December 31, 2012

The Secret to Happiness: Crow's Feet

I'm not sure who my grandmother thought I was but we used to sit together for great lengths of time. She had Alzheimer's and didn't know who I was the last several years of her life. It didn't bother me. I still loved coming home from school and sitting with her on the couch. She came to stay with us for a few months every year while my aunt, her usual caretaker, went to Europe. 

I begged Grandma to tell me stories and snuck my feet into her lap so she'd absent-mindedly tickle my toes. Sometimes she'd do it for an hour or more....until one of my siblings discovered us and wanted to get in on the action. We took turns having her rub our feet while asking her questions about her college days. Most of the time we hoped she'd say something funny. We were rarely disappointed and laughed all afternoon.

One afternoon, my brother's friend came to the door and Grandma "met" her. Grandma was legally blind and whenever she met someone she would gently explore their hair and face with her hands. On this particular occasion, Grandma suggested to my brother's friend that it was about time for her to visit the beauty salon. Her hair was in need of a good style. Her simple suggestion was made without malice. And that innocence kept us laughing all afternoon.

Another day, Grandma was at my parents' office when one of their friends dropped by on his way home from fishing. He still had on his waders and probably needed a shower. Grandma politely engaged him in conversation while my parents were busy with a customer. When they finished and were able to greet their friend, Grandma announced that a bum was here to see them. So candid. No filter. Much like my children. Ha ha ha.

My favorite part about grandma was how her face lit up when she laughed. Her crow's feet accentuated how good the story was. Smile lines are physical evidence that her life was good. Not just good but full of joy. Those lines take years to form. From that point forward, I decided that I wouldn't be afraid of getting wrinkles. Wrinkles are weary. Crow's feet are worth every laugh it takes to have them appear. 
Earlier this month, we performed a puppet show and went caroling with Graeden's cub scout pack at a nursing home. The audience was a little droopy but a couple of the residents sang along with us. Afterward when we went around and shook hands and greeted the residents I found that I recognized one. I didn't realize he lived there.

His eyes shone and his smile was bright as he eagerly told me he had been a Scout Master for many years. "I know you!" I exclaimed as I called him by name. My brother earned his Eagle scout rank under this Scout Master's guidance. He named two of his children after my cousin and his wife. His wife was my 4th grade teacher. He wrote insurance policies for my father for decades. I know him and have for at least 30 years. But he didn't know me.

Seeing this former Scout Master in the nursing home really got to me. Not because he didn't know me. I'm okay with that. But my heart skips a beat thinking about how I could be just like him one day. Just like Grandma. Maybe it'll be in a few years when I get older. Maybe it'll be next week in a freak accident.

Your life's true colors shine in situations like these. When you don't know who you are anymore, are you happy? Do you smile? Has your life been good? This new year, I have a plan to improve my crow's feet in just 21 days. Tymon's going to do it with me and I invite you to participate, too. More details to come...

December 30, 2012

Bon Voyage Mathilde!

I made Mathilde a stocking for Christmas representing some of the fun we had while she was here. One side is all about Halloween, which I believe is Mathilde's favorite holiday ever. Ha ha ha. (Scary stuff freaks her out.) The other side is a flower made out of the same material that I did my banner out of. The stem is Christmas material...the big toe went a little mutant on me, but since I finished it Christmas morning about 2 am, there was no time to fix it. They don't do stockings in Belgium so it probably doesn't matter what I put on it, it will always remind her of our house.

My Aunt Gay came for Christmas and stayed a couple of nights with us. She worked in France for almost 30 years before coming back to the US to care for my aging grandparents about 20 years ago. She and Mathilde got along well and spoke a little French together. I think they have plans to meet up at some point at my aunt's place on the French Riviera. Speaking of which...I've been dreaming of making that visit since I was a teenager. It's about time we made the trip!

Mathilde went home a few days ago and arrived safely. Next week, she will live with another host family, this time in the Netherlands. In order to get a good job in Belgium, you have to speak French and Dutch (the national languages) as well as English. So she is splitting her first year post-graduation between two host families to perfect her speaking skills. Mathilde has really spent her time with us to the fullest. We did a lot of activities in the summer and fall and the past month and a half she's lived at the school with the basketball team. Well, she didn't really live there. But it sure seemed like it sometimes when we'd pick her up at 9:30 pm after a game. Here is a photo collage from her last night here.

Bon Voyage Mathilde! Until we meet again....
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December 25, 2012

Christmas Eve

We have a Christmas Eve tradition of reading the story of Christ's birth and acting it out. Nana has some great costumes that we use. Tymon and I are usually Mary and Joseph since we usually have a new baby, but this year was different. Neither of my brothers were their with their new babies and since we'd done it last year with Kira, we transferred the reigns to the kids. Kira was much too busy to be a good Baby Jesus (think of Silent Night and "no crying he makes") but Jocelyn and Jett did well as her parents. The Wise Guy Graeden was a bit rambunctious and spilled his frankincense out all over the floor. The Wise Woman Mathilde was much more responsible with her myhrr. Shepherd Boy Elliott loves the little sheep. My father forgot to bring the old family bible to read, so he pulled out his scripture app on his phone to read. Ah, technology.

The best present ever, I received earlier on Christmas Eve. My aunt brought me my grandmother's engagement ring. I am named after her and the more I find out about her, the more I realize how much we have in common. My most vivid memories of my grandmother are from my teenaged years and she had Alzheimer's and didn't "know" who I was. She came to live with us a few months out of the year when my aunt (her caretaker) went on vacations. It was hard to get Grandma to eat her dinner sometimes but it my sister's and my responsibility to take care of her. One evening a friend gave us a box of homemade fudge. We started making dinner and put it on the kitchen table to save for dessert. Well, Grandma was sitting there quietly watching we thought. When dinner was all ready we started to bring it into the dining room and found the lid to the fudge slightly ajar. Turns out that Grandma devoured the entire tin. Like totally inhaled it. Ha ha ha. Wow. She could do the same thing with ice cream. And apparently, when you're in your 90s, it's okay to eat whatever you want.

 My aunt was telling me about some of Grandma's journals and I think it's time I go to her house in California to read up on Grandma. Of all of my ancestors, I feel pulled toward her family line more than any other.

We hope this holiday season finds your family in good health with lots of love and laughter. Merry Christmas!
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December 23, 2012

Brag Fest: We KNOW Santa!

It's Christmas Eve eve.
We've got a fire going on in the fireplace.
The doorbell rings,
And it's Santa!
With candy canes,
And popcorn.
He always makes a special visit to our house.
And we love him.
Thanks Santa!
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December 9, 2012

Happy Birthday To Me

Remember my birthday last year?
I know you don't.
I didn't write about it.
It was terrible.
Last year didn't work out like I wanted.
I didn't think I'd have a happy birthday ever again.
In my whole life.

But this year...
Turned out fantastic.
Starting with a card
"From one of my children."
It was a riddle 
And I guessed the right kid.

Graeden made breakfast.
Scrambled eggs
With hot dogs
And cheese.

Tymon made lunch.
Fruit salad
With whipped cream.

Elliott made dinner.
Crock pot beef,
Baked potatoes,
And salad
With elderberry vinaigrette dressing.
So tasty.
He made the dressing
From scratch.
I just love that boy.

Mathilde made my birthday cake
With Belgian chocolate 
Personally imported
By her parents last month.
It was delicious
And warm when we ate it.
Unfortunately Kira got to it first.
Her snitch marks 
Didn't affect the flavor.
So no need to be upset
With our little Cindy Lou Who.
I just love her piggy tails.

Thank you all for your birthday greetings!
It's nice to be remembered
On such a great day.
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