Thinking About These Things

On the radio this morning, of course the talk was of Halloween and scary things.  All I could think of after a lady called in explaining a time she was so scared of a man in a mask when she was nine years old, was the when we celebrated Halloween in Fairview, MT with our best friends named Daryl, Kathy, Kimberly, and Lane (at least I think Lane was born by then).  

Halloween must have been a Friday that year because there would have been no school skipping for such a rendezvous when all parties involved were teachers or principals or farmers.   

Also that year I was six or seven because I was in the awful stages of growing out a very short style haircut which I insisted on getting.  I was a princess with a garage sale purple dress which was so very beautiful to my young eyes and a tinfoil crown.  Ummmm, yes.  A fancy crown made from tinfoil.  I loved it and felt it was so special.  My mom had a way of doing that kind of thing.  

I can't quite remember what Travis and Kimberly's costumes were, vampire maybe for him?  There's a really fantastic picture of the three of us standing on their house's red stained deck but I don't have it right here so work with me.

Daryl was a character.  Well, he still is.  He has entire persona he can change into which involve different gaits to his walk and the flipping up of cap bills.  He can stay in that character a long time and my dad joins in on the gong show which made, and continues to make, much entertainment.  And Daryl called me Butser and Dad-o called me Sep-I.  Yep there's that too.  Kathy was basically my mom and vice versa for Kimberly with Momma Debi.  Those two have the same vibe all around.  Encouraging creative messy play?  Yep.  Making peach pies on August days while canning something?  Yep.  Keeping too many momentos from everything?  Yep.  Making the every day feel special?  Yep.   

In other words, they were family.  They are family.  

Well on that Halloween at their house in Fairview, Daryl played a trick.  I mean of course he played a trick.  You know those fake people put in their yards?  Like a stuffed scarecrow or maybe a stuffed witch or something of that nature.  Well, Daryl dressed himself in coveralls and added padding.  And he put on a mask and a stocking cap and gloves and he sat on a lawn chair on their deck with his leg crossed looking real fake like.  Then he didn't move a muscle.  For a long time.  So the trick or treaters would assume he was of the fake variety discussed earlier.  Then when those poor little dressed up goblins and ghouls were just about to knock on the door, Daryl would say something and move around a bit.  And scare the you know what out of them.

It's a memory which I cherish.   

The memory of Halloween in Fairview, MT as a princess with a tinfoil crown and a garage sale purple dress with my very best friend in the whole wide world.  The greatness of that memory has nothing to do with our costumes or perfectly made detailed plans, it has everything to do with the fun created by our parents.  It has everything to do with them letting go and being ridiculous right along with us.  

I need these reminders sometimes.  That crowns don't need to be perfect, they can be made of tinfoil.

Kimberly and I live far far away from each other now and she lives a busy life with her two precious girls and her husband so we don't catch up often anymore.  But I know she's there and I'm hoping she knows I am here.  At the drop of a hat.  We are those friends.  The ones who can go months without a word and then see each other and it's right to the big talk.  The big talk where we can say things we probably would never say to anyone else.  We are those friends.  

She was here this summer and we met on a Saturday morning for coffee which turned into hours of talk.  It was so filling, to be across from the girl who has known me through it all.  Through being four and five and six and nineteen and twenty and thirty.  She has been there, a constant.  And I love her for it.  Besides, there's no one that can lip sing to "Oh Mickey!" and say the Pledge of Allegiance incorrectly and put on Santa Shop plays like her and I.    

It's funny how hearing something on the radio on your way to work can spur a memory in your mind and make you think about these things.  The things of Halloweens and years past.  Here's to hoping each and every one of your Halloween nights was for the books.   


A Smattering of Sorts

'Twas the night before Halloween and all through the house, Billy was watching the World Series while Amy was finishing up the last round of orange treats for the little trickers and pumpkin cookies for the big trickers.

I've decided I really am a sucker for holidays.  Give me a reason to theme and the rest is history.

I've been drawing pumpkin faces on mandarin oranges for the past three nights and making more batches of Halloween Bark from that party because it was a hit and then tonight, I found myself first admiring the prettiness of a bowl of ingredients and second making quite possibly the best pumpkin treat yet.  

There's this odd little being inside me which finds things like flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, soda, powder, and salt something worth looking at.

But for some reason, the wet ingredients weren't quite as appealing.

However the end product hit it out of the park.  Notice my slight baseball innuendo there.  Patting myself on the back.  

These pumpkin cookies, goodness gracious.  Although they are more like a cakinie -- a hybrid between a cake and a muffin and a cookie.  But totally delicious.  I had one.  I mean really, you can't serve a new recipe to people without sampling first.  Feel free to make these.  Your house will smell like a slice of fall festival.

2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups sugar
1 can pumpkin
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

  1. Combine wet ingredients
  2. Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl
  3. Add the dry to the wet & mix together until smooth.  Add as many chocolate chips as your heart desires (1 cup milk chocolate and 1 cup of mini semi sweet was a win)...drop onto pan.  Bake @ 400 / 10 minutes.   
Here's where I say, eating these cookies with coffee just might be the ticket.  Possibly even a home run of sorts.

Here's where I also say these will be making an appearance on Thanksgiving week.  Family, be ready.  Coffee and pumpkin cookies and sun.  It's happening.  

I have fourteen more pumpkin faces to draw so I best get to it.  And there's one inning left in this game.  Top of the ninth for him.  Bottom of the ninth for me.  Promise that's the last one.     

I'm sitting here writing this from my new favorite spot, an old rocker which came home with me on Saturday morning.  Because if you give Amy twelve minutes in between packing for an overnight trip, getting ready to take pictures at her uncle's wedding, and dropping off family pictures at her boss' house...she will jump in her friend Brittany's van and find the rocker.  

Then she'll come home and have to figure out where to put the rocker and that starts a whole other story.  One which involves a hijacked trip to Target on the way home from Bismarck and mild living room rearranging during Sunday night's baseball game.  Like I said, a whole other story entirely.


Beautifully Stated

We had book club on Friday and did something I can't believe we just thought of now, picked books for the entire year.  Created a year's worth of valuable learning and rich reading.  The book slated for November is A Million Years in a Thousand Miles: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller and I have to admit, it was my pick so I have a head start on it. 
I chose it after reading a few chapters; the words had me at the core right from the start. 
"...remembered Uncle Art and thought about him standing at his father's grave.  I knew he wouldn't die, because his life was like the roots of a tree that went miles into the soil and miles around its trunk and came up in my cousins, in their faces and their voices and their character.  I didn't think you could kill a tree that big.  Not even God could kill a tree that big." 
"The thing about death is it reminds you the story we are telling has finality." 
"If you aren't telling a good story, nobody thinks you died too soon; they just think you died.  But my uncle died too soon." 
"I wondered if life could be lived more like a good story in the first place.  I wondered whether a person could plan a story for his life and live it intentionally." 
So beautifully stated.  I can't add much.  Other than to say my really great friend sat across from me and clearly articulated, "Amy...your story does not end with this." 
How true she spoke that day because I write my story, it does not get written for me.  And I want to have the life with roots which go for miles into the soil and come up in the people who I'm doing this big thing with.  To know it's story which yes, has an ending point because ours all do, but goes on and on despite of an end. 
There's a part in the book where a man named Ben who resides in the warm city of Nashville experiences snow with the author standing next to him and oh love a duck, it hits...
"He watched the snow as though there was writing on each flake and he was trying to read.  He watched each flake as if it were the only one, and they all fell like feathers.  He gave us permission to notice how remarkable it was, water frozen and falling from the sky, all the cars stopped and the buses stopped, people out taking pictures of their dogs jumping through the snow." 
To notice how remarkable it was. 
Let's all give ourselves permission to notice.  To notice it all.  To create a really worthwhile story.   


Oh the Thought of It

I'm not one for superficial weather talk as I like to believe it's appropriate to visit with strangers about real subjects, like their deepest darkest secrets, not just if it's sunny or windy or chilly with a side of icy.  

But here I go, skipping right past deepest darkest and heading right for the big W words like winter and windy and snow.  Snow is an S word but still.  

It been snowing here this week, just a light tiny dusting every morning but nonetheless it is white on the green grass when I peek out the window at o'dark thirty.  

It is chilly here this week, not bone chilling below zero yet, but cold enough my hands hurt while I filled gas.  To which then I felt the need to text Billy with, "Your beloved hates the cold.  I'm not made for it.  And I hate it.  I'm moving."  To which he replied, "AZ!"  Because he's supportive like that and also because he knows I'm not serious and I was just in my, happens more than I care to admit, whiny pants state of mind. 

I feel maybe I should give a little explanation here as to why thirty degree weather would make my hands hurt and why the thought of being cold all the time again makes me actually want to cry.  I have Raynaud's.  My fingernails are blue from October to March and the skin on my hands and feet gets red splotchy itchy and has a general want to peel it off kind of feeling.  

Blue fingernails make you look like you are not doing so great so I tend to keep them painted for the nine months it's winter here.  It's okay to have artificially made green fingernails but it is not okay to have real life blue ones.  Trust me. 

Oh winter.  I really truly want to drop kick you and you haven't even started.  The only good thing about you is I do like wearing hats.  Hats are golden.

And I'm counting on this week simply being a reality check for all of us here in the Land of Nod.  I don't know what the Land of Nod really is but it could be used as an acronym for North Dakota and I'm just realizing that as I write this so I think I kind of like it.  I will look up land of Nod now to see what it really means...    

So I did and what it refers to is as the land east of Eden in the Biblical days and it's where Cain was exiled after he did you know what to his brother.  Nowadays it's often mentioned when wanting to indicate a wandering sense, finding a place to get lost in.  That is my paraphrasing of the most reliable form of information out there...Google.  

It fits.  North Dakota.  Land of Nod.  

Veering back to center from that tangent.  

I'm counting on this week simply being a reality check, a reminder of enjoy the fall fifties and forties while you can folks.  A reminder, not a stay forever.  I'm simply not ready to leave behind golden leaves and grass underfoot.   


Makes Sense, Total Sense

I lint roll the bathroom rugs every morning.  They are charcoal in color and my hair is of the light variety and toilet paper is of the linty variety and they both shed.  Therefore, I lint roll.  Every morning right after I put my jewelry on and right before I pick up the coffee mug to leave.  

It doesn't make any sort of sense and maybe common sense should kick in and a lighter color of rugs should be purchased...but for now I like the freaking rugs and I don't mind the lint rolling.  It doesn't make sense in the same way the one or two times I slept on the couch a couple of years ago because I didn't want to unmake the bed.  

Here's another thing that doesn't quite add up.  

I like animals.  I really do.  Horses are fabulous, I love a ride on a gravel road or a grassy ditch with good company.  Chickens, they give eggs and that's cool.  Cows, well cows are frustrating on many accounts, especially when they close their long eyelash-ed eyelids and try to walk through you with their massive bodies.  But they also have a special charm all their own.  Birds.  Birds of a feather flock together.  

Animals.  Yes I like them.  

Except, I am really not a fan of being licked by them.  

I think maybe horses and cows are my favorites because never have they ever in the history of ever tried to lick my face.  Like not once have I went to touch or pet their face or pat their butt and their reaction is to straight up lean in, jump up or down, and give my face a whole slimy lick. 

Dogs.  I like them.  I really do.  Man's best friend and I get that.  

But I do not enjoy a lick on my face.  

I think my sister's boyfriend's puppy Tootsie is rather adorable.  While out on a walk with my sister on Sunday, I went to pick up her up because it seemed like a good solid idea.  Cute puppy.  Furry puppy.  Chilly day.  Pick up right?  Have a nice little moment?   

But what's the first thing she did?  LICK.  Licked my face.  My sister, oh she laughed at the irony.   

Which made me want to drop her.  The little dog, not my sister.  It's just doesn't click with me, the whole lick.   

Tootsie is cute.  Animals are cute.  Just as long as they aren't a cat and/or they don't lick me in any fashion.  

I'll keep lint rolling the bathroom rugs because that makes all kinds of sense but on the other hand, I really expect animals to first of all understand that licking humans in any way is off limits and then to second of all...quit doing it. 

And clearly, I should keep doing the following behavior.  Was I imagining a lint roller?


Treating on Almost Halloween

I have a hot coffee sitting next to me, real smart at six-thirty on a Sunday night but I needed a something and I knew it would set the mood for a night of getting business done.  I am all about creating an atmosphere.  Also if I'm being honest, when I went through the drive through the pumpkin muffin called my name.  My name!  So...I have a pumpkin muffin split in half on a plate plate next to me as well.  And here I am, sipping and eating that fall goodness with a fork.  I like to eat treats with a fork.  I used to eat peanut butter honey bread every single morning with a fork, but we won't go into that routine I used to inhabit just this second.

All that to say, sometimes you just need a treat.  A treat of the pumpkin muffin variety on a crisp chilly October Sunday night.  Because it makes your heart happy to have it while your glasses are on your face and you are at your dining room table writing.

Other times, you need a treat like a Halloween party on a vacation Friday morning with twenty some little ones in costumes and a few of their mommas visiting while holding steaming coffee mugs.  Danae's annual Halloween party for her children and their friends was once again a hit.  I mean really, how could it not be when there's duck taped water bottles, themed goodies galore, pizza, games, and a vegetable pumpkin?  It's a guaranteed set up for hilarity and fun while in costume.

I arrived early to assist with finishing touches and to make the vegetable pumpkin.  It's my thing.  Although, this year I wasn't nearly as perfectionistic with it and you know what...the kids still ate it.  Soon I'll be a regular old laid back soul.

Pause for a heck no.

After everything was a go, I put each of Danae's kids on the table to take a picture.  They know the drill.

As does my nieces and nephews because after also arriving a tad early, they knew the first thing to do was stand in front of a closet door so their aunt could snap a memory.

Danae and I put Sil right to work topping off the fruit cups whose fluff had been deflated because that girl can be trusted with a whipped cream can.  She can really be trusted with anything.  She raises four little people, that's no joke.  

Then the entire party arrived and were fed.  Fed like kings and queens.  Danae could throw parties for a living.  

And let me tell you this, twenty some kids in one house is a riot.  A riot.  At one point I walked downstairs and the girls were jumping on the bed while singing praise music at the top of their lungs as the boys were having a round of wrestle mania in the next room.  

What is it with boys and wrestling?  It's like they have a magnetic pull to push and grab and say arghhhhhh.  It took me a solid seven minutes to wrangle the boys for a tiny moment of still.  Then, I told the few girls who were watching me dumbfounded to join in too.  At that point, I wanted a guaranteed smile on at least one face or two. 

I suppose a man in my position would say the same about the girls dancing and singing their hearts out...but the tutus and lip gloss and high kicks and claps and sitting?  Those make sense to me. 

The kindergarten teacher shined through with Danae and she soon had every single little sitting quietly working on decorating a bag.  

And then she had everyone play pin the nose on the pumpkin or something like that and it took a lot of noses being placed exactly on the pumpkin for someone to finally say, "I can see through this mask Mommy!"  Have to love Emma for her honesty.  

Who is ready for next year's party?  

And who is jittery from drinking night coffee.  And who is really not laid back at all, nor non-perfectionistic because now it's seven-forty on a Sunday night and this took me entirely too long because of a pesky few pictures which would not stay aligned with the others.  I can let vegetable pumpkins go, but apparently I'm not all the way there yet.  

I'm off to see the Wizard...the wonderful Wizard of Oz...