Monthly Archives: December 2013

What I have learnt this Christmas

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IMG_30521.  People are grumpy.

In recent months I have been adding a little extra to the family coffers by working in customer services for online stores in the States.  Usually at about 2 or 3 hours a day this has added a little pocket-money during the quieter months of my new business venture.  During the run up to Christmas people went wild  with their credit cards and my hours grew tenfold, literally meaning I was spending more time with American shoppers than my own family.  Luckily there is no Christmas in Israel (at least not in my part) so my own Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and even on Christmas morning was stress free.  Not so much the onliners.  Oh. my. goodness.  Talk about first world problems.

“My dogs special Christmas biscuits haven’t arrived yet and I ordered them a week ago” “I’m sorry the postal service is delayed due to the season” ” You have ruined our Christmas, what do I give the dog now?” A bone?  Purlease.

“I am really tired of dealing with you, your labels don’t print out straight and I need to return the water bottle I bought from you.  I wanted blue and you sent me green, I HATE green”

“I bought this [can of spicy salsa] from you and I don’t like it, it’s too spicy.  Can I return it?” Umm, you opened it?  Ate from it? Then NO.

“If my order was broken in transit why should I use my printer ink to print your [prepaid] return labels?  I am not wasting my ink or electricity printing, you need to send them by mail immediately”

“Call this a skateboard?  I have been skateboarding for 8 years and I have never come across such a s**t board.  I carn’t [sic] do my trix [sic].  It’s too heavy.  Send me money back now”

I could go on, and on, and on, and on.  The word I seldom came across was ‘please’.  The punctuation and grammar, never mind the spelling and most of all the anger has been just, well, shocking.  Why do people get so upset about such tiny things.  One man who did write a very rude and angry message to me did apologise after I was super nice and kind to him in my reply.  He told me his wife had just been laid off and he’d had forced early retirement.  Now that’s a real problem (albeit not mine so why are you YELLING AT ME).  The colour of your water bottle, that, is not.

2. Christmas is not for everyone.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the delicate balance between keeping Christmas in my life whilst bringing the children up in a Jewish country with a husband who has trouble being in the same room as a Christmas tree has its own challenges.  This year my husband explained his slow but sure acceptance of the holiday as part of my culture and therefore part of our children’s and for that I am extremely grateful.

Christmas is always a time of reflection and memories, something about the age-old family traditions; where the stockings are hung, what goes on the top of the tree, whether to finish all the chocolate coins before or after breakfast, brings back bygone Christmases and those no longer with us to share them.  Those hit by tragedy this past year in particular have had it tough and I have to tell you that if avoidance is your thing then Israel is the right place to come (and it’s sunny in December).

3. The best Christmas parties are when a group people get together with one aim to have fun.

We have been at two Christmas gatherings this holiday season.  The first at a friend’s house where, like last year, I was the only Christian but who doesn’t like an enormous dinner, sparkly lights and mulled wine right?  The second we had at our house with our Israeli friends who quite possibly didn’t know it was Christmas save for the small tree in the corner of the room (which by the way fell off its stand by the end of the evening).  Both gatherings were fantastic.  Fun for the kids, fun for the adults, fun for our stomachs.  If the message of Christmas is goodwill to all men no matter what their faith then we are on a winning streak.

4. Presents are nice

I love getting presents and the fact that I didn’t expect even one under the tree for myself this year meant I was stupendously pleased when a bumper bottle of Chanel arrived from Ma & Pa plus two bottles of gin and a much-needed winter coat from husband (I am off to Switzerland soon) were my loot.  I went shopping, uhum Santa went shopping, for the childers’ presents in a $ store and for the bargain price of 20 quid I filled their stockings with all the beads, toy cars, crayons and puzzles they could wish for.  Our lovely relatives from the UK provided the main presents and so far, 5 days later every single toy is being played with, every book read and every puzzle built, underlining my philosophy that a few of the right stuff, no matter the price goes a long way.

5. I miss Christmas but this year not as much

Perhaps because my sister was here, perhaps because I knew my parents were with my brother and his family, perhaps because I didn’t dwell too much and I was simply so busy this Christmas I had no sad moments longing for Christmas in the UK.  I miss my family and friends on a daily basis and although its more poignant during the festive season and I want to have a ‘proper’ Christmas again I think I can safely admit that this Christmas has been fun.

I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday season, whatever you celebrated or even if you didn’t.  I want to wish everyone a Happy 2014.  Thanks for reading and supporting my mutterings this year.  Onwards and upwards!

 

 

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Confessions

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Confessions

December 14th, 2013

“Would you like the same present for your birthday that I got you last year?”,

“what was it? pyjamas? yes I like new pyjamas”,

“no, sellotape*”

(*that’s scotch tape to my American friends)

And with that it all came rushing back, the trauma and turmoil of this time last year when I turned 40.  I actually thought that the set of coloured biros and coloured sellotape was a sweet, albeit interesting choice of present but as No. 1 son had obviously chosen them himself I was all the more appreciative.  It was a small highlight in an otherwise dark day.  I didn’t like turning 40.  Having started writing my mutterings on the run up to my new decade I had thought I had it well under control. Looking back I now see it was a huge rite of passage  and only now, as I turn 41 do I think I am really OK with being ‘old’.

This time last year I was stricken with  a throat infection and determined not to miss out on the surprise gathering my husband had planned for that evening (yes, sorry I did know) I stuffed myself full of every over-the-counter remedy possible, plus a healthy dose of my 2-year-old’s antibiotics.  Yes, that was a secret too, which one year on I am not ashamed (well only partially) to admit.  I figured that if antibiotics started working in 24 hours then 1 dose the night before and 1 the next morning should do the trick.  I hadn’t counted on the enormous amount of sugar in an adult size dose of children’s antibiotics.  My kidneys ached for days and I worried silently of the permanent damage.  That’s how desperate I was to celebrate my big 4-0, I know, I know, sad and shameful. I also drank a lot of water – I mean a lot for weeks afterwards.  Rather goes to show that with age does not come sense.

The good news is I made it out that evening and my drama training stood me well as I don’t think anyone suspected I knew what was in store (least of all my darling husband who was v proud of himself).  By that time, slightly high on medication and a couple of glasses of cava I had a lovely time.  Not so much the next day.  Then the hangover and realisation that I could no longer consider myself ‘young’ really kicked in.  Goodness knows how I’ll be at 50.

I spent yesterday thinking about the ‘must do’ list I created pre-40 and thought about what I had achieved in my 41st year.  I have finally taken up exercise and have surprised myself by enjoying it.  It has meant I have gained weight which I am reassured is muscle but I’m not so sure.  I have worn shoes with heels much more than I did.  I have tried to be less sensitive about other’s opinions (still trying) and I have gone from 1/4 time job plus full time parenting to 3 jobs and only partial full time parenting (hooray for kindergarten).

December 15th, 2013

So what about today I hear you ask, how is the birthday so far.  Well, I have had 2 cards and one happy birthday.  I am not sick, not stressed about my age – 41 somehow sounds younger than 40 – go figure. I have not taken any medication, mine or the children’s and I am 100% sure that no surprise gathering is being planned. I am in fact quite calm. No doubt I shall be receiving colourful sellotape, or some other comedy present from the childers this afternoon (it’s actually very useful), I am presuming cake and candles will make an appearance and I am happy to report that I am in a far better place on December 15th 2013 than I was on the same date in 2012.

Happy birthday to me.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

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December has always been a good month for me.  It’s the month that as a kid we had 2 weeks off school, the Christmas disco, the Christmas production, Santa would appear in the streets just before bed time on a sleigh on wheels courtesy of the local Round Table, carol concerts, a trip to Manchester to see the Christmas lights, Christmas itself and of course the highlight, my birthday, complete with birthday treat trip to the ballet/pantomime/ice skating rink.  Ah, December.

These days December has taken on a whole new meaning, not least because I am no longer in school.  The only part of my past Decembers that really remains is my birthday, although I don’t ice skate these days.

So what is December now?  Well it’s doughnuts and fire hazards, spinning tops and latkes, 5 advent calendars counting down to the day my sister arrives (aka Santa), a small apology for a Christmas tree and of late, some explanations to number one son about what Christmas is (“when is the winter holiday” he asked his father the other day – oy vay), what are Christians and Jews are and why do some celebrate one holiday, another celebrate another and we celebrate (of a fashion), both.

December is also a smell, not pine needles and mulled wine (mmm I love mulled wine), it is the smell of frying.  I might have mentioned before (a trillion times) that my husband is a pastry chef and as such spends 2 weeks of December frying doughnuts.  In Israel people go mad for doughnuts at Hannukah.  You have to see the varieties and queues to buy them to believe it.  I have heard a rumour that one bakery chain makes more money during Hannukah than the rest of the year put together.  The more elaborate the doughnut, the better.  Not good if you are calorie counting.

This year hubby and team have competition-winning Hannukah doughnuts and judging by the 15 hour days and the stink that accompanies him when he walks through the door – strip at the door, clothes in washer, straight to the shower – the bakery kitchen is certainly frying their fair share and more.

IMG_3138We are now on the 6th candle out of 8 which means Hannukah is nearing its end.  Every evening we have spent with different friends or family to ceremonially light the candle, eat and try to contain (or not) the excitement of rowdy children.  We have also eaten doughnuts, well I say we but actually I haven’t eaten one.  I don’t like doughnuts, never have, never will.  There is something about eating a fried cake that just doesn’t sit well with me or my stomach.

In two days the hannukiah and box of assorted spinning tops will be put away for another year 232323232fp6356__nu=327;_;75_278_WSNRCG=35_398_654329nu0mrjand I will bring out my Christmas tree and start internet window shopping for my birthday.  Like last year, we will not be braving the cold of Christmas in the UK, instead my sis will come and she and I will have Christmas lunch in a restaurant, followed by present opening with the childers when they come home from nursery.  Yes they will be going to nursery, not much else to do on Christmas Day if no-one else is celebrating.  We will be having our annual Christmas dinner and knees up on the 20th with my English Jewish friends who appreciate that Christmas appeals beyond religion.

Much as I might hark back to the Decembers of my childhood I am happy to report that even in my new Israeli/Jewish/Christian life December is still special; still about the kids having fun, still about my birthday, still about over eating and being with friends and family.  I will of course have pangs as the month progresses, especially during the Christmas Day phone call with my family in the UK (no crying this year?) but for me December is still the most wonderful time of the year.