“Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead.” ~ Mac McCleary

Snow completely covering a road in Clifton, Virginia during December Blizzard 09

Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein. ~ H. Jackson Brown

Vintage Christmas Card

Today is the day I slated to do my Christmas cards . . . finally. Look. I used to be very anal about getting my cards out before the middle of December. In the past few years, I have found myself to be quite pleased if I managed to post them by Christmas day. This year, if they make it to the post office before New Year’s Eve, I will be content.

Anyway, we received so few cards this year that I am truly beginning to think that people just do not take the time to send things via regular post any more, and that, dear readers, is a shame. Opening Christmas cards and holiday greetings from friends and relatives is such a wonderful moment in time, even if the sender does nothing more than sign a name. I mean, at least the presence of the name in ink means that someone took at least a few seconds out of the ever-decreasing free moments in our lives to remember my family and me.

But this is not a discussion on the dearth of letters and cards that arrive in the mail, making all of the accompanying bills and flyers pale in comparison. No, this post is to update everyone on the saga of the December trip to Ohio . . .

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers.  ~ Dave Barry, Things That It Took Me 50 Years to Learn

So, how was this latest trip to Ohio?

Oh, not bad. After the first twenty-four hours in the vehicle, your body is so numb that you really don’t care any more.

Twenty-four hours? Are you serious?

Actually, it was twenty-seven. We actually pulled out of our driveway at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, December 18.  We pulled into their driveway on Saturday, December 19 at 10:40 p.m.

DuPont Circle, Washington, D.C., December Blizzard 2009

No. It’s more like 696 miles, give or take, depending on which route we use.

So why so long?

I don’t know. Maybe it was because we were driving in snow, ice, and blizzard conditions. Or maybe it’s because once we got past Newport News, the traffic began to move at about 30 mph. Or, it could be that for every five miles that we traveled, we saw at least one car in a ditch, or on a tree, or upside down.

We had scanned the radar for the entire area, and the usual route through the western part of Virginia was out of the question. They were expecting 12-18 inches of snow, and there were warnings that some roads might be closed. That left going north around DC, into Maryland, and across to Ohio. Little did we know that there was no good route.

Then there was the little problem with the windshield wipers.

What happened to the wipers?

Well, at first, we thought that we needed new ones because one entire area of the driver’s side wasn’t clearing with the swipes back and forth. So when we finally made it to Fredericksburg, a trip that normally takes about two hours but took about eight (I mean, we didn’t make it to Richmond until after midnight, and that’s a 90-minute drive), we stopped at that bastion of American consumerism, Wal Mart, and bought wipers and Rain-X spray to keep the windshield from freezing because by then we realized that the wipers themselves were freezing.

That worked better, for a while, but then there was that whole Pennsylvania turnpike thing after we stopped for breakfast in Maryland. Of course, we only stopped because I threatened Corey with bodily harm if I didn’t get the chance to get out of the van and use a real bathroom. But trust me, I was only thinking of him . . .

I mean, Corey hadn’t had a break since the Wal Mart and he was getting grouchy (wonder why), so I suggested that we stop for a real meal and rest for a bit. We pulled into a Cracker Barrel somewhere in Maryland and ate. I drank about four cups of coffee and tried to convince Corey to let me drive for a while. No go. That whole male driving thing. Don’t ask me because it makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Doesn't even begin to depict the conditions

Why did you go on the Pennsylvania Turnpike?

More coffee and a bathroom. Actually, I thought that since it was such a heavily-traveled road that surely the snowplows and salters would be out (because they certainly weren’t out on the other interstates) and that we would be able to travel faster than the snow. Wrong. It was worse than I95, which was virtually a parking lot.  But by the time we stopped at one of the driver’s centers on the Turnpike, Corey was clutching the steering wheel so hard that I thought he might break it, so I decided to drive. He relented, but only from exhaustion. (More of that it’s not safe for you to drive in this, ya da ya da ya da. I lived in Blacksburg for God’s sakes. Snow is a way of life there.  Bah.)

As I was pulling out of the driver’s center, the driver’s side wiper broke, as in the arm just limped, kind of like a drunk slug. Of course that was before the flat tire.

What flat tire?

Well, we got directions from the first toll collector to an auto parts store so that we could try to fix the wiper. We found that store fairly easily, but when I was pulling into the parking lot, I ran over something, probably the curb that was buried under three feet of snow. One of the employees in the store came out and looked at the wiper and tightened it, and it seemed to be working again. 

Another stop for coffee, and then I drove off, feeling somewhat relieved until the wiper flailed and then died again as soon as I got back on the main road.

So we got off on the next exit as I was trying to see the road through a space of about 12 inches square and got directions from another toll collector for an auto store that was supposed to be eight miles down some state road. (Exactly why are there toll collectors on interstates that are paid for with tax dollars? Another story.) This particular store was not quite so easy to find, and we found a NAPA auto parts store first. We pulled in, and the guy next to us said, “Do you know you have a flat tire?” Lovely. Just lovely.

NAPA didn’t have a part of any kind, so Corey bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (another miracle product), and we tried to find the other store, but when we got there, it was closed. We pulled into the lot of a dollar store and Corey came out with the universal fix-it: duct tape. Apparently, the bolt was stripped, so Corey wrapped the tape around it, and we made a make-shift coupling.

Duct tape is a wonderful thing, just like Windex, but again, I digress . . .

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” ~ Douglas Adams

Beautiful but Treacherous

Corey went back to sleep, and I drove with the window partially down, sticking my hand out in the snow and then rubbing my face with my cold, wet hand. It was refreshing, and I knew that in spite of two gallons of coffee, I was not going to be able to drive that much longer. I just don’t have that y-chromosone-related driving non-stop thing going on. I made it to Washington, West Virginia (there’s a Washington in every state, by the way), which is right on the border of Ohio. By this time, it was about four on Saturday afternoon, and I had told Corey’s parents in the last update not to expect us before four.

Obviously that anticipated arrival time had come and gone.

Then what happened?

The duct tape held for the most part. We had wipers. The Fix-a-Flat seemed to be holding, and the snow finally lessened almost to a stopping point. There was the one incident around Columbus, though.

What happened in Columbus?

Corey missed the bypass, so we went through Columbus, and then we missed our turn. Consensus was to take one of the state roads the rest of the way in. I think that was when I started to see things.

It was probably due to a combination of the coffee, need to go to the bathroom, exhaustion, and the fact that my teeth felt as if cotton balls were glued to them. Of course by this time, we were all punchy from exhaustion. Everything was funny, even when it wasn’t.

But did you get there safely?

Safely is a relative term. No, we didn’t go off the road, although we did spin once. Our bodies were in one piece, but the van had all kinds of sensor lights flashing at us by the time we pulled into the driveway. And I believe that I aged at least two years in two days. Other than that and the fact that when I finally got into bed I had the spins (now that hasn’t happened in a long time), everything was fine.

“The road of life twists and turns and no two directions are ever the same. Yet our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” ~ Don Williams, Jr.

Plowed Roads on the Way Home

So ends the saga of our trip to Ohio. Our journey home to Virginia was the complete opposite. We left at 10:30 in the morning with the stated goal being 10 a.m., rather a record for us. We drove to Marion to get the wiper part, and then we headed down to Cincinnatti to go to a branch of Joseph Beth Booksellers, my favorite bookstore in the world, well, at least in this country. The best one is the original JB, though, in Lexington Kentucky.

We ambled through the store for about an hour, and then we had a nice relaxing dinner at Don Pablo’s, a chain Mexican restaurant that actually has quite good food. Apparently, Tuesday is all-you-can-eat tacos. Corey and Brett each had their fill. I abstained from coffee, and we got back on the road by our goal time. We took our preferred route, which is down Route 35 to I64 through part of West Virginia and into Virginia. No storms, no ice, no car problems (well, other than the sensor lights still going off in the van), no major drama—just the way I like it.

I have to say that I do enjoy visiting Corey’s family, and the time that we spend there is always full, but I really, really hate actually making the trip. Corey and I thought about it, and I don’t think that we have ever had an uneventful trip to Ohio, whether it’s the weather, car trouble, more car trouble, getting lost, not having enough money for gas, whatever. So with that in mind, we have decided that next time, flying is the way to go.

More later. Peace.

Traditional German Christmas Carol (no, not ready to stop posting them, yet): “Still, Still, Still”

 

Progress Update

Last Time I Checkedxmas-tree-with-clear-lights1

So, it’s Tuesday, December 23rd. The tree is almost decorated. The cards are mailed. The online order was messed up, and I had to call and be Ms. Nasty, now they are overnighting the order at no charge, and it should be here tomorrow. Now begins the great wrapping marathon. My right arm actually hurts more but is more movable, if that makes any sense. Getting a shot of cortisone is like that: you have to go through the pain to get to the better. I’m in the pain part and waiting for the better any day now.

How can a tree be almost decorated, you might ask? Well, my son has wrapped all of the tree limbs with the clear lights since my arms and back are not cooperating. And if you’ve read any of my previous blogs on the subject, I am very anal about the lights on the tree—they must be wrapped around the limbs, not just draped around the tree, making it an arduous process that I have done every year while everyone else watches. Brett has agreed to take on this task, and I have agreed to keep my mouth shut and be happy with whatever he does. We are just waiting for the prodigal to return so that we can all decorate with ornaments together. And we have the challenge this year of putting breakables high out of Tillie range.

I must remember to wrap presents in the correct order as we are having Christmas Eve lunch at my Mom-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve at the very odd time of 2 in the afternoon. So I need to wrap my nieces’ presents first. At least I can come home after dinner and do any last minute stuff, which there is bound to be. I had really hoped that this wouldn’t be a last minute kind of year, but alas, it was not meant to be.

Breakfast at McDonald’s

Just so you wouldn’t think that I’m totally self-absorbed, I thought that I would share the following story with you. It was sent to me as a forward in my e-mail, but unlike most forwards, I did not delete it right away. I read it, and it touched my heart so deeply that I found it worth sharing. I hope that you get something out of this story because it really represents what giving is all about. Remember, I am not the author.

 Breakfast at McDonald’s

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree.

The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called, ‘Smile.’ The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.

I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway. So, I thought this would be a piece of cake . . . literally.

Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald’s one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son.

We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch . . . an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved. As I turned around, I smelled a horrible ‘dirty body’ smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men.

He said, ‘Good day’ as he counted the few coins he had been clutching.

As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was smiling. His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God’s Light as he searched for acceptance. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend. I realized the second man was mentally challenged, and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation.

The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted
He said, ‘Coffee is all Miss’ because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).
I held my tears as I stood there with them.
Then I really felt it — the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray.  

I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman’s cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, ‘Thank you.’

 

I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, ‘I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope.’

 

 

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, ‘That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope.’ We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give. We are not church goers, but we are believers.

I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand.

I turned in my project, and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, ‘Can I share this?’ I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read, and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed.
In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald’s, my son, the instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student.

I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn:   Unconditional Acceptance 

Love People And Use Things — Not Love Things And Use People. 

Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart peace-earth
 
To handle yourself, use your head . . . To handle others, use your heart.

Peace on earth to you and yours.

 

 

 

 

So How’s That Project Going?

About That Timeline Thing . . .

It’s Thursdsmall-christmas-treeay and That Means Christmas Cards

Okay, so according to my timeline, I should have the dining room finished, the new table up, the shopping finished, the outside decorations up, and be well on my way to doing the Christmas cards and starting the wrapping of presents. Right? So to bring you up to date, this is where we are . . . . . . . . I would insert the sound of crickets chirping here, but that would take too much time.

The dining room is not yet finished: The fine china has yet to be packed. There is still one corner that has not been cleaned, and the printer has not been moved off the small table to make room to move the buffet out and to my mother’s house and the new table into the dining room.

All of the miscellaneous donations have not been taken to the thrift store; therefore, the house has not been vacuumed, which means that the tree has not been put together. The weather was warm for a day, but the outside lights did not go up. None of the decorations or wrapping paper and bows have been brought down from the attic, so that answers the question on the status of those two items.

flaming-june-by-leighton
"Flaming June" by Frederic Leighton, oil on canvas

I have finished most of my shopping, except for ordering the online items, which should have been done first; however, since I lost my wallet, I don’t know that I’ll be able to do that part of my shopping, which means that one of my sons will have no presents, but the other son will, as will my daughter. Try explaining that one . . . No cards have been addressed. No presents have been wrapped.  And in fact, the house is more cluttered now because I have brought in more things, but we have not taken out anything. Go figure.

This is what I have done since Monday: I’ve had a doctor’s appointment on Monday with my primary care physician at which I learned that I’ve gained weight (hooray, wonderful, let’s eat more holiday food), and I was chastized for letting my two most important meds run out because of lack of funds. They drained vials of blood and made an appointment for me to come back in three months. After that upbeat appointment, Corey and I spent about five hours Christmas shopping, trying to be very frugal with our funds, limiting the stores that we went to, but still managing to spend money. I came home exhausted and fell face first into bed. My entire body hurt everywhere.

I checked up on my friend’s eight-week-old niece who is in the hospital with a lung infection. I have to tell you that this particular situation is really freaking me out. Having a close friend who has a baby relative in the hospital always makes me freak out. It’s just too close to home. I don’t like it. I relive things. Luckily, she is improving, and they (those in charge) are hoping for good changes in the next couple of days.

On Tuesday, I took my youngest son to a doctor’s appointment, and then he agreed to go with me to finish my Christmas shopping. Brett does not usually like to do extended outings with me, so I took him up on this offer. Corey was supposed to finish the dining room while we were out. Brett and I were out for almost seven hours, long enough for a Chick fil ‘a (sp?) lunch and Krispy Kreme donuts for him, Starbucks for me. We found some really good deals, and I stuck to my list, mostly.

We came home to what I thought would be a finished dining room, only to find out that Corey wanted me to come home so quickly because his cigarettes were in the truck and he didn’t have any at home. Dining room unfinished. Entire body hurt. Fell into bed face first, and didn’t write a blog for the first night in December. Hurt too bad to notice or care.

Wednesday saga already written about so not going into that again. Thursday’s schedule: appointment at 9:45 a.m. Friday’s schedule: dr.’s appointment at 9:45 a.m.  Still have to buy Christmas stamps for cards. Still have to mail package to Lima, Ohio for Corey’s parents. Really would like to get it there for Christmas this year so that his parents don’t think that we have completely forgotten about them. But that means finding a box and going to the post office. Yuck. Hate that. Always a line.

Forgot to get all of the stocking stuffers in my 16 hours of shopping. Still have to make a stocking for Tillie. Of course the dogs have their own stockings. What kind of humans do you think that we are that our dogs wouldn’t have their own personalized stockings? I’m not making Shakes wear his Santa hat this Christmas except maybe on Christmas morning. Promise to take pictures and post them. Tillie is wearing a jingle bell collar. She’s not sure she likes it, though.

I’m really hoping that at some point tomorrow, I can get the dining room finished and get started on the tree. Brett has agreed to attempt to wrap the lights on the tree for me this year. Don’t know how I talked him into that, but I’ve decided to shut my mouth and be happy with however he does it because the reality is that I cannot possibly do it without putting myself into traction between the back and the useless arm. I think that he agreed to do the lights since I agreed to use clear lights on the tree instead of colored lights. Usually we use colored lights inside, but I agreed to clear this year.

See, I can be amenable to change. I don’t always have to have things my way. Of course, it’s easier if you ask me for something when I’m too tired to put up a fight. Then I’ll pretty much say yes to anything because I’m not really paying attention, and you can hold me to it the next day. Just preface it by saying, “but Mom, you said last night that you would . . .” or “but honey, you said last night that . . .” and there really isn’t much that I can do because once I’m in this heightened state of exhaustion, everyone in the family knows that I’m like that poker player with a glaring tell: easy to bet against. And I can have a complete conversation with you on the phone while I’m asleep, be completely cogent-sounding, and not remember a single thing. Now that’s scary, not to mention a bit unsettling—for me, that is.

A Few of My Favorite Things

scrooge-coverHere are a few things that I love about this time of the year because you can only find or get them now:

  • Starbucks Christmas blend coffee;
  • Starbucks gingerbread loaf with cream cheese icing;
  • Red and green peanut M&M’s (they’re just cuter);
  • Corey likes the Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes (too sweet for me);
  • All of the Lindor truffles are easy to find;
  • I get to watch Scrooge with Albert Finney while I wrap presents
  • Getting Christmas cards in the mail (I still love to receive them, but very few people actually send them any more);
  • Christmas stockings (everyone in the family has a homemade stocking, and finding out what is in your stocking on Christmas morning is always a surprise);
  • The candy cane-shaped holder full of mini Reese’s cups
  • And best of all, Christmas carols on the radio all day on Christmas day
  • I’ll let you know more later on how the whole timeline thing is going.

    Peace.