Category Archives: Odom Family

Perfectly Imperfect

What’s your word for the year? I’m sure in January you probably saw social media posts about this question. You may have even selected a word and are living it right now as you read this. I have to admit, when I first found out this was “a thing” to do, I was intrigued. What word would I choose? Would I even be focused enough to follow through with it? Could having a word guide me through my year? What if I changed my mind half way through the year and decided to choose another word? Clearly I wasn’t sure how all this should work! But this past December, I landed upon the “perfect” word. Here’s what happened.

Early in December, I was searching through old photographs to find some pictures of my three kids at Christmastime. On a side note, I had just started working on major photo project with every photograph I’ve ever taken. You remember those days when we used to take photographs and actually take the film to the drug store or places like Costco to get them developed? I was that person who took 10-15 rolls of film at any given event and would also get double prints to share with others! Talk about a pile of photos!!! At the moment, they are all in a heaping piles, sorted by year, in my She Shack just waiting for me to “spark some joy” out of them. Marie Kondo will be very proud of me…eventually…

There was a time though that I kept meticulous photo albums. As soon as I would get my photos back from the photo lab, I would sort through them and write the date taken, where they were taken and who was in them before putting them – IN ORDER – into my albums. When my kids started coming along, it got harder to sort through photos and get rid of any. I mean…these were pictures of my kids! How could I throw even one away, even if it was a little blurry or I didn’t like the way I looked in that photo…my child looked SO ADORABLE! So what I started to do was to select the best picture of the several I would take of a grouping and put the best one on top and tuck the other 2 or 3 behind it and then place them in the albums.

So in December, as I was going through my albums I came across a photo of me with my three kids at Brookwood Mall. Emily was just a baby, Charlie was 5 and Anna Marie just 3 years old. We were trying to get a group shot in front of one of the little Christmas trees that were placed around the mall. Well… it was a struggle to say the least. We couldn’t get all the kids to look forward at the same time and eventually we had three out of four of us so that was the photo that was displayed in the album. Then I pulled the photo out of its slot and two others tumbled. These were the ones that weren’t deemed “perfect” to display. But you know what? The photo I decided to use wasn’t the perfect photo. The photo where I was trying to get Emily to turn around in my arms and my head was turned away and Charlie looked completely bored and Anna Marie was on the ground grinning ear to ear oblivious to what was happening around her…yeah, that was the perfect photo. Actually, it was “perfectly-imperfect.” I even made that comment when I posted it on Instagram.

I thought about this the next few weeks. A lot. How many times do we see social media posts that are perfectly staged and the lighting is beautiful and everyone is shiny and new, so to speak? I know I’m guilty of it…we all are to some degree. But these older photos were really speaking to me about the beauty of imperfection. Think about it. Today we can instantaneously see a photo taken through digital photography or our IPhones. We can retake and retake until we get it just right. But back when I was using film, you had to patiently wait for the film to be developed and then drive to the store to pick up the photos. You really didn’t know what you were going to get until you flipped through the envelope. There was a bit of excitement too when I would do that, hoping that I got just the right photo of an event. Sometimes I did, and sometimes I didn’t.

On Christmas Eve this past year, I had all my kids home and it all came full circle. After they all put on their Christmas PJs, we began trying to get a group photo in front of our tree and with their dogs! The struggle was real but oh what a fun struggle it was! I just kept clicking my camera as my kids kept trying to get their dogs to face me for that perfect shot. Well, we got that perfect photo, but you know what? My favorite photo was the one I captured right before that perfect photo. It shows Emily hugging our family dog, Lucy, and Anna Marie and Ryan rubbing their dog Lucia’s head while trying to get him to sit still, and Charlie getting a grip on his dog, Scarlett. It was just like the photo I would have hidden behind the perfect photo in my old photo album days.  But now I realize…this was the perfect best photo.

 

So, my word for 2019? It’s actually two words…perfectly imperfect. But as a friend said this morning when I was telling her this story, you can always hyphenate and make it one word!  That was “perfect” advice.

Remembering Easter 2008

Easter 2008 Mimi’s swing photo – this year including Ryan and Lucy!

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.  Janine di Giovanni

This week I’ve been putting our family’s Easter plans together.  We’ll have lunch at our house on Sunday afternoon, so family members have all been notified about what time to arrive for our traditional Easter spread.  The “big cookie cake” has been ordered as well as the Honeybaked ham.  The dining room table and buffet have been decorated in bright spring colors and on Saturday Eddie and I will try to clean off the deck from all the pollen and other spring “gifts” the trees are sharing this week!

I don’t know what made me look back on photos from past Odom family gatherings.  I was thinking about the Easter egg hunts we used to have with all three of my kids in the house.  Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily would all start at the top of their stairs with a basket and when Eddie and I would give the signal, they’d come running down to see how many eggs they could find that had been hidden in the house the night before.  Every year, we’d find a candy filled egg or two that wasn’t discovered during the hunt a few weeks later.  And every year, Emily would be the one who would win with the most found eggs.

But for some reason, I opened up the 2008 Easter gallery and as I looked through the photos I was filled with so many emotions.  Little did I know what types of stories I was photographing that day only to discover them all these years later.  If memory serves me correctly, it was our last Easter at my in-laws home in Jasper.  The year before, my father-in-law, Glen Odom, passed away in March.  Eddie and his brothers were working on getting their mother, Johnnie, into a newer house with less property to manage.  Most of the photos I took that day revolved around a game of touch football in the backyard that the “kids” were playing.  They first did this at Thanksgiving a few months earlier and wanted to recreate the fun they had that day.  These photographs prove they did just that!

My now son-in-law, Ryan, was with us that Easter.  I think it was his first time to spend a holiday with us in Jasper and the first time to be included in the traditional Odom grandkids swing photo.  My pup, Lucy was also with us that day too!  We had just gotten her and at this point she was only about 6 months old and looked like a fuzzy house slipper!  She was so fluffy!  It was fun to see her in all her fluff and I had honestly forgotten she went with us that year!  It was also her first time to meet the family, including Rhonda, my sister-in-law, and her dog, Bentley.  Lucy and Bentley would have a love-hate relationship for years to come.  Mainly, Bentley hated Lucy to chase him around the house but she did it anyway!

We celebrated two birthdays that day too.  My son, Charlie turned 19 and Rhonda’s grandson, Jonathan, turned 12, if I’m counting the candles on his cake correctly!  My mother is standing behind Charlie in a few of the photos and she looks so happy.  Her hair was finally getting thicker after having lost it due to chemotherapy the year before.  Easter 2008 marked one year since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer reminding me how fragile life can be.

It’s ten years later now and if this trip back through my family photos has taught me anything today, it’s that I need to take even more photos when the family is together.  For instance, I regret that I didn’t get a photo of my mother-in-law that Easter.  She’s in a couple of photos from a distance but I don’t have anything close up that day.  I also wish I had asked my husband to take a few photos of me with both my sisters-in-law that day.   Looking back on these photos, I see opportunities that I missed but I also see what I was able to capture too.  In the photo of Rhonda holding Lucy, my sister-in-law has her head thrown back and is laughing.  I can actually hear her laugh when I see this photo!  Ten years isn’t that long ago but in this short time, we’ve lost several family members from these photos…Johnnie, Rhonda, my nephew, Aaron, and just recently, Bentley.

These photographs remind me of our family story.  They also tell me that our family story will continue.  It will have highs and lows, good times and not so good times.  Through it all…we will come together each Easter for our own hope and renewal.  And we will remember every family member and keep their stories with us.

Happy Easter from my family to yours…

 

 

 

Thanksgiving is Where Your Family Gathers

 

Emily learning how to fish

We got home last night from spending Thanksgiving at the beach with extended family.  Last year Eddie and I spent a long weekend in Orange Beach in October with my brother-in-law Terry and niece, TJ.  When we left, we talked about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and thought we might try to plan a week at the beach.  It was too close to Thanksgiving last year to pull it off so we decided this year would be the year to do it!

After our traditional family gathering the weekend before in Athens, AL at my niece/nephew Kate and David’s home, we packed up and headed to Orange Beach on Tuesday.  My mother went with us as well as our daughter Emily.  My son Charlie and his girlfriend, Danielle joined us Thanksgiving night.  We were also joined by Kate and David, my brother-in-law Allen and his wife, Rhonda and their son, Jason.  There were 12 of us Odoms total.

Sunset from my brother-in-law’s boat on Ono Island

My brother-in-law, Terry keeps his boat on Ono Island so he is very familiar with restaurants and places to go so he kept up entertained the whole time we were there.  Riding on the boat, dining at places like the Flora-Bama Yacht club and Tacky Jacks and just hanging out on the dock to fish, kayak, paddle board and watch the sunset…it was the perfect setting for everyone to spend time together and just relax.

For Thanksgiving day, we had lunch at Live Bait.  I knew it was a buffet but didn’t realize it was a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet!  It was nice to have turkey and dressing and gravy at the beach and not have to cook and clean up for a change.  Of course, today I was thinking it would have been nice to have had some leftovers!!!  Ha!

Our final act was to hang around on Saturday as we were leaving to help my nephew Jason get his car repaired.  My son, Charlie came to the rescue along with my BIL-Terry with his connections in town.  Family sticks together!  We even had a little caravan out of Orange Beach until we all hit I-65!

It was a great week at the beach…making memories and celebrating our family.  Here are a few I captured this week.

Spirits of Thanksvings Past

Thanksgiving 2012 – Odom Family photo

This time of year, I do a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photographs.  Thanksgiving has always been “the” holiday in our family – both Zuniga and Odom.  When my dad, Aunt Gail, and grandmother were still alive, we always had Thanksgiving on the actual day at my house.  And we would have the Odom family Thanksgiving in Jasper the Sunday before.  Soon, we were having our gathering on the actual day in Jasper.

One of the things that remained constant for many years was the annual family photo on the Odom family swing.  We have been taking a grand-kids photos for years on the swing but we really didn’t start taking a family photo until 2006.  My niece, Kate became our “family photographer” for these photos and we used these photos for our Christmas card too.  We were pretty consistent with this for many years until we switched to Christmas in 2015-2016.  But for this Thanksgiving, I thought an Odom Family pictorial over the years was in order.  Meanwhile, I always like to encourage everyone to take photos so you can reflect back on these times later in life.  I’m finding time goes by very quickly and these photos and memories are so priceless.

Here are our photos over the years…beginning with 2006.  We were all seated on the family swing and Allen and Rhonda’s dog, Ozzie decided he wanted to get into the picture!

In 2007 – Our 2007 photo was taken after a major family football game in my in-law’s backyard!  I’m surprised we were all so put together after all that!  Then in 2008, everyone sympathized with Anna Marie by puffing up their cheeks.  She had her wisdom teeth taken out a day earlier and was a bit swollen!  We didn’t use any of these photos for our family photo, of course, but she was a good sport and posed for photos regardless of how big her cheeks were that year!

I couldn’t locate the photo from 2009.  But here are the ones from 2010 and 2011.  We included Lucy in the 2010 photo.

Here are the photos fro 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, we hosted Thanksgiving in Hoover so we took the photo on our deck.

In 2014, we took our last family photo on the Jasper swing.  After that, we had to change to taking the photo after decorating the Christmas tree at our house in order to have everyone together.  I’m sure this will continue to change over the years but if we can manage one family photo together a year, I’ll be happy!

Nov 2014 – last family photo on the swing in Jasper at Thanksgiving

 

 

Odom Thanksgiving at Kate and David’s House!

The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!

 The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!Thanksgiving doesn’t officially happen until November 23rd, but this year the Odom family had the gathering a little earlier than usual.  As all of our kids get older and everyone moves out of the general Birmingham/Jasper area, we are getting creative with how we celebrate and where!

Kate and David outside their new home in Athens, AL!

This year, my niece Kate and her husband David wanted to host the family at their new home in Athens, Alabama.  Kate and I kept in touch the week of the gathering via text message down to Kate making sure we had pumpkin pie covered for my daughter Emily.  (I thought it was so sweet that Kate remembered how much her cousin loves pumpkin pie!)  Their home is beautiful and there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy each other’s company.  But you know where everyone gathered, right?  Yep…the kitchen!  I told Kate that they have the same situation we have at our house…the end of the island is right in front of the refrigerator and that’s where everyone wants to stand!  Of course, I said this as I was standing there opening a bottle of wine!!

Everyone was able to be there this year except for my daughter Anna Marie and her hubby Ryan.  They were in town last weekend from Colorado for a family wedding so couldn’t return again this weekend.  We were also missing my nephew Dustin and his daughter Maddie.  They always make the gathering more lively!  We missed them all.  But we are working on a cousin reunion in December when everyone is back in town so stay tuned!

Our gathering was just what this family needed…great food, great wine (thank you Perry’s Steakhouse!), the tradition of our Thankful Tree, group photos and of course, the big cookie!  I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do…surprise…but here are several I took throughout the day.  Happy “early” Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

The Thankful Tree

Our Thankful Tree the first year...

Our Thankful Tree the first year…

When my kids were little, I was always looking for ways to bring the importance of thankfulness into their lives, especially at Thanksgiving.  We did the usual taking turns around the Thanksgiving table saying what we were thankful for and brought out little items they made at school as part of our dinner each year.  Pinterest wasn’t a “thing” at the time so going out and finding a multitude of ideas wasn’t readily available.  Hard to believe with the access we have on the internet these days.

One year I remember reading about creating a Thankful Tree using limbs from your yard and hanging leaves (cut out leaves or fake leaves) on a string to the limbs with why you were thankful.  I really liked that idea and it took on greater meaning to me in 2007.  That was the year that both my mother and her sister were diagnosed with cancer.  To me, for this to happen to two sisters in one year was an incredibly sad situation.  Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer that March and my Auntie Gail was diagnosed with ovarian cancer that September.  Getting them both through their chemo, radiation, hospital stays and doctor visits was tough that year.  But I’ll always remember how brave they both were and how difficult it was for them.  It was a privilege to be able to support them both that year and watch their courage as they fought this disease.

At Thanksgiving that year, I asked the kids to go out into our yard and find some limbs so we could make our first ever Thankful Tree.  We put them in a vase and cut pieces of brown yarn and added them to leaves.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t write on the leaves so we used sticky notes and stapled them to the leaves and hung them on the tree.  I remember watching my sweet Aunt write why she was thankful that year on a sticky note and then help two of her grandchildren with their own sticky notes.  I was so thankful that year that we were all able to celebrate Thanksgiving together because I know how difficult it was for both my aunt and Mother to get through their treatments.

A few years later, I found some paper leaves we could write on and we used those for the tree.  We had a few transitions over the next few years, celebrating Thanksgiving with the family in Jasper so we didn’t make the tree for a while.  But then my sweet Sister-in-Law, Rhonda, passed away suddenly in July 2014 and finding a way to be “thankful” was something I felt we needed as a family that Thanksgiving in Jasper.  I wanted to create something more permanent that year so I had this idea about using a bulletin board and using felt to create a tree on the board.  I enlisted my daughters to create this tree and they did a fantastic job drawing it out, cutting it out and then gluing it to the bulletin board.  They also cut out different fall color leaves from construction paper so we could write on them.

When I introduced it at the family gathering that year, it was just what we all needed. Don’t get me wrong, in no way did it replace those that we have lost over the years but it did give us time to reflect, all gathered as family, about what we still have and what we need to maintain our family ties.  I think it helped us reflect on our love for one another through whatever comes our way.  It was a blessing to watch the “kids” – almost all adults now – take to this “new” tradition and write something special to themselves on a leaf.

We have now used the bulletin board Thankful Tree for 3 years and I love reading what everyone writes.  Whether it’s something funny in the laughter of the gathering or if there is something special on someone’s heart, it captures that person at that moment in time.  I really do hope we continue to do this for years to come.

I have a larger project in mind after a few years of collecting these “thankful leaves’ and hope that by next year I can get it underway.  Meanwhile, each year I take the leaves that are put on the tree, write the year they were written on the backs of the leaves, and store them with my Thanksgiving decorations.  I am so very thankful that I found this idea so many years ago and I’m thankful for the creativity of my daughters in creating this on a bulletin board so we can keep it going.

Thankful…

The annual Odom Family Thanksgiving Cookie!  Always a hit!

The annual Odom Family Thanksgiving Cookie! Always a hit!

Today the Odom family gathered at our house to celebrate our annual Thanksgiving dinner.  I could go into detail about the preparations, the decorations, the food, and the conversations but I won’t.  I could also make a list of all the things I’m thankful for this year but I think the best way to show this would be to just share the photos I took today.  I’ll also share the messages several of us wrote for our Thankful Tree, a tradition be started a few years ago and that I hope will continue for many years to come.

Today was a great day…and I’m thankful for these wonderful people in my life…

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