All hail Lord Cockroach! (It’s only a matter of time.)

At my old job, if a cockroach was spotted in the front office or hallway, I was the one who dealt with it. It wasn’t in my job description but beings how I didn’t run off screaming at the sight of them, it fell to me.

I will now pause to discuss the two types of cockroaches of which I am most familiar. My plan was to add pictures of real live cockroaches, but I feared some of you might run off screaming. Therefore, I shall try my hand at drawing them.

The cockroaches of my youth, the little ones who regularly visited my childhood home, were these guys:

cockroach german

They are commonly called German roaches, though as a rule, cockroaches care little for ethnic labels.

They are about an inch long, have a dusty brown coloring and can be found most anywhere, such as in your kitchen right now.

They are looking for a snack and really wish you hadn’t tossed that rotting fruit as it’s one of their favorites. That was very wasteful of you.

They’d also prefer it if you’d stop cleaning so much. You’re wiping away all the good bits. And not to make too fine a point of it, but you’re cramping their social life. How do you expect them to find their friends if you keep wiping up their poop trails?

Honestly!

The other roach of my childhood was not as frequent a visitor, though he made quite an impression with my family nonetheless. My mom referred to him as a sewer roach, but he’s more commonly called (at least in the U.S.) the American cockroach.cockroach germanYou’ll note I used the same picture, just made it bigger. It’s not just that I’m lazy… okay, yeah, I was being lazy. But really, their bodies aren’t that different. It’s all about size and coloring.

He’s much bigger than his German counterpart and more of a shiny, reddish-brown.

Oh, and here’s an interesting fact: the American cockroach didn’t originate in America. He came from Africa. Wanna guess how he got here?

That’s right! It’s commonly believed they arrived on slave ships. So the next time you see one of these buggers, meditate on that.

The reason my mom called them sewer roaches (many in Phoenix do) is that they often come up through the drains. Plus, they’ve got that shiny thing going on, giving them a lovely sewer aesthetic.

Ah, the memories these fellas conjure up for me. I can still see Brother running out of the bathroom screaming, streaking down the hall because a roach came up the drain as he showered. Or my parents practically tearing apart our T.V. room because they spotted a particularly large one scurrying across the tile. “It’s as big as my foot!” my mom sputtered, somewhat known for exaggeration but in this case, she wasn’t far off.

Good times, good times…

It was the American cockroach I dealt with at my old job, back when I worked at a high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. Sometimes we’d find them in the hallways, but more often they hung out where we did, in the offices and our break room. One of the offices was very close to both the break room and janitor’s closet. Meaning it saw a lot of cockroach action. Sadly, the secretary who used this office really really really hated cockroaches.

She and I, we became friends. All she had to do was come to my desk and give me that look.Bonnie

I’d ask her where it was; she’d give me its last known whereabouts. I’d open my cabinet and withdraw my tools: a plastic cup and a stiff piece of paper. After locating the little fella – who was rarely little – I’d slip the cup over him and slide the paper underneath.

cockroach method

Live capture, folks. I only do live capture.

Once he was safely ensconced within his plastic dome, I’d take a walk outside. He and I, we’d make our way across the staff parking lot and over the rocky landscape, out to the tall chain-link fence that held us prisoner. There I would set him free.

cockroach leaving

You see, I wanted to give the guy some options. He could take his chance crossing the street to enter one of the nice Scottsdale homes on the other side, where they probably served premium cuts of meat and world-class wines. Or he could return to our break room for a stale donut and old coffee.

My method had its detractors.

It is amazing, is it not, how many people are in favor of capital punishment? “There’s a roach in the kitchen! Kill it!”

I never argued with them. Instead I would say, “I don’t like to hear the crunch.” Because, you know, there’s always a crunch.

And besides, I liked getting outside. Dawdling by the mesquite tree, breathing in the city air… ah, the smell of exhaust fumes on a hot afternoon. There’s nothing quite like it.

“They’re just gonna come back!” my detractors would say in a terribly condescending tone. (My detractors were always men.)

I’d say, “probably,” and return to my desk.

The truth is, I kind of knew they were returning. I figured that was why they became so easy to catch. I think they recognized me.cockroach waving

“Oh, it’s the blonde – no need to worry. Field trip!”

What I didn’t realize was that they were returning for a reason and that reason was not stale donuts.

It happened during my last summer at the school. Our bookstore manager was trying to track down a package and was concerned it had gotten mixed in with some other boxes headed to storage. “I really don’t want to go in that room,” she told me, “but I think I have to.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“It’s the Roach Room.”

Gasp!

I’d heard tales of this room but I’d never actually been there. Now was my chance! I quickly offered my assistance. She said yes!

We made our way down the empty hallway. The room was at the end of the Social Studies department, where students learn history, political science, and how we got into this mess.

The bookstore manager got out her keys, unlocked the door and shivered a little. “Are you sure you want to do this?” she asked me.

“Yeahyeahyeah,” I said.

She opened the door and flipped on the light. I expected to hear scurrying… there was none. We stepped in. No roaches. None!

I was indignant. “I thought you said—“

She turned to face me and her eyes got wide. She pointed behind me. I turned toward the wall…

Holy hell!cockroach wall

It was just like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland where all those bugs are crawling up the cave wall!

It. Was. So. Cool.

She did not share my enthusiasm.

Anyway, here’s the thing: there were no drains in this room! No sink, nothing containing water or food. Nothing! Just boxes and boxes of books and old files. That’s it.

So what were the roaches doing there?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? They’re educating themselves. Reading up, studying our history. No doubt making notes of our failures and weaknesses.

Make no mistake about it, my friends. They will one day rule us all. They were here long before us and they will remain long after. We have to come to terms with this. There’s little sense in fighting it.

And when they finally rise to power, who do you think they spare but the one who showed mercy?

So the next time you smush one under your shoe and hear that crunch, remember there’s another one nearby. They’re always nearby.

They’re watching you.

They know what you’ve done.Cockroach mad

Springtime is for the birds

Spring has officially arrived to our Minnesota home:crabapple

Yeah, I know according to the calendar Spring has been here awhile, but it’s only really felt like Spring for the past week or so. And it’s not that a flowering crabapple is an official start, but it sounds good to me.

Speaking of trees, we had to remove a maple that was too close to the house. The tree man did the deed last week. Underneath the maple were a whole lotta hostas.

hostas

With the maple gone, so was the shade for the hostas. I transplanted them to our far more shady backyard.

Wanna know how many I transplanted? Sixty-five! Crazy, right?

But they sure look nice in my pretty little woodland corner, so it was worth it.backyard hostas As I worked, the neighborhood birds entertained me. (You knew birds had to come into the conversation eventually, right?)

The chickadees were being their typical adorable selves, ‘natch, and our downy woodpecker is ever the charmer.

 

By the way, all the bird photos you’ll be seeing here have been shamelessly pilfered from the site WhatBird.com.

Please don’t tell.

Have you ever been to that site? Their search feature is pretty cool. By giving them beak size, approximate body size, primary & secondary colors, or any other features you might notice, they will give you a pretty good guess as to what the bird is. Or at least a list of birds that you can narrow down yourself.

That’s how I found out who our newest visitor to the bird feeder is: a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Rose breasted grosbeak

And the bird that was with him was his mate, though I never would have guessed it.

Rose breasted grosbeak female

Another site I use is allaboutbirds.org. It’s a great spot for learning cool facts, such as while the Grosbeak won’t be winning any awards for their nest-building – “so flimsy you can sometimes see the eggs from underneath” – their song has been described as “a Robin who’s had opera training.”

I haven’t seen a lot of this couple. (Too busy with their voice lessons, I assume.) Mostly it’s Chickadees and my Downy Woodpecker. Oh — and the Goldfinches! Let’s not forget them.gold finchHe might be tiny, but I sure wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with him. Just look into those eyes! He means business.

Speaking of little birds – I witnessed a bunch of sparrows taking on a crow!

 

Here’s how it happened: Our neighbor has this platform feeder where he puts fruit, nuts, cracked corn, etc. So here I am plugging another hosta in the ground — think it was number 54 — when I hear a crow making an awful racket. Cawing away something awful. I look over to see what’s pissing him off.

There he is in a tree near the feeder, flapping his wings and bobbing his head in a threatening manner. I follow his gaze and there they were, a group of sparrows.

Sparrows!

Every time that crow tried to wing on over to the feeder, the sparrows dive bombed him! They swooped down all together, right at that old crow.

Whoosh!

How do you suppose sparrows work together like that? Do they draw up a battle plan ahead of time?

Gosh, I wonder if they have a squad leader?  “Sparrow One to Sparrow Two, come in from the right… Sparrow Four, wait for my call… steady… steady….move, move, move!”

Sparrows got moxie.

Oh, and here’s the best part: As I’m watching this battle raging, along comes a blue jay who just flew in and took whatever was on the feeder.

Which just goes to show: there’s no sense in fighting. The Blue Jay will win, every time.blue jay

I know a lot of people don’t like Blue Jays, but you gotta admit, with that sassy crest and stylish coloring? They cut a fine figure.

Some positive characteristics I’ve learned about jays: They mate for life, are very good parents, are highly intelligent and can make mincemeat of wasp nests in no time flat.

Oh, and here’s an interesting tidbit from the site:

The Blue Jay’s coloration is not derived by pigments, but is the result of light refraction due to the internal structure of the feathers; if a Blue Jay feather is crushed, the blue disappears as the structure is destroyed.

This is indeed true. I once found a pretty Blue Jay feather while walking Dog and brought it inside where she promptly decided to eat it. When she spit it out, it was no longer blue.

It was also covered in dog spit so I didn’t take a picture. Sorry.

And that wraps up our bird discussion for today. In review, please remember: even the most ordinary birds can be interesting if you just give them a chance.

Also, don’t mess with sparrows.

The Seasons, They Are A’Changin…

This is my first real Autumn in I don’t know how long.

My first, honest-to-goodness, stomping-through-piles-of-leaves kind of Autumn.

park maples

It’s not like we didn’t have Autumn in Phoenix, it’s just that we faked it.

In Phoenix you wear sleeveless shirts in fall colors, switch out your flip-flops for brown sandals, and drink iced pumpkin lattes.

And it’s not like I haven’t lived in areas with four seasons before, it’s just I don’t remember being wowed by the colors. When we lived in northern Arizona, the first snow came sudden-like. Shocking the leaves into a quick drop. When we lived in Iowa and Nebraska, there were too few trees to matter.

Clearly, Minnesota is hoarding all the trees.

Autumn by the river

Real or fake, I love this time of year. In truth, it’s the transition phase between the seasons I love best, and I’m thrilled to be living where it’s so apparent.

I’m not alone in my appreciation; several homes are decorated for Fall. I’m told it’s quite common for Minnesotans to have quirky lawn decorations and from what I’ve seen, it’s true. A home near us has 11 screen doors in front — eleven!

This is a permanent display and I’ve no idea how they mounted them, but I wondered if they’d add anything for the seasons. I’m pleased to report, they do:

Doors

Looking forward to seeing their Christmas display.

Our decor is more understated, but not without its admirers.

Autumn at the Hartwell's

Last Saturday when our newspaper was delivered, I saw the delivery girl taking a picture of our display.  (I wonder if we’re trending on Twitter?)

At the website for Minnesota State Parks, you can enter your email address for “color alerts.” The state park in our town, the Charles A. Lindbergh Park, is currently listed at 25% to 50% color.

I think the Hartwell Maple Tree is nearly 60%:

Maple tree

Neighbor Buddy told me not to worry about raking leaves; he’ll use his leaf blower and take care of them for the whole street. The total number of homes on the street being three.  Even so, he’s a nice guy.

(Probably a requirement for anyone named Buddy.)

In my backyard hidden among the leaves is a petunia. I didn’t plant it and there are no petunias in the vicinity. Yet there it is. A petunia.

Petunia
It’s a Petunia Miracle.

I asked someone how long we’d have the color, she guessed another couple weeks.

Guess we better enjoy it while it’s here.

autumn color

Something I did in Phoenix to commemorate the seasons is to change my computer’s desktop background. My favorites pictures included curving paths, usually through woodsy areas or by rivers.

Never in my life have I lived in an area with more desktop-worthy scenes:

desktop picture

Question is, which photo do I use? Current contenders are first, second, and last pictures in this post. Your opinions are appreciated.

Meanwhile, if it’s Autumn where you are, find a pile of leaves and stomp through them with abandon.

If it’s not Autumn where you are, fake it. 🍂 🍃

On Apple Trees, Cake, and Planning Ahead for Panic Attacks

Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an apple tree.

Here, look upon my apple tree:

Apple tree 1

Beautiful, is it not?

Better yet, it provides a marvelous view from my kitchen sink.

Here, look upon the view from my kitchen sink:

kitchen window mn

The window screen makes it a little fuzzy, but you get the idea. It’s a damn fine view.

For comparison sake, here was the view from my former kitchen sink:

Kitchen window az

You’re probably wondering why I bothered taking a picture of a brick wall.

About three months ago, give or take a day, I got a wee bit concerned about our move from Arizona to Minnesota.

I started thinking that at some future point — say, in February when it’s 30 below here and 70 in Phoenix — I’ll think to myself, “HOLY FREAKIN’ COW, WHAT HAVE I DONE?!”

So in preparation for that event, I took pictures of all the things in our Phoenix home that drove me nuts. Hence, the picture of a brick wall.

(Just curious, what’s that say about a person who plans ahead for panic attacks?)

I also have shots of my kids’ rooms (cleaning is not their strong suit), our “music room” (it was more a catch-all room), and – my personal favorite — a stack of dirty dishes one of my kids left by the empty sink.

The question is, will looking at a picture of dirty dishes ease the pain of moving away from my kids?

Um… yeah. It has. (I’m a monster.)

Anyway, back to the apples. I’ve no idea what kind they are except they are wonderful for baking. (Score!) Also, I’ve come to a better understanding of why commercial growers use chemicals. Up close and personal, my apples are not pretty.

Tell me, would you pay good money for these apples?

applesNeither would I. Yet they’re delicious in your morning oatmeal with a bit of cinnamon and brown sugar.

So far I’ve made a couple pies, muffins, several bowls of oatmeal, and a wonderful cake that I will share with you in a moment.

(*gasp* She’s actually sharing a recipe?!)

This weekend I plan on picking the entire tree; I believe it’s time and the bugs have had enough of a feast. I foresee a batch of applesauce and apple butter in my future.

But first, cake!

This cooler weather (54° this morning) put me in the mood for baking. I scoured my cookbooks for recipes using apples and found no less than five for cake, all a tad different. I took what I liked best from each (more apples and spices here, less oil and eggs there, ooh a glaze!) and came up with this one. It turned out marvelous and it works either as a coffee cake or a dessert.

By the way, the town in which I now live has the best coffee. Really! It’s a downtown shop called Reality Roasters. Their beans might cost a little more, but dang, they’re worth it.

Just the thing for this cake. ☕

Apple Cake with Butterscotch Glaze

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Apple cake

This is a rich tasting cake but without a lot of oil and eggs; Perfect for a cool autumn morning with a cup of coffee or as a dessert with a scoop of ice cream.

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups diced apples, unpeeled (about 5 or 6 baking apples)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda*
  • Granola or rolled oats for topping (I used Full Circle’s oats & honey granola)
  • Glaze (see below)

Mix together sugar, oil, eggs and apples. In separate bowl mix together flour, spices, salt, and baking soda. Add to the apple mixture, stir well and pour into a greased 13 x 9″ baking pan. Sprinkle with about 1/2 cup of granola or rolled oats. Bake at 350° for 50 to 60 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean. Prepare glaze while cake cools.

Butterscotch Glaze: In small saucepan over medium heat, stir together 2 Tablespoons butter, 3 Tablespoons brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons heavy cream or half-n-half. Bring to a boil and stir for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Let cool slightly and drizzle on top of cake.

Can serve warm or cooled. 🍂

*I know it sounds like a lot, but the two teaspoons of baking soda is correct. 🙂

 

No Worries: The Kids Are Alright

Our kids came for a visit this last weekend.

It’s their first visit since we moved here, the first they saw our new place, the first time they’ve been in Minnesota.

Before they arrived, I told Husband how strange it felt. It was like I wanted to show off the place, impress them a little. He agreed.

We wanted them to understand why we abandoned them in Arizona.

Driving away

Now let’s be clear, we knew we didn’t really abandon them. They are in their early 20s, old enough to be on their own. They have jobs, they have an apartment, they have family and friends nearby.

And yet

Why do these images persist? My daughter is at an intersection with a cardboard sign: “Hungry, Motherless, Please Help”

Angry robin 1Son is on a street downtown, playing his keyboard. He’s got a hat in front of him and he’s singing…

When you comin’ home dad?
I don’t know when.
But we’ll get together then.
You know we’ll have a good time then.

We parents love riding that old guilt train, don’t we? If there isn’t enough to feel guilty about, we’ll make something up to fill the void. (One mother told me she felt guilty her daughter had to wear glasses. If she had eaten better when she was pregnant, maybe her daughter’s vision would be better.)

So it was good for us to see they were doing fine. Somehow for these last six weeks, they managed to keep themselves fed, clothed and sheltered.

Amazing.

They liked our new house, agreed the area was pretty. They seemed to enjoy Minnesota but thought our evenings were a little cold (HA HA, wimpy Arizonans!).

Still, I wondered what they thought of our moving. Did they understand? Did they think we were nuts?

It was a short trip as they had to get back for work, but before we dropped them off at the airport, we walked around Mall of America. We discovered it is one FREAKIN’ big mall. It has its own amusement park, for cryin’ out loud.

Husband and Son went on Ghost Blasters, Daughter and I did our roller coaster thing.

At some point (it may have been on the plunge down), a thought occurred to me: Our kids aren’t thinking about us.

Do you remember back when you were young and out on your own? When we’re trying to figure out the whole adult thing and find our way in the cold, cruel world? The one thing we weren’t doing at the time was sitting around wondering what our parents were up to. We had our own concerns and our parents didn’t enter into it.

Which is how it should be. Right?

They left the nest and are doing their thing, and now mama and papa bird have to figure out their thing.

So yeah. The kids are all right.

Jury’s still out on the parents, though. 😉

On Serenity, Striving, and Shall We Gather at the River

A few days ago, at the park near our house, I stopped and sat on a bench.

I point this out because it is highly irregular for me. I wasn’t tired, I had no book with me, no tablet in which to write, ergo, no reason to stop.

Only there was a bench, the bench was near the river, and so one stops.

So I stopped.

bench by river

I sat there for… well, I’m not sure how long I sat there. You lose a sense of time while staring at a river. It may have been hours, it may have days. In any case, after a time my attention was drawn away by a man standing at the boat landing a short distance from me.

He had sighed. A clearly audible, contented sigh.

He saw me and smiled. “My God, this is beautiful,” he said, by way of explanation. I agreed. He asked me how long the path continued along the river; I admitted I didn’t know.

“It wraps around the bank over there,” I indicated toward the left. “Then it curves around a really pretty swampy area.”

I sometimes forget not everyone finds swamps pretty.

Swampy area

“Oh, very nice! I’ll have to check that out,” he said, my fellow swamp appreciator.

“Isn’t it funny,” he continued after a moment, “how it’s not until you’re old that you find serenity?”

“Yeah,” I said, though I thought it an odd thing to say. He wasn’t that old. I mean, he couldn’t be much older than me and … oh.

Now that I’m home again, I’ve been thinking about this discussion with the old swamp man. What he said about serenity, old age, and what-not.

I wonder, is it serenity we are finding in our golden years, or is it just a sense of oh-well-good-enough?

Or — hold on to your hats now — could it be they are the same thing?

se·ren·i·ty
səˈrenədē/
noun
  1. the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

Sounds good, yeah? But it’s not a state we can reside in for any lengthy period of time, and I propose we shouldn’t even try. Sure, pay a visit on occasion, appreciate what you have, yada-yada. Consider your place under the stars, only don’t stop reaching for the stars.

To butcher Browning: “Our reach should exceed our grasp, or what’s a heaven for, so get off your bum and do something already.”

I took another personality test recently (trust me, this relates somehow), though I honestly don’t know why I take these blame things. They all lead to the same conclusion, that being I’d either make a great scientist or a serial killer.

This particular personality test, the Enneagram Type Test, I’d heard of it before and been meaning to do further study on it. Then I visited the site of one Sarah Bessey, a progressive feminist writer/preacher, and there on her sidebar (when you’re a blogger, you pay particular attention to sidebars) she proclaims she’s an “Enneagram 9.” Leading me to look up the description of Enneagram 9s and finding out, among other things, they are progressive feminist writers and preachers.

Long story short, I took the test — always on the lookout for new items to add the old sidebar — and found out I’m a 5. Or in true Enneagram verbage, a 5w6.

If this means something to you, I salute you. I had to look it up.

Besides making one damn fine scientist and/or serial killer, the description said that a 5w6’s life, “is characterized by a deep sense of longing.”

Come now, I thought. Isn’t that true for everyone?

We may not long for the same things — for some it might be a sense of meaning in their life, for another wealth and success, or we might simply yearn for the perfect chocolate fudge brownie.

The point is, we all have longings. And I find it unlikely they disappear with the advancement of age. Or rather, they don’t disappear, but change.

The longing for wealth may change with a realization there are different methods for measuring wealth. A longing for meaning might soften into an understanding that you had more control over it than you ever realized. And a longing for the perfect brownie recipe may end with a humble acceptance that several store-bought mixes are quite good.

So yes, to some extent we may find a sense of peace and serenity in our life. A sense that, “oh hey, maybe I don’t have to beat myself up quite so much.” But I don’t think it’s a given.

All this is to say, the achievement of serenity is not an end to itself, or even an end. Without a sense of striving in your life, a continual grasping for something better and wiser just out of reach, than how can one truly be content? It’s the striving that makes it so!

Or at least I think that’s the case. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Another couple years by the river should do it.

By the river

Feeling at Home at Bev’s Place

First, an update from last Friday’s post: The chocolate cake was a hit. (Was there any doubt?)

Second, as to our haphazard posting: If I ever get back on a regular writing schedule, it will be a miracle. (Hang tight, folks. We’ll get there eventually.)

Third, as to our housing situation: We signed the papers on Monday; it’s officially ours. (Yippee!)

mid-century home

I don’t know how well you can see her, but in front of the house by the two small shrubs we have a metal lawn decoration of a girl holding a flower pot.

She came with us from Phoenix. My kids were in grade school when we found her in a thrift shop, so we’ve had her quite some time. Over the years she took on a fine reddish-brown patina. As you can see, she fits right in with our Minnesota home.

I wonder how long before that’s true for me? When will this truly feel like our home?

At times it feels like we’re staying in a vacation rental, mostly when we walk to the river or stroll along the nearby golf course.

Other times it feels like we’re staying in the home of an elderly relative.

(There was a time when the sight of arm rails and assists would have bothered me. But after having undergone a couple difficult surgeries, I look at them now and think, “What a great idea!”)

Husband and I seem to have a knack for buying the homes of old ladies. Our first was in Nebraska from a woman named Willametta (great name, don’t you think?). The second was Eva’s home in Phoenix.

And now it’s Beverly’s home. Or Bev, as the neighbors say.

As I said last week, we know a few things about her. She collected recipes, enjoyed reading, worked at a school, enjoyed her sunroom and yard.

I found this picture posted on an online tribute to her (she passed away in March):

Beverly on porch

One of the many comments posted: “What a kind and classy lady.”

She does look rather classy, don’t you think?

Jerry, our new neighbor, said she had funny little sayings she’d repeat, perfect for whatever you were talking about. Jerry’s wife, Patricia, said no one could tell a story better than Bev.

“She’d make you laugh so hard you’d cry!”

I wish I could have met her. I’m certain we’d be friends.

Look what I found in the backyard, next to her cute little shed:

Peace

I have a hunch — just a hunch, mind you — that a grandchild painted it and gave it to her.

Walking through the home, it’s easy to feel the love and care that went into it. For over 50 years this was their home. Children were raised here, meals served, laughter shared and tears shed.

Someone asked me if I can feel her here. Meaning Beverly.

I don’t put much stock into the idea of ghosts, but I know others do so usually I say, “Well, she didn’t die here, you know. She died in a nursing home.” Thinking that will explain my lack of haunts.

It doesn’t of course. They point out “her spirit will inhabit the place she loved most.”

Now were it me? Were I a ghost?

Seems to me I’d travel. See the world. Hang out in Paris for a bit. Head over to Venice for a ride in a gondola. Spend some time in Egypt studying the pyramids… But like I said, maybe that’s just me.

Now should Bev drop by, maybe to check on things? I’ll show her how the Peace Rock is in its place and I’m doing my best to keep the yard and flowers looking nice.

I might also ask her a few questions.

Like, what did she put in the odd little space by the dining room table? Why are there seven outlets in the small sunroom, but only two in each bedroom? And why the five small nails under one of the bedroom windows?

But mostly: what the heck is the plastic hook above the basement light switch for?

light switch

Was it a key? A key to what?!

Augh, I may never know. If any of you have a guess, I’d love to hear it.

In the meantime, in case you’re curious, here’s the nitty-gritty on making Bev’s chocolate cake mentioned last week:

Bev’s Rocky Road Cake

Ingredients:

  • One package Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 4 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or peanuts
  • 1 jar hot fudge topping

Mix the cake according to package directions except replace the water with coffee (this is optional; you don’t really taste the coffee, but it adds a nice depth to the flavor). Spread into a greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Remove from oven and immediately top with mini-marshmallows and sprinkle with nuts. Heat the hot fudge topping in the microwave according to directions on jar, drizzle over the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving.

Enjoy!

chocolate cake

Thanks, Bev!

R.I.P. Fluffy, Bear of Noble Mien

Moving across country is not for the softhearted.

One must be willing to part with unnecessary items. Purge the dross. Winnow possessions to the basic few.

It is no time for sentiment.

Therefore, it is with heavy heart that I must say farewell to thee, Fluffy Bear. Steadfast Teddy these past 45 years.

Give or take a year.

Fluffy

Ah, how well I remember when you entered my life.

I, a sorrowful lass who lost her previous bear due to an unfortunate intake of far too much candy, and his subsequent visit to the washing machine.

Alas, poor Herman. Loved so dearly, gone so soon.

Then one sunny day, you entered my life after the family collected enough proof of purchase labels from a certain brand of toilet paper.

Our lavatory supplies were covered for the remainder of the year.

Your label read, “made of 100% fluffy synthetic fiber.” Hence your name. Fluffy.

Our early years were carefree and bright. Remember the times you watched me standing on the seat of the backyard swing, singing at the top of my lungs?

I’M ON THE TOP OF THE WORLD LOOKIN’
DOWN ON CREATION!

You were so kind, never pointing out my sour notes.

Later you donned your dapper attire, looking oh-so-noble in my niece’s cast-off baby jacket.

Perhaps other bears would object to the wearing of pink, but not you. You were comfortable in your skin.

And later when your nose fell off? Or your tongue? Oh, how many times they fell off! But each time you withstood the needle with such stoic silence.

It was admirable.

Sadly, all things must come to an end. And so it is with you, dear Fluffy. It is time we bring this relationship to a close.

Goodbye to you, my trusted friend…

Fluffy trashed

Don’t look at me like that, Fluffy. It’s for your own good. Do you know how cold it gets in Minnesota? You’d hate it there.

And that hole in your back? It’s not getting any smaller, you know. Why, the move alone might do you in. Never mind the cold.

Fluffy, no! Turn those orange plastic eyes away from me!

Be reasonable, Fluffy! I’m 50… um… some-odd-years-old. A 50-some-odd-years-old woman doesn’t keep a teddy bear.

It just won’t do!

You never know. You might like the landfill. Think of all the other toys you’ll meet.

Discarded dolls… unwanted G.I. Joes… unloved teddy bears…

Gah! I’m sorry Fluffy, please forgive me!

*rescues from trash*
*hugs tightly*
*weeps softly*

Come to Minnesota! We’ll keep each other warm! I’m sorry I ever considered parting; what was I thinking?

You and me, Fluffy. From now until the end of time, that is my promise.

Here’s your travel bed — my dresser’s top drawer…

Fluffy in transit

*waves back*

See you in Minnesota, Fluffy. ❤️

When You Know it’s Time to Move

It’s one thing to move when you’re unhappy, it’s quite another to move when everything is going positively swell.

We’ve got ourselves a swell life here in Phoenix. Our kids are here, family and friends abound, we have jobs we like.

Heck, I even like my coworkers. How amazing is that?

We live in a decent neighborhood, in a decent house, with decent neighbors who watch out for each other.

But yeah. We’re moving. To Minnesota.

When people ask us why, it’s not always easy to explain.

“You know it’s cold there, right?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

Snowing in April
The view from our hotel the first time we visited. It was mid-April.

We could say there’s a danger in getting too comfortable. You start to feel like you’re coasting along. No longer striving, no longer trying. Just settling in and waiting for the inevitable.

Sometimes what you need is a change of scenery.

“You know what the state bird of Minnesota is? The Mosquito!”
“Haha.”

Bench by the river
The Mississippi as it flows through Little Falls, a ten-minute drive from Randall, MN

Do you ever get an antsy feeling that something is not quite right? You feel a bit unsettled. Despite your life being perfectly fine, you have this voice inside saying, “You need a change… It’s time… Do something!”

And as Husband is a Presbyterian minister, we tend to put stock in that sort of thing.

We’ve been in the same house in Phoenix, at the same church, for 17 years.

Seventeen years. That’s half a century in Pastor-years.

He wanted to try something different. Still ministry, of course, but somewhere different.

Sometime after Thanksgiving, he “activated” his information. In essence, it alerts churches looking for a new pastor that he’s available. As per usual, he didn’t narrow the parameters as to where he was willing to go.

We’ve always been foolhardy in that regard.

“Hey, maybe we’ll wind up in Hawaii!”
“Yeah… or maybe Detroit.”
“Um…”

trees, Minnesota, small town
The sleepy little town of Randall, Minnesota

Fortunately for us, Presbyterians allow pastors to have a say in the matter. We’re not moved willy-nilly. We can scope a place out, take our time, interview the people there as much as they interview us. Do everything we can to make sure it’s the right move.

We were in no hurry, and with Husband having recently turned 60, we figured it’d be a slow process. We expected a year, maybe two, before we found the right place.

So imagine our surprise when he started getting emails from Florida, Pennsylvania, New York, California, Texas, South Carolina, Oklahoma…

“Oklahoma?”
“Um… no.”

river, small town, Minnesota, Little Falls
Look at all these homes blessed with riverfront views. Do you think they know how lucky they are?

Another thing we weren’t prepared for was how much politics would enter into it.

With each interview, Husband had a clear impression they were fishing for his political views, especially with regards to gay marriage. They weren’t asking overtly of course, but the meaning was there. And almost without fail, the churches contacting him were very conservative.

We began to wonder, was there some sort of code language we missed? Was there a phrase he used in his information form that inadvertently labeled him Alt-right?

He began researching locations as soon as a church contacted him, mostly to see how their area voted in the last election. What we hoped for was an area with some political diversity, neither all red nor all blue.

We look great in purple.

Most of the areas were heavily one sided. Such as South Carolina.

“I saw that 86% of your county voted for Trump.”
“Well, we ARE the Bible Belt, you know.” (Said in the most charming accent ever)

quilt shop, coffee shop, creamery building, randall minnesota
Randall’s quilt and coffee shop, housed in the old Creamery building. Soon to be my favorite hangout.

Then sometime in February he was contacted by a church in Randall, Minnesota. A Google image search showed us… well, honestly they need to hire a new photographer for that town. Most of the images are less than stellar.

But our emails with the church were lovely, as was a phone call. So a Skype interview was scheduled.

That then had to be rescheduled.

“So let me get this straight: no one from your committee can get to the church right now, on account of snow?”
“We really didn’t want to tell you that.”

snowy path, trees, minnesota
Are we nuts? Yeah, probably.

The eventual Skype interview was one of the most pleasant interviews he had, lasting for over an hour. It led to a second Skype interview, followed by a third… then a fourth… then a fifth…

The conversations were open, honest, forthcoming. They classified themselves liberal. They’re also pro-military.

They’re an interesting bunch.

They flew us up there. We hugged. (Heck, after five Skype interviews you’re practically family.) They put us in a nice hotel, drove us around town. Showed us the best roads for scenic motorcycle rides. (Husband took notes.)

They took us to a restaurant by a lake (of course), where Husband watched two snowmobiles make their way across the ice.

“That looks fun.”
“Um… yeah, actually. It does.”

snowmobiles, minnesota, family in the snow
Sure it’s cold, but dang it’s fun!

It’s an odd thing, but sometimes it takes a move across the country to find your kind of people.

So Husband wanted something different.

I think we found it.

church in randall minnesota