A Palm Sunday Snow Day

Palm Sunday was always one of my favorite days; I loved receiving the beautifully flexible palm frond; I had absolutely no trouble believing it was indeed as much a biblical treasure as that day’s communion.  What a lovely hand-held item to commemorate such a glorious day in the church!  We’d walk home with Mom, enjoying the sunny warmth and slightly overheated by the time we entered the house.  Anxious to place the new palm frond behind our own crucifix, we’d quickly change clothes so we could dig into the salami, cheese and bread Daddy had spread out in their original deli wraps on the breakfast nook table for him and the Mechanic to enjoy over a highball…

Decades later, here I am in the Midwest at FrogHaven and it is snowing today.  I am no longer a church regular so I am home bonding with my crock pot.  Weird…and getting weirder.  It’s supposed to be spring, yet today we are told to expect SIX inches of snow???  Snow on Palm Sunday!  The church is probably disbursing hand- woven “shovels” instead of the tenderly-woven “crosses” that are so much a part of this mainstream…

What is it about snow that brings out the squirrel in me?

Snow in Twain Harte years ago…we would be staying another night because of the roads, so I began about the kitchen scraping and foraging for everything and anything edible…color was the key; didn’t Mom always say the more color on your plate  the more nutritious?

So, I began with what was left: butter, some broccoli, some celery and carrots, a bit of leftover anything that I could combine…I concocted what was one of the best cream of broccoli soups I ever produced – under snowfall duress, mind you – yet I never wrote down the exact ingredients or their quantities; to this day, I have failed to fully duplicate that soup.

I came close once, and my mother-in-law asked me to give her my recipe.  I did but, without the fear of being snowed in and dying an untimely death, the recipe didn’t exactly compute like the version she had tasted – that time, under in-law distress – so, even she admitted,

It just wasn’t as good as yours….

Hah! If she only knew the chef humor involved.  And why I fully understand that if any chef is offering a special anywhere I roam that day, I’d better take advantage of such a treat!  I know firsthand that I may never again have the chance of experiencing such creativity or gourmand pleasure.

Snow is still rather foreign to this native Westerner.  I love watching it fall and the cardinals and wrens are beautiful – no artist can fully capture for me the heavy hand of Snow, an equal opportunity Duster, distributing its lovely white phenomenon beauty on limbs, patio tables, and decking…  Thank you, God, that You’ve once again made light of global warming worries and put such climate change discussion on hold for another day!  I only wish my sisters were here to share the crock pot serendipity on my kitchen island.

Waste not, want not.

Repeatedly, Mom never threw out anything that was still “good”.  But she only knew soups, not casseroles, so our family kitchen beheld many course meals or soup; nothing much in between, unless Daddy was going to the Italian Club that evening with the guys.  Then, Brat and I could talk her into buying us a treat from the local market: a frozen Swanson’s Dinner!  Mom was almost apologetic as she checked out, remarking she never thought she’d purchase her children a frozen dinner of any kind…school lunches were about as close as we ever came to fast food in those days under Mom’s watchful eye and budget.  Otherwise, forget anything “new” from Kraft or Swanson’s or even Chef Boyardee…they’d have to rely for their taste-testing by someone else’s children, not hers.

Yes, history if not weather is repeating itself today for this cook; I’ve foraged and gathered up lots of colorful broths and veggies; by this time in my cooking career, I’m far better prepared and even have a bit of ham to finely dice and scatter throughout the butternut squash and cream potato base.  Limas and some corn add that bit of Mardi Gras festivity to what would otherwise be just another found meal; I’ve gathered up all the extra nutrition that comes from knowing how to combine and savor every little bit of seasoning…some ground pepper and perhaps a little bit of butter will dollop the final plate.

For sure, I’ll take out some of my squirreled-away crusty bread from the freezer…this snowy Palm Sunday calls for some carbs and comfort and a glass of wine while I work on taxes.  This chef is no fool…but surely grateful that somewhere in the woodpile a frog met up with a squirrel…and a soup pot would never be the same.


WashMO Blues

FrogHaven, 2018

It’s been two Christmases since I sent out cards; but I can assure you that your greetings hung on our shutters as in years before, helping chase the winter blues away. While there are changes both subtle and laughable and my natural look takes longer with each birthday, there are still traces of wine, women and song; kinda.  For example, Jim bakes fruit and flaxseed bread each week and I w(h)ine about having to eat it every morning… thus, a satirical refrain of a Neil Diamond hit best describes the coming Spring here at FrogHaven:


Verse One:

WashMO Blues – Earth Boxes are too heavy…

WashMO Blues – doc visits are aplenty…

Him or Me, we just can’t see until all cataracts gone….

Now we purchase Kleenex by the carton…because the pollen’s that strong,

Because the weather’s all wrong…. (Thank you, Puxatawney)

Verse Two:

WashMO Blues – lets pull out that dead willow

WashMO Blues – each night we hit the pillow

One:  Funny thing, we hear bells ring and can’t distinguish whose phone… (Oh not again)

I can sing it in the shower daily – yes, I still have a voice! YES, I still have a voice!

(Repeat Verse Two, and then jump to Finale)

Finale:  Funny thing, ya see another Spring…and we’re renewed once again!

It’s Easter! He is risen! Keep believin’! We’ve simply got no choice! (Music fades)

Love, hugs and kisses xoxox from Annette and Jim

Wabbit Watching

My Rogue and I have been walking the Riverfront Trail, a joint project of the city park system and The Washington Rotary Club.  It is a much loved, scenic path that winds along the Missouri River as it passes by Washington’s Historic Downtown Area.

We have groaned and complained upon arising each day until we step into the truck, winding our way downtown to the trail, half-filled coffee cups with cream in our hands.  Thank you, God, for coffee; especially on these early morning bonding adventures.  Most mornings we are on the trail exceptionally early; the pathway can be very dark. The humidity is climbing already; by 5:30am the temperature is anywhere between 74 and 84 degrees, depending on whether Washington will experience a triple digit day.

One meets all nature of walkers; some with pets on leashes, two friends heavily engaged in catching up from the day before, some just on their own… A few greet us; others prefer to concentrate on their own tempo and listen to their ear buds.  A bicycle passes by, with or without any warning.  It is up to us to stay to the far right side of the path.

Were we to wait until later in the day, women with grandchildren in tow inside a wagon or specially made stroller might accompany us, even passing us by when we neglected to keep a faster pace.  Children seem to flourish in this small but pristine town west of St. Louis; so, too, the elders, who take their walks along the Riverfront Trail very seriously.

Among the walkers are those who briskly pace, focusing on the aerobics of the moment.  If one sees another more than a few times, a familiarity begets a quick hello.  Sometimes, a bit of history is shared…

Did you know that it was 104 degrees fifty years ago today?

This gentleman explains that it is his fiftieth wedding anniversary.  AHA! I conclude…climate change is just another history-repeating-itself occurrence.  I congratulate the man, explaining that My Rogue and I will never make our eighteenth if he doesn’t straighten up!  The man consoles my husband, explaining that he’s survived a good number of idle threats over the years! The handsome but grayed groom continues on, walking in quick time tempo.

Others walk along as we do, stepping at a comfortable pace; it is nothing short of a miracle that My Rogue can walk the one mile course; we are not yet ready to expand our horizons and lengthen the walk to the bridge; at least, not just yet.  We have slowly become familiar with certain curves and markers along the trail.  Some mornings it is so dark, I can barely even see the rabbits unless they decide to run across the asphalt path.

Mostly, I’ve spotted the small cotton-tailed critters nibbling on the grasses among the fallen leaves; a few spot us coming and immediately dart back under the brush!  Others remain very still; had I not been wearing my glasses, I’d have passed them by; God does indeed blend the critters’ colors with their surroundings.

Rabbits with cotton tails.  No overalls, unfortunately.  Beatrix Potter surely had imagination.  I’ve not once seen Peter, nor have I seen any rabbit with a tattered blue jacket, torn in haste from escaping Mr. McGregor’s garden.  Big disappointment for this romantic but child-like observer…in fact, somewhat of a letdown, though intellectually I know I am not within a cartoonist’s cell or artist’s sketch pad…

This is about as adventurous as I get.  No Sacajawea am I. I am definitely a City Frog. I’d have told Thomas Jefferson that the existing thirteen colonies looked good enough; we need not tarry any further, Mr. President. Then, I’d have cooked him one of my fabulous dinners…that, and a late nightcap, and Voila!  America’s expansionist days would have ended.

For cheap entertainment, I begin counting the rabbits. I am joking along the way…counting and remarking to My Rogue that our morning walks now include our current position on “practicing safe sex”…we no longer kill rabbits, we just count them. My Rogue shakes his head, chuckling softly in agreement.

So, the City Frog and her Rogue continue, walking along the neatly paved trail, noting the birdsong and the trains – one, sometimes two, every morning – carrying coal or refrigerated perishables on their way toward St. Louis.  Waving to an engineer was not a possibility where I grew up.  Yes, I knew what a train looked like; I’d colored enough of them in my Southern Pacific coloring books from my godfather.  But I’d never read anything that said it was against the law to wave to an engineer. So, I continue to be the child-like one, waving to the next train as it passes by.

You are just like a kid! I can’t believe you…do you really think he cares?

Yes; I’m sure he sees and appreciates someone’s greeting along the way.

Truth be told, it’s great fun to wave and enjoy this childlike freedom…I could never be a kid; even at age four, I was a proper but little old lady.  All I could do was behave; pay attention; and follow the delineated rules of whoever’s house I was in.

The trains cannot blow their horns any longer here in our city limits; they can, however, change tracks when needed.  On occasion, we run the risk of being “stuck” on the riverside of the tracks…sitting in our Ford truck with bottom of the cup cold coffee.  I repeat:  Sacajawea passed by here long, long ago.

I turn my attention back to looking for more rabbits to count; today, I’ve seen a baker’s dozen on our walk inside the trail, along the riverfront, toward the half-mile bench.  We are on the return leg, slowly moving toward the parking lot entrance.

HeLLO, little wabbits… This is your fwend, Elmer. Come out…come OUT!

My Rogue is my best audience; I get another chuckle from him.  But it is as I suspected: even rabbits are smarter then we; the smarter ones are probably still sleeping…it’s not even 6am yet. Not another appears, much less one approaching me and asking,

What’s up, Doc?

Damn cartoons…

Gratitude Pending

When all that’s left in me is gratitude, I permit myself some moments to reflect upon the good things that My Rogue and I have enjoyed these past several months.

Of course, my perfectionist tendencies still argue within me; especially these days, when writer’s block, senior moments, and other “cutesy excuses” cover my day’s production or lack thereof…I remind myself that my purposeful attempts to achieve a good day’s work and a job well done have to go. I am still too hard on myself; not yet ready to chuck my personal standard of “best”.  I can pretend it doesn’t matter, but it does.  I am no different than others my age; I am fearful during these economic times.

Perfection’s attraction is slowly eluding me; I’m slightly overwhelmed at times (no more, no less, than in the past) but when the light finally turns on, I realize that truly the small stuff doesn’t matter.  For example, the house will always collect dust, and we live in our house, so dust and clutter are a part of it.  An old acquaintance of mine used to give her kids permission to write on the dusty surfaces of the home’s furniture.  The only caveat: they were not to date any of their scribbling!

So, I have long assured myself that the same tasks will be there tomorrow; and when I hear life calling me, I absolutely MUST join in the joyful clatter! There are sounds outside my window; souls of all ages, waving “I’m home” and looking forward to sharing some momentary chatter with other adults before sealing themselves inside to parent the little critters.  Cars arriving home after the work day will usually stop short and check the mail; the children can’t wait to spill out of the car seats and regale us with their days’ news.  This is LIFE.  We are in the midst of a neighborhood, not a senior development.  Neither My Rogue nor I want to exist apart from little critters and the stories they share.  So, before me is once again a neighborhood teaming with the routine but very precious moments that  I recognize from years before; only this time around, I am an adult “grandma type” so there is a freedom from the moment to moment responsibility…I can just watch the familiar scenes and smile.

Cautionary words – Don’t get hurt! Be careful!  The sounds of loved ones from my own childhood days resonate and come to mind.  But I bite my tongue. I don’t want to instill anything but confidence in these little critters…I am careful to laugh when they are not within ear shot.  Children are too precious a commodity to have some ignoramus neighbor offer any comment without respectful consideration; absolutely no way do I intend to purposely chisel away even a modicum of their confidence.

Perhaps my having left the rat race this past year has given me a fresh perspective in addition to a much needed rest.  Each morning’s daybreak is once again a time to begin; it’s truly another day in America.  I can choose to wallow in past defeat or expectantly score another win!  Busier souls than I have passed the new bloom in my yard; so, I breathe in summer’s last rose on their behalf.

I will permit myself a brief enjoyment of its scent before falling back into old habits, racing down the drive to another appointment – another “I’m keeping busy” moment – that serves to numb me from the underlying truths of this economy:  I am over-qualified.  I am over fifty.  I have a medical history that has been reviewed and used against me; thus far, I have been turned down several times by the same company that once paid for my doctors’ care.  In this current job market,   I fall outside the perimeters of the “hot minority”…it’s now my turn to be discriminated against by lesser students flaunting the badges of supervisory positions.  I’ve faked it from the seat of my pants before; when corporate courtesies demand yet another brave, quixotic stance, I convince myself I will once again deliver.

I finger the small piece of paper in my wallet.  I folded it carefully and marked it Gratitude before tucking it inside the coin pocket.  I even dated it.  When opened, the paper is a simple shopping list of grocery items.  My Rogue scrawled the list in his bold, confident print. Any reader can tell a few letters are actually missing from some of the names on that list. But he could read it and he returned home with every item I asked for.  This was noteworthy, especially so for a man who had suffered a stroke the previous year.

As with perfection, I must toss aside the recurring fears and convince myself that they no longer serve any purpose.  We are both on the mend and, pending our permission, gratitude will easily fill in any blanks…


Unlike our neighbors who installed electric fencing, My Rogue had neither the desire nor the intent of doing any such thing; in fact, our yard did not support any size of man’s best friend with its sloping downgrade to an ever-evolving creek or mud hole, depending on the debris that gathered each season.

No, we are not getting a dog.

I was disappointed at first; I thought for sure we should at least have something akin to a Great Dane or Greyhound type such as the one Cinderella had loved and nurtured long after her father’s death.  He was a faithful soul, continuing his allegiance to her even after she’d moved upstairs to the attic.  So, in my strong-willed, Disney-tainted mindset, I set about looking for a low maintenance breed, ideally with some stature for the size of our retirement dream home, FrogHaven.

I said no, absolutely not!

 My Rogue repeated this enough that his message was clear.  But I continued to search and – equally clearly but creatively – avoided the notion that any restriction existed…there must certainly be a way, I surmised.

When I first came across Bernie, it was love at first sight!  I had admired him for what seemed like several months; but he was forever young and retained his slightly golden aura; if not definitely a pedigree, almost certain he was a well-planned breeding between a retriever and an everyman’s hound.  No mutt was he!  Bernie’s regal carriage was solid. Legs perfectly shaped, his back at attention yet his jaw line strong but friendly… I continued my vigil-like visits, even saddling up to him enough to know that we were indeed a very good match: he seemed content with my constant attention and I was spell-bound by that “je ne sais quoi” bearing.

Because I was now the Lady of FrogHaven (again, a bit too much unbridled Disney imagination over the years), Bernie seemed absolutely the perfect choice!  I’d visit him from time to time, strolling past his place in the entry, quietly standing at attention with his sign between his teeth, bidding “WELCOME” to all who entered in.  Perhaps it was my imagination, but he seemed to catch my attention and speak to me every time I attempted to pass him by without stopping. He was the loving, warm and welcoming “big dog” contender, the one that my imaginary manor called for. What was not to love?

Absolutely nothing except his price tag, which was deemed hefty for this conservative home maker.  I had to be pragmatic.  Some months did not offer the imaginary kingdom budget that I’d dreamed of, not even here in the Midwest.  I’d have to trust that whatever home Bernie eventually guarded would be the chosen residence by the Architect whose reasoning would be far superior to my own child-like notions.

Okay, so I didn’t rescue him from a shelter. But the day came when I did indeed rescue him from the sales table of that local merchant.  So excited was I that my niece helped me load him into the passenger side of my small car; we seat-belted him in so that his ride home would give everyone a second take; a chance to smile at my statuesque golden pup!  Once home, Bernie even won over my nay saying Rogue!

For nearly eight years, Bernie stood at attention, welcoming all to FrogHaven, while ever so gracefully aging into a soft, matte gray.  At the golden age of fifty (in dog years), Bernie lost his grip and dropped his sign from his jaws; the sign landed softly on the earth but, before I could rescue it and seek repair, My Rogue tossed it away, rusted chain and all.  My Rogue believed enough was enough; Bernie had served us well…he deserved to retire there in familiar surroundings, among the Knockout Roses and the wind-swept reeds, surveying the uphill climb and the neighborhood children’s antics.

Recently, Bernie disappeared.  There were no signs of foul play or vandalism: no broken branches or disturbed planter bed; no candy wrappers or soda cans to imply that any children had absconded with him.  Nothing.   In fact, his leaving was so very quiet that we didn’t even notice he was gone until several days later, when a neighbor inquired about him.  I thought it strange, but continued toward my driveway entrance and cast my glance to where Bernie had last welcomed me home.  Alas, there stood only an empty spot midst the garden plantings.

In retrospect, it was just like Bernie; he’d never caused us any added grief or unexpected vet bills.  His nature was simply to withstand the gusts and thunderstorms that our Midwest climate offered…in addition to a few outbursts from My Rogue on occasion!   My Rogue’s behavior had prompted me to suggest I should change Bernie’s welcome sign to read,

Beware of Mr. Grumpy

But faithful Bernie would never have agreed to that, so I abandoned the project.  Certainly the children on the block would have delighted in it…

24-7 Entrepreneurial Bliss

Less any reader be misled, I truly do understand that the term 24-7 was originally coined to advertise a business or service entity’s round the clock availability to its clientele.

As a public service to other working-at-home wives, allow me to clarify for the men in our lives the normal signs of a female telecommuter after two days into her workday week.  Ladies, whether you accidentally print this snippet and place it in the bathroom library or decide to tape it onto the inside lid of the butter keeper is entirely your choosing.

This past year, I’ve struggled weekly to effectively communicate to My Rogue just what my scheduled work week is.  Granted, I call my own breaks now and then, but I still operate on a daily routine.  My original 1.3 mile commute may have ended, but in my perspective, the few steps from bedside to desk still qualify as a legitimate, gear-switching beginning of another workday, worthy of respectful quiet and even a modicum of awe for the self-motivation repeatedly displayed by one’s hardworking spouse!  But I digress…

Of COURSE I can pursue my freelance writing assignments in between the political banter and the occasional commercial blasts, Honey… it’s okay: keep the radio at Volume 12. I’ll just work around it; should my I phone ring, I can run over to the master bath, shut the pocket door and run the fan if I have to so I can hear my caller…

Who would have thought that sitting at one’s desk would imply one is focused on the task at hand? I sit at my desk and, truth be told, I don’t always type.  Sometimes I pause, waiting for the right word to come.  Sometimes the pause turns into a minute or two while the wheels slowly conjure up the desired adjective; sometimes the word never appears.   Okay, okay, so I’m just not moving, and neither are the piles of paper, but I AM still thinking…

This is not a sign that I am bored or in a stupor; nor does it suggest that I am available to look up the landscaper’s’ phone number; the same number that we should have written down in our address book several years ago when we first hired him; the very same one I look up every time and we fail to record because our address book is never on the same floor that we are.

More coffee? NO PROBLEMO; a second pot of coffee coming right up, Honey!  I used to brew a new pot mid-morning in the office; why should I consider it any trouble now? Especially when you can’t put the book down until you know who the killer was…  You know I’ve never been a feminist… (but I’m beginning to reconsider some of the finer points).

What was once the quintessential “home desk” with all the pretty keepsakes displayed like in Sunset is now completely covered with post its, stacks of incoming baskets, memos, dr. appointment cards and notes, and a few grocery ads… Like the meeting of the intercontinental railroad, the final spike connecting this woman’s prioritized tasks has been hammered securely! Home and work now collide daily on my same track. I’m wheeling and dealing the intermingling of moneyed tasks with un-moneyed tasks and piles of unfinished tasks.  WHAT paperless society???

No dear, I’m not going anywhere right now; just looking for something…

I’ve decided to take a break – I set the timer for ten minutes – should be enough time to find that old dental guard of mine if I can remember what drawer I stored it in… it can’t be lost; I paid four hundred dollars for that thing in 1985… no way would I toss that thing away; used to wear it to protect my teeth from grinding at night… THERE it is! Wonder if these things work during daylight hours?

After a 90 minute lunch break (half the time will be spent meal planning, using every little bit of leftovers in an effort to prepare something edible and enticing for us both), I’ll go back up stairs and begin again, but not before I decide to take another supplement or two to keep my energy up through the afternoon.  Drat.  The last multiple vitamin; will need to add this item to the grocery list. I return to my desk, find a pen but can’t find the list I began yesterday…could have sworn I filed it with the coupons…

I realize then that it is suddenly quiet.  The radio has been turned off.  I can hear a soft snoring coming from the bedroom.  He isn’t reading. He is napping.

Sounds like a plan…


Forty years ago, I was a new bride, determined to run a home with matching dishes, orderly towels stacked in my linen closet, and a kitchen floor that anyone could eat from, even if anything was dropped; in MY home, a 3 minute rule would apply!

It was the 70’s but I’d had one too many mentors from the 50’s…so, all things were undertaken as the wife and my area of responsibility encompassed not only the home but also  the counter clerk/bookkeeper/inventory taker/purchaser and hr dept in our ma and pa shop.  Certainly, I was never bored, as I had several priorities during the course of any week.  We had one car, so working early in the morning and late in the evening on the home front was part of my daily routine.  As with any routine, it either works or it doesn’t.  When it works, it’s great.  But when it doesn’t…

The newness of being a young married and working all day with my spouse eventually took its toll.  The business of making a living was obviously the priority in our real world; the buck stopped at our shop counter.  My cooking was doing well, but it was quickly becoming obvious my home didn’t look anything like the photos in the collection of easy to decorate articles.  I had an artistic talent for color and display, so the color schemes, while good, did not quite compare to anything even close to what was “popular” except for the wedding gifts!  Thankfully, the rest of the collection was tasteful and in great shape, as it had belonged to my in-laws; they’d gladly passed it over since they no longer had a family room.

My belief that I could pull off the Super Woman scenario was beginning to wane.   I was careful to monitor my performance against the decorator magazine cover titles of my new homemaker status.  When I first hit my wall (one of many awakenings I’d have over the years), I was already rewriting my titles for future articles in a realistic, slightly off key, self-published Mad Magazine Does Homemaking periodical; perhaps the world will be ready for it someday.

Forty years later, I am now in the entremanurial stage of my life:  sorting through the top-heavy piles on my home desk!

Calendars of medical appointments blend with business opportunities, sitting alongside the household file that holds most of the insurance payments due, half-finished shopping lists, and a few decorating and recipe sheets torn from the two periodicals that still arrive in the mailbox. Weekly, I am  essentially moving one stack of paper, photos, drafts and binders from one side of the desk to the other, onto the floor, over the ottoman’s surface, then onto the one side of the bed that remains clear when My Rogue is not napping…I believe that is enough of a visual.

On any given day I am writing for my very own website, social networking, attending business meetings, sometimes donating a half hour here and there on my  civic or non-profit duties, and employing my creative side, fine-tuning the next snippet or my “natural look” , whichever takes priority for that particular twenty-four hour segment.

I have crossed over into this frontier;  the bonding of a still working wife and a long retired husband, sharing moments of joy and elation (panic attacks are mine) midst a range of exciting opportunities for retirement living in 21st Century America.

My home’s loft is now my working headquarters, but I am  boldly going where other American women have gone before… keeping a disciplined work day’s hours in-between breaking eggs, walking on eggs, or beating eggs to bind last night’s leftovers into a piece de resistance for lunch.

When I do take a break and come up for air and an evening cocktail, I ask myself:  just what chapter did this frog in a blender miss?