Sittin On A Porch

Sittin On A Porch
Our little back porch

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Quiet last week of 2011

I have taken it slow and easy this last week of December, the last week of 2011.  The first few days I was home after spending Christmas with Dad and family, I did nothing.  I just sat in my red chair.  I put on a sappy movie channel and just sat.  After that I have worked in the house cleaning, do a little dusting, a little this a little that.  I worked on a book shelf.  I knitted.  I have mostly rested.  Mostly just tried to come backbout from exhausting myself.  Nothing new to talk about.  No deep thoughts.  Just resting.

I did take a few photos of my beloved Brazilian Flame Vine:

The vine has grown into horse stall up along the roof

Tomorrow Sioux and her grandson, Reid will come to celebrate New Years with me.  We will join Geeta and Janak in going over to Genevive's for a cover dish dinner tomorrow.  The we will go to Belle Meade Farm to Fred and Marcy's annual tree burn.  Big doings for me for a usually quiet weekend.

Next weekend I will be in Orlando with my two best friends from college, Linda and Susan with Linda's son, Josh and Susan's daughte, Annie.  We will go to Harry Potter World.  The weekend after that I am taking a class on weaving shawls.  Ok, that is three weekends  already planned for the first month of the new year.  Too much planning.  sigh.  But how can I not spend this time with Sioux and Reid, with Susan, Linda, Annie and Josh.  Not learn something new???? 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday and end of the year.  love to you all.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Reminescing about the holidays

When my Mother died in August 2001, it left a huge hole in our family.  She was such a light and held on to family and traditions.  Each year she and I would craft an ornament.  She loved art and crafts, but she preferred to watch things being made rather then making them herself.  She was very artistic and had taken a lot of art all through school and college, but was never satisfied with what she made.  So as I grew older she would send me to classes to learn how to make things.  I would work so hard to make whatever the craft was in her favorite colors and once I had given it to her she would already have another craft that I might be interested in learning.  She was not handy with a glue gun.  The last time she used one was on a Thanksgiving.  She and Dad were camping in Venice because one or both of them was to be in the Venice Thanksgiving parade.  Dad was smoking a turkey, most of the family had come to spend the long weekend together.  I had brought everything we needed to make these sweet little soft sculpture angels.  Mother was doing a wonderful job, until she had to glue the head, hair, halo, and wings to the body.  This looked easy, one drop of hot glue and everything miraculously would come together.  Unfortunately as Mother pushed down the hot glue stuck to her finger and she yanked back in pain and pulled the burnt skin completely off her finger.  I grabbed her hand and pushed the finger into the closest glass of water.  Just as I did that I realized that it wasn't water I had pushed her finger into, but instead it was a glass of wine.  The finger flew out of the glass knocking it over spilling wine onto Mother as flames shot out of her eyes, I stuck her finger into a glass of ice water I had now had time to put together.  That was the last time she ever picked up a hot glue gun. 

After that each year as we made our ornaments, I would try and find designs that did not require a hot glue gun.  If something did have to be glued on, she would simply push her chair back from the table, lift her glass of champagne and smile her most charming smile and sweetly point to what she wanted glued, and where she wanted it put and then would say something like, "I do not use glue guns, could you please do this for your mother."  And whichever one of her "daughters" who was closest to her would jump to do her bidding.

Each year we would also make refrigerator cookies, nut bread, Christmas candy such as divinity or fondant or pralines.  We would decorate the house inside and out and always a big tree in the corner.  One year Dad bought a 12 foot tree.  He got a great deal on it, and it was a beautiful tree.  Unfortunately the roof in the living room is not 12 feet tall, and Dad always puts the Christmas tree up on a box so that there would be plenty of room for the presents.  Dad brought everything in, put the tree up and of course it would not fit.  So he cut off the top.  Not to use the top as part of our tree, but so that the lower, fuller part would fit.  When he put the tree up on the box in it's place, the branches went all the way up to the ceiling and it looked like it just went right through the ceiling and was popping out of the top of the house.  Mother did not find it as entertaining as Dad did.  Of course we all got a kick out of running outside and looking to see if we could see the top of the tree sticking out of the roof.

We had so many traditions.  From going to church on Christmas Eve for the candlelight service to driving around looking at the Christmas lights.  We would come home and Mother and the four of us kids would crowd together on the maple couch, the one with the maple leaves carved into the arms, and Mother would read the Christmas story out of a big picture book.  To this day I still remember the page where the shepherds were on the ground holding their arms up in the air and the sky was filled with the heavenly host. I think Dad was putting presents together, he was never there for the reading part. 

After we had finished our hot chocolate Mother would tuck us into our beds, the lights from the Christmas tree still twinkling in our heads.  Our stockings would be hung in a row on the book shelf just outside my parents room.  My Dad's Mother had made each of us a stocking with our names on it.  Each one lovingly made, each different from any other stocking made. 

In the morning Dad would call down the long hallway where our bedrooms were lined along and we would race in our jammies to the bookshelf and unhook our now bulging stockings. Then pile on to our parents bed and we would up open our stockings.  There was always a tangerine, some chocolate, and then small little things that we needed plus a little toy or game.  There would also be nuts or pickles or olives.  Our own jar to eat as we chose.  After the stockings were enjoyed thoroughly we would parade into the kitchen where we would have large glasses of milk and warm nut bread slathered in butter and bowls of ambrosia that Mother would make.  Dad would be in the living room setting up his 1 zillion watt light board he had put together.  This was an object that looked like a "T" with these blinding brilliant lights.  Then he would give us the cue and in chronological order we would run into the hot blinding light, still in our jammies waving our hands as Dad would yell, "Smile", "wave".  Then blind as three or rather four blind mice, we would grope in the general direction of the tree.  Under the tree would be mounds of wrapped presents, but Santa's presents would always be unwrapped and sitting there just waiting for us to squeal with joy as we each shouted, "That is just what I wanted!"  We did not have a lot of money, but not many people did in the late 50s.  We had other things.  Like long summer days of running barefoot and playing in the river.  Or riding our bikes up to the park or the tennis courts.  But money was in short supply.  We never knew it growing up, and I remember always getting exactly what I had asked Santa for. 

Presents were always opened together as a family.  Each one making or buying a small gift for everyone else in the immediate family, a tradition we still follow.  We would also have friends who might stop in at any time.  Usually my friend Lisa, whom has been the friend I have had the longest, would come over Christmas morning.  Lisa was born in July, I in October.  The story goes that when I was brought home I was put in the crib with Lisa and our first few years of life we were always together and share everything, bottles, lollipops, everything.  She grew up to be a beautiful and talented lawyer, following her family business.  She now has her own firm, so if you ever need the best lawyer, let me know and I will try and get her number for you.  She also has a beautiful daughter, Allie, who looks so much like her mother.

The rest of Christmas day would be filled with family and friends, a big dinner with a standing rib roast with all the fixings.  Dessert would include pumpkin pie, plum pudding, mince meat pie and my favorite, pecan pie.  It was always a happy time filled with presents and lights, love and joy, bells ringing and angels singing, candles and stories, traditions and family.  As Vicki always said, we had an idyllic childhood.  Yes, we had the perfect childhood looking back now.  And we were fortunate at the time to know how lucky we were and to enjoy those endless days of perfection.

I guess it is no wonder that I love Christmas to this day.  I used to feel like I had to do everything, but there are some things I can not do without my mother.  Each year she would take Laurie Jo and Lisa and I to St. Armand's Circle to go Christmas shopping.  And there are other things, that I just don't feel that I have to do.  I pick and choose and those things that I enjoy and have time for, and it varies each year. 

After baking and shopping, wrapping, packaging and mailing I loaded up the toy.  Saturday morning after making a special breakfast for each of the "kids" and then giving the three dogs each a smoked ham bone I turned the car east on I-10 and headed towards home.  That is my dad's house now, my childhood home, where a bedroom is always kept for me.  A bedroom decorated in peach and gray.  Peach flowered wall paper, little touches of my mother and my younger self everywhere.  With peach blossoms painted on the sheers and 1960 era flower stickers in their bright colors still stuck to the blind.  A foot locker painted pale peach with darker peach flowers and ivy leaves. 

I made good time driving south.  I had somehow slipped into the perfect driving window.  It was chilly when I started my drive, but I put the top down and bundled up with a scarf and jacket.  I pulled the scarf up around my ears and drove east to I75 and then turned south heading towards that place I will always think of as my home and the warmer climate I am so much more acclimated to.  In about 4 1/2 hours I was there.  I brought lunch for Dad along with the food for the holiday.  And after almost a dozen trips back and forth I had unloaded the toy being the first to place my presents under the tree.  We do not put our presents under the tree until Christmas eve.  Mostly because our living room is all windows and Dad is still cautious to make sure that people can not look in and then break in for our little cache of booty.

Dad was happy to see me, and after lunch we headed up to Publix because Dad will have to change where he gets his pick up prescriptions.  We met the pharmacists who was very nice and quite patient with Dad and helped with all of his questions.  We picked up the few things he would need later in the week, and for the holiday and headed home where he took a nap and I finished wrapping his presents for him. 

That evening we dressed up, me in my little black velvet dress and Mother's scarlet lined black velvet swing coat, and Dad in his brown silk suit with a butter yellow mock turtle.  We looked good.  Then it was time to pick up Marie, her daughter Rita and Marie's sister Mimi.  We met Rob and JongAe there at Nikki's West.  A couple of years ago we had Christmas Eve dinner there and had a wonderful meal and a delightful time.  The place was packed then, but not so this year.  That should have been a warning to us this year.  We were minus Jessica who was at a children's program at her church where she played Mary.  Tom, Pat and family celebrate Christmas Eve with her precious family and Christmas day with us.  So seven of us.  Not that big of a group, and a very easy going group of people.

We all looked beautiful.  JongAe in a black dress that looked absolutely gorgeous on her.  Rob in a blue suit and very handsome.  Marie in a striking red pant suit and we were a lovely table.  The service was not very good.  Only one person at our table ordered a drink, so she assumed we would not be her big table that night.  I have been a waitress, and all I can say, is that you should not judge the tip by the person, you can never really tell.  She definitely misjudged us.  We ordered a variety of food from steaks to seafood and Italian specialities.  the steaks were over cooked.  The sauce of the Italian duo I ordered, was burned and bitter. I know that is not the server who is cooking the food, but she could not get the plates delivered correctly and together, or what we ordered, so we did not bother to learn her name because of her attitude.  But we laughed and enjoyed the company and ignored the poor service and bad food.  We were just happy to be together for Christmas Eve. 

Dad and I drove home and critiqued the Christmas lights.  Back home where we spent a little time that evening listening to Christmas carols, staring at the tree and reminiscing over Christmases past.  I went to bed dreaming of sugar plums and counting my blessings as Bing Crosby sang in my head.  Because of Christmas falling on a Sunday our timing was all discombobulated.  Trying to negotiate so many people with so many different times was a bit daunting, but everyone tried as hard as they could and we settled that this year instead of being spread out throughout the day, instead we would all come together at 2 and open presents, dinner would be at 3, the pageant at 5.  Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men.  Time is not important on days likes these, and the moments blended together, and it went much later into the evening then we had planned, but we were together and we had fun, and it was Christmas.

I got up around 8 Christmas morning and filled Dad's stocking, carried all the presents that had been wrapped and stored on my bed and placed them under the tree.  I started cleaning the kitchen, pulling out the bags with the decorations for the Christmas table, and going through my check list of the events and any timing needs.  I looked for the meat cookbook that is always on the kitchen island, but it was not there.  No problem,  I would ask Dad when he got up at 10.  And thankfully he did manage to sleep until almost 10.  I knew sneaking in a nap might be hard because of the timing of things, so I wanted him to have as much sleep as he liked so he would not tire out as quickly.  It was going to be a long day.    But what I didn't count on was how long the meat would take to cook.  But as things would be as they should be, Tom and I pulled off the meat and the gravy, maybe not as we had planned, but delicious. 

I made breakfast for Dad, the traditional nut bread, but instead of ambrosia we had perfect sweet, ripe strawberries.  We oohed and aahed at the mountain of presents.  Marie came around 11 and the three of us opened our stockings.  Rob came over and had breakfast with us.  JongAe and Jessica were at Church.  For Christmas we three kids had gone together and bought Dad a new TV.  Rob brought it in and set it up.  I think Dad was happy, but I never thought that it would be another thing that Dad would have to learn how to use.  It is close to how the old TV worked.  That is as much of a problem as it is a help.  It will be harder for him to relearn some of the important little steps.  And just the thought of having to learn something new is so stressful for him.  So he didn't look as happy as we had all hoped.  But now I realize why.  And sure enough he called me today and had changed from TV mode to HDMI.  I have no idea what that is, and really don't need to know.  But there he was stuck.  I know how to fix that on my TV but it is hard to tell him how to fix it with out being able to see the TV.  I called Tom and told him what had happened and he promised to go over to Dad's and fix it for him.

Two o'clock Christmas Daay found all of us crowded together in Dad's living room and I ran back and forth handing out packages, all lovingly wrapped.  Back and forth as the piles of ripped wrapping paper piled up and the sound of ooohs and aahhs as presents were shown around.  Even now as a grown up I love unwrapping the gifts.  Red and green, silver, gold with bells and ribbons, candy canes and bows.  And what wonderful thoughtful presents I received.  I think this year has to be one of the best years ever in getting presents that I completely loved.  Every single gift was perfect.  Rob, JongAe and Jessica gave me the biography of Gerald Durrell, my still favorite author.  I have only read the first page of the introduction, but I have already more then once pressed the book to my breast in dramatic joy.  Something I learned from my mother.  Sometimes words just bring such heart ripping joy that you must dramatically press the book to your breast.  And there is a look and a sigh that comes as the love of the words you have just read bubble up from your deepest part and just burst out of your upturned face and you feel the light.  The light of the greatest gift that human kind has given to itself, the story.  Whether told out loud or written down, when told well, the words of the story dance and weave and fill our eyes and ears and minds and heart and sweep us up in the emotion and journey and we travel along the road until the final word.  And sometimes that final word is achingly perfect, and other times that last word, just leaves us wanting more.  Ah, big dramatic press of the book towards me and my eyes glaze over and I sigh.  I can not wait until I can start reading this book.  In those short paragraphs, I could tell that this biographer understood the same Gerry Durrell I see in my mind.  This amazing Naturalist who ranks right up there with the big names, Darwin, E.O.Wilson.  There is a quote about him that goes something like,  you know it has been a good day when you have helped save a species from extinction.  Yep, Gerry Durrell.  I will start the autobiography as soon as I finish reading the third of the Corfu trilogy, Garden of the Gods.  I am enjoying my trip back to Corfu, and do not look forward to the end of this journey of stories.  But if he ends this book like he has all the other Durrell books I have read.  I will dramatically press the book to my breast, my eyes will glaze over and I will sigh.  But know that I have his autobiography to start.  Oh joy.  And thank you Ms Moon for introducing me to this naturalist through one of her bloggers who sent you his book, My Family and Other Animals.  Thank you Rob, JongAe and Jessica.

And Tom, Pat, Nathaniel and Christopher gave me the first two books of the Riordan new series.  He is Christopher's favorite author.  He is best known for his Percy and the Lightening Thief. series.  They gave me that complete set for my birthday.  I love reading the authors my kids love.  I was able to do that with Nathaniel also.  It is magical and introduces you to sometimes a whole new world.  Other times it takes you back to what were classic in my youth. 

So many wonderful Christmas presents from my precious family.  Dad gave me a rooster statue for my yard art, a laptop desk, a drill bit set, yard lights, kitchen things and a gray hoodie jacket.  Marie an Rita gave me a glow in the dark yard globe.  Gifts from their hearts to mine.  Each perfect and just what I wanted.  I loved them all, from the silly little stocking stuffers through the yard art, books and clothes.  I am a grown woman, yes, I know it does not sound like that as I gush over my presents.  But the moment was perfect and so clear as I sat on the steps into the kitchen, next to the Christmas tree.  A little separated from the rest of the family as they had already opened all their presents.  They were looking and laughing and oohing and aahing each others present.  For that moment, I had a clear view of their joy and love, the sparkles in their eyes, laughter on their lips.  I looked at each one as I opened the present they had picked out for me.  Each so thoughtful and special between the two of us.  A nephew's favorite author, a book from a brother to a sister, always special in our family.  Gifts saying I know you.  I know you love your chickens your gardens.  Yes, it was like watching a movie I was in.  As I opened each present and then looked out to those who had taken their time, love and money and bought it for me.  How very special.  How very very special.  And to have that moment so clear in my head.  special.

The covered dishes were brought together, the table set with loving hands.  "Peace on Earth" was what the center piece said.  My heart was filled with peace as I stirred the gravy with Tom, mashed potatoes, moved my hands in unison with all the hands there.  Preparing the feast, the traditional dinner updated as the generations grow and change.  The table filled with chocolate Santa's and chocolate bells, candy canes and wind up toys, activity books, crayons and red, green and white flowers.  All of us kids eat faster then Dad, so I fill the table with treats and activities so no one gets anxious to leave while Dad finishes his dinner.  Instead we play games and talk and laugh.  Dad eats his dinner, surrounded by children and grand children.  A loud, boistrous, Christmas cracker pulling, wind up toys spinning family. 

One Christmas dinner I had put brass bells on the table for everyone.  Corie Lynne, my middle brother, Mark's daughter had just understood what Clarence, the angel in Its A Wonderful LIfe had said in the movie about bells ringing and angels getting their wings.  We all sat there for a moment before we each grabbed up a bell and started madly ringing them.  Our laughter joining the sweet tones of the bells we all looked out the bay window.  I think we each thought that for sure with that many bells ringing we should be able to fill the sky with heavenly hosts.  And in our hearts and our laughter, and the traditions from our entire lives, we knew that somewhere there were a lot of angels with bright new wings.  We could see them in our minds eye as clearly as if they had really been there. 

This Christmas night, after dinner we piled once again into the living room.  Now, Heidi, Nathaniel's girlfriend had joined us, so more the merrier to squish onto the maple couch.  The same one that has been the center of our Christmas celebrations my entire life.  For me, that couch is as important to Christmas as the decorated tree lovingly surrounded with presents. 

Here are a few photos of our family and the pageant.  You will notice the theme was a Florida Christmas, so we all wore hibiscus printed Santa hats.

Rob, Me, Dad and Tom

Heidi, Nathaniel, Christopher, Pat and Tom

JongAe, Jessica and Rob

Dad or as we call him, Santa
The Miller family, with Mother's picture in the middle

Rob, Our illustrious Master Of Ceremony

Nathaniel on the French horn playing O Holy Night

Christopher on his harmonica playing Hark the Herald Angels Sing

Jessica with Jingle Bells on the Key board

The Rockette's:  Heidi, Pat, Jessica, JongAe and Kathleen

Tom read A visit from St. Nick, and did a wonderful job!

Dad and the rooster he bought me.

I stayed Christmas night and then helped Dad with things around the house the next day.  More time to share together, to do things for each other.  Then I got in my toy, the top down on a sunny, balmy 80 degree day and headed north.  My precious toy loaded down with my wonderful presents.  And a bench that Dad keeps tripping over and every time he walked past.  He keeps telling me to take it home.  So, I finally moved things and carried the bench out and put it in my back seat. 

It was finally time I had to go.  I wore my new gray jacket and the ride was beautiful until I reached Gainesville.  By this point it was almost dark having not left Dad's until after 3.  I put the top up, buttoned up the jacket and pulled back on the ribbon of black that would deliver me to this home.  The traffic on the south bound interstate was stalled from Palmetto all the way to my exit to take I10.  The north bond traffic was full, but we travelled the speed limit most of the time, and I made it home in 5 hours.  Not bad at all for a holiday weekend. 

As I pulled up to the gate and got out to open the chain I heard a crashing and a thrashing in the woods right behind me.  I spun around ready to hop into the car if it was a bear.  But from all the noise and chaos out popped Henry running full bent towards me.  We pulled into the yard and the chorus of Harry, Bob and Ednarose sang out in their dog voices, "Mom is home!  Mom is home!!"  Bella Luna and Stella Bella came out of their spots and rubbed against my legs, "welcome home!!!"  and as much as Palmetto will always be my home.  The place where I come from.  This is my home now.  This is the place where when I come home my "kids" wait.  My family clusters around me, snuggles with me at night and wakes with joy in the morning to find me there to make their breakfast, to rub their ears, to give them a lap to curl up on.  Someone to call, "here chicken, chicken, chickens!"  And this is just some of my Christmas.  There were quick visits with friends, phone calls, texts and messages to and from dear ones.  There was more then I could ever put to words.  And yet, throughout the year, and into the next Christmas, moments will come back to me.  Sweet precious moments of why I love Christmas. 

And this coming week will hopefully be filled with getting to see a few more friends before the end of the year.  And then Sioux will be here for the New Year and new beginnings.  I think what I learned this weekend, is that what I thought of as so much loss this past year.  Wasn't really loss at all.  I didn't loose any of those precious beloved ones.  They are still with me in my daily life, bringing a moment of joy or sweet melancholy, but they are still so much a part of me.  For this coming year, I hope that I can see not loss, but instead appreciation for having them in my life.  And to remember, like this holiday, that everyone was there.  Even those whose faces did not appear around the table.  They were there in our hearts. 
And that is only one of the miracles of the season.
and family
and the presents were wonderful too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Eve of Christmas Eve

I saved all of my baking until today.  I wrapped presents yesterday and wrapped soap.  I went into town and delivered soap and picked up the last couple of things that I just decided I could not do with out, and went to the giant Publix on Thomasville Road and bought potatoes and pickles, olives, etc.  Last night I finished up the script for the Christmas pageant.  I looked up new jokes for my brother to use during his part.  I searched the Internet for certain bible passages, listened to You Tube videos for the music and got a lot of things done.  But I left my baking to today.  I tend to do too much in case you have not noticed, so by leaving it until today I could not loose my mind.  

I baked four loaves for my Mother's recipe for Nut Bread.  Two came out great, the other two came out odd looking, but hopefully they will taste alright.  I made mini cranberry orange loaves, refrigerator cookies and chocolate mice.  Kim and I always make chocolate mice.  It goes back to the year before the mice infestation.  I do not have very good linear memory, but I remember that we saw them made on TV and have been making them ever since.  Kim's are fancy with painted eyes.  I always make blind mice.

Chocolate mice
Aren't they cute?  They are made by dipping maraschino cherries in chocolate.  Then while the chocolate is still wet and gooey you push a Hershey chocolate kiss up to the chocolate covered cherry then slip 2 slivers of almonds in for ears.  Then if you are like me, you are done.  Just let them sit on wax paper or foil to harden up.  Or if you are like Kim, using tube decorating icing to make eyes.  First two drops of white, then in the middle a smaller drop of blue or green or whatever eye color you like.  That is it.  Easy and cute.

So my presents are wrapped.  The car is semi packed, the food is as ready as it needs to be until I get to Dad's.  I need to pack and get to bed.  Oh, and print the Christmas pageant.  We have a little bit of everything to please all the parts of Christmas that bring joy.  Ending with the girls doing a Rockette number to Amy Winehouse singing, I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.  Snappy and not too long.  I mean you can only kick for so long. 

I hope everyone enjoys this holiday season however you celebrate it, or don't celebrate it.  I love this time of year.  I love the music, the lights, the decorations, the presents, the smiles and sparkle in the children and the child like grown ups eyes.  The Christmas specials, especially, Olive the Other Reindeer, and all the sappy Christmas movies.  So may the joy and love of the season fill your heart.  And may this coming year be filled with challenges that are not more then we can handle, the joy and happiness be overflowing. 

Happy Hanukkah
Happy Christmas
and next weekend my sister Sioux will come up to celebrate New Year's with me. 
What a wonderful way to welcome the new year in.

love to all 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

animal antics and the winter solstice

I woke this morning in a glow of pink, orange and gold.  I noticed it as soon as I opened my eyes.  My bedroom filled with this deep rich glow.  I sat up and saw the color filling the room coming in from the window.  I got up and walked to the door I had opened a little earlier to let the dogs go out.  The light reflecting off the door, the floor, the ceiling glowing like a spot light in the door was the remarkable color.  I stepped out the door and looked to the east past the barn, over the chicken coop and the sky in front of me pulsed with this glorious light.  The entire eastern sky was filled with "red in the morning, sailor take warning"  The rest of the sky was gray, thick and sullen.  Not black storm clouds, but gray clouds teasing with the possibility of rain.  And it teased all day.  When I just went outside this evening to get the dogs their cookies, I saw the same red golden glow to the east, I looked and this time it was the red lights I have on my Brazilian Flame Vine.  Red at night, sailors delight.

The perfect way to start the last day of the old year.  Tonight at midnight is the winter solstice.  Happy Winter Solstice my friends!!!!  The days will start getting longer on Tuesday.  Until then our days will be about 10 hours of light.  After that the new year in nature begins and the world will spend the next three months in winter, then will come spring and the equinox.  Seasons changing.

Edna has finally understood that their is a difference between positive and negative attention. Negative like, being put outside for no apparent reason, well I think that is how she has thought of her "timeouts", harsh words and a swat on the bottom or nose, or a squirt gun, or me just sobbing in the bedroom after Edna has pushed me over the edge. 

Or positive attention likes hugs, kisses, dog treats, playing with her, hugs, sweet words, tummy scratches, pats on the heads and snuggles. 
Thank goodness. 
My labs would figure out good and bad behavior instantly.
Just one harsh word, one disappointed look and they knew instantly that they could not handle that torture and would do whatever I wanted them to do.
That is why I love labs
Yep, I am really a lab at heart. 
You don't like how I behave? 
Just say something and I will actually fight my nature to try and not make someone unhappy.
I mean to the unhealthy point, of well, of a lab.
I have been this way my whole life. 
No matter how hard I try, it just goes against my nature

to not care what others think
to not worry about hurting someones feeling,
upsetting them,

But not Ednarose.  Oh no, she is just starting to understand that her action causes good or bad results.  She hasn't got it down yet.  She is still a pain in the butt so often, but she is my pain in the butt.

At the office yesterday one of the guys volunteered to take her and send her up to the farm.  They have 5 dogs and like 37 cats now, what is one more dog?

That was such a sweet offer, but she may be a problem child, but she is my problem child.  I could not just give her away.  OK, if the right person or family came along and she would have the opportunity to things in life that I can not give her, well, then of course I would give her to that life.  But 5 dogs, 37 cats, that is not a family that will give her more then I can.  It was such a sweet offer, and she does drive Harry, Bob and me up onto the back of the couch at times and then barks at us until I am almost in tears, but then I look at the ridiculous situation and start laughing.  I may not be using all of it, but I do have the bigger brain.  She is just too daunting, tenacious, not a bit of lab personality.  I don't know how to train dogs.  I know how to raise labs.  Completely different.


But Ednarose has started to figure things out, when she does this, mommy hugs her and says, "good girl".  When she does other things, then Mommy puts her outside or changes her voice.  It is a beginning.  She is a smart dog, I just have to learn how to train her.  We will figure this out together.  She is only 6 months old, and the energy of a puppy and the curiosity.  But labs have soft mouths.  She does not.  So when she grabs you with her mouth, it hurts.  Not with a lab.

Yesterday when I got home I was talking to my friend Judy in West Virginia.  I was sitting in my red chair.   Henry was sleeping off the catnip in the new cube.  Passed out on his back, his fuzzy white tummy exposed, paws twitching along to dreams.  This intrigued Ednarose, so she stuck her head into one of the three holes in the hollow cube.  The rude intrusion into space woke Henry who with a grumpy, harrumph lept through another hole.  Endarose lept just after him.  So now the cube is on Edna.  She can run around and act almost like normal with flexible collapsible cloth cube and how she runs into the yard.  I grab the camera and get to the door to see her running across the yard like a child in a Halloween costume.  "Trick or treat, I am a cube"!!!! 

I took a couple of steps as the camera came on.  Lifted the camera and POP she just leapt free of the cube, turned on it and the grabbed it up into her mouth and starting shaking her head violently back and forth.  In less then a second i went from giggling and trying to get a photo and help her get free from the clutches of the cat cube, to starting to destroy it.  She is at that age where everything she is allowed to have she loves it so much that she must chew and rip until it is completely destroyed.  With my labs, I could just let them know I was happy with them with they "love the baby" and I would take the toy away if they were mean to the baby.  It didn't take many babies and they quit eating their hands, biting the eyes off and other torture of the soft animals.  Maggie's first toy was a 4" tall penguin.  She had that baby and slept with it until she was 5 years old.  Then the puppies, who were not real puppies anymore.  Harry was 130 pounds, Lily was 100 pounds, big dogs, not fat, just giants were egged on to tear at the toy.  Maggie jumped in and grabbed her baby, shouted down her two children, one twice her size and rescued the damaged thing.  She kept it for most of the rest of her 15+ years and Harry and Lilly never touched it.  Harry is gentle after his early years of acting like a terrorist on TV by removing the hands and feet and chewing off the face.  OK, that was way too graphic, but  accurate.  We limited his screen time deciding he might be a god, but he was acting like they described the terrorist, so we just thought it couldn't hurt to limit him hearing or seeing things.  Or was it me that didn't want to watch things?  Well, it might have been both of us.

This morning I woke to Edna imitating the others in the family.  She watched Harry and copied his behavior.  She would lay down right next to him and watch him out of the corner of her eye and if he moved she sifted into the same position.  Again, I tried to get a photo, but she sees the camera and she recognizes attention and gets up to post or go and hide.  Then she moved over to Bob and started copying him.  I had to laugh as I watched her.  She was so focused and tried very hard to watch her big brothers.  Isn't that like all young animals, learning from their elders.

Then Harry got a little frisky.  Which means he sat up right and noticed things around him.  He saw the cube and stuck his head in. 

 He could have easily pulled the cube off, but instead he just laid down and went back to sleep.  I went over the gently pulled the cube off his head, he slept away.  He really only gets excited twice a day, breakfast and milk bone time.  He is older now, so doesn't mind sleeping in, but when he hears that tapping of the spoon against the bowl gets him barking for me to come and get him.  Then at 6 pm, he starts barking until I get up to get his milk bone.  We call them cookies.  He likes his cookies and all of my dogs get one milk bone a day and they all have beautiful clean teeth.

I am still working on the Christmas cards.  Hopefully they will be done tonight, I need to get into town to deliver soap and pick up the food for Christmas dinner.  But today I continued to deal with my stomach problems.  It seems like it has been a little longer since I last had to deal with this last.  No big deal, but it does seem to take a lot out of me.  No pun intended.  Seriously, after a day like today I am exhausted and wiped out.  Hopefully it will be done by tomorrow at the latest so that I can make that drive down to Dad's on Saturday.   I would have liked to have gotten more done today, but I was preoccupied elsewhere.  

Those three pounds I gained and was so proud of.  Well, I guess it wasn't real weight in that it is gone now.  I will keep trying.  It is the only thing I really have to do, is try to eat and gain weight.  Rest and try not to over tire myself.  Really, not much to ask, and isn't that how everyone should be anyway.  Eat well, get enough rest be kind to yourself. 

I will head in to Tallahassee tomorrow and go to Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.  I am sorry, I just have to say that, because it is.  And then I will deliver soap, and then come home and start baking.  There were other things I would have loved to accomplish this season, but I am happy that I have done those things that were the most important to me.

And now, back to the Christmas cards.  My sweet and silly animals clustered around me.  Edna still trying to figure out what she should do, but bored by the laziness of the older dogs. 

Yep, exciting stuff on this post, but when things are rough with Ednarose, please let me remember today when she tried all day, so very hard to understand how she is supposed to act.  Don't we all feel like that at some time?  How are we supposed to act?  Like Edna we look around and see if we can find someone who knows what they are doing.  Who knows how to act.  And we copy them.  Whether as children or adults. 

She drives me crazy at times, but she was just so precious today.  I watched her in awe and joy today as a grandmother might watch a beloved grandchild.  Quiet moments during a trying day.  And lovely moments on this gray and rainy day, four days from Christmas.  Quiet moments watching a beloved animal as she tries so hard to learn how to be a good girl.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Celebrations

I don't know why I don't go past my office more often.  It is really good for my soul, my heart, OK, my ego.  Everyone keeps telling me how great I look!?!  Maybe it is the three pounds I have gained.  Or maybe because I simply still alive.

The young woman who took my place is doing an amazing job, so I don't have to walk in there feeling guilty for leaving them a big mess.  No, I am sure there were things they had to deal with, but since Tamara had been so wonderful as to agree to train for my job like six months before I left, she pretty much knew most everything she was getting in to.  And she looks so professional and together.  I don't think I ever looked as professional or together as her.  She has made the space that once was my office into her office and it is neat and clean and organized and she just looked so natural in there.  I am so very proud of that young woman.  And as we took a few minutes today to discuss our personal lives she surprised me again with news about all the challenges and gifts this past year has given her.  And the more I thought about the things we had talked about the prouder I was of her.  She is a strong woman.  She can be hurt like anyone can, but she is resilient and loving and kind and forgiving and willing to take a chance on her heart and I know whatever she decides to do, I have complete faith in her.  Yes, this is an amazing young woman.  The kind of woman we all would hope to have as a daughter or daughter in law, or fairy god daughter.  I am so glad that I was able to meet and get to know this young lady.  She is certainly one of my gifts as I count my blessing like Bing Crosby sings in White Christmas, or Holiday Inn, depending on which one you have seen. 

Yes, at night my form of prayer, or meditation or thoughts is to review my day and be thankful for all the wonderful things that I noticed in the moment  And I rethink about as many of them as I can.  Then I count off the names and and conjure up the faces in my mind of my dear beloved ones.  That is how I drift off to sleep.  I try to think of different people each night.  I try and remind myself how very very lucky I am to have so many beloved people in my life.  It just awes me that I could be friends with all these amazing people.

As I said the other day, it is the remembering of friends, the taking of time to send a card, receive a card or mail a package.  Do something that makes you happy.  For me, finding something small, but thoughtful for people makes me happy.  Packaging up presents and sending them to people makes me happy.  Giving presents when people do not feel obligated to reciprocate makes me happy. 

Having lunch with friends, or spending a few minutes at the Opera House to celebrate Jon's birthday with a surprise cake that Jan got for him.  Yes, these are what the traditions are about.

Today I worked on my Christmas cards and really made some headway.  It takes a little time to stop and think of each person as I send the card.  It is not that I write that much, it is just that I take a little mental trip with each name and think about them and their family and what they mean to me, still to this day. 

I got dressed and hopped in the toy and let it take the old familiar route south on Hwy 19, right (west) on Hwy 27, turn at Conner Blvd. sweep along the curvy road past the light at Tom Brown Park to the light where right (north) takes you to the Federal Pen or left that takes you......well, into our offices.  Phyllis met me at the door ready to go and we headed over to Hopkins Eatery.  This is a fabulous surprise for those of you in Tallahassee who don't know they have opened another location at Apalachee and Capital Circle.  It is around the corner from the Beef O'Brady's, on the same side where Bad Ass Coffee used to be (shout out to you Jon!)  Usually all of the Hopkins are packed with every table full and a line at the counter.  We waltzed into this one and were at the order cashier before we had even decided what to get and could choose from most of the tables to sit.  It was heavenly.  My dear friend Phyllis, the excellent food at Hopkins and a quiet restaurant.  I mean, you can't ask better in Tallahassee, or shoot, anywhere.

Phyllis looked wonderful.  I hugged her and she felt like Phyllis, compact, but sturdy, strong heart, wicked sense of humor, sweet giving nature.  She has so many challenges to look forward to this coming year.  Not the least will be keeping her family together.  They may not have thought about it before, but I have no doubt in the closeness of her family that Phyllis is the quiet strong one.  And that she will be the one to dry the tears, hold the hands and give the hugs.  Sometimes when we get cancer we find out how many hands are there to hold us up.  And at the same time we also find an amazing strength we did not know we had to hold those around us up.  Not a house of cards, but a world of hands all holding each other.  Arms strong and sure to help those who find it too much sometimes.  And even when we need the most, sometimes, people like our Phyllis, will stay strong and find her voice and strength by holding the others while she deals with this challenge.  Maybe they will all find the strength to hold on to each other and keep each other strong. 

I saw that in Jan and Pete, and darn it, I need to call her.  I think of it about this time each night since she has been one of the people in my whispers of gratitude.  She is hurting, and misses Pete, but she is strong.  I have to call to find out if she decided to drive to her son's house for Christmas.

After Phyllis and I had a delightful lunch, we drove back to the office and I left little Christmas themed bags of hot cocoa and cookies in the break room.  I then walked down the hall with the long row of windows over looking the lake to building 6 and took Bob's present in to him.  I had also thrown in a bar of the mint soap for Charlie to ask Bob to give it to him.  But fortune smiled down on me, and there Charlie stood talking to Bob.  That made me very happy.  I got to talk to Bob a little while and then to some of the other people in their office.  I went back to Building 8 and took a few minutes to try and say hello to people. I so enjoyed seeing so many people who were such an important and active part of my life these past many years.  They are still important to me, but I do not see them as often.  I heard good news from most of them.  We talked and caught up like I had been off for a three day weekend.  I felt comfortable and happy to have been a part of that place.  I no longer feel that I belong there, but I can visit because I have such dear precious friends there.  Nice to be able to look back on things and to see that the door is still open.  As long as you respect where you are now, doors do not need to close.

After taking way too long to see not as many people as I would have loved to, I headed north on Capital Circle to Beall's and picked up a couple of shirts for Dad.  One red, one a lovely cantaloupe color.  He really likes these bright shirts I noticed when he was here the last two times.

Then home and to talk to friends on the phone.  To invite Sioux for New Year's weekend.  OK, it was her idea, but I was completely delighted.  We will plan for the revival of the Girls, Women, Ladies, Mothers and Daughters camping trip.  For 11 years a core group of 6 woman came together with our daughters and mothers and friends and would camp out in the woods at state parks and craft, staring the Friday night we got there.  We would take field trips and go for walks, swim in ice cold springs and then on Sunday have high tea.  While some worked on the tea others arranged all the crafts out on tables and blankets.  Each family that came brought a craft for everyone to work on.  Sometimes families would get together with crafts, so we could have anywhere from 3 - 6 different projects to work on during the weekend.  Then during tea we would walk around and look at what everyone had created.  It was amazing.  We had so many activities and crafts that we didn't get to really see each other's projects and it was fun seeing them completed and marvelling at the talent and creativity.  Then a queen of the crafts would be named, and a princess.   They would be given the tiaras and maybe a cape and then the next year, they were the ones to judge the crafts.  Now, if a year the queen and princess also had made the best crafts, as a group we could over ride their selection and name them again the queen and princess of the crafting world.  Oh, Martha Stewart what you were missing!!!!  Everyone was given a certificate with an award of what they had most accomplished that weekend.  When Susan was getting her PhD and would spend most of her time on the bar stool studying, she actually won, "best use of a bar stool" because we were so proud of her going for her PhD, and still making the time to spend with us.

Sioux, was one of the three originating members, Sarah was the third.  Sarah died several years back, too young of stomach cancer.  But now, Sioux and I will revive the tradition. I think her daughters, Hannah and Jackie are responsible for this revival.  They were the older of the daughters, but still young themselves when we first started these annual trips, and now they have daughters almost their age, and they want them to experience this weekend of women in the woods building fires, cooking our food on Coleman stoves and sleeping in tents, then crafting, laughing and finally, drinking tea from fine china on the final day before we returned to our homes and civilization.  It was a lot of fun, and I am excited to think we might do it again.  My place here is perfect to host a winter camping trip.  So plans will be made, oh yes, they will.

So now I have talked on the phone and chatted on the computer and hugged friends at the Opera House and the office and I feel so good.  OK, my stomach has been talking the past 2 days to decide if we were going to have a full blown stomach issue.  Something that I used to deal with daily, then weekly, and now a couple of times a month.  It is starting now.  So much for the three pounds I had gained this week.  But I am grateful that it is today, and not when I need to be in the car driving on Christmas Eve. 

Another blessing to count tonight, hopefully this stomach thing will be done before the weekend.  And tomorrow to finish and mail all of my cards.  Then to plan Friday's baking.  I want to make my mother's quick, always perfect fudge, some of her frozen Christmas cookie batter that can be given to friends to place in their freezer for up to 3 months.  And any time they want a cookie, they can slice some of the dough, bake 11 - 14 minutes in a 350 degree oven and wa la!  The house smells of buttery rich cookies and you only have to make as many as you want at that moment.  OK, not as cool as it was when I was a kid, in that you can buy raw cookie dough just about anywhere.  But not like these cookies.  And I will make 4 loaves of my Mother's nut bread.  Three to take, one to keep.  I will bake muffins and put them in individual boxes with a peace sign on top and take them to friends and neighbors.  I love to bake, shame I don't enjoy more eating what I bake. 

And I will finish up the script for the Christmas pgaent, and then hug my children good bye and head south on Saturday morning.  But I will be thinking of so many dear beloved ones as I drive.  I will put in my annual Christmas CD that Mary receives in the mail each holiday and gives to me.  I will sing along with the songs.  Then I will hunt across the dial on the radio for John and Yoko's Christmas song.  You know the one, about 'war is over, if you want it'  yep, just an old hippie, still hoping for world peace. 

Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight, but to get this stomach ordeal out of the way, I will gladly give up sleep to have this done before the weekend.  I think I am just about ready for Christmas.  I don't mean in doing things.  I know I am late, but back on schedule, if that makes any sense.  No, I mean, I think I am mentally prepared for the holiday.  The noise and confusion, the joy and laughter, the exhaustion, the tears, the memories, the traditions, the food, the presents, the tree, the decorations, the memories.  Maybe I do so many things at the holidays, traditions, to get myself ready for the day and all the things wrapped up in those 24 - 48 hours.  hmmmm, I never thought of that before.

And to all of you who comment on my post, thank you.  I may not seem as if I read them and think about what you say, but I truly do.  And I appreciate the kind thoughts, and holiday wishes.  I am glad that Ms Moon and I were able to not only respect, but also support each other in our choices for this holiday.  I do love that woman.  And she is right, she and Mr Moon are the perfect pair.  I know several perfect pairs, but it is always special to know and be part of their family.  And whether a holiday or a birthday, or just getting together, it sure is nice to spend time with people who love and respect each other, and to be another small tiny piece of their love and respect.  And to Syd, Merry Christmas, sounds like a nice holiday to me.

And to all of the dear people who come here to my porch, whether once or once a week or once a month or so, thank you for your kindness.  Because it always makes me smile when I see you in the real world and you remind me that you are reading my blog, but just aren't a commenter.  I relate.  I rarely comment on others blogs, but the kind thoughts and words are always special and appreciated.

Yes, for a woman who enjoys spending the quiet time with rocks, plants and animals.  I do find at this time of year, joining in on the celebrations, whether the celebration of the solstice or the end of the calendar year, Kwanzaa or of Christmas, or any of the hundreds or thousands of festivals and celebrations that fall over this 4 - 6 week time frame, I find this year, that it is the thinking of friends that has meant the most to me.  That has made me the happiest.  I think I will go lay in bed now and hope that sleep and dreams come.  But first, let me count a few of my many blessings, just from today.  And let me fall asleep to the faces and names of dearly beloveds.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The countdown is on

Yep, we are down to less then a week until Christmas.  My friend, the helicopter pilot has been working in Maine and he has some great stuff on his facebook about Santa's reindeer and helping Santa to get ready for his Christmas Eve journey.  Very clever.

I can be so light about all of this, because, well, once I got the packages mailed, I just sort of stopped.  Just sat down and really other then finishing a book and going to bed early, I have not been labored over these holiday things  I have been tired.  I still need to get my Christmas cards out.  They are partially done, but still a lot of work yet to do.  And I love to send Christmas cards, the opportunity to reach out and say hello to some friends I have not seen in years, and outside of Christmas cards we don't communicate.  But my lips lift in a smile when I see their cards and the familiar scripts on the envelope.  The memory of moments with each one of them so special and now a part of my Christmas tradition.  Taking a moment to think of loved ones, near and far. 

Yesterday, once it finally warmed up a bit I wandered around the yard a bit and took some photos.

Climbing Joseph's coat

China Kathleen Antique Rose

The butterfly rose

Brazilian Flame Vine




Don't the dogs look nice in their new bandannas from their Aunt Vicki?  She wrote their name on each of their scarves.  Edna has lost hers already, but I am sure that a walk around the yard I will find it.  Bob and Harry look so handsome  And when I opened the box from Aunt Vicki, Edna saw that soft ball and ever so gently she reached in over my hand, cast me a side long look and then carefully lifted the ball out with the look, like I want this one!  And off she ran, happy.  Yes, that puppy was so happy.  She loves her Aunt Vicki.

This has been a wonderful day.  Geeta brought Janak's sister out for a quick visit this morning.  Kalu is absolutely precious and I fell in love with her immediately.  And of course, every one needs a dear precious friend like Geeta.  We looked at my flowers and animals and talked and laughed and smelled soap.  They had lots to do today and only stayed for a short visit, but I was so happy to get anytime in their busy schedule.  Kalu is only here for a few days.  We had such a nice visit. 

Then Judy came by and we ran into Tallahassee for a quick run and then on the way home stopped by to see Ms Moon.  I had got Mr. Moon the same thing I get him every year.  Then I gave Ms Moon just a few small things to let her know I was thinking of her.  Some may call them Christmas presents.  We just called them presents.  Ms Moon allowed me to do what makes me happiest this year, and I tried to be very respectful of her wishes this year.  I feel like we walked the line fairly and neither felt put upon.

Then Judy and I drove home in the toy with the top down.  The sun was shining, the clouds high and wispy like a grandmother's hair.  We talked and laughed and as is inevitable with Ms Judy and I, our conversation turned to plays and the Opera House and we thought about all the possibilities of things to consider for the spring murder mystery.  We really want to make it fun and do a high quality production.  We have the talent, so now, to do it right, take the extra time, not take any short cuts, and listen to suggestions, but as a Director must do.  They must take all the talent and ideas and words, effects, set, costumes and make one vision.  And that is why I love to work with Judy.  We build on each other's strength.  We have similar sense of humor and ideas of what we want in a play.  But we see the stage from different angles.  I don't know, it works for us.  We have worked together for 20 years, and now here instead of for the people of Florida, it is for the Opera House and the residents within driving distance.  But we both give the same effort and energy that we did to our careers with the Department.

I will also stop by the office and leave some little things for my friends there.  Just a quick in and out.  It will be a nice addition to the holiday.

On Sunday I put on Christmas lights.  Just a simple little something.  Nothing fancy, but it makes me smile.  I do not have a Christmas tree this year, mostly because I was gone so much earlier this month and I did not want to spend the time it takes for me to put up and decorate a tree, when I could spend that time working on other Christmas things.  Like Christmas cards.  This is not the best photo, but it gives you an idea of what it sort of looks like:

Make me happy seeing those lights.  I will probably leave them up all year.  I usually do.  I love being able to sit on this little front porch and light a fire in the little chimenea, wrap up in a blanket and lean back to star gaze.  A nice hot cup of cocoa or hot tea and what a relaxing way to enjoy a winter's night.

And since we are affected by La Nina, we will have a milder winter, at least for now.  This summer I read a warm winter in the color of the woolly bears and the amount of acorns in my yard.  Others say that they have had a lot of acorns, my trees have been normal or below.  The problem with just using acorns, is during a drought like we are in right now, at this time to have more acorns is probably more water then temperature.  But earlier this fall was when I look to see what the signs are.

Now I will make a few calls.  Check on Vicki to see how she is doing with the snow.  I already chatted with Ron, my friend from high school that I have just caught up again.  And maybe call my friend in Tallahassee that I recently met.  And of course, I will call Dad.  I am looking forward to seeing him this weekend.  I miss having him here with me.

Well, the countdown is on, the holidays are coming.  Winter Solstice is just a few days away.  And then our days will start getting longer.  The end of the natural year.  The beginning of the new year in nature, a year that will grow cold as the days grow longer, then as the seasons slip from winter into spring and then to the summer solstice we will celebrate the mid year, the longest day, and life grows and changes like the number of hours in a day or night.  Human beings for as long as we have been here have marked these moments in nature and celebrate.  Now more of our celebrations are based on religion or war, but the holidays most beloved by children:  May day, summer break, Christmas day, also relate to a landmark in nature.  Days to celebrate, seasons to enjoy, life to grow and change and laugh and as we mark the end of fall and the first day of winter, as we celebrate the season when many religions have traditions, let us remember how much we are all alike. 

Yes, I appreciate what the military does to protect us.  But I also appreciate those who remind us of peace. 

Let the children dream of sugar plums and presents, in about six months, they will be dreaming of the end of the school year.  Let the children remind us of the season and the joy and the love.  Let us not think of the loss this year.  Of the challenges some will have to face this coming year.  Now, right now, let us all think of those around us and those far away.  Of those precious beloved ones that make the year worth while.  For me, that is the most special part of the season.  The love of family and friends.  The joy in a child's face.  The care of a child taking care of an elderly parent, the love of that parent for their child. 
Special reasons to celebrate at this time of year.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Back in the Christmas World

After my break from the real world I am back amidst the living. yes, quiet literally.  And what a time to step back into the real world in the middle of the Christmas fray.  And I am back.  Still sad, still a little quiet, but moments of joy and laughter find their way back into our hearts after loss.  And as the saying goes, there is more room in a broken heart. 

Thursday I worked on Christmas cards and my address labels.  Once I had slept on it and then came fresh to the program it was as I had remembered and went quickly.  I also worked on my Social Security Application.  That is very uncomfortable for me.  I mean Social Security is for old people.  People over 62.  And no, I do not think that people 62 are old any longer, or 65 or 70, it is still odd.  And I am applying with a disability.  That is really hard.  I know I have cancer.  I know I worked 31 years for the state, not to mention all the other work I did paying into Social Security all my life, but it is still odd.  It still just does not seem right.  I don't like asking for help.  Even help I worked for. I don't like to be labeled as disabled.  OK, no one is interested in hiring a 56 year old woman with stage 4 lung cancer.  But I don't like the label.

Friday I was cutting soap, and I am very happy how all of it came out.  The clove, vanilla, jasmine doesn't smell like the 3 ingredients, but rather like a new scent all its own.  But the lime, tea tree, bay with green clay.  I love it.  The citrus smell with the touch of spice from the tea tree and the bay.  The coloring and texture of the clay.  It is my new favorite soap.  I am fickle, I will change my favorite flavor almost every shower.  I have end or odd pieces of every kind in my shower, so I can continue to use it as it ages in the same was as people buying it would see it age, in the shower.  I love the orange rosemary, but the aging is not prefect  It is better then other orange/tangerine oils I have used and the orange flavor stays true longer, but it still does not smell the same after a couple of weeks.  So this new batch I added in more rosemary to try and take that shift of scent, in hopes that the rosemary will anchor the citrus. 

I wrapped presents, packed presents and soaps.  Went over my list, checked it twice, and then Ms Judy called.  She needed to go into town and pick up a few things.  I said I would love to go with her and made arrangements to meet at my place.

We jumped in the toy.  It was a little overcast and we left the top up.  Our first stop was ABC and I picked up bottles of French Champagne for Christmas.  I restocked my liquor cabinet.  Which is kind of funny because I don't drink anymore because of the meds and my liver.  OK, maybe a small glass of champagne for special occasions, but that is all.  As I was putting my box of wine and my bag with the vodka in it, the bag slipped out of my hands and fell the 18 inches or so and hit the ground straight up.  There was a cracking noise, but surely I couldn't have broken it.  Then the bag holding the bottle filled up like a water balloon and I watched vodka spray out all around and on my feet.  I stepped back and tried to figure out how to quell the tide, but then saw that the entire bottom of the bottle had shattered.  Judy came out and saw me standing there staring as the vodka poured forth from the bag.  She said, "Take it back in and they will give you another one."  "No they won't, this is my fault for dropping it, not there."  She said, "It is Christmas they are making enough money to do nice things like this, and it happened in their parking lot, right in front of the their door."  So she grabbed up the bag and into the store she goes.  Sure enough, she got me a new one for free.  Amazing.  Judy is amazing and that was very considerate of the manager of the ABC, who acted like it was just as normal as could be.  I still appreciated it.

Our next stop was Pier One then on to World Market, a quick stop for wings at the wing stop and then finished up at Wally World because we both needed cat food.  I always enjoy myself with Judy.  She is intelligent, funny, interesting and can discuss just about any subject with ease.  We always enjoy our time together.  It was a lovely day of shopping.  I haven't spent that many days in the stores actually shopping.  This was a bit of a Christmas treat to have someone to go shopping with.  My Mother and I always took a special day before Christmas to go shopping together.  We did not shop together a lot.  Neither of us were shoppers.  But for Christmas or for a special situation we would go shopping together and it is still some of my most favorite and happy memories of my Mother. 

We got back to my house in time for me to make a quick change of clothes and then head up to the Opera House to meet Carolyn for the Christmas Spectacular.  The Opera House was sparkling with the four lit Christmas trees decorated by the four Garden Circles. Giant snow flakes

We settled into our seats that have barely any leg room.  There are a couple of rows that have more then the others, but they are still close.  But most people do not notice them so they were free for us.  Across the aisle sat Ron and Pat.  Pat had on the most wonderful sweater with penguins on it.  I love sweaters, I have had one for about 25 years that is called A Tapestry of Trees.  It is knitted in the browns, green, rust, gold you find in a forest with design resembling a forest.  I love it.  I loved Pat's penguins.

The Extravaganza started out with a sort of surprise opening.  Not the big musical opening that is so often done, but instead with people arguing over what should be done during the extravaganza.  Then the four women in the show came out into the audience for participation.  Some of the audience really loved that.  Some of us did not.  I don't care to have people surprise me like that and put me in the public eye.  So when she turned her beady eyes on the three of us she asked me what I would suggest.  I simply put my hands up in front of my face with a "please leave me alone look".  She snapped at me that it was time for audience participation and went off on me.  I am not sure what she said, but my only response was, "don't yell at the audience."  I don't know if she heard me or not.  Janis and I looked at each other with a "what was that about"  So for the rest of the show whenever she was on stage I felt uncomfortable.  She had a beautiful voice.  Her voice did soothe the savage breast, but I certainly don't want to run into her again.

But the rest of the show was fun.  The kids and young adults were amazing.  I have watched these kids grow up for the last 4 - 5 years.  They have grown from adorable and sweet children to beautiful young ladies and gentleman.  And they are still as sweet and adorable as they ever were.  I just about burst watching them.  Watching how beautiful they are.  How talented.  How lucky to live in this tiny rural community and to have an instructor who can teach them how to sing, act, dance and put on wonderful shows.  I sat there in my seats surrounded by friends and family of the performers.  Some were like me, who has been a small portion of these children's lives through the Opera House.  But just as proud and amazed at how good they all were.

Some were still kind of shy and sweet.  Some of them were energetic and big.  They made me smile each of them.  Some have grown into such wonderful talent, Alex.  She really is amazing.  She has that snap, that feel of the music and the dance and how they swirl together around her and she looks so natural and comfortable on the stage.  Then Catherine, so shy and sweet with her beautiful blond hair.  She exuded a joyfulness from the beginning as she and her sister, Olivia were ribbon dancers in the opening number.  Catherine knows her part so well, she like her older sister looks natural and comfortable on stage.  Each with their own personality, but so talented.  The younger sister, Olivia, still so young and sweet and precious.  She has talent and as she grows up it is going to be fun watching her come into her own as her two older sisters are doing.  One of the brothers was also in the play and he has the family talent and was so cute and did his lines like an old pro.

Then Rachel who is around Alex's age is growing up so fast, and obviously has spent many hours on the stage.  She like her younger sister and now brother are growing up light Alex and her siblings at the Opera House stage. A historical building. A beautiful theater, wonderful acoustics, just a magical place and they that is just the normal place to act for them.  Several of them have done work with other theaters, and they are already seasoned actors.  We are so lucky here where I live.  We have the beautiful heart of our community, the Opera House.  And then we have such talent and instructors to share their knowledge and experience with younger people.  The audience was small as they have been this year but it is a lovely Christmas tradition.  Oona did the set and it was simple and elegant with white paper Christmas trees and snow flakes, swooping curtains that glowed with different colors.  It worked with all the different numbers.  And each year I enjoy seeing my friends up there performing in the shows, but it is the kids that I love the best. 

I am so grateful to be able to watch these great children as they perform and grow; as they mature as people and as performers; as they go from childhood to teenage to young adult to grown ups.  I adore them all.

Saturday I finished packing boxes and mailed nine.  Most of them have soap in them.  I hope they enjoy the soap.  It was made with love, cut with them in mind and then wrapped and shipped with care.  I drove to Fred's and found The Rescue squad toys.  Ms Moon has told me about a TV show with Diego in it as part of the Rescue Squad, or some name like that.  I found two and two puzzles that went with the toys and got a set for both Owen and Waylon.  I will take them with soap over to ms Moon's tomorrow. 

I am done, I have nothing extra I can think of getting.  Last year I gave a family present, but this year, I am going to wait until this summer and see how my finances are.  Maybe a surprise present to some place might be the key.  We will see how the money goes this first year of retirement.

I have had some wonderful phone calls lately and have enjoyed this time of year because of my contact with friends, new and old.  The new year is coming.  I look forward to see what gifts will be shared.  I hope the challenges will be less.  But whether gift or challenge, it does not matter, each will be handled.   I don't believe in tests and lessons, except those we give to ourselves.  And I hope that each year I am alive in this place that I continue to learn and grow.  To each passing year be more accepting of people and situations.  To enjoy moments like Friday night.  Sitting in the theater, a place I feel so much at home, and watching people I love dance and sing and perform across the old worn boards of the Opera House.  

It is Christmas, I am still working on my cards.  The presents are almost all wrapped, and maybe I will have time to do some baking.  I do need to bake 4 loaves of nut bread.  Three to take for Christmas morning and for Dad after we have all gone home.  One to keep here at the house to taste like the holidays the week between Christmas and the new year.  It is good to be back in the real world.  It is good to be back at Christmas.