You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Family’ category.

One of the demons I wrestled with on my driving trip out west in January–and one of the biggest reasons for my pissy attitude at the time–was the overwhelming feeling I’d had for the previous six to eight months that it was way beyond time for me to stop being a burden on society and find something constructive to do with my time, talent, and experience (other than writing this blog–ha, ha). Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful I was able to “retire” there for a bit and do nothing more constructive than read and write to my heart’s content…go out to lunch with my friends…play golf…travel when I wanted…and…and…wait a minute, what am I bitching about? Oh, yeah. Activity dedicated to little more than self-gratification. Yeah, yeah, that. Well, believe me, it’s only fun for so long. Really. I’m not kidding.

Thankfully, those long miles alone in the car gave me the time and space I needed to properly sort my thoughts and to come to some conclusions about what my future might/could/should look like. The result: I applied to the Master of Social Work program at the University of Kansas shortly after I got home. Then I waited…and waited…and waited to find out if they’d take me. Every day since late March–when I was told letters of acceptance would start going out–I’ve gone out to the mailbox with high hopes of finding The Letter. And every day since late March, I’ve been disappointed. Walking back into the house, I’d repeatedly ponder all the possibilities for why I hadn’t yet heard from the school, comforting myself with the fact that I’d also been told that letters would continue to go out through the end of April. I’d wring my hands and wonder what I’d done wrong on the application that would cause the powers-that-be to question my suitability for the program and my qualifications to be a social worker. ARGHHHH! It was torture.

Finally, yesterday, as I walked out to the mailbox, I told myself that if The Letter wasn’t there (and it wasn’t), I was going to call the Dean of Admissions today and just ask. Put myself out of my misery. So I did. Call, that is.

See, I told you I have no patience.

Turns out none of the letters have gone out yet. The first batch, which includes mine, gets mailed tonight. More importantly though, I learned that I am, in fact, being offered a spot in the program for the fall semester. Woooo Hooooo!

So, if all goes according to plan, three years from now I’ll walk through the campanile and down the hill as a KU graduate and licensed clinical social worker; ready to start re-paying the universe for the untold blessings that I have enjoyed throughout my lifetime; ready to put my life experiences as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, community and school volunteer, neighbor, former teacher, student, business woman, reader, writer, life-long learner, instructional designer, and walking peri-menopausal hormone to good use. The relief is overwhelming. Truly.

Tom’s excited, too. Now he can tell everyone he’s dating a grad student.

Advertisements

After 15 days and 4, 072.7 miles, the Tedster and I finally pulled into our driveway last night, spent but happy for our efforts. We were ready to be home even if home was covered in snow and the car thermometer barely topped 20 degrees F. Tom made sure the cold crap-ola outside was negated by the warmth inside. He had a pot of potato soup steaming on the stove, flowers on the island in the kitchen, the house cleaned, and was standing in the doorway smiling when the garage door went up. Damn, it’s good to be home. Teddy doesn’t even seem to mind the snow covering the grass.

That’s the great thing about Teddy. He never complains about anything…except being left alone (see my post about Midland, TX). No matter where we went or what we did, he was a perfect gentleman, accepting love and attention from everyone we encountered. He never got cranky because a meal wasn’t offered at the normal time, never fussed about being in the car for long stretches of time, never complained about the hotel we stayed in (I repeat, avoid the Guesthouse Suites in El Paso at all cost), never whined because the only place to have a wee was a windswept muddy patch of ground with RVs pulling in and out, never bristled at the comments about his bum leg.

And here I must pause for an aside. Since I’ve never had a handicap (at least a visible handicap–bumfuzzlement is a handicap, isn’t it?), I’ve never fully understood why people with handicaps complain that others see only their wheelchairs, their braces, or their white canes. I mean, I understand the lament on an intellectual level, but haven’t on an emotional one. After traveling with Teddy, I think I now have a little better understanding of how they feel. I was blown away by how many people we encountered who first commented on Teddy’s bum wheel. Forget that he’s as well-behaved as any dog on the planet, that he has an adorable wrinkly face, that he’s wearing a jaunty red neckerchief that makes him look quite dapper, or that he spins his tail in a complete circle when he meets someone new. People first noticed and asked about his leg. I did my best to patiently explain his condition, and Teddy eagerly exchanged howdy-dos with anyone who stopped to chat, but after a while I wanted to scream, “He’s a great little dog! Forget about his leg! HE HAS!” Please understand. I’m talking into the mirror here. This rant is all about me. I’m just letting you know I will be making a concerted effort in the future to look beyond visible handicaps to see people. Thanks to the Ted-meister.

That’s not all I learned on our trip. I learned that Teddy likes Elton John…a lot. He also likes Kenny Chesney and the Eagles, but Elton’s the man. I learned he hates rumble strips and slowing down for the tollbooths on the Austin turnpike…totally unnecessary interruptions to a good nap. I also learned that he’s willing to sit in the car and wait for me to have my own potty stop as long as I park the car where he can watch me go into the building and come back out again. If I want to leave him a Beggin’ Strip to nibble on during my absence, well, that’s just fine, too.

Hey, where'd you go?

He learned a few things about me in the process, as well. For example, he now knows that I have little tolerance (and more than a few bad words) for idiots…um hum, excuse me, drivers…who drive down the left lane of the interstate for miles and miles without passing anyone…often without even GOING THE SPEED LIMIT. Deep breath.

He also now knows that if he uses just the right tone of voice I will get out of my hotel bed at four in the morning to take him outside for a wee even when the spot for weeing is surrounded by idling 18-wheelers and that, if he waits me out, I will resort to hand-feeding him to ensure that we don’t get on the road in the morning with an empty stomach. Little shit.

Together, we discovered that the stretch of Interstate 10 between about 60 miles east of El Paso and about 60 miles west of San Antonio runs through some of the prettiest scenery you’ll see anywhere. Albeit, as desolate as you’ll see anywhere, but gorgeous nonetheless. It’s also a great stretch of wide open road for…well, if you must know…for driving fast. My dad, who worries about me a lot, reads my blog, so I can’t tell you exactly how fast Teddy and I were going, but let’s just say that my little six-speed G35 with just over 300 horsepower was very happy. Very, very happy. ‘Nuf said.

Because I have no idea what this little peak is called--and because I can be very juvenile on occasion--I've dubbed this little outcropping "The Texas Titty." See the wide-open highway? It was like this most of the way.

Mostly, we loved our trip because we got to see (or in Teddy’s case, meet) a bunch of people we know and love in Arizona and Texas. I want to thank them all for adjusting their schedules to accommodate our visit. Spending time with them went a long way toward adjusting my pissy attitude. It certainly didn’t hurt that they fixed us great meals, regaled us with hilarious stories, and–in a couple of instances–put us up for several nights. We had a blast with each and every one of them and miss them all like crazy already. Just know, if I ever get to be Queen of the World, I’m going to make it illegal for family members to live more than 100 miles apart from one another.

Is it just me, or does Dad look rather pleased about our departure?

My only regret is that our fifteen-day-long jaunt was an interstate trip–a trip more about the destination than the journey–and not a two-lane county-road-type trip that encouraged lots of stops and dilly-dallying along the way. If we’d stopped at every interesting little town, scenic overlook, and point-of-interest, we’d still be on our way to Arizona. So much to see. So little time. I’m guessing the road will beckon again soon. Teddy and I will be ready.

…literally. Teddy tooted all the way across New Mexico and half of Texas, which not only made for a rather unpleasant journey, but also a lot of–as it turns out–unnecessary stops at rest areas and truck plazas where we’d pile out of the car and I’d lead him around pleading, “Go potty, Teddy!” in as sweet a voice as I could muster. All to no avail. The goofy dog didn’t do anything until we got checked into the hotel…except fart. If he toots in his sleep tonight, he’s sleeping in the car!

Oh, and if anyone ever asks if you want to go to El Paso, Texas, run the other way as fast as you possibly can. That’s all I’m saying.

Okay, so the temperatures here in Tucson since my arrival last week have been cooler than normal, and the sunshine has been intermittent at best. Maybe not what I was counting on, but still, I’ve had hours-long stretches of sunshine to bask in on several occasions—which is way more than I was getting at home—and I’ve been able to go entire days without wearing my coat, hat, and scarf. I’ve even gotten to wear sandals a few times; although I’m sure the locals think I’m a bit loony. Fair enough. Maybe I am a bit hasty in throwing aside my winter togs, but bare toes and bare arms have been exactly the thing to jumpstart the attitude adjustment I so desperately needed.

Better yet, I’ve gotten to spend time with nearly all my family and friends in both Tucson and Phoenix. No small feat when you consider they’re busy people and I arrived without much notice. I’m grateful to each of them for adjusting already full schedules at the last minute to accommodate my visit, and I thank Dad’s friends for making room for me at their table at Burger King where they meet every weekday morning. Keep me posted on the glowing circles, guys!

I have to thank my Dad, especially, for being such a terrific host to both Teddy and me. Teddy has been welcomed everywhere we’ve gone, but nowhere more so than at Dad’s, where he was greeted with open arms and given the run of the house…and the run of the backseat of Dad’s beloved yellow Beetle. Dad’s not going to know what to do when we leave and he no longer has to hurdle over a sleeping dog sprawled from wall-to-wall in the hallway.

As for me, I’ve been taken to lunch at all my favorite restaurants here in Tucson, including the Firebird up in the northwest part of town, and to a wonderful local theater called The Gaslight Theatre for an afternoon of really well done (and incredibly goofy) melodrama. (Thanks for babysitting Teddy, Chris!) In every way, I’ve been treated like visiting royalty.

Moreover, the short stretches of time we’ve actually been here at Dad’s have been blissfully quiet and relaxing. I’ve gotten to do some reading, practice the piano (but not enough…I apologize in advance, Lori), write a little, and sleep like the dead every night. I’ve even gotten to do a good bit of cooking.

On Monday, a cold (“cold” being a relative term) and dreary day, Dad and I spent the entire afternoon in the kitchen, chopping, peeling, sautéing, simmering, mixing, and baking. By the time we were done, Dad’s freezer was stuffed with multiple containers of three different kinds of soup and enough BBQ’d meatballs to…to…well, I don’t know to what, but the shelves on his freezer door are groaning from the weight of them. He won’t go hungry for a couple of months. That’s all I’m saying.

We made three of my very favorite soups that I knew—or suspected—Dad would like: my mom’s potato soup (which I’ve modified slightly since she taught me to make it years ago); a yummy roasted carrot soup that makes the house smell incredible for several hours while you’re roasting the carrots, parsnips, onions, and ginger; and a knock-your-socks-off corn chowder that my dear friend Tiffany gave me the recipe for two winters ago. I’m including the recipe for each of them at the end of this post if you’d like to try them for yourselves. Just scroll down. I’m also including the recipe for the meatballs because, not only are they smack-your-grandma delicious, they’re perfect to serve at a Super Bowl party. Enjoy!

The Tedster and I have had a blast in Tucson and are feeling much better about the world in general, but it’s time to move on. Tomorrow morning, we’re back on the road. The weather in KC is still crappy…and keeps getting crappier by the minute…and promises to remain uber crappy until early next week…so we’ve decided to head to the very bottom of Texas to see my niece and her family who live in the McAllen area. On the way north from their place, we’ll be able to stop and see my sister and other niece in Austin. With any luck, the weather will clear in the Midwest while Teddy and I are wandering around in the bowels of Texas, and we’ll be able to drive into KC on Tuesday. (From my lips to the weather gods’ ears.)

Anyway, I hate to admit it, but I suppose I’ve been gone long enough. Tom’s clearly been left at home alone longer than he should have been. Yesterday when he made his lunch, he forgot to remove the waxed paper from the deli cheese he used on his sandwich and ended up eating several bites of it at lunchtime before he figured out why the darn thing tasted so lousy. It’s good to be needed. Sigh.

The recipes:

Mom’s Potato Soup (slightly modified)
6 servings

2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced into ¼ inch pieces
4 stalks of celery, sliced crosswise
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
3 large russet potatoes, diced into 1 inch pieces (peeling the potatoes is optional)
4 cups of rich chicken broth
4 tablespoons of butter
1 cup of cream

Optional (for serving):
Bacon crumbles
Grated cheese

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add the onions, celery, salt, and pepper. Sauté the onions and celery until the onions are transparent. About 7 minutes.

Add the potatoes and broth. The broth should cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender. About 20 minutes.

Use a potato masher (for a chunky soup) or an immersion blender (for a creamy soup) to mash/puree the vegetables. Add the butter and cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 more minutes.

Serve with crumbled bacon and/or your favorite grated cheese.

Roasted Carrot Soup
Serves 10

Preheat the oven to 350°

1½ lbs. carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
1 lb. parsnips, peeled and quartered lengthwise
1 large onion, sliced
3-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
8 cups rich chicken broth (more if necessary)
2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
¼ cup crème fraîche, for garnish
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish

Combine the carrots, parsnips, onion, and ginger in a shallow roasting pan. Dot the vegetables with butter and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Pour 2 cups of the broth over the vegetables.

Cover the roasting pan with foil and bake for 2 hours until the vegetables are very tender.

Transfer the vegetables and broth into a large stockpot and add the remaining 6 cups of broth. Add the salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender and return to the stockpot or puree with mixture with an immersion blender. Adjust the seasonings and simmer for 20 minutes more.

Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a sprinkling of snipped chives.

Cozy Corn Chowder
6 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 large red bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch dice
1 cup carrots, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
3 jalapenos, seeded and sliced (3 makes the soup pretty spicy; adjust accordingly)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups chicken broth
3 cups fresh corn (about 5 ears)
2 medium russet potatoes, cut into ½ inch dice
1 bay leaf
Pinch cayenne
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup milk
1 tablespoon real maple syrup

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a stockpot. Add the onion, bell pepper, carrots, jalapenos, salt, and pepper and sauté in the olive oil until the onions are transparent. About 7 minutes.

Add the rosemary and thyme. Sauté 1 minute more.

Add the broth, corn, potatoes, bay leaf, and cayenne. Cover and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Uncover and simmer about 10 more minutes to let the liquid reduce a bit.

Remove the bay leaf and puree half the chowder in a blender until smooth. Return the pureed chowder back to the stockpot. Add the lime juice, milk, and maple syrup. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Let the chowder sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Barbeque Meatballs
Makes 4 dozen meatballs

Preheat the oven to 350°

Sauce:
2 cups catsup
2 cups brown sugar
¼ of a large yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon Liquid Smoke
½ teaspoon garlic salt

Mix the sauce ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the sauce while you mix and form the meatballs.

Meatballs:
1 large can of evaporated milk
2 cups oatmeal
¾ of a large onion, diced
2 eggs
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons salt
½ tablespoon black pepper
½ tablespoon garlic powder
3 lbs. lean ground beef

Mix the first 8 ingredients together in a large bowl. Work the ground beef into the mixture. Form the mixture into small meatballs (slightly smaller than ping pong balls). Place the meatballs in a single layer on two cookie sheets.

Cover the meatballs with the sauce and bake for 1 hour.

Although I’ve had nearly two days to recuperate and gather my wits after three days on the road, I’m still not feeling particularly coherent. Moreover, I’m not feeling at all motivated to be coherent, so I’m just going to bullet-point a few random thoughts and observations about our adventures thus far:

  • T. Boone Pickens–or someone similarly inclined–has covered a large portion of central Texas with wind turbines. For miles, you see them perched on the mesas and lined up across the cotton fields. Hundreds of them in every direction. Almost makes you feel like aliens have invaded. Eerie, but very ecologically minded. Brownie points–I mean, Greenie Points–for Texas.

Texas going green

En masse, the turbines look like an army of giant aliens

  • Anyone who bemoans the desolation of western Kansas and eastern Colorado has never driven across the west half of Texas. Seriously. Nothing…nothing…and more nothing…sprinkled with an occasional oil refinery. Personally, I’d rather see the nothing.

The nothingness of western Texas

  • Right smack dab in the middle of all the nothing (translation: Midland, Texas) are three of the nicest people I’ve ever met. On Wednesday afternoon, Teddy and I pit-stopped at the Texas Visitors’ Center there, desperately in need of a wee. The Visitors’ Center was the only place we could find that had anything approximating a grassy patch for Teddy’s…uh hum…convenience. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a grassy patch of any kind–either green or brown–anywhere south and west of Gainesville, Texas?) Anyway, after Teddy had taken care of business, I decided to loop his leash around the base of a tree so he could sit outside and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine–as opposed to sitting in the car–while I went inside for my own pit stop. He wasn’t having it. Barked like a maniac, so I took him up to the patio in front of the building and tried looping the leash around a park bench set in concrete by the front door. Again, Mr. Separation Anxiety wasn’t going for it, so I poked my head in the door and asked if pets were allowed in the Center. A very sweet-looking lady looked up and shook her head slowly, but when she saw the desperation in my face and the Tedster sitting out on the sidewalk, she jumped up from the desk, saying, “If you have an dog out there, I’ll be happy to watch him for you,” followed by, “He doesn’t bite, does he?” as she headed for the door. She was outside introducing herself to Teddy before I could even answer. By the time I got back outside less than five minutes later, all three employees (the only three people within 50 miles of the Center) were out on the patio, fussing over His Royal Fuzz-Buttness–one of them snapping pictures of Teddy like he was a visiting dignitary. Of course, in Teddy’s world, he is. What a ham! He has yet to meet a stranger. I wish I’d gotten a picture of those lovely people. You need to stop in and meet them.

"Hey! Don't you walk away from me. Do you hear me?"

  • In a related observation, I can’t prove this, but I’m convinced that Teddy makes an extra effort to turn on the charm around pretty girls. I caught him making bigger and sadder than normal I-sure-could-use-an-ear-scratchin’ eyes on two different occasions when cute girls were nearby. Both efforts resulted in said ear-scratching, clucking, and cooing. He’s absolutely shameless. I’m betting Teddy wishes I’d gotten pictures of them.
  • We were only on the road for a few hours before Teddy figured out we were going to be in the car for a while and he quieted, but it took him a day and a half to finally find the optimal position for nap-taking. Once he figured it out, he napped with gusto.

"Close, but nope."

"Dang, this isn't it either."

"Ahhhh, there we go."

  • Teddy is also confused. All the landscaping in Dad’s condo complex is a variation on the same theme: rocks. Big rocks, little rocks, black rocks, red rocks, medium rocks. In a word, rocks. Worse, none of the trees or bushes in and amongst the rocks are even slightly familiar. Some are even prickly. More than once, Teddy has looked up at me as if to say, “What the hell?” Certainly an adventure for a little guy with Midwestern sensibilities who is used to having an acre of thick grass on which to poo and wee. He is, however, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine. Yesterday, we sat out on the front stoop for nearly an hour just watching the world go by and soaking up the warmth, thankful to be out of the weather mess back home. To those of you in the Midwest, I’ll do my best to bring some sunshine home with me.
  • If you survive the tedium of nothing and get far enough west in Texas, you’re treated to some really lovely mountains.

The Guadalupe Mountains in far west Texas

The Guadalupe Mountains basking in the sun

  • Travelers’ Advisory: Even if you’re bone-tired and don’t think you can drive another mile; even if the caffeine you’re mainlining is no longer working and you’re in peril of driving off the road if you don’t stop immediately, do not stay at the Guesthouse Suites in El Paso. Keep driving. That’s all I’m saying. I’ll let their little “welcome” sign in the bathroom say the rest–except to add their towels and pillows were total crap. And the room wasn’t all that clean. But that’s all I’m saying.

Dear Guesthouse Suites El Paso Management, I must both compliment your unfaltering ineptness while checking me in and thank you for the lovely welcome sign in the bathroom. I was charmed.

  • For the first time in all the years I’ve been coming out to Arizona, I finally got to see snow in the mountains. How ironic. I drive 1,500 miles to get away from the snow and the cold and then nearly drive off the interstate trying to take a picture of the snow. Brilliant.

Yes, VIrginia, that's snow in southern Arizona

  • I recommend driving into Arizona on I-10 West. You go through Texas Canyon, one of the prettiest places in the state. A place where it looks like the desert gods have been playing with Silly Sand on either side of the highway. You remember Silly Sand, don’t you? You know, the stuff we used to play with back in the 60s? As an aside, you can still buy this vintage toy…if you have a mere $200. For those of you too young to remember Silly Sand…my sympathies. Playing with Silly Sand was a blast. A messy blast that typically pissed off the parents, but a blast!

Some of the formations in Texas Canyon

Hundreds of teetery rock formations seemily rise up out of nothing

More soon…

Maybe it’s my hormones. Maybe it’s these goofy braces that cause me to make highly embarrassing, cow-stuck-in-the-mud sucking noises unwittingly in public. (Ever had a toot or a belch sneak out on you? Yeah, it’s like that.) Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve had less than a total of six hours of sunshine here in Kansas City since Christmas Eve. Maybe it’s because I’ve given up sweets and haven’t had a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup since December 21. (Yes, it’s pathetic. I actually remember the exact day–and time–I ate my last one. Consider yourself warned.) Maybe it’s cabin fever. Maybe. Or maybe I just have a pissy attitude.

In any case, it’s time to stop wallowing in the funk and get over it.

To that end, I’m going to start by focusing on the good stuff and share it with you here. Reinforce the high points, so to speak.

Let’s start with the snow…or lack thereof. With the exception of some humongous piles still heaped in the parking lots around town, the snow that started falling Christmas Eve has finally melted.

The biggest upside to the snow melting is I can drive my car again. That’s a good thing. I’m not very good behind the wheel of the pickup, my backup vehicle. Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful to have a backup vehicle, but the darn thing is just too big. Way too big. Stupid, damn curbs.

Plus, it’s wonderful to be able to see the deck and the backyard again.

We thought it would never melt!

Just in case you’ve forgotten, the pile in the picture above was easily two and a half feet tall at its zenith.

It was unbelievable!

But…before the snow melted, Teddy gave us a valentine in the snow, albeit a few weeks early. Still, what a sweetie! I love Teddy.

Teddy loves me!

Just ignore the poo piles.

Bless his heart, Teddy was a real trooper in the snow. We worried about his ability to navigate through the deep drifts with only three wheels, but with one exception–when he got high-centered on the drift just off the patio–he managed quite well.

Three-wheeling through the snow

Of course, all that three-wheeling required extra naps to recuperate. And snacks. Don’t forget the snacks.

Who turned off the sunshine?

I also got to babysit my grand-dog, Otis, a couple of days last week. He’s always good for a laugh or two.

Otis, a.k.a. Mr. Cool

I love Otis.

Then there’s the kids. They never fail to amuse me…or baffle me. Either way, they’re a diversion. How could I not love them?

I have no idea what this is all about

Oh, and Tom bought me a kick-ass Le Creuset casserole dish. Spicy red. One day I mention how nice it would be to have one; three days later, the UPS guy is bringing it to my door. It’s fabulous! It’s definitely making the other casserole dishes around here feel like wimps. Tom’s a good egg. I love him, too! Even when he doesn’t buy me fancy, French ceramic cookware.

Nice? Oui?

So, see. I’ve had lots of reasons to smile in the last few weeks. There’s no excuse for my foul mood. Still it’s undeniable. I’m currently the poster child of pissy attitudes. Time for drastic measures. Time for a…

ROAD TRIP!

Since I can now get my car out on the road again, I’m going to pack my bags, throw Teddy in the passenger seat, and head for the sunshine and warmer weather in Arizona before the snow comes back. Get the heck outta Dodge while the gettin’s good. So for the next few weeks, feel free to travel with us. We can’t promise to cure your winter blues, but we might be able to divert your attention from the lousy winter weather for a bit. That is unless you live where the weather is already and/or always nice, in which case, you have no earthly idea what I’m talking about and you get no sympathy from me. Still, join Teddy and me. We’d love the company.

The UPS man delivered the last box of gifts an hour or so ago. Whew! All the presents are now wrapped and under the tree. Dinner is in the oven. Dessert is cooling on the counter top, and–as the weather wonks predicted–the sleet and ice have begun to fall.

A white Christmas?

We woke up to temperatures in the 50s this morning, but it’s well below freezing now. If the local meteorologists are right, we’ll wake up to a white Christmas tomorrow morning. I’ll believe it when I see it, but they get Brownie points for being right about the sleet. Hey, it’s Christmas. I’m feeling generous. Brownie points for everyone!

The halls--and the tree--are decked...finally

All that’s left to do is fix a nice glass of egg nog with a splash (or a big glug) of rum, take a long, hot shower, and get ready for dinner, but I just had to stop long enough to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I really hope you’re tucked in someplace warm and toasty, surrounded by the people you love–or at least like a lot. May your entire holiday season be filled with family, friends, laughter, good music, and lots of yummy food. And maybe a little rum.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

I suspect that, like me, most moms spend half their time worrying that their children will never grow up and the other half wringing their hands that their babies are, in fact, doing just that. Well, at this point in life, I find myself with two grown-up, responsible adult children along with an equally grown-up, responsible son-in-law. Happily, I can also report that even though they’re perfectly able to take care of themselves, they haven’t grown up…completely. Amazing how many different ways you can use a napkin ring.

At the risk of being pelted by a barrage of “ah, moms,” I’m providing the proof right here. As I told you in my About Me page, they’re pips!

My gorgeous daughter, Carey

My adorable son-in-law, Austin

The one and only...my son, Brian

As for Teddy, he was just hovering nearby in case a piece of steak happened to hit the floor.

Teddy waiting patiently for his serving of steak

In the most recent post on her website, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the current Poet Laureate of Kansas, writes:

In Kansas where I live, particularly in the western part of the state, the land is curved and lined with beautiful stone fence posts, each one holding the wire fencing from one place to another. We have such fence posts in our lives too: moments, events, occasions that stand as strong posts leading our lives along the same route or turning us new directions…Fence post moments are the times we want to remember because they changed or reinforced something vital about who we are, how we live, why we’re alive.

What an incredibly vivid analogy and beautifully worded thought. (Thanks, Jordana, for introducing me to Caryn’s website!)

In the same post, Mirriam-Goldberg challenges her readers to make a list of their own fence posts moments and to write about them. So, always up for a challenge, I sat down at my computer this morning and began contemplating my own fence post moments, unsure where to start.

About that time, Teddy, who was–and still is–snoozing away loudly under my desk, popped the cheese. Stiiiiinky cheese. As I wrinkled up my nose and began looking for something to fan away the blue cloud, I inwardly grinned when I realized that Teddy is as good a fence post moment to write about as any. A fence post I never saw coming.

Snoozing--among other things--under my desk

I won’t bore you with the re-telling of how Teddy came into our lives. You can read all about that in a previous post titled “Meet Teddy.” But I will tell you this: our decision to adopt Teddy was totally an instinctual response to the moment. All heart, no head. I couldn’t then–and still can’t today–offer up any plausible rationale for why we brought that wrinkly faced, squared-butted little mutt home. Instead, I can give you numerous reasons why we never should have, including–but not limited to–the extremely expensive fence we’ve had to put up; the vet bills for ear infections, skin rashes, teeth cleaning, grooming, et al; the loss of freedom to come and go without worrying about an animal; the interrupted sleep when someone–who shall remain nameless–whines while chasing bunnies in his sleep; and the definite deterioration of the air quality in my office on a darn-near daily basis.

Still, I’d fight you to the death if you tried to take him away from me. To the death.

Teddy reminds me–and everyone else around here–every single day what’s really important.

Had a bad day? The boss making you crazy? You say he’s making you work this weekend? You have to travel to meet clients where? For how long? The doctor made you wait for more than an hour before seeing you? You have to have your blood drawn again, a mammogram, a colonoscopy, and you have to wear braces? Damn. Well, just lie down here on the floor. I’ll curl up next to you and make sure you understand that nothing is more important–nothing–than a good snuggle and a belly rub.

You want me to come inside so you can go run errands? Have you been outside today? Have you felt how warm the sun is and seen how green the grass is even though it’s already December? Have you ever just parked yourself here in the liriope belly up and watched the clouds? No? Well maybe you should consider it. Trust me. The errands can wait.

Still haven’t fixed the splotchy paint in the living room and kitchen? Floors need to be scrubbed? Yeah, those windows are pretty dirty, but how about if we go for a ride in the truck instead? You drive, and I’ll perch myself on the console and nuzzle your arm as we go. I’d be extra happy if you’d turn on the vent so my ears get blown around a little bit. See, isn’t this much better than housework?

Every time Teddy sits up on his square butt in anticipation of a Beggin’ Strip, I’m so pleased I followed my gut instincts and brought him home. Every day, when Teddy is following me around like a shadow, intent on keeping me company, I’m grateful Tom honored my “knowing” and didn’t argue with me about adopting him. Every evening, when Tom and Brian are trying to teach Teddy how to play Gotcha (the poor little guy still doesn’t get it, but he’s trying), I’m giddy that I ignored the perfectly practical reasons we didn’t need a dog. And every time Teddy positions himself between me and a contractor, the mailman, or a delivery person and woofs, I’m thankful to be so well loved.

Teddy is a very special fence post for me, one–no doubt–that will lead to many more.

Riding in Dad's car isn't nearly as fun as the truck

Hard to believe, but I’m actually happy to be home from Paradise. Oh, we had a fantastic time for sure, but after twelve days on the road…getting in and out of the minivan dozens of times every day…schelpping luggage and tote bags around…and sleeping in strange beds every night, I was most happy to come home and see my boys, my own bathroom, and my bed. And, as has been the case any time I’ve traveled off on my own during the nearly 29 years of our marriage, I came home to a spotless house, an empty laundry basket, a shiny, clean car with a full gas tank, and a bouquet of flowers. Sorry, girls. Tom’s taken. Permanently.

I have so much to tell you–and I will over the next week or two–stuff I just never had the time to sit down and write while we were there mostly because we crammed every day full. By the time we got back to the condo in the evening, we were exhausted. Plus, I encountered technical difficulties at our condo in Waikiki. The one time I attempted to post while we were there, downloading a picture took forever. Since I have lots of pictures to post, I quickly decided I just wasn’t going to use my time in Hawaii watching a stupid progress indicator crawl slowly up to 100% over and over again…especially when there were mai tais to drink, beaches to be walked along, and sunsets to watch.

However, I can report–smugly–that we came home with every item checked off of Ruth’s list of things to see and do. A list that included seeing a volcano, watching a lava flow up close at night, shopping, visiting Pearl Harbor, exploring a coffee plantation and a pineapple plantation, shopping, learning about Hawaii’s history at the Iolani Palace in Honolulu, attending a luau, seeing the BIG waves off the North Shore of Oahu, shopping, and dipping her toes in the surf. We did it ALL! Plus a bit more. And we have the pictures to prove it–more than 1,000 pictures plus hours of video shot and narrated by Carole. Hours. Seriously. She missed nothing.

I’ve given you of brief synopsis of what we did on the Big Island in a previous post, but over the next week or so, I’ll share more details and pictures of our adventures on both islands. Meantime, I’m sorting through all our photos, my notes, the literature we picked up, and my memories while scrambling to get back into the routine of my everyday life. I thank you in advance for your patience while I get it all done. How about if I tempt you to come back with pictures of our view from the lanai at our condo in Waikiki?

Mahalo and aloha!

Mary's Pictures 035

The view from our lanai in Waikiki looking north

Carey's Pictures 143

The view from our lanai looking south toward Diamond Head - see it peeking over the top of the buildings?

Ruth's Pictures 906

Moonlight over Waikiki - the morning we left for the airport