Good Intentions – Dusty, Hoppy Endings

by Concord Collections – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with family and friends! Personally, I ate a scrumptious plate of turkey, with all the fixin’s that my husband handed to me when he returned from his family’s dinner. There I sat in the middle of the kitchen on one of my office chairs, devouring every little morsel, deeply grateful and not even noticing that dear hubby had dashed down the stairs to the Man Cave to get his football fill; nor did I care that the three cats were circling around me, hoping for a share. Ah, yes, exciting as it does not sound, it truly was a grateful moment for me!

Now, I know that might sound a bit odd, so let’s back up a few days to the previous Sunday. It was a glorious morning. I felt great and eager with a well thought-out plan. By golly, this Thanksgiving Eve was not going to be a terror trying to get things done! I was determined to get the house cleaned, bake a few goodies and maybe even put up the Christmas tree – something I normally don’t do till December, but since it fit on the agenda, why not?!

I finished a brief, early morning shift as customer service rep for EmbroideryDesigns.com, and closed the office door with a to-do list in my hand. First on the list was to fetch my grandmother’s holiday dishes she used for cookies down from a top shelf. I recently acquired them after finding them on Ebay (among those finds I previously blogged about). I climbed up one step of the step stool, found the dishes and set them on the counter. Then I noticed what appeared to be the top of a salt shaker that had been lost for years and took another step up to get a better look. Cool! I grabbed the silver top, along with a few plastic straws that didn’t belong there and descended by taking one step back down.

The straws flew from my hands; one straw landing inside one of the toaster slots and I immediately worried that hubby may have just used that for one of his favorite breakfasts of French Toast Bagels. But thoughts of a melted plastic mess disappeared, while an excruciating pain shot from my heal to thigh, forcing my knee to buckle.

With my right leg still in the air, my body came down in what felt like slow motion, while a million thoughts raced through my head. No! Don’t break the fall with my hand and arm! I don’t want another shoulder wound! Last time it took almost two years of diligent Yoga to heal – I couldn’t type, I couldn’t digitize, I couldn’t do anything without pain. Think! what to do? The answer came from somewhere in the recesses of my mind, stored from a 1960s gymnastics class.Tuck and roll!

Well, I couldn’t completely tuck, and rolling was certainly out of the question, but I managed to bring my head down and pulled both folded arms inward to my chest. The outside of my right shoulder hit the linoleum with a THUMP!! and my right leg hit the stool, which toppled to the side with a crash, coming to rest on the left leg. I heard the silver shaker top bounce on the floor and land – somewhere. I listened to the reverberating tinkle as it came to a stop, and then I zeroed in on my shoulder. Immediately, I began to massage it with a little prayer, and after a few seconds realized no pain. Whew! Lucked out!  I then decided it best to lay still a minute to be sure and rested my cheek on the floor. Oh, geeez, look at all the cat hair and kitty nibbles under the counter cabinets – I’ll tackle that later. Now, where did that shaker top go?

by Embroidery Patterns – EmbroideryDesigns.com

I turned in the direction of where I’d heard the shaker top drop, getting as far as laying on my back. Check: back is okay. I tried to move my left leg that was now trapped under the stool, and let out one helluva yowl. Egad! The possibility of a broken lower limb had not crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just bruised. I pried the stool up with my right foot and wriggled away, as a sharp pain raced upward, closing my left eye and then the right. Anger exploded.  Nooooo! Dammit!  I had also just recovered after limping for a year with broken toes on this same leg that then put stress on the other leg, causing my PAD to flair. After heeding to a healthy diet and Yoga, I had just gotten to where I was finally walking on two legs again and feeling spiffy.

I tried to calm down, acknowledging that anger can make one sick; while on the other side of things, gratitude induces healing.  As well, smiling has its benefits, even if pried by a pencil clenched sideways in the mouth. … sigh … well, it was a nice last few months of balanced walking, thank you God; at least I’m used to this. I smiled, teeth clenched.

Obviously, I wasn’t going anywhere, yet – not in a vertical position, anyhow. Just a little traumatized and likely bruised, but I better get Kevin to help me up. I wonder where he is. Surely he felt the house shake when I hit the floor!  I gave a shout to dear hubby who, as usual, was downstairs in his Man Cave watching football (something he loves more than life itself, but I knew that going in.) I’ll rest a minute and I’m sure he’ll be up at the end of the play. And as long as I’m down here, I can check around for that shaker top. Holy cow, the bottoms of the stove and fridge really need scrubbing!

Not seeing the shaker top and getting tired of staring at the red dots of some sort of food that somehow ended up on the ceiling, I gave another shout for help. Maybe he’s napping. Well, I can’t lay here all day. I propped myself up on one elbow and reached up to the counter, dragging the wounded leg – smiling, teeth clenched, eyes shut. I managed to get up on my right knee when the pain produced a loud, angry, guttural scream, followed by, “Where are you, you son of a … no … now, don’t get angry Bonnie, this is your own fault, so chill.”

As I returned to the floor I opened my eyes to look at what was making my hand stick to the side of the counter. Chocolate milk. HA! And he said he cleaned that mess up.

I decided to make my way to a kitchen chair, crawling like GI Jane, dragging one leg, grunting with each “step” forward. (What is it about grunts that just seem to help?) By the time I got there I realized I couldn’t get myself up on the chair alone.  What to do?   If I headed for the living room couch, I’d never get up again and I had work to do, so I figured if I’m going to get on any chair, it best have wheels on it.  I slithered on down to my office at the end of the hall, looked inside and realized no way was it possible to get one of those chairs out through the narrow paths between desks without lifting them.   This sucks.   And good grief! Look at those dusty cobwebs between the two desks where all the peripheral cables are tucked!    Hey, there’s that pen I was looking for!

I crawled back down the hall to the sewing room where two other mobile chairs resided and opened the door to see the big box of Christmas ornaments I’d brought upstairs earlier. I also noticed the sun streaking in right down upon six cones of thread that I was using on my last project and had neglected to put back on the shelf. Oh my, that’s not good, but I can’t do anything about it now. I can’t get past this blasted box!   I started to cry.  And then, because I’ve never been a whiner, another loud scream of total frustration.  Wait!  I saw the floor vent at the end of the hall.  I crawled nearer to the vent, yelling for Kevin as loud as I could – and whispered a few expletives.

by Digital Giggle – EmbroideryDesigns.com

Through the cross-hatched metal I could see him in front of his computer, playing Texas Hold ‘Em and I could clearly hear the football game on TV. Intensely staring at the monitor, he began to smile and his right fist came up with a shout, “Royal Flush!” His head jerked up to view the TV and his left fist came up, and with both fists pumping he shouted “YEAH!! Touchdown!!”

Oh lordy. I’m about to really crap on his day.

I sat up and leaned against the wall. Check: I can sit, no problem.  But I refuse to sit in this hallway till the end of his games!    Look at that track of dust that the vaccuum misses along the floor boards!    Suddenly I pondered the cost of contracting a “help-I-can’t-get-up service” but quickly banished the idea. I don’t need that yet –do I? Well, I can’t afford it anyhow.  I took off my right shoe and started banging on the floor vent. Kevin turned down the TV volume and finally heard my plea, rushing to my rescue with a worried expression. Oh, he does care. Now, don’t get snarky, at least not till you’ve got your butt in that chair.

He brought the chair out to the hallway, and then asked if I broke anything while lifting me with his hands placed under my arms. The seat of that chair was so very close, when he suggested, “See if you can put any weight on it.” So, I did. And when the pain shot from toes to nose, my knee buckled and I screamed.  He backed away.  I dropped to the floor.  I looked up at him with that expression of what the hell is wrong with you?  He shrugged apologetically, saying, “I thought I hurt you.”

Go figure … must be the crashing rush from winning games to a sadness when realizing I wouldn’t be making cookies. “Just hold the chair still, no matter how loud I scream,” I demanded, making a painful climb into the chair.

He then insisted on X-rays, which I put off until the next evening after finding that even with the help of the R.I.C.E. treatment I couldn’t ignore the pain while trying to work. Our little journey to the clinic could take another blog post to write, so I’ll brief it up to no fractures, perfect blood pressure and no sign of arthritis in the knee – a plus report for the money. But, unfortunately, I indeed bruised and ripped something and wouldn’t be walking for awhile.

Thanksgiving dinner in my house, of course, was cancelled, but thanks-giving was not. By Thursday, I had become so very grateful for so many things – a verdict of no broken bones and no need to miss work, a couch that I could comfortably sleep on next to my laptop and a cordless phone, a bathroom so small that I can use the vanity counter and the towel rack to hop to the important place, a dust pan and brush set and a Swiffer brush in every room, chairs on wheels, an excuse to not do heavy housework, a mother-in-law who’s kind enough to send me delicious food including cookies made during their family tradition, a husband who has made sure my office coffee pot is ready to go before he leaves for work, a porcelain Christmas tree light of my grandmother’s (another Ebay find) to light my way in the dark, while offering a little cheer, and (perhaps from the help of Vicodin) many things to smile about. I even found that little silver shaker top (again) in one corner when sweeping up the kitty nibbles.

Yep, as I sat there on the office chair, eating my Thanksgiving meal with my fur family, laughing about my stupid move of not thinking before stepping, I acknowledged things could have been much worse. I concluded that life is perhaps a bit dusty, but very, very good, for which I am very, very thankful. 🙂

Precious Treasures Come Home

Twenty years ago I had to say “good-bye” to special things dear to my heart – precious treasures that had been handed down to my grandmother from her grandmothers. These items disappeared after her death, and it was somewhat of a heart-wrenching experience to have to accept I would never see or hold these beautiful heirlooms again. It’s certainly not because I wanted more stuff, and I would have been completely content had another family member acquired them. But because no one in the family knew where they had gone, I was sad for my grandmother who had taken care of these things with diligent tender-loving-care, just so to leave them to her family to enjoy, as her mother and grandmother had done.

I had been told all of the stories. I knew the value of each piece (more sentimental than monetary) and after years of trying to find them, I had finally conceded they’d never be found again. Instead, I turned my attention to compiling her stories, keeping the promise I had made to her before she died, as I reported in my post, “Mission Accomplished ….”  Little did I know then the mission wasn’t over yet.

The evening I had completed the stories and gathered photos and information to include on CDs to send cousins, I took a break by doing a little Ebay gazing. I was in search of “spaghetti poodle” figurines to add to another that had once belonged to my aunt (daughter of said grandmother). Before my aunt passed, she had broken one of the pair and she mentioned sadly that she would have liked to acquire a few more and pass them down to any granddaughter who might appreciate their value. I recently became aware of two darling little girls who are her great-grandchildren and felt that’s where I would eventually send my aunt’s lone survivor at the right time, along with others I might collect – but first I had to find a few.

I typed “spaghetti poodle figurines” into the Ebay search box and started to sift through the list when I was surprised to see two cat figurines – very familiar cuddling cats that made my heart leap. I had purchased a pair exactly like them when I was 8-years-old for a Christmas gift to my grandmother. It actually was my first work experience. After seeing them for sale at the corner drug store, I begged my father to buy them so I could give them to her, and he in turn gave me the option to work for them at $.10 a chore. When I reached the $3.00 mark he then advanced the remaining $4.00 to be sure that they weren’t sold before I could earn enough (and yes, I indeed worked it off.)

My grandmother proudly displayed them on a shelf in every home she lived in, and though she moved around quite a bit, the only damage I saw on them the last year she was alive, was a little chip on one paw and the tip of the tail of one figurine and they both had lost a few of their plastic whiskers. During that last visit I also noticed a little dirt on the chest of the other figurine, and when I began to reach up for it with the intention of washing it for Grandma, she called from the other room, requesting a glass of water. They were then forgotten until after she died, and I began inquiring with family members of their whereabouts. Eventually, I realized all of her cherished heirlooms had mysteriously vanished from  family possession.

I wouldn’t allow myself to fancy the idea that these cats were one and the same, but I bought them at $24.95, believing they would bring some solace for the loss of all else, and mostly because no matter their origin, they reminded me of Grandma. When they arrived a week before Christmas, I carefully unwrapped each one and then became giddy as I saw the chips on the tail and paw on one and the dirt spots on the chest of the other. At that moment, I believed it was truly a God-send for having kept my promise of writing her stories, and all I could think of saying with tremendous glee was “Merry Christmas to me! Thank you, Grandma!”

I set them in a place where I can see them as I write and then turned my focus back to finish making and sending the CDs of her stories to my cousins. After the last CD was mailed, I again returned to Ebay on a search for those poodles. But first, there was “feedback” to do for the seller of the cat figurines, and curiosity led me to peak at the seller’s store.  A familiar cup was first on the list – one just like the cup Grandma served me coffee in while she told me one of her most important stories.  And then the matching saucer.  And the dinner plates.  And my grandfather’s wedding cufflinks and tie clip set, the coin bank he had as a child, the gifts sons brought home from WWII and on and on and … oh my, it was all there – everything I had given up hope of ever seeing again in this world!

I contacted a cousin who agreed we had to get these treasures back into the family. I started hitting the buy button and bidding on most important items and those I suspected might be wanted by various cousins. The hardest part was waiting for the items on auction to end at 1 a.m.  While trying to win the apothecary bowl that Grandma used for crushing herbs and nuts, I became a determined, crazed mad-woman – a side of me I’d never met before. I snarled threatening expletives at every counter bid (followed by “sorry, Gram”) until it became mine after nine bids. The last minute of the listing became the longest 60 seconds of my life until I read “Congratulations! You have won this item!”  I screamed.  Then, I cried.  Then, I laughed.  Then, I screamed, cried and laughed until my hubby woke up and asked if I’d lost my mind. “Go back to bed honey, it’s only a dream,” I told him quietly, not wanting to shock him with the approximate $2200 total of the scored treasures. Fortunately, he shuffled back to bed and wasn’t aware of the cost until after the sweet seller dropped about $600 worth of shipping from the invoice.

Am I crazy?   Perhaps.  But my heart is full.  And I know my grandmother is dancing in the clouds right now.  I owe that lovely lady very much.  Had it not been for her, I would have never learned as much of what I know about surviving the struggles in life or the significance of family values, which I gained by listening to her insightful stories. As well, she taught me how to bake an apple pie, sew an apron, crochet a doily and hand embroider my first stitch.  Grandma encouraged me to keep drawing and writing, both of which I make a living at today, and she looked at my first digitized embroidery sample and proclaimed, “God has found a place for you in this world.”  Even now, Grandma has taught me to never give up hope.  As she used to say, “Whatever will be will be, and nothing can stop it if it’s meant to be.”  Once again, Gram, you were right!

I may not be done shopping or I’d mention the terrific Ebay seller who deserves a zillion-star rating for handling this overwhelming order with an understanding heart. But it’s best to remain quiet awhile – I’m just trying to bring these precious treasures home and I don’t want to bid against friends or family.  (Cousins may contact me about any item they’ve been looking for.)

Thanks for waiting on this post, folks.  Blog time had to be sacrificed for Ebay time.  Also, I am adjusting the blog schedule for the next post to be made in about two weeks when I hope to have even more smiles to share and possibly a couple of stitches!  🙂

Mission Accomplished – Hello 2012!

This week I should be winding myself back up, putting myself in gear, and looking 2012 in the eye with a here-I-come attitude. I should be. And I would be if in recent weeks I had wound myself down, put myself in park, and chilled long enough to say “good-bye” to 2011. But though I managed a few wonderful holiday moments with family, I couldn’t stop to take a real break, because I was making a deadline on a personal quest – a resolution made last year to complete a project of compiling my grandmother’s stories on CDs and sent to cousins by December 31.

When I began the project, I sat down and decided, “This should only take a few days.” My grandmother had passed years before and it was difficult to trigger recollections, so I delved into history books and watched history TV. A few weeks later, I said, “just one more day” and each following day I repeated the proclamation until it reached completion six years later.  One cousin called it, “tenacity”.  I’m leaning towards “obsession”.  And now I’m basking in satisfaction for not breaking last year’s resolution – even if I did miss that goal the previous five years.

But now what? my writer-self asks. What will I do to lose the tension of the day? Where will I go to see things like I never saw before? What will keep me intrigued as does getting to know those ancestors whose lives have grabbed me with surprise, sorrow and delight? How will I experience that sweet ride of the words without having an impelling reason for the quiet tick-tick-tick of the keyboard guiding my creativity and imagination? This sucks.

Then again, perhaps not. I still have many blinking leaves on Ancestry.com and I’m sure I’ll find a new muse from a zillion different stories yet to be recalled and discovered. There’s a lot of darn good tales in that tree left to be written – both truth and fiction. Even seeking information about unrelated historical people can be easily found. I highly recommend Ancestry.com to any writer who needs facts or inspiration, but most of all, researching family history can be an enriching experience for everyone. Simply, it’s great for the soul.

The project even led to the discovery of things I might not have ever known. For example, I made good use of Google Maps when researching Google Earthcensus records to establish a location timeline. And don’t get me started on how fantastic I have found Google Earth to be! A homebody like myself can fly – yes, fly like a bird! – anywhere around the world, into the universe, under the sea, and during different eras! The engineers of this wonderful software app get a high twenty (all fingers and toes) for saving me a lot of leg work, not to mention traveling expenses! And it’s fun!

When it came time to create the CDs, I just couldn’t picture handing Grandma’s special stories to my cousins on a dull, naked disc with the title written in felt pen, and I wanted it to be easily found in a pile of CDs (more for my benefit than others – I lose a lot of discs). Then I recalled the LiteScribe label engraver that had come bundled with my laptop, which I’d never tried, though I had bought a stack of LiteScribe CD blanks, thinking one day I might use them for a Moonlight Design collection. It takes about 15 minutes for engraving each CD, but well worth the time, and I’m sure I’ll be using it more in the future.

I discovered the convenience of using my new Kindle Fire for sharing the CD with my sister who refuses to move into the high-tech world for any reason. She asked if I might print out the stories for her – all 37902 words, along with multiple folders of information and color images. She doesn’t understand the cost of ink. (Who does?) I have a special Kindle mail address where I can send documents that I want to read on the Fire, so now I can call up Grandma’s stories on it and hand it to her (but she will have to tap her own pages. I have to draw the line somewhere!)

And on the “life” side of things … I learned that our history books need more than an update; they require a total upgrade. Better said, let’s revamp – toss them out and start all over! What I was taught in school certainly isn’t what I know now as truth!  Oh sure, the skeleton of facts are there, though inaccuracies are many as stated in “Lies My Teacher Told Me”, but when you start filling in the lives, emotions, beliefs and cultures, a completely different view emerges. After the last six years of merging my grandmother’s stories with American history that covered the last few centuries, seems to me we’ve created a big ol’ tale that has been washed over, manipulated by pride and prejudice and has survived via naivety and ignorance.

Well, that’s just my two stitches.  Now, on with 2012!  🙂

What I Really Want for Christmas

It’s a few days before Christmas and all through the house, not a gift is in sight, not even a tree. What?!  Oh, I’ll dig out that plastic, partially decorated tree that sits in the store room, protected under an old sheet most of the year when I’m done with this blog post, but the only thing that will be found underneath it will be a cat enjoying a nap. Perhaps, in some eyes that seems a bit odd, so allow me to sprinkle a twinkle of my reality into this holiday post.

At the risk of sounding baby-boomer cliche’ (but trust me, it’s true) I came from a blue collar family at the lower part of the pay scale, but my sister and I never knew we were “poor”. Sure there were gifts, but as soon as we realized who Santa Claus was, the gifts became something the entire family could enjoy – a reel-to-reel tape recorder so we could converse with family thousands of miles away (AT&T long distance was $5-7 a minute), a camera to capture precious memories during special occasions (film and development costs were a luxury), a used station wagon so we ladies didn’t have to ride to church squished in the cab of Dad’s dirty work pick-up, and one year we voted for a new refrigerator (we lived in Southern California with no AC and we were ecstatic that we finally had ice cubes again!)

Our “real gifts” were family moments – decorating the tree together and singing carols, reading the Bible and stringing popcorn with Mom, baking cookies or making fudge with my sister and roasting a 25 lb. turkey with Dad; topped off with visiting relatives and attending Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was spent relaxing and chatting with visitors who stopped by for a cup of eggnog and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on our black and white TV – the only one in the house. We were together, laughing and smiling. Nope, I just can’t see how a box with a surprise inside would have made Christmas any brighter!

Today, now that there are a few more pennies in my pocket book, I do give a few gifts to the children whose sparkling eyes and giggles fill me with joy, or to a special, grateful few who have a real need.  But personally, I don’t expect, nor do I want any store-bought gifts piling up under the tree tagged with my name.  My husband and I agreed before we were married to give what we’d otherwise spend on each other to a children’s charity each year, and I also have an agreement with most other adult family members – don’t buy for me, I won’t buy for you; make something if you like (fudge is always welcomed!), but let’s just appreciate and celebrate the fact we still have each other in this world.

So for those who have an uncontrollable urge to hand me a gift – if you really must because it makes you happy – I request the following:

  • Don’t buy me a book or movie video – do read or view it and write a poem or tell me a story about how it inspired you and what you’ve learned from it.
  • Don’t buy me music – do sing me a song or join me in a carol or two.
  • Don’t buy me jewelry, trinkets or clothes – do give me something you’ve made with your own two hands from recycled materials or those found in Nature (that includes fudge).
  • Don’t buy me a bank gift card – do give that amount to the Food Shelf and visit or write me after so I can experience the love that your sharing surely created.
  • Don’t give me a frown if you’re not able to buy what you wanted to give me – do please give me your beautiful smile.

That’s all I really want for Christmas – just a smile – because to me, a loving smile is the most precious gift of all.

So, having said that, I’m headed for the store room for that Christmas tree that needs to be decorated with the only ornaments that I carefully put away each year – handmade gifts and family heirlooms that bring to mind loved ones who have given me tons of wonderful smiles. Some ornaments are as brilliant as the day they were new, others are a bit tattered with age, but each and every one comes with a cherished memory that makes my heart sing.

And so I’ll leave you now until next year, wishing you and yours the best of holidays! Make some memories, string some popcorn, whip up a batch of fudge. May your homes be blessed with cheerful laughter, and may the only tears be that of joy!  Merry Christmas to all and to all many, many smiles! 🙂