Jesus Took the Wheel

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

  Yesterday could have been the last day of my life.  I was driving to work about 6:15 am and had a pick up truck pass me after it merged onto the interstate.  I am used to that because I drive a mere 5 miles over the speed limit, so even semi’s pass me.  Out of nowhere came a car wizzing past me at about 80 plus miles an hour.  Of course I have horrible road rage, even early in the darkness of the  morning.  As this car passed, I noticed the license plate was from out of state.  I may have mumbled something to the effect of “********** cheddar head”  as the car roared past me.  I am sorry you good people from the state of Wisconsin…..I love your state, and I visit there every summer, but you people need to slow down when passing through Illinois.  The car is now past me and parallel with the pickup truck that had previously passed me, and I was back to my mindless driving.  I then watched as the car slowly drove off of the road and into the ditch.  The driver must have fallen asleep because he or she didn’t even brake until they hit the ditch.  I then realize that I am coming up on this car that is spinning out of control in the ditch.  For what seemed like hours, we were side by side, with just the passing lane between us.  It then dawned on me that if that car came careening out of that ditch, I will most likely not survive the crash because the impact will be on my driver’s door.  At one point the headlights seemed to be coming towards me, but then the car continued the spinout.  Then the car came to a rest and I noted the blinkers and the dome light on.  The pick up truck that was ahead of me had stopped, so I continued on to work.  I was so shook up that I too had to pull over about 10 miles down the road when I realize that my daughter met me on the stairs at 5:3o am that day, and gave me a kiss goodbye.  She is never awake at that time of the day, plus it was a Saturday.  It struck me that our interaction that morning could have been her last memory of me.

  My point of this blog is: 1) Don’t ever take life for granted.  We just assume that we are all going to live long enough to retire and sit in our rocking chairs on the porch.  Maybe not!

                                                    2) Don’t go to bed mad at those you love.  Maddie and I had a disagreement about homework the night before, and we were both not speaking.  We talked it out before she went to bed, and both slept better because of it.

                                                    3) Please slow down to a reasonable speed.  I am pretty sure the driver simply fell asleep at the wheel.  Your body sends you signals that you are too tired to drive. Get out, walk around, have a cup of coffee, blare the music, turn on the air conditioner full blast, take a short nap….just listen to your what your body is telling you.  In the end, if you arrive a little late, but arrive alive, we are all winners.

                                                    4)  Try not to put off doing those things that need to be done, even if it is telling a co-worker they are a pleasure to work with, or telling your children that they are the best gift ever given to you, or tell your family how much they mean to you.

                                                     5) Forgive those who have wronged you….make room in your heart for peace and love….not hatred and spite.

   I am probably making too much out of my “near miss”, but that “near miss” again reminded me that life is precious.  I have a guardian angel trinket that I received from a secret pal at church last year, and it hangs from my rear view mirror.  That angel surrounded my car with an unseen force field that morning.  If you have a bucket list, go ahead and start checking those things off that you have listed.  If you don’t have one, then it’s about time you wrote out those things you would like to do while taking space up on this good earth.  I wrote a blog earlier this week about how I tried to avoid my birthday, only to have friends and family make it a truly special day for me.  The night of the “near miss” I celebrated a second birthday with 2 of my daughters, and I will tell you that I welcomed that cake and amazing evening with those I loved.  Never again will I complain because I turned another year older!  I will try to remember to thank God for the gift of another birthday ♥

FOOD FOR THE BODY

Five Cup Salad

1 cup miniature marshmallows

1 cup pineapple tidbits

1 cup sour cream

1 cup coconut

1 cup mandarin oranges

Mix all ingredients and chill.

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Clean Up This Mess

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

Could someone please explain to me why we clean our houses every week?  Unless you live alone, the house just get messy be the end of the day.  I have been really busy the past few weeks, and I found it necessary to triage my list of chores to get everything done.  Supper and dishes have been done every night, the laundry has been kept up, but dusting and vacuming…..not so much.  Last night I looked at Maddie after supper and said “Lets get busy and get the cleaning done.”  She looked at me like I had 2 heads….because unless it is summertime, the cleaning gets done on my day off when she is in school.  She could not wrap her head around the fact that we were going to clean so late in the day.  Actually, she just had to dust down the stairs and pick up her mess in the living room, because she was saved by Confirmation class that evening.  As I found myself alone in the house, I put on a cd mix that my oldest daughter had made, turned it up loud and proceeded to swiffer, dust and vacuum.

   Soon I was thinking about how things have changed in my life as far as cleaning.  When we were young, we 3 girls were recruited to help clean on Saturday mornings.  Mom had a favorite album from Eddy Arnold that she would play on the tv-slash-stereo while we cleaned.  Whenever I  hear “Make the World Go Away” or “Cattle Call,” I get one of those warm fuzzy feelings in my heart at the memory.   It wasn’t just swiffering, dusting and vacuming…..we had to pull out furniture and dust baseboards, dust every possible surface there was to dust, and finally “rake” the orange shag carpet.  We don’t have carpet in my house now, just old wood floors and area rugs.  We had wall to wall carpet when the kids were younger and I got a look at the stains on the underside when we pulled it up.  I declared then and there that there would only be floors I could clean regularly in my home.  When we put in new windows we decided to get the ones that tilt in, so I could wash the windows easier.  Nice thought, but somehow that infrequently gets done.  I make my bed every morning, even though it is upstairs where no one will see it, apparently I reason with myself  that if I get killed in a car accident, my family can say….”She was such a wonderful person, she made her bed every day!”  Growing up, my mom was fanatical about the house being clean.  On the Saturdays that she waxed the kitchen floor, she would give us money to walk uptown and get a pound of ham from the deli, fresh Butternut bread and a gallon of coke in a glass jug from the “sweet shop”.  We knew we would not be allowed into the kitchen, so we ate on the porch or if the weather was bad, the dining room.  You could keep 1 pair of shoes by the front door, but  your coat needed to be put in the closet.  We were not allowed to “soak” a pan with stuck on food, you added water and soap to it, and boiled the water to help dislodge the stuck on food.  And forget about letting dishes air day…..not an option.  You never left anything on the dining room table because that was the first thing people saw when they came in the front door.

  Hmmmm…..I started out this blog complaining about having to clean my house, even though there are no rules…..just that role model that you try to emulate.  I know right here and now that I will never be as dedicated to cleaning as my mom, and I know that it will be fine.  I seldom go to bed with a messy house, but there will be dishes drying in the sink, and some dust I have missed in a corner.  When I got married and had kids, my mom surprised me with a needle point that she gave me as a gift for my birthday.  It is framed along with pictures of my family and is hanging in my living room.  There is a woman rocking a baby and the poem reads like this:  Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow. so quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my babies and babies don’t keepShe then confessed to me that she wished she had followed those words more when we were little, instead of worrying about messes in the house.  Those were such wise words, and when I get too stressed  because there may be dust on the tv or a few dishes in the sink, I just go and look at that needlepoint and smile  ♥

Blow Out Those Candles

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

So today it happened again, even though I tried so hard to not let it happen…..I had another birthday.  Birthdays were always special as a child.  We got to pick out our favorite cake for our special day.  It was unheard of to go to a store and have them make and decorate a cake for your kid’s birthday.  I always had 2 that I would choose from, either a German Chocolate cake or an Angel Food cake.  Now that I am an avid baker, I realize that those were probably 2 of the most time-consuming cakes that I could have chosen, but mom made them without a complaint.  She had 2 heart-shaped cake pans that she made our cakes in, so the cakes were 2 layers with lots of filling in the middle.  Of course the german chocolate pecan/coconut frosting was homemade, which made it all the better.  If I chose an angel food cake, it too was homemade and had a marshmallow frosting that was gooey and sticky.  Yummy in my Tummy!  I can remember that she would turn the cake pan over on a tall RC Cola bottle while it cooled.  She later became interested in cake decorating, and the cakes got fancier every year.  We could also choose a birthday meal, and mine was either roast beef, potatoes and carrots or fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn.  When she made the roast beef for supper there was gravy that we used to put on bread, and she made a side dish of chilled cucumber slices and onions that she mixed into a sauce of salad dressing, sugar and milk right before serving.

  I then became an adult and learned to dread birthdays, especially as I got older.  Perhaps I am not looking at this right?  When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I was so busy raising kids and working 2 or 3 jobs, that I didn’t have much time to think about birthdays.  In my 40’s I found myself starting over with a new baby in the house….and the 2 oldest graduating and leaving home.  Again…..not much time to sit and worry about birthdays.  Then the 50’s arrived…and I would remind myself that I was now that age that I considered “old”, when I was young.  I remember thinking…how can someone in their 50’s still have a life???? Shouldn’t they be retired and in rocking chairs, wearing disposable underwear????  Their kids should all be gone by the time their parents are 50, and these “old” people should be rolling in the money right????  People in their 50’s should be in eating supper at 4, and going to bed at 9, right?  I am here to set the record straight…I am now 54, and proud to tell people I am 54, although I would rather skip the official day.  While some days I feel my age, I will never act my age.  I do not wear disposable underwear….although on girls night, that would be an extra security measure from all of the laughing we do.  I go to bed after 11 at night, and usually get up at 4:45….and I will admit that by Friday, I’m pooped…but wouldn’t most people?  I can still tell a joke with the best of them, and I will stop to admire a mans rear end anytime it is possible.  I admit there are some wrinkles under and on the sides of my eyes, but I consider them laugh lines.  Besides, here is a little known secret…..fat is a great wrinkle filler.  I still have one child at home, and she will be with me for 5 more years at least, and I am not “rolling in the money”.  I have also figured out that I can say  things to people that I wouldn’t have dared to say when I was young. It’s like we have earned this badge that gives us the freedom to say whatever comes to mind.

  So today I crept into work hoping everyone forgot my birthday….no such luck.  There was a free meal, compliments of my co-workers, a birthday ice cream cake, cards, signs, birthday wishes and that dreaded “birthday song” that was sung several times.  There have been texts from my kids, and as of 10pm today, over 200 birthday wishes on my Facebook page.  One of my oldest and dearest friends at work dropped by on her day off and brought me…….a homemade angel food cake!  She does this every year, and it  reminds me of my childhood each and every time.  I thank my friends from the bottom of my heart for thinking of me, because sometimes I don’t feel that I am as good of a friend in return.  It is very very humbling to me, and I guess being humble at 54 can be a good thing, for I take nothing for granted in this life.  So as they say…there are 2 things in life you can’t avoid…..death and taxes….and in my case BIRTHDAYS  ♥

Take a Seat Please

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

  “Back in the day”…as I say to my kids, we would go to my parents house for Sunday dinner after church.  Often times in the fall, we would stay for the day while the kids took naps in the afternoon, and stay for supper too.  A real treat was when we decided to have a “weenie roast” for supper.  Dad would build a fire in the makeshift fire pit and we would have hot dogs, baked beans, chips, and moms famous texas sheet cake.  Sometimes we would have the “fixins” for smores too.  I have never been a fan of smores….but texas sheet cake..Yummy in my tummy!  There is nothing tastier than a hot dog roasted over a fire, topped with ketchup and baked beans.  Try it sometime, baked beans on top of a hot dog is wacky but terrific!  After we were done eating, we would just sit around the fire and relax, telling our stories of the previous week.  We also spent time yelling at the kids, who just had to throw a little twig or leaf into the fire…getting closer and closer with each toss.  I think sitting around a fire on a cool fall evening is one of my top 5 things to do to relax.

  One problem was finding a chair to sit around the fire and relax in.  If we knew ahead of time about the weenie roast we would bring our lawn chairs.  If not, it was a wild and crazy race to the packed garage to find something to sit on.  I had a favorite old rusted metal lawn chair that I would climb over adults and children alike to get to.  It just seemed to fit my be-donk-e-donk the best and I felt it was mine.  One Sunday, about 15 years ago judging by the huge glasses I had on in the picture, I sat comfortably waiting for the fire to get hot enough to begin the roasting of the weenies.  I knew the chair was rusted, especially the curved legs, but I just thought it gave the chair some character.  I was talking and laughing when I began to feel myself slowly tip backwards.  I didn’t pay too much attention until those around me started seeing me edge into a horizontal position, sinking at a snails pace towards the ground. The legs were giving up and were folding in on themselves. I remember giggling and saying ‘I’m going….I’m going…”  until I eventually  ended up with my back on the ground and my legs in the air, still hanging over the seat of the chair.  Now, this was before the age of everyone having a cell phone, so my sister ran into the house to get the camera.  I became the floor show before the dinner that night, and the camera flashes were coming fast and furious.  So I figured that I may as well make the best of it, and did what any lady would do in that situation….I crossed my legs and smiled ♥

FOOD FOR THE BODY

My moms famous Texas Sheet Cake

Boil together:

2 stick oleo

4 Tbsp. Cocoa

1 cup water

Add to dry ingredients below and beat well:

2 cup flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

When mixed well, pour into a 15 x 10 x 1 inch jelly roll pan that has been sprayed with Pam.

Bake 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted off- center comes out clean.

Frosting

1 stick oleo

4 Tbsp. Cocoa

6 Tbsp. milk

Add to:

1 pound powdered sugar and 2 tsp vanilla. (will seem runny)

Fr0st cake while hot.

(can also add chopped pecans to frosting if you wish)

Phyllis

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

  Anyone who has been reading my blogs knows that I lost my mom in 2001.  For several years after she died, my dad became very lonely.  I think men need companionship sooner than women, when a spouse dies or there is a divorce.  I could be wrong, but this has proven itself to be true after my mom died, and after my own personal experience after my divorce.  We women need much more time to heal, and to seem to take a little longer to warm up to the thought of another relationship.  About a year after mom died, my dad began dating.  This did not go over well with my sister Tammy, and she made her thoughts clearly known to dad. I, on the other hand, kind of took up the role left by mom, so I knew how terribly lonely he was.  He would come to my house for supper, and I would go up to visit and clean the house, so I saw him frequently.  I will readily admit that it was hard to see him with another woman who was not my mom.  You wrestle with the guilty feelings that you are not honoring her memory by advocating the presence of another woman in his life.  Unfortunately my mom died just at the point in their lives when they were going to retire after many years of hard work, so now he had these plans and had found himself alone.

  Dad met Phyllis while we owned the Sweet Shop and pursued her even though she was dating another man.  I have a feeling he was relentless, and she finally agreed to a first date.  The rest, so to speak, was history.  Once again he was the happy man I remembered.  One day he and I were working in the office at the store at about 10 in the morning, I was doing book work and he was completing the deposit from the previous day.  He then gets up to go to the bank, I assumed, and said “Well I guess I will head home”.  I looked at him and said “Didn’t you just get here from home?”  He then winked at me, snickered his laugh that only Pops could snicker, and said “Maybe I haven’t been home yet!”, and out he went leaving me sitting there with my mouth wide open.  My mind was going a millions different directions….and then I smiled at this man in his 70’s as he let me know in a cryptic message that he and Phyllis were “official”.  This same man whos only advise to me when I started dating was to remember that “Men won’t buy the cow if they can get the milk free over the fence.”  We loved Phyllis at this point and I didn’t care if they lived on the moon, as long as they were happy.  Funny how things that you thought were right in your teenage years change as you mature and see life in a different perspective.

  Phyllis was now part of the family, and we shared birthdays, holidays, vacations, weddings and life changing events with each other.  She was there when my dad died, and was able to be one of the last people he saw before going into surgery.  She was sitting with us when they came out and said he had suffered  a cardiac arrest on the table, and she was with us throughout the funeral planning, visitation, funeral and burial.  They had both loved their spouses dearly while married, and were able to find each other for a few years of happiness before his death.  Again, God had closed 2 doors, but opened up 2 windows for them to meet.  She says that she will never find another “Pops” and was blessed to have him in her life for a short time.  She has continued to be in our lives since Dad died, and for that we are blessed as well.  I will never give up hope that some day there will be that “special” man that God will place in my life….for miracles happen every day they say  ♥

FOOD FOR THE BODY

Chicken and Noodle Casserole

1 package noodles, cooked and drained

1- 12.5 oz can  white chicken breast

1 large can cream of chicken soup

1 cup (approx) of mayonnaise

diced onion, and green pepper (amount should be to your liking)

salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, and top with crushed potato chips. ( I crush about 1 cup of Durkees fried onions with the chips too)

Add a little milk if the casserole seems to be too thick.

Spread in a 9×13 casserole dish, cover and bake about 20 minutes at 350 degrees

Uncover and bake about 15 minutes more.

The Power of Music

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

For as long as I can remember music has been part of my life.  From the time of being rocked and having a lullaby sung to me, until today, music has been as wonderful to me as life itself.  When I began school, I also began piano lessons.  I wasn’t as dedicated as I should have been, but after about 7 years of lessons, I could play a decent piece of music.  Reading music always came easily to me, and I could never understand why some people just couldn’t learn how to play.  Eventually it was decided that I would follow in the footsteps of my mom and Aunt Doris and begin playing the organ in church.  The only problem is that I didn’t realize that was the plan until I had “moved up” to learning how to play the organ.  I joke that Mrs. Klickman was the only person alive that I allowed to call me Michelle….and I can’t tell you how many times she smacked the palms of my hands with a ruler if I let my hands rest on the keyboard.  I endured and learned how to not only move both hands but both feet at the same time, plus work the pedals to adjust the volume.  The day came that I was introduced to the pipe organ at church and had to also learn how to work the “stops” to make the most beautiful music come to life (if I was lucky)

In high school it was band and chorus and musicals and choir at church and singing loudly in the car while cruising main street with my besties.  In high school you have the “fight song” that is played before games and it special to your school only.  During the July 4th, we celebrate with “The Star Spangled Banner”.  After Desert Storm, the song that would swell your heart with pride was “I”m Proud to be an American” by Lee Greenwood.  After the tragedy of 9-11 we got all fired up when we heard “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue” by Toby Keith.  On Christmas Eve the special song sung throughout churches in America is “Silent Night.”  My three oldest kids had piano lessons and again there was band, chorus, musicals, singing in church, and singing loudly going down the road with everybody in the car.  The kids say one of their favorite memories as a child was standing and singing around the piano as I played whatever song they requested.  (and let me tell you, some nights I felt like I took 7 encores) It hit me tonight that there is such power associated with music.  When we marry, we look for that special song.  When I married in 1978 the chosen songs were “The Wedding Song” and “We’ve Only Just Begun”.  When my son Jonathan was buried, I wanted Al Beckman to sing “I am Jesus Little Lamb.”   When my dad died I wanted to song “Praise You in This Storm” by Casting Crowns.  When my daughter got married her wedding dance was “Lets Stay Together” by Al Green.  For me, the music is on in the car, on when I am on the computer, on when I take a bath, on when I clean…..I guess I would rather listen to music than watch tv.

I personally have songs that will bring a smile to my face such as “Precious and Few”, ” I Will Always Love You”, “Baby Elephant Walk” (don’t ask) and “We are Poor Little Lambs” from White Christmas.  I want “What a Wonderful World” played at my funeral, and have made myself very clear to everyone…along with the threat that I will come back and haunt them if my wishes are not carried out 🙂  Songs that will make me tear up include “You Were Always on my Mind”, “Beautiful Savior”, “I Cross my Heart” by George Strait and “Then” by Brad Paisley.   Where would we be without music?  Just sit and think about how it has touched your life. What  are your favorites, what songs make you smile, make you cry?  All I know is that now that I am single,  I guess my new favorite song will be “It’s Raining Men” by the Weather girls!

FOOD FOR THE BODY

Whipping Cream Frosting

4 Tbsp. flour

1 cup milk

1/2 cup oleo or butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

Mix flour and milk together.  Cook on low until thickened. Allow to cool.

Cream butter and shortening for 4 minutes.

Add sugar gradually and beat again for 4 minutes.

Add the flour paste and beat for 4 more minutes.

Add vanilla and mix in.

Great on chocolate cake or cupcakes.

A Dedication

FOOD FOR THE SOUL

If you have been blessed in your life, you will have crossed paths with people who have left a mark on your heart forever.  I have been blessed in this way, and this blog is dedicated to a couple who have done just that.  We have been neighbors with Dave and Kathy since we have moved into this house over 20 years ago.  My oldest daughter used to babysit with their kids when she was a teenager, so our lives have been intertwined for a long time.  On July 2, 1996 I had a routine sonogram, with my 3 children in the room with me, that showed that my baby would be born without a brain.  I sat in stunned silence with my children surrounding me, as my midwife gave me the news as gently as she could.  Mary, my midwife, had been by my side through the birth of my 3 children and held my hand when I suffered 3 miscarriages, so I knew it hurt her deeply to share this news.  I drove home with the car being completely silent for the 30 minute ride home. I stopped at my parents home on the way and for the first time since receiving the news, I broke down and cried.

  We knew that this child would only live a minute or two after birth, and we needed to prepare for not only the babies birth, but also his imminent death.  There were so many questions, and along with the shock of this news, it was hard to figure out what to do.  I was trying to “hold it together” for the sake of the  children I had at home.  They were 15, 13, and 8, so they were well aware of what was happening.  The first phone call made was to our minister.  I needed to be sure that when this child was born, he would go to heaven, since there wouldn’t be a baptism, so to speak.  Thinking back now, I wonder if it is strange that of all of the questions I had, why this one was weighing heavily on my heart.  I knew that God was handing me a huge challenge, and I wanted to be sure that I didn’t fail in His eyes.  I remember how upset my grandmother was when we didn’t baptise Rick until he was about 18 months of age.  She would tell me that if something happened to him, we needed assurance that he would remain safe in the arms of Jesus.  I needed to do the same for this unborn child.

  When the day of his birth was approaching, we needed to make arrangements for his burial.  Where do you begin?  I had never had to plan a funeral before, plus I wasn’t really able to think clearly at this point.  This is when our friends Dave and Kathy really came into our lives.  Dave is a funeral director and Kathy had spent many years working in the business.  It was a beautiful summer day when they came over and we began the planning. We have a nook in our kitchen that, at that time, had a table and 2 benches in it.  We sat it there in the early evening, Bill and I on one side and Kathy and Dave on the other and began making arrangements for what would be one of the saddest days of our lives.  They knew just what to say, and where to guide us.  By the end of the evening we had everything planned, with them making most of the decisions, and a deep and forever bond was forged between the four of us.  I gave birth to Jonathan Patrick on July 12th at Northwest Memorial Hospital, and he was cristened by the hospital chaplin as I held him while he took a few final breaths.  Jonathan was buried on a sunny warm day in July, in a tiny white casket, with the most wonderful breeze gently blowing through the pine trees in our church cemetery in the country.  Friends, family and co-workers were there to share in our grief, and right beside us were Dave and Kathy.

  Fast forward to 1999, and I find myself 40 years old and about to be blessed with a soon-to-be new member of our family.  Everything is going well, and it looks like I will end my child-bearing years on a good note.  The woman who held my hand at one of the darkest moments in my life has stepped forward and was going to host a wonderful baby shower for us.  We spent the evening with friends and family rejoicing the wonderful blessing that had been sent to us.  Kathy again steps in the night Madison is born.  It is late in the evening, and she has volunteered to be the chauffeur, bringing  my kids to the hospital to see their new sister.  They are let into the room to see her shortly after midnight, and our eyes meet across the room, only filled with happiness at this point.  I had never in my wildest dreams thought that this day would come.  Two months later Madison Faith is baptized with Dave and Kathy as her sponsors, beautifully dressed in a christening dress given to her by her sponsors.

  I don’t remember hating God or asking “why me” when faced with the loss of Jonathan.  I am comforted with the  belief that everything in your life, be it good or bad, happens for a reason.  I also remind myself that when bad things happen to you, it will make you a stronger person.  Don’t get me wrong, I spent many days just going to my room and laying on top of the bed crying until there were no tears left.  But a person can either choose to hold their head up and move on, or can become crippled and angry for the rest of their lives.   I firmly believe that when God does challenge you with adversity, he sends angels to help you get through it.  My angels live across the street, and will always have a very special place in my heart.  I thank you Dave and Kathy forever and ever ♥