Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How I Knew I Was Getting Old

New Years Party 1956 by Alfred Eisenstaedt

I turned 41 this past year. 41. The age where people can start saying; "Who, Eleanor? She's in her forties..." or "She's over 40 now." Or referring to me as middle aged. Gasp! I'd be lying if I said that this whole being over 40 thing didn't feel slightly traumatic.
Turning 40 didn't really bother me at all. In fact, throughout the year that I officially moved from one decade to another, telling people that I had a son who would be turning 20 actually made me feel older. It was then that I realized that I have, officially, been a parent for half of my life. There. I said it. And in bold font. I have spent exactly half of my time here on earth raising other human beings. Beings as in plural. Beings as in 2 of them that I gave birth to and also a husband who occasionally needs my extraordinary guidance. Geez. And then I wonder where the time has gone. 
Although I have spent half of my lifetime trying to raise two good, solid citizens who appreciate the important things in life, (things like punk, new wave and indie music, John Hughes movies, Dr. Martens footwear, and spending summers eating from the three basic summertime food groups: Pop Rocks, Fun Dip, and Good Humor bars); it is not the catalyst that made me realize I am getting old. Nor are my creaky knees, arthritic fingers, graying hair or the fact that I used to be able to eat a cupcake whenever I wanted then eat salad for penitence. Nowadays, if I even make eye contact with a cupcake, one pops out from the side of my thigh. Or gives me a cankle. And yet still, none of these things really make me feel old. 
Do you know what made me realize that I am getting old? 
All the hoopla surrounding New Year's Eve. It's the truth. Everywhere I look on Pinterest there are DIY confetti poppers, sparkly drink recipes and handcrafted party hats. There are a bazillion blog posts about how to do your party makeup and what to wear to the New Year's bash you will be attending. Or what appetizers are easiest to make and serve at your very own party in order to earn the WOW factor.
New Year's Eve has made me realize the middle age is upon me. Why? Because I could care less about any of it. I have no desire to go anywhere, do anything or mess up my sleeping pattern staying up way too late to ring in a New Year. It is not worth drinking too much, passing out, waking up two hours later to spend the rest of the night in a cold sweat; tossing, turning and bargaining with God that if he makes me feel better I will promise to never drink again. In fact, I'm pretty sure that God has learned to tune me out at these times, just shaking his head and thinking, when will she ever learn? Kind of like Charlie does when he has found me (very rarely mind you) sleeping on the bathroom floor. He just steps over my pitiful self, goes about his business while quietly shaking his head and probably thinking "when will she ever learn?" 
Last year while we were away at the Cabin in the Woods over the holidays, I remember waking up annoyed in the middle of the night (well, at midnight to be exact) hearing gunshots, fireworks and rednecks who were somewhere in the woods surrounding the cabin carrying on and whooping up a storm. While the cabin is stunningly gorgeous and in a bucolic, country setting, there are in fact some "sketchy" homesteads all around it. I was honestly just a wee bit nervous about it all. You know, people firing guns and shooting off fireworks unseen in the woods somewhere. I grew up in the burbs outside NYC, have seen Deliverance on more than one occasion and am still getting used to the whole rural lifestyle thing. Rural used to scare the hell out of me. While I have come to love and appreciate banjo music and our beloved Cabin in the Woods, rural can still make me nervous. But that is probably a story for another day. 
The moral of today's story is that my lack of enthusiasm surrounding any and all New Year's festivities has made me feel old, grumpy and a little sad too. I grew up going to my grandparents New Year's parties throughout the 70's. Those two knew how to party. My family would make the trip to my grandparent's home where I would be tucked into bed long before the guests would arrive. Inevitably, I would climb out once the party had begun and sit at the top of the staircase watching the festivities below. Ladies would be decked out in gorgeous dresses, men in their suits all singing, dancing (I remember quite a few "conga" lines going past that staircase) and knocking back a few good cocktails. I'm sure God had to endure plenty of drunk bargaining sessions all night after those shindigs. 
My favorite times were when a random adult would spot me sitting there on the stairs, swoop me up into their arms and bring me to the party. My parents partying faces would instantly drop and read, "Oh shit." when they noticed me, but everyone else thought I was adorable and eagerly offered up the liquor soaked fruit from their cocktail glasses as they passed me around. This is most likely why the Old Fashioned is probably my all time favorite drink. That fruit...just so damn good.
Why don't people party like that anymore?
I've lamented about this before. I would probably embrace New Year's Eve if it was like it was when I was little. But people are too tired, too busy and way too casual to recreate the soirees of yesteryear. It's a shame. 
So tonight I will probably have a glass or two of wine, (not too much because I promised God on the first night of our camping trip back in September when I drank too many rum and cokes that I would never get drunk again) turn in by 10 the latest and wake up around 4am tomorrow to welcome 2015. 
Creaky knees and all.

Happy New Year Friends!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Christmas Table

It all started over the summer when I was sorting through our attic trying to wheedle down our possessions. This is something I try to do a few times a year and unfortunately, am only marginally successful with. However, during this particular "purging" episode, I found a bag of six mini, footed silver dishes that had come from my paternal grandmother. I remember thinking that they would make great place card holders for the holidays and tucked them back away inside the drawer they were stored in. Now, there are a lot of things I cannot remember lately with all the stress and strain of work and holiday chaos. Thus I end up doing things like going to the food store 3 times in the two days before Christmas because I keep forgetting stuff and the grocery store is closed for a whole 24 hours. God forbid we were lacking something we really wanted needed. Yet, somehow, I remembered these little silver dishes when it came time to start getting my Christmas dinner table together.
See, miracles really do happen.
I knew I wanted to fill them with a natural material and moss is a perennial favorite. After picking up a few little things that could work to create a place setting in a little silver dish stuffed with moss, I decided I hated them all and was back at the drawing board with not a clue as to what to do. Two days before Christmas I happened to run into an antique shop I used to frequent many years ago and found the most incredible thing.
Vintage typewriter keys!
They were black, white, round and utterly perfect. I could immediately see them centered on a beautiful strip of ribbon draped delicately over the moss. I dug through the pile for the letters I needed for the four of us and my father and stepmother. T ~ for Tom (my dad), E ~ for Eleanor, L ~ for my son Liam...I excitedly dug for the last three remaining letters: C, R and J. But there was nary a C, R, or J to be found.
I guess miracles apply to only certain things.
I'm not going to lie, I was totally bummed out. I wanted these typewriter keys, I needed these typewriter keys. This was the only way to bring my vision for the perfect holiday place cards to life. Yet life was saying, "Sucks to be you Eleanor." and probably in the same voice that the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld told Elaine,
"No soup for you!"
To console myself I headed to one of my favorite thrift stores. Retail therapy in it's finest form. As I meandered up and down the aisles, I come across a roll of vintage red velvet Christmas ribbon and my vision is restored! The moment is monumental. I stood in that aisle, tchotchkes all around me, fist in the air with Scarlett O'Hara like determination and shout, "As God is my witness. As God is my witness...I'm going to make this happen...typewriter keys or not!"
Sometimes the holidays make me a little emotional.
When I had recovered from this little moment I went directly to my local craft store to find something just as amazing as old typewriter keys. When that didn't seem to be happening, because really, what is as amazing as vintage typewriter keys? I settled on little black and white round letter stickers. They were slightly puffy, not unlike the stickers that adorned my Lisa Frank binders and filled my sticker books when I was a kid in the 80's. That little bit of dimension made them better than plain, old, flat stickers.
  At least that is what I told myself.
By this point I start second guessing the vintage, red velvet ribbon so I grab a roll of burlap for good measure. When I got home I started to assemble them, making one with each ribbon to see which one would be  the best choice.

I reached out to my fellow Instagrammers asking which one I should use and received a split response. About half the people who responded were in favor of the burlap while the other half voted for the red velvet.
Since I am the boss of my Christmas table, I chose red. The burlap would have been too blah with the other elements I was using. To be fair to all of those who voted burlap, I had never shown the plates I use for Christmas dinner or the table linens I was using (which is a Ralph Lauren throw blanket from Homegoods), so perhaps it was an unfair question after all. Red was the obvious answer. Look how good the red looks with everything else:

And what did I prepare to serve on that stunning Christmas table?
Did a glorious crown roast grace that stunning green and white transferware platter? Did I serve a turkey roasted to golden brown perfection?
My plan was to prepare something simple and hearty. Just some down home good eats.
So I served an:
Apple cider injected pork tenderloin with homemade spiced apple sauce
Butternut squash risotto
Steamed vegetables
Drop biscuits

I kept it delicious and low key. Then whipped this little stunner out of my back pocket at the end:

As my dad patted me on the back and said, "It's a beaut Clark Ellie, it's a beaut" I knew that despite all the trials and tribulations of this holiday season, I won Christmas after all.

The End.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 23rd

I can't believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Last week it felt like it was dragging and Christmas would never get here. Then, it was like someone pushed a fast forward button and whoosh! Here we are.
Counting down the hours.
This holiday season has been different in so many ways. I've noticed there are no crazy lines in any stores and getting a parking spot hasn't really been an issue. Work has me in and out of malls and shopping centers all over NY and NJ every day and I've taken note that people aren't even really walking around with shopping bags either. What are people buying as gifts? Have people finally realized they don't need so much "stuff"?
It's been different around here too. There are some things I am really on top of this holiday for a change. Then there are things I am normally on top of, but this year have fallen behind or completely off the mark with.
For instance: I was completely done shopping for gifts this past weekend. By Sunday evening I had every single gift wrapped too. My husband and I have spent many a Christmas Eve long after the kids have gone to bed wrapping gifts so this is a huge win for me. (Because remember, wrapping is not my favorite sport)
On the other hand, I am way behind in other things. Last year we had brunch and a cookie swap with family and friends. This year I have yet to soften a stick of butter let alone bake a single thing.
Every year the beautiful cards everyone sends adorn my living room/dining room doorway. 
This year they have been sitting in a pile on the dining room table.
 I usually have my Christmas dinner menu planned a few weeks ahead of the big day.
Last night after work I finally settled on what exactly I am going to serve. 
Most years my fridge and pantry are bursting with holiday goodies and enough food to feed a third world country.
This morning I will be running through the grocery store when they throw the doors open at 7am because I really can't fathom trying to do a whole food shopping on Christmas Eve.
And let's not even talk about the condition of my downstairs bathroom and the overall cleanliness of this joint, ok?
On the up side, I was thinking about how I wanted to find some gorgeous greenery and berries to fill some beautiful mercury glass vases I found on sale at Pottery Barn. I was silently lamenting how my grocery store doesn't carry anything remotely like what I was envisioning and was trying to figure out where I could go to get exactly what I wanted. Then lo and behold, I walked into a Fresh Market up by the New York border and right at the door were the bouquets I saw in my mind. 
I may very well have the best dressed table without a stitch of food on it this holiday!
There's some sort of prize for that, right?

I hope you all have a bright and beautiful Christmas filled with love and light.

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.
~John 1:9-14

Monday, December 22, 2014

NYC At Christmas

One of Ryan's favorite things to do at Christmas is spend a day in NYC. She loves everything about New York. Since Charlie hates everything about New York we started leaving him home a few years ago and making it a girls only outing. 
There really is nothing like the city at Christmastime. From seeing the tree in Rockefeller Center to shopping on 5th Ave, New York City feels like Christmas should feel. It is magical. It is the stuff you see in movies.
We always start out by seeing the tree first, then spending a good hour wandering around Anthropologie. If you already thought Anthro stores are amazing and inspiring then hold on to your hat because you haven't seen anything like the one in Rock Center. While we were there, I decided and declared aloud that when I die and get to heaven I really hope it looks like that Anthropologie. For real. I mean, it's just so.damn.pretty. it kills me. Luckily Ryan thinks it's pretty neat too so she willingly browses around with me while I soak in all the loveliness.
This year we headed into Hell's Kitchen for a ramen lunch then walked through Times Square because it dawned on me that I have never brought Ryan to Times Square. She was awed. I mentally high fived myself. We did some Christmas shopping, stopped for cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery then realized it was getting so congested the closer we were to Rockefeller Center we could barely move down the sidewalks. I took it as our cue to get the hell out of there. While I enjoy our outing as much as she does, the days when I dreamed of living in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan are long gone. I can barely stand it for more than a few hours. Nowadays I dream of mountains, wide open spaces and a home with nary a neighbor in sight.
But it is still nice to see those bright lights and that big city every once in a while.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Wrapping

Although I am far from done Christmas shopping I decided to get a jump on wrapping the gifts I have already purchased. Wrapping is not my favorite chore job at all. In fact, I generally dread it. That could be because I usually wait until everything has been bought then have to do a ridiculously long wrapathon and by the end of it my gifts look like this:

 Ok, so maybe I am exaggerating a little.

I was actually planning on using whatever random bits of paper I had lying around the attic, because you know, waste not want not. But then I started seeing Instagrams and blog posts of beautifully adorned gifts and I started to feel like a slacker. (Damn internet...) Then I remembered the whole waste not, want not thing again and the thought of more trees having to die just so the paper could be ripped off in a hurry and thrown in the trash thing made me stand resolute.
Until I got to Target yesterday. 
I ran down the aisle of holiday wrapping stuff to grab 2 matching gift bags for my both of my nieces gifts. Since I am easily side tracked by any shiny thing that catches the corner of my eye I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted some adorable gift tags from Paperchase. They are not shiny, they are even better than shiny, they are PLAID. A gorgeous red plaid with a little wooden buck attached. Since I added pretty, red plaid ribbons to my tree this year and on account that I constantly dream of living in the woods somewhere (you know, the buck) I decided that I must have them.
Of course, now that I was buying such lovely tags I needed to up my game and find fabulous paper that these tags could adorn and once again Target delivered. I bought some striped and polka dotted paper in similar colors. When I got home I scrounged around my craft supplies and found a wide roll of burlap and some odds and ends of ribbon that magically all work with the wrapping color palette. I call this #SERENDIPITY.

I wrapped the set of 1920's books I found for my dad and a lovely cheese board I found for my stepmother and was almost giddy with the result. However, I am not too proud to admit that about an hour later and after wrangling with an oversize box that weighs a bazillion pounds that I may have yelled out "I hate Christmas!" (I totally did). My daughter looked as wounded as if I had told her I hated her instead of Christmas (which of course I would never do). I then had to apologize for my outburst all while silently wishing she didn't have tutoring last night so I could have a much needed cocktail.
Is it over yet?
So, in summation, wrapping is still not my favorite activity but at least my gifts look pretty. And made for a pretty slick Instagram. And there is always next year to use up all that other paper right? And tonight to have that cocktail because you know, TGIF.
Oh wait, I have to work tomorrow.
Is it over yet?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Christmas List

It's an age old question that we all most likely answer a million times over at this time of year:
 "What do you want for Christmas?" 
This past weekend Charlie kept pestering me to tell him what I would like and I frustrate him immensely each time I respond  "nothing really". By Sunday morning he stood in the doorway to my office and begged me to please make him some kind of list.
But there's really nothing I want.
That answer only frustrates him more so I picked up a pen and paper and thought about what I truly want for Christmas.
My first inclination is to write down TIME. I want more time, I need more time. Time to exercise, time to read books and magazines, time to use the sewing and embroidery machine he gave me last year for Christmas that I have yet to even touch. I spend at least 2 hours a day commuting to work (that's a good day) with most days being 3+ hours of commuting on top of working all day. That means I spend on average of about 12 hours out of the house 5 days a week. Sometimes more. For about 3 years now. I'm not whining, I'm just tired. Tired of traffic, tired of commuting, tired of not having time to do things that used to be so important in my life, like working out or reading. Work absorbs so much of my time Monday through Friday that I can no longer do things I love doing because things like cooking a meal for my family win out in importance.  It's been a crazy way of living. One I chose, but one I am trying to figure out how to change because I want/need/miss TIME.
But I didn't write that down. Not because Charlie wouldn't understand what I mean, but because he already knows how frustrated I am and to ask for something so intangible would just make him crazy. So I sat staring out into space. Thinking. Then thinking some more. I remembered that I really want the book Gypsy by Sibella Court and that I wanted The Southerner's Handbook by Garden & Gun magazine. I wrote them down.
When I handed him that little piece of paper he just shook his head. I reminded him that there is really nothing in particular I want. He was still frustrated and I found myself struggling to put into words what I really wanted to say.
How do you tell someone that you don't even know what you want because they are items waiting to be discovered at a thrift shop or flea market? Nothing mass marketed, made in China or from a major retailer can make my heart skip a beat the way it does when I see that amazing treasure just sitting on a shelf or in a dingy corner of my favorite thrift stores.
I didn't know that a pair of demijohns would be the perfect addition to our home decor or that my dining room desperately needed this oil painting until I saw it hanging on the wall at ReStore. How could I have known that a bunch of vintage art that cost me a few dollars here and there would turn into a gorgeous gallery wall in our living room? Or how my heart feels full every time I walk past the set of mixed metal pheasant salt and pepper shakers I found on Etsy. What about the two sets of antique silverware I recently found for a song and couldn't bring myself to sell in the shop because they are just so incredibly beautiful that I am scared I will regret letting them get away.
These there are things I want. Things that have a past, tell a story and add beauty to our lives. I just don't know what they are yet because they are waiting for me to find them.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

P.S, On a side note, I was in Manhattan on Sunday Christmas shopping and found the most gorgeous pair of scissors and a stunning set of teaspoons at Anthropologie. I picked them up and told him he could put them in my stocking. He said I was a weirdo for wanting scissors and asked how many sets of teaspoons does one house need?
Men. They just don't get it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Decking the Halls ~ The Tree Debacle

I should have known things were not going to go smoothly the minute the kids announced they were not going to the Christmas tree farm this year. After some begging (more like incredulous questioning), pleading (more like telling them it was unacceptable for them not to go) and bargaining (I had to agree to buy them McDonald's breakfast in the end) we all piled in the car and headed to the Christmas tree farm we have been visiting for about a decade now.
Of course we wind our way up and down every aisle for over an hour trying (well, with me trying) to find the perfect one. I am generally shot down that the ones I select are too big for our living room or they will point out some miniscule issue with it.  Then, when they tire of wandering with no tree prospect in sight they start to get cranky, or in this year's case, hangry and then suddenly any tree will do.
Finally, we found "the one" that we all agreed upon and were happily on our way home. That is, until the kids realized we had spent so much time searching for our tree that it was almost 11am and McDonald's may not still be serving breakfast by the time we get to the nearest one. Since that was the only reason they agreed to come in the first place, you can imagine that they were pretty irritated that we were cutting it so close that it may actually be a crap shoot as to whether they get breakfast after all.
Fortunately, fate was on our side, they got their sandwiches and all seemed well with the world again.
Unfortunately, I had to work overnight Sunday night. I paced myself with decorating, planning to wrap it all up when I was home on Monday. I was able to get everything else done on Sunday afternoon except the tree which was fine by me since I like to let the branches settle after they were mercilessly crammed into that netting they use for transporting. 

I should have been suspect that things could be headed on a downward spiral when I left work at 3:30 am to embark on my hour and a half commute home. I could barely keep my eyes open, had the window wide open but it was too cold so I also had the heat on full blast. Also on full blast was the Pandora Christmas Radio station and I was singing along at the top of my lungs; not because of the whole Christmas spirit thing, but out of desperation to not fall asleep at the wheel and die which might just ruin Christmas forever for my family. Or perhaps not, since then the kids would never be required to go to the Christmas tree farm again. Hmm. Guess it depends on how you look at it.
Anyway, my singing with the window open and heat blasting thing was working just fine until the damn Trans Siberian Orchestra came on and did nothing to help since I obviously cannot sing along to that annoying crap. Even worse was that I was terrified to change the music on my iphone lest I swerve in my half asleep state and crash the car. What a nightmare.
By the time I arrived home around 5am I was so delirious that I crawled into bed, curled up next to Charlie, shook his shoulder to wake him asking, "Am I really here? I'm home right?" His response of "yes, you are home" sounded more confused than sleepy and I am sure he thought I had lost it for good. I was so out of it that I was scared to close my eyes because what if I was just dreaming that I was home and was really still driving the car??? In rational hindsight I realize that if I had been dreaming I was home then I was already in deep shit if I was still driving. But my exhausted mind had no rationalization at that point.
I bet you think it couldn't get worse, right?
That's where you are wrong. So wrong.
I sleep until about 10 am. Partly because I cannot stand the thought of wasting a day at home and partly because I had to resume a normal work schedule starting Tuesday and did not want my sleeping pattern to be all jacked up. I wandered around trying to accomplish things around the house in a zombified state feeling as if I was incredibly hung over but had unfortunately missed all the fun of pre~hangover. Sucks.
I promised Ryan that she and I would decorate the tree when she got home from school and I had everything ready to make that happen. We put on Christmas music and head into the living room. But wait. The tree looks like it is leaning forward slightly in the stand. I silently debate ignoring it but realize that every time I walk into the room it will annoy the crap out of me. So I suggest we try to straighten it out. We can't even budge it in the stand. So we try again. And again. Finally I admit that we will have to wait for Charlie to get home from work and fix this. Fine. At least my tree will be straight.
Monday nights Ryan has tutoring from 7-8 pm so I after I pick her up and we get back home we have Charlie fix the tree. Success! We put some Christmas music on and started getting the lights on the tree. Halfway up the tree, there was not a single strand of lights left in the tote we store them in. 
How could this be??? Where are all my lights???
I search through every Rubbermaid tote of decorations again and again. I go into our walk in attic and start randomly opening every single storage tote thinking I must have left one up there. At this point I must have looked akin to Chevy Chase checking and double checking the Christmas lights in Christmas Vacation with the full blown craziness in my eyes.
I start grilling Charlie. Where are the lights??? He has no clue because I always dismantle the decor and helpfully suggests that maybe we threw some away last year? 
Since that was completely unhelpful, (he could have at least got up and looked around the totes as if he was trying to help me) and Ryan had grown bored at this point and wandered off to her room to go to bed, I threw on Uggs and my giant puffy winter coat over clothing I would normally never leave the house in and go to Target. It is now after 10 pm and thankfully they have already started their holiday hours. I fill my basket with 6 boxes of lights and head home. I decide that I will get up ridiculously early and finish the lights on my tree. And I do.
I am up at 4 am, coffee in hand and Christmas music on very quietly so as to not wake the rest of the house, and I start putting my brandy~new lights on the tree. I'm in a surprising good mood considering the hour and my whole lack of sleep thing. 3/4 of the way up the tree I open the last two boxes of lights.
I bought the wrong ones.
They were white wire lights, not green wire lights like the rest of them.
I am devastated. I cannot believe this is happening.
Charlie comes wandering into the kitchen a few minutes later takes one look at my face and says, "Oh my God, what's wrong?"
That's when the tears came.
I cried for my semi lit tree and the fact that I didn't think to check what color wire lights I was buying, I cried because I was overtired and worn out,  but mostly I cried because work was completely overwhelming me and I knew I was in for a 14 hour work day. Every day that week.
He put his arms around me and promised he would go to Target for me after work that day and get me the lights I needed.
This was only somewhat comforting since I knew at this point my tree was going to look like this for the remainder of the week:

At this point I realize that whether he gets me the right lights or not I would just be frustrating myself to even attempt decorating the tree for the remainder of the week. I was just going to have to turn a blind eye to it (not hard to do I guess since half of it wasn't even lit), dig deep and go into work survival mode.
True to my prediction, each day indeed turns into a 14 hour work day culminating with me working until 2:30 am on Saturday morning, going to a hotel adjacent to the parking lot of where I was, sleeping until 7 am, getting ready to go back to work, working until about 3 pm then driving directly to a wedding we had RSVP'd months before to attend. I unfortunately missed the ceremony, but had my dad pick up Charlie and bring him so we did not have to have two cars there or it might have been me driving home from my overnight all over again.  I changed into my wedding clothes in my dad's hotel room and off we went to the reception where I danced my ass off til 11 pm in the same heels I had had on since 8 am. By the time we were heading home I was almost comatose and not from alcohol, but from exhaustion and a set of feet that were screaming in pain.
Sunday morning I felt like crap so I relaxed a bit reading magazines and enjoying my coffee before I mustered up the energy to finish the tree.

Pretty ain't she?
Well, she better be after all I went through to get it done.
As one of my friends reminded me, it wouldn't be the holidays if something didn't go wrong.
How true.
Here's another truth:
If you want to enjoy the holidays, then don't work in the retail industry. It sucks any holiday joy right out of you.
Trust me, I know.

So tell me, did you holiday decorating go smoothly? 
Please tell me I am not the only one who survived a comedy of errors.... :)