Sunday, September 25, 2016

seven years

Today marks the seven year anniversary date of my oldest son, Philip's passing. He was only 21 years old when he passed away on September 25, 2009. Brian and I had just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in San Francisco, CA and were still feeling wonderful from our vacation ~ and then our son was taken from us just 10 days later.

What more can I say right now except that our hearts are forever broken and that Phil's loss has left a lifetime of grief, but yet also beautiful memories not only for us, but for our family and friends, too. It's amazing how many lives are affected by a young person's death. It really has a ripple affect. To this day, I still hear from people that knew Phil and they tell me how his passing affected them.

If you haven't read about Phil and his story, you can click on "Dedication to Phil" tab at the top of my page. 

{Phil with sunburned nose in Cancun, Mexico at age 15.
 He had such a sweet, beautiful face.}

"I am not without hope, and I know I will see him again someday. But who knows when that day will come, so I've had to learn a lot about grief in these years - or at least learn a lot about how I grieve. I've learned that you don't get to practice how you'll handle something like this....

I've learned that life can be fun again, and I can laugh and enjoy it. At the same time, grief is like a giant block of granite: The sharp edges may have softened with the passing years, but it remains as hard and as heavy as it was the day it first crashed into my life. But I've discovered that sorrow has its own beauty. It brings depth and context to all the blessings in my life."
(Matthew Wahlberg, "What 9 Years Since my Son's Death Have Taught"
Chicago Tribune, Sept 27, 2015)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

anniversary, mri update, and a catastrophy

September 15, 1984 when we were just "kids" in our early 20's, we said "I do" in front of our beloved family and friends. My sister was my maid of honor and one of our good friends ~ the guy who introduced us two and a half years prior ~ was our best man. Thirty-two years of marriage...we've been through just about everything together, both good and bad. Like I was discussing with my aunt this weekend, when you say "for better or for worse" in your vows and you're just starry-eyed kids thinking everything is going to be just perfect because you're in love, you have no idea what the "for worse" part even means. We've had financial troubles, illnesses and surgeries (that'd be moi), problems with kids, and numerous other stuff...and have gone through the deaths of Brian's mother and one of his sisters; my father and grandparents; and worst of all, the death of our oldest son. If we can make it through that, we can make it through anything.

As you know from my September 11th post, we had gone to Shipshewana, IN for a getaway weekend in early celebration of our anniversary. But because our anniversary was the 15th, Brian took the day off and we spent the day in our go-to place: Evanston. What a perfect day to walk around to our favorite shops, grab a bite for lunch, then relax at our favorite beach park. We spread out a blanket in this area and laid down and closed our eyes while listening to the waves in the background. Like Brian said, he could've stayed there all day.

Our view of beautiful Lake Michigan...

A trip to Evanston wouldn't be complete without a stop at Secret Treasures. I found this cool bracelet, just right for fall. And yes, that's my pant leg and foot that is photo-bombing. That's what happens when you take an arm selfie.

Love the pretty button clasp in back.

The only other thing I found at Secret Treasures was a small yellow McCoy planter, which I put on the window shelf in my office.

I had also mentioned in my September 11th post that I was going for a MRI on my knee, as the orthopedic doctor suspected a meniscus tear. Well, it was confirmed. And the news I got was worse than I expected: I need arthroscopic surgery. I thought I could get away with waiting until next spring, since after the surgery I will need a lot of physical therapy. I wasn't too keen on the idea of going back and forth to PT several days/week in the winter, especially when I'd have to walk with a weak knee on the snow and ice. But, wouldn't you know it, ever since I saw the doctor my knee pain is worse! There's no way I can wait until spring. And from what I've read online, it's not good to wait because arthritis sets in. I was upset about the news at first, and the anxiety of the thought of another surgery (I've had two in the past, but that was for "female" stuff) and a painful recovery and then all that PT had me awake at night, but now I'm OK with it and thinking I just want the surgery over and done. It's inevitable - and the problem and pain will only get worse with time - so why worry about it longer than necessary?

 (Sunflower and mexican sunflowers in my neighbor's yard)

I have always wanted some kind of outdoor cat run for my kitties so that they could enjoy the fresh air and chomping on grass, but we never knew how to make a simple run. When I saw a cat run on another blog, I emailed the blog author and asked where she got it. She told me it was just metal crates from Home Depot and that they snap together with plastic fasteners. Perfect! Brian set it up in the front yard the other morning and Zippo and Clementine seemed pretty happy out there.

Monkey, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the cat run and clearly showed his displeasure.

Brian and I were sitting on the front porch, watching Zippo and Clem enjoying the run; sniffing the air and munching on grass. Zippo then started pawing at the cage and biting the metal bars. Next thing we knew, he stuck his head through one of the squares! We ran to Zippo and tried to get his head back through the square, to no avail. Zippo was freaking; I was freaking. Brian ran into the garage for the wire cutters. Zippo was actually strangling...I could hear gurgling in his throat. I was hysterical while Brian was trying to cut the cage from around Zippo's neck and in all the chaos, Brian got bit. Zippo got loose and was fine; Brian's finger, not so much. He had a couple of wounds on his pinky finger, so he washed it with soap and water, then held a clean towel on it for awhile to stop the bleeding. Then we put antibiotic ointment on it and bandaged it well. Later, our beekeeper friend told us to use his honey on the bites instead. We had totally forgotten that honey has naturally healing properties. 

("Sorry I bit you, daddy")

All's well that ends well...human and cat are both fine. 
Hope you're having a good week!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

slowly transitioning into fall

The signs are here. Squirrels are all over the place, running up tree trunks and fences and darting back and forth across the street, all the while with walnuts in their mouths. I see the evidence of buried treasures in my potted plants (thanks for the holes in my planters and dirt scattered everywhere, silly rodents!) and in really strange places like my grapevine wreath that's hung on a trellis!

The Black-eyed Susan and Purple Coneflower are drying up.

The trees are already changing color, if you can believe that. Seems earlier than usual this year but I think it's because we've had such a dry summer.

Sunlight is softer and fuzzy, casting a magic spell on the evening.

Technically, it's still summer. I don't like to push the seasons (except for winter - that could last a week and I'd be happy), so I'm not decorating for fall yet. I did change some things up for more of a smooth transition into fall. I'm now using subdued colors on the buffet and cuttings of sedum from the butterfly garden.

I traded the summer cotton throw for a more textured one and am using the gold tray on the coffee table again.

 I love pottery, both vintage and handmade by loved ones, so I'm using a mixture on the ladder bookshelf. The two handmade bowls on the second and fourth shelves and the vase with the leaves on the bottom shelf are all made by my son.

I kept the china cabinet in the kitchen simple with more pottery...thrift shop bowls on top, my son's mugs on the other two shelves.

Otherwise, everything in the kitchen is still bright and cheerful!

Hanging on to this last week of about you?

Sunday, September 11, 2016

amish country and the rest of the weekend

Hello friends ~ sorry it's been awhile since my last blog post. Life's been really busy and with all that's been going on, just not in the mood to blog. Thanks to those who emailed to check in on me.

 My latest happening is that I probably have a meniscus tear in my left knee. I'm having a MRI tomorrow morning. This will be my 6th MRI (I've had them on my back, uterus/ovaries, shoulder and twice on my brain) so I'm an old pro with these. However, still not something pleasant. I've learned to close my eyes before going into the machine and I do my best to take deep breaths. To take my mind off the fact that I'm in a coffin-like space and the noise around me is like jackhammers, I totally remodel my house in my mind. Whatever it takes, right?  

Our 32nd wedding anniversary is this Thursday, but we celebrated a little bit early this weekend by taking an overnight trip to Shipshewana, Indiana. Every year for our anniversary we take an overnight trip, and this year we wanted to go somewhere we'd never been before, but within a three hour drive. We had to drive through downtown Chicago on our way to Shipshewana. It was overcast and this photo was taken through the car windshield so it's blurry, but I always get a little thrill when I see the Willis Tower Sears Tower. (It will always be the Sears Tower to me!) 

In case you're not familiar with Shipshewana, it's a small Amish and Mennonite community. We'd never been to one of these communities, so we were fascinated with seeing the horse-drawn buggies everywhere. The rhythmic  clip-clop of the horse's hooves on the pavement was beautiful and serene.

I managed to get a close-up of a horse and buggy when the owner was in a store. I felt a little sorry for the horse. She was clearly agitated...tossing her head and stomping her feet. I saw she left a "gift" for her owner, too. These "gifts" were also all along the roadsides where the horse and buggies travel. I wonder who's responsible for cleaning it all up?

 This is the kind of horse my hubby was comfortable with. ;-)

We spent the day walking around to a bunch of shops, but were disappointed to find that most of them were all the same: gift and home decor shops, but nothing unique. Basically the cheap made-in-China stuff that you can find anywhere. There were a couple of Amish stores where they sold bulk dry goods and quality meats and cheese, so we came home with homemade noodles, 7-grain hot cereal, a block of raw, organic cheese, grass-fed beef, and fresh, nitrate-free peppered bacon. Oh - we did find a Lang store and I found a 2017 planner that I really liked.

I especially liked this one because it's filled with cheerful coloring pages. 

And then today was one of those picture-perfect days...the rain cleared out, the sun was shining brightly, and temps were in the 70's. In the afternoon, we walked down to the lake to our little town's car show. There were about 200 cars - not too shabby for a small town!

Our friend's '55 Chevy...

 Hope you had a lovely weekend ~ thanks for your visit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

finds and fadings

Sharing some of my latest finds with you...

Aren't these plates perfect for fall? The thrift store only had two each of these dinner plates and salad plates, but that's OK. They'll look pretty as part of a place setting on the table. They're made by Vernon Kilns (USA). 

A pretty hand-painted pitcher...

Mini hobnail sugar and creamer...

Another owl to add to my collection, but this one is different. Instead of a figurine, it's a vintage clip and quite heavy. Found in my favorite antique shop.

This was my best find, by far.  A brand-new Dooney and Bourke wristlet! Still had the original price tag of $75. My price was $13. :-)

These aren't thrifting finds, but they're still bargains: wire magazine holders from the Target dollar section. They were $3 each. I snagged the last two. The navy and aqua colors are perfect for my office. I just need to make labels for the fronts. 

Meanwhile, being the end of August, the gardens are fading. All my potted annuals are history (except for one hanging pot of petunias in a shady spot) and some of the perennials are starting to dry up.

The end of August is when Sedum starts showing its beauty and since I have it planted in the butterfly garden, it's nice to have something blooming while the Purple Coneflower and Black-eyed Susan are fading away.

I just cannot get over my coleus this year. This pot started out as four small plants. At first, these plants weren't doing well. The leaves started to shrivel up and were crispy. I tried a sunny spot, shady spot, more water, less water...nothing was working. One of the plants even died. I was just about to give up when I decided to move the pot to the other side of the house. I don't know why this was the "magic spot", but wow! Next year I'm planting coleus in the ground in this spot.

I had to run into the grocery store while I was out this evening and I found mini mums for $2.99. I bought two yellow and one purple to plant in the planter box that previously held basil (now harvested and made into pesto and frozen). I guess fall really is coming. I'm one who wants to hold onto summer just a bit longer.

Monday, August 22, 2016

on the homefront ~ from morning 'til evening

The past couple of days here have been picture-perfect. Temps are in the 70's, the humidity is low and sunshine abounds.

 It's delightful to turn off the AC and open the windows to feel the fresh air. The kitties concur.

 My front door, which faces east, opens right into the living room so there's always always a nice sun puddle on the floor in the morning. With the cool breeze coming in through the front door, too ~ just heavenly.

When you walk in the front door into the living room, there's a little foyer-like area. I got a new console table from Target a few weeks ago. The original console table we had there was dark brown - and now that's in our bedroom with a TV on top of it. Then, I was using my grandma's antique secretary desk, but it didn't really fit the space. It was too tall and not wide enough. This new table fits the space perfectly, brightens up the area, and I like the empty space underneath (the original dark brown console table had shelving underneath). Our leather ottomans - which open for storage - fit perfectly underneath this table.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, things are a bit more chaotic. When the husband works an overnight shift and thus is sleeping during the day, I lose the use of our bed as my spot for folding laundry. So, the kitchen table does double-duty as a folding spot. Oops, I see a kitty tail underneath one of the kitchen chairs! Somehow, a cat always makes it into most of my photos. Good thing I only have three. I met a lady in my yoga class last week who has 11. Not going there so don't even say it. ;-)

And now with Tim being home, it seems like there's three extra people in the house instead of just one. I think I got too used to be an empty nester after three years. I'm back to making big batches of food to keep in the fridge for hungry men. With the cooler weather, yesterday was a perfect time to make a pot of veggie-beef soup. I don't follow a recipe ~ I just make things up as I go along. I started out by lightly sauteeing chopped up onion, carrots, celery and garlic - just enough to bring out the flavors. Then I added a pound of organic, grass-fed ground beef. Browned that up with the veggies, drained the grease, then added four cups of organic beef broth, two cups of organic vegetable broth, and a 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.  Let that simmer for a few minutes, then in went the diced zucchini, green beans, and frozen corn. Spices were next - some Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Blend, freshly ground pepper, and Italian seasoning. Brought this up to a boil and added 1/2 cup ditalini pasta. Let simmer for eight minutes - and done!

Today I made a batch of corn muffins. A perfect accompaniment to the soup.

With so much cooking going on (Tim does a lot of his own, too), the dishwasher usually goes twice a day now. I relish the times the kitchen is finally clean ~ which doesn't last long ~ and the table is clear of laundry. ;-)

I always love to have fresh flowers around the house and my gardens have been supplying most of them, but when I saw a bunch of chamomile flowers at Trader Joe's, I couldn't resist. They look like miniature daisies, don't they?

The thing is, these cut flowers don't last very long. Interestingly enough, at the beginning of summer I had a pot of chamomile flowers growing and the entire plant died off within less than two months. I'm assuming it's just a delicate plant. 

The sun is setting noticeably earlier these days - about 7:40. 

This late summer sun casts the most beautiful glow down the patio on onto the Joe Pye Weed...

which the bees love.

Savoring every moment of these last summer days and nights.

Have a beautiful week!