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.