Category Archives: Family Stories

Time to Listen

pay-attention

My husband is a stamp collector. Over the years, I have learned a lot about stamps but to be honest, talking about stamps is pretty much a snoozer for me.

The terminology is exhaustive and exhausting. Hinged. Not hinged. Fine. Extra fine. Plate blocks. Hidden watermarks. Perforations. The words keep coming at me on a daily basis.

The other day, my husband was talking and I was not listening. I was reading a book and wishing I could stay in my happy place. But being a dutiful wife and not wanting to appear rude, I responded occasionally with a “That’s nice.” or “Uh huh.” or “That’s interesting.”

As his monologue continued, some of his words began to register. “Friend.” “Scantily clad.” “Sushi.”

I thought, “whoa, whoa, whoa!” pay attention! This is not his ordinary postage stamp conversation.

I put my book down and said, “Could you tell me that again?”

Husband: “Sure. Our friend went to that sushi place across from the family restaurant on the west side.”

Me: “That’s nice.”

Husband: “When their food was ready, a woman sat on their table and reclined onto her back.”

Me: “Uh huh.”

Husband: “She was scantily dressed.”

Me: “That’s interesting.”

Husband: “Then the waiter came and placed the sushi on her body. Her bare skin was their platter.”

Me: “Well, I sure hope she exfoliated.”

pw_signature

Maybe We Should Have Been Less Enthusiastic with Our Applause

self-awareness

Dad was ingenious. Each summer, our family vacation coincided with his paid speaking engagements. We thought it was normal. Traveling long distances in a car with two adults and four children {pre-air conditioning} to a remote family camp so our father could work all week while we, the kids, drove our mother nuts.

Pure bliss for us. Mom? That poor woman.

Dad scored a recurring camp invitation to the Rocky Mountains for several years. Oh, the memories, the scrapes, the madcap adventures.

The highlight of the camp each year, for me, was the talent show that dad MC’ed at the end of the week. I was continually amazed at the talent, or lack thereof, we witnessed. Singers, jugglers, musicians and would be thespians. Please people! Let’s try to have some self-awareness.

One year, a man of considerable, and I mean considerable, years came on the stage with his fiddle. What ensued was minutes of ear shrieking horror that was barely recognizable as a folk song. If you weren’t covering your ears, you were wishing you could. When the kindly old gent finished, the auditorium erupted in applause, cheers and much foot stomping. Thank the Lord. He is done!

The curtain closed.

Ah, the relief.

And then, unbelievably to our eyes, a bow came slowly slicing between the closed curtains as the old guy swung the curtains wide and stepped forward for an encore. What!?!

Maybe, we should have been less enthusiastic with our applause.

The auditorium was struck into complete silence. Please. Please. This cannot be happening.

He lifted his fiddle and a second song began but now the audience was not so polite. The grumbling started. The barely concealed ‘boos’ were emanating from the back.

Dad walked onto the stage and stood by the fiddling fool. He smiled at the audience, raised his eyebrows while shrugging and then began to clap. Taking our cue, we began to clap too. As we raised the volume of our clapping and cheering, the fiddling was overpowered with our own noise. We continued this way until the bow was lifted from the strings. Then dad gently grasped the man’s arm as he chatted with the fiddler and escorted him {bowing as he went} off the stage.

Now the applause was thunderous. What a night. What a man, my dad…

pw_signature

The Power of a Loving Touch

touch

When grandma came to visit, she offered an extra ear to whisper into, extra eyes to watch over us and extra hands to tuck us in at night. At bedtime, she would listen to our prayers, settle the covers around us and rub our backs as we drifted off to sleep. Those back rubs were in high demand in our household.

This summer, I’ve had the privilege of tucking my grandchildren into their beds. Some nights, the five year old has a difficult time falling asleep. He is a deep thinker and lets his mind wander and linger on thoughts when he should be sleeping.

One night, after settling the covers over him, I told my grandson about my grandma and how she would rub my back at night. I started rubbing his back as I shared stories about her. As I talked and rubbed I could feel his muscles relax and sensed the quieting of his mind. As he calmed, I sat silently rubbing his back while thinking about long ago days when I was on the receiving end of one of these back rubs. As he drifted off to sleep, I continued to rub his back. Why? Touch is a two way street. That simple back rub was as relaxing for me as it was for my grandson.

An excerpt from The Power of Touch in Psychology Today succinctly highlights the benefits of reaching out and sharing a loving touch:

“Every evening at bedtime, DePauw’s Hertenstein gives his young son a back rub. “It’s a bonding opportunity for the two of us. Oxytocin levels go up, heart rates go down, all these wonderful things that you can’t see.” Moments like these also reveal the reciprocal nature of touch, he says: “You can’t touch without being touched. A lot of those same beneficial physiological consequences happen to me, the person doing the touching.””

Grandma taught me the power of a loving touch and I have never forgotten that long ago lesson. As an adult, when visiting her in the nursing home, I would remind our children to reach out and touch this wonderful woman. During our visit, one or more of us would be holding her hand, rubbing her back, massaging her arms, brushing her hair… anything we could do to convey our love via the sense of touch.

Touch. So simple. So necessary. Make an effort to reach out and physically touch those you love.

Follow the links below to jump start your very own touch therapy:

pw_signature

My $75 Loaf of Bread

I am trying to adjust to my new normal. As a public employee in Wisconsin, transitioning from a teacher contract to an employee handbook, life has become very uncertain. People expect change to happen at work each year. But this school year, the wide variety of changes feel like a roller coaster ride with mainly a series of plunges and I am not a thrill seeker.

So, to give myself a feeling of control, and financial as well as mental stability in this time of cuts and uncertainty, I put myself on a strict monthly budget and took a second job at night.

Looking for a positive spin to this new need for frugality, I decided to resurrect the motto of my grandparents “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

Dad grew up on a Depression era farm in North Dakota. He didn’t know he was poor until he was an adult and was informed so by people who had money. While his family was not rich in dollars, they were rich in food, family support and laughter. One of my fondest memories of my ‘granny’ is spending time in her kitchen as she created the most incredible baked goods.

I have longed to recreate the homemade bread that I can still taste if I close my eyes. I remember watching Granny hold a huge loaf of bread against her chest as she walked around the dinner table slicing portions for all of us to savor fresh from the oven. And I have thought, I can make my own bread. It will be delightful and… save money.

Finding a bread recipe that is equal to my memories has been a challenge. And, the flops I have created in my kitchen over the last few months have been disappointing.

Recently, I found a recipe for no-knead bread that was intriguing. Unfortunately, the recipe (adapted from Jim Lahey) called for a heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic). I went to my cupboards and like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboards were bare and did not hold a covered pot that could withstand 450 degrees in the oven. So, I went shopping. With my coupons, I purchased a cast iron pot for $71.43. Seriously. That was more than I planned (certainly not in my budget) but I really wanted to make this bread!

Following a recipe I found on The New York Times website for No-Knead Bread, I set to work. I mixed up my ingredients and then waited for 18 hours. As my dough did its thing, I was reminded of all of the dough Granny had in various stages of proofing in covered bowls in her pantry all those years ago.  I always thought it was weird (and slightly unsanitary) that she let dough sit out for what seemed like days.

As one day turned into the next, my dough was finally ready. I flipped it into my heated pot and baked my bread with fingers crossed. The smell of baking bread infiltrated every corner of our home. I could hardly wait to taste my first slice and when I did, I closed my eyes and savored.

I finally realize the secret of bread, which I wish I had learned from my experiences long ago…Great bread takes time.  And, as it turns out, a little bit of money.

I plan to stir up my fifth batch of bread dough this morning. Each time I bake a loaf, I divide my number of baked loaves by my original $75 investment (the cast iron pan + ingredients). Today’s loaf will bring my cost down to $15 a loaf. Makes me smile.

No-Knead Bread - Finished Loaf (294068096)
No-Knead Bread – Finished Loaf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Magic of Water

If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.
The Immense Journey, 1957   Loren Eiseley

Water calls to me each summer. I walk and bike along the rivers of my city. I travel to rivers, lakes and oceans to wade and swim.

Some would say it is the summer heat that brings me to the water. That is so very true. It is also the peace water provides. When you look across an expanse of water, your mind quiets. Water is flat and wide and wondrous.

Being near the water is a sensory experience. Your skin feels cool and damp. The rippling sounds slow thought and calm worries. The smells can be a challenge, but then you inhale the fresh scent of mist, salt and dreams.

I remember taking our children to the water.

To cool off…

To rest…

To play…

We bring animals to the water.

And now, we are bringing our grandchildren to the water.

The magic of water is in its gifts.

The gift of life.
The joy of shared experiences.
The blessed peace.