Year of Questions

photo (19)“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston

I think 2012 was definitely the year of questions – so many that sometimes it seemed overwhelming.  Lots of changes for our family – some good, some great, and some just not so much.  I watched my children be braver than I could ever hope to be as they started new schools.  I am grateful for their strength and the people who guided them through those first days and weeks.

We unexpectedly lost Uncle V in 2012 and that has left a huge hole in our family.  We are learning to think like four and not five – learning to remember with love the things he left behind – and move on from that loss, as well.

I am looking at 2013 and wondering what it holds.  Regardless, my resolution is to be grateful and faithful.

Grandma Vera

Image Retrieved from Behold.com

Our journey continues in our new community with a new school and lots of changes for our girls.  A long commute for Mom and and a new job for Dad.  Several weeks into the new school year, things began to seem pretty bleak.  Lots of things weighing on my shoulders and sometimes the long drive resulted in too much think time.  Early mornings and late nights with little sleep also contributed to my black cloud.

However, one early morning, I had someone I love very much visit me in my dreams.  Grandma Vera was standing before me smiling and calling me “Cinders,” which was her way for thirty years.  Her presence was so near, and yet in a blink she was gone.

Did her memory bubble to the surface because it was September – our birthday month and the month she got sick?  During that terrible autumn, I baked and canned like a crazy woman to block out the pain of her leaving us. And the day we lost her, I felt her spirit whisp past me in our drafty kitchen in Osmond.  I was baking our favorite chocolate star cookies in an attempt to hang onto something that kept her close. This time, I am choosing to believe her visit was the sign I needed after a long silence. A message that all these things will be OK, just as they were when she first left us.

Have Salsa….Wanna Be Friends?

This is by far our smallest production year of the super secret salsa.  Due to our move, we made no effort to plant a garden.  However, after this weekend’s visit from my parents, we ended up with a bumper crop  of tomatoes and a fully functioning kitchen sink.  And so….Saturday was Salsa Day!  It involves big, steaming pots, lots and lots of jars, and bags of good tortilla chips.  Thankfully, our children love salsa because that’s all that we eat on Salsa Day – maybe adding some cheese if we feel frisky.

Salsa day is an almost twenty year tradition that began in Osmond, NE.    Chris traded a good friend a basket of tomatoes for her salsa recipe.  Chris also became known as the tomato man at church, and all the little ladies LOVED him and his bumper crop of vegetables. I still have the original printed copy of that recipe.  It is now stained and brown from seasons of use.  I treasure that friendship which continues today and the love that was passed in one piece of paper. That first trade provided us with some roots and a sense of community.  Years later, after another move to another school district, that salsa recipe and its subsequent jars of fabulous-ness paved our way to friendship with many people we have come to cherish. Traditionally, Chris would insist on some type of trade for the secret information.  As a librarian and believer in free speech, I pretty much just gave it to people I liked and trusted.

Our nephew grew up in our house eating salsa.  As a husband and dad, he has carried on the salsa tradition, but prefers to steal as many jars as possible from our house.  “Cause yours tastes better….” I have given him jars to take home, only to find three additional jars of contraband stuffed into the diaper bag.

Now, in a new community, salsa has again paved the way to new friendships.  Chris has hauled jars to school to share with teachers and fellow administrators. It has become a conversation piece and provided a treat to share over meetings and preparations for the new school year. The famed super secret recipe had a moment of fame on Twitter as it was bartered and shared with some of our Twitter network. We ended up with a smashing snickerdoodle recipe! It has also strengthened those old bonds from Osmond as we shared memories with the children of the original recipe owner through Twitter.

I started thinking about how  in Osmond, we had no smart phones and social media wasn’t even on the horizon. But this one recipe, like many others shared around the world, seems to bring us together over some spicy goodness that transcends technology and all our challenges.

Lost My Way

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I made several of these solar jar lights this spring as gifts for special students. Something to light their path in case they lost their way …looking at the one I saved for myself…I realize that it was me who got lost.

Reflections on a Watering Can

Although it is much more efficient to unwind the hose and spray all the pots and plants, I have found some particular comfort in the watering can. Fill, empty, fill, empty, fill again. It is a process that requires one to stand still for more than ten seconds. It also has turned a chore into something more contemplative and peaceful-something that I appreciate after a busy and stressful school year and more changes in store for next fall.  I feel truly drained and empty  – looking for a way to recharge my creative spirit. Watering each pot, one by one, allows me to really look at the flowers and reminds me to stop, think, and be grateful for each blessing, large and small.

Another Way to Waste Time….While Looking Busy

Image Retrieved from cafemom.com

Never a fan of hoky apps and electronic games, I am absolutely hooked on playing with Maukie – The Virtual Cat.  It is a gadget available for your Google homepage.  He purrs, he meows, he plays, and he twitches his ears as you move the cursor around the image.  COOL!!!!!  He also bears a striking resemblence to the main man in our household.  Vivaldi is not impressed – but little impresses him.  (Oh-except for the cotton ball that he chased, mauled and shredded on the carpet this morning AND my very expensive floor rug that he is bent on destroying by ripping tuft out of it.)

Incidentally, I have two projects to work on and some critical house cleaning to be done on this day home with a sick one – but I am playing with Maukie…but I look busy.

Christmas Snow and Monkeys

This is what nineteen inches of snow looks like

Christmas came and went this year, somewhat disguised in a blur of blinding snow.  Like most people, we spent the holiday at home and with no possibility of going anywhere else.   With all the craziness of the holiday season, I think this was the Good Lord’s way of reminding us what does really matter.  We spent three days in our pajamas, playing games and watching movies.  When the skies finally cleared, we still had to wait for heavy equipment to dig us out. Thankfully, we had power throughout and plenty of provisions since Christmas dinner was supposed to be at our home.

Not sure what 2009 was on the Chinese calendar, but here it was the year of the sock monkey.  There seemed to be a sock monkey explosion at our house with monkeys, pajamas and slippers.  We made several of our new friends and purchased a couple.  Santa brought a lifesize monkey on Christmas morning.  His name is George Finkelmeier and is already the star of several videos that are still in the editing process.  He also surved an attack by the dog and the gash on his leg is healing nicely. We discovered that Fox River socks also come in blue – so we had to add a blue monkey (Max) to our family. 

Sock Monkey Christmas

Another blue monkey went to one of the little girls – and she promptly named it Sally.  A rainbow monkey was created from the crazy socks worn during basketball last season because someone just couldn’t part with them.  “A” has collected a few other pairs of crazy socks to create additional members of the gang.  Dad is a little concerned about all the monkey business going on -but a little harmless fun is always in order.

H1N1 and Pondering Life Upside Down

H and I are sifting through the Sunday paper in a fog of fatigue and fever induced confusion.  She’s wondering why the comics are only in color on Sunday.  No idea.  Three nights of little sleep and fever watch have left me in a state of dazed confusion.    Made a trip to the local Wal-Mart on Friday PM to stock up on Children’s Motrin and Tylenol – shelves were empty.  Two stores later – we finally had a new supply.  Kind of creepy and quite unsettling.  Couldn’t wait to get back home and maybe not leave again for awhile.  They are not kidding when they say to expect a fever of 102+.  Finally, turning a corner today. 

Vivaldi Takes Considers a New Perspective

Vivaldi Takes Considers a New Perspective

Vivaldi has abandoned his post at the end of the hall and spent time monitoring sleep and fevers with me.  He slept with A for awhile and sat on H’s floor to watch her sleep.  They have an understanding – he doesn’t sleep in her bed – and she doesn’t kick him off the bed.  He finally sacked out in our bed – finding that I probably needed the moral support.  Aside from his medical montoring activities, he’s taken an interest in peering over the banister and slapping unsuspecting individuals coming up the stairs.

We are not sure what he’s looking at – but he seems deep in thought about something.  We’ve all looked over the banister to see if there is really something to look at – nothing out of the ordinary –  except that the carpet on the steps desperately needs cleaning.  I don’t think he’s worrying about that.   

Footprints in the Sand

For those who know us – you will know all the details regarding how our move came to be.  You will also know the pain and uncertainty that we experienced  over trying to make the best decision as parents, friends, and professionals.    You will also wonder with us how those with absolutely no integrity are able to sleep at night.  I would ask them, do you wonder how it feels to listen to your children cry as they pack their rooms in preparation for a move to a new home, a new school and a new life?  I would also tell them, we will move on, we will survive, and you will remain stuck and small minded.  And to quote a wise twelve year old (H) – Karma is like a rubber band – it can only stretch so far before it snaps back and hits you in the face.

Clearwater Beach, FL

What you may not know  – is that we have found that when there are only one set of footprints in the sand  – God is truly carrying us.  Our path is not our own – and sometimes God strikes us with a lightning bolt to get our attention.  When you have nothing else –  you have your faith and those who love you. Blessings to those who love us, support us, and have shown their friendship in small and large ways.

Boo

At 4:30 in the morning on a bitter cold day, Boo blew into our household like a tornado and has turned out entire system upside down.  With frostbite on her paws and cuts on her face, she was in rough shape but quickly settled down for a much needed rest (like three weeks) and eventually figured out the litter box routine.  She spent a week at the vet and then we “tried her out” before sending her back to the vet for shots and boarding while we where away for Thanksgiving. Needless to say, Vivaldi’s happy little existence is in upheaval over her arrival (see “Vivaldi’s World”).  She has taken a shine to Chris and is another “Daddy’s Girl” as she sits like a queen on his shoulder when she is tired. Despite the occasional hissing match, everyone is adjusting and learning to use a broom and dustpan to sweep up the litter she is intent on flinging as far as possible from the litter box.

 

A Fishy….Fishy Tale

Fish Tank Void of Fish

This is our fish tank.  It has NO fish in it.  A decided to use her confirmation and birthday money to buy a fish tank.  Her father and I have supplemented at least twice what she started with to get this project right.

The body count is currently TWELVE and we are on probation with the garden store until we get the water chemistry stabilized.  Seriously???!!!  Dad and I both agree….here it comes…when we were kids… we had a bowl, water from the hose, and some fish that lived forever.
That doesn’t seem to be the case now.  We have a bubbler, a heater (returned – water got too warm), a filter, and more pharmaceuticals than we have for ourselves. After the last trip to the garden center with the “body,” I left with new instructions, a handful of pamphlets, and a deflated sense of self. A pointed out “why are we getting all of this literature now….and why does each pamphlet contradict the others?”
So…we have an empty fish tank which seems to be doing fine…for now.  Maybe we will just leave it like that.