Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's almost 2012...Happy New Year y'all!!  Looking forward to sharing more, learning more and getting to know you more!  ..."forgetting those things which are behind, press toward the mark..."  Happy 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Madness, Mourning, and Meaning

If you have read my blog you know that I follow the news closely, especially stories that are different, sad, or interesting.  There have been some interesting news stories this Christmas season.  Sadly, there are the madness stories, you know the ones that I'm sure you have heard of from Black Friday.  People standing in crazy long lines to get that deal, then rushing in the doors, pushing and shoving trying to get where they want before someone else gets there.  This year there was the normal (which is NOT normal) stampedes, and people getting trampled and a bit knocked around.  But the one thing that made my jaw drop was the story of the woman who decided to pepper spray a crowd of people so they would not get the game or toy, or whatever it was that she wanted.  I just don't understand that mentality.  I don't think the idea of a season of giving includes pepper spray to the masses so that you could get what you really wanted.  And just last week there was the story of another group of people....who took a door off of its hinges, trampled over each other and had some fighting matches with each other all because of.....sneakers, yes, you heard me right, I said sneakers!  They were the new Michael Jordan sneakers that cost about $200 or so.  There was only a limited supply of them, so after all of that some people never even got them.  One guy even bought a pair of kids sneakers, even though he said he doesn't have kids yet.  He was just happy to have them for maybe someday.  Another unbelievable story of want.
Then there are the sad stories, stories of mourning that break the heart during this time.  Stories of houses burning down, or people losing their loved ones right before or after or even on Christmas.  Well, this year my heart just broke as I heard the news story of five people in a house who lost their lives in a fire.  Of course stories like this always break my heart, but this one had a few key elements that really got to me.  First, there were three little girls who were killed in the fire (7 yr. old twins and their 10 yr. old sister), their grandparents who were visiting were also killed, the mom and a friend were the only ones able to make it out alive after trying to get the rest of them out, and this happened early Christmas morning.  All of those things just really made me think.  This was a million dollar Victorian home...beautiful, the mom was a well known ad executive in New York.  So here is this successful woman, with a beautiful home and 3 beautiful little girls, and wonderful parents, getting ready to have a special Christmas day with her family.  Little did she know on this special day at about 4:30 in the morning her life would forever change.  Tragedy doesn't know success or money or status, it visits all.  It made me think of all the people pushing, shoving, fighting, pepper spraying, just to get the best gift for themselves or their family.  Would they see the foolishness in their actions after hearing of a tragedy like this?  Is that really so important now?  The paper quoted the mother as saying that her life was in that house, as the firefighters had to drag her and her friend away.  They had still been trying to get them out of the house.  It seemed that the grandfather was trying to help his granddaughters get out.  The firefighters said they found a stack of books by the window as if he were trying to help them get up to the window to get out.  They found the bodies by the books.  It was later found out that the cause of the fire was from embers from the fireplace.  It was also said that the mom was redoing some of the house and the fire alarms probably weren't set up.  Not only was the mom well known, but her father (the grandfather) was, too.  Just earlier that day before he got to their house he was doing his favorite thing for the holidays, dressing up as Santa at the mall.  Little did everyone know several hours later that he would be fighting for his life while he tried to save his grandchildren and wife.  What an awful tragedy!  Many of the firefighters were really struggling with this.  The chief spoke to the media and broke down a little.  They brought in grief counselors for these firefighters.  This will be a difficult thing for them to get over I'm sure.  As I think about this poor mom, Christmas will never be the same for her again.  But it also made me think of what Christmas means to people.  For some it's all about the decorations, the shopping, the gifts, for some it's the time with family and friends, for some it's celebrating the birth of Jesus, and for some it may be all of these or a mixture of some of them.
That's where the stories of the meaning of Christmas come in.  Now, as a Christian of course the real meaning of  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of our Savior.  But Christmas is also about giving and sharing and showing love, and enjoying time with family and friends.  So the next couple of stories embody some of those things.  One thing I heard, not once, but actually a few different times is that there were "secret santas" who were going around paying off people's layaway items.  Some people went to the stores to either try to pay off their layaway items or to cancel them, only to find out that it had already been taken care of.  I heard of a couple of moms who actually went to the store to cancel, but weren't sure what they were going to be able to afford for their kids, when the person at the layaway desk told them their account had already been paid.  They were so pleasantly surprised and so thankful.  What wonderful Christmas spirit!  The last story was something I heard at the end of the 6:30 news.  It told about students from a certain school who had a special Christmas party where they all got just what they had asked for for Christmas when "Santa" showed up...all except one.  There was one little girl who didn't ask for anything, she didn't want least nothing that could be bought.  The only thing that she had asked  "Santa" for was for her father to come home from Afghanistan for Christmas.  That's a tough order for anyone.  So that day when "Santa" came to the classroom to give the other kids their gifts, the teacher had the little girl go sit on "Santa's" lap to tell him again what she really wanted for Christmas,which she told "Santa" again was her dad.  She had only seen him for two weeks in the past two years.  When she told him what she really wanted, "Santa" took off his cap and beard to show her that her Christmas wish had come was her dad!!  She cried and just hugged his neck so hard....and I just cried...and cried!  Mom even came out to the kitchen to see if I was OK.  What a beautiful Christmas story!  
Lord, it's so easy for us to get caught up in all the madness of the season.  Sometimes mourning takes over, as well,  and we forget to just focus on the meaning.  Help us to think of the meaning and be willing to share with others as you shared with us!  Help us to be careful not to let the madness or the mourning, crowd out the true and beautiful meaning of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Merriment

After a wonderful service at mom's church, we went home to take Bella out for a bit and get changed before going over to Uncle Cephus and Auntie Ann's house. We got there and were spoiled with more gifts. Mom was given a hat, scarf, and gloves from cousin Chris. Funny enough we were just talking about the fact that mom needed new gloves! Then we both got beautiful, wonderfully soft robes from my aunt and uncle.  My cousins Karen and Yvonne spoiled me with a very generous gift card.  We enjoyed some cheese and crackers, then not long after also enjoyed some fruit with fruit dip. Slowly the family started to arrive. Cousin Chris was already there. Then Uncle John and Aunt Bertsie came. A little later Mike, Kelly, Amy, Amy's four kids (1 girl about 12, and three boys, I think 4, 3, and 1 1/2, who all look very similar:)), Cousin Cephus, and his wife Sally all came. My cousin Karen was already there helping her mom out, and my cousin Yvonne and Uncle Cephus were delivering food to family, and arrived back home later as well. We then enjoyed the main meal...turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, collard greens, yams, salad, and lasagna...oh yum! We ate very well, talked, laughed and enjoyed one another while watching the Celtics play. There was disappointment all around when they lost by two points. Dessert was soon brought out, and if you thought the meal was something, that was nothing compared to dessert. My cousin Karen does most of the baking for that, and she definitely went all out this year. There was Lemon Meringue pie (my cousin Chris and my Uncle Cephus's favorite), raspberry pinwheel cookies (my favorite), strawberries cut in fours with cream cheese inside (my other favorite), Baby Ruth bar cookies (my Aunt Bertsie's favorite), shortbread cookies with chocolate drizzled on top, chocolate chip cookies, coconut cake (made by my Auntie Ann, that was always my pappy's favorite), pecan crescent cookies (also my pappy's favorite), gluten free pumpkin cake, pound cake, and German chocolate cake...phew, I think that was it!  Can I just yummy fullness!!  But be proud of me, I didn't over indulge at all!  A little after all this goodness came out, my cousin Derek and his girlfriend came.  They are a great looking couple, and she is sweet as can be, and fit in very well with the family!  My cousin Cephus Jr. surprised me by mentioning my blog to everyone.  He read my blog The Gang's All Here and shared some of it with the family.  What a wonderful compliment!  We enjoyed some more time just relaxing and talking and watching more basketball.  Of course the little boys were quite entertaining!  My uncle calls them one bear, two bear and three bear (his Indian names for them).  Mom kept wanting just one more cookie, her stomach seems to be a little endless lately.  Think I'm over-exaggerating?  Just you wait to hear what else I'm going to share.  Of course we were told that we needed to take some things home.  Of course I had to take some of the raspberry pinwheels home with me.  As I was filling my plate, my Uncle Cephus told me to take more, he told me not to stop until he told me to.  I kept putting more on the plate and when I looked over at him to see when he was going to tell me to stop....he was.....ASLEEP!  Haha, yup, he had started dozing, so I had to give him a hard time telling him he forgot to stop me.  Well,we got 3 or 4 plates of food to take home.  We had our gifts, our food, said our goodbyes and were on our way.  But unbeknownst to mom we weren't quite heading home to her Bella.
After we left our family's house we headed about 15-20 minutes away to visit with another family.  I have known this family for years.  I had 3 of the 4 kids when they were in third grade.  But I had her oldest as well, for music when he was in fourth grade.  She has always kept in touch with me and invited me to the kids graduation parties and things.  She had asked me a few days ago about coming over.  I told her about our family time, and that it would be much later before we could come over.  She said it was fine and just wanted us to make it over.  So we did.  Her other friend that was visiting was just about to leave when we got there.  And it wasn't good enough for us to just come visit, she also wanted to feed us as well.  She had lasagna, chicken, rice with a tomato-type sauce to go over it, fried plantains, salad, and rolls.  So we got a little lasagna, some plantains, and rice and sauce.  It was delicious, but I felt that I was probably going to explode soon.  Mom ate most of her plate, just left a little lasagna, but she also had a roll.  We talked for a little while, and then she told us we each had to have a piece of cheesecake...huh???  .....Uh...ok... We each had a piece, mom ate a few bites of hers and I tried to eat as much of mine as I could, but I had to leave some.  When we finally convinced her that we needed to go, she started packing up some food for us to take home.  While she was doing that, mom ate the rest of my cheesecake!  When we got into the car I was finally able to groan loudly from my discomfort.  Mom didn't know why I was so uncomfortable, she said she wasn't full...what??  We finally got home and got comfortable.  Once mom had her pj's on, she asked if we were going to have dessert.  I ran down the list of all that she had already eaten that day, she was surprised.  But she did have another cookie.  Oh my...what a day of merriment and fellowship, and fun.....and fullness!
Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful gift of family and friends to celebrate this special day with!  Thank you for good food and good fellowship.  Thank you for a great day full of great memories!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas Morning

The morning started with getting up (obviously), taking Bella out (as usual), and having breakfast (again, nothing unusual).  The thing that did make it a little different was obviously it was Christmas breakfast, and I wanted to try a new recipe for  breakfast.  My new love, pinterest, had a recipe that someone had pinned and I found from, for Christmas Eggs.  This recipe from 2008 looked delicious and was simple enough, so I decided to try Christmas Eggs for Christmas Morning.  It ended up being just as delicious as it looked in the picture.  I also had some wonderful caramel bread that I bought from one of the girls at school who was selling bread for a fundraiser for her group she's in.  Of course, if you know me at all, of course we had cereal too.  Definitely a breakfast worthy of a Christmas morning!  After breakfast mom, Bella, and I went downstairs to open gifts.  Mom was surprised by the presents under the tree, I put a few upstairs and I think she thought that was all of them.  So she was pleasantly surprised to see more.  I did what has always been my job, go under the tree and call off the names on the gifts and pass them out.  Mom had a nice little chunk by her, I had a few and Bella had a few as well.  Yes, hers were wrapped, too, she is great at opening her gifts and I love watching her!
And obviously videotaping her as well!  She definitely seemed to enjoy her gifts.  

Mom seemed to enjoy hers also as she slowly opened them.  I enjoyed watching her as well,though I kept looking at the time since we would need to get ready for church soon!  When mom finally finished opening all of her gifts we went upstairs to get ready for church.  Mom was planning to just wear what she had on, which she wears quite often.  I told her that she could not wear that on Christmas morning.  I had her put on one of her new sweater and skirt sets, and got her all put together before her ride came.  By the time I finally got her together and ready, her ride was here.  Thankfully I had already started getting ready, though it didn't help much.  I was supposed to be at church by 10:25 for choir practice before church, which started at 10:45.  Well, by the time I got mom out to her ride it was about 10:30.  By the time I got ready to leave it was already just about 10:45.  If I went to my church I would have been quite late, but mom's church wasn't starting until 11. So after some indecision, I finally headed over there.  It ended up being a nice surprise for her, and it worked out just right because I got to spend the whole day with her.  We enjoyed a great service at Grace...God is the Giver and We are the Takers.  God has given us the precious gift of his son, and we should be willing to receive that wonderful gift.  It was great to be there to see some old friends and to meet some new ones.  Pastor's new baby boy was in church for the first time too.  It was great to see that precious little one.  We had a wonderful, indecisive, crazy, busy morning, and made some great memories.  That was just the beginning, with more to come.
Lord, thank you for a fun, crazy, interesting, wonderful morning....together!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Festivities

Here I sit after a looong day of Christmas festivities, trying to keep it all together, as I am still so incredibly, miserably full right now!  I, of course, want to share about our great, wonderfully crazy Christmas day!  But, I must confess, one of the reasons I am writing this now is because I'm pretty sure if I try to go bed right now, I will greatly regret it.  As full as I am, I will either wake up sick or wake up with some crazy dreams.  That's not how I want to end my Christmas.  This is a much more fun way to end my Christmas.  There was so much that went on, though, that I just don't feel I can write it all right now, so I will start with a general overview, and then go into some more specifics.  Maybe the food has crowded into my mind!  Our day started with breakfast, with some special touches.  Then on to opening our gifts, have some great pictures and videos from that!  Next, it was getting ready for church, getting mom ready first, then trying to finish getting myself ready.  Then off to church, which ended up being different than expected.  After church we came home to take Bella out and to change to go over to Uncle Cephus and Auntie Ann's house.  We enjoyed some quality family time over there, and some great food, even talking about my blog a little bit.  After leaving the family, we had another stop to make.  A mom of some of my former students wanted to have mom and I over as well, where there was more food...oh my!  There had been even one more invitation from my friend Amy, but we just were not able to do that one.  Mom was getting pretty wiped out by the time we left that family's house.  I was also getting pretty wiped out by that point.  So, here I sit hoping to digest a bit before bed.  As I said, I'll write more specific parts later.  Hope everyone had a wonderful day celebrating the birth of our Savior.  Mom and I did!
Lord, thank you for another blessed Christmas day.  Thank you for mom and Bella to be able to share it with.  Most of all, thank you for sending your son here to earth to be our precious gift...the reason why we can celebrate this special day!   

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Just Sayin'

One of my favorite phrases lately is "Just Sayin'". You know..."This has been such an amazing Christmas break so far, Just sayin'." Or..."I really need to brush Bella's teeth, Just sayin'." Or even..."Sorry you missed out on that cupcake, it was pretty incredible, Just sayin'." Between that and "Seriously?!"...those are my staple phrases lately. I even have mom saying, "Seriously?!". Well anyway to the real reason for this post, just a little comic observation from my crazy mind. Sorry to do this to you on Christmas Eve.:) But...I just discovered/realized as I listened closely to a popular, favorite Christmas's not such a nice song. Let's think about this for a minute, it starts off nicely enough...We wish you a Merry Christmas. Sounds nice, right? We sing it to each other with the idea to simply wish a Merry Christmas. But what about the next part of the song, it says, Now bring us some figgy pudding. Ok, that's where my problem comes in...who is going to come to my house for a Christmas party and then demand that I bring them some figgy pudding?? Umm...first of all, did I hear a please?? I better hear a please somewhere in there. I can't have kids singing this! Then it gets even worse, not only did they not say please, but in the next verse it says, We won't go until we get some, so bring it out here! ...Excuse me??!? How are you going to tell me you won't leave until I give you what you want? Seriously?! I don't even think so! This is my house, you should just be thankful I invited you over. I may or may not have figgy pudding, and if I do, I may or may not want to give you any, especially if you don't ask nicely... use your manners! Then, even if I do have some, but don't choose to bring it out, you will not just stay up in my house rudely waiting for me to bring you some...oh no, I will not have that! Just sayin'. Well, I do wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and good tidings to you and your kin! Thanks for indulging my crazy mind! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Happy Birthday!

No, it's not my birthday! It's not mom's birthday either...a little too early for that. Not pappy's birthday either, just a tad too early for his. So that only leaves one special birthday girl...that would be.........Bella!! Yes, Bella is 7 today! 3 years and 3 days ago we were blessed with her in our home, and just 3 days later we are celebrating her 7 years of life. She definitely got spoiled if that's much different from any other day. Well, today mom and I took Bella to Evergreen Walk. We had to take a trip to one of our favorite places Leaps and Bones. That's where we get Bella's birthday cake. We walked around a bit more before mom was ready to get in the car. Bella wasn't quite ready, though. Once mom got situated in the car, Bella and I did some more exploring. An older lady saw her and thought she was so cute and petted her a little, and it seemed after that Bella kept looking at people as they walked by to see if they might want to indulge in a little petting session as well. The funny thing is that whenever people come to the house she tries so hard to get their attention to pet her and hold her. She would be content to just sit in their lap the rest of the day. Yet when she is out, she's so busy that she can only give people a few seconds of her time. But she really seemed to be looking for the next person who would be enamored by her cuteness to want to pet her. She would walk by people and look up at them or sniff at their feet. She did get a couple of others to acknowledge her. We went into my other favorite new store that I wrote about before, Ten Thousand Villages. A little 3 year old boy came in and Bella just wanted to go see him. She was finally able to and she did well, although she once again could only spare a few seconds of her precious exploration time. We did have a nice little chat with this adorable boy and his parents. We finally got back to mom in the car and headed home. My mom's brother came over a little after we got home and Bella got her wish, to sit on his lap the whole time he was here. Then tonight Bella indulged in a little bit of her cake, while mom and I shared a little ice cream and a cupcake with her.
And after we were done oddly enough, mom ended up indulging a little more, but not with ice cream and there were no more cupcakes you see where I am heading with this?? Why yes, she indulged in a small piece of Bella's cake. She liked it seeds and all...oh my. Now my sweet little girl is snuggled up right next to me on the recliner, love these moments. Happy Birthday little girl!
Lord, thank you again for Bella. She's such a wonderful, sweet, naughty, spoiled, fun, crazy, bad, terrific, wild, enjoyable blessing for us! Please allow us many more years to enjoy and spend with her.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

3 Years Ago Yesterday

It seems hard to believe that it has been three years since I was able to have the Christmas gift that I had been wanting, and waiting for for over 20 years. Three years ago yesterday Bella came into our lives. Seeing as neither one of my parents ever wanted a dog in the house, this was a definite miracle! It was amazing how things came together. I had hoped and prayed that after pappy died that we could possibly get a dog for the house. I knew it would be a great addition to the house. It would give mom a purpose again, and since it was just the two of us now, I would feel safer having a dog around, plus I've just always really wanted one! I love dogs! A wonderful friend from church, Maria, not only talked to me about what I had been thinking and praying about, she also gave me a couple of great books where I could see some of the pros and cons of the different breeds to see which would be the best fit for us. I learned so much, and had narrowed it down to a few different breeds. I knew it could not be a big dog, mom would never be able to handle that. I don't think mom could handle it if it was a puppy either. I knew that would be hard for both of us. It couldn't be too energetic, needed to be a good companion, a lap dog, also thought it would be good for it to have hair...that way mom couldn't claim (as she had tried to do before) that she was allergic. I had been looking on Petfinder, I had gone to the Humane Society a couple of times. (As a side note: the very first time I went to the Humane Society was about a week after my pappy had passed away. I was home with mom and we had just been doing some different things that day. I thought it would be clever to go look at the different animals, but especially the dogs of course, to see if she would soften to the idea of getting one. As we drove into the parking lot, mom saw the name Humane Society and started getting nervous. She asked if I was bringing her there to put her in there. Aww, I told her of course not, plus it wasn't for people, it was for animals. She said she didn't know, now that my pappy was gone, maybe I was going to put her someplace. Poor thing! Then wouldn't you know it, the only dogs that were there were pit mixes that were barking and jumping a lot! We didn't stay for much for that idea!) I even went to the Puppy House, or something like that and we looked at a couple of dogs and you almost touched one, but I could tell I still wasn't really getting anywhere. Next thing I know, my friend, Maria, took good care of me again! She told me one Wednesday night that her boss was looking to give her dog away because she and her husband were not dog people, and the son who the dog belonged to was in college and was rarely home. The dog spent most of the day in a crate. Maria asked me if I wanted to pray about it, I told her that I had already been praying about it, so I just told her to tell her boss we would take the dog. I couldn't believe what I was saying! But this dog was a Maltese, that means she was small, she had hair (mom couldn't say she was allergic to her), she wasn't a puppy (she was 4), and the very best part.......she was FREE! This just seemed to be the answer to my prayers. I was excited, but didn't know how to tell mom what I had just done. So...I didn't tell her. I tried, believe me, it just never quite came up easily enough. So, here it was December 19, it was the half day left before Christmas break that year and it was also 11 months to the day after pappy died. I was so excited to hear that she was on her way to school, Maria's daughter, Lani, had her and brought her to me. I couldn't help but break down a little when I finally met her and had her in my arms.
My prayers had finally been answered. She came and hung out in the classroom with the kids, in her crate, while we finished our party. I finally brought her home...quite nervously I might add. I didn't know how mom would respond. When I got home she didn't believe me when I said she was ours, she thought I was maybe just dog-sitting for someone. Then the miracle happened! As I was showing mom the gifts from the kids, I put Bella on the bed near us, and not too long after, mom moved her hand and started petting her. I couldn't believe what I was seeing! I didn't even want to breathe so as not to break the spell. From that point on, our little Bella has been the biggest blessing to us! So thankful for the past 3 years with her and pray for many more years ahead.
Thank you, Lord, for working things out in a way that I never would have ever been able to imagine. You truly blessed us! You knew all along this special blessing you had for us, and you knew how much we would fall in love with her. Thank you for the right girl, in the right time, and in a way that you worked out so perfectly. Hmm...maybe I should remind myself of this when I stress or worry about some other things...I'll try.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Gang's All Here!

I had such a nice surprise this morning. Mom and I were told that the family was getting together at Hometown Buffet this morning. We have done that before, but there was really no reason that I knew of for this get-together. We got there and met my aunt and uncle that we spend a lot of time with, so mom was comfortable. As we were standing in the crazy long line, I heard something behind me. I turned to see my cousin Lou, she was yelling up to my uncle to say "Hey". She is so funny and loves to give my Uncle Cephus a hard time. That's where the surprise came in. She is from Georgia, but here she was in Connecticut! I looked around and saw more cousins and then my dad's dad's brother. I had no idea they were going to be up here. I was so glad to see them, I got quite emotional. I haven't seen them for a couple of years and didn't know when or even if I might ever see them again. What a blessing to see them! My Auntie Alberta is 87 and my Uncle George is 88. So, all of my dad's sisters and brothers that are still alive were all together again. That was so special. I had to get pictures. Life and time go by too quickly, I want to capture these special moments all the time now. My Auntie Alberta was also able to be with 3 of her kids that live up here. A little bit later some of the grand children and great grandchildren also came in. So there were probably 10 or so of them that came up from Georgia. I had no idea all of them were coming! I'm so glad I got to spend some time talking with Auntie Alberta. I asked her if she still lived in her house by herself and if Uncle George still lived on his own too. She said they both did still live alone. She said she still planted her garden during the summer, with bell peppers, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and collard greens. She does it all herself. She said she still drives her car, goes to get groceries, and then cooks for Uncle George too. Uncle George's health has gone down, and he also struggles with demetia, but she and her daughters that live down there help take care of him. We had a nice section of the restaurant for the bit of the family that was there. There were quite a few that were unable to be there, but we still managed to have 3 rows of tables. I love my big, crazy, fun, amazing family. Dad's sister, Auntie Ann, with mom
Dad's sister, Auntie Alberta (87), talking with her sister-in-law, brother-in-law and sister, Ann

Dad's brothers, Uncle George (88), and Uncle John

Dad's brother, Uncle Henry with Uncle George
Cousin Lou with her granddaughter, Auntie Alberta's daughter and great granddaughter
Lord, thank you for this time with my family. Thank you for keeping them well so we could see them again. Thank you for allowing me to have such an amazing family. I miss my pappy at times like this, but it's special to be able to be around his brothers and sisters to bring some great memories. Thanks for new memories.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

It's Beginning to Look.....But Not Feel A Lot Like Christmas!

It's that time of favorite time of year! Celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus, singing wonderful Christmas carols, being cozy on cold winter nights with family and friends, decorating, watching great Christmas movies, listening to some of the most beautiful, and some of the most fun music, watching the snow gently fall to the ground. Well, I guess 5 out of 7 isn't bad, though for me it is a bit sad. We had our crazy snow storm at the end of October, but now have not seen any snow since then. For someone who lives for the stuff, it's been rough. Yes, feel bad for me! Also for someone who really, barely...endures the hot summer days in anticipation of the cold this time of year brings, these 50 and 60+ degree temperatures are making those really cozy nights difficult. It does get down a little bit at night, but could be a little cooler. The kind of cold that makes you want to rush inside for a nice cup of hot chocolate. So even though I have seen people putting up their Christmas decorations and lights in shorts and T-shirts, which seems pretty pitiful, I have still already pulled out the trees and semi-decorated them. Though it may not FEEL like Christmas outside yet, it does look like Christmas (and has for a while) in many places, and now also in my house. I love driving around seeing the lights on houses and in yards, going to the mall to enjoy the decorations there, and hearing the music all around.
Here's a little glimpse of our trees, not sure how much more will be done, but love looking at pretty Christmas trees lighted up at night. Mom has definitely really been enjoying the one upstairs and thinks I am a master decorator, even though it is a pre-lit tree and all I basically did was drag it up from the basement and put it in the living room. I only added a few ornaments to it, hadn't even really finished it yet, but she's ready to call all the friends, family, neighbors... and decorating shows to tell them to come see the beauty I created, hee hee. She's pretty interesting/funny lately. She has told me a couple of times that she told my aunt, who lives in Virginia, that she needs to come see the tree...a fake tree...that was already pre-lit...has some gaping spots where it hasn't quite been fluffed out enough (or can't fluff out because it's so old)...has a few crazy bling ornaments on it...and leans awkwardly to the side, not thinking it would be worth all that trouble! long as mom likes it, that works for me! I did find some fun blinged-out decorations for the trees, so that has been fun. Now if the weather would just cooperate, that would be swell! Love the color and bling factor of these ornaments from Michael's!

Love this bright pink feathery bird from Pier 1!
And how much fun is this butterfly?! Couldn't resist!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Becoming Thankful

Thanksgiving??!?! I can't believe it's already that time of year again! The start of the holiday season. Am I really ready for this? Sadly, I haven't been as ready as I should be for this day. This has been quite a different fall, and Satan has been trying to discourage and bring me down. Trying to keep me from thankfulness.
This oddly enough reminds me of Storm Alfred from a few weeks ago. I couldn't help but continue to think as we drove around each day, that this was a SNOW storm. It looked and still looks as if it were a storm with strong straight line winds or a small tornado in some places. Who would think to really worry about their big trees because of snow...soft, fluffy, beautiful, white snow? But that soft, fluffy snow took down some pretty big, strong trees. These trees came down on cars, homes, and across roads causing so much damage. This makes me think of Satan, he showers us with lies, and continues to pile them on. It might start out with just a few simple lies, but if we are not careful, they slowly become more and stronger in our minds. These lies can really weigh us down, even those who are older or strong in the faith can become weighed down by his lies. He wants to break us down, to take our strength from us, and destroy us. Too often we start to believe those lies, and instead of being able to shake off those lies we let them start to affect us and break us down bit by bit. And if we're not careful we can fall, and fall hard, causing lots of damage.
The morning after the storm, the sun came out, and those branches and trees that hadn't broken, but were hanging so low were finally starting to stand back up straight again. If we can hold on and not allow those lies to break us, the Lord allows the sun to shine, to melt away those lies. I am so thankful for friends and family who have been that sun for me, encouraging me, praying for me, sharing with me, caring for me, shining strong to melt away the lies of Satan. Helping me shake them off, so I can stand back strong in the Lord.
Storm Alfred really helped me to start thinking more thankful thoughts than I had been for a while. When I thought of how God took care of our house, and allowed the only branches that came down to be way back in the yard. He allowed me to get gas when I needed, food for mom and I, and to keep my phone charged up. He allowed us to find Evergreen Walk to get us out of the house. He allowed us to have the money to get food throughout the week. He kept us safe in our house. As I thought of all this how could I not be thankful! Maybe if I had been praising Him more before, I wouldn't have gotten so weighed down with lies and discouragement. I am so thankful the Lord doesn't give up on us. I'm thankful for wonderful people He has put in my life to continually encourage me and help me to grow. I am thankful for my little family. I am thankful for my extended family. I am thankful for my house, and a car that at least still runs. I am thankful for great friends, old and new. I am thankful for the joy and laughter that children bring. I am thankful for the joy, laughter and good times that Bella brings to this house. For these and many, many other things, I am thankful. Though I miss dad so much around this time (really missed him today), I am so thankful for the many memories, and all of the wonderful years we had together. I am thankful for memories I still get to make with mom.
Thank you, Lord, for the Sun!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

And So It Ended...and Began

Yes, it had officially ended. No longer would there be the same quietness in the house. No longer would there be candlelit nights spent listening to talk radio. No longer would we just be hanging out together in the living room just talking and laughing. No longer would we so many different, wonderful smells from all the candles we had lit, or as a friend from church so eloquently put it..."the house smelling like Fruit Loops". No longer would there be the simple ease in each day. No longer would we wake up to a cold house, or experience going to sleep with blankets and comforters and sweatshirts and gloves. No longer would there be that opportunity to walk outside in the pitch black and see the amazing brilliance of so many more stars than we normally see. No longer would I take Bella out at night and enjoy the smell of fireplaces and wood burning stoves. No longer would there be that slight haze during the day because of so many stoves and fireplaces going at night. No longer would there be those casual trips to Evergreen Walk with mom and Bella almost every day...visiting different stores, meeting new people and dogs. No longer would we be eating a myriad of different foods from different places as we tried to keep ourselves fed. Yes, many things that I enjoyed and some things that I didn't necessarily care for, had ended. And then it began...
The alarm was now going off again. The getting ready and making sure to have everything for the day began again. Leaving mom and Bella home alone began again. The stress of life began again....making sure mom had her medicine in the morning, making sure Bella had water and food before I left, driving on the highway in traffic, running around to stores or appointments after school. Even mom, who had no problems during the power outage, woke up Monday morning and before I was getting ready to leave for school said she could not find her glasses. I quickly tried to look for them, but could not find them. At some point in the morning my mom said something, when I asked what she said, she just told me that she was talking to the TV. Oh my! Yes, it began again. When I got back from school she still hadn't found them. I looked more thoroughly around the house and finally found them under her bed. Yes, things were getting back to normal, some ways good, some ways...well, a little stressful. Thankfully I have great memories to go back to. So ends our journey through Storm Alfred. It may be over, but will never be forgotten.
Lord, it's funny how we think we can't live without certain things, but when it comes down to it and we have no choice we make it. Then, it's funny that when those things come back, we are sometimes ready to go back to simpler times. Thank you for those simpler times, but thank you for the blessing and ease of things that we are able to experience and enjoy today.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Same and Different

Two different days...woke up the same way, ate the same breakfast, but before we went to the same, wonderful place, the second day brought about something different, which I will talk about later. We went into some of the same stores we had visited during the week. But Bella chose a couple of different stores, too. One store, called Ten Thousand Villages, was very interesting. They had beautiful jewelry(I think Bella takes after her mommy), and other interesting and different items from all over the world. The girls that worked in the store loved Bella, they loved her little outfit and thought she was adorable. This was such a neat little store because people from villages around the world make every item in the store. As the items are sold, part of the proceeds go back to those people and their villages to help them out. I had never heard of this store before, but there are actually three of them in Connecticut. They also have a website Each item has the place where the item was made on the price tag, so you have an idea of where the proceeds are going. Such a cool place! One of the girls said that this store is quite popular with dogs because they love the smells of the rawhide and grass-made gifts. Bella was really enjoying, but so was I. Nice find, Bella. Oh yea, and by the way, yes, I did buy a nice bracelet from this store, made in India. Bella also wanted to go into the Gap, where once again the workers commented on how cute she was. There was lady who came up to me in the store who didn't know dogs were allowed in the stores. I told her that not every store allowed dogs, but one of the reasons why I love Evergreen is because they have stickers on doors or windows of which stores allow dogs, and how they can be brought in. Some stores allow dogs to be on leash, while others would prefer only small dogs that can be held. This lady was excited to know that and said she would bring her small dog with her next time. The whole time I was talking to this lady, Bella was being so good. She also sashayed her little self into Talbot's (the girl has expensive taste), but after a little while I think even she realized this place might be a little much even for her. But once again, she was so well behaved. We both brought mom into Pottery Barn. I think we all enjoyed looking around in that store. As we were leaving a man with a tan much more orange (and I mean oompa loompa orange) than I have ever seen, with a plastic look to his face, commented on how cute Bella was in her outfit. Later we saw a small group that was strolling around with beautiful greyhounds, Bella was able to meet a couple of them. She wasn't quite as sure about some of them, but she didn't bark, just the smallest bit of a nervous growl escaped her. We also had three ladies come up to ask where we got Bella's outfit, one of them wanted to find something similar for her small dog. While one of the others questioned whether she was a bad owner because she didn't have a coat for her dog. Since her dog was bigger than Bella she never thought about getting it a coat. Then she noticed the greyhounds and many of them had coats on, too. So, now she was seriously wondering. We had a funny conversation and again Bella was a little lady. There was another lady while we were just walking around who went by and said that Bella was too cute to be believed...awww! But, the kicker was when we were walking and a little boy about 5 came up and asked if he could pet Bella. I admit I was a little hesitant, I even told the boy, that I wasn't sure how she would do, because she gets a little excited, but I would hold her and he could try. Dad and little sister were sitting close by, so I was praying she would be good. This little boy was great! He came up and held out his hand for Bella to smell, then petted her on the back and Bella.......just sat there and let him! Wow, who is this dog?! I didn't even have to hold her much. Then the little sister, who was about 2 or 3 came over and wanted to pet her too, I held my breath and prayed again. The big brother was adorable as he showed his little sister how to hold her hand out to Bella's nose. That's when it happened........the sweetest thing that I had ever seen! Bella put her little tongue out and licked the little girl's hand and also let her pet her for a bit. I must say, I was one proud parent at that point. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I had to breathe a sigh of thanks to the Lord for keeping her from barking at them or knocking them over because she was so excited. Boy, was that different from what I see when we're at home and people come in to see us, even when they do give her some attention, too. We went by the sweet little ones again and they both came over to pet her again, and again she was a little angel. The dad mentioned something about Bella's outfit, and the little boy told me he didn't know dogs could wear outfits...loved that! I told him that I found this one and had to get it for her. I thanked them for being so sweet and we said goodbye. I have to say, I was pretty much beaming as I got into the car. I hated to think this time might be ending soon. The first day we got home to more of the same, the same cold house, the same nightly routine. The second morning there was something a little different, as I mentioned earlier. After breakfast there were trucks that we saw on the street, they tagged some of the wires and then left. So, I realized there might be some changes at some point that day. That second day we also went back to the Chinese Restaurant before heading back home for dinner...more sweet and sour chicken and pineapple bubble tea with rainbow jelly, yummm! And this time as we headed home things were different. One of our neighbors from the street right off of our street, was walking up the street, we stopped the car to talk to her, and she told us her electricity had come back on. She wasn't sure if ours had yet, because she talked to another neighbor just a couple of houses down from us and they hadn't gotten their power yet. I pulled into the driveway with bated breath. Something looked a little different, I thought, but was it really what I thought it was? For the first time in over a week, there seemed to be light shining through the living room window. I still wasn't quite sure. So I quickly parked the car, as we walked to the door, yes, it was now confirmed, we did have our power back. I have to admit, I was a little saddened by the find. I was really going to miss the low stress life of the past week plus. We walked in to find the kitchen light and ceiling fan on. I definitely had to turn that fan off, it was already cold enough in the house. Even just having the light on seemed a little too much! Mom went right into her room to see if she could put her TV on. At first it didn't come on right away, but soon she got it and was so excited to get back to her Hallmark Channel. The first thing I did was charge my phone. It was quite a different night. I ended up sitting in the living room in the dark with a candle lit, I was going to miss that. It was back to reality, a reality, I wasn't sure I was ready to just jump back into yet. I must say even now, some nights I still sit in the living room with one candle on, just relaxing. So many great memories!
Now I know some may tease me, and some people I know already have teased me about my relationship with Bella. I know some people may think it's silly that I buy her clothes and treat her like my baby. I have had people say to me, "Stacey, it's only a dog." Well, to some people she may be just a dog, but to me she is my special darling. To me, she is a life saver. To me, she is my joy (our joy)! I also just have to share and ask, what is it that many women desire? From the time that we are young girls we desire to love and to be loved back. We desire to nurture and care, it's part of who we are. We desire to be needed in a special way. We desire to be fulfilled and proud of things we are able to do, and things and people we are able to take care of, to watch grow and develop. We desire to have something that we put our all into, whether it be our home, or our family, or possibly even our job. We desire to have a purpose. Many desire to be able to be a wife and mother. And as we think about the things that many women desire, we also have to realize there are some women who don't get to experience all of those things. But, for many women those desires are still there, but maybe we just don't have a husband or children to fulfill those desires. So we put those things into what we do have. So, yes, Bella is my baby. She has brought so much joy, youth, and laughter to this house. She has brought a purpose back to my mom. She makes me feel needed. She makes us feel so unconditionally loved. And for moments like those I experienced with her at Evergreen, she made me feel very proud. It gives me pleasure to nurture and care for her, to treat her special, and sometimes spoil her a little. I am the girl who always wanted a dog. Now I finally have one and I'm going to love on her as much as I can, so please don't think me silly. Bella has kept this household going, and I am so grateful for her! Well, that was more than I'm usually comfortable sharing. :)
Lord, it has been an amazing 9 days! There were so many wonderful memories made, so much special time I was able to spend with my two special girls. Thank you for taking care of us through all of this. Thanks for the memories. Thank you for electricity, even though I wasn't quite ready for it. Thank you for keeping all of us healthy and safe. Thank you for the joy I have to be able to take care of mom and Bella, for giving me a purpose. And even though it may not be the idea of "family" I was expecting to be taking care of at this point in my life, thank you for the privilege and for helping me to do it. I want to please you and take care of my family in a way that would honor you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Day 7: The Journey Continues

As Friday came, it was definitely a joy to see that the "prayer tree" was down. I could now safely leave my street without fear! The wire had even been moved to the side of the road. Now we could use both sides of the street again without fear of being hit by someone turning onto the street. Good day! We were on our way back to my friend Sharan's house. She welcomed us so kindly that even though they were there this time, mom still felt quite comfortable at the house again. Sharan's daughter took Bella for a walk, and both her son and daughter played with Bella while mom and I got our showers. Before coming over Sharan told me to bring over any laundry. Huge blessing... especially as there had been a couple of accidents during the week, and because I had been making mom wear double pj's, she was starting to run out of pj's and bedding. I was starting to wonder what I was going to do about that, but the Lord already had it all worked out. He's so good like that! Why do I doubt? After our nice, hot showers we had time to sit and fellowship as we waited for the clothes to get finished. Sharan and the kids were truly gracious hosts to us! Mom enjoyed two cups of hot chocolate while we waited, watched TV, and had a nice time of fellowship. Then because I wasn't finishing my hot chocolate fast enough, she also had the rest of mine. She was really enjoying herself, which of course made me happy, even if I did have to give up my hot chocolate! Bella was having a good time, too, but she just wanted to get down and go after their cute, little kitten. Chloe would make little appearances, then go into hiding, making Bella crazy! What a nice time, and more good socialization for mom and Bella! As we were leaving, I had mom finally meet Hudson. At first she was shocked and a little afraid at how big he was, but not long after, she was petting him and even leaning forward for a kiss. Because of Sharan, my mind became convinced of only one place to go to get our dinner before we headed home. That place was Joey Garlic's! That evening mom and I enjoyed some delicious chicken parmesan, then later on, some amazing fried dough! We spent another cold, but quiet and enjoyable night hanging out in the living room with each other, listening to talk radio and laughing with one another...and of course with Bella snuggled up by one of us! Could there be anything more enjoyable, especially when it just seems that all that we/I have been doing lately is running from one place to another. Sometimes life gets so busy that we don't often enough just get to sit and enjoy each other. These were just together times that we don't get often enough. Special times that I want to hold on to and remember, which is why I have been blogging like a mad woman about each individual day. I don't want to forget or miss anything! Life goes by and things change too quickly. The week was now over and the weekend was coming. Would it bring about the change that was expected and promised? Would we have our power by Sunday midnight? I secretly wouldn't have minded if we didn't. I know, crazy, huh?? Well, time would soon tell.
Lord, thank you for good friends that treat you like family! Thank you for knowing what we need and taking care of it before we even ask or think. Thank you for taking care of us through this crazy journey, that I seem to be enjoying a little too much. Thank you for the opportunity to keep these memories alive through blogging. And thanks for the special times!

Oh the Drama...

As the week went on...and on...and on...without power, people were slowly starting to lose patience. As we listened to talk radio, more and more people were complaining about the length of time the restoration process was taking. Some areas, including our own, hadn't even seen any trucks come to check out the damage. There were workers from other states who had come to help out, but at first many of them weren't given instructions as to where to go or what to do, so they had to just sit and wait. Of course I wasn't able to hear much news from our local stations about what was going on, but I did get updates through Facebook on my phone from one local station to have some idea. Shelters were filling up with people, people with young children or older adults in the home were trying to find places to go to get out of their cold homes. People were not happy. For our family, it was just another day to be together and find some more adventure at Evergreen Walk. We still had cereal, and no...not with the milk from all week! I bought some milk when I went to Whole Foods again. I filled a pan with snow and placed the milk in the pan! It was time to get a little creative about this no power thing. I also filled the ice container in the freezer with snow, to keep our little pints of ice cream cold.
We went to the Hallmark store in Evergreen to get some more candles for the house. I needed to make sure they were good ones, that smelled good, but would also last for a long time since we had them burning for so many hours. The wonderful sales lady introduced me to WoodWick Candles, the wicks are made of wood (hence the name WoodWick!), and the candle makes crackling sounds. They had great fragrances and I love things that are different! I also love the sounds of a crackling fire, so I had to get that candle. We enjoyed some more fun at Evergreen. It was great to see Bella socialize for a little bit with other dogs. She also did well in the stores we visited. Some proud moments for this dog owner! Those of you that know Bella, or have ever been to our house, will understand why. After a fun day of meet and greet, and a little shopping, we got some dinner and headed back home. Nothing had changed, well, maybe except for the fact that more neighbors were out of their houses enjoying the sun and one another's company. It was neat to see people checking on and helping one another. As, I was talking to a happened...for the very first time since the storm on Saturday, we saw CL&P on our street! Now to be fair, I have to admit that they were probably there before at some point, because Thursday morning I think it was, when I took Bella out, a cone had mysteriously been placed in front of the hanging wire at the end of the street. That had been the first sign to show that we hadn't been forgotten in our little dead end neighborhood. But... this was the first time I had seen them with my own eyes. They were in a minivan, checking the "prayer tree" and the different wires along the street that were down. There was hope! They left not long after, and soon after that, we were in for the night, under the blankets, in front of the candles. I was so excited to light my new WoodWick candle. It smelled wonderful and made those wonderful crackling sounds as promised, though we had a little trouble hearing them over the radio. When mom was getting ready for bed, I took Bella out one more time before bed, then put both of them snuggly in to bed. Not long after that, around 10, we started hearing loud noises. It wasn't generator sounds that we had been hearing plenty of lately, it wasn't sirens from police cars and fire trucks that we also heard plenty of that week. It was a different sound than any we had heard lately. I sprang out of bed, and flew like a flash to the window, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Well, it had nothing to do with reindeer. There was a man in a bucket way up in the sky, but as I watched him, he didn't really seem to fly. As I looked closer what I could see, were men finally cutting down the "prayer tree". Oh joy! (end of my crazy poem, sorry, just couldn't resist) I would no longer have to feel as if I were playing Russian Roulette every time I left our street! It's OK, cut away guys! I did get in bed later to rest up for another trip to my friend Sharan's house, this time we would actually have them as company. I wanted my mom to meet the kind people that offered their home and shower to us. I also really wanted her to meet their amazingly big, beautiful dog Hudson! So more adventures were yet to come!
Lord, thank you for another awesome day with mom and Bella. Thank you for allowing us to see some help coming our way. Thank you for these men and women who worked so hard, even into the late night to help take care of problems on so many different streets throughout the state. Thank you for those that came from other states to help, and bless them for their hard work. Thank you for this precious time to spend with mom and Bella, I'm really kind of enjoying it, Lord. Thank you for that!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A New Day

Wednesday did bring some new developments. Not quite what you might be thinking, though. It brought our first visitor after the storm. Our family friend Glenn came to check on mom and me. He and his wife had tried to come check on us on Sunday, but they couldn't get to us because roads were blocked. He wasn't quite sure where we lived, but he found us, and checked on us. That was such a kind blessing. He was also kind enough to offer us a chance to get warm by their fireplace at night. As much as Glenn and I like to give each other a hard time, I have to say it was a blessing to have him check on us and offer his home. I just really hope he never reads this, because he will endlessly tease me about saying he is a blessing! But he really was. OK, I've got to stop there before I make myself ill! We were also blessed by another family. My friend, Sharan invited us to her house to take a shower since she and her family were going to be out that day. That was the key to getting mom to go. We had other offers,but she was always hesitant. What a blessing to get a nice, hot shower! We also had a little entertainment while we were there. Though my friend and her family were gone, their adorable, new little kitty was there. Of course, as we did every day, we brought Bella with us, so to see the two of these go at it was so much fun! Chloe was in the clothes basket and Bella and I were on the floor next to it. Bella kept wanting to get at Chloe, but she let her know who was boss in HER house! She gave her a few good swipes, and mom and I couldn't help but laugh! At their antics. Had to take some pictures and videos, it was too great to pass up! At one point before we left mom was sitting in a chair, and somehow ended up with Bella on one leg and Chloe on the other. Does it get any better than a nice, hot shower, and cute animal entertainment? What a nice change of pace for the day! So thankful for the blessing this family provided for us. After our nice day, we went back home to more of the same evening routine. Oddly enough, I still wasn't tired of it,I enjoyed the time together, the sights, smells, and quiet sounds of special time spent together. It may have been at this point that we started hearing that this was going to be our way of life for a little longer. It was estimated that our area would probably have power restored by Sunday night at midnight. It was also around this time that my mom's sister started to become concerned about mom still being in such a cold house. She wanted to try to put us up in a hotel, she was concerned about mom's arthritis causing her problems. Mom (me too for that matter) didn't want to go anywhere. Plus, my mom's brother checked hotels in the area, and all were booked. We would have had to go a little way to find one that have room for us, but also that would allow Bella. So, we were going to continue to hang in there and see what the rest of the week would bring.
Lord, thank you for sweet friends that care, check on us, and offer their homes, etc. to us. Thank you for kind family members near and far who offer to take care of us, and also try to check on us. Thank you for hot showers. Thank you for playful animals that keep us laughing. Thank you for YOU, taking care of us, and blessing us with all of these things. You are so good!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

And So It Continued...

And so it continued both day and night no...oh well, sorry, slipped into Christmas mode for a second. Of course it's not that hard to do since so many places have already had Christmas decorations out for a couple of weeks! I mean, I love Christmas as much as anyone, if not more, but let's have a chance to remember to be thankful first, just for a moment anyway. OK, a little side-tracked there, so now back to the real post, hee hee.
But it really did continue...when I woke up Monday, there was still a cold chill in the air and no lights to greet my eyes. The same morning routine took place since I had already been informed that there would be no school. After our cereal for breakfast (since the milk was still fine), we just went to sit in the living room. I had my phone charging in the car. I hate to admit this, but it seemed that I could smell a little of the exhaust as we sat there listening to the radio. Mom just kept wanting to rest, so that made me nervous, thinking of CO poisoning. I figured it would be a good idea to get out of the house and do something. We got ready, and along with Bella, got into the car to at least drive around or something. This way, I could charge my phone without possibly killing us, we could get warm, find something to eat, and get out of the house to do something. Streets were blocked by trees all around us. I thought of possibly just going back into West Hartford to see what we could see and do. It was a much different scene from the day before. My town still had nothing going on, 100% of the town was still without power. As I got to South Main Street in West Hartford, there was more traffic than I have ever seen. Not only was there lots of traffic, but it wasn't moving much at all. Some of the cars going in the opposite direction were telling people to turn around because there was no gas at the THREE gas stations up ahead. I couldn't believe that, first of all, were all these people really hoping to get gas?? I wasn't. Thankfully, I had gotten mine the day before! Then, were all three stations really out of gas? Well, since we weren't getting far, I chose to go down a side street and head back the other way. Still driving under trees and wires and around fallen trees everywhere, I ended up going to another town. That ended up being the best thing. I decided to see if there was any power by the mall in Manchester. There was lots of life over there. Again, there were super long lines for the gas stations, thankfully I already had mine! As I drove farther, it hit me, the perfect place to go would be Evergreen Walk. It's a wonderful, outdoor, walk-around-type mall. The reason it was so perfect for us, is because we had Bella with us, and this is a dog-friendly mall. Not only could Bella walk around freely, but she could also visit some of the shops with me. There are also several benches everywhere, so when mom got tired of walking she could sit out in the sun. We went into L'Occitane because that's where Bella chose to take us first. She enjoyed her time in there, getting a little treat, and then smelling all of the wonderful smells. From that point on, she was pretty much ready to try any store to see if maybe she could get more treats. I also decided to buy some yummy cupcakes from Ganache! We had an amazing time walking around and relaxing in the sun little family. After eating, we went back home for another night of the same. One of the things I started noticing more of that night were the amazing smells of fireplaces and wood stoves going. I love that smell! We had another relaxing, cold night with the candles going, and the radio on...and of course, mom's ice cream. We continued with another cold night, but under those covers, you would never know.
And it continued more, Tuesday was more of the same, no school, eating cereal for breakfast, driving around, going to Evergreen Walk, walking around, meeting new people and dogs, finding something good to eat, going home, having a nice dinner, bundling up, sitting in the living room with candles glowing, listening to talk radio, and of having her ice cream. Another cold night...would a new day bring about any new developments?
Lord, I know I should probably have been pretty tired of being in the cold and dark, but thank you for helping me to handle it. Thank you for mom, Bella, and I doing OK. Thank you for great places like Evergreen Walk where we could all spend some special times together. The simple life has brought some simple pleasures! Thank you for that!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Storm Alfred, Part 2

Daybreak Sunday came all too soon, after a sleep-interrupted night. The sound of the continuous cracking and crashing of branches all around had me on edge all night. After reluctantly peeling the warm, cozy covers off, I immediately felt the cold air hit me as I went in to wake mom and Bella up. Mom's first order of business, as has been her habit lately before getting up, was to turn on the TV. Of course she was surprised when it wouldn't come on. I had to remind her we had no power. She sadly, and also quite reluctantly got out of bed. I then took Bella out into "the unknown". I didn't know what to expect when we got outside. I didn't know how many inches we had gotten and I didn't know how many fallen limbs I would see on or around our house or street. When we got outside, oh the sights we saw! It was a beautiful, bright day, with lots of sunshine. I had to make a little path for Bella from the porch to the yard as the snow was a bit too deep for her to trudge through. As we trudged off of the porch onto the driveway, and she found her place of relief, I was greeted by those same cracking, crashing sounds that had brought me concern throughout the night. As I started to look around, I couldn't help but think of how pretty all the snow-covered trees looked. One thing I did notice though, is that they were much more weighed down than I was used to seeing them. I could now clearly see that limb that came down in the backyard. I also noticed a couple of smaller branches that had also fallen in back. I shuffled through the snow so Bella and I could be nosy and check things out in front of the house and along the street. The neighbor had a couple of big limbs down in the front yard right in front of her door. Some of the wires were heavily weighed down with snow as well. At the end of the street (the only way into and out of our street), there was a huge part of a tree that was leaning on some wires and there was a wire hanging part way onto the road. And here I was thinking the cracking and crashing was simply big branches and limbs. Definitely didn't expect to see a big part of a tree like that!
After getting some pictures, Bella and I went back inside to see if mom was up and to share with her what we had seen. We had our cereal for breakfast, as cold as it was I knew the milk would still be good. Mom was also hoping to have her toast with egg. Once again I had to remind her we didn't have power, so that wasn't on the menu for the morning. After resting for a little while I needed to get the driveway and porches cleaned off. I took the cover off the car and started shoveling the driveway. The snow was pretty heavy, but I figured I would just take it easy and go slowly and carefully. Yes, we still have a snow blower, and I was pretty sure it still worked fine. I was just fearful of walking all the way back to the shed under those heavily snow-covered tree branches. Some were hanging pretty low. And...if I am going to be completely honest...I was also a little afraid of the possibility of mice scattering out of the shed all over my feet. OK, there I said it! But I think BOTH reasons were quite reasonable fears. The neighbor across the street was kind enough to go back to the shed with me. As he was taking the snow blower out he realized that the tires didn't have much air. Instead of taking the time to put air in the tires, or having me do it, he just kindly offered to use his snow blower to clean our driveway! That was a great blessing! As the day wore on and there was still no power, I realized although I had planned not to drive under that ominous-looking tree, it was going to have to happen. For one thing, I needed to charge my phone, and I could only do that in my car, BUT, my gas tank was also almost on empty, and we only had cold Chinese food in the house. I got in the car to go up the street to the gas station to get some gas and possibly grab something to eat. As I was heading out, I was shocked to be blocked on one street by a huge tree across the road. As I kept driving I was shocked by the trees and wires down all over. I got to the gas station up the street, there were a few cars there. I went to put my card in and just noticed that the screen was blank. Someone came out from the store and told me they didn't have power, so there was no getting gas from there. I drove into the center of town to see if I could get gas from the station there, but the line was unbelievable! It seemed to me by the time I found the end of the line and got in line to wait, I would have probably ended up being on empty before I got there. I kept driving. I drove into West Hartford and though there was a bit of traffic at the big intersection I was able to get into one of the stations. I did have to wait a little, but there was only one car in front of granted the car just so happened to be a Cadillac Escalade, and unbeknownst to me, not only were they filling up the car, but also about 4 or 5 huge gas containers! But I was right behind them...on the property...unlike I would have been at the other station. This is pretty important information because as I got comfortably behind them waiting my turn, I saw the station manager go out to let the cars on the street know that they didn't have anymore gas. Wow, another huge blessing! As I pulled up to the pump, an older man on foot came with a gas container to the same pump and swiped his card to start to put gas in his container. Those that know me, know...I of course said nothing, though I was a little miffed. I just got out of my car and waited. The transaction didn't go through, he tried again and it still didn't work. As he went to go check with an attendant, I decided to go ahead and try my card, it was my pump anyway. I had no problem. He came back over and asked me in a cute little accent if I could help him. I tried to swipe his card and it still didn't take. Well, again, if you know me, I chose to offer to use my card so he could get the gas he needed. So, I swiped my card and it worked again. He was so thankful, he told me I could take the $40 he had. I wouldn't take the 40, but since he insisted, I told him I would just take $20. When he finished filling up the container it came out to $23. That worked out great! It also ended up being another blessing because, I don't normally have cash on me, and with the power out I couldn't go get money out. Also, some stores could only take cash for payment because of all the power problems. As I left the gas station I went across the way, thinking about possibly getting some food from Bertucci's. It looked a little busy, and then it hit me! I could go into Whole Foods where they have a great hot bar. I got some great food for mom and I. I also had to try some gelato. This would have to satisfy mom's ice cream craving for the night. I didn't even have to wait in line, paid for our wonderful dinner and dessert and headed back home...under trees and lines, and around fallen tree parts. We enjoyed some delicious food, and then later as we sat in the candlelit living room, bundled up, I brought out the Gelato. Mom enjoyed her Caramel Apple Gelato, and I enjoyed my Basil Gelato. Not long after we got into our cold beds and bundled up for another cold night. Will they try to have school Monday? If we don't have our lights back by then, I will not be leaving mom and Bella in a cold house all day. Only time would tell...
Thank you, Lord for so many neat blessings today! From protecting our house, allowing me to safely get around, get gas, help someone else, and get some delicious food and dessert. Even though we don't have power yet, I am enjoying the nights together sitting in the living room with mom and Bella, special times and memories.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Storm Alfred, Part 1

Yes, Storm Alfred was coming. Now don't get me wrong, this is New England, the issue was not a snowstorm in the fall. That's happened before, not a problem. The issue was the fact that there was the potential of several inches of wet, heavy snow that was going to be falling on trees that hadn't yet lost all of their fall leaves. All of this was also supposed to be accompanied by some strong winds as well, which was cause for a little concern. The concern was that it could bring some power lines down.
Well, as I stated in my last post, I was hoping to get to the mall for a little bit Saturday afternoon, but once the sleet started, I changed my mind. If I took longer in the mall than expected who knows what I would have come out to find as I tried to make my way back home. I'm not a fan of trying to drive on slick roads. Since I was already over by the mall, I just decided to head to the Chinese restaurant over that way so I could get my staple sweet and sour chicken. I was also looking forward to this specific restaurant so I could get some pineapple bubble tea with rainbow jelly! As I was inside waiting for my food, I checked Facebook and saw people commenting on the snow coming down with huge snow flakes. I looked out the window and there was just the same little bit of sleet. I looked out just a few minutes later and there were those big, huge snowflakes everyone was talking about. Those flakes were really starting to come down. By the time I got out to my car there was a pretty good little coating on it. I carefully drove home through the snow, enjoying the beauty of seeing it, not necessarily driving in it.

I made it home safely, got the cover put on the car, went inside to eat our delicious dinner, and then sat back to see what this storm would bring. Would it be as bad as they said? Between 4 and 5 that afternoon the lights went out. OK, maybe they were at least right about some power outages. I gathered together the candles, lighters, flashlights, batteries, and lanterns...just in case. It was starting to get dark and who knows how long the power would be out. Maybe it was somewhere around this time that my senses started to become truly heightened. As it started to get dark, I started lighting the candles on the mantle in the living room. I love the look of candlelight, especially when it's dark. Along with the beauty of the candles came the awesome smells from some of them that filled the house. As night came on and it started getting a little chillier in the house, we got bundled up in our pj's, blankets, gloves, etc. I got mom's radio out of her room and put it on talk radio so we could keep up with what was going on. As we sat there listening to the host of the talk radio station and the people calling in, we saw a few flashes of light. I figured it must have been a transformer that was sparking-though I'm sure some of those flashes may have been from a transformer-not long after a couple of flashes, I also heard some thunder...snow thunder. So, as we sat there watching the candlelight flickering in the room, smelling the wonderful smell of the candles, listening to the sound of the radio, bundled up to keep from getting too cold, we saw flashes possibly from transformers, and flashes of lightning and heard snow thunder. Later that night mom was needing her daily fix of ice cream even though she was quite cold. I figured we may as well indulge ourselves with some, just in case power didn't come back would have melted anyway. So we had a little ice cream. As I took Bella out to go to the bathroom before bed, there were a few good inches of snow on the ground. It was a little hard for her to get through, so thankfully we didn't stay out for long. I was a little nervous about the lightning and possible sparking transformers, so I hoped and prayed she would be quick. Once I got mom her medicine, and put her and Bella to bed, wrapped up with covers and blankets galore, I went back to blow out the candles around the house and get to bed myself. I finally got to bed, but it wasn't the peaceful sleep I was expecting that night. It had nothing to do with the cold, because once I was under my comforter and blankets with my sweatshirt on, I was fine. No, what kept me awake were the sounds I kept hearing throughout the night. As I put my head on the pillow, I kept waking up to cracking sounds, sounds of tree limbs breaking off of trees. It's hard to explain the actual craziness of the sounds, especially when they were just so constant, and seemed so close. Quite a few times during the night I would jump up to check and make sure none of them were coming down on or too near our house. We have a few trees in the backyard. Mom's bedroom is on that side of the house, so I had to check to make sure they would be safe. At one point in the night I did see a decent sized limb that fell in the backyard, but it was farther back, thankfully just missing our shed. What a wild night! Never have I experienced anything quite like that. I could only imagine what daybreak would bring...
Lord, you already knew all along what was going to happen with this storm. What a comfort, peace, and blessing to know that no matter how crazy things were all around us, you were watching over us and in control, protecting us the whole time. Help me to remember that even in other areas of my are in control, you protect and you care. Thank you!