Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm Giving Thanks!

Leah at South Breeze Farm has a wonderful idea for the month of November. I'm participating and I think you might like to do it too. Stop by her blog and get the details.

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Cousins, Cupcakes, Old Friends, Great Friends (Who Know Just What You Need), McGuire's Irish Pub and Sweet Baby Conner

Do you ever notice how, as you get older, you only see your extended family members at weddings and funerals? That seems to be what's happening to us. But we (i.e, some of "the cousins") are making plans to change that. These first two pictures are of 2 of my cousins, my sister and me. In the blue shirt is Sunshine (hey - no laughing...she didn't pick that name, her mother did. And actually, it kind of suits her. She's very bright and warm so shut it! lol), Kristie is leaning against the pole, my sister is the one in black and that's me with my head turned. Sunshine and Kristie are sisters. The four of us are in serious talks regarding a "cousin getaway". This getaway is to plan an even bigger get together with even more of our cousins. Maybe. If we can pull it off. Cousins Michael and Wallace have already expressed an interest to participate. I don't know if any other cousins have been contacted or would even be interested at this point. I really hope something good comes of this. We've all missed so much of each other's lives and losing Joey was a wake-up call. I don't want to feel such regret again and I think my cousins and sister feel the same way.
Moving along...see these cupcakes below? Sunshine brought these from Birmingham for me. Now do you see why I want to make sure we maintain a relationship? ha,ha just kidding! But anyway, these cupcakes are from Edgar's Bakery. If you ever hear any hype about Edgar's...believe it because WOW! They were divine. Totally divine. She also brought some cheese straws and a cream cheese danish. But honestly...cupcakes! Who could even think of anything else when there's cupcakes around?
Not only do you meet up with long long family at funerals, you often get to see friends that you haven't seen in ages. See here's the thing about my cousin Joey. I think he lived in the same house his entire childhood...for as long as I can remember anyway. He and his parents and his sister lived in a little neighborhood where just about all the neighbors knew each other. And I spent a few summer's of my own childhood with them. I loved visiting them. I loved that there were so many kids on that street and that so many families would get together for cookouts and such. It was great. I even lived with Joey's family a couple of times after I had Nicholas. (My situation was messed up - we won't get into that right now because it'd take way too much time and space, but suffice it to say I was floundering about as a very young adult and Aunt Ginger and Uncle Mike helped me out tremendously). Anyway, these neighborhood families are still in touch today, over 30 years after meeting one another. Can you believe that? It's astonishing. And heartwarming. And lucky for me because so many of them came to pay their respects to Joey and I was able to see them again. Joyce and Ted. Robin, Timmy and Paige. Cathy and Tommy. Terri. So many wonderful, wonderful people. As I sit here, remembering them, I'm wondering what it is they thought of me all those years ago. I wasn't wild, but you sure couldn't tell it from the outside. I struggled with loneliness, with the embarrassment of teenage pregnancy, with the shame of feeling I wasn't worthy of "nice" guys so I always picked "the wrong" ones...if I had mastered anything in my late teenage years and early twenties, it was the ability to make bad, bad decisions. But what the heck...look at all the experience and wisdom I gained from those mistakes, right? lol Still...I often wondered what these good, kind people thought of me or if they even did think of me through the years. When I saw them again, it was joyful for me. I felt so much joy in the midst of Joey's wake that I started to feel guilty about it! But I don't think Joey would have minded. He was always the life of the party and I think he might actually have been annoyed if he hadn't heard some laughter and seen some smiles at his wake. And these are people that he loves, too. (And before you start measuring me for that straight jacket, I have to tell you that I refer to him in the present tense on purpose - his body may be gone, but his soul and his spirit live on as far as I'm concerned). Anyway, I saw these people, I spoke with them and I felt home. I got some addresses and some e-mails and a phone number or two. It was great to be given another opportunity to connect with them. I wish you all could know them, too. Joyce was even more beautiful than ever, Ted's hair was much shorter than I'd ever seen it (Joyce and I laughed about that - let's just say they enjoyed some big hair back in the day!), Robin and Timmy looked almost exactly the same, although Robin's hair was shorter, too. And Paige. Well, my gosh. Talk about a beauty. She turned out to be...perfect. Is perfect too strong a word? Nah. She's perfect all right. I always loved her when she was a child. She had the smartest mouth you ever heard. Sassy, sassy, sassy. I loved it. I'm told that one of her daughters acts just like her and I can tell you for sure that the other one looks just like her. Cathy and Tommy haven't changed a whole lot either. Cathy always looks so precious...smiling with all her heart. She and Tommy babysat my kids for me when my daughter was a baby. They, and their 4 daughters, were great to us. Terri's grown into such a beautiful woman, too. I'm thinking I should have stayed around the neighborhood - nobody there seems to have aged badly!! But I guess that reasoning doesn't really work since I think they all eventually moved away, too. lol Anyway, I'm grateful that I got to see them and I'm grateful that us cousins are looking to reconnect with each other and I'm grateful that e-mail is around to help us all stay in touch. I'm also grateful for my friend Susan. Susan knows me so well (and yet she still calls me her friend!). She and I have been friends for what? something like 11 years now? Maybe longer, maybe less...who can remember. She is the one I cry in front of when my feelings are hurt or when I'm upset about something or when I'm scared about something. Other than Randey, she probably knows me better than anybody (and sometimes I think she knows me even better!). Now don't get me sister knows me well, too. But when you are 2 sisters married to 2 brothers, sometimes you can become too much involved in each other's business and that causes it's own set of problems. So Susan is my nearest and dearest friend in the whole wide world and I swear, I don't get why sometimes. We both say we're "High Maintenance" and that's why we don't branch out more with our IRL friendships. lol

Anyway, Susan lives near where we use to live in the Florida panhandle so when we drove down for Joey's funeral, I was able to see Susan and spend a few short hours with her. And what did she do? She made me some genuine, homemade Red Velvet cupcakes that were out of this world. I don't even want to tell you how many I ate because WOW. It was a lot! But they were so flippin' good. See? That's the definition of a friend. She remembered that I said I loved my Grandma's Red Velvet cake and she made the effort to make it for me. And what an effort. Geez. Hope no one tell's Grandma, but I think Susan's got her recipe down pat because Grandma never made better, I can honestly say that. And then....Susan even made me some tomato gravy! Tomato. Gravy. Yes ma'am. My favorite breakfast food ever. I could have cried when I saw the pan! lol I, personally, don't know how to make tomato gravy (one day, I'll have to tell ya'll about my gravy making issues) and the last time I had any was probably way back in February when my mom came to visit. And I don't even remember when I had it before then. Man, I love that stuff. And my friend Susan made it for me. She's the best, you know it? And she wasn't done yet. Check this out.

Do you know what this is? It's a Peppercorn steak from McGuire's Irish Pub in Destin, Florida. And it is the absolute best steak in the world, bar none. Susan bought our dinner there last Sunday evening. It's my favorite restaurant (I'm a loyal customer, too. I eat there or at the McGuire's in Pensacola whenever I get the chance. Sure wish they'd put one here in Texas. Yummy!). Susan, Terry (Susan's husband), Randey and I all drove down to Destin, but not for McGuire's (I did think of you while down there Kat, but the circumstances of the visit were rather somber, especially coupled with the loss of Joey so I wouldn't have felt comfortable with trying to arrange a visit). We drove there to visit our grandson's gravesite. Our little Conner was laid to rest in Destin in November of 2005. Nick and Jodie always referred to him as their "Superboy" and named him Conner because that's the "real" name of Superboy in the comics. With all that had gone on, I hadn't had a chance to get something to leave at Conner's gravesite before we got there. I felt awful about it and Susan could tell. She suddenly insisted that she had to go to the store right that minute, no ifs, ands or buts. At her insistence, Terry drove us to Target where I found a Superman figure for Conner and Susan got a Batman figure to keep Superman company. Again...that's a true friend. Not only does she understand my need to leave a toy for my grandson who lives in Heaven, she even got him one, too. I know it probably seems a little strange for me to post a picture of my grandson's tombstone on my blog. Maybe it is strange. But I don't much care. This gravesite is all we have now. That and a few pictures of him and some precious, sweet memories. I hope no one is put off by seeing this, but if you are...don't tell me. It would forever change the way I feel about you (hey, nothing like stating my position clearly, right?).
As you can tell, Conner's gotten several Superman figures these last 2 years. His other grandmother made the mailbox so that she and others could leave little notes to Conner (my granddaughter loves this feature) and Jodie painted the lovely flowerpot and left it there during their visit home this past summer. As sorrowful as I feel at the absence of Conner, I feel an even greater joy at his having been born. I know that he's a perfect little soul who didn't have to spend time on earth before he got to be with God. But sometimes, I do miss that baby so.
Wow. Guess I've really run on and on today, huh? You can tell I'm behind in my posting because I seem to want to make up for it all in one day! Sorry about that. I'll try to keep the postings shorter than this in the future. Whew. I'm exhausted. Think I'll go take a nap now.

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Special Thanks and Special Deliveries

I'm trying to get all caught up with things...I've got so many blogging friends to thank, so many blogging strangers to say hello to and so many blogs to just go read! The support and friendship shown by you, my blogging friends, during our family's recent loss of Joey was unbelievable. And the kind thoughts and prayers of total strangers that left comments...well, my gosh. I'm touched beyond expression at that. And of course, I've missed reading your blogs and knowing what's going on in your lives. I would like to specifically thank Kat, Tammy, Susie Q, Julie, Cassie, Annie and Pam for mentioning Joey's passing on their own blogs and asking people to share a prayer for our family. If anyone else mentioned it and I didn't say so, please don't take offense. I haven't really had a chance to read everyone's blog since Joey passed away so any omission is unintentional. I would also like to thank all of you who left condolences, on my blog, Aunt Sandi's blog, as well as Joey's website. You are all so kind and so very, very appreciated. Thank you.
Also, I have some gifts to acknowledge. My good friend, Karolee hand knitted this lovely red scarf for me. It's the most gorgeous thing you've ever seen and I'm so happy to have it. Not so happy that I would allow my picture to be taken, however (lol). I'm looking even rougher than normal here lately (and that's saying something, believe you me) so I made Kaleb wear it for the picture. You can tell how happy he was to pose, can't you? I know, I know. The boy has "JOY" written all over his face. But try to tear your eyes away from him for just a second and admire the scarf...beautiful, isn't it? Karolee also sent a lovely gingerbread ornament as well as a box of Breast Cancer Awareness tic-tacs. And for a bonus...her lovely daughter made the card. I had to laugh when I saw the card because Karolee's always talking about how "un-creative" she is (funny coming from the woman who could probably knit an entire wardrobe for an entire family before breakfast every single morning!). I was going to send her an e-mail, asking about this pretty card when she beat me to it by telling me that her daughter had made it. I hope she remembered to tell her daughter just exactly how impressed I was with it! And Karolee, thank you again for the scarf. It's been too warm to wear it so far, but I've kept it handy so that I may touch it whenever I walk by. It's softness and warmth have reminded me of what great friends I have, thanks to blogging. Your gift, your work, your kindness have most certainly left their mark on me.
Next, I received this package from Sophie yesterday. The timing of this package could not have been better. I was having a sort of "down" moment when I heard the mailman honking his horn, indicating that I had a package from someone. I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened it. A Nutcracker! Sophie has a wonderful memory. She remembered that I had a bit of a Nutcracker collection that I put on my mantle during Christmas - I'd posted a picture of them way back in the middle of summer. And this little guy is going to be the "jewel" in my collection because he's from such a special friend. I smile everytime I see him (he's already sitting with the pumpkins that have been lining my mantle since September). And did I mention he also played music? Isn't that great? Oh and she also sent a box of Yorkshire tea (simply wonderful, by the way) as well as some Marmite (that I haven't been brave enough to try yet! lol) and a box of OXO Beef (and just as soon as I figure out what to do with that, I'll do it!). Thank you, Sophie. You are simply the best! I'm thrilled silly that you thought enough of me to send these things and again, the timing couldn't have been better.

And finally, I wanted to show you the cool Halloween things I had won for Pea's Birthday. Yeah, I said that right. Pea gave away gifts on her birthday. What a nut! But I'm pretty darn happy she's such a nut because look what I got...this sweet little pumpkin box, a Halloween cone, some pumpkin napkins and a card! I actually received this a week or so ago (time is sort of running together for me, sorry), but didn't get a chance to post about them before I left. So sorry I'm late with this big thank you, Pea, but please know how much I love these things. They made our home even more festive for Halloween.
Okay. I think that's about it for today. I can't wait to catch up on what ya'll have been up to lately. I apologize for not visiting and not leaving comments...especially after ya'll have been so kind to me and my family. Please know that I am very thankful for each and every one of you, though. You guys are THE GREATEST!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hope You Have a Spooktacular Halloween

Our little family had a quick pumpkin carving extravaganza yesterday. Well. Maybe not such an extravaganza, per se, but we did go into a little carving frenzy. Randey did the ghost pumpkin on the left, Jacob did the vampire preparing to bite the woman's neck, I did the witch and Kaleb did the skull face. I've come to the conclusion that I don't really care for carving pumpkins. It wasn't as fun as I'd envisioned. Randey and the boys, however, loved doing it. So what's that mean? It means they're totally and completely in charge of any and all future pumpkin carving for this particular branch of the family tree. Sorry guys, but count me out! This one below is the pumpkin Kaleb carved a couple of weeks ago, as practice. Jacob did one too, but his sort of fell apart. Mainly because he cut where he shouldn't have. You know, to tell the truth, I don't think pumpkin carving is really Jake's forte' either. His first one fell apart and his second one...well, look closely at the picture above. He actually carved the pattern sideways...that's why his pumpkin is laying on its side. Funny, huh?
I had meant to post some of these next pictures a few at a time in the week leading up to Halloween, but circumstances prevented me from doing that. This is Desiree' dressed as a bride. A pretty unhappy bride, judging by the look on her face. Jake and Kaleb were dressed as a pair of dice. This is probably my favorite costume of theirs. They were so flippin' cute.
This is Nick and Des back in 1987. Nick was such a good big brother when Des was born. So sweet. He was obviously dressed as a convict and Des was dressed as a ghost. She didn't like that costume, either.
Here's Des as some sort of witch. Strange. She seemed to love that costume. The boys were ninjas and they really thought they were cool.
Okay so this was not a banner year for costumes. We sort of went with what we had for the boys. They were still pretty darn cute, though.

Here's Des dressed as a cheerleader. She was so adorable that year. You've never seen a kid happier with their costume than she was with that one. The boys were indians and they so loved their feather headdresses.
Here's Des dressed as a giant baby. I think she was in 6th or 7th grade that year and, if I remember correctly, she was going to a Halloween party at a friend's house. Jacob was a bloody waiter (a costume he truly thought was fantastic) and Kaleb was a bloodied Nascar driver.
This is Des with one of the Hutchinson girls back in 1988. The Hutchinson's lived down the road from Aunt Ginger and Uncle Mike and they babysat Des and Nick quite a bit. Great people. This is Kaleb as a mummy. Not my greatest idea for a costume, I must admit. I think I should have thought a little more about how to keep the wrapping on because the more Kaleb walked, the more his wrapping trailed behind him. Good thing he was wearing something under all that stuff, I'll tell you that. He might've had to "streak" home otherwise.
And finally, here's Jacob as Quasimodo, the Hunchback. He was such a cutie that night, too. Heck, what am I saying? I seem to think all my kids were cute every Halloween! lol
I hope all of you have a fun and safe Halloween. We'll be sitting on our front walkway this evening, passing out the candy and sipping hot cocoa...pretending we're shivering from fright and cold. (Which may be a stretch since it's supposed to get all the way up to 81 today!). Happy Halloween All!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's done...

Life in his earthly body as well as the ceremony of burial, are over for Joey. The wake, the funeral, the interment…all done with. Now, for Karen and the kids, begins the time of “the firsts”. You know what I mean… the first Halloween without him, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, the first New Years…so many firsts to get through. My heart breaks for Joey’s young family. I know they’ll be okay, really I do know it. But there will be many, many hard moments ahead and there’s nothing any of us, least of all me, can do to help them get past those. My memories of Joey and Karen’s memories of Joey are completely different and separate. She knows Joey as a man. Almost all of my memories are of Joey as a boy. As I’ve said before, our family kind of went their separate ways. This happened just about the time Joey became a man. I can count on one hand the number of times I've seen him in almost two decades. I saw him at Grandma’s funeral back in 1998 and I saw him last year when I was visiting his mom (my Aunt Ginger). Joey, Karen and the boys came over to Aunt Ginger’s and we sat around on the porch for awhile then went to dinner. That night was a lot of fun for me (although I seem to remember that I drank one too many margaritas. I also seem to recall that Joey, who had a drink or two himself, was encouraging my liquor consumption – he always was a funny guy. Worse than that, he always was a funny guy who didn’t mind watching his cousin make an ass out of herself – which I have a tendency to do with those darn margaritas in my system). Anyway, I can’t even share with Karen moments of “remember when?” about Joey because she and I don’t have the same memories of Joey. I wasn’t around the last 18 years of Joey’s life. I moved away and, the family situation being what it was, I opted not to pursue relationships with my family members. I think Joey may have done the same thing. Actually, I think just about all of us stopped being family because it became too damn complicated. And because we stopped being involved in each other’s lives, I missed out on Joey’s family, his children, his wife…I missed it all. I’m somewhat shocked at the depth of my grief now. I feel like a fraud for shedding tears. I have no right to be this sad over Joey’s passing. I didn’t keep up with him in life, how dare I mourn him this fervently in death. I guess my grief is magnified by knowing how much time I wasted, how many moments I let slip away, how little effort I put into loving my family. That guilt, that shame, that melancholy is a terrible thing to bear, let me tell you. I’m sorry beyond words that I wasn’t a part of Joey’s adult life. There was always going to be time, or so I thought. But let’s face it. We aren’t born with an expiration date stamped on our butts. You just don’t know when your time, or that of your loved one, is up. So, unless you just like living with regret, I say you should make the most of the time you have NOW. It may be the only time you’ll get.

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