Monday, December 31, 2007

First Night

Now that I am back on the computer (slowly trying to get back in the swing of things) My work was good to me this year. I was afraid of getting the same "bonus" as last year. I told a co-worker that last years bonus was enough to fill my gas tank and get a sandwich. My boss explained that my bonus was prorated since I didn't start until August and year end was September. This year was MUCH better! With my bonus I can buy a brand new washer & dryer and many, many sandwiches. Plus a nice big raise AND a Promotion!!!

My raise takes effect in January and I will receive my bonus check sometime in January as well. I am not in a super hurry for the bonus check just yet. I can wait until the end of January if need be. Why? Well, I need some time to reorganize my laundry/storage room before they actually deliver my new washer and dryer.

Today I have been on a mission - Find Coal. It is New Years Eve and I still haven't found any coal! I looked during the Christmas shopping season for those cute little round red tins with a piece of real coal people give out as gag gifts, but no luck. I have started looking for charcoal but due to this being winter and all the stores do not seem to have that either. A few years ago when I was in the same situation someone suggested buying a fish tank filter since many of them have coal inside. That year I lucked out by finding one of those cute red tins at a drug store. This year I had to make due with charcoal.

Why do I need coal on New Years Eve? For First Night of course! This has been a tradition in my family since before my mother was a little girl. What? You don't know what First Night is? It is an Irish tradition which was not practiced widely here in the states. My father did tell me tonight he was happily surprised to actually see a write up in his local news paper today. Well, here is how it goes. The first guests to enter your house after Midnight on New Years Eve usually arrive bearing meaningful gifts meant to bless you all through the New Year (also great for house warming parties as Auntie D reminded me).

First foot (first person to cross your threshold) should have dark hair...Not have red hair. This can be a difficult task in Ireland and sometimes leads to a scavenger hunt for someone with dark hair. Interesting way to make new friends, No?

Second foot is someone bearing a gift (any thing, cake, bell, scarf, car freshener he.he.he)

Third foot you shower with food and drink and ask if they would like to sing a song (they do not have to be in key or even Irish - did I say that?)

For the rest of the guests they can be the bearers of the following items (one person for each, duplicates are also welcome or you can hold on to them until you are at the next house)...

Bread - so you will never be hungry

Coal - so you will never be cold

Spirits - (alcohol or sometimes we use lottery scratch offs) so you will always have laughter to share.

Money - (Usually a coin or a lucky penny) so fortune will always find you.

Spice - (any you wish to give) so your life will always have a bit of spice to it.

A Plant - to give you growth, mentally and spiritually.

Chocolate - so you will have sweetness in your life.

Now you know about First Night.

Here is what my First Night baskets look like. After the stroke of midnight we will carry on a bit at our house and then go knocking on the neighbors' doors...with the baskets. (click on photo to enlarge)

Be Safe, Be Happy. Try doing both at the same time.

I have been writing posts to keep up with the many things we have been doing over here the last few weeks . I will post them later tonight or tomorrow.

Happy New Year to ALL !!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wonderful Home Coming

Whether coming home from a long day or from an extended time away there are sights that warm us all the way to the depths of our heart and soul.

Your husband waiting at the front door with open arms.

Your children rushing from the front door because they cannot wait for you to make those small steps from the car to enter the house.

Your cat or dog sitting in the front window with tails wagging while doing a little happy dance with great anticipation of you opening the front door.

Add to this the site of your own Christmas tree as you pull up in front of your home. Lights shining in an awe inspiring way. Vague shapes and shades of ornaments accenting and mixing into the beautiful glow. Peaceful. Wonderful. A feeling of “this is the season for joy.” Taking a moment to stop and appreciate all who are around you. All that is your family and your life.

Remember to Refuel and Recharge Yourself

Last week ManSon decided to take a seasonal job with FedEx. I am all for my teenagers making their own money. Since his car is no longer with us, (it died in Tennessee) I drop him off at FedEx during my lunch hour. After work I pick up Snow White and we head straight to FedEx to pick up ManSon.

In the morning rush to get Snow White and myself out the door I also try to take care of as many things as possible. Apparently this week that does not include eating breakfast. I make sure Snow White has her breakfast while I am in the shower but I cannot seem to slow down enough in the morning to actually sit down and have a bite to eat before starting my day.

The hustle bustle routine of my lunch hour is mimicking my morning. I go home, let Pup out in the back yard and take ManSon to work. I forget to bring lunch to work or grab something to eat at home. After I drop off ManSon I rush back to my office. This has happened all week.

Yesterday, after work I picked up my children and went straight home. Since I have been too busy in the morning and during lunch my body was starving for fuel. As soon as we were home I slid a full plate of sliced roast beef in the microwave. My arms and legs were shaking from lack of substance. Finally I was able to sit down. I inhaled my dinner. Almost immediately I felt both dizzy and relieved, ill and satisfied. It was a very strange feeling. My poor body.

Last night while getting ready for bed I promised myself I would make sure to eat breakfast and lunch tomorrow.

Morning came a little later than usual. I must have hit the snooze button when my alarm went off. So much for my promise to eat breakfast. I will make sure to slow down and have lunch. Even if it means eating at my desk.

Lunch time rolls around and I am in other peoples’ offices when I should be wrapping up things at my own desk. When I finish up with the other people I RUN to my van and head home to pick up ManSon. Remember that steep hill I slid down during the very small snow fall? I was on my way up that very same hill when my van started to sputter! I glace over at the gas gage and realize I have not only neglected to refuel my body, I also forgot to fuel up my van. Yes, I was running out of gas on that very steep hill! Again I made it to the top of the hill. I thought maybe I could make it to the gas station but no such luck. The van stopped dead just as I turned on to a semi-main road. I thought how lucky I was that it stopped here since it looked like a pull off area. Wrong. There was a no parking sign right next to my van so I tried the ignition hoping to go a little further up the road but the engine would not turn over.

Instinctively I picked up my cell phone to call ManSon to make him aware of the situation. Oh my, this was just not my day. That’s right, my cell phone battery was dead. I remember reading about a number you can punch in to get emergency power but could not remember what that number was. I grabbed my little purse out of my enormous bag and started walking towards home.

As I walked I thought, “This wont be so bad. It really isn’t that far, right?” Sure, there are no sidewalks but drivers will surely notice my bright flowing pink blouse. In my rush to leave the office I thought why would I need my coat? I will be in my van the whole time right? Wrong again. When I thought I was nearly halfway to my house I realized I had not even made it to the entrance of our development and my legs were starting to hurt. One and a half miles later I see my mail box. For a brief moment a feeling of great pride washed over me. I had walked briskly just over 2 miles in 30 minutes. As soon as I saw my Lincoln in the driveway I decide there is no way I could possibly walk all the way to the gas station and back to my van.

I should have junked or donated the Lincoln back in June but I just could not part with it. The Lincoln has been sitting in my driveway for 6 months. Just sitting there. The tags expired back in July and I never registered it here in our new state. The reason it is still with me is the seats. They are by far the most comfortable seats ever made.

ManSon saw me walking up the drive way. By the look on his face I could tell he was confused. All I could manage to say was “Out of gas. Get gas can.” When he came back with the gas can I opened the driver’s door and slid into the seat. “Ahhh. I. Love. This car.” ManSon laughed at me but I had another thought pressing me. Would the Lincoln start after sitting for so many months? Thank God! (literally) It started! YEAH!

Before pulling out of my driveway I said a little prayer that I would not be caught by the police. The tags are expired! A cab? It would take an hour for a cab to make it’s way out here to our house in the country. Everyone I know is either at work or out of state. The Lincoln was the only choice that did not involve ManSon and I calling our supervisors to say “We wont be coming (back) to work today.”

First stop, gas station to fill up the 5 gallon gas can. Next I drive to my van and who do you suppose is right behind my van waiting for me? A friend? Not exactly. It was a State Trooper! I park the Lincoln on a side street and run with the gas can over to my van. The Trooper, still in his car, motions for me to come to his driver’s side window. “Is this your vehicle? You are not permitted to park your vehicle here. We have received several complaints about this situation. Do you realize you even left your purse in the vehicle?” I explain that I did not purposely park my van here, that I simply ran out of gas and could do nothing about where it stopped. As to why I left my purse in the car? My purse is a tiny little thing that fits into my carry all bag (they match perfectly). Not wanting to go in to all of that with the Trooper I played up the Poor damsel in distress by saying “Oh! I didn’t realize. I was so flustered about the whole ordeal.” I was cheerful though my explanation. I smiled and I remember waving my hands around a lot.

Finally, the Trooper smiled back and said he would void the ticket. He also stepped out of his car, picked up the heavy gas can and poured the contents in to my gas tank. The Trooper made sure my van started and even followed me back to my house. How gallant.

After the Trooper drove away we dashed off in a hurry. Halfway up the highway it occurs to me that ManSon must call his supervisor to say he would be another 15 minutes. My cell phone is dead and his is in his bedroom. I laughed as I said “We are really getting back to basics today. First I end up walking to where I need to be and now we are without a cell phone looking for a payphone. “Do they still have payphones at gas stations?” We did find a few non working payphones and eventually found a working payphone. ManSon’s supervisor said it wouldn’t be a problem since today they were not starting until 1:30 pm. Thank you God, again! Instead of being late he would arrive on time.

ManSon was at work, on time and I was rushing back to my office. Apparently no one missed me. I was all set to tell them my sad little story and how everything still worked out in the end.

Well, nearly everything worked out. Not only did I miss breakfast but now I had completely missed out on lunch as well. The rest of the afternoon I was exhausted and felt like I was sputtering, just like the engine of my van when it was running out of gas. Tonight was a repeat of last night…heat up dinner, inhale, feel ill and full all at the same time.

Having my van run out of gas was suppose to be a wake up call to remember to refuel and I still forgot to eat.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pretty Snow in the Country

Look! A whole field of Christmas Trees. Maybe I should check out this place Christmas know, incase there are presents under all of those trees! he.he.he.

This is the view from my office. It is no longer the view of D.C. but it is a pretty view none the less. The reason the picture is so gray? It isn't fog or smog...It's SNOWING!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow Day 2007

During my lunch hour I normally go home, let the dog out and have a bite to eat while watching the news. Today was different, I postponed my midday routine in order to pick up Snow White from school. It being winter and white fluffy particles falling from the sky meant school was closing early.

I could have let her go to daycare but after thinking things through it was best to take her home. The snow was accumulating in the parking lot at work and I had no idea what the roads were like. Driving from the school to our house was half the distance of driving from the daycare center. This is my first winter with our van which means I do not know exactly how it will maneuver in these conditions. The path to the daycare center would require me to drive up one very steep hill on the way there and another on the way to our house. Sliding down the front or back of either hill would land us in a stream. Gambling with my child’s safety is not an option.

Snow White was THRILLED when the teacher announced she would be a car rider today. She was not thrilled with the idea of spending a whole afternoon at the noisy daycare center. “Mom, you cannot understand how loud that place gets with SO MANY kids in one place. They do not understand how to keep their voices level. I get a headache just about every other day from all of their noise.” Structured play time with rowdy children or free time with her big brother? She will always pick free time with ManSon.

The roads were clear but wet when I returned to work. My mind was not on the roads as I drove back to office. Yes, I went back to work since no one else is trained or capable of doing my work. Ok, part of it is that I cannot stand the thought of someone else working on my projects. That would mean my over active imagination will stress me into believing I will have to work twice as hard to fix all that they mucked up. In reality I think the work would just sit until I returned to work. Sure, some people left early but come on it was only four inches of snow and the roads were fine…at 2 pm.

I could not stop myself from taking a picture when I saw a field of Christmas Trees on my way back to work. (will load pictures in a bit)

This is the view from my office today. An old weather beaten barn across the field which held a vast amount of corn this past summer. That is not a haze or fog you see, that is the snow coming down.

On my way home at 5 pm, what was wet at 2 pm was now frozen. I do not live far from my office but the drive was not what I was expecting. It was only FOUR inches of snow for goodness sakes! Where were all the other rush hour drivers I am so accustomed to seeing on my way home? Why were they not out in droves pushing the snow and ice off the road little by little? FOUR inches people! Did everyone cowardly rush home at the sight of a few flakes?

“WHAT WAS THAT?!” As thoughts of people being cowardly about the meager bit of snow fall passed through my brain…my van began to fishtail (back end swerving side to side). I was only going 20 MPH in a 40 MPH zone. Maybe it was God’s way of telling me to not be so hard on others.

I regained control of my vehicle without incident. It was too late to back track and go another rout. A steep hill ahead was coming into view. I saw a large sedan making its way up and purposely gave them room ahead of me just incase they slid back down. When they made it up to the top a huge sigh of relief escaped from my lips forming that oh so familiar cloud from warm air making a presence in the outdoor cold.

Now it was my turn. I made sure not to go too fast or too slow. I was reaching the underpass, saw the stop sign at the top of the hill and I started to smile. THEN THE VAN STARTED TO SLIDE BACKWARDS!! As I looked into the rear view mirror I could see where I was headed. Straight for the cement walls of the underpass and feeling of despair washed over me. My children are at home. They wont know what happened to me. In a few hours or maybe in a day or so a policeman, a stranger, will knock on my door and tell them he is sorry.

Great sadness filled my soul for a flicker of a second. Then, my Mommy side kicked in and said “NOT TODAY! No Way! I kept my foot off the break and pumped the gas peddle. Eventually my tires made contact with the road and I was on my way back up the steep hill. When I reached the stop sign at the level top I turned off the engine and cried for a few minutes.

When I started the engine again I thanked God for getting me to the top of that hill. I told myself there are no more hills on the way and I have all night to carefully make my way home.

Did I make it home? Of course I did silly! Otherwise I would not have been able to write this tonight. I hope everyone made it home safe and sound tonight. During the winter months please remember to give everyone on the road all the space they need for the unexpected. Another lesson I learned, do not be quick to judge those who decide to head home early from work, a holiday party or a nice visit with you. My usual, very simple, 7 minute drive from work was not what I expected it to be.