Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Christmas Memoir

One Christmas, I decided we should make a video and send it to my aunt and uncle in California.  They had never seen my kids in person, and I thought they'd get a kick out of seeing us all on their TV.

I shared the idea with my mom, as well as my local aunts and uncles.  They all agreed to meet at my house one December evening.

We decided we would dress in Pennsylvania winter attire (sweaters, scarves, hats) for the video, and to use some accessories.  (Rudolf antlers, Santa hats, etc.)

We set the camera on the tripod, and got started.  We practiced our number a few times before taping it, so we could get organized.  We chose to lip sync to The Chipmunk's version of Jingle Bells.  

Chipmunk's Jingle Bells

I'd really appreciate it if you would click on that link and take a listen before you read the rest of this.  It sets the mood...

So, picture this: my parents, aunts, uncles, me, John, and the four oldest of my children, circa mid 1990's, lip synching and swaying to this silly little song.

Now and then, John would move behind the camera to pan the room and get close ups of each of us.

The children were all quite small, ranging in age from about 1 year old to about 9, so they were busy frantically running in circles and dancing.

One must imagine how ludicrous this scene was, a couple of grandmas and grandpas, along with adults in their early 30's on up into their 50's and 60's, moving their mouths to the sound of chipmunk voices.  Add in four energetic little kids jumping and dancing at our feet.

It was a funny and loony night, with everyone laughing and making noise.  

Now, to tell the rest of the story.  There are several men in my family who I suspect of having narcolepsy, including my dad.  These guys are infamous for falling asleep while visiting, no matter who's talking, or what's going on.

My uncle Bill is one of those men, too.  While we were all busying ourselves with our chipmunk fun, no one realized Bill had sat down in the corner recliner and drifted off.

Only when we sat down and turned the tape to "play" so we could review it, did we see what had happened.

As the song slowed down, and played out its last hurrah, John panned across the room, showing each of us as we bopped, sang, laughed, jumped, and pranced about.

The camera moved to the corner, and there was Uncle Bill, his elbow resting on the chair's arm, and his chin resting in his hand. His eyes were shut, and his mouth was wide open.  John zoomed in on this sight, while the last notes of Jingle Bells played and then went silent.  

It was a completely hilarious ending to our raucous video.  I wish I knew what happened to the video--how I would love to see it now!

XXXooo Annie

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Gobble, Gobble Adventures

It's clichĂ©, but "never a dull moment" in my reality really is never a dull moment.  And, sometimes a dull moment would be most welcome!

On Thursday, my Thanksgiving started out fairly mundane.  With dinner scheduled for 3:00, I felt comfortable that I had plenty of time to get the food prepared. 

I put the bird in the oven around 10:00, knowing it would take four to five hours to roast, and would need a good half hour to forty five minutes to rest before carving.

The veggie tray was all ready, covered with foil in the fridge, as well as the pies that I had baked the day before. 

I caught bits and pieces of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Thanksgiving just wouldn't feel right without that little tradition), and I read the thick stack of Black Friday ads, knowing I had a zero chance of shopping on Black Friday.  Still, I liked to see what I was missing out on!

Around 1:00, I pulled out the bags of potatoes.  Maria had requested to make the mashed potatoes, but I decided to get a start on peeling them while she showered.  Every single potato I picked up and began to peel was rotten!  After I tried to find some that were salvageable, I finally hit a point where I knew it was not going to happen.

What would Thanksgiving be without mashed potatoes??? 

The potato situation made me into an instant hypocrite.  Where I was proclaiming only a day before, "Why on earth do stores need to be open on Thanksgiving?", I was now praying that Wal Mart was open! 

John volunteered to take a trip out to Hermitage to check on Wal Mart, and I gladly took him up on the offer.  God bless his heart!  Thankfully, they were open, and he came home loaded down with three bags of taters. 

It was good to spend time with both my girls--them madly peeling and dicing--me, making stuffing, gravy, and rolls.  Those moments together are most precious.

The kids circling the table to load up their plates.
We had a houseful of people that day.  All eight of us were here, as well as my parents, Tony's fiancĂ©e, and Ian's latest girl.  It was a bit crowded and chaotic, but everyone seemed happy with my culinary talents, and there was plenty of laughter shared.

One of the best moments was hearing my mom praise the pumpkin pie I had baked, especially with her in mind.  Mom developed an allergy to cinnamon a several years ago.  She loves pumpkin pie, but normally can't eat it, so I baked a couple and left out the cinnamon.  It made me feel good knowing that she got to enjoy one of her favorite holiday desserts.

That evening, John and I joined my parents in visiting my elderly aunt, who lives alone.  Her house was still and quiet, with the muted light of her tiny TV and one small dull light, it seemed so different than it was when I was a child.  Thanksgivings in the 70's were often spent at this house, where the whole Ryan clan would gather around a large dining room table, and share in a traditional turkey dinner.  My Grandpa, dad, and uncles would have the TV going in the living room with whatever football team was playing.  Every room would be brightly lit, there would be loud chatter, and lots of activity.  The contrast between decades was like night and day.

Back home, after our visit, I sat down with Therese to watch our DVD of Peanuts' Thanksgiving.  Two of my kids were scheduled to go to work soon--Tony at 8:00, and Maria at midnight. 

The snow had been falling for a few hours when it was time for Tony to leave for work.  I took Tony, and it was a white knuckle trip all the way to and from Sheetz.  I did some slipping and sliding, but thankfully got back home in one piece.  I was so glad to just get inside to put on some warm PJ's!

Yesterday I stayed in those pajamas all day, until about 5 or 6 o'clock pm, when I showered and put on fresh pajamas.  I spent most of the morning, cleaning up after the meal from Thursday.  I was too worn out to wash dishes, so I piled them up and let them go that night.  What a fright to wake up and see that job waiting for me first thing in the morning!  "Oh the weather outside is frightful, but my dear, the towering pile of dishes make the weather seem delightful..."

I had a nice visit with my best friend yesterday, she's the yin to my yang.  We've been through so much together, even though she moved to Richmond, VA the week after John and I got married.  That was twenty nine years ago! The true sign of a real friendship is when the relationship gets stronger through the years, even when there are miles of separation.  I can honestly say that is the case with me and Jo Anne!  She is Maria's godmother, and she really plays an essential role in our family.

Last evening, John brought in the boxes of lights and ornaments so we could put up the Christmas tree.  Therese, Johnpaul, and I spent the time together, laughing and playing, while working. 

Therese was in constant motion!

At one point, I began to snap some photos, and the kids abruptly began to avoid me.  I pleaded with them to get back to trimming the tree, and to "act natural" so I could get a picture or two.  At that point, Therese picked up a glass ornament that was suspended by a circle of velvety fabric.  She hung it off her index finger and threw herself into a fake pose, thrusting her arm straight up in the air.  The ornament spun on the tip of her finger, and tore away from the velvet, flying through the air.  SMASH!!!

The ornament met its doom by hurtling into the wall behind her and shattering into a zillion little deadly shards.

JohnPaul, Therese, and I stopped and stood like mannequins, staring at each other.  Our expressions, frozen for a brief instant, were a cross between humor and horror. A moment passed, and then...we broke out into uproarious laughter. 

It was all my fault--after all, I had told her to act natural!  She is a wild ball of twelve year old energy!  She was acting natural!

We got the tree all done, and the broken ornament cleaned up, and even had time to sit and watch a holiday movie together before bed.  I am thankful for my zany life, and for the people I love.


Monday, August 18, 2014

My Meandering Mind

Just a few random things on my mind...

While driving in a semi rural/forested landscape recently, I realized something.  Although there are a lot of things wrong in the world, there is something that continues to live and thrive!  Chlorophyll!  Yay for chlorophyll all around me!!!

Speaking of that, what do you get when you cross Cloris Leachman with Dr. Phil?  Duh...!  CHLOROPHYLL!!!


On to another deep subject.  I live in a little place called Sharpsville.  Would you like to know where the name came from?  Why is Sharpsville named 'Sharpsville'?  DRUMROLL...

Because no one would choose to live in a town called 'Dullsville'. (Be sure to click the big red button!)

^^^Was that cool or what???^^^

Why didn't the chicken cross the road?

Silly, because when he pressed this button:

He only saw this signal:

No matter how long he waited, he never got a signal with a chicken crossing on it.

No need for applause, just throw money!

Until next time...HUGSxxxAnnie

Friday, July 25, 2014


July reminds us that summer runs away at breakneck pace, whether we approve or not.

July is wiping fresh fruit juice from chins, while munching on garden grown sweetness.

July smells like just mown lawns, salty sea air, and grilled hamburgers.

The seventh month tastes like beefsteak tomatoes, ice cream cones, hot dogs, and corn on the cob.

The lush vegetation of July embraces us with the gentlest of hugs; it provides temporary amnesia--dulling us to the bleak memory of winter.

The mid summer month sounds like grass trimmers, humming fans, and birds, singing and conversing.

July rain is sweet and refreshing, a welcome relief from the broiling sun.

July nights are crisp cotton sheets with an open window.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Favorite Place

Can you guess where my favorite place is?

Is it here? 
Nope.  (ONE of my favorite places, for sure, though!)
How about this?
Well, I can't lie and say I wouldn't want to be there, but it's still not my favorite place on Earth...
Okay, these?

...As wonderful as all these places are my favorite place.
The list goes on and on.  Niagara Falls?  A starlit night on an ocean cruise?  The deep South?  The Great Plains?  The Rocky Mountains?
My favorite place is a three minute walk from my house. 
This is my favorite place.  It is where my Lord resides.
Jesus is so good.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Low temperatures this month have broken long standing records.  I've never seen such a cold winter in my life. 

Today the weather is so dangerously bitter that school has been cancelled, including college campuses. 

A phenomenon called 'snow rollers' has been occurring the past day or so.  Several of my Facebook friends have posted photos of these formations on their walls.  They look a bit like a giant white Hostess Ho Ho.

I've been periodically checking my yard to see if any have formed, but so far I have not seen any.

I am grateful to have a warm home.  The furnace has been running non stop for weeks.  I don't think it shuts off at all, and my skin is suffering for it.  Several times a day, I slather myself with cocoa butter or Udderly Smooth moisturizer.  I'm wearing out my tube of lip balm.  Still, just call me Mojave Mama or Sahara Sister!!!

On another note, I have been feeling a little down this week.  It's not related to the weather, but rather, it's all the things in my life that seem to be falling apart.

There are innumerable knots to be undone, and as I tackle one at a time, it's as if some unseen force is creating more knots.  It's kind of like trying to hold water in a sieve. 

When these things get me down, I find myself feeling way down.  It's a terrible feeling.

I know it will pass; the knots will still be there, but these despairing temptations will lessen.  I only know that because I've been down this road before.

Sometimes I see myself as this very broken person--like a cracked mirror.  There is just no way to fix me.  And yet, I realize that we are all in the same boat,  not cracked in all the same ways, but still--broken.

The weight of my misery is crushing.  What have I ever done in my life right?  Who haven't I harmed? 

But...still...a whisper comes from must forge ahead...pick yourself up...try...forgive

Thank God for His grace.  When everything seems so twisted and ruined, He takes it all and turns it into a masterpiece of love. 

I'm so thankful for HIM.

Stay warm, my readers.  Stay safe.  God bless you.


Monday, January 20, 2014


I left my heart in...(San Francisco?), Pennsylvania.

Yesterday afternoon, John, Therese, and I took the familiar Sunday trek to that little frozen tundra near the border of Erie to return Maria to her home away from home.

Just a short few months ago, the drive and surroundings were new to us.  Now, it has become comfortable, although the tweak of sadness always accompanies the trip.  

Those lingering hugs between mother and daughter, then between sister and sister, then between father and daughter always results in a thick lump in my throat.  As we watched her walk away, such a wisp of a girl, tiny and fragile looking, I was determined to keep the tears from falling.

I am too sentimental for my own good. 

Maria is doing so well in her new world.  I am happy about that!  I want her to fly--no--SOAR!  There's nothing sadder than an adult who never really learns to live a full life.  My hope for each of my kids is that they will come to see what gifts they have and how to use them to make the world better. 


Friday, January 17, 2014

Moon over My Annie

I am more sentimental than Granny's Bone China.
Here are a few images from my morning...

And this...
And these...tee hee...

That moon was the loveliest thing I've seen in awhile.  It felt like God set it there just for my delight.
My  Heavenly Daddy said, "I think I'll suspend the moon over Annie's neighborhood, so full and round, a jolly smiling 'face', just to remind her that I am here and that I love her.". 
 ...That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!...
These young people like up my morning, too, very much like Mr. Moon--

Every morning, we say a prayer called the morning offering.  Therese has been feigning annoyance with me lately when I imitate the current tween/teen slang. 
I began our prayer, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."  We rounded the corner.  I continued. "Oh My Jesus...  OH, Jesus is TOTES ADORBS!!!" 
A huge objection came from the back seat...  And a snort of laughter from the passenger seat ...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Egg Salad

This past week, Therese turned twelve.  Her birthday meal request  was simple--egg salad sandwiches. 

Why do we fuss so much when it doesn't have to take fancy meals and expensive things to make us happy?  I think that's the cool thing about children; they remind us that joy comes from the simplest things.
Some things I love: 
peanut butter
bare feet
smiling eyes
& laughing to the point of crying
the smell of coffee
What are some things you treasure, the simple and uncomplicated things?  What is the egg salad in your life?
HUGSxxx Annie

Monday, January 13, 2014

The holidays are over now, my tree is still up, and I have a dozen things that need done yesterday...but...

I feel like writing--so I am writing.  My kids are on my mind today, and I want to write about them.  I also feel like writing about some recent blessings...

I also feel like smiling--so I am smiling.

Many of you know that my eldest son was born with a syndrome that caused a myriad of health problems from the very start.  In addition to that, he is profoundly hearing impaired.  I could not have ever dreamt that the little boy I raised with so many physical obstacles could be doing the things he does now.

A month ago, he travelled alone to Europe.  Just about every week, he goes to Youngstown with friends to a nightclub that plays big band hits and he swing dances!  Ian loves life so much!  He has been planning a cross country hike for over a year now.  He plans to WALK across our country, starting in March.  (I can't lie and say I am not concerned about his safety!) He is a wonderful example of someone who will not allow life's challenges to stop him from living a full life.  I have learned a lot from him, and am a much better person because I am his mom.

Now, just because I have written all these things about Ian, I do not want to focus less on the other young people who call me 'Mom'. 

Some days I sit back and ponder how much God must love me to have given me these beautiful people--my children.  I think of what an honor it is to raise them and mentor them in this life.  It is an 'awe'some task.  There is nothing I take more seriously than being able to arrive before Him one day, and honestly tell Him that I did the best job I knew how.  I have made many mistakes, I have failed so many times.  I just hope that my kids know that I love them completely, with my entire being.  I hope they can forgive me for my shortcomings.

One of the things that makes me smile are that my kids are not all caught up in the worldly junk that swirls around them.  Jacob is in his early 20's and when he goes out with his gang of friends, guess what they do?  They play board games.  Yes, that's right!  I love that they know how to have fun without going off the deep end like so many others in their age group. 

There are many nights a week that our house is filled with young people, eating snacks, playing board games, and enjoying each other's company.  Tony and Jacob's friends overlap somewhat, and even Ian's do at times.  There has been a longstanding date among my oldest kids every Tuesday.  If you go to Eat N Park in the wee hours of the morning, you'll witness a huge gathering of mostly 20 somethings, eating and socializing, and playing cards or games.  They always tip generously, too!  Ian is almost always present for that, and Jake and Tony are, off and on.

My youngest boy, JohnPaul, is a very cool kid.  JP is very quiet, very reserved.  He has a wicked sense of humor, and so many wonderful qualities!  He's been working on an online comic strip for years--he has (I think) almost 800 strips done so far.  Before he did the online comic strip, he used to make comics on paper--he has a stack of these about three or four inches thick of the ones I managed to keep.  His schoolmates were always pushing to read his funny stories in Middle School.  JP is known in the neighborhood as Scooter Elliott.  He spends many hours on his scooter--it's his thinking time away from all the noise! two flowers...Maria and Therese...they are both petite with blue eyes (like their daddy) and have powerful opinions.  I always wished for a sister when I was a child, but God withheld that pleasure from me.  (I love both my brothers so much, it's just that I wanted a sister, too.)  When He sent me two little girls, I felt that lifelong desire for a sister was satisfied.  There is a deep need inside me to share female things with someone else, and I'm so happy I have been given the gift of daughters.  I treasured taking Maria to shop for dresses for school dances and watching her blossom into a young lady. 

 My 'baby', Therese, is still a little girl in many ways, but she's on the verge of her teenage years.  I am thankful that she still likes to cuddle with me, and that I can kiss her and baby her a little from time to time.

During the Christmas Season, we received many beautiful blessings.  Several relatives enrolled our family in what Catholics call 'Spiritual Bouquets'.  These are Masses (they can also be other prayers) which are said for our prayer intentions and for our souls.  There is no gift better than that.

One day, an envelope came in the mail with no return address.  Inside, we found a gift card to the local grocery store--no letter or greeting card, just that little anonymous gift card.  What a thoughtful and helpful gift to our family that was.  It came just as it was time to start our holiday grocery shopping! 

Our whole family spend some good times together, I got to visit with my brother and his wife a few times, and we had a family dinner on the Sunday after Christmas at Muscarella's.  My parents arranged it and paid for everyone--what a beautiful gift that was.

My wish for all my readers is that if you are feeling low and don't feel like smiling...maybe I can do something to help you...I hope you will experience love or an unexpected blessing, too.

HUGSxxx Annie