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July 20, 2009

Recharging the batteries around the campfire

Truth be known, I didn’t really think camping was a good idea this weekend.

Typically, I’m up for anything, but with the big move and other things piling up on my horizon, I wasn’t convinced that any sort of deviation from focus was a good idea. I couldn’t have been more wrong and I’m glad that others in my household were more insistent.

So, after spending most of Friday packing (I owe a great debt of gratitude to my dear friend Tiffany and her family for helping me), we managed to pack up and leave town as the late afternoon sunrays fell over Whitley County. There were a few bumps along the way that took us off track and with each one, I wondered if maybe we just shouldn’t go. Maybe we should just go back home. It was a good thing I wasn’t driving or we just might have gone back home – which would have resulted in 75% of my household being incredibly unhappy.

By evening, we arrived in Elkhart in time to find friends we see about once a year all gathered around a campfire, waiving as we rolled in with the ’59 Avion. Everyone there owned an Avion, but a good many were a few generations newer…ours was the oldest one there and despite our arrival toward the end of the rally, they’d saved the front row spot for our shining example of the brand’s history.

No sooner had we pulled through our campsite, friends were already coming over to see us – extending handshakes and plenty of hugs, as glad to see us as we were to see them. It was then that I realized how glad I was that we set all the things we felt we had to do aside to do something we really wanted to do.

There’s a lot to love about camping – the simplicity of worrying about basic things, enjoying the great outdoors, avoiding the distractions of our everyday lives. There’s also a lot to enjoy about camping with others. For that reason, I always look forward to the camping adventures we have with fellow Avion owners. We’ve now gone to Michigan, Kentucky and various points in Indiana together over the past four years. After countless nights around campfires, rainy days in pavilions, games, laughter and other time spent together, you almost wish you could see everyone more frequently – but in a lot of ways, this makes once or twice a year camping trips so much fun and something we always look forward to.

As I sat around the campfire Friday evening, something important occurred to me. Here we were, in the darkness, staring into a blaze fueled by pine relating to one another. I heard stories about people I will likely never meet – and yet they were meaningful and wonderful and relevant in my own life. When you’re camping in a group like this, you leave the trappings of your everyday life at home. No one knows (or cares) how much money you make, what you have or what you don’t. It’s just about enjoying time, relaxing and relating to one another where you are, when you’re there. The things that prevent us from understanding each other are not there. Our view of other people is not obstructed by the things in life that divide us – rather, we are drawn together by what we have in common and it’s easy when there is little complication in that. How great it is that people could just enjoy other people when they don’t allow silly divisions like age or socioeconomic status to get in the way. How wonderful it would be if we could all relate to one another, to those we encounter in everyday life, in this way. Imagine if our cars, homes and the other trappings in our life didn’t divide us – but put us closer together, elbow to elbow, like we are around a campfire?

Saturday was as blissful as Friday – napping in the camper, windows open, breeze blowing the vintage linen curtains. I couldn’t help but grin with delight upon awaking from my nap, pulling the fluffy chenille bedspread up to my chin and taking in a deep breath of the unseasonably cool air and seeing the blue sky out the window above my bed. It was a day of group meals, catching up, reading gossip magazines, listening to the radio and purposefully doing a whole lot of nothing. It was wonderful and, for us, a rare treat – and a glimpse into what life may one day be in our retirement years like so many of our friends in the group who are already retired or semi-retired. What must it be like to live an exciting life on the road, going where the wind takes you, seeing new sites and old friends with such frequency?

But as with any good time, Sunday morning came and it was time to pack up and head home to reality: big changes in our lives this week. Yet, because of the opportunity for quieting of the soul, slowing of the pace, I think we will face this week with more tenacity and vigor. I should be quick to say will be a very good week for our family, one we have been looking forward to for a long time – it will just be a busy one with little time to breathe or reflect on what’s happening.

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July 12, 2009

Feeling fine? Not so much.

When I was a kid, I would always tell my parents I felt fine, just fine. I remember once laying on a pier at my Godmother’s house feeling incredibly ill, but wanting to be there swimming in the lake so badly, that I pretended to feel alright when I clearly did not. It’s part of my personality to never want to miss out on a good time. They said they never understood why I wouldn’t just admit to being sick if I was sick – but admitting to being sick would mean you were also comfortable with relegating yourself to your bed, having no contact with the outside world, inciting undo worry for your parents and having to do nothing but lay there until you felt better. To a kid, that was the worst way to spend a day, so no wonder that even if I had a really bad case of strep throat or tonsillitis, my pat answer was always “I feel fine.”

So I guess I shouldn’t have been entirely surprised when, yesterday, following a full day of hustle and bustle in Fort Wayne, a place we rarely go anymore, when I asked a rosy cheeked Mahri if she felt ok, she enthusiastically responded that she was just fine. About two seconds later, she got sick all over the place and so began that painful 24-hour period in a parent’s life when you find yourself staring at the child for any sign they might be about to throw up. Any change in posture, any grimace, any movement at all is an alert – “Honey, are you going to be sick? Do we need to get to the bathroom? Do you feel ok? Are you sure? Are you sure?”

The rosy cheeks, for her, are a pretty obvious outward indication that things are not fine, regardless of what she said. She had a temperature and though she didn’t get sick again last night, I was just sure at any minute she would….so I hovered. A lot. All night.

She was offered the standard “mom’s line of sick kid care” which includes 7-up, crackers, lots of towels, some sort of emesis basin nearby, a bath and an insistence on rest.

By the end of the evening, both of my kids were getting very annoyed with the constant worry and concern. Both – because you know if one’s got something, the other will have it soon enough. We went ahead and made them both “sick beds” just in case.

Awaking this morning, it was very clear that whatever she had has probably gone. The cheeks are a normal shade of pink and the perky, effervescent personality has reappeared – complete with summersaults, bickering with her brother, singing, dancing – the regular day in, day out “Mahri Show.”

The Mom Alert is still in effect though and I’ll be watching Jamee closely for any indication he’s got it because, given the options of going swimming or staying home doing nothing – he’s going to be where the fun is, even if how he’s feeling is no fun at all. I know…been there, done that.

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July 09, 2009

Cooking and the critics

With my house staying perpetually clean with the ins and outs of the various people needed to determine the sale of a house, I’ve found a little more time on my hands somehow. Odd, I know.

So today, that extra time was spent making things. I used to never cook. Now, I sometimes cook. This week, with the exception of last night, I’ve been cooking at home frequently. Today, I had three cooking goals and I’m now within 15 minutes of achieving the last one.

My first goal was to make sushi. My eight-year-old son has been asking almost daily when we were going to make it and finally, today seemed like a good opportunity. For any reader now feeling squeamish, I want you to know this: not all sushi is made with raw fish. You can have perfectly delicious sushi made with cooked crab, cooked shrimp, smoked salmon or without any meat at all. I only started eating sushi about three years ago at the urging of my dear friend Christy Smith (who pens the “Half Baked” column here on Talk of the Town). One taste and I was hooked. My son seems to love it about as much as I do – minus the time we accidentally got a kind with fish eggs on it. Uck. He didn’t ask for sushi again for a couple of months after that episode. I’m now very, very careful when ordering it. If the menu says “roe” you don’t want it – unless you know you like that sort of thing.

So, today’s adventure in sushi making went pretty well. We used a kit we got at the local Kroger store and used crab and cream cheese. The end result was neither as attractive nor as consistently perfect looking as the sushi you’ll get at fine Japanese restaurants, but it tasted basically the same and we were delighted to have tried it.

The next goal was making something I saw on a television show awhile back – dulce de leche. This carmel-like deliciousness is a treat often enjoyed in South America and, based on the television show, looked easy to make. The first time I attempted to make it, I bought unsweetened condensed milk. NOT what you need – you need sweetened condensed milk. Guess what? Making it was even easier than it appeared on television and it is amazing. I’m now trying to figure out what I’m going to do with it. I think it would be delightful drizzled over brownies or on ice cream. I think I’m going to try it over warmed bananas like I saw on television.

My third goal for today was utilizing the salmon I got on sale at the grocery store this week. I’m kind of bad about buying things and not using them and I didn’t want these two perfectly lovely salmon filets going to waste. I used to drive all the way to Warsaw to go grocery shopping at the Marsh store there. Silly, I know. Gas was cheaper back then and I just really liked the store…well, I liked things I could get at the store and one of those favorites was their stuffed salmon filets. I determined I could probably make them myself at home and they’d taste the same. Again, not tricky to make – just salmon filets stuff with crumbled feta cheese and fresh or frozen spinach.

Well, we’re now within a short while of those being done and when they are, I will have been successful in making all three dishes I set out to make today. Thus far, my son has voiced approval for all three. My daughter, age 5, was less than pleased. She claims to not like sushi, said the dulce de leche was “ok” and said the salmon “looks gross” and the feta cheese smells “ugh!” Quite the critic, eh.


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