Holidays

Collecting Coffee Mugs

I’ve decided to collect coffee mugs. The other day, I was standing in line to purchase a coffee mug and some other merchandise from the Choose901 pop-up shop in Memphis when I decided that I am going to start collecting coffee mugs.

901 mug

Choose901 in Memphis

My mother collected coffee mugs. She had a make shift shelf where she displayed them at one end of the kitchen in the old house.

“The old house.” My siblings may have other names for the beloved, big house in Stanton, but that’s what I call it: the old house. It was almost a hundred years old when we moved into it. It was over a hundred years old when the folks moved out of it. It was well over a hundred years old when a June tornado swept it away.

I call it “the old house” because the house that the folks eventually moved into seemed like their new house; although, it was neither new nor a house when they moved into it.  I call it “the old house” because it’s where I grew up. I spent all but one year of my childhood there, all of my adolescence, and quite a few years of my adulthood living there. A lot of years drinking coffee in the kitchen of that old house.

My mother’s kitchen was rectangular. At one end, a window opened to the neighbor lady’s massive flower garden that, I like to think, my mother enjoyed, wishing she had the time and the energy to cultivate one of her own. She had too many children, too much to do to spend her time whiling away in a flower garden. My mother was practical like that.

At the other end of the kitchen was the make-shift coffee mug shelf where a door used to lead into a bedroom. When my father made the extra bedroom into a over-sized bathroom, he closed the door in from the other side with a piece of faux blue marble wood paneling. When in the kitchen, the door frame was left, but the opening was covered by the drab brown back of the paneling. My mother had Dad nail some left over 2x4s horizontally, making the doorway into a pocketed shelf to display her mugs. It wasn’t pretty, but it was useful.

I miss that kitchen. It wasn’t pretty, but it was more than useful. Life happened there. Sistering happened there.

Sisters around table

From left to right: #5, #8, #4, and me, #10. #7 isn’t pictured.

During family gatherings, usually Thanksgiving and Christmas, my sisters and I gathered around the brown, formica table drinking coffee or tea and talking about inappropriate things. From the looks of shock on my face and our body positions, #4 must have said something uproariously inappropriate for which I punched her in the shoulder. #8 is amused but keeping it to herself (no doubt a little later in the day one will be able to find the two of us sitting in a corner of the house discussing this exact moment) as #5 enjoys the moment.

The door directly behind #4 and me eventually was made into the pocketed shelf, but for this moment it is just a door. And we are just sisters.

It’s interesting what time will do. A door turns into a pocketed display shelf that one day disappears and is only now a memory.

We, the sisters, have changed with time, too. In this picture, we are younger versions of ourselves, some with husbands and kids, some without, connecting through advice, opinion, laughter, and coffee.

But soon, over time, the living of life changes relationships. There aren’t many pictures of this time. Advice is not sought. Opinions hurt. Laughter fades. Coffee cups are left empty. Pain is the tie that binds. We remain just sisters.

Then time does what time does best. It marches on. Each of us has to learn individual lessons about ourselves and about each other. Each of us has to learn how to reconnect with one another; how to let by-gones be by-gones and to let love be love. We can do it for others, so we learn to do it for each other.

This past Thanksgiving, we came together again over coffee around #4’s round oak table, my mother’s formica table long since lost but not forgotten. We are all a little nervous, but soon fall into an old familiar routine of chatting about inappropriate things, giving advice, offering opinions, and much missed laughter.

sisters 2015

Thanksgiving 2015                                                                                                        From left to right: Me (#10, #7, #4, #8, and #5)

 

It’s much easier now, being sisters. We have settled into our lives, dreams met, dreams deferred, perspectives solidified, perspectives changed. We have settled into knowing and accepting each other, understanding rather than judging and forcing change.  We have settled into relationship with one another, choosing it rather than just being born into it.

This circle of coffee ushered in a new phase in our sistering, a more mature, satisfying relationship. A relationship based on respect, honor, and love, not treading on areas where uninvited. I like this phase of sistering. It took us awhile, and many times I mourned it, believing that we would never have it. But now it is here.

Now, we are sisters.

 

Categories: Family, Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Writing Challenge Day 18: A photograph of myself

 

Our “Happy New Year” cards.

Why “Happy New Year” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas”?

 

This one was taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

2014 family photo taken after the Christmas Eve service at our church.

1. We get our family picture taken on Christmas Eve because it is the one time of year we are all together and dressed in color-coordinated clothes nice enough for photographing and mass distribution.

2. By the time I get them to Walgreens for printing it is after Christmas and before New Years.

3. New Year’s Day arrives and I remember to pick them up from Walgreens.

4. January 5th rolls around and I have time to put them in an envelope and address them.

5. It’s about January 17th and my sister has texted me asking if I am ever going to send out the kids’ school pictures. She’s not curious, but bumped into my mother-in-law at Casey’s and was questioned.

6. On or about January 20th or April 3rd, I remember to mail them.

 

 My Uncle Jerry and me

 

My Uncle Jerry and me. Taken at Golden Corral the beginning of December 2014.

December 2014.

Next to my husband and children, Uncle Jerry is my most favorite person on the planet. We have been best buds since I was eight years old. The summer of 1982, I wore a Meatloaf (the band) tshirt to his house, and he called me Meatloaf until I graduated from High School. Uncle Jerry makes the world a much nicer and more humorous place to live. I love him.

 

Happy New Year!

Categories: Daily Writing Challenge, Family, Holidays, Parenting | Leave a comment

2013 in review

So here it is, 2014.  I remember celebrating the New Year in 1985 and thinking, “Wow, it feels like 1982.” I was a senior in high school in ’85 and finally felt like I could make it in high school.

It takes me a little longer than most to build confidence, but I get there eventually.

When I started blogging in September 2011, I was far from confident that I could generate any type of following, but I did.  I have my 2013 New Year’s resolution – to be better – and family, friends and some awesome fellow bloggers to thank for that.

Was I better in all things? No, not at all, but I made progress in many areas:

  • Health – getting a better grip on my hypothyroidism and Hoshimoto’s decease.  With diet, exercise, and a vitamin regimen of athletic champions I am feeling tremendously better. 😉
  • Driving – I almost made it all year without getting a speeding ticket. Blast you Perry, GA!  Even with that one ticket, I still finished 2013 better than 2012. One more year doing “better” and I’m no longer considered high risk. Whew!
  • Parenting – I took a huge step into the completely uncomfortable and decided to homeschool F and Z this year.  I am not saying in the least that homeschooling makes me a better mother, because I don’t believe that it does; however, it has provided the time needed to uncover deeper causes of some troubling issues.  I am confident that with the information gained I can be a better parent.  I’m just not convinced the discovery is weighty enough to balance the intellectual and emotional scarring they’ve experienced by having me as their teacher.   Only time will tell.
  • WalMart – I didn’t step foot into a WalMart store for all of 2013, and I am a much better person for it! Not to mention my pocketbook is much happier, too.
  • Work – Continuing to tutor homeschooled students in various levels of high school English, I’ve also taken an adjunt English instructor position with an area community college.  I’m not sure how I’m going to juggle all of it, but I’m pretty sure Adderall will be a key player.
  • Financial – In July, I started listening to David Ramsey’s Financial Freedom seminars through Gateway and reading his blog.  I have my budget, my cash, and my plan.  One small credit card paid off, car to be paid off by March, and the first of two big credit cards to be paid by the end of 2014.  You may not understand the magnitude of this step in the better direction. It’s *hands spread shoulder-width apart, fingers spread and bent as if to catch a basketball, and with a deep voice say…* BETTER!

I didn’t do so hot with my reading list or my writing, but I’m not going to allow those two perceived failures to squelch the contentment I feel.  Something has to give, right? Seriously, if I had to choose between spending countless hours completing my book list or spending countless hours discovering what is troubling my child, I am obviously going to spend those hours on my child. Although, it would have been a lot less painful reading the books.   😉

On the lighter side of things, “the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for” me, and I’m quite happy with it.  My blog stats are better than last years (largely in part to gaining new readers, so thank you new readers of my blog for making my year successful), so I’m feeling good, my friends.  Feeling good, indeed.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report. It’s worth a look. I especially liked the map of the world. I can’t believe people in India read my writing!

So what’s my resolution for 2014?  Is it a cop out to keep the same resolution – to be better?

As I said last year, “I don’t have to beat myself up by not making big enough strides […], because in reality, the goal [to become the best person I can be] is unattainable; however, I can be better. And if I don’t consult the devilish stick that measures me against other people and stick to one simple question – Am I better than I was? – then I can do it.”

I like being better.

How about you?  What is your 2014 resolution?

Categories: Education, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Personal, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Grown-up Christmas List

I wish I could say that my list is so altruistic that includes peace on Earth and that all orphans would find a home. Although peace on Earth would be really cool, and deep down I, of course, wouldn’t turn it down if it actually happened, my Christmas list is more realistic and closer to home.

My 2014 Christmas List
1. A new red crockpot crock. I use my crockpot so much an extra crock would come in handy.

2. A big, chunky, square coffee table, preferably in dark wood, no glass or metal and a shelf on the bottom for blanket storage. But I’m not picky.

3. A housekeeper to come in twice a month and give my house a good scrubbing. Again, I could do it myself, but I’m lazy.

4. Warm, fuzzy house shoes or slippers. What, exactly, is the difference between the two?

5. A bulldog puppy. I already have two dogs, but bulldogs are so quirky.  I need a quirky dog.

6. More readers. Not readers of this blog; although, that would be nice. I’m talking about the little half glasses, specticals if you will, that help old people read tiny print. I used to have a pair for every room in the house, and now I can’t find any of them. So a few pair of readers, preferably red ones.

7. A year supply of ginko biloba, so I can remember where I put my new red readers.

8. To have more smiles than frowns. It’s a residual gift: then my kids have more smile than frowns, and that gives me more smiles than frowns, which causes them to have more smiles than frowns, and on, and on, and on it goes…

Thats the list. Much of it I could buy for myself. I’m just lazy. I want someone to buy it for me.

What’s on your Christmas list?

Categories: Family, Holidays, Personal | Tags: , , , , | 7 Comments

A Hot Chocolate-less Winter

As we prepared this weekend for an ice storm, my kids wanted to make sure that I had enough hot chocolate in the pantry to get us through the predicted two-day event. (The fact that an ice storm can bring the Mid-south to a stand still is the topic of an upcoming post.)

If it wasn’t for my children, hot chocolate would not be a winter-time staple in my house. I prefer a hot chocolate-less winter.

cup of hot chocolate

I don’t like hot chocolate.  I did, but I don’t now.  The journey from there to here is an interesting story that all started with a bad decision.

Growing up in a the Midwest where the winters were (and still are) relatively frigid, warm liquids were (and still are) a must.   My mother made hot chocolate mix from scratch and kept it in an ice cream bucket on the kitchen counter for easy access.  My brother, #9, and I could make a piping hot cup at any time of the day without requiring assistance from our mother.  This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending upon the one’s individual decision-making skills.

On a particularly cold afternoon after playing outside, my brother and I came in to warm ourselves with some hot chocolate.  We put the pan of water on the stove, brought it to a rolling boil, and then poured it into the cups that had a measured amount of chocolate mix in them.  There was a slight ting in our icy fingers as we wrapped them around the hot cups of chocolate.  As our hands began to thaw, we placed our faces over the cup allowing the steam to warm our faces and to breathe in the silky promise of warm chocolate.  #9 stuffed his cup with a mountain of marshmallows, and I aligned a simple layer to cover the top. While I sipped my cup of hot chocolate, my brother drank his quickly and made another. By the time I had finished my one cup, he easily had drunk two cups of hot chocolate and had eaten two mountains of marshmallows.

Later that evening after supper, we were in the living room watching television with my parents when my brother asked Mom to please make him a cup of hot chocolate.  He could have easily made it himself, but everyone knows that a cup of hot chocolate made by your mother is much more satisfying.  It is always just the right temperature and is made with just the right ratio of milk and mix, and mothers always know the perfect amount of marshmallows to grace the top.  When Mom returned with his requested cup of hot chocolate, #9 drank it quickly and asked for another one.  She made it for him, again with the perfect combination of ingredients and love.  He again drank it quickly.

“Be careful,” Mom warned #9. “You’re going to make yourself sick.”

He asked for another cup.  And she made it for him.  And he slurped it down.  And she warned him again.  He told her he was fine, and he went and made himself another cup.

After watching Archie Bunker, Hawkeye, and Carol Burnette, we were The_Carol_Burnett_Showsent to bed.  At that time, my brother and I shared a room and we slept in bunk beds.  I slept in the top bunk because the bottom bunk was too enclosed, and I would have nightmares.  Although #9 was the oldest and would have preferred the top, he resigned himself to the bottom bunk, claiming it was too far to crawl to the top anyway.  But that night, #9 decided that he was going to sleep in the top bunk and that I had to take the bottom.  I vehemently opposed the idea based on the certainty of having a wild nightmare that would end in me crying out for my mother.  #9 would not concede.  He resolutely climbed to the top bunk and buried himself under my blankets.  I then had to crawl into his bunk.

Lying in the bottom bunk looking up at the metal springs that kept the upper bunk and my brother from falling, crushing the air out of me and immobilizing me to the point I would slowly suffocate to death, I began to panic.  Foreboding thoughts of dying in the middle of the night without any way of screaming out for help, only to be found the next morning by mother who would be grief stricken for the rest of her life, started swirling in my head.  Becoming claustrophobic from panic and needing air, I moved my pillow to the outside of the bed, so I could sleep with my head hanging half way off of the bed.  In that position I fell asleep.

In that position I was abruptly awakened by a sudden onslaught of regurgitated now not-hot hot chocolate. In the middle of the night, my brother’s stomach decided that 6+ cups of hot chocolate, although delicious, was too much to digest and needed a little relief. Now wide awake but not knowing what hit me (literally), #9 unloaded on my head again. I jumped out of bed to see him hanging over the upper bunk, slimy liquid dripping from his lips. “Mom!” I yelled, ran out of the room, down the hall and stopped at my parents door.  We were not allowed to just barge in, so I stood outside their door waiting for one of my parents to come out. I waited for a few seconds, but neither one of them appeared in the door to help me.  So I decided to try again.

I drew in a deep breath and screamed at the top of my lungs, “Moooooooooooom! #9 is puking up his guts!”  It took about 0.00001 of a second for my mother to appear in the doorway, barely look at me, and run down the hall to assist my brother.  Mom grabbed #9 out of bed and flung him into the bathroom that was across the hall all in one quick motion.  With my brother’s stomach content dripping from my hair and face, I stood in the doorway waiting my turn to be cleaned up.  When she came out of the bath room, she looked at me in surprise and asked, “What happened to you?”  I was dumbfounded. I wanted to say, in the words of the mid-1970s, “Duh,” but my mother would have slapped me for being smart.  I chose to answer her honestly. “He puked on me.”

The rest of the night was pretty typical; mom got us both cleaned off and the bedroom cleaned up.  She put on fresh sheets, gave #9 a puke bucket, and made him lie down in the bottom bunk where I would be safe if he missed the bucket.

Dad slept through the entire ordeal.

Once you have had hot chocolate spewed on you by a sibling, you no longer crave hot chocolate as you did before.  In fact, it quite possibly could make you never want to see, smell or, God forbid, drink the wintery beverage ever again.

swiss miss

We try to do things, or overcome things, for those that we love, so I bought the 45 cup container of Swiss Miss and two half gallons of Vanilla Almond Milk.

They only get two cups a day.

Categories: #9, Bad Decisions, Family, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Spring Break: Pigeon Forge

Last year I packed up the kids and headed to Kentucky for Spring Break. This year, I was going to take them to Nashville to continue the search for my great-great grandfather, but my husband had a better idea.

We rented a cabin in the Smokey Mountains. It was cold and rainy, but even in less than perfect conditions the Smokey Mountains were spectacular.

The soundtrack to Les Misérables played as we drove up winding, narrow yet nicely paved mountain roads to Clingmans Dome, the highest point of the Smokey Mountains, in hopes of seeing three states: West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

This is what we saw:

wpid-IMAG1241.jpg

We were a little less than thrilled with the view.  After watching the cloud move around us for a few minutes, G wanted to leave the dome, but I noticed that the view had changed to this:

image

The cloud had thinned enough that we could make out another mountain top in the distance, so I made G wait to see what would happen.

In a matter of seconds, the view had changed to this:

image

And to this just a couple of seconds later:

image

And then we saw this!!

image

In a total of three minutes, the clouds had opened upon this spectacular view, and I broke out in Fantine’s “So different now than what it seemed!”  G’s eyes snapped on me, “No, Mom. Just… No.”  I can see her point, but in my defense, at that moment, that particular line, taken completely out of context, worked.

It stayed clear for about five minutes, long enough for the lovely young couple standing next to us to have G snap a gazillion pictures of them with their pre-toddler,  and then the clouds gathered themselves together to keep it all from us once again.

That evening, I had this wonderful view:

wpid-IMAG1261.jpg

It took me all of ten minutes to fall asleep.  It snowed for the next two days, blanketing the mountain in a thin layer of snow.  I don’t know if a bad experience can be had in the Smokey Mountains.

I have thought a lot about those eight minutes quite a bit in the week that has followed. What a very real illustration of how circumstances can change given time. Had G and I given up and exited Clingmans Dome mere seconds before, we would have missed a breathtakingly surreal moment.  Sometimes things in our lives do not seem to be what we expected. We know it’s there. We just can’t see it. Given a little time, the clouds clear and something beautiful happens. We just have to be willing to wait for it.

Categories: Education, Family, Holidays, Parenting, Vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

President’s Day and Morning Decisions

photo credit: kcparent.com

photo credit: kcparent.com

Today is President’s Day. Which means

there is no school. Which means

the kids are home all day. Which means

I’m going to need more coffee than usual. Which means

the Keurig will not be able to keep up. Which means

I will need to dig out the coffee maker that hasn’t seen

the light of day since Mother’s Day last year.

Categories: Holidays, Humor, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Lesson on Valentine’s Day

Our church has a group of courageous high school students who want to experience an uncommon depth in their relationship with Christ. Recently, I and the youth pastors took them to a homeless shelter to serve supper. The students donated the ingredients for chili, prepared it and served it.

Below is a my morning post to the group’s Facebook page. Some of it will make sense, but parts of it won’t. Just read.

So it’s Valentine’s Day…. 
The day of luuuuuuuuv…
Yep…
I’m not going to talk about that.

 How many of you have been thinking non-stop about your experience with serving at the homeless shelter?  
Yeah, me, too.

 Of all of the needs that were pointed out to us, I keep coming back to one thing (and it really isn’t a need): the heart of giving that Pastor Burnett possesses.  Did you know that when he found out there was a single mother with two children who had no furniture except two beds for her children, he packed up his own living room – HIS OWN LIVING ROOM – couches, tv, end tables, lamps, the works! and gave it to her, so she could feel like she had a home.

Yes, I’m crying as I write this.

Maybe this is about love after all ’cause folks, that’s love.

That’s love.

 Acts 30:35 (AMP) In everything I have pointed out to you [by example] that, by working diligently thus we ought to assist the weak, being mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, “It is more blessed – makes one happier and more to be envied – to give than to receive.”

The student’s willingness to go somewhere foreign and uncomfortable has kindled a flame in our church. People in the church are literally coming out to of the woodwork wondering how they can be involved. Those teenagers have no idea what they have stirred in our adults.

They just want to go back.

Categories: Education, Faith, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

My 2013 Bucket List

Okay, it’s really not, by definition, a bucket list, but a list of things I want to do this year.

Photo Credit: dadt.com

Photo Credit: dadt.com

  • Ice skate at Rockefeller Center in New York City
That's me in the white sweater caught in the middle of a spin. Not really, but it's fun to dream. Photo Credit: patinagroup.com

That’s me in the white sweater caught in the middle of a spin. Not really, but it’s fun to dream.
Photo Credit: patinagroup.com

  • Identify my great-great-grandfather’s parents. I’ve tried to find them for decades, like my father before me. Genealogy is an addiction.
  • Dip my toes in the ocean. I’m not picky. Any ocean will do.

It’s a simple list, but very realistic, as long as I can talk my husband into it.

Categories: Exercise, Holidays, Vacation | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Thanksgiving Poem

My husband attended a one-room country school in Northeast Nebraska in the mid-’70s, and one year, like the majority of elementary school children, was tasked with writing a Thanksgiving poem.

So satisfied with the result of putting his hand to paper that, in 2003 when G’s third grade class compiled recipes for a  Thanksgiving cookbook, my husband tried to convince her to submit the poem with her recipe.
He has recited this little ditty for so long that the poem has become our family’s traditional call to feast.

After joining hands and giving God praise and thanks for His protection and provision, my husband will look at us and say:

I like turkey.
You like turkey.
We all like turkey,
So let’s gobble, gobble, gobble!

Pretty awesome, huh?

Happy Thanksgiving y’all!!

Categories: Education, Faith, Food, Holidays, Humor, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments