It was never just a muffin

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I am addicted to Pinterest.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  But Pinterest has opened up new avenues of cooking for me as well as opened a few doors to my past.  Today is a glowing example of that.

I wasn’t looking for anything specific so when I came across a simple picture of a blueberry muffin, I was immediately transported back to our house on Foreman Road.  I was 10 or 11 and I was in our kitchen, as I always was on Sunday mornings, making Betty Crocker Blueberry muffins for breakfast.

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I loved Sundays.  I loved the fact that my parents trusted my ability at such a young age to prepare a breakfast that we would all eat in their bedroom, they tucked under the covers and me (and sometimes my brother) sitting at the end of the bed.  Thinking back to those wonderful times, I can almost smell the freshly baked morsels just out of the oven.  I can see the pat of butter melting into the white cake, making the blueberries glisten in morning light from their bedroom window.

If I close my eyes, I am back in that kitchen mixing the ingredients ever so carefully, taking the lid off the tin of real blueberries in syrup and making sure I am careful not to spill the syrup and stain anything in its path.

Just when I feel like my parents have slipped a little further into my memory cache, one simple picture of a blueberry muffin was all it took to bring them stampeding back into my thoughts.  And now that I look back at all those breakfasts in bed, it was never really about making muffins.  It was about making memories…..moments that will help my parents be with me forever.

 

Finding light in the darkness

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“What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today.” ~ William Glasser

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Looking back at my past, I can almost see the lines in the distance of the paths that I have chosen.  They are faint in the waning light but the traces are still visible.  Those lines, those roads I chose to follow, helped to carve the figure of the person I am now.

Along that road not everything was painful but I can say that those arduous moments gave me more definition as a person than the happier, less stressful times.  Those darker moments made me a stronger version of myself.  Those difficult stages during my life gave me the tenacity and the persistence to overcome obstacles that I may not have been able to cope with had my life been easier.

It is how we carry ourselves through the difficult moments that gives us our strength.  It is how we persevere through misfortune that builds our character.  I am who I am because of what I have experienced.  I am a better version of the me I could have been because I endured pain and suffering.  I made a point to learn from it and now my inner light far outweighs any of the darkness from my past.

The Wooden Spoon

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There are a million wooden spoons.  I’m sure I could go to any store from a Walmart to the highest-end Kitchen gadget store to replace the one I have.  But the one I have has a special function that none of those other spoons would have.  The spoon that I have is able to transport me back in time.

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This wooden spoon is the spoon my mother used to stir her brownie batter with and, when I was being good, I would be allowed to lick the leftover batter from that spoon.  When I become old enough to help in the kitchen, I was entrusted with the spoon and left on my own to make the brownies without my mom’s help and, as a teen is wont to do, I still licked the spoon.

This wooden spoon has had an epic journey and has lived in many kitchens but it now finds its place in my home.  It was one of the only kitchen items I chose to keep from my mom’s vast collection of kitchen gadgets after she passed away. It shares its space with the shiny stainless steel utensils, in just as shiny a container, on the counter in my kitchen.  It looks like a misfit toy lost in the pristine surroundings of Santa’s workshop but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are times when I am afraid to use the spoon for fear that it will break and I will lose that tangible part of the past that I shared with my mother.  It feels like the last piece of her that I can physically hold on to and be six years old again in our kitchen.

This inanimate object is far from lifeless and its spirit will continue to fill my kitchen, and my heart.

 

Make your pages mean something

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New-Year-Sayings

In what felt like a lifetime, but just the blink of an eye,

the calendar year transpired.

 Obligations were met, celebrations were had,

and on most days we felt inspired.

Some sadness ensued, some loved ones were lost,

but we keep their memories close.

Now the new year is nigh, the past slowly fading,

and it’s time to say adios.

The ball will drop, the confetti will fly,

and some kisses will be shared at midnight.

Resolutions will be formed, new promises made

and, indeed, the future looks bright.

To the next stage we go, heads held high,

ready to take on the year.

Trusting ourselves, making decisions,

based on hope and not fear.

We forge our path, we stake our claim,

we ask the universe for light.

 We embrace the good, we learn from the bad,

and we wipe the slate clean at midnight.

 To those in my life, to each one of you,

 may you have what your true heart desires.

 May the hopes you have, may the dreams you dream,

be forever fueled by your fires.

~~

Happy New Year!

Empty chairs

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chair

Vague memories cling to the fabric,

permanent indentations show in the cushions

of the now empty chairs you once sat in.

As time marches forward,

I hold tight to the moments created while sitting in those chairs.

Your laughter is embedded in the cloth.

The fiber of your being is worn into the stitching.

The very essence of you lingers in the shadows,

hiding in the nooks and crannies of those chairs.

You left behind a part of you in something so simple,

and now those empty chairs no longer hold sorrow,

but are cushioned with memories

and framed with love.

The traditions of Christmas

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Each year, when my father was still with us, he would phone at 6:00 am to wish me a Merry Christmas and get the day started.  This year, I expect the lines from Heaven will be clear again Christmas morning and that phone in my head will ring just prior to that dreaded time in the morning.  But this, admittedly, is among the favorites of my Christmas memories.

There are many Christmas traditions we still follow and, although they become slightly modified as the years pass, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.  After we moved to our tiny little town, Christmas Eve was spent bundled in our warmest winter gear standing at the end of our driveway.  The sirens could be heard before the truck was spotted and the lights would crest the hill by our house.   Santa Claus was atop the biggest fire truck and would pass all of the eager children, bundled tight like we were, waiting for a glimpse of the big guy before we were hurried off to nestle in our beds.  There were no visions of sugar plums, only the wonder of how he fit his ever-growing frame down our very thin stove-pipe. I pondered that thought until the weight of my eyelids became too troublesome and drifted into sleep with that unanswered query still nagging my brain.

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As the years passed we began to give back.  We would faithfully wait at the end of our driveway with a case of beer for the jolly man and the rest of the fire department.  I mean, he had to have been freezing up there and what better way to keep him jolly than with some beer?  I’ll never forget the eve of one particular Christmas when Santa told us that he didn’t drink beer, but instead enjoyed a Rye and Coke.  I guess everyone has a Christmas wish and the following year we granted his with a tall glass of whiskey and carbonated syrup.  My gifts were fabulous that year!!

We almost missed him one year and I raced to the corner of the next street to catch him on his way back.  I stood in anticipation, forever in the shadow of the child I once was and with the smile of the child I hope to always be. Santa waved and wished me a Merry Christmas and I walked back home with a smile that went from one ear to the other.

Every Christmas morning we were allowed to open our stockings and then we were forced to stare longingly at the big presents under the tree while we choked down some breakfast.  That tradition should have been abolished but still remains intact. Paper flew, boxes were cast aside and we became buried in a pile of pure love.  Thanks to my mom, inevitably one or more of the presents would still have a price tag on them and that became a much-anticipated tradition as well.  My brother followed up spectacularly a few years ago by not only leaving the price tag on a gift for my sister-in-law but the price tag was hanging outside of the gift box and not wrapped up inside.

My mother was the David Copperfield of making presents disappear. She loved to start her shopping in June and would hide the packages where we would never find them.  She mastered her craft so well over the years that we would receive some of our Christmas presents in March when they magically appeared months after the festivities had ended.  There was always a competition between my brother and I to see who would open the last present on Christmas Day.  We would skilfully hide a gift or two and casually pull them out an hour or two after the mayhem had ended.  My mom changed the face of that contest and it was anyone’s guess as to whose Christmas present was going to appear at Easter!!

As I sit writing this, the gifts are waiting to be coated in the festive colors of wrapping paper.  The Shrimp Dip has been made by my brother, (hopefully there will be some left for the big day) and he is busy preparing his house for the onslaught of family, food and extreme commotion.  This is the best of Christmas.  It’s not the gifts or the decorations, it’s time spent laughing about the price tags, the long-lost gifts and the early morning phone calls. It’s watching my brother “float” his Christmas dinner in gravy.  It’s Santa Claus on a fire truck and being tricked by my nephews to play a Shepherd in church on past Christmas Eves. It’s a glass of wine with the people closest to me, the people who don’t care that I have to unbutton my pants after eating too much turkey or that I may just wear track pants this year.   Christmas is about presence and not presents.

To all of you and all of yours – a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

When the past slaps you in the face

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It is a very rare occurrence when my emotions take me by surprise.  I am usually fairly in tune with them and I can feel them bubbling gently below the surface.  But last night on my way home from work while driving past my mother’s old house, the same house I drive by every day on my way to work and again on my way home, the emotion stored within my walls hit me like a ton of bricks.   Last night I glanced at the house, as I do every time I follow that familiar road, and I burst into tears.

I don’t know where the tidal pool of emotion came from but suddenly I was flooded with images of moments that had become important memories in my life.  Christmases, birthdays, family gatherings and quiet nights spent as a family were at the forefront of my brain.  Lingering snapshots of magical kisses witnessed by only the walls upstairs slowly transformed themselves into moving pictures to replay those scenes.  That house, the building others would only see as walls and a roof, was my home.  It was the vessel that helped create and store some of the most precious moments of my life.

And I do the same with my childhood home.  Every so often I feel the pull to drive by and just look at the house that began our journey to becoming locals in this town.  It was home to my family and a welcoming second home to many of our friends.  It witnessed great happiness and great sorrow, but it was always filled with love.

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Although there were many happy times in our second home, there were also moments of great sorrow.  Those walls echoed my overwhelming grief in May of 2003 as I told my parents through hysterical sobs that my best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  That roof sheltered both my parents as they battled their illness and those walls protected them for as long as they could.  That structure, that old building that is seemingly unnoticeable to passers-by, will forever have a large part of my history carved into its frame.

That architecture will always be a part of me.   And each time I drive by and take the time to trace the outlines of those walls I will always have an affinity to its design and purpose.  It is said that we need to let things go to be happier but I feel the need to embrace those things to stay connected.