Christmas lasts past the day

Christmas is nearly over. Of course, I consider the season to last through Jan. 6, Old Christmas. My mother remembers celebrating that day rather than Dec. 25 one year as a child – everyone was sick. And I don’t feel I have missed my holiday card deadline until Jan. 6 (I have a few more to send).

After three days of celebrating – Gabe’s birthday, Christmas Eve and Christmas, I am done in. Christmas Eve I went to a Family candlelight service at 5 p.m. and an 11 p.m. service at my church. They were both beautiful and both different.

Presents were opened Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (after reading the Christmas story in Matthew) with Santa thrown in (He still comes to my mother’s house although he has a different helper than he did when I was little). In addition, I had a little studio gig going (for free) while I shot family portraits of varying folks and combinations of folks.

Today is a day of rest. Saturday is another birthday party – this one for a woman turning 50 instead of a little boy turning 3. New Year’s Day I have friends coming over for the traditional “good luck” holiday meal.

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Christmas is coming

I’m beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Can’t you just hear me singing (I hope not).

I had an annual Christmas dinner with two friends tonight – we have been doing this, lo these many years. Small gifts were exchanged, They gave me a book of Mary Oliver’s poetry and a journal. I gave her a  journal and small notebook and him an owl chime.

Friends make life worth living (along with family).

I wrapped and tagged and did all those kind of things today. Tomorrow I buy one last present and make Russian Tea mix for my brother. It’s a tradition of my mother’s and I’m carrying it on since she no longer cooks or does things that require long periods of standing. I also picked up my major gift for my mot her, brother and sister-in-law and nieces. So I’m nearly ready for Christmas.

Besides all my Christmas stuff, I went by the newspaper to wish Chris Weston well. He is retiring Dec. 27 and plans to start a new chapter of his life. He is managing editor of the newspaper through this month. Then we’ll see what he does.

More gratitude

Took a while to get this up:

Nov. 15 – I am grateful for my education. I loved school and enjoyed (mostly) what I learned. That education gave me the ability to choose a career that was satisfying. But even more, it gave me the ability to think through issues and make my own decisions. It gave me strength to handle challenges. I think education is about much more than finding a well-paying job. It is about living a well-rounded life.

Nov. 16 – I am grateful for weekends, time to slow down and relax without worrying. When you’re retired, you can treat every day like a weekend. But I don’t – I work during the week and rest on the weekend although I spend half of them in Brevard rather than Greer.

Nov. 17 – I am grateful for chocolate. This is one of those days when chocolate is what I need to enhance my mood.

Nov. 18 – I’m grateful for extra space in my house. For the past year, I have been trying to get rid of “stuff” (which unfortunately includes some books). Sunday I cleaned out my linen closet and am donating half of the towels and sheets to Goodwill. I hope somebody will get good use from them. I somehow had many more than I would ever use. Thankfully, I can tell the difference in my space (not as crowded).

Oops, where has the day gone? Nov. 19 – I am grateful for a new deck, new screened-in porch, a railing on the front steps and a renovated bathroom. Just one more step – black plastic under the deck and porch to keep the weeds down. Everything is gorgeous – and I’m so glad it’s done.

Nov. 20 – I am grateful for a good hairdresser – one who listens to me and then cuts my hair to make it work. Vanessa, you’re the best. (Do a good job today!)

Nov. 21 – I’m grateful for times that I can sleep a little later than usual without feeling guilt. That’s one of the things retirement has done for me – as well as allowed me to choice the projects I work on, have time to renovate my house, keep up with family and friends and all the other little things that often get lost in workday living. What retirement has really done is give me choices.

Nov. 22 – I’m grateful for memories, the sad as well as the good ones. This is a time to remember Pres. John F. Kennedy, the first president I had any interest in. He and his family were my heroes. But I also am thankful for good memories – family trips, memories of growing up and all the little pieces that make up a life.

Nov. 23 – I am grateful for my mother’s friends who continue to care about her. A former doctor came by to check on her medications and how she’s doing since she’s ready to come to South Carolina for a week. She’ll be with me during Thanksgiving. What a blessing that is.

Nov. 24 – I am grateful I live in this great nation, even when it ignores its founding principles. But I still have more choices than in many countries and many others pray to join us here. I am grateful for those that protect us on the national, state and local level.

Nov. 25 – I’m grateful for writing. It soothes me, encourages me, challenges me. It helps me relax and it winds me up at times. It makes me use my mind and my imagination. Writing is my life.

Nov. 26 – I am grateful for warm food on this cold, rainy, icy morning. And I’m thankful that food is plentiful and readily available – I wish that were true of everyone. I’m also grateful to have someone to share that breakfast with this week.

Nov. 27 – I am grateful for the scurrying around and cooking you do for guests. That means I’m thankful for the guests, thankful to be able to prepare and thankful to have all of us together. Let Thanksgiving arrive.

Nov. 28 – Thanksgiving day – I am grateful for my life and for all those people and objects that make it richer and more varied. Thanks to all of you, no matter where you are.

Nov. 29 – I’m grateful that the big day is over, that we had good food and good conversation, that left-overs fill my refrigerator and that today I’m resting (not shopping). It’s good to have a holiday that centers around family and friends rather than presents. But I pray for those without families or friends, those with abusive families, those who can’t be with their families and those who don’t share the plenty for whatever reason.

Nov. 30 – The last day of my grateful project. I am grateful for the air we breathe and the sun that warms us, the winds that cool us and the flowers, the vines and the trees. I have seen the world in the maple tree in front of my house. The natural world brings me a sense of tranquility and peace not often found in the man-made world. This project could go on forever as I am blessed in so many ways.

List of blessings

I try to express gratitude all year long, but November is the month I really try to go out of my way in thanks people and remembering my blessings. I have many – family, friends, adequate money, books and much more.

I began a Gratitude List this year (I often do this):

Thankful List 2013

I barely made it on the first day of November: I am grateful for my mother, who despite her pain is in good health. She’ll be with me for Thanksgiving.

Nov. 2 – I am grateful for friends who support me and are willing to tell me if I’m doing something crazy.

Nov. 3 – I am grateful that I still can enjoy food while trying to lose weight. And I’ve been successful, with 33 pounds gone since January.

Nov. 4 – I am grateful for continuing to find freelance work to keep me busy enough but not too busy. And I thankful for the time to do my own personal writing.

Nov. 5 – I am grateful for a “walking buddy.” She got me walking – after I talked about it for three months – and together we keep each other honest.

Nov. 6 – I am grateful for the little things of life – chocolate kisses, a smile from a friend or from someone I don’t know, a friendly clerk in a store, a word of encouragement, angel food cake and cooler temperatures.

Nov. 7 – I am grateful for photography. It lets me – or makes me – see the world in a different way. I think I’m probably a better person because of that.

Nov. 8 – I am grateful for sunny days like today – and rainy days sometimes, too. I love fall and look forward to its coming. And I am grateful that I live in a region that has distinct seasons.

Nov. 9 – I am grateful for my brother and the memories we have and our visits, which don’t come often enough. He taught me a lot of things, including how to love somebody even if you’re mad at them. He also challenged me – I learned to ride a bike so someone 2 1/2 years younger wouldn’t learn first and I learned to swim because he could. Chip, I love you and your family.

Nov. 10 – The day is almost over, but my gratitude is not. I am grateful for the freedoms we have in this country – the freedom to worship or not to worship, the freedom to speak or to say nothing, the freedom to move around the country or remained rooted in the place of our birth, the freedom to change jobs, to create jobs, to retire without starving. I know that not everyone in this country can claim these freedoms as easily as I do, but the freedoms are there (with maybe a little help from our friends).

Nov. 11 – I am grateful for our military personnel who sacrifice much to protect their country. That includes past and present, my father, uncles, aunt, brother, cousins, nephews, and those I have never met. Thanks for your service.

Nov. 12 – I am grateful for my nieces, two very different, very lovely and very accomplished young ladies. And I love Shannon and Amanda to pieces and they give me a scholar and an artist. How lucky can I get? I also am grateful that my mother’s second marriage brought me two additional nephews plus their two daughters and one son.

Nov. 13 – As I get ready to walk this morning, I am grateful for the ability to walk despite the cold. I also am grateful to have the cold-weather clothing to make the walk possible. I realize I am lucky because I have both the necessities of life and many of the desires of life, and I give thanks.

Nov. 14 – I am grateful for books – books to entertain me, books to teach me, books to comfort me, books for any reason and no reason.

Life is good

Life is good!

My brother who initially was thought to have an aneurysm instead had a spontaneous vein bleed. After 10 days in the hospital, most of that in ICU, he’s now at home. He’s still on pain meds and can’t drive yet. But he can do anything else as he feels like it. Right now, he’s mostly lazing around and sleeping.

So he’s recovering and is unlikely to have this again – a plus in the life is good column.

Then while he was ill, I heard from my friends, his friends and family – all expressing concern about his well-being. It’s too bad we don’t realize how much others care until something bad happens. Sending prayers and good thoughts surely hastened his recovery.

But he said now those thoughts can be directed toward him winning the lottery. I didn’t tell him, but I think he just did.

Family – narrow and wide

Family

My family, like most, starts tight and small.
For many, it begins with parents and siblings.
Some include spouses and children.

Then the family circle expands and brings
in grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Next the circle reaches out for more.

Those are the great-aunts, the nieces and nephews and the cousins once removed – the kin we all have, even if we may not know them.They all provide tales of life with laughter and love.

 But family is more than blood.
It’s our friends – the ones that have our back, the ones that cry with us and laugh with us.
This family includes those from work, church, the neighborhood, social activities.

But even this is not a person’s whole family.
As the family grows, with tentacles reaching around the world, we realize we all are part of the family of man. We’re all related and we should all support one another.

A lunch oasis

Some days retirement seems really the best of all worlds. You get to choose what you want to do.

Today Anna and I – both old retired ladies – met Cindy – a youngster who is still working – and had lunch at the Green Room in downtown Greenville. The conversation was stimulating. The food was delicious and overly abundant. After our talk fest, Cindy had to hurry off to do an interview while Anna and I moseyed (is that how you spell the word) over to Mast General Store. I bought a Christmas present and Anna bought some shirts and earrings.

On the way home, I planned to stop by Lowe’s and check out the paint and carpet samples. But after stopping for gas, I decided it was too hot to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary. It’s not going to hurt me to pick out paint, carpet and hard-wood flooring next week.

So other than having fun (and getting up early since I spent last night at the church with several homeless families that are staying there this week), I did little other than finish up some phone calls I’m making for a PR and marketing firm. I also finished a memoir by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She had a wild life early on.

Uncertainty means lack of control

A trip to Brevard – over the mountain and through the woods – went well as usual. I love driving over US 276 from Greer to Brevard. In the morning, it’s so bright and the air seems light.

Drove through town on my way to my mother’s and some idiot driver turned left in front of me. I was turning right. She also nearly drove down pedestrians crossing the street.

The rest of the day was confusing. We waited for a reclining lift chair to be delivered to my mother’s apartment. The delivery crew had to be here by 2 p.m. because my mother had a therapy session at 3 p.m. The made it, but the chair was the wrong size. So they packed it back up for a return trip to Arden and she and I are going back to the store tomorrow. She’s petite and needs a small chair.

Then it was on to therapy, forgetting a check she wanted to cash. After her therapy session of more than an hour, we came back for the check and then cashed it.

After a short rest, we met friends for supper here at College Walk. The trout was delicious. The rest of the meal so-so.

One of my problems with this kind of day is the lack of control I have. I never realized how important control is to me. I can laze away a day, but I want to make the decision to do so.