Monday, October 2, 2017

Sisters Are Sanctuary (Or, Little Roomies Rule!)

I was thinking this morning about my younger sister Deborah who died on this day some 15-odd years ago.  (I try not to count.)  Of course, I think about her all the time.  And of course, I remember the exact day and time and place the whole earth cracked and heaved inside me and my knees buckled as I slid down the wall in that hateful, ugly hospital waiting room. I remember too vividly, that time when her leaving left so many of us feeling more shattered and bereft than should ever be possible.  I don't know how to not remember this heartache, (less than a decade after we lost our baby brother,) but I also remember all those years we had together in this wonderful earth life!

Deborah and I were roommates all the years we had growing up together (except for a few short spells we lived two to a room and we got all mixed around. I can't believe that was ever possible, actually, with seven children in one family.  There were certainly times we got creative, like making a sunporch into a bedroom, or a half-attic room with a bed, or sleeping in the den, etc.) We have three brothers, and I will have other stories about them in the future.

Our father was a rough-neck in the Texas/New Mexico/Colorado oil fields and we lived in a lot of places.  I'm saying, a LOT of places.  The first place I remember was a one-room apartment when there were only five of us children yet.  I don't remember feeling especially cramped, but I wasn't the mother.   

Then we lived several years in a house where the four of us girls had our own bunk beds in one room.  Even at that, we often slept two to a bed, because being little you can do that.  For a lark, some nights, someone would have a bright fun idea and exclaim, "Let's sleep sideways!"  That meant that all four of us would climb up to a top bunk and sleep sideways on the bed.  We were very flexible and wiry at that age. 

We always had our own special little possessions, and we shared toys and games, as well.  We had a little turn table that played 45s and 78s and 33 1/3s and loved to listen to Burl Ives and Frank Sinatra and Tchaikovsky and Claude King. 

We sat together on our parents' bed sorting through a box of old pictures, talking about people we had never met as though we knew them intimately, such was the frequency and enjoyment of hauling that box down from the closet shelf.

We had friends and school and Christmas and sadness and wonder and dolls and skates and hoola hoops and night games and vaccinations.  We climbed trees and built forts in the limbs...and sometimes even fell out of them.  We walked on stilts, rode bikes, bounced on moon shoes and ran barefoot through the summers all around town.  We swam and hunted bull frogs, read comic books and chapter books, slept outside on cots, hammered black walnuts to make ice cream, rode other peoples' horses bareback and saddled, climbed haystacks, loved a Marmalade cat named Tiger and a scrappy black and brown mutt named Teddy.

We camped and fished and inner-tubed down snowy hills and rocky rivers, shopped at candy stores, ate spudnuts and corn on the cob and hot chiles, went to football games and scouting events, got cars and shared them and broke them or lighted fires in them (all accidents, of course!)

Then we grew up, ventured out on our own and came back to live with each other some more in various combinations of sisters with their children.  Deborah mothered others from the time she was a toddler, including rescuing families in need when she was a teenager until after she had her own daughter and step-granddaughter.  She and Jillian were and are a force permeating the lives of any and all who know them.  To know them together is to know unadulterated longing and belonging.

We had life and we had each other.  And we still miss Deborah so much it takes our breath away, sometimes.



Cherrie Lee


Penny and Deborah with their parents

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Red Rover On The Road Some More

(I think it appropriate to say that I'm on the road TO some more.)

I left my home in Georgia  Washington and headed for the 'Frisco Bay The Beehive State where I landed for a couple of weeks before heading off to enchanted New Mexico for a couple of months where I left again for Ogden where I am today and where I'm getting ready to go back to Roswell, land of aliens and sage brush for another little while before coming back here for a bit more permanency. 

A little late in posting and a few additional things have transpired.  I guess I thought I would add more to this one, but time got into a flurry.  I'll probably just keep making stabs at catching up for a while.

"When You're Finished Changing, You're Finished."  Benjamin Franklin

Yesterday was September equinox...the season of transition, and after my very warm summer, yesterday was the first day I actually felt so cold that I was uncomfortable!  I didn't expect to need to be more appropriately dressed for the season, so I got caught in the rain wearing shirt sleeves. 

Desmond and I spent the day together, staying warm on my bed watching movies, eating blueberries and bananas, and playing games for a while, and then going out to look at pumpkins.  Here in Northern Utah, we have a wonderful stretch of old highway known as the Fruitway, dotted with orchards and farm stands which fairly bulge with harvest bounty.  In town also, is a local farm stand and the grocery stores also carry a lot of local produce this time of year.  To me, it's paradisiacal. 

Since the first time I asked Desmond to help me pick out a watermelon, that's what watermelon shopping is...helping Bayou (me) choose the melon...even if that's not necessarily what we came for.  If there are boxes of melons on display, he marches confidently to the heap, pats or taps the melons, or as he did yesterday, straight-up picks up a small one, and announces, "I choose this one," turning to the next task.  Fait accompli. 

We also picked up some corn, to add to the September celebration we're having later today.  My mother and my grandson both have birthdays this week, and we have other family birthdays in September, so the sheet cake will have a few names on it!  Or we'll have a few cakes, more like!

The last several months have been bursting at the seams with various activities of transition.  I retired, I moved to Utah, I traveled to and from New Mexico a few times to help my mom prepare for her big move and to attend a lovely, sunny mountain wedding.

We took a couple of little road trips in between packing and organizing.  Bonito Inn, now a tourist B&B, was a place Mom lived in as a little girl in Lincoln, New Mexico.

Stephanie and Greg's wedding near Durango, CO.

My sister and her husband built a sweet little "independent" apartment for my mom to move into (in their home) and traveled down there to bring her back up to Ogden, and others of our family gave extra labor, love and money towards the "event."

I'm going to chronicle, later in more depth, those changes we've been navigating, and for now, this is about today; the day after equinox, when we are winding down and settling in a bit, accepting some peaceful moments, harvesting the fruits of our summer labor, literally and symbolically, and feeling gratitude for hard-working, hard-loving family, for living on the earth, for the miracles that buoy and see us through. 

I like change. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

A Little Wedding Under The Madrona Tree

In the sand at Boston Harbor Marina
On a sunny day in July, 2016

It was very sweet. 

(I don't have the photo album at hand, so no pictures of the rest of us! Maybe later.)

Oh My Poor Neglected Blog!

I blame Facebook.  And Russian hackers.

And maybe this colorful little chirper, a bit, as well.

I bought a little notebook as an experiment to see if writing diary entries was as much of an addition to my mental well being as it used to be when I kept prolific journals.  Then I stumbled upon the practice of bullet journaling and have combined agenda organizing and diary entries into this notebook.  So far, I give the experience about a C+, harboring the aversion I seem to have to making agendas for myself.  Not to worry, though, I haven't stooped to making "goals." I prefer secret wishes.

Before the advent of word processors, of course, I wrote and wrote and wrote everything out longhand.  I felt it to be quite therapeutic and revelatory.

Then I bought a word processor (not a PC or laptop) from the Wards store at Serramonte Center in Daly City, CA sometime in the late 80s.

I bought it to help me write my first novel, which I am proud to say is still an unfinished masterpiece. It was great for journaling, as well.

And the rest of the story, as it were, is no mystery, technology being what it has become. 

The next few entries will be an attempt to make up the dearth or at least fill in a few gaps.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Port Gamble, Pecans And Possibilities

Is it too early to exclaim, "Oh my!  It's fruitcake weather!" or is it a moot question, now, as I have done just that? 

One great disappointment I have felt recently is the fact that Port Gamble's Country Christmas celebration will no longer showcase Washington's only fruitcake contest.  And when I say fruitcake contest, I do not mean fruitcake-throwing contest like the ones you will find at some cretinous activities during the holidays. They eliminated the contest from the celebration the year I had decided to enter my Texas Orange Slice Cake, with accompanying story of its origin.  That was part of the judging-the story behind the cake.  Part of the appeal to me, of course, is the misguided bad reputation that fruitcake has and it was my intention to help facilitate the reversal of that stigma, in whatever small venue with which I was presented.  In this day and age, winning a fruitcake contest would be neither glamorous nor brag-worthy.  Precisely the reason I wanted to enter and win!

Port Gamble, WA is an historic mill town situated on the shores of Hood Canal on the Olympic Peninsula.  It's a nostalgic little acreage showcasing turn-of-the-century buildings filled with shops and New England style houses on maple and elm tree-lined streets.  They host several attractive events throughout the year, such as a paranormal conference, dinner theater performances,  and the aforementioned Country Christmas sans fruitcake contest.  (Now they have only one only special thing that no one else in Washington has and that is fireworks at Christmas.) If I lived closer, I would probably go to the theater to see "Clue The Musical."

Here's how I was planning to enjoy an old-timey, country feel, seaside ambient Christmas revelry fruitcake contest:

Earlier in the year my family had a reunion in the village of Ruidoso, NM in the Lincoln National Forest Sierra Blanca Mountain Range.  I couldn't breathe very well at 7,000 feet, being used to living at sea level for so long.  I'm just putting that out there for no special reason or tie-in to the story.  I had mentioned to my mother a while before that I wished I had some New Mexico pecans to put in my cake that I didn't know at the time I was not going to even make.

New Mexico is famous for her pecans, arguably the best pecans nation-wide!

I was going to try to buy some when I was in NM for the reunion, but my mother's neighbor had a load of windfall pecans in her back yard that she would gladly give to me.  I was driving with my brother and sister-in-law, Katy and Desmond and all of our "stuffs" in one vehicle.  Were you counting?  That's five people.  With many stuffs.  And an extra load of pecans...big bags of pecans. To me, they were worth it.

On the border between New Mexico and Colorado, in a town called Cortez, is Cortez Flour mill, where they mill Bluebird flour, reportedly the only flour you should use when making Navajo Fry Bread, if you care at all about being authentic.  I don't know about being authentic, but I do know that I have won several bread baking prizes at the fair when using that flour.  Of course, I needed that for my fruitcake as well.

And then we spent some time in Utah, where I continued filling my fruitcake coffers, this time with Montmorency dried cherries from Woodyatt Cherry Orchards in Willard. Katy and I both have won fair prizes with out pies made from these cherries. 

Living in Washington, I found some local representative ingredients from Simply The Best Northwest Dried Foods. Using fruits grown in the Omak region of Washington and a wood-fueled dehydrator, without adding anything else, they had just the ticket to round out my ingredient list.  (The orange slice candy could actually come from anywhere.  I know the cake is named for this ingredient, but come's just jellied sugar!) Something from five states I've lived in, if you include the name of the cake. 

How could my fruitcake not take the prize at Port Gamble?!  I mean...well, if there was going to be a fruitcake baking story-telling contest in Port Gamble, WA., I definitely had a chance!

We got back from the reunion trip in April of that year and I still had several months ahead of believing in fruitcake. 

To be continued...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Two Good Things and Too Bad

    Good Thing #1. It's not really a Christmas post already, although if it were, it wouldn't be the first I've seen this season.  This is a little story that wraps itself around me like a homemade afghan on a chilly fall evening.  Last year we returned to Don Tapio's Christmas Valley Tree Farm to cut our own tree again.  Katy really, really likes real trees for Christmas and I understand her.  I used to feel the same way. 
      As usual, we spent a few minutes catching up with our tree farmer, listening to news about his 90+ year-old mother, and how life was treating them after a series of very misfortunate events. (I might share some more about that at a more appropriate time.  It's not such a warm story.) 
     Then we headed out to find that little made-just-for-us Christmas tree we knew would be waiting for us.  I had visions of sweet symmetry, with enough space between the branches to show off some red and golden glass ornaments.  I don't know what Katy was looking for.  We know we have our own ideas and we know that however different they may seem, we always agree on  just the right tree when we see it.  Usually, it takes a bit of discussion and circling the tree and pulling up a bottom branch or two and asking each other, "Whadd'ya think?"
     We poked around, traipsed around, chased Desmond around and found a few "almosts," trees that other years would have made the grade, but something just kept spurring us on, in a subtle, nudging way. 
     And then...there it was like a beacon one second and then just a tree the next second, but never only just a tree for very long.  The three of us stopped mutely at the same moment and decided this was our tree.  It had drawn us in.  There was a whole forest left that we hadn't even seen yet, but why would you keep running after the ball if you've already caught it?  We didn't even need to discuss it. We just really liked it.
   Katy cut it down, with oh-so-much help from Desmond and direction from me, and we started back up the path with it.  Don looked up and rather than wait for us to come to the bailing machine as in years past, he hurried down the gravel to meet us.  He was exuberant and told us we had artistic hearts for choosing that tree...the kind of artistic hearts that reached out, artistically, to other things about life, as well.
     He had only a handful of that particular tree on his farm, and most people don't choose it, but to him, it's the prettiest tree he grows!  (And just so you know, I've already told this story to someone who said, "I'll bet he says that to everyone," so no need to go there.  I just know it ain't so.  There was no need to flatter us and I might have thought he was just saying stuff to make us feel good, if it weren't for the fact that I knew that tree was all he said it was.)
     It was a corkbark fir, with silver-white blue and green needles that picked up and played with the lights we put on it later.  You can tell from the picture that it is indeed a lovely tree, but I know you can't really see what made it all that special, unless you can see into our four hearts just by looking at the pictures.

Don Tapio, Christmas Tree Farmer

Good Thing #2.  Katy doesn't live with me any longer, (that's not necessarily the good part) and she and Desmond live with Jesse who already has two cats. (That they are a family--married this summer--now is good for them all.)  Desmond likes cats, whether they always like him or not.  They've been together in that house with those two cats now for less than a year, and just the other day Katy told me this story:
     "I just adopted a cat!!!  And I looooooove my new baby!!  We went to the Utah State Fair Park to the 'no-kill' Utah adoption thing.  Went straight to him and knew immediately he was mine.  They said I was the first person this whole time to really notice him.  Desmond has told him he is his best friend.  He never said that to the other cats!  Desmond is so happy about it...Gosh I love him.  He was so mellow and scared at the fair that no one was really paying attention to him.  But he was just sitting, taking everything in being so incredibly calm.  He's special.  The lady there started almost getting choked up that someone really saw him."
     I told her, "kind of like our Christmas tree."
     And she said, "exactly.  You gotta just be led."

 Hmmm, I wonder...what would you just have to call a handle-bar mustachioed cat with gem-green eyes?

Bonjour! Rencontrer Hercule Peridot:

Enfin, TOO BAD they don't make this candy bar anymore.  If they did, I would call it good thing #3.