My mother loved to cook. That is to say, she loved to bake. Everyday meals were not her forte, but desserts and special occasions were her real love.
She had a real sweet tooth (which I inherited!), and so we had a dessert at every meal. Yes, even breakfast had something sweet and yummy.
Mother was well known for her homemade pies, especially apple. The crust was always crispy and golden. Daddy loved her apple pie with a slice of cheese on it. I think he learned that growing up in South Dakota.
Christmas was a big baking time. She would start in September, making cookies, candies, bars and pies. Everyone would get something – the mailman to the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to all the neighbors.
There was always something in the cookie jar and more stacked in the freezer, waiting for the right occasion. Mother never went to visit anyone empty-handed. That was her rule, “Never go out with a bare face or an empty hand.”
The one item that brings back the most memories of my childhood is Mother’s chocolate chip cookies. Just the aroma of the cookies baking makes me feel like a girl in her kitchen, helping her bake. I suddenly feel all warm and safe with a smile on my face, eager to see how the cookies turn out.
Then there is the joy of tasting the first warm cookie from the oven. That was always “cook’s treat” at Mother’s house.
My daughter feels the same about my chocolate chip cookies. When she takes a bite now, she closes her eyes and sighs, “Ah, my childhood in a cookie!”
Her son, Mac, says my chocolate chip cookies are the best. Little does he know he’s talking about Mother’s recipe, passed down through all these years.
And I bet his children and their children will say the same.
Peggy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
- 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
- 1 C packed brown sugar
- 1 C Crisco
- 1 C white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 t vanilla
- 1 t soda
- 1 t salt
- 2 T water
- 12 oz. semisweet chips
Cream sugars and Crisco. Add eggs. Sift salt and soda with flour. Add to creamed mixture. Add water. Add chips by hand. Drop onto cookie sheet by spoonful . Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool on rack.
The older I get, the more I realize that children have some of the best answers to the basic questions of life. They seem to instinctively know how to manage the twists and turns of everyday living.
With all my education, experience and wisdom, I have learned to look to a five-year-old for some of the wisest lessons in getting through life.
Here are my top ten favorites:
Play is the best medicine. Children have the ability to play with anything, anytime. It’s how they release their emotions and feelings. It’s also how they heal themselves.
Take a nap when you’re tired. Children can sleep anywhere, when they need to. What a great gift is that!
Always greet your elders with a hug and a kiss. This is good advice your whole life – no matter how old you are. Grannies always love to be greeted this way.
Every day is a fresh start. No matter what happens today, no matter how bad it is or who hurts them, tomorrow is always a new day to a child. All is forgotten and everything is possible again. Each morning is a clean slate.
Be courageous. Sing out loud. Dance to the music. Children are not confined by fear of failure or shame. They embrace life.
Laugh every day. Children see silliness everywhere. Look for the humor in your everyday life.
Be active. Get up and move. Go outside. Find something to do. Contact a friend. Children rarely sit in a rocking chair staring into space, thinking about the past.
Scars are badges of honor. Scars are sources of pride to children, not signs of weakness. Be proud of your scars. Tell the story. Make yourself the hero. Pass on the wisdom.
Try new things. Children do not fear the unknown. They will try a new game, dive into a pool or jump on a trampoline. Be adventurous. Get out of your comfort zone. Step into the unknown.
Notice the little things. Children can be fascinated by the smallest of things – ants crossing a sidewalk, the tiny feet of birds, the wings of a bumblebee. The things we take for granted bring them great joy. Take notice of all the small miracles around you, and see how much more beautiful your life will be.
Becoming more childlike is one of the wisest things we can do as we age.
The one thing I always wanted was family. I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles. I always wanted a sister. I thrived on large family gatherings.
Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with. I don’t relate to either of my brothers. One just doesn’t respond in any way. The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.
My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then. My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years. I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.
Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age. It broke my heart as a child. Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it. I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.
When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for. I had a devoted husband and two children.
Except now our son is not speaking to us. Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month. But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren. We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.
Still there are no large family gatherings. No extended family to relate to.
So I have devised my own way to have a family. I have friends that care about me the way a relation would. Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances. But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.
My friends share my love of sewing and quilting. We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything. We care for each other in good times and difficult times.
My friends call me. They check-up on me. They ask me if I’m okay. I do the same for them.
My friends invite me for dinner and holidays. We have lunch together. We share potlucks and buffets.
My friends share my good news and are happy for me. They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad. My friends do not abandon me – ever.
My friends are my family. My lifetime wish has been fulfilled. I have many sisters now. I have gatherings large and small. I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.
The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content. I couldn’t be happier.
The invitation said “casual” dress. So Gramps and I took them at their word and arrived in jeans and T-shirts. The only other couple we knew, besides the hosts, were also dressed as we were.
Everyone else had on slacks, blouses and button-down shirts. We four looked like the country bumpkins of the group.
How did they know what “casual” meant? How did we not?
At first, I was just embarrassed. I felt I had somehow let our hosts down, that I had embarrassed them in some way.
Then the four of us began to be treated as if we were inferior to everyone. As if we did not understand what they were talking about. As if we were confused children.
Even our hosts were rude to us and shamed us in front of the others. If it hadn’t hurt so much, I probably would have found it interesting what a difference our clothes made in that social situation.
Because we were underdressed, we weren’t allowed to fit in the group. We were laughed at, ignored and talked down to – because of our attire!
By then, I was angry and wanted to leave. But the other three of our little foursome didn’t want to give up so easily. So we four formed our own small party.
We partook of the food, the drinks, the lovely home and our own companionship. We found our own little spot and had a great conversation all to ourselves.
I have no idea what the rest of those people did or talked about.
But when Gramps and I left, we could honestly tell the hostess, “We had a great time!”
Virus confinement required
Still we’re okay.
When I was the appropriate age, about fifteen, I took the regular Driver’s Ed. class in school. It was regular then, not so much now. But it was all book learning – no actual behind-the-wheel training.
So my dad took on the job of teaching me to drive. I thought it would take a day or two for me to become a good driver. Boy, was I in for a surprise! To begin with, I learned to drive on a four-speed stick-shift – not easy.
First he took me to an abandoned shopping center parking lot to teach me to park. Yes, the dreaded parallel parking! He would stand at the end of one space, pretending to be the back end of a car. I was then to park behind him – without hitting him!
Oh mercy sakes! Figure out how to parallel park or kill your father! And he never budged one inch – ever!
Then we would drive home on the freeway – of all things! Believe me, I was thrown in the deep end of the driving pool.
But I did pretty good, until the day he had me drive all the way into the driveway. Evidently I was getting too close to the garage door and he yelled, “Stop!!!!!!” He startled me so badly I pressed on the gas instead of the brake. We went through the garage door, damaged the brick surround, which fell on the washer and dryer, and the car, damaging all of them.
Sitting in the car with a garage door and bricks on top of me, I was in tears. I cried, “I don’t believe this!” “Oh, believe it!” he said in a very flat tone.
During the reconstruction of the garage, my friends asked what kind of renovation were we doing at our house. I was too ashamed to say I had driven through the garage door.
I did get better and eventually was able to drive all the way home and park the car in the garage with no harm to house or car.
My dad was a good teacher and taught me everything I needed to know to take my driver’s test. On the day of the test, the gentleman said my parallel parking was great and my freeway driving was very good.
The one thing I didn’t know and Daddy failed to tell me – don’t stop in a crosswalk. Oops!
But I passed my test with flying colors and never ran into a garage door again.
When I was in high school – let’s see, that was in the 60’s! – our Walgreens had a restaurant area. It was sort of a diner with a counter with stools. Very retro now, but commonplace at the time.
I worked there after school and for two summers my last year of high school. I was the youngest one there, not counting the busboys.
Even so, I was always on the cash register when I worked. I never understood that. Was I the only one that could count?
I did learn to give change the proper way, however, which is a big pet peeve of mine to this day, when I get all my change handed to me in a pile. I don’t know what to do with a clump of change.
Anyway, we carried everything on big metal trays. Until the day I spilled six tall milk shakes in glass containers that broke when they hit the floor. That was an interesting day.
I learned to carry five plates of food at one time. I can still do that today. It really impresses the grandchildren.
Every Saturday, I manned the counter, which was a nightmare. Hundreds of kids coming in, wanting a water and a Coke. I would tell them, “You can have one or the other, not both.” I wasn’t going to work that hard for no tip.
And usually on those Saturdays, I didn’t make enough in tips to buy my meal.
And then once a month we had a hot dog stand, which was manned by, guess who? Yes, me! Again, a million kids and no tips. A waitress’s nightmare.
But did I learn a lot working in the little diner! The experience changed my life totally for the better.
Whenever I got discouraged about continuing on in school, I would look at the other waitresses. They were mostly single, in their forties, supporting families on what they made working at our little Walgreens. The encouraged me daily to stay in school and further my education.
I learned perserverence and devotion from a wonderful man who brought his autistic son to the counter every Saturday. It was their routine. The son never spoke but the dad always laughed and smiled. He seemed to be having the best time, when it must have been so difficult for him.
Two of my favorite waitresses pierced my ears in the stock room one day. My one single act of rebellion in high school. It felt wonderful and I wasn’t a bit afraid.
One of the greatest things I learned from those wonderful waitresses was to be kind and gracious to everyone. Greet everyone with a smile and a lilt in your voice. Give a bit more than is asked of you. And always be proud of your work. Whatever you do, do your best. Work as a team.
While I was working there, a few waitresses learned that the busboys were eating some of the leftover food they were picking up from the tables. This bothered them so, that they got other waitresses to start splitting their tips with the boys so they could buy their meals. This really impressed me at the time and has stayed with me my whole life. The fact that people who have so little would be willing to give to those who have even less. I’ve never forgotten.
Those days at Walgreens were wonderful. I learned to be a fast and efficient waitress. I learned to talk “diner.” I learned what return customers meant by “the usual.”
I learned to be responsible and handled money. I became more grown up. I took my lickings with a smile. I was proud of my paycheck.
I owe those waitresses a lot. More than they ever knew. They helped my grow. They helped me mature. They kept me in school.
In so many ways they have affected my whole life.
Thank you, ladies!
Things are so different right now, I am having trouble adjusting. I used to have a full schedule. I knew what I was going to do every day. My calendar was black from written-in events for the month.
Now the calendar is blank white, my schedule is empty and every day I have to think about what to do with my time. My life has completely changed on a dime with no preparation or warning.
Building a good day does not just happen on its own anymore. I have to plan it.When I wake up, I have to decide this is going to be a good day. Attitude is everything.
Taking it a day at a time can be too hard under the current stress. It’s better to look at the short term and maybe take it hour by hour. I find if I set very small goals, I do much better. Being successful six times a day feels so good right now or even just twice is okay.
My sewing is giving me a lot of pleasure right now. It is lovely to be able to touch and pet my fabrics at a time when I cannot touch others. My sewing also gives me purpose and calms my mind.
I can be at my sewing machine for hours and not even realize how much time has passed. It’s good therapy for me in many ways. Sewing helps me make a day good.
I’ve also found that what I look for, I find. If I look for humor in my day, I usually find it. The same with beauty, joy and peace.
Of course, if I set my mind on anxiety and stress, I will find that too. It’s up to me. It’s always up to me.
Even when I can’t hug them, my friends remain so valuable to me. I try to stay in touch with them as often as possible. I make a point to call someone every day. And occasionally have group meetings online, when able. Seeing friends’ faces is so precious.
And then there’s my sweetie, who makes everyday a joy. He adds calmness, humor and logic to my life. How blessed am I to have such a rock in my life. He makes all things bearable and worthwhile.
So getting through these times will take planning, forethought and some organization. Keeping a positive attitude is the harder, but more important part.
I have to give it my all each and every day. Each and every hour really. But these are historic times. Think of the stories I will have to tell in the years to come.
By Thich Nhat Hanh
The cosmos is filled with precious gems.
I want to offer a handful of them to you this morning.
Each moment you are alive is a gem, shining and containing earth and sky, water and clouds.
It needs you to breathe gently for the miracles to be displayed.
Suddenly you hear the birds singing, the pines chanting, see the flowers blooming, the blue sky, the white clouds, the smile and marvelous look of your beloved.
You, the richest person on Earth, who have been going around begging for a living, stop being the destitute child.
Come back and claim your heritage.
We should enjoy our happiness and offer it to everyone.
Cherish this very moment.
Let go of the stream of distress and embrace life fully in your arms.