Monday, December 29, 2008

Full house

Both the princesses and the little princeling are living under our roof at present, and I'm doing pretty well in keeping my cool, if I do say so.

It's not that there is no drama. We brought Princess V and the princeling from Redding very late Saturday night after her BF came home smashed and got belligerent, and she called 911. She and Princess R went up there today to collect most of the rest of her stuff. And I got to babysit....which I also did yesterday.

A side note: amazing how those skills never leave. I'm changing diapers, feeding, and hoisting him around on my hip like I haven't had a 30-year gap between babies...

All of them are moving out this week to live together in a little house R found about a month ago. Do I have my doubts? Oh yeah. Am I worrying about how it will work? Nope. Really.

About a month-six weeks ago I made a very conscious decision to stop trying to manage anything except my own life, and I've done a good job with it with only a few slips. Both girls have spoken to me, worried that "something was wrong" because I seemed so "fragile."

Makes me laugh! I am anything but fragile, and Tony told both of them that too. I'm just not asking as many questions nor offering much advice, and I told them both that, and that the lack of questioning was probably what they were noticing! I'm watching it unfold, watching as they make choices and decisions, and trying to be passively supportive. Which I am -- not necessarily with the choices or decisions, but I am about THEIR RIGHT TO DO SO.

In other words, folks, what I'm doing is practicing actively what I preach so often: we make our own destiny. Nobody else can determine the course of our lives except we ourselves.

If it works and nothing catastrophic happens, I'll be thrilled. Am I skeptical? You betcha. But I'm trying not to project that out, either. I'm just trying to enjoy having our grandson here to play with and rock and feed (and give to his mama to change the stinkies). And enjoy having both girls here too, for the bit of time left. I'm offering help in finding stuff for the house and a bit of money to help, but it's up to them to accept it or not, and I'm not offended if they don't want the help.

So next weekend we should be back to two of us with two cats. Sounds good to me.

I'm glad they're both here and safe for the moment, and I hope things will work out for them, but I am no longer interested in managing the process. That's good growth for me, and also for them.

Meanwhile, we're going to see Antsy McClain and the Trailer Park Troubadours tonight at the State Theatre -- just Tony and me. Ought to be a great way to unwind!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Christmas Eve and it's raining outside -- which we've badly needed, so I'm not complaining. We aren't going far afield this Christmas -- mostly home, with a couple of gettogethers with our great neighbors and friends.

But my Christmases past always are with me on this eve, most of them sweet and poignant, some very memorable.

Like the year in Zionsville that I was singing in the choir, and we had not only an early service especially for the kids, but also an 11 p.m. service with a choir concert beginning at 10:30.

My folks were in from their winter place in the Rio Grande Valley, my brother was in from Nashville, and baby, it was cold. Indiana winters are not for the thin of blood.

We'd had our usual Christmas Eve dinner, probably with my friend Julie and her family, and I think we'd gone to the early service with the kids. I headed back to church about 9:45 or so, in time to warm up my voice before the service. I remember it was slippery in patches -- snow on the ground. R was headed to bed, and everyone else decided to stay home too, which was fine.

But they didn't. We were singing the first hymn, probably "O Come All Ye Faithful," and who should I see hurrying down the side aisle but my husband, my brother, and my dad, all grinning like Cheshire cats. They sat in the second or third row -- the church was packed, as usual for Christmas Eve, and they grinned at me (and Julie) for the entire service.

One of the hymns was, of course, "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," to which my husband had altered the words to be "Hark, the hare-lipped angels sing." Which he was singing.

My rubber face, which shows every emotion, was taxed to the max that night as I struggled to maintain some composure in the choir loft.

It was a sweet night. They'd decided I shouldn't be alone (never mind that the church was full and I was surrounded by choir friends), and lifted their various whiskey tenors in song, probably with whiskey fumes wafting over the nearby pews.

Another Christmas, same church: Julie's dog Oreo had had puppies a few days earlier -- and they were all dead or dying of parvo virus, including Oreo. She, our friends Nancy and Marcia, and I all cried all the way through the service.

I loved the 11 p.m. candlelight services there, and also in my church in Birmingham. There's not a late service to be found here, however -- they're all done by 9 p.m.

My parents are close by every Christmas Eve -- I spent only a few without being with them until their deaths. Most are filled with warm, fuzzy memories, of filling stockings and going to church and singing and watching lights twinkle on the tree. We often had guests at our table -- people who were alone, or traveling, or neighbors, or friends. Sometimes we'd do big dinners, other times it was wonderful soups, breads, cheeses, and decadent desserts, and always cookies baked both by me and my mother.

I miss them. I miss some of that warmth of those years, some of the fun of having a younger child in the house.

And yet there's joy these days as well, for close friends and neighbors, for each other, for being where we are, and for being so blessed. I don't sing in a choir anymore (although I may eventually again -- I do miss that), and we don't belong to a church. But we belong here, and we are grateful for the love and caring with which we are surrounded, and for the peace of the land.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another goodbye

It's not that there's a dearth of things to write about, it's just busy writing stories, doing shopping, and planning menus, among just the day-to-day stuff.

And then last night I got a call from my second cousin Charlie who told me that my great-aunt Fran died in her sleep Sunday night.

She was 102 in September, the last and the baby of four sisters and -- I think -- two or three brothers. She was ten years older than my father, who she supposedly dropped on his head when he was a baby -- at least they always told that story and laughed about it. None of her sisters lived as long as she did. I only vaguely remember one brother, but her sister Florence was my grandmother -- she was the second oldest. Then there was Rae, short for Rachel, who died young, and Betty who died sometime in the 1970s. Grandma died in 1980-something.

We saw Aunt Fran fairly often when we were growing up since she lived in Tulsa and we were in Springfield, Mo. I remember Easters there, and some Christmases. Her dear husband died when he was just in his 50s, and she was alone for some years before she remarried. It was at her cabin -- actually, it was her second husband's -- in Estes Park that my parents spent so many wonderful summers with her, and it is also where their ashes are scattered, forever looking at the mountains they both loved so much.

I got to spend extended time with her both as a teenager, when I stayed with her shortly after her husband died, and then as a college student when I worked a summer at the YMCA of the Rockies where she also spent summers as a hostess for one of the lodges (until she reconnected there with Sam, her second husband). We'd also spent some vacations visiting, most especially one in about 1992 or 93 when we were there for a week (at a nearby cabin) and also spent time with Charlie and his wife.
We called her "dum ant" -- the roots of the story are long ago, and I don't even recall the details anymore, but it was a silly pet name that she enjoyed too.

Most of her friends and family are long dead, although she leaves various great-nieces and nephews, only a few of whom remember her very well, I think. I have one remaining aunt, and I think there may be another niece too, but I'm not sure, as well as her son and grandchildren.

I'll bet there was a grand reunion Friday morning -- with her sisters, my parents, her husbands -- and all those who left us so long ago. After 102 years, she deserves this final rest.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Counting down

It's December 1, and in the Christian tradition, Advent started yesterday. Shopping season started Friday, in case you have been somewhere without any electronic communication.

So how this year to feel the joy of the season, to become immersed in the celebration without going overboard on spending or jaded by the commercialism and "must-do" stuff?

Joanna Powell Colbert, one of my favorite bloggers, has a lovely post today with suggestions for observing Advent, or the Return of the Light.

As you may know, we are counting down not only the days until Christmas, but also until the winter solstice -- the shortest day of the year. You've noticed that sunset comes earlier and earlier -- and if you're a morning person, which I admittedly am not, you know the sunrise comes later and later. Fewer hours of sun. Or, if you're in Indiana, of gray.

While I was raised a United Methodist and have worked for the church on local levels, but also have more than a passing acquaintance with the conference and general church levels, I haven't actively attended for at least 12 years. Before that, I was active not only as an employee, but also a participant on various committees and boards, and sang regularly in the choir.

It was mostly a big social outlet for me: I met some wonderful people there, some with whom I am still friends after more than 25 years. I loved singing. I grew up singing in the choirs, singing at home, and knew all the arias and recitatives to Messiah, regardless of vocal range and voice part. I knew most of the choruses too, and as I sang the oratorio for many years in various choirs, learned the alto parts to nearly all of them.

It's still not quite Christmas for me until I play the CD and sing along.

And I have lots of Christmas CDs with various choral arrangements of old favorites as well as not as well known carols and hymns, and I love to listen to them and sing with them while I'm baking or decorating.

But I digress....that is another whole post.

My core beliefs have redirected a bit, however. I am a very spiritual person, but I have not been wholly comfortable with Christian beliefs for some years, and yet, I find great comfort in that community of music and ritual. I'm not sure what I am, actually, but I do know I've gained comfort and blessing from more earth-centered beliefs, drawing on the land, the sun, the stars, the moon, and those great core beliefs central to the world's major religions: be kind, be thoughtful, treat others as you wish to be treated yourself, be honest, give thanks always, speak truth to yourself and to others.

From Joanna's post, I found this lovely suggestion for incorporating an Advent observance, and it is one I plan to do this year.

Darkness has certainly been present in our lives this year, many of us, because of economics, illness, family circumstances. It has brought fear to us and uncertainty about the future. What better way to help our emotions and give us hope than lighting candles, waiting for the Light to return to us, in a regular ritual!

I need the light in my life. I need to have something to look forward to, that I KNOW without doubt will happen. The return of the sun -- the gradual lengthening of the days beginning on the solstice Dec. 21 -- is one such event. This WILL happen. Things WILL become brighter.

May your Advent be filled with anticipation and light.