A Wine Drinker Rambling about Wine

Category: Off The Vineyard Trail

Off the Vineyard Trail #6: The Attic

There comes a time in everyone’s life when you just need to let a few things go.

During these past few unexpected rainy days, we decided to tackle the job of cleaning out our attic. The chore has been literally hanging over our heads for months now. Last week when I pulled down the ladder to get an ice chest for band camp, there wasn’t floor space to stand on. Mind you, our attic isn’t huge but it’s adequate to store the non-everyday items.

Cleaning out one’s attic is like opening a Pandora’s Box of ‘These were the Years of Your Life.’ Granted, we’ve had over 13 years in this house to stuff ours, so there’s the typical junk. However, among the boxes of Christmas décor and childhood memorabilia there were a few forgotten surprises…

  • A brand new Street Hockey net and Sticks
  • A duffle bag of uniforms from my hubby’s stint in the military
  • A prom dress circa 1989
  • 3 boogie boards
  • An Eskimo Barbie and a Russian Barbie
  • A full-sized spare tire
  • 2 Saber swords from Uzbekistan
  • A Margaritaville frozen drink mixer
  • A Biology lab microscope
  • Ticket stubs for the 1988 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the New Jersey Devils – face value $11
  • A baby crib
  • Crutches and a knee brace
  • A bike trainer (rehab after the crutches)
  • 2 bales of chicken wire (I forgot I’d bought one already)
  • A buffalo costume from Halloween
  • A 1986 newspaper with the headline ‘Challenger Explosion’
  • A box of VHS tapes
  • A baseball card collection
  • A 1994 Playbill from the Broadway Musical ‘Guys and Dolls’
  • New York Yankee baseball tickets 1996 – face value $16
  • The green metal slide from my son’s loft bed
  • A plastic toy refrigerator and stove
  • A vintage Trombone case

We decided to sort through all the boxes and do some serious clean out. The nicest surprise was in the middle of going through a box of old letters, birthday cards and pictures. I found two letters from my mom. One she had written on her 25th birthday when I was 6 weeks old, that I was to open on my 25th birthday. The second was a Christmas letter she wrote when I was seven. She wrote on the envelope, “Allison, this is to be opened when you’re an adult and your Christmas seems less than it should be. OR when your 7 year-old child drives you crazy with their impatience at Christmas. Love, Mother.”

Apparently, I was driving her crazy. I wish I could remember when she actually gave me the letter. I’d like to think it was the Christmas we had four kids under the age of 7 and they could barely stay in their beds past 4:30 that morning!

Let me warn you, sentimentality is running high in our household right now from revisiting all the life the LORD has given us. The task started as a chore but I can honestly say it’s ended with a lot of thanksgiving, laughter and a few cringy moments. Especially, after my kids found my high school yearbooks. (Yes, I really did want my hair to look like Robert Smith’s of The Cure. Deal with it.)

After hauling seven bags of trash and two large bins of junk to the curb plus one vanload to the Salvation Army, I’m seriously considering joining the minimalist movement. The feeling of letting go is so refreshing! I just wish some of our rediscovered junk was valuable enough to hawk on EBay. Maybe it could of helped cover the University Bursar bill that arrived last week. Oh well, at least I can put the Uzbek sabers to use opening an inexpensive bottle of cava.

So, what’s in your attic?

Off the Vineyard Trail #5: The First Anniversary of a Life Well-Lived

An entire year has gone by since my mom passed away or as I try to remind myself ‘moved to heaven’.  We have a reassurance in Christ of seeing her again, but as life has gone on, filled with milestones, I’ve struggled with the fact my mom has missed every single one. Two Graduations. Spring concerts. Wedding. Milestone Birthdays. First grandchild to college. Trips. Reunions.

I keep wondering how one deals with this type of anniversary? It’s not really something to celebrate. I want to be sensitive to my family, but, honestly, sitting and staring out a window is the most appealing; which for some reason, immediately makes me think of my mother rolling her eyes and saying ‘oh brother!’. And that makes me laugh. You have to have known my mother to understand. Sweet, kind, compassionate, and bossy and no nonsense. She was a doer. DAV volunteer, Veterans Advocate, Fundraiser, Church Food Pantry, Reading Specialist. She adored young people and Veterans.

Looking back, the events of That Week are a blur of pain lined with a dawning realization there was a lot more to my mom than the person I thought I knew. One thing became crystal clear; my mom’s life had a greater impact than I ever suspected. Her life was indeed ‘a life well-lived’.

Friends, neighbors and family crowded my mom’s memorial service and funeral. As they sought to speak words of comfort, each conversation began to take on a similar tone, “When I was. . . in school, put my mom in a care unit, moved to a new city, lost my job, struggled with depression, lost my spouse, was in cancer treatment . . . your mom sent me a card every week, every birthday, holiday. Your mom is why. . . . I graduated, kept going, am here today. Your mom told me I mattered. She prayed with me. She said I’d succeed when everyone around me said I’d fail. She told me mistakes don’t define you and I was loved no matter past choices. Your mom sent a gift card . . . for diapers, groceries, date night, the electric bill. By the end of the week, I had lost count of how many had shared what my mom had meant in their life. One thing was obvious; she had spent her time investing in the most valuable commodity – people.

One of the sweetest moments for me occurred during her visitation service. In the middle of greeting others, my brothers and I noticed two young women whom we didn’t know, slip quietly in to pay their respects. It was later that evening, after reading the guestbook, we realized they worked at the Sonic near my parents’ house.

Now, if you ever had the privilege of meeting my mom, you’d quickly discover her ‘addiction’ to Sonic ice tea. We loved to tease her mercilessly about her favorite accessory; a Route 44 Sonic cup. Mom went to Sonic so often, she knew the workers by name and their life stories. They would save free drink coupons for her and even take a tea out to the car before she finished parking. Mom fretted over their life situations and constantly tipped far beyond the cost of the tea. I only discovered this after she sharply reprimanded me the one time I forgot the tip! The day before mom’s service, my dad stopped by Sonic to tell them what had happened.  As they stood at the drive thru window, the crew tearfully shared how mom had encouraged and blessed their lives.

Today, when I drive by a Sonic, those two young women come instantly to mind and the impact my mom’s life had on them. I find it comforting in the midst of missing her. I’m not exactly sure how the actual day will play out but I do know, instead of dwelling on the life we now live without her, I want to choose to be thankful to God for her example and make this the first anniversary of a life very well-lived.

Love you mom.

“But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:3-4

Off The Vineyard Trail #4: Doggone it! Good Changes for the New Year

Hola, I’m Biscuit.

After firmly resisting sad eyed pleas, begging, and cajoling for over twenty years, I caved in and let them get a puppy. Not just any puppy, mind you, she’s the sweetest, brightest, cutest, brilliant-est puppy-butt ever. And she even has superpowers. For instance, she’s able to reduce mature adults into babbling baby talkers. And turn non-dog people into dog-loving people. Mainly, me. It’s baffling even to me how this transformation happened. My arguments against a dog were solid and based on verifiable facts. One, the oldest was deathly allergic to my parent’s dogs and had to be heavily medicated when we visited. The kid not the dog. But she’s appeared to have grown out of it. Another fact, I’m the one at home for the majority of the time, so I’d be the primary caretaker and four kids was enough for me.

And then, two weeks ago, I unexpectedly crumbled. There was an adorable snapshot on the Central OK Humane Society Dog Rescue webpage to cause me to do some serious life reassessment. I weighed my old arguments against life’s realities such as the kids are growing up faster than I expected. Life is more exciting with crap on the lawn. With four kids, the floors are never clean anyway. Starting the new year with a good change is a blessing compared to the changes we experienced last year. And that’s when I caved, only to then spend a sleepless night of terror thinking, “What have we done!?!” In the light of the new day, sanity returned and I realized as Biscuit eagerly tried to lick my face off this was a good thing. A very good thing and I need to embrace it or actually, Biscuit.

With a new change comes a plethora of new experiences. New phrases have come out of my mouth:

“Do your business. Come on. Do your business, Biscuit.”

“Grrr. Grrrrrr. Grrrr. Grrrrrrrr.”


“No, not the new blinds!!!”

“Stop chewing that. Chew this instead.”

“When you go out, watch for landmines.”

“Do you want me to drag you?”

“Quick! Grab her before . . . just grab her!”

I’ve also turned into a parrot. “Let go! Let go! Let go! Let Go! Let go!”

And Biscuit is teaching me new things.

  1. Running socks are a delicacy, especially new ones. And shoes. All types.
  2. Barking at 4am means ‘I need to go out NOW.’
  3. Children wear out faster than puppies.
  4. Puppies eventually discover lid-less kitchen garbage cans, dummy me.
  5. Puppies shouldn’t be left alone. Unless in a crate. Seriously.

On average, our family tends to be a more reserved, introverted bunch but that all changes when you get a dog. You learn quickly to be social because puppies are people magnets. At the end of the day, I think Biscuit is going to do more good for us than us for her. We’re forced to learn how to converse with complete strangers. People smile at you more. People ask you all kinds of interesting questions. The dog food aisle smells less repulsive. Overall, I know the LORD has good for us through our sweet puppy and it makes me kinda pumped about having membership in the dog club. However, I refuse to plaster the van with ‘I love My Australian cattle dog/terrier mix’ stickers. At least for a month or so. In the meantime, we’re planning the first visit to the dog park, that mysterious playground I’ve only seen from across the fence but never had access to. Now I have a ticket to get in the gate and see what all the fuss is about! 



Miraculously cured of allergies.

Puppies sleep any which way.

Off the Vineyard Trail #3: A Wedding in WA Wine Country

Life can be full of irony. For example, I was literally in the middle of Woodinville Wine Country a couple weekends ago and left without visiting a single winery. As you know, occasionally, I like to write about wine and here was a golden opportunity. You could have tossed a bottle any direction and hit a winery and yet, I might as well have been in Death Valley. Surprisingly, I’m not entirely depressed about this fact despite feeling like the boy in the bubble after gazing longingly at winery upon winery and not being able to stop. To emphasize the irony, here’s a map of the area. 



Our hotel was four miles up the winery crowded road from Chateau Ste. Michelle at the bottom of the map. There’s only one reason I’d skip this golden opportunity: I love my brother and his wedding ranked higher than me tasting my way through Washington! The breathtaking beauty of the area was a nice consolation. 

img_9592Mt. Rainier welcomed us on the approach into Seattle. I swear I could have climbed out on the wing and skied down it, that’s how close it felt.

img_9601Sadly, my brother has lived in the Pacific Northwest for nearly a decade and I’ve not once gotten to visit him. I could use the excuse of how expensive it is to go or I might just be a lousy sister. We got up early the next day to explore Seattle with the promise to be back to Woodinville before the 6pm rehearsal. Ha! I’ve been in rushhour in NYC, LA & SanFran but Seattle is a whole different ballgame. With only one day, we hit the highlights: Space Needle, EMP (Experience Music Project) Museum with the Star Trek experience (my baby brother’s a sci-fi nut), Pike Place Market with the flying fish and Starbucks.  


img_9661We enjoyed the view from the top of the Space Needle. Although, Seattle might need to call an exterminator. 




The Space Needle’s outside balcony causes you to unintentionally bump into fellow tourists and get a mild case of motion sickness. There should be warning signs on the doors telling you to brace yourself and leave the coffee cups inside. I watched more than one unsuspecting viewer stumble suddenly into the retaining wall. You’d have thought there was more than just cream in their cup.

Wavy floors of fun

Wavy floors of fun

Next we hopped the Monorail, after paying an exorbitant $4 for a round trip ticket, to watch the sport of fish flinging and ogle the birthplace of $5 cups of coffee. Pike Place Market is a multi-level, cavernous indoor/outdoor farmer’s market on steroids. You can walk for days through the winding passageways and still not see every booth or vendor. 


Scent of money, er, coffee.

Scent of money, er, coffee.




img_9705After playing Turbo Tourist, we got to enjoy a rainy, no wait it stopped . . . . it’s raining again . . . ok, it really has stopped, outdoor Fall Wedding. This was our first family gathering since our mom’s passing in April and it was a much needed welcome celebration. My dad had warned me to dress warmly because it’s more north than Oklahoma. Yeah, I know geography! 55 degrees in Seattle during the rainy season isn’t the same as 55 degrees in Oklahoma. It’s cold. However, Fall in Washington is wonderful. It rained the night we arrived and the trees were dressed in brilliant colors the next morning. My brother and his lovely bride tied the knot at a farm (ironically, not a winery but there was one down the street) and it even stopped raining for the reception. 





A rainbow blessing for the newlyweds.



It was your typical wedding with dancing, hoop-la hoops, badminton and family tattoos. My new sister-in-law fits into our goofy family perfectly and she plans ultra-awesome weddings. 

No tramp stamp for me, thanks.

No tramp stamp for me, thanks.

I did get to drink Washington wine: 14 Hands. Lovely. And sample beer from a keg of Mac & Jack’s African Amber to go with the delicious Falafel Food Truck fare. I think food trucks may be the wedding trend of the future!  

Wedding Caterers

Wedding Caterers

In the end, despite no wineries visits, it was still a very enjoyable trip. And all those wineries gives me a really good excuse to visit my brother and sister-in-law more often in the future beside just wanting to see them. 😉 

Until then, 


Me and my lovable goofball.

Me and my lovable goofball.

Off the Vineyard Trail #2 – It’s Marching Band Season!


It’s the first week of August and temperatures outside are over a 100 so that can mean only one thing: Marching Band season is here and we are right in the middle of Band Camp. I have two lovable band geeks (trombone and clarinet) who got up before daybreak on Monday morning to prepare for another year of Battle of the Bands. Our tiny town alone has three high schools and the stakes for ‘Best Band’ bragging rights are high. I’m impressed every year by the number of students who willingly endure grueling hours of practice, sunburn, heatstroke and blisters to be able to strut their musically choreographed talents before a football crowd on Friday nights. Let me tell you, it’s good times!

Camp is a 12 hours a day, total immersion experience where only the truly committed survive. By Monday evening, our clarinet player (a freshman trying to keep up with her hyperactive brother, a junior and trombonist) reported they’d lost four. After Wednesday morning, some had moved to the color guard, others quit and in the end, 26 clarinets had fallen to 13. The summer heat had taken them out. Literally. I guess the sight of fellow bandmates being carted off the field was unnerving or it could’ve been the uniforms they were issued. Who knows? Regardless, I’m convinced that any kid who survives marching season is as tough as the football team. Forgive me, it’s the crazy band parent pride talking.

When we became “band parents” two years ago, we’d only heard faint rumors about the commitment required for band. That first month about killed me but my son was so excited to have finally found his tribe, I curtailed the complaining and tried to enjoy the exhausting experience. I’m pretty sure that’s when my two cups of morning coffee jumped to three. Then came the first marching contest. Wow. This was seriously Big Time. Well-equipped, mini band villages sprang up all over the  stadium parking lot. Each band had their territory  carefully staked out with school flags, tents, equipment trailers, buses and RVs. At our “band village”, a couple of the dads had set up a large tent with chairs, tables, and a 60inch TV to watch the football games. A second tent was for serving  meals. Massive grills and coolers lined the periphery. They grilled chicken. And served homemade potato salad, baked beans, fruit, corn on the cob and dessert. I recite the menu because I naively thought serving sandwiches would’ve been sufficient. Shame on me! We are raising band champs, people! How else will we beat the eastern Oklahoma schools? They need real meals to succeed! Then it hit me. Band was serious and subsequently, band parents (like football, dance, soccer, baseball, etc.) have no lives, I mean, love their kids. A lot.

Actually, it’s been a great experience for our whole family. I’ve seen my kids grow and excel and they’ve gotten to hang out with some pretty incredible people. Then there’s the band parents and their crazy dedication. They will do anything and everything for the band: cook 200 hot meals, hem uniforms, drive equipment trailers at 3am, host 70 girls for a sleepover, lift heavy show props. Whatever’s needed.

Which brings me to the last few days of camp and the start our third marching season. It’s 100+ outside and the oven’s on cause I’m baking dozens of chocolate chip cookie bars for band camp lunch.  The transformation is complete. I’ve morphed into a crazy band parent.

GO WOLVES! Beat Broken Arrow!

Now for a little band humor . . .

done band


Zombie band


dino band



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