September 14, 2020

Birdman of Small Acres Lane

As I review the "trees" of my childhood, I find myself ruminating about my maternal grandparents who lived in a farm-y home at the end of a short dirt road. These memories light up this tired ol' soul. 

Please take the journey with me. 

Turning south off a busy road, you are immediately met with a tall hill lined with tombstones. To me it was a place of quiet and time with grandpa. The cemetery was a sacred place my grandfather, known and written about as The Birdman of Small Acres Lane, would take me, sit with his back against a gnarly tree tenderly petting his beloved dog, thinking or reading, while I wandered around reading the stones. Next to the cemetery was the Red Cedar River, which he told me to view but admonished me about getting too close.

Following this dusty road toward their home, we pass Sadie's woody and partially hidden home on the left and Lilah's small cottages on the right. Rumor back then was that grandpa and Lilah were good friends and that Sadie was peculiar and exotic.

Continuing down the road you would walk over a small bridge above a creek with the Red Cedar River to the left. To get to the river you had to walk down a steep hill, through beds of nettles, and find the muddy bank where I found hours of delight bamboo pole fishing. Along the bank, away from Sadie's house, there was a small wooden dock, where I would lay holding a worm in the water inevitably attracting a hungry sunfish.

About an acre of thick "magical" woods was on the opposite side of the road. Our family and the neighbors played there for hours. At one point and only for a short while someone strung a long rope from a tree near the edge - long enough to swing on as we played Tarzan and Jane. To the right of the woods was the Hagerman home ... alongside their outbuilding was an unplugged freezer filled with yummy worms where I'd get my fill for fishing in the river.

Onto the road again and 25 feet more was a white house on the left filled with my childhood friends. Evenings would find us sitting in their multi-window back room, which overlooked the river and woods, playing hours of card and board games. Then we'd go to my grandparent's house and play aggravation on the red metal table that overlooked the gardens and chicken coop.

Across the dirt road was my grandparent's rustic brown and yellow home with the yard filled with bird houses built by grandpa. Perched on poles, trees, in the gardens, on the lawn, these houses attracted a multitude of regional birds, along with the press, who named Alfred Fredrickson "The Birdman of Small Acres Lane". 
Grandpa and I sat on chairs in the front yard as he taught me the practice of twiddling our thumbs -- entwine your fingers together leaving the thumbs to fend for themselves as you focus on circling your thumbs back and forward. Quite a calming activity he was found to enjoy as the silence brought out nature sounds. Grandpa was a successful gardener and loved eating warm tomatoes with salt fresh off the vine, roasting sunflower seeds, eating grapes, and tending his chickens in the little coop along the side of the garden. He was also quite a musician playing accordion, violin, harmonica among some of his instruments. We were told he wanted to attend a music school but was denied by his parents because he had to help on their potato farm.
Behind my grandparent's house was a long garden bordered by a huge hill, a place where my siblings and I spent hours. A piece of cardboard served as our sleds. The steep hill was scaled over and over as sliding down was fast and exciting. Occasionally, the sharp grass would slice into a finger but didn't seem to bother anyone. I'm sure my mom tried and tried to scrub the grass stains and smell of grass off our blue jeans in her ringer washer but to no avail.

At the end of the road  - the railroad tracks. When I spent the night I'd sleep with my grandmother under bed sheets that were cool and clean and fresh smelling from the clothes line. Every night grandma would lean over and wind up the round alarm clock which would jangle us awake in the morning. But during the night the haunting sound of trains passing by and rattling the windows soothed me as they raced to destinations I couldn't ever fathom.

I spent weeks with my grandparents, every minute I could, and know they helped form the hopeful and good part of me.


September 5, 2020

In the Arms of Mother Nature

I believe, I believe, I believe in the healing power of Mother Nature and spend as much time with Her as possible. She helps me sort through emotions, feelings, thoughts – even revealing hidden gems to explore on my path in this life.

Into the Woods

County, state and local parks provide a healthy way to explore life and to engage with family and friends. Mother Nature soothes concerns, problems; accentuates action plans, goals; allows for mind-half or mind-full-thinking.  Find rejuvenation on the plethora of paths throughout Michigan. 

Mother Nature makes my complicated and sometimes painful life appear simpler and more stimulating. Communing with the animals, birds, leaves, water, mud, snakes, and even walking through the swarms of freshly hatched bugs, gives me nourishment for the multitude items on my invisible schedule – my life blood is enriched.

I am a verbal processor, or, storyteller – embellisher of life -- it IS who I AM. My feelings, thoughts and memories are verbalized or put on paper allowing me to look at the words, ruminate, categorize, act or dispose of them. Maybe you are like me? Or perhaps you like to keep your words snuggled in your brain with the ability to search through your thoughts and make sense of life and pain and trials in a quieter manner.

Either way of communicating is acceptable.

Why would you want to fool Mother Nature or ignore Her? She understands why you seek Her and will embrace you with peaceful clarity. She accepts me … just the way I am! Give Her a chance.

In the year of 2019, think about parks you can visit, lakes you can toss up a lawn chair to be close to the lapping of the waves, perhaps a picnic? But, pick up your litter when you leave. Mother Nature loves those who care about Her.

Happy New Year...choose the road less traveled!

May 16, 2020

Time and Art During Covid-19

Staying Safe at Home

I appreciate, even adore, a quiet day where naps are there for the taking, books fingered and page marked, design shows on the DVR, a fresh journal begging for my attention. A quiet day is a gift to cherish. But (always a but in there somewhere) with "enforced" quietude - these "free" days seem different, perhaps more of a challenge, but also magical. COVID-19 quarantine and its horrid and lasting effects acknowledged, we are staying safe at home, Zoom and FaceTime visiting, and distancing ourselves on walking trails or engaged in other outdoor activities. I'm seeing more families walking together, dogs are getting good workouts and trot by with their tails curled up in happiness.

Quiet and inaction are not words in my vocabulary. I'm more of a go-go person. Always doing suits me fine and is more to my liking. When we were given the mandate to stay-safe-at-home, my heart literally skipped some beats - what, no coffeeshop writing, bookstore haunting, family gatherings? I wondered how to meet this challenge with grace. 

Reaching Out

I began posting on FB what we were doing and our challenges, and asked my FB friends how things were going and could they share ideas for activities within the state guidelines. Responses poured in - lot going on with these friends - but over time, felt a staleness in my posts, so am on a break. 

Thinking -- how can I/we reach out? I began sending cards, some homemade, to family and friends; dropped a meal or two off at a neighbor's house; supported mask-makers, one of whom was a daughter; and began buying lunch once a month for the ICU staff at a local hospital. My husband and daughter planned their gardens and spent hours preparing, digging in the earth - the smells musty and full - now are planting.

Art Journaling -- why not?

I am not classically artistic, but found my art journaling project not only challenging but strangely liberating. Taking a poem I wrote a couple years ago, I pasted, wrote, painted, cried, smiled, and drank coffee as I worked the art journal around its theme.

This project totally absorbed me, made me think, took my mind off the world pandemic, and allowed me to reflect on what is important inn my life and why do I gravitate toward the urgent. I've discovered a volunteer opportunity which I think will speak to my spirit and talents - all from quieting my busy, busy brain.

Start to Finish, my process

My art journal is not professional, nor do I expect it to be -- I rather like its many flaws as each one is now a part of the final project, a warm memory. The journal is an accomplishment and has kick started me on other "artistic" endeavors. 

What I did was--
  • Pulled an old, unused multi-media notebook from my um, craft closet.
  • Gathered my rubber glue, Elmer's glue, Gesso, colored pens and pencils, and old coffee cards to use in smoothing glued pictures to the page.
  • Cut pictures, quotes and words from old magazines and added them to my collection (of hundreds of previously clipped pictures). 
  • Scoured my poems and chose which poem spoke the loudest to me. 
  • Painted some pages with water color, acrylic streaks, chalk or added a full page graphics to the page and worked pictures and quotes and my poem around the page.
  • Wrote, pasted, created, listened to music, and found my missing MOJO.
Art Journaling is relatively cheap. You can use tea bags, coffee or berries to stain pages, old pens and pencils to draw, and pieces of literally anything to adhere to your artful expression,

Everyone has a story to tell, a poem penned on a slip of paper – do you have one you might want to work into an Art Journal? 

May 6, 2020

The Monster of the Hawaiian Islands

I grew into a love of writing and had my mother, Fritz, as my unofficial, and at times unsolicited, editor. But boy, did she love to edit and I allowed this pleasure as it felt right. 

Memories surrounding my first story are both painful and warm, and for me an unfortunate change in my dreams of being an author. 

My 10-year-old self, wrote The Monster of the Hawaiian Islands while on a family visit with my grandmother in Marquette while sitting on the cool, soft feather bed in the front bedroom along the long porch which surrounded two sides of her house. I had a new sharp pencil and lined paper … which smelled heavenly.

My story was centered around a monster on the islands and a ship named "The Olivia" - my grandmother's middle name. Clever and fun to write I gave my "final" draft to my grandmother to read … she was ecstatic, "ye gads" this needs to be published! 

As my grandmother was a person of action, walked my story down to the local paper, The Mining Journal, on Washington and Third. I remember a feeling of dread and even fear that she would have my story put in the paper. 

That's it! The end of my memory -- I never saw the story again. 

My *father did not encourage my writing and seemed to think it a lazy person's activity. In my later years I wondered if it were he who might have tossed my story. As a young person with this passion, which was not exactly allowed, I think my soul for writing was crushed ... it took a number of years before I wrote again. 

Until I was in a college creative writing class. This "secret class" I kept from my father, yet mom knew and approved. My teachers, my adored teachers, wrote wonderful things at the end of my writing - in red! I've kept the little bits of stories for my memoirs. "Ye gads!"

Writing has been a positive outlet for my feelings, projects and thoughts. My mother, may she rest in peace, encouraged me, would carefully read the sentences, advise, and hoot with laughter, as only a mom is allowed to do, at my word choices. Her absolute favorite thing was finding gems of misspelled words, a tasty morsel for her (which occasionally I'd place to please her). 

Fritz was raised in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where schools awarded students for good penmanship … my mom received many awards. She also took Latin, and became an exceptional crossword puzzler and Scrabble player. I valued her and the significance of her abiding encouragement and attention to detail in making me a better writer.

Happy Mother's Day, moms. You make such a difference.

*Dad, may he rest in peace, died young from heart disease and left seven children and a wife. Going through his memorabilia, it was discovered that he developed "Shell Shock" (PTSD) following the war. He was a soldier in many battles, including Normandy's Battle of the Bulge. 

His sister shared that before the war, dad was a peaceful, sweet man. In my heart-of-hearts, I have a greater understanding and have respect for my father and the horrid situations he encountered in the war. I thank him deeply for his service to our country, keeping us safe and free. He was a great man!

April 4, 2020

Pandemic, Porches and Hope

The lazy days of warmer weather brought almost every neighbor outside; the adults would settle down on their stoop, or porch, as we called it. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a neighborhood of porch-sitters. The Dyer, Simmet, Ungren, Manino, King, and Sumner families along with my parents, would holler across the street - Hi there, how are the kids? - Do you have a cup of sugar I can borrow? - Did you read The Onlooker this morning? Tommy can’t come out to play, he has a tummy ache.

Us kids would congregate on the porch and plan our evening fun of outdoor games such as One O’clock, No Ghost, Hide 'n Seek, Red Rover. A countdown would begin as we surrounded the porch: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – as we frantically took off to hide in any of the neighbor's yards. This was allowed back then. Parents would sit and visit on the porch while the kids played. Hours passed when the dreaded street lights came on--shortly followed by porch lights flicking on and off--calling us to our homes and signaling the end of our outdoor fun.

A disaster, death, illness, wedding, baptism - any and all events - would bring the adults to their porches hollering congratulations or to call out sympathies – publicly and without embarrassment. Mornings would find the adults sitting on the porch with a cup of coffee and toast, in our family it was Hardtack or Trenary Toast with peanut butter, and the local newspaper. Simple elegance and a familiar connection to each other. Neighbors caring for neighbors … united.
As an adult, I can’t help but reminisce as I wander around looking at our town’s porches. Over these years, sadly, have noticed a difference in neighborhoods with parents too busy to sit outside, few if any kids playing in the yards, and goodness gracious if you called out a greeting to a new homeowner – expect the look. It felt as if we had we lost our sense of unity and caring for each other.
Then, THE PANDEMIC COVID-19 hit – the Coronavirus struck the world. 
We were told to “shelter in place” – stay home, you can walk but keep 6 feet from others, wash any groceries; toilet paper became a commodity along with hand sanitizer. Now we are admonished to wear masks when outside. An extreme sense of dread has visited the planet – we’re all scared, cautious, and, in many cases, pulling together. 
As we sit on our porches or stoops, walkers’ wave, smile; neighbors are calling out to each other – Hi, there, is everything okay? Do you need anything? How are the kids doing? Where’d you get that mask – it’s cute. I hear families playing in the alleyway and in backyards. Community members are spending time in their yards, on their porches, kicking a ball around. People are sending cards and calling neighbors and families to check on them, doing puzzles and playing board games. The warmer days are bringing families walking past our house – waving toward our window if we are inside. Stories of people parked in their cars clapping in thanks as our health care workers enter and leave the workplace. Individuals and groups are gathering around tables making masks for doctors, nurses, firemen, policemen, and now for each other. People are calling restaurants to deliver meals to our essential medical and emergency personnel.
Planet Earth’s residents are uniting through this horrible, terrible, rotten pandemic. I guess we do need each other. Neighbors caring for neighbors … united.

March 17, 2020

Playing with words - A Unicycle and a Nightclub Escapade

The Callers
Emil was good at balancing on tracks, rocks, the boats - solid and strong - he was known to be a fairly good acrobat in his time. His extended family, excluding his wife, would laugh as he climbed down the stairs or walked the rail of his brown, wooden porch on only two hands. But over time he had to leave these antics at the door as he had a family to care for during the depression's economy.

A phone call he received in the early morning revived a sense of adventure into his work-a-day-week, yet also rattled him. Sitting down after slowly putting the phone back in its cradle a smile finally came to the surface. He was very familiar with the mysterious callers, spent hours in their company, and had no hesitation in knowing what he’d do.

Taking his hat off the hook by the door, Emil told his wife perhaps the first fib of his very long marriage. He told Olivia he was going to walk to The Lake in order to think, which he never really did as his wife was fully capable of thinking for him.

The north wind blew strongly as he forced his body to lean into the November gale working his way down Baraga to the Queen City Bicycle Shop. The flimsy door flew open as the wind whipped up from The Lake. This didn’t faze Kevin, the shop owner, as they were used to the winds fighting against their door.

Emil explained that he was looking for a unicycle and wanted to have a lesson in riding the one-wheeled contraption. Kevin stifled a laugh, after all, even though Emil was 70 something, he was a paying customer, so promised to teach him the basics in the alley behind the shop.

Surprisingly, the lesson was successful as Emil was a quick learner; he bought the unicycle and headed home up Baraga where he would hide the new bike from his ever-present wife, as he knew the consequences of her tongue.

Evening came and so did another lie ... he told Olivia he felt like going to the pub to have a beer with his friends. So again donned his cap while she sputtered on. Sneaking down to the lower porch he picked up the hidden unicycle then continued fighting north through the wild wind.

Instead of a left turn on 3rd toward the pub he turned right down the hill where the nightclub's brazen lights enticed him. He was more than aware that Olivia felt the devil lived in the club and she would never allow her husband to grace its doors. But surprisingly, this only increased the thrill he had on this secret mission, oddly reminiscent of boarding a Norwegian ship in similar weather on that dangerous November night in 1914.

Emil on the stolen tricycle
Feeling like a young man again, Emil was getting excited about the prospect of being a celebrity and began visualizing the headlines in The Mining Journal. He also imagined the tongue-lashing his wife would give him on its publication. These thoughts ran through his mind as he neared the nightclub when a blast of wind grabbed the unicycle, which he was holding gently, and sent it flying down the hill toward Lake Superior. It was too far for him to run and retrieve it as he had to be at the nightclub in five short minutes.

“Dang it” he blurted and started thinking of a solution on what to do. Holding his head in turmoil, he happened to spot Peepee Pants Peter’s tricycle sitting on the wind-protected porch on 3rd. Letting the pent up tension from his cheeks, he snuck up to the porch, reached over the creaky rail, grabbed the small tricycle and let his long legs carry him quickly to the club.

I hoped you enjoyed the beginning of this partially true uncompleted story.
I invite you to fill in the ending. "It will be fun" they said!

February 17, 2020

I had a friend

My friend and I go back to the early 70s, but I knew of her for much longer through chance meetings with both her and her husband. An articulate woman, she elevated me with her attention and interest in me, my family and writing goals. She always had a smile and a kind word, a hug, an encouraging nod.

She was older by a generation, married with children, an author and an active writer. The couple frequently drove to my office - "just stopped by to chat", they would say. 

My friend
and I attended writing workshops together, and once, she invited me to a party held at the home of a local writing legend - a tall Victorian house expansively decorated for Christmas, even the scents announced the holiday. Bookshelves lined the dark wood walls and were filled with leather-bound tomes. The atmosphere was scholarly and quiet with occasional bursts of laughter, the striking of a match to light pipes - no cigarettes there - and men with corduroy jackets with, yes, leather patches on the elbows. People milled around visiting, not sitting and relaxing in the leather chairs which filled the rooms of the home. She openly and happily introduced me to her friends: published authors, photographers, the hostess - a well-known teacher. My friend shared with these "celebrities" my writing goals ... while I stood feeling inadequate yet pleased with her praise, confidence, and love.

I once confided to her that I wanted to write a book about my experience and musings. She encouraged me to set up my own publishing company, which I did, and even had a graphic artist create a logo - free. The book completed and self-published led to a desire to write another one - a story from the diary of my grandmother living in the woods in Marquette in 1938 during an intense series of winter storms. Eager to share this second book with my friend, and, as it had been over a year since we had contact, I discovered that she had been placed in an Alzheimer's unit in a local nursing facility.

Seeing my friend in the realm of dementia

I was let into her unit by her nurse who led me to my friend's room where she cheerfully announced my presence. She was sitting in a chair looking out the window and slowly turned around and stood up. Her face was blank as she seemed to be reaching into her memories for who I was - then it seemed to click and she lit up. "Connie, it is so good of you to visit," she excitedly exclaimed as we hugged. I experienced denial, big time, but had to finally realize that my good and dear friend had dementia. She talked, disjointedly, with an occasional recognition of who I was. I held out my second book for her and she stood and held me telling me how proud she was of me. Then spent time in desperate disappointment that she had not written a book about her dear mother – something she had talked about for years, collected notes to use, but ran out of time. She retreated into the jumbled recollections of her disease. 

I felt shock and the betrayal of dementia - the memory robber. Our old familiar and warm relationship ended that day, or perhaps changed as I continued visiting and holding her hand, talking to her of old times and friends. I'll always hold my dear friend closely in my heart and cherish memories of our times together. I hold onto her words about how proud she was of me, and I of her. I continue to feel awe in that she enveloped me as an important part of her life – a big sister. I miss her. You would have liked her.

December 16, 2019

The Fright before Christmas - 20 years later

Traditionally, as many families do, we gathered on Christmas Eve in our parent's home to celebrate. This particular year, talk of Y2K* was ever present in the media, in stores, and wherever you happened to be, warnings were issued and people stockpiled items to "survive". We were ready to celebrate Christmas Eve at mom and dad's when the bottom fell out from below my family. I wrote this poem during that sleepless night and had as many as I could track down write what their first thoughts were. Their stories are written, following the poem, exactly as penned that Christmas of 1999.

The Fright Before Christmas – 1999 (The year of Y2K)

On a freezing Christmas Eve in the year ‘99
Thirty-four Olsen’s were gathered and all lookin’ fine.

The food was prepared at Mom Olsen’s with care,
The table was filled for this festive affair.

We crowded the back room for a right solemn prayer
As the aroma of food lightened the air.

When what to our wondering ears did we hear?
But the cracking of floorboards so loud and so clear!

The scrambling, the screaming, the rushing to exit
Gave peace a good-bye as the floor fell just a bit.

My God! What is happening? Is this how we end?
Our separate thoughts shaking, the floor continued to descend.

Out Marcus, out Zhenya, find Elyse, where’s the baby?
Grab Alaina, Rebecka, Sam, Claire, Ksusha and Addie.

All out of the room we scrambled with a clatter
As none of us knew just what was the matter.

Mom’s heart it did flutter and flip with fast beats
As an assembly line rescued the lit candles, and good eats.

Dust settled, screams ceased, and the men they did check
The back room for problems. Was the house still erect?

The floor did give way – two feet in some places!
And left a good hole … and some awe-stricken faces.

No one hurt, no one lost, just nerves jangled and blind.
On this strangest of nights, the year of Y2K on our mind.

Even though this dreadful event gave such a fright
We still wish all a Merry Christmas, and to all a safe night.

Notes written in a journal after the fall

“We were just about to eat supper. Lester said a prayer and we started to sit down around the table when we heard a loud bang – floor began to sink and furniture sliding. Connie called insurance company, expecting them in for estimate.” Mom Olsen

“I can’t explain exactly what I thought. I know I thought it might be the end of the world. When I got a chance to think, I had to figure out where my son Marcus was. Someone told me Alainamae had him and then I was okay. I think Terreal grabbed my hand and we ran into the kitchen and to the hallway. I still didn’t know what was actually happening. It was crazy – that’s how I would explain it!" Monica Miller

“Well, I had a splitting headache and all of the sudden the table & china cabinet is moving. I thought for a minute that a car ran into the back of the house and that the entire room was going to colaps. Then I couldn’t find Sammy so I was into the kitchen. Everyone was shooken up for a few, but then it was calm again.” Kim Franco

“I was in a different room and heard what sounded like gun shots.” Judy Ly

“I was sitting next to my brother Corey talking. All of the sudden I felt a rumble. I thought it was a large object falling or like Uncle Jim fell. Then I realized it was the floor. I didn’t run into the kitchen. I just stood there.” Tony Franco

“We just got done saying prayer and was about to eat when all of a sudden we heard a cracking sound. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I looked down at the floor and realized we were sinking. Everybody started screaming and running into the kitchen. After we realized that the floor didn’t go far, we all ate and ended up having a good time.” Kacee Franco

“I did not know what to think. My mind was going in so many directions. At first I thought it was an earthquake, then I thought Y2K came a little early.” Corey Franco

“At first I thought it was an earthquake, but there could not be an earthquake in Michigan, because nothing was shaking. Then I did not know what it was. So I just ran.” Addie Geissel

“At first I thought that was a earthquake was in Michigan bot then vremgmbr the earthquake was not earthquake the hause prokt down it was the flore. it skerod me I run to the kichene.” Zhenya Geissel, written as Zhenya wrote the comment

“Floor Collapses due to multiple Grand Kids at Grandmas. Due to the love and affection at the Olsen family Christmas Eve Party we all pulled through a disaster of sinking proportion. Everyone survived a drop in holiday spirits at Christmas by pulling together and heading to the living room.” Mark Miller

“My fist thought that it was an earthquake. But there was no earthquake this is Michigan. And plus there is no earthquakes in Michigan. I was realy scared because I was sitting by the part where it was a big hole. It was scary.” 12/31/99 10:37 pm   Ксюша (Ksusha) Geissel, written as Ksusha wrote the comment

*“The Year 2000 problem, also known as the Y2K problem, the Millennium bug, the Y2K bug, or Y2K, is a class of computer bugs related to the formatting and storage of calendar data for dates beginning in the year 2000. Problems were anticipated, and arose, because twentieth-century software often represented the four-digit year with only the final two digits—making the year 2000 indistinguishable from 1900. The assumption of a twentieth-century date in such programs caused various errors, such as the incorrect display of dates and the inaccurate ordering of automated dated records or real-time events.” (from online Wikipedia)

November 16, 2019

Think I'll Go Eat Worms

I am a great cook, in my dreams, but not what you’d refer to as a good cook in reality. I take license to create a variety of interesting recipes: crock pot liver stew, Tiger’s Milk smoothie with lecithin, brewer’s yeast, powdered milk, and ice cubes. I was especially creative with my specialty food – which I would feed my nephews and nieces when we’d camp. Bran cereal with orange juice poured over the top was a “favorite” for them. Cowboy coffee, for me, thick with grounds, a random leaf or twig in the mix … amazing flavor, a wake-me-up concoction.

One camping trip ended differently than others as it had been raining all night. Can you imagine, rain, three kids and me in a small pup tent? One of the boys woke up having to go, unzipped the tent, and used the side of it to relieve himself. Granted, he was not completely awake, but still… Fastest time ever in packing our wet bags and tent, climbing in my Volkswagen “Thing” and going to a restaurant for a dry and warm meal. I often wondered if the kids were in agreement that bran cereal for breakfast was deplorable and they set up the peeing on the side of the tent as a distraction.

Marriage and children required a variety of meals that would appeal to them and become a staple in a memory-stacked life. One evening, I prepared a delicious, aromatic squash soup for supper but I could not locate my brood. Calling and wandering the house I finally discovered all the kids huddled together on the bedroom floor eating a Taco Bell meal as my homemade soup sounded “too weird” to eat. 

The soup is often a topic of conversation among my children as they warmly remember the memories of their attempts to be polite while occasionally not eating what was prepared. Come on, squash soup is warm, tasty, and filling. I'm all about creating memories and believe that when my children reflect on this particular meal, they have to accept that the soup was actually not that bad.

I was an exemplary cook - if my family could forget the time I made couscous. It offered a lovely presentation and a sweet-ish taste. Not too bad, even from the kid’s reporting. Packing away the leftovers after supper I noticed that the grain was filled with worm bodies, lots of them, throughout the pot. Of course, I shared my discovery with them to moans of disgust and threats that they would never trust me again.  

I tried to defend myself reporting that worms supply so much by keeping the food chain nutrient-rich, are tasty to the early bird, aerate the soil making it rich for crops, among other things. I shared with them that I ate oatmeal cookies made from “clean” worms full of healthy protein – tasted oat-mealy, were soft and sweet … but they didn’t want to hear this, remaining in the kitchen rinsing their mouths out. It was NOT human food.

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
Guess I'll go eat worms,
Long, thin, slimy ones; Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.
Down goes the first one, down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.
Up comes the first one, up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.
(author unknown)

So, I ask that you remember me (and my family) during the upcoming holidays as I have a couple recipes in mind to try.

What will you be serving?

Bon appétit! 

October 23, 2019

Wiggle, Scratch, Float

My Father's Evening Ritual

My toes were being wiggled back and forth while I rested with my eyes closed in our new bedroom in the house-by-the-cemetery. I lay there wondering why my husband would wiggle my toes.

In the early 1970s, my father was one of the first persons to have an extremely invasive heart surgery, spending weeks in the hospital struggling with healing, electrolyte imbalances, hallucinations, weight loss, until finally, he was "well" enough to return home. A couple things about him that struck our family was how big his eyes were in his sunken facial bones and how odd he acted at times.

Dad's new nightly ritual was to wander around the house after bedtime, wiggling toes of his seven children, beginning the never understood tradition of The Wiggling of Our Toes. Later years my siblings recalled this irritatingly sentimental and strange act my father began after his heart surgery.

Hey sweetie, I said to my husband when he returned to the bedroom. What caused you to wiggle my toes, sharing with him about my father doing this very peculiar thing. My husband denied coming into the bedroom to wiggle my toes or even knowing my father use to do this.

There began our adventure in our new country home-by-the-cemetery. This coincidental incident was only one of the curious things occurring while we lived in that house.

A skeleton clawing at the siding

The first night in our house-by-the-cemetery my husband had to leave for the evening to a planned event. A sound emanated from our bedroom outside wall ... a scratching and rubbing noise. I KNEW it was a skeleton trying to get in the house. After a long, scary night where most of it was spent holding a flashlight toward the wall, my husband returned home. I gave him an earful of what scary things happened during the night. You have to take care of this I pleaded. So, together we wandered around to the cemetery side of the house to find a leafless tree with branches touching the siding under our bedroom window. No, not a skeleton, but rest assured I had my husband tear that tree down before the dark of night.

The Indian

An Indian keeps walking down to my bedroom at night said our three-year-old daughter shortly after we moved into our house-by-the-cemetery. We questioned her - maybe it was a dream? But she was insistent what she saw, even how he was dressed - like an Indian.

Spirits in our room

One morning my husband shared that he was laying in bed when a woman - in Victorian clothes - stood over us and came right at him, melding into him as she disappeared. He NEVER woke me up after this happened, only shared it casually the next day, saying it did not scare him. It did not scare him!

Our grown daughter was recently talking about the strange occurrences in this house-by-the-cemetery and recalled a night she couldn't sleep. She came into our bedroom for comfort and to climb into bed with us. Apparently, I was in the frontroom sleeping in a lounge chair as I'd had back surgery and felt it was more comfortable. She didn't know I wasn't in bed but saw me standing at the bedside looking down at her and my husband. She reached out to touch me but her hand went through my "body". She woke her daddy who found me sleeping in the recliner.

Skeptically open-minded

Who knows what happens "on the other side" - we are skeptical and never felt unease in this house-by-the-cemetery. It was a peaceful place which made us feel welcomed and perhaps "accepted" by these spirits. Who knows?