Brrrrr!

What a week! Temperatures breaking records set decades ago. Warnings of power outages due to too much usage. Utility companies begging residents to limit electric and gas usage.

I have unplugged every nonessential electrical item. I am hand washing my dishes (the dishwasher is a great drying rack). There is no fire warming the hearth room (it’s gas). The hot water heater and thermostat has been turned down (I cover up with a weighted blanket). I wait, wondering if this is the day our neighborhood loses power. So far, we have been lucky. I am still holding my breath as temperatures slowly inch up.

The snow starts. It stops. It starts again. This cycle is repeated every day this week. Today is different, the sun is out allowing me to marvel at the shadows and sparkles.

A mound of sugar crystals on the boxwoods?
Shadows play in the yard.
Footprints from a visitor
A few steps are enough, time to take flight.

A New Chapter

I could not wait to turn sixteen. Sixteen was the magic number for getting a driver’s license and a real job. I was so ready to leave my babysitting days behind! The pay wasn’t great, the working conditions were sketchy, and I did not like the hours.

Fifty years ago, a new mall was built and it was the perfect place to find a job. My friend had a job at Orange Julius, so as soon as I was sixteen, I put in my application. I spent several years blending up Orange Julius drinks.

I was getting tired of the food industry so I scoured the job ads in the paper and found one that had me curious. I had to go to a motel for the interview, I thought nothing of that because I had just graduated from high school. My parents were out of town for the weekend, and when they returned they learned I had a new job. I was going to work at a kiosk outside of J. C. Penney in the mall making keys and engraving on metal. The kiosk was called Can-Do (it changed to Things Remembered after I left). I spent a couple of weeks going to the motel room with another girl, which was set up with the engraving machine. I worked there for a couple of years as I attended college, but then I thought I needed to do something closer to my field of study.

The Little Red Schoolhouse preschool gave me the opportunity to read books and do crafts with preschool kids. In the summer I worked with the school-aged kids and we had a lot of fun on multiple field trips.

I graduated a semester early because I had taken classes in the summer. Luckily for me a school district near me had a teacher going on maternity leave in February. I said good-bye to preschoolers and began corralling a wild class of fifth graders. It was a brutal semester, but I survived (and they did too). I spent another year in that school before I changed districts.

I spent the next twenty years teaching fourth grade, third grade, then Title I Reading to all the elementary grades. The last eleven years were in my third and final district. I taught Reading Recovery and small groups until I decided to retire. However, that retirement only lasted a month (because the state required it). I began working part-time for Missouri Reading Initiative as a trainer to bring professional development on balanced literacy into schools. It was a fun job. I could create my calendar of days in schools and schedule trips in-between. I wasn’t ready to leave the educational world, yet.

Then COVID-19 hit. Schools were not the safest place anymore. I didn’t want to be the one who brought the virus into our home. I took a leave-of-absence this past year. This year has given me a taste of what full-time retirement would be like.

I decided to continue this life. This is the first time in fifty years I have not had a job. I am not sure how I will spend my days, but I do know I will be reading, a lot. Perhaps I will even be writing a blog post or two. I’m excited to see where this retirement takes me.

Manhole Covers

If you do any walking, you have passed many manhole covers, but did you ever stop to notice them? I have to admit, they were not really on my radar until the day one stopped me in my tracks. There was a message on it that informed me the drain below led to the ocean which was many miles from my location. That cover began my interest in manhole covers.

When we traveled in Europe, I always marveled at the art of their covers. Unfortunately, I cannot seem to locate any of the photos of those artistic covers. (Sorry 😦 )

As I walked the streets of my neighborhood I found several varieties of common covers. My neighborhood was developed over time, so I thought it was interesting that the developer changed the style of the covers in each area.

Imagine my surprise when I came upon these covers:

Upstream starts here? Really?! My neighborhood is nowhere close to a river! I can’t even imagine the mysteries that lie below my feet and how water travels. I am thankful that someone figured it out so we can protect our waterways.

Have you ever noticed a message on a manhole cover?

Happy Anniversary

Ten years ago, I started this blog.

Ten years ago, I started this blog to join in the March Challenge on Two Writing Teachers.

I completed eight years of the March Challenge plus many, many weekly Slice of Life entries.

Ten years ago, I did not know that I would compose and publish 625 posts.

Ten years ago, I did not know that blogging would bring me friends all around this globe.

What will the next ten years bring?

Probably the title won’t change, I will still try writing. Stay tuned. . .

Cookies

This box is at least 43 years old. The rubber band is not. πŸ™‚

Inside this box are these tins.

My mother gave me these tins, in this box, the first Christmas I was married. I have used them every year for the last 43 years to make

sandbakkels, a Norwegian sugar cookie. I have written about them several times over the past nine years (link to a post). They are the one cookie that is made no matter what or where I am. I have been known to pack my tins when we go visit my son for Christmas.

They only have five ingredients. It is a simple batter. A batch does not take long to stir up (if your butter is at room temperature). Of course, the pressing the batter into the tins is time consuming. I divide the tins into three piles. That way one set is baking, one set is cooling, and the third set is getting the dough pressed in. Sometimes I feel like I am juggling, but the reward is the sweet buttery taste that is Christmas.

This weekend I will make my cookies. Wish I could share them with you. πŸ™‚

Memories

Here’s a memory, which like most memories is imperfect and subjective – collected long ago like a beach pebble and slipped into the pocket of my mind.

Michelle Obama (becoming)

Memories are the essence of several books I’ve read recently. In Everything Sad Is Untrue: (A True Story) by Daniel Nayeri, he shares the few memories he has of family. He escaped from Iran as a child with his mother and sister. He counts and hold the memories of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins close.

Michelle Obama’s words resonated with me. Memories are imperfect and subjective. They slip into a pocket in the mind and when probed they jiggle, wiggle, and bounce to the forefront. That’s what Ruth’s suggestion today did.

I am laying on my bed totally absorbed in the book I’m holding. Barely breathing, heart racing to learn the fate of my friend Nancy or perhaps it was Trixie. (Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden). They were so smart, they could solve any mystery. I was always on the lookout for possible mysteries in my life, but usually any mystery was caused by brothers or the family pet.

Today, I am still enamored by mysteries, however, I am not laying on my bed devouring the words of mystery writers. I prefer to sit in a patch of sunlight in my backyard. Since the weather won’t cooperate, I am forced to snuggle down in a recliner, covered by a dark brown plush throw.

I am still a fan of mystery, but I have expanded my net of preferences. Historical fiction is filling in gaps of history. I just finished Kristin Harmel’s novel, The Book of Lost Names. Now I want to know more. Ruta Sepetys is a master at writing about history that has slipped through the cracks.

As a child, I always had a book close by to take me to places in my dreams. As an adult, I am still transported by the words of authors. Not a lot has changed.

Don’t you have a story to share?

Appreciation vs Gratitude

I saw this:

I nodded my head in agreement. I started to think of all the blessings I have filling my life. I have been able to travel and see many parts of the world. I have wonderful people in my life. I am in a good place in time.

Then I read the invitation from Ruth today.

Make a gratitude list.


Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.Β β€”Amy Collette

I started wondering how gratitude and appreciation intermingle. So I did what anyone does when you wonder something, I went to my friend Google. I was surprised to discover others had asked and answered the question: What is the difference between appreciation and gratitude?

Tanei the Science Guy wrote a blog post back in 2018 with that question as the title of a post. His take on it is time. Appreciation is living in the now. Gratitude is living in the past and the now simultaneously. I love the analogy Tanei gives:

Gratitude is the training wheels. Appreciation is when you take the training wheels off.

Perhaps you might dwell on appreciation this year. I know I am forming a mental list of all that I appreciate. If you are reading this, know that you are on my list and that is a good thing. πŸ™‚

Taco Evolution

In my twenties, I went to a Mexican restaurant and ordered tacos. When they arrived the filling was shredded beef! I was appalled! What was this? Tacos are made with hamburger, right? I never went back to that restaurant because they obviously had no idea how to make a taco.

Now let’s fast forward 40+ years . . .

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Taco with Avocado Sauce
Thai Chicken Taco with Peanut Sauce
Barbacoa Beef Taco
Asian Chicken Taco with Siracha Sauce

Tacos are no longer ground beef, cheese, lettuce, chopped tomato and if I want to be really fancy, sour cream. I have explored the world of tacos and tasted an interesting combination of flavors. A few other unique flavors I have tried include crispy black bean and feta tacos, sweet chili fajita tacos, and roasted cauliflower street tacos.

Perhaps it’s more a taco revolution than an evolution. Whatever it is, I am enjoying the new flavors.

Thank You!

The day was dark, damp with gusty winds. The kind of day best spent with a book, a cup of something warm, and a cozy comforter. Instead, I needed to take my mother to her dentist.

There are perks in my car that make traveling on dark, damp, and gusty wind days tolerable. My seat heater was set to high, but there was another button pressed that made me smile. Do you know what this button on my steering wheel does?

So, channeling Jimmy Fallon’s thank you notes, I write a thank you post to this button.

Dear Heated Steering Wheel,

Thank you for being there for me when my hands grip the cold surface of the steering wheel. You slowly warm my frozen fingers. Because of you, I follow my driver’s ed teacher’s command to keep hands at ten and two. I admit, sometimes I do use eight and four, just to feel the warmth. My palms soak up your gentle heat. When you are on, my hands never leave the wheel. What a luxury you are! Thank you for keeping my fingers toasty!

If you ever get to experience a heated steering wheel, you will want one in your vehicle too. Trust me. πŸ™‚

Don’t you have a story to share?

Evening of Delight

Did we really appreciate our unlimited human contact before the virus derailed our lives? Meeting up with friends (or relatives), enjoying a bite in a restaurant, saying good-bye with a hug are all actions in a previous lifetime. Hopefully, they will return to our lives.

March 8 was the last time I saw two friends in person. Impending stay-at-home orders were looming. I had belated Christmas gifts to deliver and feared if I didn’t do it on this day, they would never get delivered. The encounters were brief, no hugs allowed, just an elbow bump.

Through the days and months, we kept in contact with a couple of zoom meets, phone calls, and FaceTime. Our usual birthday celebrations were put on hold. Until one of us had enough. She decided we would gather in her backyard and spend an evening together. It was easy to find a date that was free, so it was settled, Friday, October 9, 6:00 p.m.

My friend, Tiffany, is the ultimate hostess. She has a flair for making any occasion special. The fire pit had a small fire going. A nearby table was draped with a tablecloth, multiple lanterns were lit, a pitcher of Autumn Punch waited to fill the copper mugs. Of course there were s’more fixings, but also hand sanitizer and wipes.

A cheese ball (shaped like a pumpkin, of course) and crackers were brought out for a snack before the main event – pizza cooked on the big green egg.

There wasn’t just one pizza or two, no she created FOUR different pizzas! Each one with unique flavors, all extremely tasty!

After pizza, we settled around the fire pit to chat and watch the dancing flames. Decorated pumpkin shaped sugar cookies (made by Tiffany) were the first dessert. It was so relaxing, being with dear friends and visiting. I had forgotten what it was like to be with someone besides my husband and mother. Soon the pokers for the marshmallows were brought out and s’mores were the final touch on the evening.

Photo taken before it was dark, so the flames are not quite dancing, yet.

I hope you have a friend like Tiffany. She brings joy where ever she is. (What makes this evening even more extraordinary is Tiffany is an instructional specialist working full-time in an elementary school that is face-to-face five days a week.) I don’t know how she managed to create this perfect evening, but I am thankful that she did. (FYI – she sent two of the cookies home as favors.)