Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lets make a memory

Our memories cradle our grief and preserve our joy.

Donning an apron instantly takes me back to my childhood. Every Sunday morning our family; Frederick, Val, Fred, Mark, Grandmother and I always attended 11:30 mass at Sts. Simon & Jude Church. My father sang in the church choir. Each week a different child was selected to sit with our dad in the choir loft. I thought this was such a special privilege, in reality, it was because my mother did not want to wrestle with three children in the church pew by herself.

Getting dressed in our best clothing and going to church together for Sunday mass was a predictable event. After mass we always gathered for a special “Sunday Afternoon Dinner”. Early Sunday formal dinner was a carry over from the Rice side of my family. My mom was not so happy with this task, however, she and her mom worked in the kitchen every Sunday morning to get the roast cooking in the oven while we were at church. My grandmother was 72 years old when I was born. I can still picture my elderly grandmother working with my mom, in dresses, to complete the meal for serving in the dining room by 1:00pm. Each Sunday meal was a small dress rehearsal compared to the feasts they created for Holiday meals.

One of my favorite memories is that my mom & grandmother always wore beautiful aprons when they in the kitchen baking biscuits, cakes, pies or apple dumplings and putting the finishing touches on the meal. The big treat for me was being allowed to wear one of their apron as I set the table with the good china dishes. Dressed in a special apron I loved to twirl around and make up dances. This was so much fun that often I wore the apron all day.

Our family dinners lasted for hours. Because grandmother lived with us, almost every Sunday, members of my mom's relatives drove out to visit. Hospitality was natural with my mother. As family members arrived she would find spaces for another chair around the table. Pouring cups of coffee into china cups we savored the remnants of the meal, desserts, and the time we spent together. It was in this rich soil my love of family history sprouted roots. Gathered around this table that I grew to love family members both living and those that were dead before I was born. Hearing stories about these people made them real to me forming a loving connection to my ancestors. I listened intently as the adults laughed, sang, shared family jokes, stories as well as the remaining German words that they could remember.

Life is so much different than it was when I was a young girl in the 1960's. I was born into what was considered modern times yet those days seem very different than the society that makes up family life today. Technical advances has made families living within close proximity less common event. When I was young something called blue laws were still in affect to encourage families to attend worship services together, promoting Sunday as a day of rest. Presently, shopping, sports or working on Sundays has replaced this meal in many families. It was a privilege to grow up in an home where family connections were valued. We were far from the Walton family or Little House on the Parries. In no way am I suggesting we were perfect or wonderful, still, there was something special about weekly gatherings of the family as peculiar as we all were.

Barry is flying home from New York City tomorrow. His is successful in his career and happy with his life that could not exist as it is outside of NYC. When Barry comes home I love to create meals inspired by the season. We savour these long, leisurely meals. Since it is the end of September I am planning to celebrate Oktoberfest this weekend.

This week I have been paging through my German cook books as well as the well worn 1930 copy of the New Delineator Recipe book that belonged to my grandmother.

I am planning to make the family recipes for bratwursts, sweet & sour red cabbage, grated potato pancakes with sour cream and bakes apple dumpling for dessert. Of course this will be accompanied with German Spezial beer, fresh brewed coffee, long talks, laughing and pics as I add one more page to our family memory book.

I will share some recipes and pictures of our gathering next week.


Friday, September 11, 2009

“You have to know the past to understand the present.” Dr. Carl Sagan quotes (American Astronomer, Writer and Scientist, 1934-1996)

As the end of summer approaches, cooler mornings, warm, sunny afternoons, chilly evenings fill the air here in Western New York. First hints of autumn leaves, new beginnings, nervous children start back to school, Labor Day Weekend and a full Harvest Moon creates feelings of nostalgia filling my head with memories of a wonderful summer as I make plans for the quickly arriving autumn season.

It had been our tradition to attend the Labor Day Fair in Clarence Center since we moved here. This year the parade was an hour longer than usual. Many more community fire departments were represented in this annual parade. In addition to honoring the American Workers, Firefighters and Emergency Medical Personnel this year the fair was overshadowed by the sadness the 50 people killed in flight crash February 12, 2009.

After the parade I stepped away from the crowds, walking just a few yards down Long Street. I wanted a moment of silence in front of the the crash site within a few yards of the Clarence Center Fire station.
I will never forget the evening of the plane crash. Jim was on a delayed flight leaving Buffalo Airport on route to Savannah to spend Valentines Weekend with me. Kara said it was a particularly heavy snow when she took Jim to the airport in Buffalo. After a long delay for deicing the plane Jim's US Air flight left Buffalo barely in time to catch his connection in Charlotte. Waiting outside at Savannah Hilton Head Airport for Jim's safe arrival my thoughts turned to the people who had survived the plane crash " Miracle on the Hudson" just one the month earlier. His plane arrived around 11:00 pm, while driving back to my apartment Kara called to tell us a plane crashed in Clarence Center.

Eventually, as more information became available, I learned that my next door neighbor's daughter-in- law died in that plane crash. A fellow parishioner from, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was killed in his home along with all 49 passengers and crew on board. A student from Clarence High School was on her way home from Florida to be a Valentine date for her nephew in kindergarten. Also killed in this crash was the pregnant daughter of another friend from Nativity parish. My friend lost both his only daughter and his future grandchild in that crash. Beverley Eckert, one of the passengers killed on flight 3407, was flying to Buffalo to mark her late husband's birthday. She was a 9/11 widow.
The space is now clear, no home, no trees. All signs of the wreckage have been cleared to a vacant space. Tears flowed freely from my eyes as I felt the powerful energy radiate from the site where 50 people lost there lives. These people are dead yet not forgotten.
Today it is eight years since the tragic deaths of September 11, 2001 attack on America. Maybe you know someone who died as a result of that fateful day. In total, 2,993 people, including the hijackers, died in the attacks on the World Trade Center Twin Towers, Pentagon, and flight crash in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The death count continues to add up as emergency response workers, volunteer helpers, service men and women who are still at war in the fight to protect our country and even new reporters lives are affected by this exponentially compounding American tragedy.

Remembering the past helps me to understand how we arrived at the present while also guiding my planning the future. The lessons we learn from death it that life is too short to hate. Take a moment to remember the dead, say thank you to those who bring good into your life and look for ways to make life better for those in need of a helping hand.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

"If you love something, set it free; if it comes back it's yours, if it doesn't, it never was. " Anonymous

For the past three weeks I have been sorting through items that I am ready to set free. I have always been a very sentimental keeper of cards and gifts so when I get the urge to purge my family applaudes my efforts. Maybe taking a hoarder who is in the middle of giving things away t may be about as good as taking person detemined to lose weight to the Chocolate Factory in Hershey, Pa. Ecstatic to be off work Saturday morning Kara pulled me out to her car insisting we were going to the kick off the weekend by with a visit to Antique World. Always happy to spend time with Kara, not wanting to disappoint her, I said YES !!!

Kara had been here before so she knew what to expect. I've lived here for ten years, this was my first visit to what can only be described as an extraordinary amount of antiques, nearly antique, some gently used and nearly new items. Kara parked a few blocks away down Main St. giving me time to wonder if I really wanted to keep walking into the direction of the crowds. In addition to the regular vendors who rent spaces for sales all year long, the first weekend of every month, extra dealers bring goods to an Open Market that really fills the lots with enthusiastic buyers and sellers.

As soon as we arrived Kara recognized her friend Crystal, after exchanging greetings, I went off to explore on my own while they talked. Table after table of jewelry, dishes, clocks, camp equipment, a Victorian fainting divan, rocking chairs, hats, garments, books, DVDs, sports equipment, and old school desks abound. Items were lined up around the grounds resembling the repetitive background of a Flinstone cartoon rolling the same images over and over and over again. I was surprised to see the reasonably inexpensive prices marked on items that flooded my head with memories of my childhood.

A metal food grinder, that I still have, like the one we used to make Cranberry Orange Relish every Thanksgiving and Christmas was a mere $5. The glass and brass Anniversary Clock I bought in 1974 for $100, still a cherished item on my mantel, was available in a variety of styles for only $10. When Kara caught up to me, she was amazed at how this Open Market was a nostalgic trip for me down memory lane .

One lady had a complete collection of vintage Barbie Dolls including my treasured Enchanting Evening Barbie in a pink, satin gown with a faux fur stole. Nice, however, I still have the one that kept me preoccupied in my imaginary designing world for untold hours at play. It has never been easy for me to a part with an old friend.

One vendor was wrapping a complete set of emamel camping dishes as his fellow vendors looked on in horror when he confessed the sale price was $5. He did not intend to take anything back home with him at the end of the day he explained. Yes, kids it is a buyers market out there.

More shoes, fur coats, velvet hats, decorative china cups and saucers, table linens, embroderied napkins, aprons and bed linens, and dresser trays. .Jewelry; old, new, costume and some rather nice delicate gold pieces were available for very low prices. Some venders were marking goods buy one get one half off.

Another section of the Open Market is where the permanent vendors rent space to sell all during the year. This section appealed to the serious collector. I stopped at the G I Joe table to see if they had the Frogman costumed action figure. They did not and I was not surprised as my brother Mark and I submerged his G I Joe underwater Frogman so often the suit deteriorated from years of play.

There were so many items for sale I got overwhelmed then needed to leave. Not enough variety is not good, too many offereings is chaos. Can't say how long we stayed except I got a healthy, sprinkling of freckles so it was time I got out of the sun. That and the fact that the half bushel of Beefsteak Tomatoes and four ears of Sweet White Corn was getting really heavy to carry even though Kara and I split the weight between us.

Yes, I was a good girl on this trip, had a great time with Kara, supported our local farmers and easily walked right past the hot dogs, french fries and kettle corn booths. My mind was set on a quick trip to our local Dash's Market for some fresh, wild Salmon and Whole Wheat Kaiser Rolls then home to assemble lunch. Jim was on the phone with his mother when we returned telling her the girls were out somewhere but he was sure we would return soon with something good for lunch ;~)

Fresh Wild Salmon on a toasted Whole Wheat Kaiser Roll, with generous slices Beefsteak Tomato, Romain Lettuce and a hint of Tartar Sauce. Perfect with Sweet White Corn & Bread & Butter Pickles as a healty alternative for Holiday Picnic Meal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." -- Albert Einstein

It is a great comfort for me to believe in a Higher Power knowing that I not responsible to be the center of the universe. Born into a family of actively practicing Roman Catholics, I am the product of twelve years of Catholic education who actually still believes in God. Not a God of vengeance and hate but a God of Justice and Love. God does not belong to any one religion, in fact, religion has done more harm than good portraying the Great Spirit, Creator of the Universe. My brothers & I have always laughed that if the people who speak for God are the only ones in heaven, we don't want to go there.

Believing in the power of miracles is one large benefit that comes from believing in a Higher Power; everything that happens is not a series of random events. I love to look for clues, ways to connect the dots. How does one experience affects another? Living as an open for adventure person when one door closes I look for the open window following the light to a new path. No experience is a bad experience as long as I learn new lessons from the event.

When we moved to Western New York ten years ago I kept wondering why am I living in this area? Who am I supposed meet during my time in the area? I keep looking for the wonder of the moment during each day. Many positive events have happened to Jimi, Barry, Kara and I from our time living in Clarence. We have met many interesting, kind, hardworking people, as well as, benefited from education and career advancement. Now that our children are adults the need to be here is less important. Jim and I have done our job, educated Barry and Kara and are now free to move into a less stressful lifestyle in a smaller home out of the Lake Erie snow belt with seven month winters.

A few years ago, before this recent economic slow down hit, moving to a new town could be rather simple following a few steps; research new town, find house, find job, sell present home and move. With the slow down on real estate sales this is not a easiest time to relocate. The situation is a bit more challenging yet not impossible.
Enter Higher Power.
Beginning today I am starting an experiment in positive thinking to set a miracle into motion...
I intend to put the gears in motion for the relocation project. Looking for an openings, as the events reveal themselves, I will post the progress...
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