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Friendship

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Stumbled Upon

I love it when you stumble upon an old recipe that you haven't made in years. It may not have been a favorite recipe, but one that was tried and true... required little effort... and seldom let you down. Let’s face it, it wasn’t a beloved recipe, if it was, you wouldn’t have stop making it. But for one reason or another, you drifted. It probably happened slowly, over time. Another similar recipe stepped in and competed for your attention, and little by little, it was replaced. In the end, you didn’t even realize you stopped making it. Then, one day, years later, you think about it. Hmmm… you ponder… I wonder if it was as good as I remember. So, you take the time, seek out the recipe, and smile as you are flooded with memories.

“Oh, yeah. I got this recipe from… oh, what was her name? She had that weird husband that use to make that strange clucking sound when we played cards. God, and that dog of hers! It smelled like, well dog, to the nth degree! It’s going to drive me crazy ‘til I remember her name!”
OR
“I remember I made these for Missy’s Girl Scout Troop and they gobbled them up.”
OR
“The kids were so young when I made these. Drew couldn’t have been more than 7. I wonder if they’ll even remember them.”

So, you dust off the recipe card and add it to your on-line recipes. (The last time you made them you didn’t have internet… does THAT say something?) And you make this lost, but found again, recipe. Time will tell whether or not it becomes a favorite that you make on a regular basis, or if you make it this one more time, remember why you fell away in the first place, AND remove it from your on-line recipe box. But love it or leave it, there is something satisfying about becoming reacquainted with a long lost recipe. It’s nostalgic, for sure, and in some cases, it’s a new beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Here’s the recipe that I stumbled upon. I remember now why I stopped making it. It can be rather temperamental. But I found I am more tolerant of recipes than I use to be. Occasionally, the granola bars don’t stick together well. But I’m okay with that. When it happens, I just crumble up the whole batch, and serve it as granola. It is totally yummy sprinkled on yogurt. So, let me introduce you to an old friend, one, by the way, that I plan to keep making.

OATMEAL BARS – AKA Granola Bars
Ingredients:

2 cup oatmeal
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (can use margarine, but I am not a fan)
1/2 cup whole almonds or other nuts (optional buy yummy)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions:
Boil sugar, soda, and butter. Take off heat and stir in oatmeal. Spread in a well greased 8 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 7-10 minutes. Cut immediately but allow to cool in the pan.

Old friends, old recipes, there is something very satisfying with becoming reacquainted with both! Think about it. Is there an old recipe that you haven’t made in years? Maybe it’s time to give it a try… again!
 

Grandma's Nemesis

My Grandma Pearl had a nemesis. Her name was Martha. Believe me; something is lost in merely typing her name. If you were a Seinfeld fan, think of how Jerry use to say "Newman". Much like Jerry, my grandma's top lip would quiver, her nose would wrinkle, and she'd get this phlegmy thing going in the back of her throat each and every time she said Martha's name ... it was as if the name itself was coated in gall.

I met Martha. As a matter of fact, I had the distinct misfortune of encountering her on numerous occasions. She was a cantankerous old broad! My older brother and I often spent the night at Grandma Pearl's. And sometimes she'd have the ladies over to play pinochle. Martha coming to the house was not an event Grandma took lightly. She'd spend the day cleaning, fluffing and baking. Not that her house wasn't always impeccable, but preparing for Martha required extra attention. Pictures needed to be turned at special angles, each petal of the plastic flowers in her center piece needed to be dusted, and her copies of Reader's Digest, Prevention and Women's Day needed to be fanned out on her coffee table with precision tuning. And then there were the snacks. She always spent a great deal of time preparing something that had to have the appearance of requiring no effort at all. She would never want to give Martha the satisfaction of knowing that she cared enough about her opinion to invest any time preparing for her.

I remember one particular encounter with Martha. At the time I was in 4th grade and my brother was in 5th. He had brought his guitar along, because as an aspiring Beatle, he never went anywhere without it! I was wearing my new faux leather jumper, and was definitely feeling like I was styling. Grandma Pearl thought it was great. Being a trend setter herself...she was the envy of the blue haired society...she would have donned the jumper herself if it had come in a polyester double knit! But to put the finishing touches on my look, Grandma insisted on "doing" my hair. I sat through having my hair slathered with Dippety Do...this neon colored, gelatinous substance...then wrapped in curlers so tight that I looked like Joan Rivers after her 10th face lift, and placed under a domed hairdryer to bake for an hour. In the meantime, Grandma was in the kitchen baking her legendary apple pie. When my hair was dried, Grandma removed the curlers and teased my hair (for you youngsters unfamiliar with "teasing" this was the unnatural and tortuous practice of sliding a comb repeatedly up and down through your hair creating "volume", and as a nasty byproduct, tangles that were impossible to brush out!). When grandma was done I looked like a water buffalo, but Grandma was happy with the results, and heck, if it brought her anxiety level down a notch, it was worth it.

So, the final preparations were completed just as Martha's car pulled up. She had picked up a couple of the other women, and as they got out of the car, Grandma gave the signal which cued my brother to start playing the guitar, and required me to sit poised in a chair, giving the appearance of a demure debutant. Grandma's cheeks were noticeably flushed, but as the delicious aroma of fresh baked pies wafted through the air, carrying musical renditions by my brother, my grandma gave one last scan of the room, and as a final touch, crossed my legs in a provocative manner, not necessarily suitable for a ten year old. But the troops were prepared. Grandma Pearl was armed for battle.

When Martha walked in, Grandma was sitting in a chair clapping in time to my brother's playing. She looked up and gave her best surprised looked, as if she had been so enthralled with my brother's talents that she totally lost track of time. Martha took two steps into the room and said, "Pearl, could you make him stop that infernal racket?" Gesturing to me with a purse carrying elbow said, "Hmmm, looks like she's put on some weight." While making her way to the card table she asked, "What's that foul odor?" And when finally seated at the table, requested a dishcloth to "wipe down" the sticky surface.

But this blog isn't a documentary about Martha, but rather a behavioral science observation. Grandma knew Martha for over 20 years, and during that time I never once heard Grandma say anything nice about the woman. As a matter of fact, her comments were quite the contrary, but who could blame her? Martha was the bane of Grandma's existence. She traveled in Grandma's circle, so she was everywhere. Everyone else looked up to my grandma and sang her praises; but never Martha. Martha was quick to point out the flaws in Grandma's appearance, baking and card playing, and she did it so effortlessly. Grandma could not stand Martha...and yet...

Martha died. I don't know what Grandma's first reaction was to the news. She may have danced a little jig, she may have offered up a guilty prayer, or I'm thinking, she probably started planning the perfect outfit to wear to her archenemy's funeral; tasteful, yet bordering on the edge of disrespectful. But after the dust settled, and Martha was laid to rest, something strange and inexplicable happened...Grandma missed Martha. I'm sure there was the initial sense of relief when she was preparing for an event. Now, Grandma would only be tossed accolades, not stinging insults. Her efforts would be rewarded with praise, not criticism. But as any comic reading 10 year old would point out...superheroes are nothing without their nemesis. Superman had Lex Luther, Batman had The Joker, Luke Skywalker had Darth Vadar and Grandma Pearl had Martha. Without Martha continually trying to thwart her plans, victory was not as sweet. Grandma did not stop living when Martha died, but a major contributor to her motivation was buried, with what turned out to be, her friend.

Sometimes we take others for granted or fail to acknowledge their positive impact on our lives. Even a Martha can be missed!

Christmas with the Girls

Tonight is our annual Girl's Night Out (GNO) Christmas Dinner. Actually, this really hasn't been a Girl's Night Out group in quite some time...we're now more of a Kick Off Your Shoes, Curl Up on the Couch and Stay at Home (KOYSCUCSH) kind of group! We began as friends then started a reading group, but soon realized only half of us had read the assigned book, and "which half" changed every month! Our titillating discussions went something like this...

Someone: So, what did everyone think of the book.

Someone Else: Oh, don't say anything about the end. I'm not done yet.

Someone Different: Hey, did anyone see (insert new movie) this weekend? What'd cha think about it?

At this point knew it was time to give up the guise of being a literary group. My girlfriend's husband affectionately referred to us as the "Books Aren't Us" or the "Unbook Club". He hit the nail on the head. It's not that we aren't literary people. Most of us are teachers and voracious readers, heck, some of us even belong to book clubs where we actually read and talk about books. It's just that when we get together, there are so many personal things we want to catch up on, that the books got in the way.

Realizing we were no longer a book club, we decided we would be an Out To Dinner (OTD) group. Every month someone would pick a restaurant, and we'd meet, eat, and have a chance to chat. THIS was definitely more in line with our collective need. We did this for a number of years then something happened. It was subtle at first, then blatantly obvious. Without a predetermined decision, the number of times we went out to dinner started to diminish and simply gathering at a friend's home began to gain momentum. Today, we do not have delusions of grandeur. We are what we are. A group of friends, content to snuggle together on the couch with a glass of wine and chat or meet at the local coffee shop on Wednesday mornings and catch up. We've been through many things together; death and births, illness and accidents, promotions and job losses, marriage, divorce and remarriage, retirement and second careers. And what we've come to appreciate is that it doesn't matter what we do, as long as we are together.

At Christmas time we like to have a special evening. We have dinner at my house, I make the main dish and everyone brings a little something, and for a few short hours, we can leave the chaos of the season at the door. (I spoke about one of our gatherings in Sweater Flambe.) Tonight I am making a very yummy dish called Chicken Supreme. (My children affectionately refer to it as "Barnyard Sampler" because cow, pig and chicken are all used in the recipe!) A lovely dinner and friends...it just doesn't get any better!

CHICKEN SUPREME

4-6 chicken breasts, halves (I use boneless, skinless)

4-8 strips of bacon

1/2 pint sour cream

1 can mushroom soup

1/4 pound chipped beef

5 ounces white wine

Wrap a strip of bacon around each half of chicken breasts. Put side by side in baking dish which has been covered with a layer of chipped beef. (Or place 2 pieces of chipped beef under the chicken breast and wrap the breast and chicken breast together with the bacon. Mix sour cream, soup and wine. Pour over chicken. Do not salt since bacon and chipped beef supply the salt. Cook uncovered at 300 deg. for 2 hours. The sauce will almost be absorbed and the chicken nicely browned outside.

*If bacon is especially fat, use half strip of bacon.

Serve with rice.

Is there anything special you do with your friends at Christmas?

WRITING YOUR OWN EULOGY

          Okay, I know, I know…none of my “young” readers wants to think about anything as morose as their own death. Don’t blame you! But I would like to throw something out there for your consideration. Recently, I went to a memorial service for my friend’s father. (BTW this is my “pew sliding” friend, and I’m afraid her father went to his grave fearing I would somehow corrupt his daughter! I’m hoping that from his lofty aerial view he can now see I really am a decent person!) Anyway, after the service I kept telling everyone it was the nicest memorial I have ever been to. Finally, my daughter challenged me. “Exactly what makes a memorial service so great?” I thought about it then answered, “When it was over, I wished I had known him better.”

 

            At the service a number of people got up and spoke about the man including his daughter and his best friend.  He was portrayed as a loving family man, an honest businessman, and generous to a fault. He was an articulate and prolific letter writer, and enjoyed reading, music and gardening. But the most endearing and awe inspiring theme was not how dearly he was loved, but how universally he was respected. He did far more in this world than simply take up space…he made a difference!

 

            On my drive home I began to think about my own eulogy. If I were to leave this world tomorrow, what would people say about me? Have I accomplished, or am I at least on the road to accomplishing, the things I hold personally significant? I decided to sit down and write my own eulogy…what I would like to have said about me, in the distant future, when I’m gone.

 

My Idyllic Eulogy

            Kim was many things; a loving wife, mother and grandmother, a beloved daughter and a cherished sister. Although her circle of friends was not large, it was meaningful, and she tried her best never to let anyone down. Her greatest joy came from helping those she loved, but she continually sought to help others; sometimes monetarily, sometimes through labor, and more often than not, with a smile and kind words.

            Kim was a free spirit, unshackled by mores and trends. She danced to her own drummer and encouraged others to do the same. She went through her life with a lopsided ponytail and an overall strap sliding down her shoulder, but she never left the house without a smile. Her creativity was seen in her gardens, her cooking, her crafts and her writing. She leaves behind a series of children’s books that will be endeared by youngsters for generations to come.

            When asked what was the most important thing in her life she’d quickly respond, “My family.” And it was. She spent her life creating a home where family and friends felt welcomed and eagerly shared her expertise with others. Although she will be missed, she will long be remembered. Her life long motto was, “Life is Good”. Let’s all remember that for her today.

 

            So, Tim just walked into the room to see me typing and bawling. When he asked me what I was crying about, I had to admit it was my eulogy. I am such a sap! Geeze! Anyway, when reading over my eulogy, I see there are many things I’ve already accomplished. (I’ve got the whole lop sided ponytail thing down pat!) But there are other things I’ve yet to accomplish. (I haven’t written the series of children’s books, and I do need to become more involved in social outreach.) But, I’m willing to admit, I’m a work in progress so I’ll keep trying! When it’s over I would like others to be able to say, “She did far more in this world than simply take up space…she made a difference!”

 

The truth is that we spend every day of our lives writing our eulogies. How’s yours coming?

           

 

THE RED TENT

            I was what you might call a late bloomer. When I was ten years old my best friend got her period. From that day on I assumed it would happen to me any day. I had to wait until I was almost 14 years old. In the meantime I watched as everyone else around me crossed the threshold from little girl to woman, leaving me behind to hold the door open, as I peered into the mysterious room with longing and curiosity. I think that there was some sort of cosmic justice, that when I finally “crossed over” it was celebrated by a throng of women.

 

            The setting…the wake at my Bushia’s house the day we buried my Dzia Dzia. A large family meant a large wake and ten families were packed into her small home. When using the bathroom, I realized the long awaited event had occurred, leaving me thrilled, but embarrassed. Why here? Why now? I went and found my mom and whispered in her ear. She led me back to the bathroom, where she left me sitting on the toilet, with my soiled panties soaking in the sink, as she went off to find some “supplies”. Within moments the bathroom door opened and an aunt and cousin came into the room. Still sitting on the toilet, I was hugged and welcomed into the sisterhood. The news spread quickly, and within minutes the bathroom was filled with all my female relations. I remember thinking at the time, “I should be mortified”, but I wasn’t. Maybe it was a life affirming event that came on the heels of death itself, or maybe because this is in fact the way we should usher each sister into womanhood, that I was mesmerized by the moment. This seemingly innocuous event had caused such a stir that there was literally “standing room” only in that small bathroom. I can remember women sitting on hampers, leaning on doors, and standing in the bathtub. Through the course of the next hour, everyone in the room shared some tidbit about “coming of age”. And although it took a couple of days to totally lose the toilet seat imprint from the back of my thighs, it was a small price to pay!

 

            A couple of my aunts described being completely unaware of menses and thought they were dying. Other aunts told tales of actually “being on the rag” and needing to wash them out at day’s end. This also involved hanging them on the line to dry and receiving merciless ribbing from an endless supply of brothers. A cousin recounted her humiliation of walking around school with a growing crimson spot on her skirt before a kindly teacher noticed and helped her. Most of them had learned about menses from sisters and friends. There were giggles and outright laughter as stories were shared, and it was wonderful to see Bushia shed tears of mirth instead of sorrow. Slowly, the room cleared, and a sanitary pad was pinned to a pair of my grandmother’s baggy underwear…let’s not even go there…and I was more or less ready to re-enter the world! Unbeknownst to me, as each woman left the room she was questioned by her husband. When I finally left the feminine sanctuary, I was greeted by sheepish smiles or winks from my uncles, and teased by my older male cousins. Although I was self-conscious, I was also proud…proud of being a woman, proud of leaving my childhood, proud of being initiated into the sisterhood clan.

 

            I, of course, had well prepared my daughter for the event. One day she came home from school and casually mentioned that she had started her period. In what I considered an appropriate demeanor, I began jumping up and down, hugging her, and asking for details. I can’t even begin to express my disappointment when her response was, “It’s not a big deal.” And, the initiation was over. It didn’t feel right…where were the stories, where was the camaraderie, where was grandma’s underwear? I had done such a good job preparing my daughter that she already had supplies and enough knowledge to handle the event on her own. I, on the other hand, could not leave it alone, and the next day I went out and bought her first bottle of grown up perfume, Coco Channel, which would remain her favorite. The other day this same daughter, who had earlier shunned my support, was over. She was in a “cyclic funk” and in dire need of some rest and pampering. Instead of receiving it, she pointed out, we’ve created a society that has asked women to ignore their bodies and to “carry on” despite our instinctual desire to curl up in a ball and renounce the human race for a couple of days each month! We are not even supposed to talk about it! And it makes me think of how far we’ve come as women, but at what cost? Several years ago I read the book, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. The red tent was the place women gathered in Biblical times during their cycles of menses, birthing, and illness. For three or four days a month a woman was sequestered from the rest of tribe, where she was cared for and pampered by other women. When she emerged from the tent, well rested and revitalized, she was able to tackle her overwhelming day-to-day chores with renewed vigor and emotional alignment. If this doesn’t make you lust for the good old days, I don’t know what would

 

            Women today are expected to do it all. Besides running a house, raising children, researching car seats and vaccinations, many women are also trying to establish careers and compete in the workplace. AND, if that wasn’t enough, we are supposed to “rise above” our innate biological urges, and sail through the month in a homogenous manner. I find myself asking “What’s happened to us?” Where are the red tents, where are the initiations, where are our sisters? Okay, although a pleasing fantasy, we can no longer skulk off to the red tent once a month. Although, after discussing this blog with Tim, he saw an incredible business opportunity…a chain of “Red Tent Spas” throughout the country that housed menstruating women, providing care and pampering, and isolating them from the rest of the world for 3 days a month. I think most men might even support this! But, in the real world, it’s hardly an alternative, so the question is…how can we, as women, as part of a sisterhood, support each other?

 

            I think the first step is in acknowledging that we are in this together…it’s not an every man…I mean every woman…for herself. We should try to be more in tune with the other women in our lives and help each other. If my strong days are your down days, I should be willing to brush your hair, take your kids for a few hours, make double the dinner and share with your family or just listen. We need to celebrate the uniqueness of our sex. We are NOT men with breasts! Yes, we have brains and brawn. Yes, we are equals to males, but for the love of God, we are different! And that’s not a bad thing! And, I think sometimes, we try so hard to instill in our daughters the confidence to compete with men that it may come across that being female isn’t good enough. True equality does not mean “same”, just equal. So, let’s rejoice in our daughters’ femininity. Let’s celebrate a child’s passage into womanhood, and the miracle of birth, and the seemingly cosmic connection we share with nature. Let’s acknowledge that our hormones can cause physical and emotional stress and help one another. We are part of a wonderful, nurturing, mystical and miraculous clan…at times weak and needy…but usually strong and invincible. And, despite the fact that once a month we share the praying mantis’ desire to bite the head off our mate, we are exceedingly caring, and that should be readily apparent in how we treat our sisters each and every day!

 

Please share this week’s blog with the women in your life that you care about…and make a point to be there for one another! I send a gigantic sisterly hug out to each and every one of you!