Thursday, August 11, 2011

Vashti Speer 1907


I just spent the morning with Vashti Speer. 

All I know of her are snippets of her experiences from the year 1907.  I happened on to her diary from that year online through the Cherokee Strip Museum (Perry,  Oklahoma) and I have read the entire thing this morning.  She writes in almost my grandmother's handwriting and almost my grandmother's voice. 

Vashti Speer was born September 12, 1877, a contemporary of my great grandmothers: Nona, Augusta, Montree, Georgianna.  I treasure the inside view into Vashti's life and, indirectly, into the lives of my foremothers as well.

Many things intrigue me about Vashti. 

First, how does one born in Kansas in 1877 come to be named Vashti -- especially with siblings named William, Judith, and Belle? I'm sure there's quite a story there.

Vashti speaks of her husband, Lawrence, primarily in terms of his comings and goings, of his work in the fields planting corn, oats, wheat, and cotton, and, occasionally, of his help around the house.  He bought her a new stove.  He helped her pare apples.  He helped her take up the carpet to clean it.  She does not speak of him in any intimate, loving way. 

Lawrence was often away -- travelling to nearby towns for business or at "the lodge" or the Farmer's Union.  On one occasion, she says he came home sober.  Does that mean often he didn't?  In one entry, she said that if Lawrence had come home as "happy" as the "darkies" hired to pick cotton that she wouldn't be able to say so even in her little book.  Hmmm...

There is also no reference to how long Vashti and Lawrence have been married.  Vashti is celebrates her 30th birthday during the year of her diary.  Her only child, a daughter named Gertrude (nicknamed Gertie or "Girlie") is of the age of dolls and stick horses (probably the same age as my grandfather who was born in 1902).  I wonder if Vashti and Lawrence married at age 18 or 20 as was typical at that time.  I wonder why they have no other children.  I wonder what their relationship was really like.  I wish she had written some of the private details.  Such a voyeur am I!

Much of Vashti's diary is a chronicle of the weather and of visits with family and friends.  Amazingly, she almost never complains about being hot or cold.  More often, rain, or the lack thereof, interferes with visiting and with farm life.  Of her husband she said he is "always lost when it rains", not knowing what to do with himself when he can't be out working.

Vashti talks of selling butter, hens, and eggs.  She talks of "pie plant pie" which is, apparently, rhubarb pie.  She talks of frying chicken, canning peaches, beets, and apple butter.  She talks of laundry and sewing and ironing.  Three times she says she has made a dress for Gertie.  Once she says her father has brought her a new dress.  And once she reports that her father has brought her the pattern to make a dress for her mother.

She also talks of building a chicken coop.  I can relate!  I'm still working on mine.  I think she made hers in just a few days.

I was amazed (after having spent much of last weekend in cemeteries!) that in the course of a whole year, Vasti never mentions a death.  On the contrary, they celebrate her grandfather's 91st birthday and she comments on how fit and healthy he is.

I was amused on a couple of occasions at Vashti's humor in the midst of struggle.  Once she said she'd never owned a rolling pin and, if she had, she'd have had to use it to make dinner -- not to cook with but to burn for heat.  Secondly, she says the wheat crop is so bad that all the wheat on the farm might not amount to one biscuit.  She also speaks of making a sofa pillow and then , the next day, laments that her sofa is homemade.  At Christmas, Gertie asks Santa for a doll with real hair and "eyes that sleep" (close).  Vashti reports that, because of finances, only the doll's head and hands can be store bought.  The rest must be homemade.

Holiday commemorations are of interest to me in Vashti's diary.  They worked on the 4th of July and celebrated only with cake and ice cream with friends at the end of the day.  For Thanksgiving, no turkey was to be had so they cooked "an old hen".  At Christmas, Gertie received a doll, a little broom, a Mother Goose book, mittens, and candy.  Vashti does not report receiving any gifts herself for either her birthday or Christmas.  She never even mentioned Gertie's birthday or Lawrence's.    She did, however, mention her own only to report feeling old at turning 30 and saying that she and Lawrence were getting to old to dance. 

I was very disappointed when, early in December, Vashti writes that she has decided not to continue with her diary for another year.  She says:

"Well, this year will soon be gone and this little book soon be finished. I think this will be my last attempt at keeping a diary. My life has not been an unhappy one but a very uneventful one. Too practical and not enough sentiment and romance to make good reading."

I thought it was good reading!

I was quite impressed that she never missed a day of writing in her diary until the middle of December.  Her last entry was on Christmas.  I wish someone had given her another diary for Christmas as someone had the year before which is what got her to chronicle the year 1907.  If she only knew that her diary would be in a museum 104 years in the future!  (I hope that knowledge would have encouraged to her write more rather than to be too intimidated to write at all.)  I would have loved to have heard more.  A couple of times she writes what are essentially "hashtags".  If only she'd known how ahead of her time she was she might have had more confidence in her writing!

I have googled the name and found no other information on Vashti Speer.  No photo. No obituary.  No genealogical records.  I feel as if I know her now.  But I don't even know what she looked like.

I owe her a debt of gratitude for sharing her life with me.  And for inspiring me.  Perhaps I will jot down a brief page per day in a diary of my own.  Only I will put in all the juicy stuff and try to document what's really important!  Vashti gave me a glimpse of her life.  Beyond that, what I would really like to know about is what was on her heart. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whew! That was Scary!: Life on the Rowdy Oklahoma Plains

(I kind of feel like a whiner posting this but it WAS an amazing experience!)

Mark is an amazing meteorologist.  I can recognize weather when I see it.  He can tell you it's coming before it shows up.  He talks about "mare's tails" (a type of cloud) and high pressure domes and he can see a faint something on the horizon that means we shouldn't bother to wash the car. 

Yesterday, as we were poking around town trying to sqeeze the most out of our long anniversary weekend (and pouting that I had to leave ON our anniversary), he spotted some clues:  It was 101 in Enid but, up the road in Wichita, it was cool.  "This is going to be bad", he declared confident of his conclusion.  He eyed the clouds and told me I'd better get on the road before the storm came.  I sulked a bit but I left.  It was almost time to go anyway. 

As the Western sky grew an ever-deepening shade of steely blue-gray, I drove out of town headed East.  Ahead, to the Northeast, I could see a rain shower.  It didn't look like much:  puffy white clouds on top of long quenching streams of rain falling from the sky to the parched, thirsty ground.  I felt confident that I could get past it before it disrupted the freshly-washed finish Mark had put on my car. 

The "wet" pavement ahead kept turning out to be mirages as I drove on, confident. 

About 20 miles outside of town, right before the Garfield/Noble county line, the rain caught me.  Then the wind gusts started lashing out and I felt like I was riding on roller skates with a sail.  Bits of paper and debris blasted across the road in front of the car as the strong gust front took hold.  I felt lucky that there were no other cars near me as an unexpected gust could have put anyone in another lane in the blink of an eye.

I slowed way down and finally turned South on the county line road out of a true concern that the wind could roll my car off the road.  Even with my back to the wind, the car rocked and heaved upward.  I remembered all the cars we saw in the rubble in Joplin after the F5 tornado hit there.  Many had been launched into the air and thrown violently back down to Earth.  They said that a lot of the cars laying smashed on the ground had bodies in them.  This must have been how those people felt at the beginning.

I surveyed the flat terrain in all directions and drove on a little further down the gravel road looking for shelter.  I grew up in Oklahoma, I know that a car is not safe shelter beyond a certain windspeed.  In every direction were flat fields.  The ditch beside the road, a mere depression, wouldn't really help me much. 

Within a quarter of a mile I found my hidey hole:  A 36" diameter drain pipe that went under the road.  I parked with my driver's door right above the culvert and planned to dive into the pipe if need be -- fully willing to share the space with any raccoon or other creature that might already inhabit it (hoping that snakes didn't figure into the equation).  I kept scanning all around me for the tornado I felt must be near.  It felt as if I was in the the vicinity of a couple of them.

My hidey hole.

I watched the trees and the tall grass bend as the fierce wind beat them.  More bits and pieces of things blew by at rapid speed.  Lightning flashed regularly.  My cell phone threatened to die.  Ugh (my car charger takes almost an hour to revive it if it goes completely dead).  I called Mark to tell him where I was so he would know where to start looking for me if I blew away.  He said the storm I had originally been trying to avoid had just blown forcefully through Enid.

To the Southeast, I could see the clouds get caught in a downdraft, be dragged downward, flow along the ground, and then start to rise with an updraft.  Two fields to the West of me, a whole field of dust swirled upward into a funnel shape that died down and then reformed several times.  I've seen enough tornado footage on the Discovery Channel to know that tornados start from the ground and go up -- or at least, you can't see them until they start to pick up debris. It looked like a funnel TO ME.

What I saw was bigger than this stock meteorology photo.

Then the wind shifted and started blowing strongly from the East.  Soon after, the wind died down.  Mark encouraged me to get on down the road ahead of the storm that had gone through Enid but hadn't reached me yet.  So I headed East again. 

Three miles down the road I came over a slight hill and found myself gazing across an amazing scene.  Three tractor-trailer trucks were overturned and laying in the road at what must have been the point of the strongest winds.  Two had blown over from where they were parked on the north shoulder.  The third had apparently turned off to the South on a gravel road like I had.  It had been toppled by the wind from the East that came at the end.  One of the truck drivers was trying to retrieve belongings from his smashed cab, another held an ice-pack made from a plaid shirt to his head, the third had been laid in the back of an SUV that had stopped to help, his feet sticking out of the open back, his legs wrapped in plastic for warmth. 

Not one of this trucks I saw.  This is a stock photo.  But this is the gist of it -- times three.

I stopped to take pictures of the semis (alas, the pictures got erased by a little tantrum my phone threw) and then continued East.  Within two miles, I caught up with the storm.  The same strong wind gusts and rain started to beat against my car again.  Still shaking from my first encounter with the storm, I decided that I was too shaken up to endure any more wind and rain.  How stupid would it be to drive back into the storm I had just come out of?  I turned around and headed back to Enid.  This turned out to be a good decision as I would have been driving through severe thunderstorms for the next three hours if I'd continued toward home. 

On the way back to Enid I saw two cars with their side windows blown in.  They were also limping back to Enid (I know they had turned back toward Enid because it was their driver side windows that were broken so they must have been going East for the wind from the North to have broken the windows).  Most of the road signs were blown down.  Pieces of corrogated tin barn roofs were strewn along the side of the road.  No barns were in sight to indicate where this material had come from.  I passed two ambulances and half a dozen emergency vehicles from the local rural fire departments as they headed out to where the semis were.

Someone's barn roof.

Break-away highway sign.

I have tried to research the windspeed at which car windows break.  To no avail.  I did, however, learn that windows in houses start to break in winds around 80 mph.  The severe thunderstorm warning for the area I was in warned of 75 mph winds.  Winds in Lahoma, on the other side of Enid, were clocked at 96 mph.  I'm also not sure at what windspeed highway signs are designed to collapse (they have break-away latches on the posts).  Let's just say it was windy.

When I got to the hotel (where Mark was waiting for me), the hotel manager tried to tell me that, if the weather got bad, I should go to the middle of the first floor.  "Thanks,"  I told him, "I know.  I grew up here."  Which doesn't make me immune to shaking for a couple of hours afterward!

I know the signs well enough to have recognized "tornado green" in Southern California.  In 1990, when I was living in Irvine, California, I looked out my window into a rain storm and noticed that the sky was that shade of green that means "tornado" in Oklahoma.  "Nah," I thought to myself, "Couldn't be.  There aren't tornados in California."  Turns out there was a very rare tornado about a mile and a half away.  I had recognized the color. 

Another Enid girl, Mark's cousin Ann, was driving North to South on I-35 (6 or 7 miles East of where I was) during the same storm I was in.  She felt confident that she saw a funnel in the direction of where I was.  She would know.  She's an Oklahoma girl! 

In retrospect, I'm proud to be an Oklahoma girl and proud to have acquired enough knowledge to have done the right things.  I have always told my girls, as each of them has gone through a childhood phase of being terrified of storms, that they don't have to worry, that I know what to look for, and that I will tell them when to worry and I will keep them safe if things get bad.  I am confident that I know what I need to know to do so.  I also know that you have to be below ground level to survive an F5.  May I never have to use that knowledge!

That is definitely the last time I try to outrun a storm on my way out of Enid!

Friday, July 15, 2011


This has been a week full of coincidences for me.  The cosmos has been working overtime.  There have been amazing coincidences galore.  Enough to make me think I should take notice.  So I have.

It started with a puppy head.  Don't worry -- it was still attached to the rest of the puppy.  I remember somewhere in alpha dreamland, a puppy head being thrust through my cracked-open bedroom door and Emily saying, "Don't worry -- it's not staying."  Famous last words.

The next morning, I got up, met the puppy more formally, and heard the whole story about how Emily confiscated him from a guy she knows who, after the puppy romance of a mere month had worn off, was going to dump the poor little guy in the woods.  Or his mother was going to shoot it (I'm assured that she really would do it despite my deep desire to think that no such cruel people exist).  So I now commend Emily for her actions.

I put cute little-puppy-guy's photo on Facebook as a wild stab in the dark of a first attempt.  Emily tried to put an ad on Craigslist but it wouldn't load.  Ugh.

It took exactly 11 minutes for my friend and co-worker, Christy, to offer to take the puppy.  That was miraculously FAST! 

I was a little worried.  He's rottweiler and pit bull  (even though the best dog I ever had was a pit bull, I know people have their fears and prejudices) and ALL mischievious puppy -- complete with all the trappings of rampant teething, inevitable "gift" leaving, clumsy feet that are WAY too big for him, and  tendency to get bored and come up with something you'd never have thought of.  In the space of half an hour he wrestled the curtains, attached himself to the dust mop so as to make cleaning the floor a mere dream, and was utterly unsuccessful at convincing the cats to be his playmates.  He did finally find friends: a plastic Easter egg, an ice cube, and a soda can. 

Despite my worries, Christy now reports that he is the "best and cutest pup ever".  Whew!

He couldn't have gone to a better home.  Christy is smart and responsible, has the hugest heart for animals, and lives on her own little 8-acre horse farm with dogs and cats and, of course... horses.

I was curious about what Christy would name this puppy who had the previous and very unfortunate name of "Axel".  Emily and I dubbed him "Chomper" for Facebook purposes but we knew he had yet to find his true name.

The following day, Christy texted me that she had settled on a name: "Roscoe".  She said, "I just kept calling him 'Roscoe'.  I don't know why." 

"Maybe because that's his name!" I replied.

I texted Emily that his new name was Roscoe.  She texted me right back saying, "I almost named him the exact same thing!"  How amazingly uncanny!  Of all the possible names...  Guess that really WAS his name!


Next came my step-son's 11th birthday.  Noah was born on 7/14 at 7:14 and weighed, yes, 7lbs 14oz.  I'm not sure about the formal numberological implications of that but I do know it's something special.  Mark had some mathematician friend figure up that the odds of such a thing are one in 96 million (or something mind-stretching like that).  At the very least, Noah is special and his run on the number 7/14 serves to remind us of that if nothing else.

Noah Christian Coppock


The next incidence of coincidence came as I drove diagonally across the outer regions of the grocery store parking lot.  I was talking with Mark on my cell phone and we were just saying that we haven't been to church in forever and we need to start going again when I had to jam on the breaks to keep from hitting another car.  The driver of that car, of course, was the pastor of that church that we haven't been to in forever!  Again, uncanny!  {Check out if you have even the slightest interest in a hip young church where is ok to ask questions and not have all the answers.}

Robb Ryerse, Vintage Fellowship


One day the pastor at the church I work for mentioned that the ice maker in the church kitchen made really great ice.  I didn't think much of it at the time but the comment stuck in my head.


A couple of weeks ago, I was trying to figure out how I'd EVER break my two-a-day diet Dr. Pepper habit.  I lived for them.  It turns out that, when I did quit the diet DP and was searching for a replacement, that ice came into play in a very important way.  Now I am almost two weeks diet DP free and, instead,  every day at work I have a couple of glasses of ice water with that wonderful ice from the church kitchen.

Seems like God was trying to give the the answer via the pastor!


Mark was telling me a story he'd heard about a man who's father was struck and killed by lightning.  And then, 45 years later, the son was struck and killed by lightning TOO!


I'm hoping that coincidences are enough and that God doesn't have to strike me with a bolt of lightning to get my attention!  Coincidences DO tend to get my attention better than most things.  If I was God and had to make an impression without being just plain obvious, I'd be a little heavy-handed with the coincidences too. 

You can always wonder if you're just reading something into nothing.  You can always explain it away somehow.  But why?  As humans, we tend to seek meaning.  At least, I know I do.  And I'll take meaning and the grace that accompanies it in any way I can get it.  At the very least, coincidences encourage me to take a closer look at something that I might easily have glossed over.  They can trigger decisions.  They can bring on a smile.  They can highlight what's really important.  Or not.  But I prefer to take them at full intensity.  To me, they have God's fingerprints all over them.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Lifelong Cosmic Lesson in First Impressions

Do you ever look at someone and just dislike them on sight? It's not a very kind way of approaching the world but sometimes it just happens. Whenever I feel this way I remember a lesson that I keep finding myself being taught -- over and over and over again.


The first cosmic lesson of this sort that I remember was Jocelyn Wolfe. It was the week before 7th grade. The air was hot and muggy in the low-slung cafeteria building. Flies pestered the hot and intimidated and generally lost incoming middle school students as we waited in several lines to get our schedules for the school year from the advisors sitting behind lined-up lunch tables. The girl in the line next to me annoyed me on sight. We kept eyeing each other in an unfriendly way. Her teeth were a little on the buck side. She wore glasses and an unfriendly smirk. I seriously disliked her on sight. I got the impression that she didn't think too highly of me either. Guess who ended up becoming my best friend? Jocelyn and I survived some of those awkward early pubescent terrors together -- you know, like boys and impending boobs and periods. Kind of like combat buddies!


Years later, in my early 20's, I was involved in an adoption search and support group. The monthly meetings were held in a large church meeting hall. We pulled chairs in to a large circle -- sometimes 50-60 people around -- and shared the joys and sorrows and frustrations of our searches as we got closer and closer to finding and reuniting with our birthfamilies or children relinquished for adoption. It was always an amazing process of blindly embracing strangers/newcomers who gradually became friends with whom we shared our hearts and souls and our common goal of finding our parents and our children -- and the side effect of finding ourselves in the process. I loved to here these people tell their stories. I loved that they listened to mine.

At one large meeting, I found myself seated across the circle from two women in their 40's. I couldn't help but look at them a lot because they were in my direct eyeshot. I think I ended up staring a lot. Particularly at one of them. Something about her fascinated me. Was it her short, whispy ash-blonde hair? The mischeivious. twinkle in her blue eyes? Her nervous mannerisms? I ended up focusing on her perfectly manicured, long, red finger nails. She was the definition of good grooming. I loved that she took such good care of herself. But she made me uncomfortable for some reason. I decided that I didn't like her and had no desire to be around her. Again, guess who turned out to be my best friend? Guess who knows me better than I know myself, who pushes me to face sometimes uncomforable truths, who shines a light on the really deep issues. That's my beloved Marty Smith. She has been "family of choice" to me for the last twenty years. She has enriched my life in many deep and magical ways.

Marty Smith


I have a little side business called Upstage. I stage houses. This means that I optimize them with furniture and accessories to look their best so they will sell faster and for more money. Before I became a realtor, I had staged a house for a builder. The house was listed with a realtor, Dave Bevis. I saw his name on the sign many times as I worked on the house but I did not meet him until much later. When I got my real estate license and started working at Bassett Mix, I finally crossed paths with Dave. I introduced myself and he gave me a brief, gruff hello. I decided I didn't like him much. He seemed gruff and unpleasant. What I didn't realize until later was that most of my issue with Dave was my own jealousy that he had the listing on the house I staged. I guess I had gotten a little territorial about the house and, in my wanting and working to become a realtor, I envied how far ahead of me he was. That "gruff and unpleasant" man that I thought I didn't like turned out to be a warm, funny, kinda-shy-at-first kind soul who has, out of the goodness of his heart, given me lots of opportunities in real estate and has become the first person I turn to for real estate advice. I owe him a lot.

Northwest Arkansas Real Estate

I've been given enough of these cosmic lessons that I have finally learned. Now, whenever I meet or encounter someone new that I don't like, I remind myself and I get a little excited -- I may have just met my new best friend! At the very least, I treat them with more kindness and compassion because I have learned that you never know what wonders might lie behind a bad first impression!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Healthy Cookie Experiment #1

These are my first stab at trying to capitalize on my cookie addiction by filling cookies with all the healthy things I SHOULD be eating.  These came out a little gummy, quite heavy, and tasting, well... healthy.  But Tessa liked them and they're kind of growing on me.  Everyone says they need more sugar.  Must work on texture next time -- hard to accomplish with only 2 tablespoons of olive oil!

Model #1 contains:

1 grated zucchini
2 grated carrots
1/2 cup raisins

1 diced Granny Smith apple
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups oats
1 /2 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup sorghum
1 cup of the pear juice that my canned peaches were packed in
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Next time I think I'll add applesauce, banana, canned pumpkin, honey and baking soda (instead of baking powder).  Maybe walnuts too!

Any suggestions?

I'm kind of glad you can't taste them!

Friday, May 6, 2011

The World's Healthiest Cookies

Hi, my name is Annie and I'm an addict.

I have a serious milk and cookie habit.  I could live on milk and cookies.  Often, I do. 

I'm pretty sure my youngest daughter was formed almost entirely out of milk and cookies because that's largely what I ate for the nine months I was cooking her.  Forget "bun in the oven" -- she was my "cookie in the oven"!  "Cookie" is one of her nicknames.

I remember lovingly a little friend who's first word was "cookie".  The word served Hilary well in that it also meant "Daddy" and "Katie".  We often interrogated her to determine which she meant.  She had the right idea:  all things cookie!

When I was in high school I came across a recipe for Breakfast Cookies.  They had oatmeal and apples and raisins and cheddar cheese.  They were great and carried a lesser load of guilty than regular cookies.  For some reason, I only made them once.  But they have remained in my mind for the couple of decades since -- always with the thought that I could improve on them in terms of healthiness.

Yesterday, I bought two packs of Oreos (actually, the Walmart Great Value generic called "Twist and Shout" which are just as good).  One package is for the church office (keep in mind that I'm often the only one there!) and one goes in the top drawer of my night stand next to my bed (I must have milk and cookies and bedtime, of course, and sometimes for breakfast too). 

The Oreos made me think though:  I don't need decadent cookies.  Really, I just need the carb hit.  So I could stick some healthy things on the carbs and be much better off while still indulging my weakness.  Why not make it work for me?  I was telling my daughter yesterday that the good thing about addictions in that you can make yourself become addicted to something that is good for you!  So here's my new strategy:  I will devise the healthiest cookie recipe possible and then hope the resulting cookies go as well with V8 juice as they do with milk (because I should only have so much milk).  And then I will cultivate the proper addiction.

A few years ago I got curious and did some independent research on alternative cures for cancer.  I'm not sure I discovered the cure for cancer but I did learn about nitrilosides, Vitamin B17, amygdaline, and laetrile.  Basically, these three substances are different versions of the same thing -- all of which can potentially prevent or destroy cancer cells.  The theory is that cancer is caused by a deficiency of Vitamin B17 just as scurvy is a deficiency of Vitamin C.  I'm not saying that this is 100% fact, but adding some healthy foods into my diet isn't going to hurt anything.  (Here's one reference to an article on the subject: though I don't vouch for this author or agree with some of this other topics).

Foods that are high in vitamin B17 tend to be traditional foods that have largely fallen out of our diets. In the modern American diet, sugar cane has largely replaced sorghum and wheat has replaced millet.  In the past, our ancestors regularly ate many B17-leaden foods that we no longer eat such as quince, choke cherry, elderberry, huckleberry, gooseberry, alfalfa, cassava, watercress, lentils, beet tops, lima beans.  Thus we seem to be getting much less Vitamin B17 than people did in the past. 

Other foods that contain B17 are fava beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas), mung beans (often used as bean sprouts), black-eyed peas, black beans, squash seeds, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, flax seed, buckwheat, millet, sorghum, maize, grasses, linseed, and bitter almonds (

Always one to go for prevention, I have tried to add Vitamin B17-containing foods into my diet where ever possible.  I start most days with 12-grain toast (containing millet, flax, and buckwheat) with sorghum.  I try to snack on hummus (made from garbanzo beans).  I serve lentils and sweet potatoes more often than most people do.  I add spinach to recipes whenever possible.  Buckwheat pancakes are still pancakes and will be willingly consumed by most children.  And I ADORE gooseberry pie!  It is my very favorite kind of pie.  It's just hard to find goose berries these days!  Have you ever had gooseberry pie?  I'm willing to bet you haven't!

I have worked dilgently at cramming as many healthy things as possible into my cookie recipe.  I'll let you know after I have destroyed my kitchen in a grand endeavor to figure out the proper proportions of the ingredients.  Here's what I have so far:

The World's Healthiest Cookie Recipe Ingredients

flax seed
olive oil
honey or sorghum
egg white
whole wheat flour or buckwheat flour

In the course of looking for healthy cookie recipes, I found a really wonderful blog called Sweet Potato Soul (  It has wonderful, healthy, colorful recipes that just make me want run to the farmer's market and then to go home and cook until I can't find the counter anymore and there are no more clean dishes in the kitchen!

For now, I have bottle of milk and a piece of multi-berry pie which I almost completely justified above so...

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hairnets and Halos: The Fairy-Godmother Lunch Ladies

My second daughter, Tesakiah (sounds like "Hezakiah" from the Bible in case you need a little help with the pronounciation), is an 8th grader at Ramay Junior High School.  Yesterday, as I was giving her lunch money for the cafeteria on the way to school, she started telling me about the lunch ladies.

I remember lunch ladies.  Hair nets and grumpy attitudes are the stereotype.  During my school years, I'm not sure I ever overcame the stereotype indoctrination enough to flesh out the true humanity of the hard-working women who were behind both the stereotype and the lunch counter.

Tessa began to tell me about her lunch ladies (actually, one is a "lunch man" but, for the sake of poetic simplicity, I will lump him in with the ladies -- sorry Sir).  It turns out that my daughter's lunch ladies are angels in hair nets instead of halos.  I was so touched as Tessa (short for Tesakiah) told me that these 7 or 8 ladies pass out daily complements like cookies to the kids as they come through the lunch line.  Daily!  Tessa says she receives a compliment EVERY day.  They all do.

Tessa says she is known as "pretty necklace girl" as she often receives compliments on her jewelrey.  This is particularly special to Tessa because she often uses her jewelry to clarify her racial identity and communicate that her heritage is Native American.

The lunch ladies even remembered my first daughter, Emily, noticed the resemblance in Tessa, and remember that Emily ate mostly rolls and cookies during her junior high lunches.  That's an amazing personal touch.

Tessa recounted to me that many times the lunch ladies and their compliments have made her day.  "Even on your worst day...", she explained, the lunch ladies provide a loving boost.

I could just go hug each and every one of the lunch ladies.  In fact, I just might!  The gift they give my daughter in particular and the whole student body in general is priceless!  And the piece of mind they give me, as a mother, that my child is in loving hands during her school day is priceless as well. 

The more I think about it, the more impressed and intrigued I become.  These ladies could just sling peas and glob mashed potatoes on plastic trays and shove them at the kids, get their modest paycheck at the end of the week, and be done with it.  Instead, they make a difference.  That can't just be an accidental convergence of natural complimenters.  I would be willing to wager that this is a conscious effort -- a ministry of sorts.  These ladies must have pointedly chosen to distribute a little love with lunch. 

Those of us over 15 can remember how emotionally fragile we all were in junior high.  We were insecure, unsure, scared and fragile, raw nerves with our guts hanging out -- just trying to figure out, on a minute-by-minute basis, who we were and how we fit into the world.  With our changing bodies and voices, we navigated the social minefield while the world around us became increasingly complex with every increase in maturity.  Not an easy time.

A compliment is a silly little thing.  "I like your shirt" is just a superficial opinion.  But, oh, how it can make one's day!  Ever been trudging through a challenging day or a negative mood and been given a complement only to have it completely spin you in a positive direction?  It can be magic!  There's a lot more to my Tessa than her pretty necklaces but most compliments are more about lifting up the person than about mere ojects and fashions. 
I wonder how the lunch ladies' ministry began?  I'm willing to bet that one of them sat through a sermon at church in which the congregation was encouraged to minister to those around them on a daily basis.  Perhaps a light bulb went on above one hair-netted head!  Serving lunch at a junior high is not glamourous work, but what an opportunity it presents for ministry when several hundred fragile adolescent egos file past you on a daily basis and you figure out a little something you can do to make a difference!  These ladies touch more lives in the course of a week from behind the green beans than most ministers can touch from behind the pulpit on a Sunday morning. 

The lunch ladies may never know exactly how they helped or see the full reach of the impact they had on young lives but their touch is undoubtably precious and far-reaching.  I still remember and cherish the daily positive regard I received from my junior high bus driver (God bless you Dan Dunn!).  He got me off to a good start in the morning and put a salve on the end of some bad days.  I'm sure he has no idea.

This is ordinary magic -- that is, magic found in the ordinary.  I try very hard to remember that God is in every moment and that, in each moment, there is an opportunity to give or to receive the grace of God.  Here is a wonderful example.  God bless the lunch ladies!  The grace of God flows through them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Looking Forward To The Retirement Home!

When I was 18, I went away to college (Trinity University, San Antonio, Texas).  I was given a dorm room and a "Vali-dine" card (Oh! And a whole bunch of pesky books!). 

A Vali-dine card was a wonderful and miraculous thing -- I could just walk into the dining hall, get whatever food I wanted, slide the Vali-dine card through the machine at the checkout, and go eat with all my friends.  It was that simple.  Like magic! 

In my adulthood I've come to appreciate even more than I did back then the concept of a central, commercial kitchen where someone other than ME, plans the menu, procures the food, cooks the meals, and does the dishes!  It takes me back to my childhood where food just APPEARED!

The girls in my dorm and the boys in the dorm across the courtyard quickly came to the collective concensus that Vali-Dine cards were really great.  We also concluded that college would be really great if only we didn't have those pesky classes to go to!  We had our dorm rooms, our roommates, our suitemates, our friends, plenty of members of the opposite gender nearby, and regular  mixers.  We had a game room, a gym, a track, and courts for tennis, basketball, and raquetball.  We had cars, the neighborhood bar (The Bombay Bicycle Club), and all of colorful San Antonio to play in.  It was just those darn classes and all the studying that spoiled the fun.

Then we figured out that the college set-up without the classes is what retirement homes are!  You get the equivalent of a Vali-dine card, someone else does the cooking and cleaning and maintenance and manages all those other annoyimg details, and the residents are free to just PLAY!  Except for wrinkles, illness, arthritis, Alzheimer's, impotence, and a few other downfalls of old age it's just about the perfect world in my eyes!  At this point in my multi-wicked (as in, I burn my candle at MANY ends) adulthood, if classes were all I had to worry about, I'd be tickled to death (though not literally -- because one must watch out for things that end in death because they cut back on time in the retirement home!).

I would LOVE to spend about 30 years (from say 82 to 112) living in the retirement home!  I would read and write ALL DAY EVERY DAY!  And, if I needed a break or new topics or plot twists, I could have play dates with my friends until the writing inspiration returns!

All this makes aging sound so much better to me!  And, if I ever get bored, Mark and I can pretend we're batty and have great fun hitting people with our canes, dressing each other up in funny mismatched outfits, and talking in wacky circles about ridiculous things, repeatedly. 

I know for sure that Mark, whether in his right mind or not, can be counted on to give regular reports on the daily antics of the local squirrel population!  By way of a current example: most recently, he reported to me that he witnessed the bully squirrel from across the street run across the street, beat up a poor, unsuspecting squirrel in our yard, and then retreat back to his own yard!  Only Mark would notice this -- and delight in it!

We have also been known, during a long wait in the doctor's office waiting room, to catch imaginary butterflies out of the air and feed them to each other!  I definitely think we could manage to keep ourselves entertained in the retirement home!

I'd better start taking better care of myself because I have BIG plans for the retirement home and I want to be healthy enough to spend several fruitful and frolicking decades playing there!  In the meantime, I must be very, very careful to stay out of the paths of buses!

Mark and I have been practicing for our senior years!  We have photographic evidence but I can't get the photos to upload at the moment so check back later to see them!