Musical Musings

I’ve had my mind on Mom so much lately but I have been unable to really write…until now.

This past Easter Sunday was the first anniversary of Mom’s last day here with us.

Last week, I kept thinking about the days leading up to March 31st of last year.  There were many emotions running through my mind that week.  I felt hope, yet sadness…doubt and feelings of loss…helplessness and relief…fear and heartbreak.  Talk about some heavy parallels with the journey of the Lenten Holy Week.

So, tonight, as I was searching the internet, I remembered a song we had heard this Easter Sunday titled, “You Make Beautiful Things” by Gungor.  I listened to it again with intention.  After reading about the band and exploring a bit of their blog, it got me thinking in many directions.  Funny how that goes, right?

First, it took me to the music that my brother played in the hospital last year on March 31st.  When my husband and I walked into my mom’s room, surrounded by my whole family, it was overwhelming.  Although we talked on the phone often, I hadn’t seen Mom in months and I knew this would be the last time I would see her again.

The music playing in the background was music she had played for countless hours when I was a young kiddo.  I hadn’t heard much of any of it for decades, and yet, as soon as a song began playing, the melody and lyrics would fill my head…and comfort me.

So, tonight, I found myself playing music…for me…for Mom…for some connection to her.

I could imagine my childhood home and my mother in it, making dinner or sewing, while listening to John Michael Talbot’s Come to the Quiet album.

John Denver had me stomping my feet and remembering so many road trips from years ago, taken as a family.  I could see the pine tree forests beside us and endless highway roads before us.

I still remember my mother, and her best friend, my godmother, who lived across the alley directly behind our house, talking about Cat Steven’s album Teaser and the Firecat.  I can see them passing the album to each other and imagine them talking about his lyrics while listening to the music.  I especially remember studying the album artwork as a child, fascinated by the colors and characters.

While on the way to church this Easter Sunday, Cat Stevens came on the radio, singing “Wild World”.  Our trip in the car was a short one, but it was plenty of time to hear the whole song…as if Mom was there with us, giving us a much-needed smile and embrace.

How does music do this?  How does it deliver you to a place and time so quickly?  How does it connect you beyond face-to-face encounters?

Well, it does.  It did that for me one year ago and it did again for me tonight.  And, it will continue to be a bridge between Mom and me always.  I love you and miss you, Mom.


Happy New Year!

Say goodbye to the old and in with the old…tradition, that is.

Among the many traditions of the holiday season, one beverage was king to ring in the New Year in our household.  It still is.

Patio Punch.

Mom, or one of my siblings, would make this fruity concoction on New Year’s Eve and serve it up from our crystal punch bowl.

We spent the whole evening playing board games and card games with a glass of this deliciousness in hand. You know the glass I’m talking about.  The little punch bowl glasses that hold about 3 ounces of liquid…yeah, those.

The punch would last all night…well almost.

We’d count down the last seconds of the current year and clink our punch glasses together in celebration of the New Year.

Then, the very next night, we’d repeat the whole evening all over again…punch, board games, card games and all.

Mom and Dad were good sports to spend New Year’s Eve with us kids.

Our oldest BSF learned of Patio Punch before she was 2 years old.  It was one of the first recipes she helped me prepare.  And it left an impression.  She hadn’t even really had much juice as a beverage before Patio Punch, so after that first sip, she was hooked.

Because we had used 7-UP as our fizzy ingredient that day, and my 1 year old was just beginning to really talk at that time, Patio Punch became known as “UP” instead of Patio Punch.

To this day, the kids call Patio Punch by its new name…”UP”.

So, this year, as we ring in 2013, we will break out the “UP”, or Patio Punch, as it is known throughout my family.  It is tradition.

And I’m all about keeping the traditions alive…if you hadn’t noticed.

Oh, by the way, for the adults, a fizzy substitution of champagne or a little splash of vodka goes very nicely with a glassful of this punch.

Patio Punch

1 envelope Cherry-Flavored Kool-Aid
1 envelope Strawberry-Flavored Kool-Aid
2 cups sugar
2 quarts cold water
6-oz can frozen orange juice concentrate
6-oz can frozen lemonade concentrate
1 quart ice cubes
28-ounces ginger ale
for an adult beverage, use a combination of ginger ale and champagne
or a combination of ginger ale and vodka

Combine Kool-Aid and sugar. Add water and stir to dissolve. Add frozen concentrates. Chill until serving time. Pour over ice cubes. Pour ginger ale slowly down the side of bowl.

A little side note…

We don’t own a punch bowl.  Never have and not sure I have room for one anytime soon. Therefore, we make our glasses of Patio Punch on demand.  I mix the Kool-Aid, sugar, water and frozen concentrates in a pitcher and keep it in the refrigerator to chill.  When someone wants some Patio Punch, I add ice to a glass and fill it up a little less than halfway with the Kool-Aid mixture.  Then, I add about the same amount of Ginger Ale or 7-UP to the glass and stir.  This way, we can have fizzy punch whenever we like.

That Smile

I had a “mom look” tonight.   What is that, you ask?  Well, although I couldn’t see my reflection, I could just feel the look I was wearing.  And it had mom written all over it.

It was a long, tiring day of sick kiddos, of sick me and of dwindling energy reserves on my part.  The BSFs were in their PJs.  The youngest was already settling down for the night in bed while my husband read a book to our older BSF in the glider chair.

I found myself clumped in a slow-release…in a relaxing position at the foot of our BSF’s bed.

I closed my eyes, listening to the creative editing and funny voices my husband was using while reading the book.  A smile came upon my face.

Here it was.

Eyes closed.

Satisfied smile.

It was Mom, through and through.  It was as if I could see through her eyes while my eyes were closed.

This was that face she wore…eyes shut…gracing a satisfied smile…most often while in the company of her most beloved family and friends.

I was soaking up all of this and the tears began to stream.  My husband didn’t understand where it came from, but it was clear that something had sparked a “mom memory” in my mind.  He didn’t have to say a word.  He just knew.

And now, Mom, I really know why that look manifests.  Thank you for this gift, momma.  I love you!


No Labor on These Days

Some of my happiest, most peaceful memories as a child come from our summer vacations spent in the woods.  My mother would prepare all summer long for the various escapes to our cabin in the cool, mountain pines.

Of our many trips to the cabin, some recollections stand out more than others….

Exploring the woods, toasting marshmallows at the campfire, waking to cold, summer mornings, chasing down and counting train cars, listening to the night radio waves, playing board and card games, drinking Crush soda, eating breakfast cereal directly out of those little individual sized boxes, tuning into the sound of raindrops during afternoon showers, picking wildflowers, studying the stars in the night sky, collecting lava rocks, riding our bicycles through the red cinder rock roads to the lake, skipping rocks, riding ATVs and just soaking up the sights and smells of the forest…These are all vivid memories for me.

Our family vacation season would invariably start on Memorial Day weekend and end on Labor Day weekend.  The bookend holidays were celebrated in the nearby small town with a rodeo and a much-anticipated parade.  Throughout the years, it became tradition for us to set up a spot and watch the parade action as a family.

Here are Mom and Dad waiting for one of the parades to begin.  I love the yarn ribbons in Mom’s hair and my Dad’s big smile.

This Labor Day weekend, we have no plans to leave town.  We are spending our time with precious friends and family, celebrating the symbolic end of summer, while swimming and barbecuing.  This has been my husband’s and my tradition, even before our BSFs, and so it continues.

The only difference is that this year, we will take in the Labor Day Parade.

However you spend your Labor Day weekend, stay safe and enjoy the special memories you create.

Happy Labor Day!


Always on My Mind

Last night, my husband and I saw Willie Nelson in concert.

What an amazing show it was.

Willie is one of my Dad’s favorite musicians.  And, although I didn’t own an album of Willie Nelson’s until albums were scarcely sold and CDs were the norm, I did know more of Willie’s music than I thought I would, thanks to my Dad.  In fact, while listening to Willie last night, I couldn’t help but see and hear my Dad singing along.

Music often conjures up memories of places and times that no longer exist.  For me, that was the case last night.

When Willie sang certain songs, in fact, images of my Dad and of my childhood home flooded my mind.  I could clearly recall the cerulean blue, textured carpet in my parent’s bedroom, the silver-finished Technics stereo system that would’ve played Willie over my dad’s floorstanding speakers, the morning sunlight streaming into their bedroom, the matching bedroom furniture set, the quirky, brass, half-moon shaped closet door pulls and the ham radio equipment in the corner.

I got lost in the music and the night. We’ve talked about seeing Willie for a long time now. Pardon the pun, but the idea has always been on my mind. I’m so glad we made it happen.

I just wish Dad could’ve been there to see Willie with us, too.

Summer Heat Treat

Remember the Kool-Aid man?  Ok.  I know I’m dating myself, but when I was little and I’d see him on a TV commercial crashing through the walls of a roller rink or busting through a tall fence at the park, I’d feel the urge to hop up and make a pitcher of that liquid deliciousness.  That is if I wasn’t already drinking a tall, cool glass of it. The Kool-Aid Man was true marketing genius.  ”Oh Yeaahh”.

As kids, the summer meant playing and working outside in the brutal heat.  Despite the dry heat that made the triple digits somewhat bearable, nothing quenched a big thirst after delivering all of those afternoon newspapers on my bicycle than Kool-Aid.  The thought of cold, sweet, fruity Kool-Aid waiting in the fridge helped me through the roughest and longest parts of the paper route.  Since, Kool-Aid was easy to make, easy to share with the masses, and economical, it was a hit with our big family.

In the new millennium, I feel guilty even making a pitcher of sugary Kool-Aid for my BSFs. I mean, it has no nutritional value.  It is just plain tasty. One serving has 25 grams of sugar. That IS less sugar than a serving of M&Ms, but not much less. Still, as with everything, moderation is key. I mean, it isn’t as if they are drinking all 2 quarts of the beverage in a day. Well, I’m sure at least one brother of mine might have drank all 2 quarts of it in one sitting…once…or twice. Somehow, he survived, none the worse. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t done that recently. I’ll have to call him up and ask, though, just to be sure.

Then, I began to remember the days when we made popsicles out of Kool-Aid.  Now, that sounded like fun!

Making popsicles out of Kool-Aid is an easy way to keep the serving size smaller (often 1/3 of a regular serving). Plus, how much of the popsicle ends up in a mouth? In my experience, most of it melts down my hands or breaks off onto the ground before I even finish it.

So, after I had finally rationalized that Kool-Aid popsicles wouldn’t turn my BSFs into stark, raving lunatics, I picked up a packet at the grocery store. Serendipitously, I found a popsicle mold that would fit in my super-crammed freezer. Woohoo!

The popsicles are freezing in the icebox right now. I can’t wait to sit outside with the BSFs and let the popsicles drip all over our hands on this warm, first day of summer.