Monday, August 26, 2013

Memory Lane

The last time I was in the grocery store, as I was passing the bread section, I realized that I have had a craving for rye bread.  Now, it just wasn't/isn't ANY rye bread--it is a certain rye bread that I remember from childhood and it was made by a local bakery that went out of business many, many years ago.  I did buy some bread that I thought would pass for what I really wanted, but it just wasn't the same.  And so the search will continue...

This search for rye bread lead me to take a walk down memory lane.  When I was growing up, we had several local bakeries that made some of the most marvelous stuff.  (Where ARE the local bakeries, by the way?  They seem to have gone away, never to return.)  Along with great bread, I remember bakery to die for.  I will never forget the cream-filled bismarks--UNBELIEVABLE!  They looked something like this:

They were a wonderful fried pastry, filled with the greatest white cream in the world.  (This filling was like what Twinkies had before they were slightly 'healthified' years ago--only better!)  And then they were dusted with powdered sugar.  HEAVEN!  And I would always check out each bismark in the package and try to pick the one with the most filling, because that was the best part.

*A story:  One day my crochety old aunt and uncle went to visit The Mother during the day.  As was the custom back home--and still is, to a certain extent--coffee was made and bakery was put out to go along with it.  The Aunt examined each one of the bismarks that were put on the plate so she could be assured of getting the one with the most filling.  She dove into the pastry with a whole lot of gusto, waiting for that wonderful, creamy sweetness that she was anticipating.  She took a bite, then another, and then another.  She ate the entire thing and found not one drop of cream in it!  She DID find the humor in the situation and even commented how it served her right for trying to be greedy.  :)*

One thing I remember about one of the bakeries was the van that came around the neighborhood.  This ended when I was very young, but it is something I will never forget.  The bakery itself was based 20 miles away from where we lived and the products were able to be purchased at the local grocery stores.  But there were still enough people who didn't drive or couldn't get to 'town' often enough, so the bakery sent the van out every day.  It was very similar to milk delivery--one day a week you could be assured that the van would come by the house and you could buy what you wanted.  I was probably four years old the day we were at my great-grandmother's house and we went out to the van to pick the bakery for the week.  I was in awe when the driver opened the back doors of the van and I saw the racks of trays just filled with every kind of pastry imaginable.  While I would LOVE to have a bakery van come by the house on a regular basis, I'm also grateful this is no longer happening--I have enough trouble with my weight, as it is.  :D  But it certainly would be a dream come true.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

No Filters

The Mother is a master at getting people to tell her things.  Actually, she probably would have made a great prosecutor or therapist.  I am always amazed at the amount of information she can get out of someone in a short amount of time.  This is just normal when it comes to her.  But, this story goes beyond anything she has done before.

In the past 6+ months, The Mother has had two TIAs--mini-strokes.  As far as anyone can tell, she has had no long-lasting effects from these, but I'm not so sure.  I think her 'filters' have been affected.  Whenever she has 'interrogated' someone before, she has been much more subtle.  Anyway, here goes:

One evening, a few months back--after the first TIA and before the second--The Parents were visiting at some friends' house.  Along with The Parents, another gentleman was visiting.  This man graduated with The Father and has stayed in the area all these many years.  This man is semi-famous back home--he is a musician and professor at a local college.  All these years, it was assumed--by everyone--that he was gay.  Everyone just took it for granted--he never married and was more than a little effeminate.  And The Mother was put in a social situation with him.

As the evening progressed, the conversation took a turn.  And it was The Mother who steered things along.

The Mother, turning to The Gentleman, asked,  "M, can I ask you a question?"
The Gentleman said, "Of course, E, ask anything you want."
The Mother, unbelievably asked, "Are you gay?" 

Yes, she actually asked him that question!  To say that people's jaws dropped, is putting it mildly.  (All except for The Father, as he is quite deaf and won't wear his hearing aids, so he heard NOTHING.)  The Gentleman was very gracious and actually thanked The Mother for asking the question.  He then went on to say that he is aware that people think he is gay, but he really isn't.  The discussion went on for a bit and he asked The Mother if she had anything else she wanted to know.  The Mother's response?  "Did you have a face lift?"

I think this was intended for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Together Forever

This month I'm celebrating something that few people do:  My closest friend and I have been friends for 50 years.  And we have known each other for several years longer--we actually 'met' on the first day of kindergarten!  Unbelievable.  Now here is our story:

My parents bought the house next door to my friend's parents house.  They actually bought the house FROM J's parents--it was the old family farmhouse that had been moved to that location.  J and I were kind of forced together, as the houses were on the edge of town and most kids lived closer to the main street than us.

J and I were very close until the middle school years--that was when we were put into different classrooms.  We never had a falling out, we still walked to the bus stop together, etc, we just didn't have the same homework and projects to do.  Both of us "moved on" to classmates as our closer friends.  It happens with most people.

In high school, J and I did become even more distant.  She became a 'wild child', more of a party girl.  While I wanted to be wild, too, I couldn't:  The Mother would have killed me--literally!  Again, we were still friends, but not exactly FRIENDS, if you know what I mean.  Then in 10th grade, my saving grace came to be--I got a boyfriend who stayed with me through the rest of my high school years.  J went to the parties and The Boyfriend and I had our own private ones--we drank, but did no drugs.  At least *I* did no drugs...

Right after graduation, The Boyfriend and I broke up, so J and I were both single at the same time.  We got together and partied the summer away.  (I was no longer as afraid of The Mother...)  K and I managed to get together--while he was home on leave--and J and I did things together when he was away.  Both her and I started college in the fall and quit shortly after midterms.  We weren't quite ready for more school.  The rest of the year was spent sitting at The Mother's kitchen table drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and teaching ourselves to crochet.  Eventually we both got jobs.

The following year, K and I got married and J was the maid of honor.  At some point, we introduced J to S, K's best friend from the Navy.  The two of them married and I was her matron of honor.  And the four of us began our life journeys.

After the Navy, K and I moved to where we are still living--a town 100 miles away from where we grew up.  J and S moved to Wisconsin to the town where he grew up.  We had two kids, J and S had three--and the busy years began.  We talked on the phone to keep in touch and saw each other at least once a year whenever we would visit 'back home.'  Our friendship survived and began to strengthen during those years.

Then the 'teen years' came to be--along with the requisite 'troubles.'  Crying to each other, trying to find solutions to our problems, finally turned J and me from best friends to sister friends.  I don't know if I ever would have gotten through those times without J to cry to.  She saved me more than once.

Of course, the empty nest years finally came to us.  This has given us the time--and money--to be able to get together more often.  K and I do a monthly road trip to where J and S live--we do our shopping and then the four of us go out to eat and have a nice visit.  We also go to plays and concerts together and are in the planning stages of going to some tourist attractions nearby.  One of these days we will go on vacation together--we just have to decide WHERE.  :)  (K and I want to do Las Vegas, they want us to go on a cruise.  We'll figure it out.)

Last weekend we got to visit with J and S.  We went to a nice restaurant to celebrate our anniversary and exchanged gifts.  I gave J a silver charm with the number '50' engraved on the front and 'Sister Friends' engraved on the back.  She gave me my initials--cut out of discarded books.  Here's a picture:

Cool, right?

So, fifty years as friends.  And there is no sign that things will change any time soon.  I have had a vision of the future:  J and I are sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of a retirement home.  We each have a glass of wine in one hand, a cigarette in the other.  (We have promised ourselves that we will start smoking again at the age of 85.  ;))  We will live out the rest of our lives in each others company, friends to the end.  I can see it happening.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To Writing A Blog Post...

It is absolutely unbelievable to me that it has been almost six months since I last wrote a post here.  I have no explanation for my lack of interest in writing, but it just happened.  I'm back--for now--and hope to write on a regular basis again.  We'll see what happens.  ;)

Now to catch everybody up with my life.  Nothing too exciting, but here are the highlights:

--I still am seeing my personal trainer at the gym.  It has been a year and I'm not tired of it yet.  However, I have gotten away from losing weight--which I'm not happy about--but I'm not gaining, either.  This is completely my own fault--I'm just not eating the way I should, but I'm not eating the way I used to, either.  I KNOW that I will start losing again, I just don't know when.

--We got a bit of news a couple of weeks ago and it has brought a lot of uncertainty into our lives.  K works at a power plant which supplies the power for the local iron mines, their biggest customer.  The mining company has decided that they will no longer buy power from the place K works, so the future of the power plant is uncertain.  No one knows if the plant will close down or be able to muddle through.  A couple of years ago it looked as if the place was going to shut down because of environmental regulations and the cost of bringing the place up to code, but another power company decided to step in and pay for the upgrade so that they could use the plant for power--crisis averted and the place would stay open.  This was when it still would have been profitable for the plant to run and provide power to the mines.  Now we have no idea--and it seems as if NO ONE has an idea--what is going to happen.  Luckily, K has decided he will retire in about two years, so he should be able to have a job until then.  At least we hope so...

We have had a few special events in our lives during these past months.  And here we go:

--One of K's nephew's daughters got married a couple of months ago.  We made a point of attending--something we haven't always done.  (Sometimes it is just easier to stay home...)  Anyway, it was a nice time and we got to see family that we don't see nearly often enough.  The only thing that I have a hard thing accepting--yes, I now my age is showing--is the fact that the girl and her now-husband had their child about two years before the wedding.  I always thought the wedding came BEFORE the children, but that isn't the way it is these days, is it?

--And when it comes to seeing family...
One of my cousins planned a family reunion/get together for the end of June and we actually went to it!  It would have been just as likely for me NOT to show up, as this was The Father's family, but this reunion was a bit special:  almost 2 dozen relatives from Finland were there!  And here is the story behind THAT:

Every year, a gathering of Finnish-Americans is held someplace in the US and this year it was held 'back home.'  (We have had Finn Fest here where we live two times--not sure when the next one will be here.)  A group of my Finland relatives decided to come over and attend the celebration this year and we had a family gathering so that we all could meet each other.  It was quite interesting but I really didn't get to interact with them as much as I would have liked.  The people who were of my generation didn't speak English very fluently and I speak no Finnish whatsoever, so communication was difficult.  (The generation that is younger than us was VERY fluent in English, however.)  It was good to finally put faces to names and I was happy to meet one of my Facebook friends.  I hope to be able to spend time with them in the future.

--And the weekend after the family reunion, K and I found ourselves in the Twin Cities so that we could go to a Tom Petty concert.  We had The Youngest and her husband with us and we all had a great time!  While Tom Petty really looks like ten miles of bad road--he is showing every one of his years, for sure--his voice is still great and he and the band put on one heck of a show.  This has been a bit of a slow year for us attending concerts, plays, etc, so it was good to get to see a show.  I'm hoping more performers that we like will swing in this direction, soon!  ;)

And on to news of my kids:

--While I'm sure I've mentioned this before, I will say it again:  my oldest has a lot on her plate and she continues to pile more on.  A recap:  she has seven children and home schools them.  She has a part time job as the assistant to the township clerk.  Her five youngest girls are in gymnastics and The Oldest helps the teacher in lieu of paying for the girls' lessons.  (I LOVE the fact that she can barter her time/talents in exchange for something that she/her kids need/want!)  The gymnastics work is equivalent to ANOTHER part time job.  She also does everything she can to save money, so she makes things that most of us just buy at the store--for example, laundry detergent!  This takes up even more of her time.  But this wasn't enough for her.  A couple of weeks ago, they welcomed a Japanese foreign exchange student into their home!  The girl will be with them for another couple of weeks, so they will be able to get back to 'normal' just before school starts for the new year.  I am in awe of my daughter--there is NO WAY I would take on everything she does.

--And the most exciting news:  The Youngest and her husband will be moving--SOON.  Our son-in-law just started a new job a couple of months ago.  He now is a repair tech for a company specializing in sterilization equipment, etc, for hospitals and other medical facilities.  He was hired to cover the territory from the east end of St Paul, Minnesota to the Wisconsin border.  The company was aware that they wanted to move closer to the UP at some point, so when the territory in Eau Claire, Wisconsin became available, it was offered to him.  This would have brought them about an hour closer to us than they are at the moment.  THEN, before he even got a chance to start with the Eau Claire territory, he was offered the Rhinelander, Wisconsin territory!  This means that they will be able to move so close to us that they will be only an hour away from us!  (This is the best case scenario, but very possible.)  I think the big move will be happening sometime in October, so we will be busy helping whenever K has time off.  I'm so excited for them--as well as for myself.  :)

So, this pretty much catches everyone up with my life--nothing too exciting, for sure, but it is my life and I am pretty happy with it.  Now all I have to do is try and keep up with posting what's happening, so I won't have to write another one of these any time soon.