Sunday Brunch

If you’re following me you know I’ve missed a few Sunday posts.  I spend my week days in front of a computer and lately I’m spending my weekends at my laptop at home.  I’m desperately trying to finish the 2013 Calendars I used to make for Christmas, and the Christmas/Valentine’s Day photo cards.

My mother says I have too much on my plate, I’m trying to do too much.  OK.  But what exactly do I give up?  Sure I could stop making the calendars, but the truth is I enjoy creating them.  I use photos I’ve taken during the year, and each person’s calendar has the birthday’s that are important to them.

I just gave my sister her calendar, it was the first.  Turns out Good Friday landed on Monday and Easter is on a Wednesday.  Oops.  Anyway, the point was, I know I’m trying to do too much, but I don’t know what to stop doing.  Of course I’d love to just stop working.  Stay home, finish the calendars, the cards, clean the house, make healthy meals for my family, exercise 2 hours a day, finish my novel…but that’s not possible at this stage of my life.

So I’ve given up house cleaning (no great tragedy there), bookkeeping (I hired my sister to do it) skiing (not happy about that one – at all!), and writing (not forever, just for now).

This morning we woke up and took the dog for a walk on the river road.  The snow was falling and we were the only ones out there (until the very end).  It was lovely.  Stephen and I are doing a class at the Montana Athletic Club at 5:30am. Stephen is participating in a Spartan Race in May so this is a Spartan Training Class.

I pretty much hurt all over.  My abs (yes it’s true I still have some), my thighs, my upper chest muscles all hurt from the planks, push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc. etc. we do in class and at home (Gigi gives us HOMEWORK!).  But it felt good to just walk for four miles.  On the way back we started talking about breakfast and what we would order if we were at Echo Lake Cafe, one of our favorite Sunday Brunch places.

When we got home I went straight to the kitchen and started working on our orders.  I put the water to boil and cut-up red potatoes, they boil for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile I started chopping the brussel sprouts, onions, mushrooms, and yellow pepper.  Stephen cut-up an avocado, tomato, and spinach leaves.

I threw the potatoes, and my mixture into the saute pan with olive oil, garlic, pepper and a dash of salt.  Stephen threw the English muffins into the toaster and poached a few eggs.

It was a great Brunch and we were satisfied for the rest of the day.  Not how we usually eat, but it worked for a Sunday.

I talked to my sister, I asked her to stop by to get her calendar.  As usual the conversation covered the rest of the family.  It seems it was a hard week for all of us.  For me, I had a day when something triggered my heart and I said “Oh my God, my dad’s dead!”  You’d think that after 3 months I would already know this.

I said to Stephen, “I want to say, this isn’t fair!  but my father’s voice rings in my head.  No one ever said that life was Fair.”

I always hated it when he said that.

But it isn’t and I’m well aware of that fact.  It still doesn’t mean I have to like it.  I think it helps me that my father lived in Oregon and I live in Montana.  I only got to see him 2-3 times a year.  He wasn’t a part of my daily routine.

My body, my mind, the cells that make-up Jana, they haven’t had to accept that my daddy is gone.  I just keep pretending he’s in Oregon.  Until I need to ask him a question, and then I’m reminded that he is gone, not just out of state, but gone from the planet.  



But today when I talked to my sister, she said my brother was thinking about talking to a therapist, because he just can’t accept that dad’s gone and I knew exactly what he meant.  But the truth is (for me anyway), this is okay.  We’ll deal with it someday.  But I don’t want to KNOW it, I’m not ready to accept it, it’s so much better to ease into the knowledge that he is, in fact, gone.  We have years to deal with it, there’s no time limit on grief.

I’ve dealt with death before and this is how I handled that one too.  The tears come at random-odd moments, not entirely expected, but for some reason ALWAYS welcome.  It feels really good to cry and mourn his passing.

But in the meantime, I’m busy with work, calendars, letters, class, meals, bills, books, family, email, etc. LIFE.  And tonight I’m going to take a few hours off and watch a movie with Sadie and Stephen. We’re going to watch Skyfall.  We love James Bond.  But it was the movie I was watching in the theatre when I got the phone call from Janet that my dad had two days to live.


For those of you who have read this far – I realize this post is completely rambling…I usually write it in Microsoft Word and then post it here.  This one was written live without editing or structure.  I’ll get back to the recipes eventually, but for now it feels good to write.

See you next Sunday!  Jana


Taking Steps

I haven’t been able to write since my dad died.  There are many reasons I’m sure.  Some of them I’ve used…Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s (his birthday), my promotion at work, travel, and on and on.

But the big one, the one I haven’t been admitting is that when my pencil starts scratching across the paper, my emotions and thoughts come streaming out.  As you might have guessed, I’m still hanging out on the corner of Shock and Denial, unwilling and unable to step into the place where my life goes on without my dad.

I’ve seen glimpses of it as I’ve made a few attempts to face the reality of it all, but the searing pain in my heart brought me to my knees and back inside the safe, numb place I’ve created in DenialLand.

So, here I am, two months after saying goodbye to him, I think I might be ready to deal with it.  (a sentence bursting with confidence, right?)  I’m thinking, I’ve got the time and the space to handle the pain.  I know I’ve got to do it sometime…Because, although I miss him greatly, I miss me too.  I miss my writing, I miss feeling connected to my heart and to the world.  My life wasn’t meant to be lived NUMB.

I’m not sure how to do it.  Heck, if I knew that I could write a book about it and never have to work again.  But this is my first step.  Waking up early on Sunday morning to write my blog.  Showing up with pencil and paper – taking the first step.

The next step, I’m going to write to all the people who’ve contacted me with their words, sharing their experiences with my dad, sending me their support and love.  I’m going to try to tell them all how much their words have meant to me, how much hearing from them has helped.

If there is a silver lining or an upside, that has to be it…reconnecting with friends from the past, family members, people who knew and loved my dad that I never even knew.  I’ve heard from former students of his, sharing with me how important he was to them, what an impact he’d had on their lives.  I’ve heard from old family friends who probably kept in touch with mom and dad, but who I haven’t connected with since I was a kid.  And the memories their words have brought back to me are so precious.

After that, I’m going to try to get back to my own writing.  The novel I was working on when he died hasn’t been touched.  He kept asking me to read what I had written, but I kept putting him off, waiting for perfection.  I’m not sure it would have been his kind of book, but I wish I would have let him read what I have so far because some of it is great and much of it is fun.

But I’m not going to get to all of this today.  It’s Sunday, a day we spend with family, a tradition my dad and mom started when I was a kid.  I’ll make soup for the week, we’ll take the dog for a walk on the river road, and then tonight we’ll sit down on the couch and watch a movie together.  My dad always made popcorn on Sunday nights at home.  I promise this blog and my life aren’t going to turn into a continuous rant about my dad, but it feels good to be writing again, to be out here taking the steps.

See you next Sunday.  Jana


R.I.P. Richard Dale Vandiver (1/1/38 – 11/13/12)

Richard “Dick” Vandiver passed peacefully into the night on Tuesday November 13, 2012.  He bravely fought a short, fierce battle with a rare form of liver cancer. 

Richard Dale was born in Lebanon, Oregon on January 1, 1938 to Paul and Irva (Snyder) Vandiver, he was raised in a Mennonite culture to a family heavily involved in medical fields.  He attended GoshenCollege in northern Indiana where he met his first wife, LaVon (Springer) Devlin.  Their first daughter Joni Lynn (‘59) was born in Indiana.  The three of them then moved to Boulder, Colorado where he received his BA in Psychology at CU Boulder two days before their second daughter, Jana Kay (’62) was born.  Richard also earned an MA in Sociology at CU Boulder just before they all moved to Rock Island, Illinois where he taught at AugustanaCollege.  It was in Moline, Il that their son, Jack David (’66) was born. The whole family then moved to Carbondale, Illinois where Richard earned his PhD in Sociology/Criminology at Southern Illinois University. 

In 1971, the family decided to move west, they loaded up the biggest U-Haul truck they could find, and headed to Missoula, Montana. Richard taught Sociology at the University of Montana from 1971 to 1988.  He held numerous positions in professional organizations and community agencies but he was very proud of the position he held and the influence he had in starting the Mountain Line Bus System in Missoula.

In 1988, he moved to Boston, MA at the same time his daughter, Jana lived in New York City.  The two spent great times together exploring the east coast from Maine to Delaware.  It was during this time that Jana bought him his first camera, which launched his love of photography and his Mother’s Art Nature Photography business.  From this time on, Richard was an avid photographer.  His plan had been to spend this winter going through his flower photos to publish a book of his work.

As a Trial Court Administrator, Consultant, and Nature Photographer, Richard moved from Massachusetts to Florida and then to Denver, CO.  He was living in Denver, Colorado when his first grandchild, Hadley Kay Vandiver was born in 1990.  Richard and his cousin/friend Ezra Yoder flew to Sydney, Australia to visit Hadley and watch her take her first steps in January 1991.  This was a favorite trip of his and one he spoke of often.

Richard’s parents eventually required greater care and attention and so it was  that he moved back to Oregon to be near them.  His grandchildren were extremely important to him and in 1997 his second grandchild, Sadie Lou was born in Maui, Hawaii.  Following close on her heels were Kaylynn Ruth in Honolulu, HI, David Anthony in Spokane, WA, Michaela Rose in Spokane, WA and Kawika Charles (K.C.) in Waimea, HI.

Richard loved to visit his grandchildren wherever they happened to live (Hawaii, Washington, Florida, Colorado, Montana, and Australia).  He made certain they all knew that he loved them, and how important they each were to him.  He loved fresh berries of all kinds and made sure they were always on the table at breakfast.  He was known by his children for his big bear hugs, his amazing breakfasts (especially when we were camping), and his incredible eyesight (he could spot a deer, a bear, a bird in the trees hundreds of feet away while he was driving up a mountain road).

In 2002, he moved to Gleneden Beach, Oregon to his very own beach house.  He loved the ocean but even more, he loved the agates and other rocks the ocean would wash to the shore.  He filled his house with healthy green plants and more rocks than you can imagine.  While working with the court system after his retirement, Richard met Janet Sweeny and they fell in love.

Their wedding in 2005 in Lincoln City, OR joined two families – Richard and Janet – Joni, Jana, Jack, Jennifer and Jeff, and their spouses and children.  In 2010, we all gathered again to celebrate 5 happy years of marriage by playing at the beach, finding agates, flying kites, and sharing many meals and glasses of dad’s favorite whiskey.

Richard and Janet became wine connoisseurs and enjoyed their trips to wineries in California to taste the wines and purchase “futures,” ensuring their return trip the following year. 

Richard is survived by his sister, Norma Jean Vandiver, his wife Janet Vandiver, his son, Jack Vandiver – children Michaela and David, his daughter, Joni Vandiver Isaman – husband David, children Kawika and Kaylynn, his daughter Jana Vandiver Felt – husband Stephen, children Sadie, Levi and Hadley, his mother-in-law Eileen Sweeney, his step-son, Jeff Sweeney – wife Christina, child Carter, his step-daughter, Jennifer Sweeney Aribibola – husband, Dele, children Kayode, Ayodele, Derek, and Sade, and his first wife, LaVon Devlin.  In addition, he leaves behind many, many friends and relatives who will miss him dearly.

We will have a service at the University Congregational Church in Missoula, MT this summer to celebrate Richard and his life.  For information contact janavanfelt@gmail.com


Giving Mom’s Pumpkin Bread

The gift of giving is trait my sister, and brother and I inherited from our mom and dad.  Our parents taught us through example to be giving, to be generous, and to show our gratitude to important people in our lives.  Every year around Thanksgiving, my mom would make her yummy pumpkin bread.  Usually on a weekend, she’d bake the loaves in the gas oven downstairs because it cooked evenly and helped warm the basement where our bedrooms were.

 We’d help mom frost the loaves, after they had cooled, with green or red icing, and sometimes sprinkles.  She’d wrap-up the loaves and we’d take them to our teachers to show them our gratitude for their efforts.  I remember giving those loaves with feelings of joy and pride.  There was rarely a year when the teacher didn’t come back with raves of how delicious the bread was and how much their families enjoyed it.

 Last night we had dinner at my sister’s house.  “Auntie Joni Who Loves You”, has recently moved to Bigfork with her family.  They’ve only been here a few months but already our lives have been blessed over and over by having them near, the dinner is just one example.

We all wondered how it would go, living in a small town and being so close to each other again.  But having my sister live near me again is better than I could have even imagined.

Her daughter, Kaylynn arrived in our Sadie’s life just when she needed her most.  High School can be a challenge and having a cousin, who is a great friend, to hang-out with has been the greatest gift of all.  The girls enjoy each other so much and Kaylynn has been grateful to have Sadie’s friendship while she experiences being the new girl at school.

 Hadley and Kaylynn were both using their sketchbooks last night, creating beautiful works of art.  It’s fun for both of them to have another artist in the family, a kindred spirit to share ideas and their masterpieces.

 As a parent, it is a wonderful moment when you watch with love and pride as your daughter shows her generosity.  To see them delight in giving and be gracious in receiving renews my hope for their future.

I remember one time standing in a subway station in New York.  My dad and I were taking the train to Brooklyn for dinner with friends.  They had a young son that I was excited to see.  I couldn’t stand still I was so excited to give him the large, colorful, stuffed fish in my bag.  Dad watched me and smiled, and I’ll never forget this, he said “You’re like me, you find more joy in giving than in getting.”

There are times in our lives when the only things we have to give are our words and our hugs, but the gift is always enough if you give with a generous and grateful heart.  Being grateful, enjoying the act of giving as well as receiving, makes us happier, more abundant people.

This morning we’re having Joni’s Quiche for breakfast.  I’ll be making Mom’s Pumpkin Bread and working on Christmas Calendars.  We’ll meet up with Joni and family at the health club later, and I’ll give them a few loaves of pumpkin bread.  This week, Joni will join us on a road trip to Oregon to see our dad and Janet.  We’ll probably bring them some pumpkin bread too.

Pumpkin Bread for Eating and Giving

4 eggs                             3 cups flour                     dash ginger & nutmeg

2 cups sugar                   ½ tsp salt                        1 tsp vanilla

1 cup pumpkin       ½ tsp baking powder        Pre-heat oven to 350°

1 cup oil                1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup water           2 tsp baking soda

Beat eggs lightly; mix in sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil.  Add dry ingredients alternately with water.  Spray bread pans with oil.  Pour batter into pans between ½ and ¾ full.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour.  Check at 50 minutes.  For small loaves check at 40 minutes.

Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick into the center of the loaf.  If it comes out with batter it’s not done.  If it comes out clean, loaves are done.  Also watch the edges for brown.



Grandpa’s Breakfast

Grandpa’s Breakfast

Everyone in my family looks forward to those mornings when my dad cooks breakfast.  It’s quite the production and includes eggs, sourdough pancakes, potatoes, bacon, cut fruit, coffee, and juice.  As often as possible, he cooks outside on a camping griddle.  It’s fun to watch him work, but the real treat is eating what he cooks.  The last time he fixed it in my backyard, all his grandchildren sat outside and watched him.  Everyone was together for Hadley’s high school graduation.

 My dad was and still is, quite fond of Hadley Kay.  She was his first grandchild, and was the only one for seven years, until our Sadie Lou came along and all the others followed close behind.

 Hadley Kay did this amazing thing with my family.  I think she brought us all closer together.  We had always been close, but my mom and dad had divorced many years earlier, and my brother, sister and I had scattered across the globe.  Hadley Kay was this sweet, little love-bug we all adored and wanted to be around. 

 It’s not that any of the others wouldn’t have had the same affect, it’s just that she was the lucky one who got to be the first.  But dad, was changed by Hadley Kay and then again and again by all the grandchildren who followed her.  They  gave him the opportunity to reinvent himself from father of three to GRAND father of six, and he did an amazing job of it.

 But Hadley Kay took to her grandfather as though they’d been friends in a past life.  He would swing her in his arms and she would smile and giggle.  Her eyes would sparkle when he came towards me to cradle her in his arms against his big warm chest, or over his forearm in his famous Grandpa Hold.  There wasn’t a grandchild of his who could continue to cry once he held them in the Grandpa Hold

 When Hadley was little, she and I spent many months at my dad’s house while I waited for my Australian residency. At Christmas, Hadley used to love to sit on his lap and watch the train go around the Christmas tree and hold onto his arm as his old truck drove around the living room floor attached to the box at his side by a long black cord. 

 Hadley probably doesn’t even know why she adores her grandfather so much.  But I do, because I remember all those moments, from all those days, in all those months we spent with him when he was her GRAND father.

Today my dad is in a hospital bed in Portland, Oregon.  He is in a great deal of pain as his body struggles to fight the cancer that lives and grows in his liver.  After many months of un-ending pain, he questions whether he wants to keep fighting.  And I understand.  I know how pain and illness can make you forget how it feels to be healthy.  It wears you down and you start to believe that you will feel this way forever, so you’d rather just give up the fight and surrender.

 So today, this blog is dedicated to my dad.  And I ask him to remember moments, hours, days, and events from the past when he was healthy and happy with his grandchildren and his children.  Remember how it felt to swing Hadley Kay in your arms.  Remember how 21 years later (just this past May) you celebrated your 50th Anniversary of graduating from CU Boulder along side Hadley as she graduated with a degree in Journalism.

Remember Hadley, Sadie, David, Kaylynn, Micheala, K.C., Joni, Jana, and Jack.  Remember that we all love you and need you very much. We’re hoping you’ll remember those days and moments of health and happiness with all of us, and that those memories will give you the strength to get through your chemotherapy treatments and the long painful days ahead. 

 We’re all looking forward to another one of your famous Grandpa breakfasts with eggs and bacon, potatoes and cut fruit, and especially your amazing sourdough pancakes. 

Joni is already making plans for your first annual Grandpa Is Cancer-Free celebration at the Cabana on the beach at your house, and we’re all expecting you to cook. 🙂

 Good Luck Dad.  We love you.

Comfort Food

I think I’ll have to make these now…

Grannie’s Rolls

My granny was Irva Snyder Vandiver, my dad’s mom.  She was a Mennonite, like all my grandparents, and she showed her love with food.  Granny loved to bake and she was very good at it.  She was short and cushy, perfect for holding small grandchildren, and great-grandchildren on her lap.  I inherited my eyes, my skin, my strong calves, and my love of baking from her which is why I’m starting this blog with my granny.

The secret to Grannie’s Rolls isn’t in the recipe (although it is a very good one), it’s in the making of them.  As with everything she did, baking, gardening, singing silly songs to us while driving on steep mountain roads with Grandpa, Granny focused her attention on the task at hand.  I remember the first time Granny gave me this recipe.  She handed me the card.

“This is it?” I asked.

“Oh they’re easy.  You can even make them up the night before and bake them in the morning.”

Of course the first time I tried them on my own, they were horrible.  Granny assumed I knew how to bake and knead dough, but she was wrong.  Thankfully, at this time, she lived in Stevensville and I was living in Missoula going to the University of Montana.  And so, at the next holiday I went out to Grandpa and Granny’s house and she taught me how to make them.  We measured and mixed the ingredients, we kneaded the dough, we set it aside to rise while we cleaned up the dirty dishes.  We didn’t have the television on (we never did), we weren’t trying to make other dishes at the same time.  We talked and laughed, we enjoyed each other’s company. My focus was on watching Granny, listening and learning as she  taught me to bake.  That, and how yummy these rolls were going to be when they came out of the oven.

So my darling daughters, here is the recipe:

How to Make Grannie’s Rolls

1 cup lukewarm buttermilk                 1 pkg yeast dissolved in ¼ cup hot water

3T butter                                                       1 tsp salt

3T sugar                                                        2 ½ – 3 ¼ cups flour

¼ tsp baking soda                                        Extra flour for kneading process

Large mixing bowl                                        wooden spoon

Large floured board or counter space       rolling pin

Clean towel                                                    13 x 9 baking dish

Small sauce pan (for Caramel Rolls)      cookie sheet

Additional Ingredients for Cinnamon Caramel Rolls

1/3 cup sugar mixed with 2 tsp cinnamon           2 T warm butter

1 cup butter               1 cup brown sugar                ½ cup chopped nuts

  1.  get out all ingredients
  2. read directions on yeast packet
  3. pour yeast into bowl or cup with ¼ cup hot water (define hot from yeast packet)
  4. add 1 T sugar to yeast and water, stir gently a few times
  5. check temp on buttermilk, if cold put in microwave oven for 20 seconds
  6. with wooden spoon, mix together buttermilk, butter, remaining sugar, soda, salt and first two cups of flour
  7. add yeast combo and continue to mix
  8. add additional flour as needed until you can knead by hand
  9. turn dough onto floured board or counter
  10.  knead for a few minutes
  11. sprinkle clean towel with warm water
  12. cover dough with towel, let stand 10 minutes
  13. while dough is rising melt butter and brown sugar on low in a small sauce pan on the stove
  14. after 10 minutes, knead dough until smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes) adding more flour if necessary
  15. roll out dough with rolling  pin
  16. spread 2 TBSPs butter on rolled dough
  17. sprinkle dough with cinnamon/sugar mixture
  18. taking one end, fold edge of dough over about 2 inches, fold over and over until all dough is rolled into a tight log
  19. using a long, sharp knife, cut log into about 12 – 15 pieces, approximately 1 inch thick
  20.  pour melted brown sugar and butter mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan
  21.  if using nuts, sprinkle nuts on mixture (I leave half of pan plain for kids who don’t like nuts. Obviously you can leave the nuts off completely, especially if anyone on your guest list is allergic to them.)
  22. Place roll pieces in pan leaving space for dough to rise (about 3 pieces per row)

Note: (at this stage, rolls can be put, covered, into refrigerator overnight, this is especially handy if making them for early breakfast.  Take out of frig about an hour before you want to bake them, then…continue with directions below)

  1. cover pan with dampened towel
  2. let rise until double (45-60 minutes)
  3. preheat oven to 350° (granny says to lower heat to 325° for Teflon pans)
  4. bake in oven for 15 to 30 minutes or until golden brown
  5. check rolls for color and texture, you don’t want them to get too brown, gooey tops are fine but you don’t want them gooey in the middle.
  6. place baking sheet on top of pan, grab both with hot pads, turn rolls over onto baking sheet, leave dripping pan on sheet for 1-2 minutes to allow caramel to run over rolls and serve!

The best way to make Grannie’s Rolls though is to come home, we’ll make them together with love and laughter and they will be fabulous,  just like you!

Mama 10/28/2012