How the Good Times Rolled!

Steamboatin (2)
Rollin’ on the Mississippi Queen

This would have been my love of a lifetime’s 89th birthday: July 16. Didn’t happen, sorry to say. But his being seven years deceased in no way dims the good memories—vibrant as ever and worth the telling. He made his musician/teaching mark professionally, but for me, all the best days of our fifty-eight married years—and the five years leading up to that momentous occasion—made a personal mark. I can picture Frank up front on the H.S. band’s lead bus headed for Disney World announcing ,“Let the good times roll!” And did they ever! Time after time.

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Bird’s eye viewers

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When we had reached retirement age and opportunity and had saved enough of what we’d earned, travelling became one of our favorite things to do. Besides enjoying the Maritime Provinces twice, a Rocky Mt. Railway cross-Canada plus two Australia/New Zealand treks made indelible photos-in-the-mind. And then we fell under the spell of several escorted Discovery tours with Grand Circle Travel—on River Boats of such names as M.S. Harmony and M.S. Melody. We basked in delight on all of the major European rivers

But in between, we fancied (“cottoned to,” in the vernacular) Steamboatin’. I’m thinking we didn’t miss a navigable river in all of the USA. We loved the onshore excursions, too, anticipating the two black ladies sitting on the side hill whenever we tied up at Natchez. We knew they’d be set up and waiting for passengers who couldn’t pass up buying a bag of their yummy pralines. We always did.

Of our ten Steamboatin’ jaunts –some just prior to Christmas—some from three days to a week—the good times rolled for us aboard The Mississippi Queen.

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Teddy’s not alone; I still wear T-shirts from places we loved

I’m thinking 2008 may have been our last such trip on the paddle wheeler. We took everything in stride including the Captain’s Welcome Reception and his fresh bouquet for our stateroom. We tolerated twin beds. Barely. On the last night aboard, we accepted the resident photographer’s photo-op on our way to first seating dinner.

Both sporting earlier trip’s SteamBoatique purchases —mine a satin scarf and Frank’s, a tie—keepers.

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Dinner Time

After dinner, on impulse, I pulled the bright red carnation from our bouquet and secured it in my hair—just for fun. Proceeding into the Grand Saloon for the always grand and memorable musical show, I got a lot of attention from ladies who claimed they wished they’d thought of it, themselves. Post second show time we relaxed in posh chairs while the in-house band played for dancing. My talented husband was welcomed by the band guys, as always, and invited to sit in when they (and the bassist) took a break. Our table mates were impressed. So was I.

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Then came the moment when I almost regretted all the married years when my spouse was out there playing for other folks to dance the night away. I had never really learned to dance because I never would have said yes to anyone else who might have asked from age 18 on.

“Come on, Skeet, this is the last slow one in their last set,” my trusting mate whispers and offers his signature engaging smile. And his warm loving hand.

“Well, you know I’ll probably step all over your feet. And embarrass you,” I say, letting him lead me onto the dance floor.

“You won’t.”

“Won’t what? Step on your feet?”

“You won’t embarrass me.”

What a sweetheart!

And what a life of good times all rolled together. The phrase “Happy Birthday!” seems to me a meaningless phrase to offer the dear deceased. But I’m still living; the memories are forever here and now. I’ll happily roll with that.

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Last photo of Frank taken two weeks before his unexpected demise in 2009

An Over-the-top Day

It didn’t start out as planned. Last night I had set out what I’d wear to appointments today. But sleep came late–or  should I say early? 6 A.M. was both since my dental appointment was for 9:40 and my eyes never opened till 9:20 when my bladder said “GO!”  I went. I flew.  I pulled on black pants. Oops! I pulled them back off and switched to the navy blue  that was to go with my green and navy top. A minute wasted. Short version: I power-walked and was in  the waiting area two minutes  early. Good!  After a 10-minute wait, my little cavity was filled–no dreaded conflict over maybe having to refuse a numbing swab. I was only $96 poorer and home by  10:10. Good!

Off to the Primary Care facility in the rain, dreading traffic tie-ups for bridge repair work which began yesterday and will continue into August. I ‘ve been getting finger-stick blood tests often since lately hit with Atrial Fibrillation.  With careful monitoring, inching toward the right dosage of blood thinner. Well, today’s technician was faster, caused less pain, and admired my “Forever Love” ring with it’s yellow gold, rose gold edges, sterling silver and rosy stylized hearts. Today’s results? “Doing fine,” said the doctor, “See you in 4 weeks.” Good! By driving the long way around through a neighboring town, not one traffic hitch. Good!

Having eaten no breakfast, lunch in town seemed diabetic-wise. Chicken ‘n’ waffles, the day’s special. Silky smooth gravy salted sparingly, tender chicken, tasty green peas, fluffy mashed potatoes and  thick fresh waffles. The yummiest ever. Good!

With a sense of apprehension, I stopped off at the mall, Reward Coupon in hand and two receipts from a shopping-gift spree two days ago. I kind of expected a “no.” As cheerfully as could be, the customer service woman went through the long list, handed me back new receipts with the 15% off on my department store credit card. Good! I was so elated I shopped and shopped. For myself. Found exactly the shirt and tank tops I was looking for to compliment the lovely lavender-stone bracelet, mother’s day gift from my older daughter. I saved lots with that same 15% off coupon. Good!   Exiting the store, I held the door  from shutting on  a youngish man and he politely said “Thanks.” Good!

0513151443aOne last stop: the pharmacy drop-off. As a reminder to pick it up later, I marked my desk calendar with a colorful little pill bottle sticker, Mothers’ Day gift from my younger daughter. Good!  Never really got wet in today’s spritzy walking and driving. Discovered several  spring flowers had bloomed overnight in my gardens with more than one making a bright splash. Good!

And the sun came out.

 

 

 

LIFE’S COLORFUL REWARDS

A visitor with time on my hands for a week, pondering how to start in words, my attention is drawn to the back yard. A  gray and white cat just sauntered past the atrium, apparently seeing nothing of particular interest–not even squirrels and birds.Dozens and dozens of North American songbirds fly on and off ignoring the feline passer-by and I look up from my tablet in time to catch the brilliant male cardinal decorating one of several glass-domed bird feeders, He has come not to eat, but  to be seen. I am reminded of a special moment last week in my own back yard–minus bird feeders–when the neighborhood/resident redbird freshened up briefly in my mock-orange-sheltered birdbath. I never catch him or his mate on camera, ‘tho I’ve tried. My cooperative, surprising and amusing substitute for the real thing popped into my view from the window over my kitchen sink like “Yoo hoo! Look at me!”  One late-blooming cardinal-red gladiola peeked between mounds of snow-white clematis vines. This photo’s sure to grace my 2014 Flower Photo book

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                                              Surprise!                      .

 Some of my garden beauties provide perpetual pleasure for me year after year for having found friendly soil. My younger son, Michael, birthed my patio garden in the same years as my older daughter, Elizabeth (Beth) birthed her girl-child, Laura. So now, twenty-seven years in October, Candytuft, Nicotiana, and Cleome have flourished wherever their dried brown seeds have fallen. And guests with envelopes of take-home seeds will propogate the pleasure. Hopefully, they too, will enjoy perfect evenings when subtle breezes at dusk will carry the spicy-sweet perfume to other happy, non-allergic noses.

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Nicotiana

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Cleome

Always the lavender Fall Crocus shoots up when I’ve given up staring at its location in anticipation. I planted the original–a resident squirrel relocated a bulb to make twin bouquets. I have yet to see the newer white ones, Maybe a critter had them for a treat. I can’t ever anticipate either color like the early spring lovlies, for the unique, huge Fall Crocuses have no leaves.

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Original version

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Squirrel twin version

One of my favorite seasons, fall, is definitely in the air, but my patio pots have not yet felt the message. And already, while still watering and admiring the riotous blossoms, I pluck the drying seeds, tuck them back into the pots, and THINK SPRING! Works for me. Yes, my mantra’s HOPE SPRINGS ETERNAL, but I’m not averse to helping HOPE while saving the green ($).

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The dainty contrast to petunias–name does not trip lightly over my tongue. I found Calibrachoa typed on a plastic pick in last summer’s pot.

In spite of feeling another major family loss this fall, life goes on. I’m thinking if we fail to “stop and smell the roses,” we will lose out on the life we have. And miss its simple, colorful day-to-day rewards. Catching Tuesday’s colorful farewell in these 65-mile-per-hour smart phone shots put a song in my heart. Carpe diem!  It’s all we can count on.

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Old Glory-like “. . . spacious skies”

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“Three cheers for the red,white, & blue. . .”

Spring? My word! It’s here!

Yes, I start my welcome to spring mentality well ahead of the calendar date. Fall of 2012 saw me planting a whole lot of anticipation for the debut of the current season. It’s a wonder I haven’t looked the new bulb shoots right into the ground. Initially it appeared as if all I had to show for my backbreaking labor were HOLES. The ones I had dug in preparation for new tulips, crocuses, and dozen of other newbies from the Dutch collections. I could just picture the year-round resident rodents eating fresh green dollar bills. A BIG pile of them. To my delight, and despite the feasting–free to the squirrels–green shoots continue to poke up between the snows–a couple in the past three days.

It was not a harsh winter, but no matter, my patience had taken leave early. Imagine my shock and awe at seeing a cluster of purple blossoms–weeks ahead of March.  A new variety to me, blossoms daintier in size and resembling a bouquet.

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Even with the snows melting–again–the giant crocus alongside my driveway have not yet surfaced. But as the inspiration for my first, ever, nationally published work for pre-school/kindergarten children, here I share my 6-line ACTION TIME featured poem which appeared in the March 1998 Turtle magazine as a 2-page spread whimsically illustrated in full color.

SPRING SECRETS

by

Mariam Davis Pineno

______________

Whoever would know

That buried in snow

Lie secrets to make a heart sing?

Yellow, purple, and white–

My, oh, my, what a sight

Are the pop-up flowers of spring.

I never get tired of unearthing that issue of Turtle and seeing how beautifully the poem and the artist’s illustration worked together. Over 300,000 subscribers read my work, I received ten “contributor copies” (at $1.25, each) and a $45 check which I copied to frame and hang beside my computer desk. When shortly afterward I happened onto a teapot with matching cup and saucer, you can see why I couldn’t resist that $60 permanent porcelain reminder of my arrival as a children’s author.

I’ll save my second Turtle poem for a blog in April, the month (same year) in which it was published. What’s not to love about ducklings and puddles–JUST for FUN?

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Oh, My! My INSPIRATION’s Crushed

My blog writing has splattered to a stop. My fingers have refused to pick up a pen I’d use for long-hand drafts. And herein I’m giving away behind the scene secrets of my writing style. Tablet and pen, first. Always.

Spontaneous is NOT me. I avoid the keyboard right to the end. Whatever might appear off-the-cuff will have rattled around loosely in my head for days, weeks, or months before I give my words permission to go to type–finally.

This short essay came to me quite by chance. Actually, by accident, for my small inspiration was a gift of a fellow flower lover (longtime friend) and resembled a goose egg in size and shape. My little garden enhancement, edge-etched to look like a turtle, featured what appeared to be etched in stone one simple word: I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N. And unwittingly, I crushed it. I wish it could be replaced but I’m not optimistic.

Alas, the fate of a Pennsylvania winter–the snow, ice, and freezing rains–I had ignored. All of the above had repeatedly covered a couple of abandoned summer flower patio pots whose latent seeds often reward me in spring or early summer even for having been so neglected. My “stone” had been carelessly and unceremoniously set atop the dead foliage. I didn’t see it so at the time for appearances can be deceptive.

Imagine my shock and horror the day my bare hand shot out to remove the ice crust and came up with one gushy gray glob. Too late for my ill-timed rescue!

All that remains (SEE PHOTO) are the letters I-R amidst a sad pile of plaster-of-Paris.

May Inspiration rest in peace. Reincarnation, welcome.

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Here lies my I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N with nothing showing but the middle I-R.

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My original, hand-crafted Leaf-‘crete piece (real concrete) will never, ever, leave the safety of the inside of my house.

My Snowy Day Warm-up

What do you do when you’ve shoveled the walks front and back and you aren’t expecting anyone but the mail carrier? You won’t be driving anywhere today. You going to just sit there and read?

Not today. Write? Maybe. But first I’ll make an inordinate number of trips between the best window and door views–taking photos again–repeating myself in awe-filled tones on how light and easy the frozen raindrop pebbles were scraped and tossed. “Just like granulated sugar,” I’ll say. Again.

Then as predictably as snowfalls beautify our northeastern landscape in January, I’ll start to bake. Or cook. But no Chef–like The Ranting Amateur whose postings I admire — I may try something I fancied on a recent magazine cover. I’m thinking I’ll make Anadama bread in all its molasses glory another snowy day before spring. That Betty Crocker Cookbook (first edition–1950) recipe, brown finger smudges and all, isn’t going anywhere.

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Yes. On the first snowfall of the weekend I’m thinking soup. I set oven temp at 425 degrees and start cutting into 1-inch cubes the butternut squash I brought home weeks ago with good intentions. Softer now, cutting 1/2 to 1-inch discs across the solid end is a snap for paring.   NOTE: Select butternut squash with smallest bulbous end for fewer seeds and fiber to discard.

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A half dozen nice-sized carrots (thinly scraped with a peeler) get cut to 1-inch pieces and tossed in a big bowl with a half dozen (if small) whole garlic cloves and a sliced medium onion. 2 tbsp of olive oil and a scant shake of salt and pepper (to taste) will coat the tossed vegetables. On a cookie sheet, turn all with spatula halfway through 30 minutes in oven.
I set timer for two 15-minute segments so I can’t forget.

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In 3-4 batches (depending on food processor capacity, puree vegetables along with the 4 cups of chicken stock. Mine was pretty and more textured (just the way I like it) with bits and pieces of the two shades of orange. Rather than sweeten with the whole TBSP of brown sugar, as in the original recipe, I pared and microwaved 2 smallish Gala apples in 1 tsp water  4-5 minutes while vegetables were baking, pureeing together.
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When bringing soup to simmer for serving, add 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar and 1/4 tsp nutmeg to the pot. (panini croutons optional)

I have two lovely Pfaltzgraff tureens–one gray, one blue. But my smaller ceramic pumpkin was the perfect size for about 9 one-cup servings. Perfect color to warm up my snowy day!

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Sled Days’ Memories (a personal poem)

December 24, 2000 saw this poem and a photo in the old newspaper style GRIT. I received a check for my submission, but it is still my poem–my property–so with our second 4-inch snowfall of the season in north-central PA–pretty much within the space of a week, here’s a glimpse of days when the whole winter was a kid’s wonderland. This sled has decorated the kitchen entry for  more years than the poem has existed, but I offer full disclosure here even tho it makes me sound a tad daffy. When my late husband, at my request, hauled the sled down from storage in the garage rafters, I actually asked him if it was the sled my sister Barb and I had shared as kids. “No, it’s my old sled,” is what he said. Ha!  I should have known when I saw how very precisely and neatly the rope had been wrapped for storing. So like my Frank. The Flyer style had fooled me into hoping it could have been something saved from my own youth. It did, however, inspire the poem:

SLED DAYS
by
Mariam Davis Pineno

I fear to ride or slide for spills,

but well remember when

we’d glide on Flyers down slick hills

and drag them up again.

I mostly sat, a scaredy-cat,

for fear I’d smash my face.

But others belly-flopped (kersplat!)

and won most every race.

In half an hour with dripping nose,

while sobbing I fought the pain

of frostbit fingers and tingly toes

that forced me home again.

Big sister walked me to the door.

Hers was a heart of gold.

I never understood, for sure,

how she withstood such cold.

Our old Heatrola’s coal and wood

fired off an awesome heat.

I pulled as close as ever I could

with my bunny-slippered feet.

Then, just as soon as clothes were dry

I’d beg to go again.

And Mom, ‘tho patient, wondered why?

Well, I felt fine by then.

Now if I rode that sled today,

no telling where I’d land.

But fair to say, I’d rue the day

but for a helping hand.

SledDaytime                  SledNightime