My least favorite holiday

I have to admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sorry for myself. Eating, cooking, family drama….Thanksgiving has the makings for a stress-filled day. One that I usually face with a considerable amount of trepidation.

I had worked myself up to a pretty good level of self-pity.  This year felt different. Two of our children (and a granddaughter and a son-in-law) would not be home. Two of our parents (my Mom and his Dad) are no longer here to share the holiday with us. My father has a different living situation this year and it has caused us quite a bit of family strife. I had even written a blog post yesterday to be posted this morning about the reasons that I dislike the holiday (hence the title, previously written).

Then I got a call from a friend’s husband letting me know that her mother had died last night. I haven’t been a very good friend lately – I have been too tied up in my own misery to pay much attention to anyone else’s distress. I only learned that her Mom was gravely ill a few nights ago because I had been so out of touch.  I didn’t know what to do to help, so I offered my prayers. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all that I had.

The phone call made me think. I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I feel and not enough about everyone else in my life. So many people have it so much worse that I do at this moment. I felt selfish and petty. If I were TRULY thankful I should have realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holiday at all. A lifetime of Thanksgivings had set me up with a certain expectation of what the day should bring, but I was looking at them with the wrong focus.

Tonight I took a look back at the photos that I have stored on my computer of past Thanksgivings that we have shared with our family up here on the Hill. Yes, there has been a good amount of stress and drama during our past 30+ years here, but there has also been much laughter and happiness. Looking in to the faces of the people in the pictures I saw what I should have been seeing all along.  We are, indeed, truly blessed to have what we have here in the place where my husband has spent over 50 Thanksgivings. A lot of living has happened here on the Hill.

I am thankful to have been a part of it.

Veteran’s Day Reblog

Here is a reblog of a post that I did in 2012 about my father-in-law, Ray.  We lost him last November, but will always remember him on Veteran’s Day each year.

RIP, Ray – we miss you…

Grandpa, Veteran, poppy

When my oldest daughter was about 3 or 4 years old,  we were at the grocery store one day and there was a man selling poppies for Veteran’s Day.  Of course she loved the bright red bloom and wanted one, so I bought it.

When we got into the car she asked “Mama, why was that man selling flowers”, so I explained that he was a Veteran and he was selling the poppies for Veteran’s day. This was of course followed by another question: “What is a veteran?”  I explained to her that a Veteran was someone who served our country, a soldier. I told her that her Grandpas were both Veterans, and in fact, her Grandpa Ray was in World War II. I told her that we were thankful to all of these soldiers who served their country and protected us and that we should be proud that we had Veteran’s in our own family.  We continued our conversation about Veterans and soldiers and wars for a bit, but moved on to other things.

The very next day we visited Grandpa Ray at his house and my daughter immediately asked him about being a soldier.  I was afraid that this mat be a subject that my father-in-law, who was a Marine and had seen active duty in the war, might not want to discuss with a three year old child.  Ray has always been the “happy man” of the family, our children’s delightful, cheerful mentor and subjects that are unpleasant are usually met with a change of subject from him.

This was not the case at all though.  He took her into the other room and answered her questions and told her about some of his days as a soldier.  I don’t know what the conversation was, exactly, because they were out of earshot.  Ray has never talked much about his time in the service or what he experienced there.  The family respects his silence on the subject and does not ask for many details.  Grandpa and oldest grandchild talked for a bit and then joined Grandma and me in the kitchen for cookies or some other treat, as I recall.

The amazing thing to me is how that short conversation has stayed with her all these years.  She has remembered her Grandpa each Veteran’s day since then…first by making sure we always purchased a poppy and then, as she got older and moved to different cities by phone calls to wish him a Happy Veteran’s Day and thank him for his service. Each November 11 they have talked – without so much as a reminder from me. Birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone and sometimes I have had to send notes to say….”Don’t forget”, but no matter how far apart the two of them have been, they have never missed a single Veteran’s Day.

This year, Grandpa is unable to take her phone call.  He is recovering from a recent illness in a Rehab facility, and his speech isn’t what it once was.  She did remember, though,  and sent him a lovely bouquet of flowers – red, white and blue, thanking him once again for his service. They were delivered on Saturday, because this year the holiday falls on a Sunday and the florist does not deliver.   He smiled with pride when he got them, and I know he was remembering that conversation that the two of them had all those years ago. It made me proud to be his Daughter-in-Law and also proud to be her Mother.

Thank you to Ray and all of the other Veteran’s out there who have served us in so many ways.  We are proud of all of you!

Five Things

I am trying to refocus my energies lately, to become more mindful and appreciate my life as it is in this very moment.

Life is too short to be unhappy and discontent, so I need to take some time and reassess and think about who I am and what gives me peace.

I will start today by listing five things that make me happy right now:

1. A good, strong cup of coffee in a large red mug.Coffee cup, desk, Starbucks

2. The sun rising over the lake out the front window.photo (63)

3. The prospect of spending the day with my family at the fall fest.404608_4271376979370_1058414503_n

4. The photo of Fee on my desk, smiling at me while she holds her parents hands.Sophia-48

5. The boys sleeping quietly next to me as I write this post.photo (61)

I would love to hear about YOUR five things. Why not leave me a comment and tell me about them?

**Thanks to my fellow blogger Candice at WryGrass for helping me to get my act together today.

Go on over and check out her page…the photos are terrific!

It’s all over but the shouting…

family car packed for collegeThe laundry is all caught up, the cars are packed and in a little over two hours we will be leaving for our very last “move-in” of an undergraduate student. Our youngest is beginning her senior year of college in a few days and I wonder where the time has gone!

It seems like only a short time ago that we set off on our first journey – to Sewanee, The University of the South – with our oldest.  That 12 hour trip was tackled with my in-laws, who accompanied us to Tennessee, completely loaded down with what we thought were all of the necessities of college life. That was ten years ago! It is amazing that we have spent the last decade supporting the lives of our children in college. Since then we have moved in to three other colleges - St Bonaventure University, Penn State – Behrend and Baldwin Wallace University née College , and we have the T-shirts to prove it!

We have moved our three daughters into double rooms, single rooms and apartments. We’ve carried refrigerators and extra chairs and clothes up three flights of stairs in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity and into basement apartments in pouring rain – assisted by siblings and boyfriends and acquaintances.  We have unloaded in New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and met so many roommates and sorority sisters over the years that we can’t remember who belongs to whom.

Sam Walton has been the beneficiary of hundreds (if not thousands) of our hard-earned dollars as we purchased over-the-door hooks, and sticky goo to hang posters, clothes hangers, plastic tubs and shower mats. I have always been the official “bed-maker”. I am sure that it is my mothering instinct that wants to make sure they have a place to lie their heads when the flurry of that first day is over.

It seems as though this is the end of an era for us on the Hill.  Sure, there will be future apartments in new cities with new roommates and perhaps even spouses, but this is the last true college move-in day. As I explained in a previous post, these days are bittersweet to me, as I never attended a residential college. As exhausting as the day is sure to be, I truly do enjoy the feeling of excitement that I get when we arrive on campus – the shouts of welcome from their friends who they missed over the summer, the newly decorated (and clean – for a short time, anyways) dorm rooms, the bookstore, the ever-present oak trees, even the squirrels.

I am going to miss this annual ritual and the feelings of hope and promise that it fills me with each year. I am sure the year will fly by and before we know it we will be leaving for commencement!

Man, I am getting old.

Not guilty?

Gavel, guilty

*click for image source

I have a predisposition to feel responsible in almost every situation. This feeling causes me to feel continually guilty. I don’t know if it is a “female thing” or a “Mom thing” or just an annoying personality trait that tends to run in my family, but sometimes I feel like I am constantly repeating “woulda, coulda, shoulda” to myself over and over and over.

I always tend to think that I could have done things differently or should have accomplished more. At home I never seem to finish all of the chores that I intend to. At work I sometimes jump from project to project, not completing anything. I feel like I should be a better Mom, a better wife, or a better friend. I do this to myself. Nobody out there is condemning or chastising me for the things I have done or not done. This guilt is completely self-induced.

Often these things that I feel guilty about wake me from a sound sleep causing the kind of middle-of-the-night worry that is magnified ten-fold. I tend to second-guess my own decisions and punish myself for my real or imagined misdeeds, so much so that any kind of consequence doled out by another source could never compare in severity. I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. Why is it that so many women that I know suffer from this compulsion to be so critical of ourselves?

This week I had to make a couple of decisions that caused me to feel more guilty than usual. One involved a family member and another involved a friend. In both cases I felt like I let them down, even though the decisions that I made were reasonable and necessary. This guilt has worn on me all week and this weekend I am feeling tired and unfocused.

As a result, I made a conscious decision today to just go with the flow. This morning I surfed the internet, did a little yoga and Skyped with Fee and her parents. This afternoon I may have a cup of tea and even a nap. I refuse to feel guilty for not doing anything.

You know what? The house will still be dirty tomorrow, the groceries will somehow be purchased, the work that I should be doing will still be there for me to finish.

Some days you just have to be gentle with yourself.

Friday Fun

Life on the Hill has been a little stressful lately.  I have a lot in my head that I want to write down, but not enough time to do it.

I have decided to start a new feature here  where I can share a bright spot from my week – something that made me laugh or smile and that I would like to share with you all. I intend to do this from time to time, just to let you all know that I am still alive and kicking, if not feeling particularly verbose.

The attached video really reminds me of our lab Max. He is a big, floppy, friendly guy like this, but I don’t believe he has quite enough “upstairs” to accomplish this neat trick.  (I like to say that he is pretty, but not very bright.  I don’t think that Jim necessarily agrees, though)

Please enjoy this first installment of “Friday Fun”:

I watched it over and over and it makes me laugh every time!

Have a great Friday, everyone!

 

Catching up…

Coffee cup, desk, StarbucksSaturday morning…no real plan…that is the way I like to start my weekend.

The past two months have been a flurry of “getting ready”, “the gangs all here” and “wow, I can’t believe it is over”.  We finished the main work of the Master Bedroom reno, new ceiling, insulation, carpeting and all.  We had a wonderful time visiting with all of our children and our lovely Fee.  Lots of relatives stopped by to say hello, we endured the rainy weeks surrounding the Fourth of July, and we discovered that it really IS fun to be grandparents. Far too many craft beers were consumed, but lots of laughs (and a few tears) were had.

I am hoping that the next few weeks will allow us to enjoy my favorite season of the year.  I am wishing for hot days and summer sun. I want to quietly barbecue dinners on the deck and enjoy my morning coffee on the porch.  I hope to take “the boys” for a trip to Lake Erie to let them splash along the shoreline.  I plan on shopping for bits and pieces for the new bedroom and spending time at a few favorite summer haunts before they close for the season.

We will try to save the next big project for fall because these summer days are always brief and fast.  Our youngest will be starting her  Senior year of college very soon and the house will be completely quiet again, but that’s not such a bad thing.  We have issues with an aging parent to deal with that will certainly cause stress and anxiety, but today I refuse to think about it.

I intend to enjoy the summer day. Take a drive…go out for lunch…buy something I don’t really need.

I will leave you with a slide show of our summer so far here on the Hill (sorry for the poor quality – most are from my phone). Happy weekend, everyone!

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Hot enough for ya?

heat squirrel in a bowl hot

Click image for photo credit

If you ask me that question this time of year, my answer will undoubtedly be “Not Really”. It is SUMMER for heaven’s sake!

I LOVE the heat. Summers around here are so short that I can’t get enough of the warm weather.  Humidity is not a problem for me.  My skin feels great, my joints and muscles move better and I just feel good.

Now, I know that I sit at a desk all day, and don’t have to labor in the hot sun.  As a matter of fact, it seems like I am COLDER in the summer than I am in the winter.  I sit in my office with the A/C on and shiver.  I have to put on a sweater and drink a cup of hot tea every day at around 1pm just to get through the afternoon.  When I drive home from work I don’t even open the windows on my car until I am halfway there.

I have often said that if I had visited the tropics when I was younger, I would have never returned. I love the feeling of open windows and grass underneath my bare toes.  Even on the muggiest night I am usually content to have a fan blowing on me to keep me comfortable.

I get so tired of hearing people at work or in lines at the grocery store complaining that it is “too hot”.  In an area that has only a few months of temperate weather a year I think we can all survive a week or two of summer heat and humidity.

Seriously, do any of you remember this?

First Day of Spring

 

I do, and I know that we will have many more freezing, snowy winter days next November through March than the last short string of ninety-degree weather.

If you do have a problem with the heat, I will be thinking of you.  Drink plenty of fluids and try to stay out of the direct sunlight. Check on your elderly friends and relatives and make sure your animals have enough water. Try not to complain too much, because there are those of us who wait MONTHS for this.

Know that I will be enjoying every sticky, sweaty moment of this summer weather. I will smile when I walk out the door this afternoon and am hit with a wall of hot, sultry air. I will sit in my car for a few moments and feel the heat sink in to my bones before I turn on the A/C. I will have a cold drink on my front porch this evening while I listen to the birds chirping and my neighbor mowing his lawn.

Ahhh, summer. It will be over before we know it!