Bread and milk anyone?

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Well, my little brother and the kids got a good dose of what an Iowa winter feels like last week in their own backyard. Much of my home state of Kentucky was hit by inches upon inches of the white four-lettered “s” word we pretty much take in stride around here.
I tease him mercilessly about it when the girls have snow days for less than an inch on the ground or even more so when the threat of snow leads to the district calling off classes and nothing happens.
Now to their credit, the weather in Kentucky can change at the drop of a hat, particularly in the central part where we’re from. I remember years ago what was predicted as a “light dusting” was anything but. The entire town was practically shut down and as a collective, most people lost faith in the weatherman. Since then, it seems whenever a flake is in the forecast, bread and milk aisles are cleared at Kroger, Meijer and Wal-Mart.
Just to show some things never change even decades later, my brother Shane confirmed the bread and milk blitz on the grocery store while he casually perused the discount Valentine’s Day candy. (That’s my boy! Always looking for bargain chocolate amidst the chaos.)
As you might imagine, with half a foot of snow or more can shut down the state, moving here was a bit of a shock. The first winter I spent here, I saw more snow in three months than in nearly three decades of life. Hubby kept telling me the winters here were no worse than they are back home. Ha!
I remember trying to run through a drift at my father-in-law’s house, stepped too deeply and managed to find myself able to sit on top of the snow with my legs covered and stuck. People, I am not short. I’m 5’9” and 44” of that are my legs. (Thanks Dad!) Think about that.
However, I did appreciate the ability to make epic snow angels, which I took pictures of to send back home.
I’ve adapted now. Seven winters here will do that I suppose. Thirty degree days are now considered relatively warm. I find myself braving winter temps in T-shirts when it is reasonable. Canning ensures I’ll have food on the shelves. It’s not milk and bread, I know, but I am sure we can manage.
As of Monday, Shane still had his sanity and hair following a week of cold temps and kids out of school. I keep telling him it isn’t so bad up here in the winter. I’m not sure Mother Nature helped my argument. But, now that he has survived and thrived, maybe I can convince him he needs to move closer to his big sister.
And yes dear, you were right, the winters here are finally the same as they are in Kentucky…

Making progress

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Well, we’re two months into 2015, and slowly but surely I am making progress on the personal goals I shared with you for this year. Seriously. Yeah, I know, I can’t believe it either. My zombified birthday has come and gone — pink, flesh-like cheese ball shaped into a head and all. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and actually got along, which I consider both a triumph and huge relief.
Four of my wonderful friends purchased me a pressure canner so I can continue moving forward with canning. If anyone has priced a pressure canner lately, they aren’t cheap. The cost has been prohibitive for me to make that next leap into canning. Until now, I was limited only to things that can be canned in a water bath canner. I soon plan to reclaim my deep freezer space from the frozen green beans and sweet corn that will soon find a new home in what I predict will be many pint jars.
I am behind on planning my garden for this year. I’ve been busy with work and getting the party pulled together and now jewelry season is upon us. I need to take a moment (or several) to do a little research on which plants grow best, when to plant and how to plant them to maximize the yield and benefits to each plant. Aside from planting many, many more tomatoes, I don’t have a clear vision. However, I have been listening to podcasts on the subject and watched a webinar, so I suppose that does count as progress. Kind of. I’ll give myself half a point on this one if that seems fair.
I also was successful in beginning to learn how to crochet. I am by no means an expert, but I’ve almost overcome the awkward, “I’m supposed to do what now?” stage. Hey, I am happy I got past the figuring out how to hold the yarn part. Until recently, that’s as far as I’d been able to achieve. I’ll chalk up another point on this one… Alright fine, half of a point.
Probably the most important progress I am making is trying to work through my grief for my mother. My birthday came with several tears, which I knew it would. But, here’s why.
My mother went into labor with me on February 8. Being one of nine children, she had a pretty large family and most, along with my father’s family, were waiting in eager anticipation for my arrival. My Mom’s father, my Poppy, finally got tired of waiting and decided he was going home and going to bed. I can’t say I blame him. I’m one of 27 first grandchildren on that side and closer to the upper 20s on the list so it wasn’t his first rodeo of being a grandfather.
My Granny Aggie tried to convince him to stay to no avail. According to Mom, Poppy said, “That baby isn’t going to be born until four o’clock tomorrow afternoon. I’m going home and going to bed.”
Low and behold I made my first appearance at 3:59 p.m. on Monday, February 9, as he’d predicted. Throughout my adult years and probably a few of my upper teen years, Mom called me every year at 3:59 p.m. to wish me a happy birthday, tell me she loved me, and that I’ll always be her baby since I was the first born.
Obviously, this year that call didn’t come, and the silence of my phone was met with my tears at 4:13 p.m. It’s hard to believe she’s been gone three months already. However, after going through my baby book for the first time, I got a special message from my mother she’d written when I was only two months old. That was a comfort at least. No points earned on this one yet. Eh, I think I can give that one half a point, too.

Why I love my job

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Sure, there are days that work is stressful, no matter what your vocation is. If I said the newspaper biz was always peachy keen I’d be a liar. But there are days that make me smile and be glad I do what I do.

Last Saturday I was privileged to watch students gather at Sibley-Ocheyedan to learn about science. On paper that sounds like it would be sort of dull. Though I know I’m a nerd at heart, I think most people would have been equally amused to observe the event.

I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched duos run through the hallways of S-O Middle School, one pushing the other on a scooter as they attempted to navigate a slew of obstacles. The screams, laughs and sparkles in the eyes of the kids instantly brought a smile to my face. To be honest, I wish I could’ve flown down the hall on one of those scooters, but I’m not sure I’d have been able to get back up off the ground afterwards. I was tired just watching the energy.

Friday night I got to cover the chili cook-off. I’ll level with you, I had no idea what to expect. I’m not really a chili person. I don’t do spicy foods well at all and when you come from a family that expects chili to be hot, well, you avoid it at all costs.

When I arrived, I was amazed at the turnout and more so by the creativity that was put into the booths. I can only imagine how long it took to create not only the aesthetics but the concoctions that were the focal point of the evening.

After a little coaxing from Jesse, our Daily Globe photographer, I finally tried a few that were on the mild side, and they were pretty good. I received an education on styles of chili and learned there were many combinations beyond just beans and beef. I can now say I’ve tried pheasant, thanks to the chili opener.

Now, while Jesse coaxed me to eat chili, no amount of coaxing on the planet could have talked me into getting out on the ice Saturday afternoon. If the shift in temperature wasn’t bone chilling enough, the mere thought of walking out across that lake scared me to death.

I know, I know, it’s sort of a stupid thing to be scared of. But all I could envision was me either A) falling down on the ice and hurting something I probably wasn’t even aware I had or B) falling down on the ice and breaking the video camera I’d been entrusted with or C) falling through the ice and taking the plunge myself. None of the above sounded like a great way to spend my afternoon.

But a few things warmed my heart while I observed people dressed as ninja turtles, sharks and even bacon jump into the water. On the shore I saw Berniece and Norma, two ladies I’d met the night prior at the chili cook-off. I found the pair delightful when I met them and discussed with them the finer points of chili, but seeing them all bundled up on the shore made me grin ear to ear.

The pair told me they were good friends, both widowed, and had pledged to go out and try new things together. They often go on outings with one another, and to continue their first Winterfest experience they had agreed to watch the dippers.

I have no idea how long they stayed. The wind was pretty brutal. But all I could think of was, “That will be Femme Wonder and me when we get to that age.” When I relayed the story to Bec later, she asked if that would be us before I could even confirm the thought.

Little warm fuzzies like those are why I love what I do. I enjoy the people I meet and the new experiences I get to have that I might otherwise never have considered. But no way am I getting out on the ice willingly. Nope. Unh-unh, not happening.

What the heck is a power femme?

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You would think in writing this blog for the past six months it would have dawned on me at some point to explain why I have, or rather how I earned, the nickname Power Femme. However, you’d be wrong — well, until this morning that is. Femme Wonder mentioned it offhandedly a while back and it went in one ear and right out the other, likely jumping the turnstile in the middle to speed up the process.

In my estimation (at least my definition) of Power Femme would be a woman who is strong, a bit feminine but can still hold her own. I think that describes me well. I like to think I am a pretty tough cookie, albeit a sweet one likely covered in sprinkles and probably full of… chocolate.

But here’s how I got the name.

Years upon years ago, I want to say 2000, I was living with another Robin. It made for some interesting phone conversations to determine which of us the caller wanted. (Aah, the days of house phones.) Anyway, Robin bought a house in a decent neighborhood back home but the house was a fixer-upper to say the least. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she’d bought the house of the neighborhood drug dealer that practically every neighbor was happy to say good riddance to. One even took the “For Sale” sign out of his yard when she introduced herself as a jail officer.

Getting the house ready to move in was a nightmare of sorts. Doors and windows had to be replaced. You never think when buying a house that you need to inspect every pane of glass in the windows to ensure they are there. When I managed to windex the bushes in the front of the house… I learned this is something you need to do.

Femme Wonder spent hours upon hours with us bleaching, mopping, painting and more to get the house in order. It’s pretty bad when Beccie splashed bleach on the wall accidentally and discovered that minty green kitchen was actually baby blue.

Part of the prepping process of the house was to paint the inside of the closets. The two-bedroom house was unique in that the closets connected the rooms to one another. The bedrooms shared a long closet between them and the second connected the front bedroom to the living room. We had removed the long shelves from the closet, moving them to the garage for painting purposes. They’d been drying outside for several days as other projects occupied our time. Finally, they were ready to return, and Beccie and I were ready to earn our nicknames.

Robin had left to go somewhere. She might have made her 1,000,000,000th trip to Home Depot or Lowe’s, maybe she was getting lunch, I don’t remember. What I do remember is she left Bec and I in the house alone with a determination that we too could be savvy with home repair.

We were given the task to put the shelves back into the closets. This should have been a no-brainer and certainly an easy enough task for two competent women such as ourselves to accomplish, right?

We carried the first one into the closet and it went in fine — a little loose, but fine. A shared high-five led us to shelf two, and that’s when we hit a snag. This one was just a little too big. We struggled, strained and tried everything short of slabbing butter on it. With glistening brows covered in sweat and not just because it was summertime in Kentucky, we began to discuss what the problem was and what the most logical solution would be.

We deduced that the wood must have swollen due to it sitting outside for however long it had been there. Kentucky summers are nice and humid, surely that would have caused the wood to expand. Well, with the problem determined, next we needed a solution. Like kids in a candy store, our faces lit up and our mouths curled up into mischievous grins as we saw the answer to our dilemma… a power saw.

Now, to be fair, Beccie tried to talk me out of it, I think. The argument being with the chute attached for blowing sawdust out of the way, we’d make a mess. Once I agreed to clean it up and to operate this thing in case Robin was upset, we were full steam ahead.

I should tell you, I can’t cut a straight line to save my life. Using a power tool I had never tried did not increase my odds either. With the saw above my head, I tackled that board now impossibly wedged in the closet. After multiple passes I had taken a good six inches off one corner and maybe half an inch from the other on the end I could get to.

I let go of the trigger and set the saw down to survey my handiwork. Beccie and I both were covered in sawdust and sweat but let out a triumphant cry as the shelf fell into place. It wasn’t soon after the front door opened and Robin returned to see us both pleased with our “accomplishment.”

I explained how proud we were but that she should refrain from putting anything heavy on that corner, since it really no longer existed. We’d managed to place a few items in the closet to cover it up.

Robin, trying to be diplomatic, nodded her head as we spoke, grinning ear to ear. She wiped her hand across her face before quietly speaking.

“You do realize you could have just switched the shelves out, right?” she asked.

Following our “triumph,” Power Femme and Femme Wonder were born, and we were never left alone with anything beyond a screwdriver or a hammer again.

Bring on the party!

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It’s one month til my birthday! One month til my birthday! If I didn’t think my co-workers would find me stranger than they already do, I’d start a conga line singing that mantra. As it stands, I am dancing in my chair. Da-da-da-da-da-da!

While another year older can occasionally be a bit distressing, this year I think will be okay. I have a theory as to why, but for me, turning 25 was one of the hardest birthdays I’ve had. Several friends have agreed with me so I am thinking I am not alone in this. My theory is that at 25 I started looking at friends and other classmates from high school to compare where they were to where I was in my life. Several had graduated from college. Others had gotten married and started families. Many had begun what I’d refer to as a career vs. a job. At 25, I had none of that, unless you count the four-legged children. It really made me question where I was and where I wanted to be. When I was 18, I was so sure by 25 I’d have graduated and found my dream job, dream spouse and started on my dream family. That wasn’t the way the cookie crumbled, and in hindsight I am thankful I didn’t get what I wanted then. Aah, the wisdom that comes from getting older, I suppose.

My biggest concern this year is a theme for my party. Last year was a no-brainer. I had a Lord of The Rings/Hobbit inspired party. As my fellow “ringers” may know, hobbits are not considered adults until they reach the age of 33. With that knowledge in mind, I greeted my guests with lots of food adorned in a cape and hobbit feet. But this year? I am not sure what I want to do this year.

Two years ago we went out for dinner, bowling and I had a Monster High cake. (Yes, if you haven’t clued in by now, I am a big kid at heart). I am seriously considering a Harry Potter themed party in honor of my Mother, but part of me wants to wait until March and have that party for her instead on her birthday. Yeah, I think that is the better choice. Well, that leads me back to square one. Hmm. You know… When I think about the past year, with all of its ups and downs, I think I can best describe it as I survived. I made it through regardless of what was thrown at me, even when I didn’t want to or think I could. And with the premiere occurring on my birthday weekend… The Walking Dead it is. If I survived 2014, I plan to thrive in 2015. Just like Rick and the others. I can face whatever comes my way, even if I lack epic katana skills.

Happy 34th birthday to me! Now to spend the next month on Pinterest researching zombie-themed party foods. (Like I needed an excuse to pin things.) But for those who want to send me a gift… Daryl Dixon with a bow on his head would be well received. Just sayin’.

Re:Solution

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The past few weeks have been a bit crazy getting back into work and launching a big sale on our Dovesland Creations Facebook page. We are clearancing out a good portion of our current stock to make way for new inventory. I haven’t felt much like creating as of late, but I can honestly say I am starting to get that twinge of excitement in my stomach about the jewelry business again. Femme Wonder and I have been looking towards 2015 with a renewed confidence and a hope that this year we will continue on an upward trend. No, we won’t be changing our last names to Rockefeller anytime soon, but I’d like to keep on the trend of breaking even at least. I am also excited about a few new directions creatively we are heading in.
I have some other personal goals for next year as well. I’ve decided I want to finally learn how to use my sewing machine. Right now it does a great job collecting dust in the cabinet, but I am pretty certain it has other uses I’ve not fully explored. While I enjoy cross-stitch, I don’t always feel it produces something tangible. What I mean to say is, I can make nice wall hangings or decorate a towel, but in and of itself it doesn’t create a useful item. With sewing I can create clothing, blankets, curtains etc. and feel that what I’ve done has an honest purpose.
I can hand sew … sort of. I learned in Girl Scouts YEARS ago — maybe it was in school — but we learned simple stitches to sew on a patch or hem a pair of pants. Earlier than that, I spent many a night at my Granny’s sewing buttons onto a dish towel. Both skills have made random appearances in my adulthood, but I am convinced mastering the machine is probably the way to go.
I’ve refocused recently on cooking ahead and canning. My typical Saturdays are spent in the kitchen either prepping meals for the next work week or canning. Sometimes I’ll branch out and do things like making my own laundry detergent, which so far has yielded mixed results. Cooking ahead is definitely convenient during the workweek, and I genuinely enjoy it. Now if I can pick up a few healthier recipes to trim the waistline I’ll be even better off.
Now, you might say these sound like New Year’s Resolutions. But I’d say nay. I can’t keep a resolution for the life of me. Several years ago I made a resolution to never make a resolution and I couldn’t even keep that one, so what does that tell you?
No, no, these are solutions. I can handle coming up with a solution to a problem. I like to fix situations and come up with answers. So this year, I am sending myself a message a Re:Solution memo. (Yes, I realize this is the same thing, but shhh don’t tell me that!)

Pain in the … knee

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My knees and I have been inseparable since birth. Heh. You are thinking, “Wow, you don’t say?” But in the middle of the night, my right knee in particular decided to make its presence known — and felt.

My dad always said he had “pool shooting knees.” There are pictures of my dad and me going fishing when I was a kid wearing cut-off shorts in the summer that would suggest I inherited this trait. While it isn’t noticeable if I stand up straight, my knees tend to bow backwards just like my dad’s. While yes, this could be an asset when leaning over a table with cue in hand, it probably isn’t the best for Average Joes who aren’t pool sharks.

Standing straight became more of a conscious effort when I entered choir in elementary school. Those knees held me up on risers through my senior year, and I made a conscious effort to bend at least one periodically during concerts to keep them from locking up and me from tumbling down. At least Mr. Stegner, our director, always cautioned us that would happen if we were too stiff for too long.

If I knew then what I know now, I’d have been nicer to my poor knees. Crazy stunts like sliding across a dance floor on them in my younger years looked cool. But, I am sure I am now reaping the results of my actions. Over the years I’ve asked a lot out of my knees. I am now pushing their limits, being the heaviest I’ve been in my life. If you go by what charts say I should weigh, I have exceeded their capacity by a good 200 pounds. I should be thanking them for hanging on this long.

The pain, particularly in my right knee, began a few years back. I’ve always chalked it up to cold or rainy weather. I could probably strap a rooster on my leg and use it as a weather vane. There were a few days that got the better of me and left me struggling to walk, but I just let it slide.

At Monday’s staff meeting, it took me a bit longer than usual to get up out of my chair. The chief noted that my limp is getting a bit worse and suggested I get it checked out. He’s probably right, and it has been at the forefront of my mind since but I am a bit nervous to find out what’s really going on.

The pops and creaks that used to make for stupid human tricks now sing a symphony that screams, “Go have me looked at!”

I also hear Dad echoing in my head, saying if I didn’t learn to stand up and bend my knees the right way I’d need a replacement by the age of 30. I chuckle that had I been raised in Alabama and not Kentucky, perhaps he’d have gotten me “magic shoes” to do just that.

On Tuesday I talked to another reporter who suggested a chiropractor might be able to fix the issue. I stay so busy I don’t think I can afford, financially or sanity-wise, to be put on the sidelines recovering from a full knee replacement. All I know is I have to do something, and what that will be scares me.

A tale of two bunnies

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Last Friday marked two weeks since I got the phone call my mother had passed away. It was my first Friday back at work since it happened. I still feel like I am sort of moving through days in a bit of haze, and at times the whole thing seems rather surreal.

I was grateful for the distraction of building a parade float with my colleagues. We had a good time shivering and sharing the experience. It provided quite a few good laughs to keep my mind distracted. Surprisingly, I only caught myself a few times having thoughts of “This is when I got the call” or “This is where I was when…”. Heck, I even found myself eating the same thing for supper I had two weeks prior albeit this time it was with two coworkers/friends instead of behind the wheel of a car pulling an all-night road trip to Kentucky. But, in spite of all that, I held it together and was pretty dang proud of that.

While we were waiting to leave the Globe and go get in line for the parade, the four of us crammed into Julie’s Dad’s pickup, and I observed a bunny across the street near the library. I would have normally dismissed this with an “Awe, how cute” and went on with life. However, with the little voice of sadness in the back of my head still wreaking havoc, my thoughts instead turned to how out of place the image seemed to me.

In Ocheyedan, we have tons of rabbits that frolic yard to yard, but I deem that normal due to it being a more rural setting in comparison to Worthington. This bunny, in my stinkin’ thinkin’ mind. seemed alone and out of place, much like me. That surrealness I mentioned isn’t surreal, it is my reality and a new “normal”. My phone has not rang in the familiar ringtone that would indicate my mother was on the other end. When you are used to hearing that daily, it leaves a resounding, deafening silence.

As quickly as all of that entered my mind, it exited as we headed toward the lineup. The emptiness was once again replaced with laughter and last-minute float repairs. (Darn you, wind!) I then left the troops to go set up the video camera and record the holiday procession.

It was nice to see the creativity of the different floats, and I commend the children walking through the parade. It was bitterly cold, and I am not sure if I’d have been as brave. I had fun enough trying to keep my fingers from going numb to press record.

Afterwards, I walked back to the Globe office, with my camera in tow, alone. Without missing a beat, I felt that sorrow tugging on me again. I quickened my pace to cut down on the amount of time the brutal wind was torturing me when I saw something across the street.

There, in the light of a street lamp, was my bunny, but this time he had a friend. Upon this sight I felt a smile creep back over my face. The vision of these two rabbits hopping across a parking lot now seemed normal and not so out of place. And as silly as it may sound, it warmed my heart to know in spite of everything, I and the bunny were not alone.

Observations at a funeral

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   On November 7, my mother suddenly passed away at the age of 54. When I was sitting here thinking of a blog topic, the running thought in the forefront of my mind was to dedicate this to her. I could speak on   her life; what an amazing woman she was. I could go the opposite way and dredge up her personal demons in an effort that others suffering through similar issues might find comfort or solace. But seeing as most readers of this didn’t know her and I’d prefer to have a day of not crying, I decided to turn my focus slightly towards sharing a few of the things I learned through this process.

People will amaze you.

   My mother was a very well-liked individual who did a lot of work with various non-profit organizations to better her town. With that in mind, it was no surprise to me that a large outpouring of people gathered for her visitation. (Heck, I’m one of 27 first grandchildren. Even if just family showed it would be at capacity.)

   What I didn’t count on was who would come out of the woodwork to support me.

   I haven’t lived in Kentucky in eight years. I knew a few close friends would be there; they told me so. But I could have been knocked over with a feather to see friends from high school I’d not seen in nearly 15 years arrive, and even more surprising, friends I had not seen in 20 years. Femme Wonder’s cousin even showed up. People drove over an hour to pay their respects and show support for me and my family. I will forever be grateful for that and remain awestruck that it happened.

   On the flip side, some people shocked me in a not-so-good way. I have one friend back home who I had really expected to step up to the plate and be like glue. Well, that’s what she told me would happen anyway. Adding that she worked with and knew my Mom well, it seemed a no-brainer to me that this would occur barring a small act of God or work keeping her from being there.

So when I was blown off twice before the visitation, I was mildly miffed. Her short 15-minute appearance at the visitation sort of solidified that ugly feeling in my gut. I would have been fine except for her closing remark as she left. Apparently the visitation “wasn’t her scene.”

   Wasn’t her scene? Well, I think I can safely wager unless you are a mortician or work in the funeral trade, spending time in a funeral home isn’t really “your scene.” It’s a visitation, not happy hour. It’s one of those things you just do because it is what is expected, not because you intend to have a good time.

   A few blogs ago, I touched on an observation of society switching to the need to Facebook every life event, no matter how trivial, and the general lack of compassion. I got a first-hand account of this phenomenon as well. A friend of mine I’ve not seen in roughly eight or nine years showed up at the visitation and funeral the next day. He’s a bit hyper and a bit of a chatterbox, but he means well. Trying to make me laugh, while a bit annoying at times, was a heartfelt attempt to lighten a darkened occasion. Grabbing me around the neck for a half hug before entering the funeral home would have been fine, had he not chosen that moment to take a “selfie” of us and then post it to Facebook.

   Really? There is a time and a place for everything. Call me old-fashioned, but you don’t take a selfie at a funeral! You don’t need to update your Facebook status in the funeral home! Holy cow. How could this be considered acceptable behavior?

   You bring food to a family at a funeral, at least where I am from. As Annelle in Steel Magnolias would say, you bring something from the “freezes beautifully” section of your cookbook. You send cards. You send flowers or make a donation to the deceased’s cause of choice. You offer your condolences. You don’t take selfies. Repeat it with me: you don’t take selfies at a funeral.

None of it matters except for family.

   My family is loud and boisterous — and that’s putting it nicely. If there are any Big Brother fans reading this, my cousin is Chef Joe from season 14. It runs in the family. Being the often loud, and more often opinionated, stubborn bunch that we are, conflicts happen fairly regularly. It’s usually a toss-up as to who is speaking to who which week. However, tragedy miraculously brings people together.

   Under penalty of my wrath, my warning of “no drama” preceded me as I drove in from Iowa. Amazingly, it was heeded. Everyone got along. If one positive can come from this whole thing, a few beefs were quashed, at least for now. I see that as a triumph and something my Mother would have been proud of.

   Going through my Mother’s things brought my brother and I closer than we’ve probably been in years. Mom was always complaining we needed to spend more time together, and now, I can honestly say we are. I’ve never been more proud of him than watching him step up and take care of things, namely me. I love you, Shane.

You have to laugh.

   My brother and I teased that we were planning one of the most irreverent funerals in history. That wasn’t entirely true, but we wanted to make our Mom’s send-off a time of laughter and happiness and less sorrow. Of course it is a sad situation and, trust me, my six-year-old niece left no eye dry in the house speaking about her Granny. But, you have to focus on the good times. At least we did.

   Even this week, trying to unpack a few of the things I gathered from my Mom, I had to laugh. I opened up her cookbook. That alone was amusing, since the cooking genes went to my cousin and skipped Mom entirely. But inside were several folded pieces of paper which I assumed were recipes. You know what they say about assuming… it’s true. While I was expecting a secret family recipe I was greeted with the knowledge that my Mother had a clean bill of health at her annual exam in 2006 according to the Jessamine County Health Department. I was also glad to know she paid her rent in 2002 and still had the receipt to prove it tucked safely away inside that unused cookbook.

   I love you, Mom. You have made me who I am today in a number of ways. I’m sorry to see you go. I won’t forget you. I’ll take care of Shane and the girls, don’t worry. I miss you Mom. Goodbye for now.

Happy Halloween Y’all!

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Growing up as a product of divorce, Christmases, birthdays, Thanksgivings and such were a bit of a hassle to decide who got me what year and for what holiday. As I grew into my teens, those family holidays turned more often than I care to admit into arguments with my father which I suppose have tainted my outlook as well.

As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate multiple aspects of the holiday. On the surface, and what most people “celebrate,” is the joy on the faces of kids as they ring my doorbell and wait for a treat. My furry children wouldn’t do well going door-to-door, so I have to live vicariously through my visitors.

Traditionally, dating back thousands of years ago, the holiday was celebrated as Samhain. Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. In ancient times it was believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the deceased was the thinnest, allowing spirits to walk among the living.

At the time, the holiday celebrated loved ones who had died but also wanted to assure malevolent spirits did not remain.

Depending on your source, and there are many interpretations, a number of items we associate today with Halloween stem from the roots of Samhain. Jack-O-Lanterns are said to have been used as a light to bring deceased loved ones close while the scary faces kept others away. In Europe, gourds or other vegetables were used. Settlers here discovered pumpkins were far easier to use and the tradition continued. Other sources say the carvings were meant to imitate spirits or goblins.

Trick-or-treating itself dates back to medieval times in the form of mumming, souling or guising, again depending on what you read. In all three, people went door to door in costumes either to collect soul cakes in exchange for prayers for the souls of the giver or parading the streets in masks and fancy dress and entering houses. Costumes closely tie into this as well, either used as described in guising or for disguising the wearer from unwanted spirits.

I’d encourage everyone to research the traditions for themselves. Halloween often gets a bad rap as being a satanic holiday or inherently evil. At its core, it really isn’t. It was a fall festival celebrating family and a good crop before winter set in.

As for me, I’m working this year. Sadly, I won’t be able to see the adorable faces or count how many superheroes or princesses come to the door. Sorry Ocheyedan, I have to pass on the yard decorations this year as well. But don’t fret, dear reader, I am still celebrating in my own way. I’ll be the one in the hobbit costume in the newsroom snacking on some spooky themed treat. Happy Halloween and Samhain, everybody!