Tag Archives: family

What We Leave Behind

When I was born, my British grandmother, fondly known as Gramma J, was just 45. She was a young mother, as was my mother. By 50, she’d have three grandchildren and one on the way.

Gramma J is still alive in her body, but her spirit has long since left this world. She suffered a stroke many years ago and has acute dementia. She lived independently, with the help of an aide, until recently. To be honest, dementia patients need the help of people to survive and thrive. As is known, the symptoms of dementia escalate more with age, which is why now family members of such patients often consider options like assisted living at the likes of Chelsea Senior Living (those interested to learn more can visit Chelsea Senior Living’s official website), or the services of in-home caregivers. .

Truth be told, despite their gradual decline in the ability to function independently, dementia patients still remain thoughtful. As in the case of Gramma J, she took measures to ensure the security of her family even though she needed assistance. The elderly woman is believed to have considered writing a will and applying for life insurance (probably through Life Cover Quotes-lifecoverquotes.org.uk). Maybe she has considered Over 50 Life Insurance or Burial Insurance.

Anyway, coming back the narrative of her colorful life , Gramma J has smoked since she was a teen, and Arizona’s recent record-breaking winter drove her smoking habits indoors. This was problematic for many reasons, namely that as someone with both dementia and a nicotine habit, she could easily burn the house down. Perhaps if she could switch to portion snus instead, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

Grandma J turns 72

Her children decided it was time to find her a place in a memory care center where she’d be cared for. Gramma J and her late husband lived in their home for more than 20 years. It was a place where my brother and I loved to spend weekends. We’d play in our Grandfather Leonard’s workshop, chase the neighbor’s farm animals, and raid the pantry for full-size chocolate bars and whatever the Schwan’s man delivered recently.

Their house was decorated when my Gram was at the peak of her accounting career in the early 90s. The off-white leather couch, hutch full of cut crystal figurines, and cocktail carts spoke to their lives as adults with grown children. When we visited, my mom used to warn us not to touch anything. We didn’t want to be inside anyway.

Two weeks ago, my mom came to Arizona to both see my grandmother, and to empty her home of its belongings. We went through closets of clothing she hadn’t worn in decades. There were polyester suits, silk scarves, and heels, a stark contrast to the comfortable cotton sweatpants and slippers she lives in today. Leonard’s workshop sat dusty and empty, with a stack of wood still piled in the corner. Every inch and tchotchke reminded me of her, down to the Union Jack magnet on the fridge.

There is so much to say about going through her home and having to decide what to keep, sell, donate, or give away to neighbors. My mother wanted items she’d made for her mother — calico quilts faded from heavy use, and oil paintings she’d done in high school that still hung on the walls.

Eventually an estate company and a dumpster company were called to manage the minutiae that we didn’t know what to do with. Would someone want her towels? Surprisingly, yes. And the pantry full of old Corningware–dishes she’d used to serve us English peas, her favorite, for years? They’d sell too.

I knew what I wanted. It was the same thing I wanted when my Grandmother Maxine went into an assisted living facility similar to West PACE. Even though I knew the new community was good for her, stubbornly, foolishly, and with all my heart, I wanted my grandmother back.

With Gramma J, I want to be 8 years old again, driving around in her pink 1976 Thunderbird to Tower Plaza before she married Leonard. We’d spend these weekends like two single gals out on the town. She’d let me stay up and watch whatever I wanted on TV while we ate pizza. For being a woman who never weighed more than 100 pounds, she always had the best ice cream in her freezer.

I want to go to Target with her on my birthday, when she’d let me load the cart with new school clothes and always sign our cards, “xoxo, Gramma.” I want her to take us swimming at one of the apartments she lived in before marrying Leonard. She’d sit on the deck, her capris pulled up to dip her toes, and we’d splash and scream until our eyes burned from the chlorine and her cigarette smoke.

While I’ll remember her for happy memories, when Gramma J was fully here, she was a complicated, stubborn, and generous woman. What she was incapable of giving to her children, she tried to make up for with my brother and me. It often left my mom scratching her head to see her emotionally constipated mum telling us how much she loved us.

Gramma’s mom abandoned her three children and husband when my grandmother was in elementary school. Her father, my great-grandfather, struggled. This single act profoundly influenced my grandmother’s life. I think Gramma lived worried that unexpectedly she’d wake up one morning and her children would be gone, just like her mother. Why she was able to put this worry aside when it came to loving her grandchildren decades later, I’ll never know. These are the things you don’t see as a kid, but come into ugly focus when you look back with adult understanding.

When we pulled away from her house for the last time, the car was loaded with the quilts and paintings. My mom cried quietly in the passenger seat. I took a spoon from Gramma’s collection, a bottle of tequila from the cocktail cart, and the Union Jack magnet.

What I am actually taking away from my grandmother’s life is this: our decisions influence generations. Our selfishness, kindness, or generosity may change the lives of those we’ll never meet.

Hold your children’s hands and tell them how much you really love them.


Birthday girl

Yesterday was my Grandma Max’s 80th birthday. My dad flew in from Texas, I drove down from Phoenix and my aunt and uncle drove my grandparents in Tucson to McClintock’s for dinner. She was very surprised to see the two of us and thrilled with the attention.

The view

My dad and I met a few minutes early to catch up. We sat on the restaurant’s patio, sipping a glass of wine and enjoying the amazing desert view. I didn’t capture it well from this vantage, but the restaurant sits about 2500 feet above Tucson. As the sun set, the city began to glow. It was spectacular.



And the restaurant was simply fantastic. It’s in a fancy private development. You drive through a giant tunnel in a mountain and then 2.5 miles up a winding road (past a dozen homes designed to melt into the desert backdrop) to reach the restaurant. Of course on a Monday night, we had little competition for the staff’s attention. I cannot wait to go back. It was so luxurious and beautiful. The developers truly captured the spirit of the desert by planning buildings that blended with nature’s best.


Me + Papi

And of course there was the added bonus of time with my Papi. Can’t quite describe how much I adore this man — but more than the world might suffice.

Pap + Gram

the fam

There were many others who should have been at the table, including my Mom. Logistics kept the party small, but my grandma was tickled.


Espresso cheesecake


I know. I’m damn lucky.



My parents love living near San Antonio. When they have visitors, they are always interested in jumping in the car and finding a new place to explore. My dad in particular loves Western culture. And so, this week we found ourselves in Waring, Texas for a Wednesday night steak fry — a tradition in this part of the country.

A few photos from the adventure:















Steak fry

Mom + Dad

Me + the folks

Lola Kit

I have a new love of my life, and her name is Lola.

lola kit


Oh, I’m pretty sure little girls don’t come any more perfect. She is adorable! I am visiting my parents in Texas this week and thankfully had a chance to see my cousin Dax. It has been far too long since we’ve seen each other. Lola is his sweet little girl. Lola, Dax, his wife Jessica, my parents and I all met for pizza today. I was so nervous to see him — it has been 16 years. But we picked up just where we’d left off. I have so many fond memories of us as children and I’ve truly missed him. It is a delight to see him as a daddy and a husband.

Omg with the cute

Like all of the other wee ones in my life, I promptly scooped up Lola and said, “Don’t worry about remembering my name. You’ll know that soon enough. For now, just remember I’m your favorite Auntie.” ( Second-cousin Kelli doesn’t sound as fun.)

The fam

Mama, Papi, Lola, Dax and Jessica.

I don’t have a lot of family, so to have these new members makes my heart swoon. I cannot wait to start making her sweet little outfits and spoiling her rotten with books and art supplies. That is what favorite aunties are for. Right?



A True Heroine

I’ve had amazing women guide my life, and my grandmother is at the top of the list. She’s a heroine for a dozen reasons, but this week namely for taking such good care of these characters:

And the old men sleep...

Pap sleeps

My great-uncle John and grandfather, respectively.¬† We came home from a fabulous errand to Native Seeds to find them “rooting” for the Wildcats. Probably not a bad idea they fell asleep — the Devils ate the Wildcats for lunch.

Grandma Max & Pap

My grandparents have always been some of my biggest supporters. They arranged my study-abroad in high school. They’ve attended my graduations and my grandmother is one heck of a pen-pal. You wouldn’t believe how many letters she sent me in Cameroon. They want the best for me and while we don’t always agree on what that looks like, I know fundamentally they want my happiness.

Plus, how sweet is my grannie? I just want to pinch her cheeks in this photo! Love that woman more than I can express.


Stretchy Pants Means Christmas!

Christmas dinner

We ate so much food during our Christmas break, by the time the official meal rolled around, we weren’t that hungry. The main culprit? Carmines on Penn. So, so good. Like it makes me wish I lived in Denver so I could have dates take me there regularly kind of good. I think we would have stayed to continue eating there if we could have. We extended our one meal there to left-overs for two days. Four star recommendation for you Denver folk.

Christmas dinner: Honeybaked Ham

So when we sat down for a last meal before I flew home, our plates were less teaming than the usual fair. Also, because we were celebrating at my brother’s house — none of the traditional Christmas dinner foods made an appearance: sweet potato casserole, creamed corn, green beans, butter rolls, pie, etc.

But there was ham. Ew.

Christmas dinner: my plate.

Thankfully I talked Cody into grilling me a steak instead. Elk steak, to be precise, with a sweet potato on the side. The one benefit of having an outdoorsy brother is an endless supply of game. These steaks were so incredibly good. He marinated them and then stood in the snow to grill. I was pretty fond of the antelope spicy sausage too.

Christmas dinner: Fruit salad

And in lieu of pie, there was a nice fruit salad. It was a great meal. I like that we put tradition on hold for a year, although I tried cooking up a new family routine. After we finished our stockings Christmas morning, I put in my dad’s new copy of Nacho Libre.

While Cody did in fact like the stretchy pants I made him for Christmas (Amy Butler wide leg lounge pants):

Showing Raja his new pants

Camo fleece, no less

New jammies

Raja seems entranced. “Where did my dad’s legs go?”

Pretty much sums up how happy he is with me

Alas, he was not a fan of the movie. He watched the first five minutes before storming off alone.

My sweet dad

My sweet Mama

My parents, however, have good taste and thought it was hilarious.

“I am worried about your salvation and stuff…”

“Don’t judge me because I believe in the science!”

We said these lines about a dozen times, laughing our butts off. A new Christmas tradition is formed, stretchy pants and all!


Que Viva La Sticky Bun!

Christmas Morning Tradition

While I foolishly poured myself a “healthy” bowl of granola and yogurt, the family prepared to dig into a Christmas morning tradition…

Christmas Morning Tradition

Christmas Morning Tradition

Christmas Morning Tradition

Christmas Morning Tradition

Christmas Morning Tradition

Christmas Morning Tradition

I only ended up eating half a pan…And I wish I could do it again this morning. If there is one thing that signals the holidays in our family, it’s the scent of brown sugar, pecans and doughy white bread baking in the oven. Sweet heaven, these were good.


And a Partridge in a Pear Tree…

If I'm good...

Wrapped and ready


Well, it isn’t necessarily a “pear” tree — my brother is calling it an atheist tree per his “custom” — but it is pretty and we are together to celebrate. Plus, my grandma shipped us a giant box of Harry & David pears, so we’ll eat them by the tree and call it good enough.

Hope you are having a lovely Christmas week, with time to also enjoy family, good food and great weather. I bundled up today and took an hour walk on icy sidewalks for a change of pace. It was lovely to have time to think, be exceptionally cold and enjoy a new view. I adore Colorado. Tonight my dad arrives and the four of us will fall into full-family vacation mode: movies, lots of good food, movies, presents, endless teasing and eventually tears as the planes part later in the week.

For now, time to enjoy what I’ve got. Much love to you and your family!


Holiday Hangover


I’m not talking booze either. Why is it so miserably difficult to get back into routine after a few days of lounging? When my alarm went off this morning, I considered crying before anything else. It doesn’t help that it is dark, dark, dark and (Arizona) cold this time of year either.That said, I hauled my butt to the gym and felt better for doing so. I had one of the most topsy turvy Thanksgivings yet.

Yay! Let’s Have more Turkey List:

– Father/Daughter day was an A+, including time with 007 and catching up with the man I love most in this world.

– Peaceful, loving time with my mom. We have gotten along better on this trip than any in the last few years. I am savoring this and trying to keep the momentum going for our Christmas in Denver in a few weeks.

– Gobs of time to read (three novels!), nap, knit, sew, bake, run and two great bike rides, including one with Chris. He kicked my butt royally.

– Time with my girlfriends, including watching one man in particular impress my socks off at karaoke. “Sweet Caroline” will never be the same. Game¬† and pizza night was a kick too, although I know very little 1980s trivia and my team was a disaster.

– The garden is sprouting beets.

– My mom fixed my computer, among other random things that needed attention around the house.

– My dad “borrowed” my car and put new and much needed tires on it. Say it with me: spoiled rotten!

The Could Have Done Without List:

-Insensitive comments. We don’t live in the 1940 and it is not appropriate to stick your finger in my face and say “Shame on me” under any circumstance.

– Pie crust. Pastry grosses me out; I love to bake it and disgust eating it.

– Extended family drama, causing me to temporarily lose my marbles and cry for about 100 miles on I10. Yikes.

Some drama, but for the most part a great holiday. I hope your Thanksgiving also gave you a lengthy list of things to be grateful for.