Tradition 2016

In our family, Thanksgiving is a time when each of my siblings do their own thing (and some say it’s really nice to spend the day with just their own family).  Christmas has turned out a little different. For the second year, Karleen has opened her home for a party honoring our parent’s Christmas Day tradition. And for that we are thankful.

Over the years, we’ve experimented with various stocking stuffers and name drawing methods of gift exchange; now we seem to have finally found the perfect thing. Each year we pick a color and the gift for anyone who wants to participate must be in that color and a minimum value of ten dollars. No food is the only stipulation.

My gift is always of the alcohol nature. And usually over the ten dollar limit. In years past I’ve brought Gold: Goldschlager schnapps;  Purple: Steel Reserve Beer; Yellow: Yellow Fly Wine, Blue: Skyy vodka. This year’s black was Jack Daniels.

After a year or two I realized that certain unnamed relatives were searching hard for the alcohol gift, so now I wrap it in a large bag. My niece, Kristin tried to steal my thunder this year gifting some liquor also. That’s okay, I’m willing to share my gig.

We draw numbers then take turns picking and opening gifts. Once opening is done and everyone has scoped out the gift they covet, the trading begins. And that can be pretty intense. And fun. Somehow, people so interested (nephew Craig) ended up with all the booze. I drew towels which I didn’t need and traded for socks which I did.  Jeung Bok got hand tools (just what a single gal needs for apartment repair). A win-win for all.

My threat that I wouldn’t make my deviled eggs next year if any were left-over backfired terribly; that tradition survives for another year. The good side of social media was apparent listening to Calvin, on a smart phone from Australia, screeching in joy at his grandfather (brother Kurt) making many funny faces and growling noises at him. It was great to see and talk to Jeung Hwa and wish her well in the upcoming birth of Calvin’s sibling in February. As I said, the good side of social media.

Most honored and first time guest this year was Mark’s girlfriend, Rebecca. She commented that her family was quite subdued. I don’t think we scared her away, showing her our true side. She seemed able to handle it all.

We pride ourselves on the simple Christmas Day menu and casual agenda. I heartily recommend the pizza, egg rolls, deviled eggs, cheesy potatoes and various snacks and sweets that adorned our table. We missed Kent and Tami’s fresh veggies and dip. Don’t get me wrong, we missed them too.

image1This year’s new tradition involved naughty socks. Though many wore nice holiday socks, they were upstaged by my “f**k this s**t” socks and niece Kristin’s  ”A-hole” socks. Kristin says he was channeling her Carrie Fisher. I have no excuse. All I know is there was lots of interest in knowing where to buy a pair. Next year should be a hoot!

Long after everyone had gone home, I played a game with Mark, Rebecca and their friends, a game that stretched my imagination and sense of decency. Cards Against Humanity describes itself as “a party game for horrible people who are as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.”  That’s what they say about themselves! And they are right.

Of the six players, mostly in their thirties, I won, taking 24 cards. I must be the most despicable. All I know is, I learned more sex and body fluid terms than I thought existed and most of them I don’t want to know. Not bad for an old broad. It was an energetic end to a very long day.


A great time was had by all. We recall how Dad would comment after every family get together, how great it was that we all got along. I think he’d be happy today.


No Rules at the Edgerton Lake House

Magical days at the Louievilla in Fish Creek were replicated on the Rock River near Edgerton in November, 2016. Our new digs were a large lake home fully equipped with all modern appliances and wi-fi. A far cry from the sparse Louievilla and we deserve it! Real curtains instead of sheets on the windows! Several bathrooms instead of one. Matching glassware and china; a dishwasher! A fireplace and flat screen TV.

As we oohed and ahhed upon entering the house, we knew the important thing was the warmth and closeness of this special group of friends who’ve hung out together for over thirty years. It makes no difference where we are or what we do, thankfully some things never change.










As we drifted in throughout Friday afternoon, the fridge and kitchen counters quickly filled with multiple plastic bags of snacks and bottles, and cans of favorite beverages. Little Patti quickly hunkered down to food and drink. Betty had allocated herself nine beers a day and coolers were set outside the front door for easy access. Everyone had fulfilled their food assignments and soon there were enough provisions to survive a zombie attack.

The best joke was the shared stories of where and how we each got lost on this fully paved and marked highway leading to our wilderness retreat. Karin had two GPS’s going at the same time and they both recommended a different route, recalculating in unison. The three round-abouts in tiny Edgerton that got everyone almost lost received the most tweets (in this Trump era how else to communicate!).





Friday night, after the usual catching up, Betty’s impromptu game of answering questions drawn from a bowl led to revelations and new information. Helen shared details of her German heritage and childhood experiences. Kathy and Karin revealed their fantasy of finding the self-sufficient man.  Diane disappeared to bed early, as must those who are still working. Actually only Helen and Diane are unfortunate enough to not have reached the magic age of retirement. The group tried hard not to gloat.



img_3403Saturday began slowly since no alarm clocks were set. Coffee and sweets led to snacking and drinking throughout the day. More games, rummicub and talk to Oh Hell!, and a TV football game followed. Go Badgers!  Lex and Kathy arrived late and shared tales of the challenges of the round-abouts, caring for horses and a busy life left behind. The day was capped off with Little Patti’s delicious lasagna for dinner. Patty P. couldn’t help herself doing kitchen clean-up. Interesting that no one seemed to mind, in fact, were completely supportive of her endeavors.













Betty insisted the get together wasn’t for her birthday and you know how she DOESN’T like or need special attention. Regardless there were gifts and toasts. Little Patti sweated until the chair cover and tiara were in place lest Betty launch another search. Where are they!

img_3390img_3392 A less complicated version of charades followed with Sandy taking home the prize. There was none. Sandy and Trish compared their experiences taking care of dear relatives offering support to Diane. Trish passed out many good book suggestions and provided the happy news of her daughter’s engagement and upcoming marriage. Patty P. continued to relentlessly clean up the kitchen. Bonnie’s homemade Bailey’s was enjoyed by all.


Sunday came way too soon. Patty P’s baked French toast dish was a treat and she gets five stars for cooking and then cleaning up too! As quickly as the counters and fridge had filled up, it all disappeared as the cars were packed for the return home. A tutorial was arranged for a lesson in locking the patio door that Betty used for her occasional smokes.



When Betty retired and no longer needed to travel all the way to Door County for peace and quiet, this group of friends lamented. What now, they wondered. That was answered this weekend as they found they could have fun anywhere, even close to home.  What’s important is the warm support and caring that’s given and shared to each other. Luckily some things never change.


I wonder what’s wrong with me. I often feel like, pardon the cliché, I’ve gone off the beaten path. Or off the deep end. The things that excite everyone around the holidays are unimportant to me. How I handled it this year is a case in point.

A recent news feature talked about a man who was alone on Thanksgiving and figured there must be many others like him; so, he planned a dinner for anyone who had no place else to go. The first year he had twelve guests; it grew and now he has over sixty.

His event is so busy he doesn’t have time to sit down and eat dinner himself. He loves it; it makes him feel good. Some of his guests were interviewed and remarked that they attend every year, often meet the same people and how they’ve become friends.

As the holiday neared, I realized I just wasn’t up for anything. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lonely. I have plenty of friends, places to go and things to do. In fact the week before Thanksgiving, I spent three days at a rented lake house with eleven girlfriends. We had many group meals, toasts to the past and future and lots of laughs. Maybe that was a thanksgiving of a different sort.

I had two options this year and passed on both.  I woke up that morning and it felt like just any other day. I picked up my medications. The pharmacy thought it was just another day. Then I went to the grocery store. Same there, with families, couples and singles slowly perusing the aisles as though they had all the time in the world.

After putting groceries away, I did some reading and catching up on a few taped TV programs. I took a short nap. Later, I watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade I’d previously taped. The three hours took one to watch on fast forward, stopping only when it looked interesting.  The Rockettes were great!

I had Sloppy Joes for lunch and dinner. Hardly any prep or clean up time. My phone never rang once and I spoke to no one all day.  That might sound dismal but for me it was peace and serenity. Watching the pre-Black Friday crowds on TV made me thankful I didn’t need anything that bad.

Part of that day’s reading was a new revelation about myself from, of all unlikely sources, Amy Schumer. In her new memoir, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, this overly outspoken, generally potty- mouthed but funny stand-up comedian insists she’s an introvert.

After initially laughing out loud, then reading further, I wondered if this was also me. Intrigued and wanting more definitive information, I headed for the dictionary, on-line, not a book.

The word comes from the Latin: intro-, “inward,” and vertere, “turning.” A person who tends to turn inward mentally……who is energized by spending time alone….often found in their homes, libraries, quiet parks that not many people know about, or other secluded places;introverts like to think and be alone.

Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts are shy. Some may have great social lives and love talking to their friends but just need some time to be alone to “recharge” afterwards. The word “Introvert” has negative connotations that need to be destroyed. Introverts are simply misunderstood because the majority of the population consists of extroverts.

An old memory suddenly surfaced. I was living in the UP over thirty years ago, newly divorced with a boyfriend who was unemployed and home alone all day. When I arrived from work, he’d literally pounce on me. He was the talkative, touchy feely type we ladies say we want in our lives. But it was too much.

That was my first memory of needing time alone. Fast forward to many years of work, school, life and another divorce from an overly needy man who occupied every waking minute of my life. I wasn’t self-aware enough back then and thought that was how it was supposed to be. So of course, my need to be alone was once again ignored.

But, in a recent conversation with my friend, Diana, she revealed she was an introvert. I’d always worried since she runs her own editing business from her home and I wondered if her social needs were being met. But not to worry after our talk. She’s just fine. And, as it turns out, so am I.

Amy Schumer says writing her memoir was one of the greatest pleasures of her life because she spent her days sitting and writing and talking to no one. That sounded so familiar and how I begin each day alone at my computer. It also gave me a feeling of relief and calm. She’s discovered that being an introvert isn’t a character flaw and encourages all introverts to find time to be alone.

Maybe that’s why I love to write. It’s just introverted me and the computer screen. From now on, I’ll follow the advice from this unlikely source, stop feeling weird or odd and give myself the gift of quiet time. There’s nothing wrong with me.


Noise Outside My Window

Gazing outside my little window to the world
from one of the one hundred apartments,
Trees sway along the parkway
where little traffic passes
My life moves on slowly.

On summer days the soccer teams gather
Competition high,
with shouts and cheers
from kids and adults.
Lives move on slowly.

An unwelcome visitor appears,
Twisting down the winding road,
Turning into my driveway
Lights flashing
Siren blaring
Someone’s life has changed forever.

On hot, summer Friday nights
Families park under the tree and set up
grill and boom box.Chatter until the curfew clears the space.
Lives move on slowly.

Flying over the building with a roar,
Day and night, helicopters hover
over the medical center blocks away.
Flight for Life responds.
Someone’s life has changed forever.

Safe and quiet in my private spot,
pondering the sounds.
A silent observer,
feeling fortunate that
my life moves on slowly



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