So here we go.
Let the holiday craziness begin in earnest.
Decorating and gift giving and food and family.
It has been a little disorienting lately contrasting the difference between this holiday season and the last.
This time last year my family was scattered to the winds.
LC was still down in Alabama and he and I were still calling each other often, both of us hopefully but cautiously fighting to find our way back to each other.
My oldest son was happy in his life as a new graduate in Tennessee, he and his wife busily thinking about making some of the large purchases that new professionals make when they finally have jobs and finally have money.
My youngest son was in New Brunswick staying with his father after leaving the US Air Force in October, and trying to figure out what his next move should be.
He was set to begin college in January but that effectively ended before it even began, and he floundered in New Brunswick for another eight months before finally heading west.
This time last year I was in Juneau and it felt like a very very cold place in so many senses of the word.
I missed all three of the men in my life and wondered just why the hell I was still living in a city that had in large part been so unwelcoming of me..
It was becoming harder and harder to reconcile my love of that very beautiful place with both the ugliness of so many people and the separation from my family.
It was in that context that I faced Christmas with the likely possibility of spending it alone.
Even though I had boxes of decorations stashed underneath my rented Alaskan cabin that was quickly and affectionately dubbed the Unabomber Cabin by my department head, I did not decorate.
My Mountain Boy arrived back in Juneau a few days before Christmas.
My oldest son overnighted Christmas presents to me, fearful that I would be spending the day alone and his gifts to me would not arrive on time.
They arrived on Christmas Eve.
I spoke with both of my sons on Christmas Day - thankful that these two good young men were both in my life and missing them greatly.
LC and I drove to my sons home outside of Nashville over the weekend to do a Christmas ornament exchange, and his home was filled with two sets of parents, grown children, spouses a small child and two dogs.
It was an evening filled with noise and conversation and laughter and crafts and food and gifts and football games on big screen TV's in two different rooms.
Although it was slightly overwhelming in its exuberance it was also extremely good.
Good to have at least two of my men with me - to see their smiling faces, listen to their lame jokes, watch their excitement when their team scored a touchdown and listen to their loud disgust when the other team (unjustly of course) scored a touchdown of their own.
It was all.........very good.
Right now there is a very large box sitting on my kitchen table waiting to be mailed to Manitoba.
Chris will be spending Christmas at the ski resort he is working at and as I checked the address today saw that it is predictably very cold where he is.
As I was unpacking boxes in the spare bedroom a few weeks ago I found a black Columbia fleece sweater still with tags that I had bought while in Juneau, size XL.
That, along with many items that should keep him warm will soon be on their way............
The picture above is of Jackson Street in Tullahoma taken a few nights ago.
There is no central square in town and Jackson is the "main drag" meaning that it is a street filled with all manner of restaurants, gas stations, real estate offices, strip malls, the high school, and for a town of only 20,000 an extraordinary and slightly daunting amount of traffic.
I try as much as possible to stay away from town, and since shopping is an activity I take part in only when absolutely necessary (read: when we are down to the last slice of bread and the milk expired three days ago) staying away is not that hard to do...............
This metal bed frame sat in our spare bedroom until LC and his brother were packing up two trucks before heading for Alaska.
With no room for it in the bed of either truck it became one of the many items that went to my oldest son.
It then sat for a year and half in the yard behind his parents-in-laws home.
By the time the bed came up again in conversation and we received it back, it was a rusted mess.
Sean had begun priming it on one side which protected it somewhat but had never gotten around to finishing it and after graduation he moved up to a much better bed than this one ever was.
This picture was taken under our carport this past weekend while the bed was still a work in progress as LC and I worked to make it a decent bed again.
It is again sitting in the spare bedroom and it suits our needs just fine.............
On the way to Nashville the other day we drove through the neighboring town of Shelbyville.
As we stopped at a red light LC and I looked up to see this surprising character heading in our direction.
He was part of a float that was to be in the Shelbyville Christmas Parade that same night.
When I first moved down to Tennessee from Canada I quickly searched out a grocery store and found one by the name of Piggly Wiggly.
With my world traveling history and my Canadian sensibilities I laughed and shook my head in disbelief that I was actually shopping in a store called Piggly Wiggly.
It sounded so..........redneck.
And it fed so completely into every preconceived notion I had about the southern part of the the United States.
It is sometimes called Piggies. Or just The Pig. Or Piggie Wiggies.
Even now, 12 or so years after leaving Canada I still feel like a redneck thinking about shopping at the Piggly Wiggly.
This float was The Pig.
A ridiculously funny and southern tradition............
Sean and his wife Jessica have two little fur ball dust mop dogs.
The kind that look like those toy dogs you see in stores during the holidays that bark and do back flips when you wind them up.
This is Ziggy and he is about 2 years old.
He is disgustingly cute and the thing on the floor in front of him in this picture used to (at one time) be a stuffed toy.
He has many stuffed toys spread throughout the house but right now this is the one and only in play.
If you threw his toy across the room for eight hours he would still not tire of the game.
He will play the throw-fetch game as long as he can sucker you in, and then moves on to the next victim whenever you tire of the game and finally say "no more".
His little adorable Star Wars Ewok face pulls you in and so do his very cute ways, and as my son says about Ziggy "he never has a bad day".
You cannot help but smile at this little 10 pound bundle of unfailing energy............
But this boy is my favorite.
His name is Gizmo and this uber sweet little boy is about six years old.
He is very quiet and loves to sit in your lap, although I dog-sat this little canine for a week not long after first moving into the house and remember that only a few years ago he was also a toy-fetching-fool.
Ziggy has been with Sean and Jess for almost two years now and I think that Gizzy still has not gotten over the indignity of having to share his humans with another dog.
I joke with Sean all the time about stuffing Gizzy into my bag and taking him home with me.
A very very sweet and loving little thing who easily warms your heart and worms his way into your affections.............
My sons' first Christmas in his new home, and his first experience setting up his own Christmas decorations.
A far cry from the small apartments these two shared separately and then together while in college..........
LC and I pulled off the two lane highway briefly on the way home so that I could take a few pictures of these decorations in someone's yard.
I decorated our house yesterday and finally dug out Christmas decorations that I have not seen in two years.
It was like a scavenger hunt digging through boxes, finding things I had not seen in so long and even finding things that I had forgotten I had.
Sean got some of the more fragile things that LC and I felt certain would not make the too rough trip to Alaska and I am glad that he has them, but there was still enough to decorate the house.
I'll take pictures sometime soon..............
Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life...........Albert Einstein