She’ll only risk the chance…

My mother grew up in Chicago and in our childhood instilled the love for the Chicago she knew. There is, and always has been, one magical place that we too share her love for. That is the city block building with green majestic clocks on each corner that was once known as Marshall Fields on State Street.

Eight stories of every lovely thing you could ever want to own. On the seventh floor of this magnificent place was the fabulous Walnut Room. This is where you lunched! A giant dinning room lined with dark, rich, walnut panels. Servers who worn black. Linens on the table and white linen napkins so large you could use as a bath towel.

Every Christmas, the Fields Christmas Tree sat in the middle of the room. This was no ordinary tree! It was at least two stories tall and so wide that a dozen tables encircled it. Nothing said Christmas more than lunching in the Walnut Room, gazing at the tree, and watching the ice skaters across the street from seven stories up.

Marshall Fields also offered a delicacy that makes my mouth water just thinking about, they are called Frango Mints. Small cubes of chocolate and mint, sitting in white paper wrappers, and lined perfectly in the long, green, rectangle box. We don’t lunch in the Walnut Room anymore, but those green boxes still arrive every Christmas thanks to my mom.

A few years ago our grandson Liam discovered Frangos. After our box of chocolates seemed to vanish, I asked mom to send him his own. The next year she did. His very own personal size box. It was wonderful to be able to hide ours away to savor well into the year.

This year our granddaughter Emery discovered Frangos. Unfortunately, she didn’t have her own box and I had to share.

Last week Liam was standing on a stool looking in the cabinet of my kitchen for snacks. I watched as he reached far into the corner and retrieved a rectangular box still wrapped in christmas paper. “Can we open it?” he asked grinning with delight. His little sister took no time to be at his side ready to assist. I gave them my approval.

As the final wrapping was removed and tossed on the floor, I reached for the box. I removed the cover and the aroma of chocolate and mint filled the kitchen. “Nothing smells like Frangos,” I said to my audience. I sat the box on the counter as each kid took their position on either side of me. Reaching in, I set one in front of Liam and one in front of Emery.

“One at a time please. I don’t want to see two, (looking at Liam) or three of them in your mouth at once (not that it’s ever happened…did I mention these are really good!) “Frangos are to be savored.”

A minute or so later I looked down at the box and five empty white wrappers looked up at me. So did four big eyes and two sets of chocolate covered lips. It was a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. “Who ate all those?” I shouted.

“I had two,” Emery admitted.

“You had three?” I said looking at Liam. He nodded and gave me a chocolaty toothless grin.

“What am I going to do with you?”

Without looking up, Emery said, “You could hide them way up high where we can’t find them.”

Liam shook his head. Reaching for another delight responded, “She’ll only risk the chance that I’ll get hurt crawling up to get them.”

Need I say more….


Paddle boards, muscles, and memories

I got on a paddle board for the first time just about a year ago. It was thrilling. Something I’ve wanted to do since the first time I saw it. With my daughter and husband along side we headed out, kneeling in the middle of our boards, paddles in hand.

I watched as my daughter successfully made the transition from kneeling to standing. I watched in amazement as my husband did the same. With all the courage I could muster, I leaned forward, squatted, and stood. Instantly, my legs became Slinky legs and the board trembled. After a few short minutes of watching the board vibrate in the water, I knelt back down and decided that kneeling was just as good as standing.

On my second time out, I mentioned to the young woman who was setting us up that I couldn’t stand – but that kneeling was just as much fun.

“No,” she sweetly said, “that won’t do. Tell me again how it felt.”

I told her of the Slinky legs and the tremors. “But kneeling is great! I’m OK with it.”

“No,” she said again. “The reason your legs are doing that is because they’ve never done this  before. You don’t have any muscle memory.”

I leaned in, trusting that she was going to tell me how to create muscle memory for something I’ve never done. After all, kneeling was fun, but it wasn’t paddle boarding.

“Here’s what we’re going to do.” (Yes! Please! Let’s do something!!!) “I’m going to give you the widest board we have. When you get out, away from the rocks, I want you to stand up, kneel down, stand up, kneel down, stand up, kneel down; at least 5 times. By that fifth time, you’re muscles will remember what they are to do.”

It worked. The Slinky legs became rubber legs that became stick legs and finally paddle boarding legs. I had created muscle memory and I was a paddle boarder.

These past two days, I accompanied my daughter to LA for a few doctor appointments for my grand daughter. There have been many, too many, doctor appointments in Emery’s short six years in this world. We have lots of memories; and I’m sorry to say, many are not pleasant.

“It’s time to make new memories,” I told my daughter when I offered to accompany them.  “We’re going to make this a girls night out in LA!”

I’ll admit, as we started out, my level of excitement was less than explosive. The four hour drive was uneventful.  Entering LA Children’s Hospital took courage. “Muscle memory,” I kept repeating. “All those old memories can leave, this is a new day, a new experience.” I repeated those words as I walked to the front desk. With my visitor sticker in place, I walked toward Imaging, taking deep breaths and exhaling bad memories, sad memories, hopeless memories. They left my body like billows of black smoke.

An hour later and the Slinky legs became rubber legs that became stick legs, and finally we were having a girls night out in LA!! – that just happened to start at the Children’s Hospital. Another appointment.  Tossing the Kush Ball in the courtyard. McDonald’s play ground which was full of water, but that didn’t stop the fun. Dinner with an good friend. Jumping on the kingsize bed in the hotel. Watching the Micky Mouse Clubhouse in our nighties. Eating pancakes. Walking on the pier. Driving to the next appointment. Reading the Eye Chart and having lunch two blocks off the beach.

We made new memories, good memories. We had to kneel down and stand up many times but eventually we were paddle boarding.

After all, kneeling might be ok for some, but it’s just not good enough anymore.


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The Pirate Boy

He swooped into our lives and stole the heart of our daughter. It wasn’t until recently that we learned he comes from a long line of pirates, French pirates who fled to Scotland. ‘French, Scottish Pirates’, sounds like something from Dr.

Unknowingly, we had been prayer for his arrival for several years. “God, send her a
engineer type who can support her and allow her to be whatever she wants,” was our prayer. The her was our daughter who is off the charts creative and intelligent and who, because of a few difficulties at birth, had to overcome challenging learning disabilities all along the way.

dscn0020“Someone who will appreciate her uniqueness, who will love her creativity, who can talk her language, who will support her in everything she does.” Enter Brian Patrick Ford. Today is his birthday and I want to do some shouting.

Brian sails through life quietly, gently, fixing things, building things, and taking care of those he loves. He’s like a gentle giant, a really, really smart giant. We watched him pack Austyn up and move her from Chicago to Colorado. A short time later they packed up again and headed for Alaska. Brian shares Austyn’s sense of adventure.

Child number one came along and Brian somehow managed to juggle new family, work, 181985_151537304902805_128046477251888_321576_5467106_nand school. Child number two surprised us all. Enter Emery Rain Ford. In those early months, Brian spent more time in the NICU than anyone. He studied books with big words and funny pictures that told him how to build airplanes while sitting with Emery.  He ran to hospital between work and his night classes. Through countless surgeries, dark times that seemed hopeless, he was the steadfastness that kept them anchored. He carried the financial load of medical bills and living expense without every showing signs of worry. Working long, exhausting days to make ends meet.

This past year their lives have changed! And we’ve loved watching every minute of it. New life, new job, new health, and new opportunities for this French Scottish Pirate Family. Brian remains calm, gentle, and caring, fixing jeeps when the need it, reviving VWs when they poop out, keeping computers on-line, repairing airplanes and flying a few, always ready to catch a few waves, and always grateful for what he has.



So here’s to Brian Patrick Ford! The greatest French Scottish Pirate King who ever lived!!

May this be the beginning of a voyage of a lifetime.

It’s just what we do!

It’s just what we do!

The text message read:


I received a private message from my friend in Colorado. Her body is shutting down and is calling hospice today. She asked if I would be able to come photograph them as a family during these last days. I want to make that happen if it’s possible.

Call me.

A few hours later our daughter Austyn was on a plane to CO and we had rearranged our schedules to help Dad take care of the two kids she was leaving behind on their last week of school.

I recall standing next to Austyn a few years ago after she had offered to take care of a situation for someone and they asked, “Why are you so nice?”

She looked at me, smiled, shrugged her shoulders, and said a-matter-of-factly, “That is what we do.”

Today, while Austyn was photographing this young family as they are most likely living the final days with their mommy, I stood in her place at my grandson’s award ceremony.

We had joke over the weekend that it must be difficult for teachers to come up with awards for every child. But that wasn’t the case when I walked into the room. All the K-3rd graders sat crossed legged on the floor watching as 14 of their classmates received recognition.

Liam receive an award for Integrity.

If you want to teach children to be kind, you have to be kind.

If you want to teach children how to  be forgiving, you have to be forgiving.

If you want to teach children how to love unconditionally, you have to love them unconditionally.

If you want to teach children to feel important, you have to show them how to love themselves.

If you want to teach children to respect authority, you can’t speak poorly of those in authority.

If you want to teach children integrity, you have to live it.

…after all, “that’s just what we do.”

Ethel’s Got a Cold

Ethel’s Got a Cold

I called to check on my soon to be 88 year old mother who has been dealing with a cold this past week…


Well you sound better.

I feel better. (cough, cough)

Good, You taking your medicine?

Yes. But not the prescription. It had big letters on the bottle that says it will make me dizzy. I don’t want to be alone and dizzy.

What are you taking?


That’s good, keep taking it. You sound so much better. Did you sleep well.



I could only find one bedroom slipper this morning, when I went looking for the other one, it was in my top drawer. (Laughter, cough, cough)

That’s an interesting place for it.

I’m doing some crazy things. Got in the elevator with my friend, the doors closed and I just stood there looking at her until she said, “I think you have to push a button or something.” (Laughter)

Maybe I’m ready for assistant living. I’m calling my friend and telling her to move over, I’m moving in.

You were petting out of it yesterday.

Today’s Jeff’s Birthday!

No, that was yesterday. This is Valentines Day. Happy Valentines Day!

It is?

Yah, it’s Sunday.

It’s Sunday? What happened to Saturday? That’s why all the show on TV are church…

Yes, that would explain the Sunday Services on TV. Now you can watch your favorite.

I don’t like any of them. Well, where did yesterday go.

You just missed it, that’s all. You were pretty sick…

This conversation could be considered worrisome, but I think this is truly who my mother is. Life just connects on a different plain for her.

This is the same woman who after reading one of my blogs about our grandchildren will remark, “This is so funny, someone should be writing this down!”

Pandas, Trains, Picking and Robbers

Pandas, Trains, Picking and Robbers

Thursday is Liam and Emery’s sleep over night and since Jeff is out of town, I’m flying solo. I promised dinner at Panda Express which won out over the McDonalds with a play ground.

As we made our short commute, we had the radio playing and a commercial for Hospice came on, I quickly turned the channel and pretended I knew the words to the song that was playing.

“Neenee, did you hear that lady say her mother died,” Liam asked.

“Yes,” I said knowing very well what was coming next.

“She said she remembered when her mother was sick and died…” (this is where I changed the channel.)

“I think she was a grown up talking about her really old mother. She wasn’t a child talking about mom,” I said trying to ease his burden.

“Yes, she was an adult,” he began.

“Look!” I said, “aren’t the dunes beautiful from up here…”

As we waiting our turn to order there was another reference to people dying; there had been a fund raiser at school for a mom and son who were in a car accident and the son died. Liam explained that it must have been because the air bags didn’t open.

Then we ordered and life was happy again. After, I had promised ice cream.

“Let’s go to Doc’s,” Liam said, “its got trains on the ceiling and they have lots of flavors I like. Dad and I went there! We can park across the street and cross where the yellow light are flashing.”

“OK,” I said. “Let’s go.”

On the way, Liam continued to fill Emery and I in on the details. “Emery, it will be your first time,” he said with great enthusiasm.

“NO!” she insisted, “It’s not my FIRST time!”

“Yes, it is.”

“NO! I don’t want it to be my first time!”

“Did you go there before?” he asked.

“NO!” she said with great certainty. “But it’s not my first time.”

“Maybe she and dad had a date,” I suggested hoping to stop this endless, and un-winnable debate.

“YES! Dad and I had a date there,” she said.

“Did you see the trains on the ceiling?” Liam asked.

“Yes.” She was convinced.

“Emery, are you just picturing this in your mind?” he asked.

“Yes….but it’s not my first time!”

We parked in front of the building to avoid walking through the yellow flashing lights. Liam chose from a variety of chocolate and caramel delights and Emery’s only choice was vanilla, she’s a vanilla kind of kid. We watched the train go around the store on the tracks suspended from the ceiling and Emery cried because we didn’t have four quarters to buy a bouncy ball from the giant gum ball machine. Now that I think of it, they may have been jaw breakers, but they looked like bouncy balls and Emery wanted one.

Back in the car and driving home from our culinary adventure, Liam asked, “Can we run into Walmart for a little thing?”

“I don’t think tonight,” I said. “What did you want to get.”

“Just something little,” he said.

“Well, not tonight,” I said.

As we pulled into the garage he continued, “I really wanted to go into Walmart.”

“What did you want to buy?” I asked.

“A train set.”

“Like a real train on tracks?” I asked.

“Yes, one that runs on batteries, not like the big ones at Docs.”

“I think we’ll need to save up our money for that.”

A short time later Emery came running into the bedroom, “NO I’M NOT!!” she yelled.

“Yes, you are,” I heard from the living room.

“NO I’M NOT!” she repeated. “Liam said I’m a little bossy – BUT I’M NOT!” she yelled.

“I think you kinda are,” I said.

Nighties on and both snuggled into the big bed.

“Don’t you want to sleep on that side?” I asked Liam hoping he would vacate my side of the bed.

“No, I don’t want to sleep on Hoppie’s side.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I like this area,” he said.

We watched our favorite movie, “The Sword and the Stone.” Emery hid under the covers on the scary parts. After the part where the boy is returned to his human self after spending the afternoon being a squirrel and playing with a girl squirrel, Liam inquired, “Why do only girls get to pick?”

“What do you mean, pick boys?” I asked.

“Yah. Why do they get to pick?”

“They don’t,” I said “Boys can pick.”

“THEY CAN!” he said with great excitement.

“Sure. Daddy picked Mommy and Hoppie picked me,” I assured.

We finished our movie, turned off the lights, snuggled under the covers, and got kissed.

“Can you close the bathroom door?” Liam asked looking into the bathroom from MY side of the bed. The sky light was dim as it’s a cloudy night.

“Do you want it closed?” I said as I walked over to meet his request.

“Yes, please.”

I closed the door, rubbed his head, and once again said, “Good night.”

“If robbers break in, they’ll be trapped in there…” is what I heard as I left the room.

Five Years Ago Today…

Five Years Ago Today…

I’m alway a little reluctant to read the post that Facebook pops on my page titled…two years ago today, or four years ago, or whatever. There are some things I’d rather forget. This past month, images of our Emery have been popping up, taking me back to those early months when we didn’t know what was going to happen.

A few days ago this Blog Post appeared and I felt as if I had written it yesterday. But yesterday was indeed five years ago. Life is very different now, huddles have been crossed, milestones achieved, and we’ve watched miracles happen. It ain’t over yet, buy we are light years ahead of where we were and we’ve all survived!

So here it is…Five Years Ago Today

She’s third generation

If you had been around to witness those times when Austyn and I received positive reports on our little Emery, you may have noticed us grab the other’s hand and say, “She’s third generation!”

We are never quite sure how to finish that sentence. You see, Emery is the third generation of female infants who defied statistics and survived. Fifty years ago, I was a placenta previa birth. Odds back then weren’t high. I survived. I have some issues but nothing that has hindered me too much.

Austyn was what we refer to as a Smurf Baby. She managed to get the cord wrapped around her neck 5 times prior to delivery and by the time they untangled her she was blue. She too has some issues but clearly nothing that has prevented her from a very full life.

So Emery makes three. There is a unique bond that I feel with her. Perhaps it is the feeling of fighting for life when you are too little to know what’s happening. Each time we get one of those “what if” reports I find myself whispering to her, “You can do it, you’re third generation and we all make it!”

Emery clearly has a much bigger battle to win and there is no doubt she’ll do it excellently. I will be 50 in February and figure I have 42 more years to overcome my issues. Austyn will be 25 in February and her list of adventures already out does mine. Emery was due in February, however this February we will be celebrating her 3 month birthday. If each generation gets stronger… I can’t wait to see who she becomes…undoubtedly she’ll out do us all!

Pretzels, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

Pretzels, Bratwurst and Sauerkraut

Warm, buttery, sweet pretzels made their way into the Oktoberfest menu a few years ago. They were fantastic! In fact, the entire event could have been beer and pretzels and no one would have complained. This is my favorite (and I vote the best) recipe for Pretzels.

Buttery Soft Pretzels

Be prepared, one batch will never make it. The first batch has a habit of disappearing before the second batch makes it out of the oven.

Pretzels don’t have to be made in the traditional pretzel shapes. Kids love to create their own shapes. We’ve eaten squares, butterflies, triangles and snakes. If you want the traditional knot, it’s trickier than you may think. There again, it’s helpful to have kids helping cause they seem to figure it out faster than the baker!

Regular store-bought pretzels dipped in a variety of mustard is a great accompaniment to your beer tasting table. Yes, beer tasting table. A verity of German beers and small tasting cups creates a great way for future friends to meet.

I looked back at the 2011 Menu and wasn’t surprised that 2015 will be exactly the same!

  • Brats covered with onions and peppers
  • Warm German Potato Salad
  • Apple Caraway Sauerkraut with Sausage

These are our traditional dishes. Dessert always incorporates chocolate.

originally posted 9/23/11






I’ve spent more time on elementary school grounds in the past week than I have in the past twenty years. Our grandkids have both started school and we get to be a part of their “first week” experience.

Today as Austyn held tightly to Liam’s hand, leading him to Room # 2 which was decorated with owls, Emery and I followed quite a bit behind. If you ever have the privilege of walking hand in hand with Emery, you will quickly realize that she is all about stopping to watch an ant, chase the birds, get a drink, and run down the ramps.

The space between Mom and us grew allowing for a group of children emerging from a classroom to force us to stop. Each student was clutching their math book like it was a teddy bear. We stood and watched their parade. I watched as the teacher emerged, assuming she must be the last and it would be safe for Emery and I to continue.

A few seconds later, a girl burst out of the room, spun on her heels, and skipped down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. I couldn’t help but notice her expression of delight that radiated in the sunshine. Her eyes fixed on the sky. I wanted to hear the music that was most certainly playing in her head.

“Olivia,” I heard the teacher say almost in anticipation of Olivia’s choice of direction. As if the first week of school had already taught her that Olivia would need be guided. “This way,” she instructed. Without pause, Olivia spun around and began to skip down the sidewalk in search of her classmates – still looking up.

I love Olivia. She makes me smile.

I pray that as Olivia grows older, she never looses the courage to be the last one out the door. That she’s not afraid to turn left when everyone else is going right. I hope  she never stops looking up allowing the sun to reflect off her smile. And that she is blessed with teachers who gently guide her.

When the sidewalk was once again safe for travel, I glanced down at my little partner. She had her back to me and was pointing to the sky.

“Neenee, look at the birds.”

“Their beautiful,” I said squeezing her hand. “Come on, Sweetie, we need to go this way,”

Memorable Moments

Raun 2

Every parent has memorable moments that get tucked away in our minds and heart. I have a file cabinet filled with Raun’s. Today, as he celebrates another year and I think back over his ‘a bit more than average‘ life – it’s the comments that echo through the past:
Two-year-old Preschool Teacher: “We love having him in class, we can actually have conversations with him and he can put all the puzzles together at clean up.”    

“He had a good day today! He only bit 16 times!”                  

Raun 7
Raun 11
Raun spent his first years at Camp Lurecrest, a youth camp tucked away in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. In our first summer, I recall several times when life guards would come into the kitchen and ask my permission to take him swimming. “He loves jumping off the diving board, and he keeps his eyes open all the way down to the bottom!” He was one.

During a winter break, the camp installed a six foot, chain linked fence around the pool for insurance purposes. It took exactly two minutes for Raun and his buddy Jonathan to figure out how to get under the fence. The adults stood outside this locked security measure as two two-year-olds ran toward the deep end of the pool. I watched as his life guard buddies from the summer before ran toward the pool, bolting over the fence, just in time to capture two little boys ready to dive in.

Raun 13

“Mom, watch what I can do!” I had just walked out of the bathroom to find this three year old standing on top of our five foot dresser. Before I could take a breath, he sailed through the air and drove onto the bed. “That’s awesome Raun, but please don’t ever do it again.” I’ve been watching and breathless many times since.

Before entering kindergarten, it was recommended that we have him tested. After the test, the young woman who had just spent two hours with the kid walked out of the room and simply said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He had scored 150 on the IQ test.

“We may have to call the fire department.” It was a Sunday morning and during the sermon, Raun managed to get his head stuck in the back of the chair. Within moments, five ushers stood around us trying to get him unstuck.

“Jeannie, Raun’s half way up the drain spout.” We were attending our nieces birthday party and Raun was attempting to climb up the three story home, from the outside. “That’s nice,” I said. “He’s lived a full life.”

Raun 3

“Raun doesn’t just live on the edge, he hangs off it and holds on with one finger,”  the Camp Director told me after spending a summer with Raun as a lifeguard.

A few weeks ago, Raun introduced us to a gentleman he had met at our local hangout, ManRock. As I shook the hand of someone I assumed was more my peer than Raun’s, he said, “You’re Raun’s mom? He’s a good guy. He’s a Philosopher, Theologian, he’s intelligent, caring and a true gentleman. He’s a real man.”  I couldn’t have agreed more.

Raun 5

Raun 15

Raun 16Raun 10

Raun 8

Raun 9Raun 18