Monday, October 15, 2018

Game On

We worked in our garage last weekend, on what were, I believe, the last two hot days of the year. Isn't that how it can go sometimes? The garage organization is really the last big piece to fall into place at the new house. In 2017, I stumbled onto a blog post that showed using The Container Store elfa System and fell in love with it. It then became a cat and mouse game of getting it designed and waiting for their fall sale that offers the discount on installation as well as the elfa shelving. We got to the purchase point and then installation day came and went, and we were left to work in the garage on our days off to get all of the items put into their new home. And oh my mercy, do I love my new garage storage system, or what? I may have gone out and just stared at it a few days this week.

But sometimes the getting to where you want to be from where you are involves a little blood, sweat, and tears. In this garage organization project, surprisingly, it involved two of the three. If I bled, I don't remember it. See, sitting in my garage, waiting to be gone through and dealt with for years now, were about 5 bins of memorabilia. These bins of memorabilia were in our last garage, so it's not like I haven't been avoiding the obvious for years now. But, right sizing the house has us dealing with things that a big expansive home can hide and handle. Less square footage? You prioritize and deal, and purge and divest. 

And while Steve triaged the bins of actual items to stay in the garage and sorted out what was already quasi-organized into a seasonal sort of semblance, I sat with my bum knee, and he would bring me bins to go through. I think one bin held both 4K and 12th grade for my oldest son, and some years in between. That bin was certainly one to go through. Not only did I deal with school and art work, I dealt with years and years of Christmas cards. It's amazing how the range of emotions can be connected to seeing a card from a long deceased aunt, or  neighbors from 1999, or high school friends from the 1980's. 

And while I sat in that hot, steamy garage working through all of these pieces of paper and the memories and emotions associated with them,  I actually had moments of just recalling and remembering our various homes and our various garages. Quite candidly I will advise you - never go from a home with a three car garage to a home with a two car garage! Those three car garages spoil you! We have had attached garages, detached garages, the old house in McAllen with NO garage {this was the worst!}; all of the garages were two car garages, with our prior home being the exception with that beautiful third bay. 

Some of these garages held two cars, and not much more. Some of these garages held tricycles and that battery operated Jeep the boys were so cute riding around in. Some of these garages held bicycles that we used to condition ourselves for the walking on our first trip to Walt Disney World. Some of these garages held ski equipment and golf equipment and lots of tools, all seldom used, but somewhat necessary to hang onto. And one of these garages momentarily held a ping pong table.

I will confess that I love giving surprises. I love giving what is on a wish list, but I like to throw in a little extra. And one year I got the brilliant idea that the boys should get a ping pong table for Christmas. This was exactly what they needed as a surprise gift! And ever the adoring husband, he supported my surprise. I envisioned lots of ping pong games, and laughter, and time together. The boys were still in middle school, and we were often the gathering place for their friends. This would be perfect, yes?

Well, in the mayhem that followed Christmas Day, we didn't get around to putting it together until New Years Eve {and by we I mean they}. ;-) And at the time, the only place it would fit was in the garage. It was a fun evening. I remember it was, of course, cold in the garage, but the boys were interested and helpful to their dad and the three of them quickly got it put together. 

They were funny to watch play. Steve and I both come from families that love to game and compete, and win. Competitiveness is bred into our sons, I guess. I especially love the grimace I caught on Philip's face in the photo on the right. Seems like he might have just been bested on that shot, or was working up some fierce serve. We played off and on that New Years Eve, and after Steve's schedule settled down, the ping pong table made its way up to the boys' retreat. It dominated the room. The boys at this point had taken over the family media room and watched their TV and movies and gamed in there, so the ping pong table commandeering their retreat was fine.

I didn't expect the ping pong table to be such a flop though. It was. It was a catch all for things. The electronics' siren call dominated the time, and it wasn't often that you could hear the cadence of the ball going back and forth, and ultimately bounding onto the hardwood floor and skittering around. Unretrieved ping pong balls became the cat's toys, and were often accidentally squished under the size 12 shoes that bounded around up there. If someone did want to play, it was hard to find those ping pong balls that had been neglected and more than likely squished.

Sometimes you try something and it isn't what you expect, or it doesn't turn out like you planned. When I was younger, guessing incorrectly would have bothered me more. While this ping pong table reality didn't leave up to my fantasies about it, it's no big deal. The times we used it and had fun with it were worth the hassle and inconvenience of carting it upstairs, and ultimately back down. 

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. You can never know until you try. And if modeling anything to my sons was paramount, it was that it was okay to try new things. And succeed. Or fail. It was okay to adapt and adjust. And in life, you sometimes need to just roll up your shirtsleeves and try. You might win or you might lose, but you get one shot at this thing called life. You may as well go for it. Game on.

Ping Pong ~ Garage Gaming ~ December 31, 2009 

Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Title: Silhouette cut file

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Thankful & Blessed

Our first cool front is moving in now, right behind the rain that is falling. Autumn in Texas, much like winter, is more a state of mind than a significant shift. It's a gradual conversion, and fall to us is when it falls below 80 degrees, and the breeze is no longer hot. If we get any color change on any trees, we count it a bonus. Living in north Texas, I get as much fall as the state offers, and if you select your trees well, you can conjure up some "fall color" and tease yourself into thinking you have a fall season.

I was chatting with my daughter-in-law and my youngest son's girlfriend in August, and we were talking about our favorite season. It was humorous to reveal that each of us picked as our favorite season the one which held our birthday. So, yes, as a Scorpio, my favorite season is fall. To me it represents all the good feels: the coming back home after the vacation months, the settling in to the keeping of the house and the ensuing preparation for company coming for the holidays, the anticipation of family gatherings, and the simple joys of football, slower paced days, shorter days, glorious sunrises, and cool evenings spent on the porch or patio watching the sun go down.

Growing up, fall was a kaleidoscope of togetherness - the annual trek to Denton from Houston to be with family for Thanksgiving, the side stop at the farm, the smorgasbord of food at both houses, the sounds of family laughter, the setting of the one household television constantly broadcasting the football game de jour. It was like Christmas, without the cold (which I hate), and without the presents (which always seem to add stress), and for more days (because we always had Thursday to Sunday for this annual trek.) Yes, Christmas 2.0 definitely. The improved and better version!

And then there was my November birthday! Early years were family parties that morphed into adolescent slumber parties, that morphed into my birthday being somehow recognized whenever we gathered for Thanksgiving. In our house, my brother's birthday was five days after mine, and my dad's birthday was eight days after mine, so growing up we had a trifecta of birthday celebrations, and while theirs both sometimes fell on Thanksgiving, crowning them officially as turkeys, mine never did, and that added to the joy and the fun of it all for me. I never had to share my day, and I could never be called the turkey. Win win.

As I transitioned from high school to college, fall meant the imminence of Thanksgiving break, and the real homecoming - the trek from central Arkansas back to coastal Texas, and bringing with it the relief from roommates, dorm life, professor quirks, unending assignments, and most importantly, cafeteria food. Ahhh...the food of fall! Chili, casseroles, chicken fried steak, fried eggplant, hot water cornbread, pies, cookies. There's nothing better than my mother's cooking. I come from a family of good cooks, and it really spoils you to the savory goodness of family favorites. To me, home cooked meals are quintessential to the adoration of all things fall.

As a young married gal, fall turned into planning a multi-family gathering in Houston which was followed by a marathon shopping day. Yes, we were Black Friday gals. My mom, my sisters, and I started Black Friday shopping when I was in elementary school, heading to the budget basement floor of downtown Foley's, back before malls existed. When Gulfgate Mall opened up, we shifted to that mall, and then we moved around over the 30 years (~ 1970 to 2000) of Houston Black Friday shopping to whichever mall was the newest, or had the best Foley's. When my sisters had toddlers, we would head to Toys 'R Us first, and then move on to Foley's. Walmart and Target folded in there along the way, the newer version of Gemco.

When we moved away from the Houston area in 1997, we were initially able to head back "home" to Houston for family Thanksgiving while we lived in San Antonio. However, in 2000 when we moved south to the border town of McAllen, our Thanksgivings changed and we began the new tradition of having our own Thanksgiving, and welcoming whomever was willing and able to travel to be with us. {Having a husband in retail has its benefits, but also its pitfalls. No traveling on the holidays definitely falls into the latter category. But like with much of life, we adapt, choose joy, and press on.}

By the time we moved to Dallas in the summer of 2005, we were adjusted to our new routine, and began recruiting early for guests to come join us for our fall feast. And with that came the anticipation of the company, and the preparation for their arrival. We love to welcome guests to our home. And part of the whole fun of fall, to me, was in using the golden days of September, October, and November to prepare my home, hearth, and heart for the influx of holiday guests. Since I am a natural planner, and since hubby works so much during the holiday season, we learned to start early, especially as we have aged! We don't move quite as fast as we used to. ;-)

And as some years were spent alone, with the travel rotation of friends and family committed elsewhere, we duly learned to be thankful for the years when we did have company, and we also truly learned to enjoy the quiet years where it was a table set for four. {And having spent one year with a table set for two, I can truly appreciate now setting down four plates.} Every fall seemed to be a shift and like the leaves falling in the wind, a varied and enjoyed moment to take in.

Across the space of time and locales and age, I think the biggest shift I've made regarding fall is to take it from a celebration of the season to become a spirit of awareness, a spirit of gratitude, an acknowledgement of being thankful and blessed. Sometimes I hate the word "blessed". It brings out, in some circles, a sense of smug bragging, as if "I've lived such a good life - see my rewards?" and I hate that. But the "blessed" that resonates within me is the acknowledgement of all the incredibly good things in my life that are pure gifts, because they are completely undeserved. And I try so hard to be so thankful for them, not only in the fall, but year round.

This little layout captures just a snip of what some might call my "attitude of gratitude". These are just some random photos taken by me in the fall of 2014, in the fall that turned out unexpectedly to be our last fall at our beautiful home in Murphy. Me sitting with my dog on my patio on a beautiful October afternoon. My husband working hard to clean the outside of windows as we prepare for company. The beauty of a changing tree in my front yard that I paused to notice when headed out for a walk. The cart full of special groceries on our foodie run to Central Market. Thanksgiving isn't just a day. Thanks giving is a way of life. And I want to recall, this year, this first November without my dad, this Thanksgiving holiday most of all, that I am thankful and blessed. I want to remember. Help me remember. Thankful. And blessed.

I Heart Fall ~ Fall Bliss ~ October 2014

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Sketch Credit: Scrapbook Generation
Paper: Simple Stories
Title: Simple Stories