5 Things I Want My Children To Know About Summer

Dear Isa and Mario,

Before parents and institutions made summer about either catching up or advancing skills, summer was once a glorious time of slowing down and enjoying life.  Children were not only free to follow their imaginations wherever they could take them while spending time with family – they were expected to.  There were no “summer nannies” that were temporarily in charge of a rigorous weekly schedule of commitments.  Only grandparents and siblings with the means to help keep younger children happily occupied.

Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.
Harvesting sweet honey from a flower on the honeysuckle bush took great skill and patience.

I keep hearing and reading about “Tips for Having a 70s Summer” as if there were a magical, secret formula – when it is really the simplest thing in the world to do!

A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird's eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.
A tire swing in a yard is a beautiful thing, giving you a bird’s eye view of the sky and, even better if it leads to a lake or river.

Growing up, summer at my house was about 5 things, not in any particular order – and it required no training or money.  Just the desire to float along carefree……

1.  Family  Since my 6 older brothers and sisters went to boarding school for High School, summer was the epitome of action at my house.  Suddenly, our house was flooded with teenagers each summer, and I relished spending time with each one as much as they may have resented it (and some did!!!).  After awhile, if I had been a very good girl, Mim, my Grandmother, would invite me to her house for an overnight stay!

Mim's refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.
Mim’s refrigerator stocked with Orange Crush was by her back door, which played an enchanting little tune when she opened it to greet you warmly.

I got to drink Orange Crush (one only, so I would not wet the bed) at Mim’s house and then raid the “secret drawer” (which, of course, she knew was not a secret) in my Dad’s old bedroom for sticks of Doublemint gum.  Mim had a sweet laugh and everything about her seemed so ladylike to me – the smell of her skin, the touch of her perfectly manicured hands on mine – I was always on my best behavior on those special summer overnight

2.  Music

Your Uncle JD had a garage band.  They played cool Rolling Stones songs like “Jumping Jack Flash” and the band members, Louie and Bobby, let me stand on a chair and pretend to be playing tambourine.  No wonder I married your Dad,”Mike Tamburini”!!!

There were 2 teenaged albums I was especially curious about – the one with the 2 white guys and their wives – but one of them had an African American wife (Seals & Crofts).

An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters' room - "Teenage Albums"!
An average of 2,400 hours per summer was spent playing albums in my sisters’ room – “Teenage Albums”!
Aunt Kit's Senior Song was by these guys, "We May Never Pass This Way Again" - you should look it up on your "device"!
Aunt Kit’s Senior Song was by these guys, “We May Never Pass This Way Again” – you should look it up on your “device”!

The other album was in Uncle Jeff and Uncle JD’s room, and I was forbidden from ever playing it.  Oh, yeah?

"Look like dog shit? Yah! Smell like dog shit? Sniff....Yah!"
“Look like dog shit? Yah! Smell like dog shit? Sniff….Yah!”

3.  The Outdoors

 It was not a punishment to play in the yard growing up – in fact, I actually had to be called inside for supper.

The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.
The smell of line-dried linens still makes me homesick.

Always a huge fan of Grandma Rhetta, I tried to be right by her side when she was taking the freshly dried sheets off the laundry line.  Here’s some great advice, too, kids:  It is fun to put a clothespin on your nose and talk!

Homemade ice cream was always churning outside, especially on Sundays. Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!
Homemade ice cream was often churning outside, especially on Sundays. Pulling the ladle out and swiping fresh ice cream from the metal churner was divine!

4.  Food  Of course, Mom was a great cook and produced “3 squares” for all of us plus our friends every single day.  But on many occasions, our family would drive to the river and take the barge across to the great state of Tennessee for fried catfish and hushpuppies.

We'd park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward the other side. It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.
We’d park our station wagon on the barge and all get out of the car and watch the Mighty Mississippi move us toward the other side. It smelled earthy and dank and felt like home.

5.  Reading  I never had to be told to go to my room and read.  I rode my bicycle to town several times a week and checked out great books on my own.  My friend, Julie, and I would compete to see who could read the most.  These were my 2 favorites:

She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was the most clever girl I had ever known.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.
She was kind and hard-working and was rewarded with fresh berries from her very own patch.

When summer was coming to an end, the farmers would drive by my house with trailers full of freshly picked cotton on their way to the Killion-Rone-Wilson Cotton Gin – you know, the stuff your clothes are made of?  Oh, and do you recognize your Grandpa’s last name somewhere in that lineup?

One time I got to ride in the back of one of those cloud-filled trailers with my friends Annie, Jimmy and Michael – I paid for it the next day with my sneezing, but it was one of the most memorable rides to town I ever experienced.

This doesn't happen anymore - the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.
This doesn’t happen anymore – the new technology makes cotton into bales right there in the field as soon as it is picked.

So, my darling children, I have tried to give you summers that are less about “achievement” and more about “experience,” but it is not so easy as it once was.  I have enjoyed every minute of our summers together, it will always be a magical time for me as your Mom.  Just thought you should know some of the reasons why our family isn’t as busy as other families – and happily so!!!!



City Pups Immersed In The Country

I don’t know about any other gals, but 19 years ago when I said, “I Do,” I didn’t give one darn about whether the Handsome Groom could drywall like a champ, or, on the more basic level, even fix a leaky faucet.  Does anybody?

I married him for his intelligence, wit and that mysterious Half-Latin machismo that got me so stirred up at our first lunch date my calves literally burst through my pantyhose – and he didn’t mind!!!!

Then things started to break around the house.  ALOT of things.  In conversations with my husband about what needed fixing, I started to feel like Emily Newhart and her adorable, book-smart, practical Bob.  bob-newhart-show-suzanne-pleshette

Fortunately, my lawyer husband had plenty o’ handy clients who were good-hearted and just a phone call away.  Problems solved!  At least some of them.  I learned that certain men who are genetically challenged in the handy department are also – well, to put it bluntly, pretty lousy GRILLERS, too!  We had our share of well-intentioned dinner parties where the guests walked away wondering, “What the hell was that mystery meat I was just served?”.

It was fine, though, we lived in the city and any deficiency of the homemaking sort (I am neglecting to tell you that I, the “Pumpered” Princess, as our Argentinian cousin lovingly  refers to me, am completely worthless around the house) was easily solved by finding a “service.”

In 2002, now with two babies, our perfectly appointed household “rescue team” went away because we moved to…..and I shudder to say this …… THE COUNTRY!

Mike with kids on 70th  “Goodbye, City Life – Green Acres Here We Come!”.

In Southern Kansas, a fellow knows how to do many handy things – to infinity.  We bought 34 acres – to do what with, I am still mystified.  But there went “Brender and Eddie” while their city friends waved goodbye…..

My husband immediately traded in his BMW with lovely seat warmers for a bright red F-150 pick up truck.  Perfectly Appalling, Right?

“What are you going to do with a pickup truck?” I calmly inquired one day.  Oh, his eyes lit up with wonder as if he had seen Jesus himself as he replied, “You know, haul shit and stuff.”

Okay.  That’s fine.  We can do this, my Inner Diva told me – we can rise above our pathetic City Helplessness and conquer the untame land of the heartiest souls on Earth known as…...KANSANS.  Yes, that very special place where people throw parties to, of all things – burn their land!  The place that was once referred to by a City Transplant not terribly unlike myself in the 1800’s as “The land of grasshoppers and drought.”

Soon, our lives became an adventure and our completely privileged and helpless demeanor became a source of entertainment for the locals.  One time I was advised to seek advice from the Farmers at the local “CO-OP” about our barn swallow problem.  These awful creatures build mud nests on your home then sit atop your roof (because they basically own you at this point) protecting their young.  “How do they protect their young?,” did I hear you ask?  By divebombing the eyeballs of any threat.  So, I put my signature red lipstick on and drove to town to this apparent shrine of intelligence, the Co-op.  I was told to tape plastic snakes near the nest of the barn swallow and assured that my problem would soon disappear.  What I would give today to hear those farmers’ howls as I left from the Co-op on a mission to the local Dollar Store in pursuit of plastic snakes.  The joke was on me:  it did not work.

Finally, exasperated by our complete incompetence, I suggested we do something as a family that would be good for the community.  We were matched with a Little from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.  He visited every Sunday.  Success!  And you know what? My sweet husband and son were the kindest, most patient souls with this lost little boy.

Mario with BrysonThey spent endless hours playing together and our Little did not mind one bit that we were weakling city pups – he really enjoyed us!!!

Fortunately, for me, our time in the land of awe-inspiring sunsets had an end – because I am just a girl who needs the comforts of a city.  George Lopez once said, “I need to get back to horrible crime, terrible parking and great Chinese food!”.  But we did have a lot of laughs, and I grew to accept my husband – and his adorable, quirky, country-wanna-be self.

We did what we could to “work the land” we bought and had some memorable bonfire parties in the canyon behind our home.  But, alas, the city beckoned us back.

And now “Bob and Emily” are back where they belong – laughing and reminiscing about the times we had trying to be RUGGED INDIVIDUALISTS.


4 Things I’ve Learned After My First 4 AA Meetings

13 months ago, I told everybody I was an alcoholic and I stopped drinking – cold turkey.  5 months later, I had decided that I could manage drinking moderately on my own.  3 months after that, I allowed myself to expand my definition of “moderate” to 1 bottle of Malbec nightly.  About a month after that, “moderate” often meant 1 1/2 bottles of any wine – I wasn’t picky any longer.  In the last 6 months, I have had more hangovers than the previous 25 years combined.

But I kept craving my wine every evening by 5:30, in spite of the hangovers.  Meanwhile, things got pretty challenging for my son in Middle School.  He lost 50 pounds in 3 months and stopped going to school altogether.

It was time for me to stop riding in the backseat of my life and commit to sobriety, for myself, for my family.

Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.
Sitting outside the first AA meeting, terrified and shaking and on the verge of tears.

Today, I have been sober for 6 days, and I have found a brand new group of empathetic souls.  I live for my sobriety and my daily Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.  Here are 4 poignant truths I have learned from listening to many brave people about addiction to alcohol:


I hear people talking about being grateful for waking up sober each morning, in spite of their fears of facing a new day.  They cherish their newfound way of living and find creative ways to nourish it.  Meeting and talking with other alcoholics is just one way.  Other people have found comfort and courage in meditation, prayer, public service, laughter, and just relishing in the simple gift of living one day at a time.  I learned there is a term for the first way I tried to stay sober – “white knuckle sobriety” – just like the metaphor suggests, it is all work and no play, very tense and lonely.  Now I am learning new ways to enjoy my life free of fixating on that next drink – because I am surrounding myself with the wonderful people of AA.

The “24 Hours Recovery” Coin I received at my first AA meeting.


Whatever it is that leads you to commit to Recovery is a blessing.  Don’t ruminate over it, be grateful that it opened up a new way of living and move toward the future.  Yes, eventually I will “work” the 12 Steps and do a thorough and honest inventory of my past and make amends to those I have harmed.  But for now, in my first week of Recovery, I am just grateful for my “rock bottom” and whatever Force that led me to a program with new friends to help me stay sober.  At my first meeting, I received a plastic coin with the Serenity Prayer on one side and the phrase, “To thine own self be true” on the other.  I touch it several times a day – it is a real symbol of a miraculous change that is happening  within me.


Some alcoholics are control freaks, others are fearful “yes” people who prefer to let others control them.  I am the second type.  Sitting in the back seat, I have observed a lot of faults in others but given myself permission to avoid honestly assessing myself.  Each additional day I nurture my sobriety, I am stronger and have more desire to sit in that driver’s seat and enjoy the journey that is my life.

A few hours after my first AA meeting. Completely serene.
A few hours after my first AA meeting. Completely serene.


When actively living in my addiction, I tried to fool myself with a “pretty veneer” – shallow expressions of success, happiness, and a good life.  Everybody knows, the only thing more frightening than a room full of crusty bikers is a room full of addicts.  I avoided walking into that room for longer than I care to admit.  But I have and it is glorious.  Maybe only an addict can laugh at this, but one of the the group leaders self-deprecatingly shared with us how unlike other addicts he was sure he was – until one day he found himself sitting in a County jail reading a copy of “I’m Ok, You’re Ok”!!!!  Fortunately, he got out of the jail and generously shares his story with “newbies” like me because getting sober is a really scary thing at first.

I am excited about starting this journey with others instead of “white knuckling” it by myself.  I am grateful to have the opportunity to share parts of the journey with those who wish to read about it here.  Stay tuned!

Six Things That Just Aren’t Working For Me Any Longer

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I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, yet as I approach 50 and begin the journey of introspection that is all things “middle aged,” I am struck by how utterly obtuse I have been in the past by insisting to continue doing things that JUST DON’T WORK!  Specifically, they undermine any possibility of happiness in my life!


those of you that come into frequent contact with me, to avoid any confusion, here is my list of the 6 behaviors I am ABSOLUTELY SURE no longer “work” for me – be prepared, as you may notice (I hope) different behavior!

I hereby GIVE UP the following 6 things:

  • Refusing to recognize situations and people that kill my joy  As Lucinda Williams infamously croons, “You took my joy!  I want it back!,” I hereby declare that the microsecond  I notice a situation or individual taking my joy, I shall take a step back and perform a “challenges vs benefits” analysis.  My time and limited mental stability are too precious to allow anyone or anything to cause chronic grumpiness.  I could list examples but they are both too numerous and embarrassingly consistent so will leave this pledge in its due place at the TIP TOP of my list of “NOT WORKIN’ NO MORE” things I will avoid.
  • Waiting in line for a Goddam Diet Coke!  This one may cause my husband to pass out with utter elation!  I estimate that I have wasted 93.27 days in the past 28 years waiting in line at McDonald’s or some other fast food establishment for my Bloody Precious Diet Coke!0523151653 Believe me, Dear Reader, it shocks me even more than it may you, to recognize that I am, at long last, DONE wasting 2 hours a week of my soon-to-be 50 years on this beautiful planet — waiting for a liquid refreshment that is probably hastening my death.
    • Protecting the Guilty       Big Sigh Here……..  I am guessing that every Mother, Sister, Daughter, Wife, Friend – has regrets about situations in which, to avoid a socially awkward moment, she has neglected to speak up and call out another’s misguided, rude or intentionally hateful remark.  It is just what “polite” people are taught to do – remain civil and poised in social situations and allow the ASS to hang him/herself, if need be.  I. AM. DONE.  Henceforth, I vow to find the right words, tone and execution, to defend and support every single person I believe could be maligned in a social conversation – even if it makes everyone feel “Super Awk”!!!!
    • Apologizing For My Ofttimes Ghastly Taste in “The Finer Things.”   The next time I find myself in the company of “The Taste Police,”  I will remember the words to one of my favorite country songs, “This Here’s The Queen of My Double Wide Trailer,” and speak proudly about whatever white trash food, art, music, entertainment or past-time that gives me pleasure.  Like my friends and family, I will defend my horrific taste with great ardour!
    • Leaving My Greatest Buddy, My Cocker Spaniel Rescue Puppy, Pudgey Killion Tamburini, behind.  I swear I would have qualified for a “therapy dog” 25 years ago had there been such a notion in the popular culture.  All I know is, from now on, my friends and family can expect that an invitation to me means A PACKAGE DEAL and that the love of my life, my therapy dog, Pudgey will “go whether thou  goest.”  I’ll be needing a dog bowl below my seat at your dinner table, please.
    • Finally, And Most Especially Poignant As I Approach “The Back 40” Of My Precious Time On This Planet – I REFUSE To Ever Again Be Rushed, Robbed, Gypped – Out Of Any Moment Or Experience I Want To Enjoy Because Some Grumpy Person I Am With May Be Unamused Or In A Hurry  Late for a meeting?  Carpool? Doctor’s Appointment?  Or Simply Bored?  Too bad.  From now on, if I happen to be enjoying feeling the sun on my face, wind up my skirt, scrolling movie credits, lingering after a delicious meal at a restaurant’s closing time – or WHATEVER – I am going to ignore your bullying attempts to make me hurry!!!  Because I don’t want to miss one single moment of soaking the entirety of this beautiful experience called Life  just because you are being an impatient jerk!

Happy Birthday, Cheeky Street Friends!!!

We made it!  One year ago today, I launched a “little blog called Cheeky Street,” and it survives today!  This gives me enormous happiness.  And hopefully, a few of you, too!

In the next year, I plan to really focus on delivering more thought provoking, family-focused pieces because I think my audience is primarily middle-aged parents.

But I love lifestyle pieces and cannot keep from sharing my favorite memories and family recipes, so today’s “Birthday Blog” is really dedicated to my Beautiful Momma, Rhetta Greenwell Killion, and her adaptation of a traditional St. Louis salad dressing made famous by the Historic Mayfair Hotel.


Back in the late 1940’s early 1950’s, when my lovely parents were attending college and going on dates in St. Louis, Missouri, they dined in the Mayfair-Lennox Hotel in downtown St. Louis.  There was a wonderful salad they enjoyed – similar to Caesar but with more “oomph” – and it became known as Mayfair Salad Dressing.


[recipe title=”Mom’s Mayfair Salad Dressing”}


  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cans flat anchovies (including oil)
  • 2 tab lemon juice
  • 2 tab water
  • 1 tab prepared mustard
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 1/2 teas pepper


1.  Blend ingredients well in blender.

2.  Slowly add 3 whole eggs and 2 cups olive oil.

3.   Serve immediately on fresh greens.

4.  Enjoy and say “mmmmmm” like Miss Rhetta!!!

Daffodils and Divan

0324151824 Spring is finally here – and my family is looking for lighter fare for dinner.  So, today, when I picked up our first bunch of daffodils I also researched this deliciously trimmed down version of the old favorite, Chicken Divan, on the great website, Eating Well [http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/chicken_divan.html].  Coming up later this week, I will share with you a family favorite salad recipe from the St. Louis Mayfair Hotel (now “The Magnolia”), Mayfair Salad Dressing.


Chicken Divan

[servings = 6  total time= 1 hour]


  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups diced leek, white and light green parts only (about 1 large)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 14-ounce can reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound fresh broccoli crowns, chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/4 low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a 7 x 11 glass baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Place chicken in a medium skillet or saucepan and add water to cover.  Bring to a simmer over high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 12 minutes.  Drain and slice into bite-size pieces.
  3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add leek and salt and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 4 minutes.  Add flour, stir to coat.  Add broth, milk, sherry, thyme and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Add broccoli; return to a simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, mayonnaise and mustard.
  4. Spread half the broccoli mixture in the prepared baking dish.  Top with the chicken, then the remaining broccoli mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.  Bake until bubbling.  25 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Baking 4 Dozen Cookies for Lancer Dancer Nationals Competition


My daughter belongs to an award-winning Drill Team.  They are about to depart for a national competition in Orlando for 4 days.  They will work hard, play hard, sleep very little and EAT!  I was recruited to bake 4 dozen cookies to help sustain the little dears.  Fortunately, my friend and fellow Dance Mom, Merrie, also sent me a recipe so I could skip the hard part deciding which to bake.  Thought you might enjoy having this recipe in your back pocket – you never know when you may find yourself baking 4 dozen cookies for a worthy cause!!!

Mrs. Fields’ Cookies


  • 2 cups (4 sticks) softened butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups rolled oats
  • 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups chopped pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F;

2. Cream together butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla;

3. Mix together in a separate bowl:  Baking powder, baking soda, flour and oatmeal;

4. Add the flour mixture slowly to the sugar mixture.  You will have to abandon the electric mixer and get out the wooden spoon!;

5.  Add the chocolate chips and pecans;

6. Bake on cookie sheet, golf ball size, two inches apart for 10 to 12 minutes until a bit golden;

7. Cool on wire rack.

Sometimes I sprinkle a light dusting of salt on them when they are warm to really get that sweet/salty thing going!  Makes 80-100 cookies.  YUM!

The Only Beef Stroganoff Recipe You’ll Ever Need


My Mom was the Quintessential Homemaker and homemade beef stroganoff was “standard fare” on our dinner table growing up.  That’s why it is exactly what I wanted to have for dinner tonight for my 49th birthday celebration!


Here is there recipe, straight out of the 1961 New York Times Cook Book, off Rhetta Greenwell Killion’s kitchen shelf:

[“Beef Stroganoff” servings = “About 6 servings” }


  • 1 1/2 pounds beef filet, sirloin or porterhouse steak
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 cup beef broth or canned consume
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream, at room temperature
  1. Remove all the fat and gristle from the meat.  Cut into narrow strips about two inches long and one-half inch thick.  Season the strips with salt and pepper and refrigerate two hours.
  2. In a saucepan melt one and one-half tablespoons of butter, add the flour and stir with a wire whisk until blended.  Meanwhile, bring the consommé to a boil and add all at once to butter-flour mixture, stirring vigorously with the whisk until the sauce is thickened and smooth.  Stir in the mustard.
  3. In a separate pan heat the remaining butter, add the meat and sliced onion and brown quickly on both sides.  Remove the meat to a hot platter, discarding the onion.
  4. Add the sour cream to the mustard sauce and heat over a brisk flame for three minutes.  Pour sauce over meat and serve.

If This Is What 49 Feels Like I Can’t Wait For What’s Next!

first xmas 1 I came into this world the youngest of 7 children and have been loved more than the average bear.  To say that I feel fortunate and blessed would not be adequate.  And as my “days increase,” I am evermore keenly aware of the.gif"https://cheekystreet.com/img/2015/03/joan-yard.jpg">joan yard My family gave me lots of freedom to play long hours out in the fresh air of Southern Missouri and to be myself.  The early years shaped me – I felt secure, happy, loved and cherished.  For those in this world born with less who have nonetheless managed to live full, happy lives, I feel empathy and awe.

I did nothing to deserve all the goodness in my life – it was just gently placed before me and continues to unfold like a beautiful tapestry.

At 49, here is a short list of the things I have learned and the wondrous joys that captivate me:

  • Don’t ever refuse help of any kind when it is offered – you will find an open heart can swell with love, joy and abundance that affects everyone around you in a positive way – say “Yes!” and “Thanks!” often and mean it;
  • Bring all of yourself wherever you go – holding back will only limit the joy you feel and overshadow the illumination of the experience;
  • Admit when you feel frightened – it won’t diminish anything, only brighten the path before you;
  • Listen to children because they know what’s best – God gives us about 9 years of complete innocence in this life for a reason – it is to show others how to live courageously;
  • Accept change and move forward as soon as you can – so many wonderful experiences and people await for you in your future, don’t put them off by feeling regrets, guilt or sadness over what is in the past.

I am grateful for friends and laughter; Homemade cinnamon rolls or anything freshly picked from one’s garden and friends that will bake them and drop them off at my doorstep; The infinite possibility of sunrises and sunsets, especially over the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas – though I never thought the day would come I would admit this; The tiny hands of children placed with complete trust in my own hands – proof that we are all worthy of love and affection. Today is my 49th birthday – I thank God for all the goodness in my life and look forward to continuing the journey. Flint-hills-Kansas-State-US-650x364

An Apple Crisp for Suri

Kitchen-Parade-2009-Apple-Crisp-400-776195 Last year, I decided to do several things to “educate” myself in hopes it might lead me to my next “thing” in life.  I enrolled in Community College – but it didn’t take long for me to realize what a dumb idea that was.  I’d been away from the rigors of school too long.  THAT’S the “big lesson” I learned from that.  But earlier in the year I committed to volunteering a few days each month at a local Food Pantry.  Starting to get the sense that this is where my “big learning” took place? For months, I was too shy to work directly with the visitors to the pantry – I would smile and greet them while packing away food items in the back.  It took a lot of courage for me to be ready to face them one-on-one and feel that I could answer questions with confidence and sufficient cheer.  You see, I am a bit of a crybaby!  When I see suffering, sometimes I cry.  And I certainly did not want to repeat that horrific scene from 25 years ago when I broke down in tears in front of a Cancer Survivors group as their guest speaker!  I was not expecting their faces to be so young – I panicked and suddenly the room closed in on me and I got hot and then the tears started rolling down my cheeks in spite of my wish to appear “professional.”  It happens.  Vulnerability.  Compassion.  It catches us by surprise throughout life.  Well, it was never going to catch me by surprise again.  So I remained in the back of the Food Pantry dutifully stuffing bags for people to take home. Until the day Margaret told me she needed me at the front counter.  She was too busy to do her ordinary job at the Pantry that day and I had been there more than long enough to be able to check id’s and cross off names.  I heaved a big sigh and headed over towards the counter.  I tried not to let Margaret see the enormous panic I was feeling as the line outside the door began to grow.  One by one, our visitors politely stepped inside our Food Pantry and graciously accepted whatever we had to offer that morning.

Things were going really well.  Until the thing that caught me off guard happened.  Until the opposite of my “image” of what a Food Pantry patron ought to look like stepped up to my counter.

He was in is early 40’s, very physically capable looking and quite handsome.  And his smile and cheerful attitude would have made you think he was shopping somewhere really special.  I realized I had a few misguided preconceptions about pride before this moment, too.  As naturally as if we were longtime friends, he initiated the conversation, “Oh, my goodness!   You have fresh apples today!  I have already picked up my oats and my flour.  Is that butter I see behind the apples, also,” he pointed toward the back of the table I was managing but that thing was starting to happen to me when I am caught off guard by big emotions – I could not see anything around me and I was getting hot!!!!  Margaret noticed right away I was not myself and, fearing I might be afraid of this man, she answered very nonchalantly, “Yes, we have lots of free butter for you today!”.  That helped, I had a moment to take a breath.  The man smiled an even bigger grin and let out a robust laugh then said, “Suri is going to be so happy when she gets home from school today!”. Before I could ask, he started to tell me, “Suri’s my girl – it’s just the two of us.  She’s five and she loves school.  And more than that, she LOVES a fresh apple crisp!.”  I began placing fresh apples and butter in a bag for the gentleman and my thoughts immediately went to my own children when I heard his words.  I love baking for my kids, too – and I especially love surprising them with their favorite treats after a long day at school.  We’re not so awfully different, then, from our Food Pantry patrons, are we?

After Suri’s Dad was long gone and we were preparing to close the Pantry for the weekend, I noticed a slip of paper that someone had dropped in the hallway.  When I looked at it, I recognized Suri’s Dad’s name and the date was the same day.  Before coming to the Food Pantry, Suri’s Dad did something I’ll bet he hated – so he’d have weekend cash for his little girl.  He had been to a Pawn Shop and left some dvd’s – and in exchange, he was paid $10.00 plus 423% interest due when he retrieved his belongings!  But precious Suri would have her apple crisp and her Dad will have provided for his child – and experienced the joy we all do as parents when we are able to give our children special treats.  He just had to pay a much bigger price than most of us to do it. This lesson is sticking with me.  It makes me profoundly humble for all the abundance in my life.  It makes me appreciate that unique feeling that not all parents can enjoy all the time – of being able to provide for my children. For to give really is much better than to receive!!!