‘Twas the post before Christmas, and all was random.

It’s not the night before Christmas, but this is my post before Christmas, so I mainly want to wish you all a merry one. Christmas day marks one week before the new year, so we should have a merry one, indeed. It will be the dark before the dawn. 2020 is dying down at last, and I love a dark Christmas.

I’m in the honeymoon phase with my new desk, meaning that it’s still clean and orderly. I’m enjoying it while it lasts. I know that a person of the literary persuasion is stereotypically too engrossed in their craft to think of tidying the desk. A neat and clean desk in the office of a writer is suspicious. I promise that I’m a real poet and writer; I’ll declare my desk a disaster soon enough.

I’m in a good mood.

Sometimes all it takes is the memory of a quirky coincidence, like the time I drove home for lunch behind a pale-colored pickup truck with a white washing machine in its bed, secured with ties and facing me, and then, 15 minutes later, I drove back to work on that same street and found myself behind another pale-colored pickup truck transporting another white washing machine facing me. What are the odds that I’d drive down the street staring at a washing machine, and then drive back staring at a different-but-similar washing machine tied down in a different-but-similar pickup truck? Weird random coincidences like that. I only take one street to and from work, and that day, the universe said that I’ll make the short roundtrip lunchtime jaunt behind some pale pickup truck transporting some backwards-facing white washing machine or another. (No, the universe was not telling me to do my laundry. I’d done it recently.)

Outlook makes the difference between inane observation and amusing coincidence, is what I’m saying. If the washing machine thing is any indication, my outlook is positive these days. These months, actually. The washing machine thing happened a few months ago. Yes, I’m easily amused, BUT.

I’m in a good mood, and I’m also feeling somewhat restless. I have big feelings about big things that I can’t talk about. I want to share everything with you, but I have good reason for keeping certain things under wraps for the time being.

Today I went to the V.A. to have my annual mammogram, which revealed the cold hard truth that I’m never going to be a contortionist.

Also at the V.A. today, I went to the pharmacy to pick up some refills along with a new medication. I’m now being medicated for OCD. It’s official. I figured this day would come. If you have OCD tendencies and serve in the armed forces, you know that this day will come. Dress-right-dress and all that. I could never shake it. It just intensified. My case is mild, though, thankfully. I’m okay with it.

I miss the Army.

Oh! I was browsing “best of Craigslist” tonight, and I saw that on January 20, 2020, an Arizonan posted a Craigslist “for sale” ad for a white hearse with purple flames on the sides and “the last ride” inscribed on the back beneath a graphic of a bowler hat. One year from that posting, January 20, 2021, certain keys will change certain hands.

Also in 2021, I’m going to be a ninja armed with a boxcutter for Halloween.

I’m getting way ahead of myself, though. I’ll stop dwelling on Halloween for just a minute to say Merry Christmas and everything that you celebrate!

See you on the flip side, friends.

 

The adventures of a pug (nightshirt).

Last week was eventful in my little world.

I have this nightshirt that I love. It’s a loose white t-shirt, thin, soft, and comfortably cool in hot weather. Functionally, it’s great for summer, but it’s designed around a Christmas theme, which doesn’t make sense in the northern hemisphere.

Callaghan hates the nightshirt… not because of its Christmas theme, but because of its overall unfortunate look. I can see where he’s coming from. The shirt features the face of a pug. The masterminds behind the nightshirt made the pug look unsightly with a “so ugly it’s cute” kind of intention. The pug is wearing a festive red Santa hat, which is how you know it’s a Christmas nightshirt (for someone in Australia, that is, since it’s thin, cool, and ideal in hot weather). There are gold Christmas lights in the background, and below the pug’s portrait, it says #SELFIE in glittery gold paint. The pug is grimacing, presumably because he’s smiling for his picture.

Hilarious, right? Pugs are adorable. A pug in a Santa hat taking a selfie at Christmas is adorable. Pugs were in vogue when I bought the nightshirt, and the word “selfie” had probably just been invented, and it was December, so all three of those things on a summery nightshirt had to be a triple win.

Callaghan maintains that it’s the ugliest and most ridiculous nightshirt in the history of nightshirts.

Really, I can’t blame him. I don’t know how much I’d appreciate getting into bed with a lover wearing that shirt, either. Its pug portrait fails to make sense. It attempts to convey a message, but the message doesn’t match the picture. It strives for an aesthetic, but it doesn’t achieve it. It’s trying to be hip, but the pug isn’t holding a PBR. Overreaching for novelty, the nightshirt’s very ambitions, however admirable, are its downfall. The nightshirt is having an identity crisis caught in a gold-glittered tangle of WTF. The nightshirt might even work as birth control.

Despite its failings, I loved that nightshirt. Then I lost it. It just vanished one day, going into the laundry, but not coming out, like so many socks. It wasn’t the first beloved article of clothing I’d lost, but the disappearance of this particular one made me suspicious.

“You took it,” I accused Callaghan. “You think it’s ugly and you hate it so you stole it.”

“What are you talking about.”

“My pug. You hate when I wear it to bed, so you took it!”

“No.”

“What did you do with it? Are you sure you didn’t accidentally… misplace it?”

“Mais non!”

When the conversation goes from English to French, it’s getting serious.

I have to believe him, because marriage is about trust and giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, I told myself.

Going with the assumption that Callaghan didn’t take the pug, I tried to fathom what might have become of it. Of course, I imagined the worst. The pug fell into the hands of Russian mobsters. The pug got eaten by a shark (in Kansas). The pug is being held hostage in a joystick sweatshop in Bangladesh. The pug is smoking weed in the desert. I wondered if I was going to start receiving photographs of the pug in random far-off places, wearing hats other than the Santa hat.

It turned out that the pug had gotten separated from the laundry as it was being dumped into the washing machine. It had been wedged between the washer and the wall all this time.

I found it last week when I was frantically trying to rescue a large, beautiful squirrel who’d been chased into the laundry room by an outdoor cat (who adopted us, but we’re not supposed to admit to that, so she’s ours, but only unofficially, and we named her “Cita” as in Mamacita, but you didn’t hear any of this from me). I’ve lived in the Valley for 25 years and I didn’t even know that there were squirrels here until I found this one burrowing into the folds of my pug nightshirt.

I was elated to have found the pug, but looking at it through fresh eyes that hadn’t seen it in months, I couldn’t remember why I’d been so enamored with it. Its charm had been replaced by actuality. The whole picture of the pug was something nonsensical that confused me. The chaos of it canceled out its comfort value. In fact, it wasn’t even as comfortable as it used to be… it had pilled, and the pilling made the thin fabric more textured than soft. (Making things more disconcerting was the fact that I love actual pugs and find all of them to be adorable.)

 

Looking possessed in the pug nightshirt, and still trying to figure out how people take mirror selfies.

Looking possessed in the pug nightshirt, and still trying to figure out how people take mirror selfies.

 

So I don’t wear the pug nightshirt anymore. It’s not as comfortable as it used to be, and Callaghan still hates it. I’ve given it up. I’ve tucked it into a drawer and walked away from it. I just threaten to wear it at opportune times.

Happy New Year from Nounours and Nenette! 2016 begins with a kitty update.

Nounours and Nenette unwittingly posed for some super adorable pics recently (says their totally unbiased Mom). Here they are… the last pics of the fur-kids of 2015!

Kitties enjoyed ALL of their Christmas.

Here’s Mr. Blue Eyes with the stockings… his was the red one, and the green one was Nenette’s:

 

Nounours with stockings.

Nounours with stockings.

 

I was so pleased to have captured this next pic… this is probably my all-time favorite pic of Nounours:

 

Nounours sniffing our tiny pinecone Christmas tree.

Nounours sniffing our tiny pinecone Christmas tree.

 

You may or may not have already seen this one of Nenette, but I thought I’d post it again here…

 

Nenette stationed at the presents, just in case.

Nenette stationed at the presents, just in case.

 

This girl, I’m telling you.

 

Nenette hugging her new mousie.

Nenette hugging her new mousie.

 

What do you even do with this much cute?

 

PET ME, I'M SOFT

PET ME, I’M SOFT

 

Nenette loved her first Christmas.

Nenette loved her first Christmas.

 

Nenette has been absolutely thriving since we got back from France. She’s more trusting and affectionate than ever. She’s a happy girl!

 

Content Nenette.

Content Nenette.

 

Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas! (Photos from Las Noches de las Luminarias at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden)

As a part of our Christmas celebration this week, we spent an evening trekking through the Desert Botanical Garden to take in the thousands of luminarias hand-lit along trails, walkways, and ledges.

A luminaria is a paper lantern made by filling the bottom of a small paper bag with sand and setting a candle in it. Like eating tamales on Christmas Eve, decorating your yard with luminarias (often around the perimeter) is a southwestern Christmas tradition, and Las Noches de las Luminarias is a tradition at the Garden. At this year’s display, we enjoyed the music of mariachis, and members of Yellow Bird telling Apache winter stories and playing native flute. We also admired artist Bruce Munro’s breath-taking art installations in the Bruce Munro: Sonoran Light at the Desert Botanical Garden exhibit.

We visited the Garden after nightfall. Of course, I took about 500 pics, which I whittled down to 32 after sifting through them.

At times like these, I wish I had a better camera. The one in my cell phone couldn’t adequately capture the beauty beheld in the Garden that night!

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t gleefully surprised when my photo album came out vaguely spooky and Halloweenish; the grainy photo quality probably has something to do with this. My first idea was to take you on a festive holiday stroll through the desert, but instead, you’re getting an experience that might resonate more with The Nightmare before Christmas. The desert at night can be haunting with botanical silhouettes, red skies, and ghostly trees. In many places, the luminarias and Bruce Munro’s artistic light installations added to the eerie effect.

Come along…

 

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Bienvenidos! [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas tree in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Over 8000 luminarias were hand-lit at the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Saguaro cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias spied behind an organ pipe cactus. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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For obvious reasons, these luminarias are made with plastic sleeves rather than with real paper bags. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

 

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas lights wrapped around a palo verde tree. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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The desert at night. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Shadow of a dwelling behind the luminarias. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Members of Yellow Bird told Apache winter stories and played native flute on the Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert Loop Trail. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Christmas light-studded hill in the desert. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Red sky, web on the ground made of strings and beads of lights. (Light art of Bruce Munro.) [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Arteries glowing in the desert darkness – light art of Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Eerily glowing luminous art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminarias leading the way on the Garden trails. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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[TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Luminaria with more of Bruce Munro’s light art. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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“Fireflies” by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Light art by Bruce Munro. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

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Statue in the Garden. [TALC at Las Noches de las Luminarias, Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden, 2015]

…and a great BIG “thank you” to Callaghan for patiently waiting as I took hundreds of pics!

Merry Christmas, All. =)

Merry Christmas from Arizona!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

Soaking up the rays in a t-shirt on the second day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

And on the day before the first day of winter.

Because even if it’s chilly outside (it was between 58-60 degrees in these two pics), the sun-rays are warming.

I took the picture of Callaghan yesterday when I went home for lunch. We inherited this old lawn chair when we bought the house, and yesterday, we discovered that it’s broken. I didn’t post the pictures that happened while I was laughing.

As for me, I avoid actually laying out in the sun, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no such thing as too much sun. I love being outside. Sunscreen is my friend, and I do mean tons of it.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Hummingbirds, like this little guy...

Hummingbirds, like this little guy…

...drinking his nectar.

…drinking his nectar.

Callaghan took these pictures yesterday, as well.

We have four hummingbird feeders – two in the front of the house, and two on the back patio. They draw lots of customers, and this is enchanting for someone coming from a country without hummingbirds. (That should be the name of a novel: “A Country without Hummingbirds.”) Callaghan’s enjoying all kinds of special moments mixing the hummingbird nectar and feeding these little guys! He’s a good hummingbird Daddy.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Wide-eyed wonder kitty of the Ronnie James persuasion.

Festive Wrah-Wrah! This wreath was leaning here waiting to be hung up when I caught this photo opp.

And:

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Pretending to be a tree kitty of the Nounours persuasion.

Festive Nounours! Seriously, isn’t he even shaped like the tree?!

Christmas in Arizona is…

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Mill Avenue lit up in holiday lights.

Downtown Tempe at night. It never gets old. I took this picture coming home from the gym last night.

Christmas in Arizona is…

Bringing the outdoors in.

Bringing the outdoors in.

First we hung our wreath on the front door, all traditional-like, but on second thought, we brought it inside and decorated it instead of a tree. Works for us.

And finally, it wouldn’t be an Arizona Christmas without…

Tamales!

Tamales!

We’re picking ours up today!

It’s traditional here to eat tamales on Christmas Eve. There was one year I went to my friend Mary’s house to make Christmas tamales with her… we had so much fun, and the fresh, homemade tamales were amazing. I’ve never attempted them on my own, so now I do like thousands of other ‘Zonans and order my tamales from one of the many Mexican places that make them special for the holidays.This year, I ordered tomatillo chicken, chipotle pork, red chili beef and (meatless) green corn. There’ll be something for everyone. =)

Merry Christmas, All!

Merry Christmas!

I was the last one to wake up this morning, and when I did, the whole family piled onto the bed. I opened my eyes to find myself buried beneath Callaghan, Ronnie James, Nounours and the spread of gifts that had somehow migrated there. Santa’s getting efficient, streamlining the process to where you don’t even have to get out of bed! I figured I must have slept in, but it was only 7:30. (Who says I don’t have kids? I have three… two in the shape of cats, and one in the shape of Callaghan.)

Fifteen minutes later, I’d removed my retainers, brushed my teeth and jumped back into bed with the coffee Callaghan brought me, deliciously creamy and sweet with my favorite almond milk and stevia, and we all opened our presents. It was our first Christmas with Ronnie James and Nounours, and they got right in on the action with no prompting whatsoever.

Our celebration actually started yesterday when we went to the movies and caught American Hustle. I have two words: Jennifer Lawrence. Just… 23 years old, really? Wow. The entire cast turned in supremely well-crafted performances, though. It’s always a pleasure to go to the movies and leave feeling like it was worth it.

 

Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.

Christmas Eve. We got to the theater 40 minutes early, so we waited at the coffee shop next door.

 

This morning - Callaghan modeling his new beanie!

This morning – Callaghan modeling his new beanie!

 

Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.

Ronnie James pounced on his stocking immediately.

 

MOR PRESENTS!

MOR PRESENTS!

 

And here's Nounours, deep in contemplation...

And here’s Nounours, deep in contemplation…

 

...before he passed out...

…before he passed out…

 

 

...at the same time as Ronnie James.

…at the same time as Ronnie James.

 

 

 

 

 

Too much excitement for kitties. As for us, we’re taking it easy, too. I hope you’re all enjoying a splendid day!

Joyeux Noël

Merry Christmas, everyone! We spent the holidays visiting with family and friends scattered around the French Riviera. The weather was gorgeous. We enjoyed two days of great times and merriment and family drama. (What are holidays without family drama? Incomplete!) Everyone is in good health and doing well, and that’s the most important thing. I hope you can say the same thing about your loved ones.

Here’s some traditional French Christmas cake for you:

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Christmas cake 3

Christmas cake 2

And some flowers:

Christmas flowers 1

Christmas flowers 3

Christmas flowers 2

Enjoy!