Monday, December 29, 2014


Write it on your heart 
that every day is the best day in the year.  
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day 
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.  

Finish every day and be done with it.  
You have done what you could.  
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;  
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit 
to be encumbered with your old nonsense.  

This new day is too dear, 
with its hopes and invitations, 
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Hello to all.  In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King explains that, "The scariest moment is always just before you start."  My guess is he isn't referring to blogging in that statement, but the hardest part about writing a blog (or writing anything, really), is beginning.  Typing the first word, the first sentence, is a weighted moment.  I never know exactly where to begin, but find that once I do, the words keep coming, & often something resembling structure begins to emerge.

The problem of where to begin plagues me terribly when we've been busy, as has certainly been the case over the last week, because there is simply so much of everything - - family, food, gifts, toys, boxes, trash, merriment, exhaustion, amusing anecdotes - - that I don't know where to begin, or what to omit completely, because I can't cover it all in detail.  My life lacks structure at the moment, & that's inevitably going to bleed into what I write.  These days between Christmas Day & New Year's Day are just so wonderfully undefined, which is nice, but is also conducive to a rambling blog post about Christmas decorations that need to be dealt with, the unbelievable number of boxes littering my house, &, perhaps chief among distractions, boots that are on sale.

I buy boots & cardigans like someone who lives in Russia.  It's senseless, but I love them so much, & they're all on sale, & every year I do it.  I may wear the same two T-shirts & pair of capri pants all spring & summer, but on the ten days a year it's freezing in Louisiana, I look fabulous.  I haven't bought any boots (yet) this sale season, but that's only because I've decided I need a red coat.  That is, I need a warm winter garment dyed red, not a British soldier, although now I am wondering if my Jane Austen high isn't affecting my shopping habits.

Distractions aside, I know that one of the reasons you kind people continue to take a few minutes out of your busy day to read is because of my innate knowledge of when enough is enough.  I know when to call it quits, when it's time for the proverbial fat lady to sing, when my verbosity has reached the tipping point.  I could tell you all about the time I spent last Friday night descaling my Keurig, but do you want to read about that?  Would you be interested in the frustration I felt at having to waste precious dual-sleeping children moments on such drudgery when I wanted nothing more than to curl up in bed with my pretzel M&M's & watch a movie, such as Silver Linings Playbook or The Holiday (both of which I received as Christmas gifts), light one of the many Yankee candles I was gifted, & perhaps begin a witty, poetic, & structurally tight blog detailing my family's Christmas merriment?  Ah, see.  There it is.  The tipping point.

Speaking of verbosity, this is my 249th blog post.  Lord willing, I'll begin the next year with my 250th post.  Crazy, no?  I've no idea what it is I've said over these past four years.  I wish I had a total word count.  Granted, thirty of those posts are the book, but that leaves over two-hundred posts in which I covered, what?  My kids, & coffee, & trips to Target, & a smidge of politics, & books, I suppose.

Before I move on to some Christmas specifics & ruminate on the imminent beginning of another year, I don't want this year to end without saying thanks for reading.  I don't know all your names (beyond my mom, my father-in-law, & longtime family friend Johnette Smith, that is, because they've been here since Day 1 with ceaseless encouragement), but whatever your reasons for reading the blog, I hope it brightens your day.  I hope you laugh & maybe learn something new every now & then, even it's something trivial, like the status of Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart's relationship (FYI: not good), or why Theo James is the only valid  reason Veronica Roth's Allegiant should be adapted for film.  Thanks for sticking around for another year.  I continue to enjoy writing; in fact, I continue to find I need it, need the emotional release I feel as my fingers fly over the keys (to Mrs. Helen Parker, my ninth grade typing teacher, yes, my fingers do fly over the keys). 

Every day for (at least) the past month, Reagan has asked if it was Christmas yet.  It was nice to finally be able to give her a 'yes' to that question last week.  We spent Christmas Eve at Trey's parents' house, & Christmas morning at our house, & Christmas mid-afternoon at my aunt & uncle's house, & Christmas night at my parents' house.  I am kind of over Christmas (that includes the tree, the ornaments, & the Spode that continue to mock me).  I was over Christmas at some point before we rolled into our garage, the car filled to the brim with bags & boxes & toys & new socks, at nine o'clock Christmas night.

I will share a rundown of all the Christmas-ing, but it may not be all that detailed.  No, really, I mean it.  Also, I am bereft of the multitude of pictures I'd typically take to document Christmas because of a little storage issue with my phone that's currently giving me fits, but I of course will share what I have.

A few days before Christmas, the kids & I had a sleepover at Nana & Papa's.  Christmas pajamas were worn, & the kids were allowed to open one gift.

Last year, this is how the grandchildren-in-Christmas-pajamas photo session went:

This year, everyone is mobile & has an attitude about photos:

Okay kids, we fold.

After the kids were all asleep (a time I will not reveal to you because you'll think I am a horrible mother), my mom & Jessa & I watched about half of the Pride and Prejudice miniseries staring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy.  

*A moment of silence for the epicness that is Colin Firth's performance as Mr. Darcy . . . it's like Jane Austen watched him, & then wrote the book.*  

We hope to find time to watch the remainder of the miniseries soon, as the reeeaallly good stuff is just around the corner.  The sass & snark are about to hit the uptight, genteel British fan.  I can't think of a better way to begin a new year than watching the conclusion of this miniseries . . . while snuggled in my new red coat I hope to find on sale soon.  

On Christmas Eve, I had some errands to run.  We needed some groceries, & I had to get a few last minute gifts.  I say all this, but what I mean is I left the house (alone!) & made a beeline for Five Guys.  I am kind of iffy about ground beef, but I love their hamburgers.  I rarely indulge & eat one of their burgers with fries, but hey, Merry Christmas to me. 

I saw this sweater pictured below while doing some last minute shopping.  It's a Ralph Lauren sweater vest.  It was a medium, which is too small for any man in my life, so I didn't have to make a tough decision about whether or not to buy it.  I kind of love it.  I don't know if my dad or Trey would actually wear it, & again, it was the only one on the rack & too small for both of them, so I moved along, let it go.  I have thought about it a few times since Wednesday.  The world needs more men who would jump at the chance to wear something like this.  You know who would wear this (& wear it well)?  Colin Firth, that's who.

Also, yes, I am aware of why I am having photo-storage issues on my phone.  

So, finally, the present unwrapping frenzy Reagan was anticipating commenced.  She bolted from the car at her grandparents' house & had to have her picture made with this lighted, inflatable Santa. 

We did eat a Christmas Eve dinner, but I didn't take any pictures.  Apparently I only have time for food photography when I sit & eat alone, so here's some of the present joy:

This fireman's outfit was Henry's gift.  Reagan was given a chef's outfit, an Elsa costume, & a doctor's get-up, so naturally she immediately took an interest in a future as a firefighter. 

Ah, Christmas morning.  Henry wanted the same thing he wants every morning when he wakes.

Here are the best shots I got of them together in front of the tree:

Christmas morn, 2013:

One of my favorite gifts:

For about a year now, my garage door opener has been giving me fits (yes, I changed the battery).  It was just old & the button you push to open the garage was basically not functional, & I'd have to mash it, or beat it against the console in my car or something else equally violent to get the garage door to open or close.  One day, Trey asked me what I wanted for Christmas, & I may've been in a not so fabulous mood, & I said, "You know what I want?  I want a new garage door opener!"  Ask & you shall receive.  It was already programmed & everything.  Is this what thirty-four is?  Excitement over a new garage door opener?   

A few other goodies:

After the Christmas morning festivities concluded, we showered & dressed & headed north to my aunt & uncle's house.  You know the drill: food, bloat, regret, exhaustion, more presents, more merriment:

Exactly, Henry.

The final stop on Reagan's Present Tour, my parents' house:

The babes throwing back some Puffs to unwind from the day's stress:

So, okay, maybe I took a few pictures.  You may've noticed I managed not one picture of the four of us together.  I believe there might be a few pictures of me & the kids & a dozing Trey in a Santa hat that my sister took, & if these fall into my hands, I shall share in the new year.

When we arrived home late Christmas night, as I was getting her into her pajamas, Reagan asked me what tomorrow was, since we'd spent the past two days repeatedly designating "Christmas Eve" & "Christmas Day."  I looked at Trey, & we both gave her answers along the lines of, "It's December 26," "It's Friday," &, "It's another day."

I have been trying mightily to frame this past year in a way that excludes the news we received in January.  In 2009, Trey & I married.  In 2010, Reagan was born.  In 2011, we bought our house . . . & on January 2 of 2012, we moved into our house, at long last (& here we shall remain, ensconced with the ridiculous amount of stuff we own, until the Lord calls us Home).  In 2013, Henry was born.

I've been scrambling for ways to complete, "In 2014, . . . ," that have nothing to do with diabetes.  In 2014, Reagan was diagnosed with diabetes; there's no escaping it.  It's an event that has & will continue to shape our family, & that's okay.  How it shapes & changes us is up to us.  For example, it's highly unlikely I'd have lost the weight I have had I not had a reason to learn to count carbs.  When you're mentally calculating carbs as you shovel food into your mouth, the food is not quite as fantastic, & you learn to slow the shoveling (the exception to this is if it's Christmas Eve, & you find yourself alone in Five Guys).

This past year was a good year; I refuse to conclude otherwise.

In 2014, I read several exceptional books.  I experienced WWII from the perspective of death (as narrator), from the perspective of a young Russian girl who falls in love with a Russian soldier as they battle Hitler, & starvation, & the Russian winter, & from the perspective of various Filipinos who experience brutality at the hands of the Japanese while they await Douglas MacArthur's return.  I leave this year with a deeper understanding of the ravages of war, & of the precious gift of freedom.  There are passages I read this past year that I will always remember; I will call them to mind when I catch myself complaining about being cold, or being hungry.

In 2014, I read Pride and Prejudice for the first time.  To quote my sister, "We are finally real sisters now."

In 2014, I wore pants I last wore when George W's approval ratings were sky high.

In 2014, I saw Queen & Adam Lambert perform live.

In 2014, I learned a valuable skill; I learned how to care for a diabetic child.  I learned the meaning of the word chronic, & the word vigilance.  I've been able to share what I've learned with other concerned parents & grandparents, & to say to them what I once desperately needed to hear, "You can do this.  It will become habit.  It is going to be okay."  

In 2014, I spoke at my church's ladies retreat.

In 2014, a handful of people read a book that I wrote.

This past year upped the ante on self-knowledge in an unprecedented way.

So, Reagan, to answer your question, tomorrow is another day.  Even days without titles on the calendar are special, precious, valuable.  Tomorrow is another day to begin.  Tomorrow is another day to praise the Lord.  Tomorrow is another day to improve your A1C.  Tomorrow is another day to research a cure for diabetes.  Tomorrow is another day to read a book.  Tomorrow is a fresh, white piece of paper, a blank Word document, the blinking cursor waiting, begging you to give it voice, so choose your words carefully.  It's often difficult to begin, but once you do, the unfamiliar becomes familiar, & you find your stride, & structure & coherency emerge, & you find yourself doing something you may've once thought impossible.

It's been fantastic, y'all.  We'll chat again in 2015.


Monday, December 22, 2014

A Million Ways

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own' or 'real' life.  The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - - the life God is sending one day by day.
- C.S. Lewis 

I hope your final week before Christmas was pleasant.  I finished reading Pride and Prejudice last Tuesday evening, let it marinate Wednesday, discussed it at length with the book club ladies Thursday night, & then officially laid it to rest (for now), with this bit of purging I posted Friday morning.  You may've missed it, as rare are the weeks I post twice, but when something needs to be said, often it needs to be said post haste (a lesson that is reinforced in Pride and Prejudice).  So, peruse at your leisure.  By leisure, I mean whenever you find yourself sitting around with nothing else to do, or you're trying in vain to find sleep late at night, read it then, because as you likely know, what I consider to be pressing is often incongruous with others' definition of "urgent."

So, Christmas is upon us.  I haven't gushed about him much this season, but I think it goes without saying that I've been hitting Michael Buble's Christmas album hard.  I have, however, been mixing it up some this year & listening to the Carpenters' Christmas album.  What a tremendous loss to all who can hear that it's not possible for Michael Buble & Karen Carpenter, truly two of the purest voices I've ever heard, to collaborate.  If those two cut a Christmas album, there would be hordes of Jews snuffing out their menorahs.  I kid you not.

Trey has always said that some of his most vivid childhood memories are of riding around in his mom's Ford Aerostar van, listening to the Carpenters, & so I figure not only am I exposing the kids to fantastic music, but a little part of their heritage as well.  There are endless goodies on the Carpenters' Christmas album (I believe the official album title is Christmas Portrait), one of which is the classic, "Home for the Holidays," which suggests, If you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can't beat home sweet home.

It's not a new song, & certainly that's a line I've heard many, many times over the years, but I guess there's just something about Karen Carpenter's velvet voice caressing the words that has me thinking.  It is quite possible the endless hours indoors are playing tricks on my mind, & in a desperate attempt to retain my sanity, I am overanalyzing the obviously simple lyrics to a Christmas song.  I've been known to overanalyze.

Either way, what follows is a list of one million things that make me happy.  Okay, not really one million, but as I've listened to the song, & listened to the song again, mentally calling Ms. Carpenter out for the use of hyperbole, I've decided if I had to, I think I could generate a list of one million things that make me happy.  Who doesn't want to be happy in a million ways?  I am fortunate, because I am.

My list of one million would include the most minuscule of details.  In the day to day life of a mom of little people, the minuscule details are sometimes what matter.  There are days when they are all that matter, because you don't have the time or energy to focus on the big picture, & so you find your joy not in a clean house, or a stack of graded papers, or the book you finished reading, or the nutritious dinner you fixed that everyone ate & enjoyed, but in the tiny victories.

Without further adieu, because I know you need to cook & shop & wrap & read my thoughts on Jane Austen, here are a few of my million ways you can't beat home sweet home . . . photos provided when appropriate/available:

One: Henry wearing footed pajamas.  I don't know what I'm going to do with myself when no one in my home wears footed pajamas.  I guess I can try & get Trey interested in them.  In addition to footed pajamas, Henry's also wearing a crown in this pic.  Just go with it.

Two: The small, white dots of Henry's milk that have dried on my stained concrete floors, mapping his many journeys round the house.

Three: Continuing with the floor theme, crayon marks on my concrete floors . . . because only fools color on the restrictive paper the adults provide.

Four: Two words that always bring boundless joy: New rug.  I don't have any pictures of the rug in its new setting in my home . . . I might can make that happen later, but here's a link to it, for those who're interested.  It looks like I made a good decision ordering when I did, as I see that it's currently out of stock, & is now priced higher than what I paid.  I feel so validated.  Also, if you're interested, I can share with you what I've learned about the difference in hand-tufted & handmade wool rugs.

Buying rugs (or anything, really) online makes me nervous, & so I waste hours of my life doing copious research.  But you know what?  Every day, I see my new rug (& also the coordinating smaller rugs in the kitchen).  I walk on my new rug, & I love it & it makes me happy, unlike the former, cheap-o rug that occupied the space & made me angry with every glance, with every step, & I think that maybe my online research was not in vain.  If it's something you're going to look at every day, repeatedly throughout the course of the day, it's important to take your time & choose wisely; this advice works for everything from selecting a rug to selecting a spouse.

Five: Blood test strips & other diabetes paraphernalia Trey leaves on the counter:

The above is the sight that greets me every morning when I stumble into the kitchen to hit the power button on the Keurig.  You know me well enough by now to make a pretty educated guess regarding my feelings about trash on the countertop . . . when there is a large, lidded trash can a few feet away (like literally four feet away).  However, every morning, I scoop all this up, toss it in the trash, & say, "Thank you, Lord, for another night of sleep for Reagan, for another morning for her, for a husband who dutifully checks her number overnight."  

Six: While we're on the subject of messes, next on the list is: the bathroom sink after Trey has brushed his teeth.  Trey would've never made it in the CIA; I always know when he's brushed his teeth, washed his hands, or made a sandwich.  Like his son, he stamps himself all over the house so that, even when he's out of sight, he's never out of mind.

Seven: Glitter on Reagan's bed that was shaken loose from her costumed friends who attended her recent birthday party.  I almost got the vacuum & the needed attachment out to vacuum it all off the bedspread, but decided it can wait . . . admittedly a decision fueled by equal parts nostalgia & laziness.

Eight: This pile of crayon wrapper debris on the kitchen floor:

When asked, Reagan explained that she had to remove the paper from the crayons because she needed to see all the color.  I choose to embrace this as a philosophical answer, rather than another manifestation of her tendency to unwrap anything & everything.    

Nine: Reagan's smile upon receipt of a birthday card in the mail, a card addressed to Miss Reagan E. Zeigler.  So official!:

Ten: Flowers that are still perky a week & a half after Reagan's party.  If you're doing the calculations in your head, yes, they were still in mint condition when I welcomed the book club ladies.  I think Jane Austen would be proud of my efforts; she'd likely say that, my hospitable efforts have not been in vain.

Eleven: Slowly deflating balloons leftover from Reagan's birthday party that bob up & down the hallway, in & out of rooms, & give me heart palpitations at least once a day, usually when I bump into one in the darkened kitchen when I'm up to check Reagan's number at midnight.

Twelve: This mug, given to me by a friend in celebration of Reagan's first A1C in May of this year (which, to refresh your memory, was a 6.8):

She read the good A1C news on the blog, saw this while out shopping & thought of me, & bought it.  I think of her (& the 6.8) every time I use it, which has been often lately since it's a deep mug & perfect for hot chocolate.   

Thirteen: The ornament pictured below. . . from multiple angles so you don't miss any of its awesomeness.  This was given to me by a friend last Thursday night when the book club met.  I think it may be my favorite ornament ever; it's sitting on my nightstand at present, as I am taking no chances with it on the tree with Henry lurking nearby.  She printed off small versions of book covers from various books we read this past year & made the ornament herself.   I am not a crafty person, so I can't explain the process to you beyond the, "printed copies of book covers off the Internet," phase.

Look, see, it's A Farewell to Arms! - - 

I love this ornament so much.  It is beautiful, & I also love what it represents, by which I mean my friendship with its maker, & what I learned from reading the books represented, & the memories made discussing each book with friends.  We read a lot of great books this past year, several that just punch you in the gut & confront you with the worst, but also often the best, of humanity.  Frustratingly, I feel I can't find the right words to express how much I love my book club ladies (which is ironic, I guess, since words are sort of our thing).  I value our time together, & need the wisdom & encouragement I get both from what we read, & from our discussions of it.  We need a Book Club Across America movement.  BCAA, if you will.  I honestly believe if people read more (& read things they normally would not pick up, which is one of the many benefits of a book club), & shared their thoughts on what they'd read with others, drastic societal changes would take place.  Basically, I'd like to send us all back to lit class, with a more flexible reading list, & coffee.  Perhaps more on this later as I ponder the formation of the BCAA.

Fourteen: This children's book my mom gave me Reagan.  It's a Pride and Prejudice counting book!

Fifteen: My half-off Hobby Lobby find . . . which you'll see momentarily. 

Last Tuesday, I woke up feeling brave . . . which essentially means I slept well the night before, & enjoyed two, maybe three, cups of coffee Tuesday morning with no major child-related interruptions.  We needed groceries, & so I got us all dressed & strapped in the car.  Our first stop was The Creamery for lunch.

Then, since it's right next door & we could walk a few feet & be inside the store, we headed to Hobby Lobby to do some browsing.  I was rewarded for my bravery with this:

Isn't it beautiful?  I haven't hung it anywhere yet, & will likely mull that over for about six months before I put hammer to nail.  If you're wondering, I pushed a buggy loaded down with both kids with one hand & hauled this up to the register (using one arm).  If you see me around & you're interested, you can ask to feel my biceps; Henry has them as toned as they've ever been (or ever will be).  The first thing out of everyone's mouth when they lift him is, "He's heavy."  Last week, at the kids' Christmas party at church, I picked up a toddler who was born just a few months after Henry, & it's a wonder I didn't launch her over my shoulder she felt so light in comparison. 

(If you're curious, we did buy groceries Tuesday after my Hobby Lobby triumph.  Also, I cooked dinner that night.  Then I loaded the dishwasher, & folded a ton of clothes . . . my domestic glory knew no bounds that day).  

I encourage you to think about what would populate your list of a million ways.  While I am not an interior designer, I'll leave you with a little tip that I think has merit: Whether you are the only one who regularly sees it, or you are home most of the time with your small kids, or you frequently entertain numerous guests, make your home a warm, happy place (a second tip: new rugs are a great way to begin the happy, warm home process).

To all my readers, near & far, those whose names I know & those I don't,  I wish you the merriest of Christmases.  The Lord willing, I hope to chat with you next week about the goings on with our Christmas, & look ahead as we bid this, the year 2014, farewell.  

This would be the ideal place to post a recent family picture if I had one, but I don't.  First on the list of 2015 resolutions: take some family photos.