Early Morning Ramblings

image

Today I went for a long walk in the neighborhood. We have a lovely neighborhood with ever-increasing walking paths meandering around several ponds.

image

I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors. I don’t do this as often as I’d like because…Oklahoma summers. I’m a wimp when it comes to humidity + heat.
However, outdoors is where I’m at my best.

image

When I’m out alone, going for a ramble in nature, I do my best thinking. Here is where I best pray, meditate, readjust my attitude, and do any profound thinking of which I may be capable.

image

I always bring my camera/phone on these rambles. First of all, for safety! I’m clumsy, and live in fear of breaking my ankle while out walking alone.

image

image

I also bring my camera because I’ve discovered I am more attentive when I’m looking for a photo op. My eyes and ears are constantly searching for the beautiful, unusual, the peaceful, and lovely. Would I have even noticed the loon/heron(?) hidden in the above two photos if I hadn’t had my camera and been looking for a shot?

image

image

image

image

Or stopped to enjoy the ducks and geese?

image

image

I’ve always been a perfectionist, an overachiever: a bit stressed (okay, a lot stressed) by disorder, untidiness, halfhearted efforts, mistakes. I have that editor’s mind: I see all the imperfections on the page. This makes me a great organizer and an ideal proofreader, but it’s a defeating way to live life.

image

I’m working on letting go of the negative, on training myself to always be on the lookout for the lovely, the positive, the beautiful, the things that are worth thinking about.

image

Today, I’m choosing to believe that there’s always hope for new growth, to see with new eyes, to think new thoughts. I can decide that I am going to be the person who sees the beauty, the possibilities.

“Finally, brothers  [and sisters], whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Gracious Hospitality

I’m the world’s biggest pie snob, and I lay the blame at my Grandma Turner’s feet.

She made a chocolate meringue pie that is surely on Heaven’s menu. Her pie crust was flaky perfection. Her filling was creamy and luscious and every bite was like winning the dessert lottery. The meringue was a lovely work of art. In other words, the most perfect pie on earth. The unfortunate side effect of this is that where others rave at restaurant pies, I turn up my nose. People ooh and ahh over the latest bakery, and I sniff in disdain. This is what happens when you’re Euteva Turner’s granddaughter.

Grandma was a perfectionist at everything she did. She worked full time for a judge, had hobbies and a full social life, prepared delicious country meals every single day, sang in the church choir, and kept her house spotless–and I do mean spotless. The scent of Comet cleanser fills me with fond memories, since her house always smelled as though everything had just been scrubbed down with it. Comet, cooking meat, and chocolate pie: those are the scents of childhood at Grandma and Grandpa’s.

Grandma was gracious. She was a lady. She was reserved, practical, private, and even-keeled. She didn’t gush or talk about feelings or exhibit her emotions. She helped me when I wanted to learn to sew, but I was always timid to show her my attempts. Her work was so perfect, and mine…wasn’t. She tried to be encouraging, but it was apparent to me that I wasn’t destined to be seamstress extraordinaire.

Grandma wasn’t a story teller like Grandpa. She was never the life of the party.

She wasn’t the life of the party, and yet…their home was party central. When the relatives came, when the church committee needed a place to meet, when the new preacher came to town, when a granddaughter needed an emergency location for a 7th birthday party…Grandma always opened her door. She made hospitality look so easy. Everything was clean, everything was beautiful. The white lace tablecloth came out, the heavy white plates and serving dishes rested on the table, and the feast began. There was always food: snacks, or a full meal, or coffee and dessert. Grandma worked quietly in the background, serving everyone, taking care of everyone, making all feel welcome.

I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be just like Grandma. I’m not quiet, or reserved, or particularly even keeled. I can be pretty emotional (ask my husband and kids!). I’m not like Grandma, but I value what she valued. Family is important, home is important, faith is important, community is important. I want to make people feel welcome and valuable. I want to bring out the white tablecloth and the white plates and I want to open the doors. Her gift for hospitality was something beautiful. I’m all grown up now, and I see the cost of hospitality. It is not as easy as she made it seem; in real life, it’s an awful lot like hard work.

It’s true that Grandma was never the life of the party.

She was the heart.

Crochet with Kim

image

I’ve been working on this large all-white afghan off and on for about three years, and I finally completed it last night! Whew! I discovered that working a large project in monochrome can get tedious, but I love the finished product.

image

I used Lion Brand Pound of Love yarn in white. You can find the pattern at http://lionbrand.com. You will have to register to the site, then search for Hooded Baby Afghan. I increased the size, used 2 of the huge balls of yarn, and did not make the hood.
Here’s a close up:

image

And another:

image

My Grandma Fossey was skilled at crochet, but since I didn’t learn till after I married and left home, she didn’t teach me. Instead, I taught myself using a “Teach Yourself to Crochet” book. These days, there are also many free tutorials on line. I find crocheting to be extremely relaxing, and studies have shown that repetitive skills such as yarn arts can reduce anxiety. I highly encourage you to give it a try!

I’d like to share my favorite crochet blog, http://attic24.typepad.com
At this site you’ll find inspiration in a chatty, cheerful voice with inspiring color combinations and–a bonus–lovely photos of the English countryside.

Sacred Lumber Yard

There aren’t enough words in the English language for me to describe my Grandpa Turner. He was always larger than life to me.

He was a farm boy who believed in hard work, integrity, excellence, and treating others right. He grew up in western Oklahoma, but roamed around through different small towns in Oklahoma and Texas for several years. He farmed, ran a gas station and grocery store, and built beautiful cabinets. He served in World War II in a map making unit. To the best of my understanding, they went in advance of the troops to see what was there and map it out. I don’t know much about that, though. Grandpa was a master story-teller, but he didn’t talk about the War. He never watched another war movie once he came home; he said he’d had enough of that. Eventually he turned all his efforts to building and opened his company, Turner Construction. He and Grandma, Daddy and the two girls followed a building boom and landed in Moab, Utah, the home of all my childhood memories.

It seems that so many of my memories are tied to Grandpa. Daddy worked for him for several years, and I remember trips to the lumber yard with them, occasional trips to a building site and riding in Grandpa’s Ford pick up truck. Sometimes as we were going on an errand with Daddy, he’d notice Grandpa’s truck there at the Golden Stake Restaurant. “Look girls! Let’s go have a coffee break with Grandpa.” These times were some of the brightest highlights of our childhood. Grandpa generally sat at the counter having coffee with the regulars, so he almost always saw us the second we came in. I’ll never forget how he beamed when he saw us! He always, ALWAYS, said to his fellow counter-mates, “These are my granddaughters! Have you met my granddaughters?” Then he proceeded to treat us to a cinnamon roll as big as our hand and a mug of hot chocolate piled high with extra whipped cream.  Food is the language of love, they say, but it was more than that. The look on his face when we walked through that door is forever etched in my being.

Once, after my sister sang a solo at church, Grandpa STOOD UP and bellowed, “THAT’S MY GRANDDAUGHTER!” Oh, how everyone laughed. No one ever doubted how he felt about us.

Grandpa worked hard, long days. He was lean and lanky and burned dark, dark brown from the desert sun. He could never seem to get enough to eat. Grandma prepared big meals every night, but she no more than got the kitchen cleaned up and Grandpa would be rumbling about in the kitchen, looking for “a little snack”. When my sister and I were there, we were delighted with the “little snacks” he would prepare and share with us. Crackers and cheese–always crackers and cheese–and ridiculously thick slices of ring bologna. Our favorite of all was when he made milk shakes for the three of us: milk, ice cream and Hershey’s syrup poured into a tall glass and stirred with a long teaspoon. Ahhh.

He often needed to run to the gas station when we were at his house, and he always invited us along. Momma would take us aside with strict instructions not to ask for anything! Of course, we didn’t need to ask; he never forgot to offer! We always came home with candy and gum. He loved to give us treats. When we went to family reunion, we always knew there would be an evening when we’d go into town and he’d treat us to rides on go karts, the waterslide, our choice of souveniers; whatever our hearts desired.

Grandpa seemed to gather friends effortlessly: from the community, from the little church he helped to build, extended family. Grandma and Grandpa often hosted gatherings, and Grandpa always seemed to be surrounded by a knot of men. They played cards and dominoes and he told stories. Strangely, I don’t recollect many of the actual stories he told, but I remember the laughter! Oh, how he would laugh.

His one claim to fame was that he built several movie sets when different films were made in Moab. When working on the set of The Comancheros, he had breakfast with John Wayne one morning. That was one story he loved to tell.

The last time I saw Grandpa was after I was married and Joe was stationed at Eglin AFB, Florida. We drove out to Oklahoma, where the family had all moved. We knew then that the cancer was going to win. The lifelong cigarette smoking stole many years from him–many years from us. After our visit, as we hugged and said goodbye, Grandpa pressed some folded bills into Joe’s hand. “Gas money”, he said, and he would not be denied. Once we got in the car, we realized he’d given us $100.00. How appropriate that my final memory of Grandpa is of him giving and taking care of me.

Grandpa wasn’t famous. He never wrote a book or held public office. He didn’t leave an estate or really much of anything.

But the lumber yard is sacred to me now. The sight of a flat, wide, red carpenter’s pencil or the scent of fresh sawdust brings tears to my eyes. I’ve been known to find the raw lumber, close my eyes and inhale deeply. To me, it smells like love.

My Grandpa left us twenty-five years ago. TWENTY-FIVE years, and I still miss him every day.

That’s what I call a legacy.

Rhubarb Nectarine Crisp

My sweet daughter-in-law Michelle brought some fresh rhubarb to me the other day, and I decided to experiment. I gathered together everything that looked tasty, consulted a few recipes and mixed, mingled and improvised.

image

    

First, I chopped up my rhubarb and some nice ripe nectarines.

image

I zested my lemon and added the zest and juice from lemon to chopped fruit. Word to the wise: if a lemon seed escapes into your fruit, it’s pretty crunchy and bitter. Perhaps not the effect you want.
Anyhow, mix in the lemon and juice and sprinkle a bit of salt on your fruit mixture. I had some crystalized ginger in the cupboard, so I thought, “Why not?” I chopped up a bit and tossed it in. At this point, it looked like this.

image

I buttered a 7×11″ Pyrex dish and poured my filling into it. Then I made my crisp topping in a bowl.

image

Mix together flour, sugar and oats and cut in the butter. Sprinkle your topping on the fruit and pop it into a 375° oven for about 50 minutes, or until very bubbly. Remove from oven. Let sit for about 10 minutes to give the juices time to thicken a bit. Now, for the fun part…

image

Mmmm. I skimped on the sugar because I prefer fruit desserts to have a tart zestiness to them. I like my taste buds to sit up and take notice! Serve with high quality vanilla ice cream and a nice fresh-brewed cup of tea, and you have a lovely, memorable dessert experience.
This dessert   is Joe approved. He says it’s a new favorite. I like happy husbands.

Rhubarb Nectarine Crisp

Preheat oven to 375°
Buttered 7×9 or  8×8 pan

Mix together:
2 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
5 small nectarines, chopped
1 lemon zested and juiced
Pinch of salt
1 T crystalized ginger, chopped

Place in prepared pan.

In separate bowl, mix together:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
Cut in 1/2 cup butter

Sprinkle topping onto fruit filling.
Bake 50 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit 10 minutes. Enjoy!

LIKE VIOLETS IN SNOW

My Grandma Fossey was the most joyful person I’ve ever known.

She was always merry, kind, and generous. I don’t recall ever hearing her say an unkind word about anyone; she was the Queen of thinking the best of everyone. It seemed she always had a word of encouragement appropriate to the situation at hand, confident that things would turn out for the best. Her strong faith in God and His goodness never seemed to waver.

It didn’t occur to me as a child that this was particularly astonishing, but as I grew into adulthood and faced challenges of my own, I found that my own default mode in times of real difficulty was worry, anxiety, fear and depression. I gradually realized that Grandma was in a class of her own, especially considering the fact that her life challenges were significant by anyone’s standards.

Grandma lost her own mother at birth, and her father gave her to an aunt to raise. There she grew on the farm, rarely seeing her father. Later, Grandma married a man who was unhappy, angry and abusive. When an accident rendered him unable to help provide for the family, she worked even harder. She cleaned houses and businesses and washed laundry and did odd jobs to put food on the table for five children. They were poor–very poor–and lived in the tiniest little trailer. Those kids were raised on beans and grace and hand-me-downs. Poor they were, but Grandma still gave generously of what she had: apricots from the tree, flowers from the garden, homemade rolls. I love the story of the year the church was gathering donations for baskets for the needy at the holidays. Grandma insisted on contributing, only to discover they were collecting food for her family!

Grandma loved pink and purple, high-heeled shoes and FLOWERS! She always planted wherever they lived, in their tiny trailer parks. When I first started keeping house plants as a teen, to Grandma I went for guidance on how to care for African Violets. Grandma loved flowers of all kinds, but I particularly remember purple irises, purple and pink petunias overflowing baskets, roses and violets: African violets, pansies, tri-color violas. I always plant violets everywhere we go; their purple jauntiness makes me think of her.

Once, after a particularly hard winter in Alaska, I came out my door and noticed a bunch of cheerful violas peeking through the snow. Immediately, I thought of Grandma. How like her! Cheerfully, tenaciously battling through the cold, pushing to the sun and blooming, encouraging me after a dark winter.

Oh, how I long to be this person! To always see the good, no matter how ugly things may appear. To have stalwart faith when life seems so broken. To push through the cold, the hard, the bitter and bloom and encourage those who pass by.

Like violets in the snow.

Like my Grandma Fossey.