Easy To Get Into A Holding Pattern

In life it is easy to get into a holding pattern. We say to ourselves when we have enough money, get a new job, get married, get divorced, have kids, the kids leave home, and the list goes on. We find ourselves in a holding pattern right now. RangerSir and I find ourselves saying when we get into the house. In reality that is a long way away and a lot of time to waste waiting.

I had not thought we were living life in a holding pattern until I got my local library card and checked out some books. I got an assortment of books: cookbooks, house organizing, watercolor painting and a retirement book. It was the retirement book that made me realize that I was putting most of my life on hold. Yes we were settled in our temporary quarters. Yes there are a lot things we can not do. But there are somethings you can do that will move you forward in the continuum of life.

The books I checked out this week from the library.

I realized that journaling, cooking, painting and other creative outlets I was pursuing daily was not really moving me forward. As much I love them and the fact that often they were the only thing between me and insanity of boredom, there were not moving me forward. These are activities I do most days home, travel or in an apartment waiting for our house to be done. I realized that these were part of me. There were like breathing. I needed them desperately in these times, but they were not moving me forward.

There are lots of things we can’t do like signing up for our utilities and getting our homeowner’s insurance. Somehow we focused on those things and let it obscure what we could be doing. We could update our legal paperwork i.e. wills, health directives, pick a dentist, find an primary care doctor and so much more. We do not have to wait until we get into the house to do things like this. It doesn’t matter that we are living in an apartment in a town 50 miles from our final destination.

So don’t confuse a busy life with a life moving forward. They are not the same thing. You can busy and just existing. Don’t wait moving forward even if it is little steps.

The book I was reading is “Who Will Take Care of Me When I am Old?” by Joyce Loverde. It was not full of pages of things RangerSir and I had not thought about. It was full of reminders of what we had done right, what we might want to revisit, and even a few things that had never crossed our mind. I have since returned the book to the library and purchased a used copy for lifetime reference. I recommend it it. Planning for aging is never easy. It is a good reference.

Decoration Day – Full of Memories

I was a lucky kid, in that I got to spend lots of time with my grandparents and have lots of memories of them. One memory that is still vivid as an adult years later is the Decoration Day ritual.

I remember big black ants climbing all over my Grandma’s peonies. She planted lots of flowers and had what I would call a cutting garden, but I only remember peonies being ready for Decoration Day. The arrival of the ants was a sign that she would soon be cutting the flowers and our family would make the annual pilgrimage to the cemetery for Decoration Day.

As an adult I don’t remember whose graves we took flowers too. On that side of my family there were not many who served in the arm forces so suspect we just put flowers on assorted family member’s graves irrespective of if they passed away in service.

Grandma would create flower arrangements that were put in jars that had been saved for just that purpose from the goods we bought at the grocery. We would pile in to Grandpa’s oversized car, Grandpa, Grandma and whoever in the family had come for the day. I don’t remember much about the trip, if it was long or short. I could not tell you if we stopped at more than one cemetery, but I can clearly remember the jars filled with water and full of flowers to be delivered to honor loved ones. I can see the sloshing of the water and the rearranging of the flowers that my Grandma had so carefully selected with each bump and turn in the road. It was a moment of honoring those who were not there any longer. It was time for family. It was a passing of another season.

Thanks to Photo by marek kizer on Unsplash

I still think of the day as Decoration Day, even though in 1971 Memorial Day became a federal holiday. I remember the rituals that allowed me to spend time with my Grandparents. I think of all the servicemen and women who gave their lives for this wonderful broken country. I honor and thank them and their families for their sacrifice. I hope we do them justice in how we live our lives.

“On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses.” –Richelle E. Goodrich

Emptying the Larder

Since I last wrote RangerSir and I have sold our home. It has been a ride like no other home sale we have experienced before when selling prior homes of all sorts, in many different states and locals. We will be having a closing on June 1st. One of the things we must do before that date is empty our larder because we will not be moving directly from one home to the next. Nor will this move be a local one. We will not be moving food. We must empty our freezer and cupboards.

I still make pies using the same rolling pin RangerSir and I found at an estate sale when we first got married.

After years of living without a grocery store just minutes from home, we developed a habit of having a well-stocked pantry and freezer. We bought our beef, pork, and lamb from a locally known rancher. We raised and butchered our own chickens. We stocked up on meat when it was on sale, so if tonight we wanted brats on the grill, it was possible without running to town by looking in our freezer. Our freezer was well stocked. If beans or can tomatoes were on sale in the 10 for pricing option, we stocked up so we could make chili if the day turned cold. Our full pantry always had lots of options available.

Apples and cranberries almost make something like a tart cherry pie.

This last year in the midst of COVID, a friend offered us apples. We accepted the gift and went about putting them in the dehydrator for snacks, and making enough apple pie filling that we could have a pie a month before apple season next year. I love cranberries and when they were in season, I bought multiple bags and froze them so I could make a salad, relish, or bread when cranberries were no longer in the store. I did not think much about this because 2020 had been such an unpredictable year. I did not know for sure if we would move or 2021 would be another year spent in Montana. COVID taught us life was a toss-up and anything was possible and any plans could be upended.

In 2021 we sold our home and found our moving plans for retirement back in play. Because of how the sale’s timing, it turned out we were short on time on our exit plan. We suddenly realized we had five month’s worth of apples, and bags upon bags of cranberries, and just weeks to use them up. I decided that I would make pies. I found a recipe for cranberry apple pie. I made five pies, mixing the two together in a pie mashup.

I’ve never made pies in aluminum foil pans before. I did not get the browning I wanted but oh they did make wonderful gifts.

I enjoyed making the pies. It took my mind off all the craziness happening with the sale of our house. I enjoyed more giving the pies away to friends. It moved me further along in the continuum of getting ready to leave behind our home of over 20 years. Getting rid of the items in my freezer allowed me to mentally start to move forward into the next phase of our lives and journies. Our larder is not bare, but I can see and hope that by the time our last day comes that there isn’t much left I will have to find a new home for.

Picture A Day

I have been working on taking a picture everyday with my phone. I am not looking to take photos that will end up in National Geographic or get printed and hang on the wall. They are all about documenting the moments of this life I am living. I don’t know what I expected when I decided to do this in 2021. It is turned out to almost be a visual gratitude journal. It is also a memory box of little moments I have forgotten were it not for picture. When I look at the pictures I have taken I can see so many moments that are good. Some are simply photos of the food that I have made, others are of art or craft projects, some are of my family, there are weather and the landscape photos, and some are just plain nonsensical. It isn’t easy to find something to photograph each day, but with time and practice it has gotten easier. I worry less and shoot more.

Night time walk using regular mode

One of the other benefits of capturing a moment each day with my camera is that I have learned to use some of the more advanced features of my phone. I was doing an evening walk the other night and I learned how to use the night mode to capture my home and see the differences it makes.

Same shot using night mode on my phone’s camera.

It has been fun once I got over the worry about shooting good and relevant pictures. I encourage you to do the same. Let me know how it goes for you.

The snow itself is lonely, or if you prefer, self sufficient. There is no other time when the world seems composed of one thing and only one thing! Joseph Wood Krutch

Year of the Walk

We are approaching the end of a year of challenges we never imagine. Some of what happened this year was under our control, but other things were clearly out of our control. COVID insured that everyone had things happen this year that were not included in their plans. This year we often were asked to stay home when possible and practice “social distancing” when we could not. It was the year of the pandemic which will be the cornerstone of so many memories regarding 2020. For me this resulted in 2020 being the year of the walk.

We live in rural Montana which gave us lots of advantages over those who live in more urban settings when we were asked to avoid close interactions. I imagine lots of people became stir crazy and suffered cabin fever trying to be safe and smart. We had some of that as well. Even the best introvert needs some time with others, or at least not just those folks who are in the same household.

You can walk forever before you see a sign of another human being. You are also reminded how small you are in the universe and why they call Montana Big Sky Country.

Our first “stay home orders” came in March in Montana. Spring was coming early this year so we were able to bundle up and get out into the sunshine for our first late winter walks. Late spring and early summer brought some relaxing of the Montana standards for COVID protection. We followed what we felt was the science and kept our distance and avoided indoor venues when we could. We became walking crazies. We walked everyday, sometimes twice a day and rarely but it was not unheard of to walk three times a day. We were blessed and fortunate that we could walk out our front door and be assured we would not see another person. If we chose to go somewhere different it too was just a few miles from home with different scenery but no greater risk of running into some one.

Walking outside gave us Vitamin D which I am sure improved not just our bones but also our mood. We were more acutely aware of the changing of the season this year as well. We watched the days lengthen and late evening walks become possible. We felt the warm of the sun intensify as it rose further overhead.

Unlike parks in more urban areas, we were able to take walks and seldom see another walker.

When our first snow came in September we were reminded that we needed to prepare for winter to be more of the same isolation and distancing. The sun no longer warmed us to our core. The sunset was done and dusk set in by 5pm. It was then I talked to RangerSir about our plans for winter.

Our treadmill had died in early 2020 and we had planned on not replacing it until we got to our retirement destination. We like thousands of others put in an order early fall for a new treadmill. It arrived 45 days later just as promised. I’ll admit a treadmill isn’t like walking outside, but it isn’t Montana stinking cold nor is the wind cutting through your outerwear trying to free unnamed parts off. I still get out and take quick little walks outside, but my treadmill is a godsent for me. It allows me to keep active by eliminating the excuse of weather.

So 2020 will be remember for many things for all of us. In some way COVID impacted it all, but I am not going to let it define the year. One of the things 2020 was for me, it was for me was the year of the walk.

Connecting – New Ways, Old Ways, Always

Letters and written are my oldest form of communication that I can remember, outside of talking-. I have reflected on how my favorite way of connecting continues to be relevant today, postal mail.

My first memory of writing something that would be sent via the US mail was thank you cards. My mother was a stickler for them. We were not allowed to enjoy any gift until we wrote a thank you. It made for prompt writing of those notes. My grandparents could all expect written thank you cards for Christmas and birthday gifts. I remember it had to be at least three sentences. That meant you could not say thank you for the gift and call it quits. You had to tell them something about how you planned to use the gift, school or ask them a question. Grammatically those must have been some very strangely composed paragraphs.

When I was in primary school I had pen pals. Some of my pen pals were people I had met at Girl Scout camp. Others were strangers I picked out of the back of children’s magazines that had “pen pals wanted” (can you believe that in today’s world that was acceptable?) I may have had one pen pal as a school project. It was there I learned to love the written word. I loved to communicate with serious thought about composition and actually came to understand sentence structure and how to compose conversational prose.

I spent summers with my grandparents at the cabin. It was there I was introduced to the postcard. The cabin was a vacation destination and there were tons of picture postcards to pick from. I would pick out cards for my parents and my two sets of grandparents at home. It was on those cards every summer where I learned to tell as much about life as possible in that little spot for writing. I suspect that the recipients looked at my disjointed little notes several times before they made sense.

When I graduated from high school and moved away from home to Minneapolis, I continued to use mail as my main mode of communication. Money was tight and phone calls were expensive. I wrote letters to my grandparents on a regular basis telling them about my new life and adventures. My grandparents had been a significant influences on my life and I continued to include them as I found myself as an adult. Letters were a way that worked for both of us

Like may others I moved more to the phone as I grew older, but I never gave up the love of letter writing. The art of letter writing came back to me in full force when RangerSir started his transition into a new career. To get a job with a federal agency at the time required years of seasonal work. I continued to work my corporate job and he started to spend months away from home working at distances half way across the country. I ferreted out things to make my writing special. I found books of postcards, fancy stationary and cards to send to him. His assignments were in guard stations that had power, but no telephone. His home was a sort of bunkhouse that made use of repurposed guard stations and old trailers. To say they were minimalist is being kind. They were out in the woods. He came into town once a week to pick up mail, do laundry and shop for the week. Mail call was a big deal. We both have those letters in our stash of stuff we have moved from place to place. These letters allow us to look back and remember details of our lives long forgotten

Things sent via mail have the chance to last long past a life. One of the things I that was given to me when my Granny had passed away and her house was being cleaned out was a book of post cards. My great grandad, George Clyde, had worked for the railroad and the stories about him were few and generally not flattering. In this book there were postcards he sent home to his children. They were an amazing slice of life of man encouraging his children and providing guidance. They were sent from towns all along the Santa Fe railroad line where his job took him. I love to see his hand and read what he wrote. In spite of his flaws, he seemed to really love his kids. I never knew him, but when I read those I imagine his voice. This is a piece of history that was not lost. It was a piece of history I shared when I gave some of the postcards George Clyde sent to his daughter, to her daughter, his granddaughter. I hope that some of the letters that folks who have to leave their children as part of their job in today’s world will last and give view into people years later in ways that others can’t.

This pandemic has brought back an excuse for me to connect to folks via mail. Sending a letter via mail is a connection that can last long after the moment they open the envelope. It is a smile you can hold on to. This summer I made and sent cards reminding friends were not alone. Most recently I made cards for the eldering in nursing homes. I had worked in a nursing home when I was in high school. I knew the feelings of isolation they suffered in the best of times. I could not imagine the isolation they were suffering now. I made and sent cards to the activity director that could be used to give to a resident who needed the pick up, for a resident to send to another resident, or a resident would have a card mail to a family member that have not been able to connect with on the outside of the facility. I like to think that they made a difference for at least one person.

The holidays brought my annual holiday card making effort. I made cards, with RangerSir composed a letter and used software to create photo collage. It will be last major effort for the year. I am getting the same and am enjoying thinking about all the folks we have met and touched along our lives.

I haven’t yet thought about what 2021 will bring, but I am sure that for the near future it will be much like 2020 has been. I suspect it will include more cards and letters just to say hi and stay connected. It is really all about staying connected new ways, old way….always.

New Way of Thinking of Thanksgiving

With the current crazy wave of COVID most of us are choosing a new type of Thanksgiving gathering this year. For most folks it will be a smaller gathering. Just your immediate family. Just your household and one or two friends. It will be different that is for sure.

One of the greatest challenges is how to scale back a holiday that is laden with more food, friends and family than almost any other time. It is full of long standing traditions for every family on what we must do and have. So the idea of making a Thanksgiving dinner for less than six is hard to imagine. You have spent years getting the biggest turkey you could find. You have juggled ovens and timing to get it all done at exactly the same time. Doing the holiday smaller may seem daunting. Scale back may seem reasonable for some things and others elements smaller may seem impossible.

Turkey is one of those things that just doesn’t scale down. However one thing you can do is have your grocery store meat department cut your turkey in half down the breast. I have been doing this for years. There are lots of advantages of having a half turkey this way. It takes less time to cook. You get an assortment of white and dark meat. You don’t need a roaster or huge pan; instead you can use a sheet pan.

Two halves of a turkey, each having one half breast, thigh and the famous turkey leg.

Be forewarned that there are some grocery stores that don’t have meat cutters on site or meat cutting equipment. Our local Walmart has neither. Our local Safeway does have meat cutters working during core business hours. We also have several local meat markets that will be able to help you as well. You need to be prepared to take both halves of the turkey. So if you have a deep freezer this idea will present no problem. If you don’t look for a friend to split a turkey with you.

This half turkey makes and easy turkey dinner.

Another option is to opt out of turkey for some other meat. Chicken is an obvious choice because you can stuff it. Don’t let that be your limit there are game hens and duck. Or maybe you do chicken all the time because it seems to be a healthier choice, so go wild and do beef or pork.

My mother, a high risk individual, is not going to anyone’s home for Thanksgiving, and she doesn’t want to risk any of her children coming to her place. She is geographically unfit for me to take dinner to her. I have come up with a different solution for her. The local grocery is going to have ready-made dinner for pick up on Thanksgiving day. She is going to have plenty of food and lots of left overs, but the grocery store feast promises to be provide her with the essentials for a Midwest Thanksgiving dinner.

I encourage you to look around if this avenue sounds interesting to you. My mother lives in a little town of 4,000 people with one grocery store. I was surprised at the options they have. You may be surprised what your local grocery store will offer.

Another option would to to do pickup from a local restaurant. They sure could use your support right now. It is another case of you not having to cook and having all the special trimmings you want.

One of my dear friends will be doing a turkey picnic on the beach for two. Her food will have elements of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. When you list the recipes you see Brussel spouts, turkey, cranberry, corn and bread but it is all updated. It sounds like a wonderful alternative to a woman who is looking out the living room window as a the wind howls and the third winter storm of the season blows over the mountain.

Maybe what this year is in disguise is an opportunity to update our Thanksgiving traditions. This is being said by a woman who Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday. For years I hosted the holiday and rented hall tables and chairs to seat all my friends and family who came from near and far. When I no longer did that I was included with friends as part of their holiday traditions and large gatherings. This year it will just be RangerSir and I. I am just fine with this. It is a moment in time when despite all the changes I have so much to be thankful for.