Food. Appreciated.

I walked through PCC Market (a 1%’er grocery store) today feeling a bit pouty about all of the things that are not on my ‘Ludwig’ low-carb plan. I was hoping to find some new, cutting edge organic products made from beans or vegetables to fulfill my craving for the carbs that I am trying to forget.

Almost as quickly as I felt remorse I felt happiness and deep sadness at the same time. I was reminded of my Mother’s deep appreciation for food. How she would watch the Food Network with complete joy. This while she was unable to eat any food at all. With hope that she might someday eat again. The virtual recollection of tastes, textures, and smells of cooking and baking. We used to shake our heads and suggest a channel change while tending to her TPN and changing abdominal dressings. She would chuckle and ask for her notebook to jot down recipe ideas or a chef’s name.

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Mom. Billie.

There is so much to share about my Mother’s life and her death. In time. For now, I am thankful that I have the access to quality food and that I have my health to choose what I eat when I desire. I am most thankful for the appreciation for cooking and baking that she instilled in me as a young girl.

My first allowance was as a pre-teen helping her prepare 3 meals a day for our hired crew on the ranch. A full breakfast every morning at 6am. A proper mid-day dinner when the cutting of meadow hay was at the ‘home place’. Proper = a meat of some sort (if beef or chicken – home raised, and grass fed/free range), potatoes of some sort (often garden produced), vegetables (fresh or canned from garden) of some sort, salad of some sort and a made from scratch dessert of some sort. And of course a proper supper. (No left overs and same item categories as dinner.)

Tonight I was more humble about what I prepared. It also seemed like the flavors were stronger than they have been in the past. Might be my carb-dependent taste buds are finding a new normal. Might also be my mind was focused on Mom and how she taught me that food centers our health and well-being. She gave me a virtual reminder today and I am appreciative.

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Music, McCall, Mannheim and Memories

I grew up listening to C.W. McCall. I also grew up listening to Mannheim Steamroller. In very unique ways they ‘take me back’ to the days of my youth.

“Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure. By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, c’mon. Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy.” C.W. McCall, Convoy

We used to sing along in the best raspy voices we could muster. All of his songs were catchy stories. 1975 was a year of simple ranch living and fun country songs.

While the style of music wasn’t always so rockin’ (with the exception of Elvis and there was a lot of Elvis) the volume of music was frequently rockin’. Mom wanted to hear it throughout the long, stucco ranch home. Dad just liked to feel the music pound into every part of him and the living room. This became especially easy with the invention of the cassette and eventually the compact disc. Finding a song on an LP or worse an 8-track and playing it was not a quick event and once you did get it playing, there was a commitment to hear the entire thing.

A year earlier another iconic style of music would come to define the weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday.’Joy to the World‘ had never been so modernized and maybe had never been so moving as it was when Mannheim Steamroller released their version. Mom loved their music. I can smell the baking dinner rolls, taste the ho

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Mannheim Steamroller, Everett WA 2015

me made caramel and feel the warmth of our wood burning stove as Mannheim rolled through Christmas song after Christmas song – all defining the holiday for years to come.

It’s been 40 years since Mannheim introduced to a contemporary version of Christmas hymns.As a Nebraska ‘company’ they always play in Omaha on Christmas Eve. When I am far far away in western Nebraska’s Sandhills. Mannheim tours the country during the weeks leading up to Christmas. For the first time, I was able to go to a live concert in a town near our Seattle Suburb. And we did. To prepare my husband for what we were about to hear, I shared some information about Chip Davis. A fascinating career journey, Chip Davis worked with C.W. McCall. Well, he wrote the music and co-wrote some lyrics for this invented character that was part of an ad agency marketing jingle effort. This character became famous and took on a life of it’s own. The music Chip made to create these jingles and the music for Mannheim were going on at the same time. Yet were so opposing in style. Truly creative. While the concert this year was a bit of disappointment (Chip wasn’t there and the heavy promotional messaging took away from the purity and specialness of the music) I enjoyed seeing the orchestral musicians perform this music I grew up with.

It’s been 10 Christmas’ since Mom was with us. Frankly it isn’t really Christmas without her. She made Christmas. But we do have our memories. Our very very fond memories and ability to bring them up, reflect and connect. Through music, through each other.

Thank goodness my nephew will never have to live with music via an 8-track! He has parents that like music too. The access he has and the memories he is making through that music will also be those he can hold dear. As I have from mine.

February 25th. Billie was born.

Billie LaRene was born on this day in 1944. It was her birthday.

To us it is still her birthday. It has been 10 years since we celebrated her birthday with her. Since her physical departure.

She loved birthdays and made them so special for those she loved. I’m sure we didn’t do the same for hers. But she loved giving. She loved seeing others receive. Her son inherited this trait.

It means we got way too many ‘things’ for every single holiday, especially Christmas. She was far from materialistic in my mind however. It was all about celebration, giving and receiving by others. It also illustrated her opportunity. One that her parents didn’t have. Typical for Boomers raised by Silents.

She had many roles. More than anyone I have known or do know today. Wife, housewife, mother, stay-at-home mom (for our youngest days), sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, cousin, friend, caregiver, hired hand, hay-crew, cattle herder, gardner, church band member, community advocate, artist of all types of paint, chalk and clay, musician of harmonica, piano, banjo and fiddle, and across all of these roles, she was a nurse.

Being raised by a nurse means you learn things about how to take care of minor issues. It means you see care being given to family members, neighbors, and animals. It means you hear stories about care, strife and pain. It means you trust the system of care because you see it through your Mom’s perspective.

Her favorite part of being a nurse was her time with any birth. The OB existed in the big hospitals where she trained but not in the rural hospital where she last worked as Director of Nursing. A new baby being born fueled her for weeks. She even saw hope in the many babies she brought into the world born with fetal alcohol syndrome. They were a new breathing human life. However challenging that life was going to be.

It was very difficult to top Mom’s gift-giving, gift wrapping, party creating talent. One year I recall very well, Dad decided to get her a poodle puppy. We had lost our Chippie the year before and the house was void of a lap dog. It was a family effort and we ‘wrapped’ a small box and put the buff colored toy/miniature puppy inside. She nearly caused the thing a heart-attack when she opened the box expecting something not living and breathing.

She loved it. She loved the surprise. And the puppy. And she loved all of us for making it special. 

Valentine’s Day Reflection

When I think about this holiday, I don’t wonder about flowers, a romantic dinner or a date with the love of my life. We do that regularly without a holiday. It might be because we both prefer experiences over things and resist commercialization.

It might be because for me, it was such a special holiday as a child. A special holiday only through the creativity and love that my Mother added to the ‘things’. On Valentine’s Day, I think of my Mother.

I recall how much joy it gave her to create such a special occasion for my brother Clint and I. Helping us with our school Valentine’s, baking for the multi-district party and helping us (mostly me) look festive. For us, it was always a big stuffed animal (not the tiny fit-on-a-box kind) and some chocolates. She prepared every detail as if she were being judged at a craft contest, like we were the most important recipient of all. Our Valentine’s were perfect. Even with my Dad (who also got chocolates) it was about hearts, red, pink, love, family, friends and fun.

While I only remember one actual teddy bear (a red one I creatively named Valentine), I have vivid memories of the joy that my Mom showed, her character, her giving nature and her creativity. She didn’t teach me things matter by celebrating this and other holidays. She taught me the joy of giving, the joy of creativity and the joy of seeing others joy.

It brings me joy to see the ‘kids focus’ on Facebook today. To see parents instilling love amidst the floral, fuzzy and sweet things that make it special. To bring meaning to retail madness. Amidst it all, experiences are had and I think many are good ones today and will create memories like mine.

Cheers to all who love and celebrate Valentine’s Day, double cheers to the parents who are creating heart-filled memories for their kids.

Thank you Mom for your lessons of love when you were here with us. And now, for being present in spirit so we can feel close to those lessons, so we can feel love through the joy of giving.