Tag: Family

An Unusual Easter for the Year 2020

Easter basket with dyed eggs and plush bunnyThe year 2020 brings forth an unusual Easter. Here in the United States many locations have enacted a stay-at–home decree. The regulation and enforcement vary from state to state and even from town to town. Indeed, individual families also carry out differing practices.

In an agricultural based economy such as that found over the vast Great Plains, many people work in essential businesses. Animals need to be fed. Spring planting can’t be delayed. So all around my small town many are going about their work.

But, Covid-19 has brought about a disruption in life even here. Our churches are not congregating. Nor are our schools in session. Playground equipment at parks is cordoned off. Due to my status only the former directly affects me.

Unusual Easter 2020

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday ushered in an unusual Easter week. No church attendance meant no waving of the palms by the Sunday school classes at the start of church service. A tradition I loved as a Sunday school teacher.

Spring like weather brought forth tulips, hyacinths and even the hops. But no city wide Easter egg hunt and no Good Friday community service put on by our town’s ministerial alliance. So it was not too surprising that by the end of the week I became a bit blue.

Fortunately, Good Friday turned out to be good. And even though the spring shower formed to the East, the first rainbow of the season brought a fitting end to a day. Friday started out teary but changed to one of joyful preparation for an unusual Easter.

Family Togetherness at a Safe Distance

My niece lives a mile away, but due to this nasty virus afflicting the world and an abundance of caution I have seen her only once in the last few months. At that time a window separated us as she dropped off some farm fresh eggs in exchange for some Econogal’s Granola and strawberry-blueberry jam.

But we talk on the phone from time to time. This unusual Easter week more often because of her plan to share the holiday even though apart. She is putting a meal together to take to her grandmother. The food will be left on the porch much like the eggs. My contribution is dinner rolls from a Bread Illustrated recipe.

The trip will take three hours or so. The distance is about 100 miles one way. The extra time will be spent at a quick stop in a small town 30 miles from her parents. Again the visiting will be through a window-in this case a car window. Grandparents want to see their grandkids on holidays if at all possible.

Extra precautions due to Covid-19

This distancing may seem extreme. But, my mother-in-law is well into her 80s and we want her around for years to come. She is an incredible person still active in one facet of the family agribusiness. Furthermore, we want to keep my niece healthy. She is expecting another little one soon. You may remember the Train Quilt made for the younger of her two children. So extra precautions are in order this unusual Easter.

My official contribution is dinner rolls, but I have a few surprises as well. I have sugar cookie dough ready to roll out. My Easter cookie cutters have been dug out of the cookie cutter drawer. I have enough powdered sugar to make a buttercream icing and enough dye left over from the Easter egg dyeing to make colorful frosted cookies.

Truly I think dyeing the eggs lifted my spirits the most. However, I also enjoyed putting together surprise packages to keep my niece’s kids entertained on the drive they will undertake on an unusual Easter morning. For those of us that are Christians, Easter springs forth eternal life. I am grateful for the renewal each year.

During this terrible world-wide pandemic, find ways to celebrate life and living. We cannot predict the future. But we can live to the best of our ability in today’s uncertainty. There will be no large family gathering this Easter for us, but there will be lots of shared love.

Valentine’s Day is Special

Valentine’s Day is special to me. Not for the flowers, or the cards or even the chocolate candy that my sweet tooth often craves. But for the birth of my father. If he did not exist then naturally I would not be here. Life is precious.

Mom and Dad

My parents, like many couples that have passed their 50th Anniversary have a special relationship. One cultivated by time. Shared accomplishments tempered by disappointments. Shared losses dulled by new joys. My hope is that her dementia does not cloud her understanding of today’s double celebration.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day meant a heart shaped birthday cake for Dad. Double chocolate with both cake and icing originating at one point in time from the cocoa bean. But at our house Betty Crocker did her share of the prep.

Valentine’s Day 2020

This year marks my Dad’s 81st celebration. I am not there in person but will be mindful of the love and guidance I have received over the years. Hopefully, his card has arrived. It is pretty darn hard to find those Birthday/Valentine’s Day combination cards.

Dad recently endured the last of his radiation treatments for the male breast cancer he is battling. The following day he made a five hour drive to see his brother who is also struggling with serious health issues. I talked with both men that day. Brotherly love emanated over the phone line. But I am sure the visit was bittersweet. It is hard to say goodbye.

Share the Love

The cynics I know view Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday. They cringe at the expense. But, the day can be celebrated on a budget. Dining in can be more romantic then going to a restaurant.

Furthermore, not everything needs to be purchased. I still remember my 4-H group making Valentine’s cards for the residents in the nursing home. The cost was not great but the joy was priceless.

Valentine’s Day is special. Share the love with family and friends. Life is finite but love is always expanding. Happy birthday Dad and all the other Valentine’s babies out there. If you can’t have a heart shaped cake this year look for heart shaped cookies- I think I will go make a batch.

Double Valentine's Day Themed Wreaths on an entrance
Happy Valentine’s Day

This Tender Land Book Review

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger is a brilliant tale worthy of reading. However, I am not sure how to categorize the novel.  Perhaps it belongs to the coming-of-age genre, or maybe included with the mystical. Nonetheless, this story of faith or lack thereof is a compelling one.

Krueger uses the Great Depression as the backdrop for This Tender Land. The story weaves through many complexities of life as it follows four young vagabonds down river. They struggle not only with life and death but also good and evil.

The Storyteller, The Genius, The Giant and The Princess

Odie is The Storyteller of the four. He describes himself as the imp, the one always dragging others into trouble. This reader found a tremendous depth of character in one so young. After a series of disastrous events, Odie sees God as a Tornado God- one that wreaks havoc everywhere. His older brother Albert, The Genius of the Vagabonds concurs.

The other two leading characters are Muse and Emmy; The Giant and the Princess. Muse is a compelling character. He is an orphaned Sioux Indian made mute when someone cut out his tongue after killing his mother. Krueger expounds on the unjustness encountered by the American Indian, deftly weaving the history of the Plains Indians into the story.

Emmy the Princess is just a little girl. But she is a mystic and so many events in the story as well as the Faith questions revolve around this young orphan cherished by the others as a sister.

This Tender Land

This Tender Land presents the harsh realities of the Great Depression. The reader visualizes the Hoovervilles, the Indian School, the Revival Tent, even the Brothel with clarity. Indeed this reality lends the depth desired for inclusion in an English Lit class.

Even though parts of the story may make one uncomfortable, the struggle with faith is an important one. This Tender Land in the end is more than just a story of four young vagabonds escaping an untenable life.  The tale is wrought with the meaning of life. One that Krueger points out is worth living regardless of the heartache along the way.

Lights All Night Long Book Review

New literary voices are fun to discover. Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut novel Lights All Night Long will appeal to readers of multiple genres. Unsolved murders lurk in the background of this novel exploring contemporary issues.

Exchange Student

The protagonist is high school exchange student Ilya Alexandrovich from a remote part of Russia. The town is connected to an energy company which arranges exchanges of students to a Louisiana town also revolving around an energy company. Hence the title Lights All Night Long.

Fitzpatrick utilizes flashback chapters to explain how and why Ilya arrives with a burden. The change of location keeps the story line straight. But there are many similarities between the two towns which reach far beyond the refineries. One could substitute for the other.

Contemporary Issues

The author subtly presents the split between students who become engaged in learning and those that fall prey to outside sources. There is a large presence of drugs in both towns and the writer successfully demonstrates the many forces involved in drug abuse. Along with the use of drugs and alcohol, the novel touches upon teen sex as an outgrowth of the disengagement of students from school activities.

Murder Plot

Entwined with the story of Ilya and his brother Vladimir are a series of brutal murders. A major twist occurs when Vladimir confesses to the crimes. But Ilya does not believe the confession. Furthermore, he is determined to prove the confession was coerced.

Lights All Night Long in America

Ilya’s exchange family is given the contemporary stereotype of Evangelical Christians. But the oldest child, Sadie, does not quite fit in. Yet, she has her own reasons for staying out of the hardcore drug scene.

Between Ilya and Sadie, Fitzpatrick demonstrates through the actions of her characters the close binds of family. Both youngsters rise above the drug drenched culture found in many places today. But both are loyal to those captured by drug addiction.

Lights All Night Long is an excellent debut novel. The chapter flashbacks are a key part of the story. Lydia Fitzpatrick does a good job of moving the story along during the flashbacks and the current day chapters. The twists and turns in the murder plot keep the reader turning the pages.

But what I liked best about the book were the characters. At first glimpse many seem stereotypical. But they are not. Each develops into a complex human being. Perfection does not exist, but neither does total failure. Above all, there is love.

 

 

 

The Perfect Holiday

Egg casserole with a bit of liquid in the bottom.
Delicious in taste but a bit too much liquid for a perfect start to the day.
Christmas has officially come and gone for 2018. As a holiday, the day may not have been one for the record books, but from a personal standpoint things were good. Perhaps aging provides perspective. Or maybe I am losing some of my Type A personality. But things no longer need to be perfect. Just enjoyable.

The start could have been smoother. The breakfast casserole that I threw together Christmas Eve was a tad bid liquid. Maybe it was the bacon pieces rendering too much fat as they cooked. Or perhaps the frozen potatoes not soaking up the egg mixture. The nine eggs and cup or so of milk seemed to cook into the correct consistency on the bread layer but not necessarily the potato layer.

Even though most of the family enjoyed the casserole, I will not be sharing the recipe. In the past this rocky start could have ruined the day. But not this holiday. There were too many timelines to meet.
Since one family member resides in a nursing home, the soggy breakfast accompanied by some burnt toast (perhaps an attempt by someone to sop up the juices?) gave way to the needed departure. Loading wheelchairs into trunks adds to travel logistics. But worth the effort to see the smile on a beloved face. In a perfect world our bodies would not betray us. Nor would our minds.

Adults Only Holiday

The youngest in the group is old enough to have voted in the last election. The pitter-patter of little feet does not apply (yet) to the gathering. In some ways this stamped the day. The opening of presents was staggered throughout the day as some family members did not reach the house until after a Disney Brunch. The oldest member of the group (wheelchair bound) received gifts at lunchtime. The house is not handicapped accessible. There was an ebb and flow as the entourage split up and regrouped.

An abhorrent thought in the past, this unity/non-unity allowed individuals to seek out diverse holiday experiences. This was good. The group thrived while sharing a special meal. The dining selection of Paradiso 37 at Disney Springs provided an opportunity to commune. The menu offered selections from the appetizer portion of poutine, a Canadian favorite, to Tres Leches, from our southern neighbors, as a dessert option. The flexibility created a laid back vibe to the celebration. Sometimes banner days need not be choreographed.

A perfect holiday occurred this Christmas. The perfection came from the pleasure noted at the end of the day. I missed the sound of laughter and even an occasional squabble from the under twenty crowd. But my great nieces and nephews celebrated elsewhere. Sometimes we need to enjoy those we are with and forget about the soggy eggs and the lack of squeals.

November Wrap-Up

Yes this month’s wrap-up is two days early. But the last day of November falls on a Friday. I try to keep Friday’s posts reserved for book reviews. The blogs I regularly read tend to keep a schedule and I know I am disappointed when a website goes off track. Perhaps one of you can offer a solution to conflicting posts other than releasing two at once.

November is a time to reflect. It is also a time of thanks. I shared many of the things I am grateful for in the post, Thanksgiving Thankfulness. Our own holiday gathering this year was small in numbers but the atmosphere was delightful.

I grew up in a small family. I do not remember having more than a dozen people for either Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. However, I married into a large family. Thus, one year I entertained over sixty in my home. We put up card tables everywhere! Of course this number included second cousins along with the various “Great” grandparents, aunts and uncles. It will be interesting to see how close the next generation remains. Rural areas continue to lose their younger generations to the cities.

Quilting

The quilting room is the focus of my days. I finished piecing the Love Quilt began last spring. This panel quilt combines pre-made panels with traditional blocks in an original design. The quilt is ready to layer. However, the completion of a small baby quilt takes priority. I will be a great-aunt yet again in January. Look for a post then on the design. I don’t want to spoil the surprise!

November Weather

Our weather has been quite wacky. We have already enjoyed the moisture from two snows. Yet today the temperature will be in the mid-sixties. On the plus side, I am still harvesting rosemary and sage from the herb garden. The mint on the back patio has also survived. While the raised row garden has been mulched with leaves for the winter, a few green onions remain to use in the kitchen as well.

However, the possibility for cold and snow makes travelling trickier. These last weeks of fall often resemble winter. Tips for winter travel sounds like a good idea for a post. Other posts to look for next month include a ranking of my top book reviews. Holidays are a great time to give books! They are also a time to try new recipes. Check back to see what December brings to Econogal.

Thanksgiving Thankfulness

Floral Thanksgiving cornucopiaPlease and Thank you are two words used frequently in this household. They were among the first words each of my offspring uttered. The first expresses a courtesy while the second conveys appreciation. My strong belief is life should be approached with politeness and thankfulness.

Strangers and acquaintances might roll their eyes at this. They might think I have had an easy life so being thankful is easy to do. However, those close to me know the hardships I have faced. Just like many of you have faced or are facing challenges. Indeed we all have tough times. But as I discussed yesterday with one of the beloved millennial’s in my family, happiness comes from within. Thankfulness is needed most when times are tough.

Social Networks

Social networks are one way to express thanks. My freshman roommate routinely writes a message of thanks each day during the month of November. I was concerned when I checked November 2, and there was no post yet. But the next time I checked, she had an explanation and I look forward to each of her posts. She is an elementary teacher. I am thankful this country still has great people in that profession.

As a blogger, I follow a number of blogs and actively participate in several. I am grateful for those blogs that provide knowledge in both the garden and the kitchen. Other blogs I read usually revolve around books. I am also thankful for those loyal readers of my own blog. Your feedback, whether a like or a comment is appreciated.

Millennials

I adore Millennials. Perhaps because I taught at the college level for so long or perhaps because most of my kids fall into this demographic. However, the age gap keeps me from sharing much of my personal life as is the norm within this demographic. But this is a time to share my thankfulness.

Some of these individuals that I follow on social media I know personally. Others are total strangers. But all have a positive impact on my outlook on life. Some are bloggers, others are entrepreneurs. They are at the beginning of their lives and have no qualms about sharing their experiences. I want to thank them all.

Similar to my freshman roommate, one millennial I follow is creating regular thank you posts on her Instagram account. I am proud of the young lady now in the running for the next Miss USA. Particularly since I believe this was one of her goals as she sat in my classroom.  I am grateful that she stays in touch even though she now lives in the big city. Those of you with Instagram can follow #madisondorenkamp as she prepares for the national competition.

In that very same classroom sat a young entrepreneur. His views often ran opposite others in class. Now he is enjoying success on many levels. His marketing podcasts and his posts from his speaking engagements across the country always pique my interest. I appreciate the information he shares. His company website can be accessed here.

At the present time, there are no grandchildren in my life. So I am very grateful to the young lady in Kentucky who makes sure I get to see her precious tots at least twice a year. (I am also grateful to their two grandmothers who don’t mind the hugs I receive.)

Furthermore this young lady is inspirational. She too, experienced the death of a sibling at a young age. Each year she honors him on Instagram. In addition, she recently lost a good friend to breast cancer. Her response was to join others to help create a foundation honoring one lost too soon. Consider donating to the Shantel Lanerie Foundation by clicking here. Even though we sometimes lose loved ones before a life fully lived, we are still thankful they were in our lives. And for their positive impact even after they are gone.

Family

Seldom do I discuss family. But I am most thankful for this group. Some are loyal readers and followers. Thanks go out to my cousin’s wife; one of my first followers, and my aunt and my father, also followers and providers of feedback. Blogs are challenging for 50 somethings, much less senior generations!

A special thanks to my offspring and their significant others. Thankfulness is in abundance for this group. Among them are loyal followers, participants in the challenges, photographers and even a comment now and then. I appreciate all of them more than they know.

They are a diverse group. Both ends of the political spectrum are represented, yet they still break bread at the table together. (Of course it helps not to talk politics at the table!) My hope is this tolerance for others’ views continues. Too often families divide over little things. Life is a long road and it helps to have support through the years.

Of course there is also the guy I share my life with. Thirty-three years together. Some blissful, others heartbreaking. When doctors give you bad news it is important to have someone rock solid beside you. The same holds true for other life altering events. Thankfulness barely touches the surface of the feelings I have for this man with whom I am riding the roller coaster of life.

Reflect on Thankfulness

Thanksgiving week is a time of cooking, baking, travelling and visiting. The weekend prior is spent sifting through family recipes and remembering feasts from long ago. The day before, full of prep in the kitchen. But the week is also a time to reflect.

Please take time to reflect. Reach out and let people know your gratitude. If fences need to be mended, mend them. If you are experiencing great loss at this time, have faith. Thankfulness reminds us of better times and gives hope for future times. Reflect this Thanksgiving on life and living with thankfulness in your heart.