Random 5 Friday and special occasions

It’s Friday and the day after Thanksgiving, and Black Friday for all the shoppers. Here are 5 randoms from my world this week:

1  Sent most of the leftovers home with oldest boy & his family last night.  It’s yummy and all but one plate of that calorie-dense food is enough for me.  I’m still full today! Normally I would have enjoyed a piece of pie with my morning coffee today but instead I opted for a nutrient-rich Nutribullet smoothie.  It’s all about balance.  And saving room for a burger later. :)



2  The house still smells like Thanksgiving dinner.    There’s no candle that could match it!


3  When I was a girl Mom’s Holiday table was a sight to see  – she used her  best china, cut crystal and tablecloths. The table was set several days ahead and we’d circle it, marveling at the tiny decorated Christmas trees or crafted pumpkins down the middle. At mealtime we were given a small bit of Ginger Ale to sip from a goblet, and she served shrimp cocktail to all – young and old. Learning to use those tiny forks and handle fine china – those experiences are precious to me.   Most importantly, she taught us not to save our best for company but to share with all who gather.   The grands are learning how to leave the table without taking the table-cloth with them, they have their own “special” goblets to use, and they and our boys have learned they’re special enough to warrant the good stuff.

cut crystal

“Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God.” – Mary Manin Morrissey


4  When asked recently if I would be shopping on Black Friday I gave my patent response, “Not without a gun to my head.”  You see I tried it once, years ago, and it was miserable. Life lessons abound, though, because standing in line for a long time affords one the opportunity to determine how badly you want/need the item you’re about to “save” $$ on.  I remember putting it back and leaving the store where I waited for my friends in the fresh air.  People rushed past me, I was the only one smiling, and I learned I’ll happily 1) pay full price to avoid all that or 2) go without.

5  Saw this a few days ago and knew you needed to see it, too.  Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

grateful for

** How was your “Turkey” Day?

What traditions have you kept from your childhood and which ones have changed? **

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Food, Holidays, Home, Life Lessons, Love, Personal, Quotes, Thoughts, Traditions | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Dream out loud

As the grand-kids circled their favorites in the Toys-R-Us flier recently, youngest boy posed a serious question: “Should we really be encouraging all that?”

He wondered about kids getting their hopes up only to not have the big guy in red come through.  They’ve been through so much, he said, his eyes saddened.

My response, ” Kids need to dream.”

sears wish bookAs a girl, I remember the much-anticipated arrival of the Sears Wish Book. My sisters and I fought over who got it first – oldest sister always won, middle sister and I shared.  We weren’t allowed to “dog ear” pages; instead we were encouraged to write down item numbers and page references so Mom could share our finds with Santa.

So what if I pored over walnut jewelry boxes with little ballerinas that danced when the lid lifted?  So what if I was a girl without jewelry?

So what if the outfits I coveted would not have fit my gangly 12-year-old body?  So what if the corduroy jacket was impractical in -20F temps?  So what?

I spent hours looking through the toys, the fashions, the luxurious velvet robes, the gift sets, and the gifts under a certain price. Reading, reading, reading.  Touring the pages, I learned what items were where.  By the time the holiday arrived, I was a Wish Book Tour Guide.

I was a realistic child; I knew I wasn’t going to receive everything I’d referenced but part of the fun – the magic if you will – was the idea that I could.  Part of the fun – a big part of the fun – was the anticipation.

No, kids needs to dream. Kids need to ooh and ahh and wonder.  Kids need magic and so do I.


dream quotes

What do you dream about?  Do you remember the Sears Wish Book?  Is it wrong to encourage kids to wish for things?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Mom, Personal, Seasons, Thoughts, Wisdom, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

5 for Friday ~ fudge, Christmas lists and hooligans

It’s Friday (whoo hoo!) and it’s random.  Here are 5 random happenings from my world this week:

1 Office potluck called for my first batch of fudge of the season — this one uses only 4 ingredients.  Ready?  a) 1 bag of chocolate chips (or peanut butter or butterscotch), b) 1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk, c) 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows (3 cups) and d) 1 1/2 cups of dry roasted peanuts (or walnuts).  Directions:  Melt chocolate chips and condensed milk in microwave – on high – for one minute. Stir.   Continue for 15 min 15 second intervals until fully melted (mine took 1 min + 15 sec).  Stir in marshmallows and peanuts and pour into well greased (9 x 13) pan. Pop into the fridge to set for 1 hour then cut.   Take to office or family gathering, stand back, and watch these babies disappear.

rocky road fudge

2 Bought my first Christmas present this week – for the monkeys.  They circled their “ideas” (translation = everything) last weekend.  From that came THE list.  The best part of this (free) exercise are their comments during the activity:  Littlest one asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I replied I just wanted all of us together: playing games, enjoying each others company, yummy food and having lots of fun. So she replied “so you just want us?” and I said “yep,  that’s what I really want.” Her reply, ” well put a bow on me, Nana, – here I am!” Kids!

grands and xmas list

an Emjayandthem (C) photo

3 Had my first touch of snow this week – last night – and more on the way today.  Last year at this time we had 30″ of the white stuff.  Not complaining … yet :).


it’s coming

4  You know those Hallmark holiday commercials with the cozy “normal” families? Yeah, that is so not us.  Here are our boys as we try to take a birthday picture at youngest kid’s birthday.   You can see why I don’t write Christmas newsletters … most of what they come up with is not fit for public consumption!  But I never laugh as hard as I do as when I am with them :D.

hooligans at bday

an Emjayandthem (C) photo

5 Heard a quote this week that bears repeating, “The only way any of us can grow to be older and wiser is if we’ve already been younger and stupider.”   Boy if that isn’t true!


The wise old own .. the big black crow .. flapping their wings singing go, birdie go …

What random happenings happened in your world this week?  Are your family shenanigans suitable for a Christmas letter?  Craving a little bite of fudge now?

** Thanks to my friend Diane H. who caught the 15 min error above – if you nuke your fudge for 15 min instead of seconds, your kitchen might be smoking! :)

Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Family, Food, Friendship, Fun, Holidays, Home, Love, Opinion, Personal, Recipes, Seasons, Thoughts, Useful Information | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Where is there?

Walking downtown one morning recently, I thought about how my phone’s GPS had done all it could: It got me “there.”

But where was “there?”

The locator announced “You’ve arrived at your destination.”  I parked and got out, looking around. Up, down, all around.

Where is there?

Her voice chirped in my earpiece, “head north for 200 feet.”

Which way was North?   Was I supposed to start counting steps?


I turned, felt the biting wind, and turned again.

Walked some more.


Popped into a coffee shop and asked a young man serving.  He knew his address but not any others. I found out he lives in Eastown.  Pleasant yes, but totally irrelevant.

I bought a coffee anyways.  Delicious.

Stepping back into the wind, I turned right, away from it.

Followed my nose, so-to-speak.

Finally, I ducked into another portal and called the # associated with the meeting.  Thankfully the meeting organizer answered.  Explaining my dilemma, she laughed and said, “I didn’t think to give everyone a landmark, sorry about that.”   She described their building, gave me the suite number, and that was the end of that.

Looking up, I saw the building, and realized I’d been there, or close to there, the whole time.

I was here … and there!

“The path to our destination is not always a straight one. We go down the wrong road, we get lost, we turn back. Maybe it doesn’t matter which road we embark on. Maybe what matters is that we embark.” ― Barbara Hall


*Can you relate to this?  Have you ever found it hard to tell here from there?  How often do you turn off GPS and follow your instincts?


Categories: Determination, Faith, Growth, Personal, Quotes, Random, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Random 5…. Monday

It’s Monday and I’m off today … so here are 5 Randoms from my week.  Ready? Let’s go.

1 Took a road trip with Hubbs over the weekend  – we had a family wedding to attend so we left Friday, got stuck in traffic, and chatted all the way to our destination – Frankenmuth, MI — a Bavarian town with cute shops, yummy foods, and the world’s largest Christmas store.   Yes Hubbs went in.  Neither of us lasted long and we didn’t buy anything. But he went in and experienced it and I love him all the more for that.

2 We spent a bit more to stay downtown so we could walk to everything.  And it was a good thing we did, because the “all you can eat” Chicken dinner nearly put us down.  Might have been the German beer, but it could have been the four salads, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, buttered noodles, dressing, gravy and veggies.     Pretty sure there was an army of Grandmas back in that kitchen!

bavarian dinner

3 Saturday morning, I took a brisk walk and enjoyed all of the “in & out” shoppes — even though I’d been to the big Christmas store, THIS is what got me in the spirit.    I don’t particularly enjoy malls and this is why — I remember the stores of my small town, and the window displays of Christmases past.  Peeking in, hearing a bell jingle as I entered, made me feel just like this little girl right here:

little girl store window

4 On one of my stops, I ventured into a store that I’d been in before. See I bought a little keepsake here for Mom years ago and she had it hanging in her bedroom at the farm.  She really can’t take personal things with her to the home, there are several who “wander” and things will turn up missing.  This little item is the one thing I’ve asked for specifically and sissy has it put aside for me.  There’s no commercial value, but I loved it then and I love it now and when it comes back to me, it’s going in my bedroom, too.

A Victorian Prayer

5  We enjoyed the wedding and the visit with family but not the kids who were allowed to run laps at the reception. At one point, I asked them to stop.  They smiled and promptly continued.  Hubbs and I were both “community raised” and if our parents hadn’t seen it, an auntie or neighbor surely would have.  And none of them would have held back from correcting us AND telling our parents.  Anticipating the answer, I asked what would’ve happened to him had he dared behave like that.  His response matched mine: “I’d have received an invitation to my own funeral.”  Where were the parents?  On their phones instead of on their kids.  ~sigh.

bratty kids

 * * * *

How was your week? Taken any road trips lately? When’s the last time you felt like a kid?  What happened to make you feel that way? Do you prefer “in & out” shops or shopping malls?  When parents let their kids run wild, what is your response?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Fun, Home, Joy, Life, Love, Men, Mom, News, Opinion, Personal, Random, Relationships, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Love stories

Mom’s settling into the nursing home and my sisters have started the long haul of cleaning out the house.  Sorting, stacking, settling, packing, throwing, reading, crying.  60+ years of living in the home Mom shared with Dad, the same home he grew up in.

I’m not there, I’m thousands of miles away, and the guilt is palpable.  But, so is reality.  I could stop what I’m doing and take a week off and dig in too, and guess what, a week is not enough. They work too, so they’re fitting this in as they can.  One sister gets it, the other grumbles, and I understand and appreciate both.  Again, the guilt …

There are the books, the pots, the pans, the dishes, the china, the crystal, the photographs, the note pads, the junk drawer, the sock drawer, the paper drawer, the plastic drawer.  The Christmas ornaments, the treasures, the junk, the furniture, the appliances, the you-name-its. No, a week would hardly be enough.

But, as my sissy has said more than once, the journey has brought moments of awe – a trunk we never knew about, tucked away in a spot we’d long forgotten, filled with our baby outfits – in pristine condition.  Shorts, caps and vests for my brothers, yellow and peach dresses for my sisters, and this frothy pink confection for me:

baby MJ in this pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

baby MJ in the pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

I don’t own pink, haven’t in years.  But seeing this photo again let’s me see myself through their eyes.

They also found letters – from Dad to Mom. She had been away visiting a sister and he missed her is all, and “Scout” the dog wasn’t much of a companion.  He used words like “my darling,” words I don’t remember hearing him say.   I expect he was about this age, or younger, when he wrote to her.  And the love and longing in his words transcends time and miles for all of us.

Dad riding

Dad wrangling a horse in spring. An Emjayandthem (C) photo.

So when I think of them, I think of their date nights, his taking her hand on the dance floor, holding the door and her giggle as she stepped through.  I think about the farmer and the teacher who met on a blind date, fell in love, and built a life and family together.

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses - and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses – and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo


Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding

Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding, an Emjayandthem(C) photo

Dad’s been gone 11 years; Mom’s carried on and accepted this new phase in her life.  There were many great times, and some that weren’t.  But their love stories – those are the keepsakes that remain with me.

 * * * *

“As long as you remember the person who loved you, and whom you still love, then you’re making love endure.”  ― Guillaume Musso 

 * * * *

Have you been far, far away as major life changes took place?  What keepsakes are worth keeping?

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Faith, Family, Grief, Growth, Love, Men, Personal, Relationships, Romance, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Goofballs & Billy Boy

*originally posted October 29, 2011

Halloween parties meant a costume parade through the entire school! (My grade school ~ An Emjayandthem (C) photo)

When I was a little girl, Halloween was a very exciting time. We had a class  party and costume parade to look forward to, yummy treats to enjoy, games to play and of course …“Trick or Treating.”

Living on a farm eight miles from town, “Trick or Treating” involved 2 absolutes: cold weather and a car.  Mom and Aunt Irene helped us make our costumes and we often recycle pieces of from older costumes into something new. After supper, we’d pile into one of their cars and head out for the night.  This involved a total of five – count ‘em – five farms to visit:  The Lee home (neighbors), Uncle Harley & Aunt Maxine’s, Grandma and Grandpa’s, Aunt Irene & Uncle Jarl’s and ours.   So, depending on who was driving, we’d start at one and end at the others with three stops in between.   It was expected that we’d “sing for our supper” – sing a song, tell a joke or do something entertaining. Our song of choice was always, “Billy Boy” (Oh where have you been, Billy Boy, Billy boy .. Oh where have you been, charming Billy..) because 1) we knew the words, 2) they knew the words and 3) it always seemed to bring the best results.

I still love Halloween! Me & the Hubbs had a lot of fun with this costume.  An Emjayandthem (C) photo

Bear in mind that very few treats were “boughten” at that time – most offered us a home-made treat.  ((and trust me, this was the good stuff!!))   Norma and Roy Lee always gave us pop – our choice – orange or root beer – and a small bag of home-made cookies or fudge. Yum!  Aunt Irene was known for her caramel apples; Granny Smiths smothered in a thick layer of buttery rich caramel… mmm.  Aunt Maxine was crafty and loved to carve massive jack-o-lanterns to delight us… and her chocolate fudge was delicious as well.   Grandma made each of us our very own candy bag filled to the top with home-made popcorn balls and cookies mixed in with a few store bought treats – black licorice, toffee, and Old Dutch potato chips.  Smiling shyly, Grandpa always slipped in a can of pop and two bits (a quarter) and we felt oh so rich.  Our pillowcases were filled with to the brim with treats and good wishes.  After much admiration of the genius of our costumes and our profound musical talents, off we’d go to the next farm, darting through the biting October wind, wondering at the sky and trying to spot the witches we just knew were flying around.

At the end of the night, we’d get back home and marvel at the abundance of treats .. but it was always those home-made delights we fought over most.

I remember Mom making us “Goofballs” and I think I’ll make some for my grand-kids today :).


Goofball image courtesy of theartofmakingthings.tumblr.com

1 pkg. Kraft caramels
1 can Eagle brand milk
1/2 lb. butter
1 box Rice Krispies
1 bag large marshmallows

Unwrap the caramels and place into a heavy saucepan.  Add the Eagle brand milk and the butter and stir until the caramels are melted and a sauce is formed. Remove from heat.

Stick 1 toothpick into a large marshmallow and dip it into the sauce carefully.  Immediately roll the caramel covered marshmallow in Rice Krispies. Set on a waxed paper-lined cookie sheet to cool (remove toothpick).    These travel great and kids (and adults) gobble them up!

And .. sing something, will ya?

Happy Halloween!!

Categories: Attitude, Family, fear, Food, Fun, halloween, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Mom, Personal, Thoughts, Traditions | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Random 5 Sunday – 5 years

It’s a beautiful sunny Sunday (yay!) so here are 5 randoms from my little corner of the universe.

1  Cooked yesterday and doubled everything. Why? I’m dropping off half to oldest boy and the grands later today.   The work/school/homework schedule is just nicer when you have “extras” around.  Homemade soup, sloppy Joe’s, Game day brownies  and more.   To quote Mom, “Love is Groceries.

food ina garten

2 It was Mom who taught me the significance of caring for others.  On Mothering is just one of many posts I’ve written about her. She taught me so many things but, most importantly, she taught me how to mother.  And, like her, I’m fierce — no apologies.  Because of that, I can’t wrap my head around that our grand children’s mother left them like she did.   But it was my wee Mom who reminded me He gave our boy big shoulders for a reason and sometimes Mom & Dad are the same person.

smell the color 9

3  Stopped the other day to take this picture – October will end soon and all of this will pass.  Don’t miss it.

Country Club trees

4  I write as means to formalize my thoughts, connect-the-dots and express myself.  Through this experience I’ve connected with many of you, and one I’ve even met in person (lucky me).   When I write what I know – posts about life, relationships, personal growth, faith and home – you chime in and I love that so much.


5 Going back to Mom, she was moved to Nursing Home placement this week and, when asked how things were going, her response made me laugh.  “I’m doing the best I can and managing to stay out of trouble… so far!”  This center is small, 17 beds, and in a rural setting, which is much more her style.  Both my sisters are certain she’ll get more personalized care and that’s of comfort to us all.  Thinking of her it hit me that 5 years ago today I published my very first blog and, not surprisingly, I wrote about  another life lesson learned from Mom.      5 years, 824 posts,179,273 visitors, still writing.    Thank you for reading along.

yes i can

Happy Sunday to you!  When you look back over your blogging lifetime, what do you see?





Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Confidence at any age, Determination, Faith, Food, Growth, Home, Life, Love, Opinion, Personal, Quotes, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Navigating perpetual rats

I knew it was coming, and I’m not thrilled about it.  An industry gathering occurs later today, and the rat will be there.

warren t rat american tail

I’d sit at the opposite end of the table, but the table’s not going to be big enough.

I’d find another part of the room to mingle in, but the group setting will be somewhat small.

So I’ll do what I always do – smile and get through it.  And when he blathers on about himself and his life and his other favorite topic, him, I’ll silently think about how glorious the past two months have been since he left.  And when someone catches a whimsical look on my face they may suspect I’m day-dreaming but really I’ll be thinking this:

hate you

And with that, I’m off.  Prayers accepted!

Question: Have you ever jettisoned a rat from your life only to have them re-appear?  How did you deal with it? Please share!




Categories: Attitude, Determination, Faith, Growth, Life Lessons, Personal, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Step aside Monday

8:30 p.m.  *yawn*

9:30 p.m.  *chatting, catch 2nd wind*

10:30 p.m. *wind back down*

11:30 p.m.  *night!*

11:45 p.m. *zonk*




4:00 a.m. *BING!*

4:48 a.m. *flip pillow, check time*

5:48 a.m. *zonnkkkkk*


6:01 a.m.  *punch alarm, leave pillow*

~ ~ ~ ~


Every once in a while,  the new week steals some of my Sunday. You?

~Happy Monday!~


Categories: Attitude, Blogging, Home, Humor, Life, Personal, Quotes | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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