Monday, January 03, 2011

Quiet Celebrations With an Undercurrent...

Well, here it is folks, the New Year! Can't believe it is 2011 already, can you?

The celebration here was pretty calm, downright quiet, to be honest about it.

The kids were in bed by 9 p.m. -with no fuss or muss too so hopefully that will be a scene that will repeat itself many times now too over the year ahead.

That left Mandy, Ken and I to our own devices of celebrating the New Year in -with a little bit of wine and, at midnight, a toast to "Peace!" -just that, pure and simple. They had a bottle of champagne and I had two glasses of my el cheapo fine wine -Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill -one glass earlier in the evening and a second one at midnight as we toasted the New Year in.

I heard shooting in the distance about a minute after the ball fell in Times' Square and judging by the sound, I figured it probably was our neighbor Bo, a few houses up the road from us but then, in talking to my friend Kate, after church Sunday morning, and learning that her sister, brother, and several of her nieces/nephews you were all at her house on New Year's Eve, I'm re-thinking who the shooter may have been. Perhaps it was Larry - a little further up the street -heralding the New Year in. I waited, figuring there would be another blast coming from down the street as our neighbor down that way -Daryl (aka Sharkey) usually fires a shot or two off just after midnight, but if he did that last night, he must have used a silencer, cause I never heard anything coming from his direction.

Maybe more folks around these parts are getting quieter in our celebrating than just Mandy, Ken and I? Ya think?

It's been a bit of a strange build-up here to the holidays this year with lots of things happening.

Last year, Maya's first year in regular school and also, the first year our school district had full-day kindergarten was a year of lots and lots of excitement and change for her as well as for us! We worried a lot about how she would do in this new setting and such but thankfully, all went well and we survived the little occasional ordeals there. This year, with her in first grade, brought even more changes our way and Maya has whizzed through them, surprising us more and more every day with how well she is doing at adapting to the changes presented to her!

In retrospect, we really should have taken her comments that she made to her teacher back in August, when Mandy took her up to the school to meet her teacher for the coming year, see what room she would be in and get her bus schedule too. Mandy decided after that meeting that perhaps the field of study Maya should pursue should be something that would lead her into a career involving interrogation because this child doesn't do "Twenty Questions" but rather more like "Two Hundred Questions!"

The one I liked the best though was when she asked her teacher what they would be studying with respect to mathematics and he told her "Oh, probably a little addition, a little subtraction, you know." Her response to that totally blew him -and her mother too -away as she informed the teacher that she "Really hope we will cover fractions because I do so enjoy them!" And this is BEFORE her first grade class year had even begun!

Half-way through the school year now, I'm really happy to report that she's doing very well with the math and the reading -WOW, she really shines in that area! On her first report card, as we tried to interpret the grading on it, Mandy scheduled an appointment with the teacher for some help in translating things and in doing so, we learned that for her class, her age range, etc., that the "normal" reading rate for kids that age is 12 words per minute and it turns out, Maya's range is 77 words per minute which puts her reading ability at about that of a third grader! Incredible! And the really fantastic thing for me is that she loves, loves, loves books and reading!

Kurtis too has weathered a whole lot of changes over the past year as well. A year ago, when he first started going to the pre-school program, his vocabulary had just begun to develop. Today, he is quite the little chatterbox! He still does a lot of the ecolalia that is often common in autistic children, but frequently, when he does merely echo things he hears, in a matter of usually a day or two, quite often, the words he was echoing earlier are then used in sentences and very often they are used in good context too. So great to see him learning and advancing this quickly.

There were, of course, a few things that came along over the past year that weren't exactly what we wanted to see, to have happen -starting with my diagnosis back in early August with Uterine cancer and the lovely chemo treatments I had to have from September through December. But thankfully, although I was scheduled to have six treatments, my oncologist informed me when I went in for treatment Number 4 that in his opinion, I wouldn't need the last two treatments! Now that was quite a Christmas present for me, for sure, don't 'cha think?

In November though, sorrow came to my family as my dear cousin, Nancy, passed away. It was a very sudden thing as she had been doing very well but one thing we never gave any consideration to was that an aneurysm can come along and in less than an hour's time, life is over and done with. That, plus less than a month later, my cousin Nancy's husband, Howard, died too. Such losses, so close together -made for a difficult time for their three children and grandchildren as well as for those of us close to them too. Rarely has a day gone by when my thoughts haven't traveled to them, to their family, to thinking how much I really wanted, really needed to reach out and call Nancy, to talk to her once again about all the little things we would discuss in our phone calls every week or two. It's been a hard loss for me to absorb and I'm sure it's been a whole lot more difficult for her children and siblings too.

This past week brought changes to our little community here too with a young man, age 20 I believe, who lost his life in an automobile accident and at about the same time, a neighbor of ours passed away as well.

The neighbor lady had just celebrated her 90th birthday on the day after Christmas although she had also had a stroke then too and the family pretty much knew that the end was near. She was quite a character and a person I think I would have to say was a bit of an icon around this little village. I think just about everyone in town knew her!

Her name was Helen and over the years, folks often referred to her as "Tomboy" or also, as "Big Helen" because she was a big woman. But Helen was not just big in stature but also big in many, many other ways too. She was first and foremost one of the most big-hearted people one could ever hope to meet. Loud at times, boisterous maybe even, yes, but that just endeared her more I think to those of us who knew her.

She was big too in her ability to work. And boy, could she ever do that! She could match up to a lot of men in her ability to wield a shovel or a pick, as well as a broom, mop, scrub bucket -you name it there too -and cook -Sheesh, she could put out some darned good food too.

It was Helen who, back when I was probably 9 or perhaps 10 years old, and up at her house one day playing with her daughter, Vicky, who was my age, and Helen was cooking up some stuff that she passed around to us kids. She or Vicky may have told me the name of this treat but because the name they gave me was in Slovak, I never remembered that. But I always remembered how darned good this treat was and wanted to learn to make it too once I became an adult and trying to learn to cook. I've not yet learned how to make this stuff, nor have I learned the correct name for it either but I know now that it is simply fried bread dough -a sort of donut I guess. But even if I ever do learn the name of this sweet treat or how to make it, I know one thing for sure, the flavor of it will never be the same as it was when "Big Helen" made that and introduced me to it!

Tonight was the one night of viewing for Helen and I felt it was only right that I should go to the funeral home, to pay my respects to her family -her daughters, grandkids that I know too, as well as many of her nieces and nephews.

One thing I forgot though when I went to the funeral home was that with this being the only time for viewing and the family being Catholic, that there would also be the saying of the Rosary. And wouldn't you just know it but I arrived just as the priest was saying prayers and then, Deacon Joe, led everyone with the Rosary.

I forgot how long that ritual can take! And since I am a Lutheran, our church doesn't have a rite like that so there I was, standing in place throughout the entire thing! And, as if this ritual isn't long enough on its own, don't you just know it but Deacon Joe I think got a tad confused because I could swear that he repeated the "Third Sorrow" twice!

Then there was also another loss within my community of friends too in the past week. A very dear friend of mine who lived down in Williamsport died suddenly last Sunday morning but I didn't learn of her passing until yesterday and then, quite by accident at that.

I received an e-mail yesterday from a gentleman I didn't know but who introduced himself as the Director of Music at a Lutheran church in Williamsport. He had written to inquire if I per chance happened to know the English words for the old Swedish Christmas Carol I have mentioned before in my postings -"Lyssna, Lyssna" -and I'm not really sure how he came to have found my name and e-mail address but be that as it may, I responded back to him.

I told him that I do not know the English translation to that song nor do I know if there is anyone currently in our church congregation who knows enough Swedish to do a translation for him either. However, in writing back to him, I had figured out that the church he serves is also the church where my friend, Eileen, was a member, so I had suggested that he contact her -or possibly her elderly aunt who might know the English words for that song.

It was after sending that reply to him that he wrote back telling me that their choir had sung that song this past Thursday at the funeral held for my friend, Eileen! Talk about a shock, that was one for me! Seems she had decorated their church for Christmas, finishing that task on Christmas Eve and was on her way back to church for the Christmas Eve services when she suffered a stroke and died then Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, from the stroke.

Adding just a bit of insult to injury -or perhaps irony -was the fact that she was also very close friends with the youngest daughter of my neighbor, Helen, who passed away this week then too.

Although these two passings, along with my cousin and her husband, have had quite an impact on me as the New Year is beginning, I do take comfort in the reality of these deaths that I believe from my Faith that they have gone to a place far better than the world we know here. Some may scoff at my saying that, but it is what I chose to believe and in my heart, I know that they have already been met and welcomed to a banquet the likes of which you and I will never know here on earth.

It is that -my Faith -that has brought me through all the trials and tribulations too of my life and though, it doesn't take the pain of losing family, good friends, great neighbors away -as that is the sorrow we have that our loved ones and friends are no longer here to celebrate life with us -but the knowledge that someday, some way, we shall all be reunited again and in the interim, we have the memories of events, of days, years, shared here to remind us of those gone before us.

I will carry with me the memories of my cousin Nancy and her smile -just like her Dad's before her, warming, making people feel wanted and loved. Of her husband's quick wit and all the silly things he did and said over the years to bring laughter into our lives. And of Eileen -whose faith was ever so strong too, that her love for people, community and her church, were one of her best assets. And of Helen, my neighbor with the big heart, with the strong arms, with the booming laugh that would easily bring happiness to everyone around her -even forgiveness too by the school children who often disliked one of her regular deeds too back in the day -that being ashing the hill road by her house which always then enabled the school bus to get through and get us all to school back then. Yes, she did that -out there along the street, strewing coal ashes all over the road to ensure that the bus would make it up that hill and we kids would rarely be late.

Thanks Helen -for what at those times I didn't see as the best thing but over the years, I've come to know what was done, was for the benefit of those of us on those buses and for our futures too -to enable us to keep on learning!

And if we take away from her example learning the importance of doing what is right, what is necessary, for one's community, then we'll all have learned something great!

And now -I'm looking forward to a new year, full of much potential, hopefully the return of my hair (so I won't freeze quite so easily) and good health, great reading ahead for Miss Maya, loads of new words every day for Kurtis and oh, a new and much better employment future ahead too for Mandy as well as my son too!

Thinking positive thoughts about everything as it comes my way, even though initially some events may also bring tears, pain -eventually the clouds, the rain, clears away and the sun shines through again.

May 2011 bring the sunshine to light our way towards Peace, Love, Happiness and Posterity!


Maggie May said...

While I am very pleased that you survived the chemo and all that involves...... I was extremely sorry about your cousin's death and subsequently her husband.
That is a lot to bear.
Lets hope that 2011 is a better year....
Happy New Year.
Maggie X

Nuts in May

Sandee said...

May you and yours have a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. :)

terri said...

2010 was definitely a year of highs and lows for you, but your attitude is inspiring, especially when I think of all the little things I so easily let get me down. I'm so sorry for the loss of loved ones you've suffered recently. And I'm glad that your chemo treatments are done and you're on the road to recovery once again. May 2011 be a year of peace and simple pleasure for you. Thank you for a good dose of perspective, my friend!

Deb said...

Happy New Year Jeni! I took great comfort from your words. My faith and spirit will get me through these rough times also. I will hold you in my prayers that your health continues to improve and 2011 will be full of happiness, joy and good health. Take care !

Suldog said...

Excellent news about the reading score! I had similar types of 'beyond-grade-level' marks when I was a youngster, and now my living is made via reading. It pays to be able to master the written word!

Faith is all-important, as you already know. Blessings to you, yours, and those affected by loss as detailed in your post. Everything does get better, though we sometimes don't see it until long afterward.

Lori said...

((((Jeni)))) I am sorry about the losses you've endured but knowing that they are some place even better then here does bring comfort. What a blessing that you had the opportunity to know these dear people.

It sounds like your grandchildren are doing quite well with school. Good for them!

My new years eve was pretty quiet too...we watched movies, drank champaigne and ate food.

Hope the start of 2011 is finding you staying warm, feeling good and enjoying life. XX

TechnoBabe said...

Hi Jeni, it is so great to hear of the changes coming about in your grandchildren. How wonderful to see Maya love to read. You know reading has been one of my favorite things since I was Maya's age and still is.
We were at the library yesterday, I returned books and brought home twelve books. I am so happy for you that your chemo treatments are over with and you didn't have to endure two more treatments. I know what you mean about needing hair to help keep warm in winter. It is 15 degrees F this morning and that is so much better than below zero. I wish you good health and much happiness this year, Jeni. I enjoy reading about your life and your family and friends.

Travis Cody said...

We rarely make it to midnight, and we didn't this time either. It was for the best, since I had to work a couple of hours on Saturday morning.

Best wishes for the new year!