Friday, December 28, 2007

A New Year To Come

Christmas is passing, a new year is closing in. I think I am glad. This has been a year of growth for me and both of my children. Next year will be also, I'm quite sure. But this was a hard year. I hope that next year's growth opportunities are easier won.

Zack has learned so much this year. About relationships, about work, and about himself. He is stronger than he thinks. He found a job he likes and at which he is good. He ended a relationship that was never going to work and is trying on a new one. He is trying it on his own again and it looks good. He is growing up.

Casey has a new relationship after ending a long term one. They have struggled with getting to know each other's limits and personalities. They have both grown so much and it looks like they may make this long term. They are young but love is wonderful when you're young. Casey also learned a lot about consequences. She slacked off for the first two years of high school and is now paying the price. She will be transfering to another school in order to graduate on time. It has been a rude awakening but she is accepting and ready to do the hard work to catch up. Hard lessons but she is such a great kid, she is handling it well and with new found maturity.

I learned this year that I have to be true to myself. I cannot do things the way other people tell me to do them. I must do things the way they work for me and go with my gut feelings. I also learned that I have wonderful friends that are brave enough to tell me that I am not being myself. And that I should ask those brave friends for help long before I get to a breaking point.

So here's to the coming year. Easy lessons would be great. We will see how it goes.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas Eve. I plan to spend mine with the kids, opening presents and hanging out together. Santa still comes to our house so Christmas morning will be early. Once we see what Santa brings, we will head to my Dad to join my sister and her family. It will be a quick trip, there and back in the same day.

So I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends, and fun. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Britney's Mom's Parenting Book???

For those that do not know the latest breaking news . . . Britney Spears' little sister, Jamie Lynn, who is 16, is pregnant. And keeping the baby. This comes to light as Lynn Spears, their mom, is in the midst of writing a parenting book. The publisher's have now postponed the publishing date until ?????

So . . . you think I am going to, as many others are doing, criticize Lynn Spears? Absolutely not! There but for the Grace of God go I. I am not here to criticize other parents. I learned a long time ago with my own parents and siblings that you can do everything "right" as a parent but children/young adults have their own personalities and they make their own mistakes. The good/bad parenting comes in when you try to help them through the mistakes they make.

I think the problem is that a publisher thinks that anyone is qualified to write a parenting book giving other parents advice. Families are not the same. A married couple with 4 children will parent differently than a single dad with 2 children. Every parent makes mistakes raising their children. It would be better to write a book on how NOT to parent. Or to pull a number of parents dealing with different situations and create a collection of stories. Lynn Spears can only talk about her family and what worked or didn't work. But would people listen? Who knows? I cannot relate to her at all as a parent. I read many blogs written by moms. The blogs are about their lives as parents and the moms are funny, sad, challenged, and very successful. I can relate to them even if my children are not the same ages.

So this whole thing got me thinking. Again. If I were to write a parenting book, what would I say? I came up with 3 things, kind of short for a book. But here they are:

1. Parent The Individual. The most important thing I could say. Every child is an individual with their own personality. You cannot parent them the same. You can be consistent and fair. But you cannot decide on a parenting style with your first child and stick with it. Just when you think you have this parenting thing down, the second or third one comes along and it all goes straight out the window.

For example - As 2 year olds, Zack stayed right by my side and didn't wander. Casey was independent and all of a sudden I would realize she was gone. Sometimes out the front door. As teenagers, Zack was quiet and behind-your-back defiant. Casey was straight up, in-your-face defiant. Zack lied so he didn't get in trouble. Casey told you what she did and told you it was worth whatever punishment she would get. I could "talk" to Zack, he would be remorseful, and probably wouldn't do it again. Casey - talk, talk, talk, do it again, talk, talk, talk, do it again, ground her, she escapes, talk, talk, talk, do it again until she learned her lesson and decided, herself, not to do it again.

I learned quickly that each of my children needed me to meet their needs in their own way. Not just with discipline but in all areas of their life. I stumbled along the way but through trial and error, I learned to do what worked with each child.

2. Have A Sense Of Humor. You gotta laugh. Sometimes to keep from crying. Kids are funny. Laugh with them. Life is stupid and hard some times. When you can, laugh about it. Show them that there are funny moments in every situation and that sometimes, that is what helps you deal with the difficulties in life. When their dad died, it was devastating to us all. While we dealt with funeral arrangements, during the funeral service, on the trip home, there were the most bizarre moments - and we laughed. Sometimes through tears. But those are our strongest memories about that week, the ones we still laugh about over 6 years later. And their dad would have been laughing too.

3. Say Yes Some Of The Time. As a parent you find yourself saying NO a lot. It kind of becomes a habit. You might even find yourself saying no to see if they will argue you into a yes. That causes whining and a misunderstanding of where the limits are. How do they know you really mean no if you don't say yes every now and then? And who cares if it is something stupid? As long as they won't get hurt, say YES, even if you need to qualify it. "Can I play in the rain?" "Yes." "Can I play with your makeup?" "Yes, as long as it goes on your face, not the furniture." "Can I climb the tree?" "Yes, as long as I can help you so you don't fall." "Can I go to the party?" "Yes, as long as I speak with the parents." It's okay to say yes!

In a nutshell, there's my parenting book. The one no one should write because as soon as you write about how everyone should parent, one of your kids does something to prove you are not a great parent and should not be giving advice. Hope I haven't jinxed myself!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I Am Calm

It has been a few days since I was able to post.

The garage door won't open. I pushed the button to open it, it went up a little and stopped. I tried again. Nothing was blocking the door or the motorized arm. Something was stopping the motor from completing the track. I pulled on the cord attached to the door thinking it would release the door and allow me to operate it manually. Nope, it slammed the door shut and I cannot lift it at all. It won't budge. Must call a repairman. But I have Christmas shopping to do.

I must be missing that shopping gene that most women seem to have. I hate shopping. I don't mind it if I know what I want, where to get it, how much, etc. but I am not a mall girl or one who "browses" until I find something I "need". So I try to Christmas shop with a list. I order a lot of things online. But inevitably it takes some browsing to get it done and those are the gifts that I never feel great about giving.

So this weekend I had to do shopping. It really wasn't so bad, I had just filled my weekend up with other things. I had some friends that wanted their holiday family photos taken. We set it up for Saturday. And last week I was asked to photograph a wedding. I have never, never done anything like that. But it is a situation in which I will be helping out a friend's brother and they know I have never done a wedding. I have a lot of practice to do before July. But they need their engagement pictures re-done so we agreed to meet on Sunday to shoot them by the lake.

Saturday went well. We took a lot of really cute pictures of both Robin and Matt as well as family pictures with the kids. They let me practice and I learned a lot about posing, looking for background details out of place, lighting problems, etc. that will really help me with the wedding.
The weather was supposed to be bad on Sunday and it was quite yucky - cold. windy. rain turning to snow flurries. Not an ideal day for photography. It turned out the engaged couple had a family emergency out of town and the weather wasn't really an issue for rescheduling. But that gave me the opportunity to do some research online for weddings and to set up an information sheet to use with the couple with choices of must get shots. I really want to do a good job for them.

Then the computer messed up Sunday night. I spent most of the evening trying to fix it and gave up around 11pm. I started at it again Monday morning, made some progress, but could not really get much accomplished before leaving for work. Before I left, I kicked off a diagnostic program that takes several hours to run so it would be done when I got home from work. When I arrived, Casey had restarted the computer and I had to do the whole thing over again. Worked on it until about 11, kicked off another program and went to sleep. Finally got things working this morning but I lost some photos I transferred off my camera Sunday evening. Arrgggghhh.

But I am calm. I will not let myself get stressed out over all of this. It is the holidays and although I am not terribly in the Christmas spirit, I am going to enjoy the holidays. I sat down yesterday to make a list of what I have. I'm glad I made the list. It made me realize I am farther along than I thought. So I am calm. I am choosing to enjoy myself. I will call the garage repairman later.

Friday, December 14, 2007

10 Pearls of Wisdom For My Kids

I was thinking the other day (hmmmm, imagine that!) and as I was discussing things with myself, I realized that while I have always tried to make experiences with my children teaching experiences, I have not always shared my hard won wisdom with them. I don't mean "Momisms" like "If all your friends jumped off the bridge, would you?" or "Wear clean underwear". I mean the things that are truly important to be a successful human being. Things that I have learned the hard way and the easy way. Things my parents and others taught me. Things I learned on the way to becoming a grown up. So I thought I would share 10 things here in the hopes that, in case I forget to tell them, they can look here.

1. Live by the Golden Rule - treat others the way you want to be treated. I am not just advising it because it sounds kinda wise, I really do this, every day of my life. With people that work for me, in a restaurant with a frustrated server, in dealing with the cable company, with my family. It doesn't always work but 9 out of 10 times, it does. In almost every situation, I stop and ask myself "How would I want someone to say this to me?" or "How would I feel if someone did that to me?" It causes you to stop and check yourself before you do or say something you might regret. And I believe that if more people would practice it, the world would be a much nicer place to live.

2. When you don't practice the Golden Rule, say you're sorry. And truly mean it. If you don't mean it, don't say it. But when you mean it, the gesture goes a long way to reconciling the situation.

3. The glass really is half full. Get rid of negative thinking. If you think you are going to have a bad day, you will. Whatever you believe is what you will get. So keep it positive. This is a really hard thing to do at times. Keep trying.

4. If you are going to do it, do it right. Don't waste your time and everyone else's by doing a half-*** job. Give 100%. Finish what you start. Do it right. Or don't do it at all.

5. Be aware of your limitations. No matter how much I fancy that I can paint or wallpaper, I just really am no good at it. I accept that. I hate it, but I accept it. This is not the same as saying "I can't" and never trying. I've tried several times and many other people have told me I am no good at it. So now, I accept the fact that if I need something painted or wallpapered, I find someone else to do it and pay them. It's not a character flaw. I really think it might be some missing gene or something. Just accept it.

6. Listen. What you have to say is important but what you can learn from watching and listening is much more so.

7. Learn to like things about yourself and work at changing the things you don't like about yourself. No one really likes themselves when they are young because they don't REALLY know themselves. You have to learn about YOU and figure out what you like about yourself. Work on those things. And some people never change the things they don't like about themselves and they end up miserable, curmudgeonly, lonely old people. Don't be one of those.

8. Do something you love. You can do it for work or for a hobby. It's great if you can do it for a career and you will never have to "work". In your life, you always need something you are passionate about. Sometimes that changes and that's okay too.

9. Always be learning. Learn about your passion, learn about yourself, learn about painting, learn about bowling, learn about earthworms, just keep learning. "Interested" people are "Interesting" people. Always be curious. It keeps your brain working and strong.

10. I will always be here for you. No matter how old you are, no matter where you live, no matter what you did or didn't do, I will always be your Mom. I will always love you. I will always help you - maybe not the way you want me to help but I will always try to do what's best for you. Because I love you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Truth About Christmas Photos

My kids are at the age that we have to "schedule" our holiday photo. Both work, Casey is still in school and Zack has moved out on his own. But they humor me and we work it out. We "scheduled" Sunday night as THE night. We took so many photos and there was something wrong with every one. One of us was turned funny, one had a fake smile, you know what I mean. So then one of the kids started making faces on purpose. The other joined in. Then it got silly. I finally stepped back and just clicked the shutter. It started with this:

Then it got really weird and turned into this:

Then I joined in and it got less violent but still cheesy:

While this is not our final photo that friends and family will see (unless they read my blog!), it was great fun and it reminded me that it's not about the way we were dressed, the camera settings, the composition or the lighting . . . it's about having fun. And we really had fun.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Downtown Stroll and My Baby Is Gone

So Zack really did it. He moved out of our house on Saturday. I have not yet seen his apartment Casey has and she says I would love it. She loves it. I hope to see it soon. It is in an old, old building downtown in the heart of The Old City. It is in kind of a scary area, down an alley, close to several bars and restaurants, one street over from the Mission of Hope Shelter. But Zack used to work in The Old City and is not naive about the need to be prepared and safe - don't leave anything in your car, don't talk to the crackheads, etc. I hope to visit soon and take pictures. And I will post them for all to see. But even though I don't see him that often now, I miss him already. Empty nest syndrome is starting.

On Sunday, Casey and I headed downtown. The main goal was to eat at The Tomato Head on Market Square. Yum, it's one of our favorites. And we love to shop downtown, especially Market Square and Gay Street areas. There's Mast General Store, funky boutiques like Earth To Old City, Abode, and Bliss. And there are plenty of opportunities for me to take pictures. This picture, and this one, and this one too, as well as this one were all taken on Market Square, some a while back, some just yesterday. The picture at left is me! It is a huge tree on Gay Street with huge reflective ornaments. I took a picture of me taking a picture. Pretty cool, huh? Casey and I walked, browsed, looked around, talked to family members on the phone, and ate yummy food at Tomato Head.

Once we got home, we took our holiday family photo. What an ordeal! But that is for tomorrow's blog. Come back then.

Friday, December 7, 2007

She Is Redeemed!!!

First, you have to read the post below. Casey called a few minutes ago. She asked what I was doing. I said "Eating my special lunch" in a mildly sarcastic manner. So then it went something like this:

Her: I just wanted to tell you thank you.
Me: For what?
Her: My lunch.
Me: Oh.
Her: All my friends think it's cool. I said "My mom loves me!". She made this all in a heart theme and everything. Nat Nat loves the carrots. I just wanted to tell you thank you.
Me: Dang it! (I really said the other word) I have to go back to my blog and update it 'cause I already talked bad about you. Now I have to make sure everyone knows how nice you really are.

So everyone, she really is sweet and grateful. And I feel better. Okay, I will try again on Monday.

My Bento, So There!

I was on Flickr the other day and saw this really cool picture of someone's lunch in a bento box. Well now I know all about bentos and the possibility that exists. I was inspired by a mom who creates these really creative lunches for her young girls. See them here. So I went a little crazy yesterday. I bought a bunch of cute containers and supplies. I went to the grocery store and stocked up on fun food. And I came up with a plan - I made a deal with Casey.

The deal with Casey is that if she will attend school every day, no laziness, and try her best, I will get up every day and make her lunch. This may not seem like much but she leaves the house at 6:30am and I am not a morning person. And neither is Casey. She HATES to get up in the morning. And she drags around, always managing to be running just a little late. She rarely has time to grab anything for breakfast, let alone make her lunch. I give her $20 for lunch money at the beginning of every week but the car needs gas, she wanted to buy breakfast, yadda, yadda, yadda.

So this morning, I was going to surprise her. I decided on a heart theme. I cut her ham and cheese sandwich into a heart with a large cookie cutter. I used a small bright green silicone baking dish and added grape tomatoes and sliced carrots. I used red and pink heart baking cups made of silicone and I filled one with ranch dressing to dip the veggies. In another heart cup, I put pineapple and sprinkled it with red and pink candy confetti hearts and stuck in a bright green skewer to eat with. Another, I filled with cheese cut into hearts with a tiny cookie cutter. In another heart, I added little cookies. All of these were wrapped with plastic wrap and placed into a large plastic container. In between everything, I scattered chips. Wow! It was beautiful, fun, and it looked really appetizing.

Then Casey came downstairs. She looked at it and smiled. I was proud of myself!!! Then she said "How am I going to carry that?" "I will have to throw it into my purse and it will get messed up." "Where am I going to put it?" "Can't I just take it all out and put it in ziploc bags?" And that is what she did.

I was kinda crushed. Not unusual for a mom, right? So I did the next best thing. I made my own cutsie bento. I think I might do this every day. Just for me. Me and my bento.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Happy Birthday Brother Boy

He is my baby brother. It's his birthday today. He is almost older than dirt. And he is still younger than me! But he is a grandfather. So that makes him seem older anyway.

The picture of us when we were wee little babes is one of my favorites. It reminds me of my Mom telling me that I would take his hand and say "I hold he yittle hand". For those that don't speak Tere, that is "I will hold his little hand". He was always my bestest buddy. But he is not little anymore. He is kind of a giant now at six foot six. Now he is my grown up brother with lots of children. He has five, ranging in age from 3 to 23. And he is a grandfather. A snowboarding grandfather. He has 3 boys and 2 girls and I am sure that they think he is pretty cool. He really is a great dad.

And he is so funny. I say all the time that he reminds me of a white Will Smith. Cool, smart, and funny. A story: We were visiting at Dad's about a year ago and I had just gotten a new bra. You know ladies, when you get a new bra with all it's support mechanisms, it sometimes stands on it's own. Well mine was standing on it's own across my suitcase. He saw it. There was no living it down after that. So when I left to go home and he went to the airport, I received this email:

Top 6 Uses For Tere's Bra
6: TeePee for miniature ponies.
5: Homeless shelter for midgets.
4: Jock strap for Andre the Giant.
3: Caution cones for Golf cart path.
2: Dirty pillow covers for big beautiful fembots.
1: Dunce hat for siamese twins.

So Happy Birthday Baby Brother. I love you and I will always be there to hold your not so little hand.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Love My Camera

I really, really, really, love my camera. I carry it with me everywhere I go. It is a little weird. And it gets on my kid's nerves sometimes. It is my passion. I am not really that great but I am learning more every day. Flickr has really helped and I love the challenges and seeing what creative things other photographers are doing.

Last weekend, Casey and I went shopping and to lunch. While we were waiting for our food, I pulled out my camera. She is always willing to smile for me. EXCEPT when I have the flash on. That draws attention to the crazy lady behind the camera and she doesn't want people to notice that she is with a crazy person.

If I am bored, I take pictures. Usually of my feet. If I am happy, I take pictures. Today we raked leaves. After raking up a big ole' pile, I called Casey and asked her to jump in and let me take some pictures. She called Chase to come out with her and the madness ensued. It started with him tackling her and then moved on to a leaf fight. Chase won. Then they buried each other. Then they tossed our 3-legged Pomeranian, Cleo, into the leaves and she tried to "swim" out.

The whole time, I was snapping pictures. I took 92 before it was all over. Then I moved inside. Casey wanted to do some more decorating. I wanted to take some more photos. I have been trying this new technique called "bokeh" and wanted to practice. This is an example:

So I practiced and she decorated. Zack joined us and hummed Christmas carols. Casey told him she was going to rip his head off if he didn't stop. Don't you love the holidays?

So yes, I love my camera. Photography is my passion. But part of the reason I love it so much is that I use it to document our life. My children will one day be able to look back on and recall everyday things, not just special events. That's my excuse today anyway.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Am I Just A Mom?

Don't get me wrong . . . I love being a Mom. But have I been a Mom so long that I have lost me? I am excited for my kids to grow up and become adults but I am uncomfortably aware that I will be rather lonely when they do. We will be friends but what am I going to do with my time?

I really like being alone. I enjoy solitary activities and treasure my alone time. But I don't like being lonely. I worry about being lonely.

I don't want to make my kids responsible for my entertainment and fun. I don't want them to feel like they have to include me or spend time with me because I am alone. That's not healthy. For any of us. I have friends. I have a fun life. But most of my friendships are through the kids or through work. But I have some "hobby" related friends too.

The real answer is for me to find a soul mate. Since my husband died, that is what I have wanted. I want what I had . . . a true partnership, a best friend, a confidante, someone that has a shared view of the world and similar goals. A soul mate. And guess what . . . that is hard to find.

But that is what I want. And I truly believe I will find it. Although I love it, I don't want to be just a Mom. I want to be someone's other half. One day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Miss Her

Today is her birthday. She would have been 67 years old. She was an amazing Mom. She was my best friend. I miss her so much.

My siblings and I all loved her deeply. Other people loved her too. But I just want to talk about my relationship with her because that is what I miss.

Like I said, she was my best friend. Always. As long as I can remember being alive. Even when I was a teenager. We never went through the mother/daughter problems that you hear so much about. And I did some really stupid things. Things I regret. One of the biggest things happened when I was 18, in high school, and she about 6 otr 7 months pregnant with my youngest sister. She was working full time teaching at the high school, going to school after work to get her masters degree. I was supposed to pick her up. I was busy with my friends. I didn't really "forget" what time it was, I just didn't want to leave. I was about 30 minutes late picking her up. She was walking back and forth in front of the school when I pulled up. She looked like she was about to cry. When I pulled up, she got in the car and didn't say a word. She just looked at me. I cannot tell you how horribly selfish and guilty I felt. And I still do today. I left my pregnant 38 year old mother on the side of the road so I could spend more time with my friends. I don't even remember who I was with. But I remember leaving her on the side of the road.

There were some other incidents in which I put my friends in front of my family. Mom tried to guide me and show me what I was doing. I didn't really care. Then one day, close to graduation, she said this:

"You know, you are my friend, not just my daughter. I love going shopping with you, spending time with you, just hanging out. But it seems like you don't have time for me anymore. I miss you. And in a few months, you will leave for college and be gone. I am really going to miss you then."

She never yelled, she never said "You need to . . . ", she never really said anything else. But she may as well have stabbed me in the heart. She was right. And I felt horribly. And I changed. I grew up a little bit that day. I would never intentionally hurt my mother. But I had, over and over. I did better after that. I am sure I did or said stupid things later but nothing like when I was a teenager. And she never gave up on me.

After my husband died, she was my confidante. When I was frustrated with my kids or work, I turned to her. She listened patiently and tried to tell me what to do. She always asked me questions and had me think through the problem. Or just listened to me vent. I really miss having that now. I did the same for her - listened, talked about her issue, heard her frustration. That's what friends do for each other.

So today, I miss her. It's her birthday and she always made us think that our birthday was a national holiday. It was OUR day. I hope to honor her today in some way by telling her Thank You For Being My Mom. And I miss you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Am Not Ready!

I didn't want to put the tree up. We are barely past Thanksgiving and it is not even December. But she wanted to. I said, "Fine, do it then". She wanted to put it in the sunroom instead of the living room. I said there wouldn't be enough space. Sometimes I am not very supportive. I love the holidays and decorating but I hate the mess it creates. In fact, last year's decorations for the den are still in the red and green tub under the table in the den. So I just wasn't ready for it yet this year.

She and her boyfriend put the tree up and decorated it last night. It was fun to watch them. And they were still together by the end. She talked about the first Christmas after her Dad died. She didn't want to decorate the tree with the new ornaments that year. She wanted to use just "Daddy's ornaments". The whole thing ended in tears that year. She explained it all to her boyfriend. He understands her a little more every day.

She did a great job. And she put everything back in the garage when she was done!!! Afterwards, she sat beside the tree and wrapped presents. She has already bought gifts for people. I am still thinking about what to buy.

The tree really looks beautiful. And it is starting to get me in the mood. I am trying. But she is fully invested in the holiday spirit. And she is guiding me there. It's kinda annoying, mostly because it reminds me that she is growing up. And that makes me sad. But excited, too. And it reminds me that I am not ready . . . for the tree to be up or for her to be grown up. But just like the tree, it's already done.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My Favorite Kinda Day

I love the weekend after Thanksgiving for 3 reasons:

Rivalry Football

I am not shopping girl. I will reiterate that I hate the mall. Not just our local malls but any mall. I am not shopping this Saturday. I am watching football.

I love college football, especially SEC football. I am football girl. I watch by myself. Kinda weird when I yell at the TV but who's gonna hear? I pile up in the sunroom with blankets and the remote. The weekend after Thanksgiving is always the weekend of college rivalries . . . Georgia/Georgia Tech, Florida/Florida State, Tennessee/Kentucky, and arguably the biggest rival in college football - The Iron Bowl - Alabama/Auburn. Now everyone thinks the rivalry in their state is the biggest one. I live in Tennessee and Kentucky is a rival but no longer the biggest rival the Vols have. Still, it was an exciting game today - 4 overtimes, Tennessee narrowly won by 2 little points. But I lived the Iron Bowl for 16 years while living in Alabama. I have seen it damage family relationships and friendships. I know women that would not date a man because he was a fan of the rival team. I have seen work colleagues that would not speak for days after a game. And I have seen some pretty funny pranks. Coaches of these teams have had winning seasons and lost their jobs because they have not won against the rival. It is crazy!!! But I have been waiting all day for it to start and I am watching the game with one eye as I write this.

I also love leftovers. I would rather eat Thanksgiving leftovers than Thanksgiving dinner. There is something about taking the turkey, dicing it up (Who am I kidding? I tear it with my fingers!) and dropping it into reheated mashed potatoes, adding a little gravy and stirring it all together. It is comfort food to the max. Sometimes I drop in a few peas. Yummmm. I enjoyed that today too.

So that has been my day. Football, leftovers, and lazy. My favorite kinda day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

She Found It!!!

First, you have to read the post below from Friday, November 16th. I talked about my sister being able to stumble across the flaws lurking in my house. Let me make it clear, she really, really does not go looking for them. While she was here, she read the post, we laughed about it, drank some wine, had a really good time. And we all had a great dinner. It was going well.

The neighbor kids got a football caught in the tree in my front yard. It took all of us and them but with tree climbing, a ladder and a long piece of PVC pipe, we finally got it down. While trying to help, I had the pleasure of receiving a basketball to the face - never saw it coming. It hurt for a second but gave everyone a laugh!!! You are very welcome everyone! Then Greg and the boys took off to visit the UT campus.

So later, I set out the pumpkin and pecan pies. While in the fridge, I spied a can of spray whipped cream. Hmmm, someone might like some whipped cream on their pie. What kid doesn't love spray whipped cream???? I sat it out. We sliced the pie. My nephew took a piece. My sister said "Don't you want some whipped cream?" He said "Sure". She took the top off and there it was!!! Mold growing around the spout!!!! We had almost made it through the day but she found it! Why is it always mold or mildew??? We laughed and she said "There it is, I found the flaw!" At least we got it out of the way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

52 Blessings (No, Not Really 52, Just A Handful)

I belong to a group on Flickr called 52 Blessings. The idea is that we focus on that for which we are grateful and make a point to take a photo of it, at least one a week for one whole year. Then we post the photo and tell why. Kinda makes you think in a totally different way.

I spend a great deal of time focusing on what I want - life to be easier, more money, my kids to have calmness in their lives, someone to pay my bills, to be a lottery winner, to find a wonderful man, and the list goes on. I really want a lot of things. I want material things too, money being the primary material thing, but mostly I want things that make me happy and create an easier life for me and my kids.

It's not that I am ungrateful, it is human nature to want things, especially things you don't have. Our country's economy is sorta based on that. Create something people want and will buy and you can live a happier life. But we need to remember to consider those things for which we are truly grateful and appreciate them. So here are some of the things that I have remembered recently and consider blessings:
  • My Kids - as much as they frustrate me on a daily basis, I think they are two of the most uniquely wonderful humans on the planet.
  • My Job - as a single parent, I am so thankful that I have a job that I love, that provides we with an income on which I can support myself and my kids, that allows me the flexibility to be with my family when I need to be, that allows me to grow as a person.
  • My Family - I was blessed to grow up in a family that loved each other and still does today. We had problems, still do. But we were always there for each other and we always will be. My Mom was a shining example of how to parent and I only hope that one day I can be the Mom to my kids that she was to me.
  • My Home - it may be chaotic and messy. It is 25 years old and looks like the Brady Bunch house. But it is mine and I make the payments every month. And in 11 years, it will be paid for.
  • My Sunroom - I added it to the back of the house a few years ago. I love that, because our yard is full of leafy trees and the room is on the second level, it feels like you are sitting in a tree house. It is a 16x16 room and it has 10 large windows. I love the light coming in and just sitting in my huge overstuffed chairs.
  • Chocolate - yes, I love chocolate but it is not necessarily something for which I am grateful. The picture above represents an experience. My kids and I spent an afternoon at the mall. I hate the mall. But I enjoy spending time with my kids. It was not a successful shopping trip, we didn't find what we were looking for after many long, long, mall hours. But at the end of the night, just before the mall closed, we headed for Godiva. We all got something. We laughed and discussed truffles vs. chocolate dipped strawberries. It was the most fun we had all afternoon.
So these are a few of my blessings. Not 52 yet, but I will get there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm On Vacation Ya'll

The leaves on the trees around Knoxville are every color you can imagine. The tree outside my home office window is a deep orange and when the sun shines through, the leaves glow. This is my favorite time of the year.

I am on vacation and not doing anything, just hanging out, doing laundry, reading magazines, catching up on the Tivo. I will be doing the grocery store/Sam's Club thing tomorrow in preparation for our Wednesday feast. And tidying up before the family arrives.

We will leave on Thursday to head for Alabama. We have really neglected the Priest side of the family for quite some time. Since both kids are working it has become increasingly difficult to get them both at any one place at any one time. My schedule is pretty flexible but it has been a long time since we had both kids in Alabama for a visit at the same time. My side of the family comes here so it works out a little easier. But my brother-in-law and his wife live 8 hours away and have 3 children under 10 years old. Not a fun trip to make. So they come up from Mobile to Montgomery (a more manageable 3 hour trip) and we come down from Tennessee to Montgomery (a not so bad 5 - 6 hour trip) and we meet in the middle . . . well, sort of.

This year, Casey will be with me, Zack has to work on Friday. Not unusual. With both kids in retail on the craziest shopping day of the year, it's amazing Casey doesn't have to work too. But she does work on Saturday so we will turn around and head back on Friday afternoon. Then we will do it all again at Christmas.

But until then, I am on vacation Ya'll! Just chillin'!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Weekend To Come

I'm tired. I am hoping this is what my weekend looks like - snuggling up, a pile of magazines, mindless TV. Maybe some laundry or a drive to photograph the brilliant fall colors. It has been a long few weeks. And next week is Thanksgiving. I should be getting ready. My sister and her family are coming for Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday. My dad is not. Doesn't want to travel on the busiest travel day of the year, ya know. So I should be preparing, cleaning, cooking. But right now I don't plan on doing it this weekend.

I love all my siblings. They really are some pretty cool people. We are all very, very different. We have diverse beliefs. And we all have opinions on everything. So it is rarely quiet when we are together. My brother and youngest sister live on the "left coast" and will not be traveling for the holiday. My sister Mickey and her family always travel. I know she would love to spend a holiday in her own home. But her husband's large, close knit family lives in Kentucky, about 1 and 1/2 hours from me. My sister lives in Louisiana. She ALWAYS has to travel. Since Mom died, we have managed to have family holidays at my house. It is convenient to her husband's family and it is close enough for Dad to drive here. So it works out for all of us.

But of all my siblings, my sister is probably the most different from me. In a good way. She is the most giving, selfless, religious, patient person I have ever met. She has a strong Christian faith, I am still wandering on my spiritual path. Her house is as neat as a pin, mine is full of dogs and chaos. She writes everything down in a planner, I use my Outlook calendar on my Blackberry. She is thin and gorgeous, I am not. She is a peacemaker, I am an instigator. But we are still very close.

However . . . normally I am fairly organized and my house is relatively clean. But if there is a flaw lurking out there, Mickey will find it. Not intentionally, she doesn't go looking for it. It is drawn to her like a magnet. For example, this summer I did about 72 loads of clothes right before they arrived. Towels were hurriedly folded and put away. A few days later, Mickey took a shower and washed her hair. Of all the towels for her to get, she used one that was not completely dry before I put it away and it had set there for a few days. We all know what that's like, right? Mildew smell does not go away from your hair after you dry it with a mildewy towel. She was so nice about it but I felt so bad. But something happens every time.

So I am sure I should not spend the weekend with mindless TV and magazines. I should be looking for the problems I know are lurking and correcting them. I will take off work next week and do it then. Until then, it's me time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He Wants To Grow Up

He really does want to grow up. He tries. But he is a Mama's boy. I have spent the last year pushing him out of the nest. He wouldn't go. He left willingly about 3 years ago, tried it for a year and came back. I knew he wasn't ready but had to let him try. He has been in the guest room since then. He is 21. He is not terribly self motivated. He is a great son but it is time for him to go. I think he might be ready.

All he wants for Christmas is the deposit for an apartment in the old city. He is doing well in his 2 part time jobs and was just offered a full time job. He accepted the full time job and is going to keep one or both of the part time jobs. He had it all figured out - the money, the rent, the "budget" and how he would pay his other bills. This is the most motivation I have seen from him in a long time.

Then today, one of the PT places asked him to apply for the manager position at another store. No guarantee of getting the job but WOW! Dilemma. He is submitting a resume today. We will see what happens.

I am really excited for him. Things are finally looking up. He has found something he is good at, he fits in, prospects are good. He is TRYING and that is more than I have seen him do for the last 2 years. I am happy for him. And I think he might be happy too. I haven't seen that in a long time either. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Camp Honey Creek Experience

Camp Honey Creek is a girls camp in Hunt, Texas. Just like the ones you see on TV, real cabins, wooden bunks, a dining hall, etc. The owners/leaders are unbelievable ladies and if I had a young girl, I would send her to their camp in a heart beat and never worry. This is where our business retreat was last week.

About a month ago, we were divided into 2 teams - one red and one blue. We had to come up with Indian names for our team and an Indian name for each team member. Our tribe was Maniwanawin (Many wanna win, get it?) and my name was Tiponi which means "Child of Importance". We had to design shirts for our team using our team colors and names. Then we plotted for the next month even though we really had no idea what to expect.

Now, some of our team are rather high maintenance. We call them the "Princesses". Wooden bunks and cabins would not be their idea of a retreat. We put them all in one cabin together. Upon arrival, they were quite shocked at the accommodations - I can show you, I have pictures! But they had the promise of La Mansion Del Rio (that's a hotel, ya know) awaiting in San Antonio on our last night. And the first night, the heat in their cabin broke - oops!

The first afternoon we had orientation and then all piled in the camp bus to tour part of the 300 acre camp. The photo above was of the sunset we experienced. The Texas hill country is very different than what I am used to seeing. But it was quite beautiful in a craggy sort of way. And the sunset was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time.

The next morning, the bell rang for breakfast and we chowed down, fortifying ourselves for the challenges ahead. The teams separated and ours started with a team building activity and then moved on to rifle shooting. Each member of the team learned to shoot at a target and then our scores were added together. After that, we headed back to the dining hall for lunch. After a huge camp lunch, the red team had the option of trying the rock wall while we went to the archery competition.

Now the rock wall was supposed to be optional. And I decided early on that the vision of my fat butt, trussed up in a climbing harness and ropes, wearing a goofy helmet, while co-workers stood beneath me staring up was just more of a visual than I wanted to provide for them. So I was going to gracefully decline. Which wasn't a problem because others felt the same way. Then while standing on the archery field, kicking butt shooting arrows at a target (I came in fourth overall) they called down to say that one of the red team made it to the top. It was one of the princesses! She waved at us! Then about 20 minutes later, another one. Again, a princess. This one was 57 years old!!!!! And then another! Now, there was no way I could make it to the top but after that, there was no way I was going to stay on the ground. So after archery, the teams switched places. Everyone on our team tried although no one made it up. And I did get on the wall and went about 4-5 feet off the ground. Then I got a cramp in my calf. No, I was not faking it, it really was a cramp. But it came at quite a convenient time cause I wasn't going any farther! I have newfound respect for the princesses!

That night after dinner, we had a campfire and s'mores. It became quite emotional because the two other Tennessee district managers and I will be changing regions in January and will no longer be with this team. We told stories, cried, laughed, and sang songs. It was very corny and quite touching.

The next morning, back to competition and the canoe races. Four members from each team were in a canoe on the river. And yes, we really did race. I was in the front, middle for our team and we won!!! My knees will never be the same. Fat girl kneeling!

Later we had a pow-wow around the flag pole and each of us shared what we had learned about ourselves or others that week and how we would take that back to use in our real life. I shared that I have great new respect for the princesses and their climbing ability. I was also impressed by their lack of complaining when the heat broke. They truly were low maintenance for the first time in the very long time I have known them. It will be hard to criticize them going forward. I shared that I hated to leave the unbelievable support and friendship of such a team. And I really meant it.

It was an emotionally draining, rewarding, bonding experience. I am glad we did it. And I am really glad I got to see that sunset.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Break Time

I am heading for Texas to a camp in a rural area. It is for a corporate retreat and then we will be on to San Antonio for the weekend. Casey and Chase will be joining me this weekend for fun and sightseeing. I will not have access to an internet connection for most of the week so I doubt I will be blogging this week. But I will have a lot to say when I get back.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's My Feet Again

I love this picture. I also like to take pictures of my feet. It's easy, it's weird, and it's a different way to take a self-portrait. And my shoes say something about me and my personality. These shoes are new - got them on Saturday and I love them! They are totally me.

So, I also love Flickr. For the uninitiated, Flickr is a photo sharing website. You set up an account (either a free one or pro) and then post your pictures. You can join groups, get pointers, join in on challenges, etc. It is like a MySpace for photographers. A social network of sorts. And it challenges your creativity and pushes you to improve technical skills. I have really focused on carrying my camera every day and practice, practice, practice.

As I have explored Flickr, I joined in on several groups. I love portrait photography so I joined one of the many groups related to that. I joined a local "meetup" group where once a week on Sundays, they meet and take photos or hang out. I have not joined them in a meetup but hope to soon. I joined 52 Weeks which challenges you to take a self portrait and post it each week for a year. I joined 52 Blessings which is similar to 52 Weeks except you post a photo of something for which you are thankful each week for a year.

Then I found the group Will I Ever Stop Taking Pictures Of My Feet. It is NOT a fetish group. It's just a bunch of folks like me who take photos of their feet in a creative way. Now there ARE the fetish groups out there but this is not one. And I do not belong to those groups. But I have gotten a couple of weird emails that creeped me out. And my most viewed photo on my page is the one I posted here several weeks ago of my pink and green flip flops with my hot pink toes. Freaky!

So I will keep taking pictures of my feet in a non-fetish way. And I will keep buying shoes that are fun and show my personality. And you will probably hear about them again.

Happy 18th Birthday Casey!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Yeah, Me and Posh Spice

Posh Spice, AKA Victoria Beckham, is known for being on the leading edge of fashion. I, however, am not.

Three Ways That Posh and I are Different:

1. Her entire body would fit in one leg of my blue jeans.

2. She is married to a world class soccer star that is smokin' hot. I am a single mom with a wide open dating calendar.

3. I work for a living. Just exactly what is it that Posh does?

But I have Posh's haircut. And I have had it for a while. I didn't know I was copying Posh, it just turned out that way. Her haircut was recently named as one of the most popular haircuts today. Jenny McCarthy has joined us. Katie Holmes. Now Posh has gone a little extreme with hers lately and I am not brave enough to go there. But I am getting my hair cut nextMonday. I think I am going with bangs.

My mom used to say that when it came to me, the only thing she could ever be sure about was that each time she saw me, my hair would be different. That is so true! I have had red hair, brown with highlights, long, short, permed, and yes, at one time, I had a mullet! One time I wanted to be blond and had no money so I, being so naive or stupid or both, decided to buy the lightest blond hair color on the market and do it myself. Now, having very dark brown hair, you can probably guess what happened next. Yep, orangutan orange. Quite frightening and lesson learned.

I am pretty sure that if I didn't highlight and color my hair right now, it would be mostly gray. But I have been coloring it long enough that I don't really know. I know the gray peeps out when it is time to color but it is NOT pretty gray and I continue to cover it up. So that's what I (rather Stephanie, my stylist) will be doing on Monday. Covering up the gray and adding highlights and bangs. The bangs will be new. I gotta break away from being linked to Posh. Yeah, right!!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Baby Is Growing Up

Casey is my youngest. She will be 18 on Monday. I find myself wondering why life is moving so quickly. I feel like I missed something. But I was there for the whole thing.

When Zack was 3, I was pregnant and worried that I would never love another child as much as I did him. I could not imagine it at all and was quite concerned. I guess I didn't really understand motherhood. Because a mother's capacity for love expands at the rate required. You love as much, but you do love differently.

My children are nothing alike. Zack is laid back, Casey is intense. Zack is quiet and a people-pleaser, Casey is outgoing and independent. I love those things about each of them. I love that they are different. But that is challenging when kids want to be treated the same. I have always told my kids that fair and equal does NOT mean the same. Here's my speech:

Kid - "Mom, you let him/her have this/do this/go there/etc and you NEVER (it's always never) let me!"
Mom - "You are not the same. Do I need to point out the differences between you again? I let you do other things that I don't allow him/her to do. I treat you differently because you need different things from me. I love you both equally but you are different, so I treat you differently. Now go find something else to complain about."

And now they are technically, legally grownups. At least Casey will be on Monday. I am kind of sad but very excited for her and for what lies ahead. She is an amazing young woman and we have become quite good friends as she has grown up. I am still her mom but our relationship goes beyond mother-daughter. And I like that. It is what I had with my mom. It is what I have always wanted.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Happy Birthday Andie

Happy Birthday Andie, you have come a long way. Her birthday is Oct. 31st. Yes, she was born on Halloween and there have been many times she was quite spooky. And witchy.

The backstory - I am almost 19 years older than Andie, my youngest sister. I was in college when she was born and she frequently reminds me that I am old enough to be her mother. I wasn't really around a lot when she was growing up. She was 18 months old when I got married. But it was fun having a really little sister. Especially since I wasn't there every day.

You see, Andie was what we call a challenging child. And a challenging adolescent. And a challenging young adult. She is the reason that I do not judge a parent by the behavior of the child. My parents tried but she was beyond their ability. My mom was a super parent but she realized early on that Andie was going to do it her way and was willing to accept whatever the consequence was as a result of her behavior. Mom had to let Andie do it and just try to teach her, as best she could, not to do it again. Mom tried to let Andie know that she loved her very much but the behavior was unacceptable. So things were hard on Andie as she grew up. And she was hard on others. And I must admit, I wasn't always very nice to her.

When Andie moved to California, she seemed to fit right in and mellowed out a little. She is a "hippie" through and through. At one point she lived in an empty van on the beach and LOVED it. Then, about 5 years ago, she found herself pregnant. The result was Taj, her son, the coolest kid on the planet. And the other result was a new Andie. She had been moving toward personal growth but having Taj made her really focus. She stumbled a few times but she is a great mom. She is dedicated to Taj and keeps him a priority. And Andie has a great guy in her life now. Josh has been around a while as a friend but they decided a while back that they are soulmates. And Josh is amazing with Taj. They are a happy family. And she is a great person.

So Happy Birthday Andie. I am really proud of you and the grown up person you have become. I am proud that you are always you, just now a better version of you. I am proud that you are my littlest sister. I am proud that you are my friend. And I love you.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Holidays Are Not Part of My Practical Life

I am not anti-Halloween. Or any holiday for that matter. Actually, I love holidays. But I am getting more practical as I get older. And holidays are NOT practical.

Let's stay with Halloween. Such a creative holiday - costumes, spooky decorations, trick-or-treating, and pumpkins! Who doesn't love pumpkins with faces? I used to love to participate in all of that and in fact, I was quite comfortable overdoing it all, showing off .

My kids costumes were almost always homemade. Okay, I admit, it was mostly because I couldn't afford to buy them rather than because of any altruistic, Martha Stewart reason. But it was fun to make them and it was a learning experience for the kids.

The 3rd year we were married, before we ever had kids, we made this elaborate "haunted doorstep" type of thing in front of our house and my husband and brother-in-law dressed up in masks. We had dry ice in a huge cauldron (every redneck family has a big iron pot) and I dressed up as a witch to give out the candy. I can cackle just like the Wicked Witch of the West coming after Toto so I make a pretty cool witch. The whole thing was a hit.

When we moved to Knoxville, we loved to decorate the yard. Multiple jack-o-lanterns, ghosts holding hands dancing around the tree, orange lights around the windows. But we live on a dead end street and don't really get a lot of trick-or-treaters.

And now, my kids are almost all grown. They make or buy their own costumes and they attend parties rather than trick or treating. Putting up and taking down the decorations has become too much work. The last few years, I have not even bought candy, just turned the lights off in the front of the house and sat in the sunroom watching TV. Humbug!

I used to walk the kids past "those" houses and wonder about the people living there. Now I realize they were probably just old. Or just practical. Yeah, that's it. I am practical.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

They Are My Favorites

I love my shiny, pink Chucks!

They are not new, I have had them for more than a year. They are "me".

If I could dress however I wanted everyday, I would wear either jeans or yoga pants, a fun shirt (never tucked in), and fun shoes. My Chucks fall into the fun shoes category.

I love shoes and I love shoes that are different. I have those boring black and brown work type of shoes - pumps, boots, etc. - but every now and then I let the real me come out and wear my fun shoes.

For the last 3 summers, it was these:

Love my pink and green girly flip flops with bling. They are just about worn out now but I am still holding on to them.

I try to be practical. That's why I have those boring work shoes. But, I am quite embarrassed to say, I have way too many of those too. I can't stop!

I think the problem lies in the fact that big girls have a hard time finding cute clothes. But big girls can shop for shoes like anyone else!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

If Mom Could Have Waved Her Magic Wand

If Mom could have waved her magic wand (or rolled her magic bones and burned her magic hair) what one gift would she have given you?

Tere - That whole "not expecting perfection" thing is still hard for me. I have enough of dad's genes that I can be critical of people and harsh sometimes. I usually recognize it, feel guilty and then try to apologize. I think Mom's gift would be that I didn't do things for which I would need to apologize.

- I am certain she would have given me the belief in myself that she had in me. I have no doubt that if she could have placed her hand on my heart and let me see myself the way she and God see me, that would have been all she needed to give.

- Happiness – she just wanted everyone to be happy.

- Inner peace. She really tried.

Friday, October 26, 2007

What Is The Single Greatest Legacy She Left You?

Tere - That everyone can be a better person. That you need to constantly educate yourself, work on your faults, and find a way to grow and evolve as a person. I still want to be like her when I grow up.

- It's weird to say but Mom may have taught me more about life with her death than I was willing to learn during her life. I want more than ever to make my life meaningful in the way hers was instead of in the way that TV and my employers tells me I should. She ended leaving me with the belief that(from Wayne Dyer) we arent' human beings on a spiritual journey, but spiritual beings on a human journey. She's made me want to be more meaningful to my kids, to my sisters, to other people that I care about. She's made me want to be important to other people by loving them the way she loved people. To live with a sense of spiritual certainty and such clear priorities that I will be missed when I am gone.

- Too hard to pick just one but two major ones were:

(1) Everyone deserves to be loved and

(2) If you set your mind to it you can accomplish it.

- The belief that I am truly special, beautiful, and destined for great things.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Describe The Person She Was As If I Were A Stranger

Tere - Without sounding too much like a pollyanna, she was the perfect parent. She was supportive but not smothering, she was encouraging but not controlling, she was loving but not needy, she was involved but not hovering, she was strict but also fun. She was not the cool Mom in the neighborhood that made everyone want to hang out at our house. She kind of hung back, listened and watched, but was there if we needed her. Mom never NEEDED to be the center of attention. She wasn't ha, ha funny, couldn't really even tell a joke, but she would come out with some of the funniest statements that you never expected her to make and she could be silly. She never threw her knowledge out there but she was one of the most learned and intelligent people on the planet. She was quietly confident in the way that people who know they have "it" don't need to tell you they have "it". She never let anything stop her. If it was broken, she fixed it. If she wanted to go to Egypt to meditate in the pyramids and no one wanted to go with her, she went to Egypt by herself. When she asked her father to help her get a loan to finish college, he told her that she had a husband and two little babies and she needed to give up on finishing college. She stood up, she went out and got a loan by herself and went back to school. She finished and later, while working and pregnant with her 4th child, got her masters degree. She never wasted anything, least of all food. She had just the right size container for every leftover. She either ate the leftovers or made them into something else. And she scraped every drop out of a bowl or jar with a spatula. She balanced her checkbook to the penny and would search for a week if it was off by even a penny! She was the most patient human being with others that I have ever seen. But don't think you could walk over her. People that mistook her patience for timidity soon found out that in her very quiet, loving way, they would be put in their place. I think Mom was underestimated by many people but once they knew her she was so admired and loved. I could go on and on but I won't.

Chip - Tere really summed this up so well in my mind that it is hard to say much here but I will try. I have always said that my Mother is the most spiritual person I have ever known or known of. She is not religious at all, but she is what I could only hope to strive for when it comes to living Spiritualy. She didn't radiate some white light that made you want to follow her, but you knew she was a really neat Lady. She never ever ever seemed like she thought she was better than anyone else in the whole world, and what was really cool was that she really was never "impressed" by people that the world taught us we should be impressed with. Confidence isn't the right word because it ends up suggesting arrogence or dominance. She was just so at peace that she made you know that she was at peace and loving. She was love that lived in the background and all around you without having to let you know that she was there giving you that.

Mickey - My Mom was incredibly patient, always wanted everyone pleased, never wanted to offend, she loved to explore and learn, she was an amazing cook. Her love languages were acts of service and gift-giving, she loved cookbooks and was all about happiness. Traveling thrilled her. She had a beautiful smile. She was determined to make things work. She loved every person she met.

Andie - Kind, non-judgemental, calm, confident, patient, caring, loving, fun and stubborn.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Did You Appreciate Most About Her?

Tere - Her patience. The fact that she made all of us feel like we were the most important thing in the world to her. That she always talked to me like I was an adult as long as I can remember, like I was her friend. As a parent, she guided me rather than telling me what to do. What a great way to learn.

Chip - That she was present every time she was present. I am still in awe at how she made me feel so acknowledged and even attended to when I was with her, or even spoke to her on the phone. I think the reason so many people loved her is that she made everyone feel that way. I can barely manage to be present enough to let my kids know that I am really "here" with them. I find life, love, work, money, stresses easy to cause me to not be my best, to not be completely "here". At Mom's service I wrote about how her eyes never looked past you, never failed to see you, I am still in awe at her ability to be so present.

Mickey - Her patience, she was non-judgemental, her determination, she was kind and loving

Andie - Her patience, strength, and unconditional love.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Why We Loved Mom

I know, almost everyone loves their mom. But I think our mom was different. After Mom died, my brother sent out a few emails to the other 3 of us asking that we answer some questions about Mom. Not informational questions but why we felt about her the way we did. I would like to take the next few days to honor my mother by posting those responses here. This is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, rightly so, there is a great deal of emphasis on survivors. But our mom didn't survive and I wanted to show the legacy of love, admiration, and respect that she left behind. So I will post some of those emails every day. I hope you agree that this is the way children are supposed to feel about their mothers. I will post one question each day and the responses we each gave. So here are the five questions he asked:

1. What are the most important lessons that Mom taught you? ie spiritual, practical, parenting etc.
2. What did you appreciate most about her?
3. Describe the person she was as if I were a stranger.
4. What is the single greatest legacy she left you with?
5. If Mom could have waived her magic wand(or rolled her magic bones and burned her magic hair) what one gift would she have given you?

Today I will start with question 1 - What are the most important lessons that Mom taught you?

Tere - Mom taught me to have a positive outlook, that we get what we expect, to have confidence in myself, to do good things because both the good and bad things you do come back to you, that just because you wouldn't do it that way it doesn't mean it's the wrong way, and I could go on and on. But I think the most important thing she taught me was not to expect perfection in people, that people are constantly evolving, changing, and growing and that as long as we see them moving in a positive direction, we should support that growth. I think that applies to every aspect of day to day life, including parenting and spirituality. You love people for who they are, even when they are not where you want them to be.

Chip -
Patience. I can only remember twice in my life that I thought she was really bothered about something. Once was when Andie was 11 or 12 and had run away, they were on the phone with me telling me about it and I was very mean and told Dad that "the common denominator in his children's f***ed up lives was him". He cried and hung up on me and she told me that was the meanest thing that anyone had ever said to him and she couldn't believe I could be that cruel. Point being, she had every right to be upset. The other time was when Mammaw Cunningham was very taxing and Dad wouldn't take care of her, Mom was,for the first time I had ever seen, frustrated on an ongoing basis. I don't think her body liked it. My picture of Mom is one of patience, acceptance and lovingness, regardless of what the circumstances were. I truly believe that she saw every "circumstance" as simply part of God's divine plan.

Mickey - To treat everyone equally – love them all, patience, reach out to the unloved, encourage others that they can…

Andie - Patience, inner-strength and unconditional love.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How cool is this?

My Page for Mom (see the post below) was featured on a popular local TV show, Style, on WBIR. It was on a piece for Crop for the Cure. How cool is that?

Wildfires Suck

That is a direct quote from my sister Andie. She lives in Lake Arrowhead, just above L.A. As she said a few hours ago, there is one fire about 4 miles away, another about 4 miles the other way, and another about a mile away. They have not been told to evacuate yet (Good? Bad? I don't know) and the wind is blowing about 50 miles an hour but away from them. She has the "important stuff" packed in the car so she can be out in less than 20 minutes.

There is nothing like death or an impending fire to set your priorities straight. All of a sudden, there is clarity regarding what is important to you. Other than the obvious clothes and supplies, what would you pack and take if you knew you only had a few hours and could only take what would fit in your car?

I would certainly take my photographs, albums, and my back up computer drive with all my photos. If I didn't save my stuff, at least I would have pictures of it. My mom's letters to her mother while my parents were stationed in Germany. My daughter's baby sweater. My grandmother's quilts. Our family cookbook with recipes from across the generations. The birthday cards my mom sent me. The log barn and cabin replicas my father in law made. The books my children made when they were in elementary school. The genealogical history, books and mementos from my ancestors.

I know that I need to simplify and my life should not be about stuff. But most of my "stuff" has emotional ties. My grandmother's furniture and dishes. Some of them came from her parents and relatives. Furniture from my parents, mementos from my childhood. Anything related to my family, my late husband, and my children would be devastating to me if it were lost to me. I would still have the memories and the ties but would be heartbroken.

So Andie, Josh and Taj - be safe. I love you.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Knoxville Race for the Cure

Race Day! We arrived at 7am in the dark. We browsed and checked out the freebies, in the dark. Panera's cherry pink ribbon bagels were wonderful! The three of us, Robin, Casey and your's truly, repeatedly debated just how far is 5K??? How long was that going to take us? I think all three of us were just waiting for one of the others to suggest just hanging out in the park until that walk/race thing was over. But then we went to find the "In Memory Of" and "In Celebration Of" cards. I had to fight back tears as I wrote my Mom's name on the card. I had done so well and didn't think I was going to cry but here it came. I turned away and blinked a lot. Then Casey wrote "Mamaw" on hers and I started again. I, ummm, went to get some more pins, yeah, that's what I was doing. No one else was crying!!!!!! But that's me, I am a crybaby. There was no way I wasn't doing the race!

So we did the 5K walk. Has anyone suggested putting port-a-potties along the route? They give you bottles of water and free coffee . . . does no one have to "use the facilities" after that? Of all the things to keep me going in this race . . . the need to find a port-a-potty was the strongest force, urging me on to the finish line.

I really wanted to thank all of those that donated. I raised $1087 and was quite overwhelmed and humbled by the whole process. I loathe asking people for money. I don't do "home parties" or volunteer for fundraising. But this cause is one I am passionate about. I will write about all the reasons one day but for now, it's because of my beloved Mom. So I signed up, and set my goal. Being a first timer, I set what I thought was an ambitious goal - $500. I sent out emails and waited. Within a week, I was quite overwhelmed by my wonderful friends and I raised my goal to $700. When I hit the $1000 mark, I was so humbled. And those that did not donate but sent words of encouragement have no idea how much it meant to me. The whole experience has been overwhelming.

So next year, I will be back. I will be ready for the hills. And I will find the port-a-potty before we start.

So here are the names of the people on my race card:

In Memory Of
Annette Cunningham - My Mom, she died Sept. 10, 2005
Carol Craddock - My friend Mich's aunt
Diane Londagin - My sister Andie's friend's mother
Cindy Lundeen - My sister Andie's friend's mother

In Celebration Of
Aleta - my friend Reni's friend

Friday, October 19, 2007

According to Statistics

I was listening to the radio this morning and according to the statistics my children should be dropouts, drug addicts, in jail, or teen parents. Let's review . . . children without a father in the home are more likely to be involved in crime, addiction, or sexual promiscuity. They are more likely to be involved in multiple relationships and have commitment issues. You know, all the "single mom" issues.

My son had his dad until he was 15, my daughter until she was 11. Their dad didn't leave, he died. It was devastating to us all. And according to statistics, children who lose a parent to death are more likely to be involved in "acting out" or any of the aforementioned statistics.

Now, I am not here to say that we have not had problems. They are/were teenagers, afterall. And I am sure we will have problems in the future. But I have some damn good kids. They are not scholars but they are very smart - both book smart and people smart. They are compassionate and empathetic to other's situations. They are open-minded and tolerant of others. They are impatient with those that do not want to help themselves and who make excuses for their plights. They have active lives and friendships. They do not do drugs. They have both had long term relationships. They both work and are dedicated to their jobs. They have "bills" and for the most part, do a good job of managing them, even when they struggle with them. They are committed to our family and we have a pretty close relationship. Depending on what day of the week it is, we like each other.

Would having their Dad through the last 6 years have made a difference? We will never know, will we? But I am proud of my kids. I am truly proud they are not a statistic.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It was a long drive

Went to Nashville today to work, found out I am becoming addicted to my XM radio. It's The Broads, I tell ya! Broadminded, channel 155. They crack me up and I actually laugh out loud in my car like a big ole goofball. I so want to be on that show! I find myself flipping between channels 155 and 156 which is Oprah and Friends. I am SUCH a girl, I know. And I really think that someone should take Dr. Laura, tie her to a chair with a phone taped to her ear and give her some of her own medicine - cruel and unusual punishment, yes. But she does it to people every day! And they keep calling in! And dummies like me keep listening. I have all but ceased listening to music. Not completely true, I have my Ipod with over 2500 songs hooked up in the car but I rarely listen to music on the radio. And it is not because I don't like the new music. My favorite music is new - you will not catch me listening to classic rock. I am NOT stuck in the 70's or 80's. C'mon people, leave the music with the mullets! I like to hear a good classic rock song every now and then but who wants a whole channel or station where that is all they play. Move on! So it really was a long drive but I am home. And I really think I need some sleep.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Toilet Paper Testimonial

Every time I go into a public restroom I have this conversation in my head. So I thought today, surely someone else is having the same experiences. Are You?

So first of all . . . the stalls. Who makes these things? There is barely enough room to turn around and I am sure tall people hit their knees on the door when they sit down. And yes, I am a large person but surely smaller folks than me also rest their elbow on the toilet paper because it is RIGHT there! And speaking of toilet paper, why is it the latest thing is to install a 300 pound roll of 1/2 ply paper down so low that the exit for the paper is by your ankles? And the paper is so thin, the roll is so heavy, that when you finally find the paper, as you pull, it comes off in 3 inch scraps!!!

And while we are on the subject . . . what the heck is up with the automatic flush? While you are sitting there (I am a girl, I sit) it will go off for no reason, causing you to levitate 3 inches off the toilet. But if you do the number two, it will not flush at all! You do a voodoo dance, waving your hands in front of the sensors, and the damn thing will NOT go. Do you leave and leave the number two? Do you take the chance that the motion of opening the door will trigger the flusher? Sometimes there is a little button you can push, sometimes not. Can we please just have the flusher back???????????????????????????????

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I gotta find some new friends!

Okay, I am still relatively young! At least in my head that's true. It is not supposed to be this way. I spent my Saturday alone. That's ok, I kinda like doing that sometimes. I went to the Museum of Appalachia's Tennessee Homecoming. For the uninitiated, the Museum is in Norris and is a collection of buildings and artifacts that depict Appalachian life many years ago. The Homecoming is a yearly festival that has music, mountain crafts, food, living history, authors, etc. It is actually very cool and the location is very interesting. So I decided that I wanted to take some pictures and knew I could get some interesting ones - I did and you can see them on my Flickr page. As I am walking, by myself, looking for interesting photos and thinking, I realize that rather than looking for interesting photos, shouldn't I be looking for interesting men?!!!? I also realize that there are mostly old people at this thing. Nothing wrong with old people, I am quite fond of them actually. But I am alone! In the middle of a bunch of old people! Taking pictures! Is it always going to be this way? I guess it will if I spend my weekends with old people looking at antiques through a camera lens.