My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another New Year's Eve

Another year is ending. Everyone is blogging their 2013 recaps or their 2014 resolutions. Maybe it's the cynic in me but that all feels really stale. This past year has been so significant in so many ways that it is impossible to wrap it up in a few short paragraphs. My hopes and prayers for the coming year are bigger than a resolution. I feel like I have evolved as a writer and observer of life beyond the stage of believing my words can do justice to the occasion. I also feel like today and tomorrow are just another Tuesday and Wednesday in the grand scheme of things.

So many people in my life have said goodbye to people and things that mattered in the past year. There's been so much pain - both physical and emotional. I reached the point of no longer being able to work. Or go out to eat. Or travel far. At a time when I was needed... I was unable to go and be and do. It's hard to not be able to be who you have always been. It's harder to summarize those feelings of impotence. It's hard to go from determined single mom, leaping tall buildings in a single bound... to being a girl who knows the answers to the all the questions on Live with Kelly and Michael.

We've aged. My grandmother turned 90. My daddy retired. My mom went on medicare. My daughter in law finished college. There's more grey in my hair and more lines in my face. I feel wiser and calmer. Life goes on until it doesn't and all the tears in the world can't turn back the clock, nor would we really want them to. Everything we lived through is a lesson we don't have to learn again.

I could resolve to do a lot of things next year but honestly, the thing I want most is validation. I want to get what I deserve. I've worked hard for a lot of years and would much rather still be doing that if I could do it without pain. Since I can't do it, I want to be able to collect the social security I paid into and not be a burden on my family. It's hard enough not being able to contribute in a physical way, I want to be able to contribute financially.

I want to be as healthy and strong as I can be. I want to be a good steward of my time and talents. I want to make this world better for others. I want to inspire people. I want to give hope. I want to know more at this time next year than I know right now. I want to drive down our country roads with the windows rolled down and the radio turned up, singing along at the top of my lungs. I want to take the best of me and make it better. I don't know if those are resolutions or prayers or hopes and dreams. That's what I want.

This year I spent a lot of time by myself. I'm glad I like me otherwise that would have been a pretty miserable thing. I guess that's why people drink or do drugs or whatever, because they can't live with themselves. I'm still, no matter how much time I spend in the nest, I'm still never bored. I wake up every day with a purpose, even if that purpose is just getting through that day. I look forward to the pleasures in life - guilty or otherwise. I'm not ashamed of who I am. I would love for there to be more but I don't blame myself. You can't regret what's past because you can't change it. You can only strive to do better next time. I hope I still do that. I hope I'm still flexible to make adjustments.

So for 2014... goodbye Sherwood Drive, hello Cedar Hollow. Goodbye time clock, goodbye alarm clock. Goodbye pantyhose, hello fuzzy socks. I spent the day dog sitting with a little dachshund named Oscar cuddled up beside me... babysitting two little red headed girls... loving, laughing, living. No matter how much changes in our lives those things remain - loving, laughing, living. Until we don't.

Happy New Year. Love and hugs, y'all.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Just A Few Things

Yesterday my niece Jamie turned 9. I started blogging right around the time she was born - one of my first blog posts was about her birth. I didn't migrate my blog from AOL when they closed down the journals. I wish I had some of those early blog posts. I'm glad to not have some of them. Life goes on.

Two nights after Jamie was born I spent New Year's Eve with Purple Michael at the apartment of some friends of his. Michael was house sitting. It was the calmest and quietest of NYE's - I'm not sure we even had wine. We had dinner at Boston Market - rotisserie chicken - and snacked on a bunch of appetizers on into the New Year. We watched old movies. I'm serious, very quiet evening. It's poignant to me because there were several really great conversations we had that night that have always stuck with me and one of them was talking about Jamie's birth.

We (collectively, as a family) had a hectic weekend as we moved my parents up here full time. They have a renter in their house in Riverdale and she ended up needing to move in earlier than they had expected so things were expedited and more rushed than they had expected. I always believe in cosmic timing and that everything happens precisely when it's meant to happen. Either way, there were three of my four brothers assisting and my two nephews, Cory and Matthew who are 16 and 14 along with Austin on the moving crew up here. If we were ever to start a family industry it would not be moving. None of us has really great upper body strength. But it was memorable. That's the timing thing. There is still another load of stuff there STILL and that may be moved tomorrow.

Since I can lift practically nothing heavier than air, my job was animal control and if there is another load tomorrow that will be the role I play then. I was rather weary/weepy Saturday from fatigue and pain from having morphed into full time doggie duty (as opposed to doggie doodie, although they both stink) immediately after our holiday merry making marathon. Our Merry-thon. Sorry. I was just trying it out. Anyways... I didn't sleep Friday night and Saturday just felt so overwhelming with all the moving and people carrying heavy stuff while I watched and I still had dog sitting duty until Sunday afternoon. Yesterday afternoon when my parents got home - still weird to say that - I came down to the Whine Cellar and crashed. I slept 12 hours last night. Today I have felt much closer to my usual subpar self and haven't had nearly as much pain as usual.

I have two really poignant potential posts brewing about the fact that my parents have moved out of the house they have lived in for 37 years and the fact that tomorrow is my dad's last day of work after working for the same company for 46 1/2 years. I say they're brewing but the truth is, they may never make it to the keyboard. It's hard for a gypsy like me to even wrap my mind around such things. We'll see.

I have three new articles of clothing in transit from zulily - leggings, maxi skirt and big hoodie. I may wear all three at the same time. My current style is somewhere between "homeless" and "Duggar Family reject". I asked for fuzzy socks for Christmas and got an embarrassing number of them. I told my nieces they could expect me to pick them up from school wearing nothing but fuzzy socks - I actually meant that I wasn't going to wear SHOES - but it came across as if I was taking up residence at the nudist colony down the street. I'll just say that from the ankles down, I am STYLIN'!

Old Flame messaged that he had some time off and wanted to come visit. I told him he was welcome whenever, just give me enough notice that I can shave my legs. He won't come. He's been trying to get up this way since July. It's partly my fault since I never answer the phone and honestly just don't get too excited about things. Not much happens around here.

I'm excited about the Winter Olympics.

I'm watching Hollywood Game Night - which is really, really funny.

I've been binge-watching Downton Abbey.

We had eggs, bacon, grits and biscuits for dinner. Me and Austin have been mostly just eating Christmas leftovers for the past week. This was a nice change. And Pop cooked which was even better.

My mom got all her Christmas stuff put away today. Mine hasn't moved. I promised my body I wouldn't ask anything of it for 48 hours post-dog sitting. Since my trees are purple and pink I'm just packing away the Christmas specific stuff and leaving the trees and lights.

I got a Christmas card all the way from Australia! Thanks Wendy! It totally made my day.

And Little Kitty has just come to sit under my left arm. I'm through typing. Happy Monday!

Love and hugs!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Finding My Way

I'm sort of feeling a heightened sense of emotion today... partially because of pain, it's worn me down this week with the additional problems I've been having. There is a lot of fear involved with the increased pain - am I ok? Do I need to see a doctor? Is it worth the extra out of pocket expense? Or is this just something I have to push through. Am I being wise in delaying care? It's difficult to know what's best so I have been just following the cheapest, least invasive path and praying that God will sustain me.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the additional responsibilities with opening Cedar Hollow up to family members for the holidays. It's a mixed blessing. It involves more work before and afterwards and it comes with a emotional high of having many loved ones in the same place... which is followed by grief that those folks are not part of our every day life. Why can't every day be Christmas? Because I'd die after about three consecutive Christmases. I'm overwhelmed with taking care of the old lady dogs because it's not something I do easily or usually but it's the one task that I could take over to ease the burden on my parents during their move.

I'm also a bit emotional at the fact that after tomorrow, our family home that I grew up in, that place, be it ever so humble, that has been home my entire life will no longer be home. Yes, the new home is much better. I love living here. I love this community (and pray that I will be strong enough to be a bigger part of it one day). I'm relieved that my parents will be in a safer place but worried that Cody no longer has Mawmaw and Pop living next door, taking care of him and Marquee.

Austin is emotional because he's having girl trouble. Not my story to tell so I won't elaborate. He's bummed enough that he asked if he could skip the overnight time with the dogs which means for me that I will have been taking care of the dogs from 8am Friday morning through whatever time the family gets here on Saturday afternoon + however long it takes for the truck to be unloaded + quite possibly overnight Saturday night so that my parents can go back to the Southside after they bring this load. Right now I'm either "on duty" for the next 16 hours or I'm on duty for the next 48 hours or somewhere in between. I'm hurting badly enough that I'm dizzy and nauseous but God is good and these dogs have been much, much easier to care for today.

A friend of mine posted this article: and my initial reaction was ... I'm just so weary of any difference in religious beliefs or spirituality or moral code being labeled "homophobic" or "hate speech". I wanted to send a private message to my friend and share my concerns with her - from a place of love, a place of "as a Jew, you know what it means to be persecuted for your religious beliefs". In order to have a logical/rational conversation with this very wise woman, I wanted to make sure I had done my research. Well... instead... this article really spoke to my heart and taught me a few things about the  Ten Commandments and sin. It's very well articulated and although I don't entirely subscribe to every single tenet of his article, I really came away from it feeling enlightened and feeling a sense of kinship - a place where we agree. I think on so many levels if we could just get past name calling and accusation, we may find that we're more alike that we thought. I would just encourage you to read this for yourself.

Today I was really standing in the need of prayer and I promise you, people were praying. I felt strength that I haven't had lately. I'm battling pain - more pain and more discomfort than usual but I found a few tricks that make things easier and I believe every bit of relief I've found today has been the result of answered prayer. May we all enter into 2014 with a hope and belief that prayer changes things. May we boldly ask and proudly acknowledge the Hand of God in our lives. May we seek to find common ground with those who are different. And for those we can't understand, for those whose lives are different from our own, may we first attempt to love them before we endeavor to change them.

I'm gonna lay down with a dog or two and the remote control. I pray that God will bless this blog and use it for His glory  - to grow us up as Christians, to make us better people, to search for good in people and understanding of ourselves.

Love and hugs, y'all.

Sharing A Little Whine

I started blogging yesterday and it came out as a big long whine so I abandoned in hopes that I would have a more positive message to offer today.

Spoiler alert: I don't.

It's sort of a delicate subject and I want to avoid embarrassing us all with TMI so I'll speak in code. The surgery from two years ago was supposed to be a two parter and while it's definitely time to go back in for a tune up, there is no insurance to pay for it so I'm having to just pray my way through it. I've got some major inflammation/possible infection going on around there and every trip to the bathroom is a fresh new level of hell. And sitting/getting up and down? Fuhgetaboutit. I've been using my natural childbirth skills way more than I ever used them in childbirth. I've nearly bitten a hole in my lip trying to brace myself. It sucks.

Have I mentioned that I'm dog sitting? My parents are turning their house over to a renter. This was THE ONLY time they could really get her moved in as she's coming from Washington DC (I think), the parent of some very good friends/neighbors across the street. This means that my parents had to rush right from Christmas to finishing up things at the house they have lived in for 37 years while my dad finishes up his last few days at a job he's had for 46 years. They are in overdrive therefore the Old Lady Dogs are with me. The Old Lady Dogs are high maintenance, particularly Lily who is semi-incontinent and sometimes will want to go outside a dozen times an hour. That dozen times an hour is not one of my over-dramatizations for the sake of more interesting blogging. She really goes out that often. Yesterday it got to be too much and I was ready to put one or more of us out of our misery. I'm only half kidding.

Fortunately the dogs settle down in the early evening because they ARE old dogs and fortunately my kid comes up as soon as it gets dark and stays with the dogs all night. The kid is a vampire anyways so he's just using his insomnia for the greater good. I come upstairs at daylight, he goes to bed.

One thing that really soothes the savage beasts that are hounding me is a nice hot bath. Ryan and Sara got me these really awesome bath salts that have eucalyptus, peppermint oil and lemongrass in them and they make me feel like a brand new person. I indulged in a hot bath yesterday afternoon with two cats and two dogs hanging out in the bathroom with me - not in the tub with me, just in the bathroom. Little Kitty managed to get himself tangled in my bra and Lily had a whining fit - I wasn't sure if she had to go to the bathroom or just didn't understand what I was doing in the tub - so the bath was way too short and it's benefits quickly diminished. That was when I seriously began to wonder how I was going to make it until dark.

During the Summer when we had the water problem I developed a pretty uncomfortable rash on my eyelids. I thought I had gotten rid of any of the eyeshadow that I used during that time but on Christmas Eve I put on some eyeshadow that immediately burned like it had during the Summer. We have a little leak now but I'm fairly certain the culprit is the makeup, not the water. At any rate... my right eye is itching constantly and it's a sheer act of will not to scratch it constantly.

I also have a nasty earache and fluid behind my left eardrum. At times that pain is bad enough to distract from the other pain. I have to resist the urge to qtip the heck out of it.

The demon gut pain flared at 2am last night. It was bad enough that I thought, "to heck with it... I'm calling 9-1-1 and they can just add that debt to my other medical debt" and then I thought, "I'd rather lay here and die than be poked and prodded or have anybody even think about touching me at this point". And I read for a little while and took a pain pill and eventually got back to sleep. Today I'm still feeling the "shadow" of that pain but it's nowhere near as bad as it was over night. I survived another round!

Having fibromyalgia means that after a period of unusually excessive activity - such as cooking and shopping in preparation for the holiday - leaves me feeling like I have the flu or some deadly infection. Every step takes enormous effort. I am drained and exhausted. The doctors have me watching the demon gut pain for signs of infection/inpaction and honestly I've waivered between "I'm dying" and "Oh, this is just that stupid f-word again". The fact that it eases up at times tells me that it has to be the fibro. It wouldn't resolve itself otherwise. It's a mental battle to reassure myself that I'm not dying but I'm sure I'm not.

So all of that plus the pain from interstitial cystitis, spondylolisthesis, piriformis syndrome, sciatica, arthritis, spinal stenosis, muscle spasms, migraines, etc... it's all hitting me at once and it doesn't look good on me.

Ok. Turn the page. How cute is my little grandma? My girl cousins and I decided last night that she looks like Mrs. Claus. We agreed to have DNA testing to see if we descend from any North Pole / Elfin races. We just need to get her a little red dress trimmed in white fur.

I promised to share my list of Christmas gifts with you. There are people who give and receive gifts in the hundreds and thousands of dollar price range. Let me assure you, there is no Lexus with a big red bow in my driveway. However, remember my wish list from a few weeks ago? I've got some family members who really pay attention to my blog because I got lots and lots of great stuff off of that list! I got:

  • several pair of fuzzy socks
  • some gorgeous sterling silver earrings
  • a gift card to Ingles
  • a Visa gift card
  • a check from Mrs Claus Grandma
  • the aforementioned awesome bath salts - along with lotion and body wash
  • a DVD of the Carrie Underwood Sound of Music (me and my nieces are going to have a sing-a-long soon!)
  • a fabulous purple comforter that is the perfect weight to snuggle under (and Little Kitty says the perfect cushion for sleeping on)
  • the softest furry throw that you've ever felt
  • a plaque that my Aunt made for me - that totally made me cry - I had to hand it to my sister-in-law to read
  • a book about the economic crisis that happened in 2008 (started reading it last night, very interesting)
  • my annual calendar of family photos
  • a book about outhouses - yay! coffee table book! 
  • a zulily gift certificate (from a blog reader - I was able to buy a sweatshirt, leggings and a maxi skirt!) 

I'm sure I'm forgetting something but trust me - I had a very good Christmas and I was reminded how blessed I am, more because of the presence of people in my life instead of the presents from people in my life. The presents were great but just being surrounded by people I love was gift enough.

Today I'm planning to let the girls stay outside until they bark to come in. We'll have a warmish afternoon and it's good for them to get outside for a bit. That will help reduce the number of times I am up and down. I'm also going to risk having to clean up a puddle over jumping at Lily's every whim. Some of it is old age and some of it is control. I've got to remind her who the Alpha Dog is here.

I'm being a little more proactive rather than reactive in dealing with pain today. I keep myself on a fairly strict medication allowance because I try very hard to keep from being dependent on pain meds. I'm in a season of time where there is more pain and I don't have the emotional or physical strength to tough it out right now.

I'm working on staying very mellow today. A lot of it is mental - once I get whiny and start cataloging my aches and pains, I become much more aware of every little thing (see above). Stuff hurts and that sucks but there's way more good stuff than bad stuff in my life.

I do better if I keep my focus outward, thinking about others more than I think about myself. I'm going to try to be a little less self-absorbed today.

I hope you are having a wonderful holiday week and if you're working - you're not having to work hard. Thanks for letting me get my whine out of my system today. Love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Eve Brunch 2013

I took a lot of pictures of our family Christmas Eve Brunch today but the best memories are the ones that happened when the camera was put away. I think that's a true measure of how much you're invested in a particular moment in time - when you're no longer viewing it through a lens or over a screen - when it encompasses your entire attention.

Like... sitting beside my niece Sarabeth this morning in a quiet corner. She, like me, gets overwhelmed in a large group. I love having all my loved ones in one place but I always feel like I do a poor job of connecting with everyone equally. I feel like I miss a lot. Sarabeth is a full on introvert and as she's gotten older, she's much happier hanging out with a book than sitting in a group of people. That's also partly because of the whole awkward adolescent thing now that she's 11. I was glad to have her all to myself for awhile in our own quiet corner so that we could catch up. Since I see her often, we have our own inside jokes and I think she's much more comfortably hanging out with Aunt Heather.

Her sister Jamie, on the other hand, makes a perfect Belle of the Ball. Today Jay wasn't feeling great so she took refuge for awhile in the library upstairs. I went up and spent some really great time laying on the floor with her talking about the random things we talk about together - how I used to read books that were beyond my age level (such as reading Helter Skelter when I was nine) - how my grandmother used to lay on the floor and prop her feet up on a chair so that the blood could run back into her head. Jamie and I tried it and both agreed that having the blood run back into our heads made us a little dizzy.

Then when Sarabeth joined us in the library and the girls were fighting over Sarabeth's book (Diary of  A Wimpy Kid) I had them each take a passage of the book and sing it to the tune of Jingle Bells. By the time they each took a turn they were giggling so hard that they forgot their argument. And I gently reminded Jamie that sister was reading the book and she could have a turn once sister finished. They both got some great books from Uncle Bryan so there's plenty of reading material and no reason to have to both read the same book. I also reminded them that if they were squealing while I was watching them that their parents would think I couldn't watch them - and we don't want THAT to happen, do we? (That snaps them to attention - they love spending time with Aunt Heather.)

Those moments are precious. Other moments that make for such great memories are our new tradition of making stockings for everyone. It was a joint project between me and my mom - stockings made of a fleece blanket we got for cheap at Walmart and filled with stuff she got with her drug store frequent shopper points and I got with a small surplus I had on my food stamps. The stocking stuffers were not expensive - huge suckers, lip gloss, fancy hot chocolate mix - but putting them together was fun.

 Thems my babies! 19, 23 and 27... all mine. All adorable, kind, loyal, loving men. I'm so proud that it brings me to tears. I don't just say this because they're mine - they're really special men. The world is better because they're in it.
Austin, Cody, Ryan 

Marquee, Me, Sara
Look at these smart, ambitious girls that my sons have found... they're going to be the kind of women that my grandchildren can look up to and respect. I'm not in any hurry - but I have a sense of peace knowing that these girls will most like be the mommies of my grandbabies. They'll be great. Right now they're working hard on their education and practicing on furbabies. And taking good care of my sons which makes me eternally grateful. 
Having all my kids around was a real treasure for me. I'm not that mobile any more and I miss out on a lot of things with them but having them spend the night made for a lot of quality time. I hope we can continue this tradition. Sitting with them I'm always just amazed at who they become... that those little seeds I planted and watered and nurtured turned out to be these really solid men with good women by their side. I want to say, "I did that!" but the truth is something more like, "with God's help, with a lot of assistance from my parents and from other people who loved us and supported us, with a lot of tears... WE did that." 

I had a bad hair day because I didn't take the time to straighten my hair this morning. I ran a brush through it but there was a lot of activity and I look sort of a frizzy mess but I still didn't want to avoid photos with my loved ones. I posted on facebook too so forgive if these are a duplicate for you.

And now... for my fabulous, creative Christmas present idea I was boasting about a few weeks ago. I found that you can go to and print a picture as a blue print which means you get a large copy of a picture for a ridiculously cheap price. I wish I had been able to invest in better frames but at least for the initial display, they look ok. The trick to it is using a black and white photo that is simple and doesn't have a lot going on in the background. It's just so cool to get a huge photo - these were 2 foot by 3 foot - for a minimal price. Seriously, less than $10 each, including the frame. I see more of these in my future.

 I got Angie a picture of her with Jamie and another picture of her with Sarabeth. Dr. Angie just got a promotion at work and now has a real office so she can put the pictures there (or anywhere, whatever she wants to do!). My brother's pictures were from the side of the baptistry while he was baptizing the girls. You can't see the girls faces but you can tell that it's a poignant moment.

 I printed this one out for my parents - our favorite picture of Sarabeth and Jamie walking down the dirt road that leads to their home.

Sara's gift - photo of her and Ryan that I snagged off of facebook. Turns out it was their first Christmas together and her great-grandma who was photobombing right behind Sara passed away a few months after this photo was taken.
This is Marquee with her photo of her baby, Sammy, larger than life.

Anyways... that's about all for today. I'm exhausted. I've had three straight days of much more activity than usual and the pain is off the charts tonight. I was pacing earlier... heart racing... that's what happens when it gets to a level of pain that I can't manage. But at least we're done. I have an invitation to Christmas Dinner at my brother and sister-in-laws house tomorrow night and I hope I'm going to be able to pull that out. My sister-in-law is one of my closest friends and we never get to spend enough time together.

I'll do a separate post tomorrow showing you how spoiled and blessed I am! I got lots of great stuff for Christmas and am so grateful for the people in my life who love me and take good care of me.

It is well with my soul.
Peace on Earth.
Love to y'all.
Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

So This Happened...

So this happened....

yesterday morning on my way to the grocery store for my LAST trip before Christmas. Even through the really dirty windshield you can see how dark and ominous it was. It was pouring and the water was ponding on the windy mountain roads and I thought to myself, "this is it... this is how I die". Spoiler alert: I didn't die. I suffered nothing more lasting than some frizzy hair.

But it rained and rained and rained. Remember last Summer when we had a lot of rain?

So this happened...
That right there is a wet basement minus carpet and this photo was taken about an hour ago, not during the Flood of 2013. This is Flood of 2013, The Sequel.

Fortunately, my kid is a basement carpet removal specialist and he was able to get the wet carpet tiles up quickly. We won't have a replay of the Great Basement Abandonment of 2013. In fact, Other than that two foot strip of concrete, we're pretty much business as usual down here. Much less stress than last time, even if it was an unexpected holiday happening.

Cody (middle son) with Aura the dog, Bryan (brother) with Oscar dog
For the first time in a long time all three of my children are under the same roof. We do our "Christmas morning" on Christmas Eve morning so that everyone can fulfill their other familial obligations on Christmas Day. I've got to say... I like it this way. This year Ryan and Sara were able to come down from Pennsylvania... last year Ryan stayed up there. It's her first Christmas away from home. I hope we show her a good time. (At the moment the kids are upstairs working on something and I'm in the Whine Cellar watching C-Span.)

I'm struggle with entertaining company. I used to be an extrovert but honestly, big gatherings drain me in a way that only introverts understand. I don't have the physical or mental energy that I once did. But it's been nice having all my boys and their girls around today. My brother is down from New York - it's been fun having him around. My kids' best friend, Joshy was here today. We've got nine people, five dogs and three cats here tonight. Full house. Fortunately we can comfortably accommodate everyone - two guest rooms on the top floor and I've given my bedroom up for Sara and Ryan and am sleeping on my big cozy couch. I don't get much time with my grown boys and even though I can't keep pace with them... there's just something in a mommy's heart about having all her chickies all in the same nest. It gives me a sense of peace I don't normally have. Even if the rest of the holiday is a bust (and it won't be) I feel like today was one of those days that was a gift that I will always treasure - just having them around me.

Josh - my boys' best friend - he's like one of my own
Mom and I made YET ANOTHER last grocery trip before Christmas this morning. This time to buy stuff for making chili for dinner tonight... and to get a few more things for our brunch tomorrow. After we got back I studded an orange with cloves for my wassail for tomorrow (whole cloves were $8 for a little container... I couldn't believe it)... then I got the chili in the slow cooker... then I made more oreo balls. The kids went into town to eat at a touristy restaurant (I still don't go out to eat unless absolutely necessary because of the pain it causes me to sit) and my mom went shopping with my brother so I was in charge of the zoo.

Pop got home from work (yes - he drove to work from here - takes about an hour and a half - he retires at the end of the year.) and then had a conference call. While he was doing that he put a ham in the oven. Bryan came back and had a conference call. These folks just keep right on working, even here at the Hollow.

We enjoyed a chili dinner and some nice wine that Bryan had brought. I've been sort of chilling in the Whine Cellar and enjoying the rotating entertainment of my assorted progeny and our assorted fur babes. Cody and Marquee are dog-sitting for her boss, a really sweet girl named Aura. She's been a welcome addition, she loves everyone but is deathly afraid of Little Kitty. Kitty stood at the bottom of the stairs and Aura was afraid to come down. It was pretty funny.

See poor Aura looking for help?

I promise they aren't as bored as they look. L-R Austin, Sara, Ryan 

My "other child" Joshy - he's been friends with the boys since they were teenagers. No matter where we've lived, Josh always finds his way "home".

Austin and Sara watching tv

The Fam down at The Dock - can't see 'em well

Marquee carrying my grandpuppy Sammy up from the lake. 

So it's been a good day. We'll have brunch tomorrow and then the kids head back to the Southside of Atlanta. They'll have dinner with Marquee's grandparents. Her family has always been so good about loving ALL of my boys and inviting all of them along to participate in family activities. I love them for that. They'll spent some time with Marquee's parents on Christmas Day and also with my boys' dad. They're spreading the Christmas cheer far and wide! 

After Christmas my parents will head back down south to finish packing up their house - after living there for 37 years, they'll be completely out by next week and have a tenant moving in on January 1st. 

And that's what's happened today. More tomorrow! Merry Christmas, y'all!

Friday, December 20, 2013

And Then There Was A Cat In The Ceiling...

Purple sunrise over the lake this morning
And then there was a cat in the ceiling...

It started out like oh, so many other days in my life here lately... I woke up early in a lot of pain, moved from the bed to the recliner in hopes that the change of position and distraction of the tv would make life easier, woke up a little while later with Little Kitty sleeping on my lap, his weight causing a whole new kind of pain. Drugs weren't working. Felt miserable. I willed myself not to add anxiety to pain and decided that a hot bath would help.

Took a longish hot bath in the big bathtub in my parents' bathroom while my OCD cat continually meowed that I was. in. the. wrong place! I'm reading a really interesting book about a guy who died and went to Heaven - and came back - and I'll admit I'm a tad skeptical about the whole near death thing - although I would swear to you that I died during one of my back procedures but it may have just been the drugs -anyways, it made for good bathtub reading. I read for awhile and let the nice hot water do it's thing. It made a huge difference and I got out of the bath feeling much better.

I realized that I should take advantage of the sabbatical from pain to accomplish the biggest as-yet-uncompleted Christmas related task: make sausage balls.

Before I talk about sausage balls... someone asked for the oreo balls recipe. It's crazy simple:

  • crush a package of oreos
  • mix with a package of cream cheese
  • roll into balls about 3/4 inch to 1 inch diameter
  • let firm up in the refrigerator
  • dip in melted almond bark/white chocolate chips

That's it. There are variations on that theme but that's the basic idea. I think they're delicious. Austin isn't crazy about them (which is fine with me). I'm going to attempt a nutter butter cookie variation, I think.

Sausage balls are a family tradition for us. Inevitably I get a call every year from someone in the family who is making them and has forgotten the specifics. Here's the basic recipe:

  • mix 3 cups Jiffy baking mix (not Bisquick) with 3/4 cup of water
  • add 1 package of shredded cheddar and 1 tube of sausage
  • mix it all together, roll into balls, freeze until ready to cook 
  • bake at 425 until browned. 

The actual process looks more like this:

  • make hot tea so you have something to drink while making sausage balls even though your hands will be covered with dough and you can't drink anything
  • preheat oven to 425 for the "test batch" you will cook while forming most of the balls
  • make sure you have a cookie sheet or two to put the prepared balls on to go into the freezer
  • if you don't have enough cookie sheets, spray pam spray on sheets of tin foil to lay between layers of balls
  • fill a bowl with warm water - you will need to dip your hands into the water periodically to keep from developing "dough claws" - you know, where your hands get so globbed with dough that they no longer look like hands
  • make a triple recipe of sausage balls because - I mean, come on, who is going to make just one batch?
  • mix one entire box of Jiffy baking mix with 2 1/4 cups of water
  • let it sit for a few minutes - the baking mix gets all fluffy
  • use so much cheese that it seems hardly possible + three tubes of sausage
  • we have done some variations on the sharp cheddar/mild sausage theme such as pepper jack cheese and hot sausage but there must always be at least one batch of "standard" sausage balls
  • put the first dozen or so sausage balls on a baking sheet to cook while you are forming the other balls - you need the smell of the finished product to encourage you to keep going when you're on your tenth dozen of balls and your feet are hurting
  • form the entire dadgum mess of sausage/cheese/dough into balls
  • put the formed balls in the freezer on cookie sheets
  • take the finished "test batch" out of the oven to remind yourself why it's worth it
  • once the balls in the freezer are frozen fairly solid, take them off the cookie sheets and put them in freezer bags

I bake the frozen balls at 425 until they're browned. I don't know how long it takes - I just judge by how they smell.

So post bath I made one hundred and seventy sausage balls. It was tiring. The pre-bath pain came back but at least I was finished with that chore. We can't have Christmas without sausage balls. I do this equation for every activity where I balance the amount of pain involved with the amount of stress the activity relieves. For example, it hurts like the dickens to clean the litter boxes but not having the living room smell like poop makes me happy. Not having to beg Austin to do it makes me happy. So I will periodically go ahead and clean the litter box even though it hurts. Standing and making sausage balls, lifting heavy pans overloaded with sausage balls, etc, didn't feel great but knowing that my extended family that will be here in three days (!) will have sausage balls at our Christmas Eve brunch made me feel so much better that it was totally worth it.

I reheated my tea and headed downstairs, hair still in the towel turban from the bath. It's a chore to dry my hair but ultimately worth it. Again - pain vs. pay-off, I can go several days with minimal styling on my hair if I dry it and semi-straighten it after I wash it. The time I had taken to make the sausage balls gave it time to dry a little bit so it was a chore and it was painful but it was worth it, especially after I was finished.

Then I sat... and thought... "now I can rest". And a few minutes later I heard the sweet soft little "meow" that my Little Kitty only makes when he is trapped somewhere. And then I heard a loud thud in the ceiling. The basement has a drop ceiling. It's not as if someone would have been directly above the ceiling but that's exactly what it sounded like.

I thought maybe I had shut the cat in a cabinet while I was in the kitchen -which is dumb because he can open the cabinets. That couldn't be it.

Then I was afraid he had somehow gotten in one of the four attic sections. (which wouldn't explain why I could hear him in the basement - he really does have a soft little meow!) All four sections of attic have areas where Little Kitty could escape to the outside if he really wanted to - from three stories up on the back. It's always a huge worry if he's in the attic. All four attic entrances were firmly blocked and I was out of breath from running up two flights of stairs. No kitty.

I headed back downstairs and again, I heard Little Kitty. We had a problem with him getting in the closet under the stairs - the one where the furnace is - so we added hook and eye latches to keep those doors firmly closed. I stood outside of that closet rattling the bag of treats and hearing him meow but I didn't see him anywhere in the closet.

AND THEN... the drop ceiling bulged with the weight of a cat walking across it. The cat was somehow in the ceiling. There was a CAT in the ceiling. MY CAT was in the ceiling. I hollered for Austin who was in his room asleep (he was up most of the night - insomnia). At first he told me I was crazy. Then he heard it, too. Then he saw it, too. He got the step-stool and pushed open the ceiling tile. I rattled the treat bag and there, peering out of the ceiling was my Little Trouble Kitty, eyes wide as saucers.

Austin went to get a taller ladder. He could touch him while standing on the step stool  but he couldn't really get a hold of him to pull him down. Little Kitty will let me hold him like a baby but he will scatter like a roach in the light if anyone else tries to get him. I suggested that I climb the ladder and pull him out. Austin talked me out of it. I'm not supposed to do ladders because of the loss of stability in my left leg. You kinda don't want to be on a ladder with bad balance. So I sweet talked the kitty while Austin wrestled him down. To Little Kitty's credit, he didn't scratch Austin in this process.

After much investigation we discovered that Little Kitty has been squeezing through a hole cut beside the pipes under the sink in the basement bathroom which leads into the closet under the stairs. How he got from there to the ceiling... I mean, he had to do some mad climbing... but it's possible apparently. It also explains how he kept getting into the closet under the stairs even when the doors were closed. Austin used a little twine and tied the cabinet doors closed so Little Kitty can't access his little Honeycomb Hideout any more. Unless there's another secret entrance that we have yet to discover.

And then I was completely wiped out. I wanted a nap so badly this afternoon but I woke Austin up to rescue the cat and once he's awake, he's chatty. Not chatty like entertaining enough to turn off the tv and just carry on a conversation - just chatty enough to interrupt what you're watching on tv and keep you from napping.

Tomorrow I plan to make chex mix and hopefully no animals will be harmed in the process. Never a dull moment.

Happy Weekend. Love and hugs, y'all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Taking A Stand Ain't That Easy

Y'all. I'm seriously not over the Paula Deen bashing yet and now I'm having to deal with the Phil Robertson debacle. I've been blog writing in my head all day trying to sort out my thoughts on his comments in GQ. Let me see if I can remember a few points because it all sounded really good in my head.

1. I don't care what anyone does behind closed doors. I really don't. As long as it's between consulting adult human beings, I don't care. I don't want to know about it. My relationship status is I DON'T CARE.

2. I hate being forced to be an activist. I've remarked often throughout the course of my blog that I am a fan of fans. This continues to be true - I appreciate when people are passionate about their favorite football team or musical group or political party. What I don't appreciate is when your passion overlaps my intended apathy. I've spent 19 and a half years as a mother of a kid with differences. Getting him educated and keeping him out of jail has exhausted me. I pretty much don't have the energy to support other causes. I didn't even watch the last Florida football game this year. Apathy is my middle name.

3. I have a real soft spot for the underdog. I don't like seeing anyone get bullied. As a second-born child and determined underachiever, I know what it's like to be the last kid picked for kickball. I've relied heavily on grace and second chances and forgiveness and the kindness of others to survive this life. I've said a lot of things over the course of my life that I wish I hadn't.  You've been witness to a few of them.

4. I had a drug problem growing up: I was drug to Sunday School on Sunday morning and back to church on Sunday night. I was drug to church on Wednesday nights for Prayer Meeting. I was drug to every Vacation Bible School in a 20 mile radius and attended Christian camps every Summer. I never had to put a lot of thought into my spiritual beliefs - I just accepted Christianity as a small child and that's the way it was. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I'm a lousy theologian. I won't entertain arguments about the proper version of the Bible and pre-trib or post-trib rapture or any of that. I don't get involved in semantics. I'm a lousy evangelist. If you don't want to believe - and trust me, there are people in my life who don't - I'm not going to win a toaster oven by converting you. Because the Bible is the foundation of my beliefs, I can't really engage in a logical debate about the Bible with people who don't believe the Bible.

5. I believe strongly that when good people choose to stand idly by, bad things happen... such as the Holocaust. I believe that Christians are the most discriminated group in our world today. For that matter, white, overweight, Southern Christians are the last demographic that it is politically acceptable to malign in this country. I believe strongly that if a liberal - such as, oh, I don't know, Alec Baldwin, for example - made the kind of statement that Phil Robertson did, it would get media attention but ultimately, there would be no true repercussion for it. Of course, the difference here is that Phil Robertson referenced the Bible and Alec Baldwin simply used a homosexual slur.

6. I believe that the liberal media goes out of it's way to villify conservative Christians. I believe that a Christian sharing his beliefs with GQ magazine is a like casting pearls before swine. I also believe that Christians have to be wary because the devil is a roaring lion seeking who he can devour. Even as the owner of a multi-million dollar business, I don't believe Phil Robertson has the media savvy to do the kind of interview he did and I believe A&E made a mistake by not exercising more control over the final version.

7. OR DID THEY? Is it possible that A&E wanted to stir up a little controversy to keep the Duck Dynasty brand in the news? The Robertsons have been clear about who they are and what they believe. Maybe up to this point the soundbites and quotes have been a little less - obvious - but these people are not shy about who they are. How is it remotely possible that a network would let one of the main characters in one of their most popular shows give an interview without any input? It's not. They threw him under the bus... gave him enough rope to hang himself... whatever cliche you want to use. They knew that there are a lot of red states with people who would intentionally support the Robertsons in a situation such as this... and a lot of people who disagreed with it who would give them a lot of free publicity.

8. I believe in freedom of speech but I also believe that with freedom comes responsibility. You can't just let words fall from your mouth without running them through the filter of your brain. There's a bible verse that tells us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. A good friend taught me an important lesson: whenever someone repeats something negative that someone else has said about you behind your back, you have to consider why that person would repeat something negative to you. What is their motive? To protect you from hearing something bad? - they just repeated it. To make you mad at the other person or in some way tear apart that relationship? In the same way, what did Phil Robertson hope to gain through his interview? Did he want to convince people that what they were doing is wrong or boast about doing right? I have tried to live my Christian faith from the perspective that you can love people out of a whole lot more than you can judge them out of. I believe that God is love, sin is wrong and Hell is hot. I also believe that God's grace is available to all of us and that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. That's why I don't throw any.

9. My work in the theatre brought me in close contact with young people who were figuring out who they were. I'm fairly easy to confide in (once you get past the fact that I can't keep a secret to save my life) and so I unwittingly found myself involved in the process of more than one teenager coming out of the closet. I've had mothers scream at me over the phone, come to my house to confront me...I've been forced to be more of an activist than I ever wanted to be. I also watched a precious young man who was rejected by his affluent, conservative family because of his homosexuality take the path of least resistance into drug abuse. He died at a young age at the hands of a drug dealer two days before Christmas nine years ago. His parents didn't want a gay son. They got their wish.

10. If these nine points haven't clearly spelled out my position, well, that's intentional. That's the point. It's all very confusing and frustrating to me. I am a sinner saved by grace. If it's a short step from sexual immorality to bestiality, then isn't it a short step from gossip or gluttony or any of the other many, many sins (that I'm not willing to confess publicly) to something horrible as well? We tend to look at sin the way we look at city buildings from the street level - some are taller than the other. But God sees those buildings from above - they all look the same. I'm not called to judge. I'm called to be a fruit inspector. Ok, maybe fruit is a poor choice of words in this situation. I can only tell you that in my life, I've lived through some really horrible things that so-called "Christian" men have inflicted on me... and I've had gay men who have walked with me through some of my darkest hours. Attacks on gay people really hurt my heart and attacks on Christians scare me to death. As a society we let Miley Virus and Kanye West do and say anything they want but if a Christian attempts to take a stand they are dragged through the mud.

Are we past the point of "live and let live"? If so, what happens next? Do we have to fall on one side or the other of every argument? If we don't stand for something do we fall for everything? All I know is that God is love. I think we should spend a lot more time praying for others and a lot less time condemning them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stuff I've Learned

If you wake up in the morning and you are in a lot of pain, it's a really bad idea to take pain medicine and then assume that your surge of strength is because you are ten foot tall and bullet proof. It is a mirage.

In fact, should you have that faux surge it is probably a bad idea to tackle making a double recipe of oreo balls AND taking your kid to the grocery store. Once the drugs wear off you will feel infinitely worse. That's what I learned today.

I also learned that if you are on fourth fifth day hair and don't have on any makeup, you should not go to town on the first day of Christmas break. You will run into every teacher in town. Some of them will want to catch up with you and your kid. It will be like starring in People of Walmart, the stage version, if the dairy aisle of Ingles is your stage. I brought so much shame on our family today.

By the way, those fuzzy socks that are so cozy and warm whilst you lay about the house look really, really stupid with your capri length "yoga" pants and tennies.

Also, those yoga pants ain't foolin' nobody. The closest thing happening to yoga in your world is stretching for the remote control when it gets a little too far from your grasp.

Today I learned that almond bark sticks easily and comes off only with much labor. I also learned that licking your fingers after they have been dipped in almond bark will give you a sugar high.

I learned that crushing oreos is not as easy as you might think, that those packages are sturdy enough to protect the cookies in a nuclear blast, that letting the "beater do the hard work" will create a fine black dust that will cover everything in the house like a shanty in the Dust Bowl.

Today I learned that you don't win the lottery if you don't play. Actually, I've known that for awhile. Although the winner from Georgia has the same last name as my cousin, they don't appear to be related to each other. Or me.

I also learned that the catnip flavored treats will turn your cats into crazed treat junkies who will follow you all over the house.

I learned that the Old Sautee store has great gifts for that person who has everything. I guarantee you they have things in Sautee that they don't have anywhere else, even especially New York City. By the way, Sautee sounds more like "salt-tea" than like the cooking term "sau-tay".

Today I am relearning the lessons of last Winter with the heating pad. Warm is so much better up until the point that it isn't.

Today I learned that unless I fold my man-child's clothes, they will not get folded. I learned that laundry will not walk itself downstairs. I learned that the dryer only works when you push "start".

And I just learned that oreo balls are totally worth the effort. Yum.

Did you know that you learn something new everyday? That's because, if nothing else, you learn what happened to you that day. I did.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Fixing Broken Things

Saturday I went grocery shopping with my dad and then my parents went back down south for the week.
Sunday I woke up thinking it was Monday (it took about two hours for me to get back on track) and I made a huge pan of goulash.

You're caught up on my weekend now.

Today I was struggling with a bit of anxiety. It acts as sort of a paralytic. So instead of running an errand I needed to run in town or working on any of my Christmas baking, I just sort of chilled out until time to pick up my nieces from school.

Picking them up is always fun. Always. I had the least amount of pain I've had around them in quite some time and it makes it so much easier to just soak them up. If you can imagine an 11 and almost 9 year old being really good company... intelligent, witty, creative... they're just the And I don't care if it's lame to say that.

First on our agenda was mailing the RSVP for my cousin's wedding. You wouldn't think mailing something that has a self addressed stamped envelope would be difficult, right? But gosh. The hill to the mailbox is steep. If I'm driving I have to either leave the car in park on that steep hill (not gonna do it!) or block our one lane road. Not that we have much traffic. Anyways... my brother's mailbox is a long way from their house too but it was easy to put the car in park at the bottom of their hill and let the girls get out and put the envelope in the mailbox. Then it became sort of a "who's on first" comedy because the envelope is addressed to Amanda Gant (my cousin) and Amanda Gant (my niece) got the mail mixed up and wasn't sure if the envelope addressed to Amanda Gant should come to the car to go to her house or should go in the mailbox to be mailed out.

This got funnier when my brother stopped by the mailbox on his way in and saw the flag up... so he wasn't sure if the mailman forgot to pick up the envelope that Angie may have mailed to Amanda Gant (our cousin) or if the mailman accidentally put the flag up when dropping off a card for Amanda Gant (his daughter). It's even funnier because neither goes by Amanda.

Then we had this really poignant moment. I was listing the names of the people who would be with us for Christmas. I mentioned Ryan (my son) and Sara (his girlfriend) were coming from Pennsylvania and that Uncle Bryan was coming from New York. And Sarabeth, who has had the wisdom of the aged from the time she was three, asked, "why is that it Ryan and Sara can come from so far away ... and Uncle Bryan can come so far away... and (another uncle) can't come from... where does he live?" So I told her that he lives very close to where Grandma Leta lives (because it's only been a month since we were down for her birthday) and she said, "well, that's not far! Why doesn't he come to any family things?"

And so then... what do you say to a child who, for most of her life has known of this uncle who could have been such a precious part of her life, he and his family, the cousins who are her age, who could have been close friends to her and her sister... how do you explain how someone estranges themself from their family? Because even the part of the family that practices a religion that doesn't permit them to celebrate holidays comes around from time to time. They at least know them.

What do you say? You don't drag skeletons out of the closet and air dirty laundry because there are some things that are not appropriate knowledge for kids. Trust me, once she's older I'll make sure she understands the structure of her family because I think it's important to understand where we all come from and what works and doesn't work. I'm glad that I had an older cousin who made a lot of things make more sense for me as an adult.

I grew up not really knowing several of my aunts and uncles, partly because we have a large family and partly for reasons that never made good sense. I've been so blessed to get to know a few uncles better in my adult years, one by working for him and two courtesy of Facebook. I've also gotten to know cousins who I really only knew by name growing up through the magic of social media... and those relationships are important to me. I never felt like I was missing anything as a child and to be honest, I don't know that I would have ever questioned why there was anyone missing because we did have a big family and we did spend a lot of time together - not just holidays and special occasions but random Mondays, like today.

I'd like to tell you that I gave a really astute and appropriate response to her question. Their mom has a Doctorate in Education and their dad has a Masters in Counseling. The girls get all those astute and appropriate responses from them. Aunt Heather is more likely to respond with something totally unkind like, "his wife is mean and makes them spend every holiday with her family" which I promise, had I said something like that, I would have quickly amended it to something less harsh. Like... "I don't know but it's sad isn't it?" Because it is. And "I miss them". Because I do.

For the most part I just kind of let that storm damaged branch of the family tree be a thing I can't fix. I can only manage the way it makes me feel. It's one of the things that drove me over the edge five years ago and I learned, as a survival tactic, not to let those feelings be the ones I feel very often. It's unhealthy. However, there are times, like today, when it makes me really sad to know that these girls who are bright and funny and full of life... musically talented, good athletes, sweet and loving children... it makes me to sad to know that they don't know this uncle of theirs who is also bright and funny and a gifted dancer. Sarabeth is learning the guitar... her cousin that she doesn't know also plays the guitar. Jamie has a cousin her same age. When they were toddlers they were so sweet together. I doubt they've seen each other in the past five years. It's a waste.

I don't have a conclusion to this blog entry because there is no resolution to this situation. It's something I pray for almost every day. It's a shame. I can't fix it.

And so we went inside and worked on replacing an ornament that Sarabeth made for her friend. The one we made a few weeks ago got broken. It's ok, we had a few spares. So I brought along the glitter glue and the sharpies and we made a new ornament. Because that's something I CAN fix.

And I'll do my best to be at their Christmas concert on Thursday when Sarabeth's chorus sings and Jamie plays the handbells. I asked her what they were doing, meaning what song, and Jamie told me which handbells she was ringing - A6, D2 - gotta love that kid! I'm usually not great at getting out later in the day but I just want them to be surrounded by so many people that love them that they never notice that anyone is missing.

Ultimately, I think that's how it works out anyways. We always end up with the people who are really meant to share our lives.

I came home and ate goulash for dinner and now you're caught up on my Monday. Love and hugs, y'all. All of you, really.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Seven Quick Takes on Friday Night

I'm not linking up with the nice ladies who do 7QT on Fridays this week. They're all awesome ladies but I don't feel like doing complicated things like linking. Which should tell you what my state of mind is about right now because linking is no harder than blinking and takes about that long. But I still want to stick to the Seven Quick Takes theme so it will give me some blogging mojo.

I had the worst pain flare up last night that I have ever had. Even worse than the abdominal pain that is of the devil. Even worse than childbirth times three. It laid me flat. Sweet people lifted me up in prayer and by some great cosmic consequence, I got up this morning feeling so. much. better. I've got some tight muscles in my back and when those go into spasms it's no kind of fun. Mostly it wears me out... if a muscle is contracting for no good reason and it does it long enough, you eventually feel like you've actually worked that muscle which makes me tired. But the muscle spasms, although uncomfortable, are not anything near the kind of pain I had last night. I'm grateful.

My grandma, bless her sweet 90 year old soul, has been determined to find some sort of device that would make my back issues easier to live with. She finally found this really nice lumbar support brace and the second I put it on and got everything aligned and held firmly in place, it was immediately better. Enough of an improvement that I would wear it under my clothes and let people think that extra two inches of gut is really gut. Not to mention the inevitable muffin topping over the brace. If I have to choose between looking good and feeling good - I'm feeling good all day long. Cuz if I look good but feel miserable, then I'm gonna act ugly. Pretty is as pretty does so even if I look pretty, if I act ugly it's a wash. I'll just feel good, tote that extra inch of fluffy goodness with pride and maybe it will improve my quality of life.

I got a box of goodies in the mail today from a friend from school. They are uh-mazing! It got me in the mood to do some baking. Pop and I are going shopping tomorrow so maybe we can stock up on baking supplies and I can knock out some holiday treats before they come back next week. Very very soon my little brother Bryan will be here from New York... my son Ryan and his lovely lady Sara will be here from PA... and Cody and my COLLEGE EDUCATED daughter-in-law Marquee will be here. Everyone spends the night on the 23rd and then the morning of the 24th is our Christmas morning. I can't wait! So many people I love all in the same room and I don't have to drive anywhere to get to them! SCORE!

My parents are going to rent out their house in Riverdale to a friend of the family. It's so surreal to think about that house not being home any more. Since August of 1976, that's been our family home. But when they bring everything from that home it will give me a microwave and coffee pot for the Whine Cellar. We're looking at putting a cabinet in - or maybe just a table - either way, it's the beginning of the kitchenette in the Whine Cellar and that makes me so very happy.

I've mentioned previously that I was storing my clothes on the top floor and taking my shower up there. Friends, family, people who read my blog because they hate me and want to make sure I'm not talking bad about them, all of you who read my blog, the truth is that I needed to stop climbing two flights of stairs to bathe, glam and get dressed. I've moved my entire glam routine to the Whine Cellar and tonight - for only the second time ever - took a shower in the Whine Cellar bath that I share with Austin. I'm happy to say it worked fine... the shower didn't seem too small... the water pressure was great... the temperature in the room was warm enough... and the short walk to my room to get dressed and dry my hair was a huge bonus. I'm a full time resident of the Whine Cellar now. Y'all come see me, take the tour! If I know you're coming I'll bake a cake.

We're expecting wet weather tomorrow so I dried my hair but I didn't work too hard on styling it. Tomorrow I'll turn into a fuzz ball the first step I take outside. If I see you in town tomorrow, you can pretend like you don't know me. I won't mind.

I don't know if this means that I've totally given up... or if it means that I'm totally comfortable with my sense of style but at this very moment I am wearing a long sleeve tshirt, a sundress over the long sleep tshirt., a hoodie with holes in it (like, old and torn up holes, not artsy holes for decoration) leggings and bright blue fuzzy socks. If we got burned out of this house, I'd be on the local news in this outfit. And people around the world are going to think I've been attending the Church of Lindsay Lohan (no class)...  I just put pieces together for the best level of warmth and a shred of modesty.

And that's about all I've got for today. Happy Weekend, y'all! Love and hugs!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Exciting Thursday

I have a new addiction and it's free: Adult Elf on the Shelf ideas. I'm jealous of the whole Elf on the Shelf mania. I just know that if it had been around when my boys were little I would have MEANT to do it and actually failed to do it most of the holiday season (see: Advent Calender abandonment - ours was perpetually on December 3rd). It would be another one of those things that induced Holiday Guilt (see: Stack of Unaddressed Christmas Cards). But since the Elf didn't come on the scene until my kids were grown and on their own, I've been able to bond with my kid over naughty Elf on the Shelf posts that we're finding all over the internet. Such as this photo that I snagged... with apologies to Barbie. Seriously, if you need a chuckle, google, "Adult Elf on the Shelf". You're welcome.

I had to run a few errands in town this morning but otherwise I've just been sitting here enjoying being off dog-sitting duty. Every now and then the cats act up and I have to intervene but usually they're pretty self-sufficient. Feed them - give them water - let them sleep in my bed - clean out the litter box every 2.6 hours - easy.  See example - Archie and Edith bogarting the living room chairs (with aforementioned unaddressed Christmas cards in between). I love our doggies and will definitely miss them when they're gone. If you want to make sure that someone is always glad to see you, get a dog. I get an enthusiastic greeting from them every time I enter the room. And Lily keeps me from overeating because every time I bring food into the Whine Cellar she bloodhounds it and tracks me down... and since she can't go UPstairs, it means that someone has to walk her around and up the hill outside. Such as at 7am this morning when she woke me up with a low growl because Austin brought eggs downstairs.

How could you not love this face? You may notice the cake batter on her collar... she was licking the bowl for me when I made a lemon poppyseed pound cake earlier in the week.

We spoiled Lady. She's not usually allowed on the furniture but I indulged her. If you want your dogs to have a lifetime of training reversed in four days... leave them with me. I specialize in Disobedience Training.

And since this blog entry has gone to the dogs (hehe) I'll show you what I did in the approximately fifteen productive minutes I had today - I made this lovely wreath which I PROMISE looks better in person. It's not hung yet because Austin is feeling about as productive as I am today. See that lighter green ornament in the middle? That came from Wendy in Australia in 2006... one of my long time blog readers. I thought it had been lost in my many marital mishap moves but I found it today. Since both of my Christmas trees are groaning from being overloaded with ornaments and one is listing forward and threaten to fall over... I added it to my wreath. I think it looks lovely.

We have rain approaching again and I'm feeling it something fierce. I'm also feeling the cumulative effects of chasing a runaway dog to the mailbox yesterday (which is a really long way here and all up hill. And I was in my fuzzy socks.) and sliding while trying to keep a runaway cat from getting off the porch. Even my hair hurts today.

We've had to take Stubby's Christmas cape off of him because it needs washing. I felt like he might be getting cold so I put my electric throw on the ottoman - his usual perch - and moved the Christmas blanket to the big chair. Apparently Stubby is attached to the Christmas blanket.

One of the many benefits of being single - you can keep your stuffed animals in living room. And your cats all get their own chair.

Anyways... that's all that's happening around here today. Hope your Thursday has been similarly stimulating. Or more stimulating. Love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Doctor Visit - Answered Prayers

It has been a week. What a week it's been. Dog sittin' is hard work, especially when they're old dogs and they can't climb stairs any better than you can. I had to go to where they were. And stay. And when I wasn't with them, Austin was.

My kid, bless his heart, stayed up all night with the dogs Monday night. He stayed up while I went to the doctor Tuesday morning and then couldn't sleep when I got back. He went back up there again Tuesday night like a trooper and slept a few hours on the couch. He even handled the vacuuming. I know he's no Rhodes Scholar but God love him, he really does help me a lot. I couldn't have made it through the past few days without him.

Lily the dog has bouts with incontinence. She's did great except for last night... puddles everywhere. We followed her around with a towel and scrubbed the carpet in more spots than I care to think about. I went through three pairs of socks. My pant legs were dragging in it. It was nasty.

I made a pound cake yesterday afternoon. It still feels like a bit of a magic trick, mixing up stuff and POOF... it's cake! I tried to make lemon poppyseed but I didn't have enough lemon zest so it's more like almond poppyseed. Then I decided it would be nice to have a glaze and my glaze ended up too thick. It's more like sweet cement. Tastes good.

Yesterday morning on the way to the doctor I prayed that God would provide some encouragement for me there. I'm not sure if you can tell from the tone of my posts but I've been pretty bummed out since my attorney dropped me and the functional capacity evaluation came back as it did. It made me feel like nobody gets it. I really needed to get some sort of validation for the cost of my office visit.

So I get there and ... that stupid drug test they make me take at every visit? They didn't make me take it. I don't know if it was intentional and I sure didn't ask. Saved me $50. I didn't even finish filling out the two page form I have to do every time and you know what? I didn't mention that either.

When Matt came in (Matt's the PA - I pretty much only see him except for I'm supposed to see the main doctor at least once a year. I never saw him this year) I told him that I was feeling really discouraged and frustrated. I told him that the attorney dumped me because they felt that my records didn't have enough documentation for my case to be approved. I told him I was discouraged that my medical records didn't reflect how disabling my pain has been. I told him that I felt like I either wasn't articulating accurately or I wasn't being heard and that the evaluation only made it worse. Here's what he said:

It's tough to get a disability approval if you are educated or trained in a profession that doesn't involve physical labor. They always assume you can either be retrained - whereas, if you're swinging a hammer all day, once your body goes, they think you can't do something like a desk job because you would have been doing that in the first place. It's one instance where being smart and/or being educated counts against you.

Companies that specialize in disability want to only deal with the slam dunks. That doesn't mean I can't be approved, just that it will take more work. It also puts them in a position that their percentage of approval could go down if my case isn't approved. He thinks that's why they dropped me.

He felt like my evaluation was really good because it validates a lot of the symptoms that I list in my claim. It also says many times that I made a good effort to complete every task. It showed that I wasn't playing up anything, and having that legitimacy goes a long way. The evaluation is only the musculo-skeletal piece of the puzzle. What my doctors will do is attach a statement to the evaluation that takes their findings and expounds it to explain the cumulative nature of my problems... so what I could do one day, I wouldn't be able to repeat on a second or third day and in no way could I do these things five days a week. It will also show how my other diagnosis (things like my lung issue, the interstitial cystitis, etc) that I have in addition to the back pain essentially make me unemployable. And that's what they'll say.

I had felt like the doctor's opinion would be based solely on the evaluation and whatever it said was final. He said that they needed to show that we had done recent tests and had an independent assessment but my doctors know that I'm not able to work. Not part-time, not light duty, not anything. There are too many things wrong. My back might be ok one day but my hip or the fibromyalgia flare up. Or the fibro might be under control and my back gets out of whack. They know that there's no way I can have five solid good days in a row hardly ever. They always encouraged me to work as long as I could and they weren't surprised when I reached the point where I couldn't. They expected that all along.

And he gave me the name of an attorney they work with frequently. So I'll call them... get my records sent over... and be back on track, I hope. To be honest. It's been since yesterday when I left their office and I still haven't called the attorney. I'm so afraid they're going to say they can't help me and I think at that point I might just lose hope.

So, all of that was exactly what I needed to hear. I'm so grateful that Dr. Matt understood what I needed and was willing to provide it. Plus drugs. Without a drug screen. It was the best appointment I've ever had with them and I truly believe that was an answered prayer.

Throughout this process - gosh, for that matter, throughout all of the difficulties I've faced in my lifetime - I've seen a very clear way that God has been able to use my struggles to grow me and to help me better relate to others who are struggling in different areas. It's softened my heart and made me a more compassionate person, I believe.

It actually struck me while I was driving to the doctor that I've always stressed over whether God "could" or whether God "would" do what I had asked for but I finally realized yesterday that so many people who feel hopeless actually wonder if God IS. It's one thing to struggle with what he can do but to not have confidence that He exists would... I don't even know where you turn. Health can fail you... wealth can disappear... our government is so unstable right now, especially in the area of health care... there is so much uncertainty in the world. I need to be able to believe that there is God up there watching over me and directing my path, even when I feel disconnected and discouraged.

I'm grateful for the struggle if in the end it helps someone - anyone - see how well God takes care of us. I'm so unworthy. Things go bad but He always intercedes and I believe that His intercession on Tuesday was because I specifically asked for help and maybe... just maybe... that's where I've been going wrong. Or maybe, that first attorney was never going to be the right one to be able to handle things and God provided this season of "regroup" to get things in order before my case goes to a judge. Or maybe God is going to heal me and I'll be able to go back to work. I don't know. I just know that this was a good reminder to me that even though I feel disconnected in most relationships in my life, my relationship with him needs to remain strong.

I got more challenging news today. Austin never recertified for his food stamps last month. He had such a long window of time to do it. He knew he had to - it was just a phone call - and he didn't. That means that we lose half our food money for this month and I'm out of the extra money that I've been using to buy food when the food stamps run out every month. It means we have to stretch $75 in food money through the next 12 days. Our pantry is fairly packed. We can do it. It's just that ONE MORE THING, one more frustrating, totally avoidable issue to raise my blood pressure and make me lay awake at night doing mental budget math. Honestly, I've been through so many Christmases where we had to struggle. It wouldn't be Christmas if I wasn't broke.

Anyways. Getting sleepy. Sorry that I've been slackin' on pictures this week. I'll do better tomorrow. Happy Wednesday. Love and hugs, y'all!