Saturday, November 29, 2014

Getting Old Isn't So Bad

Yesterday's birthday celebration was one of the best that I can remember. I was surrounded by loved ones and got to do things that I particularly enjoy for pretty much the entire day. You can't ask for much more than that.

I got to spend the morning taking pictures of the family for various uses. Barbie needed pictures of her and my nephew for Christmas cards (I took our Christmas card photo on Wednesday, and I was happy to get that chore out of the way), as well as to replace the photos that I took of them a couple of years back. My nephew has grown so much and he is maturing so quickly; time really does fly.

I also took some portrait shots for our family album as well as some shots of my mom with the grandkids. It's a bummer that my niece and nephew couldn't be here for that, but my older sister and my niece were jaunting around Italy (lucky dogs) and my nephew had to work (thank God, he has a job!). So, it was just my mom and the remaining three grandkids. Next time, we will get everyone involved.

After the pictures, my mom, sister, and I headed off for an afternoon of antiquing. We didn't find any treasurers that we couldn't live without but we had fun trying, and, we were together, which is really all that mattered to me.

In the evening, we all went to dinner at an Italian restaurant in Mount Pilot. The restaurant was converted from an old movie theater and they incorporated the name, Bistro Rialto, which utilized the old neon sign. Genius!

The food was also genius. I had spaghetti and meatballs and it was seasoned to perfection. I also had my first dish of spumoni and I totally get what all the fuss is about; it's like a party in your mouth! So, so good!

I ended the day with some relaxing conversation with the family and a good night's sleep. I really can't think of a better way to spend my birthday...

...except maybe by spending the day antiquing, taking photos, and eating spumoni in Italy.

Eh, there's always next year.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Forty-Six Years Ago...

...a child was born.

Which, of course, means that today is my birthday. It's been so nice to be with my family to celebrate today, So far, I've blown out the candle on a cinnamon powdered donut (one of my favorites), I've been gifted with presents that include the most awesome vintage Santa (Thank you, Barbie!), circa 1968 (just like me) and another piece to add to my Rankin Bass figurine collection (photos to follow, soon), and, I have the privilege of taking some photos of the people I love.

Later today, my mom, sister, daughter, and I are going antique hunting and we plan to eat dinner as a family in a really nice restaurant in Mount Pilot later this evening. It's going to be a birthday to remember, I think.

Speaking of birthdays to remember, while I've been here in Mayberry, I have been scanning photos from my parents' old albums and it seems apropos to post a couple of them here, today.

First birthday. Surprisingly, I can remember that stuffed donkey. I must have had him for quite some time. I also got my sock monkey that year; it was a gift made for me by my Grandma Molly and I have it still, today. Granted, the pantyhose used to stuff it are disintegrating to dust, making it precarious to even touch the poor thing, but, I still love it.

Apparently, the traditional gift for the second birthday is a set of cleaning tools; I believe I most enjoyed the broom. I was a strange child.

My fourth birthday party apparently consisted of my sisters and one guest, my friend, Clifford. I actually posted this picture on Facebook today, in response to birthday wishes sent from Cliff. He's probably still laughing.

This was my fifth birthday and I remember it quite well because I got to pick anything in the world that I wanted for dinner and my mom promised to serve it on fine china with candlelight. I chose spaghetti, I mean, what's fancier than that? Also, I got a pair of clip-on earrings, which made the whole thing that much more sophisticated. And, lest you begin to think that I only associated with my sisters and boys, the dark haired kid at the table was my neighbor, Nancy. And, despite the unusually androgynous (for the time) haircut, she was, in fact, a girl.

Sixth birthday, and, I'm guessing it was Thanksgiving, because we were at my Grandma Molly's house. I can tell from the blue naugahyde kitchen chair. Also, because I was born on Thanksgiving, and my birthday falls on that day every six years or so.

Year eight, and I celebrated with my good friend, Melanie. Special shout-out to the Country Time Lemonade cans on the table; that shit was delicious.

This is the last birthday picture that I found in the albums that I had access to this past week; I believe I was ten that year, and, apparently had no friends with whom to celebrate. But, that's ok; I had my sister, who, if you look back at most of the previous photos, was with me pretty much from the beginning (you can even see her arm in the picture of my second birthday).

She's here today, too. In fact, it was her idea to stick a ginormous candle in a donut for me this morning. She also gave me the vintage Santa that I am now looking forward to using on my front porch. I'm kind of blessed to have had her all these years and I'm really glad I got to spend this birthday with her.

Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's Thanksgiving

The turkey is in the oven, stuffed to the brim with my mom's traditional sage dressing.

I made the cranberry sauce last night and it is chilling in the fridge; I used pomegranate juice and wine in the recipe this year and mom thinks it is my best effort, yet.

There are two pies resting on the sideboard, pumpkin and chocolate (for the non-pumpkin eaters).

The rolls that mom and I made are ready for warming and I can't wait to dip them into Mom's giblet gravy.

It's going to be a delicious Thanksgiving.

As I type this, four-out-of-seven of us are still sleeping.

Three of us are enjoying coffee and quiet conversation.

Two dogs are snoring at our feet.

It's going to be a peaceful and relaxing Thanksgiving.

Later this morning, we will watch the Macy's parade together.

The boys will engage in an epic battle of Madden Football on the Xbox.

The adults will take phone calls from friends and family, far and near, wishing a Happy Thanksgiving.

And we will miss my Dad at the table.

It's going to be a bittersweet Thanksgiving.

But, we are together. We are healthy. We have enough to eat and roofs over our heads. We have a lifetime of memories to see us through. We are still a family.

It's going to be a blessed Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

About That Pie

My mom didn't feel like I did justice to the pumpkin pie post, so, I thought I would share the recipe as well as the process involved in making a pie from scratch. If you're the kind of person who already does this, I apologize in advance for boring you with this recipe. If, however, you are the kind of person who buys their pies from the bakery or from the frozen food section of the local Piggly Wiggly, you may find this useful.

The recipe starts with whole, fresh, sugar pumpkins. You can easily find these in the produce section of that Piggly Wiggly this time of year, or, you can slave over them in your garden all summer long, battling squash bugs like it's your job (which, it will be; squash bugs are the devil).

Slice the pumpkins open, scoop out the seeds and slimy membranes (reserve for roasted seeds, if that's how you roll), place cut-side-down on a cookie sheet, poke rind with a sharp knife in several places to allow steam to escape, and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size and thickness of the pumpkin. You will know the pumpkin is done when a fork will insert easily into the rind when poked (dirty!).

When the pumpkins are done baking, allow to cool until they can be easily handled. Peel the rind off the pumpkin, place flesh in a bowl and puree with an immersion blender until smooth (or, use a blender. Or, a food processor. Or, if you are feeling super-Hulk-like rage, beat the hell out of that shit with your bare hands, whatever floats your boat).

Allow the puree to sit for an hour or so and drain off any excess liquid that accumulates. Then, in a mixing bowl, blend together:

1 1/3 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/3 cups sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup hot water

Pour into unbaked pie shell and bake for about an hour at 375 degrees. The center of the pie will be slightly jiggly, but, don't freak out and stick it back in the oven; it's done, I promise.

Now, hopefully, your pie will be lovely and Norman-Rockwell-Thanksgiving-picture-perfect, mine, however, turned out super-unattractive this year. I blame the homemade crust that Mom insisted we make (I suck at crust! The Pillsbury Company exists for a reason!). However, whipped cream can hide a multitude of sins, so, if your pie is ugly like mine, go forth and build a three or four inch whipped cream hat on that sucker and call it good.

Or, you know, just eat the damn thing; it may look ugly, but it tastes amazing.

True story.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And Then There Was Pie

Today has been a little more productive than yesterday, heavy emphasis on the "little". I did manage to meet Phoebe for lunch and I baked the pumpkin pie for our holiday dessert.

The pie is pumpkin, from scratch; I even used the pumpkins that I grew in my garden. And, I wore an apron, which, makes it a bit more of an authentic effort at the "I baked all day" fantasy than beating an egg and spices into pumpkin puree while wearing jeans and a t-shirt does.

In my mind, anyway.

Now, I'm sitting in a recliner, counting the minutes until The Teenager and Barbie arrive from the Front Range, at which point, the party can really get started. And, by "party", I mean foot rubs and wine drinking (The wine drinking will exclude The Teenager, just in case you assumed that I have lost my parenting edge).

Tomorrow, Hugh and the Man-Cub arrive and we will add video games and naps to the party plans. Because we are party animals, I mean, obviously.

Anyway, it will feel really good to get my people back under one roof for a while, and, I'm not just saying that because there will be pie.

But, I do like a good pie.

Monday, November 24, 2014

This Should Feel Wrong

Mom and I were planning to drive over the mountains to Colorado Springs early this morning so that she could make it to an appointment with her arthritis specialist, but, when she checked the road reports at 5:00, she decided to reschedule the appointment for another time; there was just too great a chance of running into the storm predicted for the area.

So, instead of driving three hours in high winds and white-out conditions, we got an extra couple of hours of sleep. Then, we drank coffee and snuggled under blankets in front of the television with the satellite tuned to The Food Network.

And, with the exception of several brief moments in the kitchen-where we whipped up thirty-two breakfast burritos, a pot of chili, and a pan of cornbread-we have been here all day.

I honestly feel like I should be ashamed.

But, I'm too lazy to care.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Bake

I made the trip to Mayberry yesterday and I will be here through Thanksgiving weekend. I wanted to be here, today, because it is Mom and Dad's anniversary and I wanted to spend it with Mom. When I asked her what we should do today, we both agreed that staying busy would be best, so, we did what we have always done prior to a holiday: we baked.

Mom taught me how to make her famous crescent rolls. Well, actually mom demonstrated to me how to make them; I won't actually consider myself to be capable of making them until I am required to do it on my own one day...many, many years from now (rolls are Mom's domain until the day she can no longer wield a rolling pin, y'all).

Now, the kitchen is warm and toasty and smells a little bit like what I imagine Heaven to smell like. Dad would be proud.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thursday Throwback

About a million years ago (that's, like, six years in Blog Time), I used to do a weekly flashback post on Fridays. I called it the Friday Flashback (because, well, duh) and I enjoyed writing it. Since I have become a half-empty nester, I have found myself lacking for blog content, so, I thought that I might bring back the flashback posts.

However, Fridays tend to be a hectic day around here, and this will only get worse with the Man-Cub's basketball schedule, so, I am going to aim for Thursday.

And, hey, look! Today is Thursday!

So, here is a little something that I actually wrote for Rocky Mountain Moms back when it was a functional website (ah, the days of being an unpaid community blogger)....

Yesterday, my eleven year old son arrived home from school later than usual and in tears. Actually, he was more than just in tears, he was sobbing, sobbing so hard that it was difficult to understand what he was saying and, the story that he told me once I finally managed to get him calmed down made me want to sob.
Which, ok, that's a lie, it made me want to scream and, eventually, I would.
So, the story is this; while riding his scooter home (we live less than six blocks from the school), he spotted a dog sitting on the roadside. Thinking the dog might be lost, he approached, leaned his scooter up against a tree and proceeded to check the dog's neck for a collar and tags. The dog barked and my son backed away from him which is when an old man across the street started yelling at my son to "stop kicking his neighbor's dog".
My son tried to explain that he hadn't hurt the dog and was merely looking for a collar but the man was on a roll and began yelling at my son to shut his mouth and to stay where he was because the man was going to call the police.
So, because he has been taught to obey his elders, my son stayed right where he was while the man, who clearly had no intention of (nor reason for) calling the police, glared at him from his front porch. From what I have gathered, my son remained in that position, crying his eyes out, for fifteen to twenty minutes before following the advice of two neighborhood girls and scooting home to tell me what had happened. 

As he related the story, he was shaking, his breath hitching in his chest and he finished with "I was just so scared!"

I have never really understood  "I saw red" as a figure of speech until precisely that moment.
I hustled my son into the car, drove to our hardware store and told my husband what was going on (or, as our employees would have you believe, I stormed into the store, demanded that my husband "get in the car right. This. Instant!") and we drove to the man's house to what? Demand an apology? Shame him into oblivion? I didn't know but I knew that I couldn't let the matter stand for two reasons; one, my son wasn't in the wrong and I wanted him to know that we will always stand up for him and, two, when an adult uses the threat of calling a police officer to scare a child when no crime has been committed, he had damn well better be prepared to have a police officer show up on his doorstep to call him on it.

Which is why my husband called the officer on duty and asked him to meet us at the man's house.
We met the officer in the drive-way, explained the situation and, aided by the neighborhood girls who had witnessed the entire scene and who were more than willing to give statements to the facts; approached the man to get his side of the story which ended up being a total denial of having said anything at all to my son or to the girls. He was also about three sheets to the wind and not very bright which may, or may not, have contributed to his actions which included calling my son a liar.
Thus commenced the screaming.
I am not a violent person by nature. I avoid conflict whenever possible and believe that harmony and goodwill should reign supreme but, let me assure you; I will not stand idly by and allow an adult, who should know better, to terrorize my son for no better reason than to entertain himself (the neighborhood girls informed us that the man had laughed when my son scooted off crying. He was actually proud of himself for making an eleven year old kid cry).
In defense of my cub, I said some not-very-nice things. Rather loudly.
The man did not apologize but I am relatively certain that he will think twice before threatening another kid.
My son appears to have recovered from the experience and now understands that he doesn't have to obey every adult and that certain situations dictate that he simply walk away lest his mother have another opportunity to go she-bear on some poor old drunk lacking the common sense that God gave a titmouse.
I just wish there had been a less painful way to learn the lesson; my throat is really sore today.
This is an original post to Rocky Mountain Moms Blog. Michelle can also be found at Ms. Congeniality where she is currently formulating a plan for World Peace, one angst-ridden teeanger at a time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

When Do You Give Up?

Our tree light dilemma appears to have been mostly solved; Hugh changed out a couple million tiny bulbs and the problematic strand is now 99% functional.

Unfortunately, the minute that problem was solved, we noticed that a large section of lights in the middle of the tree was dark. Because, of course.

Hugh gave the branches in question a solid smack and the lights blinked back on. Obviously, this does not bode well for the longevity of the tree.

Indeed, as I sit here typing this, I steal an occasional glance at the tree, and, I have to admit; the poor thing has seen better days. There are bare spots, where the branches are no longer flexible enough to stand up tall, and the shape of the tree is less triangular than it is irregular. I know that it will look fine once I get the decorations on it, but, I have to wonder; how much longer do I make something look good on the surface when it is so clearly broken at the core?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Karma Really IS a Boomerang

Hugh attempted to put up the Christmas tree last night. I say "attempted" because; when he got to the final piece-the top of the tree-the lights wouldn't work. Wait, that's not entirely accurate: half of the lights wouldn't work. How does that happen? I have no idea. What I do know is that we have had more technical difficulties while putting up the decorations this year than in any year that I can remember. I'm talking breakage, lights that don't work, missing items, etc.

It has been quite frustrating.

It has also been a little humorous, mainly because I keep picturing Dad laughing and laughing at my irritation.

I can't help but think that this is karma for all the times I teased him about bellowing out "You sappo mother!" every time he was frustrated by our old Christmas tree.

I never thought I would be thankful for karma, but, there ya go. Stranger things have happened, I guess.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Grateful For Apparently Having Had My Shit Together Last Year

Yesterday, I climbed into the attic to pull down the boxes of general Christmas decorations. Through the transparent lid of the first tote, I noticed a piece of paper and, out of curiosity, opened that box first. On top of the items in the box was a handwritten list of the contents of the box, which, made it really easy for me to decide if the box was worth hauling down the ladder, down the stairs, and into the living room (I use different decorations year-to-year, depending on my mood or theme).

I vaguely remembered writing the lists last year, and, by vaguely, I mean that I had the following conversation inside my head: "Wow! Did I do that? I don't quite recall doing that. Shit! That is amazing! Look how much work Past Me just saved Current Me! Go, Me!".

Past Me kind of rocks.

Current Me is super grateful.

And, long story short (ha! Too Late!), the house is 99% decorated for the holidays. The final 1% will happen later this evening when Hugh and the Man-Cub pull the tree out of the attic and we get it trimmed.

Hugh even made sure that everything that plugs in is on one of three channels of a remote, so; my goal of walking into the house on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, pushing a button, and lighting up the neighborhood like the freaking Griswold's is within my grasp...

...this excites me more than it would excite a normal person.

I'm not normal; I own that.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grateful for Possibilities

Had my brother lived, today would have been his 45th birthday. I am also 45 and will be for the next fifteen days, so, we were totally twins!  Irish Twins, but, you know, close enough.

I called my mom earlier this evening to see how she was doing and we chatted a little about how Dad must be enjoying his first opportunity to spend his son's birthday with him. I'm betting there was a ball of some sort involved. Or, beer. I guess it all depends on your idea about Heaven and how it works up there. I personally believe that we see the people we love in the form that we want to see them in, and, I believe that that form can change, depending on what we need to see.

If I'm right, Dad will watch his son grow up, finally.

I can't think of a bigger blessing, today.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What Would Martha Stewart Do?

As I have been slowly decorating the house for Christmas, I've made a conscious effort to avoid the areas of the house that are still decorated with fall colors and Thanksgiving decorations. I've done that because, as I was putting away the Halloween decorations, I casually informed Hugh that my plan was to skip the cornucopias, pumpkins, pilgrims, and turkey décor because decorating for three holidays in two months was just too much for me to handle; might as well skip straight to Christmas, since getting it out early was the plan.

Hugh? Not so much on board with that plan.

I think he was worried that it was some sort of sign that I was shutting down or spiraling down into a deep depression from which I might never Martha my way out. The alarmed look on his face when he asked me if I was, you know, serious, was enough to make me rethink the plan.

So, the house is currently sporting both Christmas and Thanksgiving décor. It's somewhat bi-polar, but, thankfully, my reputation as a Homemaking Diva is intact.


What a relief. Am I right?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Counting My Blessings. And Counting, And Counting

This weekend was very productive.

Or, I suppose I should say, I was very productive this weekend (1.)

Mission Get Off My Ass started Friday, after work, when I enlisted the Man-Cub's help to cart the numerous boxes containing my Christmas village down from the attic. Upon depositing the last box in the living room, the Cub jetted out the door to spend the afternoon and evening playing basketball with his friends at the Rec. Center, and, I can't say that I blame him; village construction is time consuming and exhausting. Plus, it wasn't called Mission Get the Cub Off HIS Ass for a reason.

Anyhoodle, I started working on setting up the miniature houses, shops, and tiny residents at 3:30 and I placed the last tree in just the right location at 8:40. Granted, a large majority of the time was spent staring helplessly at the boxes as I tried to decide exactly how to get started, but, once I was in the groove, things went a little faster.

I did struggle a bit with cord management again this year, discovering an entire strand of lights that had died while in storage; I'm guessing the death was due to natural causes and don't suspect foul play. Unfortunately, I also discovered more breakage this year than in any year that I can readily recall, so; repair time was added to the chore (2.)

But, once the job was completed, I had a gorgeous display that will look amazing once I actually turn it on (3.)

Saturday morning, the Man-Cub and I made a trip to the Salvation Army to drop off several bags of clothing that had accumulated in the garage over the past couple of years. While we were driving into Hooterville, Mom called to say that she had finally been able to access my Dad's online Fantasy Football accounts and had discovered an $800 credit. She was tickled with the windfall because Dad had told the Man-Cub last summer that he and Mom wanted to pay for his sports camps over the next couple of years and she wanted me to let the Cub know that this was Dad's way of making sure that it happens, which, I did (4.)

The Cub was just as tickled as Mom, I think.

Later in the afternoon, I made the drive to Neighboring City for my monthly trip through Sam's Club. I always enjoy going there this time of year because there are usually good deals to be found on holiday items. This year, not so much. But, that was ok because I had more cash to spend on cute things in the mall and at Hobby Lobby, which ended up working out better, anyway (5.)

Sunday was the busiest day of the weekend by far. In all, I managed to: wash, dry and fold six loads of laundry, make deposits for two days worth of money at the store, write payroll checks, cook a whole chicken, store six quarts of homemade chicken broth, clean out the fridge, decorate the front porch for Christmas, which included putting up a tree, stringing lighted garland, and hanging three wreaths. Oh, and, before that, I swept the porch and brushed the cobwebs from the corners and ceilings.

It should be noted that the Man-Cub assisted with the tree by putting together the ancient (well, 23-year-old) tree stand, which, he accomplished in about a minute flat and while whistling Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (this feat usually requires Hugh's efforts plus a hammer and a string of cuss words). I swear, that child becomes more my hero every day.

I also took a thirty minute nap, because, well, because I was exhausted.

But, as I said, I accomplished so much! And, I know that it is really early to start decking the halls with Christmas decorations; trust me, I know. I'm only doing it because I will be in Mayberry for the week leading up to Thanksgiving and I don't know how I'll feel when I get back. What if I don't have it in me to be festive after spending the first holiday of our New Normal? It wouldn't be fair to the kids for me to skimp on my usual Christmas fare, so, I am planning ahead in the event that my heart just ain't in it when I get back.

I'm planning for crisis because that is what I do.

Also, because it keeps me busy and focused on the moment, and, when you are living moment-to-moment, focus is important.

Of course, at this rate, I'll have Valentine's Day cookies baked and frosted by Christmas Eve.

Ha! Kidding (6.)

Blessing Count: 6

(1) Grateful for an able body.

(2) Grateful for Super Glue.

(3) Grateful for friends and family who have gifted me with various pieces for the village since I began collecting it back in the early 90's.

(4) So very grateful that Dad is still finding little ways to show us that he is here, with us, and for us.

(5) Grateful for jobs that provide a decent living for my family.

(6) Grateful that I inherited my Dad's sense of humor.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Another Day, Another Thing

Earlier this morning, as I was drinking my coffee, I watched Guinness as he balanced on the windowsill, stealthily stalking the birds outside the breakfast nook window despite the glass barrier between them.

I keep two feeders for the flock of birds that reside in the bushes in our back alley and there is always a show going on outside that window. This provides a plethora of opportunities for Guinness to channel his inner jungle cat. Unfortunately for Guinness, centuries of breeding have left his species less "jungle cat" and more Three Stooges, as evidenced by the comical fall he took from the window ledge during this morning's stalking.

I laughed. HARD.

He was not amused.

I meant to do that.
Finnigan was watching from his favorite spot; the rug on the floor in front of the French doors that lead out to the back porch. From there, he can watch the birds at the feeders; he also had the perfect view of his brother falling off the window ledge like Curly doing his best pratfall. You would think that Finnigan would be used to the occurrence, given the fact that poor Guinness is about the clumsiest cat on planet Earth, yet, he still managed to look slightly appalled.
The hell, bro? You are ruining our reputation for always landing on our feet.
Guinness recovered quickly and was back in the window in no time. He's still there, actually, since it is still early and the buffet is clearly open, as there are about twenty birds perched at the feeders.
Whatever, I'm fine.
I'm grateful for having had this little comedy to watch this morning. Mornings are hard, recently, and it's a blessing to be able to belly-laugh at someone else's expense.
Wait, that totally came out wrong.
But you probably know what I meant.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Day Five, With a Side of Rant

This is a soapbox...this is my brain on a soapbox...

Let's say, hypothetically, that one was working with a family to help preserve their parental rights. Let's say that the parents were in hypothetical danger of losing their three kids because they could not consistently provide the necessities required by the family. Let's say then, that one was assisting the family in creating a budget and had learned that the family received housing assistance that enabled them to pay $50 a month in rent for a five bedroom house (Yes, $50.00. FIFTY. 5-0) as well as recieving $798 in food stamps, $598 in cash assistance, and $325 in survivor's benefits.

Let's then say, hypothetically, that this family was three months behind in rent payments and was requesting funding from the program that one worked for; funding in the amount of $100 to fix a tire on the family's vehicle.

Let's add, hypothetically, that, during the budgeting process, it was disclosed that the family currently spends $220 per month on soda and candy (Dad has a sweet tooth, hypothetically), $175 per month on cigarettes, $286 per month on cell phone service, and $77.50 on dog food, in addition to the other expenses that a family of five routinely encounters.

Let us go on to learn, hypothetically, that neither parent is currently willing to work because doing so will force a reduction in the amount of public assistance that they are eligible to receive. Nor are they willing to reduce the amount of money that they spend on the above-mentioned items because "there is only so much in life from which they can derive pleasure and they deserve some happiness".

Now, hypothetically speaking, would it be wrong for one to mentally envision reaching across a table and bitch-slapping a hypothetical client's face?


Good, that brings me to the things for which I am grateful, today.

I am grateful for having parents who raised me to understand that I am morally required to EARN my living.

I am grateful for having had the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning to better enable myself to earn that living and I am eternally grateful to my parents for instilling in me the value of education.

I am grateful to have the job that I have, despite feeling the occasional need to bang my head against a wall, and, I am grateful for the people I work with for allowing me to vent my frustration with a system that is pretty clearly broken; you know, hypothetically speaking.

I am also quite grateful that I never took up smoking, because $175 a month for cigarettes? Jebus H. Cripes! Do you have any idea how much OPI that would buy?


Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Day Four

Today I attended the weekly meeting of my women's service group. It was the first meeting that I have attended since I have been back from Mayberry and the members showered me with hugs and pats on the back and gentle stroking. The majority of these women are older than me, by more than a couple of decades in many cases, yet they are as close to me as friends my own age.

A number of the women have experienced great loss, husbands, parents, children, friends; so they understand the stages of grief better than most. I am grateful for the wisdom that they shared with me today. I'm grateful for the comfort they provided.

I'm super grateful for the riotous game of BINGO that we played at the conclusion of the meeting, not because I won (I so did not), but because it was another reminder that there will always be laughter to follow the tears. Also, because it reminded me quite clearly of the years when my sisters and I would accompany Dad to the veteran's center to call out BINGO for the residents; those were fun times and they made for some great memories.

I'm grateful for memories these days as well as for the people who jog them from the recesses of my mind.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Thirty Days, Day Three

Today I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds me. I know how lucky I am to live in a state that is as colorful as the people who call it home. This fall, in particular, has been gorgeous.

When I was in Mayberry for my Dad's funeral, I spent several afternoons walking in my old neighborhood; the weather was unseasonably warm and the colors heartbreakingly beautiful.

The warmth of the late-season sun, the colors of the leaves, the distinct autumn scent in the air and the sound of the leaves falling gently to the ground combined to soothe me as I walked. I felt connected to my Dad in a way that I couldn't experience when I was indoors, no matter how hard I tried.

Those walks saved me.

And I am grateful.