SMILE

I wrote about homeless and refugees a few months ago. Their plight reminds me daily how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head, food on the table, and family who care for me.

Verses from the Gospel of Matthew (25:35+) continue to haunt me: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ He will answer: “When you did it for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it for me.”

We must not leave it to our government to care for the individuals in our country, or those in other countries with which we should share. As the gospel indicates, it is up to each of us to care for those we meet, see, friend or stranger. For a stranger perhaps the person needs nothing more than a smile and a kind hello—just recognition that he or she is an individual, a presence, and not an anonymous  unseen ghost.

Each one of us can do something to make another’s life a tiny bit more pleasant for the day. It never hurts to smile. The exercise relaxes your face! These daffodils smile and put a smile on my face too.1-IMG_3152b

A BIG BLACK CAT

After Van Gogh (pictures above) died last spring, I did not have a cat. I didn’t want one right away. But as spring began to come around the corner, I decided I wanted company in my home.

Three weeks ago I went to a cat shelter and looked at dozens of cats. Two black cats took my eye. Then I went off to Florida on a vacation. Last Saturday, after I had come home, I went back to the shelter to visit the black cats. The first one didn’t seem interested in me. Then I looked at Coco in her cage. At first, she seemed noncommittal, but I didn’t leave. It was then she came to the front of the cage and demanded attention–rubbing, petting. The director suggested I sit with her in a large empty dog cage. She continued to be loving and attentive.

My daughter, who was with me, declared that I may not have chosen her, but Coco had chosen me. We have now had a week together to get to know one another.

I have learned she will sleep in the bedroom with me, but decide that it is time to rise about 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. when I want to get a few more hours in bed. The past two nights, I’ve gotten up, she’s has left the bedroom, I shut the door and get back in bed.

Coco is a nibbler when it comes to eating, and messy when it comes to drinking. I’ve not seen her do it, but I believe she plays with the water. Now her dishes are on a place mat. Coco has definitely made me her person. I do as commanded.

The first cat I had as a small child had followed my mother home, at least that is the way she told the story, was a large black cat. It did everything I wished. I could dress him in doll clothes and feed him with a doll’s bottle. That trick saved his life when he had pneumonia after being trapped in a cold creek.

The first cat my husband and I had was nearly black, a charcoal tiger. He loved snow and following my husband by leaping from one footprint to the next. When we returned from living overseas, we were joined by Himself and Herself, two mostly black kittens, who were with us for fourteen years.

Black cats are part of my past and present.

 

Life and Gravestones

 

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Laurie Buchanan’s post this week (http://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2018/11/27/in-between/ ) prompted me with some thoughts that often float through my mind.

 My daughter and I have visited many old cemeteries searching for markers of ancestors. The dates on the stones may be in the 1800s, 1700s, or 1600s.

It is somewhat daunting to remember that every single person in the cemetery had a life of joys and sorrows—joys and sorrows like the ones we have faced, or are still part of our lives.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our own events, we forget all those people whose names are on those stones lived a life like us. They had children and grandchildren, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers. They had people who brought them sadness and laughter. Some were comics, others too serious, some were optimistic, others pessimistic. Some traveled to many places in the world, and some lived their lives in one small town or village.

Whatever or wherever they went in life they knew the same sorrows and joys, tears and laughter that we have in our lives. Hopefully, when someone studies our gravestone a hundred years from now, that person will remember that we laughed and cried today.

The answer to Laurie’s question this week:  Life has gifted me with people and places and opportunities I would not have dreamed possible. I have had sadness, but it hasn’t overwhelmed the joys which God has given me in my family and the people He brought into my life.

 

MY ADVENTURES IN COOKING PART I

My grandmother  hadn’t wanted to be disturbed when she cooked. So my mother knew nothing about cooking when she married.  She could make lettuce sandwiches.  My dad ate lettuce sandwiches for three weeks and loved my mother enough not to complain. He admitted he hadn’t like lettuce when they married.

So when I, her daughter, was born, she determined I would know my way around a kitchen before I was married. Long before that, my mother had become an excellent cook.

At age ten, I joined the 4-H club with Mom as its leader. Somewhat like Girl Scouts, 4-Hers choose projects for the year. In my first year, I grew a small garden and made a tie-around-the-waist apron. In my second year, I won ribbons for canning fruits and vegetables. According to my “Achievement Book”, I also learned to make salads.

My homemaking skills improved as the years went on. I learned to demonstrate cooking skills. Carrot salad with apple was my first demonstration when I was 11 or 12.  By the time I was in high school, I entered the Dairy Foods Demonstration contest. I showed the audience how to make a custard pie in twenty minutes with time leftover to explain its nutritional benefits.

The first time I practiced making pie crust, it took the entire time. We were allowed pre-measured ingredients, but they had to be added and explained as my work progressed.  The key, I discovered was to work fast and get the dough just right so that it would roll out easily without sticking. The custard was easy. Beat eggs, add sugar, salt, milk, vanilla, and nutmeg. Mom bought  three new glass pie pans, which I filled every day for two weeks, until I had my demonstration with the explanation down to the minute.

No one escaped our house without taking some pie with them. My dad declared that he ate pie at least three times a day. He didn’t want a custard pie again for several months.

I won a blue ribbon at the county level. At the state level the judge felt the crust dominated my work and didn’t put dairy foods in the forefront. Since this was sponsored by the Dairy Foods Council, they noted it was an excellent demonstration, but couldn’t give me a blue ribbon.

Another year I demonstrated making Cheese Souffle. This is a main dish for anyone who wants to bring a special dish to the table. The trick for it is timing, so it is ready to come out of the over after everyone is seated. The soufflé stands high above the rim of the dish. Served with a mushroom or shrimp sauce, it brings a chorus of oohs and aahs.

 

Open for recipe for custard pie

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WEATHER: LIKE IT OR NOT

Last week my doors and windows were closed to keep the 90 to 100 degree heat and humidity outside. My AC ran from the time in the morning when the outside temp went above the indoor temp until they equaled again in the evening. Stepping outside was like stepping into a steam bath.

Today that is reversed. The doors and windows are still closed, but now the heat is on inside. Outside temp this late afternoon is 54. It is also raining.

Summer is waning. It feels like there were too few days to sit outside in warm air without feeling suffocated. We’ve not had the typically brown lawns of August.

We’ve had more than ample rain here on the East Coast, while our West has been suffering from a drought that’s allowed forest fires to rage. A friend of me has been kept inside nearly all summer, not from heat, but from smoke.

So…why am I complaining? Perhaps the weather is the one thing we can find fault with and not point the finger at anyone and claim it is their fault.

I fear our climate is changing and WE as the people of the earth are not taking responsibility. We are not choosing to do enough to moderate that change.

img037img_1743Remember the big oil problem of the 1970s. We talked about our opportunity to make big changes. Then the problem eased. WE went back to our old ways.

MOVING AND FORGETTING

I sat down to write a query about Herkimer “diamonds”. Then I read Laurie Buchanan’s post about moving and forgetting or leaving things – “mind-gnawing.”

We’d lived in the parsonage of my husband’s first church as pastor for about ten years. During that time we acquired some of the antiques that still make their home with me. When it came time to pack, the movers came and spent the day loading a 53-foot trailer.

The house was stripped. But on the lawn was our eight-foot heavy duty picnic table, and an antique cabbage slicer. The iron slicer was incredibly heavy. It stood about three feet high. Its purpose was to cut cabbage for animals. Although you could also make a lot of sauerkraut rather quickly. The movers said, “It won’t go in the trailer. It is packed tight.” What did we want to take? We opted for the picnic table being strapped tightly on the trailer doors.

As we drove away the cabbage slicer stood sadly alone on the porch.

During a winter move at another time, two boxes of wanted stuff, some music and my son’s shoes were shoved over to the boxes of trash we were leaving. Many, many times I have wished to have one antique music book with some silly songs in it that I loved, and have never seen printed elsewhere. My son got new shoes, but I have no idea what else was in that box.

Our first big move after four years of college was from a mobile home eight feet by forty-two feet. It required our car and a 6X8 U-Haul. From that city to our first church took a moderate-sized panel truck.

The most complicated move was to Warsaw, Poland. It only required we take personal items to live in a furnished apartment. However, we had to empty a two-story house with filled attic and basement, and my husband’s office. Some had to be sold, some packed for overseas, some to go to our new twenty-eight-foot square cabin. What was left was packed for storage.

In all of these moves I spent ample times waking to write notes, or moving something out of place to remind me of an idea.

 

JUNE:  A MONTH OF STRAWBERRIES & MEMORIES

 

I have a lone strawberry plant in my backyard which is doing its very best to give me the flavor of fresh-picked summer. So far I’ve had 12 berries, but more are on the way. It is a “forever” plant so throughout the next two months, I may find one or two bright red berries every few days to keep  that first warm berry taste in my mouth.

 

When I was a child on Dad’s farm, a few wild berries grew along the driveway. I watched them daily as they blossomed, formed green berries, and gradually turned red enough to pick. Wild berries are small, perhaps the size of my little fingernail, but twice as sweet as cultivated ones. If there were two berries or more, I’d share them with Mom and Dad. That very first taste made all that watching so worth it. It was the promise of more and of a sweet summer.

 

As an adult I continue to cherish the first taste of locally grown berries. Whether from my back yard, the Thursday farmers’ market or those from “pick your own farms,” they are a treasure.

 

When I have a dish of berries, I struggle deciding whether to make a biscuit shortcake, have them in a bowl with sugar, or just sit down and enjoy them one by one. It is a dilemma!