There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” O. S. Marden

Ever since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2021 presidential election, the inauguration ceremony had been on my mind.  Even before the January 6 attack on the Capital, it seemed clear that our tomorrows would be very different from our yesterdays.  The ongoing Pandemic would dictate no parade down beautiful Pennsylvania Avenue, no large noisy crowds, and no elegant festive balls.  Would the scaled back events without the usual fanfare make the occasion seem diminished?  Can an inauguration taking place against the backdrop of seven-foot-tall fences and over 20,000-armed National Guard troops feel majestic and stately?

With these questions swirling in my head, I anxiously looked forward to watching the 2021 ceremony more than any in my lifetime.  Add to that the fact that a woman was being sworn in as Vice President, and my anticipation was bubbling over.  While I had blocked out much of my day for watching, my sister is a much earlier riser than I am and was in on the action before the sun was ever up.  She shared her early morning thoughts of Inauguration Day 2021.

It was 4:00am, January 20, 2021.  Robed and fuzzy slippered, hunkered down in my overstuffed chair, mug of hot coffee clutched close to my chest, I began to watch.  Still dark in D.C., yet shadowy folks already bustling about getting ready for history.  Slowly the sun arose behind the dome bathing it in gold.  An unfamiliar feeling somewhere beneath my ribs startled me. I was puzzled as it quietly expanded bumping against my crusty old heart….it seemed to be joy, it seemed to be hope.   I sensed this day was going to be extraordinary.  An hour later former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was being interviewed. Apparently, she sensed that same emotional bubble and called it “…new hope…” As she spoke the phrase went straight to my heart. Today is new hope.

All my fretting was for naught. From the moment the four hundred lights were turned on surrounding the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool on the eve of the January 20, I knew all would be well.  Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks all added to the proceedings.  Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman took our collective breath away. There appeared to be a relaxed sense of fellowship among the politicians on stage – both Democrat and Republican.  The sense of fellowship was as welcome as all the magnificent fashion on display!  The beautiful, vibrant colors made me rethink my predominately gray wardrobe. It was one of the classiest swearing in ceremonies I have ever seen.  Along with Senator Amy Klobuchar, I hope, “This is the day when our democracy picks itself up…”   

No disrespect to President Biden, but the big moment for me was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Kamala Harris as Vice President.  Making it even more special was knowing that my granddaughters hundreds of miles away were watching.  The Biden Inauguration Team made a free coloring book for kids to help celebrate the occasion.  

Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth sprawled on their living room floor coloring the pages, pausing when their mom directed them to the action on the screen.   When firefighter Andrea Hall led the Pledge of Allegiance, they stood and recited it along with their nation.  When Lady Gaga slayed us with her mixed meter version of the Star-Spangled Banner, three little voices sang along with her.  Children accept/take for granted things that they grow up with.  By the time my granddaughters are voting, hopefully we will no longer feel the need to specify “woman” vice president.

I understand that simply changing administrations is not going to solve our nation’s many problems.  COVID-19, the economy, climate change, immigration and equality aren’t issues that are going to be resolved overnight.  But Joe Biden didn’t become president overnight, it was a long and winding road.  With hope and expectation of something tomorrow, we must look for the light.

C’est la vie.

Women of Consequence

It seems fitting that the first posting of Women of Consequence should coincide with the inauguration of the first woman Vice President of the United States.  It only took us 232 years!  Love her or not, when Kamala Harris raises her right hand and takes the oath of office, she will cement her place in history as a woman of consequence.  Change is coming, but at a snail’s pace.

Consequence: importance, significance, greatness, magnitude, value, substance.

We are surrounded by women of consequence.  After discovering many of the definitions of “woman” in the Oxford English Dictionary were demeaning, Maria Beatrice Giovanadi started a petition that resulted in Oxford University Press changing its definition and expanding it to include more examples and idiomatic phrases which depict women in a positive and active manner.  Dr. Kizzmedia Corbett, a research fellow at the National Institute of Health, at the age of 34, led the team that discovered the Moderna vaccine.   Every day women play a key role in the health care response to the COVID-19 crisis.  While they are under-represented among physicians, they make up the vast majority of nurses. 

Not all women of consequence will make a published list of extraordinary people, but that does not lessen their importance to someone they impacted along the way.  My sister-in-law Jane was encouraged to attend college by her brother’s girlfriend.  My sister Suzi was bolstered by her Latin teacher, Mrs. Heeter.  I will always remember her telling me, “Mrs. Heeter believed in me.”   The idea that someone believes in you has the power to carry you through many of life’s challenges.

Growing up in small-town Indiana in the 1960s, I lived a sheltered life.  Men were in charge.  Leave it to Beaver and Father Knows Best were must-see TV.  But oh so slowly over the horizon, rose the feminist movement.  A copy of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was being passed around among my friends. Gloria Steinem was campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment and girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school.      

Fortunately, some women of consequence have begun to get recognition.  Movies like Hidden Figures revealed the role of African American female mathematicians and their work on Project Mercury, bringing focus to the critical contributions of black women like Kathryn Johnson to space science. But as a rule, women were grossly under-represented in the history books I studied in high school.  Men’s contributions were well-documented while any recognition of women’s accomplishments was brief.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt was mostly depicted as a caregiver of her husband, rather than focusing on her life as an outstanding political figure, diplomat and activist.   But as we know, most history is written by men.    

I take pleasure in the fact that the times they are a-changin’.  My granddaughters’ and grandsons’ textbooks are not the ones I had in 1970. They will grow up seeing a woman in the White House and I will share with them what I learn while writing these posts. Once a month for the remainder of 2021, I will feature a Woman of Consequence.  Consequence with a capital C.  Women who stepped up and stepped forward without concern for themselves but with real concern for others. Some you may be familiar with, others still in the shadows.   But I hope to do my part to help bring them into the light.  All deserve our gratitude and admiration.           

C’est la vie.

Say anything…

There is a long list of attributes I admire in people. Being well spoken is up there in my top ten.  I marvel at speakers who can express their thoughts and ideas clearly and in a way people understand exactly what they are trying to say.  I aspire to be one of them.  But how do we become more articulate in everyday speech?  

A while back I received an email with a short blog post – Speak With Purpose, Not Impulse.  Busy with other things, I put it aside for later reading.  When I did sit down with it the other day, I discovered it was an invitation to sign up for a 7-day course to improve my communication skills.  Now that Mr. Smith and I are sliding into retirement, I am trying to be more conscious of what I spend money on so I decided that before ponying up my credit card number, I would check out what was available for free on You Tube and via podcasts.  It turns out there is a lot!

After reading and listening to much advice on becoming more articulate, I found there were a few pointers that come up over and over:

  1.  Read!   I thought I was a devoted reader, but I will happily commit to reading more!
  2. Listen to yourself.  That’s a scary one, hearing recordings of your own voice.  It brings back memories of being filmed during speech class in high school.  When the instructor played the tape of my speech for the class, much of the filming was of my leg jittering.  No, I wasn’t nervous at all.
  3. Expand your vocabulary.  I am all in on this one.  I love words and am always happy to meet a new one, but mainly I want to stop being lazy, defaulting to the same words over and over (very, enjoy, etc.), and use words that are more descriptive, that more accurately express my thoughts and emotions.  My fabulous editor suggested investing in a better thesaurus.  I was pleased as punch to spring for a copy of The Synonym Finder from Rodale Books, Inc.
  4. Pause.  Strategic pauses are usually much better than filler words.  Take a deep breath, give yourself a moment.  

I aspire to be one of those people who find the right words in everyday conversation, who are consistently articulate and prepared for a chat.   I still remember from over thirty years ago a friend of mine deftly handling a situation, not hurting anyone’s feelings, but not committing to anything she didn’t want to do.  My family had been living in a subdivision outside of Atlanta and we were preparing to move to Indiana.  While together with a group, my friend mentioned she was planning a goodbye luncheon for me.  Another woman spoke up and said, “You should have a potluck.”  Now I knew my friend Ann had no intention of having a potluck, but she simply very kindly replied, “I’ll think about that.”  There was no potluck and no one’s feeling were hurt.

Words can help and words can hurt. I have had the excruciating experience of instantly realizing I have said the wrong thing.  Fortunately, I have also had the rewarding experience of knowing I said the right thing at the right moment.  While I know that happens when I take my time, gather myself, and respond thoughtfully and don’t simply react, there are still times I blurt out the first thing that pops into my head.  Usually not a good idea. 

I am someone who struggles to articulate my thoughts, particularly under pressure.  There are times when I know someone is waiting for my response, but my mind is momentarily paralyzed.  In the past, this has caused me to feel inadequate.  Interestingly, while researching how to be more articulate, I came across an article explaining that what I often experience is normal for introverts.  Wow! I knew I am an introvert and apparently, I’m normal!

I am a work in progress.  I have not given up.  I will not brush eloquence aside as something I cannot achieve.  I am armed with many tools, including my new hefty thesaurus!  It may take me a little time to assimilate new techniques into everyday natural responses, but I am going to try.

What traits do you admire in other people? Do you have a quality or talent you would like to master?  How would you go about mastering something new?  Feel free to leave me a comment about what you admire or what you aspire to.  I’m listening, say anything…

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.