Every once in a while I stumble across something in my Facebook feed that gives me pause. A friend of mine posted a photo of her adorable grandbaby today, and I just love it. I was inspired to write a verse about it, in fact.
I started to put it over on my poetry blog but I decided not to because I am getting ready to put a new post on there, hopefully in the next day or two. Anyway, this is just for fun.
I can safely say that Christmas 2015 was unlike ANY Christmas I have ever celebrated, and that's saying a lot. I have lived through Christmases where everyone was sick; where my brother couldn't come home and it was just me and the parents; where I didn't have time to bake or decorate or buy gifts or do anything [2004, my daughter's first Christmas in America]. I have seen Christmases when it was freezing cold and we had no electricity. I have seen Christmases when I had to work every day except the 25th [last year]. In summary, I've see a lot of unusual Christmases, but this one?
This one gets a 10 on my Weirdness meter.
It started Christmas Eve. I woke up Thursday morning to booming thunderstorms. It had been raining for 24 hours already. My yard was a sea of mud. I went about my usual routine, except I didn't take Lola to walk. By 11 a.m. my backyard was a LAKE. I took photos but I won't post them because they are really blurry. The water got up about 6 feet from the edge of my patio. I was trying not to freak out. Praying constantly.
The image below explains why we have to pay flood insurance every year. We had the yard graded and french drains put in right after we moved here, but we still get flooding when the conditions are bad.
The image below was my backyard after the waters started receding.
My brother left Columbia to come over to our house around 1:30. Normally it takes him a little over 3 hours. He called me at 5 and said he was sitting in traffic near Covington. He finally made it in at 7:30.
Michael had to work yesterday, from 12 - 5. So Mom and I asked him when he wanted to open presents, Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. He opted for Christmas Eve.
Above, a shirt I found for him that represents Kazakhstan, his birth country. He had to do a presentation for his Public Speaking class last fall, and for the first time he really started researching and studying about his birth country, learning about it from the perspective of an adult, not a child. That's a very good thing. I want him to be proud of where he's from, proud of his Russian and Kazakh heritage. Among other things, I also got him An Illustrated History of Kazakhstan, which he opened towards the end and immediately started reading, much to my delight.
I have to interject a Proud Mama Announcement here. Michael made A's in both his classes he took in Fall 2015. He also worked a lot. So he had a lot going on this fall. He had a car accident right before finals, too. VERY proud of him!
He got a 4 man tent from Uncle Bruce, among other things.
Lola got a toy from Santa and Bruce helped her get it out of the package. She seemed to know it was hers.
I don't need clothes, or very much at all, but I do love to read and I got several books for Christmas.
I was trying to think of something Bruce and Michael could get for me, so I sent them both an email and said I want 4 birdhouses. A neighbor recently tossed out two tall plant holders and I wanted to hang birdhouses instead of plants. I love watching the birds in the yard. We can't do feeders because rats come up from the creek and eat all the food.
Bruce and Michael were supposed to coordinate with each other about the birdhouses. I figured Bruce would get two, and Mike would get two.
They didn't coordinate. Typical guys.
So Bruce got me 4 lovely cedar houses.
Michael went to Michael's Crafts last week and got me 3 birdhouses, and decided to decorate them.
The first one is below. It's quite a work of art, and he says he isn't finished yet. I only got it photographed because he and Bruce went to Home Depot this morning. I left the image big so you can see some of the incredible detail. He was awake all last Wednesday night working on it. I told him he is welcome to decorate them ALL. The birds will be thrilled.
Christmas Day, yesterday, was just weird. It was 75 degrees here! I wore shorts and a tee shirt most of the day. Michael worked from 12 - 5, and Bruce and I visited. Mother didn't feel so great so we didn't have anyone else over.
I spent a good bit of time in the afternoon working on the novel I am writing, which to me is fun.
At Mom's request, Bruce and I cooked a scallop mousse for dinner. It's Alton Brown's recipe. We didn't have the pastry shells so we just put it in a casserole. We used lime juice instead of zest, and spinach leaves instead of parsley but it was still incredibly yummy. We also had mashed Yukon gold potatoes and fresh sauteed spinach. Nobody could hold dessert, but I had made homemade chocolate chip and pecan cookies.
Miracle of miracles - Michael cleaned up the kitchen without being asked. He even hand-washed a dish that had been soaking in the sink and wouldn't fit in the dishwasher.
The fact he has only one hand doesn't stop him from doing anything in the kitchen. He likes to cook. Last week he made 2 batches of sugared pecans and did a terrific job, with no help from me on the second batch except showing him how to beat egg whites.
It didn't rain all day yesterday, thank the Lord.
I hope all y'all had an excellent Christmas [or Hannukah] and you got to eat wonderful food and spend time with family. That's really what it's all about.
In the movie Meet the Parents, which is a favorite movie of ours -- we own it on DVD -- Robert DeNiro's character talks about his family "circle of trust" and although it's sort of sinister and funny, the way he says it, if you take it out of that context it's a perfect metaphor. I have been thinking a lot about circles of trust in the last few days.
If you had to name folks in your "circle of trust" who would you name?
My aunt sent me photos of her birthday luncheon recently, and I bet she would put those ladies in her circle. They all get together and eat a nice lunch out at a restaurant for each others' birthdays, and the birthday girl wears a cute birthday hat. These ladies are all in their 70's and 80's and they all live in the same retirement community. The photos are adorable. My aunt's birthday is unfortunately Christmas Day, so I am glad she has friends who celebrate ahead of time and make her feel special. (Since my birthday is the 4th of July I understand, to some degree, what a bummer it is to have a holiday birthday.)
My son invited a group of boys over last night and they built a fire in our firepit and sat out there for a couple of hours. I made some chocolate chip cookies and took them out there and they devoured them very quickly -- and we're talking several batches of cookies. Michael was happy I made the cookies. He had been in a foul mood all day until he brought his buddies over to sit around the fire. I think just gathering around the fire to talk (and not just stare at phones) is a really good thing for young people.
When I was in Kazakhstan adopting Michael there was a group of Americans all staying at the hotel, all adopting. We all arrived within a few days. We all went our own ways during the day, but in the evening we would gather at a big table in the restaurant to talk over our days and just visit. As a single woman in the country alone, I found it very comforting to have other Americans around me, and I have stayed in touch with some of these folks.
My father always invited people he worked with to come over and eat dinner with us when I was growing up, often giving Mom only 30 minutes' notice that she was going to have to stretch the meal to feed several grown men. She was a good sport about it. The image below is one such dinner but since David brought his wife I know it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment thing.
I couldn't have articulated it last night, but today as I ponder it I realize that in all these instances, being around a group of people we like is a healing experience that I think is much more profound than simply family or friendship.
Of course, as an adoptive mom, I can tell you that loving someone as though they are family really has nothing to do with biology.
I was feeling a tiny bit sad, and nostalgic, as I pored over old photo albums all day Saturday and scanned in a bunch of photos to send to one of my cousins. We were always getting together when I was younger, when Dad and his brothers were alive. The three families got together at the beach, in the mountains, at our lake cottage. We cousins grew up together. I take comfort in the fact that even though I don't see them often, I am in touch with my cousins and feel close to them. Even though we lost my cousin Chris Thompson last summer, we are still a family.
That's most of the group, below. I am standing next to my uncle, who is in a green shirt. It seems like yesterday that that photo was made, but it was 1978, almost 40 years ago. My dad and uncles are gone, and the lady in the black and brown dress is a grandmother. Wow, how time flies.
Since we are close to Christmas now, I just wanted to put this out there for y'all to ponder: who is in your circle of trust? Who do you think you could call at 3 a.m. and say "Hey, I'm in jail in Tijuana and I need you to get down here and bail me out asap!" That scenario is something I ponder in deciding mentally who should be in my own personal "circle of trust." Who is going to be there when I really need help? Who can I count on?
Who do I enjoy just hanging out with?
If you haven't got a circle, build one. If you don't have a big family or they are not close by, you can find folks at work, or church, or in the neighborhood, or a Meetup group. Build a circle, or expand your existing circle. It will enrich your life immeasurably.
OMG am I the only sane person in the universe?! Every one of my bazillion Facebook friends is going to see Star Wars this weekend and me? Well, NOT. And guess what?!? As the song says, I DON"T CARE. I never thought the Star Wars movies were more than marginally interesting. I march to my own drummer. I admit it. I like movies about human beings interacting with each other, not walking away from explosions.
The first Avengers movie bored me so much I fell asleep. Sitting in the theater. I have a friend who has a Ph.D. and he has a 45 minute lecture he gives to unsuspecting friends called Why The Avengers Movie Sucked. He's seen it numerous times, BTW -- he objects to things like Loki not winning in the end because Loki is a GOD, not Robert Downey Jr. in a metal suit. Me? I DON"T CARE who wins. I just needed them to turn the sound down so I could sleep peacefully.
One of my 5,000+ cousins posted this on Facebook a little while ago and it made me chuckle: "So, is Patrick Stewart playing Gandolf again in the new Star Wars?" Another comment which I thought was clever, on that thread: "Ian McCellan is playing Voldemort and Carrie Fisher is that creepy elf looking woman who saves the republic from the Ice Queen."
But who dares malign my girl Carrie?!?
"The Force, just let it in!" - that's the end line of the silliest trailer I have EVER SEEN y'all. AND it's one of the most obnoxious. Carrie Fisher, one of the most brilliant and funny women in the universe, has been doing tons of press to promote this new installment of the franchise and the trailer gives Harrison Ford plenty of time onscreen but only one tiny shot of Carrie, a fraction of a second. Instead we see some twenty-something unknown young girl [see photo below] getting to run around and do interesting things.
Um, HELLO, George Lucas you have betrayed your people. I mean the rest of the Baby Boomers and us tail-end Baby Boomers. It was us, your people, who grew up on the original Star Wars films. WE propelled them into legend. We forked over our hard-earned for tickets and megatons of merchandise. Then you give our girl Carrie some piddly short shrift in the new film? So not fair. So petty.
I checked out the IMDB page for the new movie and it looks like a full-page advertisement. I noticed you cast Andy Serkis [Hobbit? Hobbit? who's got the Hobbit?] and Domhnall Gleeson [hello Weazley twin]. I bet they get more screen time than Carrie.
OK, it's starting to feel like Christmas. Not just because the tree is up. Not just because there are presents under it, and we've sent out and received Christmas cards. What makes Christmas, for me, is MUSIC.
I have been practicing playing Christmas carols on our piano. SO glad we got it tuned last summer. It's a small piano but it has a rich, beautiful tone.
What else makes Christmas special? Food, for one thing. Michael and I tried a recipe today for Sugared Pecans - kind of a pain to stir them every 15 minutes but wow. They are seriously addicting. They should be called Crack Pecans.
Next week is Pumpkin Bread week. The neighbors and some friends will be getting pumpkin bread.
I wish I were better about practicing the piano. I play maybe once a month? I took lessons for five years as a kid, and at one time I could play fairly decently but it's not something I've had time to do lately. After a little practice, I was able to rock Jingle Bells and Away in a Manger. Progress..
The weather here has just been freaky weird. Warm enough to wear short sleeves outside and be perfectly comfortable. I have begonias and geraniums I planted six months ago that are still blooming. Even for Hot-Lanta, that's unusual. I took some photos but they are awful so I'm not posting them. They are lovely but they make me somewhat uncomfortable. I am wondering if we will have a wickedly weird, cold winter..
As I said though, I am in a musical mood.
This is not usually thought of as a Christmas song but it's the perfect song. I've sung Handel's Messiah many times, and it's my favorite song from the entire thing because it's so joyful:
If you prefer something a little lighter, something that's easy to sing along with, another favorite is the wonderful James Taylor, with Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:
Oh, what a sad and happy day this is. Sad for me -- I am sitting here crying -- happy for precious Anton, who is in heaven now. I like to picture him whole and well, laughing and playing, not tormented by Epidermolysis bullosa.
Anton's mama, Vanessa, hasn't updated the blog in a few weeks but she has kept the Facebook page updated. The past few days, she and her husband have sat by Anton's bedside, making sure he was medicated and out of pain. They sang songs, watched movies, climbed up in the bed to hold Anton and love on him, and let his brother and sister stay in the room too, to have as much time as possible with Anton. Also, all the medical folks who have worked so valiantly for months to help him fight EB have come in and out. I don't know how Vanessa did it. I think I would have collapsed. I know her strong faith in the Lord sustains her.
I don't know how one can bear to lose a child if one has no faith. My mother still grieves for the baby she miscarried the first year she was married. When my dad was finally diagnosed with cancer, the one positive thing he was able to focus on was the thought of seeing his older son in heaven, finally. If I had not been able to focus on the knowledge that my dad was going to a better place than here, a place free of pain and worry, I would not have been able to bear my grief. But I know for a fact, just like I know the sun will rise tomorrow, that there IS an existence beyond this earthly one, and it's open to all of us.
This is a description of Anton that I love, written by his mama: Although Anton does go through quite a bit of suffering he is the happiest most content person I have ever been around. His smile and adorable personality light up whatever room he is in. He is truly a joy to be around and we are so blessed to call him our son.
It has been a really hard week for a number of different reasons, and there really hasn't been much to share here that would be of interest to most folks. I've had a ton of work to do, which is good, but it has been tough to do that and take care of Mother [who hasn't felt well this week] and deal with car issues, health insurance issues, etc.
I have shed a lot of tears this week because I've been following the journey of little Anton Delgado, the little boy adopted from Russia who has EB. For more of Anton's incredible story, see Everyone Loves Him:
Anton Delgado was born a twin in Moscow in 2010. His biological parents took home his healthy brother, but abandoned Anton because he had a rare genetic condition called epidermolysis bullosa. Anton's skin is as delicate as butterfly's wings and even the slightest amount of friction can cause crippling blisters.
In 2012, Vanessa and Jason Delgado of Haltom City, Texas, stepped in to adopt Anton from the Russian hospital. Now 5, he is at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital recovering from a bone marrow transplant that will help stem the painful effects of his disease. Vanessa Delgado, 31, tells her family's incredible story of love and courage to TODAY contributor Susan Donaldson James.
Anton has been in the hospital for months, and it looked like the bone marrow transplant was successful until just a couple of weeks ago. Now Anton is not expected to survive because of extensive internal injuries.
I read his mommy's posts on Facebook every day and cry. I wonder why God allows this precious little boy to suffer, but I accept that there is a bigger plan in place, and I thank God for sending Anton here to the US, to a family that so clearly adores him. His mom and dad have strong faith, and that has sustained them through this journey. There are thousands of us who have watched and cheered from the sidelines, myself included, and now our hearts are breaking. I rejoice that little Anton will soon be well, and with Jesus, but he will be very much missed here on earth.
No word on Michael's car yet. Insurance is taking their time in evaluating it. I hope it can be fixed..
I wrote a Christmas letter yesterday and sent it to friends and family. This past year, 2015, has been so challenging for many different reasons, but my faith has held me in place, and sustained me.
One of the few benefits of getting older is that I can look back at tragic or sad events and eventually see the seeds of miracles. God can take even the most heartbreaking event -- for instance my son Michael losing his right hand at the age of 5 -- and turn it into a positive, like me finding Michael's photo and adopting him. I wouldn't have ever met Michael if he had not been placed in the orphanage and then been loved and cared for by his Kazakh caretakers, who worked hard to get him adopted. God Bless everyone at Adoption Ark, too, for helping me with everything.
Michael is the joy of my life.
I miss my daughter every day, though, and pray for her every day. She is on a journey she is not sharing with me right now, which is very sad and scary, but I trust God to look out for her, just as he looked out for my brother in Iraq in 2008.
I am constantly reminding myself to trust the Lord, because he is always with me on this bumpy journey called my life, and he has never let me down yet..
This is one of the funniest things I've ever seen. The girl on the end sounds like a female Dennis Miller. Ryan and the girl in the middle have distinct southern accents. Not sure why that was supposed to be more funny, but whatever..
I've struggled with the idea that there is any benefit whatsoever to practicing gratitude, but in the back of my mind I do sense that it's worthwhile. I get a knot jerked in my tail (I love expressions like that) every once in a while when I reflect on the fact that I actually live a very privileged life.
According to The Science Behind Gratitude (and how it can change your life): "People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they're thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. And gratitude doesn't need to be reserved only for momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pie."
I am grateful for many things, and being an American is in the top five. I remember how off-kilter I always feel when I'm in a foreign country. Travel is great, but it's also stressful.I basically lived in Kazakhstan for 3 weeks when I was adopting Michael, and although it was fascinating to experience another culture, there were so many things that were either just annoying or really scary. Bread in stores sat on racks open to the air, open to being coughed on, going stale. Sidewalks were slushy, snowy, mess, most of the time. Restaurant menus often listed about twice as many items as one could actually order and eat. Public restrooms? Forget it. And on and on.
However, if I had it to do all over again, I'd do it all again, just to be a mom to my wonderful son.
I am grateful to be the child of Tony and Elva. My parents were not perfect. Nobody can make that claim. The things they got right, though, they got really right. My brother and I never doubted for an instant that we were loved. We always lived comfortably. We took nice vacations. We watched Dad go to work day in and day out and we both have great work ethics as a result. We watched my parents cook food to take to families grieving a loss, or simply new to the neighborhood. We were talked to as if we were adults and encouraged to think freely for ourselves. We were taken to church and taught the importance of faith in God.
Even though my father is not on this earth any more, his words are in my head, all the time, particularly this mantra: always do the right thing. Not the easy thing. The RIGHT thing.
I am grateful to live in the South. I like visiting other places in America and there's still a lot of the country I'd like to see, particularly out west. However, I am glad to live in a place where we value good manners highly, we revere the past, and we live in a climate that escapes horrible winter storms 95% of the time. I will never live anywhere else, because my people have been here for generations and I would feel utterly out of place in any other are of the USA.
I am grateful that my mother is alive and very much a best friend and co-parent with me. I have never really felt like a single mom, because I'm not. Mother is always there to listen, to advise me, to commiserate, and to prop me up when I get discouraged. I know sometimes folks think it's a burden, taking care of her, but it's not at all. She takes care of me just as much as I take care of her. When she is gone there will be a terrible gap in my life.
I try to be grateful for every day I have with my mother.
I am grateful for my health. I only take one medication, Synthroid, and I don't have any major issues. Now that I have the pacemaker, I feel physically fine 90% of the time, which is as good or better than most folks, I am pretty sure.
I am grateful for my sweet puppy, Lola -- Lolababy, Lolabelle, Lolar, Lolla-rolla -- and all her love. Dogs are pure love, and humans are blessed immeasurably by their selfless love.
I am grateful to be able to write every day. Writing is how I make sense of the world. It's how I entertain myself. It's as essential to me as breathing. I am not the world's best writer, but I still love the fact that I can write things that cause people to think or feel deeply.
I am grateful to have many friends. Some of my friends I get to hang out with in person, and some only by email or phone or Facebook. I'm still grateful. Friends make life fun, and they make life bearable.
Sometimes when I feel very anxious, I try to just pay attention to my breathing in a meditative way, and think of all the things to be thankful for in my life. There are many things. I am very blessed.