Friday, December 31, 2010

Packing list

In the final days of this year, I have spent some time reviewing my archives for the things that I want to carry on with me into the new year.  What I came up with were: charity, forgiveness, enthusiasm, compassion, reflection, taking time to remember those who are no longer with me, and gratitude.

So, those are in my bag of what I'm taking with me into the new year.

I hope you and yours have a safe and happy New Year's Eve, and all the very best to you in 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Something to seriously consider bringing into the new year

I do not agree with some of her theories, nor have I read more than one of her books, but I have to say, in my mind and heart, these words are pure truth. No matter what, there is so much to be thankful for, always. 

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Melody Beattie

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Of Christmas past and present

The last Christmas my father celebrated was in 2004.  It was not a merry Christmas at all, not because we knew it was going to be my father's last but because my mother's dementia and a host of other problems made her behavior simiar to how I imagine a Grizzly Bear would act if you snuck up on it and yanked out one of its claws. She could not help herself, however, and while I know that now, at that time she was so confused, so angry, and so hostile, and it seemed to happen so suddenly, we were all vulnerable to the change and it was a very difficult time. 

In 2005, as a family we were all still very much shouldering the loss of Dad and very much missing him at Christmas.  Mother's confusion was powerful and she had become a master at hiding or working around it. She managed to be roused into a bit of celebration for the holiday but she was very confused, tired and sad, and her dim light of holiday joy faded quickly.  In 2006, depression kept her mostly uninterested in Christmas.  We celebrated but she did not get out of bed.

Before those Christmases, I always relished in going home for the holiday, even if home was a place I no longer lived but where my family could be found. Christmas was celebrated in a large way at our house.  For most of my life, my parents hosted an Open House on Christmas day.  By late afternoon, our house was filled with family and friends of all ages, and the tables were topped with smoked turkeys, salmon, ham, tenderloin, roast beef, an array of sauces and mustards, and cheeses, oh the cheeses, wheels of Baby Swiss, blocks of cheddar, and rounds of Brie, and plenty of champagne and punch.

When Christmas 2007 rolled around, I could not stay in Houston. I wanted a happy Christmas, a merry Christmas.  I wanted it for the kids and I wanted it for myself.  I reserved a cabin in Durango, Colorado, and we had a wonderful holiday in a snowy and mountainous backdrop.  We did the same in 2008, except the cabin was high in the mountains of New Mexico.  I needed for Christmas to be radically different than it had in years past or in my childhood, so that I could embrace the day and not feel overwhelmed by the loss of my parents, by the changes in my life that were completely out of my control, and by my realization that it was up to me to give my nieces and nephew happy holidays. 

In 2009, we decided to spend the holiday at our own cabin, on the Colorado river.  No snow, but a happy little family celebrating in a familiar and special place.

I have planned and organized each of the past four Christmas celebrations because I wanted to keep my two nieces and my nephew very close at Christmas. We are a little family, the four of us, and I wanted to provide them with a happy Christmas as well as a sense of peace and connection, in addition to the providing the framework for our celebration of the holiday.

This year, we celebrated the holiday at my house.  It occurs to me that I no longer go home for Christmas, I provide the home.  It's one of the many things passed to me from my parents, and I whole-heartedly embrace this very important baton. This year, I've had a full house.  My youngest niece arrived December 10th; her boyfriend arrived on the 22nd.  Sadly, they leave tomorrow. My oldest niece arrived on the 18th and left on the 23rd to spend the holiday with her boyfriend's family. My nephew and his precious daughter have been here throughout.  And, of course, Cheyenne.

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Yes, this year my house became the home where family went for the holidays.  A full and happy house it has been!

Friday, December 24, 2010

On earth, peace

Each and every thing I could have wanted for Christmas, I have already received.  My family, my friends, the magical circle patterns the childred skated today.  Tonight's dark and thunderous sky, even the rain...Merry Christmas!  I think we all should know, and believe, that indeed it's a wonderful life.

To you and yours, Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!

XOXO,
You know I love you.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Looking

On Friday night, my niece and a friend of mine and I took a drive through some familiar Houston neighborhoods to view the Christmas lights.  We ooohed and ahhhed our way through the city and marvelled at the houses and trees all lit up in seasonal spirit.  At times we laughed or gasped at what we saw, with some of the more enthusiastic displays of the season, or some of the less-restrained displays.  This tree though, we agreed was the very best of what we saw.  It took our breath away. 

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Three kids and a dog, all mine

Today, my youngest niece arrives in Houston, and I get her until a couple days after Christmas.

This evening, I get to babysit the newest member of our family, and on her six-week birthday, no less. 

Tonight, I'll fall to sleep with gratitude for the above and exitement for Saturday.

Tomorrow, my oldest niece graduates from college. 

I swear it was just yesterday when both nieces and my nephew were small enough that I could hold them in my hands.  One is a sophmore in college, one is graduating from college and one is a new father.  They may have grown, but in my heart they will always remain my babies.  Thank goodness I can still wrap these arms around them!

These are my gifts today; what are yours?

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010

Elements of a happy holiday weekend

Cat and her dog

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Dog and her goose

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The season and my decorations

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The day after

As I write this, my niece is sound asleep upstairs, there's a fire burning in the fireplace and outside it's cold, windy and rainy. I'm in heaven!

Yesterday morning, I sat at the table outside, newspaper before me, coffee in hand, and listened to a flock of geese fly unseen overhead, their distant honking such a delight to my hears.  I smiled and thought, Good morning, Dad. 

When Catherine woke up, we took our dogs for a long walk through the neighborhood, chatting, laughing, talking about her impending graduation and her future. I marveled at the simple joy of walking and talking with my niece on Thanksgiving morning. Such a delight.

Later we made cranberry pies to bring to the two homes that we were visiting for the holiday.

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When it was time to chop the pecans for the pie, I handed her a knife and then said, Wait! I have that thing that Mom always used.  I pulled it out and of course Catherine recognized it.  We smiled at how many times we saw Mom put this thing to use, and Catherine set about chopping the pecans in the nut chopper thing that was my mother's.  Good morning, Mom!

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Between the long walk and the smell of sugar, vanilla extract and cranberries wafting through the house, Cheyenne's excitedment wore her out.

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With the cold and wet weather and the fire in the fireplace, I am pretty sure that the world outside of my house is not going to see me today.  The world inside of my house, however, that world will be getting decorated for Christmas.  Happy days!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day 10 - The true truth

Day 10 - I'm inserting my own truth here, because soon it will be Thanksgiving, and I have so much gratitude, so much to be thankful for.  I want to say it out loud, or write it out loud.  I want to pour out my heart in no particular order... just love... and I want you to receive it.

Here goes:  For this and these I am so thankful to have had, to have known, to have experienced, lived, to embrace today.

The Lord, my parents, my adoption, my nieces and nephew (my children, my loves), my sister, my heart, my home, Ajax, Diablo, Always Wonder, AUGUSTA, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, True, Alimony, Park Avenue, Govenor Wendell, JC and Tee, Lollipop. Painted wings and giant's rings.  Simplicity I, II and III. Faith, Velvet Sacks, Sandy, Holly, My precious and dark Ghost, Donald, Dee, Pam, Jennifer, Lance, Marianne, Mary Beth, The Carol of Lights, that magic dragon, Puff, Cheyenne, Sean Patrick Trimble, Dakota, Maggie, Thunder, George, Rap, Isaac, Mindy, Piedmont, Joe, Michael (Love!) Shannon, Ursula and Allan, Donna McBrien, Ginny, Donnette, Ali, Paulie, Aunt Mary, Uncle Peter, Uncle Les, Mary, Mindy, Dorothy, Edward, Christine, Sharon, Jan, Carol, Jacqui, Jackie, Carrie, Cassie, Jessie, Catherine, Caroline, Dale, Diane, Calvin, Cindy, Vicky, Joe, Debi, Pete-Linda-Pete, Russell, Sharon, Steve, noble kings and princes, Troy, Linda, Carmon, Llego, looking in the mirror and seeing little Jackie Paper, Brillo, Dorothy, the Polo Club, the Racquet Club, my last job, Suzy, Cleo, Bob, and Bill. My next job, my mind, my feet, my fingers and toes.  This wind on my shoulder and this strand of hair from my head that will not stay in the hairband.  The rustling leaves behind me, the dog bed beside me.  A roof over my head. My beating heart, my polished toes, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and Eyore. The wise old Owl. Growing ivy, River Burch, Magnolia, Zach, Zoe and Preston. Croatia, Stavanger, London, the Hill Country, Brighton, Bricktown, Matagorda. All those memories. Mary Ann, Marianne, MaryAnn. My bed, your bed, international flights, Veuve Cliquot, cold bottled Dos XX.  My country, my right to vote.  Fresh citrus, sharp cheese, crisp lettuce. Football, friends and the two together.  Elton John, Santana, Chris Isaac, Fleetwood Mac, The Mavericks, Mazzy Star. Shelly (sigh). The life-long friend who made me brave. Long drives, blue skies, gray skies, buoys, the horizon, the land called Honalee, the blue and white stripes of a sailboat I've loved, Norah Jones, fresh cut grass and fresh baled hay, garage sales, sunburn, freckles, blue lights, sunlight, dappled light, fading light.

George, Paul, John and Ringo.

For these people and these things, and so much more, I am thankful, grateful, humbled to have experienced, to have known in my life, to have heard, to have touched, to have loved.  In ways connected and not so connected, I have appreciated. And I have loved, so deeply, those whose hearts for at least a moment in time, beated in harmony with my own.

Oh, the gratitude I feel. How very blessed I am.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Truth - Day 9

Day 9 - Why I am quitting the 30 days of truth

Yesterday's drove me to madness, as in anger.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I answered the question and then kept going.  I was fuming.  Pulling all that from me and putting it onto paper (or screen) was not fun.  It also was not beneficial -- I've already regurgitated my experience with my bully to a therapist.

I can't stand quitting but when I look at the rest of the truths, I realize that the list is extreme and leaning a bit to the negative.  Worst experience, someone who broke my trust, a hero who let me down, etc.  Jeez, Thanksgiving is this week and I prefer to be thankful and happy and focusing on the good and the gratitude. 

So, I quit.  That feels good!

 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Truth - Day 8

Day 8 - Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like sh*t

I grew up with a bully. I was teased, thrown, tossed, dunked, pushed, pinched, tricked, threatened, bruised, abused, forced to do drugs and ridiculed by a bully.

What a bully does is steal. A bully steals your innocense, your comfort, your sleep. A bully brings fear into your life, while simultaneously bringing doubt into the minds of the adults you trust. (As it was in my case.) Bullies rarely leave a trail. The damage is
internal, mental, psychological. That damage is long-lasting.

I removed my bully from my life years ago, although on occasion I must still deal with him. And that's because he still bullies, and some of those he bullies are people I love.  And protect. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Truth - Day 7

Day 7  - Someone who has made your life worth living

Ooh, I don't like that question at all.  I don't hinge the value of my life onto a person.  I don't believe anyone should. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Truth - Day 6

Day 6 - Somthing you hope you never have to do.

I've already done it.  Twice.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Truth - Day 5

Day 5 - Something you hope to do in your life

I hope to see both my nieces and my nephew grow into successful and happy adults as defined by their standards and their goals.  I know, I'm not original in hoping something for the next generation of family.  Love makes us do that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

Truth - Day 4

Day 4:  Something you have to forgive someone else for

I forgive the person or people who brought the reality show into my, your, and our lives. The result is heroes made of fools, false role models and dangerous goals... you know, all of tv-watching mankind being sucked backwards in an enormous slide.

Still, I forgive that person because of Survivor.  If it weren't for Survivor, well I would not have Elizabeth Hasselbeck.  Without her, who would I scream my liberal profanities to every day between 10:00 and 11:00 in the morning?

So, yes, priorities.  And yes, forgiveness.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Truth - Day 3

Day 3:  Something you have to forgive yourself for

This is still so raw, and sad.  A year ago today, the woman who worked for my grandmother and, later, my mother, the woman who held me in her arms when I was just weeks old, the woman who I have always known and who has always referred to me as her beautiful angel baby, lost her only son.  I was devastated for my friend, holding her in my arms as her body rocked and struggled beneath the weight of her grief, driving her to take flowers to his grave and supporting her as she walked.

At the time I was focused with purpose, so focused on where I belonged.  And that was with my friend and her partner, Maria. Maria had Ovarian Cancer and it was brutally advancing its attack.  In October, she learned that the last effort treatment was not working. There were no more trials available to her, no more options.  She accepted the news with brave heart. As the days progressed into weeks, Maria's body (though never her mind or sense of humor) began to weaken and her basic needs increased.  I spent many days with Maria, many nights with her visiting family, many hours by the firepit outside with my friend.

During this time, a dear friend of my family, my Aunt Suzie, passed away.  Aunt Suzie was the last of a magnificent group of four couples, including my parents, who were lifelong friends. I was shattered to lose this last of the greats ladies from that group of eight I had known all of my life.

A few weeks before Thanksgiving, Maria needed a wheelchair to get around her house.  She was becoming weaker, sleeping more, experiencing more discomfort and pain. It was excruciating to witness.  But it was deeply rewarding to be able to provide for her, to cook an egg when she was hungry or to place a blanket on her lap and take her out for a walk through her neighborhood.  Or to read to her from her favorite childood books.

I went out of town for Thanksgiving weekend.  With my nephew, my friend and room mate, and the person I was dating.  The weekend was wonderful, blissful, filled with walks on the beach, a little too much wine, warm fires in the fireplace, an over-the-top Thanksgiving dinner, and lots of laughter and comfort.  

Two things happened when I returned: On Sunday night, a good friend of mine and former colleague, died at too young an age of a heart attack. He was alone in his apartment.  His family came into town from out of state and were literally so shattered with their grief and so unfamiliar with Houston, that they had no idea where to begin for a service.  So, I planned a Memorial Service, from music to slide presentation, to program.  It was the last gift I could give to him, by helping his parents who meant so much to him.  

The second thing that happened is the person I was seeing took her mother to the doctor for a routine test on the Monday morning after Thanksgiving.  The test was botched and her mother was moved to the hospital, suddenly gravely ill.  Her daughter and son sat in bedside vigil, trading places while the other would return home, feed the dogs, change clothese and, if possible, grab a bit of sleep before returning. This went on for weeks and weeks.

But Maria's life was also weakening, and her needs increasing. I was starting to spend nights there. Although the person I was seeing and I would talk on the phone daily, giving and receiving updates on her mother and Maria, I only saw her a couple of times, once for lunch, once at Maria's memorial service and once in January when we not too joyfully exchanged Christmas gifts. 

If you've managed to read this far down in the post, then right here is where I'm going to get to the point.  I have had to forgive myself for not being there for my friend while her mother was in the hospital fighting for her life, and when her mother passed away.  It cannot be argued because the reasons don't matter. I simply was not there.  It wasn't a decision that I consciously made, choosing one over another, but something inside me told me where I needed to be, where I could make the most difference. I knew where I belonged, and that was by Maria's side, by my friend's side. I wasn't conflicted but I did feel terrible, to have two people who meant so much to me need me at the same time, and to only be there for one. 

I tell myself that I was exhausted, that I'd had too much death and witnessed too much pain and suffering.  And that is true but not reason. When Maria passed in December, there was relief that she was no longer in pain but mixed with the grief and relief, there was heated a rise of anger than she was so young at the time of her death. And that anger opened up the doors to a flood of grief that I had pushed deep down in me in order to function, from losing Paul, Aunt Suzy and Randy, from watching the bright light of Maria's life fade out. And then I discovered something. I was empty, exhausted, completely filled with sadness, loss and helplessness, and I needed to heal, I needed to retreat. 

Can you be in two places in one time?  No.  Can you wish to be in two places? Yes.

For the first time in my life, I felt that I had nothing else to give. And in giving nothing, I deeply hurt someone I cared for very much.  And that is what I've had to forgive of myself.  I won't be so trite as to say that I had to forgive myself for being human, but in my forgiveness what I learned was to accept that I have limits, that we all do.  And sometimes those limits keep us from doing what we want to do, what we should do, but we simply can not do. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Truth - Day 2

Day 2: Something you love about yourself.

This one is easy.  I don't know where I got if from, if it was my Father or my Mother or something environmental along the way but what I love about me is my eyes and ears.  They allow me to see the slightest of things and pick up on the most miniscule of changes. They allow me to be the observer that I am.  And combined, they seep into my heart.  And my heart?  It's a very positive place.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Truths

November is National Blog Posting Month and I wanted to participate, but I never signed up, and I am 12 days late anyway.  So, you know, there's that.  I do like the idea of being prompted to write, so am going with the Thirty Days of Truth that I see flying all over the internet lately.

Beginning with Day 1:  Something you hate about yourself.

When I first read this first prompt, my thought was Why start out with something so negative? And then I thought of all the hours I've spent in therapy to get through this very thing.  Because self-loathing used to have a strong hold on me. For years, I had a mental tape of negative messages that played non-stop in my mind.  In therapy I learned some of the reason for that, and I learned a great deal about self-esteem and behavior patterns developed to protect oneself, even when those patterns make no sense and actually can do more harm than good.  After comprehension came the work, and let me tell you that it is so very hard to re-wire your own way of thinking.  So. Very. Hard.  But the hard word eventually began to pay off and so in the long run, it was also very rewarding work. 

So, in answer to that question, I don't hate anything about myself.  I'm a work in progress, as are we all.  I do dislike something though and I dislike it very much.  In fact, I dislike two things.  Alas, my feet.  My very, very wide feet.  But they do get me where I need to go, and they're the only two I have.  So, like them or not, I am happy to have them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Welcome to the world, baby girl

My nephew and his fiancee Cassie are the proud parents of Faith Nicole, born November 5, 2010 at 8:07 p.m., weighing in at 6 lbs, 15 oz., and measuring 19-1/4 inches.  She is beautiful and perfect, an awesome blessing, and oh-so-loved.

Faith

p.s.  Check out that hair!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Something wonderful this way comes

Good morning November!  Not that I enjoy leaving my beloved October, but this year, this year, I've been waiting for your arrival for months and months.  Nine to be exact.  Because you are the month that will escort the birth of my nephew and his lovely fiancĂ©e's first child.  Excited does not do justice to the feeling around here.

Yesterday, my nephew and I assembled a dresser that now stands in the baby's nursery.  While I periodically left him to do the boring parts of the assembly, I snapped some photos of my soon to be niece-in-law's ever expanding belly.  We invited him to join in some of the photos.

Look!  There's a baby in that beautiful belly!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Birthday girl

My girl, today is her day. On her AKC papers, she's Cheyenne's Ferguson Blue. It was all so formal in the beginning. These days she's Cheyenne. Or Little Brown Dog. Or LBD. Or Shiny. Or Shiny Hiney. Or Tiny. Or Tinykins. Or Cheyenna Bananna Monster (don't ask). Or Sugar Butt. Or Tine-Tines. Or Wooby Cat. Or Woobs Woobs. Or, plain old Dork.

She has gained so many nicknames over our years together; there's just something about her that begs for them.  Today, she's going to be called the Birthday Girl because today is her 10th birthday!  Honestly, I cannot imagine the past ten years without her. She's been my laughter, my rock, my responsibility, my joy, my frustration, my tickle, my pillow, my amusement, my travel buddy and my morning walking partner. She is my friend and I am hers. She and I, we're two in a row, and I will forever be thankful for the perfect gift that she continues to be.   

Cheyenne Collage III

Happy birthday, Pussy Cat.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Discoveries

This morning, I brought my camera along on my morning walk with Cheyenne, and I discovered many things that made me happy.

These pretty flowers,
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The base of what was once a very big tree,

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A bit of thought-provoking graffiti,

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Cute Halloween porch decorations,

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A bit of silliness in a beautiful brown package,

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A scary rocking chair,

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Front porch patriotism,

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And two beautiful trees,

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There is so much to discover when I'm walking, so many little things to make me smile.  These were just a few I wanted to share.  I hope they made you smile too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The number 20

Twenty things I treasure this time of year (in no particular order):

1.  Porch decorations of pumpkins and other gourds, scarecrows
2.  Spooky Halloween decorations of ghosts and fake spider webs
2.  Slow and glowing sunsets that make the sky look like melting ice cream
3.  The air-conditioning not kicking on all night
4.  Pulling out the blankets from the linen closet
5.  Considering and planning the Thanksgiving meal
6.  Thinking of Christmas gift ideas for friends and family
7.  The scent of cinnamon, oranges and cloves
8.  Watching football with friends
9.  Evening walks with Cheyenne, observing the glowing light in the windows of neigbhoring homes
10. Boots
11. Perhaps not chilly, but definitely cool air mornings
12. Long-sleeve, thick cotton T-shirts
13. Making soup
14. Patio dining
15. Falling leaves
16. Changing out the mantle decorations
17. Just about everyone saying, Can you believe it's already October?
18. Pulling out sweaters from storage bins
19. Putting summer clothes into storage bins
20. Wreaths

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Timely

Really, it's just practice until I can break out the Christmas decorations.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Beauty and love

Yesterday I sat at a table with some amazing women, beautiful life-long friends, wonderful family. I shared the head of the table with a woman I have know for all my life, a woman who considers me her angel.  Funny thing, I consider her to be mine.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

Errands

Yesterday I needed to pick up a chair for someone, from a place very close to the beach.  It just might have been the most fun errand I've ever run. 
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The dining room

On Tuesday, I finally finished decorating the dining room in my new house. I wasn't at all sure how to decorate the large wall where I had placed the buffet and two side chairs, but I knew I wanted it to be with pieces that have been in my family, that would give me a connection to the past.

Which meant that I decided not to decorate this room with the 792,867 enlarged and framed photos I have of Cheyenne.  And it also meant that the wall was bare until the idea came to me.

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The four prints (St. Albans Grande Steeplechase, Plates 1 through 4) belonged to my maternal Grandmother.  They are hand-colored etchings from James Pollard, a British painter from the early 1800s who focused on equestrian events.  Years and years ago, I discovered these prints while rummaging through a hall closet in my parents' house.  Instantly I fell in love with them.  Where did these come from? My mother answered that they had belonged to her mother.  Of course I had the nerve to ask if I could have them (because what good were they in the closet?).  Of course she said No.  As she looked at them, she fondly remembered growing up with them in her house.  While I was salivating over them, she decided that she wanted to get them re-framed and hang them in her dining room.  And then she asked if I wanted to go with her and help her choose the frames.  I jumped at the opportunity, and then she said, because one day, these will be yours.

The plates to the left and right of the prints are from my parents' formal china, gifted to them for their marriage. There are 24 of each dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, coffee cup and saucer. It's an exhaustive and lovely collection. We only used this china for holidays and special occasions, so I have a lifetime of special memories associated with these plates. I think the pattern is too lovely, however, to keep hidden in a cabinet so I decided early Tuesday morning that I was going to hang them so that I could see them every day and be reminded of special family meals through the years. 

Putting these prints and plates into my dining room makes the room a bit more formal than my usual decorating taste but I do like the results very much. And I feel that way because the room gently says, we were here, we are part of you. 

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Taken from another angle, the corner china cabinet to the right is the first good piece of furniture my mother bought with her own money (as she used to say).  For that reason and many more, it's such a special piece to me and I love having it in my house. 

Having my dining room echo my grandmother, my mother, and my parents' marriage?  It's part of what makes this new house a home for me.

So, another room complete.  Slowly but surely, this place is coming together.