Monday, November 28, 2011


Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my family lost two greats. My children lost one of their remaining three Great Grandparents. That my children have thus far had three Great Grandparents in their lives has been a rare blessing. The Great Grandfather they lost lived 4400 miles away and had only met my children once. Still, it was a sad and reverent occasion. This Great Grandfather was the grandfather of my oldest son's birthmother. Follow that? Cole's birthmother's grandaddy. Each of my children claim their brother's birth family as their own, and I claim them all. The more family you can claim the merrier, I say. Cole's birth aunt also belongs to Jared, Jared's birth grandmother belongs to Cole, and so on. It warms my heart when Jared calls Cole's birth aunt by "Aunt Sylvia". That Aunt Sylvia's children are cousins to both my children and not just one? It's something so staggeringly positive and poignant, and most families who are made by giving birth to their children unfortunately never even get to experience it. It's one of the many advantages of getting your children by adoption.

The Great Grandfather we lost was Korean. He lived in Alaska. He possessed such a wide, deep, vast expanse of wisdom and knowledge and I'd always hoped he could someday share it with my children. Alas, too much worked against us for it to happen. There was a language barrier, distance, and failing health and it wasn't to be. His wife, the boys' Great Grandmother, has dementia and anything she might have shared with the boys is gone, for the most part. When history and wisdom doesn't get passed down a connection is broken and I don't think it can be regained. I'm sad about that.

The one remaining Great Grandparent is my own Grandmother. She's nearly 105 yet most days she's sharper than me - not that that takes much. I'm so grateful my boys have lived their lives thus far with her in it, and I hope we have more time yet with her. Every visit with her is a memory we all take with us. Makes us richer. Makes us understand the value of experience and seniority, the delicacy of life and the importance of savoring every moment with someone as if it's your last.

I'm so thankful my children have birthmothers who love them so much; who made the ultimate and most incredibly difficult, selfless decision to give their child a shot in life. Never do my children have to wonder if they weren't wanted, if they were given away. Their birthmothers and their birthmothers' families make certain they know otherwise, by their actions and their words.

We will miss our Korean Great Grandfather even though we didn't know him well. He held a spot in our family tree. He was an important character in the story of our lives, maybe Cole's in particular.

We also lost my Aunt Mary (that's pronounced Aint Mayree). To say that lost was profound is so incomplete as to nearly be offensive. She had an intense and far-reaching impact on the lives of her family. She was the sister of my Grandmother. The younger sister. Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob (the brother of my Grandfather - that's a story for a post all on its own) never had any children, so they made their nieces and nephews their children. We all spent childhood summers at Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob's. They lived on "the old home place", a sprawling, peaceful Georgia farm of hundreds of acres, mature forests, trails, blackberry bushes, lakes, ponds, garden plots, pastures, fruit trees and barns that they played in as children. They had built a home there but also preserved all the old buildings on the place. They had cows, horses, and occasionally pigs. They always had two border collies and one was always named Sam. As long as I remember going there, there was always a furry black, blonde and white border collie named Sam.

My cousin Jeff eulogized Aunt Mary. It was by far the best, most appropriate, most endearing tribute ever given at a funeral where I've been in attendance. I have a copy of it coming to me. I'll share parts of it with you when it arrives. Jeff reminisced about how Aunt Mary taught us all what clean really meant - as we all apparently had erroneous definitions prior to her lessons. He told of her kindness and how many other kindnesses she was responsible for that no one would ever know about. He talked about her spirit, her contagious laugh, her financial shrewdness as well as her financial generosity. He talked about how many things we all learned just by being there with them - how to tell when a horse was getting ready to roll, how to jump off a horse, and how, in so many more ways than one, to get right back on the horse. During the ten or fifteen minutes he spoke, he brought back such intense, accurate, and delicious memories of Aunt Mary, and as I looked around at all the people who loved Aunt Mary and were gathered around her coffin, it was obvious Jeff brought the essence of Aunt Mary back for them too.

I'm so thankful to have had her in my life. I'm thankful she played such a great role in my life and provided me with one of the many models I was fortunate enough to have of a fiercely strong, joyous woman.

We have a lot to be thankful for this holiday season.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"We are

what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”
– Aristotle

Let that one sink in for a few minutes. The more times I read that the more I love it. The more I've decided I should live by it. The more I think it should be my mantra.

It's powerful. It's profound. It's simple. Excellence is a habit. Wow.

I believe that's a habit I'd like to have. It surely is easy to make something a habit. I know because Monday I started eating one funsize frozen Snickers when I got home and today, Thursday, a mere three days later, it's part of my daily ritual and I'm discombobulated if I don't get it. Yesterday I forgot and within five or ten minutes of walking into the house my mouth was watering and I was craving chocolate, caramel and peanuts. Exactly two frozen bites of it. What do you want to bet it takes me longer to break that habit than it did to establish it???? WHY is that? Grrrr. I digress. The point is, it drove home for me the fact that I can establish a habit within a short matter of days. Why shouldn't it be a fabulous habit? One I don't ever WANT to break???

Recently I started back to school. The group of 'kids' I attend with are late teens and early twenties, for the most part. They drag in at 9:00am, talk about how tired they are, how they couldn't get out of bed, their MOM had to call them SEVEN times before they got up.

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR. Their MOM???? SEVEN times???? Don't anyone tell my nine year old. He's gonna feel SO hornswoggled.

One of these girls, rubbing her eyes with one hand and propping her head up with the other, peeps through her half shut slits and says, in my general direction, "Miz Caren, how in the HELL do you have so much energy this early in the morning???"

Early? EARLY? Give me strength. Any Mom knows that 9:00am is about lunchtime. When your day begins at 5:45am with two loads of laundry, a shower, getting something into the crockpot for dinner, making three lunches, signing four papers your kids forgot last night, writing a check for the field trip (again, said child forgot last night), feeding two dogs, throwing two coats of mascara on inbetween all that, then getting the kids to school and getting myself to school, all by 8:15 -- and lovin' every second of it ----- 9:00am is NOT early.

So my reply? Well, what I WANT to say? "How in the heck are you so SLEEPY at 9:00am???" You are burnin' daylight, lil girl!!! Energy is a state of mind. You ain't gonna acquire it slopped over the table like that with your head in your hands."
What I say: "Energy is lots more fun. It's a decision."

That's when the student next to me said "Hey! Aristotle said that, right?"

"I don't know," I said. But he shoulda, if he didn't. So I looked it up when I got home. Here's what the gal next to me was thinking of:

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, it's a habit."

Wow. So, I think, is energy. So, I think, is a good attitude. So, I think, is a thoughtful and loving countenance.

I think I would've liked Aristotle.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011


This year our Thanksgiving is taking a turn. I'm not getting out the china and silver and crystal. Not washing it all up so we can eat off of it for an hour or so and then wash it all up again. Not getting out the linen and washing it all up, setting the table with it and then pulling it all off the table and washing it all up again. Some years it seems like a good idea to wear myself out doing those traditional things. Some years I really enjoy it, even though I spend an inordinate amount of time on it and lose way too much rest and/or sleep for its importance. In any case, not happnin' this year.

This year I either have time to cook OR be with family. I choose family. Thankfully my sister-in-law came up with the idea to have the meal catered out. Her schedule is similar to mine for the next two to three weeks and I don't know about her, but I'm having trouble finding enough time to get the bare necessities done, much less the 'can-do-withouts'. I haven't taken my kids anywhere fun in weeks. I haven't spent an evening cuddled up with my husband reading or watching a movie together in much too long. I haven't been to see my Mama and Daddy in months. Haven't had a girls night in forever. At this point, it would be an insult to those I love and haven't spent enough time with to agree to spend hours and hours in the kitchen cooking for one meal.

And thankfully, split several ways, the cost of the meal catered is less than I would pay for groceries for the event, plus all the time I gain being somewhere other than the kitchen with my hand up a bird's bum. It's a win-win.

I never have quite understood the feeling that Thanksgiving is so so much about food. I'm not thankful for food. Well, that's not right. Of course I'm thankful for food. But it's not what I'm celebrating and being thankful for on the fourth Thursday in November. Nope. It's family. It's spending a day together with people I don't see enough, don't hug enough, don't get to visit with enough. It's fellowship, laughter, reminiscing, storytelling, and just breathing each others' air.

And I get to thoroughly enjoy it. I get to enjoy it because I don't have broilers and roasters and casserole dishes and cookie sheets and baking pans and bar pans and cake plates and mixing bowls to wash. I'm going to do what the men do after a meal - sit down in front of the TV or on the patio. And then, I get to enjoy it some more instead of washing dishes. Paper plates go straight into the garbage. Yay. And then I get to enjoy it some more even, because I don't have to wash and fold linens.

Then when that celebration is over, I can make a pot of coffee and go upstairs and pack my bags so the next morning we can travel to my Mama's house for another Thanksgiving celebration. Don't have to spend half the night cooking. I only have to take myself and my three guys. No food. She's been catering Thanksgiving out for years.

I am one lucky girl. I should be thankful! (wink wink)