Thursday, December 15, 2011

First Christmases

I will never forget my first Christmas as a mother.  It was full of the usual poignant moments, the handmade Christmas dress, the "First Christmas" ornament.  But it was the most ordinary task in the middle of all that celebration that became the greatest memory, because in the middle of it, I was so profoundly struck by what that First First Christmas was.

Of all the elements and activities of the season, my epiphany came while I was changing my baby's diaper.

Wiping her little bottom, it hit me like lightening what it really meant when Christ came as a baby.

Not as a shiny, giant, glowing God who is instantly feared for His power.

Not as a grown man who one day showed up in town, offering parables, miracles and grace.

Not as a verbal child, able to make himself understood.

He came as a baby.  A human baby, the most helpless creature on earth.

The Creator of this...

the Provider of this...

came as a baby who had to cry for food...

a baby who couldn't control his own body and soiled his diapers, sitting in it until someone noticed and could take time to change him.

He chose humility on an unimaginable scale so that He could not only be my sacrifice, but understand my daily struggles, great and small. To know what it was to be a puny human.

That's love. A love so far beyond anything language could explain that it required such abject humility and sacrifice to express it.

A love for me. A love for you. Love given despite His knowing what we would be and how little we would deserve it.

So as you purchase and wrap the Christmas gifts for those you love, and as you open their gifts to you in turn, I hope each piece of tape and ripped paper reminds you of that First Christmas gift: a love for you so wide and broad and high and deep, it can barely be comprehended.

Linked up to Serenity Now's Weekend Bloggy Reading. Stop by for more inspiration and ideas from all over the blogosphere.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Bread So Fabulous, It Spawned a Family Tradition

If you are Scandinavian and celebrate St. Lucia Day, be warned: We have a very skewed celebratory tradition for this day. We do it completely wrong. We know. And I'm great with it.

Mr. Hat's maternal grandfather was Swedish, despite the family hailing from Finland as far back as I can go. Still, by the time Mr. Hat was around, there was no familial observation of St. Lucia day, a major Scandinavian holiday; as far as I know, it wasn't something his mother celebrated while growing up either.

As an adoptive mother, I can't pass along genetics. But I can pass on the traditions and cultures associated with our genes. This desire serendipitously collided with a recipe I found in a magazine for an amazing "St. Lucia Bread" I HAD to try. Hello, orange infusion? Orange glaze? Homemade bread? Um, yah. We've got Swedes in our house, so why not celebrate this holiday? At the time, I knew no one Swedish who celebrated St. Lucia Day to show me how it was done.

I was on my own, wanting that bread.

I began by learning about the day's honoree: St. Lucia. She is said to have brought food and comfort to the poor and/or Christians hidden in the dark catacombs (depending on the version of the story you read). Her hands laden with provisions, she needed a hands-free way to light her path. Adding some lighted candles to her braided, coroneted hair, she entered the dark warrens looking like the angel she was.

And so began our tradition: gathering around our braided, lighted bread in the evening of each December 13, to reflect on how fortunate we are and plan how we will give to those less fortunate as St. Lucia did, donating toys for Toys for Tots, contributing to food pantries, gathering new mittens or scarves for the homeless, etc. Though money is tight, often painfully tight, for us, we are still so, so fortunate and I want my kids to realize it.

Now that my kids are older, I wanted our giving to be more sacrificial on their part. So this year, we sat around our bread and I told them my plan (which I'll confess has some benefit for me, too). There are a bazillion things on my "to-do" list to prepare our house for hosting Christmas this year. And I have three little hooligans who need something to do for the week of break preceding Christmas. So they'll be giving sweat equity: each task will have a penny value assigned, one cent for minor tasks and more for more difficult or time-consuming tasks. When the task is completed, the assigned number of pennies will be put in a jar. At the end of the week, we'll convert those pennies to dollars that we'll donate to a local homeless shelter. Our children, having no money to give, will give of themselves, working and denying themselves the pleasure of spacing out in front of the television or Wii time.

So, you see it isn't how one is supposed to celebrate the day. But it's the way we do it, and it tastes sweet all the way around.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Vintage Bottlebrush Trees

I love those vintage bottle-brush trees in white and pastels. They're classic, nostalgic Christmas goodness. They're also hard to find, and even harder to afford in a quantity you can do something with.

Which is why I was thrilled to find on Pinterest some magic performed by The Crafty Minx. She took the readily available and far cheaper green, flocked trees and bleached them! I loved that they weren't the stark white that most new ones are, sporting a creamy vintage look instead.

I found a big bag of trees in assorted sizes (about a dozen and a half) at the Home Depot for $7 and determined to try this myself.

I won't reinvent her tutorial. But I will share how I deviated:
1) I didn't use gloves. I wish I had. But if you want a chemical peel on your hands, skip the gloves and you'll experience pretty much the same thing.
2) I just used a big glass bowl instead of a plastic tub, since I had a bowl and not a tub, and did them a few at a time.
3) I found both mildly diluted bleach and straight bleach worked fine and took about the same amount of time.
4) I didn't scrub and I didn't soap/water wash. I just soaked and then rinsed thoroughly. I scrubbed and soaped the first one and thought it too abusive. Because I didn't beat the bejeebers out of them, some of the flocking did remain, and I liked that look, too.
5) It took a lot longer than the five minutes she cited to achieve the right color.  More like 20 minutes. But I used house-brand bleach, so maybe the "good stuff" would act faster.
6) I opted to glitter and not dye (see Crafy Minx's tutorial if you want to dye). I think it'd be worth trying to leave them white with colored glitter, too. But for this batch, I used a white-ish iridescent glitter.

To "glitterfy" your dried trees:
1) Set your sound system to play Christmas music. Is there anything better than Michael BublĂ© and glitter? Thought not.
2) Cover your work surface. Consider donning an apron to protect yourself from glue spatter.
3) Gather materials:
  • Adhesive. A white, clear-drying glue like Elmers or ModPodge. I had ModPodge on hand, so that's what I used. Pour some in a small bowl or measuring cup and thin with a little water. You want to prevent crushing the fine fibers with thick glue. Alternately, you probably could use a spray adhesive; just make sure you have good ventilation, protect surfaces and tree base from over-spray, and tape your base to a surface to prevent the propellant from blowing these lightweight trees over.
  • A paintbrush. I used an old paintbrush I had laying around from a recent paint project. A medium artist brush would probably work fine; the little ones like those that come with your kids' watercolors is probably too small.
  • A bowl for excess glitter.
  • Glitter. I got my iridescent glitter at Hobby Lobby a few years ago.

4) Dip your brush into the thinned glue and dab onto your tree, using a stippling action at a slight angle, from bottom to tip.

5) Clean ModPodge off your camera. *sigh*
6) Once you have the glue all over the tree, hold the tree over your bowl and sprinkle with glitter.

I have a whole new appreciation for photo tutorials.
Do you know how hard it is to craft with one hand and photograph with the other?
7) Shake off excess and set tree aside to dry.
8) When done, make sure you clean your brush, glue bowl and anything else with the glue on it right away. ModPodge is used to seal and adhere materials to surfaces permanently; you don't want that hanging out in your brush.

Let your trees dry - done!

Epsom salt, by the way, makes perfect snow. And post-holiday, you can soak in it and relieve all that holiday stress.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me!

Several years ago, when we lived in Nashville, I found this exquisite armoire at a flea market. It had all its interior compartments intact with little glass-doored, labeled cubbies for folded items. And it was priced for a steal. For reasons I can't recall, I debated and ended up walking away, still regretting it after 17 years.

So, you'd think a girl would learn, right? Apparently not.

Yesterday, I had 15 minutes to kill between an errand and picking up my daughter at school; it wasn't enough time to head home, but it was too long to sit and wait at school.  So I hopped over to our local Goodwill store.

Which is when I found a set of china that I'd admired on a blog just a few weeks ago.  Thirty-five pieces of Homer Laughlin Chateau in pristine condition. $500 or so worth of gorgeous china for a mere $15. The square salad plates alone are sold online for around $40 each, and there are 10 of them. Seems a no brainer, doesn't it? But no, I walked away! I didn't need it. I don't know where I'd put it. But I loved it. Passionately. And I would use it. So the thought of it haunted me all evening, as did the memory of that armoire.

Mr. Hat pointed out that it was exactly the amount remaining for him to spend for my Christmas gifts. So I wished me a merry Christmas and decided I'd head over there first thing, praying no one else snapped it up in the meantime.

Sure enough - they were still there! And now they aren't. Now they're at my house, looking lovely and making me giddy happy.

All 11 dinner plates, 10 square salad plates, 9 bread & butters, 4 soup bowls, 1 precious berry bowl.

Suddenly, I know exactly how I'm setting my table for Christmas this year.  Looks good with my newly vintaged bottle-brush trees, no? (Would you believe this tree started out as one of those green ones you see with ceramic villages and train sets? True. And I have an army of them.)

So, thanks "Santa!" You did swell.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 22: Baileys-Free Holidays

The other night while watching TV, there was a commercial for Bailey's Irish Cream in which this lady drags a bottle through her houseful of odd party guests in even odder situations.  Mr. Hat remarked, "This doesn't make me want to buy this product at all." I suggested the effective ad would feature the woman at a family holiday gathering surrounded by all the family members who otherwise annoy, despise or avoid each other.  She would take a sip of her Baileys and suddenly be surrounded by pleasant, sparkling guests as a tagline says, "Baileys Irish Cream makes everything better." That, I think, would work.

I jest, but we hear so much this time of year of family disfunction. There are classics like "Christmas Vacation" based on this seasonal phenomena of gathering with people you don't particularly like and sometimes outright can't stand just because it's a holiday, you're family, and therefore togetherness is mandatory. So they groan and head off to Mom and Dad's or Aunt Jane's, spending in misery what should be a pleasant celebration.

Fortunately for me, this is not my reality. Having grown up together, my husband and I have families who were already acquainted and friends. We have healthy relationships with our parents and siblings. There might be the occasional scheduling hitch for these grand events, but we can all gather in the same room and end up with nothing but laughter and good conversation. We often fold in my brother's in-laws, too, with the same happy result. I could, if I chose, drink Baileys at these gatherings for the taste and not the bracing.

I'm lucky - and I know it.  I also feel blessed that, barring my sister and her family, all in our family unit are within a half-hour drive of our home. We don't have to make choices about which family we'll see this year, knowing we won't see the other family until the next one.  Having once upon a time lived away from them all, I treasure the proximity.

So as I enjoy our TWO Thanksgiving feasts on Thursday, I'll be grateful as I pass along the turkey instead of the Baileys.

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 21: The Giant Hamster Wheel

OK, I know.  I'm late AGAIN!

And that's because, well, life this time of year is busy, full of the mundane but at increased volume.

As I was preparing to fall exhausted into bed last night, I was reflecting on how mundane it all is.  Get up and dressed, wake the Alpha and Omega kids, get them out the door with Mr. Hat, chug coffee, greet Ms. Grump, goad Ms. Grump to get ready for school, drive her there, come home, pick up, chug more coffee and catch up with friends on Facebook and/or blogs, shower (if I'm lucky), work or run errands, eat, work some more, fetch Alpha and Omega again, drop them off at home, get back in the car five minutes later and go get Ms. Grump, come home, muse about dinner, stall about dinner, start dinner, split up squabbles, help with homework, get them all in bed...  It's like I'm stuck on one giant hamster wheel, running and running, getting no further.

But you know what? My child isn't fighting cancer. My spouse isn't eking out his last days of life. We aren't unemployed, wondering how to pay for necessary groceries and heat. We aren't scrambling to find housing because we're being foreclosed on or our landlord has made other plans. We aren't laid up, trying to recover from surgery or wounds. I'm not fighting for my life in a divorce. I'm not single parenting. These are but a handful of terribly real struggles my own friends and acquaintances are enduring.  There are millions more people living in war zones and land stricken with famine.

I'm thankful for mundane.  It's a GOOD place to be.

So I'll just keep running and running...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 20: UN Midwest

This afternoon, I ate lunch with my family in a corner of a large room at our church, looking over 15 other tables with seven to eight people at each.

Each table was diverse in age and race, the room ranging from newborn to 50-something.  We all had one thing in common: adoption.  This room was full of parents who made significant financial and emotional sacrifices, biological children who made room for more, and children who were once orphans or at-risk.

Ten years ago, there were perhaps a dozen adoptive families at our church.  Today, we have at least three times that.  Just since January, we have had three families return with new children from around the globe, and two others who will be expanding their families before the year is out.

I'm always overwhelmed with gratitude to see these gatherings getting larger and larger, knowing the stories behind each family unit, and to be one of them.

I sat there, knowing the dismal future (if any) these kids have been redeemed from, and make mental comparisons to their new reality.  They aren't just saved, they are loved.  I watch the spontaneous hugs and kisses these former orphans lavish on their new parents and the affection returned. I see the little ones sitting on laps, arms around their mothers' necks.  I giggle to watch the gentle interaction between older, biological children and their younger adopted siblings.  My heart swells with their sense of security and worth.

These kids have come from China, Ethiopia, Russia, Korea, Haiti, Guatemala, and within the US. Many came as sibling groups, instantly doubling the size of their new families. Some came with the additional challenges of limb deformities, deafness, cleft palates, or serious illness. Some came "healthy" and had serious conditions discovered later, conditions they probably would not have survived had they not been adopted, yet are manageable in the US. They've been harshly abandoned on trash heaps, lovingly turned over to orphanages to save their lives, or sacrificially given in adoption to give them a better future.

All of them needed a family.

And, boy, they found not just one, but two. They also have this church family, a huge group of people who prayed for them before they were known, helped their parents prepare, and celebrated every milestone in their adoption process.  People who will continue to pray for them, teach and mentor them, and encourage their parents. A large group that just keeps getting bigger, changing the world one family at a time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 17: Easy Bounty

Perhaps I should be thankful today for an ability to count or read a calendar, because I can, despite the fact that I posted "18" before "17." I was trying to rush November, as though it wasn't already flying by fast enough. Indulge me and pretend day 18 is really 17 and vice versa.

I often complain about grocery shopping.  I. hate. it.  Actually, I'm not sure there's any possible way to utilize the English language or font treatments to correctly capture just how much I loathe it.

Sale stuff I've planned a week of dinners of is often out of stock.  Other items I've come to rely on for certain recipes are suddenly removed from stock.  The produce department is rearranged every week. My fellow shoppers seem to be in a parallel universe in which they are alone; I can see them, but clearly they cannot ever see me. Cashiers bag my things in completely illogical ways despite the fact I already organize it all on the belt exactly the way it needs to be bagged. And if it fits, they'll cram it in.  It doesn't matter if I have 50 pounds worth of canned goods in one bag.  It's a miserable place to be most days.

But I always leave with several bags of food.  Food I didn't have to grow, raise, butcher, preserve, and in some cases, cook.  Food that's just there, ready when I want it, in quantity beyond my needs.  Exotic and gourmet food beyond the basics needed for survival is heaped up so much that they can't even put it all on the shelves requiring them to keep some in massive back rooms.

Once upon a time, there was a show called "Frontier House" in which modern souls turned themselves into frontier settlers for a social experiment. At the end of the series, they were rated on their preparedness for winter, because for the real frontier settlers 150 years ago, if you didn't personally grow, hunt or raise/butcher enough, you'd die. It was interesting to watch how unaccustomed to the labor and wait these men and women were.

Thanksgiving is a time at which we recall a celebration by pilgrims and Native Americans.  They celebrated and feasted because they were able to raise, hunt and preserve enough bounty to see them through a long New England winter, unlike earlier years and other settlements.  They knew what it was to starve.


Each week, I waltz in and out in an hour or so, loading up my basket with more food than many people around the world get in a month - or longer.  I tote it home, moaning under the weight of the bags that have to be schlepped into the house, and sighing over the task of putting it all away.  Yet, I didn't have to keep a cow for milk. I didn't have to hunt and butcher something for meat. I didn't have to raise wheat, get it ground and then spend hours making bread.  I not only didn't have to make my own cheese, I can buy it already sliced or shredded. Sure, some of us do can, hunt, raise chickens and beef, but it's optional, a "hobby" instead of survival.

It's crazy-easy, massive bounty I so often take for granted to the point of complaint. I even complain about having to turn it into "dinner" each night.

Which makes me realize it's about that time to head to the kitchen and figure out what "sounds good" for dinner. See? We have such bounty we can decide what we're in the mood for.

Easy, plentiful bounty.

Photos: Microsoft Office unless otherwise specified

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 18: Baby, It's Cold Outside

You know that weather when you walk outside and the wind takes your breath away because it's so cold? Yeah, it's like that around here lately, and we still have another 30-40 degrees (F) to drop before we're in the dead of winter.  That wind just bites.

Which is why I'm thankful to have shelter. Not just shelter, but a home. A home with heat, a bed with down comforter, adequate clothing and cold-weather gear.

Our house is old, as in "built before anyone ever heard of insulation" old.  And it has its original windows. Heating it to a comfortable level is a challenge most days and impossible on the coldest days, but still, I'm not up under a highway overpass trying to eke out an existence in a cardboard box while the wind howls and the "feels like" temperature is -10F.  No.  I'm sitting on a comfortable couch with snuggly blankets, drinking hot tea or chocolate, listening to the furnace blow warmed air through massive antique vents.

Sure, the plaster is cracked in places and the floor is so out of level that one can shoot a marble in one corner of the dining room and have it circle the room and come right back.  Sure, it requires never-ending maintenance and then some.  But it keeps us dry and warm, which is so much more than many have.

So I'm not going to sit here listening to the wind howl and the furnace activate in rapid succession as it tries to keep up with the cold, and think of all the dollars it costs to keep it running. I'm not going to lament the drafts and cold walls. Instead, I'm going to think just how fortunate I am that I have gas heat to pay for, the means to do it, and that it's just drafts and not full-on chilly winds unchecked in their velocity.

I'm fortunate to be inside and warm.  Because baby, it's cold outside.

Photos: Microsoft Office

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 16: Travel Companions

This is the 16th in a daily series celebrating the blessings I'm thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. While they will portray some of the many -- and random -- things I have to be thankful for, they will not be presented in any particular order by degree of thankfulness. Skewed priorities should not be implied.

A friend should be one in whose understanding and virtue we can equally confide, and whose opinion we can value at once for its justness and its sincerity. - Robert Hall

Being human is often a difficult thing. We give of ourselves to family, employers, friends. We trust, we care, we invest in the people in our lives.

Being a mother is even harder. You do all these things at a sacrificial level and add to the burden the future of these beings you are responsible for. It's your job to take this helpless little thing and turn her into an adult who will responsibly and lovingly give of themselves.

Along the way, those little beings will be beasts. And sometimes, they are extra beastly. And they break your heart, challenge you, and push the limits of your patience, understanding and wisdom.

Which is why I'm so thankful for a group of friends who have my back. These women expand my patience, help me understand, and share their wisdom when mine is maxed out. And when things come right again, they celebrate with me, even to tears of joy.

Even better, they trust me with their own struggles. They let me return the favor of confidence and prayer. They share their joy with me when their things come right, too. It is such a privilege and honor to pour back into them, to care about their journey in mothering, to pray over their kids. They are some of the finest minds and wits I know - and they still think I have something to contribute to them. (Don't banish their delusion, OK?)

We aren't geographically near each other, and it's hard sometimes not to be able to provide the practical help one wishes to give, like childcare in a pinch, a meal post-surgery, a hug and tissues. But I'm so thankful that the miles don't keep us from caring about each other and sharing our struggles and triumphs.

I've still got many miles to go on this road called motherhood. Fortunately, I love the company.

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 15: Mad Scientists

This is the 15th in a daily series celebrating the blessings I'm thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. While they will portray some of the many -- and random -- things I have to be thankful for, they will not be presented in any particular order by degree of thankfulness. Skewed priorities should not be implied.

Epic fail.  I didn't get anything posted yesterday.  But let's pretend it's still Tuesday and I did this right on time.

Because on Tuesday - well, every day, really - I was thankful for pharmaceuticals.

I hope there will be a special place in heaven for the inventor(s) of Benedryl -- and those who made a cheaper knock-off.  I go through vats of it, just so I can be presentable in public and not sit and scratch incessantly.

For seven of the last nine years, I've had hives and angio edema all day, every day, head to toe. Benedryl keeps me sane.  I can get through the day without tearing my skin off.  I can eat something other than water. It lets me sleep at night instead of scratching and aching.  It keeps my face, limbs and digits from looking like Hitch when he ate the mushroom.  It protects my airways and keeps me alive.

And I don't draw the thankfulness line at Benedryl.  I appreciate albuterol that clears my son's asthma.  I ADORE Adderall that has turned living with Grace from hell to normal, and helps her go from failing to meeting academic standards.

I appreciate the scientists and investors who recognize a problem and invest lots of money and years of trial and error to find solutions to make certain conditions bearable. Do they profit from it? Yes.  Do I care? Not really, because they save my life (and Grace's) every. single. day.  I might be biased, but I think saving my life is worth something.

Like a special spot in heaven.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 14: Vroom, Vroom

This is the 14th in a daily series celebrating the blessings I'm thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. While they will portray some of the many -- and random -- things I have to be thankful for, they will not be presented in any particular order by degree of thankfulness. Skewed priorities should not be implied.

It's after 9 pm - about 12 hours later than I've been posting most of my "thankfulness" series.  

It was a crazy-busy day, half of it spent on the road, which leads me to what I'm thankful for today: reliable transportation.

I got in and out of that van a bazillion times today.  Each time I put the key back into the ignition and turned it, it started on cue.  Ripping down the expressway, there was no shimmy, shake or weird noise coming from the engine.  The cruise control worked, the radio blared, and I got from point A to point B (and C, D, E and F) in comfort and on time.

I didn't have to wait in the rain or schedule a full day to take the bus, which is good, considering one destination would have been impossible to reach by bus.  I didn't have to feed and harness horses; fortunate, because the number of miles I covered today would have taken two or three days by horse and wagon.  I didn't have to jumpstart the battery, stop and fill a leaky radiator somewhere along the way, make sure the muffler was still attached via a jimmy-rigged wire hanger, or change a flat tire.  I stopped at traffic lights and continued again when it was green.

Tomorrow, more than likely, I'll get up early, put the key back in and give it a turn, and the engine will instantly roar to life, ready for another day on chauffer duty.

And one of these days, it'll take me to a point G, where I can forget about points A-F for a while. Vroom, vroom!

Photos: Microsoft Office

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 13: Zzzzzzzzzzz

This is the 13th in a daily series celebrating the blessings I'm thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. While they will portray some of the many -- and random -- things I have to be thankful for, they will not be presented in any particular order by degree of thankfulness. Skewed priorities should not be implied.

Today, I'm thankful for naps.  Energy restoring, cold fighting, lazy afternoon naps.

Which should explain the brevity of today's post.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Countdown to Thanksgiving Day 12: Turn, Turn, Turn

This is the 11th in a daily series celebrating the blessings I'm thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. While they will portray some of the many -- and random -- things I have to be thankful for, they will not be presented in any particular order by degree of thankfulness. Skewed priorities should not be implied.

To everything (turn, turn, turn...)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn...)

Frankly, that song drives me nuts.  About as much as winter does, which is why I was less than thrilled to see those big, fat clusters of snowflakes falling from the sky and stacking up on my lawn this week.

I'd like Winter well enough if I could stay inside with books, hot chocolate and a blanket, watching the lazy flakes float down, making tree branches lacy and leaving me with a snow-globe world.

Source: Microsoft Office

Instead, I'm driving multiple times a day on slippery roads, praying I'll make it alive to wherever I'm going. And before that, I'm shoveling and salting the 45-degree slope of my driveway four times a day, lest I go sliding out into the five lanes of highway traffic at the end of it.

We get ridiculous amounts of snow in our driveway.

Watching those snow flakes this week, I found myself dreading the five to six months of winter that now remain, panicked that I'll ever make it to Spring.  And then I realized that I wouldn't get Spring without the Winter.

The yellow riot of forsythia...

Source: Wikipedia

The fruit trees in bloom...

Nodding tulips...

Source: Microsoft Office

And without Spring, I wouldn't get Summer.

The weekends at the lake...

Old-fashioned roses...

Walks on the beach...

And without Summer, I wouldn't get the best of all: Autumn.

The glorious colors against a true-blue sky...

The giant orange pumpkins in my father's garden...

The stunning purple asters...

I know there are places I could live where it's Summer all year.  But I'd miss Spring and Fall.  And I've lived where there's Spring, Summer, Fall and a snowless Winter, but the "Winter" is brown, gray and drab, a world covered in mud and dead grass.  Somehow, the snow globe is so much more appealing, even if it means months of white-knuckled driving and whole days spent shoveling.

So, I guess in the end, I'm actually thankful for a proper Winter and its beauty.

Remind me in January, will you?