The gifts are wrapped, a handful compared to past years. The grocery shopping is done. It'll be a simple meal -- ham, roasted vegetables for those who will eat them and corn for those who won't. Buttercrust rolls. Peppermint ice cream in an oreo chocolate crust.
Brett has entertained family and friends with e-mail from China. When I woke up on the 11th, several notes from him were in my in-box:
Always stop at the hotel counter and have them write down your destination in Chinese
Print the address (in Chinese) from the internet. Give that to the cabbie.
Easy as pie.
s/Brett-somewhere in Shanghai.
Never look out of the taxi driver's front windshield. Always concentrate your eyes out the side windows as to avoid the hysteric reactions you may have.
And now I'm lost
Always double check the address your hotel translates into Chinese for the taxi driver. Otherwise you may find yourself at a border crossing with no papers.
Don't misplace anything. You will not be able to explain the simplest item for them to understand what it is you're describing. Not even remotely!!!
A green hotfoot? No, my green notebook! Not cooked? NOTEBOOK!!! Dammit!
Rule #4-mystery solved!!! Green notebook retrieved.
Fortunately Brett doesn't get upset when these mishaps occur. And he did embellish his telling of his adventures. There was no border problem. The cabbie was unsure of Brett's destination, so Brett called the client's office and a person there instructed the cab driver where he should take Brett. The notebook was left in the back seat of the real estate agent's car and after a phone call to him, the notebook was returned to Brett at his hotel the next day.
In his search for suitable office space and an apartment, Brett went first to Shanghai and then Beijing. The cost to rent an apartment in Beijing is about one-third what it is in Shanghai. He likes both cities for different reasons, so I'm confident he and Michelle will be happy wherever they live.
Michelle flew over last Friday. She sent e-mail saying, "Brett met me at the airport and was kind enough to show up with a bag of crispy fried duck feet." What a guy! Obviously he put a lot of thought into presenting Michelle with something that would make her week's visit memorable. They'll spend the days leading up to Christmas in Hong Kong and then fly home on the 26th.
A few days after Thanksgiving, Sophia was the recipient of the Elf on the Shelf she named Freddie. The first thing she does every morning when she wakes up is search the house to locate Freddie's perch for the day. Brandon isn't ready to talk about the existence of Santa, probably because he realizes that the excitement of Christmas will be diminished if Santa really doesn't arrive with a sleigh filled with toys and come down the chimney but instead pulls into the garage and hurriedly stows packages where little eyes won't find them.
Only a few days until Christmas. I think I'm ready.
Blogging was supposed to ease the task of journaling. A few minutes a day, or at the longest, a week, to write about things happening around me. But that's not been reality. There's little that happens in a day that didn't also happen yesterday and will undoubtedly happen tomorrow. Such is my life. I'm not complaining, just noting why posts from Park Place are infrequent. I simply have little to say!
But there have been some report-worthy activities. In mid-November, Matt agreed to oversee Brandon and Sophia so Dawn and I could spend a few days with Brett and Michelle in California to celebrate Dawn's and Brett's November birthdays. We spent some of our time together relaxing in their garden (although the picture was taken one afternoon when we went shopping). Dawn and I relaxed as we thought about the chaos of the approaching winter holidays. Brett and Michelle were preparing to spend some time overseas.
Brett left his previous employer in October and is now working for ValleyCrest, "an integrated landscape company that designs, builds and maintains ... places." Brett's immediate challenge is to establish and maintain a corporate office in China. He left yesterday to spend three weeks visiting several Chinese cities, searching for the best to satisfy corporate and client needs. Once that is accomplished, he will find a nearby apartment in which to live for the next two years. Michelle hopes that she will find employment there, too, perhaps as an English teacher.
Thanksgiving Day was perfect weather for Matt's grilling of the turkey outdoors. This year Sophia and Brandon helped with meal preparation, too. Sophia mixed the green bean casserole and Brandon prepared the whipped sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows. Finally they're both old enough to sit through a meal without fidgeting or fussing. It was a very relaxing time!
In August 18-year-old cat Kitty died. With her absent, I was able to stay in bed past 7:00 AM (when she made sleep impossible as she demanded breakfast) and demanded to be lifted to the bathroom counter where I had to turn on the water so she could drink. ("Dogs have masters, cats have staff.") But I came to miss having activity here, and just before Thanksgiving adopted littermates Simon and Lilli from the Humane Society. They have been a joy. They eat the food left out for them and drink from the water dish that sits beside it. And they entertain me as well as each other.
Back in September Brandon was about a month into his first season playing tackle football. His team, the Panthers, won their first game, and I missed it because I was working. I understand that the youngsters showed up that Saturday morning with their heads screwed on straight. They performed in inspired style.
Two weeks later eleven Panthers were on the field, and it seemed as though each had his own agenda. The result was that they did the equivalent of putting a red ribbon around the game they handed to their opponent.
Apparently the coach got their attention during the practices that followed. Being a nice guy hadn't worked, so he and the assistant coaches got tough. I wasn't there, but I understand the boys learned through the experience of several scrimmages what is required to play and win.
It was late September and a perfect day for football -- sunny with the temperature in the mid 60's. I got to the field early and watched the Panthers practice. Paired up, two boys laid on their backs, helmet to helmet, one holding the football. The coach stood over them, and when he yelled "Go!", they jumped up, turned around to face each other, and the ball carrier tried to evade the other fellow whose assignment was to tackle him. Pads were popping. No one was holding back.
Their opponent on this Saturday had won their three previous games and had not been scored against. The Panthers had a big mountain to climb. And climb it they did. The Panthers recovered a fumble and in the next few plays, made a touchdown, the first scored against their opponent! The boys played so much better than earlier in the season and their practices paid off. They didn't win the game, but they didn't embarrass themselves. I am so proud of their effort and I hope they are proud of the way they played. I am looking forward to next fall's football games.