The Way I Was Raised: Idea Fairies

Co-worker: Beth, did you plan a White Elephant Gift Exchange?

Beth: No, I didn’t. However, if you’d like to plan one feel free to do so!

Co-worker (actual quote from email): Couldn’t remember if we were doing it…maybe next year you can plan it 🙂

(The smiley face at the end is truly one of my favorite parts. It’s right behind “I couldn’t remember…” because, true story, we’ve actually never done one of these at our holiday parties. So, I’m confused. They couldn’t remember that we still aren’t doing it?) Moving on!

Let’s talk idea fairies. You know what I’m talking about. Those people (maybe you) who are life’s true visionaries. Their (your) imagination is boundless, and really the only thing holding them back from a standing ovation and a well-deserved write-up on Page 6 is you, you delightful little worker bee. They’ve done their job, they’ve dreamt up the most magical of plans – an idea that once realized will surely impress and delight everyone – friends, family, those uninvited and unclean urchins peering into the windows looking forlorn. But here’s the thing, love, you really need to hop on board and do the work. I mean, they’ve already covered the hard stuff – the thinking bits. You just need to pull it together with that little elven magic thing or that holiday voodoo (we don’t judge here – judge free zone – all religions welcome) that you do. It’s really quite a mystery to us, but we all have our strengths, and mine is thinking and yours is doing. Oh, please don’t bother us with the details, just… you know… do what you’re good at, my favorite little minion, love you, kisses – see, you’re super good at “realizing” my vision. DUH! Don’t doubt yourself, dear! I believe in you. Let me know when you’re done, and then you can send out the invitations.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand idea fairies. From the gal who thinks we’re going to have a White Elephant gift exchange that I should make happen (for the record, I genuinely loathe White Elephant gift exchanges, I don’t get the rules. Plus, I already have a lot of junk in my house. In fact, if you’re looking for unopened/unmolested oddities to bring to your next one, just swing by. I’ll hook you up with some whimsy! OH! unless the White Elephant exchange is actually a White Elephant board game/card game exchange then HOLY COW, sign me up! That sounds amazing. Whoops! I think I just Idea Fairied that and I also made it a verb – go me) to something as simple as the person who says, “let’s all get together, you just call up these people and let me know when it is.” Ummm… no. Not doing that either.

Now in truth, we’ve all done this at some point or another to some degree. We’ve had an idea, couldn’t quite figure out how to pull it off, and we started looking at our friends/family/co-workers for help. Take last year when I had my Reverse Quinceañera. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, so I threw that out to friends, then I held meetings (yep, meetings) and sent many, many annoying emails. I recruited a team. I had a ton of people who hopped on board to make that vision happen, and who even added onto it. In the end I had this incredible celebration that included a Bollywood instructor, and things like a party play list, dance speakers, a fairly full open bar with specialty birthday drinks, a photo booth, a professional photographer, people who volunteered to craft decorations, who put the food together. I had a set-up team, a tear-down team, and someone willing to join the VA so I could get a significant discount on a hall. It was massive, and it was a collaborative event. One that started with an idea. And while it did start as an idea, I always planned to be heavily involved not play party princess, wave my hand around and demand my minions hustle. (Although, during the party where I was a party prop, I did feel like a princess – it may have been the actual hair ornament or the fancy dresses or the fact that to visit with me, you literally had to queue up.)

I like to think that my friends were willing to build on this dream and take my birthday party to that next, more amazing level, because of their buy-in. That they saw I was always driving this locomotive, ready to work, ready to bring it together, instead of simply flopping on the ground before them and demanding, “I need a party, people!!! A phenomenal soirée! Now go forth and make it happen my floundering little lackeys! Of course, I can’t help. Don’t be ridiculous. Mama needs a spa day! All that dreaming and bossing you around takes a toll! Chop chop! Could someone massage my feet?”

And that’s what you sound like when you try to push your idea on someone else and insist they make it happen for you. You sound like an annoying, and a tad bit entitled and spoiled, little prince/princess.

Don’t do that.

As the holidays are upon us, and so many grand ideas are hopping around in your head, ideas you KNOW will be more than well-received if they could just see the light of day, I empower you to spread your own wings and soar! This is your opportunity to show the world how capable you are in addition to the brilliance you’ve always displayed. Show them you can plan a lunch, AND invite all the people you love, all by yourself. You can use that phone, that email, and send those messages. You can even select a restaurant. No haggling. No “you decide” “no, you!” “No, YOU!!” You just do it. Show them you can throw that White Elephant gift exchange, you exquisitely brilliant creature, you! Everyone will sit in a circle, there will be hot ciders (the good kind, where you’re just a tad naughty), and you’ll giggle madly with your friends over their outrageous choices, those friends whose contact information you were able to divine on your very own, as you navigated the whole contacting them thing, and you’ll do it at a place of your choosing. You’ll be fine! Imagine that feeling of serene accomplishment as you bask in the glow of the accolades you’ll receive. And you know what? Those little minions (call them “friends” – that’ll be a great first start), say the word, and they’ll even “help” you – not do it for you, but help, because they’re excited now, too.

You got this former idea fairy. Now go make a plan!!

PS Real life note to friends: If (big if) I plan a karaoke couple of hours at the High Ball on the 22nd, AND then we drifted over somewhere for say a White Elephant game exchange, who would have interest? FYI – with karaoke, think “group singalong” – you’re not expected to solo, but that option is always available. We sing until Dancing Queen plays.

Hanging Out with the 1%

Saturday night I attended a formal dinner to help out a friend who needed a buffer at her company’s Christmas party.  She’s fairly new to Austin, doesn’t know a lot of people thanks to her demanding work schedule and because of improv and my overbearing insistence that we become friends; I was the one person she thought of to invite. Apparently, at last year’s party she had been somewhat shunned and she wanted to avoid that by inviting someone fun.  Still, she chose me.  (Well, I can be fun if catty is fun, and if catty is indeed fun, I’m a laugh riot.)  She promised that I would see how the 1% live.

I’ve worked in non-profits long enough that I’m not easily awed or impressed by the 1%.  When I see them glad-handing about, I only see philanthropic marks; future donors who should consider a few planned giving options along with becoming major donors.  They make me hungry to return to the non-profit world with some data mining tools so I can sniff out their potential giving ability.

We arrive at the museum they’ve rented for the evening. There are several caviar and sushi tables set-up that I can’t quite negotiate my way to, but I do see tons of people gobbling them down.  I curse myself a bit, because snacking on free stinky and salty fish eggs seems like a fun thing to have on my list of life experiences.  I vow that next time I’ll partake as I’m shuttled around to shake hands with tons of people whose names I forget as they’re spoken.

The company has flown people in from around the country to attend this event, so I get to meet several people from Los Angeles and Chicago.  I also get to enjoy the old, “I’m trying to hear your accent”. A phrase you often hear from non-Texans.  It’s followed by a delighted giggle and a, “oh, there it is.”  I smile indulgently, the same smile you would bestow on a three year old who has placed all of the blocks into the correct box and is applauding himself – the patented “bless your heart” smile.  She then declares, “we really don’t have an accent in Chicago, it’s such a shame.”  And I have to correct her with, “yes, you actually do – it’s ok though, it’s a common misconception Midwesterners have.”  Well, they do and really, it takes some balls to treat the natives as charming little sideshows thanks to their accents.  I also endure one polite sleight about my outfit.  I am told my “sweater”, which it was not, is “so very delightful and festive” in that way that you’re fairly certain the word she is searching for is “quaint”.  I narrow my eyes and smiled while saying, “thank you” and hold back a, “your face is delightful and festive!” (It’s my standard childish retort to remarks I find exceptionally disagreeable.)  Aside from those two encounters, everyone else is perfectly lovely.

We get to our tables and find that all of the women at the party have little bags that say “Pucci”.   The name doesn’t register with me at all and I mistakenly think this is some sad Gucci knock-off brand. We open up the gift bags and inside are purses and scarves.  One of the husbands leans over and laughs, “you women and your purses, you can never have enough”.  Let me stop here and say that I have maybe a handful of purses to my name.  One is my every day purse, the other is my “we’re going to a festival I need this to go across my body” purse, and the third is my “I hope I find something that goes with this because it’s cool” purse.  Oh, and I suppose there’s the purse that I recently made.  I live in jeans, t-shirts and a pair of Clarks that I love.  I’m not a girly-girl.  The last pedicure I had involved a healthy amount of blood, so those are avoided like the plague.  My one adventure in fake nails lasted about three days and I removed them by hand, leaving away something quite scary in the way of nail beds. I don’t know name brands outside of the bigger fashion houses and I haven’t a clue what anyone else is wearing beyond the broader labels of “dress” or “shoes”.  Pretty much, everyone should just be thankful I get dressed and brush my hair daily.

The women around me begin cooing as they pull out their purses to admire them.  I leave mine in the bag, because I see the others and they look like purses.  I know what purses look like – handles, flaps, fasteners with maybe some pockets on the inside.  Purse.  My friend leans over and cajoles me into pulling mine out, so I indulge her as to not appear to be rude.  The whole while I’m thinking, “yes, here is my knock-off Gucci purse – it has grommets and metal hoops – looks like a purse – oooh, and a hideous little scarf, too”.  As soon as possible, I dump the purse back in the bag and set it under the table.  The women around me continue to coo and other women come over to show off their purse treasures. I try to adopt the demeanor of the overly excited women around me, “oo, yours is brown! Oh, did you see? Hers is multi-colored!” I die a little on the inside.

About that time, the company’s execs start handing out the company awards for best little achievers during the year and those awards include multiple cars.  My jaw drops as they call each person up to bestow “a Mercedes Benz” or “a Porche 911”.  My friend leans over and whispers that a few of her co-workers received multiple-million dollar bonuses that year.  My jaw continues to sit on the floor and I start wondering about this knock-off purse and dopey looking scarf I have, although I’m still not properly impressed by it.

At the end of the night, after the lobster salad amuse-bouche “on a Trisket” as my friend declared and four courses of food with expensively paired wines that I will never be able to afford on my own  I’ve gone from “I can’t be impressed” to “holy fucking shit”.  Suddenly the bag of candies my supervisor handed out for Christmas and the store-bought cupcakes at the office Christmas party seem like incredibly insulting crap.

The evening finishes with dancing – women in their finest couture gyrating to rap music with their husbands dressed in their tuxedos and cowboy hats trying to emulate their idea of Texans. (For the record, a true Texas gentleman will remove his hat before entering a building.) It made for quite the sight – images forever burned into my brain.

I drop her off at her place and that’s where she shares, “that’s a $3,000 purse.” What?!? I had just carelessly tossed it in the trunk and it had been rolling around back there for a bit.  “Mine is around $6,000.”  Let me clear that up a bit, because I had to look it up once I got home.  The retail value of my purse is actually $1,500 and hers is $2,000, which is still holy shit are you kidding me expensive, but not quite “it can feed a whole 3rd world country” shocking.  I mean, it’s just a purse.  Granted the leather is really nice and there’s lots of chain mail on it, and I guess nothing says class like chain mail, but still. I also learned that Pucci isn’t a clever knock-off name for Gucci.  Who knew? Well, aside from all of the purse hounds seated around me. And to think this company gave one of these to every single woman who attended the event.

I have to say my range of emotions runs from shocked to completely appalled at the decadence.  It’s just a purse.  I mean, do you carry it or do you need to put it under glass and invite visitors over to view it?  And I can’t help but think that there are people out there who are cold and starving, and here I have a stupidly expensive purse that I got just for being a guest at a dinner.  How are people ok with living like that?  We won’t even talk about the scarf which is more expensive than the Christmas budget I allotted myself this year.

So, let me say wow, I’m blown away that this is how the 1% live.  Such a completely alien universe.

Mug Follow-up

I’m causes me great sadness to have to deliver this news, but as of today no chipper holiday mugs were actually harmed.  We bore them great malice, yet there they sit in their green and red glory taunting us as santas, angels and snowflakes wave on.

Should any of you who worried about their welfare among what surely must be a pack of Christmas hating rednecks want to adopt one or maybe six of these.  I will gladly fill them with Hershey’s kisses and a candy cane then ship them your way.  No really.  I’d be glad to pay for the shipping.  Please.  Please?!?!?!

Holiday Mugs

Jay came in the other day and asked, “is there anything I can shoot on Saturday?”  This was in preparation for a day out with his brother and friends where they’re allowed to shoot something other than paper targets.  We’re Texans.  Sometimes inanimate objects find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The first thing that sprang to mind was the couch, but since we don’t have a truck or an easy way to replace the couch, I tossed that idea aside.  Yes future company, you’ll have to continue to enjoy the living room furniture a little while longer.  The cats are really proud of their master work and will expect lots of pats for their enthusiastic textile artistic expression.

I gave the matter further thought.  What else in the house do I hate more than the couch?  Then it hit me, HOLIDAY MUGS.  This year, between Jay and I, we have accumulated six – about average for a holiday season.  Normally, I toss them in garage sales or decide it’s time for Goodwill to receive a fresh batch, but not this year.  This year they’re all getting it.  The only thing I regret is that the cheery angel mug sitting on my desk at work is escaping the pottery-cide.

It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the gift.  The little candies were delightful.  It’s just that it seems to me there’s got to be a more clever way to deliver a handful of chocolate Hershey’s Kisses – like say, a ziploc bag.  I could use a ziploc bag.  It doesn’t take up that much space.  I can recycle it.  It doesn’t clash with my Denby.  Or how about just a simple Christmas card or a greeting on a Post-it note? Neither of those would turn into ceramic carnage on a fine winter’s day or find themselves in peril of never achieving their mosaic potential.

Hopefully Jay will videotape their cheerful cuppy demise.

PS/Hint – You can never go wrong with mugs from Clarksville Pottery – I guarantee no harm will ever come to a piece from their store.