At Journey’s End


So it was, on the day after Christmas, just shy of sunset, as the clock chimed four that my sister closed her eyes for the very last time and breathed her last breath.  Dottie’s journey was over and she was home at last with a chorus of angels who had been beckoning her to come.

For as long as I can remember, Dottie and I have been part of a duet, coined “PenDot” by our cousin Ted. As different, and as alike, as two sisters can be, we shared, above all else, a love of family and a treasure trove of stories and reminisces which we told and retold, not only with each other, but, with family and friends who helped care for her and who visited her this past year. I cannot speak highly enough or be more grateful for the family, friends and hospice nurses who helped care for Dottie, and especially of her husband, Rick.

A friend remarked that when we lose our siblings we lose our past. Her words hit home with me. It is that shared past that is silenced. There is now no one left who can call and say “I’m making Ma’s meatloaf” and leave me tasting the words, nor is there that one sister who can ask if I remember the seventh verse in the Our Father – in Greek – and thus begin an hour- long discussion of learning it in Greek school when we were very young girls.

My heart is heavy and my soul so sad, even as I count among my blessings the privilege of helping to care for Dottie during her battle with pancreatic cancer and of being present as she lifted her eyes toward the heavenly angels calling her home.

A very special thank you to my Katy, who made the special montage of PenDot for me – a sweet gift to ease my sorrow.




A Few of My Favorite Things

When the dog bites,

when the bee stings,

when I’m feeling sad,

I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.


Days, even months, sometime become quite filled with the issues at hand leaving scant moments for posting here. This has been the case since my last post here along the Cutoff. So it is, dear friends, that I have not written for a while. I just wanted and needed to take a few moments to thank you all for continuing to stop by – even in my absence – and for being such a steady presence in my life.

Thank you!

That old dog did bite and the bee did sting, but, I do want to share some of my favorite things from the past month or so, including these munchkins, who aren’t so little any more, and who spent some time here at Thanksgiving. We baked, and colored, made silly pictures on Photo Booth and enjoyed so many special moments together.

Ezra asked if he could decorate a wee tree that was sitting in his bedroom. What a clever young boy he is.

At a particularly glum time last week, the super moon appeared and it followed us all the way home.

I’ve read a few books that kept my attention and thought that you might be interested in them as well.













I hope to be back posting more often soon as I pray you are all well and enjoying this season whether you are entering summer or into winter and especially thinking of those of you in harm’s way with the fires burning in California.






There were but a few empty chairs in the waiting room. An elderly man was wrapped in a blanket and nestled into a wheelchair. A little girl held up one finger and said “uno” when I asked her how old she was. She was as precocious as a one-year-old can be. A man with a voice as big and round as his body conversed on his cell phone, working on what appeared to be the deal of the century with someone named Tony who required an ample amount of convincing, though his voice was mercifully muted on the other end of the cell phone line. I sat with a paperback book in my hand. It was a small bit of a mystery situated in a tearoom in Santa Fe. The book could have used the expertise of a better editor, but the story was crafted with a well-honed sense of place – and tea!  What better companion to have in the palm of my hand to pass the time while waiting?

Just as an aria was being performed in the parlor of my book’s historically significant tearoom, the door from the examining rooms burst open. A woman, sobbing audibly, came rushing out. The waiting room stilled. Not a murmur, a hiccup, or word was spoken as the  visibly distraught woman rushed past patients waiting in chairs. She swayed around a corner and landed into what sounded like a couch. I took a deep breath, wondering for a few seconds if I should check on her. I started to rise when another woman got up from her chair and hurried around the corner to comfort the woman and make sure she was okay.

“Can I help you? Are you okay?”

“I just found out that . . . “

In between heart-wrenching sobs, the kind stranger asked what she could do and should she get a doctor. In what seemed like hours but was only a few minutes, the sobbing stopped and the two women walked back toward the examining room door, as someone else offered a tissue. The good Samaritan returned to her chair and softly cried.

“That was a kind thing for you to do. Are you okay?”

“Yes. Thank you. I hate to see someone bear bad news alone. I hope she will be okay.”

Just then, the little girl who had earlier charmed me looked over, held up a finger and said “uno”.

Uno. One. Just one.

We never know when one act of kindness might ease someone’s sadness during dark moments. I hope that there will be someone to ease any dark moments you might experience and I hope that I might be the light to someone in theirs.



I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. 

Henry David Thoreau

I am not sure that I would actually sit on a pumpkin, but, Tom and I did recently rest upon a log at the Morton Arboretum’s Glass Pumpkin Patch on a rather blustery autumnal afternoon. The glass pumpkins were quite intricate and lovely and the log was actually comfortable so we did not feel at all like bumps.













Cinderella did hitch a ride in a mouse drawn coach fashioned from a pumpkin and Peter, that infamous pumpkin eater, notoriously put his wife in a pumpkin shell. Despite tales told long ago, I truly doubt that he kept her there very well! Pumpkin pie would have been a much better choice for Peter’s pumpkin and much more pleasant for his ill-kept wife. Such are the ways of nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

Hereabouts, pumpkin patches in produce stands are much diminished as we near the end of October. The days grow shorter and the shadows longer as the nights close in and we edge toward the first true frost of the season.

I find myself leafing through cookbooks and magazines looking for new recipes and reviving tried and true favorites at this time of year. Jack-o-Lantern Tea Loaves (pumpkin bread) and potato soup, hearty stews and warm, crusty bread nourish our bodies in the flickering glow of candlelight. Russet and amber hues replace the sun filled rooms and bright colors of summer as warm jackets appear and socks and sturdier shoes replace summer’s sandals.

Walden Pond

When I happened across Thoreau’s quote it reminded as much of the Glass Pumpkin Patch as it did of a long-ago visit to Walden’s Pond. On a crisp and sunny October day, Tom and I sat on Walden’s shore eating a simple picnic lunch as we watched rowers and swimmers glide across the pond. A scattering of writers and artists and others worked at their crafts as we wandered a well-worn path to the site of Thoreau’s cabin. There, I imagined, as I do now, the short but notable life of a man whose words continue to inspire in this still new and quite troubled century. It is not such a bad thing to be content with the simpler things in life rather than the crowded velvet cushions. I think I’ll pick up my current read, have a cup of tea sweetened with local honey and settle in for the night here along the Cutoff.




The moment I saw them in the produce department I knew exactly what they were! I rushed over, my grocery cart making an abrupt left. My squeal of delight must have sounded like a siren as other shoppers pulled over and let me pass causing a gapers’ block in between the peaches and plums!


If you live in a Mediterranean climate, you likely see fresh olives in season. If you live in the midwest, you probably have never seen them. Olive trees do not grow in our erratic climate with our harsh, cold winters, long, dry spells, temperature fluctuations, etc. I knew what this box was because once, just once that I can recall, they sat on the small counter of our kitchen.

My cart – and I – came to a screeching halt. I reached into the box and felt the olives, still hard, rolling them around and through my hand like marbles. Memories came flooding back to that small kitchen in Maywood where I felt the love and security of family, where everyone gathered, and where I watched and waited and learned the magic of food in my grandmother’s hands.

The story begins with Romeo, a friend of my father’s who came to our house several times a week. Romeo wore baggy pants and sweaters and shirts that had seen better days. He and Daddy would talk fishing, the news, family and such as they sat at the kitchen table, drank coffee and ate whatever sweets my Yia Yia (my grandmother) or my mother would set before them. Romeo had a kind manner and gentle laugh. If Daddy wasn’t home, Romeo would stay until he returned, helping me with homework, curious as to what I was learning, chatting with Ma or Yia Yia, comfortable at our table.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that Daddy told me that Romeo was very rich. His family owned real-estate in the city and a chain of stores. He also told me that Romeo had scars all the way down his back from wounds he suffered in WWII. Much later, long after my father passed away, when I had children of my own, that Romeo died. Many in my family went to the wake to pay respects to his wife and children, then sat and quietly talked as people tend to do at wakes. I sat reading the memorial card and was surprised at the name, which was NOT Romeo! Bewildered, we wondered aloud over how the name Romeo came about, certain there was an interesting story  that we would never know, but, I digress. This isn’t so much about Romeo as it is about olives, except that it was Romeo who brought my grandmother the fruit of the gods.

I came home one day to see a crate of  hard, green fruit sitting on the kitchen counter. I remember my grandmother’s happiness and appreciation over the contents that came all the way from California. Romeo had been on vacation there where family members lived. He brought the olives back. Did he have them shipped or did he bring them himself? I am not certain, but, I think he personally carried them on the plane!

What I do remember is the hammering as each olive was split open, revealing but not extracting the pit. What a racket that was! I remember days, or was it weeks, of the olives sitting in salty water on the countertop, then in bowls with seasonings in the refrigerator. I would sneak an olive here and there when no one was looking. I ate enough that my face broke out in hives. All that olive oil!  My thievery was exposed and my olive caper was up! They were on to me. Daddy gently but firmly said “Penny, these aren’t candy and if you eat too many you will be sick.” 

In those mere moments in the grocery store, I remembered the summer of Greek olives; the flavors, that crisp first bite followed by the tasty inner flesh and the lingering sensation that seemed to last long after the olive was consumed. I imagined the hard pit placed on the side of my plate, but only after I’d eaten every bit of olive on it, with family or friends or both gathered in that small kitchen with a large welcoming feel – and I remembered a kind man’s gift and a gifted woman’s talents.

My cart once again rolling, I checked off items on my list and then headed over to the olive bar, making a selection of green olives that would not last long in our own refrigerator.Romeo, oh Romeo . . .



On being fortunate

How fortunate I was to have had these trusty engines stowed safely behind the driver’s seat. They kept me company and pushed me forward as I chug, chug, chugged along on my long ride home past farmland and forests, mists and moisture, sunshine and shadows in the peaks and valleys of landscape. At times it felt as if I had been dropped into a bowl of candy corn, the panorama of fall colors following me with views I never tire of.

While our Up North family has graciously travelled down several times in the past year, I have not had the opportunity to visit them until recently. Packed with pumpkin muffins and assorted granny goodies, I was anxious for a few precious days. I wasn’t disappointed.

One fine day, we spent a delightful afternoon on an island.

Nicolette Island is located on the Mississippi River which flows through Minneapolis. The island houses restored Victorian dwellings, De Lasalle High School, the Nicolette Island Park, an impressive pavilion, the Bell of Two Friends, the Nicolette Island Inn, and winding paths that afford amazing scenery and opportunities for young ones to explore, pretend, and appreciate nature. Our daughter and son-in-law, Katy and Tom, have instilled a healthy appreciation and respect for nature in their children and are to be commended for their efforts and example.


As we approached the Bell of Two Friends, we giggled a bit as the backside looked a bit like, well, like a backside. Once we went under and around the sculpture we were amazed at this stunning monument of peace.

Fall had come to Nicolette Island on what was a crisp, overcast day, displaying colorful splendor on this lovely island.



We walked and wandered, St. Anthony Falls and industry sharing the space, before crossing back into downtown Minneapolis and Penny’s Cafe.


The chef made our crepes on a large, heated wheel, across from the table we chose to sit. We all watched in awe as he balanced the orders, spreading crepe batter on the wheel, filling and folding, making sandwiches and other delectables on another slab to his right.

I chose a crepe fromage, which exceeded expectations! It was outstanding. Ezra, who chose what the woman who took our orders described as special, wholeheartedly agreed, saying it was special, as he energetically tackled his grilled cheese sandwich. Kezzie’s little stuffed fawn, stuffed in his special way, snuggled for warmth next to Katy’s coffee as we all enjoyed the food and the ambiance of Penny’s Cafe.

What a balm for the soul this little adventure was, with an attentive and caring mommy, two darling, inquisitive grandkids, nature and even nourishment in an establishment bearing my name. There were so many other moments of joy during my brief  trip; too many to mention in an already long post. I was grateful for my time with our Up North family and appreciate Ezra’s sharing of his engines as I wended my way home.

October 10

October 10

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
Loud — landmark — now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

From  New Collected Poems by Wendell Berry

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