My Trouble With The Holidays

My Trouble With The Holidays

We are late this year getting the holiday decorations up. Yesterday, we finally got our tree – a live one – bummed off some friends with a tree farm for a bottle of whiskey! Hey, it pays to know people! Right? Most of the tree farms have opened and already closed for the season. Today, I will fight with the lights to get them on the tree just right, invite my husband and boys to help hang the ornaments (which probably won’t happen), and by bedtime, maybe get around to putting some gifts under the freshly decorated tree.

I like the house once it’s decorated; the twinkling of the lights with soft Christmas music playing is a favorite scene for me. It is just the process of getting there that seems to take forever. All the other decorations are up and the tree is the very last thing to be done. I have done some baking and wrapped some gifts, as well as sent out packages to family, all of whom are out-of-town. So, it is not like I haven’t been getting ready for the season. It just always creeps up on me, no matter how well intended or organized I am.

The sad truth is that I do not really enjoy it. Our holidays are quiet and have been since we transplanted ourselves in the mid-west. At least nine of the last eighteen years, my husband worked Christmas (hospitals never close for the holidays).  We never travelled back to visit family during the holidays because I wanted our boys to wake up Christmas morning in their own beds. And, other than my sister-in-law, our families did not come here in the winter – holiday season or not. I have always wanted this to be different. You know, using my best china (and, I do have two sets – one from each of my grandmothers), fabulous food, festive music and merriment, all in a beautifully decorated home.  We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to “put on” the type of celebrations we see in the media or house in our own heads. But, you know it really is not necessary.  And I am getting to the point of feeling like we really do not “have” to do it in the “suggested” way.

We are late this year with decorating. So What?!  Why should it even matter? Who does it matter to?  No one, actually. And, it shouldn’t really matter to me. But, as you can tell, it does. I am trying not to let it.  As I get decorations out each year I think I will put them away in a more organized fashion, but that never happens. When it is time to put them away, they just get put away.  I told my husband yesterday, as we went to get our tree, that next year I need to do this differently. Maybe earlier. Maybe not as much. Maybe a fake tree. I don’t know, specifically, but definitely, differently.

I do know that for years, like many other people, I have some problems leading up to and getting through the holidays. I try not to, but I do. I have acknowledged it long before now. It does seem less this year – other than the decorating lateness. Less is bothering me. I think it is because due to a health scare I experienced this fall, I have realized that there are more important things than the “perfect tree” or things finished by an arbitrary date that I have set in my head (the 10th, actually).  I am trying to keep it all in perspective. Some days are easier than others.

On to decorating……….


Getting back to normal…

Getting back to normal…

Late last night I got back from a five-day trip to visit my parents in Western New York.  I have not blogged since last Thursday! Today’s Slice of Life Tuesday post is just that – a slice on what I have been up to since the end of last week and my last blog post.

It was a good trip. I got to visit with them without a lot of distractions except for the Canadian Geese that interrupted our lunch yesterday. My Dad drove me around to see my old high school, the house I grew up in, and new places, as well, like a new Wegman’s Supermarket and numerous restaurants in which we ate good food. I was able to drive to Buffalo to visit my sister and a great friend with whom I have kept in touch with for the twenty years in which I have been out of the area.

There was a few snowflakes and scrapping to do yesterday morning, but nothing had accumulated. I worked on school work – finishing a project on a local conservancy group, and getting the addresses entered in to my data base for my research study.

I did not sleep well during my trip. This is not exactly new for me but it was worse than normal. Over the first three nights away, I had a cumulative total of ten hours of sleep.  I guard my sleep carefully because I know I do not function well when I am short on it. My emotions are close to the surface; I am more irritable, and I do not always process well when tired.

And, now I find myself home. Thankfully, I slept well last night. I already met a friend for our weekly walk. Later today I will be making a grocery list for our Thanksgiving dinner, doing the laundry from my trip, and some light house cleaning. My husband really kept the house running while I was gone, and I arrived to not find any “piles” of things sitting around, other than those I left before my trip.

I am looking forward to having my son who is a graduate student come home for the holiday and my sister-in-law, who is our most frequent visitor, both arrive tomorrow (at different points). My high school boys will be off tomorrow and the house will take on yet a different air – one of talking, activity, and sometimes organized chaos (although, since there are so few of us, this rarely occurs).

So, even though I am home, I am not back to normal yet. Getting back to normal will have to wait until next Monday – when everyone and everything  (I hope to be unpacked from my trip by then), is going about their everyday routine. Then, I will be able to go about mine, as well!

I am thankful I was able to travel to see my parents. I am also thankful I was able to go back and see where I came from by visiting my old school, old house, old stores, old friends, and have it contrast with what I am thankful for now – my husband, my boys, my friends, my home. My “new” normal. Thankful.

Slice of Life Tuesday


Directions to Home, Please

Directions to Home, Please

Next week, I will travel 900 miles by air to spend a few days with my parents at their home. It is something I have never done alone, since having a family of my own. For some, this might seem strange. I have friends who see their parents several times a week, and might even talk to them each day.  I also have a friend who has not seen her mother in over ten years.  I am somewhere in between. For anyone who is honest about families, there is a wide variation of normalcy.

Over the last few years my husband starting going back to where he grew up, to see his parents. He went alone. We are at a time in our lives that our boys are busy and cannot just take off for a lengthy stretch. This, of course, is complicated by not living near our parents.  You have to plan for a trip cross-country, as opposed to dropping in to see grandma and grandpa on a Friday night.

So, our visits started out as being yearly. One year, we went to visit them, and the following year, they came to visit us.  This has become much more infrequent in the last five years.  My husband’s parents were about ten years older than mine and started to fail in health several years ago. Since their last visit here, seven and a half years ago, they have both passed away. But, before that happened, my husband started going back to visit them a couple of times a year.  It was a good thing to do. After his Dad passed away, he continued to go, somewhat more frequently. This amounted to a few times a year to see his mom and try to help his sister with moving their mom from her home of over 65 years. She passed away this past spring, a little more than a year after his dad.

As I have aged and watched my own boys grow up in what seems to be the  blink of an eye, I have realized that life is short.  We had two of our three boys here in the mid-west.  We have been here for eighteen and a half years. We have built a life here with homes, a cabin, a barn, pets, jobs, schools, hobbies and fruit orchards. We have been active community members – not in the sense that we have joined formal organizations like Rotary or the Hunger Task Force, but have made other, solid and continuous volunteer contributions – mostly to our school system and the environment.

We never got in the habit of going back to New York for the holidays. This, I suppose, was mostly my decision. I wanted my boys to wake up in their own beds on Christmas morning. I was selfish enough to want to try to establish our own traditions.  However, this decision was complicated by my husband’s job that demanded he work during holidays – many of which the boys had off. Could I have travelled alone with the boys? Certainly. I chose not too. And, let’s face it, traveling at any time when your family is young, is stressful.

So, my husband asked me this past summer when I was going to start going back to see my parents.  Sadly, I think it is something we should have been doing all along – all during these eighteen years while we have been busy building a life in the mid-west. I did not argue with him. I just made the plans to go.

And, so I will. Go. This next week, I will travel to see my parents. Luckily, they are both still in fairly good health. I know they are looking forward to my visit, and honestly, so am I.  My boys seem excited to know that I can and will go on this trip to see their grandma and grandpa.  For despite having busy teenage lives, they know they have family who loves them, even if they do not see them a lot.

But, I realized yesterday, that I will be going to a house in which I did not grow up. I realized that I might need a little help with directions to that house.  I realized that as long as my mom and dad are there, I will be going home. I am pretty sure I can find the way.

Soccer Socks

Soccer Socks

Found on the floor,

under the bed,

& in the laundry


Stinky & stiff,

inside out,


sometimes torn or 

pocked with holes.

Balled up,

One inside

the other.

Maroon or White,

for games home or away.

Black and Blue,

not bruises,

but more socks

for practice, practice,

and more practice.

I tell my player,

“Turn them right side out.

They stink,

those soccer socks of yours.”



Accepting a Helping Hand

Accepting a Helping Hand

Due to a sequence of personal events this week, I had a lesson in asking for and accepting help from others.  During the last few days, I needed assistance with the activities of daily living, or ADL’s, as we used to call them when I was a nurse. It is an odd feeling to go from complete independence to being dependent on others for meals, transportation, and even getting to the bathroom.

I have never been good at asking for help.  I know there are many reasons for this but I suppose it boils down to being part of my perfectionist personality. Years of being able to do things on my own, and do them well, really cemented independence as one of my character traits.  I guess I thought needing help was a sign of weakness, so I never asked, even when I could have used some assistance in the past. In the process, usually do I  not only take care of myself, but others in my immediate family, as well.  So, this week has been a lesson for them, too.  Mom was “out of commission” so everyone else had to step up their game.

And, you know what?!  It happened without a hitch. Laundry has been kept up – even the daily grind of soccer uniforms and work out clothes. Meals have been graciously made and delivered by dear friends.  Unbelievably, the kitchen has been left cleaner than ever once the meals are finished. It was fun to have my 17-year-old (who keeps talking about being an adult in only a few short weeks) make my meal for me last night and clean up our dishes before starting homework. It became a time to talk and bond, allowing me an insight to the young man he is becoming and wants to be.

All this assistance allowed me to do what I was told this week by those who would thankfully only briefly touch my life but do so in a powerful and memorable way.  Over and over I was told “You Take Care of You.” And so, I have.

What Is Your Favorite Musical?

What Is Your Favorite Musical?

Over the coming weeks, I will slowly be returning to educationally based posts. After all, information and enrichment are both part of my purpose for writing. The sharing of ideas, knowledge learned from past experiences, current trends and issues in education, and my own return to classes for the fall semester will give me plenty to write about.

Today, I want to ask what your favorite musical would be if you had to choose. An entertaining way to provide a basis for discussion and enrich on a wide variety of subjects is to watch some of the classic musicals that have graced the stage and screen over the years.

When my oldest, soon to be 23-year-old son, was little we watched The Sound of Music and Peter Pan hundreds of times. Literally, hundreds of times! Over and over, the VHS tapes played and played. We had two versions of Peter Pan – the Disney Version and the Mary Martin version. Our family also saw Cathy Rigby, the once famous gymnast, in an off broadway production of Peter Pan on stage at the University of Buffalo Performing Arts Center. There, she flew over the audience, suspended only by a wire that was not always visible. It was a sight!  It is no wonder that our oldest is also our most musically inclined offspring.  Music enrichment started very early in his development.

Recently, he connected with his grandmother about musicals. She is another person in our family that really enjoys a well performed song and dance! She passed a list on to him, complete with ratings and comments, about which musicals were her favorite and why.  After finding out about this, I remembered she had recently given me a copy of Brigadoon, a Gene Kelly musical about a magically appearing town in Scotland made in 1954.  I sat down, watched it, and enjoyed myself. Surprisingly, my 15-year-old stayed on the couch with me throughout,  periodically taking furtive glances at the screen. Apparently, he was not repulsed!

While not a connoisseur of the musical genre, I consider myself well watched or well exposed to musicals. The classic musicals bear some of my favorites: Oklahoma, State Fair, The Music Man, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, and White Christmas. You get the picture, a production with fabulous dancing and adequate singing.

White Christmas is probably my favorite muscial. It is very seasonal, but it is a must watch for me every year. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sound of Music are right up there, one for the whimsy and the other for the story. There is much to discuss during or after West Side Story that still applies today.  The version with Rita Moreno is my favorite.  And, it just occurred to me that I left out The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast – more recent additions to musicals I would recommend.

In any case, musicals have been part of my life, our sons’ lives, and my parents lives. They have been part of my adult life, supporting the theater performances at the high school and college levels in our local community. Attending a musical gives a child a chance to be transported through live entertainment to a place that makes them think, wonder, be inspired, or just laugh.  Societal norms and manners are reinforced, such as turning technology off, being quiet during the production, applauding whether you have been thrilled by the performance or not, and appreciating the hard work of the actors and musicians.

Musicals can be very enriching. You can rent them, stream them, or borrow them from the local library. Try watching a musical or two with your children. Pick one they are familiar with, and then one you would like to see but share the experience with them. Do not use the production as a baby sitter, watch with your children. Talk about what you see and hear. Talk about the story, the music, the hard work that goes into making such a production. Then, after you watch a musical movie, go see one live! Local, community theater groups offer their performances at a reasonable cost. Check the local high schools and colleges for the upcoming season’s listing of productions. Then, enjoy!

What is your favorite musical?


Siding Sacrifice

Siding Sacrifice

This morning, just as I sat down to type up answers to a batch of new garden based math questions I developed for enrichment, I got distracted.

As I sat down, with my anniversary roses in front of me, out of the corner of my eye I saw my husband of thirty years outside our kitchen window chopping off branches from one of my hydrangeas that had just started to bloom. Coincidentally, the variety of hydrangea was named Little Lamb.  Quickly, I opened the window and moaned, “Really?”

“Yes,” he replied. I can’t get to where I need to work. “Sorry.”

I quickly made movements to go outside and gather up the cut branches that had now become sacrificial flowers for our siding job.  “Can I have them, then?” I asked.  And not waiting for a response, I went about trimming the woody stems and stripping the leaves, knowing I could make a lovely bouquet to enjoy for a few days inside the house.

They are lovely, white, and very pure in appearance – like the little lambs for which they are named. I trimmed as many as I could and put them in a vase with some water, placing them on our entryway table, a table made my handy husband.

This weekend is one of our local premier art events, Art Fair on the Green, held on the campus of UW-LaCrosse. It is a juried art show, one in which my husband has sold his handcrafted, solid wood, fine furniture at in the past. He will not be featured in the show this year. Besides having to work his requisite weekend shifts, he is also in the middle of this huge home improvement project – replacing our siding – the siding that has now accrued some sacrifices. Flowers and furniture for the art show are tangible sacrifices. But, there have been intangible ones as well – namely, time and energy.

The siding replacement looks fabulous and we are lucky my husband is handy enough to pursue a job as large as this one. Our home will have a new look to it come fall. The beautiful sacrifices are worth it.