About Me

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I am a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother and businesswoman with a passion for life. I try to keep my priorities in life straight - Faith, Family, Friends. I love to try new and challenging things, spend time with friends and family, sew, embroider and laugh. I run a custom apparel decorating business from my home. I enjoy spending time with my grandchildren.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Weeds, Seeds, and Deeds

Yesterday we had a storm which dumped an inch of rain in fifteen minutes. Winds up to 60 miles per hour accompanied it. We lost a tree during the storm. But I learned I can drive in horrific weather and still make it home in one piece. Afterwards my hands shook for fifteen minutes until I felt calm again. The upside: my car got a natural power wash and my garden soil got an abundant drink.
Wet soil in my garden means weeds which yield to a quick yank. So this morning I headed to my back yard after breakfast. In a matter of an hour my raised garden beds reverted back to vegetables only. I did feel disappointed to see more weeds in one bed than carrots. As I pulled weeds I realize it’s time to toss away my story of my farmer husband’s attempted act of love.
Re-purposed totes
You see, in mid-May I planted my first crop of carrots. To my dismay they emerged from the ground very uneven. The bed held a smidgen of green here and there, but the lush row I had envisioned didn’t exist. A few weeks later my DH (Dear Hubby) and I spent time adding wood chips between my re-purposed farm 250 gallon plastic totes. Earlier this spring he had cut off the tops, filled them with dirt, and arranged the four-foot by three-foot by four-foot boxes in a grid for my “expanded acres.” They rested on pallets atop landscaping fabric. To prevent weeds we placed a thick layer of wood chips on the fabric.
As we worked I paused next to container of my first planting of onions and carrots. “I can’t figure out why these didn’t grow right. There is only a carrot here and there, instead of the ten rows I planted.”
 He stopped near the box, reached toward a green stem before he spoke. “There’s a broad-leaf.”
  “Don’t pull that carrot.”
“It’s a weed.”
“No, it’s not. Look at this carrot.” I pointed to a new seedling. “See how the first shoot resembles a weed but then it sprouts the lacy top.”
  “Uh – oh. I pulled a few weeds one day, or at least I thought they were weeds. Sorry.”
“I accept the effort in the spirit intended,” and burst in to laughter. “You’re a great farmer, but maybe you’d better leave the vegetable garden to me.”
Over the next few weeks I enjoyed sharing my “farmer story” with a few close friends.
Back to this morning – the soft ground is perfect for weeding. As I groomed my second carrot planting I realized it looks exactly the same as the first – spotty, at best. Instead of eating carrots I must eat my words. “My DH is not responsible for my poor carrot production.”
A bit later he stopped in the garden.
“I rescind my story of you weeding my carrots. My second planting is just as bad as the first. The seeds are bad,” I said.
 “Too late. The damage has been done. My psyche is already damaged,” followed by a grin.
 I continued to weed. I carefully sorted the weeds from the delicate carrot shoots. I pulled and reflected on the day I bought seeds this spring. They were much cheaper – a bargain, or so I thought. Now I see the folly of my “thrifty” attitude.
Gardening is usually a quiet time for me and my thoughts drift toward my faith. This morning was no different.
 Good seed is important, whether it is for vegetables or a faith life. In order to grow a plentiful harvest for the Lord I must plant only good seed. Inferior seed allows weeds to grow in place of a good crop. My responsibility is to nourish my thoughts, my soul and my heart with study. Only then can I spread seeds of faith. Weeds take over a garden just as sin takes over my life if I don't stay vigilant in my relationship with Jesus. Study and prayer help me learn about His ways. My actions, my words, my deeds must allow Jesus to shine. Anything less is a disservice to my relationship with Him.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Oh, Fudge!


My hubby loves fudge. Each year at Christmas, I make one batch of fudge, his yearly treat. I hear it is good. I will take his word for it - I'm unable to eat chocolate in any shape or form. One morsel and I can except a headache for at least two days. I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I decided many years ago it is not worth it.

Christmas 2014 Fudge and one of my grands
Sometimes family traits are passed on through genetics, so it must have happened with his "I love fudge" gene. Our granddaughter adores chocolate. Which is why I have begun making fudge more than once at year. She looks for any occasion to cook a batch of fudge. She turns nine this week and loves the process of creating: fudge, cookies, casseroles, crafts and messes. One day we hope she will enjoy the reverse process and clean up after she is finished. But that is another blog on another day...

Recently she asked if we could make fudge to share with her classmates for her birthday. Of course, I agreed - I look forward to spending time with my grandchildren, for any reason.

But, this week, when we should have joined culinary forces, I had a different priority: my mom. She has been ill and all my attention was turned to her. Mom is making progress in her recovery, but let's just say it was a week I would rather not repeat any time soon. It's distressing for her and a concern for me.

As a result, the process for making the rich, chocolate confection did not make an appearance on my "list of important things to do" until last night, following a concert at school.

After my coffee, I delivered it to my granddaughter's house early this morning and was paid generously with hugs.

Here is my favorite recipe, given to me many years ago by my friend, Ann.  Thanks, Ann!

Fudge:
Measure 4 and one-half cups of white, granular sugar in a heavy pan.
Add 12 ounces evaporated milk.
Bring slowly to a rolling boil, then boil for exactly eight minutes.

Remove from heat.
Add 18 ounces bittersweet chocolate morsels
8 ounces miniature marshmallows
1 stick butter
1 tsp real vanilla extract

Stir until melted.
Add 2 cups broken English walnuts (optional)

Pour into buttered 9 x 13 cake pan or two 8 x 8 pans.

Cool, cut, enjoy. Unless of course your body doesn't appreciate chocolate. In that case, make it for someone else and make them extremely happy.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lessons

Earlier this month, my father-in-law was laid to rest. We had a near perfect day for a man who lived his faith, had a passion for his family, farming, working hard and telling a good joke. It seems fitting that his funeral Mass and burial was on April Fool's Day with temperatures in the eighties. The Mass was one of the most beautiful I have ever attended.
     As we processed in to church the choir, along with the congregation, filled the church with melody. Robert, a member of that church choir for sixty-five years, must have been pleased. The building swelled with song. The family - his wife of sixty-eight and a half years; twelve of their thirteen children; their spouses; most their grandchildren; great grandchildren; one brother/wife; some cousins; scores of friends/extended family filled the church to almost capacity.  http://wcfcourier.com/lifestyles/announcements/obituaries/paid/robert-bernard-rottinghaus/article_66546603-5492-560b-9925-0eb92d465e2a.html

For a while I had a difficult time processing the relationship I had with my husband's father. Rick admired his father. They worked together on the farm for over fifty-six years. That's a whale of a long time. I know Rick learned many things from his father, too many to probably count. I know my hubby has a talent for looking at a problem (with equipment) and seeing the solution. To him, that is as normal as breathing. He doesn't even think about it. It's just there. And that is a great thing - to be able to fix anything.
    When our four kids were living here at home, I teased and said there were three rules to our household:
1. Your father can fix anything. And in fact, this one was close to the truth. He learned that skill from his dad.
2. Your mother makes the best cookies, ever. Well, I got by with this one until our youngest son took my chocolate chip cookies recipe and tweaked it until he took that honor. But in reality, it was a great feeling to see the result of his love of cooking/baking come to life.
3. When your mother is cold, you put on a sweater. As a young mom I was pretty thin. Everyone said, "You don't have enough meat on your bones to keep you warm." Since I became a grammie, that has changed and now I have enough flesh and stay warm with my built in furnace. And that heater isn't very well regulated.

Anyway, back to the issue at hand. My father-in-law. He taught us many things. He was a very intelligent person, holding patents for several of his inventions. This with only an 8th grade education. He quit high school his freshman year to help farm. His mind never stopped; but it was pretty closed to new ideas as well, if they came from someone else.

And this was a source of contention between the two of us. I am pretty outspoken, always has been a personality trait that rests in both the positive and negative columns of life. As a result, we sometimes butted heads.

About four years ago we had the worst confrontation I ever had with an individual, well at least as an adult. His part in the screaming match was dementia, untreated, and being king of the castle all his married life. My part: thirty-plus years of pent up frustration and watching without speaking up. Well, the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan and poor Rick had to literally pull me out of the room. I continued to spew venom all the way home as I drove with more anger than I had felt in a long, long time.

I was angry at him and myself for my lack of control. I like to think I can keep my feelings in check. I found out, I can't. I took a good hard look at myself to figure out what to do in the future.
I prayed almost continually for guidance on this situation.

In my readings I found the story of Ruth and Naomi http://www.catholic.org/bible/book.php?id=8
and took heart with the proclamation made: "Your people will be my people and your God will be my God." The thought: he is my family took root. When I said, "I do," at my wedding in 1975, I took the entire family as my own. I couldn't pick and choose. After this epiphany, I began to pray every day for my father-in-law, for his comfort, for him as he walked the final few years of his journey. He was in his late eighties, and I knew his years were limited.

It's hard to be angry with a person when you keep them in prayer. I began to see him for all the good things he did. He loved his family, he loved our God, he even loved me, in spite of the fact my words often set him off. I know he was proud of me. I remembered the times he paraded his relatives and business acquaintances in my business to show them what I did. He acted as pleased with my work as if he had done it himself. He showed his affection in his own way.
And after much prayer I was able to see it for myself.
My love for him was strengthened when I put aside my ideas of how he should be and accepted him for the man he had become. When I planted a kiss on his cheek, it was with affection. When I asked him how he was feeling, I was anxious to hear his answer.

So when we said good-bye to him, I was able to say with deep affection, "When he met his creator I bet he heard the words: 'Well done, my good and faithful servant. You used everything I gave you.'"

May he rest in peace in the arms of Jesus.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The gift of life, Not once, but twice.

      “You were so sick,” Mom said to me during a recent visit.
      I poured two cups of coffee and sat by her at the kitchen table.
     “God left you on this earth for a reason. I remember it like it was yesterday. You were such a tiny baby.  You only weighed five pounds when you were born.”
     I had heard this story all my life, but I sat quietly and waited for her to continue.
     “It was 1955. Your dad worked long hours doing farm work. I was twenty-nine; there was so much work to do.” She exhaled a long, slow breath. “Every day I had three meals to cook, eggs to gather, piles of laundry, ironing, cleaning, plus milk to strain.”  
     She paused. “And then Whooping Cough invaded the county that year. Your five brothers had it. So did your sister, Audry,” Mom said. “You were only three months old when you caught it.”
     She continued. “I can still picture what happened that one night, I think it was May. The rest of the family was asleep upstairs.”  She looked up at me. “Do you remember that old faded rocker?”
     “The maroon one?” I asked.
     She nodded. “I was rocking you in it downstairs next to the oil burner in the living room. You were pretty fussy, but I was so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open and nodded off.”
     I was quiet. I wanted to hear more.
     “You coughed and I jerked awake. I lifted you to my shoulder and patted your back, but you didn’t stop. You sounded like a barking seal and then gasped for air.  I was so scared.” Her thumb caught a tear and brushed it away.  
     “I finally flipped you on your stomach over my left arm. I held you like a football, and patted your back. Finally you stopped coughing.”  She paused for a moment and continued. “I was too worried to lay you in the crib, so I sat in the chair and held you the rest of the night.”
     I don’t know what to say. I stirred my coffee and took a sip.  
     “The next morning I asked your father to bring down the bassinet so I could keep you by me.  I was afraid to have you too far away from me. He brought it down and set it on the kitchen table.”
     I pictured the small bed on the oilcloth covered square table, mom in her faded house dress with an apron and dad standing to the side.
     “By noon, you had endured countless coughing spells. Each time I grabbed you, and tried to quiet your cough.” She sighed. “You went with me everywhere that day.”
     She stopped and took a sip of her coffee. “When I fed you a bottle of milk,” she said softly, “it was almost impossible.  Each time you drank you started to cough until you couldn’t catch your breath.” For a moment our eyes met. “I think I prayed all day long.”
      I nodded; I felt a lump in my throat, thick and pushing to the surface.
     “Word spread throughout the church, to the neighbors, everywhere.  Everyone knew you were very sick.  Many of them called to say they were praying.”  She folded her hands together and put them in her lap.
     “Do you remember Eva Rose?”
      “I remember her visiting us when she came from Florida.  Didn’t she live in St. Petersburg?
     “Yes,” she said, “but she was our neighbor back then.  She and Aunt Mary Winkle alternated staying through the night next to your bed so I could get a few hours of sleep.”
     Mom took a handkerchief from her pocket and dabbed at the corner of her eye. The lump in my throat grew larger.
     “One night I woke to ‘Come quick! I think she’s dying.’ Eva’s scream alarmed me. Dad and I jumped out of bed and rushed to your crib.  She had you in her arms.”
      Mom stopped and swallowed hard. 
     “Your eyes had rolled back in your head and your lips were blue. I grabbed your limp body from Eva.  Your dad, Eva and I patted your back, but it didn’t help.” 
      A single tear escaped and slid down her cheek. “I started to panic. Your dad grabbed your ankles and flipped you upside down while I thumped your back.”
     She sniffed. “Finally you took a breath. You whimpered, I cried.”
     I swallowed hard, and then again. I reached out and took her hand.
      “You lived through that night, but it was three weeks before you shook Whooping Cough. You almost died so many times…” her voice trailed off. I blinked back tears. “We had to revive you more than once. Twenty-four hours, seven days a week, one of us stood guard over you, keeping you alive.”
      I looked at my hands, afraid if I looked up I would lose it.
      “Every breath was a prayer for you,” she concluded.
       Neither of us spoke for several minutes letting her words speak to our hearts. I stood up, walked around the table; hugged her and kissed her velvety cheek.  “I love you, Mom.”
Three women who worked to keep me alive. My grandma, Eva Rose and Mom.
     Dad, Eva and Aunt Mary have passed away and only Mom remains of the warriors who battled Whooping Cough for me and won. I think about that story and Mom’s determination to keep me alive, and it humbles me.  
     Now she is eighty-eight, still lives in her own home, but needs assistance for things many take for granted.  I’m grateful to live near her so I can help her. I accompany Mom to her numerous doctor appointments, but the most meaningful thing for me is when I help her with her showers. I steady her when she climbs in and out of the shower stall; shampoo her hair and help her dress when she is finished. As we share her very private time I often think about her as an exhausted young mother bathing my tiny body. When my hands pat her delicate skin with a thick thirsty towel I visualize me, as a sickly baby, wrapped lovingly in a soft flannel blanket. After each shower I massage her legs and feet with silky lotion. I remember the many times I climbed into her bed during the night, unable to sleep, because of what she called “growing pains.”  She rubbed my legs until I fell asleep again.
      To say thank you for all she has done for me over my life seems inadequate.  I can only say I feel honored to care for the woman who gave me life, not once, but twice.

Mom still love the babies.  This was January 3, 2015. She is holding the newest member of our family.