Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day at Blackwater

I have to say that I think God was awful nice to give North Carolinians the day off so that we could watch the inauguration. Blackwater was transformed by 4 inches of snow. Some areas got 6 inches, the most snow in 5 years. School was out, my new boss said to stay put (I worked a little at home), and my husband's work was shut down. So we played in the snow and took pictures, then watched the inauguration. Which meant I cried, and we stood for the oaths and the National Anthem, applauded the speeches, loved the music.

I don't think we've played in the snow with the kids for a few years now. It was nice to have a chance to do it again before the girls graduate. And it's really nice to know that North Carolina can have snow, even if it doesn't happen all that often.

Here are a few pictures of Blackwater in the snow on Inauguration Day 2009.

photos courtesy dkminnick

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Who Said a Person Has to Downsize?

It's a dreary day outside. We might even be getting snow later, the first we've seen it since we moved here over a year ago. It won't stick; it's too warm out, even though it feels damp and cold inside.

Football games await. We're all working on computers, stopping periodically to check in with each other, tease a little, give a hug, lend an ear. We all have tomorrow off, which will probably be more of the same. It's the last semester of high school for the twins. Next year they'll be in college. That will make 2 college graduates (1 now married), 1 college senior, 2 college freshmen, and 1 high school sophomore. And only 1 of those will be at home. Hmm.

When we bought Blackwater, we were thrilled to be increasing our living space, both indoor and out. Although it's taken this long to even be close to selling our last home, we still have big plans for this property. But, my husband teases, common wisdom would say it's too big for us.

Well, it's not.

We all know the rule: physical property expands to fill available space. That's already begun.

Plus I share feelings with Dame Agatha Christie: I don't want a small house. They're harder to clean, because you keep bumping into things. I want space.

I want rooms that are just for books -- and for housing guests.

I want a room I can move Christmas decorations into without having to climb attic steps. When the season comes, I'll just slide boxes out.

I want multiple rooms to house kids, relatives, guests, all the people we couldn't have over at the smaller house when the kids were growing up.

I want rooms to put desks in. I love desks. In fact, a neighbor had one out by the side of the road for pick-up, and let me take it when I asked. I refinished it and put it in my son's room (the one at college; he was less than thrilled).

I want rooms to wander in and out of. I want to be able to change my surroundings to suit my task, or to inspire me when I write. My husband already has 3 -- count 'em 3! -- locations for his various computers in the house. I work in the office or the kitchen mainly, but I've also gone downstairs, or our bedroom, or even to that desk in our son's room for a change of atmosphere.

Frankly, I would love even more room -- more acreage, more rooms here in the house. Not so much for luxury -- I doubt we'll ever have the kind of luxury home some people have, but just for the space, the variety, the charm that many rooms allow.

My mother used to tell me about when they bought the 96-acre farm the year before I was born. She told me how she went out to the yard and stood there, just feeling all that space around her, knowing it was theirs. I admit to wanting our own land, our plantation, our Ponderosa, our kingdom. I want that connection. I want those roots. I want to make it mine. (okay, more correctly, ours). It's a desire I don't think will ever go away.

Are we at the beginning of the empty nest? Maybe, but it doesn't mean we'll be finding a smaller nest any time soon. Way too much to do yet.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Screaming Meemies, I mean, Memes

Okay, so I have NO idea what I'm doing but Kaye Barley (Meanderings and Muses) went and tagged me for a meme which I had to look up the meaning of and which means (from Dictionary.com):


–noun; a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

[okay, end run-on-sentence here]

This particular meme is the Meme of Tears. It was passed to Kaye by Linda Richards who got it from Sandra Ruttan. Kaye has tagged a number of us with this question, and although she said we don't HAVE to respond, I find it hard not to.

The question passed on to me by Kaye went as follows: "What's hit you on an emotional level and made you cry?"

This is one of those questions that looks so easy. I could answer any number of ways, with responses that would resemble many other peoples'. But I hate being just like everyone else. Don't be insulted; I'm just in love with the concept of being different. It's something I've had to embrace over the years.

Anyway, I decided to try to analyze the things that make me cry. And two major categories emerged.

The first category seems to be Achievement. I cry whenever I see someone achieve. It may be a Special Olympiad charge the finish line -- even on a TV commercial. It may be our daughter's or son's or daughters' graduation. It may be my husband being recognized in his job, or someone winning a contest. There is that innate knowledge that these people worked really hard to reach their goal, and they did it. All their hopes went into the effort, and they made it. The energy, the heart that is being rewarded is worth a few tears from this sympathetic spectator.

The second category seems to be Truth. Truth in the universal sense. When I listen to a speaker, or when I am meditating for myself, or even when seeing a play or program that demonstrates or reveals a concept that I sense is a Truth of the universe, I find myself tearing up. Love comes under this category, and Beauty, and Forgiveness. There are some others in there, too.

It's easy to downplay teary moments. We are easily embarrassed by them, and we usually can't explain them on the spur of the moment. They are intensely personal. So we laugh them off and admit to being 'sappy'. I think we are just covering up for deeper feelings. Our tears mean something. They are our recognition of those moments when human touches human. These teary moments signify a deeper, more raw emotional incidence of connection where we acknowledge what's happening to another of our kind.

So, what makes you cry?

[Kaye, did I do all right?]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Tale of Christmas

Christmas Window at Blackwater
photo courtesy dkminnick

Ahh, time to start the New Year at Blackwater.

We have just finished a momentous Christmas. We had our first caroling party at Blackwater. To understand the significance, you have to know that our family caroling parties date back to at least 1992. Their roots go back even farther, as I have caroled in some form or fashion since before 1967. It was sporadic, but each year I would doggedly try to find a way to carol. Sometimes it was with a youth group or organized choir. Sometimes just a couple friends and I. The year I was pregnant with our firstborn, our medical records group caroled through the hospital. For some reason we dressed in costume. I wore a Christmas tree outfit made of felt, and I carried a small tree for my ‘wee unborn one’.

By the time said firstborn was in 6th grade, the family had increased to 5 (ultimately it became 6). She was in a musical group at school, so we invited the whole crowd to come out to our house for goodies and a little caroling through the winding streets of our hillside neighborhood. A tradition was born.

As time went on, we continued to invite friends – everyone is told to invite anyone they wish plus the person’s family – to come out and sing and have goodies and watch movies. There is no time limit on the party, except for whether or not it runs overnight. Our caroling usually goes from 6:00pm to 9:00 pm.

I tend to get in a tizzy when preparing for parties. Cleaning and baking is done at top speed while my mind races to see what I can safely leave undone after all. Some years the decorating was complete, and other years a dark green undecorated tree or incomplete crèche stood watch as revelers filed in and out of the house. For me, probably the most significant memory of these years is the mad rush to finish cleaning the house, and the way the downstairs family room would swallow up teenagers as soon as they arrived.

For as children grew into pre-teens and teens, the parties grew. And grew in importance, too. The year of our last party in Nashville, we sent out written invitations to accompany the directions to our house. In the invitation, we noted that it was our last party, as the next spring we were moving to Fayetteville. The response was overwhelming: we had over 50 people! 50 people from all parts of our lives, accompanying us on our last round of caroling.

We made a point to let the recipients of our carols know it was the last year, too, and with hope we encouraged a few of them to take over the tradition.

Last year was our first Christmas in Blackwater, but we couldn’t get everything together in time for a caroling party. We did hear, however, from various friends, including some high school friends of our now-college students, that our party was sorely missed. In fact, even this year, our two oldest, age 27 and 22, informed us they still had friends who complained of missing our party.

So it was with high hopes that we planned a party for 2008. Again we invited friends, although not nearly as many as previously (it does take time to build a following). We tried to set the party for after the older siblings got in, but this year it wasn’t possible. We also set out flyers letting people know we were singing, and asking that they leave a porch or Christmas light on if they wanted to hear us, and that they feel free to join us on our musical journey if they wished.

Cleaning and cooking went the smoothest it ever has. Well, we’re all older and more organized now. We had a half-dozen guests, but put that with our four (my husband stayed home to send along any stragglers), and we had a nice-sounding group. So nice, in fact, that we surprised ourselves. When asked if we rehearsed, we had to say no, but we were able to perform Carol of the Bells in parts with no problem. The key appears to be that even though we didn’t rehearse in a group, almost all of us had sung with someone else in the group, so we were all attuned anyway. We even picked up a couple neighbors who joined us along the way, and they came back to our house to sing to my husband.

We sat around with goodies and good cheer afterwards, promptly making plans for next year’s party. The interesting thing is, with 2 out of the house, and 3 in college, I’m just not sure when we’re doing it!

This was important for us in so many ways. Caroling is a gift we give to our neighbors, and the party is a gift we give ourselves. We love sharing Christmas. We’d been forced to skip one year. It hadn’t felt right. This was a homecoming for us. We really have made the transition to Fayetteville and to Blackwater. While we may not know what comes next, we have indeed finally made it here.