Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve.

Over at Mrs. Spit's, she's pondering about New Year's festivities. I guess that I have never been one to make a big deal out of the night. We celebrate. We've invited friends over, but the roads are pretty bad right now, so we don't know who will make it. The kids are all headed to their own particular festivities. It might well be just Tim and I and a pan full of jalapeno poppers (a la Pioneer Woman's cookbook...Thanks again to both Bush Babe and Ree, I sure do appreciate it...), mushrooms, salsa and chips. Nothing fancy. A bottle of wine. If people make it in, we're good. If they don't, well, we're good.

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

Pilgrim's Progress


I head about this story today, and it just tickled me. I love the idea that a man would work for 10 hours in his front yard building a snowman just to amuse children on schoolbuses, that he's done this same thing for years. It makes me glad to know that I share the planet with souls like that.

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

A Cure for Shyness

video

My sister sent me this video. I hope other shy people will find it helpful.

Spring has sprung!

We've had quite a snowstorm here. I believe that WhiteStone sent it from Iowa. Thanks, WhiteStone. We appreciate it. Well. Not really. But anyways, Tim was out front, shoveling and he heard a noise from the trees. Look carefully. You don't see it?
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

Our House

Boxes of ornaments were hauled down from the attic.Peace was with me, and I hope that it was with you, as well.
And bird ornaments, because, yes, Doris, I still feed the birds, and I love them. My tree has bluejays, and cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees...

There are three baby shoes, because once my children were babies, and those treasured memories are carefully hung on my tree each and every Christmas.

Small beaded ornaments that my grandmother made years ago.
My girls are musical. Brianna gave this one to Cara.
I've never counted them, but truly, there are a hundred ornaments, I'm sure, each one meaning something. Celtic orbs, all green and glittery, because my children are Irish. Ornaments from their first Christmases. An ornament from my parents' first Christmas in 1956, five months before I was born. The White House collection that Dixie sent me while she was stationed in DC. Momentos of places we have lived, where the kids have traveled, of people who have loved us, of other times. For the first time, I hung four little ornaments on the tree that were given to me at the Cancer Center last Christmas. Last year, I could not hang them on the tree. It was all just too close. This year, with the cushion of a few months in between, these became bittersweet reminders of just how special this Christmas was.

Last year, I did not get my Christmas village up. This year, I unpacked the most of it.


And my nativity. It looks so small here, but it's not. The tallest figures are six inches tall. This is a hand painted set from a crafts person in Michigan where I used to live. Incredible attention to detail, but because I suck at pictures, you will never see the details unless you come to my house to view them with your very own eyes.
I got three beautiful poinsettias, and I even won a wreath at the Cancer Support Group Christmas party.

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.

Magic even.

Blessed.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Aftermath

It was a nice Christmas, as I said. Our house has been chock ablock full of presents for quite some time now. We bought a nice livingroom set for Brianna, second hand. She needed it, and it was a good deal. We got her curtains and an end table, and pillows. A microwave, matching dishes. You know. All the things that make a house a home. So that furniture was stashed where we could find room. I found a coffee table that Dylan wanted, an ingeniously designed thing. The hinged top raises to eating height. (If the boy were not so in love with his bed, I imagine that he'd never leave the sofa). We had also gotten huge framed posters of the New York City skyline for his black and gray bedroom. Mike got a folding deer cart. All this stuff took up a lot of room. I was finding it hard to move for stuff piled in the guest room, and my study/exercise room. The boxes full of Christmas decorations were brought down from the attic, and once the decorating was done, I stashed the boxes in Mike's room.

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 Day

Okay. New computer not fixed, after all. Sigh. I am not downloading pictures onto the old computer. It takes far too long.

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 eggs
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.

The end.

:^D

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

How very blessed I am! I hope that each and every one of you can look at your own lives and say the same. Merry Christmas, all of you!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

One Year Later

Today, for the first time since last fall, I got my hot curlers out. I'd almost forgotten about them, but it occurred to me today that I had enough hair for my hot curlers again so I pulled them out and set the case on the vanity and opened it. I saw scads of brown hair around those curlers. I'd put them away when I realized that my hair was falling out. I remembered how I'd begun to hope against hope that maybe I was not going to lose my hair after all, because I'd had two chemos, and it was still holding fast, but then suddenly and all at once, I'd begun to lose it. I'd been dreading it but when it finally began to happen, it was not the blow that I thought it would be. I shaved my head on Thanksgiving Day because it was the sensible thing to do. I didn't want my hair falling out into the turkey or something revolting. I was very calm.

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?

Today's News

Today is a big day. Our computer returns home after its recent hard drive transplant. There's an expense we did not need right now. Especially on a computer that is less that one year old. We bought it from the original owner two months after they purchased it (they could not stand Vista and went back to their old computer). Because we are not the original owners, the great (unnamed) corporate giant does not have to acknowledge our existance, and did not honor its warranty. Mighty handy for the great (unnamed) corporate giant, isn't it? Anyways, I'm happy to get my computer back. So happy that I feel like singing. By golly, I think I will. "Jingle Dell, Jingle Dell..."

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

Joy

Some folks tend to get their Christmas cards out at the last minute. Envision a woman sitting in her bathrobe at the dining room table finishing up the last of them just yesterday, and then getting showered and dressed to head out to the post office because, since the 55 cards were finally done, she certainly did not need to be losing one more moment getting them into the mail. Now, I'm not saying that was me, mind you. Being an organized woman, I'd begun my Christmas cards shortly after Thanksgiving. I got about half of them done in November. The other half? Quit interrupting me, I'm trying to tell a story here. So I get myself showered and dressed, and head out to the post office, and don't you know it, there is a line. People standing there with boxes, for pete's sake. What kind of people wait until the last minute to do their holiday mailing? So anyway, I'm standing there with 55 Christmas cards, waiting patiently in line, and because I cannot wait quietly to save my soul, I began blabbing. The woman behind me says, "Do you mind if I ask your name?" and I say it, and she says, "I read your blog every day." She finds it uplifting and inspirational. It always amazes me to hear things like this.

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

Dangly Earrings

Usually, I wear practical earrings, a pair of small silver hoops and a pair of tiny studs, and a small pearl in the upper crease of my right ear. I received a pair of earrings for Christmas, long dangly things with tiny glass beads. When I put them on, I remembered that you feel different with dangly earrings. I used to know that long ago. I'd forgotten.

Note to self: must look for more dangly earrings.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Project

What a long day. I herded my Sunday School class through four stores. They were lively and the debates were endless. We wound up with a lot, a whole lot of stuff. We had a grand total of $211 to spend. We spent it. We spent it wisely. (Yes, Bob, we got gifts for mom, as well). We came back to the church and we wrapped. We wrapped and we wrapped, and the things seemed to be multiplying as we wrapped. By the time we were done, we had so much stuff that my trunk was full, and we were stacking the stuff on the laps of the kids jammed into the car.

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.

GAAAAAAAH!

You may not have noticed because I had a nice little stack of preposts done, but I've been off line for three days now. Our brand new computer has crashed. Big time. Sporatic blog postings and comments for a while. If I don't make it back for a while, Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Happy Holidays to everyone.

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 Night...

'Twas the Night Before Christmas' as written by a technical writer for a firm that does Gov't contracting...

'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

Biting My Tongue

You know what's hard? It's hard when I see my daughter, heart of my own heart, leaving what is safe and sure to leap into the unknown. She's telling me about her plans, and I listen, and inside, I'm thinking, "No. Oh. Eeeeek. Don't do that. The road you've been traveling up to know has worked out well for you...what do you want to risk screwing that up for?" But I bite my tongue, and out loud, I simply say, "Well, what's your back up plan if this one doesn't work out?" I listen carefully, but keep my opinions to myself, because the girl is not asking me what to do. She is telling me what she is going to do.

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

More Info, as Requested

For everyone who wanted more information on the history of Olmsted Manor, here is a link. You will find more pictures (these ones professional) and you will find the history of the family, and of the house.

Enjoy.

http://www.olmstedmanor.org/index.htm

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Olmsted Manor

Imagine a place with hidden gardens.
Gates to exquisite grounds.

A tudor mansion high on a hill.

Open to the public for the holidays.
Every room decorated for Christmas. (And yes, that is a Steinway.)
The fireplaces cheerful and welcoming.

Every room decorated, virtually every room with a fireplace.
Little secrets and wonders, everywhere, like a bowling alley in the attic. Both duckpins and regular bowling.

Comfortable beds in nicely appointed rooms, each with a view...

Each bedroom with it own tiled bathroom that had a separate shower and a soaking tub.

Stained glass...
...into banks of heavily leaded glass windows with window seats to sit and daydream from...
With the cutest darn kitchen...

And a sweet little copper sink in the pantry...
********************
Can you imagine being met at the door, and told to wander freely, making sure to open closet doors and to look for secret compartments in the wainscotting in the halls? Oh. Be still my heart!
It was awesome. At the end of it all there were Christmas cookies and punch and coffee to drink while you visited and listened to stories about the house and the people who lived there. It was my idea of a perfect day. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live in such a home, and I cannot imagine being wealthy enough to simply give it to the church. I came away with the material for infinate daydreams. In the summer, I want to go back and walk through the labrinth in the gardens outside.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gaaaaaah!

There was a live mouse in my dirty laundry. At one time I thought that was a big deal. Then I read that Bush Babe found a dead frog in her clean laundry. Sort of made my story not such a big deal. There are some very humorous stories about critters in the comment section of my little story. I urge you to go read them. But today, Jeanie (9+ months pregnant) related her latest 'Eddie' story (a cat tale).

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 was galloping around the house doing housework the other day. I was galloping because if I'm working at breakneck speed, I can get quite a bit of housework done before it occurs to me that I'm not having fun doing housework. Anyways, so while I'm rushing around, it occurs to me to throw a load of laundry in, so I thunder down the stairs, snatch up the small pile of laundry from beneath the laundry chute, and head for the washer. I felt movement, and froze. A mouse sprang from the pile of laundry.

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

This too shall pass...and it did.

'Into the Wild' is a very haunting movie, about meanings, and ties, and relationships. I liked it. For the sake of fairness, I should also point out that Tim found it 'strange'.

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

Getting Old

You know, it's getting pretty old. Tim got laid off again today. Now we're both unemployed. Another blow? I found out that the job I'd really been hoping for, that I really, really wanted, well. I blew that. I dropped some paperwork off from the unemployment agency. I was hopeful that it would make me more employable, and so I took the paperwork to her. I guess I screwed up, but I don't understand it, really. Unemployed people are advised to follow up, to show that you are interested, motivated. I received a lovely Christmas card, with an awful letter from a relative. She's still plenty mad, and it's all my fault. Furthermore, she feels 'so very sorry for me'. Two pages (front and back)of spew and blame.

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.

Testing.

Trying to figure out where the comment section on the last post keeps disappearing to.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where are my fireflies?



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.

Workout

Man, we've been having some weird weather here. Yesterday, we had (in no particular order) rain, snow, sleet, high winds, thunder and lightning, and sunshine. Go figure.

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

Weird Weather




Issued by The National Weather Service

State College, PA 1:04 pm EST, Wed., Dec. 9, 2009
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.


Mighty peculiar weather we are having for December. I live in Russell. Things began to kick into high gear about a quarter after one. If the worst of the storm is not due in until 1:50, I'd better shut this computer down.

The Unemployment Agency

Tim's been laid off a half dozen times in our marriage. (Machinist jobs have largely moved overseas). Each time, he's dutifully gone off to the Unemployment Office. Two times, he found jobs that he attempted to apply for, and was told that he was not qualified. He found this hard to believe, since he was a skilled machinist with a quarter century of experience. The jobs are listed with a code, but our Tim is a clever bunny. He'd pinpoint the area, figure out what companies were in the area, and then pinpoint which of those companies had machine shops. He then drove to the companies and dropped off his resume, in person. Two times, he got the jobs that the Unemployment office told him that he was not qualified for.

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

Take Five

Take five.

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!

Trivia

We actually have been quite busy here. Friday, we went to see "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". If you have never seen this, or read it, might I strongly recommend getting a copy and reading it aloud to your kidlets...or letting them read it aloud to you. It's hysterically funny. The play was very well done, and the kids knew their lines. Usually you expect to see some amount of stumbling there, but no...the lines were delivered flawlessly, with perfect body language. It was great. Little Gladys was perfect! "Sha-ZAAAAAAM!" she bellowed, and everyone in the audience fell apart everytime that she did it.

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.

Jealous, aintcha?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Jeanie and Barb

Barb has gone to Jeanie's to help out while they wait for this baby to come. Internet aunties across the world wait excitedly for the big day. As if the two of them haven't enough to do at this time, they sent me just the cutest Christmas card ever, via e-mail. I had fun creating these for the kids. I even sent one to the church secretary praising her for giving up the smokes and cutting back on the booze. (She does neither, but hey, who's going to let a couple minor details get in the way of a good time?) Anyways, here is a link.

http://portablenorthpole.tv/home

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?

The Houseguest

Two weeks is too long to have a houseguest. He is fussy. I am decidedly not fussy. Every project became monumental. Chop an onion for a broccoli salad? Oh, let him do that. But then we'd have a long discussion on how the onion should be chopped. The merits of black pepper vs. tinned ground pepper was debated. Our paprika was not Hungarian. Our video store inadequate, since his genre is older movies. All remakes are dismissed with a sniff. The cheerful little wine that I buy is not the sort of wine that he would drink. His opinions are the only sensible opinions in the world, God help you if you see it differently. The beekeeping cousin who does not give her children processed sugar is soundly ridiculed, as is the hapless driver in front of us who does a stupid thing. He has no patience with the person who is hard of hearing, although I've repeated things to him a great many times. He is impatient with the 'internuts'. He thinks it's ridiculous that Tim, having a German name, prefers ketchup to mustard. He shouts in German at the pot rack above my sink, an affectation, since he does not, except for a handful of swear words, speak German at all.

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

Results

The PET scan showed no new areas of activity. This is good news. Whatever is going on is not progressing. The tumor markers have actually fallen. I'd been praying for them not to rise, but never expected that they would fall. I didn't even know they could do that. It's not exactly a clean bill of health, but as the good Dr. B said, it's as good as it gets for a person with areas of activity.

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.

Coffee

This morning, I have an appointment to find out the results of the latest scan, which was done the Monday before Thanksgiving. Last year, waiting this long to hear the results of something would have been unbearable. This year? Well. It is what it is. I'll live til I die, just like the rest of you, and so I focused on living, enjoying the holiday, enjoying the kids.

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

Buck

There have been more and more signs that my dog is getting old. He's having a lot of trouble with stairs, especially in the morning, or at the end of the day. I'm pretty good. At the sound of his toenails on the stairs, I am up and headed down them. I usually manage to catch him still at the bottom of them, and he can turn around and come back down. It's important, because sometimes, he struggles to the top of the stairs, and then cannot get back down. Sometimes he falls. He's getting old, and I know this.

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

The Project Takes Off

Wanna hear something that will rock you back on your heels? I called the school to speak to the principal about our Sunday School project, to verify sizes of the children. The principal is a wonderful woman. I know her, and she is committed to 'her kiddos'. Always has been, and I have known her since my own were in elementary school. Much to my surprise, contrary to the reports going around the community about the suspected vandals, these are very good kids, excellent students, all accelerated readers, all on the honor roll. These are extremely good kids who love school. These are very good kids with a very awful mother. The principal said, doubtfully, "I guess you should not say, 'these kids would never...' but I find that hard to believe. They just wouldn't. These are really excellent kids.'

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

Vandals

I live in the country, but we have a tradition in a little town nearby. The local Lioness Club decorates some trees in a local park. There are two big trees that people can 'purchase' lights on to commemorate a loved one. For $25, you can purchase a little tree of lights with a sign in front giving the name of the person being honored. It's just a nice thing to do, and the little park is decorated for the holiday, and it gives people that little rosey glow. We have an official tree lighting ceremony the weekend after Thanksgiving. The scrolls with the names of the honored people are uncovered. Friend Tom is the MC. The girl scouts read a little Christmas story, the boy scouts pull the tarps from the scrolls, and then we all sing Christmas carols and retreat to the pavilion for hot chocolate and cookies.

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

Traditions

Tomorrow morning is the first day of buck season. I don't hunt, but I have an important role to play. I whipped up a batch of cinnamon rolls, and they will be tucked into pockets of hunting jackets, along with baggies of cheese curds and salami and chocolate bars. I have the last of the turkey in the crockpot. I'm making a pot of turkey soup with wild rice for tomorrow, so that no matter when the weary and cold hunters return, they will have hot soup simmering, waiting to be ladled into a bowl, and served with homemade bread to dip.

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

Serendipity

Yeah, so Tim and I have been going to a lot of estate sales lately. That's the kind of folks we are. At one of them, there were a couple boxes of classical music CDs, all of it recorded in Vienna or Berlin or London or the like. Rich folks boggle my mind. These boxes of CDs were all mostly pretty much unopened. How to you justify spending money on a collection like that, and then not even listen to it? Well, I like Vivaldi, and I like some Mozart, and I knew that the kids' grandfather was coming and he is a huge fan of all classical music. I also knew that he was coming up on a hard anniversary, and thought these would be a welcome distraction, so I sorted through the boxes selecting my choices at 50 cents a pop. Surprisingly in the middle of all of this, I found Bruce Springsteen. Not new. I guess the old folks rocked, too. I can't call myself a fan of 'Broooooooooooooooooce'. He's kind of repetitive, sometimes, but he's got some good stuff, and at 50 cents, hey, I decided to go for it. Today, I'm got the urge to listen to some music, and pulled out Bruce, opened the case, popped it in, and guess what? The sound of Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band flooded the room. Man, I am grinning. I may be equivocable about Bruce, but I do love Bob Seger. That is just the most excellent mistake ever!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Chemo brain. I thought that I was getting better, but the night before Thanksgiving, I was sitting there after baking bread, pies, making the waldorf salad, pistachio salad, and assembling the sweet potato casserole. I just knew I was forgetting something. It finally came to me. I nearly forgot the cranberry sauce. I went out and made the sauce. The next day, I've got potatoes boiling, and I'm assembling the vegetable dishes, and my son in law mentions the year that he forgot to make the gravy and never realized until they all were sitting around the table. I gaped at him. God bless his heart! My giblets were in the fridge. I nearly forgot to make gravy. Worst part? I HAD A LIST! I was so flipping afraid to forget something, I had a list, and still managed to nearly forget two integral parts of the meal.

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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ya'll come!

The turkey is stuffed, the waldorf salad made, the bread baked, pies made. Dylan's particular favorite, pistachio salad is made and in the fridge. The sweet potatoes are in the oven. Tomorrow, I'll only have to reheat that. In the morning, I'll get up early, pop the turkey in at 7, and let it bake all day. The only thing left to do is to make the mashed potatoes, the dill peas w/ walnuts, a pan of corn, and whip up the gravy. I keep feeling as if I'm forgetting something, and unbelievably, sitting here, I realize that I have. I'm off to the kitchen to make my cranberry sauce. Geesh. How does a person forget cranberries?

*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!

Just for Grins and Chuckles

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Do You Say?

What do you say when it becomes evident that someone you care about has a drinking problem? A bad drinking problem? It is two AM. Our guest has not yet arrived. He missed his exit, drove three hours out of his way before he noticed, called from a bar in Pittsburgh. Backtracking, he wound up in a ditch out in the middle of no where. He doesn't want us to worry. A tow truck is on its way. I am worried though. It seems to me that his car is not the only thing that has veered off into the ditch. If I knew where he was, I would go get him. Lord knows he should not be driving. He does not have a cell phone. Gees. What a mess.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

You know, Algernon had a post that knocked me on my duff. I actually took that lesson to church with me, to discuss with my kids. They have a fascination with the end times and Revelations. It's been a struggle for me, because I am not a Revelations kind of gal. I figure that the end of the world falls directly into God's responsibility, not mine, and so I don't give it a lot of thought. My responsibility is simply doing His will in the time that I have been placed in. Period.

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.

Busy

Today is more blood test, and another PET scan. I guess that at this point, I've rather lost faith in the PET scans. If they show something, it will not be specific. It will simply be another round of scans and testing. Tumor markers rising. This is an indicator. It is not conclusive. In the end, who knows? But I've got a batch of cooking to be done, and company coming in, and the kids coming home, and you know, really, I haven't got time to think about this crap right now.

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

Different

I've been trying to figure out why, suddenly, everything is different.

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

Letter from Jesus

Oddly enough, I received this forward from someone that I have considered 'blocking'. We don't agree, politically, and she sends an enormous amount of mind sucking propaganda that shrills that the president is gonna take our guns or somesuch bull. Even though I have asked her to stop, I received an e-mail from her on Inauguration Day, bitter at this, the saddest day in the history of our nation. You get the gist, I'm sure. I received this from her, and I nearly deleted it without reading, as is my wont, but lo. It was good.

Without further ado, I present ~

Letter from Jesus about Christmas
Dear Children,
It has come to my attention that many you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. Maybe you've forgotten that I wasn't actually born during this time of the year and that it was some of your predecessors who decided to celebrate My birthday on what was actually a time of pagan festival. . . although I do appreciate being remembered anytime. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER. Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town. Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you and what each of our tasks were. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1 - 8. If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:
1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time. USO - Wounded Warriors just to name two.
2. Visit someone in a nursing home. Not just during Christmas time, but all through the year. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.
3. Instead of writing the president complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sends out this year, why don't you write and tell him that you'll be praying for him and his family? Then follow up. It will be nice hearing from you again.
4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
5. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.
6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.
7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families
8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary-- especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.
9. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you. Most grocery stores have food packages for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions and words that you are one of mine.
Don't forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :
I LOVE YOU,
JESUS
*********************************************
I know that it is unrealistic. I know that there are some mighty hostile and judgemental Christians out there, but wouldn't it be nice if this went around the world, and the sniping. simply. stopped. If we could look at one another and not see our differences first? If we could simply join together to celebrate a holy day?