Mama’s Southern Homemade Biscuits

October 17, 2011

(Plain) Flour and (lite) milk.

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It took years before I was able to make biscuits like my mother. I didn’t say they were as good as her’s, but they look pretty much the same. Growing up in my household meant fresh homemade biscuits every day. Mom usually made them for dinner but sometimes breakfast was a stack of biscuits with cream and honey,  a favorite of my Dad’s.  He would get the fresh cream from a neighbor down the road that raised milk cows.

Youngins that grew up on southern biscuits know they are made by hands that love them. Maybe that is the secret ingredient that makes them so special. My mother always made it a treat for the grandkids. Each child got a small amount of dough to shape into whatever creature they wanted. Most turned out to look like snakes. Little faces sat patiently while the biscuits cooked and quickly identified their creation as they came out of the oven.

Like I said, it took years to finally make a biscuit  like my mother’s. I watched her carefully because she never measured anything. She just threw the ingredients together like clock work.  For what it is worth, here is her recipe as far as it can be interpreted:

2 cups of self rising flour
1/4 cup of Crisco
clabbered milk

For those who do not know what clabbered milk is, it is soured milk that has not been pasteurized. Remember that neighbor down the street with the cows? Dad bought milk from her as well as the cream.  Since it had not been pasteurized, it was safe to let sit at room temperature until it began to sour. The sour part would rise to the top, looking curdled and that was the clabbered milk. Using it in biscuits was common before households had refrigeration. It is a wonderful ingredient that gives the biscuit more flavor.

Mix the flour with the Crisco and then slowly mix in the clabbered milk until the dough is real sticky. Begin kneading by flouring your hands. Don’t add more flour, just dust your hands till the dough is well blended and flexible.  Kneading too much can make the dough tough.

Pinch off balls about the size of a small lemon. Place the biscuits on a dark, greased baking dish. Let stand for about 15 minutes or until the biscuits have risen a little. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove when the tops are brown. Let sit in a bread basket for 10 minutes before serving.

Find a good neighbor that raises milk cows and arrange to buy some milk and cream. That is the country way and the southern way, but if it’s not possible for you, substitute the clabbered milk with buttermilk. One thing you can try is the cream and honey. Just mix some together on your plate and dip your biscuit in for a real palate delight!

I will never forget rolling out biscuit dough as a child or watching my children do the same with my Mother. She is no longer here to make the biscuits with the grandchildren and great-grandchild,  but I will bet you there is not a one of them, that forgets making biscuits with their Nana, or the wonderful smell as they cooked and the excitement they felt when their biscuit was recgonized from all the rest.  Enjoy this good old fashioned recipe, and make some great family memories while you’re at it.

 


News Flash: American Troops Sent to Africa

October 14, 2011

Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance...

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How many wars is Obama going to get the United States involved in? Fair question don’t you think? He has complained since he got into office how he inherited the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq yet, we are now involved in Libya and Africa. Quietly informing the press on Friday, October 14, 2001, Obama stated that he has sent 100 troops to central Africa to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army. He further states that the troops will be deployed to South Sudan, the Congo, Democratic Republic and the Central African Republic. The troops will serve as advisers to help defeat the adversary known for killing and  enslaving children for the past 20 year. The goal is to remove the leader, Joseph Konly from power. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Ok, I am convinced he is a bad guy and the Lord’s Resistance Army needs to go. The problem with this deployment of American soldiers is it expands our policing of the world to areas that have no rule, no real government and no goals for democracy. You can find this kind of chaos all over the world. Are we to send our troops to far off places so we can kill the bad guys according to Obama? Where will this lead and how does this make Americans any safer? How is this move for our national security? A pattern is emerging and it is one of assassination of leaders that Obama has sentenced to death.

Something just doesn’t feel right. We are killing off world leaders that we don’t like and giving Mexican drug cartel guns to use on Americans. What is wrong with this picture?


Mormon Cult Controversy

October 10, 2011

The Book of Mormon. Another Testament of Jesus...

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While the news media is busy trying to get the Republican presidential candidates to comment whether they believe Mormonism is a Christian religion or not, it would help if the public and the media understood some facts.

The subject of Christianity and protecting those beliefs are really not a concern of most news establishments. That is evident in the coverage most Christian venues get from reporters. To think that all of a sudden reporters care about a particular Christian belief is really stretching their motives. They are looking for something that can be used against any Republican candidate today, tomorrow and certainly during the election against Obama.

Christian belief is based on one incredible fact; Jesus Christ is the Savor of the world, and all that believe in him will be saved. Mormons belief Jesus Christ is the Savor, the Son of God. Leave it at that and the answer to the question everyone keeps probing about is satisfied.

Many Christian denominations have differences of opinions on doctrine. Most of it is not earth shattering and really does not set them so far a part. Cults on the other hand, have certain aspects in common with each other that contradicts Christianity. They are; the focus on another person that started the religion as in the case of Joseph Smith founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon), and additional writings that are accepted as the word of God such as the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine of Covenants written by Joseph Smith or transcribed as claimed by the religion.  These factors are what Gov. Perry’s pastor was referring to when he called Mormonism a cult.

I hope that the Republican candidates can continue to stay away from the traps that the news media tries to set for them on this issue. Christians understand both sides, non-believers never will.

Credentials

The author is a past member of the Mormon church.

 


Is the Left Getting Too Radical?

October 3, 2011

Tea Party Protest, Washington D.C. September 1...

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Is the left getting too radical? The Tea Party is accused by the left of being far-right radical terrorists. It is a good way to shock people into believing words that have no basis of fact. Use extreme words to describe a group of people or a law or action that you disagree with,  and people will follow behind you without question.

Bev Perdue, governor of North Carolina, recently stated, “I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that,” Perdue said. “You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

Once the statement hit the news and the outrage was heard across the country, she quickly muffled her statements by saying she was only kidding. Of course she was only kidding, or is this kind of language a growing trend among liberal politicians and celebrities?

Maxine Waters, congresswoman from California, stated last week, “I’m not afraid of anybody,” the California congresswoman told constituents in footage that appeared on ABC affiliate KABC in Los Angeles, not backing down from comments made about President Obama earlier in the week, This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned — the tea party can go straight to hell.”

Nice talk for a representative of congress that is supposed to represent ALL of the people. I guess Ms. Waters doesn’t understand the constitution and the part about freedom of speech.

Sheila Jackson Lee made it clear that she wants the right media and bloggers to “shut up and stop playing racial politics.” After giving this eye-opening statement she made it known that Obama’s Buy American plan should only include buying from African American. She also advocates that the jobs bill should serve African American contractors.

This is the same congresswoman that asked NASA if the Mars rover recorded footage of the American flag that our astronauts placed there. This question has to leave people wondering how this woman ever get elected. Maybe congress should study American history and the constitution before continuing in their positions.

Maybe the liberal stage is the one getting too radical. A movement seems to be taking place to silence anyone that disagrees with liberal thinking. More and more people are openly advocating violence against conservatives, Tea Party members and christians.

Rosanne Barr is just one of the many celebrities to voice her political opinion about the horrid capitalism of America. Never mind she has made her millions through capitalism, but her hatred for bankers is just overwhelming. She told a Russian TV host that she believes  rich capitalists should be placed in re-education camps and if they do not conform, the guillotine should be implemented. She also believes that anyone making over 100 million should have to give the rest of their wealth to the government. I guess she makes under that amount.

Is this America? That wonderful land where hard work was rewarded and you could speak out without fear of imprisonment? What is happening to this country? A huge shift is coming about. Socialism, progressiveness and communism is growing and with it comes hatred for economic classes and religion. A person does not have to look far in the past to see what this type of mind-set breeds. It is a sheer hatred for others which breeds violence, which breeds destruction.

There is an irony to much of this. It is hypocrisy. The rich are in the streets protesting capitalism like Michael Moore and Susan Sarandan. Funny, they enjoy the riches of capitalism yet they don’t anyone else to have it.

As the presidential election draws closer, I am sure we will hear more outlandish speech and threats from the far left directed at conservatives and the Tea Party. Words are spoken from the heart. What dwells there is what made some of the worst,  notorious,  evil leaders in history. We should not take words so lightly because they are the prelude to action.

One of the best things we can do as Americans is to remove those from office that try to destroy our constitution and quench free speech. You will recognize them by the venom that comes from their mouths.  Send a message to the politicians at the voting booth and send a message to the celebrities by refusing to support their movies, books and products. If they hate capitalism and America so much, then don’t have to participate in it. They are called hypocrites for a reason.

References

http://projects.newsobserver.com/under_the_dome/perdue_suggests_suspending_congressional_elections_for_two_years_was_she_serious#ixzz1ZIdRpsgA

http://dailycaller.com/2011/08/21/maxine-waters-the-tea-party-can-go-straight-to-hell/#ixzz1ZIeoAXwe

 

 


Why Shovel-ready Projects Never Existed

September 27, 2011

South façade of the White House, the executive...

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The idea that shovel-ready jobs exist just waiting for funding from the president is a fantasy. Either the president did not understand the workings of government subsidies or he was making promises he could not keep.

 

Plans to fund hundreds of infrastructure projects across the country, producing new jobs to spark the economy, was a complete failure. It failed because the so-called infrastructure projects were not identified by the communities seeking the funds, cost estimates and engineering plans were not written, matching funding sources were not secured, administration accountabilities were not identified, and the proper public hearings were not in place. All of these steps are necessary for project planning that is written and approved by the municipalities, and then approved by the federal government or in some cases the state government, depending how the money is allocated.

 

Once a project is deemed viable and approval has been granted by the funding agency, a variety of compliance items must be completed and forwarded to the same agency. Up to this point, the time frame from identification to approval of the project takes approximately three months. That is the short end of preparation. After approval compliance documentation takes about another six months. So far, the shovel-ready project has taken up to nine months in just paper work. The nine months is a very modest time-frame. In some cases, it can take two years to reach this point. Much of it depends on how quickly the municipal officials, politicians, engineers, administrators, solicitors and architects, do their part of the work.

 

All federal government funded infrastructure projects over the amount of $2,000 are subject to the Davis-Bacon Act. This act requires that prevailing wages be paid to all workers involved on the construction sites. Prevailing wage is the same rate that the unions pay for any particular job description. It also means that benefits must be paid at the union rate. In some states, such as New Jersey, it can mean that a general laborer that works on a road project must receive; $25.30 per hour plus $11.92 in benefits per hour. The company awarded the job does not have to be part of a union. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that Davis-Bacon projects cost the American taxpayers 15 percent more than non-prevailing wage jobs resulting in one billion dollars a year. Unions argue that union workers are more skilled and do a better job.

 

The next time you hear shovel-ready jobs, keep in mind that the government bureaucracy makes the term an oxymoron.  An experienced person in government would have known better than to promise jobs to hundreds of workers that could not be delivered.

Remember that the president not only brings his experience to the White House, but people that make up his branch of government that will advice him and carry out policies. Not only did this president not know what he was talking about, neither did his staff of advisors. What else do they not know?

 

The author wrote government grant applications for infrastructure and economic development projects, administered the same, and monitored Davis-Bacon projects for more than 15 years.

 

Wage Determination On Line: Davis Bacon Wage Decision New Jersey

http://www.wdol.gov/dba.aspx#8

 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Davis Bacon Act

http://www.uschamber.com/issues/labor/davis-bacon-act


Lord–please send knee pads.

September 23, 2011

My mother-in-law was a true intercessor. It was not unusual to find her on her knees any time of the day. What she did not say on her knees, she said in her journals and in the margins of her bible. She had six children, all with different personalities, ages spreading out over 20 years. If the oldest wasn’t having problems you can bet there was at least one or two that were. Her goal as a mother was to see all of her children living a Christian life and that kept her on her knees. When my children were little their problems were smaller. I was very fortunate not to have any pressing health problems to deal with or disabilities. My two sons were healthy from the day they were born. As they grew, the challenges grew. The teen years brought conflict, temptation, and heavy metal music. The vigils of prayers began and I joined the ranks of many mothers before me, on their knees for their children. No longer was my prayer, “Oh Lord, keep my sons healthy and strong.” They became more direct, more precise. Thrown to the floor in a heaping mess of parental slobbering before the throne I would cry out. Ugh, the knees have become worn and calloused. Continuing to pray, every day, every night must certainly be a sign of belief or perseverance, you would think. For me, there is no where else to turn. If the power of prayer means nothing, then my life means nothing because it has been sewn into the fabric of my being.. Like most mothers I want life to run smoothly. Ok, maybe I will accept a jolt here or there but nothing too bad. I don’t want to deal with things that are too bad to handle and have to suffer like some people do. After all, I am a Christian and there should be some reward to that. My life should be covered enough in the Father’s love that it protects me from all the bad things I have prayed against. There are some that know that is not true. There are some that have suffered tremendous losses, over and over again. What do we say to that? Do we come up with some old response that leaves a person’s spirit on the floor like, “You do not have enough faith, or you have a sin that you must get rid of.” Bad things happen to Christians. It is the way things are. Evil strikes a family that is dedicated to the Lord, it scars a young man who just got baptized, and it destroys entire families in one sweep. It is not because they did something wrong. The Lord said that He can take the good out of any situation for those that love Him. (Romans 8:28) That is a hard thing to wait on when you are in so much pain. It is so hard to see when your tears cloud your vision. It is hard to have faith in when your prayers did not seem to act in your behalf. Yet, we continue to pray, we don’t give up because we know that God is still there and for some reason that maybe only He knows why, things happen, and we are left with just trusting Him. Our knees become callous, our hearts become heavy, but we still pray. It is our connection to the living God- it is our pipeline to life. Our joys, outweighed at times by tragedy can find us kneeling before the throne and pouring out our hearts. We can carry our burdens before us and leave them at His feet. The bible tells us to pray without ceasing and that the fervent prayer of a wise man avails much. (James 5:16) Prayer is powerful and though it may not always work out the way we want it to, or things happen that crush our spirit, the day comes when we see more clearly, and we hear His voice and feel His touch. We can no more give up prayer than the air we breathe. We are Christians and called by His name.

(C) 2013 Vickie VanAntwerp
 


The End of Desire

September 20, 2011

This story won an honorable mention in the 71st Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition.

The End of Desire

“Here let me help you with these,” the kind old gentleman said as he leaned down to pick up packages off the ground. Alona had dropped all of her Christmas gifts trying to fish for her car keys in her coat pocket. She looked down at the man and said, “ Thank you, I really appreciate it.” She knelt down to help him. When he stood up and she saw his face she gasped. He looked so much like her grandfather. She starred at him in awe. He smiled and asked, “Are you alright?” “I’m so sorry, I know I was starring but you look so much like my grandfather,” He just smiled and did not respond. “Can I help you to your car?” “Thank you, its right over there,” pointing to her blue Honda. He walked over to her car and waited for her to open the trunk. She still had more shopping to do and felt, for some reason, that she had to explain to him where she was going from there. “I have to go to the toy store down the street to pick up a race car set for my nephew,” “Well, how about that, I was just headed there myself, do you mind if I join you?” Alona felt something strange about this man. He seemed warm and caring. She could see it in his eyes. She did not fear walking with him though her thoughts told her to be careful. He was, after all, a total stranger. He reached his hand out and said, “I’m sorry, I did not introduce myself, my name is Abraham Jennings.” She stretched out her hand and shook it, he had a strong handshake, she thought. “My name is Alona Powell.” They began to walk along the sidewalk. It was wet from the earlier rain. The dampness and the night air made it seem very cold. Alona crossed her arms to try and keep warm. They entered the toy store to the sound of Christmas carols. She always loved hearing the carols but sometimes it made her sad. She was reminded of how lonely she was and how this time of the season seemed to make it worst. Both of her parents died when she was young. She and her brother were pretty much raised by her grandparents. When her grandparents died, just six months apart, her brother Frank and her were left on their own. He was nineteen and she was seventeen in her last year of high school. They lived in their grandparent’s house until Frank got married. By then, Alona was in college and moved to one of the dorms. Frank had two children now, a boy and a girl, five and six. Alona finished college and got an apartment not far from her work as an accountant. “Oh Mr. Jennings, look, I found the race car set.” she said with excitement. “I was afraid that I had waited too long to buy one,” she smiled as she held it up for Mr. Jennings to see. “Any young boy would love that gift,” Alona looked at him for a moment and asked, “Mr. Jennings, would you like to go have some hot chocolate?” “I would love to, maybe it will warm my old creaky bones,” he laughed. Alona paid for the gift and had them wrap it. She noticed that Mr. Jennings did not buy anything and she wondered if he really went to the toy store with her for himself or her. They settled into a booth at a little coffee shop. You could still smell the donuts that were baked that morning and it made Alona hungry for one. The waitress approached them and asked for their order. “I think I will have one of those jelly donuts and a cup of hot chocolate,” “That sounds like a good idea, I’ll have the same,” said Mr. Jennings. He looked at Alona as the waitress walked away and said, “Now, tell me what is troubling you.” Alona was taken back by his perception and felt a little violated. It was like he crawled into her mind and invaded her privacy. She began to feel annoyed with this gentleman and thought that maybe she had made a mistake in being too friendly to him. As if he could read her mind, he said, “I’m sorry, I have offended you, it’s none of my business to question you about your life.” She looked into his kind eyes and saw her grandfather once again. All of her feelings of resentment seemed to fade away. She thought, “Why not, I’ll probably never see this man again, I might as well tell him my whole boring story.” She began to tell Mr. Jennings all about her childhood, the loss of her parents, her grandparents. How lonely she felt. She was twenty-six and never had a serious relationship. She just wanted a family. Her long brown hair kept falling into her face and she would brush it away with her hand. Her eyes were dark and shaped like almonds that looked more radiant beneath her high arched brow. Alona could not see the sadness in her own eyes. She tried to cover her pain with a self-assuring attitude but her eyes reflected the sadness in her soul. “You know, Alona, I think life is going to change for you real soon.” “How do you mean?” “I think you are going to meet someone special that you can build a life with- a family.” “Sure, that’s what they all say.” she said cynically. “Don’t be such a skeptic, you were not met to be alone. There is someone for you, you’ll see.” They talked a while longer about life, happiness, childhood memories. It started getting late and the coffee shop was getting ready to close. Alona stood up and put her coat on and turned to Mr. Jennings and said, “It has really been a pleasure talking to you. I am so glad that we met.” “Some things are by chance, my dear, and some things are meant to be,” he said as he placed her hand in his and gently stroked it. They walked out into the cold night air and toward Alona’s car. “What will you be doing for Christmas Mr. Jennings?” “Oh, I have a busy time planned,” She smiled and sighed with relief that he would not be alone. They approached the car and Alona fished for the keys in her pocket and dropped the gift on the ground. She bent down to pick it up and heard, ” Please, let me help you with that.” She shot a look up with surprise because she knew that it was not Mr. Jennings’s voice. She stood up and faced a much younger man, tall and very handsome. He was smiling at her like he was excited to meet her. He knelt down and picked up the gift and handed it to her. She could not take her eyes off of him. She extended her hand and said, “Hi, my name is Alona.” He grabbed her hand and told her his name was Jake Taylor. Suddenly she remembered Mr. Jennings and turned her head to look for him. He was gone. “What could have happened to him,” she thought. She hoped he did not leave because she was ignoring him. “Are you looking for someone?” “Ah, yeah, she said, there was an older gentleman standing here a minute ago.” “I didn’t see anyone” “But there had to be,” she explained, ”I just had hot chocolate with him in that coffee shop over there.” Everything seemed so strange to her. She started to wonder if she was just dreaming. She opened the trunk of her car and placed the gift inside with the others. “No, she thought, everything is in the trunk just the way she placed it earlier with Mr. Jennings.” Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Jake’s voice. “Maybe your friend had to rush off some where, it’s the holidays and maybe he had a lot of things planned.” “No, I just meant him tonight, I just think it is strange the way he took off,” “Well, you know, some things are by chance and some things are just meant to be,” The words shot through her like a bolt of lightning. “This must be some kind of dream, she thought.” How could two strangers, say the same exact thing to her in the same night? How strange this whole event was. “I know this is awkward, but I would like to see you again. Is it possible to get your phone number?” “We can meet some where very public if you want.” ”I think that would be nice. Why don’t we meet at that Coffee Shop down the street tomorrow night.” “Seven o’clock?” “Seven is fine.” The teakettle was whistling and broke Alona’s concentration. She was curled up on the couch with her favorite afghan and reviewing the night’s events. She could not get out of her mind what Mr. Jennings and Jake said. “It was probably just a coincidence, she thought.” As she poured her tea she smiled and felt her spirit leap with anticipation. She had not felt that kind of excitement over a date in a long time. It was not that she did not have many dates, she did. It just seemed that no one lit a spark, no one touched her within. Alona sat down at the same booth her and Mr. Jennings shared. The waitress appeared with her order book ready and asked her what she wanted. “I am waiting for someone so can you give me a few minutes.” “No problem, just let me know when you are ready.” It was another cold December night. The streets were busy with holiday shoppers. All of the stores were brightly decorated. The town was small but offered a nice variety of specialty shops. The streets were lined with brick sidewalks and vintage streetlights. It seemed the perfect place for holiday shopping where you could stroll by the storefronts without feeling rushed. Alona looked down at her watch. It read 7:10. She thought, “Oh no, don’t tell me he’s not going to show.” Her thoughts were interrupted by a familiar voice. “Am I late?” Alona looked up and smiled and oh, there goes that feeling again. They talked for hours. The conversation went in so many directions from favorite restaurants to cars, occupations, politics, religion, and family – as if they were old friends reuniting after a long separation. Finally the shop closed and they were forced out into the cold. Jake walked her to her car. He did not ask her to go anywhere else with him but she seemed to understand why. “Can I call you?” “I would really like that.” She gave him her number and got into her car. She looked up at him as their eyes met. He leaned down his face close to hers and said, “Drive safely, I’ll talk to you later.” The drive home was filled with thoughts of Jake. She felt like she had really gotten to know him in a few short hours. It turned out that they had a lot in common. They like many of the same foods, books, and movies. He liked the theater, skiing, dancing and fishing. Though she could do without the fishing, the rest were all things she loved to do. Two days passed and it was Christmas Eve. No phone call from Jake. Alona always went to her brother’s house on Christmas Eve and spent the night. This way she could celebrate with family and see the kids open their gifts. She hesitated leaving her apartment in hope that Jake would call. She made sure her answering machine was on, if he called, she would know. When she got to Frank’s there were several cars lined up on the street. She recognized one of them. It was Uncle Lou and Aunt Marie. Lou was her father’s brother. He owned his own printing company and always wanted Frank and Alona to work in his business. He wanted to make sure they were taken care of but they both had other interests. When Alona walked into the house the family boxer immediately greeted her. With his front paws firmly plastered around her waist he stretched to plant a kiss on her face. Alona put her hand on his head and pushed him down. “Good Major, good boy, now stay down.” “Alona, come on in,” Frank shouted from the living room. The crowd was just getting ready to sing Christmas carols. Frank’s wife, Sharon was an excellent piano player and every year she set the background for caroling. It was after midnight before everyone left. Alona was busy in the kitchen cleaning up while Frank and Sharon saw the last guest off. “I’ll finish the rest of that in the morning,” Sharon said as she appeared in the doorway. “It’s not a problem Sharon, let me do this for you.” “Grab a cup of coffee and come sit in the living room with me so we can talk.” Alona dried her hands and poured a cup of coffee. She carried it into the living room and sat down on the couch across from Sharon. “So, what have you been doing lately,” Sharon asked? “The same old stuff, working, exercising, working.” “And who have you been dating lately?” Alona did not take Sharon’s question as an intrusion. She was like a sister to her and they shared a lot about their lives with each other. “Well, I met a man named Jake that I think I could really like but he hasn’t called me since our fist date.” “When was your fist date?” “A couple of days ago.” “Oh, that doesn’t mean anything. Two, three days is nothing. It’s Christmas. He’s probably busy doing something or other.” “Could be. I just- .” Alona smiled and looked down at her coffee cup. “You have a glow, Alona! This one is for real, isn’t it?” “W e l l, I don’t really know him all that well but he sure has something that I think I could get serious about.” “I am so glad. You have dated so many guys that just didn’t do it for you. You sure this one doesn’t fit the same profile as the rest?” “Oh no, this one is different.” Christmas morning came quickly with the children screaming and ripping open presents. Alona looked at the clock. It was only 6:00 A.M. She got about three hours of sleep. Though she didn’t mind. She had a great night with family and friends and the joy of seeing the children so excited brought back some very happy memories. Christmas was one of the things she remembered about her parents. She still had some old pictures of their holidays together and she would try to remember the very moment when the camera clicked. Sometimes she would rehearse in her mind the entire day. Of course, much of it was probably improvised, but whatever she felt she remembered, was always warm and peaceful. Alona arrived home around 9:00 P.M. that evening. She had not called her answering machine to retrieve her messages. She decided that she would rather be pleasantly surprised if Jake called. She looked over at the machine as she walked into the kitchen. It was blinking. She had messages. Her finger touched play. “Alona, this is Joyce, hope everything is fine. Just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and see if you are still going out with us on New Year’s Eve. Talk to you later.” “Hey, it’s John. Listen, would you be interested in buying a brand new printer? My boss over ordered and I can get one for you real cheap. Let me know.” John always had a deal going. “Alona, this is Jake. Hope you are having a great Christmas. I just got some tickets to a New Year’s party at my grandfather’s country club and was wondering if you would like to go. It’s in New Egypt, a real nice place. I think they are having a DJ from a local station. You can call me. My number is 984-0937.” “So-he called. Yesss. Forget Joyce, this girl is going out with J a k e !” Alona did not call Jake that night. She did not want to appear over anxious. The next day was a Sunday so she assumed he would be home. She would call him then. Her fingers trembled and her heart raced as she dialed the number. She felt like a schoolgirl calling her first boy The phone rang several times before he answered..She told him she would love to go with him to the party. She wasn’t sure if she should try to continue the conversation but it did not matter because Jake led the way. Just like at the coffee shop they talked for hours. It was as if they could not get enough of each other’s conversation. New Year’s Eve could not come quick enough. Alona even shopped for a new dress. She wanted it to be sexy, but not too much. Sultry, yet modest. The dress she bought outlined the curve of her body with a slight slit up the side. It was not too tight and not too revealing, just a tiny bit of cleavage, just perfect. Just in case he didn’t notice, it was red. When Jake arrived she took a quick look through the security-hole in the door. She gasped over what she saw. He was breath-takingly handsome. “He just gets better each time I see him, she thought.” When they arrived at the country club a valet took their car. People were arriving in tuxedos and gowns. Alona was afraid that she was underdressed. She looked at Jake and smiled, it didn’t matter. The seating was pre-arranged and they searched for their table. Jake seemed to know many of the guests. He pulled a chair out for her and she sat down. She looked around at the crowd. “There must be hundreds of people here, she thought.” “Alona, I would like to meet my grandfather.” She stood up to shake his hand but quickly put her hand over her mouth instead. It was Mr. Jennings! “Alona, is something wrong?” Jake asked. ”I think I know. What a surprise to see you here, dear. I see that you have met my grandson.” Alona was numb, she could not speak. She sat down and looked at Jake. He was starring at her with confusion in his eyes. “What do you mean, she met your grandson? Do you two know each other?” Alona finally spoke, “We met in town and had hot coco together.” Alona stood up and extended her hand to Mr. Jennings. “Mr. Jennings, it is a pleasure to see you again.” “Is this the older gentleman you were talking about the night we met?” Jake questioned “Yes, funny isn’t it. Who would have guessed?” Alona looked at Mr. Jennings and smiled, almost knowing what he was thinking. He looked at her, smiled back and gave her wink.

© 2005 Vickie Van Antwerp


Bittersweet Memories

September 18, 2011

The following is an article that I wrote for the Compassionate Friends newsletter, We Need Not Walk Alone, Winter/Spring 2010-2011.   http://www.compassionatefriends.org/resources/we_need_not_walk_alone.aspx  

One of the most precious things to a parent that has lost a child is the memories. Without them, it would be as if their child never was. With them, it is so bittersweet that it can make a parent laugh and cry, rejoice and anguish, touch the sweetness to the lips and taste the salt from the tears.

Memories keep the heart from crushing under the weight of sorrow. They give a parent the chance to be with their child again. They can walk through their memories like they were a movie. When the memories are so vivid, you can almost feel them, touch them, hug them, and kiss them. It is so bittersweet when the reality comes and you realize it is just a memory, a thought, and you are reminded of what you have lost.

If you asked a parent if they would give up the memories so they did not have to feel the pain of knowing their child is gone, they would tell you no. As painful as it may be, not having the memories or feeling their presence, is just as unbearable as loosing them.

There is no happy place to go to but there is a place to be with your child. You know before you step into that realm that it will be painful but you also know that it will be joyful too.

So as we let the memories take us to a time that our child was safe with us, just rest a while until it is time to go and the next time try not to think of what is gone but what is still in your heart and will always be.


Big Bertha-The Crazed Chicken

September 14, 2011

Bertha came to us through the mail along with 24 other baby chicks in the fall of 2006. There was nothing special about her that made her stand out from the rest of the Rhode Island Reds. It turned out that 15 of the flock were roosters so off they went to a sanctuary farm where they could grow and fight, and fight some more. We kept one rooster, different from the rest, special in his own right as he was an Americunna. As the years passed and the hen flock began to whither down, Big Bertha began to take her place at the top of the pecking order. She had grown to a mighty size compared to the rest. In some people’s eyes she was perfect for the dinner table but it was too late, she had a name and that made her a pet. Four years and the remaining four hens began to lay sporadically. We have wondered if the lack of egg laying caused her to loose her mind.

The dreadful day came and like a lightening bolt, Big Bertha perched, spread her wings and suddenly pounced on Beulah (second in the pecking order). She dug her claws into Beulah’s back and clamped down on her large floppy cone and stretched her legs, pulling and ripping as hard as she could. Beulah squawked in pain and tried to run, but she was helpless, Big Bertha had her under her grasp and would not let go. Out of no where came a boot that caught Big Bertha in the side and flung her like a rag doll across the yard. The attack was over, Beulah stood helpless as most of her cone was gone and the blood spewed like a water fountain.

It took hours for the blood to finally stop but Beulah survived. As for Big Bertha-she was quarantined to another part of the coop until it was time to reintegrate her. If you separate the aggressor, she will fall in the pecking order. Big Bertha was re-introduced two weeks later and immediately she attacked another hen. Perhaps she didn’t understand the purpose of separation. She just needed a little extra time. Two more weeks later and she attacked again.

No one knows why Big Bertha went off the deep end. She had a pretty good chickhood, she was well liked by her peers and Rufus the rooster certainly favored her. Perhaps it was the egg laying stigma that she could not bear, perhaps it was that floppy cone of Beulah’s that reminded her of a wiggly worm. Whatever it was, there is no redemption, her isolation is permanent and her lonesome state has brought her disgrace. She will be allowed to live out her life in the “cooler”, unless of course she attacks me, then I will personally grab the stewpot and make it her new home.

(C) 2011 Vickie VanAntwerp


Be On the Lookout At the Grocery Store

September 14, 2011

Grocery Store Green Bell Peppers

Image via Wikipedia

Going to the grocery store can result in high anxiety and a loss of more money than you planned to spend. Be prepared with a list of things that you need and look only for those items. Do not travel down an aisle unless it has an item you are looking for. Check the sale prices of similar items. Consider the weight of an item such as sugar. If you haven’t noticed, sugar is packaged in four pound packages now instead of the usual five pounds.  Compare the price of the ten pound bag with two-four pound bags. It is probably cheaper to buy the ten pound bag. Don’t be fooled by sale gimmicks meant to entice over buying. You do not have to buy all ten items on the 10 for $10.00 sales. Buy what you need and leave the rest. You will still get the items for just one dollar.

Manufacturers have lowered quantity and increased prices so the consumer gets less for more costs. Be diligent and carry a calculator to figure the unit price. Dog food is an item that is packaged smaller than what most consumers are used to. Instead of the 20 pound bag, you get 17 pounds. Consider another brand in larger quantities from a feed store if you have large or multiple dogs.

The meat counter is a challenge. If you like to buy meat under glass you might have noticed that it looks different once you get it home. The red meats look less red, and the seafood looks smaller. The glass can distort the way food looks,  so ask the clerk to show you the meat above the case. The large shrimp may all of a sudden look like medium size.

One more item to be diligent about is the check-0ut. Watch  the screen as the items are scanned and be sure they are correct. Sale items have to be scanned into the system or the machine will charge the usual price.  Be sure your items have been scanned correctly, especially on the first day of sales. Check the weight and charge on produce, sometimes the clerk does not know a turnip from a rutabaga.  Use coupons and the store card for discounts that will help you get out the door with some money still in your pocket.