"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Confession Friday - It's a Good Thing!

Forgive me for skipping a couple of Confession Fridays, but hey, life happens. As I have said before, my blog, my choice, and the fact is my life just sometimes does not meet my self-inflicted time constraints. Oh, well.

Now for today's confession is -  Martha Stewart is living my life.

No, really. Here's how I figure it.  I have always loved to create - just about anything!. So for argument's sake, I place in evidence the following:  I tried to hand sew a doll's dress before I was five, emphasis on TRIED....my mother who was a wonderful seamstress thought I was so talented!  I know because I overheard her telling my aunt! Never mind that I had cut it too small and it wouldn't fit over the doll's head, much less her body. Someone gave me a metal potholder loom when I was about 6 or 7 and from that point on, there was never a shortage of woven potholders in our kitchen!  At about the same time, one of my wonderful aunts taught me how to embroider pillow cases and dresser scarves. Then I taught myself how to knit when I was about 12 years old.  I made scarves, lots and lots of scarves.  At summer camp, the crafting classes were my fave! My dad even got me a pocket knife one summer upon returning from camp and I was enthralled with wood carving, even though it wasn't much more than just whittling on a stick.  I can't believe he trusted me not to cut one of my fingers off, or for that matter, my whole hand! One year at Christmas I got a wood burning kit.  You plug in the tool, attach a metal tip to the end and then it gets so hot you can burn designs into wood. It's a wonder that I have any fingerprints left on my fingers since I burned them so much with that nifty but dangerous tool.  My father had given me a space at his work bench in the garage, which is quite heady stuff for a 10 year old, knowing that I had the power to burn the house down should I leave the wood burning tool unattended or forgot to unplug it when finished. Fortunately, my childhood home is still standing!

Once I got to college, I self-taught myself to crochet. Who in their right mind has time to crochet in college? Then, as a young married woman, I bought Woman's Day, Better Homes and Gardens, and Good Housekeeping in search of crafty ideas. Remember, that was before the internet where ideas abound! My repertoire included fabric wreaths, painted Christmas ornaments, baby quilts, salt dough ornaments and bread baskets, curtains, pillows, afghans, terrariums..you name it!  I even sewed my first child's layette.  For five years in my 30's,  I took folk art lessons and started a small company that did home shows.  My painting partner and I described ourselves as"the Tupperware parties of folk art."  I did that for three years and when my partner was still painting one Christmas morning to make a delivery that day, we decided enough was enough.  After that, I sold art to homes, offices and designers from the largest commercial art gallery at that time in Atlanta. About 10 years ago I started scrapbooking and it is still my passion.  
I have drawn, glued, glittered, stuffed, cut, sewn, knitted, crocheted, painted, embroidered, woven, knotted, cross-stitched, stenciled, beaded, scherenschnitted (the German word for fancy paper cutting), embossed, inked, stamped, appliqued, baked, colored, dyed, wired, wrapped, spritzed, sponged, misted, braided, altered and just about any other craft or technique there is.

At the same time I  pursued different crafts, I was also learning about decorating, color schemes, styles, floor treatments, painting techniques, you name it.  The difference between curtains and drapes.  The one color that every room should have at least one thing in it of that color despite what other colors are primarily used?  How to hang a picture, at what level.  Groupings of odd numbers.  How to display collections. Wainscoting, beadboard, judges panels. Barristers cases.  Andirons.  Roman shades.  But let me assure you my house is no showcase.  Things such as money and being thrifty make sure of that!  My decorating style is, shall we say, eclectic?  Some people might better describe it as yardsale/thriftstore chic. No danger of my home being in a decorating magazine, but despite that I still love to decorate.

And then there was cooking.....now I am not a great cook.  My daughter is a fabulous cook, by the way.  But me, not so much.  But I can dream, can't I? When I took first year Home Economics in high school, I talked my team into making a baked fish dish, complete with capers, for an assignment when everyone else was making things like grilled cheese sandwiches. And it turned out delicious, even if I do say so myself.  It was a dish that I think Martha would have chosen. The teacher was quite impressed and my group got an A, despite the fact that the aroma of baking fish permeated the Home Ec classroom and drifted down the hall into other rooms.  The fish smell lingered in that wing of the school for several days.I read cookbooks for fun.  And I was watching cooking shows before there was the Food Channel.  Julia Child was wonderful to watch. Natalie Dupree. Justin Wilson.  Heck, even the Galloping Gourmet! 
I explored pairing wines with cheese.For a little while I kept a wine record of what wines we had tried and liked.  How do you properly pour wine into a glass?  What is the difference between an omlet and a frittata?  Believe me when I tell you I am not an expert cook of any form or fashion. My family can attest to that. Let's just suffice it to say that I have a curious mind and I have to constantly learn things!

Ok, so I have established my love to craft, decorate, and semi-cook.  Now we get to the Martha part of the argument.....

I became aware of Martha (forgive me, but I call her by her first name because I feel I know her so well.  We are like long, lost sisters, kindred spirits, you know....) when I was in my 30's, I think, and before she was MARTHA STEWART, the brand.  If memory serves me well, I either saw her for the first time on The Today Show or Late Night with David Letterman. There may have been a review in the paper of one of her first cookbooks or decorating books.  Oh, wait, that would be "lifestyle" books, I stand corrected.  Slowly but surely Martha insinuated herself into our society and culture and before we knew it, viola, she was the consummate authority on entertaining, cooking, decorating, and, yes, even crafts.

Martha started with a catering company.  From what I understand, she was driven to succeed.  Weekends and holidays are a catering company's prime times but rob you of family time.  I think she had a partner and they parted ways, just as she and her husband did likewise.  Martha began to write books.  She syndicated a TV show that featured her home in Connecticut.  She developed her magazine, Martha Stewart's Living.  Then she had her own company that went public on the NY Stock Exchange. Her company and her legend grew and grew and grew.  She needs very little sleep, like Thomas Edison.  She is a marketing genius.  I have heard, as we all have, of her notorious demands for excellence and perfection from her employees.  She takes a lot of criticism for that.  But if YOUR name went on every product, every TV show, every radio show, every book, every label, every magazine, any and everything that her company makes, wouldn't YOU?  Never mind that little incidence of insider trading and going to prison to lying to the Feds.  Martha spent her time and paid her dues, hit the ground running when she got out and hasn't missed a beat. She has made her fortune on four little words: "It's a good thing!"

Here's the thing about Martha - you either love her or hate her.  On any given day, I love her.  However, I realize that Martha probably does very little crafting and cooking and decorating on her own anymore.  God knows she is rich beyond anyone's imagination.  And what appears on her TV shows and in her magazines (now plural publications), Martha hasn't personally created.  Her multitudes of staff come up with the ideas and create and cook and develop recipes and decorate.  And some of those crafts recently just aren't cutting the grade for me anymore.  I get emails from Martha almost daily showing me a "new" craft to try and there are things that I was making in grammar school that she tells me that I should use in my home.  For instance, recently THIS is what Martha sent me in an email complete with instructions and this lovely description:

Rock Frog

Transform your rock collection into painted companions.

Rock collection? Rock collection? How many people do you know that have a rock collection and want to do this?  I am so certain that Martha has a collection of these sitting in her lovely bathrooms at her multi-million dollar home in the Hamptons.

DIY Piggy Bank

Save in style with this bank made from household items.

See what I mean about love her or hate her?  I mean, the woman is getting wealthy by the day telling women across the nation that they should spend their time making this!  Really, is this where Martha keeps her spare change?

Let's face it...Martha and her staff are slipping!

Just for fun, let's look at one more:

For your lovely Christmas decor!  Is it a reindeer?  Is it a dog?  Is it a reindog?  A dogdeer?  I'm not quite sure, but I do know that it can't be a child's toy since the antlers pose a danger to a toddler's eyes and the ornament shards would definitely cut flesh should the child who was so lucky to receive this as a gift drop the deer...uh, dog....uh, mutant. Not so good, Martha, not so good.

So that love, hate thing I was speaking of?  When I see projects like those above or see on Martha's calendar that is published each month in her Living magazine that she is going to prune her apple trees, I think, "Sure, you are Martha.  Pay no attention to the gardening crew with the ladders and pruning saws behind the curtain."   I'm just not feeling the love, you know what I mean?

But hey, I still think that given the right circumstances and conditions, maybe, just maybe I could have been Martha Stewart.  With the right drive, the right financial circumstances, some great networking, it would be me living the high life and being the lifestyle guru of an entire nation!  And I promise you all, that if I were the nations foremost expert in crafting, I would never, ever suggest that you make Rock Frogs or Reindogs. And I forgive Martha for the fact that she is obviously running out of ideas.  Me, I have lots and lots of ideas to share!

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go work on those handmade, crocheted, painted, glittered, and sponged Halloween skull decorations that will take me weeks to make, even though Martha tells me that I should whip them out in a matter of minutes. After all -  It's a good thing!

P.S. Dear Martha:  I still love you, despite that calendar thing.  Can I come hang out with you for a day?  Love, Pam

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Balancing Act

Tonight marks the Autumnal
Equinox, the beginning of fall, at 11:09 p.m. EST to be exact.  It is a balance of night and day, light and dark.  It marks the exact time that the position of our sun at the equator is an equal distance from both the North and South poles, creating a balanced 24 hour day of 12 hours darkness and 12 hours of light.  From this point until the Winter Solstice in December, the nights will lengthen and the days grow shorter.

Ancient civilizations celebrated this day long before there was modern science to explain the changing of the seasons. They recognized the mysteries of our world and erected amazing structures like Stonehenge to mark the passing of time and seasons, always with the same theme of balance and wonder.

As we glided through the waning days of summer this year and slid from August into September, I could begin to see and feel the shifting of nature, just like our ancient ancestors.  The hummingbirds feed incessantly at the red nectar that hangs outside my breakfast room window.  There has been a noticable difference the past few weeks in the sunlight with the golden hue that seems to surround the trees with a gauzy haze.  And this year, tomorrow's first official day of Autumn will be marked with the harvest moon, the first full moon of the equinox.  What gifts!   

So Nature is starting its restful time, a time to restore and recuperate.  So it is with me.  I love the fall season with its changes of leaves and hazy sunlight, bright azure skies and crisp nights, ripe apples, pumpkins and scarecrows, hikes in the woods, the smell of fireplace smoke and burning leaves, the first time I put on a favorite sweater or sweatshirt.  But it goes further than that.  It is my own personal time of reassessing my life, a drawing in of myself, of contemplating all that comprises my world.  To put it another way, to restore my own balance of self. 

"Women need real moments of solitude and self-reflection to balance how much of ourselves to give away." ~ Barbara DeAngelis

Our lives are all balancing acts.  As in nature, we ebb and flow to natural and seasonal rhythms, but we are often spun off course by the rest of the world and all that happens around us and to us and by events we can and cannot control.  We can get off kilter so very easily.  Sometimes it is difficult to bring our lives back to center in order to focus on ourselves and those around us.  We have to take the time, no - that's not right - we have to MAKE the time to listen to that inner voice longing for personal balance.

"Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day." ~ Robert Fulghrum

So here is my request to each of you this week as fall begins - tonight as the darkness of autumn arrives, MAKE the time to walk outside, even if only for a few moments.  Look into the night sky and soak in the Harvest Moon and celebrate the coming season.  Vow to listen to your own inner voice that tells you what you need and want from life.  Find the balance we all so desperately seek.  Refresh your zeal for life in the upcoming months of fall as we approach the season of gratitude and giving. 

"The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life, acknowledge the great powers around us and in us.  If you can do that, and live that way, you are really a wise (wo)man."~ Euripedes

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Welcome Mat is Ready - Come on in!

The welcome mat is out, so for those of you who are here for the first time, come in and join the party.

First of all, a great big THANKS to Debbie, for sharing  my blog with her followers on LOVE THE DECOR.  The world of blogging is fascinating to me and since I started mine just this year in June, I have had a wonderful time getting acquainted with people from all over, Debbie included, who by the way, is a great swap partner!  It truly is a small world!

I began Late to the Party as a way to express myself and to convey the variety of things that I find interesting and unusual.  I have always loved to write and thought this would be an excellent way to show the world what I like, what I think and what makes me tick. The way I look at life is sometimes 180 degrees different than most people and that's okay.  I hope I give people that read Late to the Party something to think about. Besides that, it is great therapy for me!

As for my personal life beyond the blogging world, I am 58 years old but I certainly don't feel that old!  I have been married to a wonderful man, Ed, for 38 years and have three grown daughters (one here in GA, one in South Carolina, and one in Vancouver, Canada), two wonderful sons-in-law and five grandchildren, one of whom has Autism. I work for the Georgia House of Representatives as an administrative assistant for two committee chairmen.  I LOVE my job, even though during the legislative session months of January, February, March and April, it can be very hectic and chaotic.  I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, which presents its own problems, but I won't allow it to define me.  And over the past year I have lost 107 pounds, started hiking and am going to hike for the first time on the Appalachian Trail in October.  All in all, life is so very good and I am blessed - blessed with family near and far, with friends old and new, with hearth and home, with relatively good health and a curious mind, and blessed with a God that loves me unconditionally.  What more can a girl ask for?

So make yourself at home and explore at your leisure.  I invite you to become a follower and we will laugh and cry and ponder the universe and all that makes life worthwhile together!  And PLEASE feel free to leave your comments when you do!

I leave you with this: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another 'What? You too?  I thought I was the only one!'" ~C.S. Lewis

Have a wonderful day!  PAM

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September Word of the Month

"Whatever we are waiting for - peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance - it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart." ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

About fifteen or sixteen years ago, I was having a difficult time.  My husband's business had failed two weeks before Thanksgiving.  And when I say failed, I mean it in the most drastic terms I can.  There were no other job prospects at the time for Ed, and I was forced to go back to work full time after being a stay at home mom for 20 years, except for the occasional part time jobs I had dallied with over that time.  We had depleted what little savings we had and had taken out a home equity line that we owed thousands in trying to save the business. I went to a food bank for food for Thanksgiving dinner.  Ed quickly secured a job working part time at a department store for the holidays but our income had been significantly reduced.  Luckily, I found a job within a couple of months, but it was a long time before we would financially recover.  It was a long-lasting pity party and I felt deprived and discouraged.  But, as in most cases, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it was about that time that I became aware of Simple Abundance, a book by Sarah Ban Breathnach. 

The premise of Ms. Breathnach's book is this:  we can live abundantly if we have these things in our lives - gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty and joy.  The book is written to follow for one year, each day there is an entry to read.  At the time, I did not have the money to buy the book.  A co-worker heard me talking about this book and the next day she presented me with her copy that she had never used.  And thus began my journey for living abundantly.  As it turned out, I was already doing many of the things Ms. Breathnach prescribed.  It was up to me to ramp it up.  So I dedicated myself to reading and putting in action these principles.  I wrote in the margins of my book. When that year was over, I did the book all over again!  And several years after that, I worked the book again when we once again hit rough times.  I have been known to pull the book out when I am depressed or having a hard time, just to read my margin notes and to remind myself of what is really important in life and what my thoughts  and desires were at the time.

So what is the definition of abundance?  Abundance is a noun meaning 1) a copious supply; a great amount or 2) fullness or benevolence or 3) affluence.   

Believe me when I say, I was not living abundantly.

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie

I started a gratitude journal and wrote down 5 things daily that I was thankful for.  I looked for simple things - a cup of hot cocoa, my bed, my children, my car, a hug, a kind word from a friend.   I began to think my life wasn't so awful after all.  Even though I thought I had been living a simple life, I sought simplicity. So what if the neighbors went on their 3rd vacation this year, or had two new cars in their driveway? I began to think differently - a pot of beef stew and some cornbread can be a feast,  a day trip can be just as fun as a vacation.......I began to learn how to say "no" to things I didn't want to do, events I didn't want to participate in, to concentrate on what I had, not what I was missing.  There is a mantra that Ms. Breathnach teaches in Simple Abundance: "All I need is all I have."  If I never bought another thing, I would be fine.  It dawned on me that  most of what I bought was what I wanted, not just needs.

"Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend... when we choose not to focus on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the abundance that's present / love, health, family, friends, work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure / the wasteland of illusion falls away and we experience Heaven on earth."~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Now, fifteen years later, I am still on the path to Simple Abundance.  I do have all the principles that I started out seeking.  Gratitude - there isn't a day that passes that I don't find something to savor, to enjoy, to express my thankfulness over.  Simplicity - Don't sweat the small stuff.  Revel in it. Enjoy all those things that seem so trite and  insignificant. Order -  I'm not a perfect housekeeper.  Housework is way over rated in my book, but I strive to have less chaos in my house and in my life.  This does not mean there isn't serendipity.  In fact, there is more of that than I have ever had.   Harmony - most days my life rocks along pretty steadily.  There is a cadence to my life.  Beauty - I am surrounded by the beauty of my home, the nature outdoors.  I write, I scrapbook, I paint, I listen to music.  Joy - I find great joy in life, in my family and friends, simple things, fun activities, small mundane things.  Does that mean my life is perfect?  Absolutely not.  Do I get down and engage in pity parties?  Absolutely, yes.  Humans are like that and I am hopelessly flawed. 

But here's the thing I learned about abundance - the less I concentrated on what I didn't have, the more I got.  Not necessarily tangible, physical items, but my life grew richer and fuller!  I have found if I have "needs" and even "wants", they usually appear in some form or fashion.  My cup is overflowing with "a copius amount" of people that make me happy, "a great amount" of love and friendship, "fullness" of life and interests, "benevolence" of strangers and angels walking among us, and "affluence" in the form of plenty of material things.  I was asked to write a short bio recently by a new friend since she is going to feature my blog on her blog and the final line of my bio is this:  "All in all, life is so very good and I am blessed - blessed with family near and far, with friends old and new, with hearth and home, with relatively good health and a curious mind, and blessed with a God that loves me unconditionally. What more can a girl ask for?"

To end this, I have the perfect example of abundance!  Remember when I told above about a co-worker from years ago giving me her unused copy of Simple Abundance?  Well, I have a friend who has been going through a particularly trying and depressing time recently.  She, too did not have the extra cash to buy the book when I told her about Simple Abundance, and I did not want to lend her mine since I had written all my personal notes and observations in it.  Within a matter of just a few days, laying on a table at a yard sale was an unused copy of none other than Simple Abundance which I obtained for a whopping 25 cents!  It's funny how that works!  Talk about abundance!

There you have it - September's word of the month - Abundance.  And remember that the last part of that word is "dance".  So this is my challenge to you all: 
"....dance like there's nobody watching, love like you'll never be hurt, sing like there's nobody listening, and live like it's heaven on earth. -William W. Purkey 

Live abundantly!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I have struggled this week in making time for Confession Friday, so forgive me that I may wait till next week to confess.  It seems to be a week of remembrance, first with James' birthday and, of course, today remembering 9-11 and those whose lives were so tragically lost.  So I think that tonight, as September 11th and the ninth anniversary of that horrible day winds down, I will share with all of you my thoughts.

Today has been a normal, perfectly wonderful day for me and Ed.  We went out as we do most Saturdays, stopped by Starbucks, then we hit the yard sales.  Later in the day I went to Goodwill and to the grocery store.  I talked to one of my daughters, my sister and my friends, all pretty mundane stuff.  Yet, as we traveled around Peachtree City and Newnan, GA, it struck me how very fortunate and blessed we were to have this normality, this routine day, just as we had the day before and the day before that, and so on.  I thought of those families whose lives were forever changed on September 11th, 2001, and how they would wish in their wounded hearts to spend one more normal day with their loved ones who were doomed to perish that day.  I thought of children who lost parents, and moms and dads that lost sons and daughters, friends that lost friends, husbands and wives that lost their life partners.  I thought of those who are left behind that have lost hope and faith in God and the human race or those that have found it.  I think of a nation that has been forever changed and how we are left with the questions of why and the uneasy feeling of when the next attack will take place.  Because it will, whether tomorrow or next week or next year or next decade. 

So here is what I am left with tonight with 30 minutes of this day remaining:  I am grateful.  I am grateful that I live in a country that has men and women of such courage that each and every day they get up, don the uniform of a policeman or firefighter and rush into burning buildings or chase bad guys and that they are willing to put their lives on the line for me and you, just as those NYC policemen and firefighters did that day for people they never knew.  I am grateful for a country that has such stellar young men and women who volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces, to protect us against an enemy I pray we will never see on these shores, who protect our freedom in far away places that many of us can't even locate on a map.  I am grateful that in this country we can live and travel where and when we want without the fear of war and oppression.  I am grateful that this country is still, as President Ronald Reagan described it in his first inaugural address, "this last and greatest bastion of freedom".   I am grateful that the American dream still lives, despite the economic hard times we have seen this past few years.  I am grateful that I live in a nation that will not forget those who died on Sept. 11th, 2001. And  I am most grateful for normal, ordinary days like today, Sept.11, 2010.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold                             
Her hardest hue to hold
Her early leaves a flower
But only so an hour
Then leaf subsides to leaf
So Eden sank to grief
So Dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.

Indulge me, dear readers, a more personal note.  Today I want to talk about someone who was one of the finest persons, if not the best, I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  James, our son-in-law, would have marked his 35th birthday today.  Our family will never be the same without him and we all mark his absence when we are together. Since he is much on my mind today, I want to share my thoughts with you.  I wrote these remarks to honor his gravesite Fathers Day, June 2005, when, at six months, our grief was raw and overwhelming.  What I wrote for that day still serves his memory well after almost six years of his being apart from us. Thank you for reading and say a prayer in James' memory, if you will.

The first day we met James was Thanksgiving of 1998.  The moment that James walked through my front door at Marian Trail, shook my hand and looked me in the eyes, I knew that he would marry Gabriel.  I told Ed later that night as we were preparing for bed "that boy is going to be our son-in-law." I don't know exactly how to describe it, but from the very first, James and I had a bond.  Maybe it was kindred souls that have been wounded in childhood that recognized each other automatically.  Maybe it was our warped sense of humor.  Maybe it was God.  All I know is that James became in such a short time the son I did not have.  I have often described it as "not my son by birth, but son of my heart."

James affected us all.  Matt told Gabe that Thanksgiving night that now seems like a lifetime away, that before, she had brought home boys for us to meet, but on that day she brought home a man.  Over the course of the years, Matt and Paige and James became closer and closer to the point that James was the brother that neither of them had ever had.  James will  forever be Matt's brother in his heart.  As they hiked the mountains of Carolina together, they made plans to bring their sons with them.  For Matt, the words, "Lift up thine eyes unto the hills" will bring special memories of their time together and the future that will never be.

When James proposed to Gabriel and they made their wedding plans, I thought how fortunate James was to be marrying into our family.  On their wedding day at the end of the ceremony as we congregated outside the church sanctuary, I hugged James and whispered in his ear, "Now you are legally part of our family," and he whispered back, "Finally!".  I thought at the time that James was lucky to become part of us, part of the Norwood clan.  But the truth of the matter is that WE were the lucky ones, that he came into our lives and stayed, if only for a short while.  He intertwined himself into our lives, into the very fabric of our hearts.  James gave himself to us wholeheartedly and added us to his list of people he loved and cared for and would give to so unselfishly.  James had a way of doing that, giving so freely of his time and love, never thinking about being overburdened.

I knew that James was going to make a great father by the way he was so enthralled with our Erin the day she was born.  We had all piled into Paige and Matt's house when we knew that she was in labor and James was assigned the duty of keeping the stopwatch, timing each contraction so that we would know when to leave for the hospital.  To be included in such an important family event pleased him to no end.  That afternoon, standing in Paige's hospital room, James held Erin for the first time and was enchanted, as we all were.  I will never forget the look in his eyes.  Gabe shared with me after James' death, that when he was a young man and people would ask what he wanted to be as an adult, his answer was "a good father and husband."  That he was.  I was privileged  to be at both Olivia's and Carson's births and I can't tell you how excited he was about being a father. How will we ever be able to convey to them the depths of their father's love for them and what a wonderful person he was?  I am grateful for the way that James loved my daughter unconditionally.  I am grateful that he had the experience of being both a husband and a father.  I thank God everyday that he was our Carson's and Olivia's Daddy and he was everything he wanted to be when he was growing up - a good husband and father.

The day before James funeral, the other son of my heart, Matt, summed up James' life with a quote from the book The Outsiders:  "Nothing gold can stay."  How appropriate!  The bottom line is this:  James WAS golden.  Golden in every way.

We are James' family, the one that adopted him, the one that he chose to be a part of.  He CHOSE to be a part of.  How lucky we are to have had him in our lives.  The TRUTH is James made us ALL better people, a better family.  We miss him - his smile, his wicked sense of humor, his goodness, his kindness, his example, his faith, his love of God and country, his willingness to love and be loved, his ability to share himself with us all.  We love him; we always will. He is, and will forever remain, our James.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New Friends and Swaps

Recently I came across a wonderful blog about decorating and altering items that turn out fantastically chic.  For those that are interested, here's the link:   http://creativehomeexpressions.blogspot.com .  Kathy, who owns this blog, was hosting a really fun swap.

The swap involved taking a plastic container, you know, the clear plastic kind that fruit comes in at the grocery store, and packing it with items that you then send to a partner chosen by Kathy.  This intrigued me very much since I haven't participated in a swap in a long time, so I asked Kathy if I could participate.  She graciously agreed and the next day I got my partner, Debbie, who resides in Washington state.  Debbie also hosts a lovely blog - http://lovethedecor.blogspot.com .  Debbie and I began to exchange emails and we discovered that we love the same things, have the same taste in almost everything and even our bedrooms are decorated similarly.  She is a lovely person and I couldn't wait to shop and gather things for her box while I was on vacation.  It was so much fun!

Yesterday I came home to find my package from her!  I LOVE everything she gave me!  She went above and beyond and I am thrilled.  Here's what she gave me - big buttons in white, black, gray, and pink designs for scrapbooking, scrapbooking embellies, a WELCOME rub-on for my front door, a cute note pad, Yankee Candle car jar in Frosted Pumpkin, biscotti, a metal "puffed" beige bird with black "French" print on it, a roll of black ribbon with white "French" print,  a set of little acrylic Christmas stamps, a Kaiser pressed wood tag book for scrapbooking, a scrapbook magazine,  and a beautiful handmade piece with Dream written on it with a cute bow and flower embellishment and an old looking key.  I am taking that to my office and think of my new friend each time I look at it!  It all came packaged so lovely and was a delight to unwrap. Thank you, Debbie!

Now I am awaiting news that the package I sent to her has arrived.  I just hope she likes mine as much as I love what I received.  But the best thing of all isn't what she gave me or I sent to her.  The very BEST part is that I now have a new friend in a far-off place.  I hope she feels the same and that we remain friends for a very, very long time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Confession Friday - Cup Size Matters

It is impossible, in our condition of Society, not to be sometimes a Snob. ~ William Makepeace Thackery

For today's Confession Friday - I am a snob.

I have a long running relationship with coffee.  One of my first clear memories is of my paternal grandfather giving me coffee to drink for the first time despite the protests coming from my grandmother.  Laden with sugar, more milk than coffee, in my own cup, that first serving of coffee had me hooked.  Grandpa's coffee for adults could grow its own legs and walk off, it was that strong.  And he drank it black.  When I finally reached the age that my dad reasoned that coffee wouldn't stunt my growth, I was granted membership into the family's Great Coffee Society.  There is nothing like a rite of passage with all its grown-up implications.  Coffee and I could openly be a couple.
And then I married Ed.  If I thought MY family were coffee enthusiasts, his family were addicts.  His mother, God rest her soul, would even drink INSTANT coffee to get her fix. Now that, my friends, is a true addict.  From the moment her feet hit the floor to the second her head hit the pillow, she had a coffee cup in her hand.  She must have consumed copious amounts of coffee while she was pregnant with Ed, because I have never seen a man love his coffee more than he.  I have often wondered what would happen if he had to make a choice - me or his coffee!

He received a T-shirt from one of our daughters and son-in-law that reads: "Never get between me and my coffee."  And if  THAT doesn't sum up Ed's passion for brewed caffeine, I don't know what would.  Except maybe, "Forget the cup, give me a syringe so I can shoot coffee directly into my veins!"
During our first 30 years of marriage, we drank coffee the old fashioned way - brewed at home.  I remember when we got our first Mr. Coffee.  No more percolator, even though I miss the sound a percolator makes as it pushes the water up through the metal tube and over the ground beans.  However, I didn't miss the grounds that always seemed to escape the basket, settling into the brew and making its way to the bottom of the cup.  Such is modern life....coffee quick and easy.  But little did I know that the Mr.Coffee phenomenon was the precursor to what was about to take America by storm. 
"Starbucks says they are going to start putting religious quotes on cups. The very first one will say, 'Jesus! This cup is expensive!' "~ Conan O'Brien

Never, thought I, never will I pay a $1.50 for a lousy cup of coffee and on top of that, go to a place that only sold coffee.  I had seen the news stories of people waiting in line to place an order for a cup of coffee.  It was just coffee, for Pete's sake. Who in their right mind?...... That was my reaction when Starbucks was establishing themselves across the country.  Who would do that when for 50 cents you could go to Waffle House or McDonald's and get a cup of Joe?  Not to mention that Starbucks has its own lingo to learn, as in  "give me a Grand decaf skinny cinnamon dolce latte."  Pre-Starbucks innocence was mine and I blissfully lived in ignorance.  Until....

We moved.  Down the road, 4.3 miles from my house to be exact, was the notorious place that made me a coffee whore.  A Starbucks, a Million Dollar producing Starbucks establishment, a BIG Starbucks.  I went into that Starbucks a few weeks after our move like a lamb to slaughter.  They had me at the door.  The smell, that heavenly, divine aroma of freshly brewed coffee made from richly roasted beans, unlike anything I could produce at home and certainly couldn't obtain at Waffle House or Micky D's.  Not only did Starbucks provide the elixir, they also provided big comfy chairs, newspapers, cool music piped overhead - what's not to love?  And then my relationship with coffee and Starbucks took another turn in the road....

 My youngest daughter, Lane, up and fell in love with a wonderful Canadian young man, who proceeded to woo her, lured her to Vancouver, BC and promptly married her.  Her first and only real job there for the past 5 years has been - you guessed it - at a Starbucks.  In Vancouver, Starbucks are just about on every corner.  Lanie loves working for Starbucks and they have treated her well.  So now there is another incentive to give Starbucks my business.  Might as well support the business that helps support my daughter and her Canadian and keep it all in the family! Starbucks, what a hold you have on me.  Which brings my confession to snobbery.....


"Starbucks represents something beyond a cup of coffee." ~ Howard Shultz

As if all the above weren't enough, Starbucks sells all sorts of wares to enhance the coffee experience, including snacks, pastries, and espresso machines, to name a few.  I am partial to coffee mugs - STARBUCKS coffee mugs.  I have dozens of coffee cups in my cupboard.  Until Starbucks and I were united, I was happy with my run-of-the mill mugs and I was pretty much content to drink out of any of them.  Have you ever held a Starbucks coffee mug and felt the weight, the size, the thickness, the balance it offers to the coffee lover?  Well, I have and it is not a pretty picture if none of mine at home are available to use should Ed brew a pot of coffee (made from Starbucks ground beans, of course) at night or on the weekend.  I have been known to grab a mug from the dishwasher rack dirty and rinse it out instead of using a non-Starbucks issue cup.  When I enter a Starbucks, I linger at the display racks, lusting for the newest designs.  I look for them at Goodwills and yard sales.  I have a few mugs that aren't Starbucks that give me the same feeling and I love them for sentimental reasons.  They are my fall-back mugs, wanna-be Starbucks... close, very close.

So, once again, I have confessed.  I am a total Starbucks fan and snob. Terrible, I know, but that is the unmitigated truth.  I plan on enjoying every drop of Starbucks coffee I can reasonably consume. Life is short.  There is pleasure to be found in even the simplest of things, even a cup of joe.  Remember this: "Life's enchanted cup sparkles at the brim." ~ Lord Byron.  I must close now.  I can smell the coffee brewing downstairs and I need a fix.