Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ornaments, memories, and letting go

I've mentioned it before - I. AM. A. CONTROL. FREAK!!!

So, letting the kids decorate the tree has been a HUGE challenge for me over the years.

When our older three children were young, I'd let them 'help' me decorate the tree.  Code for:  "Here, let's hang THIS ornament HERE on the tree."  As I guided their little hands to place the ornaments where I thought they should go.  Minimizing breakage and clumping on the tree.

As the years passed, I began to let go.  When the three littles arrived on the scene, the older kids met much more freedom when it came to putting up all those pretty little trinkets.

Still, I sat in the background giving running commentary on 'the blank and/or crowded spots' on the tree.

Then, secretly, after all the kids had left the room or gone to bed, I'd rearrange the ornaments in a much more aesthetically pleasing manner.  No clumps.  No multiple ornaments on one branch.  No bare spots.  Nice, evenly spaced decorations all around the tree.  Placing the 'less than attractive' gems in the back facing the wall.

Not. exactly. letting. go.

Finally, several years ago, I decided the kids could have 'full reign' with putting up of the ornaments.  I put up the lights, strung my bead garland, hung the ribbon, and 'WALKED AWAY'.

The only thing I allowed myself to do was take pictures.

I admit, I still often moved ornaments the littles put up - only because they'd hang 12 items on one branch.  Go figure.

Last year, I began to release even that.  I think I moved items only if they were really weighing down the branch.
That would be 5 on one branch!

Yep, 3 ornaments in one general spot.

This year?  Every ornament stayed RIGHT. WHERE. THEY. PUT. THEM!! (Unless the dog or cat knocked them off, then..... well.... they were fair game to be 'relocated'.  I surely couldn't be held responsible for memorizing where EVERY ornament was on that tree, right?)

It was so much fun decorating the tree with the kiddos (and Techno) this year.

Another 6 rather large ornaments clumped in one general area.
Proof that I LEFT them 'clumped'.
I even left the 'not so pretty' ones in full view.  After all, each and every one
holds a story.  In this clump alone - a computer the kids picked for daddy, a dog
Jacob decorated when he was tiny, a squirrel Techno's grandma made, a bell
from Techno's aunt, a ball Trinity made just recently, and elk antlers to
commemorate some of our adventures here in Wyoming thus far.

Christmas music was playing on the CD player.  All the girls dressed up in their 'old' Christmas dresses.  Everyone wore a santa hat.  The smell of fresh baked cookies wafted through the air.  Memory making bursted at the seams.

I was glad I had 'let go' a bit more.

Then..... the questions.  "Who's is this ornament?  Where did it come from?  What does it mean?  Why is it a train, a horse, a princess?  Who made it?"  On and on it went.

Memories were not only made, but recalled; shared:  From Techno's childhood as the kids asked about ornaments his grandmother made him each year when he was a child.  Still others that my grandmother made through the years.  A bulk that Grandmom and Grandad had given the kids each year as Christmas gifts.  Hand crocheted ones my mom made for Techno and I when we were first married - some that were favors for our wedding reception.  Others that we had given the kids year after year that signified stages they went through or vacations we took.

It's always a touching time.

This year even more so.

This was our first official year in our mountain home ON CHRISTMAS.  Techno had many memories of his mom who passed away over 3 years ago now.  She always loved this time of year.  She always loved the Wyoming mountains.  We got to enjoy both - together.  For the first time - in the home she loved so dearly.

Memories - somewhat sad, but at the same time joyful.

It's also the first time we're so far away from my parents.  It's hard.  We miss them.  Yet, we can share our family events here, on facebook, over the phone.

Memories - joyful, but sorrowful to not be able to share in person.

It's also the last year before Jacob heads off to college.  Potentially the last year he helps us decorate the tree.  Tears were shed.  Hugs were given.  "I'll miss you", was spoken.  OFTEN!

Memories - precious, I'll cherish forever in my heart.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Snow Squalls

Who knew you could have a 'white out' when it wasn't even snowing?

My guess?  Most Wyomians.

Being a transplant resident, I was not privvy to such information.

Yet, recently, that is EXACTLY what we experienced.

Driving to Cheyenne and Fort Collins for a day of furniture shopping and doctor's visits, I found myself on I80 with zero visibility as the winds swirled the existing snow on the mountains up, down, and all around.

We literally could. not. see!

I was fortunate to have landed a spot behind a semi-truck.  Those tail lights were about all my vision could decipher. They were my guiding lights as I traversed the perilous snow squall.

I say perilous - others may scoff at such a term given the situation.  The roads were dry so driving wasn't treacherous, but to me - an Ohioan until just under a year ago - THIS. WAS. UNBELIEVABLE!

The event was made more traumatic as I was actually the one DRIVING!  Techno usually drives ALL the time... EVERYWHERE we go.  I can count on one hand the number of times in over 19+ years of marriage when I have been the primary driver when he's on board.

A bleed in his right eye resulted in temporary (prayerfully) loss of vision so I had taken on the driving task until his vision improved.  (which is happening little by little, daily.)

On doctor's orders, Techno is trying to relax to keep his blood pressure down.  Ummmm... driving with me..... in a snow squall.....  not exactly part of the prescription.

White knuckled I grasped the steering wheel tightly.  After all, holding on tight will make driving MUCH better, easier.

Once out of the squall, I finally relaxed.

But..... we had to do it all over again coming home.  Sigh.

This time we took a different route that didn't have QUITE the snow squalls.

 Non-stop wind gusts of over 60+ miles per hour were common both ways.

Driving in the dark to return to our mountain abode; amidst bursts of snow clouds that would impede vision for stretches of road; wind gusts that would push the Tacoma off course; all made for a slow trip simply because...... I'M. A. WIMP...... when it comes to driving in bad weather.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Handling stress

While in Ohio this past November we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with my family.  

Since we stayed at my parents home, I was 'in charge' of much of the cooking and preparing for the Thanksgiving festivities.  I was happy to help and honestly it wasn't very taxing.......  For me.

Mom and I were doing the ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and deserts while the rest of the family brought the remainder of the side dishes.  

Despite me doing much of the culinary work, the dinner was still 'mom's gig' as it were.  It was intriguing to watch how the ownership of such an event amplified the stress for her.

What an eye opener.

As we began the process of getting the turkey and ham ready to cook on Wed night - making sure they were thawed enough; getting the ham in the crockpot; removing the giblits and neck from Tom Turkey - I witnessed the difference in 'owning' the event and just 'being in charge' of getting stuff ready.  

The ham and turkey were sitting there, wrapped, in the sink.  I eyeballed the ham; glanced at the crockpot mom had set out; then made this statement, "I'm not thinking the ham is going to fit inside that crockpot, Mom."

That's when I noticed the stress level rise.  NOT for me - the one responsible for getting the ham INTO the pot in question, but for my mother - the one who owned said ham and crockpot. 

It was at that moment I saw myself and how I often react to similar situations in my own home -- when I OWN the situation.

She got frazzled.  

I, on the other hand.  Grabbed the ham, plopped it on the cutting board and began cuttin' it down to size.  We had an extra crockpot, why not use BOTH.  Easy solution.

Mom was still stressed. Fretting over the fact she had requested a smaller ham in the first place.  Worrying it wasn't going to turn out right.

As Thanksgiving day progressed, I observed similar situations.  Nothing seriously went wrong, but it was a stressful day for my mom.  I, on the other hand, was cool as a cucumber.

'Why?', I wondered on more than one occasion.  Why was SHE stressing when I was doing the work? More curious to me was why was I not not stressing since I was the one doing the work?

The epiphany was ------ 'OWNERSHIP'.  

Even though I was cooking, prepping, getting stuff ready.  It. Wasn't.  My.  Party!  

It was MOM'S.

She felt responsible. She felt obligated.  It had to be 'just so' because...... it was hers.  Her husband.  Her kids.  Her grandkids.  Her home.  Her dinner.


(See where I get my control freakness?)  LOL!

I realized I (and I'd guess many of of us) do. the. very. same. thing.

If the scenario were flipped.  We're now at MY house.  She's helping me and doing much of the work.  Something goes wrong when she's cooking; she'd simply roll with the punches (I've seen her do it before when she stayed with us when our older kids were infants); I on the other hand would stress, get frazzled, FREAK OUT!

My goal, now that I have this ownership knowledge and what it can do to me?  

In essence? 


Acknowledge that I don't HAVE to get stressed, frazzled, grumpy when things go wonky. 

Just go with it.  


Make adjustments.


Have I succeeded since returning home from Thanksgiving?

Let's just say knowing the problem is half the battle and leave it at that.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Dodging Tumbleweeds

As we drove home from Ohio, passing through Nebraska, the winds starting whipping.

We're used to wind - we live in Wyoming.  Not to mention we drove through the tornadoes that hit Illinois on our way TOO Ohio.

What was comical about these winds?  The...   TUMBLEWEEDS!

Those not familiar with tumbleweeds - they are plants that grow out west that eventually dry up and simply begin blowing around when the winds pick up. Their roots are so shallow they just pull right up.

Once they are 'blowing around', they become a hazard to vehicles that might encounter them.

Semi trucks have been brought to their knees by the likes of a tumble weed.

They are THAT prickly.

I was shocked the first time I picked one up ---- OUCH!

So..... there we were..... driving down I-80 when the winds starting blowing the tumbleweeds about. First a couple along the side of the road.  Next a few drifted across the highway.  Finally, multiple plants were wafting across and down the road heading directly at us.

It felt like a video game as Techno maneuvered lane to lane to avoid coming in contact with these potentially crippling little vegetations.

(Yes, he was VERY aware of our surroundings and other vehicles on the road.  Remember - we were heading west where there's a WHOLE LOT LESS PEOPLE!!!)  :-)

A couple times there was nothing we could do. Those pesky little brambles of branches would zig when we zagged and....... swoooooosh, right under the SUV they'd go.

Thankfully, no damage was done.  None were quite big enough to cause any trouble.

However........ the event sure made for lots of laughter and jocularity as we drove along...... living out our very own live action video game of Tumbleweed Dodging.

Memories of the weirder kind.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Play dates, coffee, museums oh my

As we planned our visit to Cincinnati, we had requests to get together via play dates, visiting co-op, meetings for coffee, grabbing a quick breakfast, sleep overs for Bethany, hanging out at friends houses for big kids, a visit to the Creation Museum, pizza and wings with friends, and dinners with Dad.

It was so wonderful to see old friends and spend quality time with Techno's dad.

Despite trying to keep a relaxing pace - our schedule filled up before we even announced we were coming to town.

We felt so loved.

It was wonderful to see so many people and humbling to think so many WANTED to see us.  Reminding us how much we miss the people we grew to know and love despite loving where we are now.

It saddened us to realize we wouldn't be able to see EVERYONE during our short stay in Cincinnati.

There. Just. Wasn't. Enough. Time.

People often ask us if we miss Cincinnati.  My almost immediate response is 'no'.  We don't miss the 'place' very much, but we DO so miss the people.

Granted, we now miss the people in Wyoming when we are away from there as well.  Guess that's part of making a home wherever you are planted.

Next we headed to Ashtabula - the place of my birth - to visit family and friends there.

Upon arrival we were greeted by my parents who always 'stay up late' waiting to give us hugs.

Saturday brought the whole family - both brothers, their significant others, all my nieces, their spouses and children - to my parents' home.  Let's just say....... a house full!!!  27 family members smooshed into my mom and dad's living room to celebrate Christmas together.  Yep, a little backwards, seeing as how we'd yet to celebrate Thanksgiving, but.... 'ya do whatcha gotta do' once you live 1000's of miles away.

On Sunday I slipped away for a late lunch with old school friends.  Many from my elementary days, some from Jr High and High School.  It's amazing how social media has made such 'mini' reunions possible and even easy.


It used to be you only managed such gatherings on reunion years - 5, 10, 20, and coming up on 25.  Now???  Anytime several people are available, let the fun begin.

The rest of the week leading up to Thanksgiving was low key.  Wonderful time spent with my mom and dad. The kids did their school, we did some thrift store shopping, and we had plenty of meals with Mammaw and Pappaw.

Thanksgiving Day brought most of the family back together for one more gathering.

Friday was a 'special day' for the big kids - with Pappaw. The littles and and I went with Mammaw to ...... wait for it..... McDonald's.  With a playland.  Their choice.  Ha.

Finally we packed up and headed homeward to the wild west.  We missed our new home while we were gone, but loved the opportunity to see loved ones who are now so far away.