Saturday, August 28, 2010

My life as a Halloween addict

It's cooler this morning than normal and I can feel the life stirring back into me. The oppressive heat is giving way to the first signs that summer is almost extinguished and the more temperate fall weather is on its way. Secretly, I have a Mardi gras-style celebration going on inside my head because cooler weather means that HALLOWEEN is fast approaching!

I love Halloween. Always have loved everything about Halloween. There are thousands of websites and groups dedicated to creating beautiful objects for Halloween. I have such wonderful memories of all the kids loading up in the back of the pick up as mom and her friends slowly drove us around town gathering treats from the neighbors. It's funny that I don't recall much about my costumes but the memories of camaraderie and excitement are an integral part of my life. I don't like the scary part of Halloween but I love the traditions and parties. As adults, Halloween allows us to forget the troubles and routines of every day and just be kids again for one night.

Recently, my husband and I, my mom and step-dad, and several wonderful friends began hosting a Halloween party at my house. I knew as soon as we decided to have the party that I must go extravagant and "leave no stone unturned" in decorating for this party! We don't build elaborate sets with zombie monsters jumping out, but we do change the entire house into a Halloween celebration. The party is not about gore and blood, it's more about Halloween colors with a little glitter thrown in! My husband loves the party and he is an excellent host, but he does not love the "changing the entire house into a Halloween celebration." However, he tolerates my innate need (at this point it has become an innate need) to go crazy decorating for Halloween. He even expanded the attic in his shop to accommodate my growing collection of Halloween items. Now, a man who gives over part of his shop for Halloween decorations is a keeper.

We try to make the party bigger and better every year and we are working on the next big decorating decision. Let me tell you just a few of the things we do in preparation:

1. Change all the pictures in the house to Halloween-themed pics

2. Change out the fabric on the dining room and breakfast room chairs to Halloween fabric

3. Paint a new series of paintings each year to reflect some new detail of Halloween. Last year the new paintings centered around green witches (Tony and I had just seen "Wicked" on Broadway so my mind was occupied with thoughts of the green witch!)

4. Incorporate bigger-than-life wooden cutouts of witches decorated for the season. So far we have Willow, Boobalicious, and Bootylicious. The names are very descriptive of their actual look. My step-dad cut out the witches and painted them while my mother and I decorated them. They are very stylish and are great props for Halloween pictures.
5. Replace all the knobs on my cabinetry with big, hairy rubber spiders that have a hole drilled in them to substitute as knobs. The effect is really wonderful and the guests and always surprised when they reach up and grab a spider rather than a handle! I love it.

6. Place a hundred pumpkins on the porch, the deck, and every open spot in the house.

7. Design the skeletons so that they are climbing the columns on the front porch to sneak into the upper window of the house.

8. Cutting out and hanging hundreds of black bats so that the living room looks like a bat cave!

9. Collecting EVERY Halloween book known to man to scout out new ideas!

10. Decorating the back yard with hay bales, corn stalks, and eerie candles and lights to give just the right party atmosphere!

11. Searching for the perfect costume all year so that I: (a) Don't show too much skin; (b) don't have to wear a wig - they are just too hot; (c) don't need high heels - this is a fun party and aching feet could mess with my fun; (d) don't look fat!

12. Reminding everyone all year that there are only 8 months until Halloween; only 7 months until Halloween; only 6 months until Halloween, only 5 months until Halloween; only 4 months until Halloween........

13. Decorating a Halloween tree (using an old Christmas tree) with orange lights and every kind of wonderful Halloween ornament. The tree turns out beautifully and is too fun to create.

14. My favorite part of the preparations is creating the hand-made invitations and envelopes with my mom. She is very creative and a wonderful paper artist (along with jewelry artist - some of you may own a piece of hand-crafted jewelry). The invitations are individually made and printed by mom and me. The envelopes are also hand made by us and we try to make them very special. We are solidifying our design aesthetic for this year and should start making the invites very soon! The perfect words for the invite change each year and we are working on that part of the design now.

15. My colors for Halloween are the obvious choices of orange and black, but I also use turquoise. I love turquoise, but you don't find it much in Halloween decorations. For some strange reason, purple is too often thrown into the mix by retailers. So, when I find a new Halloween decoration that I love that has purple in it, I just pull out the trusty paint box and brushes and customize that sweet baby until it is uniquely Tina. I have lots of altered pieces that started out one color but have been changed to another color. Of course, they look great.

16. Wonderful food abounds at our Halloween party. We have special Halloween cakes and home-made Halloween cookies along with BBQ by the Spring Fling Grand Champion. Thanks Johnny and Jackie! Usually the guests bring some wonderful food item and the food table become a pot luck heaven!

17. Build a wonderful center-piece of Halloween fun items. The centerpiece includes skulls, crows, mice and beautiful flowers. Of course, there are a few girly feathers thrown in for good measure.

18. My step-dad makes a wonderful grave yard with hand-made grave markers and Connie contributes the mannequin legs peeking out from the graves. The effect is really great.

19. Built a witch's shelf that looks like she just came in from flying. The shelf (created by my step-dad) includes the witches book, cape, hat, stockings, boots, and jars of various potions for creating mischief! I love this particular piece.

20. By far the best part is the many friends who make the party so wonderful. We had no idea that anyone would even show up for the party, but our friends have been very supportive. It's not a crazy party, but the costumes are fabulous. People who are very conservative in their real lives, can be very creative in their Halloween life. Costumes are REQUIRED.

Here is a salute to everyone who loves Halloween and to those hosting Halloween parties this year. Have fun and be safe, but most of all draw on those memories of the Halloweens of our childhood that still linger in our minds. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Connect the words

I have been thinking about the fine line between Fearless and Foolish. I have lots of things I want to share with you, but I have not quite fleshed out the entire article. I want the post to really be worth your while when you read it. Lots of deep things for you to consider. Should post it soon.

In the meantime, I wrote down several adjectives or other descriptive words recently as they popped into my head and I decided to look for something in my life that matched the adjectives. Some of these are just plain crazy, some are very revealing of who I am and how I think, and some will cause you to think about who you are and why you think like you do.
Here is my list:

1. Surprising -- finding gasoline prices going down instead of up!
2. Techno-surprising -- a 70 year old retiree getting his first Blackberry!
3. Updated -- New, red leather chairs for the study at home.

4. Blessed -- life-giving rain on my beautiful flowers

5. Terrifying -- the lights going out at home last night during the storm.

6. Crazy -- a 28-foot alligator with an adult deer in its mouth being killed at Lake Weiss, Ala.

7. Bookwormish -- finding the awesome book "Life's Golden Ticket." You should read it.

8. Totally fun -- finding comfortable, red, patent leather pumps in my size!

9. Funny -- jumping in fear when I mistook the log in the lake for an alligator.

10. Never Becomes Ordinary -- Seeing my sweet husband every day.

11. Warned -- a rabbit hissing at me when the puppies and I got too close.

12. Lucky find -- new eye cream with stem cells in it. Guaranteed to look 5 years younger.

13. Whoo Hoo! -- riding bikes with the nephew in West Virginia

14. Old Timey -- eating pure, golden honey with the honeycomb included in the jar

15. Representing -- great conservative candidates talking about "taking back America."

16. Small world -- running into people from Moultrie in every state I go into!!

17. Soothing -- our pastor sitting with us though Tony's knee surgery.

18. Respect -- seeing the moms and dads who give at home, at work, and in the community.

19. Free stuff -- free puppy kisses from my sweet Stretchy the Dachshund.

20. Delicious -- "chocolate stuff" at Norma Jeans in St. Simons.

21. Sneaky -- a friend planning a huge surprise trip for their 20th anniversary! Shhhh!

22. In awe -- watching honey bees pollinate the crepe myrtles.

23. Straight forward -- my sister's attack on fibromyalgia.

24. Celebrate -- the 10-year mortgage rate going down to 3.75%

25. Comfortable -- being at home surrounded by my stuff, the puppies, and the hubby.

I would do 25 more, but I will stop with these. I hope you like this blog and that you will get ready for the next blog. Please suggest to me other topics that might make for great blogs. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Things I saw and heard on my vacation

I spent a week in paradise. My step dad's annual family reunion was last week in Pipestem, West Virginia at the Pipestem State Park and Lodge. The park is located in the most majestic setting possible. We stayed in a cottage on the top of a mountain surrounded by the forest. The resort has everything you could possibly need and I didn't leave the park all week except to go stock up on food. My mom, step dad, husband, and the 9-year old nephew were with me. I made notes all week so that I could tell you about the trip. Seriously, it was paradise and I hated to leave.

I know that most people love to go to the beach in the summer, but if you know me at all, you are aware that I don't "do" the sun and I hate the heat. I go to the beach in the wintertime when it's cool and not crowded. One of the days while we were in WV, the temperature was 71 degrees at 4:28 p.m. = Heaven. No humidity = Angels singing. The 9-year old nephew hanging out and riding bikes with me all week = blessing beyond belief.

So here are the interesting/odd things that I noticed or participated in while on the trip:

1. Before we left Georgia we went into a McDonald's that had an electronic trashcan that said "thank you" every time someone put trash in the can.

2. The flags flying at half-staff for WV Senator Robert Byrd who was the longest serving Congressman in the history of the United States. He was 92 when he died and had served for 51 years in Congress.

3. The nephew and I discovering that not being able to carry cash with us on the bikes was not a problem since we could charge our ice cream to the room. We ate alot of ice cream after that discovery.

4. Cars from 21 states staying at the Pipestem Lodge. That 21 actually includes the District of Columbia and Canada. You hear lots of dialects when 21 states gather at the same lodge!

5. Running into a man from Tifton, Georgia at the Wal-Mart in Princeton, West Virginia. I noticed him because he was wearing a Tift Regional Medical Center shirt! Small World.

6. The nephew and I riding bikes down the huge hills until our eyes watered from the wind! Thanks John Griffin for the loan of the bicycle rack. You helped make our vacation awesome!

7. Celebrating my husband's birthday in the mountains.

8. Hearing an unusual conversation between four elderly men as they discussed the fact that their email was going straight to spam rather than to their inbox.

9. Watching the deer, including twin fawns, as they came up to us to eat peaches from our hands.

10. A billboard on the Interstate with a female toddler featured on it that read: "Please find the cure to breast cancer before I grow boobs!"

11. Paddle boating with the nephew when he finds a dead bream in the lake with a hook and line still attached to the fish.

12. Taking a picture of the nephew holding up the dead bream like a trophy catch.

13. Going to sleep to the sound of an owl hooting in the forest outside my cabin's window.

14. Going through two tunnels that had been blasted through mountains. A little scary.

15. Watching in horror as two motorcyclists are almost hit by a tractor trailer when their motorcycle stalled in the dark tunnel. They were pressed against the wall with no "pull-over" lane. Not sure how they kept from being killed.

16. My husband's surprise when a ground hog popped up out of the hole on the golf course and flashed its two huge incisors in warning.

17. The realization that 9-year old boys don't bathe or brush their teeth of their own accord. You have to threaten to hurt them in order to convince them to wash their feet. They don't sit quietly very much either. Actually, I didn't care if he bathed or brushed his teeth because he gives such good hugs that everything else is irrelevant.

18. Learning to play the card game "golf." It's super fun and I will be glad to show you how to play. Come on over one weekend and the hubby and I will host a "golf" tournament. You will love it.

19. Playing guitar with my step dad's extremely talented relatives. They are the kind of musically-talented folks that just walk up to an instrument, introduce themselves to it and start playing awesome music. Mountain folks learn early to play an instrument and to sing. I played my guitar version of Country Roads Take me Home and in a very supportive voice they told me to keep practicing and I would get better. Ok, I practiced for a year to play it at all. Don't think I will improve much, but who knows!

20. Riding in an aerial tram with the hubby and nephew as we dropped 3000 feet from the top of the mountain to the Blue Stone Creek gorge below. You can actually see a huge cave in the side of the mountain with a moonshine still set-up in it. I'm sure it's just for the tourists, but the effect is perfect.

21. Sitting in the lodge watching the most beautiful sunsets every afternoon.

22. My mom "adopting" a young woman who is leaving West Virginia to become a U.S. Solider. She and her Red Hat group have adopted several soldiers that they send hand-made cards to so that they know that we are thinking about them as they sacrifice for us.

23. Not wearing sunscreen but not getting burned even through the nephew and I rode bikes for several hours every day. Did I mention that I loved the cool, humidity-free weather?

24. Watching a fat raccoon that has become accustomed to being hand fed, steal the bags from the humans playing bean bag toss!

25. Discovering a jar of Moonshine Jelly at the local trading post.

26. Mom discovering that the bat we kept hearing screech was actually stuck in the boards of the old shelter where he nested. Mom insisting that the park rangers save the bat.

27. Eating awesome food while enjoying wonderful company at the family reunion. The peanut butter cheesecake won the dessert contest.

28. The hubby driving 12 hours straight from West Virginia to Georgia and not asking me to drive. I love that man.

29. The puppies being super excited to see us when we came home. Our fabulous baby sitter, Kelli Lynn Moser took care of the babies and the house. We love her and the babies told me that she is the greatest!

Best vacation ever. Lord willing, we will be back again next year in a three-bedroom cabin hanging out with the deer and the owls! Thanking God for the safe trip and the opportunity to tell you about my adventure. Until next time......

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A story worth telling

You probably didn't know Janet Copeland, but she was a sweet, wonderful lady who loved Chinese food and who loved to paint little figurines. She always had a smile and an encouraging word for Tony and me. She always finished every conversation with us by saying "ya'll be careful driving." She was a positive person who had many friends.

What you might not realize is that my entire involvement with her was at Heritage Healthcare Nursing Home here in Moultrie and her friends were the very dedicated staff at Heritage Healthcare. Ms. Copeland was only about 53 years old, but she had been in the nursing home for years. She didn't walk and only got out of bed with tremendous assistance to go to a doctor's appointment. She never married and didn't have children but she seemed to "mother" each of us she encountered. She was my mother-in-law's roommate at the nursing home and she unexpectedly passed away last week.

I do not know why I felt such a strong desire for you to know Ms. Copeland. Perhaps it is ironic that she spent so much of her life in a nursing home, but her death will now be a part of the Internet that is accessible to the far corners of the world! She felt that her job as Mrs. Anderson's roommate was to observe and report to us who visited Mrs. Anderson and to make suggestions for her conduct. My strong-willed mother-in-law did not always take the suggestions too well. She has short-term memory loss, but she has NOT lost her strong will.

Tony and I still have trouble dealing with the death of residents of the nursing home. I know that death is a fact with a community of elderly patients and I have tremendous respect for the nurses, CNA's, administrators, and support staff who so tenderly care for the residents. The staff spends so much time with the residents that they must be tremendously saddened each time a resident passes away. The crazy thing for me is that I am always surprised when one of the residents dies. I definitely feel like a hole has been created where a sweet, gentle person once filled it. There is always another elderly citizen of our community waiting for a spot at the nursing home so that the cycle continues. We are very fortunate to have so many quality nursing homes in Moultrie. If you have ever dealt with placing a family member in a nursing home, you know the importance and peace of mind that comes with finding a caring environment for your family member.

It's tough visiting a nursing home when you are young and healthy. We all are afraid of aging and the unfortunate results that accompany aging. I assure you that you will be blessed by visits to the nursing home. There are quite a lot of characters sitting in those wheel chairs. You never know what you might see or hear from the residents. I always have at least one good laugh as the residents comment on my shiny, red pocketbook or when the little old ladies smile at my sweet husband.

Ironically while looking for Ms. Copeland's obituary last week, I came across an obit for Vivian Hall. I would not have even looked at the obit because the name was not familiar at first, but there was a picture attached and I thought I recognized the picture. I was right. Ms. Hall was a GED student at MTC and was a pure delight to know. She struggled with math as many people do, but she worked diligently with tutors to try to master the subject. When I would see her in town, she always stopped me to talk about her efforts at school. I think she was very proud that after so many years she was back in school working toward her GED. We were certainly proud of her.

For most of you, neither one of these ladies, Ms. Copeland or Ms. Hall, may have crossed your path. In their own small ways they touched my life and I wanted to share them with you. Both of them are gone, but a little bit of them lives on with me. This blog is a way for a tiny piece of their story to be told to people who might not have known them. I hope that you have a blessed week and maybe you could share the story of someone who may not have been on the front page of the newspaper, but whose story is worthy of telling.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This is for the girls only....

Well, this month on the full moon I had a mammogram. Ironic? I think so. I had not had a mammogram in 10 years. I know that's crazy, but I have been really busy. However, the great folks at Dr. Trescott's office decided that no matter how busy I am, I must have a mammogram. They scheduled it and I obeyed. No known problems, but those screenings are important. The entire time I was having the mammogram, I was thinking that I had to tell all of you my interpretation of the procedure. Guys, there is no way to compare the procedure to anything you have to go through. Just go hug your wife/sister/girlfriend/mom and thank her for going through the pain of a mammogram. Keep reading, you will find out why.

I showed up at our great hospital and filled out the necessary paperwork. Everyone from admissions to dismissal was wonderful as usual. Very short wait and I was ushered back to radiology. Filled out more paperwork with radiology. One of my biggest fears is that they would have to weigh me. I fully believe that my digital scale at home lies in a big way. I did not want to find out differently at the hospital. Luckily they allowed me to self-proclaim my weight. In the "Weight" blank I simply wrote "Too much." I knew that they didn't really use that information for the procedure. No need to be weighed. Going nicely so far.

The radiology folks sent me to the mammogram room -- it's behind the door with the pink ribbon. I found the right place and again had only a short wait until a little lady came and got me. I had read the prep paperwork so I did not have on deodorant and had a shirt and pants on (no dresses -- two pieces are necessary.) The tech gave me a little shawl/shirt and told me to put it on with the opening in the front. Along the wall of the dressing room were about 6 or 7 dispenser rolls of band aid-like stickers. They started with the wee itty bitty size and progressed to the biggest ones. She told me to put the ones from the second dispenser over the center of my breasts. They were not the wee itty bitty ones -- they were the itty bitty ones. I knew there was a great story brewing to tell you when she asked me to apply the itty bitty ones to my breasts. It got more interesting.

Next, we got down to the serious business of the mammogram. Guys, seriously, if you are reading this it may be too painful for you. Mammograms are not for the weak. They hurt.

The tech was a tiny lady who looked like she couldn't hurt a fly. I was so wrong. Keep in mind that she does many mammograms a day and her job is to get a perfect image so that the radiologist can identify any irregularities. She must be efficient and thorough. Women's lives depend on her doing her job well. The first question I asked was whether the band aid-like stickers were chosen based on breast size. She laughed and assured me that they were not. Hmmmmmm. I don't know.

This tiny lady placed my breast on a metal tray covered in sweet, little, pink flowers. How nice. Next, that sweet, perfectly sane-looking lady hit a foot pedal and slammed an acrylic tray on my breast with the force of having your tender breasts slammed in the car door. Yep, I think that is a good description. She then came over and prodded my breast and informed me that the muscle/tissue must be taunt for the image to be accurate. You have no idea how much taunt can hurt. The acrylic torture tray closed tighter. We got an image she was ok with. Geez, another breast to go.

Same routine on the other breast. I was so relived when that acrylic tray released the second time. I kept thinking about how I would get out of that thing if the electricity went out or the darn machine stuck. I almost had a panic attack thinking about being stuck in that darn machine. I started to put my fashionable, open-front hospital top back on and that little lady told me we were only half-way through. At that point I told her that she was the meanest person I had ever known. She laughed and said mean or not we were going to get a good image for the radiologist.

Keep in mind, I am about 6 inches taller than her and probably 40 pounds heavier. That little lady placed my breast on that tray again and took me by my waist and plopped me into the correct position so that the machine could include the lymph nodes in the photograph. She was little, but this was certainly not her first mammogram rodeo! Here comes the dang torturous acrylic tray again. Same hurt and I am about to cuss. I told that tech that if I were choosing sides to go to war, I would choose her. I meant it as a compliment and she took it that way. She laughed again. Soon the procedure was over.

Because our hospital uses digital photography, I could see my images immediately. Of course, the technician did not tell me anything about the image, that's not her job, but it was cool to see the image immediately after it was taken. We were almost friends now.

I couldn't wait to tell you the story and to remind you to please have a mammogram. This procedure is so important and your life and the life of women you love is too important to negate this important, simple test. The test is temporarily painful, but breast cancer can be horribly painful and even deadly. I hope you will schedule your mammogram and get a little laugh as you remember my experience and how yours is similar. I love you and hope that you will take my advice and schedule your exam or encourage the women you love to schedule theirs. To great breast health!! This little story is dedicated to Liz Keith -- she is cancer free. Thank God.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie

My baby nephew turned 9 years old last Saturday. He had a skating party at this cool skate rink with his cub scout friends to celebrate. I drove (round trip) from south Georgia to Jackson, Georgia (almost to the Atlanta Airport) for the skate party. Totally worth the drive because I had a wonderful youth-size guitar to deliver to the birthday boy.

He was not surprised because we had already discussed the gift, but his buddies thought the gift was very cool. Exactly the reaction I wanted from the cub scout buddies. You see, I want this kid to be a totally cool guitar player who people radiate to because of his tremendous talent. You know that I, not so secretly, want the same reaction for myself. Unfortunately, I think I waited too late and I won't be the cool guitar player girl that people are drawn to because of her tremendous talent. Perhaps I can still be the guitar player girl who people wonder why I won't tune my guitar. So sad. But, I digress.

I had watched the baby nephew play guitar hero and he was awesome. I tried to do it and he finally took the fake guitar from me and said, "Aunt Tina, just give it to me and let me show you how to do it." His instructions didn't help, but he is really good at guitar hero.

So, I called him and asked him if he wanted a guitar for his birthday. Of course, you have to handle these sort of things delicately. I knew that I couldn't be over anxious and reveal how much I wanted him to start playing the guitar. Over anxiousness by Aunt Tina was a sure fire way to nix the whole thing. So I played it cool.

I called him and in casual conversation told him how impressed I was with his guitar hero abilities and I wondered if he would like a real guitar for his birthday. Well, he went into a long, detailed explanation about the differences between a real guitar and guitar hero. I let him finish and asked "ok kid, do you want a real guitar or not?" I found great guitars that were the right size for him locally at Beans and Strings - The Coffee Shop that Rocks! He finally concluded that he did want the guitar and that he could settle for an acoustic guitar since I would not buy him an amplifier. My plan is working beautifully. I knew to keep calm and play it nonchalantly so that the baby nephew didn't get spooked by my excitement. But, inside I was dancing with joy and I realized that the baby nephew was getting a real guitar!

To my joy his mom (thanks baby sister) arranged for him to start lessons that very week. He called me several times to ask questions about various aspects of the guitar. One question that he asked was the name of the strings. I told him that the strings were E,A,D,G,B,E, and that the mnemonic (or memory aid for remembering the strings) was Eat All Day, Get Big Easy. He was set and he prepared for his Tuesday lesson. We talked twice on his way to the lesson and he assured me that he would call me again as soon as the lesson was over. I waited not so patiently.

When he called me he said that the lesson went well and that he was totally liking his new teacher and that he felt sure that he would be pretty good at the real guitar. He also added, "Aunt Tina, it's not Eat All Day, Get Big Easy, it's Eddie Ate Dynamite, Good Bye Eddie." Ok, to the 9-year old baby nephew eating dynamite is more interesting than just eating all day.

I can not tell you how excited I am to have the baby taking guitar lessons at 9 years old. My old brain takes forever to soak up information. I know that within the next few months I will hear, "What do you mean, you don't know how to do this Aunt Tina???!!" I will be overjoyed that the baby has already passed me in guitar knowledge. More posts about the baby guitar prodigy....

Monday, March 8, 2010

Familiar Things

I like familiar things. I don't mind change, but some things are so comfortable and so much a part of some special time in our life that we have to cling to them. I still have the maple bedroom suit that my mom bought for me when I was four years old. The finish has darkened over the years and there are a couple of stress fractures in the wood, but I can't possibly part with it. I love the patina of the wood and have the entire suit set up in one of our guest bedrooms. You probably remember the kind of bedroom suit that I am writing about -- it has a nice little rounded headboard and foot board on the bed, a little dresser with a mirror with room for a chair, and a nice chest of drawers. Probably lots of this type of bedroom suit in homes from the 60's.

Speaking of familiar, new clothes are fabulous, but so are the gray, bleach-stained, stretched-out sweats that I jump into when I get home each day. I know they look awful on me - heck, they would look awful on anybody, but they are familiar and comfortable. I can usually make it 3 or 4 evenings before they have to be washed. Of course, If my big ole self makes it to the Y I have to wash them more regularly. They are comfortable, they are stretchy and I can eat all I want while wearing my gray sweats. They are familiar and I love them.

Obviously, humans are not the only animal that likes familiar things. For the fourth year in a row, a fabulous mama bird has laid her eggs in the same nest. I can not prove that it's the same mama. I even imagine that maybe one of the baby birds matures and comes back each year to use the "homestead" nest. No proof of that either, but it's my story and I can write it as I please.

The nest is at the top of one of the posts on my front porch. The original builder of the nest is a genius bird because there is no way that predators can get to the nest. I always check to see that no snake or rat has bothered the nest. For four years, the nest has survived predator-free. Usually I have the wonderful delight to see four or five babies mature just outside my big picture window. The birds grow up so fast and it's fun to watch them as they grow. Eventually they seem to do nothing but squawk for food. That poor mama bird is constantly bringing in food to five little open mouths. She works tirelessly to ensure that here little ones are fed.

I love when it's time for the birds to learn to fly and leave the nest. I have never found one of them on the ground -- indicating an unsuccessful flight attempt. They hesitantly hop around the edge of the nest for a week or so before they finally take off. I have lots of pictures of these sweet baby birds and I look forward to their return every year.

This year the birds made nests very early. Maybe it was not so early, but the continuous cold weather made the timing seem early. I was afraid that the babies would not survive the cold, but of course the mama took very good care of them. She even built the nest higher and closer in at the top to keep the babies warm. She is one smart mom.

When I had my house pressure washed this year, I told the guy doing the washing that he absolutely could not spray the cleaning formula or the high pressure water anywhere near the bird nest. He assured me that he would preserve the nest. When I returned home that day, the nest was still in tact, but no mama bird around. I was afraid that she had left the nest. I watched for her until almost dark when she dutifully arrived back to her nest to protect the babies through the night. I will continue to look forward to the arrival of a new family of birds each year as they seek out the familiar nest.

What familiar thing do you cherish? What makes your list of things that are comfortingly familiar?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I am thankful for....

Maybe God is reminding me of all the wonderful things I have to be thankful for because I keep counting them in my head. It's about 4:30 am and I woke up thinking about the crazy things that I am thankful to have in my life. I would like to share them with you.

1. I am thankful for being saved. Just to be introduced to the saving Grace of Jesus is a blessing. How different my life would be without the guidance of the Bible and how terrible death would be without the assurance of salvation.

2. I am thankful that I am still completely in love with my husband. It's a gamble when you marry at 23 that you will still be in love 20+ years later. He still makes my heart jump a little when I see him and I can't imagine life without him. Don't think that I don't ever get angry with him -- you know that I want to hit him with a stick sometimes! However, I imagine he has those same feelings toward me at times. We are normal.

3. I am thankful for garage door openers. I know this is silly compared to my first two on the list, but that garage door opener has saved me from the rain many times and I think it's a great invention. I wish I could program the garage door opener that is part of the fancy stuff in my car. Can't make it happen.

4. I am thankful for people who send me hand-written notes and call to check on me for no reason. Tony, Mom, Lora, Carol, Connie, Jackie, and Cathy -- Thanks for sweet notes, texts, and phone calls. If you are reading this and you don't send me hand-written notes, texts, or phone calls you should. I need you.

5. I am thankful that I have a baby sister. I was almost six when she was born. Mom told me and my younger brother that she was our baby and we should help take care of her. No jealously, she was ours. I still call her "baby" and she turned 39 in January. She will always be the baby and is the closest I will come to having a kid of my own. Call me if you need something baby!

6. I am thankful for a job that I love and for the people I am honored to work with. To have a job at all is a blessing in this economy, but to have one you love is an added blessing. You can be sure that I have had many jobs that I did NOT love. I definitely have some point of reference to compare my current job. I have worked continuously since I was 15 years old -- long before that if you count working at home in the huge garden every summer. Lots of character building over the years. Thanks to all my great co-workers who make our college so great.

7. I am thankful for my health. My neck hurts, I have to wear glasses to see, my back hurts, and I can't wear high heels anymore because my knees hurt. Those are just things that happen when you keep living. My church's prayer list has so many people who are sick and dealing with awful diseases. My aches are minor. Thank you God for my health.

8. I am thankful for a plentiful supply of safe food. I struggle all the time with my weight and I often think about what a blessing I have to be surrounded by food. Many parts of the world never have enough food and people are dying at this moment from malnutrition and tainted food. I know that there are many health problems associated with being overweight and that we must eat in moderation. But, I am thankful to have the necessity of "watching what I eat" in order to stay healthy. I hope to never know the horror of real hunger. I once worked with a lady whose husband had been a POW. He was severely abused and starved at the hands of his captors. She said that they had stray cats everywhere at their house because her husband always fed every stray that came on the property. His explanation was that once you really know what it's like to be at the point of almost starving to death, you could never let another creature go hungry if you could help it. She told me this story 20 years ago. I will never forget it.

9. I am thankful for my dachshund Stretch. He is a genius. It's now 5:15 am and he has gotten out of bed to sit near me while I type. He is snoring. I had never had a dog of my own until Stretchy. I have two other dogs who are wonderful, but Stretchy and I are best buds. He really is amazing. He loves two things -- food and me. He is too fat and I should cut back on his snacks. I don't think I will. Sometimes he cries to go outside so that he can run right back in for a snack. He is a genius. He does not like men -- except for Tony and he will bite you if you come to my house. He loves me, Tony, my sister, my mom, my step-dad, Joshua, and my friend Connie. That's it. When I first got him, I left the house to go to Macon and that baby ran for almost a mile following me screaming "mama, please let me go with you!" No one has ever run after me screaming "I just want to be near you, please let me go with you!" He can have anything he wants. Just ask Dr. Marty, he will tell you that Stretchy is a spoiled dog. He and I have the same birthday. He is a genius and I love him.

10. I am thankful for my Bible - The Book. It's written in a modern language that I can understand and apply to my life. I love the KJV also for its wonderful language, but I find it hard to extrapolate the meaning of some of the passages. I read my Bible every night and usually find something that I have never read before or realize a new, deeper meaning for something that I have read many times. I am amazed that there is almost no aspect of life that is not addressed in the Bible. Of course, I need to go much deeper and study many more years to understand the wonder of the messages of the Bible. I am amazed that we can hold the Word of God in our hands. Sometimes I expect that something so holy might even burn my hand when I touch it. Thank God it doesn't burn my hand and I can keep studying.

Stopping this blog with 10 items. I will write more soon. I know that I have much, much more to be thankful for and I AM thankful for so much in my life. Sometimes the most simple blessings are the greatest. Sometimes our blessings are very complex and come to light more clearly through pain. Please tell me some of your blessings. I am very interested. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lord knows I love that man

Valentine day was really good this year even though I didn't get to see my husband. I know, I should be moping around and be really mad because he chose the Daytona 500 over spending Valentine day with me. But, he didn't choose the weekend for the race and he is not responsible for the collision of valentine day and Daytona 500. It is what it is. I did get to play in the snow.

Now to the reason I had a good Valentine Day. My sweet husband reminded me as he left home for the race, that he had planned a great Valentine day for me and that I would really like it. When I told him that I might take a vacation day Friday and not go into the office, he almost panicked and said that I HAD to go to work Friday. Ok, so then I knew that something was being delivered to work. Sure enough, the flowers were beautiful as they always are. Cute little Valentine balloon attached also. I assumed that I had my valentine gift and I was cool with flowers even if they did come two days early.

Well, I had underestimated that sweet man. He called me Friday and told me that he would text me the next clue -- that's right, the CLUE -- for my next gift. Ok now, I was liking this little game of "give me a clue and I find a gift."

On Saturday morning February 13th, before I was out of bed, I heard a text come in on my phone. The text read "Look in top drawer of highboy." Excitedly, I jumped out of bed to find my new treasure in the top drawer. I had to get a stool to look into the drawer. The whole thing reminded me of a kid on Christmas morning finding presents. I found a beautiful box of fabulous chocolate candy and a big candy sucker. He knows I like candy. As I write this Blog, the whole box of candy is now gone. Yea, I like chocolate candy. So, now I have flowers, balloon, and candy. That's enough for Valentine Day, right?

Well, Sunday morning, February 14th dawns with warmer temperatures and much sunshine. Would I get another text from that sweet man with another clue? Another gift? Well, about 8:30 I got a text that said, "Look in my bed side table drawer." Score! Another big box of fabulous chocolate in that cute heart-shaped box and a card with a wiener dog (my favorite dogs) carrying a heart in his mouth with a love note from my sweet man along with his interpretation of the dogs love for me on Valentine Day. I almost cried. But, the best was yet to come. Along with the candy and card was a gift certificate for a massage from my favorite nationally certified massage therapist Shanna!!! Life is good.

That sweet man made my Valentine Day wonderful by thinking of me and planning ahead to be sure that I was happy. Lord knows I love that man. Happy St. Valentine's Day.