Independence Day

Today is the 4th of July. And it has some bittersweet moments for me and my family. We celebrate and remember our country’s independence and our continued stand for freedom in so many ways. But it is also the birthday of our belated, beloved father.

My Dad at 18

Every year we all celebrated the 4th of July with my Dad. Whatever he wanted so long as we were with him. He loved to cookout, grill, and have a few beers. He loved baseball, the Cubs, and Budweiser. He loved his wife, his kids, and his country.

My oldest brother’s picture. He painted it and set the image in front of it. 2022

My kids loved going to Grandpa’s for the 4th because they enjoyed the cookout and cake and presents. Our oldest would try to talk to him and tell him how great it was to have a birthday on the 4th because “everyone is celebrating and there’s fireworks.” My youngest, my deep-thinker, was always a little melancholy on the day of because it made him think of Grandpa getting older. It was like he was sad he would one day leave us. Not surprising that in 2008 when my Dad did leave us for his home in heaven, my youngest (then 9) consoled me while I was crying with a simple, “Mom, he’s in a better place now. God will watch over him.”

Dad with Chico

On this day, our country’s Independence Day, is still our Dad’s birthday. It still reminds me of burgers on the grill, watermelon, and Dad in his chair telling stories. He was in the Air Force, was a volunteer fireman, and our father. These are good memories that I hold dear to my heart. I am sure you all have some of those. Maybe you have some from your childhood? I sure do.

When I was a kid, my Dad would drive to the local park to “get a table” for our entire street (Persimmon Street) to have a picnic at the park. Each household would bring salads, chips, dips, meats, sauces, baked goods, and drinks. All the kids on the street would gather, swim, and have the best times of our lives. In preparation, my mom would be gathering the food, my brothers would gather chairs, and my sister and I would gather towels. You probably have memories like these. Keep them close, it’s what makes us all the same — even with our differences.

God Bless America, my Dad, my family, our soldiers, and you and your family. Today, we are all family.

Fun, fun, fun….

Having fun is one thing that we all deserve.

And what better is there then getting together with friends and playing games, chatting and reconnecting, watching the kids explore and play, and have great food. This was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time.

This is the shortest story because there’s no lead up….just the take away:

The best of times has three ingredients: friends, fun, and music. LOL

Play the music in the background. Feed the people. Provide games and ensure that there is at least one “game” centric guy in the group to arrange some form of tournament. And then watch the magic happen!

I lost all my games of cornhole. Came in last and that included the loser set. LOL….but it was the best day! That’s it.

Have a great weekend and have fun!

Ugly Sweaters and More….

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In the holiday season, there are more things to do than you have time for during a single day. One of the things I keep forgetting is to find and purchase a true “Christmas ugly sweater.” I love them. I have always wanted one for the few parties I attend.

What is the best components of ugly sweaters? I say it must be cheerful and fun. My brother says it has to be some kind of joke. Not everyone has to get the joke, but it must be a component. What about holiday traditions? Where do they play a part in deciding the best sweater? Santa Claus or Frosty? Reindeer or trees or both? IT is a daunting task to choose the best sweater.

Here are some of my favorites.

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Gracie enjoying the moment.

Decorating after Thanksgiving is one of my favorite things. It’s peaceful. It introduces the Christmas season without all the rush and frantic pace of the shopping “season”.

We were expecting a little anxiety from my girl but she was fine. No issues. She gets a little riled with change. Routine is our friend. 😉

She has not bothered the tree or the ornaments. She has even worried the other dogs with any of it. She’s been calm. I have even been surprised at how calm…given the fact that it gets dark at 4 pm these days. When the darkness falls she gets a little worried.

Anyway, I hope the holidays are sweet and full or good memories. Make some new ones and talking about the good ole ones. 😉 🎅🏻 🌲

It’s too beautiful today to study. 🙄

I have exams at the end of the month. It’s a study day. All day.

Outside my office.

It’s too lovely to stay inside cramming for my test! 😒

But I’ve got to study!! It’s too important not to give it my all. I’m 50 yrs old and I have goals! 😂

Fall!

Isn’t is pretty. It’s cool outside. My dog would love to go for a hike with me! 😩

Back to work!

It’s time to quiz myself. 😉

So, for the love of all things holy and beautiful….go outside and enjoy it for me. ❤️

My Little Buck

Bucky, a 6 year old long-haired chihuahuas, has lived with me for 2 years. I got him from an older couple that said he would chase their older cat (15 years old) out of the house and keep him out. The cat developed some medical issues and they needed to re-home Bucky so their cat could come back inside and stay comfortable.

Bucky, a very spirited little man, liked to play chase and hide-n-seek.

Bucky sitting on the back of the couch.
Bucky on the porch

I am writing this because he’s gone. He went out with the other two dogs and did not come back with him. None of the neighbors have seen him. We cannot find him anywhere and I posted picks and no one has responded.

I live on a large plot surrounded by woods with critters. My brother and I think an owl got him. There’s no evidence of it, with the exception of the large owl that lives right next to the house and comes around each dusk to look for squirrels and critters under 10 pounds. It is hard to think about it.

I remember his sweet face and his jumping around when I got home. He smiled a lot. He was rambunctious and full of vigor. He did not know he wasn’t a big dog. He wasn’t scared of others either. His spirit was too big for his little body.

He loved my brother. He lived with me for two (2) years but as soon as he met my brother he was his lap dog. No getting around it. He preferred to sit with him no matter what I was doing. Sometimes he left my room in the middle of the night to go sleep in the same room as my brother. I didn’t mind because he was healthy and happy. That was all that mattered.

He was waiting for me to take a nap with him. LOL

I miss him. Always will. He was sweet and loving. The best little friend.

Gracie

I moved out in February some years ago. By June that same year she was given to me. She was 8 weeks old. Silly little “trailer-trash” dog that would have gone to Animal Control if I had not agreed to take her.

I told people I saved her from being a shelter dog but I am not entirely sure that is exactly what happened. She was a little, growling thing that nibbled on my fingers. And when she went to sleep at night, she sucked my thumb. (No, it’s not an exaggeration. She literally sucked my thumb until she fell asleep.)

“Don’t put her in the bed with you,” they said. Yeah. She slept with me the first night, and each and every one since that first time. I cannot sleep unless she’s in the bed with me now. It’s been over 2 years.

There are so many stories I will tell about Gracie. The most important thing I want share with you right now:

1. Her love is absolute and she is loyal.

2. She owns me and she knows it. She will tolerate others borrowing me for a little while but when she’s had enough, she will get between us and move them away from me. And even if that is not a good behavior to encourage, I love her for it.

3. She looks for me. I go to work every day and at nightfall she looks for me. She is okay with others being in the house or around her but she looks for me. It makes hurry home to her.

4. She is happy when I am happy and she loves to play games with me. She comes to me for contact and to make a connection. Looking at her in those moments I learned two things: (1) I am not so good at being connected when I should be and (2) I can learn. 😉

5. I loved my dog Chico and Chubs and Bucky; but, God help me, I am “in love” with Gracie. If you know, you know.

That’s it for now. Thanks for reading my blog or whatever this is. There will be more, you know, ramblings in the future. 😉 Be happy. Make others happy. Give where and when you can, as often as you can. God loves y’all. 🙂

Christmas (#3)

That first Christmas had so many moments that became the columns that held up the foundation of our traditions for the holidays. I made stockings that year to hang on the wall so that Santa could come for his little cherub. I crocheted them. One was mostly green, for his daddy, one was mostly red, for me, and one was mostly white, for the “beat in my heartbeat.”

That first Christmas I went shopping for Christmas presents with his father. He picked out Tonka Trucks (all varieties) and I picked out “My First Winnie the Pooh” for his stocking stuffer toy. Santa wanted him to have it and I made sure he had it. We got him a Red Rider wagon. I stayed up all night putting it together and arranging the Christmas morning scene. I loved doing it. I knew I would. What I did not expect was the emotions that would overwhelm me. I did not expect that.

There I was, up late…working on the experience for the sweetest cherub I’ve ever known. Putting together the wagon while the cherub and his daddy slept. Working on the stocking stuffers: candy, tangerines, nuts, small toys for the cherub and shaving stuff for the daddy, and the one “big” gift from Santa. It was then, late in the evening, that I needed to call my Mom.

It rang. She answered. I told her what I was doing….every detail. She told me it sounded perfect. I paused. Was it perfect? I wanted it to be perfect. I asked her, “were you ever worried it wouldn’t be perfect?” She paused. “Not really. But you were my own kids and I wasn’t trying to be sure a baby had the best Christmas ever — in case he hadn’t.”

She was right. I was worried because he might’ve never known that Christmas morning joy and I wanted him to have it all. All the mystery of the birth of Jesus and all the joy of my family traditions. I wanted to be sure he felt what it was like to be loved that much. But that moment is also when I knew that I was afraid that this, this exact Christmas, would be the only chance I got to have this with this cherub. This child. This boy that went from being a neighbor kid to being the “beat in my heartbeat.”

I was scared.

I was scared it wasn’t fully real and, like the mist in the early morning, would disappear before I could breathe it all in and savor it. I was scared I was going to get hurt and that he would too. Boy was I scared.

Then, like a beacon over the phone line, my mother said, “I am so glad you are doing this for them. It’s good for you. I love you.” I cried. Little tears welling up that trickled down. “I love you too, Mom. Thank you for being the best mom ever.”

And just like that, the fear turned into gratitude. Gratitude that my mom and dad loved me and would do anything for me. Gratitude that my life was blessed with a family so strong and so forgiving that their love flowed through me onto this man and his child. Gratitude that God would give me this chance. Gratitude that, at least this Christmas, I could share my family, my faith, and my traditions with a little person. Maybe he wasn’t my own child, but he was mine for a moment, for a purpose. I knew then (and still today) that I would cherish that Christmas over all the rest.

I always have. He brought me love in way that slammed into me and changed me forever. My cherub. My little “beat to my heartbeat.” He changed me, by the grace of God, he made me a different woman. And to this day I am grateful.

The End/The Beginning.

Christmas (continued)

We had breakfast. And if you have a toddler you know that phrase means more than just two humans consuming food together. It means that you talk about whatever is on the mind of the toddler. You clean up little spills and help them use their spoons to get it all the way to their mouths. It means looking at them and feeling that love well-up inside you because they are a precious thing you have the honor of teaching and loving. It also means you look at them and wonder things, like how much cleaning will I have to do today or, “wow, I didn’t know cereal could be so messy.”

We got through breakfast. He was so excited. He even helped clean up afterwards so we could work on the project that much sooner.

He sat on a chair with a booster so he could really see the table. I told him stories about the birth of Jesus while showing him how to glue together the little cutouts I had made. He asked questions. Lots of questions. He asked about cows and sheep in barns. He asked about stars that led the three kings. He asked why the bad man wanted to chase down a baby. And, because he was so sweet and excited, he ask if his daddy would love this when he got home.

We made manger scenes and paper chains. We made decorated paper ornaments and glued glitter on them for sparkle. We made candy canes to hang on the tree. Each one he made, he said… “Daddy will really like this one.”

We put together the tree, and for a lunch break, we made a trifold story board so he could tell his father the story of the manger. We hung lights on the tree. He chased the cat, Annie, for a little while. Then we built a blanket fort at the tree so he could nap in the forest. We made a star for the tree using cardboard, wire, and tinfoil candy wraps clued to its surface for sparkle.

The day was full of crafts, songs, stories, naps, cat play, and excitement and joy. I thought my heart could not get any more full with this child. It just blew up and was bursting at the seams with how much of a treasure he is to me.

Finally, the tree and decorations were done. He was so very proud. {I was too. 😉 }

His dad came home and he ran outside to tell him to close his eyes. He said, “We did something. Wissa helped me. We did something. Close your eyes for the biggest surprise.”

His listened to his son. He closed his eyes and allowed his son to lead him down the hallway into the living room of that tiny trailer. He was wonderful to his son and proud of him in ways you wouldn’t know about. He waited until it was okay to look. Then, as all good dads do in this situation, he exclaimed his appreciation and awe at the work this child had done. His eyes full of love and joy. They had a blast that night. Talking, dad listening to the manger story a few times. Dad hearing about each ornament or craft. It was lovely, heartwarming, and powerful.

We had a few times during that first Christmas that made me pause for a prayer of gratitude. This is definitely one of them.

There’s more. Come back later for another installment of that first Christmas. 😉

Our First Christmas

I have always loved Christmas. My parents, when we were kids, did all they could to make it beautiful and spiritual for us. We had both the religious traditions and the secular traditions. Christmas trees and the calendar/stories of the coming of the birth of Jesus. I have such wonderful memories of stockings hung on the wall, majestic and mysterious church ceremonies, singing carols with neighbors, and the excitement of Christmas morning.

So, when I met my neighbor and his 2 year old son it never occurred to me how hard it would hit me about other families traditions…or lack thereof. I never considered how emotional of a bond I had with my family traditions and lifetime of memories until I met this very small family that had none or, at the very least, very few.

I became a nanny to this boy. This two year old bundle of love and joy. I fell in love with him and wanted him to have all the memories he could have with all the traditions. I wanted it for him and his father more than I wanted anything for myself before in my life. I had no idea the path I was on but I was stepping out in faith.

I was the live-in nanny. We lived in a trailer in Nowwhere’sville. Far removed from my family and theirs. We had very little money. He worked very hard and it was necessary for the money to be spent on needs not wants. So, I saved here and there and we pinched together a little to go to Dollar General. We bought a fake tree (cheapest they had), construction paper, glue, glitter, and scissors for kids. [I did not have any of my traditional decorations from home. So, we made some.]

When the father went to work at 5 AM, I went to work cutting out shapes, setting out a craft table on the dinner table, and making some dough for cookies later. When that bundle of joy woke up, his eyes lit up at the craft table. He was still sleepy but interested. I said, “We have to have a healthy breakfast first, but then we get to work. Okay?”

He looked at me with big, blue eyes and said, “To make Daddy’s Christmas, right?” I was unable to answer for a second. I was so impressed with his heart and so awed by his general selflessness. I was just, wowed. So I nodded, speechless. Then we ate breakfast.

I will finish this story in the next blog. I have to go to work. 😉