10 Lessons from the Many Seasons of Downton Abbey

Christmas specials and episodes are plentiful and add great entertainment this time of year. I still recall how much I enjoyed the Downton Abbey, Season 2, Episode 9, “Christmas at Downton Abbey.”

Of course, there is a Christmas music album. Who knew? I did not. This is the album sampler.

If you are unfamiliar with the PBS program, you have time to give it a go before the movie is released. So many of us enjoyed each season to the point of getting attached to characters and storylines. Is there a dowager countess in your family history?

Downton Abbey announce major update on sequel - release date, title and  more | HELLO!

Credit: Hello Magazine

While we wait, it seems only proper to reflect on lessons learned at Downton Abbey. Here are 10 lessons learned over time through the seasons. How many of these that reflect plot points can you still recall? I may in fact need a refresher myself.

  1. If you are sinister, suspicious, and snarky every season, don’t expect to end with much sympathy, support, or friendships. But we can hold on to hope.
  2. If you are the eldest matriarch in your family, understand your words, though witty and often wise, may be off-putting to those close to you. And yet delight your veiwing audience.
  3. As we age, new technology can startle and cause distrust when introduced. Embrace it.
  4. Women evolve. Stand back, observe, and honor.
  5. Avoid an ulcer at all costs.
  6. Marigolds and daisies can grow together.
  7. If you cannot find the love of your life through many seasons, hold on. At least millions of people will be pulling for you.
  8. If you marry a head butler, be sure you love to run your home the same way he expects the manor to be run.
  9. Family pets, especially a Labrador Retriever, will win your heart. When they leave you, it is painful. But we can learn to love again.  
  10. Hope and love will survive, when ways of life must change with the times. Stay optimistic.

Thank you, Downton Abbey, for seasons of wisdom, joy, and viewing happiness.

Join me in eager anticipation for the next movie! Even the sound of the theme music gets me to the edge of my emotional seat. What about you?

Stay charming, my friends!

Easter Traditions for Two

If you celebrate Easter, what are your traditions? How have they changed over the years? What do you do now that is fun and meaningful for you that is a recent tradition? Do you find yourself missing loved ones who are not at your table this year? Does your world feel smaller or have traditions that don’t seem to fit the way they once did? Holidays have a way of making the heart long for loved ones and good times gone by. Holidays seem to sharpen the pain of missing others. But let’s not stop there.

I grew up enjoying our family dinners on Easter Sunday. After going to church as a family, dressed up in our new Easter outfits, my mom provided a lovely meal and included some relatives or friends. I carry those fond memories with me to this day, and always miss my parents, especially at holiday times. Thinking back as I write almost puts me in the mood to make a molded jello salad. Almost.

When I married and lived far from my hometown, I spent Easter Sunday dinners with my in-laws. Those times also provide sweet memories of good family fun, such watching young nephews gather eggs from the hunt. We even had an earthquake one year! I still treasure all the rich memories of the past. The family has grown through marriages, relocation, and the arrival of grandchildren. Our get-togethers are more spread out. Yet we make it work.

Traditions bring meaning to our lives. They anchor us in a sense of belonging. Circumstances shift and create opportunities for different Easter Sundays and new memories. Change comes along and invites itself in. Loss and separation flicker in hearts at the holidays, shining a quiet light on pain residing there. When change collides with tradition, we recognize that traditions need to bend. Flexibility is key to joy, especially during this pandemic. Flexibility can permit traditions to get a makeover that welcomes new happy moments.

In addition, Easter Sundays are busy days for many, too. We often help out at our local church until early afternoon. My husband now works on staff at our church, so Easter Sunday is a long day. We still find ways to still enjoy this special and important holiday through good food, conversation, and connection.

At our house, our immediate family is a party of two. I like the traditional Easter dinner, but that looks different now. I am a casual cook and have no interest in preparing a full meal, especially for just the two of us. I look for an easier way.

This Easter, I ordered two “Dinners-to-Go” Easter meals from Alicia’s Cookery & Catering in Brea, California. I picked up the meals Saturday in the early afternoon. What a great dinner for just us two, especially since I am a non-ambitious cook! Here’s what this year’s meal included:

  • Fresh Fruit & Cheese
  • Deviled Eggs
  • Carrot & Dill Soup
  • Springtime Salad
  • Honey Glazed Spiral Ham
  • Cheesy Potato Hash
  • Grilled Veggies
  • Artisan Rolls (2)
  • Strawberry Crème Easter Cupcake, Carrot Orange Cookie, & Snoball Cookie

What I loved about this Easter dinner:

  1. The food was delicious, interesting, and packaged so nicely.
  2. The serving portions were generous.
  3. All I had to do was set the table, heat the items we wanted to be served hot, and plate the food.
  4. The meal was ready in about 15-minutes, saving time and energy for other things.
  5. Clean-up was minimal following the meal since Alicia’s did all the cooking.
  6. I split the food into three different meals: Easter dinner (ham, potatoes, grilled veggies, rolls, and shared one of the salads and a deviled egg), a light supper (fruit, cheese, water crackers, and shared the second deviled egg), and another meal for later this week (soup, the other rolls, and the other salad).
  7. Once I calculated what it might have cost me in time and money for shopping for and preparing a homemade meal, I thought the price was fair. Plus, dividing it into three meals for two people really made the price reasonable.
  8. My leftovers will provide lunch for me this week.
  9. Ordering meals is a great way to enjoy good food for just two people or a single person. It was tasty and convenient with great leftovers. A single meal could also be shared with two people.
  10. A cupcake and two cookies were included in each meal. The desserts lasted several meals, too.
Desserts and two rolls…

The timing worked out, too. In years gone by, Easter dinner was reserved for right after church on Sunday. That just doesn’t work for us anymore. Easter Sundays are long and packed with church responsibilities. This year we were able to enjoy a traditional Easter dinner on Saturday at 3:00PM as an easy alternative. My husband then went to church to help out with the Saturday 5PM service. This worked out well in a relaxing way.

Easter dinner 2021

Another option, depending on pandemic restrictions, is to dine out. For the past couple of years, prior to the pandemic, we’d leave church around 2PM, tired, and ready to eat. Our local family had already eaten. My husband and I headed out to BJ’s Restaurant for a relaxed meal. We never have to wait to be seated. The crowds have thinned out by then. We plop down in a comfortable booth, order, and enjoy a relaxed meal served by someone else. And cleaned up by others, too. My husband usually orders the prime rib. I like to order a mini Sweet Pig pizza and salad. We split a Pizookie. It is also fun to be in a busy dining room with other people out having a good time together.

Delicious!
We like a peanut butter cookie Pizookie.

These new traditions are so different from my memories of Easter Sundays long ago. Yet, with an open mind and the help of prepared meals or restaurants, we eat well and enjoy the time. Maybe we even end up with time for a nap!

Stay open to new traditions, my friends!

P.S. For those without family plans on holidays, I hope this encouraged you. For single friends or those living with just one other loved one, I hope we all continue to find ways to enjoy good food and make holiday traditions meaningful. Let’s avoid comparing our situations to others. Social media is full of photos of bigger family events. We can be happy for our friends enjoying their traditions. We can remember to also find contentment with what we have, to be creative, and to look for blessings around us.

Another Pandemic and I

Back in the early 1900s, a man was busy with his young wife raising their two little boys. In 1918, reportedly at age 22, that woman tragically lost her life. My dad told me she died of complications of the flu. Now I realize it was probably the Spanish Flu, another pandemic. Such a painful loss of life and love gone too soon.

A few years later, Joseph remarried. Little, lovely Emma became his wife. They gave birth to another boy, his third son. That son grew, and years later he became my dad.

My beloved paternal grandparents
My father (second from right, army uniform), his half-brothers (on both ends), and my grandfather, (second from left).

I cannot quite get my head around it. I might not be here if it were not for a tragic family consequence of the Spanish Flu. I don’t feel good about that, but it is interesting. This connects me in an odd way to another historic, serious, disruptive health crisis and the changes it brought, the impact it had.

The heartache was very real for so many back then, including my own grandfather, and it is today with our pandemic. The frustration is a daily burden, then and now. There are no easy answers. No more shortcuts. But good will come.

Generations from now, when this is history, what story will they tell?

[I don’t know who’s photo this is. If you have copyright information for it, please contact me.]

Stay safe, my friends!

Uberize Me

Uber Post - Where to

I am grateful there are strangers with clean cars, who drive responsibly, and want to take me places. For a fee. But I don’t mind the fee.

I am also always a little wary of crawling into a car with someone I do not know, trusting them to get me where I need to be. The other side of that coin. There is the tension to be managed.

Although recovery from my summer breakation is going well, I am not yet driving. My ankle will be able to tolerate it one day soon, but this is not that day. So I am dependent on family and friends to play taxi service. And God bless them for their generosity in that practical piece of support!

I don’t miss driving in our Los Angeles area. I rather enjoy being the passenger. But it becomes rather inconvenient and impractical to not be able to drive. It’s a short season, and for that, Uber has been a good resource.

Uber Post - Uber App

Most of my Uber rides have been great, pleasant, and comfortable.

  • Only one car had squeaky breaks, to which the driver commented, “I’ve been meaning to get that fixed.” To which I thought, “As long as they hold until you drop me off, I won’t panic.”
  • Only one commented, “It’s telling me my one tire is low on air. It seems to be losing air. I think I have a nail. I’ll have it checked once I drop you off.” We were two minutes away from my destination, and we hit a rough patch of road at the exact moment he shared that news. The thump-thump-thump-thump sound of the tires did get my attention, but it passed quickly, once we got on smoother road.
  • Only a few seemed to lack confidence in speaking English. We got along fine. However, giving directions from the back seat in English didn’t work so well. I ended up leaning into the front seat to wave “left turn” or “right turn.” The Uber map system, whatever GPS system they are using, directs them to use a road to get to work that has no entrance any longer.
  • That same map system directs them to pick me up in the alley behind our home. I circumvent that with a quick text message while I wait for the driver to arrive.
  • Only one was blasting a certain genre of rock music that was too loud and too metal for my taste, raised in a James Taylor and Doobie Brothers era. But I changed my attitude and head banged to Heart’s Crazy on You as we traveled together. The young female driver deserved a good sport in the back seat. Windows down. Hair in the air like I just didn’t care. It’s all good. Can I borrow your comb?

Uber arrives quickly after I place a request. No money is exchanged. The driver is identified by name, car description, rating by other customers, and number of rides given. That’s helpful. They don’t get paid until they complete the ride. I like these features.

It is fun to watch the app on my phone. It shows a map with a tiny car approaching your pick-up destination and communicates how long it will be until they will arrive. Helpful.

Uber Post - Ants on the Road

See the little ants on the map pictures above? Those are Uber drivers in my area when I took that screen shot of the app.

I’ve Ubered a lot in the last few weeks. It’s worked well for me and those who have been helping with transportation when they can. I hope to be driving again soon, but in the meantime, I’m grateful for Uber. It’s not cheap. But neither is owning and operating your own car. It’s a service I need right now.

Uber Post - My Trips

Let me also give a shout out to the great friends and family who have pitched in with transportation over these last months. I couldn’t have made it this far without you! Thank you.

Stay charming, my friends! I hope you get where you’re going this week!

New Dishes – A Fun Change

We got new dishes last week. We are taking the older dishes out to make room. We’ll donate those. I like the new dishes, but moving out the old ones triggered thoughts and emotions, like highlights on a timeline.

Changing Times

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In the late 1970’s, my parents purchased a set of dishes for me when I first moved into my own place after college. The entire J.C. Penney dish set cost about $35 then, and I was thrilled. My mom promised I’d never get tired of these plates because there was no pattern on them. She was right. As usual.

They served me well for years and years. In fact, when we moved into our current home in 1996, I donated most of the set that remained to create space in our cupboards. I have saved one plate, pictured above, for the sweet memory of that early part of my adult story.

This first set of plates reflected a change in status. I had finished college and was going to set up an apartment with a great friend in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. That adventure in independence involved a move eight-hour west, leaving my childhood home, my parents, and life in Akron, Ohio.


 

In 1992, I married Glen. We picked out a set of dishes. Our marriage has lasted twenty-six years, but our plates have not. We have two remaining dinner plates. One is pictured below. It is time to replace them. I remember picking them out when we were engaged and registering for wedding gifts at a local department store, the name I cannot recall, that no longer exists.

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These plates also show a change in status. I was thirty-seven and we were starting our married life. After years of being single, I stepped into sharing life with my husband, learning to love him, and choosing to care every day. We’ve shared many meals and memories with friends and family over the years with these dishes.

Changing Tastes

Through the years, I collected random plates with the common color of blue. I liked the eclectic look of those plates. For me, they reflected diversity and unity around the table. The plates did not match, but they were each beautiful to me. That was a metaphor for those gathered around our table through the years. Each person is unique, yet beautiful. The shared meal represented a sense of unity in that time spent together with good food. This collection will now be donated to make room for the new dishes. They have served us so well, and even started conversations as people asked why they are different and don’t match.

My tastes have changed. Those plates were fun for a season. Currently, I am drawn to certain colors that reflect the earth, sky, and colors of water. I want those echoed in our home as we refresh this 100-year old house for the season ahead.

The dishes below caught my eye online at one of my favorite stores, Crate & Barrel. They came in the colors I wanted. Rather impulsively, I ordered them. The first shipment arrived last week. I love simple design. We washed them and arranged them in our cupboards. And our old plates got bumped out.

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Did you notice they still don’t all match?

Shared Opportunity

It is time to box up and donate the old plates. It surprised me, however, when the moment came to do that, I felt sentimental. Plates and table settings are a form of self-expression and art in the home, as much as they are a practical tool.

I wonder who we will share meals with using the new plates. I look forward to seeing the good food presented on the plates to nourish us, slow us down for conversation, and share time with others. Our small group* met at our house for pizza and encouraging, thoughtful conversation last week. They were the first guests to use the new dishes.

I’ll schedule a pick-up with the Salvation Army. They will drive to my home and get the box of old dishes from my front porch. They can then sell them in their thrift store, support their community efforts, or give them to help others rebuild their lives. I feel happy about that opportunity as I send the dishes off. If someone else will enjoy them in their own home, it is time to share. When more people benefit, everyone wins.

Soothing Colors

The plates I selected are the pale green, dark blue, light blue, and white colors in the Hue Dinnerware Collection. These are calming colors to me, from the cool color palette. These colors reflect the sky, grass and trees, and the variant hues in the water found in rivers, oceans, and lakes. I love being outdoors. These colors are one way of bringing the outdoors inside.

We’ve got two each of four colors to mix and a match. I couldn’t decide which color I liked best. So problem solved!

Crate & Barrel dishes

From the Crate & Barrel web page…

Sacred Moments

Meals with loved ones can be sacred moments. For me, it makes me think of God’s provision in my life. The soil, wind, air, water, and sun all contribute to good foods. I Farmers and ranchers work to bring food to market. Having enough to eat is a basic need and I cannot provide all that alone. That turns my heart toward God, who I believe sustains me and food is a gift.

Slowing down around a table to eat, taste, share stories, and connect with another — these are essential moments in the day to sustain our spirits. A good meal engages all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and we feel textures on our tongues. Shared meals are important to love, to community, to acknowledge there is enough, and see how we depend on one another to get food to the table.

For those of you who spend time reading the Bible, you may have noticed how many stories and images center around the table. Even communion with bread and wine, happens at a table with a group gathered for a celebratory meal. I love those images.

So dishes are practical tools, but the life that happens around dishes and meals is not to be missed. It’s time for new dishes and more memories in our home! May your meals be meaningful and enjoyed throughout the days to come!

Stay charming, my friends!


*A small group in this context is a group of eight friends that commit to meet together most weeks for support, friendship, and accountability as we learn to live as better people for a better world using Christ’s example and the story of restoration found in Scripture as our model. Our small group eats dinner together as part of our rhythm of sharing life. We have met together since 2008. This is a high priority for me as I navigate life with others who offer a safe space to talk, question, and grow. And eat!

Celebrating Easter Then & Now

I want to acknowledge that not all of my readers celebrate Easter, and I respect that. So, perhaps if that is you, simply reflect back on your childhood traditions and celebrations as you read this post.

By way of background on this post and this past weekend, my husband and I were involved all weekend at our church serving and celebrating Easter. We attend a large church with between 2,700-3,000 attending on a Sunday. This year, the church hosted two Good Friday services and three Easter services in two venues. One Easter service was held on Saturday night and two on Sunday morning. At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead to redeem us to life as we follow his ways in faith.

The main venue was on the large lawn just outside our worship center. The alternative venue was inside the worship center for a quieter viewing experience of the live service via projection on a large screen. I’m guessing at least 6,000 people attended this Easter in total. We worked hard and were tired at the end of the morning.

WACC Easter 2018

I helped with various things that came up, including taking family photos of people and checking the women’s room for paper towels and toilet paper. My husband helped with baptisms, as part of our Easter service traditionally ends with an opportunity for people to be baptized, if they wish.

I got to thinking back to my childhood memories of Easter from the 1960’s. Pause and gather your earliest memories of Easter celebrations, too. Or whatever spring was like for you growing up. The contrast may be interesting, as mine was today. I do remember Easter as a special time, a simpler time. But then I was a child, and the responsibility to make it special would fall mainly on my mom, it may not have felt simple to her.

Easter Eggs

We colored eggs every year. I loved that tradition and still think back on it fondly. I may pick it up again one day as a little happy nod to my childhood.

Image result for dying eggs 1960's

From the 1960’s

Easter Baskets

My mom would prepare Easter baskets for my brother and I, filled with candy we enjoyed. That definitely excluded milk chocolate in my case, which I did not like. Still don’t. I liked the colorful baskets with green plastic grass. Although we did not do egg hunts, I have a vague recollection of searching for our Easter baskets.

I remember marshmallow Peeps and jelly beans. I’d give away the black jelly beans. You, too? Or are you a person who enjoyed the black jelly beans? Easter baskets are no longer a part of my Easter tradition, probably because I don’t indulge in candy any longer, and we do not have children of our own. I do enjoy an occasional Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg from time to time at Easter. Jordan almonds are also a favorite. What is your indulgent candy of choice? Do you remember your favorite as a child?

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If milk chocolate is wrapped around sweet peanut butter, I don’t mind it at all.

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Such lovely colors in a sweet coating surrounding crunchy almonds.

Easter Outfit

It was also our tradition growing up to get new clothes for Easter. I remember getting new clothes on only two occasions as a child – for the back-to-school season and at Easter, and that is about it.

Shopping for clothes is so much more common now, and getting an Easter outfit is not as essential as it was when I was a child. During my junior high years, I remember being permitted to wear fishnet stockings, quite in style, for Easter Sunday with my new dress. That was a big deal!

Fishnet stockings in the 1960's, oh yes, we were that cool. by karyn

Many families I saw today were all dressed up for the Easter services. I enjoy seeing them, especially the cute outfits on their children. That is one of my favorite parts of going to church on Easter Sunday.

WACC Easter Kids 2018

Easter Church

Each Sunday, my family went to church as I was growing up, and Easter was no different. I attended a congregational church, a community church, and a Methodist church in my younger years. Easter Sunday would always find us sitting in church to celebrate the risen Lord. That is the same in my adult life, but church was much different. Smaller congregation, very few instruments and no electronics beyond a microphone, hymns to sing, and no problem finding parking.

Woodlawn United Methodist Church

My family attended Woodlawn United Methodist Church from about 1966-1969.

Easter Lunch

My mom often prepared a delicious family meal for Sunday after church. We’d often invite some friends or a few relatives to join us at the table, but I don’t recall a big family get-together. My mother would set the table with beautiful table settings and pretty dishes. Those felt like special times of celebration. I do not recall any special recipes. I miss those dinners together.

For many years after I was married, we’d share Easter lunch after church with my husband’s family at my mother-in-law’s home.  His family has a tradition of purple deviled eggs. I am a fan of deviled eggs and enjoyed the purple ones just as much.

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I’m not sure how my mother-in-law makes these, but the photo above is from A Beautiful Mess blog.

Recently, I work hard all weekend at Easter services at my church. I help clean up after church. By the time we can go to lunch, it is late and I am tired. We don’t eat lunch with family on Easter, though we often get together on Palm Sunday or during the week before Easter. My husband and I go out to eat and relax before heading home for afternoon naps.

So much has changed. We still celebrate Easter, but it looks different, and yet the important things remains the same. We celebrate with loved ones in ways that bring meaning and enjoyment. If we had children, some of the traditions would have carried on in similar ways.

Traditions are often changing, yet always hold a special place in our hearts and memories. We can keep the important values in tact, and open our minds to how they may look different through the years.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope it was filled with celebration, the hope of the season, fun, love, and good food, no matter what it may have looked like this year.

Stay charming, my friends!

A Better World for Children

This past Saturday started with a protest march and ended with a first birthday party for my great-niece. The day crossed both ends of the spectrum. A sense of death and mourning for lives lost in violent shootings. A breath of life and hope in celebration of the growth of a beloved child. The contrast was fierce.

My friend invited me to go to one of the local March for Our Lives events to protest gun violence in schools. She made signs for us and headed to a Huntington Beach park. From there, hundreds of people, all ages and stages, walked along Main Street to City Hall. At city hall, high school students gave moving speeches. We were part of an international protest on this day.

We should not be in this place. All students are entitled to a free education – free from fear of being shot. We have got to do more to address this issue. I felt vulnerable just being out in the open in a crowd. I don’t have the answer, but I had to do something. So we marched.

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 5 - Enid & Cindi Ready to March

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 6 - Cindi

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 7 - Enid

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 8 - Vegas Survivor

She survived the Vegas Shooting.

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2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 12 - Enid Marching

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 13 - Cindi on March

2018-3-24 AM March for Our Lives, Huntington Beach 14 - Walking Down Sidewalk

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After the march, I attended the fun and lighthearted birthday party of my great-niece. She turned one this past week and we celebrated with family on Saturday afternoon. She’s been with us for twelve months. Twelve precious months. I really enjoyed watching her enjoy her cake. As she sorts out the world and continues to learn and grow, I pray schools are safer by the time she is old enough for school.

2018-3-24 Abby's 1st Birthday Party 18 - Cindi & Abby with Cake

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2018-3-24 Abby's 1st Birthday Party 14 - Cake Face

My other great-niece was at the party, visiting on her spring break from Northern California. She is fifteen and a sophomore in high school. I desperately want safe schools for her, too. Not only that, I want both these girls to grow up in a world where all men they meet learn to show respect for them, and to honor them in word and deed. I pray for their protection from risky relationships.

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I pray one day the world is a better place for all to live. We can do better. We have to do better. For all the girls. For all the children. We’ve got work to do.

Stay charming, my friends! We can make a difference.

Capturing Stories from Life and the Week

It has been an exceptionally busy work week, so this post shares a few quick thoughts on recent life. I hope something will be of interest  to you or something you can relate to as you read.

School Shooting

I am sickened that yet another tragic shooting has occurred. As a former classroom teacher, I would not agree to carry a weapon.

God help us.

Reflections from a Mother’s Heart

I want to recommend a tool to you, if you still have parents living and relationships you treasure. This past fall, a friend of mine shared that she’d used a book, Reflections from a Mother’s Heart, to capture some of her mom’s stories. I ordered the book from Amazon. I also got the similar book for fathers, A Father’s Legacy (now unavailable, sadly). I took both books home with me for an October 2017 visit with my parents. It prompted great conversation which unfolded stories of their lives, some of which were new to me.

Some parents complete the book on their own, but I used pages that appealed to launch the conversations and jotted down notes as they answered. I’m so grateful I did, for my father passed away a month later. His stories from that October weekend keep him close at heart.

Now, once a week, with my mom on the phone, I talk through some of the prompts in the book. She may not always have an answer, but the prompts always lead somewhere to great memories of her younger days. Those stories keep the young, vibrant woman clearly pictured, though now in her 90’s.

I’d discovered this book makes it easier and fun to continue to get to know my mom, and helps trigger memories from her past which honors her as a person who had a full life. Those are precious times. We live about 2,000 miles apart, but our friendship is strengthened through this book.

The great thing about these books is that they can be used with any older friend or family member that is important to you, whose legacy you want to keep. I do need to mention it has sections that are religious, so if that is not part of the life of your loved one, you can pass by those pages.

Winter Weather

The southern California weather has been typical this year. That means some hot summer days, and then some cool winter days. We’ve not had much rain this winter, which bothers many of us because we need that rain. However, in the areas ravaged by fires, no rain means no mudslides.

This week is particularly chilly. I have to laugh as I write that. I grew up in the Midwest and survived bitter cold. So now when the temperature is down in the 60’s, and I feel like I’m freezing, I know my blood has thinned. I’ve adapted to my California habitat. That temperature would feel like spring when I was living through winters in the Chicago area!

Last night, I checked the weather app on my phone and I could not believe my eyes. My town was the coldest, compared to Chicago and Akron – cities where I’ve lived in the past. Crazy! Hopefully you are not visiting in southern California this week to escape from the cold midwest.

temps 2018-2-20

The Olympics

My husband and I have spent some time recently watching the various events of the Winter Olympics. The sports capture our interest during these weeks. I just love the Olympic theme played so often during the NBC broadcast. Here’s an interesting little article on the theme and a silly video I found on the KUSC website. I wanted to share these if you are teaching a unit on the Olympics. Or maybe you are an Olympic fan, too.

The Olympic Theme Explained

Here is the silly rendition of the theme, described as “Shaun White and Michael Phelps play the Olympic Fanfare on melodicas. Get your melodica here at http://www.melodicamen.com.”

Stay warm and charming, my friends!

Valentine’s Day Your Way

Happy Valentine's Day card

Happy Valentine’s Day, friend! How do you celebrate? Do you celebrate? This is an interesting holiday. Complicated for some. Ignored by others. Celebrated in various ways by many. I didn’t date much growing up, and didn’t marry until I was thirty-seven. So I spent many years, at least from my perspective, feeling I was on the outside looking in on Valentine’s Day, feeling a bit left out. Lonely for a day. Turns out, my husband and I celebrate Valentine’s Day in a no stress kind of way. I discovered, with no disappointment, that it’s not a big deal in our house. Simple and so our style. What’s your Valentine style?

camilla close-up 2018-2

At Valentine’s Day, for me, it is all about love in our lives, not just one romantic relationship. I celebrate my friendships, family, co-workers past and present, students, and more. In my heart, I feel such gratitude for loving people in my life through the years. That’s what I truly celebrate at Valentine’s Day. Not romantic love, but love shared in knowing one another well and caring for each other.

In 1990, I became a school teacher. That made Valentine’s Day fun. Seeing the decorated bags and boxes. Watching the kids come in with fists full of tiny envelopes, some with names on them, some not, when remembering everyone became daunting. We’d take time to pass out the greetings, eat sweet treats (it was a simpler time – less food allergies and sugar limits), and energetic moms filling the room with memory making decor and party fun for a group of almost ten-year old children.

I would always hold my breath, hoping every child would get cards. Over time, I liked to observe cultural shifts communicated in the card themes. Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh, Smurfs, Garfield, Barbie, and many various super heroes. The homemade valentines were always beautiful. I’d open and read each card with delight and appreciation.

Valentine LCMS 2000

It wouldn’t be Valentine’s day without mentioning the chocolate. As a teacher, I got gifts of chocolate from students. Let me tell you a secret. I did not care for chocolate. I would give it away. I became quite popular in the teacher’s lounge offering my boxes of chocolates to others who appreciated it, wishing I could trade for a donut. [Side note: I did try dark chocolate in 2005, and discovered I do like dark chocolate. Still cannot tolerate milk chocolate to this day, with the exception of peanut M&Ms, which now come in dark chocolate, thankfully.]

In 1992, I finally explored the romantic side of Valentine’s Day. At the time, I was dating the love of my life and now husband. We went out to dinner that first Valentine’s Day, thinking that’s what you do. We learned that restaurants are crowded on Valentine’s Day evening. They often have a special menu, meaning higher priced meals. That was a let down. We do occasionally go to dinner for Valentine’s Day, but we do it on another calendar day.

This year, we ate garlic everything this past Saturday night at The Stinking Rose – A Garlic Restaurant, Beverly Hills. Nothing says I love you like garlic breath. Who’s with me on that? We hadn’t been there for a long time and decided to go this past weekend. And since it was February and a nicer outing than normal, we decided to use Valentine’s Day as our excuse to go, not our reason to indulge.

Bagna Cada

Bagna Calda for spreading on bread. Divine.

So many ways to celebrate! We are not into gift giving to each other. Are you? We prefer sharing an activity together, like a train ride or visit to the beach. We do enjoy exchanging cards, always one sweet and one funny. We also enjoy cooking a great meal together at home, if our schedules permit. Including dessert, which is a rare treat. We don’t do flowers. Too predictable and pricey for our taste at Valentine’s Day. We stay rather practical. I don’t care about jewelry, so those seasonal diamond commercials are wasted on us.

I do enjoy decorating a bit for the holidays throughout the year, and this is no exception. Many of you do, too. It is fun to see your photos on Facebook and Instagram. I like to keep it simple. We have white lights strung on our kitchen window all year round. That provides a type of clothesline for some fun Valentine cards I’ve collected over the years from Paper Source. They have some great ones!

Valentine Windoq

valentine - just my type

you salsa chips me card

death is for quitters card

butter and popcorn

I also use a February mug for my coffee. Here is my Waechtersbach mug, popular in the 1980’s. I get it out each February. I know some of you have Valentine traditions, decorations, and mugs, too. Make sure to share on social media.

heart mug

In recent years, “Galentine’s” parties have become popular. That’s a great idea! This HGTV post explains all about it. Sounds so fun!

How to Throw a Galentine’s Party

This Valentine’s Day, I hope none of you feels left out, alone, or sad. Don’t let this be a grass is greener day for you, looking at what you don’t have instead of what you do. Valentine’s Day isn’t the big deal. Find a loved one – family or friend – and tell them what they mean to you. See the beauty around you, if you live in a climate where flowers are blooming or the beauty of winter.

white flower poof - succulent - front yard 2018-2

Splurge on simple things, like a great cup of hot cocoa, a cookie, a cupcake, and/or good coffee.

hot cocoa close up

Buy yourself flowers. Remember a new widow or widower with heart shaped sugar cookies. Make a quick call to a far-away friend. Be a loving person and enjoy the good people around you. Find the simple joy in life and use Valentine’s Day as your excuse.

I hope everyone can think of at least one person in their life that brings them love, romantic or simply a caring relationship. Celebrate all that the person has added to your life. For all of you that enjoy a romantic Valentine’s Day, that’s awesome, too! Be you! Do what’s meaningful to you and feel wonderful about all the elements. Do Valentine’s Day your way and don’t compare yourself to others. Let me know your Valentine’s traditions or special things in the comments below. Thanks!

Stay charming the Valentine’s Day, my friend!

A Valentine for 2017 from Paper Source

Long-Distance Daughter – Part 1

Leaving Home

I’m a long-distance daughter. I have lived away from my parents and hometown for over forty-four years. I know some of you are, too. It is a choice in life that comes with joys and consequences. I plan to have more posts on this topic, since many of us will connect with it. Down the road, I hope to include some friends and their wisdom as long-distance daughters, too.

If you are a long-distance daughter, how did your journey start? What advice would you share with others in a similar situation? I’d love to hear, so write a comment below.

In 1973, I left for college and moved eight hours by car and two states away. When I think back to my growing up years, spending a week or two at summer camp probably contributed to my independence and skills at making new places feel like home. But going away to college was the big first step.

Three State Map

My parents dropped me off at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago, Illinois, and headed back to northeast Ohio. I was a freshman, eighteen years old, and ready to explore a sociology major and life away from home. I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea in the moment, suffering from a short-lived bout of “Freshman fright” (I made that term up) or cold feet. No mobile phones. Only once-a-week long distance calls on Sunday because the rates were lower. What was I going to do? Adjust and enjoy. And I did.

My parents bravely said good-bye, drove away, and I commenced college. I launched my lifetime as a long-distance daughter. I learned the adjustment was harder for them than me, though they enjoyed hearing about my adventures and watching me spread my wings. They were generous with me and so supportive to make that opportunity happen. My mom still says every once in a while, “If I’d known you would never move back home, I wouldn’t have let you go away to college.”  Parents raise independent kids, and that’s a good thing. Then those independent kids leave home, and that hurts. One of life’s ironies.

WheatonCollege

Wheaton College – Blanchard Hall

My first return home was that Thanksgiving, a great time to reconnect with family, and having an opportunity to be back after the first experiences of dorm and college life. What a great time! I brought a friend with me. She lived in New Jersey and wasn’t going all that way for the holiday. It was an enjoyable long weekend at our house, blending both worlds – hometown and college. It was, and still is, so hard to say goodbye.

Turkey dinner

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

Now it is 2017, and the week of Thanksgiving once again. My husband and I are headed to my hometown to be with my side of the family for another meaningful time with turkey and the trimmings. They don’t fly to join us for holidays any longer, so it is our privilege to travel and be together. I still get such a happy feeling to travel home for a visit, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite occasions.

Returning to my hometown always centers me, gives me a sense of my roots. I love my hometown in the Midwest. It is a city of about 250,000 and has many advantages of a big city with the more relaxed pace of a smaller town. I catch my breath, see familiar sights and many newer ones, and connect again with loved ones. Often the weather brings a rainfall, thunderstorm, or even snowfall. I love any of that! Living in Southern California, I tire of sunshine, so any variety in the weather is a welcome change. Beyond all that, I see my family and spend time with them to stay close across the miles.

home mugCalifornia & Ohio Mug

One of the realities of living far from home and family of origin is the understanding that we must make it a priority to get home now and then, spend the money, board the flight, block out the time, get a dog sitter, pack for time away, and go. It’s part of the deal. I understand that. One of the other realities of living far from home is the excitement of going home to visit loved ones, familiar places, and growing-up memories. I don’t take those for granted. One of the many mixed blessings of this long-distance daughter.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! Enjoy time with family, if you do get together.

Stay charming, my friends!