Strawberry Fields Forever

When I was in high school, I had a steady boyfriend.  We called it “going steady” back then.

We went to the same school, and we used to pass notes back and forth to one another in between classes.

We signed them, “Love and Strawberry Fields Forever.”

I sure hope my kids and DSH don’t read this post.

Strawberry Fields Forever was a song written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and released in 1967 by The Beatles.

I don’t remember the significance of why we picked this song title to use in our missives to one another, but there it is.  I didn’t even like to eat strawberries until I was an adult.  And now I really only like them if they are fresh.

I’ve been in Minnesota for a few weeks now, and I was invited by one of my sister’s neighbors to go strawberry picking.  It was a nice break from helping take care of my brother-in-law who is in hospice care.

Lorence's Berry Farm Northfield MN strawberry patch

We went to a lovely farm in  Northfield, Minnesota, Lorence’s Berry Farm.

I never took my kids to pick berries when they were young.  I took them apple picking, but never berry picking so this was my first time picking strawberries.  It was a beautiful day.  We went early so the fields were full of older strawberry pickers.  By the time we left, the families with children were starting to arrive.

Strawberry Picking MN

To pick strawberries, you have to get down on your hands and knees and crawl along the row while carefully pushing aside the foliage to find the ripe fruit.  It’s a laborious process. I will never complain about the price of strawberries again.  It’s just not a fruit that can be picked by a machine.

My butt cheeks hurt the next day.  It took me a few minutes to figure out why.

Strawberry close up on the vine MN

It didn’t take long to learn that the best fruit could be found far inside the bushes and usually near to the ground.

Shari and Mama at Lorence's MN strawberry picking

I ended up picking 12 pounds of berries!  No wonder my butt cheeks hurt the next day.

We made strawberry shortcake, and ate lots of freshly sliced strawberries.  My brother-in-law ate entire bowls of them, and he’s not been eating much lately.

We froze strawberries in one pound packages.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Trio

We made chocolate covered strawberries.  Yummy!

Homemade strawberry ice cream

And two quarts of homemade strawberry ice cream.  I normally do not like strawberry ice cream, but eating freshly made strawberry ice cream is incredible – so fresh and pure tasting.

If I were at home, I would have made some strawberry jam.  There’s always next year.  I loved picking fresh strawberries and plan on doing it again.

Let me take you down
‘Cause I’m going to Strawberry Fields
Nothing is real
And nothing to get hung about
Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever
Strawberry Fields forever

Love and Strawberry Fields Forever,

Mama

Posted in Food & Home | 6 Comments

Our Baby, The Adventurer

We have five girls.  The oldest three are fully grown and living on their own.  The youngest two, our twins, are in college which means that they are home during the summer and on breaks leaving us with a nearly empty nest – empty most, but not all, of the time.

When our girls went away to college, they rarely came home except at breaks when the dorms and schools were closed.

We don’t believe this is because they didn’t like being at home.  It was just that they were really ready to leave home and have the full college experience.

And, so far, once they graduated, they were also ready to live on their own.  So far, no one has returned home to live with us as adults.

And, we don’t really miss them being around full-time.  Not because we don’t love them or like spending time with them.  Because we really do.

It’s just that growing up and moving out is part of the cycle of life.  The goal, after all, is to raise your children to become independent, self-supporting adults.  Having teenagers and college students prepared us for this stage of their lives.  If you’ve lived with teenagers and college students, you know what I mean.

Our youngest (by two whole minutes) child, is our most adventurous child.

She started out life with an eye problem which caused her vision to be impaired.  This resulted in her having delays in motor skills.  She is now the only member of our family who does not have to wear glasses although she has zero, nada, zilch depth perception.

Jacci District 10 23 2010

This did not stop her from being our first and only child to choose sports (Cross Country and Track) as an extracurricular in high school and competing at the State level.

Skydiving jumpsuit

She’s been skydiving.

CR 2011 Zip Lining upside downWe went zip lining through the rain forest in Costa Rica.  She chose to zip upside down.

CR 2011 Cuban cigarsShe’s smoked Cuban cigars.

CR Day 7 4wheelinCRPS (6)

And gone four-wheeling in the jungle.

This past semester, Our Baby, The Adventurer, decided to study abroad in Argentina, 5,000 miles away.  Argentina is a beautiful country, but we wondered why she didn’t choose a country that was, maybe, a little closer, and, maybe, a little safer?

We bit our tongues.  We find that we do that a lot with this child.

She took care of making all of the arrangements.  Making the arrangements almost convinced her that studying abroad wasn’t worth it.  Oh, those pesky details that take away the fun of going on an adventure.  We felt it was necessary for her to experience this part of the trip, too.  The not-so-sexy planning and arranging and budgeting part.

She left for four months, and we worried about her making the connections in major airports along the way.  We worried about her getting through customs and finding her bags and getting the cab to take her to her new home in Buenos Aires.  We worried about her getting around safely and what was she going to eat and all of the myriad of things that parents worry and fret about.

Jacci in Argentina8

But, she made it safely.  This was the view from her bedroom window.  She chose to live with a family rather than stay in a dorm.

Jacci in Argentina9

She walked all over Buenos Aires and made it to see the Atlantic Ocean early on.  Across the way is Uruguay which she visited with my son-in-law when he went to see her.

Within the first week or so, she was robbed while walking home late one night (really, it was very early in the morning).  She wasn’t hurt, but was devastated over the loss of her iTouch which is what she used as her GPS and camera.  Apple products are very expensive there and in high demand.

We bought her another iTouch and sent it to her via FedEx.  This resulted in another adventure as her package was seized by Customs.  She had to figure out how to get to the airport and to the proper series of offices to make the “extra” payments to obtain her personal property.

She received an email from The State Department advising her to avoid the political demonstrations after Chavez died.  She promptly and accidentally walked right into the middle of one, was pushed to the ground, and chipped a tooth, but she saved her new iTouch from being damaged!

As if that was not enough, she went back the following day with friends to take pictures.  We just shook our heads in disbelief as she shared these stories.

What else could we do?

Needless to say, her first few weeks were adventurous.  But not necessarily in all the good ways.

We talked to her every day, but as time went by and she made friends and became more skilled with the language, we heard from her less and less.  We had to text her to make sure she was still alive and well.  And she was.

She had many other, more exciting, adventures in Argentina.

Jacci in Argentina13

She rode on a motorcycle for the first time ever.  We didn’t even ask who the guy was.  Sometimes you just do not want to know certain things.

Jacci in Argentina3

She petted a lion at the zoo.   Let me just say that when I saw her make this her profile picture on Facebook, I just about died.  When I shared it with DSH, he just about had a heart attack, and he immediately texted her about being safe.

Really, though, what could we do about it?

Jacci in Argentina6

She also petted a tiger.  I think this one is even scarier than the one with the lion.  She also got up and personal with an elephant, rode on a camel, and played with baby lion and tiger cubs.  Can’t do those types of things at zoos in the U.S.  And I think there’s a reason for that.

Jacci in Argentina10

She went on a trip to Patagonia with friends.  I love this picture of her looking over the Andes Mountains.

Jacci in Argentina11

Here she is with her friends looking over the Andes Mountains near the Chilean border.

Jacci in Argentina12

They did 65 kilometers of ice trekking, kayaking, and hiking in the Andes Mountains.

Jacci in Argentina14

She refers to the friends she made on this trip as “mi familia.”

She also told us that this trip was a “life changing” experience.  And we can tell that it was.

Jacci in Mendoza Argentina

She also was able to go to Mendoza, the wine country of Argentina.  We are a recipient of a bottle of Malbec from the estate where she stayed.

She did and learned lots of other things, too.  She visited monuments and museums.  She went to festivals and learned the tango.  She was in Argentina when Pope Francis was elected Pope and was able to see the celebrations of that first hand since he was from Buenos Aires.  She learned about Eva Perón and some of the politics of South America.  She was able to visit the Reuters News office, there, and do some job shadowing.

She even figured out how to apply for and interview for an internship, long distance, and secured a job for next semester at school.

She has always been our pickiest eater, but she broadened her palate in Argentina.  Argentina is known for its meat, and she is a meat lover.  She sent me pictures and links to the foods that she ate and loved.  She brought home some containers of the local dulce de leche and some of her favorite cookies.

We think she gained a greater appreciation for her family and her life in this country and did some growing up, too.

But, for me, I love that she had this adventure and that she has this adventurous spirit.  Even though, as a parent, it can mean there’s some stomach churning moments.  When I started a family I put a lot of my wishes and dreams on hold so I’ve lived my life vicariously through her these past few months.  Her sisters are now saying she’s my new favorite child.  Her twin sister says that she had to travel 5,000 miles away to make that happen.

It is our wish for our children that they are able to have and realize their dreams.  We think this one is well on her way to doing that.

Posted in Faith & Family | 6 Comments

Quirky Old Home Project #1

When we bought our new “older” home, we knew that there would be some quirky issues.

Houston Home (1)

While it was nicely renovated, the laundry list of items highlighted by the home inspector was long.  If this was our first rodeo, we would have been overwhelmed.

Working with the inspector, the real estate agent, and some licensed professionals, we decided which items were life safety issues and important for us to negotiate and resolve as quickly as possible.  I will just say this now – a good real estate agent is worth every penny of commission that they receive.

Houston Street Bathroom

This is the main floor bathroom in our new “old” home.  Yes, it is also the laundry room.

Houston Electrical Project #1

What we did not know was what was hiding behind this picture hanging over the bathtub.

Houston Electrical Project #2

Yes, after removing the picture, you can see that this is also the room that contains the electrical panel for the house.

Both the inspector and the electrician that we used are seasoned veterans with expertise in working on older homes.  Both of them stated that this was a first for them.

Houston Electrical Project #4

The inspector is also a teacher, and he took pictures of DSH standing in the tub and pretending to work on the electrical panel as an example of what not to do for his students.

Can you guess what project #1 was?  Yes, it was moving the electrical panel to a newer, safer location.

Houston Electrical Project #5

First, DSH had to remove the wood strips and some drywall.

Houston Electrical Project #6

Then the box was moved by a licensed electrician to a new, safer location – outside – not ideal, but certainly better than over the bathtub.

We are left with an ugly gray panel in the bathroom that we are being challenged with how to conceal, but the work was permitted and inspected and completed and approved by both the electric company and by the local building code inspector.  We are now safe and legal.

We hope we are safe.  We have found other electrical work that needs attention.

We have a mysterious orange extension cord that is snaked through the wall and out of an electrical outlet where it is plugged in.  Yes, this is also in our multi-functional bathroom behind the washer and dryer units.  Neither DSH or the electrician can figure out where the other end of that extension cord is plugged in, and we’re afraid to unplug it until we find out.

There are some outlets and switches that need to be changed to the proper fixtures to match aluminum and copper wiring.

We have some outlets that need to be switched to GFI outlets.

We need an exhaust fan in the main bathroom.

We have a wish list of electrical items, too.  It drives DSH crazy to see some outlets turned one way and others turned the opposite way especially ones that are on the same wall and obvious.  So, while he is making sure that all the switches and outlets are correct, he is also turning them all the same direction.  Quirky house.  Quirky husband.

DSH is busy changing how the switches work, too.  He has very specific ideas about what switches should work and what they shouldn’t work.  He has worked on every ceiling fan in the house – some were on incorrect dimmer switches, all were dirty and needed a good cleaning, and several needed to be re-balanced so that they didn’t sway and rattle when in use.  Let me just say this now – this is not the first house where he has worked on every ceiling fan.

Houston House backyard #5

To  use this adorable fountain in the garden, you have to go inside, go down into the cellar, and plug the extension cord, that is connected to the fountain’s cord and that snakes under the mulched bed and into the cellar window, into the ceiling outlet.

Adding an exterior outlet, or two, in the rear of the home is on my list because I am not going to use the fountain if I have to go up and down a steep set of stairs to turn it on.

One item that we didn’t notice and the inspector didn’t catch is that there is no exterior lighting in the rear of the house.  When you come home after dark you cannot see where you are going.  It’s hard to unlock the door in the dark.

Adding some lighting is now on the list.

Yes, older homes are quirky.  Let me just say this now – I actually think the story of the electrical panel in the bathroom will now be a fun one to share about this home.  Now that it has been moved.

Posted in Food & Home | 3 Comments

Our New (Much Smaller) Backyard

We moved from a home with a ½ acre yard to a new home with a much smaller yard.

04 09 2011

This was our old backyard.  Hours and hours were spent on it each week.  The steep hill in the back was a killer to mow.  Especially since DSH insisted on this cross-cut pattern each cutting.  He kept the lawn weed-free and well-fed.  This meant it needed to be cut three times a week when the weather was not too hot.

I, for one, thought we had better things on which to spend our time.

Houston House backyard #1

This is our new backyard.  Cute.  But small and manageable.  We had a contest the other night to see if I could clean up after dinner and wash dishes more quickly than DSH could cut the lawn.

It was nearly a tie.

Houston House backyard #12The previous owners had the backyard nicely landscaped.  There are cute window boxes with petunias.

Houston House backyard #5And an angel fountain with a butterfly bush.

Houston House backyard #11There is a trellis and some nice perennials and other plantings.

But, I wanted to add my own touches.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get a garden in this year and, quite honestly, the area is so overrun with squirrels and rabbits I don’t know that I would have harvested anything.  They ate my geraniums already and have eaten a lot of the plants in the beds, too.

I did bring along some of my herbs which I wintered over in pots.  I added some that I had to leave behind in the raised beds at the old house.

Houston House backyard #3

Rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley.

Houston House backyard #4

Mint and thyme.

Houston House backyard #6

I’m not crazy about the yews, but we don’t have time to take them out this year.  So I added a sage plant in a corner where it can eventually grow larger.  My friend, Lynn, gave us the glass hummingbird feeder.

Houston House backyard English Lavender #8

I added an English lavender plant in another spot where it can grow into a large bush someday, too.

Houston House backyard Columbine #7

This is some columbine that my mother-in-law gave me from her garden.  This cutting is from a vintage plant that originally came from her mother’s garden.  So, this is a sentimental planting whose origins are much older than I am.  How cool is that?

Houston House backyard #9

We have this nice sitting area off the soon-to-be game room which is off the garage.  This space was begging for something like these large asparagus ferns.

I added some other flowers and even a few jalapeño plants.

Houston House backyard #10

I found two root-bound Stella D’Oro Daylily plants on clearance at the local home improvement store, broke them apart, and planted them in this bed back by the garden shed and alley.

Houston Home (2)

We get some nice sun in the morning and the afternoon sun is blocked by the neighbor’s trees.

I think the back of the house is as cute as the front of the house.

Posted in Musings | 6 Comments

Hello New Home

Just about 2 months after selling our last house, we purchased a new home.

Houston Home (1)Well, it’s not exactly new.  It’s a new OLD home.  We bought a home, built in 1940, in a historic district.

When we first got married, we moved to a subdivision in the suburbs.  Which was fine with me because I grew up in a subdivision in the suburbs.  DSH, on the other hand, grew up in a rural area off a gravel road.  My mother-in-law still lives in the home on 4o acres that she and her husband built in 1963 which is next to the little house that they lived in before that.  Like many communities that used to be on the fringes of the metropolitan area, it is now built up with many subdivisions along the formerly country road.

Raising our five girls in a subdivision was good because they had many friends in the neighborhood with whom they played and went to school.  DSH remembers having to drive to get anywhere or do anything, even play with friends, when he was a kid so making the decision to live where we did was made.

But, it turns out, subdivisions are self-contained little units.  While you can walk around a subdivision, you can’t really walk anywhere.  You have to get into a car and drive.  There are often no sidewalks or the ability to walk anywhere safely even if you want to do so.

I longed to get out of the big home with the big yard and reduce our expenses.  I longed to live in a real neighborhood where you can walk to shops and restaurants.  So, after about a year of discussing it and downsizing through purging, we sold our old house.

Hennsley House

And moved in with my sister and her three little dogs in her small condo while looking for a new home.  A lesson in downsizing.

We had certain criteria.  We had a specific area in mind.  We looked at a lot of houses.  Some were too big.  Some were too small.  Some were too much work.

And, during this time, the market started to turn.  There were now more buyers than sellers in our area.  Houses were being listed and Sold Fast.

Through a lot of hard work and good networking, our real estate agent, who is worth her weight in gold, managed to get us into a home that was Coming Soon through another agent who knew we had been looking for a long time.

As it turns out, the home we ended up buying was owned by a woman (and her husband) with whom I had worked with previously.

So, in the last two months, we sold one house and bought two new ones (our little cottage on the lake and our new old home) from people that we knew!

Our new home is much smaller, by about 1,000 square feet, than our old home.  DSH says it’s like putting a 20 pound sack in a 5 pound bag.  In spite of my purging, I am purging some more.  There are a lot fewer closets and storage areas in an older home so it is forcing us (and I use that term lightly since DSH is not quite there yet) to simplify our lives by reducing the amount of stuff that we own.

There are fewer bathrooms.  There is a much smaller yard.  And, in spite of now owning two properties, we have reduced our overall expenses.

We met our criteria of purchasing a home with a main floor master bedroom where we can age in place.

Houston Home (2)

Like many older homes in older neighborhoods, we have a detached garage off an alley.  I remember the first home that I lived in growing up had a detached garage and an alley.  And a sidewalk out front.

Our Moline House 2007

In some ways, this new home of ours reminds me of the first home I remember living in.

We have a lot of work ahead of us.  Unpacking and sorting and putting away is stressful.  We have furniture we no longer need and furniture that didn’t fit that we need to unload.

The house has been nicely renovated, but there are quirks in the electric and plumbing and other physical features that need to be fixed to meet our needs and lifestyle.  The honey-do list is a mile long.

And I have been scrubbing and cleaning and sorting and organizing and updating our mailing address with it seems like hundreds of places.

Sugar Creek WineryBut we managed to take an afternoon off and visit some local wineries with some old friends and new neighbors.

We are ready to make new memories here!

Hello new home!

Posted in Musings | 14 Comments

A Few of My Favorite Things

Besides my family, here are a few of my favorite things.

Farmers’ Markets.

St. Paul Farmers' Market sign July 2012

I love going to the St. Paul Farmers’ Market when I am visiting my sister in Minnesota.  A visit early in the season will allow you to purchase bedding plants – vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  You can always get locally grown, organic meats and other homemade and artisanal products like honey, jams & jellies, homemade soaps, chocolates, dips and spreads, and even some ready to eat items.  As the season progresses, you see the gamut of seasonal fruits and vegetables grown throughout the state.

Freaky Family Fun Farmers Market Eugene 2012

I love going to the Saturday Market when I am visiting my sister in Eugene, Oregon.  The Saturday Market includes not only a farmers’ market section, but an extensive section of “shops” with other handmade and handcrafted items including the widest selection of tie dyed items available anywhere.  The hippy culture is alive and well at the Saturday Market, which claims to be the oldest, continuously running market in the country.

When we lived in Coppell, Texas, we went to the local Farmers’ Market every weekend during the season.  This is where our three youngest children learned about seasonal foods and how good really fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other homemade things could be.

We bought artisanal cheeses and breads every week from one of the local farms.  They invited us for a personal tour of their farm (unfortunately, we never were able to make the trip).  We bought a jar of jam every week from the jam lady.  We would return the empty jars to her, too.  On our last Saturday before we moved, she thanked us for being loyal customers and gave us several jars to take with us to our new home back in our home town.  These things don’t happen at your local grocery stores.

Museums.

National Gallery London 2011

I loved visiting The National Gallery in London, England.  It houses over 2,300 works of art from the 14th century through 1900.  And the admission is FREE.

 Gogh-sunflowers-NG3863-r-half

I went to The National Gallery because I wanted to see this picture of Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers painted in 1888.  And I was not disappointed.

But, as I spent time over two days exploring the halls of The National Gallery, I was blown away by the erotic and often gruesome and grisly paintings from the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.  Much of that work was religious in nature.  It brought to life how many of the stories in the Bible are so intensely human and, really, how little has changed over the centuries.  The media may have changed, but man’s inhumanity to man as portrayed in art seems to remain constant.

It also made me wonder what kind of criticism and potential censorship these artists, who are considered great masters, would endure even today.  When an Attorney General of the United States spent over $8,000 to cover the partially nude statues in the Great Hall of the Department of Justice because he was embarrassed to be photographed in front of them, it doesn’t take one too much imagination to realize that several hundred years later, we continue to be challenged by art and artists (read about it here).

When I lived in Chicago in the early 1980s, I used to take the train from my little apartment in the suburbs into the city just to visit The Art Institute.  I was entranced by their collection of Impressionistic and Post-Impressionistic works.  Of course, I was very impressionable when I was in my early 20s (pun intended).

I also love outdoor museums.  The Missouri Botanical Garden and The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are two of my favorite “outdoor” museums.  For my friends in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, a visit to The Missouri Botanical Garden should include a visit to see the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures which are modernistic and exquisite.  His work can be seen all over the world and graces the ceiling of The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Adventure.

Mime in front of the National Gallery London

One of the benefits of traveling outside of one’s home, is the chance to see characters you wouldn’t normally see.  Trafalgar Square in London is a vibrant, bustling area filled with historic significance, wonderful places to visit, eat, and shop.  But it’s also brimming with characters.  Many actors and mimes work just outside The National Gallery in London, in Trafalgar Square including Batman, Wonder Woman, Jack Sparrow, and a fascinating mime who managed to move into different positions without notice all while hundreds of people were milling about.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are a lot of things on my bucket list.  Things to do.  Places to go.  I’m afraid that I will not live long enough to accomplish everything that is on that list, but one of the things that I did manage to do was to zip line through the rain forest.  I did this in spite of my irrational fear of heights.  This adventure included 11 zips at increasingly higher and longer lines.

After that I even hiked on aerial bridges high in the canopy of the rain forest.  Frightening for me, but I was resolved to do it.  It was extra fun having this adventure with DSH and our two youngest children.

First Day of Big Vacation June 1 1998

I wanted our children to have this sense of adventure, too.  On June 1, 1998, we embarked on a month-long, cross-country trip from the Midwest to the Pacific Northwest.  We visited many state and national parks and monuments and other quirky tourist destinations along the way.  We traveled 7,013 miles over one month (read about it here), and it is still mentioned as one of their fondest and lasting memories from childhood.

The adventure bug has hit one of my kids.  Hard.  She is currently spending a semester studying abroad in Argentina and is taking the opportunity seriously and traveling around the country as much as possible – all within her college-kid budget.

My bucket list is full of the places that I have longed to visit, but put off while having children and raising our family.

We are working on completing the downsizing moves this summer and our two youngest children are now halfway done with college, so I’m making plans for checking items off the list!

Stay tuned!

Posted in Musings | Leave a comment

The Journey

Some say that life is a journey.

A journey from birth to death.

Some people’s journeys are very short and others are very long.  For most of us, the journey will be somewhere in-between.

For most of us, life’s journey is made up of many other, shorter journeys.

Babyhood (a journey most of us don’t remember).  The teenage angst years (a journey many of us like to forget).  Young adulthood (mostly exciting with thoughts of a bright future).  Marriage (the bumpy journey or journeys, as the case may be).  Becoming a parent (one of the scariest and happiest journeys).  Aging and retirement (the what, already?! journey).

Some journeys are short.  Some are long.  Some just seem too long or too short.

Some journeys are smooth.  Some are bumpy.  Some start one way and end another.

Some journeys are happy.  Some are sad.  Some are a little of both.

David

My brother-in-law, David, has been on the cancer journey.

In January 2012, he was diagnosed with Stage IV Colorectal Cancer.  Since then, he has gone through radiation and a series of chemotherapy treatments.

I have been blessed to travel on this journey with him and my sister.  I have spent several weeks with them over the past 16 months.  I have even traveled to their home in Minnesota during the Winter months which I swore I would never do when they first moved here!  The lesson I keep learning when I use absolutes like ALWAYS and NEVER is that I should never state anything unequivocably because it ALWAYS comes back to bite me in the rear.

David's First Infusion Therapy cropped

I have been making trips of about a week or so at a time.  I have spent this time taking David to treatments, spending time with him, and helping out around the house. My time here allows my sister to have a break, to be able to go into the office rather than work from home, and lets us spend time together cooking, watching movies, and just sitting together quietly.

David 65 Birthday cake and pineapple 07062012

Many of the people who know I’ve been doing this say to me that my sister and David are lucky to have me.  But, I don’t feel that way at all.  I feel lucky that they are in my life, and I feel blessed to have this opportunity to spend time with them in such a close and intimate way.

David’s journey with cancer changed yesterday.

This is how the week unfolded for us.  David had a scan at the beginning of the week.  It had been about two months since his last scan.  The next day we met with the oncologist to learn the results of this latest scan.

David had a strong premonition that the news would not be good.  When we went back to the Cancer Treatment Center for the follow-up visit, David had blood drawn for his labs,  had his vitals taken, and went over his current drug list, as usual.  We met the new oncology nurse.  After all of this, the doctor came in.  She went through everything again.  My sister took care of some paperwork with her.  Business as usual.

Then the doctor was ready to go over the results of the scan.  The results were not good.  David’s premonitions were true.  The tumors on the liver had grown significantly.  The bottom line is that the last line of cancer drugs were not effective.

During this time, the doctor held David’s hand.  She said, more than once, that she was not trying to be mean by what she was saying.  She apologized for not being able to give him more time.  She never rushed or skipped over anything even when she knew going in what she had to say.  She spent nearly an hour with us.  She answered every question compassionately yet honestly.  She discussed how his next journey would likely unfold.

She had tears in her eyes.  Her job must be very hard.

David 65 Birthday clouds bringing relief from the heat 07062012

David’s journey with cancer and cancer treatments have ended.

We left the Cancer Treatment Center for the last time.  We all received hugs from the doctor and the staff.  It  is really like they become part of your extended family during this time.  In fact, they are more compassionate and helpful than many family members.

David 65 Birthday 07062012

A new journey has begun.  David’s journey with hospice care has started.

It’s not all doom and gloom.  We continue to share books we’ve read, watch movies together, and talk about family and current events.  David has a slightly twisted and dry sense of humor.  He keeps mentioning things, that he hates to do, that he will never have to do again.  He jokes about death.

I cut his hair for him and told him that I look forward to giving him sponge baths.  He’s told me that the area between his waist and his knees is off-limits.  Yes, that is our relationship in a nutshell.

David is mostly worried about my sister.  About how she will manage after he is gone.  He’s worried about the day-to-day stuff.

I don’t think he really realizes that what we will miss most is his physical presence.  His quirky sense of humor.  His philosophical views on life and religion and family.  His obsessive compulsive behaviors which have endeared him to us.  Yes, we’ll even miss those things.

David's feet June 2010

We don’t know how long this next journey with David will be.  We are measuring it in weeks not months, but no one has a crystal ball.  The upside in all of this is that we can make our time together really MEAN something.  That is the one gift in all of this.

Life is a journey.

A journey from life to death.

Make it count.

Posted in Faith & Family | 16 Comments

Wild Life at The Little Cottage by the Lake

We had our first guests at The Little Cottage by the Lake.  My sister and her three little dogs, my mother-in-law, and one of the college kids spent the weekend with us for Mother’s Day which happened to be DSH’s birthday weekend, too.

My brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and nephew, who live nearby, came for dinner on Saturday night.

I think everyone had a good time.  The cottage is not fancy.  There is no washer and dryer.  There is no dishwasher.  We had to unclog a commode.  But we enjoyed a good meal together along with great conversation.

The reward was spending time by the water, enjoying each other’s company without the distractions of television and life, all while watching the wild life and the occasional fishing boat trolling along with hardy fishermen bundled up against the cold while casting lines in and out of the water over and over again.

Over the past few visits, I have enjoyed the peacefulness of the water, the sounds and sights of the birds, and the white blossoms of the dogwoods amid the canopy of larger trees.  It’s so calming.

Bluebird May 2013

There have been numerous bluebirds singing and flitting about.  They like to sit on the electric line that runs from the house to the dock.

Turkey Vulture May 2013

We had a group of turkey vultures hanging out in the cove.  This was one of a group of three that must have been scoping out their next meal.

Catfish Carcass May 2013

We found the skeleton of a large catfish on the shore.  I imagine it was picked clean by them.

I hope to photograph the numerous turtles that like to sun themselves along the shore in the shallow end of the cove.  Every time I manage to get close to them, they plop, plop, plop into the water before I can snap a picture.

Great Blue Heron May 2013

We enjoy watching the Great Blue Herons flying about.   This one was walking along the shore nearby.

Papa Duck May 2013

And, of course, we have duck families.  This beautifully colored papa duck sat on our dock for a very long time while mama duck was swimming nearby.

Over the next few visits, we expect to see the baby ducks swimming alongside mama.  The number of babies will decline as predators do their thing in the cycle of life, but a few of them may make it to adulthood, and it will be fun watching their progress.

In a few weeks, there will be a different kind of wild life at the lake as the summer season kicks into high gear.  There will be more people.  We’ll see and hear bigger and louder boats.  The dynamic will change, but we will still enjoy the Little Cottage by the Lake – just in a different way.

Posted in Musings | Leave a comment

What I Want for Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day.

I sort of dread it every year.

While I believe in celebrating holidays, I don’t really like the commercialization of most of them.

For me, it’s not about “He went to Jarrod!”  (Like jewelry purchased from any other place is less than meaningful.)  It’s about time spent together in a meaningful way.

DSH hates the little blue pill commercials where the guy is off sailing by himself, or spending time alone on a motorcycle, or driving alone in a sports car.  What is the point of the little blue pill if you aren’t spending time with a loved one?

I hate the drug commercial where the mother is shopping with her daughter for a wedding dress.  The mother has to use the bathroom and the daughter is utterly disappointed.  The mother feels guilty.  Because she has to use the restroom.  The final insult is the daughter shares her personal moment with the sales lady.  Who apparently never has to go to the bathroom.

What kind of child would show so much disappointment, rather than concern, for her mother’s need to use the restroom?

I actually sent an email to this drug company complaining about that commercial.  It completely disparages the mother and child relationship over an issue for which everyone should be concerned and empathetic about.  Mothers get enough blame and have enough guilt without marketing idiots adding to it.

I was married once before I was married to DSH.  It was a short marriage, and I was very young.  I used to receive flowers from him.  Getting flowers is nice, but not as a substitute for not being present in your loved one’s life.  I received a lot of flowers from him, because he was never there for me, physically or emotionally.  The flowers were supposed to compensate for his lack of ability to be there.  After I shared this story with DSH, he never gave me flowers again.

Did I say I did not like getting flowers?  No.  I just do not want flowers, or any gift, to be a substitute for being present and engaged in a relationship.

So, this weekend is Mother’s Day and DSH’s birthday.  We will be going to our Little Cottage by the Lake along with my sister, her three little dogs, my mother-in-law, and one of the college kids.  We hope to have nice dinners with them and some other relatives that live near there to celebrate both events.  I am looking forward to this and know we will have a great time.

Mother's Day picture

Apparently, I am not the only one who feels this way.

But, when DSH asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, my response was “Time with you with no distractions.”  When pressed, I responded, “I just want some undivided attention and time.”

Yeah, kind of like what the kids needed (and got) when they were growing up, and we promised each other we would do for each other once they were grown.

For me, it’s not about the things.  I love anything my family does for me, but what I would love more than anything is some time and attention.  Without computers and phones.  Without having to cook and clean.

No one has ever been able to accuse me of being subtle.  I think I have been pretty direct.  I haven’t beaten around the bush or dropped a series of hints.  I have expressed myself explicitly and directly.

DSH said, “OK.  It just might not be on Mother’s Day.”

I’m thinking maybe we could plan it for Father’s Day.

Postscript – I hope that all of the mothers out there have a wonderful day spending time with the people they love or doing whatever they want to do.  Happy Mother’s Day!

Posted in Musings | 8 Comments

Our Little Cottage By the Lake

Once upon a time, there was a young girl.

Theresa and Lynn 70s

This is the young girl with her best friend from high school the year they dressed as hobos for Halloween.

Halloween on Main Street

These are her parents a few years ago at the Halloween event on historic Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri.  They have been married for almost 57 years.

Over the years, this family was very good to the young girl and as she grew up and got married, they were very good to her family, too.

About 23 years ago, they bought a little cottage by the lake, and as the young girl grew into a woman, she spent many wonderful weekends at this place with her family.

This year, the couple decided it was time to sell the little cottage, and after their children decided not to buy it, they offered to sell it to us.

My DSH has always dreamed of owning a house on the lake and, in fact, at one point in time, we did own a piece of lake property.  But raising five children meant that we did not have the time or the resources to dedicate to it, so we gave it up.

The timing was right for all of us in a lot of ways.  Our oldest three children are out on their own, and our youngest two children are nearly halfway finished with college (the end is in sight!).

So, we decided to take the plunge.  Since it had been some time since DSH had visited the place, we took a trip down to the lake with our youngest child who had not yet left for school.  We also were looking at another property just down the road from the little cottage.

One property was a newly built condo with a boat slip, pool, lake swimming area, a large deck overlooking the lake in a quiet cove, and a nice large kitchen with granite countertops.  The other property was the little lake cottage with no washer & dryer and no dishwasher, but with its own lakefront and dock and a nice flat lot on a quiet cove.

When we asked our daughter which property she preferred, we fully expected her to say the condo.  But, she didn’t.  She said that she preferred the little cottage and, when asked why, she responded it was because it came with many wonderful memories of the times we spent visiting over the years.

We sealed the deal and took my friend’s parents out to dinner to celebrate and to get the inside tips on maintaining the place.  We learned that my friend’s dad was the same age as DSH is now when they bought it some 23 years ago.  We thought that was kind of neat.

Lake Cottage First Visit #5

We recently spent our first weekend at the little cottage by lake.  This is what the cottage looks like coming down the driveway from the highway.

Lake Cottage First Visit #1

This is what greeted us as we entered – a nice bottle of wine and a lovely note that I will keep and treasure.  They told us that selling to us was like keeping it in the family.  This family has treated me like family for over 42 years, and saying it was a compliment that I will also treasure.

Lake Cottage First Visit #3

Here is a view of the little cottage by the lake looking up from the dock.  The deck is nearly half the size of the cottage!

Lake Cottage First Visit #2

Here is a view of our dock looking down from the cottage.  There is a boat slip waiting for boat and a swim dock waiting for visitors.

It doesn’t quite feel like our place yet.  We still feel like visitors.  As we make changes and add our own touches over time, I’m sure it will feel more and more like it’s ours.

In the meantime, there is nothing quite like a sunset over the lake; or watching the herons and egrets and woodpeckers and bluebirds and ducks and geese;  or listening to the water lap the shore; or sitting quietly in the evening without television.  There is definitely a different pace to life at a vacation home.  A retreat from the hub bub of life.

We look forward to spending a lot of time here and making many more wonderful memories.  We also hope that we will be able to pay it forward like my friend and her parents did for us.

The End.

Posted in Bucket List | Tagged | 5 Comments