Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Full Circle

All I can remember of that day is sitting in the front seat of a car. I can't recall the weather, the time of year, or even the model of the car. We were in the parking lot of Applebee's restaurant. I know that we had gone there to eat lunch but I can't recall the meal. I was seated behind the steering wheel and my husband was sitting next to me. In my memory, it seems that he was seated very close to me as if we were in a mini-compact car. My husband, my rock, my man of steel, was visibly upset, an emotional mess. I remember hugging him and telling him that it would be okay. I also remember thinking, 'Holy shit, what are we going to do?' as I rubbed his back, consoling him as I fought the urge to start crying myself.

It was the early nineties and the real estate market had come tumbling down all around us. My husband is a real estate investor, an entrepreneur. My husband builds houses, owns apartment buildings, fixes run-down properties and makes them livable again. He loves fixing the worst house on the block, to clean up a neighborhood. He provides housing for people of all socio-economic levels.  He is a risk taker to some degree but always acts in a responsible manner. We had four children under the age of thirteen during this time period. Banks, who had wined us and dined us months earlier were now belly-up. The news was filled with doom and gloom. The FDIC became involved. Mortgage notes were being called, and property values were tanking. To say it was a scary time would be an understatement.

That particular memory of sitting in Applebee's parking lot, almost 18 years ago, has stayed with me through the years. My husband had been to see an attorney and it looked like the only way out of the situation would be to file bankruptcy. As we sat in the parking lot of Applebee's, my husband broke the news to me. I had no clue what that meant for us or our four children. I wasn't sure if we would lose our home. Where would we live? We were both scared, not knowing what lie ahead. But we put on a happy face for the sake of our kids. They were our sunshine, our hope, our future, our reason to get out of bed every morning. As it turned out we didn't end up filing bankruptcy but we did 'lose' three of our apartment buildings. The mortgage companies took them back. I was pretty angry with the entire banking industry and with the FDIC for a long time. The whole situation felt surreal. It took a while before my husband got back in the saddle again but he did and he worked hard to rebuild all that had come tumbling down. I am proud of the fact that as a couple we worked together through those uncertain times to get to a better place. It wasn't always easy but I never doubted that we would survive...together... as a family.

So now fast forward to January, 2012.  The husband and I park our car in the very same parking lot. We walk, hand in hand, into the very same Applebee's restaurant. We had not ventured inside of this restaurant since that day back in the early 90's. The hostess seated us in a booth and the two of us just kept smiling at each other and at her. We couldn't stop grinning. It felt so surreal. You see, we had just left from a real estate closing where we had proudly bought back one of the apartment buildings which we had 'lost' almost twenty years ago. We own it again. There is a certain feeling of pride, of accomplishment, of success, of completeness. We have come full circle and it feels good.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just Playing Around...

    Sometimes, when the grandbabies have all gone home, I just play around.
                                            It's good for the soul.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Christmas Frog

A cold, blustery day in December 2010 found me deep inside of my bedroom closet. My house was full of guests who had arrived for the holidays. My Dad had passed away only three weeks earlier so the holidays weren't feeling cheery or bright. The reason I had crawled deep inside of my walk-in closet was to clean it out which now looking back was odd behavior in itself. It's not as if I was so organized that I had nothing else to do...quite the contrary. I had cooking, wrapping, last-minute shopping, decorating to do. Cleaning is not my strong suit so reflecting on that day, I am perplexed as to what even possessed me to climb into my closet through the mountain of shoes, clothes that had fallen off hangers, and a variety of odds and ends. Whatever. I was deep within the bowels of my closet, sitting on the floor, searching for my other black flip flop with the rhinestone studs. I patted around on the floor, feeling for it when my hand touched a dry lump. Startled, I pulled my hand away. If I had a cat, I would have thought that it was a small pile of dried up cat poop but I had no cat to blame. I went to get a flashlight since I was pretty convinced that this was a pile of grossness.

Cautiously, I shined the light around and saw a little darkish green creature. A little, darkish green,dead creature. A dehydrated, dead, little darkish green creature. I carefully picked it up between my two fingers and examined it closely. It was a frog. I gasped. I sat it down very carefully and then I started to cry. I sat in my closet with my dead frog and let the tears flow.

You see, this wasn't just a frog. This was a sign from my father who had died three weeks earlier. My Dad and I had an unspoken 'frog' connection. When I was in college, my parents had come to visit during Parent's Weekend. We all attended a semi-formal dance and my father and I danced to  'Joy to the World ~ Jeremiah was a Bullfrog' by Three Dog Night. It is a dance I will never forget...probably because he hip checked me at one point and I went flying across the dance floor. Over the years, I gave him a variety of 'frog' gifts...a frog statue for his garden, a frog doorstop, frog bookends. What else do you buy a man who was impossible to buy for since he bought whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted ?  At my father's funeral, the minister allowed me to play ' Joy to the World ~ Jeremiah was a Bullfrog' as everyone left the church. It was the perfect ending to the service. I took comfort in looking around the church to see many of the seventy/eighty year old attendees bopping and rocking in their pews as Three Dog Night blasted from the rafters.

So, here I was, sitting in my closet, holding a frog skeleton. How in the world did a frog get into the back of my closet ? Our bedroom is on the second floor, at the end of a long hall. The thought of this frog hopping up the entire flight of stairs and then hopping down the hallway into my room, around the corner into my closet did bring a smile to my face. I also do not believe that is what happened. I don't even know if it is physically possible for a frog to hop up stairs. Then I have to ask why a frog would seek out my closet...a closet which has no water ! Frogs need water. This was not a toad. I do know the difference between frogs and toads. This was a frog !

Quietly, carefully, I carried the frog downstairs to show my family. They gathered around and just stared at the frog. They stared at me. They clearly didn't know what to make of the situation. My family was quiet, a phenomena which doesn't happen often.  I told them my theory, that my Dad had placed the frog in my closet as a sign that he is watching over us. They stood quietly. I think they were afraid of pushing me over the edge. No one wanted to burst my bubble. Many of the people in my family are very black and white thinkers, very logical. I, by the way, am not one of them. I am a colorful, out of the box thinker. I let my emotions lead me through life. So I threw a challenge out to all of the logical thinkers who stood there staring at my dead frog.

"How did this frog end up in my closet?"
"Um, maybe you brought it home in your shoe?" Wrong.
"Maybe the dog carried it in the house and placed it in your closet?"
No way.
" I guess the frog hopped up thirteen stairs, down the hall, around the corner into your closet." I truly doubt that.
"This is a sign from my Dad...he wants us to know that he is okay and he is watching over us."
My family stood quietly watching me and my frog.

My holidays were brighter from that point forward. I had a bounce in my step once again. Previously I had not felt like putting out all of my holiday decorations but now I went up into the attic and pulled them all out. My Dad loved decorating for the holidays with lots of color and bling. I even hummed Christmas carols as I ran around placing each decoration carefully in its place of honor. I reached into the bin for the next item and my heart stopped, momentarily, as I looked at what sat in my hand. Earlier in the year, I had seen a goofy frog statue, a parent frog with a baby on its back, each wearing a red stocking hat. I was going to put it in my Dad's Christmas stocking this year as a little joke gift, thinking it would have put a smile on his face. I had totally forgotten that I had bought this little momento and it caught me offguard. I swallowed hard, then just let the tears flow...again. I carried the frog statue down to show my family. They stood quietly watching me and my frog. I smiled.

"I would like to introduce you to our newest frog...the Christmas Frog." I set my corny little statue up on the mantle so he could see all of the festivities, hear all of the laughter and be a part of our Holiday traditions, once again.

                 Hit the arrow, sit back, tap your feet and sing along !

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Gaggle !

Just wanted to introduce you to a few of my neighbors !

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Believe !

Happy New Year !

Like most people, I spend a fair amount of time thinking about what my New Year resolutions and goals might be. Some years I decide to just write a list of what I hope to accomplish in that year. Other years, I decide to just bash on regardless, with no resolutions or goals in mind. This year I have decided to just focus upon a guiding word to lead me through 2012. At first I thought of simplicity but decided there really is nothing simplistic or simple about me or my life. I like the idea of living a simple life but then everything gets complicated.

I next decided on living for the moment. I know that is four words. It is also a rather popular, overused phrase and it is easier said than done. I could easily live for the moment if I didn't have four adult children, one husband, five grandbabies, a gaggle of friends, a job, and a zillion unfinished projects. It can be difficult to focus on the moment when one is being pulled in multiple directions.

My husband seemed to come up with his focus word quickly, without much hesitation. Forward. He stated it simply and confidently. Forward is the direction he plans on moving this year, with confidence and purpose. No looking back, no second guessing himself, no regrets.

I envied his ability to find his perfect word with such ease. I plopped down in front of our Christmas tree, staring at the lights, as I thought about my perfect word. And then...there it was...dangling down in front of me, hanging from a branch. Believe. Just believe.

Believe in myself.
Believe in the power of a positive attitude.
Believe in living a healthy lifestyle.
Believe in the power of positive thinking.
Believe in living for the moment.
Believe in the power of humor, laughter, playfulness.
Believe in the goodness of humans.
Believe in the Golden Rule.
Believe that good things do happen to good people...every day.
Believe in the power of the Universe.
Believe that my Dad is watching me from heaven.
Believe in the power of prayer.
Believe in miracles.
Believe that the every day simple pleasures are truly what matters.
Believe in the power of a smile, a nod, a hug.
Believe in living each day to the fullest, with energy, motivation and grace.
Believe in being the best person I can possibly be, each and every day.
Believe in love.

I believe that 2012 will be filled with positive energy, positive changes, and many wild and crazy adventures. There is going to be lots of loving, giggling, playing, creating, and reflecting.

I believe in you.

What do you believe ?
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