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Christmas Cards – Going, Going, Gone

I think that the  tradition of sending cards to family and friends at Christmas time is fading away.    It seems sad to me that it is so.   Our list is made up of friends and family  scattered across the country.    It is full of friends that we have made in the many places we have lived.   They each have contributed to the color of our lives and helped to make us who we are today.  For me a card is a nice way to say “Hi” and you are important to me.

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This year I made my cards again.   Usually I pick one design and make a bundle of  cards in a single design.   This year I bought a designer paper collection from the local craft store including 12 pieces of two-sided paper and a sheet of stickers.    I decided that I would provide my own card base from my stash and make as many cards as possible from this collection.   I finished with 70 holiday cards and one thank-you.

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I have had a nasty cold this last week and it was a great step into and out of project.    I kept myself on task by posting each as I finished it on Pinterest.   You can see each card by visiting my Pinterest page.

When we were done RangerSir stepped up to the plate to help me get them addressed and out the door.

 

Patience and the Pie Lady

I have been making pies for Thanksgiving for years.   When I used to host Thanksgiving I would make upwards of 10 pies that my guests could pick from not only for dinner, but to take home, or if they were staying for future meals over the weekend.    Now that I no longer host dinner, I have been bringing pie for years to dinner that RangerSir and I attend.

To some pie making would be chore, a challenge, or something that you pick up from the local store or bakery.   For me baking pie is a favorite creative pastime.   I would rather make pie than any other sweet or dessert.   My Grandma Virtue was known for the pies she made when worked at the county home years ago.   My Aunt Leola always had pie with awesome flaky crust when we stopped to visit her and Uncle Sherm after a pilgrimage to visit the folks in Illinois.   So though I can’t remember sitting with either of them to learn about pie making I think I come by this talent honestly.

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RangerSir rolls out his pie crust

This year I nearly cut the tip of my thumb off and ended up in the emergency room.   I have been since been told to keep it clean and dry, and to function without a thumb, until it heals up some.    This has kept me from all sorts of things including pie making.

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He has it right and is putting it in the pan.

RangerSir, who enjoys cooking/baking, stepped up to the plate telling me he would learn to make pies.    It took a great deal of self-control and patience to not cuff him along side the head, while telling him pie crust is an art, and not as easy as they make it in the cookbook.  How did I tell him that making pies was a quiet time I reflected on Thanksgivings of past, and who we had been with and who was now missing.  It was my time and my art.   Yet  I agreed to help him through the process to make our pies for Thanksgiving.

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Adding the cherry pie filling.

Now the test of patience was on not only for him who thought I should leave him to his own devices, but also for me to not get caught up in what I was missing out.  How do you explain to someone what the mixture looks like when cutting in the fat to the flour or how much water you add to the crust, when I know it is right by touch?   He was a bit of a saint when he begrudgingly stepped back when I said can I touch it so I could put my good hand in to feel the pastry for just a few seconds and pronounce it right, even if we had put in twice as much water as the recipe called for.  We made two pies last night and I thought my hair  would catch on fire from my brain cells scrambling as he rolled out the dough “all wrong”, but overnight the pastry fairies worked in his brain and he was doing it exactly as I wanted the next morning when we made the last pie. He was a bit miffed when I told him we were mixing up two pie recipes to make this year’s mandatory chocolate pie, but he went along without complaint.    Though to him making a three-layer chocolate pie was unnecessary, but when the sprinkles went on in the end, he was pleased with his results.   We worked together as I coached him on the art of lattice pie and that it really was necessary on a cherry pie.

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He is a darn good lattice top maker.

The pies are all done now.   They look absolutely perfect.  Though we have not tested them out the crust looks flaky and is perfectly brown.   It was a trial, but also a reflection on how we can work together and support one another.   I asked him if I could take pictures and blog about the pie making.    He agreed knowing that I would not share this with the world if I wasn’t thrilled with the end.   He had my back on pie making and I was his partner into new territory.

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Here they are the pies ready to take to Thanksgiving dinner.   

 

 

Friends Who Are Family

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I have spent all of my adult life living more than eight hours from where I grew up.   This means that my family has never been able to bop over to chat.    It means I have never made a Sunday family dinner, or the monthly family birthday party. It means that my friends have stepped in when when tradition would say it would be your family.    I have been blessed with friends who are family for me.

As we approach Thanksgiving I want to give thanks to and for my friends.

To my lifetime friend, who no matter how long it is between phone calls, and even longer times between when we get together you are there. It is like we just connected last week, time seems to not matter for us.   You get me.   You make me laugh  when I don’t know I need it. You provide insight about myself sometimes I don’t recognize.   You challenge me and make me a better person.    I hope I have been as good of friend to you as you have been to me.

To my little sister friend, who is all grown up now.  Who’d have imagined when as a college student and you decided to rent a room from me that this would result in a friendship that was more like sisterhood. You never cease to amaze me with your drive.   Knowing you has helped me to realize it is never too late, or you are never too old to explore new things and dream a new dream.

To all my Thanksgiving family friends.   RangerSir and I have never been alone on my favorite holiday of the year.    Thanks to all my friends in Minnesota, Colorado, Michigan, and Montana who have be part of the the many dinners we have shared with you.

Thanks to all my creative friends who have been with me for all my creative endeavors.   Your support and encouragement have meant the world to me when I was full of doubt.

Thanks to my family who are not only friends but also family.   I am lucky that I have brothers who rock and never let me forget who I am or where I came from.

Thanks to RangerSir, who is not only my husband, but my best friend.

This holiday season I just want everyone to know I am thankful for having you in my life.

 

 

 

New Appreciation of Sacrifice of Time

My new job this summer has given me a new appreciation for the folks in the world who make the sacrifice of being away from home to support their family.    I have traveled before for jobs I have held previously.   In my most traveled position, I traveled only about 20% of the time.   This job puts me away from home three nights a week.    Being on the road this much has made me realize how much time so many people sacrifice to make it in life.

We have a friend who is a salesman for a company and covers everything west of the Mississippi.   He has spent about 30+ weeks on the road for as long as I have know him (nearly 30 years now).   He has two great adult children with families of their own.   He and his wife have the kind of marriage we try to have as well, where each is there for the other and figure out ways to be there when it is critical. (There have been some pretty critical life moments for this family).   I never before realized how amazing they were to make it all work with all his time away from home.  When you think about all the divorce rates and kids who turn out in something less than their potential and then blame their family life.   This family has weathered it all and not just survived, they have prospered.    Their love, support and values have made the time that took the father/husband away so much a contributing factor to what they achieved, not a detriment or excuse for what they did not achieve.

My brother was in the Navy.   He worked hard to be with his family as much as possible, but like the military people of past and present that isn’t always possible.  There are big and small moments missed that can never be gotten back.    I never thought about what it must be like to be a single parent for so long and then suddenly have someone show up and have the whole family dynamic change in a day.    One day you get to make almost all decisions unilaterally and then the next there is someone there who wants to be a part of it all.    One day the kids only deal with you and suddenly there is someone else who can say yes or no.  It is a complete adjustment for the family, and rules are shifted in the space of a few hours.   Yet the military people continue to make those sacrifices for their country and to support their family.

In both of these cases I have highlighted the person being away, but the trailing/at-home spouse and the kids make sacrifices as well.   They quickly learn that this is their normal.  That the parent is away because it is how must be for this family.   There is nothing that can be accomplished by wanting a parental presence that can not be.  They learn to appreciate the times they have and adjust with the changes that come with a moving set of how a family looks and functions.  The “keep the home fires burning” parent often has a job as well.   The only difference is that they get to sleep in their own bed at night.   They often have to juggle their job, children and home with no one their to help.   Kids may have to step up and grow up a little faster to help. It is a balancing act and a collaborative effort.

I had thought of this occasionally before.   This job has given me a new appreciation for what one misses out on when you are gone, how they adjust when you blow in to town and that they will adjust again when you hit the road again.   I know at the end of the summer my job will end, and I will be home every night again, but there are thousands of men and women that this is part of who they are and how they support their family.    My hat is off to you because most of us can never imagine what that job costs you and your family.   You are making under what can be very challenging conditions.

She had the best smile and a natural twinkle to her eyes.

Yesterday my Aunt Arnie lost her courageous battle with cancer.   My heart breaks for my cousins and their families who lost their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who they loved so much.   It makes me a little sad to know that I can not be there when they hold her service, but geography, work, and economics make that impossible.   That is one of the unfortunate realities of being a grown up and living so far away.

My Aunt had been a widow for many years and lived in the house she raised her family in.   No return visit to the Midwest was not complete with out stopping by her house.  We would visit around the kitchen table catching up with her.. It was always wonderful to spend time at her house hearing how things were going and sharing with her what was happening on my end of the world.

Last night with my husband, we reflected on all the things that made her special.   There were so many things I remember about her, but the thing that I will always remember most of all is her smile.   I can’t remember a time when she did not have that smile that wrapped you with warmth.   To go with her smile she had a special kind of eyes that twinkled and went perfectly with her smile.   I am not sure what it was about her eyes but they truly did twinkle with little crinkles around her eyes that some joined up to go perfectly with her smile.

Somewhere in heaven today, Aunt Arnie sits with those who have gone before us, looking down on us as each of us figure out how life will go on differently now that she is gone.   She is enveloped in love with those she is reunited with, and smiling down on us with love, because she knows we will be ok and some day she will see us all again.

Gift of Friendship

Now that Christmas has come and gone there is no question what was the greatest gift for me.  It was the gift of friendship.

We have our Montana family friends.   The friends who welcomed RangerSir and I into their home and treated us just like family. Though they have lived in Montana almost their entire lives they get what it is to move and live far away from friends and family.  They have taken us in and treat us like family and include us in holiday activities, birthdays and graduations.   We have attended funerals and met their  extended family.    They are who we call in an crisis and we hopefully provide support when they need it as well.

My lifetime friends now live far away.  The amazing part of this friendship is   though we don’t get together often when we talk it is just like we saw each other just a few days ago.   When we get together we can chat for hours or sit in silence either works and both are OK.   My lifetime friends  know me better than I know myself some times and provide the moment of clarity when I need it most.  We have been through lots together, some of life changing, but most of it just plain fun.  A connection like that has last years, no matter how long the distance, no matter the changes in our lives we are their one another and their friendship makes us whole.

The like a sister friend who lived with me years ago and 20 years later is still like a younger sister to me.    We worry about her and cheer her every success.   Just like I imagine I would if I had a sister.

I have a large collection of social friends as well. Some are co-workers and former co-workers.   Others are family and old neighbors.    Folks who I exchange cards with during the holidays, catching up with them and all that has gone on this past year.   Some we don’t hear from but once a year but we look them up when we get in their neighborhood.

They are part of what makes my life so rich and I am so thankful for their friendship.

Photo Challenge Day 6 – Shiny and Day 7 – Shopping

Apologies to the photo challenge followers.   Day 6 I continued to feel under the weather and although I did not post that day, I did take my challenge photo on day 6.   Today, day 7,  I am starting to feel better and we went out shopping and I was able to sneak in  a photo today using  my phone.

Photo Challenge Day 6 – Shiny

This was taken of a small vintage aluminum tree in a local store where I teach card making. The glitter covered ornaments just caught my eye and I knew that this was my shiny photo.   I played around taking snapshots of to the tree trying to find the right light and depth of field.    This one was the best of the what I came home with.

 

There is something magical in about this tree.

There is something magical in about this tree.

Photo Challenge Day 7  – Shopping

Those who know me, know  I am not one who enjoys shopping.    Today we went to town to do our adopt-a-family shopping.   RangerSir’s office adopts a family and the employees and several of the retirees all shop for this family.   Then the day of the office Christmas party they wrap all the gifts and get it ready for delivery to the contact person.    No matter how I feel about shopping I always find myself getting a little crazy picking out just the right things for the adopted family.   RangerSir and I hit the local store and it was not long until we had a full cart of goodies we had picked out for the family.

I am not going to win any awards for this photo, but I got more joy from this shopping trip that you can possibly imagine.

I am not going to win any awards for this photo, but I got more joy from this shopping trip that you can possibly imagine.

Like thousands of others who shop for others who are not as fortunate,  we dig up our best memories and try to share them with strangers by what we pick to give the family we will never know.    We want to help them create memories of holidays and family.   RangerSir and I by tradition always give pajamas and socks.    I remember having warm double brushed flannel PJ’s at Christmas.   I am not sure if they were a new pair or not but  I want these little kids to have something warm to wear to bed and lounge around in the evening.    My family was a great bunch of game players so we always get the kids each a game that hopefully they can play with their siblings.   Of course I have to add books to the collection, because they can take you places and let you do things you may never get a chance to do otherwise.     This year’s family of kids are being raised by a Grandmother and Great Grandmother.   I can not imagine have four kids under 9, as a grandma to raise, but thousands of grandparents find themselves doing just this.    Keeping warm in Montana is always a challenge.  My boss has a cuddly throw she swears by and I have one that I am sitting under here as I write tonight.    RangerSir and I decided that the grandma’s should have some thing like this as well.   We found one for each of them that we hoped each of them would enjoy as they spent time with their grand kids     Lastly like so many others in the group of employees we added a local grocery card.   The family  can buy what they need most or a special holiday treat. They know best for their family.  I came home feeling better about the day and encouraged that maybe I will make the holidays and the new year special for a family who I will never know.