Archive for November 2012

A Grateful Giveaway

This morning, I am reflecting on an awesome Thanksgiving week one last time before we slip into the Christmas season.  I don’t know about you, but it’s easy for me to move into a giving spirit when I am full from a grateful heart.  And that’s what I’m feeling today – very full and very grateful.

Is everything perfect?  Absolutely not!  But now is not the time or place to write that story.  That will come later.

Today I am thankful for extended-family fellowship I enjoyed yesterday.  I am thankful we all arrived and returned home safely.  I am thankful I heard my mother chuckle about my Rooster Bowl story.  I am thankful to share sweet time with my sisters and their families and all those big and little young’uns as the family continues to grow.

And I am thankful that I am touched by beautiful music that inspires me to write and reflect.  Right now, my favorite rendition of Away in a Manager (Kenny G) is filling the air in my upstairs room.

And so, as we pass from a thankful heart to a giving heart, I am prepared to give away up to twenty-five autographed copies of Reflections – one to each person leaving a “grateful” comment on this post.  That’s all you have to do.  You don’t have to be present to win and there are no strings attached.  If you already have a copy, you can pass the gift along to another.

So leave your “grateful” comment.  I will follow-up with a personal e-mail to receive mailing details from you.  The e-mail address you leave will be used for no other purpose – and that’s a promise!

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The Rooster Bowl

Well, we are entering the “bowl” season – correct?  So here’s my stroll down memory lane and my rooster-bowl story this Thanksgiving morning.

I woke up early and prepared the normal golf breakfast (another story), cleared the counter, pulled out the recipe book, and stood on my tiptoes to reach for that big old rooster bowl to prepare one of my favorite pumpkin desserts.  Down with it came the medium-sized rooster bowl.  Decades earlier the mini-rooster bowl had broken, so said Mother about ten years ago when I asked if I could have the bowls when she was downsizing.  The bowls are turquoise and white with etchings of a farm couple, corn stalks, and roosters.  But growing up, I only noticed the roosters.  And therein lies the reason for the given name – rooster bowl.

I don’t remember life without these bowls – a size for anything and everything.  You could mix in them; store in them; bake in them; and, a bowl before its time, eons later even microwave in them.

Many cakes were birthed in this big one.  You never had to worry about the batter splattering outside of the bowl.  I stood alongside and watched Mother mix up the batter and wondered if I would get to lick the beaters or be the chosen one for the big rooster bowl (three sisters, you know).

Mother whipped up mashed potatoes with butter, milk, salt, and pepper in that big rooster bowl – yum, the real deal, not from a box.  The bowl has survived many years of beater clanging and wooden-spoon whippings.

Spaghetti and meatballs were served up family-style in old rooster, enough for our entire girl clan and Daddy.  And for you health-conscious readers, that simple salad with just the right amount of garlic salt and oil could not be replicated by anyone – so said Aunt Lucille.  We both tried but confessed we just didn’t have the touch.

Mama, maybe my sons will have a few memories like I have.  Maybe someday one of them will want rooster bowl and maybe one of them will remember the wonderful smell of pumpkin in the house and arguing to lick that old bowl.

Today, I am thankful for my mother and the memories, and I am thankful for my sons.

Hey guys, the bowl is dishwasher safe too. 🙂  Sometimes I just like to do things the old-fashioned way – like Mammy and Mama did.  I remember and am, indeed, most grateful …

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That Name

The past five years, I have had my share of hardship.  In the midst of that hardship, I have found hope and peace for each day and a way to enjoy life in spite of the hardship.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t get “rocked” every now and then.  I just find a way to hold on.

This past week I received some disappointing news.  I could have kicked, screamed, cried, and yelled.  (And I’m not saying I have never done that.)  But this time, I felt calm and was mentally trying to assess and process the situation and form an action plan.  The next morning, I was about my morning ritual preparing for work and listening to my favorite piano player on his free Internet station.  (If you have followed my writings or clicked on my “About” tab, you know who that is.) 🙂

A guest piano artist appeared on his station – instrumental only.  Oh, that tune from my past – my heritage – touched my soul and has been my peace since.  I’m not an eloquent singer, but I had to sing those words out loud with the piano.  I was the soloist performing to my own soul.  All of the lyrics are priceless, but what grabbed hold of my heart yesterday morning was that my “problem kingdom” WILL pass away, but that name will not … Jesus.

Listen, and sing to your soul.  And if you don’t know the words, leave a comment.  I’ll make sure you get them.  How blessed I am to know those words.  Thank you, Mother!

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Oh, That Sweater

Once upon a time while raising a household of boys and baseball, football, and wrestling were the only things that seemed to matter, I had a Christmas wish – a wish for a simple white turtleneck with a Chiefs arrowhead emblem on the collar.  You see, I had this red corduroy jumper that I frequently wore to work on Fridays before a Chiefs game.  I had a couple of white blouses that looked fine with it, but I really wanted that turtleneck to make it an official Chiefs outfit.  It wasn’t an expensive piece of clothing; but for some reason, whenever I was out shopping and would see the item for sale, the merchant never had my size.  And when the stock was depleted for the year, the item was not restocked.  I really felt it could be an inexpensive Christmas present for this devoted mother.  So I dropped hint after hint that all I really wanted for Christmas was a Chiefs turtleneck.  I wondered if my sons ever heard me.

I kept hoping for that turtleneck through all those winning playoff seasons.  Then one Christmas morning, I opened a rather large box to find a woven white varsity-type, over-sized Chiefs sweater.  I knew it must have cost much more than the little turtleneck so expressed my gratitude and found a red skirt and a pair of stirrup pants that I could wear with it.  (Yes, I said stirrup pants so you’re probably getting the picture about how long ago this might have been.) 

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, but all I really wanted was the white turtleneck with the arrowhead on the collar.  As I recall, I wore the sweater a couple of times and then was so disappointed when the Chiefs let Rich Gannon slip away to the dreaded Oakland Raiders that I announced at work I would not wear the sweater again until they acquired an adequate quarterback that could lead us to the Superbowl (which, by the way, Rich did the next season with the Raiders).  So while the Chiefs’ management team stood by their man, I stood on my word too.  I did allow one of the guys in our office to wear the sweater for a United Way fundraiser office parade since he dressed up as the cheerleader and I dressed up as the player.  It was a fun day, and Kansas City fans loved their Chiefs.Eventually, the Chiefs did acquire another quarterback, Trent Green, who led us to many victories; and I proudly wore my sweater.  Since his retirement, we’ve been through quarterbacks, running backs, coaches, etc., and have now accepted our losing ways.  Long gone are those glory days.  I guess the winning years need to be passed around the various cities and teams, but I hope the winning wind blows Kansas City’s way soon or even the die-hard fans may not stick around.   A joke surfaced around the various social media in Kansas City on Halloween entitled: Worst Halloween Treat Ever.  Two costumed-up kids were leaving a house after trick or treating with one looking down in his bag of goodies saying: 

Aw, man … I got Chiefs tickets.

I have never thought much of fair-weathered fans, but I fear I have become one.  The decade-old sweater is neatly folded in my armoire, perhaps awaiting another day.  I might stop and tan on my way home from work rather than rushing home to watch the Chiefs on Monday Night Football.  The Chiefs have moved on, and so have I after all these years.

So if my adult sons happen to read this, just know that a Chiefs turtleneck is no longer on my Christmas wish list.  Gourmet coffee, decadent chocolate, or a simple hug with dinner will do.  My red corduroy jumper no longer hangs in my closet, so that white turtleneck just doesn’t seem to matter.

And as I say … life continues on.

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Dream On

I once had a dream, a plan that would change the course of my life and solve a problem.  The plan was coming together quickly and efficiently, so much so that it occurred to me one day I should probably seek God’s counsel.  So I said, “God, if this is not your will for my life, please close the door because this is moving fast, and I am prepared to forge ahead.”

The dream involved drastic changes.  The doors to my dream shut as swiftly as they had opened with no explanation.  My dream was gone, and I could not ignore the truth that God had probably answered my prayer.  I just wish he had explained the “why” to me.

During this period of time, I had shared this plan with a friend.  My plan caused her to dream – a plan to change the course of her life and move to Alaska.  She asked me if I would help her fulfill her dream and accompany her driving to Alaska from Kansas City because, after all, she needed her car once she arrived.  Always up for an adventure, I said sure, thinking it would be months down the road after she sold her condo.  Then one day she decided to take action and the “when” became now.  She had it all planned – let the realtor continue with advertising and the sale of her condo and she would rent a cottage in Alaska until her condo sold which would clear the way to purchase one in Ketchikan, Alaska.  She packed several boxes of personal belongings and shipped them ahead, rented a storage unit in Alaska, and made all of the plans for our road trip to fulfill her dream.

So we set out on her dream-filling adventure  – a 28-hour drive to northern Washington and a two-day ferry ride on to Alaska.  We started out the first leg of the trip with sunshine on a mild autumn day in the Midwest.

We stopped for gas a couple of times and lunch and found ourselves still driving just after dusk – trying to arrive at our first overnight destination.  We were about an hour away in falling rain when I noticed a deer on the passenger side of the road.  Before I could alert her, there were three more deer before us in the road.  We struck one as they scurried across the interstate.  She miraculously kept control of the vehicle even though we immediately knew there was extensive damage because of an awful rubbing noise coming from the tire/wheel area and the driver’s side headlight was shining off in the field left of the interstate.  She lowered her speed and managed to get to the next exit where we stopped for help.  The local sheriff arrived, completed the necessary paperwork, cut away the headlight, and pulled off the body parts scraping the tire.

Before Surgery

Lo and behold, we were able to continue our journey in the dark rain and arrived at our first overnight destination exhausted and hungry.  Surprisingly, she said the car drove fine.  This was a trip that needed to be executed according to plan in order for it to work.  We had to catch that ferry in two days, and she had to have her car because she was not returning to the mainland.

The next morning we continued down the open roads of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.  The sun was bright and sky was clear, but the wind pulled on the small car making it very difficult to stay on the road.  We later learned there was a severe wind advisory.  As we drove through Sturgis, I was sure glad we weren’t riding a motorcycle!

Mid-afternoon we stopped in Billings, Montana, and realized it would be very difficult to make our second night destination, Spokane, Washington.  We pulled out the atlas and decided Missoula, Montana, was a much more realistic goal, changed our hotel reservations, and kept on truckin’.  We still had the benefit of daylight savings time, but somehow darkness seemed to come earlier than planned and we couldn’t make our adjusted destination by nightfall.  By the time we reached Butte and pulled into Wendy’s for the last supper (no Wendy’s in Ketchikan), Cathy had relinquished the wheel; and I was driving a “stick” for the first time in five years.  No one seemed to mind that we drove with our brights on to compensate for the lack of a left headlight.

We enjoyed the spacious room at the Courtyard in Missoula and crashed into our comfy beds.  Our story caught the interest of the waitress the next morning at breakfast who looked at the car in amazement, thought we were quite the adventurous duo, and snapped this picture of us as we left for the last leg of our road trip.  It was another clear day, and the brisk wind continued to howl.

We had received much advice from well-meaning friends and family suggesting we rent a car or change our plans.  After all, we weren’t sure we could open the hood to check the oil, water, etc.  But we came to the conclusion that since the oil had been changed and all fluid levels were checked prior to the trip, we would just forge ahead.  The airbag hadn’t deployed, and we did point out to our concerned loved ones that, indeed, we managed to “fix” the car during a pit stop in a quaint, little Idaho mountain town.

After Surgery

We crossed over into the state of Washington through the mountain range and thought for sure we were back in Kansas as we endured the four-hour drive to Seattle.

Washington Kansas?

Cathy tired and relinquished the wheel to me again about an hour from Seattle.  Guess I hadn’t done too badly the previous night.  I was wide-eyed and bushy tailed (as they say) and pretended to be Dale Jr. as I drove through another mountain range and into Seattle rush-hour traffic.  Oh my!

We stopped for about an hour in Seattle to hold Cathy’s great nephews – three-month-old twins and parted with hugs and homemade pumpkin pie.  There was more rain and night driving the last 90 minutes as we headed north to Bellingham where we would board the ferry the next day.  Once in Bellingham, we celebrated with dinner in the hotel restaurant.  A good night’s rest was welcomed as I crashed sideways on the bed after my last bite of pie.  The next morning, I left a copy of Reflections in the lobby library, and Cathy received a visit from the insurance adjuster who wrote her a check for the “deer” damage.  We loaded the suitcases back in the broken carriage that had been our home for three days and drove it onto the ferry at the port of Bellingham.  God kissed the sky with a spectacular sun as we stood on deck and awaited departure.  After navigating nearly 2000 miles, we were thrilled to leave the driving to the captain for a couple days.

Passengers – that’s such a pleasant word.  We enjoyed the views along the majestic scenic route.

 

 At 7:00 a.m. on the second morning we docked in Ketchikan, and surprisingly were kissed with the sun again for three days as we settled into the Christmas cottage.  The views from the cottage were spectacular. 

But I was especially partial to the “sunset reflections.”

Cathy took care of business, opened a bank account and post office box; and we deposited things in a storage unit that made it in the deer-stricken carriage.  We viewed the condo she hopes to buy.  We perused the shopping district and visited with merchants.  I chose my token souvenir.  It seemed so fitting when the merchant told me they were “dream catcher” earrings. And then it was time for me to go.  I think we were both gripped with sadness.  We met when we were in our twenties and had shared moments and memories for over thirty years – years of employment, children, birthdays, anniversaries, recipes, parties, births, death, and divorces.  And now in our fifties we would share one more hug and goodbye as I boarded a plane for home.

Three flights later I was home, returned to work, and Cathy settled in alone.  And then Mother Nature proclaimed her power as an earthquake struck and Cathy found herself in a tsunami warning forced to evacuate to higher ground.  She must have wondered if her dream was going to collapse.  A few hours later, she was cleared to return to the cottage with the threat of disaster gone.

And life continues on.  She withstood rain, wind, wild-animal disaster and natural disaster – earthquake and threat of tsunami.  But she weathered the storm, endured the journey, reached her destination, and is making her dream of peace and happiness come true.  And I believe God watched over us every step of the way.

The moral of this story is two-fold.  Above all else, don’t give up on your dream.  Press on, grab hold of your dream, and do what you can to make it happen.  But if your dream suffers a fatal blow (like mine), catch a new one.  Just maybe it’s time to dream a new dream.

Yes, by all means, DREAM ON!

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