Sunday, January 8, 2023

Home Sweet Home

Timing is everything when one travels and this time our timing was off, through no fault of anyone.  But my daughter was in frequent touch during our 2-day trek home, and that was much appreciated.  Once certain that her partner was, indeed, going to survive, she was able to better cope.  Although my coping skills are a lot better than hers, I remember the feelings when Jack had his stroke five years ago and I sympathized with her sense of being overwhelmed.    Unfortunately, when her partner was released from the hospital he had forgotten a few days and didn’t remember cashing and spending his own check (which he did while we were still there).  As a result, he became paranoid and angry with her, a problem that has increased since his cancer treatment, and she was overwhelmed in a whole different direction.  What a week of whirlwind emotions, swinging from fear for him to fearing from him in the span of a few days.  I would give most anything to free her of this life she refuses or is unable to abandon.  But enough of that - like Prince Harry, I am prone to overshare.

Neither Jack nor I slept as well on the homebound train-ride north as we did on the way down, but we enjoyed each other's company.  I took a train selfie in the mirror of our tiny bedroom.  

After another day and a half on the "City of New Orleans," we arrived in Chicago and were reminded mid-way through our seven-hour layover there that we are not as young as we used to be and will need a bit of time to recover!  My knees stiffened back up as soon as we hit the cold northern air  and since I’d read both of the books I brought on the way down, the hours dragged by.  We were both eager to be home, even though I was not looking forward to continued cold.  Still, I amused myself by noticing couples who were sitting together, and how many of them had taken on each other’s facial expressions.  A woman and a man reading their books with identical frowns, another couple doing different things, but both with the same half smile.   I wondered whether Jack and I have (or will) come to resemble each other.  

The two of us played “ten thousand,” a dice game, on the final train home, a game that he regularly beat me at until this trip, when I took three games out of four.  When we arrived at our destination station, my car doors were frozen shut, the car was covered with ice, and we needed to charge the battery before we could put this “vacation” behind us.  But Jack talked about how much he enjoyed a variety of the experiences in New Orleans, and I was happy to hear it.  It was a very long day but we arrived home just before midnight, and very happy to be here.

Tomorrow we will get our own lives back on track.  I still need to take down the Christmas tree and you can bet that there is laundry to do!   But most important of all, Dominoes Season is about to begin!

Friday, January 6, 2023

I Do Not Miss New Orleans

Jack had never been to New Orleans, which is not my favorite city, but I had not seen my daughter since before the pandemic and he hadn't ever met her, so we decided it was as good a time as any to visit.  We decided to take the train because flying sounds like a nightmare lately, Jack had enjoyed train travel for years, and I had never been in a sleeper car.  Train travel makes for a long but fairly stress-free trip.  When Jack last traveled by sleeper car he told me about the white linen service in the dining room and the amazing porters who catered to his every need.  We first took the train to Chicago, then had a 7-hour layover (made a little more comfortable by use of their ‘first class’ lounge, a perk that went with the sleeper car and that we discovered by accident since no one told us about it).  Finally, we boarded the train they call the City of New Orleans (there is an earworm for you music lovers and yes, they really do call the train that).   

On our way from Chicago to New Orleans, we had a “roomette”, which is, as the man across the aisle said to me when he saw his, “a whole lot smaller than I expected.”  It was the size of two coach seats, facing each other, with a pull down shelf above them.  Less than 4 feet wide,  just barely long enough for Jack to lie down when the two ‘bunks’ were assembled, and a little claustrophobic since there are curtains in place to close the cubby off from outside view.  Still, it was surprisingly comfortable and the phrase “rock me baby like a southbound train” is apt; the motion of the train after a long travel day put me out like a light.   So that was the plus side of the trip.  On the other hand, the meals that used to be considered a really good part of train travel seem to have disappeared with Covid.   Meals were still provided, but they were the worst possible version of a tv dinner, a small plate of microwaved and barely edible stuff, served at 9:30 pm,  that caused heartburn so severe that it woke me up repeatedly during the night.  Breakfast and lunch were no better.  When I mentioned this to someone later they told me “you get what you pay for,” but in fact the train travel took two days and cost considerably more - nearly 3 times more - than a flight would have.     Even so, we arrived.  

We couldn’t reach my daughter the first night but we did get in touch the next morning.  My daughter has what one might call ‘issues;’ she is disabled and not real reliable, but we finally got in touch and had dinner with her and her partner that evening.  

We had hoped to spend whole days with her and, although I surely should have known better, we spent the first day and a half sitting in our hotel room, waiting for her to be ready to meet.  

On both the second and third days, we tried to set up plans to take her to do some errands she needed done and that she couldn’t afford— updating her state ID, getting her a transportation pass, things like that — but she was not quite ready whenever we checked with her so Jack and I went out to see some sights and kill some time.  We walked all day both days, listening to street music and letting Jack soak in some of the feel of the city, ride the streetcars, eat all the blackened catfish he could hold, and taste alligator for the first time (he  liked it).   

Like any first-timer, he bought a few souvenirs.  Jack decided he wanted a "New Orleans Hat" and found one at Eunice's Jazzy Hats on Dauphine Street.  Several people complimented him on it during the day, so maybe it really is NOLA style!

The fourth day, while we were again waiting for my daughter to be ready, her partner collapsed in their kitchen and was rushed to the hospital, where he was placed in the ICU.   It was all for the best that she was home when it happened.  All of our intended plans came to a halt then, and she later met us briefly to pick up the food we had gotten for her, but it was a difficult visit for her because she was understandably overwhelmed.  Her partner was initially on a ventilator and she was afraid to even visit him, but by the time Jack and I visited the next day, he was awake and alert, and the ICU nurse assured me that he is expected to make a full recovery.  By this time my daughter had stopped answering the phone but I sent her a photo of her partner, hoping to reassure her.  The next morning it was time for Jack and me to board the train for home, still without getting in touch with my youngest child.  Not the visit or the ending that any of us hoped for.   

Hard times happen to everyone.  But mentally healthy children are so easy to take for granted.  Take it from me — don’t.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Last Year's Quilts

 I did not accomplish much in the sewing room last year, but I wasn't a total slacker.  Here, along with countless more ornaments and a dozen or more pillowcases, are some of the things that were finally totally finished and gifted:

Saturday, December 31, 2022

A Fondue Fairwell to 2022

We ended 2022 with our traditional chocolate fondue, as we have done so many, many times before.  This time we warned everyone that they would have to leave before midnight because Jack and I were scheduled to leave early the next morning for our train trip down to New Orleans.  But no year is complete without a sweet chocolate ending, at least not if we can help it!    It pleases me no end that what started as a single chocolate bar and whatever was on hand - an apple or graham cracker - has lasted all these years.  I never would have expected it to endure past my own children's childhoods, but it went on through their teen and young adult years, and now into the teen and young adult years of my grandchildren, with all of us still looking forward to it each year.  I watch with wonder and hope we have more years of this fun and delicious tradition.   It is something I hope will outlive me, my family enjoying time together and somehow connecting memories of me to the sweetness of it all.

We shared pizza beforehand, and did the "saran wrap ball' game for the first time, along with the more traditional Christmas "crackers" or "poppers."  There is not much better than corny jokes and paper crowns!


2022, like most years, has been a mixture of fun and sadness, but we have no complaints.  Every year I become more grateful for every minute.  Let's hope that 2023 will be even better for all of us.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Ho Ho Holidays!

Christmas Morning we had brunch at our house with my family, a flurry of food and gifts.  I made ornaments for the Grands and offered my family "first dibs" on my stack of quilts, warning them that anything they didn't choose would be given elsewhere.   I really thought they were probably 'quilted out' because I have given each of them several, but they seemed excited to be able to choose their own and the pile pretty much diminished to a few baby quilts that I will hold onto anyway, just in case.  I was happy to have a baby quilt on hand this past month when we received news of a bonus grand niece that we didn't know we were expecting, so I will try to keep a small selection of those always on hand.  I have to admit, it felt really good to have my family cherish the unexpected quilts.  In the course of things I learned that all four of them use my quilts frequently and that my grandson uses only my quilts on his bed instead of any other blankets, and that touched my heart.  I think I might  make this a  new tradition; instead of making a quilt for a specific person, I will just bring out the year's production for them to choose from again next Christmas.    I don't know why, but that makes me want to quilt more than ever, after months of not having any sewing mojo!

Jack made socks for everybody -- family, friends, even our mailman and his family.  Jack asked for fleece fabric for his birthday and I bought him a lot, at least 20 yards and maybe more since I kept finding new patterns and adding them to the gift bag.  He started sewing on his birthday, right before Christmas, and had to go out to buy MORE in order to make socks for everyone on his list.  My family group put theirs on right away -- we are glad for new socks this time of year because it is cold!

For our brunch I made quiche (vegetarian), and egg bake (meaty), almond pastries, cookies, hash browns (with and without cheese), along with fruit and cheese and homemade eggnog and juice and coffee.  Jack's daughter and little George joined us to eat and having so many of us together was the best gift of all for Jack and me.  

Our weather was typical of winter here -- slippery and snowy, but nothing unusual.  My brother's area in Grayling was hit by a blizzard over the weekend, though, and although he had intended to join us for Christmas,  he was snowed in.  He had snow drifts of 4 feet or so in his driveway, made worse by the wind and the hard working snow plows that had been up and down his road, forming ice dams at the end of each driveway.  We all agreed that even if he could get out to the roads, they were too dangerous up there to drive on.  We were both sorry about that and hoped we will be able to get together for an alternate Christmas before Jack and I leave for our week in New Orleans.  I missed him and he was sad to miss the crowd and chaos,  since his life is pretty quiet, but he comforted himself with the knowledge that there would be football all day on television.  He said he considered it a win-win situation, either time with family or lots of football to watch.

Since my brother Bill wasn't able to come to stay at our house, Jack and I exchanged our gifts on Christmas night.  We don't have any traditions yet around the holidays so we are sort of just doing whatever fits in, and that is likely to be our ongoing method since it suits both our styles.  I guess 'light' must have been the theme of the year for us since I have him a variety of lights to use at his sewing station and he gave me diamonds!

Christmas with Jack's family was the following Tuesday, two days after Christmas, designed around their work schedules.  The plan was that Jack would make the turkey, his kids would make the sides, and I would make whatever I felt like (which turned out to be a salad and yeast rolls).   There was no gift exchange, but we planned for lots of food and a good time together.  Unfortunately, one of his sons ended up working and the other got sick, so it was a much smaller group than we had hoped.  Still, the food was good and having baby George around makes any gathering a party!

The next day, to our surprise, my brother Bill showed up so we were able to give him his presents, share a meal and visit for a couple of hours before he drove back home.   It was a nice visit; I cherish my relationship with my oldest brother.  We have only become close in the last several years and that feels like a gift.

Now we have a day or two to gather our wits, get whatever 'dippers' I still need for the chocolate fondue, and pack for our getaway.   I normally take my decorations down on 3 Kings Day, January 6, but this year we will be gone that day.  Since I want to leave them up for our New Year's fondue, I guess they will stay up until we are home.  I like to leave a clean  house when we travel, so I am still wrapping my mind around that!  But it's all good.  Aside from a few scheduling issues and a couple of us who were under the weather, it's been a good holiday, and now we are looking forward to celebrating the new year.    In years past I would have made a list by now of goals, sewing and otherwise.  This year I am happy just to be here!

Monday, December 19, 2022


Our busy social schedule, or what now passes for a busy schedule, has continued into December.  Jack and I took his daughter, boyfriend, and baby George to a charity cookie decorating event to start out the month.  It was so much fun!  As quickly as a decoration could be placed on a cookie, George carefully removed and ate it.  His diet does not generally include sugar, so he was definitely in a Sweet Spot that day.  It will be another year or two before I will even think of trying to actually make cookies with him, but he really enjoyed this day of picking off the sprinkles, one at a time.  Best of all, the decorating/un-decorating event took place away from my own kitchen, so I didn't have to clean up the sugar that must have been everywhere once everyone was finished!  Prizes were given for the best decorated cookies -- for some reason, we didn't win anything!

On December 8, Jack and I quietly celebrated our 4th Anniversary.  We cannot imagine life without the other and are grateful for our lives.  The next week I went to hear my grandson's high school band -- he is a senior this year and I will miss these concerts.  Joseph plays tuba in the band, which is quite a difference from the orchestra, where he plays cello, but I enjoy both so much.  Time has flown by as I've watched him grow into a young adult.
The next week Jack and I entertained our first dinner guests - aside from family - since the beginning of the pandemic.  I was a little nervous about everything -- getting the house clean (after 3 years of the more casual approach that being alone created), cooking for people I don't know that well -- but it was a truly fun evening.  These years of social isolation have left a mark on all of us, I suspect, and it felt good to take our first baby step back into the world we used to know.

Jack's birthday is in three days, which we will celebrate with dinner out and gifts.  I am trying to focus on that but his birthday marks the beginning of the Christmas Craziness, so the back of my mind is a turmoil of lists and chores that need to be done.  The next two weeks will be full of activity, and I am looking forward to every bit of it!

November - Thankful For Family

I have been Covid-isolated for so long that it takes very little for me to feel overwhelmed with activity.  And this last month or so has seemed CRAZY busy because we have had as many as -- imagine! - one or two things a week on our schedule!  When I think of how busy my life was not that many years ago, I barely recognize the slow moving tired old woman that I've become.  But whatever, the last few weeks have been a treat.  November was family month.  Both Jack's  family and mine got together to have our annual family photos taken.  Jack and I like to have a picture of the whole group, which we use on our Christmas card.  One the "business" photo is taken,  Karen Fordos, our photographer and friend, takes any photos that any of the family want for themselves.  It is always fun and we follow up with dinner for the whole group at our house.  This year Jack's son Zack got the idea to have us all pretend to be a band, with whatever instruments we could scrape together.  We laughed a lot that day.

A few days later we all celebrated Thanksgiving -- my son and his wife cooked on Thanksgiving Day, and about 20 of us gathered at their house -- my family accounted for about half the guest list.  They are so well organized and prepared a huge feast, accommodating both the carnivores and the vegetarians among us with a long table filled with food.  No one went hungry that day!  

The very next day, my siblings and some of our extended family gathered at my brother Bill's house in Grayling, Michigan for a "paprikash cook off," where 3 versions of our traditional chicken paprika (as well as one vegetarian version) were prepared and voted on.  My sister Marilyn, to no one's surprise, won the competition since that has long been one of her signature dishes.

The day after that, Jack's kids came over to our house for yet another Thanksgiving feast!  Jack prepared the turkey that day and his kids brought dishes to share, so it was very little work for me, and I could get used to that!  I put up the Christmas tree (which fascinated George, of course) and cleaned the house, but that was about it.

We finished off the  month with my 73rd birthday.  I used to feel anxious about my birthdays but as I get older, for sure, I am more grateful every year to have one.