Sunday, August 30, 2009

Of Time, and Distance, and Going "Home"

One week ago yesterday I was on my way to my fortieth high school reunion. One week ago today I was at a family get-together with all the relatives from both sides of my family who could make it. One week ago tomorrow I was making the 9 1/2 hour drive back to Michigan.

I was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, a town of less than 10,000 sitting nearly on the Mason-Dixon line. Although we only lived "in" the town for less than a year (when I was six), we lived nearby enough to attend the same small country church my mother was raised in, to which my brother and SIL still belong. The exception to this was the year I was five, when my father took a short-term job in southern Maryland. We all felt as though we had moved to the other side of the earth, it was "so far" away. I just checked the distance on Google maps -- it's 117 miles. From 1984 to the early 90's, Roger's daily commute was longer than that. Arwen and Rosie live 90+ miles away, and we think nothing of running down to see them for a day. Expressways make an enormous difference!

When I was growing up, with 1950's ideas of distance, I thought that Detroit was incredibly far away. Now I live an hour north of Detroit, 520 miles from Waynesboro. With six kids in the car it used to take us nearly twelve hours to drive from here to there. These days, with 70 mph limits and drastically reduced pit stops, we regularly do it in 9 or so. On the other hand, when my parents were alive we used to try to visit Waynesboro three times in each two years. When we were planning this trip, I suddenly realized it had been over two years since we'd been there at all. (My brother and SIL did come to see us twice in that time, something they couldn't do when the folks required care.)

So it seems that both years and miles go by more quickly as I age. This is not a new concept, of course, but it's different when you experience it. It seems impossible that I have been out of high school 40 years, but 2009 --1969 = 40, whether I like it or not. And things both here and in Waynesboro change. There were fewer people at the family get-togther than I ever remember at similar gatherings. My parents' generation is all but gone, my children's generation is busy and scattered -- only Maggie and Tommy of our six were there -- and my cousins and my grandchildren's generation will never know each other except perhaps on Facebook.

When we were planning this trip, both Roger and I realized that we were "homesick" for Waynesboro. Since I was a small-town girl -- 60+% of my graduating class still live within 20 miles -- this is not too surprising for me. But Roger grew up outside Grand Rapids, and never went to Waynesboro until the summer before we were married. Furthermore, my brother's current house wasn't bought until after my folks were gone. But the sense of family makes it a part of home.

So "home" is there, and "home" is here, and nothing looks quite the way it did when I was a kid. And we are in the process of finding a new house to "keep" home in, since the state "made us an offer we couldn't refuse" to buy us out for the very long awaited construction project. ( I know I posted about that, but I can't seem to find the post. If I do find it I'll link to it.) And because this world is changeable, I have to live with that. But I am very grateful that (God willing) in the end I will recognize my True Home, and time and distance will be only a memory.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Off to PA!

Tomorrow morning early (around here we call it "zero-dark-thirty", thanks to Roger, my former Coastie) we are leaving for a week in Pennsylvania. We will visit my brother and sister-in-law, climb a bunch of rocks, pick up Maggie from her summer internship, attend my 40th (!!!!) high school reunion, have an extended-family potluck picnic, and drop Tommy off to visit a friend in Pittsburgh. Another eventful week, but this one should be much nicer! I'll see you all on the other side...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Seven Quick Takes -- Eventful Week Edition

This week has been one of the most eventful in the last few years. Starting with:

1. On Sunday morning we dropped Tommy off at the airport to fly to Duluth to visit George. Tommy was gone for two weeks earlier this summer at a "college camp". He took two one-week classes at the school Maggie graduated from in Florida, and really enjoyed himself. Roger and I both enjoyed and disliked our first taste of a totally empty nest. I think enjoyed won, but we still had the cat and the dog to deal with, so spontaneity was not something we got to enjoy. I'm already plotting to hand off the animals to some of the kids as the grandchildren get older....

At any rate, the expectation had been that we'd have another week on our own, and I was looking forward to it. But I was also nervous, because...

2. On Monday morning we got the "offer" from the state Department of Transportation to buy our house. For the last seven years we've anticipated, and then known, that we were in the buyout footprint for a massive road and bridge project. We've spent "the last Christmas in this house" a couple of times, and only didn't feel that way last year because Christmas was at Arwen's house because Blaise was imminent. Of course, in the last seven years housing prices have dropped precipitously. In my opinion, the state was very generous with us. They valued the house
at about $30 thousand higher than I would have expected, and in Michigan all homeowners bought out for public projects have to receive 125% of the value. So that's a nice chunk of change, except that we have a substantial HELOC to pay off. The drop in real estate prices means that we will be able to find more house for less money than would have been possible several years ago, but the slowness of Roger's business (hence the HELOC) mean's we're not sure how much of a mortgage we'll qualify for. We'd have been dealing with finding out this week, but....

3. On Monday afternoon Roger flew off to New Mexico because his dad and stepmother were having a health crisis. They had a major one about five years ago, and at that point Roger and his six siblings tried to persuade them to move closer to somebody. (The nearest kids are in California.) But things stabilized, and they decided they'd be OK on their own for a while.

This crisis has persuaded Roger's siblings that something needs to be done now. For the first part of the week they were actively working to make that happen. But through a combination of factors -- which I believe to include personality quirks, old-age-related deterioration, and a complete inability to believe they are loved -- the folks decided that nope, they can still make it on their own. They turned down a very reasonable and loving plan, and have suggested that the kids' self-interest was a factor. My heart bleeds for Roger and my sibs-in-law. However...

4. The working together to set up the plan the folks rejected has brought these three sisters and four brother together in a way they haven't been in years. Between emails and phone calls, everybody has been kept in the loop. And they have realized that even if Dad doesn't believe they love him, they KNOW they love each other. Visits are being planned, and I may even have to dust off the planning stuff for the family reunion that Roger and I were aiming to put together until 9/11 knocked us off track. (And now there are babies, including a great-niece due in about a month!) Roger's family has a track record of only getting together for weddings and funerals, and I think they're planning to change that. This is good!

5. Also good, to my surprise, has been being "home alone" this week. I've been trying to remember the last time I was totally alone for five days and four nights, and I'm sure it was before we were married. Of course I've done the "temporary single parent" thing many times over the years -- the most memorable being about 15 years ago, when Roger was gone 18 days out of 21 -- but this time the only demands on me are being made by JoeDog and LucasKitty, and they're pretty low maintenance, especially when I sit out on the deck in the evening. The deck is what
I'm going to miss the most about this house when we move. We put money into it knowing that we'd only be able to use it until we were bought out, and it's been worth every penny.

For the most part I've just been going through my regular routine this week (laundry on Tuesday, grocery shop on Thursday, etc.) The one thing that has NOT been routine is how late I've been staying up. Roger is an early riser, and I'm -- or I was when I was younger -- a regular night owl. Our compromise plan for the summer has consisted of going to bed at 10, with Roger getting up at 6 and me at 7 or 7:30. But the last few nights I've been up past midnight. At least when he comes home tonight he will be somewhat adjusted to a more western time zone.

And I'm REALLY glad he'll be home tonight because.....

6. Tomorrow is our 28th wedding anniversary!

One of the things that's been a little sad about this week (aside from his folks making a poor decision, which is a lot sad) is that Roger and I haven't been able to share one of our silly little traditions. "Twenty-eight years ago today we were taking our families out for Chinese food" (or "setting up the church basement for the reception", or "cutting up broccoli at the C's house" -- we catered our own reception.) But the "being married" is way more important than the wedding was, and even when I'm too old and/or ga-ga to remember any of that any more, I'll still be very happy that we got married!

We do have a celebration planned for tomorrow. We always go out to eat for our anniversary. Some years when there's plenty of money we go to a fancy restaurant on the water. More than once, in leaner years, we've gone to McDonald's, which is more romantic than it sounds. After our reception we went to some friends' house to open presents, and left from there for our honeymoon. Neither of us ate much at the reception, and we were starving, so we went to McDonald's on the way out of town. When our anniversary dinner is there, it's still the same McDonald's!

This year, although things are lean, we have a better plan. For our 25th anniversary we received one of these, and we are going to fill it with wine and cheese and bread and Milano cookies and dress in our laid-back best and have a wonderful dinner somewhere yet to be determined (we're not sure if the park we'd prefer has a "no alcohol" rule.) But we will have fun!

And then Sunday morning...

7. We will drive to Arwen and Rosie's town and pick up Tommy. George made his airline arrangements, and he flies into "Big City Airport" arriving at 12:30 AM!! I may be a night owl, but driving to the airport is not how I plan to spend the evening of my anniversary. So the married kids (who live closer to the airport anyway) are going to retrieve him for the night. We will drive down and join them for mass, and spend some time with the grandkids before coming home to close out our eventful week!

Seven Quick Takes are hosted here.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Fifteen Minute Inane Ramble

So I feel the need to get another post up this week, but I don't have a specific topic. I think maybe this defeats the purpose of the 15 minute thing, where you write for 15 minutes about a topic and see what comes out, but I'm going to fly with it anyway...

Today we went to a 90th birthday party for an old (ok, ok, longtime) friend. Dan was the "corresponding secretary" for our Right to Life chapter for about fifteen years. This meant that he was also the newsletter mailing team. For several of those years, what he actually did was "nag" us (ever so nicely!) to actually publish a regular newsletter. Once he got his way on that, every other month Roger would write and format a four-page newsletter, and Dan would see to the printing, folding, stapling, addressing and mailing. The hilarious part for me was that each of them thought the other one had the hard job! I guess that was a perfect division of labor.

Dan's been "re-retired' for a number of years now. (He was retired from work before he took on the newsletter job.) He's getting slower and well, he's not exactly frail, but closer to that then he used to be. So for this occasion all his children and their spouses, all but one of his grandchildren and their spouses, and all his great-grandchildren (and we're talking a lot of people here) converged on his house for a party. They rented two tents for the back yard, which was good, because it poured rain the entire day. But inside the tents there was lots of food, family, and friends. All in all, I think that amounted to sunshine. Happy 90th Birthday, Dan!

(There I did come up with a topic! See y'all in a few....)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tasty Tuesday -- Potato Pancakes

My friend Tracy recently posted here about her love affair with potatoes. (Say it -- "Po-tay-toes!") I mentioned in the comments that potato pancakes are high on my list, and after thinking about it, I decided I'd post the recipe here. I actually rarely make this recipe myself, because Roger is our "Sunday breakfast chef" -- I am so blessed that he does this -- but I eat them with gusto whenever he makes them. And, as I mentioned over at Tracy's, they're almost as good frozen and reheated, and believe me, I do that too!

The recipe is from Pan and Griddle Cakes by Samuel R. Ogden. The cookbook is mostly odd, since the author is a big fan of what he calls pulv, finely pulverized bread crumbs, as an ingredient. But these are great!

Luchow's Potato Pancakes

Wash and peel 2 pounds (6) medium-sized potatoes; cover with cold water and drain. Grate* and drain off any accumulated liquid. Place in a bowl and mix in 1/2 medium onion, grated. Add 2 T. flour, 2 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 t. salt, 1/4 t. pepper, 1/4 t. nutmeg, and 2 T minced parsley**, and mix thoroughly. Fry*** on a hot griddle or frying pan until brown and crisp, turning as needed. Serve while hot.

We've regularly tripled this, and had two pans on the stove going, as well as my electric griddle. Our kids like them topped with applesauce, but I usually eat mine plain, or with a little butter and salt. The original recipe suggests stewed apples.

* We actually grind ours in our meat grinder -- grating takes a while. Note that the pancakes call for roughly grated potatoes, not shredded. Use the side of the grater you'd use for hard cheese.

** Fresh parsley would probably be terrific, but we use dried and it's fine.

*** The recipe recommends frying in butter, but we usually fry ours in bacon grease. And bacon on the side would also be great, if you have enough pans. Bacon makes everything better!

Oh, yeah -- when I reheat them, sometimes I try to keep them as cakes, but sometimes I just chop them up with the turner and rebrown them, in more bacon grease, naturally. Tastes just as good, and is much quicker.