Friday, December 25, 2009

Family Traditions

Traditions are important. They serve as anchors in the dizziness of our lives. But sometimes traditions change, and we need to make room for new ones. Sometimes we need time to assimilate the new, and make adjustments before we can embrace them the way we did the old traditions.

For years, Christmas Day was spent at my parents’ house. We would rise early and open presents here, eat a nice breakfast, and then finish wrapping gifts for the cousins who would also make their way to grandma and grandpa’s cozy little home. We’d have a delicious Christmas dinner, all the while gazing at the enormous pile of gifts stacked under the seven-foot tree. And then chaos would reign as six little girls ripped open their gifts. As the girls grew older, the girlish giggles settled into cries of delight. Last year a male voice joined in as my parents embraced my son-in-law as a long awaited grandson.

This is our first Christmas without Dad. Mom isn’t up to hosting the annual celebration by herself, so my brother and his wife took over. For the first time, the menu included some great takeout pizza and assorted munches contributed by all of us. The cousins gathered around a different tree in a different living room, opening gifts they had chosen for each other rather than things their grandparents and parents selected. We enjoyed games like “Catch Phrase”, “Buzzwords”, and “Bananagrams” and I marveled at the intelligence and wit of my daughters and nieces.

The celebration took place three days ago because our daughter and her husband left to spend the holiday with her in-laws. Mom is spending a few days with my brother, and our other daughter is with her boyfriend’s family. So this Christmas Day is a very quiet “pajama day” for the two of us. I hope to get a lot of writing done. Mark is trying out a new recipe for dinner. It seems odd, waking up on Christmas Day to quietness, no gifts under the tree, and no place to go. But this is nice. I think it’s going to be like this every other year, since the kids intend to alternate holidays with us – one year we get them for Thanksgiving, the next year we get them for Christmas. That’s fair, and I’m happy they’ve worked out a plan. It’ll take a little while to get used to it, and adjustments will probably happen, but as long as we make the effort, we’ll find our way to some great new traditions.

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A New Year, A New Diet

I went to the hospital yesterday. I underwent a liver biopsy. It sounded a bit scary, but happily I snored through the whole procedure. The only bad thing was fasting all day. The procedure was scheduled for 12:45 pm and I couldn’t eat anything after midnight the night before. Of course the doctor was late getting there, so the biopsy didn’t take place until after 2 pm. Boy, was I ready to eat afterward!

It seems I have something called Fatty Liver Disease. I understand all three words separately, but I was unfamiliar with the three of them put together like that. I had to do some online research to see what I’m up against. The doctor had a skinny little pamphlet, but I needed more information.

Apparently there are three main causes for what I have. The first one listed was excessive alcohol consumption. I’m allergic to alcohol, so that’s not the problem. The second cause is improper needle use. I have no tattoos, and the only time needles go in me is when blood is drawn for these tests. So, assuming the nurses know what they’re doing, that possibility is eliminated. The third cause is – obesity! Hmmm. The doctor told me the biopsy was to determine the severity of the disease. He also said I need to lose ten to twenty percent of my body weight in order to effectively curb this problem. After the biopsy, he might up it to thirty. That would be just my luck!

I have nothing against eating healthy foods. Really. I love them. The problem is I also love unhealthy foods (hey, I don’t discriminate!) and sometimes I even eat lousy food, just because I feel like eating. So eating healthy is not a problem, but eating ONLY healthy foods will probably drive me nuts. I also like some exercise. I love walking across campus on a sunny day, swimming laps in the pool, and I had a good time in a tai chi class once. But the thought of doing it on a regular basis – because I HAVE to - turns my stomach juices sour.

Enough whining. Apparently my choice is pretty clear – if I want to be healthy and stay that way, I’ve got to make some major changes. Now. No excuses. The fitness center less than two miles away is offering a registration special. It’s time. And maybe some of my creative juices can be used to concoct foods that are so much fun I won’t miss the good old fried foods and sweets – and sweet fried foods (no more fried Snickers!)

Well, last week I was feeling pretty good about Christmas preparations. I still am – but now I can also say I’ve got one of my New Year’s resolutions planned for me! And like it or not, I’m going to have to keep this one. You see, I’ve got a lot to live for, and I’d just as soon be healthy as I watch each grandchild graduate, walk down the aisle, and become parents.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Countdown Continues

This year I’m feeling like I’m going to be ready for Christmas. Usually I’m so busy working and running around, the house gets neglected until Christmas Eve. But this time I’m ready! The tree is up (not decorated yet – I’m not THAT organized!), my cards are addressed (just have to sign them and add a little personal note to some of them), most of my gifts are purchased, and I have some decorations up. The house is in fairly good shape, too. I could almost write an article for a woman’s magazine on “Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday”. Here are my top five:

Tip #5: Get the kids out of the house

Now that the youngest is 22, we are officially “empty nesters”. It gets a little quiet sometimes, but the music I hear is stuff that I choose. I watch the TV shows I want (after the hubby goes to bed). And the running around I do is for me, not them. The only downside of it is the realization that all the clutter around here is mine, and I can’t blame the mess on anyone but me!

Tip #4: Let your fingers do the walking

eBay is my friend. So is anything with “dot com” after its name. Especially when they offer free shipping!

Tip #3: Hire cleaning help

Grandkids are great for this, especially when they need money. I usually spend two hours putting stuff away (stuff I don’t want them to see or break) before they come over, so the house gets neater as well as cleaner.

Tip #2: Teach the spouse how to use major household appliances

I’m lucky because my husband has always done most of the cooking. But when he retired, he got bored. I introduced him to the washer and dryer. Now he never complains about wrinkled shirts, mismatched socks, or pink underwear. Once he was well acquainted with them, I brought the dishwasher to his attention. Now they’re best friends. The sink and countertop are always clear. Next year I’ll try the more advanced tools, like the vacuum and maybe a dust mop.

Tip #1: Postpone Christmas until January

This is a major stress reducer. Two of our five kids will be out of town during Christmas week, so we’re having our family Christmas on January 2. The trick is not telling my brain that I have extra time. So if I THINK I have to be ready by December 25 and I’m not actually done until a week later, I’ll actually be on time!

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I finally got some sewing done! Here are some of my stockings. I’ll just have to fill them before the grandkids come.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday - Again??!!

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It’s Friday again. Where did the week go? It seems the days go by faster and faster. But I suppose in reality, I’m moving slower and slower. I used to be able to spring out of bed, down a glass of orange juice, splash water on my face, run a comb through my hair, throw on some clothes and get out the door in ten minutes flat. Of course, that was back before jobs, children, and responsibilities took over my life. Now it takes more than ten minutes to get both eyes open.

It seems I was more organized. Not with my belongings (I am, and always have been, a pack-rat), but with my time. Working full-time and raising two daughters who were very active in extra curricular activities, I was often stressed but welcomed most of the challenges. I’d get up early, get the kids ready, drop them off, go to work, run errands, come home, and run again – piano lessons, gymnastics, church choir, band practice, tennis, swimming – it was always something. These days, if I see more than two things on my calendar for the day I need an extra cup of two of coffee before I can face it.

Sometimes I miss the old days, when I could multitask with the best of them. I could rise at 5:30 am and keep going until midnight, five days a week. It’s not that I want to go back – I’m happy being a retired grandma, thank you very much. And though I loved my kids when they were small, I love them even more now that I can have real conversations with them, and they are able to get themselves wherever they need to go. I’m ready for the “me” phase (okay, make that the “us” phase – gotta include the husband) of life. But I think I’d enjoy it more if I still had the energy for it!