Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas With MY Family

This Christmas was outstanding.  It was such a shock to me considering I've been struggling all month to find the excitement I once had.  So when Christmas finally got here, I was unprepared in every way.  I didn't even plan out the menu like I usually do.  And gifts were made in between working and sleeping.  All the sisters volunteered to make something (another shocker) to add to the meal.  We even decided to add more nontraditional foods since this year seemed like it needed a change.  So what made the day so great?  Well, let me lay it out for you.   

The husband, puppies and I left town Friday morning and the trip was pretty good.  It was gray and cold but we missed all the rain.  Four and a half hours later we pulled into my hometown and was so very tired that we hugged my Dad, niece and nephew and lay down for a nap.  My little sister and her husband (and 5 dogs) arrived an hour after we did.  While her dogs slept on the screened porch, mine were stuck inside due to my Sofie being a nervous dogs.  I swear they could smell her 'fear' through the door.  We didn't really do any cooking that day and just hung around catching up. 

The following day the other two sisters showed up with significant others.  Then wonder of all wonders, my oldest brother and his kids actually showed up.  Anyone that knows my family knows he is notorious for being a day or so late for everything.  Everyone was so happy to see he made it because he's been so sick since Thanksgiving.  There were hugs and smiles (and some tears) as everyone greeted each other.  It was so great for all of us to be together again.  I anticipated there would be quite a few people come in so I had made a large pot of chili in advance for the hungry ones.  Who knew teenagers could eat so much!  And who ever said teenage girls were food picking, salad eating folk lied.  My nieces competed with the boys and won! There was chili with crackers, Frito pie and chili dogs.  It was gone in a matter of minutes.

We kicked off the holiday cooking by firing up the barbecue pit.  No Christmas is complete without ribs, chicken and whatever other meat is brought over.  I did my part by baking pies and icing my cakes.  One sister decided to make the dressing.  We were all leery about it but I convinced her come over and we would do it together.  I just had to make sure it would be edible.  She's not the best cook around but she did OK.  Then another sister made potato salad.  The oldest sister took her traditional spot of watching and doing nothing until it was decided that this year she would at least do prep work.  She grumbled but did it.  Later the kids decided to order pizza.  There was a bit of drama with a bro-in-law who felt he was entitled to eat this pizza without putting in.  Ever try to dip when teenagers spent their hard earned money on the food?  It's a no-no...

The drama was minimal and only lasted a few minutes.  No hurt feelings except the bro-in-law. He now knows the rules.  The kids handled it well and moved on very quickly.  We began a game of Phase 10 that lasted a couple of hours.  I was new to the game but we had a good time.  My oldest brother entertained us by telling us stories of his 'unfortunate' hospital stay.  He was hilarious and we were all happy to see that he seemed to be back to his old self.  At about midnight, we all finally decided we were exhausted enough from travel and laughing to lay it down.

Christmas morning started early.  Me, my Dad and husband rose early and started cooking.  I made my Mom's gumbo and the husband did a french dish of some sort.  My Dad sat and watched and talked with us.  It wasn't long before everyone else was awake to get breakfast started.  We didn't open gifts until about 2 that afternoon.  There was a lot of handmade gifts and nothing extravagant but everything was well thought out and appreciated.  My family's good about it being about the thought.

After the gifting was done, everyone made their way to the kitchen/dining area.  My Dad took his position in the middle of the room and gave thanks by prayer.  There was oohs and ahhs and several types of hot sauce came out when the dishes were revealed.  My 15 year-old niece carries a bottle in her purse.  Smh....In any case, the food was a huge success.  We ate our fill and then the table was cleared for the greatly anticipated game of marathon Phase 10.  Eight people, tons of trash talk and 3 hours later, my oldest sister was declared the winner.  We ended the visit with a family picture that turned out wonderfully.

So it rained for 2 days and the trip back to Austin was full of muddy windshields,crazy traffic congestion, and dreams of being home, but it was definitely a Christmas I won't soon forget.  Last year was a bit different as it was our first Christmas without my Mom.  This year was a little better as we realized it was really about celebrating the memories and not focusing on the loss.  I believe she would have been proud to see us enjoying each other and how we've once again found that closeness we once had. 

Hope you had a Merry Christmas and have good memories that will last as well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Rush Hour Wrapping
Today I gave in to most everything.  I got up at 6 a.m. instead of 5.  There was no working out.   I didn't even bother showering because I did last night.  I wore brown instead of a cheerier color.  Never mind the fact that brown is currently my favorite color.  I threw together a last-minute Secret Santa gift for work.  I was so bad that I wrapped it while in rush hour traffic.  Don't worry, it was done while sitting at stop lights.  The 'wrapping paper' is from the leftover packing paper from the trunk of my car.  The ribbon was pulled from the pocket behind the seat.  Sue me...I forgot about it.  Luckily I had a brand-new scarf and little change purse I was saving for someones gift.  The container was an empty oatmeal carton.  I'm a recycling fool! 

Leftovers after Hungry Women's Raid
Got to work to a ridiculous amount of food.  Cookies, cakes, donuts, quiche, and tamales.  I had a chicken tamale (my friend and her mom made) and only one cookie.  I was trying to be good.  Unfortunately, our team went out for lunch to exchange the gifts.  While they all had creamy, cheesy soup, I opted for the broth based one.  It was good.  My gift just happened to be a large cup of mini snicker bars.  What evil women!  I ate about 5 of them.  Oh well. 

I came home to a husbandless house (out of town) and dogs that had been needing to do their business for hours.  I was starving.  When I finally got back inside, I'd barely kicked my shoes off when the husband strolled in with in-laws and kids in tow.  I was not amused but I put on a happy face.  I was still hungry.  After they left, I decided I was going to have an easy and sinfully delicious meal.  I hadn't taken anything out to cook so we were perusing the fridge for fast and easy. The husband had okra sauce so we put on a pot of rice.  I didn't want the sauce but had about a half cup of leftover beans.  I scrambled and egg, refried the beans and sauteed some peppers and topped it all with cheese.  It hit the spot and then some! 

Beans, Rice, Eggs, Avocado, Peppers
So I gave in to temptation on a few occasions today.  No one led me there.  I willingly walked right up to it!   I'm OK with that.   I'll do better tomorrow.

Quote of the Day: “I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it”~Mae West

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Evening Stroll

 I've decided I'm terrible at entering my daily miles. Doesn't seem to matter how easy it is. Guess I'm just lazy. But I have been getting in the mileage. I slept in this morning. Well, if you consider sleeping till 730am sleeping in. I tried to stay longer but I was getting restless so I finally gave up. I threw on a tshirt and sweat pants and laced up the sneakers. I woke the husband telling him I was taking the dogs on a short walk. Turned out to be a pretty good one. Not too fast and not too slow. This is big considering Baxter was less than thrilled about going beyond the parking lot. He's gotten to be such a lazy and stubborn old pup. Of course we were going too slow for Sofie but I had to remind her we were only as fast as our slowest partner.

I was feeling a little bit of stress due to car emission issues so the husband thought it a good day to stay in and relax. He actually sat with me through two movies. We hung out and watched sports afterwards and even took a nap. By 7pm, we were both headed back out the door for an evening stroll through the neighborhood. I had been wanting to see the Christmas lights and he reminded me. It was so nice out and they lights were OK. A friend texted me wanting to know if we would meet them at the Zilker tree but I was not in the mood for a drive or company other than my guy. The neighborhood was just my speed. This year people didn't seem to do as much as last year but I can understand that. It was still nice to see them. I tried to take a few pics but I neglected to check how to switch to nighttime mode on my camera and was too impatient to try it on the walk. We joked and laughed and oohed and ahhed like kids.We had a nice walk and got in a nice mild workout. It was fun and I highly recommend it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Leaders, Lessons and Love

I would just like to share a small moment the husband and I had while watching t.v. yesterday. We were watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and there was a part where they decorated the park in this neighborhood.  I said some people might not think Christmas lights were a big deal.  Mentioning that I grew up in an area where it would have been awesome to have that in the middle of the neighborhood but things like that only happened in the richer parts of town.  My husband listened and said it's possible but you must have a leader.   He went on to address exactly what a leader endures while trying to complete a task. 

He said that when you are working to do things for other people you will always meet with criticism.  People will tell you that you can't do it.  They will say you are wasting your time.  They will say that the very people you are trying to help don't deserve it.  Even some family members will try to discourage.  He said that with all of the 'advice' you get, you must push past them and keep your eye on the prize when you are trying to help others.  He said you should never accept that it can't be done simply because no one has done it.  He finished saying no one can be a successful leader without loving what they do.  Then he looked at me and said,  'You are a leader.  I know you want to do so much but sometimes you are doubtful. I see you work hard to move beyond most problems that come and through it all you keep on smiling.'  Then he went on to point out examples and ended with how proud he was of me.  I love him for that.  He's always teaching me something new.  Or at least a different way of looking at things. Sometimes his observation amazes me.

With it being the holiday season, I'm thinking it fitting that I air my feeling of love right here and now.   After all, to me Christmas is about an expression of love.  Not that we shouldn't feel this at all times.  It's just that like Thanksgiving, it is a  time for those that may have a problem expressing it the other 364 days of the year. Christmastime makes it a little bit easier for them to get it out. 

So I would like to go on blog record as saying I love my husband.  He's smart, kind, stubborn, humble and so many other things.  I can't for the life of me figure how I got to deserve someone like this.  When I tell him this, he shushes me with embarrassment but then tells me it is he who is blessed to have found me.  We go on and on like that for a few minutes before both agreeing that we are both blessings from God. 

Our gifts this year will be a repeat of last year.  I can't think of a better gift than a love letter from him.  Sure he grunts and groans saying his English and grammar is not perfect.  Who wants perfect?  Not me.  I'll take honesty and heart over those any day.  I love my husband and I count him as a blessing each and every day.
Love your people  (and pets) and have a great weekend!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Way I See It

There are some things I need to get off my chest and out of my head. I figure holding them won't do me any good. I would hate to offend anyone and since everything posted here is my own opinion (unless otherwise stated) I can't imagine I would. If you are sensitive to opinion then you may as well stop right here.

I'd like to address this holiday season. I've heard so many negative comments regarding the holiday season. People throw hate around like it's a word to be used lightly. Well, it's not. They blame this time of year on everything and everyone. A friend posted the following on FB: "How about a month of obligations, overspending, difficult travel and horrible weather?" - The pitch for the month of December. First of all, who's fault is it that you feel obligated? Someone holding a gun to your head? Same with spending. If you don't have it to spare, why the heck are you spending it? Horrible Weather? We bitched and moaned all summer long about the heat. Now it's cold and gray and we are singing the same song. Don't want to get out in it? Stay home and watch the weather (however good or bad) from your window. It's as simple as that. And then there is the great divide. I'm starting to think everyone is a bit paranoid. If you don't believe in Christmas then don't celebrate it. If you believe it represents something non-religious, that's all you. If you do believe it is religious and want to celebrate it as such, then do it and stop worrying about those that don't. Having people celebrate it as a religious holiday or celebrating as a season of shopping shouldn't get you all riled up and angry. However you choose to celebrate, I'll be willing to bet angry and upset were not part of the plan. As far as I'm concerned, this holiday season is all about what I believe. How I choose to go about life in these final days of the year is my prerogative. You do what you like.

Now on to something I feel is a bit more important than the above. Parents and children. I think some parents underestimate what their kids are going through in life. We would all like to think childhood is the same as it was when we were kids but we would be dead wrong. Now what I have to say next might upset, anger or just rile some folk but it's my opinion. I think some parents have forgotten how to be the parent. They think being 'friends' with their kids will encourage them to be more open when there is a problem. Well, based on the headlines it seems kids aren't doing that. I think parents need to be as strong as they use to be. They need to once again be the hero; the role-model. If your child is having a personal problem that they are embarrassed, scared or worried about, they are less likely to go to a friend for help. They would probably prefer to go to someone they feel is bigger than that problem. So you being their friend is not necessarily going to help. When I was growing up my parents were the super heroes. I truly believed they could fix any problem. Why? Because they always listened and reacted in a way that said they would ALWAYS protect me. What child wouldn't want that? Sure I don't have kids but I have nieces and nephews and that's just as good. I'm lucky to be the aunt that they come to because they still think I'm cool like that. They tell me things that they think they can't tell their parents. I listen. I give my opinion and then I point them to their parent(s). Of course I also give my sister and brother (or in laws) and earful of how I think things should go down. They either take my advice or go about it the wrong way. Lol. Whatever. The point is, they are involved. That's all that matters.

Finally, I'd like to address this giving business.  My personal opinion is if you are feeling it, give. If you have to stop and think about where the gift is going, don't. I heard someone say that she gave money to someone on the corner but then she worried that the money was probably going to go towards alcohol or drugs. I asked her what made her give. She said she felt guilty. We may do many things out of guilt, but I don't think that giving should be one of them. I don't think there is anything worse than giving and then regretting. I don't think twice about donating. I don't wonder what kind of life that person lives. I only see someone that needs something at that moment. I sure as heck don't have a lot to give but I give what I can when I can. If I don't have it, I say a small prayer for them. To me prayer is worth more than any amount of change I can give. That's just how I roll.

All these thoughts came from conversations I've had in the last day or so. I'm lucky to be one that can sit amongst people and have them speak freely. Most people (who don't know me well) can't easily tell what my opinion is so I think they are comfortable. They must be because some of them talk a whole lot of smack about things they don't know. Lol. But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Quote for the Day: “A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with.” ~Kenneth A. Wells quotes

Sunday, December 11, 2011

God Don't Like Ugly...(And He Ain't Too Fond of CUTE!)

The night before last my sister and I were texting back and forth about my nephew and his recent lack of regard for his grades.  He's up for a competition that can get him a full scholarship upon graduation but he's so into preparing for it that he's all but forgotten about his other classes.  She tried to give him advice and he was disrespectful.  She was hurt and angry.  I told her to go to bed and not talk to him when she was angry.  Well, as with many 17 year olds, my nephew thinks his Mama don't know jack and he's getting to the point he thinks his aunt (me) might not know much either. Humph!!! 

After we texted, I gave my nephew a call and we had a talk.  He said some things that annoyed me but afterwards, I got over them.  I remember saying and doing things at a young age that I'm still ashamed of.  I told him about them.  He laughed at some and was silent about others. I think I got through to him.  I hope. I figured I would share some of those things with y'all.

I discovered very early on that following the 'crowd' can sometimes cause regret that last a lifetime.  My first memory of this was when I was in first grade.  Having always been surrounded by my sisters and brothers, I behaved the way we were raised.  First grade was the first time I would have a full day around people that were not family.  Now understand that the way my parents were raising us required we be respectful to all and live above influence.  For the most part, I did that but first grade was quite the challenge.  I could go on and on but I will just point out this one instance that I still remember.  We were at recess and some of the kids I was playing with decided to make fun of the kid in the wheelchair.  They toss about names that I didn't even know and laughed hysterically.  I wasn't real sure what to do because I knew it was bad to make fun of someone but I didn't want to end up on the other side of the taunts.  So I laughed right along with them.  Then that kid, Leo, heard what they were saying and started crying.  In an instant, I felt bad and stopped laughing.  Nothing came of it but when I got home, I told my Mama what I had done and asked her if I was going to go to hell.  She told me God forgave me as long as I didn't do it again.  I guess I took that  and went with it but to this day I've never forgotten that feeling.

As much as that particular moment affected me, I still had moments later in life where I forgot how it felt.  When you forget things, sometimes you repeat them.  There was a moment in fifth grade where I was reminded of that feeling.  We had a new student start.  She came in and the teacher introduced her.  She was wearing a leather jacket and had a good haircut.  Strange that I remember those two things.  Anyway, the only seat available was the one next to me.  She sat down and said hello.  I don't know what possessed me but I looked at her and then promptly turned my back to her.  A few kids laughed at that.  I sat taller knowing I was the center of attention.  I was being cute and snobby.  When I turned around to look at her, she had that look of hurt on her face.  Of course I immediately felt sorry that I had acted in such a way.  I spent the rest of the day making it up to her by being as nice as possible.  It also occurred to me that others followed what I did.  As soon as I decided to be friendly, others did the same.  We became really good friends but she moved away before the school year was up.  Even though we were friends, I never forgot my actions in the first moment we met.  I still wish I would have gone about it in a different way.

The rest of my school years I had such moments.  I regretted all of them and still remember them.  When I think of them, I still get a small knot in my stomach.  But for all of those, I will never forget any of the moments where I was disrespectful to my parents.  I remember thinking they didn't know up from down when I was a teenager. They would try to give me advice and it would slide over me like water on a ducks back.  Not saying that I didn't take any of it.  Some of them where strongly advised to the point where I took it or suffered the consequences.  Lol.  They were strong like that. 

The one story I shared with my nephew about parents was something that happened between me and my Mom.  She had just learned how to crotchet from an older lady she was sitting with all day.  She knitted these booties (socks) and showed them to me.  I laughed at them telling here they looked funny. But then realized she looked embarrassed.  I've never felt regret like I did in that moment.  I tried to backtrack but the feeling clung to me.  When Christmas came that year, I discovered she had made those booties for me.  This increased the regret ten-fold.  I still have those booties and found them not long after she passed.  I would give anything to take back the actions when she first showed them to me.  I told my nephew this to get him to understand that regardless of how he thinks he feels about something, he should try to show respect whenever possible.  His mother is trying hard to do everything she can for him but she can't do it all.  He needed to understand he can't have everything his friends have.  He's spoiled (as are most kids now in my opinion) and doesn't really know the value of hard work.  But I'm his aunt and am harder on him than his Mom.  His butt will sure as hell learn that much when he comes to stay with me and my husband this summer.  I promised him that! 

Our conversation ended with:
Me:  "Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?'
Him: 'Yes ma'am.'
Me:  'Don't just say that to get me off the phone.  If you slip up and I get wind of it, you know I'll make the drive to come and find you right?'
Him: 'Yes ma'am.  I know.'
Me: 'I ain't playing.  Grow up and get some sense. God don't like ugly and he ain't too fond of cute.'
Him:  'Yes ma'am.  I understand.'

I get my auntie-rearing from my parents.  I think I do OK.  Love your people and have a great Sunday! 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Slainzy Sunday

Slainzy: A slow, rainy, lazy day.

I created that word today because that's what it is.  I promised my husband that I would take him out to breakfast in appreciation for preparing dinner all week long.  When we finally got out of bed to take the dogs out, we discovered we had a nice steady rain coming down.  It's still drizzly and gross but we decided it was the perfect day to hit Golden Corral's breakfast buffet. We figured most people were still in church and there would be no parking issues.  We were correct. 

Our theory behind breakfast buffet is that its the best option when neither of us knows what we want to eat for breakfast.  We can try something and if we don't like it, move on.  Wasteful yes...but we budget friendly for the fickle. And we are definitely a food fickle couple.

My husband, who had never been to a breakfast buffet, had suggested IHOP.  He dropped this tidbit of info on me this morning.  Seriously?!?  I nixed that idea and told him how much better the buffet option was.  He wasn't convinced until I gave him the price of buffet vs. menu item.  So off we went. He enjoyed himself.  He got his eggs, potatoes, ham and ice cream.  Lol. Yep, he saw it and wanted it. He asked me if it was OK to get ice cream for breakfast.  I guaranteed him he could get anything he wanted that was displayed.  He was like a kid.  In fact it was only a kid-sized cone but he enjoyed it.  Small pleasures...

Now we are planning on spending the rest of the day lazing around, watching sports and sipping hot chocolate.  It's a good day.

Hope you had an awesome weekend!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

In the Hairdresser's Chair

Kindly ignore the 'natural' gray highlights!
It's been a long week and I was looking forward to the weekend with true longing.  There were some bumps in the week but I worked hard to get over them.  Sadly, I'm still sitting atop a couple of them as they require some time.  But I'll get pass them. 

Let's focus on my weekend.  I had plans to have a very nice and worry free weekend.  All ended well but it was rough getting there.  I started Saturday with car issues. Still trying to work out if my state inspection issues are due to a recent $300 tune-up.  Now I'm in search of a good mechanic. 

I went to get my hair did . Finally! After weeks of thinking and thinking I decided I needed to get braids.  If any of you have natural hair you know how challenging it is to straighten your hair only to have it ruined by a single, sweat soaked workout.  I researched and came across the Yarn Braid.  My hairdresser said she'd be willing to try it so I made an appointment for noon Saturday.  She had two appointments running late so my appointment didn't happen until 3 o'clock.  I could have been upset but I had a good time while waiting. Not sure if you've ever been in the hairdresser's chair where there are predominately African American patrons, but let me assure you that if not, you are missing out. There is quite an experience to be had there.

While waiting I had my share of entertainment.  There was a comedic mechanic there (who will look at my car...Yay!).  He was full of anecdotes and quotes to live by.  At one point he said the best way to made kids appreciate what they have is to take it all away.  He said 'If they don't appreciate that warm house and warm bed, put 'em out!  They'll pick up appreciation real fast.'  They man was funny I tell you!  Then there was the preacher women who happened to be in my stylist's book club. She decided to use our waiting time to do a story time for adults.  She spent two hours reading from the book they were to review.  It was full of sexy scandal and super sins.  And it was hilarious to hear her glide over the not so christian words.  She substituted with words like 'a garden tool' and 'woman of the night'.  Other words she spelled out and inserted blanks so that she didn't complete the full spelling.  Funny enough, it was the men there who were the most enthralled in the story.  They shushed anyone that interrupted.  It was hilarious and very entertaining.  And finally we had the teenage Hispanic kid that came in with fresh tamales, orange soda and cookies for everyone.  Apparently it was from his grandma next door. Did I take some?  Of course!  I couldn't be rude.

When I finally got in the chair, we decided on the imitation dread look.  Two and and half hours later, we accomplished something close to it.  I told her I couldn't do smaller ones because I was not willing to sit there over the 4 hours she mentioned.  I think the results fit me just fine.  I have 2 months to decide how much I like them.  I didn't get home until after 6pm.  My wonderful husband came through once again by having a nice hot meal waiting for me when I got in.  Thankfully, he understands that when it comes to getting my hair styled, it is never a hurried errand. I'll have to repay him for his kindness somehow.

It was a long day and I'm ready to lay it down. 

Have a great weekend!