Monday, January 15, 2018

To Challenge Myself

Brrrrr!  It's cold outside!  This is always the hardest time for me ... the cold, cloudy days of winter.  I hate to get out of the house, I want to just burrow in and read or watch a little TV.  So each winter I decide I have to have some sort of challenge, something that gets me out of the house and keeps me active.  This winter, I've decided to take up photography.  I've always been interested in it and I've dabbled in it for years but now I really want to learn everything I can about it.  I just ordered myself a really good camera so when it gets here I'll make myself get out and take pictures.  I'll learn new things and have something wonderful to show for it.  I've also just gotten a new sewing machine that does quilting and my first serger so I'll be making myself challenges with that too for those days that's just horribly depressing and too miserable to get outside.  I'll post things from time to time to show what I have learned. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Saying Goodbye to 2017

This past year has been a difficult  ... devastating  ... enlightening ... challenging ... blessed year.  I think I have either been dizzy or breathless the majority of the time from the roller coaster style my life decided to adapt this last year, but I stayed on that roller coaster and I road it all the way. Sometimes screaming at the top of my lungs. Sometimes laughing as tears streamed down my face.  My grandmother, bless her sweet soul, used to say, "God will never give you more than you can handle."  I thought of that a lot this year.  "God will never give you more than you can handle."  Such a simple statement but my grandmother believed it totally.  I can tell you there were times my faith was challenged and I leaned on my grandmother's faith instead.  There's a country song about the voices in our head and my grandmother's voice is in mine quite frequently.  If ever I had an idol, it was her.  She died in 1994 not long after she turned 94.  I have a VHS tape of that birthday party and her singing Sweet Willie.

Grandma read her bible every morning sitting at the small kitchen table in her small trailer facing the little window.  I can still picture her there with the sun shining in, it always seemed to encase her while she read.  I remember thinking when I was a young whimsical teenager that she was reading the bible with God's glory surrounding her.  I always felt she had a direct line to Jesus, that he listened to her prayers first.  Grandma was the closest thing to perfect I ever knew, I thought she walked on water.  "God will never give you more than you can handle."  She'd lived through trials and tribulations my young mind just couldn't quite grasp so if Grandma believed that, then so must I.  As I grew older, I would question some of her faith and she would just smile with love and tolerance and tell me that  Jesus knew our hearts better than we did.  He knew our fears, our thoughts, our dreams, our wants and our desires.  Now that was a little scary.  Being a teenager you have a lot going on in that small hormonal brain.  When I was hurt, she would comfort me.  When I was angry and confused, she would sooth me.  When I was lost, she would help me find my way.  There never was nor will there ever be another that touched my soul the way my grandmother did, so her words even now bring me comfort, keep me in line, or give me hope.  "God will never give you more than you can handle." Those are the words I lived by this year.

 In the beginning of the year we found out my husband needed to have brain surgery and we couldn't find a neurosurgeon anywhere near here that would touch him, we found one in Phoenix, Arizona.  Those words ran through my mind as I sat by myself in the waiting room and waited the outcome of his surgery.  I prayed but I reminded God that my grandma said he wouldn't give me more than I could handle and I couldn't handle losing Gary, just in case he needed a little help.  God must have agreed with me because Gary came out of it fine.  We spent the next few weeks with him learning to get his balance back and recover everything but he went back to work and life was almost back to normal.  "God blesses us daily." Grandma smiled and whispered and squeezed my hand.

Then came the wedding.  My baby brother was finally getting married, they had lived together for almost 6 years.  I watched his eyes glisten with tears as he said his vows to her.  He really loved her ... he was happy. "God blesses us daily."  Life was good.

Then I came down with the Shingles.  Oh my, never have I felt such pain.  "God will never give you more than you can handle."  Boy did I think that was a big fat lie when I was going through that, but you know what? I did handle it and I did survive it.  As I began to recover, summer broke in Oklahoma.  I would sit outside a little each day trying to recover my strength and just feel the glorious sunshine on my face.  My sun room welcomed me again in the mornings as I drank my coffee and the birds sang, the bugs buzzed, and the trees filled out and became a canopy once again to cover and shade the backyard. The squirrels chased each other up and down the trees and across the yard.  They were so playful and happy.  I had missed Spring and the awakening but I could celebrate the rebirth.  "God blesses us daily."  Grandma's voice whispers in my head and I smile, "Yes, I am blessed."

The children came to visit for a couple of weeks.  What amazing, wonderful children we have!  How can anyone doubt the glory of God when they look at the gifts He has given them in their children.  It humbles me to think these two marvelous human beings came from our love.  A daughter and a son, how could I have ever asked for more?  Our daughter came to visit and brought our wonderful grandson with her.  He's growing so fast, it's hard to keep up. A teenager now, taller than me. Handsome, smart, witty, so easy to talk to and be around.  He has such a wide range of interests.  Yes we are blessed.  Two weeks packed with activities that we could all enjoy and then some down time for me to recover until the next activity.  I was still feeling the aftershocks of all our previous months, so many times I just wanted to reach out and touch their faces to make sure they were really there and not just a dream.  Rob got to visit with them a lot as well.  Grandpa spent time with Grandson.  The two weeks went so fast, it seemed they had just gotten there before it was time for them to leave us.  Saying goodbye was hard and I always cry when they leave but I know they are always just a phone call away and we'll see them again at Christmas when we go there to visit.  I feel Grandma's hand squeeze mine, "Sometimes you have to let go of what you love for it to find it's way back to you."  I think she had been referring to something else, probably one of my many broken hearts but it fit this as well.  We do have to let our children go, we have to let them live without us.  We were given a job, although a quite pleasant one, of raising that child to become an independent adult.  I did a remarkable job ... my children have no problem being independent, responsible adults ... I'm just not sure I'm an independent parent.  Sometimes I think I need them more than they need me.  Yes, Grandma, I am blessed.

Back to Arizona we went.  This time I was not as afraid.  My time with the children had renewed and revived me.  We had a few problems and Gary almost bled out on the operating table.  Afterwards they sent us back to the hotel with instructions to watch for more bleeding and make sure to call 911 immediately because, as they put it, "it's a main artery and he could die in minutes if it's not stopped." You leave in a daze wondering if they understand that Real Estate Agent doesn't come under the medical care category. The first night I don't even sleep, I watch him sleep.  The second night I hear Grandma saying, "God will not give you more than you can handle. He is with you." But I am not my grandma, I cannot let go of control and sometimes blind faith is more than I can comprehend.  I guess you could say my husband put his faith in the doctors, I wasn't doing that either.  By the third day there was no more signs of trouble.  The blood had quit leaking out and so the plug had taken well.  I finally relaxed, Gary slept a lot during that trying to regain his own strength.  We enjoyed a week at a lovely condo in Phoenix.  We visited with wonderful friends.  We made beautiful memories.  I am blessed.

A few weeks home and I find out that my baby brother is heartbroken.  This woman that he loved, who he had lived with for almost 6 years and been married to just a few short months has decided she doesn't love him anymore.  How does one recover from that?  I wanted to choke her.  I had loved her too.  I called her sister.  I trusted her with one of the most precious things of my life, my brother's heart.  He was devastated and she was just ... well we won't go there.  I drove down to spend some time with him.  My mind reaching out to Grandma, "help us.  Help me help him.  I know you say God doesn't give us more than we can handle but this is too much."  She whispered to my soul, "Be there, listen to him and let him talk."  Sometimes I was able to do that but there were a lot of times I was trying to give Big Sisterly advise too. If I could have ripped her from his heart, I would have.  If I could have erased her from his mind, I would have.  But I have no magical powers so I hurt for him, that's all I could do.  He did get stronger and he did recover and I did not kill her ... yet.  I would not wish that confusion and pain on anyone except maybe her.  I do hope Karma catches up to her.

Thanksgiving came and it was quiet, just family.  It was Mama's favorite holiday and always brings memories of her.  This was almost a repeat of the Thanksgiving following her death.  It was sad and awkward, but we were all together and that's what mattered.  Holidays can, at times, be like little shards of glass that stick in your heart when your hurting and bleed you dry.  But then you can heal, make new memories and move on.  For us this was part of the process.

My niece came up before we left for Georgia to make cookies and fudge with me.  It had been a lot of years since I had done that.  It was important for us both to have that time together.  Again, a healing process.  I love her with all my heart and I want her to feel she is always welcome here. She was able to take half of everything home with her and the rest was left for Rob to enjoy while we were gone.  "Family is everything." Grandma whispers.  Yes, I am blessed.

This would be the second year Rob wasn't going to be able to go with us to Georgia to see Rachel, Jacob and Phoenix.  It's hard to be home alone for Christmas or any holiday for that matter but he had to work.  I hate being torn between my children, I want to be with them both.  We flew to Georgia and spent a week with the kids.  Such a fast week but a pleasant one.  We got to see the changes in the renovation Rachel is doing on her house.  We spent our evenings in the family room sitting around talking, laughing and sharing.  Homemade hot chocolate.  Good food.  Phoenix with his friend playing Xbox.  Rachel and I watching classes on the laptop on various crafts or sewing projects. Gary reading a book and relaxing.  Jacob explaining how Google Smart Home works.  You leave with a warm heart, happy memories and a few extra pounds.  It was a wonderful visit. I am blessed.

We flew home and spent New Year's Eve with Rob and New Year's Day.  It was another quiet day but one we all enjoyed.  Saying goodbye to 2017 isn't going to be hard.  It was a year that held a lot of fear, pain, confusion and sadness in it as well as joy, laughter and bliss.  Sometimes we have to hop on the roller coaster and ride it out because otherwise we'll miss all the good that came with the bad.  Sometimes the roller coaster just has steeper hills and sharper curves than what we want to tackle but Grandma was right, "Something good could be waiting on the other side."  Yes, Grandma, I am blessed.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Come Together

This has been a rough year for many of us. Between health, politics, family and just everything else that's going on in the world, it's been sad and a lot of negative feelings all around.  A lot of pain around the world.  A lot of hate.  I've really thought about this deeply the last few weeks and I realize there's a lot of love and coming together too.  People reaching out to neighbors, not caring what color their skin is or what religion they are, what sex.  Look at the disasters of the hurricanes ... the humanity of those that have and are helping there.  The mass shootings ... the humanity of those that are pulling together and are helping there.  We are a nation ... a diverse nation of people ... that mostly want the same thing ... to unite and live in harmony among our fellow men and women.  Our nation has been ripped and torn but she's pulling herself together and she will have scars but I believe she will be stronger.  We must stand together.  We must love one another.  We must unite to overcome or we will fall as a nation.   

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Clutter - How it Effects Us

Since we've gotten back from Arizona it's been so hard to get myself motivated.  The weather has been storm after storm after storm.  Today it's a beautiful sun shiny day.  I should go out and take a walk and enjoy the sunshine ,,, that's what I should do ... instead I'm sitting in my chair looking at the chaos that is my living room and writing in my blog.  I have two spare bedrooms upstairs but I have all my sewing stuff dragged down here around the dining table ... well not all but a lot of it.  I am so OCD and chaos plays havoc with my mind.  So I think my project today is to get myself organized.  Take my sewing stuff upstairs and put it away then I can bring it down and work one project at a time.  I have boxes and boxes of material and patterns that I have ordered, received and just seem to want to look at and not do anything with.  It's overwhelming.  Does clutter effect you that way?  I really don't handle clutter well at all.

I've learned over the years that it's not just the clutter you see but also the clutter you think that effects you.  Memories that you can't let go of.  Memories that haunt you, creep into your dreams and sometimes just appear maybe from a smell, a sound, a glimpse of someone from the corner of your eye.  These memories stir up all kinds of emotions inside you ... clutter your mind sometimes with anger, fear and sadness ... sometimes though it's happiness and joy.  The good memories I don't consider clutter, those are the keepers.  And just like you do at home there are boxes for them all:

Trash - the ones that cause the anger - fear - anxiety - some sad ones - basically the bad memories ... those are the ones we need to throw away.  They are the ones that are cluttering our minds, our lives and holding us back from achieving so much

Donate - this is the tricky part ... this is where you take it to counseling ... they help you deal with the trash and learn to see things in a different light ... so you donate those memories to counseling and get help dealing with them, learn to overcome them.

Keep - these are all the memories that make us happy. After we have learned how to deal with the bad memories we learn how to replace them with the good memories.  We learn to be happy, to be at peace and once you have mastered this, nothing can hold you back.

I choose not to be angry.  I choose to be happy.  I choose to control the clutter in my mind.

And now, back to my living/dining room.  I guess I'm choosing the walk first and then I'll deal with the mess when I get back.  Have a wonderful day.    

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Getting Back to Nature

In the 70's Gary and I lived in a little community on a farm while he was in Law School.  We shared a garden plot with several other tenants and I scrubbed our clothes on a scrub board, ran them through a wringer and hung them out to dry in our yard.  We lived in a tiny little house out there and there were probably between 13 to 15 little houses on that farm.  The farmer rented to students and set us all up with our garden plot, we all shared electricity by square footage, our water was part of the rent.  Rent was $135.00 a month.  I had our first child while we lived out there.  I canned our vegetables and made my baby's baby food from scratch.  I made my own bread, cooked everything from scratch - all the while I worked full-time and Gary went to school.  I worked evenings and he went to school in the early part of the day so our daughter, Rachel, was at the babysitter usually 2 to 4 hours 3 days a week.  I made everything my baby wore as well as just about everything I wore.  I taught myself to knit and crochet and learned to make blankets.  I made quilts for our beds.  I never really thought about it being hard because I knew it was temporary.  It was an adventure. It's what we needed to do to not take out student loans and get him through school.  There was a light at the end of the tunnel.

Over the years, things have changed.  I've acquired a lot of "stuff".  While we were on this trip to Arizona I realized just how much waste we produce so I think it's time to try and start getting back to some of those basics.  I'm never going to wash clothes on a scrub board again, although I miss the smell of sheets dried on a clothesline that too is something I don't think is in my future unless we move out of the city.  My backyard is too shaded to have a vegetable garden so I'll not be able to grow and put away my own vegetables but I could start cooking again more often.  We eat our way too much.  Cooking from scratch is actually enjoyable although it's more convenient to open a box, can or order in - it really isn't as satisfying or as healthy.  Paper napkins, paper towels, paper plates ... when did this happen?  When did this become the norm?  I have beautiful dishes, perfectly good cloth napkins and a great washer and dryer to clean them with and lots of kitchen towels and cleaning cloths to replace the paper towels.  Those have to go.  Perhaps to be put away for things like picnics but for everyday I believe we need to use dishes, cloth napkins and kitchen towels.

I'm not suggesting we go back to a time when women were slaves to the home, their husbands, family and life ... these are modern time and I'm a firm believer in everything equal.  But I do think we all need to do our part in making our world a better place to live.  If we cut out plastic bottles, paper products (less trees cut down ... more air to breathe), eat healthier and part of that healthy eating is sitting at a table and having a conversation with your family.  Taking the time to catch up, enjoying each other's company.  This is important.  Family is important and should be first in your life, more important than whatever show is coming on TV.  When my kids were growing up we had all our meals at the dining room table together.  Breakfast every morning before school and in the summer we would sometimes take our lunch outside and have picnics in the backyard and tell stories that we would make up as we ate our lunch.  Meals were enjoyable.  I remember a lot of light teasing, laughter and fun at the dinner table as well as manners taught and politeness.  Now the only time we eat at the dining room table is on Sundays.  So, I've let that slip as well.  We usually take our meals on TV trays in the living room watching TV, very little conversation.  It will be up to me to change things again and I will.  Gary and I used to have dinner out in the sun room in the evenings when the weather allowed so we could enjoy the sunsets.  We've gotten lazy.  Sometimes modern conveniences become crutches instead of helping us they enable us to become lazy and complacent instead of moving forward.  There is nothing wrong with being happy, being content but we can't stand still and let life pass us by either.  We should always be moving forward, always.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Visit to New Mexico

Our first leg of our journey out west was to visit my brother-in-law in Placitas, New Mexico.  He had told us that water was a problem there but I don’t think we were actually prepared for what it was actually like.  We knew that he had bought this beautiful home there and that a new well had been drilled for the neighborhood, the owner (seller) was responsible for the payment or his part of the payment as per the agreement when he purchased the house but then that well dried up just a few short months later.  Then the neighborhood began paying to have water trucked in but my brother-in-law purchased a 12 acre lot next to his property that has a working well on it and he pumps his water from that.  We assumed that it’s attached to the house but to do that it’s another 100-200,000 to have that done so every week or so he has to take this trailer to the lot and pump 250 gallons at a time into this tank on the trailer and then haul it back to the house and then pump it into one of the two 1000 gallon tanks he has in his garage.  That’s 8 trips to fill those tanks just to be able to flush his toilets or wash dishes, his hands, take a shower, do a little laundry.  This is hot, slow, back breaking work and it takes hours.  From what I was hearing from the natives there, they haven’t had real rainfall in twelve years.  I looked it up online and was only able to get the year 2015 … for the whole year … 0.65  … that’s all they received for the whole year of 2015. That is so hard to comprehend.  No wonder the wells are drying up.  The cactus is dying and the animals are wandering into the neighborhoods looking for food and water.  It is such a sad and devastating story for such a beautiful part of our country. 
Standing on my brother-in-law’s balcony I could see for miles.  His home is in the mountains and you can see the town in the distance and more mountains beyond that.  What a beautiful view!  Miles away you could see rain falling but it never made it to Placitas.  You look down at the parched ground, cracked and thirsty wondering what could possibly be causing such a long drought.  I know places where they are begging the rains to stop, flooding so bad that people are having to leave their homes and here is this beautiful mountainous country that is begging for just a few drops of rain to save it’s plant life, it’s animal life. 

He leaves pans of water at the edge of his property for the wild animals so that they might be saved.  He hangs birdfeeders from his trees and hummingbird feeders around his balcony as well as from trees.  He’s had all kinds of wild animals visit at night.  Lately he’s had a large black bear that comes even to the balcony and drinks from the hummingbird feeders.  A bobcat drank from his birdbath and left him a rabbit’s foot the next day as a thank-you.  Coyote visit to drink from his pans as well as deer, skunk, raccoon and squirrel.  He keeps cameras around to catch sight of the animals and each time he gets sight of a different one he buys a carving of that species to add to his menagerie that he keeps on a side table.  His beautiful dog, Hudson, is always at his side.  If it weren’t for the water issue, this would be the perfect place to live.  The peaceful existence between man and nature. 

Hudson is very camera shy and fought me about taking his picture.
Isn't he a pretty boy?  Love him so much! Such a sweetheart!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eating Out in Phoenix

Gary and I ate out quite a few times while we were in Phoenix but there are two different places I feel are really worth mentioning here. The first one is a place called Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar   The food is unique and a mixture of southern, western and Cajun cooking.  Our server was Dan and he was amazing!  He made sure we received the attention we needed, knew what we needed before we knew we needed it and was amusing with his sharp wit and great disposition.  He really made our visit there amazing.  He managed his tables well, always managed to keep up conversations without making you feel rushed and yet he kept the flow between the tables going well.  He was wonderful at his job and seemed to really enjoy it.  The food was fabulous.  For our appetizer I ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with the Argula, shrimp-sweet corn pico and lemon aioli. To be honest I wasn't as impressed with the fried green tomatoes as I expected to be and that's one of my favorite dishes but the pico was very flavorful.  It made up for the overcooking of the green tomatoes, the green tomatoes really didn't have any taste to them at all.  They were just sort of bland and being from the south we just don't handle bland food well.  For my entree I ordered The fried Catfish which I could have cornmeal dusted or blackened and I chose cornmeal dusted.  It was to be served with a summer squash casserole.  I love squash so that sounded great to me.  The catfish was suppose to have a charred tomato bacon vinaigrette. In my mind I'm picturing pieces of fish on a plate drizzled with this vinaigrette, squash casserole on the side.  Gary orders this Smoked Adobe Meatloaf  that's made with both pork and beef and topped with Smoked Adobe Ketchup.  I believe the meatloaf is grilled after it's baked in the oven but I wouldn't swear by it and then sweet corn on the side and sweet potato puree.  When our entrees came out I wasn't sure what to expect so my plate is put in front of me and it's sort of a low edged large bowl with everything stacked on top of each other and I'm like ... Oh Lord.  I'm one of those crazy people that really doesn't like my food to touch.  I look over at Gary and his dinner is stacked like mine is ... his sweet corn ... corn on the cob that has been soaked in this sauce ... so it's like creamy sweet corn on the cob.  I know my eyes were huge, I was wondered what kind of mess I had gotten us into.  Well, we may have to ask for more napkins before the meal was over but it was time to brave the meal!  I took my first bite ... it was the squash casserole and it was like my mouth was having an awakening.  It was delicious. I make a great squash casserole but this was magnificent.  As I'm eating, Gary is eating his, cutting the corn off his the two cobs it was beyond him to eat that with his fingers LOL but we discussed the meal and shared bites back and forth.  My fish was delicious, and I'm usually not a fish eater but it was cooked perfectly.  I ate almost every bite on my plate.  I was beyond full but the food was so good I hated to leave even a bite of it behind and even now my mouth waters over that squash casserole.  Someday I will figure out that recipe!!! It was a wonderful meal, we laughed and joked and ate and enjoyed the two hours we were there.  This is definitely a place I would eat again and again!

My Catfish dinner up front and Gary's meatloaf dinner further back

Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizers

The second place I want to mention is Alexi's Grill.  Where Switch was more a casual setting, Alexi's Grill was more fine dining.    We wanted to sit outside and enjoy the night and the clear sky, the stars, the evening was beautiful.  We found out that most restaurants in Phoenix don't open their outside dining until late September due to the heat so we were seated inside near a window so could still see the evening.  The manager was a woman and very sweet and made our evening special.  She wanted to give us dessert on the house since she couldn't allow us to sit outside but we declined the offer as there was no reason to do so.  We weren't offended and meal was exceptional.  The only thing I didn't like was their salad dressings, they had a choice of two ... both were creamy ... balsamic vinegar or mustard (that's yellow mustard folks and yup it tastes like yellow mustard!)  I wasn't impressed with either one.  I hate balsamic vinegar and the mustard dressing was really too strong and overwhelmed the salad completely.  So I only took a few bites of that and I was done.  Again, I was looking to be disappointed.  Gary had ordered steak and as neither of us really like potatoes we asked for vegetables to be substituted in place of the potatoes.  I ordered pork loin topped with sauteed mushrooms in a garlic Marsala wine sauce. I ordered Pinot Grigio to drink with my meal and I don't remember what wine Gary ordered.   They brought out our food and it was perfect!  They replaced the potatoes with candied carrots and oh my goodness they were delightful! I haven't had candied carrots in I don't know how many years ... and the broccoli was cooked to perfection.  There were three pork medallions were as large as a small steak.  There was no way I could eat three of them and the sauce was brilliant!  The Marsala wine didn't overpower the mushrooms ... the mushrooms were tender and fresh.  It was a most satisfying meal.  I actually ended up taking 2 of the medallions and the broccoli back to our hotel with us and then we took it to the condo so Gary had it for lunch the next day.  I didn't leave him any of the carrots LOL.

Doesn't that look delicious?  I didn't even take a picture of Gary's meal.  It was a steak and vegetables.

So if you find yourself in Phoenix and you need a place to eat, either one of these are great places.  One is more casual and one is more fine dining but both I would rate 4 star to 4.5 star.  Both had excellent service and food.