Categories
Family Food Life

Connection

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about pancakes. This surprised me. I like pancakes, but I’m not sure why they’d be on my mind right now. I rarely eat them or even consider them now that my sons are grown.

Nevertheless, the more I thought about them, the more I wanted them. So, I decided to make pancakes for breakfast.

Before I could get started, however, my husband announced that he was making pancakes for breakfast. He’s also not much of a pancake eater, and I hadn’t yet mentioned my plans to him. So, his decision seemed especially random, especially remarkable.

We’ve been married a long time and agree on a great many things. We also disagree on a regular basis. I love chocolate; he can take it or leave it. His favorite color is sunset orange; mine is emerald green. We’ve had our fair share of “lively” discussions about world events, house decor, grocery shopping lists, and driving styles.

In the end, however, we always come together. As we will this morning, sharing our unexpected (and delicious) pancake connection.

Categories
Family Pets

Dreams

There’s a scene in Steel Magnolias where Shelby describes her dream of getting old, sitting on the back porch, covered in grandchildren.

My husband and I feel that way about dogs.

We do hope to one day be surrounded by grandkids, oodles of them, but that isn’t up to us. Our sons and their partners get to live their lives according to their plans, not ours, and those plans may or may not involve children.

In the meantime (and perhaps, eventually, in addition to), we can surround ourselves with dogs.

Which brings me to Maggie, who joined our pack this week. She’s a middle-aged pup, cute as a button, quite possibly smarter than me, and still full of energy despite being well past her baby days.

Maggie came to the local animal shelter as a stray. She wasn’t microchipped, so they couldn’t immediately locate her owner, but they cleaned her up, treated her for a severe case of fleas, and posted her picture for several days in the hope that she’d be claimed. She wasn’t, and we scooped her up as soon as she was available for adoption.

It’s clear that Maggie’s been cared for in the past. She’s sociable, trusting and well-behaved. I don’t know her story before the shelter or why she ended up in the sad condition she was in, but I’m grateful to whoever loved her before she came to us. If I could give them a message, it would be that she’s in good hands. We will love and care for her for the rest of her life.

Where I live, there’s a limit of three dogs per household. Maggie’s our third, so we won’t be adopting any more. We also want to be sure we have the time and resources to properly care for our pup family, and three is just the right number for us – and for them. Our little pack is complete.

Here’s to getting old, sitting on a porch (or on a couch or a bed or in a backyard), covered in dogs – or whatever it is that brings happy dreams.

Categories
Family Pets

Tom

My family and I recently got some awful news. Tom, our twelve-and-a-half-year-old cat, is in renal failure.

There’s no cure, but we are doing all we can to care for him. He’s getting lots of ear rubs, cuddles, and under-chin scratches. His appetite waxes and wanes, so we’re offering a steady stream of tasty tidbits and fresh water to tempt him. Often, he prefers quiet isolation, and we’ve created comfy nests of blankets and towels where he can rest.

We want Tom to have more time to roll in the dirt in the backyard and come running when he hears us whistle. To meow at breakfast time and squint contentedly after dinner. To chase a toy across the floor, batting it with his paws and biting it with his fierce little teeth. To sleep, curled up and purring, next to us at night.

We want him to live forever.

But of course, that’s not possible. Not for Tom; not for anybody.

So, we are focused on his comfort, surrounding him with warmth and affection. Making his last days, however many they are, full of whatever makes him happy.

When we welcomed him into our lives, many years ago, we knew the potential for heartbreak. Pets can get sick, injured. They age faster than humans. Always, there is hope for a good, long life, many years of health and vitality, but there is also awareness that there are challenges.

Still, we take a risk. We choose to focus on what makes it all worthwhile.

Perhaps The Beatles said it best –

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.



Categories
Family Life

Home

My childhood home is for sale.

It was designed by my father, an architect. He and my mom imagined it together, planned and coordinated the construction and details for close to a year, and then moved us all in when it was complete.

I vividly remember my first entrance through the front door, a five-year-old excited by the newness of it all, being greeted by my mother in the entryway and told to look around and tell her what I thought. I told her I loved it.

My parents decorated our house in the colors of the times – brown and yellow, rusty red, avocado green and white accents. It would have been easy for them to overdo it, but they managed it well, creating a classy balance of hues and tones. They included personal elements from their lives; large wall hangings from South America, pieces of art they’d created, reminders of their travels together. The house had a distinct personality that was warm and inviting, unique yet comfortable.

After my sister and I grew up and moved out, my parents sold the house. As happens, the new owners made changes to fit their preferences. When they sold, the next owners did the same.

I get it, I understand. The privilege of ownership allows for these decisions, regardless of what was before. But it’s a hard thing, seeing the changes.

Viewing the carefully-staged online photos, the ones intended to attract buyers and encourage showings, I felt cold. Where was the wet bar where my father crafted Pisco Sours while family friends filled the living room with music and dancing and happy energy? What happened to the walls of wooden bookshelves, the ones with a warm glow that perfectly sheltered the collections they contained? Why were walls and doors moved and colors erased? Why did everything seem bland and boring, perfectly perfect yet lacking the personality that I knew so well?

Perhaps if my father was still alive and if my mother wasn’t nearing the end of her life, it wouldn’t matter as much to me. It’s possible I’d look at those photos and be able to focus on the improvements – the extra kitchen space and the hardwood floors and such – and simply be glad that the house exists. Perhaps I could be happy that it is cared for and a place where new memories are being made, even if I don’t like what’s been done to the place itself.

I’m unable, however, to do that right now. All I see is what’s missing. All I notice is that it’s not the house that I remember, the house that I knew.

Not all of my memories are pleasant. There were sometimes troubled times within those walls. And, I have since created my own home, the place where my children grew up and where my adult memories live. When I think of “home” now, that is what first comes to mind. Nevertheless, I will always feel a deep connection to the house my parents built.

Here’s to accepting that life is full of change. Here’s also to allowing for the sad ache that comes from missing what used to be real.

Categories
Family Good Life

Companions

Not long ago, my husband surprised me with a new copy of one of my favorite childhood books. I’d lamented the fact that my copy, saved for decades among my most beloved possessions, was tattered and missing sections. He quietly took note, searched for a replacement, and gifted it to me.

The book is I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, written by P.L. Travers (yes, the Mary Poppins P.L. Travers). It tells the story of Sabrina Lind and the journey she and her brother make from their home in England to the United States during WW II. It’s told from Sabrina’s perspective, a journal of days detailing the people, events, and emotions she feels as she lives the experience. It’s a children’s book, but it’s not a childish story.

As I read my new copy, I felt warm and content, like I was in the presence of a friend. I think of this kind of reading as “comfort reading.” The excitement that comes from reading a book for the first time is wonderful, but the re-reading of a favorite book creates its own special magic. I was grateful for the happy spell made possible by my husband’s loving gift.

Coming to the last sentence, I reflected on how the story, the characters and events, has gently accompanied me throughout my life. It is always present within me, ready to supply an image or a sentence. I can go for days or sometimes weeks without thinking about it and years without rereading the words. Yet when fitting and needed, it is there.

Today’s cuppa celebrates companions – the living ones who listen with their hearts and respond with love, and the ones within our souls, ready to give whenever they are needed. May we all have the good fortune of having both in our lives.


Categories
Family Pets

Busybodies

We’ve brought a new cat into the family. It’s been a rocky process (coincidentally, his name is Rocky). Individually, each of our cats is a soft, loving ball of fur. Put them together, and they become a hissing, yowling mass of claws and teeth.

We are making progress, but it’s been slow. Fortunately, our dogs, Mollie and Charlie, adapted quickly. I’ve even found the three of them – Rocky, Mollie, and Charlie – napping together, content and comfortable in each other’s presence.

Things change, however, when the cats start interacting. At the first sound of feline hissing, the dogs jump to attention and rush to investigate. The process is a noisy one, with much barking and whining and canine gnashing of teeth.

The pups don’t appear to have a favored cat in these kerfluffles. They don’t act as protectors. Rather, they come across as looky-loos, eager to be part of the excitement, full of loud, barking opinions about what’s going on.

I’ve explained to them that they aren’t helping; their involvement in the situation is complicating things. Unsurprisingly, my words haven’t made a difference. They are dogs, after all. So, we’ve learned that any kitty drama will also require some doggy behavior management. There have been many trips outside or into separate rooms, behind closed doors, in recent days.

I suppose this behavior should have been expected, given the way Mollie and Charlie (especially Mollie) respond to squirrels in the yard and neighbors walking on the sidewalk. Busybodies aren’t typically picky when it comes to sharing their opinions about daily life. I do wish, however, that they’d learn from their experiences and notice that we are much happier when they keep the drama to a minimum.

Still, we love them dearly and sometimes even find ourselves laughing at their noisy interference. So, here’s to our busybodies. Their antics may annoy us, but they do make for some funny memories for the family archive.

Categories
Family Food

Lefse

My great-grandparents (on my mother’s side) immigrated to the United States from Norway, setting up a family farm in Minnesota where my Nanny grew up. I never met them, but when I was a young child, we spent one Thanksgiving with her brother and his family. That was when I was introduced to Lefse.

Lefse is a simple flatbread made from Russet potato dough. It’s traditionally served with butter and sometimes cinnamon sugar or fruit jam. While the bread itself is basic, the process of making it requires patience, skill, and a good amount of counter space.

Unfortunately, by the time I was old enough to learn the Lefse process, Nanny was no longer up to teaching it. Consequently, it’s not something I’ve ever attempted on my own, and the deliciousness has been only a memory.

Then yesterday, my sister and I visited a little shop filled with all things Norwegian. In the cooler, there were packages of Lefse, freshly-made, ready to take home and eat. I put a package in my basket and thought of my Nanny. I thought of how she’d have enjoyed this little place, the stories that might have been prompted by the items in the shop, the window into her life that we might have had if she was there with us.

This morning, I’m enjoying a bit of Lefse with my cuppa, and I’m thinking about making my own. There was a woman at the store who said that she offers Lefse-making classes, and I want to learn. Nanny won’t be the one showing me the steps, but I have no doubt she will still be part of the experience.

Categories
Family Pets

Tiger

“Arise from sleep, old cat,
And with great yawns and stretchings…
Amble out for love.” – Issa, Japanese Haiku

Here’s to Tiger, the gentle presence, the one who grew up alongside our family, our journeys combined. There is sadness in our hearts today. We will miss your sweet meows.

Categories
Family Good Life

Potential

My father loved going to garage and estate sales.

Most every weekend during the last few years of his life, he built his weekend schedule around his sale tours. Each time I visited him, he’d have something new to show me. Sometimes, it was a large item, such as a rug, or a painting, or a piece of furniture. Other times, it was less significant, a trinket or bauble that caught his eye.

He especially loved to collect fishing poles. When he died, he left behind two large racks of poles, everything from basic and new to those that were weathered and experienced, full of memories of water and fish and hours at the pier, or on the boat, or in the salty surf.

I don’t remember ever going to these sales with him. He preferred to shop alone; he had a plan and didn’t want to be distracted. Still, I enjoyed the tales of his discoveries. I shared his feelings of eager curiosity and optimism about what could be found. He saw these excursions as a treasure hunt of sorts, a means of discovering something useful and precious, sitting quietly unnoticed in the grass, or behind a door or on a shelf.

Yesterday, I stopped into a local resale shop. While not exactly the same as a garage or estate sale, it had a similar vibe. It was full of items with previous lives, things that once served a specific purpose elsewhere and were now ready and waiting to serve, once again, in new roles and environments. I walked through the aisles, stopping here and there as I noticed something interesting. Sometimes when I paused, I found myself holding my breath, just for a second; a heartbeat of anticipation and hope. I wasn’t standing in the midst of riches and jewels, but it felt like a treasure hunt just the same.

Here’s to the things that once belonged, the pieces with memories and the still-useful items, and the potential of discovery on a Saturday afternoon.

Categories
Entertainment Family Good

Familiar

Why, yes…yes, I was a bit emotional after watching the video that Steve from Blue’s Clue’s posted yesterday. I’ve tried to find a link to post, but it seems they’re all connected to a news report or a tweet. If you’re curious, a quick internet search will give you viewing options.

When my eldest son was a little bitty boy, we shared the fun of watching Blue and Steve on their adventures. My son adored the show. I admit that I did, as well.

As with most childhood magic, however, he eventually outgrew it. So, it’s been a long time since I’ve thought about the handy dandy notebook and Mailbox and Mr. Salt and Mrs. Pepper and all the rest of the friends in Blue’s world.

Then yesterday, Steve’s video appeared. It all came back, the songs and the games and my tiny little boy, dancing and singing and playing along.

Here’s to lovely memories and the sweet comfort of the familiar.