Sunday, December 31, 2017

Goodbye to 2017

I woke up this morning in a Winter Wonderland. Before leaving for church I brushed the snow off my car into the street so Sergio didn't have to clean that shovelful (or two or three) off the driveway, 'cause I'm nice like that, and drove through a Christmas Card world. On the way home the snow fell off wires and branches in huge fluffy clumps. It was glorious!

On the way home I stopped to get gas, and then ran in Barnes and Nobel to pick up a couple of books that didn't come in time for the holidays. I meant to buy only the two books I'd ordered, but the fifty percent off Christmas sale sucked me in. I found a nice holiday puzzle, and a picture book to give my grandkids next year (I bought five copies.) and then I saw these really cool Advent calendars with no chocolate involved. (I bought six. One for me because it feels like I've lost the excitement of Jesus' birth in the commercialism.) I'm hoping to recapture some of the wonder I felt as a small child as the birth of Christ drew near, and hopefully pass some of it on to my grandchildren.

Rachel and I took our brother out for a ride through the frozen countryside this afternoon. She has good snow tires and it's a good thing. We drove down snowy back roads past snow covered bison and the Brantling Ski Slope where die-hard skiers were braving frigid wind chills. Brave souls! Tim was treated to his "small chocolate Frosty, please"before we returned him to the house. I am blessed to hear him speak short words and phrases, and grace us with hugs when it's time to go. He watches out the window as we get in the car and drive away.

Tonight, although I was invited for chicken soup at the house in Williamson, I am here in my attic room. It's cold and blustery, and I've been fighting that sinus pressure again this weekend. I decided to toast the New Year with a capful of Nyquil and tuck myself into bed. 2017 will soon be a memory. It was a year full of joys and challenges, laughter and tears. I can't say I'm glad to see it go... Some people are always bidding good riddance to the past year, as if it was some kind of plague... The New Year will come bringing its own blessings and sorrow. There will be pain and celebration, just like always, and many reason to smile and be grateful.

The Barn Collective

The sun was bright. I decided to take Lake Road along the southern shore of Lake Ontario before turning south again. Past field, farm, and rolling lake waves I went, stopping now and again to snap a picture and then turned south toward home.
Typically hidden by trees and foliage, and still hiding even without the greenery, this decrepit property on Stony Lonesome Road caught my eye on Christmas on my way to our holiday gathering. "Posted." It's likely the sign that has always kept me at bay, although I've often considered taking a walk through the trees to get a closer look. The house, covered in vines, will soon succumb to the elements. Heavy snows, fierce winds, and icy gales could wrest it to the ground before the warm winds of spring return... Perhaps a walk one winter day when I am back in the area. Perhaps.

The barn, not so well hidden by trees and brush, appears to be faring much better than its companion. Maybe it's that metal roof, or maybe it's the plain and simple fact that the farmer tending the trees saw more value in the outbuilding than the house. Either way, barring catastrophe, the barn looks ready to brave another decade of winters.

Perhaps there is a correlation to life mixed into this setting... but I think I'll save that for another day. ha ha!

Visit The Barn Collective with me!

Thursday, December 28, 2017


It's time for me to go to sleep now, and I will be doing that soon. I've taken my cold medicine and something to help me feel drowsy because I had a rather lengthy nap after coming home from work early again this afternoon. I felt tired and achy and made up my mind it was good that they'd not needed me to stay until closing. I'd fallen asleep to the sound of a family interacting downstairs and woke to the voice of my grandson playing with his young uncle. My eyes, swollen and sticky from congestion, preferred to stay shut, but I knew I would never sleep at night if I didn't pull myself out of bed.

It's been a strange kind of week. One day blurs into the next and I find myself purposely concentrating on what day of the week this is. It hardly seems possible tomorrow is Friday. By the time I return to work on Tuesday, another short week ahead, the New Year will have begun. 2018. What does it have in store for me? What adventures will it bring?

2017 was a hard year. An impossibly difficult one. God has not left me alone or to myself. He is, rather, growing me in ways I never imagined. I've found in Him the strength to go hard places and do hard things. He has made me courageous in spite of fear and strong in spite of weakness. He has filled my days with just the right amounts of people and activity, given me a job I enjoy, and love and affection to go with it. I have new friends and deepened relationships with old ones. My family has begun the long and arduous process of healing and recovery. If you are the praying type, I covet your prayers for us. God knows exactly what we need and when, and He is providing. When I am lonely, I am never really alone because He is never far away. It's been a hard year, but a good one too.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Short Week at Work

I got out of work at break time today, so I came home and took a nap. We're having some blustery weather, but what really sent me home was the center being short on children. Tomorrow I will clean some more kitchen cabinets and cook up a vegetable lasagna. And then we'll see if I get to leave early again.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Checking In

Yesterday was Christmas. We gathered as a family, ate the traditional lasagna, and watched A Muppet Christmas Carol. It was a good day. I didn't feel stressed aside from the knotted muscle that made it feel like there was a knife in my shoulder blade. I haven't yet decided if I slept wrong or my body is stressed when my mind isn't.

I had a surprise package awaiting me at the house. I should have taken more pictures, but in the midst of the chaos that is Christmas, I didn't. It came in a Barnes and Noble box. I'd ordered a few books from Barnes and Noble but they for pick up at the store and I hadn't paid for them yet. The return address said Owego, NY. I looked at the name on the box and realized it was a package from my cousin Ondra. Inside was a card, a pound of coffee, and a box that contained something that looked like a camera lens.

I took it out of the box and handed it to my small grandson. Number Nine knew just what it was. He held it up to his mouth and tipped his head back. (He's brilliant, I tell you!) The Cabinetmaker hadn't seen it yet. "Hey, James," I called. "Catch!" And before he could think, I tossed it to him. He looked startled, then worried, and scrambled to catch it, hardly believing I would carelessly toss such an expensive piece of equipment. He fumbled and dropped it on the floor and was terribly relieved to find it was a travel mug and not an actual camera lens. Ha ha!

Surprise gifts are the best and this one is very cool.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

I wore my tartan plaid jammy pants to bed last night and had waffles for breakfast this morning. There is a blanket of freshly fallen Christmas now on the ground, and all is well. I am okay. Better than last year when I pushed my way through for the sake of others, but wasn't being honest with myself or my family. I am okay.

Last night was spent with three other single women. We ate dinner, watched a video, shared some cookies and hot chocolate, and visited. I came home early enough to stay with my sleeping grandson so his mom and dad could venture out and then fell asleep downstairs, so I could hear the child if he awoke, and stumbled upstairs when Hannah and Sergio returned. It was a nice, calm evening.

Soon I will pack up my presents and pumpkin pie ingredients, brush the fresh snow off my car, and venture out to "Dad's House." We will have Christmas and be a family, because no matter where this journey takes us, we are family forever. Bruised and broken perhaps, but family.

I am looking forward to lasagna and laughter, but mostly to seeing my grandchildren. I miss them.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

It's Almost Christmas

It's Sunday morning and Christmas Eve. I am here in my attic bedroom instead of heading out the door to church. My head is stuffy and my body aches. I am hoping an abundance of fluids and a bit of quiet will help with a miraculous recovery. In the meantime, I will be thankful for the gift of discomfort that provides a bit of understanding for terribly cranky, runny-nosed babies and small children at work who are unable to explain why all they want is to cry and be cuddled.

It another different kind of Christmas. I am not at "home" and yet I am... I spent all my childhood Christmases here. The walls reverberate with memories, and the falling snow transports me quickly and quietly back in time to days of Mom baking cookies in the little galley kitchen, Dad leafing through Ideal magazines while he sips coffee in his corner rocking chair, and my sisters and I playing in the presents underneath the Christmas tree. The snow drifts down in fat, fluffy flakes and we are safe and warm...

Tomorrow, sick or not, I will travel through the snow to spend Christmas Day in my "other home," the one my kids now call "Dad's house." My heart will swell and ache as I sift through memories and emotions. I may come home sad and confused, or perhaps God will grant me the gift of clearer understanding as to where I am headed.

I've missed baking Christmas cookies, assembling graham crackers houses, and trimming the family tree this year, but it's been a season full of blessings. My heart may ache, but it is full as well. My son met me at the Christmas Eve Eve service last night. He has a new job he loves and I am one blessed mom. What better Christmas gift is there than knowing your child is happy and encouraged?

Monday, December 18, 2017

Counting Down

Christmas is just one week away. Am I ready? Will I be? I suppose it will be what it will be. I've wrapped most of the books I got my grandchildren. That's a good start. I've burned CD's for my kids, and that's good too. I think even the ones who aren't country/bluegrass fans will appreciate listening to their grandfather play his banjo and harmonica. I know I do, but then again he was my daddy. I watched and listened to him play my entire life. Soothing, calming, reassuring.

I am less stressed out this holiday season. I am more stressed by the birthday I missed today. Number Two turned nine. I didn't hear of there being a party for a grandmother to attend, and I failed to find a proper gift. I so want to be a good grandma and feel so much like I am falling short. I hardly ever see them anymore... How can I be a good grandma if I don't see them? And how can I see them when I work full time? It is an unfamiliar season of life and terribly different than I imagined it would be. Not terrible, just terribly different.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Change of Plans

There are now 20 sets of CD's awaiting distribution. They are the gifts I most wanted to give this Christmas. Dad playing his banjo or mandolin, and harmonica. I've already given away three sets to Ben, James, and Hannah and I know others are anxious to have theirs too.

I spent most of the day with The Cabinetmaker. We made Boston Brown Bread for Uncle Chuck's holiday dinner, and burned CD's. We were almost to the party house when Rachel called to tell us the venue had double booked and we were relocating. The gathering was now an hour away from Williamson and we opted to turn around and go home instead. We ordered a pizza with Ben and watched The Santa Clause, although I have inherited my mother's innate inability to stay awake through an entire movie. I fell asleep when Scott and Charlie arrived at the North Pole, and aside from the scene where Judy brings him hot chocolate, didn't wake up until it was over.

One more day to my weekend. I need to have my oil changed, pay my Target bill, and return a book tomorrow before going to see Tim with Rachel. This time we'll take him out for a ride and one small chocolate Frosty. And maybe if I am diligent, I will wrap the rest of those story books I got my grandchildren for Christmas.

Tim's Christmas Party

We hadn't come to take him out for a ride, but he wasn't about to take no for an answer, so off we went for a ride around the block before finding a spot at the table in the dining area. He is all about routines. Well routines and food. Mostly food. Especially if that food is cookies.

The past two Christmases have come and gone with no family invitation to a Christmas Party, but the Cobblestone House always has one. It's where Tim lived for many years before his non-ambulatory status took him to the single level residence across the street. It's wonderful to see him back "home" in the Cobblestone again, and with people who know and love him.

It was a good visit. He scarfed down his chili and snacks (They have him count to ten to slow him down a little...), stole the snacks off Rachel's plate, and ate my cookie. He ate every cookie he could get his hands on. All he could think about was cookies.

And then there was the gift Rachel had put together and wrapped. She held it up to talk with him about it. "What does this say?" she asked him. It was a test because although we "know" he can read, we're always looking for a little more assurance. "Thankful for you!" he replied in his hurried, monotone voice and we smiled, knowing all over again there is more going on inside of this brother than we can typically see on the outside.

Before leaving we had a staff member take our picture. He wrapped his arms around us but couldn't get his eyes and concentration off the snacks in the kitchen. "Give me cookie, please!" he begged, as if he hadn't already consumed half a dozen. Ha ha!

I told him we were ready to go but would be back to take him out for a ride on Sunday. He gave us a hug and literally showed us the door. I mean he dragged us over there and then watched us go through the window.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bits and Pieces

* Weeks are long and short.

* In daycare babies "move up." I do not like this piece of the picture, but am grateful I can still visit them and pass out hugs, even if the teacher doesn't always appear to appreciate my presence.

* I am achy. Perhaps it is whatever gets passed around in childcare facilities, perhaps I am getting old and decrepit, or perhaps my inner pains are manifesting in physical symptoms.

* It's cold outside. It is suddenly winter. Did I mention that it's cold?

* I signed up for another pottery class. Same one as before. Same time, same instructor. It starts in January.

* I am not ready for Christmas, but that's okay. If I can find a spot of time to wrap the books I bought my grandies, I will be almost ready.

* I want to decorate cookies and build graham cracker houses.

* I miss The Naughties.

* I am torn in little, bitty pieces.

* Tomorrow is another day and after work I am going to meet my sister at our brother's Christmas Party. I've missed this yearly celebration. His other house didn't ever invite us to a Christmas Party.

* Saturday afternoon is a family holiday dinner with my Uncle Chuck. I have no clue what to bring.

* Sunday is our bi-weekly visit with Tim.

* Perhaps I can put my camera to work this weekend.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

When Autumn Turns to Christmas

I went for a walk in the Little Strip of Woods yesterday afternoon. Leaves, bronzed by time and temperature, now fallen to the ground, covered the narrowing path and forest floor. In the center of the trees a shallow pool of swampy water had frozen into a skating rink for tiny woodland animals. A squirrel, excited by my presence, scurried over the frozen surface and found refuge in an barren tree.

Late this afternoon the dark of autumn was miraculously transformed into the joy of Christmas when giant, fluffy flakes fell from a winter sky. I sat in the church parking lot as the wagons and horses were unloaded and hitched together for an evening hay ride. Inside the church carols played, cookies were served, and families gathered to celebrate the birth of Christ.

I don't know how they timed this celebration to correlate so perfectly with such a magical snowfall! It may be that someone on the planning committee has a grand connection with the Maker of the Universe. He has a way of knitting together events and "chance meetings." I spent the evening with a friend who had also arrived alone. Neither one of us felt awkward or out of place. It was just like God put us together on purpose tonight.

Friday, December 08, 2017

The Babysitter Test.

Do you remember this game?

I am quite accustomed to small children and their messes. In the past seven months I've been drooled on, peed on, spit up on, and boogered. I've had baby poop on my cheek. (Be careful when you smell them.) I've caught a blanket full of puke, and cleaned up utter blow-outs. It's part of the joy of working in the Infant Room. Needless to say I wasn't too concerned about spending the evening with my small grandson.

I cooked his oatmeal, fed him his supper, and we played with some toys. Soon it was bath time. He's over a year so I decided to forgo the baby bath and put him right into the tub. He seemed to like the bath and didn't cry when I washed and rinsed his hair. He looked at his toys and babbled at me. I heard a small noise and thought he  must have passed a bit of gas but didn't see any bubbles... I should have paid a little more attention. Maybe I should have investigated sooner, but other than the little noise there wasn't any sign of trouble. And then I saw it. It was poop.

Even seasoned moms panic a little when there are things floating around the bathtub that shouldn't be there... I mean, it's not like you can just say, "Well, the bath's over now, I'll just get you dressed." Nope. He was contaminated and now the contaminated child had to be removed from the tub and contained, the tub drained and disinfected, the toys bleached, and the boy re-bathed. When I couldn't get the tub drain opened (It has a plug that screws into place... Recall there are "things" in the water I don't want to handle...) I had to let go of the squirming child who then found the toilet lid to be a grand toy. I had to reach into the  poop infested water over and over until I finally got the drain plug loosened. To my initial horror, half the poo went down the drain with the water. Later I was relieved and thankful I was able to wash the rest of it down as well. Then I had to pick up the contaminated child, contaminating myself even further, and find my bottle of bleach with which to disinfect the bathtub so I could re-bathe the boy. We both survived. Putting him to bed was actually more traumatic than the bath. One more Babysitter Test to my account.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What Elf?

I didn't intend to join in the game, but I looked up and there he was sitting on my shelf...

He hasn't been naughty yet. Just sits there lighting the room up with his smile. I let him ride the dog. The quiet dog who eats little and doesn't mind sleeping on the floor. The dog who doesn't shed and barks quietly. The dog who hasn't yet peed on the floor,  chewed up my new boots, or chased the cat. I'm guessing they probably frolic about when I'm gone to work, but they're good about cleaning up after themselves because I never notice anything new out of place. And the "other" dog likely joins in the fun because it would be terribly difficult to resist. Dont'cha think?

Monday, December 04, 2017

How Now

Rachel and I went to visit Tim yesterday. It was a beautiful day for a drive. I took my camera along and she stopped, backed up, and turned around just so I could get a few pictures.

I don't know why I love cows. Perhaps it is their long eyelashes or fuzzy ears. Perhaps it is the way they look up in curiosity when we moo at them. (They probably think we're idiots.) I can't remember if Rachel mooed, but Tim and I did. Maybe he likes cows too.

He's been back at his old house for a while now, this brother of ours, and he's doing okay. They know him at a better baseline than the caretakers in the other building and I am certain some of them genuinely care about him. In two weeks they're having a Christmas Party! Maybe we need to find him a present.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Clock of the Nations

When it was Christmas time in the 60's and 70's, one of my favorite parts was the evening ride to Midtown Plaza in Rochester, NY. I could hardly wait to get there, and if it was cold enough to snow, it was even better! The underground parking garage was exciting, and so was shopping in a mall. The Christmas displays were impressive, and the Sibley's Tunnel always gave a thrill to children's hearts.

We never rode the monorail and rarely talked to Santa, but it was a breathtaking childhood holiday custom just the same. Between the Midtown fountain and my shock at the Abominable snowman in the newly released Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer special, I even managed to have nightmares. The Clock of the Nations never really caught my eye until much later, and by then it was almost too late.

When I was a little girl Mom would tell about the year she went to Midtown Plaza and was looking at the clock when a voice called out above the crowd. "Hi, Arlene!" She looked up and there was her cousin Tom fixing the Clock of the Nations, and they had a little conversation right there in the middle of the busy Midtown Plaza. According to his sister in law, who I saw yesterday at his memorial service, he was the only one back then who knew how to fix it. A photo was captioned "Clock of the Nations- Tom's pride and joy."

The Clock of the Nations was moved to the Greater Rochester Airport years ago and is now locked behind security door where most of us will rarely see it. I wonder how often Tom flew back here from his home in Florida and stopped to gaze at the Clock of the Nations and smile at his old friend...