88 – counting my blessings saturday (CMBS)

OK, I was wrong, I can write both places. :0) Early on a Saturday morning, I am counting up the things that make me blissful… blessings, if you will:

  1. Just heard from son John yesterday that his next assignment is going to be to Malmstrom AFB, Montana–only a few hours from my best friend, Barb, who lives in Columbia Falls. John has been at Ramstein AFB, Germany, with a short six-month deployment to Kuwait, since 2012. We haven’t seen him since we put him on the plane for basic training two years ago. Barb’s son Ray is also stationed at Malmstrom with his wife and two kids, and oddly enough was also stationed at Ramstein, but he and Johnny have yet to meet.  Barb will be making sure to check in on our baby boy, though he may not know that yet.
  2. Daughter/soldier Kelsey’s leg surgery went well, which I can tell because she is posting pictures on Facebook of the stitched-up incision with commentary and exclamation points. This makes me very happy.
  3. TexasHannonsJohn AND Kelsey, along with favorite grandchild, one Mr. Tyler James, will be home for Thanksgiving, if the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise. Also planning to be there right now are our whole extended Texas family, Corey’s brother Patrick, wife Bobbi (my sister from another mister), daughter Savannah with grandchild Olivia, whom we have yet to meet, and daughter Sara, and they’re all coming from Kingsville. Meeting them at the ranch for Thanksgiving will be their soldier/daughter, our niece Hailé Hannon, who’s driving in from Fort Huachuca, Arizona. You can see all of us in the picture here, taken in 2011. John and Kels are at far left and far right respectively, and Tyler was, at that time, Kelsey’s baby bump.  The back row left to right is Patrick, Hailé, and Sara, with her arm around Kels. Savannah and I are in the center, and Corey and Bobbi are up front. Can’t wait to see ’em!
  4. More on the “me” side than the “us” side, I had an amazing first week at my new job as managing editor of the Alpine Avalanche. All the training and mentorship from my old boss, Hank Hargrave, who now owns and publishes The Normangee Star in central Texas, came back with a rush.  Absolutely love my new boss who, unfortunately, is interim publisher–when they hire a new publisher, she will go back to headquarters and her real life, and that will be a sad day for us–she and I make a great management team, and the new publisher will have some big shoes to fill. She’s already been here 11 weeks, with at least a few more to go, and I know she’s ready to go home.
  5. Last, but certainly not least, I get to see my gorgeous husband today for the first time in a week. It’s an interesting arrangement….I think everyone but me knew that I was going to have to get a job and get off the ranch more. But, if you had told me a year ago that I’d be living two hours away from my husband and only seeing him on weekends, I’d have asked you what you were smoking. Oddly enough, though, I think it just might work.  He and I, we’re working people. It’s who we are, more than what we do. And with us apart during the week, we can fully commit to working our jobs, not worry if I’m getting up early and not seeing him in the morning, or he’s working late and not seeing me until 7 or 8 at night. Don’t get me wrong… I miss him a lot.  But there are benefits to living apart–I kept my eating under control this week, 1300 calories or less a day, every day this week. (living with a foodie has its hazards.) I went after work and ran laps around the park three different days. I went out to one of the Viva Big Bend festival venues last night and took pictures without worrying about whether Corey was missing me… It’s like having all the benefits of being single and career-focused, but you’ve got a permanent date every weekend and somebody to kiss on New Year’s Eve.

Life is good, my chickens. Hope yours is too…



83 – allergies and adventures

The gentleman whose dulcet snores are brightening his little corner of the motel room where I am tippy-tapping on the keys turns 45 today, and tomorrow is the first day of summer. We are in a Days Inn in Paris, Texas, nearly to the Red River up in the northeast. In about five hours, a realtor will meet us here to whisk us off to see a couple of houses. She may be a teensy bit dismayed at our choices, as her commission on them will be, well miniscule at best… but she appears enthusiastic enough over email. Or at least I choose to believe so.

It is 4 a.m. going on 5, and I am sitting here sucking down my second cup of hot tea and trying to hack, sneeze and whine as quietly as possible.  Don’t know whether it’s a summer cold or allergies, and not sure which to hope for, honestly, but since the treatment is effectively the same, it’s kind of a moot point for me.  Not for everyone else, of course, but can’t help that. And OF COURSE it starts on the very first day of our first real time together in six months. Whatever it is, hope it’s over quick. The feeling is much like having your face nibbled off by ducks out for vengeance for that “ugly duckling” crack. So, here I sit, wrapped in the inside-out bedspread, and hoping no other denizen of the motel has sat on it with their nekkid butt of late–but at this point, it feels like it would just be more exercise for my battered immune system anyway. Cooties! Squirrel!

Anyway… we drove up to my sister’s in Princeton yesterday, dropped off a few things, then up here. Drove through a couple small towns on the way, and they all have places for sale that look appealing.  Trying NOT to fall in love just yet – we have a lot of ground to cover, and starting with this morning’s appointments, I’ll be taking pictures… If my beloved children read this, you might want to take note, chickens, as mommy and daddy are about to spend your fairly laughable inheritance, hopefully to enhance their declining years. 😀 Back to bed.

62 – not my circus, not my monkey

Now that the house is quiet, and Daisy has settled into a routine, I can get back to the business communications research that I love.  I must admit, too, that I spend a teensy bit of time on Pinterest. It’s research as well, in its own way–I think there is a tremendous amount to be learned on that particular site about how people communicate in the visual sense.

notmycircusI believe Baby Boomers’ sense of imagery in general came from text, and from oral presentations–engaging the senses in a very different way than the millennials expect, and that marketeers are trying so hard to understand. The exception, of course, being movies and television. Movies and TV to us were ephemeral things.  See a movie once, or twice, or twenty times if you could afford it, but you couldn’t take them home. You had to bow to the network schedule if you wanted to watch a TV show. Those born between 1980 and 2000 don’t remember life without the VCR/DVD player. Most don’t remember life without the Internet.  They see movies (and YouTube videos, by extension) as containing images that you watch many times if you love them, pause wherever you choose to dig deeper into the image, and allow the words and images to come together in ways that we boomers gained from books.  To us, okay, to me, the image I create in my mind while reading is so much more comprehensive, and totally different than the often one-dimensional images created in a movie or TV show. The book is almost always better to a boomer, and so many of the next generation don’t have the basis to agree or disagree with that statement.

To millennials, my children included, the movie is always better.  Viral videos intrigue them. They don’t have to imagine the image, it’s right there for them, and their attention is captured in a very different way. They speak in memes–“Where’s the Beef,” was at its peak in 1984.  To them, brands are part of their identity, not in a bad way. Just different. As already noted, I’m a boomer–and I have finally begun to believe that I will never truly understand how they think.  I resist brands.  I won’t even wear a t-shirt with writing or pictures on it in public. I resist commercials–the DVR was invented for me. I won’t watch a commercial if I can avoid it. My kids don’t understand that, either. They find entertainment value in the commercials as well as the program.

Pardon the metaphor, but understanding how a millennial thinks is like a person who is sane trying to understand how someone who is insane arrives at a conclusion. By definition, we cannot. We can see glimpses, but we don’t get what they want or who they are in any comprehensive way. Thus our shock and pain as the insane perpetrate ghastly crimes against society–and we beat ourselves up for not anticipating it.  We cannot, because we cannot comprehend their actions or what drives them.  And we cannot put up fences to protect everything.

Luckily, the millennials aren’t categorically insane. They are just us 2.0.  Remember, our parents threw their hands up on why boys grew their hair long, and rock and roll’s booty-shaking beats intrigued us, while frightening them. Our generation, with discretionary income to burn, was the first that was marketed to differently than our parents.  The millennials are moving in their own ways to exactly that same headspace, and marketers are struggling–and the stakes now are in the billions of dollars. Our children live their lives out loud, first on MySpace, now on Facebook and Twitter.  I cannot tell you how many times I have said quietly to my children–don’t fight your relationships out on a public site. Don’t put your work woes up on Facebook. But their definition of community is different in ways we just don’t understand.

What’s even more intriguing to me is that the generation born from 2000 to 2020 are going to freak their parents out as well, in ways we cannot foresee.  What will this environmentally conscious, imagery-oriented, live-out-loud, branded set of our descendants shake their heads at 20 years from now? And as grandparents live longer and longer lives, how will we interact with that generation?

The image above may be a canard–while it’s not my circus, my monkeys are running the joint, and I’m going to love watching what happens next.

59 – solitude, Sundays, serenity and pizza

oil change
changing her oil

Enjoying my Sunday morning peace, with husband, daughter and grandson snoozing away… it will be the only quiet in my day, unless I get a chance to crash for a bit this afternoon.  We’ve got a busy day planned – Kels plans to change the oil in her car up at her dad’s shop, as he’s got an oil change bay where she can walk under it instead of crawling under the car. While she’s doing that, her dad and I will be working on furniture–got one more end table to create, and an entertainment center.  If we have any lumber left over, we’ll probably make a bookcase. Love working at these things with my family.  All that’s missing is John… and he is missed!

But before we go up to the shop, we’re going to make some bread. This time, we’re going to split the recipe in half… Find the halved recipe here.  One half recipe will be done like we did it last time, for sandwich rolls.  When we’re mixing up the second half, though, we’re going to add Italian spices with a liberal hand.  Then we’re going to roll them out for pizza crusts, and if there’s enough left over, for a loaf of Italian herb bread… which makes the best garlic bread EVER.

Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop
Tyler and Grandpa headed to the shop

After your first rise, punch the dough down and split into three pieces.  For the first one, just spray a loaf pan with cooking spray, shape the dough so it fits in the pan, cover it with plastic, and put it in a warm place to rise.  When it’s doubled in size, put it into a 425 degree oven on the top rack, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

The remaining two pieces should be rolled out to fit your pizza pan(s).  I usually make one rectangular, the size of my smallest cookie sheet, and then one round for my pizza pan.  If you want thinner crust, don’t let it rise again, just roll it out very thin and place on your pizza pan (which you’ve sprayed with cooking spray) and put into a 425 degree oven, on the top rack. Keep an eye on it after five minutes, and pull it out when the top is dry, but not brown. The bottom of the crust should be light brown.

pizza crusts
pizza crusts

For a thicker crust, you should allow it to rise after shaping, up to about a half-inch thick. The timing for baking the thicker crust is about 10 minutes.  Again, just bake it on the top rack until it’s dry on the top and light brown on the bottom. After the crusts have cooled, wrap them well in plastic wrap–you can store them in the refrigerator for up to a week, or the freezer if it’s going to be longer.

When you want garlic bread with your Italian meal, whether it’s pizza, spaghetti, fettucine alfredo, lasagna, whatever, take that loaf of herb bread out of the freezer or refrigerator and split it in half horizontally.  Mix together 4 tablespoons of softened butter, a couple of teaspoons of garlic powder and a quarter cup of ground Parmesan cheese. Spread the mixture on both sides of the split loaf, and broil until the buttered side is the desired brown. Broiling times vary from one stove to another, just keep an eye on it! Broilers are chancy, and will burn your bread in a hot minute if you’re not careful.

Tyler chillin’ while his mama and grandma get some bread made.

I do love these moments before the day begins for everyone else… I hear a dove outside talking to her mate, and can hear it because we slept with the windows open last night.  It’s so nice to feel that safe again.  I’m off to get the bread going for the sandwich rolls, and will save the pizza dough for Kels to make. Will add pictures when we’re done… 😀

58 – missing Mama, loving Kels, baking bread

When I headed for Texas at 48, separating from my husband of 27 years, I felt like a monstrous failure because I couldn’t make my marriage work. There were no kids involved, and I had lived with the knowledge that I couldn’t have children since 1985. Honestly, as I was leaving him, I acknowledged that I would seriously be willing to die alone if it meant that I didn’t have to live with my ex anymore. Ever. Seriously.

I began a new job a week after I got to my sister’s in West Texas.  I worked with Kelsey’s dad, and some months later, ended up falling in love with him–there was just something inevitable and irresistible about the whole thing.  When he asked if I’d be willing to tutor 17-year-old Kelsey, I said yes without a second thought. She had only the one algebra test to pass in order to graduate from high school. I sat down with her, and found that she knew the subject, but her teachers had damaged her confidence… she didn’t need tutoring, she just needed to be know that she was smart, and capable.

Six weeks later, I moved in with them… and Kels had no idea what to call me, so she would just say, “Hey,” when she needed to get my attention.The test was still looming large in Kelsey’s life, and she finally took it in December. That afternoon, she came flying into my office, over the moon, “Mom, I passed the test, I passed it!” With that one little throw-away word, I was done. I had a daughter, self-nominated, unanimously elected, forever my child.

I’ll tell her brother’s story in another post–you have to be fair with these things… 🙂 I learned as I lived with Kelsey that she needed family more than most–and she was so pleased to see her dad happily married to me.  But, she had already signed up to go in the Army before I ever met her, and by September, just three short months after we married, she was off to Basic Training.

She came home on leave a few times, but it was never, ever long enough… We flew to Texas for a short week with her and Tyler on his first birthday. He was just at the stage where he was pulling up on furniture, yet to take his first step. As I write this, however, the two-and-a-half-year-old Tyler is yowling like a scalded cat ’cause his mama is making him take a shower… the easiest way to get him clean, apparently. And these days, he’s not just walking, he lives most of his life at a dead run. Before the water torture began, Kels and I had talked over how long she can stay, and when she must show up at her next base in Missouri… and I so hate to let her go.

We are finally that family that she wanted and needed so badly, but she must leave soon to see her aunt, uncle and cousins near Corpus Christi. When she leaves there, Tyler won’t be with her; he’ll be staying with his dad for three months. I do not want to see either of their faces at that parting.

If you’ve read my prior posts, many have revolved around bread, and recipes, and this is no exception. The pictures below show Kelsey learning to make bread with my mother’s recipe… One joyful morning spent passing on the knowledge that I thought would die with me. Now it’s going to live on, transferred to her children when they’re ready. Because she’s the mom, that’s why. And so am I.

Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress...
Kels adding more flour to the bread dough in progress…

Kneading the bread dough
Kneading the bread dough

First rise is complete...
First rise is complete…

Shaping the sandwich rolls.
Shaping the sandwich rolls.

Rolling out the cinnamon rolls
Rolling out the cinnamon rolls

Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.
Rolls, cinnamon rolls and one loaf of bread from the same recipe.

Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.
Tasting the first fruits of her labor while everything else bakes.

57 – getting to know Tyler

Tyler Webb has taken over our house and smiled his way into my heart.

Riding on the four-wheeler with Grandpa… very slowly… 🙂

He is two and a half years old, with all that entails, crying if you make him take a bath, ticked off if Mickey isn’t turned on fast enough for his liking, angelic when he’s asleep, and laughing the rest of the time.

His presence in her life has matured our daughter past anything I would have believed. She is patient with him, this girl who had no patience at all when I met her. She loves him more than she’s ever loved anyone, I think.  It shows with her every step, every word.

Little boy with bucket–the opposite of a still-life…

And since Kelsey is a mom, and she calls ME mom, that would make me a grandma… and had you asked me four years ago if I wanted to be, I would have said, “No! Not yet! I’m not ready.” Babies acknowledge no limitations, so, ready or not, here he came into all our lives.

A beautiful  February day in West Texas…

They’re here for a while, staying with us on the ranch, though not long enough, and even the ginky moments will be treasured.

He’s a pretty awesome little boy.  So much joy in one tiny package that it breaks your heart and then heals it right up in the next breath. We haven’t seen enough of him, but that’s the military for you.  You learn to be grateful for any time you can get.

swordfight with Grandpa's tools
Sword fight with Grandpa’s tools.

The mom that he talks to about Cilfford the Big Red Dog and laughs with and has sword fights with, and that he runs to is a soldier and a single parent, and has made a life for the two of them where he’s safe, happy and cherished.  It shows.

If the Beatles were right and “All You Need is Love,” then this little boy has all he will ever need.

Pretty amazing for a grandma who was told 30 years ago that she would never have a child of her own.  The old ache is gone, the empty space is filled with laughter and a little boy’s voice saying, “Hey! Gam-maw!”  Got to go.

33 – hope and joy

So are we nuts? Well, yes, probably in one sense. We make the best decisions we can under the circumstances. The maxim that says the road to hell is paved with good intentions doesn’t say what every other road uses for pavement.  And while we have our fascination with the evil folks of this world, I think that most people genuinely make the best decisions they can at every given moment.

sunset on the overpass
sunset on the road that will take us to our next home

The question comes because today we’re moving all our stuff again, in a directly opposed action to the one we took on barely three months ago. In the last week of September 2013, we got rid of more than 2/3 of our stuff to move from a three-bedroom house into the 250-square-foot House McNugget, with the full intent of me continuing to work virtually as we made our way around the country.  Today, this morning in fact, we are moving the 1/3 of our stuff that we kept, plus a few bits and bobs acquired along the way, into a two-bedroom house, and…

And the remainder of the sentence is the part that is fascinating me at this very moment.  We have zero ability to predict the future.  I’m pretty sure that, by looking at our peregrinations over the last year (see 29 – looking back), the map alone shows that inability quite clearly.  Don’t take this wrong – I’m not complaining, not in the slightest.

After things unexpectedly changed with my employment, we came back to Texas intending to find jobs for both of us, find a ten- to twenty-acre bit of land, something we could clear a homespace on, then park the House McNugget on that piece of land while building a permanent home for ourselves.  That was one scenario that contended for first place, anyway.  We left the nitnoid details up to circumstances, because if you think you can control every detail of a given future, you’re delusional–or even more delusional as the case may be.

However, not one single thing in the first sentence of that previous paragraph has actually come true. Only one of us has a job. We’re about to move into a house someone else owns, on land someone else owns, for an undetermined amount of time, but by definition it cannot be permanent. It can and hopefully will be quite long-term, but it can’t be forever.   So what the hell is up with that?

My best explanation comes from a quick look at the last five years of our lives together.  About a year before we got son John safely to 18 years old and into the tender arms of the US Air Force, we started making choices like the newlyweds that we actually were. Let’s go here, let’s try this, let’s do what makes us happy.  We took the opportunity that my job gave us to live where we chose.  More than one person has referred to our  lives together as an adventure, and I think we tend to treat it like that as well.  While people would probably say something to a pair of newlywed 25-year-olds who followed a path similar to ours, it would be, “Now’s the time to do it, while you’re young.”

Pretty sure no one would call either one of us “young.” But it is an adventure–and if you think I’m trying to justify it, well possibly to myself. There is hope and joy that is very welcome in this next step… but if you look at our adventure in retrospect, there is hope and joy in every step. I believe I may have finally realized that the hope and joy is within us, not outside of us.

Takes me a while sometimes.

Britni, Ethel and Dexter (ok, not Dexter) wish you a safe and sane holiday–as do Corey and I.  This move will disconnect us from the ‘Net for a bit, but we’ll be back up and running soon. Hope your holidays are warm and wonderful, filled with love and hope, family and friends, and as much joy as a heart can hold.

Warmest regards,