1800's Farmhouse where I grew up

Monday, January 31, 2011

Start Your Engines!

As the next winter storm bears down on Pennsylvania, and the entire northeast for that matter, people are scurrying like squirrels, bringing supplies home to the nest.  I have years of experience managing the chaotic supply rush before storms, and have realized two things. First, I have enough stores at home to make do for a week or more, and my squirrel-like behavior is totally unnecessary. Secondly, if I really do think I may "need" something, get it TWO days before the impending bad weather.  The other squirrels aren't onto this idea yet.
A brief dash into KMart today netted me several bargain movies, in the hopes that we will be snowed in for a few days.  My squirrelish tendencies are hard to break. Previously I had stated that I was so "over" the constant snow. I am a woman, and with that, I retain, now and forever, the prerogative to change my mind.  So let it snow, and pass the popcorn.
Prepping for a big winter storm here, with stores over 20 minutes away, includes running the generator engines to be sure, in the event ice takes out our electricity, that we will still have power.  In the past we have hooked the refrigerator, essential lights, or the microwave up to the generator.  It was also decidedly sinful to watch  a DVD with the hum of the generator in the background.  Having lived through nearly a week without power prior to purchasing a generator, I realize how frivolous it sounds, but how necessary it can be to 21st century sanity.
So gentlemen, start your engines! Here's hoping and praying we can all hunker down and wait out the storm in warmth and safety.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Of Dreams and Angels

I have recently been waking at night, mid-dream, to visions of people long gone from this world. In those moments they are so alive, so real. The dreams elicit strong emotions in me, some sad, some peaceful, and some just whet my appetite for more contact.  It always bothered me, after my dad passed away so many years ago now, that I never dreamt about him. I wanted this so much, hoping it would offer me a chance to say good bye, even if only in my dreams. Dad had died unexpectedly, and in the briefest of moments, from cardiac arrest. There was no chance for a face to face goodbye.
It was years before I finally had a dream about my dad that I actually remembered. I'm sure I had some, but the chances of waking at night at exactly the right moment that would allow me to recall the dream were slim.  In the dream sequence, Dad was sitting, smiling, almost looking down at me, which is hard since I was almost as tall as he was. The strange part of the dream was that, while I could see him and he could see me, he was somehow apart from the rest of the setting of the dream.  There was a busyness, but Dad was not involved, just observing. What I took away from that dream was that he is OK. And happy.  A friend suggested to me that his presence in the dream was to let me know not only that he was alright, but that he was watching over me.

Many people express the idea that loved ones who have passed on are their angels, watching over them in their daily lives.  My children were only 5 and 8 when they lost not one, but two grandparents in a four month period.  I spoke to them often of holding the memories of their Farmor and Granddaddy in their hearts. I promised they would be with them each day, watching over them, and loving them always.  I believe this with all my heart.
Shortly after my dad had left us, I sucked it up and returned to work, but the grief I carried was heavy.  My route to and from the small school where I was teaching included a traffic light where a small country road came to a T with a busy, 4 lane highway.  Now, I must preface what I am about to say with the fact that as a driver, I can have a lead foot and like to get places quickly.  On this one particular day, as I waited for the green light to turn onto the 4 lane highway, I suddenly felt a sense of calm come over me.  Normally one to hit the gas and go when a light changed, I sat motionless in my car, even after hearing the annoyed beep of the car behind me. I recall glancing at the car in my rear view mirror, yet something kept me from moving forward.  In that instant, an SUV flew through the red light of the intersection I was about to enter.  It didn't startle or scare me. I was safe, and felt a peace I hadn't since my dad had died.  There is no doubt in my mind or heart that I had an angel with me that day.  And just maybe it was Dad.
Wishing you each a guardian angel to watch over you.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Ayes Have It!

Thank you to all of you who sent me a thumbs up to finish my story!  Despite the cold weather today, I ALMOST went for a walk on the same snow covered country roads to search for a little more inspiration.  There's nothing like clearing your head with fresh air and giving your mind a chance to wander.  It never ceases to amaze me how many different directions my mind takes, and the ideas and creative juices that begin flowing as a result.  Stories take shape, poems are written, and sometimes I completely redecorate a room.
My jaunts on the country roads also give me a peek at nature...the kind you need to be up close and personal to see.  I have stumbled across a deer laying down resting, just yards from the edge of the road, and was as surprised it stayed still and watched me pass as I was to see it in the first place.  A small herd of deer crossed my path one day, literally. As I was walking on a road lined by woods on either side, I heard a rustle in the undergrowth just before four deer appeared, as if out of nowhere.  Their hooves were clicking and sliding on the smooth pavement of the road as they shot across in front of me. What a sight! They were close enough that I could have reached out and touched the flank of the one nearest to me.  Instead, I froze and just watched for that brief moment in utter amazement. Beautiful.
Gobbling, wild turkeys have also trotted past me as I have been deep in thought, absorbed in some idea or another.  Visions of attack ducks, geese, and the particular one that chased and "bit" (pecked?) my sister when we were kids always come to mind when I see large sized fowl. For this reason I am more leery of the feathered friends than a large beast like a deer.
As a kid, a walk or jog on the roads meant you might also encounter a horse along the way, ridden by a fellow equestrian out for a quiet ride.  My sister Kerry and I spent time on horseback along the roads where we grew up, but as our birthdays increased, so did the number of cars diving by, making it unsafe for as many casual rides.  At that point we stuck to the trails, even when one of our horses would dump us and take a powder.
But that's a story for another time.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, January 28, 2011

Country Roads

This past summer I began writing a short story, that soon became chapters, with the goal of someday becoming a real book.  My inspiration and creative time was away from technology, or even paper to jot down my ideas and thoughts.  It was ME time. I loved the quiet of early morning workouts where I encountered everything from deer, to stray dogs, to old men in pick ups.  Through these experiences, a story started taking shape in my head, and then in part on my laptop.  Though a little lengthy for this blog, the following is an excerpt from the pages as this story begins taking shape. Let me know what you think!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Country Roads
The old, red Chevy’s engine coughed and spit out nasty fumes as it fought its way to the top of the steep hill. As the vehicle passed her, the driver, a grizzled old man wearing a grimy baseball cap and a toothless smile, waved in greeting, the truck veering toward Kate as his eyes looked her way. She began to wave back, but had to stop her forward movement when the swerving truck came too close for comfort. Realizing he was heading for the girl, the old man clutched the wheel and steered hard to the right, returning abruptly to his lane. The driver then gunned the sputtering engine to make it up the hill. With the antiquated truck disappearing in a cloud of gray smoke over the rise of the hill, Kate wondered about the man in the pick-up. He regularly passed her on her daily treks through the hilly village where she lived in the eastern mountains of Pennsylvania.
It wasn’t the first time their paths had crossed. She recalled the first time he had approached her in his truck the summer before. She had been working out, putting in a few miles during a gentle rain storm.
“You better get out of the rain”, the old man shouted to her over the engine’s noise. Kate squinted to look at the man through the drizzle. “ You know sugar melts when it gets wet!”
Grinning at the memory, which had seriously made her day, she tried to refocus on her workout, placing one foot in front of the other.
In a straight line, always now in a straight line.
Since penning her first Haiku in elementary school, Kate had always been a writer. She had an almost overwhelming love for the printed word, lately in the form of mysteries, and novels full of suspense and intrigue. The idea of writing what you know, however, left Kate staring at blank pages where this genre was concerned. What she knew was sports, and as a contributing writer for FemSport, Kate Fine was in her element. This didn’t stop her though, from theorizing about the old man in the rusty-red, nearly out of control truck.
Kate laughed to herself as her imagination took over.
Maybe he lived in a shack somewhere, surviving on homegrown food, and driving the bucket of bolts to sell his extra produce at market.
Maybe he was wealthy, but couldn’t part with a truck he loved since he first learned to drive.
Or maybe he was just someone’s grandpa, living his life, and was kind and waved to strangers.
“Ok Kate”, she said out loud, “back to business.”
Since having knee surgery the year before, Kate was passionate about her daily 3 miles. An ACL replacement and the resulting chronic pain limited her to walking and jogging. In straight lines no less. Kate grimaced at the thought. The surgeon hadn’t seen the glistening tears in her eyes as he pronounced that she could no longer participate in the sports she loved. And was damn good at!

Angered boiled inside her and she picked up speed, soon cresting the hill where the pick-up had disappeared from sight.
A three sport scholar athlete in high school, Kate didn’t know the meaning of the word quit, and had vowed to stay active, no matter what the doctor said. These mountainous workouts were what she looked forward to each morning, to raise her spirits, and think through her next article for FemSport Magazine. She was currently working on a piece about concussions in athletes. Having survived a few herself, she would be able to truly relate to the story she wanted to tell.
The morning air was becoming heavy with humidity as the sun rose above the pines lining the road. Interval training used to mean jogging and sprinting, but now was a walk/jog combo thanks to bad knees. Regardless, the exertion caused rivulets of sweat to trace the outline of her furrowed brow, running down high cheekbones, and dripping from full lips, as she dipped her head to avoid the glare of the sun. Her lanky 5’ 10” frame made her stride long, appearing to glide over the hot asphalt.
Step by step the first mile passed. Her routine usually cleared her head for the work of the day ahead. Today, in that respect, was no different, at least it had been until she found herself playing dodge ball with a red pick up. Kate smiled to herself. As the thought of the old man in the truck crossed her mind again, she spied the same vehicle parked in the driveway of a rundown ranch house set far back from the pavement her feet had been pounding.
The small house looked worn and weary, with vines creeping up the front siding of the structure. Greenery climbed the chimney on the right side of the house onto the tan roof, sprawling like fingers across the shingles, seeming to hold the flaking roof in place. The man who had nearly run her off the road sat in a single chair on the front porch, watching her intently as she passed. Feeling a bit uneasy, or maybe just a little self conscious, Kate averted her eyes to focus on the next hill on her journey. Forgetting the old man, her breathing increased its frequency, becoming a steady rhythm with the pound of her feet.
Despite shade from the nearby pines, sweat continued to trickle down her neck, soaking into the long mane of dark brown hair that reached half way down her back. Wispy, nearly blond ends from the numerous layers the stylist had snipped into her long layers escaped in the breeze that formed from her steady pace. Shimmering in the sunlight, Kate’s tresses showed the effects of sun and salt, from time spent worshipping the sun at the beach.
Olive skin spoke of Mediterranean ancestry from her father’s side of the family. Her mom, with blue eyes, and blond hair, had Irish skin that freckled more than anything. Kate resembled her mom only in the broad and ready grin that made her face light up when she flashed a smile.
Climbing the second hill, well into her second mile, caused her to grimace more than smile. At the top of the incline the terrain quickly leveled off, allowing Kate to catch her breath. She knew she shouldn’t be pushing so hard. Later the pain in her knees would make her regret the intensity with which she had hit the road. Slowing to a brisk walk, Kate turned off the pine flanked road she had been following, onto another, smaller, pine flanked road. Most of the roads she ran on seemed to have the word PINE in them, and she could never remember which was which.
A poor sense of direction made her wish, at times, there was a GPS for runners who were directionally challenged. She’d be the first in line to get one! Laughing aloud at her stray thoughts, Kate didn’t hear the sound of a car motor coming up slowly behind her. Construction on a nearby home had drowned out the sound of the engine until it was right next to her.
Without glancing behind her, Kate once again broke into a jog, refocusing her attention on her gait and running form. Peripheral vision alerted her to movement, and as she glanced back to the right, she saw the old man and his red pick-up coming up behind her.
This was so weird, Kate thought. Wasn’t he just sitting on his porch like 10 minutes ago?! The road she was now running on was in a private community. There was no outlet, and unless you had business in the area, or were running like she was, being there became more than a little suspicious. Definitely WEIRD!
Raising her arm to wave as he moved to once again pass her, Kate felt more than saw the truck slow beside her. The old man’s window was down this time, and he pulled even with her, keeping pace with her long stride.
“Get in”, he said.
Kate wasn’t sure she had really heard what she thought she had heard. Did he seriously just tell me to get in his truck? Looking forward again, feeling somewhat confused and definitely scared, she lengthened her stride as she began going up another incline.
“Damn all these hills”, she muttered, but pushed hard to outdistance the aging truck, pretending she had not heard his request. Or was it an order?
Unable to keep her slower pace on the hill, the truck engine gunned, and took off uphill, disappearing around a bend in the road. As it left her line of vision, Kate audibly told herself not to panic.
“What do I doooooo?” She had actually whined out loud. What if he’s at the end of the road when I come around the curve, she thought, nearly panicked.
Options whirled though her head. She stupidly didn’t carry her cell phone, despite her dad’s request that she do so when she was out alone. It had been the rule since she was 16 and had first started driving alone at night. At 24, she knew better than to be out without it.
“Focus Kate”, she said to herself.
The house she had passed under construction was visible through a thin part of the woods that grew to the edge of the road. With doors and windows open, she could hear the workers laughing and singing to the radio between zip sounds from an electronic hammer inside. She could go there and ask to borrow a cell phone to call for a ride, or ask one of them to give her a ride?
I’m worried about stranger danger and want to go ask other strangers for help? A panicky, strangled laugh rose in her throat.

Dad isn’t home, Topher never gets up before 11, and certainly not to answer the phone. Her brother worked nights and didn’t acknowledge the ringing of his phone before 11 AM. Kate couldn’t blame him for that.
The sound of another truck invaded her thoughts. One of the local trash companies was picking up recycling in the neighborhood. As it came along side of her, Kate made a judgment call to jog along beside the large truck. Smelly, but temporarily safe. At the crossroad Kate glanced left and saw the old man standing about an 1/8 of a mile up on the side of the road. What the heck was he even doing? The trash truck was turning right, and Kate followed it, heading back downhill towards the old man’s house. The truck soon outdistanced her, although the smell of rotten food and soiled diapers lingered in the air, causing her to gasp and gag as she went full throttle down the steep incline. Less than a mile from home. She could make it, couldn’t she?
There were two ways she could reach home. Kate opted for the route she had come, knowing she would pass barking dogs, people, and homes, unfortunately including HIS house. The other route would not take her past the old man’s rickety house, but had long stretches of nothing but cornfields. Spending last night watching Vanished and the new show Criminally Insane had her mind churning with horrible outcomes, increasing both her fear and her adrenalin rush.
Kate worked hard not to lose it when the sound of the rusty pickup met her ears once again. Glancing back, she saw the truck turn onto the alternate route she had not taken. Her body was obscured by tree branches and bushes at the edge of the road, just past his house, and she hoped he hadn’t seen her.
Was he looking for her on the roads?
Close to panicking completely, Kate turned her back to the vision of the truck, and ignoring the pain in her knees, ran at top speed down the first hill she had climbed, where the veering truck had nearly knocked her right off the road.
The sound of barking dogs rose off to her left, and would usually put a scare in her. She had been bitten in the calf once by a German Shepherd when she was running after graduating from college. The police were called, she needed a tetanus shot, and the whole ordeal left her a little afraid of dogs she had loved her entire life. It amazed Kate how these thoughts could come in split seconds when she was literally running for her life. She wondered too if your life really flashes before our eyes when you are faced with death. She wasn’t about to find that out today.
Lolling tongues, dripping fur, and the smiling faces only Golden Retrievers could have greeted her near a beautifully landscaped country house. Kate was never so happy to see wet, smelly dogs in her life! They greeted her joyously, placing muddy paws on her shirt, and slobbering her with wet dog kisses.
“Go home!” Kate’s command sent her two heroes racing off across the field from which they had come. Go home! Kate reminded herself, and took off running again in the direction of safety.
Reaching the main road, which was always busy with traffic driving a bit too fast, Kate slowed her pace and felt relief in the form of civilization. Her relief was short lived, however, when the red pick-up she had been trying so hard to outrun came at her from the opposite direction. Kate’s heart thudded. As the truck approached her once again, she had the foresight to step into the yard of the house she was passing. The truck kept a steady pace, passing her without stopping this time. The old man waved, and continued on his way.
Dumbfounded, Kate bolted for home. The country cottage she rented, not even 2 miles from the old man’s home, never looked as good as it did at that moment.
“Thank you Lord!” Kate sent her prayer heavenward as she entered the cottage, and locked the door behind her.
To be continued?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Go Away...

Remembering the old, sing-song rhyme..."Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day", I am wondering why there has never been a similarly catchy ditty for SNOW.  How about "Snow, snow, such a show, but seriously, it's time to GO!" With snow covering everything, and more coming down tonight, it is hard to imagine spring collecting itself, preparing to break forth with blooms and birds singing. Soon warmer temperatures will turn our now frozen road into a quagmire of mud, and I am sure I will have something to say about that too!   .
Despite the frigid temperatures and snow flurries, squalls, and storms, I am trying to mentally get into spring mode. The snow storms that continue to hit the northeast make dreaming easy...as long as you shut your eyes hard enough to do it. If you are a fan of Chevy Chase and the movie Christmas Vacation, you will recall the scene where he envisions a new pool in his backyard. Complete with sunshine and family time, cold drinks and swimsuits, the vision transports dear old Clark from the dead of winter to his summer bliss.  In an attempt to find my own warm weather bliss, I stood today staring out at my pool, willing the foot of frozen snow that has iced the top like a cupcake, to take its leave.
Instead, I got more snow.  So, for tonight, we shovel. I will put my thoughts of spring on hold and embrace once again the beauty it brings, as mother nature does a repeat performance white-washing the landscape.
Snow Angels anyone?
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sit Com

The stomach virus that is attacking with a vengeance this winter has had me down for two days, enabling me to catch up on television shows I haven't had the time, or desire, to see in ages.  As a kid, I have vague memories of watching TV, and eating chicken noodle soup when we were home sick from school. When my own kids missed a day, they were ensconced on the couch, tucked in with pillows and blankets, and invariably watched The Price is Right, and other shows they would never watch on a normal day.  And yes there was chicken noodle soup.
Today, it is sit coms and soap operas.  Everything from Rachel and Ross to Raymond and Deborah, to As the One Life at General Hospital Turns.  As I watched between headache induced naps today, I had an epiphany. My life is a sit com. My daughter's is a soap opera.  And I'm pretty sure my husband is the old movie channel.  That leaves Chris our sports network star.
My husband and I tend to have the same disagreements and daily issues as we see on television. The difference is, without the laugh track, the same problems aren't as funny....or easily solved.  It is amusing when Ray blurts out an ill conceived idea or comment, and I find myself smirking and thinking, that is John! Turn about IS fairplay though, and I have often heard my dear husband comment that a behavior or emotional response to...well, ANYTHING... from Deborah is indeed me in the same situation.  Again, the laugh track that makes light of what can ultimately become a fight is missing.  I have tried harder recently to see the humor in these moments, to end up laughing rather than crying, and to consider the possibility that not everything is a life altering crisis.
My soap opera star of a daughter has had enough drama in her young life to consider the same.  Each story she shares has the potential for being a Lifetime movie.  With the right filter in place, however, it would allow her to see the humor in her situation. A would-be tragedy can become a real learning experience. And in the future...a great (funny) story to tell.
Being sick, I am not at my peak for sharing stories, and have found myself currently lacking in proper grammar and spelling.  I am currently very thankful for spell check. I do know, though, if my life was really a sit com, I'd be laughing at myself along with the rest of you. 
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Other Side of the Family

There was a time in my life when I thought for sure I would be a veterinarian.  I was good at science, I loved animals....made sense.  Dissecting an assortment of critters in high school cured me of that notion, however, and I have found myself instead working in schools with the two legged species.
My love of animals has continued though, and throughout my life I have had memorable experiences with all of our family pets, some good and some bad. From my barn-sweeping, stall-escaping horse Ben, to our current Rottie, Masha, who just minutes ago was begging for baby spinach leaves like they were steak.
I have to confess that I have never been a very good disciplinarian with any of our dogs, beginning with the three German Shepherds I grew up with.  Despite the television portrayal of shepherds as guard dogs, drug dogs, and police dogs, ours were typical family pets when they weren't snarling at the paper boy.  Nights when my parents would go out to dinner, my sister Kerry and I would have Misty on the living room couch with us before their car was out of the driveway....and we were in high school!  If dogs could be embarrassed, Perky and Fega, who preceded Misty in our younger years, frequently endured being dressed in children's clothes, and forced to remain that way as we played. I specifically remember the knee socks....four per dog... that would slide down their legs and trip them up as they walked.  I grieved for my four legged, childhood friends as each went on to that big farm in the sky.
The four dogs that have joined our family since my own children were young have also been honored, revered, and dressed in kid's clothes by my own children.  Our first three were Golden Retrievers, who were such goofy,  lovable creatures, that I think they enjoyed the attention and craziness of being dressed up.  They were also "students" in my daughter's imaginary classrooms, and reindogs when there was a sled to pull outside.  On one occassion, my kids had managed to lift, pull, or drag 80 pound Tigger to my son's top bunk bed, where we found her surrounded by stuffed animals like E.T.  Chris and Katie's giggles gave them all away, and I must say it was probably harder getting the dog DOWN, than it had been for them to get her up there. 
My favorite story of our last golden, Chewy, was the day I came home to find her standing in the middle of our kitchen table, as if it was the most normal thing in the world for her to do. Nearly blind since birth, she depended on her nose to guide her, and there must have been a scent of food lingering there.  It appeared as though she had pushed a chair in place to use as a step up onto the table, and may have been stuck there for some time.  Amid fits of laughter and fake scolding, I somehow lifted this 65 pound, face licking, uncooperative dog to the floor.  I swear she knew she was just hysterically funny.
I miss each of our former pets for so many reasons, and am so happy they blessed our lives with love and friendship.  They will always be our four legged side of the family.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I'm Over It!

Since Christmas, the snow just keeps on coming here in the mountains. That magical Christmas snow is buried under the dirty, traffic marred flakes that are now piling up in parking lots and road sides. On Friday, our school district reached snow day #4, and we are looking at #5 later this week.  These days off, which were fun at the time, will add an entire week to the school year. I have decided, along with seniors who really want to graduate on time, that I'm soooo over it!
The roads were clear for a final family celebration at my daughter's home this weekend, signaling the official end to our calendar of holiday activities.  Our traditions have expanded to include a dinner held at her tiny apartment, for up to 14 friends and family members from both our family and her boyfriends. Somehow you never stop being a mom, especially when your child yells, "HELP!" 
The family car was loaded with everything from groceries, already cooked foods, tablecloths, cases of sodas, and baking pans, to cleaner for the kitchen sink.  And a new game.  In meshing two families from the opposite ends of Pennsylvania, we have found common bonds in our children, our faith, good food, and a rousing game of....Mad Gab!  Each of the past three years we have met center state, and  have played a new game after feasting on homemade dishes that are so delicious they are sinful. Yesterday's game time was probably the funniest thing I have seen since our games of Hi Jack! when my kids were young. Sometimes you just get to a point where the laughter and hilarity of the situation is more fun than the game itself. I am grateful for the laughs and the good times with people we consider to be extended family. 
I am already looking forward to a game next year. 
For all you Mad Gabbers.....Fame ill he is a very think!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Full Circle

As I write my baby is driving 2 1/2 hours home in a snow storm.  Being a typical mom, I am worried, and have asked her to check in half way and keep me updated on the falling snow. Thankfully, at 65 MPH, she is staying ahead of the snow and should arrive home before it starts piling up here. I am trusting that she is indeed not taking any chances and speeding.  I thank everyone not to tell me otherwise!
She is coming home to present an in-service day program in my husband's school district. Now, where exactly did the time go that my baby is in charge of my husband and his colleagues? I can still see her at 5, all of her stuffed animals lined up, Katie reading to them, or holding some kind of science or math class. It was a very studious and quiet group. As she progressed in school I think the reality of most classroom situations hit home.  I remember Katie wanting to be a teacher, then seemingly out of nowhere, saying she would NEVER be a teacher.
Ironically she has been co-teaching a class at the university where she works, which has led her to doing tomorrows in-service presentation.  Katie is nervous.  She is unaware of her charm, intelligence, and ability to wow a group of people with those two things. I wish I was able to see her at work, but this is a dad/daughter production, that I will hear about after the fact, and undoubtedly then swell with pride none the less.   As parents we teach our children, and now we have come full circle. Our baby is out there enlightening the world, and her dad.
My children never cease to amaze me, and right now I can't wait for my youngest to arrive home.

Godspeed baby.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3
Welcome Ping!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Simply Stylish

Yesterday was one of those LOOONNGGG days that, for a variety of reasons, I was happy to see end. Stress, anxiety, and that feeling of  having no control over certain aspects of your own life can be very draining.  Another "storm" here in the northeast has schools cancelled for the day, awaiting a warm up that will hopefully melt the several inches of ice encrusted snow that covers my drive and road.  Skating anyone?!
I am thankful for another day to rest and reclaim my sanity once again.
After sleeping in...a requirement after getting that 5 AM call that school is cancelled...I wanted to catch up on my blog, since yesterday's events kept me from doing so. Much to my delight and chagrin, a fellow blogger...one who inspires me greatly...has awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award. I didn't even know there WAS a Stylish Blogger Award!  At her request, I am to share seven things about myself, before awarding others the same honor.  So here goes.
* As a child I LOVED horses. After begging my dad for a horse I could board at a local riding stable, I was shocked to find that my parents intended instead to buy a farm. And two horses. I will always love my parents for their willingness to make things happen, and for how much they loved us all.
* As the athlete, jock, and "boy" in the family, I played LaCrosse through high school and college. I had the opportunity to try out for the National LaCrosse team back in the day, and was honored to exceed my own expectations, and made it to the final cuts....even though I was sick!
* I love kids, especially my own, and like my parents, am willing to make things happen when I can...and love them more than life. The same goes for my husband and our families.
* All of the dogs that have blessed my married life have been rescued in some way, and provided much love and gave back so much more to us than I feel we ever did for them.
* There is a song in my heart, and I sing, a lot. Especially in the car, caring not the least whether there are passengers.  Thankfully, there are rarely complaints.
*  FRIENDS. Old, new, for a season, or a lifetime...they have all influenced me in so many positive ways. I am who I am because of these people and my family. Thank you for molding me. And thank you Katy for supporting me, when you have so much to deal with in your own life.  You are Superman Sammy 's Super Mom!
* Last, but certainly not least, I have a strong faith in God. It is faith that continues because of, rather than in spite of life sending me so many lemons.  My strength is in walking with God. And making lemonade.
We all need a pat on the back sometimes. Here's hoping we accept them graciously.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3 
Welcome barberry as a new follower!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Parlez Vous?

I have always wanted to learn another language. As a kid I remember doing some very bad impressions of the king's English and an Irish brogue, and much to my dismay found I do not have the talent to pull off a foreign accent.  This was troublesome through junior high and high school, when I actually studied French for four years.  I would cringe when we spent a class period in the listening lab....the class would listen to a recorded French speaker, and the teacher would listen to the class reciting the same words and phrases. Yikes! Thankfully, my saving grace was the ability to read the language, conjugate verbs, and understand the written word. If I were to travel to France today, I'd definitely need an interpreter!
Since my high school days, I have found myself surprisingly adept at interpreting languages other than French. There was baby talk and toddler speak for starters. It was such a coup to know I understood the word inventions of children who themselves had not yet mastered the English language. Perhaps we were kindred spirits. What was there not to "get" when my precious 2 year old neighbor called her sister Yeshi (Stefanie), or my son wanted to pet the beak (snout) of the dog?
In the last decade I have become a pro at deciphering the illegible handwriting, misspelled words, and incorrectly used thoughts and phrases of some very special students.  It is heartwarming to see the face of a child who struggles with English, when he finds there is someone who understands what he is trying to say. The same is true of a mostly non-verbal student I know, who thrills to the fact that I can figure out what his guttural utterances are from time to time.  Ah communication!
Today, however, I was at a loss...brought to tears by my inability to use my years of language skills to comprehend what my mom was trying so hard to tell me.  Her disjointed speech, and the stuttering inability to vocalize even simple thoughts is a painful effect of Alzheimer's and dementia. In keeping eye contact with her as she tries so painstakingly to form a few words, I see her eyes glistening, tearing up just as mine are. Despite that I smile, encourage, and nod my head as if I DO comprehend. Her message today was of utmost importance, I know, because I have also mastered body language, and know when she is happy, sad, in pain, sleepy, or hungry.  Mom was desperate today, clutching my arm and speaking her gibberish, that in my heart I know makes sense somehow in her own traumatized mind.  Before I left, she reached further, embracing me, then settled back in her chair, seemingly content again for the moment.
As I left the nursing home, I cried for the millionth time, at my inability to know, to help, or to understand the wall that has risen around her once capable mind. Mom was a language major at Temple University when she met and married my dad.  So sad and ironic, that she is now unable to communicate in any language.  I will continue do my best to speak for her, as she is unable to speak for herself, and show her that family is indeed everything....especially to one who can no longer express themselves.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Cheese Please

My daughter went to Chuckie Cheese today for the very first time, and loved it. She is 24.  Mind you, when she was little, we had never heard of Chuckie Cheese, or perhaps just didn't get out that much. Today's celebration was for a 3 year old, but I am pretty sure some of the adults (big kids) present had more fun than the little kids.  You seriously can't go wrong with pizza.
Birthday parties when I was a child, however, were few and far between.  Celebrations consisted mostly of family dinners and getting a card in the mail from the grandparents. I still loved my birthday, though, because it was a special day to request our favorite dinner and pick what kind of cake we wanted. Presents weren't expensive, cakes were homemade, and there were no balloons or streamers. I felt loved and special none the less. In a family of singers (Dad sang in a barbershop quartet and Mom in choir) and musicians (my sister played piano and I played clarinet), we were treated to a very harmonious rendition of Happy Birthday to You though.
Growing up with 37 first cousins made it impossible to celebrate the many birthdays as an extended family.  I honestly don't remember a birthday where my grandparents or aunts and uncles were present.  After marrying my husband, though, my parents and sisters remained a huge part of my life, and were invited to birthdays, holidays, and get togethers. They still are! Unlike my childhood, birthdays for my children morphed into real parties with all the trimmings. They continued to be family affairs, though, and we created special memories just celebrating at home.
My daughter had a few parties with friends, but those were good old fashioned come to the house, eat cake, open presents, and play games kind of parties....and the kids loved them.  More recently, birthday parties for even very young children have gone the cheese route with Chuckie, or have rolled along at skating rinks, hit the playland at McD's, or have been planned by a professional.
This April my thoroughly Italian father-in-law will be four score and ten on his birthday. We will have a birthday celebration for him with the "family" you acquire over 90 years of living.  It will be at home, it won't be catered, and the party planner will be little old me. Why re-invent what has worked for nearly a century?!
Oh, there will be cheese....mozzarella, provolone, parmesean, ricotta....manga!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, January 14, 2011


Known as my kids were growing up as Finelli Friday Family Fun night, our weeks at school ended each Friday with a type of family celebration. For a period of about 10 years, our traditional Friday nights meant pizza, a video ( PRE-DVDs), and soda.  I may have been the only mom EVER, according to my daughter, who only allowed them to have soda on Friday nights.  And....it wasn't one of the name brands, usually the store brand of black cherry.  At that time, however, there were no complaints. We all loved our Friday nights AND our black cherry soda.
As the kids grew into high school and new activities, our Friday nights became less frequent, interspersed with football games, soccer matches, and band performances.  Initially, the loss of family time made the nights we could cozy up around the tv much more special.  In recent years, I can count on both hands how many times we have actually rented a movie.  Interestingly, when we are all together for a weekend or a holiday, pizza and a movie... with plenty of together time, is still our go-to activity. 
It may seem predictable to say that it wasn't the day or the movies, but the together time that made these Friday nights so memorable, but, it is oh so true.  I can't remember what movies we watched back then, but I will always remember donning PJs and cuddling on the couch to watch.  I DO remember the pizza and black cherry soda, as it has stuck with me both in memory and most noticeably on my hips!
Interestingly, my daughter has a young man in her life who is also a movie fan, since his grandmother frequently took him to movies as a boy.  In their life together they also spend cozied up nights experiencing the dramas, comedies, and action films that are available these days for next to nothing. 
I am happy that our Friday family fun is already part of the next generation, and look forward to Future Finelli Friday Family Fun nights (FFFFF?) with all my kids! MISS YOU!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Alzheimer's and Eggs

Today was one of those days, that despite the pull at my heartstrings, I was unable to "make" myself go see Mom at the nursing home. I don't mean that in a bad way, just that some days are harder than others, especially when my daily visits cause me to stare death in the face on a regular basis.  Sometimes being in the presence of the elderly can make you feel young, vibrant, and so full of energy. At other times, it is more like looking into a crystal ball, of what could be an inevitable future, that I don't want to face.  And then I remember my sense of humor....God's humor in predicaments and difficult situations, that can inspire and rejuvinate.
When Mom first entered the home almost 5 years ago, she was still mobile, talkative, and had such a zest for life.  We sang, danced, and bowled.... using the third floor hallways as a bowling alley.  "Field trips" outside on nice days were welcomed, and hot games of parachute and chair kickball were the norm.  The clientele has changed quite a bit over the years, however. Many have passed away, or like Mom, have progressed to a more advanced stage of the disease.  It is trying. It is heartbreaking. But sometimes, it is just funny.
On one occasion I arrived on the 3rd floor in time to see a male resident, decked out in only a white dress shirt, boxers, and socks, running down the hall with arms outstretched, his entire wardrobe on hangers flapping in the breeze as he ran.  He had decided to move out (of a locked unit).  Now he was quite determined and ever so serious about making the great escape, but I couldn't help the laughter that bubbled up, exploding forth when I met eyes with one of the aides, who was standing there just shaking her head in disbelief.
All the clients have a knack for redecorating, from pulling wallpaper from the walls, to rearranging furniture at night. This was Mom's specialty. She has been found carrying portable TV's, and pushing chairs across rooms, to using her hip to methodically inch the television armoire into another position. In some ways this surprised me, as my childhood home never changed. Once furniture was arranged, it stayed that way for decades. Another gentleman found inspiration in hanging his shoes on the venetian blinds at the end of the hallway, admiring his work, and then walking away as if it was the most normal and beautiful thing he could have done.  The day I found a sneaker in the shades was priceless.
There is a joke that pokes fun at the inability of the aging mind to remember much of anything on a short term basis. The trick, so I have heard, to having fun when Alzheimer's has descended upon a family is to let them hide their own Easter eggs....they won't remember where they hid them, and it is double the fun... hiding AND finding the eggs! 
So I say, let them have eggs.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3
To my friend Barbara, YES I did make the snowmen!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

God Tjugondag Jul!

In English, Happy Twentieth Day Jule!  Tomorrow is January 13th, the 20th day of Christmas celebrations as observed by my mother-in-law's Swedish side of the family.  As decreed by Denmark's King Knut many centuries ago, holiday celebrations were to last 20 days, from December 25th to January 13th.  As a child, my husband loved hearing his mother's stories of King Knut's Day. Family would gather on the 20th day, eating traditional Swedish foods, with the adults drinking glogg, a spiced-mulled wine. I remember the first time I tasted this drink, and realized immediately it was much too strong for me!  My husband loved the almonds and raisins that sank to the bottom of the bowl, and remembers how quickly the drink would warm him. His Mormor (Mother's-mother in Swedish) would serve her special swedish breads and meatballs. During the 20th day, as the adults enjoyed the merriment of the Christmas season for the last time, the children were put to work UNdecorating the tree and house.
As a naturalized American, Annie, my mother-in-law, embraced many new customs here, as well as observing some traditional Swedish and Danish traditions. I distinctly remember the stories of Santa Lucia, and even as a young adult, was amazed that a wreath with lit candles would be placed on even the eldest daughter's head!  My husband went with his Mormor to several Swedish-American Christmas parties, where young girls were dressed in the traditional white gown, carrying a star topped staff, and one lucky girl wore the wreath with candles. By this time though, the candles were battery operated, with no threat of hair going up in fire! Unlike the way Americans find a corner or window to place the Christmas tree in, the Swedes would give their trees a place of honor in the center of the room.
I received some very Swedish Christmas ornaments from Annie, before we lost her some 20 years ago.  Straw rams, hearts, and woven wheat ornaments decorated our tree for years. While not specifically Christmas decor, the Swedish Dala horses were also brought out, wearing brass "yokes" with lit candles. My children are blessed to each have a Dala horse from their Farmor (Father's-mother in Swedish).
Although a day early, we undecorated our tree today, taking advantage of another snow day here in the mountains.  As we observed King Knut's Day, we all remembered Annie, Mormor, and the Swedish customs that still touch our lives today.  As I am writing, our reminiscing has caused my husband to bring out the Swedish book The Tomten, which he read frequently to our own children years ago.  While he has no glogg for our Knut Day, some egg nog, along with his memories, will warm him.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Monday, January 10, 2011

Come Out Come Out... Where Ever You Are

I double parked for the zillionth time at the nursing home today, in order to run up to the 3rd floor to see Mom before the threats of being towed aired on the intercom.  I was thinking to myself, we had a nice visit yesterday, so I could just breeze in and check on her before my car was impounded. 
When I reached the top floor, out of breath from running up the stairs no less, I couldn't find Mom anywhere. With a broken hip, I knew she didn't escape on her own! She wasn't in bed though, or in her room, or with the residents in the TV room. One of the aides chose that moment to tease me that Mom had "gone out". We located her in the shower room, but not before I had a moment of panic as to her whereabouts.
Today's incident reminded me of the days my son disappeared as a child. Not once, but several times he had me in such a panic I was ready to call the police. The first time was on a trip to the mall. I was looking through a clothing rack when I realized my little monkey had climbed out of his stroller. I ran in a circle around the rack, calling his name, then dashed madly through the store, still unable to find him. I finally darted out into the mall to search, my mind racing as to what to do next. As I returned to get his stroller, I had planned to notify the store and then security. Mind you, this all happened in less than a minute. As I grabbed the stroller by the rack, the clothes miraculously began giggling. Parting the sweaters that were on sale, I saw the smiling face of my firstborn, sitting on the floor in the center of the rack, as though it was his private clubhouse. His joyous face let me know he was totally unaware of the panic and commotion he had caused.
I was one relieved mom when I found him. Not long after, I became one of those awful people who put their child on a "leash". Such an ingenious device that connects parent and child to prevent the little ones form making a run for it. However socially unacceptable it may seem, that device kept us all sane and my son SAFE when we ventured out in busy public places.
Unfortunately, it was not in use at home when he made his next jail break. But that's a story for another time.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lace up Those Skates

Living in the country there are a number of places to ice skate when the weather turns cold enough to freeze your.....pond, lake, or ROAD!  What did you think I was going to say was frozen?!  There are several ponds within walking distance, or at least only a short drive from our home. I haven't had the pleasure of lacing up my skates in many years, but the fun we had has stuck with me, bringing smiles and perhaps even the phantom pain of too-cold toes.  This holiday season I actually was attempting to turn my retired skates into Christmas decor. Time marches on....
One of my earliest memories of skating was at my uncle's pond, where they knew it was safe to skate because they could drive the truck onto the ice.  I have always wondered what happens when they drive the truck onto the ice only to discover it's NOT safe for skating?! As a child this question perplexed me.  More recently, I have skated on the local Presbyterian camp's pond with friends who really knew how to throw a skating party.  A bonfire at the pond's edge, complete with cocoa, s'mores, and blankets, made it a picturesque and memorable evening.

As a high school student, I spent every Friday night at one of my home town's skating rinks, chasing friends and playing crack the whip. I will never forget the night I fell on my knees on the ice, spearing my rear-end with the blade of my skate.  Even the approaching Zamboni wasn't enough to get me to stand and skate off the ice. Memorable for sure, but not a fun night!

My all time favorite day of skating, though, was right here at home.  You have seen the picture of my road when it snows. Our winter wonderland.  At least it is when it's just snow on the ground.  One year we had a series of snow storms leaving a good two feet of packed powder in our yards, walls of shoveled snow 4 feet high, and an accumulation of maybe 6 inches on the road.  A few sun-shiny days and the process of melting and re-freezing, followed by rain and more freezing, created nearly smooth ice in both driveways and the road.  We spent one glorious afternoon sliding, slipping, skating, and falling from one house to the next.  The hillarity of attempting to skate on imperfect ice, surrounded by walls of snow from shoveled drives, was enough to cause me to laugh so hard I cried.  I can still picture little Stef from next door attempting to skate on the road, so short that her pink hat would disappear and reappear as she travelled behind undulating piles of shoveled snow.  There she is! No she's gone!  There she is again! Possibly one of those "you had to be there moments", but for those present, I don't suggest causing small children to laugh so hard they need to use the bathroom.....unless your can undress them in record time removing boots, snowsuits, hats and gloves to get to the potty on time. 

That day was unplanned, unpredictable, and unimaginably unique. It is a day I will certainly never forget, and, I'm sure, never be able to repeat or recapture.
Wishing you all unexpected and unique moments of your own this winter.
A warm country hug to all....pass the cocoa!
Lisa, <3
Congrats to my son for finally figuring out how to follow Mum's blog!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Our neighborhood is sprinkled with a dusting of snow, reminding me of the pancakes I had as a child, covered so artfully with butter and powdered sugar. The Christmas lights still remaining on the bushes twinkle through the coating of snow sticking to their branches.  It is a winter wonderland, where the imperfections of our world are softenend with the collection of flakes clinging to trees and trashcans alike. There are two times a year I feel the desire to photograph our home, and this is one of them. The other will come later, sometime during mid-summer when the yard, flowers, and garden are at their peek.
Today, though, it is all about old man winter. I am thankful the white washing we received was in the form of snow squalls and light snow, for we have had our share of nor'easters and blizzards here along the coast.  In the past few years I have taken over the brunt of the shoveling, as my husband deals with chronic shoulder pain from years of athletics. I find I thoroughly enjoy shoveling, no matter which form the white stuff takes. It is exhilarating, and in my mind I am transported many years back, thrilling to the snow as a child.   These days I stop short of falling backwards into fresh snow to sculpt a snow angel with waving arms and legs. ( I never did figure out how to get up and walk away without ruining the beautiful angel I had created).
It has also been one of those days I have taken the time to remember how thankful I am for the small things. Snow on the ground, the ability to shovel it, and a warm house and hot tea when I come in! Before my mom entered the nursing home, snow meant worrying whether she had been dug out, or making a quick (?) 3 hour round-trip trek to do it myself. I am so very thankful to know she is now safe and warm and cared for, no matter the weather.
The flakes, large enough to capture individually in a picture, are still floating to the ground as night is falling.  Can you make a wish on a falling snowflake?  I just did.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Friday, January 7, 2011


I didn't turn my PJs inside out, do a snow dance, or any of the other rituals exercised by children wishing for a snow day off from school. Amazingly, with only 3 inches of snow on the ground, we did have a snow day. Recent mornings when the white stuff has blanketed our country roads, there have been a few fender benders involving either high school students or buses or both.  These incidents tend to make the powers that be err on the side of caution.
Needless to say, I made good use of 8 unscheduled hours to catch up on laundry and the like, before heading to my craft room to fashion a snowman or two while the white flakes floated by the window outside. Working full time, I miss the minutes I used to carve out of my days to work with my hands. Whether it was crafting, quilting, or gardening, I was always working on SOMETHING.
Hands are amazing things.  They are the tools we use every day. They express love and embrace those we care about. They tend to sick children, catch butterflies and fly balls.  They fold in prayer, and reach out to those in need.  They say it is opposable thumbs that separate us from less intelligent creatures. I would prefer to believe it is what we do with those hands, and the emotions and intelligence that guides them that truly makes us compassionate and industrious beings.
I have spent hundreds of hours holding my mother's life-worn hands, and the opportunity to comtemplate what those hands have done for me and others in her lifetime.  She is such an amazing woman, whose hands served us well, from sewing my sister's and me dresses for dances, to preparing meals, or wiping tears from our sad little faces.  I still crave the touch of her hand on my face or shoulder when I have had a rough day and need to know someone cares.
And she does. She always has loved and cared for her family with such quiet grace and humor.
I hope my hands, and what I am able to do with them, will impact my own family with as much love and tenderness as I have received from Mom. There is nothing in this world like a mother's touch.
We all need to give each other a hand.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Happy Christmas Eve (again)!

As I am contemplating the weekend and finally- maybe- trying to- sort of -eventually- think about packing up Christmas, the Julian calendar allows us another peek at my favorite holiday. Tonight is Christmas Eve for the Greek Orthodox church, and tomorrow is their Christmas. Along with it will come another bout of Christmas snow, as special as the first we had only two short weeks ago. Rather than visions of sugar plums tonight, however, many of my students will be wearing their PJs inside out, flushing ice cubes down the john, and doing their version of a SNOW DANCE in an attempt to insure a snow day from school tomorrow.  I may need to do a little dance myself.
With snow on the way and another Christmas Eve at hand, I am afforded the pleasure of again sitting by my still decorated tree remembering past Christmas Eves when my children were younger.  As a toddler, and well into high school, my son was a fast moving whirlwind of energy that my then OB/GYN had dubbed "Action Jackson".  On one particular Christmas Eve when he was perhaps 3 or 4, my husband and I were having trouble getting him to bed so that Santa could bring all those gifts he had asked for. 
Chris was in his jammies, teeth brushed, story told, but too excited to climb into bed, nevertheless settle down to sleep.  As one of Santa's elves, my husband felt it his duty to let the big guy know one of the children on his nice list was pushing the limits a bit.
Any child that is warned Santa would know if he was misbehaving generally takes pause to wonder if indeed this was true.  Chris didn't pause long enough for much of anything, but didn't want to take any chances. When my husband told him Santa was outside, Chris flew to the window at the sound of a booming voice from the backyard saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho!"  He tells me he remembers seeing Santa out his bedroom window that night.  What he doesn't recall, is what I will never forget....the wide eyed surprise on his little face just before he bolted the 6 feet across his room and dove into bed.  We didn't hear a peep out of him the rest of the night.
Here we are some twenty years later, and I was just told Chris finally learned the true identity of our friendly neighborhood Santa Claus.  Since I have already shared that I DO believe in the spirit of the man in the red suit, I won't be divulging his identity. (Sorry!) I will say though, that my son's memory of that night has now been made that much sweeter.
A second Merry Christmas to you!
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Some recent dental work has caused me significant pain and, more importantly, the lack of crunchy foods I love. Carrots, nuts, popcorn. They are my go-to foods when I am feeling stressed. Apparently I take it out on my teeth when I am overwhelmed.  I have cracked two teeth this year alone while eating almonds. I know there is stress in my life, but it seems my teeth are taking the brunt of it.
While visiting my mom today, I found her "sawing wood" in her bed at the nursing home. This made me smile, AND crave a well deserved nap on the couch with some wood sawing of my own to do.  After kissing her forehead "hello", I went in search of a chair to sit on by her bed as she slept.  My "bull in a china closet" approach to bringing in a chair, however, woke Mom from her intended slumber.  I felt badly until she looked at me and smiled that toothless grin I have grown to love over the past few years.  It melts my heart every time, for I truly want to believe that in her confusion it is a sign of recognition, of love for her daughter, before the mask of indifference steals back over her aging features.
It's perfectly amazing how the simplicity in a genuine smile can change your mood and frame of mind, even if only for a moment in time.  I have told Mom countless times that she makes my day when she smiles at me.  Today was one of those days that her grin brought me out of my own self involved thoughts about a throbbing tooth and difficulties at work. I may someday join the toothless wonders I greet each day at the home, smiling at strangers and loved ones alike, hopefully changing their mood with this simple gesture. At least I hope that will be the case.
But that's a story for another time...hopefully a long way down the path God has given me to walk.
SMILE! It's the best accessory for your face, and the best gift you have to give. :-)
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3
Welcome to S, a new follower!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Good Things

The past few nights I have not been sleeping well. It is perhaps due to returning to school after a vacation filled with late nights and sleeping in....if 7AM even counts as sleeping in?!  I have a terrible habit of waking just enough, usually around 3 AM, to realize I have been rehashing in my sleep, some life event or worry that I should have given up to God long ago. Once that realization hits me, I can count on a couple hours of doing the same rehashing and worrying, now in a conscious state.  Then the cat thinks it's time to get up and go out, next comes the dog, and eventually the alarm JUST as I am drifting back to sleep.  Crazy right?!
Last night, during my tossing, turning, rehashing, and worrying, I remembered the darkest of nights when my daughter had night terrors as a child.  One specific time was more than scary for all of us, when she began screaming for me. As I rushed to her bedside, I found her sitting up, wide eyed and calling, "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!"  Attempting to scoop her into my arms, she unbelievably pushed me away, continuing to scream for Mommy.  She was looking right at me, and she was afraid of me. In that moment we were BOTH crying, my little girl because she thought there was a witch in her room, and I because in her night terror she thought I was someone to be feared!
Night terrors are scary for all involved since the child appears to be awake, and can even walk and talk to you.  They are in a dreamlike state, however, and unaware of their surroundings and any comfort you try to offer them. That night my little girl was inconsolable until the terror passed, and she was again sleeping soundly.
Following that horrific night, Katie had a difficult time going to bed alone.  The stuffed golden retriever she had since her first birthday wasn't enough.  The real golden retriever wasn't enough. Mommy and Daddy weren't enough.  Prayers weren't enough.  It was then we began a night time ritual we called Good Things.  We talked about how dreams can be good and filled with fun. Our plan was to place those ideas, those good things, into her head as she was drifting off to sleep.  So after prayers, and puppies, we would snuggle and as she was drifting off to sleep I would recite a long list of Good Things. From rainbows to starry skies, ice cream to fire flies, I whispered the good things that filled her head with love and sugarplums.
Our plan worked most of the time, and even as she grew out of the night terrors, she asked for years to hear the Good Things before she went to sleep.  Since then I have promised to write her a book about our Good Things. But that is a story for another time.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Monday, January 3, 2011

Daddy's Little Girl

There were actually three of us who could claim the title of Daddy's Little Girl.  On any given day we were each made to feel like the "special" one.  I used to joke with my husband, however, that I was actually Daddy's Little Boy. Not that there was anything masculine about me. I just spent more time with my father doing those DAD kind of things.
I was the athlete. The "jock". The one who helped Dad when he was doing home repairs or building something new in the basement or barn. At his request, I took golf lessons from the pro at his country club, even signing up for a father-daughter match together. And if I say so myself, we were pretty good! Dad would talk about me being in the women's pro circuit someday.  I thought he was joking, and as a result never took it seriously enough to "go pro", and eventually ended up disliking the lessons and the game itself.  I preferred the faster sports of basketball, volleyball, and lacrosse, and was thrilled the day he left work early to sit in the stands cheering for me at a high school basketball game.  I was so happy and proud to see him there. Proud to be his daughter. Proud to know he was proud of me also.
After years of helping dad, my husband joining me after we were married, we began doing more FOR him and less WITH him around our home and property.  It is that rite of passage, taking care of those who once cared for you as a child.  Not surprisingly, my parents had to sell the farm to move to a more manageable house in a better location.  It was tough saying goodbye to my childhood home, walking down the brick path for the last time that I had helped Dad build.
We had left the farm, the physical place...the stone walls, wooden beams, and acres of land.  But the memories came with us, and I will always hold them dear. Home truly is where the heart is, and my heart moved with my parents to their new house. Love created a feeling of home there for all of Dad's girls...Mom included....in their new place across town.
It was on this date, now 19 years ago, that my heart shattered when my dad left us on this cold day in January.  I can still feel the shock of the phone call, the bereft feeling of any child who loses a parent, and the longing for one more day...one more hour...one more chance to hold him and say I love you.  Dad went so quickly I never had to chance to say goodbye.  This has always left an ache in my heart, but the years have lessened the pain somewhat, and my faith has allowed me to truly know he is in a better place.
I am my father's daughter, his little girl, forever and always....no matter what.
I love you Daddy.
Your little girl,
Lisa <3
A warm country hug to all

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Don't Borrow Trouble

As the last day of my Christmas vacation is too quickly coming to an end, I am fighting the urge to complain and wish for more days of relaxation and family time.  It has been wonderful, despite missing my daughter immensely on Christmas Eve and Day.  I have always taught her, when wallowing in self pity over some type of disappointment, that things could always be worse.  (I also need to follow my own advice!) I have reminded her, as my Mom taught me, not to "borrow trouble".  Iamgining the worst or planning to be miserable only steals our time and energy better spent living in the moment and appreciating the good things life has to offer.
Sometimes we all need someone to offer us a little perspective, an eye opening look at how other people live, and how lucky we truly are to have one another.  Life offers us challenges, disappointments, and second chances.  It is our perspective that allows us to deal with what life offers in a positive way that can impact our own lives, as well as those of others.
I have a new follower on Home is Where the Heart Is.  This person offered me some much needed perspective today as I read her own blog, detailing the efforts of her son and their family in combatting his childhood leukemia.  Most of us have worries, complaints, and problems that pale in comparison. We can all learn from this precious, little superboy.
Tomorrow I will return to work/school.  Unlike previous years of answering "How was your vacation?" with, "It was too short!", I pray I will remember to keep my perspective. Some returning students find school to be their safe haven; the only place they feel cared about, and where some receive their only meal in a day. 
Let us all take time to count our blessings. Family, home, beloved friends, and those who give us perspective.
Thank you Mom, and thank you Sam's Mum.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Twenty Eleven

After a brief hiatus for some holiday festivities this past week, I am happy to be back to writing and recollecting both new and old stories, and knowing that as another year unfolds there will be so much more to tell!  It is 1/1/11, and although there may be something significant in those numbers, I prefer to think of the first day of a new month, and of a new year, as a blank page to be created or recreated as each of us sees fit.
I heard some famous people giving their thoughts today, and advising on the wisdom (or not) of making NewYear's resolutions.  In the past my resolve has not always been strong enough to see through some changes I had hoped to make in my life.  Now I no longer make any resolutions, although I do think it is a wonderful time to reflect, hope, and plan for the future.  The difference is, plans can be changed. Resolutions, on the other hand, are more of a win/lose, do or die type of challenge. Setting myself up for failure is not high on my list of priorities.
So today, I am in the process of reflecting.... and hoping....and planning for my future.  It is exciting to know that we have an opportunity to somehow "start over" with each new year. Or new day. We can give ourselves a break, forgive ourselves, and take a second chance. I hope you all accept the challenge to make your life, and the lives of those you love, just a little bit better in this new year.
I know I plan to. And with that will come stories for another time.
A warm country hug to all,
Lisa <3