Sometimes you get the best light from a burning bridge. Don Henley

During my recent autumn retreat to Michigan, I was lying on my sister’s couch on a rainy, cool, dreary afternoon.  With the fireplace spreading a cheery glow, I was idly flipping through catalogs and looking around her living room.  She had created a cozy, eclectic space that reflects her life.  “Oh, I found that in Paris” or “I picked that up in Spain.”  A very artsy vibe, every so often dotted with a touch of whimsy.  One of those touches that captured my attention that cozy afternoon was a little sign on her fireplace mantle, “The hardest thing in life is to know which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn.”  

I questioned her about the sign.  She said the expression spoke to her and she knew she needed to bring it home as a small reminder of learning to navigate her own life.  I tried poking the bear a bit to learn what bridges she had burned and if she had any regrets without much success.  She did offer up the following reflection for this post:

“When I spotted this small block on a shop shelf it struck a chord with me.  I am not a person who travels the familiar paths in life but one who has often taken the road less traveled.  Occasionally, over the decades I have encountered the proverbial bridge.  Now I know the conventional wisdom is to not burn those bridges, however, I am not the conventional sort.  After considerable thought and due deliberation, I try to judge, does the person or circumstance that the bridge represents enhance or damage my life.  

I believe that life is precious and time the ultimate gift.  Do I continue to beat my head against the same old wall or straighten my spine and walk away, recognizing there may never be enough time in the world to solve a particular problem?  My kind sister once sent me a card which read, ‘Backbone beats Wishbone Every time.’  I love that card and it is framed in my office.  So occasionally in my life I have chosen to burn the bridge down. It is sometimes difficult but after a stern talk with your conscious, it may be the self-healing path you need to travel. And only once in a while do I look back and like a nighttime arsonist, smile into the flames.”

jgk

We have all been at crossroads in our lives when we had to decide whether to cross the bridge or burn it down.   Prevailing sentiment does steer us not to burn bridges.  I am particularly fond of, “Don’t burn a bridge and expect me to send a boat.”  When you burn a bridge, there is (usually) no going back. Yet some people burn them and proceed to blow them up with explosives.  For some, the no going back is part of the motive for the fire. 

Between celebrating my milestone birthday of 65 and having more downtime due to the Pandemic Pause, I find myself reviewing my life and choices made.  My life has been more conventional than that of my outlier sister.  In fact, I can only think of one time I truly burned a bridge.  I was engaged to be married to another man before meeting Mr. Smith.  As I sat down to address the wedding invitations, I was struck with the strong realization this was not the correct bridge for me to cross. Breaking off the engagement was difficult, no one wants to be rejected or be the rejecter.  But I had a clear recognition that I could not go through with the marriage and for the sake of both parties involved, the bridge needed to be truly burned.  My father unscored this thought.  When I told my parents I had decided not to marry, my dad said, “That’s fine, but there will be no going back and forth on the decision.”  He understood the importance of not trifling with someone’s feelings and his words helped me fully grasp the finality of my decision.

That burned bridged forced me forward.  I made a move to Ann Arbor, Michigan where I met Mr. Smith and the rest is history!  We have crossed several bridges together, we have ridden a few rapids, and a couple of times we have had to portage.  Some bridges were breathtaking and lovely.  Some were rickety and scary.  And we are still here.  

Have you burned bridges that you regret or like me, did that push you forward, exposing you to new people and new adventures?  Crossing bridges has allowed me to discover new strengths I didn’t know I had.  And the times the bridge collapsed while I was on it, I learned I can fail and survive.  I doubt many of us reach the age of 65 without a few regrets – should I have crossed that bridge, should I have burned it?  But I can’t go back, I can only go forward.  As I sit on my perch and look out over the magnificent bridge over the Susquehanna, I wonder what the next bridge will be and if I’ll cross it.

C’est la vie.

“…I stand on their shoulders.”

midweek musings…

No matter which side of the aisle we find ourselves on, I hope we can all appreciate that history was made this past weekend.  The United States will FINALLY have a woman in the White House, just a heartbeat away from the presidency.  I was teary eyed when Kamala Harris strode onto the stage in Wilmington, Delaware on November 7, 2020, to give her victory speech.  Wearing all white in a nod to our historic suffragists, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, she thanked her country for turning out to vote in record numbers.  She challenged our children to “…Dream with ambition, lead with conviction, and see yourselves in a way that others may not, simply because they’ve never seen it before, but know that we will applaud you every step of the way.”  These are our hopes and dreams for all our children, but especially our daughters and granddaughters. 

Vice-President Elect Harris was not the only woman to make history this election cycle.  More women were elected to Congress than ever before.  Republican Cynthis Lummis was elected the first woman to represent Wyoming in the U.S. Senate.  Missouri elected its first Black congresswoman.  Congress will now have a Korean American woman, a Native American woman and the first openly trans person.  Congress took a giant step towards looking more like the diversity that is America.

After CNN called the election for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Saturday, my daughter-in-law looked at my three beautiful, smart, kind, funny granddaughters and told them, “A WOMAN!  A woman, ladies, holds the second highest position in our country!  A WOMAN will be representing our country in the world!  You get to LIVE history, I hope you are proud!”  My granddaughters cheered!   Then they coyly asked, “Can we go to McDonalds?”  Everyone celebrates in their own way…

I’m thrilled my grandchildren are growing up in, in the words of Kamala Harris, “…a country of possibilities.”  On Saturday night, I did a quick, non-scientific poll of some of my friends over the age of 65.  I wanted to know if when they were nine years old (the age of my oldest granddaughter), they ever wondered why a woman wasn’t president.  With the exception of one self-proclaimed rebel, they were right there with me, accepting without question that men run the world.  By the mid-sixties, some of us started to question the status quo, but it truly has been a loooooong process.

So, Kamala, while I toast your accomplishment, I will be watching.  I fully realize you and President Elect Biden face staggering challenges you didn’t create and every decision you make will be scrutinized.  We know you will remember the wisdom of the extraordinary Congressman John Lewis, “Democracy is not a state.  It is an act.”  Don’t let my granddaughters and me down.  We’re counting on you.

C’est la vie.

It was November…

The combination of crunching of leaves beneath our feet as Mr. Smith and I take our daily walks and the bombardment of emails in my inbox with subject lines like What to Wear for Thanksgiving (it’s coming soon!) and 7 Tips for an inspired Thanksgiving at home,  persuaded me it was time to drag my attention away from my election obsession and think about the upcoming holiday.  With new COVID cases topping 100,000 a day, we have decided to take the advice of the learned Dr. Fauci and celebrate Thanksgiving 2020 with only the people who already live within our household.  In other words, Mr. Smith and I will be the only two jockeying for the last piece of pumpkin pie.  We may wish things were different, but facts don’t lie and the danger is just too great.

After indulging in a (fairly) short pity party, I knew I needed to make a plan.  This year it will be Thanksgiving boxes packed by grandma that will be going over the river and through the woods, making their way to all my favorite little turkeys.  Taking inspiration from my daughter-in-law, Becky, who teamed up with her sister to create Candy Casino Night to replace trick-or-treat for their kids, I started looking for fun Thanksgiving ideas to connect with my grandkids and replace an actual get together.

Even chocolate turkeys get a little nervous around Thanksgiving…

Chocolate turkeys that would normally be used as place setting favors on my holiday dinner table are being packed and mailed.  I’m sending books, turkey crowns (saving one for me!) and other festive gee gaws.  That’s all well and good, but how to truly engage my grandkids???  M&Ms of course!  While searching the web for inspiration, I stumbled upon the blog, Unoriginal Mom, who posted Roll a Turkey – Free Thanksgiving Game for Kids.  I will provide the M&Ms, dice and game cards.  You roll a die and the number on the die dictates the color of M&M that gets placed on the turkey.  Full instructions as well as the downloadable game cards are included in this link.  Donning my turkey crown, I will connect with my grandkids on Facetime and let the good times roll.

Well aware that the game may be short lived due to the gobbling of the M&Ms, I wanted a second game.  Thanks to Heidi at Happiness is Homemade, I created Thanksgiving Bingo Cards. Click here, print out the cards and get ready to play!   I don’t want my grandkids’ parents to have to scramble to find any game supplies, so I prepared a bag of nickels for each child to fill their bingo card.  Wearing my crown, I will be the bingo caller extraordinaire.

If you are observing Thanksgiving without your grandkids, the internet has a plethora of online Thanksgiving games.  I decided to be realistic about my computer skills and go with games that we can play over Facetime.  Technology has failed me before, or perhaps I have failed technology!  If they are old enough, you could cook together over Facetime or another video conferencing app.  Some brave people are planning a virtual dinner.  With some preparation and organization, you can set a festive table, dress up a bit and stay safe while sharing the holiday.

Turkey bingo queen!

Mr. Smith and I were both lucky enough to grow up in households that were filled with the tantalizing smells of yeast rolls and pies, onions and celery sauteing, and turkey roasting accompanied by the soundtrack of family on Thanksgiving Day.  We carried on some of the same traditions, sharing many memorable holiday feasts with our own sons.  Those celebrations eventually grew to include their spouses and children.  It is my fervent grandma wish to gather all my people together at a Thanksgiving table and bask in the conversation and chaos.  I have accepted that it won’t be this year, but you can count on the fact that the wheels are already turning, figuring out a way to make it happen in the (not too distant) future.  Never underestimate a grandma on a mission!

C’est la vie.

We have a winner!

midweek musings…

No, we don’t yet know the winner of the 2020 presidential election.  The votes are still being counted.  What we do know is that voter turnout was unprecedented and I believe that makes democracy the winner.  It was likely helped by the highly contentious political climate, as well as the clear attempts at voter suppression.  Americans rose up and said, “Oh, no you don’t.  I will vote in spite of your shenanigans.”  

Many voters voted early or by mail.  Luzerne County’s early in-person voting took place at the county’s Penn Place building in Wilkes Barre.  The wait was often nearly two hours.  While I was doing errands in the past couple weeks, I drove by Penn Place several times and felt verklempt looking at the lines of citizens waiting to exercise their constitutional right to vote and have their voices heard.

In a bit of local excitement, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt broadcast from Wilkes Barre as part of his “Across America” tour, highlighting battleground states across the country last Wednesday.  I knew he was going to be in town because my always au courant sister texted me that morning.  She had seen a teaser on The Today Show with a bridge in the background.  Our apartment overlooks the Market Street Bridge which spans the Susquehanna River between Wilkes Barre and Kingston, Pennsylvania. Our first clue…

That afternoon Mr. Smith and I set out on our daily walk as soon as he was home from work so we could be back to watch NBC Nightly News.  Walking along the elevated levee path through Nesbitt Park we spotted NBC News trucks, crews setting up lighting and putting down plywood to cover the squishy river front.  We may not be Holmes and Watson, but it didn’t take us any time to realize Mr. Holt would be broadcasting directly across the river from our apartment with the Market Street Bridge and Wilkes Barre skyline behind him. Without even trying, we had stumbled upon the broadcast location. While we were standing there looking down at the action, we were approached by a man coming from the other direction.  He wanted to know if anyone had “given us any trouble” about walking on the path.  He had come to play disc golf but was told he could not.  I explained that was probably because of Lester Holt.  “Who’s that?”  Oh, Lester, we’re sorry.  We explained who he is to our new friend and told him we were pretty sure he could play disc golf tomorrow.

Continuing on our walk, I was silently chastising myself for not having my phone with me so I could snap a couple pictures.  When we got to a turn in our route, Mr. Smith said he wanted to continue on and finish the walk, but suggested I cut through King’s College campus and head home to get my phone and go grab some photos. I swear sometimes he can read my mind. 

This picture below was taken moments before a very polite security guard approached me and asked if I needed any help.  I responded no, no, I was just heading out.  No arrests were made.

Mr. Smith got his full walk in. I was able to get a couple of pictures and we were home and settled in in time to watch the news.  Thanks, Lester. 

Yesterday I was a poll worker.  It was a very long day. I arrived at 6:00 a.m. and left at 8:45 p.m. It was an experience I won’t soon forget. So many new first time voters, some elderly voters who had been voting for nearly 70 years and everything in-between! If you have an opportunity to be a poll worker, I strongly recommend it!

For many of us, 2020 is the most stressful election cycle we have lived through. I hope we can now take a breath and no matter which team we are on, acknowledge the momentous problems our country faces. Hopefully we can emerge less divided and more compassionate. Then we would all be winners.

C’est la vie.

Don’t quit your daydreams…

We all have hopes and dreams.  Some of us express hopes of one day writing a book, running a marathon, or opening our own business.  And some of us do it. Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie, a mother and daughter team, pieced together their talents and ambitions and followed their dream. In November 2019, they launched their own quilt shop, Bee Quilting & Such, in Munster, Indiana.  Ah, the pre-Pandemic innocence of it all.

Martha Lowry and Meghann Labadie.

Martha started making little doll blankets when she was eight years old and has been sewing ever since, even teaching home economics before she and her husband, Jim, started their family.  Meghann was a little later to the game, not pursuing sewing in earnest until she had her own family.  They both became interested in quilting about a decade ago.  Frustrated with the lack of availability of good quilt shop near them, Martha suggested that they open their own and Meghann quickly got on board.  

Martha retired from Purdue Calumet where she was the Wellness Coordinator and ran the wellness program for students and staff. Meghann has her own law firm focusing on wills and trusts. Since retiring, Martha has been assisting Meghann with her law practice.   With the decision made that they wanted to open a quilt shop, they began squirreling away their profits from the law practice and started planning and researching opening their own business.  They eventually found a location that would work well for both them and their shop.  They painted, ordered inventory and fixtures and were finally ready to open on November 5, 2019! 

A store for modern sewists, they offer fabrics, notions, classes and clubs for all skill levels.  You can visit their website here.  They have a long arm quilting machine and can help you get that quilt top out of your closet and turn it into your family heirloom.  But a visit to their delightful shop reveals their most valuable product is their enthusiasm for their venture.  Both Martha and Meghann love coming to work each day.  They love teaching the classes, helping customers choose fabric or figure out a pattern.  Each day is different, filled with creativity and energy.

Then came March 21, 2020, when Indiana issued a Stay at Home order due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.  Who plans for a Pandemic???  They closed for two weeks.  Never ones to sit idle, they spent that time making samples for the shop and getting their e-commerce site up and running.  They also needed to perfect their machine cleaning and repair service process because once the Pandemic hit, it exploded.  People were pulling machines out of storage they hadn’t used in years, many wanting to make masks and some using their time at home to tackle their UFOs (Unfinished Objects!)  Luckily Martha’s husband, Jim, formally retired and became a Janome-certified repair person.  Machines were coming out of the woodwork as people were rediscovering their creative juices.  After a couple of weeks, they reopened at limited capacity, mask required.  They offer curbside pickup and online ordering to be shipped. 

Two women living their dream and surviving the Pandemic. The new business has turned friends into customers and customers into friends.  One day Martha was out for a walk in a park near her home when she was approached (socially distanced, of course)  by a customer who had purchased a pair of scissors at the shop that she loved and wanted Martha to bring another pair on her next walk so that the happy customer could give them to her sister for her birthday.  That is quite the customer service!  Both Martha and Meghann are particularly touched by the customers who shared that their very first Pandemic outing was to Bee Quilting & Such.  

But I think what they will most remember from this time is the generosity and kindness of their customers. When an old high school classmate of Meghann’s experienced a devastating house fire and lost everything, Meghann wanted to provide quilts for the parents and children.  They put out a call to action to their customers to donate blocks.  The response was over whelming and they received more blocks than they needed.  After completing the quilts for Meghann’s friend’s family, the extra blocks were donated to a local chapter of Sew It Forward, a group of people around the world that gift quilts to families after they have lost their homes and belongings to a fire.  

Martha is my granddaughters Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth’s maternal grandmother and Meghann is their aunt.  It truly warms my heart that my granddaughters are being raised in the bosom of this creative, resourceful, useful family business.  Back in the storeroom there is a deep cart that my granddaughters love to push around and “shop” for goodies.  They know where the “treat” bucket is hidden and carefully select a piece of candy each visit.  The other day young Emily was spotted dancing with a wire mannequin.   And they are always happy to “help” their Pops with his repair work.

Back when they were dreaming about opening their own quilt shop, I doubt the thought of a Pandemic ever entered their minds.  Like so many entrepreneurs, they have had to learn survival skills and the ability to adjust to challenges and obstacles.  The pioneering example of women who have sewn throughout history may be their guiding spirit.  Resiliency and creativity win the day.  Congratulations to the owners of the shop for preserving and daring to dream.

C’est la vie.

midweek musings…

Mr. Smith and I have been savoring our daily walks in the crisp, sometimes downright chilly, fall air.  We remark on the beautiful foliage like the old folks we are. 

Photo credit to Mr. Smith!

 With the frightening surge in COVID numbers, we’ve also been talking about how to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas sans family.  We reminisce about holidays past, including Halloweens.  I understand Halloween during a Pandemic will be different for most and some traditions may need to be modified, but in the interest of protecting ourselves and others, I’m pretty sure we can still have some fun.   Visit a pumpkin patch, carve a jack-o-lantern, or watch a spooky movie, 

Our neighbor down the hall is observing Halloween and we don’t even have to wait for Halloween for a treat.  Her door sports a festive holiday wreath and she has a cauldron of candy set out for passersby.  I consider it a personal triumph each time I pass without sticking my hand in for a tasty treat.

Our granddaughters are decorating pumpkins.  Spread out on the kitchen floor under the supervision of their mom and dad, they got creative.

And our “fifties girls” were able to go visit their great-grandfather for the first time since the pandemic hit.

Halloween may look different this year, but there are still fall pleasures.  Shorter days mean more candles lit in our home in the early evening.  Cooler temps mean more soups in the crock pot.  And falling leaves mean fun for my grandchildren.

Happy fall from my beautiful granddaughter Elizabeth and me!

C’est la vie.

Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate. Johnny Depp

“Holy shit!”  These are the words that flew out of my mouth when I came across my diamond earrings that had “gone missing” for over seven years.  When we were packing up our house in Indiana back in 2008, I carefully put them in a special place for safekeeping during the move and thought “Now, am I going to remember they are here?”  Obviously I didn’t and it annoyed me all those years.  Perhaps that box never got unpacked in Pennsylvania, it could have been one that remained in storage.  But years later in New York, I was sitting on the dining room floor, unpacking once again, and there they were. Yay!

Mine in not a family rich in heirlooms, these earrings were my sole inheritance from my mother.  A gift from my father to her, a legacy I hoped to pass on to a granddaughter.  My mother didn’t live long enough to meet any of my grandchildren.   My plan had always been to pass these earrings on to one of my lovelies, telling them stories that focused on the strengths of their great-grandmother and not her weaknesses, creating a link between the generations of women in our family.  These connections can be forged with stories and memories, but sometimes an actual memento is a concrete reminder of a life.

One memento I truly treasure I actually rescued from the trash.  I was visiting my dear Aunt Ruby in Illinois.  There in a corner of her kitchen, piled up with items to go out to the garbage, I spotted what looked like a quilt.  When I asked her about it, she said it was not worth keeping and was in her way.  Turns out, it was a handstitched quilt she made when she was a young woman.  The individual blocks have the name of a state, each colorfully embroidered with its official flower.  She had started it so long ago there are only 48 state blocks!  After a little persuading (whining) on my part, that beautiful quilt became mine and I treasure it to this day.  There have been low moments in life when I wrapped myself up in it and imagined wrapping myself up in her love.  I have never doubted her unconditional love but having something that she created is sincerely one of my most cherished possessions.  It has the power to transport me back to a time of being fussed over and feeling like one of her treasures.

What does discovering an old treasure make a 78-year old woman feel?  My sister has also moved several times including trips across the ocean.  She has purged and curated, packed and unpacked.  One day while going through a box of old stuff of no particular value, she found a shoebox with a collection of small, ornate opera purses.  Thinking it really was time to let go, she paused a moment to open and check each one.  Suddenly she spied a small orange ticket.  But it was what was on the ticket that made her realize the meaning of the word serendipity.  It was a ticket to an unforgettable concert on March 15, 1969.  The headliner, her favorite, the amazing Janis Joplin.  The ticket is now framed in a small cherrywood frame with two musical sons eyeing it for when she kicks the bucket.  But today it still makes her smile to remember that incredible night.  

But it is a treasure I recently unearthed from my past that may be the most valuable to me of all.  When cleaning out my mother’s apartment after she passed, I came across an old school assignment of mine that she had saved.  Just the fact that she had saved it was miraculous as she wasn’t one to squirrel away keepsakes or relics of her children.  At the time of her death, I tucked it away, just recently coming upon it again.  I can’t remember what grade I was in at the time, but I remember the assignment.  Write an autobiography!  I do recall being gobsmacked, frantically trying to figure out what to say.  Reading this assignment 50 years later, I am first struck by my false bravado.  I don’t think I was ever in a fist fight and I know I never beat up any of my sisters.  What I remember of that time was often feeling insecure and uncertain, grasping for confidence.  

But finding this half-century old writing shifts my perspective of myself at that age.  I admire my pluckiness to say, “my country needs me” and the audacity to state, “I turned into the sophisticated woman that I am now.” I am misty eyed to see the burgeoning determination that was there all along. It is a reminder that our lives are full of forgotten treasures that may require digging a little deeper into ourselves.  And yes, Johnny Depp, that is a treasure worth more to me than silver or gold.

C’est la vie.

midweek musings…

Elections matter and 2020 will be like no other in our recent history.  People are voting in record numbers here in Pennsylvania. Combine the incredible turnout with running an election during a pandemic and I can only imagine the issues the Board of Elections must be dealing with.  I decided I wanted to step up and help so last month I filled out an application online to be a poll worker this Election Day. On Monday, I attended my first poll worker training session.  I left with a feeling of frustration and the beginning of a headache and I bet I wasn’t the only person.  Our “training” consisted of a 90-minute presentation by an employee of the company that provided the electronic poll books to Pennsylvania. When leaving, I was given an Electronic Poll Book User Guide. No discussion of election rules and procedures.  No COVID-19 guidelines.  Really?  This was my training?

A poll worker is only as good as their training, so I decided to be proactive and get my 65-year old self comfortable.  I called my contact at the Board of Elections to book another session.   Andrea, who originally contacted me to work on Election Day, got me scheduled and patiently answered all my questions including ones with regard to COVID protocol.  Her professionalism and expertise did much to put my mind at ease. I want voters to feel confident and at ease about their experience when they leave our precinct after voting.  A citizen’s vote is too important for them to leave wondering if their vote counted.

I will be ready to do my civic duty on November 3.  I served on a grand jury when we lived in Indiana and again when we lived in New York.  Both were fascinating experiences.  My guess is participating as a worker in our election process will be just as awe inspiring.  I am eager to put on a mask, roll up my sleeves and do my part. So, I will attend another training session and diligently study my User Guide to be as prepared as possible.  And I will bring hand sanitizer.

On a brighter note, we have a winner!

I am thrilled to announce that Julia T is the winner of the first ever Camp Grandma Musings give-a-way.  Julia, the replica of the Women’s Suffrage window sign poster is on its way to you!  Thanks so much for reading.

C’est la vie.

Autumn Escape.

After several months of quarantine, I imagine everyone has a bit of wanderlust.  Despite the travel bans in place, my heart longs for a destination beyond the grocery store.  As we have seen lately, it’s human nature when someone tells us we can’t do something that our natural instinct is to say, ‘oh yes I can!’  

I thought long and hard before hitting the road.  There is no doubt the virus is real and frightening and I fully understand the need to follow the rules.  But my closets are clean, my cupboards are straightened and I’m up to date on my seasonal chores.  I am definitely ready for some fun.  So, I packed up my hand sanitizer and face masks along with some books to read and other travel essentials.  Mr. Smith kindly helped me load up the car, kissed me goodbye and I was off.  I grabbed a latte at Starbucks and before long found myself on I-80, headed to Michigan.

The drive across Pennsylvania was stunning.  The brilliant colors of the trees were near peak in the mountains, the traffic was light, and the weather was sunny and clear.  Pennsylvania is a wide state.  From Wilkes Barre, it takes around four hours to hit the Ohio border.  The foliage in Ohio wasn’t as far along as that in Pennsylvania, but that left me something to look forward to later on the drive back.

After an easy-peasy drive (as easy peasy as an 8-hour drive can be), I arrived at my sister’s home for 12 days of girl time.  Saturday night was filled with catching up, eating and sipping wine.  Sunday was a chilly, dreary day that made for a perfect “disappearing day” which was a pleasure in itself but also allowed us to settle into our time together.

We are smart enough to realize that a visit during COVID was going to be different.  We would normally be out and about on an almost daily basis – shopping, visiting, going to movies and dining out.  Not this visit. I did read two books, binged watched a couple of TV series and tried my hand at gougeres.  They were delicious, but not quite perfect.  I will compare a couple of recipes and give it another go soon.

We had beautiful fall weather allowing me to get out for some afternoon walks.  I love looking at all the different houses, the fall leaves and creative Halloween decorations.  This one was my personal favorite.

We worked at cleaning and organizing her basement.  I don’t want to say Jeanne is a hoarder, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

I had recently purchased the 2020 Somerset Holiday Magazine Vol. 14 and we were inspired to try our hand at some Santa making.  We spent a pleasant afternoon hunkered over her kitchen peninsula with our felt, pipe cleaners, glues, tapes and assorted other supplies. Our glue gun injuries were minor. Making the first one is always a learning experience and we both have thoughts on things we would do a little differently in the future but were pleased with our initial creations.

The biggest highlight of the visit was Jeanne’s birthday.  Her oldest son and daughter-in-law are part of her pod so we invited them to birthday dinner.  I baked her a birthday cake and made a big pan of lasagna.  We set the table, lit some candles and celebrated my favorite sister’s 78 years on earth.

Suddenly our 12 days had passed.  It was Friday morning and I was loading my suitcase into the car to head home to Mr. Smith.  As eager as I was to see Mr. Smith, it was a bittersweet parting.  With the shocking rise in COVID cases nationwide, we didn’t feel like making any holiday plans that we might have to cancel.  Like families everywhere, we are feeling “on hold.”

Mother Nature provided me with a beautiful drive home, the miles and miles of magnificent fall foliage the perfect back drop for my wandering thoughts. I am so very happy that I was able to make my Autumn Escape happen.  I spent less money than I usually do (you’re welcome Mr. Smith) and we watched less news than I feared we would (thank you Jeanne).  I am extremely fortunate that I can simply pack up and head out.  And I’m grateful that while I can’t currently fly to Paris or drive to Montreal, I can always escape to my sister’s home to recharge and indulge in girl talk.

C’est la vie.

midweek musings…

Mr. Smith is a morning person.  Whereas I prefer to ease into the day, he normally hits the ground running.  During my solo fall break visit with my sister, he and I connect daily, usually in the morning.  Yesterday morning while I was still lying in bed, thinking about what to do with my day, I sent him a good morning text.  He immediately responded with a phone call.  He was particularly chipper and often had me laughing during our exchange.  He ended the conversation telling me he hoped that whenever I thought of him throughout the day that I would chuckle. 

Chuckling is defined as “to laugh softly or amusedly, usually with satisfaction.”   In these days of pandemic fatigue, doesn’t that sound lovely, a bit corny and old fashioned, but lovely?  A good sense of humor can lift the spirit of us all during challenging times. Throughout our 42 years of marriage, there have been some challenging times, but luckily for us, we have (usually) been able to find the humor in the situation – good or bad.

One such occasion was 42 years ago.  On an unusually warm early May evening, Mr. Smith and I were enjoying a picnic dinner at beautiful West Park in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  We had finished our repast and were lingering, enjoying being outside in the fresh air.   He did seem a little nervous as he leaned in slightly from across the table and started talking about our relationship.  He sounded a bit disjointed and I was having a little trouble following until he came to the end of his speech and said, “I guess that’s my proposition.”  I took a breath, smiled at him and asked, “Is this a proposition or a proposal???”  We both laughed while he quickly assured me it was a proposal.  

It seems to me that today’s proposals are often over the top, orchestrated and choreographed events.  While I acknowledge that may work for some who desire more elaborate reminders of “the moment”, I will continue to be amused by (and cherish) my innocent, stars in our eyes “proposition” at a park picnic table and chuckle.

C’est la vie.