Author Archives: Valerie J. Patterson

Turkey Stuffing Makes Me Cry by Valerie J. Patterson

Who knew?  I mean it’s not something that’s ever happened before.  I had no idea that stuffing and I were so close it could make me cry.  But it did.  In a very big way.  And I was caught unaware right there in the aisle of the grocery store.  Unaware and unprepared for the force of emotions that washed over me and left me sobbing and left my husband bewildered.

It was a very innocent trip to the store to stock up for Thanksgiving dinner.  Had everything in the cart and turned down the aisle with the bread crumbs and the premixed stuffing selections and the seasonings.  I looked up at the canister of bread crumbs and instantly, tears began to stream down my face as I choked back sobs.  Steve came beside me, placed a hand on my back and rubbed gentle little circles between my shoulder blades.

“What’s wrong?”

“S-s-stuffing…”

“I don’t understand.  What happened?”

“I saw the bread crumbs and it reminded me of my mom.”

“Okay…”

My mom passed away October 20th, and I’m in that phase of mourning where just seeing something or hearing something brings a flood of tears.  Mornings are the worst for me.  I’ll be getting ready for work, see the time on the clock and break down.  But stuffing caught me off guard.

From the time I was old enough to wield a knife, I sat in the kitchen with my mom and dad and–while they did other things–I chopped onion and celery into microscopic slivers for my mom’s homemade turkey stuffing.  Mom liked the flavor of both in her stuffing but hated biting into chunks of either one.  After I got married and moved away, my dad took over my dicing duties unless by some stroke of luck we arrived early enough for me to do the honor.

It’s been many years since I last chopped any onion or celery in my mom’s kitchen, which is why I was taken aback when, right there in the aisle, I was overtaken with emotion.  I guess I just never expected a canister of bread crumbs to affect me in quite a personal way.

Mom was an excellent cook.  She was the best friend I never expected, but was blessed to have.  She was strength and grace and beauty and charm.  She was warm and funny and loving and tough.  She was heart and soul and faith and light.  She was generous and giving and sympathetic and compassionate.  She and my dad were active participants in my life and I have equal parts of both of them inside of me–of the person I am.  And because of all of that, stuffing can make me cry!

I miss my mom.  I will miss her for the rest of my life, but we will meet again, and what a reunion that will be!

2016 has been a year of hard knocks and loss, but it has also been a year of great blessing, and I have much to be thankful for.  And I am indeed thankful.

Until next time, may you always be able to see the blessings in your life and may the memories you share add flavor to your days!

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It’s That Time Again! By Valerie J. Patterson

It happens every year.  There’s simply no escaping it.  You can’t run from it, hide from it, or even overlook it.  Every September–like clockwork–it happens.

What is it?  That time of year when summer ends and fall begins.

Don’t get me wrong.  I enjoy all of the seasons.  Each one brings about a creative resurgence that I absolutely love!  Winter, with its stark beauty, beckons me outdoors and into the crisp evening air to wonder at all the exquisiteness of a fresh falling snow.  Spring, with its rebirth of everything green and colorful, pulls me into the lushness of showers that result in bursts of vibrant flowers and carpets of green.  Summer, with its endless azure skies, romances me with ocean sprays and huge golden moons lighting up paths in the sand.  Autumn, with its brilliant grandeur, lures me into carefree times of yesterday when I played in the leaves, enjoyed hayrides, and carved pumpkins.

But there is something else that fall does–it comes with shorter days and less rays from the sun.  This is without a doubt the one thing about fall I dislike.  It’s dark when I rise and the darkness comes calling just a short time after I leave the office.  Sigh.  I love the cooler temperatures, but bemoan the fact there is less daylight to enjoy them.

There’s nothing I can do about it.  It happens every single year.  And I so very much look forward to those days when the daylight creeps into longer hours.  Ah yes, that too happens every single year!

Until next time, may a lilting fall breeze lift your hair, caress your face, and gently blow through your mind to inspire you.

George & Louise…A Great Love by Valerie J. Patterson

George and Louise Boldt–their story is one of a great and deeply felt love.  It’s also a tale of tragedy and a future with a broken heart.  George was a poor immigrant in the late 1800s who managed to gain employment at the famous Waldorf Astoria, and later would own it and another hotel here in Pennsylvania.  It was while he was working at the Waldorf that he met Louise Kehrer and fell madly in love with her.  While vacationing in Alexandria Bay, more particularly, the Thousand Islands, he bought Hart Island, which he legally changed to Heart Island.  In 1900, he commenced building a castle there for his lovely Louise to live in.  In 1904, tragedy struck and Louise Boldt died suddenly at the young age of 41.  That same day, George sent a telegram to the island and ordered all construction to cease and all workers to leave the island.  The heartbroken George never stepped foot on Heart Island again.  He never allowed his children or their families to visit the island either.  Boldt Castle was 96% finished the day Louise died, and it would remain unfinished, too.  So great was his love for his wife, and just as great was his pain from losing her, that he could not bear to live there without her.

In 1977, the heirs of George Boldt sold the castle and Heart Island to the state of New York for $1.00 with the following conditions:  1) The castle was to be open to the public and every cent from the sale of tickets was to be put into restoring the castle, which had been vandalized over the decades it remained empty; 2) the restoration was never to go beyond 96% completion, which was the last Louise had ever seen; and 3) no one was ever allowed to live there or stay there.  To date, $38 million have been used in restoring the castle and only one and a half of the 6 floors have been fully restored.

Beginning at the top left corner and continuing clockwise, the photographs are: A view of 75% of Heart Island as seen from our hotel suite’s balcony; the Italian Garden at the rear of the castle with the castle’s power house (also a castle-like structure) in the background; the view of the castle’s main arch entrance where George imagined his guests docking their boats and visiting he and Louise at the castle–to the right is a 6 story playhouse he had designed and constructed for his children and their guests; a rear view of the castle; and, again, the arched entrance to the island.

Steve took me to the Thousand Islands for our anniversary trip, and I was instantly overtaken with the immense love George Boldt had for his wife.  I snapped over 500 photographs, and I apologize that I don’t have a closeup of the front of the castle for you, but those are on another camera card that I have not yet downloaded.

The entire time we were exploring the castle and its grounds on a self-guided tour, Steve and I discussed George and Louise.  All around us were visual signs of their love from heart-shaped flower beds to hand-carved granite benches with huge hearts carved out of the center of each bench’s backrest to the portraits of Louise to the Italian Garden with its carved granite statues.  We wondered what George would think of all the people tramping around the grounds and invading the castle.  We wondered how he would have looked upon the vandalism each room on each floor suffered from careless youths who didn’t know the story behind the castle or perhaps knew it and didn’t care.

As we sat on a magnificent porch, on a heart-shaped bench, I became weepy thinking about George and his immense love of Louise.  With all that Steve has been through this year, perhaps George’s story hit a little too close to home.  Or perhaps I’m just too softhearted and enjoy a good love story.  Maybe a little of both.  One thing I know for certain, George and Louise Boldt are now a part of my own history, and their love story reminds me to be thankful for my own love story!

Finally–so as not to leave on such a sad note–It has been my dream to own an island.  Strange dream, I know.  But ever since I learned that Raymond Burr owned his own island, I’ve wanted to own one myself.  During our stay in Alexandria Bay, we came to learn that there were 3 islands for sale.  The first one we saw had a price of $1.4 million.  The second one we saw had the hefty price tag of $5.5 million.  And the third one was selling for $80,000.  I’ll leave you with the photo of the third island, which is still swimming around in my thoughts as a possibility!

DSCN1396

It’s not the size of the house that matters, but rather the island itself that remains important to me.  <grin>

Until next time, may you be as loved as Louise!!  ❤

Boldt Castle

It’s Ladies’ Night by Valerie J. Patterson

It’s ladies’ night!  Oh what a night!

Last month I invited the ladies from the office over for a little dinner and some poker.  I expected it to be a good night.  I expected us to have a couple hours of playing cards, eating, and talking.  I expected everyone to have a good time.

I was wrong…

It was a great night!  It was several hours of non-stop laughter and shenanigans!  And everyone had a fantastic time!

I can’t wait to do it again!

Oh my!  Put five ladies in a room together, add a deck of cards, some poker chips, food, snacks, wine, and dessert [and a charming male who makes intermittent appearances throughout the evening] and you have the recipe for an exceptional evening!

We ate.  We played poker.  We ate again.  We played poker.  We ate again.  We played more poker.  We talked about everything under the sun, laughed at ourselves, discussed work for perhaps 30 seconds, and then went straight into carrying on again.

Did I mention we played poker and ate?

It’s good to get together and get away from the stress of the job, the worries of the family, and just relax and laugh and share…and be with other women who understand that we all need to escape once in a while, let our hair down, and be completely at ease being who we are individually.

The time passed so quickly that evening, but oh my how fun it was to be there in the midst of it all as one of the gals!

Until next time, may you gather your friends together, laugh until the cows come home, and play a little poker!

Give Me A Hammer! by Valerie J. Patterson

I need a really big hammer–but not so big that I can’t lift it!  Must have a smooth, flat surface and be easy to swing with near-perfect accuracy.  I’m thinking I need Thor’s hammer!  Or perhaps Thor and his hammer!

You may be wondering why I would need such a hammer.  Have you ever heard of the video game Whack A Mole?  That’s why I need such a hammer.

You see, there seems to be a family of moles residing in my beautiful backyard.  I mean, it has to be an entire family, right?  Everywhere you walk there are holes evidencing their intricate subsurface tunnel system.  Everywhere you walk there is loose earth that gives way beneath your feet so that you sink into the lawn.

They’ve taken to tunneling beneath my beautiful stone patio and are leaving mounds of earth behind causing the stones to rock and shift.  They’re tunneling–apparently they’re very hungry while digging tunnels–and they’re eating healthy plants along the way because two of my Azalea bushes have bit the dust.  Among the other plant casualties is one of my thickest grape vines that they’ve managed to eat through and kill.  This does not make me happy.  I used to have a lovely apricot Azalea tree, too.  There are only a few remaining live branches left because they’ve eaten through the roots.

So, I need a very large hammer so that when they venture to stick their vile little heads above the surface of my once beautiful lawn I can whack them on the head!  It might sound a little drastic, but I’m frustrated and nothing else has worked!  Besides, unless you have better solutions to suggest, I can get a good workout whacking them on the head!

Until next time, I hope the only pests in your outdoor space are butterflies whose fluttering wings add grace and beauty to your world!

PS…no moles were harmed during the writing of this blog!

I Ate Bacon and Eggs at 8 AM by Valerie J. Patterson

On April 15th that was the text my husband sent me.  Never before has such a simple sentence brought forth such varied emotion in me.  I laughed.  I cried.  I rejoiced.  And I gave thanks to my Heavenly Father.

Really?  You might be asking yourself.

Yes.  Really!

You see, he sent me that text two days post colon resection surgery.  March 22nd, Steve had a routine colonoscopy.  When the doctor came to get me in the waiting room, he very gently told me he found a tumor and believed it to be cancerous.  Immediately, my heart broke and I began to cry.  He placed his hands on my shoulders and told me not to cry, that Steve would be all right.  I asked him the survival rate and he replied, “Ninety-nine percent plus the Lord Almighty!”

Instantly, peace filled me and I believed right there that he was telling me the truth.  Steve didn’t know yet.  He was in recovery.  When he went into his room, I went in and as soon as his eyes locked with mine, the tears welled in my eyes.  How could I tell him?  How could I break this news to him?  First I had to calm down.

I drew several deep breaths, stood at his bedside and told him they’d found a tumor, but that he was going to be all right.  Steve’s dad came in and we three talked and tried to laugh.  Finally, the doctor came in and explained in more detail what he found and then he recommended a surgeon, stressing that surgery needed to be sooner rather than later.  And thus began our journey.  This blog article is not about the cancer.  It’s about the courage, the hope, the faith, the power of prayer, and the people placed on our path for this particular journey.

The Surgeon: A humble man who–upon hearing us thank him for his expertise–said, “Thank you, but I am not as good as [the man upstairs].”  When his eyes lifted Heavenward, I smiled because it was proof that God had placed him on our path.  I trusted him at first meeting.  He set us at ease as he explained exactly what would occur as well as the healing process.  He answered our many questions, and he took excellent care of my very best friend, my biggest blessing.  Just before he took Steve into surgery, he squeezed my hand and told me it would be all right.  When he came to get me in the waiting room, our eyes met, and he hit me with an enormous smile.  “It went very well.  Took a little longer than expected, but it went well.  I got everything.”  We are thankful that he is on our path.

The Oncologist:  A very sweet, very intelligent, very knowledgeable, very patient man.  He is perhaps the very first–and only doctor–to ever look at me and ask me what research I had done prior to arriving at his office.  I told him what I had read and he took the time to explain what I’d read, how it applied or didn’t apply to Steve, and then went on to not only explain his course of treatment for Steve, but also the science behind it.  He provided us with literature to back up his plan.  When he explained that Steve would not require chemo or radiation, tears sprang to my eyes because I and so many others were praying for this.  He never missed a beat.  He smiled understandingly before handing me a box of tissues.  Our journey with him has only begun, and yet I am thankful he is walking this path with us.  We’re trusting him with Steve’s health.

The Church:  Our church family has been standing in the gap from the beginning.  When there is an entire body of believers praying, miracles happen.  There is power in prayer.  Every night, Steve and I would hold hands and pray.  When two or more are gathered in His name, He is there in their midst.  There’s power between those two.  Imagine the power of hundreds of people joined in the same prayer!  Steve’s cousin’s church was praying.  Our church was praying.  Family and friends were praying.  I am so very thankful for each individual.  I am in awe of the love shown to us through prayers, cards, lawn mowing, offers of meals, hugs of support, encouraging texts, phone calls.  I cannot begin to show my appreciation.

Our Pastor:  Our pastor was with me at the hospital during the long hours of waiting while Steve was in surgery.  He was there to visit with Steve, to pray with him, to encourage him, and to bolster his faith.  He was in our driveway at the first sign of an emergency that put Steve back in the hospital for an 8-day stay.  He was only a text away.  He and his wife provided me with comfort, hugs, care, love, and encouragement.  They were the source of a smile when I needed it, too.    And their care has not ended.  I do not have words enough to express everything I’m feeling.

Our Family:  The glue that holds us together when we are facing the tough, the difficult, the heartbreaking things that life throws our way.  It’s easy to take family for granted, but truly life is too short to not tell those precious to you that you love them, value them, and appreciate what they bring to your life.

Steve’s journey will be long, but the hardest is behind us.  We are thankful.  We are grateful.  We are fully aware that we are not walking this path alone.  We are rejoicing for blessings small and great.

Like millions of people, I never wanted to hear the “C” word, but now that it’s out there, I’m genuinely thankful for the very special people who are on this journey with us.

I am thankful for proclamations like: “I ate bacon and eggs at 8 AM!”

Life got extreme, and we fell to our knees.

Until next time, may your journey be peaceful and may there be exceptional people walking it with you.

Forgive me…

For faithful friends and readers who are here looking for my blog, forgive me.  Life has become a bit extreme, and I am otherwise occupying my time.

I hope to return next month with something witty for your reading pleasure.

Until then, may your days be blessed with sunshine to warm you, the song of birds to entertain you, and family and friends to love you!!