Family Legends

Every family has a story.  Even if there isn’t much known about the actual family history, the family story is being written, day by day.

I married a man with an  intriguing family history that includes a German scientist dad (who actually met Hitler!) who married his secretary and eventually escaped East Germany with her and their three little kids (and one on the way–Tom), fleeing to Canada and eventually landing in the United States.  The German scientist had another family before the one Tom was born to, and he didn’t know about his half siblings in Germany until he was a young teenager.  There are so many Bickel Family legends spanning many years, including such things as the “special friendship” my father-in-law had with (the actor) Michael Douglas’s first wife’s mother…try following that one after a glass of wine…and the time he was hired to find water on the land on Figueroa Mountain that is now known as Neverland Ranch.  Truly fascinating stuff.

My own family of origin has stories too though I’m not entirely sure if some of our family legends are actually true.  Since reconnecting with some of my paternal cousins, I’ve learned that they too grew up believing that the Friar family has Native American blood.  I grew up hearing that my dad’s family had blackfoot indian blood; one of my cousins recently shared that our great-great grandma (who she believed was named Minny) was Cherokee.  However, my brother Jerry did some genealogy study using Ancestry.com and found no evidence of Native American ties.  Is it possible that our direct Native American ancestors belonged to unrecognized tribes?  I suppose.  But to be perfectly honest, I’d be more interested in learning how this belief originated in the family and how it was told and retold through the generations.

One of the most mysterious and troubling family legends was something I overheard my parents arguing about many times during my childhood:  that my dad fathered a child when he was stationed in Germany (before he met my mom).  He told my mom that he was involved with a woman named Annelisa, who became pregnant by my dad.  That baby was a boy who was adopted by an Air Force officer (or some higher rank) and his wife; they named him David.  This subject would come up during arguments that I think started when my parents were drinking and my dad would start to accuse my mom of being unfaithful.  I wondered, so many times, if I actually had an older brother somewhere and if he would ever try to find my dad.  Was I not actually my pop’s firstborn?

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This was my mom’s most favorite picture of my dad, here with me.

Another family legend involved the song Oh Lonesome Me.  My dad claimed to have written and then sold this song for $50, with no rights to claim that he actually wrote it. Ghostwritten by him, he said.  Is this true?  I have no idea.

I’ve allowed myself to travel back in my memories lately; this wasn’t always safe for me and as a result, I pushed many memories so far back in the recesses of my mind that it can be a bit hard to retrieve now.  But I’ve grown up a bit, grown strong, thanks to the stable family life that Tom and I built together.  I wonder, when we are gone, what family legends our kids will remember and share?

In other news…we are in the process of digging up our parched and gopher-damaged front yard to prepare for a new sod planting.  When I say “we” you should know that I actually mean Tom.  I have been banished from any yard work after my six weeks of hell due to poison oak reaction.  So while Tom is sweating and shoveling, I occasionally go outside to wave at neighbors and to comment on his progress, telling him he’s doing a good job.  This project is taking a long time, mostly because Tom is doing it alone and maybe because every time I casually mention how long it is taking, Tom slows down even more.  I don’t know if the slowdown is purposeful, but  I do know that Tom DOES NOT like to be bossed around, and that includes casual mentions and letters from the Homeowner’s Association about the state of the yard (Tom’s comments while reading that letter, well, I won’t repeat here).

Progress, as recorded today:

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Tom’s ability to fix stuff is legendary in our family so I know, even though this project is taking much longer than I’d like, that he will make something beautiful happen here.

Work is done for the day around here; we are getting ready to grab our fold-up chairs and head to Ryon Park to listen to a band we like.  The Lompoc Valley SpringFest closes today, and Holger’s Heroes will be playing some classic rock favorites.  The perfect way to close out our weekend as well.

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Family Ties

It’s been too long since I sat down to write, even though I sit at my desk at home every day for at least an hour or two.  I busy myself with studying for my latest Master’s class (Business Ethics) or with my  latest Bible study (Beth  Moore’s Entrusted) and, of course, with other important pursuits (Facebook and Twitter).  And I always make time for a rousing game of Spider Solitaire.  Lately thoughts have been swirling and marinating and since I’m not really a talker (though some people close to me might disagree!), those thoughts need to be expressed somehow…thus, I know it is time to write. On Twitter the other day this is what Anne Lamott had to say, in response to someone’s question about how to get started as a writer:

“Decide to.  Sit down @ desk.  Keep butt in chair.  Share a memory or description.  Write an unbelievable shitty first draft.”

Thank you, Anne.  I shall follow your advice.

This guy hangs from my desk lamp as a reminder to write.  He’s been giving me the stink eye lately.  Am I right?

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So today, I write.

March was very busy.  We bought a new car and then promptly racked up some miles by heading to Twentynine Palms to attend our oldest granddaughter’s 7th birthday party. We got to see, firsthand, the life our son is building for himself following a divorce he did not want.  He’s established a comfortable home where his kids spend time with him daily, and he’s established a very good co-parenting relationship with their mom.  There is no better feeling for a parent, than knowing that your kids are doing okay.  Here is a picture of the lovely birthday girl with Chuck E. Cheese and her proud daddy looking on:

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Here I am, with Amelia and Tom, in the backseat of said new car.  We were on our way to the birthday party.  Never mind that my ass was wedged snugly between two booster seats…spending time with these two makes my heart very happy:

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We returned home on a Sunday, worked two days and then boarded a plane to Eugene, OR the following Wednesday.  I last visited Jessica and family in December when the crazy ice storm hit Eugene.  I’d never seen anything like it, but I digress…I no sooner returned home from that trip before Jess and I started planning the next trip.  I traveled alone in December as Tom had too many work demands.  Thanks to a bounty of United air miles, we were able to book round trip air tickets for two, only paying tax, so the March trip was a go.  Seeing Tom with our grandsons kind of made me fall in love with him again.

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While there, Braydon and I planted a little flower garden for their patio.  Jess sent a picture the other day to show me that the flowers were still alive and thriving.  Even though they’ve been in Oregon for over a year now, I know my girl misses me.  We have our next trip planned for September–it will be a week long road trip.

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We returned from Oregon late on a Sunday; we’d both taken Monday off to recuperate but decided to do a bit of yard work, as recent rains and subsequent sun had brought weeds out of hiding.  The weather was nice so I put on a tank top and jeans and went to it.  At one point Tom pointed out what he thought to be poison oak growing by our backyard gate.  Nah, I thought.

I am very allergic to poison oak.  VERY.

You can guess what happened.  It’s been four weeks…one steroid shot…a course of Prednisone…lots of Caladryl…several tubes of Hydrocortisone…and I’m STILL dealing with a few remnant patches of poison oak breakout.  I’ll spare you the pictures but yes I took some…just in case I forget how bad it actually got!

Yard work will be done by someone other than me from now on.

I’d promised our local daughter Amy and her family that we’d have them for Sunday dinner so I could make homemade pizza (completely homemade crust and sauce and with all our favorite gourmet toppings) but with my poison oak-covered hands, that just didn’t seem like a good idea.  We had some nice weather and Tom took the opportunity to barbecue baby back ribs which in my opinion was a very good alternative.  Seeing little miss Aislee put a big smile on my face:

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This girl is something else.  She is happy, loving, and as sweet as can be.  We think she might be almost ready for a sleepover with Nana and Papa.  I can’t wait.

I’m hoping that tomorrow we can finally get around to that pizza dinner.  Amy and I have plans today to go to the movies to see Beauty and the Beast, just the two of us. Time with my own baby daughter is another thing that makes me smile.

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I think that catches us up on family life around here.  But something interesting happened recently that has me thinking more deeply about family ties.  I received a Facebook friend request from someone I didn’t know; we didn’t share any mutual friends either, so I was hesitant to accept the request.  As I looked at her name, an unusual name, I wondered if she was a cousin on my dad’s side of the family.  Sure enough, that was the case–she’s the daughter of my dad’s sister.  In accepting her friend request, I’ve now connected with both of her sisters, and with other cousins (daughters of my dad’s other sister).  Many memories, long buried, are surfacing as we share pictures and a bit of our family history.  I am excited to see where these relationships lead.  But I’m also a bit nervous.  I’m learning things that are troubling, such as the fact that all three of my dad’s sisters have Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnoses.  My grandma, their mother, died of Alzheimer’s.  My dad died at age 60 of lung cancer.  I can’t help but wonder if he would have developed dementia if he’d lived long enough.  One of his brothers is in a nursing home here in California, and I’m not sure if he’s dealing with dementia (but plan to find out).  My dad’s youngest brother lives here locally and I occasionally run into him in town.  He seems fine…when I last saw him he was astonished by how much I favor my mom.  I think it was very odd for him to see me as a middle-aged woman!

These new family ties are stirring up memories for sure.  I’ve long had the bare bones of a memoir in progress but I seem to get blocked when it comes to writing about my childhood; it feels like I don’t want to go there.  Perhaps these new relationships will fill in gaps and serve to override some fear I have about revisiting some of the really tough memories that shaped who I am today.

Cousins, if you are reading this, I am SO GLAD to get to know you again!

So I’m off now to shower and get ready for this beautiful Saturday.  Have a blessed day!

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When it Rains, it Pours

It is raining in Southern California, folks.  It’s windy and rainy, trees are buckling and flooding is a very real danger in many areas.  The Oroville Dam has been on national news, and thanks to my now-obsessive urge to listen to NPR during my commute I learned a lot about the structural concerns of the dam and the catastrophic potential for loss of life if the spillway fails.  Scary stuff.  Here’s today’s weather report for my  neck of California, which thankfully, is far away from Oroville Dam.

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Remember when I shared about my love of learning?  NPR has truly broadened my horizons.  I’ve never been that interested in politics; of course, I’d educate myself enough to make informed voting choices but not until Donald Trump’s stunning (and very disturbing, in my opinion) victory did I ever feel the need to dive deeper into it.  Now, in an effort to understand what in the hell happened, I’m listening to lots of NPR and actually learning about many other interesting things, such as the story behind American artist Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World.

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I learned about James Baldwin, the subject of the Oscar-nominated documentary film, I Am Not Your Negro.  During my 30 minute commute I learned about his spiritual upbringing and his time as a “boy preacher” and the crisis of spirit he experienced.  I definitely want to know more.

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, politics is in your face whether you want to deal with it or not.  For the most part I do not share my political views on Facebook because, WHY.  I learned about fake news (and it’s not Trump’s definition) from NPR too, which is a real thing and Facebook is full of it. When you see the link to an article that just seems wrong–such as Garth and Tricia’s divorce settlement–and with innocent interest you click it, you helped fund fake news.  Don’t fund and circulate this crap, people!  I for one vow to keep Facebook fluffy and fun by posting cute pictures of my grandkids or delicious dinners at home.  Here’s our Valentine’s Day feast:

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I finally finished the Marketing Management course earning a solid A.  I was given the option to take a challenge exam for the Organizational Behavior course, due to my psychology background and experiential credit because of my work responsibilities.  I’m confident I did well  on that exam too.  While reviewing the text and specifically, a section about the importance of listening, an ironic and funny (to me) example of a notoriously poor listener was included:

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Oh dear.  Who could have imagined the stone-cold mess we’d find ourselves in, circa 2017. “And that’s all I got to say ’bout that” (said in my best Forrest Gump voice).

I am awaiting my next Stitch Fix box with great anticipation.  I gave my stylist free rein to surprise me this month and can’t wait to see what she comes up with.  For my last fix I requested work clothes and received an amazing jacket, black slacks, a beautiful royal blue blouse, and a pencil skirt–all pieces fit perfectly, all pieces fit the criteria of stylish without being too youthful or trying too hard, and most importantly, all pieces would not have been found in stores where I live. Here is a picture of the skirt and jacket which I only share so you can note how cute and stylish and still age-appropriate this outfit is (pay NO attention to the old lady holding the iPhone).

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My disclaimer:  This picture is poor-quality and I am NOT a model and it feels very awkward to take pictures of myself and I can’t promise I’ll ever do it again, but I took this one in my hotel room in Sacramento at the beginning of this  month while on a business trip.

You too can hire a Stitch Fix stylist!  You can certainly Google Stitch Fix and sign up on your own, but if you email me (linabickel@gmail.com)  I can refer you directly which gives me a $25 credit toward my next fix.

My plans for this rainy Saturday include working on week one homework for my current Bible study, which is Beth Moore’s newest offering, a study of 2 Timothy entitled Entrusted.  Grocery shopping is also on my agenda, as is catching up on the latest episode of The Blacklist.  Tom works today so I’ll figure out something warm and comforting to prepare for dinner (and maybe I’ll post a picture to Instagram and Facebook, who knows?).  It’s all exciting, I know.  I hope your Saturday is just as riveting as mine.

Finally, I leave you with this.  Everyone needs a  laughing baby in their life.  This one is ours.

Wishing you a blessed day,

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Busyness

I have been so busy!  I am not sure that my busyness is evident to those around me, but I am certainly feeling it.  I am an internal processor and as such, my brain is working overtime to simultaneously handle work considerations, political ramifications, new information I’m learning, family issues, planning for the future, and the everyday stuff such as grocery shopping, completing our tax return, and remembering to pick up my shoes from the shoe repair shop.

Last weekend we enjoyed a cool event at our church:  SNOW DAY!  Eleven tons of snow was brought in to provide a fun afternoon of sledding, snowballs, hot chocolate and popcorn, tater tots and nachos, and yet another display of love towards our community that is the specialty of Lompoc Foursquare Church.  We met up with our granddaughter and her parents to enjoy this together, and we even wound up on the news!  Can you spot us in the first picture?

I did finish our taxes last weekend too and the news was good.  We had a number of years during the economic downturn where that wasn’t the case, so I’m grateful.

Just this morning I finished writing a paper for school about straddle positioning.  I am sure there was a good measure of Divine Assistance because I somehow was able to put approximately 700 words to paper about this confusing marketing strategy.  Have I mentioned that I am not particularly enjoying the marketing class? Every other course required for my master’s program is definitely in my wheelhouse of interest but this one has tested my commitment, that is, until I acknowledge that I am really learning something new.  Four more chapters to go…one more unit test and one more paper to write, and then I’ll take the final and BE DONE with marketing.  Yes.

Work is busy and even a bit chaotic; the political climate is stirring up fear in the people we serve.  This past week I attended a conference in Sacramento with colleagues from all over California.  This snapshot is a great representation of what was collectively flowing through our minds that day.

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Friday I was back in the office and swept up in several out-of-the-norm conversations. The current is fast-moving right now and I can see that we are entering a time of uncertainty and change.  It is thrilling and scary, all at the same time.

When my mind gets busy I like to unwind in the kitchen.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that food has often been my soother of choice to deal with stress but with awareness I’ve pretty much conquered (or at least learned to control) this tendency.  But I do love to cook and a quiet house to myself often leads me there.

Yesterday’s therapy included artisan bread, baked in my brand new ceramic-lined cast iron dutch oven:

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Pimento cheeseburgers for dinner:

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And brown sugar oatmeal cookies with milk chocolate chips:

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I also made Texas Caviar for today’s Super Bowl game to go along with pastrami sandwiches (for Tom), turkey sandwiches (for me), fresh pineapple, dill dip and chips, queso fundido, and maybe a salad.  And that’s Super Bowl snacking for two, folks.

Time to unwind.

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Stormy Sunday Musings

Living where we do, basically on the Central Coast of California, we just don’t get much in the way of exciting weather and because we live pretty  much  on the most sticking-out-in-the-Pacific-ocean part of California, what actually happens, weather-wise, is usually different than what is forecast on the news.

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Tom monitors the weather using a couple of different weather radar apps on his phone and honestly, he’s better at predicting what’s coming than KSBY news (their app is his favorite).  Perhaps this is because he focuses most heavily on our particular area of the Central Coast, though he also monitors the weather is several other places where we have loved ones, on the Monterey Peninsula, in Twentynine Palms, and  of course, Eugene, Oregon; he keeps them informed of their local weather, whether they want to know or not.

His fascination with weather is a harmless hobby (obsession?) and I always check with him when deciding what to wear to work but what I do not enjoy is when he interrupts what I’m doing to make me watch the latest band of yellow with pockets of red moving into our area via weather radar. The other thing he enjoys is videos that have gone viral and he insists on trying to share these with me even though I tell him that animals doing weird stuff or people making asses of themselves just doesn’t do it for me.  I mean come on, I don’t make him look at cute outfits on Pinterest or share obnoxious and/or thought-provoking political tweets with him, though maybe if I did he’d get it.  I also don’t make him work on puzzles with me because after almost four decades together I am totally okay with us having different interests.

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This puzzle was my attempt to stay up past 10 PM last night.  It didn’t work because it was a really fun, fast-moving one and I was done by 8:15.  We then watched Friday night’s DVR’d Tonight Show, enjoyed a glass of Apothic Inferno and it was over for me.

On a serious and sad note, I have to share that yesterday our youngest daughter’s elderly Boston Terrier had to be put down. Duji was Amy’s faithful companion for nine years, preceding her husband though he won Duji’s devotion as well. He was a wonderful little guy, ever patient with children and easily adjusting to other animals.  I like to think that our two dogs in heaven, Shelby (below) and Bella (who just left us on 1/2/17), greeted him when he arrived.  Our hearts broke a little more yesterday, losing this precious family member.

So the rain is coming down and the wind is blowing.  Tri-tip chili is simmering in the crock pot and homemade cornbread baked in a cast iron skillet is on the menu to go with it. We’ve got Sunday Morning and Saturday Night Live in the DVR queue and I’ve got a closet full of puzzles to choose from.  It’s a peaceful, stormy Sunday around here.

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How I Spent a “Me” Day

The very best way to end a relaxing weekend is with Monday off…in  my humble opinion, that is.  Today is a federal holiday celebrating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. and as a county employee I join in with the schools and banks and government services to enjoy a day off.  For my husband, who works for the private sector, this is not so.

So not only is this MLK day, it’s a ME day.  Here’s how I’ve spent it so far.

I am an early riser, even on days off, and most days start the very same…tea, prayer, time reading my Bible, and doing my best to knock out a chapter (or as close to) for whatever course I’m in for my master’s program.  Chapter six, done.

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I ate my current favorite breakfast which I learned is only 5 WW Smart Points.

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Checked in on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram and email and then played a couple of riveting games of Spider Solitaire on my laptop.  I did a bit more studying and then got dressed.  By this time, Tom had left for work, so it was time to watch stuff in our DVR queue that I prefer to watch by myself and without his commentary.  Like Sister Wives. During commercial breaks I did laundry and changed the sheets in our room and the guest room.

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Sister Wives was (happily) interrupted by a FaceTime call from Hudson and his mama.  His two-and-a-quarter year old brother likes to run around the room during daily FaceTime, but Hudson is into it and rewards me with many smiles and coos. This particular picture was snapped yesterday I think; he was very distracted by his yummy big toe and the sun was shining on them despite temps in the 20s where they live, which gave the picture a unique touch.

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Late morning included a supermarket run followed by a Starbucks run, then back home to make this gourmet meal for my lunch:  smoked trout tartine and salad.  “Me” day must include a meal fit for a queen, and this was.

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Tom came home for lunch a bit after one, but I left him alone to do his thing in peace and went in to take a mid-afternoon bubble bath.  I mean seriously, who does this, except maybe newlyweds on their honeymoon? As a working woman who has been married her whole adult life (almost four decades!!) and raised three kids, an afternoon bubble bath on a weekday is just an outrageous luxury.  Perfect for ME day.

My afternoon included a visit with these two princesses.  Aislee insisted we wear tiaras while playing and then taught me how to do her version of the robot while listening to Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock”…she hadn’t had a nap but was in such a good mood.

And now it’s about 45 minutes until Tom gets home.  We are having leftover Pancit Canton, marinated cucumbers, and roasted pork stuffed in homemade Chinese Steam Buns for dinner.

It’s been a wonderful day off, but back to the grind tomorrow.  In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday (and the whole reason I got to enjoy a day off), I share two of my favorite MLK quotes:

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

 

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

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Steps, Points, and Oprah

One of my guilty pleasures is the weekly issue of People magazine.  I think this is a throwback to my mom, who loved movie magazines and (according to family legend) taught herself to read English by looking at them.  Further proof:  my younger sister is named Sandra Susan, after Sandra Dee and Susan Hayworth, and my youngest brother is named Jerry, after Jerry Lewis.  I (first born) was named for my Icelandic grandmother. But I digress.

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This week’s People features Oprah talking about her weight; what else is new.  Now, I am not an Oprah-follower and I wouldn’t even consider myself a fan, but her weight struggles resonate with me because they have been my struggles too.  As I read about Oprah becoming one of Weight Watchers largest shareholders I couldn’t help but remember how, on a much smaller scale, I often put my money where my mouth was in order to be motivated to stick with a plan to lose weight.

Right now, I’m in a pretty good place with my weight.  I could probably stand to lose 20 more pounds but I’m quite content right where I’m at.  Oprah is there too, according to the People article.  She’s found the program she can stick with for the rest of her life in Weight Watchers and I must confess, reading her story motivated me to examine my own plan to maintain a healthy weight.

So I decided today to start tracking points.  And steps.  I have the Weight Watchers app on my phone and my FitBit all synced up and I’m going to hold myself accountable.  I entered a goal weight that’s just 15 pounds less than my current weight and laughed to myself at the absurdity of that, considering my history.  My plan is simply to choose high quality foods over junk and to make sure I exercise.

I got up early this morning to finish up making a batch of Chinese Steamed Bao Buns for a friend as a thank you for her help as my test proctor for school.  I made a batch for us too and planned to roast a little piece of pork today to fill those yummy buns.  I also planned to make a big batch of Canton-style Pancit, something our son who is visiting for the weekend loves.  When I started calculating the points for these two dishes I realized that steamed buns might be better enjoyed tomorrow.  I also learned today that my favorite Chai Tea Latte k-cup is 3.5 points per serving.  Uh, no.  This girl will be going back to English Breakfast Tea with stevia in the raw and a splash of 2% milk, thank you very much. I’d much rather save those points for a small glass of wine with dinner.  It’s the little things you learn!

Today I also met my sister-in-law for lunch at Sissy’s.  It was wonderful to catch up with her as it had been way too long.  I chose a small garden salad with a scoop of their amazing tuna salad on top and iced tea; mindful eating, and it was satisfying and healthy.  Feeling pretty good about my choices today.

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So that’s Saturday.  I’m getting ready to jump in the shower, put on my fleecy pajamas and pour myself 5 ounces of 14 Hands Hot to Trot.  Hope your Saturday night is as exciting as mine!

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Sunday Dinner for Two

As much as I enjoy it when the opportunity presents to cook for my whole family, I also appreciate quiet dinners for two.  We used to do Sunday Dinner for everyone on a fairly regular basis when all three of our kids and their families lived nearby.  Now, with distance between us, more often than not it’s Sunday Dinner for two.  And I don’t mind that at all.

After a good soaking of rain yesterday and an exciting thunderstorm last night, this morning’s painted sky was a beautiful surprise.

Last weekend we were very busy with our very sick dog, so we missed the first church service of 2017; today’s message was encouraging and convicting all rolled into one, just as it should be.  We learned today that later this  month our church is bringing snow in, filling a large parking lot in order to host a snow day!  I know a little two year old girl who will enjoy that!

Sometimes we enjoy breakfast out after church and sometimes we do breakfast at home; today was an at-home kind of day.  I made jalapeno-spiked potatoes o’brien, bacon, easy-over eggs for Tom with wheat toast and cranberry juice, and a scrambled egg for me along with sourdough toast with apricot jam.  Delicious.  Well-fed, I had the fortitude to tackle marketing management study and even completed the test portion of my first unit exam.  I still have a paper to write about the four major categories of strategic alliances, but I’m feeling pretty accomplished.

Minimal household chores are tackled on Sundays around here.  Today the outside Christmas lights came down, laundry got done, and de-liming the Keurig is in process as I write.  I tell you, it’s been a riveting, fascinating day around here!

Back to where I started with this post…Sunday dinner.  Tonight it’s for two and on the menu we have buttermilk gravy smothered pork chops, smashed potatoes with plenty of European style butter, kale sauteed with garlic and crushed red pepper, and perhaps a glass of Churn chardonnay.


And now we are watching the Golden Globes.  This perfect end to an unremarkable but very relaxing day.

Hoping your Sunday has been blessed.

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Just Another Thursday

So far, 2017 has been a little disappointing.  I realize we are only five days in and I’m not prone to depression, so it’s going to be okay.  I’m just saying, 2017 needs to step it up.  This verse in Ecclesiastes sort of sums it up for me today:

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV

However yesterday, our Oregon family experienced something new: SNOW!  This is Braydon outside their door on the golf course. Something about his little frame in green and red against the pure white of the snow and his wonder at seeing the snow-laden tree just settles my heart in peace and assures me that there might be nothing new under the sun, but new experiences await us all.

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This picture reminds me of another favorite passage of scripture.

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have broken rejoice.  Psalm 51:7-8 ESV

Here in California we are getting some much-needed rain. With many things on my mind, I woke up at about 2:30 am and didn’t go back to sleep but in the stillness of early morning I could hear soft rain hitting the trees in the wetland garden behind our house. I prayed for awhile and listened to Tom’s sleep noises and I breathed in thankfulness.

Five days in and it’s disappointing.  But I have hope that even today, I will hear joy and gladness.

My Friend Iceland

I’m the daughter of a native Icelander.  My mom was born in Iceland, adopted by an Icelandic sea captain and his wife as a baby and raised in Reykjavik, Iceland. She met my American-born dad when he was stationed at NAS Keflavik, Iceland; he had a band and hired my 18-year-old mom as a singer. She thought he looked like Elvis. That’s the family legend in a nutshell. This picture was obviously taken when they returned to America, I assume, as my dad’s two brothers are part of the band and they were not in Iceland with my parents. Music is part of the family legacy as well.

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My mom wasn’t your typical Nordic beauty with blonde hair and blue eyes, rather, she was an exotically beautiful brown-eyed brunette.  I was born just nine months after they married, here in northern California where my dad was stationed following his tour in Iceland.

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My mom died the day after Mother’s Day in 2003 at the young age of 62 after a brief but brutal battle with lung cancer that had metastasized to her bones and brain.

This is one of my favorite images of my mom, in our swimming pool probably just about two years before she died. In Iceland, she’d told me when I was little girl, children had to learn to swim by the time they were six years old–they couldn’t move up a grade if they didn’t (not sure this is really true). My childhood brain understood this to be  necessary since Iceland was an island and who knew when you might just fall off the edge into the frigid, icy waters. She also convinced me that because I had her viking blood I never had to worry about seasickness because I was made for the water. More family legacy.

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People say I look like her; I knew this was true when I was a little girl, there was enough photographic evidence of it. Now, when I look at this picture of my mom at just about 60 years old and look at my 57-year-old self in the mirror, I see that it’s still true. I don’t have her vibrant, extroverted personality however. I think I got my introversion from my dad.

As a kid, no one I knew ever heard of far-away, mysterious Iceland. Now, a visit to Iceland is on many a bucket list, and lots of movies have shot on location there. In the early 80’s Iceland elected the world’s first female president who served for 16 years. I am even Iceland’s “friend” on Facebook, and you can be too.

So, all things Iceland are now cool. Iceland to me always makes me think of my  mom, and she would love Iceland’s popularity. Yesterday in the grocery store I found Icelandic-style yogurt (called “skyr”) so of course, I bought some. This stuff is SO GOOD.  Have you tried it? This was my breakfast today.

Now, if I could just find a local source for Hangikjöt I’d be all set.

Have a healthy day, and make it a point to  learn something new. Iceland is interesting!

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