Where Have You Been?

Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah!  And a Merry New Year!

I have been getting increasingly more desperate and pleading reminder emails from WordPress about my lack of postings.  Apparently, they miss me.  It’s nice to be missed, but I simply haven’t had the time to keep up with things until now. So in the immortal words of Indigo Montoya, “Let me explain. No. There is too much.  Let me sum up.”

October

I refrained from mentioning this on Facebook or here because I didn’t want my grief to be a public thing.  We had a great sadness in October when our good old dog, Shadow, passed away at the age of 15 1/2 years old.  I miss her every day.

Halloween and All Hallow’s Read was only a moderate success this year. Halloween was cold and soggy and with it being on a Friday night there were a lot of indoor, community events available and free to the public.  We only had about half the usual amount of trick-or-treat participants and I was left with a lot of books and candy.

November

The midterm election and No. 29 on my Fabulous Forty (FF) list concluded the first week of November and ushered in a brave new world as my husband was elected to our local school board.

I completed No. 38 on my FF list with my first ever (in my adult life), Girl’s Night Out.  Loads of fun and it’s nice to have a great group of ladies to laugh with.

We went to Missouri to visit my family and to meet the newest member of the clan, a great-nephew.

Mid-month, I was a vendor in a lovely little craft fair at an Episcopal church here in town, working towards crossing off goal No. 35.

The day before Thanksgiving, another one of our pets shuffled off this mortal coil when my 16 1/2 year old tabby cat, Sydney, died from old age.  I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know my husband is there for me when I need to bury a body, even if it is just a skinny old cat.  Sydney came with me from Missouri to California all those years ago, and she was the one thing that got me out of bed in the morning when I was going through some depression following my dad’s death.  She wasn’t a very affectionate cat and she had an aversion to using the litter box, so I can’t say she was wonderful, but she was mine and her loss was another ding in my heart.  We still share our home with two cats, Monkey (7 yr. old Siamese of giant proportions) and Amber (14 +/- yr. old Burmese with a weight problem and sleep apnea.  Yes, my cat snores.), but I think I’m ready for a new family dog and I have been scoping out Petfinder.com and Petharbor.com on an almost daily basis.

Thanksgiving was a domestic affair this year and I think we were all a little sad about that, considering we were in Killarney, Ireland on Thanksgiving last year. It was a mostly quiet, and I struck No. 36 off the FF list, “Learn to make tamales.” Ooooo boy, were they good.  I made them again for New Year’s and the second attempt was even better than the first.

November was also the Month of the Runny Nose and Cough. And so was December. Here’s hoping for a mostly snot free January.

It rained.  Hooray!  California needs rain, we’ve been in drought conditions for three years straight.  Then it rained and rained and rained and rained. The house got musty smelling.  The door on the Little Free Library swelled shut and the knob got yanked off. I was determined not to complain about the rain, but wow, it got soggy and I was getting cabin fever.

December

Following the election, there was a lot of making things official, such as swearing in and learning the duties of being a board member AND a conference to attend. You know that saying, “Behind every successful man is an exhausted woman,”?  Well, it’s true.

The Hobbit celebrated a birthday, which meant a party, and there were additional volunteer hours at school in preparation for a winter concert at school.

Also in December, I crossed off numbers 23 and 31 on the FF list:  Get a physical & all the associated tests; and implement a dietary supplement plan. It took me all stinking month to get all the tests done with our crazy schedule.  Clean bill of health, in case you’re wondering.

Between the sickness and scheduling issues and time drain, I didn’t get the Christmas tree up OR start buying gifts until Dec. 21st, which is a first for me.  I’m usually done with both by Thanksgiving weekend. I didn’t even send out Christmas cards.  It was all I could do to muster some Christmas spirit, and then I came down with a cold. Despite the coughing and seemingly endless river of snot that flowed through our lives, we had a nice Christmas and I spent the break from school mainly resting.

That brings us up to January, and a review of how I’m doing with my FF goals. I realized I hadn’t made much headway with it.  There just wasn’t time with all my other obligations, and I started to get a bit cranky and discourage.  I reviewed my goals and realized there’s one I’m just not going to be able to complete.  It’s not working at all, and that would be No. 5:  Complete the BBC’s 100 Big Read List. That goal took something I love, reading, and turned it into a laborious chore. I have barely read anything, avoiding books I want to read and painstakingly forcing myself to pick up books I should be reading.  So I’m changing it.  (My game, my rules!)  I found a reading challenge on Facebook and I’m giving myself credit with some of the books I’ve read since August. If you click here, you’ll see I have modified my goal list to reflect this new goal.  I feel like a huge weight has been lifted!

My wonderful sister-in-law has made a massive contribution to my goals and gave me a ukulele for Christmas. It’s a beautiful Rip Tide soprano ukulele with a gorgeous tone and I have been having a blast sifting through ukulele books and getting to know my new instrument. That means No. 20 on the list is well under way.

I am also tackling No. 30 this month, “Complete a 30-Day Challenge.”  After looking at lots and lots of 30-day challenges, I finally concluded I couldn’t even think of doing any of them until I got things cleaned up and sorted, so I settled on a 30-Day Decluttering Challenge and started it today. I also posted that challenge to the Fabulous Forty list.  I will post a synopsis of my experience with that when I complete the challenge.

That just about covers the highlights, and now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go play my ukulele.

Remind Me Again…?

The past two weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for me. I have been giving long, measured looks at the General Population and wondering, “Why bother?” It seems to have been going around, too.  A friend’s child was bullied, a fellow school parent and her kids were sworn at and violently shouted down by an aggressive wackadoo at a public park, and just a lot of really questionable actions by seemingly reasonable people have come to light in the past two weeks. It was easy to feel discouraged, and I did.

BUT I also have smiles and hugs from friends; there are shiny, happy kindergarteners faces (or kinder-smartners as their teacher refers to them); “my boys” who are so encouraging and funny and a joy to be with; and the in our family there was a bundle of hope in the form of a new great-nephew. These “crapped on” days happen, and retreating to a hermit-like existence isn’t really feasible, so I’ve got to put on my big girl panties and continue to face the world as best I can.  The follow words help me do that:

The Paradoxical Commandments

by Dr. Kent M. Keith

  1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
    Love them anyway.
  2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Do good anyway.
  3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
  4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
  5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
  6. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
    Think big anyway.
  7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
    Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
  8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
    Build anyway.
  9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
    Help people anyway.
  10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
    Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

Happy Hobbit Day and a Tingling Tolkien Week

Bag End

It’s Hobbit Day, ya’ll!  First off, No Admittance Except on Party Business. Now that we have that squared away, let’s wish a happy birthday with many returns to Frodo and Bilbo Baggins. If you’re looking for a great way to celebrate yet another fictional character birthday (and I can’t think of a reason not to), you’re in luck, because not only can you now have a Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movie marathon, but some clever soul over at WikiHow put together an illustrated guide on how to celebrate Hobbit’s Day.  If having a big shindig isn’t something you’re up for, how about just following a Hobbit meal schedule for one day:

Haha if only normal human stomachs could contain this mass abundance of food each day.

Perhaps my 4″ tall boyfriend, Thorin Oakenshield, and I will host a small get together.  If you haven’t read any of Tolkien’s epic adventures and happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop by our Little Free Library, as I’ve stocked it up with copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy to celebrate Tolkien Week.

A Pocket Full of Courage

The Hobbit started big kids school this year.  He was an old hand at preschool, having spent three years there, but Big Kids School meant a new school, a new teacher, a whole new batch of kids, and just a whole lot of New to adjust to. He had a rocky start.

The first day of school was an orientation, in which 30 kindergarteners, the teacher, three other staff members, two local police officers and about 45 parents, grandparents and/or legal guardians were crammed into one classroom. There was a great deal of anxiety and confusion, for parents and students, and my sensitive little boy had a melt down.  He was the only child who refused to go on the school tour, and I was looking for a wall to beat my head against because here he was starting off the year not knowing where the bathrooms were.  Also, I didn’t want the other kids to think of him as a cry baby and have that stigma stick.  But hey, that was my issue not his.

The Hobbit was allowed to stay with the adults, while 29 other children lined up, got a tour of the school and then went to play on the playground. I think it’s safe to say our school year was not off to an auspicious start.

I didn’t have much hope for a smooth First Day of School and I needed a plan, so I dug out a souvenir from our last trip to Alaska.  There’s a great bookstore in Ketchikan, Parnassus Books, that I love and each time we’ve been there I make a point to visit the bookstore and spend heaps of money.  If you ever find yourself in Ketchikan, Alaska, I recommend you do the same.  But I digress.  On our last visit there, I bought some “coins” and a small storage pouch for them.  The coins are stamped metal, with a Tlingit representation of an animal on one side and the word that the animal is thought to embody on the other. I’m a sucker for things like that:  stones with uplifting words painted on them, positive affirmation cards, etc.  The coins have been in my little treasure box (sentimental treasures, not pirate booty treasures) waiting to be used. Now was the time.

I singled out the “Courage” coin and put it in my purse, hoping I wouldn’t need it, but having it handy just in case I did.

The next morning, I took The Hobbit to school and he did okay right up until we reached the entrance gate, and then all bets were off.  He didn’t want to play with the other kids, he didn’t want to talk to his teacher, he just cried and held onto me.  Oh dear.   He was so scared it was heartbreaking, and I knew just how he felt.

I’d like to say I am the master of my emotions and didn’t cry, because that would have made this story so much better.  However, I am a softie and my baby was scared and crying, so my eyes filled up with tears, too.  I got down on my knees and pulled out the Courage coin.  I told The Hobbit that I knew today was going to be hard for him, that it was scary and new, but I promised him that it was going to be okay, and I had something that would help him.  I showed him the coin and asked him if he knew what courage was?  He shook his head “no” (still crying, poor kid), and I explained that courage was doing what had to be done even when we’re scared.  I showed him the coin with the word “Courage” stamped on it, and I told him that I thought that since he was having such a hard time, that maybe he could use a little bit extra courage today, and so I was giving him some of mine to keep in his pocket so that he could do what had to be done (school) and have the courage to do it.

He took the coin (still crying) and put it in his pocket.  I gave him a hug, told him I loved him, and his teacher, who had been watching our whole exchange, came over and tried to lure him to play with the other kids (still crying), while I told him I would see him in a couple hours (still crying), and I turned and walked out of the playground.  Sob.  Some other parents stayed, for how long, I don’t know, but I thought it important that I leave because I didn’t want me staying to become a habit.  (Shoot, I was already committed to one day a week in the classroom and drive the kid to/from school every day, so I figured four days a week he could do without me for 3 hours.)  I parked down the street from the school and waited for half an hour in case I got a phone call.  We were told that if our child cried for more than 10 minutes, we were getting called to pick them up and take them home.  No call came.

When I picked him up from school that day, I was met with smiles and he proudly handed over the Courage coin.  For the first two weeks, I would stay on the playground each until the bell rang, at The Hobbit’s request.  Usually, he’d drop off his backpack and run off to play without a second glance my way, but I had given him my word, so I would remain until the class lined up.  But on the third week, we were told it was time to cut the apron strings and anyone on the playground would have to sign in with the office and get a visitor’s badge.  I told The Hobbit I wouldn’t be allowed to stay on the playground in the mornings any more.  He asked if he could borrow my courage.

Every morning since, when we get to school, he asks if he can borrow my courage, and I pull the coin out of my wallet for him to keep in his pocket or his backpack.  And every day after school, he returns it to me.  He feels secure knowing he can borrow it any time and head off on his school day with a pocket full of courage, able to face anything that comes his way.