The Chocolate that Didn’t Melt in my Mouth

This is an absolutely true story.  I won’t even try to disguise it…if you know me, you know this is totally me.

I have never been a fan of cleaning.  Although I love a neat and tidy house, I’m just not good at making it happen.  Mom tried.  Really she did.  She taught me most of the right things.  (She didn’t teach me as much about laundry because she liked doing it herself.  I did however learn how to hand clothes on the clothesline and collect them when they were frozen stiff. Ugh.)

Hubby left subtle and not so subtle hints, and before any one says what is wrong with him helping, let me tell you he did help, and well as working 40+ hours a week outside the home.  The thing is, I don’t mind working.  I just prefer working outside.  Or working on a project.  One year I negotiated with my parents to let me do the gardening instead of the inside chores.  That was one of my favorite years. The sense of accomplishment and joy is still a vibrant memory.

Now my loving hubby tries to do as much as he can to help with the housework since he is retired and I still work part-time.  I really appreciate his efforts.  He also makes sure I have time to work on projects.   What a keeper!

However, I still fight a battle with guilt.  I should do more around the house.  I should be a better housekeeper.  I should, I should, I should.  Then every so often I roll up my sleeves, put my big girl socks on, and try to see what I can accomplish.  Sometimes I pay a price when I can’t move the next day, but I do try.

One such day occurred last week.  When I got up in the morning I felt pretty good.  I made my list (I love lists) and got to work.  I attacked the kitchen with vim and vigor, proud that I was making a difference. Soon it was almost finished.  Then, when I was ready to clean our kitchen cart…you know, one of those metal 3 shelf jobbies on wheels that lots of people had years ago…often red, but mine was yellow…I saw it.  A huge bag of M & M’s that I didn’t even remember sticking on the shelf.  Ecstatic, I reached for the bag.  After all this work, I figured I deserved a reward and I haven’t eaten dessert since Christmas.  Ripping open the bag, a few tasty morsels fell to the floor.  I did what any self-respecting person would do after just cleaning the kitchen.  I grabbed them up and dusted them off.  Since it was a big bag, I figured I would only take a handful plus of course the ones I rescued from the floor.  I could almost taste that chocolate before I even put one in my mouth.  The yellow M & M came closer and closer.  I opened my mouth and…

…and…AND THEN I WOKE UP!!!!  I should have known it was a dream.  I don’t even have a yellow metal 3 shelf jobby on wheels.

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Frolicking in the Snow

There is something special about seeing big fat snowflakes swirling around, dancing around on puffs of wind and coming to rest on the ground where it will soon be joined by its sisters and brothers and cousins.  No matter the forecast, they make me smile.  In fact, if no one is around to hear, they make me giggle.  I will sit by the window for hours watching, afraid to turn away in case I miss one.

Today is a snow day. The flakes started their merry dance before dawn, and by the time my eyes finally opened, the ground was covered.  In awe, I watched their merry dance without even being aware of the passage of time.  Occasionally I would leave my post at the window long enough to heat some soup for lunch (what else would we have on a snow day) or to do some small chore. Some VERY SMALL chore.  Every so often, like this very second, a gust of wind would come along and a few dry leaves dropped from the tree and scurried across the snow.  Bit by bit, the sad-looking flower bed became a thing of pristine beauty, made clean by the washing of the snowflakes.

This is the very first snow for our golden retriever, Rusty.  His first time out today, says hubby, he frolicked about as if he were in a pond swimming from one spot to the next.  The second time he was so excited I couldn’t even get a picture…just a blur of excitement.  The third time, we questioned whether he really needed to go outside, but who takes that chance.  Not us!  So out we went.  Hubby had the leash, I had the camera.  Don’t worry, I gave him privacy when he needed privacy, his but the rest of the time was fair game.  First thing he did was to take giant leaps in the snow.  Being about 8 months he has plenty of leap in him. I, on the other hand, am older than 8 months, or 8 years for that matter.  My leap has slowed down to a shuffle.  Standing on the back step, I tried my best to capture him frolicking around frantically, trying to taste each snowflake.  The joy on his face was something to behold.  Finally he plopped down and looked up grinning as if to say, “Isn’t this great stuff?  Wanna come play?” To which I answered in order, “Yes!” “NO”

rusty
Rusty

I admit at one point I did go out and frolic in the snow a bit.  Only for a few minutes, long enough to get proof I was outside.  And since you are friends and believe me when I say something, you don’t need to see that proof, right?  Of course not. Ahem.

Personally, I think God likes to see us finding joy in the snow.  I think He wants to watch us enjoy the good things He has provided for us.  But most important, I think He wants us to look at the snow and remember that His Son Jesus is waiting and willing to cleanse us by His blood and make us pristine, whiter than snow. And that, my friend, will fill you with such joy and gladness you will want to join Rusty in frolicking in the snow.

Pancakes…a Life Lesson

Recently one of my granddaughters and I were discussing cooking and food.  Nothing new here…we often discuss food.  I remember how special it was one day to tie an apron around her tiny waist, stand her on a chair and let her help me cook.  I think we made mac and cheese in a saucepan or something similar to that.  And of course, before you click your tongue, I had turned the stove off during the time she was “stirring” and I did everything with her safety in mind.  Really, what else would you expect.  I guard my treasure and my grandchildren are some of my treasures.

Anyway, we got on the topic of pancakes.  Both of us love pancakes.  We even both love blueberry pancakes!  With visions of  preparing a family breakfast together, I asked her if she had a special blueberry pancake recipe.  No, she declared.  She only likes blueberry pancakes from iHop!  FIDDLE!  My visions melted away, but it did start a trip down memory lane.

One particular memory stays vivid in my mind.  It haunts me a bit and I hope it always will.  You see, I didn’t always like pancakes.  I remember like it was this morning a time when my frustration with pancakes bubbled over…and frustration bubbling over wasn’t something you did in my family growing up.  We had too much respect for our parents, and had been raised well if I do say so myself.  But this particular day my younger brother and I had been playing outdoors after completing our chores.  It was probably a summer weekday or else other siblings would have been home from their summer jobs.  I’m guessing I was somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. (Age has never been super critical to me so I’m not entirely sure.)  I remember Mom calling out the door that we were to come in for lunch.  With a big smile she gave us each a pancake that she had sprinkled sugar on and rolled up like a jelly roll.  “Take it outside and eat it.”  Normally I would be thrilled to eat outside, but seriously- a pancake?  And not even any syrup?  As we scampered out the door without a backward glance, I remember saying, “I HATE pancakes.”    It seemed to me we had them often, so obviously Mom must love them a lot.

It wasn’t until years had passed that I realized what had probably happened.  You see, we were loved so much that I didn’t realize we were poor.  Never did I realize as a child that other families may live differently than us.  I thought Mom loved sewing so much that she enjoyed making our clothes.  I thought Dad loved his work and that was why he spent so many hours there.  Oh, I knew there were a few kids with more “things”, but I just thought they were probably spoiled kids, you know?  In my heart’s eye I can see my mother looking out the window at her two youngest children, saying to herself, “Lord, what can I possibly feed them today?”  I can see her opening the cupboard doors and seeing a few basic staples on the shelf.  (That woman could make more from a few basics than anyone I ever met!)  I can see her taking out the flour and sitting it on the counter and reflecting that she was blessed to still have some flour on hand.  My heart almost cracks as I mentally see her mixing up batter…enough for two pancakes.  Trying her best to make it special, I can see her looking in the sugar bowl for those few grains of sugar and deciding she didn’t want sugar in her coffee anyway.  Then, my heart cracks a little more as I see her cheerfully calling us to come get lunch, and sending us outside on a little picnic so we wouldn’t see the empty batter bowl and notice she wasn’t “hungry” for lunch.  And then pain slices through me as I hear myself say, “I HATE pancakes!”.  And in retrospect, I can see Dad coming home that night and mom greeting him at the door with a kiss, and a look into his eyes that said how much she appreciated his efforts to provide for his family.

I learned several lessons from this childhood memory. I’ll quickly share three.  One is that poor is a state of mind. The fact that I never considered us poor speaks well to the upbringing our parents provided.  We may have scraped the bottom of the barrel at times, but we never went without something to eat, clothes to wear, and a roof over our heads.  We did things as a family, and had fun!  Another lesson is that love is a powerful force that can embrace and protect in amazing ways.  (If you don’t think so, just think about God’s love.) It isn’t about keeping our loved ones from hard experiences, but about helping our loved ones THROUGH hard experiences.  Tough times will come, but we can get through them…together.  And finally, when we dig deeper in trying to learn and understand one another, our preconceived perceptions often change dramatically.

What can I say?  I LOVE pancakes.  Thanks Mom.  Thanks Dad.

Chilly Mornings and Cinnamon Toast

Recently someone on Facebook shared a link an article by Pioneer Woman about how to make the Cinnamon Toast the right way.  You can read it for yourself here on Rhee Drummond’s Pioneer Woman website: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/the-right-way-and-the-wrong-way-to-make-cinnamon-toast/

Of course, I already knew the right way to make cinnamon toast but I followed the link anyway.  Now I admit, in a pinch I have been known to toast a piece of bread, butter it, and add cinnamon and sugar. That isn’t cinnamon toast-it is toast with cinnamon and sugar.  It’s tasty, but nothing like the taste of REAL cinnamon toast.

When I was a little girl, admittedly life was simpler.  We lived in a tiny town…village…whatever you call a collection of about 15-20 houses.  Our front yard was large and was often filled with the neighborhood children as we  played games like Red Light/Green Light, Mother May I, and Red Rover.  I am blessed to have 5 brothers and sisters, so even if the neighborhood children were not around, we still had plenty of kids to share games, secrets, chores and fun. Being one of the youngest, I got a lot of hand me down clothes and I was proud of that.  I still remember the beautiful mint green dresses my sisters had.  If I remember correctly they had butterflies on them.  I couldn’t wait until they would be passed down to me.

We weren’t wealthy and I’m glad.  We had a huge garden, which probably helped me develop my own love of gardening.  (That and the fact that I never liked to do the dishes and would rather work outside.) Our meals were not fancy, but I thought they were the most wonderful meals on earth.  Looking back, I know that Mama and Daddy put a lot of love in the family to make everything stretch. I’m not sure how they did it, but I never felt deprived in any way.

Back to the cinnamon toast.  Every so often mama would make hot chocolate and cinnamon toast.  Six or eight slices of bread would fit on her cookie sheet.  She spread each slice with butter, and then sprinkled the cinnamon and sugar on the bread.  After a few minutes in the oven, we were treated with the most delicious REAL cinnamon toast I have ever tasted.  For an early breakfast or a rare bedtime snack, there was nothing better. The oven warmed the kitchen and the toast warmed our heart and set the tone for the day.  I don’t know where mama learned to make cinnamon toast the right way…maybe from her mama.  Of course now that I am thinking back, I don’t remember us even having a toaster back then.

So when that Facebook link was posted, it immediately took me back to fond childhood memories of chilly mornings and cinnamon toast. I would write more about the subject, but I’m busy. Its a little chilly and  I think I have earned a cup of hot tea and cinnamon toast!

Camels, Pain and Prayer

Did you ever watch a camel plodding over the dessert?  Ok, I admit I have only seen a camel plodding on hot desert sands in the movies, but I can empathize with the camel.  One foot in front of the other, again and again and again.  Now God created a camel to be able to do what a camel must do.  And He created me to do what I must do.  And I was NOT created to plod across hot sand.  Fiddle, I can’t even keep my balance in cool sand.  But if I can do anything, I can plod on a good old regular floor.

Today I plodded with the best of them.  My part time job coincides with the school year, so Monday it is back to work.  Today I went in to make sure everything was in top shape and ready to go.  The room wasn’t too bad, but something about this time of year makes me want to rearrange furniture.  And rearrange I did.  Cabinets full of construction paper changed position more than once. (Come on Nana, really?)  Tables, equipment…nothing was safe.  One hour slipped into two, and before you know it hubby was calling to see if I would even make it home for dinner.

As I plodded to the car (ok, I couldn’t resist that one!) I remember thinking my feet were really going to be telling me a few things later after all the abuse of the day.  Driving home, I could feel those ankles getting their thoughts together.  Sure enough, when I tried to get out of the car at home, they had their words in order.

“Nana, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?’ said the left ankle as I swung it out of the car.  The left ankle jumped right in. “Anyone as old as you should have better sense than to move furniture all day without help.”  Personally I wish the ankles would just hush.  Do they really think I don’t already know I overdid it a bit?  Mentally I reminded myself that I should probably keep quite about the pain or he would probably join the ankles in commenting on my good sense…or lack thereof.

Keeping quiet didn’t work.  Within 2 hours I was all but in tears and bemoaning the fact that pain pills are not permitted.  I propped my feet up.  I groaned.  I complained that while doctors were quick to tell me I couldn’t take pain pills they didn’t tell me what I could take.  I took a hot shower.  I berated myself for not being sensible.  And then I thought, oh yeah, prayer.  Why is it that I always remember prayer last?  God wants me to talk to Him about things all along rather than waiting until I feel there are no other options.  I think sometimes I feel I shouldn’t bother Him with my silliness, but He wants to hear my thoughts.  Just do a search for prayer in the Bible and the verses will keep you busy for a long time.  I didn’t ask God to take away my pain, but to make it manageable.  He sure answered that prayer and I wondered why I waited so long.  With things in a better perspective, I was reminded of a  social media post earlier in the year.  It bears repeating, so here it is.

“I am thankful for pain. Now don’t get me wrong…Wes hears a complaint or two because my feet hurt so badly tonight, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My ankles are remembering the many pushes of my bicycle pedals especially in 4th and 5th grade. And the pacing back and forth while I stretched the phone cord as far as it would go while talking to my hubby…before he was my hubby. They remember running after two little boys who have since become two fine young men…joining in their games and pretending I had just as much energy as they did. The bottoms of my feet remember the joy of teaching my students. The most recent students needing me to squat to their level as well as spend long moments balancing doubled over tying shoes, wiping noses, sharing discoveries…and did I mention tying shoes? My feet remember hours of joy spent in the garden. Sometimes alone with God and my thoughts and sometimes accompanied by precious grandies who made me see each plant and critter with new eyes. My ankles are remembering being blessed with extra sewing time and flexing to press that foot pedal for just the right speed. They remember walking from the car to a job I enjoy, and trudging up the steps when I get home and being greeted by a husband who still thinks I am special. Tomorrow my feet will be ready to meet a new day with better energy, but for today they help me remember so many blessings. I’m thankful for pain”

The thoughts still hold true.  I’m thankful for what I was able to accomplish today, even if I could have been a bit more sensible about it.  I’m thankful that I have a God who cares.  I’m thankful that I have a hubby who puts up with me when I haven’t made the best choices.  I’m thankful I can still plod along.  I’m even thankful for camels.

camel in Lancaster

Camp Feet

Years ago when I was a youngster, I attended a 4-H camp.  It was AMAZING!  I remember singing around the campfire, listing to our camp counselor and playing lots and lots of volleyball.  When our sons were young they were able to go to church youth camp several times.  I remember being happy for them; I was also a bit wishing I could be a youth and go to camp.

As an adult, I knew there was our denominational church camp.  Hubby and I often went nightly and heard some great preaching.  I heard people share memories of camp and thought…how did I miss all that?  What are they talking about? Well, this year I was able to go to Family Camp.  Who knew that the evening services we attended were only a small part of the camping experience?

Camp CoffeeOur theme was THRIVE. In a nutshell, during the daytime hours we talked, had Bible Studies that were so enriching, shared wonderful meals, formed friendships, enjoyed family activities, ate some more, and had some incredible coffee before the evening service.  WOW!  I enjoyed getting to know some older people from the state north of us and hearing the life stories they had to share.  Some of the younger adults had so much enthusiasm to share.  And watching the children was an experience all its own.  They played and learned and rode their bikes from breakfast until lights out.  And like me long ago, they played lots and lots of ball…but it was GaGa Ball.  And yes, some of my grandchildren were there. What they learned about Jesus and the songs they shared with us were so precious.  Spiritually, the whole experience was so needed and so uplifting.

I went a bit early to help get things ready only to find so many people had volunteered so many hours to clean the campgrounds, make repairs, set up the tabernacle and more.  Helping to prepare the grounds definitely helped me see and appreciate all the effort that goes into something like this.  During camp, I was scheduled to teach 7 different craft classes so I tried to get everything ready for that too.

In between the work, there was so much fun!  A local company that rents golf carts delivered 10 to the camp.  Some were rented to campers, some were set aside for the speakers, the nurse, or other staff that would need to get from place to place quickly.  Never having driven a golf cart before, I was thrilled to be given a tour of the camp.  Then- oh what fun- I was allowed to drive.  Oh yeah!  Hubby wasn’t around which was good, since he tends to be a bit overprotective.  Needless to say, I had a blast.  And in case anyone wants to know what to give me for my birthday, I would like my electric golf cart to be a cool shade of lime green with purple trim with 4 seats and please remember a great sounding horn. (hint hint)  And by the way, when hubby got to camp and was able to drive one, he had the same grin on his face that I did.

Craft time went well, although the flip flops flopped a bit.  We managed.  But the great thing is that we had so much fun.  Maybe a later blog can focus on the specific crafts, but suffice it to say, we shared plenty of laughs along with the paint. And speaking of paint I seemed to accumulate a splotch of each color and I wasn’t even painting! I still haven’t figured that one out.

One of the big things I heard people talking about was camp feet.  Yes, by the end of the day, those wearing flip flops had accumulated several layers of ummm, well- dirt.   It was a badge of honor that showed others just how active a person been that day and how much fun they were having.  Some even posted pictures of their feet that clearly showed the strap lines of their flip flops.  Since I was wearing purple Crocs, it took a bit longer for me to get my camp feet on.  (of course we washed our feet, but it was hot and dry at camp this year and dirt does cling you know.)

Camp is over now. Laundry is clean again.  All those supplies that I took to camp for crafts are back at home.  I would like to say they have been put away, but that wouldn’t be true so I won’t even go there. And finally, after many days I am able to sit once again at my computer and share some thoughts on this blog.  In fact I think I will kick off my Crocs and read a few other blogs while I am sitting here.

Wait a minute!!! I think I can see just a shadow…maybe just a memory…of camp feet!