Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New year, now what?

The fam and I had a great Christmas in Hawaii. (And we were glad to miss out on the snowstorm here at home.) I'm relaxed and refreshed. Plus, I still have summer clothes in my laundry basket and blisters from my sandals to remind me for a few more days that I really did go on vacation, despite the return to reality.

Once the holiday celebrations die down, the start of a new year tends to drag on for me. It's bitterly cold and there are no holidays that qualify for "official" days off work until Memorial Day. Sure, there's that natural anticipation a new year brings...kind of...but I don't really make resolutions and I'm mostly just anticipating a year like every other lately. Nothing extraordinary or exciting. This is not a bad thing--I don't mind sticking to the routine.

But with no more vacations to look forward to and no new episodes of So You Think You Can Dance or GLEE planned for several months, I find myself this week needing to think of reasons to be excited for January. Besides, sometimes it's the little things from day-to-day that make me the happiest. So with that, I bring you the top five things I'm excited about these next several weeks:
  1. Reading: Five. That's the number of books I read in 2009. As someone who loves to read (usually more than double that amount in a year), I desperately need to do more of it. I'm hoping my work life will slow a bit these next couple of months to allow me to get reading with a little more gusto in 2010. Send your book recommendations my way!
  2. Winter Olympics: I LOVE the Olympics and will be glued to my TV set during the winter games watching sports I would never otherwise watch like bobsledding and curling. There's just something about watching them on the world's stage, seeing the smiles of the athletes standing on the medal podium and hearing the stories about what they've overcome to get where they are today.
  3. A new season of The Bachelor: Why do I still watch this show after 14 seasons of train wreck romances, cheesy group dates and fame-hungry participants? It just sucks me in and I can't not watch it! Bachelor Jake may seem a little dull, but I'm sure he and the bachelorettes will provide some good drama among the helicopter rides, hot tubs, hometown dates and rose ceremonies. Can I get another crying over the balcony scene please? And if not, at least Jake is not bad to look at.
  4. More daylight: We've gained two whole minutes of daylight since the first day of winter. I look forward to the day when the sun is again shining in my eyes during my morning and evening commute and I no longer drive in darkness every day.
  5. Pampering: The first thing I put on my to-do list when I returned from vacation was to make an appointment to get my hair highlighted. I just love sitting in that salon chair while I catch up on the latest gossip via People magazine. And after my hair highlights, I'm getting a massage. Ahhh, luxury!

Hopefully I'll keep adding to my list. I'm also counting on the fact that many of you have extraordinary or exciting things you're anticipating for the new year. What are they? Let me know so I can share in your excitement. No matter what, I wish you a blessed and happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Have yourself a Mele Kalikimaka

Are your gifts wrapped? Bags packed? Carols sung? Wreaths hung? Then it’s time to sit back and enjoy Christmas in whatever ways (traditional and new) you’ve chosen to celebrate with family and friends. As for me, my suitcase is almost packed for my family Christmas in Hawaii (sadly, this isn’t likely to become a tradition, but even once is pretty cool). Given that my fellow blogger and I will be making the most of our sans-snow holiday, Off-key Duets will be on hiatus for the next week. But, we leave you with a message about the reason for the season recited by a Christmas character who I enjoy even more than Santa (and all about the real “character” of Christmas).

So there you have it, Charlie Brown. That’s what Christmas is all about.

And since I’ve failed for yet another year at sending out Christmas cards, I’d truly like to wish everyone reading this a merry and blessed Christmas celebration. Mele Kalikimaka!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Joe to the trash!

For a few weeks each December, I look forward to opening my mailbox. The bills and advertisements, while ever-present, get some competition from the Christmas cards and photos from dear friends. But the Christmas card I most look forward to receiving each year doesn’t come in my mailbox—it comes in my trash can. Seriously.

On garbage day this week, I pulled into my driveway after work to find a red envelope sticking out of the trash bin. I was so excited to open my card from Joe the garbage man. Every year he rewrites the lyrics to a popular Christmas carol with lyrics about garbage. And it’s clear from his little ditties that he loves his job.

One year it was “Joe to the trash” sung to the tune of Joy to the World. This year, the tune was O Christmas Tree. It goes like this:

O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing
O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing
Not only reek when summer’s here, but also when tis’ cold and drear
O Garbage Can, O Garbage Can, Thy smells are ever changing

There are two more verses and choruses that follow, mentioning foul treasure and unsightly insides. This is my fourth Christmas with Joe. And even though I’ve never met him, every year I’m struck by how much joy he has in serving his customers. So what if he’s trying to get a good tip? He’s earned it!

I can think of hundreds of jobs I would rather do than pick up other people’s trash. That’s why his simple gesture of a clever Christmas carol always makes me stop during the hurried Christmas season and think about my attitude about work, life and the occasional “trash” I have to deal with.

I’ll confess that griping and complaining come far too easily to me. But I’m thankful for the little reminders this time of year—a “Merry Christmas” from the bundled up Salvation Army bell ringer, a cheesy, made-for-TV holiday movie, and a Christmas carol from Joe the garbage man—to be filled with joy no matter what my circumstances.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Don’t trust the guy in the elf suit

Since I’m about to embark on three straight days of airport lines and sleepless hotels (and on the bright side, warmer temps in San Antonio and Houston), I’m keeping it short and simply sharing with you some “off-key” seasonal news. Enjoy!

'Elf' Jailed Over Alleged Dynamite Hoax: The photo of this guy is especially freaky.

Health dept. sickened by own Christmas party: Why is irony always amusing (as long as you’re not part of the story)?

Jesus Christ Dumped From Jury Pool: Best line of the article, “Efforts to reach Christ for comment were unsuccessful.”

Have a blessed pre-Christmas week!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Winter...I'm over it

As I write this, I’m listening to the sound of a neighbor shoveling. I’ve never noticed before how nails-on-a-chalkboard-like that sound is when you’re scraping ice and snow off the pavement. I much prefer the sound of a lawnmower outside and the smell of fresh cut grass. Of course, we Minnesotans won’t see green grass outside our living room windows now until April.

At least the first winter storm commute of the season is now behind us rush-hour drivers. Although, my winter commute last Wednesday didn’t take me very far.

I decided to delay my morning drive until the worst of the commute was over. After working from home for a few hours, I finally decided to venture out. But…where were my keys? Friends, I am organized. I NEVER misplace my keys. I may lose socks in the dryer but I do NOT lose keys! Panic began to set in. My home is tiny; there are not many places to look. I retraced my steps from the time I got home from work the night before, which brought me to…the front door. Yes indeed, there they were—house keys and car keys—just hanging out of the lock where they had been for the past 16 hours. Stupid moment #1 of the day.

With keys in hand, I finally made my way to the garage. My association had not yet plowed my driveway or street. As I examined the large snow drifts in my driveway I thought for sure my little Corolla could take them on. (Never mind that I had watched my neighbors getting stuck all morning.) Naturally, I just gunned it out of my garage. Stupid moment #2 of the day.

After 40 minutes (yes, 40) of digging my car out of the snow in below-zero windchills, I drove my car right back into the garage and gave up. I actually got more work done at home that day than I ever would’ve accomplished at the office. I should take snow days more often! After all of that, at least my wintery day ended on a high note with the fall finale of GLEE. (Oh how I will miss Mr. Schuester and the gang until the show comes back next spring! Something else to look forward to when the snow melts!)

Anyway, welcome to winter. And get off my tail if you’re driving behind me!

Monday, December 7, 2009

My night 'In The Heights'

In the midst of seasonal busyness, I snuck in a night at the theatre last week to see the 2008 Tony Award Winner for Best Musical: In The Heights. Since I don’t get to travel to the real Broadway too often, I always anticipate the annual announcements of the Twin Cities’ Broadway theatre season. When I heard In The Heights was making a stop, I knew it would be the year’s must-see for me. So, after holding on to my tickets for months, I finally saw the show and understood its award-winning appeal.

I would describe In The Heights as RENT meets West Side Story, with some poetic rap for good measure. Here’s the real summary: In the Heights tells the universal story of a vibrant community in Manhattan's Washington Heights – a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It's a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

Since you probably didn’t see it, I’ll quit rambling about it and just leave you with a clip:

If you happen to be in NYC soon or lucky enough to be on an upcoming tour stop…check out this show!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuck in an elevator

I’m always interested in people with odd jobs. You know, balloon artists, breath mint testers, port-a-potty servicers, etc. Last week I was personally confronted with another odd job…answering phone calls from people stuck in elevators. This occurred, of course, while I was stuck in an elevator.

The scene went this way: After the doors didn’t open on the 5th floor of my office building, another woman on the elevator with me picked up the phone that you hope you never have to use (while I rang the little alarm bell for the whole building to hear). We were connected to what I assume was the elevator company call center, where we were promptly put on hold (apparently it was a busy day to be stuck in an elevator). A nice woman eventually answered and called us some local help. We were freed about 15 min. later when the doors opened enough for us to squeeze through.

I tried to quickly move on, but I couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to have a job where people call you all day long to tell you they are stuck in one of your company’s elevators. I imagine the lady we spoke with has some interesting stories of panic-stricken callers. Even though we all appeared calm, I admit I started to feel very uncomfortable as the temperature seemed to instantly rise about 15 degrees and we all shed our coats while we waited in this small, dim cube.

Anyway, I hope all your elevator rides are safe and uneventful, but if not, I hope you get to talk to the calm lady at the elevator call center.

But now let's free ourselves from elevator woes for a moment and end on a fun note. There are a lot of funny things to do in an elevator. Allow me to share a few:

  1. Drop a pen and wait until someone goes to pick it up, then scream, "That's mine!"
  2. Leave a box in the corner, and when someone gets on, ask them if they can hear ticking.
  3. When the doors close, announce to the others, "It's okay, don't panic, they open again!"
  4. Crack open your briefcase or purse, and while peering inside, ask, "Got enough air in there?"
  5. Make explosion noises when anyone presses a button.
Go ahead and try one on your next day of office boredom.