Glacier National Park 2010

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie and Truth

The most amazing smells are wafting forth from my tiny kitchen.  Sitting here in the quiet of the moment enjoying my coffee, I savor the smells and the memories they evoke.  Later today the Sweet Potato pie I am baking will be served with love to my Daddy.  What has now become a holiday tradition began as somewhat of a challenge.

Long ago as a young wife and mother, I tried so hard to make delicious food items to take to the Thanksgiving dinners we attended at the homes of relatives.  Back then, my self worth was heavily dependent on the opinions of, not so much! For months I would scour magazines and cookbooks looking for the "perfect' recipe with which to garner praise.....and would inevitably be unable to produce the side dish or dessert which would have everyone clamoring for more.

I remember one holiday finding a recipe for a caramel layer cake that looked divine and which I was sure would be a hit. I gathered all the ingredients in preparation of Thanksgiving and studied the recipe until I had almost memorized it. My heart soared in anticipation as I made that beautiful cake, 'from scratch,' as we like to say here in the South.....this would be the year...this would be the dessert which would bring joy and satisfaction to all!

Thanksgiving Day arrived. We all gathered to enjoy all the traditional foods..a nice roasted hen because my mother doesn't like turkey.......Cornbread Dressing from my Grandmother's recipe, Giblet Gravy, canned Cranberry Sauce in slices, Green bean Casserole prepared by my now ex husband because frankly no one made it like him, my Deviled Eggs which my children loved, Potato Salad like my Italian Nonna made.......the table groaned with food....and after the meal did we all.

There wasn't much lag time as the table was cleared and my Mama started offering dessert.....and we had choices there as well......Coconut Cake.....Pecan Pie....Pound Cake......and this particular year, my Caramel Cake!  For those who aren't aware of how we do things in the don't choose just have to have "a little taste of it all."  There were oohs and aaahs all around as the 'sample' plates were tasted.....then I made the fatal mistake.  I asked how my cake tasted.  Amidst the general comments of how good it was I heard....."it was alright."

To say it was "alright" was to mean that slice would be eaten but  another would not be requested....I was crushed.  Then my Daddy said, "it sure would be good to have a piece of Mama Shaw's Sweet Potato pie right now." Mama Shaw was my Daddy's grandmother on his mother's side. She passed away the year after my oldest child was born and to my knowledge there wasn't a relative living who had a copy of her recipe. But in my mind, a challenge had been issued.....and if anyone was up to the was me.

I told no one of my intention but got right to work trying to find a recipe which would match in taste and presentation to Mama Shaw's Sweet Potato Pie. Recipe after recipe was read and compared and discarded.......then the week before Christmas I stumbled upon a cookbook I'd overlooked in my own collection.  The battered and food stained Auburn Cookbook given to me as a wedding gift had produced many wondrous dishes for our family through the years.

Reading the list of ingredients and directions for preparation, I thought, "Yes, I can see a Georgia grandmama putting this together for her family." So Christmas morning, after the children had joyfully begun playing with all the bounty Santa had brought......I made a Sweet Potato Pie.  And as it cooked and filled the kitchen with the smells of cinnamon and nutmeg.....I made my Deviled Eggs.

Fast forward through Christmas dinner where once again we all ate more than our bodies were used to dessert......there was Lane Cake, Fruit Cake, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Pie, Pound Cake and sitting humbly in the center of all the richness was my offering, Sweet Potato Pie. No one asked for a slice.....but I didn't care....there was really only one slice I wanted to serve.

I cut my Daddy a piece and quietly set it in front of him. "Try this Daddy. Let me know what you think." He took a nice healthy bite and chewed.  I saw it in his eyes first. "Where'd did you find Mama Shaw's pie recipe?" he said as he continued to eat the slice of pie until there was nothing left but a few stray crumbs left scattered across his plate. "You just have to know where to look I guess."
"Well, nobody else gets any...that is MY pie now."

With that pronouncement, a warmth stole across my heart.....because I knew he meant it. He has never been one to issue false praise just to make someone feel "good." He says what he really means.....and although it took years for me to appreciate that, I now treasure that part of my Daddy's personality.  All those years I craved "praise" to make me feel worthy are no longer important because now I know Truth is so much more valuable.....and every year when I make Daddy's Sweet Potato Pie I am reminded of that fact.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Praising God

My heart is so full! The week has been peppered with reminders of how much God cares about me.....unexpected blessings are the best, don't you think? I am so very thankful for life and all that it holds.......not just the smooth stretches but the bumpy bits as well.....really, I'm the most thankful for the bumpy bits.  Those tough painful times make even the tiniest of blessings magnificent...they grow and glow because they are come the source of all that is good ad perfect and loving....they come from the heart of God.

Of course I must share the shape and form some of these blessing took this week! Earlier in the week I stopped by the pharmacy to pick up some prescriptions before heading in to a 24 hour drive thru pharmacy! The prescription was for anti-inflammatory injections....16 doses and there was no charge for the syringes......usually I have to pay for I said a prayer of thanks! If you've read my blog before you know I'm on a squeaky tight budget so free syringes deserve a cheer.

Then the pharmacist said my daily anti-inflammatory med wasn't ready because it was now available in generic form and that they had to order it. Yay!  Because I have to take so many meds I'm always hoping for generic. My best friend put it in very concrete terms when she said the difference between a copay for a non generic and a generic med is equal to half a tank of gas! So here was another blessing in a span of 15 minutes. I drove in to work with a huge smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. And I kept thinking of the Doxology which says, "praise God from whom all blessings flow."

Another blessing came the next day......I was walking to my third class of the day and frankly, I was struggling a bit....the pain making me wonder if I could get through the day. I heard someone call my name and turned to see one of my older students walking towards me. He said he'd been looking for me because he had something to tell me. I thought it was probably a message from another teacher but was surprised by what he said.

 This gangly, awkward young man then told me how much he appreciated the writing projects I'd done with his class. He said that the things I'd chosen to do had really touched his heart and helped him express stuff he'd been thinking about. He just wanted me to know....gave me a quick hug....and went back to class. Wow! You cannot know how much his unsolicited comment brightened my day.

Then there's today.....yep blessings, blessings, blessings. At our school we have a Social Fund managed by the Social Committee. The fund is used for buying flowers for people in the hospital, sympathy cards, you know the kind of stuff I'm talking about. The faculty and staff pay Social Dues every year to fund it all...the dues aren't exorbitant.....but for me, especially now, the dues are a lot. I wasn't sure how I was going to do it. Then I remembered my emergency money. I keep a well folded ten dollar bill in my billfold "just in case."

I took that money and went to the office to pay my dues. The school secretary informed me that my dues had been paid. I said no I hadn't paid yet.....she insisted. Finally she took me into her office and said someone had paid my dues yesterday.....I cried. I found out who had done this kindness and thanked them and cried some more.....and thanked God for this precious person.....because I know God put the idea in the person's heart. I also know this person to be a humble servant and follower of God.

All day I felt this overwhelming sense of being loved and cared for.....and I know that I am. I may worry about being able to pay my bills....I may worry about how long I'll be able to continue working.....and of course I worry about the pain becoming worse and being unable to live the kind of life I want to live.................but in the long run I don't have to worry.....God has proven time and again that He will meet my needs.....He will take care of everything......I simply have to let Him do what He knows is best for me. 

Sounds like a good way to live, doesn't it?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Change of Plans

I had big plans for this 3 day best friend was coming in for the weekend and we were going to see a football game at the university which my youngest son attends. He also works as a videographer for the team....yes, I'm a proud mom! I was so looking forward to it.  Imagine my disappointment when a pain flare began early in the week and instead of fading managed to intensify. I held out hope until the last possible moment but finally had to call my son Friday and let him know because I knew he had to release the tickets in case some of the other filmers needed them.

I cried and would have been my first chance to see Lewie since he left in July.....and I miss my boy....but I cried also because it was another reminder of how my life must be lived differently now. Pain and fatigue now dictate my schedule, my activities, everything. I now find myself seriously contemplating the kinds of jobs I can do based from home. If anyone has suggestions by all means, share them....I am open to any ideas.....within reason of course!

Despite being unable to make the trip to Auburn, my BFF was able to make a visit.  We laughed a lot....talked....commiserated....and generally had a good time.  We've been friends since we were in first grade which was a very, very long time ago.....I've often said she sometimes knows me better than I know myself! God blessed me richly when he placed her in my life. We discussed my health situation and came to the conclusion that God must be preparing me for me for something He has planned....or which He knows I must face. Doesn't matter....because I am willing to serve Him anyway He needs me.

MoMe (my BFF) thinks my writing will figure into it somehow....I hope so because writing has brought me much comfort through the years whether anyone else reads it or not. There was a time when my writing was 'taken' from me so to private, intensely personal journals were read without my private thoughts were twisted and used to hurt was as if I had been physically assaulted. At that time in my life when I needed the comfort of "talking" through the issues I was facing by writing.....I couldn't write a word. Talk about writer's block...sheesh! I thought I'd never feel free to express myself again.

Of course, MoMe stepped in and encouraged me to write at every opportunity.  She said she missed reading what I wrote.  So eventually I did begin to write again....only now my blog has taken the place of my journals.....and anyone can read my every thought.....nothing is too private or personal.  For one thing....God is the One who works through my 'issues' with me.....what is too personal or too private for anyone else to hear or read I whisper in God's ear......and He responds with the comfort I need.

Even though plans often change.....whether plans for a weekend or plans for life......I'm so thankful to have found that God's love is unchanging and always available.....because I have a feeling I'm going to need Him more now than ever.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Election's Over....Life is Not!

Election day is over and life goes on.  The outcome doesn't change anything about the person I am nor does it impact the way I live my life.....election results seldom do.  I cast my vote after a great deal of prayer. Although I don't enjoy 'political' discussions.....too often rational people lose their manners when talking about their 'politics.' That is not to say that I choose to remain ignorant of the 'facts' bandied about by all the political parties.  I listen, research and form my own educated opinion. Then I pray...a lot! Once I cast my vote.....I turn it over to God....because my belief is that He is ultimately in control.

The day after an election there is always a bit of crying and gnashing of teeth from one side or the other depending on who is victorious. What a waste of time and energy! I choose instead to focus on trying to make the world I live in a better place.  To wait for our 'government' or any government for that matter to step up and correct mistakes they've made is a lesson in futility. Wouldn't it make more sense for each one of us to be a blessing in some one's life?

If we each treated the people with whom we come in contact with kindness and concern, helping without thought of gratitude or compensation imagine how much better this world would be. I know it sounds simplistic. I prefer to approach my life that way.....remembering to treat others as I want to be treated.

I've tried living my life another way......worrying that I wasn't 'good' enough, stressing over imagined insults, focusing on the negative......that way of life brought me only pain. Once God lifted me from the darkness that way of life brought, I saw that my simplistic approach was much healthier for me. And I like looking for the positive in every situation....I like knowing that because I am a willing servant God can use me to bring good to others....I like not worrying about the future because I know God is going to take care of everything one way or another.

So I really mean it when I say the election results don't impact the way I live my life....I live my life for my God and nothing changes that.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

My Favorite Holiday

Do other countries have a "Thanksgiving" day? I need to research that because I am curious. Of all the days on which we celebrate one thing or another, Thanksgiving is my favorite. As a child, any holiday which involved the giving and receiving of gifts was the favorite! Why wouldn't it be? But as I grew older that changed.

As a child, Thanksgiving meant traveling to see my grandparents in Georgia, which I already mentioned. My head is full of 'snapshots' of those holidays.  A variety of aunts, uncles and cousins always peopled the event and there was an abundance of all kinds of delicious Southern food....the tables and counter tops were covered with every dish imaginable....because that's just the way it was!

 Grandmama would have cooked and prepared for days.....and any family member who attended brought "a little something" to add to the feast.  Sometimes it was a tried and true recipe. Other times the more adventurous cooks in the family would bring a 'new' recipe they'd found in some magazine or tried at a 'covered dish' dinner at church. I remember when congealed salads first made their debut....the question of the day among the cooking contributors was, "do we serve it with the meal or is it really a dessert?" Didn't really matter because it would certainly get eaten by someone!

The day before everyone descended on 640 Greenwood Street there would be decisions to make about where to put everybody at mealtime.  The older members of the family which included my great grandmother, Mama Shaw, great aunts and uncles, and certainly the grandparents, including my Italian grandmother, Nonna, who came to live with us when I was 8 or 9......they sat around the big table. We children were stuck here and there. The other grownups sat around smaller tables or held their plates in their laps.  It didn't matter. What mattered was that we were least for one day....and we were thankful for that if nothing else.

Of course I loved being able to see and play with my cousins....Paula, Pam and Patty. Because their daddy, Uncle Allan, was in the Army they moved around a lot and weren't always able to be at family gatherings. But do you know what my favorite part of these Thanksgiving gatherings was? It was listening to the grown-ups tell their family stories.

After the feast was finished and the women had cleared the table, washed the dishes, and divided the leftovers to be shared......while the other children would find some sort of entertainment....I would often find a place  amidst the feet of the stuffed and somnolent adults and wait quietly until tale telling began.  It would usually start with "whatever happened to....?" or "do you remember when...?"

 For me it wasn't so much the stories they told.  It was a sense of being a part of the sharing of our family's history. It was learning from the mouths of my elders of the events which shaped and molded us into the people we were....the things which made us family...which still do make us "family."

I do not have the opportunity to see my extended family as much as I would like. Facebook has helped us stay more connected for which I am grateful. Sometimes I long for those Thanksgiving holidays from my childhood.....the thought that now I would be one of the 'elders' sharing stories of our family and its history makes me proud. The simple truth is that no matter where we are on Thanksgiving Day, we are connected. We are family.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Memories

It has been a good week.....long, busy, tiring.....but good. And I am happy to report that while I have not been totally pain free, the pain has been the kind that is more like background noise than a big brass band! Background noise I can tolerate.  A big brass band kind of demands one's attention if you know what I mean.

Being able to walk into work and enjoy those spontaneous hugs children love to bestow was wonderful. Many days I have to avoid them or end up in tears. Most of the students I work with on a daily basis know about my fibromyalgia...or at least they know I have a condition where some days it hurts to be touched.  So they generally ask if a real hug is OK or not. If not, we share "finger hugs." A finger hug consists of both of us crossing our fingers and waving them at one another while smiling.

In case you may have forgotten......I love my job!! And I work with an amazing group of people!!

Autumn really is my favorite time of year. Every thing is changing. The weather....the color of the leaves on the trees....even the color of the sunshine seems different.  And there are so many activities taking place at school. For Halloween we always have a Trick or Treat Costume parade for our First, Second, and Third graders. They happily wear their costumes and go from classroom to classroom "Trick or Treating." This year after our school parade, the students rode school buses to our local community college where they were honored guests at a Halloween Concert.  Of course the children loved it!

Now it is November which has always been my favorite month.  I think it's because when I was growing up, November meant a special trip to see my Grandmama and Grandaddy in Barnesville, Georgia. We'd load up the car and make the four hour drive the day before Thanksgiving. Of course there was lots of bickering between my sister and myself about who got how much of the backseat. She usually stretched out and fell 'asleep' guaranteeing that I sat on the edge of the seat facing forward.

This was actually my preferred seat. From here I had a grand view of the road ahead and was privy to the conversation between Mama and Daddy. And sometimes Daddy would ask me brain teaser questions like, "if a rooster laid an egg on the pinnacle of a roof, which way would it roll?" Yeah I know....roosters don't lay eggs....but at 7 years of age I fell for it every time and racked my brain trying to figure out the correct answer with which to astound my Daddy!

I remember that Daddy would also irritate my Mama by honking the horn when we were in the middle of nowhere for no reason usually startling her out of her reverie. Or sometimes if we passed a house with a porchful of people he'd honk and wave. Mama would ask who they were and he would reply, "I have no idea....but I bet they're trying to figure out who we are right about now." And Mama would 'humph' and tell him he was crazy.

But the best part of the journey was always arriving at my Grandparents' house. We'd pull up in the yard...I'd look up and there was Grandmama.....holding the door open, waiting with a smile on her face for that first precious hug.....and I knew how loved we were.