Thursday, December 31, 2009
I will celebrate the good things in 2009, I will close the door on the bad stuff. Some years are better than others. While 2009 was a rough year for us, it was also a hugely rewarding year in many ways. Lord knows it was memorable. I look ahead to the blank pages of 2010's calendar, each day's square waiting to be written on. How will I fill those days? It's exciting to contemplate what might come to pass in this year, so I'll celebrate 2010 too. In any case, I'll curl up on my own comfortable couch, with my own comfortable husband, and we will watch a movie, maybe two. It won't be anything remarkable or eyepopping, but we'll see the New Year in.
Happy New Year to everyone. Whether you celebrate big, or celebrate small, I hope that you all mark this day in the way that you love best, with the people that you love best.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Today was a quiet day. I painted woodwork at one of the houses downtown. Painting is relaxing. You work steadily and carefully, and can easily see your progress. Life's not always like that. You work your hinder off, and sometimes it seems as if you're not making progress at all. Or maybe you think you've made great progress, only to find that you haven't progressed nearly as much as you thought you had. I have a job interview tomorrow. It's just a part time job, minimum wage, I'd expect, but you know, I don't even care any more. I need to be doing something, anything, and next week, I take college placement exams. I just need to feel like I'm making some amount of progress here.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Is this a little better?
How about here? Yep. Robins! For those of you who live someplace else, robins fly south for the winter, and are considered to be one of the harbingers of spring. After a long winter, everyone looks for the robins to return. So here they are. It is December 29th, and the robins are back. Well. A half dozen of them anyways. And certainly, most assuredly, the robins would not lie. Spring has sprung.
Monday, December 28, 2009
And bird ornaments, because, yes, Doris, I still feed the birds, and I love them. My tree has bluejays, and cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees...
You know, it was a careful Christmas this year, what with both of us being unemployed. We used our ingenuity, and it was actually quite a lot of fun. Do you see the little train case to the left of the tree? It was a little time capsule filled with things that you would find in a train case with a custom label from 1950 on the side. That was great fun, and Cara's grandfather got quite involved with that project. White gloves. An old fashion curling iron. An antique perfume atomizer. A book. Hankies. Headache powders. Antique post cards from Europe. Old perfume. A fountain pen. A wind up travel clock. Finding the items was a lot of fun, and our history major seemed to enjoy her gift. I got antique china cups for the girls, with fancy tea. Careful shopping for sales, picking up things here and there beginning early in the year (I actually already have two gifts for each kids wrapped and put away for next year). The gifts began to migrate to the tree as they were wrapped. By Christmas eve, the stack here was tripled, easily. It came to me, again and again during the season, that it is not money that makes the holiday. It is creativity. It is love, our own and God's. It is thoughtfulness. Whimsy. It is having health and energy. It is remembering last year when I did not.
I am a lucky woman.
Our Christmas was special.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
Christmas eve, we snuck (sneaked?) over to Brianna's, and set up her new living room. She was shocked. Mike's stuff went out the door with him Christmas day. Buddy and Brianna hauled out the rest of their gifts as well. Today, Dylan left, taking a Jeep full of things. Cara went to Fleetwood with him, because she loves nothing better than decorating on someone else's dime. She'll be hanging and settling his new stuff for him, stocking his freezer. They'll be back later this week for New Year's eve.
After the kids were gone, I went out to bring in firewood. I decided to burn the bags, and boxes and mounds of debris from Christmas morning. The burn barrel flamed high in the dusk, spinning lazy sparks in the sky. There was a lot of stuff to be hauled outside and burned, and I made trip after trip. It is nice to have the basement back to rights again. The spare rooms are looking like spare rooms again. I'm not climbing over furniture and boxes to get into them again. So the house has emptied out of an amazing amount of stuff. People, too. The kids are gone. It is quiet. Tim listens to the Steelers kicking butt on the radio. The dog snores gently. It still bemuses me that we have reached this point in our life. I used to cry when the kids left, but after all this time, it has begun to feel normal. I have a lovely family, and I really am glad that they still head home for the holidays, with all their high spiritness, with all their laughter. I treasure the time that we have, drinking in the details of the faces of these young adults, even as childish voices and giggles echo in my heart. Our lives intersect and diverge. It is as it is meant to be, but still, I cannot help but remember a time when I couldn't conceive of such a thing. Life really is beautiful.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Christmas? Oh. It was great. Really very nice. Dylan worked overtime to get a water plant back up and running before he left. He got off work at 2:30, and then tossed his bag in the back of his Jeep and headed home, hitting our driveway at about 8 AM, much to everyone's surprise. He did not go to bed. Instead, he went shopping with his sister. By the time that he got home with her, he was about comatose. He slept for a couple hours and then drifted down to the sofa where he lay in a strange dazed state. We all flopped down to watch a video, just to keep coma-boy company. We watched Flight 93. That was not a movie for Christmas eve, actually. I cried, and had to head to the kitchen to make some egg nog. Dylan, Cara, and Tim began to plan what they would do if their plane was hijacked. Cara believes that you should always carry a sock full of change for just such an emergency. She is of the belief that if you swing a sock full of change full circle and land it against somebody's head, you could do damage. Seemed like it could work. She had taken a self defense class and waxed forth on the weapons you could make from the simple items in your purse. I am now afraid of Cara. In any case, the Christmas eve passed in a blur of terrorist fighting conversation. Everyone agreed that if you let terrorists in the cockpit, you've already lost the fight. So.
I was coming down with the miserable cold. In the season of sharing, Dylan and Cara now have it. We got up Christmas morning, snuffly and miserable (but of a shared opinion on the handling of any terrorists who might attempt to hijack our festivities). Buddy and Brianna came, and Mike, and we had breakfast. 'Everything omelets', hashbrowns, sausages, waffles, and popovers. Popovers are a simple treat:
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 teas of salt
3 tablespoons butter
Beat everything together with a mixer. Bake at 425 degree oven for 20-30 minutes until brown on top. And if you take these out of the oven, and a huge blop of homemade jam falls square in the middle of them, this is not a bad thing.
Anyhow, we had a big breakfast, and then we unwrapped gifts. It was fun, and family, and lots of laughing.
I got dangly earrings. A new bird feeder. A painted slate. A new crockpot. Picture frames. Snicker bars. A gift card.
We had a ham dinner, simple, really, with homemade rolls fresh out of the oven, and mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn. Christmas cookies for dessert.
We all sprawled around and watched Harry Potter 28. (Really? Only 6 so far?!!!! Oh...).
And then Tim read the internet news reports to us about the terrorist who tried to blow up the plane outside of Detroit. Dylan then demonstrated how a simple winter scarf could be used as a weapon against terrorists. Cara then spent the rest of the night kicking and slapping her brother. Now I am afraid of both Dylan and Cara.
We all went to bed that night, happy, well fed, and amply prepared to deal with terrorists.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
A year later, I studied my reflection, short gray hair. I looked at the curler in my hand and surprisingly, I found myself getting quite emotional about all those strands of hair. Strange, isn't it, that I should be so emotional, in retrospect, about something that I'd initially been so sensible and calm about?
Jeanie's finally put up a picture of that new baby. Oh. She's so sweet. She's so adorable. I wish that I could hold her myself, for just a moment. That's what happens when I gaze at pictures of babies for too long. I get wild cravings to hold it, to feel its weight in my arms, to smell its hair, and to play with its little fingers and toes. In fact the cravings are so strong, I probably should not go out of the house, because if I see a baby, I'm going to ask to hold it. If the parents do not know me, this is always upsetting to them.
I've got most of my Christmas cookies baked. Ice the sugar cookies today, bake a batch of brownies, and a small pan of rice crispy treats, only because Christmas will not come without rice crispy treats.
Yesterday, I received a package in the mail. From Oklahoma. An autographed Pioneer Woman cookbook. I kind of think that even though it came from Oklahoma, it originated in Oz. I'm still working out those clues though, since there was no note inside. That was exciting though, and I really am dying to make up a batch of bacon jalapeno poppers for New Year's Eve. Thank you very much, and whoever is responsible for this: I will find you out.
Other earth shattering news? Today, I signed up for college.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
I buy my stamps, and I carefully afix them to 55 Christmas cards and drop them into the mail box, and walk out of the post office relieved that I can tick off the 'get Christmas cards done' box, in true Jeanie style. Saturday, I ticked off several boxes. I dragged my decorations down, and decorated the tree (tick). I set up my lit Christmas village for the first time in two years (tick). I got out the Nativity. I even brought down my Christmas dishes, unpacked them, washed them, put my ordinary dishes away for the month, and put the washed Christmas dishes in the cupboard (tick). I even wrapped most of my presents (tick). I've already baked three batches of cookies, but tomorrow afternoon, and Wednesday, I'll make a few more favorites (tick).
It is very hard for me to go through the motions of this Christmas without remembering last Christmas: the exhaustion, and discouraged knowledge that I could not make the Christmas my family was used to. I really rejoice over the fact that this year, I can. I have. It is Christmas at my house. I am so very happy to be back in the swing of things. Thanks, Dawn, for taking the time to talk to me at the post office. It is a new Christmas. It is a new season. I walk out of the post office, into the snow, and I take a moment to savor the scene before me. I am lighthearted and filled with joy. And it is not just because I finally got my Christmas cards done.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Note to self: must look for more dangly earrings.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
We got to the house and the youngest girl came to the door as we were leaving the things. The shock and amazement on her tiny face was enough thanks for each kid in that car. They were a little stunned that the mother came to the door and simply began to take the things into the house, without a word. On the way home, we had a talk about that. 'Why do we do good?' We decided that we do it because it is what God wants from us, not because we want people's gratitude and praise. We talked about the look on the little girl's face, and how much this would mean to the children in this house. We talked about doing what we can, and praying that God uses our feeble efforts to perform a miracle in the hearts of these children and their mom.
We have $200 to buy gifts for our little family. Sunday School Class will go out today to shop/wrap/deliver (we had an ice storm last week, so yeah, we're cutting it close...)
Cara is home, Dylan will be home on the 24th. We will have four out of five home.
And Jeanie...really, that baby of yours is stubborn. I wonder where s/he gets that from? Have you told the little stinker about Santa yet?
Saturday, December 19, 2009
'Twas the nocturnal segment of the diurnal period preceding the annual Yuletide celebration, and throughout our place of residence, kinetic activity was not in evidence among the possessors of this potential, including that species of domestic rodent known as Mus musculus. Hosiery was meticulously suspended from the forward edge of the wood
burning caloric apparatus, pursuant to our anticipatory pleasure regarding an imminent visitation from an eccentric philanthropist among whose folkloric appellations is the honorific title of St. Nicholas.
The prepubescent siblings, comfortably ensconced in their respective accommodations of repose, were experiencing subconscious visual hallucinations of variegated fruit confections moving rhythmically through their cerebrums. My conjugal partner and I, attired in our nocturnal head coverings, were about to take slumberous advantage of the hibernal darkness when upon the avenaceous exterior portion
of the grounds there ascended such a cacophony of dissonance that I felt compelled to arise with alacrity from my place of repose for the purpose of ascertaining the precise source thereof.
Hastening to the casement, I forthwith opened the barriers sealing this fenestration, noting thereupon that the lunar brilliance without, reflected as it was on the surface of a recent crystalline precipitation, might be said to rival that of the solar meridian itself - thus permitting my incredulous optical sensory organs to behold a miniature airborne runnered conveyance drawn by eight diminutive specimens of the genus Rangifer, piloted by a minuscule, aged chauffeur so ebullient and nimble that it became instantly apparent to me that he was indeed our anticipated caller. With his ungulate motive power travelling at what may possibly have been more vertiginous velocity than patriotic alar predators, he vociferated loudly, expelled breath musically through contracted labia, and addressed each of the octet by his or her respective cognomen - "Now Dasher, now Dancer..." et al. - guiding them to the uppermost exterior level of our abode, through which structure I could readily distinguish the concatenations of each of the 32 cloven pedal extremities.
As I retracted my cranium from its erstwhile location, and was performing a 180-degree pivot, our distinguished visitant achieved - with utmost celerity and via a downward leap - entry by way of the smoke passage. He was clad entirely in animal pelts soiled by the ebony residue from oxidations of carboniferous fuels which had accumulated on
the walls thereof. His resemblance to a street vendor I attributed largely to the plethora of assorted playthings which he bore dorsally in a commodious cloth receptacle.
His orbs were scintillant with reflected luminosity, while his submaxillary dermal indentations gave every evidence of engaging amiability. The capillaries of his malar regions and nasal appurtenance were engorged with blood which suffused the subcutaneous layers, the former approximating the coloration of Albion's floral emblem, the latter that of
the Prunus avium, or sweet cherry. His amusing sub- and supralabials resembled nothing so much as a common loop knot, and their ambient hirsute facial adornment appeared like small, tabular and columnar crystals of frozen water.
Clenched firmly between his incisors was a smoking piece whose grey fumes, forming a tenuous ellipse about his occiput, were suggestive of a decorative seasonal circlet of holly. His visage was wider than it was high, and when he waxed audibly mirthful, his corpulent abdominal region
undulated in the manner of impectinated fruit syrup in a hemispherical container. He was, in short, neither more nor less than an obese, jocund, multigenarian gnome, the optical perception of whom rendered me visibly frolicsome despite every effort to refrain from so being. By rapidly lowering and then elevating one eyelid and rotating his head slightly
to one side, he indicated that trepidation on my part was groundless.
Without utterance and with dispatch, he commenced filling the aforementioned appended hosiery with various of the aforementioned articles of merchandise extracted from his aforementioned previously dorsally transported cloth receptacle. Upon completion of this task, he executed an abrupt about- face, placed a single manual digit in lateral
juxtaposition to his olfactory organ, inclined his cranium forward in a gesture of leave-taking, and forthwith effected his egress by renegotiating (in reverse) the smoke passage. He then propelled himself in a short vector onto his conveyance, directed a musical expulsion of air through his contracted oral sphincter to the antlered quadrupeds of burden, and proceeded to soar aloft in a movement hitherto observable chiefly among the seed-bearing portions of a common weed. But I overheard his parting exclamation, audible immediately prior to his vehiculation beyond the
limits of visibility: "Ecstatic Yuletide to the planetary constituency, and to that self same assemblage, my sincerest wishes for a salubriously beneficial and gratifyingly pleasurable period between sunset and dawn."
Friday, December 18, 2009
She is on the brink of flight. She is taking off in her own direction. It will be a different direction than I have traveled in my own life. I chose, and I chose poorly at times. I married who I shouldn't have. And then there were children who became the most important thing in my life, because that is what mothers do. My own needs became secondary to theirs. I know that some disagree with that, but I feel like my right to choose my path came secondary to what was best for my children. And so my life's decisions were based on them, not me. Don't get me wrong. Life has worked out for me. I am married to a smart man, a good man. We have provided to the best of our abilities for all of our children. Now when it should be our turn, we got turned around by cancer. Now those uncertainties guide our choices. We are making the safe choices, the ones that lead to security. It's just the way that my life has been lived. I'm happy enough, and I still find plenty of joy in my quiet corner of the world.
It will be different for my daughter. She will not pick safety over adventure, security over a new experience. That is her way. She is intelligent, and she is gifted, and she will choose her own way. My job is not to hold her back. I cannot quite bring myself to encourage her to take these leaps of faith, but I speak quietly, and watch carefully, reminding myself of this: the worst thing that could happen is that she would fail, and if she fails, there will be someone who loves her to help her stand back up and dust herself off, and get ready for the next big flight.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Gates to exquisite grounds.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Oh. Minor note. If you google 'australian brown snake', you will discover that it is the leading cause of snake bite death in Australia.
Okay. Two things...Bill? If I lived in Australia, I would not want a cat. The second thing? Field mice in the laundry? That ain't nuthing!!!!
PS: If you wander over to Jeanie's place, do not leave comments about babies or pregnancy. This is stressing her out. Leave cryptic comments about Copenhagen. It's a code. I don't think she has a clue.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
For one brief shining moment, I held a field mouse in my hand. Ack. Shudder. Know what? I didn't even scream. I think that I was too shocked to. I guess that I can count my blessings. Somebody in Oz was pulling her whites out of the washer, and discovered the carcass of a frog mixed in. The only thing worse that a live mouse in the dirty laundry would be a dead one in the clean laundry.
For the umpteenth time, I said to Tim, "We need a cat."
Saturday, December 12, 2009
I was right. Today was a much brighter day. Some days just suck, but, really, they pass. The bad times always pass.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sometimes the scale tips. It is depressing. I try very hard to stay optimistic and cheerful. I try to be faithfilled, but today sucked, and I cried. I prayed out loud, "God, I'm really not sure how much more of this I can stand. I don't even know what to do anymore."
Tim brought in the mail tonight. I received word that a bank is considering my resume. I received a another lovely Christmas card with another letter in it. The letter began with, 'you, Debby, are one of the nicest people that I am blessed to know.'
I read somewhere, 'If life knocks you down 99 times, you must stand up 100 times.'
Today, God heard me. Today, I stood up once again. Tomorrow will be a better day.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I can't sleep for spit tonight. The wind is howling. The dog is pacing. Tim is snoring to beat the band. This song keeps dancing through my head. It makes me smile every time that I hear it, but it's especially appropriate tonight. I got a lot accomplished today. I'm far too tired to fall asleep. I'd also like to make myself believe that this planet earth turns slowly.
I woke up this morning and laid in the dark listening. I finally figured out what I was hearing. Nothing. "The wind has stopped," I whispered to Tim. And in just moments, he was whispering back, "Maybe not," as it picked up once again. Why we still whisper in the morning, when we are the only ones in the house, I do not know.
I've been slacking. The trip to the Unemployment Agency has sort of re-energized me. I've been doing a lot of navel gazing, and decided that, number one, I have to begin each day with a work out. I get up at 5:30 with Tim, pack his lunch, head back to my elliptical trainer (yep. I have one. I had to dust it before using it.) and begin a half hour work out while he's eating his breakfast and perusing the news on the computer.) The trainer is in a back room. It used to be a girl's bedroom, so it has a pink rug, pearl paint on the walls, and satin floral border. It has my old writing computer in there, on a desk. It is where I study. It has my keywound clock that chimes and ticks. It is now my room. My things. My place. My own.
I work out, staring out the window at the blueberry bushes stripped bare for the winter, and for one half hour, I sweat and hate life. I try to use that time for praying for others. It is a good time for that. A lot of faces spring to my mind, and I pray for them one at a time. It's also a good time for thinking. The final words of Hal's latest post keep springing to mind:
"Abruptly, I wake up. It's four in the morning, so I decide to get out of bed. I brew tea and get dressed. Remembering a mountain lion had been spotted in the area, I walk outside to check on the chickens and the llamas. Everything is okay. Then, as if on cue, I hear the rumble of a Harley on Bear Mountain Road, a mile or so away.
I close my eyes, standing there in the mild late-winter chill. I listen to that sound. I love where I live, I love my wife and son, and I'm grateful for my life in the here and now. But for a moment, as the Harley's muted roar fades into the darkness, I feel strangely homesick."
A middle aged woman pushes on in a dark room, staring out into a dim gray world, thinking about Hal, and his choices, thinking about her own choices. The elliptical whirs with her steady strides, and other times, other places, other people click by in review. The clock strikes, the workout is done, and she steps off the elliptical. Her own life resumes its steady pace. She can only hope to keep up.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Issued by The National Weather Service
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STATE COLLEGE PA HAS ISSUED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING FOR... WARREN COUNTY IN NORTH CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA... UNTIL 200 PM EST AT 103 PM EST NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DOPPLER RADAR INDICATED A SEVERE THUNDERSTORM CAPABLE OF PRODUCING PENNY SIZE HAIL... AND DAMAGING WINDS IN EXCESS OF 60 MPH. THE STORM WAS NEAR ROUSEVILLE... MOVING NORTHEAST AT 50 MPH. THE SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WILL BE NEAR... ENTERPRISE AROUND 115 PM... GRAND VALLEY AROUND 125 PM... GARLAND AROUND 135 PM... YOUNGSVILLE AROUND 140 PM... CHAPMAN STATE PARK AROUND 145 PM... WARREN AND RUSSELL AROUND 150 PM...
THIS WILL IMPACT THE FOLLOWING MAJOR ROADS... ROUTE 6... ROUTE 62... STATE ROAD 59.
13 years ago, I walked in there, a newly single mom, back to the area, scared stiff. I needed to find a job, and quick. They were anxious to help me. I was a veteran. I was shuffled back to the special 'Veteran's Counselor', who promptly got me a job as a janitor in a local plastic factory. As if I could not have gotten that job if I had not been a veteran. Sounds awfully ungrateful, doesn't it? But it paid the bills, and it got me through, and I met Tim there, etc. I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but each time that I've ever needed that place, I get uninterested staff who pause in reading the newspaper to direct you to the computers.
So when I got the notice that I was expected to show up at the Unemployment Center for counselling, I wasn't expecting much. Actually, I wasn't expecting anything. I was surprised. There is a completely new staff there, and they are up, and moving, and talking, and advising. I found that I am qualified for a couple of programs as a displaced worker. Even educational benefits. I was shuffled off to the veteran's counsellor, and he gave me information on civil service jobs and where to find them. Most of all, I got to talk to other people in the same boat as me. We are all discouraged. We are all looking. None of us are getting callbacks. I'd been taking it personally, and was discouraged. So did everyone else. They were discouraged too. I walked out of there with a new hopeful feeling.
I guess that I've been losing momentum. Today, I feel better. Today, I am hopeful. Today, I got up and I worked out. I filled out applications. I enclosed the new paperwork from the employment agency. I'm waiting for the sleet to stop, and I'll head out again. Maybe I'll get some Christmas shopping done too.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
My five favorite Christmas stories:
1. The nativity. I always have to find a nativity play at a church. Christmas does not seem like Christmas unless you've seen the children arrayed in bathrobes, carrying shepherd hooks, or wearing halos. And I always cry a little at Christmas pageants, remembering my own children grumbling their way through them.
2. 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever', by Barbara Robinson. (I didn't realize that in Australia or New Zealand, you'd find this under 'The worst Kids in the World'.
3. 'It's A Wonderful Life'. Yep. I'm one of 'those'. I love this show, and I cry over it every single year. The book is 'The Greatest Gift', by Philip Van Doren Stern. This little story was actually Mr. Van Doren Stern's Christmas card enclosure for 1943. He wanted to encourage people during the grim dark days of World War II. He did a pretty good job, I think, his little story eventually reaching no less than Frank Capra who rewrote it into a screenplay.
4. 'A Christmas Story' by Jean Shepherd.
5. Finally, I guess, I'd have to say 'The Homecoming', the simple Christmas story that launched 'The Waltons' series. It was just a sweet story of a family during hardscrabble times. Yep. It's one of those things that brings tears to my eyes, and it was the first time that I'd ever heard the word 'piss ant' on television. I was shocked by it actually. Seems terribly long ago, doesn't it?
I also like George C. Scott's version of 'A Christmas Carol', but that would be six, and it would screw things up, so I won't add it. Some folks wouldn't be able to restrain themselves, but I have self control.
Top five Christmas songs?
1. I like 'Milk and Cookies' by Clint Black. If that doesn't snatch you right back to your childhood, nothing will.
2. 'What Child is This'. This particular version is done by the Moody Blues. Cool, hey?
3. 'Here We Go A-Wassailing'. This particular version is instrumental with dulcimers.
4. 'I Believe in Father Christmas' by Greg Lake. I had a heck of time finding a decent audio of this song. I really do believe that as adults, each of us do get the Christmas that we deserve. What we do for each other, what we give, what we share...this is what makes Christmas. Look around you, people. I don't care where you live, there is someone who needs the blessing of you this holiday. In blessing others, we find that we have received the Christmas that we deserve, rich and wonderful and filled with love and joy.
5. 'Love Came Down At Christmas'. I've never heard this singer before, but she is very good. Enjoy.
I also have a holiday song that is more for New Year. I like 'Same Old Lang Syne' by Dan Fogelberg. Since this is not a Christmas song, and I am a woman of self control, I will not put it on my list.
Five Favorite Kids:
In no particular order, Brianna, Stacey, Mike, Dylan, and Cara.
Five Favorite Cookies:
1. Frosted sugar cookies.
2. Spice cookies
3. Date filled cookies
4. Peanut Butter Blossoms
5. Brownies with nuts and chocolate frosting
Since fruitcake is not a cookie, and most people don't like it, I won't bother to tell you that really, I have the best recipe ever and that you will actually like this fruitcake. This is Grandma Violet's recipe, and she is gone from this earth. It is very simple, and just looking at her careful writing makes me teary eyed:
Old Fashioned Fruitcake
2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs slightly beaten
1 can condensed milk
2 2/3 cup (28 oz jar) of Nonesuch Mincemeat (or other)
2 cups (1 lb jar of mixed candied fruit)
1 cup walnuts coarsely ground
Butter 9 inch tube pan, line with wax paper, and then butter again.
Sift flour with soda (I never sift, but grandma apparently did), combine eggs, milk, mincemeat, fruit and walnuts. Fold into dry ingredients. Bake at 300 for 2 hours, until the center springs back and the top is golden. Cool five minutes, and turn out of pan, decorate with glazed fruit.
Just reading those careful words, carefully written for her grand daughter in law, the one who did not think that she liked fruitcake, well...that brings a tear to my eye too. She was dear, and Grandma Violet was absolutely right. I did like this fruitcake.
I love Christmas. I love the tree, and the creche, and the gift giving, and the cookie making, and...and...cripes. That's five things. I need to stop already. But I haven't told you about the Christmas dishes, and wrapping, and...well. Maybe you all better just thank your lucky stars I'm a woman of self control.
Merry Christmas everyone!
We went to Olmstead Manor, about a half hour from here. The exterior pictures did not turn out. I think that I figured out why, and am headed back next Sunday to take more pictures for you all. This was a historical home, a 9 bedroom mansion, each bedroom with its own Italian tiled walls, circular showers, marble floors, leaded opaque windows, etc. The woodwork was buh-yoooooo-tiful, huge central stairway leading to a bank of windows which overlooked the wrought iron fence and the stone steps that led, I suppose, to a beautifully landscaped garden. It was too late to traipse up them to find out, as it was already getting dark. One day was not enough to take it all in anyway, so I'm not disappointed about going back a second day. You creep from room to room, everything exquistely set up for a victorian Christmas. The guides turned us loose, saying "Be sure to look in the closets" and "there are secret compartments in the wainscotting...look for them as well". I ran in to my old friend Dick, and his wife. Dick used to be a reporter for UPI, an old newspaper editor, and now volunteers his time and energy everywhere he can, and writes a weekly column in his retirement. So we stood in the middle of this mansion hugging and chattering. Before we left, I'd found former coworkers and chattered and hugged some more. Trevor watched this whole thing confounded. "If we dropped you off in the middle of Timbuktoo, I believe that you'd come across someone you know," he said.
"Probably," I said. "But usually, folks flee more quickly and I don't catch up with them. These hapless souls are out of shape, no doubt."
We've watched 'In the Name of the Rose' and 'Sense and Sensibility' and Brianna and Buddy came over to have supper and visit and watch TV. The menfolk have been vocal about the poor weather. Tim has not gotten his deer yet. I cannot remember a year when he did not get a deer. Usually he gets two. The lack of snow makes the woods noisy, and allows the deer time to get away. So no fresh venison so far.
Buck had a trip to the vet, and my worst fears were confirmed. The stray I found 6 years ago is older than originally thought. He probably has Cushings Disease, although the vet felt that there was no point in doing the expensive testing. As old as he is, he would probably not survive the treatment. "Make him comfortable." "There will come a day." We already had guessed this, but now we know.
We've had good meals and laughter and talking. We've swapped stories and reminisced. Our company is gone now, and our house is again quiet. This is not a bad thing either. I've got a basket of unmentionables in the basement that I need to get done. Normally, I'd have hauled them upstairs to fold while I was watching a movie but since we had company, I didn't do that. I could have taken them upstairs to fold, sitting crosslegged on the bed, but it seemed rude to absent myself from company. The unmentionables were left to ponder their existance in the laundry basket.
Let me get off my duff. I've got garbage to get to the curb, firewood to bring in, and then I'm off to a presentation on area jobs. Hopefully one of them has my name on it.
That's life in my neck of the woods.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Happy holidays, everyone!
Jeanie and V: our very best wishes to you on the coming baby. 'Salina? You will be the very best big sister ever! BB? The baby will undoubtedly be adorable, so you just better get a handle on your homones, woman! (or better yet, just give in and have another...) And Barb? Is there anything more wonderful than another grandbaby to cuddle?
This man is the grandfather of my children, the father of their father. He has suffered great loss, and I cannot bear the thought of him being alone, drowning in drink, grieving, and I welcome him to my home because I think it will be good for him to spend time with the kids. But the longer that he is here, the more I realize that, really, he and my ex are very much alike. I hate it. The intellectual snobbery, the dismissive contemptuousness, the barely suppressed impatience and temper. This all begins to grate after awhile. Just as I did not meet the standards of my ex-husband, I know that we (Tim and I) do not meet the standards of my ex-husband's father. The final days of my marriage, well, I was ashamed a lot. Today? Not ashamed at all. I venture a few thoughts to him, pointing out that 'everyone has a right to think in their own way...' but I can see that he doesn't understand this. He looks at the world that I move in and sees it as lacking. He thinks that I am a brilliant person who has not had the opportunities to succeed in life. He tries to enrich my life while he is here: good wine, good cuts of meat, good music, good movies, literature. He tells me that I deserve these things, and he bemoans the son that threw me away, depriving me of this life. I thank him, but I realize that the limitations of my life are not nearly as restrictive as the limitations of his mind. The world is open to me in a way that he cannot even begin to understand.
Saturday night, I cooked venison steaks, rich with peppers and onions, tender, seasoned with nothing more than freshly ground black pepper and salt and the slightest bit of mesquite. He was astounded that he could not tell it from beef. That is my life, I guess. I take what is available and I make something great out of it. The thing that he probably does not understand is this: I am content in my life. Perfectly content. I do not long for what I do not have, because everything that I need is right here.
Friday, December 4, 2009
It amazes me what a person can get used to. There are questions, I suppose, but I've come to realize that there always are. Even if you've never had cancer, no one knows what lies ahead.
I am glad for my serenity. It comes from many places, I think. In large part, I attribute it to good coffee beans. Nope. Not joking. Tim and I skimp on a great deal. We buy our meat from Bilo's discount meat rack, where five packages of meat is $19.99. Couple that with the venison in the freezer, and that's the backbone of a couple weeks worth of meals. I buy the produce from a discount grocery on the other side of town. I buy whole grain bread from the day old rack, or I make it myself. We eat well, but we eat cheaply. The one thing that I don't skimp on is my coffee beans, though. I buy the good stuff.
I pack Tim's lunch in the morning, and I get him off to work. Then I have a precious hour or so to myself, sitting in the dark, tapping on the computer, writing, sipping good coffee. My dog snores heavily at my side. The keywound clock that no one can stand (aside from myself, who dearly loves the sound of a ticking clock...) ticks from the back bedroom, a spare room, and it chimes every half hour. My thoughts trickle from my fingertips to keys to the bright computer screen. No matter what is going on, by the time I push away from the computer, I am wide awake. My feelings on any given subject are sorted out. I am serene and ready to face the day.
Good coffee beans. Life is too darn short for crappy coffee, my friends.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This morning, I heard him, and leapt from the bed, grabbing for my robe. I hit the hall whispering to him to stop, to go back down. Buck stood there with an odd look in his eyes, unmoving. "Oh," I thought. "He's afraid to move for fear his rear will give out on him and he will fall." This has happened before, and it is bad news, because then he has to be carried, and he is not a small dog. To make matters worse, being carried on stairs frightens him, and he is afraid of being dropped so he struggles. But as I got close, I heard a peculiar sound. My Buck had lost control of his bladder and stood there mortified peeing on the stairs, staring at me, afraid that he was now 'a bad dog'. Calling him 'bad dog' is the worst thing you can do to this good dog, and he takes the criticism to heart. The shame in his eyes cut me to the quick.
Finally, the peeing stopped, and he slunk back down the stairs, and stood quietly at the door. I let him out and he went, not looking at me. He has been a very good dog all these many years, and he doesn't understand that I will not insult him now, when he is old and can't help it.
It will be delayed as long as possible, but what happens next will break my heart.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
After the principal found out what I was doing, she was quick to share what she thought that they would love. She gave me sizes for them. I told her that I would like to buy them all sneakers, and perhaps even boots, but was not sure how to accomplish that. I'd already been told that the mother could not be trusted with gift certificates. And she said, "Leave that to me. I will give you a call with all three shoe sizes." Bless her heart!
Today, I was at the Walmart to pick up a prescription. Just for the heck of it, I went to price new winter coats. They were having a sale. I got the coats for $7. each! SEVEN DOLLARS! I bought a hot pink winter coat, a lime green winter coat, a silver jacket for the boy, the puffy ones that the kids like so much. I was able to get matching liners for them, so that they can layer them in extremely cold weather. The liners were also $7. each. Each one of them match with the scarves that we bought yesterday. A woman from church thinks her Sunday School class will be donating. This has all begun to take shape so quickly that I'm a bit amazed. We've already got a pretty large stockpile of stuff from our house alone. Already it seems as if this little project will easily outstrip anything I had envisioned. Already, this project seems as if it will become a very big deal.
I'm a little shocked, but I guess that I shouldn't be. I live in that sort of community. It's not perfect, but we take care of each other. And I have to say this, as well: when a project unfolds, perfectly, effortlessly, I really believe that this is God at work.
Monday, November 30, 2009
This year was different. In our quiet little village vandals destroyed ten of the trees. Most shockingly, the children believed to have done it are very young. Two of them are in elementary school. And the adults there whispered about this. The fact that the mother is suspected to be a drug user, the fact that these very young kids are left to roam alone for most of the time, with no supervision at all. Stories about the poverty, unkempt and dirty children. What stuck in my mind is this: children normally are excited by Christmas. Wide eyed. The idea that children would lash out at that particular holiday was jarring to me, and I could not stop thinking about this. Long after Tim had fallen asleep, I thought about these kids. Their actions pretty much insure that the community will be watching these kids closely, suspiciously, waiting for them to do some other bad thing. These are kids that won't be given the benefit of the doubt, not again. And the 'why a Christmas display?' just kept niggling at me. Curled up, warm and drowsy next to my snoring Tim, suddenly my eyes popped open. A child would lash out at Christmas when they knew that it was all a bunch of bullshit. All the stories about Santa coming to leave presents for good little boys and girls...well, when you're poor, it does not matter how good you are, sometimes Santa doesn't come. Or if he does, you know that your gifts will be pretty sparse, no matter how good you've been, no matter how hard you've tried. Santa Claus, in this case, is no more reliable than their own mother. I laid there, viewing the holiday from the perspective of these children, and it made me very sad. By the time that morning came around, I had a plan. I talked to my Sunday School kids, and we made a plan to begin collecting for these kids, to give them Christmas. Just looking around my own house, I found two warm winter coats for the girls. Cara donated two hoodies that she scarcely wore because they were too large. We had children's books. I found teddy bears with the tags still attached at the Goodwill, and we bought them each a Christmas mug and packets of hot chocolate. We had games that the kids had received as gifts throughout the years, games that they already had. I had two duplicate kid's DVDs. Boxes of crayons bought and put away for company. A thrift store had a collection of CDs on sale that a young boy would think was cool. According to Cara, anyhow. I also found stockings for each of them, heavily ornamented and beaded stockings for the girls, just waiting to be stuffed. The whole family got involved, scouring the excesses of our own home, and coming up with an embarrassing pile of things that we had used little, or even not at all.
I'll take these things to Sunday school next week, and my kids will be excited by this. I am not sure what the rest of the church will donate, but they tend to be quite generous about things like this. My class will come to the church on Christmas eve, and we will wrap these things, and deliver them anonymously. The fastest runner will then ring the doorbell and run, and the rest of us will be waiting in my running car around the corner. Alex will leap in, and we will sneak back to the church.
Will it make a difference for these kids? I cannot tell you. But I know for sure that I could not live with my own conscience if I did not try, and it gratifies me to know that my class got so excited about this project that we failed to notice that we ran ten minutes late until a mother walked in. We can only try. That's all. We will see what God does with our efforts.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tim has never missed an opening day since he was 12, and I think that it is dear that forty years later, he will lay awake in the night, just as excited about all of this as he was when he was a kid. Dylan is staying home to hunt for the first time in 2 years, and Trevor is hunting for the first time in many years. The day has been spent getting the hunting clothing out and ready to go, spotting deer, and the retelling of hunting stories.
This is our family. These are our traditions. I think it's kind of cool.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Last year's celebration was different. I'd had chemo the day before. The kids had prepared a lot of the meal. It was out of necessity, simpler. The pies were store bought. It was the first time that we had been all together since the diagnosis, and I think the kids were still very afraid.
With that poor spector of Thanksgivings past, I wanted this one to be a knock-your-socks-off meal. New recipes. I made careful lists, for shopping, for meal preparation. I wrote the new recipes down in my little notebook. Despite the near disasters, everything made it to the table, and it was good. We gave thanks, and we talked and talked and ate and ate and laughed and laughed. I wanted memories, for myself, for everyone around the table. I think that it happened. It was a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving, and I found myself getting teary eyed at odd, private moments. Last year I did not know if I'd ever be able to give my family this gift again, and out of all the blessings that I counted yesterday, just the fact that I was back in the kitchen working at this meal made me more grateful than anyone at that table could have guessed.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
*wanders off rolling eyes and muttering to herself*
Cara's home, Dylan will be enroute before too long. Brianna will be here tomorrow with her fiance, Mike will wander in at some point. Three generations will gather around the table, and we will be grateful for much. Whether you celebrate the day or not, let me wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I've got a lot of blessings to count and you all are a big blessing to me. I wish that you could all come to dinner tomorrow!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
But those kids are talkers, and the conversation eventually gets turned around and headed into that direction no matter what my carefully selected topic is. That darn Left Behind series has turned the apocalypse into wholesome family entertainment, and Nostradamus and Quetzalcoatl have only added fuel to the fire. But as usual, I digress. And as a side note, this is exactly how my classes always wind up in a discussion about the end of the world. Crap. I digress yet again.
Anyways, I finally decided that having their undivided attention was more important than staying in my own comfort zone, so a couple weeks ago, we discussed Jesus' description of the end times, a time that we are warned that we will be confronted by false prophets and liars. How do we tell the difference between a Godly person and a liar? For a class that has been sternly schooled in 'Thou shalt not judge,' the idea that I was asking them to do just that was astounding. They were intrigued that they might, one day, meet a false prophet face to face. How would they know? What were the warning signs? What about me? Am I a false prophet, a teacher who lies? Why? Tell me why you think that. So the debates have raged for a couple weeks. For these kids, debate in Sunday School is a new thing. They have come to my class from other classes where their little hands are folded on the table as they listen to someone tell them what the Bible passage means and then they do a craft. In my class, I expect them to figure it out, to come up with their own answers. They are not prepared to have a teacher tell them that she does not have all the answers, and has an aversion to crafts. They are not allowed to raise their hands. They are young adults now, I tell them. They are expected to listen when others speak, and when that person is done, they are welcome to speak their piece. And it works out pretty well. We sprawl around and have some great discussions. We have a pile of brightly colored flip flops. If people get off topic, I throw a flip flop at them, if I notice. Usually, sadly, I don't, but there is always a kid to gleefully point out that we've gotten off the topic.
In any case, Sunday I began with this: 'If you saw a man walking down the street wearing a tee that had a picture of our president on it and read 'Pray for our president. Psalm 109, vs. 8-9' what does that shirt say about that man? And they all decided that he was a holy man, a good person, a person who prays, a Christian, someone that they would be glad to spend more time with, etc. It entered none of their minds to look that verse up. They hunkered over their Bibles when I told them to look it up. They read it out loud. And slowly the scales fell from their eyes. For the very first time, I think that they got it. They finally understood what I was trying to say the previous week. Just because you know the Bible does not mean that you know God. And I told them that in Somalia this week, a divorced woman had been stoned to death for adultery as two hundred people watched. We talked about the dangers of religious fanatics who believe that somehow, God's judgement has become their right and responsibility. For the first time, I think that they saw how it could happen. Even here.
And you know what?
Seems to me that this is a mighty fine way to live. Simply be too busy to worry about things like tumor markers and areas of activity. It is what it is, and I've got things to do.
Friday, November 20, 2009
After an intense conversation with someone whose response to everything that I said was "That's not true..." or "That's where you're wrong...", it just came to me clearly. It doesn't matter. The relationship is broken and beyond fixing. My normal response to the conversation would have been trying to say the right thing, to find the magic words. I would have been upset. I would have cried. I would have agonized over the why and tried to defend myself. This time, I was simply sad. I tried. I can't. I'm done.
When you 'don't fit,' you move from the spot that you have been placed in, the corner that you were backed into, and you begin to wonder where you do fit, or if you fit anywhere at all. And cautiously, tentatively, you try on a pair of apple green pointy toed shoes, and like them. Or you try on a plain gray suit with a leather lapel, and discover that it fits like a glove, and that the fit of it turns you into something elegant. You look at yourself in a mirror, and are shocked to find that what looks back at you is not what you've been seeing for the past 52 years.
Or perhaps, you look at recipes on the internet and think, "Hey! I can do this," and without one doubt, you head to the kitchen to do just that, feeling creative and clever and accomplished. Maybe you buy a couple of bottles of wine for the meal for your guests, but after that pleasant evening, rediscover that, really, you like a glass of wine at night, talking with your beloved husband, just the two of you. And even though your husband is a tee-totaller, you resolve to keep a bottle of wine in the house always, because you can never tell when there will be something to celebrate.
Perhaps you are talking to a person dear to you, and she is talking about a friendship, and in your heart of heart, think, longingly, 'that is the kind of life that I want' and almost immediately realize that you too are capable of relationships just like that, because you are not what you've been told you are for all these many years. You are simply what you are. No better, no worse than any other person on this planet.
The realizations have come rushing in, one after another, this week. It is a time of discovery, of looking at myself with new eyes. And with each new thing that I learn about myself, my view of myself changes. I can't describe it really. It is sort of like wandering around in a heavy winter coat, intent on other tasks. In an absent minded way you realize that you are too warm, sweaty and uncomfortable. You shuck the oppressive thing, amazed that spring could have arrived without you even noticing. 'In the depths of winter, I learned that within me there lie an invincible spring.' (Camas)
My children are coming home this week, and a guest from Michigan. We have plans for cooking a great feast for Thanksgiving. There will be new recipes, and wine, and laughter. Tim and I will head a table filled with some of the people we love best in this world. Each of us, every last one of us, will fit perfectly.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Without further ado, I present ~