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!

The Three-War Brownie Recipe

As I baked nine batches of boxed brownies today, I couldn’t help but think of Grandma Jewell and a very special brownie recipe she shared with me once a long time ago.

Gram was an excellent baker – yeast rolls, the best from scratch German Chocolate Cake you could ever taste, Pecan Rolls, oozing in melted butter and sugar and cinnamon, and many other masterpieces. When my first husband was in Germany (he was a Vietnam-era veteran, assigned to Germany at the time of the 1972 Olympics. Tough duty), she told me I needed to send him some brownies. She had a recipe she shared with me that made an 8 x 8 pan of the most decadent brownies I’ve ever experienced.

One of the flavors of purchased brownie mix I used had “real chocolate” to add. It was a little foil packet containing maybe two tablespoons of Hershey’s Syrup, the gold standard for chocolate syrup. As I pulled it open and squeezed the goodness into the bowl, I thought back to opening the can of Hershey’s with a can-opener (the kind we used to have to use for beer, before pop-tops), and pouring the whole can into the bowl with the flour, eggs, butter, salt, and stirring until the beautiful nearly black batter settled. It smelled so good! I believe I can still smell it today.

I remember she cautioned me to pack it in a coffee can (they were metal back then), and wrap securely. It would take quite awhile for packages to go APO or FPO back in the early 1970s. It finally arrived, and I pictured servicemen from three wars, WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam Era enjoying Grandma’s delicious brownies. It’s a beautiful, warm memory.

If we have to find these memories on a bad day, we can make a bad day good. We have a choice; cave in, or do your best to get through the bad ones. I think of how Gram Jewell did exactly that. In her strong faith, and prayer life, she carried many of us through bad times. I’d like to remember that again for my future. You never know when you’re going to need it.

I hope you had a great day today. We’ll be at the Post for the PTSD lecture and Talk Saves Lives training. Maybe we’ll see each other there. Take care, and we’ll see each other tomorrow right here.

Humid, Dreary Sunday

We are so proud of our Granddaughter Addison. She went to Nationals for KAR Dance Competition. She represented Accapricio Dance Studio in Papillion. So far, she has earned two first place awards. She is so good. Still limited with the photos I can share between my phone and here (read my lips – NONE) so I’ll share a photo of her later. We are so lucky to have good, healthy, handsome grandkids. They are learning to make good choices for their lives. The best blessing will be they all continue on the paths they are on.

One in a while, the humidity is so high in Nebraska, the outside windows are covered with humidity. They closely resemble the windshield of your car before you turn the wipers on. Why don’t they invent wipers for your home windows? If you live in the South, I bet that may be appreciated. Does this condensation appear frequently on your homes, too? Remember folks, you heard it here first! It’s MY idea, regardless of what anyone says!

A morning like this reminds me of when our family didn’t have air conditioning. It’s rough. On Sunday mornings, we’d walk home from the Children’s Mass at Church, and change into nice play clothes to go visit our Grandma’s. Every Sunday. Grandma and Grandpa Bobell had Central Air, and it was heavenly to be in their house. Grandma Jewell did not, but she had a beautiful huge enclosed porch. She opened all the combination windows, and we’d sit in her wicker furniture and enjoy the breeze that always graced her porch. It was heavenly. She also had a porch swing. Always. It was wonderful, too. Even on days like this, she always baked something for when we would visit on Sunday. I can still smell the baked goods when I drive past her old home.

Yesterday, I thought I’d get a second blog written. No, it just didn’t happen. What I did accomplish was divide up all my papers printed from my online classes, patterns, and writing hints. Our information for the volunteering is included, as is directions on the Painting of the Month Club I joined online. For $10 a month, we get lifetime access to all the POMC Paintings. When I have time, there it will be waiting. After my first book is published, thank you very much.

The mass of papers from my first novel of 80K words is now in a series of folders and tucked away in a drawer. My completed chapters of “The Freeing of Katie Fitzgibbons” is ready to go into a binder. Before I start on it again on August 2, I’ll read each chapter and be able to pick up where I left off. By that time, I hope to create the new habit of writing two or three blogs every other day. Then I could write nothing but the novel on the alternate days. And I still want one day to sew on a quilt. I haven’t touched my sewing machine for a year. Oh my!

Yes, there are 24 hours in my day. With my back issues, I can only sit, stand, walk, type, or sew only so many hours. More that two or three is encroaching on setting off a lot of pain that takes days to recover from. And yet, I find blessings in the fact I can do anything at all. Life teaches us many lessons along the way. I decided to use the time wisely as long as I can. I believe things do fall into place if we listen to the signs along the way. They are present. You must be, too. Not on your phone. Not absorbed in Mindless TV. Awareness is critical. Learning to read the signs is too. The Five Man Electrical Band of the 70s recorded this hippie song. It was huge at the time, and I can tell you, restrictive signs regarding personal appearance still lingers. “No Shirt, No Shoes, NO SERVICE,” is one I agree with. I don’t want to see some man (or woman’s) hairy armpits while I’m eating. Thank you very much.

The best example I can think of in my life was before I filed for divorce. The Catholic Church had a series of lectures on a Friday night titled, “Women in Transition.” I knew I was terribly unhappy and wanted to divorce. I also knew I hadn’t worked outside the home since I was nineteen. I was nearing thirty and wanted to prepare myself. Every Friday night, a friend of mine and I, met and listened to the speaker. In 1981, she said the best field you could enter is Computers. They were the wave of the future.

Within five years, I was offered free classes at a computer school, paid for by our HR Department where I worked. I became a Programmer Trainee in 1987, then spent nearly fifteen years working in Software and System Analysis. I believed God led me to all of it. If I had ignored the lecture announcement, I may have never started this journey.

Think about the signs you may have in your life. Afraid to make a change? Look for support in unusual places. I’ve often thought how ironic it was, since the Catholic Church was so against divorce, that my sign came from a “Catholic Voice,” which is a Catholic Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Omaha. Since 1982, I believe the “You must stay together until you die,” has been relaxed. People make mistakes. Some people are exposed to domestic violence. Kids are not better off if their kids hear nothing but arguing constantly.

Whatever else you do today, make some “YOU” time. It’s a perfect day to read. After that second blog, I’m headed to do just that. It will be a hectic week next week, getting everything finished for the Fundraiser at the Post next weekend. It will be worth it. Two Veterans groups, Moving Veterans Forward, and Guitars for Vets, will receive the proceeds. Do something nice for someone today, too. The world will be a better place for it. See you tomorrow!

Thankful Tuesday

Sometimes, when you least expect it, you see something, remember something, or have a dear cousin contact you. That’s what happened Saturday. It’s taken me a few days to compose myself enough to tell you about it. I’m still blown away.

I’ve told you about our Grandma Jewell before. Dad’s Mother, she had three ornery boys and one daughter. She was the quintessential Irish woman; unwavering in her Catholic faith, sincere in prayer, and love for me and all my cousins that was deep, encouraging, and lasting. She treated us all as equals. My cousin Jilla and I were the only girls with all of those nine boys. So glad we had each other. I’m sure we were “Dad just came home from Korea” babies. The two of us, my brother Tom, and cousin Michael, were four babies at the beginning of the boom, 1951 – 1953.

I remember Gram mentioning to my dad, “You know, Tommy, the boys are wearing their hair longer nowadays. It wouldn’t hurt if they skipped a week or two at the barbershop.” My dad didn’t answer and didn’t disagree with her. A more informed person didn’t exist. She and her sister Anna lived together after Grandpa died, as they had their entire lives. A single woman rarely lived alone in those days. We thought nothing of it.

One thing a well refined young lady did when Grandma and Aunt Anna were young was needlework. Embroidery, specifically. They always had a work in progress. They learned from their Mother, and I learned from mine, how to do various stitches: cross stitch, straight stitches, backstitching, and the French knot. I still cannot do a French knot I like. But Gram could. Her stitches were perfect every time. Even as her vision was poor in her later years, she did embroidery.

Saturday, I received a small package in the mail. These were inside:

The note inside was so beautiful. Cousins Terri and Jeff were going through some things and found these. Their folks supplied Gram with her projects until late in her life. I had tears that they thought of me to keep them. Gram lived two years longer than Dad did; when we saw her the day after his death, she cried and said, “This is the worst shock of her life.” She was 95 and heartbroken. Each time after that we visited, she asked, “Do you think my Tommy’s in heaven?” Absolutely, Gram. How she loved her children all of her life.

Cousin Terri wrote these were Gram’s last masterpieces. And they are works of art. Up close, you can see the pink, circular, puffy stitches, a/k/a French knots. My nemesis! I run my fingers over her flossed stitches and know how she must have labored over those perfect stitches. I feel the puffy knots that elude me, and I can hear her modestly proclaim, “Now, Kathy, I’ve just had more practice than you.” Her humility was one of her best qualities. I want to be like her. I need to remember that when I’m less than loveable. Be like Gram. A worthy heroine. I really think if God is female, He is just like her. Just saying. Thank you, Terri and Jeff. You have given me a gift I really needed right now. It’s magic for my soul. Bless you both.

Folks, this is the season for expressing love. You can give it away, and you also have to receive love, too. Accept it, it’s a beautiful feeling. Regardless of our Covid-Blues, it’s no excuse to be mean to people. Unacceptable behavior does not get a pass because we’re all stressed. Rudeness and temper do not get a pass. Tantrums lead to more of the same. Whatever we give is what we’ll receive more of. Wouldn’t you rather have it be love than hatred and ugliness? I would.

Thank you for reading today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Hope you are, too. Join me. Be Kind. Be Patient. Be Courteous. Be Grateful. Be like my Gram. And maybe I’ll finally learn to make beautiful French knots.