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November 2005

Next year I might order out

Here is a fun Thanksgiving fact:

At six in the morning, when you and your sister are barely awake, when you must unwrap the turkey and rinse him off and stick him in the bucket of brine, when neither of you have any intention of sticking your hand in the cavity to remove the icky things within, when you decide to turn the turkey upside down and shake the icky things out, when you then cut off the gross flappy thing that covers up the hole and plop the turkey in the bucket, when you roast the turkey six hours later and your mother-in-law dissects him after dinner and FINDS THE BAG OF GIBLETS STILL INTACT, you may be a tad mortified, but you will not have ruined Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving still won't be ruined when your mother calls while the turkey is roasting and says, "You weren't supposed to cut off that gross flappy thing, moron."

Here are some other thoughts, things I learned, and highlights from my First Thanksgiving:

  • What is all the fuss about brining? Did I do it wrong? Perhaps I shouldn't have combined Neighbor's recipe, Alton Brown's recipe, AND the Joy of Cooking recipe.
  • I still do not enjoy knowing what my dinner looked like before it was cooked.
  • A meat thermometer that cost more than my wedding ring does not ensure that we will know when the turkey is done (if the thermometer says the turkey is done but the timer says the turkey should be roasting for another HOUR, we probably put the thermometer in wrong)
  • As he stood in the kitchen chopping one zillion pounds of onions, I realized I hadn't seen my brother cry like that since the time I knocked him off my bed and broke his collarbone.
  • Next year I will have to physically restrain my grandmother from dumping the entire bag of flour into the gravy because "there isn't enough!" as I will now be dining on gravy until next Thanksgiving.

Also, I gained more weight from my subsequent weekend with the Chinese in-laws in Vancouver than I did from Thanksgiving. But that's what dim sum, hot pot, bubble tea, cake for breakfast and dim sum again will do to you. I had to be rolled back to Seattle.

But this week at Mighty Maggie we are all about FIGGY PUDDING. Please please please, if you told me you were going to donate, please try to get your money to me BEFORE December 2! You know who you are! And Internet, I made cookies this weekend...

My gift to you

As the daughter of elementary school teachers, the niece of several elementary school teachers and sister to a future elementary school teacher, I now gift the Internet with an elementary school Thanksgiving Day song:

TURKEY DINNER (or whatever it's called, sung to the tune of 'Are you sleeping')

Turkey dinner, Turkey dinner
Gather round, gather round
Who will get the drumstick?
Yummy yummy drumstick
All sit down, all sit down

Cornbread muffins, chestnut stuffing
Pudding pie, one foot high
We were so much thinner
Before we came to dinner
Me oh my! Me oh my!

Needless to say there are hand motions as well.

I was realizing last night that these songs are never ever going to leave my brain. My sister is student teaching in a first grade classroom and this spells doom. I had almost forgotten the words to the Thanksgiving song when last night, at Figgy Pudding practice, Rebecca says, "Oh! We sang that today!" and now the Thanksgiving song AND THE HAND MOTIONS are stuck with me for another 25 years.


December 2! Downtown Seattle! In front of Sephora! 5:30 pm! Bring your checkbook!

And if you are unable to make it and have told me you are going to donate (and those of you who HAVEN'T, it's NOT TOO LATE!) I need your donations by December 2! At 5:30! If there's any way to get them to me before next Tuesday, that would be especially awesome and you will receive a Bonus Prize in your box of cookies. Maybe a printed and framed copy of the Thanksgiving Day song! Wouldn't that be fun?! Email me for details! (And those of you who haven't donated, I write terribly witty and interesting emails. It is totally worth your while! For a good cause!)

Happy Thanksgiving!


transcript of conversation in Maggie's office

Co-worker 1: "I should do something with the masthead of [insert industry trade journal name here] for the holidays."

Co-worker 2: "Oh that's right. What are you going to put on there?"

Co-worker 1: "I don't know. Maybe a Santa face?"

Co-worker 2: "No, it can't be anything that's too Christian."

Co-worker 1: "Is Santa Christian? 'Satan' is an anagram of 'Santa'."

Co-worker 2: "Well, what about a bulb?"

Co-worker 1: "Like, for a tree?"

Co-worker 2: "Yeah."

Co-worker 1: "I don't know. Aren't trees German? We don't want to offend the non-Germans. You don't think Santa is okay? Don't the Jews have Santa?"

Maggie: "No, the Jews don't have SANTA. They have eight days of light!"

Co-worker 2: "Which is better. More presents."

Co-worker 1: "Well, I don't think Santa is a Christian symbol."

Maggie: "I was trying to figure out what to put on the [insert BaneOfMyExistence Organization's name here] flyer for the holiday meeting. Is a wreath offensive?"

Co-worker 2: "How can a wreath be offensive?"

Maggie: "I just ended up putting a candy cane border around it. Everybody likes candy."

Co-worker 2: "Why don't you do that, Co-worker 1? A candy cane?"

Co-worker 1: "Well, I guess a manger is out of the question."


What it's like

I can usually tell anxiety is creeping up on me from the tightness I feel in my shoulderblades. That's where it likes to fester: right under my shoulderblades where Phillip digs in with his elbows and worries that he's pushing too hard. Which is impossible.

Then, if I wonder about it too long, or worry about why it might be there, it gets worse. If it stays in my back it's usually manageable. Even at night, when I tend to fixate on the tension and all its meanings, I can usually fall asleep, as long as it doesn't migrate anywhere else.

If it reaches the center of my chest, I start preparing for a long night.

It's a circular battle. Anxiety arrives and you wonder why it's there and when you can't think of a good reason you start to worry, which only makes it worse. I have spent many nights being anxious about being anxious.

It's nice to have a reason, but knowing why it's there doesn't necessarily make it better. Especially if the reason is something out of your control. In that case, I prepare to be anxious as long as the situation is unresolved. Sometimes it feels like you've resigned yourself to being anxious, that you've surrendered, but the best method of attack, I think, is to be okay with it. "Anxiety," you say aloud in your darkened living room at 3 a.m., "cannot kill me." Then you curl up on your couch and see what's stored on TiVo and hope that last week's episode of Everybody Hates Chris will take your mind off things.

Sometimes it does.

It's best to be busy. Anything you can do to distract yourself from your malicious brain chemistry will do. I like the routine of going to work in the morning where I have things to check off my to-do list. The weekends can be bad if I don't have any plans. There's nothing worse than wandering nervously around your house, wondering how long you're going to feel like this. I clean the kitchen, dust, go shopping, invite friends for dinner. One season I baked. A lot.

I've been told that anxiety and depression are two sides of the same coin. I don't think I've ever been depressed, not really. There was that one time my family moved, but I think we were all depressed then, along with all the other families who moved to that base that year. When I think about what depression might be like, I'm grateful my imbalance tips the other way. I might not sleep at all, but I'm glad I don't sleep all day. I still want to see my friends. I still want to go out. Have fun. Having fun is the best distraction.

I'm not grateful I have anxiety. It has made me a better person the way any difficult experience refines who you are. Builds character, as my dad would say. I like those changes, but I don't know that I would go through my most anxious times again. It's mostly horrible. No, it's all horrible. Remember how you felt right before you went on stage? Or right before you had to give your oral presentation? The bad times are like that, only ten times worse and it doesn't go away. The better times are more like the morning of the play. You're nervous and you know you're going to be more nervous later.

I would like to say that the changes are worth it. That my boundless sympathy for addicts was worth that week of not sleeping, but honestly? Wasn't there an easier way for me to learn compassion?

A friend recently told me that a student she mentors was going through some things that reminded her of me. Was her student having anxiety attacks? I couldn't say for sure- my 'attacks' are more like subtle episodes that last until you think they aren't going away, then mysteriously drift off- but I worried. I woke up early one morning and banged out all the things that helped me figure out what I was dealing with that first time. I didn't want anyone else to wonder if they were going crazy, like I did.

I will never feel that way again because I know what's wrong with me. It's brain chemistry. It's also the fact that, according to my most informative anxiety book, I have 9 out of 10 Highly Anxious Personality Traits and I'm sure that doesn't help. The next time I feel the tightness in my back, I'll know what's happening. I won't rush to finish my version of The Bell Jar before they cart me off for my lobotomy.

After a particularly neurotic conversation with my parents, my dad once told me, jokingly I think, that all creative people have some kind of mental instability. It's practically a requirement. I like reminding myself of that. Makes me feel like anxiety serves another purpose besides building character. Something like It was during those sleepless anxiety-ridden weeks that Booker Prize winner Maggie Cheung wrote her dark fourth novel. Maybe then it'll be worth it.

Waddle waddle

Earlier this week I went to see that penguin movie.

[Side Note: I went to see the penguin movie at the coolest movie theater in Seattle, The Big Picture. To enter The Big Picture you open the doors to El Gaucho, hang a right and go down the narrow steep stairs. A nice man in a suit will give you your tickets ($5 on Monday and Tuesday!) and then you are free to order a drink from the full bar and find a cozy place to sit until the movie starts. And by "cozy place to sit" I mean pick from any of the private little alcoves in the lobby- perhaps the settee in the corner sectioned off by gauzy curtains or the velvety couch in the back room with the zebra print pillows or the circle of sofa and chairs with the low candlelit coffee table. If you've got a big group you can hang out in the room with the big conference room table and comfy chairs, but I prefer the tinier private spaces with the fancy upholstery. The owner will walk around right before the movie to make sure everyone knows it's time and you are very welcome to bring your gin and tonic into the theater. And if you'd like another? Just write down what time you want it brought to you in the theater. The whole place reeks of Swank and I love it.]

So anyway. I sat there watching the penguins without the benefit of a G&T because I have to choose between drinking or eating my carbs and at that moment chocolate won out. I could have used one though, because during the entire first half I could only think of one thing: To be a penguin in Antarctica is to define the word Futility. Why, I berated God, did you curse these penguins so? They go MONTHS without eating! They spend MONTHS huddled together trying to survive the wicked Antarctic winter! If the penguin eggs are exposed to the regular old cold for longer than ten seconds (or so it seems), the egg will crack in painful slow motion and the penguins will wail. It's HEARTBREAKING.

The cold is not the only thing that will kill a penguin. If you are a little penguin you must constantly scan the skies for giant predator birds that mysteriously appear in time to sweep you up in their sharp scary beaks. If you are a big penguin you must constantly scan the water for slimy looking sea creatures that can snap you in their pointy jaws. You'd think that Antarctica is enough to kill any living creature, but apparently not. And it wasn't a penguin filiming those harsh winter huddles. Horrible.

Then the baby penguins start to hatch (though you have no idea HOW because they live in ANTARCTICA and again, how anything survives in Antarctica I have no earthly idea) and you start to think the world is not such a horrible place after all.

Sort of. Nature continues to horrify me on every level.

I don't believe in reincarnation, but if I am wrong I really really really hope that I do not come back as a penguin. I'm sure there are worse things to be, but if I get to pick, I will not pick a penguin. Even if they're adorable when they waddle.

(My coworker and I have been waddling around our office. Because we find ourselves hysterical.)

This is all I have to share today. Reflections on why I am glad I am not a penguin. I have been busier than All Get Out (what IS all get out?) lately and you would not BELIEVE how full my TiVo is. I haven't see the season finale of Laguna Beach- THAT BUSY. BOOOOO.

Cut him out in little stars

In the spirit of this list, I am compelled to make my own list of Crushworthy Books I Read In College. (I can't pick just one. I was an English major. All I did was read.)

The book I remember as the most meaningful on every molecular level was Written On The Body by Jeanette Winterson. I was taking a postmodern novel class from a weepy  bleeding-heart associate professor who wore shimmery scarves and clogs. It was the first class where I was actually expected to say things out loud (horrors) and after my 15 page in-class midterm, my teacher used my paper as an example to everyone else (ego swells) and wrote very sternly on my own copy, "PLEASE SPEAK UP" (ego deflates). Anyway, Written On The Body is a weird sort of love story where the readers are left in the dark as to the gender of the narrator. The narrator is in love with a woman named Louise who then falls ill- the whole second half of the book is this bizarre take on medical books and terminology, but I was totally swept up in the love story. I don't think I had ever read anything as beautifully wrought as Jeanette Winterson in my entire nineteen years and OH it was BREATHTAKING. Of course, this had much to do with the fact that one of my very dear friends had recently told me she was dating a GIRL and that was pretty much coloring my entire world at that point. It was a whole perspective I hadn't really considered. I haven't picked up this novel since I graduated and I wonder what I would think about it now.

I read a few other for-class books that made an imprint: The American by Henry James for an Early American Lit class (a class I thought I would loathe, but, I don't know if you know this, but there were some pretty great Early American writers! I know!) Frankenstein. Jane Eyre. (Yes, I did not read Jane Eyre until college. A travesty.) Antigone. White NoisePamela and Evelina, if only for the sheer bile they conjured up within. 

But the couple of other books were just ones recommended to me by friends and read in my spare time. One of my friends gave me Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies for my birthday and I spent the whole summer wishing I had the amazing talent of Jhumpa Lahiri. Those short stories are all so perfect. I was taking a short story writing class at the time and hadn't figured out how you actually write a short story. I never found a way to capture a moment or a character in 15 pages, but Jhumpa Lahiri had it mastered.

That book and The Brothers K by David James Duncan were probably the two books that made me want to write my own stories. The Brothers K is a long windy road of a book, spanning childhoods and wars and countries, but I loved it and everyone I knew loved it. Even when the little boys you originally fell in love with grew up into weirdo hippies and depressed soldiers and treated their parents badly- you still needed to know what happened to that family.

I also read Gender and Grace by Mary Stuart Van Leeuwen which was an unbelievable help with the whole "he will rule over you" thing. This is one of the only 'Christian' books I've read about this subject that doesn't make you gag. It was the first time I heard (read) someone say "It's not supposed to be that way." I also devoured China Wakes because, hello, my boyfriend was Chinese and he went to China two summers in a row and it was Very Important I be Up on these things. I hadn't read any big historical-ish book on Asia before that and oh, it was very sad. (I also read the collected works of Eric Hobsbawm; dangerously eye-crossing books for an incredibly interesting class taught by a tiny Turkish man with a Little Bo Peep voice. I gave them all to my dad knowing that he likes that kind of thing and just recently he told me he was enjoying them. Which surprised me as I have now discovered that Eric Hobsbawm is an "unrepentant Communist". Ah, the educational perils of an unassuming liberal arts student at University!)

ANYWAY. Isn't pathetic that so few of these are Of Substance? I didn't exactly familiarize myself with any Great Works in college. I took 3 or 4 Shakespeare classes, ancient lit (Beowulf in Old English anyone?), the Victorians, the postmodernists, the Bible as literature and eventually maxed out my allowable English-oriented credits. I took pretty much everything except the Romantic poets because, despite their lovely name, they bore. me. to. death. Is it any wonder why I didn't manage to minor in anything? I can, however, recite Juliet's Act 3 soliloquy. Does anyone want to hire me?

I have a sneaking suspicion this stuff didn't make me fashionable, much less Well Read. But I figure I have the rest of my life to be Well Read. Right now I'm working on the Martha Grimes bibliography and Best American Travel Writing 2005 and after that perhaps I'll start on The Time Traveler's Wife which has been sitting unread on my nightstand for 300 years and maybe Oprah's top choices. I hear she has good taste. (Although I did not care at all for One Hundred Years of Solitude or The Corrections. Ugh.)

Actually, my next book will be Joan Didion's Year of Magical Thinking. I read the first 20 or so pages in Barnes & Noble while waiting for Phillip and by the time he found me, I was bawling. In a STORE.

What did you read way back when?

Maybe we'll have ham

One day I will write about something other than Thanksgiving. But not today.

Over the weekend, when I was not shopping or eating dim sum or asking a drunk man at Home Depot to saw my trellis in half (yes, this happened, no, it is not some kind of euphemism you sickos), I was watching every Good Eats Thanksgiving-related episode. And I think, my friends, I shall be cooking my turkey Alton Brown-style. God help me.

Firstly, this means that I will not be stuffing my turkey, for, as Alton Brown somberly intones, "Stuffing is evil." (And I am convinced. I never liked stuffing to begin with, but now I will never eat it unless it has not actually been stuffed. I have never heard the word "bacteria" so many times in one cooking show.) So this is why we're going to have "dressing" which is what my grandmother calls it anyway.

Then the internet informed me that it takes about 4 days to thaw a frozen turkey. This immediately sent me into a spiral of ohnoiamactuallyrequiredtocookaturkey and that, coupled with the little story my mother emailed to me this weekend, is enough to have me reaching for the Xanax.

And now I have to share the email my mother sent because it is awesome. So here we have, How Not To Plan Your Thanksgiving as told to us by Mighty Mom:

Dear Maggie,
     Brining a turkey?  What's that?  Like marinade?  Like pickles?
     This is my 2005 Turkey Story:
2 wks. ago at church they were taking volunteers to contribute to a regular American Thanksgiving for our "friends" in Budoia (Ed. the Mighty Parents live in Italy), who are always loaning out their church for our first communions and confirmations.  They wanted 8 turkeys and I signed up for one.  They were going to collect all the ingredients in the church hall, and do the cooking there, and then transfer it all to the community center in Budoia.  I wrote myself a little note to leave on the dining room table:  "call church to find out day to bring the turkey."  Last night at around 5PM, "Neighbor" (Ed. Names have been changed so as to lessen my mother's ire once she finds out I've told the whole internet) called and said she was going to the church to bring her 6 boxes of stuffing (Yes, they asked for the kind of stuffing that comes in boxes, which I've never tasted, but doesn't look like it is full of possibilities.), and did I want her to take the stuff I was donating. What?!?  It's THIS weekend??  Isn't that a little early for Thanksgiving?  I had not bought the turkey yet because we don't have room in the freezer.  I had planned to buy it 5 days early so it would have time to thaw in the refrigerator.  The Organizing-Lady said it would be OK if I cooked the turkey and brought it to the church on base by noon.   I immediately went to the commissary and bought a 20 lb. turkey - the size they wanted.  It seemed small to me because we usually try to get close to 30 lbs.  They say it's more economical the bigger you get it, because they bones are about the same, but the bigger ones have more meat.  Anyway, when I got home with this 20 lb. rock, "Neighbor" was here with a bag from the Organizer-Lady.  It had 1/2 apple, whole onion, 2 stalks celery, a huge piece of rosemary, and a little sage bush (Ed. Which is totally what Alton recommends. Almost.).  Also a Reynolds plastic bag to cook it in.  I read on the turkey that I could thaw it out the "fast" cold water method, which requires 30 min. per pound.  I quickly figured out in my head that that means 10 hrs.  I put it to soak at 5:30, and set the alarm for 3:30am.  Then I went to bed around 10, and laid awake, waiting for the 3:30 alarm to go off.  (I was helped by the nearly-constant barking of a dog in the yard behind us.)
At 3:30, I pulled all the innards out of the turkey, salted the inside (Grandma says this gets rid of the blood), rinsed and dried it, shoved the apple etc. inside and pulled the little skin flap over the legs.  (Trussing is not necessary anymore.  Butterballs come with their own little legs-under-the-skin-strip system.)  I dumped the whole thing in the plastic bag, put it in the oven and went back to bed.  It was done at 7AM, and it was perfect.  We let it sit while we went to church, and then came back, carved it, and took it to the church.  Your father feels cheated because he got the smell, but not the meal.  I actually think cooking a turkey is one of the easiest things to do. It's all the stuff that goes with it that's hard, and getting everything to be done at the same time.   Mine was only hard because I was rushed and had to do it in the middle of the night.
     So let me know how Yours goes.

So... Now I am paranoid. If I forgot about my turkey and then had to cook it in the middle of the night? I would probably spontaneously combust.

(No wait. I save spontaneous combusting for entering the Royal Doulton store at the outlet malls because no single person should be have to look at that amount of chintzy flowery gold-rimmed china over their entire lifetimes let alone one faulty step into the store.)

ANYWAY. Alton thawed his turkey in a big pan sitting in a styrofoam cooler with ice packs all around the sides. I don't have any of that. I also don't have a probe thermometer thingy and I'm not even going to be cooking it in an oven. And all this after an early Saturday morning panic attack about the possibility of four more guests. I know some of you are thinking Why is she hosting Thanksgiving if it's going to land her in an institution? But you people are probably just new readers who don't understand how much I enjoy my own mental imbalance. The archives can probably fix that for you. I'll be waiting for more Thanksgiving stories, that is, if my mom doesn't sue me for copyright infringement and TypePad kicks me out.

In the meantime, we are still getting figgy wit it. And to motivate all those considering making a donation: look what I found.

(How many times can I use "figgy" in ways only I find amusing? We shall see!)

Gobble gobble

All right kiddos.

According to Lee and Alton Brown, brining a turkey is the way to go. As I honestly have no idea how my family cooks the Thanksgiving turkey (my mom wakes up early and sticks it in the oven and then I hover vulture-like while my dad carves it), I am up for anything. If I brine my turkey, I'm going to need a big pot or bucket and ample refrigerator space. Here are my limitations:

1. I am having one brother, two sisters, a grandmother, an aunt and two in-laws for dinner. Including Phillip and me, that's nine people with the possibility of a tenth. According to this website, I'm looking at a 13 pound turkey. How big is a 13 pound turkey? More importantly...
2. Is a 13 pound turkey going to fit into my big spaghetti sauce pot? And will my big spaghetti sauce pot fit in the refrigerator? I don't think so. I'm wondering if we're going to have to unearth the big bucket we got for painting the bathroom. (WHICH DOES NOT HAVE PAINT IN IT ANYMORE, SIT DOWN ALEX.) I have no idea how THAT is going to fit in the refrigerator.
3. AND, refrigerator space is at a premium during the holidays. My fridge was a work of art right before the Halloween murder mystery dinner party, with 5 casserole dishes and 8 appetizer plates stuffed in there in addition to the regular fridge inhabitants. But a 5 gallon bucket with a turkey inside?
4. I will also be borrowing my grandmother's big roaster thing. I actually don't know what it's called. A roaster? It's a big tub and I have to use that so the oven is available for everything else. All the turkey recipes I've looked at recommend turning the turkey while it's cooking. How am I going to do that in a roaster? Leading to the biggest question:

The good news is that I will only be responsible for the turkey. And maybe one or two last minute dishes like mashed potatoes. But Alex will bring stuffing and the girls will bring side dishes and my aunt will bring pies and my grandma will stand next to me and make tsk tsk noises while I attempt to make gravy (OH NO I FORGOT ABOUT THE GRAVY) and hopefully my mother-in-law will make her super fantastic sticky rice stuffing.

In other news, I only own enough plates and silverware for eight people. You can only put eight people around my table. I suppose we can park Alex in front of the television, but that doesn't seem very happy family-ish.

Anyway, I appreciated the turkey/Thanksgiving advice. My next stop for advice is my sister-in-law who was an actual Chef at an actual Restaurant before my nephews arrived to introduce us all to the wonders of the Wiggles.

I always thought it would be fun to throw a Very Boozy Thanksgiving with my "urban family", but as my urban family has real family close by, I don't think this is ever going to happen. I do adore my own family, but I also miss the rag tag groups my mom and dad used to throw together at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. We lived on an overseas military base, where no one has family living near by, and our holiday dinners always involved the neighbors, the single teachers and the people who were "substitute" family. I remember being appalled when my parents invited people who were not grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins to our first Christmas away from the states. We were going to have OTHER PEOPLE around when we OPENED OUR PRESENTS? But it was decidedly weird when I attended my first family Christmas since then, only 2 years ago, and the "other people" were nowhere to be found.

I say that only because I am disappointed that I only have 8 plates. When we were looking for houses, one of my main criteria was how many people it could hold (seated and buffet!) But when one has never cooked a turkey before, one must start small, right? If you have any more turkey experience, I'd love to hear it. I read the Roasting Poultry chapter of Joy of Cooking last night and now I'm all I HAVE TO BUY A TRUSSING NEEDLE???

A short time out in the middle of crazy

Hello Loyal Readers! All four of you!

So, I haven't posted in forever because of something called WORK and then something else called BEING BUSY EVERY SINGLE FREAKIN MINUTE. (I had plans to write something last night but after the last minute of Lost I was too distraught. Damn you J. J. Abrams!)

Anyway. I am still here. I will write something soon, maybe about The Audit and how my auditor made 40 frillion mistakes and split her skirt, maybe about Figgy Pudding and how Phillip is feverishly Googling to find out whether it really is possible to die of embarrassment, or maybe how I am going to host Thanksgiving AT MY HOUSE. Does anyone know how to cook a turkey? Anyone?)

In the meantime, email me to find out how you can donate to Figgy Pudding!

Time to Get Figgy

If you were around LAST year at this time (hi Mom!), you may have read some rather exuberant posts regarding something about figs? pudding? crazy people singing on street corners?

It's that time of year again, loyal readers! The Sassy Santas will be headlining (okay, maybe not headlining) the Great Figgy Pudding Street Corner Caroling Competition Saturday, December 2 from 6:15 to 8:30 p.m. Once again fronted by Wacky Aunt (who is now officially renamed The Director), the Sassy Santas will be stationed in front of the downtown Sephora belting out last year's crowd favorites as well as some spicy new numbers. Remember, the Sassy Santas are not so much "carolers" as they are "making up snarky new lyrics to well worn familiar tunes because, honestly, who wants to hear a bunch of people who only think they can sing attempt 'O Holy Night'?"

For those of you new to the Figgy Pudding extravaganza, besides being the PERFECT way to get into the holiday spirit in Seattle (anyone heard the line "It's Christmastiiiime in the cityyyyy"? Figgy Pudding is the EPITOME of that line), it is THE fundraiser for the Pike Market Senior Center and Downtown Food Bank which benefits elderly homeless and low-income Seattle residents. Last year's event raised over $76,000, the most successful Figgy Pudding ever!

Last year I shyly (sort of) announced my participation in Figgy Pudding and politely asked for donations. You could come to the event and put some money in our donation box, or you could send me a donation in the mail. AND, if you sent me a donation in the mail, I sent you some COOKIES. Only ONE mighty maggie reader took me up on that proposition, Yoonie-Who-Doesn't-Want-Her-Own-Website-Linked-Because-She-Is-Not-A-Total-Attention-Whore-Like-Myself, but I KNOW she would tell you all that I make EXCELLENT Christmas cookies.

This year, however, I am not so shy. If I may lift generously from their website, the Pike Market Senior Center has supported low-income seniors since 1979 (my entire LIFETIME!) and needs our contributions to keep going. Please help them continue to provide their services! If you live near by, please come to the Figgy Pudding contest on December 2 and put a donation in our box. If you cannot possibly make it (and I suppose you have your reasons) please consider sending your donation to ME and I promise I will not spend it on shoes. Loyal readers, I practically killed myself making cookies last year, but if you send me a donation, check made out to Pike Market Senior Center, I WILL SEND YOU COOKIES. Everybody loves cookies! If I got TWO takers this year I would be so very excited. The Sassy Santas admit that they sincerely enjoy the attention, but we'd like to raise some money while we're at it. Email me for details! And if you really think I'm going to spend your Christmas charitable gift on shoes, you can always donate directly via the Pike Market Senior Center website.

Check out last year's photo album and PLEASE consider donating!

Communion of saints

Yesterday was All Souls' Day which meant (dum dum DUM) Holy Day of Obligation. Mass was at 7, a fact brought to my attention when the girl I sponsored in RCIA last year popped up on my instant messenger asking me if I was going. DRAT, I thought to myself, for there is less guilt if you honestly don't remember something and that's why you are at home watching TV when everyone else is taking communion.

I drove home in a funk. Phillip was going to be working late and work trumps everything around here lately, so I was going to have to go by myself. I called the friend who is always asking me about "Catholic stuff" and she wasn't home and then I called my sister because us lifelong papists have the same guilt problem, but SHE wasn't home either. Phillip said, "Just go. You'll feel better." So I did.

All Souls' Day is the Catholic feast to commemorate all the "faithful departed" saints. As I am a lay lay LAY layperson, I'm not going to attempt to explain the whole Catholic saint thing. Except that perhaps you have heard the term "communion of saints" which (I learned this last year, thank you RCIA) includes ME. Catholics consider all Christians to be saints- whether you are beatified and given a capital 'S' is another matter entirely. Last Sunday we were told we could bring in pictures of friends and relatives who are no longer with us and given a chance to write their names in the Book of the Dead. Morbid much? ANYWAY.

The church was considerably less full than usual (hello, Tuesday night) and I sat towards the back because I walked in as the procession was starting. I have the attention span of a four-year-old so even though I really do listen to the readings, I cannot tell you what they were. And I barely remember what the priest talked about, except he used the phrase "tonight we celebrate our Christian heroes" because after he said that, I pretty much went off into my own world.

I just love that idea. I love thinking that the ordinary faithful people who went before me are now my Christian heroes. Not just Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul and all the other Very Important Catholics, but grandparents and neighbors and friends. I thought a lot about my friends who lost their brother earlier this year, undoubtedly a Christian hero before and after his death. What better legacy can you leave than a group of people who emulate you in their own lives, choosing your faith because they felt your impact? My parents lost a friend to cancer last winter, a woman who really loved my family. She came to all our holiday dinners, used to wish I could meet her handsome brilliant nephew. When I was still thinking about teaching English in China, she was one of the people I thought might be excited for me, a former Peace Corps volunteer and interested in missions. She's no longer with us, but I celebrated her last night.

I know that Catholic tradition is kinda stilted and complex and steeped in little rituals, but the more I understand it, the more I really appreciate it. I'm so glad I went to church last night. The choir, a perpetual target on this website, was really on. They were just beautiful. One of the girls in the RCIA program last year is now a eucharistic minister and it was so cool to see her up there. It was even a little exciting to be a lone person in the back watching everything happen. And maybe it's weird to have pictures of people who have passed away on every window sill in the church, but when you think of it as being surrounded by your heroes, it's oddly comforting.