Special Christmas memories from Dan

by Dan Peschong

Over the years I’ve had wonderful and not so wonderful memories at Christmas. I remember being so happy getting an electric train when I was 5 years old and very few things will match the extremely rare Christmas Eve snow in Sugar Land in 2004 – which had us tossing snowballs while dressed to the hilt for evening services.

On the other end of the spectrum was the year when I woke up in the early morning of Christmas Eve with a terrible stomach virus that then swept through the house. After many weeks of choir practices I spent Midnight Mass flat on my back – nauseous and disappointed. The worst Christmas was probably a few months after my father passed away in 2001 – a very empty and haunting time.

But the most memorable Christmas for me was the one I spent without my family in 2003. I had taken an engineering assignment in Iraq right after the quick war ended in May – unfortunately the guerilla war and terrorist attacks went on and on. Christmas fell right in the middle of one of my 12 week on shifts. A large contingent of technical workers were living in Kuwait City at that time because our camp in Iraq was not complete and we would “commute” into south Iraq and work in the Rumaliah oil fields every day.

We were working 7 days a week but were going to be off on Christmas Day. Because we were on per diem – the company did not put together a party for that day off as they would have to show it as taxable income. So, I led an effort to put together a small Christmas party for those stuck away from home. It turned out to be a fun event – we collected some donations and went to the local supermarket and brought in some staples – sandwiches, meats, cheeses, chips and treats. But as Christmas day developed, the party goers showed up with surprises – the Indian guys bringing cultural goodies like samosas, the Chinese folks bringing in egg rolls etc.

We had a lovely meal and since this was done in a mini-conference room that doubled as our entertainment room – we had a TV with a DVD player. My wife had sent me some of my favorite holiday movies in a wonderful care package before the party. One of the most memorable things in my life, was sitting with men and women from around the world and seeing their reaction to watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Patrick Stewart in “A Christmas Carol” for the first time. It was an experience I will never forget and will carry me to the end of my days and holidays.

So, any Christmas memories anyone else would like to share with their blogging friends?

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Pet peeves: Your fingernails-on-chalkboard sources of irritations

Pet peeve. A specific and often minor annoyance or irritation that may be a “major” source of irritation to you.

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Most pet peeves may annoy you while those around are just fine with them. Or that’s the way it seems with me anyway. The things that grate on me the most seem not to bother some around me.

Got any of those? Maybe fingernails on a chalk board or someone chewing with their mouth open. Perhaps it’s people smacking gum, talking in a movie or maybe it involves drivers or waiters at a restaurant.

Everyone has them. Here are some at the top of my list.

1. The Grocery Line. But it may not be what you think. Why do people wait until the last second to look for their wallet, checkbook or credit/debit card? I mean, while the cashier is checking out your 35 items (in the “Less than 20 Item” line nonetheless), some people stand there talking, looking around and waiting. Then, when everything is processed and bagged, then — THEN! — they begin to look for their checkbook or debit card. Often times, it takes them a while to dig in the purse or go through their wallet. Didn’t they know 10 minutes ago they would have to pay for everything?

2. Drivers. We could probably create an entire list of driver pet peeves and I’m sure you have your own. Mine? People who drive slow in the left lane and slow everyone down. Then, often, once you finally are able to get around them, they’re talking on the phone, arguing with a passenger or otherwise not paying attention.

3. Chewing ice or chips. Don’t people realize how loud and annoying this can be?

4. The wrong use of apostrophes and similar words. Sorry guys, I was an English major and a stickler for correct grammar and spelling. When I first started writing for the Chronicle, I would correct comments. Spent a lot of time doing it and finally gave up. Much more tolerant now. But it’s still one of my biggies. Words like you’re/your or they’re/their/there, then/than or it’s/its are not interchangeable. Other words often misused: principal/principle, capital/capitol, accept/except, Are you also aware that there is no “s” at the end of words like toward and anyway. And there’s always the misused apostrophe (Astro’s, sport’s car, The Grammy’s, baseball’s or its time).

5. An interviewer who says “I just want to ask you a question…”  Of course, you do. That’s your job. That’s how an interview works, right? You just wasted some time the person could be “answering the question”. Or an interviewer who takes 60 seconds to ask a question and then tells his guest “…in 30 seconds.”

Come on, now, I’m not the only one with pet peeves. What are yours?