Presents vs. Presence

 

As a little girl, my first memories of Christmas are those in Florida.  As a Midwestern gal, Christmas in Florida was a big deal.  We drove for hours and stayed, for what seemed like a long time in a cozy efficiency motel on the beach.  Christmas gift giving was kept at a minimum because, as I realize now, there was no room to pack gifts and vacation necessities.  One Florida Christmas morning I woke to one of my white anklet socks taped to the edge of the orange Formica counter top.  In my stocking was a yellow plastic ruler and some candy.  On the floor under the stocking was a plastic toy beach bucket and tools.  I was thrilled and spent the remainder of the day on the beach with my newly made friends.  No one mentioned their Christmas presents.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.

 

Christmas would come and go over the years.  There was never an enormous volume of presents under the tree.  As an adult and mother I practiced the same tendency.  Not thoughtfully limiting presents, but just a realization over time that quantity did not make a difference. Holiday spending may have played a part in the decision, but was never a driving motive.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.

 

Several years ago, I was invited to Christmas morning with a new family that entered our lives.  We were there as guests and watched their traditions unfold on Christmas morning.  When I walked in and saw the beautifully decorated tree, I could hardly believe my eyes.  Presents wrapped in an uncoordinated assembly of bags, boxes, bows and tags were overflowing and flooding out from under the tree.  Tiptoes were required to navigate to the furniture to find a seat.

 

I watched the family open these gifts, I also watched everyone tire of the chore of unwrapping, saying the polite “thank you” or laugh, whatever was appropriate and go on to the next gift on their mountainous stack.  Even the littlest kids soon were moving away to play with an earlier unwrapped gift.  The thought popped into my head, “this is a vulgar display of Christmas”.  Unfortunately, and out of character it also popped out of my mouth, too.  By the way, I was not invited back to share future Christmas mornings.  I would have declined anyway.  Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.

 

The emotion of exchanging gifts is exciting, joyful and can make you feel generous.  This emotion is valuable, but when I reflect on the time and the presence I have had with family and friends over the years, I cannot remember the presents that I received.  I do remember the gatherings, traditions and time shared.  I needed a reality check.  I thought maybe “grinchness” had crept into my soul, so I checked with my youngest son.  When I asked him about the gifts, he could not remember them either.  Oh, a couple of the most coveted toys of a particular year were remembered, but in general it was about the people gathered. Remarkable, gifts were not what mattered.

 

Part of my Christmas decorations and traditions, as much as the ornaments on the tree is displaying the book “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”.  I read it every year.  Maybe as a reminder…remarkable, gifts are not what matters.  My favorite line…

 

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!  “Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store”. “maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

Theodor Geisel – Dr. Seuss

 

When you read these musing and thoughts…slow down.  Listen to the words and stop and ask, do they suggest anything or situation in your life?  Some stories will speak louder to you than others and may have a deeper meaning.  Some will hit you just right and there is no right reaction or “homework” on these editions.  Just something for you to ponder as you travel through life.

 

CornCroblogic.com blog editions are written just a few days before posting.  I understand that some bloggers have their posts outlined and written months in advance.  I am always changing mine up to the last minute.  My thoughts and ideas are mingled with current reality and the initial direction or topic of the blog often gets sidetracked to what is occurring in my world at the time.  This presents vs presences edition is an example of those last-minute changes mentioned.  Hope my musings and insights greet you at a wonderful holiday season and Happy 2017.

 

The best, June

Thanks and Giving

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Do you remember the first pie you made?  Not the pie that was pulled from the grocery freezer and borrowed your electricity to turn it into something edible.  But the pie that came from individual ingredients that were painstakingly mixed together to create a triumph at a special occasion, like Thanksgiving.

A truly homemade pie is not just a demonstration in preparing a dessert, but a two-part dessert – the crust and filling.  Both need to be correct for perfect results.  You seek out the best cookbook, friend or sage relative to harvest their recipe file for the one true crust recipe that will catapult your pie into holiday legend.

My first pie was mediocre, actually terrible.  Both crust and filling were bad.  I neglected to mention that the crust needs to “feel right” to the touch.  The pie dough is manipulated by hand to roll flat, mold together for a top and bottom crust and the edges need to be pinched evenly with index finger and thumb for a lovely presentation.  The top needs to have vent slits for steam to escape.  The baker makes the design.  Slit design is personal and could be a flower and leaves, the family initial or even simple holes poked with a fork.

Getting back to my first pie, it was a fresh cherry pie.  I had rolled, re-rolled and formed the crust too many times resulting in a tough crust.  The filling was too juicy and contributed to an already tough crust to become soggy.  Two brave souls ate my pie.  At least they put the pie on a plate.  The remainder of the pie came home and went to the garbage.

That was many pies ago and after needed tutelage I received from my mother-in-law.  She made pies weekly and shared with everyone.  At church dinners, the workers would cut her pie and hide their slices to eat after the guests were gone.

Sitting across the counter and watching her pie baking business was like watching the hands of a pianist move across the keyboard making delightful music.  She expertly mixed the crust ingredients that quickly became a disk, rolled on a lightly floured board or cloth and defied any attempt to stick to the surface.  The size was exact and was slid gracefully into the pie plate.  The crust was then filled with remarkable fresh ingredients or created from scant fixings from the cupboard, like lemon juice, sugar and egg whites to make a mouthwatering lemon meringue pie.  Her hallmark pie was pecan.

My mother-in-law is gone but her skills and my visual recall of those pies being created are part of her legacy.  Her love of family and cooking make me smile.  I am very thankful for her many generous bits of giving of time, wisdom and lessons over the years.

She was from an extremely humble and poor West Virginia family with a sometimes coal mining father and siblings just shy of a dozen.  Basic life needs were not always available or in sight.  Much going without and improvising was done to get by and survive.  Common kitchen staples, such as granulated sugar was a luxury.  Their sweetener was sorghum molasses.  Rendered and boiled from the juice of sorghum cane, a tall grass-like plant.  The resulting molasses was preserved in jars and used to smother a homemade biscuit.  Cheap, filling and satisfying at the daily table when everything else was scarce or accompanied by something caught or gathered from the woods.

I do not attempt to make pecan pies.  That was her pie masterpiece.  As skills, confidence and practice increased I have partnered a couple pieces of her wisdom and information.  I can make delicate light pie crust with uniform eye appealing fluted edges.  I have also taken her love of sorghum and created a sweet potato sorghum pie.  The pie is a kissing-cousin of traditional pumpkin pie, but more moist and tasty.

With every visit to my mother-in-law’s home, I came away with something.  Many times, it was scrumptious food prepared by her loving hands.  She was always generous and giving.  I am thankful for her lessons and try to mimic her behavior.

 

Thanks and Giving –

…hope my choices will create a positive ripple effect in the lives of others. This is my choice.

-Mike Ericksen, Upon Destiny’s Song

 

Thankfulness and giving are free commodities.  The personal return on the investment is great.  Enjoy Thanksgiving and try a new recipe.  Make a Sweet Potato Sorghum pie.

 

The best, June

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sweet-potato-sorghum-pie

Grandma’s Apron

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When I think about aprons, I have several images that come to mind.

The utility apron worn daily by our grandmothers and great grandmothers is my first image.   Those aprons were part of the women’s daily uniform and adapted to the daily chores – whatever and wherever they were.

The second image of an apron is the entertaining apron.  This apron evolution created the illusion of utility serving the purpose of protecting the party dress, slacks and sweater-set, that branded and identified the hostess.  Adorned with applique Fall leaves for autumn, poinsettias for Christmas or a frilly gauzy see- through version with embroidery and ribbon, these were as much a part of the wardrobe selection as the string of pearls around the hostess’ neck.

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Photos: Grandma and mom, respectively,  in their aprons.  

Whatever you image of an apron maybe, the following poem is a reflection of the versatility and women’s use of this tool for their work day.  Just as important as a hammer, car or computer to get the job done.

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Oh, I almost forgot to mention the pockets.  No apron is complete without a pocket.  Whether a work or party apron.  My grandma’s apron pocket always had a cookie wrapped in wax paper — waiting for me.  I can taste it now.

I have included one of her recipes taken from her recipe box.  Find an apron.  Put it on and make some cookies.

The Best, June

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Moving Day

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I wanted a corn crib. I located, bought and paid for one.  It was mine!  OK, now what do I do? How do I re-located the crib from its more than 85-year location – on an old dairy farm – thirty miles away?  It would never become the envisioned sanctuary I was looking for unless it was moved to my home.

I had to act And I had to change my way of thinking. If I did not take action – and I mean enthusiastic positive action – my corn crib would be labeled one more unwanted inconvenient chore.  I learned more than how to move a corn crib from this adventure.

The crib was old and sturdy. Maybe I was viewing the sturdiness as the crib’s character vs. its strength.  Yet it was fragile.  Let’s face it, I wanted the original look and the rust.  No new shiny bolts or patched damage from a move.  Anxiety and potential catastrophe were creeping into my thoughts and that way of thinking had to GO!  During the moving process I conjured my best acting and my role as cheerleader for the team.   In the process, my attitude and behavior where moving toward the positive as I envisioned the crib in its new home.  The old thinking faded and the new determined goal took its place.

It is a challenging mission to move an 85-year-old sixteen by thirteen-foot wire structure, especially when I did not know how the corn crib would tolerate the move. By this point, the move and the success created anxiety, but no longer was there doubt.  This was not foolish. This was about a good and exciting change.

The crib could not be moved in one piece. The thin, weather-worn roof needed to be removed and transported separately.  Dismantling the cage was not in the equation.  Age and rusted bolts prohibited taking the cage apart.  Decades in the weather had rusted and worn the bottom vertical cage wires to spikes that needed to be cut off.  Working evenings and weekends for a month we prepared for the move.  We knew transporting was going to be the major challenge.

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Moving Day! The roof was loaded on a trailer and transported slowly home.  A temporary nesting structure was built to support the roof until positioned on the newly installed cage.  Straps were placed to keep the roof safe and secure from unexpected high winds.  A twisted damaged roof would ruin all my plans.

The cage was another challenge. In its thirteen-foot-wide by sixteen-foot-tall round state, it was too tall, even on its side to travel the local roads.  There was a risk of hitting telephone and electric wires, not to mention receiving a hefty ticket from our good friends the county sheriff or the highway patrol.  The round cage needed to be made oval and lowered for transport.  Lumber and strapping were used to gradually move the round shape to oval.

We were ready to roll complete with a slow moving vehicle sign on the back of the trailer. Everything was going well.  We took back country roads.  I was in the chase vehicle.  Only problem, I did not realize that the local villages were having their annual yard sale.  Many people staring and finger pointing asking, “what’s that” …” it’s a corn crib” …” why would anyone move a corn crib?”.

Taking a breath, the corn crib was home. The cage arrived home and was parked beside the roof.  In the future I will share some of the work to make it one-piece again.

What I learned…I could make a change and be an active participant. I envisioned what I wanted to happen and permitted myself to act on my willpower.  Motivated to take positive action lead to a positive attitude.  And I gave myself permission to change, to go out on a limb and do something different.  I was in control and I was determined how and when to change.  I used this power of change with the crib and later to changing career paths.  It worked!

The road to success is always under construction. ~Lily Tomlin

What would you like to change? Can you see it?  Changing my thinking put me on the right path for even something as unique as moving a corn crib.  Change is always stimulating and a thought-provoking adventure.

The best, June

 

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Original site of the corn crib.

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Preparing to move the corn crib.

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The corn crib finding its home.

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The underside of the corn crib roof.     

Wanting a Corn Crib

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What would prompt someone to want a corn crib? Locate, buy, and move it to new location.  Might have been a whim or likely a life crucible.

Actually, I experienced a series of events over a ten-year period that pressed me to act on my whim.  I will talk about these events in the future.

The one consuming life crucible was a ten-year journey of caring for my mother with Alzheimer’s until her death.

After her death I felt as though I had really opened my eyes and looked around for the first time in a long time.  I drove and looked at the landscape of our Ohio countryside.  What caught my eye were the rusty abandoned corncribs–a staple structure of earlier farm life in the Midwest.

I WANTED ONE!   I did not have a reason, certainly not a practical one and didn’t know what I would do with a corn crib.

Fate, karma, luck, destiny, I found one and asked the owner if I could buy it.  My husband thought I might be losing my mind, but after paying several hundred dollars I was the proud owner of a circa 1920’s corn crib.  How we were going to move it thirty miles didn’t matter to me.  I knew my genius husband would engineer the move and make it happen.  I will reveal that incredible process in future posts, too.

The crib was settled into it’s new home and is much more than a relic of farm history.  It has developed into all I wanted to create–a beautiful sanctuary.  The idea for corncriblogic.com was born from this idyllic setting.  Establishing a place for creativity, musings and sharing thoughtful practical common sense and logic – crib logic. Logic is not forced.  It is felt.

What is corn crib logic?  It is the applied practice of personal expression, experience, history and the strong application of common sense…that might not be as common as I think!  

The story of your life is not your life.  It is your story. –Novelist John Barth

Hope you enjoy my story and stories and ideas to come.  Go and find you sanctuary and I will share mine with you.

The best, June

 

Crib pic