On Moving Day

Cloud City. March 5, 2020, photo by Shirley.

Today, as I look out over the windy city of Omaha, NE, I’m reminded of how I felt in the early days of living in Midtown Crossing, loving the views. We’ve now been here for 9 years.

Here is something I wrote on February 25, 2011, about those beginnings:

Actually, this moving day should be posted as 2 days (24th and 25th) or even many more days. It’s been months in the making. But, yesterday was a red letter day.

I found myself at 2 PM with a car loaded with Leigh’s closet, my art things, some clothes and hangers, and various cupcake business things. Should I wait until the actual moving day (Feb. 25) to bring these things? I still had to stop at Cupcake Island and pick up mail and payroll, AND an ice storm was due at any minute.

I decided to go to the condo/new home after Cupcake, saying to myself I would be home by 3 for a short nap (having gotten up at 4 AM, so excited, can’t sleep). After the nap, I would prepare the house for a 6:30 showing, then do Cupcake books, before everything (desktop computer, printer, modem) got disconnected and boxed up for the move, short as it is to Midtown.

We were also entertaining the FAB 5!, (friends and fellow United Way volunteers), at 6:30 at Crave restaurant.

Anyhow, I found myself pulling into our underground parking garage alone for the first time. It took about 5 elevator trips to empty the car, not a big deal.

I was enjoying every step through the condo/new home as I puttered about organizing what I had brought, imagining Dan’s surprise to find family pics set out, and his shirts hanging in the closet.

But what I really liked was the view toward the park and the city!!! The huge flag cheered me as the clouds got darker and something like snow came down—I wasn’t sure—was it ice?—I seemed so high up, on this 8th floor. That snow looked different from there, I think.

Moving from a home of 13 years that you’ve made your own is a huge transition. And so is enjoying, savoring the first few steps of moving into a completely new space, with completely new views.

Here are a few of those new views:

This you can see from anywhere, really, It was just fun to see such a wide expanse of sky.
Maintenance workers, changing a lightbulb, maybe?
Rooftop xeriscape year round plantings.
The sunrise, Oh yes!
Window washers.
Bare beginnings. I kind of like this uncluttered look!
March 1, 2011. A hot air balloon landed in Turner Park. It was the “Heat the Streets, Walk for Warmth” event. Photo from Midtown Crossing’s Facebook page.
The Flag, in 2020.

Thanks for reading and looking!


On Dressing for Winter

Shirley and her brothers, Marty and Ed, 1950’s Iowa farm.

As you can see, our parents took really good care of us modern mid-century kids! They made sure we were warm by tormenting us with these turn of the century winter outfits. We do look happy!

A few years later, we moved to town so that Dad could take a job with Farner and Bocken. He became a beloved beer salesman, serving the area’s needs, and giving his family a comfortable life. Here is a card that he sent out that first year in his job, 1961:

Now the family includes Karen! This card was found recently in 2019, in one of Dad’s customer’s drawers, in Denison. It’s signed Leny & Hamm’s.

Now that we lived in Carroll, the winter wear styling was pushed up a notch. No babushka scarf for Karen! She gets a really cute furry hat. It even looks like she was allowed to go without mittens and boots!

Karen, on South Main St., around 1965.

However, it took a few years for Mom and Dad to get that cool. For their oldest child, in 1961, I was forced to wear flannel or wool pants under my uniform, and heavy boots, for the 7 block walk to St. Lawrence School, when we lived at 1114 N. Main St.

“But, Mom!”, I still remember protesting. “I’ll be OK. The other girls wear tights and little shoes”. Whining did no good. I just had to bear it.

Years later, in Omaha, imagine my surprise as I saw the high schoolers wear pajama pants under their uniforms, willingly. They probably begged their mothers to let them do that, Ha!

When our oldest son was 6 and in first grade, I was responsible for his worst fashion day in winter. Mom and I found the most perfect tan trench coat, lined in fur (when I say fur, it always means imitation of course). She worked at Penney’s and received the employee discount, which made this on sale coat such a bargain! I could just see Bryan in it.

The problem was, he refused to wear it. There were tears. The ONE day he did wear it was when his dad was driving the car pool and authoritatively insisted, “Get in the car now, with that coat on and buttoned up!”. Sorry Bryan.

I found no pictures of this coat which was immediately donated away after causing so much unhappiness. It looked something like this:

What were we thinking?

Unfortunately, Bryan had one more (at least) episode of Mom choosing winter wear for him. This was when he was a senior in high school. It was a dark turquoise puffy (very puffy) ski style jacket and another Penney’s bargain, I’m sure. He rarely wore it, and purposely left it at home when he went to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Bryan, senior in high school, wearing the coat!

The feisty winds on campus proved to be too cold between classes, (now that walking was the only way to get around), so that first weekend home, he found the puffy coat to bring back. Fashion was not as important as warmth.

Here’s a great coat for a little girl, and our daughter’s request at Christmas:

Leigh, 1989, with her beautiful white fur coat.

I was asked to sew a fur coat for our oldest granddaughter, Clara, by her very fashionable mother, Amy. Here’s how it turned out:

What a fun coat, sure to have kept Clara warm! 2005.

One of the coldest days I’ve ever been out in occurred on the eastern most part of Long Island, NY. We were on a road trip with friends, and wanted to get to Montauk to see the historic landmark lighthouse.

First, we stopped at the Parrish Art Museum (YAY!) near Southhampton to see the Fairfield Porter works. Then, it was off to a deli for pastrami sandwiches to eat at the lighthouse.

As we drove on and on, it seemed, the pastrami sandwiches were getting more and more enticing, until we just couldn’t wait any longer. We pulled off the road and enjoyed our lunch. Now, on to the lighthouse, which turned out to be right around the next bend! We laughed and laughed.

Shirley, Dan, and Liz, February, 1998. Photo by Tony Hooi, who was so cold he actually missed the tall part of the lighthouse, (behind this brick building), Ha! And, it was closed for the winter, so no chance to go inside and warm up.

The wind was intense. We were frozen just being in it for a few minutes; we could not have had a picnic here!

Our weather in Omaha turned very cold this last weekend, with minus degree windchills. Before that, it was mid -fifties and sunny. Last week, I breezily walked to a neighborhood coffee shop (Myrtle and Cypress) for a meet up with a friend who founded and runs a nonprofit (Whispering Roots-an aquaponics, STEM program for school kids, and other communities, raising fish and food). He was updating me on their work as we sipped our drinks served in vintage looking, soft green china cups (a juniper berry organic whole milk latte for me, and a cashew/date nondairy one for him).

I chose this coffeeshop for its location, and its innovating small business vibe. They made over a house, so you sit on couches and chairs. Also, I like their Instagram posts. The one that influenced me had the juniper latte photo, and a link to an article, entitled “The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter”, which was inspirational, I thought. In Norway, there are very few depressed people, affected with seasonal disorders. Apparently, it’s all about attitude.

Right now, they’re in the season, a few months long, when Norway’s sun doesn’t get above the horizon. So, they enjoy long views of sunrises and sunsets.

Norwegian residents have a saying, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” Ha ha! To survive the harsh winters in the midwest, where I live, and around the world, you need good clothing choices.

Even our pets have very caring owners. On Sunday, I quickly photographed (from my balcony) one of my favorite dogs of Midtown Crossing at Turner Park on a walk with its owner.

Alice and her dog, Ellie, who’s always dressed appropriately.

Our winter is just beginning, so take very good care of yourself, and loved ones!


On Cleaning Up After Christmas Dinner

”Dish by Dish”, 28”W by 29”H, studio art quilt by Shirley, 2001.
Cotton, dye, inkjet print, hand and machine stitched.

Traditionally, the most important time for family gatherings in the Neary household is on Christmas Eve, not on Christmas Day. This was begun by Dan’s father, Ray, while Dan was growing up.

In our house, family arrives anytime after noon, and we have a casual lunch buffet, with Dan doing most of the preparation. The menu is this: cheese spread with crackers, meatballs, little smokies in “Tony’s sauce” (secret recipe, ha), deviled eggs, a veggie tray, and shrimp from Absolutely Fresh Seafood. A platter of homemade cookies and fudge is set out also.

Then, we play games, rest a little, and maybe open one gift.

Around 5 or so, we go to a children’s Mass, and come back for a formal dinner. Many grand entrees have been prepared over the years, such as beef tenderloin, lobster, or Duck a l’orange, followed by gift unwrapping. This was somewhat exhausting!

Usually, we had places to go the next day, some that were hours away and out of state (to Iowa), for other family celebrations.

In the past few years, we’ve significantly reduced the elegance and work, by choosing to do only the very wonderful buffet, in mid afternoon. We still light candles, and use nice dishes and linens. Clean up is easier, for sure, and we still celebrate the joy.

Handmade card, from Nancy and Dave.

Here is something I wrote a few years ago, on Dec. 27, 2015, when we served both meals:

As the dishes, pots and pans, cups and glasses and utensils pile up on the counter, I think for one second that this is crazy! More pans on the stovetop, a full dishwasher going through its cleaning cycle, and dessert is yet to be—are there enough clean forks?

The food is creative and delicious, the company divine, in fun and conversation! And help also!

So, when I go to bed at 11:00 on Christmas Eve with cleanup halfway done, I am not looking forward to the rest of the dish duties.

My quick sketch of some of the varying degrees of cleanup.

However, on Christmas morning, I get up so early, and can quietly clean a few items (while others sleep), looking out over the park, and at the Woodmen Tower with its green and red lights.

What I’m remembering is that time when Dan’s sister, Linda, taught me about messy kitchens and cleaning them up. In the mid 1970’s, she came to Omaha to visit, and cooked a Mexican dinner in our tiny Benson apartment kitchen, using every wedding gift and piece of equipment we owned. I was somewhat appalled at the state of our kitchen!

Then, we ate, and enjoyed, and after that, we methodically cleaned up dish by dish, washing, drying, and putting everything away.

From an old calendar.

And then, our kitchen was ready for many more cooking and cleaning up episodes. I hope everyone is enjoying time around a family table often!


On Lit Up Interiors

Photo of Chocolat Abeille, in Omaha’s Old Market. Seen on the Facebook group, Nebraska Through the Lens page, photo by Darrell Wendt, Dec. 2019.

This marvelous storefront photo is just the kind of thing I was thinking about, back on May 22, 2011, when I wrote this:

There is a phenomonon of warmth and comfort that arises whenever I see lit up interiors viewed from the outside.

The effect is even more inviting on a rainy, foggy, or snowy day. During Cupcake Island’s first year, in 2006, I remember the pleasure of driving up to the shop on a dark and dreary day, and seeing the shop’s bustling interior all lit up!

At home, I would often choose to walk around the block at dusk, just to see a glimpse of a stairwell, or a desk lamp lit up within a window.

”Lit From Within” is the title of a painting I viewed (somewhere? by who?). I thought the title was so poetic. I barely remember the painting; was it a scene in a window? No, I think it was a nature scene, a tree or a shrub, very leafy, with touches of light coming through. Beautiful!!

”Come into the Shade”, my 1992 watercolor painting of our one time back yard’s entrance. Inspired, I’m sure, by that “Lit From Within” memory.

Now, today, on December 18, 2019, I’m adding some favorite scenes to illustrate further the emotive value of light inside, viewed from outside.

This past summer, it was very exciting to witness a neighbor’s backyard wedding on the lake (West Lake Okoboji, Iowa).Here is a picture of the tent:

Photo taken by me, August 17, 2019.

I also think that looking into a lighted courtyard from a darkened path is lovely.

March 15, 2017, Royal Palm, Phoenix, AZ.

And here’s a spectacularly famous painting, at The Art Institute of Chicago. I didn’t know it was so large! I must go see it.

”Nighthawks”, Edward Hopper, oil on canvas, 1942. 2’6” by 5’. Photo taken by me, from my art history textbook.

However, my very favorite artwork expressing this theme comes from Paulette Peters, an Elkhorn, Nebraska friend. She created this “wall hanging” as she calls it (I call it a studio art quilt) in 1989. I saw it a few years later, when I was active in quilt guilds, and never forgot it, or the idea behind it. So original!

”Homefires”, by Paulette Peters, 41” by 41”. About this piece, Paulette wrote: “Arrangement of houses taken from view of a cul-de-sac at 132nd and Pacific (in Omaha, NE), looking south, at that evening moment when you’re driving home and everyone else has dinner on the table.”

Thanks, Paulette, for sending me the photo a few days ago!

I hope all of you enjoy the Lit Up Interiors in your own lives.


On Whipped Cream

My yellow whipped cream bowl. Contemplating the goodness.

Because I’ve recently enjoyed a slice of pecan pie, with whipped cream, I thought I would post this musing from November 22, 2014.

Dan’s mother, Betty, would always whip the cream on the holidays when we visited, in a medium sized yellowware bowl. It was sturdy and nicely shaped. I loved how the whipped cream looked in there!

Dan’s mother, Betty Neary

I knew where cream came from because I have a vague memory of Grandma Schelle (or Mom?) pouring off a layer of cream on fresh milk. Our neighbors were dairy farmers.

However, for most of my childhood, we used the powdered “Dream Whip” boxed product that you added milk to, and then whipped it up.

We loved this!

After that, it was Cool Whip for many years. Or, the whipped cream in a can that my Grandma Thelen used. I really loved that!

Then, I got married, and noticed my mother-in-law, Betty’s real whipped cream.WOW! How fantastic! I still used Cool Whip a lot, while our 4 kids were growing up. Crazy to think about it now, all of those plastic containers and chemicals in the fake whipped cream!

But somewhere in those years, I started whipping fresh cream. I remember putting some in my coffee in the afternoon, if I was watching kids from our babysitting co-op, and I’d sit on the couch for a bit, and enjoy that.

 Also, we had a cylindrical Tupperware container, with a little mixer inside, to whip cream in. One time, I shook it so long that the air pressure built up and the lid flew off! It had become butter, flying all over the dining room, and my new navy cotton sweater I was wearing. It also hit Leigh, about 4 months old, in her baby swing, and Mom at the table. It was a huge mess, and even worse, there was no whipped cream for dessert!

Then, our oldest son, Bryan, became interested in good, delicious food as a young adult, and married husband and father. He makes the very best whipped cream! It has just the right amount of sugar, and a consistency that holds up well. He brings a generous supply of it to our holiday dinners. We have lots left over to enjoy and maybe freeze, remembering Bryan’s gift later.

Now, our grandson, Gus, knows the method. He offered me some that he had made, to take home last Thanksgiving, and this year too. Such a treat, and once in awhile, it’s worth it!


On a Stone Bench

This summer, it all began with a trip to the Maritime Museum in Arnold’s Park, Iowa. I saw this arched structure made from rocks. The sign said it was on loan from Clark Museum in Milford, Iowa. It did not say who made it, or when.

The maker’s name is “Anonymous”, as many pieces of folk art are unsigned.
A close up detail of the birdbath.

It made me think of my Great Grandpa Goecke who made stone sculptures. The one I specifically remember was a big stone basket in front of Grandma and Grandpa Schelle’s farmhouse. Grandma, Mary Ann (Mamie) Goecke Schelle, was his daughter.

Linda Schelle Johnston has inherited the stone basket. It now sits in her yard.

I wondered if he was inspired by the rocky shorelines of Spirit Lake, Iowa’s largest natural lake, where he spent many years, or if it was a popular craft of the time.

Mom (Jean Schelle Thelen) talked often of her Grandpa Goecke’s cottage on Spirit Lake. She gave me a photo from 1981 of her and our 2 older sons, Bryan and Brandon, on a rock bench at that cottage (now with a new owner). She told me that her Grandpa Goecke tied his boat to it.

Brandon, Bryan, and their Grandma, 1981. The rope shows that it’s still being used to tie down a boat.

I LOVE that picture and the idea of an ancestor making the bench. I wanted to see it, but I had no idea where it was located. I guess Mom had never taken me there, that I remember! And now, I couldn’t ask her, because she went on to her heavenly reward in 2014.

So, I asked around. I asked my brother Ed first. He’s a long time resident of Spirit Lake, and Mom and Dad visited him often, renting a cabin each spring and fall (the unbusy times), near him.

No, he had no idea either.

Next, I asked my Kennebeck cousins. They come to The Iowa Great Lakes (Okoboji) every summer for a week of pure fun, and their Mom was my mom’s sister, so she must have talked about it also.

No, they didn’t know where it was!

My Uncle Ron (Mom’s brother) had done a detailed family history for our files. That’s where I found information on William Goecke. He was married and lived in Carroll, Iowa. A few years after his wife died (in 1930), he moved to Spirit Lake (in 1934), and lived there until 1956, when he returned to Carroll. In Spirit Lake, he owned a house in town for the winter, and a lakehouse for the summer.

My Great Grandpa Goecke, at his Spirit Lake cottage. Photo sent to me by Ron Schelle, in June 2019.
I love that he named his fishing cottage!

I went to the courthouse with that information, sleuthing my way to the cottage with the stone bench. The helpful workers led me to the basement, through a dark corridor into a large bright room, and left me there.

It was quite fun! Searching through a massive, tabletop sized index of handwritten deed transfers (today, they’re all digital), sorted by year, and alphabetized, I found one address really fast—the one in town.

It was energizing to see his name written here.

The lake cottage was pretty easy too. He bought it in 1941.

Details of the cottage purchase.
Lake Cottage, division name.

Then, I went upstairs to the offices to get the actual address, after finding the division name and year of the sale. I got both addresses, and the current owners’ names. The lake cottage has an Omaha owner, and I knew the name!

After contacting my Omaha friend, I learned that her husband’s brother had purchased the property 3 years ago. They weren’t staying there until the weekend, and encouraged me to go have a looksee, although they couldn’t recall a bench.

I went the next day, very excited and hopeful. My imagination saw it along the shore, and I thought we could maybe take a new family photo there, with grandkids and myself, to hang on the wall, alongside the other.

Great Grandpa Goecke’s cottage, 12885 253rd Ave. My own photo, June 2019.

Well, it had been 38 years since the stone bench photo was taken. I really thought it would be there, but it was not. A sea wall, several feet wide has been built, taking over the original shoreline.

So disappointing.

However, I’ll always appreciate hand crafted stone sculptures, and think of my Great Grandpa Goecke, who gave me joy long ago, when I gazed at the basket on my Grandparent Schelle’s farmhouse steps, near Breda, Iowa.

Just for fun, here are a few stone photos from my walks, along West Lake Okoboji.

Icy rocks, West Okoboji shoreline, Nov. 2017.

I hope you enjoyed this little story, and can go sit on a favorite bench somewhere in your world!


On Getting Older; Being Younger

Dan and Shirley with baby Bryan, back home in Carroll, IA, for a visit.

Today, I’m reading a novel where the child asks his father what it’s like to get older. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. I guess I was thinking about it back on June 9, 2010 also when I wrote this:

Young mother, young father, young child. That was us in 1973. One year into marriage, family and continued college life. Part time jobs, intramural games for Dan, dance classes for me: Modern (which involved getting up on a chair) and Arabic (also known as belly dancing) through the “Y”.

Our very first home

Small dwelling. A mobile home purchased with my parents’ co-signing the loan. It cost $2,000.00, and that included the deck extension. We moved that home from Breda, IA to Towncrest Mobile Home Court in Iowa City, IA.

Young marrieds next door arguing loudly and throwing dishes at 2 AM. Me selling Avon door to door. Dan janitoring at Hillcrest boys Dormitory (now demolished). Me, getting a full time job at University Hospital in the File department, after dropping out of college. Dan, picking up our son, Bryan, from the sitter after class, and bringing him to visit me at work, placing him up on the counter for a bit.

Me taking tennis lessons over my lunch hour—Imagine! Some days watching soap operas in the break room with co-workers. Every day eating my home packed lunch.

A move to Omaha in 1975 for Dan’s new job with a $12,000.00 annual salary. I would never again take a full time paid job. But I always knew that I could if I had to, or wanted to.

My evening Organic Chem class was a favorite. The professor set up a coffee bar, with powdered creamer; such a treat!

Going back to school at UNO (University of Nebraska Omaha), living in a Benson apartment, then house, 3 more children, a big 96 lb. dog, and lots of neighbors/friends to meet. Getting a degree while settled into our 2nd Omaha house in west Omaha near 120th St. Discovering quilts and gardening along the way to add to general creative, artistic outlook on life. Laughing often, with Dan and kids, at Dan, at kids, at myself, and by myself thinking about Dan and kids.

Our big dog, Sam.
First quilt, “Soft Hearts”, 1994, donated to Essential Pregnancy Service.
One of my first gardens, trying to re-create a rainbow.

1997, a family move to Long Island, New York, at age 45—our big adventure.

1998, coming back to Nebraska after 1 year and an ethically challenging experience. Tears all around. Some called it a Baptism by Fire.

Somewhere, back in N. Y., I got older. I no longer moved without thinking about it. I was active as ever, but now I was more AWARE of my movements. I felt like I had to chart my course each day to stay on track.

Like telling myself this: I will get up, go shower, go downstairs, make coffee. Along the way, pick up lint on the carpet (sometimes), open blinds, walk to laundry room. Anyhow, I no longer just DID things. I now had a heightened awareness of each action.

Enjoying excellent health, I thought it was due to my nutritious eating, early AM walks, and optimistic outlook. I really didn’t understand illness and disability.

So, now at age 57 (in June, 2010), how humbling it is to have a painful knee for no apparent reason, and not to be able to keep up with fellow travelers at the airport. I’m on every moving sidewalk, standing still, and every escalator.

No dancing on this trip, inconceivable!

Note: On 9-23-2010, I wrote that the awareness of knee soreness is still there, but I’m walking up steps, around NYC for 2 days, and dancing a little. I think it’s getting better!