Stay Safe

red heart on black background
Sending love…

I had something else in mind for a post this morning but I’m not feeling it. 

Friends and family who are staring down Hurricane Ian are on my mind…much like the folks who’ve suffered already as it careened through the Caribbean, leaving devastation behind.  Sending heartfelt wishes for safety.

Vicki ❤

Send Out the Search Party

brown cowboy hat with sheriff badge
Everything is Somewhere

When dear daughter was small, one of the most mind-numbing tasks was the constant fetching of errant ‘stuff’.  She was an only, so as a party-of-one, parent-wise, I felt terrible when I complained.  I don’t know NOW – nor did I THEN – how to magically locate stuff.

I am not blessed with GPS-like tracking skills.  Socks? Shoes? Lost Bunnies? Dolls? Trucks? Pokemon whatevers? Nope.  Unless I tripped over them and hurt the bottom of my bare foot, I generally had no clue. 

A parent’s favorite reply to ‘where’s (fill in the blank)?’

I dunno – wherever YOU left it.

To be honest, though, this is bigger than an overdue parenting rant.  Our girl is way grown at this point, so why the sharing now?  It seems the Hubster has the same trust in me…that I can close my eyes, put a finger to my temple, thoughtfully, and mull….and I’ll know wherever said-missing-in-action item might be holing up.  Nope.  Still don’t know.

I think pandemic togetherness pushed me over the edge.  He’s relaxed and easy going.  Me?  Wound. Too. Tight.  Don’t bug me with a question about where your favorite screwdriver is.  Don’t you have 99 of them?  😊

And yet, I get why both dear daughter and Hubster have faith in me.  I am the Patron Saint of Lost Stuff.  I did it to myself.  See, I’m the one who’s in perpetual pick up mode in these parts.  Yessiree.  That’s me.

If I’m a-pickin’ it up, I might as well be a-puttin’ it down — where it belongs.  (I don’t know where the Western twang and sheriff swagger is coming from.  Sorry about that.  My mind is wandering and I’m having an out of body moment as I see myself roaming through the tumbleweeds, err, piles in the house like I’m leading a search party, complete with a badge and ten-gallon hat.  I think I need sleep.)   

So what?  I do have a point here.  Getting to it! 😉 Even when I’ve lost track of something and I’m in search mode, there’s a tidbit of wisdom from my papa that rolls in.  It’s a surefire (wink!) way of calming me down when I’m rootin-tootin’ mad. 

I have learnedI am unlikely to locate anything when I’m steamed.  The more Zen, the better and this phrase helps, self-talk style:

I don’t know where (fill in the blank) is but what I DO know is everything is somewhere.’

And with that bit of wisdom, I plop down and sit-a-spell 😉 until inspiration strikes and I pick up the trail.  I don’t want to say it works every time…but it kinda does. 

And that’s that.  A Tuesday rant, and a tip of the hat, from me to you, partner.

-Vicki 😉

Hello, Yellow…

pyrex bowls
Meatball Memories

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory?  A smell so potent that you can blink and travel back in time?

I’ve got one of those and it involves an old Pyrex yellow bowl.  It was the biggest of four in a set passed down through a couple of generations, starting in the 40’s with my grandma.  The only thing I ever saw grandma use old yellow for was her weird “salad” that was truly a sugary diabetic bomb containing canned fruit cocktail, marshmallows, grapes and cottage cheese.  Well, I guess the cottage cheese wasn’t so bad, but the rest of it was bizarre – at least to the picky eater I was then (and now).

When mom inherited the set of bowls, including old yellow, she never used it for the aforementioned ‘salad’.  Instead, she christened the big Pyrex vessel with meatballs – and plenty of them.  Learning how to perfect the secret recipe from my dad’s family, mom created new uses for the entire set of bowls.  Old yellow was for rigatoni and meatballs.  Other pasta variations?  No!  Always rigatoni. 

Little blue was used exclusively for sliced radishes.  No, not to accompany the meatballs.  It didn’t get to play on Sundays.  Little blue appeared when dad wanted a spicy snack and for him, sliced radishes were his thing – especially if they floated in a salty ice-water bath.  Head scratcher, I say.

Red was a Sunday staple.  Red’s role was important because she held just the sauce (or gravy if you prefer).  The bounty in old yellow – glistening meatballs and pasta – often required an extra ladle or two of saucy goodness, once plated. Especially true for those of us who dove into the crusty bread.  That was red’s role.

Green?  You guessed itEXTRA meatballs.  Overflow central and for reasons I never understood, green’s meatballs were typically doused with a serious snowstorm of parmesan. Like a lot.  It melted and added a salty and savory punch unlike the meatballs mixed with the rigatoni.  Almost like another dish entirely. 

Sundays were the best with meatballs on the stove.  One of my earliest (and happy) memories is about meatballs.  Kneeling on a stepstool and learning how to smack and roll the raw meat, mixed with heavenly spices, egg and toasted breadcrumbs. I know I’m not alone.

The mostly-vegetarian in me goes off track to make this meal today. No recipe required – it’s all about eye-balling the ingredients and remembering to smack those little suckers hard – between both palms to scare any air pockets out of them.  Big baseball fans, always, I remember imagining my hands were two big catcher’s mitts, tossing the meaty mixture with authority, like playing catch.

When mom passed away, the bowls became mine and although I’ve wanted to use them – especially old yellow – to ladle it full of rigatoni and meatballs – I haven’t been able to do it.  Not yet.  But I think I’m building up to it.  The combination of the olfactory memories…the scents of my favorite meal served in that bowl combined with flashbacks of family drama? Mixed memories, but I’m almost ready.

Why the hesitation?  Hmmm. While I associate old yellow with happy stuff, mixed in, there were just as many maddening moments of another sort.  The kind that were punctuated by Sunday scream fests and bad behavior. 

Old yellow saw it all and has a teensy chip on the bottom to prove it…collateral damage during one of mom’s meltdowns.  The meatballs weren’t the culprit.  But I suspect the bottomless wineglass was.  Still, I’ve put it into perspective. Every Sunday wasn’t that way, and the meaningful meatball memories remain, as does old yellow.

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory? (Hopefully one that’s less messy than my meatball story?) Let me know – and thanks so much for reading. I think meatballs will be on the menu this Sunday. Yes – in old yellow.

-Vicki 😉

Go Great Granny, Go!

1900 woman in hat
Great Grandma…Get It, Girl

The photo of the distinguished lady is hubby’s great grandma, circa 1900.  She married into a family of haberdashers:

Three things are remarkable to me about this photo, unearthed in the family trunk of long-forgotten stories: 

First – LOOK – just LOOK at the hat.  I’ve discovered, after a bit of vintage sleuthing, that over-the-top ornamentation using fake fruit and flowers was au courant and high fashion at the turn of the last century.  In addition to the hat looking uncomfortable, I’m fairly certain great granny could’ve been airborne, should a strong breeze arrive. You know – Mary Poppins style.

Second – While the tailoring on the jacket and handiwork looks like the refined work of a master, the whole ensemble – jacket, gloves and high-necked blouse scream discomfort.  Great grandma’s visage, though?  She looks proud and proper.  Not a hint of “I can’t wait to get out of this to hop into something comfy” (which in truth, was probably an equally uncomfortable lumpy cotton, full-skirted ‘day dress’.)

Third and last – and most important.  As I rummaged through the trunk, I learned this hat pic was part of an ad campaign for the local newspaper – promoting the small-town millinery and haberdashery store, which her newlywed husband owned.  Excavating the tidbits uncovered more fun and fab family history.  Despite great granny’s time and place, she pushed her new husband to go beyond the traditional ‘furnishings’ for men only and branch out to offer equally well-made goods for women.  And she was the first model and spokesperson. 😊

What’s not to love?  Go, Great Granny, Go!

-Vicki ❤

MMM: Monday Morning Muffins

basket of apple muffins
Apple Walnut Muffins

Caution I’m no master baker, food blogger or photographer. I just like to eat and bake and if I can do it in a semi-healthy way, I’m all in. 😊

It’s that time of year for many of us – time to get creative with apples in abundance.  I have a tried-and-true recipe for apple walnut bread – dating back to my foray into 4-H as a kid – and I figured it would work just as well if I made muffins, so I decided to bake a big batch and ‘health it up’ just a bit. 

How?  I used whole wheat flour and rather than PEEL and chop the apples, I just chopped them.  What’s wrong with the extra fiber and a little ‘tooth’?  Seems to complement the overall chewiness of these dense delights, along with the walnuts.  But hey – you do YOU and change it up as you like.  The recipe itself is pretty fool proof (yep, even for me).

  • 3 cups flour (choose what you like – I used whole wheat, but I’ve made this recipe with almond flour with pretty good results – same for basic all-purpose and gluten free flour.  I recall I needed to lighten up on the oil a little when I used almond flour, but other than that, it worked fine)
  • 2 cups sugar (or – go ½ and ½ – 1 cup sugar and your choice of monk fruit, stevia and/or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (pumpkin pie spice is awesome, too)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • I cup vegetable oil (or go ½ and ½ and use ½ cup of applesauce to replace ½ of the oil – yum!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups finely chopped apples (peeled if you must – use Granny Smith if you’ve got ‘em)
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, sure, or pecans — or no nuts)

Mix the dry stuff in a big bowl.  Separately whisk together the eggs, oil and vanilla and combine with the dry stuff.  Add the apples and nuts.  This will be a thick batter – don’t worry if you need to thin it just a bit with some water.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so for muffins; more like 55 minutes if you’re doing loaves. Makes 2 dozen muffins, or two small loaves. 

The batch in the photo is from earlier this morning.  I love when I can load up my favorite vintage breadbasket with something fresh and wholesome.  That sweet wicker serving piece has been in the family for at least 80 years – passed down from hubby’s granny to his mom…and happily, to me. 

So – here’s to Monday and the magic of muffins.  If I could, I’d send you a few.  Let’s figure out how to share via the blogosphere.  If not the actual muffins, maybe the aroma, at least? Not gonna lie; our house smells pretty good right now. 😉

xo,

-Vicki ❤

Shake, Rattle & Roll

antique china cabinet
The ‘chatty’ cabinet

I’ve tried to put this out of my mind for the past two weeks, and I’m struggling.  See the cabinet?  I don’t know how to explain this, but the dumb piece of furniture is talking back. 

Have I lost you already?  Sorry.  See? This is why I’ve been trying to shoo this story away.  Well, there are really two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to scare you.
  2. I’d rather you not think of me as entirely crazy (a little crazy is good, I think).

If we rewind to seven years ago, right about now, we were tending to my mom, Sue’s passing.  It was rough in every way, especially for lovely Lisa, my disabled sister, but she was comforted when we brought mom’s urn home – to nestle it next to dad’s.

Our pops died many years prior, and Lisa became accustomed to seeing his urn in our house – sometimes chatting and shooting the breeze with him.  Not creepy – sweet and endearing.

Eventually our parents want their urns buried together in a plot already picked out in their hometown, but for now, Lisa enjoys her periodic visits and communing with them.  All good because it gives her peace. 

When mom died, we brought her urn home and placed it next to dad’s and that’s when the shaky stuff started.  The two cabinets in that room hold old china, glassware, and crystal and twice after Sue “came home” we had early morning issues with unexplained broken glass on the floor – with the cabinet doors flung open.

I’m a pretty meticulous person about order and neatness (more so than spotlessly clean – don’t come over and expect to eat off the floors) and I know I didn’t leave the doors open, nor did I place crystal or crockery in tipsy positions.  No ma’am

Okay, you might be thinking, it was an oversized truck rumbling down the street – you know, creating vibrations resulting in the shaky, shaky.  No – we live on a dead-end street.  No one goes by unless they’re stopping for supper, which is always nice.  I make too much food anyhow. 

Fine – not a chubby truck.  Okay – it was a tremor – you know, those tectonic plates are a-shifting.  Earthquakes happen everywhere – even in the Midwest.  No.  No seismic shift.  I checked.  Scratch that off the list. 

How about a prankster?  No.  Unless hubby is the most colossal liar on the planet, with ninja-like magician skills.  He can’t be in two places at once, no matter how cool he is. 

This nonsense continued until I separated the urns.  Mom went in one room, dad in another and the shaky stuff stopped.  Just stopped.  Since then, we have the occasional odd door slamming episodes (which we attribute to breezes…um…even when the windows are closed) but it’s been quiet in the crockery department for several years.  Until Labor Day.

The cabinet in the picture is the culprit – the one that wanted to chat a couple of weeks ago.  We had friends and family over for a BBQ and at the end of the evening, I washed and dried the serving pieces – cheese trays, platters – that were used for our feast and had the two middle doors open, returning items to their spots. Awesome.  Task completion. 

EXCEPT this:  As I turned to walk away, the loudest possible rumble of broken glass and smashing crockery blew out of the cabinet.  LOUDLY.  I’d stepped back – maybe a foot – and when I turned, I expected to see everything in the cabinet in a heap on the floor. But what did I find?  Nothing.  None of the vases on the left (all sitting on glass shelves) or the serving pieces on the right and in the middle had moved one inch. Not a single thing was broken.

Sister Lisa was nearby and hustled over to help me and we just stood there – looking at each other, then the cabinet, sharing “I heard it too” while looking again and again to see what was broken.  Hubby was upstairs and came flying in thinking the whole cabinet had toppled over.  Now three of us stood in front of it with our mouths hanging open. 

For Lisa’s benefit, I finally saidoh, it must’ve been something outside, or something that fell upstairs but I knew better.  I just did.  Why?  Right before the crash Lisa was around the corner – saying goodbye, one last time – to mom’s urn before we drove Lisa home.  Which leads me to conclude mom “replied” shake, rattle and roll style.  If it was a nudge to remember her, I think we got the message.  Loud and clear. 

But still, I’m pondering; seeking other explanations.  Nothing’s come yet – and maybe that’s okay.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Verbal Guard Rail: Thanks, Dad!

black and white photo of young man
My dad – silly and wise

My dad was no philosopher.  His exterior and public persona were die-hard business dude.  Crisp, tidy and in control defined his personality (oh – and an obsessive fondness for white shirts – learn about that here). 

Appearances aside, he had a very squishy marshmallow cream center and from that warm and caring core, he offered endless witticisms.  Some were altogether goofy and clearly made up – in the moment – by this man who was rarely at a loss for words.  I’m sure he “borrowed” from other great thinkers – never knowing exactly who he was quoting or the context.  Didn’t slow him down, not even a beat. 

The common denominator?  He was wired to help and encourage and on occasion, his advice came in the form of a verbal guard rail – a gentle warning that I might want to steer clear, move along – lest I’ll suffer the impact, the outcome, the collision.   His years of married life with mom surely helped him craft this gift.  Battle scars and strategy can do that.

None of these meaningful morsels are written down – anywhere.  If asked to recall and catalogue them – I just can’t.  They appear, oddly when I need them the most, and that too is a reminder to my often-wayward spiritual self to RECEIVE without overthinking.

Here’s an example.  As a kid, whenever I found myself noodling on issues outside my sphere of influence (daily dramas and annoyances – the things that are oh-so easy to crab about) he’d see the look on my face or hear the venomous tone and offer a low, monotone message, in a wonky, put-on Southern drawl:

Mm hmm…best to keep your eyes on your own paper, missy” and that was it.

Just like that!  He conveyed that he heard me (win #1) and offered advice to move on – quit the twisting and fussing (win #2). 

Eyes on my own paper, indeed.  Advice that still works, years later. If I embroidered, I’d consider putting that on a pillow.

xo,

Vicki ❤

Puppy Dog Eyes

black and white photo of Chihuahua
Sweet Sadie

Our sweet Sadie took a tumble yesterday and must’ve landed on her already arthritic back legs.  We’re not sure what happened but one way or another, she ended up on the floor, wandering with a wonky leg.  The pic I’m sharing is from yesterday morning – sweet Sadie nestled in my lap – after her unexpected gymnastics. Even though she can’t talk to us, we knew she was hurting.  Pain was in her eyes. 

We took her to the vet to check her out, explaining when we called that although she’s not ‘voicing’ that she’s hurt, we can see it.  Likely the result of an unintended dismount from our bed.  Good news?  Nothing’s broken.  After a full body massage and evaluation, our dear vet said, “Sadie’s a tough cookie” and while she’ll be achy – on account of her age (she’s 13) – no harm done. Whew.

Still, I feel terrible about how it happened. Our senior girl LOVES the ‘big bed’ (yes – we talk to the dog like she’s a small human).  The ‘big bed’ is our king-sized bed and it’s a reward that Sadie relishes after a long day of, what, exactly?  Napping in the sun?  No matter – the point is that she’s thrilled when it’s ‘big bed time’

Prior to Sadie, we knew nothing about small dogs, Chihuahuas, and burrowing behavior.  Golly, IT IS a thing.  Even when it’s hot and humid, this wonder ball of fur still loves her blankets and lots of them.  Our best guess is that her accident occurred as she got tangled in her beloved blankies and fell overboard – yikes – onto our hardwood floor, softened only by a sisal-like rug. 

While perusing news feed this morning and snuggling Sadie, this sweet resource surfaced, and I melted.  I love when well-timed tidbits FIND US, don’t you?  Yes indeed, puppy dog eyes and this: 

“…our human connection to dogs, cats, and other pets is similar to the bond between a mother and a child. This bond, in part, is formed through oxytocin, the hormone associated with love, attachment, and trust.”

Cuddle muffin Sadie says good morning and reminds us of the power of touch, connection – and the importance of well-landed dismounts, with or without your blankie. 

xo,

Vicki ❤

Finding My Way to Forgiveness

forgive sign
I’m a work in progress…

I know I’m partly molded from my mom’s madness.  Aging creates inevitabilities and as much as I’d like to deny it, my mom’s penchant for critical, caustic commentary often simmers just beneath the surface, within me. Especially when I’m stressed.

My mom, Sue, could be unrelenting in her expectations of those around her.  Every now and again when I’m zooming around the house doing too much at once, my dad’s voice surfaces – one of his periodic tirades directed at the hurricane that was Sue.  He’d say – ‘Slow down, Sue, just SLOW down’.  

Her frenzied, nearly out-of-body movements prompted him to utter, more quietly and with resignation ‘She needs to stay in her body when her head moves too fast’.  Yup.  Getting ahead of herself.  Driven.  Compelled.

Later in life she’d receive a diagnosis of depression and then the more defining manic depression. Eventually, heavy layers of additional issues (anxiety, alcoholism and more) were catalogued but it was her urgent, tempest in a teapot cleaning binges and spur-the-moment, 911 household projects that stick with me today.  Sometimes, I do the same.  Take on too much at once, putting a premium on “busy” for the sake of busy?  For the sake of task completion?

Sue would wrangle all onlookers into the fray and then make everyone around her feel guilty for taking a break.  Sometimes she was fun loving in her ability to manifest a near party-like atmosphere because of her charisma but invariably, she pushed too hard.  Drama time would arrive.  Predictably with tears and flying crockery (plates, lamps – whatever was within reach). 

As an adult, I recognize that her maladaptive behavior was borne from her demons and insecurities…constantly evaluating and critiquing those around her – benefitting from the short-term lift in her own self-esteem but at what cost?  Long term anguish, most assuredly, along with fractured relationships within the family.  One daughter especially.

There are days when forgetting is liberating.  I can still love and admire aspects of her.  If nothing else, I can marvel at her ability to morph from wildly funny to destructive – in a blink.  She was a sight to behold.  You know, in the I paused to look at the car accident kind of way.  You couldn’t help yourself.

I learned I could step back, remove as much emotion as possible and observe her more objectively, adjusting my regard and expectations for her.  It made it easier to be empathetic and less angry. Occasionally the heat is still there, though, and I work my way through it. 

This week I learned that my near year-long effort of unwinding my mom’s story – painful as it’s been – will come into the light in 2023.  I have a publisher willing to showcase the twisty-tale of my mom’s life and I’m grateful.  Over the next two months I’ll be doing a bit more editing to polish up the near 300 pages and then I think I can finally say goodbye to her – despite the fact that she passed seven years ago.

Every bit of this journey was insurmountable in my eyes…without my best friend Linda encouraging me.  “You can do this.  You should do this”, she would say, as she read one chunk after another, offering the gentlest of nudges, motivation, and love. I wish I could bottle Linda’s patience to sprinkle around. I was a lot to handle 😊 – especially when I retreated into the painful globs of life with mom.

What else?  These two thoughts guided me as I struggled to keep writing:

One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.”

-Brene Brown

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”

-Sir Winston Churchill

And my dad…who loved her no matter how hard she made it — and helped me find my way, too. Writing about mom’s madness helped me open a window to see her with forgiveness first.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Family Traditions: Trees, Please

Family history – three trees!

My husband descends from a pioneering family that settled in the small village near our current home.  Immigrating from the Alsace region of France and Germany in the early 1800’s they were part of a small pack of persevering souls who established the quaint town that’s now more tourist destination than residential.  A haven for those who relish the opportunity to travel back in time, shop, nosh and recall simpler days.

We knew snippets of family history from my mother-in-law, Maxine, but believe the surface-level storytelling and limited sharing was the result of embedded, gender norms  –  favoring the retelling of patriarchal tidbits of family history much more than the matriarchal.  Sigh.  It was his mother’s family – not his father’s – who literally blazed a pioneering trail but her legacy and history were sidelined as less important.  How irksome; but that’s not the point – at least not at the moment.

Maxine’s great grandparents arrived on the plains and brought traditions from their wooded homeland.  Evergreen trees were plentiful in heavily forested Alsace and one of most endearing stories was the tale of the painstaking transport of three small evergreen saplings across the Atlantic. I can imagine some arguments about this – a sentimentality vs. practicality tussle – but how lovely that sentiment won, I say.

We often wondered if all the human travelers in the family made it to America safely, because the ‘tree tale’ was more vibrantly recounted.  Records are spotty, at best, even with the dynamic search engine tools like Ancestry.com.  At least three family members – the husband and wife and one child – arrived safely and a few cousins, it seems. 

Piecing together facts from decaying photo albums and journals, along with the family Bible yielded one fantastic find.  A simple red frame home that still stands in our tiny community was the homestead.  Built by the grandparents, three times over, and identifiable for years as theirs because of the three stalwart and regal trees that stood in their modest front yard. Evergreens.

Maxine, before she passed, acknowledged the ‘little red house’ built by her distant elders but she never mentioned the story behind the trees.  A local historian helped to fill those gaps using records long forgotten about the family.  The sweet crimson structure still stands – now converted into retail space.  Sadly, only two of the three trees remain.  One wonders what happened to the third. 

Discoveries about family history can come in large lumps or in tiny waves.  Learning about the house and the trees was like the latter – ancestral echoes that, once summoned together, created a spectacular story.   If only we’d drilled down more with Maxine to better understand the oral history, to supplement the archival tidbits stitched together. 

Time was not on our side; she passed AND years passed and it wasn’t until we bought a nearby home that the a-ha moments arrived.  Of all the remarkable aspects, one especially stands out and it’s about the three trees.

Across many years of married life, we’ve lived in several homes  – fixing them up and moving on – but with heavy hearts each time.  As much as we knew we’d miss certain features of each home, the greatest lament always involved saying goodbye to beloved trees. 

Without knowing it (at least in any conscious way) every home we’ve ever lived in was improved upon, landscape-wise, with the addition of three or more trees. 

Every home. 

Most received a cluster of three evergreen trees for decorative screening, shade, or wind control.  Often we planted more than three but always three together, somewhere on each lot. 

There’s more.  When our daughter was born, we wanted to instill a love of nature and conservation and decided an annual tradition of planting a ‘birthday tree’ (yes, an evergreen) would do the trick.  And we did.  As she grew, we finagled and fretted every spring…where will the next tree go?  An homage to family, in ways we never suspected. Three trees, please.

-Vicki ❤

Chip Face

Baby girl enjoying potato chips
Get Your Own Bag!

This photo amuses me so.  It’s a blast from the past that I felt compelled to share.

Birthday celebrations for one-year olds are typically memorialized with a frosting face – capturing the enjoyment and glee of a first-ever birthday cake. Not so with our “DD” (dear daughter).

She commemorated her first birthday by sampling another delicacy – potato chips. Ruffles, to be precise. Instantly territorial over her find, she made it clear she found the simple bag of chips to be far superior to the cake and candles routine. Oh, and the singing? Hands over her ears with an imploring look – why, oh why?!

If you look closely at the pic you’ll see the bag of Ruffles in the background, which included the tag-line “Get Your Own Bag”.  In DD’s first foray into chip-dom, I’m not sure she needed the encouragement.  Her face did all the talking.  Agree?

Happy weekend – with or without chips!

-Vicki 😊

Bumps & Blessings in Parenting

frustrated mom face
Photo by Monstera on Pexels.com

Right now, it might be hard to fathom, but I’ll share a truth with you.  The one that kept me (more or less) sane during the roller coaster ride that is parenting:  The highs and lows will suck air from your soul.  This is not a drill.  Despite the resplendent, breathtakingly shiny moments  – those that are gloriously joyful – you can’t linger there because the valley is waiting, too. 

The valley is where you’ll question everything – especially yourself.  In those moments you might fret that you’re incapable, ill-suited, or too impatient for the rigors of parenting.  I don’t care how old your children are – whether newbies in onesies, toddlers, or teens – they will rock you with the unexpected as they morph and grow.  Developmentally pre-destined, this push-pull of parenting.

When your babies return after the miracle miles of maturity, you’ll see them, still, as your squishy newborns, but they’ll be disguised in grown up packaging. Even as full-fledged adults, their needs for attachment are still there – but in new wrappers. 

Parenting is maddeningly unscripted, unpredictable (and, I found, in constant conflict with my plan-ahead personality) but you move through it, relishing the sunny days and smooth roads when they arrive.  They come and you remember:  I am nothing if not resilient.

Take care of yourself, my parenting compadre.  One day you might look up and see a little being who once ate crayons (“Just to try them, mom”) as a near-peer, standing before you.  Still needing you, same as ever, just taller, and less sticky.

Vicki ❤

Hot Pipes & Guacamole

dog with sunglasses
Whoa! Spicy guacamole, humans!

My dad was a master of oddball phrases.  He passed many years ago, but he still pops up in wacky, wonderful ways when one of his quirky ‘bon mots’ surfaces in my brain.  I smile when that happens. 

Scratch that – it’s more of a full-teeth grin.  Cheshire cat like.  The spontaneity of these witticisms catches me off guard and more than once, I’ve imagined an onlooker (driver in another car, man in front of me at the post office) assuming I had ear buds in – maybe talking to someone who made me laugh.  Sort of.  Yes – let’s go with that.  Talking to my dad; the low, low-tech way.  😉 

Here’s an example.  This one occurred in the privacy of our kitchen, where I found myself talking to the dog again.  Sweet Sadie.  She puts up with a lot.  DH (dear hubby) made a massive batch of his signature guacamole.  It’s delicious but it’s a use every bowl and utensil and all the counter space production.  Inspiration strikes when he fishes out the best bag of ripe avocados at Costco and that’s all the warning we get.  Look out.  Fresh guac coming soon!

One way or another, a healthy dollop of freshly made guacamole ended up on the floor.  It was chunky enough that it surely made a ‘splat’ sound but the humans didn’t hear it.  I turned around and Sadie was having a best day ever – gobbling the guac and licking the floor clean. 

Did I mention that DH puts extra jalapenos in his concoction?  Yep.  We like heat and a sweaty brow with our chips and guac.  Sadie, however?  This was her first ever fire-roasted tongue experience.  And this is where my dad popped to mind. 

Anytime someone complained of overly-spicy food – demanding a glass of water – he’d laugh and ask, “So you’ve got hot pipes?”  And as water was guzzled, he’d continue: “Holy Toledo – were you ‘down a quart’ or what?”

While tending to Sadie and offering her yogurt and water to cool her hot tamale mouth, those silly, heckling-like phrases from my dad kept swirling. So much so that I started asking her those questions.  Ya got hot pipes, Sadie?  Wow – look at you drinking all that water – good girl – were you down a quart?  OMG.  Hello, papa.  Thanks for joining us.  I have now taken over the color commentary role when it comes to overly spicy food…and I love it.

xo!

Vicki ❤

Dads and Daughters

Dad and daughter on sofa relaxing
This is how you take a break!

I love this pic of my favorite “Dad and daughter”.  There are days when I’m flummoxed by my good fortune.  How did I get so lucky?  I found a partner who’s put up with me for decades while reserving just enough patience to be a doting, loving papa.

What I enjoy most is the connection these two have around tools and knowing how to fix stuff.  Me?  In the face of full-on armageddon, I won’t survive because I have zero skills.  No hands-on capacity whatsoever unless it involves cooking or baking.  When the apocalypse comes, I’ll be whipping up a batch of brownies, just so you know.

Fixing something?  Home repairs?  Understanding anything about mechanicals, engineering?  Nope, nope and nope.  These two, however?  The gene pool richly rewarded our “DD” (dear daughter) with all of the how-to skills the world could offer – in the form of do-it-yourselfer DNA from her papa.

I suppose I contributed to some of her other talents (she’s the best negotiator I know 😉) but this photo speaks to me – especially now.  She’s old enough to demonstrate that she has the blessed combo of people skills and smarts about ‘things’. 

DD” is a strong young woman with a caretaker heart and while I feel a sense of pride in her academic abilities and accomplishments, the fact that she knows her way around a toolbox means just as much.  Maybe more? She’s my independent, step back and let me do it girl – no matter the task. 

After a job well done, she also knows how to kick back and relax.  Her papa showed her how to do that, too. 

-Vicki ❤

Back-to-School

boy with glasses in school
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This is a tricky time of year for me.  I’m flooded with mommy memories of back-to-school transitions – both the tears when it was time for kindergarten and the weightiness of saying a final goodbye after a college move in.

I think about parents crossing those symbolic divides when August turns to September.  Sure, there’s joy and excitement, but there are so many other emotions.  Sorrow sits in the mix along with anxiety but increasingly more palpable is fear – worries about protecting our children when they’re beyond our reach.  Back-to-school traditionally summons a woozy, unsettled feeling for some parents, but this is different.

Why? Generations of parents have done this dance.  I’m one of them. But there’s much more at stake today.  Have you seen this piece, written by Katie Gutierrez for Time?  Reflecting on the compounding fears for parents she writes:

If having children can sometimes feel like a radical act of hope, entrusting them to the world can feel like the stupidest act of faith. I do not trust this world. And yet, what is the alternative?

I feel that.  Especially today when safety cannot be taken for granted.  Whether it’s senseless gun violence or the savagery of a global pandemic, Katie’s lament “I do not trust this world” is painful to read.  But I understand it. And my heart hurts for parents like Katie who are doing their best to move through the back-to-school transitions with as much grace as possible. If that’s you, know that I’m sending love.

-Vicki ❤

Banana Pancakes

pancakes and bananas
Banana Crunch Pancakes

I don’t like eggs, unless disguised as a key ingredient in a cake or another sweet treat. 😊 (Oh, that’s a lie.  I’m okay with them in the family recipe for mama’s meatballs.  But that’s where I draw the line.) 

Especially for breakfast, I eschew eggs.  Not scrambled, fried, poached or lovingly baked in a casserole with sausage, hashbrowns and cheese.  No – just no.  There’s a childhood trauma story associated with being force-fed undercooked scrambled eggs that’s stuck with me for years and although I probably would like them if properly prepared, I’m sticking with my stance.  No thank you.  Save your ‘give eggs a chance’ speech.

What do I like? This morning I bring you banana pancakes.  With a little crunch.  There’s a local restaurant known for their spectacular banana crunch pancakes.  Actually, just pancake – their artisan crafted creations – not joking – are delicious but they’re served one, singular and solitary flapjack at a time.  Presumably because the chef is painstakingly tweaking the recipe, watchful as every pancake makes its way from griddle to table.   Whatever. 

I’m no food blogger or photographer.  I’m an eater, so as you look at the pic, bear that in mind.  It might not look like much, but oh baby.  I nailed it!  In dissecting the restaurant version and inspiration, I figured the ‘crunch’ came from a little granola and a soupcon of maple added to the batter. 

Hubby felt courageous and said ‘sure’ when I mentioned the pancake experiment.  What won him over, truth be told, was the wafting smell mingling through the house.  All the windows are open this morning and the aroma snaked through every room.

How were they?  Yum.  The basic batter was a box of our favorite protein pancake mix (no egg needed!) and it welcomed the tweaks of banana and granola.  Success!  Now I need a nap. 

Have a wonderful day.  Delight your palate with something you love.

-Vicki ❤

Power of Play

four pairs of sneakers for adults and kids
Lace up and go!

I’m thinking about the power of play today.  The importance of connecting with the child that’s still tucked within us.  

Tucked – where, exactly, you ask?  I know what you’re thinking!  I’m an overburdened, card-carrying ADULT with all the, um, rights and privileges….and mountain of never-ending duties to prove it.  Time to play?  Stop, please.

Yeah, yeah.  Heard.  But still.  Take a minute, will you?  Close your eyes and trust me.  I know there’s a memory, a family memento or a long-forgotten photo that’s so powerful, it’s capable of triggering a rush of I remember; guiding you back to a moment when you felt lighter, invincible, capable, GOLDEN.

Childlike wonder can be reclaimed, but you might need to coax it into the light. Wonder is everywhere.  If not in our comforting memories, perhaps right in front of you – at this very moment.  Be encouraged to look for it as Madeleine L’Engle suggests.  Be open:

“I am still in the process of growing up, but I will make no progress if I lose any of myself along the way.”

women and children, games and play
Advice from Madeleine and Maxine

My mom-in-law Maxine understood that play was a priority. The photo of her with two of her granddaughters on a sunny summer day conveys that. She relished time with ‘her girls’ and would cancel everything on her busy-lady agenda just to spend open ended days with her granddaughters.  No one knew she would be gone just a few years after.  No one ever knows.

What to do, what to do?  She’d ask in her sing-song, joyful refrain. Pool?  Sure!  Baking? Absolutely!  But most of all, the girls loved fetching the musty old box of board games.  Relics from other generations – hidden like treasure – disguised in a faded brown file box.  Simply marked “GAMES” in Maxine’s signature block printing.

Where’s the box now?  In our basement – unopened for a decade, at least. I haven’t had the courage to peek into it since Maxine’s passing but I might one day soon.  Wonder sits within.  I know it.

-Vicki ❤

White Shirt, Helping Heart

man wearing sunglasses in white shirt

I took this photo of my dad while on a family vacation in Mexico – decades ago.  It became a favorite – for both of us – but possibly not for the reasons you’d imagine.  Yep, it’s a handsome pic of a handsome man but the binding between us had nothing to do with mutual admiration for his face (or his swanky mirrored shades).

It was all about the shirt.  Take a look. What do you see?  Pretty buttoned-up, right?  Indeed.  Even on vacation, my dad was tidy and scrupulous about how he dressed.  Known for packing more outfits than my mom – by a mile – dad loved his white dress shirts for any and all occasions

Did he tote along typical beach duds?  Sort of.  If you’d call a slew of short sleeve 😉 white button downs “casual wear”.  Any tropical board shorts in his suitcase?  No, no, no.  Only plain (and seemingly starched and pressed) navy, knee-length swim trunks.  Two pairs – so one pair was ever-ready, dry and good-to-go. 

He was fastidious to a fault and endured a lot of ridicule (yep, from me) for his ‘board room’ vs. ‘beach’ attire but he was also generous and charming.  As tightly wound as he was about his appearance and apparel, he was equally loose and loving with those he cared about.  I think his white shirt rigidity made it easier for him to be spontaneous in other ways.

My dad knew how to make everyone around him feel like a big-time winner.  How?  He never wanted or needed eyes on him.  I suspect he’d had enough of that along the way. At 6’ 4” tall, he towered over most folks and by size alone, was cast as a caretaker.  The solid one. 

In an unguarded moment once he told me he suspected he was a mighty oak in another life because people so willingly trusted him and admired his strength.  Sometimes, he said, strength he knew he DID NOT possess (or was in short supply).  Still – he rose and served – but when he could manage it, he mostly wanted to be in the background and not center stage.  “All the better to have eyes on who needs help the most”, he’d say.

He’s been gone for many years and yet he’s always nearby.  I figure nuggets of my heart and soul – the cosmic soup that is ME – came from pretty good stock.  His.  And that’s sweet comfort for me, every day.

-Vicki ❤

Angry Eaters

black and white photo of unhappy looking mom, grandma, daughter
Mom, me, Grandma

I’ve been thinking about this photo for years.  It’s a snap of me – maybe at five years old – sitting alongside my mom and grandma. Three generations of stressed out, angry eaters. Mom is the one in the striped sweater, sucking on a hard candy, frustrated and desperately trying to avoid the tray of cookies on the coffee table. 

I don’t remember the holiday or occasion but it was one of many forced celebrations that did little to cloak layers of unresolved conflict.  My mom and grandma didn’t get along and yet they saddled up for holidays and birthdays and pretended to be okay with each other. 

Mom was angry at grandma and it always seemed to be food related.  Desperately trying – for decades – to be anything OTHER than what her food obsessed mother became.  Grandma hated photos and always pulled one of the grandkids close to her. Not in an affectionate way but as a shield.  Helping to disguise her size or just buffering her from the animosity with her daughter?

I learned to sit with my hands folded, knees together, like a prop, but I tuned into the undercurrents between them.  Curious and sometimes fearful of their rage and rules about food.  Questions about quantity.  Quibbling about overeating…whispers of purging.

You may be thinking, ‘Thanks Vicki, but why the disclosure?  I’m learning that my family is far from unique and sharing is helpful to others. Families and generational food issues?  They are endlessly intertwined and when you add the individualizing sprinkles of perfectionism, competition, compulsion and fear that drive disordered eating, it’s clear the narratives are layered and complex.  There are no ‘one size fits all’ solutions.  What matters most?  A listening ear, a helping hand.  Attention and love in order to help empower and normalize.  You’re not alone.

If we could wrap one another up in bubble wrap, maybe the road to recovery would be more straightforward.  Unrealistic, I know because the media assaults and ignorance about disordered eating are rampant and at their worst, they offer overly simplistic solutions that often result in shame, recoil and withdrawal for those suffering. Understanding the destructiveness of social media and reality tv is crucial. It’s unrelenting and it’s not gender specific.

Check out the National Eating Disorders link at the end of this post for comprehensive resources, but if you’re in a “TLDR” mood 😊take a gander at these five tips from NEDA to inspire critical thinking and active dialogue to challenge unrealistic portrayals of body ideals.  Let’s encourage more natural and diverse body images in media. 

5 TIPS FOR MEDIA SELF CARE

  1. Choose and use media mindfully. Be selective about your media use and choose media that supports your values and builds self-esteem and body confidence. 
  2. Limit screen time and social networking. Researchers studying body concern issues have found that the more time we spend in the media world, the more we are exposed to body perfect images, and the more vulnerable we are to compare our appearance to unrealistic body standards. Protect your self-image by monitoring the quantity and quality of your mainstream and social media time. 
  3. Test the message for body positivity. Use media literacy strategies to think critically about messages you consume and content you create on social media. Test for body positivity by asking key questions: Are the body depictions realistic or digitally altered? What does the message really mean? Why are they sending it? How might it affect someone’s body acceptance? Who created and profits from the message? Before you text, tweet, post comments, and share photos and videos, ask yourself why you are sending the message, who you want to reach, and analyze its body positivity. 
  4. Talk back to media about body image. Tell people who profit from media and establish policies what you like and don’t like about their body representations, why you feel this way, and what you plan to do about it — take a stand and refuse to read, view or listen to media or buy advertised products until they make changes. 
  5. Advocate for positive body talk. Use your social media capital to inspire others to use their voices to compliment authentic and diverse body messages, criticize unrealistic body ideals, and report body shaming. Shout out to media outlets, retailers, advertisers, and celebrity product endorsers who celebrate natural looks, healthy body size, and diverse body shapes, and call out ones that continue to promote unhealthy and artificial body norms. You can make a difference!

As much as I enjoy the escapist fun of the “Real Housewives” franchise on Bravo, the onslaught of disturbing blame-laying and shame inducing in Crystal Kung Minkoff’s storyline as she discloses her history of disordered eating is destructive:  “Hey Crystal – why dontcha go to therapy to fix yourself”.  Worse?  Whispers that her reveal must be driven to juice up her storyline and garner sympathy and attention.  Yes, yes.  It’s a tv program and we can turn it off but it’s the narrative – reflective of broader social norms – that is disturbing.

But there’s hope.  If you haven’t read Valerie Bertinelli’s “Enough Already” you might want to take a peek.   Refreshingly honest.  Our bodies are amazing and splendid in their differences.  Most of us know what habits to embrace and which to break when it comes to eating for health.  Retreating into family history showcases the sometimes deeply entrenched, generational issues with food.  More reflection = greater perspective and less shame.

What else?

  • I appreciate this article for the direct, absolving attention to the label ‘emotional eater’.
  • Need a nutritional booster shot?  This piece from the Cleveland Clinic is excellent because it’s comprehensive and encouraging.  Check it out.
  • And this from NEDA to access the helpline and screening tool – with links to so much more. 

Thanks for reading…take care!

-Vicki ❤

Rolling with the Unexpected

red wooden heart

I’m a glass half-full kind of girl. I try to think positively, even in the face of super squirrely circumstances – the shaky ground that’s typical daily living for most of us.

What’s the culprit? You name it. Despite good intentions to look for the bright side, even the most stalwart smilers😊amongst us can lose the resolve to remain positive. We’re tested. I’ve been tested. I know you have, too.

Not long ago, as I merrily moved through the routine cadence of my life, a loved one suffered a traumatic twist in the form of a health crisis. Is it better to see it coming? Worse when it smacks you in the face versus tinkering with your stomach over time – creating what-if anxiety? I don’t know – we don’t get a choice, do we?

The good news is that my cherished loved one will recover. Circling the depths of hell was both jarring and liberating for both of us. What matters most? I’m still mulling that over. Certainly not the same tiddly-widdly-this-and-that that preoccupied my head and heart before.

I’m grateful to friends and family for the periodic distractions, thoughtful and insightful sharing, and for the opportunity to embrace collective wisdom, advocacy, and humor. It’s made all the difference and it’s filled my bucket so I can be ready to help others roll with the unexpected.

If you’re reading this and your world has also taken a turn, know that I’m sending cosmic support your way.  Just because. 

-Vicki❤

Little Treasures

My love of family history is like an undertow, pulling me further and further into discoveries.

The deeper I go, the more consuming the journey.  Fascinations with lost (or forgotten) objects.  Photos – some framed but most neglected; yellowed and ragged.

Recently I found several small silhouettes of distant relatives and a few delicately framed family photos.  I wasn’t sure why, but they belonged together so I rustled up a small tray and gave them a place to cluster and be seen:

black and white photo of round tray with small framed photos
Little treasures

Maybe I’ll rotate other discoveries through.  Maybe not.  For today, I’m happy they’re in the light, nestled together. 

Which reminds me of a favorite Churchill quote:

The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see. 

-Sir Winston Churchill

Honoring family treasures by displaying them does that for me – provides clarity for the road ahead by acknowledging those who lovingly came first.

-Vicki

Maxine’s Gingersnaps

black and white photo of a cookie recipe
Maxine’s Gingersnaps

My mom-in-law, Maxine, passed away in 2009 but her trademark gingersnap cookies live on – satisfying rumbling tummies of all types. 

The recipe is modest – see above – jotted down in her trusty notebook in her schoolteacher’s tidy cursive.  Not too many ingredients and the steps are straightforward. 

Were Maxine’s gingersnaps delicious?  Yes, indeed!  But it’s taken my husband and I years of tweaking to figure out why our efforts were never as good as hers – despite our diligence in following the instructions exactly.  Maybe too much so…

It’s great to have this connection to her.  The heavenly smell in the house brings her close every time – the comforting mix of cloves and cinnamon summon her.   BUT — we were flummoxed and frustrated by our creations:  stiff little bricks masquerading as gingersnaps.  No fluffy, spicey treats.

Accusations flew…we must’ve left out a key ingredient.  Oven temp too high?  Too low?  Didn’t ‘cream’ the shortening and sugar enough? We drove ourselves batty.  So much so that we almost gave up. 

Until…I realized Maxine methodically planted herself on her yellow kitchen stool to watch the cookies.  Every time.  She didn’t multi-task by doing a few dishes or throwing a load of laundry into the washer.  Nope.  She watched those little buggers and knew they needed to depart the oven – speedy quick – just at the point of puffiness.  Was that 9 or 10 minutes?  I suspect it was often at the 8-minute mark which explains our gingersnaps-disguised-as-hockey-puck efforts. 

The good news?  A little edit – striking out “9 or 10 minutes” and noting “check at 8 minutes” made all the difference.  I imagine Maxine chuckling in the great beyond.  “Yes of course.  Don’t you remember?  I told you they’re still baking a bit after they’re pulled from the oven!” 

Here’s the recipe. Perhaps easier on the eyes than Maxine’s handwriting from the photo:

3/4 cup shortening (softened)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light molasses

1 beaten egg

2 cups flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsps. soda (baking)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients; mix well. Roll small ball, dip balls into sugar, place 2″ apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in modest oven (375 degrees) about 9 or 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

If you’re a fan of gingersnaps, bake a batch!

Big smiles,

-Vicki

Loving Lisa

I didn’t understand my big sister Lisa’s magic when we were little. She just confused me. Here’s photo evidence. It was Lisa’s fifth birthday celebration, and I was three – not quite four years old:

black and white photo of two young girls with birthday cake
Vicki and Lisa

How would you describe the look I’m giving Lisa? Cold stare? Quizzical? Curious? I think it was all of those. I didn’t know enough to censor my gaze. Lisa was taller, older and I expected her to embody show me the ropes, please, traits. I expected her to be my guide and trailblazer. Maybe she could teach me a thing or two about managing my toddler tantrums and avoiding mom’s wrath? I expected Lisa to show me how to finagle more candy or cake or negotiate a later bedtime. Lisa did none of those things and that year when her birthday rolled around, I began discovering secrets. Sweet Lisa’s secrets.

Although older, Lisa couldn’t run with me or play on the swings for very long. She stumbled and apologized a lot and was afraid of falling. I didn’t know she was blind in one eye. I didn’t know her left leg was shorter than her right. I didn’t know she was a miracle – born at six months old – severely brain damaged and oxygen deprived – but she survived. I expected her to be my playmate. Ready, willing AND able.

That summer my curiosity escalated when I demanded to know “What’s wrong with Lisa!” as our mom stood at the kitchen sink. Lisa and I were at the table, pawing through our treasure – a stash of donated books from a soon-to-be-closing one room schoolhouse down the road. I was an almost-reader and I expected Lisa would be an absolute reader – maybe reading to me?

When I looked at her across the yellow tabletop, sticky with grape Kool-Aid residue, Lisa was holding her books upside down. UPSIDE DOWN. If there were pictures, she knew to flip things around, but as I crept behind her, I didn’t understand why she was “reading” up-ended books.

As our mom turned from a sink full of suds, she answered my question, angrily:Lisa’s different and special. You need to be nice.” It took me two more years to fully understand the trauma of Lisa’s birth – pieced together, one nugget of hushed and whispered intel at a time as I eavesdropped and snooped on grown up conversations.

Growing up with Lisa taught me how to care. To look at differences with a so what attitude. For all of the things Lisa couldn’t do well, she had big sister magic of her own. Lisa – still – has the most accurate, savant memory of anyone I know. Her recall is amazing – details from decades ago about specific celebrations, events, classic tv programs or everyday dinners.

Most conversations with Lisa start with, “Vicki, do you remember the day we….” and she’ll summarize, in exquisite detail, a meal or a moment. A conversation long forgotten. I love that about her.

More importantly, Lisa, despite her disabilities and the mounting reality of aging, is thoughtful, kind, and gracious. Always asking what she can do for someone else.

Caring for and learning from one another is everything. Notions of “ability” and “disability”? Lisa taught me to see how fluid and beautiful life without labels can be. She still isn’t much of a reader but her knack for seeing the good is her superpower.

Life lessons from Lisa.

-Vicki

Morning Coffee

Black and white photo of iced coffee.
Irene’s Best Ever Iced Coffee

Irene’s a best friend and a sweet soul sister. She’s been in my life for over thirty years and always makes the best iced coffee. Irene’s coffee.

I never tried to duplicate it – I figured it was her magic touch. And that was good enough. Until recently when I paused to watch her when she said, “Hey, are you ready for a coffee this morning?” Who says no to that, especially given the aforementioned tastiness of her brew?

This time, I watched as she retrieved macadamia milk, a coffee pod and ice. Standard fare. But as she fired up the Nespresso I saw her reach for the bottle of Kahlua and laughed as she ceremonially swirled it into the freshly brewed coffee. No wonder “Irene’s Coffee” is always better than mine!

Coffee mystery solved!

Cheers!

-Vicki

Beautiful Betty

I wish I understood dreams better.  They can be simultaneously maddening and obscure…yet comforting.  I had one of those experiences last night.  My father’s sister – my Aunt Betty – came through loud and clear with a message.  The imagery was hazy – just my subconscious recalling this photo, I suppose, taken in her prime when she was 20, I think. 

Black and white photo of blonde women in 1950's.
Aunt Betty

This was her message – coming through on the eve of the 51st anniversary of her death.  I jotted the nuggets down hurriedly in my trusty teensy bedside notebook, while still rousing myself awake:

You were so young when I died.  It was 51 years ago today.  Incredible.  July 22, 1971.  I know it’s hard to understand.  I changed that day, but I’m always close.  Just remember me.  Close your eyes and I’m near.

  • I know you wonder about your dad.  He’s here.  He knows you see him in the clouds and stars.  You’re right – he IS the whisper you feel when a breeze kisses your face. 
  • We’re okay.  It’s not what you think – we’re energy in free form.  We float and gravitate away from and toward one another. 
  • Your mom is here, too, but she’s childlike.  Your Dad acknowledges her but keeps his distance.  What happened to her?

And that was it!  I woke up and had the feeling of jet lag.  Restless sleep and not enough of it.  Foggy.  Headachy. 

Do I think about my long-departed father A LOT?  Yes.  Every day and I do sense him when I look up – toward cloud formations, especially, and I imagine he’s near in the soft breezes.   

And – the message about my mom:  She’s here, too, but she’s childlike was poignant and painful.  Mom suffered from Alzheimer’s and became increasingly incapacitated on her quick descent toward death.  Aunt Betty’s query – ‘What happened to her?’ was hard to hear, yet so loud in my early morning recall of the dream. I understood.  Aunt Betty didn’t recognize her, and we scarcely did – especially toward the end.

Gratitude this morning for messages.  Whether it’s a channeling of dear Aunt Betty on the anniversary of her death or my active dream state working out conundrums and emotions, I’m in a mood to receive.

-Vicki

Honesty

Billy Joel

I’m a little ashamed of myself. I ignored and maligned Billy Joel’s music when it was new and popular. Why? I’m not sure. I think my musical preferences were grittier, way back then. I pooh-poohed his tracks and plopped what I thought were syrupy-sweet songs into a category of easy-to-ignore background music. 

One of the things I love about getting older is my delight in calling myself out – realizing when I’ve screwed up. If I owe a friend or family member an apology – I try to be quick to offer it – even if there’s a lag between my ‘oops’ and owning up to it. 

On more than one occasion, my “sorry” was laughed at, dismissedYou are so silly – you didn’t offend. I get it. But still…acknowledging errors of omission or ignorance is important to me. Never do I want to offend without intending. (Offend with intent? Sure – there are times I’ve relished that. I’m not saying I’m perfect or a doormat.)

During my morning walk today, Billy Joel’s 1978 track, “Honesty” popped up on my Sirius XM app and I believe I listened to the lyrics – really listened – for the first time ever. Especially this verse: 

“I can always find someone…to say they sympathize…If I wear my heart out on my sleeve. But I don’t want some pretty face to tell me pretty lies. All I want is someone to believe.” 

Yes. When we’re vulnerable, we want authenticity, honesty. Not a quick pat on the head but sincerity. Do you have a die-hard human you can depend on? Someone who supports you, gives you truth without a sugar coating. 

I hope you have someone like that in your life. As for Billy Joel? I’m grateful today that his impactful lyrics and artistry finally registered in my head and heart. Better late than never. I’ll offer up a cosmic apology in the form of this wee little blog post. Sorry, Mr. Joel.   

All the best,

-Vicki

Memories Matter

portraits of boy and girl

What do you do when an unexpected loss rocks your world? The urge to retreat is palpable. I think it’s a survival instinct for some of us. We all handle grief differently. Some are soothed by community and connection immediately, softening the hard edges of loss. Others of us? We need solitude and time to listen to the quieter voices – often within us – to help guide our heads and hearts – gingerly and softly, through the pain and permanence of a loved one’s passing.  It’s not a long-term shutdown. Just an interlude. 

These sketches of Paul and Patty surfaced during such an interlude. The two depicted are siblings. My husband, Paul, sketched at 12 years old, sitting side-by-side with his big sister, Patty, the summer before she headed off to college. With a substantial gap of eight years between them, they were independent spirits growing up – often remarking that each felt more like an ‘only’ than part of a sibling pair because of their age gap. And yet – they were terrific friends who became good adults. Marrying and establishing their own families but still attentive and loving to their parents and each other.

Their mother, Maxine, commissioned the drawings from a close family friend who was an artist. Immediately these 18 x 20 portraits became Maxine’s prized possessions – always displayed in her home. She often remarked that Paul and Patty could be separated by years and great distances, but she could summon both close to her as she relaxed in her living room, admiring their sketched images over a cup of tea or her evening martini (two olives, please). 

When Maxine passed away thirteen years ago, Paul and Patty’s portraits were a conundrum. Each asked the other – “Do you want mine?” “Do we keep them together?”  Unable to decide, the portraits sat for over a decade in our basement. Not forgotten, exactly. The sketches were chock-full of melancholy reminders of their mother and how much she loved both of her children. Easy to leave the portraits parked for a while.

Until a few weeks ago. Unexpectedly, Patty passed away. It was shocking and sad and oh-so swift. Processing pain? There’s no formula. No timeline. Friends and family are a blessing but in the quiet, uninterrupted interludes, clarity waits. This time it came in the form of a memory. The sweet recollection of the “Paul and Patty” portraits. Dusting them off in the basement and hanging them – this time in our living room – helped Paul and I both with our grief.

Paul and Patty – together again.  Keeping loved ones close through memories and family mementos means everything. 

Wishing you peace and comfort,

-Vicki