Gospel and Grub With GRIT

Mother's Day Tribute to Grandma

EileenIt was Saint Bernard of Clairvaux who said, "We find rest in those we love, and we provide a resting place in ourselves for those who love us."

I choose to believe that was written explicitly about my mom, Virginia Smith. Mother of five, grandmother of 26, great-grandmother and great-great grandmother, she provided that resting place for all of us.  

Join seven of her grandchildren and me on a trip down memory lane as we pay a most well-deserved tribute. 

Ginny: "I was blessed to be given her name, Virginia Leigh, and she will always be a huge part of my life. I can vividly see, hear and smell some of those memories. Grandma would greet us at the door smiling and sit us down at the table for mashed potatoes and tapioca pudding. I miss the holidays the most as Grandma was the center of it. She taught me how to pour out love to everyone and to spread joy no matter the circumstances. I love her with all my heart."

Aspen: "What I remember most about Grandma was her smile. She was always so happy to see us, feed us and entertain us. She'd take us out to the barn and show us around always telling stories. One was about a bird they had when my Dad was young that said swear words! She also let Ginny and I go on the hammock when my mom and dad weren't watching. I love you, Grandma Smith, and know you're watching over us!"

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Sarah: "The mention of the word Grandma instantly brings a smile to my face. Then there's the wafting smell of cookies and apple pie. My grandma was the best baker/cook, hands down! Also, not a day goes by without one of Grandma's sayings coming up such as; smidgen, warsh, brain you, boobie hatch, hassock, pillow sheet ... and the signature saying just for me was ... 'Sarah, do you know what you are??!! MY PAIN IN THE NECK!' Memories of my grandma fill my heart."

Michelle: "I remember eagerly waiting all week for the weekend so I could go to Grandma and Grandpa Smith's. There was the most comfortable bed with sheets so clean and crisp, you never minded getting told to go to bed! Early mornings were off to the barn to do chores. I just remember her genuine and peaceful spirit. You always wanted to be around her. No matter what went on, she was present for whatever you needed. She told me to be honest and true to myself and things would be OK. LOVE describes her best!"

Carrie: "Grandma was one of the strongest, most caring, forgiving and unforgettable people I will ever have the blessing of knowing. She would say the most profound things that you might miss if you weren't paying attention, but would never forget if you heard them. Like; you just can't judge someone not having walked in their shoes, don't get mad – get even, this too shall pass, time really does heal all wounds, everything needs a smidgen of salt (and love), if they get mad they'll get glad, and always, ALWAYS forgive. It is a goal of mine to be half the woman she was and will always be to me!"

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Joshua: "My favorite memory was how Dad and I would visit Grandma every morning for coffee/tea and just talk about current events, family, the shop, etc. Grandma would share stories about Grandpa and her raising kids, how great of a shooter he was, and how he taught my dad how to do just about everything. (Like my dad has taught me!) Grandma had a huge teddy bear collection and a cookie jar on her fridge. She'd always let us kids pick out our favorite cookie. Grandma was a remarkable person that loved and sacrificed for her family. She was my inspiration regarding what is really important in life - FAMILY!"

Jamie: "My grandmother was a soft, small woman with a giant heart. There was nothing better than going to Grandma's! I loved the times being on the farm and having to gain the courage with my brother or cousin to cross the wrath of a mean rooster, evil swans or a crazy billy goat. Once we'd skirted around these cranky animals we'd tell Grandma our story and she'd smile and make us feel like we'd just conquered the world! Most of all I remember the tie and connection Grandma created among our family. I miss her greatly, but she lives in my heart and my memories."

Looking at one of her favorite aprons hanging on my wall in my kitchen, handkerchief always in the pocket, my eyes fill with tears of joy. As her daughter, I can attest to her being the most special person in the hearts of many ... and HER making each and every one of US feel like we were the MOST special person in hers.

Bacon Jam

EileenAn Ode To Bacon ....

Things you'll never hear when bacon is frying:

1. "What's that smell?"

2.  Oh, something smells good!"

3. "I know that smell, but what is it?"

No, no, and no! When bacon's robust distinctive loveliness wafts through the house or campground, you can count on the absolute of "I smell bacon!"  There's no doubt, no debate, just affirmation. That's why I love it, that's why I cook it, that's why I celebrate it.

cooking bacon | Fotolia/krasyuk

Photo: Fotolia/krasyuk

Few things in the sensory realm hold such a culinary hierarchy as our beloved cured pig cooking down. Its deserved accolades extend way beyond standing guard over a plate of scrambled eggs!

It decidedly slides over societal lines. If you sport a suit and tie, if you are a coal miner, if you are a super model, the smell will ... through its familiarity ... knock you off whatever railway or runway you choose to venture.

cooked bacon | Fotolia/Brent Hofacker 

Photo: Fotolia/Brent Hofacker

Think of a steaming hot bowl of potato soup waning for the perfect accompaniment that'll whack your tastebuds into infinity with a "knuckle blast from a ruler" slurp! Enter ... Bacon Jam. (See the recipe below.)

It's tagging along with its buddies of cheddar cheese shreds, sour cream and diced scallions. With a dive reminiscent of an Olympic 10, they, along with a crusty baguette, complete this pig introduction to every culinary school's nightmare. But, you wake up, as do your tastebuds, sublimed!  

Like a long touring rock band, your following proceeds you. That's how bacon rolls ....

the recipe

Never One Rejected

EileenI love the sheep story of one that was lost, 
A good shepherd will find it, whatever the cost! 
Do you think sheep pray when they're lost and scared? 
Let's say that they do, and God answers their prayers. 
God does answer prayers ... I'm living proof, 
I've lived a time without even a roof ... 
Through that trying time, my faith yes, it wavered some. 
To this I'll admit – thought "God, when will it come?" 
"When" is this time that I've been told about You? 
C'mon, God, "Now ... show me what to do!" 
"Stay strong in your faith, it's a reflection of Me"...
But God, give me a glimpse of the time that I'll be, 
Finished with this test – this proclamation to obey. 
I've done it all God – heard all You had to say!
Just let me have a place of my own to lay my head. 
He replied, "Remember My Son? ... Remember His bed?" 
With this I pondered, how can I learn more and better understand
The works of our Lord, the passing over of His hand? 
"Go to My Word" was His simple reply –
"The answers are there, the reasons why ..."
The trials you profess to not be able to endure,
Match not the isolation of a learned lesson for sure!
Sometimes to proceed, we need to omit –
Friends, loved ones, possessions, give up every bit ...
You see the giving up or giving of ourselves is
God's request for us all, after all we're all His! 
Through this obedience He sees our true heart,
He sees that we get it – we're willing to start ...
Really believing in answers that we request in prayer,
In essence he says, "My child, my child, they've always been there!" 
So in times of trial, our first thoughts should be
Ones of comfort knowing God's got us covered and that He ... 
Will never forsake us – leave us unprotected ...
No one sheep left astray,
Never one rejected.

The Lost Sheep by Alford Soord (1898) | courtesy Transformations and Whispers, TransformationsAndWhispers.blogspot.com/2012/02/alfred-usher-soord-lost-sheep.html

The Lost Sheep by Alford Soord (1898) | courtesy Transformations and Whispers, TransformationsAndWhispers.blogspot.com/2012/02/alfred-usher-soord-lost-sheep.html

Square Eggs

EileenMy sister-in-law Tami's great-gramma was quite the prankster. She had what I know to have been flaming red hair in her day (as does her favorite, Tam), and the vibrant personality to accompany it! So the day around Easter time that she posed the question to me, "Do you know how you get a square egg?" I pondered the obvious.

"Uh, a square chicken?" I quipped. "Or, a chicken with a square laying apparatus?" (Most politely put.)  But really, considering I've never considered the pending anomaly, the short answer was, "No."  

She smiled and produced in her hand, yep, you guessed it. A perfectly squared egg! With Easter approaching rapidly, I thought of you, dear readers, as I pose the very same question, "Do you know how you get a square egg?"  

No, they're not from Rhode Island Reds, or Barnvelders, or Sussex. Not from Araucanas, Plymouth Rocks or Rosecombs. Not even Brahmas, Sumatras or White Rocks. (Pun intended!)  

The mysterious answer lies in the names such as "The Egg Cuber," "Vintage Square Egg Maker," "Egg Deformer," "Square Egg Press" or "Bento Box Eggs."  

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These "Avian Egg Machines" fulfill a niche sought after by a more "free-range chicken keeper." (If you know what I mean!) My experience, with what I'll call my Egg Cuber, was sheer delight as I duplicated Great-Gramma's inquiry of me to my daughter, nieces and nephew one Easter before dinner.  

#3Picture their little faces complete with their eyes popping out and jaws on the table, as I explain the fleeting answer and process: (1) First you choose one (or many) of the "Avian Egg Machines" listed above, and put in the freezer for the time it takes to hard boil some eggs.

Hint: If you use slightly older eggs and add a pinch of vinegar to the water, they peel easier.

(2) Peel, and while eggs are still warm, remove presses from freezer, unscrew the egg press and take out pressing plate. Make sure base plate is flat. Insert one peeled, warm, hard boiled egg into press. (3) Place pressing plate on top of egg. (4) Screw lid on until egg is square. Chill press in ice water, fridge, or freezer for 5 to 10 minutes for optimum results. (5) After chilling, unscrew lid and push bottom plate up to remove a square egg!  

Now, unless you have a "flock" of egg cubers, you'll need some time to "incubate" enough for an appetizer (they fit perfectly on crackers), or enough for a bowl of potato salad. But, the process is only half the fun! Enjoy the cackles of joy as they emanate from your kitchen (or your great-gramma's!) Revel in the fact that now your square eggs will no longer roll off the plate on the way to the table, roll off your dashboard during a truck pull, or not fit into your Bento box! Because after all, this Easter you can prove, "It's Hip To Be Square!"

A Mother's Love

EileenHere's another awesome reminder from "Monday's With My Old Pastor."

On a hot summer day, a little boy decided to go swimming in the lake behind his house. He went running out the back door, jumped into the water, and was happily swimming. He did not realize that a crocodile was approaching. His mother, from the house, was looking out the window and saw with horror what was happening. She instantly ran toward her son, shouting at him as loud as she could. Hearing her, the little boy became frightened and turned around and swam toward his mother, but it was too late.

From the dock, the mother grabbed the little boy by his arms just as the crocodile bit down on his little legs. The woman pulled on the boy's arms with all her strength. The crocodile was much stronger, but the mother was much more passionate, and her love gave her supernatural strength.

A man who heard the screams hurried over to where they were, shot the crocodile several times with his pistol.

The little boy survived, and although his legs suffered a lot and he underwent several surgeries, he still was able to walk. After he had come through the trauma, a newspaperman asked if he could see the little boy's scars on his legs. The boy lifted the bedspread and showed them to him. Seeing the worried look on the newspaperman's face, the boy, with great pride, took off his T-shirt and, pointing to the scars on his arms, said, "The scars you need to see are these. The ones that my mother's fingernails left holding on tight so the crocodile wouldn't swallow me. I have these scars because my mother wouldn't let go for a moment, and she saved my life!"

This story depicts a love stronger than any person, place or thing that would try to harm a child. No matter the tribulations we face, God is always there to save us! Also, with Mother's Day approaching, remember your mom. Remember the "crocodiles" in your life SHE saved you from ... and who taught her how to do it!

A mother's love is strong | Fotolia/Masn

A mother's love is strong. Photo: Fotolia/Masn

Seeing Is Believing

EileenAs I awoke today to submit my post, just like last week's, our Wisconsin weather pulls rank with the "day's planned goings-on!" Instead of a snowstorm, we have heavy fog.  Not just springtime still-snow-on-the-ground-melting-fog ... I mean thicker than-pea-soup-can't-see-the-field-FOG! So, as my seed-starts are all nestled snugly in their starting mixture in the dining room, the rakes, wheel barrel and shovels lay in waiting ... AGAIN.  

I've learned not to question these "forks in the road," just change the recipe! With that being said, speaking of recipe, I start the day's change of venue in the kitchen. There are cupboards to clean, photos to dust ... When on comes a heavenly nudge to "open the back of the photo."  

"Wait, WHAT?"  

"Open the back of the photo frame!"  

#1So, as I disassemble a favorite photo of my folks that rests on my kitchen counter, out falls a torn envelope that contains the letter you're viewing from "The Lions Eye Bank."  As you can see (no pun intended), it's a letter of thanks upon my dad's passing, for gifting of his corneas and assurance of the transplant success of one, and the other frozen for future use. My dad passed in 1986 and my mom in 2003. This frame kept this beautiful concealed gift all this time!

What to do with this newly found information now required prayer. As I received direction on what to do, I followed instruction to look up "The Lions' Eye Bank" (which I found), and email them the actual letter. I received a response within hours! They are looking for the recipient (or recipients), or families of, Dad's special gifts, to offer any information about the wonderful donor if they're interested! A continued "Godwink" in this story is that the woman doing the research has the last name of Smyth!    

Now, as to switch tracks, but riding the same train ...  next "fork-in-the-road" change of task plan is one last closet to clean. What do I find, but yet another envelope, a brown clasp one this time. It contains the "Reading Circle Awards" as shown here, six in all.

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They are my dad's dated from 1933-1938. You'll notice the photo of his one-room schoolhouse (that's Dad, the blond at the end of the far left row, in the back by his teacher, Mrs. Myrtle Esping). She signed the reading awards.

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Also in this envelope were two Reading Circle Awards given to yours truly back in my first and second grades. Although there are 30-plus years separating their testimonials, it's eminently "clear" where my love of books started!  

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As I gaze in wonder at this collection of details, the photo with each child's individual stories jumps out at me. (Most of the students seated, by the way, were Dad's relatives!)  

I see the proud Mrs. Esping, flanked by the paintings of Presidents Lincoln and Washington on the adjacent walls. The reference books placed on the table with chairs and on the cabinet in the back. The blackboard where no doubt many a math problem was solved. Above that the maps, tidily rolled up, that inevitably held world travels abroad for these Lake County, Illinois, students. The school bell, the very school bell I have now in my living room! The wonder in their eyes, that sparks the very same in mine ...  their eyes – the eyes that read all those books that entitled them to reading awards. Their eyes that lived and saw day by day the very details that so intrigued me.  

Through the books my dad read, it sparks the innate interest of mine to ponder where he sat when he read each of them. Was it at his desk? Was it under a big oak tree? Was it by the stream where he'd go fishing, or in Grampa's barn? This love I have and have always had for all things literary, now is clearly provided for me. Right down to some of the names of the books listed that I'd read.  

"See Us Play,"  "See Us Come," See Us Have Fun."  

All this, meant for me to see once again as I await the arrival of the sought information on my dad's corneal gift. What if his gift lifted "the fog," the opaqueness that someone was imprisoned to look through? All this supremely orchestrated on this foggy Wisconsin day. All this to be the favorite last ingredient in this recipe of my life. All this to coin the phrase "Seeing Is Believing!"

Too Busy Cutting Down Trees

EileenIt's a day of reflection here at The Reservoir. A time to pray, listen, write, contemplate the true meaning of serenity. Listen to the birds singing their spring song of newness, observe the tiny squirrel's ear size buds on the trees ... (brakes squealing!). OK, OK, it's Wisconsin, we're in a blizzard (again) and we're snowed in ... (again!). So, the projects - the painting, tilling gardens, gravel moving, and tree cutting - are once again interrupted by the lingering intrusions of winter! However, like a script that is being rewritten, this day changes direction toward the path that is my most favorite. Storytelling!

One of the best books ever written that accomplishes this is "Mondays With My Old Pastor." It's a gentle reminder of sorts, of the wisdom we can glean from someone who has walked before us. So, dear reader ... settle in, get comfy and read on ....

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There once was a woodcutter who showed up at a log mill. The pay was good, and the working conditions were too, so the woodcutter decided to be a good example. The first day he introduced himself to the foreman, who gave him an ax and assigned him to a certain spot in the forest. The man was excited and went out into the forest to work, and in one day he cut down 18 trees. "Congratulations," the foreman told him. "Keep it up!"

Encouraged by the foreman's words, the woodcutter decided to improve on his work the next day. So, he went to bed early that night, and the next morning he got up very early, before anyone else, and went out into the forest. He worked very hard, but he was only able to cut down 15 trees. "I must be very tired," he said, so he decided to go to bed at sundown.

When dawn came, he decided to beat his record of 18 trees. However, that day he wasn't able to even cut down half that number. The next day he only cut down seven, then five, and the last day he spent all afternoon trying to cut down his second tree.

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Photo: courtesy OurAcadia.wordpress.com, A New Yorker Talks to Herself about Maine.

Worried about what his foreman would say, the woodcutter went to tell him what was happening and to promise that he was giving it his best.

The foreman asked him: "When was the last time you sharpened your ax?"

"Sharpen my ax? I haven't had time. I was too busy cutting down trees!"

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Photo: courtesy Recreational Trails Program, U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual.

So, if you're like me, with the end of that story comes a hearty "hurrumpf," a "head-hanging" moment, an oh-so-subtle "Uh-Oh!" But also a realization of "when the ax gets dull, we will have to spend double the energy to obtain half the results." Sharpening the ax here at The Reservoir is soaking our every responsibility in prayer. Minutes spent with God produce great gains for every second of our lives. In  turn, dear reader, that way, half of the energy will double the results!