Tag Archives: holidays

The Bucket Shrub

12 Dec

Sucking The Life Out Of The Holidays

My husband found four shrubs and a palm tree by the side of the road. Well, it’s not really a palm. It’s some kind of giant fern with a weird (PORN NAME ALERT!) hairy trunk. And it’s like four feet tall except now it’s dead. Or maybe it’s just resting, what do I know about plants?

We have some neighbors who have a lawn care business and generally leave the carcasses of shrubs and other assorted flora in the Designated Trash Spot which is the fence at the culvert. This is the best place in Memphis to find and leave Stuff. Chuck and his friend Alan hauled out our busted washing machine a few months ago and by the time they’d finished a beer to reward themselves for the manly job they’d done, the sucker was gone. I once saw this great end table and by the time I circled back around to pick it up, it was gone. I saw a middle aged woman in a Mercedes sedan try to pick up two club chairs and put them in her trunk. It’s like the FAO Schwarz of junk. On Black Friday.

I don’t know why these particular plants were put out to pasture. They were all healthy. The four shrubs have been sitting in their pots in front of Chuck’s garden forming a nice hedgerow. But it’s Christmas and I’m Southern. By law, I must decorate the house in some fashion. Usually, I just put a ribbon around a bottle of Jim Beam and call it a day. This morning I stuck a shrub in the ice cream freezer.

Part of Chuck’s dowry was a White Mountain ice cream freezer. You know the one. Wooden bucket, loud motor. He comes from a big ice cream-making clan, but that’s another post. Believe me. I really liked the bucket and being a gal on a budget, I stuck it at my front door and threw some greenery in it. It looked really cool. Then, of course, I let the greenery turn brown. You’ll know my house by the ice cream freezer full of sticks decorating the front porch. Oh, and spring before last a squirrel nested in it. So that was nifty.

But this morning I looked at the pumpkins (from his garden, thankyouverymuch) and frost-bitten croton and thought, damn. I should be embarrassed. I mean, I’m not. But I should be. So I grabbed a shrub, threw out the nest and the pumpkins, and now my porch is about a quarter of the way to being festive. I’m going to hang some glass balls on my bucket shrub. Maybe put a wreath on my door. OBVIOUSLY, I will be putting Fernando The Yard Flamingo in his Santa outfit. By that point I’ll be exhausted and need to recouperate by watching Love Actually for the 4,593th time. And I’ll probably require a cheeseburger.

Then I’ll wait with a finger or two of bourbon for a really pissed off squirrel to come banging on my door wanting to know how in the hell I thought I could evict him without proper legal notice.


10 Dec

this christmasPeople think that if you don’t work outside the home, all you do is lie around and eat bonbons and watch stories. First? There’s only like one soap opera left on TV. Second? I prefer Cheetos. There’s so much to do around the house even now that both Girl Child and Boy Child are out of the house. Chuck and I were both sick during Thanksgiving, and I’d just had enough of walking through the living room thinking about how it really needed to be dusted. So I hired an imaginary maid, Blanche.

Blanche came highly recommended from the tap instructor of my imaginary twins Sizzlene and Formicadinette. But it’s been a while since I’ve managed people, and I guess I’m out of practice. So here’s a thing. I said to her yesterday, I said, “Blanche, that Christmas tree isn’t going to decorate itself.” And she, cheeky thing that she is, said to me, “Missus, CTFO and drink your bourbon.” Now, I was totally on board for the latter, but I had to call a teenager to ask what a CTFO was. And I’ll just say this, I’m very hot-natured so I thought that was kind of nice.

We’re going to get that damn tree up today. Or maybe tomorrow. Point is, we’re getting that damn tree up. Just a little while ago while she was admonishing me for not polishing the silver more regularly and with more vigor, I told her I thought it would be nice if we had a fire in the fireplace. Actually, I was back in the bedroom going through the pockets of every jacket I own to find a freaking tube of Burt’s Bees or Lip Smackers or any of the 5,930,372 tubes of lip stuff I KNOW I own but can’t ever find, and she was in the dining room doing whatever it is maids do in dining rooms. So I called to her. I said, using my outside voice, “BLANCHE! FOR GOD’S SAKE GO PULL THAT LIMB THAT FELL SATURDAY OFF THE CARPORT ROOF AND START A FIRE!” Well, then I hear my text alert and was about to ignore it like I normally do, but I was hoping to hear from my friend who was having silicone injected into her earlobes today. She has always had the most leaf-like lobes. Just weird and thin and, well, unattractive. But it was Blanche! blanche

Can you believe that? Part of her contract is that SHE does my pedicures every Wednesday. I can’t believe she forgot that’s tomorrow. Much more of that and she can just go back to cleaning floor wax out of shoe taps.

Briefly: Holiday Sickness Version

6 Dec

jingle deezI’m just going to bitch a minute. Sit down. Have a drink. Join me.

Have you ever been sick, but not really SICK SICK, but miserable-no-energy-totally anti-social-because-no-one-should-have-to-be-around-you sick? I’ve been that way for the better part of a month now. I’m down to just an slightly unnerving dizziness and some kvetching, which is an improvement over last week when I didn’t even have the energy or desire to complain about anything other than people who jump the light at the Greenline crosswalk on Graham. And that barely counts.

Some people like to be tended to when they’re sick. I like to be left the hell alone. So, in that sense, it’s no different than when I’m well. And I glare at people the same way sick or not. I enjoy being brought the occasional cup of tea or getting the odd neck massage, but other than that you better run for the hills because when I feel bad I start to cry. A lot. And no one needs to see that. No one.

I would like to be one of those girls whose tears are made of morning dew and whose little chapped red button nose only adds to her adorableness. The girl who always has men giving her handkerchiefs. Hell, I would like to be the kind of girl who’s around men who still carry handkerchiefs. And drink whiskey neat. And wear hats. Oh, wait. I’m married to one of those men.

Anyway, all of this is to say my annual debate with myself about decorating the house for Christmas has begun. I like decorating the house. I just don’t like the taking down part. Maybe I need to find a taker downer whose OCD manifests itself by the need to wrap tiny ornaments in bubble wrap? You know anyone like that? Generally I cave and give my family the following admonishment:

You are NOT to enjoy these decorations. You are not to look at them. If you do not participate in the decorating or clean up, you do not get to bask in the glory of a well-decorated Christmas tree and sideboard draped with evergreen swag. These decorations are purely for MY enjoyment and that of our guests should I actually get around to inviting anyone over. Should you be witnessed deriving any joy from these decorations, you will be eating left-over creamed beef surprise for A MONTH. A MONTH.

That works about as well as asking a toddler not to run around with his diaper on his head. Or hammering Jello to a tree. Fortunately, I’ve given up Pinterest so I don’t have to see pictures of Super Woman’s perfectly decorated mantle, kitchen, SUV, bedroom, tree house,  and dog trot. Nor do I have to endure any cute ideas about what to have that creepy Elf on the Shelf dude do. 

My neighbor has kept her Christmas tree up for sixteen years. Her tree can drive. Next year it will be able to go to an R rated movie alone. Hers used to be the first Christmas card we got every year, but I think she’s realized she’ll never get on in return so, you know, she can save that one for her chiropractor. I’m thinking of designing some cards for those of us who like the idea of sending holiday greetings, but don’t want to be merry about it. And perhaps a combination holiday card slash get well. The holidays make everyone sick in one way or another. As a bonus? This project requires neither the wearing of pants or the application of concealer. SOLD.

Here’s To You

2 Jan

Dear Readers,

I am contractually obligated to start this post with, “WOW! What a year!”

Now that’s over, let’s talk about how grateful I am to you.

It is an amazing thing that you spend a few minutes out of your day in this space. When I started blogging three or so years ago my mother didn’t even read me. Now she does and only occasionally wishes she hadn’t. A few months ago, I penned an open letter to Congress. I was asked if I was surprised at the response it got. How it resonated with so many people. My answer was no. I think I said what a lot of us were thinking. What was amazing was how many people read the piece and passed it on. You guys have so many other things to do every day, that you spend some time with me is sort of a trust thing. You trust me to a degree if you’re here. You trust I’ll say what you couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t/shouldn’t. Or you’ll totally disagree with me, get good and pissed off, and sit down to write me a response. Some of you email me directly. You tell me your stories. And that’s why I started doing this in the first place–to share stories.

I’ve got a few things planned for the new year. Standard Shed Life Coaching has really taken off, so I’ll spend some more time telling you what you should do. I’ve just added a new feature that’s, um, in beta right now. I hope to get it rolled out this week. A while ago I asked for you to send suggestions for what to do with deviled egg trays for those of us who don’t eat the evil things. I’ve got some prizes to give out this week for that.  I’m going to try to post more. I KNOW! It’s like Christmas came twice! I’m going to try to post more in short bursts while keeping with the longer pieces. I’m going to revisit a piece that got many of you here in the first place. Deryl Dedmon was scheduled to stand trial in Mississippi beginning January 9 for the murder of James Anderson. That trial has now been delayed. My intention was never just to tell the story of the murder and move on.  Blog for Choice Day is January 22. If you’re a blogger interested in participating, you can get information here.

Thanks, guys. Thanks for reading, contributing, for being my online sounding board. I’d give you big, wet, sloppy kisses but I’m not into public displays of spit swapping.

Happy 2012.


Here are some of the most popular posts from 2011:


Prove Me Wrong, Mississippi

My Memphis Anniversary

An Open Letter To Congress 

Grease. It’s What’s For Dinner

The Best Advice

It’s About Civility In The Public Discourse, Stupid

I Haven’t Left

21 Dec

I’m still here! Please don’t leave! I’ve had to take a couple of holiday detours and then will be out in the woods for a few days. You may not hear from me gain until after the new year. I know this is devastating to you. Have a couple whiskey sours to take the edge off.

Be kind to each other.


16 Dec

Last year I listened to a podcast that sort of rocked me. It was a conversation about happiness between the Dalai Lama, the chief rabbi of Britian, a Muslim scholar, and an Episcopal bishop. Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said we have created a consumer society which has confused happiness with the thing that actually causes unhappiness.  The consumer culture, he says, is “the most efficient system yet devised for the manufacture and distribution of unhappiness…The consumer society is constantly tempting us to spend money we don’t have, to buy things we don’t need, for the sake of a happiness that won’t last.” That talk led me to do something radical. I unsubscribed to all my email sale notices.

Unemployment, underemployment, medical bills, car trouble, house trouble, back trouble, trouble trouble. Those things have contributed to our being less than stellar consumers the past couple of years. I realized I was subscribed to approximately 403, 297 email newsletters, sales notifications, new product notifications, and handy tips. I read roughly 5% of those, so why was I still getting them? At first, I thought it was because I liked looking at pretty things. And a $269 copper saucepan from Williams Sonoma is, indeed, a pretty thing. Then I realized they were just making me miserable.

This house is an advertiser’s worst nightmare. We don’t have cable so that means our TV time mainly consists of PBS. Chuck and I hate the commercial radio stations in town so the tuners are set to NPR and WEVL, which is listener-supported radio. We do watch football which has become one big beer and razor commercial. So there’s that. I spend a lot of time online and I get several magazines so it’s not like I’m all what is this commercial you speak of? We were raised in families who owned family business, my husband works for a family business now, and we’d rather shop the little guy. We were in retail for a combined 368 years so we understand about promotional pricing, shelf displays, and gifts with purchase. We’re more concerned with value than low price and we will generally wait to get the thing we want rather than just getting something to make do. That’s why I’m wearing a 30-year-old coat of my dad’s. I’ve yet to find a coat with all the features I require, but that’s another story. I stopped all the flyers and direct mail I could about three years ago and we’re opted out of credit card solicitation. I don’t believe a car is the same thing as status and I do not have deeply held convictions about high octane gas, nor do I believe there could possibly be that much difference between the $15 windshield wipers and the $30 ones. I’ve been buying store brand everything almost exclusively for years now, and my friends  have not once berated me on the quality of my Bolognese sauce due to inferior canned tomatoes.

You must understand that I’m not being that woman. I’m a First World Capitalist, make no mistake. I’m not saying giving up weekly emails from Crate and Barrel is the same as selling all my possessions and moving to a remote Andes village to work with blind llamas. I understand there are literally billions of people who would consider me the poster child for Ugly American Consumerism. What I am saying is that I seem to be much less miserable about the things I want that I don’t have, and I believe that to be because they aren’t flashing in front of my face all day. You know that saying that you can’t miss what you never had? It’s not true. That’s exactly what advertising does. You occasionally ache with love lost over that big screen TV you didn’t get. Admit it. We’ve all done it about something. Further, it’s ridiculous to say that we don’t need advertising. I believe we do mainly because I believe it to be an art form in its own way. Advertising touches something inside us just like Bach or a Calder mobile. And in their own ways, those things are advertising. Have you ever heard a song and then gone to buy the album?  Have you ever seen an exhibit in a museum and then gone to the gift shop to buy a book about the artist?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since it’s the holiday season. (Let me just stop a minute and stress that HOLIDAY part. The season is more than just Christmas. We celebrated Thanksgiving and we will celebrate the new year. We have friends who celebrate Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, St. Lucia Day, Advent, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and Boxing Day. If this makes you angry, I’ll pray for you, but save the lecture. We can talk about putting the Christ back in Christmas as soon as you stop putting up a tree every year and tell your kids Santa’s not coming to town) I haven’t totally moved away from the orgy of holiday advertising, but I’m kind of living in the exurbs of it. I don’t know that I can say the silence has made me focus on the important part of the season. I’m not sure I still entirely understand what the important part of the season is. I know that I am released from the great pressure of BUY BUY BUY!! The past several years have made me view the holidays differently even before I went all UNSUBSCRIBE. No, that’s not true. I don’t view the holidays differently. What is important and what is good has changed for me regardless of what time of year it is.

Let me just tell you–in case you’re confused– that having the newest car, iPod, whatever does not fix a broken life. You’re not miserable because you don’t have an XBox or a Mercedes. You’re miserable because you’ve confused happiness with ownership. The one with me most toys doesn’t win. The credit card they were charged to does.

Life Coaching For The Holidays

28 Nov

Ah, holidays!

The smell of gingerbread and pine needles. The bustle of shoppers picking out the perfect gifts for the ones they love. The sounds of loud cursing when it is discovered you are out of tape. The wiz of the mouse as it flies across the room after you track the shipment containing your mother-in-law’s house coat and discover it will not get here until December 28.

We at Standard Shed Studios want to help. Nay, we CAN help you with that.

We (this is the royal we, obviously) know that you are powerless in the face of drunken co-workers at your office party, your Uncle Norman who insists on showing everyone his stub during Christmas dinner, and your neighbors with the yard decorations so bright you’ve considered covering your windows with aluminum foil. We are here.

Dear Standard Life Coach,

My husband insists on wearing these felt antlers on his head EVERY DAMN DAY. It’s getting ridiculous. What can I do?


Mrs. Rudolph

Dear Mrs. Rudolph,

We would remind you that bow season lasts until January and that discharging a musket within city limits is illegal.

Dear Standard Life Coach,

My wife always says it’s the thought that counts, but when I give her something she needs like a new low-flush toilet, I get a speech about how I’ve ruined her Christmas.



Dear Confused,

Ah, yes. We know the species of which you speak. The object of your affection is a Passive/Aggressive Gifter. There’s little you can do here. If you take her to Hawaii, she’d really have wanted to go to Mexico. If you go to Jared’s, she’ll call you a cheap, tacky bastard and her mother was right about you.

We suggest you pick out something YOU want and wrap it. Just because nothing will please her, doesn’t mean that’s true for you, yes? Although, to be fair, unless one specifically asks for a new toilet, you might want to stay away from any gift related to excretion. We’re just sayin’.

Dear Standard Life Coach,

I am not Christian, but everywhere I go people are wishing me a merry Christmas. It really pisses me off. This is a secular country, right? How do I get people to stop with the indoctrination?


Hitch Is My Hero

Dear HIMY,

Shut the hell up.

Do you expect people to tell just by merely being in your presence that you are not affiliated? If you don’t like Christmas, stay the hell inside. When someone of a faith different or contrary to yours expresses a wish for you that reflects his or her faith, it is out of a desire to care for that part of you which cannot be nourished by food. It makes him or her feel good, this practice of faith. He or she would like you to feel good as well.

We hate when someone asks us how we are and we say “Good, and you?” and they make a HUGE production of telling us they’re “WELL.”  We KNOW good and damn well it’s well, and we guarantee that’s a hell of a lot more annoying than the festive shit you’ve got a problem with.

Now, burn some sage and get your head out of your ass.

Dear Standard Life Coach,

My wife hates people. We have to go to my company’s holiday party or I’ll get fired. What should I do?


Afraid For My Life And My Job

Dear Chuck,

I told you we’d discuss this later, okay?!