Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grandmom's Pumpkin Pie

Fall strikes up such wonderful memories for me, and most of them have to do with fall harvest and food! Oh, how I love the smell of apples baking! There’s absolutely thing to compare to homemade applesauce with a dash of cinnamon……..except Grandmom’s pumpkin pies made from scratch.

Growing up, I had no idea that pumpkin pies could be made from anything except fresh pumpkin. And, I have to tell you that when tasting the difference between fresh pumpkin and canned, I’ll take the fresh pumpkin over canned a hundred to one!

There’s something else about this pumpkin pie thing, though. I don’t think it’s just the recipe that makes the pies so good. I believe that a large part of my longing for homemade pumpkin pies has to do with remembering my Grandmother.

Grandmom was a plain lady – no frills or thrills about her. She was my mother’s mom, of German descent, and she was poorer than a church mouse, but also the richest woman I ever met! She had “wealth of spirit”, not physical treasure. She was always content with what she had. In fact, one of her well-known phrases was, “This is like Christmas in July!” She graciously and thankfully accepted hand-me-downs of any kind, and would literally give you the very shirt off of her back.

Grandmom lived in a little old house in the woods in New Gretna, New Jersey. She had pine trees in her side yard, a grape arbor out back, a flowerbed by her front steps, and a cranberry bog in the woods behind her house. I don’t think she ever owned a new piece of furniture in her 96 years of living on this earth. “Stuff” didn’t matter to her. What mattered to her was her loved and dedication to God and her total trust in God.

Grandmom lived as a widow without complaint for over 40 years. She lived to bury 2 of her 3 children and saw 3 of her 8 grandchildren buried – one of them being my 13-year-old sister. Never during all of that grief and pain did I see her faith falter, and to this day I marvel at her quiet, yet tenacious, faith in God. I honestly don’t know how she remained so strong in her faith!

She loved all people – rich, poor, strong, weak, Christian or non. She house strangers passing through and did not lose her faith in humankind when she was gagged, tied in a chair, and robbed of her only savings -- $100 hidden underneath her mattress. The robbers, who had fully intended to kill her, untied her and fled. I think she shook them up to the point of no return when she offered to fix them dinner, as they were about to rob her. Even in this situation she wanted to give!

Grandmom always said grace before each meal, and she opened and closed every day with a bible reading, memorization of one Scripture verse, and the writing of her list of blessings for the day.

When I think of fall and pumpkins and pumpkin pies, I think of my Grandmother and I miss her so much! As I bake my pies this eyar, I will she a few salty tears, I’m sure. Not tears of sadness as much as tears of joy and remembrance of the dearest lady I’m ever known. Grandmom, I sure do love and miss you!

PS If you care to have my Grandmother’s own pumpkin pie recipe, let me know. I’ll gladly share, but you have to promise to bake your pies with lots and lots of love!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Seize the Moment -- Just Do It!

We’ve all heard the phrases, “seize the moment” and “just do it” more times than we care to mention. And, if you’re like me, you’ve bought books on how to take time to smell the roses, live in the present, and take time for the little things in life. Yet…….so much of our lives is spent doing “ meaningless stuff” that we really don’t take the time to “seize the moment” or “just do it” until something like a tragedy strikes. And, then we stop everything and spend day after day, hour after hour just wishing that we had taken the time to do the things in life that really count. Why does it take something terrible in our lives to happen before we truly “get it”?

Anyone who knows me also knows that when I was a teen at the age of 15 my middle sister died. She was only thirteen, and the impact that her death had on my life cannot even be put into words. When Carmella died, it was like someone took their foot with a heavy, steel-toed work boot and smashed my heart over and over again. My life as a teen was turned upside down and I really and truly understood how fragile life is and how quickly those moments that count can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

Ever since June 5, the day she died many years ago, my eyes have viewed life from a different perspective. I’ve wished a million times over that it didn’t take the death of my sister to impact my life like this, but I’m also thankful that her life had that much meaning to touch me for a lifetime. And, it is my constant prayer that not one day will slip past me without taking time to enjoy the wonder of it all!

What I’m trying to say is this. Life is short, and can end at any moment. Life is fragile and circumstances in life can change dramatically at any time. That’s not meant to be a frightening thought, but rather a thought to keep us focused on the real meaning of life. We are here for such a short time when viewed in the spectrum of eternity, so why not make the most of our living while on this earth? We’ve been given so much beauty to enjoy! We have oceans and mountains and streams. There are fields and flowers and rainforests. The sky is vast and blue and incredible! There are rainbows and bolts of lightening, the stars and the moon. There are butterflies and hummingbirds and eagles that soar. Not to mention the untold miracles found in a newborn baby or the tenderness and beauty found in the wrinkles of a wise and aged person of ninety. There is laughter and joy to be found everywhere if only we take time out of our crazy, busy daily routines to look around us!

Don’t delay! Grasp hold of some of today’s beauty and linger and enjoy it. Say “I love you” often. Did you know you can never say those words too many times? Give that hug you’ve been meaning to give. Study the shape and the color of the leaves. Be a star gazer and allow yourself to be “wowed” by the magic of the night lights. Just do it! Take a bit of time each and every day to enjoy the many wonders and miracles of life that surround you! Seize the moment. Just do it!

Mom of 11 children
Mom of 1 stillborn son
Mom of 6 angel babies
Author of Silent Grief

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Joy Comes from the Simple Things in Life!

I don’t know exactly why, but this morning was one of those days when I woke up early and started thinking before I ever got out of bed. My mind began to wrestle over some of the problems I knew I’d be facing today, and the more I thought, the more tensed up my mind and body became. Then, without any warning, a ray of sunshine found its way into the bedroom through the curtains that had been pulled shut the evening before, and that’s when my mind shifted gears.

There is so much that brings joy into my life. There are far more joyful things than those momentary worries, so why spend precious moments at the beginning of the day cluttering my mind with the things in life that don’t bring lasting meaning? Why not concentrate on the joyful things – the simple things in life that are my daily gifts to enjoy?

And, so…..I’ll share some of my list of the simple things in life that bring me such great joy!

Feeling the dew on my bare feet that covers that grass
Colorful flowers and leaves
Blue skies
Gentle falling raindrops
My warm, comfy bed
A steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee early in the morning
The sound of the birds singing
Watching a deer slowly walk across the front yard
Pears dropping from the ‘ole pear tree
The smell of pancakes on a crisp, fall morning
Snuggling up in my soft fleece blanket with a good book
Watching a sappy love story
Eating freshly popped popcorn
Sipping on hot peach tea right before bed
Standing on the porch and listening to the sounds of nature
Talking to Steph who always gives me something to laugh about
Looking at pictures of the kids when they were little – fun memories!
The smell of fresh paint
Vases filled with flowers from the garden
Picking a tomato and eating it straight from the garden
Lavender vanilla candles
The smell of a newborn baby
Hearing the giggles and laughter of little kids
Hugs from my kids
The smell of the crisp, autumn air

My list is never ending….but you’re getting the picture. The simple things in life are those things that surround us daily, but we so often don’t take the time to appreciate and fully enjoy because we allow our minds to be far too cluttered with the daily noise of “stuff”.

Why not join me and make YOUR list of the simple things in life that bring joy to you each day? I’ll make you a little bet…..we can each easily fill a book with our personal treasures of joy!

I’m keeping my list right beside me where I can add to it daily. Who knows? Maybe one day it will be a book, or at least it will be a “mom’s journal of simple things” that I leave behind for some of my kids and grandkids to enjoy! Or, knowing them, the journal will provide them with hours and hours of laughter as they recall, “mom was the simplest thing of all”!

Mom of 11 living children
Mom of 1 stillborn son
Mom of 6 angel babies

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Everyday Heroes - My Inspiration!

I just finished reading a book for the second time -- Life's That Way by Jim Beaver. It's a personal journal that Jim kept when he found out his wife Cecily had lung cancer. I bought the book because I speak on the topic of grief and coping skills for grief, and thought this book might give me some more insight into how people cope when life is suddenly turned upside down. The book is great, but not as great as actually speaking one-on-one with what I like to call life's everyday heroes -- those people in the trenches fighting daily battles of brokenness, loss, undeserved devastation -- who never get a book written about them and who never really get much recognition at all.

And, so it is that I want to tell you about my friends, Mike and Darcel Fahy.

I've known Mike since he was little kid. He graduated in my daughter Mandy's class from a small hometown high school in Shanksville where everybody knows everybody. After graduation I didn't hear much about Mike until one day I saw him wandering the halls of the building where I work. He was applying for a job and I promised I'd put in a good word for him. Seeing Mike that day was a reminder that he had grown up, and I had grown old! Life moves on quickly!

Mike got the job, and he often visited my office sharing stories and photos of falling in love with Darcel, their wedding, buying his new truck, and then buying their first home. He and Darcel are one of those couples that you love to be around -- full of fun and laughter and lots of energy!

On June 29, 201o no longer were Mike and Darcel living lives as regular people, in a quiet little town, going through the normal carefree activities of everyday life. Suddenly, and without warning, they were thrust into the battlefield called CANCER and this young couple now has joined the ranks of those people I call my everyday heroes!

Darcel, at the young age of 25, was told by her doctor that she has stage 3 ovarian cancer. She went to the hospital for a procedure to rid her of endometriosis so that she could get pregnant. When she left the hospital a few days later Darcel had undergone a hysterectomy, had a temporary colostomy, and understood that she would be facing several weeks of chemo, other surgeries, not to mention all of the many changes in daily routine that would now become part of Mike and Darcel's new life on the battlefield.

Most of us would have left that hospital broken in spirit and depleted of all hope. Not Darcel! Not Mike! Darcel looked her doctor straight into his eyes and said with complete confidence, "I won't let this beat me", and that has been her battle cry every day since!

Rather than focus their attention inward, Mike and Darcel have taken this ovarian cancer and together they are touching the lives of thousands of others. Just days after Darcel got home from the hospital, Mike and a friend created the website and Darcel is making it her goal to educate as many women, young and old, about the insidious symptoms of ovarian cancer. Darcel is a young woman with a passion and purpose. She is determined to fight this battle and be a winner! She is working hard each day to get word out about ovarian cancer. Who knew that this cancer could strike a woman at such a young age? Thanks to Darcel's efforts, thousands of young women are learning about the symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Dignity. Grace. Passion. Selflessness. Determination. Those are the words that best describe Mike and Darcel. No, they may never make national headlines in a newspaper or have a book on the National Bestsellers List. They don't drive a splashy car or live in a luxorious house. They're not worldwide travelers or among the world's top 100 wealthiest people. But, they are heroes! They are heroes not only to me, but to the thousands of others who are touched by their story of courage, determination, and unwavering faith. They are fighting a war, and they will win!

To get to know more about Darcel's cancer journey and to join in on doing your part to help find new ways of early detection of ovarian cancer, please visit Darcel at . Read her blog. Leave her a note and let her know that you have joined her in this battle. Buy a t-shirt and a wrist band and wear it with pride as you help Darcel in this undertaking she has taken on with such passion and pride!

Darcel and Mike, you are my heroes, and you are an amazing inspiration! May God graciously continue to bless you and your selfless efforts!