Author Archives: Laurie Ryan

Miracles

I’m sitting in a hotel in San Diego as I write this blog. I came with my husband and son, so they can meet our newest family member, Dahlia, born two months ago. (Sorry. I’m still bragging about this.) Anyhow, while sitting in the continental breakfast room at our hotel, I got to talking to a lady who’s story is the inspiration for this blog.

Newly retired, her husband had been getting sicker and sicker. So they came over here for special testing. It turned out, his liver was so diseased (not alcohol related), they immediately put him on the transplant list. Now, keep in mind, they came over here for a couple days of testing, only. They’ve been here for six weeks.

You see, ten days after he was listed, he got a liver. It’s been three weeks since surgery. And she’s still living in this hotel. They don’t know when they’ll be going home, but he is slowly improving, so one of these days, they’ll see home again.

Man, what a miracle! To find out you’re SO sick, then have your future returned to you. It brought tears to my eyes as she recounted their story. I find myself sitting here, eyes misting over, giving thanks for the blessings in life. And crying a bit for the loss that preceded this gift.

We have a friend who had a liver transplant about ten years ago, again, disease related. He was in his mid 30’s at the time and is thriving now because of this gift. And we are so, so, grateful for that.

So life is full of miracles. All we need to do is look and listen and we’ll find them. So now, I’m going to go back to holding that baby, and giving thanks.

“It’s like riding a bike…”

P1090837How many times have we heard the phrase “it’s like riding a bicycle?” Just about every time we haven’t done something for a while, right? Someone mentioned this the other night while talking to someone taking a refresher course in grammar.

It got me to thinking. Riding a bicycle has got to be the most common rite of passage for kids. We all learned how, and most of us did it the hard way…without the training wheels. I don’t remember those first riding trips, only the barest memory of my Dad hanging onto the back of the bike. And I’ve got a nice scar on my knee from one of those failed attempts.

But once I learned, that bike was my ticket to life. We rode everywhere in our neighborhood. Our bikes were horses when we played cowboys and Indians (no offense intended). They were our transportation to the pool at a nearby park, towels strapped to the flat rack on top of the back fender.

Bikes were our lives and our communication lines back then. There wasn’t email. We didn’t pick up the phone. We hopped on our bikes.

My husband remembers landing in a patch of blackberry briars as he learned. He just lay there and hollered until his Dad came and pulled him out.

We helped our children learn to ride, and have watched our grandchildren as the training wheels came off. I don’t chase behind the bikes providing stability anymore. I leave that to the kids. But I love to watch the process.

I have to believe that just about every child, from every walk of life, has learned to ride a bike. I guess that’s why it’s such a universal phrase.

What about you? Do you remember learning to ride? Have any stories about yourself, your kids or your grandkids you’d be willing to share? I’m grinning from ear to ear as I write this blog and take this walk down memory lane, so I’d love to hear your biking stories.

Book Review – Dewey by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

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This book isn’t a romance. It’s different from anything I’ve ever read and I highly, highly recommend it. In fact, as I write this review I’m only about halfway through the book. My husband and I are reading it together, out loud, and I keep having to stop and clear my voice as I get so choked up.

Dewey is the true story of a small-town library cat who, as the book’s caption says, touched the world. He certainly managed to become a symbol of hope and love to a small farming community.

Set in Iowa in the 1980’s, when the bottom was falling out of the corn market and large conglomerates were taking over small farms, Dewey made people feel better. Made them forget their troubles, if only for a little while. And brought a lot of love to an already close-knit community.

I love, love, love this cat. Love this community. And I love how much it reminded me about what’s important in life. Family, friends, and community. I’ve just ordered copies for my mother and my sister. And found out there are more Dewey stories out there, so I’m happy to get to spend more time with this great little kitty.

Here’s a link to the website and the blurb about Dewey’s story:

Vicki Myron was a single mother who had survived the loss of her family farm and an alcoholic husband. But her biggest challenge as the new head librarian in Spencer, Iowa, was to raise the spirits of a small, out-of-the-way town mired deep in the farm crisis of the 1980s. Then, on the coldest morning of the year, Vicki found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the night drop box, and her life—and the town of Spencer—was never the same. Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, grew into a strutting, affable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches, and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships. As his fame grew, people drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and he even ended up in a hit television documentary…in Japan! Through it all, Dewey remained a loyal companion, a beacon of hope not just for Vicki Myron, but for the entire town of Spencer as it slowly, steadily pulled itself up from the worst financial crisis in its long history.

Goodbye, Winter!

A bloom from my husband's favorite rose-bush.

A bloom from my husband’s favorite rose-bush.

So Spring began last week. I’m certain there are a lot of folks really happy to see Winter leave. I have a sister in Philadelphia who is tired of shoveling snow. They’ve had something like 15 snow and ice storms blow through.

I live in the Pacific Northwest and our winter has been strange, but mild in comparison. We started the year 11 inches below normal for rainfall. That’s a LOT. It was the driest winter I think we’ve ever had. I don’t know that for sure, but it seemed like it. Until about a month ago.

The heavens opened up and we’ve gotten gully-washers for rainstorms. We generally get rain and drizzle, but not too many downpours. These were all day downpours. And we’ve almost caught up to the average rainfall for our area. In THREE weeks! It’s crazy. The more important thing for us is that the mountain snow-pack, which was seriously depleted, has also almost caught up to average. We need that snow this summer to feed crops.

So we’ve been super dry, then super wet. But overall, mild here. I feel like I need to apologize to the rest of the world for having an easy winter while others have struggled so. :)

This year was a neutral year. That generally means a more unstable weather pattern. El Nino years tend to be warmer for us, La Nina tends to be cooler. They are already saying that this next winter will have an El Nino pattern.

Personally, I don’t like El Nino warming. It generally means I don’t get to see any snow unless I drive to it. And I like a little snow in the winter. Not as much as some of you have gotten this year. My shoulders ache just thinking about how much snow some of you have been shoveling. I  only like enough for a nice walk or two.

For now, though, I’m ready to see Spring. Soak up some sunshine, let the rain help our gardens grow, and air out the house (my favorite thing to do in the Spring).

So how about you? How was your winter? And are you glad for Spring to have sprung?

Oh, and a quick Happy Birthday to my pinochle partner and father. 87 years old, wheelchair bound, and still finding a lot of life to smile about. :)

The Sky is Falling…

Lately, it seems like I’ve been seeing a lot of anxiety in people, family members included. At times, I think I even need to throw myself into that mosh-pit.

I’m just going to apologize up front to the guys who check in on our blog. I’m about to use a ba-a-a-a-d word. Menopause. When I was menopausal, I was pretty lucky. I only had two symptoms to deal with. Hot flashes and anxiety. At least, I think that’s all I had to deal with, since my husband did not, as promised for years, go live in Tahiti without me for those years. :)

Anyhow, I remember that feeling of knowing, KNOWING everything was right in my world. But still waiting for the shoe to fall. For some disaster to strike. It was beyond my ability to cope with and I found myself drawing inward, chanting, meditating, anything to get through until the feeling ebbed. The one thing that helped me was, in fact, meditation. Hmmm, is it a Freudian slip that, as I typed meditation, it came out medication? :) Seriously, though, I would find a comfortable chair, relax my neck (the tensest part of my body) and focus on my breathing, saying two words with the in and out of air.

In. Peace. Out. Calm.

It helped me get through those finite times when the anxiety was a strong force.  Recently, one of our bloggers, Tricia Jones, released a book about Yoga For Writers. It got me thinking about stress and anxiety and ways we can all try to cope with it. Yoga is one, although I’m one of the tightest people I know (so my physical therapist says). I’m not sure that’s the right option for me.

What other ways can we purge anxiety and stress? I thought I’d list some ways I’ve found here. And, if you have any additional suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

  • Exercise. A simple walk might be enough.
  • Focus on your breathing/meditate.
  • Accept it—ride the wave until it ebbs.
  • Visualization of calmer, happier moments.
  • Positive introspection.
  • Focus on a goal. It could be a project you started or something you’ve been putting off. Complete it.

It seems that the primary goal in each of these suggestions is to focus on one thing that is NOT the anxiety or stress. That’s interesting because I’ve been working with a close family member on just that. Don’t think about the thirty steps you need to complete to finish. Focus on one thing. Task #1. When that’s done, focus on task #2.

Hopefully, it will help. So, do you get bouts of anxiety? How do you cope? Got any tips for me? There are definitely times when I could use them.

Baby arrived!

I hope our daughter won’t mind me bragging here, but our 8th grandchild (and our daughter’s first) came into this world in a hurry just after Valentine’s day, following a short 4 hours of labor.

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She was so anxious to arrive, she got here three days early and I didn’t make it in time to welcome her. Her mother and father did an excellent job, though. And in a few hours, I managed to get my chance to hold this precious gift.

So it’s been an amazing month and one I am very grateful for. It’s wonderful to watch our family grow and thrive. Makes any of the hard times seem worth it, doesn’t it?

 

 

Waiting For Baby and Happy Valentine’s Day

heartlt

Hi, everyone. I know Marie Tuhart is supposed to be here today, and you’re probably all bummed you’re not getting one of those stories about Penny, her toy poodle (and chaos generator). Marie’s uber-overloaded right now with things going on in her life, so I said I’d step in and chat for a bit. That means you lucky folks get me two blogs in a row. :)

First of all, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! Whether you have a sweetie or not, this is a day to remind people we love how much we care for them. My husband and I don’t generally buy gifts for each other on Valentine’s Day. Or on our anniversary, for that matter. My thing is cards. I love getting cards. And he’s been gracious enough to fall in with that plan, these 30 years we’ve been together. :) I try to give him something precious to me on Valentine’s Day–time. Even though we’re both retired, this writing and editing business of mine keeps me pretty busy. But today is about pampering and spending time together. So I make his favorite foods, watch his favorite shows. And he goes on a walk with me without complaint. (He generally does go walking with me every day, but under duress. :) )

So we give each other the gift of time. And try to extend that to our family and friends as we are able.

Speaking of family…okay, that’s a pretty weak segue, but I really want to talk about our exciting “almost” news. Our daughter is due to deliver our eighth grandchild ANY DAY. As I mentioned on Wednesday, she’s due the 18th and we are SO excited. This pregnancy is such a blessing, and I hope she won’t mind me telling you a bit of her story. They were told the possibility of getting pregnant was minimal, if not non-existent. So, in preparation for further tests, she was scheduled for an xray.

The tech asked her if there was any chance she could be pregnant and our daughter said she didn’t think so. That’s why she was there, after all. Just to be certain, they did a pregnancy test. And guess what…it was positive!

So we are all anxiously awaiting our newest family member. And I’m hoping, when I blog again on the 26th, that I’ll be able to show you pictures.

Marie should be back next month in this time slot. In the meantime, have a wonderful Valentine’s Day. I hope you get, and give, lots of hugs today.

Mia – My Mother’s New (to her) Cat

I’m currently waiting for a call from my daughter saying she’s in labor (she’s not…yet). She’s due February 18th and I am on a plane ASAP when that call comes in. :)  In the meantime, I’ll talk about the newest edition that HAS arrived in our family. Our mother’s new cat. New to her, anyhow.

After missing her cat, Henry, who passed a couple years ago, Mom seemed ready for a new companion, and we “kids” jumped on it. My sister took Mom to the local rescue place two days after Christmas and Mia came home with Mom that day.

Mia is about ten years old and the sweetest, gentlest cat I’ve ever known. She’s perfect for Mom. Mia’s favorite places are on Mom’s lap and sleeping above her head or next to her leg. She’d sleep ON Mom’s leg if she could, but there are limits, eh?

Anyhow, I couldn’t write about Mia until now because there were issues and I needed to know the outcome would be good, which it is.

We had a horrible time getting Mia to eat. The prior owner had written down the food Mia was used to. Over the course of 4 weeks, Mia ate hardly anything. We tried what she was used to, plus 2 or 3 other brands. Different types of canned food, too. Even drizzling tuna juice didn’t work. Nor did human food. We zapped stuff in the microwave for a few seconds to enhance the scent. Mom smeared it on her paw (she DID lick that off).

Mia was drinking water, but simply would not eat. For FOUR weeks. Mom counted out kibbles and they were still there in the morning. The vet said she had to be getting food from somewhere or wouldn’t be alive after 4 weeks. They did an xray and found a dime-sized stone in her bladder, but didn’t think that would keep her from eating.

Mia and Mom at one of several vet visits.

Mia and Mom at one of several vet visits.

Four vet visits later, and a drop of almost 3 pounds, from 12+ to 9ish, we were desperate. They didn’t want to put her through the trauma of surgery if she wouldn’t eat. So we started a medicine that is an appetite stimulant. I’m not sure how long that stuff takes to kick in, but one day later, Mia still wasn’t eating.

So Mom put her plate on the floor with a few chicken leftovers and was shocked to see Mia gobble them up. She switched the cat food from bowls to plates, and Mia has been eating ever since! It’s amazing!

Now, she’s still on the appetite stimulant, so we’re honestly not sure what did the trick, the meds or the plate. Could plate vs. bowl really be enough of a deterrent for a cat? We had tried different bowls, but never tried a plate. Gees.

Anyhow, it’s been two weeks since Mia started eating. She’s gaining weight. Loving Mom’s lap, her favorite place to be, and successfully had surgery this last week to remove the stone.

All seems to be well with Mia, and as a family, we are so, so grateful. The bonding between Mom and her kitty was immediate and deep and we all hope they get many good years together.

Welcome to the family, Mia!

Old Videos

Okay, I’m going to date myself here, but hopefully not too badly. Who remembers VHS tapes? You know, those things we used to watch movies on before DVD’s and Blu-Ray?

I’ve been immersed in videos lately. When Mark and I bought our house together in 1989, we bought a video camera. They were about the size of a microwave back then. Okay, so maybe they weren’t THAT big. But I’m not exaggerating by much.

Anyhow, we apparently taped everything. The tape when we moved into the house was so long, I swear I watched the dandelions that covered our then new lawn bloom. Well, maybe that’s exaggeration number two, but I’ve got this huge stock of VHS tapes filled with videos we took over about a 15 year period, until the camera thankfully died.

So I’ve been working on transferring them over to DVD. Bought myself a program so I could hook the VHS player direct to my computer, spent more hours than it takes to train Dragon speech software learning about the program, and finally transferred my first few moments to DVD successfully.

Only one problem. The audio. About 1 minute out of every ten is completely garbled. I’ve re-transferred the same tapes twice now. Looked at the originals and there’s no audio problem on them. Looked at the transferred program on my computer and that sounds fine, too. Somewhere in the “burning to DVD” process, it gets screwed up.

Sigh. I had hoped to eliminate the excessive cost of having someone do this for me. But I don’t have the time to debug this. So I’ll have to call this experiment half unsuccessful. Why only half? Because my husband and I had a lot of fun watching some of the old videos while I worked through this process.

We need to do that more often.

So…do you have old video or home movies? Ever look at it? I hope so, because it can definitely put a smile on your face.

Mini-Chicken Pot Pies

Have you ever picked up one of the pot pies that Kentucky Fried Chicken sells? I don’t even want to know how many calories there are in one of those pies, but they taste SO good! So when I saw this easy-peasy recipe in a Campbells’ Soup magazine ad, I had to try it. It was as easy as it looks, and while it didn’t taste quite as good as the KFC edition, it was pretty tasty. This recipe is for chicken, but I’m also going to try it with beef chunks and gravy. I’m betting it will work both ways. Either way, this was great with a side salad.

Mini-Chicken Pot Pies

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 and 1/2 cups cubed cooked chicken (I used Costco’s canned chicken)
  • 1 – 10 3/4 oz. Campbell’s Cream of Chicken soup
  • 1/2 of a 16 oz. package of frozen mixed vegetables, thawed (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
  • Flour
  • 1 package (12 oz.) refrigerated biscuits (10 biscuits)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 10 muffin-pan cups with the cooking spray. Stir the chicken, soup, and vegetables in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle flour on your work surface. Roll or pat the biscuits to flatten slightly. Press the biscuits into the bottoms and up the sides of the muffin-pan cups. Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each biscuit cup. Lightly press the chicken mixture down so it’s level. Top each with about 2 teaspoons cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown and the cheese is melted. Let the pot pies cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Enjoy!