7 November 2017

I’m thankful for the picture bouquet of Autumn wildflowers sent by my Dad to my daughter.

My daughter loves flowers.  Like Sister the Third once upon a time, no bloom within my daughter’s reach, whether domestic or wild, was safe.  Left unattended in the presence of a flowering plant she would denude it.  Azaleas, camellias, roses, marigolds, black-eyed susans, dandelions, goldenrod, fake flowers in the Hobby Lobby, she was indiscriminate.  The more the better.

After being caught in the act a few too may times, we had to set a few rules in place.

  1.  You may not pick the faux flowers from the stems.  If you see a bloom on the floor you may pick it up.  Which then lead to:
  2. You may not cause the faux flowers to fall on the floor just so you can pick them up.
  3. If the flowers are still blooming on the plant and the plant is in front of a place of business, your Aunt Leona’s or anyone else’s yard, or located otherwise than our own flower beds, you may not pick them, unless you have been given specific permission.
  4. You may pick up blossoms that have fallen to the ground, unless you were the cause of their descent and demise.
  5. Some flowers are better left in the fields.

Despite these rules, which she has for the most part grudgingly adhered to, although I’m pretty sure that on occasion some of her “ground-found blooms” are actually those she’s caused to be there, her enthusiasm for the blooming arts has not been curbed.  On a walk in the woods, she picks flowers.  On the roadside, she picks flowers.  From the vases of blossoms donning my dining room table, she picks flowers.  From the floors of the stores, she picks flowers.

Now I’m not saying that picture bouquets are going to resolve her flower-scavenging ways, although a few late-blooming hydrangeas owe their extended life on the limb to them, but that’s not why I’m grateful.  I’m grateful, heart-meltingly grateful for the relationship my daughter has with her Paw Paw, my Daddy.

Frequently moving, living hundreds of miles or more away from my parents each time, I never thought either of my children would even remotely develop the kind of relationship I had with my own maternal grandparents.  I figured there would be a few telephone calls or letters and cards each year, an exchange of gifts, perhaps a visit or two, nothing more.  Yes, of course there would be love, a tender spot in their hearts for their grandchildren, at times a wistfulness for fewer miles or more frequent visits, but not the rooted, tended, cultivated affection steeped in constant contact that I experienced as a child.

And yet it has happened.  The two have connected.  Boon companions, peas in a pod,  regardless of the distance, they share that special bond.

So I’m thankful for the wildflower bouquet sent from miles away, simply because they reminded him of her.

 

6 November 2017

I really enjoy cooking, especially baking, but I am also grateful for a chance to “lay down my ladle” so to speak and let someone else do the cooking.  I am blessed with a lot of great cooks in the family, my husband being one of them.  On most weekends and even on occasional weeknights he will take over the kitchen and whip up a delicious dinner.

I am also grateful for leftovers.  Now I know my efforts ultimately made the meal, but an over-abundance at one dinner typically means two for the time and work of one, especially if the man is out of town.  But it could also mean that one delectable dish leads to the creation of another.

An example of this occurs when I make a crockpot full of homemade applesauce, which I wrote about on 2 October 2017.  Mostly I freeze the contents for serving later in the year,  reserving a few cups worth to share immediately.  Sometimes, however, the reserves linger in the refrigerator uneaten, leaving just enough to make these tiny bites of “appley” heaven–Applesauce Mini Muffins.

A recipe I discovered on Cooks.com in  2010, it has been a family favorite ever since.  Of course, as is my want, I have modified the original recipe to my own liking.  The main differences: I add pecans, because frankly I think they make every Fall bread better; I never use store-bought applesauce, because I hardly ever buy it anymore, preferring that which I make at home; and I leave off the cinnamon sugar sprinkle on top, because it makes them too sweet.    Here’s how I do it.

 

1 cup all purpose flour

applesauce muffin (2)

I know I took a picture of my own muffins, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I’ve borrowed this image from Yummly.com until I can find my own.

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 tablespoons softened butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 medium-sized egg, beaten

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the first four ingredients and then set aside.  (I use a 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but you could use more if you prefer a spicier muffin.)

In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar.  Then in a separate bowl beat the egg and add the applesauce and vanilla extract.  When this mixture is thoroughly combined, stir it into the butter mixture and then add it to the flour.

When all the ingredients have been well-combined, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

Spoon the batter into a well-greased miniature muffin pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Yields 2 dozen.

For the abundance, for the leftovers, for the dishes that lead to new dishes I am thankful.

 

 

 

5 November 2017

Hymns.  Old-timey hymns.

Thanksgiving song (2)

My maternal grandfather, my Paw Paw, used to sing them.  A cappella in his truck, hauling young’uns, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and otherwise to visit his good old friends, he would sing.  One of his favorites was Swing Low, Sweet ChariotFor no good reason other than he felt like it he would begin

Well I looked over Jordan and what did I see, coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me.  Coming for to carry me home. 

and pretty soon we all knew the words and would sing along, joyfully belting out

Swing low sweet chariot coming for to carry me home. 

I’ve forgotten the sound of his voice, but not the feeling of it.

*    *    *

My maternal grandmother, my Maw Maw, used to sing them.  A cappella on her tractor planting fields, or in her truck making her circuit through the woods feeding her beloved herds of deer who would come out from their hiding places among the thick trees at the sound of her voice shrill-calling “Come Here Babies” and feed on the feast she provided.  Amazing Grace was her favorite, but I’ll Fly Away was heard more often on her lips.

Some glad morning when this day is over, I’ll fly away

to that home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.

*    *    *

My paternal grandmother, my Nanny, used to sing them.   Then when her mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s and she had forgotten herself, her loved ones, her words, she would still hum strains of hymns that she had sung through a lifetime.  I wish I had paid more attention to the tunes that managed to escape her mind and move her tongue and connect her to the life she once lived, but alas I can’t remember a single solitary one.  But I remember the smile on her thin lips as she hummed, the gleam in her unrecognizing eyes.

*    *    *

My mother used to sing them.  Again, mostly in the car, traveling to Jackson, Mobile, or Foley in her blue Oldsmobile, singing along to an Anne Murray cassette.  In her sweet falsetto she would join in on  In the Garden

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.

And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known. 

*    *    *

I am thankful for these hymns that connect me back to my grandparents and to happy times spent with them and with my mother.  I am grateful for their words of hope and healing and happiness, and how when the light of everything else dies away that their message can cut through the darkness of a dying mind and bring joy.  I am blessed by these songs and the voices, mostly now silenced, that sung them once upon a time in South Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 November 2017

I am grateful for Bedtime story time.

I wrote about this nearly-nightly practice a few months back.  (See Bedtime Story Time: Detectives in Togas)  Ongoing for practically the last 12 years, it is the close of our day.

In October, it was my turn to choose, so after reading a few poems and short stories by Edgar Allen Poe and other Weekly Readers from my own childhood to get us in the Halloween spirit, I picked up an old family copy of Samuel Clemens’ The Prince and the Pauper. 

Prince and the Pauper2

Set in medieval England, it is the story of two boys of vastly differing circumstances, who are so identical in appearance that when they meet and decide on a whim to dress as the other, fate intervenes; whereby the pauper becomes a prince and the prince becomes a pauper.  Misidentified and driven from the castle, the prince is caused to suffer injustice, derision and deprivation at the hands of the world, finding no one to really believe his claim of royalty.  Likewise, the pauper, who is believed to be suffering from a mental malady when he claims to be other than the prince, is trapped in the castle and must come to terms with the inequities of court life, customs and the law of the land.  A tale about the folly of judging others solely on the basis of appearance, the brutality and at times absurdity of the law, as well as the virtue of mercy, its message is as relevant today as it was when it was first penned almost 140 years ago.  It is a story worthy of sharing.

For Bedtime story-time, for cuddles at the close of the day, for stories whose messages are ageless, I am truly thankful.

3 November 2017

Thankful, grateful, truly blessed

by these flowers of faithfulness.

Violets Faithfulness (2)

I grew up with violets.  My mother grew violets.  My father grew violets.  On the kitchen windowsill, in the bathroom around the tub they bloomed.  Pink, lilac, violet, a splash of flamboyant color when everything else was brown.

A little water, a little pruning, a little fertilizer, a lot of sunlight, is really all they need to thrive, but for some reason many people shy away from growing them, intimidated by their care.  If you want a plant you can forget about entirely, a violet is definitely not the plant for you, but if you devote a minute or two each day to it then you can have a beautiful bloomer.  You just need to be a bit attentive, daily devoted…faithful.

These are my two:

Light violet 2Violets dark 2

Found at a yard sale, in amongst the detritus of another’s life, brown, crumbling leaves, root bound, unblooming, unloved.  I couldn’t leave them, destined as they were for the trash heap.   I knew with just a bit of care, they could recover, thrive, become something beautiful once again.  They just needed some devotion, some faithfulness.

Day third:  I’m thankful for my orphaned violets and the lesson about life that they teach.

 

2 November 2017

Coffee.  I am grateful for coffee.  Just plain old coffee, nothing fancy.  Dark roast, a splash of cream, in a cup first thing in the morning.  Before talking, before seeing, before thinking, coffee.

Thanksgiving Pilgrim Maxwell House

It has been this way since before my mind coalesced and memory began.

When I was a wee babe, literally swaddled in blankets not yet a year old, I was given coffee.  Now in all fairness, it was mostly milk with a bit of sugar, but it was REAL CAFFENATED coffee.  Why?  Because I was a colicky baby.  A very colicky baby.  And because my maternal grandmother, Maw Maw, said so.

I do not know if this lore is widespread, but in my neck of the woods, generations of colicky babes have been reared on coffee, because apparently it works to curb the fussiness.  Of course, back when I was a child, my parents and certainly my grandparents didn’t know about the negative effects of caffeine on calcium and vitamin D, but I’m pretty sure they would’ve sacrificed my future bone health anyhow for a few minutes of peace and quiet.  I know I would have.  Forsooth, there is no guarantee that a child will make it to a bone-fracturing age anyway, and, truth be told,  it is even less likely that a child will make it to adulthood if their beleaguered parents are unable to find respite from the wailing.  You know it’s the truth, whether you want to admit it or not.

The end result of my coffee imbibing, was that I was an addict by the time I was old enough to toddle.  Here I am, just a few years young, furiously pouting because my coffee bottle wasn’t on the coffee table when I ambled out of bed that morning.

Pouting for my coffee

My addiction all started with a baby bottle of  Maxwell House and now over 40 years later, requires at least 2 pots and a Starbucks latte a day to keep it at bay.  I’m not proud of it, but I am thankful for it. Besides there are “worse-er” habits!

Coffee wakes me up, it picks me up, it props me up!  It makes every day possible.  It helps keep both my children and my husband alive.  It brings my family together.  It cheers, it comforts, it consoles, it clarifies.  It’s good EVERY SINGLE DAY, from the very first sip of the morning to the very last drop  in the very last cup.

Number 2:  Coffee

 

 

1 November 2017

October is over.  November has begun.

Novembercalendar

For me, like many, the month of November is about thankfulness.  Gratefulness.   Thirty days in the waning of the year to recount and count the many blessings that Providence has bestowed.  It is a time to take stock of the year’s successes and failures, gains and losses, laughter and tears.  A time to account for the changes that time has wrought and a time to prepare for the new year to come.

I know thirty days of this-and-that are all the rage nowadays, as people attempt to find a better body, a better perspective, a better life, through checklists; measuring success, or for that matter, failure one box at a time.  But I know better.  Or at least an old professor of mine did, when he proffered that the lawyer that was good at making checklists was the lawyer that was terrible at practicing law.  Read into this what you may.

Thirty days of gratefulness didn’t start as a checklist for me, with prompts for those days when I couldn’t think of anything I was really “thankful” for.  It started when my son began Kindergarten.  From Day One, I packed a little hand-drawn note in his lunch box to let him know I was thinking about him throughout the day.  When November came and my creativity was lagging, I decided to use my cards to recite to him all of the things about him I was thankful for.  The notecard and thankfulness idea carried over to my daughter during her first year of school.

Although the card drawing finally ended, counting my blessings in November remained.  So to begin my thank offering for 2017, I want to start where I began, with my parents.  To say I am who I am because of them would be cliché, but the truth is I am.

My daddy, my best friend, instilled in me a love for books and learning.  He once said that people can take many things from a person, but they can’t take away one’s education.  He has dedicated his life to ensuring that each of his own children, and those of countless others, have received an education or at the very least a better one.  Through scholarships, service on the boards of a state college and our county library, and his tireless work to help local schools improve, whether by serving on accreditation teams, helping secure grants and funding, paying for entire school groups to attend luncheons with authors,  or donating money and books to school libraries, he has acted out his beneficence.  He is father wise, not just to me but to many, without whose help my, their, our educational goals may not have been realized.

 

Daddy and Laura

My daddy and I playing “trains.”

 

My mother, the conservationist, the lover of animals passed her bleeding heart on to me.  As a kid, she introduced me to horses and the love of riding, a hobby she pursued from her earliest childhood.  She also introduced me to orphaned deer, Bucky, Heena, Sheena and Adelaide, which she hand-fed back to health and kept in our playroom bathroom until they were old enough to return to the wild.  She’s fed raccoons, squirrels, opossums, and even most recently a wake of buzzards, although they were unintended visitors to her smorgasbord.    She’s spent a lifetime observing and appreciating the abundance of life all around us, and protecting her furry friends from illegal poaching.  She is mother earth, the seer of the unseen, the defender of the natural.

 

Bucky

Sister the First and I with Bucky circa 1979.

 

I am blessed that both of my parents are still living and that I am finally back in Bama and closer to them once again.  I am grateful for the impact they’ve had on my character.  I offer thanks for the passions they have instilled in me, and hope that I am a worthy vessel of their legacy.