A puppy story.

Dear friends,

I’m one of those folks who love the holidays. Part of it is my inner child, who never grew too old for Christmas morning surprises. And part of it is that the year-end represents a season of diverse celebrations for our family. From late October, when we celebrate our wedding anniversary and Parker’s birthday, to Thanksgiving, when we celebrate Mr. Mom’s birthday the week before Turkey Day and mine the week after, to Christmas and then New Year’s Eve, the winter holiday season is my favorite (albeit busiest) time of year.

This year, though, we encountered a series of significant misfortunes that had me wondering if the Grinch might steal my family’s entire season of celebration.

First, there were illnesses that left Mr. Mom and I wondering if we were just getting old or suffering from something more serious. Then a series of financial troubles hit Parker, and us, several times. (Why does it always feel like financial setbacks mirror celebrity deaths by coming in threes?) Then, Kate, ended up in the ER and urgent care on two separate occasions and my maternal worrying shifted into overdrive because the only thing worse than a sick child is a sick child 300 miles away. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, we had cried a collective “Uncle” and hoped for a holiday reprieve.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. On the day before Thanksgiving, less than 12 hours after Kate and her two dogs arrived home, her youngest went missing. “Tank” is a five-month old mini-dachshund and the newest love of Kate’s life. While Kate was lunching with a friend, Mr. Mom was supervising a potty break for four dogs (Kate’s two along with our two brand-new puppies) and Kate’s doggies disappeared.

The grand dame, Kate’s 10-year-old Chihuahua, “SweetPea,” was easy to find. But Tank proved impossible to quickly locate. Within an hour, we realized he was really lost and we kicked into high gear, walking the woods near our home, talking to neighbors, and posting a Facebook alert.

Not long after dark, we received a phone call from a stranger who said he was hunting nearby and spotted Tank. We moved quickly to the exact location the hunter described but struck out despite thoroughly combing the area. Several hours later, Kate couldn’t bring herself to go to bed without Tank, so she and her boyfriend decided to drive the neighborhood. Believe it or not, they spotted Tank running down the middle of a busy county road. She jumped out of the car and took chase, but Tank was clearly frightened (and speedy!) and he disappeared into the woods before she could catch him. The entire family grabbed flashlights and joined Kate in the woods for an energized but ultimately futile search that ended at midnight when we were exhausted and chilled from a cold rain.

You can imagine how the next few days went. Alternately heartsick and hopeful (a man two miles away reported seeing Tank on Thanksgiving afternoon!), we spent our days and nights knocking on doors, walking various wooded areas near us, driving the roads, monitoring social media, and trying our best not to dissolve into a heap of despair (although a trip to urgent care when Kate came down with strep throat almost pushed me over the edge).

The Thanksgiving meal? We ate it, uninspired and not particularly grateful. Black Friday shopping? We called it off in favor of additional search and rescue missions. Holiday family photos? Perfunctory at best. (We had so looked forward to a group photo with both our old and new canines, but with Tank gone, nobody felt like smiling.) Decorating the Christmas tree? We did it in the hope it would boost our spirits, but despite a valiant effort, we went to bed Saturday night with heavy hearts and fading hope.

As Mr. Mom and I talked in bed that night about our shared sorrow, he told me a story about “the year (he) ruined Easter.” When he was eight, his family made a shopping trip to buy groceries for the holiday meal, including four dozen eggs to color. (Four siblings, four dozen eggs.) As he carried a sack of groceries into the house, he stumbled on the porch and fell on the bag of eggs, crushing all but eight. His frugal and long-suffering mother was determined to make do, so each child got two eggs to color. He chuckled as he recounted hiding and finding the same eight eggs – over and over – among four kids that Easter. As he recalled how angry all his siblings were about his clumsiness, I burst out laughing and felt instantly better. It was a precious moment of humor and normalcy in an otherwise miserable holiday weekend.

Believe it or not, things went downhill from there. Kate left Sunday afternoon to return to college and it was as sad a departure as I’ve ever seen. Within a couple of hours, she called to report she had hit debris on the Interstate and blown a tire. We talked her through that and three hours later, she called again, this time hysterical. A young girl had pulled out in front of her and Kate broadsided the car.

Honestly, that’s when I was tempted to shake my fist at the universe and scream “Really?” but Kate was uninjured so I held it together for everyone’s sake. We spent two hours on and off the phone as she filed a police report and determined her car was drivable the last 50 miles. At midnight, as we were waiting for Kate’s final text that she had made it safely back to college, Mr. Mom heard an odd sound coming from the porch. He opened the door to find a very frightened Tank on our stoop – emaciated, shivering, and crying like a baby.

We all cried like a . . . like a homesick puppy that night – Mr. Mom and I at home, and Kate via FaceTime. Our reunion was as tearfully jubilant as it was unexpected, a Christmas miracle to our grateful hearts.

I know you might be thinking . . . a puppy story? Yes, it’s sappy. Yes, it’s clichéd. But it’s also true that sometimes the only thing you need to remedy a ton of trouble is a four-pound wonder.

With gratitude {and all good wishes for your own miracle story this Christmas},

Joan, who has filled her empty nest with two new Chihuahua puppies and promises to tell you all about them soon.

tankandsp

Tank and Sweetpea after being reunited

 

 

 

 

Day 24, 25 and 26: Whirlwind.

Dear friends,

buddy2

I’ve spent the last three days on a pre-holiday whirlwind.

I made a blazing trip to Tulsa and back to see CupKate and meet our favorite reality television star Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss.

I’ve been quilting like a maniac to meet an upcoming deadline.

I’ve been furiously cleaning house and planning our Thanksgiving-stravaganza in preparation for the arrival of Kate and two of her teammates later today.

I’ve been running.

I’ve been Christmas shopping.

I’ve been having the time of my life, if only I could catch my breath!

With gratitude (for my favorite time of year spent with my favorite people},

Joan, who is sad to report Mr. Mom learned this week that his “tennis shoulder” is actually a torn rotator cuff and surgery will be scheduled soon, prompting a domestic crisis because Mr. Mom in a sling? Lord bless the helpless family!

Day 5: Buddy!!!!!

Dear friends,

If you’re of a certain age and pop culture sensibility, the name Buddy (spoken with great enthusiasm or followed by multiple exclamation points) refers to a particular elf of the overgrown variety. Of the looks-like-Will-Ferrell variety.

But in our home, we squeal with glee about a different Buddy.

cakeboss2

I’m talking about Buddy Valastro! The Cake Boss!!!

You may recall that CupKate and I went all the way to NYC (Hoboken, actually) to meet Buddy and visit his bakery. His pastries were beyond compare, but Buddy was nowhere to be found.

Turns out, though, Buddy is going to Tulsa. Which is precisely why the best part of my day yesterday was buying VIP tickets for Kate and me to meet him at this event.

It will be a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and I can’t wait! I’ll drive to Kate’s college and pick her up on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, then we’ll drive on to Tulsa for a dinner out and an evening with our favorite pastry chef and reality television show. I’ll head home the next morning and, 24 hours after that, she and her teammates will head to our house for Thanksgiving break.

It’s all kinds of awesome. And just the delight of planning it made for the best Monday in a long time.

(Especially a Monday on which my biorhythms are still adjusting to the time change and I’m cranky.)

With gratitude {for Monday surprises and mother-daughter junkets},

Joan, who’s pretty sure Buddy will think Kate and I are the coolest mother-daughter fans he meets on his entire tour

A month of gratitude.

Dear friends,

gratitude_Snapseed

Many of my family and friends participate in the “Thanksgiving” meme popular on social networking sites by sharing an expression of gratitude each day in November.

I’ve never joined in. In recent years, my thinking goes: “I have an entire blog devoted to gratitude. A daily Tweet or Facebook post or Instagram photo would be a bit superfluous, no?”

Today, after seeing the first wave of posts and Tweets and pictures — and being moved by so many of them — I’ve decided to dive in. Right here. Right now.

On this first day of November, I am grateful for mobility. I started my day with a 3.5 mile run, followed by yoga stretches and brief meditation. There may be no greater luxury in life than the ability to move one’s limbs at will, to push, to strain, to thrust, to retreat, to tip-toe, to balance, to bend, to grab, to pull, to feel the exquisite power and beauty of our own physicality.

I was reminded this time last week — while lying on the floor staring at the ceiling through back spasms — that mobility is never overrated. I have friends with children whose greatest dream would be to move with the ease and grace afforded me.

Every day that I draw breath, I thank the universe for a body that has served me well. Thank yours, too, won’t you?

With gratitude {for the elegant physics of human movement, even when the 50-year-old’s limbs aren’t all that elegant},

Joan, who’s running in her first 5K race tomorrow, lord willin’

Beyond the adjectives.

Dear friends,

It is the evening of Thanksgiving as I write this. I’m sitting in a comfortable chair by the window, which is slightly cracked so I can hear the rain. Kate is asleep, gripped by a long nap that won’t seem to release her. Her roommate, Houda, is sitting beside her in bed, glued to her laptop where she’s spent most of the afternoon typing furiously. Parker is stretched over the loveseat in the kitchen, eating cheese and crackers. Two of our visitors, Lusy and Barb, are at the kitchen island drinking hot tea and eating creme brulee. Doug and another visitor, Kristina, are in the den, talking tennis.

Life is perfect.

A year ago as I fretted over my oldest child leaving for college, I never could have dreamed our Thanksgiving holiday would bring us a houseful of international guests and so much joy in seeing my sweet CupKate cross our threshold again. I didn’t know then that different, as in my life is going to be so different when Kate leaves, often means lovely if you can scrounge up just an ounce of patience.

I kept my camera close by most of the day to catch the memories. I snapped this shot of Kate’s roommate:

And this shot of everyone filling their plates:

And this shot of us gathered around the table:

And this shot of a new dessert recipe I tried:

And this shot of my dinner plate because oh lordy:

After our meal we all crowded into the den, where the Tryptophan worked its magic and I fell asleep on the floor and missed half the video the girls had chosen.

Later, Mr. Mom and I rallied just long enough to do the dishes before collapsing in the den again for more television, more food, more laughter, more everything wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful, that’s the word the girls keep using to describe my cooking. The turkey, the leek bread pudding, the ginger cake with cinnamon whip, the creme brulee, the spiced cranberries, the brown sugar and ginger mini cheesecakes — it was all wonderful today. I joked I would have to teach them more English adjectives and they joked I would have to teach them to cook.

Perhaps, but tomorrow I’m teaching them the art and science of Black Friday shopping. We’re headed to St. Louis for treasures unknown.

Those of the known variety, however, are right here with me during this precious moment in time.

With gratitude {for a life marked by more adjectives than wonderful can begin to describe},

Joan, who will be wearing her sweat pants and athletic shoes during Black Friday shopping because you never know when you might need to break into a full-out sprint

Abundant blessings.

Dear friends,

Not what we say about our blessings but how we use them is the true measure of our thanksgiving.

— W.T. Purksier

My heart is full this Thanksgiving, brimming with gratitude for our abundant blessings.  Our table is full and our bounty is evident.  A house full of guests, love for each other, good health, a delicious meal shared in safety and comfort . . . peace . . . these are the jewels of this day I dare not take for granted. May we use these blessings, in measures large and small, that reflect a glad and generous heart.

And I wish you, dear friends, abundant blessings.  Drop in sometime this holiday weekend, won’t you, and leave me a comment letting me know how you’re spending your Thanksgiving?  Power eating . . . football cheering . . . napping . . . traveling over hill and dale to see loved ones . . . whatever your activity, I wish you good cheer and godspeed.

I’ll be here on our beautiful Missouri acreage, happily humming ‘round the kitchen, delivering stealth hugs and kisses to any child within arm’s reach, and steeping in the life God has granted me.

With gratitude {for abundant blessings},

Joan, who’s got 13 tasks on her Thanksgiving to-do list today and has already completed three of them while the six other souls in her home sleep soundly

True confessions. And other Thanksgiving musings.

Dear friends,

I have a confession that will shock you.

It might even make you think differently about me, about who you think I am.

But since I’m all about gratitude, and since it’s hard to be grateful if you can’t be honest, I’m going to tell you my deep, dark secret.

Until today, I had never . . . cleaned my oven.

I know. It’s shocking that a 49 year-old-woman who’s been a homeowner for some 25 years has never cleaned her oven, but it’s true.

Here’s the deal: my mother always did it for me. I’m not sure what’s more shocking — that I’ve never cleaned my oven or that I’m willing to admit my mother always did it for me, but I’m laying it all out here because it’s the season of Thanksgiving and, today, I’m grateful for Easy Off.

By the way, I want to tell you the details of my oven saga because I don’t want you to think I am the kind of woman who would call up her mother and say “Oh hi, Mom. Say, if you’re not busy today, can you drop by and clean my oven?”

The very first home I owned had been a rental. It was a charming brick cottage, but it needed some TLC and, before I moved in, Mom and I spent four hard days of labor cleaning it. My mother had been a property manager for 20 years before she retired and she knew a thing or two about cleaning. Whenever I had a project (painting, wallpapering, cleaning, yard work), my mom was the type of person who would show up ready to work and always, always volunteered for the hardest, nastiest job on the list.  Thus, she cleaned my first oven.

A year later, Mom became our full-time nanny and from that point on, oven cleaning was her deal. (Along with so many other deals I could never repay her but hope I can some day pay it forward with Kate and Parker.)

Anyway, here I am, 18 months into a new house (in which the oven had been spotless when I moved in but was now filthy because, you know, almost two years of cooking!) and holy cow who knew oven cleaning was such a pain?

As much as the Easy Off helped, I can’t really say it was easy to get the grime off. In fact, I didn’t get it all. But I got most of it and my double ovens look a far sight better now than they did this morning. I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment.

In addition to tackling my ovens, I also cleaned every speck of my refrigerator inside and out. That’s another job I never really had to do because of 1) Mom and 2) Kate.  After Mom wasn’t around to help anymore, Kate had a terrific habit of cleaning and rearranging the frig every so often. She’s far more picky about it than I am. I think she’ll be proud when she gets home tomorrow from college and sees the fruits of my labor. It’s very, very organized and sparkling clean.

Finally, I took a bucket of soapy water and a cloth to my kitchen cabinets. You  might guess that’s another chore I never do. I’ll wipe a spot here and there, but a full-scale cleaning is beyond my pay grade. Today, though, it just seemed like the thing to do.

You might wonder what prompted my cleaning frenzy and, of course, it’s not surprising: holiday company. Kate will be home in less than 24 hours and she’s bringing four of her tennis teammates with her for the long holiday. You might have heard me mention that she’s the only American on her team, so there you have it — I succumbed to a fit of cleaning in preparation for the most American of holidays lest our international visitors think poorly of us.

I also made a trip to the grocery store where I dropped $335 lest five college athletes get hungry over the next few days.

With gratitude {for a spotless kitchen, a full pantry, and a soon-to-be-full home, just what this mother dreams of for Thanksgiving},

Joan, who invites you to give Mr. Mom a shout-out today, his 49th birthday, which we’ll celebrate tomorrow with homemade lasagna, chocolate mousse cake, and a houseful of international visitors

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 830 other followers

%d bloggers like this: