If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy Anniversary!

New Year's Eve, 2009

Friday, December 30, 2016

Shine Your Light

New Year's Eve is generally a time for reflection for most people and around here we are certainly no different.  The other day as Mike and I sat at the table mapping out our day, we marveled at the fact that we are facing our eighth anniversary.  How can it be that long?  It seems like only yesterday that the day was chilly and snow-dusted and muddy and grey like this and our family gathered together here in our den to witness our vows and celebrate our union.

We had a bit of a hiccup as we got a call from Mr. Clyde Lynch saying that his wife had been involved in a car accident and would not be able to drive him over to perform the ceremony.  So, Daddy volunteered to perform taxi services.  The story of the trip was shared by our soft-spoken-brother-in-law, Dwayne.  Daddy had hopped on I-840 at Arno Road and he and Mr. Lynch were carrying on a conversation as they zizzed down the road with Dwayne a passenger in the back seat.  Just before the Nolensville Road exit, Dwayne peeked over the seat from his back-seat-nest to notice that the speedometer was registering over eighty and the exit was passing by on his right.  Dwayne said that he asked Daddy where he was going and all of a sudden the brakes were slammed.  Dwayne recalls, "Then, he simply backed down the side of 840 going forty miles an hour for about a quarter of a mile. And he never stopped talking the whole time."

I'm certain that my family recalled all sorts of experiences just like this as we weathered our first Christmas holiday without Daddy.  I know that I did.  I'm sure I will for the rest of my life.  When you experience a loss, people will often tell you that it will get better.  The wisest advice I ever heard, however, was that it won't get better - you will just get better at dealing with it.

I understand that the first year is often the hardest - and it has been hard.  Yet, I often feel my Daddy with me via the voice in my head providing advice and instruction.  I know it when I stiffly get out of bed each morning with an aching back and think about how he would do the same day after day, year after year.  I sense it when I am listening to the news and his quips will pop into my thoughts.  I feel it when I hear things coming out of my mouth as I talk to my husband or my children.

Even though living without my Daddy has been a struggle for me, I think there have been things put in my path to help me learn to navigate my journey without him.  Today I share this link to an article which was particularly meaningful for me this holiday season.  I am following suggestion number eight with this post.  Another timely post set me thinking and helped me to shape my focus on the future.  I do see this upcoming year as one of "profound opportunity and thus great responsibility."  It helped me to pause and realize that there are a host of things I have started and need to work toward finishing.  I have a huge responsibility and cannot delegate responsibility.  As the missionary, I've got work to do on my journey and I'd better get busy!  I have bookmarked this one and made calendar appointments to remind me to go back and re-read it periodically throughout the year.  I also found a bit of courage and encouragement in this post and will use it to guide my New Year's Resolutions for the upcoming year as well.  I've got a light to shine and I'd better use it wisely!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Randomness on a Tuesday

All our different family gatherings for Christmas are complete and this old lady is tired.  They hype.  The anticipation.  The excitement.  We took it all in and enjoyed every second of it.  The scurry and bustle of preparation and the enthusiasm and excitement of the little folks for the treasures hidden behind bright wrapping paper and tissue has all been absorbed.

This morning I wandered round the house gathering up stray boxes and bits of tissue that had escaped the first sweep a day or so ago.  I wore my sweat pants and Tshirt and a smile on my face as the memories of the grandchildren and children flitted through my mind.  Ah! The joys of young exuberance!  That is truly what makes Christmas memories.

I think of the pauses as we lifted up thanksgiving for the multitude of blessings we enjoy.  Everyone in the household stops and gives pause.  Then, we are back to living the life and enjoying those blessings to which we just paused and gave thanks.  The dollops and spoonfuls on the plates of the littles before doing the same for ourselves.  Next, we sit in fellowship and enjoy the bounty prepared for sharing.  The chatter and laughter ring out and warm our hearts.

When the last morsel is swallowed, we set aside our plates and move to perch in front of the twinkling lights on the tree.  Soon, paper is ripping and tissue is flying as treasures are uncovered and joy is exclaimed.  Oohs and Ahhs can be heard round the room along with statements like, "I've been wanting one of these for a year!"  The excitement can hardly be contained and toys must come out of the packaging as soon as humanly possible  Trucks and tractors are pushed and scooted along on the hearth and the floor.  Books are thumbed through in anticipation of the places the words will take us.  Clothes are draped across bellies and chests in anticipation of wearing.  Shoot-guns are aimed and scooters and toy trucks are rolled as knees scoot across the floor imagining bigger worlds of the future.

Then, the bounty is gathered up and loaded up.  "Take a little of this ham home with you for tomorrow."  "Can I leave a few of these cookies for you for later?"  The kitchen is cleaned and the food stored away while the bags and boxes are toted to the truck for transport.   Hugs and kisses are shared all around and then out the door they all go to their respective homes and beds leaving our house empty, quiet, and hollow.

We flop onto the couch and comfy recliner and prop our feet up to catch our breath.  After a bit the dust settles, the furniture stops rocking, and the quiet normalness of home returns.  We rest a bit and share some remembrances from our visitors.  Then, I wander round the house gathering up stray boxes and bits of tissue that had escaped the first sweep a day or so ago to store them away until I use them again next year.

When I was catching my breath, I noticed a few things worth sharing...

I loved this series and thought what a wonderful idea this was.  Maybe sometime I can wander through our little town to capture a similar series.  Or wouldn't it be fun to put together a series from years gone by?

I got quite a chuckle when reading this article.  Hallmarks which can be found in my own home.  Yep.  Every. Single. One.

As all the posts from blogs start populating my inbox, I noticed this one and wholeheartedly agree - I'm OK with a mess sometimes!  However, I have been contemplating ways to tidy up my pantry which has grown into quite a mess and needs some straightening and organizing.  I'm thankful that one of our children gave me a little jump-start with some large glass jars for storing staples and items in the pantry that will make it easy to see what we have and what might need to go on the shopping list.  I've saved some inspirational photos like the one here and made a note to myself that I need to get some of those baskets.  Or, maybe I should get some of those inexpensive wire shelves and flip them upside-down for my canned goods.  I also like the idea of the lazy susans used in this one.  So, now you know what one of my upcoming projects might be.

I noticed once again that I need to do something to make my cabinets more organized and have the out-of-the-way items that we only use occasionally easier to access.  To be honest, I'm getting too old and am far too out-of-shape to be crawling on the floor to get things out of the bottom cabinets.  I thought number 23 in this post would be an inexpensive fix for just that.  (I also like 3 and 20.)  I'd like to have one of these made instead of having a drawer where all our knives are stored and knocked around on one another to dull.

Just when I was chastising myself for just rambling and not getting more accomplished, I stumbled upon this post and was affirmed that rambling can be a good thing sometimes.  Happy randomness and rambling to you today!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Decor

I guess I'm just getting older, but I dramatically cut back on my Christmas decorating this year.  I kind of wonder if I hadn't had Bridgette and her girls come by and help me if I might not have even done as much as we did!

Lydia, Luci, and I were responsible for decorating the kitchen tree this year.  This tree has been in my kitchen for twenty years or more.  We've always loaded it down with red and green ornaments, red wooden beads that look cranberry-ish, and pipe-cleaner candy canes.  The ornaments are a conglomeration of handmade by children's hands and gifts from over the years.  I pulled out the ornaments from the storage tub and handed them to the decorators.  Luci stood on my two-step-stool to reach and boss and squeal when Lydia did something that didn't suit her.
Lydia did lots of admiring as she decorated.  Lydia also took some forays into the den to check on the other set of decorators.  After all, her mother and Lillie could not be trusted to decorate with style without some kind of supervision.  Lydia's specialty is to group similar ornaments, it seems - not something that her mother is fond of, we learned.
Notice the five circular ornaments on the right - one of Lydia's specialty groupings.

There were a couple of other additions to the kitchen.  First, I edited the montage on the mantel and cleaned the dust off everything.
I considered hanging the new bay leaf wreath sent to me for my birthday by my sister but decided that I like showing off the metal screen door guard that was on Mike's grandmother's door.  I like how it looks like our monogram is in the center.  See that O?
So, the beautiful bay-leaf wreath found its place to hang on the front of the china cabinet.  I had considered adding some greenery or ornaments to the bowls and cups inside there but decided the beautiful, full green wreath was plenty.  (It may have found a permanent home there, too.)  The table was graced with a monogrammed burlap runner, an old wooden tray holding a couple of candles and a couple of snow globes.  Simple, low-key.
On the island, I just added some faux seasonal greenery.  There is a bit of variegated holly with berries and a silk poinsettia.  Yep, the basket with the blood-sugar testing equipment and reading glasses, the butter crock, and the salt and pepper shakers sit there most of the time anyway, so I figured, why stage it?

In the den, the decorating crew added sparkle and glitter to the larger, more formal tree.  I overheard Bridgette pointing out which ornaments were her favorites from childhood.  
She showed Lillie how one particular ornament had a light that made it look as if there were a light turned on in the house and how another made it look like a star was shining down.  Lillie asked her mother why they didn't have a tree that was all blue, silver, and white ornaments.
This furry Santa found his way to the oak chest in the master bedroom.  That was the only seasonal aspect added there this year.
This heavy little ceramic ornament wound up on the vanity in the master bath.  He waved cheerfully for a couple of weeks right there.  He may have found a permanent seasonal home!
On the antique buffet just inside the den there was the addition of a basket holding Christmas cards and some greenery in the vase.  I've also made it a tradition to showcase a few of the beautiful white and gold porcelain ornaments.  They were Mike's and he has no idea how he acquired them but I do love them and their delicate sparkly beauty.
This year Santa, the sleigh, and the tree landed here.  There is also a teddy bear on a rocking horse and a snowman which found a perch on the guest bathroom vanity.
On the foyer table below the children portraits we only added a bit of Christmas cheer.  This is another place where pops of deep red and greenery seem to warm up the space.
On the left standing stoically between the family photos are a couple of tall, skinny ceramic Santas that I painted years and years ago.  One holds a Christmas tree and t he other holds a wreath.
To the willow basket on the right, I added a musical angel sitting atop the blue and white candle pedestal and a tiny glittering ceramic church that a long-time family friend gave to one of the children.  A few twigs, a couple of pine cones, and some faux greenery added to the cobalt basket and we called it decorated!
The den mantel only had a sprig of greenery added to the vase and a tall, skinny Santa in an ice-blue robe added to the mix.
A fancy snow-laden Santa and a basket of pine cones topped with a natural shed antler balanced out the hearth.
The real feature of the mantel are the beautiful stockings.  My first year as a single mom I splurged on three beautiful needlepoint stockings for us.  After a year or so we added one for Corey.  Then, Lillie got a fancy one.  A few years later we added one for Jessica, Lydia, and Mike.  The following year we added six for Mike's children.  Next came one for Harris followed by a couple the next year for Levi and Luci.  This year we added one for Easton.

Long ago I had to come up with a different plan from using silver stocking hangers like I had used on the original three stockings.  There just isn't room!  So, the solution was to get some simple metal stocking hangers which suspend a curtain rod below the mantel.  I think they are my favorite decoration for the season.
The hallway sconces were graced with the addition of two plastic canvas needlework pieces created by Bryan when he was in the third or fourth grade.  I smile each year when I see these and recall how he used yarn and stitched several of these up for folks as gifts.
Harold, a cross-stitch banner crafted by my mother was hung on the inside of the front door.  He is whimsical but the detail of him is beautiful.  The outdoor garland and lights sort of frames him there on the door.
Bridgette, Lillie, Lydia, Luci, and I tied the garland, lights, and wreaths to the front and back porches and called our decorating done.  Someday I would like to pull every single thing in the way of Christmas decorating out and festoon the entire house with all the glory I've amassed over the years.  That will probably have to wait till the days when the grands are in charge of doing the decorating in its entirety and I am just nestled under a cozy cover on the couch, though!

This year, simplicity was best and I've enjoyed every little piece and I think Mike has as well.  He has talked me out of un-decorating a couple of days.  (Of course, that could be because he didn't want me interfering with the line of vision to the football game!)  Each year he starts off complaining about the skinny, wimpiness of our tree.  It is a long, narrow style that was bought for a different place in a different house that required such.  Yet, before the season is over he doesn't want to part with it and always comments at how he likes the lights in the room at night.
I was grateful for the decorating help and wonder if my house would have been decorated at all without the help of Bridgette and the granddaughters.  It was simple, beautiful, and heartwarming.  The memories created will be cherished by this Grand B forever!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Decorating

I am so happy to have my Christmas decorating done!  The granddaughters and Bridgette came and helped me to put up the tree in the kitchen and the one in the den.  They also helped with putting out the greenery and lights for both porches.  I just wasn't in the spirit this year and it was so wonderful to have them here.  And the  help was a fabulous treat!  Sadly, I was in the  throes of digging things out of boxes and didn't get one single photo.  Believe me though, we were certainly...

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Apple and The Tree - First Time For Daddy's Birthday Without Him

I am so thankful that I was attending a conference today and meeting up with other folks who share the same interests and learning and connecting.  It was the perfect way to spend the day.  

You see, today was my Daddy's birthday.  It was the first time for us to survive his birthday without him.  

I woke up this morning thinking about what day it was and had a little cry.  Then, I got on with my day.  Off and on throughout the day I would think of Daddy and smile a little knowing that he would have loved the opportunity I was enjoying.  I wandered through the trade show chatting with people I've never seen before and probably won't see again after the conference.  I bumped into educators I've seen at other events and chatted with them like they were old friends.  Daddy would have been proud that his legacy continues on through me - meeting up and carrying on conversations before moving on to a new audience or partner for interacting.

The irony of the day was really poignant because when I walked into the conference center, I saw all these men walking round with a Co-op insignia on their vest, jacket, or cap.  You see, today was the last day of a Co-op conference at the very same conference center.  I bumped into a couple of fellows who recognized me and we chatted about the weather and the coincidental crossing of our paths.  Daddy's Co-op connections became connections for me as we stood and shot the breeze.

This afternoon I caught myself sending messages to my daughters to ask if they know educators whose listing as attendees shared that they were from the counties where my grandchildren live and go to school.  Yep, they recognized the names and gave me a little information about those educators.  My first thought is, I need to stay on the lookout for those folks and introduce myself.  Yep.  That is something my Daddy would have done - and would have encouraged me to do.  I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Tonight the keynote speaker was Leslie Fisher who shared her journey through technology integration.  Her message was entertaining, inspirational, and encouraging and that was before she shared that her father had been placed in hospice care yesterday.  You guessed it, I began crying again - one of those ugly kind of cries.
Keynote Speaker, Leslie Fisher, had this slide in her presentation tonight - a strong message.

These ironic events truly helped me to make it through the day without being a weepy, puddle-in-the-floor mess.  They reminded me that life goes on and, indeed, we are not alone.  We carry those we love and lost with us and share their story and legacy with the world as we do.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

In His Honor

My father-in-law has been a family friend of ours since I was a young girl with knobby knees.

He was The One Friend I had in this family who welcomed me with open arms, a huge smile, and constant encouragement.

I miss him just as much today as I did four years ago when he went to be with God.

In his honor, I made a loaf of pumpkin bread and ate about four slices.  You see, that is another thing we both shared that nobody else in this close-knit family has - a love of pumpkin bread.

I learned of his love of pumpkin bread the first winter after Mike and I married.  I made a loaf and learned that Mike is not an eater of sweet breads.  Mr. Billy came by one afternoon - probably delivering something for us.  He eased in the driveway and slowly strolled up on the back porch to knock on the door.  I greeted him with the enthusiasm I always had for him and the opportunity to spend time with him.

In the door he came and promptly sat down in one of our kitchen chairs, making himself comfortable.  I offered him a glass of sweet tea and a slice of the day-old pumpkin bread.  He chatted away with me for an hour or so while I was stirring up dinner.  He just kept on complimenting the delicious pumpkin bread.  So, I gave him another slice...or two.

He and I discussed most every topic imaginable - politics (we had similar views), family, work, sports, community happenings - you name it, we chewed on it almost as much as we did the pumpkin bread.  Then, he decided he had better head up the hill toward home and Mrs. O.  He made me promise not to tell her about him eating the sweet bread because she would do some fussing at him since he was diabetic and didn't need such.  With a smile, I wrapped up about half the loaf and sent him out the door, anticipating that he would share it with her and she might not fuss at him.

After that, whenever I would get a yen for a taste of pumpkin bread, or most any sweet bread, for that matter, I would simply cut the loaf in half, wrap it up, and leave it on the seat of his truck.  I never said a word about it but he would always find a way to thank me and give me a hug with nobody noticing.  It was just something we shared and a way for me to share my love of him and his son and family.

After Pop died, I mentioned how I always shared the sweet breads with him and how I would miss him.  I mentioned that half of every loaf would probably now go to waste.  My mother-in-law looked quite surprised.  Then, she asked me when we would share the breads.  So, I explained how I would share half of each loaf with them by leaving them on the seat of his truck that he parked just outside their house.  She said, "Well, that stingy old coot!  He never brought the bread in and shared it with me!"  Our entire family simply fell out laughing.  Pop certainly had a way about him.

So, today I nibbled on a couple or three slices in his honor and shed a few tears thinking back on the memories of times we shared.  I guess I will always miss him and think of him when I bake sweet breads.
Happy Birthday, Pop!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Happy Birthday, Mama!

One of my favorite photos of Mama from the past

Hope your day is a happy one and you find it restful and rejuvenating.  
My favorite photo of Mama this year.  Her stance shows just how tired and exasperated she is with the farm clean-up process.  Remember, though, we got it done!

Happy 77th Birthday!