91 – awful busy for a grandma

The pictures you end up with in your head are funny, no? OK, here’s a test. When you hear the word “grandma,” what’s the picture in your head?

Yeah, mine too. Grandma was kind of an old bat, bluntly. My apologies to any of my cousins who read this, but the woman had only two children–both daughters–and my mother was clearly not her favorite.

All that aside, she was pretty much the classic grandma picture otherwise, white-haired, slightly stooped, almost blind, almost deaf, long retired by the time I have any memory of her. Sewed clothes for all her grandkids, although the colors and patterns she chose for the material kinda proved out the “almost blind” part of the equation.  The only ones I remember were a pair of plaid pants and a red naugahyde poncho for winter. Like Coca-Cola red, shiny and very plastic. Some memories never fade.

However, we just found out that Kelsey is pregnant with her second, the ultrasound is actually today. She’s excited, as is the dad, and that’s always nice to hear. When she told us the news, Tyler (first and so far favorite grandchild. :)) got on the phone and said, “Gamma!” and then went on to talk about something he did that day. So I know I am a grandma… and about to be a grandma again.

But as I sit here writing this, I’m waiting on the sun to come up so I can go run. Don’t want to trip over a skunk or something worse in the dark. Made it two running miles and one walking one on Tuesday night, hoping to do better this morning. Had to move it to first thing in the morning because a) I’m working for a company that’s headquartered in Nevada and no one is around until 9am Texas time, and b) it’s so much cooler first thing. Days are still getting up in the 90s and there will probably be a few more 100-degree days before summer breathes its last gasp here on the ranch…

mamaI am also still pretty much working two jobs–I’ll be training my replacement at the paper, so I promised I’d go over and be there Tuesday/Wednesday next week to show her the ropes for her first paper. So two more nights away from my husband, two hour drive each way.

None of these things fits in with the “grandma” picture, and it makes me wonder what Tyler and his little sister- or brother-to-be will remember about their grandma.  One thing I I learned from Mama (and from Grandma, bless her heart) is that every grandchild of mine WILL believe they’re my favorite. Even I have to lie to’em.

The picture is my mother–because that love is the one that I remember best. And her birthday (and last grandchild’s birthday) was August 17. And I know her grandchildren remember her that way, too, with all the love in the world. And that love is the kind of love I want my grandchildren to know–they already have it from their pretty incredible mom. I want them to have it from me, too.

The sun is up, and now I’m going to go run. Because grandmas do that now. And blog. And work. And love with all their hearts.


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.

56 – waiting… writing… wibble-wobble

The wibble-wobble referred to in the title is how my knees feel as I wait for my daughter to call to let us know she’s on her way from Dallas/Fort Worth to our little corner of West Texas.  I know I’m just projecting my fear from my car accident six weeks ago onto her ability to drive here, and added to that fear is the fact that I KNOW she’s jet-lagged, I remember the exhaustion and odd sleep hours for a week or so. I’m also projecting my fear of her totaling her car only a month before I had my wreck, when she reached for a water bottle on the floor and rolled it.

On the plane on the way home to us, my beautiful daughter and amazing grandson...
On the plane on the way home to us, our beautiful daughter and amazing grandson…

I also have to remember that, at 23, okay almost 23, she’s got more energy than I’ve had in exactly 30 years. No, I wasn’t 30 when I had her–I was 48, actually. And almost 49 by the time we got our son back.

There is also the fact that, with Tyler in the car, she is a careful and conscientious driver.

It’s such an amazing thing, and I continually marvel, that the two I call my children have only been in my life for five years.  And still, I call them that because they are my children.  They call me Mom.  So, by a unanimous vote (my husband included), I’m a mom. All those years I fooled myself into believing I didn’t have a maternal bone in my body–and here I am a grandma.  And happy about it.  Who knew?

I’m afraid to get in the shower or go outside and walk for fear she’ll call at that exact moment (and she will, she has impeccable timing for missing us when we’re at home.)  Unfortunately, my cell phone doesn’t work out here on the ranch, either.  All things considered, I may just run into town and hope she calls my cell while I’m there.  Off to the shower, and carrying the phone handset in there with me.  Well, not WITH me, I’ll leave it outside the shower.

My son told me once that he knew it was my job to worry, and that I did a very good job of it.  Out of the mouths of babes.  Hitting the shower now.  Keep a good thought for safe travel for my kid and her kid. Because I worry.

PS: They got here about 9:30 last night, safe and sound, and are off now to town, which is much more exciting than the ranch. At least it is for Kels–Tyler got to sit in big trucks, tractors, four-wheelers, a bulldozer, so for a little boy, it’s the best theme park EVER.  The two are off to town, and I’m off to take a nap. Don’t judge me.

39 – looking forward minus resolutions

I don’t do resolutions. Not even the old joke about resolving not to create resolutions. As far as I can see, they just set me up for tiny bits of depressing failure, one at a time. Bleah. Who needs that? Plenty of chances for that without creating new ones, you know? So, no resolutions.

best wishes for an amazing year to come, filled with bright and shining moments and joy that takes your breath away.
best wishes for an amazing year to come, filled with bright and shining moments and breathtaking joy, leavened with contentment, peace and calm.

Please note, I did, once upon a time, earnestly make resolutions. At least, I think I did. When we accidentally flooded the basement in the 5th wheel trailer, the only casualty was a cardboard box filled with 30+ years of journals. Believe me, they weren’t interesting reading, even for me.  The minutiae of a life that was so different than the one I lead now are gone, washed away by circumstance, but largely unmourned. Ten years ago, that would have been cause for tears–now, a shrug. Moving on.

Only one journal survived the flood. When we left Fort Stockton two years after our marriage, one of the things we took along was a leather-covered book–a birthday gift from Corey a month before our departure.  The dedication inside says, “Happy Birthday. As we begin our new journey, I want to give you a blank book for you to fill as we continue on in our new life. Love you always. Corey.” And, on the first page, he started it for me. “May 27th, 2011 – we have left Fort Stockton.” That was the one journal that wasn’t in the storage compartment of the House McNugget. Now here we are full circle–back in Fort Stockton. OK, near Fort Stockton.

I mentioned a bit ago that my end-of-year exercise in taking stock of my life is a “looking back – looking forward” list as the year turns over. The looking back part of the list I put together at the beginning of December, TTAADD 29, and just finished updating.  That list was easy, just flipped through that one surviving journal. It covers 2011-2013–not that I was good at keeping it up while I was working–but like writing this blog, it’s much easier to keep up without a job to distract me. 🙂

Looking forward is always tougher, especially when there are tons of variables. Here’s what I’m looking forward to:

  • Seeing our kids for the first time in more than a year! Daughter Kelsey and grandson, Tyler, will be coming to see us, as will our son John, in the spring–unfortunately, not at the same time. Haven’t seen either one of them, or grandson Tyler, since July 2012. Luckily, since they are kind of camera hos (you know you are) we have had  lots of pictures to fill the gap. 😀 Hundreds of ’em.
  • Finishing furnishing the house at the ranch, now officially named “The Home on the Range.”
  • Settling the claim for the car I wrecked–got a call yesterday, and it is totaled, and the payment before deductible was literally only a few dollars short of what we paid for the car. Sweet.
  • Deciding whether to keep or sell the House McNugget–anyone need a 28.5 foot, 5th-wheel trailer?
  • Paying off the truck–the only debt we have, and deciding its fate, whether to keep or sell.
  • Deciding what’s next up for me – we have to keep me, can’t sell me, but my time is certainly for rent! 🙂
    • so many possibilities:
      • Start freelancing, or
      • Write fiction, or
      • Write nonfiction in the arena I’m passionate about, communication, or
      • Perform the research to underpin potential app development project with my old business partner, or
      • Take on some virtual consulting projects, or
      • Talk to the folks that run the ranch about working for them in some capacity, or
      • a reasonable combination of any number of the above, or
      • something I have yet to even consider…

Happy New Year, folks. Hope 2014 is filled with possibility and promise for you!


2 – caffeine and kids, thanksgiving and dieting

Our son John graduated Friday from his USAF technical school, and 10 of the 27 people who entered with him did not make it through the course, so he’s definitely a cut above the rest–can’t tell I’m proud of him, can you?

Now we are officially empty-nesters–John should be stepping off his 12-hour flight to Germany about right now, which means both our chicks are on the other side of the world–and closer to each other than they are to us.  It’s both sad and fulfilling at the same time.  I feel as if I got far too short a time with them, either together or separately… while Corey feels like he finished that particular requirement, and is ready to move on to the next phase.  Don’t get me wrong – he misses them, too.  But he was readier than I was to have them finish growing up.

There is so much joy in knowing they’re OK, and that particularly weird sense that we experienced when our daughter went in the military three years ago–that someone else is taking care of our kid–is now doubled.  Kels just re-enlisted in the Army, and John, of course, is in the US Air Force, and will be stationed at Ramstein AFB for the next two years.  Kelsey’s so very excited about John heading for Germany that all her Facebook posts are filled with exclamation points and SHOUTS of joy.  That’s my girl. 🙂

This week is four years since Corey and I began our lives together – and that doesn’t even seem possible.  He’s still my knight in shining armor–and we’re still negotiating the rest of the equation.  Apparently, we will be for the rest of our lives… You know what I mean–who gets to ride the horse today, who cleans up after the horse, who sleeps on the mattress with a pea under it, who cleans the castle, who cooks for the minions (editors note:  I seriously wish we had minions–even one would be nice… and if you haven’t watched Despicable Me, you should), and who hunts down my slippers when I lose one (I hunt for my own slippers now; he only found one, and he was like all proud of it, you know?).

The diet continues, as does the working out, and I have lost a total of 16 pounds in two months, which I’m quite proud of–Corey has lost 20-ish, but is starting to add carbs back in to stabilize his weight.  I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m doing it slowly and working out hard, still trying to get in at least 5 and often 6 days a week.  I’m now swapping out between cardio one day and resistance the next–it gives me a lot more energy.

Not that I need added resources for energy… I’m up to three 20-oz cups of coffee a day, sometimes four.  Basically we go through one and a half or two pots of coffee each day between the two of us.  Plus, since I am shamelessly self-indulgent, we bought a CASE of sugar-free English toffee coffee syrup at the local restaurant supply store.  Twelve one-liter bottles.  It should last me about a month.

We’re headed for the Hannon family reunion near Tucson in December. Can’t wait to have two weeks off, for one thing–and I really enjoy Corey’s family so much.  Looking forward to the reunion and meeting the next generation.  Wish Kels & John could be there, but glad to be going, even without them.

It’s our second winter in Oregon–and we still love it here. We’re both working hard, but that’s kind of who we are anyway.  Hope you and yours are happy and healthy and looking forward to Thanksgiving.  We got an invitation to Corey’s sister’s in California, but declined–it would have been great to see family, but our plan to sleep in, relax, maybe rip the carpet out of the spare bedroom and redo the floor.  That’s my ambition anyway.  I think the whole of Corey’s was included in the “sleep in, relax” section of that sentence.  We shall see. o_O

OK – off to get my third cup of coffee. First virtual meeting of the day begins in 9 minutes.  And it’s two and a half hours long.  Today will definitely take that fourth cup to get through…

Have a grand Turkey Day!

With warmest regards,