Tuesday, August 29, 2017

there was that

Yeah, that thing about too many things on the list. That was Sunday.

So, I let go a little and today I can barely walk through the kitchen.

I was gone a lot yesterday and only stopped at home after buying groceries long enough to unload the bags and put the cold things away. The kitchen floor is littered with full and empty grocery bags because by the time I got home at the end of the day I didn't feel like doing one more thing except eat and nap. Sigh.

I promised Gus a walk today and I promised myself an hour in the sunshine. Maybe we'll walk over to see the little kids at the park. Gus loves kids.

There is fall in the air. A few yellowed leaves are falling, the air is chilly in the morning, and the light has a different cast, a warmer color. I'm thinking meatloaf, baked potatoes, chili, cornbread. A small fire on the patio, a visit to the pumpkin patch soon, and back to school.

Getting up and starting my day's mission.

P.S. We added another baby to our brood yesterday. Natalie Nicole was born to Amber and Reg at 5:27 in the morning. She's bitty...only 5 pounds and 15 ounces. That's number #6.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

too many things on the list

I like to think of myself as a person who can say no but I'm starting to get the notion that's a fallacy. I think I'm quite good at feeling irritated when I am doing something I don't really want to do but the inkling says that I am not so good at predicting that and saying no at the start.

Most often it's things I put on myself.

Since I retired, I've been telling myself that I should get my addresses organized. I have a big pouch full of envelopes, a notebook filled with scribbled addresses, lists of addresses organized by such titles as Small Saums or Friends in Iowa, and sticky notes with phone numbers and no names. I have to try and remember from the color and condition of the sticky note where I might have been and whose number I might have written down. Right.

This summer I decided that the mess is just fine. I know where to find an address when I need it.

Same thing with recipes. I keep trying to organize them and keep them organized but it's a waste of time and energy. I will always have a stash on the shelf of recipes I have printed and made and want to make again. I will always have binders full of favorites in plastic sleeves which I usually can't find when I need. I will probably always hoard recipes electronically...unopened saves on Facebook, recipes on Plan to Eat, Folders full of recipes on every computer. Don't talk to me about the cloud. I know, I know.

So, that's my battle plan for today, folks. My cognitive work. Just give up on some of that crap. I think I'll be happier for it.

Mom's reunion story

As we get out of the car after a four hour drive we are welcomed by the smell of pine trees, hugs, and " we are so glad you are here".

This is the third year year my nephews and nieces have had a first cousin reunion.   I am privileged  to be invited as I am the only auntie in Minnesota.  This year however my 94 year old sister is coming from Seattle, Washington. Does this mean I have to give up my throne?  Everyone treats me like a queen and I have grown accustomed  to being the queen.

I am staying with Greg and Becky on Lake Tulaby. They have a wonderful home; you can tell Greg is an avid hunter as he has deer head mounts and also a huge elk rack.  Their home is delightful  and  they are a great host and hostess.  I have a wonderful bed and a bathroom just a few steps away.

Ah ha , the big moment has arrived.   My sister and Punk are here. Jean has not been here for many years and Punk  has not been here since she was a kid.   Great to see both of them.  Pat, Helen, and I flew out to Ephrata, Washington  for Jean's 90th birthday and have not seen them since.   We visited for awhile  and then had a delicious meal and spent time getting to know everyone.

Becky made us wonderful omelets for breakfast  and then started planning for the next meal. Again, great food.
In the afternoon we sat around and I guess Jean and I entertained a few people.  They thought we were funny , so acted up a little more. Did not even have a lot of wine.

Supper at Bud and Chris's cabin.  Lots of kids and again a great meal.  Rodney made a prime rib and it was delicious.  Mitch and Jolene were hosts,  Dee Ann had a video and it brought back lots of memories. Thanks Dee Ann. Fun to see all the great nieces and nephews. There were five generations. Jean and I were the matriarchs, the next generation were the nephews and nieces.  Next were their children, then their kids had kids,and last but not least was little Ryan.  I had a grand time.
Went back to Greg's home and  Jean showed off her famous kick!!!. We should have a video of that, Punk. In the morning we went to Deb and Rodney;s home.  Another beautiful home!  Rod made his famous heart shaped waffles. Karen made her wonderful biscotti and Janice and Karen made the super egg bakes. I am drooling thinking about all the good food we had.  I hope I am not leaving anyone out as all the food was fantastic.  It is so much fun to see what wonderful people my relatives are.  As Garrison Keeler says, " All the men are handsome, the women are beautiful and the kids are all darling" ...or something like that

Thanks again, proud to call you my relatives. You are the greatest and I love you all. 
Great Auntie and Auntie Shirley.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


My garden has been neglected lately. On the days when I have time to spend trimming or gathering, the weather or my schedule have not cooperated. It's a beautiful day today and I have the afternoon free so maybe this is the day. I'm starting to think about fall.

I feel pretty lethargic all summer. Toward the end of August, my ambition picks up and I think it's an ancient impulse, the reptile brain that makes it so. Days are getting shorter, nights are cool, and I am thinking of getting ready for winter.

A priority this year is protecting myself from the dark days. My goal is to be outside for an hour a day to soak up the sunshine. I can always walk to the coop or the library...it's rarely so cold that it's impossible to be outside. If I don't want to linger in the cold, I can sit by the sunny windows.

There are things to do in the garden before we get too deep into fall. I'm moving the Joe Pye weed and the veronica. Both need more sun than I can give them in that spot. If you have a sunny spot, I'd be happy to share. They are two of my favorites because of the butterflies and bees they attract. I have a couple of bigger hostas that I'll move in when they vacate.

Regis took this beautiful photo of a spicebush swallowtail on the Joe Pye weed.

There are household things to do before winter, too. Cupboards to clean, spices to organize, and clothes to sort. We have two babies coming soon and that will mean lots of visits and maybe some newborn holding time.

I started to think about patterns because when I look back at my blog, or when my Facebook memories come up, my thoughts are always the same in the fall. I get burst of ambition like I did the other day when I made a list of ten things to do and did them all. I baked bread and a pot roast with potatoes and carrots.

I found a 7th great-grandmother and grand-father on ancestry.com. Here's the lineage:

  1. James Reeves (1684-)
    7th great-grandfather and
    father of ...
  2. Mary Reeve (1712-1782)
    mother of ...
  3. Bathsheba Clark (1744-1809)
    mother of ...
  4. John Soper (1764-1847)
    father of ...
  5. Samuel Soper (1797-1877)
    father of ...
  6. Mary Jane Soper (1832-1893)
    mother of ...
  7. Martha Ellen Chambers (1870-1946)
    mother of ...
  8. Elsie M Saum (1912-1987)
    mother of ...
  9. Estle Wesley Saum (1931-2004)
    father of ...
  10. Teresa Saum (1952-)

James Reeves' wife, Deborah Slatterly, was born in New York in 1684. Boggles the mind that a pregnant woman would get on a ship in the mid-1600s and float across the ocean. I should go back and read some history, I think. Imagine the size of that ship. Imagine the weather. What the hell would compel a person to do that?

Moving on into the day. Be gentle with yourself today, my friends.

Monday, August 21, 2017

trees and brambles

I went to a reunion of the Round Barn Syversons on Tulaby Lake a few weeks ago. There were five generations there, my mom (87) and Aunt Jean (94) being the oldest. Ryan was the youngest at 4 months.

Shirley Saum and Jean Rhinehart
The Queens

I've been mulling over my thoughts and feelings since I got home. I might have to write this in short observations at this point, before I lose the ideas.

This is a picture of my maternal grandmother, Josephine Matson Syverson, in front of their homesteading cabin in Joplin, Montana in 1914. I can't even think of what to say about the hardships they must have endured. It looks about the size of a small fish house. Imagine the summer heat and the cold winds of winter. Not a tree in sight. 

My grandmother and grandfather, Bennie Syverson, a few offspring later. I don't think that homesteading thing worked out so well because here they are in improved digs. If I study the children's faces, I can see cousins of mine. And children and grandchildren of my cousins.

My cousin, Kelly, on the left, unknown baby on the right. And below, the group photo that only contains about half of the family.

This is Ryan with Helen, also shown in the front row.

The same faces keep showing up. We watched a slide show on the lawn, thanks to DeeAnn, on Saturday night. Looking at pictures that went back a hundred years, people all descended from Ben and Josie, five generations, and the same faces keep showing up.

Regis and I did DNA tests this past year so we are perusing family trees addictively. I've found 5th great-grandfathers on my dad's side, going back to the 1700s. At some point I'll invest in the world membership for a month to track down more folks in Europe.

I'm not as interested in the accurate documentation of births and deaths, but I am fascinated by the stories. I found some relatives who fought in the War of 1812, father and son, side by side. I found several people who were married for more than 50 years and lived into their 80s and 90s back in the 1800s. That's some longevity for those times.

I started trying to find the Irish relatives that were indicated by the 25% Irish in my DNA. Then I read more about it and discovered that my Irish DNA could go back a thousand years. On my dad's side there are lots of English relatives, a few Scots, but only one birth in Ireland...my great-grandfather born in Ireland to an unmarried English mother. But you can't argue with DNA.

So, this line of thinking would often loop back to my daughter, Tiffany, who is adopted and born in Korea. I wondered if talk of family trees made her uncomfortable or sad. I didn't want to write this post until I had talked with her about that.

I asked her if she felt she was truly a part of my family, genetics aside, and she said of course. Then I rambled a bit in my thinking and speaking. If her known family starts with her and her two boys, that's really no different than anybody else. In my family tree, there are unknowns (father of my grandfather is unnamed) and there are gaps. She is starting her tree right now.

I've done some research and there are organizations that promote DNA testing for Korean adoptees. Sometimes it can lead to biological relatives...sometimes not.

So maybe family trees are more like family brambles than neat, symmetrical trees with two parents on each branch. Maybe none of us, contrary to what many like to think, are 100% anything. Maybe all of our family trees are filled with unknowns and gaps and stunted branches.  

It doesn't change a thing, does it? We love who we love, we love who loves us back, we spend time with the people who are important to us. Sometimes family become like strangers and sometimes friends become like family.

It's a big, old messy mystery.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

waking up

In the breach between sleep and awake, I wrote a great blog post with a catchy title. By the time I was fully awake, it had disappeared. So much for mental composition.

I'm using my laptop while I watch the news about possible nuclear war, the blundering fool in the white house, people in positions of power and authority who are doing things I swear my eight-year old grandsons would know better than to do, and the heartbreaking funeral for the young woman killed in Charlottesville. Someone said we should stop saying it's unbelievable because, really, by this point it is all very believable. Which is, itself, unbelievable.

On a happy note, Easton is pure joy. In the last few weeks, he has learned to laugh aloud, sit up by himself, eat Cheerios, and shake his head no. I've noticed that over time, his awareness has grown. He wants to know who's in the room. he pays attention to the pets, and he is not content to just sit passively on my lap. He's ready to go!

Wind today. Not my favorite weather event. Yesterday I was sitting at the picnic table with Easton when it started to rain. I checked the weather on my phone...and we're in a tornado warning. Tornadoes touched down ten miles north of us in several directions. What the hell. What happened to all those alerts and warnings that we're supposed to get? Tornadoes must have snuck up on the weather folks.

I'm on my way to the gym even though my shoulder is touchy. This session's workouts are really tough but I can tell I'm getting stronger. I haven't had joint pain in months and my flexibility and balance have improved. Money spent on Gunnar reaps great rewards. Maybe I'll enter one of those old lady weight lifting competitions. Ha!

Time to finish the coffee and get moving. See ya.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

life gets busy

I think I am busier now than when I worked full time. Then, I had a job I went to from 8-4:00 and I didn't do all this running around. All of it is good and most of it is fun. Being able to spend so much time with Easton as he grows from babyhood has been a wonderful gift and I'm so grateful. Friday, I had these things to do: something at 9, 10, 11, 2:30, 4:30. Whew.

I'm obsessed with the news, too, and I can't apologize for that. The world is a different place than I thought it was two years ago and I am afraid. I have to check every morning to see if we have entered into a war with another nuclear power. I have to watch as the person who lives in the WH switches quickly from talking about white supremacy to shilling for his winery. He is unhinged.

I'm going to apply for a PT job at one of the places where I volunteer. It's a lovely place to work, it's very flexible, and I would get to hang out with artistic type folks. Speaking of...Regis was at the dog park the other day and this dude said, "If dogs get a lot of vaccinations, do they get artistic like kids do?" Wow. How to answer that.

We had friends over for dinner last night. Regis was mortified at the quality of his ribs but I think the problem is that we bought St. Louis style instead of babyback. Ah, well. When I offered to send some ribs home with them, there was a moment of awkward silence while they thought of a reason to say no. There's a clue.

I can tell I'm getting back to my blogging habit. I spend a lot of time during the day composing mentally and I'm watchful for things that might be blog worthy. I read yesterday that an author said being a novelist ruins you for living in the moment because you are constantly thinking of how to write about whatever is happening. Not equating myself to a famous novelist, of course. Eye roll.

Moving on into the day. Going to write a letter of interest and a resume for my new job prospect.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

thursday stuff

Regis and I have cut back severely on the amount of news we watch.  We realized we were watching the same horrific shit show hashed over each hour. Nothing really changes except the talking heads. We have a couple of favorites and we'll stick to those programs.

I told Regis I thought I could watch Game of Thrones since I feel like a cultural illiterate sometimes. After reading about it (fantasy?) and talking to Tiffany about the sexual violence, I have given it more thought and I will abstain. I have a very low threshold for horror.

I've been busy already this morning. I cleaned the litter box, filled the hummingbird feeders, put together an order for school clothes for Elliot, got two packages ready to mail, printed the address labels, and here I am, writing on my blog.

Mom and I are both working on blog posts about the reunion. I have some thoughts about family trees that I'm pondering. And of course, this led me down the rabbit hole of ancestry.com. I am the scourge of a program like this which, I imagine, thrives on accuracy. I am more interested in the stories of people than I am the DNA so if someone has a good picture and they seem linked, what the hell, they're on my family tree.

Moving on to other errands.

Monday, August 07, 2017

the road before me

Since I made the commitment to make writing a habit again, I have been scanning through pictures. Sometimes the pictures provoke a memory, sometimes they suggest a theme. This morning, I noticed that I have a lot of pictures of paths. I don't know if that's completely random or a subconscious yearning.

I'm not a traveling person. A three-hour trip in the car is about all I can manage. Any more than that and I get cranky. I love being places, it's the journey that gets tedious.

Those are my only deep thoughts about the pathways of my life.

One other funny thing these pictures illustrate is that one time I learned how to label my photos with my name and the date. My intellectual property, you know. The problem is that now I can't remember how I did it so they will forever be labelled with 2016. I guess I could look it up.

End of summer. We realized this morning that we should probably move our Labor Day family party up a week or so. We have two daughters-in-law who are going to celebrate a real Labor Day soon. I'm going school shopping with Elliot this afternoon. Another sign of fall. Friends are talking about returning to the South where they go to get away from winter. It's another loss for me. Sigh.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

autumn and loss

In fall and winter, I always feel the weight of loss more than other times of the year. The days are shrinking...last night it was past twilight at 8:30 and this morning it was dark until after 6. I'm already missing the light.

I have lost friends. A teaching friend, an internet breast cancer friend, the mom of my oldest friend. Why, when the leaves on the apple tree start to yellow and drift down, do I think of them more often?

Summer has gone fast and I have done what I usually do. I have made plans and I have had good intentions but I'm not so good at at the follow-through. I have learned to forgive myself in advance. I tell myself: Yeah that's a good idea but I probably won't get it done so let it go. Some things I am able to advance past the planning stage. I have two packages on the table almost ready to mail. This is a multi-step project at which I suck.

I have been able to spend a lot of time with my newest grandbaby, something for which I will always be grateful. I was working when the others were born so their babyhood seemed to fly past and was only marked by holidays and birthdays. Being there to see Easton learn to sit, learn to grab cereal off the tray with his tiny fingers, learn to blow bubbles with his mouth...those have been precious moments.

I have been a slacker when it comes to writing the last year or so. I have good intentions but if you look at my archive, I have periods where I am more prolific than I have been lately. I know what the reasons are: Trying to write for an audience, trying to write about everything, and loss of habit.

Four things have happened in the last few days to encourage me to start writing more. Jill encouraged me to print some of my posts, Marne at River Rock complimented the writing I did while I worked there, Kathryn complimented my Facebook posts, and a very kind stranger took the time to write a comment on the post from last week.

So, here I am at the beginning of my habit again. I am in my cozy office, I lit a candle, the curtains are open so I can see the gray August sky, and I have let the things I need to do be wiped from my slate for now. There is time for that later.