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.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My page for Mom

It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month! I am walking in the Knoxville Komen Race for the Cure but I am also participating in a 12 hour Crop for a Cure at Scrapbooks and More in Knoxville. We are raising money for the Kim Rowden Memorial Fund which provides mammograms for women in need. I also did a page in honor of my mom. It is posted at the store. In case you can't see it, the text says "She Lost. She lost her fight but we all won so much by having her in our lives." The picture is of my sister Mickey, Mom, and me about 12 years ago on a girls trip to New Orleans.

Welcome to my life

My first blog! I have actually managed a blog before but it was at work as a part of a "biggest loser" contest. I was "not the biggest loser" but I did lose a few pounds. Speaking of - I am continually a member of the gotta lose the weight group. I attend Weight Watchers and follow the program but I am pretty rebellious and don't always make the right choices. Especially if given a goal but that's a whole other story.

I love food. Growing up, every event centered around the food. The best times were when all the family and relatives were gathered around the table, laughing, telling stories. The food was always fantastic because Mom, her mom and sister were all wonderful cooks. So food was associated with good times. And it still is. You start talking about having something (family get together, meeting, etc.) at my house and I start talking about what I will serve. Don't get me wrong, I am not a pig - obsessed with food, needing to eat every moment of the day. I eat too much when I do eat and, like I said, don't always make the right choices, but I am focused on getting the weight off eventually. By the way - the "weight" is 100 pounds!!! How the heck did I get that overweight????????????????

I started this blog as sort of a diary. I carry a couple of small notebooks with me and occasionally write things down but I do much better when I am on the computer. I like to write and people tell me I am pretty good at it. But they are members of my extended family and maybe they just have'nt read any good books lately. But I do enjoy it. I spend so much time in my head thinking, thinking, that I need to get some things out of there and in writing so I can move on.

Things I want to write about:

My kids - Zack and Casey. Zack is 21 and Casey will be 18 soon. "Nuff said"
My Mom - Mom died on September 10th, 2005 of breast cancer. I have A LOT to say about that.
Daily stuff - I spend a lot of time driving in my car and I think about a lot of stupid stuff.
Current events - There are just not enough people out there talking about Brittney.
Movies and Music - I love them. All kinds.
Controversial stuff - I used to believe I thought like everyone else. I am sure now that I don't.
My art and the creative process - Yes, photography and scrapbooking really are art.

So hopefully someone out there will enjoy what I have to say. I cannot imagine that I will actually post daily but I might. I guess I will just see where this goes.