Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

birthday cake with colorful candles

Today would have been my sister’s birthday.

She lived all her life with a tumor in her brain and severe epilepsy. It was a head injury she sustained during a seizure that ended her life eight years ago.

Although she was mentally disabled, my sister still found enjoyment in life.

She could sit and stitch little animals and cartoon characters for hours. Her exact likenesses of Snoopy always amazed me, especially when I hated embroidery work and was terrible at it.

She loved dogs of all shapes and sizes and most often had one. In her younger years, she belonged to a 4-H group that taught her how to train her dogs and she used that knowledge on all the dogs she owned during her lifetime.

I’d say she took pleasure in tormenting me, the baby sister who arrived fourteen years after she’d claimed that title. Until the day I finally realized my sister would never have a normal life by society’s standards and the reasons behind it, we often fought like, well, sisters.

She learned to play the guitar, admittedly not great, but she did better than I could in forcing her fingers into the positions required to make the chords on the strings. She’d sit in her room and strum away, practicing the songs her guitar instructor taught her to play.

My sister was a dreamer, always thinking about what ifs. She’d thumb through catalogs and magazines, rattling off ideas of what if we went there, or what if we got this or that item.

One of her biggest dreams was to travel to Graceland and see the home where Elvis Presley lived. My parents made that dream happen for her when I was eleven. They pulled me out of school for two weeks and we went on a cross country road trip. To be honest, being stuck in the backseat of the car with my sister for days on end was no picnic, but it was pretty cool to see the excitement on her face as we rolled into Memphis.

As you may have guessed, she was a huge fan of Elvis Presley. Her room was covered in Elvis posters, she had every record he ever recorded, she owned several Elvis dolls and could sing the lyrics from every single one of his songs. Every single one.

So in tribute to my sister, to celebrate her birthday, here is a little YouTube video of Elvis.

She Who Wishes She Could Say Happy Birthday One Last Time



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kim in magazine

This is my brother.

(The mechanically inclined one, not the cowboy one.)

I was born his senior year of high school, so talk about crashing the party…

He has always had a love of cars and began restoring vintage cars way back  before I was old enough to beg him to let me drive his Mustang (which he still has not).

Anyway, he got into dressing the part to go along with the cars he was showing.

Last fall, he competed in a contest for best Era Image and took third place. I thought his costume looked pretty snazzy and we were all excited to see this picture in print.

Although he never let me drive any of his cars, he did let me go with him a time or two.

Kim and I with old carOf course, costumes were required.

The reason I look so particularly happy in this photo is because:

1. It was mid-July and boiling hot.

2. We skipped lunch.

3. I had a hot date that night with Captain Cavedweller and we were running late.

My brother completely restored the gorgeous Model A car behind us. I think the etched glass (and the color) are my two favorite things about it.

Big, hearty congratulations, Kim, for placing in the contest and thanks for all the times over the years you let me tag along.

She Who Still Wants to Drive the Mustang



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merry christmas sage and burgundyWishing you a very Merry Christmas! May it be filled with love, laughter, and many special, magical moments!

And Happy Birthday to my Dad!

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Today is my Mom’s birthday.

She and Dad said they are keeping it low-key.  That’s okay. You can do that when you’re 80-something.

I thought I’d do a little “this is your life” post for her today…

dollie and chicken

This is Mom with her pet chicken, circa early 1930s.

dollie and farm friends

The first decade of her life was spent on a farm in the Ozarks of Missouri. Then my grandparents packed up and moved with six kids (and I think there was a dog, too) to Oregon.

dollie middle school

Mom made new friends and settled into life in their new home, although she says she always missed Missouri in the fall, when all the leaves would change colors. My parents took us to Missouri in the fall when I was eleven and even then I could appreciate what she meant because the trees were amazing.

dollie and lawrence

Mom was particularly fond her older brother Lawrence. From stories she’s told, it sounds like they got into a lot of trouble (and fun) together.

dollie with attitude

Mom, who was all of a size two, heard the buzz about a new boy moving to town when she started her senior year of high school.

It didn’t take long for her to spy the handsome lad…

teen russell

And the two of them to fall in love.

dollie bathingsuit

Mom would kill me graveyard dead if I didn’t live several hours away for posting this photo, but the summer after she graduated from high school, they opened a pool in town and had girls from the varying rural areas participate in a beauty contest. Mom represented their little community and had her photo in the paper. Dad thought she’d destroyed the newspaper clipping years ago, but I found it one day when I was digging through a box of photos and made a copy before she knew about it.


I call this Mom’s glamour photo. I think of all the photos I’ve seen of her, this is my favorite. Just love her sassy attitude and smile in this one.

dollie and russ

Mom and Dad married the year after they graduated and began a life together.

dollie with three kids

Six years later, they’d welcomed my two brothers and sister to the family.

dollie with karla

Twenty years after they said “I do” I came along and not long after that, my oldest brother and his wife had their first baby. Please ignore the fine 1970s fashions and hairstyles displayed in this photo. I’m sure they were right in style at the time the photo was taken. I’m the goofy looking child sitting next to Mom.

dollie anniversary

More grandkids and many years later, we threw a big party to celebrate Mom and Dad’s fiftieth anniversary. Mom didn’t want us to go to “all the fuss and bother” but I think she had as much fun as Dad.

dollie 80th

And this is Mom on her 80th birthday a few years ago. Dad and I spent months plotting a surprise party and much to our surprise, she didn’t find out about it before hand.

Mom has taught me a lot over the years.

By watching her host huge holiday gatherings, I learned about being a gracious host, how to prepare before hand, and how to make enough mashed potatoes to feed fifty people.

She taught me how to sew, although that one was a painfully learned skill that caused us both much frustration (due to a lack of skill on the student’s part!)

She taught me how to make a house look clean in less than five minutes when unexpected company pulls up at your door. And how to deep-clean your house from top to bottom at least twice a year. (I may be a little behind schedule on that one…)

She attempted to teach me how to iron. I remember watching her iron things like pillow slips and cloth napkins along with piles of clothes. I still hate ironing, even if I do know how to do it properly.

She taught me how to plant, grow and harvest a garden. She also tried to teach me how to can produce but being a very unwilling student, I just went through the motions without retaining the info. The big pressure cooker still scares me. A lot.

She gave me a love of reading. First by reading to me every night as I was little, then by listening as I read to her. We still share a love of books.

She gave me an appreciation for pretty things. She had lovely china dishes we used on special occasions and I always liked the way the pieces shined in the cupboard, just waiting to be taken down and set on a beautiful table to mark some event. Sometimes the event was just having someone join us for dinner.

She taught me how to manage money, to be mindful of what I buy, and to be thankful for what I have.

And today I’m thankful for my Mom.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Mama!

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Captain Cavedweller and I drove many hours this weekend to be able to attend his grandmother’s 95th birthday party.

Grandma Nell balloonsThere were balloons, presents, cake, and much good cheer as we gathered to celebrate Grandma Nell’s special day.

It was an honor to be able to join with family to mark this milestone event. CC had the opportunity to visit with his two cousins, as well as a cousin from Texas enough times removed I can’t keep it straight, but she is a real hoot regardless of where the branches sprout in the family tree. I also finally got to meet CC’s uncle and his wife, which was fun (especially after waiting twenty years to do so!).

Grandma Nell 1lrI can only hope I’ll be half as “with-it” as she is if I should live to be her age. Other than needing the assistance of a walker, Grandma does really well, her mind is still sharp, and she is as feisty as ever.

It was just after her birthday twenty years ago that I first remember meeting her.

For many, many years, CC’s grandparents spent the summer months on a ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where Grandma worked as the ranch cook during the busy guest season. CC and I had been seeing each other several months and it was the first time his grandparents had been home since we’d started dating seriously.

Grandma was so friendly and welcoming, she made me feel right at home. One thing that stuck with me, all these years, was how excited she was to show us a photograph taken on her birthday of her riding a horse. She was so proud that, at the tender age of 75, she’d still been able to get on one and ride. Even then, I recall thinking, “Wow, I want to be like her when I grow old!”

After meeting her that first time, she and I quickly discovered we both loved cookbooks and recipes. Over the years, Grandma has shared many of her favorites (both books and handwritten specialties) with me. The best chocolate bundt cake you’ll ever eat comes from Grandma Nell’s recipe.

There were many times I was convinced Grandma could run circles around both CC and me. She is a go-getter, determined, and full of sass. She’s also sweet and thoughtful, and very loving.

Thanks to CC’s cousin Robb, Grandma even has her own website where she shares her recipes and has her very own cookbooks available for purchase.

Every time I see her, I’m just amazed by Grandma Nell and her ability to live life so fully and so intently. She is truly an inspiration.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Grandma!

We love you!

CC and His Sidekick

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Today, apparently, is going to be one of those days.

It started out with me oversleeping.

Despite my frenzied efforts to put some hustle in it, Captain Cavedweller was standing at the door doing his best not to remind me we were already late leaving the house as I was hopping around trying to put on my second shoe, grab my purse and find the car keys.

We got in the car only to have the gas light come on. Guess who drove it home last night on empty? (And it wasn’t CC.)

And just because it was off to a great morning, I, of course, choose the longest possible route to the gas station.

By the time the attendant filled our nearly empty gas tank and we got back on the road, CC was anxiously watching the clock. He has never, in all the years I’ve known him, been late for work. Ever. Not even close.

If I didn’t get a move-on, it was possible today would be the day.

Pulling into the parking lot at my office (across the street from his), I started to grab one of three heavy boxes in the back seat I need to mail today. (The post office is across the street so it’s easier to take them to my office then go to the post office when it opens than trek out to the car and have to lug them to the post office – at least in my mind.)

“What are you doing?” he asked, practically jogging in place, eager to hurry me along.

“I need to mail these today,” I said, trying to stack a second box on top of the first.

With a long-suffering sigh, he grabbed the second and third boxes and managed to restrain himself from giving me a nudge forward.

Wisely, I managed to keep my mouth shut and trot after him, or as fast as I can trot in my heels.

As luck would have it, I couldn’t find the key to access the employee door. He continued to glance nervously at his watch while I fumbled in my purse. Finally, I found the key and he escorted me to the elevator, dumped the boxes and ran out the door. According to my watch, he should have made it with a few seconds to spare.

I am often reminded I am married to a good man. One who loves me despite all my faults and annoyances. Especially on days like today.

And days like today, thank goodness, don’t happen too often.

Today also happens to be my sister’s birthday. She would have been 57 today.  One of her greatest pleasures in life was watching Elvis Presley movies.

So because it is one of those days, and because it’s her birthday, here’s a little Elvis…

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The other day I inherited a stack of teen magazines that originally belonged to my sister.

flip magazine 1974 october

What makes these unique and oh-so-interesting is that they are from the late 1960s through the mid-1970s.

Tiger Beat October 1975

Some of them look like they probably did the day she got them from the store.

teen life september 1975

Others are missing the covers but the pages are mostly in good shape.

Since most of these magazine were before my time (or when I was young enough my biggest concern was which baby doll to lug around that day and how to get my dad to take me with him irrigating so we could make a candy run to the neighborhood store and Mom would be none the wiser) there were a lot of names and faces I didn’t recognize.

the new seekers

Like the band The New Seekers.

the hudson brothersOr The Hudson Brothers. Member Bill is the father of Kate and Oliver Hudson.

jeff eastI also had no idea who Jeff East was, but apparently he gave a rousing rendition in a 1970s version of Tom Sawyer.

michael gray

Michael Gray played in a TV series called Shazam! (That I also have no recollection of ever seeing.)

One thing I noticed is that the magazines seemed to assume anyone buying them would recognize the people featured because I noticed several times no last names were mentioned and on full-page photos, some had no identifying names at all. While probably cool at the time, not so cool now when you have no idea who these people are – forty years later.

There were also some faces and names I recognized.

donny and marie

Like Donny and Marie. I think they are mentioned in almost every magazine.

robbie benson

And Robbie Benson. How could you not know Robbie Benson? (The theme from Ice Castles is right now playing in my head.)


Of course there would be Randy and Kev from Emergency! One year for my birthday, I may have been five or six, I got an Emergency fireman’s hat with their pictures on the front. I wanted to be a fireman for Halloween that year but I think I got dressed as a witch or cat or something not nearly as exciting. You know, back in those days, little girls were not firemen, or so my mother said.


Vincent Van Patten. I’m pretty sure he looked twelve in some of the magazines although the one article claimed he was 16.


He and Shaun Cassidy offered their thoughts on “Our Secret Love Tricks – or How we Make Out!” They each talked about different kinds of girls and the “tricks of the trade” they use to attract each different type – like the Shy Type, The Good Looker (that was tops on both their lists), Miss Hard-T0-Get and Ms. Liberated.

I have to admit, I was somewhat surprised and completely entertained by their responses.

Other names that were easy to recognize included Leif Garrett, Alice Cooper, Linda Blair, Susan Dey, Cher, Freddie Prinze and Michael Landon.

Oh, and I can’t forget the advice column on love and relationships from Maureen McCormick  (Marsha Brady).

The fashion columns nearly pushed me into fits of hysterical laughter, so I think I’ll stop for now.

I’m sure I shouldn’t be so thoroughly amused and fascinated with these magazines, but I am. I’ll try and take as good of care of them as my sister did. Who knows, someone twenty or forty years from now might really get a kick out of them.

She Who Is Craving Pop Rocks and Chick-O-Sticks

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