Monday, November 23, 2009

The First Thanksgiving

No - not THE first Thanksgiving, but a first Thanksgiving for us as parents and as a son.

Last weekend Rob and I headed to Greenville, NC via Greensboro. In Greensboro we met up with our good friends who have a son our son's age and after spending the night with them headed to Greenville where we spent the night at a lovely B & B across from the campus of ECU. The day couldn't have been better, no humidity which is a miracle in Eastern, NC even in November, a sunny, crisp, 64 degrees a blue sky and best of all a great day spent with family and friends. (Oh and ECU did beat University of Alabama Birmingham making the day even better!).

On Sunday our son and friend's son met us at the B & B. Our friends and their son went their way with their son giving them a tour of his area of study and our son took us on a little tour of the town and campus before we headed to the store to purchase the typical college items that college students seem to always need - you know - popcorn, salsa, chips - before taking him back to his apartment. The weekend was just perfect.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving and this Thursday will be our first as parents without having our son at home with us. While part of me is a bit sad that we won't have him home at least we have him. He had decided a few weeks ago that the trip west would be a long drive for just one day since he would be heading back for the game on Saturday but about two weeks ago he got a part-time job and will have to work on Friday.

This Thursday we'll have our first Thanksgiving without Rob's dad. His first Thanksgiving and then Christmas without his dad.

But here's the thing: children are supposed to grow up, be independent, make their own (and hopefully, God willing) good decisions, but children should grow up - so this Thanksgiving I'm very thankful to have a son who decided he would go on to college, who decided to major in something he enjoys and who decided to get a part-time job because let's face it he needs some party money, but he also knew that his father and I have been working pretty darn hard to put him and his sister through college just like our parents did.

And the other thing: our parents are supposed to raise us to make good choices, to love them, to love our children and they are supposed to grow old and to pass on before us. It should be the order of life and I am so thankful this Thanksgiving to have had a father-in-law who was a good father and lived life to the fullest. I am thankful for a son who challenged us as parents and who has made us proud.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Here's What I think...

"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship," Louisa May Alcott.

When I was about 10 my dad gave me the book Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Recently a friend gave me the book, Fifty Celebrate Fifty and I saw this quotation by Alcott and I thought, "right on sister!"....that is exactly what I think.

I have sailed through storms yet I realize my storms are miniscule next to many in this world. But, they are my storms and I'm still trying to sail through.

When I was 15 I experienced my most horrific storm of my life at that time when two of my classmates drowned at my class party at our family lake place. It was well chaperoned and a great group of kids, but it happened. Within minutes two classmates drowned. Then less than a year later a friend I had grown up with was killed in an automobile accident. Those three deaths had an impact that only those who have gone through such an experience identify with yet I know that there are many, many and did I say many more who have gone through worse, worse and I did I say worse experiences. You bet every night when I say my prayers I thank God for blessing me with an easy life in comparison.

Last summer when my son had a horrific accident that could have and I emphasize could have taken his life I thanked God for blessing us that day. There are days I feel guilty because I've been so blessed and when I start whining about life I stop and remind myself my life has been a cake walk. I am still learning how to sail my ship and some days the water is smooth and the sky is blue and then there are other days.

Do you ever think about Job? A little over a year ago I took a class at my church, Disciple One and we studied the Bible from beginning to end and I remember thinking about old Job. Wow...we know nothing do we? At least most of my friends and family know nothing. Boils, frogs, locusts... I selfishly pray every day that God doesn't test me like Job, but if He does let me suffer with the grace of Job.

This blog began with Here's What I now I'm doing a 360...but it's still what I think...Does anyone think that the "Education Lottery" is an oxymoran? (I just saw a commercial about the SC Education Lottery - got me thinking). Gambling on our children's education??? Hum let me think...what's wrong with that scenario??? My husband teases me because I refuse to buy a lottery ticket (on Sunday that is)...yes, yes, I'm guilty I've bought at least one of those scratch off tickets. Robert once took me to Philadelphia - Philadelphia, Mississippi that is to the Indian Reservation (ok - I shall be PC - Native American Reservation) to gamble. I told him I would risk no more than $10 ..I ended up risking $20 and feeling guilty. I just simply think its very ironic - education/lottery... are we gambling on our children's education - literally and figuratively?

So Sail on....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Attack....

**Due to computer trouble at home this one did not get published earlier. Today "is" the more on that when the computer issues get resolved. But thanks to so many of you for the Birthday wishes!

When I decided to blog I thought I could write something everyday - you know I had this kind of fantasy that once the kids went off to college and it was just Rob and me that we would actually get home from work by 5:30 p.m. have a pleasant conversation, maybe have a nice glass of wine while we prepared dinner...well that was a nice fantasy.

I LOVE my job - I've worked for nearly 20 years as a downtown revitalization professional and last fall I was fortunate enough to get a job with the state of NC where I actually get to work for five small towns who apply to be in the program. I get to go to those towns and work with both the private and public sector. I have a great co-worker who is a designer and we travel together. The operative word here is travel: while we live and work in the Western region of NC the west extends all the way to Union County and Randolf Counties of NC and when we travel there and back in one day it makes for a long day and we travel two nights a week three weeks out of the month. This week we had two towns and I just found myself letting a lot go this week - including laundry...which makes me ask: why is it that I haven't had a child at home in nearly two years and I swear the laundry seems almost as much as it was when they were home? We're either the cleanest two people I know or the dirtiest!

But, back to my work and the "attack". In the nearly 20 years of working downtown I've had some interesting experiences such as crawling through a tiny hole into a display window to help create a display and thinking once in there I was going to be the display the space was so tight, wondering if I'll end up suffering the consequences of inhaling asbestos after crawling around the second floor of a burned out building (or worse falling through the floor). I've been flea bitten, crawled onto the roof of buildings through really tight openings, encountered snake skins that made my skin crawl, smelled odors that made me wonder if Jimmy Hoffa was behind the walls, ridden an outside elevator up to the top of a building while winds were around 35 miles per hour (and I hate outside construction elevators)but I did get to see Pilot Mountain - but being attacked by a squirrel well that was a first! Did you know squirrels play possum to0...yes indeed.

I decided to forego climbing up the ladder onto the roof of the building we were evaluating and squeezing through a hole just to see what the upstairs looked liked. I really didn't want to look like Pooh Bear when he got stuck trying to get honey - instead my younger and much more agile co-worker did the honor of crawling onto the roof and through the hole (not getting stuck). While he was crawling around on the roof the town planner and I observed a squirrel that we thought had died between the power line and the exterior brick wall. Once my co-worker and the building's owner got back on the ground we pointed out the poor little creature. Sneaky little bugger - he was just bidding his time until we left. The building owner decided to poke him with a stick and you got it - he wasn't asleep at all. The squirrel literally jumped on the chest of the the building owner, ran down his leg and straight toward me. Yes, this nearly 50 year old woman can still run and so could that man who is older than me. The two young men were laughing their - well you know what off!

But - Tuesday is the "big" day. I'll be traveling to another one of our towns just above Asheville. A little town called Burnsville. So I'm really hoping a bear doesn't wander out and decide to crawl into our state car. I think that might be hard to explain to our bosses in Raleigh.

Anyway next week the family is having a little get together on the family farm to celebrate. My dad turns 79 on Friday and my brother turned 47 on Oct. 6 so we'll just have a family celebration in the old packing shed. Rob and I went over today and it was like these memories washed over me and I could just feel the presence of little Sherry, Billy and Rodney in that packing house. We even walked upstairs and I could see us with skates on our feet skating as if the upstairs of the packing house was the fanciest skating rink around and to us it was. Next to the packing shed is the old sawmill. I walked over and pretended once again to be the Capt. of the Ship. When my brothers and I were little we used to pretend the old sawmill was a ship. I always had to be the Captain and my brothers the crew. I was such a bossy little girl! We spent hours sailing the sea and no pirates ever took over our ship when I was in command.

I love the family farm. It takes me back to a childhood that was just perfect. Long summer days running around the farm. Going fishing in the evenings. Oh we did work - yes dad made us work but I don't remember it being such drudgery, but isn't that a part of the aging process??? We remember things more ideal than they probably were. But seriously I am blessed...then and now and next Saturday we'll just spend the evening remembering the past, looking forward to the future and my favorite thing...laughing. I love to laugh. Hopefully no attack squirrels though!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Just thinking...

As of 8 minutes ago (current time as I blog 7:08) I have been married 26 years. Why am I not out celebrating...husband is sick..hope it's not flu. I did go by Green Life in Asheville and pick up a few ingredients to make a delicious dinner tomorrow night. I know we should go out,but I like to cook and plus one kid still in college we are still kind of on a tight budget - but the point - I like to cook or we'd go out.

Wow 26 years ago and to think I nearly married someone else - yep came within six weeks of marrying some else. Invitations ready to go, napkins for reception with our name and wedding date on them and I decided to back out. Yes, I felt guilty...the guy was nice, handsome, funny, smart - what was the I just couldn't close my eyes and see myself growing old with him and part of that was I was 21 and had just graduated from college and while many of my friends got married at 20 and right out of college I just couldn't. I wasn't ready. I guess I was waiting to meet Rob.

Oh there have been times within 26 years I've thought what the heck did I do?? About the 4th move and in the midst of building a house and pregnant and the house collapsed in the middle of construction I thought I could have married someone else and this wouldn't have happened! But the reality is we never know...something worse could have happened.

I jokingly tell people Rob proposed by saying, "marry me and I'll take you places"...yeah - Clarksville, VA, Forest City, NC, Clarksville (again), Southern Pines, Rutherfordton, Mooresville, Meridian, MS, Greensboro and now Flat Rock, NC. We have had some adventures. I remember when he came home and said that we had to move to Mississippi or he would be out of a job. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "I'll move to Mississippi when Hell freezes over". The next thing I knew we were on a plane to take a look at Mississippi. I wasn't going to move, but felt we owed the company the courtesy of taking a look (at their expense). We flew out in February. I asked what kind of clothes to pack and he said, "light weight". When we got to Meridian the temperature started dropping. It was getting colder there. I remember waking in the hotel room and sincerely praying, "God if you really want us to move here then please somehow let me know." We looked and looked around and the day got chillier. By the time we got on a flight home and suddenly we found ourselves in freezing rain in Meridian. I started laughing and thought, "well God you do have a sense of humor - Hell has just frozen over." I looked at Rob and said, "okay, I'll move!"

Meridian was a hard move for the family, but proved to make us stronger as a family. Ten months after moving there we moved to Greensboro where our children really grew up and we met people that made it very hard for us to move again - but move again we did. This move has been one of the hardest, but hopefully it's the last. I have said, "Rob - you can move again, but me - not until you cremate me!"

I remember 26 years ago my mom and I having the best time planning the wedding. We didn't get into those mother/daughter fights. We just enjoyed. Then my dad driving me to the church and I just wasn't ready to leave him so we drove around the church with my friend Tami (who introduced Rob and me) following us. Finally I looked at dad and said, "it's time".

I know it won't be too many years before my dear husband has to walk his own daughter down the aisle and maybe one day we'll see our son get married too. Time passes so quickly now.

The one thing I can honestly say - while Rob and I certainly have had our "white trash" moments as we jokingly say and there have been some interesting times within our marriage - I can still see myself growing old with him. Marriage isn't easy - life isn't easy - children aren't easy - but if you find the right person to go through the next 26 years and counting with then it's all worth it!

Don't you think??

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Less is More

I just got off the phone with my husband. His last words to me were, "remember, less is more". I chuckled. Women get the bad reputation of being the pack-rat, but in our household I think Rob is equally to blame. His statement to me though was about his mother. He and his brother and brother's wife are all in Columbia packing up my mother-in-law who has only been in assisted living there since January when she and my father-in-law moved in right after he was diagnosed with cancer. When we moved them in we took mainly their bedroom furniture, a couple of chairs, clothing and toiletries. A few weeks after they moved in my father-in-law had his desk/cabinet combination moved up to their apartment there at the assisted living so I'm sure Rob is dealing with getting that moved out (which by the way he wants to move into this house).

In the subsequent months after my father-in-law died Rob and I have gone down nearly twice a month working on getting their main house packed up and things donated, distributed, sold.
Besides just being emotional going through over 60 years worth of things packed into a house they have lived in for the last 25 years and trying to decide what to do next it has become somewhat frustrating. You see, we moved into our new home in December of 2008 and hadn't unpacked when we found out Rob's dad was dying. So when they moved into their assisted living we suddenly found ourselves bringing some of the items they wanted us to have into our new home. Our garage looks like it could be a used furniture and appliance store - albeit some nice furniture since one piece is my mother-in-law's china cabinet she wants Laura to have and another piece is an antique maple secretary; and then there's the bonus room of our house - I can barely stand to go up there and that's what I did this morning for a while - yikes! When did we accumulate so much - STUFF!

The problem with our STUFF is that Rob and I find ourselves somewhat sentimentally attached to pieces of furniture. I have this buffet and china cabinet and two corner pieces that belonged to my Aunt Bertha (my grandfather's sister) - in 1984 after she died her grandson didn't want them and sold all four pieces to us for a song. I love those pieces because they are solidly built (sort of like Aunt Bertha was) and date back to probably the mid-1940's. The pieces were made in Alamance County, NC and that means something to me since most new pieces are now made in China or some other foreign country and not made as well. But the thing I like the most is that on the corner of my buffet where you would really have to look hard I can see my cousin Drew's name etched into the wood. I imagine he was a little boy learning to write and either wrote on the buffet (he was precocious) or he bore down hard on a piece of paper while printing his name.

We also have Rob's parents maple bed that they started their housekeeping with in 1946 and one day it will go to Laura. When we got it from them some years ago I had it refinished and when we got it back it was beautiful. Will's bedroom suit is from his great-grandparents and that furniture dates back to the mid-1920's.

The oddest piece of furniture though that Rob and I can't seem to part with and is rather silly of us too: it's a 1978 Lazy Boy recliner. Yep, I'm ashamed to admit that I just can't part with the darn thing. The chair belonged to Rob's Uncle and when it was new it had that 70's gold and orange plaid thing going on so we did re-upholster it in 1994 - it's a lovely (I'm kidding) dark green corduroy - in my defense that was a nice fabric when I selected it in 1994. Rob's uncle loved that chair and honestly it works perfectly and is still comfortable, but I do long for a more stream-lined less Archie Bunkerish style chair that doesn't take up much room and is more "modern"! At some point we'll put it up in the bonus room because eventually that will be "Rob's Man Room". Don't ask - and don't imagine too much either!

But - back to Less is More. I really did well with not accumulating too much, but when our relatives started downsizing and dying we seemed to get stuck - I mean - inherit these pieces of furniture. When we moved from our home in Greensboro to this one we promised that we would get rid of excess stuff and we did to a point, but I can't give up the kids stuffed animals which are now stuffed into Rubbermaid or the children's books - I love children's books and someday hope to be reading them to grandchildren -then there is my Terry Competition solid mahogany water ski, the 1970 something coke machine, the 400 pound butcher block table (that by golly will get moved into my kitchen at some point), the two beautiful sinks Rob brought back from Mexico but refused to install in our house in Greensboro because we might move and build a house one day - okay - get the picture! Please don't even email me about Craig's list and eBay - not going to happen. Been there done that - hate it.

I figure Rob and I have about 25 years to really pare down our belongings and I am determined to do so. I plan to do as our relatives did - give it to my children! I have threatened everyone I know telling them to please not buy me anything that is a nick-knack. You know what I mean - those cute little "things" that sit on shelves, dressers, or are stuffed into cabinets. Seriously, what was with people of my mother-in-law's generation and collecting things. I don't mind pieces that integrate with the decor, but to have pieces just sitting around collecting dust - no thanks. I like useful objects, practical things. They can be pretty, but they must be functional. Okay I can hear people who know me saying, "what about all your books". That's different. Seriously though - I get it - less is more - but when it comes to getting rid of STUFF - who's STUFF are we going to get rid of? I vote Rob's STUFF! (Just kidding dear!)

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Blood Runneth Orange

Last night I found myself yelling at the TV. Clemson was playing Georgia Tech (and not doing too well during first half) and it will not matter if I live out the rest of my life in NC and that my daughter is a UNC grad and my son is a student at East Carolina my blood is at least half orange.

Growing up in SC you were either a Clemson fan or a Carolina (SC that is) fan and there wasn't any in between. As for me I had no choice. My grandfather went to Clemson from 1915-1917 and my dad went to Clemson in the early 50's. Both grandfather and father were drafted into military service before they finished college. My grandfather into WWI and my father into the Korean conflict, but they both were HUGE Clemson fans.

If I had been born two days later both my doctor and my dad wouldn't have showed up for my birth. For many years and as far back as when my grandfather was at Clemson the BIG game was played on what they called BIG Thursday. The third Thursday in the month of October. Lucky for my mom and me I happened to be born on Tuesday before BIG Thursday and yes my dad and doctor did leave on Thursday for the game.

Clemson football ruled my autumns. I had to make sure when planning my wedding that the date didn't interfere with a Clemson football game - luckily October 1, 1983 was an open day. But one thing for sure: I have great memories of growing up going to Death Valley on Saturdays. I don't think I have ever had tailgate food as good as what my mom packed. She would go all out; fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, homemade biscuits filled with country fried ham and brownies (nothing healthy - just southern goodness). We would load up in the family wagon and take off for Clemson. We especially loved homecoming where all the fraternities and clubs would build these great displays some of them even mechanical (after all Clemson is known for engineering). (I must admit when our daughter went to UNC and we went up for their homecoming game I was disappointed - no displays and there just wasn't the spirit like at Clemson.) Dad always made sure we were dressed from head to toe in orange and we could chant the C-L-E-M-S-O-N-T-I-G-E-R-S cheer.

To dad's disappointment, although he never said this, neither my brothers and I went to Clemson, and was just as proud or at least acted like it when we went to Lander College (now University). We still met my parents over at Clemson during the fall of our college years and I have some good memories of going over to Clemson during college years. I think that is what I admire the most of my dad - he would have loved for my brothers and I to go to Clemson, but he supported our decision to go to Lander and when I decided to go to graduate school I had to make a tough choice and I entered USC because it was the best choice for me at the time - my dad supported me. Our daughter was accepted to Clemson in 2005 and my dad was so proud, but because we live in NC and the whole in-state-out of state thing she went to another ACC school - that one in Chapel Hill - Dad was proud. The bottom line is that dad was just proud that his children and grandchildren got an opportunity to go to college and to finish college something he and his dad didn't get or didn't get a chance to follow-up on.

I will always chant for Clemson and admit that when they play UNC I do find myself a bit divided (basketball is always tough for me because UNC usually has the better team so I like pulling for the underdog which is usually Clemson). I will always associate Clemson with good memories and with my dad. He and mom went on vacation this week and I knew Clemson had an away game when they planned their trip because he would never miss a home game! So as I turn 50 I am grateful to have had a dad who was just proud of me for going to college and for a dad who gave me pleasant memories!

Monday, September 7, 2009

When September Comes (and goes)

September has been with us a few days now and when September comes and Labor Day passes I feel that fall has arrived when technically it doesn't arrive until the 20th or is the 21st? I can never remember exactly, but in the south summer often extends into October even if fall officially arrives in September.

My mother used to say fall was a depressing time for her and I would joke and ask, "how can fall be depressing - two of your children were born in October? For her it marked the time of the year when her father died. But I have always loved the fall - I love the cool crisp air, the color of the leaves and the smell that fall brings.

Yet as this autumn falls forward I have to admit that I have found myself thinking about those I've known who haven't made it to their 50th birthdays. I have felt grief over their passing so much this year. I have found myself at times almost blinded by the grief I have felt and sometimes the unfairness that they died so young.

I have also thought about friends who died during my teens and think about what could have been. I had three friends who died tragically before they were 17. Recently I found their photographs in a box of my high school memorabilia. I stared at those faces frozen in time wondering if after graduation we would have drifted apart just as most of my high school friends and I have or would we have stayed friends.

A year ago last spring a young man from our church family a young man who was a youth in my youth group who had lived with cystic fibrosis all of his life was killed in an automobile accident. My first memory of this young man was when I took the youth group on a mission trip. I didn't know he had CF until the morning we left when his mom stood outside the window of the van we were leaving in telling me that Will had CF. She explained that he knew what he needed to do if he became sick. I was shocked - we hadn't lived in the community long and this was a new church - but in the months prior to me taking this group I had no idea.

Over the years I grew to love this young man because he didn't let his life be defined by his disease. The reality was that CF would probably have taken his life, but then his life abruptly ended. We had no time to prepare, but in some ways the community had always been prepared. There have been days over this last year I have thought about Will - a song will come on the radio or just something will strike me that reminds me of Will. I also thought about Will this summer when my own Will could have died in an automobile accident.

For some reason my Will was spared and while my Will was trapped for over 45 minutes in that jeep overturned on the roof of an historic mill in the middle of Wilkes county, NC I felt that the other Will was with him calming him. I also felt my father-in-law was bargaining with God asking God not to take my Will right now - to let him live and for some reason God saw fit to let him live.

Then there was Tom. Tom was diagnosed with cancer two summers ago and fought hard. He had a lovely wife and two daughters and Tom was just a friend to everyone. When our Will got into a little trouble and when most people in his profession would have probably been very judgmental and would probably never have let their daughters hang out with Will (oh did I mention Tom was in law enforcement) Tom not only didn't turn his back on Will, Tom loved Will. Tom showed Will that people could still love and trust him and that a mistake is just a mistake if you make good and learn from that mistake. I think Tom's love and trust in Will is what is going to keep our Will more honest than even the love and trust we, his parents, have in Will. When Tom died in December Will who had not gone to a funeral of anyone whom he really loved because he just felt he couldn't went to Tom's.

There have been so many others over the last year and so many others over the last years who have died before 50. And when I remember them I remember them for the things that they did accomplish in their lives whether they died at 47 or 15. Each one made a contribution in a positive way. So - as I approach 50 I shall make a renewed promise to myself to do my very best to live each day in a positive way and when I leave this life I hope others will say, "she lived, she really lived."