Yesterday afternoon, I received a call from the local DOD Elementary school, requesting an interview for the substitute teacher position. I had applied for this job last fall. I was certainly not expecting a phone call from them. I had applied to over 20 job postings between last fall and January, and had not received one interview. I know that it is primarily because I have not had a job in over 10 years. But, I have been a chauffeur, a chef, a nurse, a Chief Financial Officer, a secretary, a lawyer, a sales person (I have to work my sales magic on my husband to get things that I don’t need), and a maid for the past eighteen years. Unfortunately, my experience at the Stevens Homestead LLC (Live Love Create) does not transfer into the “real” world. So, I had just about given hope of getting a job until I finish my BA and obtain my teaching credentials.
Regardless of the lack of interest in my mad skills and great personality, I bought a Power Suit–just in case someone decided that I was worthy enough to to talk to them. Funny how as it hung in my closet with the tags still on it, I had the urge to throw it out every time I needed something in far reaches of my wardrobe. I kept meaning to get the pants hemmed, but after a while it seemed pointless.
My last job Interview was in 2003. That’s right–it’s been 12 years! I was over the moon with joy when I was asked to come in for an interview–and terrified at the same time. So, yesterday I Googled “Job Interview Question” and started practicing. I practiced in front of the mirror for two hours. I practiced sitting, standing, waiting, talking, and smiling. Seems lame, but as I became more comfortable being on “trial,” my confidence grew. I printed out three copies of my Resume and references, put each one into a clear report cover, and then continued to memorize and practice my answers for another 2 hours.
After a rough night of tossing and turning as I tried to sleep, I got up early and started to prepare for my 1030am interview. by 0900 my hair was done and face was painted. It was time to put on the Power Suit. The pants were way too long! I realized then that I forgot to have the pants hemmed. I changed, ran down the stairs, grabbed the keys, and ran outside to the storage. After about 2 minutes of rummaging I found my stash of New-Sew hem tape. I keep it around for quick fixes and projects like curtains (I used the tape on the brown drapes seen this post). Thank God, I had just enough to hem my pants this morning! I had the pants hemmed in less than 30 minutes! Once I was done hemming the pants, I got dressed and headed out the door.
I arrived 30 minutes early. I sat in the car and played Backgammon on my phone for 15 minutes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know it’s an old lady game–but in my defense, it was an old lady (my dad’s mother) who taught me how to play!
I walked in at 1015 and waited for my interview. I waited until 1050.
I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I will tell you that I ROCKED that interview!
He said “If I could hire you, I would, but I have to send my choices to HR and they will make the final decisions.”
Great–back to waiting for HR to decide if I am worthy.
It’s okay though, he said they are hiring 5 people, so my chances are good.
I am hoping to be one of the five new substitute teachers at the local elementary school. Stay tuned, I will let you all know in a couple of weeks whether or not I got the job.
This year we had a very tight budget for Christmas spending. The Department of Defence lowered our overseas cost of living by 50%, I have yet to secure employment, and we are recuperating losses from repairs on our rental property in Colorado. I did my best to get at least a few things that each child wanted as well ensuring that we had all of our usual Christmas goodies.
When you live on a military base overseas, the prices at the Commissary (DeCa grocery store) are rather high. Our tiny little ham was $32–and it was the only one that was not already expired. Things like baker’s chocolate, sugar, and flour that we would normally get a tt a great price were also inflated.
I could have spent more on Christmas gifts if we hadn’t gone to the Christkindlesmarkt in Nurnberg, but I felt that it would be fun to experience one of the world-famous Christmas Markets. Too often we live in an area that has amazing things to see, but we end up never doing them because there’s always that little voice that says “we can do it next year.” It is my experience that the next year comes, and we still haven’t gone and then before we realize it–we are moving again. I have been looking forward to the Christkindlesmarkt ever since we found out that we had orders to Germany, so I was not about to let this opportunity pass. I’m glad that we spent the money on such a special trip!
This year, my son was greatly disappointed with his gifts. He wanted Fifa 14, but it was not available at the Post Exchange (PX). He also wanted Minecraft online, but I didn’t know about it. The other item that my son really wanted was a pair of $80 Euro shoes (after exchange & bank fees that comes out to about $105). The kids asked for sweaters as well. So I gave my son Fifa 13, two very nice sweaters, a nice Timex watch with an alarm and two time zones, and my husband’s old smart phone with minutes and some data. From my parents he received a $50 gift card to Amazon. Personally, I would love to have that gift card!
Off and on through the day he asked for Minecraft after finding out that he couldn’t buy the online game through Amazon. After telling him nicely that he could ask his sister to cash out some of his amazon gift card when she gets paid on the 5th of January, he got upset and said he shouldn’t have to wait that long.
My children are blessed, and they don’t even realize it. I grew up with very little. I remember eating lots of ground beef, tuna casserole, and soups. We were not dirt poor, but we certainly were not middle class. We lived in Santa Ana, California–a known gang zone. I had to take the bus or walk just about everywhere. We had junk cars that were often breaking down. I never asked for much because I grew up with these 6 words: “we don’t have money for that.” If I had a pair of L.A. Gear shoes–they were the previous years’ model and we purchased them at the swap meet. I don’t think my mother would have ever purchased a $30 pair of shoes for us girls. Our shoes came from Payless. Our clothes were purchased at K-Mart. I didn’t complain. I was grateful for every gift that I received, and if I didn’t like it, I pretended to love it. I still remember the year that I received the Prince “1999” album and the Cyndi Lauper “She’s So Unusual” album. I cherished those records for years!
I was so angry and hurt by my son’s attitude that I went up to my room to be alone with memories of him as a little boy. An idea sparked.
I came downstairs about two hours before dinner with two large storage boxes full of family photos. I called the kids to the dining table and had them sit down with me. We went through the photos together. We visited Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings, and impromptu snap shots. The kids had a great time looking through all of the wonderful memories. I did too. Thomas said to me later that night, “mom, I’m sorry. Thanks for all of the awesome gifts you gave me when I was a kid. I really do like the Fifa 13 game, and my sweaters. How did you know that I needed a watch?” I just smiled. Told him you are welcome and that it was a tradition in my family to get your first “grown-up” watch for Christmas when you are a freshman in high school. He asked me to help him set up the second time zone for Colorado. It was a good lesson for him, and a reminder to me–I have done well in providing a better life for my kids.
I also discovered a new Christmas tradition–looking through old photos before dinner on Christmas Day.
Family holiday traditions have a way of growing, changing, and melding with the addition of each new family member. My husband and I celebrated Christmas with very different traditions before we got married, but have melded the best of both our families and added our own flair to our celebration. I love that no two families are identical in their celebration traditions. After viewing the blog and ornaments at Patience Brewster, a designer of unique Christmas ornament and gifts, I was inspired to share my favorite holiday traditions.
It’s Not Black Friday—It’s Christmas Friday!
As soon as Halloween passed, I could hardly wait to play Christmas music and put up all of the Christmas decorations. When I was a child, my mom would sometimes decorate the weekend before Thanksgiving, but my husband did not want to see anything having to do with Christmas until after Thanksgiving. I compromised by decorating the house with fall wreaths, garlands, linens, and other miscellaneous decor. The rule stands: No Christmas until after the Turkey has been consumed! While everyone else is running ragged trying to get the best Christmas deals on black Friday, we stay home and decorate the house for Christmas. We call it Christmas Friday.
It’s a Wonderful Life
After all of the decorations have been strategically placed, we all gather around the TV to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This has not always been a tradition. My husband is a funny creature. The Saint Nicolas party always put him in the mood for Christmas. It was sort of like a marker to him that he should now be feeling joyful and excited no matter what stress existed, whether it be financial, work, or family related. When we moved far from family, I just could not seem to get him into the holiday spirit. Then one night, about a week before Christmas, we watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” on the Turner Classic Movie Channel. He said, “I love this movie. It always puts me in the holiday mood.” I bought the DVD at the after Christmas sale. Now we watch this film every year on Christmas Friday.
Trimming the Tree
Because my husband comes from a very large family, his parents began a tradition of celebrating Saint Nicolas Day every year with all of the family members—the guest list was comprised of grandparents; first, second, and third aunts, uncles and cousins; and close family friends. After my husband and I were married, guests also included my parents and my sister. Saint Nicolas Day marked the kick-off to the Christmas season. Gifts usually included Christmas ornaments or decorations.
Though we moved far away from the family, we kept the tradition of giving an ornament to each of our children for Saint Nicolas day. We also buy one new ornament that represents a family milestone or a favorite memory. Even the puppies are represented on our Christmas tree! Our tree may not be color coordinated or worthy of a formal gathering, but each ornament has a story to tell. Every year we enjoy homemade hot cocoa, my family sugar cookies, and listen to Christmas songs while each member of the family hangs his or her ornament. More often than not, an ornament will spark a memory and the owner will share their memory with the rest of the family.
Christmas Eve Birthday Party
Though Christmas Eve is not technically Jesus’ birthday, this is the day our family celebrates His birth. Every year we make a small birthday cake—and yes “Happy Birthday Jesus” is written on the top. After we eat our cake, each family member writes a personal note to Jesus and puts it in His stocking—this is our gift to Him. The note remains in the stocking until the next year. When we hang His stocking, each person reads his or her note—it’s a private thing, so we have never forced the kids to read it a aloud. My notes usually consist of thanksgiving for the blessings of that year and prayers for the New Year. Afterward, we read Christ’s birth story.
When I was a kid, I used to sit in front of the tree and shake my gifts on Christmas Eve. I was just too excited! Of course, we had a rule: no shaking the gifts! But seriously, who didn’t shake them when they were kids? Because I still have that urge to open gifts before Christmas morning, we started the PJ gift tradition. Everyone in the family gets brand new pajamas and slippers—and if needed, a new robe. Besides, what is a birthday party without gifts?
After the PJs have been opened, we all change into our new PJs and then sit together on the sofa. We read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and sing “Up On the Roof Top” and “Here Comes Santa Clause.”
The Christmas Cookie
My family always made Louisiana Sugar Cookies that are rolled into a ball and then flattened on the cookie sheet with a decorative glass, while my husband’s family always made sugar cookies that are rolled and cut with cookie cutters. His favorite part of making cookies as a kid was decorating them. Though I prefer my family’s cookies, we did make the cut cookies when our kids were little because my husband loved decorating them with the kids. Funny that my kids enjoyed decorating the cookies, but favored mine for eating…
When I was a child, I would wake my little sister up and exclaim, “It’s Christmas!” My parents had to practically pull me out of bed any other day of the year, but on Christmas morning, I would wake up somewhere between 5 and 6 am. We would rush into the living room to make sure that Santa had come. After scoping out the presents, we would run and jump into our parent’s bed and yell, “Santa was here! It’s Christmas!” To which they would reply, “Okay, Okay.” They would groggily head to the living room and watch as we opened our stockings. We would then have to wait for the coffee to brew before we could open the presents.
I’m pretty sure this scene is familiar to most families. However, I am still the one who wakes up first on Christmas morning. I start the coffee. Then I take the scones (made on Christmas Eve) and the jam to the coffee table. I sneak back into bed and wait for the kids.
In our house, the dogs get to open their gifts first. Their stockings are full of treats, and Santa always wraps a huge bone for them.
The Christmas Feast
Whether you eat tamales, lasagna, prime rib, turkey, duck, lamb, or ham—the Christmas feast is probably one of the most important aspects of the Christmas traditions. My grandmother always brought her homemade fruitcake and fudge. We ate ham prepared with pineapple and clove, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and brown-and-serve dinner rolls. Dessert included cookies, pumpkin pie, fudge, and of course, grandma’s fruitcake. My husband’s favorite feast as a child was the Saint Nicolas party spread. This traditional feast included tamales (brought by an uncle’s sister-in-law,) pickled and creamed herring, Cool Orange Salad, Tomato aspic, and glazed ham along with traditional sides such as candied yams, and stuffing. Eggnog was of course a treat in both our families.
In order to fit in all of our favorite foods, we serve hors d’oeuvres starting at about 10am through the afternoon. We serve pickled and creamed herring, an olive and pickle platter as well as a veggie platter, Cool Orange Salad (only I use lime Jell-O for Christmas so it’s Cool Green Salad), my homemade creamy eggnog, Fudge, rum balls, and my Louisiana sugar cookies.
The star of Christmas dinner is a ham ornamented with pineapple and cloves, then coated in a pineapple and brown sugar glaze. The side dishes include salad, mashed potatoes with brown gravy, broccoli, and fresh baked dinner rolls. For dessert, we serve apple pie, pecan pie, and pumpkin pie. I know that’s a lot of pie, but who doesn’t love pie for breakfast the next day?
Now that we are living in Germany, we have added a couple of new things to our Christmas Traditions. We learned how to make certain traditional German Christmas cookies, and we enjoyed it so much that I will include them from now on. We are also adding Stollen to our menu as well as Gluhwein (hot, spiced wine). I am certain there will be many more additions to our Christmas traditions over the years, and that is the beauty of traditions—they grow and change over the years, but are always special.
I hope you have enjoyed exploring our family Christmas traditions. Do you have any family traditions that you have kept or changed over the years? I’d love to hear about them!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you and your families!
With Thanksgiving preparations well under way, I decided to take a moment to relax with a cup of coffee and a delicious homemade cookie. It’s been a long year with more bumps than joy, but even so, I do have plenty to be thankful for.
I am thankful to be alive. Having come too close to death this year, I really am grateful for all of the trials and sorrow that life brings with it.
~~Without the trials we cannot truly know victory.
~~Without the sorrow we cannot truly know joy.
I am thankful for my family. I have a kind, loving, and considerate husband. In just a few days we will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. Sometimes I just can’t believe that I have known this man for 20 years. I have two beautiful and intelligent children who have brought me laughter (and tears), Pride (and shame), and so much joy.
I am thankful for my fur babies. Liberty, our German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix, brings calmness and security to our happy little home while Maggie, our Border Collie/Schnauzer mix, brings laughter and fun to our happy home. They were my nurse maids–always at my side–while I was recovering from my illness this year.
I am thankful for my parents. They taught me to be an independent woman and a free thinking individual.
I am thankful for my sister. She is my closest friend.
I am thankful for all of the wonderful friends I have had the pleasure to know.
And finally, I am thankful for all of the little things in life. You know–that hot cup of coffee in the morning, the flowers that bloom in the spring, a good book to read, doggie kisses, and so much more. These are the things that get me through the tough times and the mundane of daily living.
I am truly blessed.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday surrounded by the people you love most.
I would just like to take a moment to honor one of the greatest women of our time: Maya Angelou.
I was first introduced to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in high school. The images of her traveling by train with her brother as still as vivid today as they were when I first read the story.
I started reading her poetry when I was about 18 and still re-read her poems today. She is not only a refined writer, but she is also a woman who used her talents to bring change–for the better that is.
Though many of her poems focus on her race, they tell the truth about any person who has had to struggle in a racially and ethnically challenged environment.
As a woman, her poetry speaks to my desire for complete equality, but not at the expense of destroying men as many modern feminists preach.
She was (and always will be) a woman of grace, a woman of morals, and a woman of peace.
Thank you Ms. Angelou for the many years of work, service, and love that you brought to the world.