Friday, November 30, 2012

Whatever: Outdoors

I was sitting at the bar Wednesday night after the weekly evening run that my husband drug me to and I attended for the first time last night with one of my good friends. 
I was telling him how mad I was for years that we did not move to Colorado after my husband graduated from grad school.
It was weird, but as I was saying it, I realized that I am not really even close to regretful anymore. Which is a huge step for me.

 Instead, I realized that Chattanooga has most of the things that inspired the feeling that I wanted to move to Colorado.


 Chattanooga has changed a lot in the past 14 years. There are a lot more cultural opportunities and much better restaurants than when we first arrived. We have a huge culture of outdoor enthusiasts, other than the red blooded bass fishermen that I encountered the first few years we lived here.

That overwhelmingly red state state of mind has been tempered by quite a few of the people I have personally met over the past 5 years, making me realize I am not the only moderate in the sea.
We were even Outside magazine's number one place to live last year due to the abundance of outdoor activities and relatively affordable cost of living.

 I realized I just had just  been really remiss in utilizing all the great outdoor opportunities.
I started running about 8 years ago and that gets me in the company of a club of people who enjoy fitness and each other's company. But until recently, it was such an unrewarding experience to go hiking (one of my major reasons for moving to Colorado). 

My husband literally runs and my kids lagged and cried. So, I was opposed to doing it. I had given a stab at it a few times in the past two or three years, and it had not been horrible, but I still wasn't as into it.

Then something changed.

I went hiking with my parents and it was fun.

I wasn't sprinting to keep up with my husband and no one was crying about being bored. I was able to look around and the beauty surrounding me and truly enjoy it.

So, over Thanksgiving I took my sister and her family on one of my favorite EASY hikes.

There was little whining (her kids are tougher than mine, apparently) and we had a lovely time.

The wind was wild at the top and a cold front was coming in, so we didn't get the awesome photo I thought we might, but it was really peaceful and...enjoyable.

We had a great time as a family.
Even our dogs enjoyed themselves.

So, as I near the end of the year and start making my "want to do" list for 2013, I am adding Enjoy the Outdoors to the top of my list.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Whatever: The family that plays together...

As I said Monday, I survived the holiday weekend.

My sister, Jennifer and her adorable family was here from Wednesday on.

Middle Sister, as my nephew dubbed her, Karen came up for the day Thursday.
She brought her husband and two youngest kids. Her two oldest had other plans and decided to stay in the Nashville area with their girlfriends dad. We missed them, especially as I look back on the family photo and miss the tallest kid 6"1"! 
With both my sisters in the house AND Steve's brother-in-law and two of his three kids, along with several mother-in-laws, we were a large and loud group. The best part was the fact that the women outnumbered the men for once. Love it!
Thanksgiving dinner was lovely and we all behaved once we sat down to eat. 
After a short "break" to digest our dinner, we dove into a rousing game of Cranium, or more appropriately named... "yell at the top of your lungs". Literally, the windows were rattling. 

If you have never played Cranium, it is a game of knowledge, creativity, charade-like performance and words. If you would like the experience that we had I suggest you gather ALL of the most competitive and obnoxious people you know, give them several bottles of wine to drink, have them talk a lot of trash, pair them up with the unlikeliest alliances, then tell them to be quiet because the little kids are in bed. 

Most everyone in my family is very competitive. My baby sister has only recently been able to play games because she hates to lose. I personally have gotten more so the older I get. And, my nephew, who literally is the most competitive person I know, seems to bring it out in me even more. So, it is a bit of an understatement to say that it got ugly. 
Everyone was talking  major trash, beginning with our team names and going all the way to victory dances being pranced rather enthusiastically after each round.
(Although, to my great embarrassment, I am the only one who dropped the F-bomb.
Major fail...especially when my niece busted me for " Saying a curse word REALLY LOUD!")

  We were really excited to play, especially since all the "kids" are now actually old enough to play. Our children now range in age from 21 to 6, and all but the two smallest and one teen observer played.


We all took turns acting out people, places and things, drawing with our eyes closed and guessing at random trivia. 
 Intense is the not the right word for this experience, especially since we had an unusually high number of  "Club Cranium " cards when everyone had to play at once. Arguments and louder yelling ensued. Also, the 100th Club Cranium of the evening was the last straw for me, hence the now infamous uttering.

 After one spilled drink, many rounds of arguing over who was cheating and who was cheated, lots and lots of talking over each other, and much laughter we finally finished hours later after one major declaration of this being the worst game and biggest group of cry babies. EVER.

It was.The best game. Ever. 

Of course, I can say that because, my team won.

Go Team Cuddly Wolverines!!!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dirt: The group photo

In case you haven't noticed...
It is still November.
It is still the month in which we Americans give thanks for what we have received and for what we have in our lives. We had a lovely Thanksgiving, full of laughter and fancy dishes.
Grandmother's 20th anniversary china and mother's crystal

I am savoring the 300 plus photos I took over the Thanksgiving weekend.
I want it to last. At least longer than the turkey dinner did.
The hours and days I spent cleaning, shopping and cooking that culminated in just about 15 minutes of a meal on the actual day.  Sigh.

We had a minor speed bump in our plan to have dinner at 1pm. The original turkeys got too warm when defrosting, so we threw them out and started over.
Everyone was notified that it would be moved back 2-4 hours and it worked out great. We had snacks and lots of visiting and laughter to carry us through.  I was really happy to have most of both sides of our family together and everyone seemed to hit it off.
I am thankful for those calves
Bro-in-law and his mom
Middle sister and my mother-in-law
We had a speech given by a very eloquent speaker, who encouraged us to count our blessings before we sat down to a wonderful meal.

Amazing child

While we were waiting for the turkey to smoke, I went out on a limb and gathered everyone for a group photo. Something I wish we had been doing every year since Steve and I have been together. I had someone ask me for photos recently and I was sad to find out that even though I take the most in my family, I don't really have any good "groups". Steve and I have joined that adult group called "Adults without grandparents". The lack of photos from the holidays we celebrated with them is such a travesty as we were both extremely close to our grandparents.
So, while I can't get that back, I can create new photos for my children and my siblings children.
One thing to know about my family, we have a lot of women in it. 
A lot of smart and head strong women.
 So there were a lot of directions given to get everyone where they needed to be for the photo.

Negotiations began

No problem with self awarness
So, as of this year, as the official photographer of the family, I have decreed. We are taking the "damn" photo every time we get together. Mine are not as in focus as I wish they were, but they at least capture the "us" of 2012.

Including the dogs. 
Poor baby

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cooking: We survived!

I survived!
More on that later...

My last guests left this morning.
Kids go back to school tomorrow.
So...I am washing towels and floors.
And having the last bit of Thanksgiving break fun with my own kids.

Here's this week's menu.

Post Thanksgiving fun menu

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dirt: The priviledge is mine

I have been in a panic for a week.
Trying to figure it all out.
How will we I get it all done. How can I get my house clean, fun planned, food prepped and ready and still work, feed my family and chauffeur my kids around.

The cooking and the cleaning. The planning and the prepping.
Normally, I am a planning fool, ready the hit the road, plans in hand, cooking started on Sunday. Normally, I relish a party or gathering, especially if it involves my family, ALL of my family.

This year, I am paralyzed. How will I get it done? Why am I doing it, to start with?
So I have been complaining to all and any who will listen.
Thankfully, it was a good friend, my mother in law and my sister  to whom I complained about my horrible lot. The friend reminded me graciously, that I am just like everyone else. (Thanks,Cindy!) Everyone else who is lucky enough to have family that speaks to them or is close enough to come to visit. Silently reminding me that I am lucky to have a wonderful family. WHAM!
Then, my awesome mother-in-law, whom I don't thank enough for what she does to keep me sane, offered to make not one but THREE dishes. She is an amazing cook and I am thrilled and humbled  to have her help me feed the crowd. BOOM!

Last, my younger sister put things in perspective for me. She reminded me that no one cares if I have dust and bathrooms that may or may not also be drinking fountains for dogs. She reminded me that we  will all start laughing and having fun. She also reminded me that it is okay that I don't know how to process the feelings I have about my mother's death. That it's normal that I am sad and can't get out of my own sad way.  SMOOTH! 
I am truly a stubborn woman. I ask  God weekly for help in handling the funk that I can't seem to escape, never actually putting a name to that funk.  And, as I told my kids on the way to school this morning, God speaks in a whisper. A soft whisper of a  patient  friend, a helpful and generous mother-in-law, and a confirming sister. 

I will be utterly exhausted come Sunday night, but I will have had my soul fed and my family around me, which is really all I long for anyway. The panic will have subsided and I will be back to normal.
Thank you, God for whispering to me.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Cooking: Already?

Thanksgiving is finally here.

Or, Christmas is almost here, if you believe the hype.

As a kid, it seemed we celebrated Thanksgiving for weeks.
Dressed like Pilgrims and Indians, sang songs, learned about Plymouth Rock and maize.
Now, Thanksgiving is the speed bump between back to school and Christmas.

I am not a fan of this fast forward through the holidays mentality we have embraced in our country.
Neither are my children.
They are mad about the Christmas decorations, the insipid songs, the commercials.
My oldest posted this on her Facebook page:

So, as a family, we are firmly committed this year to celebrating the holidays as they should be celebrated, in the order in which they occur.

We are having both mine and Steve's sides of the family together this year (first time EVER). 17 (18 if BIL Mike's mom makes it) people together sharing the bounty that is ours as Americans.

I have been a little behind the game, but my attitude is firmly back on track and I am looking forward to all the trimmings. (I don't eat turkey). I even bought a book on how to be ready for a true American Thanksgiving dinner.

I am ready. Bring it.


Until Thursday We Must Still Eat Menu

  • Hamburgers
  • Minestrone soup
  • Crock pot chicken soft tacos (part of the krewe arrives)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dirt: I want to laugh

I am a laughing fool.

I relish anything funny, preferring a bad joke to a sappy sentiment.

That could be a flaw. 

Or it could be me looking for the bright side in everything.

As I travel through life, I seek out those that make me laugh. If you have a good laugh, I will try to make you do it over and over again.

Whether laughing at myself, you or life in general, I appreciate someone who is not afraid to poke a little fun.

My husband keeps me laughing with his witty repartee and willingness to make a fool of himself.

Cat blanket

And, I hope I make him laugh, just a little as we travel through this life together.
Life can be really heavy and grim. Just listen to the news, read a paper or walk through the grocery store and you will hear things that make you want to curl up in bed and  never get up.

Laughter is truly one of God's greatest gifts.
It lightens our load and warms our hearts.