Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye to 2009

I've had the house to myself this morning - no husband and no grandsons - so I've been reflecting on this past year. The television takes care of the national news reflection for me - Octomom, Balloon Boy, First Black President Takes Oath, National Health Care Battle, Michael Jackson Dies, Teddy Kennedy Dies, Plane Lands on Hudson, etc. But, for my own reflections, I have to turn to my calendar, on which I try to post most of the important stuff, and the photographs that are a sure fire reminder. Without them, I'm not sure I'd remember anything but the normal day to day, and there's a lot of that! I call it "same old, same old", because every day is pretty much the same.

January : *It began with a sigh of relief because our bankruptcy had been discharged on Dec. 31. *David's mother died of old age and alzheimers, and we went to Colorado for her funeral and a family reunion of sorts. This is where we moved from in 1988 (and wonder to this day why), so it's always bittersweet when we visit...and then have to leave again and return to Georgia. *Started my Facebook account. *David and our son-in-law entered a new venture together, a franchise where David works in conjunction with moving and insurance companies on damage claims, repairing furniture and whatever else he can. After 35 years of being in construction, David's body has gone into old age mode, so this was something that was still in his line of work (anything to do with wood), but not so hard on his knees and back.

February: *Bought my first digital camera, finally. *Started babysitting at a church nursery for a Mom's Group twice a month, which bored me to tears but was $50 each, and I got some great photos on the way to and from for my 'Wednesday's Wander to the Wayside'! *Garrett turned six. *Did an airedale transport. *Published my first blog post on the 25th, with absolutely no clue as to what I was doing or what lay ahead!

March: crickets chirping

April: *Had a pair of bluebirds nesting right out the front door, and found one beautiful little egg on the 26th. *Conner had his tonsils out, a routine procedure, but the waiting made me so nervous!

May: *Found a tiny naked baby bird out front in the bluebird house! *Snake ate our baby bluebird . *Adopted eight month old Oliver, a long haired chihuahua, on the 23rd from a rescue group ($250 that I had saved from house cleaning and babysitting, + $150 for the first vet visit. Ouch!)

June: *Riverbend Festival in Chattanooga. *First Father's Day without my Dad. *Had a wake-up call in regard to my flash temper in a confrontation with Garrett.

July: *Daughter turned 35.

August: crickets chirping. Oh wait, we went to the Chattanooga Nature Park and did our first canoe trip with the boys!

September: Conner turned four.

October: Alice and Doug (sister-in-law and her husband) visit from Colorado for a week - easily the highlight of my year, even though we mostly just hung out around the house - oh, and did go to the Grand Ole Opry Museum in Nashville.November: Last bankruptcy attorney payment and last truck payment. Woohoo! Unfortunately not extra money in the pocket, but money to put toward taxes.

December: Talked to brother Lawrence (Yes, that's right. I actually called him and had a nice conversation.)

Like I said, a lot of 'same old, same old'! And I'm very grateful for that, because it means that we didn't have any traumas or dramas in 2009 (except for Nita dying), and having no medical issues was especially nice since we don't have insurance. I'm very fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with the grandsons and my daughter, so that's something I'm really really grateful for. I guess the worst part of the whole year, like with most people, was that we're in financial turmoil. Some months barely surviving, but we're still standing.

I don't usually make new year resolutions, so let me just say that there are a few things that I want to do this next year, that I want to give more attention to:

(1) I want to clean out my tiny laundry room that has somehow become a pantry/storage/laundry room that I can barely get into. I have to stand on a stool or a cooler to be tall enough to see the settings on the dryer behind the clutter piled on top. There are pesticides and paints stored right next to crackers and cereal. Need I say more? The problem is that we also have a very small kitchen, so to pull everything out of the laundry room means also having to clear all the clutter out of the kitchen into the small living room, which means...well, you get the idea. If I would just take that first step toward getting it done.

(2) I want to start walking my dogs more. I started out with good intentions with Oliver, walking him and Charity together, then walking Eva Jean and Oliver. Then we had some dogs that were off leash that made walking stressful, so I got out of the habit. I need to start walking them again because it's so good for them, and because I need the exercise to help get rid of that roll that has developed around my waist.

(3) I want to work on having a stable pack. Eva Jean, Charity, and Oliver individually are the best dogs in the world, but together are totally dysfunctional (except for Oliver and Charity together). The first unstable pack we have had in 35+ years of being pet owners, so it's something we were totally unprepared for when it started four years ago, and have not taken the initiative to fix, have not stepped up to the plate to be strong pack leaders.

(4) I've been so grateful for having found my inner voice on my blog, (the voice that seems to disappear when in a social setting), and for having found so many other blogs and bloggers. I can spend hours reading what everyone has to say! And that's the problem. So, I want to spend less time at the computer and more time living my life, no matter how ho hum it might be! Just like with Garrett and his computer video games and tv cartoons, I need to set limits for myself on how long I can sit here at the computer.

(5) I'm sixty-one years old. That hour glass/clock is ticking! Yes, I may have another twenty years yet to live and try to get it right, or I may drop from a stroke tomorrow. I feel that I should want to live more consciously. I don't mean that in a spiritual way, but in a 'get the hell off your ass and get out there' way. Seriously. I am so much of a homebody and nester that I rarely leave the house except to the store or Melody's, or go somewhere with the boys, or to clean someone's house or pet sit. I don't have a passion to follow up on. But I need to figure out how to get myself out of the house. Maybe volunteering at the animal shelter. Maybe getting a job. Who knows what might be out there for me. Something. Something to enrich my life, something to enrich my soul, something to contribute to the community I live in, something to make my husband, daughter and grandsons proud of me, to make myself proud of me? (Why did tears jump to my eyes when I wrote that sentence?) Problem is, I'm perfectly happy being just a homebody and a nester, a wife, mother, and mawmaw. This isn't the first time I've talked about this issue, and I'm sure it won't be the last!

No matter what happens, I'm going to continue to wander around my wayside, and I hope you will continue to join me when you can.

Wishing you and yours a safe New Year's Eve, and absolutely a healthy and happy 2010 that is enriched by the love of family and the comfort of friends.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

So, here it is two days after Christmas! We had a pretty mellow holiday this year, so there wasn't a big letdown once it was over. Melody and her husband, Brent, and the two boys came over Christmas Eve for most of the opening of our gifts for the boys, then they would come back the next day for a few Santa's gifts (yes, he comes to our house, too!). Christmas morning we spend at the home of Brent's parents for a brunch. Anyway, here are my requisite photos of the week. Nothing more special or different than yours, just ours!

I couldn't decide which photo to use - the dark or light one - so decided to use both.

That's Annabelle's ashes there in that white box (she died a year ago), with her photo in front of it. Toby's under there, too, (he died two years ago). Yes, I realize that that's a wierd thing to do!

This is Eva Jean taking a nap with Annabelle. She likes to scratch her face on the branches. We don't have presents under the tree because of year old Oliver the chihuahua.

We bought this simple manger thirty-six years ago when we were poor, and have just never 'upgraded'. When Garrett was two, he lined up his cars in front of it, on the brown part. I keep telling Conner that I don't think they had pine trees like this in Bethlehem, but he thinks they should be there anyway!
This is our Christmas Village, of all different sizes because we mixed and matched! The boys don't care, and one of the first things we do each Christmas is get this out and set it up, the boys on a stool and shuffling everything around til it looks just right. I think we have a tradition started with this! Mawmaw gets to decide where the buildings go, but everything else can be arranged and rearranged as each boy sees fit, as many times as they want.

I'm real proud of these four stamped wooden ornaments. I painted them about twenty years ago, and the exciting thing is that I'm not in the least bit artistic. Most importantly, I can give each boy a set of two for their own trees when they're adults.

Garrett and Pawpaw relaxing. That's a lap drawing set from the Dollar Store that Garrett got for Christmas because drawing is his passion right now.

I have no idea why Conner has underwear on his head. This was before Christmas, but I don't remember what led up to it.

Oliver helping the boys with their new Hot Wheels race track.

Mawmaw and Conner with their antlers on.

Garrett bought me this cute little kitten in a cup at the school Santa Shop, and was so proud of himself! The cat looks like one of ours that died in 2008.

All three dogs had a stocking , but only Oliver was willing to pull one of the toys out. If you look toward his feet, you'll see that it's a silly looking bird.
Well, there are a lot more, but I won't make you look at them all since you've got your own to sort through!

I have a bit of a secret ... I don't remember any of my Christmas' before I had my daughter. I've been told about and have seen in a photo or two that I spent Christmas Eve at the country club with my adoptive mother, grandparents, aunt and cousins Nancy and Marylin when I was little. But Any of them. Any Christmas' or trees with my adoptive mother. Any Christmas's with my adoptive dad and step-mother. I have no memories. Even when I look at the few photos I have of a few of them (and I mean a few - maybe two or three photos). So the holidays spent raising our daughter, and now ones spent with my grandsons, are so special to me. I go over the photos again and again each year, imprinting them on my memory so that I never ever forget another one.

I hope you had a good Christmas, and that all of us see a good new year.
(p.s. Astute viewers will notice that the background where the television is has changed ... we originally had an old table with leafs that had speakers on them, and then we had the chance to receive some free glass shelf units that give me much more horizontal space in our small living room.)
(p.p.s. I've had the plural of Christmas spelled three ways now! What in the world is the correct way?)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday's Wander to the Wayside: Christmas Parade

I'm a real scrooge when it comes to Christmas parades. It's been my experience at the one's I've been to over the years that there's way too much advertising - for churches, plumbing, landscaping, cars, banks, politics, whatever - and very little Christmas caroling and kids. I'm sorry, but a politician with a wreath hanging on his car and the wife and kid waving is not Christmas to me. Nor is a backhoe just because it has lights on the cab. I know that the city needs the registration fee that these participants supply for - well, for what, exactly? For the cops that wouldn't be needed if there wasn't a parade? Why can't the businesses that pay the registration fee just decorate their vehicle and keep the advertising out of it or at least minimal...for the simple joy of entertaining the kids?

Garrett and I went to Ringgold's parade a couple of weeks ago, and once again I was disappointed. Sure, there were floats with kids waving, and maybe a speaker blaring carols from it for two seconds as they passed. But I get really irritated when there are fifteen minutes of politicians and plumbers between every one float with kids. The float with Santa took forever to get to us, maybe thirty minutes into a one hour parade- oh wait, it wasn't a float at all, it was Santa on a motorcycle - and he went by so fast that I wasn't even able to get my camera on him for a quick shot! WTF? Even Garrett almost missed seeing him!

I guess the important thing is that the kids enjoyed it for the most part (though there was some whining along the lines of 'when will it be oooveeer?'). I think most of them just wanted the candy that was occasionally thrown at them. We had a problem with some bigger kids standing next to us - every time the candy was thrown out, one of the three boys would jump in front of us and grab up Garrett's share, and the parents did NOTHING. After this happened maybe a dozen times, and Garrett had maybe four pieces of candy, I called them out on it. "ARE YOU KIDDING ME? YOU'RE REALLY GOING TO KEEP JUMPING IN FRONT OF A SIX YEAR OLD SO THAT YOU CAN HAVE MORE THAN YOUR FAIR SHARE OF CANDY?" (with a side glance at the parents, who had been visiting with someone behind them and not paying attention to their children). One of them apologized and handed over some of the candy they had just picked up from in front of me, and they didn't jump in front of him again...and the parents turned forward and started paying attention.

Anyway, here are the pictures from our evening together! We got there early and walked up the street to some of the stores (which takes about three minutes) and to the old train depot that is now a community building and tourist attraction. Garrett and I are like two peas in a pod, so just being together was a huge plus. Then we went to the drive-thru at Taco Bell on the way home - woohoo! When I have the kids for the evening, I really go all out!

As a side note to the parade, here's what I had to eat today: chocolate fudge from David's stepmother that came in the mail the other day, more fudge, a bowl of hot fudge pudding and peach cobbler (side by side) that Melody made for Brent's office luncheon, more fudge, a cookie from a bag that was actually going to be a gift for anyone who might have given me one and for whom I did not get one (because Melody wanted to know if I had any cookies she could take to Conner's play group tomorrow, and I needed to taste them to see if three year olds might like them, which they wouldn't have, so now I have to eat them), and more fudge. Ah, one of the joys of Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mattie Stepanek

For a brief second on tv the other day, I caught a glimpse of Mattie Stepanek. I don't know if it was a preview of an upcoming program or what, but for the briefest of seconds he was there. And my eyes filled with tears before I was even able to absorb what I had seen. Mattie Stepanek, who died in 2004 at the age of fourteen after the proverbial 'brave battle' against a devastating disease. And he still has the power to make a sixty-one year old woman cry.

Who could forget this incredibly brave and talented boy and his short journey on this earth? He contributed more in his life than most people do in a normal span of years, and is still, five years later, remembered as a poet, a peace maker, and a philosopher. He wrote six bestselling books of poetry (Heartsongs), and one bestselling collection of peace essays. Mattie also had a rare form of muscular dystrophy that claimed the lives of his three siblings, and is shared by his mother, Jeni.

Ok, it could be said that he became a darling for the media, and his being cute as the dickens didn't hurt. But he had an awareness of the world that was well beyond his years and deserved to be spotlighted. His awareness of his own almost certain early death would knock most people flat, and yet he spent his years with a purpose, promoting peace and good will, and sharing his wit and wisdom on all human conditions with people of all ages. Oprah asked him in an interview when he was twelve: What do you know for sure, Mattie? And Mattie answered:

That our attitude is a choice. I believe we can decide to be miserable, to roll ourselves in the dirt and say, 'Hit me again.' But when we do that, we're missing out on so much! I know for sure that while it's great to have role models, we should never try to be anyone but ourselves. I know for sure that when we use words, not bombs, we all get peace. I know for sure that there's something bigger than the here and now—some people call it God, some call it Buddha, some call it Yahweh. I know for sure that we don't need to be afraid of death, because we'll be greeted by something better on the other side. And I know for sure that life is a gift to be treasured—and that we must always live it to the fullest.

How was a twelve year old boy able to say all this, how did he articulate it in exactly those words in a conversation before a national audience? Yes, he'd shown an innate talent from a very early age, recording poetry before he could even 'write'. But I think that you have to look to his mother. Having been dealt one of the cruelest hands in life, unknowingly passing the gene for this disease on to four children and not being diagnosed with the condition herself until adulthood, she had to have found a well of courage and peace within herself and passed it on to Mattie in her words and actions. Can you even begin to imagine? And yet she is has a doctorate degree in early childhood education, and is a noted and award winning motivational speaker on topics such as bereavement, spirituality, and living with a disability. Above all of this, she is a mother who has lost four children ... and who not only encouraged and enabled her son Mattie to have hope, but continues even today to live life to the fullest, and to honor the memory of her son by keeping his story and his message alive.

Let me say here that I have not read any of Mattie's books, though I've seen a poem here and there, and of course saw him on 'Oprah' and 'Good Morning, America', and probably read an article in People and many articles after his death. I'm also not in the least bit religious or spiritual. But Mattie touched my heart, and, as shown by my gut reaction when I saw his picture the other day, he is still in there.

So, during this season of peace and love, this season of memories of family and friends, I'd like to give a shout out to Mattie. Your messages touched so many people, Mattie, and continue to touch and inspire them today. I can only imagine what treasures you would have contributed had you lived.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday's Wander to the Wayside: Clearing the camera!

Technically it's still Wednesday, though not for much longer (only thirty more minutes), so I'd better get these photos up. I'm clearing the last of the photos off the camera in preparation for all the Christmas photos! Just a smatter of wandering here and there...

Remember all those pretty fall leaves? Happily, those aren't in my yard!

If you enlarge this, you'll see a big house on the hill. Not old, just a big brick house with lots of land!

Conner is still fascinated with getting in the cage with Oliver. Oliver doesn't think it's near as funny as Conner does.

This is someone's driveway, and I keep saying I'm going to go up it someday to see the house that goes with it. Don't know what it's like when it ices!

I don't know how old this little grocery is, or it's history, but it's on a beautiful, winding, tree lined road on the way to the vet's office, with a little creek on the other side of the street.

Four year old Conner's little school Thanksgiving propram, showing me his leaf of what he's thankful for. The last word is 'toys', I'm thankful for my 'toys'! If you were to enlarge this, you would also see that he's thankful for grandmother and granddad, but mawmaw and pawpaw aren't on there, apparently because they ran out of room.

My contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner: peach cobbler, deviled eggs, fruit salad, pumpkin pies (not from scratch).

Our early and first snow of the season. It was so gorgeous for about an hour, and then was melted by 10am!

This is Oliver's first snow (at least with us), and he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do with it. Notice he's on the grass that has no snow on it!
That's all for this Wednesday. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks to those of you who followed me on the telling of my adoption journey, especially for your nice comments.