Looking for answers to life's questions

During my sister’s third year of life, she was more or less a Houdini. My mother would send her out to play because that’s what you did with children that would not quietly sit on the square of a blanket and play quietly with their toys. That is how things were done back then. My sister would find another neighbor kid banished to the out-of-doors and hang out until called for dinner.

I was always the one sent to get her but finding her was always the challenge. Our base area was not gated in or walled off like many are. School was right next door and up the hill maybe half a mile was our non-denominational church. Another half mile or so was the commissary (grocery store) that children were not allowed to go into. They had a caged area in front for us to wait for our mother to finish her shopping. like little monkeys.

Most of the time mom would leave the kids with me while she did her grocery shopping so we didn’t have to be in the cage. In my search for my sister I found her and another little boy sitting along the back of the closed commissary munching away on packages of Oreo cookies and they had many packages of Juicy Fruit gum spread all around them.

They were so cute sitting there with their picnic and I asked where all the cookies and gum had come from. Maybe the little boys mother gave them packages and packages of cookies and gum. But that didn’t feel like the answer I was going to get. I asked again, “where did you get the cookies and gum?” “From the jail my sister responded.” “What jail” I asked?  My sister got up and showed me all the little windows lining the bottom layer of the building on a side I had never noticed. The little windows had bars on them. She pointed to one that was partway open.

Sis and her friend had wiggled into the basement of the commissary and carried out all those packages of Oreo cookies and Juicy Fruit gum and managed to get back out with them. I couldn’t imagine how they did it but I knew this was not good. I had them scoop up their loot, and I walked the boy back to his apartment and then walked my sister back home. She was pleased as punch with herself for discovering this treasure trove.


I’m hiding her behind me. Notice the slippers, They will be important later.

My dad was less pleased. He told my mother and I that she was not be outside of the house for any reason for at least two weeks in case someone might see her and identify her as the thief. He knew that if someone found out, he could lose his stripes over it and that would reduce our income. Then he went to visit the little boys family to make sure they understood what had transpired and the ramifications.  I’m pretty sure my mother was well on her way to a breakdown after those two weeks with my sister confined to quarters. I’m also certain there was some stiff corporal punishment along with the confinement so that she never went near the commissary again. In the meantime, I developed quite the lifelong taste for Juicy Fruit gum and Oreo cookies. Yum. My baby sister, the procurer of contraband. How I loved that child. I smile every time I think about it.

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

January was a long and arduous month. I was happy to wave goodbye. I accomplished little to speak of other than finally recover from the bronchitis I got after my back went out so completely my daughter had to wheel me into urgent care.

I used what they told my daughter to take for her bronchitis as it seems she gave the bronchitis to me while she was caring for me in my incapacitated state. What a sight we were. It seems you are most contagious the 3 days before symptoms present. We picked up masks as we entered the urgent care because there were so many with flu in there.

Avoiding the flu before we knew we had bronchitis. At least no one got that.

The first of February saw some return to health but still the need for resting. Now I’m almost back to normal and accomplishing a few things. I sent out several cards to friends as well as a birthday card to my aunt Mary who is my dad’s youngest sister and only a 18 months older than I am. We first met when my mother and I were left across the street from dad’s family while he was doing a yearlong tour of duty in Korea. Someone thought it would be cute to dress us alike.


Who thought dressing us alike was a good idea/

I didn’t see her again until I was 10 and then again at almost 14 when I move in with my grandparents. I was the little sister she never, ever wanted. For a year, she tried to teach me all the things a teenage girl should know. I was a little slow but she was a as patient as any 16-year-old could be with some little tag along. I’ve worked hard to nurture the friendship even though we have not seen one another in more years than I can count. She’s family and I appreciate what she did for me.

I’ve managed to get a little machine embroidery done. These are part of a set of six that will go into a quilt top wall hanging when complete. I’m avoiding a project that scares me so I decided to do these until I’m sure my brain has settled down from the coughing and sneezing as well as painkillers. I do not do well with medication. Scrambles my brain so I don’t connect the dots well. Can you tell here?

Lighting makes all the difference on how the fabric color looks.

Five by seven inches then borders will be added

I am also finally well enough to do a major clear and clean with some help from my sister. We can make a pretty good team. This has all needed doing for quite some time but the trick is to invite someone to visit that has never seen your home. My friend, Alys of Gardening Nirvana will be here next week and I have definitely let this place go for way too long. So, a fire has been lit under my lackadaisical self and things are finding their proper homes once again. I have filled more boxes for the thrift store and delivered them.

Half full of possibllities

Still room for more. Headed for the Senior center.

A box of “She was gonna”

There is another one in front of me that I have named the “she was gonna” box. The box of “good intentions” to read and make and do. Giving myself a break by passing it off to let someone else have a crack at it. It’s feeling so much lighter here already. And the weather feels like spring and will remain so all the way through her visit! I am so excited to finally meet after all these years of reading each others blogs.


What does it take for you to get things done you’d rather put off?


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

A couple of months after my eighth birthday mom brought home another little brother. So there we were, an eight year old, a three year old, a one year old and an infant. I’m pretty certain that is why my sister managed to be so elusive for my mother. Our play was required to be quiet and sedate. Not exactly descriptive of my sister. We were in military housing and things had to remain perfect for our exit inspection. They always were. No hand prints and no marks on the walls or floors. Kind of a neat trick. Go outside and play was the constant refrain.

Mom and dad must have somehow managed to afford a shiny new 24” skinny tired bicycle with green fenders for my 8th birthday. I was so surprised and delighted with this vehicle of freedom that I was off riding any of the few spare moments I had.

One afternoon I was inside helping mom with my little brothers when something caught mom’s eye. There were GI’s in the windows of the barracks across the street  with frantic looks on their faces.

Mom knew that look. She had seen it before and probably would again. “Where is your sister” she said. I went outside but didn’t see her at first glance. A moment later I saw a flash of green flying by. My three-year-old sister was straddling the lower curve of my bike with her arms outstretched to reach the handlebars and her feet and legs back behind her peddling for all she was worth. I stared just like the GI’s with my mouth and eyes wide as she weaved expertly in and out of the parked cars in front of our building. Then she turned in the other direction and rode back down the side of the street where no cars were parked for some distance, turned,  then repeated the pattern between the parked cars.

I was sure she would hit one but somehow, she managed to awkwardly turn the handlebars at just the right moment and keep going. When I finally had the presence of mind to call her name, unable to apply the brakes at that awkward angle, she just jumped off the bike and let it crash-land. Apparently, she had taught herself to ride it while I was in school but hadn’t figured out the braking part yet. All those crash landings would take my bike from shiny new to well-worn to all but destroyed in a matter of months. Somehow she remained unscathed.

So much for my freedom rides. My sister had them now. The odd part was she looked so happy riding that bike and I rarely had time. Nothing was going to slow her down.


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Our little family of four made the move back to Germany when my dad was reassigned there for three more years. I’m certain mom was glad to be back in familiar territory with her family some distance away but at least on the same continent. Not long after our arrival, my first little brother arrived.

We were technically in Base housing but not isolated or walled off from the city in general. There were five or six large concrete buildings one behind the next that had six apartments on each side and there were two sides to each building with a floor below for storage and a floor above each side that help maids quarters and a playroom at each end. The top floor and bottom basement that had storage units for extra personal things were the only floors that connected the two sides. Each apartment I believe had three bedrooms and one bathroom. There was no outside play area provided.

Mom holding my sister’s hand to keep her in the photo, Aunt Helga and one of her sons sitting in front of mom. Perpetual cigarette in hand. I took off my glasses for the photo

Directly across the street were rows of barracks facing us. Single GI’s lived there or those without families or without families along.. They worked odd shifts so they were there infrequently and stayed to themselves.

My little sister loved to dance and thought she was quite good at it. She didn’t even need music. I think she had her own music playing in her head. She was always happy and carefree with more energy all of us combined. Mom had her hands full and was in a chronic state of overwhelm so my sister just ran. She would sneak out and mom could do nothing till I got home from school as she had a newborn to requiring constant care.

I came in from school one afternoon to see mom staring across the street at the barracks across the street. The GI’s were looking up at the top of our building, which was almost a mirror image of theirs. Mom asked me to go upstairs to the 4th floor where the playroom and empty maid’s quarters were located and see if my sister was playing with the neighbor kids up there.

As I walked into the playroom, I saw my sister up on the wide window ledge with the windows open, dancing. She thought she was entertaining the troops and her friends, having the best time ever. She waved at the GI’s as they held their collective breaths. My heart stopped.

I may have only been 7 but I knew an accident waiting to happen when I saw one. Somehow, I managed to calmly talk her down without incident and took her home. As a hyperactive two year old, listening was not what she did well.

I was just grateful that my sister came down when asked. Probably one of the few times in her life she did as she was told. I wish that was the last time she was in that window or that someone had the foresight to put bars on them but I never saw that happen.


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Reset Priorities

December was one of those months that just left me run over. Or maybe it was the couple of months before. I’m supposed to be RETIRED!  That means I’m tired twice, right? It seems that has been my mantra for ages. I’m tired and dragging my buns behind me or sometimes I’m so tired I’m behind my buns.

Dec 25 2017 Last years snow

Dec 25 2018 This years snow. Big difference

I looked around and saw projects that need doing. So many projects and so much basic work that I finally realized I was waking up every morning with a chronic sense of overwhelm. I’ve finally put Christmas away. It’s not that there was a lot out this year, I’m just slower at putting it back.

This one is done and mailed.

I found out why I’m so tired after my physical in October. I have some health challenges that are being addressed and I need to start taking things a little more gently. It doesn’t help when I set my bar higher and higher and wonder why I’m spinning in circles with nothing getting done.

Christmas tea with my daughter at the quilt retreat center. I forgot to photograph before it was all gone.

Lunch at a quilting friends home for our group of six

This year I am taking back some time. I’ve given up some of my outside activities to concentrate more on the internal activities. Wellness is a mindset and mine needs a reset.

I’ve noticed that a lot of my favorite bloggers are not blogging as often either. Many have life challenges and often, when life gives you a load of manure, you use all your energy trying to excavate the pony rather than talk about it. You take a deep breath, pull in your resources and come up with a game plan before you venture out the into the world again.

Jan 1 2018 Super moon on a foggy night

Quiet time is very healthy and I hold a space in my heart for all the bloggers that need that time. I’m wishing you all well too. Going away from this community is not an option for me right now. It gives me hours of encouragement and enlightenment as I see others traverse this treacherous trail of life. I’m traveling a little slower for the time being.  I’ll be here for you too.


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

Dad called her Suzy Q all the time though that was not her actual name. Sue was her middle name. I asked him once what the Q was for. He said it was for questionable. I think the question was mostly what she would get into or up to next. Right from the very beginning with her first toddler steps, it was apparent my sister was a pistol and born without the fear gene. Tiny toy pistols were exactly what Santa got her for her first Christmas.

We celebrated it in Colorado Springs. Dad was reassigned to Fort Carson after he got back from his tour of duty in Korea. He found a little house for us to rent and part of the rent was refinishing the floors. After sanding the floors and putting fresh finish and wax on them, mom would set the two of us on an old GI wool blanket and drag us across the floor to polish it. The polishing was done once a month and it was our favorite activity. Mom developed a very strong back and arm muscles dragging us around.

Mom had to keep my sister in jeans and a t-shirt all the way back in the 50’s. Sis was not still enough to keep dresses intact. Rough and tumble, into everything, mom ran herself ragged trying to keep her out of danger and mischief.

Keeping an eye on sis

If sis was no longer interested in eating the soup we had for lunch and mom refused to remove the bowl, sis would turn the bowl upside down on her head letting the soup drip over her face and clothes. Quite pleased with herself, she cared not one whit about the spanking that followed. Food was not something that we were allowed to waste, no matter how bad it tasted. Mom was not much of a cook and groceries were not plentiful. There were plenty of spankings but she would just strap on her toy gun belt with twin pistols and charge on.

bowl on her head

On that same Christmas, I received a doll. Only one gift each, it was quite precious to me. I came home from first grade after the holiday and could not find my doll. My one-year old baby sister had somehow managed to get the doll past our mother and take it outside, tossing it in an open sewer pipe. Fortunately, she had only tried to bury it, not dismember it. She told us in what words she had that she didn’t like the doll. It had to go.

We were only there six months, then it was off to Fort Riley, Kansas for another six months before his next tour of three years in Germany. Oh, what fun my sister was going to have there.


From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself

My son came for a three-week visit across the Thanksgiving holiday this year rather than the Christmas holiday. I didn’t want a replay of last year’s fiasco of a three-hour drive to get 20 miles on icy snow. Pick up from the airport was much easier this time with just a bit of rain.


The last of fall is so beautiful

fall over

Fall is over but the work remains

He spent the first week here recuperating from the pneumonia he caught just before leaving his home. I made him Matzo Ball soup to help him get well faster. It’s what mom’s do. We enjoyed the last of the fall falling and had simple Thanksgiving plans. Gratitude runs deep in this house and it runs daily.

The day after Thanksgiving, his ex-wife joined us to celebrate my son’s 50th birthday. This is always a day of deep gratitude for me as his doctors were certain he would not live after he was born, and they said if he did, he would probably have brain damage. (some days, we still wonder) But he is here in all his glory, coming to celebrate growing older with his mother. It’s an odd feeling when your children have reached that mid-century mark. If he is old, what does that make me?

ur old

My daughter found these candles and we couldn’t resist.

He has spent the last of his time here with his sweet partner setting up the fake tree, clearing up some of the mess in the shed, putting up all my outside lights, scrubbing moss off my roof and cleaning out the gutters for a start. They work as a team and I cook to keep them moving forward.

Towel bars were tightened, lighting updated so I can see better, and a myriad of tiny chores were taken care of by the two of them. He has also rearranged my furniture…again.

tree up top

Getting down Christmas for old mom.

My son has a sweet tooth which he indulges when he comes home. He found an empty can that had contained almond toffee candy and I had no idea he even liked it. It was left from my sewing group and I kept the can to put bits and pieces in. Is this what old age can look like?

the can is empty

It’s empty! So sad!

He baked some cookies and we watched sappy Christmas movies together.

baking cookies

He followed the directions quite well.

cookies off the sheet

Taking cookies off the pan

They will be back later in the dry season to see if we can get a new roof on this place. I have an invisible shield over it this winter hoping to keep it from leaking through. So far, it’s working. Getting the moss off is a good start at helping.

next project

What’s the next project that needs doing?

elf in the house

We have an elf in the house doing Christmas chores but needs cookies first.

At what point do you decide someone is old? Do you believe in the old adage that you are only as old as you feel?


With age comes wisdom

From my heart to yours,

Marlene Herself