Letter to Grandma Flossie

723608-Portland-Rose-GardenHi Grandma,

It sure has been a long time since we’ve talked.  I hope all is well in heaven.  Have you and God been having long conversations?  You’ve been on my mind a lot lately, so I thought I’d write you a letter.  I remember how much you always loved receiving a letter in the mail, and that you would write letters to your family who lived miles away, too.

The last time I turned on the TV in the afternoon and saw a soap opera on, I thought of you, Grandma.  You used to love watching Days of Our Lives and General Hospital.  Not much has changed.  Well, maybe.  There’s still always drama, crying and yelling.  People can’t get along.  Except now, Grandma, they have men kissing men.  I know.  Even as progressive as you were in some of your thoughts and ideas, I don’t think you would have gone for that.  Seeing how Elvis would shake his hips when he was singing was enough to make you scowl, though I did notice you kept on watching.  But two men kissing on TV…nope, I think that one would make you turn the TV off and go water your flowers.

Speaking of flowers, I’ve never seen flowers like yours much since.  Somehow, it was always comforting to see you outside working in your flower beds.  Pruning, trimming, digging, planting.  You would have sweat dripping like crazy off your forehead, but you’d just take your apron hem, wipe it away, and then keep on working.  Every so often, I’d see you with the wheelbarrow loaded up with cow manure that you got from the pile back of the barn.  You knew exactly which kind you wanted, too.  The kind that had mellowed for quite a while and was a bit on the drier side.  You knew exactly what would make your flowers and vegetables grow.

You had the loveliest roses in your garden.  They were always beautiful.  You spent a lot of time reading up on how to keep bugs and insects away organically, but if that didn’t work, you’d blast them with something.  Nothing was going to mess with your flowers and get away with it.  I liked that about you.  You took care of who and what you loved.  You took care of me.

I miss the conversations we’d have on the front porch while we were shelling beans.  Didn’t matter what kind of beans they were, and you had several kinds.  I’d fuss and complain about having to do it, but secretly, I loved spending the time with you.  You told a lot of stories about growing up and I wish now I had listened more, or written them down so I could have remembered.  You didn’t have an easy life, but I don’t remember you ever complaining, just reminiscing.

The other times I really enjoyed was when everyone else was out at the barn milking thebarn-silos-park-city cows, you’d come over and we’d watch little Joey together, and you’d help me with my homework.  Oh, how you fussed about that “new math.”  I think it’s even worse now, Grandma.  But then, if we could get that homework out of the way, we’d play Chinese Checkers.  It was so much fun!  You’d almost always beat me, but it didn’t really matter.  You’d get on to me when I missed a really good move.  It made me mad, but I know you were trying to teach me to be more observant, and to think more.  You were great like that.  You knew that women could be great thinkers and do pretty much anything they wanted in life.  Back then, that was pretty progressive thinking.

I was always proud of you, Grandma.  You lived in California for a few years as a housekeeper/nanny and experienced things I will never experience.  You worked for a family named Finkle, who made hats.  Hats were a big thing back in the day.  You had so many stories to tell, places you’d been to, people you saw while riding the bus shopping in Los Angeles.  I think those were probably some of the happiest days of your life.  But when Joey was born, you felt there was a need for you to come back to Ohio, and you did.  I was probably one of the luckiest little girls in the world to have my Grandma living just a few yards away from our house.  You were a big help to everyone.  I know Dad yelled and grumbled a lot, but you were always there to help and I know you were greatly appreciated, even if it wasn’t said.  Thank you, Grandma.  Thank you for caring enough to help with Joey, and with me.

101471842_webThere are so many memories I have of you, joyful ones.  Picnics in the backyard, trips to Pomeroy to go grocery shopping and to the feed mill.  You loved riding into town.  It didn’t take long at all for you to put on a little rouge and lipstick, a “good” dress and pair of shoes.  The good shoes and work shoes looked the same, except the good shoes were newer.  And then you began wearing pant suits, polyester pant sets that looked so good on you.  Again, you showed the progressive side of yourself, even if you were a devout Republican.  You knew the value of a dollar and chose your spending wisely.  But you never failed to bring me back a gift when you were away visiting or traveling with someone.  You always thought of me, Grandma, and it was so very nice to be thought of.  You even gave me the first Bible of my very own.  I hope you know how much that changed my life.

Well, Grandma, I’d better close for now.  I still have a couple chores to do and I know how much you liked chores being done.  I miss you and love you.  We’ll talk again soon, I promise.

Blessings

 

My Favorite Book

Bible2From the earliest of my memories, books have been a fascination to me.  It first puzzled me how adults could sit for hours reading a book without pictures.  How could anyone enjoy something that didn’t have pictures?  I mean, in my four or five year old mind, pictures told the entire story.

My grandmother would read to me quite often.  Storybooks.  Faerie tales.  Books about Spot the dog and Harriet the goat, or something along those lines.  Thin books full of pictures I loved to look at.  Puppies, farm animals, kittens…books about animals were my favorite then.

Like all children, I started school and began to learn to read the words that went with the pictures in my books.  I learned a lot of words simply because I knew the stories by heart by then and I could put them both together.  I’m not sure how long at a time I would read, but the time was increasing.  Reading out loud was one of my favorite things to do.

One night, and I remember it clearly, my grandmother was reading her book silently to herself, but I was reading my book out loud, and it annoyed her.  She told me I was a big girl and I no longer had to read the words out loud, I could say them to myself.  This felt pretty odd at first, but I soon got the hang of it.  Grandma was a lot happier then and we could sit side by side for hours reading silently to ourselves.

I think I was about 12 when Grandma gave me my first Bible.  It was white, with gold lettering on the front.  I thought it was the most beautiful book I had ever seen and I dived right in reading it.  It was King James Version, so it wasn’t always the easiest to understand, but it seemed to have a poetry about it.  The words were beautiful even before I started paying attention to the meaning.  That Bible was the first of several over the years.  It’s the one that started it all.

When I was 13, my mother and I attended a little country church, nestled in the woods, for a little while.  It was during our Sunday School lessons at Joppa Methodist Church that I became aware that there were other versions of the Bible, versions I could understand better.  Who knew?

For Christmas when I was about 15, I asked my mother for a Bible called The Way, The 9780842378208-us-300Living Bible.  Amazingly enough, she got it for me.  I loved it!  It opened up a whole new world for me.  The words in the Bible took on more meaning.  My mind was reaching more understanding of God’s Word.  How could anyone not read the Bible?  It was a fantastic book, full of hope, war, hate, faith, and love.  There was sex, scandals, miracles, and sadness.   It had everything any bestseller on the market had, and a whole lot more.

As happens with many young people, I began drifting away some from reading the Bible.  There was the dating thing, the marriage thing, the working and going to college thing.  I worked most Sundays, or at least tried to, for the extra pay.  In my mind, I was way too busy to go to church.  But during those years, I kept my Bibles on the floor under my side of the bed.  When my husband was out of town during the week, I would read a little, at least a few verses.  There was just something about reading God’s Word that made me feel better.  It got me through some pretty rough times by giving me hope.  And it was through those words in those Bibles that made me want to pray, and I prayed a lot.  I felt like God and I were getting to know each other a little better.

Bible4Fast forward a few decades and I have collected several Bibles.  I like exploring different versions.  Some I can read like a novel, some take more time, like the King James Version.  Sometimes, I’m just in the mood for one version or the other.  Do I read my Bibles as often as I should?  No.  And I’m not proud of that.  But to this day, it is still my favorite book of all time.  It’s the one book that can give me hope, comfort my grief, celebrate my happiness, and make me believe in miracles.  It was that first white Bible my grandmother gave me that put me on the path to become a Christian later in life.  It helped plant a seed.

If you don’t have a Bible, I urge you to get one.  If you cannot afford one, stop in a church and ask them for one.  They will gladly give you a Bible of your own.  If you live in my neck of the woods, stop in at Rockland Church and I will make sure you have a Bible.  It’s an amazing story you don’t want to miss.

 

Blessings

Turkey & Traditions

  In less than two weeks, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day. This is the day when families gather together to eat a tremendous amount of food, and give thanks for the blessings of the harvest God has given them.  

Most families have a tradition of what food is served, what activities they do together, if any, and whose home it will all take place. For those of us who have a few decades behind us, there are bound to be many memories of past Thanksgivings.   Most memories will warm the heart and perhaps bring a tear to the eyes, but all of them have helped mold our Thanksgiving celebration into what it is today.
The preparations for Thanksgiving seemed to begin days earlier for mom and grandma as they baked bread, rolls, pumpkin and cherry pies, pumpkin cake, and maybe some fudge and potato candy got thrown into the mix.  Noodles were rolled, cut, and left to dry.  A huge bowl of fruit salad was prepared, and fruit nut bread was already stored away waiting.  Everything was made from scratch.  I didn’t know there was any other way.

Growing up on a small dairy farm, our schedule of Thanksgiving Day events may have been a little different than some.  Mom was up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare and stuff the turkey before putting it in the oven.  Then she’d wake up dad and the boys to go to the barn and do the morning chores and milking.  I’d get to sleep a little longer and my job was to take care of my little brother, Joey.

After the milking and chores, mom would come back into the house and start cooking while dad and the boys went rabbit hunting with a couple beagle dogs.  When I was really small, I was allowed to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on our black & white TV, but as I became old enough to help in the kitchen, more time was spent helping there, but we all took sneak peeks at the parade.

Promptly at noon, dad and the boys would come back from their hunting.  Sometimes they had a couple rabbits, sometimes not.  They’d get cleaned up for dinner and we’d all sit around the table in our assigned places.  Mom or grandma would say grace and then dad would begin the procession of food around the table.  It was tradition.

We kids all grew older and one by one left the farm.  Traditions changed and it became harder to get everyone together for Thanksgiving.  Family members passed away.  Marriage and divorce happened for me.  Then one year there were only three of us to sit at the table together.  After mom passed away, so did the tradition.

For a few years, I was pretty sad at Thanksgiving.  But life goes on and I’m a survivor, so I began creating new traditions just for me.  Yes, it can be done.  For many years, I volunteered to work every Thanksgiving and that became my tradition.  Then I retired, so I had to come up with something new.  For a few years, I would put a turkey breast in the slow cooker and fix green beans and herb dressing in the microwave.  It wasn’t a feast like years before, but it was still a feast!  And I spent the day with my pets and watched Christmas movies.  It became a tradition.

This year, the menu is changing to beef stew in the slow cooker and pumpkin pie for dessert.  But the tradition of spending the day with my fur family and watching Christmas movies will remain.  It makes me happy.

As life happens, traditions can be a saving grace, or a bittersweet memory.  Circumstances sometime dictate that we make changes.  It can be exciting to start new traditions tailored just for you!  Traditions can also bring comfort.  I pray everyone finds comfort in a tradition this Thanksgiving, new or old.  It’s something to be grateful for.

Do you have a new tradition for Thanksgiving this year?

Blessings

It’s Weenie Weather!

 Say what you will about summer barbecues, picnics, and cookouts, but there’s no better time to roast weenies than right now in autumn!

The leaves are just beginning to change into their autumn best here in southeastern Ohio.  We’ve been enjoying temperatures in the low to mid 70’s with plenty of sunshine.  Evenings and nights are falling into the 50’s and 40’s.  There’s a crispness in the air that only autumn embraces correctly.  It’s the perfect time for roasting hot dogs over an open fire!

I have always loved a good old fashioned weenie roast!  Memories of childhood and my dad going to the woods to find the perfect roasting sticks.  He would sharpen the ends just enough so the wiener would glide on smoothly.  It had to be a special wood; not any stick would do, and I wish I had paid more attention to what he chose.  But they worked wonderfully!  Nothing fancy.  A couple bales of straw to sit on, or lawn chairs.  My brothers and I would hold our hot dogs over the open fire and watch carefully as they cooked to a darkened brown.  Unless we caught one on fire, then someone was going to be eating a burned hot dog, but no one cared.

Home canned ketchup and mustard were the only add ons to our dog and bun.  Sometimes, we didn’t even have a bun and used a slice of mom’s homemade bread to wrap around it.  No matter what kind of bread, I was sure they were the best hot dogs I had ever eaten.  Mostly, because family was gathered together and sometimes there would be a little laughter, especially if some poor hot dog fell off its stick and became a burnt offering in the ashes.

Drinks were usually Kool-Aid and apple cider.  I didn’t like the cider but I loved the idea of it gracing a weenie roast.  Dessert was S’mores.  Oh my gosh, what gooey wonderfulness of hot roasted marshmallows on melting chocolate between two graham crackers!  I had never tasted anything more decadent!

The smell of wood smoke is filling my neighborhood this evening, stirring up memories of weenies, flannel shirts and corduroys, and the sound of laughter around an open fire.  The smells of autumn; changing leaves and ripening field corn, final cuts of hay in the hay mow.  The sounds of night in the country,  field mice scurrying through corn husks, barn owls hooting, cattle settling in the field for the night, and the occasional bat swooping around the barn.  

It was simpler times when I was too young to worry about paying bills and keeping gas in a car.  There was one black rotary phone in the house, and one black and white TV that got three channels.  Our family had meals together and worked hard in between.  There was no time to get into trouble.  And it was good.

The picture above was taken at our church weenie roast last year.  It’s a celebration of autumn and pastor appreciation week where church family gathers together, laughter happens, and great food is shared.  I think it’s becoming a tradition, and that’s a wonderful thing.