Return from Hiatus….Thank you all and bless you

I have a lot of catching up to do and will do so.  But before I even begin to start responding to comments, I want to thank all you out there in the Blogosfamily for your kind words, encouraging words, prayerful words, hopeful words.

I thank you and my mother thanks you.  it encouraged us both that so many people showed infinite kindness to me and to her – a stranger to you all but not a stranger in your hearts.

God bless you all.

Easter Memories and blessings

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Easter was a special day for us. Bright and early, we would all get up and go to Sunrise Service – there to hear the joyous news that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead gave to us the gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life – that light overcame darkness and sadness changed to joy.

Then we would go to regular services to hear the good news again. Afterwards, we would have a big Sunday dinner and usually, we had company – aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. After feasting and still in our spiffy Easter clothing, we would pile into a couple of cars and go for a walk at the Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens attached to Duke University. In the spring, the gardens are incredible in their beauty. The Gardens were about three blocks from our home and often, as a child, I confused it with being “our” gardens because I often ran there to walk among the beautiful flowers, to dream beside huge koi ponds, to slowly walk through the Japanese garden and when it was time, to sniff at the hundreds of rose plants, and later in fall, to stroll among the fall flowers and colored foliage and then in winter, to silently walk among the sleeping garden – often under a blanket of pure snow.

After walking through the gardens with other visitors, we would go to the Royal Ice Cream company. It was take out only. Royal made rich ice cream daily with seasonal favorites. My favorite two were the lemon custard and the cherry blossom – the cherry blossom ice cream was a delicate vanilla ice cream filled with thousands of pieces of maraschino cherries. I have yet to find anything to top Royal ice cream. Maybe it was really that good or maybe it is memories of such happy times. whichever, doesn’t matter.

But I hope your Easter has been filled with many blessings and that you have been able to be and share your love with those you love. the photographs in the slide show are not mine. But please have a walk through a part of happy days in my past. I hope you replay the slideshow while enjoying a bowl of your favorite ice cream.

God Bless You All and Joy to you. Jesus has risen. Jesus has risen indeed!

The Smell of Home – A True Christmas Story

a slice of sweet potato pie

a slice of sweet potato pie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry.  This might be a little long for some of you, but I hope you will read.  I was born and raised in the South and except for occasional sojourns on Long Island, Philadelphia, London, Tokyo, and San Francisco, I have lived in the South.  I grew up in a neighborhood close to the Duke east campus.  People had lived there in the same homes for generations.  We knew each other, knew all the stories about each others’ ancestors, who had converted their sleeping porches and when and when finally (we were among the last) who sold their portion of the mews and sent their last horse to live with relatives in the country.

In 1968, the impossible happened – the Pollard family next to us, finally died out.  The house was sold to strangers – maybe even folks from up North!!!  Of course, if they were connected to Duke, it might be okay.  Imagine everyone’s surprise when an African-American family moved in.  Well, nobody moved from the neighborhood or did any nastiness; after all, that Greek family had moved in a couple of streets over and nothing bad had happened.  In fact, they organized block parties and gave away thousands of Christmas cookies!!!

The McGill family consisted of the father Richard, his wife Arlene and sons – Junior (my age) and Bob. Mr. Mc and my dad became instant and best friends.  The two sons kept to themselves and Mrs. Mc considered us all a bunch of jumped up low counts because after all, she was descended of long standing upper class Creole families in N’awlins, so there!

About three weeks before the McGill’s first Christmas in Trinity Park, the neighborhood was permeated with the most delicious, spicy, mouth watering odor.  It was slightly familiar, but better – richer and headier.  I took it upon myself to go through the hedge and knock on the McGill’s back (kitchen) door.  Mr. Mc himself answered and greeted me with a huge smile and welcome on in.  I looked in amazement – covering every surface in the kitchen and the dining room beyond, were sweet potato pies.  The kitchen was warm from the ovens (like us, he had two stoves – a gas and a wood burner).  My eyes were huge and I looked at him and without having to ask, he said, “Sweet potato pies. Every year, our church has a fund raiser to provide clothing, food, toys, rent, whatever for the needy in our parish.  I bake 100 pies for sale and I do that because I bake the best. I am the king of sweet potato pies.”

“Here’s one that is a little ugly and I was going to cut a slice and have with a cup of coffee. Want some?”  “Yes sir, I surely do.” and we proceeded to sit and eat and chat.  I discovered why my dad just loved him – funny, erudite, gentle, kind, generous….I fell in love with himself.  “That is THE best sweet potato pie I have ever had. How do you make it?”  His eyes twinkled at me and said, “Won’t tell you, it’s a secret.”  And from then until I left for college, sweet potato pie and coffee became a yearly tradition with us.  Sometimes we were joined by Junior who like his dad, was quite a cook.  Like his dad, big, gentle, kind, and funny.

Years later, I was living in Philadelphia.  One morning, I received a call from my mother.  My papa was in hospital and it was not going to be good.  I dropped everything and caught the first flight home.  All the way, I was  truly a wreck.  I jittered in my seat, bit my nails, thought about a future that did not include my father.  I wondered who would pick me up from the airport.  Papa always did.  I came to the baggage area and there was Mr. Mc waiting for me.  when I saw him, I began crying and he folded his big self around me and held me tight.  We grabbed my bag and went to the car.  In the car, as he was driving me home, he handed me his handkerchief and said, “Let me tell you how I make my sweet potato pie. But remember, it’s a secret and you can’t tell.”

My father died. I don’t remember much about the events of the days.  I choose not to.  Hidden in a blur of an unmended heartbreak, those memories will remain that way.

One thing I have learned in past years, is this:  Don’t fight with God. He always wins.  And when he tells you to do something, don’t argue, just do it and save yourself a lot of time, trouble, and stupid. More years later:  I was driving down a lonely stretch of Rt. 360 to go visit my mom.  It was a bleak, wet sleety day.  On the side of the road, a black van was pulled over with the hood up.  Two huge men were standing beside the van looking into the bowels of the vehicle and looked up hopefully as I drove past.  God says “Go back and help them.”  and of course, I argued.  it’s desolate, I don’t know them, they’re big, blahblahblahblah.  God says, “Go back and help them.”  and He said this several times.  About two miles down the road, I pulled over and just gave up.

“Alright already. I’ll do it.  But I’m just going to put my window down a bit and ask if they need help.”  God says, “Whatever. Go back.” I u-turned and headed back.  I pulled beside the van and inched my passenger window down.  The largest man leaned down and looked in the window.  Suddenly, he said, “Kanzen?”   I looked closer – “Junior?”.  Immediately I unlocked my car door and he climbed in.  “We need help. I’m on my way to Clarksville to preach a funeral and the van just stopped.  I can’t get a call through either.”  No good coverage in that area…”I go right past that funeral home. Y’all get in and I’ll have you there shortly.”

As we rode to Clarksville, the associate pastor crammed into my small back seat and Junior with the passenger seat back as far as it would go and our shoulders touching each other like old friends.  We talked about the past years to catch up.  Mr. Mc had died two years earlier. I told Junior how grieved I was to hear this.  “y’know Kanzen.  it’s hard and this time of year, it is just harder.  The house don’t smell right.  I know you understand.”  I nodded.  I did indeed understand.  “I’ve tried to fix those pies, but they aren’t right.  Mom lives with us now and she has talked about how she misses Dad. How she would love to smell one of his pies, just one more time.”

I sat in silence for a couple of miles.  I thought of my papa.  I thought of Mr. Mc and his grieving son beside me.  I smiled and though I had tears in my eyes, I turned to him.  “Junior, I know how to make your dad’s pie.  He told me when papa died.  I’ll tell you, but it’s a secret. You can’t tell anyone.”  and I began to tell him the secret of Mr. Mc’s sweet potato pie.

A couple of weeks later, I received a note in the mail.  “The house smells like home.  The home smells right.  God bless you.  Merry Christmas.”

And no, I’m not going to tell you.  It’s a secret.  Merry Christmas and God bless you. May your home be filled with love and joy and making of memories for your heart.

Surprising Survivors II – ME!!! – from Hurricane Cancer

Five years ago, I was in hospital 11/16, recovering from cancer surgery (Please see my post about The 11/16 Society).   It has been five years since that time. 

I count my recovery and survival to various things:  the first is the grace and kindness of my God and His healing power.  After that, I thank my Physician Assistant, my MD (he’s the oncologist the doctors around here send their wives to), the amazing nurses in the hospital unit, and the love and support of my family, friends, and the 11/16 Society. 

I know there are those of you who refuse to see a PA – my insurance pays for a real doctor so I want a real doctor!   My real doctor was too busy to give me my annual pelvic exam so her PA stepped in.  Because he is a diligent person who truly cares, he was hyper-vigilant with the PAP smears – one for normal, one higher up, and yet another higher up. 

 Because of this, ovarian cancer which would have been discovered until the deadly stage was discovered at Ground Zero.  He sent me to the #1 oncologist for such cancers.  My oncologist operated and was able to remove all parts (I think the term I used several times while still groggy was “gutted like a fish”).  He said no other parts were affected but he removed to be safe.  The tiny beginning was removed along with the yet unaffected sections.  He also did laser surgery and used that wonderful glue instead of stitches and staples – no infection, clean healing. 

I kept up my regular visits as ordered from both him and my PA.  I hope in future you will remember this when given a PA instead of a real doctor.  A dear friend of mine and newest member of the 11/16 Society, is in the process of being a PA.  He will be perfect – intelligent, diligent, kind, compassionate.  I can see his sweet face now as he tends to his patients. 

The week before I received my diagnosis, I had to teach a lesson to my Sunday School class about acceptance – of God doing things in His own way and His own time – bringing us out/through the exile of divorce, disease, depression, unemployment, grief, homelessness (Jeremiah 29:4-14).  If we seek Him, He will find us and when the time is right, He will bring us home (my version of this long scripture).  It also assures us God is aware of us and His plans for us – His plans, not ours.  When I received the diagnosis, I at first felt I had been sucker punched.  But then, I began to again go to the truth of this book and verses.  I became calm.  My husband and mother were basket cases. 

When the surgery was over, I was told I was fine and would be fine.  I smiled because I already knew – knew however it ended, I would be fine. 

My friends showered me with cards, flowers, balloons….the members of the 11/16 Society who were still alive or in the US, camped out when allowed and smiled and smiled – their gift to me was a small satin pillow to use when I needed to cough.  Just what I would have given one of them in similar circumstance.  On my birthday, they kindly ate strawberry shortcake for me and told me how good it was.  Everything tasted like pond scum to me for about a month afterwards. 

This year, I am going to eat my own strawberry shortcake and then send them an email to let them know how good it is and to thank them.  On 11/16, I am going out to dinner with my husband.  I am going to let my friends know and those I didn’t know thank you for your prayers and smiles and good wishes.

Those of you, who like me are survivors – remember how special we are and how we can help others get through their exiles.  Those of you who are just beginning – you have my prayers and smiles and are being carried in heart.  

We are the wildflowers blooming during after a storm in an unlikely season.  We survive storms, frost, wind, sadness.  We are amazing grace, walking.

 

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