Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 6, 1986

for previous chapters, click HERE.

Chapter 6: Elinor


The psychiatric treatment was difficult for Elinor, but the physical therapy was even more painful. Learning to walk again after breaking so many bones and spending weeks on bed rest was excruciating.   Muscle atrophy was a condition Elinor had never heard of before the accident. After the accident it was a condition she hoped to never experience again. The only thing that helped Elinor through the physical pain of her sessions was thinking about numbers – the one area that had always made sense to her.   She often found herself counting ceiling tiles, floor tiles, the dots on the wallpaper, the squares of the windows panes – anything within her line of vision. She’d count them horizontally and then vertically and then multiply, divide, and simplify them until every surface of the room she was in had a lone digit associated with it. This practice distracted her from the debilitating pain and sorrow she felt on a daily basis. After months of therapy passed, Elinor finally began to move forward. I didn’t see Elinor (and she didn’t see me) for quite some time after the fire. Continue reading


Movie Review: Tomorrowland



PG | 130 min | Action, Adventure, Mystery | 22 May 2015 (USA)

I had my big little home over the weekend.  He has a couple weeks off between spring semester and summer semester.  He spent a few days here and then flew out to Utah to hang with friends earlier this week.  He is probably traipsing across beautiful mountains right about now – I’m jelly.  Before he left, the two of us headed out to a screening of Tomorrowland.  It’s Disney and stars George Clooney so I figured those are two pros.  It had to be good, right?


This is how we felt after the movie…

Tomorrowland is a special place in another dimension where only certain people are invited to visit.  It’s a mecca for creative types, inventors and geniuses.  That’s all I’ll say.  Disney is trying to keep a lot of the plot under wraps and they really want the movie goer to go in not knowing much.

Here are the positives… 1. George Clooney does a good job.  2. Raffey Cassidy does a GREAT job (she plays the young girl/robot).  3. The film is family friendly; probably geared toward 7 – 12 year olds.  4. There are some decent special effects.  5. There is a beautiful message: If we would stop allowing our preconceived notions to be negative self-fulfilled prophesies, we could change the world.  Hmmm, that’s about it for the win column…

Here is what we didn’t like.  1. Brit Robison (plays Casey, a high school age NASA lover) is so blah.  I thought it was just me, but Gage thought the same thing.  She was not believable and sorta boring on screen.  2. The story was weak.  It had the potential to be something really inspiring but fell flat.  3. I personally thought there was some unnecessary violence.  I’m sensitive to this since it’s being marketed as a “whole family can see it” movie.  The violence is robot violence so Gage tried to convince me that was different.  I’m not sure. 4. It’s a little over 2 hours, and for most of that we were waiting for something good to happen.  When the movie ended, we felt a little cheated – like we had waited all that time to see something cool and nothing happened.

I’d give the film 2.5 stars.  Worth watching when it comes out on DVD/on demand as a family movie night at home with some good pizza.  A cushy couch and tasty pizza can help you overlook a lot of movie flaws.  10 dollar tickets and 8 dollar popcorn tend to make a us a little more critical – save your movie cash for something else.

For more movie info and reviews, visit Mungleshow.

An update on our little garden!

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow” – Audrey Hepburn.

After several years of talking about it, this spring I finally decided to plant a garden.  I really wanted to plant a small garden to expose Milo to growing food and also the process of growing plants in general.  We decided to go with a vertical garden to use less space.  It’s been just over a month and it’s still going well.

Here is where we started middle of last month:


And here is a pic I snapped yesterday:


And here are a few pics posted on instagram over the last month:


This little garden has brought me such joy.  I get up every morning and take my coffee out to the patio to check on all my little veggies and fruits.  I’m rooting for them, watering them (with Milo’s help), pruning them and doing everything possible to keep the bugs and critters off!  As of yesterday, here are the “fruits” of my labors:

The tomatoes: (I have 8 tiny ones and many more on the way!)


We’re going to be eating salsa for days!



The strawberries: (they are not fairing so well… the squirrels and birds eat them up as soon as they turn red.  I need to cage in the top somehow…  Next year I doubt we’ll do strawberries again.)



The cucumbers have just started growing: (my baby cukes I call them…)


^ Love!


And lastly, our peppers.  What I’ve learned is that all garden veggies and fruits (at least the ones we are growing) start with a flower… researching has been fun and informative.  We only have one pepper started, but several blossoms.


I die at the cuteness of that tiny pepper!


I’m going to have more peppers than I know what to do with when all of these bloom!

I’m beyond excited about our first  harvest (which should be in a couple of weeks).  There is something very special about planting, nurturing, and harvesting your own food.  It’s empowering and a great type of therapy.

In a world so full of “hurry up” moments, a garden will force you to slow down and enjoy each stage.  I think it’s no coincidence that yesterday in church, pastor gave a sermon on patience… The first verse we read was:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.  James 5:7

This is definitely an activity that we will do next year and hopefully for many more!

The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 5, Class of 2004

for previous chapters, click HERE.

Chapter 5: Stewart

Class of 2004

People in Stewart’s quiet Chicago neighborhood had always gossiped about the Jameson girl. Annie and her behavior had been a long running source of chatter, but after her death, most felt sympathy for Stewart and his grandparents. The Jameson’s were a sweet old couple who never ceased to wave at their neighbors. Stewart’s grandfather would mow his neighbors’ yards and collect their papers when they went away on vacation. Stewart’s grandmother always prepared and hand delivered a dish and dessert for her neighbor’s special occasions – babies born, graduations, a move-in or a going away party. The sympathy that the neighbors felt after Annie’s death transcended to the neighborhood kids as well; before Stewart’s mother died he was an outcast – the kid whose mom was a drug addict…the “weirdo” who had to live with his grandparents. The uncontrolled bladder and emotional outbursts hadn’t helped his popularity either. Stewart had always been a bit socially awkward and suffered from anxiety and anger issues. After Annie’s death, he became the cool kid who had watched his mom kill herself. Many of the kids had questions, and suddenly, everyone wanted to sit next to him at the lunch table and hear about what happened. Continue reading

DIY Tree Swing


Friends – I have always wanted a tree swing!  Like Seriously!  I had a swing SET when I was a kid, not an old fashioned tree swing.  I’m not sure why.  I know we had big trees in our yard growing up…  Probably because it was a thing to have those swing sets that rusted out after a while and threatened to give us all tetanus at any time.  They were fun though, we’d swing so high that the legs would come out of the ground! ha!  Good memories.

Anyway, ever since my kids have been little, we’ve never lived in a house that had a big enough tree for a tree swing.  I blame that on living in a big city/suburbs where mature trees are pretty much nonexistent…. until we bought this house last year.  When I saw the big tree in our yard I just KNEW we’d have a swing there some day.  And finally, Matt made it a reality.  This is a SUPER easy project if you have just a little bit of carpentry skills.  You’ll need:

  • rope that will hold more weight than the heaviest person that will be on your swing.  We needed 40 feet because our branch was pretty high.  You’ll need to cut it into 2 pieces for each “side” of the swing that will tie on to your branch, and then 2 more pieces that will secure the board of the swing to the “sides”.
  • 2 carabiners (these will be used to attach ropes that connect board to ropes that hang on tree)
  • board (cut to the size you want – we did 24 inches)

After you figure out how long the sides of your swing will need to be, cut and throw one side over branch.  Use a slip know to secure into place.  I know this looks like it could fall, but trust me, we tried it out and pulled and pulled.  It’s been through a lot of rain and wind and these knots/ropes aren’t going anywhere!


Next you’ll knot the ends of your side ropes through the carabiners.


Cut two additional pieces of rope to lace through holes you drill into your swing.


Knot on the bottom. FYI – the tape is there just to keep the ends from unraveling as we were threading it through the swing and making necessary knots.  We’ll remove it at some point.


Feed the loop through the carabiners.


That’s it!  Test it out – your rope may give a little and you may have to adjust the ropes that hold the board up and down until you get it just right.  Just for reference the knots are here:


This project didn’t even take an hour to complete, but we will get years of enjoyment out of it.

P.S. I didn’t really take pics as we were building it.  It’s so easy you can look at these photos and figure it out.  I snapped the ones above once we were done.  And for no other reason than it’s adorable, this one is my favorite.


I hope you take time to swing sometime soon – you are Never too old.  I’m headed out there now!

Easy Fried Rice


I like to call this Alyssa’s Fried Rice because she made it for us for the first time when she and Gage were here a couple months ago.  We’ve made fried rice often in the past, but we made it from a premix and this is MUCH better.

Here’s what you need:


  • 1 – 2 cups of cooked chicken (I made mine in the crockpot during the day.  I just put a package of chicken in with a bottle of teriyaki marinade and cooked it for a few hours.  Sometimes we just cut up the chicken and sauté it in butter and veggie oil and then proceed to step 4.
  • Jasmine Rice
  • Onion
  • veggies (I used frozen carrots and peas this time… You could also use frozen broccoli or sprouts and edamane if you can find them.
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sriracha sauce (red chile hot sauce)
  • butter/oil for sautéing veggies, onion, and chicken if needed.  (I use a combination of veggie oil and butter.  You could also use sesame or peanut oil.)

1. Start your rice cooking.  2 – 3 cups of cooked rice is generally enough.  Alyssa introduced us to Jasmine Rice.  You can find it at any grocery store.  Matt and Cady really like it so we’ve stuck with it for this dish. I guess you could use regular rice but I think this kind of rice adds a little something.

2. While your rice is cooking, chop your onion (I use half an onion.  You could use less or more – just depends on what you like.) Start it cooking in a little butter and oil.  I will add some fresh garlic at this point if I have some.  If I don’t have any fresh garlic, I generally sprinkle a little garlic powder on the onion while it’s cooking.

3. Also start steaming your veggies.  I like peas and carrots.  I don’t use a whole bag (maybe 1/4).  I seal them back up and save them for the next time.  We’ve also had broccoli, edamame & sprouts in the past.  Again, whatever you like.  Peas and carrots are pretty traditional so those work well.

4. Chop your chicken.  If you don’t precook your chicken like I did, you can cut it into small pieces and then sauté it in some butter/oil.  Take it out of the pan and put aside.  Then put your onions in the same pan (step 2).


Once your onion is done (it starts to get soft and translucent).  Add your drained veggies to the pan (I say drained because you don’t want a lot of extra water).  Stir.


Add your chicken. Stir.


Push mixture to the side.  Crack a couple eggs into the pan.  Scramble them, then stir.


Add rice.  In this pic you can see I had to switch to a bigger pan.  This is because I was making a BIG batch on this day.  Normally you could just add your rice to the same pan.  Stir.  Add a few squirts of sriracha and several good pours of soy sauce.  Stir & taste.  Add more as you see fit.


Serve!  It’s really simple and really good!  It’s cheap to make and I promise tastes as good if not BETTER than take-out.  It’s not a “one pot” recipe so you’ll have some dishes to do but it’s worth it.


The Ghosts that We Knew – Chapter 4, Alternate Scenario – 1985

Chapter 4: Elinor

Alternate Scenario – 1985

I’ve met people in the midst of tragedy many times before. Survivors of airplane crashes, earthquakes and battlefields are often surrounded by the dead. These survivors will see me at the time but often have no recollection of our encounter as soon as they have been moved to safety – but Elinor remembered me quite well.

When Elinor woke up from her coma after the accident she would scream and thrash and rip the tubes from her arms and the bandages away from her surgical incisions. The doctors or nurses would always come with their tiny sharp needles and inject her IV bag. Continue reading