January 5 – Making Soup

by Gerry Wilson

recipe

It’s the middle of the week after Christmas, the “low days,” after the children and grandchildren have come and gone, and the house no longer rings with activity. The Christmas tree looks barren, and the trash has been taken out, except for the one box our Siamese cat, Oliver, has appropriated for his own use. Miserable from too much rich food, my husband and I can’t face the leftovers one more time, so I’m making soup. Not just any soup, but a simple one my grandmother used to make, “homemade” vegetable, which involves some chopping and opening of cans and mostly a lot of waiting and stirring. Because we have a ham bone left over after Christmas and I have the long winter afternoon ahead, it seems a good time to make it.

Like my grandmother, I make this soup from memory. It’s been years since I attempted it, but I do recall that the ham bone has to simmer at least three hours to generate a stock, and then I saute onions and celery, add lots of tomatoes (canned will do) and the ham stock, and let them simmer for another hour or so before I add whatever vegetables I choose: this time, it’s cream-style corn, which helps to thicken the soup; a few potatoes, chopped; some of the leftover ham, frozen peas. This is a forgiving soup; kale is also a good choice, or cabbage, if you want to make it a little healthier. But today isn’t about healthy. It’s about remembering, and tradition, and soon the house starts to smell like the house I grew up in, a house that held three generations. My grandmother was always the cook, my mother like an aging apprentice.

My grandmother seldom used recipes but cooked by instinct: a handful of this, a pinch of that. When she did use a recipe, she often made notes about how she altered it and made it her own. As I stir this soup and wait for the flavors to meld together, I remember her life: her shame at having only gone through the eighth grade. The way she nursed my invalid grandfather. The big garden she kept behind our house where she grew much of what our family ate. She was a storyteller, too; I believe I inherited my love of story from her. I remember the stories she told and how they evolved over the years, never quite the same from one telling to the next.

So it is with this soup: I make it one way this time, another way the next, but I will write this recipe down so that my grandchildren, during their own “low days” in the future, can go about the simple task of throwing ingredients into a pot and nurturing them along until something delicious emerges: a simple, hearty soup for a winter evening, a soup for remembering.

Gerry Wilson’s short fiction collection, Crosscurrents and Other Stories, was published by Press 53 in 2015. Her stories have appeared in Night Train, Prime Number, Good Housekeeping, Arkansas Review, and other publications. A retired teacher, Gerry is currently working on a novel and writing short fiction. She lives in Jackson, Mississippi. Find her online at  http://www.gerrygwilson.com

January 2 – A Very Special Lunch

by Linda Hoye

January 2, 2009

 My daughter is sitting up in bed, smiling and crying at the same time. There is an indescribable glow about her

“Congratulations, Mommy!” I embrace her and kiss her forehead.

Satisfied that she is okay, I turn toward the baby warmer. The nurse is bustling about but steps aside to allow me to get closer to the warmer. My granddaughter, eyes wide open, is looking around as if to take in the sights of this new world she has arrived in.

I reach over and gently take her tiny hand in mine as I lean over and whisper so only she can hear. “Welcome! We’ve been waiting for you!”

Excerpted from, Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude by Linda Hoye, Benson Books, 2012

 December 2016

“I’m a big girl, Grandma,” she reminds me as I move to help her grate the carrots. Makiya is making wraps for the two of us for lunch–the same wraps I once made for her mommy not so many years ago. “I can do it.”

She can, of course, but maybe it’s the part of me that still gets misty when I remember the day she was born that causes me to forget that this strong-willed, intelligent, and beautiful girl is capable of preparing lunch for the two of us.

“Hang on, let me take a quick picture.” I reach for my phone and move toward the counter where she stands working.

“Grandma!” she’s exasperated with all the picture-taking around here over the past couple of days while she’s been spending a week with us.

“Just one,” I promise. “Look over here. Smile!”

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Makiya turns toward me and instead of smiling, flashes a look that reminds me of her mommy. She allows the photo to be taken—with only a slight rolling of the eyes—and returns to the task at hand. Lunch.

When she’s grated the carrot as far down as she dare go, she sets the remaining chunk aside. Then, she opens the jar of Miracle Whip and spreads a thin layer on each of two tortilla shells, spreads the grated carrot on top, and covers it with alfalfa sprouts.

“Do you want me to help you roll it up?” I can’t resist asking as she pauses to consider her next move.

“I can do it, Grandma,” she reminds me, but after trying to roll them herself acquiesces and requests my assistance, then firmly directs me to return to my chair while she serves lunch.

She hands me a plate with the wrap in the middle and one of the Christmas sugar cookies we made the day before on the side, and a napkin.

“What would you like to drink?” she asks in her best server voice. “Water? Okay. Ice? Would you like crushed or cubed?”

She returns with a glass of water for me and eggnog for herself and sits opposite me. We munch on our wraps and chat; she brings the dolls seated beside her into the conversation making for an interesting time all around.

How I treasure these simple days with her.

January 2, 2017

Today is Makiya’s eighth birthday and even this grandma can’t deny that she is, indeed, a big girl. Happy Birthday, Ladybug Girl. Grandma loves you to the moon and back.

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Linda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and a somewhat-fanatical grandma. Retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career , she lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier where she finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, in her garden, and most especially in her role as grandma.

December 31 – Just Me

by Lisa Bankson-Hacker

woman on green field under blue skies

woman on green field under blue skies

I am an insomniac who often spends hours in the middle of the night worrying about things that will likely never happen.

I am a woman with chubby knees and shoulders best suited for a junior high quarterback.

I am a mom who notoriously forgets to mail a birthday card, despite spending the week before their birthday reminiscing on their importance in my life.

I am a driver who sometimes goes a little too fast, but always pulls over for funeral processions and says a little prayer.

I am a cook who rarely works from recipes, then wonders why the meatloaf tastes a little different than it did last time.

I am a dog lover who can’t resist the whining dachshund scratching at my bedroom door.

I am a wife who often feels invisible.

I am an instructor who gets to the end of each semester and commiserates over the lessons I never got around to.

I am a shopper who cannot walk away from a clearance rack.

I am a child of the 80s who greatly misses roller skating rinks, MTV, and Duran Duran.

I am the church member who sings loudly, yet imperfectly, at the top of my lungs during worship service.

I am the unsteady hand that has never been adept at using an eyebrow pencil.

I am the dreamer who really wants to go back to school for that PhD, but wonders if I’m too old.

I am the crafty one who loves to crochet scarves but has no one in Texas to give them to.

I am the couch potato who can spend hours watching CSI Miami and Dateline reruns.

I am the drinker who loves a good dry red.

I am the lover who loves to be loved.

I am the boss who always gives you the day off when you need it.

I am the tutor who sees good things in everything you write.

I am the friend who often disappears when the world gets a little too crowded.

I am the patient who questions why, and wonders when she will be well.

I am the writer who craves more time to write, then squanders it with daydreams and doodles.

I am a woman like you, my friend: different, but more alike than we know.

Lisa is a community college writing center supervisor, an adjunct writing instructor at a local university, and a freelance writer. She lives in Santa Fe, Texas, and enjoys traveling and crochet. She looks forward to the day when she can live in a little house in the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Her website is www.writingthequeensenglish.com.

December 30 – Sharing My Life

by Doris Jean Shaw 

Dad’s construction job took us around the country. When the job was completed, we moved, often two or three times a year.

I loved seeing new places but I missed my extended family. By the time I could write, I was writing letters: newsy notes that told of the places we lived and the exciting things we saw. Each new place was an experience to share.

During the Vietnam war I wrote letters to anyone who asked, even those I never met. A friend would say that his buddy did not get mail and I would add him to my growing list. When my own brothers entered service I wrote to them. When we received an answer I let my children hold my brother’s picture as the letter was read.

As my children went off to college I loaded them down with picture post cards. Even though there was not much room, they did write. They continued the habit as they traveled the world and sent back post cards.

Technology advanced and today I send emails along with letters and post cards. Not wanting to just say: “Hi. How are you? I’m fine.”, I began to write stories about events that happened in my life. Writing lets me share my world with others.

“Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land.” (Proverbs 25:25, New International Version)

Lord, thank you for the gift of communication so I can share my world with others.

Doris Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of Beauregard Parish Writers Guild “The Ink Blots.”  She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals.  She presents a workshop, entitled “Reclaiming Me” that helps others find direction for their futures.

December 29 – Electric Blanket

by Jeana Pruitt Weeks

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I have a new love. It’s a love so true and pure I get a little misty whenever I think about it. Please don’t think me shallow when I tell you the object of my affection is, well, an object. It’s my electric blanket.

I had long forgotten what a beautiful thing a pre-warmed bed was. I have suffered under pounds of blankets for far too long. For Christmas my husband generously relieved my cold-footed misery with a gift of a dual-control velour king-sized electric blanket–complete with auto shut off and a darn near angelic reheat function. It was love at first plug-in.

I had an electric blanket years ago when I was single. It now gently keeps my little girl warm. For so long, I have lived without a truly warm bed, deciding I really didn’t need to spend that much money on a blanket when I could just sleep in socks.

But I was wrong. I needed this.

When I slip into a luxuriously warm bed at the end of long day, I feel so genuinely blessed. I know most of the world has never had this experience nor will they ever. Just thinking about my gift of a warm bed on a cold night makes me warm on the inside (pardon the pun).

Okay, so, yes, I know I live in southern Texas. Yes, I know most of the country simply laughs at what we call winter. (Which, by the way, we laugh at what most of the country calls summer, but I digress.) I firmly admit I can’t handle the cold. It’s just not in my blood, which has thinned out after a lifetime of southern living.

Which is why, I love my electric blanket. If I knew who created such a miraculous invention as a way to warm a bed without setting in on fire, I think I’d kiss him or her, provided he or she was among the living.

My husband lamented that he’s now been replaced. I told him that wasn’t true.

We both knew I was lying.

Jeanna Pruitt Weeks, educator, consultant, blogger, teaches home school. Member of the Ink Blots.

December 27 – Yoga Rant

by Jeana Pruitt Weeks

Yoga Woman on a dock by the ocean

Yoga Woman on a dock by the ocean © Yanik Chauvin | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Let me preface my rant with the statement that I am an old mom. I had my first child at age 36. I am 42 my kids are 5, 4, and 1. I try hard not to let my children lose out because mommy is an old fogey. I take my kids for walks, to the park, let them “practice” the piano, and get into tickle fights with them. Because my life just wasn’t stressful enough, I have taken on the task of homeschooling my oldest little darling–an exercise not for the faint of heart. I have a couple of collegiate degrees under my belt, I felt I should be able to handle the kindergarten curriculum without too much trouble.

I just can’t help feeling old. Take today for example, I took my daughter to the library to let her check out some books. My other two hoodlums were in preschool. It was a nice break and reminded me that there is, indeed, life beyond math and phonic.

Things were going well until we were checking out. Across the foyer from the circulation desk at our library is a large open multi-purpose room. Today, the purpose was to host the “Mommy and Me Yoga” class never giving it more than a passing thought. I just couldn’t comprehend how I could make it work with three preschoolers. Yoga, as I have practiced and understand it, is supposed to be about being calm and peaceful, focusing on your essentials of being like breathing and muscle control. There is nothing calm about my three kids, and there is no peace for me when they are all awake in the same room.

As we were waiting patiently in line, we couldn’t help but notice all the activity across the way from the gaggle of tots and moms laughing and packing up to go home. My daughter asked what all of the kids were doing in the other room. I pretended not to know. I couldn’t avoid the conversation altogether. The moms were rolling up yoga mats, all the while smiling and chatting. They seemed like a happy lot, those moms in their yoga pants, ponytails and big smiles were almost young enough to be my kids.

That’s when it hit me: I am just too old to be at peace with community yoga. Right now, I don’t think I could find the mental peace to even pretend I would enjoy it. After shaking my head at myself for the comparisons (the negative ones aimed at me), I decided I am okay with this. I’ve been dealt a different hand to play, and I need to stop trying to peek at someone else’s.

I did what any 40-something homeschooling mom of a kindergartener would do, I looked at my daughter and asked, “Hey, do you wanna go to Panera Bread to finish your lessons and get some lunch?”

Without blinking her eye, she said “Oh, yes, mommy!” Mommy’s age crisis over for the morning.

Jeanna Pruitt Weeks, educator, consultant, home schools. Jeanna is writing a blog to help other home schoolers. She has published articles in the Beauregard Daily News and other magazines.

December 25 – A Christmas Story

by Pat Bean

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The year was 1979. I was recently divorced, four of my five children had left the nest, and I had just moved to a new town where I and my youngest teenage daughter knew no one. After school let out for the holidays, my daughter went to visit friends 50 miles away for a few days.

After she left, I thoughtfully looked at our Christmas tree. It was large, and generously decorated with the ornaments I had collected over the years, including the bright red plastic poinsettia flowers that had been the only decorations I could afford for my first Christmas tree.

So why did it look so sad?

In years past, with my large family still intact, the floor beneath the tree had always been stacked high with wrapped presents, as everyone bought gifts for everyone. But all that was under the tree on this day were the two gifts I had bought my daughter, and the one she had bought for me.

This wouldn’t do, I decided. While money was tight, and I couldn’t afford big gifts, I did have enough for a lot of small items, whose presence beneath the tree would go a long way to cheer it up before my daughter returned home.

Unbeknownst to me, my daughter had come to the same conclusion about our tree. And when she returned, it was with a lot of small gifts that she had bought for me with the small amount of money she had with her.

Our tree no longer looked sad–and when I think of Christmases past, this is always the one I remember first.

Pat Bean is a retired journalist who spent nine years traveling in a small RV with her canine companion, Maggie. She now writes from Tucson, Arizona. She is passionate about books, writing, art, birds, nature, and at 77 still has a zest for life.