Category Archives: cousin

Any Room At Your House?

Standard

 

 

Tis the season of busyness and preparations for the holidays.  Presents bought and wrapped.  Baking.  A surprise visit and present from my son.  It is Dean and I’s heart to get these holiday greetings sent via postage mail long before Christmas week. Please know that you are in our hearts year round. Christmas joy has filled our home, peace with God and grace to all people despite any differences.  This snowy Christmas Eve is the slow-down to reflect on His Gift, Jesus, lessons from 2017 and what is hoped for 2018. The 4 Advent Sundays reminded us of this moment. Father Peter shared at Mass tonight the Christmas story, how there was no room for Joseph, Mother Mary, and the birth of baby Jesus.  A meager manger would be the chosen place of His birth. It was asked how many of us would say the same “no room at our house”? “What would you do if Joseph and Mary came knocking on your door tonight?  Do you have time to deal with this?  Can you make space in your house without resentment or casting judgment?  Would you empty the tool shed or a spot in the garage?  Would you charge high $$ to profit from this situation?  Or worst yet, steal their possessions, what little the guests have?  Scriptures tell us “What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto Me.”

“Family” would summarize our year of 2017.  As a reminder, Dean and I have 6 children, 5 in-law children, 6 grandchildren, 3 parents, 5 siblings and their families, and we cannot forget our dog, Midnight and cat, Celine, the 7 grand dogs, and 3 grand cats.  Dean and I began 2017 in Key West, Florida with his parents and siblings, an 80th birthday celebration for Dean’s mother.  Such a while ago, but lovely memories of the beach breezes, discovering new sites, and time with family.  We still have our greeting card boxes that niece Amelia made each of us.  After the hurricanes there, I suppose the scenery is quite different.  In a couple of days warmth awaits us in San Antonio, where we will meet up with Dean’s son, AJ, Nancy, Elise, and  Nancy’s family there.  Spiced rum eggnog, homemade chicken soup, Christmas carols, and having each other will keep us warm tonight …

In February my daughter, 33-year old Elisabeth was diagnosed with 2 types of breast cancer, stage 1 and stage 2. Elisabeth went through a strict regimen of chemo treatments, hair loss, zapped energy and strength. She had a double mastectomy and reconstruction this summer. We are so very thankful to our Father as she has been given a cancer-free diagnosis in July.  Elisabeth is regaining her strength and hair while under hormone therapy and low-dose chemo.  Her husband, children, family, friends, and all the supportive, praying communities continue to surround her. Her bravery and fighter personality helped Elisabeth stay above.  I reached out for prayers by many women, visited church 1-block from my office to take part in many noontime prayer vigils, and Dean and I together continue to provide a quiet and calm home while she heals.

Refreshing spring brought us to the completion of our 2-room addition.  It took a whole year, but it is beautiful and has provided the much needed space to our home.  At this season of our lives we share our home with my daughter and her family.  More warmth with the woodwork, a set of barn doors matching the stained doors in the rest of the house as well as a high ceiling to heighten the spacious floor layout.  We use the 2 rooms as a family room/dining area and an extra bedroom that Elisabeth and Mark can rest their heads in. In May Dean and I spent almost a week in the Smoky Mountain region of our beautiful states.  Experienced the AirBnB hospitality for this vacation. We loved Gatlinburg, TN and Asheville, NC.  Antiques, the arts, and foodie places were our hangouts. Of course, a few walks in the woods. There was a sign warning us, and you know the saying “hindsight is 20/20”. Dean drove the Dragon’s Tail Highway with all its hairpin turns, not understanding what we were in for.  I was very close to losing lunch during that ride. We tried the glamper scene one night in the middle of nowhere land. And we stopped in Nashville for a night. Love the nightlife there with all the honky-tonks and country music.

Weekend trips to Lee’s Summit and Farmington keep us on the road at least once a month visiting with children, grandchildren, and Dean’s parents.  When we are home we read, write, catch a music venue or new foodie joint in St. Louis.  And there is always those weekend chores.  We garden and mow at the greenhouse site on Boone Hollow Farm near Defiance 7 or 8 months out of the year. This year’s gardening included a voluntary cherry tomato plant that literally took over the whole vegetable bed from July until the October frost killed it.  We dubbed this plant as “Audrey” from the play/movie Little Shoppe of Horror. We made a delicious green tomato marmalade from the abundance of fruit left after the killing frost.  Our perennials are inside now, and our bird of paradise is about to bloom again under the plant lights in the garage.  Autumn brought Dean and I a steal-away weekend to Pella, Iowa.  We loved this Dutch town so much, we are planning a Mother’s Day weekend there with our mothers.

My occupation as the employee wellness coordinator of St. Louis County is the work God called me to this season of my life.  We had our Billion Steps Challenge using Fitbits and a web portal called One Community.  With two 8-week walking challenges this spring and summer, we cleared the 1 billion steps goal and went well over 2 billion steps amongst 2800 participating employees and spouses.  I have been asked to speak along with a panel at the St. Louis area American Heart Association’s Wellness Forum in February discussing employer wellness budgets on a shoestring.  Personally, my biometric numbers were improved substantially with the walking challenges, and my primary care physician is thrilled.  The walking culture continues through winter.  Dean, Midnight, and I still take an evening constitutional almost every night.  At 20 degree temps, I declined tonight. Hives or worse a visit to the emergency room would not be good.  Dean’s occupation with the National Archives keeps him going, and work he was called to as well.  He loves the hunt for military records especially for his family and friends.

Our youngest granddaughter, Elise has captured her Grandpa Dean’s heart.  I think he counts the days until he can see her again.  This Father’s Day was a wonderful gathering of Dean’s children and their families with us at our home. The red children’s swing in our sweet gum tree remind us of that special weekend.  We had a Gall Family Thanksgiving  at Rainer and Erica’s newly bought house in St. Louis City, and a birthday gathering for Dean the following day at a local bakery cafe. Another day that weekend we celebrated my oldest grandchild, Hannah’s 16th birthday.  Church every Sunday and occasional birthday celebrations and plays keeps us in touch with my mother and family. While celebrations and victories punctuate our year, so does illness and death. Dean’s extended family lost a cousin recently. Cancer, this wicked stuff.  Keep Mike’s wife, Terri and 2 daughters in your prayers please.  Another extended family member is undergoing treatments ; please say a prayer for Marion, our son-in-law’s father.  My oldest daughter, Rachel has multiple medical conditions, her conditions declining, which cause severe pain.   In 2018 I plan to take more time off from work each month to help Rachel with the kids and house.  Please bathe Rachel in your prayers.

What room do you have in your heart, home, and life for the least of these My brothers?  What has God prepared you for this very night, or the 365 days in 2018?  Blessings to you this eve of Jesus Christ’s birth.  As the carols sing … “Christ was born to save!  Christ was born to save!”… “He rules the world with truth and grace and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness and wonders of His love, and wonders of His love, and wonders, wonders of His love.” Joy to the world!

Advertisements

Oh, Mimosa, Mimosa

Standard

What an incredibly stressful two weeks for Dean and I with work and family decisions to make.  Nothing earth-shattering. Just bang, bang, bang, constant pounding.  Questions to ask ourselves:  What do we want now?  Five, ten years from now?  What is the the best thing for us?  How does this decision effect others around?  Who might we offend with the decision?  How do I handle a class of whining employees that their favorite yoga instructor has been replaced by another fully certified yoga instructor?  Again, do not want to offend, but sometimes impossible. What educational program can be created to teach 4,000 employees about smart food vending choices?  Can I  get another flu vaccine clinic scheduled last minute for the new police department building?  What are some bariatric options for our employees and their dependents?  So on and so on.  With work, family, and life in general, you cannot please everyone.  Ultimately, the decision you make has to be one you can live with.  “Own it.  And then move on,” as one of our daughters told me this week. I like how role-reversal happens as your children get older.  It is listening to your own advise, is it not?

I found reprieve this work week, daily all 5 days.  I have decided to take my full lunch hour despite what telephone calls, emails, or projects I have waiting in my office.  With the milder temperatures I have been walking at least 6 blocks each day.  On my walk on Monday, I began to pass by the church 1-1/2 blocks from my building, and then stopped.  I decided to climb the stone stairway and go into the church to pray.  Lo and behold, there were at least 20 other people, some local residents and other business people like myself sitting in the pews and praying.  St. Joseph Catholic Church in Clayton has prayer everyday before the noon Mass.  My lunch hour cannot be adjusted to go to Mass, but I can join in prayer everyday.  Yes, an answer to my prayers for stress-relief during the work day, a prayer and meditation date at 11:30am.  I know I can, and I do pray anywhere and anytime.  God hears our heart without words even spoken.  But there is something oh so special when a group of believers come together to pray.   The church bells chime as I leave those stone steps each day.  Their echoes are heard as I continue on my walk before returning to the office, a reminder of the prayers I just prayed.

Dean and I’s budget is tight with regular bills, a room addition project, and retirement accounts to keep at.  But every now and then you have to treat yourself.  Simple pleasures.  Let me preference the following words with “I am not a lush”.  I drink a beer, glass of wine, or a spirit of some sort maybe one evening a week.  Today I indulged in an orange mimosa long before noon on this September Saturday.  A suppose well-deserved mimosa. A pitcher full would have been divine, but I refrained.  After running errands, my husband and I patronized one of our favorite local eateries, the Main Street Diner in old town St. Peters, Missouri.  Tables were taken, but the cafe bar was open.  We hopped onto a couple of the bar stools, placed our orders for Uncle John’s egg scramble and Cousin’s Jeff’s breakfast plate, and I began to watch the entertainment of the wait staff.  These 4 ladies gave each other the business the whole time, leaving a few jabs for their loyal clientele.  Dean noticed as well.  We laughed along with them.  We also noticed cocktails being served from time to time.  I had not known liquor was served on Saturday mornings at this eatery. Oh my, a mimosa was being prepared!  I love me a mimosa!  My sweetheart ordered me an orange mimosa!  By the time the delicious breakfast food was consumed, I was ready for that mimosa.  Dean watched as my cares went to the wayside.  He took full advantage of my relaxed state with a smooch right on the lips, and immediately afterwards received a smack on the arm and a “stop that PDA” by the “everybody’s mom” waitress.  Too funny!

I am definitely ready for a Saturday of cleaning and laundry while Dean works on the Jeep. And I think I am ready to tackle another week of decision-making with prayer and God’s guidance.  And 1 spirited drink!

Summer Connects

Standard

In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three.  Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado.  He is a visionary for this town.  Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years.  And we loved it.  In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens.  Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks.  We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics.  Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake.  I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.

A Few Good Men

Standard

I have been missing a few good men and women who left the earth in past 2 years. My father, my best buddy, my favorite uncle, my grandfather, my aunt, and my cousin. My father would have been 79 years old today. As the Employee Wellness Coordinator for my employer, I attended a forum discussing onology care for patients this afternoon. After three oncology experts and a HR professional presented their perspectives, a woman shared her experience in caring for your husband who died of brain cancer. Very emotional for me. Much what this woman shared related to my mother’s story if she would speak about it. I have kept to myself as well for reasons I cannot write about at this time. Such to God’s plans for my day, I ran into one of my cousins, the grandson of my favorite uncle who passed a year ago. This cousin was the IT/sound man for the oncology forum I attended. My guess there were a few tears shed in that conference room today. He, too lost his grandmother (my aunt) to cancer. And last week I met with American Cancer Society folks in regards to the local Relay For Life event held in May. They are soliciting support and a possible team to form. They struck a chord with me last week, but not quite like the woman sharing her story today. Just cannot get away from cancer, as it is prevelant in our aging population at work as well as with my kin folk. I will write later about the Relay For Life event held at Soldier’s Memorial in St. Louis. My Dean & I will form our own team if my employer does not. This is just one way to honor my father. This day, the anniversary of your birth day, Dad I reflect on you and the things you found joy in … earth, plants, fish, birds, dogs, and of course Mom. You are loved and missed today!

Roller Coaster Ride

Standard

Holiday greetings! Who knew what 2014 would bring? God, our Creator did. With Him and each other is how Dean & I held on during the wild roller coaster ride. I believe Dean & I experienced a miracle with our blended and extended families this year. After the joyous engagement announcements of last year, all 3 of Dean’s children chose to marry their sweethearts in this magical year of 2104. To fill you in, Dean & I have a blended family of 6 grown children, Rachel is 33 this week & married to Mick and have 3 children Hannah age 13, Ella age 8, & Eli age 4; Elisabeth is 30 married to Mark and have 2 children Libby age 10 & Brendan age 7; AJ just turned 30 & married Nancy in November; Elizabeth is 28 & just married Vince this month; Rainer is 25 & married Erica in July; and our youngest, Ben is 22. We welcome into our hearts and home the Compier, Rockford, and Rens families!
Dean & I averaged a 2 or 3-day trip (sometimes with our Labrador-flat coat retriever Midnight in tow) every 3rd weekend to the Missouri towns of Farmington, Lee’s Summit, Liberty, and Springfield as well as Leawood, KS to see our kids, grandkids, and Dean’s parents. Engagement parties and showers along with the grand finale celebrations kept us busy. Besides these beautiful weddings, we sought a reprieve of 10 warmer degrees (above freezing!) one extended weekend in February, and drove down to Paducah, KY. A lovely artisan town and my sanity! The coldest winter on record in the Midwest and with my allergy to the cold, I was in a constant swollen state until the thaw in May. This season, I am on a preventive antihistamine,taking it religiously until next May and hoping for a milder winter. No epie pins for me! Other events … Rainer’s master’s studies graduation in May, Dean’s male bonding Ohio trip with AJ & his father in July, this summer’s memorable One Direction concert Dean escorted my granddaughters and daughters to, and another sanity check with an extended weekend in New Harmony, IN in September, and Dean’s 35th high school reunion as well as his niece’s baptism this autumn. My mother and 2 children live nearby. We enjoyed visits with the Fait, Heuertz, and Christenson cousins. The deaths of my Uncle Lee, my cousin Sandra, my 99-year old Grandpa Earl, and Dean’s Aunt Rachel brought sorrow as well as the celebration of their lives. We said goodbye to two beloved grandpets, Jesse and Pixie and welcomed the bundle of energy named Bleu.
In 2014 Dean & I reduced our debts significantly, refinanced the house, and managed to stay above water with all the weddings. Our future plans are for a big family room. We viewed a few area houses this summer, and now entertain the thought of a room addition at present abode. There’s not much left on the mortgage, we like the central location, and know all the little quirks of this house I have lived in for 28 years, Dean the past 5 years. Paring down, repairs, and renovations will be for 2015’s weekends. Last spring we built a huge herb bed of organic marjoram, dill, sage, parsley, and 4 varieties of basil inside the screen house side of our 1400 sq-ft greenhouse. Vines of gourds grew on trellises, and bush beans produced a few green meals over summer. Next autumn we will build another bed for organic root vegetables as well as a cold frame for greens within the double protection of our experimental farm structure during the winter. I write this Word Press blog Deanna Greens And Garden Art, please read if you like to keep abreast. The practice of walking, gardening and eating greener may keep us healthier longer. We are a 3-generation home once again. My Elisabeth and clan (includes 2 more cats) have lived with us since September. They are making plans for the future within this present economy. Hearing Elisabeth sing to the kids every night, and tonight “You Are My Sunshine” warms my heart. Our Midnight and cat, Celine have adjusted to sharing their eating, napping and perching spots as Dean & I have.
Our full-time jobs, Dean with the National Archives and I with St. Louis County, have their perks as well as draw-backs. We love the Monday holidays, PTO banks, and good benefits. The draw-backs are the modest income, the ultimate politics, and security threats. Working in St. Louis County, MO has been a challenge at times since the historical August 9 shooting. By the grace of God despite the presence of protestors, media, FBI, National Guard, and extra police force, I came through with the mindset, “God is in control and I am placed here for such a time as this”. I pray for protection for our police officers and for peace that surpasses all understanding for those who feel victimized. I am taking an online course study towards a CEBS certification. Study, study, more study in 2015!
Blessings and wholeness to you! From this wordie, foodie, and wellness guru in St. Charles County, MO, love always! Anna

Where Does One Begin?

Standard

Sandra Witthaus Rau Where does one begin to understand the timing of one’s life in this world? This complexity of life and death, and there are many, seems to be a mystery. I cannot comprehend with my mind, and my heart wrenches that my cousin, Sandra Witthaus Rau was taken from us on June 3. But with faith in my loving God, the Father, I pray for comfort and peace for Sandra’s son, daughter, brother, grandson, and so many family and friends. Sandra wrote poems and expressed words of wisdom beyond her years, shared with those God placed in her life. An old soul yet her laughter and zeal was contagious, and kept her young. A year ago I asked on this Word Press blog “Is The Grass Greener?”, and Sandra shared such timely advice and with grace. And it is true, Sandra, “The grass is always greener where you water it – With Love, Laughter, Family and Friends”. The last bit of wisdom left on Sandra’s FB account on May 23:
~Slow down sometimes~
Life often gets out of control. We live in busy times and as much as we try to take a step back and live in the moment often that’s just not possible. Before we know it a week has passed. A month. Maybe even a year or two.
People tell us to stop and smell the roses but instead all we see is the work that has to be done to make those roses grow. The digging and planting. The weeding and watering. Everywhere we turn we run into duties and responsibilities, tasks and chores. All those things that need to get done to make our world turn.
Is that the life we envisioned when people used to ask us what we wanted to be when we grew up? Weren’t we going to be ballerinas, astronauts and magicians? But that’s life. It has a tendency to do the unplanned. It does it without regard or consideration for our feelings or objections. It throws us in at the deep end with no life ring in sight and says swim.
Maybe we just need to embrace the unpredictability with open arms rather than constantly fight it. And more importantly, we need to see those roses for what they really are. A chance to breathe. An opportunity to live life at its fullest. A real blessing. Because after all, there are only so many roses left for each one of us.

All Of Me
Sandra, you are terribly missed. And I know you are with Grandma, cousin Billy, your Mother, your Father, and your Uncle Marty now. For this I rest my mind and find peace. I love you, Sandra!

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Standard

Uncle Lee and SandraYesterday is gone, today is here, tomorrow may come … Live life to its fullest TODAY! … My Uncle Lee lived like this until the day he passed away, February 6, 2014. What a wonderful person, full of goodness and love towards all. An avid fisherman, hunter, gardener, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, brother, uncle, friend … His smiling big blue eyes I will remember with fondness. A handsome man. He and my Aunt Shirley who passed before him 20 months ago have two amazing kids, my cousins Sandra (in the photo) and Robert. Uncle Lee now joins his wife once again, and my father, Marty, his fishing and hunting buddy in the heavenly realms. All the Witthaus family is in my prayers. We on earth will miss him.

Plumposity

Standard

The birthday trip to Chicago this past Thursday and Friday was great! On Thursday night Brian Setzer and Orchestra gave a Christmas concert to remember for our lives. The big band or rockabilly Setzer-style to favorite holiday tunes set our feet a dancing. The show was held at the beautiful, classy Rialto Theatre in Joliet, Illinois. Dean and I were dazzled by the spirit, sounds, and sights of the holidays. On Friday the birthday boy and I ventured to the big city. After finding a parking space (which cost more than our lunch!), we met up with his younger brother and dined at a downtown Chicago pizzeria called Lou Malnati’s. Scrumptious, delicious Italian fare! This eatery described the Roma tomatoes as “plumposity” for the sauce in their signature deep dish pizza. “Plumposity” might be another word for “pleasing plump”, as some men describe how they like their women. My hubby included. Or the “plumposity” of a freshly picked crisp apple as you bite into, it squirts juice down your hand. Or the “plumposity” of the Cherokee purple tomatoes I indulge in still with our tomato plants under plant lights in the semi-heated garage. But the word definitely describes the Roma tomatoes used on this classic Chicago-style pizza. “It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato,” quoting Southern comedian, Lewis Grizzard. Culture shocked for a couple of hours, we then battled the traffic headed out of the city into the suburbs. We visited with my cousin and her husband over a home-cooked meal, before heading back home on a 5-hour drive. A blitz trip, and now we are back to prepare for 5 more adults and 4 more dogs staying for the Thanksgiving weekend, with more family for a pasta dinner Saturday night. Now I am thinking this new-found word might describe the effects of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, this weekend I think our home will experience “plumposity”, an overflow of holiday indulgence and family!

The Year of The Mattress

Standard

ValhallaValhallaMap
Dean and I along with our labrador-flat coat retriever mix, Midnight arrive at the 60+ year old cabin situated on Island Lake just at sundown. Oranges, pinks, and purples kiss the lake “good night” and welcome us. It’s been a long haul from St. Charles County, Missouri to this Minnesota paradise. But so much worth the road trip. Weekday and weekend warriors cannot stop on vacation either. We had taken the extra long route following the Mississippi River highways. So a 12-hour trip became a 15-hour trip. The meandering scenery had slowed our pace down before arriving at this moment. Midnight climbs out of the SUV from his secure kennel into what I think my father described to him as heaven. Our dog gazed wide-eyed at this expansive beautiful lake recounting the aquatic tales his deceased master had told him, I am sure. Into the lake he went, lapping water and going for his doggy swim in Island Lake. Just 2 minutes to realize heaven was here, and my father’s spirit present.
Our first night at the cabin we unloaded the SUV, then gathered jackets and a flashlight onward bound by foot just up the road with our dog. The little green cabin had folks congregated there near a campfire. We met up with my childhood friends and greeted new ones from as far away as Norway. Midnight gets acquainted with more labradors, the natural breed of our 4-legged friends in the land of 10,000 lakes. Before we know it, the time passes midnight with the campfire still aflame. Embers will be there in the morning to start a skillet breakfast. We head back to our lakeside cabin, choosing the front bedroom of the 2-bedroom pine-lined dwelling. I climb into bed too tired to have a spring from the mattress just about empale me. We’ll sleep in the back bedroom tonight and deal with the mattress issue tomorrow. We discovered the back bedroom mattress was not much better as Dean and I are forced to meet in the middle. This mattress’ sunken center provided cozy quarters for this exhausted yet still honeymooning couple. Our backs ache in the morning begging for more support. Dean flips over the empaling mattress to its other side to discover the year of the mattress … 1971. Why that is the first year my father along with my mother and their 4 children ventured to this heavenly northern destination in a Chevy Impala. Now don’t cast too much judgement on this mattress date. The cabins are only used 3 – 4 months out of the year, so a normal 10-year mattress can go to 30 – 40 years. So at 42-years old, it might be due for replacing.
Electronics, computer and TV are non-existent in the cabins. While on this get away, Dean chose to use his basic cell phone on occasion. I took a vacation from it all. This post was written last week, scrawled onto my paper journal … I awoke this morning before sunrise. Is it night still? No clock to check as we are in a time warp at this northern lake retreat. In just a few minutes I see a tinge of blue in the black sky. I take this moment to observe the day’s beginning. I slip on my jeans and sweatshirt and quietly step onto the screened porch. Those moments of complete silence, no human awake just nature and I welcome the morning in this neck of the woods. Our dog, Midnight stretches on the porch and awaits at the porch door to be let out. He, too embraces morning’s arrival this day. There is something special about living in the present moment. All senses akeen, see the colors change before my eyes recognizing the picturesque treeline before me. The loons cry out as the fog lifts from the lake. Misty vapors keep my skin and clothes damp, I smell and taste the lake, and I remember my father’s love of this place. His planning, mapping, and research of his yearly fishing trip started in January when the tree farming and landscape designing was at a hault. My father was a planner, and I too like him. Yet this present moment reels me back to reality. I would have missed this unforgetable sunrise had I rolled over and slept in another morning of my vacation … ducks, a blue heron, and even a night owl calling it a night show themselves amongst the pines, birches, and cattails. The dragonflies are now flitting about, illuminating more color for this overcast day. The brisk morn may see a rain shower before the warm noon sun. No boat on the lake, that I hear or see, and 2 hours into this day … In 1971 and several years to follow, my father would have been out on the lake by now catching walleye and bass for that evening’s dinner. Way before my siblings or I and definitely my mother opened an eyelid. I miss my father today like everyday. This place called Valhalla is heaven on earth, and was my father’s favorite place while he was alive on earth. Somehow he is with Midnight, Dean, and I. It is called eternal life …
For my siblings and I Valhalla meant playing with friends all day with very little chores. We would play h-o-r-s-e in the barn, swim in the cold lake, boat rides, hide-n-seek with the fireflies lighting the path, and a campfire with songs and roasted marshmallows. Those young teenage years I wanted to be on the receiving end of another kiss from a cute Norwegian boy, my Minnesota friends’ visiting cousin. To me Valhalla is about people, kind-hearted genuine folks. The mild summer and lake fish bring the people. But the people bring life to the vacation. The summer visitors enjoy fish fries, potlucks, smokey breakfast skillets, and campfire tales. This year the fish fry, skillet breakfast, fire grilled pizzas, and lemon rice krispies treats make the food highlights. More Norwegian cousins entertain the family and friends this year. I miss my Norwegian friend from my childhood, and his cousin promises to persuade his return to Valhalla next summer. Initimate moments we share about the death and memory of loved ones. Songs were sung at church and at the campfire. Yes, my Scrabble game had kinder words reflecting my kinder, at peace thoughts this restful week. The year of the mattress did not reflect the oldness of 1971, but the goodness.

Lenten Friday

Standard

Lenten Fish A slow, quiet snow continues to fall this Lenten Friday morning. A hush only experienced just at sunrise and with snow cover. The songbirds will become active within the hour, feeding on sunflower nuts and seeds we have provided for them. Another inch of snow overnight, and a forecast saying the cloud cover will dissipate sometime this morning. It has been another week of snow, sleet, and ice, not quite the volume of last week, but winter all the same.
Lenten Fridays become a culinary holiday or tradition in my neck of the woods. Two or more dozen churches in the St. Louis area offer a Lenten fish fry. Even a Jewish community in St. Louis offers a “meatless” menu on the 6 weeks of Lenten Fridays, an opportunity for folks to gather during these last days of the winter season. These “fish fries” can include baked fish or steamed shrimp, a healthier alternative. Each year Dean & I peruse the newspaper and internet to find well-priced fish fries close to work or on the way home. The fundraiser efforts of our community churches can be expensive on our tight budget, so we gather 3 or 4 times during the season. Sometimes we get off on a Friday early enough, and make it to our home parish All Saints. We make sure we partake at the St. Peter Church in St. Charles on one of those Fridays. The wonderful portions of homemade slaw and desserts beat all the rest. St. Paul, Missouri has 2 places for a Friday evening destination, the local bar Dog Prairie as well as the local Catholic church serve up fried fish and shrimp. Albacore tuna on crackers works as well as a meatless pasta dish like my Pasta Primavera I wrote about in my previous blog. We will meet with my brother and sister-in-law next Friday, and the Friday after with Dean’s cousins. We people are like the birds who gather at the feeders and trays on these winter mornings. Chirp and chatter about the savory dishes we are partaking in, local happenings, upcoming trips, and the long winter.