2015: The Readers’ Digest Version

So another new year begins. There are some things about 2015 I’m sad to say goodbye to and some very personal memories that I’ll always carry in my heart.


My immediate family has certainly gotten bigger this year.  I could write a whole book just about that, but there’s no way my family would let me get away with telling all their stories.  We probably could have some kind of “modern family” reality show, though.  I mean, I find us pretty entertaining.  Anyway,   there’s lots more people to hug and  keep up  with through FaceBook  between visits now.


So, who are they? My  2 year old foster nephew has been part of our family for what seems like  forever to me, but I think   he officially joined us sometime in early 2015. I love that little boy so much! My heart feels lighter and happier whenever I think of him  or am around him.  He started saying my name Thanksgiving Day.  He’s stolen my heart forever and I’ll always be his Aunt Carmella.


My greatnephew has been with us all year, but  outside his Mom’s tummy since July. He  is completely adorable and such a good baby. Its cool to be a greataunt on top of already being a great aunt. My oldest nephew and his sweet and lovely fiancée are  working hard and   learning to be parents and  partners.  That’s all very adult stuff and they’re still  very young so I’m sure its not easy at times.  I pull for them and pray for them and am proud of them for  their commitment to family and to being a family.


We  have also added my sister’s boyfriend and his two teenaged daughters. They’ve been around for more than six months now and I still can’t usually tell which one is talking.  Their voices are  almost identical to me. The teenaged daughters, I mean, not them and their Dad.  That would be weird. I give him mad props  for being brave enough to take on our family. My sister’s man is easy-going,hard-working, and all about family and being a good Dad to his girls. He’s funny, too. He was by her side the whole time my nephew  was very sick and in the hospital in October, which meant so much to my family.  He’s awesome with the two year old and spends a lot of quality time with him.  I think having a stable male presence around is great for my sister’s kids, too, and seeing my sister happy and treated well makes me happy.


Having an infant, a 2 year old,  my 12 going on 25 year old niece,  three high schoolers, and  two  young parents around means things are rarely boring. I’m hoping none of the big kids hurt themselves when they use the HiWire  Trampoline Park gift card  I got them for Christmas because Aunt Carmella  didn’t agree to cover any medical expenses related to  said gift. I should have written up a waiver just like HiWire does, saying I’m not responsible.  Oops. Despite all the coming and going, I get to see them all pretty often and   enjoy  them all so much.  We all got together at Mom and Dad’s for Thanksgiving this year for the first time, which was fun.  Mom had to work that night so  she was  tired from cooking all day, but I think she was happy having all her “kids” there.


2015 ended extremely warm and rainy.  Strange weather for this time of year. It was a little hard to feel Christmasy with temperatures in the  mid  to high 70s all week here in SC.  Christmas sweaters probably felt  very neglected this year. That’s okay.  The season is still about    celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus. Good tidings of great joy which shall be to all people, and on earth peace and good will.  I believe we could all use more of those things at  Christmas time and always.


Mom had to work Christmas Eve night and Christmas night, but we still made it to Granny’s and Pappaw’s (Mom’s parents) for  Christmas  Eve and to my sister’s Christmas morning. If our family keeps growing, Granny and Pappaw are going to have to add a couple more rooms onto their house. I went with Mom and Dad over to  my Grandma’s (Dad’s Mom) a couple weeks before Christmas.  We  put up her tree every year.  By we, I mean my sister and Mom put up the tree and the rest of us mostly watch, hang out, and socialize.  Grandma has a birthday coming up around the corner, too.  My large extended family on that side will be getting together to celebrate, of course.



I am so blessed to be part of a large supportive extended family  on both sides.  So many people don’t have that.  Being  related to so many  genuinely good and caring people  is something I’m proud of and not something I take for granted.  It gives me such a sense of security and belonging.



My four-legged family members are doing well. Brooklyn and I celebrated one year together in June. We’ve had our share of adventures this year.  She’s gained about 10 pounds of height and muscle since I first got her.  Sixty-five pounds is  plenty big enough, I think. Even though she’ll be three in February, she’s still got lots of puppy in her, but she’s coming along.   She  still has lots of pull when she gets excited or is in a new area.  Between that and  the games of tug-of-war and fetch I play with her to   help her get out some energy every day, I’m getting some good exercise in addition to  our walks.  She’s smart and eager to please and she doesn’t chew up stuff quite like she used to. I  am still trying to find  toys that  stand a chance of lasting more than a couple weeks with her. Mostly, I’ve just started limiting her  “toy time” so they last longer.



My cat KC is doing great. I think he’s 8 now. At his checkup earlier this year,  his bladder and kidneys seemed good. He wasn’t passing blood in his carrier like he used to when we’d go to the vet.  He’s not on any special food or medication anymore. He  loves turkey lunch meat and still  enjoys playing, especially  fetch with those little crinkly paper balls I spend so much time    fishing out from under furniture with my cane. He likes to talk and cuddle and is a gentle  little soul. He and Brooklyn get along well.  If she gets too frisky, he just moves to higher ground or leaves the room for a few minutes.  I finally got some pictures taken of the three of us together a few days after Christmas. First ones ever in the  1.5 years we’ve all lived under the same roof.  Mom took them.  Thanks Nana!



Its been nice to have a little time off work around the holidays. I celebrated 10 years at Crossroads Counseling Center this June.  I’m blessed to work alongside kind, smart, and dedicated folks who truly care about the clients we seek to serve and the counseling profession.  Since the unemployment rate among blind people is still around 70 to 75%, I remain thankful to be  doing the work I was called to in  a very supportive environment.



Several months ago, I had to   transition from  working with  a driver and helper who’d been with me for 3.5 years to  new  people. It was a difficult decision and transition emotionally, since my drivers/helpers become like family to me and  do so much for me and my  animals. The relationships of trust I have with them are so important to keeping things running smoothly and to keeping my stress level somewhere near manageable. Thankfully, I didn’t have to go through the usual super stressful process of advertising  and choosing from among strangers. I am blessed to now have a wonderful couple  driving  and helping me with errands.  They used to drive and  help out a friend of mine who moved out of state a few months ago.  When she found out I was looking for someone, she put us in touch and that was that.  The process of finding a new driver/helper is usually a lot more complicated and stressful so I was very relieved  that all worked out.   All three of us feel that God   put us together.  As with all my previous drivers, I am enjoying getting to know their family, too. I feel like we’re all becoming family.



My building had a small fire/big flood event  in April.  That created some middle of the night excitement as we had to evacuate, and then several hours later, take the stairs  and  tromp through standing water to  retrieve necessities and reevacuate.   Fortunately, I had  a special someone I knew I could count on who cared enough to  hang in there with me through the whole thing and  give me a place to sleep that night (when we finally   could  try and get some sleep around 4:00 am).  I’m also thankful I had a young healthy guide dog who  could handle  all the climbing up and down  stairs safely.  My apartment wasn’t damaged.



Then, of course, we had the historic flooding event in  early October.  Again, I was blessed that the biggest  inconvenience I had to deal with was several weeks without clean water.   I was  safe at  Mom and Dad’s for most of the drama.  Some people  experienced significant losses of homes or businesses, special and valuable possessions, and about 17 people lost their lives.  It was amazing how communities pulled together to help each other and how  many people got involved volunteering time and resources through   the Red Cross, shelters, churches, and other local nonprofits. It was humbling to hear story after story of dedicated  emergency workers, first responders, and  public safety officials putting so much  time and effort into the difficult tasks they were faced with. Rebuilding continues with  the support of state and national resources.



In other odds and ends… I shot a gun for the first time ever in May.  Twelve rounds  with  Dad’s  .22 revolver.  Dad and my nephew Darren were with me.  It was fun. Mom made me my own mosaic window for my birthday.   Those are  one of a kind, a labor of love, and really special.  Speaking of windows, I still miss Windows XP. I had to get a new computer at the end of April and I’m still  annoyed on a daily basis by the changes in the version of Windows and the screen reading software upgrade I’m using now. I’ve recently reconnected with several other women I used to keep in touch with who are also blind and   professionally successful.  We’re FaceBook friends now and I continue to be proud of their personal and professional accomplishments.



This new year will start off much differently for me than the way last year did.  Times and seasons.  God has a plan He is continuing to work out in my life and in the world. I will do my best to trust, be thankful for the blessings (obvious and otherwise), and  pray for the peace and wisdom to handle  the times when I’m  confused, sad, or  overwhelmed by  this crazy world. Every experience is a chance for learning and growth.  That sounds like such a counselor thing to say, but I really do believe that. I’m sure 2016 will be another interesting year. Ready or not, here it comes.



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