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Old Memories Made New

My dad passed away a year ago last Christmas. The holidays were a bittersweet time without him. As 2013 chugged along and life got back to the day-to-day grind, my sister received a message from a man I remember meeting at my dad’s funeral. He passed us his card, told us he’d umpired baseball with my dad for years, and said he wanted to share some things with us later. 878a7b5f-c470-4507-8e63-7b190ce0b78e

Obviously, later meant much later. This past week, my mom, sister, and I went to a meeting of the umpire association where my dad worked and volunteered for many years before his “retirement” from baseball several years ago. The things he wanted to share were touching personal stories about how my dad had met and influenced a whole group of men the three of us had never seen before.

Of course we knew he umpired. My dad was a baseball fanatic, a true lover of the game. He played for many years as a young man, coached my sister and I in softball, graduated to men’s softball as he aged, and then returned to his true love playing in men’s leagues. He retired his glove after several seasons in the men’s senior league. What’s a grown man to do when he hangs up his uniform for the last time? Fortunately for my dad, he discovered what my family believes was his true calling: umpiring.

At this meeting, several men told funny stories about my dad during his umpiring days and they named an award after him and presented that award to three recipients during the meeting. My mom, sister, and I left feeling like these special people who took the time to share their memories had given us a gift. Even for my mom, it was like seeing a side of him we never knew.

Now that my son is starting his high school baseball career, I’ll take the time to really look at and appreciate the umpires who call his games. I might even thank them—if they call a good game 🙂

Has this ever happened to you? Has anyone ever shared an unexpected memory of a lost loved one? I sure hope so.

For The Love of Reading – Repost

Today is the anniversary of my dad’s passing into the great unknown. It’s been three years since he left us, so in honor of his memory, I’m reposting one of the first blog posts I wrote.

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My Dad

This photo was taken during our last family vacation in January 2009.

I inherited my nose from my dad. I also inherited his calves, his easy going personality and his love of reading. He died in 2009 but my all time favourite picture of him shows him sitting on the beach in a lawn chair, a book in his hands with the sun shining down on his head.

The first book I remember holding was a beautiful hardcover copy of Cinderella, filled with strange words I couldn’t read and beautiful pictures I adored. Once I learned to read, I worked my way through Dick and Jane, on to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and in between, the back of every cereal box my mom ever bought.

When I ran out of reading material, I would sneak into my dad’s book stash, which he wisely kept in the garage, and read his Harlequin romances. He also had some racier novels there, stories with – gasp! – sex, and if my mom knew I was reading those books – heck, if she knew my dad was reading those books – she would have banned them from our reading material.

My youngest son restored an old cat that he thought his grandpa might have used back in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s. When the restoration was complete, he took his grandpa out to “unveil” it. My dad was so excited to see this piece of machinery, he scrambled up on it in about 2.3 seconds, quite a feat for an old guy with a bad hip and leg.

These days I’m allowed to read whatever I want and I want to read a lot. In fact, I want to read more than I have time for. Favourite authors include Jennifer Crusie, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Barbara Samuel (O’Neal), Ann Voss Peterson, Linda Style, Susan Vaughan, Virginia Kelly, Joshilyn Jackson, and Lisa Lutz, just to name a few.  And with the arrival of the e-reader, not only is my to-be-read pile contained within one small device instead of all over the office floor, but I’ve discovered indie authors like our own Women Unplugged bloggers Dianne Venetta, Christy Hayes, Patricia Yager and Sharla Lovelace. If you haven’t read their books yet, run to your nearest e-reader and download them now. I’ll wait …. 

Shortly before my dad died, he gave me the book Volcano by Richard Doyle. When he told me I had to read this book, there was a tone in his voice that I recognized so well. It was awe and wonder for a can’t-put-it-down story, emotions I too experience whenever I fall in love with a story or an author’s voice. Although I have yet to read the book – I’ve become more of a love-to-laugh-out-loud reader – Volcano will forever remain on my keeper shelf because it was the last time my dad shared his love of reading with me.

This is how I will always remember my dad, with a book in his hands and another waiting to be read. This is, hopefully, how my children will remember me, too.

So who did you inherit your reading gene from? Who are some of your favourite authors and books?

Go For It in 2012

I recently marked my calendar through the end of the year with the dates for my blog posts. I’m a pretty responsible person, but I’m also human, so the possibility of my forgetting to blog is very real.

When I marked my calendar for blog posts in 2012, I never imagined how life would change for me this year because of the unexpected death of my father. I knew he would go before my mother because he had congestive heart failure and diabetes, not a good combination for anyone. He’d been feeling poorly the last few months and never looked like he felt good, but he went to the doctor and was never admitted to the hospital. Nevertheless, the phone call from my mom rocked me to the core.

I had a difficult relationship with my dad, one that never came easy to either of us. I can admit now that most of the reason for this is because we were so much alike. Scary! I had lots of things I wanted to say to him, none of them easy. All of those words died on my tongue when he died. That is my fault and I will learn my lesson about waiting for another day.

At church today (I’m writing this on Sunday), our wonderful preacher talked about goals for the year and committing yourself to doing the one thing that is most important. That one thing is different for everyone and is usually a very difficult thing. If were easy, he said, we would have done it already. If my dad were still alive, I feel pretty certain that talking to him and trying to mend our relationship would have been my one thing. But I don’t get to go back and change things, so I have to come up with another one thing.

My one thing is for me to know—I’m not going to get too personal and vomit my deepest desires on this public blog. But I thought the message was a good one. We all have demons that haunt us that are generally easy to put off doing anything about. Notice the pattern—putting things off is easy while confronting them is hard.

At this point in the year, when the calendar is open and most of the pages are empty, think about the one thing you want to do this year. I don’t mean goals or accomplishments, but the one thing that if the year goes by without doing it, your life could change forever.

You don’t have to tell me what your one thing is; I’m not telling mine, but know that I’m rooting for you every day of 2012!

Poppycock: A Family Favourite Recipe

This week marks the second anniversary of my Dad’s passing so I’ve been thinking about him a lot. And thoughts of Dad always lead me to memories of his sweet tooth, which he kindly passed down to his kids. Inspired by Myndi Shafer’s recent blog, and in honour of my Dad’s memory, I’d like to share with you my recipe for Poppycock, which I used to give to him every Christmas.

Sheila’s Poppycock Recipe

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup whole un-blanched almonds

8 cups popped popcorn

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup margarine

1/2 cup golden corn syrup

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread pecans and almonds on an ungreased cookie sheet and toast lightly. In a very large unbuttered bowl, mix nuts and popcorn together.

In a small heavy saucepan, combine the brown sugar, margarine, corn syrup and cream of tartar. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water, approximately four minutes. Note: if you like your poppycock less chewy, then cook until the mixture forms a hard ball when dropped into cold water, approximately five minutes.

Remove from stove and stir in the soda and vanilla. Be careful because the addition of the soda makes the mixture foam up.

Pour over the popcorn and nut mix. With a wooden spoon, stir until evenly coated. Leave in bowl until the poppycock is partially cooled but make sure you stir it once in a while to keep the mixture from forming into one hard ball.

When the popcorn and nuts have cooled some, dump it on to the countertop or on large cookie sheets and continue to stir occasionally until fully cooled. I usually leave it out overnight and every time I walk by, I stir it to break it apart. Someone will no doubt sneak a piece or two but that’s okay because it’s easy to make a second batch.

This makes a wonderful Christmas gift. I like to put it into jars and tins to give to family and friends. Enjoy!

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