If anyone has known more than five minutes they know I have a soft spot for dogs. It doesn’t take any time at all to get me talking about my current pup, Lizzie.
Another couple of animals I go “awww” for when I see them are meerkats and otters. If it isn’t otters splashing around or showing off their babes then I can’t help but smile when a social mob of meerkats are checking out their latest curiosity.
I have a soft spot for tacos. Yum, I take them anyway I can I find them. Breakfast tacos, lunch tacos. Homemade, Taco Bell or any local taco shack will work. I can eat those babies anytime.
And I have a soft spot for a good morning cuppa Joe. I take my black, thank you very much. I never was into sugary coffees. I save my sugary moments for other things like my soft spot for Rocky Road ice cream.
Without a soft spot for something life isn’t balanced. That’s me soft spot all over the place! Ha!
When I was in college I had an assignment to describe my family, my tribe. What my professor wanted from me was to tell her my ethnicity, my religion, my culture and family. It seems to be important these days to be defined by your culture. But when I was in college I no longer had children at home. And my family is so diverse in all these areas it was almost difficult and complex to bring this assignment down to what she wanted. So I decided to start from where I was and am. Me.
My “name”. I was born as Amanda Jane Edwards. As I began to travel through life I was known as “Mandy” to my peers and Amanda to my various school teachers. At one time in grade school my teacher called me “Armanda” and I was just too shy and timid to tell her that wasn’t my name. So that fell to my mother to do.
As I grew I became “Mom”. Or more directly MoQ and MoM. This stands for Mom of Q and Mom of Micah. By then I had changed back to using my given name “Amanda”. But still when you are parent there is a period when you are only someone’s mom and identified as Q’s mom or Micah’s mom. I do like the endearing name some have given me as “mother of Q”. It makes me feel a part of where I am now in life.
Because I have continued to use my birth name instead of a married name that is traditional when married sometimes people address my husband as “Mr. Edwards”. He is not Mr. Edwards and that really confuses Americans who expect married women to take their husband’s name. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was welcomed and normal when I lived in Europe.
Why did I decide to keep my birth name? Because, you see, I am proud of my personal heritage. It is many generations of Americans who have lived with the name “Edwards”. I am proud of that. I like my name. The whole name is very simple, non-complex and direct. Easy to spell, easy for people to remember and a reminder of who I am and where I came from.
Many people still know me as “Mandy”. Which is fine. I don’t mind they use it. It has a certain familiarity from years of long terms relationships with friends and family. Many times people get me confused with my daughter because I named her Amanda as well because both Amanda and Jane are family names. I like tradition so that is why I named my daughter a family name.
I got this off of social media to try. The flavors are good but the next time I will try a couple of things differently. For example the crescent rolls are too much dough for me. I will do a piecrust that is thinner. The corned beef was good but I think chopping it up in smaller pieces with be more dining friendly. Other than that, it is delish!!!!! Served with salad and sparkling water. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
2 tubes (8 ounces each) refrigerated crescent rolls (use pie crust if the dough is too heavy) 1 pound sliced Swiss cheese 1-1/4 pounds sliced deli corned beef 1 can (14 ounces) sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained 2/3 cup Thousand Island salad dressing 1 egg white, lightly beaten 3 teaspoons caraway seeds
Unroll one tube of crescent dough into one long rectangle; seal seams and perforations. Press onto the bottom of a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.
Bake at 375°, 8-10 minutes or until golden brown for bottom crust.
Layer with half of the cheese and all of the corned beef. Combine sauerkraut and salad dressing; spread over beef. Top with remaining cheese. On a lightly floured surface, press or roll second tube of crescent dough into a 13-in. x 9-in. rectangle, sealing seams and perforations. Place over cheese. Brush with egg white; sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until heated through and crust is golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting.
Yesterday we went for a nice drive just outside of town. We passed a road thought for a moment, backed up and this is what we saw!
(Photos by butterflyfx.com)
This year I am thankful for so many things. Anyone can look back in regret about things that happened in the past. You can find plenty. Or look at some things that truly made a difference. Here are a few things that shaped my happy memories.
I am glad I was in choir in high school. I was lucky to be in a high school that helped me develop good memories. I still keep in touch with old school chums and which still makes a difference. As a child I would skip down the sidewalk singing at the top of my lungs. In high school I got to make the effort to enjoy and learn how to sing correctly. To this day I love singing. My grandkids tell me that “mom” has learned the same happy way of singing around her house. Nice.
Having my son and my daughter. These two are the all time highlights of my life. Through my life I have had the pleasure of watching them change, mature and become adults. Some days I will be doing something with either my son or my daughter, look at them and momentarily pause. Wow, I think, that is my kid. How amazing. Yep, I can truly say, what a ride to be a mom.
Got to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. What a ride! California is a not to be missed place to go. From sitting in a café on a pier in Santa Cruz to visiting the Redwood Forest then taking many trips into San Francisco to play. One amazing experience stands out. I knew a woman from Taiwan. Her father came to visit and asked if my family would take him into China Town. It sure was a very amazing experience. When I think of San Francisco I think of the ocean, China Town, the Mark Hotel, the zoo, Ghirardelli Square. Shall I go on? Not when there were so many things to see. I truly left my heart in San Francisco.
On to the Gulf of Mexico on the Texas side. This is where my history bug really took a big bite out of me. I just couldn’t get enough of American/Mexican history when I stood where Santa Ana came through Texas. Dragging my horribly cold grade school children in their winter coats out to experience this was a major highlight. Even if they remember it as a cold, bitter day they now know that mom was over the top in happiness history heaven.
Travels took me to Utah and Florida as well as visiting quite a few other states but the lifetime travel ride was boarding a plane to move to Europe. More specifically that would be Belgium. Talk about a real ride into history. I spent many days just walking through small communes experiencing the culture. Visiting Holland and the famous Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam was pretty special. So much so I went back a second time.
And Keukenhof Gardens was where the gardening bug bit. I enrolled in a “master gardener” type class that was offered through the UK and my love of gardening, combined with history was special. Like how the Dutch used tulips in commerce trade. Tulipomania was the rage. So much to learn, so little time to do it in.
I kept busy in Belgium but when it was nearing time to return to the U.S. on my 50th birthday I made the decision to come home and go to college. What a surprise when first I got the birthday present of a lifetime. It was off to Brussels to enjoy the works of Peter Paul Rubens on loan from Vienna. Wow! I mean did I say Wow! I have seen the old masters in books but nothing prepares you for seeing them in their original form in an old city like Brussels. My husband and I ended the day sitting at a small sidewalk café having café au lait and admiring our take home purchases of reproductions of Dutch painters that still hang on my walls. Two of my favorites are Girl with a Pearl Earring (Vermeer) and Tower of Babel (Brueghel).
I really didn’t think anything could top that until we found a fabulous home out in a small town in Alabama. This was a perfect place to light because I started college to get my degree in American History. And the south is teeming with history! And I joined the Central Alabama Master Gardeners. Talk about busy! The time just flew by with vacation trips to Texas to visit our kids and grandkids.
Now life has found me in another highlight of my life. Living in Texas close to kids and grandkids. I get to see them all! ALL THE TIME! And yes, they have to put up with me. We all had to learn each other again but so far so good! So an extension of the highlight of having my own children is, that now I get to see my grandchildren and step grandchildren grow up to beautiful people. Lucky me.
Life has had some downers, no doubt about that. But there were and are so many ups. I have truly had a good ride so far. Many amazing things of which I only highlight a few here but hey, what a ride!
I never knew that being alone in solitude could reap so many benefits. I have always had people around me. Having five siblings there was never a time growing up that I can say I was alone. Nor did I care if I was. I did have a forced alone period of four days that I did not handle well when I was about fourteen. After that I was afraid to be alone.
That is, until I understood the difference from being alone and enjoying solitude. It would not be until decades later that I learned the beauty of solitude. Fast forward to 1997. That Fall I left with my husband to live in Belgium. As we drove from the airport for an hour drive south of Brussels I looked out the window at the leafless trees and the gray landscape. It seemed so cold and still compared to the warmth and sun of Florida just hours ago. I felt culture shock smacking me straight on.
We stayed in a hotel for over a month. No family, no friends, just a hotel room. Some days I would venture out to walk because I NEED to be free of walls. But the cold would drive me back inside. Some days I would find very interesting things around me awakening my history bug. But most days it was my hotel room and I. No phone call to a family member or friend. There was no one to just drop in on me when I needed companionship. While my husband adjusted to a new job all day I spent hours with the only friend I had. Me.
We settled into a neighborhood that was handpicked to help me adapt. I had access to the American Women’s Club of Brussels. Which, I promptly volunteered at this club to keep busy. But still there were days when it was just me. Most days. And well, my dogs too. I would spend literally every day rain or shine taking a walk in the forest with my dogs. For a good solid hour minimum I walked in cold, wet or warmth. But rarely sunny days. Belgium is not known for too many sunny days.
As I walked and thought I learned what solitude really meant. What a friend it could be and what it would teach me. Solitude is not the same as loneliness. I know loneliness and it can be felt whether you are in the company of others or not. Solitude is when you are in touch with yourself and the silence is rejuvenating. It helps bring out the best in a person. It helps to find out what you want in life, to problem solve and learn patience. It quiets a person down to hear what is really important in life.
I took those tools I learned home with me when I returned to the United States. It didn’t take long to find a place to walk in the forest with my dogs, quietly taking in the solitude. I would sometimes meet people on the trail and find it an intrusion to the quiet. Walking in the forest heals the soul; I would breathe in long deep breaths and feel the relaxation wash over me. And the sun in my face or wind breezing past me. Usually there wasn’t much on my mind during these times, just the quiet. What I find is that solitude cannot be enjoyed if there is agitation on my mind or problems of the world edging in on my emotions. So if you take your demons with you into solitude then it will be loneliness you are experiencing.
Now I live in a place that I cannot find solitude as of yet. There are very few places I can go or be without people or things clamoring in on me. Even as I sit here typing this I hear people outside and a baby crying in the distance trying to pry in on my quiet time. What has been helpful is digging down deep to find the quiet. It cannot be found with friends or family. It cannot be found with the news pushing in on me or social media beckoning my involvement. It can only be found by being in solitude. So I have to “unplug” sometimes for a few days to quiet down again the noise around me.
I was afraid of solitude for a very long time. Most people are. Like Deepak Chopra says it is because “in the silence you hear the truth and know the solutions”. It is a scary place even if a person is strong enough to like quiet. You face your dark side to be sure. At first you find out about yourself and some of the things you find out are not pretty. It is not a place to wallow in being wronged or other negatives of the soul. It is a place to quiet the soul “to make the right choices in life”. Then and only then can real peace of mind that excels all mental thought truly be achieved.
I am not a Buddhist or a monk or a nun. Nor am I an ascetic. I am just an average human being just trying to get through the day. But thanks to the lessons of solitude I can unplug and find ways to feel better about life and myself.
Life’s travels so far have been interesting, intimidating, fun, exciting and many other things but I have to say if there is one thing that I treasure most and it was being given the opportunity to learn to love solitude.