Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Want to watch Stuffed for a minute?

Volume up. :) A week ago, I figured out how to make a short video on Mike's phone. Enjoy our stuffed animal of a cat for a minute. He's pure sweetness.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


A dear friend died last night after a couple years of battling serious illnesses. Dawn, who I had yet to meet in-person, was working on her doctorate degree at the same time I was working toward my Masters, and we met through a grad student support group however-many years ago. We would make each other laugh throughout long nights--and years--of reading, researching, and paper-writing by describing our "work clothes" to each other. "I think I have you beat tonight," I would tell her. "Charlie Brown 'zig-zag' t-shirt, candy cane-striped pajama pants I got for Christmas, and my hair's pulled back into one of my dad's Pirates baseball caps. It will be a sad day when I have my degree and am not this fashionable anymore!" She would share her own crazy outfit--and no small amount of love and wisdom, as well--and another night spent trudging along on the long road toward our goals would pass with much laughter to combat the exhaustion and stress. I finally earned my degree in 2006, and she finally became "Dr. Dawn" in 2009. In a recent email, she wrote, "You are so dear, and I miss our chats about the most outrageous outfits. I'm currently wearing a worn-out Henley 4 sizes too big, and boat shorts. . . . will shortly add an ancient 2 sizes too big maroon sweat outfit and white fuzzy slippers."

"I don't know how you do it," I told her as she plodded along on her new and more difficult journey of cancer treatments a year ago. "But you do it. I admire your persistence." Big-hearted and brave, Dawn responded, "I do it because I'm one stubborn old broad, and because I have a lot of help from my friends and my dear sister and from God." To all her friends and family, 62-year-old Dawn has been the epitome of love and friendship, so often the one we would all look to her inspiration and advice even while trying to support her in her own battles. The student group through which I first met her is heartbroken today. To find anyone in this life who loves you and makes you laugh is a gift, and to find someone who loves you, makes you laugh, and makes you try to be a better person is a whole other level of a blessing. Dawn was a treasure.

"OK, I am tired, gotta go," she signed off in one of her last emails to me. "God bless wonderful, faithful Val." Bless you too, my dear. But friendships do not die. If you're sporting sparkling wings today, Dawn, then you finally have me beat. But you would want me to try, at least, and as a respecter of tradition, I don't mind telling you that I am wearing an oh-so-80s neon green nightshirt with screen-printed stars on its front, rainbow-striped underwear that is probably showing through in the back, and pink rabbit slippers. And I miss you so much already. And even when I'm 102 years old and find myself wearing some nutty mismatched outfit, I will think of you and laugh. And always, always, I will be grateful for your goodness to me and to so many others. Your heart was as big as your sweatshirt. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pink One-Year Anniversary Party

This Saturday marks six months since Mike's and my one-year wedding anniversary. The weekend of April 15th, we rented a car and went back to the town where we'd gotten married to have a couple days away. My mom had asked us to tack on a side-trip to her and dad's house for an anniversary dinner on our way home, and especially since my dear aunt Laurie was staying with them for the weekend, I was looking forward to the visit. This would be the first time dear Aunt Laurie and her family would meet Mike too, so I knew it would be a sweet afternoon. I did not know, though, that Mom and Aunt Laurie had been planning a pink anniversary party for me and Mike for weeks, and that Aunt Laurie had arrived at Mom and Dad's Friday evening with a car full of pink paper lanterns, baking ingredients, candies, silk flowers, and handmade anniversary gifts. Since Mike and I had "run away and gotten married" and hadn't had an actual wedding or reception, my mom and aunt decided, unbeknownst to us, to go all out for our first anniversary.

They had spent the weekend before our arrival transforming Mom's colonial blue kitchen and dining room into a pink party space.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked into the house--Mom is synonymous with the color blue to me--and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the transformation. They had thought of everything from pink heart-shaped paper doilies to pink paper lanterns, and it was all gorgeous. "We wanted it to look like our Vally," Mom smiled.
(That's Papa and Grandma's old Hoosier cabinet above at left. :) Click to enlarge any photo in this post.)

The food, like the decorations, was all in pink, spring green (like my wedding dress/jacket), and white too. :) Aunt Laurie had baked pink-and-green-frosted sugar cookies. Mom had made pink heart-shaped marshmallow-adorned Jell-O salads. She had ordered a pink Roses-topped marble cake from the local bakery. They had set up dishes of pink and green M&Ms, tiered tidbit trays of pink foil-wrapped candies, plates of white chocolate-covered pretzels, and pots of pink wafer cookies. 'Just dreamy, a sea of pretty colors.

Mom and Aunt Laurie had cooked our traditional Thanksgiving dinner for the meal: Turkey, stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, peas, green bean casserole, pickles and cream cheese-and-olive-stuffed celery, rolls, and ham too. The ham was somewhat of an in-joke between me and Mom, because in the late 1980s or maybe early 1990s, she and I had been tickled by an article in one of her decorating magazines about a pink and white wedding that "continued the pink and white theme" with overlapping slices of (pink) ham and (white) turkey at its dinner reception. It was such a pretty detail, and I remember squealing to Mom at the time, "Ooooooooooh! Just THINK, Mom! We could color-coordinate the whole MEAL!" And now, decades later, she had remembered to make up platters of the turkey and ham. One of my sisters-in-law contributed a cucumber salad that was a pretty mint green. Aunt Laurie had dyed hard-boiled eggs in pinks and greens. Mom had made pink lemonade (especially for Mike, who likes it, but you know the punch bowl would have been pink-filled somehow). The cups, napkins, and plates were all pink and white, as well. Rachel Ashwell, eat your heart out. ;)
After lunch, we opened Aunt Laurie's incredible gifts.
And then Mom and Dad stunned me and Mike with something I had wanted for our little apartment since the summer before. While Mike and I finished our cake and caught up with everyone, my dad and brothers disappeared outside and then returned carrying a heavy oak fireplace mantel. My mom had paid for the wood for it, and Dad had built it. (He also built the mantel that's beside the "pink Roses/twinkle lights tree" in the third photo from the top. And Mom's beloved kitchen nook/booth to the right of the Hoosier cabinet. ) I finally have my mantel!

He said he hated to leave it unfinished, but that Mom had told him that I'd want to paint it and doll it up anyway, so he resigned himself to giving me a plain and unstained wood piece. :) Fixing this up is one of my next projects. It will be colorful and trimmed in Roses when I'm done, to be sure. Dad made it the perfect size for a specific wall in our apartment that I'd mentioned I'd been saving for a mantel. I still had "mantel wanted" ads posted on craigslist when Mom and Dad gave us this one, so this, like the rest of the visit, was a real treat.

After taking more pictures and saying our goodbyes, Mike and I got on the road, the car's backseat and trunk filled with pastel-colored foods and our other gifts. The real treasures, I know you know by now, were the people waving at us as we drove away.