Returning Home

country road, Missouri photo by kristin nador
It’s been awhile, friends. Again.
We had an earthquake.
Not an actual earthquake. The metaphorical kind that shakes the foundations of your life. Keeper Hubby, struggling with severe chronic pain and debilitation, has had more physical set backs since his last spinal surgery. He will most likely not be able to work outside of the home anymore. His last employer was understanding enough to allow him to try working at home after surgery, until he was included in a mass layoff of over fifty employees. On the medical front, once it was realized that the last surgery was not successful and in fact, is causing even worse problems, Hubby’s surgeon washed his hands of the problem, refusing to allow him to make any more appointments. The pain management doctor hinted at referring him to other surgeons who favored a competitor technology that the pain management doctor now says is better (while having regular dinners and golf dates with said technology’s representative) despite testing and approving the original technology and surgeon in the first place. Feeling a bit uncomfortable with that, we declined. In all our medical dealings over the last twenty years, we’ve come to grips with the fact medicine is also more often than not big business.
So with no income and minimal support from the Kentucky medical team, we took it to prayer and decided to let it all go. We would go full circle and head back home. Home, as in the metropolitan area of our hometown, St. Louis, Missouri, where we have some family and where we hope to find more sophisticated and empathetic medical support. Home, where we spent our childhoods, but haven’t lived for the last 30 years. During the last 4 months I stopped writing and blogging completely to focus on taking care of Hubby, downsizing our life, and making our way home.
We had already downsized for our initial move approximately 18 months ago from a three bedroom home in Oklahoma to a one bedroom apartment in Kentucky, but you’d be surprised what you hold on to, what you think you might need, what you are willing to pay storage for when you have the money to pay for it.
I sold everything I could. There is a buyer out there for every thing you might want to sell. My writing skills came in handy when marketing said items in online sales groups (Only 3 Days Left for This Kitchen Do-Dad Extravaganza!). Some folks like to buy things when they feel like they are getting a great deal, no matter they don’t actually have any use for them. The process cemented my new gravitation towards a minimalist lifestyle, simplifying in all the life areas that you can. It helps to keep mental balance while dealing with those areas that aren’t quickly simplified, but instead full of complications.


cats on a roof, photo by kristin nador

Some citizens of the feral cat colony

One of the contrasts on our new journey is keeping this minimalist philosophy while living in a ‘collector’s’ house, located in an isolated rural area. One of our close relatives has generously offered us a safe landing spot during this transition time. We are so grateful, but it requires adjustment on our part that is sometimes harder when you are ‘of a certain age’ and set in your ways. As the saying goes, beggars can’t be choosers, so we’ll focus on gratitude and what we can learn from our disparate life philosophies. I’ll also be able to share with you about the ups and downs of rural life, reconnecting with my hometown roots, and strangely enough, the fascinating goings on of a colony of feral cats that live only several hundred feet from my bedroom window.
And I’ll be writing again. I’m looking forward to blogging about all my passions: creativity and the creative process, writing, midlife and my grandma gig, history, genealogy and memoir, pop culture and today’s important issues. I hope you’l be here to join me, and if you’ve been having some tumults in your life that have gotten in the way of pursuing your creative path, I encourage you to take care of the business you need to, but make sure you make a space to return to your creative passions as soon as you can. It will bring you solace in the midst of the grit of life.

14 Unconventional Films for Celebrating Romance


“The Kiss” painting by Francesco Hayez (1791 – 1882) public domain

I’m a big movie lover. As a writer, I also like watching films to study story structure. My tastes tend toward science fiction or thrillers most of the time, the cheesier the better. I usually won’t voluntarily watch a romance. In fact, I dislike a lot of popular romantic movies. I hated Love Actually and The Holiday. Don’t judge. I’m not a bad person, I promise. Continue reading

Parenting Guest Blog Post at Oklahoma Women Bloggers

If you’re a parent, do you ever feel like there are times you’ve had a complete fail? A ‘duh’ moment? That you’ve made a mistake that may cost you the admiration and respect of your children?

I’m sure we’ve all been there, sometimes on a daily basis. Stop by Oklahoma Women Bloggers today, where the ladies allow me to share about a humorous fail I had with my kids. Let the ladies know you stopped by with a comment. I’d appreciate it.

Losing My Mom Street Cred, or That Lizard Thing

Stay tuned to kristin nador writes anywhere in the coming weeks for new posts on writing, creativity, and a new series on ‘Simple Steps to Blogging Excellence’. Plus we’ll check in and see how I did with my first NaNoWriMo challenge. Don’t miss a post: subscribe by email or RSS, or stick us in your Feedly today! 🙂

For The Love of … Food: Top Ten Food Adventures

I’m rounding out this week with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers and their Valentine Blogging Challenge. Today we get to talk about food! Yum!

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

I love food. Who doesn’t? I’m an adventurous eater, and I have to attribute it to two things:

1. My mother required us to try one bite of every food that was put on our plate. If we didn’t like the food after one bite, we didn’t have to eat it. But we had to eat that first bite. Funny thing was, about 98% of the time, my sister and I liked the new food, and we happily added it to our repertoire. The other 2% involved certain beans and peas that will remain nameless as to not unduly influence future food testers.

2. I’m very curious. People completely fascinate me – their behaviors, belief systems, and cultures, which includes food. I had a relative ask me once “Why don’t you like your own food?” I told him I didn’t know what he meant. “American food. How come you don’t like American food? All you eat is all that weird food.” Hmm. Weird food? Spam, turducken, pickled pigs feet, fried cheese curds, Rocky Mountain oysters (and they ain’t oysters, folks), cheez-wiz, and marshmallow fluff. Yeah, ended that conversation.

My lack of cooking expertise hasn’t stopped me from food adventures. I just let someone else draw the map. And I’ve been all over the map discovering new tastes. Have you ever had a food experience that was so amazing you still remember it twenty years later? I’ve had a few. Keeper Hubby and I have moved around quite a bit during our twenty-five years of hanging out together. If we mention a place we’ve been, do I think about the weather, the landscape, the people, the traffic? Nope, my mind goes straight to the food.

Here are the top 10 food adventures that have shaped my palate:

  •  Joe Tangaro’s South Broadway, St. Louis, Missouri – Boiled shrimp by the pound

Joe Tangaro was a professional wrestler who started a restaurant in South St. Louis where I grew up. Shrimp was one of their specialties, and you could buy boiled shrimp by the pound with tons of homemade cocktail sauce. I remember I was about six years old, my dad used to get it to go, and it came in a bucket, like KFC. This began my love affair with seafood, and one of the few types of food Keeper Hubby and I battle over. He does NOT have a love affair with seafood. Sadly, Mr. Tangaro passed away and the restaurant closed.

  • Wong’s Inn, Manchester and Big Bend Maplewood, Missouri – St. Paul Sandwich

In the early 80’s after high school I got a job, moved out, and started commuting to a local college for classes. My job in retail had crazy hours, and my culinary skills were so lacking at this time, it was usually sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, or affordable take-out for meals. I had discovered Chinese food, but stuck to things I could recognize, fried rice, lo mein, egg rolls. One day I decided to be brave and ordered a St. Paul Sandwich.

Wong's Inn St. Louis MO


Never heard of a St. Paul Sandwich? I’m not surprised. I’ve only found them in St. Louis, and none of the chinese restaurant owners there I’ve asked has been able to tell me where they came from and why they are called St. Paul sandwiches. What is it? Basically, it is an egg foo yung patty (scrambled eggs mixed with onion, bean sprouts, meat of choice and spices, and fried, no sauce) on white bread with lots of mayo and tomato slices. It was the perfect on-the-go cheap meal for a broke college student. I still eat them when I go back to St. Louis. Wong’s is still there, right behind the White Castle on Manchester.

  • Gutierrez y Rico’s, Salinas, California – Carnitas

After Keeper Hubby and I got married, as a Marine he got stationed at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. We lived in base housing and it was only about a 15 minute drive to the beautiful blue waters of Monterey Bay. I know, it’s a hard life. Hubby’s brother lived in the area, and told us we had to go try a place called Gutierrez y Rico. Mexican food was not plentiful where we grew up, and what was available was very Americanized. Think lots of Velveeta.




One day we drove through the mountains to a farming town called Salinas, and found Gutierrez y Rico. It was a hole in the wall, everything was in Spanish, and everyone spoke Spanish. Keeper Hubby was learning Russian at DLI, so he was no help at all. We smiled, we pointed at the pictures on the wall, and in just a few minutes the biggest platters of food you ever saw appeared at the pick-up window. Keeper Hubby had to carry them, they were too heavy for me. Succulent meats, seasoned like we’d never tasted before. Smoky refried beans. Puffy handmade tortillas.  Perfectly cooked tamales. REAL Mexican food! We were in love. We gorged ourselves, and still had enough for leftovers for the next two days. This hole in the wall must be keeping up the standards, because after 25 years they are still around!

  • The Palace Indian Restaurant, Norcross, Georgia – Saag Paneer

When we moved to Georgia, all we heard from the people we met at church, through work, and in our apartment complex was ‘You can find any kind of food in Atlanta’. It was true, they did have a lot of different ethnic restaurants that you couldn’t find back in the Midwest in those days. And no matter what kind of restaurant it was, they served the famous sweet tea of the South. You never called it iced tea, it was sweet tea, y’all.

We lived in Decatur, home to a large enclave of Indians. A Hindu temple, the first I’d ever seen, stood on the corner next to our apartment complex. Many of our neighbors were Indian, and advised about the best places to try the foods of their homeland.  We discovered The Palace. Their Sunday brunch made me want to go back to church and have someone pray the glutton out of me.

saag paneer, photo courtesy Quadell, Creative Commons

saag paneer, photo courtesy Quadell, Creative Commons

Here’s where I found saag paneer, a wonderful melange of spinach and homemade curd cheese; meats roasted in the tandoor, a special clay oven, biryani, naan, tikka masala, I loved them all. And for dessert gulab jaman – sweet, fluffy, deep-fried, sugary-syrup is good in any language! The Palace is still around.



  • Momo’s Pizza Tallahassee, Florida – A slice as big as your head!

Tallahassee is a college town, so they cater to college tastes. Lots of sandwich shops, sports bars, etc. But one place that stood out when we lived there was Momo’s. It was your average pizza place, except for the pizza. It was beyond average. They were huge! Their claim to fame was ‘ a slice as big as your head’ and it was true. Once I went to pick up two pizzas for a get-together my teenagers were having with their friends, and I couldn’t fit the boxes in my car. The slices were a bit smooshed, but teenagers don’t care, they eat anything. Momo’s is still around, check it out if you’re ever in Tallahassee.

  • The Back Porch, Destin, Florida – Oysters on the half-shell

We discovered Destin while living in Tallahassee. It became our refuge when life got crazy. We were blessed to visit three different times. There’s something about walking in white sands along the edge of that big blue ocean that helps priorities fall into place. One of my priorities while there was enjoying oysters on the half shell at The Back Porch.

Corona lasts longer than the oysters. Slurp!

Corona lasts longer than the oysters. Slurp!

Raw oysters are an acquired taste, but once you acquire it, the fresher, the better. The Back Porch had them fresh out of the Gulf of Mexico each morning. The Back Porch is one of those touristy kinds of places you expect in beach towns, but if you can manage to learn to tell ‘locals time’, you can really kick back and enjoy yourself. 3 p.m. was a great time, all the tourists were snoozing in the sun or conked out in the their rooms after a day on the water, saving their strength for a night of partying. So 3 p.m. found Keeper Hubby and I sitting on the back porch of The Back Porch, which we had all to ourselves, enjoying oysters and Coronas. Okay I enjoyed the oysters, I think he got a French Dip or something. I relished those fresh gulf oysters. Slurp!

  • Pho Vietnam II, Southhaven, Mississippi – Pho Ap Chao

On the drive from Florida back to Oklahoma one year, we discovered Vietnamese food, in of all places, Mississippi. A delightful place off the Interstate just south of Memphis, we needed to eat, and we were tired of Arches and burgers and such. We hadn’t really had Vietnamese food before. I know, a lot of Americans think Vietnamese and Chinese and Korean and Thai food are all the same. No, no, dear food-deprived. Be adventurous! Try them all. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I had Pho Ap Chao, which ended up being crunchy little patties of pan-fried rice noodles with shrimp, beef, chicken and piles of fresh veggies. Everything was so fresh, and we vowed if we ever came back through the area, we were definitely stopping at Pho Vietnam again. Sometimes food adventures have a sad ending. We did go back about 3 years later, only to find that our original experience must have happened in a dream, because the restaurant was only a shadow of its former self, and a very bad shadow at that. I wasn’t surprised to find that the restaurant is now closed. But since that experience I know I like Vietnamese food and seek it out whenever possible.

  • Meers Restaurant, Meers, Oklahoma – Buffalo Burger

Keeper Hubby was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when he was in the Army. No, you didn’t read that wrong, even though I said earlier he was a Marine. This man was a glutton for punishment. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge sat right next to the artillery practice field (still not sure how that works). It’s a great place to see buffalo, longhorn cattle, prairie dogs, and all sorts of southwestern wildlife. It’s also home to a strange little town called Meers. Meers was a gold-mining town that popped up at the turn of the century, but after the gold was gone, the town got smaller and smaller. Today all that is left is one building that is a grocery, post office, restaurant, and has a seismograph installed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Unbuckle your belt yummy!

Unbuckle your belt yummy!


After his army days, Keeper Hubby took the kiddos and I on a day trip there (it was a ‘field trip’ because homeschoolers use everything for a ‘field trip’ dontcha know) and that’s when we were introduced to a MeersBurger. A MeersBurger is served on a pie tin and fills that tin to the brim. Back in the day, they used to serve buffalo burgers (not anymore) so of course I had to try one. It was melt-in-your-mouth and unbuckle-your-belt delicious. This is a photo of a MeersBurger I had last year when I took a solo trip to the refuge for some writing research. There’s nothing like a giant pile of perfectly cooked ground Texas Longhorn with melted cheese all over. Getting hungry yet?

  • The Spudder, Tulsa, Oklahoma – The Gusher

The Spudder is one of those places that even long-time locals have never heard of here in Tulsa. Of course, this being a steak and potatoes kind of town, there’s a steakhouse on just about every corner. And if they aren’t grilling steak, they are chicken-frying it, which I won’t discuss because I don’t particularly care for chicken-fried things, except for chicken of course, but chicken-frying is a religion here, and I’m a heretic. The Spudder doesn’t really advertise, is in a weird spot off the main streets, and you can’t even see it’s sign. It’s surrounded by homes and apartment buildings. It’s been there long enough that the city grew up around it.

The Gusher in all its glory

The Gusher in all its glory


Keeper Hubby and I, always on the lookout for bloody meat (really K.H.), found The Spudder about ten years ago. The theme for the restaurant is the oil boom days of Tulsa. It has an actual oil rig out front. In the middle of a neighborhood. Told you it was weird. But the food wasn’t weird. Velvety potato soup like you’ve never had, fluffy dinner rolls served in black metal lunch boxes, and then there is The Gusher. It’s a 22 oz. bone-in ribeye steak, cooked to perfection, whatever your perfection is. I like it medium rare, Hubby likes it well done. My father-in-law likes it to moo; it looks like a slasher movie when we take him there. This is the place we take out-of-towners. Because it’s awesome like that. It’s headed for its forty year birthday, so I guess some other folks must think so, too.

  • Dairy Queen, anywhere in the world – Peanut Buster Parfait


I love Peanut Buster Parfaits. I grew up with Dairy Queen, and the Peanut Buster Parfait was their piece-de-resistance. A sweet treat perfectly proportioned with hot fudge, soft serve ice cream, peanuts and whipped cream, the Peanut Buster Parfait will always be my one true love. Why? Well, besides the fact I love me some chocolate/peanuts/ice cream, I was eating this very treat, sitting on the top of a wooden picnic table, on a busy city street, on a certain spring afternoon, bought by a certain young man who plied me with said treat and then proceeded to ask me to marry him. That was the start of our food adventures together and that’s why he’s a Keeper. 🙂

Got any food adventures to share? Tell us your favorites in the comments!

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For The Love of… Knick-Knacks: The Grandma Closet

I’m still on a roll with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers as we highlight all the things we love this week. Have you checked out any of their posts? After you get done here, click the link in this paragraph and hop on over to check out all their bloggy-liciousness!

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Are you a collector? Do you line your shelves with knick-knacks? Are you afraid you might be featured on A&E’s Hoarders?

I love knick-knacks, doo-dads, trinkets, whatever you might call them. But not just any old things. They have to have a meaning behind them.

Even though I love knick-knacky things, I’ve never had many knick-knacks in my house. That was a compromise I had to make with Keeper Hubby. You see, he was scarred in his childhood by knick-knacks. His dad and stepmom took ‘collecting’ to an art form. Dad thought everything, ‘just might come in handy some day’. I don’t know how empty plastic motor oil containers or rotted carpeting could come in handy, but I’m probably just not innovative enough.

Stepmom collected figurines, plates, cups, dolls, those sorts of knick-knacks. They filled every empty space. I guess little Keeper Hubby got creeped out at all the porcelain eyes staring at him all the time, so big Keeper Hubby doesn’t do knick-knacks. It’s a compromise I’ve learned to live with. That and the cat thing, but that’s another story.

Now that I have a home office, I’ve started to acquire a few pretties I keep on a bookshelf or two. But the real collecting action is not out in the open where anyone can see it. It’s in a closet. The Grandma Closet.

As young parents with almost no disposable income, we were choosy about the toys we spent hard-earned money on for our darling tykes. Educational, durable, something they could add more parts to over time, and something complementing their own personality bents. Musician Daughter liked Barbies and baby dolls. She always wanted to be the mama. Poet Son was a collector like his grandpa. He’d latch on to an item, then collect it like a tiny madman. Legos, coins, stamps, action figures, cars all had to be categorized and catalogued. Artist Daughter’s interests blew with the breeze, of course. One day she was sculpting with PlayDoh, the next she was sewing doll clothes, the next required Beanie Babies, and always notebooks filled with doodles.

Eventually they each grew out of their toys, but Mom didn’t. Of course, some things got so ragged and dirty, it was the humane thing to do to throw them in the trash to put them out of their misery. The ones that endured had history attached to them, our history.

I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away or pile them up on the driveway for a garage sale. And there was the whole Keeper Hubby anti-knick-knack thing. That’s when I came up with the Grandma Closet.

Someday I would be a Grandma, I reasoned. I remembered when I was a child and visits to grandmas meant you sat down and obeyed like a good girl, didn’t muss your dress, and no way would you have fun. Toys were out of the question. Just sit there and look at Grandma’s McCall’s magazines.

Well, that wasn’t going to happen to my grandkids. No sir. They’d like coming to Grandma’s house. We’d bake cookies. Okay, I can’t bake, but this is my fantasy, thank you. We’d bake cookies, eat them, and play together all day. With toys. From the Grandma Closet. Beautiful toys just waiting to make a child happy.

No pressure kids, but I’m going to have a closet full of toys that says you and your spouses better get some procreating done. Your toys. Full of awesome memories. In the Grandma Closet.

Keeper Hubby regarded this idea with a healthy amount of skepticism, but went along with my plan. I lovingly packed the best toys from each of my children, at the time in various stages of the college experience, and stored them in a hallway closet that up until that time didn’t have much to do. Now it got to stand guard over the contents of the Grandma Closet.

We tested out this Grandma Closet idea a couple years ago on friends who still have younger children. Thinking they were going over to some stodgy old folks’ house that probably smelled like moth balls, where they’d have to sit quietly while the grown-ups ‘talked’, they instead got invited to explore the Grandma Closet. What kid wouldn’t love this:

Button, button, who's got the button?

Button, button, who’s got the button?

postage stamps

A smattering of stamps

Gentlemen, start your engines...

Gentlemen, start your engines…

See, Poet Son collected everything.


I don’t know what this guy is, but it sure is fun to take apart and put back together.

Anyone have girls who love Polly Pockets? Artist Daughter had an entire village.

The tiniest accessories known to mankind

The tiniest accessories known to mankind

In that tiny plastic backpack. My vacuum cleaner hated Polly Pockets.

Why these make me think of 'Children of the Corn', I have no idea...

Why these make me think of ‘Children of the Corn’, I have no idea…

These are What’s Her Face dolls. Lots of cool accessories. But no faces. You drew them on, then erase, and draw some more. They kind of creeped me out.

Do your plants look like this? Then you have a boy lurking somewhere in your house.

Do your plants look like this? Then you have a boy lurking somewhere in your house.

Poet Son had an action figure collection. He found all kinds of ninja sneaky places for them. In my plants, in a heating vent, in my shoes.

There’s no way I could get rid of these.

A long time ago, in a teeny, tiny galaxy far, far, away...

A long time ago, in a teeny, tiny galaxy far, far, away…

Our friends’ kids had a great time. The toys covered the living room carpet for an afternoon, then the children politely packed them back into their boxes and into the Grandma Closet. Theory became fact.

Now we have our first grandson, Destined-To-Be-A-Musician, or DTBAM for short. He’ll be two years old this summer, so he’s not quite old enough for Star Wars and stamps. But there’s a few wooden blocks I managed to save, handmade by Grandpa Keeper Hubby, all those years ago when we had no money, but we did have a pile of 2×4’s, a radial arm saw, and love. We’ll eat some cookies, open the Grandma Closet, and start some more memories.

Have you saved any of your children’s toys? Toys from your own childhood? Tell us about it in the comments.

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For The Love Of… Music: Be A Superstar In Your Own Car

We’re having a change of pace this week on the blog. I’m having fun with the Oklahoma Women Bloggers while we recognize the stuff we love during the season of love. Go check these ladies out. They have some pretty great blogs. In the meantime, I hope you’ll join in this valentine fun.

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

Love music?

I do. I’ve been a music lover ever since I heard Don McLean croon American Pie out of my mom’s clock radio in 1972.  All kinds of music, anything that had good lyrics. I love story songs. Country, rock, alternative, R&B, pop, classical. I love it all. And I love to sing. I have a quick memory for songs and can sing old standards or new classics at the drop of a hat. I harmonize with Michael Buble, I belt it out with Adele, I get my twang on with Reba, and do my best quirky indie-pop imitation with Gotye. If I could have made some different choices in life I would be in L.A. working with Clive Davis or in Nashville at the Grand Ole Opry or in NYC on Broadway.

Retro-tytöt finnish singing group, photo courtesy of motopark, creative commons

Retro-tytöt finnish singing group, photo courtesy of motopark, creative commons

There’s only one problem.

I can’t sing.

Sure, physically, I can sing. I open my mouth and sounds come out. The fact these sounds are singing may be up for debate. It’s pretty bad. I’m not like many of the contestants on American Idol, who have somehow convinced themselves that despite being completely tone deaf or having the voice muscles of a mouse, that they are the next big thing. I have no delusions. I can’t sing.

But does that stop me from singing? No way. When I want to sing, I just go to my very own music studio. It has perfect acoustics, a basic mixing board to adjust the bass and treble, it’s even mobile. I sing in my car.

I’m sure you’ve seen me, driving around the streets of Tulsa. Sometimes my fingers are playing the steering wheel like a baby grand. My head is moving from side to side. And when I hit the high notes my mouth looks like a catfish on a trot line. You might see me, but I don’t see you. Because I’m in my music studio, where no one can hear me, no one can see me, and boy, do I sound great. I definitely need to tweet Alicia Keys and set up some time to jam.

I play it pretty cool here in the city, but when I get out on the highway, or even better, do some travelling, it’s all about the playlist. Did I pack my shoes, my underwear?

Who cares!

Do I have the right playlists?

There’s the driving karaoke playlist, the taste of folk playlist, the sentimental journey playlist, the spicy flavor playlist, and the red, white, and blue playlist. What did we do without Itunes? Oh yeah, spin that dial around until a singable song popped out. Playlists are definitely better. I can sing the same songs over and over and over.

Keeper Hubby loves that. He’s the only one privileged enough to be allowed to hear one of my concerts. I try not to overwhelm him with all my razzle dazzle. He knows that singing makes me happy, so he never complains, just endures. That’s why he’s a Keeper. 🙂 The majority of my car singing has no audience to cheer me on. It’s just me, singing at the top of my lungs, to an audience of me.

That’s okay, I hear the applause in my head. It’s always a standing ovation. Maybe I should re-think the whole American Idol thing. I could be a superstar.

As long as I don’t roll down the window.

Do you sing in the car? Any other interesting places you sing? Tell us about it.

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Memory Plucking and Listening To Your Heart

public domain

by Kristin Nador/@KristinNador

It’s raining today. It feels like a good day for rain. Health challenges loom over me like the storm clouds outside. In the midst of those challenges, I did some things that weren’t that great for me physically. I drove 1100 + miles in 3 days time. That wouldn’t bother some people but it was too much for me. I got sicker. Why would I take the time, energy, and money I didn’t really have to do that?

I drove across three states to attend my only grandson’s first birthday party. It wasn’t any huge shindig, just snacks and a birthday cake. But I wanted to be there. Destined-To-Be-A-Musician was mostly grumpy and a little overwhelmed. He hated having cake icing on his hands and cried terribly while he held his fingers out to be rescued by Mama’s trusty washcloth.

Musician Daughter and Musician-in-Law tried to pull him out of his funk, but when little ones are tired, they are tired, and that is it. He won’t remember that I was there. But he’ll know later, when it’s worth knowing. Nanny (that’s me) was there.

Within the same three day period I drove for a total of four hours to visit my grandmother. She lives in a nursing home now. She just recently moved there. She was pretty grumpy about it, because at 90 years of age, she still thought she could take care of the daily business of living. She couldn’t and that was that. The nursing home that she could afford was far away from her friends, family and church.

I had been sending her letters, plucking memories out of the ether, trying to help her clutch at the remnants of her mind. Remembering. Like how she taught my sister and I to shuck corn and string beans and how to pick blackberries without getting stuck by thorns.  Remembering how she would pour a cup of coffee and shush us when her ‘stories’ were on tv and how Jack Abbott was an evil cad. How she and Grandpa went into town for the Moose Lodge dances every Saturday night and she wore such pretty dresses. How she let us try on all her costume jewelry and ruin her Hazel Bishop lipsticks and helped us memorize our vacation bible school verses.

To go visit her at the nursing home I had to take away time from things that other people wanted me to do that they felt should be a priority. She might not even know me now, I was reminded. She had good days and bad days, so I might be wasting my time.

She certainly could have thought she was wasting her time when she sat patiently day after day laughing and clapping at the proper times when we presented our daily ‘plays’ all those summers we spent with her. But she didn’t. We didn’t have much else to do, being city kids trapped in the confines of a rural summer. Our fantastic productions amounted to dressing up in scarves bought at the Woolworth’s, shuffling our feet on the carpet, and taking big bows.

There were many things she didn’t do well over the years, words she said that hurt and cut and left tiny scars, especially as age moved in with her like a messy house guest, but the wisdom gained with time and a bit of therapy have shown me that she tried her best with what she was given by her parents and her generation.

Others might say I shouldn’t be so forgiving, but I’d say it’s more understanding than forgiving. Casting stones and all that.

When I walked through the door of her sterile double-occupancy room she knew me after a little prodding, and we laughed and hugged and looked at photos for the next ninety minutes. She didn’t remember my three children very well, but she knew Destined-To-Be-A-Musician Great-Great Grandson as soon as she saw his dimples shining out at her.

Later she whispered a secret to Keeper Hubby and I: She had a boyfriend! Was it today or seventy years ago, no one knew, but I giggled with her anyway. Then it was time for the cafeteria and she raced off on her walker to make sure she got the seat she wanted. It was a mind intent on ordering the mashed potatoes that absently waved goodbye. I didn’t know if she would remember I was there, but I would remember for both of us. I was there.

With all this in mind, when a read a blog post this week by Leo Baubata, it exploded in my spirit. It’s a post he wrote several years ago about making intentional time for the things that really matter. Now, don’t be deceived by all my goodness and light mentioned above. I am a time-waster, procrastinator and busybee of the first magnitude. Making time for things that are sometimes hard but needful is right there on my list with ironing my socks.

Leo’s post was about steps to adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but the quote he shared pricked my writer’s heart:

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

– William Strunk, Jr.

Leo went on to share about omitting needless things and needless activities in order to make what you have, say, and do count.

Read the entire post The Minimalist Principle: Omit Needless Things

Omitting unnecessary clutter and busyness out of your life is a great idea. What would make it doubly powerful is determining what IS needful.

This requires being present in the moment. Sometimes what is needful at a moment is answering all your email. At another time it is sitting in silence on your back porch. At another time it is banging out 3000 words on your work-in-progress. At another time it is playing Candyland for the 500th time. The trick is knowing what is needful at the right moment.

But is there really a trick, a ten-steps-to post, a formula to determining what is needful? I don’t think so, and I don’t think we get it right most of the time. But beginning a habit of  really taking some time to listen to your heart might be a start.

That reminds me of the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible. This is the Kristin paraphrase:

Two sisters are host to Jesus and his disciples. Martha was all about hospitality and making sure everything was just perfect for her guests. Mary got comfy on some pillows in the living room and listened to what Jesus said all evening, hanging on his every word. Martha got in a tizzy because she was making sure all the napkins were on the right side of the plate, filling the guests’ glasses whenever they took a sip and putting out the unused little guest soaps in the bathroom while her sister was just sitting around listening to the conversation, not helping with anything.

She came up to Jesus and said, “Hey, here I am slaving away for you guys, you had this awesome five-course meal I cooked, I cleaned the house spotless and all my decor looks like it should be in the Pottery Barn catalog. Mary didn’t lift a finger and she’s still not helping me. Tell her to get her butt in the kitchen!”

Jesus said, “Martha, your perfectionism’s got you all stressed out about all this stuff and fearful about what might happen and what people might think, but only one thing is needful. Mary has chosen to grab all that is in this moment before it passes her by, which is the better thing right now and I’m not going to slam her for it.”

Take the time to cut out all the chatter and busyness and listen. Listen to your heart.

Sometimes it takes extra time and effort. Your spirit can hear what the needful thing is at that moment. If you give it a chance.

Twenty-five days after visiting my grandmother, she had a massive stroke. She is unresponsive now, and the doctors say it is just a matter of days. Most of the time I feel like I’m just stumbling through life, caught up in my own petty troubles and vices. But once in a while my heart breaks through the noise, and I come away with no regrets.

Here are two posts that will encourage you to listen to your heart:

Learning What Is Needful For Now and Letting All Else Go from Joyful Mama

Missing The Days of Niffie-Poo from Jenny Hansen

Have you ever had a time it was hard to listen to your heart but you’re glad you did?

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It: Rocking The Apocalypse

Tapping your toes through the Apocalypse

Now that 2012 is here, we’re hearing more about theories of the Apocalypse. The Mayan calendar ends 12/21/12 and theorists believe that the world will end on that date, possibly with a cataclysmic event like an asteroid hitting the earth. People have always been fascinated by apocalyptic and dystopian themes, and that fascination reflects in our literature and film.

A well-written explanation of the difference between apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic and dystopian stories

I’m not too worried about whether the world ends in 2012, I’m at peace either way, but I do love a good disaster/apocalyptic/dystopian type movie. Even if it’s less than Oscar-level writing or acting (sometimes MUCH less), if it’s the End or possibly the End, or after the End, I’m in. Zombies are a bonus.

One of my recent favorites is The Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington. The protagonist, Eli, is on a dangerous journey across a post-apocalyptic United States to deliver one of the last books that exist. It could possibly save the human race. Of course bad guys want the book, too, and Eli must protect it at all costs. There’s a lot of violence and some may disagree with the film’s ending message, but the action scenes and cinematography were pretty cool.

“I wonder if there’s an app for apocalyptic ninja moves…”

There’s an interesting scene where Eli has somehow been able to charge a thirty-year old iPod so he can listen to Al Green sing ‘How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?’ Whether that would actually be possible is a debate for another blog post, like this one. The scene was poignant nonetheless.

I was thinking about it and when I make it past the Apocalypse, what books would I attempt to protect for future generations? What music would I have loaded on my Apocalypse iPod? Okay, silly questions, but interesting to think about. Could I have a world-ending laptop, too, so I could choose some End of Days movies? Too hard to choose. I’m going to go with the music playlist.

My personal criteria is not whether it’s masterpiece-level music, but will I be able to listen to it over and over for the next thirty years or so. So based on that, and in no particular order, here are my ten songs for the Apocalypse:

  1. Across The Universe -Beatles
  2. You Make Me Feel So Young -Frank Sinatra
  3. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Willie Nelson
  4. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
  5. Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
  6. Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Crosby, Stills and Nash
  7. Mood Indigo – Duke Ellington
  8. Blue Skies- Ella Fitzgerald
  9. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (had to get some Al Green in there)
  10. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Mozart

Bonus song: Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez  The lyrics are pure writer’s gold.

Okay now I’m ready to rock the Apocalypse. Books are much harder to choose, but if I could rig up a Kindle that uses nuclear fallout to charge it, I’d be good to go. Now where did I put that zombie survival guide?

Question: Tell us your top ten must-haves for you to survive the Apocalypse: songs or books or both – it’s your choice!

Christmas Traditions

image courtesy Mdk572, Creative Commons

The year we moved to the suburbs after years of city apartment living was a memorable one. My mom got my sister and me a dog to go with our yard. His name was Yankee. He was an odd sort of dog; a mix of some kind of husky and a small dog breed. His fur had weird cowlicks that stuck straight out while other parts lay short and flat.  He never got the hang of potty training. His eyes kind of wobbled around in his head and we couldn’t teach him any tricks, but we found out he loved the snow. We got a saucer sled because we had a hill. It snowed right before that first Christmas in the suburbs and we had a lot of fun with Yankee and the sled and the hill.

Our family had a holiday tradition. We were allowed to choose one present to open on Christmas Eve. The rest had to stay under the tree until Christmas morning. Oh, how my sister and I agonized over which present to choose each year! It was an exquisite torture for a child to stop at one gift. That year there seemed to be so many more presents than in the past. The gifts had expanded with the space. There were lots of little packages and one very big package. We chose very carefully with some coaching from Mom, and ended up playing with a new board game until bedtime. That Christmas morning we woke up as early as possible and herded into the living room. We were stopped in our tracks.

The carpet was littered with scraps of wrapping paper, mangled bows, and lots of broken pieces of wood. Christmas ornaments made a crunchy obstacle course in any empty spaces on the floor. That big present still had some shreds of wrapping, but one of the sides looked suspiciously full of teeth marks. Yankee had celebrated his first Christmas by chewing up almost every one of our presents. Most of the gifts were made of wood: furniture for a dollhouse and the dollhouse itself that now leaned precariously to one side. We salvaged the porcelain miniature claw foot bathtub and a sink.

Poor Yankee. He made it through that Christmas alive, but was ‘in the dog house’ for quite a while. He didn’t last in suburbia until the next Christmas, instead going to live in the country with my grandparents where he could chew on Grandma’s soup bones and play in the snow all he wanted. I can’t say that was the most depressing Christmas I ever had, but it was in the top five. And I subconsciously remember it every Christmas Eve when it’s time to choose a present and I get a tension headache.

Merry Christmas, Yankee.

Question: Did/do you have any Christmas family traditions?