Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Around the blog-o-sphere lately, many of the writers whose blogs I subscribe to have been celebrating birthdays. Kate just turned 25, AJ just turned 30, Annie turned 36. Babies! In the spirit of competition, or one-ups-manship (how do you spell that?), let me just say this. My youngest son, my baby, turned 30 last week.

How can this be? How did this sweet boy…No really, how did this sweet boy…

That’s better. So how did this sweet little boy…

Become this man…?

And how did this young mom…

Become this, um, not so young mom…

I am having a bit of a hard time with this. All this time, I’ve been convincing myself that I’m just barely over 30 myself. I read these blogs written by these young women, and I relate to their lives, not as a mom, but as a fellow human, fellow woman, fellow vegan.  Then, this damn birthday comes along and smashes my illusions all to hell.

Actually, I’m just whining. I’m really happy with where I am in my life. I love my life, my husband, my sons, my dogs, and really wouldn’t want to go back. I look and feel good (please, Debbie, don’t add ‘for my age,’ even in your mind!). I run, I ride, I work, I…well, you get the idea. I have two wonderful sons, two darling grandsons, a teenage granddaughter.

So, why is this so hard?

I think it is because 30 is such a meaningful age. Turning 30 means that you are supposed to be an adult. You should have your life in order, your education complete, your career underway, your family planned. You are no longer a child. So, when you are the parent of someone turning 30, it’s like the double whammy to beat them all.

I am finished having my little pity party now. Happy Birthday, David.

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As I mentioned last month, Alan wanted to take his grandsons to Disneyland to celebrate his (Alan’s) birthday last weekend. As I also mentioned, after searching for deals on the internet and not finding any, we had a choice between going to Disneyland and paying $288 admission, or going to Knott’s Berry Farm, which had all kinds of discounts available, for $102. Not too tough a choice. Sorry Mickey.

Being vegan, I also had some other research to do. Amusement parks aren’t known for their healthy food, so I figured that my chances were slim to none that I’d find any options at Knott’s. They do not allow you to bring in your own food. I started by posting on their facebook page:

After deciphering Stephanie’s post, I thought that she had the best idea. I did check out TGIF and Johnny Rocket’s on-line menus, and although Johnny Rocket’s did have a veggie burger available, I didn’t hold out a lot of hope that it would be vegan. And TGIF is hopeless, unless you choose to eat lettuce.

Then last Friday, I received this message on Facebook:

You may note that this message was dated May 10. Well, Facebook notifications had been whacko all week, and I didn’t receive the message until Friday evening. I replied back, but had a feeling that Willie was probably off for the weekend. Oh well, I figured I could tell Guest Services, or if necessary, flash them the message on my phone’s facebook app. We were good to go, food-wise.

Our plan was to drive to Huntington Beach early on Saturday afternoon. The boys had a baseball game at 5:00 that we were looking forward to watching. If you’ve never seen six year old boys (and one girl!) play baseball, you should put it on your bucket list. Seriously, it is so much fun. They are so joyous about the play, they are just starting to learn their skills (and the rules), and, unlike the professional pitchers’ games of today, there is a whole lot of scoring. Some scenes from the game:

Last year was T-Ball, this year the coach pitches (this coach is Alan's son)

Batter Up!

Players rotate positions each inning. That's our grandson the catcher

Base hit!

Action shot...check out his mouth as the ball gets closer.

Another hit. Must be that batting glove.

Grandson on the mound!

See dad? There's some hustle here!

I just love this pose.

He lost the other front tooth a little later during the game.

Sometimes it's hard to pay attention when there is so much going on all around you.

Ready for action.

Sunday morning brought clouds, rain, and cold. Alan and I took a run along the coast and I never felt like I warmed up. I hoped that the rain would pass, but long experience told me that a rainy day is really the best day to go to an amusement park. It keeps the crowds away. But, just not pouring, please.

After checking Knott’s website the evening before, we had one worry. The height requirement for most of the ‘cool’ rides was 48″. We lined the boys up (every family has a place on the wall for measuring, right?). They are fraternal twins, remember. One boy made it easy, 49″. Uh oh, his brother just barely hit 46.5″.  We had to hope that they weren’t too picky about measurements.

As we parked our car on Sunday morning, the clouds cleared, the sun shined, it was a beautiful day. We had decided on a food plan. On the way in, we had stopped at Mother’s Market, which has a wonderful deli with a huge selection of vegan salads, entrees, pizza, and more, and picked up enough for lunch. We decided to leave it in the car instead of hauling it around the park all day. I figured we’d be ready for a break in the action at lunchtime, we could head back to the car, drop off any extra clothing, eat our food, then head back to the fun. Which is exactly what we did, and it was perfect.

We  walked into the park with our eyes skyward, checking out the rides. The first one we chose, La Revolucion, had one of those 48″ limits. We decided to try our luck, but unfortunately, when we reached the front, were were told that our smaller twin would not be able to go on the ride. We decided that Alan would ride with the taller twin:

I felt so bad that we couldn't go on the ride. I promised that we'd go back next year, when he would be tall enough.

Click on the pic and you'll see Alan's feet. Way up there and upside down!

After that, we tried one more ride with the 48″ limit, but when that was a no go, we restricted our rides to the ones which we could all ride (the map had the height limits). This is not to say we didn’t have a great time. The boys won a Big Bird stuffed toy at a baseball toss (see, it paid off already!). We rode the log ride (twice!), several of the faster rides in Camp Snoopy, the Calico Mine ride, where I took my final picture. After that, I dropped my camera (on a wooden floor!), and, well, it died.

One of the rides that we check out early because we would all be able to ride, was the Bigfoot Rapids. However, the sign said, “You will get wet. You may get drenched.” When we (the grown ups) saw that, we told them (the twins, who probably would have been happy to be wet the whole day), that, yes, we would ride that one, but it would be the last one of the day.

So, after a brief lunch break at the car, we headed back into Knott’s, where we caught the tail end of the Stunt Show. I was sorry that we’d missed most of it, because I remember it from years ago. Gunfighters, falling off buildings, shooting it out, all that western fun stuff.

The boys decided that they were ready for the Bigfoot Rapids. Even when we reminded them that it would be the last ride of the day, they said that they were ready. All I can say is, good thing it was the last ride. While the boys remained pretty dry, I got wet and Alan got soaked! I’ll also say that the Family Dryer, that costs $5, but seems like a good idea when you are soaking wet coming out of that ride, does not dry jeans. Nope, Alan pretty much had to be wet and cold all the way back to the house.

All in all, we had a really good time at Knott’s Berry Farm. It has great value, the rides are fun, I can’t wait until we go back with taller grandsons!

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In honor of Mother’s Day, I decided to put some random thoughts about my mom into words…

My mom was the neighborhood mom. When we were young, my sisters and I, and all of our friends, played at our house because my mom was the mother they all wanted to have. She was fun without being overly permissive, she spent time with us without being smothering, you could tell her anything and she was never judgmental. Many of our friends also called her Mom.

My mom was a born teacher.  She was a substitute teacher when we were little, moved into Special Education, which was her special love. Her last job was teaching for the county, going to homes in the East Coachella Valley, working with the families of special needs children.

My mom was a born student. She loved to learn.  After years of extension courses, she earned her Masters in Special Education when she was in her 50s. She was always inquisitive and interested in other people. She had a special talent for learning foreign languages. I always thought this was because she was never worried if people laughed at her if she misspoke. She would plunge ahead, and eventually get it right.

My mom, who would have been 83 last week, was a feminist almost before there was such a word. She came from a family that included an aunt who was a Lutheran minister, a mother who was a pianist and teacher, a sister who was a singer and actress, and a father who encouraged women to have self-respect (and a career!).

My mom loved to sing and dance. She used music in her teaching, recording children’s music to play for her students. She discovered Jazzercise when she was in her sixties and became an enthusiastic participant.

My mom had the best laugh! When she let it loose, you could hear it for miles (well, almost)! Of course, as a teen I was embarrassed by such an open expression of happiness, but I sure wish I could hear it today.

My mom loved animals. We always had cats and dogs when I was a kid, plus a few hamsters, guinea pigs, and mice. She allowed me to keep the puppy that I sneaked home from Knott’s Berry Farm. When we moved to a ranch when I was a teenager, we added horses and goats to the menagerie.

My mom was a great grandma. She had three grandchildren, my two boys, Nathan and David, and my sister’s daughter, Brynne. She loved them, took care of them, and was there when they needed her. She helped me so much during my tough times, by making sure that my children always came first.

My mom was an amazing woman. Smart, funny, kind, caring. She took care of us all, me, my two sisters, my dad, our kids, our friends, her “special families.” When she died, in 1992, my sister Lisa and I put together a memorial service for her. Even knowing how she was loved, we were still shocked and gratified to see that the entire church was filled to standing room only with the many people who’s lives she had touched.

I know, in my random thoughts here, that I missed many special moments. I wrote a similar post last year. I hope that my friends and family who read this will add their own memories. Happy Mother’s Day, to my mom and to all.

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Yes, I know that we are over a month into it. And here in the desert it will soon (some will say already) feel a lot more like summer than spring.

But spring means starting over, refreshing, new, and that is how I feel right now. Winter in the desert means great weather (especially relative to the rest of the country), but it also means “the season.” “The Season” means Snowbirds. For those of us in service businesses, like personal training in my case, Snowbirds means “too busy to do much else besides work.”

So, the dawn of spring means the end of 10-12 hour days, relief from the horrendous traffic, the ability to walk in to places like restaurants, hair dressers, Starbucks, etc. without an appointment or reservation and not be turned away. Spring means, in a word, recovery. And, oh God, are we desert dwelling service providers ready for it. Quick, now, before we snap each others heads off!

Not yet, but soon

For me, personally, it means more time to play. Meaning running and riding my bike. Hurray! (gosh now what will I use for an excuse?)

May is still a wind-down month. Many Snowbirds are starting to leave, but many remain. A lot depends on the weather “back home.” Several of my clients will stay until June, so I can’t totally relax yet. But, I can feel it coming. The gym is quieter, the traffic is lighter. And we have the freedom to make plans. So, in addition to probably getting an extra day each of running and riding during the week, here is what is going on in May:

May 1st is my sister’s 45th birthday. This has nothing to do with spring or our plans (because she is in Texas), but I like to keep reminding her that she is catching up with me (hope you’re reading this, Lis!). edit: Whew, I got the card in the mail! Always a challenge for me.

The following Saturday, May 7, usually a riding day, is the Run for Ike. Ike was a police dog who was killed in the line of duty a couple weeks ago, saving his partner’s life as he gave his own.

Alan and I are volunteering, he as the announcer, me as, well, whatever they want me to do. Probably at registration and the finish line, since I’m good at that stuff. I’m not sure how many people will be there. This was put together pretty quickly, plus it’s probably going to be hot (another reason I was happy to volunteer instead of run)!

Friday the 13th is Alan’s birthday. That weekend we plan to take our six year old grandsons to Disneyland. Although I’m sure that Alan and I must have been there since we’ve been together (15 years!), the last time I remember is when my youngest son was six years old. He turns 30 in a couple weeks, so it’s been a while. A very long time for someone who basically grew up at Disneyland. We lived about 15 minutes away and it was cheap back then (about $10)! I like to say I spent my teenage years on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

On May 22, my lovely girlfriend who lives in the valley (that would be the San Fernando Valley for you non-LA types :-)), invited me to WorldFest 2011. She is the one who stayed and rode with me on our disastrous Tour de Palm Springs century. I can hardly express how excited I am about this. Just a bit of the description from their website (click through for more…but come back):

“The WorldFest 2011 Earth Day Festival will be held on Sunday, May 22nd, 2011, from 10:30am to 7:00pm, at the beautiful outdoor setting of Woodley Park in Lake Balboa, CA. We will welcome our attendees to a magnificent day filled with entertainment, education and enlightenment. The combination of great music, empowering speakers, environmental, humanitarian and animal welfare non-profits, kid’s activities and a delicious food court make for an earth-friendly experience that is sure to be inspiring and enjoyable for all.”

Seriously, I can hardly wait. I get to go to this very cool event, plus, best of all, I get to visit with a friend I don’t see too often. If we actually have time to ride together I may just faint from the excitement!

The last weekend of the month is Memorial Weekend. I have to work on Saturday, but I’ll have Monday off, so it should be a nice weekend. We haven’t made any plans yet, so maybe we’ll just chill out here in the desert (can a sentence be an oxymoron? If so, that is definitely one, because I’m sure it will be over 100 degrees by then). Even so, as much as we love traveling, we’re always happier at home with our dogs (and my vegan cooking!).

Spring is here!

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Well, I did it. I rode my bike. Yes, I know, my dear readers, that I’ve been writing about riding my bike for over two years now and that it is no big deal.  Well, I’m here to tell you that it is a big deal. While I’ve been busy wimping out, a month had gone by. Yes, you read that right. More than a month, actually, my last ride was on December 11, 2010!
Last Saturday, I had no excuses. The weather was gorgeous in the desert (in most of Southern California, really). Alan and I were heading to Huntington Beach after the ride to visit family, so we wasted no time getting going. The great thing was, even at 7:00 in the morning, arm warmers were all that were needed. In January!
I felt much better that I’d expected. We only rode 26 miles, a little less than two hours, but it felt perfect.

V for Victory!

The weather at the coast was just as nice. We pulled into Huntington Beach shortly after 3:00. Alan headed straight out to the beach to meet his son and grandsons. After a lovely evening, we got up on Sunday anxious to run along the coast. Another beautiful day, a great six mile run. I felt so good, I even attempted to mix a little fartlek in my run.

Imagine. The weather in January was much nicer than the weather through most of last summer, when it was cold, damp, and overcast. After the run, we sat with the family in front of the house, just enjoying the sun.

What a nice weekend. Best of all, I’ve defeated the wimp inside me. Victory!

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>Now that we are two days into 2011, I decided to wrap up last month in pictures. I had a great Christmas (three celebrations, actually), spent time with family, ate lots of food, didn’t gain weight, took a little time off work, caught up on sleep, did not ride my bike enough, ran a little more than usual. That’s it in a nutshell, all in all, a good holiday. I didn’t feel much like writing, in fact, wondered if I should just give up this blog. But today I found myself planning posts as I was running, so I knew I was ready to get back to it. First, though, I’ll wrap up 2010 with some pictures from December.

Beautiful skies over La Quint in early December

Elvis blessing our Christmas Tree

A pink rainbow!

Huntington Beach on Christmas Eve

Gotta love So Cal in December!

I even have great views at work–sunrise over the tennis courts
Santa (who was younger than my son and hispanic) gave me a candy cane! My sis and I heard sirens right out in front of the house. When we went to see what was up, Santa was riding on the fire engine up and down the streets in La Quinta handing out candy canes to kids (like me!).

My niece, Brynne, at our 1st Christmas celebration on Dec. 20

My beautiful FLD Sarah (that’s Future Daughter-in-Law)I think this picture is actually from Thanksgiving, but she looks so cute I wanted to included it.

Our feast–90% vegan

(L-R) Brynne, Sarah, and my son, Nathan

The reason for our early celebration: It was when my sister Lisa and her husband, Bill could fly out from Texas. That’s my son David on her left.

Head of the family at the head of the table: Hubby Alan

C’est Moi!

She may be 20-something, but she’s still the youngest. Brynne gets to play Santa.

My sister found a perfect present for cold weather. A watch cap with built in headphones! Here is Alan trying them out.

Our second Christmas celebration took place on December 24 in Huntington Beach with Alan’s son and his family.

This is Dane. He was part of the best present a man could ever receive.

Our other grandson, Cash. He’s guarding his present.

Cash (all scrubbed up) and his dad John

We were a little iffy about these Razors, but the boys are excited. I don’t know. 10 mph seems awfully fast for a 5 year old.
Grandma helping Cash open his present.

Yes, at five they still get pleasure from the packaging.

Grandpa helping to put those Razors together.

Both Dad (above) and Grandpa (below) had tips for Dane.

Grandpa looks ready to ride!

It took about 5 minutes before Dane was whipping around the alley. He took to it like a duck to water. Cash waited until the next day, then he was out there with his twin.

Group photo! We brought Lily and Olivia along to spend Christmas Eve with the family.

Finally, our third Christmas took place on the actual day. Alan, my son David (who lives close by) and I enjoyed a perfect day. We woke up, took a short run (in Santa hats–sorry no pics!), opened presents, ate brunch (scrambled tofu with soyrizo burritos-yum), then hung out, watched basketball (some of us), and played with our presents. Oh, yes, and had another feast (this time 100% vegan) Yes, a  great Christmas.

He’s still like a little boy at Christmas.
He’s almost 30, but still gets a pile of presents.

Of course, some of those gifts are “useful” items.

From my son. He actually buys me “outfits” these days and does a great job!

Woo Hoo! Got an Ipad!

Do you think Alan likes his new computer?

He may just love this gift from David even more.

I think I should have put on a few more of my Christmas gifts for this pic.

Tried Tofurkey for the first time this year. Loved it! The rest of the menu (all vegan) Mashed potatoes, corn bread stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce.

You may notice that there are no New Year’s Eve pictures. That is because we were snug in our beds at midnight.  Happy New Year anyway. I wish all of you the best in 2011.

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>Alan and I were relaxing at home on Friday when I got a Facebook message from our new daughter in law, Lisa. If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that she is actually a new-to-us daughter in law, having been married to Alan’s son for 16 years (I think). I don’t think I mentioned it in my post, but they own a home in Palm Desert, about a 10 minute drive from our house. Anyway, Lisa wrote that she and the kids were here in the desert and would we like to come over on Saturday.

Would we? Oh, yes.

So, Saturday morning, after our bike ride, we headed over to Palm Desert to see Lisa and the grandkids. She had told them a kid-size version of the story of why they had a new grandpa. They are twins, but they are very different, both in looks and personality, and they were processing their new information a little differently. Dane asked more questions, and seemed a little more confused about the story. His mood shifted from happy to giddy, to grumpy, to a little angry. Cash, on the other hand, seemed to take it all in stride. When we first arrived, there was a bit of discussion about what Alan and I were to be “called.” Maybe pops, or poppy? That discussion was pushed aside as we all headed down to the pool.

Dane on the left, Cash on the right

It was really a gorgeous day in the desert. The high hit only about 102, there was a breeze, and unbelievably, the water in the swimming pool was cool (usually by August, a pool’s temperature would hover around 90 degrees). We spent a couple hours in the water, Alan having a great time doing the “grandpa” things: tossing the boys into back dives, racing the length of the pool, and, of course, doing cannonballs with his grandsons.

One of the absolute highlights of the day was when Cash whispered to Alan, “I think I’ll call you Grandpa.” Alan was glowing.

After a few hours at the pool, we headed home to freshen up (yes, I admit it, we took a nap), then brought our two smaller dogs, Lily and Olivia, back over to meet the boys. They all had a wonderful time. My shy Olivia absolutely came alive, she was having so much fun playing with the children.  Lily was having a good time too, as were the boys, of course. After we were all worn out, we gathered up our dogs to go home, with promises that they would come along when we visited. I’ve got to say that all six of us slept very well on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, we had one more opportunity to see the boys before they headed back home. After our run, we picked them up and took them to IHOP for breakfast. What was really exciting for Alan and me, it was the first time that it was just us and the twins. They were a little nervous, but as we got into the car and headed out, they relaxed. We ate breakfast, then took them to our house to meet the rest of the dogs and cats. They were able to see the new kittens (only about 10 days old), as well as our older, indoor cats. It was a little crazy, the dogs were very excited, but all in all, it went well.  It certainly was great to spend the time with Cash and Dane, and have an opportunity to get to know them better.

We can’t wait until next time.

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>The Way It All Came Out

>I will get right to the question you have all been asking, “So, how did it all come out?”

The answer, “It was great.”

Now, to back up a little, as I posted on Saturday, Alan received a call from a man who told him that he was his son. After spending a restless Friday night, he was up early on Saturday, on the internet, on the telephone to his new-found daughter-in-law, just finding out what he could about this man, Kelly. It didn’t take long to find a picture:

Aren’t they beautiful? Alan’s son & his wife

 A close up look of this and other pictures shows very clearly (as Kelly’s adoptive mom, who was helping research told him) that there is a very definite resemblance between the two men. The eyes, eyebrows, and ears are so similar as to be almost scary. We also found pictures of the two boys, 5-year old twins. The excitement was building. So much so, that Alan was on the phone at about 6:00 am on Saturday morning, speaking to his new daughter-in-law, Lisa.  She told him that she had instigated the search, now that she had two sons, she wanted to find out their background.

When you read a story like this, family separated by adoption or other things, it always seems that they are across the country from each other and it takes months of phone calls, letters, emails, and other arrangements before the long-lost family finally have an opportunity to meet.

Not this time.  Kelly lives in Huntington Beach, a two hour drive from La Quinta, a great beach town that Alan and I visit a couple times a year, most recently, last Independence Day, when Alan announced their annual holiday 5k. The race, by the way, takes place only blocks from Kelly’s house.

So on the phone, early Saturday morning, Lisa and Alan devised a plan (pending, of course, approval from Kelly).  Alan and I were headed up to Ventura on Saturday, where he would announce a triathlon the following morning. Our plan, then was to drive down the coast, and meet up with Alan’s son. Less than 48 hours after the first phone call.

Sunday morning, we took care of business as quickly as possible.  Of course, Alan was announcing the triathlon, and doing the award ceremony, so it was about 2:00 when we finally started down the coast toward Huntington Beach. Kelly and Lisa were welcoming us into their home, just a block off of the Pacific Coast Highway, near the HB pier. We finally arrived, shook off the stage-fright, and walked to their front door.

 The eyes (and eyebrows) have it. Just look at the resemblance!

 Yes, those eyes, through the generations!

Lisa welcomed us into her home, where we soon met two beautiful, energetic boys, fraternal twins, five years old. Then, finally, Kelly comes down the stairs. I felt like I had been holding my breath waiting for this moment. As Alan and Kelly tentatively greeted each other, I let out that breath, knowing that however this evening went, something wonderful was happening right now.

 Ah, the grandsons.  Five years old, full of energy.

We really had a nice time. Lisa is lovely.  She went to the trouble of preparing a vegan meal for us! The kids were a lot of fun, not understanding what was going on, but it was fun nevertheless, getting to meet our “new” grandsons. Best of all, though, was that Alan had an opportunity to meet and talk to his son, this 42 year old man, whose existence was totally unknown to him before the weekend.

Some of the things we learned:  Kelly was adopted as an infant by two wonderful people who gave him a great home and an excellent upbringing.  In fact, his biological mom was able to choose his parents, based on profiles of three different couples. Kelly was an excellent athlete, starting quarterback all four years in high school, a good surfer, with golf as his current passion. He started playing not too long ago and has quickly become the winner at the local tournaments in which he plays. I have always described Alan as the kind of athlete who was good at any sport that he tried, whether it was baseball or golfing, running or triathlon. What is funny is that at Kelly’s age, Alan was also focused on improving his golf game, and had spent his younger years on a surfboard.

Lisa described her husband as a wonderful man, caring, funny, handsome (I could see that!), and a great father. His kids are following in their dad’s (and their grandfather’s) footsteps, surfing, playing baseball, and other sports.

 A great family photo, taken by a 5 year old

What comes next? Well, we’ll see. We certainly liked our new family.  We think they liked us. Alan is most definite that he wants a relationship with his son, a relationship that he was deprived of by circumstances that happened over 40 years ago. We would love to become a part of the children’s lives as well. Alan is impatient, he wants all this now. I want this for him as well, I just try to slow him down a little. So, we’ll see.

Over the last year and a half that I have been writing this blog, writing about my dogs, my family, my hysterectomy, and more, I have found this to be the most deeply personal thing that I have written. I have tried to share our feelings about this huge change in our lives. I am amazed that it was less than 72 hours ago when everything changed.

For the better.

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>My family celebrated Christmas early this year. My sister, Lisa, who moved to Texas with her new husband last year, was flying in for the weekend of the 19th. My son, Nathan, and his fiancee, Sarah, were happy to come early, as they could then spend Christmas day with her family. My niece, Brynne, was also there. And my son, David, who lives close by, was happy to have two Christmases this year (we’ll do a smaller version on the 25th, just Alan, David and me). So my entire nuclear family, small though it is, was here last night.

Brynne, my lovely niece; Sarah, my beautiful future daughter-in-law; me; my sister, Lisa

My oldest son, Nathan, and Brynne

Early Christmas sounds good on paper, but in reality it meant that me, historically last minute on everything Christmas, had to clean, cook, shop, wrap, decorate, and be finished with all that one week early! We are talking about a woman who is usually out there with the dads and husbands on Christmas Eve.

Remember here that I have six dogs and two cats, so my place needs some serious fur removal before it is guest ready. Believe it or not, I got started the weekend after Thanksgiving and have spent some serious cleaning time over the last few weeks. I even cleaned cupboards, carpets, closets, moved furniture, etc. By the time this weekend rolled around, my place was (almost) sparkling.

I would love to be one of those women who pick up Christmas gifts throughout the year. They will be out shopping, spot the perfect gift and buy it. In August! Unfortunately, that is not me. I need to be in the “Christmas spirit” to start the gift selection process. As you may have guessed, I am not a shopper. I would usually procrastinate until about December 20, but this year, I dragged myself out a week before that. I also did some online shopping (really my favorite, but, again, you have to plan unless you want to pay dearly for last minute shipping). And, horror of horrors, I even hit the mall. Once. I lasted about 30 minutes.

In any case, I got it done. Except for a few more things for Alan and David (celebrating on the 25th, remember), I finished my shopping by Friday afternoon. Then, spent Friday evening wrapping. The tough part about last minute wrapping is that you know these gifts have less than 24 hours in their wrapped state, only to be ripped open, all your hard work discarded. Okay, my imagination was working a little overtime, but I was alone, listening to Christmas music, wrapping, wrapping, wrapping.

Alan and I had bought the Christmas tree on Thursday, set it up that night, then it sat waiting to be decorated. I even told my sister that it might end up being a family event, decorating my tree after everyone arrived.

Instead, I got up early Saturday morning, ran six miles (really needed that, Christmas shopping does not qualify as exercise!), then made a plan of attack for the next several hours before the family arrived: Vacuum, set up the table, last minute kitchen cleaning, shower (yes, I needed to be clean, too). I decided to include tree decorating in that list of chores, so by the time the party started, the tree was ready.

I really didn’t do any pre-holiday cooking. I don’t do cookies. I buy the pies. No, I don’t feel guilty about that. I did shop earlier in the week, really enjoying the fact that, unlike my usual last minute grocery visit, when everything is sold out and the place is packed with others like me, I had a head start on the Christmas meal shopping. No crowds, lots of choices.

The Hosts

Lisa, my youngest son, David, Brynne

Sarah, in the foreground, and my brother-in-law, Bill

Unlike Thanksgiving, where I picked up my complete meal from Native Foods, my plan for Alan and myself (the only vegetarians in the family) was to prepare all the side dishes, meat free. As anyone who has ever eaten a holiday meal knows, there is always more than enough to eat, even if you don’t eat the “main” dish. I told my sister that if she wanted to prepare a turkey, she was welcome to do so. Which she did. So the meat eaters had their fill, and Alan and I filled up on stuffing (unstuffed, of course), mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes (love my sister’s recipe!), green bean casserole, rolls, and, of course, (store bought) pie for dessert. Yum. I was plenty full. And with no tryptophan from the turkey, not as sleepy as some after dinner.

After the meal we settled around the living room for gift exchanging. There goes the wrapping paper! Lot’s of fun, I love giving and receiving. I loved my gifts and I hope the family enjoyed the gifts that they received from me. I may be last minute, but I do my best to find the “perfect gift.”

And, I get to do it all over again in six days!

A nice finish to a crazy, busy week, I got out for a ride this morning, my first in over a week. Only 25 miles, but it sure felt great. Hopefully, with the main part of the holiday complete, plus some time off next week, I will get some more riding time. I am looking forward to it!

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>In the rush rush of my daily life, I sometimes forget to slow down, smell the coffee, and take a moment to reflect on the things that make me happy and make my life satisfying. Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to do this. Or rather, the day after Thanksgiving, as the actual holiday is a whirl of non-stop activity that leaves me little time to breathe, let alone write about it.

Seated firmly at the top of the list is my husband, who cherishes me. That is quite a word, cherish, if you think about it. It is not used much in day to day conversation. The definition says “to hold dear, to treat with affection and tenderness.” In my mind, it means even more, “to hold and love above all others,” “to protect from harm.” In any case, whatever the definition, my husband loves me, as I love him, above all else, for which I am very, very thankful.

I am grateful to have two wonderful sons, one of whom is engaged to a lovely woman I will be happy to call my daughter. I am thankful for my granddaughter, my niece, my sister and my brother-in-law. I also have many wonderful cousins, who I am just recently re-connecting with (thanks to Facebook!).

I couldn’t possibly write about things for which I am thankful without talking about my pets. They are a big part of my life that I can’t imagine being without. My dogs: Sydney, Penny, Sassy, Goldie, Olivia, and Lily. My cats: Boris and Natasha.

I am very fortunate to have some wonderful friends. Friends to ride with, friends to run with, friends to talk to, friends to cry with. The best part is, most of my friends fall into two, three, or even all four of those categories.

I am fortunate to have not only a job, but a job that I love and look forward to every day. I work for a fitness/spa management company, WTS International, and I manage the Fitness Center at the Springs Country Club. Many of the people that I work with, either one-on-one or in group exercise classes, are 70 years and up. For example, Mr. Whitney, who still comes to work out with me two times a week, will turn 100 in December! I take great pride and I am very thankful that I can make a difference in people’s lives, make them stronger, healthier and help them remain active. I am also grateful that as a cross country coach (for Palm Desert High School) I have an opportunity to do the same thing for young men and women.
I am grateful for my own health and well being. In spite of a few aches and pains, I continue to run, ride, lift weights and generally stay active. I am happy that I have chosen not to eat animals anymore and am working toward veganism. I know it has contributed to my health and it has certainly allowed me to feel better about myself.
I know that this is not a complete list of all the things that I have to be thankful for, but it is a beginning and will certainly be a reference point for times when I feel stressed, overworked, under-appreciated, or just generally down. We all need a reminder (or call it a kick in the ass) sometimes that, overall, things are pretty damn good.

Finally, I’d like to say that I am happy that there are a few wonderful people who enjoy reading what I have to say, who check in on my blog, who offer supportive comments. I am definitely thankful for you.

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