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Walnuts

When I was a very young women and at that point  of my life,  I lived with my  Grandmother on my Mom’s side  who we  referred to as Mammaw.    She lived in a big old white  Victorian home with a porch and a wonderful swing that you could sit and swing while sipping your fresh lemonade.

I remember that during the summer when the windows were open, a breeze which carried a blend of honey and grass to my nose  would awake me in the morning.  In the evening, the moist smell of the air was thicker and had almost a woody hint to it along with the sounds of crickets whose rhythm would put you to sleep.    Morning was the sound of birds chirping and singing.  I always wondered   what they were saying to one another or were they talking to me? There were chores for each day so no guessing, if it was Monday, you would do the laundry, Wednesday then you would dust, and Thursday, you would mop.  The other days were optional to other things that needed daily care.   Bringing the sheets in from the line and folding was one of my favorite chores as the smell of freshness stayed in the cotton fabric and would refresh me.

Dinner was something we would think about early because it needed to be prepared.  Unlike today were life speeds along with prepared foods and machinery to adjust time to your liking, this was not the case. One  memory that I did not like at the time, but find myself going back to recall was the gathering of walnuts from Mammaw’s  yard.  The big Walnut tree would yield a great many and I would take the basket out to be filled when it was time.    That was not the end of the chore.  It was the beginning.

imagesH0J14JK5The Walnuts were rough and hard and I did not see the purpose of all of the effort to retrieve a small piece of something to eat.   Gathering the nuts sounds easy; however they have a green moss like cover to them that needs to be taken off before   cracking open the shell with a hammer on the step.   I then would pick out the source of the meat of this nut and place it into a pretty medium sized bowl that we designated our Walnut bowl.   Behind the shell is a black and very ugly protective coating before you get to the   nutmeat.  Once the job is done, the nuts would be placed into a large jar and used sparingly for fudge, walnut bread and other good eats of that time.

Very nostalgic thoughts they are. I suppose,   my thoughts seem to go to places that made sense.   At that time, most of life was simple and the parts that were complicated were unknown to me.    Well, that is not totally true because the process of life is not unlike the process of preparing the Walnuts to eat.   There are moss like, hard shells and dark protective coatings to our human psyche as well. Everything has a season, and although our seasons have become not as predictable as those decades ago, we still look forward to life.

I share these thoughts with you in hopes that you too will ponder a simpler time in your life when baseball, ice cream trucks and cardboard doll houses were vogue.  We did not get our cars detailed and nails done because it did not matter.   I wonder what will matter to our little ones in their future. A good friend once told me that “Everything will be all right”.  I now know these words to be true.

Happy New Year to you and yours in 2015.

Date Walnut Bread Recipe

datewalnutbread

In a bowl mix the chopped dates with the baking soda and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Pour 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over the dates, stir, and leave to cool to room temperature (this takes about 30 minutes).

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Then line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper.Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 – 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Let cool and then chop coarsely.

In your food processor place the flour, sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt and ground cinnamon. Process to combine and then add the butter. Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped walnuts. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg with the vanilla extract.  Then add the beaten egg mixture and the cooled dates (along with the water) to the flour mixture and stir just until combined. Place the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon.

Bake about 55 to 65 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and set, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out just clean. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan.

This bread will keep for several days at room temperature. It can also be frozen. Makes one – 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces (225 grams) dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups firmly packed coarsely chopped dates)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) boiling water
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) walnuts
  • 2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (105 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
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Happy Father’s Experience

          When a man becomes a father it is a profound experience.   I know that this is true for women too but it is more of a  physical one.   Men realize their mortality through this event.  It is suddenly a reality that they exist and the child is proof.   I truly believe it changes their brains in a good way.  BJWrites

So,   I have given you this hypothesis and I know that you think “What”?

But please indulge me for a moment.    I have watched men who became  fathers  and believe me, they are transformed.  Some will convert this reality into fear and responsibility that will overwhelm them.  But for the men that I have known that are worthy of mentioning today,   they’ve grown  a new sense of themselves , who they are and what purpose they will serve in life.   Dad’s become gentle in a way that doesn’t seem normal at first but then they start to enjoy themselves that way.  Also, they become silly as the child grows allowing them to go to the child within, you know the one we put away when we grow up and go into the world.

But there is another feature to Dad.   He now must take on certain responsibilities in the life of this child and or his children.    First,   he must fix things that are sometimes not fixable.  Second, he must learn from someone who is not yet experienced in life, but has a perspective all their own   and it is the Dad’s challenge to try and understand this as they grow.   But most importantly, I think it is huge for the Dad to guide his child through the uncharted waters of life.    It seems that this last one ties into the nature of animals of many types.

Well, those are my thoughts and I believe that it is an honor to be a Dad.  There isn’t really a definition in the dictionary that describes what a Dad is other than a male parent;    however, I think this one works,

Hero:  man who does or is admired for, a courageous or noble deed.  BJWrites

http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hero

 

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first haircut

First haircut

Lifted up and  then placed into the chair the eyes began to expose a fear of the unknown.   The little muscles in her legs tightened to brace for a certain sense that had never been experienced before.

Although there were  oohs and aahs coming from  Mom and the lady who had taken me to her space,  I wasn’t sure if this was where I wanted to go.

The lady, my Moms friend,  began by spraying something into my hair.  I think it was water.   Then she  told me to look up and as I did ,  I felt the hair falling into my lap.  What is she doing?  And why is my Mom letting her cut my hair?  Snip, snip, snip, snip,  then combing.

Wow,  is that me in the mirror ?  I look so different now!  Will  my sister recognize me?  Can I get down now?  Yes, I will take a lolly pop.  That was stressful.

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A cousin has died

I haven’t seen him for almost 16 or more years.    He was the one that was always doings things to get a reaction and not  good ones  at that.  It started as a child trying to get a mother’s attention and who knows why it carried on as long as it did but he would try so hard to please and when that would not work the he would resort to some behavior of shock.   This would also create havoc  because it would be the drama of the week that  the family depended upon for its regular dose of chaos.   Pretty dysfunctional indeed, but surviving this way eventually becomes normal.    At any rate, my cousin was very talented and  as he matured, he took his wife and went away to the wide open spaces where he could create,  and that he did.  He played musical instruments and wrote music among  other things that I am not aware but he was always involved in a project when I would see or hear about him.  My mother kept in touch with him and his wife.    She played the surrogate  mother for him as he depended on her understanding of why his family was so very mean to him and lacked understanding of who he was as a person.  I came to know that they lacked understanding of themselves and therefor it was not my cousin that was so odd in this cruel game of lets hate him because we can.    Relationships have a life of their own and create a form good or bad that we learn to live with.   Sometimes, that form of ourselves is a disabled version of what other people  have told us we are.  The ideal solution is to grow towards the truth of the matter and know thy self.  This way, there is no contradiction to the  alignment of the soul and  this is what will sustain us for years into our lives.    He died in his sleep.  I think it was his heart.  3.13.14   ∫

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Sisters

sisters 001sisters 001

 

       SISTERS,

It was a rare occasion without a theme other than enjoying the moment.  It was rare because we never really enjoyed each other socially.  It was because we were all so different in nature.  Peg is a personality and people love to be around her.  Debbie, is my oldest sister, and connects us to our family tree.    I  in the middle; achieving balance is my goal and sets me apart from the extreme tones that were set for us when we were young.  With bluegrass music, some liquor which warmed  and relaxed our stiff nature with each other, it was a sweet  moment in time.

sisters 001

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Forgiving Days Gone By

 

We humans have a funny way of collecting emotion.   Some will even place into compartments and mark to designate said emotion and store as if it will be needed to serve the proof of evidence at a later time.  A good example for me on this subject was that I lived with  grandparents on my father’s side when I was 2 ½  until 6 year  old and I stored   a lot memory of things that were said and done  that I recall as the discontent of my early years.   I have recently come across some pictures of that time, and I am more focused on the expressions rather than the perceived emotion.   Perhaps, I had it all wrong.  This clearly goes with the theorem, “you live and you learn”.   One picture that truly struck me was of my Aunt who lived with us at the time, and her son of about 10 years and he was as I remember, very mean.  In fact the whole setting of those years were mean.   As we three posed for this picture, my Aunt expression was one of pride.    I remember that my Aunt made me clothes and so I was always dressed well and the expectation was that I stayed that way from dusk until dawn.  Impossible!   Little girls today are dressed in clothes that go anywhere, anytime and can be changed if wet or dirty as they will go into the wash and be dry by in an hour or so and that was not the case then.  And so, the emotion that went with keeping me looking like a little doll when my cousin would through dirt on me is now becoming a storage problem.  As I begin to go through the pictures to find that my Aunt was only being my mother for that moment in time and that she was trying to keep me looking the way people would perceive her role, I now see her point.  Older is wiser, and I am sorry that I did not appreciate her more as she was doing the best that she could in those times.

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Ode to Mom..

        It felt really strange   as  I stopped to speak with a friend who was choosing her card for  Mother’s Day this year.   My Mom passed away almost a month ago,   so it was  natural to think of picking her card out, and yet  I paused and then went on my way.   I  knew that when the day arrived that it would be awkward.   However,  I awoke with the feeling that I would honor her memory in all things today and its funny how wonderful the memory is for these occasions.   I began with thinking that I would make her favorite cake.   An Apple Cake that she would make somewhere  in between  the  day of   her  family  and her  friends.  Nothing else mattered much  as she had many interests but no real hobbies.   She loved violets, so I repotted some.   Her pleasure was of people.   Sometimes, I would get so annoyed when I would go out with her to get something done such as food shopping or to a  doctor  visit and  Mom would begin to chat up someone waiting in line about to go for their visit as well.  She enjoyed getting to know people.   Telling them about her life, not so much.   A southerner never reveals the details of their life to just anyone as these details are considered private matters.   And yet, she would ask about  if they had children and their names and where they were from getting especially excited if they were from W. Va.  Which was her birth place.  Yes,  I would get annoyed because I suppose that I felt that her friendly way  with others took her further from me.  That was not true at all as she was just as interested in me as well.   Mom would ask about many parts of my life trying to develop a sense of what  I liked to do and what pleased me.  I would tell her stories of my travels.   Our  latest years where the best as we had laid down our weapons about what was right or wrong about our family.   We would do things that pleased us both.    Food of course was a mutual ground which  we never tired.  I would plan my visit around lunch and ask her what she wanted that day.  Given that her hours were later than mine,  most of the time she was just getting up when I would arrive  just before noon.  Her diet was not what it used to be so eating could be a strain because perhaps she was not hungry at all or the taste buds  did not agree with her.  So I would try to keep it simple by making her a grilled cheese which she loved or an omelet and mostly I would always bring her soup.  It did not matter what kind as she loved my soup.   She was a baker in her earlier years, always making some cookies , a cake or cobbler and I too enjoy to cook and bake.  We would talk on the phone about recipes and even at 86 years of age she had a good sense of  how to craft a meal.   She did not have the strength in her knees  to stand and her arthritis kept her back a lot.  But she was still capable of creating  something good.   If someone brought  her a gift of cookies,  she appreciated it and so did her sweet tooth.  I got that from her as well.  I did not get her addiction to chocolate although I enjoy it, my Mom would hide hers and savor,  as she was a  true chocolover.  She loved that we would have tea together and so I introduced her to several kinds so she could choose which one she liked best.   Its been a good day  thinking of   Mom and how life can still render love through memory.  Please remember yours too.

Mom’s Apple Cake

350 degrees / well –  greased  & floured tube pan ( I use a cooking spray for baking)

Place 2 cups sugar, ½ cup orange juice, 4 eggs, 3 t vanilla   blend in mixer on medium

Mix 3 cups of  flour ,  2 t baking powder and add to mixer above alternating 3/4  cup oil / I use canola

Add 4 cups peeled and diced apples/I use gala or granny ( something crisp ).

Pour into the pan, a third at a time pausing to sprinkle sugar and cinnamon on each segment and then on top. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes.  Cool before removing from pan.

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Who’s your Daddy

 

My father was a man of many faces, some good and some not so good.    He fell in love with my mother in West Virginia after high school.  She was already in love with some else named Byron.  My father decided to go to the powers that be, my Grandmother who worked at the local furniture store.  This was an opportunity to shine in her eyes, and then she could be his advocate and it worked.   Before my mother could finish her junior year, my grandfather told her that JT was a good man and that she couldn’t do better so go get married and leave with him for the Air Force.    And so it began.   Annie and JT were a lovely couple and like all newlyweds very much in love.

Consequently, life took hold.   When the children arrived into the family, attention shifts and it takes a strong man to understand this.   The record must be set straight that he too has needs, and also  that she will require his love in order for this to work or else unhappiness settles over the family.   And so it did.  Three children under five years of age and a father working in sales on the road will certainly take love out of the picture as it drained the young mother of her spirit.   Confidence in our self is critical to the process.  My father began to cultivate his own sense of confidence with other women and this pattern followed him through his life.  A womanizer is a man who needs the attention of   many women.   This is not uncommon, as we have seen this behavior in our past presidents, and others whose ego needs more.

Well, the story ended with a pregnancy that was induced by a brother in law who knew of the troubles between the couple.  So he took his way with my mother and this of course did not sit well with my father.   His demands for an abortion fell on deaf ears as my mother would have no parts of it.   The newborn baby girl was  taken from the nursery at the hospital by a nurse who was paid by my father to adopt the child out to a black market agency.  My mother went down to the nursery to find any empty bassinet.

She returned home from the hospital and it was apparent that the fabric of this marriage was shredded beyond repair and her post-partum depression was bigger than both of them.   As a result, he rectified his life by telling my mother that if she was not happy she should take the middle child of age three and a half   and leave.   Leaving a five year old  son  and me,  a two and a half child behind,  he then pushed her out and closed the door.  They lived in Virginia and this state  did not  protect  women’s rights.  Nor were her parents  supportive  and they  told her  that she must work it out.  Not a pretty picture.

She struggled those first few years as did we, the children and as for my father, well, he went to work.  He became an electrician and worked steadily on the  new bridge lights.  His parents took the two children left behind as he was away for long periods of time.   An accident occurred on the job while he was working on the lights on the bridge.   He suffered the loss of one arm and part of the other hand as well as damage from the burn and fall.  Lucky to be alive, he spent years recuperating through surgery and therapy.

So much of his hurt over my mother drove him to obsessive behavior and after three years he thought that he would bring her back to Virginia and they would begin again.  Life had gone on for my mother and so  this was never a possibility.   Even as a young man of thirty something and handicapped he was handsome and had a personality that charmed women thus he went on to find another who would accept him as is.   He started his own construction company and was a good businessman with great success.  It always amazed me as a kid, that he could be so jocular and that he was never aware of how much pain my brother and I were in over what had happened.  Sometimes it felt like he thought that it only happened to him.

His second wife was in her mid-twenties, from New Jersey and she brought with her two children which soon began our “new family”.  I fell into place with caring for those children as I was now old enough to be of use.   My brother would isolate himself.  I would try to fill a gap with my father helping him do things like put his artificial arm on or fix something with a screw driver.   It was not a natural family setting, however my father bought a nice home and new car and we would dress up in our new clothes and go to church, stopping at Krispy Kreme Donuts on the way home.   The sugar from the donuts and the alcohol sustained a happy atmosphere for the most part until they realized that it was not real.

Stepmom had experienced a severely distorted childhood of her own and although she was quite the pretty lady, she suffered daily in a mental fashion.   Sometimes waking me in the night to let me know that she was leaving now and please take care of my children for me while I am gone.  I would get  called to the school office to find that she wanted me to go home at lunch and get her fur coat out of the closet and bring it to her so that she could sell it for money to survive.   Confused about my role at nine years old and my loyalties, I followed her command to get the coat.    As I strutted through our back yard,   I heard my father calling my name and telling me to return.   “It was not nice of me to do this; he said and how could I”?   He had given me a home and now just like my mother and his mother before her I betrayed him!  Almost as if he were using a foreign language, I was not certain of what he was referring to but soon it came to a point that he would need to kill himself before my eyes.   As he reached for the gun and cried out that no one really loved him, I knew that I held the burden of making it all right.  Whatever he meant about his mother and my mother was not important and I just needed to convince him of this.  So I told him that I loved him and we would go to find my Stepmom to bring her home.    She was not happy with this arrangement and when I explained that it was too difficult to watch him put a gun to his head, she said, “The gun did not have any bullets”.

Like a bad play this activity repeated itself for five more years before I left his home.     This marriage ended, and then he married again and this time it stuck for the balance of his life of 80 years.  Was it love?   I do not know.   But when I did an Ancestry.com on my family something very interesting came out.   I found that a male child was born one year prior to my father’s birth but had died.  I knew that his mother was never fond of him and he was always second rate to his sister.   Timing is everything.

 

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THE PAINTING

 

 

It was 1962 , the times they were a changing.    I was still reading Nancy Drew and enjoying it as I had not broken into song as a teen ager yet.   My older brother Jerry was attending the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and he was truly a genuine student of the Old Masters.  He had been written up as a protégé in the Philadelphia Inquirer.   I don’t know if we understood all of his talent at that point.    His artistic name was Verald which he gave to himself and he followed the path of the artist with his strange nature.   Besides the smell of oil paint and turpentine, he enjoyed collecting velvet and gold scarfs, hats and feathers or any accessory that could remake the days of old.  Whenever  I was the only one available , he  would  snag me as his model  and take me  to his basement studio which was  a cousin to the dungeon.    On this one day, the sun was shining, however that was of no matter to Verald who was determined to take me to his dark world where a light bulb would hand down just far enough to shade one side of my face.   Always hopeful that he would sketch it out and then release me to the world from whence I came, I sat on the stool patiently as my brother had a seriousness about him that was not to be debated.   His work took on the form of a trance and I wasn’t sure that I was even meant to be there during the process and then he would adjust the hat and manipulate the scarf, turn my face and tell me to hold that position.  At some point I would be called to help my mother with dinner or some other chore.    The days that followed went differently than what I would have imagined as my brother had schizophrenia which did not reveal itself until he was in his twenties.  He lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania where he sold many painting as this was his livelihood at that time.   He took his own life when he was 28 years of age and the shock has   echoed our family since.  Years later, my aunt told me of a painting that she had acquired of me as a little girl.  She said it looked like something Jerry would have done.   I took the painting home and looked at it though my adult eyes and I saw a little girl who loved her brother very much.

 

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Stories for me

I was living with my mother in New Jersey at about age nine.  Born in Virginia,   I was brought to live there as my mother had since remarried and a new family formed.    Now, I was of considerable use because   there were four children, and another one on the way.   Each afternoon, my mother would take the youngest two children to a back bedroom for their nap as I did my chores.  The apartment was on the third floor of the building with three bedrooms and a long hallway and a staircase that led down.   My chores were to do laundry, sweep, dust and clean the bathrooms.     However, when it was time for my mother to go with the children for their nap, I would position myself on the top seat of the stairs where I could listen to the stories that she would tell them.  These were the stories I had missed being apart from her for all these years.  I would listen to her melodious voice and cling to each word as if she were telling them to only me.   Sometimes, I would cry.   Flushed by my emotion , and a  sense of reality   that    time  had gone by, and  I would never get it  back , I resumed my chores.