Greetings on this last day of 2018. How was your year? Did you have some memorable moments? First, I want to thank all of you who have faithfully followed my blog. Some of you have not left comments, but I check my stats, and I know you’re out there!
When I started my site in 2016, I wanted to encourage people to find fulfillment in pursuing their interests. For me, writing is the spice of life, and this blog has given me an opportunity to share my passions. I’ve crossed paths with those who love nature, history, poetry, books, family life, beagles, and all things Florida.
Today I want to step back and reflect upon my blogging year. Here are my most read posts of 2018. Click on the link to see what others have enjoyed reading:
I’ll admit my blog is kind of a mixed bag. But it’s a reflection of me, and I’m a person with many interests. Narrowing myself to one area of expertise seems kind of boring.
In closing, I hope you have time to pause and reflect upon your life this year. This morning I made a list of all of my blessings. When compared with my challenges, the blessings won! I love this quote from Melody Beattie.
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates vision for tomorrow.”
I invite you to continue to follow me in 2019 as I meander the road less followed. Best wishes for a joyful January as we walk into 2019.
Do you like to cook? Whether you do or not, I’m sure you enjoyed someone else’s cooking during this holiday season. Food is a big deal for my family. As the chief cook, I’ve spent quite a bit of time of time in the kitchen during the last two weeks. In addition to the tried and true recipes my family members expect, I like to unveil at least one new dish.
This year my search for cookie recipes led me to an ancient resource. As I scanned the books on my shelf, I came across Betty Crocker’s Picture CookBook, published in 1950 by General Mills. This family heirloom, handed down from my mom, describes American family life during that decade.
Betty Crocker dedicates her cookbook, “to homemakers everywhere who like to minister to their dear ones by serving them good food. Cooking for your family is the age-old way to express love and concern for their welfare.”
Most women of the 1950’s were not employed outside the home. Their days were spent cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. The book contains tips on how to keep your husband happy. For instance, “The clever wife has a simple appetizing cocktail (cold in summer, hot in winter) ready for her weary husband when he comes home from work.” By the way, all of the drinks listed are non-alcoholic. I never knew there were so many ways to jazz up tomato juice.
The book gives pointers on meal planning and purchasing quality food. The appearance of the meal when served is important. Cooks should add “finishing touches” in the form of garnishes. Dinner was an event, that demanded proper dress and manners. This was the same time period as the Leave it to Beaver TV show, when Ward, the dad, wore a suit around the house. June, the mom, always wore a dress, pearls, and high heels.
Quite a contrast to today’s culture where meals consist of pre-prepared foods hastily gobbled down in front of the TV. (Microwaves were not invented yet.) Does your family sit in the dining room for dinner? Recently I’ve noticed many people are no longer doing their own grocery shopping. They order food online and pay a professional shopper to gather it and have it ready for pick up.
My favorite part of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book are the snippets of food history included. At the time of publication, appetizers were new to American cuisine. According to Betty, the custom of appetizers began in ancient Rome. People munched on chicory, endive, or celery to excite hunger. Later the Europeans elaborated on the custom, by advancing to caviar and anti-pasta. By 1950, Americans were becoming more cosmopolitan and refined. The hostess who served appetizers was considered chic because the activity of moving around in the living room before a meal put guests at ease.
Although I didn’t actually prepare anything from my historic cookbook this holiday season, it was a great conversation piece. A lot has changed about American kitchens over the past seventy years but people are still eating and enjoying food!
Have your culinary methods of cooking and serving food changed over the years? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Bon Appetite!
Are you tired of running the December rat race? My race to prepare for Christmas started the day after Thanksgiving and still continues. Social norms dictate my actions. My days are full of decorating, shopping, and baking. One week I attended nine social events. I feel like the burnt out Santa pictured above.
The Pressure to Maintain Tradition
I have friends who schedule a long cruise every December to purposely avoid the craziness. That’s not a bad idea, but I doubt if I would ever be bold enough to change. I’m too much of a traditionalist. Every year I tell myself I’m going to scale down my preparations. Do I really need to bake seven kinds of cookies? Do I need to send cards this year? It’s difficult to stop doing something you’ve always done. Sure, cookies are time consuming to make, but everyone loves to eat them. Cards take some effort to send, but they are a way of maintaining contact with loved ones who aren’t on facebook.
The Pressure To Feel Happy
Another dynamic that December brings is the pressure to be happy. Upbeat Christmas music plays in the stores. “Tis the season to be jolly” carries an expectation to be full of good cheer. Unfortunately tragedy never takes a holiday. For the countless number of people who’ve experienced a loss at this time of year, the anniversary of the event brings a time of renewed grief. The idea that it’s somehow wrong to to be sad only adds to their despair.
The Pressure to Please Others
Each year we are inundated with keeping up with marketing trends. Advertisements pressure us to get new models of gadgets we already have that can do more things and do them faster. Desperate to please our loved ones, we overspend. I like this reminder:
You are not obligated to continue holiday traditions that leave you broke, overwhelmed, or tired.
A Matter of the Heart
One of my favorite Christmas stories is How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr.Suess.The Whos of Who-ville had completed all of their holiday preparations. They decorated their homes, prepared for a feast, and hung their stockings on the mantel. But while they were sleeping, the Grinch stole everything. Yet, when they got up Christmas morning, they celebrated as if nothing was missing. They gathered in the town square, held hands and sang to welcome Christmas. This left the Grinch perplexed.
“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more. ”
Dr. Suess captured everything I feel in these two lines. Yes, Christmas will come without all the traditions I usually keep. The gifts I hastily wrap and place beneath the tree are no comparison to God’s gift of Jesus Christ to mankind. The traditions of man cannot match God’s love. Knowing this helps me reframe the true meaning of the holiday. Christmas is an intangible matter of the heart. I want to experience more of God’s love this December. That usually begins by taking the time to seek Him. That’s something I want to do more.
What are your thoughts on December? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you. If you are feeling deflated, may this Christmas give you the opportunity to consider God’s love for you.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me.”
The words of Jesus from John 14:1 remind me I have a choice every day. I can decide to trouble my heart, or trust in God. I trouble my heart when I continue to play negative tapes in my mind. These tapes often include fears about the future.
Worry robs today of creative energy.
Sometimes people feel obligated to worry. As if worrying is necessary baggage to carry along on the journey of life. Some carry their worries in a briefcase, others drag an oversized suitcase behind them everywhere they go. I’m kind of in the middle. My worries fit neatly in a backpack but it’s heavy and the load keeps me from climbing the high places.
Stop and think about the mental energy we use when we worry. Couldn’t that energy be spent writing, painting, or gardening? What could we accomplish if we set our suitcase to the side and refused to open it?
Worry robs today of it’s joy.
When we live in the present we start to be more aware of our surroundings. We hear a bird chirping outside our window. We smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen. Put your hand over your heart. Feel your pulse and rejoice because you are alive!
Most of the time the exercise of “troubling our hearts” doesn’t solve whatever problem we’re dwelling upon. It only makes us feel anxious. So how do we put a lock on our luggage?
Present your requests to God.
Once you’ve prayed about your concern, imagine tucking it away and locking it up. Allow the peace of God to fill your mind. Remember, God wants the best for you. He will be with you in all of your tomorrows.
“You’ve got to get busy living or get busy dying.”
The quote from the movie, The Shawshank Redemption offers good advice. We can choose how to occupy our time. Each day is a gift. We can waste it by rearranging the worries in our luggage, or lock it up and set it aside.
What does being busy living look like to you? Let’s not waste the gift of today. Take a walk. Read a good book. Bake cookies. Take a friend to coffee. Make a list of all the the things in your life you are thankful for. Enjoy today. Sleep well tonight. Enjoy tomorrow.
“Whatever is lovely, think about such things. And may the God of peace be with you.” Phillippians 4:8,9
Irena Sendler learned that when someone is drowning, you jump in and help.
Irena Sendler never thought of herself as a person who did anything out of the ordinary. She believed she was just listening to her heart when she worked to rescue thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.
I learned about Irena while touring the Holocaust Center of Maitland, Florida. Currently the museum is hosting the “Heroes of Warsaw” exhibit which shares the original artwork of illustrator Bill Farnsworth. The exhibit will be on display until December 28, 2018.
Farnsworth’s illustrations appear in the children’s book, Irena Sendler and the Childrenof the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin. (Holiday House 2011) I was so intrigued by Irena’s life, I borrowed a copy of the book from our local public library.
After the German army invaded Poland in 1939, thousands of Jewish residents of Warsaw were rounded up and packed into a ghetto with eleven foot high walls. Soon a typhus epidemic broke out due to poor sanitation. The Germans were horrified the epidemic would expand beyond the walls of the ghetto. They permitted Polish authorities to take care of health and sanitation inside the walls since they were afraid to enter.
Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker who dressed as a nurse to gain access to the Warsaw ghetto. Armed police were stationed at every entrance. As a member of the underground group Zegota, she used her cover to smuggle Jewish children to safe homes, where they assumed false identities. In the book the author describes the creative means by which Irena bypassed the armed police. Irena hid children in coffins and under the floorboards of ambulances. Babies were tucked into potato sacks and toolboxes.
Her efforts were not without personal sacrifice. Irena had become a prime mover in the Zagota organization. Eventually she was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the Nazi’s. She escaped her execution with the help of a truck driver who accepted a bribe for her release. While Irena was in prison, her aunt saved the record of the children’s true identities. After her escape, Irena recovered the lists, stored them in glass bottles, and buried them under an apple tree.
After the war ended she gave the lists to Dr. Adolph Berman who placed the children in Jewish homes. Irena liberated four hundred children herself. Zegota saved over two thousand. Most of the parents of the surviving children were executed in the Treblinka death camp during the war.
When asked why she risked her life to save others, Irena responded by sharing something she learned when she was young.
“I was taught by my father that when someone is drowning, you don’t just ask if they can swim, you jump in and help.”
Irena never thought of herself as heroic. She believed, like many selfless people she was simply doing what she had to do. Irena thought the real heroes were the Jewish mothers who gave up their children to unknown persons.
IRENA’S LATER YEARS
On October 19, 1965 Irena was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance center of Jerusalem. Polish Communist leaders did not allow her to travel to Israel to receive the award. She was later presented the award in 1983.
Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and bless his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes.
The Holocaust Center sponsors educational programs dedicated to combating ant-Semitism, racism, and prejudice. Plans have been unveiled to move it’s location to a newly renovated facility in downtown Orlando which will serve as a symbol of the city’s diversity and acceptance.