Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spending Time

I am fast approaching an age I just can't fathom. 

I remember thinking as a teenager, "Wow, you're going to be thirty-six when the year 2000 comes along. That's pretty old." I was a little bit frightened of being that old.


Thirty-six.  That sounds so young now. Practically a baby.

If you have done the math, you have figured out that I'm turning fifty this year. 

The big five-O. Half a century. 

That is cray-cray.


My mom died when she was fifty. And the closer I get to that birthday, the more I find myself thinking about her.

How young she was when she died. Because even though I may be fifty years old on the outside - on the inside I feel twenty-five. When she died, she seemed so much older to me. I wish I knew how young she really was.

At fifty, I am just getting to know my children as adults. I love spending time with them. They are funny, they are compassionate AND passionate, they love to share their opinions, and they have wonderful friends - they are just so full of life that they make ME feel alive. I am thankful for this time. And find myself thanking God each and every morning for another day on this earth to have with them.

I did not get that chance with my mom. She was ill for a few years before she passed away so her life, and my dad's life, was centered around her treatments and her well-being. We didn't get to have that time to find out who each other was in our new identities as the mother of an adult child and an adult child.

Instead, I was off with my friends and going to classes and working. I'm ashamed to say I did not make a lot of time to spend with my parents during that time. That's the biggest regret of my life - that I didn't make more time for her in my "busy" life. Those friends I spent time with? Not a part of my life now. Friends come and go, some are here longer than others but they change as life changes. Classes ended. Work shifted and drifted to other jobs. But family? They are for always. They are forever.

If I'd only known how little time I was going to have left with her, I like to think I would have valued it more and spent more of it on her. With her. Beside her.


I'm trying to do it right this time around. Now I'm the mother with adult children finding myself redefining my relationships with J and K.

Not a day goes by in which I do not tell the two of them and the Man just how much I love them, how much I enjoy their company. They're busy, just as they should be, but they make time for the Man and I. J and I will go out to breakfast or lunch together, and K and I go shopping, or out to eat, or get pedicures together. They know how I feel about not having that time with my mom and how important it is to spend time with the ones you love.

Spending time. An appropriate phrase. Because more time is what I want right now. More than money, more than travel, more than anything else this world tells me is important. Time. How valuable it is. And I find myself resenting the careless way I treat it sometimes. The careless way I spend it.

I know that at the end of life, I won't be wishing I had spent more time with friends, or with colleagues at work, or pursuing all kinds of outside interests. No, I think at the end of life, I'll be wishing I had more time with my family - husband, children, parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles. All of them.


So that's my goal for the next fifty years - to spend more time with the ones I love the most. Not to let life get so "busy" that days and weeks pass before I connect with my loved ones. I want to be better at calling to chat with those who live far away, and stopping in to see older family members. I want to make time to travel to see siblings who live farther away.

I want to share more meals with my dad. 

I want to spend more time with my sisters. I'm tired of life pulling us all in separate directions.

I want to savor every moment with my husband and my children. 

Because we are not promised tomorrow and I don't want any more regrets in my life. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Beach Life, part three

We always seem to find ourselves meandering to the ocean to see the big waves and the surfers and the seals and maybe even a shark or two.

So far we have NOT seen a shark though we have seen lots of seals and surfers. Which look like lunch to a shark, I think.

Someone was blowing big bubbles from the landing leading down to the beach. The kids couldn't stop themselves from trying to pop them.
J and L laughing at something.

They laugh a lot.

Infectious laughs, they have.
Lights under the tent when we were eating dinner at a local eatery. Fresh seafood, crispy onion rings, and local beer.

Delicious dinner.
The annual whale bone picture. We've been coming to this spot since the kids were teeny tiny tots and taking this same photo every year.

We add people in and take people out of the photo as they come and go into our lives, but we always take at least one shot of J and K under the bones.


We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop. ~Mother Teresa

Because there's nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it's sent away. ~Sarah Kay

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Beach Life, part two

We have been coming to the beach forever it seems. When I was very young, we would go to a big lake in the mountains and stay in teeny, tiny dollhouse cottages right on the shore. Two room cottages, one kitchen/dining/living room and one bedroom, with a postage size bathroom between the two. Painted like miniature swiss chalets, we loved going to these cottages every summer.

All of my dad's family would go for the week - aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, great-aunts and great-uncles, siblings, and extended cousins. As a matter of fact, the cottages we stayed in were owned by some distant cousins. There was a main house where the family lived and part of the main house was a social gathering area with pinball machines, card tables, a piano, and a dance floor. Other sissy and I used to love to go up to the "big room" and hang out with the older kids, playing the piano and singing popular songs and dancing.

But if there is anything that is certain in life, it is that things change and so the day came when we didn't go to the mountains anymore for vacation. My parents had discovered the shoreline, aka the beach, and we started coming here instead.

Most of my childhood vacation memories are wrapped up with the beach - going out to the gift shops at night ("knick-knackin'" as Nana would say), eating out at a restaurant maybe once during the two weeks of vacation, buying tons and tons of books at the flea market. 

Ten cents a book in those days.

And buying jewelry. Lots and lots of jewelry. We were always coming home with new rings and earrings and pendants and bracelets - sterling silver, turqoise, agate stones. Vacation was all about the jewelry we would find.


So it is kind of poetic that I now hunt for treasure of a different kind. Colorful, odd shaped, each one unique and with its own story to tell. I search for it every time and always manage to find a piece or two or three to bring home, just like I did with that jewelry oh-so-many years ago.

Sea glass.

The best treasure ever. 
After the storm rolled by a few days ago, a gorgeous double rainbow appeared and I grabbed my iPhone to get a panoramic shot. See the rainbow on the left side of the pic?

I love dramatic skies. The dark clouds rumbling and grumbling on the left and bright, sunny blue skies on the right.

My BIL made Dark and Stormy drinks before dinner. Clever fellow, that one is.
Piled everyone into two vehicles, grabbed some lawn chairs, a bunch of snacks, and our sweatshirts and off to the drive-in theatre we went.

There's something magical about watching a movie outside, under the stars, with the sound being played all around you. Cars honking, lights coming on and then quickly getting shut off, peals of laughter wafting through the air from cars in the rows around you.


All the kids were sitting in front of the cars. Sissy and BIL were in the car next to us. The Man and I were munching on snack crackers, waiting for the movie to start. I was thinking about other drive-in theatres and other movies we've seen over the years. Movies after we had children and movies before we had children. And how much fun it always seemed.
I looked over at the Man and said, "Wanna make out?"
He grinned.
Almost twenty five years of marriage and he still makes my heart skip a beat.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beach Life, part one

Spending some time at the beach this week. 

Who knew we were going to run into a lightning storm? As we sat and chatted on the beach, we watched some dark ominous clouds roll by us, just missing our neck of the beach. There were lots of little boats out on the water and we were rather fearful for them. The clouds looked so big and they looked so small.

Move faster, little boats.


Our hair was standing straight up - there was so much electricity in the air. In all my life, I have never seen such a thing.
Goofing off.

I'm using a new app on the iPad to do some editing. It's called "Rookie" and it is a powerful little photo editor. I miss Photoshop and all the actions but this covers nicely while I am away.

Just a helpful little tip in case you're looking for a photo editor to use while traveling. Or for anytime.


J and L were up at o'dark thirty to go fishing with my BIL and niece. Don't worry. No fish were harmed in the making of this blog post. They caught nothing but seaweed.

Love this photo.

I look at this and the world is a sweeter place.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Color My World

I learned a new craft a few weeks ago and I've been a wee bit busy.

Beaded clay pens.

The color combinations are endless. K and I have had so much fun trying different color recipes and bead mixes. Blending and bending. Twisting and twirling. Rocking and rolling.

There's something peaceful about playing with clay. We sat for hours, chatting and designing, watching the patterns emerge as we rolled and twisted the clay. Assigning names to the different patterns.

The mermaid pen.

The Starry Night pen.

The Mardi Gras pen.

Each pen took on a personality of its own. It will be hard to give them away, I think. They are our creations after all, our tiny little colorful creations.
We had dinner with L's parents this weekend. First time the families have gotten together. They have a perfectly lovely home on a lake in the deep dark woods, surrounded by lots of family. An idyllic spot, easy to relax in and feel at home.

We enjoyed homemade salsa that D, L's mom, had made beforehand and hot cheesy queso that L and J made once we got there. It was fun watching them cook together, preparing something for their parents to eat. D and I hovered over them, flittering around just like the hummingbirds that were visiting on the porch outside. The kids were very gracious and took our advice with smiles.

Good kids, these ones are.

Dinner was pure comfort food. Chicken divan. Creamy rice. Homemade bread. L's mom said it would be the best bread we've ever had and she was right. Followed by a cup of hot coffee, oh-so-welcome on the chilly night, and homemade coconut cheesecake with fresh raspberries for dessert.

Truly, a perfect night spent with wonderful company.
I brought D one of these pens.

And you know what? It wasn't as hard to part with one as I thought. D seemed to love it and looked at it carefully, complimenting the colors.

I may have to give more of these away if they make people as happy as the one I gave D made her.
K and I have grand plans to make more of these so I think I'll work on a tutorial.

Then you can spread some colorful joy too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Zucchini Bread, also known as a workout

The Man has been harvesting all kinds of things from the garden, especially zucchini.

Lots of zucchini. If you have a garden and grow zucchini, you know two things - how fast they grow and how many they produce.

A few nights ago the Man brought in a zucchini that measured about eighteen inches long. It was probably 5-6" in diameter at the fat end. It was so big I think you could have sliced it up and served one slice on each dinner plate.


He wanted to toss it out but I couldn't do it. It seems so wasteful to invest so much time into these plants to simply toss the zucchini out because it got too big. Instead, I decided to make zucchini bread. The recipe I found on Pinterest called for three cups of grated zucchini. I {very} briefly thought about getting out my food processor but decided to grate it by hand instead. 

It takes too much time to clean the food processor. So many parts. 

I started grating. 

And grating. 

And grating. 

My arms got tired. I got bored. I grated some more. I started watching my arms jiggle as I grated. It was hot. I was getting sweaty from all the grating. I kept on grating. For hours, it seemed.

I lifted the grater and had about a half cup. Two minutes had gone by.

Hmmm. This is a lot tougher than I thought.

I kept on grating.
Finally I had three cups of grated zucchini. 

I followed the recipe, putting all the wet ingredients in the bowl and then slowly added the dry ingredients. My hand mixer got broken a couple months ago and I haven't replaced it yet. I have a KitchenAid mixer but I keep it in the basement and didn't feel like carrying it upstairs.

It's heavy. And there are too many parts to clean.

So I mixed it by hand with a wooden spoon. 

And mixed. 

And mixed. 

My arms got sore from stirring. Three cups of flour is a lot of flour to stir by hand. The first cup goes in pretty smoothly. But the last cup? That batter gets kind of thick, if you ask me. I mixed for hours it seemed.

I looked at the clock. Two more minutes had gone by.

Jeeesh. I must be getting soft. This is hard work.

I kept stirring until all the flour had been combined.

The completed product. It tasted good.


Some things I learned from baking zucchini bread:

1. Prairie women were in much better shape than I am. I bet they grated for hours and never broke a sweat. And I bet their arms didn't jiggle.

2. Appliances have made us soft. It's so much easier to throw everything in the KitchenAid, turn it on and let it run. It's harder to stir things by hand.

3. It's much easier to clean up when you don't use appliances. Instead of fifty seven billion parts to clean from a food processor and KitchenAid mixer, I had to clean a grater, a wooden spoon, and a bowl.

4. I felt quite satisfied making the bread from scratch, with my own hands doing all the work. Turning simple ingredients into a moist, delicious quick bread felt good.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Summer Birthday

We celebrated L's birthday last week. I'm glad we had an occasion for cake.

On a hot summer night, there's not much better than an ice cream cake.You wouldn't believe the ripple of excitement that went through the kitchen when I revealed the cake and everyone saw 



Such a good sport.

J bought her a pink head lamp for camping. L was so excited. She put it on immediately and wanted to go outside to check on their garden. J grinned from ear to ear, jumped up, grabbed his head lamp and off they went - two lights bobbing across the back yard on that hot summer night.

Happy birthday, L!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Not So Shy Hermit Crab, or how to make an eleven year old scream

I'm trying a new way to blog  - from an iPad. Not sure how it's going to translate onto the big screen. These photos look a bit puny to me.

To make up for that, I threw them through my favorite app right now - Waterlogue. I pronounce it "water log" but a friend who speaks mulitiple languages says, "water lowj". I'm sure she's correct. 

I still call it water log.

I love monotones with just a few specks of color.


My niece D and I were playing in the water this afternoon and she found a hermit crab. Teeny tiny little white crab in a snail shell. When you pick them up out of the water, they pull back into their shells and hide. If you hold them in your hand long enough they'll start to come out of their shell and creep along on your hand.

D had plucked one out of the water and had it in her hand, trying to wait patiently for it to come out of its shell.

"Look, Auntie! Isn't it so cute?" she gushed.

"Does it bite?" I asked her.

"Oh no," she replied, as the crab reared back and bit her on the finger.

That was the scream heard round the world. Or at least along the beach.

Good times.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Random {Oh So Happy} Reunion

J + Ms. F + K = two students with their favorite teacher.

And she's back in our lives. We are all so very happy to have found her after so many years.


We met Ms. F almost fifteen years ago when J walked into her classroom the first day of fourth grade. Fourth grade meant a new school, filled with a bunch of new kids to meet, and a whole lot of nerves over changing classrooms - all the things to make a kid want to run for the hills. Or at least stay home and drop out of school.

Ms. F was just what he needed.

She was tough but fair. She had high expectations and her praise meant everything to a nine year old boy. There were no slackers in her class. I volunteered once a week in her classroom and she always had me do one thing - multiplication flash cards. Over and over and over again. If there was one thing those students were going to master by the time she was finished with them, by golly, it was the times tables.

She made learning fun. K told her tonight how much she loved one of the assignments they had to do for writing. And how she used that lesson throughout high school.

Ms. F told them to write directions on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Then they had to read their writing out loud and follow the directions exactly as written. Needless to say, there were some key steps left out and bread and peanut butter and jelly ended up all over the place - much to the chagrin of the writer and the delight of the other students. 

K learned a lot from that lesson about the importance of writing clearly and completely. We're not allowed to do that lesson anymore, Ms. F told us tonight. Peanut allergy issue? I asked. Well, yes, that too. But it wastes too much time, we were told, she answered.

I don't think I agree with that. Not one bit.


Fast forward almost fifteen years and it's one day last week. I was standing at the main circulation desk, looking intently at a computer screen, and I hear a woman ask, Excuse me, can you help me find a book, please?

I know that voice.

And when I looked up, I recognized her immediately. And then she recognized me. Just like that, fifteen or so years washed away and we were talking and laughing and crying like we had seen each other yesterday. Her children and my children are about the same ages so we caught up with what each one has been doing, looked at pictures and made plans to get together.


I discovered she moved into town a couple years ago and lives about a mile or so away from us. It's been wonderful reconnecting with her. She popped over tonight and J and K got to say hello and visit for a short while before we got to work - she wants to start blogging so I offered to help her get started.

She's got some interesting stories to tell.

But I'll let her tell you those stories. Watch for her blog link on the right side as soon as she's up and running.

So glad you're back, Ms. F. We missed you.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Milestone Celebration


Family. Friends. Food. Cake. Presents. And wine. 

Darling M is celebrating a milestone year. As am I, since we're the same age. 

Half a century. Gulp.

We've got a lot of celebrating to do this year. 


We gathered last evening. A lovely evening to celebrate M. Lots of laughter, plenty of love. A young grandson running around, entertaining all who stopped to listen and watch him dance around. We can learn from the young, I think. Throw caution away and dance and sing - just because.

Because your heart is so full you can't stop yourself. 

The love just comes bubbling up, building and building inside until it forces its way out. Why not in a skipping step, or a twirl here or there, or a giggle and a grin? A song sung to someone you love, "Happy birthday to Mima!"

I love that word - Mima. That's what M's grandson calls her.

Conversation was light and cheery. And this group made me laugh. Really laugh.

I think this whole family should have their own sitcom. Or a variety show. There was impromptu singing, loads of smart aleck wisecracks from M's wicked stepdaughter,  a pseudo-striptease performed by a brother in law, and audience surveys ("Who was your celebrity crush when you were a kid?")
At some point, M and I found ourselves sitting together. We chatted about allergies and nasal congestion. We talked about dairy items and giving them up to see if it would help. We talked about wine. And how it can cause stuffiness in some people - which can lead to sinus issues.

M might be one of those.

So she told her momma that she was giving up dairy and maybe wine. Her momma paused and said, "Well, don't do that."

Life lessons from the older and wiser woman. Don't be giving up the wine.


A most enjoyable evening spent in some mighty fine company.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Full Hearts.

Tonight was one of those nights I want to remember.


We planned an impromptu dinner with Nan, my uncle and my Dad. Both K and J were home for dinner, as well as J's girlfriend, L, and his best friend, another J. 

So we had 2 Js, a K, and an L. Call us alphabet soup.

All the young people ate outside. It was a spectacular night to be outside, a little wind, very little bugs, and peepers chirping away. We could hear their laughter throughout dinner and later, as they lingered over dessert and coffee.

Infectious laughter. Giggly laughter. Manly laughter.

Laughter from people who have their whole lives ahead of them - people who are loving life and enjoying every moment in each other's company. Laughter that makes a momma's heart feel so full, so full it could burst and that laughter would come rushing out of momma herself.


The older folks were talking before dinner about NASA and the space program. The Man is a wee bit interested in anything to do with the space program. You name it and we've got it - books, movies, documentaries. We could be a reference library on space program material.

So the space program was on my mind throughout dinner. We had been talking about all the things to come out of that program, things like Velcro and duct tape, microwaves and calculators. All things that are still a large part of daily life sixty years later.

During dinner, conversation turned around to fruit trees and a peach tree in particular that was right outside our back door when I was growing up. Dad was asking me if I remembered that tree and the large fruit that we had the year we lived in that house. I didn't remember. I did, however, remember the peach ice cream that he made using that fruit. We loved Dad's homemade peach ice cream, rich and so, so creamy with big chunks of peaches swirled throughout. It took forever to make, at least it seemed that way to us kids.

I can still taste that peach ice cream.

When I told Dad I didn't remember the tree, his face fell a little bit. But what I said next caused him to pause while eating his pie.

"I don't remember much from that house, Dad. I was just a little girl. But one thing I do remember is sitting in front of the TV in the middle of the day during the summer and watching a space rocket and the moon."

My dad just stared at me for the longest time. He finally said, "You remember that?" 

His voice had an odd lilt to it.

I nodded.

He swallowed hard, like he was holding back something, and said, "I never knew you remembered that. I guess it's never come up. You and your sister were just little girls."

And then he said, "It was a summer day. I sat the two of you in front of the television to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon that day - July 21, 1969. I looked at you two and told you to try and remember this moment. I knew it was going to be important. I think everyone in the whole country was watching that day." 

"I never knew you remembered it."


As a parent raising young children, I always wondered what my kids would remember when they were grown and older. I was sad to think they wouldn't remember much of anything, since I wasn't confident that I remembered a lot of my childhood moments. But as I have these conversations with my dad, and my Nan, sometimes the memories come back and it feels real and fresh and sharp and clear - easy to remember.

I'm blogging about them so I don't forget again.

And so I don't forget the look on my dad's face when he found out I remembered something from my childhood.

I think his heart was full tonight too.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pretty Light

There was some pretty light a few nights ago so I dragged these two outside to model for me.

They have a very hard time being serious. And L's laugh is absolutely infectious. Once she starts laughing, it's all over for J.

And for my photoshoot.
Gorgeous light. Pretty night.

Sweet young couple a sheer delight.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Back and Forth

The tables have turned. I've been scolded.

J reprimanded me a few weeks ago. "Mom, you need to go back to blogging."


This is the guy who incessantly mocked my blogging. Who mercilessly teased me about all the stories I shared. And constantly reminded me how small my following was.

I found him in the living room one afternoon, my printed blog books wide open on his lap as he poured over them, laughing and holding them up as he remembered something.

"I forget all the stuff that happens. These are good. They remind me of all the things we've done."

Which is just what I wanted when I started blogging.
"What happened to your fish?," said the {very} young lady that was standing in front of the fish tank in the library a few days ago.

"His fin is gone. And his tail. What's wrong with him?" she inquired.

I looked up from what I was doing. "Well, I think he has ickythemus or something," I said, totally making up a word that I hoped sounded like fish-tail-and-fin-eating syndrome.

She looked skeptical. "Well, when he turns to the side, he don't look so good." But then she perked up and said, "At least he can still steer and swim!" And skipped off with her mother leaving me looking at the fish with no fin or tail. I didn't even know he was missing body parts.

FYI - I looked up the word I was trying to think of and it was "ichthyosis" which is some sort of scaly skin disease on humans. Not fish.

I'm a superstar librarian. Yup.


I head downstairs after my stint in the Children's department. There's a couple of heating contractors looking for my co-worker and I. They wanted to let us know they had to turn the power off in the building to test the new generator.

What? In the middle of the morning? What are we supposed to do with all the people in the building using computers?

"Well, it's only goin' tah be out for oh, about twelve seconds," says the first guy with a slight Southern accent. "We's got to turn it off tah see if it will switch the power over tah the generator. And then a few minutes aftuh that, we'll have tah switch it back."

My co-worker and I just stare at him. We know what this means. All the computers are going to have their power supply interrupted twice. 

Interrupted power supplies = computers going down = unhappy patrons. Capisce?

The service contractor mistook our silence for stupidity so he tried explaining again, using hand gestures this time.

"Well, ya see, we's got to shut the power off tah see if it will flip between the regulah power and the generator. We's got tah flip it between the two, back an' forth. Back an' forth. Back. An'. Forth," punctuating each "back" and "forth" with the appropriate gesture - arms wide open, slapping one arm on top of the other every time he said "back" or "forth".

My co-worker looks at me and I know what she's thinking. I nod at her. "What happens if the power doesn't switch? And stays on in both the regular power and the generator at the same time?" she asks.

You know, in case something doesn't work.

The contractors look at her, two sets of eyes flying wide open. "Why, things blow up then!"

I love my job.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Star Spangled Moments

The Man and I, and our friends M and the Hammer, had dinner with some other friends tonight. We had to drive a little bit to get there so M and I had plenty of time to giggle and chortle and cause all kinds of mayhem from the back seat.

Somehow the conversation came around to losing brain cells as we get older, as evidenced through some of the {at the time perfectly} logical things we have said only to find out they are not so logical after all.

I shared a gem from last week. 

I was at a choral concert for my nieces along with K, and J and his girlfriend L. As the concert started, the musical director asked us to stand to sing along with "The Star Spangled Banner". 


I leaned over to J and L and said, "Shouldn't we be singing the national anthem? What kind of school is this anyway?"

They simply stared at me.

And then I realized that "The Star Spangled Banner" IS the national anthem.

Oy vey.


So M said something just as smart tonight while we were in the car. Something about bordering states. Except the states she was referring to do not border us.

Huh. Color me confused.

But I was so very happy to have someone else think like me. I laughed and told her she was having a "star spangled" moment.

That's what I'm calling those momentary brain lapses where the wires get crossed - star spangled moments.


Dinner tonight hurt.

It hurt my checks from laughing too much.

It hurt my tummy from eating too much.

Polenta, chicken and carrots, sausage, salad, marinated mushrooms, grilled asparagus....all combined to make a most delicious meal.

The wine kept flowing, the laughter kept coming, and one story after another rolled off tongues, spurring each other on to tell just one more.

What a glorious night spent with some wonderful friends and companions. Many thanks to T and D, as well as B and G, for the great company and delicious food.