Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

I said goodbye to my beautiful grand daughter today.  She is leaving with her mom and dad for New York tomorrow where she will now live.  She will not remember she was born in San Francisco, and that she visited Michigan and her grandparents for the first time. She may not remember she lived in New York City, but I hope she always knows she is loved by her parents and her grandparents and that when she leaves tomorrow morning, a bit of both sets of grandparents hearts will go with her.  Funny how that petite little bundle of big blue eyes, and "Alfalfa" like hair, and squealing smiles could just steal our hearts away and make it so hard for her to leave us.  I know my son would tell me to quit blubbering and that I can come see her when ever I want.  I know the invitation is open but we both know it will be months before we see her again, and those will be months when she changes so much.  Will that complete trust to every one that picked her up still be there?   Will she still be as delighted with her tongue as she is now?   Will she still kick her small legs and reach for anything dangled in front of her?   Probably not.  She will learn all kinds of new things at such a rapid rate it will be dizzying to her parents, and the next new thing will be just around the corner.  And while the new technological advances mean we can see her do many things, its not the same. 

So, that's part of the feeling of letting go of an old year that gave me my first grandchildren.  I always feel a bit melancholy closing out an old year, so many things left undone and regrets and the feeling of time rushing too fast.  But then the New Year is here and it is the start of a new page being turned, even if it seems its the same dirty snow of the last year I am looking at.  Most times it isn't so much the start of a new year as the return to the comfortable and familiar after the over drive of Christmas and the march to New Year's Eve.  Its that "routine" I thought I would always have, no matter how things changed.  I would always take down the Christmas tree, pack away each ornament and take the time to look at each one and remember how and why they were there, something I was too busy to do when hanging them on the tree.  Those were the routines that comforted me when we spent another quiet New Year's Eve, falling asleep long before midnight. 

This year was different.  We didn't have snow, even dirty snow.   We looked out at mud and brown.  The temps were mild for us this time of year but the very mildness meant rain instead of snow and mist instead of blue skies and brown and grays instead of white and sparkling.   I'm not sure how to feel about it because this year feels so different in so many ways, so I guess the lack of snow is appropriate. 

I have waffled between feeling this is a new beginning, really this year, and wondering how long the remnants of the old will be with me.  Nothing stays the same and even though it seems my life has followed a pattern, that was predictable and non inspiring, it was my life.  This past year has taught me that my life was never static and definitely not predictable.  I had a friend who lost his house this year in the Alabama tornadoes.  He and his family huddled in the basement while the winds blew the roof from his house and buckled the walls.  After, there was shock at what had just happened to them and then great joy and relief.  Finally was the realization their lives were changed, but they were alive and could rebuild or start again.  And that's the lesson in all this.  We can all start again.  We don't wait until the New Year necessarily, we get the chance for new beginnings every morning we get up and take a breath.  We get to say, thank you to our Creator and start every day fresh.  I lost sight of that so many times this past year and it is the very thing I don't want to forget in this new year. 

Thank you to all my family and friends who supported me and on whom I leaned.  Travel safe and well my grand baby and be happy with all the love that surrounds you.

Happy New Year.....

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I have a Daughter

I have a daughter named Annie.  She was long anticipated as I had her name picked out for almost 4 years.  Her brother, Korey would have been Ann-Marie Emma Cicinelli had he been born a girl.  I think now it all happened just right.  So I had two boys first, and then this complete surprise of a baby girl, and the doctor telling me it was such and I not quite believing I got that girl this time. 

She had a mind of her own from the moment she emerged.  Laid on my stomach while they cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta, she immediately urinated on my belly and upon feeling the warm fluid, she let out a lusty squall.  For the first few years it was a portend of things to come.

She screamed into the phone as I lay in recovery and told my mother, here was her first grand daughter.  She slept through the night at a month old, the first of my kids to do so.  She was a girl's weight when born, (at least for my babies), at 7 pounds, 7 ounces, a pound lighter than her oldest brother and almost 2 pounds lighter than her other brother.  But she remained petite and shortly acquired the nickname, "Putzy" from her Grandpa who adored her.  She walked at nine months, before she even had teeth.   She quit taking a nap at a bit over a year, and climbed out of her crib at every opportunity.  She was a potty training challenge and a disaster of pre school cuts and scratches from chasing after older brothers.

Annie ran into her first school room without a backward glance at poor old mom.  From the start she loved her friends and the opportunities school afforded for her to meet new friends.  She tagged along with us as we rushed her brothers to their first sports participations, the start of almost two decades worth of bleacher bottom and endless gyms, baseball diamonds and soccer fields.  At eight years old she was begging her dad to "throw" the ball with her, a ritual that continued for almost a decade.  She wasn't particularly "girly", preferring to wear shorts and jeans to dresses, and cutting any Barbie dolls hair to within an inch of its life.   But she hated the year I cut her baby fine hair so short, people mistook her for a boy.  She liked her best friends to have sisters, as knowing the disgusting things boys did much of the time was of no interest to her.  Brothers will do that to you. 

From about that first short haircut on, Annie and I suffered through a decade of attrition and contrition in the mother/daughter relationship.  I threatened and she set her jaw, stubbornly and rebelled.  She stomped her feet, I yelled and though I prevailed in the early years, I hadn't but won the battle, the war was long from over. She played sports of all kinds from the time she could walk.   She became Daddy's girl as he coached her in virtually every sport she undertook.  I was the cheerleader, the mom who drove her to everything, and paid the bills for endless camps and sports "stuff".   To be fair we did the same with the boys, and did it happily as it was what we wanted.  Yes, we lived through our kids and their sporting years.

Come high school and the driver's license, things changed.  The war escalated.  Annie was a good student, a good friend, a good driver, and a good athlete.  She gave me little to worry about aside from wanting to be gone constantly, and seeming to like everyone else's mom better than me.  We called her the little red taxi cab for the car she shared with her brother until he graduated and it became her sole possession. She drove here, she drove there, she drove virtually everywhere.  She was as at home behind the wheel as I was in my kitchen.  She played sports and was a mighty competitor, but didn't live and die by the stick and ball.  There were a few bumps in her road, but for the most part she was the all American high school girl and we fought constantly or so I thought.  Many is the night one of us was in tears over something.  The door to her bedroom was slammed so often, the pictures on the hallway wall carried a permanent tilt.  Her senior year in high school seemed a veritable mine field of traps I would step into.  I was wrong far more than I was right.  The kids she had grown up with, I was now only comfortable with when she wasn't around.  Many days it just seemed to be a time to get her to graduation and then have time to breathe away from each other.

College was a decision delayed and delayed and finally just kind of agreed to.  I'm not sure she ever really knew what she wanted in a college until she found what she didn't want.  A year at Alma College proved a turning point.  Gone was the want of continuing her sports at the college level.  Gone was the small town girl who wanted to know everyone on campus.  While she made lasting friends in her one year at Alma, she also felt stifled.  She was so unhappy there, it was a relief to tell her to transfer and to make this one the place she wanted to be.  Western Michigan was where she wanted to be.  It was a good move for her.  As it turned out a good one for me also.  She began to lead her own life and after a bad year that culminated in her decision to be gone from Alma, I began to come into my own life without kids.  Empty nesting took some adjustment, but I began to get the hang of it.  My friends became more important and I gave my family space while they decided their lives, or so I hoped.

Annie and I still had our challenges.  We found that we functioned best when we didn't spend more than 4 days in close proximity.  I know it sounds harsh, but we really were happier when we stayed in touch long distance for most of the time.  Annie was expanding her boundaries and exploring what she wanted from life.  Her goals were different than mine had been and I thought we were just different. I counted the differences more than the qualities we shared.  That would come later.   Peter came into Annie's life in her junior year of college and changed what it would be thereafter.  For the first time, she was excited for me to meet a guy she was dating.  To say Peter was not what I expected was an understatement, and it wasn't for the obvious reasons.  He seemed so different from the boys she had always hung out with previous.  But Peter had staying power and the more I came to know him, (and this took more than a few years as he was in school out of state for two long years), the more I realized how much he completed Annie and how much they complemented each other.  Peter had so many layers that Annie saw and fell in love with, and while it took me longer to see all of that, when I finally had the chance to totally love what Peter was all about, I fell in such regard for him and in turn saw my daughter in a whole new way.  Of course this was a way down the road.

When the summer of my dad's decline, I didn't know would come so soon, ended up coinciding with Korey and Jen's wedding, Annie seemed to merge all the disparities for me.  She helped with the wedding plans from our side of it and took the pressure off me.  The wedding was a joy, but so soon after I saw Dad age rapidly and faced the awful thoughts of dementia and how Mom would cope.  From the September ambulance trip to the hospital and the eventual hospitalization, Annie was the rock to our family.  She was wonderful with Dad and a bastion of strength to me.  She was tender and gentle with him and only wanted him to be comfortable and to know he was so loved.  It was such an amazement and ultimately such a comfort to me. 

Dad's passing that October marked the lowest point in my life.  But it was also the beginnings of a relationship with Annie, that while always there, finally bloomed and blossomed.  We still had our "winds of war" come swooping in but with every year we came more into "like" with one another.  We always loved each other, but discovering we were more alike than not, was a source of surprise to both of us.  Maybe we both grew into the relationship, and maybe ours was the normal course of Mothers and Daughters.  I do know that Annie has become my best friend, and that while I knew I always had a terrific daughter, I had no idea I could have such a very close and loving relationship with my girl.  She is my rock.

Annie has left behind her softballs, her snow skis, her bald Barbie dolls and all her trophies.  I have a daughter in who's room I still wander occasionally. I look at the music boxes which she never really cared about, but I thought would make a wonderful collection for a little girl.  I look at the pictures and softball posters still on her walls.  I look at the Harry Potter books she left behind, and glow in the dark stars she glued all over her walls.  The room hasn't changed much since she left it behind.  She has her own home now, one that I love to visit and feel so at home in.  I don't have her close by, and somehow I think if she were, we wouldn't function nearly as well as we do today.  I am fortunate that she is only a click of a computer away, a cell phone ring or a text.  In the future we will find more ways to stay in constant touch, and it makes me smile just thinking what lays ahead for us the rest of the way.

There is a saying, "A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter all of her life".   I have a daughter and she is a daughter for all of her life....and I am grateful every day now.

Christmas Gifts....

The kids and I decided to not try to buy gifts for each other and just plan a week's vacation at a cottage on a lake up north next summer.  I liked the idea and since we had gifts for the two new babies in our families we had a reason to get together for Christmas gift opening.

But as I contemplated on the "leftovers" of Christmas it was mostly the gifts I received that were unintended, I will long remember. 

The picture of my good friend with her grand daughter and the cuddle quilt I made for them.  Good friends are truly a treasure.  The unexpected gift of pink booties for my grand daughter's baptism from a church woman.  What a warm and blessings filled gift.  The great "bread" conversation I had with my nephew and the promise of a loan of the cookbook he uses to create such wonderful bread.  The promise of another nephew, he was still looking for the interior window shades for the french door he had sold us in October.  The bright smile of my grandson, Luca as he reached out to touch my dog, Gauge's inquiring nose. Another good friend going Christmas shopping with me at an antique warehouse.  We didn't buy anything, but spent a long lunch just talking.  The brown Christmas that was brightened by sunshine to be a beautiful day even without snow. Grand daughter, Vittoria's serenading everyone with her happy singing, music to my ears.  A long, warm hug from my brother in law, Kris, one that shared so much and understood all.  Watching my brother, Kim delight in his grandson's opening of his Christmas gift.  Great niece, Tara's love of all things, Shelby, (her aunt and uncle's yellow lab retriever), stowed away in my mom's basement while we celebrated Christmas.   Peter introducing Rowan and Autumn to the wonders of Angry Birds on his iphone. Autumn in her wonderful red polka dot dress with matching polka dot tights given as a gift from Aunt Kamie.  A hug from an old and good friend after church Christmas morning, congratulating me on my grandchildren, calling me "Grandma", and confessing that he now had 5 grandchildren. Christmas shopping with Annie on a drear day, and having so much fun.  My niece, Gina feeding her son, Wyatt carrots out of a jar while sitting on the floor with him. The generations of Walter's congregating at my mom's house for Christmas and loving each other.  These are the unexpected and wonderful things I received this Christmas.  It can't be measured in dollars and can't be equated a value.  They will be added as priceless memories.

The gathering of family is a cherished Christmas tradition and one I know will change and fluctuate as the season's pass and we are added to and subtracted from.  My dear Kurt's annual Christmas card, something I count on more than any gift.  The gathering around the big oak table at Mom's before we eat Christmas brunch and singing, "Happy Birthday to Jesus", holding hands and lighting a birthday candle my nephew made for his grandma 30 years earlier.  The Christmas story read and remembered in service, song and story, as in the end, it is the Greatest Gift of all....

These are the gifts of Christmas..

Christmas Done

It has been a different year.  I've said that before and I will continue to say it up until the end of this year.  It would be wonderful if it was as simple as just turning the calendar page to start life anew and a fresh.  But though we mark the end of one year with great celebration and hoopla, it doesn't mean that the New Year will be different from the old.  I am finding out that for much of our lives, change is little, incremental steps.

I have had a problem getting Christmas-y for the last decade.  Call it getting old, call it seeing commercialism run rampant, call it finding it increasingly hard to find just the "right gift for adult children", and call it a nagging sense that this isn't what Christmas is about.  I have never celebrated Christmas as just the Birth of our Lord, but the Christmas story was as integral to my childhood as was Santa Claus.  They were part and parcel of each other.  Somewhere they lost each other and both seemed gone to me.  I would give to charities and feel somewhat better, but writing a check out isn't the same as doing a kindness for someone, unexpected and seeing their face light up.  I became disillusioned with having to pick the charity that would do the most good and then being flooded with "reminders" the rest of the year.  I know many of these charities are now "big business" but it just soured me on what I was really grateful for.

My kids grew up and the saying is, "Christmas is for kids".  That may seem true, but the deeper meaning of Christmas is its for all of us, born in the form of a tiny babe in Bethlehem, that held the universe in his tiny hand.  When you think on that for a few moments you can't help but be awed at what this is.  How can you think that Christmas is just some holiday that has grown and morphed over the centuries?  It is the magic that is Christmas.  But I lost that for a time.  I retreated into thinking Christmas was so much better when I was a child or when I watched my children tear into Christmas.  But I now find that tearing into Christmas isn't what its all about either.  Call it maturity wisdom, but often now its the quiet reflection and remembering with a smile, Christmases past....

Its the bubble candles on my grandparent's Christmas tree.  We never had them on our tree and how fascinating they were to watch bubble continuously.  I almost bought a set when I saw them at Bronner's a few years ago.  They were outrageously expensive, and I had a suspicion they wouldn't bring back that wondrous time any better than my memories would, so I passed them by.  But I hope that Grandma and Grandpa are smiling up in heaven right now for all the joy they gave me in the years I spent Christmases with them.

There was my favorite Christmas, the year my brother, Kim and I got our new two wheel bikes.  It seems that I had no idea I was getting them in my recollections today, and that my brother came into my room at 5 a.m. to tell me, Santa had left a two wheeler under the tree for each of us.  What magic that feeling was.  I wish I could just hug it up close to me and never let it go.  I was a believer on that morning.  I think if you asked my brother for his favorite Christmas, that would be it also.  Magic doesn't strike often, and I have learned that Christmas magic is even more rare, but that surely was one time.

There were the Christmas presents we found and peeked at one Christmas.  Yes, I knew I was getting a pair of new ice skates one year, and while I enjoyed the ice skates and still have them I believe, the magic of Christmas had dimmed a bit when I found those skates.  I never had the urge to "peek" at Christmas gifts again.  I watched my great nieces and nephew tear through wrappings this year, and wondered if my own children were that intent on getting to the prize, and then on to the next one after.  I am sure they were.  My grand babies are too young this year to even care more about the wrapping paper than the gift, but that will come with time. 

Call me German, call me thrifty, but I take the most satisfaction out of gifts I have made.  They may not turn out exactly as I planned, and there are quite often numerous mistakes and boo-boo's, but they are also made with much love and reflection and though the recipient will never know it, a time to remember all that went into the relationship that produced the gift.  I have come to the age where an unexpected gift, someone made just for me is more precious than a thousand Christmas gifts bought, because it needed to be. As they used to say, "the gifts from the hearts" are always the best.  The boys will not even remember the Cabbage Patch dolls, I made them from a kit one year.  Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage those years, and they came out with a doll you could make.  So, I made each of the boys one, sewing on them late at night when they were in bed.  I finished them the day before Christmas Eve.  I am pretty sure they only received a cursory look at while on to the next gift which was probably a "Transformer" or Lego of some kind.  They were never played with that I remember and were finally put away in the "boys" boxes and probably should have been donated long ago, as I do not see either becoming sentimentally attached to a doll of their childhood, despite the fact, they were made by their mom and each stitch represented a time to remember her "boys"....

And so it is with many Christmas memories.  Some are blurry edged Christmas lights of remembrance.  Others are sharp pinpoints of brightness like the Christmas star.  Some take pulling out the Christmas box and finding a long discarded homemade ornament in the bottom of the box, and remembering how it was made and why.  Other times its a memory conjured up by someone else that brings it all crystal clear.   Some Christmas memories are strictly mine.  Some will be strictly my children's, (I hope), and as I look into the faces of my grandchildren, I hope many bright ones will be lasting Christmas memories for them.

Christmas wasn't bad or good this year.  I don't know that I ever had a bad Christmas because there was always family around and good Christmas memories.  Some were better than others, but most just are fused together with that happy blush of being together.  Its been a different year, and maybe that's how I'll remember this Christmas some day.  I do know one thing, that while Christmas seems to be the end of the year, the end of excess and overdoing culminating in one long week, it is rightly the beginning of our Lord's life here on earth.  A renewal and a chance to celebrate the tiny life that changed the world forever....

Merry Christmas to all. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Searching for Christmas

If I have any readers of this blog, they are probably yawning and have long since given up looking for me with any regularity.  Christmas started in earnest after Thanksgiving, no matter my stubborn belief that I do not put up a tree until the first weekend in December and that even doing that seems to be more ritual than anything.   I have resigned myself to the fact that of the nine or ten light strings I put on the tree, which worked when I plugged them in beforehand, at least two strings will die the day after I have the tree all decorated.  The manufacturers of these little ulcers in a box, (and we all know it is likely China), fool us with the credo that if one bulb goes out, the string will stay lit.  It is a part truth, because the string will invariably stay partly lit, but the one half will die and stubbornly refuse to light ever again.  It has caused me hours of endless Christmas frustration in the past and wondering why I bother with the stupid tree anyway.

Not want a Christmas tree?  That is blasphemy of the highest sort.  Why, I remember when my  dad's parents, the elderly of elderly set of grandparents I possessed, didn't want a tree.  I was a kid but I was shocked and appalled that Grandma Walter didn't want to put up a Christmas tree.   Luckily, some of her daughters held my same opinion and got a tree for her and decorated it with the blue lights, tinsel and simple ornaments I always associated with her.  I could never imagine Grandma Walter getting excited about picking out just the right ornaments for her tree or taking joy out of this sign of eternal optimism, as the tree was cut down and put in its stand.  I shuddered to think I would ever get that old, and lose all the spirit that to me was Christmas.  Christmas tree decorating for me as a child, was a family affair, and my brother and I always waited with baited breath until the light strings, (which back then seemed to not work before they went on the tree and we would spend a good hour figuring out which bulb had perished), were all on the tree, so my brothers and sister and I could hang the ornaments, and finish off the tree with the glorious tinsel.  I don't remember my mother ever being tired and cranky about the Christmas tree, (I'm sure she was), I just remember staring at the finished tree for hours and thinking it was magical to stare into the tree with its lights and glitter covered ornaments and shiny tinsel.  There was no other time like Christmas and it wasn't ready to begin until the tree was decorated.

Well, wouldn't you know it, too many years of malfunctioning lights have done me in.   Too many years of my kids indifference to decorating the tree, and my struggling with not feeling very ho-ho-ho, and pretending I did, made me a kindred soul to Grandma Walter.   I have threatened an artificial tree for years, preferably one that is "pre-lit" but somehow have just never got around to it.  We now discovered all those conservation seedlings we planted 15 years ago grown into presentable blue and white spruce trees, the perfect size for a Christmas tree.  We invariably will find 3 trees in a row, planted too close together, and the last decade have found the perfect way to thin the grove and get a really fresh tree that doesn't shed its needles and isn't artificially sprayed green to look better.   Our trees may be a bit crooked and may have one or two bald patches, but the ding, ding, ding,.....bonus:  its FREE for the cutting.

This year I faced the tree trimming with the usual loathing, more at myself for not appreciating the ability to still do this and find some fun and good memories in it, than anything else.  But some where along the line of Kurt and I cutting the tree down on a December morning which had seen a heavy, six inch snowfall coat all of the branches, (since melted and now a brown Christmas would seem to be our lot), letting it thaw out in the garage overnight and getting it up the next day, I experienced a new sense of peace about decorating.   I didn't put a full dozen ornaments on the tree.   The tree was smaller this year and seemed to tell me, "less is more".   I searched my soul while I decorated this year, and realized if I lost the want to decorate the Christmas tree, I had gone down a road of Christmas truly being just another holiday to get through.  I didn't have to participate in the rush to buy the perfect gift, or all the extraneous details we have now attached to Christmas.  I could just appreciate it for what the holiday is, the birth of my Lord Jesus.  I could marvel once again at how it must have been to be a shepherd in the fields that night, looking up into a sky full of stars, to see that one star more brilliant than any others and suddenly to have the skies alive with a multitude of the Heavenly Host proclaiming His birth.   Just trying to imagine it takes my breath away. 

A Christmas tree may seem to be pretty far removed from Bethlehem and the birth of the Savior, but it reminds me that I need to slow down and reflect and be joyous, even if that is a quiet joy.....

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Road to Good Intentions

I have been away too long.  The road to HE- double hockey sticks is paved with Good Intentions or so it is written.  Not sure about where good intentions end up, but I am pretty sure we all have good intentions that are never fulfilled.   And yet I know people, my own son, being one, who sets goals for himself and timelines and seldom does he not succeed in those.   His goals and timelines tend to be very flexible and subject to surprising change, and maybe that's the secret to it all.  Beats me, but at this point the good intentions of mine through the years that did not materialize would fill a couple of large, dusty books.  

I had planned to write on here at least twice a week and sometimes more.  Three times a week was the goal that seemed attainable.  Well, here we are and more than three weeks have passed and nada.  Its not that I didn't have things run through my brain, but my brain seems to become more sieve-like with every passing month, and they come in and out they go.  I could use the excuse that Holiday happenings occurred and they did, but those were over two weeks past.  And I could use the excuse that I'm flat out decorating for Christmas which I am, but still....a half hour of morning's time doesn't seem like much, and yet I haven't seemed to find those precious moments.

It hasn't been an easy three weeks but then none of us breeze through life, as I am rudely finding out.  A meeting of women friends the other night, revealed we pretty much share universal sleep loss.   Where we once could fall asleep at the drop of a baby's toy, (and didn't in those days, we think we would never sleep again?), now we find sleep harder to find, and when we do sleep, we are too often, wrenched awake at hours only 3rd line shift workers realize.   Two o'clock, three and even four a.m. are now our hours to roam the house and watch the Hallmark channel's endless display of Christmas movies, which cheer us now, but what about January.....and February and, gloomy, gloomy March?    I don't even want to think of that prospect right now.  So, we are alike in our misery, and wondering when does this newest affliction of our aging process kick off and when will we sleep nonstop like many of the really senior citizens I know.   I surely hope its soon, though judging by my friend's various ages, I've got another decade yet of this....bummer.

So my latest good intentions of writing more kind of ran amuck, but I did have Thanksgiving in Nashville.  It was a bit of an impulse, but I do think sometimes God looks down on us and says this will all work out and to go for it.   I lined up a house sitter and dog watcher, Annie and Pete were glad to have us and declared they would do all the Thanksgiving dinner prep and it would be waiting for us when we got down there on Thanksgiving afternoon.   My family famous butterhorn rolls were the only request I was asked to bring.  We had a good trip down, less road traffic on Thanksgiving, and arrived in mid afternoon.  A wonderful dinner, where Annie pulled out all her pent up culinary arts and amazed and delighted us all with turkey, a new and delicious stuffing, squash with bleu cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, cranberries and of course, a perfectly roasted turkey.   Oh yeah, a southern pecan pie and a pumpkin bread pudding that was soooooo good. We ate like kings and queens and had enough daylight and warm temps to take a walk of her neighborhood which never fails to delight me when I visit. 

We were fortunate to have gorgeous weather the whole of our time in Nashville.  Mornings were unrushed and late breakfasts were sumptuous, complete  with leftover turkey dinner fixings reborn as wonderful morning dishes.  We walked the neighborhood, visited antique shops and stayed away from anything remotely sounding like a "mall" or Black Friday.   We watched Michigan State beat Northwestern at a bar on the honky tonk row of Nashville's downtown area, and while there were tons of tourists outside, inside it was cozy as a small congregation of Spartan faithful gathered to watch our team win.  On Saturday evening because we were feeling a bit more courageous we took on Opryland to see the Christmas decorations and while it was very crowded, we took our time and enjoyed the lights and the decorations that make this a must stop for me when I am in Nashville at this time of year. 

We left Nashville, early Sunday morning in a drizzling rain that stayed with us all the way North to our home.  While it was good to be home after having warm sun, and new sights and our problems at bay for a time, they are still there.  Our dogs were happy to see us, and the land and our house seems so enduring there is a strength to that, and one I will try to tap into in the months to come.   We were blessed this time.  Our serendipity chance of a trip South, worked out right, nearly every mile of the way.  It won't always be that way and there have been times in the past and will continue to be times in the future where all will seem destined to failure, but its knowing that sometimes it does that makes intentions worth seeking....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wisdom; What Can You Pay Me?

I was just reading some of my Facebook entries and came upon a young friend, commenting on going to a wonderful dinner of college friends who shared in her college major and being grateful for all she had learned while in college and how it had helped in her chosen career. 

Amy, is a bright, enthusiastic, charming young woman, that you just love knowing.  She attacks her life with gusto and writes cheerful and humorous entries on Facebook that always make me smile, and smiling has become a high priority this year.  After writing about the above, Amy continued that she had helped her brother with an application for the chosen school at MSU, he wished to follow to his career path.  Amy was grateful for being able to help her brother and for all the people, students and others through work, she has been able to give  words of wisdom.  Her last comment was if only she could be paid for some this wisdom. 

Ain't it the truth?  I have tons of wisdom, and I am more than willing to share, in fact, I sometimes think my kids hesitate to ask or even hint, because they'll get more than they bargained for.  I have wisdom for Kurt and I give it to him every day.  He tends to call it nagging and quit listening about 20 years ago, when he realized I would still cook and clean, and be a more or less permanent fixture in his house.

Because I remained in my house, raising kids, a husband and now dogs, my bits of wisdom have gone largely on deaf ears, or the dogs, who while they may get the picture of what I am telling them can't give me satisfactory feedback. 

Every so often we come across one of those updated monetary charts stating that a full time homemaker would be worth something like $120,000 a year to replace when there are young children in the household.  By the time they are my age, they are just dead wood, sucking finances and services out of that glamorous world known as approaching retirement.  Yup, I've got tons of wisdom, but no one's lining up to pay me for any of it.

I know how to live on a budget.  Heck, I made up the budget.  I know how to make that dollar do some good things.  I wish now I had made it do even better things, but we were the baby boom generation and we are also the generation who thought we would never grow old.  We are now spending record amounts proving that we can at least look like it, and defy the body for a few more years,  One of my wiser moments when just living long enough has taught me is that I am aging, and I no longer care if I look 49.  I want to exercise and stay healthy, but I no longer feel the need to be sculpted, to be suctioned, or padded, added to or subtracted from. 

I have spent an adult life time pursuing those things which were under my homemaker status.  I learned to cook as a child and bake things like cookies and cakes from scratch.  As an adult I learned to truly bake, breads and pies.  I learned to make the dishes of my childhood, my way.   I learned to cook Italian and expand and continue with the love of pasta.  My kids developed favorites and I made them for them.  Now, I love expanding on the Italian cooking I have accomplished and enjoy finding ways to freshen it up and use herbs and tweaks to excite my tongue.  I devour cooking shows, and love the chance to tweak recipes my way.  I could write a cook book. 

I know how to spackle, to paint around a window, fix a bad float in a toilet.  I know how to fix leaks, get a temperamental washer to run, set the dvr, copy and paste, and sew on buttons and mend a hole in a sock.  I can read the directions to put together a new carpet steam cleaner and follow a pattern for a tumbling blocks quilt.  I can saute', braise, roast, and blend.  I know whipping, blind stitching, and cross trainers. I can clip nails, both human and animal.  I have removed countless splinters and pulled leeches off small feet.  I have picked leftover birdshot from a cleaned pheasant, and used duct tape for a 1001 projects.  I have cut down a Christmas tree, decorated hundreds, (or so it seemed), and made the ornaments for that tree.  I have strung miles and miles of Christmas lights and been exasperated beyond sanity that no one can make a light string that lights according to promises. 

I have helped birth puppies, burped babies, and held my dying father's hand.  I taken "art to the school", learned to read the weather like a true farmer, and driven tractors in a pinch.  I can run a rotatiller, do a spreadsheet, and edit copy. 

I can divide daylilies, propagate, and graft an apple tree.  I have pruned, cut grass and learned how to soothe poison ivy.  I have de-skunked a skunked dog, learned to remove gum from hair and given that same hair a good trim.  I can sew an apron, a quilt, and a set of curtains.  I have put in zippers, patched knees in bluejeans, and wallpapered and removed wallpaper in too many rooms.

I have kept the checkbook, wrote the checks, paid the bills and researched annuities.  I learned to use our first credit cards, and after some prodding became proficient at banking online.  I know my antiques and collectibles, but I still can't use ebay or Craig's List.  I know many of my laptop's eccentricities, but can't begin to figure out the iphone.  I know much but still have much to learn.  And in the end that's a good thing, because as far as I know, no one's knocking on my door to pay me for any of it.  It would be nice if the wisdom of just being around for so long was reverred and appreciated as it once was, but I think that mother ship has sailed, and I will just have to be satisfied with a grateful thank you over the cell phone from a problem only Mom could handle.  And sometime that's enough, but still.......feel free to throw some hard coin my way, whenever....

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Deer Season

OK, I admit it, I always breathe a sigh of relief when firearm deer season is finished.  I grew up loving animals and even knowing somewhere in the back of my head that the meat on our table came from a cow that had been in a stall in our barn previously didn't quite register as the same thing as shooting Bambi.  Yup, my first favorite book that I real all by myself from the library, was "Bambi's Children".  I checked that book out so many times, I could almost recite it line for line.  Many is the night I would sit under the covers of my bed with a flashlight reading after bed time. 

My favorites on the Wonderful World of Disney were always the animal shows, whether it was "Charlie, the Lonesome Cougar", "Rascal, the Raccoon" or "The Ugly Dachsund".  And as you may have guessed, though it was only released back then every seven years, "Bambi" was my all time favorite movie.

My love of wild animals was always there, I guess.  Though barn cats would not necessarily go under the wild category, the cats in my grandpa's dairy barn were pretty skittish, mating in the haymows and giving birth there also.  Once in a while we would find a nest of kittens and would play with them until their wily mother would spirit them away to a new hiding place.  The barn cats were seldom seen except when the milking was done and then they would always be sneaking milk out of the pails waiting to be carried to the big stainless steel cooler in the milk house.  The favored barn cats would line up in a row where my dad or grandpa would be milking and if lucky would get a squirt of milk directed at them from a hand milked teat.  Before we moved permanently to the farm, I would often ride along with my dad while he did the milking in the evenings and I was forever catching one of the less wild cats and trying to smuggle it home with me.  I tried putting them under the car seat, in the glove compartment, and once in a paper bag I had found.  The cats never really cooperated by being quiet and were always released back into their kingdom of the barn. 

My dad never deer hunted and most of the neighbors I knew didn't either.  They were too busy farming and trying to get ahead to deer hunt.  But my mom's dad, Grandpa Laurenz deer hunted.  Every year when I was young, he and Grandma went for a week to their summer cottage on Sand Lake, cranked up the oil heater and deer hunted.  To my knowledge he never got a big buck, but it was never about the trophy for him, it was about the enjoyment of sitting in a deer blind, (back then under a tree usually), and just being able to think without any thing else going on.  It was about the hunt.  He usually got a deer, and then would come a venison dinner we were all invited to.  It was quite often venison steaks grilled over his basement fireplace.   As a kid I learned early on to dislike the taste of venison, as Grandpa's always left a tallow-y slick of grease in the roof of your mouth, that couldn't seem to be dislodged with the mortal tongue. (I have since been informed that the meat was not cut down properly to remove excess tissue).  Both of my mom's brothers also hunted, but enduring the annual venison dinner was a once a year deal.  Because I got to see my grandparents, cousins, and aunts and uncles, I was more than happy to suffer through some icky venison. 

Well surprise on me, I married a deer hunter, and a duck hunter, and a pheasant hunter, rabbit and squirrel if nothing else was around.  He came from a couple generations of avid hunters and his brothers all hunted, so there was no getting away from it with his family.  It seemed like a fairly harmless hobby, as his mother had set down a strict rule:  you kill it, you clean it, I will cook it.   That worked fine with me so I was never asked to gut a fish, a deer or defeather a wildfoul.   Kurt didn't kill a deer every year but enough so that we always had venison if we wanted it and there was usually packages of white butcher paper wrapped venison in our large freezer somewhere.  Kurt would eat venison, but in those days we had all the beef and chicken we wanted which seemed preferable so quite often some of the venison was given away.

The first few years of his deer hunting were charming, for lack of a better word.  I loved how excited he got and how he would plan for days what he would take to his deer blind for food and what he would wear.  Because the opening of deer season came smack dab in the busy "turkey" season for Cicinelli's, getting opening day off was always a rare treat and quite often it was only a few hours in the morning.    The evening of Opening Day our telephone lines were burning up.  Calls went back and forth between, he and his dad, his brother, Kris, my brother, Kim and his best friends, Larry and Terry.  If one of them got a nice buck, then a quick trip had to be made to go view this magnificent specimen.  It seemed like fun then.  I never enjoyed looking at dead deer, but they were dead and showed little resemblance to the ones I saw running across the fields.  They never became a nuisance to me as they never bothered my garden. 

As time went on and there was more hunting pressure around our farm, I grew to like Opening Day less and less.  One year I saw a doe run across the tilled field in front of my house and shot and try to keep running wounded.  It sickened me and there after, I tried to be gone somewhere on Opening Day.  The boys grew up and of course, became hunters like their dad.  With my brother's two nephews between our farm and my parent's place Opening Day was a busy one.  Mom took to making a big pot of soup for the hunter's at noon.  That way I didn't have to be around if I didn't want to.  The guys enjoyed the chance to eat well and compare notes.  I've come to realize its what deer camp is all about.

The boys are grown now and though Ryan was out yesterday, Korey has to deer hunt vicariously through his dad and brother and friends.  The deer have become such a common sight in and around our place that "thinning them out for the good of the herds" has real merit to me now.  And I have come to learn how to prepare venison in ways that I love.  So, when Kurt shot a small 6 pt. that he and Ryan had been seeing for a few weeks now, I didn't feel really sad as I once would have. The buck had a pronounced limp that doomed it to live the winter anyway.  That always tears at my deer hugging heart, as I hate to see any animal killed because of something like that, but I know it to be a reality.  I didn't even mind the doe, Ryan shot because the doe herds need thinning and the venison will be put to good use...

I thought my Opening Day was done fairly early, but just before dark, I was summoned to grab the camera as Kurt had shot a big buck down in Mom's creek flats.  Ryan was taking the tractor over to pick it up and I followed in the truck.  It wasn't quite the monster Kurt thought it was, but it was a nice 8 point and one anyone would have shot.  Kurt's buck tags are now used up, and I really don't need more venison for the freezer, so he can take Gauge out now, duck hunting.   And maybe, just maybe I could talk him into Thanksgiving in Nashville.....Probably not, but its a nice thought....

Monday, November 14, 2011


My friend Mary came up from Haslett to attend a musical production of "Drumline" with me on Saturday and spent the night here.  Mary and Jim have become dear friends and as I go through maturity, grumbling and mumbling, I realize how good friends who share your ups and downs are a precious thing.

But as with any overnight visitor to my house, (a rather rare occurrence), I went on a cleaning jag.  Yeah, I know it was way overdue, but it just seems to get away from me, as I keep the rooms we spend the most time in relatively clean and ignore the rest.  We, well I, made the decision to have Tally, our truly incorrigible black lab, spayed in October.  Same day surgery, she came home that afternoon seeming none the worse for wear.  Instructions to not let her lick her sutures, keep her relatively calm and in two weeks the sutures would be removed and in four weeks she could resume hunting activity.  Seemed pretty straightforward to me.  Leave it to Tally to do the opposite.  She licked her sutures and I think moreso when I wasn't looking which was often.  I thought having her spayed took away the friendly scent that drove Gauge to being an indiot dog, spraying the house liberally with his scent and chasing after Tally to have more than a convival romp.  I was so wrong.  All of the above happened and so we had to separate the two once again.  Three days after the surgery, there was a blood tinged discharge from the incision.  Tally seemed fine but I had to put down old towels and blankets wherever she lay.  I hoped it was just post surgical discharge but when it was no better by Monday, I took her into the vet, such a fun experience as Tally believes this is her own personal chance to bark her fool head off.  By the time we had gone twice a week, for the next two weeks for vet visits, (yes she had pulled a suture and had to be belly bandaged to keep from licking the sutures), the office personnel just shook their heads and smiled ruefully.  For some strange reason she was always excited to go back, even though it was less than graceful to haul her wiggly butt up on the examination table.  Finally on last Thursday the belly bandage was removed and she was declared healed and everything could go back to some kind of normal.

The gist of all of this was that I had put off major cleaning until I knew she wouldn't bleed on anything.  The carpets needed cleaning and a detour of sorts had gone on there, when I started my old steam carpet cleaner, only to have it make a loud noise, emit smoke and spit out small plastic pieces.  A new cleaner was in my immediate future, as the old one had certainly given me my monies worth at over a decade since purchased.  Of course, being me, I waited until the last two days before Mary's arrival to really clean up a storm.    Apparently, I never look up normally and when I was finally forced to in the mad dash to finish up the cleaning, I found cobwebs.  Cobwebs every where.  Cobwebs of every design.  Cobwebs, long and short.  Cobwebs stretching over two feet over ten foot ceilings.  Cobwebs behind the deer antlers of the mounted heads hanging from my walls.  Cobwebs under the tables.  Cobwebs on the duck decoys and cobwebs crisscrossing the books on my book shelves highest areas.  How in the world did they come up with the term, "cobweb" anyway?....Charlotte has been busy and somewhere Wilbur was smiling like a pig.

Now cobwebs are a part of the end of summer into autumn around here.  They are as much a part of my house's landscape as are the returning ladybugs, uh, Asian lady beetles, which with the harvest of soybeans fields will be seen to wander in east facing windows throughout the winter months.  And a more recent interloper, box elder bugs, are annoying, crawly things on windows, floors, and in the carpet every warm, sunny day now.  Such freaking fun.  So, spiders and cobwebs have always seemed the lesser of all these evils.  I have never had an arachnid phobia, and really believed if I killed a spider as a child, it would rain the next day, something that was horrible to even contemplate in the summer's of my youth when I wanted every day to be one of sunshine and lollipops. Heck, if I thought that would work now, I'd have been committing spider-o-cide at every dry spell we encountered in July and August. 

No, cobwebs are as much a part of country living as anything I can think on.  Cobwebs would hang thick and dusty in the hay barns of my youth.  In the storage areas of the old tool shed they warned us to not bother to try to break through as we would be the ones to suffer the sticky threads and dust and dirt they incorporated.  There were just dirty, dark places, the housewives of the 60's never went and there in were the spiders and the webs they created.  As a new wife, and young mother, my old farmhouse basement was the place they lived and breathed.  I didn't go down there.  Before the house was remodeled it was dank and damp and I allowed the spiders and spinmeisters to have free reign.  In 1989, when we did the whole house remodel, we replaced a corner wall of the old basement and dried up the area with this addition.  While spiders still found purchase in an area I didn't frequent every day, a twice a year sweep down with a broom, seemed to be serviceable.  It was the cobweb spinning in the upper levels of my house that are the most vexing.  I give the little buggers pretty much free reign of the basement, why can't they just stay down there.  But no, they have to take over the stairwells, climb the corners of every room and wreak havoc in closets and under beds. 
I swept, I vacuumed.  I took dust wands behind the televisions.  I dusted them away in the book shelves.  And I thought I had finally triumphed for another autumn.  

Mary came, and we had a great time.  We talked and laughed and she was a wonderful respite to a difficult year.  Yesterday after she left, Kurt was in an upper cabinet in the utility room looking for gun shells for the start of deer gun season on Tuesday.  I stood on the ground below him and saw a huge, three foot long spider web draped from the column across to the wall and corner behind where Kurt was standing on the stool.  It was gigantic and I had walked under it a hundred times a week for weeks now. 

I give up, I surrender, UNCLE.  Cobwebs have taken over.  So it shall be....

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran's Day

I never lack for things to say at least on my blog, but its actually taking the time to do it, that seems to suffer.  I am a morning person, no two ways about it, and I am at my best writing, thinking, and in just general energy levels in the morning.  Blame it on my farm girl roots.  So I should sit down and blog every morning, right?  In theory that sounds right, but somehow in actual application, I fall like a lead balloon and fail at this just as I promise to weigh myself once a week. 
I even jot down topics I want to write about.  I am now behind about 10 blogs worth.  Funny how that happens.

But yesterday was Veteran's Day and I don't want to let it go by without my thoughts on it.  Much was made of the day.  Commercials flooded the airwaves thanking our Veterans, past and present.  Restaurant chains advertised free meals or servings for Vets.  Facebook was flooded with wall posters for Veteran's Day and many put up pictures of dad's, grandpa's or other loved ones, who had served or were currently in the military.  It was fitting, but I have to wonder where all this came from.  Veteran's Day is one of the last surviving "Bank and Government" holidays as I call them because they seem to be the only ones who don't work, that hasn't been moved to a Monday holiday, an abomination in my opinion of all the holiday's I once held dear as a child.  We celebrated  Lincoln's birthday and Washington's birthday on the 12th and the 22nd of February.  It wasn't a bank or postal holiday, renamed President's Day and moved to a Monday so schools could be off and all the a fore mentioned places could take a holiday.  Memorial Day was always on May 30th.  Yes, we got school off, but we celebrated in the way it was meant to be celebrated by visiting the cemeteries and decorating the graves of passed on loved ones.

While I applaud the United States paying omage to our military and Veteran's, I do not see how advertising a Veteran's Day sale at Art Vann is particularly throwing it up for the Vets.  While it is a nice sentiment and I admit, I was one of those who put pictures of my husband and father in law up on Facebook to salute them, a greater service probably would have been to actually go to a VA hospital or VFW gathering and have a personal conversation with a Vet and thank them.  We like, all too well, being able to go out in cyberspace and give greetings and well wishes that don't take much time and make us feel, oh so, much better.  We have done our "bit" with a minimum of fuss and muss.  I am the most guilty of all. 

I didn't know Kurt when he served in Vietnam.  I would meet him almost a decade later.  He didn't talk much about his time there and it was so far in his history when I met him that I just didn't think much about it.  When a reunion group of the 30th Field Artillery was formed  and ultimately arranged actual reunions  at places such as Fort Sill, Oklahoma and Fort Hood, Texas was it that I learned what it felt like to be around people who shared what you had gone through.  I understood the comradeship that these men felt many of whom only shared the 30th FA designation.  Through this group, Kurt located men he had served with in Nam, long since, left behind when he returned.  I spent eye crossing hours at one reunion listening to the men regale each other with stories that only they understood.  I wish now, I had listened more carefully as some of those men are now gone.  They are not forgotten but with each passing loss, we lose something of what is remembered.

Veteran's Day was meant to be a day of rememberance and honoring those who served and serve still.  Our history is built on what our veteran's did on the battlefields.  I had the experience of getting to see the American Cemetery in Normandy, France a few years ago.  People had told me I would be awed by it, and it was true.  It took my breath away.  It was overwhelming to see rows upon rows of white crosses and David's stars lined up in perfect symmetry.  They stretched across green, tree shaded acres and in the background, the sea those soldiers had come across.  Stormy, wind swept seas.  It is the end result of so many military resting places, now sacred, land fought and scarred with the blood of so many.

Thank you to all who served, most importantly to my husband, Kurt, my friend and companion for nearly 35 years.  Vietnam fired the metal core that was there.  It added a layer to the strong man you would become.  God bless you and all who have served and will continue to do so.  May the rest of us never forget.....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


I had to get my Halloween fix on Facebook sad as that is to say.  My friend who lives in a small subdivision in town, had over a 110 trick or treaters and had to finally shut off her porch light.  I am lucky if I get two trick or treaters and this year that number dwindled down to zero.  I live on a sparse stretch of mile in the country.  Even when my kids were small, we never trick or treated on our road, as the people on it were older and their children were grown.  We went to the neighborhoods that had younger kids and were therefore prepared to have candy and lots of it.  So, our porch light was seldom on and even after my kids were past all of that, it was a rare occurrence to get more than 5 kids knocking on my door.  Some would say it is one of the perks of the country, but I sigh, as I remember my own days of going out on Halloween.

We planned our costumes for days, though the planning never included anything that was bought or that couldn't be sewn together with a needle and thread, such as patches on your knees for the always popular, hobo or tramp.  A stick with a bundled handkerchief attached, a bit of charcoal applied to the face, and if you really wanted to be creative, some Blackjack gum to  fake a missing front tooth.  It wasn't hard to be a tramp back then as the supplies were readily available.  And it didn't much matter, the costumes were pretty forgettable.  I know my brother went as a ghost one year, but try as I might to remember, the hobo is the only costume in my kid years I really remember.  It was all about the goodies we collected for halloween, not the costume, I guess, or my memory is just really in the toilet for such things now.

My mom traded off driving us for trick or treating with my best friend's, the Gustara girl's mom.  One year she drove and the next Helen drove.  My brother was the only boy in the group back then but he didn't mind.  It didn't take but a couple of years to know the "hot spots" to get to.  Because both sets of grandparents lived fairly close we usually stopped at all.  Grandma Bonnell did wonderful bags of trick or treat delights.  A popcorn ball, penny candy and usually a larger sized candy bar.  Not to be missed.  Grandma Gustara and Uncle Joe didn't have the greatest treats in the world, but Grandma Gustara was fascinating to me as she seemed to be no taller than I with white hair, few teeth and talked in the Czech tongue and I couldn't understand a word.  Uncle Joe who I did know and was crazy about, translated, and that was as good as a candy bar to a kid who never heard it.    My grandparents had nice treats but weren't nearly as interesting to me. 

We got alot of apples, usually dropped on a homemade cookie, rendering the cookie, crummy by the time we dumped the contents of our paper shopping bags at the end.  Popcorn balls, penny candy and the occassional actual candy bar were like gold to us.  The highlight of the trick or treating tour was the stop at Wilsey's store a half mile away.  The Wilsey's stayed open later for trick or treaters and we were allowed to pick whatever we wanted from the penny candy shelves.  Those shelves ran a good 15 feet and were two shelves high, we believed we were the luckiest kids in the world on Halloween. 

We always stopped at a few of the elders of our small farming community, and inevitably had to sing for our treat.  The older folks were hem and haw and tell us to sing real loud.  We were impatient to be on our way to the next stop.  I now realize, how we brightened their holiday by stopping and looking back wished I had sung a few extra bars of any song, no matter how dreadful I sounded.  Why does wisdom always come in the form of looking back and knowing now....

We knew everyone who's house we stopped at, and  everywhere we stopped, the grown ups had a chat, while we kids bounced from foot to foot, eager to be on to the next place.  Exhausted finally, we were back home to examine our booty.  We didn't look for razor blades or hidden objects but looked to see what was actually candy and what could be bartered between my brother and I.  Apples were stored in the fridge and ended up in our lunch boxes for the next two weeks.  Popcorn balls also were saved for lunches while penny candy was counted, categorized and divided accordingly.  We hid our treasure, usually under our beds, and lived in delight for a good two weeks, carefully rationing the wonders that Halloween had wrought.

I always thought my kids never had it as good as I did, but I suppose they will think the same thing with their own children.  I do remember more of their costumes, probably because I sewed or altered a good many.  Ryan with his dad's army uniform on, the wool pants basted so he could wear them.  Korey as Count Dracula, with my expertise of face paint and fake blood.  Annie as an angel, a witch and a princess.  I still have the Snow White costume she borrowed from a friend and forgot about, still hanging in her closet.  Probably my most memorable costume for my kids were the year I sewed tomato costumes for the boys and stuffed them with newspapers to get the desired shape.  They rustled when they walked.  And Ryan as a butterfly, complete with a huge span of cardboard wings that would only go through the sliding door on the van we drove.  Every stop meant pulling that door open and Ryan going out and in sideways so as not to catch his wings.

My newly 5 month old grandson was dressed as Yoda from Star Wars.  We didn't take our babies out until they were over a year, as it wasn't like they were going to eat the candy.  The intracacies of putting a 5 month old in a costume after each stop and then taking off the costume to fit him into his car seat was a major production and meant that the little guy and his sleep deprived parents were both exhausted by 8 that night.  My grand daughter's costume I got to view on Facebook as her mom put her "glow in the dark skeleton" sleeper picture for all of us to see.  She looked totally oblivious to how cute she was.  While I miss not seeing her in person every day, the best years of trick or treating are ahead of her.

So Facebook became my way to see my grand nieces and nephews in costume.  My silly kids with no kids yet in costume, and wacky friends who are never to old to dress up.  We shared pictures from far away and smiled.  It was not the Halloween I fondly remember but things just insist on not staying the same.  And I guess that's a good thing....

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I think I am fairly addiction free.  I mean, I don't smoke, and drink pretty moderately, and I don't think I have a food addiction though french fries and a heaven made of chocolate have crossed each other in my dreams.  Perhaps a chocolate covered french fry.  I don't need gourmet coffee, though I do require it hot and like a big dollop of white, as my grandpa used to say.  I don't think I'm addicted, but I do find it one of life's necessities to get me going in the morning. 

But I will admit I love books.  I love the smell of the printed word in hardcover or soft.  I love the feel of a good solid book in my hand and the look of volumes of books lined up like soldiers on my several bookshelves.  I find them comforting on my coffee table and the last thing I will often see on my nightstand as I drift off to sleep.  I love curling up in a warm blanket, a cup of hot coffee and a good book on the damp and cold of many days.  I like a good book with a bowl of popcorn and nothing on tv.  I am happy when I can lay on a hammock on a hot summer afternoon, and be transported somewhere, anywhere that story can take me.

I discovered the love of reading in the second grade, though I think the seeds of words were planted as a child when my mother read to my brother and I.  We most often requested a book of fairytales but any book would do and some of my happiest memories are curled up next to my mom, my brother on her other side, lost in the words and world of Rapunzel, Rumpelstilskin, and my favorite, The Wild Swans.  Bible stories and Little Golden Books, we loved them all.  In the second grade, on a trip to the school library, I checked out my first book, "Bambi's Children", and was hooked.  I would read it every chance I could find and even sat under the covers with a flashlight to keep reading.   I climbed a maple tree out back to read in the leafy branches.  I sat on a porch swing and read, and I lay on the floor next to a heat register to read during the coldest parts of winter.  The school library was my good friend, but I longed to own honest to goodness books.  Books that weren't little golden books or thick paged Bible stories.  I wanted to own a hardcover book with multiple pages. 

I picked strawberries with my mom that summer at my great aunts house.  I remember thinking the strawberry patch looked endless, and picking strawberries was something I did, but eating as many as I wanted, soon lost its lure, and it was just seeing how fast I could fill the quart boxes and working my way down, down that long patch.  My payment for helping pick strawberries was a trip to town and I got to pick out two real books of my choice.  I became the proud owner of "The Bobbsey Twins", and so started my love affair with not only reading, but owning books.  I asked for books for birthdays and Christmas.  I asked for a book in my Easter basket.  When my class at school had book sales, I begged for books, and I usually was allowed to order at least one or two.  When the big cardboard box would arrive with our order at school, no one was more excited than I to get my "order", and be allowed to get new books to take home and enjoy and enjoy.

In the fourth grade I joined my first book club and became a Happy Hollister fan.  I collected probably 15 of the books from this set, and loved them but along about fifth or sixth grade I discovered Trixie Belden.  For the next few years though I continued to read everything I could, I collected Trixie Belden every time I earned extra money.  No books I owned were read and reread as much as my Trixie books.  I read Nancy Drew and even some Hardy Boys, but just never connected with them as I did Trixie, and her brothers, Brian and Mart, her friends, Honey and Diana, and Honey's adopted brother, Jim.  All these years later I still have a set of my Trixie Belden books, not packed away, but on a shelf in Annie's old room.  I don't know why I've never packed them away, I just like seeing them still sitting on a shelf, worn, but well loved.

The end of my 8th grade year, my grandma and my mother took me to see "Gone with the Wind".  GWTW was brought out only every 8 years to the theaters and it was my introduction to the tradition of going to see it.  I was enthralled by the movie and read the 800 page book that summer.  It would start a tradition of sorts where I would read GWTW every year.   I had a wonderful English teacher my freshmen year of high school who encouraged reading and even had us read a book in class, "The Outsiders" which  ultimately became another beloved favorite.  In my junior year, I took a class that allowed me to just read books.  Classic books, modern books and books of my choice.  I read "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men".   I read "Christy", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Member of the Wedding".  I became hooked on James Michener and had a decade or more following "Hawaii", "Centennial", "Chesapeake" and "Alaska".   I read "The Covenant", "Texas" and "Poland".  I read "Space".   After Michener, John Jakes came out with his Civil War triology and later his historical fiction of the United States.  I went to college and then married and found new books to love.  I went through a time with babies where I was lucky to read the newspaper, but there was always a book tucked somewhere and my book shelves expanded.  I used the library, but just couldn't resist a book store and my ideal vacation always involved at least one good bookstore for me. 

My love affair with books didn't end with fiction.  I bought books on antiques, on gardening, and on quilting.  I bought coffee table books with pictures that took me away to places I would never visit.  I bought books on artists I loved and wondered where the talent came that allowed their pictures to breathe life.  I bought cookbooks of all kinds.  I bought my share of self help books and books on raising good kids, and books on figuring out aches and pains.  I was Gidget and thought any thing I needed to know could be learned from the pages of a book. I learned, that while I could learn much from those pages, much of my life lessons would come from just living. 

I now have more time to read and it has become one of my greatest pleasures.  When I run into another person, (usually a woman), who reads as I do, I almost hungrily quiz her for what she's reading and what she suggests.  If we've read the same books, I compare notes.  Everyone tells me I need to join a book club, but that is easier said than done, out here in my quiet country where most of my friends share books with each other and then pass those same books on to others.  So, it was with great pleasure that I sat and talked to a fellow woman reader, the other night and we talked books and authors we liked, and a warm glow spread.  Books have that way about them....

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

I will admit it.  I am addicted to recipes.  I love nothing better than going through my favorite magazines and finding recipes that look too good to be true.  I have thick binders full of recipes, gleaned over the years from magazines, newspapers and more recently printed online.  One in ten are never tried out, but I am getting better...I think.

My early marriage was trying new things and learning the old standards of my mother and mother in law.  Trying to convert recipes down to two sized people took some doing and before I knew it those recipes had to expand to include kids.  A few recipes became family favorites and now 20 years later are still standard fare at a potluck or requested for a dessert when my wandering children are home.

I adopted Kurt's mom's favorite cut out cookie for Christmas.  Actually she borrowed the recipe from her sister in law, a standard Swedish version of a cut out cookie that employs of all things, hard boiled egg yolks.  It makes a thick cut out cookie that is not overly sweet with a lemon-y tang to it that I have come to love.  A bit of plain old powdered sugar icing makes it perfect.  It is not only Kurt's favorite, but both boys wait for the rolling pin to come out.  I also make Kurt a plain white angel food cake every year for his birthday.  His mother did, and its his favorite, so he gets one.   I have made her pasta sauce in the past, and its one Ryan likes to make, but it never tastes quite right to Kurt or I, so on that I am still experimenting.  If you've got any killer pasta recipes, send them my way. 

I didn't bring many of my favorite things from my own family, aside from my mom's pie making ability and a chocolate chip cookie recipe that got me through two boys and one daughter's baseball and softball years.  That cookie recipe came from Mom but by way of her best friend in our country neighborhood, Joyce.  Mom tried it, liked it and it was one of the first cookie recipes I made all by myself and went with me to my new married home.  My kids grew up and that cookie and the cut outs were probably the two constants.  Pie making was just something I learned to do and a good way to use up fruit of all kinds.  When the boys requested my apple pies, I knew I had it made.

Nope, not many things came with me that I loved.  Potato pancakes, I absolutely love, but have had little luck getting any of the kids to more than tolerate.  Kurt will eat them but doesn't crave them as do I.  Even more than potato pancakes are fried apples.  The smell of bacon and apples cooking in a big iron skillet on a late summer's morning immediately transports me back to the cottage at Sand Lake and Grandpa and Grandma getting breakfast ready.  Fried apples signalled the waning of summer but also was the essence of summer and the times spent at Sand Lake in that wonderful cottage which will always be part and parcel of my childhood. 

Popovers, anything with shrimp, magic cookies, fried eggs and grilled cheese sandwiches, fish sticks and caramel frosting... Those were the foods of my childhood.  I made an apple cream cheese bundt cake yesterday from a recipe I had ripped from Southern Living magazine.  It has become one of my favorite places to pull recipes not only for the traditonal bent they still esteem but also the wonderful pictures that make every recipe seem a must try.  I had a Bible Study yesterday and a birthday for one of the ladies.  A perfect time to try this cake.   It was complicated, not so much the ingredients but the time and bowls and measuring cups it required.  After mixing the cream cheese layer and the basic apple-spice cake from scratch, and layering the cake and the cream cheese in layers, it was baked in the oven.  Later in the afternoon I mixed up the "praline frosting" for the top.  From the point of putting butter, brown sugar and a bit of milk in a saucepan to heat up and bring to a quick boil, stirring constantly, I knew where this frosting was going.  It was the caramel frosting of my youth.  The frosting I loved so much I didn't need the white cake that generally went underneath.  The frosting I would make myself and hide under the bed to take spoonfuls when only the sweet, tooth aching, deliciousness would raise up whatever childhood angst I was suffering.  Nothing was so bad that caramel frosting didn't make it better.

But I left caramel frosting back in my childhood.  It never became part of my kids birthday cakes and since frosting in a can came out shortly after Annie was born, and since most cake icing was beyond my best culinary skills, I latched onto the wonder that made spreading frosting effortless and lasting forever.  Caramel frosting became a dim memory and something spotted only on occassional excursions into Amish country and baking as it seems to have survived well in their dessert schemes. But then last night I made the praline frosting for the apple cream cheese bundt cake, aka caramel frosting with a dressed up southern name.  It was heaven.  One hot spoonful and making it to the cake was in serious jeopardy.  Funny, how food can conjure up memories no matter our ages.  Good memories and in the case of my mom and M&M's really bad ones. 

The praline frosting made it to the bundt cake and it was a very good cake and would have been good but not quite as good without the frosting and sprinkling of toasted pecans, but the licking of the bowl and the stir spoon brought back the sweetest of memories and that's priceless....

And sometime ask me about Mom and the M&M's...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Murphy's Law

Many times I wait for that other shoe to drop, generally on my foot.  I wait for the bad news, because life surely can't go on being pretty good.  So, I worry when the stock market drops, when gasoline skyrockets, and when another health issue erupts.  Some would say its the inevitable course of aging, to worry.  Well crap, another myth shattered when I finally get there.  When I was young I worried, different things, whether I would get picked to sing in the Christmas choir, (couldn't carry a tune in a bucket), but I loved music, so I always hoped.  I worried about school and tests.  I worried if I would get asked out to the big dance, later proms, (and I mostly didn't).  I worried about choosing a college, and leaving home for the first time.  I worried all through college about passing, virtually each and every course I took.  I worried about finding a teaching job at a time when we were flush with tenured teachers.  I worried about substitute teaching, and would that be enough of a profession for me.

After marrying came a whole new set of worries with children.  Name me a mother, and her name will be "WORRY".  Making ends meet while raising the kids was MY job.  I kept the accounts and I was responsible for seeing that home and hearth were kept together.  Some days I just felt like it was going to blow up around me.  Times of unworried happiness were fleeting and I always seemed to worry about what might happen more than what did.  Somehow, we managed to keep home, remodeled and functional through the years.  The kids grew up and went out on their own with only minimal damage to their psyche's, (depending on the day you inquired), and didn't write any "Mommy Dearest" books about me, (I think). 

Of course, now when I see retirement at the end of that long tunnel, my house decides it needs a complete maintennance overhaul.  Its a sad fact of our modern life, that nothing is built to last.  If you get a car that runs for 10 years on just the oil change and grease up, you'd better hang onto it, because you'll never find a car that good again.  If your washing machine is going on 18 years and has never really needed repair, don't throw it out for the newest in front loaders which will offter headaches every other week as soon as the service contract expires.  You will find yourself settling for more time spent doing laundry, just to baby the machine along and save yourself a call to a repairman.  Everything in the world of appliances is run by computer chips now, and when they fail, there is simply no way to work around them.  If the appliance goes while under warranty (or service contract), and they seldom do, most likely they will just replace the faulty appliance rather than fix it.  Through all of this I look at much of my home with the jaded, cynical eye of one who knows, I am living on borrowed time because this shoe will fall right on my head.

And so it was that we found early this spring our twenty year old, plus, french door set was rotting in the wood frame.  I had an estimate on the door, a year ago last autumn when it became apparent it was letting lots of cold air in and the door would not stay latched without locking it.  I weather stripped around the door as replacement was kind of a hefty price tag at a time I didn't really need to have that kind of expense.  The weather stripping worked fine and I thought perhaps would get me a couple more years out of the door.  But then last spring I found the pile of what I thought was sand just inside the door on the floor.  Ants were the culprit and they do this kind of thing every spring in areas that are sandy.  But when I kept sweeping up the piles and they kept returning, I realized slowly that it wasn't sand at all but sawdust piles.  That prompted me to open the door and check for rot.  I found a hole at the bottom of the wood frame and when I pushed against it, I found hollowness up quite a way in the frame.  The wood had rotted due to snow and rain being trapped between door and frame.  That kind of settled getting the door replaced.  I considered this Kurt's pervue, and Kurt being the great procrastinator he is let it go for the summer.  But by mid August I started pressing my point that it would have to be replaced. 

Korey suggested calling my nephew, Shawn who works for Pella.  Slapped my forehead, never thought of him.  So Shawn and I began an online email dialogue about french door systems.  He sent me 4 designs varying in price.  I had hoped that we could get a door system that fit the old door's specs exactly and perhaps with some carpentry help, pop out the old door and install the new one on a weekend.  Unfortunately, and here comes into play that Murphy's Law thing, the old door had been customized and was more narrow and shorter than standard doors.  The customized Pella doors Shawn quoted were twice as much as we wanted to pay.  That blew the idea of being our own installers out the door, so to speak.  We ended up going with a better standard door for the money, but having to hire our "guys", the two young men who have done most of our remodel work the last 5 years to install it. 

The new door was to be delivered on a Tuesday morning, and Scott, one of the twosome, of Scott and Ben, of Hometown Builders, said he would be here to help unload the new door.  He was and the new door arrived 5 minutes ahead of its hour leeway times.  They unloaded the door and since Ben was with Scott, and the day was to be perhaps our last good day of weather before a week of forecast rain arrived, they decided to install the new door that morning.  I scrambled to remove everything from that room that might be shook from shelves or covered with dust. 

They began the process of taking out the old door.  They removed vinyl siding from the outside of the house to get at the old door.  They had been working an hour or more when Scott called me outside to inform me, "my house was falling down" .  They had removed the house siding about 3 feet further to an inside corner of the house.  Scott peeled back the 1/2 inch vapor backing because as he said, something didn't look quite right.  Sure enough, the plywood sheathing from the 22 year old remodel had completely rotted.  Water from the gutter that ran away from that corner had backed up due to debris and ice floes over the years and gotten behind the vinyl siding and dripped down the plywood walls.  Not only was the sheathing completely rotted, the studs behind it were rotted to half their size, and the floor plate showed rot as well as the rim skirt for our bedroom above.  When I asked if it could be fixed I was told yes, but they would have to get some OSB board and new stud two by fours at their place.  Repairing all of the damage and resheathing and water proofing took the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon.  About an hour before they left for the day, they got the new door in place.  Scott said they would come back the next day and trim out the door and replace the vinyl siding on the outside. 

Well, on Wednesday, a damp morning erupted into full blown wind and rain.  Scott and Ben dropped off the trim stuff, but said it was too wet to work and they would try on Thursday.   The wind picked up and the rain was driven all afternoon.  Luckily, if you can call any of this, lucky, the wind was out of the NE and the house blocked the wind and rain from the wall repair for the most part. 

I decided to keep busy on this rainy, blustery, big hint of winter day, when I really wanted to curl up with a big blanket, a pot of coffee and a new book.   I thought I was being sensible when I got out the steam cleaner for the carpet and decided to do a couple of small areas in our bedroom that were showing signs of dirt.  Hauled it upstairs, filled it and positioned it.  Clicked it on.  A terrible noise, smoke belching out, and black pieces spitting out from bottom.  A distinct smell of charred rubber before I could get it shut off.  This can't be good.  Ryan was the last to use it, borrowing it a month ago to clean carpets at his home.  No mention made of my cleaner suddenly turning into hazzardous waste material.  Somehow, this seemed pre ordained as just one of those days.   So I got out the hand held mini steam cleaner and went at the most noticeable spots.  Heard something rattling in that.  Pulled it apart and a screw and plastic pieces rattled out.  Finally found where they went.  While no major big deal to actually using it, the thing is only two years old and not used every day.  Life with plastic means something will always break off that can't be fixed....Arrrgghhh.

All of this was kind of my sign to just sit down for an hour and have a big pity party.  I would be making a trip to Chicky vacuum repair and see if it would cost more to repair my 10 year old Hoover steam cleaner than buy new.  I'm hoping its just a belt of some kind, but not especially confident it will be that simple.  Something else major would have to give as its just the way life is going.  After an hour of pity, it was time to start dinner.  I was trying out a new recipe and as always it made a large mess simply for going straight by the book, and many pans and jars and spoons all over.  Got the casserole in the oven, Kurt arrived home and took the dogs outside.  Fifteen minutes later the lights flickered then stayed off.  Yup, this had to happen.  The wind was doing 30 mph now and the rain was really coming down or across as it were.  When the power failed to reappear after 45 minutes, we called into Hemlock and found a pizza place open and ordered a large with everything on it.  We decided to drive around before picking up the pizza to see where power was and wasn't.  Miles of Hemlock Road had power, alternate miles didn't.  Mom was out of power, but the mile to her east wasn't.  Most of the town of Hemlock had power, but MacDonalds, the Marathon gas station and Rick Ford were down.  We saw flashing lights on a side street, and Consumers Energy trucks and a tree service were around a downed maple tree.  As we drove home we thought at least we knew where and what had caused the outtage and that since they were there it would be an hour before it was back.  A pizza later, and still no power.  We drove around some more and found that the pattern of black farms and houses was strange indeed.  The power crews were still at the site of the downed tree but the tree service trucks were gone.  We came home and lit candles and ran flashlights and were generally in a sour mood.  Nothing can make independent people, (at least people who always think they could be pioneers), crankier than losing their satellite tv's, running water, heat and internet service.  I called the hotline for the power company to see if they had any idea of time we might get our power back.  I was told 4 p.m. tomorrow.  WHAAAAAT?  That was almost 24 hours we would be without.  Well crap and double crap and alot of words I can't write here.

We settled into chairs in the living room.  Kurt in his recliner and I surrounded by blankets and candles to, at least read a book.  Kurt fell asleep and I read by candlelight and tried to reconcile that Abraham Lincoln studied by firelight, and he didn't do too badly, but the rest of me wasn't having any of it.  At 10 p.m. I had just about decided to call it a chilly night and blow out the candles when the lamp next to me suddenly popped back on.   HALLELUJAH!!!!  

I woke Kurt and did a happy dance.  I got to watch "Psych" in almost it entirety, and was extremely grateful to whatever of the power crews had worked to get us up and running.  I cleaned up kitchen until almost midnight, but was happy to know I could clean up the mess.  We whiny humans need to be shook up in our comfortable lives in which needless worry overtakes us all too often.  For the rest of today and I hope for a good time after, I will be grateful I have lights, I have heat, and I have hot and cold running water.  I can blog this into my laptop, and I can watch Sports Center if I so desire today, (I don't). 

If I hadn't had to have my french door replaced they would not have found the rotted wood and repairs down the road would have likely been much more costly.  Though its still raining and the siding and trim still aren't back up and though I'm not sure how much additional it will cost to get my steam cleaner fixed, its truly, only annoyances in life.  Not worth the time or the fretting. 

Murphy's Law seems to hit us all at some time or another, no matter how well intentioned or good we be.  But its a good lesson and one I really needed this year, and there may be something after all to this wisdom in maturity thing.  That and a healthy dose of Murphy....

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Mother's Hands

They always say you can tell a woman is aging when she looks down and sees her mother's hands.  I did that five years ago and thought when did that happen?   I never really thought I looked like my mother.  No one ever told me I was the spit and image of her growing up, aside from the fact people said my brother and I resembled Mom's side and my younger sister and my youngest brother were my dad's.  I had my mother's brown eyes, we all did.  My dad's green eyes would wait a generation and be found in my son, Korey's direct gaze.  I inherited my mom's hair, fine and straight as the proverbial string.  She got it from her mom, my grandma, and I passed somewhat follicle challenged hair to Annie.  But I got the Walter nose, and the Walter voice which I would often say gets me heard at every auction I ever attended.  These things I knew early on, but it was the more subtle inheritances that would come into play later on.

After a ride on a four wheeler in my early forties, I had a left ankle that ached for weeks.  Through the following fall and into winter the ankle and foot would ache more and finally after consulting a podiatrist, it was found my dad had also given me the gift of flat feet.  Oh goody.  After trying rehab for the ankle, surgery, and finally just a set of good orthotics, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn't be wearing spiked heels or even bunny slippers much any more and that sensible shoes would be the rule for me from then on.
I marched through my forties just trying to figure out motherhood as my kids left home, the changing of life in many ways and how in the heck to deal with it.  I had depressions, one a real doozy, but somehow slogged through to my fifties.

After I hit the big 5-0, I began to notice that my skin was doing funny things.  The fact that it was losing feature and gaining wrinkles by the boat load, I couldn't talk away as laugh lines I had earned in a good way.  Nope, it was crow's feet, and smile lines and lines that went vertical instead of horizontal and began traveling on down my face.  I was pretty sure I could handle all that, but when the age spots started erupting on the sides of my face, it wasn't Mom I looked at but Dad as those were all from him.  More goody.
Spider veins I got on the sides of my legs in the exact same places my mom had them.  Annie is so thrilled with that to look forward to.  And now my hands which seem to be aging in warp speed, as every picture seems to scream at me.  So, I thought I had my mother's hands, but when I looked at her tapered, still polished nails, her hands actually looked better than mine.  I didn't have my mom's hands after all but a grandma's hands that came by way of my dad.  The arthritis in my hands which plagues me increasingly in swollen joints during the cold months is showing in my hands.  Looking at a picture of an otherwise smiling me, in which I thought I looked danged good for my age, showed the flaw in that image, and it was my hands.  Looking at my hands I immediately thought of my dad's hands, large knuckled and clumsy in trying to do delicate things he still always had been able to do the intricate things his daily life as a farmer had required.  Yup, my hands were his hands in female form.  Its not something I'm crazy about but if I can continue to go through life with only this vanity besieging me, I'm okay with it.

You all think, I am only concentrating on what I inherited that was less than appreciated, but I know better.  I got my mom's artistic sense.  Her love of writing and my dad's love of telling a good story combined in me.  I got his head for math, though I never really liked having it.  My mom gave me the love of flowers and gardens, my dad, the outdoors and to look at the place I lived with fresh eyes, every day.  My parents gave me a sense of history and where I come from and have always lived.  I hope they gave me a kind heart, and left in place, the golden rule.  These aren't the things you can read on my face but they are who I am. 

I may not have my mother's hands and may wish I did, but I hope I have their fortitude and toughness when the world tips in ways I couldn't anticipate.  They gave me a firm foundation in Faith, and the heart to keep seeking God in new ways and to re trust the Promise.  They gave me the world to seek it out and make my way.  I think I got the best of all of them, and hope I can give the best to those who follow after me...

OK, So I'm not that Good

The air has turned cooler, in fact, fall has blown in and our usual October weather of clouds, breeze and temporary damp leads me to want to write, snuggled in a big throw, a quiet house, a whiny black lab, (she was left home while Gauge got to go hunting.  Not a happy camper), and my worn beyond redemption, flannel bottoms and big old MSU sweatshirt.  I am ready to flood the world with my newly minted grandma wisdom. 

When I started this, I had sub conscious aspirations of being the Michigan version of Erma Bombeck.  I'm pretty sure that isn't even terribly original, but I talked myself into half believing it.  I wanted to be witty in my writing, when I couldn't be in real life.  I wanted to show that we can always see the funny side of any life situation, even when I knew life wasn't very funny right now, and didn't look to improve tremendously in the next year, let alone decade.  I didn't lack for subject matter, heck, every day something happened to even me, but getting older, has kind of meant I'm only sharp for certain parts of the day and those parts invariably were in the mornings and by the time the second or third cup of coffee had rolled around, I felt motivated more to the bathroom and actually moving around then writing in a stationary position, even with added wiggle room.

Unfortunately, life just kind of got in the way of my humor.  Today, in a quiet morning with nothing particular that I had to get done I decided to see what other blogs were out there.  Scrolling down a list of possible titles, A Southerner in San Francisco caught my eye.  Probably because Korey and Jen are in San Fran, but I liked the "southern" bent to it, though for pete sake I'm from Michigan, born and raised.  Anywho, I started reading and immediately found a kindred soul, and one that was a better Erma than I ever hoped to be.  The fact that the blogger was a man didn't put me off, his reminisences of time spent being a boarder at Mrs. Johnson's and her "to die for" fried chicken sparked an interest.  I am, an unabashed, "foodie", not always the eating of it, though that definitely has its place with me, but I have become a recipe-a-holic, looking for healthier, tastier, regional and sometimes just plain nostalgic foods and ways to prepare them.  Now mind you, there are just Kurt and I around and family meals are rarer than the hen's teeth I seek to own some day.  But still I can't pass up a magazine tossing without first making sure the recipes have been thoroughly dissected and if it passes the sniff test, ripped out for further catalouging.

So, the fried chicken recipe blog caught my eye as it seemed so incongruous with the title.  But I was mesmorized by the other blogs just for the month of October and spent a very enjoyable lost hour reading this southern transplants look at life from the humorous and very human standpoint.  I'm not that good, yet, but connecting through the written word, to me, is always a good thing, and shows where I can find many more things to smile about than I thought yesterday.  Maybe tomorrow will not be a good day, but today I can look out at the cloudy, windswept fall of Michigan and say, "its time to bring in the tomatoes", and heck, I'll smile at that....