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Sunday, December 9, 2018

REMEMBERING A LIFE WELL LIVED



     This past couple of months I have been working to put together a finished family history project.  I keep telling myself I won’t live forever and in the end, I don’t want someone to stand before this lifetime of work and say to themselves, “What the hell are we going to do with all this?”  
     I remember a visit to the Spruance Library in Doylestown looking at family history projects and recognizing how boring it was to only read the “begots”.  The histories that I picked up and lingered over were the ones who took time to put a story behind the name, and so it set forth my own goal of creating a book for the family where you would be introduced to the “person” and not just a name and date.
     Along with this work, this past weekend it was Kieflies baking time…and a time to remember our Grammy Ford (Anna Poth Ford).  She would start at Halloween to bake these cookies that would melt in your mouth.  At Christmas, we would all get a tin of them to take home.  But if you took time to visit her anytime between Halloween and Christmas she would send you out the door with a small container letting you know that this is all you get until Christmas.  Only the next time you would come she would most often do the same thing.  As time went on I began to believe this was your reward for taking the time to visit her.
     Fifty-two years ago when I first came to this family, I remember seeing her for the first time.  It was September 1966 and I had come to Pennsylvania to visit the family I was about to marry into.  In a large boat-size car,  Uncle Ed driving and  Uncle Bob in the front seat and Grammy sitting in the back came to meet the young girl her grandson was introducing to the family.  It was all very regal in my mind.  Very dignified and straightforward, Grammy was always in a dress with nice earrings and jewelry.  To the day she died, I don’t believe I ever saw her in anything else.  Her hands would be crossed on her lap and she would sit and observe all that was around her.
     The family was most important to Grammy.  I learned that early on and in many lessons along the way.  No matter what happened in life, or what you did or didn’t do, you were always welcomed with an open smile, a hug, and a kiss, and when leaving she would follow you out the door and stand and wave goodbye until you drove out of sight.  Her unconditional love for her family was always present in everything she did and said.
     I learned many life lessons from her.  Although she longed to see her family often, schedules and life got in the way, but when you would visit her, it was always greeted with a sense of celebration that you were there.  Sitting at her table, having coffee, tea and whatever food she quickly prepared, would allow for hours of conversation, knowing in her heart that it may be a long time between visits and she wanted to soak it all in.  No TV, no radio, no cell phones…just wonderful conversations of sharing and catching up on life.  You were always made to feel welcome and loved.
     She became the most important person in my life.  I had a lot to learn about unconditional love and the meaning of family, so when things went haywire on my side of the family she was always my guiding light and calming influence.  She would encourage me to let go of the hurt and just love…a lesson I have learned stays with me until this day.  She also never offered up advice unless you asked, but when you asked you got her truth.  She pulled no punches.  She lived her life with dignity and grace thru all her 93 years.
     Gathering together to make Grammy’s Kieflies is an opportunity to remember and share in the stories of the family matriarch and her life well lived.

Here is Grammy Ford’s Kieflies recipe

(I had to sit one year and watch her as she never made these using a recipe…together we finally figured out the ingredients and although mine may never reach the level of delight of the ones she made, they provide an opportunity to remember an amazing woman!)

8 cups flour
8 egg yolks
1 lb lard
1 lb butter
1 pine sour cream
1 Tablespoon of yeast
1 lemon zest
1 juice of a lemon
Powdered sugar

Mix together flour and yeast.  Add lard and butter until cut together.  Then add sour cream, lemon zest, and lemon juice.   Chill overnight in the refrigerator.

Roll out crust until very thin.  Cut into 2 1/2 inch squares.
Fill with either nut filling, raspberry filling or apricot filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

After the cookie cools roll in powdered sugar.


(I want you to know I have tried to make these using Crisco or other substitutes but the flavor did not even come close to these as Grammy made them.  So with total abandon we indulge these once a year!)

Sunday, December 2, 2018

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

     Isn’t it funny how we are glad to see a year end and a new one begin?  What is it about starting over?  It is the one thing that our society invites us to do all the time.  Every morning is a new day.  Every 1st of the month is a new beginning.  Every new year is a chance to start over.  
     Six years ago when I was grieving the loss of Pat, my best friend and husband of 45 years,  I mentioned how I felt a bit overwhelmed at the thought that I alone was now totally responsible for every decision in my life.  No more sharing…no more compromise.  Just make a decision and move on…only wrapped in the fear of making a mistake.  Then one day while driving using my GPS, I made a turn different from what the GPS wanted me to do and the GPS calmly announced. ”Recalculating.”  It was then that I realized making a decision that didn’t work out was not a life-threatening moment…if something does not turn out, you just change direction and keep moving.  Letting go of the fear of “what if” is step one and recalculating a new direction is step two.  
     Miranda and I had the joy of hearing Michelle Obama speak on her new book this past week.  She said to all of us to embrace fear, for it can become the one roadblock that will bring failure and disappointment…and fear will come into and out of our life until our very last breath.  “So learn early to see fear as a healthy step to change,” she said.  “Embrace it,” she said.
     Discovering love the second time around is sweet, kind and especially a surprise.  While traveling on our 17,000-mile road trip, Dave and I met an 87-year-old woman who had recently lost her husband.  For her whole life she wanted to camp…and so she was.  In her car.  We watched her set up a table with a cook stove, and prepare her evening meal.  No tent…no camper…just her car and her little table.  We saw her end her day by snuggling down into the car seat and sleep for the night.  The next day we shared a meal with her and learned that she wanted to camp before she died.  She didn’t want to leave anything on her wish list.  In fact, on a recent cruise she had met a man who she fell in love with and when she returns to Vancouver, Canada, her home, he is going to join her and they are planning to be married.  I walked away feeling her life lesson…that life isn’t over until you cannot breathe anymore!  Embrace it, continue to make plans, dream and live it to the fullest!  That is how I would describe this year.  
     I have had a chance to fulfill many of my wish-list items and even discover some wonderful moments that I didn’t know would make me feel so happy!  The road trip with Dave was just that and more.  We left the end of June and returned in October.  We had no plans, no commitments, and every day was filled with spontaneous decisions.  It was a joy to experience, yet when we both landed back home…H-O-M-E…it was a sweet moment.  To walk in the familiar,  feel the loving kind embrace of family and friends who missed us…to not feel lost or turned around, was a joy too.  The trip Dave and I took together, made me appreciate my home and at the same time filled me with the knowledge that home is wherever your heart lands.  
     I cannot tell you what the new year will bring for me.  The fact is I don’t care.  During this past couple of years, I have learned to just embrace each day as a new beginning, a new adventure, and a new understanding of myself and what is important to me.  I have also learned that you cannot make people love you if they choose not to, and you cannot force yourself into others lives if they won’t let you in and I have decided that is okay too.  I will keep my myself open to all possibilities no matter where it takes me, or how it ends…for at the end, when my last breath leaves me, I know, at this moment, I have had the joy and privilege of experiencing the best of what life has to offer.
     My happiness comes to me in my time with Dave, my family, friends, and especially my grandchildren.  The joy of watching them grow into beautiful young adults, full of compassion and empathy for the world around them…sassy and spirited and with the connection to the family brings me more joy than I can possibly measure.  Hearing my text buzz with a reach out that says, “Hi Gram.  How are you?” fills my day with sunshine.  Having the privilege of finding love the second time around with Dave is the sweet surprise of my life.  And attending the wonderful events my children and grandchildren participate in allows me to celebrate life with them and I thank them for wanting me to be a part of it.

I wish for you all, the peace, joy, and celebration that fills your life with sweet surprises.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

BETTER THAN SITTING ON THE COUCH!


By the time this week ends I will have traveled with David in a Popup camper almost 10,000 miles!  I have made many observations along the way, some of which surprised me.  First, I am surprised at how many people permanently camp for the season in one campground!  In most every campsite we have stayed (except for the state parks) we found more than one half the sites filled with permanent campers.  And it didn’t seem to matter if it was near some great tourist spot, out in the desert, or in the middle of the woods, every private campground we stayed at had permanent seasonal campers.  

We seem to see more campers out West than anywhere else we traveled.  In fact, we saw more RV retail shops out West than anywhere else also!  

We have seen all kinds of campgrounds during this past couple of months too.  But the most fun campground we stayed at was Pure Country Campground in New York.  It was a campground for horse owners.  Of course, if there was room, it could accommodate people like us too!  They have different events all season long drawing in horse owners from all over.  The atmosphere was country rustic with a horse theme, and it created a fun atmosphere for everyone in attendance.  While we were there they had a midnight ride through their 130 miles of trails (it was a full moon).   

The Rolls Royce of campgrounds was in Geneva By the Lake in Ohio.  (It was also the most expensive), but the accommodations for campers were top notch!  It definitely held court when it came to the bathroom/shower setups.  They get the award for the cleanest and best appearance!  If only all campgrounds would put more effort into the shower/bathroom area!   

Campers too are a special lot.  It does not matter what our backgrounds are.  It is the love of outdoors and exploring that seems to be the common core.  We often felt like the “country cousin” compared to the huge RV’s that would surround us, but it didn’t seem to matter to anyone as conversations were easy to have with everyone.  

Mostly “old” people owned RV’s while we found more young families camping in tents or popups like us.  We even noticed some young people zipping up in a sleeping-bag-hammock.  Now that is roughing it!

What I found interesting was meeting people like David and me out on the road.  We met at least three couples just like us…having lost spouses and finding someone new later in life.  Due to the fun, we shared a common attitude about how lucky we felt!

The most amazing thing to me was to see how beautiful this country is!  No matter where we were, we discovered a uniqueness to what we experienced yet at the same time, a small town feel which meant kindnesses given.  If we asked anything we were showered with information, kindness, and help.  


And that brings me to this.  The best thing about our road trip was cutting off the political crap!  Oh, I would check in now and then to see if we were at war with anyone, but for the most part, we watched no TV, listened to no news, or gave one thought to the political divide.  In fact what we saw was that every local paper we picked up had little or no political news in it.  It mostly contained local happenings or state information.  Newspapers around big cities would contain more of the political issues of the day.

Now I know I cannot totally ignore politics (I do take my citizenship seriously) but I also realize that now and then a break from the “crazy” is also important for one’s mental health.  


This summer has fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine to wander the roads of this country to see what I could see and meet people from many walks of life.  We have only passed through 21 different states so I know there is much more to explore.  At my age, I never thought I would see this day, but meeting Dave, who processes the same kind of wanderlust as me, has been pure joy!  We have learned together that age does not mean anything, especially when we are lucky to have our health and keep our attitude positive.  As Dave has said to me almost every day of this trip, “It’s better than sitting on a couch!”

Friday, September 22, 2017

GPS, I LOVE YOU BUT…


Another fun adventure today.  This time in the Springfield, Missouri area.  First, we headed out to explore the Ozark Mountains but we got sidetracked when we stopped in Camping World and as we left Charlie, the salesman said, “You should take time to stop at Lambert’s Cafe.  Only if you go, go early as if you wait until 5 p.m. you won’t get in until after 8 p.m.”
Having Lambert’s Cafe on our to-do list we looked at each other and decided lunch first would be a good idea.  Now if you have not heard of Lambert’s Cafe in Springfield, you are missing something fun and good!  We first became aware of it on Diners and Dives.  Its reputation is known for its down-home cooking and throwing the rolls at you.  Yes, I said throwing the rolls.  Hot Rolls.  So hot that when you catch them you are shocked at the heat!

The food was good old-fashioned comfort food.  Fried chicken and hamburger steak were our choices and they brought enough for two people to eat off of one plate.  But that was not all.  They have what they call “pass arounds.”  People would come by with a large bucket of either fried okra, macaroni, and cheese with tomatoes, fried potatoes, or black-eyed peas on top of that and serve you up just as much as you like.  Still not full?  Well just let them know and they would have brought another entree portion of the meat!

At 11:30 a.m. we found the place packed! We managed to get right in and served.  When we left an hour later we found a waiting line already out to the parking lot!  The place was jumping but I tell you if you ever find yourself near Springfield make it a point to drop in!

 After our lunch, we plugged Ozark Mountains into our GPS.  It took us through Branson Missouri, which was an interesting place to drive through.  I hear the shows are great but the town leaves a lot to be desired in looks.  It feels and acts more like a circus!  And if you ever go shop around.  We stopped at a Visitor’s center just as we entered Branson and it turned out they were a sales company disguised as a visitor center wanting to sell you tickets and accommodations with promises to save you 50%.  As we drove through we saw signs that announced 70% off ticket prices.  Duped is how one must feel if they order tickets ahead of time at full price!  There were ticket brokers from one end of town to another!

The peak in the Ozark Mountains
Once through there and Table Rock Lake, our GPS continued to direct us to the “Ozark Mountains.”  Let me say right off, that relying solely on GPS can be risky.  We found we also needed maps and at times with the maps and GPS we were making adjustments.  Today we had no maps.  So we let the GPS guide us into the hills and hollers of the mountain.  Rolling hills, peaks that looked down over rolling hills, and poverty are what we found.  We found the GPS directed us to a dead-end street somewhere in the mountains.  I guess that was the middle of the Ozarks?  We found it does this when we just put in a town…it directs us  to the center of town and says, “You have arrived.”  We reached an area where we had no service so we had to pick a direction and drive, laughing that we could find ourselves lost forever in the hills we kept driving hoping that service would return and we would find our way out.  We eventually did of course but discovered we came out somewhere down in Arkansas!  Another state on our list!  


Having a GPS is great when it works, but learning to never take it for granted is important!  Keeping a road atlas and/or local maps with you is all important because the GPS will sometimes take you down roads that in itself could be an adventure!  Ask us about it sometime!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

CAMPING…AN EXERCISE IN FLEXIBILITY

Camping I’m discovering is an art form.  One that with experience I’m learning to navigate joyfully.  I have discovered a hardiness to campers.  Oh, I’m not talking about the big RV kind of camper, where people have taken all the home conveniences with them…no, I’m talking about the tent and pop-up people who get challenged now and then by the conditions!  Too cold, too hot, too wet, too windy but mostly too cold…goose-bump cold…toes crying for help cold…those are the campers I am talking about!  I am enjoying not being in my comfort zone, stepping away from routine and seeing and experiencing so many new and wonderful things.
First, I am in awe to discover so much of our country is desert or mountainous and those living there face challenges that many of us in the metropolitan areas take for granted.  I can go shopping 2 miles down the road…these people have to travel great distances often over an hour away just to stock simple food items.  Water that comes from a faucet, without thought  to many of us (unless you have a well then you tend to be more keenly aware of what is going on), but all the same the convenience of just turning on that faucet to cook or shower…for many that we have seen out west it is an ordeal making water something you don’t take for granted.  In the mountains, we saw signs for winter preparation encouraging the locals to fill out forms to place their order for case-lots of goods to have in store for the long enduring winters.  Men, paying $20 for 4 cords of wood that he could pluck from the National Forest to enable warmth for his home in the winter.  Hardy men and women…strong stock…tough…I am completely in awe of their hardiness in living everyday life.

Another thing we noticed is that not many local newspapers carry much about politics.  It is mostly news about townspeople or the local municipalities. It struck me as we noticed the lack of national news, that this is what Newspapers use to be.  Papers touting what the local community people did along with the local municipalities activities.  These are the events that have an effect on everyday lives.  I do a lot of old newspaper research for my family history projects and have commented before that newspapers of old were basic gossip rags.  Maybe if they went back to more of that they would sell more newspapers.

The biggest thing I have seen in my travels is that all campgrounds are not equal.  When one camps the way David and I are camping, clean showers and bathrooms are the most important.  Laundry is a luxury and we look for that when we need to do laundry but for the most part, it is the bathroom situation.  We have stayed at National Parks and State Parks (more often than not they are cheaper than privately owned ones) and find they are often cleaner in the shower and bathroom area than some of the paid-for camps we stayed at.  Just saying to the campsite owners of the world out there, if you want repeat business then clean up your act.  I know people can be slobs but if you provide a respectable facility people would take better care of it….(I would hope!)

Other things I have learned while camping is to try not to forget your underwear when you go to the showers.  The first couple of times I did this, really caught me off guard.  What do I do?  Now I keep a pair in my shower bag, just in case.  I’ve been good, this last pair I put in the bag has been there for two weeks.  I am getting better.  (Note:  this morning I forgot my underwear.  That will teach me to feel too cocky.  That being said I still could not use the pair in my shower bag because they had gotten wet from my body wash bag…go figure!)

I also need to remember to take a good towel for drying off and one to stand on once you are done in the shower.  With showers not all equal, most all showers throw as much water outside the shower stall as in, so finding a dry spot on the floor can be impossible…besides some of the floors were not something you wanted to put your clean wet feet on anyway!  

I have discovered also that I have a balance problem.  Standing on one foot, with nothing to lean against (at least nothing I wanted to put my naked body up against), trying to put my one foot inside a pant leg and not let that pant leg touch the wet floor is challenging to this 70-year-old.  I must say though, after 3 weeks of practice I am getting better!  I have learned a new one-foot dance in the process!  

The latest lesson to come our way is that if you choose to camp in the desert, watch where you walk.  Last night as I returned from the bathroom I was suddenly in crazy pain with something sticking in my feet.  Apparently, in walking across the lawn I was unaware of this weed with tiny little sharp stickers that immediately stuck to my shoe top and bottom, pant legs and anything else it managed to touch.  I’m still finding remnants on the rug with my bare feet!  

There are many joys too in this camping arena…like right now sitting here typing this, the neighbor to us is serenading the space with his guitar and singing…a wonderful thing!

With the road trip not finished yet, I am sure there are more lessons to learn, but the greatest is to let go, be flexible, not take life too seriously and have fun!

9/21/2017


AAA LET US DOWN

This writing finds me driving down highway 40 in Texas….okay not driving but a passenger in the car…just saying…anyway yesterday our adventure was a bit more challenging than any time on this trip but we both felt pleased with how we handled the situation as well as how it turned out.
We got our first flat tire.  The camper tire went out and the question carried in David’s mind “What would happen if a camper tire blew,” was answered.  Fortunately, his driving skills and his ability to act without question saved us from having anything bad happen.  We were able to pull off the side of the road far enough to stay out of harm's way.  After a brief moment of “Oh shit, what do we do?”  We both went about doing what we could.  He spent time figuring out if he could change the tire himself, and I got on the phone to AAA.  

Now I have had AAA for years and the few times I have used it has been home and I have always been grateful for the service and without a doubt have felt no matter the cost the service was worth it when you are out on the road alone.  But to say I was a disappointed in how this action with AAA went down would be an understatement.

When I called, I got transferred to the area I was broke down, Alburqueke NM.  They had to verify my account, which I had no problem with, but then for some strange reason they started asking me about names on my account and began giving me a hard time because I couldn’t name anyone.  My daughter was once on my account and so was my late husband, but why that should matter is a mystery to me, because I am on the account too!

Because I was getting such a run around David pulled out his AAA card and we used his number.  It turns out that they would have to charge us to change the trailer tire.  I replied that was okay because we did not have a choice.  “Two 70 plus-year-old people needed help,” I said.  

The next challenge was trying to tell them where we were.  You see highway 40 does not use mile markers and we couldn’t remember the last exit we passed.  “Do you have any signs around you or buildings you can describe?” she asked.  “No, we are in the middle of the desert and there is nothing but tumbleweed and rocks for as far as the eye can see,” I replied.  Saved by my Iphone’s  compass and its ability to locate your position through the Longitude and Latitude they were able to pinpoint just where we were (Yea iPhone Compass!!!!). 

"We will call you with an estimated time of arrival as soon as we contact the driver.  Just hang in there, we will be there as soon as we can, “ she went on to say.

I hung up, confident we were okay and told David of the conversation.  In the meantime, he was figuring out if he could change the tire himself.  The motivation got high when I explained to him they would be charging us to come change the tire because we didn’t have RV coverage.  I had tried to explain to them that it was not an RV, but a small trailer camper…did not matter they would have to charge because we did not carry the extra coverage.

It was no time that David managed to pull off the lug-nuts and change the tire.  We were lucky.  We started down the road to find a tire place to pick up a new tire, and I tried calling back AAA to cancel the call.  Getting cut off twice, I decided that I would tell them when they called with an arrival time.  


It is now over 24 hours later and we still have not received that call from AAA to say when they were coming.  Needless to say, I’ll be contacting them to express my disappointment in this situation.  Since Pat has been gone, I have never been afraid to travel alone.  I had so much confidence in AAA to be there to bail me out of any problem I might find myself in.  That has changed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

ADVENTURING WITH DAVID

Okay, so traveling is an adventure, but traveling with David is not only an adventure but an experience never to forget.  It’s his sense of humor and attitude that makes this memorable.

Our traveling days have been anywhere from 4 to 6 hours when we move from one spot to another.  In this past week, we have experienced cold nights  (38 degrees) to warm nights (60 plus degrees). And that is just one spot to another!  So this morning we wake up and it was cold!  How cold you ask?  Well when I took my shower, the shampoo was so cold on my head it made it hurt and the body wash was cold enough to give me goosebumps!

By the time I got out of the shower, dried off and got dressed I began to adjust to the temperatures.  When I came back to the camper, I find David sitting in his chair, having coffee in the sun.  He turns to me and says, “Boy, where else could you go and have 48 degrees not feel bad because the sun is on you!”

“Yea right,” I half mutter…” where else can you feel like this?  I think when I go back home, and my heater goes out I won’t be upset as it will be just like camping!”

I must say he does watch out for me. When we arrive at a new campsite he insists strongly that we get close to the bathroom.  He says he feels guilty that I have to walk so far to go.  Me?  I call it the walk with the “night stalkers.”  I find I am rarely alone.  There was the one night when a young man, waiting outside the ladies room for his girlfriend, jumped out at me as I left the bathroom thinking I was her.  Made my heart rush for sure and he could not have apologized for making me jump.  I laughed all the way to the campsite!

During one middle-of-the-night potty run, I came out of the bathroom and was greeted by two deer.  I stopped, they stopped, we stared at each other and then both of us went on our way.  It was too cold and damp to stand there!

There is also a lot of self-discovery on this trip.  I am tougher than I thought.  I can handle being cold.  I don’t miss TV.  I love meeting new people (okay this has always been a given for me). If you stick a flannel sheet inside your sleeping bag it feels warmer!  Hot showers take away the nighttime chill.  You don’t need a lot to get through a day.  (So I wonder why I have so much shit back home!)  Eating simply (without available snacks) causes one to lose weight!  I don’t know how much I have lost on this trip, but with all the walking, moving and no snacking my pants now go on and off without unzipping.

At this writing, we are beginning to make the turn toward home which means the adventures are not done yet.  We have been on the road for almost 3 weeks now and it has been great fun.

Here are a few more things I have heard while camping.  They made me giggle…I’ll let you decide!

“I always like to measure before I stick it in.”

“No, I am not sure that is not poison ivy.”  (Are you as confused as me?)

“Too many rocks in the mountains.”

“We did it twice last year and couldn’t resist doing it again.”  (I couldn’t hear what they were talking about so my mind just took it away and I could not stop laughing!”

“I try and limit how much I unzip.”


That’s all for now…more later!