Tagged with family

#Reverb11: Recapture the Magic

Learn more about #Reverb11 here. Join in by writing to these daily prompts and sharing comments below each daily blog post, leave a link to your blog or find us on Twitter.

December 2. Magical: The holidays can be a stressful time of the year. What do you do to help you recapture and remember that childlike wonder of the season you might have forgotten?

It’s really easy to succumb to the pressures and the have-tos of the holidays, huh? Which makes it a great time to do a gut check and focus on what’s really important to you.

The Kid and I had a lovely long week in the Midwest for Thanksgiving. There was a lot of driving and people to see, which can make me feel crispy around the edges and negate the good feelings you’re suppose to have at the holidays. I had ideas of what I wanted to do (crank out blog posts, read the stack of magazines I haven’t read yet, go out to bars and stay out til 2a.m., see a movie in a real movie theater) and then there was reality. I could have tried to do all that and felt hurried, rushed, and unrelaxed.

Instead I unplugged, literally, and tried to be present with the people I drove hundreds of miles to see. I love hearing about family stories. Sometimes the only ways you get to hear them, though, is if you ask and if you listen. FGM (my fairy godmother) and her mom were really great to share old recipes and stories about my ancestors, a generation of people I never got to know. I got to learn and play a card game called “Dum Dum” that my great-great-aunt’s generation played and someone picked up on a trip to Oklahoma in the 1930s. Now, I do not like card games or board games. At least I think I don’t. Yet there we were, slamming down cards and hollering out “Dum Dum!” and I was having a blast. I’m so happy that I was open to the moment at hand.

Another great moment: my great Aunt Mary (FGM’s mom) brought homemade canned veggies for Thanksgiving dinner. She said I should come out and learn to can sometime with her (OK!). She said that she has not bought canned veggies since 1956, when she and her hubby moved into their quaint little home in Nebraska City, Nebraska, where they grow scores of veggies in a plot of land next to the house. Can you imagine? Not buying veggies from the grocery store for more than 50 years? Amazing. Meanwhile, The Kid was pretty pumped to see there were green beans on the Thanksgiving menu, apparently this is a new food she loves. She cooed at dinner that “These were the best green beans ever” and had two helpings. Best green beans ever indeed.

As the holidays race down upon us, whew! can you believe December is here?, I hope I can continue to be open to the moments instead of forcing my idea of what’s supposed to happen, happen.

 

What about you, how do you recapture the magic of the holiday season?

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What’s On Your Thanksgiving Plate?

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I hope you are having a lovely holiday, in whatever way that bring you happiness and gratitude. Even if it’s not perfect, I hope you can find joy in the smallest ways.

The Kid and I ventured off to the Midwest for the week. Not the most glamorous place, I admit, but it’s comfy and lovely and we get to give and receive a lot of hugs. The weather this time around has been pretty perfect as well — sunny, mild temps, light wind. Really no other place I’d rather be celebrating a day full of thanks and giving.

As I write this from the dining room table adorned with striped tablecloth and stacks of dishes awaiting their roles, my godmother and her hubby are perched at the kitchen counter, two lovebirds reading a Septimus Heap novel on their Kindle while the food cooks. Their house is calm and serene. Guests will arrive in an hour or so. The Kid is off in a nearby bedroom playing a video game, its maniacal sounds keeping time with the hissing turkey roaster and the swishing dishwasher.

I am happy. My impromptu drive to Iowa to see old friends in their new life together. The fun shops I visited there which will lure me back. The thrifting, oh the thrifting! I’m coming home with some goodies. The family recipes I get to share. And the crazy cat in the car (oh yes, yes we did. Cue scary music.) story which I’m sure The Kid will tell to friends for years with horrorified glee. And I ran another race.

How do you like to spend your Thanksgiving Day?

I like to help set the table, help the preparations along (this year I helped with the pumpkin pie, a chocolate cake, and mashed potatoes — The Kid even helped me peel and chope taters), take candid family photos, take a nap, eat leftover turkey on white bread with mayo, take another nap, maybe watch football or throw an actual football, and tolerate a few card games or board games with relatives who like to school me in card games and board games. Oh, and play on the Wii with The Kid, who likes to school me at Wii. I also like to make Christmas lists – what I want to give and what I secretly hope to receive.

With much gratitude for anyone reading – thank you!

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A Long Way From Home

As I’ve mentioned, I recently traveled home to NEPA (that’s Northest PA to youse) to deal with a family crisis. (Don’t worry, I’m fine, thanks for asking.) Beyond that, though, it WAS good to get back. Admittedly I do not get back there enough. It’s rarely easy or affordable. But once I am there, I am reminded of so much. I often forget.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

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I brought Boulder’s Chocolove bars for my high school BFF, who may or may not share (I did see her put them in her cupboard so … probably not, NEPA. Sorry.) I got famous Old Forge pizza in trade. That is one thing I definitely miss — the pizza (and the scampi, oh! the scampi). Nom nom nom. I’d probably be fat if I lived in NEPA, the Italian food is SO GOOD.

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Also a benefit of going home: Seeing my BFF’s girls. Talk about Mini Me BFFs! I love them. To them I must be like Santa Claus — I show up once a year (or more like every three years) bearing presents like Chocolate Rock Candy from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Becky is a great mother, they are great kids, and they love to give hugs. Can’t be beat! They were my heart during this recent trip, making me miss The Kid less a little (and a little more) with each hug, each homework question, each story they wanted to hear about my life back in the mysterious, faraway land of Colorado. Since I yet to have my own nieces or nephews, these are my adopted kin upon whom I dote and indulge. I am currently trying to convince their mama to send them both out here for a Little Girls Camp at Auntie Mel’s. It would be AWESOME.

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Since this was Halloween weekend, we got down to business — my first time carving pumpkins with other adults. Very fun. The BFF and girls made chocolate lollipops while the BFF’s boyfriend, Billy, also a longtime friend of mine —- crazy how friends in NEPA coupled off in the years I have been gone! —- got to the messy business of carving. Amazing to think that people I knew when we was 12-14 years old I am now having adult conversations and doing very domesticated things with.

Newsflash: We’re old! Holy crap!

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Almost every day, I drove an hour to where my father’s family is from, where he grew up, and is now some very serious trouble. I do not have good memories here, however the area itself is so very pretty. Mennonite country. Christmas tree farms. Covered bridges. Never get tired of driving over these.

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A giant snowstorm, first of the season, chased me out of Colorado and found me in NEPA two days later. Everyone had a clever comment about this, which by Day Four this out of state guest could no longer fake the amusement about bringing October snow, a pretty common thing in Colorado, to PA.

NEPA, I apologize. Can we move on now?

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My brother Tom is dating this beauty. Alli is a bossy big sister’s dream. I told Tom he better not mess up. Her parents were wonderful, as well, opening their pretty home to my Mom and Kid Sister. (Half sister if you must know. Fun fact: There is a bigger age difference between me and the Kid Sister than me and Mom. I like to joke that when I was growing up I would ask Mom for a little sister I should have been more specific about having a little sister to grow up with instead of having one many states away. CRAZY BONES.)

The Kid Sister is so a Mini Mom, right?

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Nepa

Who do you think of when you hear “family”? This is my family. My brother and mother. I’m very protective of them and life hasn’t always been kind to them. I’d do anything to make life easier for them. The three of us haven’t been together since the summer of 2003, when I got married. Isn’t that too long?

News flash: We’re old now, too! Holy crap!

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East Coast roads are curvy and narrow and beautiful and slightly scary at night, in the rain, in the snow, in the fog … all of which I got to experience.

And check this out …

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… my BFF heats her house like a freakin pioneer. In the fall, she buys $300 worth of “rice coal,” a coal truck brings it to her street and funnels into her coal room in her basement of her 90 year old house via a small chute. Becky then shovels it into buckets and carries the bucket ….

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… and pours multiple bucket loads of rice coal into the giant blue container. That is pulled and churned into the coal stove by that pipe and laid on the fire …

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… and then every so often she has to empty out the ashes from the coal fire. Like a freakin pioneer! Check out this long ago scripty love note written on the basement wall.

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Nepa

Amazing to me that my BFF shovels coal like every four days to heat her house (it does a wonderful job, let me tell you), yet she enjoys such modern ammenities like the Keurig coffeemaker. Which I hope Santa brings me now one.

The BFF took me on a short tour of my hometown, West Pittston, which was heavily flooded this fall. I have happy memories walking along Susquehanna Avenue where historic homes line the banks of the Susquehanna River. Note: I did not live in anything that looks like this. I literally lived on the other side of the tracks. But this avenue is where Mom and I would daydream about homes and better lives and have the best little chats. It was heartbreaking to see these historic beautiful homes gutted, windows blown out and boarded up, trash lining streets, and random object still caught in the tree branches above our heads.

Nepa

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My trip ended with a homecooked meal by the BFF’s boyfriend, Billy. Billy and I worked as teenagers at the local seafood restaurant when we were still young enough to be getting drivers licenses and prom dates. I love that he and Becky are together — my worlds collided and damn it looks good.

Billy, don’t mess up.

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Becky’s mom used to slice apples and coat them in a cinnamon sugar mix to give us as an afterschool snack. Then we would go play Barbies. Or have dance parties. Or explore the woods and cliffs behind her childhood home. That last day of my trip Becky started to slice up an apple. Funny how something so simple is so ingrained, so attached to a time and place for me. While going “home” doesn’t have the same connotation for me as it does a lot of people, because honestly there is a lot I have chosen to forget and at one point driving along those curvy roads in the rain trying not to get lost I thought my chest might explode from the mounting stress, anxiety, and anger, there are these quiet, lovely moments that are worth holding on to and worth going back for.

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Circles of Life

How was your Fourth of July?
We went to Nebraska, per the usual.   

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This weekend was about family.
And friends that feel like family.
I saw a lot of littles this weekend.
I cradled them in my arms.
so light!
Compared to the 7yo I now have to carry fireman style up to bed.

I made the littlest babies smile.
I sniffed their powdery noggins.
My uterus isn’t sure what to feel about all this.
***BABIES***

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I love grilled meats, potato salad, pickles, chips, deviled eggs, etc.
I think summertime is the only time I crave salad.

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Let the girls blow shit up. Heck yah!

Also, The Kid lost a tooth this weekend.
Pulled it right out in the middle of the grocery store. 
This is why Moms carry napkins/tissues always.

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Playing bocce in white picket fence America.
The town of Firth, Nebraska, has me smitten
and dreaming of a Rockwellian life. 

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We ate ice cream every day.
I also squeezed in some thrifting —
a belt, a pair of loafers, a running shirt, a Simply Vera dress and a tank
all for $20.

I love America.

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We — and by this I mean OTHER PEOPLE — went swimming.
I watched happily from the deck.

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Ingenius drying method.

You know what I did with my car this weekend?
I hit some birds. PLURAL. On a country road.
That was fun explaining to The Kid, who was with me when it happened, how come that happened.

Oh and my check engine light came on as we pulled up to home in Colorado.
Ahhh yes.

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My great aunt Mary,
FGM’s mother and my grandpa Kermit’s sister,
made a homemade cherry apple pie.
Probably from apples and cherries from trees in her yard.

FGM says her mother always carves this floral design into her pie crusts.
*love*

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Berries from Aunt Mary and Uncle Leonard’s garden
at their home in Nebraska City, Nebraska.
Homemade whipped cream.

*swoon*

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Teaching the kiddos how to catch lightning bugs.
We don’t have those in Colorado. Sad.
I’m happy The Kid can make this memory in Nebraska.

What’s the thing that officially makes it summertime for you?
For me it’s potato salad.
An outdoor movie.
And I still have yet to eat a sno-cone …
  

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#reverb10 Appreciate

I’m catching up, one #reverb10 prompt at a time. And probably not in order. Enjoy!

December 14: Appreciate
What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?

Just one thing?

I think for me everything stems from this: I appreciate employment. And not just having a job, but a good job. A job I am proud of. I can pay my bills and own my house and have a little fun and contribute to my savings and make sure The Kid is provided for and has a little fun, too. I have benefits, like healthcare and a retirement fund and vacation and sick time. I like my coworkers and boss. I feel good about what I do for a living.

I know too many people who’ve lost their jobs in the last two years (which is how long I’ve had this job). I suspect if I had remained a newspaper reporter, I would still have that job (the very retort higher ups like to throw in your face if you got too lippy about how tough things were), and it was a job I very much liked and felt good about, but I would be royally fucked because I couldn’t even make ends meet back then, with two freelance gigs on the side and another income from the ex-spouse at home. I know exactly how it would have been if not for obtaining this job (I had searched hard for two years). My weary colleagues often tell me I got out of the newspaper business “just in time,” like I had just escaped an inferno or bloodbath. Sometimes I feel guilty.   

I have watched friends in all industries endured furloughs, loss of benefits and impossible workloads as positions are left dark in an environment of constant, relentless uncertainty. I watch people years into the search for better jobs. I watch some of the smartest and hardest working people I know get laid off. I was a kid, not much older than The Kid, when both my parents lost their jobs in 1989 at the start of that recession, which left us couch surfing (now considered a definition of homelessness) and on low-income programs. I still remember the shame I felt upon seeing a block of government cheese sitting in the fridge. The double whammy of both my parents’  unemployment left such an irreparable damage — financial, emotional, socially, physically, mentally — on my family that it set up conditions which would influence and shape my brother and I in very different ways for our own adulthoods.

It pains me so very much to see people now going through this. Which is why I cheer on the job seekers. I make myself available to those in need of advice or venting. I appreciate the daily grind of my own deadlines, meetings and office politics, just grateful for the purpose and normalcy a job can provide. I do my best. I am generous with praise and miserly with criticism. I bring donuts. I tell my coworkers “thank you” often. I simply enjoy the nuances of work because the alternative is too scary.

This month, I am participating in #reverb10. “Reverb 10 (#reverb10) … is an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.” To learn more or to sign up, click here.

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Merry and Bright

Did you have a merry and bright holiday? We did. Nebraska has always been good to me and The Kid. This is a time of year to unplug and focus on the moments in front of you. I’ll try to catch up on blogging again soon. I hope you stick with me and visit once life resumes to its regularly scheduled programming. Which is soon. But not quite yet. Until then … 

This Christmas, we saw fairy godmothers (mine and The Kid’s), loved on kitties, got scratched and growled at by kitties, attended Mass, played with little kids (which was fun to see The Kid for once be the Big Kid in the bunch), held a new baby, hugged great grandparents, hugged in-laws who technically aren’t anymore but who still feel like family, slept in a house haunted with memories and what-ifs, baked cookies, gave away cookies, made pancakes and French toasts and many pots of coffee …

 … wrapped presents, unwrapped presents, put cookies and milk out for you-know-who, believed in the magic of Santa (though there was hints of skepticism from The Kid who asked me “But how do you *know* it was Santa? How do you *know* it wasn’t somebody else?”), spied deer in the frosty field behind the house, sang carols, stoked the fire in the fireplace, shared meals with family, shared conversations with friends who feel like family, hunted in despair for wayward Legos, played Wii, played an old Dutch card game, scratched lottery tickets, read bedtime stories that make The Kid sigh and snuggle down under the covers and put her head on my shoulder like she used to when she was a Little Kid, whispering happy + tired “I love you, Mommy.”

This Christmas was such a gift after not having The Kid last year for the first time ever. I love the memories we are making. I’m just so thankful for everything + everyone I have.

See you in 2011.

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Women I Love: My Godmother

This is my godmother, whom I affectionately call Fairy Godmother — FGM for short — with The Kid last holiday season. This is one of my favorite pictures of her. She’s one of my favorite people. She’s one of my role models.

I didn’t always know her. There are photos of her at my baptism. There are fuzzy memories I have when this red-haired lady —Mom’s cousin and apparently my “godmother,” an unfamiliar term at the time — gave me the Narnia series to read as a kid. And then when I was a college freshman, she was the one to show me around the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus as I decided whether or not to leave my life behind in NEPA and start something new in the Midwest.

We started a regular brunch meeting during those college years, which we called coffee “klatch,” just like our old aunties from Nebraska City did clutching those Depression-era green glass cups; we their descendants gossiped and bitched and confessed whatever was rattling on upstairs in our brains at some of Lincoln’s yummiest eateries. I didn’t know how much I needed that. She was there to help me pick out my wedding dress in a outlet store in Wahoo, Nebraska. As I wore that dress a few weeks later on muggy July day, she was the only one that day to ask me, albeit with a grin,  if I was sure I wanted to go through with the ceremony. She wanted me to know I always had options. I appreciated that. A few years later, she was there to remind me over and over again I was indeed lovable and worthy of love. I clung to that.     

She gets me. She makes me want to be a better person. She loves me just the way I am. She allows me to vent all my terrible and dream all my fantastic. She makes room for me and The Kid when she has enough kids and grandkids who need her. She’s taught me to love fiercely.  To be wise and patient and kind when it is not always in our natures. To laugh really, really hard. To forgive myself. To forge ahead. To seek my happiness.To listen to my gut.  To know my worth.

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Hotel Sidwell

Mom’s here. Brother’s not. Long story, as alway. Let’s keep moving, shall we? 

Mom and Kid Sister arrived Thursday evening. Yes, I have a Kid Sister who just turned 9. For you math whizzes, there is more of an age difference between Mom and I (20 years) than Kid Sister and I (21 years). Pay attention, there might be a pop quiz later. Yes, The Kid and Kid Sister like to play. Which is both nice and surreal. Let’s keep moving, shall we?

On the agenda for the next week:
- library
- farmer’s market
- children’s consignment stores
- downtown Longmont: bulk store, diner, pottery studio, picnic in the park
- Pearl Street in Boulder
- crafts + Hobby Lobby
- Mass at the cathedral in Denver

The nice thing about visitors is that you get to play tour guide in your own town, seeing the places and doing the things you put off seeing and doing because they are always there to see and do the “next time.” Next time gets to be right now.

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Family Reunion

This is a photo of my great-grandfather on my father’s side.
It sits in a tea cup used by my great-aunt on my mother’s side.
It sits on my desk as a reminder.

Soon my brother will arrive here in Colorado. On the heels of his visit will be my mother and 9-year-old kid sister. Two weeks of family time! We don’t get much of that, so while a treat it’s also unusual (for me anyway). For 17 years these people were a daily part of my live. And now they are, at most, an annual event. I was lucky enough to see them both in separate visits to Colorado; before that, it had been years since I saw either of them. Seeing them both stirs up a lot of old memories — the good and the hard — about the life we had shared. With their trips overlapping, this will be the first time my brother, mother and I will be in the same room since 2003. 

Today The Kid and I clean the house and put fresh sheets on the beds. The pantry and fridge are stocked. My guests are both coming to help me: my brother, a gearhead, is going to tune up my car. My mother, a grandmother of Just One, will step into the role of babysitter these days between the end of summer camp and the start of school. I plan to be a good host and grateful daughter/sister.

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Like a Weed

The Kid is in Nebraska again for the week visiting grandparents, my godmother and her godmother, BFF Cara. She’s in this really interesting transition right now from Little Kid to Big Kid; she even said so herself when she informed me that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was too little kid of a lulluabye for her and she would like me to sing her big kid tunes. Also, her two front teeth, which fell out in early December, have finally broken through.

Now I just need to keep busy so I don’t miss her too much.

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