Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat!

I'm not sure how old I was, but my earliest trick-or-treating memory is of walking up our driveway between my parents, my little hands in theirs, and singing Halloween songs.

Halloween songs, you ask? Yes. My father taught me one; my mother taught me another. I have never heard them anywhere else and don't even know where they learned them, but I have to sing them every Halloween. I have to.

My father's was a fun one.

We are jack-o-lanterns. Boo! Boo! Boo!
We are out to get you! Boo! Boo! Boo!
We have teeth but cannot bite,
In our heads a shining light,
Don't you think we're funny? Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-heeeeee! Boo! Boo! Boo!

My mother's was:

Jack-o-lantern, jack-o-lantern, you are such a funny sight,
As you sit there in the window looking out at the night.
You were once a yellow pumpkin hanging on a sturdy vine,
But now you're a jack-o-lantern, see your candlelight shine.

Anyone know them?

Our trick-or-treating when I was younger was probably a lot different from most. We lived out in the country, so neighborhood trick-or-treating wasn't an option. We also only went to the homes of people we knew personally. So we walked around the "neighborhood" to four or five houses. We were the only trick-or-treaters that came out that far, so each of the neighbors had a special treat bag made up for us, full of goodies.

Then we came home and my dad took us for driving-trick-or-treat. We went to my grandparents' house, the homes of aunts and uncles, and a few friends from church who lived near them or on the way, also my dad's boss.

So trick-or-treating became a time to briefly visit with friends and family rather than a time to go traipsing from street to street and house to house.

We almost never got trick-or-treaters at our house, so the actual "treating" part of trick-or-treat was not something I ever experienced. Once we were too old for trick-or-treating, it was a pretty noneventful night at our house.

And then I moved to my first house, out on my own. And wow, was trick-or-treat ever different there! I was fortunately forewarned by a neighbor, otherwise I would have been completely unprepared on Halloween night. The entire town came to OUR street to trick-or-treat, everyone sat out by the street, and they just came by in streams. It was unbelievable, from start to finish, I did nothing but reach in bags and hand out candy. We easily got 300 trick or treaters in an hour.

And now I have another experience, but this one is stranger than either of those. Now I'm living in a nice little subdivision-style neighborhood... but I hardly get any trick-or-treaters. I got six tonight. In two hours. It's not that the trick-or-treaters aren't out there; it's just that they are lazy!! Seriously! I can't tell you how many times I looked out the window to see groups of children walking right on by. The light is on, so it's clear I'm giving out candy, but they are too lazy to walk up my semi-steep driveway. (It really isn't all that steep. A medium grade perhaps, and only the length of two cars.) Kids are lazy, I tell you!! Oh, well. The six who braved my driveway got all the candy. Happy Halloween! :)

I'm not the only one, I know. I spent the entire trick-or-treat time on the phone with a friend who only got three at her house.

Little Girl dressed as Alice in Wonderland this year. My grandmother made her the dress for the Wonderland Tea she attended at Disney World this past winter, and she was so gorgeous in it, it had to be worn again. Baby Boy was Mickey Mouse. (Who says we're Disneyites!? ;) )

What about you? How was trick-or-treating at your house this year? Who did your kids dress as?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Family Reunion

I was asked by a friend who was looking at pictures and video of my family reunion if our family was always "close and smiley and laughing"?

My answer was yes. I've come to realize in working with so many different families that our family really is somewhat unique in this regard. Being together with the entire family is not hard in any way. It is easy. It is fun. We laugh and joke and have a great time. When there is "arguing" over sports or politics, it's all in fun, and everyone knows it, so even then, it's still fun.

Our family has always been close. My grandparents had four children; three of their children (including my mother) remained in the same town. We all went to the same church, we kids all went to the same school. After school, we were all at my grandparents', and on Sundays after church, the whole family was there. So we spent a lot of time together during our growing-up years, and I think that my grandfather's focus on always treating each of us fairly and equally (he wouldn't even take one child's family out to eat without giving money to each of the other families so their family could go out to eat too!) and my grandmother's peacemaking nature that was intolerant of any arguing or dissension is what created this wonderful family.

So... we all spent the weekend in the mountains, and it was an extra special occasion because for the first time, my grandmother, and every single one of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, were present. (One spouse was unable to attend, other than that the entire family would have been complete.) We get together, almost the whole family, at least two or three times a year, but there are always a couple of people that aren't able to be there for various reasons -- but this time, we all made it!

We stayed at the same ranch that we stayed at last year, but this year we just happened to pick the same weekend that the ranch later chose for a whole host of special activities. Which they let us do for free. (There was a $25 concert and a $10 activity fee per person, and they didn't charge us a cent! And there were 28 of us... so that's a LOT of money!)

I was one of the last to arrive, as I didn't take the day off as many did, and I was surprised to see a hot air balloon out in the field in front of the cabins as I drove in. I went into the main cabin where we always gathered, and learned that everyone (except the scaredy cats) had already gone up in said balloon, including Little Girl, who wasn't at all afraid, which surprised me. So a cousin and my sister-in-law volunteered to come with me to go for my own ride.

I've never ridden in a hot air balloon before, and I honestly thought it would be a little frightening. I'm not terribly afraid of heights, but I thought that the basket would wobble and tip and feel unsteady and that, at such a height, would be a little frightening, but I was wrong. It was solid and stable as could be, and I have to admit it was actually a little disappointing as a result. After all, there's some fun in being safely scared...

I couldn't decide whether I wanted to pretend to be the Wizard of Oz, or Carrie Ingalls in the Little House on the Prairie episode where she's in the runaway hot air balloon. :)

After that, we built a big bonfire and sat around singing songs, my cousin accompanying us on the guitar. He had us do one song where we sang, "Hello, my name is ____ and I want to be a..." and we had to fill in an animal that began with the same letter as our name, and then act it out. The kids loved it, especially seeing the adults all being silly enough to act like various animals. :)

We had several cabins rented, and my immediate family had one. Unfortunately, when we rented these cabins, we got a three bedroom because we thought my brother and family would be living in Florida and unable to attend. When we got the good news that they were staying, it was too late, there were no four bedroom cabins left. So there were a whole bunch of us, and only 3 full sized beds. And a couch. And I brought an air mattress. As it turned out, Little Girl and I ended up sleeping on the air mattress on the living room floor, and let me tell you, it was COLD. Neither of us hardly slept all night for shivering, despite warm pjs and blankets.

Everyone sleeping upstairs came down the next morning complaining about how hot they were all night. Sigh. So my brother and sister-in-law decided to trade and take the air mattress the next night. Little Girl and I were definitely not afraid of being too hot at that point.

That night of coldness set off an entire day of never feeling warm enough. It was a sudden weather change as it was, we had had nice warm fall weather all along, and suddenly the temperature had dropped about 30 degrees, and not being used to it, we felt the cold more. Also, nobody brought coats as we were totally unprepared for such chilliness.

So, the next morning, we all headed to the big house for breakfast, then various groups made their decisions about how to spend the day. A bunch of the guys went golfing. Another large group decided to go to a local festival. I bowed out of that one, crowds and cold combined were not at all appealing to me. So four of the great grandkids, all little girls ranging from 6 to 11, and about 4 adults and I stayed behind. I took the two littlest girls, one being Little Girl, to the playground and zoo housed on our ranch.

It was definitely the right choice. We had a wonderful morning. The man who took care of the animals was there feeding them, and when he brought out the camel, he let the girls feed and pet it. Then he told them he had two baby camels in the barn and he would bring them out for them to see. They were SO CUTE. And watching those two little girls chasing those two baby camels down the road was also so cute. :) They spent a good deal of time petting and feeding them, and they were very social little camels and loved the attention.

After a couple hours, we decided we were tired of being cold and we went back to the cabin, where the kids played and the adults relaxed, as we waited for the rest of the crew to come back.

One of my cousins and his wife had gone hiking, way out in the wilderness far away from any houses, and a cat had found them and followed them the entire way back to the car. It was very friendly and loving, but all matted and dirty. They decided it must have been a pet but was either extremely lost or abandoned, and they couldn't just leave it out there on its own when it didn't appear equipped to live in the wild, so they brought it back with them, and another cousin was thrilled to adopt it. Once they cleaned it up and cut out the mats in the fur, it looked like a very nice cat, and it was extremely friendly with everyone. So we welcomed Kirby the Cat as the newest member of the family. :)

When the folks came back from the event, they only had one funny story to tell us. It seems they lost my uncle. They had split into two groups, and one group called the other to ask if he was with them, because they couldn't find him anywhere. My mother was the one who answered the phone. Apparently she told her group that my uncle was lost, and she supposed they'd better help look for him... but let's go eat first. LOL.

What had happened was, my uncle who is getting up there in years and has a bad hip due to an accident years ago anyway, was worn out from the day's events, and he told my cousins to go on back to the car and come pick him up, as they had come quite some distance. They did as instructed, but apparently drove right by him, while he stood there by the side of the road waving his arms at them.

They did eventually find him, and all made it safely back to the ranch, where they found my cousin and I out with the four little girls, participating in all the fun activities on the ranch. There were pumpkins -- the "big kids" (including two adult cousins) carved them, and the little kids painted them. The girls also painted Halloween masks. There were some inflatables there, including a giant wall to climb. All the girls tried, but none of them made it up very far. :) They bobbed for apples. And there was popcorn and cotton candy.

After all this fall fun, we walked back to the main cabin, where we had a cookout while the little girls splashed in the hot tub that they apparently thought was a swimming pool, while my cousin wrote a song and taught it to them -- yes, he wrote a song right there on the porch with four little girls splashing in the hot tub around him, the lad is talented -- and then we all gathered around for memory time. We had all been instructed to write memories of my grandmother, and my aunt read each one and we had to guess who had written it. Many were obvious from the way they were written, of course, but a few were harder to guess. There were many sweet memories shared, but many funny ones too, and we spent a good couple of hours doing this, and it was so much fun.

Then we had another bonfire, and more singing. This time my cousin changed up the name song. We had to sing, "Hello, my name is ____, and I'm sitting next to ____. And he/she is very..." and then fill in a compliment about that person. It was a great game, and it turned out to have its funny moments too. :) For example, when the lost uncle just happened to be sitting next to the cousin who was responsible for losing him, and his compliment was, "Well, he was nice enough to drive me to the event today... even though he did drive right past me and leave me standing by the side of the road, and he drives like a turrible knucklehead!" ;)

And then there was the moment that my aunt received the compliment of being brilliant from the person next to her, and then on her turn, my cousin sang, "Hello my name is..." and everyone waited as she just sat there. And he prompted again, "My name is???" and another aunt chimed in, "She's so brilliant she doesn't even know her own name!" :)

And the moment when my aunt, complimenting the cousin doing all the singing, said, "He's really good for a good time!" and instantly, my cousin jerks his head up and says, "Who've YOU been talkin' to!?!?" ;)

After more songs and more stories around the campfire, we finally called it a night and turned in. My sister insisted that Little Girl and I would be sorry for trading beds, that we would be way too hot, that we'd be kicking all the covers off. We were perfectly comfortable, although Little Girl certainly tosses and turns a lot and at one point in the night I was awakened by a little leg flopping across my stomach. The next morning, I observed that we were both still under blankets, and I asked her if she had been too hot. "I was hot under my covers," she said. "But one leg was cold because it was sticking out of the covers."

"Would that be the leg I discovered lying across my stomach in the middle of the night?" I queried. :)

We all had breakfast together again and then it was time to part and head in various directions for our homes.

It was a great weekend, and I just have to say that I'm glad God put me in the family that He did. Because we've got the best one ever. :)

Monday, October 6, 2008


I'm almost hesitant to post this as I fear that my words will be misunderstood, but I'm going to say it anyhow.

A dear friend of mine has been responsible for the care of an elderly relative, and all last week, sat by her deathbed until at last this weekend she slipped away. Walking with her through this time has taken me back two and a half years, to a time when I myself sat beside my grandfather's bed as he lay dying. That experience was one I could never put into words, and I'm sure anyone who has been there knows just what I mean.

However, I hadn't thought too much about one of the feelings that marked that time in my life until those same feelings came surging to the forefront of my mind again with this recent death.

When my grandfather died, I felt many things. Shock, even though his death was expected, because somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, I realized that I subconsciously believed he would live forever. (Of course, he will... but that's not how I meant it.) Grief, knowing that never again would I see him, talk to him, laugh with him, share old memories with him, or make new memories. Relief, because he had entered the last stage of Alzheimer's and for him to continue to live in that state would have been so hard on everyone, himself included.

But above all those other feelings rose the feeling of jealousy. I knew where he was going, and I longed to go with him.

This is where I fear that my words may be misinterpreted. I am not suicidal. Not depressed. When I say I long to go, I am not saying, "Oh, life is so miserable, I just want to die." I don't want to escape anything in this life, I'm not looking for an out.

I've been in that place, I will confess. For years, I suffered from depression and anxiety, and I did long for death as a means of escape. I don't think I could ever have been called suicidal, because I knew that no matter how much I wanted to, I could never bring myself to actually harm myself in any way, but there is no question that if I could have, I would have. Those were dark times, and I say this only to explain how very different that kind of "I want to die" statement is from what I'm saying now.

I'm very happy. Life is good, and I enjoy living to the fullest. In fact, I haven't even thought about these feelings I had at my grandfather's death for quite some time. Until this weekend.

When my friend and I were talking, shortly after the death, one thing she said was, "She WANTED to go..." (She was very elderly, and suffering.) And instantly those feelings of jealousy came surging up within me from a place so deep I'd forgotten its existence. "I want to go!" I thought. I want to go not because I'm miserable, not because I'm suffering, not because I no longer want to live -- I want to go because I know that what I'd be going to is so much better than where I am now.

And then it occurred to me that I'm in a very similar situation that I think is much more easily understood by others. I'm currently living in a town I don't want to live in. And the situation is so much the same. I'm actually quite happy here. I have a beautiful house in a lovely neighborhood. I love my church and really feel as if I belong there. My Bible Study group is full of wonderful ladies that I've bonded with. I truly enjoy my job, and the children and families I get to work with. I have good relationships with my coworkers and that makes teamwork so much easier when it comes to meeting the children's needs. I've developed friendships and social circles here that I will miss if/when I move away. The fact is, I've put down some roots here, and I really like it here quite a lot. If my house doesn't sell, and I end up staying awhile, it's not that big of a deal -- I do want to move, but I'm also happy where I'm at.

So if life here is so great, why do you want to move? I'm sure you're asking...

The answer is simple. Because I'm homesick. The one thing that I don't have in this town is family. In a town three hours away, I have a grandmother. I have a niece and a nephew that I love beyond words. I have parents, siblings, and aunts, uncles, and cousins galore. And I feel stranded up here away from them all. And that is the one and only reason I want to move. I'm homesick.

So then is it really difficult to understand my other yearnings, my jealousy of those who go on to the life ahead of us while I'm left here on earth for I have no idea how many more years? It's not that things are bad here in life. It's simply that I'm homesick. I know that this world is not my home, my heart lives in heaven, and that is why I long to go there.

Yet when I say such things, people gasp in horror or in shock, or they chide me for saying such awful things, or they think I'm depressed. Why is that? Why is it so easy for people to understand that I am very happy here in my current town and yet I want to go "home" to the other town because my family is there and it's where I belong, and so difficult to understand that I am very happy here in my current life on earth and yet I want to go "home" to my other life where I really belong?

Does anyone understand? Feel the same way? I'm really not depressed. I'm probably happier and more content than I've ever been at any other point previously in my life. Is it wrong to yearn for the better life I know is waiting, as long as I also am willing to wait patiently, though longingly, for the time God has chosen for me to enter it?


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy October

October is my favorite month. Has been since childhood.

I love the crispness of the air -- not cold, just cool. I love the fragrance of autumn leaves. And the colors... I live in the mountains, and while all seasons have their beauty, fall far surpasses them all.

When I was in the eighth grade, we read The Vagabond's Song, by Bliss Carman. It resonated deeply with me, and I memorized it at once, and said it often as I enjoyed the wonders of nature that autumn brings.

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood—
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.
The scarlet of the maples can shake me like a cry
Of bugles going by.
And my lonely spirit thrills
To see the frosty asters like a smoke upon the hills.
There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir;
We must rise and follow her,
When from every hill of flame
She calls and calls each vagabond by name.

So I'm glad it's October. The weather apparently noticed the calendar change. My heater fired up for the first time this season overnight, and today I've exchanged my short sleeves for fleece.

Happy Fall, Y'all!