Category Archives: wonderland


Murphy’s Law

Click. Click. Click. Click. 

I’m feeling the cocktail of excitement, fear and relief as the car that I am securely strapped into is pulled higher and higher.  I’m excited because I am about to speed down a near vertical angle that looks impossible when viewed from the ground. As the car lurches upward, there is a split second of  fear that the chain dog will snap releasing the coaster backwards ending in a horrific crash.  The click of the the chain comforts me into thinking it must mean everything is fine.  Until we lurch forward again.  And again. And again. It is, after all, by record, the tallest wooden roller coaster. 

Despite my alternating states of emotion, I am drinking in the view.  It’s a shame that the American Eagle name was already claimed because the top of this lift hill is an eagle eye’s view. My son, brave enough to ride the coaster with me, actually isn’t brave enough to have his eyes open at the top.  Looking to the sky from the top of an  impressive height has never quivered my stomach. It’s a glorious view of the people below coming together to scream their heads off.  It almost takes my mind off the click of the roller coaster I am on. 

Click. Click. Fear. Relief. Fear. Relief. Fear.  

Then a pause as we hang at the top of a 180 feet drop while the anticipation builds.  I thought looking down 85 degree decline would trigger some unknown anxiety once we got there but the reality is that I am ready to fly. 

The locks release and we accelerate to 72 miles an hour.  The roller coaster twists us, change directions and never shows us what is coming next.  I can’t control what is coming out of my mouth. 

A month later, I’m driving a tiny economy rental car through the mountains near Golden, Colorado.  I’m fairly certain that the decription on the Avis website would read “Clown Car”.  Most people rent an SUV for the mountains.  Apparently, I rent clown cars.  

The GPS says turn right at the next intersection. I hesitate because this road seems more like a dirt driveway than the shortest route to Golden Gate Canyon State park.  A dirt road in the mountains could end up anywhere.  Like throwing a Jackson down on black number six, I decisively drive ahead into the mountains. On a dirt road. In a clown car. 

At first, I’m just driving along hoping that the GPS signal stays strong enough to guide me back to civilization sometime before my flight leaves that evening.  However, after a while, I note the washed out narrow ditch is a good 3 to 4 feet below the “edge” of the road, and I begin hoping that a tow truck will be able to get to me in time for me to make my evening flight.  I throw a Grant on red number 33 as I press on thinking that I will turn this car around at anytime I feel like the road isn’t safe enough to proceed, provided I’m smart enough to recognize it in time and tire of the gamble. 

After another five miles driving the clown car down the narrowing washed out dirt road, I pulled onto the paved main road. I glanced over my shoulder at the mountain side and once again I cannot control what comes out of my mouth. I laugh semi-hysterically for a good 30 seconds. 

Holy Shit! How the hell am I not sideways in a washed out ditch? 

The laughing reminds me of my uncontrollable laughter on the roller coaster rides a month earlier.  In both instances, I am euphoric because I have just broken Murphy’s Law.


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It Will Be Done

I’m changing, or, maybe I’m in a phase. If I was younger and lacking medical barriers, I’d blame it on pregnancy because I feel like I’m nesting. Since that isn’t the case, perhaps I’ve just matured?

Wait, does peri menopause have symptoms of just wanting to get shit done, finally?

I’m sick and tired of wanting to do projects, coming up with ideas, and thinking “I could totally do that” but never, ever doing anything. I have a closet full of materials, but no finished items.

Well, I used to. Now, I just want to get shit done.

I think it started when the glass table broke and my husband threatened me with throwing away the frame or do something with it. So, we made a pallet table.

IMG_4386.JPG Not the finished product

It didn’t seem like it took that much effort (admittedly, the husband and younger kid did quite a bit), but I got to thinking, why stop there? So, I finally, took all the boys scouting awards and put them into displays that I thought up about three years ago.

IMG_4617.JPGThen my friend Robbie took me to a an art class and I said, “Next month, we are doing crafts at my house.” Plus, I was threatened with do something with the rest of the pallet wood or it’ll be burned.

IMG_4618.JPGThe husband painted the family room which spurred me into a shopping spree to redecorate. It’s a good thing, it got cold because it refocused me on more materials waiting in the closet. (a.k.a. money already spent) These are my arm and finger knitting scarves. I’ve only finished four which is enough for one everyday of the week when I include my purchased scarves.

IMG_4609.JPGI actually made a Christmas present last night for one of the boys instead of the materials sitting in the closet for three years like the awards displays. That was after I adjusted the colors of the new LED lights I put on the Christmas tree.

I have more crafting nights planned. I have a bazillion ideas for Christmas. I am….

Oh, crap! I’d better get on those Christmas cards! I have 4-5 boxes of unused cards sitting in the closet from previous years thinking I would send them but did not. Maybe the “get shit done” hormones will make me crave the taste of envelope glue? I think it’s worth a try. Right?

It Will Be Done!
Uh, do you hear what I hear?

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Sing with me!

It’s Christ-mas, Christ-mas

Editor’s note – here’s a great Latvian cultural blog that will be celebrating 24 days of Christmas Baltic style! Priecīgus Ziemassvētku, Liene!

Ok, it’s Christmas time, not actually Christmas but I was anxiously waiting for Dec 1st as though it was Dec 25th.

I’m over the hill and acting like a child from 1 to 99. How did this happen?

Perhaps it was the US Capitol Christmas tree viewing? I recently read a facebook post that flew by on my news feed as I was scrolling for celebrity gossip that children are more successful if they experience delayed gratification. It was the “you can have one cookie now or two cookies if you wait an hour” test. I postulate, although I was dunked into the Christmas spirit when the US Capitol tree came to town and because I prohibited celebrating early, that my excitement was intensified by anticipation for Thanksgiving to be done! The feeling reminds me of the good ol’ Christmas mornings of my youth when I’d bask in the overflowing glow of the Christmas tree while waiting for everyone else to wake up.

Perhaps I’m overly excited about spending Christmas at my house, with my tree, with presents decorated my way? (please, husband, don’t use a whole roll of wrapping paper on a jewelry box). We spend nearly every holiday out-of-state. Usually, to accommodate all the family gatherings and obligations, we have to leave days before each holiday. As a result, I don’t get a chance to share many of the wonderful things my parents did for me with my children. It won’t be much longer before the magic will fade for them. Older Kid is already nonchalant about decorations. I feel this year has to be a ringer (Ref. Polar Express Sleigh Bell).

Perhaps I’m just a holiday freak?

…I figure that statement doesn’t require any further explanation.

So Sing with me!

All I really want from you, is your beau-ti-ful Christ-mas lights
Learn more about the song Beautiful Christmas Lights here
Younger Kid has taken over the outdoor lights. I guess, I can’t have everything my way.




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1964 – A Year That Changed Lives

Fifty years of friendship all based on a secret. It’s unbelievable and shocking. I was stunned when I found out. For fifty years, they had all been living with a secret.

In 1964, eight male industrial arts teachers at the new Marion High School in Marion, IN and their wives formed a friendship because of this secret.

…What was the secret you wish to know?

It wasn’t just any old secret it was THE secret…

… The secret to friendship.

These friends weren’t just two best friends that had grown up together or neighbors who lived side-by-side on a cul-de-sac. This was nine adults who managed to become friends and stay very close for fifty years. In fact, six pairs of husbands and wives stayed close for nearly forty years and it was only cancer that came in between any of them.

So, what was the secret they used to sustain this friendship despite new friends coming in, moving to other states, growing children with their own busy lives, and retirement?

To figure that out, we have to go back to 1964.

First, they were helpful. The men lent a helping hand to each other to set up the new school before they even knew each other.

Second, they shared a similar sense of humor. According to Jim F, his dog, after being set on top of Jim M’s drafting board, peed all over it and everyone laughed, no one got mad.

Did I mention the pie? Apparently, these guys drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of pie. I said to my sister, “No wonder Dad liked these guys so much.”

But, enough about the men. How about their wives? According to Bob R, the real sticking point was the wives. They treated each other like sisters and stuck together like family. There was no mention of the women eating pie but they certainly left a positive mark.

These friends were close but not exclusive, they welcomed another family into the fold many years after the friendship circle had formed.

In this group of friends, no activity was too small to participate in, no disagreement to large to come in between, no joke too silly to tell, and no moment not worth the effort. There was nothing to keep them together but a willingness to be friends.

They call themselves the UnGroup but it must be part of their humor. UnGroup suggests they are unorganized, unformed, and lacking rules or membership. However, there are four gigantic diaries chronicling fifty years of evidence to the contrary.

IMG_4557.JPG There’s even a logo!

I mean, what unorganization records every detail of their friendship? The UnGroup, that’s who. The 1st Diary keeper and starter, Phyllis, even used hashtags back in 1964.


The second generation knows quite well that the UnGroup formed in 1964, but when my dad mentioned it was the 50th anniversary, I was shocked. It’s almost unbelievable to witness a group of couples come together so well that they maintained it through fifty years. It’s a little bit of magic, a whole lot of willingness, and a lot like family… or better.

I’ve always referred to the UnGroup as the third side of my family. There is a saying that your first friends are your cousins. Yes, they are. This 3rd side feeling was greatly apparent this past weekend when the 2nd generation put together a truly unorganized reunion (in comparison to the 1st generation, that is) in honor of the 50th year. I was hugged and it was ok. I was called Steph and it was very ok. There was no ice to break, just friends to talk to. The 3rd generation even took to the magic of becoming friends and cousins. Not all of the 1st generation or 2nd generation UnGroup was able to make it to our gathering. But, I look forward, as we head down the road to 60 years, to the possibility of meeting up with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation UnGroup non-members (to paraphrase Jerry F) again and again. Perhaps, at least once a year as is dictated in Book I of the UnGroup diary?

I’m thankful my parents found life long friends. I’m thankful they were willing to go the distance for friendship. I’m thankful I have a third side of the family.
1st Generation
Charlie, Mary, Jim, Betty, Bob, Tom, Phyllis, Jim, Sandy, Jim and Diane

1st Generation at the campfire in the sky
Jeanne, Jerry, and Carol

IMG_4555.JPG 1st generation non-members attending the 2nd Generation 50 Years Gathering

IMG_4558.JPG Playing Progressive Pictionary at the 50 Years Gathering

IMG_4566.JPGThe 30 Year Reunion

IMG_4565.JPG Roses, Flack and Masing go camping ~1992

IMG_4567.JPG Ever wondered what it’d be like to climb the backside of Sleeping Bear Dune? The Roses, Masings, Flacks, and Fausts kids can tell you ~1984


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Jeanne’s Homemade Applesauce

The apples are ripe for the picking! Only I don’t pick, I buy, cook/bake and eat apples. The freezer is empty (minus 25 bags of frozen corn thanks to the Mister) so it’s an applesauce year. It’s something my mom made for us so I do the same for my kids. Or, maybe, I really just do it for myself.

One thing I treasure from the six months my mom had after a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was the “sister time” my sister and I spent with my mom. We did crafts together and added to a long list of insider jokes. One of the activities my mom organized for us was a lesson on how to make Jeanne’s Homemade Applesauce.

Fast forward fourteen years, it’s time to open Jeanne’s instructions and cook down to applesauce.

Instructions and apples – check

Read Instructions for the fourteenth time.

In Jeanne’s own words:
My name is Jeanne
Today we are going to learn how to make Applesauce which is fun and very easy. Here are a few steps into a wonderful dish of Homemade Applesauce.

1. Go out and buy yourself a bushel of apples like Macs or Jonathan and just ask the orchard owner what is a good apple for sauce.

2, return home before you use up your energy you will need a lot for applesauce.

3 run water in the sink catching it to about 1/2 full and pour some of the apples into the water to wash.

4 NOw you must make a choice on how you want to cut up the apples I myself like the corer and just drop the quartered apple into the pan on the stove on =—–LOW (COULDN’T FIND THE UNDERLINE for under the Low)

5. The apples must simmer for 2 to 3 hours stir occasionally and watch to see if the apples are going to stick which makes then brown black better known as burnt.

6. An easy way to get them started is to put them in the Micro for about 10 minutes then into the pan and helps to avoid the burning. And gets them off to an easy start;

7. NOw if you remember your apples cooking you can relax for 2 to 3 hours returning to the apples to stir once in a while go read , do laundry ., put the kid to bed , or make a wreath.

8. The apples must be ready to finish now. . Get out the colander put it over a deep dish and pour some hot cooked apple into the colander working with the round handled part sieve through into the deep dish YOu will need to clean out the colander once in a while and pour in more until it is all done. From here you will add sugar and cinnamon to taste. Fill the plastic bags and enjoy when winter comes. You might want to mark on this paper from the amount of apples you have today how much sauce you get so that next year you have an idea how much to buy.


My mother gave me an A-.


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Classification: Runner

People are always trying to classify runners and joggers. I think of jogger as an outdated 1980’s sort of term, a bit like “groovy” or “far-out”. Non-runners, be warned, runners are easily insulted by the term jogger. Fast runners, be warned, you might think we are joggers, but we make your sport a household name.

I classify myself as a runner. Here is one of many reasons why:

It is because after I finished running my first mile, I decided to add another mile to my workout plan. After I finished running the second mile, I decide to take a detour that would add another half mile to my route. When I finished running the third mile, I looked around to admire the nice weather, beautiful landscape, and intriguing buildings. I was happy to be outdoors on my own power. When I looked at my watch to see how much more time I had to run, I was disappointed after all those miles to see I needed to head home which was only one more mile.

Not every run is like this but many are because I am a runner. That’s my classification.

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A Philosophical Discussion: The Last Meal

Have you ever been asked the question:
If you knew this was your very last meal, what would you eat?

Right away, I start to over analyze it.
Are we talking breakfast, lunch or dinner?
Do I have to eat local or will I have time to fly to another part of the world?
Do I have to cook it or does it magically appear?
Does it have to be a meal or can it just be dessert?
Do I have to stick with a ‘normal’ meal or can I get creative?

Since I’ve spent half of my life trying to lose weight, I’ve learned a few things about ‘last meals’. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had just one last (insert bad for you food here) only to walk away saying, “Really? It wasn’t as good as I remembered it.” So, this choice has to be carefully considered because I’d hate to go to my death bed being disappointed in my last food choice.

If it was:

French Toast- this has always been my favorite breakfast and I know all the secrets to making it the World’s best. Don’t even kid yourself that all it takes is some vanilla and cinnamon. There is more but it’s also my secret. The final and defining ingredient is real maple syrup just like Mom used. I’ll wait for you to fly to Vermont to get some, if necessary. Restaurants not serving maple syrup is probably one of the single most effective ways to keep me on a diet. I’ll take some bacon too, if you’ve got it.
On the side, as a breakfast dessert, I want my mom’s Apple Jonathan.

I am my mother’s daughter. I don’t like leftovers. Therefore, if my last meal is at lunchtime, it has to be a sandwich. More specifically, a Jimmy John’s sandwich. I can’t be more specific than that because they have so many good sandwiches that I couldn’t pick until I got there. Even then I might order a party platter just to get a variety for my last time.
But, before lunch is over, we have to drive to Plainwell, MI to get ice cream. It’s a good thing the drive will be long because I am going to need to make room for all the flavors I am going to eat. I’ll probably start with chocolate hazelnut, island city fudge, mint chocolate chip, butter pecan, pumpkin, and lemon chiffon. Not necessarily in that order but most likely.

We will have to travel again but this time we need a plane because I want fresh from the sea crab. Not crab with a K but real, still in the shell crab. King crab is preferred but I’ll settle for Dungeness if need be. I have to eat it on the pacific coast because by the time it gets to the Midwest it’s crap instead of crab. I might have some room for sweet corn but only if the pick it the Jeanne way. Young and sweet. Also, I’d like applesauce. Homemade. The way mom made it.

I hope this airplane we are in has the ability to time travel or alter the seasons because I need to go to Michigan in early June for fresh strawberry shortcake for my dessert. But, (there’s always a but) I don’t eat ‘shortcake’, I eat my strawberries on fresh, homemade, buttermilk biscuits like mom used to make.

There’s a bit of a theme in my choices. Each one related to how my mom cooked or what she taught me about food. She cooked from scratch on most things. Those are the things that taste the best, not the processed fast food so present in my life today. She showed me that fresh foods, perfectly picked were far better than anything else.

Mom died 11 years ago from pancreatic cancer. When I think of a last meal, I don’t just think about mom’s cooking or mom’s ways, I also think about her last meal. She was determined to fight the cancer until the very last second. She was so determined that she still tried to eat the day before she died even though all her organs were in failure. My mom’s last meal was a day old donut from Westco gas station.

I know it’s a philosophical discussion but when it comes down to it, your last meal isn’t going to mean anything. It’s all the meals you had before that.

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