Thank Those Lemons, Then Make Limoncello    

Photo Lemons Limoncllo

I spent most of my 13th year of life in our family bathroom, crying. Back then, things just never seemed to work out as I had planned. Boyfriend angst, girlfriend drama, body issues, academic concerns, shyness, lack of confidence; I had no idea how to deal with my struggles.

JC* and my Dad took turns talking to me out of earshot of my three young siblings, for my sake and probably for the sake of the family, since that house only had one bathroom. JC would regale me with stories of her childhood and how she and her independent streak would band together and seem to overcome any obstacles. My Dad would remind me how the army had built him back up, giving him the determination to set goals that might have seemed out of reach to others and one by one, accomplish them.

Hoping I had inherited the best of my parents’ personalities, it was in my 16th year that I ventured entirely out of my comfort zone and entered a modeling contest at the local upscale teen fashion shop. Excited to be able to choose my wardrobe, it turned out that my first and second choices were not in my size. When the knowledgeable saleslady steered me over to my correct size, which was a bit larger, I thought it must be a mistake; it wasn’t.

I didn’t win, but I remember the owner telling me I had a nice smile. So, the next day when I went shopping for boots and the salesman told JC that I had large calves (I was sitting right there), I realized I had a big decision to make; I could see myself with large calves or a nice smile and I chose the latter. As it turned out, the fruit didn’t fall far from the tree. I had succeeded in taking my first step toward Lemonade 101.

A love lost that steered me toward my true partner. A career change that sparked my creativity. A move that landed me where I belonged. Tears that made me appreciate every smile. Maladies that helped me to celebrate life. When I think back to the disappointments that have engulfed me over the years, I can reflect and see clearly how the increasingly positive attitude I was developing, encouraged me to squeeze all I could out of a situation and then mix it with what new possibilities lie ahead.

As I mature, I like to think that in the big lemonade stand of life, I have graduated to Limoncello and created a more sophisticated version of myself, drinking in experiences, with pinky up, sipping at an outdoor café and confident in the knowledge that the end is usually just a new beginning.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down, like it and feel free to share it!

 

Sole Searching

Photo HIking Boots

Me and my Merrell Moab Ventilators in Villafranca del Bierzo, Spain

Let’s just say that I am not known for my sports prowess and leave it at that. It wasn’t until 2016 that I finally found my sport; walking! Standing at the top of that mountain, after trying on my first hiking boots gave me a wonderful sense of exhilaration. And as I stepped down from the four-foot, plaster mountain in the shoe department of the REI store, I felt downright giddy.

Thus, began an intimate relationship with my hiking boots. I remember those first few awkward days as we got to know each other. I’d tie them over and over, trying for a not too tight, but not too loose a fit. I broke them in, walking the city streets of Chicago. Little did they know that they were soon destined to walk 500 miles through Spain on the Camino de Santiago, the 1000- year-old route to the Shrine of the Apostle St. James in northern Spain’s medieval city of Santiago de Compostela.

Skittish at first of the uphills, downhills, rocky terrain and water crossings, I finally settled into a rhythm whereby my boots seemed to be leading me. They helped me to define my comfort zone. I likened this to a car with new tires and the confidence you feel as their traction assists you in navigating the road.

If those boots could talk! They’ve staggered through rainstorms, forced to listen to us taking turns singing Broadway show tunes to pass the time, then left overnight, stuffed fat with newspaper. They’ve been caked in mud and sat alone, not allowed entry into our hotel room. Regardless, they always know that once they arrive home, they will be well scrubbed and placed on their side in their original shoebox, toe to heel, until their next adventure.

Lately, circumstances have dictated that those boots become a basic necessity, once again, as I walk miles each day. Whatever the weather (or my temperament), as soon as I fit my foot snugly into each one, I feel a sudden sense of exhilaration. It’s amazing what can go on while your feet are moving. The recurring sound of my boots hitting the pavement, crunching leaves or trudging through dirt paths, creates a Zen backdrop.

Ever the shoe lover, I must confess that even the pride and joy of my collection, my Allen Edmonds brown and white spectators, don’t give me the lift that my boots do. My hiking boots may seem like the ugly duckling compared to their classic elegance, but they serve their purpose and serve it well.

Thankful that I have finally outgrown my 30 years of clumsiness, I welcome this new phase of my life, resigned to let my feet lead the way and take one step at a time.

 

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it and feel free to share it!

Guatemala, Hypnosis and My Lost Wedding Ring

Photo Lost Wedding Ring

At first, new friends thought we were one of those cool couples that never married (like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell). It only took 10 minutes into a Happy Hour for me to blurt out that I had misplaced my wedding ring. Not taking it on a hiking trip was a good idea; not remembering where I had hidden it was not.

Soon neighbors (some I had never met) were chiming in. When out walking, I’d receive a friendly wave and a comment such as “Did you check behind the washer and dryer?” Friends that entered my home asked if they could take a quick look around for me. Unfortunately, I remained anxious and the ring remained lost.

A lovely woman insisted I borrow her Guatemalan worry dolls. Apparently, there is a legend that if you have a problem, you share it with the worry dolls, place them under your pillow and when you awake, the dolls will have taken your worries away. In the morning, I awoke in a panic to find them missing. After removing the bedding and crawling around, I found them nestled together under the bed. Hoping that their mojo would still work through a mini zip-close bag, those one-inch tall little devils were sealed up from then on.

“How about a hypnotist?” suggested another woman. A friend of hers would soon be performing locally and maybe she could assist. Unfortunately, the hypnotist was not available, but steered me to a colleague. New at the hypnosis game and eager for the practice, the young gentleman was eager to work with me over the phone at no charge.

With a silken voice, he instructed me to get comfortable in a quiet space and relax (hard to do with Mr. Wiz* curiously peering in at me every few minutes). With eyes closed and headphones on, I listened to him softly directing me to think of myself looking down onto a map of my home. “The map is white and there is a blue dot where you are standing. Is the blue dot moving anywhere?” he quietly asked, repeatedly. Hard as I tried that darn dot wouldn’t budge. The session ended and though disappointed, I thanked him profusely for his time.

If only I had a metal detector; was that my thought or was I still a bit woozy? I decided to put an announcement on the community bulletin board, asking if someone could BYOMD (bring your own metal detector) and help me find my ring for a reward. Not more than an hour later, a neighbor (whom I had not yet met) texted me to say he would gladly assist. Mr. Wiz was taken a bit by surprise when he asked what that noise was and I said it was just my good friend, Harry (not his real name), in my closet. As hard as he tried, Harry had no luck, but he did compliment me on my closet organizational skills.

At this point, months had gone by. Still ringless, I now found myself with a new problem to focus on; an itch that just wouldn’t go away. It arrived out of nowhere and commanded my full attention. Out of the blue, Epsom salts came to mind and relentlessly stayed there. Let me just interject here that Epsom salts and I have no history. Confused as I was, I finally acquiesced and decided a bath might do me some good.

As I pulled the zip-close bag out from under the sink in the guest bathroom, something in a smaller zip-close bag sparkled in the light. It was my ring! I slinked down the wall and sat on the floor, lovingly hugging the bag and scolding it at the same time, just as you might when you’ve found a missing child. I tenderly gave it a bath in jewelry cleaner, placed it back on my finger and ran to find Mr. Wiz. Little did I know then, that the itch would vanish just as quickly as it had presented itself.

Guatemala, hypnosis, metal detectors, Epsom salts and many zip-close bags later, I have no idea what the moral of this story is, but the next time I decide to hide any jewelry I’ll be sure to let you all know first.

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it and feel free to share it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Didn’t Get the Memo

Photo Coronavirus 1

Texas Bluebonnets welcome us each morning, as we begin our hike

Spring didn’t get the memo today
Flowers bloomed while birds blissfully sang
Quarantined within these lovely surroundings
Making sense of the yin and the yang

There’s a long grocery line and I imagine
The cart handle is a ballet bar
I can use it to exercise, but one yoga downward dog
And my husband says he’s headed to the car

I’ve come to appreciate simple pleasures
Like a six-foot visit with a neighbor on the street
Or ordering local takeout
Always good, but now delicious to eat

Some neighborhoods open their windows nightly
And in unison they happily sing
Parents and children spend precious time together
Something only hunkering down can bring

Be comforted that we’ll be well read, well fed
And most probably binge watched out
Remember there’s always a beginning, a middle and an end
This too shall pass, there’s absolutely no doubt

And, when we open our doors and reenter the world
Heads held high, though needing a hairdresser’s touch
We’ll be thankful that spring reminded us to be grateful
For our country, state and city that mean so much

Photo Coronavirus 2

Nothing like a message in a tree to start the day right

 

Author’s Note:
If you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it and feel free to share it.

 

Here’s to Life; All 190 Years of it!

Photo 190 Years

I would like to introduce you to two of my friends. At 95 years of age, they are each so full of energy and have such a zest for life, that I thought you would enjoy meeting them.

When she closes her eyes, she can still see herself singing with her sister, while her father accompanied them on the mandolin. She attributes her love of opera to her father, who would close his shoemaker business early on Saturdays to listen to the Metropolitan Opera on the radio.

After befriending the nuns at her local parish, she decided to enter the convent. She trained as a nurse and received her BSN and Masters in Nursing Administration. Tireless and fun loving, everyone knew her in the large hospital. She worked as a surgical nurse, pediatric nurse and in nursing administration, but her heart was always with the children.

Small in stature, but with a big personality, it is no wonder that when a travel agent friend of one of the nuns was looking for two sisters to accompany groups on pilgrimages to pray on the buses as they traveled from city to city, off she went to see the world.

With missions in Brooklyn, California, Chicago, Montreal and Seattle, she now makes her home in New York City where she lives with 24 other nuns in a senior residence that is near to her family. One of her favorite pastimes is sending weekly emails filled with jokes, interesting photos and stories to her large mailing list. Each time we speak on the phone I marvel at how she corrects me at least once, with details I had forgotten. She always makes me laugh.

He is one good storyteller. He had me on the edge of my seat as he regaled me with his naval adventures from World War II, recalling every detail as if it were yesterday. Stationed in Honolulu and Saipan, it was where he wasn’t sent that he still remembers all these years later. Drawing straws to see who would be headed to Iwo Jima was the only way his medical group could come to a decision. That he wasn’t chosen and lived to mourn his fellow corpsmen, who were all killed instantly as they approached the island, had a lasting effect on him.

After the war he attended college, proud of the 1937 Ford he had purchased that finally replaced his bicycle. He was content with his job as a high school teacher, but with a wife and a growing family, he couldn’t resist an offer from the Atomic Energy Commission that doubled his salary. Only when he remembered to use laymen’s terms was I able to follow his career from there to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Still trim and standing tall and straight, he attributes his independence and positive attitude (he’s survived three wives and two of his four children) to his naval career and does not let the fact that he has some vision issues deter him. Lately, he’s been thinking of becoming a motivational speaker in schools and connecting with the children.

If 85 is the new 95 and 70 is the new 80, etc., etc., then do the math and follow my friends’ advice: get out there and make the best of the time you have!

 

Author’s Note:
I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Never Too Late for Fate

She ripped the letter open while still standing in her driveway. Her old college boyfriend had written to those he’d had past friendships with, explaining that since his wife had died, he was looking to rekindle relationships to fill the void. Her life passed in front of her, as she remembered the fun they’d had together, how their lives had veered off in different directions, how her marriage wasn’t the fairy tale she had envisioned.

She walked into the house and called him, the letter still in her hand. She could tell by his voice that he was overjoyed to hear from her. Before she knew it, she had accepted an invitation to visit him. By their second meeting, he told her that he’d lost her once, and was not about to let it happen again. No one had given her those butterflies in her stomach for a very long time. As she sat on the plane, heading to her new home, she knew that moving in with him was her destiny, never having envisioned another chance for true love.

Single and living in the same community, they seemed to have a lot in common. The two women soon became exercise buddies and prodded each other into attending more neighborhood events together.

When a close family relation died, she knew she would be there for her new friend. She politely made small talk as she was introduced to the other guests at the funeral. When she met her friend’s cousin, she was taken aback. He was so charming and easy to talk to. They made plans to meet for dinner the next day and a romance blossomed from there. Little did she know what fate was awaiting her and what an interesting story of their meeting she would have.

Enough! After years of laboring on match.com as if it were a part time job and with no success, she was ready to exit the online dating world, except for one thing: she had forgotten that her account self-renewed, since she hadn’t canceled it ahead of time. Annoyed, she took a friend’s advice and went on a few “last” dates, just to get her money’s worth.

They lived so far apart that they planned to meet half way. She was already telling herself that this was a mistake. He had a nice smile and seemed like an interesting person. What she couldn’t get over was how he seemed to listen to her every word. In time, the distance didn’t seem to matter.

This wasn’t their first rodeo; they knew what they wanted out of life, so they went for it, but not in the traditional way. They bought a house together, went on a European honeymoon and then got married. Her terrible divorce, her cancer; it all seemed like someone else’s life. Now it was her time to shine.

What makes these stories even sweeter is that the heroines range in age from 55 – 69 years young. They never expected to find love, but said it found them. Sometimes we need to hop into the back seat and let the universe steer us to exactly where we belong.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Author’s Note:
I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!

Rats, Another Chinese New Year!

Photo Chinese New Year 1

It was a typical Friday evening (or so I thought). I had made a dinner reservation at one of JC’s* favorite restaurants after she had experienced a particularly trying week. It seems that the bird watching club she was so excited to join was too far to travel to. On top of that, she was just told that she was now on the waitlist for free ukulele lessons. In the spirit of the upcoming Lunar New Year celebration, I made a reservation for the three of us (me, JC and Mr. Wiz*) to dine at Lin Asian Bar.

I didn’t realize the cup was full of water. The interesting metal cup looked vintage and when I picked it up to get a better look, it spilled all over me. As our waiter, Kanye, ran over to help clean it up, I said: “And, I didn’t even have a glass of wine yet.” His reply: “It should be interesting when you do” immediately endeared me to him.

Kanye asked if I knew that spilling water meant good luck in Chinese tradition. He told us that while helping his stern grandmother move to a new home, he accidently spilled some water on her floor. Rather than being chastised, she hugged him and thanked him for the blessing. The evening was starting out better than I’d thought.

This is the Year of the Rat. In Chinese culture, the rat symbolizes wealth and because of its reproduction rate, couples pray to them for children. Also known as Lunar New Year, this holiday marks the start of the Chinese lunar calendar and was originally a time to pray to the gods for a good harvest. It’s the longest Chinese holiday and celebrates with the most fireworks set off in the world. Because the elderly Chinese live in rural areas and most of their children live in cities, the country experiences the largest human migration in the world during this holiday period. Singles actually go to the extreme of hiring fake boyfriends or girlfriends to bring home to family festivities, rather than be interrogated about their personal lives.

In order to not wash away any good luck, showering is not recommended on new year’s day and no sweeping or trash pickup is allowed for a few days. Red decorations adorn homes, people dress in red and children receive monetary gifts in red envelopes to signify good fortune.

After a couple of restaurant visits, I am now able to master the Shanghai Soup Dumplings: lift the broth filled dumpling carefully into the small cup without breaking it, prick it with your chopsticks, pour the sauce over it, eat the dumpling then drink the broth. We ate slowly, enjoying our wine pairing and hoping that our Orange Peel Beef and Seafood Delight with Birds Nest (assorted seafood in a crispy potato shaped nest) might last longer.

By the time we sipped our usual hot sake instead of dessert, Kanye had explained the custom of kissing each others’ foreheads for good fortune. As we left and thanked him for a wonderful evening, he shared with us that his name was actually not Kanye, but he liked the sound of it, so found no need to correct us.

We walked home, arm in arm, laughing as we recounted the interesting evening. Giddy, still damp and with a kiss from Kanye on my forehead, I could only speculate how this good fortune might present itself in the coming year.

Photo Chinese New Year 2

Me and Kanye (who’s not really Kanye)

 

 

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:

I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!

 

Sweet (and Savory) Dreams

Photo Sweet and Savory Dreams Small

A little biscuit humor from Hot Box Biscuit Club

The story stuck in my head. Our new friends suggested that a group of us head over to Dahlia Café in Liberty Hill, Texas one Saturday night. Sitting out on the patio, drinking cold beer and listening to the live music, they told of how this restaurant came to be.

Whenever Debby Johnston passed the vacant building that once housed a florist shop, she’d wonder why someone hadn’t bought it, never thinking it would be her. One morning, she awoke and told her husband she had a dream that they bought it and became restauranteurs. The feeling was so strong that she convinced her husband to take a chance. As it turned out, the combination of their country cooking and a relaxed, downhome atmosphere was a success.

While in Fort Worth, Texas a few weeks ago, a visit to Taco Heads for lunch brought that story back to mind. Back home and not sure where her corporate background would lead her, it was a dream one night that motivated Sarah Castillo to develop the perfect tacqueria that would inspire a cult following.

Two jobs and two years later, she had saved enough to buy not just a food truck, but a unique custom trailer. Her mother provided the recipes and a friend introduced her to area bar owners, who agreed on the need for late night dining. Six years later, had her Uber driver not struck up a conversation with her, he may not have become her business partner and their two restaurants (with a third on the drawing board) may not have come to fruition.

With visions of tacos still dancing in my head from this incredible story, brunch the next day at Hot Box Biscuit Club had me taken aback. After dreaming about biscuits one night, you can guess what Sarah Houten had to do.

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, the prestigious cooking school, she set out to create the perfect biscuit, then called her old friend, Matt Mobley. They had met years ago when he taught at Le Cordon Blue, the elite cooking school in Dallas, and she knew he was the one that could provide just the right accompaniments to take her biscuits to the next level. They collaborated on their favorite Southern recipes and soon their food truck gave way to a restaurant with lines out the door.

From pipe dream to reality; these women entrepreneurs were hungry to find their path in life. They listened to their inner voice, put their trust in their gut feeling and let intuition guide them. They dared to dream, but kept their eyes open and followed their destiny.

Author’s Note:
I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!

 

Cowgirl Fascination: Annie Oakley

Photo Annie Oakley 1

Just under the wire, on the last day of 2019, I was able to squeeze in my goal of visiting the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas. There, I was introduced to Annie Oakley.

Born Phoebe Ann Moses in Ohio in 1860, Oakley’s father died when she was 6-years old. She was sent to live at the city poor house, but returned home as a teenager. She helped feed her family and eventually paid off their farm’s mortgage with her hunting skills, selling the excess to a local hotelier. When the hotelier set up a shooting contest between the fifteen-year old, five-foot tall Oakley and well-known marksman, Frank Butler, Oakley won, scoring 25 out of 25 shots. Smitten with her moxie, the two courted and eventually married, traveling together as a shooting act. When Butler realized it was Oakley the crowds wanted to see, he took a step back and became her manager. It is said the stage name Oakley came from the Cincinnati neighborhood they lived in.

They soon set their sights on becoming a part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. William F. Cody was a soldier, hunter and showman who turned his real life adventures into the first outdoor western show. Known for his foresight and business acumen, he was soon celebrated as one of the most famous Americans in the world. His use of press agents and poster advertising was innovative for the times. Realizing how essential Indians were to the shows, he paid them the same wages as the other performers. Their families traveled along with them and were encouraged to retain their language and rituals.

In 1885, Oakley auditioned and was hired on the spot. That year, she performed in 40 cities and then made a grand three year tour of Europe. In 1893 alone, the show performed for 6 million people and made a profit of $1 million. Patrons were fascinated with the ingenuity and efficiency behind the scenes as they were the show itself. Every night, the cast and staff of over 500 plus horses and buffaloes (along with grandstands and acres of canvas cover for the 20 thousand ticket holders) moved to the next town. Depending on the destination, they were housed in either walled tents or railroad sleeping cars. Three hot meals a day were served and their entourage even included its own fire department.

In a male dominated profession, Oakley was able to retain her femininity and become the most famous sharp shooter in American history. She was known for her ability to hit small size objects, such as a dime at 90 feet or the ash from a cigarette, once held in the lips of the Crown Prince of Germany. She headlined with the show for almost 20 years, retiring after a car accident. She still kept shooting even with the brace she wore due to a fractured hip and ankle, giving exhibitions, holding charity events and teaching women to shoot. The celebrity cowgirl died at age 66 and it is said that Frank died of a broken heart a few weeks later.

Photo Annie Oakley 2

Author’s Note:
I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!

 

Heide Pitre: The Wink of an Artist’s Eye

Photo Pitre One Green Dot

“One Green Dot”: If you look closely, you’ll see it on her shirt

When Heidi Pitre’s Uncle Willy Willy Lump Lump suggested she draw freehand rather than trace pictures from the cover of a Charlie Brown book, the artist had no idea that his 5-year-old niece had such talent. All these years later, she can’t help but smile and wonder what he would think of her painting “One Green Dot” currently appearing on billboards across Austin. A winner of the latest Austin Art Boards Competition, her latest collection “Southern Peculiar” colorfully depicts heartwarming scenes of the South, presented with a lighthearted twist.

Pitre calls herself a narrative painter. She invents a story, creates a scene and then entices you to scrutinize it until you find your own ending. Her style is bold and realistic without being surreal, captivating you into taking yet another look to see if there was something you might have missed.

There’s no place better than New Orleans for a budding artist to grow up. Its eclectic music, cuisine, architecture and celebrations combined with the city’s freewheeling, creative spirit reassured her that a little bit of quirkiness and eccentricity was always welcome. At the University of New Orleans, she changed her major to Fine Arts, not sure how she would make a living, but determined to do so.

Once her daughters were on their own, Pitre decided it was finally time to dedicate herself to taking her career a step further. Utilizing her organizational skills and business acumen, she set out to learn the art business, established goals and never looked back. When fellow artists touted Austin for its opportunities, camaraderie and generous spirit, she packed up her moxie and made it her home.

While attending an art residency, her love of libraries and reading led her to inquire whether she could remove the old library cards from their books. Given the OK, her stack grew until one day she began to sketch artwork on the card. As Pitre explains “Each repurposed card is unique, with the artwork added to represent a pivotal moment or theme from the book or a play on words of the title. Retired from their first career, these once forgotten pieces of paper have started new lives as ambassadors for the books they once lived in” Now these new cards, complete with artwork, live around the world with private collectors or hang in galleries and exhibitions. Reproducing them has made them available to a wider audience and a book entitled “A Permanent Record” recounts their story.

EPSON MFP image

Always in search of the bizarre, she had no choice but to purchase some vintage flash cards she came across one day. In her newest collection, she sketches on the cards, her play on words mingling childhood innocence with adult humor.

Heidi Pitre has successfully honed her curiosity, sense of humor and artistic talents into a one- woman, avant-garde show of everything that will tickle you, inspire you and remind you to celebrate the long forgotten. See what she’s up to at heidipitre.com.

 

Author’s Note:
I would greatly appreciate your input; if you enjoyed this post, please scroll down and like it!