Saturday Ideas

How’s your day going? I hope well. We started early, like always, and are taking our time about figuring out how to spend the day until the first NFL playoff is on. Relaxing and reading is always a double win for me. And the Babe has chili fixings. Does it get any better?

I was thinking a lot about our Grandma Jewell the past week. When we were kids, Mom bought Imperial Margarine. It was cheaper than butter, and no one had much money. Housewives had to pinch pennies. We only used butter on major holidays, like Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. We felt rich, everyone dressed up for dinner and feasting on special cuisine.

Grandma always used butter. The real kind. It was magnificent. She also baked clover leaf rolls, and the combination of melted butter with freshly baked rolls was heavenly. And the scent! Wow. The stuff dreams and wonderful memories are made of.

I had toast the other day for breakfast, and the Babe buttered it for me. Nothing else. A healthy grain bread, toasted, and buttered. I’m finding it easy to eat it slowly, The last little flavor burst is sweet beyond belief. How is it the taste is so enhanced? I’m not sure. Is it from opening up and letting my creativity reign? It could be. We’ve talked about opening up and paying attention to what goes on. I think that could be some of it. I’m just enjoying the memories produced. I can see Gram, in one of her lovely aprons, holding a pan with those beautiful baked goods.

I’ve read the sense of smell evokes the most vivid memories. I have to believe that. For a very long time after my son drowned, I couldn’t tolerate some smells. Normal smells. Wet sand. Suntan oil. A beach. Believe me. They are right. I hope you never have bad memories related to scents. I hope they’re only good ones. Like Grandma’s kitchen.

Whatever you’re doing today, enjoy it. Enjoy your people. Pets. Solitude. It’s all good. See you tomorrow!

Old(er) People

Should never be allowed in the kitchen. OK, well maybe never is too long a time to be banned. This morning, the Babe and I began our task of cooking 30 pounds of hamburger to make Sloppy Joes for the PTSD presentation/Talk Saves Lives Training the VFW Post 2503 is hosting on Sunday at noon. The Post is donating the lunch, and we’re doing the work at home to give the cook a break. They already have to cook for a Craft Fair tomorrow. Funny thing is, they’re making Sloppy Joes and Hot Dogs.

In South Dakota, the locals call Sloppy Joes “Bar-b-ques.” Isn’t that funny? Local differences, just like “soda” vs. “pop.” America is great, isn’t it?

So the browning of the hamburger went well, I had 3 large cans of crushed tomatoes and 3 large cans of tomato sauce. I pre-measured 3 separate cups that contained all the seasonings for each 10 pounds. Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Italian Seasonings, Garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, Sugar, and whatever else. All set. Then, the battle of the can openers happened. The header photo finds them poised for action. The white one, on the left, is the new Pampered Chef one, is specifically made to be used by those of us who have arthritis in our hands, fingers, and need a little assist. I like it because there are no more sharp edges on the can lid once it’s removed, like the one on the right creates while cutting.

The first can, no problem. In fact, the first five, no problem. Then the opener became a diva and wouldn’t cut the last can lid. The Babe tried it. Nope. It just doesn’t adhere to the can, you can feel it doesn’t engage, and therefore, doesn’t cut. I tell the Babe, “I did drop two cans, maybe this one is one of those.”

We decided to turn it upside down and try it on the bottom. Nothing. I picked it up, turned it right side up and there it went. The cut lid that looked intact gave way. And there went a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes all over the counter top. Wow. I said a couple naughty words, and we started to move it off the counter top and into the pan, where it belonged. And that, boys and girls, is why older people shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen. Don’t you agree?

We had a laugh or two, and kept cooking. I can hardly wait to start baking the nine boxes of brownies I get to do. It’ll be fine. Really, it will. There are no canned goods to open.

More from the book, “Wired for Story,”

Tone and Theme are stressed very early. So is the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Have you ever known someone who can tell such great stories, jokes, and anecdotes they always have a crowd at their elbow? They’re the one we always want to be an emcee at our events, and maybe even give our eulogy at our funeral. They really know how to tell a great story. We can learn, with practice.

Another incredible thing I just learned – all story is emotion based. If you’re not feeling, you’re not reading, according to Lisa Cron. I get this. Have you ever read something very emotional for the protagonist, and you feel it, too, as you read? The author has done a good job.

Emotion determines the meaning of everything. If we’re not feeling, we’re not conscious. Most of us were taught emotion and logic were two opposite things. They are, but one must exist for the other to exist. I haven’t read further than this yet, and I hope to do so tomorrow, in between baking brownies. Who knows what madcap hijinks the Babe and I will engage in? I’m sure we’ll enjoy it, and have some good laughs. Have a great evening, see you tomorrow.

Baking Frenzy Update

I surprised myself by actually feeling some Christmas cheer by doing some baking. I made two kinds of fruit cake, one with rum and darker fruits, one with whiskey and lighter fruits. We’ll open them at our New Years Eve Party at the VFW Post. I talked of making one for a long time; I held myself accountable and did it this year. Hope my friends like it, there are four loaves to consume!

Once I started mixing the concoctions, I realized my mood changed. Maybe it’s a sugar rush by osmosis? Anything is possible, and whatever it is from, I need to feel that way more often. Note to self: Put that into your plan for next year’s self-awareness. It feels as if it can lead to good things.

I would imagine creating something with flour, butter, sugar, spices, and other ingredients releases some sort of endorphins reserved for feel good feelings. Celebrations do that. Baking for a special holiday is a celebration and remembrance of traditions. My daily meditation is about celebrations today. Very fitting. Some folks celebrate (use alcohol or drugs) to escape reality, to become less conscious of the world around him or her. It’s sad when even a child’s birthday party turns into another reason to get high or drunk.

Celebration is an opportunity to re-create, refresh, and even remake our spirit. I never thought of it in that way, before. I’m in the midst of remaking my spirit, I can see it in my writing. I’m learning new ways to lift my spirit. New experiences are coming, new ideas are forming, and a new spirit is emerging. I’m so excited to see what’s next for me and the Babe. It should be great.

Our lives can be a lot happier by considering ordinary things a celebration. In the spring and summer, when the Babe and I sit on the deck for morning coffee, it’s a celebration. When we have happy hour on the deck or patio, it’s a celebration. When my bestie Kris and I go to a movie, it’s a celebration. See how easy that is? Practice it.

As a side note, there are two batches of cookies resting in the refrigerator, I’m excited to get to use my Pampered Chef scoops to make them. Silly? It’s a celebration. The Babe can’t hardly wait to eat some. And I’l do Croation Nut Bread too. And it’s a beautiful memory of my first mother-in-law. She made this incredible bit of heaven for Easter and Christmas. I came across the recipe in the cookbook from the Omaha World Herald. The name is Croation Povitica. It’s perfect for Christmas.

Enjoy the rest of the day. It’s a celebration of you. And of me. And your child. And your Grandma. You’ll be happy in ways you never though existed. It’s happening. And I’m going to learn from these last few weeks. You can make happiness and a positive attitude your new normal, despite bad things in the world, in your family, in your head. See you tomorrow!

No One Will Crush My Spirit of Hope

As I showed you my special Christmas ornaments when I decorated the tree, I just realized I forgot a very important one. The header photo today is the ornament, and want to mention it. It is a symbol of hope, faith, joy, love, resiliency.

Fourteen years ago, there was a mall shooting at the Von Maur store at the Westroads. Eight innocent people lost their lives. I knew one of them, many years ago. A neighbor was dating one of them. I spent time with her after the police notified her the boyfriend was murdered. I went with her and her children while they expressed their grief, making pictures to put on the windows of the closed store. We talked with the kids about their feelings, her feelings, and how sad it was right when she was open to loving someone, that he was taken from her.

The woman I knew was a sister in law of a bowling team member. She was a lot of fun, funny, and always upbeat. She worked in sales in one of the departments of the third floor, where the massacre took place. I finally put the name, aging twenty years or so, and everything together. I had to call my mom to tell her we both knew a casualty.

The first day the department store re-opened, I wanted to be in the crowd to show support. I wanted to be with others in my community to show the world Omaha is strong. Omaha will not be intimidated. Omaha will recover and be even stronger. I bought the ornament on the third floor of the Von Maur Department Store. I believe I bought it from Janet J’s department. I thought of her and her family. I’ve since met her former son in law. The family still hurts. I can’t say I blame them at all.

Bad memories must be acknowledged and new memories need to be made to balance them. We need to work harder on those bad memories sometimes. We need to put them away and fill our hearts with love and kindness.

We can’t let evil win. We can’t let a cowardly shooter who commits suicide after killing many win. We cannot let Mother Nature tear communities apart and ignore the pain. We cannot control any of those events. What we can do is offer our support and love to those who need it. Don’t let them be alone with no one to talk to. Just listen. You don’t need to solve the problems or fill voids. We can help do this for each other. It gets more comfortable every time you do it. Practice is essential. You will be valuable beyond words.

We are spending Happy Hour with our two friends who became widowed this year. We’re taking snacks to the VFW Post and having a beverage to celebrate their birthdays, which were last week and tomorrow. Celebrating them is a good thing to do.

Tomorrow will see more baking – cookies and brownies. Then I’ll make a few things for my neighbors. Certain Christmas traditions should be continued. And it makes me happy, too.

See you tomorrow!