Here’s my bloggy Christmas card to you

Earring Tree 1217Twas the blog before Christmas, and I can’t send Christmas cards to the whole world, although God knows I have received enough cards and mailing labels from charities to card several countries, so this is my Christmas card to you.

How the heck are you? If I haven’t heard from you since last Christmas, are you still alive and living in the same place? If you haven’t heard from me, well the phone works both ways, you know. Oh, wait, I mean, gee, I hope you’re all right.

I don’t know if you send cards. A lot of people don’t, but I have all these cards and I bought stamps, so I might as well send them out and let you enjoy the pretty pictures. I’m struggling to remember who’s Christian and who bristles at a hint of religion. Is this dog picture okay? A cottage in the snow? Peace or puppies? Virgin Mary or Santa Claus? Should I have bought Christmas stamps instead of flags? Who cares, right?

Are Christmas cards even a “thing” anymore? We were talking about this at choir practice the other day, and we’re all wavering. We receive fewer and fewer cards, we all have too much to do, and how important is a printed card with our signature on it anyway? Plus those newsletters full of information about other people’s great vacations and kids we don’t even know just make us feel bad. It all goes in the recycling bin eventually—unless you’re like me and keep cards for fear the person will die and that’s the last signature we have of theirs . . .

Anyway, the cards are ready to mail. The gifts are on their way, even that one I had no clue how to wrap. To that relative who doesn’t want to exchange gifts with me anymore, tough. I’m still sending presents because I want to. If you don’t buy anything for me, fine. Last week, I received an amazing box at my doorstep from a Secret Santa with seven, SEVEN, little wrapped gifts inside. They may be the only presents under my tree. I was so grateful I cried. I need to do the same thing for somebody else next year.

You have no idea how many people are alone like me during the holidays. That’s the subject of my next book, people living alone. I don’t mean people who sleep alone but are in constant contact with their kids and grandkids. I mean really alone, with no family anywhere nearby and no neighbors dropping in like on every TV sitcom. People who may not see other people for days or weeks. If you’re alone like that and willing to be interviewed, let me know.

Speaking of books, it’s not too late to boogie over to Amazon, look me up and order some or all of my books. They have this two-day delivery thing. They’ll even gift-wrap them. Click here to see what’s available, including my latest, Unleashed in Oregon: Best from the Blog.

Annie and I are well. We’ve got a few dents and rattles, but keep running like fine old cars. Annie had surgery in May for not one but two torn ligaments in her back right knee. She has healed well. My dad broke his leg in March. Shattered is a better word. His leg has not recovered; he’s still rocking the walker. After stints in two different nursing homes, he’s back at the house with intermittent caregivers whom he plans to fire any day now.

A massive tree from my neighbor’s yard destroyed my fences and trashed the gutters on my house last April. That led to months of upheaval, but now the fences are fixed, the gutters have been replaced, the trunk of the fallen tree remains next door like a weird statue, and I have a bigger chunk of sky to look at.

I didn’t go to Europe or a fancy resort, but I did go to Cleveland in October to speak at the NotMom Summit. I visited San Jose seven times, and made a few jaunts to Portland. My Honda Element turned over 100,000 miles, and now it’s up to 106,000. I bought new tires, and the service light has been on since Thanksgiving.

I’m still writing most days, got a few poems and two essays published this year. I’m co-chair of the coast branch of Willamette Writers. Check us out on Facebook. I exceeded my Goodreads goal of reading 60 books, and I’m still going. You don’t know about Goodreads? Click it and get on board.

I’m still playing piano, singing and leading choirs at Sacred Heart Church in Newport and going to the song circle in Waldport on Fridays. Still playing guitar in spite of my arthritic hands.

I turned 65 in March and signed up for Medicare. I had my interview for Social Security earlier this month and will start receiving full benefits in March when I turn 66. Thank you, Uncle Sam. President Trump, keep your paws off my money and my medical insurance. I earned it.

What else? Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Walking the dog. She’s a relentless personal trainer who keeps me exercised in sun, rain and snow. I wore out another pair of shoes, and the replacements hurt, so I’m still looking for the ideal footwear for all-terrain hikes. Mowing the lawn. Feeding the pellet stove. Blogging here and at Childless by Marriage. Trying to sell my memoir, novel and a book of poems (Hey publishers, they’re really good).

I re-watched “Wild” on TV last night. Still love the Cheryl Strayed book and the movie starring Reese Witherspoon. I’m binge-watching “Grace Under Fire,” a 90s sitcom about a divorced woman with three kids and her lovable friends. They give me comfort in hard times. TV Christmases always turn out happy and loving in the end, even if everything is a mess at the beginning of the episode.

The days pass, you know? Suddenly it’s Christmas again, and I haven’t been nearly as good a friend as I should have. But I’m trying. I appreciate every one of you. I wish you a joyous Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a new year full of blessings and love.

Love,

Sue and Annie

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Blessings Overflow During ‘NotMom’ Trip

IMG_20171006_113139494[1]I was sitting at the corner table at the Portland airport Radisson’s Lakeside Restaurant yesterday, devouring my pancakes, eggs and bacon when I saw someone who looked familiar a few tables down. As the woman and her companion got up to graze at the buffet, I realized I knew them from church. I had traveled across the country and was still 150 miles from home, and there were Ron and Sandi from Newport. After we all had a chance to eat our last pig-out meals before heading home to real life and diets, I joined them for a wonderful visit.

Ron and Sandi had been to Colorado and New Mexico. They were very interested when I told them I was returning from the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio. Sandi’s situation is similar to mine. She’s a stepmother, but never had her own children. I shared some of what I had learned.

It was a long and expensive trip, but worth it. I returned feeling stronger, prettier, and far less alone, with my notebook full of writing ideas. The high is fading a bit now in the rush of mail to read, bills to pay, clothing to wash, and work to get done. Rejections and deadlines loom, and I’m in charge of choir practice tonight. When I called Dad, he was full of the usual complaints—but he’s okay, and he was glad I had a good time.

This morning, the dog greeted me with kisses as I finally stirred in my warm, soft bed. Out the window, I saw evergreen trees and gray sky. No more big-city views of downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie out my window at the Hilton. What a beautiful city it is, full of   old buildings and fascinating public art.

There was a scary moment when I went walking Friday night. I was crossing a street at a crosswalk with a blinking warning light for oncoming cars. I walked right into the side of a car that had failed to stop. It took the breath out of me, but I was not injured. The driver apologized, and I staggered back to the hotel to sit shaking for a few minutes. It could have been all over in Cleveland before I even had a chance to give my speech. The picture above could have been the last one ever taken of me. But no, God was watching out for me. I took some deep breaths and went back to the conference.

This was not like writers’ conferences, where everybody is trying to get published. There, it’s all about what we do. But here, it was about who we are and how we live. I made about a hundred new friends as we sat around sharing how we happened to not have children. We came from as far as New Zealand and as near as Cleveland. I shared my session on aging without children with Gisele from Montreal. I met the fabulous Jody Day from the UK. Our accents varied, but we had this giant thing in common: we were all “NotMoms.”

God, how we talked. We discussed our families, our periods, our friends who are obsessed with their kids and grandkids, the stupid things people say to us, and so many other topics that we don’t usually feel we can talk about with other people. All the workshops were really discussions, with the women in the audience offering as much as the women up front.

We got drunk. We wore our pajamas to watch a documentary film called “To Kid or Not to Kid.” We ran around with giant bingo cards looking for women with various qualities to fill in the squares. I was the NotMom who played an instrument. Our keynote speakers taught us and inspired us. They made us laugh, and they made us cry. We talked about the hard stuff, the tragic stories of trying and failing to get pregnant or trying to get people to understand why some of us never wanted children. We asked each other whether having stepchildren means we’re not childless/childfree. It’s not the same as having our own, we agreed.

We gave standing ovations to Karen Malone Wright, founder of the NotMom organization, and her assistant Laura LaVoie, who made the conference happen. It was top-notch all the way. We pledged to come back next time and stay in touch in-between.

I also happily signed copies of my Childless by Marriage book and met readers I previously only knew online.

The hardest part was saying goodbye and walking out with our suitcases at the end. But I was blessed to spend the first leg of my trip home with Audrey from Olympia, Washington. We had met at dinner the first night, and now we discovered we were seated next to each other on the plane from Cleveland to Houston. I am so happy to have her as a new friend, along with so many others.

From Houston, I was finally on my own for the four-hour flight to Portland. That was a long one, with a lot of turbulence and a crying baby. But back in Portland, there were Ron and Sandi from Newport, making me see how the circles of my life intersect. I am so blessed.

In a bit of ironic timing, my step-grandson Brandon and his wife Ashley gave birth to a baby boy early this morning. Welcome, Kayden. I wish Fred were here to share the news.

Thank you all for being here.