Monday, June 23, 2014


There is a very special man in my life.  His formal name is Ret. Lt. Col. Paul N. Shull but I call him Dad.
My dad lives in San Antonio with my stepmom, Sandy, so we do not get to see each other much.  But I have wonderful memories of times with him.  My dad was born in Corning, California to Arthur and Helen Shull.  I wasn't able to get to know my grandfather very well because he died in the mid-1960's when I was young.  However, my Grandmother Shull was and will remain one of my all-time heroes. 

I love this picture of my grandparents.  They look so relaxed and happy!

My grandfather was principal of the high school in Modesto, California where my father and uncles went to school.  Can you imagine the pressure?  I'm certain that this fact helped in part to shape my father into the man he is.  After he graduated from high school, Dad went into the Army/Air Force, later to become the Air Force.  He traveled a lot and spent time in Japan before meeting my mom and getting married in the early 1950's.  I was born in 1953 at Castle Air Force Base, Merced, California.  My dad looks so young in this picture!

During the 1950's and early 1960's we moved a lot.  I remember living in Lubbock, Texas where my brother, Dennis, was born.  And Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, where Dan was born.  Darrell was born in Park Forest, Illinois while Dad was going to grad school at the University of Chicago.  There was also a time in Alabama.  My parents took as many trips as possible back to California to visit family.  I think that is where this photo was taken.

My son, Jeremy recently saw this photo and commented that "Grandpa had really cool hair.  It's totally back in style."  Yep!  

There are many different reasons I remember going back to my Grandparents' Shull on vacation.  They had a wonderful home with lots of trees and down the block was another family with a tree house.  Speaking of the trees, they had lemon trees in the backyard and I was told not to eat them because they were sour.  Being my father's daughter, I immediately ate one and have been a huge fan of lemons ever since.  

I learned to read very early so when we traveled (by car, of course; it was the 1950's!) my dad would buy me comic books to read while we rode.  Not funny comic books with cute little pictures but classic comic books like Treasure Island and Journey to the Center of the Earth.  I loved them but the latter affected me terribly.  My grandparents had a little study with doors on each side, one leading into the kitchen and one into the hall where the bedrooms were located.  This is where I slept while we were there.  The study had a wonderful bookcase with toys my dad and uncles had played with.  I remember a wooden wagon with wooden alphabet blocks, a stuffed dog and the ageless black and white Scottie dogs who, when pushed towards each other, flipped around because they were magnetized.  I have actually found these Scottie dogs through The Vermont Country Store and given them to my own grandchildren.  Anyway, I would lay in that little bed with the doors closed on either side, all alone, and think about Journey to the Center of the Earth and the creepy little guys in the comic book.  Scared my self silly, I did!  It was very hard to sleep wondering who was going to come through which door, knowing my family was sound asleep.  However, I don't remember ever telling my mom or  dad about how frightened I was because I didn't want them to think I was a scaredy cat.  I just muscled on through the best I could.

My dad and granddad would take us on adventures when we were in Modesto.  I do remember going to ride these horses and finding eggs when the chickens weren't looking.  

When we visited California, we would often go to Lake Arrowhead where my Aunt Marian's family had a beautiful home just across the road from the lake.  It would be family reunion time with my cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents.  I remember those times as glorious.  So many memories that I will never lose.  

I remember Sunday nights in Park Forest when The Jackie Gleason Show was on.  My dad loved to wait until the June Taylor Dancers were on, turn down the sound and let us watch all of the beautiful routines to the sounds of The Chipmunks!  It still makes me giggle when I think about it!  When my father graduated from grad school, the ceremony was held outside.  I've been told and I have vague memories of seeing him stride up on stage to accept his certificate and yelling, "That's my daddy!"  

After we moved to Satellite Beach, Florida/Patrick Air Force Base/Cape Canaveral, my parents separated when I was ten and divorced when I was 13-14.  Because he was an officer and a pilot he wasn't home much as I grew to that age and after the divorce he was stationed in Korea.  He remarried to Sandy and my mom married the man I call Daddy, Jack Fifield.  My parents were lucky and found the life partners they were supposed to have the second time around.  

However, the result of all of this is that my father and I have never had the opportunity to really get to know each other. I do know that a lot of who I am was formed by my father.  My brother, Dennis, and I were started on chores at very young ages.  After doing the dishes my dad would check the drain trap to make sure that there was nothing left there and the faucet and handle areas to make sure they were clean and shiny.  Even when I caught my finger in a BB gun cocker (totally different story) and had to wear a splint for weeks, I was only allowed to switch with my brother to drying the dishes instead of washing.  My father was a perfectionist and an Air Force officer.  For whatever reason, and I've heard the apocryphal story about how it happened, I've always been afraid of heights.  When my Grandmother Shull visited us in Park Forest, we went to the Museum of Natural History in Chicago.  There were at least two floors, possibly three and I remember them being open in the center so that you could look up or down to the main area.  I was petrified to walk near the railing, I mean frozen-up-inside scared.  My father wasn't very patient with this lack of starch but my grandmother was wonderful.  She stayed with me and stuck to the inner walls of each floor so that I could still enjoy the experience.  Remember when I said she is one of my top heroes ever?  

The main difference between me and my dad is that I'm wide open emotionally.  My dad is very self- contained and can be hard to read.  You never have to wonder how I'm feeling.  I'll either tell you or it's all over me like lint.  It's a totally different story with my dad.  I was very blessed by the fact that my dad was able to come to my high school graduation in Snohomish, Washington.  And for my graduation gift, he flew me out to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC, that summer, where he and Sandy and my youngest brother, Greg, were stationed. I do remember having a wonderful time.  One of the best things we did was go to a restaurant with a young friend of Dad's who was my age.  It was the four of us.  There were cocktails (in which us youngers did not participate) and a live band and dancing.  I felt so very grown up and sophisticated!  What the summer did do, however, was point out the differences between my dad and I.  We had several instances of miscommunication because we just didn't understand each other.  And I felt that it was my fault.  I was less than perfect and just didn't measure up.  Please understand that my father never said this to me but it was how I felt then and for many, many years to follow.  

That summer in August we flew to California where my brother, Dennis, had flown from Washington.  We had another one of those family reunions I told you about up at Lake Arrowhead.  I don't remember much about that time except that I spent most of my time with my cousins, Katherine and Elizabeth.  My dad spent a lot of time with my brother and later that year my brother went to live with Dad and Sandy.  As the onion of my life has peeled back, I have learned a lot about my feelings of being separate from and less than.  The fact that my brother was able to live with my dad and I wasn't certainly figured into that.  

You know, I said that we moved a lot.  I remember vividly standing in the small fenced-in back yard in Mountain Home Air Force Base after a friend had been transferred with her family.  I was 5-6 and I was looking up at the sky and crying, "Why does everyone always leave?"  That became an integral part of the fabric of me.  I still deal with, "Do they really like me?  Maybe if they really got to know me, they wouldn't like me?  They probably like someone else much more than they like me."  The 1960's were a very turbulent time in the world and having my dad leave was another huge blip in my own personal world.  

My dad and Sandy and Greg came to visit my brothers and me in Anderson, California after my son was born.  I really like this picture of my dad and all of his children and his first grandchild.

I think he was probably talking to Sandy, giving her information about how to take the picture.

We also saw each other years later at Atlantic Beach at my brother Dan's wedding to one of my dearest and oldest friends, Cindy.  

Dad, my youngest brother, Greg, and I had the opportunity to just chill out on the deck looking out onto the beach and the ocean.

When Butch and I got married, my dad and Sandy were there.  I really wanted them there but I wasn't sure they would make it.  When they did, I was thrilled.  We actually came upon each other in the parking lot of Walmart after they arrived!  The wedding gift that meant the most to me was the set of dessert dishes that had belonged to my Grandmother Shull.  I cried when I opened that box.  And I still tear up when I use them.  By golly, I'm tearing up now!  An even better gift was the dance with my dad at the reception.  I had always dreamed about that dance but wasn't even sure I would ever have a wedding.  So that dance meant even more to me.  The music was "The Circle of Life" by Elton John and I chose it very deliberately.  Despite the distances between my dad and I over the years, we always seemed to roll around the circle back to each other in one way or another.  

I was in a daze during that dance.  So many things were going on and I couldn't believe that it was actually happening.  My dad looked so handsome and he was actually there!  Unfortunately, as is wont to happen, I thought the dance was over, I was being called to come cut the cake and I walked away, leaving my dad alone on the floor.  It was totally unintentional and I didn't even realize it happened until he pointed it out several years later.  I want him to know how much that dance meant to me and always will.  

My dad turned 86 years old in May.  This picture was taken two years ago,  I keep it on my fridge,  

And Sandy was kind enough to send me pictures of a recent visit with my Aunt Marian and Uncle Blaine.

My dad is still as handsome as he has always been!  

Yes, we've had turbulent times even if he wasn't aware of it.  But over the years I've finally grown up and that onion peeling has helped me come to terms with a lot of things.  My dad is who he is, a product of all of his experiences.  He was a pilot for many years, even training other pilots in Bolivia, Korea and I think Honduras.  He worked directly with astronauts at Cape Canaveral.  Since he has retired, he has been on school boards, taught Spanish and English, made cabinets, played golf, traveled even more extensively and watched Jeopardy religiously.  When Butch and I visited a number of years back while Dad and Sandy were still living near Austin, Texas, we learned a hard and fast rule the difficult way.  You can answer out loud as many questions on Jeopardy as you like but when it comes to Final Jeopardy, no one answers until my dad answers!  And by golly, he will be right every time.  He is so daggone smart and well read.  

My dad fought his way back from esophageal cancer some years ago after going through an esophagogastrectomy.  For those who don't know, that means the the stomach and the esophagus are separated in order to remove the bad bits before reconnecting those organs.  Not an operation for the weak of spirit.  Now he is having to deal with residual effects of that disease.  He has been through several bouts of very severe pneumonia.  And he is still fighting back.  

I have the absolute utmost respect and admiration for my dad.  He is an amazing and complex man, one I would love to know even if we weren't related.  Dad, I baked bread this afternoon and thought about you the whole time.  The bread was baked with love  I wish we were together so you could share some with me. 

Happy belated birthday and Father's Day, Dad.  I love you.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


On August 13 my husband, Butch, and I will have been married for 13 yearsBut we had known each other for ~20 years before we got to the wedding.  We met when Butch was my son, Jeremy's, after-school teacher in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Butch was going to school at UNC for a degree on education and working at Everett Elementary.  The lead teacher, Leslie, who was a mutual friend, asked Butch to bring Jeremy home each evening because I did not own a car.  I started fixing him dinner to repay him and we became very close friends.  When he graduated he moved to Orlando and Jeremy and I moved to California to be near family.  We lost contact until 1995.  Right after Jeremy graduated from high school Butch called.  He had moved back to North Carolina.  I was very angry that he had stayed out of contact for so long but slowly and surely we repaired our friendship.

I moved back to North Carolina in 1999 and Butch started to visit me in Winston-Salem.  After a year all of a sudden something was in the air.  To tell you the truth, it creeped us both out!  But within a couple of months we were engaged and starting to plan our wedding.  

Friends and family came from all over the country and from Canada to see the wedding that they had been hoping would happen for far longer than either of us had thought about.  When someone would say, "You and Butch should get together", my response was always, "No way.  His socks never match and he doesn't rinse after brushing his teeth!".  So much for the plans that we didn't make!  I put together the program for the wedding and wrote a note on the back to all of our loved ones.

My mom, my sister and my daughters helped me get ready.  My hair was carefully styled and the veil put in place.  Unfortunately we all forgot that I still had my t-shirt on!

I didn't realize it until Jeremy pointed it out and said that if we cut the t-shirt off, he would not replace my Chico Mom shirt so we had to start all over again.

My sister, Laura, was using the steamer to make sure all of the wrinkles were out of the back of my gown.  Unfortunately, since I was wearing it at the time and she was very intent on doing a good job, I ended up with a burn on my ass!  I was on Cloud Nine, however, and I didn't realize it until the next day!


The minister told me during rehearsal that if I happened to drop the ring, he would pick it up.  I thought that would never happen but sure enough, I dropped the ring.  And commenced to bend over to pick it up.  The minister was bending over at the same time and we actually bonked heads!  

I thought that Butch was very tired from having stayed up until 4:30 a.m. with Jeremy, Leslie (our mutual friend) and my sister-in-law Cindy.  So when several members of the audience said that he looked like he was almost asleep, I didn't think anything of it.  I realized later that the man who had promised he would not over-drink was totally hung over!

Afterward when the pictures were being shot, it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time.  In addition to the hired photographer, my daddy, my father and Leslie, who introduced us, were also taking photos.  When it came time to take a picture of Jeremy, Butch and I, everyone was encouraging Jeremy to smile.  Instead he styled the photo himself.

The rest of the pictures with him are wonderful but this one always makes me laugh, just at it did at the time.

I had crushed my left ankle at the beginning of the year.  It took 6 hours of surgery and a cast worn for months to get to the point of being able to stand up.  So I wore ballet slippers down the aisle.  However, after standing for so long for the pictures, I was worn completely out and had to sit with the foot up before continuing.

At the reception I danced with my new husband, my son, my daddy and the last dance was saved for my father.  It was lovely but the song (Circle of Life) was long and someone called me over to cut the cake.  I didn't realize the song wasn't finished and I walked away.  I also didn't realize that my father stood in the middle of the floor very surprised that I had left his embrace.  In 2006 when we visited Texas, he told that story much to my chagrin.  It was the first time I was aware of what happened.

My parents (with the help of Jeremy) had worked for 3 days on our wedding cakes.  They made the traditional tiered cake and a sheet cake to ensure that everyone had a piece.  However, a lot of people who had RSVP'd didn't show up so a huge amount of cake was taken to a local rest home to share with the residents!

Yes, they made this cake!  It was gorgeous!

When Butch was ready to throw my garter, there was only one bachelor in the room . . . Jeremy.  And he wasn't at all interested in catching it!  So when Butch threw it, Jeremy tried to cajole our grandson, Sam, who was 18 months at the time, to pick it up.  Sam wasn't interested either!

As we left the reception hall, my daddy and Butch's mother were right outside the door.  My new mother-in-law threw a huge handful of birdseed directly down the bodice of my dress.  Yes, it was deliberate.  And when we got back to the house I had to lean over the bathtub while Butch unbuttoned the dress so the seed would fall where we could easily clean it up.  I found out after our honeymoon that my mother had vacuumed repeatedly and we STILL found birdseed on the bathroom floor.

Despite this sabotaged exit, we were very happy.  All of our loved ones were there to see us off, the breeze was blowing and we had actually done it!

There other mishaps afterward.  My mother-in-law encouraged my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to "decorate" our car.  We stopped very soon after leaving so that Butch could cut the cans off of the back but we couldn't figure out the strange odor.  So we stopped at a service station.  When Butch lifted the hood, there were two very large onions sitting right on the engine.  And then the car wouldn't start.  So we had to call back to the house and have Butch's brother and brother-in-law come help get it started.  We made it to our destination but the next morning, the innkeeper had to charge the battery so we could make it back home and exchange cars.  We were finally off for Williamsburg.  

I still remember all of these details very acutely.  I've been to the weddings of my children and they were so beautiful I cried.  But this was the best wedding I've ever attended! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Food is always good.  I really like food.  But the food on a cruise is something else again!  There were several dining rooms with sit down service and cloth napkins.  There were restaurants where the meal had to be paid for and reservations were highly recommended.  There were cafes dispersed throughout the ship where you could pick up a meal or a snack.  There were small areas where you could grab ice cream and there were lots of bars.  

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  And the Windjammer Market buffet dining rooms were where I headed every day but the last.  

Kathi captured this view one very early morning.

The buffet had all of my favorite breakfast (or for that matter, any other meal) foods.  The hot bar held the oatmeal I usually eat every day, complete with a pot of hot milk right beside it.  Walnuts, dried fruit and a box of granola cereal to mix into the oatmeal and I was set.  However, I also had smoked salmon every morning (protein, you know).  And they had the most incredible bread.  I asked and asked about it and for the recipe.  All I got was what they call it:  German bread.  I'd do somersaults for that recipe.  It was dark and had seeds and oatmeal and I don't know what else because they wouldn't give me the recipe!  I make bread at home every week and I really like my recipe.  I add oatmeal, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oat bran and wheat bran and whatever seems to work.  So I am not putting down my bread when I say that this bread was outrageously good.

They also had a breakfast goodie table and anything and everything (I don't lie) that you could imagine using to get a start on your day!

Usually Kathi and I had lunch separately because of the scheduling of classes.  The last class day we were able to dine together in the Adagio 3 dining room with waiter service and an unbelievable buffet.

Lobster gratin was on the buffet which we visited with joy.  In addition, I had a lovely small portion of tomato risotto (with something else but I can't remember).  And I was able to meet several people in the group I hadn't met yet.  That was even lovelier!

However, the main show was in the Adagio 4 dining room where we had dinner every evening.  Talk about lovely!  Our main dining room steward's name was Erimel but he told us immediately to call him Mel.  I don't remember the name of the assistant waiter but I do know that he was from Ukraine and had a very complicated and fascinating family history.  Both of these gentleman treated us like queens and kings.  Napkin placed in the lap kind of thing.  And after my request on the first night they made sure that I had a plate of lemon slices for my water.  I only had to ask once!

This is Mel.  He always had that beautiful smile on; well, except when badgered by the one bad apple in the entire bunch.  But enough about that!

On formal night Kathi and I insisted that he have a picture taken with us.

We felt pretty snazzy that night.  There were two formal nights but, as often happens, we forgot to get a picture.  But wait!  I have one from the last cruise where I am wearing the same dress I wore for the first formal night on this cruise!

As an all-included cruise package was in place, one could order whatever and as many of whatever as one wanted.  And we did.  Now to the promised pictures of delicious, spectacular food. 

Caprese salad 

Crabcakes with wasabi aioli

Fish with capers and raisins in tomato sauce

More lovely fish . . . I believe this was called corvina.

Gorgeous roast duck!

Lamb chops!

I don't remember what this was but it was delicious!

The piece de resistance was available on Friday's formal night.  Remember the part about as many as you want?  People partook particularly on this night when we could have lobster tails and shrimp as our entree.

Oh, my, the most perfectly prepared lobster I've ever had was on that plate.  The shrimp was perfectly prepared every night, particularly in the shrimp appetizer.  Your usual shrimp cocktail with 4-5 huge luscious shrimp and a wonderful cocktail sauce.  One of our crew ordered two every night because it was superb and because, well, why not?!

This was shrimp with crostini and artichoke spread.  OMG!

 And of course, as mentioned before, there was The Cupcake Shop.  Just a reminder of the cupcakes we had . . . 

Because it is a cruise, by golly, and of course I came back several pounds heavier.  What kind of fool would I have been otherwise?

We insisted on hugging Mel the last night because he had been a total sweetheart.  We also hugged the Ukranian-who's-name-escapes-me.  They were so wonderful, at full tilt boogy full time and and never forgot a preference.  We had two tables, one with six seats and one with around 14.  So they were nonstop busy and never lost their cool.  Not once.  

I miss them.

Monday, April 21, 2014


We have been going about 1.5 hours away to spend holidays with our friends, Julie and Rich and their children.  This holiday we got to spend time with Julie's mom, Barbara, as well.  Let me introduce you to most of us.

These two gorgeous sprites are Jonas and Livvie (and the beautiful purple watering can I covet and might steal one day!)  They are beside the comma garden that Julie created this year.  Unfortunately the local Bunny Dude loves the kale!

This is Jonas of the incredible eyes.

And this is Livvie, oh, Livvie . . . of the brilliant scientific mind and the master of Legos!

We brought Ginny a very, very large bone.  Here she is halfway done but the entire bone disappeared pretty darn quickly  A lovely day to lay outside with a snack.

The photographer (my husband, Butch) wasn't able to capture Rich this time but I'm sneaking one in from last Thanksgiving . . .

Rich doesn't hold still long enough to get many pictures and he wouldn't allow one with the crazy pink visor I brought him from my cruise.  Said he might get shot!

Here is my Julie, my beautiful Julie!  We had a lovely time sitting out on the porch with Barbara.

Barbara lives in New Jersey now (and forever before now) but she is in the process of moving down to live next door to Julie and Rich.  She purchased a mobile home last week to go on the land that Rich and Julie just recently bought  next door.  It is cleared and fenced and wonderful!  So green and wide open.  Jonas loves to run down there and stand in a special place and watch the world go by.  So Barbara will be moving down soon to be close.

Barbara is a fascinating lady.  She has lived through many spotlight times in history and worked as a school secretary.  She also worked for Campbell's Soup.  Butch and I love talking to her and hearing her stories and her wisdom.

Legos rule in the Teat household.  And Jonas loved to play Legos with Butch.

Julie is an avid gardener and I really, really enjoy seeing what she has done every time we visit.  The house is out in the country and there are woods all along the back.  It's beautiful and peaceful.  And I love the way the backyard is laid out.

But I think my favorite thing about this particularly visit was the greenhouse.  I love this greenhouse.  I WANT this greenhouse immediately!

This really tickled me.  Rich developed together a balance beam that the kids can put together.  And then they "walk the plank"!  Over and over.  Outside.  That is so refreshing!  These children really love being outside.

Butch and I did contribute to dinner.  Deviled eggs . . . 

And fruit salad with bunnies romping around on top.

I don't know how the bunnies got in but they seemed very comfortable . .

We also took huge oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies that Butch made.  Forgot pictures but they are wonderful!  It's Martha Stewart's recipe and I've pinned it on my Pinterest Board under the "Food" file.  Well worth checking out!

Butch and I have been talking all morning about how much fun we had.  The conversations were really great and being around the little ones always lifts my heart.  Butch, a former elementary school teacher who now works for DPI as a regional accountability coordinator, feels real joy playing the kids.  He does it so effortlessly that everyone can feel how much he loves young ones.  Visiting our lovely friends always makes us want to go back for more!  

I hope your Easter was as great as ours was!