Thursday, June 21, 2018

My Steel Magnolia

Everyone needs a steel magnolia friend. You may need to watch the movie Steel Magnolias to understand the depth of that sentiment, but maybe after I introduce you to my best friend since junior high, you might realize who your steel magnolia is.

Lynn made me this piggy bank when we were in high school.

Lynn and I met in junior high. We did the typical teen girl things; pass notes in class, have sleepovers, spend time with each other's families, gossip, and listen to music. We also did the typical rural teen girl things; attending 4-H meetings, riding horses in the creek and sledding in the hollow (which is pronounced /hol*ler/, by the way), and Lynn had a big sow named Priscilla that started our lifelong fascination with pigs. When we grew up, we became elementary school teachers, wives, and mothers.

Lynn was my matron of honor at my first wedding. She and I had our first two children in 1987 and 1989. Unfortunately, we were separated by the thousands of miles between Virginia and Utah, but whenever we got together, we didn't skip a beat, and just picked up our friendship where we left off.

Our Red Hat Society day with high school friends. Lynn had a hat, too; she just hates hats, as a rule.

Back when we were in 10th grade, Lynn had such a crush on a cute boy in our class named Bennett. Bennett had been one of my best friends since we were in fifth grade. He was always so nice to me, and since it took me a long time to fit in with the girls on our class, it was comforting to see a friendly face in fifth grade. It was easy to see Lynn and Bennett would be perfect for each other, so I played matchmaker.

My best friends married each other after college. June 2018

When we were at the high school Valentine Dance, I let Bennett know that Lynn liked him. And the rest, as they say, is history. They dated all the way through high school and college, and eventually married and had four children.

June 2013

When I started my blog, there were about 12 people who read Randomocity regularly. Lynn was my very first official "follower." That's just one sign of a true friend. 

Fresh faces pink from the cold; sans makeup after cycling. December 2013

When my daddy died just before Christmas in 2013, Lynn invited me to go bike riding with her and her daughter a couple of days before his funeral. She knew I needed a break from the grief, and spending time outdoors with my best friend was just the way to pass the time. It was 18 degrees the morning we cycled nine miles along the Piney River, but my heart was warmed by her thoughtfulness during that cold December day. 

Priest Mountain overlooks the peach orchard.

When Lynn found out I was going home to Virginia this summer, she made sure Chuck and I would be able to spend time with Bennett and her at their farm. Lynn and Bennett are family; Chuck had to meet them, too.

The smell of fresh peaches always takes me back to Virginia, and working for Saunders Brothers.

The four of us piled into Bennett's pickup, and went for a ride through the peach orchards, and reminisced about the days when Lynn and I used to work for the Saunders Brothers in high school, thinning peaches, driving the tractor, and planting boxwood and azalea slips. As luck would have it, Bennett's folks were riding around the hills at the same time, so Chuck and I were able to say hello to them. 

We showed Chuck the packing shed where I used to sell peaches for Bennett's dad back in the seventies. The four of us enjoyed lunch in their spacious kitchen. Chuck is still talking about the Virginia ham Lynn served. Luckily, I was able to find it here in Illinois when we returned. 

At Daddy's funeral, with some of the amazing women who helped me through that time.

Lynn is one of those women who is dedicated to her family and friends. She wants to help others when she can. She was an amazing teacher with a soft spot for those little ones under her care. Those of us who call her friend are lucky, indeed.

2018. Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth; ignore the watermark. My bad!

Thank you, Lynn, for being a steel magnolia in my orchard of friends. 

More photos from our day with Lynn and Bennett:

Bennett created this peach out of colored slate, and inserted it into their walkway.

Mama and 'Em's

Home Sweet Home.

Chuck and I got to visit at "Mama and 'em's" last weekend. I had totally forgotten that phrase until I heard my brother-in-law talk about going to his folks' house. He was telling us about going to his "Mama and them's house for supper," but when he said quickly with his southern drawl, it came out, "We were goin' to Mama an' em's house for suppah." 

"Mama and 'em's" can refer to your parents' house, or your mama and anyone else she is with. We were blessed with visits at mamas and 'em's. I'm blessed with two mamas, and it was my good fortune to see them both on the same trip. 

It was a whirlwind vacation in Virginia. Chuck took off three days of work, and he drove through the night, both ways,  so we could capitalize on time with family. This man is one amazing husband with what he is willing to do to make my dreams come true.

The Beidler Girls

If you are one of the many people I didn't get to visit while we were there, I am so sorry. Having two moms, an aunt, four sisters, and four brothers makes it tricky enough to even see my family when we go back home, let alone the other people I would love to visit. 

My sweet aunt in Virginia Beach drove about five hours ONE WAY to see us, and one of my sisters came in from the Richmond area. What a treat to see all of my Virginia siblings. (Joelle, we missed you, Sweetie.) 

Each morning Jackie and I enjoyed sitting on her screened-in porch, talking over our mugs of coffee and tea. We watched as the sun came up high enough to dapple the yard with sunlight and shadows. The heat and humidity held off until Monday morning, so our weekend was wonderful with relatively cool weather for porch time, cookouts and family gatherings. 

We erroneously called this Panther Falls throughout my childhood. We later learned it is actually Staton's Creek Falls.

We wanted to show Chuck a couple of our favorite places so when Natalie joined us, we took him to Staton's Creek Falls, and we went for a little drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. I tried so hard to stay in the moment while we were visiting. There was so much I wanted to soak in; the vistas, the beauty, the camaraderie, and the love. 

Friday and Saturday we spent time with our Beidler relatives. One of Jackie's requests earlier this year was to gather together as a family, and all four of the Beidler kids, our spouses, and even our niece and her new husband did just that. We hadn't all been together since Daddy's funeral in 2013. It felt so good to all be in the same place, even for a little while.

My sister Natalie welcomed us into her home, and her husband Jeromie grilled burgers and hotdogs for us outside on the grill. Bless Mother Nature's heart; it wasn't hot as blazes, and we were able to enjoy Nat's screened-in porch during supper. (Is my hatred for humidity obvious?)

Sunday we went to church with Mom, and my brother Dan and his wife Becky had us all over for an open house that afternoon/evening. All but one sister made it, and I saw her the next night. I finally met a great-niece and great-nephews I'd never met. 

Monday night, more family I only had met through Facebook were there. We all talked and laughed, while some of the family enjoyed the swimming pool. Cooking for that crowd can be a challenge, but my sister-in-law is an experienced caterer, and she handled it like a pro.

Irish Creek Valley from the Blue Ridge Parkway

What's time with family without lots of laughter, reminiscing, and some photos? Visiting at Mama and 'em's might not be everybody's idea of the ideal vacation, but it is just what my heart needed. I love my mamas and 'em. All of 'em. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Evolution of a Grandma

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

Once upon a time, a precious, little boy was born, and his parents introduced me to him as Grandma Denise. Over time, that baby boy learned to talk, and I became Gramma. Now that CJ is three, he has his own ideas about how things should be.

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

My grandmothers were called Grammy and Grandma; pretty traditional names in my world. For a brief period of time, I considered what I would want to be called as a grandmother. Sierra had a boyfriend in high school who called me Mama Dee, and I smiled every time I thought about future grandchildren calling me that. Mama Dee has a southern flavor, and I like that.

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

I knew childhood friends whose grandmothers were Meemaw, Big Mama, Grandma Nana, and Granny. Some of my relatives and friends have grandmother names of their own now; Omma, Oma, Yia Yia, and Gigi. Maybe I would always just be Grandma.

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

Guess what? We can ask children to call us whatever we want, but more often than not, they will call us whatever they want, and most of us will love it because it will become our special name, given to us by those precious children we call our grandbabies.

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

Just recently, we were able to spend a week with CJ and his new baby sister Aly. When we arrived, CJ called us Grandpa and Grandma Pa. How cute is that? I loved it. I was hashtagging pictures right and left on Instagram #grandmapa and #grandmapaparazzi. Yeah. It was perfect. 

Photo credit: Chuck Bennorth

The next morning, my pet name had changed to Grandma POO. I laughed. "Grandma Poo? You mean Grandma Pa?" I asked. 

"No!" CJ smiled with a twinkle in his eye. "Grandma Poo!"

So let it be written. So let it be said. I shall now be known as Grandma Poo. Well, that will be my name until CJ decides to call me something else. And I will love whatever he decides because it will be the name given to me by a child I love very much. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Painting Is Supposed to Be Fun

Somewhere along the way, making art became less about being creative, and more about being afraid of doing it wrong. My fear of failure runs deep. I'm a perfectionist at heart, without many of the skills necessary for that level of expertise.

One thing I've always wanted to be able to do is paint with water colors. Paint brushes and I have been on the outs for decades. My inability to control a brush, and my lack of exposure to painting techniques makes me so nervous.

You know that saying "Do one thing that scares you every day?" For me, taking an art class is very scary. I am so afraid of making a mistake. It's only paper, right? But what if I'm the only one who asks for a second piece of paper? My tolerance for embarrassment is pretty low. 

In an effort to overcome my phobia of failure, I've been trying to expose myself to my fears, little by little. Last fall, I took a stab at a water color class, painting birch trees. And this spring, I took another class, learning to paint violets.

Our teacher's example. I was so worried that her violets only had four petals.
The whole "creative license" thing is wasted on me.

Chuck does not comprehend the depth of my fear. He tries to be encouraging by saying, "An art class should be fun. Don't forget to have fun while you're there. It's not about doing it right; it's about learning and experimenting. Just have fun." Easy for him to say. He has the same attitude about drumming. I get so focused on the rhythm and technique, I honestly forget to have fun doing something I love to do.

Our local library sponsors seasonal art classes, and there is no charge to residents. The teacher is so supportive, and likable. She really does her best to put the class at ease, saying humorous things like, "It takes two people to make a painting. One to actually paint, and another to tell the painter when to stop."

That's supposed to be funny, but I hear that I better be careful not to overwork my piece, or I'll be sorry. Sigh. 

When she was talking about the art supplies, she said if we buy a tray of water color paints, we should toss the paint brush, and spend a few dollars to get a nice brush with a good pointed tip. "You probably tried painting when you were seven years old, and had such a horrible experience with that cheap paint brush, you decided you were no good at painting, and never tried it again." Yeah, that could be part of my problem. 

My attempt, after finding a suitable five-petaled model on the internet.

I took this photo with my phone yesterday
so I could study a violet, up close and personal. 

Armed with the teacher's suggestions, and one practice painting of violets under my belt, I decided to try to have fun with painting today. I used a photo I had taken the day before, limiting myself to one simple flower. I was pretty happy with my beginner's attempt at a violet. 

My breathing almost returned to normal after I signed my name. One day, I hope to be comfortable enough to get out my painting supplies without feeling nervous, and just have fun.  My next challenge will be a little harder. I just need to keep a sense of humor when I attempt this one. Painting is supposed to be fun. I may have a new mantra to learn. 


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Add a Little Zest!

My basic scone recipe produces a nice, moist scone, featuring a sweet glaze, but it is sooo much better when it has a boost of citrus flavor. Add some freshly squeezed juice, and a little grated zest from the skin of the fruit, and the scones go from good to amazing. Whether I've used lemons, limes, oranges, or grapefruit, I've never been disappointed. The zest makes an incredible difference.

It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day living. Our lives start to feel basic and boring. Sometimes we forget to do the little things that make our days feel special. Our lives are like that scone recipe; adding a little zest can take things to the next level.

For me, there are some things that give me a keen sense of enjoyment. 

Lighting a scented candle.

Reading poetry or a good book.

Practicing yoga.

Walking outside.

Listening to country music or old Motown hits.

Taking pictures.

Talking to my husband or a friend.


Holding a baby, or talking to a child.


Creating something, like a collage or a memory book or a card.

Soaking in the bath tub.

Baking something special for someone.

Learning something new.

Taking a class. Today I went to a watercolor painting class at the library. 

What is one thing you could do right now that would add a little zest to your day? This afternoon, I have a new recipe I'm going to go try, Cauliflower Mac and Cheese. We're trying to find low-carb sides that will appeal to Chuck that will help with his diabetes, so if you have any suggestions, send them our way! While I'm in the kitchen, I'm going to crank up some Marvin Gaye and the Commodores. 

If you would like to try the scone recipe, you can find it HERE. This version has lime AND coconut, but you can substitute any citrus flavor that is your favorite!

Monday, May 21, 2018

X-tra! X-tra! Meme All About It!

We had a reeeally long winter, and while I enjoy a good snow day as much as the next person, even I had had enough of the white stuff my mid-April. What's a gal to do when she's not cleaning muddy puppy paws after they've played in the thawing muck? Make memes!

These are some of the more recent Velvet Hippo and Labradorable Sami memes. If you enjoy this sort of thing, you can follow me on Instagram at RANDOMOCITY BLOG

For my kiddos. Counting down the sleeps until I see them again. 45 today...