Saturday, December 31, 2011

Runners to Your Marks

I do not do transitions well. A day like this last day of 2011 finds me melancholy.

Looking ahead to the horizon I see nothing but changes in this unknown 2012.

There will be goals achieved. There will be celebrations of huge importance.

Our oldest son will toss his hat into the air with a meaning which only a West Point cadet can understand

and have bird seed tossed at him with a zeal which only wedding guests can perform.

My youngest son will finish high school and begin college. I will finish 23 years of parenting. I will begin the days when Hillcrest Cottage's walls will quietly whisper the stories of boyhood sword fights, marathon video game parties, late night kitchen raids, and the loud laughter of family gatherings.

Yes, the walls will talk. They will talk a lot.

They will speak of the love we do here, of forgiveness, of grace, of a thousand 'I love you' moments, of acceptance and belonging. The yucky stuff, sifted through grace, will be trampled underfoot and swept aside as rubbish. The good stuff will rise as a sweet aroma full of goodness,

like the smell of bacon on a snowy morning.

In this new 2012, I will write about transitions... a lot. I will talk about finishing... a lot.

If you care to join my 2012 roller coaster ride, you may understand what it means to accomplish a worthy goal. I imagine the lows will be very low and the highs will be very high.

And... as life goes... I am certain there will be a sprinkling of unexpected sorrows and joys.

My motto for 2012 of "Finish Strong" finds its roots in Hebrews 12;1,2:

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.

Runners to your mark... get set... GO.

The Lettered Cottage is hosting a "Word for the Year" link party. She is encouraging us to periodically post blogs relating to our chosen word.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fa La La La La is Here!

Hillcrest Cottage is now in full holiday mode.

A sorority holiday tea with three generations of Chi Omegas: Me with my niece and my mom.

Hillcrest Cottage's kitchen has turned out several batches of fudge...

and gingerbread awaiting its icing.

The cousins have arrived home from college and afar.

Jeff has given Santa his holiday requests.

We have gathered with friends for holiday cheer.

We have attended the annual All-Academies Banquet with our West Point cadet.

And #51 has joined my Santa mug collection (Thanks Stu!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Look Kids, A REAL Christmas Tree!

And... my tree shall always... be real.

Dear Children of Christmas,

Once upon a time Christmas trees were... well... trees. Trees with sap and dead needles falling on the floor and the need to be watered. Christmas trees were not green plastic things manufactured from recycled tires. Christmas trees were not pulled out of a box at Thanksgiving to gather dust and become a semi-permanent part of the house's decor for a month and a half.

I rather like the Victorian image of the tree decorated on Christmas Eve with candles being lit for one glorious moment.

It seems incredulous to me that an entire generation of Christmas children have no concept of a real live Christmas tree!

No so at Hillcrest Cottage! This is where 'real' resides. Like it is 'real' that half of the plaster ceiling in my entryway hall nearly killed someone when it decided to crash to the floor last summer. And we are still debating the solution to this problem.

It is 'real' that Beautiful Lucy the Doodle-less leaves her furry calling cards everywhere... on the sofa... on the floor... on our clothes. Thank goodness for lint rollers!

It is 'real' that I have about 4 or 5 unfinished remodeling projects.

In contrast to Hillcrest Cottage's 'real' flaws... it is my constant prayer that everyone who walks through my rickety garden gate will feel the 'real' love and acceptance that this family who lives here has to offer.

So, for all the pre-fab Christmas tree children, this is how a real tree comes to be.

Won't you join us on our annual trip to the Christmas tree farm? It is afternoon, and the sun is lowering in the late Autumn sky. The temperature is dropping and the free hot chocolate that comes with our tree will be looking good when we are finally done.

What about this one?

Added fun on the tree farm are the live animals.

This little guy wanted a snack.

And so did he...

What a sweetie.

It was a beautiful December afternoon for Christmas tree shopping. In the midst of the hunt,we had some fun posing for farm-inspired photos.

Better than the 1970's cheap- photographer fake wagon wheel shots. This one is real.

Ha Ha! Reminds me of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem... "I have a little shadow".

My faithful helpers.

Enough fun... time to work...

Davis saws down the chosen tree... I even got a smile!

This year's tree is so different. I love it; it smells as great as it looks.

Hoping a wagon comes by to help him carry this tree.

Davis loads the tree on the hay wagon.

And... the hay wagon takes us back to the car.

To Davis' car, that is, which is covered with mud, just how he sometimes likes it.


The tree is in its stand and ready for the decorating! The real tree's aroma fills our cottage like a scented Christmas candle. You see, children, 'the scent of the tree' candle derives from the scent of a real tree.

Soon our real tree will have strings of sparkling lights and will be ready to welcome friends, and especially our college children, to Hillcrest Cottage!

It is exactly 14 days until Christmas, and Hillcrest Cottage is right on schedule.

Christmas has arrived!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Mugged... Again

High in the butler's pantry of Hillcrest Cottage...

is my Christmas obsession...

The Santa Mugs!!!

Fifty Strong and anxious to begin their annual Hillcrest Cottage mugging.

The jolly mugs are winking and ready to have their empty heads filled with hot apple cider and strong coffee with real cream. That guy on the left is definitely up to something.

Now that my vintage 1960's Santa mug collection is strong and vibrant...

My Collecting Guidelines:
1.) Must say "Japan" on the bottom.
2.) Must pay less than $5.00
3.) May make exceptions to these rules whenever I want
4.) Pottery Barn is selling fun imitations this season ... couldn't resist because they are microwavable and dishwasher safe.

Christmas is tip-toeing into Hillcrest Cottage.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

No Fa-La-La-La-La... Yet

What a beautiful day it was for a mild- autumn- weather bike ride. As I peddled my way along the River Trail, I was celebrating the beauty of an afternoon which was complete with red leaves blowing across the path, ducks flying, and squirrels busily gathering nuts.

I had an unexpected stop when I discovered a pecan tree and my favorite nuts lying all along the path. What fun it was for this city girl to fill my bike bag with fresh pecans!

Do you know how much these things cost at Kroger?

My unexpected treasure!

My River Trail route is about 17 miles long and takes me about 1 1/2 hours to complete. This day the time included nut gathering and stopping to text a time or two.

The first half of the trail is peaceful, country riding. Blue birds, geese, mallard ducks, and deer are sighted very frequently. The second half of the ride begins with crossing the Arkansas River straight into our very busy River Market District.

Today the River Market was unusually full of tourists. Street musicians were playing Christmas carols. It was so lovely that I almost decided to get in the Christmas spirit a bit earlier than I had planned.

I only Fa-la-la-la-la 2 weeks before Christmas. It is my very strict seasonal rule.

Jeff and I paused for candy bars and Gatorade at our favorite outdoor cafe. As we were again on our way, we noticed there was lots of extra traffic for a Saturday. We didn't know that...

the annual Christmas Parade was preparing to go down the street on which we normally ride.

Oops... Couldn't ride any further.

I wondered, " Should I go around the parade on another street or join the festivities?"

The unexpected sight of the parade was so fun that I almost decided once more to suspend my rule of...

"No Fa-la-la-la-la before Two Weeks Prior to Xmas" .

This is the end of the parade waiting to begin.

Guess who I saw next... I smiled... and was glad I had stopped my bike ride long enough to take their picture.

What a Jolly Couple!

Almost... almost... I was very close to suspending my rule.

What began as a fall bike ride did turn into something very different at the end, and, smiling, I was glad to be out on this beautiful Arkansas December day.

But... no tree... and no Santa mugs until next weekend.

And... my tree... will always be real!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

City Girl Goes to the Country

I have always dreamed of having a big, old house in the country surrounded by shady pecan trees next to flat fields extending as far as the eye can see. Ahhh... the peace and solitude that I would have!

But I wouldn't get to ride my bike to the bank and the post office and sometimes the grocery store. So, I try to think of all the good things I would leave behind if I was able to run away to my rural fantasy. Oh, how Mac the Labradoodle and Beautiful Lucy the Doodle-less would love running with no boundaries! But, oh the ticks and fleas and muddy paws.

Nothing in life is perfect... there is always the good and bad to be considered.

Yesterday, however, I was able to be country girl for a day! And this was my "home".

The Harper-Alexander House Circa 1900

I had the fun opportunity to sell my Hillcrest Cottage Art and vintage clothing and some Zombie Killer books.

My room was up this beautiful staircase.

Among my Hillcrest Cottage Collection were...

These cute recycled denim tags with in six different designs.

And also some other fun prints in flea market frames...
Love this message.

Now... may the fun, hectic week of Thanksgiving commence.

Hillcrest Cottage will be welcoming our West Point Cadet, his lovely fiance, and our other awesome college guy, in addition to the cottage regulars: high school senior boy, husband, Mac the Labradoodle, and Beautiful Lucy the Doodle-less (who will have a fun week of collecting all the extra dirty socks which will be lying around... what fun!).

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and 'pop' culture is trying to squeeze it out by opening stores and focusing on Christmas waaaaaay too early.

May we pause from the commercialization of life long enough to:

Celebrate good food,
Fallen leaves,
Autumn's beauty,
and the acknowledgement that...

"Every good and perfect gift comes from above".

P.S. And to enjoy some incredible football...

How 'Bout Them #3 Hawgs! Beat LSU on Friday!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Boots' Story

Once upon a time when there was no internet, people could not have anything they wanted as fast as a click of a button. Amazing fact... but true.

It was very special and great fun when this horse lovin' girl was allowed to special-order my English riding boots from the equestrian store in Memphis.

And these boots were what I wore all through my junior and senior high days. Ahhh... the fun we had together!

Good-bye, Boots! I am delighted to be sending you to your new home in San Francisco. The destination makes my 1970's self very happy.

Thank you for another successful sale!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Smell of Death

The black, industrial-strength trash bag lay unopened on top of the laundry room washer. Though the bag's top was tightly twisted shut, a hint of its contents drifted toward my discerning mom's nose.

It was the kind of trash bag in which dead things are usually contained.

And a whiff of death was present this afternoon.

Reaching into the back darkness, I began to slowly pull out the contents... piece by piece.

"How odd," I thought, "that this offensive odor smells more to me like life than death."

Life and death, strangely mixed, pouring forth from a common trash bag in my laundry room.

But, this was not a common trash bag, this container of death; it was packed full of dedicated discipline, strife of a worthy goal, sweat and body odor seasoned with sophomoric hopes held tightly since grade school playground days.

The bag's contents were soon exposed by sunlight twinkling through the oak's yellow leaves which dangled outside the room's window: football cleats, chinstrap guard, ankle brace, receiver gloves, half-used deodorant, dirty compression shirts, crumpled socks...

and some crushed dreams.

An emotional tsunami washed ashore; the effects of death are like that. Expected times of grief are contained... while death's small reminders overtake unexpectedly.

Tears pouring down over stinky football locker's contents?

The season had not ended as expected. At this point, however, the wins and losses were secondary to the realization of this ending: my last son finishing his last football season.

And that's how "lasts" go.

Sometimes we know we are experiencing a "last", but most times the "lasts" pass quietly without notice.

Can I remember the last night I read this 6' football player (correction... ex-football player) "Good Night Moon?" or tied his shoes for him or kissed him good night or gave him a quarter for the gumball machine? Nope... but...

I will never forget this laundry room death scene.

P.S All of Hillcrest Cottage, including Lucy, are sad:
Lucy and (Ex) Football Player Nap on the Couch

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Winning Rocks and Losing Stinks

Everyone knows how to win: laughing, smiling, high fives, dancing, gloating, re-telling the glory stories which grow with every telling.

But... losing well is quite another skill. To be honest, a skill that no one even wants to learn. The more I walk around this planet, the more I realize that losing is more a part of life than winning. I have lost many more times in my life than I have won!

Still... winning rocks and losing stinks.

Last year's Kinleystead high school football season gifted us with a very unexpected outcome:

This second game, season- ending, snapped- in- half clavicle.

And this broken bone produced a very sad football player:

Losing Stinks.

No words to describe the feeling of last season. To see my son pour his heart and life into this sport for an entire year: the running, the pumping iron, the off-season conditioning, the very grueling Arkansas summer two-a-days, and the dreams for a great football season... crushed in one play.

What a loss it was. If I think about it for any length of time, the emotions easily return. I still don't know why it happened, but it did.

The response my son had, however, will forever inspire me. He picked himself up when many would have quit and, as soon as that bone healed, threw his whole self back into football... for the next ten months.

There was much eating to gain weight. There was a pulled hamstring set-back. There were many team bonding experiences. There were practices and conditioning every day. When summer arrived, my son hit the field on days when the thermometer registered 130 degrees.

Nothing stopped him.


All that he worked toward was for this season... his last season of football...

his "Senior Football Year".

I wish I could report that the Warriors will be headed to the play-offs. I wish the dream of winning a state championship was still alive. But this has been a hard season full of losses which finds me wondering again,

"What is to be learned from losing?"

I have to say... I'm still trying to learn.

Last night was the last away game for my senior football player. It was his last time to ride the bus with his teammate brothers who he dearly loves. It was a cold, autumn night with a bright moon shining in the sky. The hope of winning was high. It was an evening full of everything a high school football game ought to be.

That's My Number Nine.

The Senior Football Moms had decided to be obnoxious and rowdy. We all had painted signs to show our guys how proud we are of them for playing hard, for not giving up, for still sticking together through adversity, for playing their very best until the final whistle, for coming back week after week.

The cheerleaders love our Senior Mom rowdiness, and so did the guys!

We loved cheering for our sons, too.

Especially me... because being loud and rowdy and obnoxious is one of my gifts.

Yea... it's true and here's some proof.

And, yet more proof. This is my serious-yellin' pose.

I like to think we Senior Football Moms had a chance to make a game-changing difference. We yelled until we had no voices left. My husband yelled too, but he was sweet to tolerate my crazy screaming. After all, it was my very last time to cheer loudly for my very last son.

We have one more game, but it is at home and: 1.) I don't yell loud at home games. 2.)It will be "Senior Night", and we parents have to walk out on the field escorted by our sons. Walking out onto the field means I have to dress up a bit and try to look cute and hold in my stomach and make sure I don't have any... umm... gray roots showing, so I won't scare all the younger moms who will be thinking, "Is that what I will look like when my child is a senior?"

Yup. Sorry to deliver that news to you.

Back to last night's game: I am happy to report that the Warriors won with a final score of 34 to 19. It was a happy night full of yelling, camaraderie, high- fiving the person next to me, even if I don't know them very well, and enjoying a sweeeeeeet win.

No one had to teach me how to celebrate because winning rocks.

After the game with our incredible Number Nine.

P.S. I have notecards and refrigerator magnets for sale in my Hillcrest Cottage Etsy Shop.