The little ceramic tree

mom’s tree in the window of her assisted-living apartment

I don’t know how long ago my mother in law (now 91) and I got talking about how much I liked her little green ceramic Christmas tree that lit up. It reminded me of the ceramic trees my dad had and that his mother (my nana) had. I always loved those trees. 

When I think of them I think of so many christmas’s in the deep past of my life.  My Nana had the ceramic tree but it was white and she placed in one of her condo front windows and I also recall she  had the little Swedish angel carousel that would spin around and around when you lit the candles under them. I loved when she had them out over the holidays and she would light them for me. We’d turn out the lights and light the candles. I can still feel the warmth and the tinkling sound of the bells. 

angel tree like my nanas. photo cred: angelcimes.com


My dad’s ceramic tree came to him well after he married my stepmother Jean. It too was white and would sit in our living room on a table -(the living room was the forbidden room unless we had company). I’d admire it from afar. 

Then it followed them to a new home and I was allowed to admire it close up BC by then I was an adult and a guest in the house by then too so I was allowed in the living room. It may have followed my dad to Florida after my stepmother died – and perhaps it will surface as my brother goes through some of my dads items. Maybe my nanas is there too. I can’t remember where that tree went after she died. Perhaps the one my dad had was hers.  That’s a thought that just came to me. This is where the memories blur for me. 

As a young adult years ago -before my marriage – I got to thinking about those trees and I really wanted one of my own.  I did ask my dad if he used his and he said he did.  It was his only tree as he had given up tree decorating some years prior when he sent me a huge box of Christmas decorations from my childhood. I still have many but they are beat  up. 

I couldn’t find a ceramic tree anywhere. They must have gone out of style. I may have even looked on eBay for them a time or two over the years but I never bit the bullet and got one. I’m not sure why. Maybe cost. Maybe I never found one there. Again memory blur. 

But sometime over the last 18 years that I’ve been part of the Sweeney family Christmas I must have begun the dialogue about my love of my mother in laws( mom sweeney)  little green ceramic tree. I would tell mom Sweeney about my family memories with the ceramic trees. One year a while back she mentioned to me that she was going to leave me that tree. I just laughed uncomfortably because to think I’d lose her wasn’t anything I could consider. She’s been such a friend to me – it’s hard to think of her not being here. 

Last Christmas Eve my Father in law died. How we all got through Christmas is beyond me. Not long after that mom sweeney began to get rid of things in her house. And when I say rid I don’t mean that in a bad sense. She carefully chose recipients of her most important items and she began giving them away to each of us. I wrote back last spring that she gave me my father in laws camera. A beautiful old Zeis. It meant so much to me that she would gift me that. It’s a beautiful piece and she knows what photography means to me. 

I think on that same day she also wanted me to take her little green  ceramic Christmas tree.   She said she wouldn’t be around to use it next Christmas – I declined. I wasn’t ready to take that yet. But eventually not long after that things were going at a fast pace out of the house – now some was even going to goodwill.  So my husband and I were over to her home for a visit and I asked her if I could take it but my taking came with a condition proposed by me ” if you are alive next Christmas I am bringing you the tree back.”  

She agreed but I think she was sure she’d be gone by her next Christmas. Then spring became summer and she moved to assisted living. She didn’t think she’d be in there very long- and it’s been a hard transition. And as this holiday has loomed she’s been feeling worse physically -and mentally she’s sad. She misses her husband of almost 70 years. She’s not living in the place she had Christmas for well over 50 years – her home not far down the road from her assisted living. A house mostly empty now and set to go on the market in January. She’s lonely. 

So one day a couple weeks ago Kevin and I made a surprise visit to see Mom Sweeney and we brought her that little tree and placed it on her window ledge.  

“You are still here ” I said. ” I told you I’d bring it back. ” 

She smiled. Her voice is so soft now we can’t always here her. She reminded me that it was my tree now.  I’ll take stewardship of it but it will always be hers. 

I told her , “If you are still here next Christmas I’m bringing it back.” 

We smiled at eachother.

That’s a promise I intend to keep. Oh how I love that lady. 

Don’t Forget Fido!

 

If you read my blog you know I am a crazy animal lover. I am especially partial or partially nuts about dogs. Dogs have been an important part of my existence ever since my childhood– they loved me unconditionally when I needed it. Dogs were and still are my solace.

I had a friend that I once used as a rescue referral that told the rescue “ If I was a dog, I would want to be a dog who lived with the Sweeney’s”. I considered that a compliment. When you are a dog at my house you are part of the family.

My pets are spoiled- pets in America today have it good. I know from the ads on TV that the pet supply industry is big business. Americans spent $56 billion on their pets last year (info on that here) and I helped build that number. I should be proud! Does everyone get gifts for their pets? Probably not, but I know many who do. I have my limits on my spoiling but I am definitely among those that love to indulge their pets from time to time with toys and other sundries.

When it came to holidays and pets I haven’t always bought them gifts for Christmas. I figured they got special treats and gifts all year long and, really, they have no idea it’s Christmas anyway. They just act excited on that day because they pick up the kid’s vibes- and mine -but it is so cute!

I know they don’t need these things. I just like to think they need these things but that’s my own issue – but I say -who cares! – they seem to like getting gifts and it makes me happy to give them stuff.

For the last two years we began to do Secret Santa for the humans in our home. I am not sure who it was (probably me) that decided it might be nice to add the dogs to the Secret Santa game. We each pick a pet name – we keep it a secret- and go and shop for something for the dog and they get it on Christmas day – they might even get a wrapped gift if their “Santa” wants to wrap it.

I can picture their faces when they get their gift. They may not know what Christmas is but they know a dog toy when they see one!

This year we almost didn’t do the Secret Santa thing for the dogs. I almost nixed it (I know – scrooge) because we each already picked a person in the family to buy a special gift for – with a $30 limit. I guess I didn’t want to stick anyone with having to buy another gift.

It turns out that my son, Luke, really wanted to do the Secret Santa – The Dog Version and he’s as cute as my dogs and has those eyes that melt my heart so we put the dog’s names in a bowl and picked the dogs names. We had quite a laugh that we were keeping this a secret from each other! Would we spill the beans to the dogs if we knew whom we each had?!

Ok so what was the limit going to be? I asked.

Luke said $30.

Really? $30 – per dog?

I felt that to be a bit excessive especially since I would essentially be the one buying the gift my son’s would be giving their dog. It’s easy to set a limit when you aren’t ponying up the cash!

The limit was set at $10.

I chose bandannas for my pick – Ridley – our newest dog. I have become big into dog embellishing. Not dressing up per se but I like a dog in a nice bandana or fun collar.

Ridley is one big giant fur ball(I just saw Star Wars and am thinking of renaming him Chewy) of an Old English Sheepdog and he is quite pleased wearing bandanas. The other dogs (excluding my perfect dog Rudy) think bandanas suck and they try to rip them off the dog wearing them. Rudy is also a bandana wearer and many of his have been found in the yard in shreds. Hate is ugly.

So I asked the humans in my family for purposes of this very important blog to tell me who they chose for their Secret Santa – The Dog Version – and what they got there dogs and why. I promised not to tell their chosen dog.

Luke had Lemon our witchy and super smart yellow lab – and he bought her that new yellow Frisbee. They are very close –those two—“she would have asked for that if she could speak” He said (I am so glad she can’t speak to be honest- she would not ever shut up). Lemon is quite the Frisbee dog. But she will eat the Frisbee if you leave her alone with it. I give it a week until its in shreds.

Kamilla chose Pierce our collie/shepherd mix. She got him treats because she thought, “he would enjoy them”. Yes you had him at T-R-E-A-T. He can spell. Those treats will be gone in 30 , 15, 10, 5 seconds.

Anyway – where was I? Suki – my mom’s Corgi mix. She is a little fiery spark plug and she already has a mountain -and I kid you not a mountain- of stuffed toys. When we visit my mom’s home there are always new stuffed animals – around but she has her favorites – her birthday cake, and her banana, and she has a kangaroo that has a baby in the mom’s pouch. I don’t understand that one at all – and I am wondering if my mom didn’t get that off of the Discovery Channel website and is trying to pass it off as a dog toy.

Suki isn’t a stuffy destroyer – which my dogs are – and my dog, Rudy, often goes with me to visit my mom and he has tried to de-stuff Suki’s stuffy’s many times but for such a small dog she packs a wicked snarl and Rudy has only managed to steal and gut one toy from her.

Kevin drew Suki’s name. I asked him today what he chose and why. He chose…a stuffy(another one?)… it’s an elephant. So why did Kevin choose the elephant I asked…”It was cheap- it was in the $3.99 bin” he said. Well I burst out laughing at that one. I don’t know why I was expecting a much deeper answer. It’s a dog toy- he wasn’t going to put much thought into it.

My son has Rudy our Golden and he bought Rudy a Bandana. Why I asked- “because you told me to get him that.” Well he is right I did give him that gift idea. I am excited to see what he chose for him. Rudy looks so good in bandanas!

Have I gone through all six dogs yet? Nope — I missed Reese our pit mix. Well he’s one lucky guy because my mom chose him, and Kevin also bought him a new Washington Redskins collar yesterday. Hey we are contenders this year- in a terrible division but we are in the mix so a new collar showing our support was perfect. And Reese just likes anything – well except for getting his nails clipped.

My mom- who officially chose Reese – had already gotten all the dogs gifts well before we picked names and I forgot to ask her what she got them. It didn’t occur to me until now that the gifts she bought for them would have been enough and we could have saved the money and not bought them anything else- but what fun would that be? Zero fun. I vote for fun.

Yesterday, I went out shopping for some last minute human gifts but don’t you know when I was in Home Goods. They have grown a once very small pet section into a small pet store inside their store. Wouldn’t you know that I found a huge deal on a huge orthopedic pet bed. It was way over the $10 budget we set but I had to get it for Ridley who is old and would appreciate (at least I thought he should appreciate) such a bed and maybe he wouldn’t need to sleep on the couch all the time. If it doesn’t work out for him – and it might not because he really loves couches – I think it could be a decent guest bed.

I got caught up in the fun of it and my pets deserve it because they make me happy. Giving to them makes me happy. I like happy. Lately I have needed some extra happy. They don’t have be able to pick a name to give a human a gift -they give their gift of love everyday. Well the dogs do – and the cats do sometimes when they feel like it – and my horses give some love on Mondays and Fridays only because horses are like that -and the Chickens and ducks never give us love but they give us eggs so all in all it is win/win with our little group of critters here in our farm.

PostScript: Ridley got his new bed. He looked at it, stood on it, circled around on it, sat on it, got up and went over to the couch got on it and went to sleep. I had a good giggle over that. I laughed harder when Pierce ate all his treats in a nano-second and Rudy attempted to eat the package the treats came in. Every single dollar spent was worth it- these guys make me smile everyday!

Merry Christmas to you and yours….

 

  

    
    
  

The sad under the happy 

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We checked into the Marriott on a balmy December Saturday. It was unseasonably warm for a Christmas celebration weekend in Baltimore, MD. My husband Kevin and I were there to see the Christmas Parade in the harbor. We splurged on the hotel – we were celebrating my 52nd birthday a little early as my birthday falls three days before Christmas and it is often very busy around that week that any getaway would not work.

There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the lobby and the hotel bustled with visitors. There was a doorman and valet parking and a bellman. The room with a view of Baltimore Harbor did not disappoint. It felt a little decadent- a little too much- but it felt really good to be able to splurge like this. The last two years had been really, really hard. Serious illness and then debt from the medical bills, another home that we had been renting out but losing money on was on the market but wouldn’t sell, and loss of income for various reasons from our jobs left us in bad financial shape.

We had tried various ways to dig out but it just seemed like things were getting worse. Finally for many reasons we decided to file bankruptcy. It was tough but in light of having faced cancer it wasn’t as scary as it may have been otherwise. Then just when we thought things were looking up – our other house had a contract for sale on it – the bank decided to foreclose. It really was a stressful time.

So here we were five months later in a hotel in Baltimore celebrating and splurging a bit. Kevin began a new job in October with better pay. Things are going better. We have a little room to breath.

We had a nice time tooling around the harbor and Fells point each time we go I see something new. Each time I get a better feel for the city and its charms.

This time there was quite a celebration going on in Fells Point. There were bands and vendors in the square. Some vendors had hot libations like spiked eggnog and cider, and some had clothing, others jewelry. I had to stop and photograph the dogs – there were so many dogs. The Fells Point area is very dog friendly. A fun looking band was taking a break promising to start up again soon.

Kevin and I hustled and bustled our way through some bars and some appetizers. We felt the holiday buzz. We watched the boats in the harbor from our room – not the fanfare I thought it would be but the boats that participated were done up nicely. I can hear people cheering for them from our room with the harbor view.

It was fun and one could get caught up in this great place and how perfect it all is. And it is wonderful. I love it there but each time I go I also see the other side. The sad side. The sad under the happy.

I see the homeless person on the corner asking for a dollar or two. I see the hustlers in the crowd doing their thing angling for money.  I read the warnings in flyer that said to watch out for people dressed in character suits asking for money as they aren’t part of this event or that. The flyer warns that they are just trying to get your cash. In the evening I see a man alone on a set of dark building steps head in his hands. We quicken our steps but I don’t think we need to fear for ourselves. Part of me wants to see what’s wrong.

Some social workers and even non-professionals say it is unhealthy to give money to the homeless because they may use it to buy drugs and alcohol. I decided long ago that this may be true but I don’t really care. I feel good giving them money and it is not my job to judge. It is my job to love and to show compassion.

I feel badly that I can’t help them all. I feel badly saying no – but sometimes you have to. Sometimes it’s as simple as having run out of cash in your own pocket.

I think my guilt over splurging on the weekend and having to say no to the needy sometimes comes from way back.

When I was young I grew up in Potomac, MD an affluent area outside of Washington, DC. I didn’t realize it was affluent until I was maybe 10 or 11. Perhaps that is the age that differences dawn on you in your awareness. I remember going to the Redskins games on Sundays. We always had season tickets and sometimes we would park outside the stadium on someone’s lawn for a small fee. We had done it for years but at some point I realized these city kids in their worn clothes in front of their worn homes lived very differently than I did. I was kind of embarrassed by that.

Later when I started college my best friend and I were attending the same school. When we went to orientation some other freshman asked us where we lived. When we said Potomac, MD they gave us a hard time. They joked that we were rich kids and I really didn’t like it. So I began to say I was from Rockville, MD (affluent now but then more regular middle class).

I was never comfortable with the label. I was never comfortable with wealth for that matter. I am sure it is because it represented more negative things to me than positive. I grew up where money was over- valued and I spent much of my life not valuing it enough. I was not a saver and I spent and spent – rejecting what had been drilled in me from youth. I think there was a happy medium and maybe I am just beginning to understand it.

I still carry the guilt of being some “rich” kid (though we weren’t rich by todays standards). In my world money did not bring happiness – for me giving away money or spending it did. I feel badly sometimes when I indulge on myself and if I can’t give to everyone I meet on the street. I need to let go of that and I am working on it. I deserve to splurge sometimes and celebrate.

After the boat parade, we head to Mustang Alley’s a bar and bowling Alley (cool right?) for a little bite to eat. In a bar there are two holiday parties going on and people are exchanging gifts – doing that elephant exchange thing- all laughing at the silly gifts. I watch as one woman takes the gift from her officemate. Though I can’t see what the gift is I know it was something everyone wanted just by the groans. The place is full of cheer. We head back to the hotel for dessert in the hotel restaurant. I just want to eat there because it feels good to sit in the pretty restaurant and sip coffee and have dessert.

I am so drawn to Baltimore – the happy and the sad. My connection runs so deep that sometimes I dream about buying a small studio for weekend getaways. Kevin and talk about how great that would be to have a little place in the city.

There has been unrest in Baltimore lately. The news of the riots saddened me. But it doesn’t take away from my love of the place. It is the reality of a city. There are problems – just like anywhere but more magnified because you have more people in a city thus more diversity – and thus more differences and some of those differences lead to anger and unhappiness. Maybe if I lived there I would feel differently about it all. Maybe the charm would leave me. But right now it is a place I love to visit.

I am not a city person by nature. I grew up in the burbs and now I live in the country. I love the country and have been drawn to nature and the outdoors my entire life. The city is such the opposite of where I live. The energy and the pace are so awakening.

When I was 22 I lived for a year in Boston. I was fresh out of college and moved there on a whim (ok I followed a boy) and I was taken by the juxtaposition of the wealth and the poverty. I remember one morning leaving my apartment and a homeless man was asleep in the entry of the building. The stench of liquor was pretty fierce. My boyfriend was disgusted that this man was in the vestibule. I felt happy he was able to find a semi-warm place to sleep.

I rode the subway to work and had a bit of a walk to my building everyday and I had “my” homeless person that I took care of each day. A number of my coworkers did the same. A few cigarettes here and a few dollars there- a muffin or a coffee some mornings- it was the best we could do I suppose. By the time we left for the day our homeless charges had moved on and were replaced by others. But we knew ours would be back in the morning.

It became part of the scenery. We would see guys in the common hustling the tourists with their card games or the ball and cup game. We would watch. It wasn’t the haves and the have-nots anymore when you lived there it was just all part of the city.

On the way out of Baltimore, I see the stadiums that sit next to a neighborhood where children who grow under their shadows. They hear the games but may never be able to go BC their parents can’t afford it.

As we drive onto the freeway, I see a small wooden fort next to the a creek – there are some plastic chairs sitting out front right – it is next to the fancy new Horseshoe casino. Does anyone know who lives there? Does anyone check? I wonder. It’s gone as fast as I see it. But I can still see it in my mind.

I’m actually grateful to notice these things. This is reality. This is what makes life bittersweet. Poverty is everywhere- it is just magnified in the backdrop of the city. I want to fix it but I realize I can’t – I can only do what I can do. The guilt may be something I am always working on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
  
  
  

The day Santa got angry -(with me). 

First Visit with Santa! Dec. 2001 – Luke 15 months

 

Yep that’s me holding the crying baby in the photo above and that’s jolly old Santa…

I officially became a mom the day before Mother’s Day in May of 2001 – except I did not know it yet. I didn’t find out until Mother’s Day – that is when my husband was able to call me all the way from Kazakhstan (it s country far away – look it up here ) where he was in the process of adopting and then bringing our son home. That is were my first child(he is our youngest – it is complicated) was born. I wasn’t in the court room that day in Kazakhstan as I opted not to travel on the trip to get him. My incredible husband travelled alone on an over 2 week journey to get our son. When I answered the phone that Mother’s Day morning and heard ‘Happy Mother’s Day- you’re a mom” my heart melted and warmed and I cried tears of joy. My dream of becoming a mom had come true. I had never met this little 8 month old boy but he already had my heart.

I was 37 years old when I became a mother. I had waited a long time. I remember the first days after Luke and Kevin arrived back home – Kevin was in a stupor after traveling with an infant with double ear infections across the world. Luke cried much of the trip and if it were not for the kindness of some sweet Russian woman who took Luke for a while so Kevin could rest I am not sure my husband and his precious charge would have made it home.  Upon arrival on U. S. soil aside from kissing the ground Kevin became sick with some Kazak bug and slept for 14 hours straight. I had never cared for a baby really and I was thankful Luke slept much of the first day he arrived home- but after that I remember being in shell shock.  You learn fast! How thankful I was to have had many experienced moms to seek out answers from.

I had spent 35 years only caring about myself -and then Kevin- but he didn’t need constant care and attention. At 37 I was so self absorbed but I didn’t realize how much until I had another human to care for 24/7. I was in awe that one little person needed so much. It was in those first months after Kevin went back to work and I worked part-time but spent the rest with Luke that we bonded. I remember the day I realized that I would die for my child- a feeling you can’t explain but parents know it. You don’t have to have a child from your own body in order to love them. It is something we might think in our heads but a human heart is ever expanding when we open ourselves up. Luke changed me – I was his mom.

Having waited for so long to become a mom I wanted to do all the mom things that I had missed out on. I wanted to take Luke to the park – we did that a lot. We joined a mom’ s club and went to their activities. We began parent and child swim class. The list goes on and on an on. I had spent years longing for kids to dress up and take out for Halloween. We were so jacked up about it that on Halloween in 2001 we had a date in court to readopt our son in Maryland court- something we had to do because I hadn’t traveled to Kazakhstan. We took Luke dressed up in his halloween costume to our early morning court time and I think the entire room swelled at the cuteness of the little boy dressed like Tigger with his new parents. I know it was probably the best part of the day for the judge. It was one of the best days of my life.

For so many years before motherhood as I was shopping in the mall at Christmas time I would watch the kids line up to sit in Santa’s lap. Each one cuter than the next. Lines so long they wrapped almost to the escalator. I was not much for waiting in line- I am still not- but I always pictured myself waiting in that line with my future child. At one point the hope of being a mother almost felt like it was being squashed as my husband and I dealt with fertility issues with no cure in site. During that time a long line to see Santa seemed like a reward to be cherished. I wanted that prize.

So you can imagine when Christmastime came around in 2001 I wanted to take my now 15 month old son to see Santa for the first time. My husband and I planned our visit for after dinner so Luke wouldn’t be hungry. We dressed him in little overalls and packed his stuffy and blanket and headed to the mall. We rolled up like excited kids to the long line that wound it’s way down to Santa. I was beaming – probably chatting in line with any parent who would listen. The weariness of parenthood and the apathy that can come with it hadn’t fully set in yet and it was Christmas after all.

I was bone tired though. I didn’t know what tired was until my poor underfed Luke came home. He was waking us at least once a night from the time he came home at 8 months He was making up for lost time, I suppose, and we gladly – and sleepily- fed and changed him. After he reached normal weight (that means on the charts for his age) he began sleeping through the night. It was glorious and sad but not long lived as he made his way into our room for the next 12 years- a common fixture on our bed and when he got too big -on our floor. It never bothered me because I knew very well that he may not have been in my life at all- something that is hard to fathom but is true. So there I stood that evening in that long line with all the other parents waiting to see their kids with Santa. I was in my future- the one I had pictured as I trotted through the malls years before…

Then Santa got mad. At me. Pisser. After waiting in the line for over an hour – and yes even my elation was beginning to fade- we got close to the moment of truth and Santa’s lap – well a bench as it turns out. He had littles on his lap and bigs sat next to him. It was just about our turn. We began to give info to the elves that were helping santa. We paid and began the short walk to Santa’s lap/bench – and then..Luke saw Santa! Oh how his eyes lit up- and his mouth opened – and out came a huge wail! This was not the way I pictured this moment. In my dream, my kid was angelic – a cherub- longing to go into Santa’s arms and sit on his lap. Luke was beside himself -this was not happening- but it was- huge wails of fear. The elves told me to go up to Santa and lets see if we could get him calmed down. (really ? closer?). The closer I got the worse it seemed to get. The elves and Santa seemed determined to get this kid in a photo. So they told me to sit next to Santa with Luke in my lap. I wan NOT dressed to be in any picture. I was still in the “lets make the kid look -good screw how I look” mode of new parenthood. I had to get in the photo? I don’t recall now why Kevin didn’t get in it. Kevin was much better at calming Luke down- he is calmer by nature than I am. Santa was not happy because we were taking up time and also when one baby cries- well- it seems to set off other baby alarms and other babies begin to cry and then its a freakin’ cry fest.

Somehow I sat down with Luke in my lap- he was sweating and I was freaking out inside. The look on my face in the photo is me trying to not cry. We got the shot -up we jumped- see ya Santa. But NO Santa had to make me feel worse… Santa began to scold me -Santa was mad- at me!- he said it was all my fault and that I should have backed up to the bench with Luke looking out at the crowd and then sat down. I made him cry because I came in straight so that he saw Santa. No freaking Elf told me to try that Santa….and eff you Santa! But I said nothing- Kevin and I grabbed our baby stuff and our stroller and went to find a place to calm Luke down while we waited for the god forsaken photo to be ready. Santa had nerve.

They called our name and Kevin went to get the picture. We took a look at it and we broke out in such laughter people were staring. A photo that would live in Sweeney infamy. One that to this day we show Luke – who is now 15- and we all laugh- even him. Sadly we have other pictures with the same Luke scream face…the first haircut- maybe I can dig that photo up…yes Luke was notorious for open mouthed wailing.

Too bad -mad Santa- you didn’t wreck my day. You gave me a great story and I am very thankful for that day no matter how it went-because it was the beginning of many years of parenting- the good and the not so good- but it is a journey I never thought I would be on and every milestone – including the first crazed trip to Santa (we never went back to that mall for a Christmas picture) was a blessing to me. I know how lucky I am that God found this little sweet soul (and he is still sweet in his stinky teen body)to be my son. I will never forget the firsts – we are still living them with all three of our kids. Sometimes we don’t know how lucky we are until we are given something we thought we would never have. I finally got my reward- a photo with Santa and my son.

Thanks for reading…..

PS- Hey Santa I am looking at the picture and wondering where your right arm is????? I think his hand is near my chest—I never noticed this before – holy cow -and he was mad at me!?- LOL

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Another first- Luke at JC Penney. This was his “I am about to cry and then wail” look. I think we got him to stay calm for a few more poses but it wasn’t easy…this is before his first haircut..another first and fiasco!

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Trying not to cry for his first baby picture..why is this so cute to me?

Christmas Cards

Our mailbox is not right out our front door. It is not just down at the end of a short driveway its a walk but not too far for living  in the country. But it is across the street from our house and lives with two other mailboxes. When it is cold I send one of my kids out to get the mail. The road can be busy at certain times of the day and I am always yelling “be careful getting the mail!”. I became adverse to grabbing the mail in the winter.

Last year I became unable to even cross the street because a rare type of cataract made me  unable to see up and down the road. I had to listen for cars in because I could not see well enough to determine if they were there. So I became fearful to even try. Now I can see the roads thanks to my intra-ocular lenses. It’s funny though because I still take an extra look or two when I get the mail just to be sure no cars are coming. Maybe that’s why I send the kids so often to grab the mail for me. But this time of year I love heading out to the mailbox. It’s not full of the usual bills and junk mail -well it is but there is more. Christmas Cards! I love looking at Christmas cards. Very few people send letters anymore – we have email for that. I’m guilty of it too. I would rather type out an email than  go to all the fuss of sending a letter. During the Christmas season that all changes. Pretty cards come in the mail daily. I love seeing pictures of the growing kids. I even like reading those Christmas newsletters (if they aren’t too long). I just like seeing envelopes addressed to us that don’t say Potomac Edison or Discover on them.

When I was a kid my mother hung our cards inside the louver doors of the coat closet in our entryway. I loved how they looked hanging there. The different colors made the closet look like artwork. There were so many! I must have gotten my love for Christmas cards back then. I don’t have louvered doors and I kind of wish I did but we put our cards in a festive basket. It is nice and it works.  Last year I didn’t send any cards out. I wasn’t feeling well and I thought what was the point – I can just post on Facebook. Then Christmas came and went and I felt like something was missing. I hadn’t sent cards and it didn’t feel right.  So I decided to send out New Years cards. I ordered some with my kids picture on it and sent them out to a shorter list of people – but I got them out and it felt complete. I think it is just tradition for me and maybe this one will be one that stays with me a while.

Our Christmas card stack is getting bigger each day. My big problem is I hate to toss them away. I feel bad tossing those pretty cards into the trash. One year I saved them and a year later I opened up  the bin where I stashed them and tossed them out then. Why did I save them? For the crafty there are a number of ideas on how to use old greeting cards. Click here for some ideas. I’ll be honest I’m not going to be making anything out of the cards. I am not that crafty! I mean what about all the picture cards? I can’t cut them up or decoupage some child’s face to something that seems odd. Nah they are getting tossed. But I’m going to enjoy the excitement of getting them. For me it’s part of what defines Christmas time.

Thanks for reading…

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Our mailbox- ours is the end one on the right.

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Our basket for cards

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They are piling up!

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Look between the two cars- you can see the mailboxes in the distance.