We no longer go to the old farmhouse for holidays—it is too
much for my mother and has been for several years. I hosted our immediate family
again for Thanksgiving this year, our first major holiday since my dad’s death,
and my tears brined our turkey.
I was doing well: setting the tables, preparing the meal, enjoying
our home filled with our children and grandchildren, but then I stepped on the
cat’s tail, she howled, and I cried.
This grief jumps from around corners and invades the quiet moments of my life. It startles me, catching me without my security system set securely around my heart. Like today—the first delicious snow day of the school year. This gift of eight hours of unscheduled time smiles at me.
The house is mine.
The day is mine.
I sit with my coffee, admiring the beautiful, wet snow smothering
the bird feeders, flocking the pines, blanketing the lawn, and I miss my dad.
I am a magpie when it comes to drink mixology. My friends think I create our special drinks for our monthly gatherings, but the truth is, I am a shameless copy-cat. If Dennis and I go to a restaurant, for instance, I will usually order the seasonal drink special. I often take pictures of the ingredients, and I’m not above asking the bartender about the liquid ratios. (Flattery can get a gal just about anything she wants…) The part I don’t duplicate is the drink name–I always give my “designer drinks” a signature name: the Spring Fling, Summer’s Last Kiss, and the Snow Day are just a few. It has become a tradition and something my friends look forward to.
So when my friend Krista gave me Tim Federle’s Tequila Mockingbird last year as a hostess gift, it was very appropriate. (It is not unusual to receive a hostess gift from my girlfriends–I think we were all raised by mothers who read Miss Manners and Heloise’s Helpful Hints.) I thanked her and set the book aside–probably placing it on my bedside nightstand. I had never seen the book before, and it was several weeks before I began reading it. I have thoroughly enjoyed it and have appreciated revisiting it throughout the year. Not only are there some delightful cocktail recipes (“One Flew over the Cosmo’s Nest” is a tasty riff on the classic Cosmo and an easy place to start), but there are witty and smart plot summaries and character discussion. Federle’s writing is full of puns and playful word choice.
I recommend it! It will bring a smile to your face and encourage you to create something special for your glass! And, of course, it makes a fantastic host or hostess gift for a future gathering.
is havin’ a really great year,” my seven-year-old granddaughter shares late
last summer as we weed her herb garden. Her twin brother Caleb is having a
playdate with a friend, so we are enjoying some rare one-on-one time together. She
converses with me in that delightful way young children do with people they
know and trust—completely, openly, sincerely—and she clearly has opinions about
their current rooster and his quality of life.
What constitutes a good year for a rooster?
All his ladies at his disposal?
A crowd to admire his strut and swag?
several chickens who wandered the farm of my childhood. When I was seven, we
had a rooster with these feathery bangs we named “Ringo.” The Beatles had just
begun their U.S. tour, and my brother and I found the Fab Four’s hairdos both
hilarious and amazing. When Ed Sullivan featured the Beatles in 1964, I watched,
laughed and danced, shaking my head and playing an air guitar before there was
a name for such things. Our rooster
Ringo was king of the barn and certainly wouldn’t have eaten from my hand no matter
how patiently and persistently I would have tried. A “great year” for Ringo
would have included lots of bugs and corn to eat, as he led the simple life of
an under-appreciated bachelor.
rooster doesn’t really have a name. Just “Rooster.” He has free range of
everything on their little ten-acre homestead: the woods, the yard, the
driveway, even the garage. He has a selection of twelve fine-looking hens—well
muscled and productive—and he is ever-vigilant, crowing if concerned by a
sudden change or separation of his brood.
So what makes “Rooster” and his year
he just knows that brother and I are gentle and kind. Our other rooster didn’t
know that. But this rooster doesn’t chase us, so we reward him.”
How do you reward a rooster?
A trip to the neighbor’s coop for
a little tryst?
A new perch from which to announce
sometimes when I’m pickin’ berries, I save some an’ he comes to me and eats
outta my hand,” she continues.
you.” She confidently marches to the nearby blueberry bushes, picks a tiny
handful, and crouches low to the ground. She quietly calls to Rooster.
“It’s okay. You’re a good boy. Come here…I have blueberries for you.” She holds her little cupped hands still and continues to talk softly… gently… and sure enough, Rooster slowly approaches her and picks the berries carefully from her hand. He doesn’t hurt her or peck at her when the berries are gone. He simply cocks his head one when and then the other, then scoots off to scratch for bugs near the raspberry canes. Chloe brushes off her hands, stands, and turns to me, proud and satisfied.
Here’s what I know: our amazing world
will be at this child’s command.
seven-year-old granddaughter has learned the benefits of giving positive
rewards at an early age. Although she doesn’t fully understand the psychology,
Chloe is discovering how certain actions can maintain or change a behavior. What
power she will have.
My daughter and son-in-law are very involved and committed to their family, but as all parents, they are blissfully oblivious to the tests awaiting them and the quickly developing sophistication of this tiny, expressive redhead.
time on this earth has come to an end, our dear Chloe’s journey has just begun.
So it isn’t exactly Mayberry, but living life in a small Southwest Michigan town is pretty close. We are surrounded by rich farmland, small lakes, carefully tended hardwoods, and good schools. Our Rockwell-ish village centers—once the hub of rural life–badly need a new vision and economic investment. We grumble about the weather but love hunkering down for a snowstorm which closes schools, brings neighbors together, and encourages family games and hot dinners.
No, it’s not perfect, but it’s been perfect for me.
As I eased into my fifties, the menopause gremlins, scurrying and snickering, turned my metabolism switch way, way down. I think it happened while watching Scott Pelley smile at the camera or Alex Trebek annoyingly correct the smallest error. (As new empty nesters, my husband I had morphed into our parents—most nights contently eating our supper while watching “The CBS Evening News” followed by “Jeopardy.”) I had never monitored my weight, and with the introduction of leggings and “stretchy pants,” the extra twenty-five pounds silently slid to my waist, my thighs, my upper arms, and—of course—my neck. There were a few indicators: button-down blouses started puckering, so I stopped wearing them; the clasps of dress trousers pinched, so I switched to the popular tights and free-flowing over-sized shirts; the roll under my chin appeared in photos, so I hid it with the right selfie angle. But sooner or later, of course, these pounds were revealed in the digital read-out on the scales at my desperately-delayed physical.
My woman’s health professional (also named Kathy) is about my age. She is petite: I tower over her. Kathy looks like a runner—tight bodied—like she could spring from the stool, drop to the floor, and pump out twenty pushups before I could even get my feet from the stirrups—particularly bothersome when wearing a paper gown. I’ve always been taller than most people—I’m used to that–but until my middle fifties, I never felt like an Olympic shot putter. During my last physical, Kathy and I went over my various health indicators, and she ended with asking me if anything is concerning me.
Well, yes: my weight.
She suggested some things I could do (things I already know, of course, including diet and activity levels), but what really stayed with me were her final words, gently delivered, her hand on my shoulder. “Here’s what I know–don’t be so hard on yourself. Be patient. Be kind to yourself.”
As I learn to navigate this new stage of my life, this advice has been a comfort and something I think we should all practice.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself”: Forgive yourself for the unraked leaves, for the cluttered closet, for the Christmas cards un-mailed.
“Be patient”: Forgive yourself for past mistakes, for unkind words, for inaction when the situation called for action.
“Be kind to yourself”: Forgive yourself for the extra pounds, for the second slice of pie, for the lapses in judgement.
As my fifties near the end, this has become my mantra, and I encourage my friends to repeat it with me: