Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Perfect Miracle

24 years ago today, God gave me a wonderful gift and privilege when I was blessed with a perfect baby girl. I had always dreamed about having a baby, and finally realizing the joy when I held her was truly a special moment.

I was in labor for quite awhile, and she seemed to be taking her own time. Then, all of a sudden, she decided that now was the time to come out and play. I learned several years later that this was the way Stephie would get ready for school...dawdle around and then race out the door like a fire was under her feet! But, when the doctor handed this precious bundle to us, tears came down our faces as we looked on the miracle that God had given us. We didn't have any idea if we were having a girl or a boy, so when Jerry looked at me and said, "We have a beautiful baby girl", my heart was full.
Jerry and Stephie

Stephie has been so much fun to raise. Always being a happy child, she would sit on the step stool, with her sippy cup in her hand while I fixed dinner, and we would sing together. If you know me at all, you will not be surprised to learn that I didn't teach her ordinary children's songs. She learned show tunes and could belt out "Who Will Buy" (from Oliver) and "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" (Oklahoma) by the age of three. These were mixed with various Disney songs (The Little Mermaid songs were a favorite during bath time). She did adore singing Old MacDonald, but only if the animal could be a cat. We had our old Bitsy at that point, and Stephie adored Bitsy (although, the feeling was not reciprocated for several years). Stephie's first "word" (while I would love to say it was Momma) was "Guh" when she was ten months old. By dinner time, we had figured out that was her word for Bitsy. Her head would snap around when she heard Bitty in anticipation of getting to possibly see/catch Bitty. Bitsy learned to run very fast. It appears that her tendency towards becoming a crazy cat lady started early in life.

Helping me cook

Through the years, being able to watch Stephie grow and mature has been a gift. Although our move to Illinois wasn't quite the ideal couple of years (moving a 12-year-old wasn't very fun), she soon settled in and flourished over here. We've watched her faith grow, and her love for the less fortunate is truly heart-warming to see. Clearly, we are blessed and proud.

So, today, I celebrate our daughter's life and thank God for blessing us for the past 24 years. May God continue to bless and keep Stephie in His care and give us many more years to watch her continue to bless others with her presence.

Stephie, I love you more than words can say, and I consider it a privilege to be your momma and your friend. You are everything I wanted and more. Happy birthday, baby.


Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tribute to a Beautiful Woman

Today is my beautiful momma's birthday, and I would like to reflect on the privilege I have had having her as my momma for 55 years.

Momma and Grandfather Savage
Momma was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, as an only child to my Ma-Ma and grandfather. From the moment she was born, she was loved with a passion that every child should know. Not only was she an only child, but she was the only grandchild on her dad's side, and the only grandchild that lived nearby on her mother's side. As a result, she got a lot of attention and love. I say this, knowing that one would assume that she was a spoiled only child, but truthfully, that's pretty far from the truth. Even though she was loved with everything they had, my grandparents did not allow her to be spoiled. As Ma-Ma would say, "You children aren't spoiled, just well-loved".

Momma around 8 years old
Momma grew up making many trips to New Orleans (both grandparents graduated from Tulane, and loved the city), and many summers were spent in North Carolina with my grandmother (Ma-Ma) and great-grandmother (Mommee). Children from the community were always coming over (her best friend, Virginia, was a frequent guest), so there wasn't any isolation for her. She dearly loved her parents, and my great-grandparents, Mommee and Poppee (Ma-Ma's parents). Her life revolved around school and parties. She claims that her senior year in high school was basically one giant dinner party. She was an accomplished pianist and oboist. Because she couldn't march with her oboe, she carried the bell lyre (which was the main reason I started playing the bells). She loved her band friends, and my grandmother promoted the band with all she had. As Momma's friend, Rita, once told me, "Truthfully, your momma was the only one that was really very good, but the rest of us kept practicing because we didn't want to disappoint your grandmother!" During the summers, she would attend music camps, and it was at one of these that she met the band director at a small university in Indiana named DePauw University. He started recruiting Momma for the school, and by the time her senior year came around, she had decided she wanted to attend DePauw. There was just one small issue--it was north of the Mason-Dixon line, and this just wasn't acceptable. My grandfather offered her any car she wanted if she would just stay south of this important line (they actually wanted her to attend Ole Miss), but she was determined to attend DePauw. So, off to DePauw she went, declaring a major in music education. That lasted a short time. She discovered a couple of things: 1. Music takes a lot of time, and she didn't want to spend all of her valuable potential party time in the practice room, and 2. Music theory is HARD (see #1) (as a side note, I figured out the same thing some 20 years later). Meanwhile, she had a class with Ken Wagoner, and he encouraged her to change majors to psychology, of which she did. She still talks about what an awesome professor Dr. Wagoner was.
Senior in high school piano recital
Through all of this, she met my dad, and became engaged to him. Plans were made to be married over spring break of her junior year (my dad's senior year). Forty days before they were to be married, my grandfather laid down for a nap and never woke up. They scaled down the reception, but kept the date. Not sure how they got through this time (Momma claims her grades weren't very good that semester), but if you know my momma at all, you know that she is a strong person that stands up to adversity and keeps going. 
Momma and Ma-Ma 1954
Ten months after she and Daddy were married, my brother, Steve was born. Two years later, I was born, and three years after me, Michael was born. Three babies in five years kept her very busy. The fall after Michael was born, Stephen contracted rheumatic fever and was bedridden for six months. It was discovered that Michael was allergic to milk, and I had pneumonia more than once that winter. To this day, I have no idea how she handled all of this, but she did. Our yard was always filled with neighborhood children, which she couldn't figure out why until she overheard a mother say to her child, "Go down to Barbara's. She likes kids." Of course, Momma couldn't turn them away.

After we were in school, Momma drove back and forth to Indiana State University and got her elementary education degree and began to teach 6th grade. She then got her masters from DePauw, and continued teaching for several years. In 1975, she and my dad separated and then divorced. In October of 1976, she married Allan Feld, and a few years later, quit teaching so that she could help operate the new carpet store that she and Allan had opened. In December of 1980, Allan suddenly got a terrible headache, and by dinnertime, had passed away from a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Momma was left with a brand-new business and no one to help her run it. I quit my job at the local children's clothing store, and for a year and a half, the two of us ran it. In 1982, Michael joined the business, and to this day, he and Momma, along with my sister-in-law, Julie, run the business. I'm so very proud of them and how they have continued to run a successful business for all of these years.

My momma is a passionate person. She loves her music, her animals, her yard and flowers, but most of all, she loves her children and her grandchildren. She will tell you how fantastic all of us are with very little encouragement. Her love for children doesn't stop at biological children. She adores her in-law children (they are considered one of her own) and through the years, has taken on children from the community, just like her mother did. She spent countless hours being a Girl Scout leader, as well as a Cub Scout leader. She spent hours accompanying students for music contest. We used to joke about her wanting to adopt every child in her classroom that she didn't think were loved the way that they should have been (truly, there were years that this was a real concern for me). Her hugs are just about the best thing in the world, and my husband will tell you that she loves him as much as she loves us. She just loves her family with all she has, as every mother should.
Our family at Amy and Joseph's wedding in August, 2012
So, today, I celebrate my Momma and rejoice that I have had so many wonderful years learning from her and trying to be half the momma that she is. Momma, I love you so very, very much and I'm so proud to be your daughter. With all my love, Julie

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fall thoughts

It's been quite awhile since I last posted a blog entry. Somehow, the summer got away from me, and now that Labor Day weekend has arrived, I'm beginning to think of fall and fall things. It's past strawberry and peach time, and I'm ready to start picking apples and watch the leaves turn. I love fall evenings, but I don't like the thought of winter weather.

It was a strange summer. The last time I remember a summer so hot and dry, I was pregnant with Stephie and living in North Carolina. I would stay in the house until Jerry had started up the car and let it run with the air conditioner going before I would waddle out to join him.

This was the summer of weddings. Stephie's best friend got married the end of June and then my niece, Amy, got married the first weekend of August at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The Cafe Brauer right next to the zoo was the actual venue, and it was beautiful. I so enjoyed seeing my family, as this was the first wedding of our girls. Amy was beautiful, and seeing Joseph (her new husband) with tears in his eyes as he watched Amy walk in on my brother's arm, was indeed a special moment. One thing that my brothers and I did right was raise some beautiful, awesome girls. I was able to get a picture of my momma with her granddaughters after the ceremony.
L-R Stephie, Katie, Joseph, Amy, Momma, Lainey, Liz
See what I mean? Beautiful girls from a beautiful grandmother. Time really flew quickly, and it's almost hard to believe that our girls are old enough to be married. Amy is now living with Joseph in Barcelona, Spain.

Stephie accepted a job with a wonderful NFP company named Jumpstart. She works out of Dominican University in River Forest, IL and recruits volunteers to work with at-risk preschool children with their literacy skills. It's a perfect job for my bookworm. :) She loves, loves, loves the people that she is working with and is so excited about her new position. We are thrilled for her.

Jerry and I are both looking forward to some cooler days to enjoy some outside activities before we head into winter weather. I'm going to attempt to be better about keeping up with this blog, if for no other reason than it just feels good to write about what's going on--even if no one reads it or cares (which is more than likely the case, and I'm certainly ok with that). So many people I care about are struggling with various health or personal issues that sometimes it's good for me to reflect on the good things that have happened. At times, I get so wrapped up in the problems that I forget all of the good that God has done for me and the people that I love, and I have to ask for His forgiveness that I focus on the wrong things. I'm thankful for the love that I have from my family and friends, and mostly for the love that God has for me.

I hope that each of you has a wonderful fall season. Eat lots of apples, make some apple cake and enjoy all things fall.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I'm All Organized!

A couple of months ago, I posted that my friend, Betsey, and I were organizing my sewing room while Jerry was out of town. Well, at long last, it's finished! I waited until Jerry was able to make me a board to hang some of my rulers on, plus we had a couple of other ideas that we needed to finish that took a little longer than anticipated.

I love it! If you know me at all, you know that I struggle to be organized. Way back in the 5th grade, Mr. Casey (who was probably the hottest teacher I ever had, but who notices this stuff when you are 11?) told Momma during a parent-teacher conference, "Julia's mind is like her desk. Cluttered." Momma was a bit horrified at the time, but really, it was the truth. My desk always looked like a bomb went off in it. Even after we would have the scheduled desk-cleaning-day, by the next day, it looked pretty much like it did the day before we cleaned everything out. Sigh.

Anyway, it's always been hard for me to figure out where things should go. Betsey (and this is just one of her gifts) just seems to know how to put things in places that make so much sense! I've been able to start organizing other closets and yesterday, I worked on our sunroom, getting it ready for the summer. I'm on a roll!

I promised pictures of my finished room. It's a little room (I think it's about 10x12), so we had to figure out how to maximize my space. We took the doors off of the closet and bought bins and crates to put in the closet. I need to buy a couple more, but they have been out of stock with the color I want. I hopefully will get them soon. I've put my unfinished projects in there (shhh...way too many, but we won't talk about that anymore), and I can hang some projects (like my colon polyp capes I'm making for the Cancer Queens). Jerry put a solid board on the shelf of the closet, so that I can put books and magazines (and cat food) up there.

While cleaning out the closet, Betsey and I found a box that contained a childhood book about a little girl and her doll. In the back of the book, the child could cut out the girl as a paper doll and dress her in paper doll clothes. This was Momma's book, and then I played with it as a child. It was in surprisingly good shape, so Betsey suggested framing the doll and the clothes. I bought a shadow box, and Stephie framed it for me. I love it! I put the shadowbox above my thread case that I have all of my threads organized in. I also have the book, but it's on top of another shelf. Here's Adeline!

Jerry framed a piece of pegboard for me so that I could hang my larger rulers. I bought a set of drawers that hold my scissors, rotary cutters and tapes. And, yes, those are my extra three sewing machines under the table that I haven't been able to part with.

Years and years ago, Ma-Ma bought a cabinet for her sewing room. I inherited it over 27 years ago. I remember her getting it. She had ordered it from either JC Penney or Montgomery Ward (I forget which one) and Daddy had to go get it with his truck. It was so shiny and big! It's always held our fabric and sewing supplies. There was no way I was going to part with this cabinet. Betsey suggested covering the front with favorite family pictures. I still have some more to put up, but I ran out of frames and keep forgetting to put frames on my Wal Mart list. As goofy as this sounds, having this cabinet is like having a part of Ma-Ma in my sewing room with me, and having my family pictures is like having them nearby, too.

Betsey and I bought several white containers for my fabric in the cabinet and separated the fabric so that there is a container for browns, greens, reds, batiks, etc. Now, I can go to just one container to find the piece of fabric that I need! It's great.

 Jerry and I had already put some cubicles where my old dresser that Stephie took stood, so we bought some fabric drawers and organized more fabric, my embroidery items, current projects, etc, and we still had some openings that I could put some of my pretties in. On the top is the book I mentioned, and some other things. Above my metal cabinet, Jerry put a shelf that has my Momma's childhood Singer "toy" sewing machine (it would never fly now, because it has a real needle and actually sews). Because she never had the desire to sew, it is in pristine condition (I even have the box). It's a treasure!

So, that's the grand tour! I've really enjoyed sewing in my room. I have a southern exposure, so a bright sunny day like today is really fun--being able to work while enjoying the sun at the same time.

Thanks for dropping by! It's time to go work on those Cancer Queen outfits! Need to be ready for that new colonoscopy song that's premiering in May!! I feel the creative juices flowing! Until next time....have a wonderful spring.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Take Steps for a Cure

For now, I have changed our picture and will be displaying the poster from the Crohns/Colitis website. On June 3, 2012, Jerry and I will be joining Stephie, her two dear friends Amy and Erin, Erin's boyfriend, Kevin and Stephie's boyfriend, Ryan in Naperville, IL, as we once again walk to help raise money for the CCFA. Crohns and Ulcerative Colitis are two auto-immune diseases that affect 1.4 million people. Most of these are diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30. Stephie was diagnosed with UC in August of 2010. The past 18 months has been a roller coaster for our family, as we struggle to find some medication to put her UC into remission. So far, we have been unsuccessful, but have hopes that the latest medicine she started 3 weeks ago will do the trick.

Please help us in our stand against this disease. I had never heard of UC before, and knew very little about Crohns, other than I didn't want it! We pray for God's healing for Stephie and would appreciate your prayers for her complete healing. We would love for you to join us on our walk, or if you feel led, please consider donating to our walk to help us meet our goal. We covet your prayers and so appreciate your love and friendship. God bless each of you.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday. I have no idea how I got to be 55 so quickly, but here I am. I don't "feel" 55 (whatever that feels like), and I like to be delusional and think that I don't look 55. Please don't burst my bubble. There are days that I actually believe my delusions and other days where I'm rational and realize that perhaps I don't look 25 anymore.

My birthday always brings back fond recollections of my birthday parties. Having the "joy" of having your birthday fall in the middle of winter (and a mere 6 days after Valentine's Day), meant that your birthday parties were confined to the house.  For whatever reason, God decided to bless my parents with all three of us in the middle of winter (our birthdays are all within the span of one month), so it was a string of birthday parties. I'm quite certain that Momma and Ma-Ma were happy to see March 1st come around. I don't remember having a birthday party without my friends. My first toddler parties were mostly the neighborhood girls and boys and their mothers. Complete with cake and punch, we mostly played with toys while our moms enjoyed visiting with each other. On occasion, a certain cousin of mine would sneak under the table to kiss one of the boys, but for the most part, they were pretty tame.

As time progressed, the boys went away, and it was only my little girl friends at my parties. What fun we would have! Momma would decorate the dining room and the living room would be set up for games. We would have a lovely meal that Ma-Ma would make (featuring something pink--one year, it was pink mashed potatoes, and another year it was pink cottage cheese on pears). Always, always, always, the cake would be a "polka-dot angel food", which was a white angel food cake with those colored sprinkles put in the batter before it was baked. As it would bake, the sprinkles would melt, and when you cut the cake, it was filled with colored dots. I swear to you, it made the cake better. You could actually buy the cake mix like this, but I haven't seen one in years. Ma-Ma would put a piece of wax paper over the center, so that she could ice it for the candles. This is from my birthday party when I was 8. I love that we were all so dressed up for our parties. It was from a different generation, and I feel that we've lost a little something when we spend most of our time in jeans.

Getting ready to blow out the candles on my birthday cake.
Debbie and Diane Wells, Tina Voss (facing the camera)
 and Lisa Poor (in the turquoise dress)
One of my favorite birthday gifts that year was my first cookbook that Tina Voss gave me. I still have the book (although it was used so much that it's pretty fragile). It is a great cookbook, and holds special memories for me.

Soon, we progressed to slumber parties, which is what most of my high school friends remember. I would like to think that they were my friends because of me, but sometimes I wonder if it was because they wanted to be invited to my slumber parties. They were the bomb! No exaggeration at all. We usually had everyone for dinner--or a late snack, which consisted of things like homemade pizza, or Ma-Ma's famous homemade ice cream (what I would give anything for some of that right about now). The boys and Daddy would disappear (this was a very good thing), so it was all the girls and Momma. The boys were usually staying at Ma-Ma's, so she would bring the food over and then disappear with the boys. We would giggle, have seances (I have no idea who we were trying to talk to, but it always seemed that the dog would make a noise in the dark and we would all jump), freeze the bras of the unfortunate girls that actually were able to wear a bra and always tried to stop the train. Our house was built across the street from a train track, and every night around 2 AM the train would come by. We decided that if we waved from our front bay window at the train, they would see us and possibly stop. Sure enough, with enough hand waving, the train would blow the whistle and many times would stop. It never occurred to us that they were changing cars on the train. Whatever. We had fun doing it. Soon, we progressed from not wanting boys anywhere near our parties to having various boys, both from our class and my older brother's class, appearing at some point in the night--especially from my brother's class. They would appear "looking for Steve" (who was never there) and pretend that they had no idea we were having our slumber party. Right! Every now and then, one of my guests would disappear for awhile with whomever had appeared.

We had a large, unfinished basement that had a pool table, ping-pong table, extra refrigerator and a television with furniture to lounge on.  But most of all, I have a fantastic mother that allowed us to just have fun and not worry about what we were doing. She knew that we were going to behave ourselves and just let us have fun. She is an incredible momma (as was my grandmother) and it is because of them that I have these dear memories to cherish.
l-r: Kevin, Erin, Stephie (holding Steinbeck) and Ryan
Thanks for allowing me to relive the memories of 55 years of February 20th. This birthday was made special by having my precious girl come home and bring some of her delightful college friends (to include meeting her new boyfriend). We went out to dinner and had a lovely time visiting. I'm blessed with my daughter and her friends, and I thank my family for giving me yet another wonderful birthday. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and friends, and I am thankful for everyone of you that have joined me in celebrating a birthday or two and helping me form these wonderful memories. Love you all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Biffle, a Boy and a Baby

This is the story of me and a family of three generations. Let me start at the beginning.

40 years ago last September, a new girl moved to Greencastle. Being from a small town, having a new person was always a huge deal. We discovered that we had both home economics and earth science together, and started to become friends. I invited her to a slumber party, but her mother was very wary of her spending the night at our house. Not to worry--I had my southern momma call her southern momma, and before we knew it, my new friend was able to come to my slumber party. Not to toot my own horn, but my slumber parties were the bomb. That’s another blog.

Before long, this beautiful, sweet girl and I became best friends. Every boy in the school was in love with her. I was thrilled to have Sheila as my new best friend. God placed her in my life at the perfect time. Junior high days had been very tough for me, and I needed Sheila. I still thank God for sending her to me when He did. All during high school, we became closer friends. Although she was a cheerleader and I was a band/choir geek, we still had a lot in common with each other. By the time we were seniors, and looking at colleges, we really wanted the other to go to the school we had chosen. I was eager to go to Indiana State, but she had her mind set on Western Kentucky University. Well, what did I have to lose by looking at Western? I walked onto the campus, and fell in love with the school. So, on August 17, 1975, Sheila and I became freshman at WKU. What a ride those four years were. I won’t lie and say that they were spectacular, because the four years had their ups and downs. We pulled away from each other for a period of time, but always were friends. By the time we graduated, we were good friends again, and Sheila was getting ready to be married. But, the day that we graduated, we found out that her dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and we began our adult life with a tragedy that only began to pull us even closer together.

Fast forward 32 years. By now, there aren’t very many people that I’m closer to than Sheila. We have seen each other through the divorce of my parents, the deaths of her parents, the cancer and death of her first husband, the births of our children, our marriages, losses of jobs, and now the trials that our children are going through. We have watched each other’s children grow up, go to school, and become beautiful adults. We joke about finding our nursing home together (she’s been known to tease me about my curls, but I’ve told her that I’ll be in the craft room while she’s getting that perm!). I don’t know what I would do without Sheila in my life. I have to stay her friend--she knows way too much about me. So, Sheila is my BFFL (pronounced biffle). Best Friend For Life. Apparently, from what I’ve been told, that is a step above BFF.

Now for the boy: 

31 years ago, a beautiful baby boy was born to my biffle and her lovely husband. You have to understand, that all of the years Sheila and I had known each other, she was going to have a girl and name her Elizabeth. So, all during her pregnancy, we called the baby Elizabeth. Well--until an ultrasound told us that Elizabeth would be a bad name for the baby, unless we wanted to rewrite the song, “A Boy Named Sue”. I still remember the day that Jim called to tell me that Sheila had given birth to a perfect baby boy named James Neal. Even though, technically, he wasn’t my child, I more or less adopted him as mine (I was single at this point of life). I was working in a children’s clothing store, so I bought him books, toys, clothes...and spoiled his sister, Rachel, just as much 14 months later. I loved these children like they were my own. Years later, when my Stephie was born, I knew that Sheila would love Stephie like she was her own. It’s just the way our friendship works. Neal is the boy I never had.

So now, Neal and his beautiful, precious wife, Rachel Jane, have had their own baby boy. Sheila is a Nana, and we are moving into yet another phase of our friendship. I’m so excited to enter this new phase of grandmother-hood and surrogate grandmother (for me). This is as good as being an aunt. I welcome little James Dominic Garvin into this world. You are so loved by so many people. God has placed you in a family that will cherish and love you all the days of your life. I pray that I can be a blessing to you and your family as the years go on. Even though I haven’t met you, I already love you, just like I love your daddy, mama and your nana. God bless you little one and until I hold you in my arms, may God keep you and bless you. Hugs and kisses from Miss Julie

Nana, Papa and their beautiful grandson

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Lessons Learned

Today would have been my Ma-Ma's birthday. Because she died on January 17th, this is the time of year where I often think about her. It's been 13 years since she passed away, and I still miss her all of the time. So, I would like to reflect a little on her life and the lessons that I learned by having her as my grandmother.
1912 (approximately)
Ma-Ma was born in Magnolia, MS in 1907 to my Mommee and Poppee, and was adored by her parents. She had a little brother whom she adored, named Milton, but better known as Buddy. When she was five, Mommee found her "playing" the piano on the hall tree (they didn't have a piano). Mommee signed her up for lessons, and the music part of our lives began. She graduated from Tulane (the girl's section, which was called Sophie Newcomb) in 1929 with a double major in piano and organ performance and a minor in voice. That November, she married my grandfather--less than 2 weeks after the stock market crash. So, she started out in marriage with basically nothing. She always said that they never went without food, because people would pay my grandfather with chickens, vegetables, and anything that they could give him for his services (he was a doctor).  She learned to cook healthy because of my grandfather's health. He had contracted tuberculosis when he was a resident in New Orleans (he was also a graduate of Tulane medical school), and struggled with TB for several years. My momma was a beloved only child (although not an only child by choice), but Ma-Ma always said that none of us were spoiled--we were just "well-loved"! She loved the children of the town, and would do anything for them. She accompanied them in contests, played for their weddings, supported them, helped raise them and loved them like they were her own. Ma-Ma raised camillas, and even grafted them. She loved to arrange flowers, and the boys in the town would come to her and she would make their corsages for the dances and special occasions (I'm sure that the florists in town weren't happy). Of course, she did it for free.
March, 1954

Five weeks before my mother and daddy were supposed to get married, my grandfather came home for lunch, and laid down to take a nap. When she went in to wake him up, she discovered that he had passed away--at the age of 51. Somehow, she and Momma got through the wedding (they didn't change the date--just scaled down the reception). I can't imagine how she did it--or how Momma did it, but they did, because that's the type of women they are.

Five years later, Ma-Ma moved to Greencastle to help Momma, who by this time, had a four-year-old and a two-year-old and number three on the way. Personally, I think it was her best move ever, but she never did care for the north or being cold, or the snow.  She never did really forgive my momma for moving her up here.

She loved us dearly, though. The first year she lived in Greencastle, my older brother contracted rheumatic fever and my younger brother was born. While Steve was confined to bed for six months, and my mother's hands were a bit full, Ma-Ma would take me to her house and we would cook. So, from the time I was about two, she would put an apron on me, pull up a step-stool, put me on the stool, and let me "cook". My job was to stir whatever she was making. She always told me I did a wonderful job and that her food tasted better because I helped. When I was five, the two of us spent the month of November in Mississippi with my great-grandfather, and she taught me how to do embroidery and then sewing. I spent the month making a Christmas gift for Momma. She always had so much patience with me, but made sure that I did my best. How I miss being able to call her and ask her questions about cooking or sewing. She would have loved seeing my quilts and all of the madrigal dresses I made last year. And the music! At one point or another, through the years, she taught all three of us piano (although we had other teachers, too). She encouraged us in whatever instrument we wanted, and patiently drove Michael and me to lessons over in Terre Haute every week.  I can still see her little foot keeping beat to the music on television shows. I don't think she was even aware that she did it! Once PBS came around with the classical music shows, her life was complete. I remember going into her house one Sunday, and the PBS special was Vladimir Horowitz playing for the first time in many, many years in his home country of Russia. Tears were flowing down her face as she watched this incredible musician play some of her favorite numbers.
Piano Lessons!
Stephie described her as a "firecracker". That is an understatement. While she loved us dearly, she also let us know when she wasn't happy with something that we did. Momma and I made the mistake (in her opinion) of marrying a "Yankee". We were her "Yankee" grandchildren (we were, obviously, her only ones), but that's how she would introduce us. She never really did forgive Momma and me for not marrying a southern boy! When she died, we took her back to Mississippi to be buried next to her beloved husband. People came from all over to tell us how much she and my grandfather meant to them and their family. It was without a doubt the most touching thing that I have ever experienced. She had not lived in Mississippi for over 40 years, and these people that came were barely able to make it up the steps of the church, yet they made a special point to come see Momma and the three of us just to tell us how much they loved my grandparents.

Lessons learned from my Ma-Ma: Love your family with all that you have. Stand up for what you believe. Keep learning until you draw your last breath. Do what you love to do, and do your very best in all that you do, and you are capable of more than you think.

There's a part of Ma-Ma in all of us. While I love that she stood up for what she believed, there were many times that she could have been a little more--well, understanding. She did have a temper and if she didn't want to do something, she wouldn't do it! If she got really mad at you (especially if you messed with one of us), you were done for. So, I'm still learning that while standing up for what you believe is a good thing, you can still be loving in your convictions. I'm still working on that. Obviously, I never knew my grandfather, but Momma always said that he was the only person she knew that could really handle my grandmother. :)  I know that the two of them loved Momma dearly, and Momma in turned passed on the love to the three of us, and my job as a mother is to pass the unconditional love on to Stephie. If I am half the mother that either my grandmother or mother have been, I feel I will have done pretty good.

Ma-Ma, I miss you, but I see parts of your legacy in all of my family, and for that, I'm thankful.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cleaning the Disaster Zone

I have been busily making quilts--for the store, for Stephie, for myself, for a special baby that's coming soon...and as a result, haven't taken the time to really straighten up my sewing room. Actually, it's been more of a pit than a room, and it's been driving me crazy. I was trying to make the baby quilt that is appliqued, and I can't find my applique pressing sheet. I have no idea where it is. Furthermore, I know that the room could be better organized, but frankly, I have no idea where to even start. The room is fairly small, but I know that even with limited space, I could have things more manageable.

This is where my good friend, Betsey, comes in. Betsey works at the quilt store with me, and has an incredible gift of knowing how to organize things AND LIKES TO DO IT!!  (I won't lie--this just blows my mind that she loves organizing things). So, I've enlisted her help. I'm hoping that she's still my friend when this is all said and done.

So yesterday, Betsey came to help me get started. Jerry is in the UK for a week, so it's just me, the two beagles and my old cat (who sleeps most of the day). Perfect opportunity to get things under control. Plus, I'm in between projects, so the timing is right. Silly me thought that one day would do it. Nope! Although, I will say that we got a lot done yesterday. The biggest thing is that we completely cleared the closet (it was a bit like Christmas finding things that I had forgotten were in there) and took the doors off the closet. We went to Menard's and got cubicles to put in the closet. Jerry had already put 18 cubicles on one wall of the room, so now I have lots of storage space. We're slowly going through all of the fabric and organizing it. Betsey arranged the room so that I have another table in there to work on (always a good thing). I'm quite excited to see it all finished and I am really, really going to try hard and keep it organized. She knows that it's not my gift, and is making it easy for me. We'll see how it goes!

My goal for the year is to finish some old projects that I haven't finished. I'm hoping that having things under control will help me figure out what to do next. It would be awesome to get some of the projects that should have been done awhile ago completed. The trick will be to not be tempted by new projects. Hmmm...we'll see how that one goes!

In other news, a dear friend from church, that is a year older than me, went into cardiac arrest yesterday, and is still fighting for her life in the hospital. We don't treasure our time here on earth like we should and spend way too much time complaining and whining. Treasure your family and loved ones and tell them that you love them. Call a friend just to say I love you. Enjoy each day and thank God for every blessing that He has poured out on you. I love each of you. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I made WHAT with the potato??

I hadn't figured on posting again so quickly, but I'll be working the next few days, and wanted to write this while I had a few minutes.

Awhile ago on Pinterest (don't you love Pinterest? If you aren't on it, sign up--it's really fun), I saw this rather odd-sounding recipe that I wanted to try, so I pinned it for later. I was telling a co-worker about it, and she sounded just as dubious as I felt. According to this girl on Pinterest, I would be able to make homemade potato chips in the microwave! What??

A side note here...for all of my life, I have tried to eat as healthy as possible. My Ma-Ma (maternal grandmother) started cooking healthy way before it was the cool thing to do. For example, she would make a soup a day ahead so that she could cool it down and skim off the fat. I never eat fried food, other than a very occasional dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken (like maybe once a year, and then I feel guilty for the rest of the year). Anyway, I've always made our French fries (or home fries, as Jerry calls them) in the oven. But the microwave?? We had leftover corned beef sandwiches last night, and quite honestly, I love potato chips with my sandwich. I decided to give it a try--all I had to lose was a potato!

OH MY GOSH! Not only did it work, but they were great! What I really like about this idea is that I can take one potato and make a few potato chips and not have a half of a sack leftover that will taunt me from the cabinet (come on, come on...eating just a few won't hurt...we feel so left out here in the pantry). Uh huh. I have a family wedding this summer that I need to lose a few pounds for and don't need potato chips sitting around. (I can't wait to blog about this wedding--it's at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago!!) Ok....back to the potato chips...this is what you do.

Slice your potato in thin slices. I used my mandolin so that my slices would be all the same thickness. Last night, I used 3 potatoes for the 2 of us, and I easily could have gotten away with using just 2 potatoes. But, I sent the leftover chips with Jerry for his lunch today, so all was not lost.

After slicing your potatoes, put them in a bowl and drizzle some olive oil on top of the slices. I honestly didn't measure it last night, but I made a few today for dinner tonight, and I used about 1/2 Tbl. for two medium potatoes. You're looking to coat the potatoes, not drown them in oil. Add a little salt--I used about 1/2 tsp. for the two potatoes, but adjust it to your liking after you do the first batch. Toss the slices so that they are evenly coated.

You are ready to make your potato chips. I used my bacon rack, but the original directions said to use a microwave safe plate. I sprayed my rack with some cooking spray and laid the slices on the rack in a single layer. (Last night, I sprayed the cooking spray for each batch, but today I just did it for the first batch and it was fine. It might depend on your plate that you use and how it's made). I popped them in the microwave and set it for 3 minutes on high. The original directions said 2 minutes, which is what I originally did but they did better for me when I let them go for 3 minutes. Turn them over, and microwave them once again for 2-3 minutes, depending on how brown you want them. It's a personal preference and it will depend on your microwave. They will continue to crisp up as they cool.

Take them out, and let cool on a plate while you do another batch! You've just made potato chips. Try not to eat them all before dinner. Supposedly, they save for up to 3 days, but I can't see them lasting that long around here to find out.

I want to try this with a sweet potato and see what happens with it. Let me know if you try them and how they did for you!! Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to watch The Biggest Loser (another side note--I'm really going to be ticked if they interrupt for the Iowa caucus. Is it November, yet?), and not feel guilty about eating potato chips for dinner! Happy munching!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A New Year

As I sat in church yesterday, the thought crossed my mind that every new year should start out in church. It was a wonderful way to start the new year--worshiping and hearing the Word, and visiting with some dear, dear people.

I had taken down our Christmas on Saturday, with the exception of my nativity, which I decided to leave up for awhile. I have a rule that the tree needs to be down before the first of the year, and truthfully, I'm pretty tired of it as soon as Christmas is over. This year, our daughter's cat stayed with us for about a month, and spent most of the month with her head poked out of the tree, pretending that she was in the wild forest. As a result, I refused to put my antique ornaments (and my Waterford crystal ornaments and all of the beautiful ones my sister-in-law has gotten me over the years), so all I put on the tree was a few fake poinsettias and some berries. So taking down the tree was a breeze! The house has a more open feel to it, and looks cleaner, even though I'm procrastinating really cleaning the house. January has arrived, and the wind is blowing the snow around. I'm not a fan of winter, but the midwest keeps calling me back. I'll be here for a long time, because most of the people I love most are nearby, and that's what really matters.

I'll post more later as my brain thaws out and my ideas for this blog emerge. Happy New Year to you and may God richly bless this new year for you and the people you love. I'm off to either quilt or cook!!