Oh Happy Day!

At 11:19 last night, my cell phone announced a text.  My day had started early so I had turned in early.  I was sound asleep and considered ignoring the phone.  As is usually the case, my maternal instinct awakened enough to make me pick up the phone and read the message.

It was my oldest granddaughter EJ.  She was announcing her engagement to John.  “I got engaged!!!!!!!”  I woke up just enough to respond, “Yay!”  Then I rolled over and went back to sleep.  I sent a more detailed response at 7:00 this morning.

Today, as I’ve contemplated my future married grandchild I can’t help looking back with a sense of nostalgia and even a longing for the baby and little girl she was.  She was a joy from day one, and still is.  I love this photo of her.  I think she had just played a softball game. The sun had brought a sprinkle of freckles across the bridge of her nose.  She was about eleven.  Grammy’s little athlete.

I remember when she was a snuggle-y, sweet-smelling babe-in-arms.  I would rock her and sing to her and wish there were some way I could bottle the smells and the satisfaction I felt with her in my arms and in my life.  My first grandchild.

I remember how she used to call me and “report” her parents whenever they did something she didn’t like.  How simple were her complaints back then.  She learned to dial me up before she could even read numbers.  When I asked her how she knew how to do that, she told me she had watched her mom punch the numbers and they took the shape of a house.  I knew then and there that she was a genius.  I still think that.

And now the sophisticated young business woman is getting married.  Planning a wedding.  We’re moving forward with gusto and anticipation and delight and great happiness for the handsome couple.  Where did the time go?

We (the families) have known for some time that the engagement was imminent.  John had sent an email to family members and asked us to make short video clips encouraging EJ to say yes.  Our assignment was to make our appeal using only three words.  We had great fun discussing and coming up with just the right message.  John then took all the clips and made one video show.  I hope to see the entire video one day.

Here you see the garden flag I made for my video clip.  Now that she’s seen the video I can send her the flag.

All day I have had the words “Oh Happy Day” ringing in my ears.  It’s a wonderful old Southern gospel song.  I found a marvelous video of the Soweto Gospel Choir singing it.  No one does this song better than they do.  They are in full colorful costume, so they’re “eye candy” too.  Even if you’re  not a gospel music fan I think you’ll enjoy it.

In my mind I’ll be singing “Oh Happy Day” as I attend the wedding.

A perfect day.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. ~ Vince Lombardi

I seem to get philosophical when I do yard work, especially as I mow the lawn, or in today’s case, as I mow the hay.  I’m pretty sure there’s enough to bale.  Or there will be when the job is finished.  I’m taking a break to let the battery recharge.  Mine and the one that goes in the lawn mower, she says with a grin.

Some aspects of maintaining a house and lawn try both my body and my soul.  More often my body, I guess.  That’s what I was thinking as I moved the hammock off the grass and back under the pine trees.  When the children are here they pull it down on the grass because it’s more level there.  They never remember to pull it back up.  Maybe it’s too difficult since it’s uphill.  I would never scold them for it.  It isn’t that important — until I try to heave-ho by myself.  I slowly move one end at a time until I get it out of the path of the lawnmower.  It’s heavier than it looks.

Actually, the hammock belonged to my ex.  I bought it for him for a birthday or some other occasion.  I don’t remember.  I suppose I should have left it for him when I moved my furniture, etc., from our house, but I didn’t.  I never once saw him relax in it.  The children loved it from day one.  I took it for them.  I knew they would enjoy it.  And they have.

I was upset that I was having to move by myself when half the “stuff” was his and I had to go through every room and mark what was going with me and what stayed for him to move later.  It was the hardest job, physically and emotionally, I had ever tried to do.  I wasn’t feeling very kindly toward D.  He should have been there to help.  He wasn’t.

I think it may have been that day when I really understood what a coward he became once he decided to end the marriage.  He either couldn’t or wouldn’t face me.  He fled.  Ran away.  I suppose the fact that I can still get angry at him helps to assuage my guilt for taking some things that weren’t mine to take.  Actually, he can have the hammock now if he wants to come and get it.  I don’t deliver.

Hey!  Where the hell did my perfect day go?  Maybe it just went from perfect to excellent, but I’ll take excellent.  Excellent is good.

So why is today an excellent, if not perfect, day?  Because I stand on the deck and look beyond the pergola at the blue sky.  I work in the yard in ideal weather — sunny with a high temperature of about 68 degrees.  I’m happy outdoors.

Though it’s sometimes a challenge, I am physically able to care for my lawn and house.  I’m grateful for that.

I’m able to take out small pieces of sadness and/or anger-inducing aspects of my past, but I no longer have a need to wallow in any of it.  It is what it is.  It’s part of who I am today.  I have more happy days than sad ones, I think.

Today is one of the happy ones.  An excellent day.

So…how’s your day?

 

Does it get any better than this?!

       “And drivin’ down the road I get the feelin’ that I should have been home yesterday…”  ~ John Denver

I have the good fortune to have friends who own a Christmas tree farm in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina.  I spent the weekend there with four of my favorite people.  Four girlfriends who probably continue to love me because of my flaws rather than in spite of them.  A fifth friend was noticeably absent and we missed her and the many laughs she always provides.

I sing John Denver’s “Country Roads” once I get far enough from the city to feel as if I’m really on my way “home.”  Sometimes I get funny looks from fellow travelers, but I smile at them and keep singing.  This country road takes me right to the front door of “Grandma’s” house.  She isn’t really my grandma but she’s kind enough to allow me to call her that.  She’s actually the matriarch of my friend’s family and the owner of this lovely retreat.  She’s the epitome of generosity, always sending us up to her haven in the mountains whenever we can work it into our schedules.  Once I get out of the car and see the tree sign in the photo above, I know I’m really home.

When I’m in the mountains I love to wander and wonder.  Now that I’m blogging, I always take my phone or my camera and look for photo-worthy subjects.  There are many — up, down, and all around.  I found this thistle gone-to-seed growing beside a little barn.  I think I snapped it because it looks like my hair when I get up in the morning.  Does that mean I’ve gone to seed too?  I’m saying no to that because I found this still-blooming thistle and I gotta tell you — I like the old one better.  All her bits of fluff can drift in the wind and land on fertile ground like Grammy’s bits of wisdom coming to rest in the fecund minds of her grandchildren.  I know, I’m still a dreamer after all these years, but I believe that some of those gentle reminders really do take root and can grow until they are something fine and wonderful.

I took these shots in the late afternoon on Friday.  It was a glorious sunny day with lots of fluffy white clouds, along with a few dark afternoon-shower clouds.  But the showers skipped us.  The tree in the foreground is a Fraser fir waiting for Christmas.  Well, I think it’s a Fraser.  Tree experts, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

As I continued my walk I stumbled upon numerous eye-catching goodies:  interesting stumps and trees, wild flowers and not-so-wild ones, acorns.  Here are a few of the wonders I beheld.

The teapot at the bottom is one of Grandma’s many artful touches that make her home feel so welcoming to us sojourners.


Somewhere between Arequipa and Colca Canyon.

Somewhere between the city of Arequipa and Colca Canyon I looked out the bus window and saw this beautiful sight.  I knew I had to snap it even though conditions weren’t ideal.  The weird segmented “creature” in the water just left of center is a reflection of my watch band off the window.

On the right side of this photo is El Misti, Peru’s best known and most active volcano.  Its proximity to Arequipa (about 16 kilometers) would mean a major disaster for that city should it have a major eruption.  It’s had many rumbles over the years but no major eruption in about 2,000 years, although our guide kept making reference to a big one about 500 years ago, and I did find data to back that up.  As usual, internet “facts” are only as good as their source and I’m not skilled at weeding out the bad info.  Nor am I so inclined today.  If our guide is any indication, the citizens of Arequipa take a rather fatalistic attitude about El Misti’s ability to wreak havoc on their beautiful city.

High in the Andes we were able to observe the vicuña.  How high?  I’m not sure.  I know that we stopped a little later and were at 16,000 feet, so this wasn’t much below that elevation.  The wool of the vicuña is the softest, most desirable, and most expensive of all the Peruvian wools.  Our guide told us that one sweater from the vicuña yarn would cost $3,000 to $4,000 in American dollars.  One factor is that this beautiful, graceful animal can be shorn only every three years and must be caught from the wild.  In the days of the Inca, only royalty could wear this superfine fabric.  I suppose that would be true today as well at those prices.

The photo on the right shows local vendors hawking their wares at the highest point we achieved on this magnificent journey.  This is the spot where we stood at 16,000 feet above sea level.  When we first got off the bus I felt a little light-headed, but I acclimated quickly.  We had stopped along the way up to drink more coca tea, and we had coca candies to munch on all along the way.  I have never suffered from altitude sickness, soroche, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I followed the advice of the guides, the literature, and fellow travelers.  Altitude sickness can be quite dangerous and is not to be taken lightly.

Here I am hale and hearty.  Our guide took my picture so I could prove I was there.  Unfortunately, the marker doesn’t give the elevation.  This moment felt like a huge accomplishment.  I don’t know exactly why.  I hadn’t hiked up or anything astounding like that, but I felt as if I were on top of the world, and ready to conquer whatever else I might encounter.  And so we’re off to eat lunch; then on to Colca Canyon Lodge where we will spend the night and partake of the wonderfully soothing natural hot springs.  I’m pretty sure I can “conquer” a bit of food and some hot springs.  🙂

Feeling lucky.

Luck is believing you’re lucky.                              ~ Tennessee Williams

As I was walking yesterday morning, this four-leaf clover jumped right off the ground and into my line of vision.  Of course I had to pick it and bring it home.  This four-leaf version of the three-leaf shamrock is considered by many cultures to be a sign of good luck.  And so for most of the day, the idea of it added a bit of a spring to my step.  Usually, if it’s the real thing, one leaf will be somewhat smaller than the other three.  I’m not typically a superstitious person, but isn’t it fun sometimes to take it and run with it?

Speaking of running with it, I ran with my precious five-year-old yesterday afternoon.  I picked her up from school and off we went.  One of her favorite things to do is to visit the best toy store in town.  It’s set up for children to come and play.  Little S knows she can’t always buy something so she’s almost always happy to play with whatever the establishment has set out for her and the many little visitors who bring their parents or grandparents along for moral (and sometimes financial) support.  At one point S asked me, “Can we buy something today?”  And so we did.  If you could have heard her sweet inquiry, you would have, too.  Here she is with her massive blond curls scrunched into a pony tail, holding her new baby with bunny ears (Rosie), and licking whipped cream off her Dairy Queen mini-blizzard.  Yum.  Next we headed for Gramma’s house, S’s choice, and Gramma still has a spring in her step, though maybe not quite as springy as it was earlier.  Need I say that the spring was mostly gone by 7:00 pm?  Physically, that is.  Mentally and emotionally,  it’s always strong and quite springy whenever there’s a grandchild involved. 🙂

I am now going to try to transition from grandchildren to blog awards.  It may not be as weird as it sounds because, in part, I blame the grandchildren for my not acting on blog awards.  Nine grandchildren require a great deal of thought and time and shopping, etc. Most recently, Sevenleggedexpressjourney nominated me for The Versatile Blog Award.  This is not the same award that has been around for a while.  This one is unique and adorable with its two kitty cats, one black and one white.  (See it here.)  Most of you, when you accept awards, zip through it very quickly, I imagine.  You are computer savvy and the amount of time it takes you to follow through and post the award on your blog is minimal.  For un-savvy me, by the time I would figure out how to display it, I could have written two or three posts.  So…I would like to thank SLEJ for the vote of confidence, and I encourage readers to check out their clever, and often profound, cartoons.

Things don’t make me happy.

I don’t need … things to make me happy.  A nice quiet place to unwind at the end of the day, beautiful views, a few good friends.  What else is there? ~ Nicholas Sparks

I chuckle as I look at the beginnings of this post.  First the title approached me all on its own.  Days later I found this quote which seemed to support the title.  Then I remembered Dr. Seuss’s “things” and I couldn’t resist bringing them along.  I think they lend levity to what could be a serious, even heavy, topic.  My love of Dr. Seuss grows day by day.  Who else has consistently encouraged children (and their parents) to make up a word that sounds right when you can’t think of an appropriate, existing word?  Love it!

Back to the topic at hand.  For several months I have been thinking about my years of accumulating “things.”  Why did I ever imagine I needed so much stuff?  And why do I keep things I no longer use? (I can honestly say I’m making progress on this one.)  When I moved here I was aware that one person didn’t need this much space but I  needed room for my stuff.

I spent a great deal of time alone when we lived in the mountains and I often got very lonely.  I would go shopping just to get out of the house.  And the house was so big that I could always find a new rug, a piece of pottery, a painting to enhance its appearance.  I occasionally bought clothing, but more often it was something for my showplace of a house.  It’s as if I were trying to fix a gaping wound with a band-aid.  (I got that last sentence from my oldest daughter.)  There was a hole in my soul and I was trying to fill it in all the wrong ways.

Now as I sift through my belongings I feel sad, embarrassed, greedy, overwhelmed, selfish.  I could go on with the adjectives without even consulting a thesaurus.  Suffice to say I don’t like who I was, but I’m now making positive changes.  I cringe when I think about those years and realize I could have been supporting several third world families on the money I spent on stuff.  What was I thinking?!

So here I sit in a house that is less than half the size of the previous one, yet it’s still big enough for a family of five or six.  (Talk about a carbon footprint!  Egad!)  I’m trying to bide my time until the real estate market rebounds so I can sell this place and find a more appropriate home.  I try not to think about the fact that the money could have been better invested since I truly believe I did the best I could under the circumstances and given the emotional trauma and pain I was in at the time.

I think I’m finally on the right track.  I consider very carefully before I buy anything.  I make better choices than I once did.  I don’t buy things for the house.  The house and I are becoming happier as the clutter decreases.  They say that it sometimes takes a jolt, a shock, even a tragedy to force a needed change on some people, so I guess they’re talking about me.  As I inch toward the person I really am, the person I’m meant to be, the trauma and pain continue to diminish.  One day, maybe I’ll be able to look back and thank D for this divorce.

Writing this caused me to cry a little, but not too much.  And now I feel better.  If you’ve read this far, thank you.

Star of wonder.

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.  ~  Gilbert K. Chesterton

I would like to write a post soon on the role of ego in my life, so this quote appeals to me.   I can’t get my mind around it right now because I’m very tired–it’s a good sort of tired.

I have a number of these stars on my Christmas tree.  In fact, I have them in a rainbow of colors.  I don’t know why I chose the purple for display on my blog except that I’m rather partial to that hue.  Always have been.  It’s the color of my birthstone, the amethyst.  It’s also, historically, considered a color for royalty, so maybe I’m feeling regal.  More likely I’m trying to feel like a patrician.  That’s also my name you know–Patricia.  I kinda like how all those things fell together for me.  Knowing what my parents were like, I can assure you it was not planned.  Just happenstance.  Or is it?

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a star-studded, sensational soiree in your patrician purple party pants.  Okay.  That was a stretch.  Hope you’re having fun. 🙂