I started writing this post on Labor Day. I decided to “labor” at home. Doing just-for-me creative pursuits. I started with updating my vision board. I’ve tons of magazines around here collecting dust and taking up space to be used on this project.
Primarily I found phrases that speak to me (“let curiosity lead” is my new favorite), but no visual depictions of any specific, tangible, thing that I want to manifest. I’ll probably need to hit a thrift store soon to complete my current iteration of this vision board.
I did find some articles in these old magazines that I missed on my first go ’round with them. I will read those this week, before toss them into our recycling bin.
Hubs and I got back from our summer vacation last Wednesday night. It was a long-ass road trip to Minnesota with our camper. We normally go up there to see family and friends in July; this year, however, we went in late August so we could attend the nuptials of my nephew and his gal.
All went well, though Hubs is still quite sore from doing all the driving. Those sweet kids got married (under a tent during a downpour). We spent quality time on the way visiting his parents and sister in Wisconsin, having dinner with our best friends farther north, and lunch with my beautiful niece and her family on our way through Nebraska.
I didn’t want to come home, to be honest. Not just because I wanted more time with family, but because of the beauty and serenity I find at my sister and brother in-laws place. I wanted more of it. Maybe next summer, we’ll fly there so we can spend more time with them in this instead of sitting in the truck. Better yet, we’ll take the camper but extend our vacation by another few days.
I mentioned in this blog a while back that I had never made my mom Bonnie’s famous “nut goodie bars”. I rectified that over the holidays.
With Valentine’s Day coming in a few days, I figured it’d be a great time to share this recipe and story with you all.
I found the recipe in Bonnie’s recipe box (the best tangible item to take for myself upon her passing). It was written out in her pretty though at times hard to decipher handwriting. It was not completely coherent, but I knew that my sister Kelly could fill in the blanks if necessary.
Here’s the recipe exactly as written:
1-12 oz. real choc. chips
1-12 oz. butterscotch chips
1 oz. sq. unsweetened choc.
Melt over hot water. Add 1 1/2 C. peanut butter. Put 1/4 mixture in jellyroll pan, 11×17-let harden (freezer).
2 sticks marg.
1/4 C. reg. vanilla pudding
1/2 Cup Carnation Milk
Bring to a boil-remove from heat & beat in 2 lb. pkg. powdered sugar (watch so doesn’t scratch)
Spread on bottom layer. Sprinkle 1 1/2 C. spanish peanuts over this & spread remaining mixture over this.
You can imagine I had some questions, no? Funnily enough, when I texted Kelly, she remarked she was also making these bars that day. Gotta love those mysterious sibling soul connections! She clarified for me that “regular” vanilla pudding did not mean “instant”. She said she didn’t think it sets up right using instant. Hubs, good sport that he is, offered to run to the store for “regular” vanilla pudding mix, as I only had the instant variety. Kelly mentioned that “mapleine” flavoring might be hard to find at the store. “Strange”, I texted, “not only have I never heard of “mapleine” flavoring, but it wasn’t listed on the copy of mom’s recipe I had. “
How one can record two different versions of the same dish is beyond me. But then, in looking through Bonnie’s recipe box I found more than a few copies of the same recipes. I think she would write them down from memory and then forget to present them to their intended recipient. People were always asking her for various recipes because she was a phenomenal cook. It’s all such a glimpse into her personality I think, and that’s the beauty of having this sweet little box here in my house now.
Anyway, these bars turned out great. The are very sweet and rich. The perfectly decadent Valentine sweet. I hope you get a chance to make them for you and yours this Valentine’s Day!
Her name is Kelly. Or, as my Dad often called her “Kel-Kel Poo Poo”. She is my one and only big (biological) sister.
I’ve no idea where Dad got the idea to call her this. I think it’ll forever remain a mystery, as Dad unfortunately passed a few years ago. For the record, he often called me “Rhoda-Joda”. I think the silly names he came up with for all of us was one of his many ways of expressing his love for us.
I don’t know where I’d be without Kelly. She is 8 1/2 years older than me (hard to believe that seeing the picture of us here, right?). She was continuously looking out for me and supporting me as I grew up. I was in awe of her as a kid and still am.
She was the one who regularly sent me care packages when I was away at college. They were filled with random, fun things, like candy, holiday window clings, note pads and other doo-dads. It always made me feel so special, so loved, when I opened them up. I doubt that I ever properly thanked her for them at the time.
I started writing this post on her birthday, November 10. Of course she was working that day. The woman is a work horse and always puts others before herself. I’ll be so happy for her, in another year or so, when she’s able to retire and get much-deserved time to relax and pursue all of those things that give her so much joy, like spending time with her beautiful twin grandsons and traveling with her husband.
It could be said that I owe Kelly my life. I remember hearing stories from when she was about 11 and had to baby-sit me sometimes. She dreaded those times, because our brother, who was just shy of 2 years older than her and had ADHD, delighted in teasing me to the point of tears. She was the one who calmed this bawling and sweaty toddler down during those times.
Kelly is the big sister every little sister wishes they had. She let me tag along with her and her girlfriends when she was in high school. She appointed me “junior” bridesmaid when she got married in 1979. She let me spend weekends with her and her new husband (and eventual baby boys) during the summers. At the time, they lived across from a small resort where we would rent paddle boats and cruise around little Lax Lake. She worked as a waitress back then, and sometimes I would get to hang out at the restaurant with her and her funny friend and co-worker Karen. So many sweet memories.
As she lived in closer proximity to them, Kelly was the sibling who took on the role of managing our parents lives as they got older. She was our family’s rock as Bonnie and Babe’s health deteriorated and for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.
Kelly is also my rock. She’s the first one I call when I have news to share, whether it’s good or bad. It’s fair to say she is the brightest Gem in my life.
For any of you that are blessed to have a “Gem” of a sister like I do, you understand that all I’ve expressed in this post honoring her merely scratches the surface. I’m grateful for Kelly and for the opportunity to have this blog where I can express that gratitude.
Don’t you think that with age many of us handle the unexpected circumstances in our lives better? I think it’s a result of having more time here on earth than others. We’ve simply had a larger number of unexpected things occur in our lives. We’re wiser.
And I think that is awesome.
Not that when a curve ball presents itself we don’t freak out a little. We’re still human after all.
It’s just that we’ve got experiences behind us that tells us we’ve gotten through some shit. We’ve survived. Heck, sometimes we have even thrived after the unexpected invades our realities.
I had two unexpected pregnancies. In the span of two years. I feel like an idiot when I tell people this, but it’s true. And I wouldn’t change a thing about how it all played out.
I was on the pill when I got pregnant both times. First pregnancy was a pleasant surprise. Sure, we (as my mom would say), didn’t have a pot to piss in; but we were newlyweds in love. We made enough money between the two of us to pay our rent and buy groceries and we had the love and emotional support of both sets of parents.
Then, after living in Texas with our baby girl Amanda while Hubs took graduate courses in meteorology and did some student teaching for a few months, I missed my period. Scared out of my mind, I took a pregnancy test and sure enough, it was positive. As Clark Griswold would say, I was more shocked than if I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet.
Decisions had to be made. Staying in Texas would have meant that Hubs would have finished his Masters and put himself in a position to work at his (then) dream job: Professor of Meteorology at a major university. With people, the guy has the patience of Job, so I was confident he would rock that career path. The flip side, however, is that I would have to apply for Medicaid (we were poor, young,and dumb and had no health insurance at the time) for myself and baby Amanda. Then we’d be there in Texas, knowing only a small handful of people (and not very well), raising two babies under 2.
The decision we made was to move back to Minnesota. Where we’d have the support of two loving sets of grandparents to cope with this unexpected turn of events. The guilt I felt (in hindsight, this was wasted energy as it does take two to create new life) for “making” Hubs quit grad school to move back to Minnesota and find employment in his field lasted for years.
While the three of us bunked with his folks and his teenage sister in (thankfully) a 3 bedroom apartment for a month or so, Hubs managed to get a job with a private weather forecasting company and we found ourselves a nice two bedroom apartment.
After Rabbie made their arrival during that hot as hell summer, Hubs got connected with a supervisor in the National Weather Service who hired him as an “intern” (a position that no longer exists) making $18,000 per year. This was sooo exciting! At the time. $18,000 to us in the early 90’s felt like a pretty good darn chunk of change. Only thing was, we had to move to International Falls, Minnesota. The “Icebox of the Nation”. Another unwelcome and unexpected thing.
Nevertheless, we made the best of it. Struggled, stressed out, but we pressed on as a team. As a family.
And now, here we are, married for over 30 years with two great kids in their 20’s and a smart as heck 6 year old grandson. Living in Colorado and as ready as we can be for whatever unexpected thing comes next.
What unexpected circumstances have happened in the course of your lives that changed everything? Please share in the comments.
I wanted to pause for a beat to tell you all that I may skip publishing a time or two in the next couple of weeks, because Eldest and our grandson are coming to visit soon. For a whole week! This is the longest period of time they will have ever been here for. Eldest was furloughed from her job until at least the end of this month due to the slow down in business for her employer thanks to Covid-19.
Despite the fact that our grandson just started 1st grade a few weeks ago (in person) it seemed like the perfect moment to have the two of them come for a visit. This is going to be so much better than when they typically come to see us, in November or May, when the temps are not as pleasant as they are in the beautiful month of September.
So instead of finishing a publishing whatever the next post will be in my “Alphabet Soup Challenge” today, I’m going to give the house a good cleaning, dust off the old Fall/Halloween decor (and set up the new stuff I got yesterday) and decorate the house so it’s all comfy, cozy, and clean for my beloveds.
Please click on the link below to enjoy one of my favorite dancing tunes!
27 years ago, I gave birth to my second child. Hubs and I named “her” Marissa. A lovely name for a lively child.
Approximately 7 years ago, “Marissa”, who had by then come out as queer and non-binary (the queer part was easier to get my head around at first than the non-binary part) announced that they would now be referred to as “Rabbie”.
Say what?! I thought to myself. Why? What’s wrong with “Marissa”? It’s a damn beautiful name, right people?
I told Bonnie over the phone. She “misheard” me and said “Rabbit?” I laughed nervously and told her to think of it as a nickname. I reminded her that Rabbie was romantically attracted to both genders and this was one expression of that (though now I realize it’s much more nuanced). She responded by saying she was going to be praying that “Marissa” found herself a nice boy to fall in love with and marry someday.
My mom never did “get” it. I never held it against her however. Fact of the matter is, I wasn’t necessarily “getting it” back then either.
Hubs and I struggled with this for a good long while. I was offended that the kid was rejecting the name we lovingly chose for them. I felt anxious about how to explain it to others. So many times when talking about how our kids were doing to friends and acquaintances, I found myself referring to “Marissa” as “Rabbie” and got the most confused looks in exchange.
But time is an interesting thing. The more I referred to her them as “Rabbie” the more natural it seemed to come to me. The less I felt the need to explain it to myself or others. I even shortened it to “Rabs” when I was speaking to them directly.
I realized over time is that it’s not about me. It’s about the kid not feeling “girly” inside. It’s about them not embracing traditional Americanized gender roles. It’s about the kid expressing their true selves and asserting their independence. It’s about the kid asserting their right to be seen as who they really are, not someone who we as their parents and society at large thinks they should be.
When I started to ponder what word beginning with “F” I wanted to write about, I started with “Fashion”.
I was going to write a fun post about how, because of this damn pandemic , I miss having places to go where it isn’t out of place to wear a cute summer dress (like the one below purchased from Kid #2’s online store). I was going to share how my parents owned a women’s clothing store in the 80’s and early 90’s which clinched my love of fashion.
But my favorite 80’s song kept coming up in my “songbrain”.
This song got me thinking about Lisa, the foreign exchange student from the UK who lived with us for the ’83/’84 school year. So I decided to pivot on my word choice for this post.
That school year was the only one that came anywhere near being fascinating for me. Lisa’s placement in our home shook up our family dynamic. I was suddenly not the only child in our home. I now had someone my age to talk to, laugh with, and engage in shenanigans with.
Lisa was always up for having fun; that is what made her extended stay with us such a bright spot in my life. Sometimes she’d sneak off and create a weird display on my bed with random items found in my room for me to find later. She was so excited when she made us “Shephard’s Pie” for the first time. It was a favorite of the Brits, she said.
Then there was that time when she surprised me with a stiff cocktail using my parent’s liquor when they were out of town. Despite having a British teenager who was of legal drinking age back home, they foolishly kept all of their liquor under the kitchen sink. It’s amazing how trusting Bonnie and Babe were.
Do you ever look back on your youth and think that about your parents?
Speaking of liquor, I’ve always been fascinated at the idea of having a pint or two at a traditional English pub. Hearing all those lovely accents and soaking up the atmosphere.
It seems to me such a laid back, lovely place to visit. Touring castles and checking out vibrant markets in little villages would be my jam. As a life long Beatles fan, I would be especially fascinated by touring Abbey Road or any other Beatles themed venue.
The most fascinatingly ridiculous thing is that I am 53, have both my “sister” Lisa and her husband, along with a lovely niece (and her two daughters and charming Puerto Rican husband) who all live in England and yet I’ve never been.
Do any of you have places you’ve always been fascinated with but have yet to travel to?Please share in the comments!
Hubs and I are on one right now. A great American summer road trip, complete with camper and dog. Traveling Northeast to visit family, biological and otherwise, in both Wisconsin and Minnesota.
I am so grateful to be doing this. After missing out on our Florida vacation back in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and starting a brand new project at work, I really needed a distraction from reality.
And I’m so relaxed. Like itdoesntmatterifwedonthavesuppertill8pm and noalarmsareset relaxed. Like any vacation ought to be.
We set out on our journey on the 4th. Getting onto the entrance of I-25, Hubs turned on the “Road Trip Radio” channel on Sirius XM. At the beginning of “Saturday in the Park” by Chicago (first band we saw live as a couple back in the spring of 1989).
We smiled at each other, taking it as a good omen.
Radar is still a puppy. He panted, tongue hanging out of his mouth, while scurrying from window to window in the backseat. If I only had a dollar for each time we had to gently push him to the backseat. Dude doesn’t want to miss anything. He did settle after a bit, for intermittent spurts of time. The best thing is he didn’t puke. He’s been known to do that on the shorter car rides he’s taken thus far in his life.
Upon arriving to our first KOA in Rapid City, South Dakota and cracking open a semi cold beer (the camper fridge wasn’t fully chilled yet), I mused that I had little recollection of the last few 4th of July’s. I suppose that’s not unusual for older couples like us, ones who are done raising kids.
I added that it seemed this particular 4th of July was going to be a memorable one.
After having a very simple supper and walking around a bit (95 degrees in the shade is why I say a bit) with Radar, we got back in the camper and turned on the t.v. Something I really dig when Hubs and I are on vacation is watching t.v. Now don’t get me wrong; we don’t become total couch potatoes during our vacations. But it’s special in a weird way: we don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu in our camper (or in a motel when we stay there), like we do at home. We don’t have our “go to’s” or shows we dvr’d. We are at the mercy of whatever channels are available at the campground we are staying at.
That means we watch completely different things than we do at home. And we have fun with it. On the 4th, after clicking through the 8 (?) channels available, we came upon a channel featuring the 60th birthday celebration of a true American icon-Willie Nelson. It was taped probably 25 years ago and to my delight, featured interviews and performances of other icons that where there to celebrate Willie. Ray Charles. B.B. King. Johnny Cash. All no longer with us.
One of my favorite parts was hearing B.B. King talking about how much he loved Willie. Like a true fan. He said that “Always on my Mind” was his very favorite song. B.B. and Bonnie Raitt later jammed together, singing a blues tune I don’t think I ever heard before. It was spectacular. If you can find this show out there on whatever platform you have, I urge you to watch it. Assuming you love music. But, who doesn’t?
The cherry on the top of this 4th of July was the fireworks. I had zero expectations, beyond the anxiety I believed Radar was going to express about them. And we were at a campground, a place we have never been on the 4th of July. Didn’t even know or take the time to find out if they were happening there or if we would see them from wherever they might be shooting them off.
But around 9 something p.m. we started hearing them. Fortunately, Radar was tuckered out from all the excitement and we had the sound of the a/c buffering it. So I went outside to check it out. Wow!! They were lighting up the sky in all directions. People were milling about in small groups, no one too close to each other, looking up at the sheer beauty of the colors and patterns popping up in the sky. I slowly moved in a circle, cell phone in hand, anticipating where the next brilliant display was coming from, attempting to capture it. It was magical and made me feel hopeful for the future.
Don’t get me wrong-I wish Covid-19 and the stay-at-home order that resulted from it didn’t exist.
However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit having my life slow down as a result didn’t have its benefits.
I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t miss getting a massage every couple of weeks (my shoulders and my right hip are killing me, people!). I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t miss going to church every Sunday and embracing my friends there. I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t miss jumping into the car with Hubs and the kiddo to enjoy a cold brew amongst our neighbors at one of our local brew pubs.
I’d really be lying to you if I said I was not speaking from a place of privilege. My lamentations are merely temporary inconveniences.
So on that note, I’d like to share what I believe have been the positive results of the “stay at home” order since it began, what, 6 weeks ago?
I have a much deeper appreciation for going into the office Mon-Fri.
I ended up being quarantined at home for 2 full weeks which I wrote about here, due to a possibility that I had contracted Covid-19 from an individual that was present in the same facility as I was who tested positive. I never became symptomatic, thank God.
Because of this, my role at the agency changed essentially overnight. I was tasked to begin a new program, which we had recently acquired grant money for. It involves calling our clients to check in as a “friendly visitor”. Now, making these phone calls was quite enjoyable for me. And with Hubs working from home (until the end of the year actually) and the kiddo for the most part doing their own thing and working part time, the environment in this house was quite conducive for it.
OMG, you guys, I sooo missed seeing the faces of my co-workers. I missed organizing the food bank. Receiving donations. Handing out food (via curb side pick up) to our hungry clients. The damn Keurig machine. I missed dressing in my work clothes, especially as I had gone out clothes shopping prior to everything getting shut down. I had nowhere to wear my new frocks!
I made my triumphant return to the office last Monday. Woo-hoo! Fortunately, things were not in disarray when I returned. My co-workers and our lovely volunteers got the job done in my absence. And while I continued my new work project, I also was able to help with managing the food bank and procuring more food donations. While wearing my new duds and enjoying myself a cup here and there of dark roasted coffee courtesy of our beloved Keurig machine.
I have embraced my homebody tendencies.
I mentioned in a recent post how I had been getting re-acquainted with my kitchen. That has continued. The jury is out with the Instant Pot, but that is a whole nother story. With the temps increasing, the grill is starting to get more use as is our dear Crockpot. And Sundays have now been declared “Dessert Day” because it gives me something enjoyable to do while I jam out to my Google playlists and well…dessert.
We are also “family-ing” (a coin termed by my MIL) in a more intentional way these days. We have created some silly art:
We have spent time listening to music and strumming along with our guitar (Hubs) and ukulele (now mine). We have played games on the Jackbox TV app (Guesspionage was especially fun). We have played laser pointer games with our furry housemates. We have gotten outside with these darling creatures for neighborhood walks. We are having more meaningful conversations with each other. All things that may not have occurred had it not been for the Covid-19 stay-at-home order.
And seriously, thank the good Lord for the ability we have to video chat with our loved ones. Seeing their faces and hearing their laughter this mom/daughter-in-law/grandma is simply the best.
I am excited about the possibility that once summer is in full swing, we will be safe to venture out into the big wide world again (excuse me while I indulge my optimistic tendencies). But I do hope to maintain this mentally healthier balance between being busy (I dare you to recall the last time you heard anyone tell you how busy they are) and just being. Because this is the lesson I want to have learned from this.
Last Friday was my parent’s 62nd wedding anniversary. Remembering this brought on a feeling of sadness that I haven’t felt since they passed on from this life.
My dad, Babe, passed almost two years ago now. My mom, Bonnie, followed suit one year, one week, and one day after that.
None of us can claim with any scientific certainty that heaven exists. But I believe there is another dimension where our souls land once our earthly bodies cease to be.
It gives me comfort to envision my parents together in this dimension.
I like to think that Mom is not in any pain whatsoever. That she can walk and move with ease. That Dad’s mind is all there. That he doesn’t feel angry or confused or frustrated with himself. That in this other dimension he exists as the person he was prior to the fall where he hit his head. The hard hit to his noggin that eventually led to a diagnosis of dementia.
He wouldn’t be holding Mom’s purse, because she doesn’t need one anymore.
That was one of the things about these two, Bonnie and Babe: he accepted her shopaholic tendencies while holding her purse from store to store.
Bonnie and Babe made an impression on people wherever they went. In many ways, they were opposites. In some ways, they were two of a kind.
They were social creatures. They loved to have other people around to “BS” with. To feed. To take care of. To travel with. To celebrate with. I’m grateful for that aspect of marriage they modeled for me and Hubs.
I didn’t know it till I was 14 that Mom and Dad met when my brother was just a toddler. I loved that my Dad had love in his heart for a boy who was not his own. He married Mom in 1958 and legally adopted Craig shortly thereafter. I suspect that he faced judgement about it from my Grandma Pearl, but ironically she grew to love and depend on my Mom more than probably anyone else in our family.
I love that Bonnie and Babe were hard workers. They always had so much energy and together they created so much for the enjoyment of so many.
I love that they were spontaneous. One day, out of the blue from my perspective, they decided to start a business. Despite working full time and then some, Dad agreed to Mom’s proposition that they buy out our small town’s women’s clothing store. It had been a bar years before. They decided to call it “Bonnie’s Clothes Bar”.
With Dad taking care of the books and Mom doing running the store for several years, I was able to attend college without any of us taking on any debt. That is something they were very proud of.
Bonnie and Babe were always very physically affectionate with each other. I remember cringing as a pre-teen while Dad would lovingly call Mom “Mama Buns” (she had an ample ass for much of her adult life). They held hands on the regular.
I remember a story they told about their first trip to Europe. It was an extremely hot and humid day in England (or France? I wasn’t present). They were waiting outside for a ride to take them to a museum or something. Dad spied an ice cream truck and made a bee-line for it. Came back to Mom and sat down on a bench next to her.
Dad was savoring the sweet cold deliciousness and Mom asked for a lick. He obliged. Within two seconds she was asking for another lick. He again obliged. A few more seconds pass and she’s asking again. He said something to the effect of “Why don’t you get your own” to which she responded with “Now Babe, I just wanted one more lick”, then proceeded to berate him for his complaint.
This pushed Dad over the edge. He took the remainder of that ice cream cone and smashed it on her chest, creating a cold, sticky mess all over her top. I wish I could have seen the look on her face. The face she made just before the two of them erupted into laughter.