25 December 2011

Merry Christmas

Snow is falling lightly on the coast of Maine.

I might have shared this song before, but it never gets old for me. And it's so very true about the lovely state in which we live...





We've had a rough couple of weeks, but by God's grace, today was peaceful and lovely memories were made.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you all...

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

23 December 2011

Catching up...

It's a good thing I did the 30 days of Thanksgiving in November, because shortly into December, the sh-- pretty much hit the fan. Suddenly what we thought were relatively minor health issues in our family blew up in our faces.

We're holding our own and we're all together for Christmas (yay for kids home from college) and we're thankful that for now, all is well.

But setting myself up like that for being thankful was very helpful and therapeutic. Although I've been blindsided by a few things, I've been able to go back to being thankful, after the initial shock passed.

Today, everything is calm and a gentle snowfall has covered the yard, the driveway, and the streets; enough that we are now guaranteed a white Christmas.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

02 December 2011

Christmas Candles

My only decorating attempts so far...


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

01 December 2011

Full Calendar


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

30 November 2011

Day Thirty - My Husband

When I met my husband on our blind date just over 20 years ago, I'm not sure if there was ever a date I wanted to go on less than that one. I had just come out of a 2-year relationship that ended in lie after lie being revealed, and lots of ugliness. As I mentioned in my post about my in-laws, I only agreed to meet Todd to be a sport and to get out of town for a couple of days. Besides, he was leaving the next week to move to California. I'd never see him again, so what did I have to lose?

I was living in D.C. at the time, and we met in the Virginia Beach area in late July. The weather was typical - hot and humid; emphasis on HOT. And HUMID. When he picked me up at the hotel where I was staying with my parents, he was early and I wasn't finished drying my hair. I asked him in to sit in the hotel room to wait, and the room was a mess. It was clear that he was unimpressed, but I was also unimpressed with his stoic face and lack of a smile. Our plan was to drive a half hour or so to a nearby town to see some kind of wild animal park, and then go to Historic Williamsburg. All I could think of when I first met him was, Geez, it's going to be a long day.

Yet, he WAS cute. In a non-smiling sort of way.

We got into his truck and the A/C wasn't working very well. Soon I was dying in a pool of sweat, while we tried to make small talk. Knowing now how much we both HATE small talk, I have to laugh at our efforts back then. One of the first things he told me was that in college, he had majored in history, to which I responded, "Deliberately?" Yeah, I couldn't shake being a smart ass, especially since I wasn't going to see this guy again anyway. Knowing now how seriously he takes history, and his background in it, it's a wonder he didn't throw me out of the truck. And I would have thanked him, as it had to be cooler OUTSIDE the truck, on the side of the highway.

We walked around the wild animal park, still sweating and still making small talk, but at one point, he sort of smiled. And then he made a joke. It was a goofy joke, but there it was. Wow - Grumpy has a sense of humor! Maybe this day wouldn't turn out to be as torturous as I originally feared.

Afterward, as we were driving to Williamsburg (which, I might add, I had visited before, and had no desire to visit again) it began to rain. It rained HARD. We found a parking space in the packed lot near a restaurant in the historic part of town where we'd planned to have lunch, but the rain was coming down in sheets so we just sat in the truck talking and waiting for it to subside a bit.

It didn't.

If nothing else, the rain came down harder. After about 15 minutes, we decided to make a run for it. It was about a 100 yard run through the parking lot and down a sidewalk to the front of the restaurant. By the time we got there, we were completely drenched. My cute little 80s poofy hairstyle I'd fixed while he waited in the messy hotel room was now a thing of the past. Our clothes were also soaked through. But hey, at least now we were no longer hot and sweaty.

The restaurant had a long wait, so we stood in the lobby with about a million other drenched tourists, but now we were laughing. Yes - he not only smiled, HE LAUGHED.

After lunch, the rain had subsided and cooled things off. We walked around historic Williamsburg and he pointed out all the historical sites. I pretended I was impressed, but I enjoyed his handsome face and elusive smile much more than the sites. We passed by several shops. When we got to the Laura Ashley shop, he paused and asked if I wanted to go in. I said, "No way," probably a bit too abruptly. He didn't know it then, but I'm a blue jeans girl (I was actually wearing cut offs, so it might have clued him in) and I told him Laura Ashley was just not me. He smiled again and looked relieved. Apparently his mother had told him I'd probably like that shop. Ha. She knows better now. :)

By this time, the jokes were coming more and more often, and were more and more silly. But I was beginning to be smitten, so I thought they were hilarious. And then... we went into a book store.

Understand that I am not much of a shopper. A trip to the mall is not my idea of a good time. I go because I have to - not because I want to. In fact, the only thing I like about the mall is the food court, and the book store, if there is one. That said, book stores are one of my favorite places in the world. Turns out my blind date felt the same way. Suddenly, we'd found our common interest - we started walking up and down the aisles, talking about books, comparing books we'd read, sharing books we hadn't. And this was the clincher - he was the first guy I'd ever gone out with who had read more books than I had. My heart fluttered.

When we got back to the hotel later that day, he asked me out to dinner that evening. We spent the whole next day together, going to the beach with my then 4-year-old son, and then out to dinner again that evening. After dinner, we walked to his truck in the parking garage, where we talked for another few hours.

The next day, I left to go back home to D.C. and he left to move to California. But when I left again a few days later for a vacation in Colorado, he re-routed his coast-to-coast drive so he could come spend a few days with me. It was then that I knew.

A couple of visits, many long phone calls, and five months later, we were married. Twenty years later, the only thing I'd change is that we'd have gotten married sooner. When you know, you know.

The years haven't always been easy. Many times they were downright awful, and there were times I honestly didn't think we'd make it to ten years, let alone twenty. But here we are. I'm thankful we stuck it out during the bad times. I'm thankful we made the best of the good times. I'm thankful his mom had the idea that we ought to meet in the first place. I'm thankful for our children and the joy we've found in raising them. I'm also thankful that he is my best friend and that we are still enjoying each other now that the children are growing up and leaving.

Getting married is easy. Staying married is hard. But I highly recommend it. It's so worth it. Take it from one who knows first hand. :)

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

29 November 2011

Day Twenty-Nine - Books

I am thankful for books. This goes without saying. Show me a writer who doesn't like to read, and I'll show you someone who really doesn't know how to write.

I've been reading as long as I can remember. My mom was a kindergarten teacher before I was born, so she made me her guinea pig and tried to teach me to read at age 3, just to see if it would work. It did. I've been reading ever since.

Of course, my choices in reading material haven't always been good, edifying, or helpful. Some of it has been downright harmful.

When I was about 11-years-old, someone introduced me to romance novels, many of which were downright smutty. Nothing could be worse for an 11-year-old to read. Sort of like letting little girls watch or listen to fairy tales over and over - romance novels set me up for huge disappointments in my late teens and early adulthood. To date, my young adult daughters have never read romance novels, and I hope they never will.

In middle school, I discovered horror stories. Although my mother forbid me to read it, I scored a contraband copy of The Amityville Horror and read it each day to and from school on the bus. I was captivated. But it also scared the hell out of me. To this day, if I wake up at 3:15 a.m., I get freaked out. And the idea of a pig named Jodie with red eyes can still send shivers down my spine.

It was during college that I discovered John Steinbeck. I had read Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row in high school, but The Grapes of Wrath was the book that completely blew me away. I also had a wonderful literature professor who introduced us very gently and lovingly to William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses. It was a tough book, but she gave us a family tree that paved the way. Trust me, if you read the book, you NEED the family tree. I held onto my battered copy for years until I realized I could find it on the internet.

Over the years I've read thousands of books. Many were books I required my children to read during our homeschooling years, and many others I read to them aloud. I've read cheap, fluffy novels and deep, rich classics. As the years go by, I tend to put down more books before finishing them, than I used to. If a book doesn't "grab me" by the 2nd chapter, back it goes to the library or into the giveaway pile. The thrilling times are when I pick up a book I've never heard of and find it to be a gem. Recently for me, that includes Renato's Luck, by Jeff Shapiro; Lit, by Mary Karr; and now I'm reading City of Thieves, by David Benioff.

And of course, my battered old Bible has been a mainstay in my reading over the years. Imagine, God decided to communicate to us through the written word. I love that.

I'm thankful for all the books in my life, past and present, much like I'm thankful for the people. Ernest Hemingway said "There is no friend as loyal as a book." Well, Hemingway was a brilliant writer, but he had issues. I don't think of my books as friends, but more as mentors or security blankets. The characters inside them, however, are as real to me as my real-life family and friends.

What I wouldn't give to join in a conversation with Adam Trask, Sam Hamilton and Lee Chong from East of Eden. I re-read their conversations occasionally, laughing and weeping at the words that always manage to surprise me. Yes, I couldn't finish this without mentioning East of Eden as my all time favorite book, past, present, and probably future.

When someone asks, what book would you take to a deserted island if you could only take one? I just say - I'll go down with the ship. There's no way I could choose just one.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

28 November 2011

Day Twenty-Eight - My Neighbors

I've lived in a lot of different places, sometimes multiple homes/apartments in the same general area. Needless to say, I've had all types of neighbors.

When I was in high school, there was a boy who lived across the street that seemed to want to terrorize people. He had issues, and his story is sad, but back then, he was just a punk who peeped into people's windows and left broken glass at the end of their driveways. Our who family was glad to move away from that neighbor.

When my children were little and we lived in Navy Housing, every house on the block had at least three children (it was required to live there) so it was pretty much a free-for-all. Truly, I'd probably hate that now, but it was in Southern California and the kids could play outside year round and I LOVED it. Even when some of the neighbor kids were annoying.

Today in Maine, we live in a quiet neighborhood where most of the kids have grown up here, so a lot of them have moved on. There are a few young families, but not many. It is quiet. Wonderfully quiet.

But it's my immediate neighbors that make this home so delightful. We have one set of neighbors who shares our love of cats, and we take turns cat-sitting for one another when one of us goes out of town. We have a neighbor right next door who is our own personal neighborhood watch. He always knows what's going on and he looks out for everyone. He has been battling leukemia for the past few years (and winning, I might add!) and he is a wonderful neighbor. There is another family down the street a bit who also looks out for others. This summer, they replaced their front stoop, so they gave us their old (good) one. They are so kind.

We don't see any of these neighbors as often as one might think. Not only are we all busy with our lives, our homes are set back from the street and hugged by trees, and let's face it - Maine winters aren't very conducive to chatting it up with a neighbor over the back fence. More likely, we share a cold wave and nod while plowing our driveways or scurrying down our icy paths to get the mail.

Although we don't see each other often, I know my neighbors have my back, and I have theirs. That is something for which I am very, very thankful.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

27 November 2011

Day Twenty-Seven - Texting

I am thankful for cell phones. And I just have one question: what DID we do before cell phones? How did I survive high school in the 80s without being able to text anyone? How did my mom know when to pick me up from school? How did any of us communicate at all?

We made the best of our primitive circumstances, didn't we? We actually had to plan ahead for rides. And we had to pick up the phone (the one attached to a wall) if we wanted to chat with a friend.

There are some things about this technology-obsessed world that I don't like. But I LOVE cell phones. Even though I'm not supposed to do it, I text my kids while they're in class at school. Hey, they're MY kids and I'm paying taxes for that school; I'll do what I want.

I also love that I can communicate quickly with someone without having to go through all the pleasantries that come with a phone call. Texting saves time. Rather than a 10-minute chit chat, I can say - "Still meeting at 10?" And get a response within minutes or even seconds - "Yep." And there you go, conversation over.

Even my mom and dad have embraced texting. My dad and I text back and forth during football games - me in Maine and him in California. We talk about the game without actually TALKING during the game. No interruptions, just - "Did you see THAT?" Or "Tebow did it again!"

So if you don't have a cell phone or if you're not a texter, you might not ever hear from me.

Just so you know.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

26 November 2011

Day Twenty-Six - Parties

Today I am thankful for parties. Usually when we go to a party or have a party, we'll say, "Aw, we really ought to do that more often." But we never do. And really, if we did, that would take the fun out of it.

There are some people we only see when we go to parties, but we always have fun with them. We always say we ought to get together with them at other times, but life is so busy and we never do. Maybe we will when we have our empty nest; or when the weather gets warmer; or when we get out of debt;... or maybe we never will. Maybe that's as far as that relationship will go.

And that's OK. That's where we are in our lives right now. And that's why I'm thankful for the parties. :)

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

25 November 2011

Day Twenty-Five - Good Friends

This is the smallest Thanksgiving we've had since... since we were first married. And actually, we liked it that way. There was no schedule to keep, we were extremely casual in our dining, we didn't have to make the house especially presentable and we didn't have to go anywhere.

Over the nearly 20 years that we've been married, we've had Thanksgiving with various friends and family members, sometimes at our house and sometimes at the homes of others. In the past few years, our closest relatives have been doing their own thing, so it's just been us and our kids. But then on Saturday evening after Thanksgiving, we have some friends who throw an After-Thanksgiving-Leftovers-Party.

This is a wonderful idea because it is low key and you can bring anything you want. It doesn't have the coziness and intimacy associated with Thanksgiving, but it has all the fun and celebration of more like a New Year's Eve Party.

But yesterday, in thinking about all the things for which I'm thankful, I found that good friends is up near the top of my list. Having lived all over the country I have left friends here and there along the way. Consequently, I've suffered through many good-byes, but I also have people to visit if/when I go back. I'm thinking of my friend Lori, in Colorado; my friends Connie, Bob & Nicole and Kelley & Evan in San Diego; my friend Kellie in Missouri; my friends Debbie and Jackie in Virginia; my friend Becky right here in my neighborhood; not to mention all my Internet Friends I talked about earlier this month. Those online friends have become real life friends and they know who they are.

There is also my very special friend, Michelle, who died a few years ago, but whose voice I can still hear when I wonder "what Michelle would say about that." Her death at a young age was a shock and still is, and I will never forget her.

What would life be without our friends? I've sat here trying to write a sentence summing up what my friends mean to me, and I find I don't have the words. Of course I think of my husband as my best friend, and he is, but my other friends, even the ones I don't see or talk to regularly, have been there for me at times when perhaps my husband wasn't around (Navy deployments) or if HE happened to be the one I was mad at (not that that's ever happened). :)

My friends have helped to make me who I am today. Thank you, friends. I couldn't survive this crazy world without you.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

24 November 2011

Day Twenty-Four - Happy Thanksgiving!

This 30 days of Thanksgiving has been a very good thing for me. I realize I should be doing this every day of the YEAR, not just in November. It's changed my perspective and my attitude.

Today, among all the other things I've already listed for which I'm thankful (and all the things I still have to list) I am thankful for GOOD FOOD. What other day of the year do we celebrate with such bounty?

If you've never done so, today (or someday soon) you ought to go visit my friend Barb's delicious website, My Sister's Kitchen. If you get there and don't know where to start, just start with the Orange Pecan Rolls. And after that, go check out her Sourdough Bread Recipe. I've tried these recipes myself (and many more) and I can guarantee their tasty goodness.

We had a small, quiet Thanksgiving day here on the Maine coast. We got seven inches of snow yesterday, so it was a beautiful, crisp morning with a blue sky and frozen trees. My two older children are both in school out on the West Coast, so they went to New Mexico to spend the holiday with my mom. They got to see their grandma, she got to have company, and they are getting a much needed break. Win win win!

So here at our house, it was just me, my husband, and our youngest, who will also be off in college this time next year. We made a modest Thanksgiving dinner together, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We talked about all the things for which we are thankful, and now we're watching football and eating pie.

I want this attitude of thankfulness to stay with us long after Thanksgiving has passed. My hope and prayer is that we will show our thanks and FEEL thankful all the time; because we all know we have so much for which to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours, and God bless.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

23 November 2011

Day Twenty-Three - Heated Seats

I discovered heated car seats when we got our mini-van (the one that was totaled last year). Back when I was in high school, I used to have to wear my cheer-leading uniform to school on game days. For whatever reason, I didn't have a long coat, and apparently I wasn't smart enough to keep a blanket in the old car I used to drive, so my legs were... cold, to say the least.

And then I came to Maine and technology blossomed and now we have heated seats. I didn't even know about them until we got the mini-van. It was an older van, but it had leather seats. Ooooh yeah, leather seats - everyone seems to like those. But sitting on a leather seat in a car that's been in sub-zero temperatures all night can be torturous.

But crank up that heated seat about five minutes before you get in the car and... ahhhhh.

My little Volkswagen (the one that replaced the totaled mini-van) has heated seats, as does the jeep we bought my daughter a few months ago. Our cars might be old and have a lot of miles on them, but our tushies will be warm in the winter.

And on days like this...


I am so thankful for those heated seats!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

22 November 2011

Day Twenty-Two - Freedom of Speech

It's rather ironic that I am thankful for Freedom of Speech, as I so often proclaim that half the known world (especially the world that is found on radio and TV) just needs to shut up. (I say half the known world when I really just mean here in our country.) The reality is that although I would like to silence quite a few folks out there, it goes both ways. If I can say my piece, so can they. It's the American Way.

But it's more than just saying what we please. I am thankful that we don't live in fear because of something we've said or written. There are places in this world where saying or writing the wrong thing will get you killed.

Here we are free to voice our opinions, our dissent, our praises, and our frustrations. We are free to proclaim our desires, air out our differences, and most of all - we are free to think. To THINK.

There are those in our country who would like to squelch this freedom, but it will not happen. For too long we have been a nation of free and passionate thinkers. It's what makes us great.

A couple of days ago on Facebook, I saw that two of my daughter's high school friends had posed for a photograph. The young man was wearing an anti-Obama sweatshirt, and the young woman was wearing a pro-Obama shirt. They were standing arm-in-arm. They are friends. Many mutual friends commented and several spoke up as to which shirt THEY would be seen wearing. But all agreed that it was a very cool picture.

They spoke their piece. They disagreed. They are still friends.

A few elections ago, I had a friend who asked me whom I was going to vote for in the presidential election. When she discovered that we were not in agreement, she ended the friendship then and there. Her words were, "I cannot be friends with a person who would vote for him." I was stung, but I realized she obviously wasn't much of a friend in the first place.

And I thought it was rather infantile and closed-minded. I had already known we weren't in agreement, politically; I had just never pointed it out. I was OK with it. Apparently she was not.

Wouldn't it be boring if we all thought and believed the same way? How would we learn? How would we stretch our minds and explore new ideas?

I want to be like the two high school students with the opposing messages on their shirts: standing arm in arm and smiling. Oh, that we could all be like them.

That is the American Way. And I am very thankful for it.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

21 November 2011

Day Twenty-One - Freedom of Religion

I once heard an interesting comparison of religion here in the United States to that in communist nations. Here we have freedom OF religion, but communism promises freedom FROM religion. This is an important distinction and one that is often forgotten.

Religion has always been a huge part of our country, as many of the very first immigrants came here to escape religious oppression, or simply to worship in their own way. Since then, millions more have come with the promise that they can practice their religion any way they choose.

But today there are those who think that the separation of church and state means that religion should have no part in our government buildings, our schools, or even in public places. There are also those who think that everyone in the U.S. should be part of their religion, and they will go to great lengths to try to make that happen.

Both parties are wrong. We are not a Christian nation nor a Muslim nation nor a Jewish nation. We are a free nation. As a Christian, I am thankful this is not a Christian nation, because I wouldn't want the government telling me how to worship my God.

Yet we also are not an Atheistic nation. Most of our people practice some type of religion and should be free to do so. Rather than keeping religion out of our buildings and our schools, we should be teaching our children about our rich heritage and encouraging them to seek something bigger than themselves.

I am thankful that our founding fathers saw the importance of letting religion be a choice. My prayer (yes, prayer) is that that will never change.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

20 November 2011

Day Twenty - My Grandparents

I lost both my dad's parents before I was in my teens. They lived in Texas, where we visited them a few times at their conservative little house in Waco, and I remember when they came to Colorado to visit us. But then before I was really old enough to understand all the ramifications of it, they were brought to a nursing home in our town. My grandfather died within months and my grandmother died a few years later.

My mom's parents were a different story. Her father died when I was a baby, so other than through photos, I have no memory of him. Her mother, however, passed away last year just weeks shy of her 95th birthday. She was my Nana.

As opposed to my other three grandparents, I knew Nana. I have memories of her that span four decades. She was a huge part of my life, even though we never even lived in the same town.

But interestingly, all my grandparents were instrumental in my life and in how I became who I am today. They carried on traditions, passed on personality traits, and taught my parents ideas, values, and even bad habits, that now are part of me.

My grandparents, like everyone else on this planet, were flawed people, but through my own parents, they gave me life. But more specifically, they gave me a love for reading and education, a zeal for life, a commitment to family, a love for other people, and a faith in God. Yes, they also gave me a tendency toward arrogance and discontent, as well as quite a few other negatives... but I choose to focus on the good.

My goal is to take the blessings my grandparents passed on to me, and leave that for my children. I can't say I haven't left them some of the negatives as well, but I'm trying not to. That's where self-control comes in.

I don't want to use my grandparents (or parents for that matter) as an excuse for the bad, but as a launching point for the good.

A big thank you to my grandparents - for being themselves. Although they will never be remembered in our nation's history books, they mattered. They mattered to me.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

19 November 2011

Day Nineteen - The Local Public Schools

The day after my post about being thankful for homeschooling, it might seem odd to say that I am thankful for the local public schools, but I am.

Let me be clear - if I had to raise children all over again, I'd want to do it the same way. I'd want homeschool them until high school. Having children spend every day with very large groups of their peers is not a good thing, in my opinion. I work in the schools and I see the pack mentality, the bullying, and the ostracizing. Plus, there are the kids that are unintentionally ignored in class either because they are smart or because they don't have behavior problems. In other words, the "good" kids are the ones that often aren't getting their needs met.

The teachers, however, are gems. I sub in all the schools in our district, from elementary to high school, and every day I see people who are overworked and underpaid, yet they love these children and have dedicated their lives to them. In so many ways, the teachers' hands are tied. Most forms of discipline are no longer allowed, and countless children come to school without having had any sort of training or discipline at home.

The teachers can only do so much, and the kids know it. Consequently, the loudest and most obnoxious kids get all the attention because they can't be put into a corner, spanked, or even sent home. In fact, usually they are sent off with another teacher or ed tech to have alone time, but most of them see it as a treat, rather than a punishment. After all, they are being singled out, they are getting out of class, and they are getting a special privilege. The "good" kids see it this way too. It's very sad. I've actually seen the good kids act up in hopes that they will get to go for a walk with Mrs. So-and-So.

Yet the teachers keep coming back day after day, year after year, doing what they CAN. They try new things, they persevere, and somehow, miraculously, the kids do learn. Because that is what those teachers are - miracle workers.

Last week I attended the National Honor Society induction ceremony at the high school, and I saw 40 or so students who are the best and the brightest in our town. The vast majority of those kids were brought up right here in our small-town Maine public school system, and now they are successful, smart, and college bound. Much of it is because of those persevering teachers back in the elementary and middle schools.

When I was homeschooling, people marveled and claimed they could never do what I did - that it was just too hard. Even now when I mention that I used to homeschool, most people, even the public school teachers pause and talk about how difficult it must be. But let me tell you, I've seen both sides. Homeschooling is a walk in the park compared to being a teacher in the public schools. They are on the front lines, battling the problems that are plaguing our country right now as a whole - mainly, the lack of discipline and self-absorption - a dangerous combination.

I started subbing with the plan to go back to school to get certified to teach, but this past year has shown me that I simply don't have what it takes. I trained and disciplined my own children in my own home, and they were a delight to teach. They learned and they thrived, and they didn't have to wait for a half a dozen discipline-problem kids to be fixed before we went on with our lessons. In other words, we didn't waste time.

I don't know what the answer is. Not everyone can homeschool, and many folks shouldn't - what a disaster that would be. Yet, something has to be done. Discipline needs to re-enter the schools. Either way, the public school teachers have my full support and I thank God that they are bringing up our nation's future generations.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

18 November 2011

Day Eighteen - The Privilege of Homeschooling

It's difficult to express how thankful I am that we were able to homeschool our children. Homeschooling isn't for everyone, nor is it even possible for a lot of families. But when our oldest was having trouble in school at age eight, and the schools in California were... lacking, I am thankful we were able to pull him out and do it ourselves.

When I first started homeschooling my son and the girls were still toddlers, I figured I'd only do it for a year, to get him caught up. After the first year, it seemed like a good idea to do one more year. After that year, we thought we were going to move out of California, so for continuity, we continued to homeschool. By then, our middle daughter was joining in, and learning to read at the age of four.

By the time we did finally move to Maine, I was still saying we'd take it year to year. And then when my son hit middle school and the girls were well into elementary school, I figured, why mess with a good thing?

This spring, my oldest will graduate with his Master's Degree, my middle daughter will finish her freshman year in college, and my youngest will graduate from the local public high school. They are confident, strong, and they are not easily influenced by their peers. In fact, I think that is the biggest benefit of homeschooling. Homeschooled kids don't normally rely on their peers for their self worth; and that is a really, really good thing.

This is one of the things in my life for which I am so thankful, and if I had to do it all over again, I certainly would.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

17 November 2011

Day Seventeen - Power, Water, etc.

Here in Maine, we lose power each winter. Sometimes even in the summer. We have a wood-burning stove, so heat in the winter is never an issue. But if the power is out for more than 12 hours or so, we have to move all our refrigerated food out into the garage, where the temperature in winter rarely gets above freezing.

We've never lost water, thankfully, but we are prepared just in case, with several gallon jugs of water waiting for that day that hopefully will never come.

After Hurricane Irene back in late summer/early fall, and then with the surprise late October snow storm, my husband is lobbying to get a generator. Lobbying because we've lived all these years in Maine without one. Maybe we're getting soft in our old age. Or maybe it's worth spending $800 to know that if we lose power in the warm months, we won't lose all the food in our refrigerator and freezer. And if we lose it in the winter, we'll still have TV. And microwaved popcorn. Priorities, you know.

Each time the power goes out, it causes our family to pause; not only because suddenly there is very little to do in this technology-powered world, but also because it makes us grateful for what we're missing. When the power goes out, it's a little fun because we light candles and read and play cards. Or sometimes we just go to bed early. Imagine!

But when the power comes back on, I always feel incredibly thankful. For the lights, of course, but also the hot water, my hair dryer, the microwave, and the washing machine. Especially the washing machine!

Yay for power!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

16 November 2011

Day Sixteen - Modern Medicine

I think it's safe to say that we're all thankful for modern medicine. With the chaotic mess that is now our nation's health care, let's not lose sight of the fact that although the system may be broken, the product is not.

We have made unbelievable advances in medical care in just the last century. In fact, in just the last 50 years. Heck, in the last decade.

And not only am I thankful that there are now treatments for cancer, what about Novocaine and antibiotics? Childhood immunizations and flu shots? Ibuprofen and NyQuil? We live in a country where many types of medicine are available in every corner drug store.

I am thankful for modern medicine. My hope, however, is that every person on the planet can have access to that medicine. It is a tragedy that people are dying because of a lack of simple medications that we take for granted here in this country.

If you know me personally, you know I have a love/hate relationship with the medical community here in Maine. I won't go into it all now, but it's not the individual health care professionals that are the problem (well, ok some of them perhaps, but most are wonderful), rather, it's the bureaucrazy. Yes, you read that right. BUREAUCRAZY.

Yet, I am thankful. Very, very thankful.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

15 November 2011

Day Fifteen - My Treadmill

About eight years ago, we bought an exercise bike. I was running regularly, but with Maine winters being what they are, I thought the exercise bike would suffice on those days when the weather or the temperature made it too awful to be exercising outside. And we found a cheap one for just over $100. No such thing as a decent treadmill anywhere near that price.

I rode that bike maybe a dozen times before I remembered how much I hate riding a bike. When you're not into bike riding, choosing a stationary bike for exercise is not the best idea. Before long, it became a clothing rack. Then it finds a new home in the garage. Now it lives with my in-laws.

I've always wanted a treadmill, but I wanted a good one (read that: one we can't afford) and I've been afraid to spend the money only to find that it turns out just like the exercise bike. So instead, I've spent money on outdoor weather gear such as Under Armor and Smart Wool socks Still, when there is ice on the street or it's windy and snowing or if the temperature is more than 10 below... there are simply times during Maine winters when it's not safe to be exercising outdoors.

So earlier this year when we were surprised by a decent tax return, we took the plunge and bought a good treadmill. Not a professional treadmill, like one would find in a gym, but a very nice home treadmill. Part of the agreement for getting it was that my husband would finally start exercising regularly.

Since then, I've been walking and running way more than I ever did before. We put the treadmill in our basement where it's nice and cool, and all summer while I was training for the marathon, if it rained or was too hot and humid to go out, I used the treadmill and watched TV.

That's key - you do need music or TV with the treadmill, or it's boring as hell.

Now I've gotten addicted to knowing EXACTLY how fast I'm walking or running at any given moment, and I love that it tells me how many calories I've burned. Not only that, I am a morning exerciser. With the treadmill, on the days I work early, I can start running not long after 4:00am without worrying about darkness, ice, or wild animals. (Ok, there aren't many wild animals in our area other than squirrels, but you never know.)

And guess what. My husband is exercising regularly for THE FIRST TIME in all the years that we've been married. That's nearly 20 years.

I have a feeling that this year the winter won't be quite so horrible for me. Of course, that's just a hunch.

In any event, I am very thankful for my treadmill on oh so many levels!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

14 November 2011

Day Fourteen - My In-Laws

I am tremendously thankful for my in-laws. And no, I'm not just writing that because they read this blog. The reality is that few of my family members read anything I write here. They all know about it and they read it sometimes, but they rarely remember it's even here and when they do, they often can't remember how to find it.

I have to begin by pointing out that I have my mother-in-law to thank for introducing me to my dear husband in the first place. She and my mom were room-mates in college about 100 years ago. After college they each got married and went their separate ways, but they always kept in touch through Christmas cards and random, once-or-twice-a-decade visits.

One of the visits took place at their Alma Mater in Texas, when all the parents attended their 25th college reunion. My future husband didn't go, as he was away at college in New York, but his sister was there. The whole reunion was a freak show in my 17-year-old opinion, and I thought the parents all very lame. Plus, at the homecoming football game, I had to wear a chrysanthemum corsage the size of a dinner plate. But then, that's Texas for you.

Apparently one of the early visits was the first time I actually met my husband. I was two-years-old and he was five. We don't have a photo and neither of us remembers it, but they tell us it's a fact. If we did meet then, it would be another 22 years until we were to meet again.

The most important visit occurred when I was 24-years-old and had a 4-year-old son. The future in-laws (which I still didn't know would be my in-laws) came to town and met my parents for lunch. My son and I were invited to go along too. At that lunch, my future mother-in-law, who is a very friendly and funny person, told me that I should meet her son because he is very tall and handsome and because she really wanted grandchildren. Yes, really. I had just come out of a bad relationship and really had no interest in meeting her son, but I played along and said yes, wouldn't that be lovely?

Within the month, my parents had a plan to drive to a city a few hours down the coast, where these future in-laws happened to be living, and where their handsome and available son would happen to be in town at the same time. My parents invited me to go along, and it was casually mentioned about me possibly meeting this guy, but I shrugged it off. I went along because I had nothing better to do, but I really wasn't interested in meeting anyone.

But we did meet. And suffice it to say, the date when well. Long story short, we got married five months later. That was 20 years ago.

In the subsequent years, we've all had our ups and downs, but I am here to tell you that I have some of the best in-laws around. Thankfully, they only live four hours away from us, and we see them several times each year.

They have been so good to us - they've taken care of our children, they've taken care of our pets, they let us live with them for nine weeks one summer when we were homeless and unemployed, and they've always just loved us for who we are. They have the same values that we have and they have helped to impress that upon our children. I might add, too, that they've always treated our oldest son as their own - so much so that I forget they didn't know him before he was four-years-old. They are fun and funny and we love spending time with them.

I am incredibly thankful for my in-laws, especially for my mother-in-law's matchmaking abilities. :)


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

13 November 2011

Day Thirteen - My Church

When we first moved to Maine in the 90s, we were a little disappointed in the meager selection of churches - or rather, of church types. The vast majority of the churches we visited were very traditional and a bit old fashioned.

Understand that we had come from San Diego where we'd help start a surfer church. The services were held in a Middle School auditorium that was just a mile or so from Pacific Beach. Baptisms were done in the ocean or the bay. Church services were held ON the beach once a month. The pastor, as well as most of the people in the church were avid surfers. The rest of us were just looking for a fresh, non-judgmental church that had solid teaching, but wasn't hung up on how people dressed or what their past looked like. Plus, the church had a band, and the music was amazing. We sang Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith songs. In a word, it was COOL.

It was also very California - and what was I thinking, hoping that we'd find the same thing here in Maine? It seemed all the churches here, though adorable, with their tall white steeples, charming pews and stained glass windows, were very traditional. Meaning, stuffy and boring; they reminded me of the type of church my GRANDMOTHER would enjoy.

But we wanted to go to church and wanted our children to grow up going to church. We wanted to worship God, but we preferred to do it with like-minded people. Could we find such people somewhere under those pretty, white steeples? We visited several and felt like we were the youngest people there by about 40 years.

And then finally, we found one that really surprised us. It had a white, pointed steeple, it had pews, and it had a stained glass window. But it also had a very diverse crowd that defied the image one might assume from the view of the outside. The first day we were there, people of all ages came up to us to welcome us, shake our hands, and learn our names. On that same first day, the pastor and his wife invited us to their home for lunch. The next week, people remembered us and seemed genuinely glad that we had returned.

Now, I'm generally a bit cynical and suspicious, and if someone told me this story, my first thought would be - CULT!! But this wasn't that. This is a church full of warm, kind people who genuinely like each other and genuinely want outsiders to feel like one of the family.

I know this because all these years later, we still see the same thing happening. These people love one another, and they still welcome visitors with open arms. No, they don't have much of a band, but they have some great singers, and a pastor who teaches the truth. What more could anyone ask for in a church?

I am thankful for our church and the people there who are not just fellow church-goers. They are family.


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

12 November 2011

Day Twelve - Television

Television?? Yes, I am thankful for the TV.

Although this probably sounds frivolous and trite compared to all the other more important things to be thankful for, the TV has given us a lot of good. Sure, these days the list of bad things it's given us would probably be a lot longer, but that list isn't the thing for which I'm thankful.

I'm thankful for TV because it is fun to watch our favorite shows together as a family, laughing, nodding, and seeing how the families on TV are like us - - and NOT like us.

I'm thankful for TV because we are a family that loves to watch sporting events. We would get to see a professional game perhaps once every five to ten years if we actually had to pay for a seat and go to the game. In fact, probably less often than that, since many of our favorite teams are far away.

I'm thankful for TV because it is still a learning tool. I remember watching Sesame Street and Electric Company most days after school and I learned a lot - probably more than I learned in school. But more than that, through TV, we can visit countries we never would otherwise see, we can listen to musical presentations and concerts that we might not otherwise afford to go to. TV takes us to places and shows us things that make our world a bit smaller and more approachable.

I'm also thankful because TV gives us news and human interest stories. It shows us our politicians up close and personal - and all that that implies. It takes us INSIDE all the places OUTSIDE our viewing area.

No, of course I don't think TV is THAT important, and yes, we certainly abuse it and watch way too much of it. But a lot of it is good, and for that, I'm thankful.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

11 November 2011

Day Eleven - Our Military

Today, on this Veteran's Day, I would like to say how thankful I am for our men and women in uniform. So many of us take for granted the sacrifices they make for our freedoms on a daily basis - they and their families.

Having been a Navy wife for 12 years, and now the wife of a Navy Reservist (same guy) I can attest a little bit to what those families go through. Thankfully, we weren't at war when my husband was going on deployments to the Middle East, but the separation was still agonizing.

To all our troops, their families, and especially to my dear husband - Thank You.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

10 November 2011

Day Ten - The Baby of the Family


I am thankful for my youngest child who was (and still is) a complete surprise to us. I was surprised with a pregnancy only three months after her sister was born. Surprise!

She surprised us as a baby and toddler by being quieter (by far) than either her brother or her sister. Surprise!

She surprised us by having a knack for the game of basketball by the age of eight. Surprise!

She then surprised us by turning the tables on her early, quiet years, and now she is easily the loudest, most dramatic, and most flamboyant person in the house.

And now that her brother has moved out, she's also the tallest. Surprise!

Seriously, this child was so quiet - emitting only grunts and mumbles for the first few years of her life, that I wasn't sure she'd ever talk. Today she never stops talking. Or singing. Or reciting something from a funny movie.

Recently she was voted class clown at her high school.

I am so thankful for surprises. If things had gone according to my plan, we would only have a family of four and we wouldn't know this amazing girl. But God often has other plans, sometimes surprising us in ways we could never imagine in our wildest dreams.

I am thankful for my precious, baby daughter who is now taller than me, and nearly 18-years-old. She makes me laugh on a daily basis and I couldn't be more proud of the person she's become.


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

09 November 2011

Day Nine - My Eldest Daughter


My middle child is the one who looks exactly like her dad. My other two kids look a lot like me, but this daughter somehow came into the world with only her father's genes.

She was born on Christmas Eve nearly 19 years ago, and what a Christmas gift she was. I began being thankful for her long before she was born, but her birth was such a blessing to us. It was an easy birth, and she was big, healthy, and perfect.

Today, my dear girl is in college thousands of miles away studying linguistics and languages... and I miss her so. But rather than talk about all the things I miss, I would like to talk about why I am so thankful for her.

I am thankful that at age five, she taught her four-year-old sister to read, even though I thought her sister wasn't ready.

I am thankful that she marches to her own drummer - she has never been a follower nor a conformist. I LOVE that.

I am thankful that she is artistic and shares her artistic talent with the family - most often by playing the piano. That's one thing I miss most since she's been at college - the piano playing.

I am thankful that she is a fighter. She's had a tough row to hoe since for the past ten years, health wise, but she is a survivor.

I am thankful for her heart for animals. In another dimension (for you Once Upon a Time fans) I'm convinced she would have been Snow White. Woodland creatures literally flock to her - I've seen it with my own eyes. Plus, she has the snow white skin and jet black hair, and who are all those short guys she keeps hanging out with? I just hope she stays away from apples...

I am thankful that the Southwestern United States has the sunshine that my little girl so desperately needs after growing up in the dreary, dark winters of Maine. I just wish our country was a bit smaller...

I am thankful that if there ever IS a Starfleet and an Enterprise, my daughter could easily have the job translating all the alien languages. :)

I was given a special Christmas gift 19 years ago and she turned out to be the gift that keeps on giving. I couldn't be happier or more proud that she's my daughter!



Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

08 November 2011

Day Eight - My Son

(1988)

Not everyone knows I was 20-years-old and single when my son was born. It's not a secret, it's just one of those things that I don't really think about anymore. My son is 24 now, most of the way through graduate school, and living in another state, thousands of miles away.

But get this: we still talk every day. EVERY DAY. We were always close, maybe because for the first four years of his life, it was just me and him and his grandparents. Maybe it's because after I married his adoptive dad and gave him two little sisters, he was my little helper. Maybe it's because when his dad went on two Navy deployments, he became the little man of the house.

I know now that I probably expected way too much of him by the time he was seven-years-old, but he was always so mature. With two babies only a year apart, I often relied on him to run into stores for me, and even answer or make phone calls for me. To this day, he still likes making phone calls way more than I do, so see - it was a good thing!

I couldn't be more proud of him and I thank God every day for the gift of my son.

(2011)


Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

07 November 2011

Day Seven - Pets

I had to make this post about being thankful for pets in general, because if I try to tell you I'm thankful for my three cats, most of you will think I'm lying.

I've had pets all my life, some of which have come and gone and are like little blips of memory in my life; others made a huge impact on me and my family, and I miss them still.

I have tributes to three of the pets we lost over the past few years: Shiloh, Lucy, and Ricky. But losing our German Shepherd, Roxanne, was so painful, I couldn't bring myself to write anything for the public to see. All I have on this blog regarding her memory is a photo of her HERE taken less than a week before she died.

Our current three cats are... ok, they're a pain in the neck. Well, two of them are. But this is a post about being thankful. I'm thankful for my three kitties because they make us laugh and smile - daily. They are active and funny and they love us. They watch us sadly as we leave the house, and all three are always sitting at the door, waiting, when we come home... and then they run when they know I've seen the cabinets they've opened and emptied or the garbage they've knocked over.

Still, I can't imagine a home without pets, and I'm thankful we are able to own them and care for them properly.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

06 November 2011

Day Six - The Denver Broncos

When I was 10-years-old, the Denver Broncos went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Dallas Cowboys. My dad was a Cowboys fan, and since we were living in Colorado, I was naturally a Denver fan, even if I wasn't entirely sure why. I had recently learned how the game of football worked by playing my cousins' hand-held video game of football (I don't remember what it was called, but those games were popular in the late 70s).

On the night of the big game, my dad and I sat in our little TV room and watched the whole game together. We sparred, verbally. We cheered our respective teams. We bonded that day.

My dad was (and is) a kind-hearted person, but we weren't inordinately close when I was young. He traveled for work and was gone a lot. Thankfully, we are much closer now that I am adult, but that's a different story.

The Denver Broncos, or rather, football in general, was the one thing my dad and I had in common when I was a kid. Today, he calls me nearly every Sunday during football season to talk about what the Broncos did (or rather, didn't do) that day.

When I met my husband, I found out he was a Bronco fan, having been born in Colorado, but then spending the rest of his growing up years moving all over the world as a Navy brat. I'd like to think the Broncos had a little something to do with our getting married. Today, we never miss watching a game on TV.

With everything going on in the world and having just 30 days to talk about what I'm thankful for, choosing a football team might seem a bit shallow or frivolous. But not to me. This team is something that bonded me to my dad at a young age and bonds me to my husband now.

And what about living in Maine and following the Patriots? Sorry, sports fans, I'm true to my team. Plus, I don't really like Bill Belichick. There, I said it.

So for now (and always) - - - Go Broncos! :)Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

05 November 2011

Day Five - Internet Friends

Thirteen years ago, not long after we settled in Maine, I joined a local homeschooling group and one of the other moms came over to my house for a visit. She brought her daughter, and while our children played, she asked me if I knew about the homeschool bulletin boards online. This was 1998, folks, so while I had email and had definitely surfed the net, I only vaguely knew about bulletin boards.

She set me up on a popular board, got me a user-name and password, and I was good to go. I visited the bulletin board each day and began to recognize a few familiar names. One gal I'll call Janet, befriended me and we occasionally chatted over email.

The next thing I knew, there was DRAMA on the bulletin board (those homeschooling moms can be a wild crowd, let me tell you.) Janet emailed to tell me that several of the moms were tired of the drama and the back-biting (most of which I was still blissfully unaware) and they had decided to start their own little group - a group that would communicate over an email loop. Turns out Yahoo had a thing where we could send out one email and it would go to all 10 gals. Who knew?

Now, over a dozen years later, those other 9 gals have become some of my dearest friends. Again - who knew? Since that day in 1998, we have shared successes and tragedies, laughter and pain, agreements and frustrations. We are scattered all over the country, with one gal in Canada. Over the years, most of us have met in person at least once; sometimes one on one and a few times in small groups. We've watched each others' kids grow up by sharing emailed photos, and many of us have met each others' kids during visits. Today, most of our kids are grown, and many of them are friends with each other on Facebook. It's kind of a trip.

I have other internet friends, as well. One lady I "met" online six years ago while building my Wicked Good Maine website. Although she and I have never met in person (alas, she lives in California), we talk regularly and I consider her one of my closest and most trusted friends.

I have another friend I met on MySpace, who also lives here in Maine. We are now friends on Facebook and we talk occasionally, but we've never met in person. But it FEELS like we have.

Since then, I've made friends through writing groups, through this blog, and of course, through Facebook.

How is all this possible? I remember years ago when we all were a bit afraid of the internet. One gal on my email loop told us for years that her husband didn't want her to try to meet us in real life, because he was sure we were all a bunch of weirdos or axe-murderers. Since then, we have a running joke about being axe-murderers. And by the way, her husband was right about us being a bunch of weirdos.

Let's face it, Maine can be a wee bit remote, especially in the winter time. Often, as I was homeschooling my children and it was too cold to venture out, these women were my only connection to the outside world. I treasure them as I treasure my family.

Thank you, my friends, for living inside my computer all these years, and for always being there for me, whenever I need you!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

04 November 2011

Day Four - My Baby Brother

The year I turned four-years-old and my parents told me were going to have a new baby in the family, I began to pray for the baby, just like my parents taught me to do. I prayed, first of all, that God would send me a little sister. Then I prayed that my little sister would be pretty, that she would like me, and all kinds of other four-year-old type prayers. I loved that little sister dearly.

And then the night my mom went into the hospital, my dad came back home and told me I had a new baby brother. Uh, ok… but where was my little sister? Suffice it to say, God didn’t answer that prayer the way I’d hoped. But I DID get a cute little brother.

Ok, in all honesty, he was an ANNOYING little brother - as annoying as they come. But then, aren't most little brothers annoying? No, I think mine was the king of annoying brothers. I was also the queen of uptight older sisters, so we evened each other out. We had all the little laughs and secrets and weird sayings that many siblings have, most of which we still remember to this day. No one will ever understand "Mommy hold you clay today fish" like my little brother. In fact, we don't understand it either, but it still makes us laugh. Isn't that what siblings are for?

For the past 20 years, my brother and I have lived on opposite sides of the country. He is in the Portland, Oregon area, and I bounced back and forth across the country between the East Coast and Southern California, before finally settling here in Maine. He has never been to Maine. I have been to Oregon once. We’ve met up a few times at our parents’ homes in California and New Mexico, but those visits have been few and far between.

We don't see each other nearly enough, but still... we are surprisingly close. We don’t talk as often as we’d like, but when we do, we usually talk for over and hour, and much of it is spent either laughing or discussing ways to save the world. We live very different lives, but we accept one another as we are. We weren’t always that way, but I’m so thankful that we are now.

One day I imagine we’ll see more of each other, once our parents become aged and need our help. I like that we are on the same page in that regard and that we have such a good rapport.

And I can safely say now that I am so glad God didn’t give me that little sister I asked for. I’m thankful he gave me a little brother instead. Not just any little brother - but THIS one. (The annoying one). :)

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

03 November 2011

Day Three - My Parents

Both my parents are alive and well. This is something for which I am incredibly thankful.

Forty years ago when I was a young girl, my I lost three grandparents within 10 years. Two were in their late 70’s, but the other was only 60. While medicine in the 1960s and 1970s had come a long way, it still had a long way to go. They died from colon cancer, emphysema, and a heart attack, respectfully. Today, with medical treatments being what they are, as well as current knowledge about diet and exercise, those grandparents might have lived many more years.

My parents are 69 and 70 years old and other than being a couple of decades older than me, they are as healthy as I am. Both exercise every day, eat right, and barring something unforeseen, will live many more years.

I treasure the relationship I have with both my mom and my dad, but I’m also thankful because my children have grown up knowing their grandparents; and now that they are entering adulthood, they are beginning to have adult relationships with those grandparents. They learn from them, share with them, laugh with them, and yeah let’s face it, they often laugh AT them, but both my mom and my dad are cool with that... when they get the joke.


Although both my parents live far away – my dad and his wife in California and my mom in New Mexico – I get to see each of them about once a year, and with Skype, email, cell phones, and Facebook, we stay in touch almost daily. And of course they like to visit Maine as often as they can.


My parents are not perfect (sorry Mom & Dad!) and over the years, our relationships have jostled over many bumps on the highway of life. But they are the parents God gave me. I wouldn’t be who I am today without them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

A Side Note... Vote NO on Question 2

There are advertisements on this blog, most of which I embrace and fully support. However, although I have opted out of putting political ads on this site, sometimes they show up anyway.

For the record, if you see a "Vote Yes on Question 2" ad on this site, I wholeheartedly DISAGREE with it.

Question 2 is all about building more casinos in Maine, and in my opinion, causing problem after problem after problem. Gambing is a no-brainer for me - I've seen it do more harm than good in every single situation.

The Question 2 folks are telling our lovely state that the casinos will help schools, bring in jobs, etc. In fact, most of their ads don't even mention a casino. They never talk about gambling addiction, prostitution, and bankruptcy - the REAL affects of casinos.

If you see that ad on this site, please ignore it. Or better yet, do just the opposite. Vote NO on Question 2.

And now we will return to our regularly scheduled program.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

01 November 2011

Day Two - Good Health

As I write this post, my youngest daughter is in the next room huddling under a blanket, coughing. She is missing her second day of school this week and will likely stay home again tomorrow.

Also as I write this, my husband is nearly two years into a dental ordeal that has included multiple surgeries, medications, and pain, not to mention a huge mountain of debt. We hope the whole thing will be over by some time in January.

What's more, as I write this, my middle daughter suffers with migraines and epilepsy, neither of which has responded to any sort of medication or treatment.

Me? My back hurts. It hasn't been bad enough to go to the doctor, but it's getting there.

Yet, on this second day of my 30 days of Thanksgiving, I give thanks for good health and for the good health of my family. Yes, we have our issues, but we also have health insurance, decent medical care, clean water, good food, and a warm home. So even when we are sick, we can be cared for adequately and safely.

Although my daughter has a nasty cold, perhaps even the flu, she'll get better. My other daughter has found natural remedies that help her situation, and she's finding her way, in spite of the difficulties. My husband has a good dentist and his dental ordeal will eventually end. Good health, fleeting as it may be, is something none of us should ever take for granted.

My next door neighbor has been battling Leukemia for a few years now, and after the 3rd go-around with chemo, he finally had a bone marrow transplant last month. I can say now that I am thankful for his good health, as well - incredibly thankful!

We don't know how long we have on this earth, but today, right now, our health is relatively good and for that, I am thankful.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

Day One - 30 Days of Thanksgiving

In this difficult economy and stressful time in our nation, I am thankful for my husband's job. He is our family's primary supporter and while his job often makes him frustrated, tires him out, and even on occasion, takes him out of town, it is a precious thing.

Here is a recent picture of us in Rochester, NY at a football game... during a rare vacation when my dear husband wasn't working or thinking about work.


Won't you join me in giving thanks for the next 30 days?

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween

Our jack-o-lanterns are all ready, and the snow has melted enough that the little kids can get to our door.


Let the sugar-high begin!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

28 October 2011

October Snow?

When I hopped on the internet this morning to check Facebook, email, and the weather (yes, probably in that order), I found this:


We have a winter storm watch in our area for tomorrow evening into Sunday.

Now, understand that I love the first snow of the season. In fact, technically, our first snow was yesterday. I walked out of Hannaford's to big, feathery flakes mixed in with the rain. It was beautiful and exciting. I couldn't wait to tell someone. Anyone.

It's like that every year. But usually our first measurable snowfall is in December. Later in December. And if you know me, you know that by the end of January, I'm pretty much ready for winter to be over. No, honestly, by the end of January, I CAN'T WAIT for winter to be over. I start to crave spring colors and sunshine.

So, you do the math. We are in October. This is two months early. Most of the leaves haven't yet fallen off the trees.

At this rate, I'm going to be finished with winter before it even begins.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

26 October 2011

Cat Lover?

My mom has never been a big fan of cats - at least not since I've known her. We had two cats while I was growing up, and after only having them a year or two, she got rid of them without consulting the rest of the family.

And yes, I consider this when I talk about finding a new home for our cat that spreads mouse guts all over our furniture. Maybe I finally understand my mom a bit better, is all I can say about that.

Either way, here is Mom, a couple of weeks ago, sitting out on our porch in that unusually warm fall weather we had, snuggling one of our cats. Sure, this is the GOOD cat, but it's still an odd thing for me to behold. Nice,... but odd.



Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

14 October 2011

Predators in the House

Years ago when one of our cats brought a dead mouse up to us from the basement, we were a bit put off, but we knew enough to tell her she was a good girl. The next few times, when she brought up mice that were still very much alive and set them free in our bedrooms, we weren’t quite as welcoming.

Now we have two young male cats that never leave a mouse alive. Not only that, they exhibit carnage, the likes of which I’ve never seen nor imagined seeing in my own home.

I want to spare you the details. But then, that would defeat the purpose of bringing it up, right?

Consider yourself warned.

Ok, remember we lock our two boy cats in the basement at night. Have no fear for there is furniture in the basement. And carpet. And heat. They love it down there. There is much to do, much to explore, and… of course there are the mice. Understand, we don’t lock them up for THEIR benefit. We lock them up because they are terrorists that love nothing more than sprinting across our faces in the middle of the night, wrestling across our bodies, and then meowing loudly and pushing things off our dressers when they get bored or hungry.

We need our sleep.

So, the boys sleep in the basement.

One morning last fall, upon letting them out of the basement, I found a mouse they had killed and it grieved me, as it always does. But this time the mouse was covered in cat saliva and its face was gone. I’m sure they had played with it until it was dead, but what about that face? Did they just gnaw on it, or were they hungry? NO – they are well fed. Either way, it was hideous.

Many other times, there is no apparent damage to the mouse.

One time, a couple of months ago, I found half a mouse. I searched and searched for the other half, but I can only assume they ate it.

Two weeks ago, I found the Queen Mother of mouse carnage. I was actually running down the basement steps, heading for the treadmill, and as soon as I rounded the corner from the stairs, I saw it. I can’t even say now that I’m positive it was only one mouse. There was a head. And a back end with the tail still attached. Then there was a bunch of other bloody stuff that must have been the rest of the mouse. Or a second mouse. In pieces. There were actually blood stains on our dark blue carpet.

Until that day, I thought cleaning up the dog diarrhea from all over our kitchen four years ago, was the worst thing ever. Ok, that still wins, but this was a close second. After picking up all the ... parts, I scrubbed the carpet – in several different places. By the time I finished, I had killed much of my exercise hour, and I wasn’t much up for the treadmill anyway.

I went back upstairs to sit down for a few minutes, when one of the mouse-killers jumped into my lap, purring and affectionate. Later, I told my husband it freaks me out that these violent predators live in our house; that they can impose such destruction on another being, yet then climb into my lap like a baby and seem perfectly harmless.

My husband’s response? Be glad we’re bigger than they are.

Eww.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

05 October 2011

Death in a Small Maine Town

A terrible thing happened here last week. Late Wednesday night, a young man in our community was in a fatal car accident. He was 18-years-old.

He had attended local high school and was in my daughter's senior class last year.

I'm a substitute teacher at the high school, but I did not know this young man. I know his face, because I recognize just about all the kids at the school, but I didn't know him. Yet, thanks to social media, I now feel like I know him, and I'm grieving him along with the rest of the school, the town, and the surrounding communities.

When news of the accident reached the high school students the next morning, they immediately began posting about it on Facebook. All that day, they dealt with their shock, horror, and grief online. They ask questions, they cried out in pain, and they took solace in the community that can be found on the internet.

In the midst of it all, they talked about the boy who died. They remembered and they shared. He was unique, kind, and very, very loved.

Before the day was over, the kids all decided to fore-go the "retro day" planned at school for the following day, in honor of Homecoming Friday. Instead, they agreed to dress in black, for the young man who died always seemed to be wearing black.

And sure enough, the next day, nearly every student showed up to school for the Homecoming pep really, dressed in black. Several kids made remembrance signs and "Rest in Peace" signs. And all over Facebook that day, kids who had graduated the year before posted that they were wearing black wherever they were - at college in Orono, Gorham, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona; or wherever they were working - Portland, Richmond, Augusta, Lewiston.

That night at the Homecoming football game, the packed bleachers shared a moment of silence as we remembered again the one young life who would never come back to the Homecoming celebration. There was not a dry eye in that arena.

In a small town such as ours, we become very close knit. We all look out for each other and if we don't know someone, we know at least 10 people who DO know that person. We are connected and we belong to one another if only in a small way.

When that young man died, everyone in our community lost either a son, a brother, a co-worker, a fellow-student, or a friend. We all grieve for him.

And if that weren't hard enough, this video of him was posted late on that first day after he died. It is beautiful and chilling all at the same time. You'll see what I mean.



(If the video isn't clear on your screen, go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqywaF8cDCc)

Rest in Peace, Cameron. You will be remembered.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

01 October 2011

Why I won’t be in the Marathon Tomorrow

Eight years ago, I started running. I never really enjoyed it, but after about 8 months of it, I successfully ran a 5K (at high altitude, no less) and I stayed with it for about another year, until I hurt my back. Then I stopped for 6 months and by the time I was able to run again, I just couldn’t seem to make myself do it.

Since then I’ve been walking. I walked with my dog until she died and not long after that I started walking with my friend, Becky.

Fast forward to three months ago. Becky and I were finishing our regular 3-mile walk when we decided to keep going. It was a lovely summer day and after the long winter, we needed the extra fresh air and sunshine. We walked 6 miles that day. We were a little sore the next day, but the next time we walked, we did 6 miles again. Then we did 7. And then I wondered out loud just how far we could walk.

We talked about 5Ks and 10Ks, marathons and half-marathons. Heck, we’d already been walking 10Ks, so maybe we should try to do a marathon. Or at least a half. I researched training schedules for both and realized we had plenty of time. I then found the Maine Marathon in Portland, which was scheduled for October 2, and they were a walker-friendly marathon.

But could we do it? 6 and 7 miles was one thing, but we were sore even after those walks. Could we train to do 26.2? We started down that path, literally and figuratively.

We began walking more, making sure we walked a couple of miles each day, with one or two long walks each week. We added miles to that long walk and by the middle of July, we were doing 13 miles at a stretch. We had already walked a half marathon! I took the plunge and registered for the full marathon. I was doing this baby.

By the first of August, when we were approaching 16-mile stretches once/week, Becky decided not to do the marathon. She was bogged down with family and work obligations and understandably couldn’t commit to the regular (and rigorous) training schedule. I was disappointed, but more than that, I was a little afraid to continue alone. After all, walking so many miles, if nothing else, takes TIME. Could I walk all those miles alone?

It turns out, I could.

During the third week in August, I did my longest walk – 20 miles. It took me half the day and by the last few miles, I had developed terrible blisters on the backs of my heels. This, after all those other long-walk days blister-free. I was set back, but not beaten. The next week my long walk was only 12 miles, and I wore bandaids to protect my healing blisters on that day, and on my shorter days.

The following week, the first week in September, I was scheduled to do my second and last 20 mile walk. The bandaids were protective, but not completely. By the end of the walk, my heels were a mess. I knew I could keep going and do 6.2 more miles, if necessary, but I didn’t really WANT to any longer. I was feeling slightly demoralized. Maybe a little more than slightly.

I took a few days off but stuck to the schedule.

That next Sunday, my family and I did the Trail to Ale 10K in Portland. The blisters were an issue, but it was only 6 miles and the weather was lovely.

Yet, I realized that I was no longer excited about the marathon. I had done 20 miles – TWICE – and I had had the thrill of the race with the Trail to Ale. It FELT like I’d already done the marathon, and I didn’t want to do it again.

But I couldn’t quit. That’s what my husband and several friends told me. I’d come so far! I’d worked so hard! I’d regret it if I quit! But the fun, excitement and anticipation were gone for me.

Each day, I continued to put one foot in front of the other as I lowered my mileage, tapering down to the big day, but I started imagining excuses for getting out of walking the marathon. I missed the days of walking just 7 or 8 miles. JUST 7 OR 8 MILES! Wasn’t that something? That had become my favorite distance, but I hadn’t done it in nearly two months.

Several days ago, in a flurry of clumsily running up the basement steps, I fell up the stairs, bending back the toes on my right foot and hurting my elbow. This is it, I thought, NOW I can quit! But no, my toes were fine by the next morning. But more and more I realized that the only thing I was thinking about this marathon was how to get out of it.

And then a combination of things happened.

First, the blisters have made a permanent home on the backs of my heels. My shoes were fine until I reached the 16-18 mile mark, and then something happened. But I was too close to the marathon to change shoes, so I’ve been sticking it out with these.

Second, … well, second is a girl thing, and I’ll leave it at that. As fate would have it, tomorrow – marathon day – is going to be the worst day of my month. And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Third, and maybe the clincher, is the weather. It’s been raining all day today and is supposed to continue through tomorrow. Half the fun of walking this marathon was going to be walking through the beauty of autumn in Maine, as well as the beautiful coastline, the charming homes in Falmouth, etc. And remember, I planned to WALK this marathon, so it would take me at least 7 hours to finish. Rain?? In addition to blisters and the girl thing? Good God, am I nuts?

I have more things I could add to this list, but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice it to say, tragedy hit our community earlier this week and it’s been an emotional few days.

So that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. I feel good about this decision and can honestly say I have no regrets. In fact now the only thing bothering me is that it’s bothering OTHER people.

I went to Portland today and picked up my race packet. Oh yes, I did. My husband thinks I’m crazy, but hey, not only did I pay for the shirt (and it’s a cool shirt), I trained for this marathon and I COULD do it if I chose to torture myself tomorrow. I walked and jogged over 420 miles over the past three months.

Maybe I’ll do another marathon another time, but more likely, I’ll stick to 10Ks and 5Ks. Either way, I’m glad I trained for this. I’ve learned things about what my body can do and I’ve pushed myself farther than I ever thought possible. Thanks to those of you who encouraged and supported me along the way, and thanks in advance to those who will support this decision.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes

29 September 2011

Blog-Novel... Blovel?

Recently I was alerted to the writing of a blog-novel which is set on the coast of Maine. Ideally I should have posted news about it here back in JULY when it was first being published on a daily basis. But then, I'm slow like that.

Now we're at the end of September, and the entire thing has been published. But that's a good thing, right? Because now you don't have to wait until the following day to find out what happens next.

The author is Michael Evans and the book/blog-novel(sorry, I just can't seem to bring myself to use the word 'blovel') is called Island Wars.

This is a fun read. If you've ever read a novel by Stuart Woods, then you'll love this, because it's written in that first-person, no-nonsense, quick conversational style. And you'll be glad you can just click to the next day's entry to see how the story progresses.

If you've like to read Island Wars, visit Down East Magazine at DownEast.Com Then go to the top right of the page and click on "BLOGS." Scroll down a bit and you will see Island Wars.

Or, just CLICK HERE and you'll be taken right to the blog. Remember it's been written in blog form, so you'll be viewing the last post. Scroll down to get to the beginning.

You'll be glad you did!

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes