Ramblings

ON MY WAY TO FINDING A WEATHER station in Las Vegas, the new home of a friend of mine, I got sidetracked. I did find the proper station so I could follow the weather patterns, but also found myself reminiscing over long ago family trips.

Probably long before the “new” Highway 101 and 5 were well established, my dad used to drive us up and down the old two-lane Hyws 101, 99 and 395 to take us on our holiday-to-the-relatives and our annual vacations. In my wanderings with the map, many memories were triggered. So many. In the past, I’ve actually retraced—or at least tried to retrace my dad’s paths … trying to find any bit of the old roads. Using key landmarks helped, but even those finally disappeared in the name of progress. But lacking landmarks doesn’t stop me. I love poking into the corners of my past.

One path I have not tried—and there are so many memories attached to this route—is Highway 395. June Lake is somewhere off of Hwy 395 and there are some fond memories from that area—both with me as a kid and as a young wife with my husband and my youngest brother. My weather station hunting had me deciding to trace the road on the map to see how feasible it would be to make a trip. It begins just west of Hisperia in the high desert of Southern California, which is about 40 miles south of Barstow. It traverses the desert along the eastern edge of California and up into the mountains, jogging in and out of Nevada several times on its way up into Oregon. It dead ends the small town of Riley at the junction of Hwys 395 an20 (which travels east to west). Well, that’s what I thought. I went back to verify the name of that little town … and after a lot more searching, found that it actually dead ended in the city of Spokane, Washington near the surface streets of S. Lincoln St. and W. 4th Ave (sharing Hwy 90). Mind you, my recollections are that my dad only drove the California section—and only parts of that. I may be wrong … but I won’t know till I look at the map in more detail (was using my smart phone’s map app first, then focused on the route only, once I switched to the laptop computer)—I wasn’t looking at what was around the route.

But the entire route, my friends, is not a quick little jaunt—that amounts to a 1,170+ mile drive! So, if I decide to make it an adventure, I’ll probably stick to the California section. As it is, that will take quite some time—perhaps three separate trips. And, with winter setting in soon, the majority of it will need to wait til spring and summer—I do not have a snow-worthy vehicle. Sure—I’m capable of driving in snow … and I could get chains for the snowy bits, but I’d rather not deal with that much cold and be putting my safety in other driver’s hands (I know I can drive in it, but what about other tourists?) …

So, I will be writing a travel blog sometime next year (maybe) about mapping out the route, packing and the actual trip (I’m sure there will be plenty of photos to insert)—in addition to my “regular” trip blog about another travel across the Pond … this 2018 trip may be my “Swan Song”—the last trip to the UK and abroad, so I’m going to do it up right.

I’ve done so little traveling of late—I am getting restless. On Black Friday, I turned my errand-running into a driving adventure  I took back roads and routes I’ve seldom (if ever) taken to get to my destinations and had a blast—and the weather was magnificent. I’m thinking I need to do this more often—even once the rain begins to be a nuisance. Perhaps once a week will suffice. I’ll have to play with timing to see how it goes—I’m a big fan of spontaneity, so who knows when my next jaunt will be (insert huge grin …)

May your Friday, your weekend and the whole of next week be blessed with spontaneous happenings.

 

Changes And Letting Go …

I SPENT A LARGE PART OF THIS WEEK looking up and verifying words in the dictionary and thesaurus. Why? Because, I’m trying to figure out how to explain my reluctance to discontinue a medication I’ve been taking for years. Looking for words to express myself. To justify my reasons for not stopping the medication … or to finally get a grip on why I should stop taking it and then follow through.

I justify continuing it with “it’s benign—won’t hurt me to continue” … and at the opposite end, “it’s so blasted expensive … just stop taking it—it’s not doing you any good!” I’ve been on this see-saw of emotionally rationalising this one way or the other for quite some time and it’s exhausting. Honestly.

Also, I feel like I can’t explain it so you’ll understand—which is childish, really. It was started as an experiment, to see if it helped my memory. It did, but only a little. After a year, the doctor said I could stop … but also said I could continue it if I wanted (since there were little or no side effects). And because of one little thing he said so long ago I chose to continue it—fearful of stopping it. I’m hoping I remembered it wrong … if it really is working, and I stop, my memory might regress. Restarting the drug is always an option, but I’d be starting at the regressed point, if that makes sense (the drug slows the progression of memory loss, not improve it). I saw him a while back and he would not admit to saying that. So, is it because new information has proven that theory wrong … or did I hear it wrong from the get-go?

Well, for years, I’ve taken it—my “security blanket”—wondering if I stopped, would my memory worsen or would it stay the same? Memories can be precious—whether they are those of past delights, of errors made that you don’t want to repeat … or simply of what you did an hour ago; to be able to draw on your memory to engage in conversations with friends … so, seeing what Alzheimer’s  did to my dad (an extreme example, I’ll admit), I am reluctant to knowingly do something that might jeopardise my memory.

Recently, another doc had me trying another simpler (more natural) method to improve my memory. He thinks I may have a deficiency due a lousy diet, which certainly makes sense when you look at my longstanding lopsided meals. I’ve been trying so hard to make sure I get enough protein and keep carbs and fat down that I’ve forgotten about vegetables—colourful greens and oranges and yellows—that have carbs but are so very important (“good” carbs). Oh, yeah … plus the fact that I love my breads, pasta and cornmeal mush and … so many other things that are not so healthy. To give me a “boost”, he put me on a folate supplement. Hmm. I think it may be working. Slowly—but it is working. I’m also working towards increasing my veggies (sadly, not the potatoes, which I adore)—which is harder than it should be. My busy (aka: rushing around) lifestyle makes that a bit more difficult, but now that the “busy” season is over, hopefully things will improve.

So, back to this expensive, useless medication. I’m down to the last couple weeks of pills and I’ve promised myself I’m going to stop. I’m not panicked about it, but … well, maybe a wee bit anxious. But, I am hopeful that the changes in diet will bring me back, at least a wee bit, to a more normal memory and I won’t have anything to worry about in stopping the medication.

As the days dwindle down towards Christmas and the end of the year—and to my need to make that decision to change—I wish that this coming week or two turn into an amazing experience for you and those that are special to you.

May joy and peace find a place in your life (and mine …).

Precious Memories …

MY FATHER STRUGGLED with memory issues for quite some time — oh, it’s just normal aging process, everyone would say. He’d misplace keys, important papers, gardening tools, etc on his five-acre patch of heaven on earth …  I’m sure my mom started keeping a closer eye on him, but never let on that his forgetfulness was getting worse. Still insisting it was “normal”, we could only wonder since we lived so far from each other. Finances got a little strange — then unmanageable … Dad wasn’t able to juggle all the different financial things on his plate and they eventually lost their beautiful built-from-the-ground-up home to the bank. Finally, they moved up north to be closer to me — I was so grateful … and relieved to have them close by. It wasn’t long before both my husband and I realised there was a serious problem and started suggesting doctors to evaluate his declining memory. It took a lot of arm twisting, as Mom still didn’t want to believe that her still physically-strong husband could possibly become mentally weak.

Finally, the diagnosis my husband and I knew was coming was pronounced. Though still in the early stages, it was definitely Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is an insidious disease, striking twice. First, bit by bit, taking recent memories away, then memories of adulthood, of childhood … until it has taken every precious memory. Forgetting friends, family, close loved ones. Forgetting how to brush teeth, to use the toilet, to shower. The basics we all take for granted. Gone. Then it strikes a second time, finally taking the shell-of-a-person once known — permanently, in death.

After my dad was diagnosed, we introduced my parents to the local branch of the Alzheimer’s Association and signed my parents up for the support group — an awesome tool for caregivers. Then, we schemed amongst ourselves how to convince my dad into accepting a “babysitter” so my mom — the primary caregiver — could get some respite from the energy- sucking 24/7 care.

It was difficult. We thought about many things, amongst them, a gardener, but my dad wouldn’t stand for that. His green thumb precluded any assistance there. None of the ideas panned out. So, I helped out, taking dad on drives and walks in the surrounding country side. He loved it … and my mom got the break she needed. Plus, I began a long journey of getting re-acquainted — acquainted with another side of my daddy … a side I really never got to know that well whilst growing up since he spent so much time traveling on business … or on camping trips bonding with my brothers.

My parents made it very clear that they wanted to remain in their home “until the end”  and we agreed to work with their wishes by finding a “housekeeper” (alternate caregiver) to help Mom around the house, when dad began to decline. What I didn’t realise at the time, was that my mom was hiding something from us. Things were getting worse and he started to wander a little bit. Not far thankfully, but it did concern us. It was then we registered him with the county, in case he wandered off and couldn’t find his way home. This was long before the Silver Alert system was in place.

Soon, they needed to move from their protected cul de sac rental due to the owner selling the property, so we started searching for something in a relatively small, protected community. We found a cute little trailer park not far from me — I could be there in five minutes if need be. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Something else my mom kept from the entire family — though we should have seen the signs — was her failing health. Apparently, she quietly suffered a series of mini strokes and told no one. Looking back, I kick myself … all the signs were all there screaming at us to see. To do something. Slurred speech, forgetfulness, lack of strength (grip) …

We received a call from the park’s manager — both had been taken to the emergency room. My mom had collapsed and my dad was completely distraught. Mom was cleaning up the floor where a new dishwasher would reside when a massive stroke struck. She never regained consciousness, and lingered for five days before succumbing to her injuries.

Dad kept asking where she was … and not realising — or thinking — how it would effect him, I told him she’d passed away from her stroke. The love of his life (over fifty years) was gone. He crumbled in tears. I allowed him to grieve, staying close, just in case. Later, he asked again where she was and, without thinking, I told him again. Immediately, I knew I made a mistake. The anguish cut deep, like the fresh wound that it was. For him, it was the first time he was hearing it — again. This went on for days … with me trying to figure out how I could lessen the pain with the telling, trying different tactics with the same anguishing results. Finally, I simply fabricated a story that seemed to satisfy him till his next inquiry.

There are many stories I could tell about his decline, but I’d rather focus on his strengths. In all the time I spent with him in those last few years, I was amazed. His love for life, his patience, sense of humour and the twinkle in his eyes … his devotion to God … even in his “broken” state, what I saw in him was a wonderful living example of the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control … I never saw him as that person with Alzheimer’s. What did I see?  Something beautiful. Watching him, interacting with him … always made me think, that’s what I want to be when I grow up. My brothers distanced themselves from him because they didn’t want to lose the memories of who he’d been to them when he was “whole”. When they did visit, he didn’t know them … they were complete strangers. I felt sorry that they were not able to stay connected. But I had the advantage of being able to see him daily. It made a difference. Definitely.

Yes, he had self-control issues (that is part of the menace called Alzheimers), but it usually was because his fierce protection skills came into play a few times when he saw injustices happening around him. Or when his caregivers at the nursing home became impatient and tried rushing him or using the wrong words (we did switch facilities after than and his anger disappeared). Yes, he forgot my name … and even what my relationship was to him, but not down deep — he told me once that he knew there was some sort of important connection. He just didn’t know what it was. That I was special to him for some reason. It made my heart burst with love. He was a blessing to me in those last years. And it was a blessing that Alzheimer’s did not get to take him all the way down the path to death. His heart gave out whilst he was still able to communicate with people. He died peacefully in his sleep.

What I haven’t mentioned is, after my mom died, in addition to taking on my dad’s day-to-day care, I became more involved with the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Walk to End Alzheimers to raise awareness of the disease and to help raise funds for research to find a cure.  I walked in the events, both in Salinas and Monterey every year — still try to do both, but my schedule sometimes gets in the way.  I’ve walked as an individual and in a group as the captain, but I’ve tried to walk every year, without fail … and financial support both chapters.

I’m walking again this year — but only at the Aptos location. For my dad. And for everyone out there struggling with or helping someone with this crippling, devastating disease.  I’d like to ask you to help, either by joining me in the walk or by donating to the Alzheimer’s Association. Help finance the cure. Spread awareness of the disease to others. If you are local and want to join in, I will only be walking in the Aptos Walk to End Alzheimers event this year. I will support both Monterey and Santa Cruz chapters. I’m a team captain for Monterey County Walkers … for both the Monterey and Santa Cruz walks, so if you want to walk with me, click on the Aptos link — please! Later today, I will be setting up the page for the Monterey walk for those that wish to donate directly to that one — or want to walk as a group (without me, unfortunately). Here’s the hyperlink for the Monterey group on this page — thanks for checking back!

Walk to End Azheimers

Please join me in Aptos or Donate in the fight against Alzheimers Disease.

Bless you!

Have a beautiful weekend, folks!

Memories …

MEMORIES CAN BE GOOD … OR THEY CAN BE ones we don’t particularly want to remember because they are so terribly wrong and/or bad. But, no matter what memories there are in our lives, they are what makes us who we are, whether we like it or not.

Last Friday, I was trying to get my head into the “blog space” of getting my current one finished when my mind flooded — literally flooded with memories. What brought it on? The simple act of slicing up an orange. Oh, so many memories. It was like the domino-effect of one memory on top of another, cascading in my mind. Good memories, mostly, but some sad memories came too. Because, that’s life. The memories centered around my dad. As he climbed the business ladder as a chemical engineer into management, he managed to keep our lives rich in family things, like simple meals: sliced oranges (yup, remember, this was the trigger) with powered sugar, usually followed by eggs and bacon, or cornmeal mush, and fresh squeezed orange juice with our breakfast. Or there were the family vacations he was able to squeeze into his busy schedule: camping trips to the Sierras, to Trinity, Twin and June Lakes areas, to Tuolomne Meadows (my personal favorite destination); a trip up into Oregon and another time through Four Corners and the desert and mountain states … the list goes on. I caught my first fish (later — much later — I was told they’d just stocked the lake … sigh) on one of those trips; watched my dad as he floated a the highly saline June Lake, spouting water like a whale … all fond memories.

But, I also remember taking care of him as he slowly and painfully lost his battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The agony he (repeatedly) went through when he found out mom died (how does one deal with this while you yourself are trying to deal with it??). I finally stopped telling him when he’d ask. I couldn’t stand seeing the fresh pain that stabbed him in the heart each and every time he heard of her death; discovering he felt abandoned — he thought his mother had deserted him (she died from an illness when he was very young and he said no one ever told him — not sure this is true, but not important … he did feel abandoned) and trying to help him understand that. Falling then being stuck in a wheel chair as his fractured hip healed, he could not understanding why he couldn’t get up and walk around like he used to … and calling me his wife — I learned to constantly give him verbal clues (“Daddy”) to help keep it straight in him mind what my role in his life should be. Other things like his wandering off — scaring me half to death when I found out he’d somehow managed to get across the freeway with his dog to buy a leash; his time in the hospital with “good-intentioned” doctors and staff that didn’t know how to handle him (wanting to restrain him!) — or properly medicate him when medications he’d been taking ulcerated his stomach. These are part of the sad memories of my dad, but each experience (and how I handled them) has helped shape who I am.

I am a better person for having encountered each experience:  each has helped to shape how I respond to new experiences; how I handle encounters with people — of all sorts; how I live my life. Through them all, having a good foundation (thanks to my parents) — something to fall back onto when things get sketchy — is paramount. First and foremost, my dad was a stickler for attending church. We all grumbled (to varying degrees) about it, but we learned about God and what an awesome pillar of strength He could be if we allowed it. For that, I am forever thankful.

That one thing — having God to lean on — and each experience building upon the next helped me through the deaths of my parents and my husband … and through all the ups and downs in life.

I was too young when my first grandmother died — I don’t even remember being allowed to attend the funeral. When my grandfather (her husband) grew ill, I was not allowed to see him in the hospital, but when he died, It was felt I was apparently old enough to attend the grave-side burial services. All I remember is sitting in the back with my cousin, goofing around and giggling (and being shushed by my mom) — obviously not old enough for the proper decorum. With the death of my dad’s father, then mother, I was much older and the gravity of their deaths was felt deeply. As my aunts and uncles passed away (both before and after my parents and husband’s deaths, each one was a blow, but God helped ground me, helped get me through. And before his death, with each of my husband’s catastrophic illnesses, again, I remained calm (people kept commenting on it and I was beginning to wonder if I was not engaged with the gravity of the situation, but finally realized it was simply because I leaned on God for my strength — and that was a good thing). I was able to come through to the other side in one piece, at peace … and refreshed.

Repetition, life experiences and leaning on God. Yup. That pretty much sums up how we build our lives. Well, it’s how I formed mine, at least. And, it seems to be a good formula for me.

…And in light of the news from today: the loss of an icon, Leonard Nimoy … a all-time favorite of mine, that’s what I’ll be doing — definitely shedding tears, but mostly, praying for his family and friends and leaning on God

May your life be peppered with ups and downs, triumphs and defeats, creating the strong, vital character that is you. Hopefully you too have someone to lean on to make it through to the other side, in one piece and at peace.

A Cornucopia of Thoughts…

LIFE HAS BEEN AMAZINGLY GOOD for me over the years. Even when I look back and recall the trials and tribulations that have popped up again and again. They have shaped me, tempered me into who I am today.

As a child, I felt ostracized. Different from others because I was such a “dummy”—and danced to a different drum. I loved art, read voraciously (once I learned to deal with my dyslexia), and was just coming into my own both artistically and as a writer. Sadly, school did a great job of squelching my artistic side and my peers squelched my writing.  I learned to do any art or writing “in secret”, not showing anyone, until it finally faded into distant memories, lying dormant for what felt like ages. I did continue to read though, and in my subconscious, my painterly and writerly sides were preparing themselves.

It wasn’t until much later in my life that I started to do both again.

I did manage to keep playing with my cameras. First (as a middle schooler) a Swinger—the kids version of the Polaroid camera and a Kodak Instamatic…then a neat little video camera–prehistoric compared to what’s out there today. Sadly, I never developed the last roll on it from my days at the original Pepperdine University in Watts during the civil unrest. Sometimes I wonder if there is someone out there that could salvage it. Then, as an adult, I graduated to an Olympus SLR. Together, my husband and I would go camping and take copious photos of our trips. I have many, many wonderful years of memories from that camera. My husband purchased it for me–selling an old collectable camera to get this new one (and several lenses) for me. So sweet. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those were pretty sweet treasures he gave up for me. I wish I’d known (insert serious guilt here).

That Olympus saw some serious usage—and abuse (well, mostly the lenses, but the body as well). It was responsible for scooping up the frosting off my nephew’s cake (I don’t think his mom ever completely forgave me for destroying her beautiful creation…)—for some reason, I had to reach over to the other side of the table while I was wearing the camera around my neck…oops.

And, was never the same after my little ‘incident’ in a helicopter that couldn’t stay in the sky…all the dings left in the body jostled the mirrors big time. Even though we sent it in for repairs…it just wasn’t the same. I never sold it…just finally retired it to a drawer. Perhaps some day, I’ll pull it out and give it a go—if I want to try my hand at film again (I am so over-the-moon sold on digital)…

I have drawers…many drawers filled with little boxes of negatives and packages of photos—both mine and my husband’s. Many of them are from before we even knew each other. Memories of his I’ll never fully understand without him there to explain the photos…where and why they were taken, the subjects in the photos—things like that. I haven’t taken the time to go through any of them (his or mine)—sorting the good shots from the bad…and the multiples. Maybe because there’s still too many memories attached to most of them. When my husband and I went on a trip, many times we ended up capturing the same image. Sometimes, it was interesting to see if there were any differences—little nuances that one might have seen that the other did not. Occasionally, yes.

At some point, when my daughter was beginning to show an interest in photography, we ended up with two Pentax K-100 digital cameras—one for me, one for her—plus matching tripods…and accessories (insert huge grin here)—lots of accessories. I don’t even know how long ago that was—middle school? Freshman in high school? We’d go out on little photo walks, taking pictures and—sometimes the three of us, but usually, just the two of us. I loved those times. All too soon, she grew up and away, spending more time with friends, taking photography classes and spreading her wings in preparation of flying off into her own life. We both still own our Pentax cameras. I’ve added a few lenses plus different sizes of tripods while she has stayed with the original equipment that came with hers (though, she is thinking of upgrading—I’m glad to see that). I’ve also purchased several other cameras (Canon and Nikon), but always find that I fall back on my Pentax for trips or when I just want something comfortable and familiar.

My pivotal year for writing was probably 1999. My storytelling in the schools was winding down to just a few a year. I’d started scribbling thoughts onto paper the year before, with the idea of doing personalized short stories—perhaps even transcribing the taped classroom stories and creating an anthology of those, but when my mom died suddenly in the spring of ’99, that all changed. That’s when I took on the responsibility of watching after my dad, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and I had more time on my hands—so I wrote…and wrote. I found myself getting more serious with it and it started to become what I now fondly call my “never-ending story” that is still unfolding, even today. I did create some personalized short stories for some people, but it never took off, even though I do still offer the service.

Then, it was about four or five years ago that I seriously started tinkering with art, taking classes at one of our local community colleges. As my skills improved, I had this grand idea (when the Fort Ord area opened up and the housing went up for sale) to purchase four of the barracks and turn them into an art haven of sorts…yup—a grand idea…that never came to fruition.

Whilst I mulled over that idea, I became aware of a new venture proposed by one of the teachers at the community college I attended. Being lazy, and far short of the needed capital to begin my own venture, I turned my energies over to this lovely, creative lady, Denese Sanders. Her ideas and plans were sound and, though less grand than my own (and therefore, far more doable financially), would be more likely to make it off the ground! Open Ground Studios came into being almost two years ago and I have loved every minute there—being part of this creative community, making friends, taking classes/workshops, learning and creating art. OGS fills a much needed niche in the community and I’m glad I’m part of it. I’ve turned into the unofficial photographer for events too—capturing people being creative—and I love that.

Just the other day, in my busy rushing around—running to Open Ground Studios to work on my writing and then onto a sundry of little chores, I stopped off at my daughter’s home and we chatted for a bit. At the end, we discussed her upcoming birthday—deciding when to celebrate with the traditional birthday dinner. And as I left, she asked if I was free on the Friday before to go to Point Lobos with our cameras. I imagine my face answered the question quite easily—I probably had a grin from ear to ear. The thought of a simple walk in my favorite park is delightful, but to include my daughter and cameras was more than perfect. Of course, I said yes. Wheee!

Art, in whatever form one chooses—and writing, can create a very insulated, quiet life. It is very easy to become a bit of a hermit. So, finding ways to interact becomes important. Time spent with my daughter, chatting, tromping (hmm…maybe we should tippy-toe if we want to capture any wildlife) through the underbrush, trees and over rocks is a wonderful way to socialize. I can hardly wait for that Friday! Another is to spend time at Open Ground Studios, where I can, of course, find time to spend alone to work (whether it be art or writing), but can also find other artists to engage in conversation, to observe them working on their art form. Plus, there are always workshops and classes going on at OGS, so I get to learn and improve my skills as I socialize. The best of both worlds.

I know this blog has become quite inelegant…rambling hither and yon, but these are thought that needed to be sung out in this new year. The joys of art, of photography, of writing—of life…the frustrations that accompany growing up…trials and tribulations—and joys of life.

It’s what makes us who we are, don’t you think?

 

 

Happy New Year…Traditions

TOURNAMENT OF ROSES PARADE…this used to be an annual tradition of our family…my parents, brothers and yours truly—trekking to our Pasadena cousin’s home for as long as I can remember. It was a family affair. Most of my aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents would converge on their home along the parade route 🙂 where we would spend time together, reconnecting—yet again (…Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter were the other times we got together at our grandparents house in Corona), playing, eating, celebrating the new year and having a front row seat for the parade–for as long as we could stand the cold. After the parade, many of the adults would watch the Rose Bowl Game on TV as we cousins played in the back yard.

Strange which memories cling forever in the mind. I remember the parades, of course, but what I really remember is the gigantic, ancient red fire truck planted in their back yard. We climbed all over it, through it, around it. Loved that fire truck. But another lingering memory is the baby’s breath that trellised up a tree in their yard. Not sure why that sticks, but it does. Guess it was the “nature-girl” in me that made that memory stick. Teehee.

It was a special time. A very special time with family.

Once I married, I talked my boy-friend turned husband into attending several times, but he was overwhelmed (he was from a very small family—he could count extended family on two hands…well, plus maybe a couple extras fingers) by the sheer volume of family that was present. So, we started our own tradition by watching in the comfort of our home on TV each year, but it just wasn’t the same—not seeing it in person, not having all that family around…

After an early breakfast, we would sit down and watch the parade. That was part of the tradition: breakfast before—to keep the excitement and anticipation going just a little longer before any special event like Christmas, the New Year’s Parade or Easter. I managed to keep the Parade alive in our home for a while after my daughter was born, but somehow, the tradition petered out (to my dismay) and the day became just like any other…well, we did do the noisy, nighttime celebrating of the new year by clanging pots and pans, then later with other manufactured noise makers…but nothing more.

I did add (revive?) a new tradition by making cornmeal mush every New Years morn as our breakfast. My mom’s dad introduced that to our family when I was very young. After he died, my dad continued the tradition of the yummy, steaming-hot creamy dish with Log Cabin syrup. The cornmeal mush has remained a tradition for special events—Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years mornings…even Easter morning…but my husband (from Minnesota) introduced us to real maple syrup and I’ve never been able to go back to the sugary stuff my dad introduced us to…never—even as the price creeps upward.

I’ve recently decided to renew this tradition–well, the breakfast and TV viewing of the Parade. No way am I going to fighting for a spot then sit along the route (my relatives don’t live in Pasadena any more), freeze my patootie off waiting for the parade to begin. So, I watch it from the comfort of my home, snuggled up with my critters on the couch after a piping hot bowl of cornmeal mush. Yay for traditions—old and new!

…And all of the delightful memories that are attached that warm my heart and soul.

Here’s hoping you are able to establish and maintain some memorable traditions for your family, to be passed down for generations to come…

Happy New Year, folks…may it be blessed with what you need…and maybe a little of what you want.

New Year’s Day 2015

Wanderings…

(I ‘found’ this draft recently, when I was finally able to get into my blog. I am working on another entry right now, but thought this would be fun to post before you see the next one.)

WHETHER IT IS MY MIND OR MY WHOLE being that is doing the wandering, I find it fun to explore.

I’ve done a lot of travel recently, and will be doing even more in the near future. Sometimes it all gets jumbled in my mind…where I’ve been when…and for how long. Little trips close together are the worst. If I have to consult the calendar, does that mean the trip was not a memorable one? Of course not! It just means this poor brain has become very dependent on the “portable brain” (aka iPhone calendar) for much of the “trivial” things like dates and places to jog the great memories to the forefront.

When I do physical traveling, there are always sights to be seen, new things to experience–even if I’ve been there before, I am always able to find something new. Always. And within the physical travel, well, there will always be mental wanderings…it just cannot be helped. My mindful meanderings can take me anywhere, which is a delight in itself. I may meander into the minefield of my writings, fraught with anxieties of how to proceed. Or perhaps I might find myself dodging through the lists of things that need doing.

…wait.  I did say my wanderings were a delight, right?  Well, even with the anxieties and lists, I find comfort in knowing things will get done, perhaps not right away, but they will get done. And, usually, within this state of mind, I am able to iron out some of the kinks and hiccups in my storyline or lists, knowing how and where to proceed.  Once those anxieties and lists are confronted, my mind can meander into memories of books recently read–reliving the adventure, or even just let my mind float around in dreams. And there’s always trips to be brainstormed or memories of past travels to explore in my mind.

My recent travels began with Pleasanton: two days of heat (oh, my…lots of heat!), Celtic food, Games, and music with friends…and more food.  Aaah…the music. Celtic music

Celtic Drummer

Celtic Drummer getting into the beat (for some reason, the drum was cut out of the photo–sorry!)

goes to the soul.  The drums.  Oh, yes!  My friend introduced me to a new band that was playing–I love Taiko (Japanese) drumming, but this drumming (amplified and accompanied by other instruments) was truly amazing! Here’s where the mind comes into play. The drums, for me at least, allow my mind to dance…wander freely. Like a release from the constraints of daily life. I always feel lighter after listening to this type of music. More alive, revved up.

The lines to buy their music (my heart sunk when I was told ‘cash only’ once I got to the front) were long, long, long…I was saddened that I didn’t have enough cash since I always refuse to use ATMs that pepper large events like this. So, I do plan on getting the music online…one of these days. It won’t be the same, playing the CD on my player…just won’t be the same. Sigh. But, it will allow my mind to free up all the clutter, become refreshed so I can dig back into my writing, or my art with new eyes.

The Seattle trip was mostly to see two very special friends that I met in Monterey when Lynne and I were learning German at Monterey Peninsula College. We became fast friends and even when (soon after class was over) she and Dan were shipped overseas, I managed to make a visit to see them in Europe. We had great fun, leaving me with lasting memories that continue to make me smile. Now, Dan was retiring and throwing a retirement party. I didn’t want to miss this, so I hopped on a train (without a sleeper berth) to Seattle. Again. Plenty of memories. Plenty of experiences. Some I do not wish to repeat, such as acquiring a sinus infection from the long train ride (aggravated by my stupidity, as I kept my face in the smoky presence of a fire I was trying to rekindle in a fire pit–just a day before the long journey home). It still lingers, but I am feeling much better…most of the time. It will eventually subside completely and I’ll be back to my busy self once again…but until then, I curse my stupidity. But, aside from that, it was an exceptionally wonderful time, meeting new friends (some that live “right next door” in Monterey!), touring the Seattle area in the style only known to these two precious people and their friends…their rental van was lovingly dubbed “the prison van” after the first ‘tour’ which I missed…but, no worries–I soon found out how it got it’s name. Great food, friendly conversations, incredible sights–and I even took some photos as we made a dash for the Wharf area and Seattle’s Farmers Market–walking all over creation one day (we even managed to sneak in

Fisherman's Wharf, Seattle WA

Fisherman’s Wharf in Seattle, viewing the ferries, carrying passengers to the Olympia Peninsula

a glimpse of the Space Needle before heading home); then the Olympia Peninsula, driving up the coast, then back to downtown Seattle the next day. Sadly, they dropped me at the

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Space Needle behind a ginormous Music Museum in Downtown Seattle

Music Museum...with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Music Museum…with refelction of Seattle Space Needle

Hostel I was staying at that night so I could easily make it to the train station the next day. I didn’t want it to end so soon. We bid our fond farewells and I took with me wonder memories and visions firmly planted in my mind.

Shortly, I will be taking a PhotoTrip (as I like to call it) to Vegas. The destination is for a wedding, but I seldom find the opportunity to capture the stark beauty of the desert, so I decided I will drive. I am looking forward to this, both photographically and for the chance to spend time with relatives that I see far to infrequently. There will be a separate blog for that trip (probably in the form of a photo blog–flora and fauna only…)–I am planning on many wonderful memories to come from this trip.

Until then…have a blessed day!

 

 

Oh, Bother…

Well, it is the day after Thanksgiving Day and the dust has settled.

My body has finally stopped groaning at all of the food I consumed.  No, it wasn’t the quantity in total, it was what I ate.

I have spent the last year trying to lose weight and have been successful — almost thirty pounds, and I still need to lose quite a bit more for health reasons.  I am confident that I will succeed — eventually.

I’ve made some major changes in what I eat, how much I eat and when I eat — even what I keep in the house, because I do know my limits & don’t want to tempt myself.  Also, I space out my “treats” with a minimum of multiple days between so my body can readjust.  So, if I eat out, then I always make sure there are at least three days between before I do anything else special.  But there are some nasty little habits that pop up at the most unexpected times.

I guess, my will power needs a major overhaul.  Yesterday, my wonderful son-in-law, bless his heart, suggested that we have some of the pumpkin pie while we waited for the turkey to be ready.  We were playing a game of cards and it was mid morning…breakfast was eaten hours ago and we hadn’t planned on eating our main meal till 2-3pm, so why not.  That was not the will power problem.

My son-in-law brought out a monster slice (each piece turned out to be one-sixth of the entire Costco pie) for each of us.  Mind you, there were only three of us.  Again, this isn’t so much the will power problem.

“What–not the problem?” you ask.

Nope.  Not the problem.  You see, though it was a very, very large piece of very high calorie food, I had decided that I would not have any more after dinner.  Good for me.

Right.

Well, I was even a good girl all the way through dinner.  Not too much stuffing.  Not too much of my cherished, calorie-laden family recipe of sour cream mashed potatoes.  And I was full, but not overly stuffed like I have been in past years.  I felt great.  Pat on the back.  Good girl!

After dinner, we cleaned up & put stuff away, played more cards, watched a couple videos, chatted and just had a marvelous day.  Then, when the traditional “dessert time” came, I conveniently forgot what I had promised myself.  To make it worse (I would love to be able to blame my son-in-law),  I was the one to go in and serve up the dessert.  I cannot blame anyone but myself for the size of the slices that I cut.  I duplicated the previous serving size for everyone, and with a great big smile on my face, served everyone up.

And I ate the whole blasted piece.  It did taste extremely good.  I should have stopped when I was feeling full, but the desire for the taste kept me going.  I think I actually forced myself to eat the last bite.  “Good girl.  Clean the plate,” echoed in my mind from my childhood.

Oh.  That makes two problems.  Will power and old, old habits.  I think they gang up on me when I’m in a weakened state.   Since I had caved-in to buying pizza (with a salad, thank you) the night before Thanksgiving, then had my huge meal the next day, I broke one more of my rules…not putting space between “treats”.  So, now we’re up to three!  Ho, boy!

So, today is re-group day.  I know better than to trust the scale today — it said I only gained a little over a pound…it’s usually day two that is more accurate, so I need to be extremely careful today.  And for the next week.

There are left 0vers in the refrigerator.  Not much, thankfully.  I was able to halve everything, so my daughter and son-in-law took a fair amount out of the house.  And, there is NO more pie.  Yes!  This is a very good thing.  I will go back to my normal way of life…until Christmas.

Oh, bother.  (I can hear Pooh Bear in my head anytime I say that and it makes me chuckle!)

The holidays are truly a mixed bag.  So many treasures abound — time with family, wonderful aromas flooding back memories of times gone by…delightful time of the year.

Yet, so many little land mines to dance around.  All that food that only comes out at Thanksgiving and Christmas — oh, yes…and Easter  (and for other faiths, there are other days, too).  Obviously family, the memories, all of the reasons to be thankful for the season far outweigh those little land mines.

But still, for someone battling with weight problems, it is a hard fought war.  So, if you are in the midst of the battle, as I am, take heart.  For every battle, there will be some losses, but the war will be won if you keep your heart and mind in the right place.  Dust yourself off when you fall, pick yourself back up and carry on.  That’s what I plan on doing.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, full of memories to cherish — and now, brace yourself for Christmas.  Enjoy the season.  Know the true reason we celebrate it and cherish it.  Breathe.  Love.  Concentrate on what is important.

I know I’ll make it through, and so will you.

Thankful for Memories and Life

WELL, IN AGES PAST, as a child, each of us owned one chicken (hens…no roosters, thank you), a pigeon and a goose.  I adored my little Henny Penny. I believe she was a bantam Buff Orpington,  but I’m just going from recollection.

My dad loved animals and I definitely shared that love then–and now. During our childhood, various critters came under our care. Hens, rabbits, pigeons, chukars & quail, ducks, geese, dogs–even a pony.  My brothers loved their geese & the quail–they even had to hand raise (with some help from all of us) one of the pigeon babies because he was abandoned by the parents.

That was quite a lesson.  They named him George, in honor of our family doctor–he was the one that provided the pablum and vitamins for our little orphan.  Somehow, he survived the feedings every two hours divided between all family members, our mixing up the pablum to feed him with a dropper, and even the emergency surgery (performed by dad) when somebody overfed him & burst his crop.  We all fell in love with him. He was part of the family. He even answered to his name and came when we called him.  We allowed him to fly free around our home — after all, he was a homing pigeon, so we knew he would always come home. Eventually.  But one day, he didn’t. We were completely devastated. To the point that, when we once went to the San Francisco zoo, we were sure we saw him and kept calling for him. We must have looked like a  bunch of wacko kids,  crying and screaming out for George.  Our poor parents could not calm us. A very traumatic, but strangely warm memory from our childhood.

There were other orphaned critters raised, marauding neighbor dogs decimating our beloved hens and pets that came and went. We learned to love each one, to care for them–or at least try. Each one carried a lesson for us.

Patience, love, perseverance.

In a way, these lessons helped me raise an adorable, precocious child into a beautiful, intelligent young  lady.

Today, in addition to this lovely lady that has since flown the coop, I have an adorable loving dog, a mischievous cat, a rabbit and twelve hens. I am crazy, really, to have all of these animals in my life right now,  but there are still lessons to be learned and I have plenty of love to share, so why not.

I am relearning patience, as I — maybe-not-so-patiently — wait for the last of my young pullets to begin laying. There are three that are either simply not going to, or are the proverbial late bloomers.  One of these days, I suppose, I’ll be surprised (and thrilled) with a second blue egg from my “I’m taking my time” Americauna and beautiful light to medium brown eggs from the other two late bloomers.

I am constantly reminded of my responsibilities to share my time and attention with my feathered and four-legged friends. Even when I don’t feel up to it.  Even when the weather has me wishing I could stay indoors.  When I’d much rather be reading, writing or tramping in the woods taking pictures.  There will always be time for those endeavors, too.

Giving, no matter what.

They also teach me to be thankful. Yes, thankful.

Thankful for the small things. For their entertaining qualities (every single one of them make me laugh), for the warm, furry, lap-warmer and  loving snuggler (my cat, of course) in my life, for the unquestioning love and faithfulness (obviously, not the cat). I am thankful for the mini-hand warmers my hens provide each day as I collect their eggs on these chilly mornings. And for the food they provide for my friends and for me.

As we approach our Thanksgiving Day holiday, I find my life filled to overflowing with so many things to be thankful for, whether memories of the past or things current in my life.   And thankful that I am able to prepare for and spend this special day with my daughter and her husband.  Good times.

I am not going to let the rush of this and the upcoming holidays get in the way of remembering what this whole season is truly about.  Please take the time, and remember to be thankful for what you have — no matter how great or small it may be or seem.

What memories or things in your life are you thankful for?

A warm and happy Thanksgiving Day to everyone.