Monday, January 9, 2012

January Dreaming...

So far this January we have been blessed, and I use this in my case only, with unusually mild weather for winter in Michigan.  I know a brown Christmas wasn't on every one's top ten list and especially those who came to Michigan from out of state, hoping for that powdered sugar white of Christmases past, but it didn't bother me and I have been trying to enjoy each day of sunshine and over 40 degree temps to their fullest, as it is January and things will change. 

It is normal at this time of year to start dreaming of warmer climates for some time during our endless winters.  I have concluded it isn't the cold nearly as much as the dark, day coming late and night coming at dinner time.   Combined with the cold, especially last year's bitter long weeks of cold and snow, and I have wont to snuggle down under an electric blanket and not put my head out until well after Easter....The older I become, the less I am enthralled with Michigan winters.  Sacreligious, I would have shouted a decade ago, if I didn't have snow.  But much has changed in my life and I have succumbed to not missing winter all that much.  And though I swore I would never be a snowbird, travel in the winter does entice me, more and more.  For now I just look with relish to a week in a warmer climb, but I also dream more and more of a month or more in a warmer area.   I don't think I need Florida for that month, but I would just like to visit warmer areas where the foibles of severe winter weather won't stop my getting out and exploring. 

Growing up on a farm, many would think we seldom ventured far from home.  And perhaps left to my dad's decisions, it would have been the summer weekend at my grandparent's cottage, but my mom had traveled with my grandparents growing up and while that may have ultimately skewed her views of long trips, anywhere, she did travel with my dad and all of us went on travel vacations at least a half dozen times in my growing up.   We went to see my uncle get married in Wisconsin when I was in the 6th grade, and went into Wisconsin through the Upper Peninsula on the way in and down around Chicago on the way home.   When I was just in high school we went to Gettysburg and Washington DC, culminating in a long drive to Williamsburg and then a longer drive home.  Those trips stuck with me and when we had our own children we tried to take trips every couple of years out of state but close enough to make driving something that would not send Mom and Dad over the edge. 

While not always stress free, they were always memorable, at least from my perspective, now years later.  Not sure what my kids would say.  We have been to Washington DC and over to the Virginia shores area with the kids.  We have gone to Gatlinburg for an Easter break and had wonderful warm weather, and many things that impressed Mom and Dad, but not so much our kids.  We flew to Florida to stay with my grandparents in their winter home and had a delightful, simple time then rented a car and drove to Disney World for the last four days of our trip.  After a Saturday of crowds, lines and cranky kids we figured out to let the kids swim and play in the hotel pool until mid afternoon and then eat an early dinner and go into the park.  Many of the young children rides were clearing out and we came home as the park was closing and plopped very tired kids in bed.  When the kids were older, sports started to take precedence over longer trips and summers were devoted to sports clubs and leagues, and travel was weekend tournaments.  

There was a trip to New York City for Annie and her cousin in December that my sister in law and I barged in on.   New York was as impressive as I had ever heard, but the memory I took back was the Radio City Rockettes and what that wonderful place was like at Christmas time.   Street pedlars, Macy's, and Times Square.  A very expensive piece of Lindy's famous cheesecake.  I also chaperoned a  softball club's trip to Oklahoma City to play in the college softball world series stadium.   Impressive but even more impressive was the memorial to the Edward P Murrah building, the lighted chairs for all the victims of that bombing and black day in our history.  It was something I will never forget.

In 2007, Kurt and I traveled to Paris to visit our son and daughter in law who were living there.  I had heard so many stories of Paris and of course was excited to see all the well known landmarks, but first I fell in love with the kid's neighborhood.  They lived in the Marin section of Paris and it was enchanting.  We happened to have had wonderful sunny, balmy weather, perfect for outdoor cafes, smelling fresh baked baquettes every morning, and window shopping all manner of everything in the little stores.  We saw Paris, but it was those glimpses of the neighborhoods that truly won my heart.   We traveled for a ten trip to Italy, starting with Venice and ending in Roma...   The kids went along.  We stayed in a small apartment in Venice.  It bordered a narrow alley of cobblestone that was the direct route to the water taxi stop behind the building.   Venice was enchantment at every turn and crowds but I remember best the footsteps of the commuters every morning waking us, the harlequin mask shop just down from our apartment and the piazza where the locals met to await the school children in the afternoons and talk and visit while the chidlren played kickball and jump rope.   I wanted to do nothing but just sit and absorb those wonderful every day slices of Venetian life. 

Roma was historic and awe inspiring as so much that is the roots of Christianity is there.  The basilicas, the duomo's and the cathedrals left one breathless.  We spent our last wonderful nights returning to the Coliseum again and again as a half moon rose over it and it fairly shouted with the ghosts of all that went on there.  To be rooted in such history was something so precious.  

Two years ago we flew to London to once again visit where the kids were living.  And again a city of such history was enticing.  We logged, I don't know how many foot miles.  We saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and my favorite, the Tower of London.  We walked the amazing parks in London which were unlike anything I have seen here.  The spring flowers bloomed before our very eyes, and such a respite from the busy London life.  A trip to Edinburgh gave glimpses of the spartan lives of the Scots to the north and how mists and moors bespoke what the Clans were all about.   I have wonderful memories of Europe and feel privileged and blessed that I could see things I only dreamed about.  Traveling has always been money well spent to me.  I have never begrudged one dollar that I spent seeing something that has enriched my life.  But I have come to find that travel can be as intricate as flying to New Zealand, or riding a bike down a never before traveled road.   I have enjoyed visiting Nashville, not so much for all the entertainment it has to offer, but for the fact, my daughter is there, and the streets of her neighborhood draw me to walk around and explore.  I would tire of just walking the neighborhood and my daughter, Annie would tire of me hanging around, but it is a place that makes me smile with anticipated next visits. 

I may not travel to all the places I have seen in pictures and that's OK, as long as I do not lose the urge to explore no matter how far or near.  Yesterday on a sunny, winter day that saw temps just below 40 degrees, we took the dogs for a walk to a game refuge not far from our house.  It looked vastly different than the summer months, but was quiet and unique in things to look for.  On the way home we drove down a road that I had not been down in 20 years or more, a mere five miles from my house.  I looked at the houses and the farms in winter, uncovered by a snow less winter and clarified by leafless trees, and vowed to come this way again, soon.   I will still do some January dreaming and hope that next year I might actually do that exploration in the warmer climates at least for a short time, but for now, I'll just enjoy the day I have.   Its good to be here...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Saving Dollars

I have gone over to the Dark Side.   Next I will be seeking out the Early Bird dinner specials, and thinking how clever I am.  Yes, I have sprung full force into my Golden Years though for the life of me, I could swear they were a decade away, at least.

You see folks, I have started shopping the Dollar stores and LOVING it.  I have always flirted around the edges of Dollar stores.  Merrill had one early on, and while I stopped a few times, it wasn't really on my way, and I kind of thought it a place full of cheap dishes and plastic ware, stuff I really didn't need.  But that was well over fifteen years ago.  Dollar stores of different kinds and labels, (but always with the word "dollar" prominently displayed  somewhere in the title), started to proliferate, and I just was left behind.  Heck, my daughter's company has an account with Dollar General and she works out of their corporate headquarters.  But I always held off from shopping them regularly, no Dollar Generals close by.  Even with that excuse the two dollar stores, Hemlock once supported only got cursory support from me.  That could be why one folded.  But over the course of the last year I have come to be a believer and a follower. 

It started out innocently enough when I threw a baby shower for my daughter in law and son.   It was a small shower at our house but I discovered the wonder of discounted party supplies at the Dollar store still in our small town.  That lead me to explore Dollar General and Dollar Tree, more distant, but still worth visiting in my search for Shower supplies.  Not content to just hop in and out I discovered other "goodies" for future endeavors.  Ridiculously cheap small paint brushes, perfect for some staining and finishing projects upcoming, where the "use and toss" method would be employed.  Aluminum baking pans when I needed to take a dish to pass at a neighborhood gathering or deliver a meal to a sick friend's family.  Yup, those stores came in handy.   But I had not totally submerged myself in "Dollar mania".   After all, after last winter I had only stopped in to a Dollar Tree while looking for one item and come upon "dollar" 8 pack double A batteries.  Great deal I thought.  Well, not so much in that case as those dollar batteries lasted about 2 weeks in my solar outdoor ground lights.  I digress....

That was last fall, and while I am trying to economize more, tap into my inner German frugality, or become even more cheap as my son would likely snort, I still hadn't descended to shopping any Dollar store regularly.  The closest store aside from the one in Hemlock was a 15 minute drive away.  And it was just easier to make my weekly shopping list up for the big chain store I frequented, then try to go three other places and waste time and set off my annoyance meter.  But then two things happened.  I realized I had plenty of time, so that was an excuse. Truth was, I just didn't like running all over bargain shopping, until a sale circular fell out of the weekly local  shopping paper we get, opening right to $.85 diet Coke in 2 liter bottles with coupon.  I am not made of stone I do react with all the thriftiness in me to a good deal.  Even better, the limit was 6 so I could buy in bulk.   I'd hit the Mother Lode.   Those of you who know me, know I am not a soda pop person.  Never have been, and don't think it will be a late life addiction, but Husband Kurt should own stock in Coca Cola, for all the money he has forked over for Diet Coke over the years.  I think I could have bought a Cadillac with it or a new pony, or a very nice pontoon boat, but the man has few other addictions and in the early years my chocolate cravings might have gone mano e mano with him. 

Still, I felt elated in seeing this wonderful sale and going over the rest of the circular with an eagle eye I found several more items worth checking out.   Having never shopped a Dollar store from their ads before I had some trepidation that I would arrive seeking bargains only to find they were out of everything I wanted and it was "first come, first served" and no rain checks.  Since it was only out to Hemlock and I was multi tasking a couple of other stops, I was reasonably assured that it would not be a total waste of time.  An hour later I emerged from Family Dollar with a few grocery bags of six 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke, (the coupon limit), a two pound can of Maxwell House coffee with a good discount, body lotion and some plastic containers, all gleaned from the ad circular.  I am now hooked on shopping dollar stores regularly and who knows I may soon be clipping all manner of coupons and checking out Bob Evans senior discounts....Kill me now....

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Some Hairy Truths

The Christmas tree is down and now lays on the back deck under the bird tray feeder, another bird perch for now, as the greedy, feathered friends await my every other day, smorgasbord buffet.  I could put oiled seed and my cornmeal, suet mix out every day, and I am constantly amazed at how quickly the finches, junco's, woodpeckers and titmice will find it.  Blue jays regularly show up to scare off the more timid birds but the finches and even sparrows find safety in numbers.

The tree is gone and the decorations from the living room are boxed up for another year.  Light strings checked and those no longer functioning were pitched into the garbage.  I still have a few Santas and snowmen up in a kitchen cupboard and the wreath hanging on the front door, but for most intents and purposes, Christmas is in the books as they say.

Now begins the doldrums of the long winter, which despite my best intentions, seems longer and less cozy, year by year.  I once really liked winter and thought the Christmas season was not complete without snow of some sort, and I always felt let down when my birthday, a week before Christmas was snow less.  Even in the winter months I expected snow and cold temperatures.  With snow I could sled down hills, at least what hills we had down at our creek flats.  I could ice skate on the creek or more likely on the skating pond my dad so patiently flooded every year.  Those who knew my dad, knew patience was seldom his forte.  There was lots of time to just read, my favorite past time.  I could lose myself in books and go everywhere and be every thing.  I was a kid.  I had parents who loved me, who made sure I had clothing, food, and lots of love.  I took all this for granted but that very reassurance meant winter was just a time to hunker down.  Growing up on a farm, it seemed to me it was the time, my dad was always around and had time to do things with us and for us.  He put together 1,000 piece puzzles on a cardboard table set up in the living room for the winter months.  We could help but I could never muster the enthusiasm or the patience, (and again, this word that never seemed to apply to Dad was more fitting than I realized), to spend an hour finding the right spot for two puzzle pieces.  I was blissfully unaware of the problems facing my parents, and that perhaps winter wasn't the ideal season, it was for me.  I didn't know of the worries over stretching money over the long winter after a bad crop year, or unexpected bills, or illness beset them.  Worries over aging parents, though my mom's parents to me were the youngest grandparents I knew.  Still, I am sure there were worries that were adult worries and something that were never a part of my world.  My biggest problems seemed to be my best friend in fourth grade suddenly liking someone else and the two of them wearing matching skirts and sweaters to school, spending sleep over time together, (I was too often homesick to like to do this), but it didn't stop me from being jealous and too often brought to tears.

I was a child who could amuse myself, as my elders pointed out, but I was often the lonely child, because I didn't know how to reach out and draw people to me.  Grown up and now contemplating life beyond raising children and being just a homemaker, I realize I have always been drawn to those women who were outgoing and would pull me along in their wakes.  My best friends growing up were two sisters who lived just down the road from me.  They were the only other girls in my country neighborhood who were my age, so we were cast together whether it would have been that way or not if circumstances were different.  But I believe that circumstances do not dictate our lives and that every person put in our path has the ability to affect us deeply, or lightly, for good or for bad.

I sat in age right between the two sisters.  Six months younger than one, and eight months older than the other.  I shared grade school class numbers with the younger, though both sisters went to a Catholic parochial school until junior high and by then I was in a Lutheran parochial school.  It wasn't until high school that we were actually sharing the same buildings and friends.  And at that time is probably when the shift away from each other began.  We remained friends but we were experiencing different groups of friends within our circles and we had found out about boys, and what boyfriends meant.   One sister was dark and vivacious.  The other blonde and more quiet and very art influenced.  Neither of those traits went far in our small high school but years after high school and long after she had left the area, never to really return, people still asked me about Marlene and what she was doing.  Childhood friends and with the modern ease of email and such to keep instantly in touch, you would think that we would have, but once a year Christmas cards, that even now are sporadic, and the common denominator of an aging and sick mother, have at least made the once a year, a bit more numerous.  It was hard for me to face the fact, that the sisters had moved on and left the small town where they grew up, and made lives far removed from mine.  They moved on while I remained stuck in memories of a good childhood,  one where I felt secure, and in the light of my adulthood, trouble free.

And so I grew up, went to college, where I tended to have the same kind of girlfriends I had, had during my childhood.   I was attracted to the lively, "fun" friends, but quite often found myself with the quiet introspective ones.  I married a man , who had different pursuits than any I had known.  His friends were the ones he found pursuing his past times.   It was hard the first year's of our marriage to find friends we both enjoyed.  Too often he liked the man for a hunting buddy and I found women who shared my interests in homemaking and crafts.   Kurt worked in the family business and I was a homemaker.  Making friends with in the work force was not something either of us could or did do.  My best friend for years remained my brother's first wife.  I was the maid of honor in their wedding.  She and I had just liked each other from the beginning when my brother first introduced us.  She was the friend I always gravitated to.  Outgoing and fun and loving to have a good time.  She seemed to just want to scoop up life and squeeze everything out of it.  Our sons were born in alternating patterns so we shared baby blankets, toys and sleepers for 6 years.  We shared maternity clothes and took vacations together.  Kurt and my brother both shared a love of hunting and fishing, so we made for a very good foursome.  Things weren't always perfect, but we shared some very good years.

When my kids started really becoming active in sporting events and school sports, our friendships moved over to parents of our kid's friends.  We met at sporting events, and afterward shared endless "Mickey D" stops and trips chaperoning kids here and there.  We met at science fairs, and music fests.  We took short trips together but most were met at tournaments and sports weekends.  Endless summer days spent watching baseball and softball games and winter weekends of AAU and hotel rooms after sweaty gyms.  Those were the years that our lives centered around our kids.  I won't say we did it all for our kids because we got as much enjoyment, if not more, out of all of this.  Old friends and groups were supplanted by new ones.  For some older connections it all remained but for others they were as superfluous as meeting at games and sitting together.

I found strength and friendships in a Bible study group two other friends dragged me into, kicking and screaming, literally.  It has been my lifeline many times.  Kurt still had his hunting and some fishing, but he threw himself into work and when he wasn't there spent much time enjoying all that satellite tv could afford.  We have friends who are couples, but no one who we would do long vacations with or who would just make a standing invitation to see as often as possible.

I have become restless of recent years.  I realize that the women I love to be with are those who seem to grab for life.  Who don't sit home and contemplate the gray winter days.  They go, they enjoy and they are generous of spirit.  I feel so often niggardly of that same spirit and wonder why they take the time to embrace me.  I too often worry about everything, and know that worry drains me of joy.  I have much but so often go down the road that leads to the dark tunnel and the vision that sees only myself.  I vow to go out and volunteer, and get out in life, but I find excuses.  If someone invites me to help, I am overjoyed because someone thinks enough of me to include me.  I have received many blessings this past year from the women in my life I call friends.  Now I need to return that kindness in fuller measure and seek that joy for others that was given to me.

I will write because that is what I do.  I am not an "out there" person, I like my quiet and my introspection, but I know longer want to be fooled into believing I can do no more maturing.  I can grow to be more outgoing and I believe God can move me to give more of myself.  I am always a work in progress and I just hope those wonderful people who have befriended me through the years can hang with me until I get it right.... 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Cleaning up the old Year

I am sitting right now looking into my sun room, (former screened in porch), and procrastinating against cleaning up the last remnants of the Christmas tree, which would be pine needles.  Yesterday I took down the Christmas tree.  In my holiday rituals that usually falls somewhere around New Year's weekend.  I know many like to do it right after Christmas, taking down the dregs of the season finished quickly and neatly.  Its just not me.  I don't put up my live tree until the first weekend of December and like the idea of one month of Christmas tree gazing and happiness in the season. 

The tree came down pretty easily.  It is a job that I like the day to accomplish.  Off come the candy canes, then the ornaments, carefully re-boxed and packed away according to category or child as some day I keep thinking my other two kids will want the ornaments that are officially theirs with names listed on the box.  My eldest child took his ornaments a couple of years ago, and I still found a couple more with his name on them when I packed them away this year.  I worked on the tree through the Rose Bowl Parade, a once never-miss New Year's tradition.  Its been a decade or more since that was the case, but yesterday I enjoyed listening to the parade being broadcast and it was easy enough to turn to view breathtaking floats and wonder at how they do this, year after year.  But it was listening to the Marine Corp Band play the Corps Anthem and hear those first bars, "From the Halls of Montezuma", that brought tears to my eyes.  And the Salvation Army Band, a staple at the Rose Parade, and their familiar music allowing me to travel through the years, backward to that time when I was a kid and viewing the parade for the first time in living color.  In this age of second changing technology we forget what a thrill just watching the Rose Parade in color was to us then.

I continued taking down the tree through the Michigan State Bowl game in Tampa, FL.  It still smarted that we had been denied a BCS Bowl game because of politics and the NCAA's insistence on who travels well which said in the end its all about money.  We had to play yet another SEC team and the first half looked to be a replay of most of our bowl games in recent years.  But the second half was different and many would say the opponent went conservative but I think MSU just wanted it more and had some help from Above, though I always say He has no interest in these kinds of things.   Still, he seemed evident in that things that should have assured a win for Georgia, kept Michigan State in the game.  The tree take down slowed to a crawl, as I paced and vented that this game would never get over.  In a third over time, it was decided and Michigan State broke a long drought in Bowl games, Coach Mark Dantonio got his first Bowl win as a Spartan head coach and several very worthy seniors their first Bowl game win. 

A satisfying win and after a celebration dinner in which I actually made my first cupcakes from scratch since the very early years of my marriage, along with scratch buttercream icing, I settled down to finish the tree.  The last of the ornaments were packed up.  I always spend more time looking all the ornaments over taking them down as I'm rushed getting all of them on the tree.  I remember that I got the Muppets ornament for Annie thinking I would start cartoon ornaments for her, but having already started "angels" for her.  Korey got all the antique car ornaments and a few motorcycles, which are really kind of far removed from him.  They bring smiles as I tenderly put them back in their boxes for another year long sleep.  The light strings come off next and I note that one string which seemed to quit working and have another string added, now all worked.  Thirteen light strings and my tree was the smallest I had since our first Christmas together.  A bare tree now stared at me.  All that was left was to lift it from the stand and carry it out the door to the back deck.  In under five minutes the former Christmas tree lay outside forlorn and bare, a temporary perch for the birds who filled the feeder next to the deck. 

After the tree was disposed of, I turned attention to packing away Grandma's Creche.  In our second year of marriage, Grandma Laurenz, an adamant crafter, made all of the married grandchildren a ceramic Nativity set on her winter sojourn in Florida.  Ceramics was something Grandma took up the last two decades of her life.  She fired the creations in Florida most of the time where she and Grandpa wintered.   The painted images were never very sharp, and the colors, at the time seemed rather bland, and it was more because they were my one Nativity that I put them up every year.  But time has changed my perspective, even as time has seemed to age those ceramic figures into an ageless patina that seemed to glow with my grandma's presence and life.   They weren't perfect but in that very imperfection they speak to me of Grandma and the love she used to make them.  It was tenderly this year, that I put those ceramic figures in the same box they had been stored for 33 years.  Will this be something to be passed on?   Who knows, but I do know to me this Creche is a very special reminder of my grandma and the dimple in her round cheeks when she wanted to tease us.  Christmas memories now rise up to meet me everywhere I turn.  Is it that this year has been different, or that as I age, I look for and cling to those things that have made me who I am?  I am the product of all that has gone before me and was bequeathed to me.  I am not finished yet into growing what I will be in the end, and the good Lord willing I will be here to grow for years to come. 

Today I will vacuum the pine needles, left by the tree we cut to give other trees we'd planted room to grow and spread.  It gave us pleasure and did its job.  Today I will take down the spare decoration and light string scattered throughout the living room.  The snowmen display and Santas in the kitchen and dining area will stay a few weeks longer.  But I have to face the fact, Christmas is done, the New Year has begun and its high time ....

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello New Year

Hello 2012.
How many resolutions will I make that go by the wayside?   Not many, as resolutions have never been my thing.  Its like always starting in the hole.  I have enough angst going on in my world.  I always start out hoping that the year will be different.  Call it the glass half empty person I am, but I don't remember every saying, I want more of the year just past, it was so danged good.  Nope, I tended to think that even with wonderful, momentous events occurring in my years, there was so much more ahead in the new year that would be better.  Somewhere along the line, the time before and directly after Christmas lost some of its cheer and I just wanted to go back to my routine, whatever that was, hunker down and endure the winter until spring would come and I could get outside and feel the sun on my face again.  Somewhere along the line, the summer and long days of light represented all that was good, and winter and dark days all that I wanted to avoid in life.

But things have a way of changing and morphing into unanticipated happenings.  My life seemed to be destined to follow a pretty straight line and while I didn't think excessively about my later years....OK, I didn't think about them at all, I just assumed that at the appropriate time I would have grand children, my children would live within shouting distance and that I would just turn into a reasonable facsimile of my wonderful grandma.   I would bake cookies with grandchildren, take them on walks around the farm and to the Children's Zoo in Saginaw.  I would have all the patience I never had with my own kids, and couldn't wait to rock babies to sleep.  I would volunteer in all sorts of worthwhile organizations and quilt and bake bread, and learn one new thing every year to make me a well rounded older citizen.   None of those things happened.  I have two children who live more than a hollar away.  I thought I would be the last woman in Michigan to get grandchildren, then I got two in one summer.  Not sure if the patience thing will work out any better than it did for their parents, and the quilting thing is kind of haphazard.  I would honestly like to do more but find excuses to not, do it that is.   I do bake bread, but then try not to eat it all myself.   And the volunteering thing seems to be on a "dragged kicking and screaming" all the way kind of deal or one that someone tricks me into.  I have invariably, enjoyed every volunteering  job I have done and know that more would only be good for me, but it seems I can find more ways not to than incentive to go for it.  Maybe that should be a resolution for this year.

This year will be different, I can feel it in my bones and my heart.  A new beginning is truly in the air this year, and I hope I am mature enough to realize time will not always be there and there isn't always a tomorrow.  My Facebook friends have shared many words of wisdom this year, and many I have reshared.  But in the end its the revelations I've received that lead me to know, I can start afresh every day if I so choose.  Perhaps all can be revealed in days, in a compact set of weeks, but it won't make the new me I have experienced any more clear.  On the outside, I am the same, only older, and now have age lines and grayer hair beneath the honeyed blond..  On the inside I have wisdom I didn't a year ago.   Time marches on and its up to me to know "all will be well".  Its up to me to be still and listen for it and then take the ball and run with it.  To take those leaps of faith when they are presented and to know all is relevant.  All that stands behind me and all that is before me....

The first day of 2012 in Hemlock, Michigan was gray for the most part and mild at 45 degrees at 10 a.m.  Rain showers passed through but then we received a brief hour of sunshine.  We walked the dogs in that sunshine and felt the promise of the New Year.  It didn't last but the rainbows seldom do.  We have to reach for them and grasp them for they won't be with us for long.  Before the election year phone calls and endless commercials make me want to live in a cave, before the winter winds wear me down, and before the grind of living and seeing those I love pass from me, I will rejoice in that hour of sunshine and look to the promise of that rainbow, no matter how swiftly it leaves me.

May the good Lord bless you all in the year to come.