December 29, 2011

The Year in Review

The media has begun its 'year in review' and 'the year's top stories', so I started to reflect on my year and what I would pick as the top ten events.  2011 has been a humdinger, and as I looked back, I discovered something very important.  It wasn't all bad.  Here are my top ten from the past year:

1. Both my mother and my mother-in-law reached the end of their lives.  Both death certificates cite 'failure to thrive' as cause of death.  I wonder if that's the new term for 'natural causes'.  Neither of them failed to thrive in their lives.  Both grew up in low income homes.  My mom sold violets to earn money for food.  Her feet showed the deformity of wearing ill fitted shoes handed down from her sisters.  Lib took care of many of her 11 siblings.  They both were wonderful seamstresses and needle crafters.  They were not college educated, but could run circles around anyone with a degree.  Most of all, they were devoted to their families and were excellent mothers who made sure they raised children who would make a difference in the world.  Failure to thrive? No, not these two.  So, I suggest that the medical community come up with a better term.

2.  Another loss this year was Baby Bird's great grandfather and the Sr. for whom he is named.  I only knew this great guy through a brief encounter when Jaybird and Mama Cat were wed, but he left a lasting impression.  Like Lib and Evelyn, he was one of the ones that earned the title, "Greatest Generation".  He set an example for his sons and grandsons that I am certain is going to be handed down to Baby Bird. 

3. There were births this year.  Baby Bird was a welcome addition in late spring after losing Lib and Evelyn in March and April.  His birth signaled a new start and I was joyful again.  He has been a ray of sunshine since his birth.  Such a happy baby, he smiles and giggles and seems to say, "Life is good," over the simplest of things.  Riding in a stroller through a!  Mommy tickling me behind the ears...hysterical!  That __________ (fill in the blank)...tasty!  I never tire of seeing the world anew through my grands.

4.  The other birth was a new law practice for Mama at Law.  She was blessed to have worked with not only a gifted attorney, but also a dear friend.  While she probably thought it was a match that would last a lifetime, life once again threw a curveball.  Guess that's what we get when we think we are in control.  In the end, her new practice, I feel with all my heart, is taking her in the direction she is meant to go.  Mama at Law has a strong faith and believes that God places you where you need to be.  That faith and belief continue to be her best guide.

5.  I retired again.  Yes, I am just lousy at retirement.  I love to work, but I want to be available for my family when they need me.  So, I am working as I see fit.  Still more than I probably have time for, but not full time and on my own terms.  Retirement is starting to feel more comfortable, and I might even make it a full time endeavor in 2012.

6.  The family vacation makes my top ten.  We have visited our little slice of heaven since the girls were small.  We never know from year to year now whether we will get us all under one roof, so I am always grateful when it happens. 

7.  One thing that Papallama loves is his Gamecocks, and I love spending time with him tailgating or cheering the teams on.  This year, Papallama was president of the local Gamecock Club, and I really enjoyed the extra activities he planned.  We went to a baseball and basketball game with local members, and it was fun.  Nothing beats the football games though in Williams-Brice.  This year was exceptional.

8.  This year I was able to attend an annual reunion held by my college buddies.  I am more of a biannual attendee, so this was an on year for me.  It's wonderful to get together with them and to feel their support and love.  We have all changed since college...duh...but our affection for each other seems to be the constant that keeps us coming back to the circle.

9.  I have spent a great deal of time handling Mom's massive estate of antiques, collectibles, and curiosities.  This has educated me in history, opened my eyes to groups of collectors I never knew existed, and has kept me connected to her while spending time with Dad as well.  It has been interesting, exhausting, frustrating, and cool.  You always hear how families split up over this stuff.  I sort of get how that happens now, but I refuse to allow 'stuff' to replace 'family'.  What material object would I possibly exchange for a family member? Trade you one brother for a vase?  I don't think so.

10.  The highlight of the year (after Baby Bird, of course) has to be the trip to Jamaica that Papallama and I just took in December.  Paradise.  Perfect.  Peaceful.

So, as I look back, the year has not been as dismal as I might have thought.  Do I hope for a better 2012?  Of course.  And it's getting off to a great start. 

On Jan. 1, we will witness the Christening of Baby Bird in Charleston with his family and their friends.  On Jan. 3, Baby P will be delivered via c-section.  I'll be waiting with open arms. 

The same way I am welcoming 2012...

with open arms.

When it comes, may you, also, have a blessed New Year! 

December 9, 2011

The Gift of You

Last Sunday, Papallama and I were celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary with a stroll around Main Street when we happened upon a book signing.  I love running into events like this and meeting new authors in person.  It provides such a personal glimpse into the inspiration for the story. 

This was the such the case that afternoon.  Donna Thornton described her book, The Christmas Donkey, that she wrote for her mother as a gift.  With her mother's encouragement and urging, Donna published the story to share with all of us.  Donna's family owns a working raspberry farm in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  One year a wee donkey was born and named Drupelet just like the bump on the raspberry that produces the drop of juice.  In the story, Drupelet was pretty satisfied with life on the farm until he happened upon a pasture where he saw, for the first time, the beautiful horses with their glossy coats and long, slender legs.  Drupelet very much wanted to belong to this group of equines, but his mother admonished him.  They would have no interest in a common donkey.  Drupelet's feelings were bruised, and he was no longer satisfied playing among his other farm friends like before.  Then, at the beginning of winter, a truck arrived with a trailer.  Drupelet was loaded on and taken on a short ride to a small town up the road.  What he saw next was the strangest sight.  There were sheep, goats, and even three camels.  Humans were dressed in heavy garments and they placed a baby human on a manger of hay!  For hours that evening, people walked by and watched.  Drupelet stayed very still.  When he returned to the farm, he told his story to all of his farm animal friends.  Buster, the wise barn cat, had seen an event such as this before and explained to Drupelet that he had been chosen to represent the donkey that Mary, the mother of Jesus, rode into Bethelem so her baby could be born exactly where the Bible said he would be born.  Now Druplet was filled with joy and understood his purpose.  He knew he didn't have to be a race horse to be important.  He was meant to be a Christmas donkey!

My favorite line is this. "It takes the single drupelet and MANY others for the fruit to be beautiful and delicious."

We all have a purpose, a gift, something meaningful to give.  Donna's mother has the gift of growing beautiful gardens.  Donna's gift is writing beautiful stories.  Lynne Pryor uses her gift to illustrate it. 

I think (and hope) the story will touch someone who in some way has felt left out, put down, unimportant, or disappointed.  Perhaps it will help PDub and Baby Bird understand to accept themselves and recognize the gifts in others. We all have a purpose, a small, yet important role in the bigger story.

Go ahead and open your gift and have a very Merry Christmas!

December 2, 2011

He's Coming to Town!

No, not Santa.  PDub!  But in a way, he's bringing Christmas with him.

Being three this year, it's like PDub is seeing Christmas for the first time all over again.  When he got home from Thanksgiving, his mama read The Elf on the Shelf book to him and "Diesel", the elf, made a reappearance in his home.  PDub was awestruck.  The first person he looked for the next morning was Diesel, and he laughed with glee when he discovered him peeking out from behind the blinds.  For him, the magic of elves is real. 

For Grammy, though, this is already starting out to be a less than jolly season.  Shopping in stores with knickknacky signs that talk about mothers and daughters, not racking my brain over what to get Lib and Evelyn, and missing my phone calls and visits with Mom is taking its toll. 

So I am really looking forward to some Christmas spirit this weekend!  Thank you, God, for sending him (and Him) to me to remind me that your love is not only magic...

It's real.