Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy

It was a lovely day.   My grandkids made birthday cards for me.    They both drew wonderful pictures, enhanced with some birthday stickers.    My grandson also let me know that I am his "best fred."    Who could ask for anything more?   This grandma gig is the best!

(Of course, when I told the kids how old I am, they also solemnly announced that I am "almost 100."    Sometimes they provide a reality check that I could do without!)

And the Winner Is . . .

I used an online random number generator to pick my prize winners and (drum roll please) the winners of this month's Giveaway are Cheryl (who will get the Philosophy "Gingerbread  Girl" bath gel) and Peanut (See's chocolates)!

I emailed both of the winners this morning for their addresses and I will mail the prizes out today or tomorrow (assuming I hear from them right away!   Peanut is a corgi so I'm not sure how long it will take him to click out his response!).    (And please please please let me know if your prize doesn't arrive within the week!   I won a lovely blog prize last year that never arrived, and I didn't want to be a bother.   But now I know, as a prize provider, that I want my winners to actually win!)

Congratulations to my winners!   Thank you all for your comments and your visits -- please check back often, there will be another giveaway before you know it!    Maybe something tropical to help get us through another cold winter?    I'll have to give that some thought!

To Me

I'm not sure I'll have a candle to blow out today, but if I find a star to wish on,  I'll wish to snorkel with the belugas,  see fairy shrimp at night, and pet a whale in baja.   I want to find sharks' teeth and another junonia seashell, and hear alligators bellow when they are mating in the spring.   I want to see part of Denali.    I want to go fly fishing with my brother, and travel with my sister.    I wouldn't mind going back to Rome.   I want my son and his wife and their children to always be happy and healthy.    I want to run around the block without gasping for breath.   I want to grin through my grandchildren's weddings,  and I'd like to be here to cry happy tears when their children are born.    I want my daughter to be safe and healthy, with shelter and food and medical care. 

P.S.   In case you wondered, I got myself the iPod touch, so that's one wish already taken care of!   Now I just have to figure out how to use it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Chance for Giveaway!

There's still time to leave a comment and be entered in this month's Giveaway!   Because there are over a dozen 'entries' this time, there will be 2 prizes - the first person I (randomly) draw will receive a Philosophy bath gel, and the second will receive a small box of See's chocolates!     Winners will be announced tomorrow!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Early Christmas

Yesterday my family had our first holiday get-together.    Many good things, it was not at my house, the food was delicious, and the kids all got superhero capes.    Now they can run like the wind!   Today at home I put a turkey breast in the crock-pot -- my belated Thanksgiving indulgence.    My Christmas tree is up and lit, and the house smells like dinner.    Life is good.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

Thanksgiving Day is, for me, a day of memory and nostalgia, and its celebration had changed many times with the circumstances of my life.   When I was little, it was a day filled with cousins and food, with noise and play.   As I got older, it was an all-day marathon, up before dawn, wrestling with the still-frozen turkey, finding extra chairs, last minute cleaning, with a brief frantic food-fest somewhere in the middle.   After I was divorced, it was a day spent mostly alone, trying to find inexpensive projects to fill the time and ward off self pity while my young kids were away and the house was too quiet.    Today will be another day spent alone, but perfectly content.    Tomorrow and on the weekend I will see my family and eat too much,  but today, Thanksgiving Day itself, is a day when the others are busy and gone.     So I'll crank up my Christmas playlist, I'll clean and wrap and decorate, and I'll indulge in a long bubble bath.    I'll be thankful not to go outside on this dreary, chilly day, and I'll make mental lists of all the blessings in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Material Girl

I have been poor, seriously poor.    Not, I'm sad to say, as poor as my daughter is, but very poor for a person who had a college degree and always had a job and didn't use drugs.    I lived in my car for a year after my father died, I faced fear and hunger and cold, and I carried the lessons of those years when I was back on firm footing.    I was frugal, I reused and did without, I knew that Things were not the answer to happiness, but that a thick pair of socks and a pot of hot soup could make all the difference.     Being dry and warm was a luxury I treasured.   As time went by I could have afforded more because I had a decent job, but I had no sense of need, and much of my money went to support my daughter and others who were less able to fend for themselves.

And now I have no job.   And, truly, I have no needs.    But it is now that suddenly, without explanation, I have decided to want and want and want.     My own self-discipline has, in the past, gotten me through these episodes of yearning.    But this time, for no reason I can see, self-discipline is out the window and my sister has convinced me that I need to take a different path because, she reminds me often, Daylight is Burning.

And so I've bought a car, even though my 1997 vehicle with 240,000 miles was still running.   And I'm planning a trip to Florida.   And I'm thinking about another trip to Alaska.    And I am obsessing over an iPod touch.    My sister says I need it,  I like the idea of not having to pack and protect my laptop when I'm going places, and I like the idea of going places while I still can.    Because of what I know, and who I am, and the income I am living on,  I am trying to do what I consider the Right Thing, and I am trying not to buy that iPod.  But today I am not trying very hard.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seeds of growth

I have been divorced since 1988, but I saw one of my former sisters-in-law tonight, for the first time in nearly 10 years, and before that, a dozen years more.   When I first met her, she was just a girl and, in the way that girls often do, was eager to tag along with me when I married into her family.  Almost immediately after meeting her, her mother became very ill and bedridden, with a mysterious and unknown illness, diagnosed only afterward as possible multiple sclerosis, but with no great certitude.    I had quit my job when I married because we moved to a different city, and I was asked to nurse my new mother-in-law until her doctors decided that she was too sick to stay at home.    It was a hard time for me because, although I had been through a variety of violent and difficult times, those times had more numbed than matured me.   And so I found myself, only recently homeless, newly married, and nursing a stranger.    I did the best I could, I nurtured her as best I was able, I held her while she gasped for air and cleaned her when she vomited or soiled herself, and when I was overwhelmed I went to the basement after she slept, to wretch and sob with fear and self pity.   And then I'd pull myself together and greet my young sister-in-law when she came home from school.    I listened to her reports of the things in her life, good and bad, I rode with her while she was learning to drive, and I tried to be a calm presence in her life where so much was in upheaval.    The strain on the entire family was tremendous, and I learned many things about all of them during that time,  about their strengths and fears and weaknesses, and about my own.


Eventually the doctors decided that my mother-in-law had to go to the hospital, mostly, I believe, so they could force-feed  her to buy themselves some time to figure out what was wrong.    From time to time, I took my sister-in-law to visit her mom.   The visits were uncomfortable for me because my mother-in-law believed that I had refused to care for her at home and she was angry at me; she would turn her face if I came into the room and refuse to speak or acknowledge me.


One night, not long after my first anniversary, we arrived at the hospital and I told the desk aide we were there to see my mother-in-law, giving her name.    The aide told me with a gesture that she was 'over there,' and said I'd have to use the back elevator.    I had a very bad feeling but I didn't want to ask anything directly or  go where she was pointing because of the young girl I had with me.    I glanced in the indicated direction and saw a covered gurney with a toe tag sticking out from under the sheet.   I felt very afraid, afraid of everything:  I was afraid of death, afraid of making a scene, afraid of upsetting my sister-in-law, afraid of my own emotions, and afraid of the responsibility this put on my shoulders.   I told the aide that I was there with the patient's daughter, to visit, and asked if perhaps the patient's condition had changed.   The aide looked up and replied, "oh, I thought you were from the funeral home.    She's dead."


My sister-in-law seemed not to have heard and I ushered her back to the car where I sat and tried to explain this shocking news; we had never been told that her mother was ill enough to die because the doctors were convinced that her illness was large psychosomatic.   I told my then-sister-in-law that I was sorry, that her mother had passed peacefully.   After a lengthy stretch of quiet, she asked me how long it would take for her mother's soul to reach God and I answered, without hesitation, that her mother had been in God's hands every minute of her existence and that was where she was now.    I was a little surprised to hear myself, surprised to sound so calm.    But later my sister-in-law became the most religious of women, and I spent years doing bereavement work, spending time with many people who lost or were losing a loved one  and many who were dying.   It never occurred to me until this week to wonder whether our shared experience might have provided the kernel for both our futures.


We didn't talk about any of that on this visit, and it was good to see her.    I have wondered more than once what my former sister-in-law remembers from the night her mother died.   I have always hoped that she didn't hear the aide, and didn't see the gurney, and I didn't have the nerve to look into those dark corners now,  35 years later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19 - a Give Thanks virtual party

 I'm virtually attending a virtual party today, organized by The Vintage Nest, and my mission is to give thanks by telling something I'm grateful for.

I am so fortunate in so very many ways, this would be a very long entry if I listed even a fraction of my blessings.      I am grateful to have lost my job last year.  My workplace was a sort of black hole for human contact, and I could go days, even weeks, without seeing another living soul, because each of us worked in a private office with a closed door.   Chatting with coworkers was expressly disapproved. There were a couple of women who had been there for years, whom I had known since they arrived, and we had to sneak around like kindergarteners to occasionally talk in whispers.   I am sorry that none of us were able to get to know each other well enough -- in 22 years -- to be outside-of-work friends, but I am glad, glad, glad to be out of that toxic place.

 I am grateful for my family, from siblings to children to adorable grandchildren and great nieces, grateful beyond my ability to tell.   I am grateful for coffee in the morning and for wine on the occasional night.   I am grateful for the messes that remind me that the kids were here.

I am grateful for the crisp fall days, the crunch of dry leaves, my pantry full of food, my warm house, clean clothing, and my own cooking.  I am very grateful for warm fuzzy socks when the floor is cold and for bare feet with polished toes when it is not.   I am grateful for my pretty neighborhood and nice neighbors,  and for a garage in the winter.    And by golly, right now I am grateful for the heated seats and hands-free phone in my new car.

 I am grateful for the places I've been and - knock wood - the places I have yet to go.   I am grateful for the seashells in every room that remind me of countless visits to Sanibel Island, and for the mementos from trips to Alaska and Rome.

I know I should be grateful for every minute but I admit, sometimes I forget.    Even if individual moments sometimes fray me, though,  I am grateful for every day, grateful to know my own strength, grateful for the workings of my brain that always tends toward a twisted kind of optimism.   I am grateful for the troubles I have risen above, and for the belief that I will ride things through when hard times come again.    I will try, if the time comes, to be grateful for the pain that is necessarily linked to having loved.  I am grateful for the sights, sounds, smells and memories of my life.   And I am grateful in advance for every bit of future I have left.

 I am also grateful for my readers!  Don't forget, my November giveaway winner will be drawn on November 30.  The prize includes a sparkly bath gel and other goodies!   The box is packed and ready to go, as soon as YOU are the randomly chosen winner!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baking again - Inspired by Gayle

The snickerdoodles I baked the other day for my hairdresser were so lovely, and so well received, that I decided to bake another batch.   This time they will go to my kids,  to Dr. Cranky, and to a sweet lady who helps take care of him -- always assuming that I don't eat them all.    Gayle's "Dozen a Day" blog inspired me because it seemed like such a nice thing to do for others, but I am definitely getting the biggest benefit.    It's a cold and dreary day here but the cookies are in the oven, and my house smells like a Holiday!

(For anyone who doesn't know, Gayle also hosts "The White House", another blog I read.)  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anniversary of a new phase of life

This is the anniversary of the day I became a grandmother.   My grandson is six years old today.    In some ways it seems like yesterday, my bag had been packed and ready in the trunk of my car for over a week, and the airline was on my speed-dial.    When I got the call, I drove from work to the Detroit airport, and flew on a frequent flier ticket to New Orleans.    After the rush to get there, I paced the halls of Baptist Memorial Hospital (which was closed after Hurricane Katrina and is now part of the Ochsner Health System).    I hated that there was nothing I could do to help.   And then finally, finally!, after a lot of courage and hard work from my daughter (in law), my son and a nurse wheeled the new center of our lives down to the nursery.    And I was there, snapping pictures as they walked.


So today I celebrate.   I celebrate the first time I saw that adorable baby boy.   I celebrate the first time his little face lighted up and he shouted, "Guh!" when I walked into a room.   [He called me "Guh!", always with the exclamation point, until he could say Grandma, and I was a little sorry when he mastered the word.]    I celebrate the times he told me I was his best friend in the whole world, and took my picture to show-and-tell at preschool to show 'something he was grateful for.'    The times he's told me that my cooking was so good that he could 'eat a hundred miles of it.'    I celebrate his smiles and his hugs and his silly games and his sweet nature.    I celebrate how my heart swells when I see the love and devotion of his daddy and mommy, and how good he (usually) is to his little sister.    I am so happy to be his grandma.    This is a very good anniversary.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gas prices down a little, finally!

Cookie Day

Gayle, at one of the blogs I read regularly, A Dozen a Day,  experimented with a daunting project, baking a dozen cookies a day to give away.    I don't have the discipline to bake (and give away) cookies on a daily basis.  But I wanted to give a salute to Gayle's idea, so today I am taking a cookie surprise with me when I go for my hair cut.   I baked cinnamon sugar cookies, a variation of Snickerdoodles, to take to the woman who cuts my hair.   Amy is as sweet and upbeat as she can be -- she certainly deserves a little recognition and a dozen cookies!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebration countdown!

Don't forget, my November giveaway is happening!    The prize includes a sparkly, shimmery bath gel by Philosophy  -- the drawing will be on November 30, as we celebrate the beginning of the Holiday season, among other things.   All comment-ers will be entered and the winner will be randomly chosen.   Good luck!

Beatification

I have promised all year that I would take Dr. Cranky to one of the Ford Estates that is open to the public, because (although he had been often) I had never toured the house and he wanted me to see it.   When he was young, and working, and in charge of this and that, he attended dinners and events in the main house (which is no longer used for dinners and events), where he socialized shoulder-to-shoulder with people I have only seen on television.  He was familiar with the architecture, the art, and the period furnishings.   Showing it to me was important to him and I promised, months ago, that I would take him there this year before the snow flies.    One thing and another kept me from it, but I really wanted to keep my promise because his health is always precarious and this week the weather is usually temperate, so yesterday was the big day.    He was really looking forward to it, and he told me all about the things I would see, including a movie about Edsel Ford and what a remarkable man he was.

Things started out well enough, we had lunch in a lovely room, formerly part of the estate greenhouse.   And then we went to see the movie.   But it was not the movie that Dr. Cranky expected.  They had recently eliminated the documentary and replaced it with a 5-minute preview of the estate.    It is an understatement to say that Dr. Cranky was not happy.   And unfortunately, when he is not happy, the world around him had better plan to not be happy.    Things got loud.   There was (one-sided) shouting.   I finally escaped to the gift shop and chatted with the nervous ladies there.

Finally we moved on to the (private) tour (how surprising that no other guests went with us!), and fortunately, the docent who accompanied us was extremely knowledgeable, had a wry wit, and was very deferential.   Dr. Cranky asked a number of educated questions and, as a result, the docent showed us photos and gave us information that she said she does not usually include on the tour (photos showing the contrast between the conditions of the servants quarters with the family's, for instance).    So from that point,  all was well (more or less.   At one point we met up with a lower level employee who remarked how glad she was that they had replaced the boring documentary, and things flared up again briefly.   But mostly all was well.)  

After we finished the very interesting tour and walked a bit on the beautifully landscaped grounds, I got Dr. Cranky safely to my car and ran back inside to powder my nose and apologize to the long-suffering and very gracious manager who had handled his complaints.   As I was leaving she touched my arm and said warmly, 'you are a saint, don't let anyone ever tell you different.'   It made me laugh.

Later that evening, my phone rang, and I later retrieved a message from Dr. Cranky saying how grateful he was that I had taken him there, that he had had a wonderful time and hoped I had enjoyed it as much as he did.    I could have taken the call, but my sister made me hit 'ignore' when she saw who was calling.   Then she bought me a gin and tonic.     As I pointed out to her, clearly saintliness does not run in my family.   My sister says she's fine with that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Easy money

Sometime fairly early this year, I started saving every $5 bill that came to me in change.    I was surprised how rarely they turned up, probably because I so rarely spend cash.   And, although sometimes it was annoying to run out of money before I expected to, it was surprising how many things I decided I really didn't need, so it was no huge sacrifice.   Last night I decided to open the piggy bank to see if I had enough for a little shopping trip to Toys R Us.   I figured I needed about $75, because I could get a $10 gift card if I spend that much and I do love those free gift cards, and if piggy had that much,  it would feel like I was spending free money AND getting money back.   Gotta love that.
It wasn't easy to empty piggy, because the rolled-up bills were lodged in her head and neck.   But it was worth the effort.  Would you believe there was $320 inside?!     Toys R Us was open last night until 10 p.m., so THIS little piggy went out and bought some toys!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Playing School

My grandchildren enjoy writing stories and signs, and they like to play school.   (They like to watch DVDs at my house once in a while, but mostly we play imagination games -- although I love the way my granddaughter asks to see a "DivaD" every so often.    I will be sorry when she starts saying it the ordinary way!)    They both know how to spell and write a few words, and they figure out the rest of them as they go.   Sometimes they ask for help, sometimes not.   Today -- not.    We played school, and, as you can plainly see,  my grandson carefully prepared the 'schedule for the day' (or, as we prefer in my neighborhood, 'scejwl fwr the dey.'  Try sounding it out, it works.)

Time to Shop


This morning's newspaper ads remind me that it's time for me to start my holiday shopping.    My plan is to be done with the gift-shopping and wrapping by December, so that I can enjoy the season without the need to visit the frantic malls and stores.   I don't buy for many people these days and half of them are children, which is the most fun kind of shopping.  After that's taken care of,  I am planning to relax and cook and bake and eat my way through the holidays, with emphasis on the "relax" part of the equation.    So, like the more famous chubby symbol of the season, I'm making my lists this morning, and checking them twice!

And since I'll be shopping anyway, it's time for another Giveaway!    The drawing will be on November 30, and I have no idea what the prize will be because I haven't gone shopping yet.    I will choose prizes that make me think of Celebration, and anyone who comments from now and midnight November 29 will be entered.   Good luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ridiculously Good Fortune


What a day.    It didn't go as smoothly as it will sound here, but I bought a nifty new car and got an absolutely beautiful target pistol as an early Christmas present.     It's been a very long day,  but I am a lucky lady.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010