30 Dec

Christmas Donkey

I was awake at 2:30 am on Christmas morning when Ted and Amber finally arrived from Appleton. They did exactly what Eileen and I did: spent Christmas Eve with the Non-Storm family, and then left around midnight for the Storm house. The Christmas morning tradition is to wake up really early (like 5:30 or 6:00), go downstairs to see what Santa brought, and then go back to bed for a few hours. When we were kids, we pretty much skipped step three of the process. This year, my sister was concerned that if we woke up after 5:30, her son Sam would also end up staying awake for the day. So we had to make a decision to either wake up in three hours, or forego the tradition. I polled my siblings and found only one — Angie — intent on sticking with the tradition. The others said it was up to me. So I set the alarm for 5:21 and tried to make the most of the next three hours of sleep I would get.

I woke up at 7:00. Neither Eileen nor I heard an alarm go off, which is pretty odd. I checked it; everything was set correctly. I was disappointed for about 10 minutes, then I decided it was an act of God, and I tried to go back to sleep.

At 8:00, still awake, I heard a toilet flush, so I got up. It was Sam. He and I went downstairs and discovered a Lego Millenium Falcon for him and an LCD TV for me and Eileen. We didn’t even try to go back to sleep.

Other people woke up gradually. By 10:00, everyone was awake and downstairs. We had the traditional debate about whether to eat breakfast or open presents first. I came down on the eat-breakfast-first side, but as usual, I was outnumbered. I did, however, succeed in petitioning for some of those buttery Pillsbury Grands to be made as an “appetizer” before the gift-opening. And so several of us were mingling in the kitchen for 14 to 17 minutes, while the Grands baked.

At this time, I thought it would be funny to start a rumour that Ted was going to propose to Amber that very day. We’ve been waiting for years for him to do so, and ever since last spring, when Ted informed us over iChat that he was just working on the ring, we figured it could happen any day now. So I was just doing my part to prod them on. I forget who I told. I think I told Jamie and Mom, maybe Angie too. I don’t think Ted or Amber heard the rumour, which kinda defeated its purpose.

After the Grands got out, we took the present-opening slow. I won’t detail it here. It was a great show. And in its aftermath, as we were cleaning miscellaneous wrapping paper off the ground and investigating gifts more closely, we heard Amber exclaim “Oh my God!”

Ted said, “so, I guess I’ll do this formally,” and he got down on one knee and presented a ring box he had carved out of wood. It’s probably not by business to relate exactly what was written on the letter that had provoked the exclamation from Amber, but the short story is that the wooden box, housing a wooden ring, was not the official engagement ring. We were, however, witnessing the official engagement.

For my part, I could do nothing more than stare open-mouthed at the two of them and then at the people to whom I had whispered my rumour. I felt like a jackass, albeit, a very happy jackass.

23 Dec

School’s out for the year!

Unfortunately, it ended on somewhat of a sour note. I handed back papers in my creative writing class at the end of the hour, so none of them really wished me happy anything. Instead, they left me with a bunch of cookies to clean up, and about five of them left well before the bell rang. Jerks. I hope they get coal.

20 Dec


Our gift shopping took a turn for the better tonight; we made several successful purchases from places that weren”t Target, Toys R Us, or Wal Mart. Last night’s shopping was quite the opposite. After determining that we would buy my nephew one of the three lego sets on his list (TIE fighter and Y Wing, Hailfire Droid, and Wookie Attack), we let our fingers do the walking and called 16 different stores.

I was playing a muted video game as I waited on hold, and invariably, some clerk would pick up right as I crashed my video car and whispered “shoot.” That was the first problem. The second was that about 60% of the people I spoke to had trouble understanding me when I said, “I’m looking for some lego sets.” I had to repeat myself a few times, varying the syntax of my request and dumbing it down: “I’m looking for some lego sets” became “some sets of legos” became “legos” became “toys! Do you sell those?” Unfortunately, once I made myself understood, I would usually get passed on to some other clerk, most often the one in the “toy” department. A couple times I would get transferred to the wrong place and the new clerk I was talking to would say, “oh, you want legos,” or, worse, “oh, you want toys,” and then he’d transfer me again. In any case, I’d eventually end up with somebody who had the power to find out.

After explaining that I was looking for some lego sets, I’d be asked which ones. “The TIE Fighter and Y-Wing,” I’d begin. The poor store employee was no doubt dealing with all varieties of hell, and so he or she was understandably in a hurry. “Okay, let me look for you,” the clerk would exclaim. And he was off, wandering the picked-over shelves of Shopko or Toys R Us or Wal-Mart. (I was in a Toys R Us once, five days before Christmas. It’s ugly.) When the poor fool got back on the line, I’d have to explain that there were two more I was looking for.

With the first few stores I called, I accidentally asked for the Hellfire Droid, not realizing just how inappropriate that name might be for a set of legos (ages 8-12). And I got laughed at twice for asking for the Wookie Attack — understandably so.

I must say, though, the clerks were surprisingly nice to me, especially considering I was sitting on my couch playing a video game while they were working “holiday hours” til 10, 11, or 12. Unfortunately, all three lego sets were sold out at every place I called. Hell, on the lego website, they’re even sold out. The Wookie Attack is “not available in this country.” I kid you not.

Tonight, Eileen and I went out to a couple of small shops and basically bought things we’d want. It’s much easier that way.

Don’t worry, though. We’re going to give them away.

17 Dec


So, here’s what happened. In November, we had approximately 11 days of school total. Various things were to blame: parent-teacher conferences, sophomore testing, thanksgiving. It was nice for everyone involved, but it was like eating three brats — there were repercussions. After thanksgiving, we had a full week of school. I mean we were there Monday through Friday. As if that weren’t disturbing enough, the homework started coming in, and Eileen talked me into applying to the MFA in Creative Writing Program at UW, the deadline for which was December 15th.

It was a lot of work. In fact, this past Wednesday, I took a day off of school to stay home and grade papers. I woke up at 6:00, went in to school, made copies, hooked up the VCR to the data projector in my room, and then discovered I had left the tape at home. I proceeded to put together the necessary folders of handouts, and tidy up my desk a little when I discovered that I had lost my typed-up sub plans. So, I returned home, printed out the sub plans, grabbed the tape, and went back to school.

By 7:45, I was back home. At 8:30, I got a phone call from a Woman Who Didn’t Identify Herself.

Me: Hello?
WWDIH: Hi, can I speak with Tim?
Me: This is Tim.
WWDIH: Hi, Tim. I was just calling to see if you were going to make it into work today.
Me: What!? I called in a sub.
WWDIH: Oh, I’m sorry. Who’s this?
Me: Tim Storm.
WWDIH: Oh, I’m sorry. I have the wrong number.

WWDIH sounded a little like the absent-minded secretary at school who’s in charge of organizing substitute teachers. She had me a little worried, so I called school. I spoke with the English Department chair and discovered that my sub plans, the video, and the folders of handouts I had just spent an hour putting together were sitting untouched on my desk in the English office. Fantastic.