Monthly Archives: March 2013

PERSEVERANCE

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The word perseverance is defined as “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

pineconesOn my daily walks here in New Jersey, I often see pine cones, remnants from the hurricane winds and fallen trees, that have been shaken to the ground. They seem to be lying in a dormant state without much purpose. Yet in 18-24 long months, new growth from the seeds produced in these very tough and spindly exteriors will appear. I also see buds starting to peek out of the earth as spring slowly arrives. Flower bulbs that have been planted deep within the earth, and have persevered through harsh winter cold, winds and snow, are slowly making their way to the surface.  Soon they will burst into dazzling blooms, brilliantly coloring the earth. This is perseverance in all it’s glory.

You and I also persevere through many of life’s challenges. You persevere through childhood as you grow budsand develop into the person you were meant to be. Then there’s school where you learn and develop and test so that you may have a place in the world to work and share your talents. You persevere through the military – months, maybe years of deployment in harsh conditions away from your home and family in order for freedom to ring. Maybe you face serious injury and sickness where you have to fight to survive one day at a time. Then there’s difficult relationships and marriages that are slowly deteriorating and can go either way, along with the loneliness that ensues as you struggle to stay together or not. Women persevere through 9 months of body changes, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings and the birthing process in order to proudly hold their newborn child. Some people go down the road of alcoholism and drug addiction where they must choose one way or another to rise above it or not. There’s financial hardship, job loss, unemployment and job searches that make you feel like you don’t belong anywhere anymore, but, nonetheless, you continue on with the hope that you will find your way to a successful future.

On that first Good Friday Jesus persevered through betrayal and humiliation, grave pain, suffering and fear as he was mocked and beaten and nailed to a cross to die a slow, agonizing death. He persevered through two days in the tomb until that brilliant Easter morning when He fulfilled the prophecy of the risen Christ in all His splendor.

cross 2Perseverance is also defined as “a continuance in a state of grace leading finally to a state of glory.” Christ’s suffering ended; so will ours. Maybe all of this persevering is our cross – something we need to endure so we can learn to have faith and trust in God. If we do it right and use these common denominators of faith and trust through all of our hardships, we will attain that state of grace and join Him in that final state of glory.

Happy Easter.

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NO BAD DOGS…really?!

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Bubbles for Bella

Back in the day, world-renowned British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse wrote a book, “NO BAD DOGS.” She finished that sentence with…only inexperienced owners. Oh, Barbara, I beg to differ. I haven’t been without a dog since the age of 4, having had all shapes and sizes and breeds. And yet, I’ve discovered that even as experienced as I think I may be in the handling of dogs, they literally have a mind of their own and most of the time are going to do what they want when they want to.

Riley

Just rethinking the size of these heels, Mommy!

Take my dog Bella a Labrador retriever, for example, who doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Most of the time, she’s as calm, gentle, sweet and laid back as they come. But take her to the park and let another dog attempt to walk by…uh oh…she yanks me like a rag doll and tries as hard as she might to pounce on the dog. It’s just so annoying. I’m always making excuses for her behavior, especially to those unwitting people who insist that their dog and mine make friends. I find myself saying, “Oh, she actually loves other dogs, so I’m not sure why she’s jumping up and down and acting like an idiot,” or “oh, she’s just a little too excited right now,” or “she’s just a maniac.” It eventually evolves into, “I wouldn’t come too close; she’s just so predictable,” or “NO, SHE DOESN”T WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR DOG!” It’s exhausting. I wish it were different….I wish she would sweetly walk up to other dogs and play. And, honestly, that’s all she really wants to do; she just doesn’t know how to go about it in quite the right way. Where is Cesar Milan when you need him?On the other hand, Bella loves a bath, which is a good thing. All I have to do is say the word bath, and the next thing I know, she’s sitting in the tub. Even if I just say the word in passing, she races to the bathroom. She gives me a good laugh and kind of washes all the other stuff away.

And how about my daughter Megan’s and son-in-law Matt’s dog Riley. Riley has been somewhat of a problem child since puppyhood, especially with barking and annoying people who visit to the point of ad nauseam, and you just pray that they’ll put her in time out (the downstairs powder room) which happens quite often. For instance, Meg and Matt are recent newlyweds, and for her birthday this year Matt prepared her a bubble bath complete with candles, etc., (these are the kinds of things you get at the beginning of a marriage 🙂 ). As soon as Megan got home, she retreated to the tub, closing the door behind her. Riley was left outside the bathroom door and apparently was not too happy about it. She usually gets Meg’s undivided attention and a long walk. I guess she got mad because when Meg finished soaking she came out to find her favorite pair of shoes chewed up by you-know-who. Uncanny!

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MMM…MMM…Good!

But, then there’s Lulu, my daughter Katie and boyfriend Blake’s black Labrador retriever. To preface this in Lulu’s defense, she was a rescue dog, a puppy mill mother who at the time of her rescue weighed only 40 lbs. and was in very sad shape. She’s come a long way with a lot of tender loving care and has gone from 40 to 90 lbs. in a hurry. Lulu is sweet and gentle, but has a major food fetish…understandably. Let a bag rustle softly or a refrigerator door open, and she’s there. And when Katie and Blake go off to work, it’s SHOWTIME!

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Snack time

At first Lulu got into the garbage, although it had a lid. They are now very careful to put the garbage can in the pantry closet before they leave, but sometimes they forget and come home to a big surprise.Then it was the dog food, which used to be kept in a bag in the kitchen until it was ripped open and finished one day. They started storing the food in a plastic bin. No problem…Lulu dragged the entire bin (with a full 20 lbs. of dog food inside) to her bed and snacked all day until it was gone. The bin is now being stored in the pantry closet as well. Blake made himself a peanut butter sandwich one day and left the jar on the counter….another thing proactively being put away in the pantry closet. It’s getting crowded in there.

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Oh, Lulu…

The last straw came when the Great Houdini somehow opened the refrigerator door…PARTY TIME!!! It must have been so much fun to nose around and help herself to the feast in front of her all day long! Lulu was hiding that day when Katie returned from work…with good reason. Katie went upstairs to the kitchen to find the remains of the day. Items were dragged into the bedroom, onto her bed and around the house. The bed was covered in peanut butter and chocolate from a leftover birthday cake, a bag of cooked chicken was devoured, cheese was gone, etc. Food was strewn everywhere. Katie and Blake tried to retrace their steps to see if maybe they might have left the refrigerator door ajar…or not. No matter, Lulu had a five-star day! And she never got sick…just seemed very satisfied. When Katie dragged Lulu out of her hiding place, she took her to the refrigerator and gave her a scolding, pointing to the handle and saying No, No, No! Then she took her out for a walk. It’s hard to stay mad at Lulu when she cuddles up to you with those sad brown eyes. I’m happy to report she hasn’t gone into the refrigerator since. Must be that experienced dog owner stuff kicking in. But that was only last week. Or did they fit the refrigerator into the pantry closet as well?! Good dogs, bad dogs, we love them all. Eventually their shenanigans become funny stories to tell later on after you have finished crying…maybe…or not.

THE GUIDING LIGHT

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It was a foggy morning as I made my way up to the bay on my morning walk. On a clear day I can see Long Beach Island across the bay, along with the Barnegat Lighthouse at the inlet. But today the bay was shrouded by a heavy blanket of dew, making it impossible to see even 20 feet past the shore. Was the lighthouse there at all?  Where was the guiding light from it’s tower?

Some days are like that. You trudge through the haze, not really knowing if you are going in the right direction, since you can’t see past the confusing murkiness of your future. There is only silence and fog and questions without answers. You feel directionless, like a ship being tossed in the waves. On these days you wonder if your prayers are being heard, let alone answered, or if God is even listening at all.lighthouse3

But then, everything suddenly becomes transparent. You see the bright beam from the lighthouse tower piercing through the mist, and beckoning you to go one way or the other. Things fall into place and now you know which way to turn. You feel the guiding Hand of the Captain on your shoulder as He steers your ship into the harbor. One way or another, your prayers are answered. The fog lifts and gives way to the vision of where you’re supposed to go…to the place you’re supposed to be.

FOREMOTHERS (FOREFATHERS – PART 2)

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Yes, in case you’re wondering, foremothers is a word, and my foremothers were strong women and survivors of one of the most devastating periods of our history – the Depression.

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Eva, Coicia and Veronica

My grandmothers had beautiful names. Eva, my Dad’s mom, was a gentle soul with a big heart. She raised nine children in the worst of times, in poverty, with little of the comforts we enjoy. My Dad told me stories about their struggles that would make your heart bleed, along with the fact that my paternal grandfather was not the kindest of men. Still, my grandmother was not hardened by her circumstances. She was described as sweet and loving and protective of her children and friendly to her neighbors. In the midst of poverty, she managed to share her food with her hungry neighbors, providing an open house on Fridays for her delicious plotsky, which are Polish potato pancakes. Potatoes were the mainstay during that time. I don’t know too much about my Grandmom, such as when she came to America or how. But what I heard of her later in my life was only the fondness shared by her family, friends and neighbors. She died at the age of 56 from a heart attack. I was only 2 years old at the time, so, unfortunately, I don’t have any recollection of her and only know of her from the stories that were relayed to me later.

Veronica, my Mom’s mom, is also a vague sketch in my memory, having passed of an aortic aneurism at the age of 62. I was eight years old at the time. She was a woman with a deep faith and unwavering values that she passed along to her eight children. I do have memories of visiting her at her home, sitting down at the old-fashioned, ceramic/wood kitchen table – just me and her. I can still see her looking down at me with her kind smile. I loved this time together, talking with her and answering the many questions she asked. I only later realized as an adult how precious that time was since there were always so many other people milling about the house.  She always gave me her undivided attention and seemed very interested in what I had to say.  Even though the conversations escape me – her attentiveness remains etched in my heart.  She always had Swiss Miss cake rolls when I came over, my favorite.  I would pick off and eat the chocolate, unroll the cake, lick out the cream, roll it back up and eat the cake. (Yes, I was a weird little kid! 🙂 ) Sometimes she made her scrumptious lemon meringue pie with fluffy white meringue layered higher than the pie itself – YUM! She was happiest when she was feeding us, and was all about the food and the comfort it brought. I continue her legacy, since feeding my family and friends remains one of the greatest joys of my life.

My parents' wedding day - November 21, 1948.

My parents’ wedding day – November 21, 1948.

It was a hot summer’s night on June 6 when we got the call that she had passed. I had just finished watching a television show called McHale’s Navy. I recall being so incredibly sad, crying uncontrollably. My Mom’s disconcerting grief continued for a very long time thereafter, and it was upsetting for me to watch her heart-wrenching sadness. As it turned out, I would grieve my Mom’s passing in the same way.

My family members are not noted anywhere in the history books for having done lofty things in their lives.  But to me they are heroes. They were honest, kind and true, and they lived their lives in excellence with a strong faith, doing the best they could with what they had. I am very proud to be the third generation of such strong, loving, family-oriented survivors. And I realize that even though circumstances in life do get tough from time to time, I am ever reminded by these old pictures and memories of my forefathers and foremothers that I, too, can survive when the going gets tough. I am glad and grateful for these stirring memories brought about by a bag of old vintage pictures that unknowingly revived my fledging spirit with hope.

Forefathers and Foremothers

Forefathers and Foremothers

Potato Plotsky

2 cups coarsely grated peeled potatoes

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon grated onions

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Drop spoonfuls of the potato mixture in the skillet, then spread into 3-inch cakes about 1/4 inch thick.  Fry until browned on the bottom, turn and cook the second side until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes each side.  Drain briefly on paper towels.  Service with sour cream or applesauce.