Category: Thoughts on Life

Not a Cloud in the Sky

August 22nd, 2012 — 1:47pm


Today, the eastern Washington sky is free of clouds, the temps will linger in the mid 80’s, and a hint of a breeze is keeping the air crisp and fresh. I went outside this morning to refinish outdoor furniture and this ideal environment took my breath away! We’ve had weeks of triple digits that wilted me and many plants – today’s weather is a lovely surprise.

So for the first time in over three months, when that hint of a breeze washed over my face, I thought to grab my camera and share this perfect day with you.

To write, one must think. To think, one must be quiet. To be quiet, one must make time for it. And, that might be the reason I’ve neglected posting events and thoughts lately. Our summer, Bill’s first as a full-time retiree, has been busy. It feels so good to be sitting in the corner of my couch working away on my little hobby again.

Now I have to get back to refinishing that furniture.  Maybe this post is really about procrastination???

Gifting you this beautiful day . . .

1 comment » | Thoughts on Life


April 26th, 2012 — 7:26pm
Verbena's pedicure kit.

Verbena's pedicure kit.

Our two-year-old granddaughter, Verbena, has already been exposed to the world of pedicures. Her mommy and daddy get haircuts at a salon that offers the service, and when Bean goes with them, the lovely Vietnamese ladies whisk her away, sit her on the edge of a chair, and decorate those baby toes. Bean sits patiently, watches intently, and stays in-place through the entire process, including the time it takes for her toes to dry – a miracle!

Because of Verbena’s fascination with pedicures, her mommy made her a pretend nail kit for her Easter basket. Mommy bought eye-catching colors of real nail polish, then she cleaned the brush applicators with polish remover and emptied the liquid polish out of the bottles. The bottles still look like they are filled, because the polish coats the inside of the bottle as it empties and dries. Mommy found a cute tote bag and filled it with the pretend polish, plus some fun accessories.

Verbena brought her new nail kit to church on Easter morning. About midway through the service, she pulled out one of her bottles, opened it, and started to “pretend” paint her fingernails. A woman sitting behind us freaked out and quickly tapped mommy on the shoulder to call attention to what was happening. Mommy assured the nice lady that all was well, and we had a good laugh.

I wondered if Bean would tire of the nail kit because her fingers and toes don’t change color when she uses it, but she hasn’t. She loves playing “grown-up” in all kinds of ways. I loved playing grown-up when I was a child too. My younger brother was the father of my baby dolls, my friends and I played “house,” and I had Barbie marathons with a favorite cousin (just like Bean’s mommy did with one of her friends). It was extremely fun to pretend – a perfect world where every baby was easily soothed, every cake rose, and every Barbie got a date with the handsomest guy, who also happened to be very good and kind.

I don’t know what effect “pretending” has on our development, but the fact that I can remember doing it, must make it important. Perhaps I was acting out inner hopes and wishes for my future? Considering that possibility, I’ll be watching my grandchildren’s play much more closely.

I wish every child many, many care-free days of pretending, because it just doesn’t work when you are an adult.

I think I need a pedicure :)

3 comments » | Grandmother, Thoughts on Life

Running on Empty

March 8th, 2012 — 2:01pm
Loved this project I saw on HGTVs Norvagst Family show.

Loved this on HGTV's Home by Novogratz.

I’m sick.  My eyes are leaking. My nose looks like a cherry tomato, and fluctuates from being completely stuffed to a running water faucet. I’ve gone through at least four boxes of tissues. I have a slight temp, and I haven’t slept but a few hours a night in five days – I’m tired, just too uncomfortable to sleep. Feels like a bad cold, but these are just symptoms of a much bigger problem. I’m running on empty, and I knew it even before my cold forced me to acknowledge it. I’ve not had much down time since mid-October.

I’ve been out of town or entertaining at home for 14 of the last 20 weekends, with a total of 46 actual days away and 18 days hosting. I’ve traveled about 16,370 miles (includes roundtrip flight from Portland to Boston). With time preparing for those trips and holiday prep, it’s been a busy four months. I wouldn’t trade any of the travel or time spent with family, but my current condition is keeping me from a reunion with my husband’s family, and I’m a bit weepy.

To take my mind off of my problems, I’m going for a new world record –  the largest number of home-improvement shows watched in one twenty-four hour period.  Thank God for the DVR, it speeds up the process and I can fast forward through commercials.

No worries, I’ll be on the mend soon, and probably back on the road too.

3 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Aunt Henrietta

February 13th, 2012 — 2:38pm
Henrietta (This picture captures my memory of her perfectly.)

Aunt Henrietta (This picture captures my memory of her perfectly.)

Within an hour of Lulu’s birth, on the other side of the country, my dear Aunt Henrietta passed. My mother said that Henrietta waited until she heard that Lulu had arrived and then she let herself go. Henia (affectionate Polish version of her name) had been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer about a year earlier.

At 87, except for dental visits, I don’t think Henia ever went to a doctor. She never married. For 40 years, my aunt was employed as a seamstress for a clothing manufacturer. She retired from that job to take care of her ailing mother, and when her mother died, she worked for several years helping developmentally challenged individuals. She never managed a checkbook – preferred paying in cash (a practice that made me cringe when I would take her shopping in her later years; she looked so vulnerable). With her modest salary, she always paid her own way, saved some, and even lent money to my parents to buy our house. At her death, she had more than enough to cover arrangements for her funeral.

Henrietta was the third of six daughters in my mother’s family. All six daughters had some special artistic talent. For Henia, it was all things needle and thread. She sewed Vogue patterns perfectly. It was skirts and blouses during the week, but on Sundays and special occasions, her fine and often hand-made clothing came out. I remember feeling so proud of how lovely she looked at church. She also sewed for my sister and I – a big help to our family.  I’m grateful to own many of her heirloom tatted handkerchieves. I took for granted her ability to mend a rip, tear, or pull until invisible.

Her parents, my grandparents, were Polish immigrants who spoke little English. Their social and faith life intertwined in a Polish church community, where they could pray in their own language and find comfort in their familiar culture. That church remained Henrietta’s second home. She sang in the choir for 60 years, attended mass daily when she could, and never missed a Sunday for most of her life. An example of complete humility, my Aunt Henrietta would be shocked to know how much she touched and affected the lives of those around her.  We are so fortunate that God gave her to our family.

The evening of January 5th, my sister, Alyce, and I were texting back and forth. Alyce was reporting on Henrietta’s leaving, and I was sharing updates on Lulu’s coming. I still don’t quite understand why both events happened simultaneously, but in a way, the duplicity brought my east coast family to Lulu’s birth and me to Henrietta’s deathbed. Thanks to my sister, I knew when family arrived at my aunt’s bedside, and how each was handling the event – a great comfort and relief. I texted progress of my daughter’s last stage of labor, and received encouragement and joy back from those gathered (who would not have been together otherwise). We think that my aunt heard family talking about Lulu’s arrival, and then she drifted away. Alyce, a hospice nurse, says hearing is the last to go.

You would have loved my Aunt Henrietta. Her gift was to do exactly what she needed to do to take care of herself and those around her everyday until she couldn’t anymore. That example is our inheritance. I pray that I am like her.

7 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Goodbye “Annie”

January 2nd, 2012 — 4:34pm


My spitfire of a hospice patient, Annie, passed this morning.  I can’t believe that I will never again sit in a comfy recliner across from her (in her comfy recliner) discussing life. Ninety-four and mentally sharp to the end, Annie is now free from the physical limitations that couldn’t keep pace with her mind. As of 9:15 AM this morning, Annie is no longer worrying about who will care for her, whether her money will hold out, or who will get her stuff when she is gone.  Annie passed in her own home –  her greatest wish.

Annie questioned the events of her life until the end. She died wondering why people had abandoned her, used her, or abused her.  More than her-fair-share of tragedy conditioned Annie to live for the moment and distrust the motives of those around her. Perhaps that is why Annie threw herself a beautiful and festive farewell party in September (with a lot of help from her friends). She said that she didn’t want to miss the celebration of her life . . . or probably trust anyone else with the details.  It was a gala affair!

Annie had a spirit that could not be squelched.  Despite her weakening body, Annie still tried to enjoy life through a lunch out, a shopping trip, or even a visit to the dentist – ANYTHING that would get her out of her apartment. A month ago, she pushed her caregiver to take her shopping for a new winter coat! Two weeks ago, I took her to a Christmas party.  A fighter and always optimistic, Annie never gave up on living a life.

Thank you for being my friend, Annie. I hope that heaven has blue crab and great margaritas! I will miss you.

6 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Summer Solstice

June 21st, 2011 — 10:43am
Summer arrives in the northwest.

Summer arrives in the northwest.

My husband, Bill, has a whole life that I don’t know about between 4:30 and 6:00 AM. While I’m still dreaming, he’s up making coffee, feeding the dog, watering plants, grabbing the newspaper and getting a head start on things for work – a whirlwind of activity! Today, however, Bill eased up on the tasks and took his coffee and newspaper out on the deck to wait for the summer sun to arrive. Gosh, I wish that I had joined him!

Hoping you all make time to celebrate and enjoy summer’s arrival today!

2 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Everybody Has A Mother Teresa

May 18th, 2011 — 9:05am
Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Lately, I’ve allowed myself the luxury of reflecting on youthful misconceptions that I had about life. It’s kind of like checking back with young Susie to see if older Susie has made any progress. My younger self spent a fair amount of time daydreaming about becoming famous and respected for an outstanding talent, yet-to-be-determined. My youthful pursuits, based on these dreams of fame and recognition, quickly petered out, and I believe that I know why. They required hard work that I wasn’t willing to give (too lazy). They didn’t use my natural gifts or interests. And, most importantly, they were based on a VERY shallow value system. I had connected fame to worth.

What makes a person truly great? I thought about famous people, whose greatness cannot be denied. Mother Theresa came to mind. Her profound faith and humble, unselfish devotion to the poor, follows Christ’s guidelines to the letter, “Whoever wishes to become great among you, shall be your servant.” (Matthew 20:26)  I thought of Mahatma Gandhi, his peaceful, non-violent pursuit of independence for India is a playbook for any good revolution and his words are priceless diamonds, that still move us to do the right thing. Helen Keller, who overcame her own disabilities to devote her life to helping others who were blind and deaf, left a profound mark on the world. When I think about the level of frustration Helen must have felt to learn one letter, I wonder why I don’t speak several languages? There is no denying that these people are outstanding. The world is a better place because of them and countless others like them, but did they change MY world? Their examples have certainly inspired me and I might benefit from their work, but were they personally “great” to ME? No, they weren’t.

Who are the famous “greats” in my life?  Who are the people that served me, gave me words of wisdom, and showed me how to persevere through handicaps and trials?  Well, they are individuals who have the same qualities of the famous varieties previously mentioned. They care about others and they have a deep understanding of what is truly right. The choices of their lives are good examples for me.  The choices of their lives have directly impacted me in a positive way. They were/are joyful to their core, despite life’s circumstances. However, unlike the famous versions, I don’t have to read about them. I can or could touch them, talk to them, and observe their goodness first-hand. They are or were humble, accessible, loving, ready to give, ready to help, and ready to overlook and forgive. These people are as great, in my mind, as any of the aforementioned heroes. I didn’t always realize how incredible they are and have been to me, but thankfully, I’ve lived long enough to know better.

I realized many years ago that I am not that unique. By that, I mean if I’ve experienced something basic to being human, many others have experienced the same thing. So, I suspect that everyone has probably had a “Mother Theresa” or two in their life. Thank goodness, huh? Naturally, this research of the mind and heart has made me wonder if I will be a “great” for someone? I’m hoping to.

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” -Mother Teresa

“Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow-men.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” -Helen Keller

4 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Eighty-Two Years Young!

March 12th, 2011 — 3:48pm
Pap Pap on his Doodle Bug.  We bought him a helmet and he promises he'll wear it.

Pap Pap on his Doodle Bug. We bought him a helmet and he promises he'll wear it.

Visited my husband’s father in Sacramento last weekend. Pap Pap, as he is known, is the original “Energizer Bunny” – he just doesn’t stop.   At an age when most would give up taking care of his several acre yard, Pap Pap is fastidious about all of it . . . his lawn, flower beds, vegetable garden and even the gravel in his driveway. It’s a beautiful place and the many birds that frequent his yard agree.

In his “spare” time, my father-in-law also maintains several vehicles. Besides his lawn tractor, he owns a Corolla, a pristine World War II jeep, and a “Doodle Bug” mini motorcycle.  The trusty Corolla is the usual around-town transportation, the jeep is great for a summer drive or the next Veteran’s Day parade, and the “Doodle Bug” (my favorite) is used for the half mile trip Pap Pap makes everyday to get his mail. He must give the neighbors a chuckle as he tears down the road on his daily mail run. To keep up his “rascal” image, Pap Pap is on the lookout for a pink, flowery basket to replace the cardboard box currently on the front.

Verbena's grandfather Bill and great grandfather Pap Pap. Notice the resemblance?

Grandfather Bill and great grandfather Pap Pap.

If you’re ever in the Sacramento area and you spy a feisty old geezer driving a grey Corolla, a World War II jeep, or a red and black Doodle Bug, all bearing US Marine Corps emblems, give the guy a wave. You’ve just encountered one of the hardest-working and most devoted family men in the country.

8 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Great Grandma’s Birthday

February 22nd, 2011 — 12:04pm
Great Grandma's birthday invitation. The photo is her high school yearbook picture.

Great Grandma's birthday invitation. The photo is her high school yearbook picture.

Great Grandmother, Virginia, turned 80 on the 25th of January. Verbena, her mommy, Auntie Em, and myself (Grandma Susie) traveled to New England to celebrate with the family.

L to R: My brother Jim, myself, Birthday Girl, sister Alyce, brother John

My mother with her four children. L to R, Jim, myself, Mom, Alyce, and John

The birthday party began with a mass at the only church my mother has ever belonged to in her 80 years. A soloist sang “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” one of my mom’s favorite hymns, and the priest waved the vocalist on to complete every verse, as a tribute.  Family participated in the mass, and Father announced her birthday to the congregation and commended my mother on her many years of service to the church. Attending mass was a very peaceful, calming way to begin the festivities – a kind of centering experience.

Great grandma Virginia with her birthday cake and favors.

Great grandma Virginia with her birthday cake and favors.

Then, it was on to the dinner party at a local restaurant.  My brother, Jim, toasted my mom eloquently. He said, “When I went to order the cake, the bakery asked what name they should put on it?” He answered, “That’s a hard one because she has worn so many hats in her life, and she’s been many things to many people.” Her name is Virginia, but she’s also mom, grandma, great grandma, sister, friend, GL, Blah Blah, Viggie, and, for a brief time in the 70’s, she was actually referred to as “Ginger.” Jim played some treasured Polish songs that my mom and her sister and friends sang effortlessly. Most of us, however, struggled through them to honor the birthday lady.  Jim also accompanied the crowd when we sang “Happy Birthday.”

All the great grandchildren.  L to R:  Connor, Keegan, Sam, Verbena, and Sophia

All the great grandchildren. L to R: Connor, Keegan, Sam, Verbena, and Sophia

We had many family gatherings during our visit. One thing I admire about my east-coast relations is they always make time to get together, no matter what family crisis/conflict is currently in the works. My brother, John, hosts dinners every Tuesday night, with few exceptions, for my parents, siblings, spouses, nieces and their children, and some adopted family joins in as well. These dinners are more than a ten-year tradition, that I suspect is very rare in America today.

Traveling in New England in January isn’t for the faint-hearted and we did have some weather-related challenges, but being there to celebrate my mom’s birthday and to visit with our whole east-coast clan was worth it. Have a great 80th year, GL!

3 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Santa And His Elf Make My Day!

December 17th, 2010 — 11:19am
Santa and his elf bringing in the dryer.

Santa and his elf bringing in the dryer.

Our washing machine was leaking oil.  We would often find grease streaks on our clothing – just lovely. We placed an order for a new washer-dryer set last Saturday and delivery was set up for this morning. I was not looking forward to dealing with the delivery guys, the upheaval of moving out the old stuff, nor cleaning up the gooey mess that I suspected was under the old washer. When I have such strong, negative expectations for something, life usually surprises me. I’m sure that it’s God’s way of letting me know that I’ve still got a lot to learn.

Santa and his elf hard at work.

Visitors from the North Pole hard at work.

My doorbell rings and all these low hopes go with me to the front door. There is no way this is going to be fun. I open it, and standing there is one very tall Santa, and his elf is unloading a hand truck! Instantly, I’m laughing. Two of the cutest, happiest delivery guys ever, wearing Santa hats, are bringing me my new washer and dryer.

You can't tell me that this isn't the REAL Santa wearing his work clothes.

You can't tell me that this isn't the REAL Santa wearing work clothes.

There was a horrible gooey mess under the old washer, but I didn’t mind cleaning it up. That’s what happens when you hang out with jolly old Santa. And, he really does know everything! Santa anticipated that I would want the dryer door hinged on the other side and took care of it before he brought the unit into the house. Santa and his elf were excellent installers! Just what you would expect from Father Christmas and his head elf.

I must have been especially good this year for Santa to have gone through all the trouble of personally delivering my new laundry equipment.

4 comments » | Thoughts on Life

Back to top