Friday, December 26, 2008

So you think you can dance ...

Playing games during our family holiday gatherings is nothing new. In fact, when I was younger, we always brought the games that Santa brought us to play with our cousins. Back in the day it was board games. Monopoly, Trouble, Life, Sorry and UNO occupied our time while the finishing touches on dinner were under way.

As we got older there were more adult games like Scattegories, Guesstures and Taboo. I can still remember the funniest clue ever given when we let our aunts play Taboo with us ... a funky squirrel. Well, I'm sure if her team had thought about it they would have gotten the answer, but instead everyone fell out in laughter and nobody said skunk. It was the first and last time Aunt Peggy played.

These days the games are a little different. There were more Nintendo DSs in the house than should be allowed, especially since I didn't get the blinged out version like America Ferrera that I asked Santa for. But I'm not bitter. I'm sure there was a child out there that needed it more than me. Right, Santa?

And for the second time this year, the dance mats were broken out. Actually, before we ate dinner, my cousin brought out the dry erase board for people to sign up. Can you tell we're a tad big competitive?

So, after dinner the dance mats were brought out and the competition began. First the little ones got to play. Even Preston took a turn (and of course I got a picture.) They were too cute, bouncing around. But the adults grew antsy and the little ones were quickly told their turns were over. Not that they cared, they had more toys to play with.

Then the "adults" started. We only got one of my aunts to play. And she actually won a round against one Antwan. We were all playing the "beginner" level until two little Byrds decided they were going to crank it up a notch.

They were hilarious and have earned the first video every posted to my blog. If you need a good laugh, check it out! It's especially funny because without a mat and in another setting, these two can dance like they're in a music video! Apparently, arrows change everything.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My favorite things ...

Riding into work this morning, Luther Vandross' rendition of "My Favorite Things" was playing on the radio. It's one of my favorite versions of the song. It's Luther. As comedians often say ... he could sing the phone book and I'd listen. But it got me to thinking about things that make me smile -- my favorite things. By the time I got to work, I was in a great mood! Why? Because of my favorite things ...
  • Preston's laugh
  • Mark's singing voice
  • Hershey's Kisses
  • Aunt Peggy's mac and cheese
  • Aunt Betty's turkey and dressing
  • A gospel choir that "sangs"!
  • Ladybugs
  • A good book (the kind that makes you feel like you've lost a good friend when you're done reading)
  • Autumn leaves
  • Clear Christmas lights
  • Hot cocoa on a cold morning or evening
  • Hot McDonald's french fries
  • Black leather boots (with at least a 3-inch heel, of course)
  • The Color Purple (book and movie)
  • Prince singing Adore live (I've been lucky enough to see that twice)
  • People magazine

Now that you know some of my favorite things, I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with your favorite things.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

2008 -- The best of times ... the worst of times

Friday, when I took my two weekly magazines from my mailbox, there was a common theme. Both magazines focused on the Best and Worst of 2008. Some of their choices I agreed with. For example, I thought Tropic Thunder and Iron Man were great and that Robert Downey, Jr. made one hell of a comeback this year. I also agreed that network television programming has really sucked this year (Grey's Anatomy is a perfect example!), while cable television programming has just been a delight (True Blood, The Wire and Weeds were among my favorites).

So, after reading both magazines, I started to think about the best and worst times of my life this year. There were some definite highs and lows. And while the good definitely outweighed the bad, the bad was and continues to be heartbreaking.

The best of times ...

  • In one word ... Preston. Without a doubt, watching him grow and develop these last 12 months has been my biggest joy and greatest challenge. He's a typical toddler, and at times I was ready to put him up for adoption, but I honestly can't imagine life without that big smile, those wet kisses or bear hugs.

  • Reading. I got back to reading. In 2007, I was just trying to get used to having a baby. I can count on one hand the books I read. This year, I discovered along with millions of others, The Twilight Saga. I read E. Lynn Harris' latest, which was a real treat because it focused on the relationship between a mother and son. I got caught up on the Alex Cross series, including the latest one, Cross Country, that I hope to get to while on Christmas break.

  • Facebook. I was late to the game, but I have become a power player! LOL. I cannot go more than a few hours without checking to see what my "friends" are saying or doing. I've reconnected with people from grade school to college. It's been fun.

The worst of times ...

Rest in peace, Mother. I always thought my grandmother would live forever. In fact, I used to tell her that all the time. And she'd call me crazy or start quoting scripture. As a child, I had to deal with death. My father died of pancreatic cancer when I was 6. And just after my tenth birthday, my mother died of a brain aneurysm at the very young age of 35. Dealing with it wasn't that hard because I had my grandmother and lots of other family members who made sure that my sister and I felt loved. She was always there.

So, this summer when she passed away about a month after having a major stroke and heart attack, my life changed forever. I was saddened because my rock wasn't here any more. I also felt bad for Preston because he would never get to know her or get to do all the fun things that we got to do with her as children.

I'm grateful that God gave her to us for 92 years. I'm also glad that she got to meet Preston, whom she adored like he was her first grandchild (she had more than 27 grandchildren and 42 great-grandchildren by the time he got here.) Not a day goes by without me thinking of her. And I know that will continue for years to come. But they are comforting memories of some of the best times of my life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ..."

Here's something you may not know about me. I LOVE Christmas music! Each year, I usually buy a new CD to add to the collection I've been acquiring for some years now. Last year, I couldn't have been happier when the iTunes Store started giving away a new holiday song each Tuesday – it gave me the opportunity to listen to Christmas songs from artists I probably wouldn’t have listened to on my own. So far this year, I’ve got a song from Melissa Etheridge, Faith Hill and Tony Bennett … not too shabby!

So, in honor of my love for Christmas music and the fact that it has been ignored by the Grammys, Billboard and American Music Awards, I’ve decided to hold the First and Last Annual Keela Christmas Music Awards, awarding “Keela” awards in various categories. And the “Keela” goes to … (I’m sure the winners are going to be so excited to hear about this honor!)

Keela Christmas Music Award Winners

Favorite Soundtrack – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
Favorite Solo Album – Star Bright (Vanessa Williams)
Favorite Group Album – Christmas Interpretations (Boyz II Men)
Favorite Gospel Album – We Wish You a Merry Christmas (Take 6)
Best Song by Group – Silent Night (The Temptations)
Best Solo – The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole)
Best Christmas Song Used in a Movie – White Christmas (The Drifters in Home Alone)
Favorite Song to Hear Riding in the Car – This Christmas (Donny Hathaway)
Favorite Hymn – O, Holy Night (Yolanda Adams)
Favorite Original Song – Let it Snow (Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight)
Favorite Instrumental Song – Christmas Is Coming (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
Best Song Recorded by Keela – Santa Baby (It’s a classic! I’ve got to find a way to put it online)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The magazine fiend that is me

Entertainment Weekly.
“O” Magazine.
Reader’s Digest.

So, what do all these magazines have in common? Besides being fabulous periodicals, they also happen to be all the magazines I find in my mailbox on a weekly or monthly basis. And yes, I know that I have a problem!

But in my defense, one subscription was a gift from a really good friend when Preston was born. (Parenting – Thanks, Nicole! I learn something new from every issue.) Two of them helped my coworker’s granddaughter’s school buy some really nice things. (Entertainment Weekly and Reader's Digest) One was a steal using the annual Time Friends and Family Discount (Essence ... $11 for a year). I got a pretty good deal on O, too. And who doesn't love Oprah?

I bought Fitness from the HSN when Preston was about 4 weeks old and sleeping for 15 minutes at a time. It was an impulse purchase brought on by sleep deprivation and the promise to myself to get back in shape. (And we all see how that's been going.) I have no justification for People. It's my guilty pleasure. My annual Christmas present to myself. I look forward to unwinding every Friday night with it.

It seems like I've always had magazines around me. I love reading the articles, looking at the ads -- it's a great escape. I can remember getting my Weekly Reader in elementary school. My sister and I had subscriptions to Highlights as children. And it's just grown from there. My mother was the same way. I can remember her having subscriptions to Ebony, Psychology Today and Reader's Digest, as well as educational magazines from her professional organizations.

In the past I've had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, InStyle, Time, Ebony, Jet and others that I can't recall right now.

I actually thought I had a handle on it, until last week when I received three of them in the mail at once. But I'm not worried. I think the Parenting and Fitness mags expire early 2009, so the coffee table will find some relief. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I have a hard time recycling them, even after reading them from cover to cover. And I do read them all every week or month -- from the first page to the last.

There's one more. I don't have a subscription because they don't offer them, but I look forward to the first of each month so I can pick up a copy of the latest skirt! magazine. It's free and full of great articles for and by women. I like this one so much that I've gone to their website to look at their contributor guidelines because I've always wanted to be published. I am a writer, you know! And with the family, friends and coworkers I have ... I've got lots of material. Maybe next year, because for now, I'm just going to enjoy reading.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Facebook follies

I admit it. I'm addicted to Facebook. I haven't been a member for long, but rarely does a few hours go by without me changing my status or looking at what new and interesting things my "friends" have posted.

Today, a colleague at work posted a story about some teachers in Charlotte who apparently were addicted and outright careless with their addiction. Not only did they post totally inappropriate comments and photos, but they had public pages that could be viewed by anyone and they identified themselves as employees of the schools by joining the district's network.

Now, social networking is here to stay, whether we choose to embrace it our not. But I have to think that stories like this aren't going to help more companies embrace it. What those folks have to remember is that common sense should be used no matter what medium you choose for communicating. And unfortunately, some of us were born with more of it than others.

To my friends who haven't ventured into Facebook-land, don't be discouraged. Just remember, if it's something that you wouldn't be comfortable with your Mom or kids reading ... don't write it, post it or send it. Simple as that.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sorry, Coach Spurrier ... it's all Preston's fault!

When I was about six months pregnant, Mark and I started checking out local daycares. It was a little scary, but when I took the first steps into that daycare that Preston goes to now, I knew it was the one. When we visited the baby room, there was a little boy in a crib with a Carolina jersey on. He was so cute! And I said to myself, my little boy is going to wear Carolina gear on Fridays, too.

And he did. He wore onesies when he was a baby. He had a sweatsuit, when he got a little older. Last year, he had a onesie that looked like a jersey. This season, he has a warm up suit, a jersey, a couple t-shirts and a fleece suit. And every Friday, he's worn something ... except for this past Friday.

The weather on Friday was weird. It was too cool for the jersey and too warm for the warm up or fleece suit. And I was tired and didn't feel like putting layers together, so he wore jeans and a blue and gold shirt. And the rest is history!

Now, I know that we've lost a few other games this year with Preston wearing his gear. But I have to believe that we wouldn't have gotten our butts whipped so badly if Preston hadn't broken the trend.

So, Coach Spurrier, no matter what the weather, Preston will be dressed appropriately before the Clemson game. And since we're doing our parts, we expect you to handle your business, too. We want a win!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A message for our Veterans

Columbia, South Carolina has one of the largest Veterans Day parades in the nation. For the last six years that I've worked downtown, I've never attended a parade or really thought about it.

Today while out getting a sandwich for lunch, I was able to catch a glimpse of the veterans, marching bands, active duty soldiers and Citadel cadets who were participating. The sub shop was filled with men in uniforms and veterans.

It was then that I realized that I had many veterans in my life that I should probably acknowledge, including a husband who served in Desert Storm.

I have to admit that I'm still a bit sheltered from the current wars, even though I have a cousin who has done several tours in Iraq, and there have been soldiers from my hometown who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I live in a world that is full of denial about lots of things ... the war, the fact that my grandmother is gone, the need to lose 40 pounds ... but all of those things are for another post!

So, today, I'm taking off my rose-colored glasses and I'm thanking everyone in my life who has ever served in a branch of the military. From my father, who was a private in World War II, to my little cousin, Ravin, who just finished advanced training in Alabama ... Thank you for doing something I would never be able to do. You are appreciated and I love you all.

God bless you and God bless the United States of America.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cross-eyed kisses

Being a Mom has been a wonderful experience. I think that I've always wanted to be a Mom, but as many of you know, there was always a little mini-me in those fantasies. Preston has been a big dose of reality. He's all boy and more times than not, I'm completely unprepared for what he's doing and even more so, how I'm going to react to it.

I'm doing much better than I thought. All the climbing and jumping that used to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, barely get a reaction now. I've even managed to stop complaining about the 4 to 1 ratio of girls clothing and shoes in department stores. There are enough options to keep me satisfied. (The poor boy has more shoes than his father!)

The one thing I never expected was all the love and affection a little boy has for his mother. I live for Preston's hugs and kisses. Recently, he's learned how to pucker up and give you a kiss. The crazy, and oh-so-adorable part is when he tries to look at his lips when he puckers. There's nothing better than those cross-eyed kisses.

I know there will come a time when hugging and kissing his Mom is going to be real low on his list. Until then, I'll just enjoy the loving that comes from those crossed eyes and wet lips.