Totality Was Totally Worth It

I’ve been wanting to post about the total eclipse, but I’ve been stuck. It happened a week ago, and although I’ve started writing about it a few times, the post just hasn’t been coming together to convey what I wanted to say. After some reflection, here are my thoughts on the experience…

A few weeks before the event, I wrote a somewhat sarcastic account of the anticipation and preparation surrounding it.

Don’t get me wrong – I was excited to experience the phenomenon first hand. Since we live so close to the path of totality, it was a no brainer that we’d take a drive to see it.

Now, after it’s all over, I’ve had some time to think about what it meant to me.

Just as every Tom, Dick, and Harry added to the hype, they have also put their two cents in with follow ups. You’ve no doubt seen the news coverage, heard the accounts, and seen the photos. I don’t feel I can add much to that aspect of the event.

What I can tell you though, is how it felt. It felt like seeing the Grand Canyon the first time, when I couldn’t stop saying “WOW!” over and over. (I really wax poetic sometimes, don’t I?!)

In short, it was something I will never forget. Continue reading

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Gateway to the West

In response to the WordPress Daily Post Photo Challenge:

Perhaps it’s because I’m not a native of St. Louis, but whenever I’m on the grounds of the Gateway Arch Monument, I have the urge to act like a tourist and take a picture. Especially when it’s gleaming on a bright, sunny day, it makes me proud of my adopted city. These were taken a few years ago, from the approximate spot where my husband proposed.

Not only does it give me an “ooh shiny!” kind of distraction, but it is also, indeed a giant, shiny, hunk of steel.

You can read all about the Gateway to the West here.

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photo my own

 

 

Took a Hike. Found My Bliss.

When I was a kid, Dad would take us on hikes – or as I remember them – forced marches through the woods. He had an uncanny ability to lose the trail. I touched on the topic briefly in this post. We’d be dragged, if not kicking and screaming, then at least whining and bickering through bug-infested jungles. Needless to say, I was not a fan.

I’ve surprised myself by discovering a love for hiking in my later years. Nearly every trip Mr. Maid and I take involves an opportunity to get out there and haul my old bones up, over to, or around, whatever Mother Earth has to offer.

There are few places that give me a greater sense of peace and connection to nature than on a hiking trail. I have come to crave the fresh air, the physical challenge, and the surrounding flora and fauna. And nothing gives me more satisfaction than that feeling of finally reaching the summit.

Here are a few of my favorite moments…

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Haleakala, Maui, Hawaii – Dragging my ass through a strenuous hike often has me feeling like Wonder Woman, so as you’ll see, I often have the urge to strike this pose. Cheesy smile and all!
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South Kaibab Trail, South Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
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North Kaibab Trail, North Rim, Grand Canyon, Arizona
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Trail to Apakuni Falls, Glacier National Park, Montana
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Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
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Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
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Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
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Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho
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Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine – There’s that pose again! You can read about our misadventures on this hike here.
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Dante’s View of Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California
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Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California – my other ‘go-to’ pose – because hiking really does bring me closer to my bliss! Namaste, ya’ll!

Written for the WordPress’ Daily Post Photo Challenge: satisfaction

Spending Time Up In My (Freelance) Business

I just realized that I haven’t posted on this blog since April! Years ago, I coined the word “blazy” to describe a former coworker. She would always claim to be “so busy!” but she was really just lazy. That is a good description of me these past few months. I have time to do all I want and need to do, but somehow, I just don’t get around to some things – like keeping up with this blog.

Until I get those creative juices flowing again, I thought I’d show a glimpse of what I do in my “real” life. Continue reading

A Surprise Out My Window

Cardinal

They say that seeing a cardinal signifies a visit from someone who has passed.

I find that capturing them on film is difficult. No matter how I hold my breath and try not to move, they seem to vanish into thin air. Much like hanging on to the image of a loved one when you see them in a dream, or hear their voice in your head.

I am not a good photographer, but occasionally I can surprise one, capturing the image before it flees.

Today, I am thinking of two people who departed our world last week.

An old friend I hadn’t seen in years – gone too soon – taken by cancer. And a dear friend’s father who lived a long, full 86-year life.

Perhaps the cardinal’s skittishness is a reminder to appreciate those we love while they are here. Before we know it, they too may take flight, leaving only memories of their vibrancy.

~Written in response to The Daily Post Photo Challenge: Surprise.

The Visit

The room is crowded. I’m in some sort of receiving line, standing on a dais or stage. I greet people as they come by – shaking hands, placing a hand on a shoulder here, kissing a cheek there.

You walk up to me, next in line. I’ve never seen you here before. You don’t quite look like yourself, but there’s no doubt it’s you. You look like a cross between Sophia on Golden Girls and Granny Clampett. I chuckle at the realization that there really was a resemblance – a bit in looks, but mostly in feistiness.

I touch your wrinkled but soft cheek, and then wrap you in a tight embrace. You are thin and my arms go all the way around you with no trouble. I have to lean down a little. I’ve been taller than you since the 8th grade, but you’ve shrunken even more with age.

I hold onto you tightly but gently, feeling the ribs in your back and your boney shoulder under my chin. The feeling of your arms around me, as strong and as sure as ever.

We have so much catching up to do. There is so much to tell you. So much to ask.

Emotion wells up and tears fill my eyes. I’ve missed you so much.

“Mom!” I whisper.

You dissolve in my arms.

I roll over and look at the clock. 3:48.

I close my eyes, listening to the wind and my husband’s breathing.

I try to go back to sleep, willing myself to reenter the dream.

Longing to see you and hold you again.

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Let the Feeding Frenzy Begin!

I have some very caring and kind reasons why Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. You can read about them here. Now on to the reason we can all agree upon:  A holiday that’s all about eating and not buying gifts? Yes, please!

I have memories of being awoken before dawn by the smell of onions being sautéed in butter coming from the kitchen. That meant that Mom was starting the stuffing that would fill the bird. Once the turkey was stuffed and in the oven, she’d go back to bed until breakfast time. The aromas would continue throughout the morning as she prepared the rest of the meal.

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I never realized what a good cook my Mom was until I ate at other people’s houses. She was a master at roasting and our turkeys were always so juicy with the skin brown and crackly. She’d pull out her electric knife and carve it in the kitchen rather than at the dining room table. We couldn’t wait and would steal bits of meat while she threatened to amputate a finger or two.

It might just be me, but I swear that an electric knife’s motor actually has a faint, distinctive smell. Ok. I might be a weirdo – but that smell, coupled with the sound makes my mouth water. Kind of like the smell of our old plastic Christmas tree is more nostalgic for me than the smell of pine. Yes, I’m warped. It must be a result of being raised in the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anyway, back to the food!  The turkey was just the beginning. A few of Mom’s side dishes will be forever be my favorites. Her stuffing was very simple and she didn’t use a recipe: day-old bread, cubed and tossed with egg, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper and those sautéed onions and melted butter. No celery, no chestnuts, no oysters. She’d take her wedding ring off and place it by the sink and smoosh it all together with her hands. It was so basic, but so flavorful. It was so good that my sister and I would fight over it – especially the leftovers which we loved to eat cold. I’ve come close to recreating it a few times, but it’s never quite the same.

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This looks similar to Mom’s stuffing, minus those green bits that I suspect are celery.

A am not a fan of sweet potatoes or yams, but I would eat the ones my mother made. I know most of America goes with marshmallows on top, but not us. Mom went with canned yams but then added pats of butter and huge scoops of brown sugar on top. They’d cook in the oven until the sugar and butter formed a gooey, caramelized mush that was absolutely divine. I’d mostly just put a spoonful of goo on my plate, but occasionally I’d end up eating part of an actual yam.

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Mom could doctor-up a can of yams like nobody’s business. This looks similar, but there’s too much yam and not enough “goo.”

And last but not least, desert. I’ve never been much of a sweet eater, so the pecan or pumpkin pie didn’t interest me. No holiday meal would be complete at our house without Mom’s wine jello. The ingredients included these huge, juicy black cherries – canned, I think, and Mogen David wine. When she died last year, I took a box of her cookbooks and recipes. I need to find the recipe for this stuff.

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This looks like her cherry/wine jello. I seriously need to find that recipe!

Along with all of these goodies we’d have rolls, a relish tray of olives, pickles, and carrot sticks, cranberry sauce – both canned and “real,” and some vegetables. I actually remember the first time she tried out a new recipe for something called green bean casserole. It quickly became a fixture as it did in millions of other households, eventually referred to as simply “GBC” at our house.

My Mom was a great cook, but she liked to work alone. We were usually shooed out of the kitchen so we rarely saw the magic happen. We were only called upon when it was time to help plate things and put them on the table. And do the dishes of course.

Dinner would be at 1 or 2:00. We’d come out of our food comas at about 6 or 7:00 just long enough for cold turkey and Miracle Whip sandwiches on white bread for supper – with a lump of cold stuffing on the side. The best!

In the years before she died, my Mom developed dementia. Making some of those dishes was a muscle memory for her. We’d all pitch in to get them cooked and on the table. , it was still very much her meal.

Last year, less than a month before she died, my sister, brother, and I, along with our spouses, had dinner with my Mom and our Aunt Ruth at the assisted living center where they lived. This year, we’ll do the same thing again with our aunt. We’ll reminisce about our childhood holidays. There will even be a new traditions – Aunt Ruth will no doubt complain, as she and Mom did last year, that at least one dish isn’t cooked “right.”

It won’t be the same as the Thanksgivings of our childhoods, but we’ll be together. My sister and I will be sure to argue about leftover stuffing – and that’s something to be thankful for.

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Mom, when she and Dad were newlyweds. A time and place where I’m sure some of our traditions were born.