Some Random Pet Peeves Annoying Me This Week


I can’t call this a ‘rant’ because none of this is stuff really makes me mad … but I have found a bunch of annoying things over the last week, particularly on runs and on our whirlwind college tour.

Speaking of which, I have an annoyance before I start with the pet peeves – I took an unplanned rest day today, slept in and didn’t run. Why? Because I have a decent cold, a combination of a weekend spent waking up at 3AM, driving nearly 900 miles, and scrambling everywhere … then coming home and running nearly 19 miles on Sunday and more than 9 on Monday surely didn’t help. So yeah, I feel like crap … which is annoying!

1. Reciprocal Blogging

OK, this isn’t anything new, and was in a post I never finished months ago, but playing ‘catch up’ after vacation and after this weekend I REALLY noticed it.

What do I mean by ‘Reciprocal Blogging’? I mean that a person only reads/replies on your blog when you comment on theirs. For example, I posted 7 times over vacation, including the weekends, and barely read or commented on other people’s posts. When I returned I commented on a number of blogs – and most of my friends had been commenting on my stuff all week long (and I always love reading comments … they ALWAYS make any post better!).

Anyway, with one blog, I posted a comment on a post that was nearly two weeks old, and suddenly within 5 minutes a new comment appeared on my most recent post. This wasn’t the first time – or first blog I’ve seen this person do this on …

Look – I get that commenting to gain visibility is a general practice, and also that we often see a comment and remember to check on a blog we don’t regularly visit. That is natural – we all have our first, second and third tier blog-follows. But this was different. It was all about the APPEARANCE of following to sustain the connection, like giving a dog a treat to get them to behave.

I don’t know if this makes sense, and I want it to be clear I am not talking about the normal daily interactions I see on my blog and pretty much everyone I follow. But if you follow someone or comment ONLY in order to keep the other person connected, or use someone else’s comment section ONLY to promote your own blog … YOU are the problem I am talking about. If you haven’t noticed … this is a GREAT community that is all too willing to help others and promote new friends. If you are a slime bag … well, interestingly on one of the blogs that did this I visited recently and have seen the comments and even contest entries really dwindle. So I guess it wasn’t just me.

2. Crappy Customers & Customer Service

For whatever reason, over the past month I have experienced enough crappy service, and have had to watch great employees deal with horrid customers that it has really come to annoy the crap out of me!

In one store where all we wanted to do was grab a drink, the fountain machine was out of order and the employees seemed to have no desire to deal with it, and when we presented a Canadian coin in with our other change they summarily tossed it back saying ‘this is no good’, and only noted it was Canadian when we said ‘what?!?’. Then as we were finding more change he actually told us to ‘hurry up’. Yeah … rude!

But there are plenty of buttheads on the OTHER side of the counter! Most of it was the usual stuff:

– Cell phone talkers in line who expect everyone to accommodate their conversation, hold up progress, stand in the wrong places, make employees repeat themselves and so on.

– Line jumpers – generally they will not directly cut in front of you, but will push from the side, pretend they don’t notice the queue, run to a newly opened register without acknowledging those who were already waiting.

Specifically on this trip there was a shuttle from the hotel to the subway, and we were waiting there already and a family came out and the driver was unsure how many would fit so we waited … they started piling in. There were 5 and ended up all fitting, leaving us for the next shuttle – and the driver had no clue when it might come (it ended up being less than 5 minutes later so it was all good, but still annoying!)

3. Store Aisle Cellphone Talker Hogs

Shopping stores are very often cramped, with customers browsing, moving slowly due to physical restrictions, more product crowding the space, and so on.

The there are the people talking on their phones, slowly wandering around looking at nothing in particular, generally oblivious that they are greatly inconveniencing others with their rude behavior … heck, I even had someone glare at me when I said EXCUSE ME after simply saying ‘excuse me’ failed to even register acknowledgement.

I did say ‘well thank you for allowing me to shop in the shopping store’ … not as loud as I might have felt at the moment … but hey, they were already talking and blocking the entire aisle again anyway so they didn’t notice.

Here is the thing – just like it has been shown that using your phone is a distraction in the car, so it is when shopping. So if you want to talk on the phone casually while shopping, get out of the traffic pattern and chatter to your heart’s content. But not loudly, because THAT is a general pet peeve for most people. We really don’t care about your ailments, or whatever over-sharing you are doing at the moment.

4. Emergency Vehicle Privelege Abusers

In New York the law is that you need to move aside for emergency vehicles, including when the police have someone pulled over to the right. This past week I saw two egregious and possibly dangerous misuses of these laws.

On Rte 88 in central NY, a driver was pulled over by the police with lights blazing, and all of the approaching traffic was in the left lane as mandated by law. Except for one Ford Explorer, who was in the right lane, and while not driving dangerously fast, was going fast enough to pass several care including ours on the right side – he came from behind and ended up several cars in front of us. The police officer stood by the passenger side of the car he pulled over and just gaped … I hope he got the license plate number!

And then there was another instance when an ambulance was coming along, and we were on a smaller two-lane highway, and everyone was pulled to the right to let the ambulance of by … except for one car who was using it as a personal gateway to get ahead of everyone else. At first I thought it might be associated with the ambulance, but no – the ambulance turned and he went straight. Imagine that – using the grave misfortune of others as a way to jockey ahead a few places in traffic. Sad.

5. Parents Teaching Kids Crappy Habits

One would think that the general rule should be that parents would know the rules of safety for critical things they teach kids – but looking at guns we already know THAT isn’t true! So I guess that bicycle safety shouldn’t be different. I already have a pet peeve about adults with small children not wearing helmets but having their kids wear helmets. Guess what – these are the kids who stop wearing helmets before they are 10, or when out of range of home. Sure they aren’t a cure all, but helmets save lives, period. The message these kids get is ‘helmets are for little kids … not wearing a helmet is a grown-up thing to do’. Absolutely false.

Also recently – so far 100% coupled with non-helmet wearing parents – I have seen parents with very young kids biking AGAINST traffic. Ugh. I have seen it running as well as driving, and it can set up some unsafe situations. I even took a moment to call over to one parent to remind them to ride WITH traffic … and (again, with small children in front) they told me to go F myself in no uncertain terms. Nice.

As for runners … you know my pet peeve about running with music, and how it ABSOLUTELY diminishes your awareness (again, this is fact, not debate)? Well … add parent and child (about 10) running side-by-side with headphones on the wrong side of the road (WITH traffic) on a relatively narrow road with no sidewalk and only about 1 foot on the outside of the white line? Yeah, totally annoying – and forced all traffic on the 45MPH road to come to a halt to accommodate them. I beeped at them – because they were totally in the wrong. The parent waved as if I was saying ‘hi’. Um, no.

6. Ugly Early Morning Driving Habits

I have complained before about driving habits I see regularly in the early morning. It is as though people are so used to no traffic that they consider the normal rules optional … here are a couple that got to me this week:

– Stop sign jumpers: where there is extended visibility, these are the people who are second or third in line at the stop sign but have already scoped out traffic and go immediately following the car in front of them. I almost got nailed as I let one car go and started to run then had the next car just run the stop sign, and since they were turning right they were swerving right into me. They didn’t stop, and all I got out was ‘hey – stop sign!’

– Tailgating no-patience swervers: I have written before about how bizarre it is to see an empty road at 4 or 5AM with an extra-bright set of lights coming down the road only to realize that it is two cars, the second one so close that you can’t make them out from a distance. One of the roads I almost always run (6 of my 10 standard routes) was slightly widened recently, and what I have seen twice in the past week is people who were already tailgating see that the person in front is going to turn left at the intersection (no stop sign) so they pull out to the right to race past.

The problem? The road isn’t wide enough so they have to go a little bit onto the lawn of the house just before the intersection. The first time it happened I was running the opposite way and thought ‘that is dangerous’. Monday morning? Danger confirmed! The guy was just starting to pull to the right and I was in his headlights (I was already on the lawn because I feared it coming) – and threw up my hands and said ‘WTF’ (and not for ‘way too fast’ this time, Cori).

Bonus. Running Pet Peeves

Last month in the Globe, Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray wrote about his pet peeves as both race director and as a runner.

Here are a couple:

Participants taking a shopping cart load of food from the food tent, leaving nothing for the back-of-the-pack runners.

■ Doing the best we can to be environmentally responsible by putting out the appropriate recycling containers, but finding that no one is really paying much attention to any of it.

So what are YOUR pet peeves?

Monday Rant – Crap That Annoyed Me Last Week

Runners thinkIdo

Every now and then I start a ‘rant’ post, but never seem to truly get there. It seems that the act of THINKING about ranting is theraputic enough for me. Apparently not this time … if you are reading this, put on your fire-proof gear and get ready for as much of a rant as you’ll ever read here.

1. Why Do We Continue to Support Sexist, Misogynist TV Shows?

So I really had no intention of posting this until Michele had a great post mostly about running and nutrition, but a little about The Bachelorette at the end. Again, the main focus is on running and nutrition, but she talked about her husband having developed a ritual for watching the Bachelor/Bachelorette shows, and her hating them. The reasons she gave were mostly around the predictable and formulaic nature of the shows, but I had some different thoughts: these shows are racist, sexist, misogynist and show warped and unhealthy views of relationships that no one should emulate.

Here is my full comment:

As for Bachelor/Bachelorette … one of the big reasons I hate these shows is that they project an incredibly unrealistic view of people and relationships. This is NOT love, it is ratings manipulation tied into people’s lives … people who get addicted to the money and recognition. Worse yet, the shows at their core are incredibly racist and sexist … finding ‘comfort’ in that? Ugh … that bothers me quite a bit.

But ultimately what bugs me is it trivializes relationships (of course, in our disposible society it is FAR from alone) and continues to push the mantra that a woman is only as valuable as her looks and sexuality, and a man can escape such scrutiny with enough money … again, ugh. I guess I should just leave it alone.

And to those who would call it mindless and harmless … how is THIS different than the other unhealthy images we push on young women?

OK, let me make sure I am clear – I am calling THE SHOW “racist, sexist, and misogynist” … I am NOT saying that people who watch it are those things.

Some pretty strong stuff though? I mean, sure this isn’t the greatest show, but isn’t calling it “racist, sexist, misogynist” a bit extreme? Actually no. Hopefully the sexist angle and pooor relationship angle are pretty obvious … but if not take a look at what some people are talking about here. Pretty illuminating stuff … and sad.

As for racism, this is a bit tougher, but just look at the numbers: across 18 seasons of Bachelor, 9 seasons of Bachelorette, 27 main stars and more than 700 contestants … and 14 (fourteen) non-whites have been on-screen, and none have made it into the later stages. As one site put it, those who weren’t tossed in the first cut were gone soon after. The message is clear – what is attractive is white men with money, and women with fake boobs, fake smiles, and white skin with a fake tan.

And really, the unhealthy relationship angle DOES matter. We can start by how two people who have not had a single day of ‘exclusive’ dating are supposed to suddenly be in a place of getting married? Or that ANY of this stuff represents a healthy relationship cycle? I really don’t think we would want any of our kids to be in the ‘herd’ portion of the ‘contest’, nor really as the main star.

Finally, as I said before, just watching the shows doesn’t make you guilt of sexism, misogyny, racism and so on … let’s do some quick math: shows get funded based on making money; money is made by a combination of low costs and high viewership (or at least a reasonable profit margin). And since we have already agreed to the well demonstrated fact that young men and women are influenced by media images … having shows that get millions of viewers means having a voice in millions of homes. And that voice is saying certain things. So again, it isn’t a definitive statement about people, but it should be a reminder that by watching you are helping spread the messages about body image, relative relationship power, and self esteem that the show puts across.

2. “The Pornographication of Fitness Needs to Stop”

The reality that young women are impacted by images in the media is neither new nor surprising at this point. But what has struck me is how ‘sexified’ the average fitness magazine has become. I get a ton of free subscriptions because of my work magazine subscriptions, and one was ‘Fitness’ … and honestly it is not a magazine I feel comfortable with in terms of content. The articles are pretty light and fluffy – but the bad part is they are interspersed with photoshopped images of young women posed not to show off their fitness level but rather how ‘hot’ they are. And really, many of the articles are more focused on ‘getting hot’ than ‘getting fit’.

I wrote about the thing earlier this year with a woman named Brooke and Shape magazine (if you haven’t read the resolution, check it out) … and in reality I feel that the outcome was more about Shape deftly handling the potential PR nightmare and throwing a freelancer under the bus, than it was a reflection of reality.

All of these things contribute to the ongoing body image crisis with young women. When body-builders and fitness-models in contests wear heels rather than shoes they might actually use in their workouts …

But I mean, none of this is NEW – here is a 2011 article about fitness magazine defining health in unhealthy ways:

With consistent content focusing on fast weight loss and the easiest way to get looking sexy, Shape and Self are challenging what “fitness” really means. Beyond objectification of bodies and the perpetuation of beauty ideals, these magazines are creating a new definition of health for women. I argue these magazines have re-packaged health and fitness in terms of thinness and sex appeal.

This week there was an article at the Huffington Post called “The Pornographication of Fitness Needs to Stop”, in which the author laments the images portrayed to women, saying:

The worry is that what women see in fitness magazines teaches them that what they are seeing is possible for them too. Women are desperate to be published in fitness publications, to be glorified into eternity through a photo. Women will do anything to get there. They will starve themselves to get lean enough to be able to see all muscular definition, they will experiment with recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, they will prostitute themselves to judges and more, just to make it.

She concludes with what we SHOULD be doing and the images we SHOULD be sharing:

Being fit in a functional rather than sexual way means you are entirely capable of being powerful no matter what your height, bust size, shoe size or hair color. You are empowered from the depths of your DNA because you did the work, you earned your place and you walk confidently because of it. A functionally fit You welcomes all sizes, shapes and colors, your boobs and butt are incidental. What we really need to build in the gym is a sense of self and what we are capable of. Believe it!

This summer I have seen more runners and walkers and bikers out and about than ever before – the cooler weather definitely has helped – and they have been in all shapes and sizes. A neighbor out walking last night told me to ‘get in a couple of miles for them’ – but they were doing great themselves. We are all out there trying to do healthy things, and SURE we want to look our best … I mean, who doesn’t want their exercise to translate into positive body changes. But that is secondary – and we certainly shouldn’t be judged entirely on whether we look like a swimsuit model!

3. Can We Just Stop Saying Stupid Things Already?

This is where I got started with my rant … because there seem to be SO MANY stupid and insensitive things begin said lately. From real life comments to overheard conversations to Facebook and more, it seems to be open season on saying stupid things … here are just a few:

– One person from outside the company hears another has been married about a year, and asks “when are you and your husband planning to have children?” The reply was very tactful “we haven’t decided if we will have children, but have looked at international adoption, and my spouse is a woman.” Considering the question was none of her business and presumptuous, and carried a tone as if some magical baby generator was available … I thought she did great … I was steamed inside of myself, but you already know that.

– Laura at Fit Fresh and Funny posted a heart-wrenching story, and she has talked before about how

– I have several real-life friends who are battling cancer, and also someone at work I know who is starting treatment again … and one of them shared this link about how to talk to someone with cancer. I thought it was great, but almost as if on cue, at work I overheard someone say about the person getting treated ‘are they STILL sick’. Ugh … when it comes to cancer, it is never REALLY gone.

There are more, but I am stopping here … because it is a theme: just stop and think before you talk. If you have no idea what to say, THAT is not a bad thing to say! Let people know you care, don’t be presumptuous about what you think someone else should think or feel, and never belittle someone’s feelings or life experience. M’kay?

4. Here’s a Shock – E-Cigs are Poisonous Crap Too!

I think I made it clear that I am not a big fan of smoking. It has been ‘interesting’ watching through my life as the tobacco companies have twisted and turned through the years, getting caught marketing specifically to minorities, then children, and then pushing hard into other countries that don’t have strict regulations.

As an interesting aside, as we are 50 years from the first surgeon general report on smoking, a NPR report reflects back on how smoking managed to stay so popular and widespread for so long after the report. Here is a comment from a woman who started smoking in the mid-70s (putting her close to my age):

“Because everybody was smoking. Mother and Father were smoking. Doctors were smoking. You were able to smoke in the movie theater, food shopping with Mom. Really, back then nobody knew what we know today.”

In large part that’s because the tobacco industry maintained for years that experts still disagreed about the evidence, Brandt says.

One of the most recent pushes has been in e-cigarettes, or vaporizers. Proponents claim there is no risk – because it is not smoke. I have always found that to be a silly argument – whenever you have a chemical reaction going on with transfer of material at the cellular level … there is risk.

Now we learn that e-cigs are NOT so safe after all … to the surprise of no one who ever really thought about it. Here is a quote:

while using an e-liquid with both solvents produced almost as much formaldehyde as a traditional cigarette. While the human body produces formaldehyde as a byproduct of normal metabolic activity in the cells, it is suspected of being carcinogenic when inhaled.

So yeah, take that e-cig out of public, away from others, and sure as heck away from babies and pregnant women. Because this isn’t the first report we’ve gotten … and it won’t be the last.

5. Time To Think About What Comes Out of Our Faces!

I grew up in a diverse area in suburban Boston and as a result I knew people of all different types and backgrounds and religions and so on … and even though things weren’t so ‘politically correct’ in the 70s, there were terms and phrases that WERE used (like calling me a Polack for my Polish background) and those that were NOT used (yeah, like the obvious ones). There were terms used as synonyms for other words (‘wicked queeah’ for weird, and ‘wicked retahded’ for stupid), but at the time most of the people saying things had no idea of the alternate meanings.

But through the years most of those terms have come and gone … thankfully. Being inclusive means not making others feel victimized for whatever my describe them in terms of race, physical situation, religion, cultural background, or anything else.

I remember being taken aback many years ago when we were doing wedding planning, being told that when having discussions with places we should ‘Jew them down’ … my initial reaction was a genuine ‘what?!?’ and after repeating I was just flabbergasted, and it is a moment that sticks with me to this day. It was an expression I’d never heard, and growing up with so many Jewish friends I was really taken aback. But there was never any offense intended – it was just a figure of speech from a different time.

Yet there are plenty of things that we STILL see all around, things like:

– Medical conditions: OCD / ADD / Bipolar / Depressed / Retarded and so on …
– Sexual orientation as a put down: ‘That’s so Gay’

There are lists here, here and here … but suffice to say that just like you would never see a couple of hairs in your shower and say ‘ugh, I’m a total cancer patient’ (I hope!), you should also remove all of the ‘I’m so OCD’ things from your litany of sayings.

So while I hate to use one of my fave bloggers as an example, but Suz used the expression ‘Indian-giver’ in a recent post, which is another expression I thought had been lost in the 70s … but apparently has stayed around without any regard for the origin of the expression (apparently the Kardashian klan makes a habit of native offenses). But here is a snippet of the meaning:

“Indian-giver” is a derogatory term for someone who gives something away and then asks for it back. It was coined during the struggle for land when settlers came to the new world. Many tried to “buy” land with trinkets from various tribes of American Indians, who at the time “had no concept of land ownership,” according to Waters. “[American Indians], in their conversations with settlers, did not understand that they were signing over the land.”

Now Suz made the great move to annotate the saying with a note and apology for possible offense – which is honestly much better than deleting it! And anyone who knows her knows offending anyone is about the LAST thing she’d want to do. So I mention it more as a reminder that sometimes we need to think about the things we are saying – this isn’t about ‘being PC’, but about showing our intelligence and respect for others by substituting out these lazy and offensive expressions.

To end this, there is an interesting article about sexism over at Medium, that says:

When you are a member of an oppressed group, it is difficult to recognize that you share some of your oppressor’s beliefs. But that’s why oppression works. These opinions become ours before we learn how to make our own.

That’s why we need to stop thinking about prejudices in terms of us and them. We are all sexist. We are all racist. Some more so than others, but still.

We are ALL guilty of saying things that offend others that we have no clue are offensive generalizations, or of passing judgments on other people, or otherwise doing or saying things that when brought to attention are not things we would choose to repeat. I can remember things from when I was a kid, I’m sure we all can. The trick is instead of getting defensive and complaining about the ‘PC police’, to just take a second and make a note to change a little saying or habit to make ourselves a better global citizen.

Bonus: Yeah, Enough Driving into Runner/Bikers/etc already

I have talked about this a lot, how we as drivers need to do our best to pay attention, and as people in general need to try to make the roads safe for everyone to share through whatever means possible. Because there was another case last week, this one local enough to me that members of one of the local running clubs were attending the funeral.

State police recently revealed that 33-year old Jason Townsend, of Nichols, N.Y. was arrested on Saturday as the suspect in a hit and run accident that occurred at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday. According to initial police reports, Daniel and Karen Manwaring were jogging along West Whitcomb Hill Road in the Town of Tioga when a blue Nissan XTerra hit them.

So what has been annoying YOU!?!

Five Things Friday – Holiday Season Annoyances

Christmas Annoyances

OK, even though I have basically abandoned the ‘Five Things Friday’ theme, I have been kicking around a bunch of annoying crap about the holidays since before Thanksgiving (maybe before Halloween!), so here goes … 5 things that are irritating me about the holidays that I just want to go off on a little rant about!

*** OK, before I get started, let me be clear that MOST people don’t fall into this. Most people like to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other holidays their own way, not concerning themselves with how others choose to make their traditions. Most people are expressing genuine good wishes whether they say ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ or ‘Hi Bob’ (and are often so nice I wouldn’t feel the need to tell them I’m not Bob), and so on. As with so many other things, it is the loud and obnoxious minority of people who make things difficult. I am a Christian (Catholic) and those are my traditions, I try to keep the spirit of love and giving central to Christmas instead of the ‘gimme gimme gimme’ marketing overload. Sometimes I even succeed.

1. The ‘Real vs. Fake’ Tree Arguments :

This is one of those debates that have been going on for decades now, with each side having reasons they are ‘right’. Fake trees are better because they prevent deforestation (that was the initial reason they were created in Germany … about 150 years ago! Now they are grown on tree farms), real trees are better because they decompose (prelit trees are almost entirely recycled to meet regulations). And so on …

Our family has severe tree allergies, so we’ve had a fake tree for the last 9 years – and it was the best decision EVER … even if we miss the real trees. For others, getting a tree is a huge part of Christmas (I know we always had a great time), or they aren’t allowed real trees due to fire hazards in their apartment / condo / whatever, and on and on. There are myriad reason WHY someone chooses real or fake trees … and since they are not YOUR reasons, perhaps you shouldn’t be so quick to judge?

2. The War on Christmas:

Every year we hear how the poor majority Christian population is being brutally oppressed by the evil PC overlords who are trying to force acceptance of non-Christians as actually having a right to exist between Halloween and New Year!

Put another way, I doubt anyone would have a significant problem with Christians everywhere going around on Christmas day saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to everyone. That is very different than attempting to mandate it as the official greeting for the nation once the first frost hits the lower 48!

There is NO ‘War on Christmas’ … and if there is, it isn’t being conducted by those of different or no faith, but rather by the two guys beating the crap out of each other trying to get that $99 TV at Walmart.

3. Rude people get RUDER, and more entitled:

WHAT? You don’t have free stuff for me? You expect me to stand in THAT line? You want me to to wait my turn? Hey, I saw that FIRST! It is really sad that people who are supposedly celebrating the ‘reason for the season’ are completely insufferable.

Traveling around the holidays is always worse, and not just because of the increased volume of traffic – but because people fail to treat others with any degree of respect. They will not only try to steer across 4 lanes of traffic to get to the mall turn-off, they will cut others off and then THEY get mad and affronted as if they were following an established pattern! Same for parking lots, walking, holding doors, and so on.

4. The Stress :

It really struck me when on December 5th I heard a radio ad about ‘last minute shopping’. Last minute. On December 5th. NO WONDER people are stressed!

Somewhere between all of the expenses, the shopping for the ‘right’ gift, the crunch of holiday parties and events, the load of year-end work and school priorities, relationship and family anxieties for pretty much anyone who is or is not involved, married, divorced, parent, childless or whatever.

5. ‘Holiday Letters’

When they first started the IDEA seemed great, rather than tucking a photo into a card with a little personal inscription about the ages of the kids and maybe a personal note, a letter would give a quick synopsis of what everyone was doing. It was efficient if impersonal.

But something happened … what started as a couple of paragraphs in total became a couple of paragraphs per person, touting accomplishment after accomplishment, and even bad things were set up as ‘personal victories’ over adversity. In other words, they were unrealstic brag letters. This isn’t reality, it is a smoke-screen, a total ‘look how great my better-than-your life is’.

Many people have (thankfully) stopped doing this, but to those who still do … it is like a beacon that speaks volumes about you rather being than a journal of your family’s year. Please stop.

But there are also some GOOD things …

1. Family Time – this weekend we have baking day. The boys have exited the ‘oh bother’ stage and are actually excited to work together, and we’re even bringing back the gingerbread train! So excited!

2. Lisa Time – every night this week, Lisa and I have sat down on the couch in front of the tree and the fireplace in the family room, sometimes with a drink, sometimes not. Is there anything better? I didn’t think so.

3. Charity – each year since moving to New York we have participated in something called the ‘Arctic League’, which is a group that collects names of underpriveleged kids, then shops, separates, and bags up toys and other gifts. On Christmas morning volunteers deliver the bags. It is quick and simple and cold … but very satisfying … even though sometimes the adults taking the bags don’t seem appreciative.

4. More Family Time – my brother is coming with his daughter for Christmas, which is always great and particularly great after we nearly lost him to his heart attack this year.

5. Reflection when it is all over – Because Lisa works in retail now, we are in the midst of a whirlwind of activity as her hours get wilder and her days more exhausting. I look forward to after Christmas, when things start to slow down, and we still have time to enjoy the decorations, the warm feelings, and the time together before the new year starts and we begin over again!

So what are the things that annoy you AND that you are thankful for during whatever holidays you do or do not celebrate at this time of year?