Hey, it’s a new year!

English: Fireworks at New Years 2002 Nederland...

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Hey, it’s a new year again. Seems like I was just getting used to the old one, and bam, it’s done. Now – 2012. For some, the last year of existence if you follow the Mayan’s belief. For others, the first day of the rest of your life.

For many, it’s a time to make lists: the best and worst of 2011. Best dressed. Best TV shows. Worst celebrity bad behavior. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps the list making is an attempt to distract ourselves from the other custom of the new year, making resolutions for self-improvement. One would think we were a nation of lazy, ne’er-do-wells, so shiftless that every year we must make another valiant, yet hollow attempt at self-improvement, that is destined to last but a few days.

Of course in the states, New Year’s Day is most known for the day we watch bowl games (American college football that is.) It seems there are at least 40 bowl games on New Year’s Day alone. and that is not even counting the bowl games on the days before and after January 1. In fact, the real reason for making new year’s a traditional holiday/day off from work, is that so many Americans would be walking around in a football bowl-induced coma, that not much work would get done anyway.

What do you do on New Year’s Day? Watch football? Recover from partying the night before? Go to the gym? Or treat if just like the other 364 days of the year?

© Huffygirl 2012

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Between


This is a restored lighthouse on South Manitou Island, part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Best husband took this photo from the top of the dune climb near Glen Arbor, Michigan. From there, the lighthouse is at least ten miles out.  The lighthouse lies between the Lake Michigan shoreline, which is not visible in the photo, and the bulk of South Manitou Island, as well as between South and North Manitou Islands. The island is only accessible by boat. Since we weren’t planning on doing any boating on that trip, this was the closest we could get to one of the most picturesque lighthouses in Michigan.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is a great place to visit, with 35 miles of brown-sugar sand Lake Michigan shoreline, hiking trails, a scenic drive, a maritime museum, and many great beaches, all bordered by beautiful countryside and quaint small towns. My family and I have spent many summers vacationing in this area, and never grow tired of it. From biking around Crystal Lake, to canoeing the Platte River, to climbing to the top of Empire Bluff, there is always something fun and active to do in one of the most beautiful parts of Michigan.

© Huffygirl 2011

No Christmas tree? No problem

One Christmas three years ago, our house was in a disarray. We were in the midst of a kitchen-family room remodeling project. We had moved our entire kitchen and dining room into the living room because of the construction. There was no room for a Christmas tree. We had been miserable for a month with no heat in the construction part of the house, no kitchen, and no room. But I was determined that amidst this mess we would somehow save Christmas and have at least a little Christmas tree. I had a little Norfolk pine tree. On a trip to Ireland a few years earlier, I had bought a bottle labeled “Magic Christmas Spray.” Could my magic spray save Christmas? I read the directions:”Magic Christmas spray is very powerful. Use sparring.” I decided to give it a try.

 I took the little tree, sprayed a little bit of Magic Christmas Spray, stood back, and voila’ – a Christmas tree just the right size to fit in the middle of our construction mess.

Merry Christmas to all and peace to you wherever you are this time of year.

© Huffygirl 2011

Remembering Mom one year later

I feel like I have graduated. I just wrote the last check, licked the last envelope, finished the last meeting, and packed up all my mom’s papers. I will not look at theses things again, at least not for a long while. My mom died just about one year ago, on Christmas Day, 2010. I have finally finished settling her estate. It was a lot of work, but a labor of love. My husband toiled alongside of me for much of it, whether it was meeting with the lawyer, cleaning her house or tending her yard. We finished our last day at Mom’s home by burying a time capsule, and taking a nostalgic walk though her woods, now overgrown and almost unrecognizable from the woods I played in as a girl.

Today I’d like to share again the tribute I wrote to my mom which my husband read for me at her funeral, and also appeared on my blog on December 30, 2010. I know many of you have already read it, but today I post it again not for us, but for her.♥

My 85-year-old mother died this week. She had a long life, most of it healthy despite a robust smoking  habit, some of it good, some not, but overall a life

Mom and her friend Rose

that was varied and interesting.  She was born of immigrant parents and grew up in a working class neighborhood of mostly Polish, Slovenian and others of eastern European descent. Her father worked in a factory, her mother stayed home raising kids, making chicken soup with homemade noodles, and poticca (poppy-seed bread) on special occasions, hanging her laundry on the line to dry while chatting over the fence to neighbors, and shopping at a neighborhood market, where you handed your list to the clerk behind the counter and they filled your order for you. My mother said they were “lucky” during the depression, because her father had a part-time job as a night watchman in a factory, while many other dads had nothing. Her growing up years are portrayed in pictures of her with her friends, sledding down a neighborhood hill, standing sweetly next to boyfriends, almost all dressed in army uniforms, and arm in arm with  girlfriends, walking  down the streets of Chicago or posing with the stone lions in front of the Art Institute. She quit high school in 11th grade to help support her family and worked in a factory making Karo syrup.  Maybe that’s why her hearing became so bad in later years, as there was no OSHA to protect workers then. Later, as an adult, she proudly completed her GED, not because she had to, but because she felt incomplete without that diploma, even though she grew up in a time when many people, especially women, did not complete school past the eight grade.

Mom and her daughters. That's me on the left.

She left her family in Chicago to move with her new husband to a farm in Michigan. Although she grew up a city girl, she traded it all for love, to pick pickles,  gather eggs, and sell tomato seedlings from our little greenhouse. She raised three children without the benefit of disposable diapers, ready-made formula or an automatic clothes washer.  She canned jam, hung clothes outside to dry and spent an entire day each week ironing. Her only phone was a black desk model on a party line. Her TV received  two channels. She styled her hair with pin curls and gave her daughters hideous home perms.

 She was the only mom who taught her daughters how to play hopscotch AND poker. She carried cigarettes in her purse next to pictures of her grandchildren. She could curse like a sailor and sweet-talk the priest, all on the very same day.  One of her fondest memories was the day her grandchildren took her to…the casino.

People describe her as sometimes funny, sometimes fun, but always feisty.  She was not afraid to speak her mind. I always heard about it if she didn’t like my clothes or hair or what I was doing, and not just as a teenager, but as an adult too. Her motto was “don’t go to any trouble,” yet she made sure you went to all kinds of trouble when she wanted you to.  She was too impatient to ever wait in a line, but patient enough to comfort us through our childhood illnesses and boyfriend dramas. She deferred decision-making to her husband, but later as a widow, gained confidence to hire a roofer and plumber, get her car serviced  and learn how to drive through the car wash.

Mom at her 85th birthday party.

She was determined to stay in her own home until she died and made sure we all felt miserable and abused  when we “made her” move to our local hospice. But in the short time she was there, she was blessed and touched and basked under the loving care of the folks there, who were able to see past her sometime cantankerous exterior to the needs  of a dying woman.

As we all whispered our goodbyes to her this Christmas day night, I think my youngest son said it best. He leaned into her ear and said “You had a good run Grandma, you had a good run.”

 © Huffygirl 2011

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American Pie turns 40. The other one.

I still have my original sheet music!

I’m not talking about the raunchy teen movie. No this American Pie, the REAL American Pie, is the song Don McClean penned that hit the charts  40 years ago.

This was song like no other: eight and half minutes long, catchy tune, cryptic lyrics. I can’t say I ever completely understood the song at the time. “The day the music died”  was presumed to be February 3, 1959 when the plane carrying some of rock music’s greatest –  Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper, crashed. This tragedy occurred before many of us were born, or at least before we were old enough to remember it.

But it didn’t just tell the story of the plane crash that occurred that day. Mixed in was symbolism and metaphor which I didn’t then, and still don’t completely understand. Guess I was not geeky enough to sit down with the lyrics and work it out.

Back then, it was hard to even get the lyrics of a song. There was no internet, no Wikipedia, no lyrics.com. When a new song came out, we were introduced to it by hearing it played on the popular radio stations. If the DJ’s liked it, or if fans requested it, it was played a lot. Then, if you were fortunate enough to own a record player or tape player, after hearing a song you liked on the radio, you could go buy the recording of it. When American Pie came out, I was a college freshman. I didn’t own a record or tape player, and neither did my roommates. We barely had any free time between class, clinic and studying: everyone took college pretty seriously back then, unlike the resort-party attitude that many students take today.  But we’d come home after class or clinic, and in the little time we had before dinner we’d listen to the top 40 on my transistor radio, IF we could get the station to come in clearly in our basement dorm room. I think aluminum foil was involved, as was touching the antenna to the radiator. If American Pie came on, we’d listen, sing along to the parts we knew, and try to write down the lyrics for the parts we didn’t. After some frustration,  I broke down and brought the sheet music, and my roommate and I struggled between the two of us, to play it on piano and guitar, so we could finally sing through the whole song.

American Pie came out during a time of much strife. The Viet Nam War was still raging. Those who did not want to serve in that conflict were fleeing to Canada. The country was still reeling from the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Racial segregation was an issue in many places. But for eight and a half minutes, we could set all that aside and listen to the pure magic of Don McClean.

© Huffygirl 2011

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Winter Walk

My family and I took a sunny walk on a crisp, cold day at the University of Kentucky Arboretum. A bright blue cloudless sky, good company and picturesque scenery made up for the chill. It was a sight filled with horizontal lines, stately trees, enticing paths, and vertical shadows. Enjoy.

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© Huffygirl 2011

Road Trip

On a recent road trip I had the misfortune of having to drive through a large portion of Ohio. Ohio, the boring state. State motto: We’re bored and we want you to be too. Ohio starts right out by sticking it to you on the highway. There’s a big, flat highway with nothing else around, hardly any traffic, and the speed limit is 65. Yup. Ohioans feel that if they have to live here, they’re going to make anyone passing through feel like they live here too. Why hurry anyway? It’s not like there’s anything else to see farther along on your trip. Just massive expanses of flat boring land. The most beautiful thing I saw in the entire state was a wind farm. Surprisingly picturesque, it stretched out for miles across the otherwise dreary farmland, windmill blades as big as semis twirling in the wind.

But, I digress. Though geographically a boring state, Ohioans have done their best to make their state more interesting. First, by giving their cities and towns interesting names. Uniopololis. West Milton (no doubt populated by stapler-bearing nerds.) Wapakoneta. Lima. Van Wert. Delphos. Ottoville. Dayton (just one letter shy of being Daytona. How different it might have been, had they added that “a.”)

Ohioans know that their state is not all that fun. No enticing sandy beaches, except for that little part along Lake Erie in Cleveland, which doesn’t really count. No mountains, except near the bottom, when you’re almost ready to leave. So Ohioans made a reason for people to come: Ohio is the museum state. There is a museum to just about anything in Ohio. The Neil Armstrong museums. The Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Wright-Patterson Air force Base. The Christmas Story House. Yes, a museum dedicated to the movie “A Christmas Story.” The Bicycle Museum of America. Hey, that’s one I should probably go to. Butch’s Cola Museum. The Museum of Postal History. Dr. Bob’s Home. The list is endless. Who wouldn’t want to go to Ohio now?

Besides, Ohio is not all flat roads and odd museums. Finally, when you think you can’t stand it anymore, there’s Cincinnati. Nestled between hills in a scenic valley, old row houses undergoing gentrification speckle the hillsides. Skyscrapers juxtaposed with old brick storefronts. So many factories billowing white puffs from their smokestacks that you’d think we had a new pope.

So, give Ohio a chance. After all, you have to drive back through it to get home anyway. Let’s put the “OH” back in Ohio. Oh wait, I guess it never left.

 © Huffygirl 2011

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