During our Christmas shopping trips, I have noticed quite a few babies out there these days! Young mothers that are trying to get through the grocery store with a fussy baby or demanding toddler and I think, "Wow, I am glad I don't have babies anymore!" But yesterday in the grocery store I realized it doesn't matter what age your child is, parenting is hard!
Someone said that when you become a parent your heart lives outside of your body. So very true. And when they are young, YOU are responsible for their comfort, health, decisions, education, happiness, etc. You get through the sleepless nights and the rushed mornings, the soccer games, football games, band practice schedules and all the other things that go along with raising a child thinking, "This is going to get easier!"
Here's the thing...it doesn't. Because when your children grow up, you don't get your heart back. It always lives with them. Only now, the problems get bigger. You feel every success and every failure. As they move into adulthood you want to protect them from bad choices, but you can't. You can no longer hold their hand to make sure they don't fall when they are learning to walk. You have to let them walk out into the world without you, and you have to watch them fall. And it will break your heart. But you also get to watch them grow into the people you prayed to God they would become.
The interesting perspective I get to have, at the age of 54, is that I now understand that my mothers heart is still with me! And I see her feel all my pain, all my joy, all my frustration...but don't worry mom, your heart is safe with me.
As we got into bed last night Mike had a big smile on his face and he nearly skipped up to the bed. I asked him why he was so excited and he said, "The kids are coming for Christmas! We are going to have so much fun!" Mike can be really funny but he is rarely giddy. He is giddy these days.
We did some Christmas stocking shopping yesterday which is the shopping we love best at Christmas. And this year we have a new daughter-in-law, Lilly, who has never really experienced a family Christmas. It is a wonderful thing when we get to add another stocking to the fireplace at the cabin! I selected it really carefully which was a challenge because I don't know Lilly very well (she and Eric eloped this summer and they live in Kansas.) But we are determined to show Lilly just what kind of nutjob family she has married in to!
The best part of Christmas for us (and probably for most empty nesters) is having all the kids together for just a little while. We play board games, watch the same Christmas movies and usually go sledding. This Christmas there may not be any snow so we will go on a Christmas picnic with a campfire and hotdogs and smores. Eric and Lilly are coming home in just two weeks and we can't wait to see them!
Christmas preparations differ for Mike and I. I buy decorations and get the kids new pajamas. Mike buys tracer bullets! He and the kids love to go out on a snowy night and shoot green and red tracer rounds into the snow. Ahhh, the simple joys of a redneck Christmas!
As I have posted earlier, we live in a multi-generational house. Mike and I, my mother, and our daughter are all living in the same house. There are a lot of benefits to this arrangement. We take care of each other, share expenses, look after each others animals, etc.
There are also some downsides. Mike would say the biggest one for him is he always has to be clothed. He is comfortable with my mom, but not comfortable enough to sit around the house in his underwear. This has led to some interesting outfits though! The other night he had just gotten a camo hat he had ordered in the mail from what I called "the ugly hat store". One of those "boonie" hats in the German camo pattern that he likes. So, he went into the kitchen wearing his new hat, his gray and black camo pajama pants and a red plaid button down shirt. He was certainly "stylin'! All mom could say was "nice outfit." (Mike hadn't expected anyone to be in the kitchen.)
Then, of course, there are the times when you have your mouth all set for something you left in the fridge only to find someone else got to it first. When the kids were younger Mike would write "Don't even think about it!" on food he put in the fridge. It rarely stopped them.
We also run into some issues with the thermostat! My mother is in her late 70's and has no fat left on her body since her last bout of cancer. To her, 80 degrees is chilly. We had to compromise on the living room temperature for the summer (78 degrees). Fortunately, and I recommend this to any family thinking about sharing a house with an elderly parent, we have zoned heating and air-conditioning. Mom has her zone, our daughter has hers and we have ours. Even now, mom is the only one who has had her heater running.
She and I went to the cabin this summer for a weekend together. It was raining and 70 degrees (which I find to be a delightful temperature in the middle of the summer!) She and I sat out on the deck for about 30 minutes and then she went inside, covered herself with an electric blanket and plugged in a space heater 2 feet from her chair! It took her 2 hours to "thaw out".
So if you are thinking about combining homes with elderly parents just remember to be ready to forgive, forget, and find the funny in everything!
I have a confession to make. Mike and I are addicted to Alaska reality shows on TV. Alaska State Troopers, Yukon Men, Buying Alaska, they fascinate us! Why? I have no idea why! They are just like all the other redneck shows...only frozen and with better scenery!
However, I CAN say we have learned many things from these shows. First, we never want to live in a place where we are not at the TOP of the food chain. That is not the case in Alaska. Second, we do not want to live in a place where you pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a home that has no indoor bathroom...again, not the case in Alaska! Third, we want to be able to walk down the road or sit on our porch without having to use a gun. Actually, from what we can tell, no one has the time or inclination to sit on their porch in Alaska. In the summer they are too busy preparing for winter by cutting wood and hunting for food. In the winter the snow is over the porch and up to the windows so...no sitting on the porch!
On "Yukon Men" the danger these people face every day is amazing. I would imagine it keeps them on their toes...but I don't want to be on my toes. It looks exhausting! I just can't imagine living in a place where you need FIFTEEN cords of wood to survive the winter!! I like a little snow around Christmas, and then it can just go away! Not in Alaska.
A co-worker here at the station used to live in Alaska. She told me a story about how she had just washed her hair one winter morning and discovered her comb was in her car. So she just ran out to the car to get it. When she opened the car door it banged against her long hair and broke a big chunk of her hair off! Her hair had frozen solid in the few seconds it took her to run to the car! Ummm...no thanks!
So we will admire those who fight daily to live in Alaska from our couch in Texas, where we are warm and at the top of the food chain. At least we think we are.
We get our Christmas tree on Thanksgiving day at our cabin in New Mexico. So the day after Thanksgiving is my day to "deck the halls" which is more exhausting every year! Anyway, as I was lighting the tree and unwrapping all my treasured ornaments (including the ornaments the kids made with their pictures in them over the years) I was thinking about the term "Keeping Christmas" from Dickens' "A Christmas Carole" and that made me think of a friend of mine.
Just before we left for Thanksgiving I was having a conversation with her. She and I are about the same age and are in the same "season" of our lives. However, she has never married because she learned early not to trust her taste in men. She was talking about how much comfort she gets from an electric blanket when she is curled up at home. She decided that she was going to go out on Black Friday and buy some electric blankets for the elderly in our community. She could imagine how much comfort they would get from the warm gift.
My friend (who I will not name because it would embarrass her) is not wealthy. She is saving for her own retirement. She has never had a new car in all the years I have known her. She has to be frugal, shop carefully and rarely eats out. And her way of "Keeping Christmas" is not decking the halls, it is making sure that someone else is warm.
There are lots of ways to celebrate the Holidays. We all have our own traditions, favorite foods, favorite decorations, etc. But how nice it would be to sit curled up on Christmas morning, wrapped and warm in your electric blanket and know that there are others wrapped up and warm because of you. THAT is the "Keeping Christmas" I aspire to! It doesn't take a lot of money to impact someone's life for the better. Sometimes all it takes is a conversation.
We were on our way to the Show Of support Banquet when we heard the news. It took a minute to register. A train hit the parade float? What? How is this possible? You know, all the questions that go through your head when something so impossibly awful happens.
We went home, stunned and heartbroken. Thinking of the soldiers who had survived a war and died in a parade in Midland. Neither one of us could sleep.
When I got to work at 5am I just sat in my chair across from Mike and said "I don't know how to prep this show!" It was like the day after 9-11 for us. What to say? What to do? The Show of Support Military Hunt means so much to us! Seven years ago, our son made his committment to serve in the military at the banquet. Something profound that one of these wounded warriors said just sparked something in him and he joined ROTC the next day at Midland Freshman School.
After 4 years in ROTC he graduated from Midland High and went into the Army. He is a trained Cavalry Scout Sniper in Fort Riley, Kansas. ROTC really helped get Eric through High School.
We decided that if we were grieving so was everyone else in the Permian Basin! We parked the truck out front, I grabbed Kelley's jacket from her office (I didn't wear one to work) and what happened over the next 11 hours was an outpouring of sadness, disbelief, horror...and love. What an amazing community we live in!
Thank you for rising to the occasion and helping us raise nearly $48,000 for these soldiers and their families. Thank you for crying with us and letting us cry with you. Thank you for getting out of your cars and giving me hugs (hugs that I desperately needed!) But most of all, thank you for always praying for those men and women who protect this BIG family we call America!
It never ceases to amaze me how animals just love Mike! So much so that family and friends call him Dr. Doolittle. He gets his deep love of animals and birds from his mother. She really loved to watch the birds and always had a lot of feeders out on their property for them. I have run across old pictures of him feeding a squirrel peanut butter when he was a boy!
When we screened in our deck at the cabin, we had to make sure some of the screens could open so he could fill his bird feeders. It is the first thing he does when we get to the cabin, no matter how late it is when we arrive. I have watched wild birds land on his hands and eat seeds out of his palm. I have seen hummingbirds land on his fingers! It is really amazing.
Then there are the deer! He has several generations of deer that come to the cabin and literally look in the windows or screen door waiting for him to come out and feed them apples. They also eat out of his hands, even the big bucks! He always says we can't have a mounted deer head over the fireplace because one of his deer might look in the window and say "Oh God, there's uncle Frank!"
At home in Midland, every dog and cat in the house will find its way to Mike when he is sitting down. He becomes a "pet mattress". We have 3 dogs and 5 cats and they all love Mike. And he is always willing to scratch a head or rub a belly. And whenever he walks into a store that has a "store pet" it is the first thing he goes to and they follow him around the store until we leave. He has a strange gift. Another legacy from his mother, Maisie. I am sure it still makes her smile.
The question that we are asked most often (after "are you guys married?") is "How early do you guys get up?" 4:15 AM. That is the middle of the night no matter how many years we have been doing this!! And there is never a morning that we just bounce out of bed ready for work. Nope. It takes a while to really wake up that early. I do NOT envy those of you who get up early and have to handle heavy machinery!
Mike is ready in about 5 minutes. He lays out his clothes the night before. He shaves the night before as well because he learned early in his morning radio career that putting a sharp blade to your throat at 4:15 in the morning is NEVER a good idea! After he goes to work I have my 20 minutes in the bathroom to get ready. I learned from Mike to set my clothes out the night before as well. And I put on what I picked out even if I don't feel like wearing it anymore. No changing minds at 4:15 am because nothing good can come of that!
I get to the station, get a cup of really strong coffee, head upstairs to the studio and start show prep. I go through two country music news services, the newspapers, many internet sources (including one in Great Britain because they are some crazy people!) I find our Knuckleheads, Breakfast Braniac trivia question, my news kicker stories, etc. Mike is getting news and weather from CBS 7 plus getting the technical stuff done on his side of the room (most of which I have no idea how to do or even what it is). We talk very little until we actually start the show.
By this time it is 5:50 am and we are ready to go. For the next 4 hours we just have fun. No matter what else is going on here at work or at home...when we are in this studio and talking to you we are having fun!
THIS is the best part of our day. The second best part is going to bed.