Someone’s in the kitchen with Betty…

Hubs saw me coming out of the pantry a couple weeks ago. “Honestly Denise, if you’re going to give Ari your old cookbook, you’ve really got to stop using it. It’s falling apart. Literally. Use one of your other Betty Crocker’s. They all have the same recipes.” He’d learn soon enough those famous last words would come back to bite him in the butt.

Unfortunately, Betty cannot be duplicated or replaced…

Many of my favorite recipes have been in my head so long, I don’t need to look them up when I start cooking or baking. Still, most times I check the recipe for the little things, amounts of soda, baking powder, spices etc. Because I’m usually doubling the recipe.

Crusts and apple pie filling recipes from my best helper, Betty Crocker, 1972…

Sure enough, John was making a double batch of waffle batter, two for us, the rest, waffles for Jovi. Once we’re done eating, I start making Jovi’s. When each waffle is done cooking, I dab on a bit of butter, let it melt and sprinkle a tiny amount of sugar on top, then cut them in Jovi size bites with a scissors. Just like I did for my toddlers decades ago. Our waffle recipe only has a tablespoon of sugar in the batter which makes 3 waffles of 4 squares each. I’ve always found syrup to be messy with little ones, so I just sprinkle a little sugar on top. (Mommy doesn’t know, so Jovi and I just keep this our little secret). A teaspoon of sugar on 4 big squares is not going to hurt anyone. Besides, the waffle tastes so much better. I do the same thing for pancakes and French toast when I make them for Jovi.

On today’s menu, Jovi’s style French toast, cut up and froze in snack bags…

But it was before I made Jovi’s waffles when John frowned, “hmmm, they taste different.” “What? I don’t taste anything different. Did you leave out an ingredient,” I asked? “Don’t think so,” he answered, “I checked the recipe twice since I was doubling it for Jovi. I think the recipe might be a little different. I wish I hadn’t told you to put old Betty out to pasture. Did you give it to Ari already?” No, I hadn’t given the cookbook to Ari, simply put it in a drawer so I’d be forced to start using one of my ‘other’ Betty Crocker’s.

All Betty Crocker’s are NOT the same. Lame evil step-sisters…

The ‘other’ Betty Crocker’s aren’t really mine like mine is. In the last 20 years, every time I found an old, cheap Betty Crocker cookbook at an estate sale or in an (cringe) antique store I bought it. (How can I be old enough to use shit I now find in antique stores? Really, how is that even possible? Seriously?)

There should be pride because I used it so much. But yuck, I’m a slob…

Equally hard to believe is what kind of dire straights Hubs and I were in when I finally got my first Betty. One would think it might have been a shower gift or wedding present. We eloped, so had no shower. Gifts for the newlyweds were few and far between. Our folks (grudgingly, had to keep up appearances) had a small reception for us (cold as freaking ice, though it was only October-not weather related, just coolness in the room) so we did get some gifts. I think everyone knew I couldn’t boil water, why bother with cookbooks? No, Betty Crocker did not join our small family until 1972.

I know I should be ashamed using this decrepit cookbook. But we have history…

We were living in Sioux City. I was slowly learning how to cook, well, because we had to eat. Our stretched so very thin budget allowed eating out at McDonald’s every other Friday (payday for Hubs). Shannon and I would meet John at McDonald’s near Sunset Plaza after he directed the 6 o’clock newscast. It really was quite a treat. I think the 3 of us ate for about 5 bucks. At the time there was only one cookbook in our house. Appropriately named Family Favorites, (it’s got several pages of Dutch recipes, including Saucijzebroodjes, ‘pigs-in-the-blanket’ from Western Christian’s High School, circa 1964 edition. Which is my second favorite cookbook. I still use it religiously! A little delicious Godly humor). I had long coveted Betty Crocker’s cookbook when I saw it in stores. Better Homes and Gardens had a fancy Cookbook too, but it didn’t trip my trigger like Betty. But Betty was pricey and we were so broke. One could easily say we were nearly destitute.

My other frequently used cookbook. Some recipes are in Dutch, yikes…

Funny how we change over the years. I wouldn’t be very excited or grateful receiving an appliance these days. But back when we were in the first years of marriage, I felt like I had won the lottery. When Shannon was about a year old, we were living in a small house in Hinton, Iowa. No furnace in the house, just an oil burner heater (often times we couldn’t afford to fill the fuel tank, leaving us out in the cold). No basement either, so the slab house was unbelievably frigid. We bought a couple of super cheap area rugs which were about as thick as tracing paper. As new parents we were concerned because Shannon was on the floor all the time. And I had no vacuum cleaner. Everyday I’d get down on my hands and knees to pick up all the ploujes (plue-shees, Dutch word for a fuzzy or piece of lint from clothes or socks on the floor or your clothes). If I didn’t, Shannon would offer to meticulously do it for me-afterwards though she’d quickly pop all the ploujes in her mouth. Ugh. Our dear neighbors, Clarence & Ida loaned me their expensive, super deluxe Kirby vacuum cleaner once a week, but that monster weighed as much as I did. Lugging it back and forth from their house to ours was a trip alright. Plus it had so much suction, it sucked up half those cheap rugs. When John bought me a $39.00 Eureka vacuum for Christmas, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

From Family Favorites, authentic Dutch Saucijzebroodjes-pigs-in-the-blankets…

I felt the same way after Hub’s made a trip to a Sioux City jewelry store downtown called Greenburg’s. Heavens no, not for a frivolous piece of jewelry we could ill afford. But a set of new pots and pans! They were having a huge sale. It was called Club Aluminum and came in several different colors. Harvest Gold, Avocado Green, Poppy Red, Chocolate Brown, even Turquoise. John chose Poppy Red and the set consisted of 1, 2, 3 quart sauce pans with lids, a 4 quart Dutch oven and a fry pan. Now if I only knew how to cook. Minor details. I was trying hard by then.

I am a lost cause. Still using Club Aluminum, now Avocado Green…

While the vacuum cleaner and set of pans were necessities, Betty Crocker was not. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled when John and almost 2 year old Shannon went shopping at really neat department store called Bellas Hess in Morningside and spent a whopping 9 bucks to bring Betty home at last. I poured over that book, salivating over what recipes I thought I was capable of fixing. Not a lot of meals, mostly the baking sections. Cakes and frostings from scratch-always. Pies and crusts too. Almost every cookie Betty had in her repertoire. That cookbook has been a big part of my life for 45 years. I’m not so sure I’m ready to give her up just yet either. Her cousins aren’t made of the same mettle.

Betty, you got a great cream puff recipe, though I use Mom’s homemade vanilla pudding recipe…

There was a great bakery (name escapes me. Carolyn Baczwaski, do you remember this store?) close to a drug store called Scott’s. I think Scott’s was on 7th Street. At the time, Pampers were pretty new and cost about $1.30 per box of 30 diapers. Who could afford such things? Certainly not us. But when Scott’s ran a sale, Pampers were a dollar a box, we’d splurge. What a luxury. Disposable diapers you could just throw away, though we did not use them for everyday. Only camping trips or if we were going somewhere for the weekend. Oh, we still needed to use diapers pins, but no rubber pants, no rinsing out diapers in the toilet. Bliss, I tell you. Anyway, since we were shelling out big bucks on disposable diapers, we’d go to this bakery which was fairly close to Scott’s for a sweet treat. On top of the oak, glassed showcases housing donuts, longjohns and bismarcks galore, hanging on the wall behind the counter rested the cutest collection of ceramic cookie jars. Several different animals, some with salt & pepper shakers. Soon after becoming a mom, John and Shannon stopped at the bakery, chose the lion, who was wearing a crown and gave it to me for Mother’s Day. I used that cookie jar for years! One of the shakers broke during our many moves, but the cookie jar is still around, though packed away right now. I have about a foot of counter space in our little house.

My dusty little lion salt shaker gift-45 years ago…

After John questioned the waffle’s different taste, I dug out our dear family friend, my original Betty and checked out the waffle recipe. Sure enough, even though the edition patent date was just a few years different, some of the recipe’s ingredients had been changed. Silly changes too, if you ask me. They omitted baking soda from our original waffle recipe and boosted up the baking powder. Why? I have no idea. Kickbacks? Powerful lobbyists? I jotted down the waffle and pancake recipes from my old BC and added them to my groovy Longaberger recipe box this week. I guess as we discover minor changes in the dishes and desserts I’ve made for almost a half century, we’ll continue to write down the original way Betty intended her food to taste. Not to worry Betty, I’ve got your back. Those lame younger cousins of yours are off their Crocker if they think we wouldn’t notice…

Most of my favorites are stored in my basket recipe box, usually in my own scrawl…

Living in Her Realm…

Late fall 2017. Shannon emailed me a copy of Landon’s tentative Pioneer basketball schedule after she got it from Tracey. This was Landon’s third year on varsity, and we hoped there was one-2 week window where neither week had Tuesday night games. There was. Good news for us. Now Hubs and I could schedule our winter getaway, missing the bare minimum of Landon’s (Drew to the rest of the world) games.

Landon’s junior season at Pioneer, 2017-2018…

This time frame though would prove dicey for a couple of reasons. Didn’t want to be gone from the daycare the same time as Michelle, who’s getting her masters degree and has to spend time at college out east. Not that my part-time worker status of being gone is a big deal like full-time, detail oriented, organized, multi-talented Michelle. But more than one of us gone at the same time is a strain on our crew and a bit stressful for the babies. The babies quickly grow accustomed to seeing the same faces everyday. They may not be able to vocalize this (but they can voice their displeasure when seeing new faces in the room-loudly), but continuity is of upmost importance in their young lives. Nope, Michelle’s time off was just before the 2 weeks I wanted.

Our new minted 1 year old, Jovi, 2018…

The other reasons were just as important. Usually, we would fly somewhere (lots warmer than blustery Michigan) on Saturday after Landon’s Friday game, but the most magnificent baby in the world turned 1 a couple days before we were leaving. Who could miss Jovi’s fabulous first One-der-ful Birthday Party which was going to be on Saturday, the 13th? Not us. So I started looking at flights to Arizona for Sunday, January 14th. I don’t know why I just skipped over Sunday and booked our flights on the 15th. Monday’s in the flying world is considered a business travel day. When I booked our flights, I don’t think Peyton’s pageant date had been finalized. Certainly Shannon world have mentioned or sent details to me as soon as she got them. However, we were still home on that Sunday. Which would prove to be huge and exciting.

Peyton’s head shot for Jackson Crossroads Miss Outstanding Teen, 2018….

The Friday night game was a disaster. Landon sprained his ankle near halftime and would miss the next 5 games while it healed and he did physical therapy. Jovi however was a shining star at her party. Just getting the hang of walking, she crawled-walked her way through her adoring fans, looking too cute in all her glory.

Jovi’s Birthday Party, 2018…

But that busy weekend belonged to Peyton. She owned it. Hook, line and sinker. She had entered a beauty/talent pageant, Jackson Crossroads Miss Outstanding Teen (2 different age groups, 2 title winners). The only part Peyton struggled with was choosing what to showcase during her talent section of the pageant. It’s not that she doesn’t have talent. Peyton oozes talent from every pore of her being. Beautiful, smart, engaging, she sings and dances far beyond her young age of 13 (14 in a couple weeks). She wanted to accompany her dance routine by singing a song, which is nearly impossible. Dancing takes an enormous amount of energy (lots of breathing), leaving her (and the rest of us) breathless. So she went to a studio, recorded her own singing part, then helped choreograph her dance routine. Oh my, this young lady! Is there anything she can’t accomplish?

Peyton, stretching it out, wherever she is….

Suffice it to say, Peyton won. (Easily, hands down, but this is her grandma doing the writing here). The gown she chose was tangerine and stunning. Simply exquisite. Her platform? Gateway Drugs. This summer she’ll compete for Miss Michigan Teen, the winner goes to the Miss America Pageant.

She’s simply exquisite…

About a month ago Peyton attended a weekend orientation for the Miss Michigan Teen Pageant on the west side of the state. All of the state’s winning contestants were there, getting acquainted, supporting each other and listening to an inspirational speech from Miss America, Cara Munn. How many 13 year olds get to meet and greet Miss America?

Miss America Cara Munn and Peyton, February, 2018…

During Peyton’s tenure as reigning Jackson Crossroads Outstanding Teen, she will attend events, serving as a role model to other young girls. One of the community service projects she’s chosen is reading stories to classrooms of elementary students all over Jackson. (Of course, she’s an avid, voracious reader like her Mom).

Peyton getting crowned Miss Jackson Crossroad Outstanding Teen, January, 2018…

Peyton texted me a couple weeks ago and asked if she could read where I work at Felician Children’s Center? I thought it was a fantastic idea, so I gave her my boss’s email address. Peyton and Tracy talked and Peyton was given permission to read to our classrooms, starting with the babies.

I asked Peyton if she needed to stop and change clothes (you know, gown type duds) before I picked her up from school early? No, she answered. (I was a little bit bummed. I thought she’d be all decked out in queen like clothes, but guess she’d be in normal school clothes). I went to the school office (getting buzzed in, I appreciated the security) waited for her so I could sign her out. In walks this regal young woman. Wearing a light mauve dress, heels and her CROWN. (I looked liked I had worked at waste management for a week straight standing next to her). We zipped down to my school, snapped a couple pictures outside before going in. Peyton had several books picked out for different age groups that we talked about on the ride over.

Arriving at school for story time with Peyton, March, 2018…

We stop and talked to Sister Vicky and Sister Carolyn, outlining where we were headed first. The infant room of course. Any jitters, they’re the easiest to please. Friday afternoon and it’s very quiet throughout the school. JPS had a half day, so they’re long gone. Peyton and I head to my stomping ground, which is pretty quiet. Peyton slips off her shoes, sits on the floor by 5 babies. Four of them are about 10 months old. What I wouldn’t give to have a little video of that reading. Let me set the stage. One of them is crying and immediately climbs on my lap. There, that’s better. But this is about 2 of the little guys. They’re sitting right next to each other, not 18 inches from Peyton. First thought that popped in my head is a Neil Diamond song, Desiree-revised a bit. The 2 boys are totally, I mean totally mesmerized with Peyton. As Neil would croon, “it wasn’t so much her words as such as-“WHO IS THAT? WHAT IS THAT SHINY THING ON HER HEAD? CAN YOU REACH IT? NO, I CAN’T MOVE A MUSCLE!” So stinking cute. Really.

Peyton on left vying for Little Miss Michigan, several years ago…

After 2 quick books, PJ and I move to the 1 year olds, who happen to be eating a snack. Pudding cups. Chocolate pudding. Everywhere. “Ah, is there at least one child semi-clean who can sit in the same vicinity as Peyton?” Nope, not at the moment. While they clean up kids, we walk down the hall when Sister Vicki mentions the 4 year olds will be gong outside soon, could we stop there and read to them before they go?

Peyton…

This turned out to be our best stop of the day. Those kids are a riot. Peyton sat in a low chair with a dozen kids crowding up to her, listening intently. After she read 2 stories, lead teacher Tonya pipes up, “anyone have any questions for Peyton?” Six or eight little arms fly up. The best question? “Can you say bad words when you’re wearing your crown?” Answer was an emphatic, “no, I don’t say bad words. With or without the crown.” Next best. “How long have you been dancing?” “Since I was 4.” I searched my phone and found the picture of Peyton at her first dance recital while the kids converged, “oohing and ahhing.” One little girl kept repeating, “I’m 4, I’m 4.” Like why haven’t I started dancing yet? They were polite, inquisitive, attentive and darling.

Peyton’s first dance recital, 2008…

We back tracked to the 3 year olds where one of my first babies from the infant room scooted as close to Peyton as she could. She was wearing hot pink rain boots, and had a couple of cute little smudges on her adorable face. These kids were inquisitive too, but quiet. Although their teacher Lindsay encouraged them, no one dared ask a question.

The 2 year olds room were just getting up from naps, ready for a snack, so Peyton sat at their long, low rectangular table with them. They were much more curious, getting up from the table to walk around by Peyton, touching her dress, or coming up to me as I sat by the window. You could certainly see the difference in their interest spans by their ages. Glenda and Robyn patiently sat most of them down several times, only to have them get right back up so they could walk around by Peyton again.

Dad, Peyton and mom after she won the crown, 2018…

Back to the One’s room, who were now in the process of getting bundled up in coats, mittens, hats, and boots for a stroller ride outside. It’s spring in Michigan after all. Guess we had gotten sidetracked too long with the older classes. But they were easily swayed (that crown seems to have some magical components) and approached Peyton eagerly, sans pudding. She read as they watched her intently. Just as soon as Peyton finished her last book, Autumn and Amanda quipped, “who’s ready to go outside”? A couple of fleeting glances towards Peyton as they marched into the hall, waiting their turn to be secured in the massive stroller. Story time was over, what’s next?

Peyton 2nd from left with incoming winner and outgoing from last year…

Peyton and I gathered our belongings, said thank you and goodbye to Sister Vicky, who insisted on getting pictures of us. (She’s a wonderful, patient Christian soul, but ruthless with her camera-always snapping pictures). I think Peyton was pleased with our afternoon at Felician’s Children’s Center. The babies through 4 year olds weren’t the only ones learning today. Peyton gained insight on the art of reading and storytelling when sharing books with others. It’s harder than it looks. You have all these words on pages, yet need to share the picture pages with the little folks sitting by you. Plus use expression and eye contact. And answer some quirky, sometimes inappropriate questions. Got to be fast on her feet. And smile, always smile.

While I was driving her home, we talked about some of these things because Peyton’s reading again next week at another elementary school. So the youngest group she will entertain is about the same age of the oldest group she worked with at my school. More complex books to practice during the week. Grandpa’s chaperoning her on that excursion.

2018 Jackson Crossroads winners, Peyton & Alexus…

As we walked into Peyton’s house, she thanked me several times for picking her up and going along with her. But of course, it was this gram who got the most out of our afternoon together. After her big win in January, I suggested she start journaling her year of wearing the crown. She might remember big moments, getting crowned, meeting Miss America. But the little moments will seep away after a few years, unless they’re written down. How she laughed when asked about saying bad words, the expressions on the babies faces as she read them stories. The coy fingers that darted and dared to touch her leg, arm or dress while she was reading. The 4 year olds fascination with Peyton when asked how long she’s been dancing. Hard to believe she’s been dancing her way through people’s hearts for a decade already. When you’re a grandma Peyton, you won’t remember the little stuff from way back. Write it down. Even the silly things. You’ll appreciate and enjoy it more than you realize when you’re older. Much older…

Recital cutouts of Peyton from past years in various costumes…

Friday Night Fish Fry’s…

It started a few months after we moved back to Jackson. Early 2016. Our good friends, Fred and Diane Smith invited us to a Friday night fish fry. (A tradition during Lent in the Catholic Church). Jackson has a boatload of Catholic churches. According to Diane (born and raised Catholic her whole life) Our Lady of Fátima makes the best fish. Plus it wasn’t very far from our house. Sold. Let’s go. It was very good. And just packed with people. Packed.

Our Lady of Fátima, Michigan Center…

This amazing group of volunteers run their fish fry like a well oiled machine. The first time we went, the line was at least 75-100 people long. Hordes of folks hustled past us, going in the opposite direction. To the overflow dining area, meaning their enormous Parish Hall was already full. The line always kept moving. A catchy sign stating, “We don’t want to insult you. Don’t make us guess your age. If you’re over 65, please just say, senior and save yourself a buck.” When it’s finally our turn (didn’t take but a few minutes) the lady running the cash register had a stack of criss-cross dollar bills by her side. Because 90% of the customers are senior couples who pay with a 20 dollar bill. Thus she has 2 ones together lined up to give back. Which we turn over immediately to the next guy for 2 cans of pop. In between these 2 is the most important gal. She’s the lady with the golden tickets. OK, they’re not really gold but we are now entitled one dessert each from the large variety on the table at the very end of the Hall.

A table of religious information on activities as you wait to pay…

But first the food. One guy hands us each sturdy, divided paper plates, then we pick up napkins and silverware (plastic, a bummer but I understand). Our Lady of Fátima’s weekly Lenten tradition serves over 1,000 fish suppers per Friday night, between 4 & 7. Imagine the silverware and plates they would have to hurriedly push through the dishwasher throughout the night. Over and over again. Still, I love real silverware.

Fish-done-right…

First on our plate is an ice cream scoop of great cole slaw. Then there’s 3 kinds of fish to choose from, or some of each. Regular deep fried, spicy deep fried and baked. John says it’s ocean perch. I don’t know, but it’s good. Long, slender fillets, coated with just the right amount of stuff. I say no to the green beans (something about canned green beans sitting in quarter pan of hot water for several minutes, just not very appealing), no to the fries, but ask for a half baked potato.

Turn direction for the condiments. First dude is a royal pain in the ass. (Sorry God and the Catholic Church). I should say, the only downer besides plastic silverware and not serving real butter for my spud. He’s the man in charge of THE TARTAR SAUCE. He takes his job seriously and does not hand out tartar sauce willingly. Ever. So here’s the deal. I’m not a big fan of tartar sauce, but the Hubs loves it. Prit-near douses each bite of fish in this glop. If he gets any. The sauce comes in 2 ounce disposable containers which THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY has in a large box right in front of him. (Pretty sure it’s homemade). John politely asks for an extra container. THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY hems-haws, starts sweating, mutters something like, “I have to be so careful so we don’t run out. But, I suppose. Here.” Insanity. Hubs feels like an ass, holding up the line for a fricking 2 ounce container. I swear the last night we go this year I’m gonna hand him a jar of Hellman’s for all the grief we caused him this Lenten season. But what about the grief he caused us?

Jesus, praying for me…

Funny thing about tonight though. On the way to the church, John says, “I’m not asking for an extra tartar sauce tonight. Guy makes me feel bad. If you aren’t going to eat any could you take one anyway and give it to me?” Should have just said sure, but my finicky taste buds are just beginning to like the taste of tartar sauce. I just sort of hover my forkful of fish above my gigantic 2 ounce crater of tartar sauce and see if any of the flavor reaches my fish. “No problem, I’ll ask for extra tonight and let him embarrass me instead,” chimes the martyr wife. I will say, THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY is consistent. Gives me the same song and dance, trying to get me just to move along. I stand in front of him longer than it took giving birth to Adam, my breech baby, smile sweetly, and wait. Finally the impact of that 2 ounce extra container weighs in on my plate. I offer him a heady, “thank you, thank you,” and move forward, holding up my hand as a stop sign to his equally big box of tiny sour cream containers. Yes to a dinner roll, no to cornbread, and no to all the free drinks offered if you didn’t spend that extra buck on pop.

Some of the stained glass windows, always 3 in group…

I can’t tell you how many tables they have set up, maybe 40. A couple are rectangular, but the majority are round, each seat 8. We always head towards the back of the room. Since most nights it’s just John and I, we have no trouble finding 2 seats together at a table. Tonight there’s only one other couple at our table. We exchange pleasantries as we sit down. I hand over the extra large, certainly priceless tub, sure to make them run completely out of tartar sauce before the last 700 souls get some for their fish and say, “holy shit, did you hear that guy? I honestly didn’t think he was going to give me an extra one!” The other guy at the table busted out laughing and says, “you must be talking about THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY! We were just laughing about him!” I thought I was being quiet and discreet, but hey, I’m deaf, so I probably talk louder than I thought or should. (Sorry about the holy shit too God). But enough jokes about the guy with the weight of the world on his shoulders over doling out just enough tartar sauce to feed 1,100 tonight. And Jesus thought it was tough with 4 fishes and a piddly crowd of 5,000.

The windows of Our Lady of Fátima…

Because it seems as though God has appointed the Catholic Church, my 2 amazing nuns at our daycare and Our Lady of Fátima in charge of saving my soul since we moved to Jackson. Since Lent started about the same time as I started working at Felician’s Children’s Center 2 years ago, I’m not really sure if it was an accident or they’re in kahoots together. God works in mysterious ways. If you’ve read my blog over the years consistently, you’re aware of my issues with organized religion for the last decade. At least. But there is no way you can convince me that Sister Vicky and Sister Carolyn aren’t concerned about saving my soul and getting me to heaven. I frequently hear one or the other say, “you’re in my prayers Denise. Everyday.” A few days before Lent started, Sister Vicky (she’s in charge of religion. It’s true, she comes in every Monday morning and tells the babies a story about Jesus. Songs included, the babies love it. Jonah and the whale last week, the whale burped him back out, ha-ha) walked in the infant room and chimed, “I’ve got a book for you Denise.” Handed me this little black book, 6 Minute Reflections on the Passion, according to Mark. Then added, “I’ll bring in the rest of your Lenten material, The Path to Peace, soon.” She did not forget either. Naturally, she had our names on the top of the booklets, which I failed to notice. Brought home Marty’s copy instead, then had to make sure Marty took my copy home or Sister Vicky would be crestfallen in my backtracking. (And nobody else got a copy of 6 minute reflections but me). She knows I need help.

Our Lady of Fátima poster celebrating 100 years…

The second time Hubs and I went to the fish fry, we meandered through the round Sanctuary after eating. The building is relatively new, quite big but not overly pretentious. Beauitful oak, curved pews. As we were admiring the stained glass windows, a guy comes over and explains the 14 stations. Stained glass storytelling really, depicting events leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Fascinating.

Covered statue until Easter Sunday…

Last year, we’re leaving after eating and run into a nice guy near the sanctuary. (This happens when we park in back lot. It’s closer and easier to get back to the car if we use the door off the Sanctuary. (One of those mysterious God thingy’s). He starts a conversation and mentions he’s from Detroit but is an organist at Our Lady of Fátima. He woos us in the Sanctuary to spotlight a beautiful organ off to the side of center stage. Sits down and just starts playing for us. Why? No idea. He was very talented and friendly. It must be something on my countenance. Crying for help. Talks about an upcoming weekend concert and personally invites us. But we truly have a conflict (think it was Hubs birthday and the kids were all coming home).

The covered crucifix on the altar…

Still, there’s just something about the people and this church. After the conversation in the car about THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY, I told John I was going to take some pictures of the church for my blog post. He was embarrassed and wouldn’t walk near me when my phone was out. As I walked in the Sanctuary to get pics of the stained glass windows, I noticed the first big statue was completely draped in gorgeous purple cloth. There was a lady standing nearby. I stammered, “Umm, I imagine this has some special significance?” “Yes,” she replied. “All of our statues are covered during Lent. Even the crucifix on the altar. To remind us something’s different, give us heightened awareness that something’s coming.” “I don’t remember any of them being covered the last time I walked through the Sanctuary though. It’s quite noticeable, think I would remember that,” I replied. “It’s only the last couple weeks of Lent. You probably walked through during early Lent last year,” she said. After I walked through the circular Sanctuary, snapping pictures we had a 20 minute conversation with her, though I didn’t get her name. (John joined me by then because I had put the camera away). She lived in Red Oak, Iowa for 3 years early in her marriage, and had just finished taking care of her grandchildren for a week while her daughter traveled on business. Grandma was pooped but exhilarated. Talked about how much more we worry about our grandchildren than we worried about our kids when they were little. She knew exactly what I was talking about. Strange. All in all, my experience with Our Lady of Fátima has been an incredible one. But I’m not ready to get any rosary beads just yet.

There’s a lot of stained glass in this circular Sanctuary…

Let’s do the math. To round things off, we’ll call it an even thousand suppers per week. Again we’ll say the average cost is 9 bucks. This year I believe that’s 7 Friday’s. (They don’t serve on Good Friday, but do have their last supper (no, it’s a different one, nada to any last supper humor attempt) the Friday after Easter. All help is volunteer. Let’s round it off $58,000 dollars. I’m not very good at costing food out, so I could be way off, but let’s say 4 grand (which I feel is generous) a week for the actual cost of the food. Leaving about $30,000 profit. For the love of all that’s holy, please, please spend an extra 30 bucks a week on Mayonnaise, mustard and pickle relish for THE TARTAR SAUCE GUY. Dude, you gotta lighten up. I fear for your sanity if you have to go through this ordeal for every other person another 7 Friday’s in your life. You’re not getting any younger…

Season 3-4-#3…

First the disclaimer. No where on my resume as grandma does it state: “yeah, she sure knows what she’s doing in the statistics department.” Three years ago, as a freshman in a very large, urban high school, Landon made the varsity basketball team. You would have thought this delighted me, but I was less than thrilled. Skeptical even. I visualized Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) sitting the bench for the whole season as opposed to being a ‘star’ starting on junior varsity.

Landon’s junior basketball season, 2017-2018…

But I can be wrong occasionally. Yes, occasionally. Landon actually played quite a bit that season and had a pivotal impact on the team. (Really no surprise there. He’s had a basketball in his hands since he was 3. And made exceptional shots since then too).

Ball has always been at home in his hands. Landon, 2001…

I never just decided to keep track of how Landon was doing in every game. It simply morphed from loose scraps of paper in my purse during the first couple of games to this dorky little notebook that I dread seeing coming to an end. (I’m not ready for his high school career to end. How about a do-over)? Yet I dare not change one iota of my own quirky way of being Landon’s statistician through the rest of high school either now. Can’t risk jinxing anything.

Taking a shot during a high school halftime, 2007…

Landon’s junior season of basketball is over. I don’t know if he feels as anticlimactic or a bit dissatisfied about the year as I do. There were many changes, ups and downs. A new head coach (verdict is still out as far as I’m concerned, not really impressed) new players, some good, some not. Got to mention a player that really had an impact on the Pioneer team. He transferred from New Mexico I think. His name is Kasean, a junior like Landon this year. He and Landon clicked on and off the court. Kasean’s (Kay-son) good, tough underneath, has a nice jumper, and surprisingly accurate from the 3 point line in the corner. He’s tall, maybe 6’ 8” and slender. He’d look so much better (as would I) and play a little tougher if he’d take 20 pounds from me. But that’s never the way these things work. I look at cake and gain weight, Kasean eats the back of a pickup bed full of pizza, plays basketball for 20 minutes and is down 4 pounds. Just shoot me now. Like most beanpole guys, his strong suit is not dribbling down the court. Just too much space between his bounce and the floor. I think Pioneer might be a better team next year. The weirdest thing about Kasean is he reminds me of my Dad. It’s his thumbs when he runs. He holds his thumb exactly like my Dad always did (though Dad was not running of course).

Kasean, 2018 Pioneer basketball team…

I guess I really wasn’t ready for this season to end. Big surprise there. After missing a couple weeks in January while we were in Arizona, I was so anxious to get back in the basketball saddle, while Landon was in the middle of healing a bad ankle sprain. Good news, I missed nothing when we were gone. Bad news, he couldn’t play for another week after we got back. Long drought, though the Pioneers won 2 of the 5 while Landon was injured. When he did come back it was with limited minutes for another week.

A long 3 for Landon, 2018…

So getting back to my lacking stat abilities. I’ve been known not to mark Landon’s missed shots, turnovers or fouls (though he has very few, I really hate writing them on his sheet). I do a little better with assists, rebounds, and steals. But I never miss any of his point totals. Ever. Until I did just that. Had him down for 28 in a superb game (which we lost), when evidently he scored 31 points. What has happened to my world? I’ve been right as rain in his scoring when the paper’s been wrong about his point total more than once. Every year. But somehow I missed an amazing 3 pointer during that Skyline game. Damn. Need to get my mojo back before AAU starts in a few weeks (though none of those games goes in ‘the notebook’-that’s only for his high school games).

At the end of the regular season for his freshman and sophomore years, both ending with the Pioneers as Conference champs, tournament play, districts and regionals kept their season going for another couple weeks. This year with a record of 500, it was one-&-done once the tourney started. Not a good way to end the year. The good news is the team that beat us in Districts is still in the running (and we’ve had their number for the last couple years). Hope they go all the way. Landon has some good friends on their team.

My notebook full of Landon’s basketball career-so far…

I don’t know how to average his point total per game exactly. Oh, I should add up his points for the year, divided up by the number of games he played in. But that doesn’t seem fair or very accurate. With 32 minutes in each game, when Landon played 28 minutes or more, he averaged 22 points a game through 9 games. Pretty incredible right? In 4 lopsided games, playing 20-22 minutes he averaged 19 points. The reason behind these games is because we were so far ahead, there’s no reason to keep any starters in. And it’s the right thing to do. Let others on the team get some much needed playing time. Rest the work horses and save them for when they’re really needed later. Through 3 games he was on limited minutes or restricted by the Doc to go easy on that ankle. In those 3 games, playing less than half the time, he averaged 9 per game. Not bad. If I double the minutes, his point total would have probably been somewhere between the 19-22 range. Maybe it doesn’t make much difference. So taking his total points for the year, divided by 16 games, (he missed 5 games with the ankle) his average is 19 points. I believe that’s up about 5 points a game since his sophomore year. Nice. Dude.

I’m not the only one thinking he’s gonna to be great…

After a couple weeks rest, Landon will play AAU (Amateur Athletic Union-a travel basketball league with tournaments all over the US during the spring and summer) for some lucky team for the final time in the 17 & Under division. We only attend about 3 tournaments per season. The style of play is different, more showy, more dunks, not as many set plays. But it is a lot of fun to watch. They sometimes end up playing 3 or 4 games A DAY, so it’s exhausting. And I’m only watching and keeping track of L’s totals. But with all the hoopla (big time college coaches from all over attend, watching certain players they may need in the future). It all starts with a cunning guard, leading the way down court. Without turnovers, making amazing passes, assists, taking good shots when the time is right and feeding other players, making them better too. An amazing point guard named Landon…

The softer side of Uncle Drew with Jovi, 2017…

My Follower of One…

Ladies and gentlemen, if I can have your attention. Seeing is believing. Don’t wait, don’t hesitate. Get your ticket for the greatest show on earth which is about to begin. Never before seen by the general public. Be one of the firsts. The lucky few to view. All for the price of one thin dime. The line forms here. No pushing or butting in line, there’s room for everyone in the tent.

The most incredible stained glass window in Notre Dame, Paris, 2017…

I have a follower. Not in a scary-stalking way. My one and only blog fan. I know, I’m as surprised as you. There’s one soul out there somewhere who patiently waits, then reads my posts. And comments on every post. When he’s able. My blogging app tends to be a sensitive wench. Occasionally won’t allow me to add pictures before I hit publish or allow my adoring masses to comment. I mean my one guy. He’s not on Facebook and I can’t convince him to join, if but for the single reason to read my blog on it. I’ve told him several times, he’s seriously missing out on the best part of my blog. The comments on Facebook after I post a story. But the neat comments have not been enough to entice him. I guess he routinely goes to Storyteller from a One-Stoplight-Town to see when and if I’ve posted a new installment.

Starting in back, Shirlee, Char, Pam with me in front. Notice how crazy I’m holding my left hand, so John’s class ring is visible. Ha-ha…

I believe my one fan deserves a name don’t you? His name is Paul. He’s read every one of my stories. Twice. I’m not kidding. (Dude is a glutton for punishment). This is my 190th post. (Hard to believe. Never thought I would write this much or this long. Some of you are now pleading, please stop for everything that’s sacred. Sorry, no can do yet). Paul then started all over and read them again. Twice-as in 2 times. I’ve gotten to know him as a friend through his comments which are kind and insightful. Posting comments on a blog post (not on Facebook) is nothing short of miraculous. I know because I always try and answer Paul’s comments. Sometimes I’ve answered him and hit publish, the whole comment just disappears into thin air. This has happened to Paul so often, I wonder why he even bothers anymore. Very frustrating. It’s so much harder than commenting on Facebook, yet he persists. (Thanks Paul)

I LOVE this picture. My Dad, snoozing after supper. I stuck one of my dolls in his arm, 1960…

But it was one of Paul’s casual comments a month ago which caused me pause. He’s muddled his way through my blog (for the second time) from June, 2014 to the end of 2017. Approximately 180’s worth of boring, angry, mundane, sad-sack, misspelled words, bad punctuation, piss-poor sentence structure posts, with just enough lightheartedness to stop him from chewing off his own arm out of sheer, tear worthy boredom.

Shannon on tippy toes giving my dad a kiss, 1973. She loved my mom and dad so much…

It all started with that dang Facebook challenge to post a black and white photo once a day for a week. Pictures without people or nary a word of explanation about my life. Just about killed me. (Thanks again for that Anne. But this time I really mean it). First I couldn’t come up with a decent picture worthy of no explanation, however after day 3, I was dreading day 7 because I was not near done with pictures about my life. Since Paul is not on Facebook he never knew how crazy this simple challenge made me. Here’s his comment about my story, My life-1 Snapshot at a Time. From Paul: “enjoyed the picture show even though I had already viewed at least 75% of them.” (Ouch) He knows and remembers.

Josh was a dedicated biker, with or without clothes, 1977…

Depending on my story, if I’m recounting something that happened when Shannon was 10, I start searching for an accompanying picture. As soon as I spot an appropriate picture, that’s the one I use, instead of looking for another 15 minutes. I’m not very orderly with my scads of pictures. I have boo-koo albums, all titled. The boys, Early days, The Falls, Jovi, and so on, but still it seems like I’m searching forever for a certain picture that’s already in my head. If it’s not in the right spot, it means I’ve got to go through all 4,000.

Great picture of the Hubs in 1978, Spencer, Iowa…

Thus I’m doing another story about my life in pictures. To be sure I’ve never used any of these pictures before, I should carefully go through each story, documenting each photo so there’s absolutely no chance of any repeats. Now that’s really a challenge. Not gonna happen Paul. I’m lazy, and if I start reading my stories from the beginning again, well that’s just not time I have right now. Besides over half my stories still make me cry, no matter how many times I’ve read them. Makes me an emotional mess. Not always a sad cry, just a strong memory inducing moment. Don’t know if I’ll ever get over that part of writing. How powerful what I’ve written still makes me feel. Not the power of writing, but the emotion of the memory. Yawn, sorry.

Dad, surrounded by a mountain of empty beer cans. Sure he used this shot in his prison ministry…

Since my first story about snapshots of my life, I thought maybe for the next installment, a theme would make better subject matter. Perhaps places I’ve been for one, early days, my children, grands etc. But the pics I’ve picked here are just a mish-mash because I’m trying to use never before seen pictures to please my whole fan base. Of one. If this weren’t so pitiful, it would be funny.

One of my favorites. Peyton’s first pair of pointe shoes a couple years ago…

Now I’m gonna backtrack and insert some goofy pictures with short captions to make this somewhat tolerable. And thanks Paul from the bottom of my heart for giving this old gal the time of day. You are unique and I really appreciate your faithfulness…

Good grief, it’s Freddy Krueger. Alas, it’s only me after nose repair (Hubs broke unintentionally showing me a wrestling move) 1967…