31 October 2010

Happy Halloween

For the first time in my 23 years of being a parent, I am not taking anyone trick-or-treating, nor am I worrying about anyone out trick-or-treating. My son is off in Arizona, studying (his Halloween party was last night) and my two girls are watching horror flicks in the basement with friends.

After watching the Broncos lose, the Patriots win, and Brett Favre get hurt, my husband and I turned off football and now we're watching Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein.

It was weird, this year, we didn't carve pumpkins, and I didn't even drag our fake jack-o-lanterns out of the basement until after the first trick-or-treater arrived around 5:00 p.m.

But it FEELS like Halloween outside. All the pretty leaves are gone - only the oaks remain. It is cold and blustery. The air smells crisp and there is a hint of burning wood on the breeze. In my book, the holiday season has now officially begun. :)

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

29 October 2010

New Mexico Pics - And Nana

As I was flying west last week, I was surprised when the flight from Denver to Albuquerque went over the mountains. I've taken that flight many times, and it usually just follows Interstate 25 south. When we turned west at Colorado Springs, I had a momentary worry about terrorism... but to no avail. One I got over my surprise, I started snapping photos of Pikes Peak out the plane window.

New Mexico, as always, was dry, rugged, colorful and lovely.

In spite of, or perhaps because of, the circumstances, my mom and I had a wonderful visit... and the sun shone, at least a bit, every day I was there.

Lastly, and most importantly - the lady for whom the memories and sentiments are being shared and spoken by her family all around the country.

In younger days, my little Nana... Southern Belle, kind-hearted grandmother, loving mother, and always a lady. May she rest in peace.

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

25 October 2010

Bye-Bye, Nana.

Last Monday I awakened to a lovely autumnn morning, went for a 5-mile walk, and then started the usual monday tasks of laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, etc.

Then, just after noon, I got the phone call I had been half-expecting for several years now: Nana, my little 94-year-old grandma, has passed away.

Nana lived most of her life in Texas, but had spent the last 7+ years in New Mexico, so she could be near her two daughters - my mom and my aunt. She started out in assisted living, but then quickly deteriorated and dementia set in.

We were all surprised when she made it to her 90th birthday. That was nearly 5 years ago. In the past year, she's gone downhill, but not at any greater pace than before. I'm proud to report that my mom visited her at the nursing facility almost daily, in addition to working full time. In the end, my mom was one of the only people my grandma recognized, but I wonder if she still understood the concept that this nice lady who came to see her every day was her daughter.

On the day she died, my mom was there, holding her hand. Hard as it was, it was a beautiful thing. She went very peacefully - if only we all could go like that - at peace, and holding the hand of a loved one.

Yet, my mom was all alone in dealing with this hard thing, so the second half of my Monday last week was spent packing, madly finishing laundry, trying to plan meals for the family, and scrambling to find a flight. I left for New Mexico early Tuesday morning.

It was a special time for me and my mom. Much of what we did was just those things that are involved with the business of dying - going to the funeral home and crematorium, collecting Nana's things from the nursing facility, writing the obituary, notifying friends and family, and of course talking, remembering, laughing and crying. I'm happy to say that we laughed far more than we cried... and Nana definitely would have wanted it that way.

I arrived back in Maine late Saturday night after a long day of three different flights. When I walked into the tunnel that took us from plane to building, I saw a lovely sight; a sign posted on the doorway of the tunnel that said, "Welcome Home."

How cool is that?

So now I feel a bit like I'm taking up where I left off last week - not only doing all the Monday things listed above, but also getting things back in order for a family who is not used to me being gone. (Did it not occur to them to go to the grocery store when they ran out of things?)

But also, life is different now. Not that I had much contact at all with my Nana these past few years. Even when I did, I'm not sure she knew me. But she was my last surviving grandparent. All the others passed away before I was 12-years-old. Nana, however, was the one who was there every Christmas, the one whom I visited in the oppressive summers of Houston, the one who came to my wedding, got to know my children, and who used to call me every Saturday morning at 6am when I lived in California. She never did understand which way the time zones went.

More than anything right now, we're all feeling relief. Nana is no longer trapped in that body where she could hardly think, could hardly speak, and could hardly move. She is free, and I thank God for that.

But now there is also a Nana-shaped hole in our lives, the size of it depending on what she meant to us and how much we cared.

There are so many memories, but perhaps my favorite is when Nana would tell me I was her favorite granddaughter. I'd remind her that I was her only granddaughter, and then we'd laugh. And then I'd call her Nana-Banana, something I think she secretly hated, but that she always accepted from my brother and me.

She will be greatly missed.

R.I.P. Jean Carey (Nov. 5, 1915 - Oct. 18, 2010)

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

18 October 2010

More Fall Pics

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

16 October 2010

Autumn in Maine a.k.a. 'Don't you wish you were here?'

True confessions - these photos were taken a week ago friday. My daughter and I drove up to the Farmington area for a Cross-Country meet, and although it was cloudy AND late, we saw some incredible foliage.

The first half of these photos were taken through the windows of the car, as we were in a hurry to get there, so they aren't the greatest. The second half were taken just after sunset, so we had the darkness to deal with.

But you get the idea. The colors were amazing.

Most of the photos were taken right around the town of Rome Corner, which is just about the cutest, quaintest little town you will ever see.


Stay tuned. I have about a zillion foliage photos to upload, so you can expect the next few days to be colorful, if nothing else. :)

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

05 October 2010

Guard Cat

Lots of moans and growls at our front window this morning...

Little does our indoor kitty know, that little beast out there is her across-the-street neighbor whom we like very much.

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

03 October 2010

Cleaning out the Shed

We're chipping away at our fall checklist, which never seems to end, but then it ends suddenly as soon as we get the first significant snowfall of the season. Problem is, you never know if that will happen in early November or not until January. Obviously we have to plan for November.

But that's another story.

Yesterday we cleaned out the shed in our back yard. Each year we do a perfunctory cleaning, which means we swipe at some of the spiders and we throw out bags of bird seed or grass seed that the mice have been into. We store the lawn chairs and mower in the shed during the winter, and we keep the snow shovels there during the summer, not to mention various tools, pots, and anything else that gets shoved in there.

Over the years, there've been times I've walked into the shed to find a tiny mouse looking at me from one of the rafters with it's eyes too large for it's body. Other times I'll pick up a pot or a bag of soil, only to disturb a mouse that goes scurrying across the floor, startling me and causing me to drop whatever it was I'd picked up. And yes, this is usually accompanied by a scream. On my part.

But today, we REALLY cleaned the shed. We took out everything, even the shelving units, and swept out all of it. No more cobwebs, no more seeds, no more dirt, no more nothing. There were remnants of a mouse nest in one of the rafters, which is now gone. There was another nest under one of the shelf units, which the industrious mice had made from the pieces of burlap they'd stolen from our leaf-blower bag. Yes, the bag had huge holes in it, and when we found the nest, it all made sense. As I said, these mice are industrious.

One thing that has been in the shed for years is an old golf bag belonging to my husband. Understand that in all the nearly 20 years that I've known him, Todd's played golf less than half a dozen times. We dragged the bag around the country when we were moving with the Navy, and since we've been in Maine the bag has been in that shed.

Today, miracle of miracles, he decided to get rid of that bag. And maybe even the clubs.

As we were putting things back into the shed, as well as taking some things to the garbage bins and other things to bag up as giveaways, I grabbed the golf bag to sling it over my shoulder and take it into the garage. Todd casually told me to watch out because there might be mice in it. I lifted it carefully and shook it a bit. As I started toward the garage, a small face poked out of the top flap of the bag and a mouse jumped out onto the lawn.

The whole family was outside and we all started scrambling to make sure the mouse didn't head for the house. Picture two adults and two teens running around the lawn after a 2-inch mouse (if that). Todd finally chased it back into the woods behind the shed - so we know it was probably back in the shed by nightfall. As long as it isn't the house, I'm fine with that.

But it doesn't end there.

I went back to pick up the golf bag and out jumped another mouse. My daughter moved quickly and caught this one in her hands (gloved hands, of course) and took it back into the woods near the other one. At this point, we opened the flap on the top of the bag and out jumped yet another, which was caught and put into the woods, and then a huge mouse (all of 4-inches) came crawling out rather slowly. We figured he was the grandfather of the bunch. My daughter transported him to the woods with the others. Finally, one more tiny one jumped out, and it was taken to the woods as well. One, two, three, four, FIVE mice living like kings in that big old golf bag.

But the funny party was seeing us, on hands and knees, crawling, hurrying, scrambling after these tiny, yet incredibly speedy mice. At one point, one daughter was on the ground trying to catch one while the other daughter, who wouldn't dare touch a mouse, stood nearby making meowing noises. Any of you who knows us personally can easily guess which daughter was which.

Not surprisingly, the old golf bag was disgusting and quite ready for the "bone yahd", as they say here in Maine. So after taking out all the clubs, Todd put the bag out in the woods behind the shed so the mice would have a condo in which to spend the winter. Maybe too, it would actually keep them out of the shed. But I doubt it.

So now we have a clean shed. And the mice, should they choose to accept it, can move back into their home. The golf bag, that is, not the shed... in case any of them is reading this.

UPDATE: This morning we discovered a grisly scene in our basement. Apparently the cats discovered a mouse in the night and not only caught and killed it, but consumed half of it. I don't even want to think about whether it was one of those cute, big-eyed babies that we took to the woods yesterday. Sigh.

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes

02 October 2010

Hello October

A few shots from around our house today... after the tropical storm finally cleared out last night.

And tomorrow, have I got a story for you.

Copyright © 2010 - Paulla Estes