Jul 30, 2012

no answers here...

I have an aunt who passed away a few days ago.  She died alone and without the love of many friends or family.  Most likely she suffered from mental illness.  I'm obviously not a doctor but looking back, I would guess in her earlier years she probably had what we now call bipolar disorder.  I doubt that she was ever treated for any of her emotional disturbances.  In later years she became mean-spirited and alienated herself from those who wanted and tried to love her.  

I don't know how this happens and I don't know what, if anything, could have been different.  I'm feeling regrets for not reaching out to her in the last few years when I learned how alone she was and how difficult it was for her immediate family.  I don't like to live with regrets...in fact I try to make a point not to.  But I am living with this one.  

I haven't been close to Aunt Nancy in probably 25 years.  I have absolutely no explanation for that.  She didn't live all that far away.  And I liked her.  I liked the Aunt Nancy I knew when I was growing up.  I saw her often in those days, and by the time I was about 12 years old, she hired me to babysit.  I admired her many talents. She was an accomplished seamstress. She was always coming up with a new craft to create.  I still use Christmas tree ornaments she hand made decades ago.  My grandchildren use a baby blanket she made for my younger son.  They play with the Care Bear she made for my older son.  We baked and sold Christmas cookies together for several years. We did craft shows together.

I remember there was always lots of intensity whenever Aunt Nancy was around.  She was my mother's younger sister, and she lived her life a little more on the wild side than we did.  She did a lot of things we didn't do as a matter of fact:  she smoked, she drank, she played bingo, she used course language.  And oh my could she get mad at the drop of a hat if something didn't go the way she wanted.  

I still liked her.  I admired her energy.  I was impressed that her house was always clean and quite beautiful. She had a lot of knick knacks and some antiques and all kinds of interesting stuff.  I wanted a house that looked like hers someday. She worked hard at it and I think some of that did rub off on me.

When my cousin, Aunt Nancy's daughter, had a baby out of wedlock, my aunt helped raise her granddaughter.  Years passed and the little girl grew up and has a husband and children of her own now, and lives within walking distance of me.  The other night we chatted on line after Aunt Nancy died.  She said she and her mom and the others all wish things could have been "different" ~ meaning that the relationships weren't good.  I told of how much her grandmother loved her when she came along, and how she helped her mother take care of her.  

I told her to hang on to the good memories and let God sort out the rest.  That's all I can do now too.  I don't know that it would have done any good for me to contact Aunt Nancy and try to make amends for...what?? There was never anything amiss between us as far as I knew.  But all around me I knew things were not right in her relationships with others close to me and those who she should have been close to.  Maybe that's why I stayed away.  Maybe I didn't want to chance my own memories being tarnished.  That's not a real good excuse, is it? But it's the only one I can think of.  Maybe I knew in my heart I couldn't change her.  Maybe I was afraid she would reject me as she had rejected others.  I don't know.  But I will hold onto the good memories and let God sort out the rest.  

I have a favorite quote from the movie, A River Runs Through It.  The Reverend Maclean, a Presbyterian minister, is speaking to his congregation after the death of his wayward and rebellious son, Paul:

"Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed?  For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us.  Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted.  And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us.  But we can still love them ~ we can love completely without complete understanding."

Today I choose to love Aunt Nancy completely without complete understanding.  I had many opportunities to witness the good fruit of her life before whatever emotional or mental illness it was that overtook her.  I choose today to remember the Aunt Nancy I knew and admired, yes loved so many years ago.  I choose today to weep with those who weep for their loss, mainly the loss of what should have been and now never will be. And I recommit myself to live today and every day to the fullest and seek to keep peace in all my relationships.

"If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."  Romans 12:18 NIV

Jul 18, 2012

Take a hike!

(clicking on pictures will enlarge them)

Three energetic little children arrived at my house this morning all dressed in clean clothes and ready for the day.  From "no where" the thought entered my mind to take them to the Seiberling Nature Realm, part of the Summit County Metro Parks System.  I'm ashamed to say that though this particular conservation park is only about 10 miles away, I've never been to it before!  I was in for a very pleasant surprise!

(If you click to enlarge this picture, you will see a little guy posing)

Thankfully we had  Dora the Explorer Elylah to guide us with a map...

and watch the signs along the way...

And I was glad we packed a little lunch to bring along...

When we arrived at this spot, I encouraged Ethan and Elylah to take a long look around and say a prayer of thankfulness for all the beauty of the good earth that God created for us to enjoy...

The Visitor's Center was quite impressive.  Everything was nice and clean, air conditined, and very "hands on" for the children.  They could learn what the land in our area was like 200 years ago, and why we need to practice sustainable habits for the sake of our environment.

I loved the way they had little step stools so the kids could see

a teaching "recycling center"

a replica of a Great Blue Herron and nest

art created with recycled materials

The above four photos were taken from behind a one-way glass. We could see the wild life, but they couldn't see us!

I was very happy to think of something "free" to do today that was fun and would wear them out so they'd rest this afternoon.  One last "perk" we had on the way home...we had run out of water and everyone was very hot and thirsty.  I pulled up to a McDonald's drive through window and asked only for 3 glasses of ice water, and offered to pay for them.  The girl was so sweet and waved me on...

Our little field trip to the Nature Realm reminded me of the words of two great old hymns...

♫ Were the whole realm of nature mine
that be an offering far too small
love so amazing, so Divine
demands my soul, my life, my all. ♫
♫ For the beauty of the earth
for the glory of the skies
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise,
this our hymn of grateful praise! ♫

Jul 15, 2012

What's your love language?

Have you ever read Gary Chapman's best selling book, The Five Love Languages?  It is designed to help married couples understand what makes their spouse experience deep feelings of love. I personally think understanding what makes another person tick and feel special and cared about extends even beyond the marriage relationship, and can apply to personal relationships in general.   What happens is people who love to do acts of service, for example, most often feel loved when others do acts of service for them.  Gary Chapman doesn't list "surprises" as one of the love languages (he uses the term "gifts") but I love to surprise people by giving them something nice they were not expecting.  Yet I am usually a difficult person to surprise, and so when I AM surprised with a gift from someone, I truly do feel the love !

I have not had a birthday, anniversary, or any other special occasion come up for me lately, yet I have been surprised numerous times this past week by a variety of gifts from people! What in the world is going on??  Have a look!

One day early in the week I was making a pasta casserole and realized I had enough stuff to make a second one.  I decided to take it to my friend Nancy, who is having some health issues and is awaiting surgery.  When I arrived at her house, not only did her daughter Kristi have bag of fresh lettuce from her garden to give me, but Nancy handed me a beautiful Pfaltzgraf collector's pitcher that she had found used for a very low price! Nancy knew of my love of the pineapple symbol (hospitality) but she didn't know I have a small collection of pitchers as well.  Pitchers are a visual for me of a vessel with contents intended to be poured out for the benefit of others.

Another day I answered my doorbell to find a young friend, Heather, standing there and holding a beautiful vase of fresh cut flowers and a lovely thankyou note.  I had kept her daughter overnight a few days prior while she was having some early morning surgery.  I love fresh flowers and I honestly can't remember the last time I've had any in the house! What a pleasant surprise!

An old friend, Lyn, who I haven't seen or talked to in quite a while, had been trying to reach me for a couple of days.  We never did connect on the phone, yet one day as I pulled into the driveway I noticed a gift bag on my front porch.  I was stunned to open it and find a beautiful bone china tea cup to add to my fairly new collection, which she had read about on Facebook.  What made it all the more special was when I called to thank her, she told me it had been brought from England years ago as a gift to her mother, and had been put away since her mother died back in the '80's.  What a treasure!

My sister Marcella and brother-in-law Rodney are staying with us this weekend.  Our neighborhood was having garage sales, and Rodney went out for a few minutes to take a gander.  He came back with two items for me, and I love both of them!

I think I can find a place in the kitchen to display this cute bag of "sugar"...

and I know I will use this set of placemats!

While at our family reunion yesterday, my cell phone alerted me of a text from yet another friend, Brenda, who lives in the neighborhood.  Our husbands used to work together years ago, and Brenda and I became great thrift shopping/lunching buddies for a while.  Years, grandchildren, and jobs have made our times together fewer and farther between.  The message said that since she didn't see me going around the garage sales, she had left something for me under the bench in the front of our house! Oh my, what a thoughtful surprise awaited me!

Each item was wrapped in tissue with a note attached, telling me the order in which I should open it, along with an explanatory note. There is a jar of pickled asparagus (with a personal story), a bottle of olive oil from her travels to Florence, Italy this year, and another bottle of flavored olive oil from a new store in our area. Each item was especially chosen with ME in mind and not just randomly selected!

I honestly do not know what to make of all this kindness, and all coming within the same week! I will say that I have had a particularly intense and emotionally nerve wracking week with other things going on in my life...one of those weeks when you wish you could just get in your car and head for a quiet vacation...But these people were not aware of all those details.  The only possible explanation is my Heavenly Father, who knows me inside out (and loves me anyway) had orchestrated a way to comfort and cheer me by using people in my life to speak HIS love language...the language of thoughtfulness, blessing, giving...Not one of these people asked for anything in exchange for their gifts freely given.  But in their giving, they all communicated a desire to have an ongoing relationship with me.  I don't take that for granted, and I am letting this all sink in.  As much as I love every one of these gifts, I know it's really not as much about the gift as it is about the giver of the gifts.  And from the bottom of a very grateful heart I say a huge "THANK YOU" to them for allowing God to work in and through them this week to bless a soul who was in need of a special touch.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Jul 8, 2012

pizzelles anyone?

Our family's bi-annual family reunion is coming up.  Thinking of family and traditions and the generations makes me think of my little Italian grandma. And thinking of grandma makes me think of (among a multitude of wonderful memories) pizzelles.  

My pizzelle maker died last fall after 35 years of faithful service.  I've been on the lookout for a vintage one to replace it ever since, rather than buying a new model.  They were way too expensive on E-bay and I was about to cave in and buy a new one when one of my swapping friends spotted one for me!  She only paid a couple of dollars for it and it is almost identical to the one I had for so many years!

Needless to say, I was very overjoyed to get a "new" vintage pizzelle maker!  Here is the recipe I usually use:

12 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups oil
1/2 tsp. pure anise oil OR 1 TBSP. anise extract
4 cups flour

Beat eggs well, then add sugar gradually while beating.  Add oil and flavoring.  Still beating, add flour one cup at a time and mix well.  Refrigerate batter before using to enhance flavor, but not necessary. That's it!!  Makes 6-7 dozen cookies.  Start through clean up is less than two hours.

I know, I know.  Doesn't sound very healthy, does it?  Well, before you pass judgment, consider that my grandma lived to be over 93 years old and she LIVED those 93 years.  And she made these all the time!

In any event, we love our pizzelles and I made them today.  Half of them I am giving to three different families.  Here's how I do it:

After mixing the batter well and preheating the pizzelle maker which has been oiled using a paper towel,  I drop a soup spoon size amount on each mold.

Every pizzelle maker is a little different, so you might need to experiment to see how long to bake your cookies, but I usually shut the lid for about one minute, till they are a nice light golden brown color. (This recipe is for thin pizzelles.  If you make thicker ones, you will have to bake them slightly longer.)

When I'm ready to remove them from the baker, I use a butter knife to gently lift them out, and place them on a cooling rack.

After they are cooled, I sprinkle them with powdered sugar.

This container is going to a swapping friend who just had twins last week!  Some more are going to the friend who found the pizzelle maker for me, and some others going over to my brother, who just got home yesterday from his week long chemotherapy.  That still leaves plenty to have around the house here!

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

* "I am linking this recipe up with Walking on Sunshine and Foodie Friends Friday"

Jul 4, 2012

I'm back...

I keep putting off writing posts until I have time or until I feel a twinge of creativity.  Neither of those things seem to be in my life right now, so I'm just going to try posting more frequently, even if what I write is short, unimaginative, or uninteresting.  That is the nature of my life-between-the-buns anyway...never enough quality time for reflection, too busy living.  Writing is a discipline.  I just need to do it.  I long for quiet hours to pen deep and meaningful thoughts.  But I'm just not there right now.  So I'll do what I can.  

I was  whining   texting to my brother, Don, this morning.  He is in the hospital an hour away, tethered to the PICC line and receiving yet another 96 hours of chemotherapy.  Pretty low of me to be complaining to him about my stressed out condition.  But he's a psychologist afterall, and I just dumped on him.  

"Good morning.   How's it going? I've been pretty stressed out this week--desperately need some down time...have no idea how to accomplish that.  I thought I was about over this head cold ...blah blah blah..."

"...get a no-brainer book and just relax!..."

"wish we were all at the beach again..."

"indeed! we'll do it again!..."

"is it ok and sane to just have a good cry and get it out of my system?"

"of course!!"

"I just feel a general sense of "loss" lately...feeling the sense of our earthly mortality...good times and good people gone by...makes me sad..."

"might also be good to journal your feelings. A good way to know that these feelings are normal and also that they are transitory."

"yes, and thankful for the assurance that God has it all in His hands...so when I can't see that hand I still know I can trust His heart...I am going to make a couple apple pies today.  Playing in the kitchen is a stress reliever for me..."

"don't forget my tuna casserole!"

Such is the friendly banter between two siblings who love each other and show grace to each other on a regular basis. My brother is a very wise man.  The advice he gave about journaling my feelings so I will see they are transitory is why I'm back.  This blog is the journal of my life right now.  Pies turned out great.  Mom, kids and grandkids came over to share the day, and tuna casserole will be ready as soon as my brother recovers from this round of chemo, hopefully in about a week.

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens." Ecclesiastes 3:1