Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Day 13 - Mom and the Wendy's Napkin

Wow!  That's a boring picture!  But the sight of a Wendy's napkin will always remind me of my mom.

I don't have that many specific Christmas related memories of Mom.   About all I do remember is her being frantic and exhausted.   When I was 10-ish, we changed the family tradition from eating a big fancy Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents to having it at our house.  So Mom had that to deal with.  And when I was a child, Santa decorated our tree.  Christmas Eve morning, we'd put it up and put the lights on, but Santa put all the decorations on.  And there were a LOT of decorations!  There were plenty of Christmas mornings when I'd get up and be excited because Mom was already up and in the bathroom.  What I didn't realize is that she was in there brushing her teeth before she went to bed, not because she'd just gotten out of bed.

Christmas day involved opening gifts and Mom fixing a real breakfast.  Christmas day was the only day she ever cooked breakfast.  The other 364 days of the year we ate toast or frozen waffles or cereal.  After our big breakfast, we'd head out to my cousin's for a big lunch then back to our house for what Mom called our "Thank God It's Over!" party.  That gathering was very casual.  We'd have soup and ham biscuits, a few deserts and what ever other people brought.  Anyone and everyone was invited, and folks were encouraged to show up in their bedroom slippers.  But even though that party was casual, Mom used the good china.  There was a lot of clean-up involved.  No wonder she was always frantic and exhausted!

So, what does a Wendy's napkin have to do with it?  Well, let's see if I can explain without making myself sound like a horrible, horrible person.

A few years ago, my healthy as a horse mom had her first heart "episode" just before Halloween.  She spent a week in the hospital, was sent home, had a week there and was sent back to the hospital.  This time, 8 days in the hospital, and home for 4.  Next time it was 10 days in the hospital, 3 days at home.  This went on and on until just before Christmas.  We all knew that she was dying, but the doctors were determined to keep her alive through Christmas.   Mom seemed to be ok with her fate.  She was nervous about dying, but not of death.  She was worried about being in pain, but she was confident of her place in Heaven.  She was also in her upper 80's and had outlived the majority of her friends and had recently lost her sight.  Mentally, she was ready.

A day to two before her last trip to the hospital, she'd had a cancerous spot on her leg removed.  That doctor sent her home with instructions to change the bandage daily.  A few days later, she had another episode that landed her back in the hospital.  The admitting doctor knew that this was her last trip in and they didn't write up the orders to change that bandage.  My mom was obsessed with that bandage being changed though and during one of my & my sister's visits, Mom began to rant about it.  My sister, being the good daughter that she is, took it upon herself to fix the problem.  We didn't have access to a Bandaid, but we did have a Wendy's napkin.  Cary, my sister, replaced the dirty bandage with the Wendy's napkin and some Scotch tape that happened to be in the room.  That napkin stayed taped to Mom's leg for days.

On Christmas Eve morning, Mom was sounding chipper over the phone.  The family, minus Mom, got together at my sisters for dinner as we do every year.  After dinner, my sister packed up a few left-overs and we all headed to the hospital to visit Mom.  When we got there, it was obvious that she wasn't so chipper anymore.  It looked like she'd recently suffered a stroke.  She was able to say "Hi folks" when we walked in, but those were the last words she ever said.
Another family tradition we have is reading The Night Before Christmas.  It has been read to my mother, to me and to my kids every year of our lives.  Tradition says the oldest male reads it.  Since my dad's death, that means my brother-in-law gets the honor.  He'd brought the book to the hospital and we all gathered around Mom for the reading.  Somehow, the nursing staff found out what was getting ready to happen and they all gathered around Mom's hospital door.  A few on-call doctor's joined in and even a few patients in wheel chairs.  There was quite the gathering outside Mom's door.  I think it took about two hours to read the poem because everyone was crying so hard.  We kept having to pause to collect ourselves.

After the reading, everyone but my sister and I left the hospital.  My sister and I had decided to spend the night.  Mom wasn't expected to make it through the night and we wanted to be there with her.  At 5:24 a.m. on Christmas morning, Mom quietly passed away.  As we were leaving the hospital for the final time, my sister and I realized that Mom still had that Wendy's napkin taped to her leg.  Between the exhaustion and the emotion of loosing our mother, we were a little slap-happy and we both fell into hysterical giggling fits laughing at what the morgue would think.

So, for the rest of my life, a yellow Wendy's napkin will always bring a bitter sweet smile to my face.  Merry Christmas, Mom.  I love and miss you more than I ever thought possible.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 12 - Merry Marital Bliss

After we had our first child, I decided to leave the work force and stay home with him.  I had a little trouble adjusting to being home with a newborn.  I loved spending time with my child, but I missed the social aspects of going to work each day, not to mention the paycheck.  And now that I look back, I realize that I was probably having some hormonal, “baby blues” problems too.  In an effort to cheer me up, my dear sweet husband gave me a diamond tennis bracelet for Christmas.  A bracelet I’d always wanted, but one we could NOT afford.  Without telling him I was going to do it, I returned the bracelet and replaced it with the cheapest thing the store had in stock - a plain gold wedding band.  I then went to the bank and made a couple of mortgage payments with the refunded money.  I was scared to death to tell Mike what I’d done, but it turns out he was pretty relieved.  He said that he’d gotten a rather sick feeling the moment he’d walked out of that store with the bracelet.  So, now, I wear the cheap wedding ring every day with pride.   Merry Christmas, Mike.  I love you!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Day 11 -

This is not the prettiest ornament I have but if the stories are correct, it belonged to my great grandmother, which makes it close to, if not more than, 100 years old.  The face is made of wax while the clothes are velvet.  I’m not sure if it’s handmade or not.  The clothing looks like it probably is, but the detail in the face makes me wonder.     My grandmother was quite artistic though, so perhaps her mother was too.  Anyway, even though this one creeps me out a little, it’s proudly hung on our tree each year.
I never knew my great grandmother, but my grandmother is one of those people who, when I think of them, a zillion different memories zoom through my brain.  There were the summers I spent with her at the river, there was her famously bad driving, there was the story about her sliding down the steps on a crib mattress, and the story of her chasing a bat around the inside of her house.  And her house, I'll never forget the way her house smelled.  Sort of a perpetual essence of baked macaroni and cheese.  

Merry Christmas, Ti.  I miss you!

#10 - Liza

I love this little ornament.  I loved it more when it still had the little red bow that was tied around the top.  A dear friend, Liza, gave me this beachy ornament as a reminder of all the fun we’d had together in Key West.  Liza used to live there and I had many fun and exciting visits.  I liked this ornament so much that I made several and gave them as gifts the following year.  

Liza made me another ornament before she passed away.  This one is very simple but I’ve always loved it.  It’s huge and does a fantastic job filling in that hole that every tree seems to have, plus the gold paint does a great job of reflecting the tree’s lights.

I have so many wonderful memories of Liza I could overflow the internet if I tried to include them all.  Luckily for you, & the internet's storage capacity, many of those memories include things I wouldn't necessarily want my family, children or prospective employers to know about so I won't list them all here.  Liza and I met in secretarial school.  On that fateful first day of school, we each noticed the other from across the room and instantly took a dislike to each other.   I thought she was the most uppity prepster I'd ever seen.  She looked like a walking watermelon in her preppy pink & green dress with her pink & green hair bow.  An actual bow for goodness sakes!  She instantly thought I was the biggest snob she'd ever seen.  By the end of the day, we were best friends and inseparable. 

A few years after we'd graduated, Liza moved to Key West.  It wasn't long before she became slightly homesick.  I have no idea how she could possibly be homesick in that setting, but....  In any event, we wrote each other letters frequently.  And yes, I'm showing my age.  This was all waaaaay before the internet.  There were certain things Liza missed.  Things like fall leaves, the smell of woodsmoke on the crisp fall air, snow of course, and Wendy's hamburgers.  There wasn't a Wendy's in the Keys back then, in fact, I don't remember there being any fast food places at all.  Being the excellent friend that I was, I mailed her care packages every now and then.  I included things like pretty fall leaves, a piece of charred & burnt wood,  and a jar of snow, which I bet wasn't snow by the time it reached her.  And of course, yes, you guessed it - a Wendy's hamburger.  She in turn mailed me things like sand, sea shells and dead fish & a sea urchin.  I'm sure the postal service enjoyed delivering our packages!  LOL

I decided to share that memory because I just received an unexpected package from another friend, Kate, who I've already mentioned here.  Although there was nothing dead or stinky in it, receiving Kate's package reminded me of Liza.  In fact, Kate reminds me a bit of Liza.  They are both incredibly kind & giving people.  Neither of them ever have an unkind word to say about anyone and they always have a smile on their face.  Liza's life was cut way too short, but her memory lives on in the hearts of many.
Merry Christmas, Liza!  And a Merry Christmas to you too, Kate.  I LOVE my GU!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 9 - Strange Gifts

Fara was/is a fellow homeschooling mom and dear friend.  Her kids have long since graduated and we don’t see as much of each other as we used to but we continue to keep in touch via email.  However, Fara occasionally sends me the absolute best gifts via snail mail.  Her gifts are always strange, but very thoughtful.  One year, she sent me a six pack of Coke in the small, green bottles.  Happy Holidays, Fara!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day 8 - The Birds

Another Daddy memory.  Dad had a set of bird ornaments from his youth and as a child, they always freaked me out a bit.  Why, I have no idea, but I did not like those birds.  Besides this red one, there was a slightly smaller glittery silver one and an even smaller gold metallic one.  The gold one sits on a small metal spring so it wiggles just a bit.  Maybe that metallic bird sitting on the tree & wiggling slightly is what bothered me so much - I really don't know.  Now, they don't bother me at all.  They aren't my favorites, but they don't scare me like they used to.  Anyway, they were Dad's, he loved them so they continue to go on the tree each year.

And since it's snowing today, and snow always makes me think of my dad, I'll tell of another Daddy story.  Dad worked for VDOT - "the Highway Department" back then.  Dad had many duties, mainly supervising the building of certain stretches of the highways.  But Dad also served "snow duty."  Whenever it snowed, Dad always took a turn driving either a plow or a sand truck.

I grew up respecting the folks that cleared the roads.  While others would be complaining about the conditions of the roads, I was thanking those men that spent long, cold shifts working in blinding snow, sleet or freezing rain trying to maintain the roads.  While others complained about their cars being hit by sand & salt as they passed a sand truck, I heard my dad telling stories of how dangerous those passing cars are for the snow plows.  Stories of the plows & sand trucks being run off the road by out of control cars.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard the lecture about how if the people would just stay off the roads for a few hours, the highway department could do their jobs much easier and quicker.

But to get to the funny story....  It was the winter after my sixteenth birthday, and I know it was that year because I'd received a phone in my room as a birthday gift.  Having my own phone, a pretty white Princess phone,  was a big deal back then.  Anyway, it was the first night-time snow fall of the year.  The phone rang during the night, I promptly answered it, mumbled "hello" then shoved the receiver under my pillow and went back to sleep.  It wasn't too much later when the blue lights started flashing outside our house and someone began to bang, quite loudly, on our front door.  The State Police had been called out to come rouse Dad.  The phone call had been from the highway department calling Dad up for snow duty.  When they didn't reach him, they sent the police.   After giving me a quick, but stern talking to, Dad was off to duty.

Another time, Dad returned home from snow duty around 3:00 a.m.  He pulled into the alley because State trucks, which he drove, were not allowed to be parked on the city streets.  Dad promptly got stuck in the snow.  He called for a plow to come give him a push.  The plow, with it's yellow flashing lights showed up, started to push and then it became stuck.  A sand truck was called.  Meanwhile, a local city police cruiser had come along, seen what was going on and stopped - with it's lights going.  Eventually, the sand truck was able to get all the vehicles un-stuck and they went on their way, but not before every single house in the entire neighborhood had been awakened by all the flashing lights.  

Merry Christmas, Dad.  While I sure miss you, I'm awfully glad you aren't out on the roads risking life & limb in a snow plow.  Although, honestly, I think you secretly enjoyed it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 7 - Dad & the Angel

My dad gave me this angel in 1983, I think it was.  It was to celebrate my first tree in my first apartment.  Personally, I think the angel is pretty ugly as angels go - it’s got red glitter on it & the cardboard cone under her skirt shows.   I’m sure Dad bought it at the local drug store while making a cigarette run.  And Dad was color blind and insisted the red glitter was blue and that it looked like snow.  But I don’t care how ugly the angel is or how much Dad spent on her.  She’ll always be special to me because my dad picked it out himself.  
I have a totally different Christmas memory of Dad as well.  Dad and his Christmas lists.    I loved Dad’s lists. You could buy everything on it for under $5.  And it was detailed!  He would not only ask for a certain size nail or screw, but he’d ask for a certain number of them.  He’d have a project in mind and know that he needed eight screws and that’s what he’d ask for.  And you better bloody well not buy nine because that would be wasteful!  Index cards were another thing on the list.  Almost every year he asked for index cards.   Some Number 2 pencils and a package of pipe cleaners  were normally on the list as well.  The pipe cleaners had to be a special kind though - they weren’t the fuzzy, crafty kind.  Each year it became more & more difficult to locate the kind he wanted which added a bit of excitement to shopping for Dad.  And then there was the year he bought himself a Dremel.  That year, he asked for a couple of attachments for it.  It was also the year I’d met my husband-to-be.  We had more fun going from store to store trying to locate the attachments.  Back then, Dremels were new and not so popular and not many places carried a variety of parts for them.  So now, not only do I think of my dad every year when I see someone’s Christmas list but also each time my husband drags me off to Lowe’s or Home Depot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Day 6 - Gloating

Yesterday, I was reminded of a tradition my sister and I used to have.  My kids were comparing stocking size.  Who had the biggest?  Zack’s is wider but Sarah’s is slightly longer.  They duked it out for a while and even got their father involved in the measurements.  The argument came to a close when Sarah announced that it didn’t matter if hers looks slightly smaller, hers always contains better gifts.  And with that, she stomped off.  Argument over.
My sister & I didn’t compare stockings, we compared gifts.  Specifically, the size of the gifts.  We didn’t care if one of us got more than the other, or the cost of the gifts.  We simply wanted long gifts.  As soon as the presents started piling up, we’d start gloating.  We’d draw a starting line on the living room carpet, and start lining our gifts up end to end.  Who ever had the longest line of gifts won.  We’d do this daily.  Sometimes multiple times a day.  And while we may have dreamed of receiving ear rings for Christmas, we asked for brooms, mops, yard sticks or hoola-hoops.  Anything that might give us an edge to the Gloat.
Merry Christmas, Cary!

And Santa, I wouldn't mind receiving some grout around the fireplace tiles.  :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 5 - Leroy

Meet Leroy.  My sister is ten years older and when I was somewhere between six and ten, she bought me a wooden Christmas ornament kit to paint.  This was one of the ornaments and it became my father's favorite.  Dad named him Leroy and Leroy always had to be hanging on the tree so that he was clearly visible from Dad's chair.  I have no idea why Dad liked this particular ornament so much.  Maybe I'd attached it to Dad's gift so it was officially "his."  Or not.  I really don't remember.  I just remember how funny Dad was about insisting he be able to see Leroy.  Now, Leroy has become as important to me, if not more so, because he reminds me of my dad.  Merry Christmas, Dad.  I miss you!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day 4

This ornament was handmade by Don Garber back in the 80’s.  I worked for Don in the audit department of Virginia Federal Savings & Loan.  As I recall, Don’s life centered around turkey hunting - with a bow.  I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing these days, but each time I see this ornament, I think of him and how much I enjoyed working with him.

And in case you are wondering about the fuzzy photo, it's a mouse sleeping in a nut shell.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Day 3 of 30

My kids call Kate (on the right) my imaginary friend.  I met her through http://www.sparkpeople.com/, a wonderful, free, healthy lifestyle website.  Kate lives on the West Coast but was here on the East Coast for a visit last Christmas.  I was so excited to get to meet her in person.  We didn’t get to spend much time together, she was passing through Virginia on her way to somewhere else.  In a blizzard.  But even with the weather, she took the time to meet up with me.  I’ll always thank Kate for her gift of time, not to mention what she’s done for my running.  But that’s a whole other blog. Even though we’ve only spent about 15 minutes face to face, our friendship has developed on line and we’ve become close, like sisters.  Kate encourages me to live a healthier life.  She encourages me to eat healthier and she encourages me to run.  It is Kate's voice I hear telling me to suck it up and get on with it when I know I should run but don't feel like it.  It is Kate's smile I picture while I'm running and it is Kate's voice I hear lecturing me when I'm injured but want to run anyway.   Merry Christmas, Kate!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 2 of 30 Christmas Memories

Each year, my in-laws have visited Florida and brought us back a crate of tomatoes.  It is always wonderful to have fresh tomatoes in December.  Unfortunately, my father-in-law passed away a few years ago, but the tomato tradition lives on.  Thanks and Merry Christmas, Irene!  And, Rex, we miss you!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday multi-tasking

I've been plugging along, working on my 101 in 1001 goals.  It may not look like I've accomplished much from looking at my list over there on the side of this page, but I have been focusing on those goals.  I've committed an hour a day to working on them.  Some days I might spend the entire hour on one item, some days I spend a few minutes on multiple goals and some days I spend a lot more than one hour working on the list.

If you notice, one of the items on the list is to post a photo to this blog every day for 30 days.  I've been a little worried about that one.  What on earth am I going to photograph?  I can only imagine how bored we'd all be if I took 30 photos of the dogs sleeping or the kids playing video games.  I thought about photographing my cooking attempts but I doubt seriously you want to see that either.  Plus, I have a hard enough time cooking.  I can only imagine the disasters I'd create if I was trying to take pictures as I went.  So, what to photograph?

How about photographing Christmas memories?  Each year when I pull out the Christmas decorations, I have my own personal walk down memory lane.  Almost every ornament and/or decoration reminds me of someone or something.  So, what if I photograph the ornaments?  That might be a good idea.  There are a few important people in my life that don't relate to a specific ornament, however.   I wouldn't want to leave anyone out so for those folks, I'll just throw in a photo of something that reminds me of them.  

So, in no particular order....

The above is a beautiful wreath given to me by my friends, the Mount family.  Their son, Logan, made it and the wreath always hangs on our back door.  While it sounds like it's not getting much of a place of honor, it actually is.  The washing machine is right there beside that door and I spend an awful lot of time at the washing machine.  During the Christmas holidays, I have the opportunity to think of my friends while I do the laundry.   Merry Christmas, Mounts!


Uh-oh!  I might be in some serious trouble.  I think I've learned to bake bread from scratch.  My inability to make edible bread has been a major source of irritation for me for years.  My dad used to make homemade rolls and it looked so simple, and they tasted so divine!  My attempts at rolls have always been disastrous.  Instead of nice, soft rolls, I make hockey pucks.  Even when I made the dough with the bread machine, I ended up with small, hard, unrisen hockey pucks.  Over the years, I've attempted to make loaves of bread as well as rolls with basically the same result.  Instead of small hockey pucks, my loaves turn into bricks.

I recently discovered a book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/  The theory behind their recipe(s) is that you make a huge batch of unkneaded dough, stick it in the refrigerator and over the next two weeks, you cut chunks of dough off and bake it.  Simple.  Making the dough really was a breeze.  Stir together some water, a lot of flour, a little salt & yeast and presto!  Dough!  It literally took me longer to gather the few ingredients than it did to make the dough.  I stuck the dough in the fridge and the next day, I cut off a chunk and baked.  And...

Bread!  Ok, it's a little small.  I needed to use a larger chunk of dough, but the point is, I got bread!  Yummy, delicious bread.  And best of all, I still have a great big Tupperware container of dough in the fridge just waiting to be baked.  I can have fresh, warm, yummy delicious, homemade bread again today!   I might be in serious trouble.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My new obsession with knitting lace...

Finally!  I finally finished a lace knitting project.  I have been trying for years and years it seems but I always either screw it up so badly it's not worth fixing, or I give up on it because it's 'too hard' and takes too much concentration.  But not this time.  This time, I actually finished two projects within days of each other.  I loved knitting both of these items.  While I did have to pay attention to what I was doing, I didn't begin to have the struggles I've had with past lace attempts.  I find myself wondering why.  I wonder if the fact that I'm eating so much healthier is affecting my brain and allowing me to do more difficult tasks.  I also wonder if the running has calmed me to the point that I can stay focused on something difficult.  Or, perhaps, I've finally matured a bit.  Nah, probably not.

Ok, once again, I seriously need to take a photography class.

But there they are.  A shawl and a scarf.  In the above picture, they are being blocked.  I was a bit terrified of the blocking process but it turned out to be a lot of fun.  It was absolutely amazing how a shawl that was only about three feet wide at it's widest point grew into something about six feet wide and the weird lumps along the edges turned into points.  Very cool.

Here's a little detail:

The pattern is the Meadow Flowers Shawl from Knitters Stash http://www.amazon.com/Knitters-Stash-Favorite-Patterns-Americas/dp/1883010896   The yarn is Gloss Lace in the Sterling colorway from KnitPicks.  http://www.knitpicks.com/yarns/Gloss_Lace_Yarn__D5420172.html    And, I noticed as I posted that link, that a few of the colors are currently on sale.  Awesome, because I'd really like to knit that pattern again.

The scarf was knit with Wildfoote Luxury Sock Yarn in the Purple Splendor colorway.   http://www.brownsheep.com/wls.htm   

The pattern came from The New Knitting Stitch Library  http://www.amazon.com/Knitting-Stitch-Library-Easy-Follow/dp/1579900275  I simply added a garter stitch border to the pattern and voila!  A scarf.  I used two skeins of yarn and it worked out perfectly!  I finished knitting the border repeat and had just enough yarn left to knit the final garter border.  When I was finished, I didn't even have enough yarn left to knit one more row.  

As I said, I thoroughly enjoyed knitting both of these items and I'm now totally obsessed with knitting lace.  Too bad I don't have anymore lace weight yarn in my stash pile.  Sounds like I need to go on a shopping trip!