Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Pookie!! Part one

It’s a weird feeling when your first born reaches the age that you were when you had her. We reach that milestone this next week so I thought it only fair that I post about my eldest child. If you remember back in April I posted when my baby turned 21 so now my eldest, Jessica, is turning 24 and I want to share with you all her wonderful accomplishments (in spite of the mother that she has had). This is going to be a long post so we’ll call this part one.

We had been trying for a year to start a family and decided that we’d put it on hold to make a move to Connecticut from California so that we could be near family. No sooner had we quit our jobs and sold our house when we found out we were pregnant! We were delighted and decided to proceed with the move as planned. I am one of the lucky ones that had morning sickness for 7 months of each of my pregnancies so I don’t remember much of the move besides sitting in the Ryder rental truck and plotting out the next rest stop in case I needed it. 
What were we thinking buying a fixer upper with a baby on the way?

She arrived on October 4th just six minutes after midnight with a full head of hair and ten fingers and toes. Fernando broke his leg at work the day after we had her while so we got to spend a lot of time “bonding” as a family for a couple of weeks.

Jessica had her days and her nights mixed up so we were up all night with her. My uncle, a Catholic priest, came to stay with us for my brother’s wedding about a week after we had Jessica and he said after a night or two of no sleep…. “Dear God, that’s why I’m a priest!”

Her 1st Birthday!!!

After her first year in Connecticut, we moved back to California, apparently Ecuadoreans (her father)  don’t find snow so appealing. Go figure!  So we said our goodbyes to my family and packed up to San Diego County.

Ready for Disneyland with those cool shades at our going away party.

Jessica was lucky enough to have a best friend Meghan that lived right next door so she had plenty to keep her busy for a few years until her sister came along.

She lived in dresses, patent leather shoes and anything pink.

Did I mention Barbie everything?

 If they played make believe….she was the princess. No discussion about that one.

She was not happy to find out there was no princess in the story of
the Three Little Pigs play they did at school.

                                           Dress up was her favorite activity!
 We started a ritual of first day photos when she started school, new job, etc. It was not one of her favorite rituals, especially as she got older.

1st Day of Kindergarten

1st Day on the job and by now she hates 1st day pictures.

One of the few visits from grandpa Clayton.
We didn't know we wouldn't get to enjoy him too many more years.

 Her list of activities was endless, church choir, school choir, girl scouts, and sports, soccer, track and field, field hockey. She loved being part of a team. Loyal and trustworthy… if you need a friend, Jess is there for you.  She also loved the camping trips we forced her to go on....ok read sarcasm here!
                                This is roughing it for Jess...doing her nails outside.
                                Hmmm....but of course with pink polish!

Her thirteen birthday is one that she has some rather vivid memories of. I decided that "as a treat" I would take Jessica and her friends to the local beauty college and let them have a treatment done to them. Now in my defense (and I certainly need a defense here) I did have good intentions. They were to either get a manicure or have makeup applied. The girls were spread out all over the place so it took me a while to get to each one of them to see how their “treatment” was going. One little girl had a worried look on her face, I asked what was wrong and she said my dad is not going to be happy and I realized that the “cosmetologist-in-training” had just finished plucking one of this little girl’s very bushy eyebrows…which she wasn’t allowed to do yet. I had to let them finish the other eye as the difference between her eyes was extremely noticeable. I dropped that kid off in a hurry!

                               She hid the "after" photos which is probably best!
                               This was the one time the before shots were better!

My once easy going child developed a bit of an attitude once she got into middle school. Let’s just say I worried that her eye rolling would cause her permanent damage.  Luckily, she had a mother that had creative parenting skills. As I dropped her off at school, she would roll her eyes and slam the car door.  She was warned a few times that was not the proper way to say goodbye but she wouldn’t stop so I decided to teach her a lesson. As she slammed the door yet again, I hit the power window and yelled out the window “Bye Pookie, Mommy loves you” or “Make good choices, Pookie” in front of a full school parking lot. It was amazing how nicely she started to say goodbye. This was a favorite with her friends.
Our family doesn't take good photos but look at her face!!

Stay tuned on Tuesday, her real birthday for the conclusion of Pookie's birthday!


Monday, September 26, 2011

Words of Wisdom for my friend

I didn’t get to write a post on Friday like I usually do. I was busy. The usual stuff like writing a paper on early and medieval church history (and if you are having trouble sleeping…I’d be happy to send you a copy).  But more importantly…. I was praying….for a friend. That’s what I do. When someone I love is having troubles…. I try to drop what I’m doing and give them the only best thing I can. I won’t mention her name in my post without her permission but if you care to pray for my friend…. God will know who you are praying for.
My friend was going in for routine but major surgery. Thanks to technology it can be done without a hospital stay but still she was going to be put out. The eve before her surgery….she got a call from her doctor. On an unrelated health concern, it seems the biopsy they had done on her suspicious breast lump was indeed…..the “c” word. Wow…. a double whammy. Her grown daughter called me because my friend was a tad bit… shall we say…. overwhelmed at that moment. 
Now I know how scary medical procedures can be. It will be eight years next week since I had my first open heart surgery just months after my fortieth birthday. It won’t be my last and I say that not with fear but with the confidence that I WILL be alive longer than any replacement valve can last. I've already decided that. So with that in mind…. I write to my friend and to anyone else that is suffering health problems to tell you (as Oprah says it) “What I know for sure”.
1.       Health problems are scary. But once you get past the fear….fear that you won’t make it, fear that it will hurt, fear that you’ll lose your hair, fear for your family, fear of the unknown….. there’s a great lesson that you will learn and a great gift you will receive IF you are open to it.

2.       It’s good for your family to go through crisis. It’s what builds strength and character. Your struggles model for your children (and others)  how they should also face crisis in their lives. Be honest and open (as much as is appropriate for their age).  It’s ok to not tell them everything….like when the doctor gives you the green light to resume all activities and chores…. keep quiet and enjoy a couple more weeks of not vacuuming.  When they catch on that you are well and able to do it yourself, they will find comfort in the fact that you are well enough to joke around with them.

3.       Little things will set you off…a song, a smell, a movie. For me, it was the Academy Awards show when I realized I would never be able to wear a slinky low-cut gown with a scar cutting through my chest. I actually cried….which is funny because if you know me…. I would NEVER even consider wearing a dress like that in the first place.  It’s ok to feel those things…. As they remind you that you are still very much alive and that’s a great sign.

4.       Honor and love those surgical scars and other reminders of your health battle.  They will remind you of what you have conquered (or perhaps are still in the process of conquering) and will give you the incentive and reminder to take better care of yourself.  Ask anyone who has gone through a health crisis and they will tell you….. nothing they previously worried about is as important as their health.
5.       There will be down days.  I’ve heard about some people that have a health scare and immediately started living every day as if it was their last and I WANTED that.  Unfortunately, it didn’t come right away for me. The holidays came around as I was recuperating and I was terribly depressed. It felt so silly to me to put all this worry and anxiety into holiday preparations when it took away from the real message of Christmas. I used those down days to make changes to our holiday preparations for good and they are much more simple and meaningful to our family now.  Things that used to stress me out don’t bother me and often they don’t get done….and amazingly nothing happens!! The world doesn’t fall apart because you didn’t send out cards or you didn’t decorate like you did last year.  Simplify!!

6.       Your hugs get stronger, your kisses get sweeter and your laughs are much deeper when you don’t take the people in your life for granted.  

7.       Time is so important now as you learn how to let go of the things that consumed your time that have no meaning or no longer are important.  This is the gift part I was talking about. Now you are more apt to find me helping someone in need or taking time to write a note to someone who is hurting than to make sure my floors are clean…in case someone comes over. Prioritize…. God first, people second, and so on.

8.       Learn that you alone control your thoughts.  Neither heart disease nor cancer nor any other illness controls your thoughts. For the most part, your thoughts will determine your outcome and recovery.  If you are prone to pessimism, use this time to learn optimism. Change your thinking as it is hugely important!!
9.       Laugh. Laugh till you cry. Laugh till it hurts. Laugh till you.... (fill in the blank). Keep a constant look out for funny things and you will find them.

10.   Prayer helps.  A LOT!!! I am convinced it works. I’m still here. It changes you and it can change the outcome. Pray…often!

So, that’s why I missed posting last week. I hope you are ok with that. I was busy and I have my priorities straight….. well….for the most part...I'm still a work in progress.
P.S. I talked to my friend today. She sounded great and her spirits are up. She’s ready for the challenge and I’m here to coach her through it. 
Be there for someone you know that is going through a crisis. That's what we are here for. Feel free to copy the link and email it to someone you know who could use some encouragement. I'd be honored if I could be there for someone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mommy's Little Seamstress

I was pondering my gifts and talents today and smiled when I remembered a time when I found out I wasn’t very good at something. I've since found a couple, a few a ton of things that I am not good at and I think that sometimes certain gifts skip a generation. I think sewing has definitely skipped me.
I talked about my mother before and how she spent all her waking free hours sewing. She sewed curtains, she sewed pillows, clothes for us children. If it was made of fabric in our house… was probably sewn by mom. Now being a practical person I never understood why you would want to spend time making something when you could purchase it much quicker….and you would not need to make your children come in from playing (yet again) to try on clothes that are held together with pins that stick into their skin so that you could make “just a smidge” of an adjustment.

Yes, I believe she used all 400 each time she sewed!

Back in my day (when schools had money) there were elective classes such as home economics.  You got a taste of cooking, sewing and the home arts. I was in middle school at the time when the teacher announced that we were going to be sewing an article of clothing and then (drum roll please) we would have a fashion show for our parents to show off what we had made.  We got to choose the article of clothing we wished to model.  Back in my day, there was a skirt called a wrap skirt

 that was one massive amount of material with a long belt tie that you stuck through a hole and when it was all done correctly you would wrap it around your body and you were covered completely.
So…. I picked up this nifty black print material with tiny little flowers and I got to work, pinning the pattern to the material, cutting the pattern and material out, and then pinning together the pieces that would be sewn together.

Sounds easy, right? Not for those of us with a sewing challenge.  I worked hard at that project at school and then bringing it home nightly for mom’s help.  Now….mom wasn’t the best when it came to explaining things. She had a little trouble with patience.  (Now that’s something I inherited!- yippee) Many an evening was spent with her giving instructions to rip the hem out yet again and me in tears.

Fashion show day came and I proudly wore my skirt with its mismatched print border, threads hanging randomly from the bottom and the hem….. well…..this is a fact you probably didn't know..... I was the first to invent the scarf hemline but it didn’t catch on for a few years. 

 I was never so glad to get that project done with. The skirt should have been retired that day but I kept it around and wore it a few more times.
My friends and I decided we’d wear our creations to school all on the same day. I wore my skirt and my long wool coat over it to begin my 5 mile trek (ok it was only one) in the snow to school. I got to my locker and took off my coat to hang it up. Immediately, a gasp went out from my girlfriends as they surrounded my body and shoved me into the girl’s room.  Unbeknownst to me, wrap skirts had a way of opening up when they are rubbed against a wool coat so my whole backside was exposed for anyone walking by.  I retired the wrap skirt after that incident and I have never attempted to sew clothing again.

It’s good to know our limitations.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dixie's Great Travel Adventure

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’m a fan of Facebook. I love that I can keep in touch with family and be more involved in their lives since we live on different coasts.  You may remember my post from April where my nephew Ben got married to Holly.  They are both from New England and moved to New Orleans after college to volunteer their time rebuilding the city and that’s where they met, fell in love and married. Holly was recently given the opportunity to relocate with her job and they both decided that it was time to come back home to be near their families.
After months of selling things, packing and finishing their business….this was moving week. They weren’t looking forward to the move especially with a dog, Dixie, and (I think) 2 cats as evidenced by Ben’s facebook post but he was trying to make the best of it.
·         One week today we leave New Orleans...three days driving a truck with Dixie riding shotgun...any suggestions for music to listen to, things to do/places to eat (we are stopping overnight in Nashville, TN and Roanoke, VA or anything along the way). Bonus points to anyone who suggests games I can play en route while driving a 16' Truck safely and my co-pilot is capable of playing.

To their surprise, Dixie loved traveling!!!
I believe it was her first time staying in a hotel ( a pet friendly hotel, of course) and she seemed to find the accommodations up to her standards.

She had one final southern meal before they left Nashville. It’s gonna be tough to find grits in New England.

They managed to get some sightseeing in. I guess this is what pets consider sightseeing??? This is Dixie paying her respects to the 7-11 cat who was buried at the store the cat frequented.

When the ride began to get boring, Ben decided to keep her busy with car games. This is one of his posts:
·         I won our first game of roadkill bingo...i found a raccoon possum fawn cat and skunk where as Dixie found a dog and a platypus.
·         later she spotted a squirrel and fox so with the blowout tire free space she got a bingo and now were tied up 1-1

I’m thinking Ben was a tad bit bored….but showing signs that he may be a fun dad someday…. I think maybe!!
They made it safely to their destination and must be busy unpacking and settling in. I hope Dixie likes her new home.
I enjoyed traveling with Ben and Holly (and Dixie) this week….even better because I didn’t have to sit in the car for that long.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Grati-Tuesday......I LOVE ELECTRICITY

You may have heard about our huge blackout last Thursday afternoon that affected some 1.4 million people from lower Orange County, California to the top of Mexico and parts of Arizona.  They say it was caused by an Arizona utility worker that was changing something out. Talk about a bad day for that person!!  For all of us affected it was a mild inconvenience on a very hot and humid day. My cousin Terry who lives in Pennsylvania has been affected by the flooding in that area and has had no  electricity nor water for a few days now. She posted on Facebook how she was looking forward to having her first shower in a couple of days. She expressed her gratitude for the roof over her and floor under her feet but appreciated that she would have water restored soon. She understands what I’m saying today.
I think it’s funny how ill prepared we (I mean Americans in general and I’m including myself in there) are for these types of inconveniences. If we are not prepared for the inconveniences..... it's not looking too good that we'll be prepared for the major disasters that come our way.  We have become so accustomed to these basics that we forget how blessed we are to have and get annoyed when not readily available:
lights at the flick of a switch when many parts of the world still don’t
water at the turn of a faucet when many people have to carry it back from a well
a daily (or more) hot shower for many that is a luxury only for the wealthy
water for our lawns for many….what is a lawn?
clean water to drink which for many is still not possible
Not to mention the luxuries that we have….. phones, cars, fans and air conditioners….well I don’t have to list all the ways that we are blessed.  We know but don’t take the time to be grateful and appreciate them until they are gone.
My younger daughter works in a restaurant in a Hilton in San Diego. She had to go into work that night. They set up a free cold food buffet line for all the guests. She said it was unbelievable that people were complaining that there was nothing hot to eat. Did you catch the word "free"? How we don't like an inconvenience!!
So today, consider this my public service announcement to suggest you (and I) get prepared for emergencies so that if you do find yourself inconvenienced by weather (or employee error) you can appreciate and enjoy the reminder of how lucky you are.
This is how I spent my evening with no electricity while the cell phone could still take pictures:
                Had laundry waiting to go in the dryer when the electricity went out.
                                   I don't own a clothes line or clothespins anymore.

I love my contractor husband who buys every tool that Home Depot sells. We were the only neighbors with a generator going to keep the refrigerator on so we wouldn't lose the groceries that I had just bought. While the neighborhood was spooky quiet and dark, we had the awful generator sound to remind the neighbors that we had some power. I just know they love us for that!

                   I wasn't taking any chance that the wine would get warm and spoil!!

This is the hand crank emergency radio we bought to be prepared after the horrible wildfires of 2003. It did come in handy. It also has a cell phone charger but for 1 minute of cell phone need to crank for 10 to 15 minutes. There is NO ONE I need to talk to that bad. My man got thirsty doing all that cranking as you can see in the picture.

                        So..... see all those flashlights....... very few worked.
                        Put batteries on your emergency preparedness list.

Before it got dark my daughter and I decided to gather candles together. This is what she brings out. Note it's size in relation to the electrical outlet behind it. That lasted 10 whole minutes!

Here's a link to FEMA's emergency preparedness checklist. I'm going to try and get my house in order also.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

My Uncle Phil

On this day when we all mourn the anniversary of our nation's tragedy, it's good to honor and reflect on those people who are special to us. I think it honors the deceased when we continue to celebrate life and so I want to take this day to talk about a special person in my life. Someone who is very much alive and full of life. My Uncle Phil was born on this day, September 11th a long time ago. (I'm feeling the urge to write long, long, long time ago just to mess with him.)

My dad Clayton, little brother Philip, and their mom and dad.

Uncle Phil, his mother Gwendolyn and her sister Trudy
My sister always teases me about not smiling in photos.....I'm thinking it might be genetic?

The stories from Uncle Phil say that my dad was the trouble maker and Uncle Phil was the good child.
 Look at the face on that youngest boy...... slightly mischievious I think.

He proudly served in the military and earned the title of veteran.

He was (still is) a hard worker owning his own business at a very young age.
 But he always found time for a nap......
Some would say....he has perfected the art of napping!

 He had two beautiful children and they had children and on and on his legacy continues.

The thing I like best about my Uncle Phil is that family does not mean blood related to him. If you spend any amount of time with just become his family and as my husband says "It is an honor to be counted as his family." What a blessing! That also applies to the canine species as well.....

                                                  His faithful companion Bear!

He and my Aunt Marilyn retired to a lovely  home which he designed and had built and they spend their days enjoying each other's company and the company of their friends.
Retirement doesn't mean you stop working as evidenced by his apparel. He's always got something to do and he's always willing to help out a friend, neighbor or a charity.

My uncle Phil and I play this little game. He calls me and says "Hi, it's your favorite uncle calling." I then go into a round of naming all my uncles (living and deceased) until I say "I give up...who is it?" I'd like to wish my very favorite Uncle Phil a Happy Birthday and to thank him for all the joy and comfort and love he has given to me and my family.