Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Threw Up In My House

or "What Cheap-Ass Toy Company Doesn't Include Batteries?"

First of all...we had a great Christmas. Really glad Uncle Matt got to come back. Very thankful for the generosity of all our family. Of course we overindulged in delicious food and I have spent lengthy hours in my pajamas (currently still in them today). It doesn't get much better than that.


Not to brag, but we came home with a large, light-up gnome blow mold from the Cousin's Christmas gift exchange. Do I feel bad that we stole it from the family members that drove all the way from North Carolina to be there? Yes. Do I feel bad enough to give it up? No way!

Scott was one of the Santas for our PTA's "Santa Rings" program and visited four or five different families in their homes. (Possibly the skinniest Santa ever.) He had a blast and spent the rest of Christmas yelling "Ho! Ho! Ho!" at our kids to which Zoe always replied..."VERY FUNNY DADDY!"

Scott also decided to try his hand at my family's traditional German cookie recipe - lebkuchen. This recipe includes, but is not limited to, a pound of lard and a pound of brown sugar, sorghum, wine, whiskey (my grandma wrote "generous" in the notes next to the whiskey), and NINE CUPS of flour. He apparently did not hear my grandma tell him he would need to mix it by hand. This yielded over 10 dozen cookies and Scott's ability to put on a gun show with his arms (Ha! that last part I totally cracked myself up on.)

My quest for a "girl" skateboard was denied unless I wanted to spend over $100 or buy some dorky Disney Princess piece of crap (no offense to those who bought the pieces of crap). And yes, I was even out on Christmas Eve day looking.

For the third year in a row, I had a massive housekeeping fail. It is my dream to one year be able to leave for my parents on Christmas Eve knowing I will come back to clean house with made beds, an empty sink, and no towels on the bathroom floor. Maybe next year.

Morgan sings Deck the Halls and somehow always comes up with a line something along, "While we sing of Yuletide peril." I hear ya, sista!

Uncles John and Charlie didn't manage to break anything while attempting to fly Ben and Gabe's new RC helicopters (you know, the kind you see in the middle of the mall) inside Mom's dining room with wine glass obstacle course.

My Grandma FORGOT MY FAMILY. She passed out her annual cards/money to everyone but Scott, Anna, Morgan and Zoe. Maybe we should visit more. (Instead she handed me a wad of cash, which I promptly shoved in my bra, just like she taught me.)

Every year someone resorts to yelling at Gramy in order for her to hear. Unfortunately, she usually doesn't understand the yelling either. Probably her hearing aide doesn't pick up tones of frustration. This year it was Scott, while Justin and I stifled our laughter at the snack table.

"Do you hear that? It's a funny squeaking sound."
"You couldn't hear a dump truck drive through a nitroglycerin plant."

I made a blanket for Scott out of his pre-triathlete sweaters. (I journalled that odyssey, so look forward to the blog post.) And I sent his Ironman bib off to be made into coasters (thank you, etsy). He was not surprised by either of them. I suck at discretion. To be fair, though. I wrapped one of my own presents from him.

New additions to Zoe's orphanage...pooping baby (naturally), feeding/changing station, new clothes for Bitty Baby (including matching pjs for her), croc baby (notice the purple footwear), Criblife twins (princess and punk rock), winter Dora, crib/horse stroller with baby.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Yes, Virginia

I was half-paying attention to Morgan this evening when she asked, "Is Santa Claus real?"

"What?" I said, while secretly thinking, "This cannot be happening, this cannot be happening?"

"Is Santa Claus real?"

"Of course he is."

"Can he talk?"

"Um, yes. Why wouldn't he be able to talk?"

"Because he's a dog?"

Now I am baffled and I finally look up at the TV..."Did you say Santa Claus or Santa Paws?"

"Santa Paws."

Yikes....close call. Thank god for talking Golden Retriever puppies. I would like her to be a little older so I can share my FAVORITE Christmas story with her. I will never be able to be half as eloquent - despite the funky punctuation.

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pursuing Excellence

Oh boy, I’ve got a good one for you. Last month I was asked to take a leadership self-assessment for an internal women’s networking group where I work. This assessment was to be used to create a customized report on what I’m doing well and what I need to work on to become a better leader.

First, I knew something was fishy while completing the assessment and a couple red flag statements came up that pertained to personal hygiene/style (we had to answer Rarely/Sometimes/Almost Always).

“I’ve selected a hairstyle that is appropriate for my age and position.”

“I take care to wear accessories that compliment my clothing.”

“I don’t apply lipstick or comb my hair in public.”

And everyone in the professional world has heard this one…

“I dress for the job I want, not the job I have.”

For the record, the job I want would let me wear pajamas…is that acceptable? Also, is it okay if I just don’t apply lipstick of comb my hair period? If I knew a hairstyle that was appropriate for my age and position, I would wear it. I promise.

Despite my sarcasm, “looking the part” was actually what I scored the best in. I must have fudged some answers, considering today I am wearing an ankle-length corduroy skirt and argyle sweater with tall brown boots. I scored second highest in “how I think.” So apparently I have the appropriate mindset to become a leader, but where I scored the lowest was “playing the game” and “acting” on it – so I’m thinking it probably doesn’t matter so much what I think.

In other words, I’m perfectly happy to ride an elevator to the top where someone else pushed the buttons, but do not ask me to climb a ladder. It is not in my nature.

Some things I might be doing that prevent me from “acting” like a leader, according to this course: polling people before I make a decision (yes), needing to be liked (yes), not asking questions because I’m afraid of looking stupid (yes), avoiding conflict (yes), bringing food to the office (yes), helping too much (yes, damn me).

Some other pitfalls include: acting like a man rather than a professional woman (is this discriminating against cross-dressers?); telling the entire, unabridged truth about everything (is that a partial, abridged way of saying that I should lie?); sharing too much personal information (I can’t help it if my co-worker has a photogenic memory about my maiden name and license plate number. Yes, I know it’s photographic.)

Overall, I scored a 113. That would be pretty much in the middle. Not shocking. On Monday I get to spend a day learning more about what my report means. I’m pumped! Do you hear me, Bill? PUMPED!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

How To Smoke a Sausage - Swigart Sister Style

Background: My mom (Prissy - AKA Priscilla Kirschner) has three sisters Margie Wortz(Kansas), Charlie Wohlever (Ohio), and Becky Myers (Maryland). They are collective known as the Swigart Sisters in my blogs, but also refer to themselves as the PKs (preacher's kids). Yes, the Papa in THIS story is MY grandfather, a Lutheran minister.

Below is my Aunt Charlie's description of the sausage-making get together after she had been asked to consider doing it again. Thus proving my problems are hereditary. Also, AC's account makes it sound like this only happened once, but I could sworn it happened multiple times. Am I remembering the same event over and over again? Was it that traumatic? It also appears that the Myers and Wortz contigent weren't there? But I distinctly remember eating this stuff with them? I guess 300 pounds of sausage would last for multiple family reunions, though.

...The only difference is the amount of spices you want, mainly cayenne. By the way,I misspelled cayenne and the computer didn't know how to spell it either.

Of course we'd have to build another smokehouse [Mike (Wohlever)].

I have a VERY BASIC recipe,and you add whatever as you go along. It was Mama's job to stop us ever so often, take some of the mix, make a little patty, fry it up, and then tell us what to add. We dare not put too much of anything in at any time, 'cause you can't take it out!

We used 300# of coarsely ground pork shoulder in a brand new, never been used washtub from the hardware store and mixed it with our hands in brand new never been used super duper rubber gloves. Mark (Kirschner) was making obscene comments about the sounds we were making.

Then, of course, there were other opportunities for casual joking, such as during the filling of the casings by Papa, one hand on the crank and his other holding on to the ever increasing length of the sausage.

Prissy can vouch for me how much fun we had taking shifts in the bitter cold at the smoke pipe and small fire next to us,taking off our gloves in the below freezing weather to test the amount of heat going from the fire and up the pipe to the hanging sausages. [I don't know who hung them way up there, but you can be sure it wasn't Papa. Wohlever probably made Kirschner do it because,after all, he[Wohlever]had built the darn smokehouse!]

We girls, as I was saying, put our freezing little hands on the pipe. If it felt TOO cool [you do need cool smoke for the process] you plied your fingers from the cold pipe [ever lick a flag pole in the winter?] and added kindling to the fire till it was just warm enough. The next time you checked it [maybe 10 min later and after you had just thawed out that hand] the temperaturemight be too HOT, evidenced by the third degree burns on you hand, so you throw a little snow on the fire to bring down the temperature....of the pipe and your hand.

This routine goes on for about 8 hours/day for almost a week, till somebody, probably Papa, says it's time to bring them in and hang them in the garage for a while where they alternately freeze and thaw as part of the cursing process. I mean curing process.

The person actually doing that, probably Kirschner, because, after all, Wohlever BUILT the darn thing, had to make sure that they were spaced just so far apart in order to facilitate the best curing. Then the women, of course, after Kirschner had taken them all down following King Papa's declaration that 'All things are now ready" to wrap and freeze each sausage and salami, did just that.

A few of the precious sausages were left out,cooked with potatoes and devoured..All in all, it was a great week, blizzard and all, and I'd give anything to be able to do it again. I think though, that this time the boys get pipe attending duty. After all, they're retired. Love you all, C.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Roast Beast

It’s less than two weeks till “Cousins Christmas”. Are you all prepared? Don’t know if you remember me mentioning that Scott cleaned the basement this past weekend, but our White Elephant potentials grew exponentially.

Also, Scott casually mentioned that I seem to be hoarding a certain item that I allegedly have enough of to distribute to every person in the family and now my wheels are turning. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

But before Uncle Mike offers to give us each a quarter for rubbing the bunion on his left foot, let’s take a moment to remember these other classic family moments.


Any time that the Myers and Wortz visited from out of state and were forced to help the Kirschners lay a foundation, frame a house, roof a house, pour concrete, brick a chimney, install indoor plumbing and/or electricity while eating off tables made out of scaffolding.

Male dress code: white undershirt and cut off jeans. Except for Papa Swigart, who would wear tan short pants with his fruit of the loom v-neck.


This is actually serious. There has never been any sausage in the world that has tasted like the sausage the aunties and uncles smoked in the Wohlever’s backyard and hung to dry in the basement/garage. Please, for the love of god and all that is decent and holy, BRING BACK THE SAUSAGE! Sausage sandwiches on pure white bread, no condiments necessary.

Dress code: plastic shower caps.


Any time any sibling or cousin was forced to dress like each other. This ranged from matching butter yellow dresses on our one and only trip out to Kansas back in the late seventies to Papa’s funeral when we all threw on matching t-shirts from goodwill and constructed human pyramids.

Male dress code: Amherst Comet gear

Female dress code: California Raisin logo


Family reunion at Cedar Point, where all the older cousins went in Uncle Mike’s Suburban – Charlie driving, Rachel co-pilot. Made Charlie laugh so hard he had to pull over on the side of the highway and pee himself.

Dress code: Fake wild west gear to take Red Garter Saloon photo.


If it happened or could have happened, it can be set to the tune of Good King Wenceslaus. Period.

“There was abuse in my family, but it was mostly of a musical nature.” – A Mighty Wind