Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Words of my Mouth

Psalm 19-14

Photo copyright 2013 Maxim M. Muir

This morning I read something that broke my heart, made me angry, annoyed me, frustrated me, made me sad … pick a negative emotion. My initial response was to copy the text of what I read in order to email it to a friend so that she would affirm my negative emotion surrounding it.

I stopped myself. It wasn’t (isn’t) necessary to involve anyone else in the ugly things that happen in my head and it wouldn’t take that long to get rid of them anyway, I have a million other things that pass through my brain during the day and today looks as if it will be a busy one.

The thing is, I then read this little passage in my Facebook News Feed – another friend had posted it. I realized it was important for me to pay attention to these words, not those I had read earlier.

Every single Sunday morning, my father used this short prayer from Psalm 19 before he preached his sermon. He would say, “Let the words of my mouth …” the congregation would respond with “and the meditation of my heart …” and together we would finish the verse “be acceptable in they sight, O Lord, my rock and redeemer.”

After a while, it became rote for me, as things do when you repeat them weekly for years and years. But I found that when I was no longer in Dad’s churches, I missed those words. I missed the simple meaning and lesson they offered.

When I initially read the words that annoyed me this morning, I knew I wouldn’t react publicly to them. That’s not what I do. People can say the things they need to say without me reacting to them. No, what I was going to do was much worse. I was going to turn that minor annoyance into a conversation with yet another person – simply to get affirmation that I was right, these words were rotten and the person who wrote them had to be just as rotten.

I can’t cause anyone else’s words and thoughts to be filled with grace and I will probably always be annoyed, angry, sad, upset (pick a negative emotion) when I read or hear nasty things. I can, however, continue to learn to make my words and thoughts acceptable, whether they are public or private – out there for everyone to read or her, or even spoken among a few friends. I am over fifty years old and it continues to be a struggle, when my initial reaction is so far from this, but at the same time I am over fifty years old and know that I can still learn.

Pecan Vanilla Pie

Vanilla Pecan PieI tried a new recipe this year and it rocked. Now, I have to admit to the fact that I’m not a food photographer. That is just my reality. And, we might have dug into the pie before we stopped to make it look gorgeous. However, I grew up knowing that when food wasn’t necessarily pretty, it probably tasted amazing. And this tasted amazing.

I’m barely a fan of pecan pie, but add a little cheesecake to it and I will eat nearly anything.  Max isn’t a fan of cheesecake, but add pecan pie to it and he will eat nearly anything. Carol loves them both, she was in love.

I was impressed with how simple this recipe was. A very simple cheesecake, some pecans and an easy pecan pie mixture and I was done. I couldn’t believe it.

Here you go!

1 Pie Crust (refrigerator, frozen, homemade … make yourself happy)

1 – 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese – softened
1 egg
1/4 C. sugar
2 t. vanilla extract

2 C. pecan pieces

2 eggs
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. corn syrup (light or dark – I used dark – yummy)
3 T. butter – melted
1/4 t. salt
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get your pie crust ready to go in a pan.

Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, 1/4 C. sugar and 2 t. vanilla until smooth. Spread evenly on bottom of crust. Bake 15 minutes.

Beat 2 eggs, 1/2 C. sugar until smooth. Add corn syrup, butter, 2 t. vanilla, salt. Stir until blended.

Sprinkle pecan pieces evenly over baked cream cheese layer. Slowly pour corn syrup mixture over nuts.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until just set in center.

Cool completely on wire rack.

Happy Thanksgiving

StarWarsThanksgiving

We’re watching a little football, smelling some turkey in the oven, doing laundry, looking at Christmas gifts to be given away this year, talking about all sorts of things and being as relaxed a s can possibly happen. There’s gravy to be made, beans and potatoes to be warmed up when the time is right and desserts defrosting (from living in the outdoor freezer – my Jeep). It’s a day to give thanks, a day to stop and walk away from the busyness of our daily lives and simply be.

I read something this morning about our need to create the perfect Thanksgiving and how we are so easily disappointed when we don’t create perfect memories or perfect turkeys or perfect desserts.

Over the years, I’ve dealt with my share of the need for perfect meals and I’ve found the some of the most amazing memories are those when the need for memories and perfection were the last thing we thought about.

There was a year that Max and I were driving to Ohio on Thanksgiving day. We ended up in Davenport at a Bishop’s Buffet, praying and hoping they were open. They were and we had a wonderful meal before continuing our drive to be with his family. They’d scheduled Thanksgiving on Friday so everyone could be together, but a short stop in Davenport was a memory.

The year that my cousin Jane was in the hospital here in Omaha, living her last month was a memory. Though it should have been painful, that day was a joy. Jane’s husband, our Aunt Dorie and I spent the day with her, but she insisted we take off and look for a good meal. We ended up at a steak place and the three of us laughed and reminisced and relaxed.

The Thanksgiving after my mother died; Dad, Carol and I went out to my brother’s apartment in Denver. Janet and I cooked the meal, Jim and Dad cleaned up and Carol managed to sleep during both the cooking and the cleanup. We laughed and laughed, just glad to be together.

This year may not stick in my mind as a profound memory, nothing is terribly exciting, but that is almost perfect. Trying to create memories is exhausting. Having them occur because they just do is pretty wonderful.

So, Happy Thanksgiving to you. May the day be whatever it is and may you find gratitude in it, no matter what it brings.

Holiday Travel … or a trip through Iowa with a cat.

TB - Thanksgiving 2011

TB – Thanksgiving 2011

You know, you can look at holidays as either the best time or the worst time ever. I’m flat out pooped and I haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving yet. I spent all day yesterday baking and cooking and writing as many words as I could get out of me, then packing and cleaning and doing and oh … then there was some more writing and plot working. But, as exhausted as I get around the holidays and as many things as can and often do go wrong, I can’t imagine looking at them as bad experiences. I have tales of woe and stories that are so terrible they’ll make you laugh out loud, but for the most part, every day is an opportunity to have some fun, holidays are no different.

January 2012

January 2012

I dropped into bed about one o’clock and knew it was going to be a while before my body and my brain relaxed enough for me to fall asleep. That was just fine because I’m in the middle of a good book.  TB was pooped out as well because with me up and running around during the day, he can’t settle in and sleep. Rather than bratty cat last night, I had exhausted cat, who wanted nothing more than to curl up beside my legs in the bed once I finally landed.

January 2012

January 2012

We woke up late this morning, as I am wont to do when I stay up late reading and writing. The next trick for me was to get TB into the car so we could head out. He HATES riding in the car and I have had to get really sneaky about gathering him up. I packed everything yesterday so that he didn’t see all of that happen this morning and panic. As soon as he sees me head for the door with my laundry basket or my purse, he darts in and under a set of bunkbeds in the next room where I couldn’t get to him if I tried.

January 2012

January 2012

I continually attempt to be smarter than the cat and only achieve success with a great deal of processing. However, packing the car the day before I leave is a good start. He knew something was up, but just what it was, he couldn’t say. I finally saw that he was relaxed on the table in front of the big window, enjoying the view. More than likely, he was desperately wishing to be out chasing mice or ground squirrels, birds or butterflies. I saw my opportunity, grabbed my purse, ran to the front window, tucked him in my arm and slipped my shoes on. I was out the door before he realized what had happened to him and then it hit him.

January 2012

January 2012

Every part of him tried to put on the brakes. He was desperately attempting to get out of my arms. I wasn’t letting go. If there had been a door sill and his four paws could have reached the edges, he would have had all of them on full lockdown. “No, don’t make me do this! I’ll die in that car!”

He never has … obviously. In fact, when he was very young, he even enjoyed riding in the car with me. But as he got older, the strange sounds and the world flying past him became too much and he grew to hate it. We have finally discovered that as long as I am touching him or stroking his back or neck or head, he is fine. This work out well until he’s had too much touching or stroking and gets up to move to another part of the Jeep. The meowing becomes incredibly pathetic and grows louder and louder. I stopped at a drive-thru for something to drink and I knew they had to be giggling inside as he meowed my order to the speaker.

August 2012 - clutching my shoulder as we drive.

August 2012 – clutching my shoulder as we drive.

I wasn’t in a hurry today and chose to take Highway 30 west. It’s been a while since I’ve done that. I usually hit the interstate and go as fast as possible, but it was time for an adventure. Have I told you lately how much I love Iowa?

I was the nut out there today waving at the smiley faces painted on round hay bales, slowing down so I could look at the barn whose windows took the form of eyes and a nose. The deteriorated boards just below them formed a smile. It was awesome. I gawked and gawked at the wonder of small towns and the beauty of the architecture that is lost on us when we hurtle our way across the interstates.

My mind was ablaze with ideas for Bellingwood as I drove through these small communities. It’s a good thing I really don’t have access to a Henry in my life, he’d never be able to take a breath. There are so many possibilities for repurposing old buildings, renovating and rebuilding in these little towns. Amazing things have happened in the past inside all of those walls and they can be re-built again so amazing things can continue to happen well into the future. There is so much potential! Since I don’t have the money or the ‘Henry’ to make it happen in reality, I will just keep making it happen in Bellingwood.

A friend of mine works with the Main Street Iowa program. I have seen these signs crop up in communities across the state for years and I’m thrilled when I do, knowing that people are taking their community back and restoring it for the future. Iowa is a thriving, growing, exciting state.

Not only does agriculture define its work ethic, but it sees an incredible growth in manufacturing. There are more than 6100 manufacturing firms operating in the state – many of which are small businesses. These people are doing things and making things that can change the world.

A drive like I took today reminded me why I love Iowa and why I think that rural America is an amazing place to live.

Now, I will admit to making a couple of stupid turns and ending up in even MORE small towns than I intended to visit. My map of Iowa was in the pocket on the passenger door. I wasn’t lost. I knew where I was … kind of. But, I knew where I’d end up and how to get where I was going. I just hadn’t planned on being on that much hilly highway today.

This evening I’m where I need to be. I’m tired … it’s been a busy couple of days that will get me to tomorrow’s thanksgiving celebration, but it feels good.

And even though it’s difficult for me to write when there are a ton of people around (okay, even one person is a ton of people when I’m trying to focus), I have so many ideas from that drive today I can hardly wait to get started with them!

The Characters in Bellingwood

The last few days have been difficult writing days. I’m still trying to anchor the details of a character, getting his back story put together so that it all makes sense as I write. This process tends to occupy a lot of my time and my mind has difficulty thinking creatively about anything else. Fortunately, most of my life is pretty simple and I am not required to do much other than think and process. I find myself watching inane television shows to relax the neurons and then I’m disgusted because I feel like I’ve wasted precious time. I don’t give myself much of a break and you can certainly blame my father for that, if you’d like. I am. And he doesn’t much care.

For the most part, my standard characters write themselves. They tell me over and over again what makes them happy and what makes them grumpy. Beryl is sassy and mouthy and generally has no filter. Andy is stable and solid, but has a desire to be more than that, so she’s willing to go and do. Lydia is the mother of the group, anchoring it with love that just can’t help itself. She has to share it. Sylvie is finding herself amid the craziness of her life. For so many years, she defined herself as a mother, but she figured out that her boys need to see she is a person. And it’s safe for her to release them a little since she has found such a great friend in Polly.

Eliseo Aquila has dealt with terrible pain and disfigurement, but rather than allow it to turn him in on himself and make him bitter, he chose to step beyond that. I believe this is something we pay little attention to in those who have overcome great trouble. We accept it, but don’t recognize the strength it took for them to get to this point. We pay a lot of attention to those whose needs continue to be big and forget those who have accomplished a lot with very little because they step back away from the limelight in order to allow others to have the help they need.

Aaron Merritt, Lydia’s husband and the local Sheriff, hasn’t yet told his story. He is a fair man, whose primary focus is to keep the people in his care – safe. He has a strong sense of honor and the best part of him is found in his relationship with Lydia. They give each other strength, never using up the other. Somehow they have figured out how to make their strength grow exponentially because of the way they rely on each other.

Henry Sturtz is an amalgam of men I’ve known. They can do nearly anything and create beauty from nothing with their hands. He is an artist, but he’d never call himself that because he is a craftsman. He isn’t afraid of work, it is what has defined his family for a lifetime. He loves easily, but until he met Polly Giller, was unwilling to express it. He doesn’t mind that they do things differently than the world’s definition of a relationship.

Jeff Lyndsay is another man whose story has yet to be told. He loves life. He gave up a chance at operating a large hotel in an immense market to come work for Polly because he saw great potential in what she was doing at Sycamore House. He and Polly have managed to find out that they trust each other implicitly, even when they approach things differently.

Jason and Andrew Donovan’s stories really are just beginning. One day we’ll come to understand more of why Jason feels the need to protect his little brother and his mother. It’s always interesting to see how the things that happen to us as children impact our behavior as we grow up. Andrew can explore the world as much as he likes because he has been given a safe home and encouragement from both his mother and his older brother.

Polly Giller? She’s just like all of us. There are so many sides to her that I lose count. She loves, she gets angry, she cries, she flies off the handle, she is passionate. Polly can be petty and snide, she can cut someone down with a few words and she can build others up when they need to be supported. She is still young enough that she is finding her way through life. Just about the time she declares something to be real, she discovers that she has to change her mind.

She loved her father with everything she had and when he let her freedom be as important to him as it was to her, she didn’t realize what a gift he’d given her. She’s always been comfortable making girlfriends, but has never trusted a man to be in her life for very long … until she met Henry, who is much like her father, though she hasn’t admitted that to herself yet.

These characters take shape every day in the connection between my fingers and the keyboard and I love them. I get angry when people mess with them and I find great joy in relating their ups and downs as I write things out.

I am still learning things about each of the characters, but after a year, I’m finally getting to know them pretty well. I once told Mom that it took me a little over a year to really get to know a new community and move past the initial give and take of relationships. I’ve given Bellingwood a year to anchor itself in my psyche and I can hardly wait to see what happens from this point forward.

Getting Away with Nothing

One of my favorite characters in the Bellingwood series (I have a lot of favorites … so, sorry about that) is Lydia Merritt. She is a force to be reckoned with. Not much frightens her and she’s willing to step in and tell people when they are being stupid. She frustrates Polly … and probably did so to her own kids as well. When Polly wants to feel sorry for herself, Lydia simply won’t let her.

That part of Lydia’s character comes directly from my mother. Now, Mom was never as outgoing with people in town as Lydia is and Mom was never as happy as Lydia to be around babies and other people’s children, but she didn’t put up with much in the way of pity parties.

Morning happiness

Morning happiness

You all know that I’m a night person. I have been that way my entire life. Mornings stink. They always have. Mom wasn’t much better, but she was certainly not going to let me get away with being a sourpuss in the mornings. I remember coming downstairs, bleary-eyed and barely functioning. This was back in the day before kids drank coffee or caffeinated soda to get them moving. I could drink orange juice or milk or water. None of which was going to help.

Mom would ask what was bothering me and I might be able to grunt out a ‘nothing,’ but we weren’t going much further than that if I could help it. Well … I didn’t get the opportunity to be that grumpy in the morning. I was told – many, many times – that if I had a reason to be upset I could let it show on my face so she could help me get it fixed, but if I had no reason to be upset, it was my responsibility to tell my face that everything was okay. I received that lecture a couple of times and then she’d had it and got all “Mom” on me and I had to fix things. My outer facade is much more pleasant in the mornings now, even when all I want to do is crawl back into bed. Even if it hurts my face to turn up the lips into a smile, I know how it works now.

May 1963 - Carol's picking on me!!

May 1963 – Carol’s picking on me!!

One of the other things Mom refused to tolerate was blaming others for our own problems. Oh my goodness, she wouldn’t have that. Ever. We took responsibility immediately or life was worse for us later. One of her favorite things to say to me when I was complaining about the awful treatment I might be having from the world was “If everyone is telling you the same thing, it should occur to you that you might be the person who is wrong. Pay attention, Diane.”

Well, that’s not what I wanted to hear from her. I wanted her to tell me that I was always right and that she would support me no matter what.

The truth is, she did support me, no matter what. She was my biggest support and always stood by me … when it was the right thing to do. Otherwise, she forced me to evaluate my own behavior and face the truth of it.

These lessons weren’t all that difficult to teach or to learn because of their consistency. She never wavered in her insistence that I take responsibility for myself, from the moment I woke up in the morning, to the way I interacted with people all day long. I could certainly choose to do things my own way, or I could figure it out, learn from what she had to teach me and live in a bit more peace with myself, with her … and with the world.

Cat in the Snow

I tried to come up with something terribly profound to write today, but as my day has proceeded, I’ve discovered that deep and thoughtful words are escaping me. It might have something to do with the fact the my cat has been cooped up in this small space with me for the last few days because of inclement weather.

Notice I didn’t say that I had been cooped up. I don’t mind spending time in the quiet, away from the world, but TB? I get a little bit of loving and then he is rabid to get outside and see what’s happening in the world. He hates not knowing what is going on. Curiosity killed the cat? Well, I hope not, but let me tell you, it certainly keeps him moving during the day. Early in the morning – as soon as there is enough light to see, he is standing on his cat tree in front of the window, pawing at the glass. I don’t know what he thinks is going to happen. The glass has resisted his pawing for quite a long time and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

He’ll paw at the front window when I’m up and moving, hoping to remind me that he prefers having access to the outside.

TB - WarmEvery once in a while, he’ll curl up on his blanket on the stool beside my desk and turn into cute cat, all fuzzy and happy with the warmth my space heater affords him. Those are the moments I treasure and love. They don’t happen often enough unless he’s had plenty of activity outside to wear his little butt out.

I have been dreading the winter weather. I know he needs a lot of activity, but it nearly kills me to let him be outside. I’ll open the main door to the screened in porch sometimes, but that’s not enough. However, I’m enough of an overprotective cat mama, that I will choose to suffer his beatings rather than let him go out.

Kitty PrintsThere was finally enough sun today for me to relent. I walked outside with him and he tentatively put his paws into the snow. He wasn’t a fan, but I’m sure he’ll get over that as the winter progresses. He jumped to the first snow-free space and I left the doors open. He’s got a pretty good sense of self-protection and will come in when he’s cold. As I put ingredients in the bread machine, I looked up and saw that the snow on my windshield had been completely cat-messed-up. AWESOME. The true sign of a cat owner. It’s a bit of a point of pride for me, I have to tell you.

Cat under JeepI grabbed my camera and went outside, to find him sitting on the concrete in front of the door. He was just enjoying the potential of the day, not necessarily the reality of it. Close enough to get inside if necessary, but still … outside. He was glad to see me and followed me while I snapped a picture, then followed me back inside. Another run for the outside and I quietly followed, hoping to snap more pictures. Well, he’s got ears like a … well, like a cat and all I could do was catch one of him under the Jeep (notice there is no snow there – happy cat) before he followed me back in again.

He’s out now and the sun is thinking about going down in the west. I’ll chase him down one more time and close the front screen door so I can quit worrying about how cold he’s going to be. The crazy cat loves being out there, no matter what. He has been building his undercoat so that he’s more protected than I am against the cold. I have to remember that he’s a cat, not a human and let him be himself. The problem is, I can’t help but be myself.

Oh look, he just came in for some kibble. Little does he know that signifies a quick trip for me to shut the screen door. He can play on the front porch for a while before it gets cold again. And then, I’ll suffer the bratty cat and bring out the laser pointer.

You know what? Life is pretty good with a cat in the house.

#TBT – I’m Cold

Morning Sun Snow Winter 1966-67A lot of my childhood memories revolve around snow and being outside in it. I suppose that much as I prefer TB (my cat) getting some time outside to get rid of his excess energy, Mom thought that sending us out, no matter the temperature was safer for all involved than having us fighting with each other in the living room. For some reason, my memory tells me that we got a lot of snow every winter. It always seemed that there was plenty for us to play in and play with.

1965 March 2The thing is, Mom loved playing in the snow too. I have a lot of memories of her spending time building things in the snow for us. Her snow sculptures generally garnered attention and brought the children to our house, but we were the ones who got to stay and play when everyone else had to go home in the evening.

We had snow horses and snow forts – albeit a little small by today’s standards. There were no tools, just a couple of kids who would bring snow as close as we could so Mom could construct whatever it was she was building.

Diane & Carol Winter 1970 Morning SunWe built snow houses … Carol and Jim and I would scoop and stomp out spaces for rooms and hallways in the front yard and then play as if we lived there. Mom had to call us over and over to get us to come back inside.

Dad never had pristine yards when there were three kids who played in them. The neighbor’s would all have pretty white snow, and Dad would walk home from church to discover that his yard was filled with paths and grass and dirt where we might have dug down too far. He didn’t complain. At least he got home to a pleasant wife who wasn’t ready to strangle the three beasts who lived in her home.

Snow FortThe temperatures are dropping and I began thinking of all the different times we spent playing in the snow. Dad took the snowblower out to our local lake – Yenrougis (Sigourney spelled backwards), and after assuring himself that the ice was plenty thick, would clear a space for us to ice skate. He’d do the same thing for the youth group and as often as possible, we headed out for sledding and skating parties.

Winter has always been a time of play and fun in my memory. I’m getting old enough to not quite appreciate the snow and cold temperatures as much as I used to, but my memories still retain the joy of fresh snow on the ground and the possibilities that could come from a full yard of it.

I do prefer seeing its beauty from inside the house now and snuggling with a warm cat while I remember the fun of being a child on a snowy day.

Things Mom Never Taught Me

1960 - I wasn't quite a year old.

1960 – I wasn’t quite a year old.

I found a post from February of 2010 with that title and it made me chuckle. There were a lot of things that my mother didn’t spend any time teaching me. She didn’t teach me about glamour and pretty stuff. It wasn’t important to her. She didn’t teach me about fancy clothes or popular music or movies. We didn’t go to parties, I never learned about painting my nails or pedicures or how to wear makeup. I didn’t have all the new toys (Max gave me my first Easy-Bake oven in my forties) or games.

Honestly, there were a lot of things, that if I spent too much time thinking about it, Mom never taught me. She’d had a privileged … and a rough childhood and there were things that seemed so common place to her, but it never occurred to her to transfer them to her children.

Mom grew up in Boston. She went to exclusive schools and spent time with very wealthy girls from well-known families. The woman who taught her how to drive a car was her father’s mistress. She was invited to the Debutante Ball at the Tuilleries in Southern France, but decided she had better things to do. Her parents lived in the carriage house on the estate of the Treasurer of Harvard. None of these things were important to her and none of them made sense in the life of a preacher’s wife in Iowa.

Spring 1971 - oy vey

Spring 1971 – oy vey

The first time she took me to see a stylist, the effect was horrendous. I was frightened of them for years after that experience. Both Carol and I wanted to cry. The woman had pressured mom to let her cut and style our hair. Mom knew better, but she succumbed to the pressure of a church member who offered nicely. How could she say no?  I still think about that day and cringe.

But you know what she taught me about hair and stylists? There was another day at Bell’s Dell. Some of Dad’s family was visiting us and my Aunt Mary offered to cut my hair. Oh, it was worse than this picture. For a girl with curly hair, putting a bowl over your head and cutting off length makes no sense, but that’s what happened. I went inside to look at my hair and promptly burst into tears. Mom came inside with me and sat my butt down in the chair. Rather than taking pity on me, she had a rather stern discussion with me about the fact that my hair would grow out, but if I let my Aunt Mary see my disappointment, her feelings would never be “un-hurt.” I paid attention to that lesson.

Mom on sofa Sigourney old house 2 dogsMom may not have taught me about a lot of ‘things,’ but she taught me a lot about life. I learned to love to read and to write.

Mom taught me that many times the popular kids were uninteresting and that if I spent time getting to know those who were different, I’d have a lot more fun and they’d be more loyal and trustworthy over time.

I learned that I was a person of worth because of the way Mom loved me. When I was little and dealt with nasty girls at school, she spent every evening reminding me that I was unique and special. I didn’t need to take my cues from them, I needed to be who I was.

Mom loved scripture. Her passion for the Bible lives in me. She found Jesus and was His for the rest of her life. But, she balanced her passion for Jesus with a passion for people. Doctrine and rules were never more important than His love for others and the relationship that could be had.

New Kitchen Morning Sun 1970Mom was never bored. She was never boring. After she died, Dad and I talked one day after he’d finally gotten up the courage to ask her surgeon out on a date. He came home from that evening and told me that he’d used up all of his energy in his first marriage. Mom wore him out. Those two would argue about nearly anything – and did regularly. He was not going to do that again.

There was always something going on in Mom’s mind. She hated busy work, housework and meetings. If it stopped her from being creative, it was unimportant. Life is too short to be spent on the mundane. Let me tell you, we were masters of 30-minute, full-house cleaning. Dad learned to give her that much notice before bringing someone home for dinner. In a half hour, the house was clean and a meal was ready to set on the table. She was amazing.

Mom taught me to be real. She taught me to laugh and to feel confident enough in myself to tell stories on myself so that others could laugh along with me. She taught me to have respect for people and to expect that same respect in return.

She was always learning. When she married Dad she couldn’t cook or sew. She didn’t know how to clean a house or take care of a baby. Fortunately, their first church was within a few miles of his sisters, who took Mom under their wings and taught her all of the essentials in life. She became an amazing cook, sewed most of mine and Carol’s clothes while we were growing up (including dresses for my high school dances) and when there was no money for Christmas gifts, she made glorious things by hand for us.

There were things I never learned from her and had to discover on my own, but those are inconsequential beside the things that she taught me.