elevator which had come DOWN to get me, and apparently I was standing underneath it (wondering why the room was shaking and why my LIFE points were going down!!!)

-Well you don't have to hit me on the head with an elevator more than... 8 or 9 times! I MOVED! Then I thought "Geeze... This might be a good time to further explore sickbay!" -And by the way, no characters in the game thought to help me or tell me I was standing under the elevator! Nor was there a sign anywhere that said "whatever you do, DON'T stand HERE!"

So I went to sickbay, and the doctor ignored me. He kept telling me I wasn't sick and that I should leave. I tried getting his attention. I even tried lying down on a bed and using some of the medical instruments on myself, but nothing was helping my life points. They were still dangerously low -and the doctor was STILL telling me that I was fine and I should leave! I thought "Are you HIGH??? I've just been HIT ON THE HEAD WITH AN ELEVATOR! -EIGHT OR NINE TIMES!!!"

I don't know how I figured it out, but eventually I realized that what I needed to do was eat. I think I may have gone to a replicator to get myself some meds or a very large bandaid or something, and somewhere in there I ate something and my life points went up. So I ate more and more and eventually my health was restored to 100%.

So, today's lesson? If you ever get hit on the head with an elevator, don't seek medical attention, just find yourself an "all you can eat buffet." Because contrary to what psychotherapists and fitness gurus would have you believe, it seems food actually is the solution to all problems!

Part 3 is here.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

At Least My Character Didn't Burst Into Flames: Part 1

Kendra's post about her Sims experience reminded me of some problems I once had with a computer game.

Several years ago, I bought a Star Trek game (which I can't even see right now... I'm sure it's here somewhere) because it had a virtual reality "walk through" of the starship Voyager as an included "extra." I loved Voyager so I bought the game for a few dollars on Ebay. The VR wasn't really true to Voyager but it didn't cost me that much so I decided to try it out.

It took me all of about 3 minutes to start having problems with the simulation. After I "left my quarters" the game crashed a few times on my computer, but seemed to be ok when I relaunched it, so I continued to walk around the ship. There was just one problem... Every time I tried to return to my quarters I couldn't get in. Why? Because 7 of 9 was blocking my way. She was standing outside my room, facing the door and staring at it like she was waiting for it to open.

I tried tapping her (since she was at my quarters and I figured she was looking for me!) but she ignored me. I tried pushing her aside so I could go into my room, but she wouldn't budge. I decided to walk around the ship a bit more, hoping she'd be gone when I returned, but every time I came back she was still there, staring at my door, not moving, and ignoring me when I tried to talk to her.

Finally I figured out that the earlier game crashes had corrupted a file somewhere, and 7 of 9's character thought we were back at the beginning of the simulation. So she was doing what she does at the start of the game, which is to ring the doorbell to my quarters and wait for me to open the door for her... from the inside. And I would have been happy to oblige, except that I couldn't get back inside the room to do that for her because she wouldn't let me in! I tried tapping her again (so she could see I was outside the room with her!), bumping into her so she'd move... shoving her aside... shouting at her... I may have even tried to shoot her... I don't remember... but she wouldn't budge. Her character was programmed to do one thing at the start of the game: stand at that door and ring the bell until I let her in. There was no "what if the person is already outside the room due to a corrupted game file" contingency! So there I was outside my room, with a borg blocking my way, insistently ringing the bell, and I was never going to be able to get back into my quarters to open the door for her so we could continue the simulation!

I looked around the internet for a solution, found a forum full of people who played this game, and presented them with my problem. One person told me how to bring up a hack window so I could enter a code that would allow my character to walk through walls. This would enable me to get back into my room so I could then answer the door from the inside like 7 of 9 expected me to, and continue the game. -This was unreal to me! But I said "Ok thanks!" did exactly what he told me to do, and by using the cheat code I was able to walk right through the borg AND the door and back into my room! Piece of cake! Then I re-solidified myself and tried to answer the door to let 7 of 9 in -but I found that I couldn't get to it. Why? Because I couldn't get my character to move. Nothing was in my way, but I couldn't get my character to walk in any direction. All I could do was wave my arms and my head around and shoot things.

I re-contacted the guy who'd helped me with the "walk through walls" code and he told me to check to see if when I'd removed the hack and become "solid" again, I'd re-materialized myself with my feet embedded in the floor! I checked and darned if he wasn't right! So I made myself "un-solid" again, moved up a little, re-materialized a few inches above the floor this time, and everything worked fine again. (Imagine that.)

But my problems didn't end there! Check back tomorrow for my adventures in Engineering ;)


Friday, December 28, 2007

The Last Operation Santa Claus Delivery

Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts
This post is a couple of days late because I figured I'd posted enough on this topic! But then I realized that a lot of people haven't been posting to their blogs the last few days, (Anyone else notice that? I think they're all too darned tired!) so I figured I'd fill you in on how the last delivery went and give you all something to read!

Remember how one mother wasn't in when I delivered gifts? I'd left my name and number with a co-worker of hers hoping she'd call me before Christmas so I could get her daughter's gifts to her in time, and had decided that I'd wait until Christmas day to see if she called, and then mail the gifts the following day if I didn't hear from her. On the day after Christmas, about one hour before I left for the post office to mail the gifts, she called. It turns out nobody had told her who I was or why I'd wanted to reach her. She'd thought I was a business call. When she found out why I'd wanted to reach her she squealed "You're SANTA!!!" :)

We arranged to meet at the subway station a half a block away from where she works. She arrived with a friend and was beaming. We hugged each other over the turnstyle, and I handed her the gifts and told her what they were. Then she surprised me by handing me a xeroxed photo of her beautiful 4 year old daughter. On it, she'd written "Dear Santa, Thank you! Thank you! Love, [her daughter's name]."

(Yeah, I know it sounds like the end of a Hallmark movie, but that's what really happened :) )


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

~~ Happy Boxing Day! ~~

Those of you outside the USA might be surprised to know that most people here have never heard of Boxing Day. When I first heard about Boxing Day, I was living in England and thought it had some thing to do with middle-aged men sprawled out in chairs watching national boxing tournaments on TV all day. (Is there even such a thing as "national boxing tournaments?")

Boxing Day immediately became one of my favorite holidays. What could be better than a holiday that's all about leftovers, re-gifting, and letting your hair down after all the pomp and ceremony of the previous few days?

I plan to spend today cleaning up a bit, going to the post office, eating leftovers (For anyone who doesn't know what to eat for breakfast, I recommend "chocolate."), meeting the cat that one of my neighbors is caring for for the next two months, and writing Christmas cards.

Yes... writing Christmas cards. I got half of them done a little over a week ago and sent a card to everyone who'd sent one to me at that time, but there were many more I wanted to send that I didn't have time to get back to. Not to mention people whose cards have arrived since then that I haven't reciprocated (all of whom were on my list of people I still wanted to send cards to.) I send out "New Years" cards a lot.

(Looking around...) I think I'll start with the "cleaning up" part. Looking around from my desk chair I can see:
  • 1 decapitated santa.
  • My friend's CD with a big glittery silver/blue bow on it.
  • 5 empty Lindor Truffle wrappers.
  • Receipts waiting to be entered into my computer.
  • "The Night Before Christmas" book that I've had since I was at least 5 years old. I read it every year.
  • The opened box of Christmas cards I have yet to send with a list of names sticking out on top.
  • The opened bag of Lindor truffles.
  • Gifts I need to return (not any bought for me, but gifts I bought for "the boys" early on that I wasn't happy with. They'll go back after New Years so I can avoid any "post-Christmas" rushes.)
  • A gift for a friend I'll see in a few days.
  • Er... dirty laundry... Specifically, what I wore yesterday.
  • A black ink cartridge for my printer.
  • Gift certificates to Lincoln Center. (Thanks Aunt M!)
  • A bottle from Quark's bar.


Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Do you ever have too much to write about? This happens to me a lot. I'll try not to ramble too much below.

~~ Happy Christmas! ~~

First and foremost, I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas! Or for those for whom that's not possible, a tolerable Christmas.

~~ Christmas Eve ~~

I spent a lot of Christmas Eve day trying to relax. It was hard because after all the running around, my brain hadn't quite gotten the memo that it was time to RELAX for a day! So I'd relax a bit, then pop in on my neighbor, then relax a bit more, then pop back. She was cooking Christmas Eve dinner for her family and I was... er... "taste testing" ;) Later in the evening, she knocked on my door (around 9pm) and said "Why didn't you come by for Christmas Eve food?!" and I said "Uh... because you didn't knock on my door and tell me to?" So I went over for a few hours. We ate, watched "A Christmas Story" on TV, (I couldn't stop thinking of the bunny version!) and I watched her kids and grandchildren go nuts opening presents. It was fun. I had some of her leftovers for breakfast this morning and it was perfect.

~~ Dinner With E & P ~~

I spent Christmas day with my friends E & P and it was wonderful as always. The food and the company. But one thing was kind of... hmmm... what's the right word... Sort of prophetic? Semi-psychic? I don't know what the correct term here would be.

~~ Semi-Psychically-Prophetic ~~

Last night I was thinking about how much I enjoy spending the holidays with E & P and for a brief moment I wondered how I'd feel if Christmas dinner with them was suddenly cancelled at the last minute. I decided that I'd be disappointed but that I would be ok, except that I'd be concerned about what kind of emergency would cause a last minute cancellation of dinner. This thought was in my head for a while last night. It just kind of stuck there.

Today when I arrived, there was a very small table set (usually there's 6 to 12 of us) and I asked "Who else is coming? Is it just you two and me?" and they said "yeah maybe." It was a small group this year apparently. Most people were out of town, so the guests were going to be me and a couple. But there had been a tragedy in the couple's family the night before and it looked like they might not be coming. And yet, E & P were still going to have dinner, just for them and me. How nice is that? I mean I guess it's a "why not?" kind of thing but I don't know... It's nice that they 'd still go through all the preparations even if I'd been the only guest. Have I told you how much I like these guys? ;)

Anyway, I couldn't help being a bit haunted by my thoughts from the previous night re: what kind of tragedy might cause dinner to be cancelled at the last minute. I've never thought that any other year.

One of the members of the couple did come for dinner, and the other stayed at the hospital. I'm so glad she came. I told her that twice. I'm also glad it was just the 4 of us because I think it might have been more awkward for her if there'd been a larger group present.

I've been in similar situations and it's awful to have something huge happening that's shaken your whole world, and to walk into someone's home for what's supposed to be a "Happy Christmas celebration." You want (need) to talk about what's going on because it's the only thing on your mind, but you don't want to bother anybody or bring down the mood. Meanwhile, everybody else wants to know what's going on but they don't want to pry or bring YOU down.

I don't do "elephants in the room," especially when there's a tragedy involved, so as soon as she got her coat off and had a drink in her hand, I told her I'd been filled in a little on what happened and asked her how things were going. The news was not good, and she, her husband, and his family will be going through a very difficult time in the next few days. I will be thinking about them a lot.

~~ Singing For My [Christmas] Supper ~~

On a lighter note: Later in the evening we had what seems to have become a tradition when I spend Christmas with E & P. It's a long story (which I may go into another time) but the short version is that I pretty much have to "sing for my supper" when I spend Christmas with them.

P assigns me a song a couple of weeks or more in advance (usually something completely obscure that I've never heard of) and I am expected to learn and perform it on Christmas. This year they realized I hadn't sung yet when just the three of us were there. -I don't know how many of you have performed professionally or non-professionally, but anyone will tell you that it's MUCH harder to perform for one or two friends than it is for a group of people. MUCH harder! But I did it, and they laughed at all the right places -always a good thing- particularly at the point in the song where I rip the head of the Santa Claus doll -which one of them said they may have to include in their Cabaret act next year.

More rehearsal for this would have been good. It's very hard for me to keep a straight face without a lot of pre-rehearsal and, as you know, my week was a little hectic so there wasn't a whole lot of time for me to prepare this song. Still, it was fun. (But I would have had more fun with it if I could have kept a 100% completely straight face during all of it!)

~~ The Kids ~~

I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about the kids from Operation Santa Claus today. I thought about them last night when my neighbor's grandchildren were tearing open their gifts, I thought about them first thing this morning when I woke up and realized they were probably opening or playing with their gifts at that moment, and I thought about them a couple of other times during the day. I imagined the kids I'd seen, and the parents I'd met. Tomorrow I'll mail the gift to the last kid. I've already written a note to her mother telling her to tell her daughter that the gifts fell off the sled and Santa had to go back and find them, or to tell her there are 12 days of Christmas so the gifts aren't really late!
Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts

~~ Thankful ~~

There's so much I'm thankful for today. It almost seems silly to list them because they seem so obvious to me. E & P (as always), my song going as well as it did and getting all the right laughs and more. Their friend coming for dinner. Everything that went so well with Operation Santa Claus. Getting my familys' gifts to them in time and their seeming to be happy with them (They're always the hardest for me to shop for) My neighbor M. Holiday clothes that fit (and clean laundry!). Health that allowed me to enjoy today. There's just so much.

I said in my very first thankful post that not everything in my life is good all the time. A lot of bad things happen too. But no matter how bad things may be, I never lose sight of how good other things are. That's not to say that when I look at the good stuff the bad doesn't seem so bad anymore. -Some people are like that, but I'm not! The bad stuff is just as bad! Good stuff does not make "bad stuff" any better for me. But likewise, bad stuff doesn't affect my ability to see, and to be truly grateful for, the good stuff. It's kind of partitioned and sectioned off in its own little part of my brain. And for the good things, I am always grateful, and awed that they're in my life.

~~ A Quiz ~~

Did you study? Were you taking notes?

Nah, I'm kidding. But I figured I'd finish off this post with a quiz I found on Functional Shmunctional's blog.

Your Christmas is Most Like:
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.
Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.

Interesting result. Is that how you'd interpret a Charlie Brown Christmas? Lol! All I can think of is the sad little tree! :D What kind of Christmas movie are you most like?


Monday, December 24, 2007

Track Santa Through NORAD

For those of you unfamiliar with this tradition, read below:

"For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa. The tradition began on Christmas Eve in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. store advertisement for children to call Santa on a special "hotline" included an inadvertently misprinted telephone number. Instead of Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." ...Thus, the tradition was born."
- From "Why we track Santa" at

To track Santa or to view NORAD's Santa tracking website in other languages, go directly to their home page by clicking the button below:

More About NORAD
(North American Aerospace Defense Command)

"NORAD uses a variety of technological tools to watch for any man-made threat that might come from the skies – that includes missiles, jets, or spacecraft. The Command does not monitor comets, meteorites or any other so-called natural threats, but it does monitor the progress of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve through the NORAD Tracks Santa program. Since the tragic events of 9/11, NORAD’s role – which previously was outward-looking – now includes monitoring airspace within North America."

Until recently, NORAD operated out of Cheyenne Mountain. Yes, that's the same base that houses the... wait... hold on there's someone at my door...

Oh, er... nevermind. I can't tell you about that ;)


Operation Santa Claus Part 3

Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts
All delivered... for now. One person wasn't in so I left my name and phone number for her. If she calls before Christmas I'll try to meet up with her somewhere. If not, I'll pop her gifts in the mail after Christmas.

I hope I can keep things simpler next year. I was telling myself "Just THREE kids TOPS next year!" but as I was delivering gifts yesterday I found myself thinking "I could do this many again. It'd be ok..."

I saw some parts of Manhattan I've never been in before. One of the projects was really scary. Great for a creepy movie! But a couple of the neighborhoods had me thinking "hmmmm... I wonder how much it would cost to rent a place here..."

I saw some of the kids. The first two I saw were SO CUTE! SO cute! And the little boys that I had so much trouble buying gifts for? The Power Rangers will be perfect! Especially for one of them. And I was so right that these would be better gifts for them than the ones I wasn't satisfied with. But I think both boys will be too small for the shirts I got them. They're teeny tiny little boys! Their mothers did say they were a size 5, but I had a choice between a shirt marked 4/5 or one marked 6/7. I was afraid that if the 4/5 were closer to "4" than "5" the shirts would be too small, and I didn't want that. So I figured I'd err on the large side. Hopefully they can roll up sleeves, or exchange them, or maybe even wear them next year. -Have I said how cute these kids were? :)

The parents were all very sweet, and didn't seem at all surprised that I showed up at their doors instead of mailing the gifts. That was good. But they kept wanting the kids to thank me or for me to meet the kids which was frustratingly awkward because I'd have loved to meet the kids or talk with them, but I was also trying to secretly give them the gifts so they'd think they came from Santa! "Thank the nice lady for the gifts" kind of ruins that illusion!

One woman was so happy I think she wanted to hug me. She invited me in, and part of me wishes I'd accepted and gone in for a few moments, but I didn't want to intrude. I really would have mailed these instead if there had been time. So, as with everyone else, I explained that I answered her letter to the post office, that I had gifts for the kids, handed her the bag, then I wished her a Merry Christmas and left. Even today I'm feeling kind of bad about not going in. I would have liked to. But I didn't want her to feel like she had to entertain me or do or give something back to me in return. She was SO excited and happy. -I like happy excited people! But I left. Our conversation lasted all of maybe 30-60 seconds.

I'll be honest... there were two "kinks" with this, but the rest went well.

#1) The woman who wasn't home. Not the end of the world. I really lucked out that this only happened with one person.

#2) This next problem was difficult for me because I went back and forth about what to do about it. At one home, I asked the woman who answered the door if she was Mrs. 'So and so' and she said that she wasn't, and that she just took care of their children. -ChildREN. As in Plural. As in the little girl who wrote the letter didn't tell Santa that she had a SISTER TOO! I felt so bad.

I don't know if the other little girl didn't write at all, or if she sent in a separate letter. If she did, it may or may not get answered. Less than 1/3rd do. But how awful would it be for "Santa" to answer one girl's wish and not the other?! It's really been bothering me and I've considered going back there with a generic gift, or looking up the parents' phone number and calling them to offer to get their other daughter a gift, but everyone's been telling me I should let it go. Even the babysitter said not to worry about it, and that they'll be fine. I think I've convinced myself that they may be right.

Hopefully the parents will put both girls' names on the presents, and (in the interest of my not rescuing people every time they make a mistake) maybe the parents will learn to make sure both kids are mentioned in ONE letter next time. I'm not doing this to "punish" the parents, but if I were to jump in and save the day they might not realize that they need to change the way they do things next year. I have to trust that the parents will "fix" this somehow on their own and not let the other little girl down. I really hope I'm right. Part of me can't help wondering if this is a "Cinderella" type situation but I really hope it's nothing like that. At least they had a few days to try to do something about it since this was one of the deliveries I made on Saturday. Plus the girls were napping when I went by so they didn't see me deliver a bag with "gifts for one."

I'm really trying to let this go, but I still feel so bad about it! -And let me tell you, when I made yesterday's deliveries I made sure I had TWO generic gifts with me (Boy reject gifts from earlier!) just in case I ran into that problem again!

I'm thankful that I didn't run into too many problems with this overall. Nobody killed me in the projects, most people were home, I know I got good gifts for all the kids, I stuck to my budget, and despite the late start, I got them (almost) all delivered in time for Christmas. I am really thankful that everything worked out as well as it did. -The person who wasn't home could still turn out to be an ax murderer but we'll have to see how that works out.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Birthday Cammy!

Everybody wish Cammy a Happy Birthday even if you don't know who she is!
It'll make her smile. And smiling is good on a birthday!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Operation Santa Claus Part 2

Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts

Otherwise known as "How to run yourself ragged right before Christmas" ;)

First of all I know I have comments to reply to. I promise I will but it may take a while! [-All caught up... I think?]

This morning I went out early to finish up some shopping. I actually did consider dinosaurs for the boys at one place I went to, but they came with a mean little safari guy whose accessories included chains to chain the dinosaur and a collection of tiny little guns. -I guess to shoot tiny little holes in the dinosaur. I didn't get them that! But I did end up with gifts I'm happy with for the boys (and I am so GLAD about that!). I ended up getting each of them a talking Power Ranger that morphs into a plane (they're also getting fleece sweatshirts). This Power Ranger has 3 things going for it. 1) Each boy has a sister who's getting a talking Dora (and clothes), so the talking Power Ranger makes a good match. 2) It's for 4 years old and up (Thank you! Transformers were for 6yrs and up!) 3) If they don't like Power Rangers (or don't like the BLUE Power Ranger), they can use it as a plane! :P

I also got a package of mini candy canes and each kid is getting 6 of those taped all over their boxes, plus each kid is getting 2 sheets of stickers taped (as an entire sheet) to the outside of their boxes.

Shopping and wrapping took me until 3pm. Then I went out to start delivering. Right now, I'm tired. Over tired actually. I think (because of where these kids live) that it may take 2 more days to get the rest delivered, but I'd love to be able to get them all done tomorrow and have at least ONE day to rest before Christmas. The thing is, some of these families might be in Church tomorrow (Sun) and that might make catching them at home a bit difficult. Plus they're not all near each other so it takes a while to get to each one. It's going to be a lot of trains, buses and walking. At least this time the gifts are on wheels (luggage.) I'd have brought "wheels" with me when I was shopping yesterday but I'd only planned to get gifts for ONE kid! I didn't know I was going to LOSE MY MIND! ;)

Honestly I don't regret any of this. I would have liked to have done this earlier but it wasn't possible, so I'm glad I'm doing it now rather than not at all. But it is hard to cram this all into the last days before Christmas. For one thing, if I'd been able to do these sooner I would have popped all these suckers in the mail!

-Wish me luck tomorrow. I would really really love to get the rest of these delivered in one day.


Friday, December 21, 2007

Operation Santa Claus

I have so much to tell you, but I'm in so much pain right now I'm not sure how far I'll get this evening! Lol! (<--- Note the Lol. That means yes it's real pain but it's pain that will go away.) New York (and some other large cities) have a program called Operation Santa Claus. With Operation Santa Claus, all letters addressed to "Santa" or "The North Pole" are sent to the main post office in NYC. Some are then routed to other large cities participating in Operation Santa Claus, and the rest are kept here and made available to anyone who'd like to come in, answer some of the letters, and fulfill the childrens' requests (food, clothing, toys, miracles...)

My plan today was to get one letter. Maybe 3. Maybe. What can I say... I read, I cried... I cried a lot... I told other people who came in "You're gonna cry." (Nothing like spreading a little Christmas cheer!) and I walked out with more than 3 kids' wishes to fulfill. I'm not going to say how many, but it was more than 3. Maybe in the next few days I'll tell you how many.

I've read that some people prefer to fulfill requests for food or clothes or shoes more than requests for toys. For me it was the exact opposite. I thought "These kids do not want me buying them clothes. I'm sure whatever I get won't be cool enough!" -I have nephews. I know! ;) Plus, as important as clothes are, kids want toys at Christmas.

But most of the letters I read were requests for clothes and shoes. And they'd list the kids' sizes for each item. It broke my heart to put some of those back in the "no" -or at least "not for me" pile. I know the ones asking for clothes might be more dire, but I wanted to get kids toys. And I thought of getting toys for some of the clothing request kids, but those didn't always state the age or sex of the child (-and with some of the non English names, who could tell if the kid was a boy or a girl!) So I put those aside. It made me sad but I told myself that I had to do what I could. That not every child's letter was going to be answered, and that there were plenty I could do, and do well.

I feel like some of the ones I put back are going to haunt me... Particularly one from a teenager who wanted things for her mostly adult family. I wish I could have helped her out, but that was going to be out of my budget.

One that was a no-brainer for me described a little girl and how good she was, and then at the end simply stated that she'd like a baby doll. And I thought wow... Baby dolls are pretty easy to come by, yet this person had to ask somebody else to get this for her child. Needless to say hers was one of the letters I took.

Then, the shopping day from Hell ensued! ;) I went to 5 different stores, using public transportation, and looked and compared prices. Then I went back to 3 of them and bought toys. And you know what else I bought for several kids? CLOTHES! Lol! The thing I didn't want to get! But I was having a hard time figuring out what would be best for some of them, so I compromised and bought them clothing AND a toy.

As I'm sitting here typing, I'm remembering some of the scarier toys I saw. Toys that looked like they'd break within 5 minutes... dolls that were scary as heck and some that sounded downright demonic when they laughed or cried! Cute, reasonably priced dolls are hard to find! -And you know what's even scarier? The women who'd pick them up and say "oh... look how beautiful..." I wanted to take some of these women aside and say "For just 5 more dollars you can get one elsewhere that won't look like it's related to Chuckie!" I mean seriously... there's saving money and there's spending money wisely!

I think I did really well. I really do. There's two I'm not 100% thrilled with but I'm going to take a little more time tomorrow and see if I can supplement those with a couple of small things. These were 4 and 5 year old boys. It's tough when you don't know the kids. Some kids that age love Barney, some love Bob the Builder, some love Thomas, some love Spiderman, or Batman, or Power Rangers... And whichever of those they might love... they'd equally hate the others! Can you imagine: "Why did Santa bring me the RED Power Ranger. Doesn't he know I like the BLUE Power Ranger???" or "Spiderman? Who likes Spiderman? He's boring! I want Batman!" *Sigh.* So I had to keep it generic for them. I even called my sister and solicited opinions from at least 10 strangers and I didn't get a lot of help on those. -Because their suggestions were very Super Hero or TV show specific, and again... I just don't know these kids. And anything computer or DVD related is out because who knows if they have a computer or DVD player. I mean heck I would have been all over the educational software section if I knew they'd be able to use it!

Anyway... I had a LOT of bags by the end. And I was carrying them through a LOT of crowds of people. And now my back has a LOT of pain! But a hot shower and some ibuprofen will fix that. Right now though, I am spent (no pun intended). I stuck to my budget (well... my revised budget once I decided to shop for more than 3 kids!) and like I said, I think I did well. Tomorrow I'll wrap, buy some candy canes and a few more odds and ends, and then I will probably hand deliver some of these. If I mailed them tomorrow (Sat) there's no guarantee they'd arrive by Christmas. And yes, of course it would have been better to do this a week or so ago! Lol! I know that! I didn't procrastinate. I just had other things to do that had to come first. Now that those things are out of the way, Santa is in the house.

The "Thankful" part of this? I am very thankful that this was not financially difficult for me to do right now. I am really very grateful for that. I am also thankful that I had the stamina to get through today, and that I'm a pretty good shopper. I'm thankful that I found the toys that I wanted (I had some in mind as soon as I read the letters). I'm so grateful that they were "there" and in the right price range. And also, I have to say that I'm thankful to the mothers who gave me good information about their kids in their letters. (Thank you moms! You done good :) )

PS: Feel free to submit "4 & 5 year old boy" toy suggestions! I'll be running out tomorrow (Sat) early in the day to finish up their shopping!

Operation Santa Claus 2007
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | A little more here | The Last Delivery
The Letters | The Gifts


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Very First Gingerbread House

It was from a kit, and yes I could do better, but it was my first time and I just wanted to have fun! (Next year I'll work on technique ;) )

(Like the hair on the one on the left? :) )




Top View
(And probably the only view you get of the Christmas Tree behind the guy with the big hair -or headdress or whatever!)

Extra Gingerbread Men People
(The one on the right is wearing a bikini and a jaunty hat)

Solar Powered Biosphere

Ok, no not really, but that's what it looks like doesn't it? ;) It's an upside down clear storage container. I have to keep it enclosed in something otherwise my Gingerbread House might turn into a Roach Motel. -No sense tempting fate.

Yay! My very first gingerbread house! :) :) :)


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stew Leonard's

Yesterday "M" showed up at my door all excited because a mutual friend of ours told her that of COURSE we could use her car while she was out of town. So we went to Stew Leonard's. (I'm so glad I brought a camera.)

Just in case that didn't amuse you enough, check out their "bags around the world" page. I don't know what's funnier... the people who proudly display the grocery bag they carried halfway across the world, or people like this woman who try to be discreet.

(*You may notice that this post has a "thankful" tag on it. I am thankful my friend trusts me enough to let me use her only car, I am thankful to M for paying for gas, and most of all I am so thankful to the Universe for constantly finding new ways to amuse me! I am thankful for this day.)


Monday, December 17, 2007

Tip For Slow Or Choppy Online Videos

Storyteller commented in yesterday's post that the videos were too slow and choppy for her computer. I figured I'd post my tip to her here rather than in the comments.

For slow or choppy online videos, try the following:

  • Click the "play" button.
  • Once the video starts to load, click the "pause" button and let the rest of the video load.
  • If you watch the status bar at the bottom of the video, (the bar with the pointer that tells you how far into the video you are) you can see the bar filling up.
  • Once the status bar is full and the video is loaded, click "play" again and the video will usually play through much better.
This will work for most online videos regardless of how old or slow a computer is. The key is to wait until the video has fully loaded before attempting to view it. Try it!


Sunday, December 16, 2007

30 Second Christmas Classics Re-Enacted By Bunnies

More from my bookmarks list.

(Click to see the videos)

A Christmas Story

It's A Wonderful Life


Saturday, December 15, 2007


I stopped storing bills in file cabinets years go. Now, throughout the year, I save all my bills in a small cardboard/video storage box which I keep by my desk. At the end of the year, once my taxes are done, I label the box and store it in a closet. I save bills and statements for about 6 years, then I shred the oldest box of bills and re-use that box for the next year's bills. Today I'm shredding 2 years worth of old bills in preparation for next year (I'm a bit behind in my shredding!)

I check everything before shredding it and man... the memories...

-Purchases and bills surrounding a close friend who died. -Memories of doctor visits, gifts, random supplies to try to make things more comfortable... heating pads, blankets, food, cab fares... -Vet bills from a pet that was ill back then, plus supplies and toys and purchases related to that. -Deposits and/or transactions from companies and/or people I haven't seen in years... -Phone bills with numbers of people I'd called for any number of things that were going on back then: personal, professional, political, "life..." -Classes I took... -Receipts from stores and businesses that don't exist anymore... -Film and theatre tickets... -Travel receipts...  Then there are purchases and names of people that are exactly the same now as they were back then -which is equally strange to me considering some of the other differences!

So many memories flooding through my head.

Sometimes I think I should just shred everything without looking, but then I always worry I may shred something important. I have another 6 months worth to go.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

I Won!

I won something? ME? I won? I have a friend who always wins things. Every time I see her I ask what she's won recently and she always has a reply. But me?

YUP! ME!!!

Kendra had her first giveaway drawing to commemorate having 800 visitors to her blog, A Thousand Words, and I entered my name and actually won!

This is how she describes the fateful moment:
"I had all the names in a bowl and was trying to decide the best way to draw a name. My husband walks by, looks at me funny, picks a name and hands it to me saying 'Melissa's your winner.'!"
-Thank you Kendra's husband :)

So what'd I get? She said I could choose a print of one of her photos or pick a piece of her beautiful handmade jewelry. I chose this pendant.

pendant    pendant

Photos © Kendra

Thank you Kendra! Winning is good :)

* If anyone else (or their husband) would like to make me the winner of one of their contests, I would be more than happy to oblige :)


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Random Conversations

Conversation with an 18 year old

How's school?

Good! I'm doing really good. Except for one class I'm going to fail. I didn't do any of the homework.

None of it? How come?

I didn't buy the textbook.

Conversation with a homeless man

What kind of pizza do you want?

Pepperoni. Can I get 2 slices?


Can I get a sandwich instead?


Anything to drink?

Can I get a coke?

It's cold. Do you want coffee?

I'd like a coke.



To stay or to go?

To go.
(to me)
People are afraid of me.
I know.

Telephone conversation with a 2 year old



How are you?


My blind 101 year old neighbor telling me about her dreams

I dream that I'm in a big white mansion. Everything is white. Then everything is rose colored. There are lots of people there. I am surrounded by people. But they don't talk. Then I wake up and I'm alone. And I wonder if all those people were ghosts.

Sometimes I dream I'm in a big white mansion and the people are telling me "Go outside, go outside!" So I do. Then they tell me "Look up! Look up!" and so I do. And I see these beautiful letters in the sky completely made out of flowers. And it's breathtaking.

What do the letters say?

I see an "N."

An N? What does that mean?

I don't know. But it's an N and it's all made out of flowers... and it's beautiful.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Conversations From Today

I think I need botox. I want to get rid of these wrinkles on my forehead.

You want more poison injected into your body in addition to the chemo? Why don't you just ask them to inject the chemo there? Poison is poison. It should do the same thing.

Oooh, good idea! I'll ask them to inject it right here!
(pointing between the eyes)

I think this is a good plan.

I'm just going to do it on one ear first to see if she likes it.

I don't think it's a good idea.

Really? But it would look so cute!

I don't think you should krazy glue a bow to your dog's ear.

No mom, you can't name your blog "Hottie." People will think it's a porn site.

Really? I don't want to do that. -What about "Young Hottie?"

Porn site.

Lonely Hottie?

I think you're missing the point...

American Hottie?

How about "Old Hottie?"




Sunday, December 9, 2007

I Channel Adrian Monk In My Sleep

I had a dream that I wanted to clean up a work area and move a bunch of items into an empty cabinet. I got permission to use the cabinet and wanted to make sure that a few other people who used those supplies would know where they were being moved. I also wanted to move some large empty Christmas Tree boxes into a closet that had plenty of space and was barely used, so it was the perfect place to put them. I was really eager to do this ASAP but I had to speak to another person or two first and let them know what was going on.

Then (in the dream) my laptop broke. I had no idea why but somehow it had been stored with the screen laying back completely flat and needless to say it had snapped off. A co-worker in my dream told me it never costs more than $50 to fix that (ha!) and also that they'd seen me fix things before and I could easily fix that too.

Then I dreamt that a childhood friend contacted me to tell me she was very sick with some new kind of heart disease.

Then I dreamt that someone I know, who is in her 40s, was working at a sleepaway camp for the first time. She was having a blast and told me that on the first day the kids had been dying to go into the water so she ran down the hill and jumped into the lake with her clothes on because she thought it would be funny and that the kids would all follow. But instead the kids all stopped at the edge of the water and looked at her like she was crazy.

Then a short time later I woke up. And do you know what I thought?

"Great! Now I'll never be able to clean up that storage space! I should have done that before I woke up!"

-It's a gift... And a curse.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Pass The Wine

At Costco yesterday, I had the good fortune to arrive at almost every sample table just as they were putting out food. The first table I arrived at had cheese. Really good cheese. I ended up buying some even though it was expensive.

As I was sampling the cheese, a woman (who appeared to be in her 70s or so) asked the "sample man" if he had any wine to try with the cheese. He said no. I thought that was kind of interesting. This woman was friendly and nicely dressed. I figured she knew her cheeses, was thinking about the holidays and possibly entertaining, and wanted to know how this cheese would taste with various wines. I never think about stuff like that. I'm happy just eating the cheese! But she, nicely, told the man that she really wished they'd had wine to try with the cheese.

Several aisles later I saw another sample table with crackers and dip. As I approached that table I heard a woman's voice say there should be wine with those. When she turned around I realized it was the same woman from the cheese table. I asked her "Are you still looking for wine?" She recognized me and smiled, then said "They really should have wine with these things!" I laughed and kept walking.

About twenty minutes and approximately five sample tables later, I approached my last sample table for the day, and guess who was already there engaged in a conversation with the employee working the table?

Do you have any wine?


You should though. There should be wine with this.

It's cereal.

But it's dry.

So much for being a connoisseur of fine wine and cheese. The lady just wanted her booze!


Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snow Globe

An oldie but a goodie.

Make sure you have your sound on, click the button below, then click and drag the snow globe to "shake it."

-Be glad you don't live in a snow globe! :)


Tuesday, December 4, 2007


I've had two friends use expressions in the past few days that I have never heard before. They say everybody says these things. I say they're on crack.

The first one was kind of cute. A friend was talking about someone who had been rude to a co-worker and said "This woman thinks she's the last Coca Cola in the desert!" -Not the last glass of water mind you, or even the air lift out of the desert, but specifically the last "Coca Cola." She assured me that people say this all the time. Granted this was said to me in Spanish so maybe it's said all the time in Guadalajara!

The second expression came from a different friend who, in the middle of a conversation, said "shoot" and then followed it by saying what originally sounded like "shoodamunkay." Naturally I thought that this too was a foreign expression, but when I asked her about it she said it was an American expression. Then she repeated it again... Slowly. And when she was done I said:

Ok, that sounded even worse. It sounded like you said "Shoot a monkey."

Yes. "Shoot a monkey." It's an expression. People say it all the time.

What people?

American people. They say it all the time!


Here! My husband always said it. You know, like when you say "shoot" in front of your kids and then you want to cover it up really fast so you say "shoot a monkey."

So instead of saying "shoot" in front of small children it's better to say "shoot a monkey?"

So now I'm asking all of you. Have any of you ever said either of these expressions in any language at any time on any part of this planet? Because I would really like to know.

And by the way, who covers up when they say "shoot" anyway? Shoot is already a cover up word for something else! You can't have a cover up word for a cover up word! I'm pretty sure there's a rule against that somewhere. I mean really, if you're going to cover up something I think it would be better to figure out how to cover up that you just said "shoot a monkey" in front of your kid!


New Blog Template!

If anyone has any trouble viewing the new template, please let me know!
(Hillary this would include you and your temperamental browser! :D )


Monday, December 3, 2007

I Am Thankful For Parmalat Milk

Parmalat 3 Pack

Someone asked me a question about Parmalat milk (which I mentioned in an earlier post) and I was about to reply when I realized that this should really go into a "thankful" post!

Parmalat is a brand of "Ultra High Temperature" (UHT) pasteurized milk. UHT pasteurized milk like Parmalat can be stored in special unopened boxes, without refrigeration, for up to 9 months. Once a box is opened the milk needs to be refrigerated and used within the same amount of time as any other milk. I was a bit skeptical of "non-refrigerated milk from a box" at first, but once I realized it tasted ok and didn't go bad, I was huge fan!

I very rarely drink milk, and when I do I usually don't need very much. I rarely eat cereal and I don't bake very often so the only things I need milk for are a cup of tea or hot chocolate every now and then, neither of which I drink regularly. This used to be a problem because any time I decided I was in the mood for a relaxing cup of tea or hot cocoa, I'd have to run to the store to buy milk first. -Which, needless to say, was not very relaxing! Plus no matter how small a container I bought, I almost never used the rest of the milk by the end of the week and it would eventually go bad and need to be thrown away. I hated that.

Parmalat has changed all this :)

Now I buy two 3-packs of their 8 oz boxes at a time (about the sizes of juice boxes), and keep them in my cabinet. When I need some milk I open a box, use what I need, and put the rest in the refrigerator. I still don't always finish the rest of the box in time, but at least if the milk goes bad now I only lose about 4 oz -Which still bothers me but it's better than having a pint or more go to waste.

Parmalat isn't just convenient for people like me who don't use milk very often, it's also great for moms on the go who feed their kids milk or mix formula with milk. Instead of always having to keep bottles refrigerated, they can pop a small 8oz box of Parmalat in their bag and not mix or open it until needed. Parmalat is also good for weekend or vacation homes where people sometimes arrive late at night and can't do a quick grocery run for the essentials until the next morning. With larger Parmalat boxes on hand (which again can be stored in a cabinet unopened for up to 9 months) they can at least have a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal the following morning before they go out. It's not what I usually have for breakfast but I have friends who start their days this way, and trust me, you don't want them behind the wheel of a car before they've had their morning cup of coffee or bowl of cereal!

Parmalat makes my life easier, and I'm thankful that someone figured out how to pasteurize and package milk this way so that I can always have small portions of milk on hand (in the cabinet!) for those rare occasions when I need it. -And no I don't work for Parmalat! But they are the main brand of UHT pasteurized milk where I live. If you have other brands near you, give them a try!


Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Guy Named Art (Or Not)

When we last left off, I had just returned from shopping with my friend and the two of us were taking turns sitting in her car while the other ran their groceries up to their apartment.

I brought my groceries up first and returned to find my friend deep in conversation with a gentleman she'd told me about before. A really nice guy who talks a lot. And by a lot I mean more than me. I like people like this. They make me feel normal.

I smiled and said hello to him and he immediately asked "Who's this? I know she's not one of your kids!" My friend then made it a point to let him know that not only was I not one of her kids (She and I are about 5 years apart in age) but my Aunt had just called me old the other day. (Which she did. Not just once but twice during my visit. Which my friend says I should blog about because she thinks it's hysterically funny but that gets into the realm of talking about my family online which I'm going to try really hard not to do here. But for the record, I am NOT old!)

So then my friend introduced us, and the conversation went something like this:

This is my friend Melissa. Melissa this is Art.


Right. This is Larry.

I just about lost it right there! Then she gave me the car keys and I popped the trunk so she could get her groceries. I thought Larry might decide to start talking to me instead, but no, he followed her. Our conversation continued:

Hey do you want to use your "earth friendly shopping bag" to carry up all your plastic grocery bags?

Yeah, throw me that.

What about this.... what the heck is this?

Oh that metal bar?


I somehow grabbed that when I grabbed my umbrella this morning. I didn't realize I'd grabbed both.


She took the last of her grocery bags out of the car then proceeded to walk down the street with Larry following after her, asking her how old her car was (5 years) and how many miles it had on it (didn't hear the answer) and how with tractors they don't measure miles but how many hours it's been driven instead... (I never knew that. Larry is a font of information.)

When my friend came back down for the final time I handed her her purse, her umbrella and her weapon metal rod. Then I made fun of her for forgetting her good friend Larry's name.

I didn't forget his name. Why? What did I say his name was?

You said his name was ART. How the heck do you mix up ART with LARRY?

I didn't say his name was Art.

Yes you did!

No, I don't think I said that. I think I was thinking and said "His name is arrrrrrrrr....."

"Arrrrrr?" What is he a pirate?

No, I was thinking out loud and saying arrrrrrrrrr....

Who the heck says "arrrrrr" while they're thinking out loud? -This is somehow better than you calling him Art? This is so going in my blog!

Great. So we go shopping and you get food and material for your blog, and what did I get?

You got milk.

I got milk.


I'm working on my blog post.

Oh good, because I think I figured out what I was trying to say.

Uh huh.

I think I was going to say "-This is OUR neighbor..." Get it? OURRRRRRR?

No you weren't.

Yes I was.


... Nice save ;)


Saturday, December 1, 2007

Code For Adding NaBloPoMo Badges To Blogger Sidebars

I've been getting questions about how to add a NaBloPoMo badge to a blogger sidebar, so I'm posting some code below. If you already know html, just skip this! If you use one of my badges, you do not need to credit or link back to me, but please leave a comment here and say "Hi!" -Thanks!
Right click on the image you'd like to use and save it to your computer. If you're using Blogger, create a new post, place the image in your post using the "add image" button (it looks like a little photo.) and save the post as a draft. Next click on the "Edit Html" tab and find the code that looks something like

That's what you'll need to paste below where it says "INSERT URL HERE BETWEEN THE QUOTES"

Are you with me so far? Good! Moving right along...

To insert a badge into a blogger sidebar, copy and paste the following code into an html/javascript widget:

<div align="center">
<a href="" target="_blank">
<img style="border:0px;" src="INSERT URL HERE BETWEEN THE QUOTES" />
<span style="font-size:85%;">
NaBloPoMo badge from
<a href="" target="_blank">Part Of Everything</a>

Your end result should look like this (with whatever badge you chose in place of Mary Tyler Moore):

NaBloPoMo badge from
Part Of Everything

If you'd prefer leave out the link to Part Of Everything, delete this part of the code:

<span style="font-size:85%;">NaBloPoMo badge from<br/><a href="" target="_blank">Part Of Everything</a></span>

Questions? Let me know!


Shopping At The Speed Of Light

Since Fairway is one of the only stores in Manhattan (possibly the only store?) that has an actual parking lot, it's an ideal place to go for a quick shopping run during alternate side of the street parking times. (Otherwise known as the time of day when the Department Of Sanitation says "We don't care where you move your car for the next hour and a half, but you can't have it HERE!")

The thing is, though, that in order to get to and from Fairway and get back in time to get a parking space on our block a half an hour before alternate side of the street parking was over (see yesterday's post if you don't understand why this is so important), we'd have to get all of our shopping done in under 30 minutes. This is not an easy thing to do, nor is it particularly pleasurable for me, but I was up for the challenge. To help us save time, though, I requested that my friend not park in the farthest spot away from the store (something she likes to do because she thinks it's good exercise!)

So, we arrived at the store, got our grocery carts and I yelled "I'm ditching you now! See you at the cash registers in 30 minutes!" and the race was on. But what do you think I discovered once I entered the store? -They'd REARRANGED it! They do this every now and then. Completely rearrange the store, even down to changing the aisles so that they run horizontally instead of vertically! I think they do this just to mess with our heads. Now I not only had to get through the entire store in less than half an hour, I also had to figure out where the heck everything was!

So off I went grabbing pretty much everything I saw with little time to compare prices or expiration dates. Organic, non organic, bagged, boxed, loose... everything went into the cart. Who knew if I'd have room in my fridge at home. Who knew if there'd be room in the car! I didn't have time to think about little details like that!

At ten minutes to go I was having trouble finding cheddar cheese. I saw a block of orange colored cheese and was just about to throw it in my cart when I realized the label said SOY cheese. Soy cheese? What the heck section was I in??? Eventually I found the cheddar cheese. There was very little of it left. Not surprisingly, there was soy cheese left in abundance.

At five minutes to go I felt like I was on one of those game shows. The ones where the contestants have a certain number of minutes to run around a supermarket and throw everything they can into their shopping carts before the buzzer goes off? That was me.

At three minutes to go I accosted a woman in the organic section and yelled "Where are the tampons!? Do you know where the heck they moved the TAMPONS???!"

To which she replied: "I can't find anything either. And what the heck did they do with The Cold Room? I couldn't find anything in there!"

Miraculously I was able to find the tampons (right across from the pasta... why didn't I think to look there first? I always think "Tampons? Maybe they're in the pasta section!") and then in the final stretch I managed to find rice (one aisle over from where I expected it) and Parmalat milk (exactly where I expected it.)

I got to the register, my friend pulled her cart in behind me just 2 minutes later, and we made it back and into a parking spot at exactly the right time. Mission accomplished.

Each of us then took turns sitting in the car with the keys while the other ran groceries up to their apartment. And that's when I met "Art" ...


More NaBloPoMo Badges!

As per a suggestion by The Surrendered Scribe.

Feel free to grab this one as well.
And leave a comment if you do!
(Code for the MTM badge is here.)

There's also this one by Sara which I think is hilarious!

More badges can be found here and here.