Saturday, December 18, 2010

To My Mother in Law

Dear Margie...

Your son has been my husband for fifteen years. Every year with him gets better. He is such a special, unselfish, giving man. I couldn't have designed him better if I had had the opportunity to do so.

I've heard the stories of his growing up years without his birth father. I know how he fought the idea of having a stepdad, but eventually accepted Jake,loving and respecting him as family and friend. I've heard his fears of feeling as if he's not doing a good enough job of being a father. He's an amazing and accepting step-father, offering advice, but never preaching. I've dried his tears as he remembers his grandparents with such immense love that it spills out through his eyes. I've watched him take on the role of grandfather with the birth of each of my grandchildren. He couldn't be more loving with any of them, even if they were his own blood.

Yes, yes, I know that he isn't perfect. You told me in one of our earlies conversations that he had a huge temper. Yes, he does, but fortunately, he has a long fuse. His patience level is high, and it takes a lot to bring him to his loss of it. I've seen it only three times that I can think of....not a bad percentage for as many years as I've known him.

Thank you for giving birth to this guy on this day, so many years ago. Thank you for all that he learned from you, and for exposing him to the examples your brother gave him, for those of your father, and for Jake's, as he grew up. All of those examples and experiences have caused him to be who he is. It isn't easy to rear children who will grow into great adults, but you did it, and you deserve to be recognized.

I'm forever grateful.

With love, Kathleen

Last Night...

We had a Christmas party to attend last night, the third one so far this year. I really enjoy that one, but, unfortunately I needed to stay at home. I've had a few days of nausea which came and went throughout the week. My husband had the same ailment last weekend. Nothing much came of it, other than discomfort, but I wasn't feeling up to going into a crowd for dinner, both for their sakes and my own.

I truly enjoy these 'at home' gatherings. They are intimate and quiter than going to a restaurant, and so much more personal. It's fun to see the decorating in the homes of our hosts, and I pay special attention in order to get new ideas for our own celebrations in another year.

While my husband attended the party last night, with my Mom as his date, I laid on the couch at home. I thought about how lucky I am to have such a man as my husband. He might rather have stayed at home,too, but he knows how Mom enjoys going to the special events. He put his desires on the shelf, and took his place as her escort. He is so attentive to my mother, who has trouble seeing things and is a bit unsteady on her feet at times. I envisioned them at the dinnerline, as he told her what each dish was, and portioned it out on her plate for her. Then he guided her to the table, sitting at her left so she could hear him with her 'good' ear.
I know he did those things, because I've seen him do it in other situations. He's such a special son in law that people in church, when they first met us, asked if Mom was my mother or his. They make statements, still, such as 'he's so GOOD with her."

They made it an early night, and after seeing that Mom was safely inside her little house across the street, he brought a little of the party home to me....a number of messages to 'feel better' and a plate, heavy-laden with food.

I may have missed a great holiday celebration, but I celebrate the gift of this man as my husband. I am truly blessed to have him!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Historic Homes

Oh, how I love old homes, historic places that have withstood the sands of time. From farmhouse simplicity to grand plantations, my heart thrills at the sight of them.

Victorian homes with their gingerbread trims look to me like decorated cakes. Sag Harbor and Shelter Island are full of them. They stand like grand ladies, decked out in their finery, and just call out to me to tour them. Some of them are small cottages and utilitarian, rather than formal places, but still, there is something about them that causes me to say that I believe I like Victorian architecture best. They are full of such character.....slanted ceilings, some have high ceilings, nine feet or more. Some have exceptional interior oak wood floors and trim work, some have iron grill work that is not seen anymore, over fireplaces and holes in floors for heating. Some have stained glass which is the utmost in decorating, from my point of view. Many of them have panelled doors and walls, and even sliding doors that hide inside the walls, to separate parlors or dining rooms. Chandeliers of that day were glorious!

Farmhouses, too, are worthy of note, in my estimation. Most are simple, unpretentious, no matter what the size of them. Wide pine floors that creak underfoot, walls that retain the vent piping for the old coal or wood stoves used for cooking and heating,now covered by metal plates to cut the draft. Large sashed windows, wainscotted walls and sometimes ceilings, tin ceilings, large pantries speak of days gone by.

Old homes pull me in. Whenever an opportunity arises, I will take it and wander through one. We did just that the other evening when we took a tour of a Civil War time home, decorated in the manner it would have been during the War Between the States. It was chilly, even with the space heaters set into the historically furnished rooms. It was elegant with it's 12 foot ceilings and it's wide trimwork. Yet, it was simply decorated with live cedar trees bearing rafia ribbons, pine cones and paper cones of edible treats. Candlelight glowed in each room, and made it feel warm and hospitable.

I live in a newly built farmhouse, and I'm always on the lookout for a way to make it look as if it's been standing for a hundred years. So far, I haven't mastered the task of actually putting these ideas into action, but stay tuned. I have big plans! It all takes time to look old...and it takes money too, to drag a house through a time machine. One day, you'll see, this place will look the way I'd like it to....old, comfortable and homey.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I don't like the word 'countdown.' It causes my heart to pound with anxiety, as if I'm going to be very late for something. I've never cared to hear the 10-9-8- etc of the space crafts at lift off, and I feel the same way about the New Year's Eve ball drop. They just bother me...I don't know why, but they do.

When digital clocks took the place of the ones with hands and numbers on a circle, children began to announce the time precisely as each second passed. It made me want to run from the room, tear at my hair and scream. Now, Hallmark has created a countdown ornament, which documents days, hours, minutes and seconds. Excited children who have this gadget on their tree will be running to parents minute by minute exclaiming how little time is left before Santa arrives. Oh joy! (Who, in their right mind, would even consider hanging a thing like that where kids could see it?!) I'm fine with the Advent calendar to open with children, one little box for each day. Yes, it's a countdown, but somehow it's much gentler.

I'm right on schedule for Christmas... on MY schedule, even if I don't measure up to the ideas of those doing the countdown. I've got my lists, my gifts, my organization according to MY plan.
I won't be late for the holiday festivities, I promise. Please stop, Mr. TV Reporter, reminding me of how many days I have left to do thus and so. You may call me a Countdown Curmudgeon if you like, but I will just click you off, so that I don't have to hear it!

Now, since the time is growing shorter, I need to hustle my bustle.....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Shopping in December

There was a time in my life when I loved to shop. I'd hop in the car and direct it toward Riverhead where I'd spend all day wandering through the stores, whether I bought anything or not. But those were the days when I had more energy.

These days, however, my enthusiasm leaves much room for improvement, especially in December. I just don't have the ability to stand or walk for long periods of time. I try to plan my trips so that I don't need to wander around to find what I need. That way, I don't have to stay out longer than necessary. The crowded stores make this short trip much longer the closer we get to Christmas. While I love hearing the Christmas music and seeing the wonder in the little ones eyes as their parents wheel them in carts through the decorated aisles, I'd much prefer to be at home during the month of December.

Gift buying is, for me, a special event. I like to place my hands on the item, feel the fabric, hold it up to check for size, check the quality. You can't do that when you shop on-line, and so the alternative is to physically go to the stores. I enjoy choosing the special gift for the special person, and all year-long I have my eye peeled for the perfect present for each one on my list. By October, I'm usually finished and will begin the wrapping. That keeps me from the stores in the busiest season, and I have the serenity of knowing I've only to sit in front of my cd player and make beautiful packages and do the 'at home' preparations of baking, cleaning, decorating and Christmas cards.

No one will ever have reason to call me organized, but most years, I have this one in the bag.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Best Laid Plans...

You really never know how things will turn out, no matter how much planning you do. This weekend was a real example of that.

My daughter arrived on Friday, later than she'd hoped, with the two little grand-imps. Her delay was due to having to stop at a mechanic when some warning lights appeared on her cars. After some antifreeze in the radiator, she was good to go, and she made the trip without incident.

We had great plans for the two days together. Saturday we would be ready right after breakfast to shop with the little ones for a gift for their Daddy. Then we'd come home for lunch and bake and decorated some cut out cookies together .

Things didn't go quite the way we'd hoped. First of all, we lazed around too long in the morning, getting out around ten-thirty. We'd gone approximately two miles, when the warning lights showed up on the dash again. I suggested we swing over to our friend and mechanic's shop to see if he could hook the computer up and locate the problem. We were lucky to find Terry there, and the computer reading was 'coolant system.' He suggested we leave the car and he'd get it fixed by the end of the day. That required driving back to our house, unloading kids and car seats into my van, and driving back to Terry's place, which is what we did.

We then drove over to Anderson for the stop at the bank and shopping. By that time, the girls were telling us that they were starving, so we had a bite of lunch before moving on to the store for the gifts. We'd added a few other stops along the way, in order that we both might finish up our nagging little chores. By the time we got home, it was close to dinner time. cookies.

We'd hoped to go to church on Sunday together. But one of the children had gone to bed the night before with a 'really bad headache' and coughing. I'd gotten up that morning with a deep, dry cough that sounded like a vicious dog's bark. We stayed home. We probably could have baked our cookies, but the little ones were happily perched in front of some Christmas cartoons, and my daughter and Mike and I sat around the table making menus for our holiday week. We made a slight change in one pre-planned item, which caused a bit of 'difficulty' for another member of the family who would be the contributor. That, of course, upset me, as the hostess.
I always thought that when you were invited for a dinner at someone else's house, you ate what was offered without complaint. Maybe things are different these days. I guess the bottom line is, no matter how you try, you can't please everyone.

Anyway, plans are made. Plans get messed up. As the mother of five, I learned early to be flexible enough to go with the flow. It seems that nothing ever goes as planned....

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I've started....the decorating, I mean. I couldn't hold out another minute, so I talked Mike into pulling the boxes of ornaments, garlands and stuff from the shed into the sun room. Yesterday I rifled through some of them and decided how to do things.

The artificial evergreen garland is hung on the stair rail, decked with a red poinsetta, after careful measurement for placement of the flowers. The large wreath is hung on the wall between the windows, over the fireplace. A new choir of angels lines the mantle and I can nearly hear them singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Deep red poinsettas and verigated holly with crimson berries stand in a large crock nearby.....and a basket of the same graces the dining room table on the gold tablecloth.

It's not much....but it's still early.. Today the youngest of my grandchildren and their Mom will travel with me to pick up the last gift I need. We grown up little girls will divide the wee ones, and each sister will buy the other one a gift, after choosing something for their Daddy. Then we'll come home, and begin the fun and gooey mess of making cut out cookies.

I love preparing for Christmas! I think I am as much like a child about the anticipation as any little person there is. I love the 'magic' of it all, but above all that, I love the special wonder of the first and real Christmas. Imagine the preparation then! Every angel knew there was a special night about to arrive. The mother of Jesus knew that He could arrive at any time, and like any young mother-to-be, might have had thoughts for her preparing for her baby. Joseph, must have been a little apprehensive, knowing he had to take his wife on a long journey so close to her due date. Were any of them really prepared to welcome the King of Heaven?

As I rummage through the boxes of decorations that add to my festivities, as I spend these days before the celebration of Christmas, the most important preparation I can make, is the readying of my heart to honor my Savior in each moment of my life. All the glitter and the gold are fun, like at any birthday party, but let us remember whose birthday it is and celebrate Him!

"Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

More Children's Funnies...

Yesterday I wrote about some of the funny things kids say, in complete innocence. Someone left a comment on my earlier blog about my daughter, which I'd never heard. Apparently, my Amy noticed that a friend was nursing her baby. This woman shared that my little one stopped running around and asked, "Are you feeding that baby with your arm?"

Amy was one of my funniest children. From the time she could talk until well into grade school, she would innocently say the most comical things. One day, while we were, together, preparing a small vegetable patch, she asked me what kind of seeds we had. I told her we'd plant squash and string beans and carrots. She looked over the top of her glasses and with great excitement asked, "Do we have any chicken seeds?"

Another time we stood in line behind a lovely,young black woman with a crying infant. Amy told the woman, "I think he's hungry." The lady agreed. Then Amy asked her " Does your baby drink chocolate milk?" Fortunately, the woman took no offense to my preschooler's question, but smiled at her and responded that he drank just 'regular' milk.

I think children are the most funny during those early years. They are curious beyond all measure and innocent in their constant thinking. They ask a million questions all day long and they are processing everything they see and hear. They make sense of things as best they can with their limited years of learning. I just love that age!

When my friend's daughter went to kindergarten, her mother heard her story of a little boy who held little girls hostage in the coat room. When Mom asked Tammy why he was locking the girls in the closet, the little girl answered, "So he could kiss them!" My friend said, "Oh my! He's a playboy, isn't he?" Tammy answered, "No, Mommy...he's real !! "

Sometimes there's much wisdom in the words of children. One Sunday morning while Dad was driving my cousins, and I to Sunday School, my father wondered if Town Pond was frozen over for skating. We took a ride past the pond, and Dad thought it looked safe. My cousin piped up without a thought, "Well, you can't judge a brook by it's cover!"

It's important to listen to these little people. You never know what you'll learn!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I knew it! It's not going to happen, not before Christmas, anyway. What was I thinking?! The idea of getting the living room painted and rearranged between Thanksgiving and Christmas decorating was an absurd thought.

It's fine...really. There's so much to do in these few weeks before the celebration of Christmas with family and friends. We've got all of the usual pre-nativity activities to accomplish and old and new events to attend. Who needs to add more to the list?

You know how it goes with painting. It's not just the few days that it takes to cut in, roll and clean up the mess. When you have nice, freshly-painted walls, everything else begins to look a little shabby. I have plans, already, to change the window treatments, and have bought the fabric to do them. They're not yet made, and I'd like to do that before the room color is changed, so that they're ready to put up when the paint dries. We'd like to get some mouldings for the ceiling and windows too, and wouldn't it make sense to put that up after the room is painted? No, maybe, it should go up first. Either way, it should be in our possession, not sitting in the lumberyard racks. With all of that done, the furniture will want refreshing. My mother tells me that it's not 'that hard' to upholster a chair, or even to make a slip cover. I love our furniture, and would rather recover it than buy new things. So... where does all that fit into the time schedule? It certainly doesn't fit into the packed-full time this month!

I trust that the living room walls will still be standing when the tree needles are being vacuumed up and the Rubbermaid containers are back in the shed. (After last night's storm, it does give pause to wonder if my last statement is true.) When the new year descends, I'll make a list of what needs to be done, trying to prioritize the projects, so that when the living room is recolored, the other 'little things' can be brought in and the whole room will be renewed.

Maybe this is why so few projects are ever finished.... they take on their own personality, growing as they do. Siiiiigh....