Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year in Review

I've wrestled a little with how to measure 2009. I could list the quilt projects I've completed (9) or the cross stitch/needlepoint projects (21) or the books I've read (at least 50). I could talk about having to participate in a due process hearing at work, one of the most difficult times in my professional life. Or I could dwell on the stress of watching from afar as my oldest struggled to make ends meet in this economy in Los Angeles and his uncertainty about his career choice. Or the stress of helping/encouraging/outright incessantly nagging my daughter to get her college applications done. Or the difficult time my church is having with a pastor out on medical leave. Or the frustration of not being able to drop some pounds.
But there have been many, many blessings as well. My middle son completed a very successful freshman year at college and had a great summer as a camp counselor. It was wonderful to see him so happy. After some coaching from my husband and me, my oldest negotiated more hours and a raise at his job. He also found a cheaper apartment so some of his financial troubles are reduced. My daughter and I had a great time visiting college campuses and I think she made good choices about where to apply. My husband and I are in great health and our daily walks during the summer and fall were wonderful for reconnecting at the end of the work day. (He is still walking outside every day. I'm a wimp and use the treadmill when the temperature dips below 40). Our house is in great shape and my husband isn't thinking about another remodeling project. I'm thankful that my 91 year old aunt is still cognitively intact and I enjoy my weekly conversations with her. We attended four weddings, and no funerals. I've built up a great stash of quilt fabrics and have more than enough projects lined up to get through the next year.
By the end of 2010, we'll be empty nesters. I'm sure there will be some surprises along the way. Here's to a happy new year to all of you, too!

Monday, December 28, 2009

10 Book Challenge Completed!

I finished my 10th book for the challenge I joined back in September. The list is in my sidebar. You'll notice that most of it is pretty lightweight fiction since most of my reading time is limited to a few pages before I fall asleep at night. I really do miss having the time to sit and read for long stretches but that just isn't possible with a busy teenager, a house and a full-time job. And of course, stitching and quilting!

I do listen to quite a few books while I'm driving and while I'm quilting. Right now, I'm listening to A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore and I can recommend it highly.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Children Were Nestled

In my family, we open our gifts on Christmas Eve. This tradition got its start in my own childhood. I'm assuming my parents started this because we lived in the same small town as my paternal grandparents who had 11 children. Every year, nine of those children and their families would come for Christmas (one child passed away before I was born and one family lived several states away). That meant 22 grandchilden as well. We rented the Community Hall in town so everyone could be together. Obviously, my parents helped a lot with the food shopping and preparation and needed to get things together on Christmas morning. So we had our family gathering a little early. I've continued the tradition with my own children since we have hosted Christmas (and all the other major holiday) dinners since my oldest was born. We go to church, come home and have snacks and enjoy a leisurely time opening the gifts.

This year, I made a quilt for each of the kids with the plan of putting it on their beds Christmas morning. I almost got them out last night, but stuck with my original plan. This morning, I went into my oldest's room and tucked his quilt around him. My oldest is like me and can sleep through anything--he actually slept through Hurricane Rita when he was in his dorm room in Miami. But this morning, he woke up a little bit while I was putting the quilt on and said "Thanks." Who could ask for a better Christmas present?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday, Winter Baby

This is our daughter's 18th birthday, and coincidentally, my brother's birthday. They were born 40 years apart--you do the math.

My third pregnancy was a surprise. I don't usually tell people since I don't think it's fair to my daughter to advertise that. I'm sure none of you will break it to her, though. Because I was an "older" mother--all of 38--I had some genetic testing done early in the pregnancy. The alpha fetal protein test, the one that checks for neural tube deficits like spina bifida, came back positive twice and I ended up having to have amniocentesis. We chose not to find out the baby's gender.

My daughter was due on December 12 and early in December, my doctor was telling me that it would be any day. On the 12th I had definite signs that labor should begin soon, but nothing happened. On the 17th, I went to the hospital to be induced. On the way, my husband and I speculated about what the baby would look like. We already had a boy with blonde hair and brown eyes and one with dark brown hair and dark brown eyes. We thought the baby would have dark hair and blue eyes. After four hours of being induced, nothing happened and we went home from the hospital without a baby. I went about my business making cookies, going to my son's kindergarten holiday party, going shopping and welcoming my parents who came to help us out. I was royally tired of strangers and store clerks stopping to stare at me and asking whether I should be out walking around. (Do you think anybody asked that of those prairie women who dropped their babies in the field and went back to work?)

Finally, on the first day of winter, I went into labor and we headed to the hospital through some snow flurries. I looked at the clock as we went into the elevator and saw that we arrived at exactly 9:00. Once we got to the labor room, I asked for drugs, but was told it was too late (to this day, I think they lied). My husband's coaching consisted of looking at the fetal monitor and announcing to me that I had just had a big contraction. I guess he figured that since this was the third time, I had the whole childbirth business down and didn't need much help. At 10:26, the baby arrived and was screaming so loudly I had to ask the staff to repeat whether it was a boy or a girl.

She may have been a "surprise", but what a gift she's been. She's bright and articulate and has a quirky sense of humor. She's also a good friend and has a compassionate heart. (And she has blonde hair and brown eyes.) Here's to a happy birthday, and the start of another great year!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

All I Want for Christmas

My husband and I have always taken a lot of pleasure in giving each other gifts at Christmas. When we were first married, he used to do his shopping two or three days before Christmas. Then, one year, he caught a nasty flu and was flat on his back on December 23. There weren't presents for me that year and even though we shopped the after-Christmas sales together, it wasn't the same. He learned his lesson and since then has always been on-time and very generous. Last year, though, neither of us could think of anything we really wanted. I think it was partly the economic climate and partly the fact that while we are not great consumers, we pretty much buy ourselves whatever we want/need during the year. So we agreed to no gifts, and I've got to tell you that wasn't much fun. This year, we gave each other modest lists although once again, I had a hard time thinking of something I wanted. I do need a new wallet so that went on my list.

But what I really wanted, and no one could give me, is time to enjoy the holiday season. Then, yesterday, the Philadelphia area was hit with a major snowstorm. I ran out at 6 in the morning to do a quick grocery store errand and then was in for the rest of the day. My son in LA called at 8:30 to tell us his flight had been cancelled. It was due in at 4:30 which was to be the height of the storm. That took care of the only worry I had and I spent the rest of the day writing Christmas cards, cleaning, doing some wrapping, reading a book and working on Christmas ornaments. I got the top for the jewelry box we're giving my daughter for her birthday tomorrow stitched and mounted. I'm about to bake my first batch of cookies. My son left a message last night that he'll be in on Tuesday and that the airline is flying him in first class. I feel rested and ready. Let the holidays begin!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's My Turn To Be a COW

A few weeks ago, Nancy, Near Philadelphia made this post. While I object to the acronym, my daughter's high school concert was the cause of my becoming a Cranky Old Woman last night. I used to love going to these concerts when my son was in high school. But in the six years between his graduation and last night's event, concert-going etiquette has suffered greatly in my community. Seems many people think "concert" and "sporting event" are synonymous. Thus, the cat-calls, whoops and whistles after every number, no matter how classical. Thus, people feel free to walk in and out at will, no matter who is performing. And how about the family who once spent ten minutes wondering aloud whether the audience would stand for the Hallelujah Chorus and then talking the whole way through it. Or the woman who sat next to me last night and sang along with the choir (and not well, I might add). Hello--I came to hear my kid, not you!!

OK, I feel better now. And on a brighter note, my daughter had a successful audition last Saturday and she will be one of the trumpeters for our district band.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Anticipation

Here's the view from our deck last Sunday morning when we had a few inches of snow. It was the best kind--just enough to make everything sparkle and not enough to affect travel on the roads. As you can see, our back yard is wooded. It's home to quite a bit of wildlife, including some foxes and many, (too many), deer. I often step out onto the driveway and see a deer nibbling about six feet away from me. They barely look up any more.

Well you would think that this snow would get me in the Christmas spirit, but that seems to be slow in coming this year. We have a interim pastor who is just wonderful and his sermon on the first Sunday in Advent was about anticipation. (For those of you of a certain age, he used the Heinz ketchup commercial with Carly Simon's "Anticipation" as one of his illustrations.) I'm finding it hard to capture that excitement. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that at my school we have been directed to keep the holidays out of our lessons. In fact, we were specifically reminded that only our first graders have units on holidays and traditions in their curriculum. So we have virtually no decorations except snowflakes and some stars.

Now, I totally understand that there are a variety of religious/cultural/ethnic backgrounds in our school population of almost 500 children. But I think that by not talking about the holidays, we're missing a great opportunity to teach tolerance for someone else's beliefs. In addition, learning about what others practice can give parents the chance to reinforce their values and beliefs with their children. I'm reminded of how in second grade my daughter was given the assignment of writing a letter to Santa (or if one was Jewish, the "Hannukah Fairy.") This actually offended me on several levels since my children never believed in Santa and I objected to the implied materialism being promoted. Rather than storming into the principal's office and raising a ruckus, I let my daughter write the letter and then talked with her about how what we think might not be the same as what others think and that is OK. It cheers me now to see her with a group of friends who come from a wide range of cultures and how they make room for lots of different points of view. Hers is definitely not my childhood world where everyone was white and Protestant, and many times, I think she and my boys are richer for having more exposure to the world.

In the broadest sense, anticipation in the Advent season is about welcoming the baby Jesus and making room for Him in our hearts and lives. I'm working on building that excitement and hoping that you're feeling it, too.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bound, Labeled and About to Be Delivered


This is the last of the four quilts I sent off in August to be quilted. (I think my quilt holder needs to grow a few inches and get longer arms). This one is a Christmas present for my sister. I finished binding it about a month ago and believe me, it was touch and go about whether it would actually get sent out to Iowa. I loooove the colors and I seriously contemplated sending a Harry and David fruit basket to her instead. But now it has a label with my sister's name on it so there's no turning back!