Don’t Stop

Today’s reflection question is a tough one.

Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?

I’m stretching a little, but my youngest first cousin on my mom’s side got married this year.  It was the first marriage in the family in many years.  His wedding affected us by pulling us together for a joyful experience, creating a bonding moment.

My members of my mom’s family actually sees each other pretty frequently, at least compared to a lot of families whose members live in different towns and states.  As my sister and I were growing up, my mom and her six sisters all lived within 40 miles of my grandparents.  Every Sunday was spent at my grandparents’ house, and most of my aunts and their children came each Sunday.  When my grandfather passed away, he asked my mom to help ensure that “the family” still got together frequently, and my mom and my step-dad have opened their home on a regular basis to us.

Thus, the wedding wasn’t the first time in a long time that we all had seen each other — we just got together at Easter.  But it was the first time in a long time that we celebrated each other, celebrated our family, and celebrated how much we love each other.  (Also, a celebration of cupcakes and Journey songs.)

10 Days of Reflection

Two years ago, I participated in the ten days of reflection that precede Yom Kippur (My Jewish Experiment Day 1).   I did not participate last year, but want to take these days to reflect now.

So, here goes:

Describe a significant experience that has happened in the past year. How did it affect you? Are you grateful? Relieved? Resentful? Inspired?

My divorce became final this year.  Even though we have lived completely separate lives for over two years, and have had almost no contact since the day that I moved out, actually getting divorced and getting my maiden name back felt liberating.  Especially getting my maiden name back.  Until your name has unpleasant connotations, you don’t realize how often you hear it or say it on a normal basis.  Picking up a prescription at the pharmacy?  Give your last name.  Going to the bank?  “Welcome, Mrs. Elder.”  Signing a credit card slip.  Signing his last name.

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White

Hello Name Tag Sticker on White [url=][img][/img][/url]

When you are trying to leave a marriage behind, his name keeps popping up on your way to the new you.

Until I got that final divorce decree.  Which changes absolutely nothing about how I have been living during the last two years, or my finances, or anything.  Except that now I can get my precious name back.  And I am grateful.

The Box — Day 3

Another day, another question in my 10 days of self-evaluation and reflection, aka faux Rosh Hashanah.  The first two questions invoked some strong emotions as I answered the questions.  But, I suppose it wouldn’t lead to true reflection if the questions were soft ball questions.  Asking things like, “Where do you like to eat lunch?” doesn’t really make you think….or maybe it does if you have strong feelings about lunch, lunch foods, lunch habits, and / or lunch places.  I don’t, so the questions that the website 10Q sends are more in line with my expectations.

Question:  Think about a major milestone that happened with your family this past year. How has this affected you?


It took me awhile to think of an answer for this question because my first inclination was to try to think of milestone birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, births, etc. that took place this past year.  I couldn’t think of any that I would consider a major milestone.  But it was the 5th anniversary of my father’s death this year, and I relive that milestone each year.

My father’s death marked a major shift in the lives of my family, especially my father’s side of the family.  And while there has been healing, there will never be full recovery.

When I moved into my new house, I also moved a box of files that I brought home with me from Mexico, where my father had been living when he unexpectedly passed away.  Since the time of his death, this box has been sitting in closets, or workshops, or man caves.  Since we closed his estate last year, I had started to finally go through the box and decide what could be shredded and what needed to be saved.  After I moved, it was a project that I took on one weekend.

I only wish that my dad’s box looked so well. A trip from Mexico meant that it was very beat up.

I had looked through this box of files many, many times after my dad first died in an effort to find answers about his health and about his finances.  I knew that the box was a duke’s mixture of items — all the information on the house that he was in the process of buying when he died to a list of the #1 songs on the Billboard chart in 1965.  A single file folder could be a lot of nothing, or it could be full of valuable information.

I hadn’t gone through that box in a couple of years until this year.  And the simple act of cleaning out the box and sorting through his files had a deep impact on me.  I laughed out loud at some of the items that I found, like his application to his 50th high school reunion that took place a couple of months after he died.  On his application, he was asked to answer the question “What have you been doing the last 50 years?”  His response “Living life to the fullest and having a great time.”  Yep.  And he answered the question “What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?” by saying “Being the best at living life to the fullest and having a great time.”  Double yep.

I also felt incredibly sad as I found record of some of the times that he struggled, trying to make ends meet, and sometimes finding it hard to do.

Revisiting this box and its items, without the overwhelming grief that accompanied my first forays into its confines immediately after his death, allowed me to feel like I had spent the weekend communing in some small way with my dad.  That is a major happening, whichever way you look at it.

Two thousand zero zero party over whoops out of time

Another holiday season is coming to an end.  I’ve been listening to NPR in the car, and there have been several “Best of 2013”, “Most Interesting of 2013”, “Most Polarizing of 2013”, etc. lists going around.  I’m ambivalent about all those lists.  I hardly ever agree with the choices because I see events through a different lens than the authors of the lists, but I enjoy the reminders of the events that have taken place in just 365 short days.  It’s surprising how much can happen in just a year.

But what’s been on my mind lately hasn’t been recent memories–it has been more distant memories, specifically those of my teenage years.  Two things have prompted teenage reminiscing:  my mom just got her first smart phone and my uncle found a copy of an old VHS tape of my dance recital from 1986.

I am excited that my mom got a smart phone.  Now we can text, we can Facetime, she can try all these new apps.  The phone paid for itself when she got to see my nieces and nephew on Facetime all the way across the country on Christmas Eve.  Awesome.

And as my mom was asking me all these questions about her smart phone (as she was talking to me from her “land line”, as we call her home phone), I started to think about not having a home phone anymore.  Matt and I don’t have a home phone, we each have mobile phones.  You want to reach me, you call me.  Want Matt, call his number.  When I was growing up, however, you called a person’s house and you got whomever answered the phone.  It was a crap shoot.  And for a long time during my growing up years, an answering machine was nonexistent.  No one home?  Call back later, chump.

How do teenage girls do it these days?  For me, the home phone was the key to maintaining hope. My mom wouldn’t let me or my sister call boys — “if they like you, they will call you.  Ladies don’t call boys.” — so we had to rely on the boys to make the first telephonic move.

I didn’t have a lot (count any) boyfriends in my teen years, but had lots of crushes and wanted desperately for my crushes to call me on the phone.  Thank goodness I grew up before smart phones because I totally relied on the “he must have called while I was gone” excuse.  The “he has a sister that is always on the phone so he can’t use it to call me” rationale.  The ever-popular “he’s not at home to call me” logic.

I was the teenage princess of denial, but I had the perfect tool to feed my delusion with the home phone, sans caller ID and voice mail, stuck to the wall somewhere in the house, totally not mobile.

I feel sorry for teenagers these days.  There’s no way to create an illusion of “I missed his call” anymore.  There are no more “missed calls” — the number and time and date of every call that came in is captured until deleted.  There’s no way to call his house and hang up when he answers and not get busted anymore (I don’t think, but I don’t know all the rules).  Everyone’s number and name (and sometimes their picture) pops up when they call you. 

The only thing that you can’t hide is the fact that when they don’t call, you know that they don’t call.  So sad.  I’m sorry, all you teenagers.  Technology’s not looking so great now, huh?

Then there was THE dance recital.  My uncle found the VHS tape and I sent it off for conversion to DVD.  Loved watching us dance to what we thought at the time was the greatest dance ever choreographed.  A little sad to have another delusion exposed.

For your enjoyment, here’s a loop of me (in the middle), shaking it like I was 16.  Hard to believe that I didn’t have a lot of boyfriends, right?


What we talk about on long car trips

Matt and I took a long weekend trip to the beach this past weekend. On the way, we passed a stretch of houses that all had names, you know like Scarlett O’Hara’s plantation was named “Tara”, and George Washington’s home was named “Mt. Vernon”.

None of these houses that we passed were as grand as Mt. Vernon or Tara, but they each had signs at the end of the driveways proudly displaying their names, asserting that they weren’t just someone’s house, they were someone’s estate.

Seeing this resulted in the following car conversation:

me: Let’s name our house. Like these houses and like big estates. It deserves a name.

Matt: Ok, you go first.

me: No, it was my idea. You go first.

Matt: Mmmm, what was the name of James Bond’s estate in Skyfall?

me: Skyfall.

Matt: Ok.


me: So, you’re proposing Skyfall? No, that’s dorky.

Matt: What’s your idea?

me: Deathstar.

Matt: Like from Star Wars? That’s dorky squared.

me: You next.

Matt: Elder Estate.

me: No, I want something creative. Like Peaceful Alliance.

Matt: Alliance? Is that a Star Wars reference again? Why do you keep bringing up Star Wars? You don’t even like Star Wars. Stop it.

me: It’s too bad we had those big pine trees cut down. We could call it something like Pine Valley, or Pine Swept, or Pine Song, or Pine Haven. We have those birches now, so it could be like Birchwind. Or Birch Star.

Matt: Really, stop.


Matt: You know the land originally belonged to the Moose family, so it could be something with Moose in it.

me: Moose Star! Moose Lodge! Moose House! Moose Haven!


me: I thought the land came through the Drye family, not the Moose side of the family.

Matt: You’re right, so it would need to be the word Drye.

me: Drye Land! Drye Winds!

Matt: I like Haven. Our Haven.

me: Our Drye Haven!


me: Yeah, that doesn’t work. It sounds like a rehab center.


me: Our Drye Moose Haven.

Matt: I like it.

me: Me, too.

So, that’s what we’re naming our house/estate. And we sound like we support sober moose. We’re good people.


After we got to the beach, we noticed that most of the beach houses were named. Do you think that there is a special place that people with beach houses go to find names? Here are some of the ones that we saw:

  • Seas the Moment
  • Luna-Sea
  • Mr. Krabs
  • 4 All Sea-Sons
  • Sea-esta
  • Nexta-C
  • Wait N Sea
  • and my personal favorite: House


I can’t wait to get a fancy sign that reads “Our Drye Moose Haven”. I’ll post when done. And remember: just because we now live on an estate doesn’t mean y’all can’t visit any time.

Happy Birthday, Mama!

I have had this blog post on my mind for over a month now, but today is the appropriate day to share it.

I was driving to work one morning when the story of the oldest person in a neighboring county came on the radio.  She was celebrating her 110th birthday.

It’s not the fact that she was turning 110 that made me love this story so much.  Or the fact that during the radio interview (click on link and see the “Listen” link in the story to hear the actual interview) you hear her social worker yelling, “HOW DOES THAT FEEL [to be the oldest person in the county]?”

110 year-old Sina Hayes takes a break after eating breakfast in the meeting room at Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem, N.C. She displays one of her favorite quilts she has made over the years.Credit Keri Brown

110 year-old Sina Hayes takes a break after eating breakfast in the meeting room at Brookridge Retirement Community in Winston-Salem, N.C. She displays one of her favorite quilts she has made over the years.Credit Keri Brown

What I loved about this story was that her 88-year-old and 90-year-old sons flew into town to help her celebrate her 110th birthday.

How awesome would that be to be 90 years old and still have your mama around?  Of course, I can see her 90-year-old son telling his friends at his rest home, “I’m flying home to see my mom for her birthday.”  They’re probably thinking, “Oh, Bob has stopped taking his medicine again…”

I hope that when I am 87, I still have my 110 year mama around.  And maybe, instead of flying into town to celebrate her birthday, my nurse can just roll me from room in the nursing home into her room in the nursing home.  And we can complain that my sister never visits us, how the green beans just aren’t as good as the ones that she used to make, that we wished we could still see so that we could pluck those chin hairs, that someone would change the channel to Discovery ID because our favorite true crime show is getting ready to come on, and how happy we are that they made chocolate cake for her birthday because we both love chocolate.

Happy Birthday today, Mama!  Here’s to at least 44 more — let’s aim for 110!  Hugs and kisses.  Cristy

Birthday luck

I had a birthday this past week and I am glad that I lived another 365 days, but I’m definitely past the age where birthdays are one of the most exciting days of my year. I remember the birthdays that were so important because each one got me one year closer to 16 — the best birthday ever, the day I got my driver’s license. Then, I remember each birthday that was so important because it got me one year closer to 21 — the best birthday ever, the day I could buy alcohol.

And many years later, I remember the details of those two birthdays very well. They were milestone birthdays.

The milestone birthdays that happen now are not so important because of what you get to do because you reached them, but important because you reached them. Doing anything after them is sorta gravy….

Regardless, I realized I am really lucky. Many people sent birthday wishes and I felt blessed that so many people took time from their day to acknowledge that my mother expelled me from her birth canal. (You know, the mother ought to really get the messages on a birthday…)

And I realized how lucky I am to be married to a man that understands me. Matt bought 43 scratch-off lottery tickets and hid them around the house. He knew that I would enjoy finding them and the quick rush of scratching them off. And some of his hiding places were clever, but he also took into account that I’m not a morning person so he didn’t make it difficult: in my shoes, in the Keurig, under the faucet, in the dog food…the man knows me.


I won $9…okay, I’m not that lucky, but lucky enough.

What your iPad history could reveal about your mate (or you)

Matt is younger than me.  Not by a lot — only two years.  But he loves to remind me of the fact and ask me things like “How does it feel to be a cradle robber?” or “Do you brag about marrying a younger man?”  To which I very maturely reply, “Ha ha, very funny.”

But I actually may be a cougar, based on this conversation.

me: (looking for a website on the iPad that I had visited the previous day) Where is the history?  I want to revisit a site.

Matt:  Oh, I always erase the history.

me:  Why?  Are you visiting sites you don’t want me to know about?

Matt:  Really?  No.  It’s just a habit.


Matt:  If you saw my history, all you would see would be sites related to four-wheelers, cameras and books about tree-climbing.

me:  You sound like a twelve-year old boy.

Hello, Mrs. Robinson

I think that I have robbed the cradle.  Or at least the middle-school.


What do hoarders have in common? Why, too many things to list!

I have a close friend that has been dealing with a very ill parent for almost 3 months. As she has been talking with doctors, learning about her parent’s illness, etc., she has also been cleaning her parents’ house. She told me the other day that as she and her aunt and uncle were sorting through the laundry room and kitchen that her uncle said, “We should call American Pickers!” She said that she replied, “As long as you don’t say, “We should call “Hoarders.””

I grew up surrounded by hoarders, or at least by people who were on some part of the hoarding continuum. Usually, they resided toward the “keep everything” end of that continuum. I have noticed a commonality between the people who I know that tend or tended to hoard — they lived during the Great Depression.

Matt said that his mom was a hoarder, but she tended to hoard food more than anything. She used to describe to him how she often went hungry during the Great Depression. And she (like Scarlett O’Hara) vowed not be hungry again. My mamaw and papaw tended to hoard, but I don’t remember it being food as much as just “stuff”. My mama has said that she doesn’t ever remember going hungry growing up, though a meal may have consisted of potatoes cooked two different ways and three different kinds of beans. So, maybe what each person hoarded was based on individual experience.

I also grew up hearing certain phrases over and over from my hoarding friends and family. (Ok, I don’t know that any of them were ever officially diagnosed as hoarders, but if looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.) As things were put onto shelves, or into drawers, or into sheds, they would say, “We could probably fix this.” Or “Someone might be able to use this.” That last statement was a much used one. Because one thing that I did learn about Depression-created hoarding — it was a community-based practice. You kept a lot of stuff because your neighbors and family might need something that you had — it would have been selfish to throw something away.

Matt's Uncle's Doorbell -- This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt’s Uncle’s Doorbell — This is how a person from the Depression reuses something

Matt and I were talking about hoarding this morning over breakfast and about whether the Great Recession that we have been in (is it over?) the last several years will jump-start another round of hoarding in people. I think that a certain generation of people born in the 80s and later have definitely grown up in a disposable mentality — everything can be thrown away and replaced, much different from the mentality of my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Will the recent years of job loss and unemployment and falling consumer confidence and global recession create a compulsive need to keep stuff?

Matt and I don’t hoard — instead we just don’t buy. When we married and merged two fully formed households, it took months to donate, sell, recycle and throw away the excess to create just one household. So, now we think about everything that we bring into the house. And we don’t hang on to stuff that doesn’t work, or that we don’t use, or that doesn’t fit, etc. We try to find another home for it.

And maybe that is the new mentality. Limit what comes in to begin with, but don’t hang on to what you don’t need.

The gift of the love note

Matt and I were invited to a Christmas party at my cousin’s house earlier in the month.  We had a great time (a bonus of not having depression).  Before we left, my cousin, Beth, gave me bag that her mother had sent to me.  It was full of items that had been in my grandmother’s house when she passed away, and my Aunt Linda was sending them to me for division between my sister and me.  It was mostly pictures that Grandma had, and the majority of those pictures were of my nieces and nephew, marking their growth and milestones.

But there were also some memorabilia related to my dad.  There was a school report about baseball (with a grade of 97), a model car that he had put together as a boy, and some of her favorite pictures of him.

Like most people who have lost a close loved one, I think a lot about my dad during the holidays.  I remember the fact that he always put his shopping off until the very last minute.  I remember that Christmas Eve that he tried to fix our stuck back door and we ended up with the back door in the back yard–but it wasn’t stuck anymore.  And when we get together with the rest of our family, I miss his presence.

Thus, the memorabilia that was in the bag that was specific to him felt like a Christmas present.  It was wonderful to pull out the toy car and read the report on baseball.

And I was reminded that my dad was, to his bones, an optimistic person.  He was a natural salesman and spent most of his adult life in some sort of sales job.  He was always quite successful at sales because he connected so well with people.  Maybe because of that optimism I mentioned.

In the bag of items were two love notes that he wrote as a boy.  One of them perfectly illustrates that “never give up” attitude.  He had it even as a young man.

Love note

Love note

Dear Cathy I ham (sic) very fond of you.  And I know you love smity.  And I know you have some more boy friend.  But I still love you.  love Tommy.

I love this love letter.  He recognizes that Cathy loves someone else (Smity), but it doesn’t matter–Tommy still loves her.  It’s that optimistic, glass-half-full outlook that he exhibited until he died.

This little note may have been the best gift I got this year.