Don’t Blink

Don’t Blink, Kenny Chesney

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Part of living in God’s country is country western music.  It’s literally the only music one can access on local stations. Thank goodness for all the alternative sources of music.

Country Western, in itself, wouldn’t be so bad except that more often than not, the theme is about loss…sad songs pulling on your emotions.

Regardless, a current local DJ favorite is an old Kenny Chesney song, Don’t Blink.

I’ve included it just in case you live in an area that does not favor the CW genre. The song plays well as the backdrop to this post so you might want to click on the play button just to get the full effect…

My kids and four grandsons descended this past week.  We had great fun — the boys spending most of their time paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, playing marathon monopoly and eating.  Lots of eating, but then, they are all still growing skywards. They tower over me, making me that much more aware of just how quickly time is passing.

My oldest grandson recently graduated from University of California, celebrated his 23rd birthday and is stepping into a whole new life adventure.

Don’t Blink.

The two sixteen year old cousins remain two peas in a pod, even though they’re launching in very different directions — one, interning at the California Academy of Sciences, has a science bent that far exceeds his age, and the other, a strong student with multi-faceted interests, is currently dedicated to his first love, playing varsity football.  The fourteen year old missed the competitive gene despite having the build of a football player, but shows exceptional talent as an artist and sculptor.

My oldest and only granddaughter, in her early 30’s, is with her wife in London, where she is living her dream of being the lead pastry chef for a boutique cafe chain.  They are hoping to become moms in the near future.

Which also means I’ll be a great-grandmother.

Don’t Blink.

And my kids?  Hovering on either side of 50 and, despite life challenges in health, family and careers, remain good people.

And that is ultimately what counts.

In all of this, I find it a bit curious that as we age and perhaps face more goodbyes than new adventures, there are unexpected moments of solitude and reflection, usually in the silence after the cars, kids, grand-kids and grand-dogs have departed.

It seems, at least for me, that it is in those moments of Aloneness that I have become keenly aware that the regrets and losses of our lifetimes stay closer than the successes.

The importance of the triumphs of our lives, those events once celebrated, have diminished with time.  Like fine dust caught in a breeze, they leave little more than a whisper of a memory.

But the regrets? oh my.  They hover close, just waiting for that moment of Aloneness to remind us once again of what we might have done, might have given, might have said…

…the different paths that our lives, and the people whose lives we touched, might have taken, if only…

Don’t Blink.

 

A Creek Runs Through It…

When I first lookeimg_0854-1d at this house, now my new home, one of the things that caught my attention, other than the spectacular views, was a dry creek bed meandering through the property. It wandered down from the golf course on the knoll above the back yard, worked its way around the house and decks, under a delightful bridge and through a large culvert under the street to the lake just beyond.

It was bone dry.  Neither the realtor nor I could figure out why it was so dry, other than it was the height of summer and a drought, but the other man-made creeks in the area regularly ran in order to keep the lake filled.

I thought perhaps it had something  to due with the upgrading at the small park across the street, so the next time I was down by the administration building I stopped in to ask about “turning the water back on.”

The ladies looked at one another, not knowing the answer, and then said, We need to get Sean. As it turned out, Sean was just down the hall and was more than happy to answer my question.

Ah.  You have a real creek.  It will run all winter.  He could barely contain a grin.

Good thing I don’t embarrass easily.

Sean was right. Now, a few months later, the rains have come — hopefully for more than a few days — and the creek runs full. 

It’s another unexpected delight, watching the water splash its way over river rocks and under the bridge on its journey from the hillside to the lake.

It also brings back unexpected and fond memories from childhood.  There was a creek at the end of our road, owned by a gruff, weathered old man whom we all knew as Mr. Scrabo, one of four Serbian brothers who settled in the rural valley and planted orchards.  There was an old road that ran along one side of his apple orchard and a wide creek that bordered the other side.

I don’t think he had any children of his own, other than the orchard that was, indeed, his child.  Mr. Scrabo would only allow children on his property, he’d say with a wink to the adults out walking. He hired the young neighborhood boys to help pick apples for a quarter an hour and all the rotten apples they wanted for after-work rotten apple fights. Girls were not supposed to do hard labor or fight.

But, Mr. Scrabo gave all of us access to the creek, even helping by clearing a wide path down its banks to a large clearing where the creek lazily snaked around a generous hairpin turn.  We spent many hot summer afternoons wading in the cool waters or fishing with with strainers from our moms’ kitchens, occasionally catching minnows and tadpoles while having great fun away from the eyes of any intruding parents.

The creek was gentle and babbling in the summer with waters so cool and clear you could see bugs and minnows alike, but, come the winter storms, the creek became swollen with water and part of the adventure of walking to school and having to cross the creek by balancing on a large fallen oak limb that, at the time, seemed oh-so-high above the raging waters below. 

When it was my young children’s turn to grow up in their mother’s childhood home, it was a gift to watch them relive many of my memories at the creek at the end of our road.

Of course, by then, Mr. Scrabo was another memory, too, the old road widened and paved over, and his prized orchard sold for homes, although Mr. Scrabo had made certain that a path, deeded in perpetuity, allowed the neighborhood children access to the creek and all the adventures that awaited them.

Sweet memories.  Sweeter man. 

I think I’ll get a mug of hot, spiced tea and sit by the window for a while, watching the rain and the creek, and see what other memories are waiting to be found.

Spanish Roscos

roscosChristmas is one season that is filled with traditions.

My dad’s family had a tradition that was handed down from one generation to the next for oh, maybe a few hundred years, give or take.  It was a recipe is for small round donut-shaped cookies called Roscos (with long “o’s”) that are the traditional Spanish cookie for Christmas.

While other Spanish families have similar recipes, even calling them by the same name, our recipe is special and, as I’ve mentioned, a closely guarded secret. 

You could have asked my mother.  Mom begged for the recipe for over 25 years, but all she could get were the cookies.  She finally put her foot down and demanded the family recipe.

oh, but of course you can have the recipe.

Sometimes you just have to shake your head at family dynamics.

Mom promptly tweaked the recipe just a bit, making the cookies oh so incredibly light, flaky and delicate. The rest of Dad’s family begged for her recipe.  Uh huh. I was the only one who got her recipe, although she delighted in giving the rest of the family buckets of her cookies.

Handing out boatloads of cookies was actually fairly easy.  One batch makes about 400 cookies.  Mom and I both used turkey roasters to knead the mountains of warm dough, while the aroma of sweet wine and anise seed filled the air.

It used to be a family event, waiting for the warm dough to chill overnight before my brothers and I got to help mom roll out the dough and form them into rings to be baked. We were serious about ten minutes.

oh look at mine.  It has to go on a diet.

oh no, this one has been sick.

this one has eyes!

And so it went, with mom rolling the vast majority of the cookies while trying to keep some semblance of order, and my dad sitting nearby, pretending to read his paper but smiling all the time.

I realized much, much later, as my two young children cracked the same jokes that my brothers and I had, Dad must have been thinking back to his mother’s and grandmother’s kitchens and the bantering between he and his sister as they rolled out the dough into the Christmas Roscos.

Later, my brothers and I would wait for the golden cookies to come out of the oven and be immediately plunged into cinnamon and sugar until each cookie was fully covered in the rich mixture. Then, the sweet torture of waiting a few days for the cookies to season before they were ready to be gobbled down or given to friends.

When I was teaching, I used to have my students write about a holiday tradition, and then tell them the story of our tradition before letting them take a Rosco or two as they walked out the door to the Christmas holidays.

Even though the cookies take two afternoons to make, and admittedly leave the kitchen in sugared chaos, I had hoped the tradition might take hold with my children. 

My son and his children are the only ones that occasionally do still make the delicate cookies. I like to think that Dad is still watching over them and smiling at the bantering, joking and memories.

It’s a funny thing about traditions, even at Christmastime.  Skip a generation, maybe two, and those traditions and memories are so quickly lost forever to the ages.



 

 

 

A Thanksgiving Turkey

turkeyIt’s amazing how we carry on traditions.  My mother hosted Thanksgiving for the extended family until, one year, she was done and the tradition was handed down to me. 

As the kids married, we tried T-Day at in-laws and out-laws, and we all agreed, it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving.  Traditions die hard.  In short order, I got the day.  I tweaked the menu a bit, asking my son-in-law and daughter-in-law to bring their favorite dish or two from their family Thanksgivings.  Those dishes have become a part of our evolving tradition.

In addition to the meal, I also inherited the china, silver and crystal, which I used until the last few years ago when I purchased a new set of pottery that I like so much more and, even better, can be put straight into the dishwasher.  No one seems to use the finery any more, not that I ever used it much in my adult life.  But, it was an opportunity to teach my four grandsons all about forks; the oldest, my granddaughter, had already gotten that training from her other grandmother.  The boys all stepped up and, each in turn, helped train the next youngest in fork and dining etiquette. 

Not only do they know forks, they know not to eat until after Grandma’s Grace, which is what their parents call my once-a-year blessing. The grandkids know to patiently wait and remain silent while their parents provide the mocking setup for the annual event. The younger ones know full well not to mess with Grandma; Christmas is just around the corner.

Just to make certain the grandkids have the next holiday on the calendar and can start bugging their parents, each one of them gets a Christmas ornament with the slice of pumpkin pie.  Retribution is a grandmother’s prerogative. 

A few years back, I had minor hand surgery in early autumn.  The surgery went well; the recovery not so well and, in one of those small percentage glitches, the wound had a rough time healing.  It finally started to do what it was supposed to do in mid November when I went in for my weekly visit with the surgeon.

Looking good, he said. I’m assuming you do Thanksgiving.

Yep.

Not this year.

What???

The hand is still not totally healed.  You can’t do the cooking.  You can host it.

I can cook.

Nope. Not til it’s fully healed. Get the kids to help.

uh huh.

Seeing as no one answers their phones anymore, I sent a text asking for help as I was barred from the kitchen.  I could still host but the few days of intensive kitchen cooking was out.

My daughter was the first to respond. I don’t cook.

I already knew that. I raised her to stand strong and independent, which she is, except in the kitchen.  Her husband says she’d starve to death if she couldn’t find someone who could boil water.

My daughter-in-law was marginally more helpful. Whole Foods has a package deal.  We can do that.  I don’t do dishes.

My son jumped in.  We’ll bring paper plates.

This was proving to be more challenging than I thought it would be.

I texted back,  Thanksgiving. Traditions. Dishes. All that Stuff and Stuffing. Leftovers. Take out?

Silence.  Evidently, it was a take out or leave it proposition.

So I left it, sadden by the knowledge that when I can no longer handle T-Day, it might well evolve into a take out with paper plates day, given that everyone is too stressed in forty different directions to dedicate a day to family, gratitude and tradition.

In the meantime, thank goodness for the internet; there were entire websites devoted to make ahead Thanksgiving recipes.  I lined them up, and one at a time, got them done with no strain on my hand. 

And, on Thanksgiving, the kids proclaimed it was the best dinner ever. Of course they’d say that; all they had to do was show up and eat.

They still had to do the dishes. 

 

My Daughter’s Cat

I inherited my daughtIMG_2441er’s cat. 

I like dogs.  We’ve always had dogs and they were always German Shepherds.  The dogs instinctively knew their role: to serve and protect. And they did it quite well without ever complaining.

Then there was Misha, a small, dainty bundle of tangled black, white and grey fur that always needed grooming.  She established her role rather quickly: she was the center of the universe.

I’m not quite sure how I ended up with her — at the time, I thought I was just cat-sitting for a weekend.

Misha and I had met once before, right after my daughter, a student at UCB, and her boyfriend/now husband adopted her from the local animal shelter.  Misha was cute enough, but she was a cat.  My daughter had always wanted a cat;  I’m not sure why, because as an adult, she and her husband have adopted very large dogs that keep up quite well with my two very active grandsons.

However back in her college days, my daughter had Misha.  And, being a cat and somewhat curious, Misha got out of the Berkeley house and was hit by a car.

I got the call at school during lunch.

Mom…daughter was crying.  Sob, sob, sob. 

Misha got hit by a car. Sob, sob, sob.

I thought that was the end of cat’s nine lives from my daughter’s sobbing. I was wrong.

Mom, she needs surgery.

Cha-Ching.

Honey, there comes a point you have to let Misha go onto kitty heaven. 

I tried to be gentle, but good grief, the soon-to-be ex and I were underwriting two kids in college, a bi-coastal marriage with two households, and this was a very young kitten of questionable lineage.

You’d never make that decision about your dogs.  My daughter quickly grew very indignant. 

Actually we had, but the kids didn’t know it and this didn’t seem like the best time to rewrite history or argue the point.

Besides, Misha had already had the surgery.

Can you put money in my bank account?  Please…

Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching.

We ended the conversation and I headed back to my classroom, where the phone was again soon ringing.

The teacher next door walked in, mid-conversation, and, having kids and animals of his own, quickly pieced together what was happening.

He stood at the door and kept mouthing, It’s a cat. Are you crazy? as I listened to my daughter give the Misha Medical Update.

Did you know they have kitty respirators? 

Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching.

So, by all standards, Misha should have lived the rest of her remaining seven or eight lives with my daughter, who obviously had the cat’s best interests at heart.

But, no, Misha ended up with me.

We had a love-ignore relationship.  I tried to love her; she pretty much ignored me.  Maybe not totally ignored me, because I fed her and tried to groom her. But it was definitely in the toleration range.

Misha wanted to be left alone until she didn’t, and she wanted to be petted or groomed until she didn’t, at which time she’d hiss and bite or claw.  Unfortunately, I never saw the hiss, bite or claw coming so she usually got me.  Then, she would walked away, twitching her very elegant tail and feeling very pleased with herself while I nursed my bleeding wounds.

If I didn’t give Her Highness the attention she demanded, Misha would walk out in front of my our her home, sit on the lawn at the edge of the sidewalk and patiently wait for a neighbor to walk by.  Then, the cat would throw herself on her back in front of anyone who strolled by, purr loudly, and wait for a tummy rub.

Everyone in the neighborhood thought Misha was the most perfect, most polite, most beautiful cat they had ever met. 

Evidently, I was the only one who knew the truth.

Announcement!

        (¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸(¯`’•.¸ A Project Linus Quilt Auction! ¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)¸.•’´¯)

An on-line, Facebook auction of over 100 gorgeous handmade quilts!

Last year the Sacramento Project Linus chapter distributed over 9,200 blankets — all handmade by volunteers — to seriously ill or traumatized youth, ages infant to 18 years old. The chapter is currently helping to supply handmade blankets for all youngsters displaced by the northern California fires that destroyed over 1,000 homes.

This quilt auction is a once a year fund raiser that underwrites supplies and activities for the Project Linus group in the greater Sacramento, Placer and El Dorado Counties area.  Project Linus is a 100% volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Here’s your chance, bid often, bid high!, to win a magnificent handmade quilt for your grandchildren, your children — or for yourself!!

You can access the Quilt Auction from Oct. 2, 2:00 PM PST – Oct 9, 2015  at:

https://www.facebook.com/Project-Linus-Sacramento-Chapter-1443058355981799/timeline/

Questions?  Contact Claire Gliddon at:

At the bottom of this page you’ll find a share button.  Please share this posting with friends and family via email, Facebook and any or all of the other links…

Thank you so very much!

The Project Linus Update

As many of you may know, California has been burning — the last two large fires in Northern California destroyed over 1,000 homes.

Last week, I dropped off five rag quilts for Project Linus and just received a wonderful email — all five quilts are on their way to five young children whose families lost everything in the fires.

IMG_2396So, for those of you who have been thinking about jumping in, stop thinking and do it.  These don’t have to be rag quilts (although they’re awfully fun to make and, believe me, take no talent at all — they’re very forgiving!!); any kind of handmade blanket will do.

A couple of websites:

http://www.projectlinus.org (the national organization that can link you to a donation point in your area)

http://www.sacprojectlinus.org (the Sacramento group that my area feeds into; they’ve got a great video you may want to watch, in case you’re wondering if the blankets make any difference!)