Tuesday, November 19, 2013
In the Tree House: Whose Side are you on?
By: Samantha S. Daviss
Well the family gathering plans have begun, the turkey has been hand selected at the grocery store and placed in the deep freeze for safe keeping, the fine china has been dusted off, the silver polished, and the liquor cabinet re-stocked (to increase tolerance for all the family coming to town).
With excitement in the air about Thanksgiving, long-lost family members reuniting, and the traditional side dishes already decided upon, and split evenly amongst the family members to prepare and bring to the table…there is that one side dish that stands alone. This is the one dish that no one really enjoys eating or for that matter preparing; but it is an obligation, and a required fixture on the Thanksgiving table. The one that your mother’s mother created generations ago, and if it is not presented on the table for all to observe (and more than likely avoid), your grandmother’s uterus may as well be pulled from her gut and stomped on the floor, may God rest her soul.
In my family that one abhorrent dish is my grandmother’s cranberry salad. As a child I was forced to eat it, and I always thought everyone around me enjoyed it; because I would look around our dining room table and my entire family and guests were devouring this salad. For the longest time I thought “maybe there is something wrong with me, something wrong with my taste buds”…but as I’ve grown older, created my own family, and started my own traditions…I’ve realized that everyone ate my grandmother’s salad out of pure trepidation.
They would rather choke down that salad, than tell her the truth, and reap the repercussions of her wrath. So now I’m realizing that my taste buds weren’t that far off the radar. At first bite you taste the Jell-o that encased the finely chopped cranberries, in addition to the dreadful flavoring of all the various citrus rinds that are mixed in the creation. But the presentation of this formation was always so lovely, making you doubt yourself as to why year after year this particular combination brought back such horrid memories.
It is gingerly placed on the salad plate from your fine china collection, atop a freshly washed, freshly peeled leaf of Iceberg lettuce. Therefore, sitting there all alone, being avoided by every patron at the table, you begin to feel sorry for this creation…and then you take a bite. And all those long past holidays spent together with the pinching of the cheeks from Auntie Sally, and the yelling over the roar of the football game, and the excitement of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, come flooding back into your memory bank; but nonetheless it does not enhance the feeling you get when you bite into this wiggly repulsive combination of flavors.
And you take another bite, only to make your mother happy that the tradition of grandma’s cranberry salad lives on. Viva la Cranberry!
Sadly though, the existence of this salad will continue to live on in my family and on our Thanksgiving Day table as a sign of respect for my grandmother, my mother, and the generations to come that must suffer through the same nauseating combination of cranberries, citrus rinds and gelatin that is the one symbol that represents the presence of those gone before us, and dining with us at our annual Thanksgiving feast.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
By: Samantha S. Daviss
Well another chapter has closed in my family’s life. We are moving on and starting the next chapter, literally. We sold our house recently, and albeit that we are all very excited about the new house we are going to be building; I am having a very hard internal struggle leaving our current home.
Now in my former life I would have had no problem packing up and moving again, because we moved seven times in a 10 year time span. So it almost became routine to me to have our house unpacked in about a week, and packed back up for another move across the country. I never felt settled, so I never became attached to a house.
But this house, that we are currently in, has been a different story. It has actually been a character in my life’s movie. I realize to most people a house is just brick, mortar, plumbing, and a place to lay their heads; but this house to me is so very much more.
It is the refuge my son and I moved into together after our lives were flipped upside down one hot day in August of 2006. Then about two years after that the man that walked into our lives, and made us realize that it’s okay to smile again, moved into our little house after he made us a safe and happy family again. The three of us were like three little peas in a pod, or as we liked to call ourselves “The Three Musketeers”.
About 18 months after our family became one, we had an addition bless our family…our middle son. So our little house got a huge makeover. We added on a library area, new utility and master suite. But with that growth came some great memories. I have memories of our oldest climbing down in the trenches before the new foundation was poured. I even shed tears when they had to cut down some trees in our backyard to make room for our expanding home. But just the joy and elation that came with our two boys getting to decorate their new rooms and the satisfaction of knowing we were all safe and protected in the walls of this once little house that held two very scared and insecure people, was now the protective haven to our vastly growing family.
Thank goodness we increased the size of that little house, because not but fifteen months later our third little addition blessed the walls of our home. Our family was complete. And the memories began flooding our home and seeping into the walls. From Christmas celebrations, to birthday parties, to dealing with the loss of a very vital family member, to all the happiness and laughter one family could share. Our babies learned to walk and talk in that house; and our oldest came of age. We have watched him grow from a shy four year old little boy to the wonderful young man he is becoming day by day.
So you see this house to me is more than just walls, nails, and concrete; it is my sanctuary. It is actually the house I have lived the longest in my entire life, including my childhood. To most this may sound corny, but in a way I feel like this house rescued me, and taught me that it is okay to smile again, to love again, and most of all to trust again. This house has definitely seen me through my worst times, and my absolute best times. So with it I take an enormous amount of memories, smiles, a few tears, and a bushel of laughs.
You ask why we are leaving. It is because we know right around the corner we have a million more memories to create for our ever expanding and growing family full of boys. Because one day these boys I hold, rock, and caudle will be strapping young men that will come home to our new home and help create more memories for me to relish in. But one thing is for certain, this house may no longer be a part of our daily life, but it will forever be etched in our memories.
By: Samantha S. Daviss
There are so many things we all take for granted in this world; we don’t mean to, it’s just a part of life and the luxury of living in a first world country. Things like when we need to fill our glass with water, we walk over to the faucet, turn the handle and voila we have water. Or the fact that we can walk out into our garage, turn a key and our car starts, and then we reach above our head and push a little button to open our garage door, and it opens. So you see, we had three things right at our finger tips without even batting an eye…running water, fuel in a working car, and electricity.
This grand country of ours has been through a lot, and we have all managed to pull together and become a fighting entity. That is why the rest of the world envies us so much. From a civil war, to two World Wars, to
Korea, to Vietnam,
and now the Middle East; we are a country that
fights in what we believe in, what we stand for, and our freedom.
And our freedom is probably the principal asset in all our lives as Americans that we take for granted the most. One gift that we have forgotten what all the fighting and wars were and are all about; and that is our freedom to vote, to speak our minds, to work at any job we want, and to travel to any state or country we want. Our freedoms were not received lightly, in fact many lives were lost, families destroyed, and children orphaned for the sacrifices that the great men and women of our military that have given so fervently to us.
So as a form of respect to those that have in fact laid down their lives for us, we need to remember why they have done so. And that is to give us, and our future children the lives we deserve…the lives to live in a democracy, to voice our opinions, to stand up for what we believe in as a society. Obviously we aren’t all going to agree, or see eye to eye on subject matters, but that is the beauty of being an American. We don’t all have to agree, we don’t have to have the same view point as our neighbors, we just all have to stand up for what we believe in and voice our opinion and to get along as a society.
And to voice our opinion, we need to vote! Voting doesn’t always have to be about our next president, or congressman…it can be about things we don’t even realize are happening on a daily basis at the city, county, or even state levels in government. Voting doesn’t have to be about the pomp and circumstance with the issues we hear about on the daily news at the federal level…voting issues can be happening right here under your nose at the city level.
Like right now, our little town has a proposition on the voting ballot to completely renovate, repair, and restore our historic courthouse. Our courthouse is 108 years old, and you can only imagine the stories that could be told if those walls could talk. And that is exactly what our community is trying to do, is save a little piece of history, charm, and aesthetics by bringing the courthouse back to its former glory, without increasing our tax rates one penny. That to me is worth a trip down to the voting polls to save a little piece of history, and restore the building that is filled with grandeur, beauty and stories.
Living in the county seat is a pretty advantageous opportunity from the socio-economic standpoint. If you think about it, it gives more job opportunities, it incorporates a jail, which offers more employment opportunities, and it is the epicenter of our great county.
So take advantage of your rights as an American, and go vote. It isn’t painful, it’s actually a whole lot of fun to know what is going on in your community, and knowing you did your part in helping your community thrive and grow.
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
In the Tree House: Fancier Cars and a Tight Tooshy…will make you happy!
By: Samantha S. Daviss
I read the most amazing blog recently in the Huffington Post. It talked about having flatter abs and a better sex life will make you a happier more self-fulfilled person, in a cynical manner. We all subscribe to the mindset of “If I only looked like that person on the cover of the magazine, then I would be so happy; and my life would be just as I want it to be.”
Take it from someone who has been rail thin (I fondly joke of it as being the “Oh so faithful divorce diet”) and when I was rail thin, I didn’t even realize it or appreciate it at that time. Granted I was a little distracted by other goings on in my life, like where my child and I were going to live, where I was going to work…you know, the minor things like that. But my point is when you look a certain way, or drive a certain car, or live in a certain house…your life dreams and aspirations aren’t fulfilled. And deep down you know it to be true.
Right now I am working extremely hard to shed the pounds after having two babies back to back, and much later in life than I had my first child. But you know what? I appreciate every effort I make and all the lumps and bumps I obtain. Because those lumps and bumps meant that I found happiness again after my divorce, my life went on, and I got re-married to the most wonderful man in the world; in addition to creating a healthy, safe environment for my oldest child and myself, not to mention adding two high spirited and joyful little “curtain climbers” to our brood.
Looking at all those magazines and watching $100K+ cars whiz down the highway, in my mind doesn’t equal self-fulfillment; in fact it is just the opposite, it is self-deprecating, to myself, not the owner of the car. Envy can be an ugly green monster that rears its head every so often.
My thoughts are, if you are able to read this column then your life has reached its all time peak. You are either able to afford payment to have the paper delivered to your home, you are able to afford that cup of coffee you’re enjoying in the coffee house you are sitting in as you read this, or if you are online then you are able to not only afford internet service but electricity as well.
A few tips on how to enjoy your flabbier self and domestically built automobile that gets you and your family from Point A to Point B safely, all the while you are able to afford the gasoline in it:
1) Stop chasing the idea of “I’ll be happy when…” Give up the ghost man! And realize that all your happiness is right in front of you. You’re alive, aren’t you? Then it’s time to start enjoying what you have been given, instead of pouting over what you don’t have. Stop trying to “Keep up with the Joneses!” Who in the hell are the Joneses anyway? Some family that lives on
Martha’s Vineyard? Escapes
from the chaotic lifestyle of the city on the weekends, only to enjoy a few fleeting
moments of peace and serenity in a beach house that they get to stay in a total
of 36 hours every other weekend, because they are too busy working and missing
out on what is really important in life? Who cares who the Joneses are…
2) Understand that the world revolves around the sun, not you…Our problems and stresses seem so large to us sometimes, but in reality they are so infinitesimally small that we are all just one small piece to an amazing puzzle.
3) It’s OK to say I’m sorry…Rudeness will get you no where. You don’t have to apologize in a self-deprecating manner, as if you are apologizing for the pure existence of yourself. But if you bump into someone, or change plans last minute, or just change your mind…think about how it might affect the feelings of the other person standing in the room with you. It’s not all about you!! Say I’m sorry. It really isn’t that painful…let’s try it: “I’m so sorry, I didn’t see you standing there, are you OK?”; or “I’m sorry I changed my mind, I really don’t want to do that any more, I hope that doesn’t upset you.” See there, that didn’t hurt a bit.
4) Be Kind…Ellen DeGenres signs off every show with “Be kind to one another”. And every time I hear her say that I just want to jump up on my couch and scream “Amen”. Is everyone just that wrapped up in their own lives or just that completely oblivious to their surroundings that we have forgotten how to be kind to one another? Being nice is FREE…and there aren’t too many free things worth any value left in this world.
We are creatures of habit, for the most part we will always want what we can’t have, but if you think about it, you already have most every thing people want. The ability to read, which means you’re educated; the ability to process this column and decide whether or not you agree, which means you are a strong independent person that is able to make up your own mind; the ability to drive to the coffee shop and read this column, which means you can pay for gas, pay for food, and you are a healthy human being that has all your limbs that allow you to pick up the paper or your iPad to read this column.
Now to me, all this is way more important that a super fast car or a tight little tooshy.
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
In the Tree House: Dinner at the Table
By: Samantha S. Daviss
Sometimes I feel like a broken record talking about how busy we all are, running from one activity to another. And I realize that sometimes practices run late, or are smack in the middle of your usual dinner time. Sometimes those scheduling conflicts just can’t be avoided, but what can be avoided is living completely separate lives under one roof.
We all jump out of bed in the morning, racing to school or to work, with a few “Good Morning” kisses, and another as we race out the door. Then after school it’s piano lessons, gymnastics, tumbling, golf, baseball, cheer; whatever your activities are, your family is in a constant tailspin trying to get to your next point of interest. Then it’s time for homework, tests, reading; all the stuff that goes along with making good grades so you are able to do all those sports and activities.
Next it’s time for showers and off to bed. But wait! Something is missing. Oh, that’s right, family conversations and interaction so we all know how our days went, how work is, how school is. Did anything exciting happen? What kind of grades did you pull on that test? Are you talking to a new girl in school?
We all have to eat, so why not take that time to spend a little quiet time together sitting around the dinner table, talking, catching up, and learning about anything new in your family’s lives. Think of it this way…with the TV off, and everyone around the breakfast room table, they are a captive audience. They can’t go anywhere, so they have to sit and face the music and communicate.
I’m not saying we are able to do it every single night of the week because of schedules, or weekend activities. But we try to sit down together at least four out of the seven nights in a week. We don’t allow cell phones, or iPads, or iPods, or i-anything at the table. When we are there, we are there as a family.
It’s not just a time for us to sit and talk and catch up on the day’s activities or points of interest. It is also a learning time as well. Every night I have our oldest set the table, and everyone is responsible for clearing the table. And we teach them not to put their elbows on the table, how to properly use a knife and fork, and what side their glass should go on. But mainly it is teaching them how to sit through an entire meal without having to get up, go watch TV or go play on some electronic device. It is teaching our children how to slow down, have good table manners, and understand that life is what is happening in front of them, not on that tiny computer screen.
Today’s society is in such a rush that people have forgotten how to set the table properly, where the fork and knife and spoon goes. Where the bread plate goes, and your glass(es). I know it may sound simple and elementary, but if you are ever in a restaurant, look around at how many people actually know how to use their utensils properly, or where to put their glass. Sitting around the table and enjoying good conversation, is a dying art.
But more importantly sitting around the table as a family for dinner keeps you connected and a permanent fixture in their world. So they know that at dinner time they can come to you and talk about a problem they are having, or they know (whether they like it or not) “Big Brother” will ask them all the questions of the day. As a way to stay connected and in their lives, to avoid problems, issues, or possible concerns that may pop up in their lives.
Whether they tell you or not, kids need and want you in their lives and in their business. Growing up is an extremely complicated and scary process, and the more you know the more they know. You are their safety net. Regardless of how much they say they want you gone and out of their business, it is actually just the opposite, pre-teen and teenage years are a scary and uncharted time in young kids’ lives.
Get in there, annoy them, know everything about them…I promise you in the end they WILL thank you for it. And they will be better people because of it.
So you see, just a simple conversation at dinner time breaks down all those barriers. It will be the best 30 minutes you ever spent. The meal doesn’t have to be fancy, and if you aren’t a cook, don’t worry about; grab something on your way home from work. But carve that “table time” out and really talk to your kids, listen to them, and have them listen to you. You’ll be glad you did.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
In the Tree House: Having Fun with Your Best Friend
By: Samantha S. Daviss
Most of us marry our spouses because we are attracted to particular attributes they may (or may not) obtain. There were several attributes that attracted me to my husband, like his calming disposition, his sense of humor, his ability to calm me down when needed, and the fact that he accepts me for whom I am. But the main attribute that attracted me to my husband was the fact that he is with out a doubt my very best friend in this entire world.
He is the first person I think of when I have some exciting news to share, he is the first person I want to vent to when I want to rip someone’s head off, and he is the first person I want to see when I wake up in the morning. We have a lot in common on a personal level like hobbies, activities we enjoy doing together, and the fact that we just make each other laugh all of the time.
As you can imagine with three boys, two working parents, children’s extracurricular, family activities, school work, and everything else life throws your way…we as a couple have very little time to “date” anymore. But if I’ve said it once, I will say it 1,000 more times…you have to keep dating as a couple. That connection that once brought you together must remain a priority in your lives. Because one day when the house is empty, the laundry is put away, and the grass is mowed, because you have nothing else to do together, you don’t want to look at one another and say “Really? What on earth was I thinking?”
You have to keep that spark alive, and remember that the relationship you have and maintain with you significant other is the most important relationship you will ever endure. I’m not saying marriage is a cake walk; just like any relationship…business, personal, or otherwise, they all require time, effort and attention. And your marriage is no exception.
Time out of the house together at parties, or gatherings is always fun; it allows you time to socialize and see your friends and catch up with everyone that you haven’t seen in a while. But that is not “dating”. Dating your significant other is just like what it sounds…going out on a date, alone, and doing something you both enjoy doing. But the catch is you have to make time for this so-called dating. There should be no excuses, as to why you can or cannot do it.
With that said, my husband and I got to go on a much over-due; much needed date the other night. We did the typical movie date night, since we average about one movie a year together. But we both loved the movie, and then we decided to go for drinks together at a nearby watering hole. It was fantastic; we actually sat for almost three hours just talking. We were able to talk about the typical household issues that we’ve needed to discuss for about two months, uninterrupted by little voices needing juice or cookies. And then we talked about dreams and plans we had for ourselves and how we were going to try and tackle our aspirations. So just a fun night out with my best friend, able to catch up on things that have, unfortunately, been brushed under the living room rug, for lack of a better term, because of our hectic lives.
But the best part of our evening was after we left the restaurant, we headed to Wal-Mart, because my husband wanted to buy an ice cream maker. Well that adventure took a turn for the worse I guess you could say…because we ended up having a hula hooping contest in the middle of Wal-Mart at 12:30 at night.
So you see, even though you are an “old married couple” as long as you married your best friend you can still have fun together. You just have to remember why you were attracted to one another in the first place and keep that first and foremost in your memory bank, and the rest will just fall in to place.
Marriage doesn’t have to mean complacency, or boredom, or monotony. You can still be those youngsters that used to joke with each other and tease each other, while still being responsible adults and parents. Maturity doesn’t have to mean boring; it can just mean that you have your life together, while still enjoying it.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
In the Tree House: Kids say the Darndest Things
By: Samantha S. Daviss
Motherhood is the most rewarding job, without a tangible paycheck, that you will ever carry out; some days are like a dream, and then there are those days that you just want to run and hide under a rock. Either from pure exhaustion, frustration, or just the need to be alone; and spend a couple hours without screaming, crying, arguments, poopy diapers, or piles of laundry waiting for you.
If you make the decision to become a mother, and then are blessed with the ability to be a mother regardless of how you became a mother…biologically, adoption, surrogacy…it doesn’t matter; motherhood is an honor, and a cult that we all must realize is a job and responsibility that we will have for the rest of our lives.
No matter how old they grow we will never stop loving them, no matter how tall they get we will never stop worrying about them, and no matter how powerful they become in the world, we can still take them over our knee at a moment’s notice.
Regardless of how many hours we put in changing diapers, or washing clothes, or driving from one activity to another; or the sleepless nights rocking them because of a 104 degree fever or a broken heart inflicted by that girl (or boy) at school…we wouldn’t have it any other way. Motherhood is a privilege, but it’s also a hindrance to any selfless independence you will ever have again. The love you feel for that little person, or persons, is undying. It is a love like no other, a devotion and allegiance you would die for in an instant without a moment’s hesitation.
But no matter how jovial your day is with your kids or how trying it has been; the things that come out of their mouths make your heart warm even more and the passion you have for your job as their mom, is even more fulfilling.
I have a few personal things my kids have recently said, that made my heart sing and my gut twist all in the same day…some offering humor and some offering exasperation; but that’s kids.
1) My two younger boys helped me decorate a jar with Disney stickers, because they want to put their extra change in there to help save for our family trip to Disney World. And when Daddy got home from work, our middle son was so excited about his jar and saving for our trip, he showed the jar to his Daddy, and told him… “Daddy, we are saving our money for Disney World, you can come with us too if you want.” I absolutely love their innocence.
2) Our oldest son recently had a fantastic weekend with friends. It went from a spend the night and a high school football game with one buddy, to another spend the night the next day and two days tubing on the lake. Just getting to be a kid and hang out with all his friends without a care in the world. The next morning we got up and were headed out the door to school, when he turned to me and said “Hey Mom, are we going to get to do anything fun this week?” Sometimes I feel like a duck in the water…Good ol’ Mom is calm and cool on the surface, but underneath my feet are going crazy to try to entertain and make everyone happy.
3) And the baby, who has learned that Mommy and Daddy only allow him to have his pacifier when it is bed time or “Night Night Time”. So even if he has just been awake for 20 minutes he says “Passy, I go night night”…Their mental capabilities to negotiate and “work the system” at such young ages amazes me sometimes. Even though I have had three of them, their abilities never cease to amaze me.
4) And then there is the perception possessed by them all…if mom is having a bad day, which really isn’t too often, I guess that’s why they are all so receptive to it, is because I’m typically pretty upbeat. But all my boys know when Mom’s having a bad day. The oldest always asks if I’m okay and offers an immediate hug, my middle guy always lays his head in my lap and says “Mommy, why are you sad?”, and the little guy knows just when to climb up into to Mommy’s lap and just sit there with a smile on his face.
So you see, regardless of the lack of sleep, the imminent late nights of homework or bad dreams keeping someone awake all night…in addition to all the tickle sessions, the blanket forts, and late night talks of them confessing any problems or new crushes at school; motherhood is the most arduously rewarding job you will ever know. But regardless of the time spent together it’s their personalities and the things they say that keep it all in perspective.