Sunday, December 27, 2009

Unexpected Gifts


It's hard to believe that Christmas, once again, has come and gone.
I loved watching the children open their presents. My granddaughter said it best. "I didn't ask for all these presents, but I sure do like them."
I no longer look for the big present under the tree, because I know that the things that matter the most can't be wrapped. Here are a few of the gifts I received this year:

The unexpected phone call from an old friend in Pennsylvania. We have not seen each other since we were girls, but have kept in touch through the decades. We share stories about our families and traditions. Another thing we have in common: her mother was born in England and married an American GI and my mother was German and also married an American.


The unexpected present she sent me. She knows I love history, so she sent me a book and relaxation CD with snow scenes (since we are snow-challenged here in the South).


The beautiful church on Christmas Eve, a sanctuary of holiness to quietly celebrate the birth of Christ. 


The almost empty streets on Christmas Eve, when the stores have closed and families are together.


Christmas dinner at my sister's house. She and her husband have a large, extended family and it was a joy to see the huge pile of presents under the tree and every room in the house decorated for Christmas. And I have to say that I love her dressing!


Phone calls on Christmas Day and catching up with loved ones.


Visiting a longtime friend who always gives me too much at Christmas. I tell her this every year. And she never listens.


An evening at home during the holidays, when the house is quiet and I am snuggled under a blanket on the sofa, knowing that I don't have to go anywhere the next morning.


Browsing through my new cookbook and listening to my new CD that my daughters gave me. I can't wait to try some of the recipes from "The Pioneer Woman's Cookbook."


Watching a Hallmark movie, "The Christmas Choir". This was the only holiday movie I watched this year. What is the Christmas season without a warm and touching holiday story?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Old Year

The old man hobbled on his cane, unsure of his step; his hair was solid white, his face wrinkled with the passing of the year. He sighed heavily, with a twinge of sadness, but also glad that his tenure was almost over.
Only twelve months before he had stepped on the threshold of a New Year, ready to take command, full of hope and optimism. Twelve months before he had been a young man, believing in dreams. Now he felt like Lot, leaving behind the carnage of Sodom and Gomorrah, afraid to look back. It was small wonder that the people wanted him out and wanted someone younger and stronger to take the reins and lead them.
So his journey had come to an end and the last days of the year appeared before him. He would spend them with someone younger at the helm, spending his last days in quiet reflection. If he had touched a few lives, it was worth it, gray hair and all.
Once, he was going to change the world and soften the hearts of man. And he had been warned by his predecessors about how tough the job was. If there was one thing to be gained it was wisdom. The tired old man ushered in his successor. "Go, young man. God be with you." he boldly encouraged the New Year. And the New Year leaped forward to a new beginning, toward a joyful chorus of "Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards men."

God Bless You!

(c) Anita M. Ashworth 2000


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grandchildren

I love the innocence of childhood.


"First Snow"

We had our first snowfall yesterday. It wasn't much, but we'll take what we can get down here in the South.
When my 5-year old granddaughter woke up and saw the snow she was so excited and wanted to go outside immediately.  "Can I go outside, Mommy? I want to build a snowman." Carrie knew there wasn't enough to build a snowman, unless it was going to be a very dirty snowman, but she allowed her to go outside for a few minutes. Erika put on her coat and hat and happily went out in the chilly morning to get her taste of the first snow. A few minutes later she came back in, brushing off snow and  leaves from her coat. "I made three snow angels," she proudly exclaimed. She was happy.


"Talking in Class"

Erika got in trouble at school for the first time last Friday. Her Kindergarten teacher smiled when she told my daughter that she actually had to tell her to stop talking. My grandchild is naturally a shy and quiet child. She is one of the youngest in her class (her birthday is in early August) but she loves to go to school. Even when she was sick with the Swine flu, twice in the past six weeks, she was so upset because she had to miss school.

"Lunch Money"

When school started in August, my daughter would pack Erika's lunch daily, thinking that my granddaughter wouldn't eat the lunchroom food. Still, all the children in the classroom had to memorize their lunch number. They pre-pay all their meals and then just key in their number at the cash register. After a couple of weeks of taking her lunch, Erika told her mother, "Mommy, I think I want to get a lunch tray tomorrow. I think you need money for that." She had practiced memorizing her lunch number on a scribbled note pad and, and just like the bigger kids, went through the lunch line the next day.

"Santa Claus"

My daughter put up her Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving. The children were so excited and put on their Christmas pajamas and posed in front of the tree, holding hands and smiling from ear to ear. Erika wanted to bake Christmas cookies (already) for Santa and use the red sprinkles because, after all, Santa wears red.

My daughter's father-in-law called one evening last week and asked to speak to the girls. He pretended to be Santa Claus. He asked them what they wanted for Christmas and Erika shyly answered, "I don't know what I want." Little Allie nodded her head and echoed the "Ho Ho Ho!" she heard on the phone. As soon as Daddy came home, they excitedly told him that they had  talked to Santa Claus on the phone! He gave my daughter a funny look. "Paw-Paw" she whispered.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Little Boys



I raised two daughters and then my younger daughter had two girls of her own. My life revolved around baby dolls and play kitchens, hair bows and cute little girl clothes.

As soon as I knew I was expecting my first child I picked up my crochet needles and had six sweaters finished by the time she was born at the end of  May. I bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to sew. From the time my girls were little I made many of their holiday dresses. It was fun dressing up little girls.

I never thought I would be blessed with a boy, but last year my older daughter gave me a grandson, a delightful little boy who stole my heart from the moment I laid eyes on him. From the time he was two months old he slept through the night until morning. He still does, except for the times when he is sick or has an ear infection. At 15 months his little personality is coming out. He is picking up words and repeating them. He has to have his rambunctious playtime before he goes to bed. That means hide-and-seek, tickle time, and letting him play on my bed, which he loves. He loves to go outside and gets excited when he sees my neighbor's dogs across the street.

As a little boy he loves gadgets: remote controls, telephones, answering machines, anything with buttons that he can push. We recently had to move the phone because a 911 operator called and said they had a hang-up call. I apologized and stated that my grandson had accidentally called when he was playing with the phone. I apologized again when a deputy showed up at my door a little while later. The phone is now out of reach of his little hands. He has also figured out how to start the dishwasher and when we say the word, "bathtime" he runs to the bathroom, ready to turn on the faucet.

He loves it when my daughter reads to him. Elmo is his favorite character at the present time. He likes to sing and hums along with the music. At this age he is learning something new everyday.

What do I want for him as he grows up?

I want him to be happy.
I want him to love God.
I want him to do something with his hands, whether a profession or hobby.
I want him to respect others.
I want him to have compassion.

I could make a longer list, but I trust God to grow this little boy into a man.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Somebody

Once there was a man called Nobody. He had been a Nobody all his life. By the time he grew to be a young man he felt that there was little purpose in his life because he was a Nobody. He could not find happiness in relationships because Nobody would make a lasting commitment. He drifted from job to job because Nobody ever felt satisfied with anything he started. Frankly, he was sick and tired of being a Nobody.

Then one day he met Somebody. Somebody who just wanted to be his friend, Somebody who promised to change his life. Nobody was skeptical at first. After all, he had experienced his share of broken promises and failed friendships. Besides, he was a Nobody. What would Somebody want with him? But Somebody persisted. When Nobody was home, Somebody came by to check on him. When he was at work, he could feel Somebody's presence. Gradually Nobody became convinced that Somebody was different. Here was Somebody who cared. Soon, Somebody talked him into going to church. And Somebody was always there, waiting on Nobody. Somebody loved him just as he was. Somebody was right. His life did change the day he met Somebody.

Do you know Somebody?

Blessings:)

(c) Anita M. Ashworth 2000

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pretending to Be a Grown-Up





Grown-ups don't cry
At least that's what I thought as a child
I only saw grown-ups cry at funerals
And that was from a distance
Because children didn't go to funerals
When I was a child

Grown-ups work all the time
And never take time to play
They look serious all the time
And tired...really tired
Not the kind of tired that you feel
From jumping on the trampoline
Just tired

Grown-ups never go barefoot
When people grow up they put on shoes
And never take them off anymore
They even wear their socks to bed
At least some of them do
Wouldn't it be fun to kick off your shoes
And walk barefooted through the dewy grass
First thing in the morning?

Grown-ups drink a lot of coffee and tea
And talk about 'eating right'
They are always on a diet
What is wrong with chocolate milk
Cookies and soda pop?

Grown-ups go to bed way too early
Because they have to get up and go to work
They are grumpy when they don't get enough sleep
Come to think about it
It's not so bad being a kid

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Crystal Bowl


My son-in-law celebrated his birthday on Monday, so I invited my daughter and her family over for dinner. My son-in-law is accustomed to good ole Southern food, but I decided to make a couple of German dishes, like Red Cabbage and German Potato Salad, and Black Forest Cherry Cake.

My mother made the best potato salad and I've tried to duplicate her recipe through trial and error, sometimes coming close, other times missing the mark entirely. Mom, like most good cooks, didn't follow a recipe. And she served her potato salad in a crystal bowl. That crystal bowl graced many holiday tables over the years.

My mother always loved pretty things. It was natural that she used a crystal bowl, as natural as using real tablecloths on her dining room table and real silverware. Mom loved china and tea pots and coffee services, a trait that all of us girls inherited. When she passed away my three sisters and I divided up eight sets of coffee and tea services, each of us ending up with two sets a piece. As for the crystal bowl? I proudly serve my potato salad in the same bowl my mother used all those years. I'm sure that I'll pass it down to one of my daughters.


"German Potato Salad"


Approx. 10 Idaho potatoes or Yukon Gold
1 stalk celery, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
2 pickles, chopped
1/2 lb bacon, fried and crumbled
4 boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
Approx. 1/4 cup Oil
Approx. 1/4 cup Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Boil the potatoes until you can pierce them with a fork, but do not overcook them. Cool and peel the skins. Use a large bowl and cut up the potatoes and add the remaining ingredients. I use a German vinegar, but you can use Apple Cider or Salad vinegar. Mix well and marinate until serving time.
Guten essen!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apple Strudel & More







My daughter had been begging me to make Apple Strudel, which I usually make around this time of year. Since I work full-time, I often don't have the energy to spend as much time in the kitchen as I would like. The Apple Strudel takes a little time, but is well worth it. I found the recipe in "Taste of Home" several years ago and lost it, but had made it enough in the past, that I remembered it. This time, instead of making three strudels, I used the last batch of apples and made an apple pie and took it to work.






"Apple Strudel"


2 sticks of butter, the real thing
1 8 oz. container of sour cream
2 cups of flour
1/2 tsp Salt
4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled & chopped
1 cup bread crumbs
2 cups sugar
1/2 stick butter, melted
Cinnamon
Raisins (optional)

Cut the butter into the flour and mix well. Add the sour cream and mix until a ball forms. The dough will be sticky. Add enough flour to form a ball. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

Let the dough rest at room temperature until soft enough to roll out, at least 1/2 hour. Divide dough in thirds and roll out into a rectangle. In a large bowl, mix the chopped apples, bread crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Spoon the apple mixture over the dough and roll up in a strudel. Brush melted butter on top and sprinkle with sugar. Bake on a large, ungreased cookie sheet. This will make three small strudels, one to eat and two to share. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.


"Apple Pie"

For the pie, roll out a pie circle from the strudel dough and place in pie plate. For the crumb topping, use a pastry cutter to mix 2/3 cup flour, 1/2 stick butter, 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done.






Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Children are a Blessing

Children are a blessing
sent from God above
A way to remind us
of his unending love


He gives us little ones
to cuddle and hug
Children are a blessing
send from God above



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Homecoming



A lone traveler walked along a desolate country road. he was cold, hungry and tired. He had been traveling for days, but it seemed more like an eternity. The traveler had wanted to stop and rest several times along the journey, but was afraid that the weariness would overcome him and he wouldn't be able to continue. He trudged on, clinging to the hope that home was just around the next bend in the road, beyond the next clump of trees. The journey had taken its toll on him. In the beginning he had been a strong man, walking straight with his head held high. As the miles added up, his load became heavier. He had to abandon many of his belongings along the way, until all he had left was a canteen with barely a drink of water.

Finally, he saw a glimmering light in the distance. And the smoke from a fireplace. Home.

He mustered up all his strength and rushed forward, throwing open the front door. In the crackling light of the fire stood his mother, radiant in her youth and beauty. Her arms were outstretched to embrace him, just like when he was a boy coming home from school. His beloved grandfather sat in the rocking chair, grinning ear to ear. His grandfather had taught him how to hunt and fish in his childhood. His baby sister lay in her cradle, softly cooing. It had been a long time since he had seen her. Standing around the room were his brothers and sisters, and aunts and uncles, all smiling as they warmly greeted him. At last he noticed the table laden with food that was befitting a celebration. At that moment a commanding voice could be heard from the head of the table.
"Come in and rest, my son. We've been expecting you."

The traveler was home at last.
(In memory of my father-in-law, who would have been 90 years old this year.)


(c) Anita M. Ashworth 1991

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A River Runs Through It


One of my favorite movies is "A River Runs Through It." It is a quiet, slow-paced coming of age story about two brothers growing up in early 20th century Montana. The father, a Presbyterian minister, and his two sons are avid fly fishermen. The movie "hooked" me (pardon the pun) in the first scene, where an elderly man is fishing and the narrator (Robert Redford) speaks, "I am haunted by waters." His words are pure poetry. Naturally, I bought the book written by Norman Maclean, who wrote the stories based on his life. I have never been to Montana, nor have I been fly-fishing, but the story of Norman and his brother, Paul, is as ancient as the story of the prodigal son. The brothers are as different as night and day; Norman is the responsible, bookish elder son, and Paul is the unpredictable younger brother who walks on the wild side of life. But the two things the brothers have in common is the love for fly fishing and their genuine affection for one another.

In one of the last scenes, Norman's father is giving a sermon about how hard it is to understood the ones we love. "It is those we live with and love and should know who elude us." He was surely thinking of his son, Paul, who was murdered.

From the book,
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."
Pure poetry.
(photo-Arbron-flickr)


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Lessons From a Two-Year Old


There was a book published several years ago titled, "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." It was a charming, humorous book, but the author was wrong, because everything you need to know in life can be learned from a two-year old.

What I learned from a two-year old is that it's okay to play until you drop from exhaustion. When was the last time you did that as an adult? The two favorite words of a two-year old are 'No" and "Mine." What would happen if grown-ups started saying "No" more often? Would we be as over-scheduled and over-obligated as we are now? And what about "Mine?" There are some adults who can use a little 'me' time without feeling guilty.If we don't take care of our own needs, we are certainly no good to anyone else.

These tiny creatures from another planet can be obstinate and willful and lovable, all at the same time. Sometimes you can't get near them, and other times they want to plant wet kisses on you and give you those little hugs that you cherish.

When a toddler is tired, what do they do? If they are like my grand-daughter, she will bring me her favorite blankie and her doll and sippy cup, and then crawl up in my lap. After a few squirms and kicks she settles down for a nap. What if grown-ups could take an afternoon break with our favorite thing, be it the best-selling novel we haven't had time to read, or pick up our knitting where we left off - wouldn't work be less stressful?

Everything is a joy and a new experience to a two-year old child. They are thrilled by the tiniest bug, chase after bubbles, and run to their heart's content. Tired is not in their vocabulary, not like adults, who wake up tired. And boredom? Have you ever seen a 'bored' two-year old? They are too busy exploring their environment to be bored. And, don't want to sleep alone? No problem. When you are two, Mommy and Daddy will make room for you. Get away with murder? It helps to be two.

No, I don't think you have to wait until Kindergarten. You can learn a lot just by observing a two-year old. Of course, not all toddlers are perfect. Some actually do throw temper tantrums, but then again, I've seen some adults throw temper tantrums, too! So maybe its not just a phase.

If we looked at life with the innocence of a child, every day would be full of joy and wonder. We would laugh more often and play until nap time and eat Cheetos for breakfast and take pride in all of our small accomplishments - these are lessons that grown-ups should embrace.

God Bless the little children.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day


I don't even stop and look at the Father's Day cards at Walmart anymore. When Don was alive I would take my time reading several before making up my mind. Most of the time they were humorous cards, but once in a while I'd pick out a heartfelt card. If I had the chance here's the letter I would write to him on Father's Day.

Dear Sweetheart,

Happy Father's Day! I don't know if I ever told you what a terrific Dad you were. I didn't tell you enough what it meant to have a husband who not only loved me, but loved his kids unconditionally. No wonder they went to you first about everything! Remember that tatoo that Carrie got and didn't want me to know about it? I found out after the fact, when you already knew. Remember how you and Shannon would talk college football for hours and how you always called her on the phone after Auburn played? That's something she won't forget. Nor will she forget the time you and Jeff drove to Auburn late at night to pick her up because her grandmother was in the hospital and we didn't expect her to make it through the night. You didn't want her to drive home alone during such an emotional time.

And Carrie won't forget the times you took off from work to be a chaperone on a boring band trip to Birmingham or that time you checked her out of school to watch your beloved Kentucky Wildcats play basketball at Tuscaloosa. Or going to Nashville to see the Tennessee Titans play. You knew that I was not a big sports fan, but your daughters never let you down.

And neither one of them will forget the countless Friday nights you took off from work so you could attend the football games and watch them play in the marching band. As a father, you were definitely hands-on and always put your family first.

I remember when we lived in Germany, right after Shannon was born. We lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment in Nierstein, that little German village within walking distance of the Rhine River. With only one car, it meant I spent long days home alone with a newborn baby while you went to work. I was anxious for you to come home because I was nervous about being a new Mom. We had no washer or dryer. During the week I would wash diapers in the bathtub, but on the weekends you took the dirty laundry to the laundromat on post and brought the clean clothes home, all neatly folded.

While growing up the girls always knew they could come to you. I guess I was the disciplinarian and you were the laid-back parent. I don't recall you ever spanking the kids.

I know that you would be proud of the girls now. I know you loved your son-in-law. Your youngest daughter married a good man. I know that your heart would break for Shannon, for what she's been through the past year, but you would stand there and protect her every step of the way. And you would just fall in love with your grandchildren. "Teka" was just learning how to crawl when you left us and you wouldn't believe that she is going on five and starting Kindergarten! She is the spitting image of her mother. You would just love "little Allie" and get such a kick out of her. She has one unique personality and has practically potty-trained herself. Talk about a strong will! And then there's Lucas, your grandson. He is so easy-going and what gorgeous eyes and a beautiful smile he has. I could see you now on the living room floor playing with all of them, just like the girls used to climb all over you when they were little.

Don, it hasn't been easy on the girls since you've gone, but God's comfort and peace have helped. Thoughts of you are always on their minds and in their hearts. They miss you so!

With Love,
Anita

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Jesus-God Book


Okay, I try not to be one of those grandmothers that are constantly whipping out the brag book, or nowadays, the cell phone or digital camera that seems to be readily available. Yes, I have on occasion dug the digital camera out of my purse to show a recent picture, one picture, that I thought deserved a little recognition and a Ooh and an Aww from my co-workers. For the most part, I am not that kind of a grandmother, sometimes even being accused of being negligent by not having a recent photograph on hand.

Thank God for Facebook! Now I can post photos of my grandchildren to my heart's delight without being rude or obnoxious.
And it's not just pictures that I am proud to show off, but the cute and silly things they say that make you smile or laugh out loud. Like my daughter, Carrie, says, kids are cheap entertainment.



A few weeks ago I was baby-sitting the kids, all three of them, while Carrie and Shannon went shopping.Lucas has a picture book Bible in his room, and little (almost 2 years old) Allie Marie was getting into everything, like always, and naturally gravitated to the baby's room to see what damage she could do. She found the picture book Bible and was playing with it when big sister Erika ran into the living room to tattle on her little sister, probably realizing that little Allie was up to no good."Nemaw, Allie's playing with the Jesus-God book," she tells me."What book is she playing with?" I asked, teasing her."The Jesus-God book in Lucas' room," she repeated in her 4-year old voice. She still has trouble pronouncing some of her words and letters, but I understood her plain as day this time. She led me into Lucas' room and pointed to Allie playing with the children's Bible.So from here on out it's not the children's Bible, but the Jesus-God book.

Recently Carrie took Allie to the ER when she needed stitches. She had jumped off the couch and her cheek was split open when it hit her sippy cup, of all things. She required 5 stitches. Carrie said that she was awesome and didn't even cry when the nurses wrapped her up like a papoose, so she couldn't move. On the trip to the hospital Erika recalled her trip to the ER last year, when she slipped and fell and needed stitches on her chin. She remembered seeing the "Chin doctor" when she went to the emergency room.

Needless to say, some of the things she says leaves me in "stitches."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

God is Faithful


The phone rang early this morning and Shannon heard the words she's been waiting to hear, "We want to offer you a teaching position at our school."

In today's economy, with a fresh batch of eager college graduates polishing their resumes, and laid off teachers anxiously updating their's, it's been a nerve-wrecking job hunt these past few months. She had three interviews in two days, for a total of five inteviews and two job fairs. One principal told her that there were more than 200 applications received for a handful of teaching positions.

The past year has definitely been a test in faith. "Have faith" has been my motto. "Ask, and you shall receive". Sure, God knows what we need before we do, and he knows without us having to ask him, but I think he wants to make sure we are on the same page by keeping those lines of communication open. I prayed, but already knew in my heart, that God had a job for her. It just had to be in his perfect timing and that time was today.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me faith.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Lord is My Shepherd



I've been thinking of starting a blog for some time and I had the title picked out almost immediately. My faith has been continuously tested this past year, and it was only when I rested in God's Word, that I felt a calming and peaceful feeling.
"Beside the still waters",
from the 23rd Psalm has been my refuge.



I believe that we are all on a spiritual journey, but we ignore the 'caution' signs along the way. We take the forbidden detours and then crawl back to God, dragging our broken spirits/bodies/dreams behind us, begging for forgiveness and a second chance.

But God will wipe away our tears and listen to our heartaches. And he'll want us to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them.



Wishing you a safe journey.

Pictures

Growing up in my era we didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course, there were the school pictures, which I dreaded, and Mom rarely bought...