Casserole in a Can

On Thanksgiving, there were many chefs in the kitchen putting together a scrumptious banquet of all our favorite comfort foods. There were definitely a few blunders during the process, but I am only allowed to tattle on myself.

The incident involved opening cans. Canned food is not a big part of my diet anymore. I try to buy fresh produce, and have an emergency supply of frozen veggies. Well, my can opening wrist has lost its power, and I struggled to open the green beans and mushroom soup. The casserole was specifically requested by son-in-law Matt, so I forged ahead with my best effort. I drained each can and added the beans to the soup and milk mixture, then set it aside. When the turkey came out of the oven, the casserole went in along with other dishes that needed to stay hot. Dinner time was approaching and the green bean casserole did not look ready. I took it out of the oven, removed the cover and gave it a stir preparing to add the French Onions. Low and behold, there was a can lid simmering on the bottom of the Pyrex! How could I possibly have missed that. The other chefs snickered and shook their heads with the now familiar knowledge that I would goof up something.

It is important to laugh at our flaws and accept our shortfalls. If we are to forgive others we must also forgive ourselves, rather than denying or hiding the things we cannot change. Of course, our past should not define us. There are things we can improve, and there are things that are best left in the past.

Adding that lid to the casserole may represent the things that secretly slip into our lives with everyday routines. Like the junk mail that sneaks in with the the greeting cards or the racy adds that pop up un the screen when we research on the computer; unwanted items show up to distract us. Sometimes we easily remove the fly in the batter or the dirt that is tracked on to the carpet. Other things are more difficult to eliminate, like the muffin top that comes with age or the facial hair that shows up in odd places. We have to be on the look out and keep up with these sneaky things that want to spoil our creations and confidence.

I shall now count lids after draining the liquid from cans so I do not create a Metallica casserole. I will also pray for protection against the sneaky lies we tell ourselves which try to convince us, “ I am broken, useless, or unwanted.” Holidays can be emotional when families gather. It should be a time to refuel on love and affection. If it is a “tension convention” (coined by cousin Scott), then it is time for intervention. What my family does the end of each day is play cards or board games to invoke a ruckus spirit. Parlor games are more social than scrolling through social media. They help to put our cell phones away and draw us together for friendly competition, releasing pent up emotion.

The casserole turned out okay and was gobbled up with the turkey. Maybe tomorrow we will get outside to play kick the can. If I face any conflict, I will can it. Happy Holidays!Can of Green Beans

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Stretch Yourself

This week, I struggled to break the magnetic force that kept me in the easy chair. Colder weather is my signal to wrap up in a blanket with a book. And the start of the Holiday Hallmark Movie specials that are all romance and magic, are a perfect escape from the nightly news. Add to that a hot cup of tea and I get stuck in the crevices of the couch cushions. This of course is an unhealthy situation. The only solution is to break free of the blankie and get on the floor for some stretches. Oh relief at last, that sciatic nerve was wondering if I was paying attention. The muscles have started to rejoice and a few bones unlocked with a clickity pop along the spine. It is so easy and inexpensive to do stretches, and some of them work wonders on the nagging pains. There was a time fifteen years ago, when I would stretch myself thin. When I worked as a teacher, prepared for holidays, catered to my children, participated in church life, and attempted to make Christmas wonderful and perfect. I am more relaxed these days. Some traditions have even been dropped as our family migrates South. I do miss the caroling in the snow and the Live Christmas pageant practice that included sheep and a donkey. We now enjoy the seventy degree weather of Florida and the crab crack that has become a new tradition. I don’t know if millennial men and women go crazy with the baking, decorating, letter writing, gift shopping, holiday parties and family dinners with all the china and crystal, like we used to do. It is not as important as “being” together. Stretching the imagination is still a big part of the holiday, as each year a new Star Wars movie comes out. Stretching the budget is still a tradition; more for travel as people crowd the airports and roadways to get to something that feels like home. Stretching the truth to keep the spirit of Santa alive is a common occurrence. In the final stretch of preparation, I pray we remember the birth of Christ. Every newborn changes the lives of the family, but none so much as the newborn King. As our family waits for a new arrival, I will not forget the thousand years that others waited for a Messiah. We are saved by the forgiveness that God gives us through Jesus. There is no gift as generous as his grace and sacrifice. And what we can give back is love. We might run out of money, food or gas, but never love. We might forget the stories, the truth, the spirit of Santa; but never will the Holy Spirit leave you empty. I am done with Hallmark that has not mentioned the glory of the Lord even once in all the Christmas gathering in the snow filled streets. I am ready to gather in His name, to get out of my easy chair and to prepare the way. All praise to the newborn King- Sing hallelujah!BFA486E3-3F0F-4B2C-BDCC-0B70F471E0A3

Beep Beep Buzz

This week, I am starting to get jumpy. I traded my Mazda CX-5 in for a new model that has all kinds of bells and beeps. I seem to be setting them off for the slightest infraction. My former car had the wonderful feature of side view mirrors that lit up when another car was in the blind spots, and it would ding if I put on my turn signal during that time. This certainly did keep me from running unsuspecting people off the road. The new model makes me flinch when the bell goes off and it has a nudge mechanism that pushes me back into the current lane. Even when I try to merge or take a sharp curve on the cross town, the dash board lights up and the car hums if I get to close to the edge of the lane. I must be trying to cross the line more than I realized. These startling beeps should have alternate settings that would be more calming, like a wolf whistle or a French man that says, “Excusez-moi or pardon.” The car will also start to brake if I get to close to the car in front of me. Tailgating and weaving have never been my problem. Backing up is now a new adventure, especially when I pull out of the drive way. The bells are hysterical if any car or tree is approaching. This is quite helpful for me, but still unnerving. So, how do I keep from crossing the line at inappropriate times. I will admit that I have a tendency to do this in conversation and could probably use a nudge or bell at times. There are subjects that my teenage children used to discuss that are off limits now that they are adults. There are times that I get all micro-mother-managing that is not appreciated. And worst of all, there are times when my hubby tells me that he was just elected president of Nag-a-non, and admits that I am his superior power. With the holidays coming and family celebrations being planned; I need to practice staying between the lines. That really should be easy with the terrific adult children that we have. However, all mothers know that the evaluation button seems to always be on, because the kids can discern our dismay in the minute changes of our facial expressions. Our daughters have admitted that they discuss my questions and comments privately and try to analyze what is going on in my head. They are not sure how they should respond to my quirkiness- maybe by bells, beeps, whistles and nudges and I will get the message. Hopefully, my car does not tire of the constant reminders to drive safely. Naturally, I believe there are guardian angels that do the lion share of protecting me. I trust in God’s plan and try to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit. I pray that the holidays are spirit filled for everyone. Lately, I am a little jumpy every time our daughter Bethany calls. This is the month that she and a few of our friends and family are due to give birth. We wait in wonder and anticipation. The minute we get news, I will jump in the car with bells on to see the birth of our first grandchild. You will hear my hallelujah from coast to coast.D386D196-0DDF-4B38-9885-005D08FF7CF6

Color Me Right

Last week, one can of paint caused so much consternation that I nearly changed the color of the bedroom. The House Dr said that he would take a chip of paint to try and match my wall which had been reconstructed after water damage. Clever me went on a hunt to see if I had an old can of paint with the matching color. In the laundry room was a can from seven years ago with the yellow color splashed on the side. I told the painter I would pick up a gallon. He offered to do it since they needed some other supplies at the Home Depot. Neither of us checked the name of the color on the lid. The paint salesman looked at the name and mixed the paint- no one noticed that it was a different color than the paint in the can. When it was time to paint the newly plastered wall, one of the painters dipped his brush into the can and did a stripe on of color on the wall that was considerably darker than the rest of the room. Side note: Hubby and I left for his reunion, while our delightful neighbor, Fay, came over to close up the house after the painting was done. The painters decided to leave since the color was wrong. Fay sent a text to prepare me for the disappointing news. Five days later the painters finally come back with the same can of paint. They had gone back to Home Depot to get the right color, but alas, the salesman said he mixed it exactly to the name on the lid. I quickly surmised that the wrong lid was on the can. None of us checked to see if the color’s name matched the color in the can. Naturally, I said that I would keep the gallon of “ground ginger” that was used in my laundry room and fetch the “stable hay” from the Home Depot. I wonder if I would have caught this blooper if I had gone to get the paint myself, or if I had stayed to oversee the painting. The poor painters were baffled by the oversight. Trying to blend fresh paint into existing wall color is tricky enough because color fades. My lesson is to pay attention to details and not to rush, but I fail at this time and again. I like to rush into things with full confidence and get a job done quickly. It might be my attention span is shorter than most people. Don’t lay the ground work, just get to the point. Had I been born in Old Testament times, you would probably hear me say, “Where is the Messiah already?” Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, so I pray that the Spirit will guide me to a slower path. I am delighted to be sleeping in our bedroom again now that all the repairs are finished. I am so thankful for all the beautiful colors in nature and the paint store. Color hardly matters in a room that is occupied in the dark, but I am glad we found a match that could blend the old and new. Remember to replace things with care, and when things don’t go as planned, don’t flip a lid. B1668E53-E6E5-420D-B226-4D4D1768766D

Handyman

This week, there was a parade of men marching through my house. A dozen skilled laborers have promised to solve the problem that was created by the screw holes in my roof, which allowed gallons of water to take up residence in the unseen places. All that moisture was soaked up by the insulation in the wall. The evidence started to seep through in a faint stain in the ceiling and then the noxious smell of mildew greeted me in the third floor bedroom. I had visions of mold and creepy crawlies surrounding me on all sides. Yes, I did alert our association management company a year ago. Mr Poston had a roofer check things out and he determined that the satellite dish was the culprit. Direct TV came to patch things up which lured me into a false sense of security. Finally, Service Master came to remove the damaged materials and start their high powered fans to dry things up. Luckily, it was a rainy day and we could see that the leak was still present and allowing the downpour to trickle through. Had I not been preset during Hurricane Irma, I might not have recognized the water that had drenched my new carpet in the corner of the room. It took four beach towels to sop that up. Now, the House Dr. is replacing wall board and adding the plaster mud. It looks like a fun job and he says he loves what he does. The roofer has come to replace rotten plywood and damaged shingles, and the Direct TV serviceman replaced and relocated the satellite dish. I believe I had prayed at one point for more company in my lonely days of retirement, and this is how God answered me. Everyone of them has been nice and helpful. All these gentlemen deserve a big thank you for listening to my hysterics about living under a leaking roof and for fixing my problems with professional skill and pride in their work. This has required a week of staying home, so I pester the guys with questions about their families and education and job training. I wish I had their skills. Most everyone of them was born and raised in Charleston. The city is growing fast, so I imagine that they all will be kept busy with construction and remodeling jobs. It looks like my new wall and baseboards will blend right in with the old, so that nightmare will soon be over. To experience compassion and assistance in time of trouble is truly remarkable. We should always ask for help instead of brooding about our dilemma, and we will find people who I would say, “Have been sent by God.” They all have a story if we take the time to ask and listen. That was my favorite part. One has a wife who went back to college to become a Civil Engineer, another has a grand daughter that is the light of his life. They all tell me that I am too young to be retired and I would agree. I am finding new purpose in writing. I would prefer to watch parades on Main Street, but I am celebrating just the same with all of these men who have returned my home into a safe haven for me. Roll out that plastic floor protection and strike up the band.15D18173-1A43-4BE9-82BE-9B443DA63BBB

Oh Pooh!

My family has always loved Winnie the Pooh. And so when I found a decorative wooden sign with the famous quote “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you know” painted on it, I knew I should buy it. Then when Bethany announced that she and Lewis were expecting a baby girl I thought, “This would be perfect for their nursery,” both to continue the A. A. Milne legacy and to empower my new niece. My mind was made up. I’ll get the sign from Albuquerque to Bethany… but how?!

It’s now October, and the ladies in the family are gathering in Charleston for a Christian Women’s Conference and Bethany’s baby shower! I booked my flight and started strategizing. If I pack everything into one suitcase, I can carry the sign onto the plane as my second item! It was too big for my suitcase, so I was concerned that an attendant may force me to mail the sign, but I made it through security and onto the jet bridge with no issue.

Moment of truth: I’m assigned to the tail of the plane and most of the overhead bins are shut. I open one near my seat in case another passenger ineptly stored their luggage and luckily find the right space to squeeze my own suitcase. Now for the sign. The bin across the aisle was smaller than the others, but only had one suitcase and a jacket within. Opportunity. I tucked the sign on top of the suitcase and with a bit of effort was able to shove the bin closed. Commence flight, pretzels and entertainment as scheduled. My worries were over… so I thought.

The flight had minimal turbulence and landed softly. Time to begin the arduous deplaning. I stand up, pop open the overhead bin with my suitcase and gently shift in front of passengers in the aisle to retrieve the wooden sign. My heart drops. I can lift the latch, but the bin won’t open. When I shoved the sign into the overhead, I neglected to account for the wider space over the lip of the bin’s door where the wood apparently was firmly lodged. Heat floods my cheeks as the reality of my actions sink in. I quickly slip into the galley and inform an attendant of my mistake. Maintenance is called, the plane is emptied, and a young girl with her mother wait alongside me just outside the cabin door for our things.

After about 45 minutes of prying, unscrewing, yanking and wedging, the suitcase and jacket are freed. My sign, however, is in pieces, pulled apart by necessity to liberate the other items. I’m not surprised, nor deflated, merely embarrassed and a little disappointed that my careful planning resulted in splintered bits of potential instead of carefully hung inspiration. Thankfully the other passengers and I all made it to our connections. The remnants of my sign were tossed; an impromptu change in final destination.

Having spent D3453D5D-B6F5-4AE6-A1AE-D5084D9F6AF9the day in reflection with hundreds of women at our conference, I can’t help but think that there’s a lesson to be gleaned. Something like, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans” or “Spacial orientation is essential to everyday life”. What really sticks with me is the importance of flexibility. The situation would have been exponentially worse if my layover was scheduled shorter, or the people I inconvenienced were ill mannered, or if the bin itself had broken possibly costing me the repairs. Really, if the sign had been flexible to begin with I wouldn’t have had this issue. But the important thing is that soon to be born Lilliana will be welcomed into our family with love, and a penchant for misadventure.

Powerless

Yesterday, I started to panic when I realized my phone and computer were nearly drained of power, even though they were plugged in to recharge. I first checked to see if all the components were properly connected. I then tried different outlets in case the one I was using was somehow compromised. The indicators showed that there was no electrical connection, so I determined that it was a fault in the cord. I raced around to see if I had another cord to fit my Apple devices, but the others were older models that did not fit. It was after five o’clock and the thought of being without communication with my family sent ripples of anxiety through my brain. “I must find a new cord NOW,” I proclaimed, and jumped in the car on a quest. I had doubts that Downtown Daniel Island would have Apple supplies, and I could not think of friends with an IPhone who could spare a cord. The Computer Dr. was already closed. “Where is that electronics store”, I wondered. I walked into “The Closet Case” which was still open, and asked the smiling agent if she had a recharging cord I could borrow. Her Client looked at me like I was a basket case and said, “Try the gas station.” Off I went to the Kangaroo, but they apologized for not meeting my needs and sent me away. Then I walked into the ReFuel, and there on the counter was a display of chargers in rainbow colors! Relief. I bought one in pink and one in white. When I returned home, I was humbled by the thought of feeling powerless. While people in Puerto Rico are still waiting for power, and some are waiting for fresh water and gasoline; I was worried about being cut off from my family for a night. I replaced that panic with praise for the Lord who sees me through every storm, who will never leave me, and who gives me strength and confidence to solve problems. We may have candles and flashlights in case we loose power, but how are we prepared for the bigger storms in our life? My daughter in Miami said they still have a table full of supplies that they gathered before Hurricane Irma arrived with a vengeance. My son-in-law says the Zoo Miami is just reopening today after a month of clean up. We need to prepare our hearts for storms as well. This includes: faith in God’s plan for us, trusting that our prayers are important, and bravely asking for emotional support from those we are close to. We have more power than we realize. Can we solve every problem, heal every wound and help every person who asks us? Maybe we could with more faith in the Lord. Maybe a life lived with Christ leading us prevents problems, strengthens our bodies and guides us to others before they even ask for help. Let’s find the cord that keeps us connected. I am feeling recharged and reminded that we are never alone or without power to pray. Super charge me oh Lord!26C7EB69-1F43-4D58-B365-06BBE62D7EA5

Give the Boot

Yesterday, I was going through security at the airport. I am TSA pre approved, so I do not have to take off my shoes or jacket. As I went through the detector, the security woman said, “ Your boots are charming.” Naturally, I said, “Thank you.” She repeated, “You will have to take off your boots and put them through the x-ray, your boots are alarming!” Oh, I heard it wrong. I went back through the detector, took off my boots, and put the alarming things through the scanner. After I got rebooted and walked down the concourse, a friendly man at the shoe shine station said, “Nice Boots”. “Thank you,” I replied, hoping I heard it right this time. “I think you shined them for me last time I was wearing them. Do they look Okay?” I asked. “They sure do,” he said. I continued to walk briskly down the hall with Nancy Sinatra’s one hit in my head, “These Boots Were Made For Walking”. I did not expect so much attention for basic black leather boots. They are well broken in and have an extra wide top that allows plenty of room for my muscular calves. I have tried other stylish boots in the last few years and have given them to my daughters who still walk with dignity in heals. My first boots were rubber goulashes that I wore over my shoes in First Grade. They chaffed against my bare skin as I walked through rain and snow on the way to school. I detested them. Then one day in seventh grade, I borrowed my mothers white vinyl go go boots to wear with my mini skirt. Slacks were not yet allowed for girls in Junior High in 1971, but we got away with wearing skirts that revealed our entire set of legs. This was the first time of my life that I felt “cool”. I loved those boots and I wore them at every opportunity. So, my mother bought another pair for herself in black. In High School, I could no longer find boots to fit over my athletic legs. This was before Uggs became popular. That was the end of feeling cool and the start of my attraction to funky fashion. I am rarely in step these days with the latest trends. I know the best thing for me now would be to wear orthopedic support shoes. The Brooks athletic shoe has marvelous support, but don’t really look good when dressing up. The dilemma of choosing between fashion or comfort is really a matter of of choosing between the approval of people or using the wisdom that God gives us. Seeking the approval of others can be painful and result in unhealthy choices. What we eat, drink, or choose to wear may define who we are and how others relate to us, but the most important thing is to care for the body that God has given us as a temple for the Holy Spirit. It is probably time for me to purge some of the shoes in my closet. I am sure my daughters don’t need any more shoes or boots either. Handbags- we won’t even get started on that subject. Sometimes we think that we are going out of our comfort zone to be obedient to God, but in the end we will find it a better fit. I shall start today to gather a bag for the Goodwill. With winter coming, I am not ready to give them the boot. I pray for wisdom to make good choices and hope they won’t be so alarming.0CDC5F13-0F0F-4DF0-A317-894019ECEE7A

Tree of Life

Yesterday, we said good-bye to a tree. “Sounds silly”, you say? Well, this tree was a hundred years old, and carries with its years many memories and emotions. It was a Maiden Blush apple tree that I have known for forty years. When I moved in next door to Ada Warren, she brought over an apple pie that she made from the fruit of this tree. There is still a watercolor in her desk drawer that I did of the tree for her birthday. Her grandson is now my hubby. He made countless pints of apple sauce with his grandmother, and then did the same with his parents while they lived in this house. He has perfected the art of making apple pie which I admit is better than mine. All the neighbors have used the apples for their favorite recipes too. And we made sauce together this year without sugar. We take it to the ailing, assured of its medicinal power. Many bugs and birds have made a home in the tree, until it grew hollow and lost its original limbs. It was held up by a crutch these last few years and was very weary. Some of the good wood will be modeled into a keepsake while the bark and roots were sent over the bank to blend in with the ivy and the mulch. The front yard looks terribly empty now. Uncle Terry and Aunt Dori watched with us as we said, “Thank you”, to the tree for all its bounty and blessing. Then we feasted together on the penultimate pie from the tree’s last crop. The last one remains tucked in the freezer. Good-byes are so difficult when they represent the last time together to enjoy one another. People, pets, and even trees provide comfort and care that we desperately need. Good-bye leads to transitions and changes in the way we feel. Life can be very lonely when we lose something we cherish. Some things can be replaced, but not people. Each person is unique and valuable in some way. So, how do we manage after loss? Happy remembrance is the first step. Continuing in the footsteps of our loved ones who made a positive difference is another way. Connecting with someone who can help in the areas where we are weak may be a good idea. And here comes my favorite: lean into the Lord for spiritual strength.
There will be more sauce and pie from the two baby trees that were grafted from the grandma tree. Thank you to mama Cordell for thinking ahead. The tree does represent all the love our parents and grandparents poured into us. We hope for many opportunities to pass this love to the next generations. Our children are the apples of our eye, but there is enough love for anyone who needs some. Come over if you want a piece of the pie.

L is for the way you look at me…

Yesterday, I got out of bed later than usual after staying up late to see Tony Bennett in concert. He is ninety years old and he performed with panache for ninety minutes. He has lost his sostenuto when belting out the end notes, but the audience loved him and gave a standing ovation several times throughout the show. He told his story of love, heart ache and loneliness through musical poetry and standards that we all know. With his music still in my head, I performed my normal morning routine without keeping an eye on the clock. I suddenly remembered that I had a meeting at church, but was unsure what time it started. I sent a text to my friends and ran up the stairs to change. A text came back that I had to be there at 9:30. It was already 9:00, so I threw on the clothes that I wore the day before, and slapped on some lipstick and blush. I think I brushed my teeth, I don’t remember. Then I ran down the stairs to jump in my car and hustle off to church. It is usually a fifteen minute journey which includes parking and hiking to the entrance. Somehow, I made it with enough time to order a smoothie and get up the stairs to the Bible study before it started. This was a new record for me. I confess that I skipped taking a shower until later in the day. Hubby and I both like to take a morning shower everyday to feel fresh and energized. It felt a bit bizarre to skip it, but I am reminded of an article in a European magazine that talked about American’s obsession with washing their bodies and clothing. We wear something once, and put it through the washing machine, and the dryer beats the threads until the lint catcher is filled. Our body is soaped, rinsed, moisturized, and perfumed until its true scent is unrecognizable. Thanks to marketing and our mothers, we feel we must go through these machinations in order to be socially acceptable. We might repel others with our sweat stains and earthy odors, but we are always loved by God, who has washed us cleaner than snow through Jesus’s sacrifice for our sins. That is the most amazing act of redemption. Well, I did shampoo and shave this morning in hope of presenting myself in the best light possible. Even when we are not in the spotlight like Tony, we are to be a light that shines for others. I can’t imagine life at ninety. When I get there, I hope to remember the words to my favorite songs and to step in time with the music. Now, what time am I supposed to be where? Oh yes, “Leaving on a jet plane” to reunite with my hubby. IMG_0526