Sixty Years…And Counting

…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  Joshua 24:15

On August 10, 1957, Jerri said “I do” to Jerry. That’s when Mom and Dad officially became a married couple. A few years earlier, mom called dad, a member of her Sunday School Class,  to see if he wanted to buy tickets to her band concert. Her exact words were, “Would you like to go to my band concert”? Dad, something of a playboy, assumed mom was asking him out, and said, “Sure. What time should I pick you up”? The rest, as they say, is history.
Sixty years is a lot of living, especially with another person in such close proximity. Mom and dad have completely different personalities. Opposites, really do attract. For instance, mom is more prone to read a book while dad likes to watch Reality TV. Mom prefers peace and quiet, and dad likes loud and boisterous, which pretty much describes him to a tee. Mom’s an introvert, dad, you guessed it, an extrovert. I guess opposites really do attract. In spite of their obvious differences, this unlikely pair has managed to stay together sixty years—and rather happily, I might add.
So, what’s the secret to their success? Sixty Years is known as the Diamond Anniversary. Here’s why…
The quality of a diamond is measured by the so-called 4Cs: Color, Clarity, Cut and Carats. Likewise, the quality of a long-term relationship is determined by the 5Cs of Commitment, Character, Communication, Comic-Relief, and Christ-Centered.
Commitment– The marriage vows weren’t just something they said during the wedding. They lived them. “For richer, or poorer”-when dad lost his job our family of five moved in with mom’s parents; a one-car garage that my grandpa had remodeled. Funny, I don’t remember the situation being difficult, though I’m sure it was—there were eight humans and one toilet. You do the math. But, what I do remember is how much fun I had staying with my grandparents, eating dinner with them, and playing “hangman” on the blackboard my grandpa had made for me and my brothers. Who needs video games!?
Character-It takes a lot of character to admit you’re wrong. Even more important, learn to “pick your battles”. It means being faithful and truthful. Honesty is important. Forgiveness, crucial.
Communication-And, not just verbally. It’s gently holding each other’s hand. It’s dad getting mom her first cup of coffee in the morning. It’s mom giving dad a kiss as he’s on his way out the door. And, dad returning her kiss when he arrives back home. And, when they argue, it looks more like an episode of “Burns and Allen”, an old comedy starring the real married couple of George Burns and Gracie Allen. The words are never mean, never cruel or hurtful. In fact, I’ve never heard my parents utter a single cuss word. Something I find absolutely astounding and charming. I really admire that.
Comic-Relief-In crowds, my dad’s the center of attention. A real hoot. He makes you laugh. More important, he makes my mom laugh. And, that’s a good thing. A very good thing. Mom’s been known to throw in some well-timed “zingers” of her own. Laughter is not only good for your health, it’s good for your marriage.
Christ-Centered-Last, but most important, mom and dad keep Christ at the center of their relationship.

I still can’t believe mom and dad have been married sixty years. This weekend our family will be celebrating their Diamond Anniversary. A diamond’s quality is determined by the 4Cs. And, the quality of mom and dad’s relationship can be summed up in 2Js—Jerry and Jerri.

Love ya’ Mom and Dad.

Advertisements

Happy Hoppin’ John Time!

Embed from Getty Images

Verse:  Save now, we beseech You, O Lord; send now prosperity, O Lord, we beseech You, and give to us success!  Psalms 118:25(Ampl. Bible)

It’s New Year’s Day, and in a short while, probably between college football games, I’ll begin preparing a meal that’s been a family tradition for years, Hoppin’ John.  According to my mom, Grandpa Zach began serving Hoppin’ John to his family on New Year’s Day.  He believed eating it would bring more luck, money and prosperity to them in the coming year.

This is a tradition I carry on to this day.  I decided to do some research on Hoppin’ John, and discovered its roots began in Southern states during the mid’ 1800’s.  One story behind the unusual name recalls how an old man named John hobbled through Charleston selling rice and peas.  But, most historians believe Hoppin’ John is actually derived  from the French term for dried peas, “pois pigeons.”

Here are the main components of Hoppin’ John.  Black-eyed peas are the star ingredient in this scrumptious concoction.  The peas symbolize pennies or coins,  and part of the ritual is placing a coin either in the pot, or under your bowl.  I prefer the “under the bowl” method, since there’s less risk of accidentally ingesting the coin.  I use a penny, and have too much respect for Lincoln, one of my favorite presidents, to put him through that particular ordeal.  Eating peas is believed to bring both prosperity and luck.  Rice, another component, represents good health, along with pork, thought to bring even more luck.  Here, I’m a divergent, preferring to use smoked turkey sausage in place of ham or bacon.  I think it tastes better.  Hopefully, this minor alteration won’t diminish the luck factor, and might positively benefit my health.  Along with black-eyed peas and rice, greens are served alongside the main dish.  Apparently, any type of greens work, as long as they are, well, green,  the color of currency, and represent wealth.  Mac and cheese, for instance, though served in many Southern restaurants as a vegetable side, won’t work, unless, of course, they’re green.  And, if they are green, better eat more rice for better health!

Like Sandra Lee, I opt for semi-homemade recipes, emphasis on the semi, not homemade.  I generally slice up some smoked turkey sausage, and sauté it in a pan with a little oil.  Then, I add some chopped onion, and sauté them together until the sausage begins to brown.  Next, I drain a can of black-eyed peas, usually flavored with jalapenos for extra spice, and add it to the pot.  I then add rice, and love using microwavable rice, for ease, choosing a wild-rice, brown blend, for more interest and flavor.  Next, stir, and the Hoppin’ John is done.  I like collards as my green accompaniment.  My mom always serves spinach, another flavorful choice.  There are some wonderful canned preseasoned collards available, like Margaret Holmes.  They’re absolutely delicious, and inexpensive, too.  Last, I use a boxed cornbread mix, Jiffy cornbread, that’s cheap, fifty cents a box, simple, with a slightly sweet flavor that perfectly complements the rest of the meal.  Of course, you could make everything from scratch, and some may derive pleasure from doing so.  Not me.  So, in an effort to at least begin the year on a positive and peaceful note, I choose the easy preparation method listed above.  The only thing left to do is sit down to a lovely, comforting meal, absolutely perfect for chasing the hangover/blues away.

I love eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, a tradition passed down from my grandfather.  As far as I can figure, I’ve had it every year for over fifty years.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom served pureed black-eyed peas to me as a baby.  And, even though my brother Rich is not a big fan of them, he manages to ingest at least one of these lucky, coin-like peas on New Year’s Day, figuring a little luck is better than none.  All this talk about Hoppin’ John is making me hungry.  I better get to cooking.  And, whether or not I’m more prosperous, I’m definitely more satisfied.

Pumpkin Pancakes and Ketchup

It started out quite innocently.  My son, Zach, and I headed toward Denny’s to taste one of the many pumpkin products that pops up, like Toaster Strudel(which, by the way, has its own pumpkin variety!) this time of year.  We’ve already sampled our way through pumpkin spice coffee, pumpkin pie spice coffee, pumpkin spice creamers to go in the pumpkin spice coffees, pumpkin spice cookies, one with white chocolate chips, the other with cream cheese chips, all while breathing the delicious aroma of a pumpkin pie spice candle aglow on the coffee table, smelling so delicious I could almost taste it.

So, when Denny’s advertised Pumpkin Pancakes, we were in.  Even though pancakes are traditionally eaten for breakfast, I prefer to eat them later in the day, where the cumulative effect of copious carbs and sugar are less detrimental to my cranial functioning and capacity. Otherwise, if I eat pancakes early, the rest of the day I resemble a post-apocalyptic zombie, which is fine if it’s Halloween.  Oh, I forgot, it was Halloween.  See what I mean by diminished cranial capacity?  Still, I had to pick my husband up at the airport later, so must keep my wits about me.  Late afternoon was the perfect time for me to try these seasonal pancakes.

I hadn’t been to Denny’s in a long time, so I was anxious to experience that special diner ambience, again.  This nice young man seated us at a booth.  There’s something about a booth–so cozy.  Made me wish I had one in my dining room, except I couldn’t figure out where to put the TV trays.  Without hesitation, I announced my order, “Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast, please”.  “Do you want bacon, or sausage, or both?”  “Both, of course.”  Zach’s original intent was to also order the Pumpkin Pancakes, but the minute he spied that huge, cheesy, platter of nachos pictured on the front page of the menu, it was love at first bite.

Zach still wanted a “taste” of the Pumpkin Pancakes, however.  So, after placing our order, he negotiated a deal.  He’s become quite the bargainer.  I’ve taught him well.  Here’s the deal, I give him one of my pancakes, and he’ll give me “a” nacho.  Whoever heard of eating one nacho?  But, believing the trade would work toward the greater good of our relationship, and the lesser girth of my waist, I reluctantly agreed.

While waiting for our food to arrive, we listened to some great music playing in the background, including “Ballroom Blitz”–I’m still humming that one today.  Soon, our food arrived. There were two pancakes.  I carefully placed the top pancake on the extra plate I’d requested in anticipation of Zach’s deal, and slathered it with a huge portion of cinnamon-laced butter, as if the pancakes weren’t rich enough.  I figured I could spare some even though this was not part of the “official” negotiations.  Besides, there was least a half cup of this glorious concoction resting atop the pancakes, like a creamy, yellow crown.

Dutifully allocating the pancakes, one for me and one for Zach, I went to work on the rest of my meal.  First, I salted and peppered my eggs which were cooked perfectly over-medium.  Then, smashed them with my fork, just the way Grandpa Fred used to do.  Next, on to doctoring the hash-browns.  A little bit of salt, then I reached for the ketchup, formerly dubbed “the slowest ketchup”.  No truer words were ever written, except for the Bible.  I swear I heard Carly Simon singing “Anticipation” in the background.

After shaking it, I opened the lid, and carefully squeezed the bottle, not wanting any of the ketchup to find its way onto my festive, one-of-a-kind Halloween sweater.  Nothing.  Thinking maybe this was a new bottle, I tried to unscrew the lid, and remove the safety-seal.  Forget the safety-seal, this cap wasn’t budging.  To the rescue came my Knight-In-Shining-Armor, the Great Negotiator, my son.  Zach carefully inspected the bottle, and began shaking it, as only a strong, young man can do, and disregarding the feeble attempts of a middle-aged, menopausal woman with a bum-thumb.

Zach turned the bottle upright, opened the lid, and, quicker than a Hawaiian volcano, ketchup spewed forth out of that tiny hole, smacking him right in the middle of his glasses, which he’d thankfully worn, instead of the usual contacts.

For a brief moment, we stared at each other, speechless over what had just happened.  Then, as I looked at my son’s pitiful eyes through ketchup-stained glasses, we both simultaneously burst out laughing, and kept on laughing the rest of the day.

Zach, since the ketchup just missed your armor, you’re still my go-to-knight.

And, the Pumpkin Pancakes, by the way–the bomb!

Doggone Funny

Kalaöljy kapseleita Fish oil capsules
Kalaöljy kapseleita Fish oil capsules (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joyce Meyer recently told a story about something that happened with her little dog.  In the morning, Joyce’s normal routine was to let her dog out to do its business, rewarding them with a treat afterwards.  However, on this particular day, when her doggie came back inside, instead of giving the dog a treat, Joyce popped the tasty morsel into her own mouth.  Which, reminds me of something that happened in our household recently.  I must preface this with a little background information about my husband, Steve.  First of all, I love my husband, warts and all.  Goodness knows I’ve got my share of warts.  But, some of his habits are, how can I put this, less than “tasteful”.  Early in our relationship, I invited my husband to lunch with my parents, whom he’d never met.  Already smitten, I was hoping he’d make a good impression.  We were having a delightful lunch, and right in the middle, Steve stabbed his fork into my last bite of meatloaf, “You don’t want that, do you?”  Stunned, “I guess not” was all the response I could manage.  My dad, known more for his quick wit than civility, said, “You picked a good one here”.  Even though my husband failed the school of social graces, I married him anyway.  Some battles are worth fighting–this wasn’t one of them.  Well, one of his habits came back to “bite him”, so to speak.

My son, Zach, a college student,  usually feeds Rosy, our dog, her dinner.  But, school has been requiring so much of his time, that I decided to give him a break and feed Rosy myself.  The problem was that I was also simultaneously fixing our dinner.  While preparing dinner, I normally set the spoon that I’m stirring the food with onto a paper plate.  Multitasking as always, I set about fixing Rosy’s meal, which consists of dog food crunchies, fish oil, arthritis pill, and no salt French green beans, which I mash up with a fork, and stir into the rest of her concoction in her dog bowl.  Without thinking, I set the fork down on the same paper plate that I had set the stirring spoon for our meal. I stepped away to fold a little laundry.  As usual, my husband made his way into the kitchen, and lickety split, pun intended, licked the contents off the fork.  “What are you cooking? It tastes sort of like fish, but not any fish I’ve ever eaten before.”   Right then,  I realized what had happened, and died laughing, totally at my husband’s expense.  I wanted to tell him what he’d actually eaten was from Rosy’s meal, but couldn’t stop laughing.  Finally, composing myself, I revealed the truth about what my husband had unknowingly just ingested.  Grunting, “That’s gross”, he made his out of the kitchen.  You know what, I think I’ve figured out how to break some of my husband’s bad habits.  He hasn’t licked a random fork in a long time.