Tag Archive | family

Mistakes

I was thinking of what to blog about, since it has been a while, and I currently find myself resisting my inspiration.  You see, I just wrote an entire sentence to introduce my topic, but skirted away from it with this one.  Perhaps I should title this procrastination instead of mistakes.  Deep breath.  Confess.

Perhaps you are chuckling because you realize that you, too, avoid admitting your mistakes.  Should Alexander Pope have coined, “To err is human, to confess divine”?  Having forced rather non-divine words into the poet’s mouth, allow me to take a step toward divinity.

What you see on this post is a picture of my “Chicken Taffy”.  Disgusting, isn’t it?  I posted this picture on my Face Book and asked my friends what they thought it was.  The conversation that followed included: gross, do I want to know, and yes disgusting.  

Here is the pitiful tale of the origin of the “Chicken Taffy”.  We were having an old fashioned hot dog roast as a church social.  I thought I would remain loyal to the theme and make old fashioned vinegar taffy.  That idea is gross enough.  Why had my attention from old-fashioned-cookies or old-fashioned-pie been drawn to something I’ve never eaten nor prepared,  I know not.  Nevertheless, I mixed the sugar, vinegar, lemon flavoring (I thought it would go nicely with the chicken), and water.  I boiled and stirred.  Boiled and stirred.  Boiled and stirred.  The cookies would have been done by now. Then I poured the mixture onto two cookie sheets and swirled in the yellow and tad of red food coloring (this is where the chicken part comes in).  I started to pull the slightly cooled taffy with my youngest girls.  The result was the darker reddish orange taffy.  I soon realized I had no idea what I was doing and called for my husband.

He had pulled taffy, but the fact that he had not pulled it in all our 13 years of marriage never stood out as a red flag that there was probably a reason.  Soon he had me tugging as he stretched the sticky mess across the length of the kitchen.  He would hand me the folded ends and pull again and again.  It became harder and harder (both in texture and difficulty).  Finally, we ended up with the lighter pieces.  I put them in a foil lined pan and as I looked upon the results and quickly became repulsed. 

It all looked liked cooked and uncooked chicken breast cut up into nuggets.  We tried a piece and almost lost a filling.  We joked about putting on a label that said “Chicken Taffy” but in the end didn’t have the heart to put it out.  It is still in my freezer, if you want a piece.

And so, there you have it.  What not to do with vinegar and sugar.  I’m sure there are many success stories of vinegar taffy.  You may have fond memories of making it with your grandmother in her country kitchen as fireflies danced outside the window.  I seriously doubt my grandchildren ever will, but perhaps one day I’ll convince my husband to give it another go. 

One of my talents is I’m fairly good at learning from my mistakes.  Someone (not Alexander Pope) said that if you learn from your mistakes, they aren’t mistakes but lessons.  Or something to that effect.  So the lesson I learned is, don’t attempt old-fashioned vinegar taffy unless you are in your grandmother’s kitchen with fireflies outside the window.  No?  Ok.  Don’t use yellow and red food coloring in the exact quantities I did or your taffy will look like chicken.  Just don’t ask me how much I used.  That’s a lesson you will have to tempt on your own.  Not because I’m being philosophical or anything.  I just didn’t measure.Image

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Imagination

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I noticed our tree house was looking a little deserted.  I suppose the newness had worn off sometime last fall.  I climbed up with an old sheet and draped it over a few branches.  Soon, two little girls were aloft.  I brought them a bag full of My Little Pet Shop toys, a bottle of water, and two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and new magic was breathed into those old limbs.  As my husband and I worked below on the greenhouse, a flood of memories drifted down with giggles and happy chatter.  

I remembered carrying an old blanket from my grandma’s up the hillside to the cliff across the stream from her house.  A couple of rocks secured the pink wall and the hours of imagination that followed.  During that afternoon of castles and knights, princesses and dragons, pirates and treasures, and perhaps even a trip to a distant planet, I slipped down the hillside for a bathroom break, and as I looked back up to the bright pink cloth against a backdrop of brown rocks and green leaves, I was tempted to think it ridiculous and out of place.  That’s what society would tell me.  I thought of the “food and furnishings” and all the worlds behind the “misplaced” pink blanket, and shook my head.  I quickly attended to the business at hand and headed back to my pink wonderland that was perfectly where it belonged.

I looked back up to the tree house.  My ten year old had climbed to a higher platform expanding the horizon of their game and the world of their toys.  For a few short moments there was no bickering, or arguing.  There were just castles and dragons, treasures, and perhaps even a distant planet or two.  I looked above to the old tan sheet.  There was just one thing amiss.  I just wished that old sheet were pink against that background of brown and green.

Firsts

Twelve years ago, my husband I had our first Easter together.  Of course, it was also my first Easter as a mom to my new six children.  No.  I didn’t have sextuplets.  My husband was the single father of six from two previous marriages.  We decided we wanted to teach the kids about the life of Jesus Christ, so we prepared, to the best of our ability, a Passover meal.  It was a wonderful holiday time together.

Our oldest daughter, now married and expecting, called to tell us that this Easter she was going to honor our tradition with her husband on their first Easter together.  All these years, I had no idea that the time their dad and I had put into that meal would have such an impact.  

This year,  I decided to do more research on Passover traditions, symbols and meaning.  I pored over recipes planning the very best Passover meal I could.  I hope my Jewish friends are honored by my efforts rather than offended by my product.  However, I can’t explain the love I felt for Jesus Christ, the Jewish people and their long years of suffering, my family, and all the families who were so carefully preparing their gifts of love for the holidays.

I wish I could have been there for my daughter’s first Easter as a wife and mother.  But I’m sure those she shared it with will have memories etched deep in their minds and hearts, even if she isn’t aware of it.

Where has Spring Gone?

In Virginia, the calendar says it is spring.  Five  days in to be exact.  And yet, Old Man Winter, unlike Custard, won his last stand.  At least I hope it is his last this season.  School was cancelled today.  As as school teacher, I think I do the happy dance as often as my children under such conditions.

However, I’m rather done with winter and would really like to start on the garden. I suggested to my youngest girls that their Dad and I take the carton of eggs out of the fridge and hide them in the snow.  I told them they did so well last year finding all the eggs, we were going to level up the difficulty a bit.  My nine year old smashed my plans by pointing out, “Then we will step on them and break all our eggs.”

So here I was with a snow day in spring and no hopes of an Easter egg hunt.  I peaked out the window at my garden spot that looks exactly like it did in December and decided there was nothing left to do.  Snow ball fall fight and sledding it was.  Sledding didn’t work out so well, so we even made mini snow people.

I suppose we all have our “druthers” from time to time.  We’d rather be planting seeds than reaping snow.  But aren’t the memories so much better when we just  slip on our mittens and let the snowballs fly?

flowers in the snow

flowers in the snow (Photo credit: elpostito)

Writing is like parenting

I had one of those weird realizations today.  As the mother or eight children ages 4 to 24 with only the 19 year old daughter across the country, married, expecting, I realized that writing is like parenting.  When I first finished my novel, the first draft anyway, I was so proud of my little bundle of words.  I wanted to show it to everyone with acclamations of “Look.  Isn’t it wonderful?  It’s mine you know.  I made it all by myself.”

But then the gentle but ever so unkind comments came, “You need an editor”, “I didn’t understand what you were saying when…”, “I think you need to…”, or (my personal favorite), “Bonnie, I want you to join my writing group.  You need to develop your writing more.”  Gadzooks!  What wasn’t there to love?  It was like hearing those snide comments of “She has big ears”, or “Does his head look a little pointy?”  How could they not love my little bundle of words?

And so, the days of revising, and editing, every word being torn apart by scrutinizing eyes, came.  It was like those many days when one of my daughter would come home in tears because her best-best friend was now best friends with the girl who is so mean to my daughter, or when my son would come home with a C on the paper we spent hours writing (heavy on that I in we).  And yet, somehow, the children came out stronger, wiser, more confident, and so did the chapters.

Fast forward to post high school graduation when there was a failure to launch or two, when young adults hung out on my couch all day doing little household chores like they did when they were thirteen–no college, no jobs.  And there my husband and I were trying to figure out what had happened?  Why had they been rejected?  What more could we have done?

And there was my little novel.  Sitting on the couch after getting our hopes up with a first round win in a contest and down after a second round failure.  Rejected.  How many times had I told my young adult sons, “I don’t care what job you get.  Just get one,” ?  And here I was looking at my novel saying, “I don’t care if I have to self-publish you.  I just need to put my effort into the next little bundle of words.  I’m tired of revising you just to please the world.”

And then I realized, what does it matter if a single word I ever write pleases another person? Do I breath for another?  Do I eat for another?  Well, only when I was pregnant.  I write for me, because it pleases me, because I love it.  Yes, I want my children to enjoy the pleasure of carving out their own little spot in this grand universe.  I want them to feel the triumph of failing and simply dragging themselves off the floor, even it is only to take the next blow.  I want them to be able to go to work and feel the same excitement they did as when we went to the big park.  But they are mine.  And even if the world rejects them.  I get to enjoy them.  And so, writing is like parenting.