Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I Still Believe

This Christmas I am not able to make it back to my hometown, Winona to celebrate the season with my family, but I am carrying the Riska spirit with me today, as I do everyday, and sharing some of my family's traditions with my husband's family.

Later this afternoon I'll be sharing another of my grandmother's recipes with my mother-in-law and baking Chocolate Cherry Nut Cake and my husband will be putting his own spin on her recipe for Tater Tot Hotdish (which is basically a casserole, for those of you who don't speak Minnesotan)

My grandparents always made Christmas special growing up..Being over at their house after school, I got to help them decorate, putting up the Nativity and the Christmas Tree and I always loved going to the mall with my grandfather to sell his beautiful paintings at their holiday market. Sometimes I'd even get to help grandma bake or at least get to watch and get the special treat of licking the beater..

For many years on Christmas Eve I would help my mom decorate my great aunt's tree, which I still have, flocking and all, and then I would participate in the Children's Christmas Mass, either playing a part in the nativity or singing with my favorite teacher, Miss Cassidy and then we'd gather with cousins and aunts and uncles at my grandmother's house for snacks and sweet treats, laughter and fun. 

My grandfather, who was a hard working man, also enjoyed his hobbies, which included painting and fishing, but he was also an avid bowler. For many years on Christmas Eve there was always a bowling tournament, while grandpa was gone, Santa Claus would come to grandma's house and give us our presents. Grandpa always came back just after Santa had left the house and tell us how he got to feed the reindeer. We would then exchange our own gifts to each other and then mom and I would leave and go looking at Christmas lights. 

For many years on Christmas Day we would continue the holiday fun and all gather at my uncle's house for food, movies, laughter, and games.

When his family moved away, my mom and I started our own tradition of going to the movies, and were included in the gatherings of extended family, where the joy of the Season was as sparkly as the twinkle I saw in Santa's eye as a child. 

I'm 37 now, my grandparents and my mother are celebrating Christmas in the stars and I am enjoying new traditions with my husband, giving back to those in need, helping with our Church festivities, and spending time with his family who have opened their hearts to me.

Those memories: the magic of the carols and the first Winter's glistening snow, the twinkling lights, grandma's sugar cookies,the laughter and love of family, the celebration of Jesus' birth, and those Christmas Eve bowling tournaments that cement my belief in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas.

My Christmas Wish to Santa is that I'll be home to Minnesota for Christmas next year, but my heart this season is filled with new traditions and joyous memories that I shall treasure always.

To all of my family, and friends, whatever your belief may be, my wish for you is that you hearts be filled with the spirit of the season on this day and always.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma!

I woke up this morning to the sun shining and the sound of beautiful birds chirping and it reminded me of waking up at my grandmother's house, the special times that I got to sleep over. I am blessed to have so many memories of my grandparents growing up and am grateful for everything they taught me.

96 years ago today, my grandmother was born in Arcadia Ridge Wisconsin, to farmers. Their family was small, her sister, being born premature, and the loss of a brother in infancy, left my grandmother with the responsibility in carrying out many of the chores that come with farm life. Over the years she shared many stories with me about growing up on the farm,singing on the radio, and how she'd made the choice to move   to be with a family member in Winona, where eventually she would meet my grandfather.

In Winona, she went to work for a man by the last name of Jordan, learning the ins and outs of business, doing bookkeeping, opening a small grocery store with her husband and later on would open The Castle Dress Shop.

I can still remember being allowed to sit in the front window and color during visits to her store. I remember helping her bake for holidays, and the big thrills of licking the beater or in summer turning the grinder to make sandwich spread. 

She was always there to help with homework, to offer hugs and comfort after rough days, to make sure I practiced the piano, and to smile and play rounds of board games and bunco for pennies on rainy days. 

Even in college, she was willing to lend her kitchen to a classmate and I so we could make Spanish cookies for a class assignment, and helped us when we weren't sure of something.

In hind sight now, I wish I had asked her to teach me to cook or to sew, but Grandma taught me so much more then that. Last month, I had to give up my license, due to medical issues and for awhile I was feeling sorry for myself, and the negative thoughts were setting in, and then I thought of Grandma, who also gave up her license, but despite doing so, accomplished so much in her life-raising 5 beautiful, strong children and being a well respected businesswoman...

The most important lesson I think I will ever learn from her is that my limitations do not define me. My circumstances do not define me. What defines me is how I handle them, and I choose today and everyday to do my best to handle them with not only the stubborn determination that Grandma had, but with her grace and style.

Closing my eyes, for a moment, I sit here, listening to the birds and I can see her smile and hear her yodel.

Much love to you in Heaven, Grandma on this Blessed day of your Birth. Thank you for all that you taught me and for being a source of inspiring strength and courage.

Grandma on her farm, with her pet pig Applesauce.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

John Lennon once said, " Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans."  It's been roughly 2 and 1/2 years since I last posted...not because I'd forgotten, but life simply had other plans. In truth since 2/1/ mojo has been an elusive mistress at times..often not surprising me until the panic of last minute inspiration sets in.  No time to post pictures of shiny happy beady jewelry, at least not properly as all I had handy was my camera phone...

Of course, there is also my overly anxious brain that I contend with as part of my daily routine.  Many days it runs amok on many different tangents on all the things I should be creating and on other days it simply seems to go on strike, mocking me, just waiting for last minute panic to set in.

I still go through the whole " why on earth would anyone ever want to buy my stuff?" phase...just as I'm typing this right now going..."people are not going to want to read my words."  (bad grammar blah..blah..blah))

However, things are changing...I am learning to dance with the anxiety, thanks to a teacher (whose classes I need to get back to asap) and a friend who inspired me today, to return to the blog, as we share a very deep and yet profound loss in the passing of our mothers.

My mother, God Bless her, didn't think that she was creative, but I disagree. Creativity can be found in many forms..and she loved the written word and took beautiful photographs.  Besides which, as any of my immediate family knows, If you are a Riska, then art and creativity are in your blood.

My grandfather was a well known local artist in Winona, MN. known mostly for his paintings of the Sugar Loaf and other wild life scenes. He was a self taught artist, that often joked that he learned using the paint by number method.

In truth, I believe that as human beings, we are all born with creative souls, but some of us forget to take the crayons back out now and then in favor of busy lives...Sometimes, we forget the joy of bright colors or how much fun it is to color outside the lines...and most importantly, one of the things that I'm guilty of, is that it's okay to make's okay if something looks stupid...because that is what practice is's how we learn.

I could, I suppose ramble on for hours as my brain is filled with tangents today...My muses want me to Zentangle, to bead, to braid, to write stories with friends...I'm not quite sure what the day will bring, but I am grateful that my mojo is dancing within me once more. Not as early, as I would have liked, as I had planned to get my inner Christmas Elf in gear, in June, but I am dancing.

I hope that you will join me as I return to my path. I plan on posting pictures occasionally of what I create, but also intend to share with you some of the things that inspire me and memories that I treasure...pieces of myself as I find my way back to the creative spirit within my soul and hope to inspire you along the way.

My mojo is calling, so it is time to honor my creative soul... Have a beautiful day.