Thursday, November 19, 2020

So, This Is Sixty


Happy 60th Birthday to Me!

So, this is sixty. This girl was born in 1960, which meant I would be turning 60 in 2020. Sounded like a magical mathematical happening. I had big dreams of turning 60 in 2020. There seemed to be a lot of good juju in all those even numbers. 

My only birthday wish was to spend this golden birthday with my children in Utah. No presents; no party; just my kids and Chuck.

New Year's 2020 arrived with all its fanfare, and then the Coronavirus reared its ugly head. The last time I saw my kids in Utah was in March, just before most of the nation went into quarantine mode. 

Chuck and I just knew this pandemic would all blow over by the time Memorial Day arrived. No? Then by Labor Day, for sure. Huh...well, for dang sure by my birthday in November. Oops. That was a big, fat NO, too.

After we told the kids we were staying home, I started to dread my birthday. I worried my Seasonal Affective Disorder would be raging without having contact with most of our kids for so long. I was so grateful that Chuck's boys who live nearby had made plans to celebrate with me, but then Illinois tightened visiting mandates, too. Those plans were dashed with the others. I couldn't win for losing.

Long story very short; I have an amazing circle of family and friends who love me too much to let me have a lousy birthday. You guys are the BEST. My birthday during this stinkin' pandemic may end up being one of the best in my whole entire life. I may have had to wear a mask with my friends, and I may not have been able to celebrate IN PERSON with our family, but thanks to my daughter, I received so many cards and birthday wishes. She had intended to have me open them in Utah at her house, and at the last minute, shipped them all to Illinois. I just cried when I saw so many envelopes, and recognized so many names. Later, I was able to read all of the emails that had been sent her way.

It was a very, very good day, after all.

My BFF Susan and I took photos at Heinz Garden Center. She made a gift basket that contained SIXTY things in my favorite color, ORANGE. 

Family friends sent a gorgeous floral arrangement. 

Neighbors gathered in front of our house, and sang Happy Birthday, and brought balloons and gifts. 

We Skyped with our Utah kids. 

My sweet daughter-in-law FaceTimed us with our three grandkids. CJ, who nicknamed me Grandma Poo, can't wait to bake cookies with me again. Aly, trying to copy CJ, called me Grandma Poop. They kept trying to correct her. Baby Caden is already smiling, and is such a big boy.

My day began and ended with birds. I always think of my dad when I see cardinals, and the whole time Jackie and I were on the phone, I watched several cardinals flitting from tree to tree in my backyard. Was that a sign, Daddy? I like to think so.

And after our neighborhood celebration, I saw my owl in a nearby tree. He didn't talk to me this time, but just seeing him again was a beautiful gift. 

My day was filled with phone calls, texts, and Facebook notifications. Wow. Just wow.

I FEEL SO LOVED. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I will respond to all of those cards and letters in the coming days. 2020 doesn't have to suck, not if you have good friends and family who love you. Thanks so much.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Folks of Fall

Summer lovers, you may want to skip this one. If you love summer, I hope you enjoy every single moment. I'm glad you do. I won't yuck on your yum; please, don't yuck on mine.  I like summer well enough; I just don't do well in the damp heat of Illinois.

For the folks focusing on fall, you are my people. We're already thinking about pumpkin spice recipes, and wanting to light some autumn candles.We're eyeing those sweaters in the back of the drawer, and thinking about cooler weather and hot beverages. 

Chuck just doesn't understand how I can like fall better than summer. 

"What ACTIVITIES do you like better in the fall?" he wants to know. "What can you do in the fall that you can't do in the summer?"

It's not so much the activities, as it is the WEATHER.

Basically, I can enjoy ANY activity better in the fall because I'm not sweating, dehydrating, or feeling faint because of the heat and humidity. Walking and hiking and biking are all more fun, if I'm not feeling like I'm going to have heat stroke.

I have a weakness for pumpkin patches, fall leaves, and all things pumpkin spice. I'm also counting down the days until I don't have to mow the yard, and I can watch the leaves change. Mmm...I love me some fall.  

Fall is coming; I felt a hint of cool last week when I was mowing my grass, and it was like a glimpse of heaven. I felt tingly all over, thinking that my super-hot summer days are numbered.

Sure, we'll enjoy the rest of the summer, but in our hearts, the folks of fall are dreaming of the days to come. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Lone Sledder

Separating the room-darkening curtain panels that protect my bedroom from sunlight, I was pleased to see it had snowed during the night. This was no Snowmageddon, as had been predicted, but our lawn was covered in a blanket of white. 

Hmmm...fresh snow, on a school day, meant I could be Queen of the Sledding Hill once more. I needed to act fast. Any amount of sun and warmth would melt what little snow we had. 

Making haste, I tugged on my clothes, located my ski gloves, hat, and coat. In our poorly lit front hall, I dug through our closet to find my winter boots. I tied the laces, and went gallumphing through the house, and out to the garage to grab my trusty orange sled. 

This is a girl with hope in her heart.
This was it; I was really going to go sledding. Yes, it's true, I'm just a big kid at heart. This 59-year-old loves whooshing down a hill on a sled. 

Thanks for the loan of your right boot today, Chuck.

When I arrived at the city park, there was only one car in the parking lot, and not a child in sight. So far, so good. When I swung my feet out of my Highlander, I had to laugh. I had grabbed two different boots; one of mine, and one of Chuck's. No wonder my right foot was sliding around so much.

As I trudged to the edge of the hill, I noticed that the grey skies were becoming more blue above me. And then I saw the sign. CLOSED. What? How in the world could the city close the sledding hill on a snow day?

Ugh. I've been a goody-two-shoes all my life. I don't break laws. Was this a law? Probably not. I began splitting hairs as I was in the throes of my current moral dilemma. It was probably a strong suggestion; okay, maybe it was a rule for children, to keep them safe. Most of the time, I try to follow rules, but I've been known to push the envelope a little bit, when a rule seems silly or unnecessary. 

Ever the good girl, I tried to call the park district to ask for permission. After listening to all of the menu options, and selecting one, I was then presented with another set of menu options. I ended the call. 

Who was it that said, "It's easier to ask forgiveness, than permission"? Today, that would be my motto. 

What's the worst that could happen? A park city employee might say, "Hey, lady, didn't you see the sign?" 

Maybe a policeman would flash his lights, and park behind my car to give me a warning. 

Seriously, I'm pretty sure no one is going to arrest a 59-year-old grandma for sledding down a hill. 

With a grunt, I landed ungracefully on top of my sled, and scooted it forward. I wanted to record my one and only sledding experience for this winter. I'm so glad I did. Nothing makes me feel more like a kid these days than flying down a hill of snow. I just couldn't help but giggle. 

When I got to the bottom, I looked around to see if I'd drawn any attention to myself. Not a soul to observe my bold adventure. Seeing my single track on the hill made me feel pretty proud. I huffed and puffed back up the hill, and counted my blessings that I can still do this kind of thing. I didn't want to tempt fate with a second run, so I packed up my sled, and headed home. 

With my feet propped up on my recliner, and Bristol by my side, I sent my video to my kids and a couple of friends. Dylan asked if I went on any sweet jumps. Gotta love his imagination.


I watched out the window, as a few small snowflakes swirled to the ground. I don't think any coppers will be trying to track down the lone sledder today.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

A Vision for 2020

See that wrinkled nose? When I'm smiling hard, my nose tends to do that. I was outside, in the snow, on a mountain,
with all of my kids and Chuck. I could NOT have been happier in this moment of time.

2020. I love the way it sounds; the repetition of the twenties just rolls off the tongue. I like the way it looks; the alternating twos and zeroes has a tidy appearance. 

Our Utah Kids

2020 is going to be a big year for me. Maybe not a year of big changes, but I will celebrate my sixtieth birthday toward the end of the year. I think it's kind of cool that I was born in 1960, and will turn 60 in 2020. I like all of those even numbers. 

Just a small representation of my side of the family; we are missing so many who live in Virginia.

2020 will be about PRIORITIES. For a few years, I've chosen a word for the year. As of yesterday, I only had vague thoughts about my word, but after hearing from two of my kids who had chosen their word, and their wanting to know what my word was, I decided to consider my choice thoughtfully. 

My handsome and me.

2020 will be filled with our family and friends. Relationships and connection are so important to me. Face-to-face time, and phone calls, and emails, and texts are ways to connect, and I hope I do a good job of telling people I love how important they are to me. I want my husband and our kids to know they are my number one priority because my family is everything to me. 

I've met so many creative people out here in Illinois. This particular group is an amazing group of poets and authors. 

My circle of friends has grown since moving to Illinois. I want to deepen the relationships I have with my new friends, and stay connected with my faraway friends in Utah, Virginia, and various places around the world. 

2020 will be about spiritual growth. This last year I feel like I lost my way for awhile. I want to experience reverence and spirituality. I want to honor God with my life, and with service to others. 

They call me Grandma Poo.

2020 will be full of photographs and memories. I want to pursue my photography and my writing with more enthusiasm. 

In November, I hiked in knee-deep snow in search of a Christmas tree while we were in Utah. I cannot wait to hike again!

2020 will be an active year for me. So much of 2019 was spent nursing my bum knees, and then rehabilitating the new knees after double knee replacement. I want to get back to my yoga practice, and walking outdoors. Hiking in Utah is something I want to do the rest of my life.

In the kitchen with my loves. Again, the wrinkled nose is the tip-off; I'm super happy.

2020 will be full of laughter because it will be full of my favorite people who make me laugh. I was going through some of Chuck's photos recently, and noticed he had not bothered to edit some of the photos of me. They may not be as flattering when I am laughing, but they remind me of happy moments I love to relive. 

Part of our Illinois clan.

2020 will be full of adventurous eating. Our kids are all pretty adventurous when it comes to food. I want to try new  restaurants and new recipes, and get better at making soups and nutritious dishes. I'm a pretty darn good baker, but I need to expand my culinary talents with veggies and meats!

If you were to look at my phone usage for last year, you would assume my sole priority was Facebook. While I comforted myself with thinking Facebook is a good way to make connections with others; the truth of the matter is, I spent hours and hours, going down one rabbit hole, then another, and before I'd know it, my day was nearly done, and I had not accomplished much of anything. 

Grandson CJ with his awesome Dad, Chuck's middle son Chris.

The first thing I did this morning, after checking the weather, was delete my Facebook app from my phone. I will still use my computer to look at Facebook, but I want to be intentional about it, wishing friends happy birthday, checking on friends who are grieving or battling illnesses, and reaching out to faraway relatives. 

My daughter-in-law with her babies, our grandbabies.

It's only 8:35, but I have not spent my two waking hours on social media. What I have done is meditate, take a bath, pick up my groceries and put them away, and I am roasting some vegetables while I WRITE!!! 

My BFF Susan, my Coffee and Cameras Companion.

Today is off to a great start. It feels good to be intentional about my plans.

Do you choose a word for the year? I'd love to know what yours is!

My firstborn Dylan.

My sweet Sierra on her wedding day.

My baby boy Bridger.

Love these boys.

When your therapist becomes a good friend.

I love when extended family become friends. Meet Karen, my daughter-in-law's mom. 

My Mama.

My Natalie and Jackie.

My best friend since junior high, Lynn.

Selfie time with some of our Illinois family.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Who Put Jesus in a Burrito?

Berries, pine cones, and frosted branches!

Christmas trees fascinate me; I am drawn to them, like a moth to flame. I study them, deciding what it is that I love, and figuring out if it's something I could copy at home. We bought a new tree this year, and I am in love. It was "half off," if I can believe that. Seriously, weeks before Thanksgiving, the store marked EVERY Christmas item half off, which probably means they jacked the prices up so they could reduce the prices to something less horrifying. Okay, that was my inner Scrooge emerging; sorry.

This year I decided to drape a gauzy, shimmering garland that must be about two feet wide around the tree. What a beautiful product THAT is. And what a pain in the butt to get it wrapped around the tree. It's like trying to put on nylon stockings with fancy rings on every finger. That fabric catches on every little thing.

After snagging the ribbon all over the top few branches, I got smart. I stuffed the garland in part of a gift wrap tube I'd snipped to shorten it, and then I could bypass all of the snafus which dangling ribbons create. I just fed the tube through the branches, allowing the ribbon to fall out as I threaded the tube through the branches. I know; my brilliance surprises me, too. I expect MENSA will be contacting me after the holidays to see if I'm interested in joining their illustrious group.

Look closely, and you will notice the lace valance is being pulled over by a guide wire. This is
the Christmas tree that fell over several times before we got smart, and used a wire and hooks
to keep the tree upright.

Over the years, I've tried just about every tree there is: real (that  one became a serious fire hazard because I like my tree up for about a month and a half); real, ultra large (fell over about five times before we wired it to the window frames); artificial (that one smacked of fake-ness); and flocked (that one left a crumbly, white mess for me to clean for the next several weeks).

One of our ornaments is my very favorite, a small handmade clay ornament of Jesus in the manger that I purchased at a holiday boutique when Sierra was born.

Many years later, when my youngest was old enough to talk, the children and I were in the living room decorating our large live tree. Bridger tapped me on the back as I was unpacking the Christmas ornaments.

"Mama, look, somebody put Jesus in a burrito!" 

That is exactly what it looked like. No wonder I love that ornament so much; it combines my favorite holiday with my favorite cuisine.  
Every year, he smiles as we retell the story of Jesus in the burrito. One day, I'll give my favorite ornament to him, so he can tell HIS children the story from his childhood Christmas.  

Feliz Navidad!

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Hunting for a Christmas Tree, LITERALLY

Sometimes family traditions are borne out of necessity. Take Christmas tree hunting with a shotgun, for example. (See the picture above. Chuck captured this awesome image last weekend in Pine Valley, Utah. Bridger is carrying on a three decades' long tradition of shooting the Christmas tree with a shotgun. Look at the tree shuddering the snow off its branches, and the red shotgun shell flying out of the gun. PERFECTION!)

Waaay back in 1989, when Dylan was nearly three, and Sierra was a brand-new baby, their dad took our family up in the hills above Annabella, Utah, in search of a Christmas tree. We finally found the tree we wanted, but soon realized we had forgotten anything to chop down the tree. Not an axe, or a hatchet, or a saw. 

No worries.  A quick inventory of the old pickup revealed another option; a shotgun. A shotgun, you say? Well, sure. It works pretty well, if you shoot the gun enough times at the base of the tree. 

Little Dylan hoisted the gun up to his little shoulder with the help of his dad, and they blasted away at the tree. Once the tree was on the ground, Dylan "tagged" the tree with the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) tree permit, just like hunters do with their deer. He was so proud that he "shooted" his first Christmas tree when we were hunting.

That week, he shared his exciting hunting adventure during show and tell at preschool. No one believed him. I picked up a very distraught little boy after work that day. "The kids said I lied, Mom, but it's true, isn't it? I DID go Christmas tree hunting, and I did shoot that tree, didn't I?" 

I smoothed his soft, blonde hair, and wrapped him in a big hug. "Yes, you really did, Dylsy. You shot that tree and tagged it, too. We really did go Christmas tree hunting. Your friends don't understand because we are probably the only family who shoot down trees with a gun. But we know; you DID shoot down that tree with a gun, and you DID tag it. You are a good Christmas tree hunter."

Dylan, the first Christmas tree hunter, with his wife Jamie.

This year, Dylan and his wife Jamie, invited us to go tree hunting with them. I was so excited for Chuck to experience this first-hand. He'd heard the family stories; he wanted to document it for himself. We're so glad he did. That first picture at the top of the page is incredible!

After a beautiful drive to Pine Valley, we tromped through the snow in search of the perfect tree. It all sounds so idyllic, doesn't it? 

Well, like most family outings, this one wasn't without its problems. Braedon didn't have any warm boots to wear, and spent most of the time trying to stay warm in the truck. The pickup got stuck in the snow, and Dylan had to shovel to get his truck out of the rut. Jamie lost her cell phone in a huge snowdrift, and didn't realize right away. Lucky for her, she found it pretty quickly. Sierra ended up injuring her knee when she fell on a big rock hidden under the fluffy snow. I'm happy to report that my knees held up wonderfully hiking through the deep snow, but during the 27 hour car ride back to Illinois, they reminded me every time I tried to relax that they'd had a big workout.

Our time in Utah was full of family time, and my heart is overflowing with the good memories. My daughter married her best friend Braedon. We celebrated Thanksgiving with our Utah kids, and had a little Christmas while we were all together. We ate so much good food every day. 

My big accomplishment today? I overcame my fear of writing in my blog. It has been a long time since I've written here. I've wanted to tell this story for a few years; I'm glad I finally did. 

Happy Holidays, friends. I hope you spend your special days with your special people, enjoying your traditions, and maybe creating some new ones. 

Chuck and Dylan got to go shooting together. Hmmm...maybe they should have clarified what they'd be shooting.