Tag Archives: memories

The Memory Box

I suspect the majority of us have lots of photos capturing special moments from our lives, from holidays to weddings and birthdays, gardens and those magical, often funny times. I too have loads but my biggest treasure is my Memory Box. No, not my brain, but a storebox full of those other mementos and keepsakes. In here is a collection of my life, the good and the bad. I was rifling through this yesterday in search of an item particularly pertinent to today, the third of September.

2016-09-03 11.16.01From the hospital record of my pregnancy to the order of service for my grandmother’s funeral plus sadly, many other relatives and dear friends who are no longer with us. The majority are reminders of much happier times.

A serviette and silver cake decoration from my sister’s wedding. Cards and gift tags and luck horseshoe from mine. Special cards, leaving cards, get well cards, Xmas cards; a letter of commendation from the police; letters from my mother (we used to exchange letters to keep in touch years ago because I never had a telephone), postcards, travel guides, theatre tickets and programmes, press cuttings, a video of the quiz show I took part in on television. The cork from a bottle of champagne enjoyed on my honeymoon and an envelope of first day cover stamps from Australia filled with other stamps from around the world. My daughter’s last school report, a Christmas folder she made at school. Wedding invitations. Thank you letters and cards.

So many things to ponder over and recall fondly and wonder where all the years have gone. In sorting through the box I quickly came to realise I need another box just for the kept special birthday and Christmas cards alone. One birthday card is extra-special – one that means the whole world and a rarity – one from my husband (he doesn’t do birthday cards so this was indeed so full of meaning and love!).

And there I was four hours later, still looking at all these things, opening folded letters from friends not read for a long time, the change of address notes. A complete set of decimal coins I won in a competition, and of set pre-decimal coins all dated the year I was born.  Finally, at the bottom of the box, I found what I was looking for: several ringlets of my daughter’s hair from the first time she had it cut. She must have been 4 years old. Her beautiful mane that would curl up into soft ringlets when it was washed, I loved to twine it in my fingers. Sadly, after that first cut it went straight, and has remained so ever since. Such a shame.

But why were the ringlets pertinent to today. Well, today is my daughter’s 46th birthday. It seems like only yesterday when she arrived in this world, a tiny copper-haired bundle of life the relied on me totally for her survival. She and I have come a long way since that day. There’s been good times, dark times and funny times and, with good fortune and care, there will be lots more birthdays to come. Happy Birthday, Katie.

And time to pack the Memory Box away for the moment.

I definitely need a larger box.

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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!

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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!

Wedding Report

I’m back from my trip to Texas for my cousin’s son’s wedding. It was a great time but I came home to two cases that caused me a lot of stress. Grr. It makes me mad that I can’t seem to have a minute without some crazy lawyer getting spun up and filing junk while I’m gone. It’s a conspiracy, I tell you!

The bride and groom are an awesome, fun-loving couple and we had so much fun, it should be illegal. LOL.  Now, don’t get me wrong- nothing against the law was done but their friends sure do party hard. A few times, I found myself wondering if these people were really almost 30. They were having a ball but I have no idea how they were going to feel the next day.

The rehearsal dinner was fab. It was at a place called Vincent’s in downtown Houston. It was Italian and I had to very best filet I’ve ever  had in my life. It was done to perfection and so very, very tender. *swoon*

The wedding was gorgeous. It took place at a renovated horse farm in Tomball, Texas. The ceremony was outside at a replica cantina and the reception was in the renovated barn. The bathroom area was made from some of the old stalls. Super cute.

During the ceremony, the bride’s veil came off and she called out, “Man down.” We all laughed as her mom and a bridesmaid fixed it. When she was set, she said, “Time in.” I love, love how she didn’t even hesitate and was so comfortable being herself in that environment.

The cutting of the groom’s cake was also amusing. The bride and groom pretended it was super difficult. So funny. They are going to have a wonderful marriage full of love and laughter, I know  it.

Here’s a few pictures: including the “man down” one. 465396400417436437440

Funeral For A Friend by Valerie J. Patterson

Saying goodbye is never an easy thing, even when you know the other person is going away.  Moving across the country.  Taking a new path in life.  Getting married.  Going into the military.  In those cases there’s the possibility of a reunion.  But saying goodbye after the person has gone is even more difficult.  There’s no hug goodbye.  No opportunity to reaffirm your love for them.  No parting words.

November 13th, my Aunt Sis–my dad’s only sibling–passed from this life completely on her own terms.  As you might recall, 4 years ago I took over her care due to the increasing complications of Alzheimer’s disease.  I moved her from her home in Pittsburgh to an assisted living residence a few blocks from my home.  Over the course of the ensuing 4 years I watched this horrible disease rob her of her mobility, her vocabulary, her ability to feed herself, her memories, and her vitality.  I watched her lose her taste buds, which left her unwilling to eat.  I watched her drop weight rapidly and–ultimately–I watched her lose her ability to remember me.

Alzheimer’s may have robbed her of everything we hold dear in life, but her death was on her own terms.  November 13th was a Friday.  I was at the office.  By all accounts, she was having a great day.  She’d eaten a good breakfast.  She spent the morning joking with the staff and giving them a “hard time”.  She ate a good lunch and was in her recliner in the living room.  The aide that was with her after lunch walked away to help another resident.  When she came back, she said Kay looked a little odd.  She knelt down to listen to her heart and actually heard my aunt draw her last breath a few minutes before two o’clock that afternoon.

The director of the residence called me at the office and very gently broke the news to me.  I remember staring out the window beside my desk and the tears springing to my eyes.  I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye.  No opportunity to once more affirm how much I loved her.  No chance to tell her how much I would miss her.  As I left the office and drove to the residence I thought about her final day.  Instead of it being filled with pain, it was filled with laughter.  Instead of being unable to get out of bed, she was sitting in her recliner having eaten both a good breakfast and a good lunch.  Instead of being alone when she died, she was with people who genuinely cared about her and treated her as a member of their own families.

Instead of having an illness that claimed her life, she died while having a great day.  She simply closed her eyes, sighed one last time, and left this life.

I have never planned a funeral, but suddenly, I found myself planning hers.  She was not one to discuss death–especially her own.  She told me the funeral home where she wanted her viewing to be held, and she told me she wanted a Mass of Christian Burial at the Catholic church she attended.  I shopped for everything from her final outfit to the casket.  Every decision I made, I made with her in mind, answering questions like: What would she want to wear?  What kind of flowers would she want.  What scripture reading would she want?  What hymns would she like?  What kind of casket would she pick out?  With every decision, I wanted to honor her and the life she lived.

My aunt was an amazingly creative individual.  She was incredibly talented and she had a workshop most men would be envious of.  She used power tools, multiple types of power saws, and tools that had odd names that only carpenters knew what they were for.  She could make anything out of wood, and she did.  If you showed her a picture in a magazine and said you thought you would like that, she recreated it and gifted it to you.  Did I mention she was amazing?

When the funeral director, Sandy, took my husband and I into the casket room, my knees grew weak and my throat tightened up, and I bit the inside of my cheek to prevent the tears from flowing again.  I admit to tuning out Sandy as she explained about the vaults and the caskets, which lined the walls of the room.  I looked at all the options and I wondered silently which one Aunt Sis would prefer.  I made several trips past the three walls of steel caskets, looking all of them over, and over again.  I could hear my husband asking Sandy questions as I made my fourth trip around the room.  Sandy asked me if I’d decided.  Finally, I found myself at the wall of hand-carved wooden caskets.  In front of me was a hand-carved casket of solid cherry.  I felt Steve beside me.  He hugged me and said, “It’s her.  She would appreciate the craftsmanship,  the carved corners, and the intricate and ornate scroll work.  It’s the perfect tribute to what she loved to do.”

As for me, it was almost as if she’d led me to that wall of caskets and nudged me toward that one of solid cherry.  In fact, through the entire process it was as if she was right there leading me.  Like my Mom and Dad, she was a huge influence in my life.  When we were together, we always laughed like we shared a special secret.  Planning her funeral was one of the hardest things to do because it wasn’t just for my Aunt Sis, it was a funeral for a friend.

I have realized that there was no need to affirm that I loved her, she knew it just I know she loved me just as dearly.  Even though there was no opportunity to verbally tell her goodbye, I’m so thankful that her final day was a good day and that her passing was as peaceful as could be.  And on her own terms.  In spite of all that Alzheimer’s robbed from her, she was victorious in not allowing it to claim her life.

Until next time, I hope your days are filled with love…and that they’re great!

The Art of Baking by Valerie J. Patterson

Tis the season, which means shopping, decorating, and loads of baking!  I used to have time to bake.  I’m not entirely certain when that changed or even HOW that changed, but each Christmas I bake less and less.

When my nieces were younger, my sister and her daughters would come to our house on Christmas Eve and we would spend the day baking and the evening eating and chatting and laughing and opening gifts.  When it came time for them to head home, they had a wide assortment of baked goodies to take home with them, and we all had a host of new memories!

This year, I contemplated baking Christmas cookies, but had the task all to myself.  My sisters are grandmas now, and are enjoying all of the experiences having grandkids at Christmastime brings.  I didn’t feel much like dragging out all of the old recipes.  Too many cookies for two people.  Too much time as well.  One evening, I was scanning through my newsfeed on social media and stumbled across the most amazing cookie recipe.

I say amazing because it has 3 ingredients!

Yep, I said THREE!

So, on the way home from work last Friday I stopped and picked up enough ingredients to make 2 batches of cookies.  I mixed one up on Saturday morning and was amazed at the ease, the appearance of the baked product, and the flavor!

Here’s the recipe:

Cool Whip Cookies  [yes, it reads COOL WHIP]

1 box of cake mix [any flavor]

1 eight-ounce tub of Cool Whip [whipped cream]

1 egg.

Preparation:  Add powdered cake mix to mixing bowl.  Add one egg–yoke broken–and Cool Whip.  Fold gently to incorporate cake mix into cool whip, then mix thoroughly.  Drop by teaspoonfuls into confectioners sugar and coat evenly.  Place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes depending upon your oven.  For larger cookies, drop by tablespoonfuls.

Enjoy!

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I have made devils food cookies and orange cookies.  Up next are spice cake cookies.

Until next time, may your home be full of family and friends, may your greatest gift be love, and may your Christmas be blessed!

I’m Late! I’m Late for a Very Important Date! by Valerie J. Patterson

Good Saturday morning to you!  As you can tell by the title, I’m late…with this blog article!  Thursday evening as I began to head here to type in my article, the Internet went out and stayed out until sometime Friday afternoon.  Friday evening–after a stressful week–I couldn’t muster the energy to type in my article.  Very sorry if you came and saw NOTHING from me!

The article I was going to post will wait for another day.  Instead, I’ve been inspired by my laziness to offer up something thought-provoking and perhaps memory-recalling!

Last month, Steve and I took our annual wedding anniversary trip, which was quite lovely, very relaxing, and extremely revitalizing!  As is our normal habit, we take one route to our destination and another route back home.  It was on the route back home that brought the only sad note to the entire trip.

While I was growing up, my family practically spent the entire summer camping/living in a very rustic, deep in the heart of nature resort in Deep Creek, Maryland.  Those summers were some of the best times of my youth.  Every trip, we stopped at a restaurant called the Lone Star.   We were such regulars, the waitresses would recite our beverages as we were seated at a table!  This place had the best fried chicken!

There was nothing special about the place.  It was a large diner along the highway, but the food was good, affordable, and the place was clean, the waitresses friendly, and it was a staple in our summer lives.

It’s been years since I last ate there.  In fact, I don’t think I could tell you when it was that I was last a patron there, but in my mind, it remained the same: same waitresses, same food, same decor.  That is until Steve and I happened to pass it on our way home from vacation.  We passed it and my eyes flew to the giant FOR SALE sign in the parking lot.

I made Steve turn around and go back.  I snapped a few pictures, sighed some heavy sighs, and shed a tear or two.  It sounds silly, I know, but my life has changed so much since the death of my dad that I simply wasn’t prepared to see one more casualty of my childhood.

Life is meant to be ever changing as opposed to stagnant.  It’s meant to be a journey of new places, people, and memories created.  You’re intended to go through it as an ever changing being as well.  However, as we age and lose people in our lives it sometimes becomes difficult to let go of “things” that remind us of simpler times or loved ones.

As I said, it’s not like I frequented the Lone Star, but the loss of it means I can never go back!  Perhaps this is also a good thing.  Everything changes with time.  Perhaps being able to go back…and actually going back…would have been harder.  New waitresses.  New menu items.  New cook.  New tastes.

There’s a saying that you can’t go back home again.  I think this is true.  I think it’s a bittersweet “good” thing that you can’t go back.  Not being able to go back keeps our memories pristine and unchanged by time.  While it is hard to let go of the past–be it people, places, or objects–let go we must.

Until next time, as the weather turns cooler, may you have many memories to wrap around you and leave you with a warmth that touches your heart!