Good Thoughts – Good Memories ~ in 2020

2020 photo

What Are You Thinking On?

My mother had severe juvenile diabetes (type 1) in a time when the disease was a death sentence and insulin was a very new medical treatment. She grew up in the Ukrainian immigrant community where, at that time, there was tremendous fear of injections. My grandparents bravely decided that she should have insulin and she lived. Not only did she live, she married my father, had two children, and had a life. However, she was an exceedingly negative person all of her life. As a child, I didn’t understand her struggle, and I found her constant negativity painful. Despite my mother’s untreated chronic depression, she was a decent and ethical person who tried really hard to live her life and have a family. I understand that now, as an adult and how I think of her has changed a great deal. I now see her in a much more positive light without denying her faults.

My father was pragmatic, unemotional, bookish, and often withdrawn. But he could be very funny and for me that was some relief from the darkness of talking about every thing that was wrong or was about to go wrong.

I took after my dad in a lot of ways. I found refuge in books, and I’d make a joke out of whatever was upsetting and dysfunctional. That was when I was around other people. In private, I was more like my mom, focused excessively on the painful and the negative.

It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I first heard teaching on renewing of the mind and the importance of focusing on the lovely and the good. And by that time, I had  focused on the unlovely, the broken, and the sad so much, that I hardly had any good memories from my childhood, and even from my adult life. They’d all been overshadowed and buried by my rehashing of all the dark and negative moments.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ Philippians 4:8, New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I married a man whose family was even more dysfunctional than mine…if that is even possible. My own immediate family and my extended family had PhDs in negativity. (See, I am still able to make a joke out of the gruesome.)

Well, one day there was great turmoil in my husband’s family. A lot of yelling in the kitchen and people running in and out of the house. So, I went into the living room and started surfing channels on the TV just to block the chaos out. It was a Sunday and I clicked onto this petite blonde lady standing behind a podium. Gloria Copeland. I thought she was preaching, but she is much more a teacher than a preacher. She was no-nonsense positive. Positive that God is a good God, is a healing God, is a loving God. She was intelligent, logical, and didn’t have big hair. That sealed it for me, and by the end of the program, I put my hands on the TV and got saved.

I am aware of true ‘Christian’ positive-thinking that first manifested itself in the 1950s, and that is good. But what I’m talking about is deeper.  It is a real and abiding belief that the power of the Word as written in the Bible is transformative and healing. It is the belief in the supernatural power of God’s living Word. I have to point out here that God’s Word in the Bible is not magical, not hokus-pokus, nor abracadabra. It is the belief that if the living Word gets deep-down within the heart and soul of the believer, it will start to heal those hidden, broken places.

Note: God’s Word in the Holy Bible has structure, context, and order. The Word of God can’t be ripped out of the Bible and thrown around as a quick affirmation for selfish purposes. Any phrase we wish to speak over our situation has to be understood in terms of what came before and after it in the chapter (and even in other chapters and in other books of the Bible). The Bible is a cohesive whole, pointing to and proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, the Savior.

That said, if you want to get rid of darkness and negativity in your life…if you want to start making some good memories, a good place to start is the Philippians 4 Scripture noted above. Take it apart and on purpose (even if you have to force yourself) start to focus on what is:

  • True
  • Honorable
  • Right
  • Pure
  • Lovely
  • Of Good Repute
  • Having or Striving for Excellence
  • Worthy of Praise

 

Jacksonville ~ Is Christmas Town

JAX Chick-fil-A 19

First Coast All About Christmas

A neighbor in my condo complex wanted to see the local  Mandarin Chick-fil-A’s Twelve Nights of Christmas, again. Mandarin is our neighborhood in the geographically huge city of Jacksonville.

She’d been there the night before to support her daughter’s school. Each night if customers mentioned the name of the particular local not-for-profit showcased, the organization received a percentage of the price of the meal. So, I said, “Why take two cars, I’ll drive.”JAX Xmas Tree 3

We had our chicken sandwich meal and the place was packed with families. Squirming, laughing children couldn’t wait to rush over to the the outside decorated area and see what was going on. Many of the not-for-profits had decorated a tree.

JAX Chick-fil-A 19 2

We were early-birds and the singing presentation would be quite a bit later. We didn’t stay for it. We did listen to the teenagers rehearsing their Christmas carols. They sounded great.JAX Chick-f0;-A Carolers

Jacksonville is on the First Coast (called thus because St. Augustine was the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the Americas) and the First Coast is very Christmasy. Nothing can compare to it.  It seems every single church is having a presentation of some type (classical Christmas music, Christmas worship music, children’s presentations, a series of family-friendly Christmas movies, and much more). There are local neighborhood Christmas crafts fairs, food fairs, and the like.

JAX Chick-fil-A Cow

I did get to meet the Chick-fil-A cow from the television commercials. He is real.

The Jacksonville Historical Society has an extraordinary Gingerbread Extravaganza display every year. Grade school classes contribute displays as well as professional bakers.

Jacksonville Beach has Deck the Chairs every year. I went last year and it was spectacular…forty decorated lifeguard chairs.

When I lived in NYC, my husband and I went many times to see “the tree” and huge lighted angels at Rockefeller Center. Each time it was wonderful. But, let me tell you, St. Augustine’s Night of Lights at Christmas has NYC beat by a mile. You have not seen a Christmas light display like this. It’s not to be missed.

My Christmas Mug ‘O ~ tea!!!

Christmas Mug TeaHo, ho, ho. You thought I was going to have something thrilling, with kick, spiked even.

I pulled one of my Christmas mugs out today. I have six, purchased in various places: Christmas fairs, while on vacation.

It’s mid-morning and tea was in order. My usual brew is Lipton Organic Tea. It’s warming, inviting, has a lovely aroma and taste. Highly underrated, IMO. Note: I am not a spokesperson, have no relationship to the company at all.

I’m a black tea drinker. I’ll drink Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, Darjeeling. But Lipton is what I keep in my airtight tea caddy and is my go to. It brings up comfy feelings that hearken back to my childhood. If a cold was threatening, my mom made me a cup of Lipton tea with honey and lemon. I still do that if my sinuses are clogging except, that I might add a shot of Bourbon.

Yes, black tea has the health benefits of antioxidants and I am into health. But I pulled out a Christmas mug and brewed a cuppa for myself today because in this wonderful holiday season it brings up a lovely memory of my mom.

Fire and Thorn, a fantasy by Mary Vee ~ a review

Fire and Thorn

Fantasy, Middle Grade, Juvenile Literature

At the beginning of this novel, just like so many kids today, Gilbert is self-centered. He’s a bit arrogant too, as he’s a prince and heir to the throne. Then his father, the king, is killed by a dragon and his mother is captured and taken away. This forces Gilbert to quickly begin the maturing process. And I loved that about this book. He’s forced to make decisions beyond his ability as he begins the fight to save his kingdom from darkness. He tries, often makes mistakes and tries again.

Mystery and suspense are my jam, and there was no shortage of those.

The author sprinkles wry humor throughout. One bit that made me chuckle happens before Gilbert’s coronation when the heavy, royal robe is placed on his shoulders. Gilbert feels like a coat rack. When the Lord Chancellor asks him if he’s ready, Gilbert replies, “As much as possible, Lord Chancellor Matthias.”

I would recommend this novel for all middle grade, juvenile, and YA readers who have a sense of adventure and a questing spirit. If CHRONICLES OF NARNIA was their thing, this is a good read for them.

He Chose His Mother ~ over his wife

50 Something Woman

I’m no expert on marriage, but I’ve been on this planet several decades and have observed a few things. So, Let’s talk about three couples (nice people) where the husband chose his mother over his wife. Minor details will be slightly changed to protect the innocent…there’s really nobody guilty here. They are couples who went into marriage seeing hearts and roses and made terrible mistakes.

Couple number one: He was raised by his mother in a rural American community after his abusive father abandoned the family. His mother sacrificed and insisted that he go to college, which he did, majoring in business. In his senior year he met and fell in love with a young nursing student who grew up in a middle class suburb of a medium-sized city. They were both ambitious and wanted success in their respective careers, they wanted children in a few years (and had one), they read the same novels and liked the same movies,  went crazy for the same types of food. What could go wrong? Those are similarities in life-style and that’s important, very important. But are these things core values? She was startled and dismayed when he insisted on using money she thought they were saving to go on a luxury cruise to move his less-than-affluent mother to an apartment in their town. He also wanted his mother to babysit their child. She thinks his mother has too much say in their immediate family’s life. The marriage now has serious cracks.

Couple number two: He was born in India and came to America as a teen and grew up seemingly very American. Now he’s a manager in a fast food chain. His parents and cousins live in a close-by neighboring city. He calls them and sees them fairly often. She’s working in the Big Apple and is an energized, happy-go-lucky New Yo’Rican. She’s born and bread in New York City with a family heritage from Puerto Rico. She has some serious family baggage (don’t we all). When they met, she frequently said of him, “He’s amazing.” He commented that she knew how to do so many things. What they shared in common was a burning desire to make some money and build a successful life in New York City. She had no idea that when push came to shove, he’d revert to culturally eastern core values. He’s very close to his mother, and now that his parents are struggling financially, he’s been helping them out in a significant way. His wife is not pleased with the money leaking out of their bank account.

Couple number three: He’s a bit of a buttoned-down middle-management guy who came from a working class Puerto Rican family. His father died young and his mother worked hard to make sure the family of two stayed secure. His wife is a millennial with pink tipped hair and a certified professional in her field. Her family background is more middle-class. They share similar professional goals, want to own a house and be seen as successful. She was shocked when he insisted his mother move from another city (where she had no family) and come live with them. Although his mother is quiet and tries not to interfere, shortly after she moved in, the marriage began a downward spiral.

What I see here is making the mistake of thinking lifestyle choices (what TV shows they’re both fans of, what foods they like, if they’re both athletic) are core values. And yes, these are very important. But they might not be bedrock values. Core values are things that will take precedence. They will rise up and over-rule other likes and lifestyle choices.  Core values might be deeply held religious values. When it comes to raising children, this core value will be very important and could become a source of huge conflict. Core values rise and move to a prominent place when trouble comes. Is it a core value to care for an ailing parent? Then again, what do you want for your children? Is it really totally okay to place small children in daycare while both parents pursue careers? Or is resentment brewing over this choice? What about when he has a picture in his mind of a successful professional couple, then she announces she wants to be a stay-at-home-mom because she’s found profound value in motherhood? Then again, it could be that one partner in the marriage has a firm concept of family legacy and what their children can and will become, while the other partner has a much more lais·sez-faire attitude toward parenting?

Today we lose sight of the fact that marriage is a contract. That’s why they had a longish period of “courtship” in days gone by. It’s important to take the time to intentionally find out if this other person is really suitable to be your life-partner and the parent of your children. It’s important to discover who your in-laws are and how they live…and if you can live with that. Because that is what you are doing. You are entering into a life and living contract with another human being. That’s marriage.

 

The Benefit of Marriage ~ sustainable prosperity

wedding ringsStatistics tell us divorce is financial devastating for the wife and children. So, the solution must be: let’s just live together. Just live together. Just. Doesn’t that imply something lesser?

Well, just living together , most times, is even worse for the woman and the children when there’s a permanent breakup. So, many single mothers, without benefit of marriage, are on public assistance and food stamps.

Without benefit of marriage. That’s an old sentiment. We don’t think of marriage that way any more. Maybe we should. The benefits of marriage. How about looking at marriage as the beginning of a family legacy, the beginning of joy and lasting prosperity (something two people intentionally build together). It’s not robbing or cheating your spouse of your time, your energy, but most importantly not reneging on your shared dream(s).

Intentional, sustainable prosperity in marriage is so much more than money in a bank account or a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It’s building a dream together. It’s financial security, emotionally healthy relationships within the family, the family home as a safe place to be…all this over a lifetime. It’s getting to the end and looking back with satisfaction, with happiness, with wonderful memories.

That would be a whole knew way of visualizing marriage for so many today. If couples went into marriage that way, that would be revolutionary in a very good way. It would also mean picking your spouse wisely. The wrong somebody is not a good choice.

13-15 And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that’s what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don’t cheat on your spouse. ~ Malachi 2:13-15 The Message Bible (MSG)

Alaska Logs ~ my Mom’s Christmas cookies

Alaska Logs plate
Alaska Logs, Helen N. Navor’s recipe

My mom made these cookies every Christmas Eve while my dad whipped up homemade eggnog. We also decorated a freshly cut Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The entire family would go out a few days before to get the tree from a Christmas tree stand. The interesting thing was, my mom was diabetic and could not eat these cookies. She made them for us to eat. Such a nice thing to do.

I also make Alaska Logs every year. I bring them to parties, serve them to my guests and they are always, always the first to go…not an exaggeration. So, I don’t want the recipe to vanish. I don’t know where my mom got the recipe, but they hail to the late 1950s or early 1960s

ALASKA LOGS

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C chopped pitted dates*
  • 1 C chopped walnuts*
  • 3 well beaten large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

1. Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

2. Stir in chopped pitted dates, chopped walnuts, well beaten eggs, oil.

3. Pour into a well-sprayed square pan spayed with canola oil pan spray. Gently spread mixture so that it slides into the corners. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

3. While it’s still hot cut into small bars. Quickly scoop out without breaking, squeeze into logs and roll in a more sugar. The bars resemble small logs, the sugar resembles snow on the logs. Cool before eating.

Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans

 

**Instead of dates, I often substitute 2 packages of Walmart brand Dried Cranberries and Candied Pecans (A salad topper, usually found near produce. There are many similar brands.)

 

 

Alaska Logs container
Storing Alaska Logs. I make big batches because they go fast.