Tuesday, December 29, 2020

2020 Year in Review

It is that time of year again. Well, 2020, you were a rough year. That is for sure. We survived you. I daresay, we even thrived despite of you. Truth be told, our personal family has had worse years. This year has mostly taught us to count our blessings, walk more in faith and help those less fortunate than us even more. However, on the global front this has been the most difficult year I have seen our world live through. Here is my review of our year. Usually, I take the first two or so sentences and the first picture from the first post of each month. But, this is no ordinary year, and I felt like doing it a bit differently. I took a few sentences from the first post of each month and one of my favorite pictures from the month. That felt like a more accurate account of our year.

January We had our annual New Year's Day party last week. I thought I would share how we create a fun party for less than five dollars a person. 

~ We had a solid week around here. I love my teens! They are remarkable young people.

There are moments in life when we get to stretch and grow a great deal in a short amount of time. This is one of those weeks. We are so blessed.

Then the world stopped and we faced a pandemic and a year like few currently alive here in the USA have lived through before. I have heard people call it a dumpster fire year and a waste of a year, but I choose to look at the positives. Every day is precious, and we need to look for the positives if we are able.

April ~ We are doing amazingly well with this Stay Home, Stay Safe mandate. We are learning so much about ourselves.

~ The big news is that Dean turned 18 this week! We had planned on taking a short trip to celebrate his big day, but the pandemic put a stop to that.

June What a very hard season our nation is going through. My heart breaks for all who are oppressed and mistreated by those who are more powerful. Our country feels like it is being ripped at the seams. In what seems like another world, we finished our last week of school. Anne is done with 11th grade and Dean is graduating from high school today. 

~ It is Friday and Anne is finishing up her dance intensive with UNCSA. We are staying in for the holiday weekend and starting on our next house project. Like so many others, we plan to watch Hamilton on Disney+, eat great food, have our own fireworks display and do tons of yard work. The Covid-19 numbers are climbing around here, and we would just as soon not contribute to the pandemic by going into any tourist-driven crowds.

~ I have struggled with my attitude this week. I think it is mostly a result of hoping that we could go on a small overnight vacation next week. That will not be the case. COVID-19 gets worse and worse all the time.

September ~ I love Fall. I am so happy it is finally here. Our week passed without anything monumental happening on the home front.

Twice this week we awoke to gunshots outside. The first time it was a few blocks away. The second time it was on our street and some shell casings were found on our next door neighbor's lawn. You might think we live in the hood, but you would be wrong. In fact, prices are so high in our neighborhood, we couldn't afford to move here if we weren't already here.

November ~ I have been craving beauty and peace lately. I feel that we are planted on this earth to do good and find contentment in everyday life. I think this cat may have it all worked out ~ LOL!

December ~ I love Advent. It is my favorite time of year.

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Advent Week 4

It was a lovely week filled with festivities and service. 

Saturday ~ Anne had the opportunity to dress up as Marie and attend a viewing of last year's performance of The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. It was shown at an outside venue in our area that has a large movie screen. It was exciting for her to see herself on the big screen. I sat in front of her and her best friend. It was a joy to hear their teen laughter as they laughed at themselves and their tiny mistakes that no one else could see. This event raised a good amount of money for the dance studio.

Anne in the center in the doll dance.

The Nutcracker and a Candy Dancer

Anne is in the center wearing a red cape.

Anne as Marie and JoJo as Fritz

Sunday ~ We celebrated Los Posadas with the breaking of a pinata. It was a great stress releaser to beat the pinata, and the kids loved getting a bit of candy.

Monday ~ We celebrated the Winter Solstice by feeding the birds in our yard. We spread an entire bag of seed in feeders and on the ground for them. We also went to the top of a parking garage downtown to see the convergence of Jupiter and Saturn, also known as the Christmas Star. It was beautiful and very cool to see something that hasn't been seen in 800 years. 

Tuesday ~ On Tuesday we made a bunch of homeless kits and put them in front of tents and on park benches downtown. The need is really great this year. We have always had a high population of homeless people due to our very high cost of living, but I have never seen so many downtown before. This town has its fair share of the working poor and they are really suffering right now. 

Wednesday ~ We enjoyed another drive-thru light show. This one had a more old fashioned vibe and was on a lake. The reflection of the lights on the lake was delightful. 

Thursday ~ Christmas Eve! We had hoped to celebrate Christmas with grandma (my mom) in the carport Christmas afternoon, but forecasters are predicting extremely cold weather and snow. We decided to postpone Christmas with her for a few days. However, I wanted to do something for her now. So we told her we were bringing her dinner with pizzazz. That translated into her favorite pizza with balloons and a confetti cannon attack. She sure was surprised!

We also had pizza and played our newest game, 13 Dead End Drive. It was great fun. Then we watched The Nutcracker followed by watching our church's Christmas Eve service online.

All the Rest ~  It was an art week around here. Elijah started creating flags for all of his friends to wear on their belts when Belegarth activities return. He cut them out of canvas, hemmed them by hand and painted them with acrylics. The first one is shown below.

Tim made me this beautiful beaded ornament. 

Anne entered a pointe shoe artwork contest at the local dance store and won first prize. She painted her pointe shoe with acrylics. The first prize was $200 worth of dance products. She loves the costume bag the best, which looks like a duffle bag and zips out flat with tons of pockets.

The prizes

It looks like we are going to have a white Christmas. A rare treat on Christmas here in the South. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Advent Week Three

A small update before we get on to all of our Advent fun! December is flying by, isn't it? I am sucking as much joy out of this season as I can. However, there is still plenty of normal life going on, too. 

  • Absolutely nothing is happing on the job front for Elijah right now. I haven't heard from Vocational Rehab in close to a month, but then I also haven't shaken the rafters trying to get their attention. Basically, it seems our local branch won't do anything unless the client has a fit.  According to people I know who live elsewhere, this is not the way it in their states, but it is the way it is here. We are letting it go until after the holidays for two reasons. For one reason, the COVID numbers are going up and up all the time here. Putting Elijah into a big box store right now doesn't sound ideal. Also, I just didn't want to create a higher stress load for Elijah right now during the holidays. We may even decide to take our chances and look for a job on our own for him if we don't like the next hoops Vocational Rehab want us to jump through in January.
  • Anne was inducted into the National Honor Society for Dance Arts. We are so proud of her. It is nice to see her hard work be recognized on a national level.
  • We are really looking at how we can help those less fortunate than us this season. There is so much suffering around us and we are very aware of how blessed we are. Just this week, I noticed a new homeless tent camp go up in the woods just a few blocks from our home. There are literally thousands of homeless spread across our small city of 90,000, and tent camps are springing up everywhere. We are a tourist town and that industry tends to pay very poorly, so people didn't have much to fall back on when everything came to a standstill. (I wish our government had done more to help those less fortunate as governments throughout Europe and Canada have done.) 
Saturday ~ We made a gingerbread house for National Gingerbread Day. It was fun and turned out a bit wonky as is often the case. We put it out for the birds and squirrels to enjoy. 

Our charity for the day was paying off a Christmas layaway of a single mother at Anne's work. That was an especially fun charity to do.

Sunday ~ On Sunday we went on our annual Christmas light drive around neighborhoods and then had Starbucks hot chocolate. Local people who were able to afford to do so really went all out this year.

Monday ~ We made Scotch Eggs for a special treat. We had never had these before and they were tasty, but very rich. It is always fun to try new things. 

We made a small donation to Hinds' Feet Farm (the brain injury program our oldest son attends). They are doing so much to keep the community together during this difficult year.

Tuesday ~ We had Christmas breakfast for dinner tonight. Sugary cereal, muffins, fruit with whipped cream and turkey bacon...need I say more?

Wednesday ~ We decided to try to help out one of the entertainment venues in our area. We made a small donation to The Orange Peel, which is a music venue that our son Tim loves because of its small size and friendliness. Despite being small, it still manages to book some moderately popular rock bands. It has been shut down this entire pandemic, and we hope it survives. 

Thursday ~ We had Marzipanstollen for desert. It was interesting and sweet. I am not sure I would waste calories on it again, but the kids liked it. We also played an epic 1.5 hour game of UNO. 

Friday ~ We had movie night. It was my turn to pick, and we watched Home Alone 2. It is not my favorite, but the kids love it. I enjoyed the Christmas scenes of New York City.

I hope you are safe and filled with peace and love during this season.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Advent Week Two

 We had a delightful week filled with lights, joy and love. What more could anyone ask for at any time of the year? 

Saturday ~ We did the drive-thru light show at the arboretum. It was wonderful. I am glad we finally got to see it. I've noticed that lots of things are less expensive this year because they have to be virtual or drive-thru which makes it more affordable for larger families -- a tiny silver lining in a very difficult year.

Sunday ~ We had a 1950's Christmas night. We ate Hungry Man TV dinners, which was a first for some of us. We were not at all impressed with them. Invented in 1954, how on earth did they survive through the years? Then we had a Stratego tournament. This game was invented in the late 1940's and grew to great popularity by the 1950's. Lastly, we enjoyed taste testing candy from the 1950's. The fireballs and root beer barrels were the best.

Monday ~ We took two holiday senior boxes to Meals on Wheels. The kids have made boxes for Meals on Wheels and delivered them since they were toddlers. It is hard to believe that they are almost grown up! The time passes so swiftly.

Tuesday ~ We made round two of Christmas cookies. It was a long day, but I am glad we did all the cut out cookies in one day. They make such a mess compared to the other cookies we make. Now, if I could just stop eating them....

We also made a small donation to Feedingamerica.org.

Wednesday ~ Our charity today was delivering a bag of pantry groceries to Mana Food bank. Our on-going family entertainment is watching Salem interact with our Christmas train, which was a gift given to us for Christmas this year. We love it, but she ADORES it and comes running from anywhere in the house when she hears its whistle blow.

Thursday ~ Our holiday Yum Yum subscription box arrived from Universal Yums. The snacks were from all over the world this month. We liked the United Kingdom and the French snacks the best. 

Friday ~ We wrapped the week up with a Hot Chocolate Bar for movie night. We watched Knives Out, which isn't a Christmas movie but is a family favorite for those who had seen it before. Everyone loved it again.

The Rest of the Story ~ The rest of the week went much better than last. As suspected, dear husband's thyroid numbers were bad and he started a medication to fix the situation. Hopefully, he will be feeling much better by Christmas. Our family and friends are mostly improving from their bout with COVID. More people are testing positive in my stepmother's bubble, and she is still running a fever every day. Her cough is worse, but she seems to be holding steady. Hopefully, she will be out of the woods by next week.

Anne and I spent a lovely morning touring the community college in a neighboring county that Anne hopes to attend in the fall to study to be an ASL Interpreter. The college is tiny and lovely with a large lake and beautiful outdoor landscaping. We met the director of her program of study and talked all about the opportunities ahead. There are a few negatives that we will have to figure out, such as that most of the classes in her course of study are at night which messes with dance. Also, the college is almost an hour from home on difficult roads/highways that are dangerous during the day, let alone at night. Anne absolutely hates driving, and I don't blame her for her concern. Even I don't like to drive on some of the roads that lead to her college. I am sure it will all work out in the end...these issues always do. She may only do online courses the first semester anyway.

Blessings, Dawn

Saturday, December 5, 2020

My Favorite Time of the Year

I think I'll get the hard bits out of the way first. It was a hard medical week around here. Monday, my husband returned to work. He had a weird episode of dizziness and shortness of breath midday. He was so obviously in distress that his coworkers got him down to the ER. He works in a hospital. He spent the rest of the day in the ER being tested for Covid-19 again and testing negative again, having an EKG, having a chest CT scan because some of his blood work suggested a blood clot, and being hydrated through an IV. He was sent home with a suggested follow-up on his thyroid and an ultrasound on his kidneys later in the week. Long story short, we are still waiting for the results of his thyroid test, but think it may well be that. Also, it seems he had an event of a resolving blood clot, as well as major dehydration (for which he has been hospitalized in the past). 

I wish that was all of my medical news, but alas it is not. The pandemic has loomed large in our life this week. My stepmother was diagnosed with Covid-19 this week. She is feeling intense flu like symptoms. Her doctor warned her that these are the early days and she may progress to worse. My aunt (in another state) also has it and says it feels like a bad case of mononucleosis. She slept for 10 days and is starting to feel more normal. My adult daughter, Katie, was exposed at work to Covid-19, and she is quarantined while waiting for test results. Twenty-two people were sent home from my husband's work this week, having been in close contact with someone with Covid-19 in a lunch room setting. None of them are allowed to return for two weeks and must have negative test results before returning. Lastly, one of Tim's friends has it as well as her whole family. Her parents are medically fragile. Lots of praying going on around here!

Now, on to the fun in the week. I love Advent. It is my favorite time of year. If you want to see our Advent plans you can read this post. This week we managed a charity four of the days and made Christmas cookies (round one). We did our Secret Santa mission on Tuesday. The kids pick someone each year to secretly treat. This year they picked Miss Nancy, who is an older woman who lives at the end of our street. She purchased an overgrown waste land of an empty lot several years ago and has lovingly cleared it and landscaped it with nothing but her hands, shovel and axe. Now, she has built a tiny 300 square foot house on it with just a little bit of help. Her work ethic is amazing, and the kids easily picked her this year. 

We also purchased two animals through Heifer International for needy families this year. Elijah picked a share in an Alpaca and Anne picked a flock of ducks. We also dropped off dog and cat food at the local no kill shelter and toys at the local toy drive. 

We also made two of the four Christmas cookies we hope to make this year. We made chocolate surprises and molasses sugar cookies. We had a few for movie night in which we watched The Grinch.

Anne started filming with part of the adult dance company a short dance film for the Fringe Festival. They are doing a dance about the spread of Covid-19. They did the cover photos for the posters this week. I took a few shots behind the photographer. 

Elijah and Tim worked on adding lots of Christmas lights to the front yard. It sure is festive around here. 

That about wraps it up. Hopefully, next week will have less surprises (at least unhappy ones).

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, November 30, 2020

Our Advent Plans ~ 2020

This year we are doing an event most days of Advent. Most of them are small, but they are going to add so much joy and meaning to this season and help us wrap up this difficult year on a cheerful note. I purchased this Advent music box (photos below) on deep clearance at a small gift shop in town this year. I think it will turn into a wonderful heirloom and be used for many years to come. It plays Christmas carols when you open the doors. Behind the doors, I either placed a card telling the kids what we would be doing that day or card saying something that I appreciated about them. I also placed a few pieces of candy or a few quarters behind most of the doors. One door even reveals a few dollar bills. Below is a list of what we intend to do each day.

  1. Secret Santa Miss Nancy ~ There is an elderly woman who lives down the hill in a tiny house (330 square feet) that she built herself a few years ago. She is an incredibly industrious woman and is always working in her yard. She has turned a completely ruined pile of dirt yard into a lovely landscaped gem. My kids are constantly impressed with her work ethic. The kids had no trouble agreeing that she should be the recipient of our Secret Santa gift this year.
  2. Charity Wednesday ~ We will be selecting an animal to purchase for a family in need through Heifer International. This is hands-down one of our favorite charities. 
  3. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and and appreciation cards
  4. Make Christmas cookies and Elijah chooses a movie for family movie night. (We have been working on a weekly rotation of family members' picks since the pandemic started.)
  5. Arboretum Lights ~ We will drive through the light show at the arboretum.
  6. 1950's Christmas Night ~ We will be having Hungry Man TV dinners (which were invented in 1954 and which my kids have never had). For after dinner entertainment, we will be having a board game tournament with the game Stratego and taste test of 1950's candy.
  7. Guess Who I Am game ~ Christmas edition
  8. Make more Christmas cookies
  9. Charity Wednesday ~ Buy and deliver a bag of groceries for the food bank.
  10. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and appreciation notes
  11. Hot Chocolate Bar ~ Anne's movie pick
  12. National Gingerbread House day ~ Make our own Gingerbread house
  13. Make Scottish Eggs ~ because I have always wanted to try them.
  14. Christmas light drive around the neighborhood with Starbucks Hot Chocolate
  15. Christmas nighttime walk downtown to see all the decorated store fronts and get a treat of soda or candy from Rockets.
  16. Charity Wednesday ~ Donate money to a local music venue to help support the arts through this difficult time.
  17. Easy Thursday ~ Candy and appreciation cards.
  18. Surprise ~ I am not sure what we are doing this day yet. I am still looking for options. It is my turn to pick the movie for movie night.
  19. Cook dinner over a Christmas bonfire.
  20. Celebrate Los Posadas, which is the Mexican celebration of Mary and Joseph's journey to find room in the inn. ~ We will be breaking a piƱata and having a Mexican meal (maybe tamales from the local food truck).
  21. Winter Solstice ~ Christmas for the earth. We will be feeding the birds, unless I think of something even more magical.
  22. Surprise ~ Another day when I am keeping my options open for now.
  23. Charity Wednesday ~ Sprinkle homeless kits around the downtown area.
  24. Christmas Eve ~ Pizza and big game night, including the Guess What's in the Box game for a Christmas Eve treat.

Blessings, Dawn