The Fork…

It’s sneaky fast and virtually un-noticeable. By the time you realize it, years have slipped through your fingers. What happened? One minute you’re in the middle of moving 800 miles east of Iowa and raising 3 kids. The next minute (I swear) you’re celebrating your 48th anniversary. There’s no way we’ve been married that long. Weren’t we just the brave young couple who defied my parents and eloped?

I’m out-of-touch. I notice this in everything I do. From the wall colors I pick, the clothes I wear, the way I talk and songs I sing at work. Yup, still singing my odd playlist of songs to the babies. A song, long forgotten popped in my head a few weeks ago at work. I was valiantly trying to rock one of the babies to sleep. Whenever I start singing in the infant room, there’s a protest. Some of their reactions are pretty funny. Everyone looks up (workers included) because they’re trying to find out where those claw marks on the chalk board are coming from. For some reason it does not seem to affect the baby I’m rocking as much as the rest of those around me (yes, including my poor co-workers with the bleeding ears). Some babies protest falling asleep with every fiber of their being. Others are dream babies about taking naps.

The song? I’m sure Mom sang this song to me, thus I sang it to my kids. Still it’s been decades since these words left my mouth. And those were not hearing impaired days, so I might have been in tune at least for a couple notes. Not anymore. But this doesn’t seem bother the baby I’m rocking. They usually find comfort in the midst of my caterwauling. So I’m rocking, patting and I start singing:

“Oh where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?
Oh, where have you been charming Billy?
I have been to seek a wife, she’s the joy of my life.
She’s a young thing and cannot leave her mother.”

Her head pops up and she gives me her best, “what you talking ’bout Willis?” Her furrowed brow quickly turns into a enormous, toothless grin and she lays her head back down. Doesn’t get any better than that. No matter which baby.

What happened # 2? I’m at work walking from the fridge with bottles, food containers etc. on my way to the gated kitchen section to warm everything up for various aged little ones. Bottles get plopped in a crockpot of hot water for a couple minutes, solids placed in little bowls in the crockpot with their name on it. But as I walked through the playroom, I get smacked with a smell. Somewhat offensive. Someone’s got poop. I politely ask for a show of hands. They band together choosing not to be singled out. I pick up one after another, nothing but sweetness. OK we have a winner! This is what slips out of my mouth-without thinking. “Let’s go change your pants.” What? I’ve never heard another worker say ‘pants’ instead of diaper. Just another goofy phrase that dates me.

What happened # 3? This most often occurs when I head to what I’ve named the pantry. Really the rear entrance of our house just off the kitchen/dining area. A small room with cupboards, countertops and a narrow closet, which has been a lifesaver. Our kitchen is small, thus I utilize this room and stock it with everything from soup to nuts. Literally. Soup. To. Nuts. All my small appliances, crockpots, popcorn popper, garbage bags, cereal, pop, potatoes, some canning supplies are hidden in the closet. Cupboard hold cook books, pantry staples, drawers with extra utensils, silverware in case 40 people show up to eat unannounced. So I head to this room at least 20 times a day. At the same time, my mind is on everything but what I need immediately from the pantry. Pause, gaze around with a blank look on my countenance. Shit, why am I here? Hmmm. Glance behind me, looking towards the kitchen, hoping for an easy answer. Why isn’t there a light shining down from the heavens with a clue to help me out here? Dish cloth, marbles, cake mix, Diet Pepsi, cupcake papers, jello, casserole, parchment paper, red hots, light bulb? Yes, even red hots.

Quite possibly, I could stand there for an hour hoping for an easy answer or a sign. Sometimes I just have to retreat to whatever room I was in when I felt it necessary to go off to my la-la land called the pantry. Return to whatever I was doing and hope that my not-so-literal light bulb goes off and I recall what it was I so desperately needed. So how come I can remember every word from a song 60 years ago, but not the Cream of Celery soup I need for the casserole I’m in the middle of making?

I’d like to think I’m aging well. At least about some parts. No, this isn’t about the wrinkles, saggy skin, age spots or the solid head of grey hair I cover with artificial light brown every month. This is realizing when I feel that dull ache between my right index and middle finger knuckle trying to open a Diet Pepsi screw top lid or baby food jar (I often have to hand it over to a co-worker, which is embarrassing, not so much with the pop to Hubs at home). Or that painful catch in my left leg whenever I pivot wrong. I’m thankful and grateful these are my only aches and pains for the day. Many are not so lucky or blessed like me. Friends with real health issues. Friends who have passed away way too young. My complaints are piddly at best. And while annoying, I realize remembering Cream of Celery soup (in the moment) is NOT a biggie. Just annoying and frustrating.

But I am strong willed, stubborn, and have a real problem changing my ways about a lot of things. These character flaws seem to get more pronounced the older I get. Let me point out a couple. (No you don’t have to help. I’m sure you’re all well aware of my faults, but I got this). I’m usually a real stinker when it comes to following rules I’ve been given. Hold on, I know what you’re thinking. But I’m really the exact opposite of what you assume.

After I’d been with McDonald’s a year or so I was given the responsibility of calibrating the grills, doing meat temp checks at changeover, and recording these temperature checks daily in a booklet. On the days when I wasn’t there, it still was my job to go over what had been logged in my absence. All meats, chicken, fish, beef had various temperatures they needed to reach after cooking, and though I can’t remember all of them anymore, beef was 155 degrees. Every couple weeks I’d go over this temperature book checking for issues. Why? Not sure. I believe we had to send them in to corporate, plus they got checked when the health department visited twice a year. Since beef had to reach 155 degrees before serving it to the public, there was no wiggle room in that magic number. After a day off, I resumed checking out what had been recorded when I spotted a glaring 153 degrees beef temp staring back at me. No explanation, no remedy, just a beef temp 2 degrees off. Kind of embarrassed but I went ballistic. Yes, Neese the rule follower was livid. At the manager who recorded the (lowly) temperature number. Why didn’t she do a second check, add a second to the cooking time until the grill could be re-calibrated or boost the grill temperature a couple of degrees for the day? When I’m given a set of rules to follow I’m usually a stickler about those rules. Although the word ‘usually’ can cause me to do the exact opposite at times too. Yeah, I’m complicated.

I don’t bake as much as I used to. When the kids were little I’d make a hundred fruit pies a year for the freezer. I love pie. I. Love. Pie. Not the easiest dessert to make, but once they’re made, baked and frozen, an easy answer for the best way to end supper. With our family of 5, a pie didn’t last long since Hubs got dibs on the extra slice sitting glumly in the pie pan. Now it takes us 3 or 4 days to get rid of a pie. And neither of us need 3 days in a row with a slice of pie, although he’d argue that point emphatically.

For the last decade when I’m baking apple pies in October, I tend to make much smaller versions, (which are just as much work). This inspiration came from my aging congregation too. A group of church ladies (they did not invite me) got together and made a hundred pies to sell. The problem? They froze the pies raw, and they were all 9 inch pies. For most members, now couples or singles at this point in their life, that’s a lotta pie. Plus it still had to be baked. I searched the Internet, found deep dish, 6 inch foil pans and bought 100. Made and baked 25 cleverly named, Itty-Bitty-Apple-Pies, slid them in quart size zip lock bags and advertised them for an upcoming church bazaar. Guess what? Not one pie was available when we opened the doors that fall morning. Workers, setter-uppers, members walking through looking at other folk’s castaways found my cute little pies. Bought them all before the general public walked through the doors. Ha!

Before I fell off the organized religion bandwagon, I did a lot of volunteering and contributing of my so-called gifts in our last church. Cooking, baking, canning and offering my goods and services. With our aging congregation anything homemade was highly anticipated and well received. I donated hundreds of jars a year of Bread & Butter Pickles, Pickled Beets and assorted jams, which were sold on Sunday morning after worship. The money was used for mission work. We had regularly scheduled dinners to raise money for a variety of needs. Chicken, pork loin, or turkey dinners, where cooks and bakers volunteered their time, but got paid for ingredients. The rest was profit going for whatever need we were trying to fill. I often signed up to make the desserts for between 125-140 people. Yikes. (I was a lot more ambitious 15 years ago).

The fund raiser that comes to mind was 6 or 8 years ago. I was responsible for desserts for 130. The tasty treats were on a table in Parish Hall. You went through a buffet line for your meal or someone served you. After you were done with the main course, (yes there are folks who maintain pork loin, potatoes, and green beans take precedence over dessert! Freaks, et al) you would peruse the dessert table and decide what you were craving to complete this feast. I made 3 different desserts, amounting to 45 servings of each: Apple Pie, German Chocolate Cake and Cream Puffs (with my homemade vanilla pudding and drizzled with dark chocolate syrup). Yum.

Shannon sends me You Tube videos on ‘how to’ for anything ranging from something cute to make for the families of our babies at work for a specific holiday to recipes I might want to try. Recently a catchy video piqued my interest. About a dozen ways to top a pie without using a whole boring crust with 4 vent slits like I’ve been doing for 45 years. Cute little cutouts like various sized hearts to top my pie, or polka dots crust, or leaves for fall. A dozen different themed crusts. I was intrigued. I got this. This was definitely doable for a pretty good pie baker. Until I’d been standing on my feet for hours. Me, with my own little assembly line of one. First thing I do is take the recipe for a 10” double crust and multiply the ingredients by 4. I make pies until I run out of pie crust dough. For the apples, I double the apples used for a 10” pie (so 16 cups total) plus the sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon and my secret weapon-nutmeg. I mix this up in a huge bowl and fill bottom crusts with gooey apples until they look “just the right amount of full.”

Now this is where I should review the fancy crust video and add the “wow” factor to my humdrum pies. But I’m bushed. If I don’t dawdle, I can make 2 or 3 pies, slide them in the oven, sit for a grand total of 5 minutes, and have just enough time to make another 2 or 3 pies just as the first 3 are done. (I really get messed up when I eat in between).

Let me back up for just a second. Several hours after the church fundraiser dinner featuring Neese’s desserts, I got an email from a friend who attended the dinner. Said she was too full for dessert so she and her family picked out desserts to take home. Later as they were enjoying my apple pie, they got curious about something I do to my crusts. She inquired, “what kind of fancy crimper do you use on the edge of your crust? We are stumped by it’s unusual design.” Huh? Fits of giggles ensued as I read the email to John. “What’s a crust crimper,” he asked? “Don’t you just use a fork?” Indeed…

Mull of Kintyre…

Not many days go by where I don’t spend at a few minutes reminiscing/ reflecting about something from my home town. I have not called Rock Valley home since 1969. Yet it remains of utmost importance in many facets of my life, nearly a half century later. I suppose this midwest town can easily be summed up as one of thousands of small rural, farming communities. The heartland of America. With a twist of course.

At the time I certainly didn’t think there was anything unusual about my town. It was just a normal little community. We had town kids (I was one and didn’t know what a soybean looked like-or cared) but many of my classmates grew up in the country-outside of our little shopping Mecca/swimming pool/park/school. They lived on farms with their parents, growing the best corn crops/cattle/hogs on earth. No, I didn’t realize that either until I grew up. Crops-bushels per acre/prices of beef and pork weren’t part of my vocabulary. Going to Sioux Falls (45 miles west) to shop, eat, see a movie, and be part of big city life, even for a short time was important. And I’ve yet not gotten to the oddity of RV.

Really shouldn’t single out Rock Valley here either. Because some of the same size small towns surrounding us were eerily similar. Instead of having a quirk, it was probably more like a county wide issue. As in Sioux County, # 84 of 99 counties in Iowa. For some reason, when Rock Valley was being founded in the late 1800’s, folks of Dutch descent flocked here. Growing up, I never gave that a thought.

That’s not to say the whole town (in the 1950’s & ’60’s, maybe 1,600 to 1,800 including all those fabulous-out-of-city-limit-farmers) were Dutch. But the vast majority were. If I click off churches that I remember, I come up with 8. One Methodist, 1 Catholic Church, and 2 Lutheran (one was several miles south of town). Add to that one Calvin Christian Reformed, the First Reformed, one Christian Reformed and the Netherlands Reformed. See what I’m saying? Goes a long way when assuming over half our town was Dutch. At least. Me included.

All 8 churches had various services on Sunday morning. I believe most began around 9:30. With Rock Valley’s one stoplight (the very reason I chose the name for my blog) directing some of the traffic flow, an extra stop sign was erected at Main Street & 16th Street to help folks arrive at their destination on time. Never a problem for the Gerritson’s small band of misfits heading short 4 blocks away. Dad would drive 1-1/2 blocks west to the stop sign. His head swiveled south, watching a string of constant traffic heading north on Main. Every church with a ‘reformed’ in their name was north of us. Weird huh? He could have easily turned north a half block from our house, then west, thus landing at the temporary stop sign and making it much easier than waiting for an opening from the traffic light. Yet Dad did not. We always arrived at church a half hour before the preacher perched on his pulpit. Our pew choice might not have been assigned formally, yet somehow we always sat in exactly the same spot. From the back of the Narthex, left aisle, approximately one third from the back. I went in first, then Mom, with Dad pulling up the rear and sitting on the end. Quite often he had to get out for some reason, help serve communion or a baptism. Dad was elected as an elder of the church (thus placing this brat on notice to behave and not embarrass him) many times. So I guess it was important to arrive early, get to our non-assigned-assigned seat, watching other folks file in. And what they were wearing. Who had on new church clothes. Just saying.

One other small detail about the 8 churches I remember. The 4 with the word Reformed in them-had second services on Sunday nights too. Sigh. You don’t know how much this little known fact affected every facet of my life from that day forward. My own fault. I forced my parents to switch churches right before I started junior high. Already did a blog or 2 about that touchy subject. But I did little when researching other venues of worship. I was just a little sheep trying to join a herd with familiar sheep faces. Did I not notice that all the churches west or south of me did not engage in that extra Sunday night service ritual? I did not. I was ecstatic having friends in my new congregation. I was an outsider and outcast at Calvin. The only kid not attending Christian school. Being a loner, I don’t know why this bothered me so much, but it did. I was happy to belong to a big group of my school peers, although probably about as many friends attended the Methodist church. Maybe in the back of my mind, I knew Mom and Dad could never be coerced into the Methodist ideology. (Dad was a firm believer in predestination). Was I really that clever? Doubtful. Either way, I made a huge deal, cried hysterically, pleaded, whined, begged, was thoroughly aggawase, Dutch word for stubborn or pig-headed and zhanicked Dutch word meaning begged, pleaded & whined for months to convince them switch to a church with kids I knew and ran around with at school. I really, really needed this after we lost Larry and they acquiesced. While I feel bad about being an all around jerk, I’m not thoroughly convinced a church change wasn’t good for Mom and Dad at that time too.

It was February 1964 and this chick had just turned 13. Something big was about to happen, literally changing the world. Alas I was totally left out. And it was a very big deal. The Beatles were going to be on TV. It was almost as good as seeing them in person. (Yeah, a small black and white TV, snowy features, no remote or surround sound). Ed Sullivan had booked The Beatles for 3 weeks in a row!! They were going to sing I Want to Hold Your Haaaannnnndddd. All four of them wearing those cool Beatle boots. Was I glued to the TV like the estimated 70 million lucky folks watching across America? Screaming, crying, fainting or swooning? No. I was in church. All 3 Sunday nights. Every Sunday night. Every. Sunday. Night. Cruel world out there Neese. You think it would have been permissible to watch The Beatles one of the Sundays. Just once. Nope. Television was off limits-period on Sundays. And we didn’t miss church. Ever. No You-Tube, Google or even a VCR tape to covet back in the day. I had to wait until I got to school on Monday morning to be filled with dark green/leaning towards black envy at the lucky ducks who got to sin on Sunday nights while I was being preached to for the second time that day. Fourth if you count Sunday school and RCYF (hmmm, not sure, Reformed Church Youth Fellowship maybe). RCYF was held in First Reformed church’s basement before the evening service and and I really did like it. Our fellowship meeting ended just as the preacher upstairs was gearing up for his second sermon of the day. We were required to file up the stairs, (guards were not posted, though a couple dads disguised as ushers were mulling around but trying not to watch us as the doors were now chained from the inside anyway. I jest) and sit in the new addition together during worship. There was no doubt, every single parent went through the mass of kid’s heads until they lit on their own, now safely ensconced to hear more of God’s word before we were allowed to ride around the loop of RV for a couple of hours. Yup, this was my life.

So I missed a lot. For this girl, there would never be a do-over. I missed watching the British Invasion at its inception. Over one third of the United States watched The Beatles on that first of three Sunday’s on the Ed Sullivan show. However, not me. Oh I still enjoyed the music of The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Monkees, Animals, Kinks, Zombies, and Herman’s Hermits. But I could never say I watched The Beatles when they were first on American TV. A sin and a regret. Should have faked an illness. I was a good liar. Great even. Could have, should have pulled it off.

By the time The Beatles broke up in 1970, I was expecting Shannon. Too busy learning about the ins and outs of marriage, figuring ways to pay our numerous bills, find something suitable and affordable besides Starkist Tuna (sorry Charlie) to eat every day rather than mourn the loss of my number one rock band. Plus the upcoming overwhelming job of motherhood. That one had me all twitchy. There was a lot on my plate besides music. But new music and news about about my favorite groups did invade my world at times nonetheless. Hubs brother Arly sent us all The Beatles and The Doors music (reel to reel) while he was in the Navy for safe keeping, which we played continuously. So, compounded with the loss of my favorite group, add to that the death of Jim Morrison (lead singer and lead hottie) of The Doors in 1971. Both hit me hard. I just didn’t have time to dwell on these minor tragedies that quite honestly didn’t affect my real life. I did feel bad though.

Shannon rocked her poncho, 1972…

I listened to a lot of music in the 70’s while raising our kids. But when homework and school activities added to the mix, the music of the 80’s didn’t get much of my attention. Until my kids really started listening to music. Which is way different than the kids of today. Much like my love of contemporary music when I became a teen, my kids didn’t listen much to the radio/tv/boom box until their early teens that I recall. By the time Shannon was in high school and Joshua in junior high did I realize I did not like most of their music when we were in the car together. If I wanted to listen to music, I now required ‘an oldies station’ much to their dismay. All my great music from the mid-60’s to around 1980. The aforementioned bands plus CCR, and still number one in my heart, Neil Diamond. It would be almost 2 decades before I started listening to new pop music again. New playlists to keep my feet and fat ass moving when I walked daily. Pitbull, JLo, Maroon 5, Enrique Iglesias, P!nk, Lady ga-ga, Black eyed Peas, Kelly Clarkson, David Guetta and Kylie Minogue. I know, I’ve lost my mind.

This re-found pleasure in popular music appears to be the reason I started attending crazy concerts during the last decade. I don’t think I’m trying to rediscover my sad sack youth or assume I’m trying to stay relevant in any way-shape-or-form. But the concerts have been a hoot.

P!nk soaring in Auburn Hills, 2013…

Which brings me to my latest adventure (and most expensive). First, the expense. I just can’t let this major gripe go on without pitching-a-bitch. I’ve never been a huge sporting event, concert person, so this weird (isn’t it illegal) phenomenon hit me hard between the eyes about 15 years ago. The Cubs were playing the Tigers in Detroit. We were buying tickets for the entire family (though not all were baseball fans-yes it breaks my heart). For some reason it was hard to buy tickets. I was used to going to Chicago Cubs, picking out the section and price I was willing to part with, pushing ‘purchase’ and have them send me my tickets. That ship sailed. It’s now required to go to Stub Hub, Ticket Master, Vivid Seats, or some other scalper and buy your $90 dollar ticket for $225. What the hell? I am in total disbelief that any ‘star’ or ‘team’ allows this to happen. Or our government. I thought if you got caught near a sporting event scalping tickets you were arrested. Now that seems to be the only way to get tickets for anything. And it seems to be legal. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Five minutes later, you’re connected to one of these blood-sucking sites and the ticket prices have tripled. A crying shame and pisses me off so bad. OK I’m done. And exhausted. Bastards. Rotten bastards.

Six months ago I noticed Paul McCartney was going on tour and Detroit was on his list of stops. About an hour from us. Wow. I already had tickets for Neil Diamond in June. Could this old gal ‘do’ 2 concerts in one calendar year? And would we have to resort to 6 months of nothing but Starkist if we bought tickets? Pretty close call. If not for Erica, my wonderful daughter-in-law who knew a guy (isn’t that always the way things get done) Her friend’s name is Jeff and he had a suite, tickets (also sweet) which didn’t cost me a dime for Diamond. Very sweet. So I took the plunge. Told the Hubs I wanted to see Paul before one of us died (Paul or me). And I wanted good seats. Paul’s concert was one of the first in our brand-spanking Little Caesars Arena, downtown Detroit. New home for the Pistons and Red Wings. Two-$150. tickets cost us $552. bucks. Bastards. Seems like Aswin (appropriate first name) Hartono bought my tickets before I could and deemed it necessary to add $252. in fees in addition to the already exorbitant prices of $150 each, thus allowing Paul to sing for Neese. I’m just not gonna say bastards again. But it’s so wrong. Just wrong.

The concert was fantastic. No changing of sets or clothes for Paul. At 75 years young he came on stage and sang for almost 3 hours. Started out with A Hard Day’s Night (he probably knew it was gonna be). He told story tidbits, dedicated a song tribute for his late wife Linda. For John Lennon, A Day in the Life and “all we are saying, is give peace a chance.” For George Harrison it was, Hey Jude. The sold out crowd helped Paul by singing, “nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, hey Jude for 5 minutes. (I might have lost track of some ‘nahs’ there, but you get my drift). Paul’s voice was a bit wobbly by the end, but he came out for 2 curtain calls. The last one was ‘Yesterday’ on an acoustic guitar with a Red Wings sticker on it. The crowd went nuts.

So glad we went. Well worth it. Parking 1/2 block away was 40 bucks, my Paul t-shirt another $45. We’re been pretty content with tuna casserole for a month of Sundays. About the blog post title. I’ve always been somewhat different in my choice of favorite songs of a band as opposed to everyone else’s favorite song by the same group or individual. Three songs from The Beatles or Paul with Wings remain on most of my playlists for walking.

1. Ob la Di
2. Ballad of John & Yoko
3. Mull of Kintyre (by Wings)…


I don’t know whose idea it was at first. Shannon’s certainly smarter than me, and much more clever. At the time though, I was the money supplier for such extravagances. What I can pinpoint and tell you is almost the exact time within a few days. It was October, 1991. Where it began.

Shannon & Josh, 1976…

Twenty-six years ago there were 3 likely venues to choose from. Penny’s, Sears and Olan Mills. The Sunday paper carried coupon specials that were hard to beat. Get your baby’s picture taken for $1.99, sometimes as low as 99 cents. For that sum you could choose one 8 x 10 from maybe 3 poses. An incredible deal. However, these businesses made their money by guilting you into buying more than one picture. These photographers were ruthless and relentless in their bid to make money off us poor unsuspecting new parents. They had been well trained not to take no for an answer. They’d lump some locket sized charms, wallets, 5 x 7’s all in different (the cutest) poses to wear you down until you’d pay just about anything for those damn pictures and get out of there. Because your kid was never gonna be that cute, wear that outfit or have that same adorable smile ever again. It happened often enough to this hapless, helpless mom when my kids were small (and cute, wearing adorable outfits from my Mom, with beaming angelic smiles). Walking out of those store I’d be half crying/cursing for spending money-we-could-ill-afford-on-pictures.

Shannon 1, 1971…

By 1991 we were a little better off. The kids, Shannon 20, Joshua 16, and Adam now 12, were long past getting their picture taken every 3 months because they changed so much and fast. But our granddaughter Ariana was getting close to her first birthday.

Ariana, 10 months, 1991…

We had already had several pictures of this exquisite child taken at various ages in different stores. Ari was a natural, stunning with the most beautiful almond shaped eyes and arched eyebrows. With this many years in service as a mom and now gram, I wore a tough coat of armor when being accosted by the hard selling band of photographers. And I was honing Shannon’s skills early as a young mom. She could offer a steely-eyed glance that would burn the lips right off their smiling face as they hit paragraph 2 during the sales pitch. Makes me a little teary. Yup, I taught her well.

My favorite picture, Adam & Joshua, 1980…

So unless Shannon’s going to argue the point, I will take the credit of the bath time pictures. Ari was 9 months old, probably having her picture done at Olan Mills. I may have had a lot of resolve in saying no to enormous picture packages, but had not yet acquired the set of skills needed in saying no to buying bundles from Olan Mills. When I bought these bundles, there were time constraints involved. I had a year to schedule 3 different photo shoots. I could fake a sick kid, or say the Hubs was out of town on business and stretch it out a couple extra months if I needed to. They actually were pretty lenient. Olan Mills always did a good job getting cute poses, and didn’t seem quite as crestfallen when I said no fourteen times. In a row. At one sitting. So Shannon and I were trying to come up with something different when we took Ariana in for yet another round of pictures. One of us (ok, me) thought maybe a bathtub shot would be cute.

Ariana, 1991…

Well, the bathtub pictures turned out simply adorable. My favorite part was Ari’s little curled toes. By now Ari had her first set of white high tops (as every baby should. BTW, my Hightops & Onesies story from May, 2017 is rather funny. I know, I was surprised too. Read it some night when you’re having trouble falling asleep). Anyway, I always had a tough time getting her high tops on that chubby little foot of hers. When I noticed her toes curled up tight as a drum on the picture I realized why I was having so much trouble.

Zoom forward 10 years, 2001 (which really took all of 3 minutes). Landon, (Drew to the rest of the world) is now about 9 months old. Shannon and I decide to have his picture taken with some kind of bathtub scene like we did with Ari. Turned out just as cute. Those dark ringlet curls all over his head like a halo. In one of the pictures he’s holding a basketball. Of course. He has yet to let go. I decided to have Ari’s and Landon’s professionally matted and framed with matching frames and mats. Our master bathroom in North Muskegon is huge with a whirlpool tub. I hang both pictures on one wall above the tub. Man does that look cute.

Landon, 2001…

Wait, we’re not done. Late 2004, Miss Peyton is now 9 months old. Her bathtub shots were all gauzy and she was chewing on a bead necklace. It’s adorable. I go back to the frame shop (still open, thank heavens) with Landon’s picture so they can match the blue mat and metal frame. And kind of wonder if I’ll have anymore grandkids? Shannon seems kind of done, but there’s still Adam and Josh with no kids between them. Oh what the heck. Just in case, I order 2 extra mats and frames. For future use. If there’s ever a need.

Peyton, 2004…

Sure enough, God gifted us with an incredible grandson named Graham in 2009. I reminded Sarah and Adam every month of Graham’s life about our family tradition of bathtub scene pictures around 9 months. Sarah had G’s appropriate picture taken at the same age as the rest of the grands. It too turned out so cute. When I spot Graham’s little leg high in the air, I just smile. I kind of thought my last picture frame would be wasted. None of the kids seemed to be having any more babies. The wall of four tubby time pictures of our grandkids have been my favorites since I hung the first one up.

Graham, 2009…

Months after we moved back to Jackson, our bathroom remodel was finally done. But it’s less than half the size of our old master bath. I’ve stood with those 4 framed grandkid pictures a dozen times, staggering the frames, holding them up and down, straight, from the ceiling, to no avail. Trying to figure out a way to get them on a wall without overpowering that rather small space. Cannot. Be. Done. So back in the spare bedroom they’d sit on the floor. Forlorn and dusty.

And then along comes Jovi! The best surprise package this family’s had since 2009. Our amazing first great-granddaughter. How times have changed. I don’t think Olan Mills is even still in business. Haven’t had pictures taken at Sears or Penny’s in years. I’ve been keeping tabs on the months flying by and reminding Ari to get a bathtub picture when Jovi’s 9 months old. Which Ari did by a talented young photographer named Faryn Steel yesterday. I’m sure these are some the preliminary shots aimed to tease us (well done Faryn), but my oh my. Jovi. This baby is simply too cute. She melts my heart. Melts. My. Heart.

A mommy snapshot of Jovi, 5 months…

What to do about our darling picture less bathroom? Now I’ve got another fabulous picture to squeeze in a too-small-room. I think I’ve come up with a plan. I’m going to take all of the pictures out of their custom frames, resizing them all to 5 x 7’s with a mat, or 8 x 10 without a mat. Try and find a hanging pattern which suits my one big wall in the bathroom. Hubs is great at figuring that stuff out. And I’m instructing him to leave an inconspicuous spot open. For another bathtub shot if the need arises. Just in case…

Jovi photographed by Faryn Steel, 10-17…

The Trouble with Bubbles…

Couple weeks from now we’ll celebrate 2 years in our fixer-upper. Man has that gone fast. Partly because we existed in a three-year-time-warp trying to sell our North Muskegon house in order to move. But mostly because of all the things that needed to be done here-all at the same time. At first it was fun, picking out paint colors, appliances, light fixtures. Soon it became tedious. First thing every morning we’d stop at Lowes, Menards or Home Depot, with a revised list in hand. It was hard to keep our bubbling enthusiasm going. We wanted to be settled, finally done with our long list of to-do’s and hunker down for winter.

Except for the broken glass from the front storm door strewn all over the porch and yard, nothing got done outside. The door had to be replaced as it was hanging by one screw. Curb appeal ‘ya know? There was just too much to do getting the house ready to live in. We eliminated a third of our household goods from North Muskegon. It was after we moved everything (twice) when we realized we still had way too much stuff. But here’s the thing. I like stuff. Especially my stuff. Collections and antiques. It’s like comfort food, having familiar things I’m used to, in our new place. Familiarity felt good. Tasty.

So I crammed, stuffed, rearranged, moved, squished, squeezed all I possibly could into our little house. And felt pretty good about how the place looked and had turned out. My living room still boasted quite a few of my favorite antiques, plus a new Lazy Boy. Just for me. Somewhere to blog, have a cup of tea in the afternoon and not be bothered by the family room’s TV. Perfect.

Fast forward six months. Spring. The most popular sentence in our vocabulary is-holy hanna, the outside of this place is an absolute disaster! The worst offender was the broken, dilapidated blacktop driveway. Must be original to our 1963 home. Took up half of the front yard! Tore it out and poured a new cement driveway. Removed a tree that was bigger than our house and had some issues, new roof on the garage, replaced the central air, started planting grass, and pulling out the horror show of old landscaping. We were knee deep in outdoorsy stuff, (not my favorite) including 5 ton of river rock and landscaping shrubs.

One day John noticed something odd about the living room carpet. Suddenly it looked like undulating-amber-waves-of-grain (wheat color carpet). There were 4 or 5 little rolls/waves all over the room. Grabbed my phone, snapped a couple of pictures and headed back to the big box store called Home Depot. Waited our turn, stated the complaint, passed Adrianne my phone with documentation. She called her boss and they decided we needed to have the carpet stretched. Set up an appointment with the carpet layers. It was up to us to take out everything out of the living room and hallway. Ugh. It’s a small house. There’s not a lot of places to set large, heavy, imposing antiques. I cleared the stacking oak bookcase, filled with everything from soup to nuts. A virtual catch all of things near and dear. The china closet full of Blue Delft, emptied and separated by shelves. All my Isabel Bloom statues (each weighing about a ton). The carpet crew came, hauling some kind of machine to stretch, did their little job, vacuumed up the fragments and left.

Carpet looked pretty good. I decided to rearrange the room since it was empty. (Ended up doing 3 rooms). By now we had been here about a year. A couple antiques were just in the wrong place. From the get-go I felt the curved glass china closet should be by the dining room table, but it was a tight squeeze and begging for a chair to bump into the curved glass. Decided to put the smallest of the 3 curved glass pieces (yeah, I couldn’t get rid of any of them) in the dining area which sports my Waterford glassware. Hubs was feeling magnanimous and offered a wall to hold the biggest curved glass secretary in ‘his’ room. This one holds my Lladro pieces, which are statues of mostly soft muted tones of blues, white and grays. This works well with light gray walls and medium gray carpet in the family (his) room. The Blue Delft china closet would be home in my living room.

For the most part we were just actually living in our house. Oh, there’s still a shorter list of to-do’s, but nothing pressing. I want to take out the dishwasher (never use it) add a cupboard (which I desperately need), get new countertops, backsplash, cupboard handles (these are ceramic-with daisies, hut-fa-duttie) and a new sink. All in due time Neese.

But almost 2 years after moving in, Hubs was getting antsy. We have a 2-1/2 stall garage which is still pretty full. We’ve come to terms that our remaining antiques gathering dust and scratches out there are never gonna find a home in this house. The kids have taken several pieces but there’s still more. John is tired of parking his truck outside. (However, I have been able to squeeze my Jeep in the garage). Hubs wanted to buy a shed and plop it in back of the garage, which is really wasted space anyway. The price of the sheds he preferred are outrageous. He called Duke (our bathroom remodel guy) for a quote to add on to our existing garage instead. A deal was struck and construction commenced, albeit slowly. We weren’t in a hurry as long as it was complete before winter. Duke finished his part, now it’s John’s turn to tidy up, move stuff and clean up the backyard again. We’re determined to get the antiques sold and out of the garage this fall.

Seems like every time we get distracted with a project, something happens when we’re not paying attention. This time it was me who spotted the issue. “Hey John, what’s that bump in the carpet from?” Not again? Yup. Well shit. At least the 3 waves were in different spots, but again only in our living room. We bought 5 different carpets and spent the most money on the living room carpet. Go figure. More pictures and back to Home Depot. Adrianne (mumbling under her breath when she spotted us saddling up cozily in her work station) looked at the pictures, called her superior Patty again, hung up and said, “no, not this time. The carpet’s 18 months old.” “But you’re still trying to correct a problem from the initial installation, or something’s wrong with that particular carpet,” I pleaded heatedly. She looked at me sympathetically and dialed another number. Talked for a minute and said, “we just got a new assistant manager, he’s a good guy. He’s agreed to come out and take a look and get some of his own pictures. Is that ok?” “Sure, thanks for the extra effort Adrianne,” I said as we left.

One of the biggest ripples was right by the front door, which ordinarily is not used. When Paul (from Home Depot, not Jake from State Farm) stepped through the front door, he glanced down and said, “oh boy, I see what you mean. We’re gonna fix this. I don’t know if it’s the carpet or the way it was installed. I’ll have to figure that out, but we will fix this.” He called a couple days later, set up an appointment 3 weeks in advance to have the carpet re-stretched because they’d had no complaints on the carpet itself from other customers. Which meant taking out all the knick-knacks from the bookcase and china closet, moving those chunky Isabel Bloom’s and all the furniture. Again.

The china closet has claw feet with wheels, so it moves pretty smooth, but a couple of the wheels like to fall out when it’s rolling. The bookcase is just a pain in the ass to move. One of my favorite pieces though. Willed to me in 2008 from a feisty old gal named Mildred (one of my better stories titled Mildred & Charlie, October, 2014). It’s a 5 section stacking oak bookcase, each section comes apart and is a slightly different size than the next section. Took Hubs a couple of hours to figure out the sequence the first time. (The movers solved this dilemma by wrapping the whole bookcase in Saran Wrap and just picking it up). I asked Josh and Adam for their help this time. Adam agreed to move the furniture out, Joshua would come after the carpet was done.

Our appointment was on Wednesday. Adam ended up coming on Saturday night, after working all day at The Chop House in Ann Arbor. He planned on coming Monday to move things but Graham’s great grandma Betty had fallen and broke her hip. Meaning his grandma Karen (Betty’s daughter) needed to be at the hospital with Betty and couldn’t watch G on Saturday. We’re always happy getting that wonderful kid for an extra day. It would be silly for Adam to drive here to pick up Graham late Saturday night and not move the measly few big pieces rather than come back and do it sometime Monday. Still, meant an extra 2 days with living room furniture packed tightly in my small kitchen. Wednesday morning Hubs is expecting a call to set up a definite time, instead they call to reschedule for Thursday because someone called in sick. Dang it. I had hope to put everything back Wednesday night because great grandpa had 8 month old Jovi coming Thursday morning at 7. Plus now I had to ask Josh to switch days.

Josh was gracious and came over on Thursday, so it all worked out. I got home right after the carpet guys left, but did not start hauling the small stuff back in the room until Ari came to pick up Jovi. Josh helped move our fire pit in the backyard, got the big pieces put where I wanted (rearranged them again) and move the antiques in the garage so he and John could take pictures to advertise them. And of course he can now park in our garage. Finally.

John and I were surprised at how big the living room looked-empty. On one hand I love all my stuff nestled close to me. On the other hand, clutter makes me twitchy. What to do, what to do? I need balance people. Arms laden with load after load of miscellaneous momentos and small glassware pieces back to the living room, I might have found the perfect niche. I just had too much little stuff cluttering up the big pieces. My lovely antique oak library table was almost completely covered with little do-dads.

When I was in Paris this July, I bought one very nice (small) piece of Baccarat crystal, which I hadn’t taken out of the box yet. Why? No room or proper place to show it off. The time had come for the tiny crystal butterfly to emerge from its red box cocoon. I spotted a perfect home. On the oval library table, but minus a dozen knick-knacks of minor significance. Hubs noticed it walking through and said, “what’s that?” “Oh, the one good remembrance piece from Paris,” I replied. He countered with, “Cute, how much?” Luckily my memory tends to fog on such matters, though I tried to stay in the ballpark. Or the general vicinity of the ballpark. He flinched-visibly. (That right there was worth the price of admission). A couple hours later I was basking in my slightly trimmed down, minimalistic version of this new, tidy living room. The sun was shining and glinting off the crystal butterfly. “Wow John, the butterfly is simply stunning when the sun’s shining on it,” I oozed, mesmerized. “For that much money, the damn thing should fly,” he shot back…