Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Gratituesday: My Hoopty

I have a large automobile.
Actually, I think only passenger vans are the only automobiles that are bigger and still in production.

I drive a Suburban. 
Yes, my carbon footprint is huge. 
Yes, I spend a lot of time by myself in it.
Yes, I feel guilty.

But, it was a tax break we needed the year we bought it. And, it is the best thing when people come to visit and we all want to ride together and it is the ULTIMATE road trip vehicle for a family. And, in a city that is a  major trade thoroughfare, I feel safe driving it next to the 100 semis I pass in a week.
Plus, it is the only new car I will ever own, so I love it an awful lot.

 We have taken many trips in our Suburban (nicknamed Sally or The Swann Mobile). 
Florida, New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, Georgia and Ohio are just a few of the repeat trips that we have taken in her. 
She delivers us safely and has also given rides to my sisters, their kids, and various other lucky riders. She has all the sweet features one would expect from a "mommy mobile" ie, DVD player with headphones, eight seat belts, eight cup holders, XM radio and best of all, a sunroof. I like to pretend she is not a steroided up minivan. But if you look inside her, you know she is just that.

Day after a 24 hour trip to North Carolina

Notice the chips.
  I have driven Sally for eight years. I got her in May of 2004 and I have loved her.
Sometimes a little carelessly.

Texting and backing up in a parking lot don't mix, kids.
 But she has delivered us to soccer games and dinner parties. Vacations and weddings. The first trip she took me on when she was just a week old, was to see my nephew born. Literally, drove all  night to see him born.
 She has traveled almost 180,000 miles since then
Many times I have cursed her when backing out in grocery store parking lots. But in hindsight, she has kept me in shape as I have to park WAY out in the back 40 so I can actually get out of said parking lot without taking other cars in the process.
I have become an amazing parker. I can whip her into parallel parking spots and back her into any tight spot. I rely on mirrors to move in just about any direction except forward and I feel confident that I can drive just about anything. She is a smooth and comfortable ride on all our long trips and on my many trips to chauffeur two very busy kids all over town.


I am very grateful to have a car in general, but specifically I am extremely grateful for Sally, the Suburban. 

*Penny has been with us for about a year now. She has been everywhere we have been, including to Florida twice, Ohio and North Carolina. Literally, she has traveled about 12,000 on my bumper. I think my car has the smoothest ride around.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dirt: Still 12

Today we celebrated my oldest's 13th birthday with a party.
She is 12 for 10 more days and I am going to get a lot of miles out of that.

My girls are 21 months apart and for 3 months, I get to say my kids are a year apart.

The double takes are not as great at 11 and 12 as they were at say, 1 and 2 or 3 and 4. 
But, I still get that look of shock that flutters across people's faces.

Now, it is me who is shocked.
Shocked that she is going to be 13.
Shocked that she does not like Thomas the Tank Engine or want me to look at a "patt-er-en" that she created. Shocked that she does not wear her blankie as a cape  Shocked that she is as tall as I am and wears the same size shoes as me.

What I am not shocked by is the fact that she organized her own party. Created and sent invitations, kept up with RSVPs, made her own cupcakes and coordinated the colors.
I made her a banner and bought the candy. 
She is an amazing and independent girl, and I can see in glimpses the woman she will be.

I love her so much sometimes it takes my breath away and today, as I watched her walk off with 12 of her friends (and her sister and her friend) on her birthday scavenger hunt, it hurt just a little. She came back, but she did not need me to hold her hand or tell her where to go, and that is a little hard to swallow. 

Huge milestone.
Huge deal.
10 more days of 12.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gratituesday: Art

This post has been started about 1,356 times.
I never can get it right. Art,especially visual art,  is a huge part of my life.
My dream as a teenager was to either be a chef or an art buyer  (thank you Whitley Gilbert!).
Both are highly involved in the appreciation of artistic talents. 

 I have a lot of artists in my family, including my great aunt who painted the above painting of me as a toddler, my step mom and a few others lurking around.  My grandmother is an art collector and got me started by giving me one of my first pieces in college.
Art history was my favorite class in college and I have spent a lot of time in both the St. Louis art museum and the local one here in Chattanooga. My kids both are into art and even my husband has a great appreciation for art. I think that is one of the things that drew me to him. I am always amazed by how people express their emotions via drawing, painting or sculpting.

Art makes me happy. And, as I like to be happy, I have a lot of art in my house.
I would rather spend my money on art. Now, I don't necessarily buy expensive art, my budget is more beer than champagne. But I would rather have art than clothes. Hence, my walls and mantel are full and my closet empty and dated. Some of my best gifts have been art pieces.
Mother's day


I am very grateful that both of my daughters love art as well. They both enjoy making it, like most other kids, and are very creative. However, they both have an appreciation for other people's art. We have been lucky to live in an art centric city and have spent hours at art museums, festivals and just walking around, looking at installations. One of my daughter's wants to be an artist when she grows up and the other is always creating models and blue prints of buildings she wants to build one day.

Daughter # 2 art
Daughter #1 art
I feel that having creative object around you inspires you. I only have to look up from anywhere in my house and see something that creates an emotion in me. I think I have passed that onto my kids as well. My youngest daughter bought her first piece of art in second grade. I am lucky that they are both artists and their art graces my walls along with art that I have bought. Being able to appreciate someone's views is important to being a citizen of the world and art is an outlet for those views. 
Being able to appreciate someone's creativity other than your own is one of the best things about being human.
Heirloom, family and bought all fill my collection.

 I am also lucky that my husband tolerates my art addiction. He even feeds it sometimes and knows that if he can't find me on vacation, I am usually looking at art.

Vacation souvenir

I am grateful for all the creative juices that fill my walls and my life with beauty. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Food: Sunshine menu

Nothing really to say today other then
"Happy Mother's Day!" 
Mine was fabulous, laid back and full of fun.
Kinda like me!
I got taken to brunch, the Chattanooga Market, to watch a movie, to drive my daughter to a friend's house and lovely wine glasses as a gift.
I also got lots of "Best mom ever!" and " I love you so much!" and "Thanks for making my lunch!"

Here's a video  of a song that makes me think of my girls to start your week off right...

This week's Casa Swann Menu
  •  Tomato and zucchini soup, kitchen sink salad
  •  baked chicken, twice baked sweet potatoes, salad
  • hamburger steak, salad and roasted broccoli
  • bbq chicken legs, roasted  veggies, green beans, salad 
**See the theme here...salad. I am on a mission to keep what little metabolism I have left kicking! 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Whatever: Where I want to be

I miss my sisters.

If wish we all lived 5 miles away.
Far enough to have privacy, but close enough to have dinner once a week.
Close enough to go grocery shopping or clothes shopping or whatever together.
I live in a town where people don't leave.
That used to puzzle me, but as I get older, I am jealous.
I wish my sisters were here.

Instead, we vacay together once a year.
We laugh and veg.
I am in terrible need of that right now.

I miss my sisters.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Dirt: I flit

It is raining. Finally. 
My rain barrels were empty and my garden looking a little bit peeved.
Now they are full and my garden looks less peeved, more relieved.

I am planning my day, via HBFCM
Here goes:
  • Blog
  • Start load of laundry
  • Eat breakfast
  • Exercise (Bodyrock workout)
  • Switch laundry
  • Mop floors
  • Clean bathrooms (3)
  • Vacuum stairs
  • Switch laundry/Fold laundry
  • Shower
  • Eat lunch
  • Peel shrimp for dinner (last  night we went out)
  • Return items to store
  • Go to work 
 I am trying to be more organized with my time. I tend to  flit from thing to thing, not finishing one task before I start another. Frustration is the name of the game with me, as at the end of the day, I have ten unfinished tasks.

I also thought about how having a list at the beginning of each month really helped me to focus on long term goals. As much as I hate to admit it, I do like a new year's resolution of sorts.
So, as the half way point is upon us, I am starting a new list. A list of what I want to accomplish the remainder of the year, broken down and easily (hopefully) managed in monthly allotments.

We'll see what happens.
For now, enjoy my theme song....

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gratituesday: Rap and strawberries

Odd title, I know. 
But, unless you have been under a rock the past week,  everyone knows Adam Yauch died this weekend. And for those of you who read my blog and are not  members of Generation X, he was one of the Beastie Boys. Now, I did not personally know Adam, aka MCA, but he had a profound effect on my social life. I listened to Licensed to Ill while getting ready to go out when I was a freshman in college. I listened to Ill Communication while getting ready to go to work waiting tables. I listened to Hello Nasty as I spent hours driving  between St. Louis and Nashville, St. Louis and Indianapolis, Indianapolis and Chattanooga, Chattanooga and Nashville. (Basically, it was a road trip CD.)

My kids know the words to Intergalactic, No Sleep 'til Brooklyn and of course, Brass Monkey. Classy, I know. But those songs get us rocking. I can hear any Beastie Boys song and burst into dance in a heartbeat. I love them. There, I said it. 
Beastie Boys in Los Angeles

Two things really hit me about Adam's death. First, he is only 7 years older than I. Second, he and his band, are a huge part of the musical landscape of my life and most of my generation's life. We all know the words to Fight for your Right (to party) , even if we don't like rap. Also, Adam represented what I think of as being a part my generation's "thing". We were the" End Apartheid" generation, the "Free Tibet" generation. And, as we have all had kids, gotten jobs, moved on to home ownership, that seems to be something we have moved away from. Adam Yauch was a huge advocate of the fight against the injustices that have been going on against native Tibetans by the Chinese. He never stopped, even as he "grew up".  I see his death as either a wake up call or the end of an era for Gen X'ers. 
As I ponder what that means for me, I am grateful for all the fun times and crazy memories that come back when I hear a Beastie Boys song. 

I also loaded up on strawberries this weekend, thanks to a huge favor from one of my favorite people. I normally never get to eat the strawberries that I buy as my eleven year old fruit fly eats them all.
But, this week I got two gallons! Ha!
And, as they are one of life's sweetest and simplest pleasures, I am in heaven.

I am so grateful this week for Paul and STRAWBERRIES!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eating: Body and soul

One of the book(s) I am reading right now is  
The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul.
I am really enjoying it and, while I am only about five chapters in, I have found many things that I can apply to my daily life.

The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul
As a working (part-time) mom, I am always trying to juggle a million things. 
I have carpool duty, groceries getting, house cleaning, dog duty and of course, errand running. 
Just like every other mom. I am not special in any single way. So, like every other mom, I try to fit it all in. But one thing falls to the "let it slide"pile. That is daily prayer. 
I start talking to God as I am falling asleep. I rarely finish. 
So, now, as the Prayer Warrior for my family, I am going to pray in the car.

Juggling is a mom's best trick

I mean, honestly, I have all my truly  serious conversations with my kids in the car. Why we think Justin Bierber is cute but not worth listening to, who we want to see in concert (The Killers, Florence and the Machine, Plug in Stereo, in case you are buying us tickets) and why girls are mean to each other are all topics we have covered. I also drive about 350 miles a week.
So it makes sense that is where I would talk to God.
When you see me driving around town, talking to myself like a loon. 
Don't call the men in the white jackets, I am talking to God. I am not insane, I am trying to stay sane.

I also get distracted and forget what I want to talk to Him about, so I have started a daily prayer list. You know I love a list. So, I got a dollar notebook and have started listing all the things I want to talk about. If I write it down, I will remember to ask God to help my sister with her teenagers (three!) and to help Delaney's friend whose sister has been in the hospital most of her senior year battling cancer, and to help  me with my duties as mom and wife.

Life is wonderful, overwhelming and chaotic. I am trying to find a little order with my lists and my spot on the wall. What are you doing?

Another list: Weekly menu at Casa Swann
  • Red beans, rice and chicken andouille sausage
  • Shrimp taco salad
  • Crockpot chicken, roasted squash, black-eyed pea salad
  • Spaghetti with  meat sauce

Friday, May 4, 2012

Reading: The food of my soul

I have been on a reading tear the past week or so. 
I have read at least four books and am in the middle of two more as we speak.

Literally, it is the food of my soul. 

I read to entertain myself and to keep my mind sharp. But it is also a form of education and escapism.
If I am lucky, I escape and lose myself in my book. That used to drive my husband nuts. He now listens to books on mp3, so he is right there with me and I have to yell to get his attention.

My favorite book that I have read lately is Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. 
From the start, it griped me and did not let me go. 
What could have been a very depressing book about rural poverty, Hurricane Katrina, and loss of something loved, actually was very heartwarming.
Ironic, I know. 
Salvage the Bones: A Novel

The main character is Esch, a teenage girl being raised by her alcoholic father along with three brothers in rural Louisiana. She looks for love in the usual stereotypical ways with boys that come to visit her brothers and of course, ends up pregnant. Her brothers deal with the crippling poverty they live in via various outlets. One is sports, another being the adored baby. The third brother raises a fighting pit bull, caring for her as if she were his beloved girl friend or mate. He breeds her and tries to raise her litter of puppies, with a wing and a prayer, literally. His ignorance and dedication at times almost kills her as he gives her horse medication to prevent parvo. 

The family is loyal and dedicated to each other in the way orphans often are, carrying each other through hardships, turning inward. Their father is oblivious to it all, due to his grief and subsequent alcoholism and often ignores what is plainly going on in front of his eyes.

The book's climax is the horrible force and great illluminator that was Katrina, bearing down on the family, forcing them to fight for their lives and bringing things to light that had been hidden. Just like the storm brought to America's attention the plight of the poor in Louisiana and elsewhere, Salvage the Bones brings to light the family's hidden secrets. Esch and her family are forced from their homes and she is forced, along with her father, to face the truth. They begin anew with the hope that he will wake up from his grief and she will finally find the love she has missed since her mother died.

Very well written and page turning to the end, this book grabbed me like few that I have read lately.

My soul was fed.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dirt: My motto

I just pinned this pin on Pinterest. I think it sums me up pretty well. I am silly. I use humor to defuse situations that make me  uncomfortable and just about the rest of the time as well. I make weird faces and I don't mind making a complete and utter fool of myself most of the time. 

I know I am depressed when I lose my silliness.
Luckily, there is plenty to go around my house.

I was looking through photos today trying to find something for my parents. 
I stumbled across this video and I started cracking up.

Silliness, caught in the act.  With no music to be found. In her pajamas.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gratituesday: traditions

I am a sucker for traditions.
We have several in my immediate family. 
We all sit in the same seat every night, and have for 10 years.
We also have them in  my extended family. 
Some of them come from growing up with two sisters (the assigned seats) and some come from our religious faith.

This past weekend, my nephew and godson made his First Holy Communion.
The tradition of it goes back to Jesus' last supper with his 12 disciples. We continue it until we die. 
My nephew was very nervous, as was I and, I am sure, every single one of my family members when we made our own first communion. But it is a tradition that we all carry forth. Our god parents show up and our parent's throw a party to celebrate.

This past weekend, we celebrated Gabe's first communion.

My sister cried (tradition is  that the mother's cry...I did at both of my girl's first communions).

We gathered for the obligatory family photographs.

My sister threw a great party and we ate too much (again, tradition)
 We continued our tradition of being a family that works together.
My sisters both live away from me. One lives two hours away and the other almost 7. 
When we get together, though, we don't miss a beat. We pitch in with chores and finish sentences. This weekend was no exception.
My oldest daughter has started doing that as well. She made cupcakes for her godmother's (my sister's) party. She helped get the kids where they needed to be. She listened as we hung out. 

We have lots of traditions in my family. Religious and otherwise.
 I think they are the glue that holds us together. Many are silly and inane,
 but they too have their place along with the serious and sincere.
 I am grateful that they are being passed down to the next generation.