In my Father’s Footsteps

From Generation to Generation:

My father loved to cook. I remember him standing in the kitchen over a hot stove with a cold beer in hand. He spent many an evening pouring over his collection of cookbooks and foodie magazines looking for new recipes to try. And try them he would. Today my parents have passed away and I am living in their home and each time I walk out into the kitchen I can see him standing there chopping, dicing, or stirring. I miss him. 

My father invited my son to join him in the kitchen. They stood side by side while performing culinary tricks and today that passion for cooking has been passed along to a new generation of chefs. I find great pleasure in watching him stand in his kitchen looking so much like my dad. Not only does he like to cook, but he’s very good at it! 

One of the things I like to do occasionally is pull out one of my father’s recipes and recreate it. We all sit around enjoying the food and our precious memories. Here is one of his favorites. I made it recently, and it is just delicious.  Here in Coastal Georgia we have access to wonderful wild caught local shrimp. Give it a try!
Shrimp with Tequila Dipping Sauce
Shrimp:
Lay 1-2 pounds of medium to large shrimp out on a roasting pan. Coat with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 350 degrees until the shrimp have just turned pink. Watch them carefully. If you overcook them, they get tough. Cool them and arrange them on a platter. You may peel them for your guests or leave them in the shell. If you peel them, leave them in the shell until just before you serve them so they won’t dry out.

Dipping sauce:

1 large whole egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil (canola is good)

1 7 oz. jar of pimentos, drained

¼ cup tequila

¼ cup bottled chili sauce

1 dash of Worcestershire sauce

1 dash of bitters

1 dash of hot sauce

In your Vitamix, blender, or food processor with the steel blade, blend the egg and the extra egg yolk, mustard, vinegar, and salt. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. It is important to pour slowly so the mixture emulsifies and thickens, almost like a mayonnaise. Add pimentos, tequila, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, bitters, and hot sauce. Blend until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. 
Put the sauce in a bowl and top with a pretty sprig of parsley and a few lemon wedges. Surround the bowl of sauce with the shrimp. Your guests will love it! 

In Loving Memory

Manley Woodward Clark

1913 – 1997

Happy New Year?

celebrate!The Happy New Year that Wasn’t…

I was looking at my FaceBook memories they share each day and it got me thinking about what it means in our lives to look ahead and look back.  I found a jubilant post I shared out at about 11:45 p.m. on December 31, 2013.  In it I shared pictures of highlights from the year. “Join me as I bid farewell to 2013 and eagerly welcome 2014. Each of you has enriched my life and I am so thankful to be sharing this time and space with you. Let’s take time to look back on the year past and reflect on what was…learn and grow from those experiences. Now let’s look ahead to all the adventures awaiting us. May 2014 be a wonderful year filled with friends, family, and fun!”

I was so happy that night sitting beside my husband of 43 years, sipping champagne, and toasting the new year. At midnight I called my sister and spoke with her and my mom just as we had done every year.  I didn’t know at that moment that I would lose both my mother and my husband that year.  Yet, in the space of 12 weeks, they were both gone. So, 2014 turned out to be a most difficult, sad, and challenging year.

None of us know what awaits us. Yes, we have control over much of what happens in our lives, but most pivotal events are orchestrated by God’s hand, not ours. I have always believed that not knowing protects us from fear and sadness.  I suspect that if I had known what was in my future, I would have been frozen, awaiting the inevitable, rather than living a life filled with laughter and giggles.

Today I am in a new place.  I miss my mother, but losing her has helped me realize that even though my child is an adult, I can continue to be the best mother possible.  I miss my husband and will always hold him in my heart, but I have found joy again in a new and loving relationship. This relationship is stronger because of what I have been through. Tragedy forced me to examine who I am and how to move forward. I had to get tough – pump my own gas, eat alone at the sushi bar, overcome my fear of heights and climb the ladder to change the lightbulb, balance the checkbook, wander through the maze of Social Security…the list goes on. Today, the woman I bring to all my relationships is changed, more confident, more resilient, more balanced because of the struggle brought about by loss.

So, knowing what I know now, would I change the post from 2013? Come midnight on December 31, 2017, will I still look ahead with joyful anticipation? The answer is unequivocally YES! I will treasure each moment, each person, each relationship, each adventure.

I encourage you to stop for a moment and flip through the pages of your life. Look at your mental snapshots of the places, the family, the friends, even the pets who surround you. You and I, we are richly blessed!

 

 

 

 

Within each of us, greatness resides

IMG_1032If you are one of the 25 million or so who have viewed the YouTube video of Susan Boyle’s amazing performance on the show Britain’s Got Talent, you know that she is living proof of this. When this unassuming, slightly frumpy, and somewhat quirky middle-aged woman from a village in Scotland walked out onto the stage, she walked into the hearts of viewers all over the world. We all assumed we were in for a terrible joke of a performance. Yet, when she opened her mouth and sang, we all got goosebumps. Her choice of song was so perfect – I Have a Dream – from Les Miserables.

So, today my question is, how do I recognize and tap into the talent, gifts, promises that have been given me? Oprah (she doesn’t even need a last name, does she?) and I have a lot in common; we are close in age, we’re both female, both spiritually curious, love to read, enjoy talking, like to figure out what makes people tick. Yet, look at how different we are! Hmmm…

I believe that God did not plan for me to live my life as an ordinary, plain, generic version of myself. I also believe that within me resides something greater, but I’m not even sure where to begin looking. I was in high school and college in the sixties. The Vietnam War was at its peak and the world was in upheaval. Many of my “hippie” friends dropped out to “find themselves”. Well, one thing I know for sure is that I don’t have to look far… where ever I  go, there I am.  And yet, I was telling a friend the other day that “just being me” is a huge challenge, because I am constantly struggling to define who “me” is!

Just like our one-of-a-kind appearance, each of us has been gifted with unique abilities and talents. There are folks out there making a fortune writing psychology books and self-help blogs for people like me. Millions of us are spending countless hours trying to develop our spirituality…that essence of who we are that connects us to God and the Universe.

Is there a “one size fits all” formula for this? No. I think one thing that makes the difference is an unwaivering belief in self. Greatness doesn’t just happen – it is cultivated. People who have successfully tapped into their gifts will tell you that they never doubted themselves. They totally believed that they would win, achieve, succeed, invent, become. Recently I watched a biography of Oprah. One scene stands out in my mind. She often talks about her grandmother. She recalled how her grandmother was attempting to show her how to wash clothes. My “aha” moment came when Oprah said she wasn’t paying any attention because somehow, deep within herself, even at the age of four, she knew she would not need to know that.

So there’s the rub. It begins with belief. I have spent a lifetime doubting myself. I doubt my intelligence, my worthiness, my appearance, my skill. I have been a chameleon – being and doing what others expect of me. My challenge now is not to develop my talent, but to believe that it is already there.

Turn that frown upside down…Smile!

Mother Teresa is quoted as saying, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” I blogged about faces yesterday, and have continued to think about the power of our expressions. So, today I want to explore a bit more…

Don’t you just love it when someone smiles at you? Smiles are like the bubbles in a soda – they make your face sparkle! When someone smiles at me, I just automatically smile back. And then, as I walk away, that happy feeling follows me. 

One of the first things a baby learns to do is to recognize the important faces in their lives – momma, daddy, grandma or grandpa, brother, sister. Remember the first time your baby smiled up at you and you knew they recognized you?  That is such a special memory, isn’t it?  Smiles never lose their value; they are important to you and to your child.

Now, let’s do a reality check.  You work all day and afternoons are terrible for working moms. I remember when my son was little, I referred to the time between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as “Arsenic Hours”. There were days when taking poison seemed like a good alternative…kids crying, homework battles, dinner burning on the stove, phone ringing, toys all over the floor.  You know the drill. Looking back, I got so caught up in “getting things done”, I forgot to stop and enjoy my time with my child.  Before I could really relax, it was bath and bedtime and a new round of arguing began.  I mean, how many times do you really have to remind your child to use soap?

So, what is my message today?  I guess it is that I want to encourage you to welcome your child home each day with a genuine “I’m so glad to see you!” smile.  Focus on the positive.  The toys won’t be littering the floor forever; and I promise there are days when I can’t wait to have a grandchild so I can spend time stepping over toys again.

I was watching TV one afternoon and heard Dr. Phil say that we teach others how to treat us.  In other words, we create the atmosphere we live in.   Smiling makes that atmosphere so much more pleasant.  When we smile, people smile back.  We can’t resist; it’s human nature.  Maya Angelou said, “If you only have one smile in you, give it to the people you love.” So promise me you’ll take a second to give your child a big grin and see what happens.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…

FACES…When children first begin to express themselves through art, the biggest element of the person they draw is the face. Why? Because that is most important to them! Yes, from the time we are born, we respond to the faces around us. I often wonder why I respond so warmly to some faces.  I think it is because when those faces appear in my line of vision, I feel like I belong. Some faces just make me feel loved and safe; those faces belong to the people in my life who bring me joy.  

Faces are the canvas of our soul, our emotional billboard. Emotions don’t happen in isolation. My emotions are a direct result of my connections with those around me. If my best friend forgets my birthday, I feel sad. When my child gets a promotion, I feel proud. If one of my students masters a difficult task, I feel joy. But my emotions are not one-sided, not just about me responding to those around me. I want others to respond to me too!

And I am not alone…social media exists because we want to share our feelings with others. Glance through those posts, pics, and tweets on your device. What do you see? I see a collection of events my friends hope I will react to. I know when I share something, I check back to see how many “likes” or “retweets” I have. Somehow, lots of “likes” validate my feelings. 

When I think about my emotions…joy, disdain, grief, excitement…each is reflected in my facial expression, which in turn impacts those around me. So, my face and my expression plays a big part in how my life unfolds. My children, my friends, my students, my pets all look carefully at my face to get feedback on how they are doing. It doesn’t cost anything to smile, and the reward is great. Have you realized that it is almost impossible not to return a smile you are given? Try it. Then take a moment to think about the faces you love and celebrate the joy they bring to your life. Indeed, we are richly blessed. 

Sushi? or S-eeewww-shi?  Which one are you?

 When I say “sushi”, most of the time the reaction I get is, “EEEWWW!” Actually, I love sushi and have been eating it for years. If you dig down into the bottom of my purse, you will find that I carry my own chopsticks with me everywhere I go. I associate sushi with family, friends, and fun, but more than that, sushi is such an interesting reflection of Japanese culture. 
I love peeking inside someone else’s refrigerator. What I find there tells me so much about the person who owns that fridge. It is one of life’s unspoken messages. For example, everywhere in my life I am compulsively tidy. EXCEPT inside my fridge. That is my secret … my fridge is full of stuff, messy, and occasionally has food items growing penicillin on them. I think that because I can’t see it, I allow it to get a little bit out of control. Besides, I’m busy controlling the rest of my universe! But, I digress; let’s get back to what this blog is really about…
Food reflects culture. Looking at traditional national dishes is like peeking inside an entire nation’s refrigerator. For example, England, famous for fish and chips, is an island where fish is a plentiful food source. Scotland, the home of haggis (eeewww!), has rolling hills spotted with sheep. The Parma region of Italy has the perfect grass to feed cows who produce milk that becomes that famous Parmigiana cheese. The leftovers from making the cheese are fed to pigs who eventually become an equally famous Italian export, Parma ham. 
So, what does sushi tell us about Japan. Well, Japan is an island with very limited fuel sources. Hence, quick cooking stir fry and raw foods are common. The Japanese culture is one of great refinement. When a guest is invited into the home, it is important that the guest feel honored. It would be unthinkable to expect a guest to prepare his own food. Cutting food is considered part of the preparation process and therefore it would dishonor a guest to expect him or her to cut food on the plate. Hence, small bites are the norm; both stir fry and sushi are served in bite sized pieces. Another way that Japanese chefs honor their guests is through beautiful presentation. A well-prepared plate of sushi is exquisite, looking almost like stained glass. It is colorful, enticing, and appetizing. Eating with chopsticks forces me to slow down and savor the flavors and the conversation. 
Unfortunately, American culture is synonymous with fast food picked up at drive through windows: hamburgers, greasy fries, and carbonated drinks. What does that say about our life style? My life isn’t so different from anyone else’s. Yes, I have been known to take advantage of the fast food option on more than one occasion. However, when doing so, I end up gulping down food at red lights and I most certainly don’t feel calm or relaxed. So, when I sit down at the sushi bar with friends around me and a beautiful, colorful plate of sushi in front of me, I am honored and excited to be taking part in an ageless tradition of Japanese culture. But more importantly, I am creating a mental scrapbook of happy times and good memories. So, help me take the “eeewww” out of sushi by remembering its honorable history and tradition.

Summer Insanity!

All the fun with none of the smell! 😂
This has been the summer of Hay Day! Okay, I admit it, this may be one of the silliest things I have EVER done! Yup, it’s right up there with licking the frozen flagpole (don’t you just LOVE Christmas Story?) and sticking your tongue in the electric socket! “So, what is it?”, you ask. Hay Day, by SuperCell, is an addictive opportunity for people like me to care for a variety of cute animals. So, this summer I have spent a whole lot of time tapping my iPad while caring for a huge farm full of virtual pigs, chickens, goats, cows, and sheep. I am also growing acres and acres of virtual crops. 

Yes, you read this correctly…virtual. Now, virtual or not, farming is hard! I have animals in all colors, shapes, and sizes. They need to be fed and loved. Crops need to be harvested every day. Sheep need to be shorn, eggs collected, cows milked. A virtual farmer’s work is never done! I am busy doing all of this in order to make big virtual bucks selling milk, eggs, goat cheese, wheat, and corn, just to name a few.

Last summer I made a trip to the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, and the Petrified Forest. This summer I farmed. My niece commented that she had a virtual pet when she was in the third grade. Emphasis was on the fact that she was nine years old. I’m slightly older than that, so what’s my excuse? No excuse; I just find it fun and relaxing. So here’s to my summer of Hay Day! 

God’s Paintbrush

A Perfect Balance ~ Beautiful, not Barren!

IMG_0765My sister is headed home to New Mexico today.  I miss her already! I am already counting the days until I am on my way to see her! Every time I head to New Mexico I am amazed at the landscape. I live in south Georgia where it is hot, humid, lush, green, mosquito-filled, and slow moving. New Mexico is where the rest of my family lives.  As I fly into the Albuquerque Airport I always marvel at how brown the landscape appears. However, in spite of its seemingly drab appearance, the desert is anything but boring or barren. It is dotted with some of the most amazing structures nature has ever produced.

I’ve decided that the desert is a misunderstood landscape. During the day it is barren and dry and hot. People avoid it. I know I associate it with scorpions, snakes, bad Westerns, and thirst. Yet, each time I visit New Mexico I am reminded that there is a reward at the end of a day in the blazing desert heat … sunset. The sun sparkles off the desert sands and produces some of the most breath-taking sunsets I have ever seen. I feel as though the sunset is sort of your reward for suffering through the heat of the day.

IMG_1346 (1)

The sun glistens and sparkles as it hits the many different minerals that make up the desert soil and the reflections create amazing and vivid colors. The mountains, plateaus, buttes, and other craggy landforms make stark profiles against the blazing colors of the early sunset. As the sun recedes, the colors fade to soft, beautiful pastels. Our Universe is in perfect balance.  Yes, I love New Mexico because my family is there, but also because God’s paintbrush has swept across it in a most wonderful way.

 

The Call of the Sea

IMG_1188Here I am at our get-away house.  I LOVE being here near the ocean ~ I love looking out at the water and seeing blue herons and egrets. I wait all year for the pretty pink roseate spoonbills to arrive.  Being here always makes me wonder, what is it about being near the water that soothes our souls and keeps us yearning to return? Have you been to the beach lately?  People flock to the beaches! What is it about this most basic substance that we find so fascinating?

There is much about the ocean that we should fear… I know how dangerous water can be… we all do, and yet the fear never keeps me away. I find the ocean so humbling. When I stand and look out at the endless water, searching for where the sea and sky meet on the horizon, I feel small and insignificant in the big scheme of things. At the same time, I feel blessed to be part of this amazing Universe.

On a purely scientific basis, I get it… our human body cannot survive without water.  W.H. Auden put it very clearly when he said, “Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.”  But it is more than that. People constantly write about the fascination we have for something as simple and fundamental as water.  We can trace our connection to water all throughout human history in art, music, architecture, and literature; certainly wiser men than I have written astute words and poetic verses about it.  Kurt Vonnegut is quoted as saying, “In the water, I am beautiful.”

So, what is it we are truly seeking at the water’s edge? Perhaps it is a mental “holiday” from the stress of our technology-driven lives. Perhaps we need to reconnect with nature in its original state. When I listen to the rhythmic sound of the waves rolling in, I feel my mind and my whole body take a sigh and relax.  What I know for sure is that when the sea speaks, my soul is satisfied.

 

 

Social Animals

Have you ever found yourself sitting in the middle of the “holding pen” at the airport? When I was there a few weeks ago, I was struck by the level of noise…human noise. I tend to keep to myself. I’m one of those folks that follow the rules…you know, those unwritten rules like, “You don’t talk in elevators.”

However, that rule definitely does not apply at airports. Complete strangers all around me were striking up conversations, “Where are you headed?” “Where are you from?” “Who are you visiting?” “Have you been there before?” “Let me show you pictures of my ______(fill in the blank: grandbaby, dog, Halloween costume…).

Apparently the airport is a place where it is acceptable to talk nonstop to people you don’t know about stuff that nobody really cares about. What drives that behavior? Why do we have such a strong need to connect with those around us? Does the shared human experience reassure us that we’re “okay”? What is it about the temporary circumstance of waiting at an airport, sitting at the stadium, or standing in line at the theme park that makes us open up?
I believe that each of us value the comfort we feel when a common experience is shared and a connection is made. We were created to be social animals and as such, we rely on our five senses to let us know where we stand. When we feel another’s touch, hear a comforting voice, smell our mother’s favorite perfume, share a meal, or see people standing in line beside us, we are reassured that we fit in, we are safe, we are accepted.  I am constantly reminded that, in spite of the sad and scary daily news reports, ~people are good…~people are caring…~people are kind.  And therefore, I am blessed.