Remembering

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Greetings from Pella, Iowa, town of all things windmills, tasty pastry, deluxe sausage (think Slim Jim, only AMAZING), and window manufacturing. How I loved the old buildings and their charming fronts. My cute, best-ever travel companions, Greg and Juniper! She donned an insect repellent bandanna for much of our trip, as the Mid-West bug situation is next level. I still have remains from quarter inch welts (mosquito?), which I used to think only existed in the world of movies. How disappointing to be so very wrong, dear peeps.

I failed to fill the big shoes but still had quite a lot of fun!

Pella has the cutest downtown, chock full of Dutch inspired architecture spanning the ages. The rightmost building in the above photo, holding the Jaarsma Bakery, was one of our prime destinations. In addition to baked goods, they sell all manner of fun Dutch goods: candies, shoes of wood and ceramic, ornaments galore. I was a stellar customer, buying many gifts in addition to Dutch Letters, a crazy good apple pastry, and a couple varieties of cookie. Ulrich Meat market was our first and best source of the beef meat sticks, partaking in a bacon jalapeno and smoked gouda. So good!

My friend Bob recommended super cute Dutch Fix, and it did not disappoint! Frisian Fries (like poutine, but with a spiced gravy), and a Gouda Burger. And fear not, the two of us shared them. It was vacation, and we ate A LOT, but those huge portions would have been madness!

Pella’s Klokkenspel rings out with figurines a couple of times a day. Cute, but not half as exciting as it sounds.

And now, the sweet town square of Oskaloosa, just a bit down the road from Pella.

Oskaloosa is in Mahaska County, and this statue depicts the Iowan Chief for whom the county was named.

Oskaloosa City Hall

Oskaloosa Public Library

Inside the Smokey Row Coffee House. They’ve converted an old department store, filled with every manner of sign found in the town, including this dazzler of a movie marquee. I highly recommend both the coffee and the sweet service. I chatted up a kindly woman from St. Louis, attending William Penn college on a volleyball scholarship. How intimate and inviting the world becomes in situations like these.

Quaker Friends Meeting House

Amos Briggs & Edith McCracken Briggs

And now the reason for our visit to this tiny town. My Great-Great Grandparents Amos and Edith lived here! They were successful farmers and Quakers and most definitely attended the Meeting House above, along with my Great Grandpa and his siblings, John and Clara. Grandpa Amos died in Oskaloosa in 1911, and despite a valiant effort to visit his grave, I never could find it. Sad face. Grandma Edith lived in Colorado after his death and was the only grandmother my Grandma Frances ever knew.

Baby Howard

My Great Grandfather William Howard Briggs was born March 3, 1894. Adults called him Howard (when angry, he was “How-errrd!!” to Grandma Tillie), but always Grandpa Briggs to me. All the buildings I chose to photograph, save the fabulous Eagle in front of the Fire Station, existed during his time in Oskaloosa. My heart swelled at the thought of him wandering as I did, most especially at the library.

Grandpa Briggs enlisted in the military on June 5, 1917 at Laramie, Wyoming during World War I.

He met my Grandma Tillie at a dance in Greeley, Colorado after the war. They were married on June 23, 1919. This photo was taken three years later, in November. Wasn’t he dapper?

This is the younger version of how I remember him, holding court in his chair, cigar or paper back (Louis L’Amour) in hand, often a mischievous grin on his lips. Perhaps because I was such a vocal and independent child, Grandma Tillie was never terribly nice to me. Her favorite, forever and always, in obvious and small ways, was my cousin Brad. Grandpa Briggs clearly recognized this. While I have no recollection of a single word uttered between us (his voice an unknowable mystery), I remember him with great fondness, his huge hand enveloping mine, walking with me to the Western Motor Lodge, and letting me choose penny candy. His was the first death (March 9, 1980) affecting my own person, experienced as a sincere loss, when I was nearly nine years old. What magic to connect with his youth as he did with mine.

Hi All –

Over at Fox’s Lane, she posted about where she was twenty-one years ago and asked readers the same. I loved the idea, and here we are.

At that time, Greg and I had been married for eight years, living in Portland (Oregon) for three in our cute cottage on Southeast 56th Avenue. After buying our house in the summer of 1998, the furnace died. It was a $4000 hit, and as we put every bit of savings into buying the house, we were still struggling to pay for it and a new water heater. I remember wondering when we’d be able to be more whimsical with our spending, when we wouldn’t have to scrimp to take a vacation or update something in the house. My fingers were perpetually crossed that nothing else would break and die.

But we had a house, and we did the small but big impact projects like painting and painting some more. Each room was a different color, which had been my dream. Sage green, pale yellow, soothing grey, a lavender guest room! We bought second hand furniture and inexpensive art to fill every space with interest and variety, to feel like ours. And it really did. I gardened and coaxed our weed-filled back yard into an oasis, learning so very much and loving the process.

Greg, as he did before and has since, worked as a software engineer. His job was in Wilsonville, a twenty-minute commute on a good day. On a bad one, when a bridge was up (Hello, Willamette River), it might take an hour and a half. Bye-bye hot dinner or any plan for week night movie rentals (walking to Hollywood Video!!). The worst bit, since it was pre-cell phone days (They were expensive, so we were very late adopters), I never knew if he was okay. I dreamt aloud about him working from home, how amazing that would be, and he was rather blunt in his assessment that it would never happen. How glad I am that he was wrong about that, now on year eight of 100% at home labor.

I worked for the City of Portland, at the Bureau of Housing and Community Development, nearly, if not the lowest person on the totem pole. I had kindly co-workers, and the pay was decent, but I had my Master’s in Education, earned before we left Colorado, and was eager to put it to use. Unlike now, it was not the time for new teachers. Jobs were very, very scarce (unless a body had experience coaching sports), and every time I was hired, it was only to fill a temporary gap. I got additional education, so I could teach English or French or both, and that made my prospects only moderately better. I would not get steady teaching work for another five years. Then it was as an adjunct at Clark College, making waaaay less than I did when I taught for a single year of high school (going between two schools – gap filler!).

We were young and happy and adventurous, growing as a couple, learning how to be better to ourselves and each other. We walked and biked and drove all over the city and really fell in love with Oregon and Washington. The cats were healthy and playful and young (Hello in heaven, you two!). We thought we’d found our forever home on that sweet corner of Portland, never imagining we’d leave in thirteen years.

But we did, and here we are two houses later. In the next twenty-one years, we will move to Taos or some other quiet town with good medical care and an organic grocery, live in our likely final dream home (gotta stay open), be surrounded by another xeriscaped oasis, enjoy a little veggie patch, maybe have another dog, a smaller pick up without breaking my back size, and continue to love each other, in bigger and better ways.

Afoot

I trust, and I recognize the beneficence of the power which we all worship as supreme- Order, Fate, the Great Spirit, Nature, God. I recognize this power in the sun that makes all things grow and keeps life afoot. I make a friend of this indefinable forceā€¦this is my religion of optimism.

Helen Keller

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Happy 114th Birthday, Aunt Mary!

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Getting Fancy

Good Wednesday to you, dear reader! How about the zoodle ramen above? It was pretty and damn tasty. The jalapeno was one of the hottest we’d come across in quite some time; neither Greg or I could eat the very few slices in our bowl. Yikes!

Time for a pack nap. Sooo cute!

Still beautiful in our neck of the woods…

One of my first memories as a child is the sound of the percolator at my grandparents house and the smell of coffee wafting to the guest room. I’d hop out of bed and pad down the hall to the thrill of Grandpa’s whistling. There in the kitchen, he’d be moving to an age-old dance, to and fro, to and fro, in slippers, old school jammies, and a robe.

From a very young age, I’d get to have a cup – a very pretty teacup, white painted with delicate pink roses. He’d fill it three-quarters with cream, add a tiny spoon of sugar, and top it off with coffee. Then we’d head wordlessly to the patio, where I’d snuggle next to him while he read the paper, puffed his pipe, and, of course, sipped his adult version, minus the sugar.

When Greg and I started dating, he did not like coffee. At our first outing to Paris on the Platte, as I knew he had always been a chocolate person, I convinced him to try a mocha – chocolate and a tower of whipped cream just the right combination to set him on the path to coffee nirvana. It worked! Before long, the pair of us were grabbing coffees at the the businesses popping up everywhere. Mochas, cappuccinos, black, with cream!

It should come as no surprise, on the occasion of our 50th birthdays, we decided to splurge on an espresso machine! After nearly three months on back order, it arrived, and we’ve been enjoying learning the ins and outs for the past few days. The coffee is delicious, amazingly so, and takes me right back to my very magical first espresso on my 16th birthday and all the other heady coffee house days since.

Our next project is to master latte art! Cheers to that…

While in Cheyenne, I bought a painting of a view of this very mesa from a different angle. Isn’t she a beauty? The wondrous part is that it was painted by a woman named Bev Finger, who shares the first name of my beloved Aunt who lived in Casper for more than thirty years!

A Ferruginous Hawk, maybe?

More fabulous food at The Fort. Tex-Mex fried chicken and a French Dip. And how about the cool interior? It really looked like a fort!

The ever elusive Jackalope…

Better Together

Y E S !

A sunset stroll along the North Platte. A little slice of heaven, to be sure…

Giddy-up!
Aunt Bev during her high school years
Uncle Lyle & Aunt Bev in their Casper house

We had fun wandering Casper and visiting the house my Aunt Bev’s family lived in for all those years. Though she died in 2005, her spirit is still very much there, as creative, independent, and kindly as ever!

On the day of our arrival in Casper, we spied more lemonade stands that we’d ever seen. When we stopped at one, we learned it was Lemonade Day and is meant to teach kids about what it takes to be entrepreneurs, on every level.

The cute kid who ran the stand we visited was planning on buying a new Lego set and giving $20 to an animal shelter with his earnings. Pretty wonderful!

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