Calendar girl

Yesterday I copied all the birthdays and anniversaries from my 2010 calendar onto my 2011 calendar then added the old calendar to my stack of those I've saved for years -- every year since 1997, to be exact.

I abhor packrats and do my best not to be one, so holding onto reminders of dentist appointments and "No School" dates of years past may seem in opposition to my cause. But the old calendars are so much more than appointment reminders: They are time in a bottle. Snapshots of the hustle and bustle of a once busy household. A record of the good, the bad, the scary, the sweet -- an organic record that didn't require me to journal or scrapbook or keep a diary or update a blog to maintain it.

Most of the markings on the grids of daily happenings are in my handwriting. Others are in the handwriting of one or another of the girls, applied in painstakingly perfect penmanship befitting an occasion important enough to be included on the family calendar for all to consider in their schedule.

Each notation holds much more than just a record of where we had to be and what time we had to be there, though. They hold stories, stories that bring mostly grins (birthday parties and school sporting events) and groans (dentist appointments and work schedules). Others cause my eyes to well up, my heart to grow a little cold, and a lump to form in my throat. Those are the notations of occasions that serve as poignant reminders of our challenges, the growing pains that strengthened our family fabric and made it the resilient, tight-knit one it is today.

As I skim the calendars before placing them back on the shelf for another year, here are some of the scribbles that touch my heart:

April 28, 1997: "Closing" - This is the date we officially bought the house we rented for 10 years before finally getting up the nerve -- and the income -- to ask our landlords if we could buy it. It's the house that became the childhood home of our three girls, the place we raised them all, from kindergarten through college.

July 21-25, 1997: "Brianna in Texas" - Brianna went to Work Camp; we remodeled our new house to add a fourth bedroom while she was gone. Andrea and Megan rejoiced at no longer having to share a room, no longer having to divide the space with duct tape down the center. Jim and I rejoiced that the bickering would end.

May 25, 1998: "Andie leaves" - Andrea spent a week at Sea Camp in San Diego and to this day still dreams of working with dolphins. Somewhere. Somehow. Which is a tad challenging considering she lives in the Rocky Mountains.

March 22, 1999: "5:30 a.m. Brianna skiing" - Clinches the heart a bit as Brianna will likely never ski again after the damage done to her back when her (stopped) car was rear-ended at a stoplight by a landscaping truck.

April 24-25, 1999: "Retaining wall" - One of the many "huh?" markings on the calendars, important at the time but now completely forgotten.

October 15, 1999: "UNC College Day" - Our first visit to check out a college for our first-born.

July 18, 2000: "Test w/HR 2:30" - The beginning of my newspaper career.

July 28-29, 2000: "American Co-ed Pageant" - Megan needed college funds and left no stone unturned. She won no pageant money but we both received an unexpected -- and unpleasant -- introduction to pageantry and "pageant moms." Believe me when I say Little Miss Sunshine resonates.

October 25-27, 2001: "Seward" - Our first visit with Megan to what would become her college town. And eventually Andrea's college town.

June 22-27, 2002: "Disney World" - Our last vacation as a family. <sniff>

June 29, 2002: "Marked words: Brianna will NOT be with Eric at this time next year!" - Too funny now. What's not funny is that marking one's words doesn't make things magically come true ... or eliminate the need to keep marking them.

May 25, 2003: "Andie's Graduation Party" - My baby, my last daughter, graduated and soon off to college.

June 27, 2003: "I'm old" - Any guess as to whose birthday this was?

July 22, 2006: "Meg's wedding!"

June 18, 2008: "BUBBY!" - Okay, it doesn't really say "Bubby," it says his real name. An all-caps pronouncement of joy just the same.

December 5, 2008: "D-Day!" - This was the day my layoff was scheduled ... and occurred. The end of my stint as a special sections editor. The end of my newspaper career.

Sprinkled throughout the calendar pages, amidst notes about the girls going on mission trips, attending prom, graduating from high school and college, are red-letter dates of concerts and performances that Jim and I were to attend: Pearl Jam, Live, Tommy, Black Crowes, Rent, Counting Crows and more. Memorable occasions all. But my pile of ticket stubs serves as a better reminder of those particular dates. And, yes, serves as another large stack of paper this non-packrat refuses to get rid of.

On second thought, maybe I am a packrat after all. A sentimental packrat with lots of memories worth holding on to.

Today's question:

What do you do with your old calendars?

Top smiles of 2010

The end of a year begs for lists, so despite sharing a list with you yesterday, I'm here with another today. This time it's ... 

My top 9 smile-inducers of 2010

Bubby. Always. In all ways!

Jim's support, with comments such as, "You really shouldn't try to get a job. Keep writing. I have a feeling things are going to take off for you this year."

Brianna moving into her own first home ... which was the first home Jim and I owned ... which was a weensy bit weird ... yet wonderful.

Signing with an agent. A real NYC agent. (Stay tuned for the miles o' smiles when she gets my work accepted for publication!)

My splendiferous end-of-summer adventure with Bubby.

Andrea getting an awesome new position that makes the most of her people skills and winning ways.

 Megan and Preston announcing that baby No. 2 -- grandson No. 2! -- is on his way. Hip-hip-hooray!

Celebrating Thanksgiving with my entire immediate family for the first time in several years.

Grandma's Briefs readers. Grandma's Briefs Facebook friends. Grandma's Briefs Twitter followers. That's you ... and you ... and YOU!

I can't wait to see what calls forth all the sure-to-come smiles in 2011. Whatever they may be, I look forward to sharing them with you.

Happy New Year! Best wishes for peace, prosperity, love -- and lots of smiles -- for all in 2011!

Today's question:

What brought you smiles in 2010?

9 things I will NOT do in 2011

While lots of folks are making lists of all the things they plan to do in the new year, I'm taking the other tack and offering up 9 things I will not do in 2011:

1. I will not give up coffee. You can't make me, you can't make me, you can't make me.

2. I will not join a gym. At least not until I'm in better shape.

3. I will not become an alcoholic, a position covered quite well by plenty of people around me. As Mattie Ross said in the original True Grit, "I won't put a thief in my mouth to steal my brain." (That doesn't mean, of course, that I won't let a thief borrow my brain now and then; lending it out on occasion can be quite enjoyable when in the right company.)

4. In the same vein, I will not be an enabler for those around me who allowed their brains to be stolen. And I will not be an enabler of the enablers who are enabling those with missing brains to death. Literally.

5. I will not get too serious on this blog. Or too revealing. Or too personal. Most of the time.

6. I will not snigger or snort at whatever name Megan and Preston choose for my second grandson. Unless it's BillyBobJoeDon. Or Ashton. Or SkippyJon Jones (thanks, Mrs. Mayhem).

7. I will not get frustrated while trying to improve my photo-editing skills. And photo-taking skills. Okay ... I will not lie, either, so disregard what I just said about photos.

8. I will not give up -- on my books, my blog, my bank account. Or my dreams of the lives my girls should be leading. Or my dream of winning PCH ... or the lotto.

9. I will not make resolutions. At least not those that I'm darn-shooting sure from the get-go that I won't come within spitting distance of accomplishing.

Photo: Petr Kratochvil

Today's question:

What will you NOT do in 2011?

Moving to the limbo beat

I hope everyone's Christmas was wonderful in ways above and beyond what was expected. Mine was beautiful ... and easier than usual, for some reason. I'm not sure if I'm fretting less the older I get or maybe I've just made peace with our leaner lifestyle -- in terms of money, not weight, unfortunately -- but it was a lovely holiday all around. Despite family drama. Despite fewer pennies to rub together. Despite Megan, Preston and Bubby celebrating on their own 819 miles away.

Yes, all was merry and bright for Christmas 2010. Now it's on to limbo time, aka the week between Christmas and New Years Day. The seven days between "holiday mode" and "regular programming."

After the hustle and bustle of Christmas, it always feels a tad unnerving to just STOP the madness and float along in the dead space of the last week of the year with nothing on the agenda. At least my agenda. I have no real work for now. No decorations to take down yet. No returns or exchanges to make. No plans to shop for deals on gifts or decor for next Christmas.

I also have no plans to finish any of my multitude of half-finished things, whether that's half-finished in my mind, on my desk, or around the house. One week isn't enough to wrap up all I meant to accomplish in the year yet didn't.

I'm not talking just half-finished things, either, for there's plenty I never even began. But there's certainly no sense beginning something new this week when the first of the year serves as the ideal starting point for plans, project, resolutions ... even if they're plans, projects, and resolutions that were originally meant to be done this past year. Or last year. Or the year before.

So this is my free week. My limbo week. My week to do absolutely nothing.

Well, as nothing as an uptight-unable-to-relax-without-feeling-guilty-as-cuss grandma can do.

Or not do.

Photo credit: mcgilljp

Question of the day:

How about you? Do you consider this final week of the year a limbo week or your last chance to meet all your goals for the year?