Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Today I was in the check-out line at Sam’s Club and watched a man holding a little boy talking to the elderly woman behind him.  Then he had the boy give her a high five, which was cute.  It also made me think of something my mother said when high fives were first getting started, “what will happen to shaking hands?”  She wasn’t against high fives, but she saw the writing on the wall as to the next generation of greetings.  Little boys were taught to politely shake hands when they met adults in the old days.

Then, the line being slow, my mind went to her lessons in manners.  And the music started in my head.  She had a record, a 78 rpm, called Manners Can Be Fun by Frank Luther.  I looked him up and he was a country singer, songwriter, etc, who gained a lot of fame with children’s records way back when.  The record was based on the book of the same title by Munro Leaf.  Anyway, this was one of my mother’s favorites and we sang it all the time.  She laughingly swore later that she played it for us in our sleep.  And I can still remember all the words the minute the music starts.

When I had my own children, I found the new version on 33 rpm, and played it for them.  I hope it sank in – I’m sure it did.  They all have good manners, although I’m not sure the parts about picking up their rooms was so effective as they grew up.


One of the most fun things I ever did for my mother was to dig out the record and send it off to have it made into a CD.  It must have been the original 78 because i couldn’t find anyone in town to do it at the time.  The man in California who transferred it for me was so entranced that he wrote me that he had made a copy for his kids.  I gave copies to my children for my grandchildren in hopes…

I played it for my 3 year old granddaughter in the car the other day and she seemed fascinated as I watched her in the rearview mirror.  Maybe it was the fact that I was singing along and knew all the words.  If I ever want her to know her great-grandmother, this is the perfect way to start.

Hope this link works so you can enjoy it, too.

Thank you!

01 Manners Can Be Fun

Shine is a term I learned in Hollywood last year, probably from one of the ever present celebrity news shows in L.A.  It basically means what people get when they rub up against the stars.  Writing about it is a little strange because I sound like I’m dropping names myself, which is not my intention.  I was reminded of the meaning of Shine today when an actor friend was telling another friend about his first trip to an autograph show.  People lined up for two hours to get his autograph, a new thing for someone who has been a serious actor for almost 50 years and suddenly finds himself in the middle of a popular show.  He’s old enough to get a kick out of it, even though he is amazed by it.

I’ve met many famous people through the years, famous for everything from sports to acting to art, cooking, politics, music, whatever.  It’s fun to see them in person, and, yes, some of them are larger than life, but I’m always amazed at the reaction of everyone around them, including myself sometimes.  I’m not a big autograph person, although I do have some autographed books.  I usually have authors sign their name rather than signing it to me, which seems so awkward since I don’t really know them.  There were a couple of exceptions with chefs I worked with for several months.  I’m also not one for jumping into pictures with the stars, even though I love pictures.  I do have a picture of me with Dorothy Hamill, taken years ago.  She was sitting on my desk at work, waiting to perform, and I got a picture mainly because I had worn her hair style for years.  I don’t remember any other photos of me with anyone.  I think I had an autographed picture of Hopalong Cassidy when I was a little girl and met him at a horse show.  It also comes from not wanting to bother them while they are trying to be normal people, which is where I usually meet people of fame.

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This isn’t to say I don’t understand all of this.  I have tons of pictures of people and it’s fun to see fans line up for someone.  I love that the “stars” get to meet their fans and feel appreciated, which probably makes the star shine even more.  I’m reading yet another book about Joan of Arc, who was a superstar in her time.  Even her opponents described the glow that came from within her.  If all is true, her shine came from her sacred mission and her purity, although she was as human as the rest of us with her bad temper and stubborn ways.

The “stars” we think of are normal people doing their job, some enormously talented in their field, and a few who are just good people.  I’m not going to become a star by meeting famous people or hanging around with them.  The reason I’m writing about Shine is to remind myself that I should be getting my Shine from rubbing up against people who are caring and loving and making a difference in the world.  These people are all around us.  We don’t ask them for autographs or have our picture made with them.  They don’t get a concrete star in Hollywood or their name in lights or get mentioned on television every day.  I want to shine because I’ve surrounded myself with family and friends who make me better for knowing them.

I do love the term Shine though.  It’ll be around as long as there are stars in the sky!

Sometimes you can’t help being happy.  Nothing happened today that is out of the ordinary or too good or too bad.  It was cloudy and cold this morning with snow flurries.  Now the sun is out, the sky is blue, the enormous Bradford Pear trees in my neighbor’s yard are in full bloom, and Spring is coming for sure.

Sometimes the simple things are all you need to lift your soul!  And give you a moment of silliness!


Photo on 3-24-13 at 5.10 PM

I don’t remember being afraid of too much until I became a parent.  Maybe I was and those fears were minor compared to the ones that come with parenthood.  Or, maybe, they come with seeing the real world for all its dangers.  I’m talking about those moments when your brain goes berserk with all the possibilities that are out of your control, those times when your imagination takes over reason and you are actually experiencing real symptoms of fear.  Pacing.  Sweating.  Heart racing. Nerves on edge.  Sleeplessness.  That feeling in the pit of your stomach.  Out of control.

There are times when you should be afraid, should know that there may be danger out there.  I’m talking about the fear that comes when you really have no specific reason to think the worst, to imagine the worst case scenario.  This was all brought home to me when one of my cats disappeared, not even for a very long time.  He had an infection and had a shot of antibiotics.  He went outside, which he does every night, and didn’t come back first thing in the morning.  Did a fox get him?  Did he get hit by a car?  Did he get catnapped?  Totally irrational, because he has done this before, but very real on my part.

It’s like the times your child comes home later than expected or you can’t reach a child at college (this was before cell phones and internet).  All the possible horrible things you can imagine come to mind.  The human mind is a tricky thing.  So is the human heart.  The worst things that have happened to me weren’t preceded by this sudden feeling of being out of control.  They were shocks, but they weren’t sudden.  They had been coming for awhile.  Sometimes you feel something isn’t right, but you don’t get these crazy thoughts.  These are different.

The good thing about these times when you have let your imagination fly into the worst places is that the object of the fear returns or call, usually with no knowledge of your fear, and the sense of relief is as physical as the fear was.  Sometimes followed by embarrassment that you let your mind go so crazy.  In my latest case, the cat came sauntering down the street, came when I called and looked at me like “What?!”  Probably rolled his eyes, at least to himself.  Just like kids.

Our brains are interesting organs, crammed with knowledge, capable of incredible imagination, storage place for all sorts of emotions.  These crazy fears are like bad dreams…maybe not as bad.  At least an incident triggered this bout.  I don’t know if this kind of thing is from love, guilt that you weren’t doing your job, or somewhat of a mixture.  I’m not going to go any crazier about it than I already have!  Everybody is in the right place for now.


Here’s the kind of conversations I get into with my friends…one friend was looking for spiced peaches to serves and she couldn’t find them at the store.  We started talking about how special those were when we were kids and how our mothers served them to guests.  She thought it was a southern dish.  A real treat to us as children.  Then I was with some other friends and mentioned the spiced peaches.  None of us had thought of them in years, so we started talking about how good they tasted.  And about canned pears with cottage cheese, which ladies served at luncheons.  And we moved on to the absolute childish joy of fruit cocktail.  And how there were too few cherries in it, so you had to try to get one in your serving.

We all know about trends in foods as well as other things.  Today, all those fruits, along with the canned vegetables (canned corn, green beans) we loved before there were frozen vegetables, that were staples of our diets way back when, have been found to have too much sugar or salt.   Today, we can get fresh food easier than we used to be able to in the cities back then or cans with less sodium, less sugar, and so on.  Companies like Del Monte have been around since the 1880s, so they have always been around in our lifetimes.  They were timesavers from the days of growing and canning your own, a help to the modern housewife of the 50s and 60s.

I’m all for the health trend, but we all know what happens when you remember the taste or smell of something from your childhood.  My friend and I had looked online to see if they still make spiced peaches, which they do.  I was supposed to look for them at the store, but I kept forgetting.  Today, I was just about to check out and decided to walk back to the fruit section.  There were spiced peaches, right there in front of me.  I opened the jar as soon as I got the groceries unpacked to see if they taste the way I remember them.


Yum!  Yes, they do.  Not only do they taste the way I remember them, but now they are flavored with the memories of childhood with every bite.  I may never eat them again, but today I had a sweet taste of my childhood.

When my kids were all three, I taught their Sunday School classes and one of my favorite projects was making spring nests.  I’m pretty amazed that I did it with a whole class of little ones, but I was a lot younger then.  Today seemed like a good day to try it with my youngest granddaughter.  She’s going to demonstrate for us, showing that you can even wear a tutu while cooking.

First, we made the grass.  She did it basically all by herself with me putting coconut in a bag with some green food coloring and letting her shake it.  Pretty fun to make green grass.

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Then we made the nests, which are basically Rice Krispies treats made with Cocoa Krispies.  Before there were Cocoa Krispies, we just added cocoa to the mixture of marshmallows and butter.  We watched the marshmallows rise in the microwave…


Then we stirred the marshmallows and butter until they were smooth…


Then we added the Cocoa Krispies and stirred everything together.

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Then I put big spoonfuls of the mixture on waxed paper…


And then coated my hands with butter so I could shape them into rough nests.


Then we added the grass to the nests, or nestess as she called them.


And added tiny jelly bean eggs.

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And she even mastered wrapping them in clear wrap – at least for one.


And we put them in a basket or two.

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Spring Nests to give to those we love!

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There are some ugly words out there, some of them mean and cruel, racist epithets, hateful terms.  But there are a couple that I find the ugliest of all.

The first one is Cancer.  If you hear this word, no matter what you know or who it’s about, you immediately think DEATH.  Tell me you don’t automatically go there, no matter how many people you know who have beat it or are in remission.  In those first shocking seconds, that’s what makes you gasp!  From what I’ve read, it’s always there and it just gets a foothold on us when our immune system is down or we suffer a trauma or many other reasons.  And it never really goes away, even if you’re in remission for years.  You may never have another occurrence, but it is always hanging there.  If it’s active or recent, you live from scan to scan.  Even after the all clear, there has got to be a gulp before a doctor’s visit or every time you feel a twinge or ache.  It’s not a death sentence for all, thank goodness, but it’s still pretty devastating to hear it said.  I’ve lived through it with my husband and son, both of them gone because of the disease & the treatments, and with friends, some who lived through it, some who are still dealing with it and some who are now gone.  It’s just an ugly word.

The second ugliest word to me is Widow.  I looked it up and it’s been used since before the 12th century.  That’s what it feels like…archaic.  It comes from Middle English, Old English, Old High German and Latin variations of the word.  The Latin word, videre, means to separate.  I learned that widowhood is also called viduity.  That’s an obscure, strange term that sounds like…what does that sound like?  Anyway, widower doesn’t seem to have the same ugly sound to me.  Widowers are men, sad and lonely, who most often will find another woman as quickly as they can.  That’s kind of cold, but it’s very often, not always, true.  This doesn’t mean they didn’t love their wives, but it’s just a male thing.  I’m not making a blanket statement, just an observation.  There are always exceptions.

I don’t know what the label Widow does to most women, but I didn’t like it.  It’s a strange word to check on forms, an ugly word for a strange club you never wanted to join (as another widow friend of mine said).  Here’s what the word conjures up to me.


Now, tell me the truth.  Isn’t that the image that jumps to mind?  Some variation of this, at least.  Especially the wringing the handkerchief part.  At least this one isn’t wearing a black veil.  I’m not trying to be flip about it, because it is a painful, painful state of being at first.  Your heart is ripped apart, if you loved your husband, and you feel like you’ve been torn in two.  It’s not an easy thing and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  I know people who have suffered through this at all ages, although I guess at some point as you get older, you suspect it will happen to you or your spouse.  Even then, it’s not easy and can still be a shock.  My parents were married over 50 years and my mother was devastated.  She was a strong woman, but this was her life.  Like all of life, everyone handles it differently, hence, the merry widow, the black widow, etc.

I don’t know where I’m going with this but it was on my mind since I’m marking 15 years of living with this label.  I still think of him every day, I still miss him, I can still hear his voice.  Mostly, I remember with love and humor and I’m lucky to see him in our children and grandchildren.  My life isn’t like I pictured it when I was young and in love.  It’s not even how I pictured it when I was turning 50, but it’s pretty darn good.  Maybe because I know how loved I’ve been all my life.  But, that crappy word.  What can we do about that?  Or would any word be just as bad?  Just ugly, ugly, ugly!





A dear friend and I were talking this morning about how different members of a family see things.  With our old age wisdom we can accept it, but it’s one of those things you learn as you live.  I remember, as an adult, talking to my mother about something that had happened years before and she said, “that’s not what happened, at all,” and proceeded to tell me her version, which was shocking and slightly annoying.  It was interesting to get the different perspective, so I just added to my own memory of the event.

As a mother of four, I became keenly aware of how differently my children saw things.  Each has his or her own personality and ability to process what is going on with their age, position in the family, and accompanying life experience and level of maturity added on to skew the event even more.  A child of ten sees an event differently than a child of fourteen or sixteen and differently than an adult.  I’m assuming everyone figures this out at some time, but it’s always funny or strange to hear someone else tell their version and have it seem so incredibly different from our own.  Sometimes, everyone tells it so much that all the stories become a more cohesive party of family history.

The importance of this is that we all need to respect each other’s truths.  Just because it varies from ours doesn’t mean it isn’t valid.  It’s valid to that person and is how they are processing life and its lessons.  It’s also important for all of us to not only respect but watch for the things that may skew that person’s truth into something far away from how everyone else saw it.  Easier said than done.  We all look back and think we should have seen something that hurt someone or should have been more understanding or even looked at something more broadly ourselves, but it’s always looking back.  And we probably did do the right thing at the time with what we knew then…hopefully.  I even look back sometimes and am sorry I can’t remember a special fun moment better because I just wasn’t paying attention.  That’s another lesson…something that may be memorable to us may be totally forgettable to someone else.

Photos are important to me to jog my memory or to catch an expression later on and wonder what in the world was going through that person’s mind at the time.  I’m going to end with this one of my kids on a probably fun Christmas long ago.  You’d never know it was fun now, would you?  I’m assuming they were annoyed at me for taking one more picture, but who knows?  Regardless, I love them for expressing it rather than giving me a fake smile.  This is so much more true, isn’t it?




Sixteen years ago today, I became a different person.  I went from mother to grandmother in one second that exploded into years that fill my heart and life.  Sixteen years ago today, my first grandchild was born, followed by another one eleven or so weeks later and another one eight months later and then they kept coming until I now have eight, six boys and two girls.  The first seven are between eleven and sixteen as I write this.  The youngest is three.

But, sixteen years ago, my husband and I entered this new phase with joy and humor and all the anxieties that come with watching your children enter new phases of their lives along with you.  We took the Grandparenting Class at the hospital to refresh our memories and see what was new in the world of babies.  We learned, with amused glances at each other, that we were expected to do things a little differently this time around.  There were car seats to contend with from the moment the baby left the hospital and infant CPR to learn and other things that I’m sure I’ve already forgotten.  We graduated with a certificate that declared us as ready as we could be.

Shopping with my first time mother-to-be was an experience.  In the years since I’d had my children, the baby business had exploded.  I went with her to register at Babies R Us (the name makes this old English major cringe) and was overwhelmed by the aisles of choices to get this little one started.  How did I ever manage in my little duplex right off the college campus when I had my first one, the inexperienced, but very educated, young mother that I was?  Where we had one brand and one size of disposable diapers and only used them when traveling, there was an aisle filled three shelves up on both sides with diapers.  Just disposable diapers.  There were new kinds of diaper pails, which we probably could have done without, but listed anyway, going with the hype.

I used a new kind of baby bottle with my babies, Playtex with disposable liners.  They had those, but there were infinite other kinds.  Where to begin?  There were different styles of binkies, which we called pacifiers and my babies never used.  And accessories for the binkies.  And an aisle of cribs and an aisle of strollers and an aisle of high chairs to match every decor and an aisle of car seats and an aisle of cribs and then there were the crib accessories.  It went on and on and on…I couldn’t even begin to give advice because I had never seen most of these things or never had so many choices.  Besides, most of the things we had so carefully protected our babies with had now been deemed unsafe.  I think a lot of the industry is built on guilt and fear because who doesn’t want their child or grandchild to be as safe as possible?

Then you got to the cute side and all the clothes and toys and you just oohed and ahhed your way through the store, ending up with a long list of what you thought you needed along with all the things that looked so cute you couldn’t resist.  The registry led to baby showers with young mothers and other grandmothers-to-be.  Of all the parties that women have devised, baby showers are about the most fun.  Opening all those gifts with those cute little clothes…it’s our way of playing dolls again.

When the time came, my daughter had read her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting through and through and was moving on to the next book in that series, leaving me to flip through my old copy of Better Homes & Gardens Baby Book and remembering having to prop it open to follow the pictures on how to bathe a baby when I was starting out.  My mother had done the same with her copy and she stood by me as we both began that journey together all those years ago.  My daughter was induced, which has become pretty common for who knows what reason.  On the morning of the birth, the entire family gathered, except for our son who was away at college.  This was a far cry from our days when nobody was allowed in with the mother and the father sat in the waiting room with the other fathers.  When it was over, he could call the rest of the family from the phone at the hospital.  No cell phones for instant pictures then!

We could all go into the labor/delivery room to visit until closer to the time and my husband and other daughters, both of whom were also pregnant by this time, and I waited with the other grandmother-to-be.  What a difference a generation makes.  My son-in-law was not only allowed in for the delivery, but carried the baby to the nursery.  That was pretty scary since I’m not sure he had ever held a baby, but he did it like he had always known how.  He got to stand there with pride while they weighed this not so little 9 pound 5 ounce boy and we all watched through the window.  By that night, everyone had gathered and we filled the room, baby talk beginning to stream out of our mouths.  How instinctive is that?

They throw the moms out of the hospital as soon as possible these days and they have the babies with them most of the time, so it’s a little bit hectic between the nurses, the visitors, and trying to figure out what is going on with your body.  I was happy to remember my two-five days stays when I had my babies as times I could get some rest and gear up for the rest of my life.  I was visiting the hour that the lactation nurse came to explain breast feeding and I’m sure my son-in-law would have killed to be back at his job at that moment.  It was all my daughter and I could do to keep from giggling as she told her how to stop swelling by plastering her chest with cabbage leaves.  I hadn’t nursed because it was kind of out of fashion at the time I had my first child, but was happy with my choice by the time this nurse got through with us.  I’m all for it, but it was a bit of overkill from an overzealous advocate that day.

The parents were thrown out on their own with this new baby and I spent a lot of time remembering the ropes myself, hoping to be helpful as I remembered what an overwhelming responsibility it is to become a new parent.  Fortunately, it is amazing how quickly you remember how to hold a slippery, wiggly baby.  My mother and I laughed a lot remembering our own adventures and bonded with her new role as great-grandmother.  It was a time of happiness and joy.  What is better than having a little baby snuggled up against you?

By the end of that year, we had three new grandsons and I was well on my way to being known as Mimi as well as Karen (I’m not sure all of my grandkids know my real name even now).


We had had first trips to the car show, the zoo, the Drillers baseball games, the swimming pool and the pumpkin patch.  Life was changing and repeating itself in the best ways.  It was also teaching us about life and death as my husband was diagnosed with cancer in the middle of this season of births.  He died a week after this oldest grandchild had his first birthday, changing all our lives and teaching us how love heals those losses and life is never-ending cycles.

Once I became a grandparent, grandkids started coming at a fast rate.  Within the next couple of years, there were two more boys…

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Then a girl and a boy.


Each time there was a birth, the ever increasing family filled more and more of the hospital waiting room, ready to greet the newest addition.  We could all diaper a baby in seconds, had wiped more faces than we could count and the babies probably had to figure out sometimes whether the person holding them was a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle.  They were interchangeable at family gatherings.  And they grew up way too fast.


Then we had another one.  The only two births I missed being at the hospital for were my two granddaughters.  The first one was born while I was in Seattle with my son as he battled cancer, so we met her together over the computer, laughing at her first hospital picture, and then meeting her in a few days at the airport.  The second one was my son’s daughter, also born in Seattle.  I’d have been there, but we didn’t know when she was coming, so I heard from a text in the middle of the night and saw her first pictures on Facebook the next morning.  Such was the new technology in those fast moving years since the first baby came.


So, now I have eight wonderful grandkids and each is unique and a delight, just as their parents were.  They teach me so much and keep me up with what is going on in the world and make me feel old and young at the same time.  Following their busy lives, watching them grow into young adults, sharing their mistakes and triumphs, is a blessing beyond words.  I am lucky to have all eight of them here with me.  I make some of their ball games…soccer, football, basketball, baseball…and their assemblies and their confirmations and graduations.  The biggest problem is that they grow at a faster speed than my kids did.  Maybe I’m just on that downhill slide that comes when you go over the hill.  We won’t talk about that.

Sixteen years ago, I started on a new journey with my children, watching them become parents, watching them grow as people, watching them nurture their children through life.  Now we’ve got babies who are taller than their parents but not as smart…yet.  Sometimes I think that watching my own children with their children may be the very best part of it all.  May I live long enough to see my grandchildren with their children and my children become grandparents!  How much love can one family have?  There’s always room for more.

When you’ve had a drought, like we have had lately in Oklahoma, thunder and lightning are a welcome surprise.  My first thoughts this night were how incredible rain must have felt to the people in the Dust Bowl decade plus.  I can’t even imagine living through that time and, having learned about it, now appreciate the rain even more.  Here’s a remnant of a Dust Bowl house I passed in the Oklahoma panhandle, a lonely reminder of those who walked away.


Tonight, every little drop is a delight and all the songs about rain keep running through my  head.  There’s one that my grandmother used to sing to me, although in the song she changed some of the words a little from the poem I found on the internet.  She sang me songs that must have been old folk songs, passed down through families…

Two little clouds one summer’s day

Went flying through the sky.

They went so fast they bumped their heads,

And both began to cry.


Old Father Sun looked out and said,

“Oh, never mind my dears,

I’ll send my little fairy folk

To dry your falling tears.”


One fairy came in violet,

And one in indigo,

In blue, green, yellow, orange, red,–

They made a pretty row.


They wiped the cloud tears all away,

And then, from out the sky,

Upon a line the sunbeams made

They hung their gowns to dry.


There’s Rain, Rain, Go Away…my favorite version other than us singing it as kids is Peter, Paul & Mary blending their incredible voices.  Raindrops keep falling on my head…but I’m snugly inside tonight, not running outside to stomp and splash through the puddles in the summer, coming home soaking wet, like we did as children.  It’s nice to remember times when rain wasn’t just a nuisance, something to escape so you weren’t trapped in traffic, worrying about getting your shoes and clothes wet, trying to keep from catching your death, as they used to say.  Remember the fun times when we walked through it and laughed about it, played in it, rejoiced at dripping our way into the house to get warm and dry.  When do we get too old to stop and look up at the rain and let it hit our faces?  Remember that thrill?

Anyway, tonight is blessed rain to help the farmers, nourish the trees and wash the dust off our winter lives.  March showers bring spring dreams.  When I wake up tomorrow morning, these flowers in the dark will have soaked up the rain and blossomed in all their glory.  Magic Mother Nature.