59 Candles, 59 Things – part forty seven

Spence, me and my Mom

Fifty fifth thing: It seems fitting that today’s Post in this series featuring 59 Things that make me happy should include……my Mom.  After all, today is Mother’s Day and my Mom makes me happy!
In 1956, I was born on Mother’s Day (falling on the 12th that year) so this day bears special significance.

As a baby, she sang songs while rocking me.  After my sister was born, she would read us wonderful children’s stories while sitting on the hall floor between our bedrooms. She taught us card games and made delicious meals.  I have vivid memories of coming home after school to the aroma of fried chicken or cookies baking.

As I grew, she encouraged me to stand up straight and “own” my tallness. “Miss Americas are all tall” she pointed out.  She began teaching me to cook launching my passion for it at a young age.  Our family recipes are among my favorites and still make me nostalgic.

The lessons she taught my sister and I about honesty, friendship, kindness and being trustworthy became integral parts of us.  She truly taught by example, my first strong female role model.

As an adult, she remained Mom (of course) but also became a best friend.  Always supportive of my independence, forgiving my missteps, she encouraged me and was my sounding board. Plus she’s fun to hang out with to this day and my friends adore her.

Last year, I spent several weeks with her as she packed up her home in Florida and we drove back to Michigan, where she now resides only a few miles away from my sister and I.  (This was chronicled in my “Moving Mom” series).  It was an amazing experience to share that time together, something I’m grateful to have done for her – and myself.

To meet my Mom, you’d be struck be her enthusiasm, energy and positivity. She is vibrant, fun and loved by all lucky enough to know her. And her beautiful smile can light up a room.

So on this Mother’s Day, I pay tribute to the best Mom ever.  I love her dearly and am beyond grateful to be her daughter.

59 Candles, 59 Things – part twenty nine

Thirty seventh thing: My next entry in the 59 Candles series (of things that make me happy) is my maternal Grandma’s china, which I inherited when she moved into a small apartment years prior to her passing.

As a child, I fell in love with this lovely set of china as much for it’s beauty as for the many delicious family meals enjoyed at my grandparent’s table.  She’d purchased this set as a young woman, prior to her marriage to Grandpa.  With twelve place settings and multiple serving pieces, these dishes were packed up and moved countless times over the course of Grandpa’s career. When she offered them to me, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  Her only request – could she keep two cups and saucers? Of course.

She lived in Florida and wasn’t up to travelling to Michigan but I would write her, describing meals I served to family and friends using these special dishes.  She always told me how happy this made her and that I likely used her china more than she had over the years.

When Mom sold her home in Florida and moved to Michigan last year, she downsized. A few months ago, she asked me if she might borrow a few cups and saucers from Grandma’s china.  She’d met new friends and wanted to be able to offer a lovely cup of tea when they visited.

“Of course” I said with a smile, reminding her that Grandma had once made the same request.  Grandma would be happy.

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The china was made in  Czechoslovakia

“59 Candles, 59 Things” is a series I began last May to commemorate my 59th birthday celebrating things that make me happy.  If you’re interested in this series, check out “59 Things” under Categories.  There is also a series I did last year called “Moving Mom” detailing the weeks spent helping Mom pack up her home in Florida and our road trip back to Michigan, one of the best experiences of my life. 




59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Seven

Twelfth thing: This random happy thing is something that nearly everyone in the world has on their list.

The sound of the ocean, the feel of sand under your feet and between your toes and the waves as they hit the shore and suck the sand back into the ocean. All this while standing under our glorious sun, balmy temps with a bluer than blue sky. They say “life’s a beach” and I agree. I captured this moment when I was on Sanibel Island while moving Mom in March 2015 (check out my “Moving Mom” series if you’d like).

I posted this video then but it was so cool; each time I watch it and hear those waves, I’m transported back to that day. It instantly makes me happy and since I’m doing this series on 59 Things, it made sense to share it again.

And yes, those are my feet at the end and my pedicure peeking through the waves!

59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Six

Ninth thing:  Morel mushrooms. Early on in our relationship, Spence made a visit to northern Michigan, near Charlevoix.  His friend Don (and Don’s parents) owned countless acres of wooded land.  And on that land around this time of year, a miracle occurs.  Morels everywhere. This would have seemed like a beautiful myth had Spence not returned home with a brown paper lunch bag literally brimming with morels. I was in heaven and by extension, so was Spence as I whipped up the most incredibly delicious meals. Not a morsel went to waste.  Oh the memories.

Rarely now I will encounter morels peering out of the produce stands if and when I’m lucky. Regardless of the cost (which is incredibly steep) I’m seduced on the spot –  and cannot pass them by.  So imagine my utter dismay when only a few days into our most recent vacation I saw this picture posted by my favorite farmer’s market Facebook page (knowing that I’ve probably missed them for this year).

I can only hope that whoever scored these beauties gave them the love that they deserved.

Tenth thing:  I never knew my Great-Grandma (my Mom’s Grandmother) but had heard my Mom speak of her. Recently I helped my Mom pack up and move her belongings back to Michigan after selling her home in Florida. (see my Moving Mom series for more about that)  

Moving from a good size two bedroom house to a nice size one bedroom apartment, Mom found that she couldn’t keep everything she’d moved. (even after parting with tons of her belongings when down-sizing) She offered my sister and I numerous items, one of them was Great-Grandma’s quilt. My sister graciously said I could have it; she’s planning her own downsizing in a few years.  I was thrilled.  The quilt is showing some wear but given it’s age, surprisingly less than you might expect.

Apparently the original passing of the quilt from my Great-Grandma to my Grandma Fox was not as gracious or amicable. Both she and her sister Ruth (who I understand was quite formidable) wanted this quilt.  Drama ensued. My Grandma had to concede other cherished items in bartering for the quilt – but she prevailed.

Fast forward to my childhood. My sister and I stayed overnight on occasion with Grandma and Grandpa F0x who lived 20 minutes away. We were lovingly tucked in with this quilt at nap time, played on top of it with our Barbies and snuggled under it while watching our grandparents dance to Lawrence Welk on their black and white TV (they were impressive).

As soon as I brought it home, I unfolded it and snuggled under it. Good times, happy memories.


Eleventh thing:  As I’ve written previously, I started the practice of meditation last year after retiring. I had tried before with no success.  I simply couldn’t shut off my mind nor understand that meditation doesn’t necessarily require you to shut off your mind.  What it is about is being still, being in the moment and allowing yourself to just…..be.  Done with regularity it’s my experience that I’m more focused, even when I haven’t slept well.  When I recently started missing consecutive days, I noticed that I felt a bit irritable. And kind of mad at myself for breaking what had become a good habit. As with anything, I re-prioritized and schedule it as a little “me” time each day.

Spence supports my practice though initially he didn’t understand that I can’t talk to him during the 15-30 minute sessions.

I’M MEDITATING” I would have to yell through the closed door of my meditation space (or guest room).  Now, he gets it and leaves me be though – and you’d have to know Spence’s propensity for deliberately switching out words – he calls it “mediation”.

“Go mediate” he says. “I won’t disturb you”.



Moving Mom Part Twenty – or The Last Leg of the Road Trip

March 20th – part 2 – We checked out of our hotel at 10:00 fairly certain that we’d waited long enough for the heavy fog to burn off.  By and large it had but as anyone knows who’s driven through the mountains on I-75 in Tennessee or Kentucky, fog is serious.

About the time I noticed my ears pop, we’d reached higher elevation and I had to drop our speed as the fog created pockets of no visibility as the cars and semis in front of us seemed to disappear.  As had been our rule on this road trip – no talking if we hit 1) rain 2) heavy construction 3) fog or 4) heavy traffic.  Once through the fog, the roads were drier than we’d expected and traffic was not too bad until we neared Cincinnati.  Never a fan of driving this stretch of intense traffic, multiple bridges and exits while crossing the Ohio River, Mom had volunteered (as she did with Atlanta) to drive this leg of our road trip.  As mentioned, she’s a very safe driver and while I could have done it, it is her car.  We arrived at our third Country Inn and Suites by closer to 4:00 (this night in Dayton) and dragged our stuff into the hotel (this part was getting old for both of us).  My plan for tomorrow is to rearrange so that everything of mine will be in the backseat making for easier unloading tomorrow.

I set up our now-traditional cocktail hour:


We chilled for a bit and then headed to The Chop House for a celebratory dinner.  At 2:30 my iPhone had gone off (Bruno Mar’s Uptown Funk ringtone does get one’s attention) and I handed it to Mom. We expected a call from her realtor and indeed, the closing had happened, giving finality to the sale of the house.

With Rocky as our server, we ordered more wine – a Pinot Grigio for Mom, Malbec for me.  Lots of toasting – to the closing, to the last night in a hotel, to being home for me and to the move into her new home for Mom.  And to Peggy – her realtor.  And to family, dry roads (you get it right – lots o’toasting)

I ordered the appetizer Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes for my meal having had this before and recalling that it was a big plate of food.

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes  with chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and avocado.  Amazing.
Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes with chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and avocado. Amazing.

Mom ordered the small plate Crab Cake with Sugar Snap Peas:

Mom proclaimed this,
Mom proclaimed this, “Delicious”

Served along with these plates was a half loaf of crusty bread, hot from the oven, and honey butter. It was a perfect place and meal to celebrate.

Back to the room, we were exhausted.  Tomorrow, we’re home!

March 21st – After rearranging the car and checking out, we got on the road with about four hours to go.  Traffic not bad, little bits of rain but mostly dry roads.  We turned into my driveway at 2:30. Home, sweet home.  I nearly tackled Spence with a hug before unloading the car and then hugged Tipper and Biscotti.  There really is no place like home and nothing like arriving safely, we are blessed.

This is the end of the “Moving Mom” series for my blog.  I’m grateful that so many enjoyed this journey with us.  It’s been a gift to chronicle our experiences; thanks for sharing it with Mom and I.


Moving Mom Part Nineteen – or The Day Mom’s House Officially Changes Hands

March 20th – Yesterday’s drive in the rain was physically draining; both Mom and I were gripping the steering wheel, shoulders tense. Add to that the mental exhaustion of safe driving while watching for drivers taking less care and for road signs to make sure we didn’t go wrong on our route. I’m grateful we broke this road trip into 4 days/3 nights.

After a great dinner at locally owned Cabin Restaurant (we both had variations of a hickory smoked pulled pork sandwich – outstanding), we came back and polished off the bottle of Malbec (maybe that was just me?).  Mom read her Kindle until she could no longer keep her eyes open (8:15).  I made it through Grey’s Anatomy, read for 5 more minutes and was out!

This morning we woke up at 6:00 and turned on the local news only to see what I’d expected, HEAVY FOG.  With all the rain yesterday, the local weatherman called the air “JUICY” which must be a meteorologist term for “wet air” (as he later explained that comment). On a positive note, while roads will be wet it would appear that the rain has shifted to the east and that we won’t be driving in rain today (fingers crossed).

At 2:00 today, the new owner’s close and Mom’s house officially becomes their house.  Her realtor will text me to let us know that the trigger has been pulled and the $$ will be wired.  And so that chapter has ended and a new one officially begins.

Here's to what comes next........
Here’s to what comes next……

Moving Mom Part Eighteen – On The Road Again…..

March 19th – Our hotel room at Country Inn and Suites in Tifton Georgia was very quiet and comfortable.  We were “lights out” by 9:00 p.m. having left  N Ft Myers at 8:20 (and up for hours prior) a long day of driving and a couple of glasses of vino.  I woke thinking it was around 2-3 a.m.  I quietly tip-toed to the bathroom and as I snuck back to my bed Mom says “is it about 3:00 a.m.?”  I looked at the clock – 10:55 p.m.  I advised her and I think we both said “what??” – and fell back into a deep slumber.

Mom woke around 3:00 a.m. and just laid there knowing it was way too early to think about getting up but at 5:00 a.m. when I woke up, she said “good morning”. We decided to get up, have breakfast and get on the road.  The parking lot was wet but it didn’t appear to be raining at that moment.  By 7:00 a.m., we were on the road knowing that the forecast for the day was RAIN.  The first 17 minutes were perfection, no traffic and no rain.  Then, as it would be for most of the day, it started raining.  Sometimes heavy, sometimes light and sometimes a couple miles of no rain and then repeat the pattern.  I drove 2 1/2 hours, then switched as Mom (age 81) said she’d feel more comfortable driving through Atlanta.  Since it is her car after all, I said “go for it”.  And she did.  Traffic now (of course) was intense and the rain (of course) picked up.  But she went for it and is an excellent driver.  Around 11:00 we were ready for lunch and I saw that we were approaching a Cracker Barrel.  Never one to miss a Cracker Barrel on a road trip, we stopped.  The temp had dropped and out came the jackets and we ran in, in the rain.  Country Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, sawmill gravy, fried apples and pinto beans for me with a diet Stewarts Root Beer (hey a gal has to save a few calories right?). Mom had the Thursday lunch special of turkey, stuffing, gravy, biscuits and jam, sweet baby carrots with a milk.  Delicious – and then we went into a food coma.  More driving in and out of rain but we already had our reservation in Loudon TN and it wasn’t too long before we were pulling around 2:00 p.m.

While Mom checked in, I grabbed the cart and unloaded the car.  Got into the room and set up our new afternoon tradition:

Cocktail Hour for the Road Warriors
Cocktail Hour for the Road Warriors – well deserved I might add!

I thought we might need a nap but we chatted for a bit, checked emails and drank our wine.  Now we’re off to a local spot, The Cabin Restaurant for what promises to be a lovely home-cooked kind of meal.

Signing off for today,

Spence’s Girl

Moving Mom Part Seventeen – or Point the Car North

One last parting shot of Mom’s street sign

March 18th – This is it!!

Both of us were up at 5:30 without the benefit of an alarm and feeling well-rested.  Moving right along, we loaded up the coolers and after a final walkthrough, closed the garage door and left Sabal Springs at 8:20, headed due north.

Ready to roll baby!
Ready to roll baby!

We had incredibly good roads – low traffic for the most part, sunny and made good time.  I ate lunch while Mom drove 2nd shift.  She ate when I took 3rd shift.  We stopped in north Florida for a bag of grapefruit, a jar of Honeybell Marmalade and a pecan log (hey those billboards are persuasive okay?).  We arrived in Tifton Georgia at 2:45 and checked into our hotel.

Yes I’m aware I already shared this picture in an earlier post today but it’s just how I roll.

Then with the aid of Trip Advisor and Mom’s suggestion “how about ribs tonight?”, I found the well-rated Hog N Bones.


We both got the Pork Ribs, served with garlic bread and two sides – we both chose Mac and Cheese, I had the BBQ Baked Beans and Mom opted for the coleslaw as her second side.  Delicious.

Back to the room for a bit more wine and calling it an early night as tomorrow it seems that we will be driving in rain up to Loudon Tennessee.  But I’m wearing my Guardian Angel Pin so who knows?  I’m preferring to think positive.

Riding on my shoulder, this little pin is my travel buddy.
Riding on my shoulder, this little pin is my travel buddy.

Moving Mom Part Sixteen – or It’s All the Little Things

March 17th – Today I’m in Florida while Spence is home in Michigan.  I call to wish him Happy Anniversary, 24 years together!  Celebrating will need to be postponed for a few days, he understands (love that man).

Today is the last day that Mom and I have to pack the house and the car.  Tomorrow morning when we close the doors behind us, that’s it.  If we don’t have it, we leave without it.

It’s hard to say goodbye….

I disconnect the DVR, Mom drives it out to Cape Coral for the return.  She fills the gas tank.  I clean and pack what I can, but a lot of little things fall to Mom. Her neighbor Arky stops by with fresh baked toffee pecan scones and an assortment of candy for the road (yummo).  Mom still wants to get across the street for a goodbye with neighbors Jeanne and John.  She calls as they’ve tried to have us over for the last few days but when he answers, John says “our refrigerator just died”.  We’ve all but emptied Mom’s fridge and she offers “you could use mine if you get everything out on Thursday” (new owners arrive to take possession on 3/20).  They come over with a giant cooler taking her up on the offer and then are off to buy a new fridge. Once back, they invite us to come for a little farewell at 4:00. Joining us are another couple who are neighbors and good friends. We have a lovely and spirited conversation over several glasses of wine, cheese and crackers finally walking back around 7:00.  Worth it but we still haven’t eaten and have a good 2-3 hours of work left (and are slightly buzzed…).  Nevertheless, we power through.  I’m in charge of anything electronic from her clock radio to disconnecting the phone, modem and router (crawling around on the floor and under her desk.  Multiple trips to the trash and recycle bins.

Loading the car is a bit tricky as I’ve padded her flat screen TV and her computer monitor and must push them into the back of the trunk on top of blankets.  I’m six feet tall and to do this am nearly inside the trunk pushing up with my two bum shoulders (will pay for this tomorrow…but whatcha’ gonna do right?)

At this point Mom is dragging like a balloon with just a bit of air left and starts referring to me as “General”  “You’re the General, just tell me what to do – I can’t think” she mumbles and so I have to revert to military precision to get everything into the trunk and backseat and keep her moving forward.  We finally reach a point where we can do no more as the coolers will wait for the morning.  We crawl to our respective “racks” and I think I hear Taps playing in the distance.