Feeling pretty good about Christmas this year. It's all a state of mind, after all. Sure, the holidays are different now. Kids and other family members are spread out all over the state and the country. No more big get-togethers at Mama's house. No Santa magic in a little child's eyes. But it's still Christmas. And I can count lots and lots of blessings.
My oldest daughter is happy and healthy and safe in North Carolina. My youngest daughter is on her way over to spend Christmas with us. I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday and even though he doesn't come right out and say it -- you kind of have to read between the lines -- I know after all these years that he is genuinely proud of me. One of my stepsons is in Ohio with his wife and two boys, and he told me the other day that he admires me and that he'd like to start calling me, Dad. Another stepson is working halfway across the world.
So many people are suffering today, with health issues, heavy hearts. A few weeks ago, my 95-year-old uncle died and my aunt is lost without him. A classmate from high school just died. Another recently lost her husband. Another has an appointment pending with an oncologist for his young daughter.
I forget to count my blessings, and to be grateful for such things as good health, for me and my loved ones. That's all that matters, really. I'm grateful for a good woman who loves me, and knows how to fix plumbing! Healthy and happy children. A good job (with lots of holidays). A nice, warm, quiet little house with no noisy neighbors and tall trees all around. Wonderful friends, both here and abroad, who encourage and inspire me. Money in my pocket. A neurotic little dog who is not a yapper.
So it feels good today on Christmas. The fact that things have changed is not sad. Things always change. Good memories are a good thing.
Merry Christmas, y'all ....
Christmas in two days. I haven't been too crazy about Christmas for awhile -- probably since my mother died. That was way back in 2000. I think maybe I stopped being a kid then. Hell, I was 43 years old, but mama just had this way of making you feel good and loved and happy. Everything kind of changed when she died.
Holidays with mama around were a lot of fun. She always made it fun. Her house was always decorated, inside and out, lots of presents under the tree, and she was always cooking. Grandma was there, and my brother and sister. My sister's kids. My kids. Way back when, even Paw Paw was there. When mama died, though, the family detonated. She was kind of the glue that held everything together, and now it's fallen completely apart. My brother and sister and I don't speak, and probably never will again. My dad is still around, but we don't see each other very often.
The holidays are just not the same.
My oldest daughter, Stacy, lives a thousand miles away in North Carolina. One stepson lives in Ohio, and the other in Bosnia, so no grandkids around to light up the room. We don't even bother to decorate our house, even though there's an attic full of Christmas stuff. Maybe we should. Make the house a little merrier. Do what mama used to do. I don't know.
This year, we do have some exciting plans, though. My youngest daughter, Katy, is coming over to spend Christmas day. She lives nearby with her mother, and we're going to exchange gifts and cook a nice dinner and rent some movies or something. Then on Friday, Katie and I will drive down to Houston to visit my childhood friends, Bobby and Joe, and their wives. We'll have dinner Friday, play golf on Saturday at a beautiful course in The Woodlands, and then have dinner Saturday night.
And maybe next year, we'll drag down all those decorations from the attic and make some damn Christmas cookies. Hand 'em out to the neighbors or something. Mama always made Christmas cookies. That was so much fun, decorating 'em with the icing that you squeezed out of the little parchment thing, or whatever, and putting the red hots and sprinkles and stuff on 'em. We'd roll out the dough and use food coloring and all kinds of different cookie cutters to make Santa-shaped cookies and reindeer, Christmas trees, candy canes, stars. Man, that was a lot of fun.
If mama were here, that's what she'd be doing.
A chilly breeze and bright sunshine this morning in central Texas, after cold rain and dampness all day yesterday. Too cold still for playing golf with my buddy, Gator, so I'm off to the gym here in a little while for another calorie-busting workout. About six weeks ago, I spent a fantastic three-day weekend down in Galveston with two old school chums, Joe and Bobby, playing golf and eating seafood, watching college football on TV. We'd all put on a few extra pounds -- OK, more than just a few pounds -- since the last time we'd seen each other, and we made a vow to all be a little smaller when we got together again over the Christmas holidays. Apparently, we've all made good on that vow, and so it will be interesting to see next weekend down at The Woodlands.
I've known Bobby since the first grade. We grew up three blocks apart on the northwest side of Houston, near Spring Branch. Joe came along when we were in seventh grade. The three of us are very different people, in many ways, but for some unexplainable reason, there is a strong bond between us and we are closer than close friends. They love me and I love them. They inspire me to be better. I'm not sure what I do for them, but I am extremely grateful to have them.
It's Christmas vacation from school right now, and life is good. So far, I've dropped about 15 pounds, and I'm getting stronger and fitter every time I work out. It feels good. For a couple of years there, I was in quite a slump, even entertaining the idea of joining the Peace Corps, mostly just to get the hell away from it all. But things have improved tremendously, and I'm learning to have a more positive outlook on life, and on myself.
I've always cringed when people talked about loving yourself. That always just sounded way too strange for me -- "I love myself!" Oh, really? Well, let me tell you something. You ain't all that great.
But I recently have started figuring out that loving yourself is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean you're a flaming egomaniac. It just means that you think you're a good person, warts and all. You always try and treat others with love and kindness. Hard to do, and not always possible for me, but I'm workin' on it. Now, if I could just learn to smile a little more ...