Mock Pecan Pie and Making Do

It was covered dish night at Evening Prayer.  Because of the food allergies in our family, I try to prepare (okay, or purchase) food so my people can eat and be satisfied.  I was taking a crockpot of macaroni and cheese, so after I got that started I began thinking about what dessert to take.

Desserts are pretty important, because I don’t ever want my girl to feel slighted or left out.  And let’s face it, when you can’t have dessert, that can make you pretty sad.

I pulled out one of my Mama’s cookbooks–the last one she got,  I’m pretty sure.  I flipped through.  I thought about a cake and then about cookies.  I love to bake, but nothing was suiting me.  Then I flipped through and came to pies.

Pies.

I haven’t made one in quite a while.  I like to make pies, and if I wasn’t mistaken, I had two pie crusts in the freezer.

WIN.

Then one recipe caught my eye–“Mock Pecan Pie.”

Wow.  What?

Since the advent of food allergies, we haven’t had one of those.  IN YEARS.

I read through and was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients.  The story behind it was what reeled me in and sealed the deal though.

It usually is.

I found a story that told how during the Civil War folks were short on pecans.  Since their families loved pecans and pecan pie, the women did something that I grew up watching my Mama do.

They made do.

And improvised.

Beautiful.

I love stories of people who make incredible things happen even when maybe they don’t–at first glance–have all they need to have to bring it to fruition.  Those are the best stories.

As I began to mix the ingredients, I realized I didn’t have white Karo syrup.  Actually, in all honesty, maybe I shouldn’t say I didn’t have it–the truth would be that I couldn’t find it in my pantry.

Rather than give up the plan, inspired by the ingenuity of my foremothers and my own Mama, I looked up alternatives and used the right proportions of water and sugar and voila!  We had a pie mixed up and in the oven.

I usually don’t do that–take something I’ve never made before to a public gathering.  The fact that I did is a testament to the spirit of the people I sit with on Sunday nights.  They are adventurous and gracious and loving.  And I hope truthful.

Because they said it was wonderful.

The best part was the look on my girl’s face when I put a slice on her plate.  Dessert?  Yes, please.

I will make the extra effort every single time, just for that look on her face.

Tonight I’m thankful for the women and men on this journey who might be slowed down by the situation or by what they don’t have, but who are rarely stopped.  And never for very long. They make do and create beautiful things despite their hardships or lack of the traditional set of “tools” in their kit bag.  Most of all I’m thankful for a recipe found at just the right time and for the smile that pie put on my girl’s face.

May we all have a “make do/can do” spirit that makes this world a better, happier place for all of us.

“Pecan” pie from oatmeal?  Who’d a thunk it?  And, as my dear friend pointed out, add a few banana slices–it can make a pretty wholesome breakfast too. (Bread, oatmeal, eggs, fruit…..right?) Delicious and versatile.  It doesn’t get better than that.

And because I love y’all, here’s the recipe for you to give a try.

Oatmeal Pie (Mock Pecan)

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. melted margarine (1 1/4 sticks) *I used butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 c. white Karo syrup
2/3 c. oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.

Doris Jackson, Gracewood Baptist, Memphis, TN, from “Simply Southern” for the The Vashti Center in Thomasville, Georgia

(I doubled this and made two because #whynot. This is a case of more is better. Also I saw a recipe on-line that suggested adding coconut.  Oh my stars.  That’s next on the agenda–because I found two more pie crusts!  Life is good.)

Love to all.

FullSizeRender-2

backstage

This weekend my sisterfriend has a story to share, as do so many of the beautiful, strong women I know.  For all of you who are taking the brave step of sharing your stories out loud for others to hear, have courage.  You are stronger than you know.  You lived it, now go and share it.  You may never know the lives you will change, but just know–you will. Go shine like the light you are.   Love to all.  

as you stand in the wings
watching the one sharing before you
all of your focus on the effort to breathe,
remember
why you are there

you have a story to tell
one from your heart
one that you wrote on the tear-stained paper
word by word
thought by thought
painting the picture
that was etched in your mind

there in the darkness
smile
you are about to reveal your soul
share your story
toss a cord out into the audience
know that it will be caught
as your words stir the hearts
of those listening
and you will draw them closer to you
with each pause, each spoken word
and in the end
you will step back into the wings
with a fuller heart
and a room full of friends
whose hearts will forever be changed
because of you

The One About Finding Just the Right Spot

Yesterday I was in our little laundry room switching a load from the washer to the dryer when something caught my eye through the window.

It was a bird.  Hopping a few “steps” at the time up the tree just a few feet away from the window.  I stopped to watch.  I saw the red crest on his head, and I knew he was a special one.

A woodpecker.

He would hop, and then stop and peck.  He’d tilt his head back, looking at the tree, and then up a few more steps.  He’d try it again, cock his little head, stare for a minute and then move on.  He did this over and over until he reached a spot about two feet from where I’d first seen him.  He tapped with his beak, leaned back, tapped again, and then he went at it full force.  Over and over and over, pecking at that one spot on the tree.

You know, doing what woodpeckers do best.

After I called the littles in to watch, and we all moved on to our own “what comes next,” I started thinking about the tenacity of that little bird.

He kept on moving, he didn’t waste time and energy and his talent and gift on the parts of the tree that weren’t just right.  He kept on until he found that sweet spot.  The spot where he could shine and his efforts could be the most effective.

You go, little bird.

There’s a lesson in that, right?  One I needed this week.  But then I am quite sure it was no coincidence that the little bird and I happened to meet at that tree outside that window at that exact moment.  Sometimes the Creator gets mighty creative in trying to get a message across to me.  (I can be a little hard-headed, but that’s a story for another time.)

Tonight I’m thankful for the reminder to keep on moving, to find the right place to share what gifts I’ve been given–the right thing to pour myself into.

Imagine how tired that little bird would have been if he hadn’t waited to hit just the right spot.  What if he had stopped a foot lower?  Or below that?  All that effort.  To no avail.  Only to end up exhausted.

May we all have the drive to keep on pushing until we find right where we are supposed to be, and may we have the heart to give it our all when we get there, so that we too can make our mark on the world.

Keep on pecking folks, we make things better when we find where we belong and let our light shine there.

Love to all.

Overwhelmed

I have been a bit teary today.

Overwhelmed.

That’s what I’ve felt for a little bit now.

Teary because I’m overwhelmed.

Maybe not how you think though.

Overwhelmed by what people can do.  What their hearts and sweet souls lead them to do that touches the lives of those around them.  Sometimes people they know, and sometimes the lives of complete strangers.

Either way.  It is a sight to behold and amazing to experience.

I have wonderful friends who know that we homeschool and who thought of us when they came across book treasures.  My littles love books almost as much as I do, and they have been busy digging into the new additions to our library.  The idea that people who didn’t have to would take the time not just to see the books and think, “Oh Tara and her zany crew might enjoy these…..” but also make the time and effort to see that those books are put in our hands.

Humbled.  Thrilled.  Grateful.  Teary.

I know of a woman starting out her photography business.  Instead of asking folks on Facebook to help her get clients, she asked about high school seniors in our community who might not otherwise be able to have the excitement of having senior pictures made.  She wanted to get some experience and help someone out at the same time.  What a beautiful way of giving back!  I know how much it meant to my own senior almost two years ago to have that time blocked out where she was the center of attention.  It’s a huge deal and another one of those “traditions” that children from lower-income households might miss out on.  Can you imagine if all of our photographer friends made such an offer to one or two young teens in their community?  That message of “I care” and “you matter to me” is so important for a young person to hear.  I can only imagine the difference that could make in the life of a young person about to embark on a new journey in life.

Really good stuff.

There is a pet trainer who loves what she does–she truly loves animals and their people and gets joy out of making their lives smoother, helping them understand each other better.  She loves what she does so much that she offered her time to help a puppy that was uncomfortable in the bigger classroom setting.  She set aside time to work with the family and taught them things they can do to help the puppy work through what stresses her.  To love your job, your calling so much that you give of yourself, your knowledge, your heart, and your time so freely–that is someone who has a beautiful heart.

Overwhelmed by the kindness.  By the passion for a calling.

I found myself watching a show “Kim of Queens.”  Kim Gravel is a former Miss Georgia who is a pageant coach.  Her style of coaching fascinates me, and it’s a great study in psychology, which I enjoy in lieu of going back to school and taking classes and reading case studies.  It takes less time, and I don’t have to write research papers.  On a recent episode she auditioned for new clients.  A young girl came in whose mother had lost her job, and they had lost their home.  The girl sang for Kim, her Mom, and her sister, and they all fell in love with this girl’s spirit.  Kim offered to coach her for an upcoming pageant.  The show went through all that occurred to get Adia and the rest of the girls ready for the competition.  Though Adia didn’t place, she triumphed.  She did well and overcame her fears, and Kim went to her and her mother at the end of the episode and offered Adia a full scholarship  for her coaching.  To paraphrase the former Miss Georgia, “I run this business to make money.  I like money.  But I don’t love money.  I love changing lives and building strong women.”

Weeping.  Overwhelmed.  By the giving spirit of someone whom folks are lining up to give their money to so she’ll coach their daughters.

Just yes.  This.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the good in the world, and this past week has been a particularly hard one.

Tonight my heart is lifted.  By the laughter and wisdom shared during an unexpected visit with three strong and beautiful women this afternoon, by the sound of joy and laughter in the voice of my oldest whom I miss when she’s away, and by the kindness of those around me who overwhelm me with their generosity, love, and encouragement.

May we all take time today to think of someone else, to let our passion for what we do, no matter what that is, shine through and brighten someone else’s life.

If we have something, may we share it.

If we have something to give, let us not wait another moment to pass it along.

If we see someone who needs a listening ear, a kind word, or just someone to sit and be quiet with, may we run, not walk, to be right there beside them.

If there is change needed, let us be first in line to get it started.

It only takes one moment of thinking outside the box and making it about someone else to change a life, to change our world.

Tonight I’m most thankful for the tears that flow freely and for being overwhelmed.  To the life changers out there, thank you.

 

Love to all.

The Teacher I Never Had

Yesterday, my friend Baddest Mother Ever asked the question, “Who was your favorite teacher and why?”

I started to respond, but then my mind ran around and around in circles.  Whom would I choose?  I mean, really–ONE?  I’m the girl who always made my Daddy laugh by giving him 2 or 3 cards on Father’s Day and birthdays because I could never choose just ONE.

I started thinking through them.  Those who were not in the running were painfully obvious.  Moving on…..

My favorite?  Favorites?  My very first teacher, Mrs. Partain?  The one who gave me a “B” in conduct the second six weeks because I only quit talking when she asked me to–for a few minutes anyway.  The same one who laughed when I finally told her what Daddy had been saying all year–that he wasn’t old enough to have a daughter in the first grade?  Or Mrs. Crouch? She and Mama became such good friends that Mess Cat was the flower girl in her daughter’s wedding.  What about Mrs. Turner in third grade? The one who read aloud “Charlotte’s Web” in the dark during quiet time and knew I was crying with my head folded down on my desk.  She’s also the one who let me sit next to her chair on the playground as she taught me to crochet.  What a gift that was.   There were many other good ones in elementary and junior high.  I dearly loved Mrs. Scott who had gone to school with Aunt and my Uncle.  Such a sweet spirit.  Mrs. Watson was an awesome pre-algebra teacher.  Turned out she’d been teaching us Algebra 1 all along, so ninth grade was a breeze.  And speaking of math, there was Miss Bell.

*moment of silence here please*

She was just that good.  She taught my Daddy and his siblings and my siblings and cousins after me.  I had her for three years, and I loved her.  From the beginning perhaps it was only because of that link to the past.  But she was an awesome teacher who commanded the classroom in her quiet way.  You did your homework or you wiggled through the whole class because she KNEW.  I don’t know how, but she did.  One time a classmate who hadn’t done his assignment was asked what answer he got for an algebra problem.  He tossed something out there.  Standing next to his desk, she looked down at him and raised her glasses as she did and said her signature line, “Do wha-uut?”  Before she could say her next line, “Go to the board” (oh the fear that could put into you–working the problem in front of the whole class and HER), he looked up and said,  pointing at the board in the front of the room, “Well Miss Bell if you go up to the board, I can tell you what I did to get it.”  He was buying time and she knew it.  She called his full name–“I can walk faster than you can think.”  Ha.  That was classic.  She knew how to laugh when things were funny, and she cared that you learned it.  That was it.  She wanted to impart knowledge.  I loved her dearly.

But was she my favorite?  Close.  But no.  I don’t think so.

My favorite teacher is one I never had a class with.  I never sat and called her by the name that she went by then.  I knew her many years later, when I was grown, sitting a few pews over from her in church.  I recognized her name, and she asked me if I was his daughter.  I beamed.  “Yes ma’am.  Yes I am.”

She was my Daddy’s third grade teacher.  Miss Ann.

Daddy didn’t care much for school before that.  He didn’t apply himself.  He told me this.  My Daddy used to say to us children we couldn’t complain about anything, because at least we weren’t hoeing cotton.  I think he did a lot of that.  Shoes weren’t a given year round for him.  He came from hard-working, good people.  But school?  It just wasn’t for him.

Until that year.  Miss Ann saw something in him and brought it out.  She asked him to clean the chalkboard, dust the erasers.  She encouraged him.  He learned to love learning.  He became enraptured with words and knowledge and books and writing.  He once told me she changed his life.

And bless her, she changed so many after that, simply because she took time with one little boy whom she thought could do better.

He passed on his love of reading to his little sister with a trip to the used bookstore, who later took a little girl in the third grade to her very first used book sale.  That little sister loves books to this day, as does that little girl, whose library overfloweth.  (literally) He held us all to high standards in the field of learning.  There might be things we couldn’t do, but we could apply ourselves and try our best, and that’s what he expected of all of us.  From his oldest child to his youngest grandchild.  He knew an education was something that couldn’t be taken away from us by anyone.

When my old life fell apart, he sat me down and encouraged me to get my Master’s, “so you can take care of you and that baby.”  And he was right.  He made that possible because he believed in education.  And the power it has to make lives better.  He was a lifelong learner, constantly reading books that imparted knowledge–about all kinds of things from quantum physics to theology to children’s books that he held in highest regard.

All because of Miss Ann.

We, each one of us, have the power to change lives like that.  It’s a bit scary, isn’t it?  I don’t know if Miss Ann ever realized what she did, but I know.  And the best way I can thank her is by doing what my Daddy did–pass it on–this love of learning, this encouraging someone to be their very best.  Listening, sharing, letting curiosity grow.  And being present.  It all comes back to #bethefeather, it seems, doesn’t it?  Being kind, caring about another, taking care of those around us……doing unto others, as Mama was always preaching.

Do me a favor.  Please.  If you get the chance to encourage someone tomorrow or the next day or next month, will you take a moment and do so?  You don’t have to be in charge of a classroom to do it.  In honor of a great teacher, Miss Ann, and all those teachers who step outside the box and change a child’s life and the lives of future generations all down the line, let’s make a difference by caring. And doing.

Thanks.  That is huge.  Love to all.

 

 

Don’t Count Us Out

Yesterday as the news feeds and Facebook posts proclaimed their great sadness over the death of Maya Angelou, I too was sad.  I am sad when anyone in this world loses someone they love–a feeling I understand all too well–but I’ll admit that I was also saddened by something else.  I just couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was.

And then this morning David LaMotte, a man whom I had the privilege of meeting a few months ago, shared his thoughts and feelings in a post on his Facebook page. This singer/songwriter/author/man of peace touched on exactly what was breaking my heart.

“Shocked into stillness this morning, having just realized that in all of the craziness of the European tour, I did not realize that Vincent Harding died last week. One more giant has left us.  I didn’t know Vincent Harding well at all, but I got to meet him and talk a bit a couple of times at the Wild Goose Festival. This picture is from last year’s WGF. This legendary civil rights hero, theologian, historian and author, who wrote speeches for Martin Luther King, was completely available and interested in Mason [David’s son], asking him questions and engaging. That seems to have been pretty typical of him.

In the last year we’ve lost Nelson Mandela, Pete Seeger, Maya Angelou, Vincent Harding… and I’m sure many others. But please, please, my friends, don’t say “We’ll never see their like again.”

Each of these people, and many more unnamed, were people who made daily choices, who worked out their courage muscles one day at a time. They were not a different kind of person. They just made decisions. If we merely applaud, and wonder at how strong they were, then we are completely missing one of the central points that they were trying to make—that it is up to all of us to bring whatever gifts we have to the work of creating and supporting what is good for all of us, and standing in the way of what is oppressive and destructive. All of us. It is up to us whether we see their like again. It is up to us to choose whether we will be spectators or participants.

The famous Catholic activist Dorothy Day said “Don’t call us saints. We don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” Let’s honor these heroes by taking some small steps in the direction they pointed us. Though we remember them for their leaps, they all took small steps to begin with, and those steps mattered, and continued to take small steps throughout their lives. They had good days and bad days like all of us, but they kept choosing to live in the kind of hope that doesn’t simply comfort us with pleasant visions, but drives us to take action to actively move toward them.

Thank you, Vincent Harding, for being kind to me and my son, and for inspiring more than one generation. We’ll try to pay attention.” –David LaMotte 5/29/2014

Amen.  Please don’t count us out.  We too have the chance to do great things.  I wrote in a card to one of my favorite graduates in the class of 2014–it is in the making of kind and compassionate choices, one after another, each one, that great things begin.  I think that’s how each one of the people mentioned by David LaMotte made a difference in this world.  Kindness.  Not letting a bump in the road stop them. Continuing onward.
Don’t count us out.  And please don’t count out my children.  The ones I’m doing my best to raise to love folks and make a difference in this world–by being good stewards of all around them, just as my folks taught me.  Are we all going to fail at some point?  Yes.  But it’s in the getting up, wiping off our hands and bruised hearts that we shed light and goodness in the world.  It’s in the “keep on keeping on,” as my Daddy would say, despite the bumps and bruises and heartaches, that we change the world for the better.  And ourselves.
David LaMotte has already said it all, far better than I could have.  And I am thankful for that.  I think the greatest tribute to the lives of these good people so loved, whom have left this life, is for us all to live as they did, and “actively move forward” toward the “pleasant visions” of peace and love and caring for each other.
In other words, for us to do as they did.  And DO.
And finally a few more wise words from another good person, Hugh Hollowell, who commented on David LaMotte’s post: “We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the answer to our prayers.”
Oh my.  Yes.
Love to all.
**I looked to see if there is someone to attribute Hugh Hollowell’s words to–the closest I can find is from a poem by June Jordan here and a book by Alice Walker here. **

One Thing You Can Do

Today was an emotional journey for me, but that’s a story for another day.

Because this story begs to be told.  Yesterday.

While I was with my little guy at lunch, I got a phone call from Becca, co-founder of ABAN–the organization in Ghana that transforms litter and changes lives, whom I’m honored to call friend.  We talked about their journey and how far they have come and how excited they are with where they are heading.  Beautiful.  It was wonderful to hear her voice, and I strained to hear every word as I sat in a south Georgia buffet restaurant at the noon hour.

When I got home and took a moment to catch up on Facebook, I saw this video shared by Jamie, The Very Worst Missionary.

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/2rgt3x/-bringbackourgirls—rosemary-nyirumbe

In the response to the question, is the “#BringBackOurGirls” helpful, the nun being interviewed, Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, answered yes.  We need to shout it.  And often.

We need to care.  If we can do nothing else, we have to care.  And if you don’t, this nun wants to punch you–it’s the most peaceful thing she can come up with.  I love her.  She’s on my “I want to meet” list.  And it’s not as long a list as you might think.

As I pondered the story of the young girls forcefully taken–kidnapped–from their school in Nigeria last month, I thought about the young women of ABAN.  These young women, practically still girls, no longer live on the streets.  In the words from the ABAN website–they care for the whole person.

ABAN operates a 2-year holistic in-residence program in Ghana, Africa, that transitions young mothers out of poverty and off the streets of the capital, Accra. After a series of interviews, ABAN selects 20 apprentices aged 17-22 who show a strong desire to work hard to change their situation.

The coursework focuses not only on education and vocational skills but also on health and well-being. Our curriculum takes into account each woman’s innate sense of self. We believe that her identity, dignity, and ability are significantly molded by the health of her body, mind and spirit and her experience is guided by these principles.

In addition to taking care of the young women, the program also provides for their children.  And it takes care of the environment by upcycling 20,000 water sachets a month.

They are making beautiful things from trash and creating beautiful lives for those that had been left to the streets.

I know it won’t bring our girls back, but supporting ABAN and the work they are doing will protect these girls in Ghana, whose welfare is just as important.  It will provide them an education, a place to live, a future.  For them and their children.  It’s something.

There are several ways to support them.  You can shop for gifts or a treat for yourself.  It’s the season for wet towels and bathing suits and the like.  Their sachet lined bags are perfect for such as that.  I love the looks of their new products too, and I know the blessing bags will be perfect for keeping things organized in my tote bag.

Another way to change lives and the environment is to invest in these young women and their futures by making a one-time or monthly donation.  As of this afternoon, they still needed nine more sponsors of $150/month to be a part of the Annual Sponsorship program.  But even a $10 one-time donation makes a difference–it provides a Sister Scholar with National Health Insurance.  Check out more options here.

There are other ways to support them and be a part of the team making a difference in the education of young women in Africa.  Like them on Facebook.  Sign up for their newsletterHost an ABAN party for your family and friends.  Share their story. None of these cost anything. Tell folks about this program that was started by three college students in 2008 and has grown to include 25 employees, 20 apprentices, and 3 interns on 2 continents.  Amazing.

No, supporting this program won’t bring back those precious girls from Nigeria, torn from their families by the dark and evil in this world.  It won’t change things for them.  I believe, like Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, that we have to care, no matter how far away this might seem to us in this country, and that we have to make our voices heard.  #BringBackOurGirls is one way of doing that.

But supporting the life-changing good work of ABAN will change lives.  It will help them bring girls and young women out of the horror of life on the streets of Ghana.  It will protect them from the evil and darkness that threatens to engulf them.  It will be a turning point for their precious little ones–who may never have to remember or know what it is like to live life with uncertainty, without shelter, and filled with physical hunger and emotional needs.  And fear.

Because someone cared.  Because someone shopped for a gift that changed lives.  Because someone gave generously from their heart.  Because someone clicked like or forward or told their Mama, sister, uncle, best friend’s cousin’s groomer…..the more we share the story, the more impact it can make.  It’s another way of wrapping someone up in our love and offering refuge.  Another way to #bethefeather.

Hashtags are cool, and they can inspire change.

But today I’m throwing out the challenge for us all, me included.  Let’s go one step further.  Let’s do one thing today that can change the world.  One child, one young woman, one upcycled piece of litter at a time.  Let’s put our actions where our hashtags say we are.  The more women and children we share light with, the smaller the darkness in this world becomes.

Love to all.

                                                                 =============

This was an interesting read here regarding social media and its impact in this situation.

 A story I shared last year about ABAN, all they do, and how precious they are to me.  Beauty From Trash and Healing Hearts