On Occasion, He Danced

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Christmas morning on Harris Street always began with my sister begging me to get up so she could open presents.  Mornings were not my thing.  By the time she could convince me to get up, the house would be in full swing.  Daddy would already have his Christmas albums playing vociferously,  while his strong baritone voice carried over the volume.  He would be dressed in his green Dockers, with his red sweater and Christmas tie,  matching socks, along with his well-worn penny loafers.  This was the one day of the year that daddy cooked, and he went all out.  His dusty waffle maker would be going full force.  He usually made about fifty waffles for the four of us and tried relentlessly to make us eat them all.  As he rotated batches of burned and “not quite done” waffles, my mom, sister and I would giggle and watch with awe.  He exuded happiness.  On these mornings, he danced.

In the midst of cooking, he would take turns dancing with us.  One by one, he would twirl his three loves around as he continued to sing along to his records.  These memories fill my heart with an equal amount of happiness and grief, but I’m incredibly thankful for them.  Memories make up the chapters of my life.

Yesterday, I sat with my mom on her deck, and we talked about happy things…lots of them.  These moments are also few and far between, but also, magnificently special.  We had mostly avoided the topic of daddy, maybe on purpose so we could avoid the inevitable tears, but of course, he came up during our conversation.  How could he not?  She told me a story that I had never heard before…a story from recent years, most likely his last summer with us.  She said the two of them were at the beach for the weekend and they had decided to go to the Dollar General.  Apparently they had good ice cream there.  🙂   While they were there, daddy chose a new tape for them to listen to in momma’s jeep.  They finished their cones and walked outside to a beautiful sunset.  They were parked on a side street.  Momma said that a construction crew was across the road working on a house.  Daddy put his new tape in the cassette player and blasted it as loud as the speakers would allow, and danced with momma in the middle of the street.  Momma’s eyes glistened with so much love as she told me about the dance.  They were in their own world for a moment.  When the song was over, he kissed his love and the crew from across the street cheered and clapped.  She said when he asked her to marry him, he added that dancing was not a part of the deal.  But on occasion, he danced.

A Keen Design

I can still remember vividly drawing out floor plans, while spread out on the living room floor as a child.  The books I read at the time were so in depth with their descriptions.  From the characters themselves to the homes they lived in, my mind swooned with imagination.  Mom would give me a stack of paper and a pencil and I would spend hours drawing out each room.  Our living room had the best natural light in the house and it was also the most quiet.  Seems like every house in the seventies and eighties had a separate living room space that was only used for special occasions.  Also, ours had cozy, light blue carpet and wallpaper with gold trees.  The room was magical to me.

It was a natural fit to study design, so that’s what I pursued in college.  To be real though, I was a little late with that realization, so my bachelors degree in interior design, came in my late twenties.  After graduating, I married my longtime sweetheart and moved to the beach.  While there, I opened A Keen Design.  (Keen was my maiden name)  It was exciting to work with clients to help them find their style and make their homes reflect more of who they were.  But after a few years of running my own business, I decided to close the doors.

Fast forward the clock ten years and I’m happily thriving with my husband on the other side of the state, with my mom one block away and my baby sister two miles away.  I have some of the best friends and know that I’m blessed.  I try my best not to ever take them for granted.  What I do struggle with is not doing as much design work here.  I have clients occasionally that I do some work for, and when that happens, there’s a light that feeds my soul.  Recently, I had a return client who asked me to renovate his master bedroom.  I had the reveal yesterday.  There’s not much that compares to the feeling of making someone happy, and yesterday, my client was really happy.  I’ve had permagrin since.  So thank you to those of you that trust me to find your vision.  It fills my cup.

 

Too Early for Wine

I’ve had a plethora of emotions in 2017, and it’s only mid-February.

  • There’s the political atmosphere that keeps my heart rate up.
  • Balancing this “working from home” thing, that’s still pretty new.
  • Working on bettering myself as a writer, a designer and cook…

I never want to disappoint or fall short, but I know that I often do.  This human thing can be tricky and tiring.

Recently, I’ve been re-charged by a returning interior design client. I’m finishing up this week, so I’ll post some fun before and afters soon.    It’s always an interesting challenge to help a client “see” what they really want.  It’s also a challenge not to do everything the way I want to do it.  It’s like a marriage, there’s a lot of compromise to get things right.

My love of food has completely consumed me and I’m looking into the logistics of catering.  I’ve worked in enough restaurants in the past to know that I’m not cut out for the whole shabang.  I’ve taken some samples to friends and asked for feedback.  Here’s a few I tried this week.  They were all gluten-free.  And yes, I’m still working on my cookbook.

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I’ve been studying my way through the wine regions of Europe.  Italy was fun.  I’m now working on France and starting with the Champagne region.  🙂  I follow so many wonderful wine bloggers online, like https://winewankers.com/ https://thedrunkencyclist.com/  https://talk-a-vino.com/  and https://pleasebringmemywine.com/  The more I read, the more I appreciate the efforts that each of these bloggers makes to educate us mere mortals on the intimacies of wine.  I write this with the utmost respect for each of them.  As hard as I try to decipher the aromas and tastes that grace my palate, I still haven’t been able to tell you if there’s a minerality or smokiness to my wine.  I’ve resorted to looking up the descriptions online about each bottle and then trying to “sniff and taste” them out.  So kudos to those of you that can; it’s not like I haven’t finished off enough glasses to have a minor in Wino.

So as I continue to work on my plans for this year, I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my progress.  Clearly, I have a lot on my mind, and need to work on completing some of the ones that I’ve already started, versus adding more to the list.  And is it acceptable to open a bottle of wine before noon on a Wednesday?  Never mind.  I’ve actually got to get some things done, but a girl can dream.

When Life Gets Too Easy…You Aren’t Doing It Right

Complacency leads to a life less fulfilled.  It fools us into believing we are doing things right.  When we don’t push ourselves to be more and to do more, we are short-changing ourselves and others around us.  Before 2017 begins I am really evaluating my life and the things I want to accomplish.  Without knowing the final deadline date, (as none of us do) I need to jump on it.   With that more in perspective, I’m eager to set a new pace.

Sometimes all it takes is a new point of view to remind us that life really isn’t a picnic for everyone.  It can be so easy to see only the perfect facade displayed.  Self doubt and insecurity can wreak havoc on a person’s psyche and hold them back.  Thoughts that people have it better than, are smarter than, skinnier than,  can be destructive and halt our own forward progress.  That’s when perspective usually strikes.

I was quickly reminded  yesterday morning of that very thing.  A close friend lost her sister.  It felt like a sumo wrestler sat on my chest and sucked the breath out of me when I heard the news.  I couldn’t fathom her pain of losing a sibling.  The last year plus has been so much about my grief, my sister’s pain, and my mom’s survival.  It’s been a lot of Me. Me. Me.  Damn it.   People come out of the wood work when bad things happen, too.  So many of us share the same types of loss.  Yes-it’s a part of life, but it doesn’t mean it’s okay.  It doesn’t make it easy.  We all struggle in our own ways.  Some are better at hiding their pain, while some (like me) wear it and write it all over.

But life is meant to be felt.  Pain can often create growth.  I know I’ve learned to be more compassionate with people through my own grief.  I would like to think that I’ve  learned to be a better friend, because mine have been amazing.  It has taught me how important it is to keep checking in on people and their lives.  We can miss so much when we don’t  ask.

Complacency is the easy way and not the direction I’m going to follow in my life. Life is beautiful and a gift.  It’s often hard, but through it, we can become stronger.  We can be better.  We can have a new and better perspective.  When my days feel like they are getting easier, I question what I’m missing or doing wrong now.  I wonder what else I should turn my attention to.  I want to really kick ass in life so when I take my final breath I can feel like I really lived it.  I hope this life is ready, because I have this feeling that I haven’t been doing it right.

Bring it 2017!

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Good Enough Works For Me

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A few weeks ago, I gave the hubs about five minutes to get ready for our annual Christmas shot.  (I’ve learned that trying to plan something that he doesn’t want to do will not work, so why not catch him off guard when he’s in a cheeky mood)?  A few moments later we were over the “trying to pose” and agreed it was good enough.  Shadows on the face-no problem.  Dog wants to sit on my lap and avoid looking at the camera-who cares?  I only mailed out a few this year anyway.  I just couldn’t get it together and I’m okay with that.

Even though I am okay with not reaching perfection, I still secretly strive for it;  but this year, I let go of the effort much faster.  I played Shopkins with my niece until she tired of it.  I decided not to cook the green beans on Christmas Eve, so I could have a cocktail while everything else baked in the oven.  I attended as many social functions as I could and didn’t stress when I couldn’t make them. Even when I attended events that I normally take scrumptious food, I was okay when all I had was good wine.  I even had friends over when my house wasn’t quite ready for visitors.  It made the holiday season easier.  After the prior Christmas and the year plus of palpable grief, I just wanted to rejoice in the blessings that had been shadowed by my pain and I did.  I also convinced myself I had surely lost a pound or two, but alas, that was just a farce.

To know me is to know that I dance to my own tune and it’s rarely pretty and it is always far from perfect…but I do so with enthusiasm and a smile.  It’s just not in me to be flawless.  In fact,  my sister bought me a tank that says I’m Flawsome.  I do believe that our flawed selves can be awesome and that “Good Enough” works for me.

 

 

Cheesy Jalapeño Dip

OMG-let’s talk about the holidays for a moment.  It’s crazy everywhere I go.  I went to the grocery store at 7:30 am today and I still had to wait in line.  So let’s think about good things…like my recipe requirements for the holidays.

  • Must be spicy.
  • Inexpensive
  • Quick to make
  • Gluten & Peanut free food for my besties

When the holiday shopping and traffic begins to overwhelm you, go home and make this.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup of freshly chopped Jalapenos.  Remove the stems and seeds.  (It’s okay to leave a few, but remember that’s where the real heat comes from)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Extra Sharp Cheddar.  Do yourself a solid and don’t use the pre-shredded mess.  Enlist a teenager or a spouse to grate the cheese if you don’t want to do it.
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan/Romano blend.  I’m not as picky about grating this, but please do, if you can.
  • 2 cups room temperature cream cheese.  I use the lighter version, but all versions work great in this recipe.
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped cilantro.  If you hate it  (as many of my dear friends do), substitute parsley.  It’s good for you.
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • Corn chips-yassssss!  Frito chips take me back to my childhood.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees while you are prepping everything.  It should be hot by the time you are finished with your mise en place.

  • Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and sour cream together.  Blend in 3/4 cup of the cheddar, 1/4 cup Parmesan/Romano, jalapenos, and all but a pinch of the cilantro.
  • Transfer to a casserole dish.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 15 minutes.
  • Uncover and add the rest of the cheese and broil for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Don’t walk away or it may burn.  You just want  a crunchy top.
  • Sprinkle the remaining cilantro on top of the hot casserole and serve hot with corn chips!  Yummy!

 

How I Would Like My Days Remembered

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When I look through pictures and reflect on the memories they evoke;  I don’t often think about the things that were not perfect in those moments.  I choose to remember the happiness from these photos that  I’ve captured.  They put a smile on my face.

Occasionally I’ll giggle as my mind wanders into the illicit details that surrounded the times I’ve framed.  There’s the picture of mom and dad, that I took on a family trip to Santa Barbara, a few years back, that shows a perfect couple on a beautiful day.  I remember how tired and fussy my mother had become as we hiked around one of the many places that my sister, dad and I had forced her to visit.  I can still see her face as she resigned herself to our demands and carried on.  It was hot and the terrain was too difficult for my mom, but as usual, we pushed and she accepted the defeat.  When I asked her and dad to pose for a picture, she was beside herself with yet another request.  As she sat down and smiled beside my dad, I knew I had won, and my reward was a perfect memory on paper.

Don’t get me wrong,  I know our most authentic moments include the struggle, but should we dwell on the hard parts of our lives?  Should we only think of the perfect moments?  I don’t think either way is right, but personally, it’s better to place those tough moments in the darker recesses of my mind and forgive my flawed self and others for our humanity.  I’m tired of negative thinking.

When I reflect on my forty plus years on earth, I know I’ve been blessed.  I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes.  I KNOW that it is okay to forgive myself and others for being slightly damaged and imperfect.  So when I look at a picture of a day that may or may not have been perfect, I’m going to choose to acknowledge the highlights.  There’s no sense in reliving the bad in our lives.  Those moments have already served as learning lessons that I hope will make me a better person.  As I look forward to making new memories in life, I hope my actions show less selfishness, less me, and more us.  I try each day to live my most authentic life and I hope it will reflect a sincere picture of how I would like my days remembered.

Making it Happen!

Yesterday morning I awakened to torrential rain. It can be incredibly soothing to watch and listen to, but most importantly, it was much needed. We need it to plant new grass and we need it for our plants to survive. You see…My husband continues to fight his ongoing battle with crabgrass, that steals the show every few months. Almost as soon as the new grass seed shines bright, the crabgrass rears its ugly face. My husband is left with no other choice than to kill all of the grass in an attempt to rid the yard of the vile weed. I’m amused and impressed with his commitment. It’s similar to my attempt to balance my life with being a caretaker at heart and having a career.
As the rain poured down on the house, I was struck with the thought that I should make chili. In fact, I thought, I should make a lot of chili. I should make so much that I can freeze some, have some for lunch and take some to my mother. Hmmmm-I raced to the grocery store with rain pelting my face, I braved the parking lot. I couldn’t help smiling as I raced through the store with squeaky wet shoes, thinking to myself, “I’m a domestic goddess” I assisted an elderly woman in the checkout and thought, “I’m a good person” and then I raced home. I unloaded the multitude of bags from my vehicle and dried off. With 45 minutes left before my husband would be home and I was cooking with abandon, one of the largest batches of chili I had ever put together. I even stopped midway and made my mother a takeout tray before I added the really spicy things that would not agree with her. I mean, I really have my shit together today. I’m going to deliver chili to mom, have some with my husband at lunch, pack a ton away in the freezer and then get to my real job. I’m rocking this domestic goddess thing.
I did have lunch with B and I did take my mother chili. Everyone was happy. I filled tupperware after tupperware with my fatty deliciousness and left it on the counter to cool. I went to work in my office and couldn’t help grinning at how awesome I was rocking the day.
Later the chili had cooled, so I took a break to load my freezer. I’m still not sure how it happened, but in a split second, my entire kitchen was covered in chili. It was everywhere and my beloved Mr. Sugarbears was at my feet trying his best to gobble it all up. I tried my best to get as much up as possible before he ate too many pounds of chili. I didn’t cry and I didn’t curse, but I did stop and think once I finally cleaned it all up, “I’m not really rocking this domestic goddess thing” Oh well, there’s always tomorrow and I bet there will be more crabgrass, too.

Thankfulness

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Often over the last 11 months,  I’ve expressed and felt a lot of emotions that I’m not proud of, but they were part of my grieving.  Life throws us all curve balls…I guess I’m learning to be a better catcher.

Last night I met a dear friend for a late dinner after the gym.  She lost her mother a year prior to me losing dad.  She’s still struggling with the raw emotions of loss, as well.   As we talked about how hard it is living without them, I realized that we were missing out on the present moment. We knocked back a few drinks and decided to focus on what was going on in our lives now.

She’s a bi-lateral amputee who used to be a dancer.  She’s practicing now for a local “Dancing with the Stars” to raise money for cancer research now.  Ummmm-wow.  She’s also in up-to-her-ears in pharmaceutical research, raising a daughter and saying yes to every person in need, that comes her way.

Life isn’t easy, but how we choose to live each day is what counts.  Recently I had a health scare with my precious dog, Mr. Sugarbears (he’s fine now) and I’ve cried about the tragedies in Orlando; and I’ve felt helpless.   There’s also a tough presidential race that quite frankly scares me.   I’m a Peace, Love and Wine kind of gal.  I know it is unrealistic to think I could live in a world full of happy people, but I choose to be happy overall.  I choose to smile at strangers.  I choose to heal myself from my grief, pray for others who are downtrodden, and do what I can to make a difference in this world.

Maybe my small attempts will make someone else happy?  Maybe my smile will be the one thing someone needs to make their day better? Maybe I will make a difference?  I’m thankful for the small things-like a sunny morning or a co-worker leaving me a cupcake.  How about you?

I’d Like to Think He is Home Now

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Yesterday marked 8 months since my amazing dad passed away unexpectedly.  I still ache deeply with this loss.  There has been so much to do and mom is still very fragile.  Thank God I have a sister that rocks.  We have made a great team.  We do make a great team.

I have a “sort of” checklist in my head and as one more thing is taken care of, either by myself or my rock star sister, I check it off mentally and I breathe a little more fluidly.  (My accountant sister actually created a spreadsheet a few weeks ago).  That’s how much is going on.

We are all still overwhelmed with emotion and with our seemingly never-ending to-do list.   I still long to run away and hide often, but it would not be fair, so I keep trucking on.  I don’t feel strong, but I do feel loved.

Every Easter weekend of my life, my family has gathered at the family cottage.  As children my cousins and I would search for hidden eggs and consume extraordinary amounts of candy.  We didn’t really think about the true meaning of Easter in those days.  It was all about the candy and the fellowship.

Last weekend was Easter.  It was the first time mom had been since he passed away.  It was the first Easter that I would not hear my dad tell me he loved me.  We opened our minds to new beginnings while we struggled watching the pain on our mom’s face.  Closure can be harder than you imagine.  It seemed to break mom further down, but we had to do it.  If you love someone, you have to honor their wishes and not your wants.   Dad’s wishes were to be there, so we took him.  As the ashes were released,  my heart healed some.  I’d like to think he is home now.