Monday, May 30, 2011

A Memorial Day Thank You

I grew up in the Viet Nam war era. I remember seeing videos on the evening news of our servicemen in the jungles and rice paddies of Southeast Asia and pictures of body bags on the front page of the newspaper.

Young men's futures were determined by how high or low their draft number was.  And as in all of the wars in this nation's history, so many of those young men never came home.

Today, as I hung our American flag, I thought of those individuals who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms that are mine. Their lives were cut short and their family's lives were changed forever. 

 As a citizen, I am grateful for the freedoms I enjoy that were purchased by their sacrifices. As a nation, I hope we take a moment today to remember them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finding Blessings

I woke up grumpy this morning.  Not enough sleep, aching joints and a weariness I couldn't shake.  As I got ready for work, all of the small inconveniences seemed like major obstacles.  It was a grim start to the day.

But on my way to work, I decided that I was going to look for the good...the positive in my day and see if I could shake the bad mood I was in.

It wasn't long before I noticed the early morning blue sky breaking through a layer of gray overcast.  I felt my heart lighten as mile by mile, a glorious azure sky poured its early mornng rays across the horizon. Something settled within me.

I couldn't suppress a smile when I saw a goose standing along the side of the road.  As I got closer, I watched it move protectively closer to one fuzzy little gossling.  Mother and baby, the perfect pair.

As I pulled into the parking lot at work, it was 6:30 a.m., the time that a local radio station always plays the national anthem in honor of our men and women who serve in the military.  Today it was a beautiful a cappella version with rich, tight harmonies.  I swallowed the lump in my throat as the song finished and I offered a silent prayer of thanks.

There was nothing extraordinary about my work day except that I was able to accomplish a couple of things that left me with a very satisified feeling.

Late in the afternoon, I enjoyed sharing baby pictures with a coworker who is a first time mom to a sweet little seven-month old girl.  I "oohed" and "aahed" over her darling daughter and she returned the favor while looking at pictures of my precious granddaughter.  Quite simply, babies are the best!

Finally, it was time to head home.  Driving along a rather narrow, neighborhood street, I noticed a person up ahead carrying two large objects that appeared to be either heavy or at the very least, awkward.  When I finally pulled along side, I saw that it was an elderly man carrying a kitchen chair in one arm and pulling a hand truck with the other along the rutted shoulder of the road.  My heart clenched as I drove past. I kept looking in my rear view mirror at this man walking with his uneven gait.  All I could think of was my dad.

Quickly I pulled into the parking lot of an old Catholic church, turned my car around and headed back the way I had come.  When I got to the man, I rolled my window down and asked him if I could give him a ride somewhere.  He obviously was tired but didn't want to impose.  He told me that he only had four or five more blocks to go...down to the church where I had turned my car around...and he could probably make it.

I insisted on helping him and we loaded the chair in the back of my little Ford Focus and the hand truck in the back seat.  As he climbed into the passenger seat in his well-worn work clothes, he smiled and said "Wouldn't you know, the Good Samaritan who stops, is the one with the smallest car!"

We drove the few blocks to the church where he appeared to be the groundskeeper and he explained that some people had been helping him move, but the chair had gotten mixed up with his things and he needed to return it and the hand truck to the church.  He had been walking for over a mile and a half from the U Haul store, carrying those two items.

I wanted to cry.  I wanted to throw my arms around his neck and hug him. In his old work clothes, with his unflagging determination, I saw my own dad.   The bent posture and slightly uneven gait couldn't completely hide the tireless strength that had once been his. 

I helped him unload the items from my car and carry them to the basement of the church.  As we walked back up the driveway, I told him he should rest.  He smiled at me and raised his hand and said, "Or have a celebratory glass of wine!"

I pulled away from the church feeling the sweetest sense of joy wash over me!  In a day that had started out so grim, I'd found many blessings.  But this, was by far the best!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My New Favorite

This is my new favorite song.  I cried the first time I heard it. But really, it is a song of such reassurance and peace.  I hope it blesses and comforts you as it has me.

Friday, May 20, 2011


I think the spring pollens are doing a number on me.  Yesterday afternoon I started developing red, itchy splotches on my body.  I was at work which meant it wasn't a suitable place to just start scratching away.  As the day progressed, so did the splotches.

When I got up this morning and noticed that these lovely little red patches had continued to multiply during the night, I decided that today needed to be a vacation day.  I would have called in sick to work, but I don't really feel bad...just red and itchy.  So instead, I chose a vacation day to reduce the guilt I'd feel about running errands or heading to Starbucks for awhile.  I'm okay with strangers looking at my splotches.

Here's the thing, I couldn't have picked a better day to take off.  Finally, we are supposed to hit 70 degrees!  It's a BIG thing!  We have been stuck in a cold, gray, cloudy existence for months now.  I know that I shouldn't be complaining considering what those poor folks in the Midwest are going through and my heart and prayers go out to them.  But the gloom has really started to get to everyone.

So, I took an antihistamine and spent a little time sitting in the sun on my deck reading my devotions.  And now I'm about to haul my splotchy-red self out to the grocery store.  Even that sounds like a good time considering that the brilliant sun is shining down on me!

Splotches.  Who'd have ever thought that they could be a blessing in disguise?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Recipes and Memories

As I typed the title for this post, I couldn't help but think that it sounds a bit like a sentimental country song.  I can almost hear Miranda Lambert singing it as a sequel to her hit, "The House That Built Me." And that's okay, because sometimes the lyrics to country music touch the soul in a very real way. So feel free, Miranda... put it in a song!

Not long ago, I was looking for my recipe for banana bread.  I'm not one of those organized people who has all of her recipes in a nice binder or recipe card file.  Nope.  I DO have a recipe box that holds some of my recipes, but there's no rhyme or reason as to why those specific recipes are in there.  The rest of them are in two large tattered file folders.  But here's where I get REALLY organized.  One folder holds recipes for main dishes and the other holds recipes for desserts and drinks. I know...pretty impressive.

Anyway, as I sat on the couch leafing through one recipe after another...many of which I confess were put in there with good intentions, but have never actually been made...I started thinking about all the years that I have made these dishes for my family.  Some became traditions that were served for every holiday.  Others were made for our everyday meals.  And then there are those that my kids now tell me they couldn't stand. Hey, maybe I'll pull a few of those out and invite them over for dinner! :-)

Most of my recipes aren't written on pretty recipe cards.  The majority of them are on scraps of paper such as the back side of a math test that my math-professor-dad had given to his students!  And the ones prepared most often are now food stained and splattered.  But you know what?  That makes them even more special to me. These little slips of paper record my family's history in a very unique and special way.

As I sorted through my overflowing folder, I came across some recipes that were written in my mother's own handwriting.  My heart always clenches when I see her handwriting and it doesn't seem like nearly twenty years since she left us. When I look at her flowing penmanship I can almost see her hand writing those words.

It was my mother's banana bread recipe that I was looking for, and while it is in my handwriting, I wrote it down as she dictated it to me. To be completely accurate, this was my grandmother's recipe. My maternal grandmother often came over to our house to help my mom clean.  And I have fond memories of walking into the house after school and smelling the sweet scent of banana bread that grandma had baked, cooling on the counter. I just made a loaf tonight and it's cooling on my counter right now.

Over the years, I have passed this recipe on to my daughter and daughter-in-law and now I'd love to pass it on to you. So, if you have a hankering for some delicious banana bread, I hope you will give it a try.  I'd be honored to include you in my recipes and memories! And let me know how you like it.

Preheat oven to 350 degreees

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar, mixed brown and white
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 or 3 ripe bananas, cut up

Grease and flour a loaf pan.  Mix all ingredients with an electric mixer. Pour batter into the pan and bake for the first half an hour at 350 degrees.  Turn the oven down to 300 degrees for the last half an hour.  Use a toothpick to test if it is down by inserting the toothpick in the highest part of the loaf.  It should come out clean.  If it doesn't, bake a while longer and test again.  Let cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then loosen by running a knife around the edge of the pan and tipping the loaf out on to the cooling rack.  Yield:  one loaf.

(My daughter's friend, Jamie, gave us a tip that we always do now.  Before baking sprinkle some brown sugar on the top and gently press it into the batter.  It makes a delicious crunchy...if messy...topping!)

I wanted to include a picture of my lovely banana bread loaf, but Blogger wouldn't cooperate! :-(

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

To my beautiful daughter-in-law, and first time mom, Monika, "Happy Mother's Day!" Ya done good!

Oh, that hair! :-)

Puppy love!

 Mother and daughter... both, absolutely beautiful!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Good Things Come in Small Packages?

So a little while ago, I succumbed to a moment of weakness and dialed the 800 number for one of the shopping networks.  Truly, I don't make a habit of this.  It's only the third time ever.

My virgin foray into TV shopping land was to buy a leopard print Snuggie for my daughter who was trying to survive the winter in St. Petersburg, Russia.  Two things to understand about's VERY cold there and the Russian people seem to love all-things-animal-print.  So, when I saw the shopping network offering a blanket in an animal print, I couldn't resist!

Of course, mailing the Snuggie to Elizabeth meant that she had risk her life to claim it from some hostile postal workers in the post office in St Petersburg, but that's a story for another time, and for her blog.

My second experience with ordering from a TV shopping network involved a set of queen size sheets.  It sure sounded like a good deal to begin with, but after all the taxes, and shipping and handling were added on, I could have run over to Target and gotten it for nearly the same price.  And I wouldn't have had a cardboard box to dispose of.

Actually, a cardboard box is the reason for this post. My most recent purchase from TV land arrived a few days after I had placed my order.  The box was delivered while I was at work and my husband had brought it into the house for me. There it sat, in the hallway, waiting for me to open it.  So I did.

However, as I cut through the tape on the box, I was slightly puzzled.  What all had they put inside?  When I opened the flaps on the box, I found this:

Well, that's a lovely envelope.  All cushy and colorful...and rather large. Although not nearly as large as the box that it came in. And as I tore open the flap on the envelope I couldn't help but recognize the ridiculousness of this situation.  Because, you see, the item that I had ordered was...

an eyebrow pencil.  Go ahead, scroll back up there and look at the size of that first box.  Really?  Whatever happened to the "go green" thing.  I think that half of an entire tree must have been sacrificed just to send me a little make up.

The make up is okay, so I guess that good things do come in small packages.  It's just that the small packages come in bigger packages, that come in BIG packages!  I guess it's just the American way.  Sad.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Rainbow Reminder

I know that I've said it before, but for me, the hardest part of being a parent is the letting go.  And this story is a reminder that when we put our children into the care of an almighty, loving God, we really can let go and be at peace.  So let's back up a few months.

Last summer, when my daughter and my now son-in-law got engaged, the plan was to settle in this area after the wedding.  But plans are made to be changed...which they did.  After only a short while of enjoying the prospect of them making their home here, southern California became the new area of post-wedding residency due to a job down there.

I won't even touch on the emotions that flooded my heart with this change in plans...I'd have to go get my Kleenex box to write about that.  But there was another major concern that set my heart palpitating and that was the actual MOVE.

Suddenly, not only was a wedding being planned but also within a matter of days following that event, they would have to find a place to live in another state, find a "cheap" method to physically move there, pack up all their belongings, and drive their cars caravan-style to this new, still unknown home.  My blood pressure shot up every time I even thought about it all!

Okay, here's where the mother part comes in.  It wasn't my problem.  I knew that.  It was up to them to make these arrangements and not me.  Did I mention that I knew that?  But after nearly 25 years of being there to help your child it's hard to just step back and wait for them to take care of all the details.  But that's what I did, except for one thing.  I prayed!  I prayed like crazy! 

Every time I started to stress over the move, I prayed.  When I panicked at the thought of them trying to find a place to live, I prayed. When I worried over how they were going to get their stuff down there, I prayed.  If I pictured my little girl driving all alone in her car to southern California and it made me want to cry, I prayed.  Maybe you get the picture by now, for months, this whole move was covered in prayer. 

The events of the past week are a testimony to God's faithfulness and His answers to our prayers.  First, Elizabeth and Joel were able to find a small U Haul container that they could afford and were able to pack all of their belongings in it.  Suddenly, no one was going to have to drive a U Haul truck and figure out how to get two cars down there. 

Then on Monday, they found an apartment online and a friend of theirs who lives in that area checked it out.  She came back with a glowing report!  It fit within their budget, was in a gated community, even had a refrigerator ( I know, I know...sounds weird but apparently you landlords in CA charge extra for a refrigerator!) and it also had a dishwasher! Now, they just needed to be approved to rent it.  After filling out all the necessary forms, we held our breath...and prayed. 

Wednesday was packing day and by noon, everything was in that big orange box and it all fit!  Still no word on the apartment. But come Thursday morning, Elizabeth, along with her friend Jamie (no driving alone, yes! ) and Joel with their friend, Bentley set off in two cars for Californina. Suddenly, late that day I received a text that they had gotten the apartment! After spending the night at Joel's parents' house in northern California, they were ready for the last leg of the journey.

Friday night at 7:52 p.m. I received a text from Elizabeth that said "Made it!"  And I began praying  prayers of gratefulness and joy!  Then  at 8:08 p.m., I looked out my window and this is what I saw!

God had sent me the most beautiful rainbow reminder that He is faithful! With tears streaming down my face, I was reminded that, with prayer, I am never really letting go of my children, I'm just placing them in the care of our loving God who cares for them even more than I do. And to that, all I can say is "Amen!"