Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

I said goodbye to my beautiful grand daughter today.  She is leaving with her mom and dad for New York tomorrow where she will now live.  She will not remember she was born in San Francisco, and that she visited Michigan and her grandparents for the first time. She may not remember she lived in New York City, but I hope she always knows she is loved by her parents and her grandparents and that when she leaves tomorrow morning, a bit of both sets of grandparents hearts will go with her.  Funny how that petite little bundle of big blue eyes, and "Alfalfa" like hair, and squealing smiles could just steal our hearts away and make it so hard for her to leave us.  I know my son would tell me to quit blubbering and that I can come see her when ever I want.  I know the invitation is open but we both know it will be months before we see her again, and those will be months when she changes so much.  Will that complete trust to every one that picked her up still be there?   Will she still be as delighted with her tongue as she is now?   Will she still kick her small legs and reach for anything dangled in front of her?   Probably not.  She will learn all kinds of new things at such a rapid rate it will be dizzying to her parents, and the next new thing will be just around the corner.  And while the new technological advances mean we can see her do many things, its not the same. 

So, that's part of the feeling of letting go of an old year that gave me my first grandchildren.  I always feel a bit melancholy closing out an old year, so many things left undone and regrets and the feeling of time rushing too fast.  But then the New Year is here and it is the start of a new page being turned, even if it seems its the same dirty snow of the last year I am looking at.  Most times it isn't so much the start of a new year as the return to the comfortable and familiar after the over drive of Christmas and the march to New Year's Eve.  Its that "routine" I thought I would always have, no matter how things changed.  I would always take down the Christmas tree, pack away each ornament and take the time to look at each one and remember how and why they were there, something I was too busy to do when hanging them on the tree.  Those were the routines that comforted me when we spent another quiet New Year's Eve, falling asleep long before midnight. 

This year was different.  We didn't have snow, even dirty snow.   We looked out at mud and brown.  The temps were mild for us this time of year but the very mildness meant rain instead of snow and mist instead of blue skies and brown and grays instead of white and sparkling.   I'm not sure how to feel about it because this year feels so different in so many ways, so I guess the lack of snow is appropriate. 

I have waffled between feeling this is a new beginning, really this year, and wondering how long the remnants of the old will be with me.  Nothing stays the same and even though it seems my life has followed a pattern, that was predictable and non inspiring, it was my life.  This past year has taught me that my life was never static and definitely not predictable.  I had a friend who lost his house this year in the Alabama tornadoes.  He and his family huddled in the basement while the winds blew the roof from his house and buckled the walls.  After, there was shock at what had just happened to them and then great joy and relief.  Finally was the realization their lives were changed, but they were alive and could rebuild or start again.  And that's the lesson in all this.  We can all start again.  We don't wait until the New Year necessarily, we get the chance for new beginnings every morning we get up and take a breath.  We get to say, thank you to our Creator and start every day fresh.  I lost sight of that so many times this past year and it is the very thing I don't want to forget in this new year. 

Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me and on whom I leaned.  Travel safe and well my grand baby and be happy with all the love that surrounds you.

Happy New Year.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have a Daughter

I have a daughter named Annie.  She was long anticipated as I had her name picked out for almost 4 years.  Her brother, Korey would have been Ann-Marie Emma Cicinelli had he been born a girl.  I think now it all happened just right.  So I had two boys first, and then this complete surprise of a baby girl, and the doctor telling me it was such and I not quite believing I got that girl this time. 

She had a mind of her own from the moment she emerged.  Laid on my stomach while they cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta, she immediately urinated on my belly and upon feeling the warm fluid, she let out a lusty squall.  For the first few years it was a portend of things to come.

She screamed into the phone as I lay in recovery and told my mother, here was her first grand daughter.  She slept through the night at a month old, the first of my kids to do so.  She was a girl's weight when born, (at least for my babies), at 7 pounds, 7 ounces, a pound lighter than her oldest brother and almost 2 pounds lighter than her other brother.  But she remained petite and shortly acquired the nickname, "Putzy" from her Grandpa who adored her.  She walked at nine months, before she even had teeth.   She quit taking a nap at a bit over a year, and climbed out of her crib at every opportunity.  She was a potty training challenge and a disaster of pre school cuts and scratches from chasing after older brothers.

Annie ran into her first school room without a backward glance at poor old mom.  From the start she loved her friends and the opportunities school afforded for her to meet new friends.  She tagged along with us as we rushed her brothers to their first sports participations, the start of almost two decades worth of bleacher bottom and endless gyms, baseball diamonds and soccer fields.  At eight years old she was begging her dad to "throw" the ball with her, a ritual that continued for almost a decade.  She wasn't particularly "girly", preferring to wear shorts and jeans to dresses, and cutting any Barbie dolls hair to within an inch of its life.   But she hated the year I cut her baby fine hair so short, people mistook her for a boy.  She liked her best friends to have sisters, as knowing the disgusting things boys did much of the time was of no interest to her.  Brothers will do that to you. 

From about that first short haircut on, Annie and I suffered through a decade of attrition and contrition in the mother/daughter relationship.  I threatened and she set her jaw, stubbornly and rebelled.  She stomped her feet, I yelled and though I prevailed in the early years, I hadn't but won the battle, the war was long from over. She played sports of all kinds from the time she could walk.   She became Daddy's girl as he coached her in virtually every sport she undertook.  I was the cheerleader, the mom who drove her to everything, and paid the bills for endless camps and sports "stuff".   To be fair we did the same with the boys, and did it happily as it was what we wanted.  Yes, we lived through our kids and their sporting years.

Come high school and the driver's license, things changed.  The war escalated.  Annie was a good student, a good friend, a good driver, and a good athlete.  She gave me little to worry about aside from wanting to be gone constantly, and seeming to like everyone else's mom better than me.  We called her the little red taxi cab for the car she shared with her brother until he graduated and it became her sole possession. She drove here, she drove there, she drove virtually everywhere.  She was as at home behind the wheel as I was in my kitchen.  She played sports and was a mighty competitor, but didn't live and die by the stick and ball.  There were a few bumps in her road, but for the most part she was the all American high school girl and we fought constantly or so I thought.  Many is the night one of us was in tears over something.  The door to her bedroom was slammed so often, the pictures on the hallway wall carried a permanent tilt.  Her senior year in high school seemed a veritable mine field of traps I would step into.  I was wrong far more than I was right.  The kids she had grown up with, I was now only comfortable with when she wasn't around.  Many days it just seemed to be a time to get her to graduation and then have time to breathe away from each other.

College was a decision delayed and delayed and finally just kind of agreed to.  I'm not sure she ever really knew what she wanted in a college until she found what she didn't want.  A year at Alma College proved a turning point.  Gone was the want of continuing her sports at the college level.  Gone was the small town girl who wanted to know everyone on campus.  While she made lasting friends in her one year at Alma, she also felt stifled.  She was so unhappy there, it was a relief to tell her to transfer and to make this one the place she wanted to be.  Western Michigan was where she wanted to be.  It was a good move for her.  As it turned out a good one for me also.  She began to lead her own life and after a bad year that culminated in her decision to be gone from Alma, I began to come into my own life without kids.  Empty nesting took some adjustment, but I began to get the hang of it.  My friends became more important and I gave my family space while they decided their lives, or so I hoped.

Annie and I still had our challenges.  We found that we functioned best when we didn't spend more than 4 days in close proximity.  I know it sounds harsh, but we really were happier when we stayed in touch long distance for most of the time.  Annie was expanding her boundaries and exploring what she wanted from life.  Her goals were different than mine had been and I thought we were just different. I counted the differences more than the qualities we shared.  That would come later.   Peter came into Annie's life in her junior year of college and changed what it would be thereafter.  For the first time, she was excited for me to meet a guy she was dating.  To say Peter was not what I expected was an understatement, and it wasn't for the obvious reasons.  He seemed so different from the boys she had always hung out with previous.  But Peter had staying power and the more I came to know him, (and this took more than a few years as he was in school out of state for two long years), the more I realized how much he completed Annie and how much they complemented each other.  Peter had so many layers that Annie saw and fell in love with, and while it took me longer to see all of that, when I finally had the chance to totally love what Peter was all about, I fell in such regard for him and in turn saw my daughter in a whole new way.  Of course this was a way down the road.

When the summer of my dad's decline, I didn't know would come so soon, ended up coinciding with Korey and Jen's wedding, Annie seemed to merge all the disparities for me.  She helped with the wedding plans from our side of it and took the pressure off me.  The wedding was a joy, but so soon after I saw Dad age rapidly and faced the awful thoughts of dementia and how Mom would cope.  From the September ambulance trip to the hospital and the eventual hospitalization, Annie was the rock to our family.  She was wonderful with Dad and a bastion of strength to me.  She was tender and gentle with him and only wanted him to be comfortable and to know he was so loved.  It was such an amazement and ultimately such a comfort to me. 

Dad's passing that October marked the lowest point in my life.  But it was also the beginnings of a relationship with Annie, that while always there, finally bloomed and blossomed.  We still had our "winds of war" come swooping in but with every year we came more into "like" with one another.  We always loved each other, but discovering we were more alike than not, was a source of surprise to both of us.  Maybe we both grew into the relationship, and maybe ours was the normal course of Mothers and Daughters.  I do know that Annie has become my best friend, and that while I knew I always had a terrific daughter, I had no idea I could have such a very close and loving relationship with my girl.  She is my rock.

Annie has left behind her softballs, her snow skis, her bald Barbie dolls and all her trophies.  I have a daughter in who's room I still wander occasionally. I look at the music boxes which she never really cared about, but I thought would make a wonderful collection for a little girl.  I look at the pictures and softball posters still on her walls.  I look at the Harry Potter books she left behind, and glow in the dark stars she glued all over her walls.  The room hasn't changed much since she left it behind.  She has her own home now, one that I love to visit and feel so at home in.  I don't have her close by, and somehow I think if she were, we wouldn't function nearly as well as we do today.  I am fortunate that she is only a click of a computer away, a cell phone ring or a text.  In the future we will find more ways to stay in constant touch, and it makes me smile just thinking what lays ahead for us the rest of the way.

There is a saying, "A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all of her life".   I have a daughter and she is a daughter for all of her life....and I am grateful every day now.

Christmas Gifts....

The kids and I decided to not try to buy gifts for each other and just plan a week's vacation at a cottage on a lake up north next summer.  I liked the idea and since we had gifts for the two new babies in our families we had a reason to get together for Christmas gift opening.

But as I contemplated on the "leftovers" of Christmas it was mostly the gifts I received that were unintended, I will long remember. 

The picture of my good friend with her grand daughter and the cuddle quilt I made for them.  Good friends are truly a treasure.  The unexpected gift of pink booties for my grand daughter's baptism from a church woman.  What a warm and blessings filled gift.  The great "bread" conversation I had with my nephew and the promise of a loan of the cookbook he uses to create such wonderful bread.  The promise of another nephew, he was still looking for the interior window shades for the french door he had sold us in October.  The bright smile of my grandson, Luca as he reached out to touch my dog, Gauge's inquiring nose. Another good friend going Christmas shopping with me at an antique warehouse.  We didn't buy anything, but spent a long lunch just talking.  The brown Christmas that was brightened by sunshine to be a beautiful day even without snow. Grand daughter, Vittoria's serenading everyone with her happy singing, music to my ears.  A long, warm hug from my brother in law, Kris, one that shared so much and understood all.  Watching my brother, Kim delight in his grandson's opening of his Christmas gift.  Great niece, Tara's love of all things, Shelby, (her aunt and uncle's yellow lab retriever), stowed away in my mom's basement while we celebrated Christmas.   Peter introducing Rowan and Autumn to the wonders of Angry Birds on his iphone. Autumn in her wonderful red polka dot dress with matching polka dot tights given as a gift from Aunt Kamie.  A hug from an old and good friend after church Christmas morning, congratulating me on my grandchildren, calling me "Grandma", and confessing that he now had 5 grandchildren. Christmas shopping with Annie on a drear day, and having so much fun.  My niece, Gina feeding her son, Wyatt carrots out of a jar while sitting on the floor with him. The generations of Walter's congregating at my mom's house for Christmas and loving each other.  These are the unexpected and wonderful things I received this Christmas.  It can't be measured in dollars and can't be equated a value.  They will be added as priceless memories.

The gathering of family is a cherished Christmas tradition and one I know will change and fluctuate as the season's pass and we are added to and subtracted from.  My dear Kurt's annual Christmas card, something I count on more than any gift.  The gathering around the big oak table at Mom's before we eat Christmas brunch and singing, "Happy Birthday to Jesus", holding hands and lighting a birthday candle my nephew made for his grandma 30 years earlier.  The Christmas story read and remembered in service, song and story, as in the end, it is the Greatest Gift of all....

These are the gifts of Christmas..

Christmas Done

It has been a different year.  I've said that before and I will continue to say it up until the end of this year.  It would be wonderful if it was as simple as just turning the calendar page to start life anew and a fresh.  But though we mark the end of one year with great celebration and hoopla, it doesn't mean that the New Year will be different from the old.  I am finding out that for much of our lives, change is little, incremental steps.

I have had a problem getting Christmas-y for the last decade.  Call it getting old, call it seeing commercialism run rampant, call it finding it increasingly hard to find just the "right gift for adult children", and call it a nagging sense that this isn't what Christmas is about.  I have never celebrated Christmas as just the Birth of our Lord, but the Christmas story was as integral to my childhood as was Santa Claus.  They were part and parcel of each other.  Somewhere they lost each other and both seemed gone to me.  I would give to charities and feel somewhat better, but writing a check out isn't the same as doing a kindness for someone, unexpected and seeing their face light up.  I became disillusioned with having to pick the charity that would do the most good and then being flooded with "reminders" the rest of the year.  I know many of these charities are now "big business" but it just soured me on what I was really grateful for.

My kids grew up and the saying is, "Christmas is for kids".  That may seem true, but the deeper meaning of Christmas is its for all of us, born in the form of a tiny babe in Bethlehem, that held the universe in his tiny hand.  When you think on that for a few moments you can't help but be awed at what this is.  How can you think that Christmas is just some holiday that has grown and morphed over the centuries?  It is the magic that is Christmas.  But I lost that for a time.  I retreated into thinking Christmas was so much better when I was a child or when I watched my children tear into Christmas.  But I now find that tearing into Christmas isn't what its all about either.  Call it maturity wisdom, but often now its the quiet reflection and remembering with a smile, Christmases past....

Its the bubble candles on my grandparent's Christmas tree.  We never had them on our tree and how fascinating they were to watch bubble continuously.  I almost bought a set when I saw them at Bronner's a few years ago.  They were outrageously expensive, and I had a suspicion they wouldn't bring back that wondrous time any better than my memories would, so I passed them by.  But I hope that Grandma and Grandpa are smiling up in heaven right now for all the joy they gave me in the years I spent Christmases with them.

There was my favorite Christmas, the year my brother, Kim and I got our new two wheel bikes.  It seems that I had no idea I was getting them in my recollections today, and that my brother came into my room at 5 a.m. to tell me, Santa had left a two wheeler under the tree for each of us.  What magic that feeling was.  I wish I could just hug it up close to me and never let it go.  I was a believer on that morning.  I think if you asked my brother for his favorite Christmas, that would be it also.  Magic doesn't strike often, and I have learned that Christmas magic is even more rare, but that surely was one time.

There were the Christmas presents we found and peeked at one Christmas.  Yes, I knew I was getting a pair of new ice skates one year, and while I enjoyed the ice skates and still have them I believe, the magic of Christmas had dimmed a bit when I found those skates.  I never had the urge to "peek" at Christmas gifts again.  I watched my great nieces and nephew tear through wrappings this year, and wondered if my own children were that intent on getting to the prize, and then on to the next one after.  I am sure they were.  My grand babies are too young this year to even care more about the wrapping paper than the gift, but that will come with time. 

Call me German, call me thrifty, but I take the most satisfaction out of gifts I have made.  They may not turn out exactly as I planned, and there are quite often numerous mistakes and boo-boo's, but they are also made with much love and reflection and though the recipient will never know it, a time to remember all that went into the relationship that produced the gift.  I have come to the age where an unexpected gift, someone made just for me is more precious than a thousand Christmas gifts bought, because it needed to be. As they used to say, "the gifts from the hearts" are always the best.  The boys will not even remember the Cabbage Patch dolls, I made them from a kit one year.  Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage those years, and they came out with a doll you could make.  So, I made each of the boys one, sewing on them late at night when they were in bed.  I finished them the day before Christmas Eve.  I am pretty sure they only received a cursory look at while on to the next gift which was probably a "Transformer" or Lego of some kind.  They were never played with that I remember and were finally put away in the "boys" boxes and probably should have been donated long ago, as I do not see either becoming sentimentally attached to a doll of their childhood, despite the fact, they were made by their mom and each stitch represented a time to remember her "boys"....

And so it is with many Christmas memories.  Some are blurry edged Christmas lights of remembrance.  Others are sharp pinpoints of brightness like the Christmas star.  Some take pulling out the Christmas box and finding a long discarded homemade ornament in the bottom of the box, and remembering how it was made and why.  Other times its a memory conjured up by someone else that brings it all crystal clear.   Some Christmas memories are strictly mine.  Some will be strictly my children's, (I hope), and as I look into the faces of my grandchildren, I hope many bright ones will be lasting Christmas memories for them.

Christmas wasn't bad or good this year.  I don't know that I ever had a bad Christmas because there was always family around and good Christmas memories.  Some were better than others, but most just are fused together with that happy blush of being together.  Its been a different year, and maybe that's how I'll remember this Christmas some day.  I do know one thing, that while Christmas seems to be the end of the year, the end of excess and overdoing culminating in one long week, it is rightly the beginning of our Lord's life here on earth.  A renewal and a chance to celebrate the tiny life that changed the world forever....

Merry Christmas to all. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Searching for Christmas

If I have any readers of this blog, they are probably yawning and have long since given up looking for me with any regularity.  Christmas started in earnest after Thanksgiving, no matter my stubborn belief that I do not put up a tree until the first weekend in December and that even doing that seems to be more ritual than anything.   I have resigned myself to the fact that of the nine or ten light strings I put on the tree, which worked when I plugged them in beforehand, at least two strings will die the day after I have the tree all decorated.  The manufacturers of these little ulcers in a box, (and we all know it is likely China), fool us with the credo that if one bulb goes out, the string will stay lit.  It is a part truth, because the string will invariably stay partly lit, but the one half will die and stubbornly refuse to light ever again.  It has caused me hours of endless Christmas frustration in the past and wondering why I bother with the stupid tree anyway.

Not want a Christmas tree?  That is blasphemy of the highest sort.  Why, I remember when my  dad's parents, the elderly of elderly set of grandparents I possessed, didn't want a tree.  I was a kid but I was shocked and appalled that Grandma Walter didn't want to put up a Christmas tree.   Luckily, some of her daughters held my same opinion and got a tree for her and decorated it with the blue lights, tinsel and simple ornaments I always associated with her.  I could never imagine Grandma Walter getting excited about picking out just the right ornaments for her tree or taking joy out of this sign of eternal optimism, as the tree was cut down and put in its stand.  I shuddered to think I would ever get that old, and lose all the spirit that to me was Christmas.  Christmas tree decorating for me as a child, was a family affair, and my brother and I always waited with baited breath until the light strings, (which back then seemed to not work before they went on the tree and we would spend a good hour figuring out which bulb had perished), were all on the tree, so my brothers and sister and I could hang the ornaments, and finish off the tree with the glorious tinsel.  I don't remember my mother ever being tired and cranky about the Christmas tree, (I'm sure she was), I just remember staring at the finished tree for hours and thinking it was magical to stare into the tree with its lights and glitter covered ornaments and shiny tinsel.  There was no other time like Christmas and it wasn't ready to begin until the tree was decorated.

Well, wouldn't you know it, too many years of malfunctioning lights have done me in.   Too many years of my kids indifference to decorating the tree, and my struggling with not feeling very ho-ho-ho, and pretending I did, made me a kindred soul to Grandma Walter.   I have threatened an artificial tree for years, preferably one that is "pre-lit" but somehow have just never got around to it.  We now discovered all those conservation seedlings we planted 15 years ago grown into presentable blue and white spruce trees, the perfect size for a Christmas tree.  We invariably will find 3 trees in a row, planted too close together, and the last decade have found the perfect way to thin the grove and get a really fresh tree that doesn't shed its needles and isn't artificially sprayed green to look better.   Our trees may be a bit crooked and may have one or two bald patches, but the ding, ding, ding,.....bonus:  its FREE for the cutting.

This year I faced the tree trimming with the usual loathing, more at myself for not appreciating the ability to still do this and find some fun and good memories in it, than anything else.  But some where along the line of Kurt and I cutting the tree down on a December morning which had seen a heavy, six inch snowfall coat all of the branches, (since melted and now a brown Christmas would seem to be our lot), letting it thaw out in the garage overnight and getting it up the next day, I experienced a new sense of peace about decorating.   I didn't put a full dozen ornaments on the tree.   The tree was smaller this year and seemed to tell me, "less is more".   I searched my soul while I decorated this year, and realized if I lost the want to decorate the Christmas tree, I had gone down a road of Christmas truly being just another holiday to get through.  I didn't have to participate in the rush to buy the perfect gift, or all the extraneous details we have now attached to Christmas.  I could just appreciate it for what the holiday is, the birth of my Lord Jesus.  I could marvel once again at how it must have been to be a shepherd in the fields that night, looking up into a sky full of stars, to see that one star more brilliant than any others and suddenly to have the skies alive with a multitude of the Heavenly Host proclaiming His birth.   Just trying to imagine it takes my breath away. 

A Christmas tree may seem to be pretty far removed from Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior, but it reminds me that I need to slow down and reflect and be joyous, even if that is a quiet joy.....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Road to Good Intentions

I have been away too long.  The road to HE- double hockey sticks is paved with Good Intentions or so it is written.  Not sure about where good intentions end up, but I am pretty sure we all have good intentions that are never fulfilled.   And yet I know people, my own son, being one, who sets goals for himself and timelines and seldom does he not succeed in those.   His goals and timelines tend to be very flexible and subject to surprising change, and maybe that's the secret to it all.  Beats me, but at this point the good intentions of mine through the years that did not materialize would fill a couple of large, dusty books.  

I had planned to write on here at least twice a week and sometimes more.  Three times a week was the goal that seemed attainable.  Well, here we are and more than three weeks have passed and nada.  Its not that I didn't have things run through my brain, but my brain seems to become more sieve-like with every passing month, and they come in and out they go.  I could use the excuse that Holiday happenings occurred and they did, but those were over two weeks past.  And I could use the excuse that I'm flat out decorating for Christmas which I am, but still....a half hour of morning's time doesn't seem like much, and yet I haven't seemed to find those precious moments.

It hasn't been an easy three weeks but then none of us breeze through life, as I am rudely finding out.  A meeting of women friends the other night, revealed we pretty much share universal sleep loss.   Where we once could fall asleep at the drop of a baby's toy, (and didn't in those days, we think we would never sleep again?), now we find sleep harder to find, and when we do sleep, we are too often, wrenched awake at hours only 3rd line shift workers realize.   Two o'clock, three and even four a.m. are now our hours to roam the house and watch the Hallmark channel's endless display of Christmas movies, which cheer us now, but what about January.....and February and, gloomy, gloomy March?    I don't even want to think of that prospect right now.  So, we are alike in our misery, and wondering when does this newest affliction of our aging process kick off and when will we sleep nonstop like many of the really senior citizens I know.   I surely hope its soon, though judging by my friend's various ages, I've got another decade yet of this....bummer.

So my latest good intentions of writing more kind of ran amuck, but I did have Thanksgiving in Nashville.  It was a bit of an impulse, but I do think sometimes God looks down on us and says this will all work out and to go for it.   I lined up a house sitter and dog watcher, Annie and Pete were glad to have us and declared they would do all the Thanksgiving dinner prep and it would be waiting for us when we got down there on Thanksgiving afternoon.   My family famous butterhorn rolls were the only request I was asked to bring.  We had a good trip down, less road traffic on Thanksgiving, and arrived in mid afternoon.  A wonderful dinner, where Annie pulled out all her pent up culinary arts and amazed and delighted us all with turkey, a new and delicious stuffing, squash with bleu cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberries and of course, a perfectly roasted turkey.   Oh yeah, a southern pecan pie and a pumpkin bread pudding that was soooooo good. We ate like kings and queens and had enough daylight and warm temps to take a walk of her neighborhood which never fails to delight me when I visit. 

We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather the whole of our time in Nashville.  Mornings were unrushed and late breakfasts were sumptuous, complete  with leftover turkey dinner fixings reborn as wonderful morning dishes.  We walked the neighborhood, visited antique shops and stayed away from anything remotely sounding like a "mall" or Black Friday.   We watched Michigan State beat Northwestern at a bar on the honky tonk row of Nashville's downtown area, and while there were tons of tourists outside, inside it was cozy as a small congregation of Spartan faithful gathered to watch our team win.  On Saturday evening because we were feeling a bit more courageous we took on Opryland to see the Christmas decorations and while it was very crowded, we took our time and enjoyed the lights and the decorations that make this a must stop for me when I am in Nashville at this time of year. 

We left Nashville, early Sunday morning in a drizzling rain that stayed with us all the way North to our home.  While it was good to be home after having warm sun, and new sights and our problems at bay for a time, they are still there.  Our dogs were happy to see us, and the land and our house seems so enduring there is a strength to that, and one I will try to tap into in the months to come.   We were blessed this time.  Our serendipity chance of a trip South, worked out right, nearly every mile of the way.  It won't always be that way and there have been times in the past and will continue to be times in the future where all will seem destined to failure, but its knowing that sometimes it does that makes intentions worth seeking....