Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving fun

I was all braced for being miserable this Thanksgiving, so my surprisingly good cheer was a welcome relief, if anticlimactic. The ex had Stacey, and all my extended family is out of state right now. I made a choice several years ago when my wife and I split up not to take trips to see family without Stacey, so I planned on moping around the house for the long weekend.

Without going out of my way to plan anything, things just fell into place for the whole four days. Thanksgiving proper was cleanin' day. I caught up on all my laundry, gave my stovetop and countertops the weekly elbow-grease treatment, vacuumed up the week's dog hair (Huskies don't shed as much during the winter, thank God), etc. Thanksgiving dinner was a single can of corn chowder soup. I also snuck out in the afternoon to see a double feature, namely Deja Vu and Casino Royale, both commendable.

Friday I spent at Magic Mountain winning prize tickets at my favorite video game, VRS Marbles. I've written about that particular malady of mine before, and this was my annual excursion to win enough tickets to buy toys to donate. This year my church is sponsoring a "Christmas with Dignity" program asking parents to volunteer in their community to earn vouchers to buy discounted household goods and Christmas presents, and of course AEP is accepting presents to donate to the local Salvation Army. So I won a good number of tickets (6000-ish), and traded them for an array of $5 - $15 dollar toys, and gave half to church and half to AEP.

I also went to the mall on Friday ("Black Friday" in commercial parlance) and finished my Christmas shopping, without bankrupting myself. I usually splurge on Stacey, but I toned down considerably this year. After last Christmas, we talked about the amount of money I set aside for the holidays and where it all went, and we decided that she had plenty of games and toys (and gadgets) to occupy her for a good while, and some of the money should be deferred to her college fund and charity. Good kid, that. It's actually nice to not just go mad and buy everything you think will get a passing smile; with a tighter budget, a lot more thinking about your selections and shopping around is involved.

Saturday my mentee introduced me to his girlfriend, and we all went out to Easton, saw a movie, and hung out in the bookstore for a while. I hadn't seen him in a couple weeks, and I found out that someone had severely vandalized their home -- nice gift to start off the holiday season -- and he and his family were concentrating on getting the damage repaired, hence his being unavailable. So there's my mentee, the before was a pathological liar with anger issues, and the after, a mere 4 years later, gives up a chance at a fun weekend to help his family get their home back in order. It's nice to watch a boy grow into a man.

Sunday was less eventful. There was church, and then rescuing my neighbor's daughter from the boredom that is watching one's younger brother and his playmate climb through tubes at McDonalds. My neighbor, myself, and another member of our home group went out to eat after church, my neighbor with two little boys and one irritated teen in tow. She seemed upset about something (more than just not wanting to hang out with the little brother, and definitely none of my business), so after I finished my chicken sandwich (Ranch, BLT, and chicken, not bad), I asked her if she wanted a ride home rather than wait for the little kids to finish. She and dad both said yes, so off we went. On the way back, she fired off non-stop questions about my car, Stacey's room, where I met my roommate, what I'm planning on doing with the extra space downstairs, etc. It was cute; the stereotypical gabby teenaged girl, suddenly no longer down in the dumps.

She also has parents who live apart, and goes back and forth with her father and mother. Her father also splurges on her and makes time to entertain her and her friends. She also feels the loss of a whole family, like Stacey does. Stacey and she rotate between friendship and acquaintanceship, and she is often a member of Stacey's sleepovers or my trips out with Stacey and the neighborhood kids. Sometimes I think they would have made good sisters, and others I think that as sisters they would spend their time plotting each other's demise.

I spent the rest of Sunday porting all my calendars over to Google (see the Calendar link on the right), which has a pretty good interface. Early next year has some busy weeks, so it was nice to get everything in one place, and such that I could edit it from work or home without any hangups. Among other things, my divorce proceedings are under way, Stacey has several scouts and school activities, and I have been nominated for mentor of the year and invited to the big ceremony at the Statehouse mid-January. Busy busy busy.

See how I just slipped in that mentor thing like it was no big deal? I'm actually as excited as hell about that. I stand no chance of actually winning the award -- no, there's always some maniac who takes a crack-baby and teaches him how to fly fighter jets or something equally as impossibly self-sacrificing -- but I feel good about being invited and being recognized by my own local counseling group as worthwhile. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I didn't get the blues being alone for Thanksgiving, and made good use out of my time instead. The other reason, of course, is that I found 100 excuses to go into Stacey's room for a couple minutes. Hang up some clothes, re-make the bed, line up the flip-flops on the closet floor, take another peak at her remaining Halloween candy to make sure there isn't any taffy or caramel, etc. Each quick visit helping me remember that she is coming back soon, which is always enough to keeping me going.

So today is back to work, and I'm well rested. There seem to be no pending disasters for me to work, and life is getting back to normal.