Category Archives: Family & Friends

Stories about time with friends and the members of our family.

Water Bob ©

A Water Skiing Story by Cathy Reineke

My younger brother, Bob, can do anything.  Only 18 months separates an uncoordinated, difficult- to-balance-on-one-foot, scared-of-heights woman from the perfect hand-eye coordinated, scared-of-nothing brother I always envy.

waterAt sixteen, as a gawky teen, I determined I would beat him by water skiing on one ski before he did.  I spent one summer dragging myself through all types of conniptions and contorted efforts while my father faithfully and patiently flung me the towrope for yet another try.

The next summer, I still had not mastered the art of slalom skiing.  My good friend, Steve, lived next to us at the lake and his parents had the faster boat.  My brother, knowing absolutely no fear of striking the water face first, declared his intention to be on that one ski behind Steve’s boat by the end of this inaugural ride of the summer season.

In my usually doubting sister style, I scoffed at him.  It was my duty as his older sister to tell him what he could not accomplish.  Bob sat on the dock and reached up to grab the towrope I threw to him.  In defiance of my stated limitation, he threw aside the second ski and put his right foot into the slalom ski while dangling his left foot in the water.

I turned to my friend driving the boat and said, “Look at this.  He’s going face plant.”  My laughter disguised my underlying uneasiness that maybe, just maybe, he would somehow achieve that mastery of the slalom ski.

“Hit it” I yelled and felt the full throttle of the motor as we tore away from the dock.  I watched in expectation. My brother stood up and began a wild wobble on top of that one ski.  Over the course of 100 yards, I keep letting out whoops and saying to my friend, “Oh, he’s almost down.  Oh he’s back up again.”

waterAnd then I saw the look of determination come across Bob’s face.  I had seen it many times.  At five years old, he climbed on my new bike and sailed down the driveway before I had learned to ride it myself.  He bombed straight down steep headwalls of ski slopes and shushed straight up in front of my mother and grandmother with the devil’s grin just to watch them back up as they doubted he could stop in time.

This was no different.  He grabbed the rope with a fierce pull, stood upon the ski, positioned his foot solidly into the back stirrup, and then, without effort, he cut back across the wake.  He came way out to the side, and there again was that devilish grin.  Then he fell back, and jumped the wake across to the other side.  All the while, the impish smile on his face grew.

Is a daredevil born or bred?  We came from the same gene pool. I never did learn to slalom ski.

My brother turned 60 this year.  Each day I thank him for teaching me that when I tell him he can’t do something, he has another opportunity to prove me wrong!

photos courtesy  sheetbrains & toofarnorth

S’mores ©

Roasting S’mores with Shinazy

s'moresWhen I hear the word “Camping” I think s’mores.

To my six-year old unblinking eyes Bucks Lake was a playground dwarfing my corner park.  But instead of playtime, the first night required setting up shelter before dinnertime.  Dinner?  How was my grandmother going to cook dinner when there was no stove in sight?

From the back of my grandparent’s sky blue 1949 Plymouth emerged a black, crusted cast-iron caldron.  Were witches coming to dinner?  Was I going to be dinner?  I think Gigs could see I was going into shock because she handed my cousin Donny & me the pot and told us to unpack it.  It took both hands for me to lift the pot’s lid.  My struggle was rewarded; there inside I found Treasure.

As I stared at the chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshmallows I knew these supplies were for more than one night’s worth of sweet heaven.  The visual delight swept my mind – no more recurring dread concerning toilet tissue hanging from a bent branch hidden in the forest pretending to be a bathroom.

I would have been happy eating the chocolate directly from the wrapper, but first we had to go on a hunt for the perfect stick.  It seems the Art Of S’mores requires a twig long enough to avoid scorched fingers and thick enough to withstand several roasting.  (After a few stick-scavenging years I learned the best tool had a knob toward the end to keep the marshmallow from sliding into the fire.)

Dinner in stomachs.  Sticks in hands.  Logs a blazing.  We were ready.  But we had to wait.  Painfully wait.  Wait until our bonfire waned to a soft yellow-orange glow dancing among the embers.

s'moresDonny and I were the same age, but we had different approaches to the art and science of s’more building.  He enjoyed plunging his stick into the tiny surviving red flame to create a marshmallow torch.  His charcoal mess would ooze off his stick, dissolving the chocolate. His fingers and hands covered with goo … and dirt.

As if preparing for a culinary cook-off, I laid my ingredients in line on a napkin, snapped my graham crackers in half along the indented crease – no odd spaces.  There had to be four, not three or five, chocolate squares.  And there was the skill of the roast, resulting in Goldie Locks pillows, still cylindrical in shape, and clinging to my stick.  Delights: hot creamy inside, warm crusty outside.

My latest s’more experience was at the Half Moon Bay Ritz Carlton, sitting by the cement-block fire pit, with a box in my lap containing artisan dark chocolate, organic crackers, and non-gelatin marshmallows.  There’s no stick hunting at the hotel, they provide bamboo skewers.  I’m a dark chocolate lover and an organic food supporter, plus I like the idea that my food contains no animal hooves, but I miss the ritual and anticipation of childhood s’mores.

Wait … no one is stopping me from going camping and capturing this memory.  I’m ready.  Let’s pack the car and go, but first I need to stop at Whole Foods for authentic s’mores supplies.

photos courtesy  ChritopherS_Penn & JuliaManzerova

8mm to VHS to DVD ©

8mm Memories by Ron Turner

8mm1962:  A young father uses the latest consumer technology to film his toddler playing a toy guitar.  He looks through the viewfinder with eyes of love.  The boy, feeling his father’s love, responds with enthusiasm as he glows under the bright movie lights.

1982: Twenty years later, the father views this 8mm film on the silver screen in his basement.  He looks at the images of his son with love.  He positions the VHS video camcorder to convert the images to a modern electronic format.

Then, a tear comes to his eye.  He silently reflects on his son, his own role as a father, and their lives over the past two decades.  He is filled with emotion as he remembers the young father standing behind that 8 mm camera, and the little boy with the toy guitar.

He can’t put it into words, but as he privately allows the tears to flow down his face, safely in the basement where his wife won’t see, his heart is filled with his own goodness and his love for his son and his own younger self.

2012:  Fast-forward thirty more years.  The son takes on the project of converting family videos to digital.  He buys a Sony DVD/VHS device designed for this purpose, and spends the better part of a month shuffling videotape and blank DVDs through the box – using a Sharpie to write descriptions on the plastic, and using a box of Kleenex to deal with the emotional fallout of the project.

He comes across this particular footage.  The only sound is the whirring of a projector in a dark room.  Unseen is the man operating the projector and the implied camcorder trained on the screen. The man’s handwriting is reflected on the VHS label.  His love for his son and his feelings about his life are present in every pixel of every image.

That same love was present in 2012 in Texas when the son reviewed those images – somewhat degraded after the conversion, but retaining all of their power and intensity.  He felt his father’s love from 1962, and from 1982.  Mind you, even though the father had passed away in the intervening years, that love was present in his son’s heart in 2012.

It is the same love present in 1962 felt both by the father towards his son and by the son towards his father.  It was present in 1982 when that father revisited the 8mm film in a basement in Detroit – even though the son was far away in California.

Never mind matter and energy; it is love that can neither be created nor destroyed.  Love transcends time and space and life and death.  Love is eternal.

photo courtesy bs wise; video ron turner

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Mom’s Tea Cups ©

A family’s tea cups speak to Bobbi Rankin

tea cupsThe English have a long-standing tradition of afternoon tea.  It’s a social event, a way to meet people and when the chips are down they always find comfort and stability in coming together for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

This ancient tradition was carried over the pond by my great grandmother when her daughter, my grandmother, was very young.  Their destination was a small town in Montana where they settled to live, work and raise their children.  As my grandmother established her own home and family, she made it a point to serve afternoon tea.  Serving tea in the dainty cups and saucers helped to bring to this uncivilized cowboy town, the civility and comfort this tradition represented.

My mother grew up with this tradition flowing through her veins and cherished her own cup of afternoon tea.  I can still see this dignified woman (The 1950’s Woman) holding the saucer in her left hand and with her pinkie poised, the cup in her right.   She would gaze out the window seemingly to remember the afternoon teas spent with her mother.

As the years went on and my parents left Montana to capture a new life in California, my mom brought along her cherished tea cup collection.  This collection no longer sat on an open wooden shelf in the kitchen of their Montana countryside home.  Instead, my mom created a place of honor for those precious porcelain pieces and the memories they inspired.  She purchased a tall, lighted cabinet that proudly displayed her cup and saucer collection.

My mom never lost the place a cup of afternoon tea filled in her daily life, until came the time when this tradition was replaced with jobs and family related restraints.  However, she held onto the pure enjoyment that drinking tea brought her and the place it held in the social gatherings of family and friends.

tea cupsThe day finally came when I had to decide what to do with her collection.  While I do enjoy an occasional cup of tea, I’m a coffee drinker.  When I would drink tea at my mom’s home, I’d gladly use her cup and saucer.  Anywhere else, I’m happy with a mug.  You see where this is going, I’m sure.  Literally, what am I to do with this collection?  My mom kept many things she never used.  I’m one who keeps only what I use and let others have the overflow.

I did find a solution in giving away a set to any members of our family who wanted to treasure my mom’s memory.  I too kept the set I most frequently used when sharing a cup with her.  This English tradition doesn’t flow through my veins but the memory of that time of precious civility and afternoon tea with my mom comes flowing back to me whenever I see the set sitting proudly in the corner of my kitchen, right next to my favorite mug.

photos courtesy  Bobbi Rankin

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Mom Power ©

Shinazy is a mom; here’s her story

mom, motherThis year’s Oscar winner did it.  An Olympic champion does it. The star quarterback will do it. They all mention their mom.

Any utterance of the word ‘mom’ has influence.  We are vested with authority by the simple fact that we are your mother.  This clout defies the Laws Of Physics.  Mom Power is forever and independent of the size of the person.  And, for some of us there will be an event confirming this state of being.

When my children lived at home I only jogged after work.  As with anything we repeatedly do, it came and went without notice until the day I got out of my car and watched a boulder of a young man drop back to catch a football.  He unsuccessfully tried to regain his balance and flattened my fence.

When his friends stopped wrestling to take away the ball, I was spotted.  On each face I saw the panic of, “I’ve been caught; I’d better run.”  And off they went, bulldozing down the street.  And off I went, pursuing them.

My shouts of ‘stop’ made them run fast.  Well, I had just finished a track workout, so I ran faster.  Cars stopped and drivers hollered, “Do you need help?  Should I call the police?”

“No, I’m fine”, as I closed the gap, gaining on the boys.

I’m a long distance runner, I was going to chase them until I caught them.  When this happened, they crumpled gasping for air, terror still reflected in their eyes.  Using my Mom Voice I explained I only wanted them to return to pickup the shattered pieces of wood.

At the start of the cleanup, the leader-of-the-pack asked what else they could do.  My 80-year old neighbor needed her hedge removed, so he divided the group, each one taking a position on either side of our property line.

Standing vigil I marveled at their machine like teamwork; they communicated with various nods and glances.  Occasionally a boy would look at me and I would give the Approving Mom smile.  One boy wanted to leave and he received the Disapproving Mom glare.

It was then my high-school age son arrived home.  He greeted me with darting eyes: me, the boys, me, the other boys.  After a long pause he found his voice and inquired,

“Mom, Why’s the varsity football team in our front yard?”

Immediately I could see it – the line of scrimmage, the Offense, the Defense, and Mom Power … at work, again.

photo courtesy Green Wellies

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Small Sacrifice ©

Sacrifice through a child’s eye by Cathy Reineke

sacrificeIn a spurt of independence, my seventy-year-old grandmother bought a ticket and boarded a train to see her sister for two weeks.  My stubborn German grandfather stood on the tracks, arms clasped behind his back.  He squinted as the train left the station and disappeared out of site.  He turned to my mother with disbelief in his voice and remarked, “She went.  She really went.”  My mother sighed and retorted, “And you should have gone with her.”

My grandmother agreed to go if my mother would fix my grandfather dinner.  He never learned to cook.  My mother promised he would not starve but left him to solve getting his own breakfast and lunch.  He mostly likely walked to the local dive ordering his greasy brains and eggs as he sat with all his old railroad cronies.

Each night my mother and I drove to visit him, a plateful of hot food wrapped in tinfoil carefully balanced on my eight year old lap.

On the third evening of this dinner- delivery journey, my mom asked my grandfather how things were going.  “What are you eating for breakfast?” she inquired.

“You know, I’ve been eating this new breakfast cereal I found.  It is really different.  But I have acquired quite a taste for it.  I just pour some milk on it but it’s quite crunchy”

My mother’s curiosity rose.  How could a seventy-year-old man think that Cheerios or Corn Flakes could be “really different?”

sacrifice“What is the name of the cereal, Dad?” she responded.

“I am not sure” he exclaimed as he rose from his rocker and headed toward the kitchen.  He rummaged in the cupboard and soon returned.  “It’s called Malto Meal”, he answered proudly holding up the box.

Immediately, I began to protest.  “Mom, Grandpa’s eating . . . ”

My mother quickly turned to shush me with her mom-stare.  She turned back to her dad and smiled.  “ Well, I am glad you are taking care of yourself, Dad.”  With that, she gave him a hug and directed me quickly out the door to the car.

As she started the car, I found my voice again.  “Mom, why is grandpa eating that cereal raw?”, I proclaimed with indignation.  I knew the cereal needed cooking as my father prepared it for us children each morning before school.

“He’s just making a few small sacrifices so grandma can enjoy a few weeks of freedom” my mother answered.  “Cathy, your grandmother has never been on her own vacation before so her time away is very special.  If we tell her about grandpa, she will never allow herself such a vacation in the future.  Grandpa has always been so helpless.  We just don’t want grandma to know how helpless.”

With that, my mother drove away from the curb silently laughing and shaking her head.

We did keep grandpa’s sacrifice a secret from grandma.  She never again took an independent vacation but we often heard reminiscences from her wonderful sojourn.

I am also sure my grandmother cooked the rest of the Malto Meal for my grandfather’s breakfast in the days after her return.  He happily consumed the cereal, totally oblivious to its metamorphosis.

photos by chatchavan & shinazy

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Dock On The Bay ©

Dock memories by Cathy Reineke

dockThe dock was born one weekend in May, in Montana, when I was fourteen.  My father bought lakeshore frontage.  Only the two of us went up for that long weekend to build the dock.  The lake was at low pool (down 15 feet).  We had a short envelope of time to build our dock.

My father believed a daughter was as likely as a son to be a builder and taught me to wield a mean hammer.  First we dug holes for barrels, sunk them into the ground, and then placed poles into the barrels and filled them with cement.  After the cement set, we put up stringers between the poles and placed in the cross braces.  Finally, top planks went on and voila, we had the dock. 

I sat on that dock over many summers.  On fuzzy nights of too much beer, a few special friends discovered my secret as they lay in the dark at the end of the dock.  “This is a special place,” they’d say with voices full of quiet awe.

The dock formed a sturdy platform to launch ourselves into the water.   Mother grew her powerful petunias in big black witches caldrons placed at each post on the dock announcing that summer had truly arrived.  Each summer upon my return, the dock creaked its welcome to the chaise lounge placed at the end of the dock.  Sun was best there.   A quick step off the dock into the water always cooled my sun-scalded skin. 

On a wintry day, my boyfriend joined me there for the first time.  He found my heart when he stood on the dock and remarked, “I cannot believe anyone could have grown up with all of this.”

dockYears passed and I moved away.  Mother sold the cabin when she could no longer cope with the isolation and stillness after my father was gone.  A lovely couple staked their claim.  The dock filled with rambunctious children, gaggles of life jackets, and boats tied to its sturdy deck.  New voices echoed out over the bay. 

After many years away, I came back to visit friends.  I decided to drive by the lake place.  I found my way through the maze of dirt roads.  There upon my dock, stood the couple who had bought the place from mother many years before. 

Pictures of tanned young girls in new swimsuits returned to me.  Mom came down to the dock with her incredibly delicious tuna fish sandwiches.  Dad instructed me to “Put that level to the post and make sure it is straight up”, as he placed cement into the barrel.  And there I stood that last day, packing mother’s belongings into my car, turning my back to the dock, not watching our time end.  

I climbed out of my car and walked toward the couple on the dock who turned to look at me.  “Are you lost?” the husband asked.  “No” I said as I walked onto the dock.  I smiled and extended my hand as I introduced myself feeling that familiar slight give of my dock under the weight of my feet.

“I know exactly where I am”. 

 photos by cincooldesigns and jurvetson

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Good Life ©

Shinazy honoring the a good life of her female relatives

good lifeComing from a long line of amazing women, I know the history of my great, great, grandmothers.  Over 6 generations, from these grand gals through to my daughter and niece, our stories have one thing in common:  A knack to live a good life.

Each of us stumbled upon something we claimed as our own.  Something to express a desire, a passion, a need.  Something where we stepped back and exhaled an “Ahh”, aware of internal warmth, reminiscent of the sun shining on our face as it does on the first day of Spring.

For my great grandmother, Grammy, her Something was her fairy-tale garden where she painted the landscape with trellises of ever blooming fragrances.  Here she constructed a wishing well and a pond surrounded by plants of exotic shapes.

My grandmother Nana grew rows of tulips and hedges of roses from every Mother’s Day floral bouquet she received. These were gardens where dandelions swirled and kept floating as if they knew their home was elsewhere.

Other women of my family sewed garments, created jewelry, restored vintage stain-glass, or baked pies.  Many traveled, attended classes, and wrote stories.  Some lived the word ‘dilatant’ and moved from passing inquisitiveness to fleeting curiosity.  And still others sat on the back porch with a bowl of green beans in their lap.  A good life, that Something, came in many forms and either changed or hibernated with time.

Over time, decades of time, Aunty Flo returned to her Something. To advance her career in the business world she stopped being a professional Hula dancer.  Upon retiring, she felt dance calling again.  She told me, at age 75 she walked into a studio, closed her eyes and saw herself as the young girl in the hand-made grass skirt.  Although, during the later lessons she struggled to rise from deep dips, for her to live a Good Life she had to dance.

good lifeWhen I talk of a Good Life I repeatedly use the word ‘nature’.  If I’m in the concrete city too long I yearn for the freedom of life without walls.  Being outside rejuvenates me.  When I connect with nature, I’m in harmony with . . . Every thing.  I see solutions and make corrections before I’m in too deep.  By the time my head touches my fluffed pillow I’m already dreaming.  Basically, I’m aware of my senses and all they offer.

Today, our senses offer us the Good Life.  Enjoy!

photos by family member & jim johnson

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Draggin’ Blankets ©

Cathy Reineke’s memories about her blankets

blanketsMy grandmother introduced us three kids to draggin’ blankets at an early age.

During the depression, she saved everything so mine was a mishmash of new polyester fabric.  Multitudes of clashing colors and textures zigged and zagged through its patchwork footprint.  The underside was a soft thick flannel that felt so good next to my face.

The term “draggin’ blankets: originated from my brother’s vocal insistence that these blankets had a sole purpose of being drug behind us whenever we journeyed out on adventures with our parents.

My draggin’ blanket wrapped around me and kept me safe and warm in many different venues.  It warmed me for all my naps.  I drug it in front of our old black and white TV to watch “The Wonderful World Of Disney” on Sunday nights.  But its most prized purpose was to take it to the drive-in on summer nights.

I was raised in Montana. Dusk came late in drive-in season.  My parents sat in the front seat of the old green Plymouth wagon and each of us kids were stretched out in the back with the rear seat folded down.  Underneath us, our draggin’ blankets outlined each kid’s space (not to be encroached upon).  It also provided an easy way for my father to scoop us up out of the back of the car upon our return home.  At that early age, we always fell fast asleep early in any movie giving our parents the bit of respite they enjoyed after a day of raising rambunctious and often squabbling children.

My draggin’ blanket has long since been discarded.  By the time it left my side in my late teens, it was in tatters, its flannel lining threadbare. Upon visiting my older brother last year, I saw he still had his draggin’ blanket some 50 years later slung over the back of a chair in his living room.  His dogs love it curling up on it for their naps after each one has jockeyed to own it for the evening.  He was 5 years older than me when he received his blanket from my grandmother.  Thus, his blanket did not suffer the wear we younger siblings inflicted upon ours.

blanetsRemembering the wonder, comfort and ownership of my draggin’ blanket, I have carried on my grandmother’s tradition. When a child is born into our family I make a draggin’ blanket for the new arrival.  Mine are made of durable and colorful fleece in the shape of turtles, caterpillars, and dinosaurs.

These blankets will last many years due to their sturdy construction. I hope some may even adorn dorm beds and be a conversation piece when friends stay overnight.  I include a letter with each new blanket telling the new arrival the blanket is warmth, love, and comfort for their lives ahead.

The oldest recipient of one of my draggin’ blankets is now six years old.  The other day, I received a picture of “Jack” from his father.  Jack is all curled up in his bed wrapped in his dinosaur blanket deep in slumber.  It is early morning and he had slept with it as his only blanket just as he has done every night for the past three years.

My grandmother is smiling somewhere knowing the next generation is carrying on her draggin’ blanket tradition.

 photos by chimothy and heidielliott

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A Very Merry Christmas ©

A Christmas story by Will Jones

christmasOn July 18, 1983, I made this entry on the first page of a new spiral notebook: I started training for the Central Coast Marathon.  The race is in December.  Running a marathon had been a goal of mine for many years.  My wife and I were celebrating our second anniversary, she was pregnant, and the baby was due in December.  What better time and what better motivation would I ever have to put in the work necessary to run twenty-six miles?  After all, wasn’t my wife training for a marathon of her own, giving birth?  I dedicated my training to Melinda and our future child, and I maintained a thorough journal all the way through to two great events: completion of my first marathon on December 18th, and the birth of our son on December 21st.

Thirty-five at the time, I was managing a small restaurant and coaching a women’s softball team in a local recreational league.  I worked long hours and it was a struggle sometimes to stay true to my training, especially on the weekends when increasingly long runs were scheduled.  My goal was to run eight-minute miles and finish the race in three hours and thirty minutes.  There was no way I could accomplish that goal without rigorous preparation, so, despite the devil on my shoulder tempting me to skip a day or stay in bed on Sunday morning, I usually came close to my weekly mileage totals.

As I trained I ran in local races from 10 K’s to a half marathon, matching my goals in most of them.  But it’s journal entries like this one that kept me going: Felt the baby move in Melinda’s belly this morning.  Not much, but enough to bring home the realization of what’s going on.  My wife is a wonderful woman. What a fine baby we’re going to have!

On race day I lined up early in the morning with a couple hundred other brave souls, some of whom were friends.  On instructions from me, when the gun went off a friend in the crowd shouted “Slow down, Jones!” and I quickly relaxed into the pace I hoped to maintain.  Detailing the thoughts and challenges I experienced during the race are for another BOBB post.  I crossed the finish line in three hours and twenty six minutes, met there by Melinda in her red maternity top.  We embraced for a long time.

christmasThree days later our son was born.  A long labor ended in a caesarean, so my family didn’t come home until Christmas Eve.  By then I had decorated a tree in our small apartment, and that night, to give Melinda a break a slept on the couch with our boy on my chest.  The next morning I dressed him in a red sleeper, and when Melinda came out of the bedroom she found him in his baby seat under the tree.  Twenty-nine years later, it’s still the best Christmas morning of all.

photo by Walt Stoneburner and Tammy Lewis

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