Happy Birthday to a lovely lady

Today, March 5, is my Mom’s birthday.

When I think of Mom, I think of the time the two of us went to Savannah together for the weekend. I was worried about what we’d say to each other for 72 hours of togetherness. It was the first time in some years we’d spent that much time just by ourselves. What would I say to her all weekend? Would it be awkward?

I needn’t have worried. The minute I picked her up she started chatting about anything and everything. She chatted happily all weekend, the extrovert. All I had to do was listen.

Another memory I have of Mom is of her making cocoa for me and my brother after school on cold, rainy days. And of her being the Girl Scout cookie captain for five years running – as well as the Cub Scout den mother for my brother’s pack. (Never forgot one of the Cubs eating so many cupcakes he made himself sick.)

Mom was the modern day Centaur, as Erma Bombeck said – half woman, half station wagon. Or in her case, a light blue 1970 Ford LTD. She chauffeured me and my friends to kindergarten, ballet class, piano rehearsals and later high school band practice.

She was a dedicated worker. She was never late to her job as a nurse – in fact, she’d get uptight about her schedule and be ready 30 minutes before she had to leave for her afternoon shift, just to give herself time to relax. In my memory she didn’t get sick and hardly took time off. At her retirement party the organizers limited the 10 speakers on the program to two minutes each. That was after the presentation of the plaques from the mayor and the governor.

For all her talents, Mom was not Julia Child – and she didn’t pretend or try to be. She was firmly out of the WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) mode of cooking – boil it to death because water is a spice. I couldn’t eat green beans after I left home until I discovered steaming.

But Dad liked his green beans that way – and he was the one she was cooking for, not us kids. She always catered to him, making him a priority. Cookies Dad liked – he got them. Dishes he liked – he got them. Even today she cooks a hot lunch for him most days. Funny tale about that: right after they moved into their current patio home community, Dad got a part-time job at the model home across the street. Mom would cook his lunch and carry it over to him each day at noon. One day the neighbors reported that a few minutes after they saw Mom return home, she was back out the door to go to Dad – with a ketchup bottle in her hand.

Mom understands loyalty, fidelity, service and love. A 54-year marriage (and counting), as well as a 25-year career, is proof.

Happy 75th Birthday, Mom. May you have many, many more.

Mom laughing
Mom (far right) with my Aunts: Anne, Marlys, Audrey and Elaine; at the Rust Family Reunion in Downtown Sioux Falls, Sept. 2012

Dinner at the “wurst” restaurant in town

Ever since I read about this place in the New York issue of Gourmet Magazine (in 2004!) I’ve wanted to go to Hallo Berlin. The restaurant is located on 10th Avenue, between 44th and 45th, so it’s just far enough from the Times Square area to feel like you’re in a residential part of the city.

NYC brownstones
45th street between 9th and 10th Avenues. I kept expecting the Cosby family to spill out of one of the brownstones.

The restaurant’s exterior awning proudly proclaims “Germany.”

Hallo Berlin front awning
It’s always time for sausage and beer at Hallo Berlin.

I had the two wurst plate, which came with sauerkraut, red cabbage and spaetzle. Plus cabbage and potato soup to start. I choose bratwurst and knockwurst.

Wurst at Hallo Berlin
You can only see one of the two mustards which accompany the gorgeous sausages and sides at Hallo Berlin.

It was delicious!

Matilda writes back

Look at how well the Algonquin Hotel handles publicity… they have an email address for their cat! This is excellent PR. These are my email exchanges with Matilda… Start at the bottom and work your way up.

From: MAlgonquin Cat <MAlgonquinCat@algonquinhotel.com>
Date: March 21, 2013, 10:16:42 AM EDT
To: J

Subject: RE: My blog post about YOU

FURbulous! Thank you.

From: J
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 10:22 AM
To: MAlgonquin Cat
Subject: Re: My blog post about YOU

Thank you for the info… I’ve just updated my blog.
On Mar 20, 2013, at 10:12 AM, MAlgonquin Cat <MAlgonquinCat@algonquinhotel.com> wrote:

Very CATabulous – thank you but please note I am the 10th cat and the third Matilda – the first seven cats were all males named Hamlet.

Please come by anytime. I like making new FURiends

Have a PURRfect day

^..^

><

Matilda

From: j
Sent: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:57 AM
To: MAlgonquin Cat
Subject: My blog post about YOU

Hi Matilda,

I’m visiting NYC for a few days and dropped by to catch a glimpse of you. The concierge was so kind; he let me come in and get a picture. Thought you might like a link to my blog post:

https://auntjim.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/the-algonquins-most-famous-guest/

I had to stay somewhere else due to my conference in the city; hope to stay at your place next time I come to town.

J

Tim, this one’s for you

I’m thrilled that I remembered my blog password. It has been too long since I posted…. my goal is to do a little more posting this last part of the year. Life got a little (read: lot) crazy at work back sometime in March … and I let the stress take over. During the family reunion the first week of September my cousin Tim told me he missed my postings. Thanks, Tim, for the gentle nudge. So, I’m back. More later on why it took me three weeks to post after the reunion.

For now – here’s a blog I want you all to visit. Nina Camic’s pictures of Wisconsin in the fall are beautiful. She came to this country as an 18-year-old au pair from Poland, and made her life here. Her blog “The Other Side of the Ocean” is tranquil and serene – a perfect way to end a Sunday evening.

Gratitude, no. 1

Since Thanksgiving I’ve been wondering what I want to do with this blog. (You’re sure to have noticed I haven’t posted since … early November.) Most blogs focus on a theme, something more narrow than a general catch-all web diary, which this one has been. Over Christmas I read the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. A friend dared Ann to capture one thousand blessings, one thousand things she was thankful for, in her journal. The experience changed the way she saw thanksgiving – eucharisteo.

That’s what I’m going to be doing now with Notes from Aunt Jim. Maybe I’ll even change the name one day. But I’m going to start documenting at least one blessing, one gift, per day. From simple to profound. From a clean pair of slacks that didn’t need ironing on a day when I was rushing out the door, to … who knows where this will lead. But I do expect it to change my attitude, and so my life.

Today, my gift was being able to hear Beth Greer. She spoke and sang at our church tonight for the Ladies’ Night Out. Her passion for Jesus revitalized my flagging spirit.