Waiting on Spring

Spring has been flirtatious this year. Snow in early May. Only a single day that has edged to the 70 degree mark.

Now it’s a wet and cool Memorial Day weekend with my vegetable garden half planted.

About the only thing I’ve found this gloomy weather good for is a walk through the local cemetery… made me more reflective than normal, I think.

Lives willingly given to nail down the freedoms we enjoy.

Other lives gone just too soon … some by uncontrollable circumstances. Some by stupid choices.

Lives well worn … well lived.

Others that made us cringe.

Lives that started a legacy that is now our small town, still hanging on.

Lives that taught us to laugh … or hope … or to be reverent and merciful.

Lives that made us feel loved … tears well up because we miss them beyond words.

I walked away wondering what phrase or memory will someday sum up my days on the planet.

Seconds later I’m thinking about whether we’ll see weather in the 80’s before August. And will we complain when it does?

And … am I brave enough to grill our Memorial Day meal in the drizzle.

Ahhh … my thoughts are as fickle as the forecast.

Below are sweet reminders that nature won’t wait on inclement weather. Maybe I shouldn’t either.

All photos property of Sausmus Photography and cannot be used without permission.

The Little Christmas Liar, Part I

People often ask me if I do any “real” writing … “besides your blog, I mean,” they add. 

I do … mostly short stories … most of them tied into my childhood and rural upbringing. This piece was intended for a Memoir Writing Contest, but with all of 2020’s curve balls, I set it aside and didn’t finish it up by the deadline. Somewhat ironic, given this is a year for being locked inside … a perfect formula to force writers into finishing up projects … apparently that formula doesn’t work on me tho’. (Smiley face)

The timing for getting back to this does have the perk of falling into the right season. And it’s been therapeutic right now to compare the rural life I was raised in to the one I’ve recently returned to.

Note: Some names have been changed in this. Also, I’ve decided to divide it into two parts because it’s so large for a regular blog post. Hope you will find your way to Part II (the true meat of the story)when I post it in a couple of days. A two-parter lines up with my childhood experience of listening to radio programs like The Cinnamon Bear at Christmastime … having to check back the next several nights to hear the whole thing. Promise … I won’t drag it out that long … just two parts. Enjoy … I’d love to hear your thoughts and your own memories.

Part I

Grandpa was a lot of things: handsome, a dependable farm worker, an avid hunter, and a binge drinker.  He was both likable and crusty.  When sober, he was respected by all, sought after.  When drunk … well … my Grandmother locked him out of the house

The Christmas morning of these memories, I recall him as a smiling, laughing man.  Uncharacteristically giddy, even.  It was he who burst into the bedroom I shared with my sister and hurried us down the stairs, but not before stopping across the hall to lift my baby brother, stinky diaper and all, out of his crib.  My older brother had much earlier made his way to the fought-over, fat, cushy, purple chair next to our tree. The tree created a great mystery because overnight it birthed a room full of sparkly wrapped packages. Julie Andrews carried on about Three Ships of Christmas morning from the record console in the corner.  My brother grumbled that if “the babies would ever get up, we could get on with presents and the good stuff.

My Grandmother owns part of the memory too. At 5’4, she was a plump little round ball next to Grandpa’s half-a-foot-taller, lean mass. Like Grandpa, she was a mix of many things: a good cook, a fair gardener, fond of quirky riddles, fond of anything sweet, and a bit of a mouse. “Mouse” understates her.  Whenever she was nervous she started sentences with her pet phrase, “Aren’t you afraid?”  “Aren’t you afraid no one will come to the party?” “Aren’t you afraid we’ll run out of money?” “Aren’t you afraid you didn’t study enough?”  “Aren’t you afraid of … well … everything.”

I can think of only a few times that Grandma appeared determined without apologizing.  She insisted that she’d take any piece of chicken except “the one that went over the fence last.” Then, there was the story passed down from my mother where Grandma locked Grandpa out of the house for coming home too late and too tipsy.  He had managed to drag a ladder from their shed and teetered his way to the second floor. There he found an unlocked window and passage into one of the sneezy rooms used only for storing furniture and canning jars. She locked the door to the stairwell too, and he had to bang on it the next morning, mumbling forgiveness before she let him out for his toast and coffee

This Christmas morning was one of Grandma’s “so determined” days.

“Breakfast first.” She stood unmoved at the stove with a wooden spoon in her hand

Grandpa clearly didn’t have breakfast on his agenda.  He stood in the doorway between the kitchen and room full of presents, looking towards the tree with longing eyes. Grandma shifted only to move back on her heels as if they were suddenly nailed into the floor, and she tapped the spoon against her palm.  I’m not sure what that signaled to her husband, but he slumped his shoulders like a pouting boy and told my brother, “Hurry up now. Wash your hands and eat something.

Oatmeal … thankfully heavily doctored with cinnamon and raisins  … I hated oatmeal …and orange rolls dripping with butter frosting … the hungry yeastiness of them filling the room with such ferociousness that we forgot about unopened gifts for a moment … this was the breakfast of Christmas champions.

My parents were there, but faded into the pale and cracked plaster-coated kitchen walls.  Mom took over and changed Baby Brother’s diaper, but otherwise let her parents fuss away. Dad sat in the corner, folding and unfolding lanky legs, mindlessly rotating a steaming cup of coffee with one of his hands, waiting for it to cool.  He didn’t drink coffee unless he first watered it down with cold tap water, but he wasn’t going to say anything to my grandfather who had served him without his asking. With his other hand, he toyed with the button on his shirt pocket, wanting to pull out one of his hand-rolled cigarettes – a habit he’d picked up in army days –  but must have figured my mom would scold him. When my grandparents weren’t around, he smoked all day long.

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

I don’t remember how we got into the living room, but suddenly Grandpa was in charge again and we were there, in front of the crooked pine, hauled down from the nearby Idaho forest back in the days when permits weren’t required.  Plump red and orange and blue and green and yellow bulbs peeped out between the branches, throwing happy shadows of light around a room still gray at the edges from the cloud-frosted morning outside.

Toys. There were so many toys. Dolls. Metal trucks. Coloring books. Water colors. Wooden airplanes that you had to snap together. Handmade doll clothes.  A two story dollhouse, open on one side so that we could reach in and arrange the little painted rooms with little plastic furniture. Building blocks. Stuffed lions and monkeys and bears. Cap guns.

And candy. Candy cane shaped tubes filled with red and green M&Ms. Ribbon shaped suckers. Red and green jellies. Foil wrapped chocolates formed into the likeness of Santa and reindeer. A box of pink peppermint bark … but this was for Grandma alone … to share only if she chose, which she always did.  Round peppermints with red stripes, wrapped individually and destined to be the last candies we would eat in the weeks after the holiday, and only then, if we were desperate for something sweet.  The strong peppermint scent reminded my nose of medicine.

And there were peanuts at the bottoms of our stockings.

And oranges, fat and juicy.

“You’re spoiling them, Daddy.” This was my mom to Grandpa, but the softness of her eyes said it was okay.  My own dad worked hard at two accounting jobs and repairing machinery for various farmers, but money was always scarce  He had talked of a slim Christmas this year, but Grandpa had other ideas.  Dad shifted uncomfortably, like he wanted to say or do something, but he finally slumped back in the square-backed wood rocker and more or less relaxed. He even smiled throughout the morning, especially when he unwrapped a can of fresh tobacco and a new pipe.  He looked pleased, too, when mom ooo-ed and awwww-ed over a terry cloth bath robe and lilac-scented body lotion.

Grandpa glowed like a gas station sign at midnight, arms still folded but a grin on his face. Grandma scurried around the room, crinkling her nose as she reached for the wrapping paper around our feet.  “Sorry, but please, don’t rip the paper … we can use it again.” She then smoothed the rescued pieces into tiny neat squares.  It was a room with three adults who had lived through something they called the Great Depression – this included my dad who was a lot older than my mom. Wasting anything became a personal insult to them.

It’s only as I write, that I realize that there were no presents for Grandpa and only the candy for Grandma, at least that I remember.  Yet they seemed happier than anyone.

My mom with her parents in the earlier 50’s. One of the few pictures of my Grandpa. Grandma looks so tall here, but then, she always said she shrunk a little with each passing year.

But this memory isn’t really about Grandpa or Grandma or those gifts … at least I don’t think it is.  It’s about a little Christmas liar lurking outside of our door and her big, fat, Christmas lie that tried to ruin that wondrous Christmas morning.

To Be Continued … Part II is found here.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday – Wonder

This is the original post I had scheduled for today, but I’m finding it a hard day to stay Wordless.

I live in an area hard hit by the Pacific Northwest fires.

I’m sitting here wondering about this newborn that we recently stumbled upon in a recent jaunt into our beautiful region … I’m wondering if he and his mother are safe. My heart hurts as I think of all the wildlife in Washington, Oregon, and California displaced and terrified.

I’m wondering about our friends on the west side of the state where fires have encroached into suburban neighborhoods. Friends have had to evacuate … the school where I used to teach is threatened with a fire burning all around its neighborhood. With an unheard of hot and windy day in the forecast for this time of year and that area, those who had to leave aren’t likely to know the outcome for some time.

I’m wondering about the tiny community just 20 miles from us … Malden … that is suddenly known by everyone in the country. A until-now-nameless, sleepy town lost 80% of their homes and buildings … the fire department, city hall, community center, library … all gone. You’ve probably seen pictures of the devastation in the news. These are our friends … our extended community … our reason to set down what we’re doing and help.

If you are a praying person, I thank you for praying. It’s overwhelming … I know. So much to pray for this year … but in our small town, most of us are the kind who believe that the cataclysmic events of this year are best handed over to the hand of Someone who can give us the strength to continue on and the peace to know that we can overcome.

I guess at that … I am wordless and speechless … for now.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday – Curiosity

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Small Stuff Christmas

Our new family motto: Make memories, not injures …

The Christmas forecast played with us.

Snow.

Oops …

No … rain.

Oops … hold that.  It’ll be a cloudy, dry Christmas.

Warm (winter warm) temperatures.

I love white Christmases, but with family driving over mountain passes and flying to an airport an hour away from us, I was okay with the final forecast of a mild Christmas day.

SURPRISE …

We woke up to a dusting of snow.

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White, frosted hope … a sprinkling of all things refreshed, made new.

How appropriate for a Christmas day.

A couple of days earlier, at our little church, the pastor asked the kids why they think people like snow so much at Christmas.

After giggled answers of  “It’s fun” … “I like sledding” … “Snowmen are awesome”… a second grader piped up.

“Snow reminds us that baby Jesus came so our bad stuff can be white … like what snow does.”

Well said, little boy.

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I have to say, the fresh snow felt like a gift from above … a little reminder that in a moment, life can look fresh and hopeful once again.

Since that snow dusted Christmas morning, we’ve slipped into the new year … a whole new decade, even.  A heavy snow met us on the last day of 2019, only to be washed away with heavy rain by the bursting of New Year fireworks.  At least, I think it was all washed away …  our weary bodies didn’t last until midnight to ring in the new year or watch any fireworks on TV.

That doesn’t mean we didn’t celebrate the New Year though … well … at least half of us did.  We’d been looking forward to pot luck and Bunco Night at the town restaurant.  We had joined in last year and had a blast, making new friends, laughing over simple, silly things.

Darn …

I was smote with a nasty sinus head ache late in the afternoon, so sent My Guy to forage for pot luck food at the little market where he found chips and store-bought cookies, while I sat by the fireplace and waited for the the essential oils and pain reliever to kick in.

As I sat there, looking at the fake flames in my otherwise cozy fire place, I thought of all the small stuff that made this holiday season and the upcoming year feel so rich:

The mystery plate of cookies at the front porch.

Another plate of cookies handed to me at work by a woman I admire but rarely get to interact with. It was such an unexpected, heart-felt gesture.  (Not to mention that my family was super pleased since I haven’t taken the time to make cookies the last few years.)

An unexpected text and then exchange of photos and more texts with a friend from childhood. We grew up together just 12 miles away from where I live now, having both travelled parts of the globe, and here we are, still connected at the heart.

The festivity of our small town, including a stunning show of lights across the train trestle that is soon to be converted to a bike and walking trail. 

The kindness of the community to put together a Sharing Tree that provided gifts for families needing extra support this year … a long standing tradition in the community.

The joint effort of two churches who come together at Thanksgiving to worship and then take up donations to provide meals for families during Christmas.

Mom “willed” herself to join us on Christmas.  It was not one of her easier days, but she came, and we so enjoyed the time.

Visits with our kids. Something I know we can’t take for granted. I was very aware of the huge gift these small moments were as many around us lost family and loved ones of late or just were too far away to be with family.

Well-thought out, simple gifts from family. (We kept our budgets very low this year, and somehow, I think the gifts were far more meaningful.)

Laughter as our son-in-law ventured up a giant tree to rescue My Guy’s brand new (bargain-priced) drone that magnetically drifted to the highest limbs of a 50+ foot tree.  (Well, laughter afterwards.  I actually was at work, so wasn’t told of the hi-jinks until all were safe on the ground again.  Thus … our new family motto: Make memories, not injures. Thankfully, we were successful!)

I saw a lot of kindnesses displayed this Christmas … more than I listed here, as many of the stories are not mine to tell.

I don’t watch news much anymore because I see so much cruelty and unkindness.

But, here, in the small stuff, I’ve seen that kindness and compassion for others is still alive and well.

That’s a good note on which to end one year and start another.

 

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Wishing you a year overflowing with kindness and small-stuff possibilities!

 

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Our main street and the whole town was so pretty and festive this year.

 

 

No Small Tomatoes

It’s supposed to snow next week.

There’s nothing overly crazy about snow on the Palouse the last week of November, but our little town is still traumatized from the endless blizzard called February and March … a mere eight-ish months ago.  We made regional headlines because the state highway leading out of town got buried by drifts for several weeks.  Workers couldn’t even find the road but had to walk in front of plows with their shovels poking through the drifts to locate the pavement.

That was wild.

We’d thought we were getting away with a mild winter last year … but no.  BLAHM! After weeks of sunny, frosty days, the wind screeched out of nowhere and snow swirled …

and swirled …

and swirled …

and turned into ginormous drifts.

Most of  us are thinking that if we can just please make it to Christmas this year, we might be okay with endlessly shoveling the walks, wobbling like penguins so as not to fall on our butts on the ice, and piling on fifty layers of clothing before sticking our noses outside.

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This is what last winter looked and felt like.  My lazy person’s snowman re-appeared after the thaw took place in March.  Before that, he disappeared altogether under about two feet more of snow.

But the weather man is messing with us, so what am I doing? (And mind you, I like snow … in the “correct” season anyway).

I’m scrolling through my photos looking at all the summer and fall adventures we had, wishing I had started blogging Small Stuff then.  So I’m going to back up a bit … right into our garden.

As soon as that FebruaryMarch blizzard stopped, one thing was on the mind of every farmer and every gardener around here …. PLANT SOMETHING!

Gardens and crops went in late … evidenced by the latest harvest known to ‘most every farmer around.  Combines were in the field in October trying to snatch a few more garbanzo beans, many having lost some of their wheat crops altogether.  And this with snow on the hills from the first freak snow storm of the fall. And as recent as last week (mid-November) we drove by several farmers still doing their fall plowing.  Completely unheard of in “normal” years.

heirloom tomatoes

After the spring that was really a winter, we were just like everyone else and couldn’t wait to dig our hands deep into the soil. At our house, a rental for the last few years, it meant breaking up long ignored garden beds so that we could bring in bountiful harvests.  Our dreams were a little ahead of our energy and actual garden space, but one thing that caught hold of the spirit was the heirloom tomato seeds I started on my own.

Here’s the results in late September.

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This was about a third of our harvest, all from about 8 plants.  This doesn’t include an equal number destroyed by the freak, early snow I mentioned above.  We were gifting tomatoes to everyone we knew. (People turned and fled when they saw us coming at them with a bag in our hand.)

And we ate tomato sauce-included recipes for weeks.  Here’s one such dinner:

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Crazy as my harvest looks, many of the longtime gardeners around here raked in 3 and 4 times the bounty.  They’re hard core gardeners and canners.  I’m not up so much for canning tomatoes as My Guy isn’t so big on tomatoes in everything, but I did manage to learn a few new techniques for perfecting homemade sauce.

I’m still divided on whether or not to peel tomatoes first.  The experts around here don’t fiddle with peeling … they just cook the sauce for a very long time, getting the skins to dissolve.  That worked in the sauce I made above, but not all the varieties I grew were so cooperative.

What do you do?

And do you have any secret ingredients you’re willing to share for the perfect homemade sauce?

I threw in a little brown sugar, other garden veggies, lots of garlic and store bought tomato paste to achieve the consistency and taste I like best.

My garden bed is flattened now, but if the weather man is right, I’m going to be longing for garden beds and spring blooms as soon at the holidays are over.  Here’s what’s shaping up for what looks to be a White Thanksgiving. The weather channel shows the cold front and snow continuing for several days into December, past what I’ve captured in the screen shot of my weather app, taken on Nov. 20.

Show weather in my current location

Here we go again!

What’s winter like where you are?  Are you dreading it or excited … and what are your favorite winter past-times?

Cheers!

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My Guy binge-watched past seasons of Master Chef while I pretended to know what I was doing in the kitchen.  Guess I was feeling a little inspired from the shows. You can see that the other thing that grew well in my garden was Spaghetti Squash.  They were the only plants left when I went to buy squash plants … good choice it seems!

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is my second blog.  You can read more about my life experiences and the faithfulness of God towards a simple country gal who took a long hiatus in the city on rashellbud.

Please note that all photos, unless noted, are mine and permission must be sought to use them.

Wishing you a beautiful day full of the small stuff that makes life wonderful and amazing.