Thursday, December 31, 2015

And Then There Were Two

This New Year’s will be like no other that has come before it, full of changes for all, excitement for some, and a plethora of all-over-the-place feelings for me. It will literally bring a whole new life for our family and I am trying very hard to roll with the flow.

If my words have seemed more sympathetic, empathetic, and sometimes maybe even dramatic the last few months, well, there have been some big events brewing in my home. I try to be a strong woman and a realist, but I am a Mama first and foremost which can make me extremely strong, and also exceptionally weak. There’s nothing like the big ole’ heart of a Mama – nothing even close.

In reality who would have dreamed cutting grass and cleaning-up yards for guitar strings, beach-trip money, and video games would have ever gotten big enough to become a bona fide business that began as the Lawn Rangers and has now become Helms and Carter Lawncare and Landscaping LLC; that would also provide homes for both of the young men who run-it, while still barely into their 20’s?

They both insist that was the plan from the beginning, and by golly, they have worked their fingers to the bone making it more than a dream – because in reality, it has become a profitable income machine.

As long as he’s been old enough to know the difference, Zachary always said he would never pay rent, throwing his money into the wind – he would instead save-up, make wise investments, and buy a home.

Well folks, that’s exactly what’s about to happen in the month of January 2016; my youngest, twenty year old son will sign the closing papers on his new house.  My home will be empty except for my husband and I, and I’m not quite sure we remember how being alone works.   

Even with just the three of us - I still cook like I’m feeding a football team – because there used to be a time, when that was an occurrence in our house most any night. So to say I always have left-over’s now, would be an understatement, how I will ever adjust to cooking for two, well I’m just not sure.

And the quiet – who will replace all the laughter, mischief and unexpectedness he brings to our lives. How will I ever adjust to not having still-alive frog legs in my freezer, bird parts in my sink, deer hooves lying on my kitchen counter, and the annual gun-cleaning with parts lying all over my beautiful dining-room table?

Multiple work boots at both my front and back doors, golf clubs in the middle of his bedroom floor, fishing poles and tackle boxes strewn about, and always the crossing of seasons- both camouflage gear and swim trunks/snorkels -flowing from one season to another, never finding a proper storage spot; but instead, lying about as if sitting-on-go for their adventurous buddy and whichever sport he chooses for the day. 

This is your newest, about-to-be Empty Nester signing off, and wishing you all Happy and Safe New Year holiday.

...Only Makes Us Stronger

I can remember years ago my mother talking about Christmas curses. Not the scary, creepy kind – the “oh my gosh, why is this happening to us right now?” kind.

But you know when you’re a kid; all you’re interested in is that Santa remembers to bring you everything you asked for and then some. Everything else is background noise, other than the one ear you keep open for those sleigh bells.

Well guess what? Now I’M the background noise – and I’m experiencing my first Christmas curse. Granted, it could have happened long ago, when I was a single mom, trying to raise two children, and provide Santa Clause on my own. 

So admittedly, “the curse” could have happened at a much worse time than now.
Let me explain this whole curse business – it’s best told with a story from my childhood that I’ve heard and understand a lot more clearly now as an adult.

In the summer of 1972 my family and I moved into our brand new house that my parents had built on Radium Springs Road in Albany, Georgia. That very December, in their new home, with their new house payment, along with all the other costs it takes to start-up a home, the refrigerator stopped working – it just absolutely died. And the last thing that my parents could afford on their very tightly, budgeted income – was a new refrigerator.

This year – the beginning of MY curse: Thanksgiving Eve, my boss was kind enough to let me go home at noon; unfortunately, I came home to a puddle of water standing at the foot of MY refrigerator.

Since my husband was out of town, I knew I had to make a decision. It wasn’t hard for the single-woman-on-her- own-Michelle, to swing back into gear. I called Stewarts of Quincy, and they were at the house within a couple of hours. 

Thankfully it was just a pin-prick hole in the copper tubing that connects to the ice-maker and they had it repaired in no time - $153 later. But much better than the cost of a new refrigerator!

The following Tuesday night, I turned-on the faucet in the bathroom sink so that the water could warm-up and I came back to yet ANOTHER puddle of water, this time on my bathroom floor; we called the plumber and he arrived the next morning – a loose pipe - $75 later.

Then sadly this weekend, our television started to die. It’s still dying – slowly. Sometimes it comes on, sometimes it takes awhile. Sometimes it has weird color streaks, sometimes not. So we’re waiting for the final shoe/curse to drop. 

BUT – I don’t have small children waiting on Santa, and our bills are few. When it finally dies, it will be irritating – not catastrophic. The worst will be hooking the dang thing up – but that’s another crazy story for another day.

My hopes are that everyone has a smooth-sailing holiday, with only the expenses you’re expecting and can afford. Merry Christmas to all and may you only have peace, joy and love surrounding you and your families. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Thank You Very Much!

Proper etiquette is dead, and I think this is the perfect time of the year to talk about it. I’m not quite sure what happened through the generations, but somewhere along the way, children were not taught how to properly thank someone, and now the rudeness has just tumbled out of control.

When I was growing-up, from the time I could talk and write, I was taught that every gift, whether it was monetary or physical, was to be acknowledged with a phone call or a letter.  And not a week after you got your gift and had already used it or spent it, but immediately upon receiving it.  

I’m sure through the years my children have grown sick of me asking have they called so and so yet, regardless, I still find a round-about-way to do it. I was raised to believe, that my children’s behavior, respect or lack of, was a reflection of me and how I raised them.  So I’m not sure if people today are lazy, or they simply just don’t care.

When both of my children graduated high school, neither of them could spend a dime of what they received, or use any gift that was given, until those thank you notes were written to each and every person that was kind of enough to think of them.

And those cards weren’t just written with sentences like “thank you for the money” or “thank you for the travel bag” – I taught them how to properly write a thank you note, with complete sentences, using descriptive words and adjectives. And I would proof-read the first few until I was sure they understood the complete purpose behind doing it in the first place.

When people spend their hard-earned money, you should show the utmost respect that someone not only took the time to do that, but that they thought enough of you to do it as well. Money truly does not grow on trees, not even $10 dollar bills; no matter the size of the gift, the gesture is the same, and so should be the appreciation.

I cannot tell you the gifts I have bought and delivered personally to weddings and baby showers that I never received a thank you note. And for the ones that were mailed, I guess I have never really known if they even received it. Granted, no one gives a gift with the only objective being that they’re told thank you, but people do give gifts to make people happy and to hopefully please them for one occasion/reason or another and they like to know their objective was achieved.

Parents – teach your children the art of gracious acceptance. Teach your children appreciation and gratitude, and most importantly, teach your children that they are not entitled just because it’s their birthday, graduation, or Christmas. They should feel honored that someone thought enough of them, cared enough about them to show them in the form of a present. Their only job is to say thank you or write a proper thank you note; that is all – and you’re welcome. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tis The Season

It is well known in our little town that my husband walks the streets of Quincy, trying to get in his exercise, and honestly, I think, a little bit of socializing. Because there is rarely a time when he leaves out for his four mile walk that he doesn’t come home telling me who he came across, what his conversations were or relaying hello’s from mutual friends.

Part of his route takes him into the curves and bends of one of our local cemeteries. He likes to walk that route particularly for those deep curves and bends, but he also likes to stop every now and again and speak to old friends.

As my husband makes his regular trek through Hillcrest during the week, he’ll speak to our old friend “Big Rick” Gleaton, and “Mr. Gene” Williams his old lunch-eating partner when Kittrell’s was still open for business; both of who now rest peacefully there.

All that might sound a little strange to some, because I realize that a lot of people aren’t particularly fond of cemeteries. But my husband will tell you real quick like, “It’s not the dead that you need to be worried about”. I think it brings him comfort to be able to “visit” every now and again, people that he thought the world of when they were still here.

But this morning he had a little bit of a scare. As he entered the cemetery there was a car parked towards the front and there was a lady sitting in it, obviously grieving and distressed, as she was crying pretty heavily. He continued on, but when he made his rounds and he came back out, she was still sitting there in her vehicle, and still crying.

Now my husband is not a prying man, nor is he one to get-up into someone’s business; but something about the whole deal didn’t set right with him so he tapped on the window and waited as she rolled it down.

He said she was crying so hard he could barely understand her but he thought he understood her to say she was there to see her daughter, as it was the anniversary of her death. As she continued to sob, she also said her husband was buried there, as was the rest of her family.

In that few minutes that he had her attention, my husband tried to say something that hopefully felt right enough to bring her comfort, but it bothered him enough that he repeated the incident to me when he got home. 

The holidays can be so very hard for everybody sometimes, but especially hard for people who have lost loved ones, and so very hard for those who have lost loved ones too soon. It’s important that we all stay ever-aware of those people who pass through our lives who may be suffering from loneliness, depression or extreme sorrow. 

That story of sadness has certainly stayed with me today; you just never know who needs a kind word or a listening ear, more than they need anything else in the world. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

And the Holiday Train Moves On....

I’m sure many of you have spent a major holiday without one of your children who has moved far away, and the logistics or financial cost of it all just couldn’t seem to be resolved.

I had my first such holiday this Thanksgiving; my oldest child lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, and between his work schedule and the cost of airline tickets these days, we just couldn’t make that trip happen this year.

It was his first Thanksgiving away from home and my first not having my assistant chef standing next to me in the kitchen, absorbing all the chaos and fractious behavior that was rolling off of me like waves of steam from a boiling volcano that could erupt at any minute.

But my youngest son was here, manning the turkey fryer as is his job every year, and my parents were here as well. My mother, bless her, pre-made some of the ingredients for her special dressing and brought them with her, as well as she made a delicious dessert for us this year.  It all came together despite being minus some very important family members.

I made it through, and Josh celebrated with his new family of friends in Brattleboro, all of them preparing different dishes and making one huge beautifully put together buffet, which they all thoroughly enjoyed I am sure. It certainly wasn’t the way we would have rather spent this holiday, but everyone is alive, safe, and well, and nothing beats that – even 2000 miles away.

After Thursday/Thanksgiving, we rolled-on into Friday which consisted of Zach and I beginning the part of the inside Christmas decorations we could do alone. Then Saturday, when my husband returned from his annual Thanksgiving trip to South Carolina where the rest of his family lives, we began the decorating of the tree.

There wasn’t a lot of the usual fanfare this year; Zach got the tree down alone, and he and Ramsey began with stringing the lights. I’d like to believe that as I have gotten older, I’ve grown more mellow and I’m not as controlling as I once was – but both of my children will tell you quickly – that is not the case, ever.

Maybe the difference was the lack of the brotherly duo, who actually claim they work quite well together, and once again, place me as the head of the drama blame.

I just believe it must all look as perfect as possible. All the ornament placing takes a great deal of studying, even though the tree is stark with nothing but lights in the beginning; it is but a blank canvas, ready to be adorned with beautiful pieces of memories.

 My Mama said it  best years ago, and I have never forgotten her beautiful description: all the
ornaments should be dangling gracefully from each branch like sparkling, colorful jewels on display for everyone to see, just as if you had opened the lid of a jewelry box; and I think my tree is just that - magical and beautiful - less the tinkling music and the twirling ballerina.