Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Advent Calendar and the Christmas Party

 Growing up in Germany it was a tradition each Christmas to buy an Advent calender with chocolate candy hidden in the scene. Each day we would take turns opening up the little flap and removing our piece of chocolate.
This year I bought four calenders, one for each of my grandchildren.
There are 11 days left.
Yesterday, while no one was looking, Mae-Mae, at 19 months, ate the rest of her chocolate.

My grandson is having his pre-school Christmas party today.

"Can Mommy come to my party?" he asked my other daughter, who baby-sits him.

"No, Honey, she has to work."

"Can Mamaw (me) come?"

"No, she has to work, too."

"Can the girls come?"

"No, Sweetheart. They are in school."

"Can Mae-Mae come? She doesn't go to school."

Poor little guy. He doesn't know it yet, but I'm going to surprise him.

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas Letters

Vintage Christmas Card

It is that time of year and I am writing my Christmas letter. I send a lot of cards, but haven't enclosed a letter in the past few years. I enjoy reading the newsletters I get from friends and family and catching up on the latest news. One of my former neighbors, who now lives in Virginia, is very creative and includes photos of her family with cute little captions in her Christmas newsletter. I did this one year, with my daughter's help, as I am not that tech-savvy. So this year I'm writing a simple Christmas letter on pretty stationary.

I have lots of news to share and many blessings to be thankful for. It has been a year of travel, to the Florida beaches and the Smoky Mountains. It has been a year of reunions and celebrations. I reunited with an old childhood friend in October and we celebrated my mother-in-law's 90th birthday in November. For my grandchildren, it has been a year of beginnings. My youngest grandchild turned one and is quickly catching up with her older siblings; my grandson started pre-school and my second granddaughter started Kindergarten. Small things, but big events to the little ones.

Still, amidst my blessings, I want to remember those friends and family members struggling with grief and loss, health problems and other serious issues. I just hope that Christmas brings a sense of peace and hope and shines a light on them.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I am thankful for so many things that I am sure I will leave something off of this list.

I am thankful for my family...
for a son-in-law who works hard to provide for his family and serves our community as a law enforcement officer.....
 I am thankful for my two daughters that I am very proud of and that I consider my best friends....
 I am thankful for the beautiful grandchildren they have blessed me with and the joy they bring to my life....
I am thankful for a job, with a retirement plan and good health insurance, when I know there are so many people unemployed and less fortunate than I am....
I am thankful to have a good relationship with my sisters and though we have our differences, always make up...
I am thankful for many friends who keep in touch with me to let me know they care...
.I am thankful for my cat, who keeps me company, curled up on my lap at night.....
I am thankful that the mail still runs every day (except Sunday)....
.I am thankful that I have a good boss and great co-workers that makes it so easy to go to work each day....
.I am thankful that I can worship God openly and for his daily blessings......
I am thankful for Thanksgiving and Christmas, my two favorite holidays of the year....
I am thankful for the mild temperatures that have kept my utility bills down....
I am thankful for libraries....for the written word.....newspapers and the Internet, and
.I am thankful for afternoon naps, flannel robes and slipper socks, and hot cocoa, for cold nights....
I am thankful for Hallmark movies, all Charlie Brown re-runs and Christmas songs on the radio, even before Thanksgiving...
I am thankful that I have one pair of boots that I can wear....
I am thankful for the spirit of Christmas, wishing it would last a little bit longer...
I am thankful that the elections are over....
I am thankful that my mother-in-law celebrated her 90th birthday...
I am thankful that a friend finished her radiation treatments...
I am thankful for this blog, where I have met some incredibly nice people.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Do you ever hurry...through your day, a meal, a chore? I have. Wouldn't it be better to absorb each moment for what it is without thinking of all the things you have to do. Savor the moment. Live in the moment. Forget the shortcuts.
I have been guilty of taking short cuts, of not living in the moment. It's easy to get distracted. Life is full of distractions that keep us from truly living in the moment.
My grandson wanted me to tell him a story. I started the fairy tale, "The first little pig built his house out of straw."
"No, Mamaw, that's not how it starts. Start at the beginning, 'Once upon a time.'"
They know when we take shortcuts.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

90 Years Young

I was fortunate to travel to Mississippi this past weekend and help celebrate
my mother-in-law's 90th birthday. It was supposed to be a
surprise, but word leaked out. She was a good sport and enjoyed all the
cards and gifts and having family come from as far away as
Minnesota. My mother-in-law has lived every minute of her 90 years.
Her favorite gift? A hockey jersey signed by the entire
local hockey team. After the party, she put the jersey on and headed
down to the stadium to watch the game. She had heard that her
name and picture would appear during the game.
Happy Birthday Mom!

It was a quick trip to the gulf coast, but we drove along the beach
to take in the sun and scenery. It was a little chilly walking on the pier!
My daughter and grandson hurried back to the car.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

Something to Smile About

"Dancing With the Ghouls"

We always have "huddle" time on Fridays at work, a few minutes of fun and games to start the day with a positive attitude. A few weeks before Halloween the supervisors asked for ideas on doing something creative for Halloween. I suggested that we have a "Dancing with the Ghouls'' contest. We divided into three teams and each team danced to either "Thriller", "Monster Mash" or "The Adams Family." It was a huge hit! I never laughed so hard, and the dance moves and skits made us smile all day. The management team even came up with their own routine and enlisted the help of our security guard.

"It Can't Happen to Me (But it Did)"

"Uh, can you make that a regular hamburger?" I said as I went to McDonalds the other evening. The young man very politely informed me that my debit card approval came back short and I still owed some change for my quarter-pounder and a specialty coffee. "Don't worry about it, Ma'am," he said, as I fished in my wallet and dumped a handful of change in his hand. It's a good thing that I work at the financial institution that rejected my card. As my daughters would tell me, "See, Mom, it's time to get a smart phone. Of course, I really didn't need that Frappe.

The offender
"The Offender"

My son-in-law is a cop. He came home for dinner while he was on duty recently and laid his radio down while talking on the phone with another deputy. My 18-month old granddaughter saw the radio and pushed the red button, a big no-no. His phone immediately started ringing off the hook and the dispatcher was frantically trying to get through. My son-in-law called in and stated that everything was under control and that he had the offender in custody.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Making Dreams Come True

My husband and I in Paris, 1978

Some people have a knack for making their dreams come true. Perhaps it's more than a "knack." Its determination and not losing sight of your dreams.

Like my former co-worker, Dawn (not her real name). She quit her job last year to devote all of her time to her organic farm, renovated a 100 year old barn, hosting small events in her rustic setting with southern charm. She also teaches schoolchildren the importance of gardening and believes in bringing them back to the rural values that she grew up with.

Like a former neighbor who published a book about a mascot dog from her husband's alma mater. Her sister-in-law did the illustrations. She didn't become rich or famous, but it was her dream to become a published author.

Like the daughter of a friend of mine who hiked the Appalachian trail last year. Once a shy young child in my pre-school Sunday School class, she has grown up to be an adventurous, confident young woman. She recently worked at a bear camp in Alaska.

Like my oldest daughter who started her bucket list while still in her 20's when she went skydiving on her 23rd birthday. Another one of her dreams came true when she visited New York over the New Year holidays. She and two college friends appeared on the Today show and talked to Willard Scott. A producer on the show recognized one of her friends (who is blind) from college and invited the young women into the green room, where they sipped hot chocolate with guests from the show.

Like a couple that I know who used to manage a herd of reindeer (really) and made special appearances around the holidays. One of their highlights each year was to take the herd out west to appear at a famous pop star's holiday gathering.

Like a local woman, Christy Jordan, who has published a cookbook, and has been featured in Southern Living. Her southern charm and recipes have made her a household name here in the South. I haven't personally met Christy, but I am a big fan of her blog, here.

There are many others that I am leaving off of my list, but it is amazing how many people actually follow their dreams and find success.

Never give up on your dreams.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Smoky Mountain Drive

I just got back from a long weekend in the Smoky Mountains.
It has been several years since my last visit.

I couldn't resist the beautiful autumn colors and took
lots of pictures.

This was taken from my car in Gatlinburg.

Tunnel outside of Gatlinburg

A tapestry of rich, autumn hues

I like barns.

An old church cemetary in the cove.

The view over Gatlinburg.

The mountains change colors depending
on what time of day it is

Trees forming a canopy over the road

A creekbed

Driving through Cades Cove

Stepping back to a more peaceful time

My daughter and granddaughter
visiting the old church

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pumpkins, Pumpkins Everywhere

Fall is my favorite time of year. And Fall just wouldn't be the same without a visit to a local farm to pick out pumpkins, let the children play and pet the farm animals, and, of course, eat funnel cakes and drink hot apple cider on a chilly day.
There are pumpkins in a wagon
And pumpkins on the ground
Tiny pumpkins sitting in rows
Pumpkins in the stands, waiting to be picked
There are pumpkins white as snow
And some gourds not quite so pretty
Pumpkins named "Cinderella" (after midnight?)
And pink pumpkins shaped like a ribbon
There are even "Turkish Turban" pumpkins 
There are pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere!
We came home to bake cupcakes
and collected leaves to make leaf rubbings.
It was a perfect Fall day!

Monday, September 17, 2012

September Stories

"Accidental Mondays"

I woke up this morning with a killer headache, and, dragging my feet, got ready for work. I took an Advil and left in plenty of time, hoping to feel better soon.
"Hi Anita,"said my boss when I got there.
"Today's your off day. Remember we had to change the schedule?"
Oh, yes, now I remember.

"A Real Dad"

I picked up my grandchildren yesterday to spend the afternoon with me. After lunch at McDonald's and a trip to the park we went to the nearby military post to get my grandson a haircut.
While we were waiting a soldier walked in pushing a baby stroller. When he sat down for his haircut, his two-month old daughter started whimpering. He reached into the diaper bag for her bottle and started to feed her while the barber cut his hair. After a few minutes one of the ladies who worked there took over the bottle feeding. It was the sweetest thing!

"Real Courage"

I met a retired nurse recently who truly inspired me with her own story. She had dropped out of school with only an 8th grade education, married and became the mother of five children. Many years later she decided to take her GED test. She passed the English part, but failed the Math portion of the test. Advised to take a manufacturing job at a local factory, she balked and went home to study, determined to get a passing grade. A week later she retook the test and passed! When her youngest was three years old and the oldest 11 she enrolled in college and eventually, nursing school, retiring after 30 years. And this from a shy and uneducated black girl who refused to give up. Now that's what I call courage.

"Porch Cleaning"

"The River"

After our trip to the barber shop and a side trip to get ice cream, the grandchildren and I drove down to the Tennessee River. They played on the playground and explored the boat dock. After a busy afternoon three very exhausted kids were ready to go home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

First Day of School

Tomorrow is my my middle granddaughter's first day of school.
She is already stressing about it.
"Mommy, what if I don't get up on time?
What if I have homework? I don't know how to do homework."
She has been listening too much to her older sister, who is working on her math homework on the second day of school (Kindergarten phases in the little ones). Older sister is a seasoned third-grader this year. My daughter told me of the conversation they had while getting their baths. She told "Teka" to explain to Allie why it was important to get plenty of sleep.

"You don't get to take naps in first grade. Oh, and there's no TV or naptime in Kindergarten either. Well, sometimes you get to watch a show, but once it's over, then it's over!"

"What show?"

"I don't know. That was like three or four years ago!"

Bless their little hearts.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beach Vacation

I just returned from my vacation with my daughters and grandchildren. It's been five years since my last "real" vacation, so I was ready! The change of scenery did my spirit a world of good, as they say down here in the South.

This was the view from our condo in Panama Beach.
We were on the 4th floor, and I opened the door
to the balcony first thing in the morning
to take in the awesomeness of the ocean.

The grandchildren loved catching the ocean waves,
building sand castles and hunting for seashells.
My oldest granddaughter (she'll be 8 in two weeks)
is like a fish. We couldn't keep her out of the water!


Beach front restaurant in Destin. We ate shrimp, crab legs,
and Salmon. Yummy! The kids got pails and shovels
with their meals. It was an hour wait, but they had a playground
on the beach for the children and the scenery was definitely 
worth the wait.

We took a boat ride to see some dolphins. We saw a few, but
had to look really close. The boat ride was relaxing
and the ocean breezes were refreshing
after the summer heat.

The seagulls came and ate right from our hands.
The kids thought it was the coolest thing.

Shell Island

The view on the way back to shore. Gorgeous.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fence Posts

I have a chain link fence around my backyard. When we moved into our brand new home, my late husband dug the post holes one by one, and poured the concrete for the fence poles. It was a hard, sweaty job, and Don did a good job putting up the fence. However, after setting the first dozen poles we noticed that they were upside down! No problem. It would still work. The rest of the poles were set correctly. That was 25 years ago and the fence has held up. No one would be able to pick out the poles that were set upside down.

I thought of how often our Christian walk is like those fence posts. We make mistakes. We make bad choices. We are like those fence posts, upside down, until someone comes along (Jesus) and shows us the right way. And those mistakes are wiped out, erased, forgiven by our Lord and Savior.  No one can see the mistakes we have made. We are a new creation.
Thanks be to God.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Good-Byes and Promises

I went to two funerals last month. My aunt died at the end of April and two weeks later, to the day, my uncle's wife died at the young age of 52. For the second time in two weeks I drove the 90 miles to Tennessee.

Many of my relatives on my father's side still live among the rolling hills of middle Tennessee, where the scenery is picture postcard pretty. I wanted to stop and take pictures along the country roads, but we were in a time crunch. Oddly, I noticed many small buildings overgrown with weeds and grass, when I realized that these little out buildings were former outhouses.

The relatives came from nearby and  from far away. Alabama. Georgia. Virginia.
There was the young cousin from Savannah. Instantly I recognized her, even though we haven't seen each other in 15 years. Sunny (not her real name) is grown now, tall like her father, and has the honey-colored hair of her mother. She also inherited her father's cleft chin.  

Another distant cousin, two years older than me, grins at me, remembering when we were 10 and 12. I was the oldest in my family and he, the youngest. I tell him that he looks like Jimmy Carter, only more handsome. His wife, a pretty 50ish woman,  shares her email address and Facebook page and we promise to keep in touch.

"Jimmy" has a twin sister and she squeezes me in a real southern hug. She is flamboyant, dressed in bright colors, and extroverted. Her Mama, my great-aunt, 80ish, has perfectly coifed silver hair, and soft hands, holds my hands and doesn't let go. She lost her husband six years ago and is in the early stages of Dementia.

My uncle is shaken at the sudden death of his wife. He is lost without her. He has aged, and is thin and frail, and doesn't look like the Elvis look-alike of his youth. The girls were crazy about him and he would talk for hours on the black rotary dial telephone, before call waiting and message machines. His only child is a pretty young woman in her twenties and looks like her father when he was younger.

Then there is Jewel, who just lost her mother two weeks before. She has long, black hair and could pass as a Cherokee Indian. Her daughter, another beauty, graduated from high school this week.

Cousin Rusty stands quietly to the side. He is 50 and doesn't talk much. He is the sole survivor in his family. Thank God for his wife of 30 years. He is proud of his son, who recently graduated from college.

Another cousin, Billy, will perform the funeral. He is a preacher and an evangelist. His older brother has fought the devil his entire life, but Billy turned to God.

My sister and I catch up with everyone, trying to remember names and faces. We listen to stories and share some of our own. We talk nostalgically about long-ago family reunions and childhood memories. We hope to plan a reunion, under better circumstances, we tell each other.

It is night before we leave. One of our cousins and her family take us out to eat before we go. We linger, talking in the parking lot under the street lights. Finally, we say our good-byes. And promise to keep in touch.

I think of all the good-byes I've said through the years, and promises to keep in touch.

And my uncle's wife - she was a military veteran. She served in the Army when she was a young woman and returned home to these Tennessee hills at the end of her tour of duty.

Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the skies

All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.

This Memorial Day may we remember all of men and women who gave their lives for our country. God bless them all.