Continuing in our Puzzlement*

*Just for fun: How many of the “banished” words of 2020 can you find in this post?

It’s been over a year since our nation took two weeks to try to level the curve regarding COVID. In all fairness, nobody I know believed the “two weeks” thing, but we were willing to see if we could “get ahead” of it. After all, those were uncertain times.

So, out of an abundance of caution, during these trying times, while adjusting to the new normal and starting to un-social distance ourselves from those we love, I’m offering a snapshot of my household, which consists of my husband, my mom, and myself. We have thankfully been spared of Rona and every other kind of malady which usually manifests itself over the course of a year. No colds, no flu, no nothing. Perhaps one of the positive things that has come out of this past year is that we now stay home when we’re sick. We have discovered that even though we think we are essential and perhaps even if some entity has pronounced us to be essential workers, we really are not. It’s good to stay home when you’re unwell.

As for supplies – I have a good supply of sanitizing wipes and cleaning supplies. We have a dozen rolls of paper towels on hand and a good 40 rolls of toilet paper. This number is not inflated by hoarding due to shortages. It’s a result of shopping at Costco.

We continue to ponder and puzzle over so much rhetoric and how easy it is to spread fear. We ponder how we could ever have thought of any days as certain days when all our days are in God’s hands and we know not what they will bring, but we trust in him. Uncertain times have always been and will continue to be, even though we thought of them as fairly certain. One never knows! Life is an adventure, after all, and we don’t control as much as we like to think we do.

Bob and I continue to do jigsaw puzzles as we consider it relaxing. When I last reported about our plethora of puzzles back in July, we had no idea how many we would do during the pandemic. The number was uncertain, but I don’t need to live with that kind of uncertainty. This morning I did some ciphering regarding the past 12 months of completed puzzles. Here’s my report:

40 – the number of puzzles we completed

7 – the number of 1000 piecers

1 – extremely unique and challenging Mystic Maze puzzle

8 – the number of Liberty puzzles (piece number doesn’t matter as much on these difficult, beautiful puzzles)

19,989 – number of pieces we put together

One of our favorites

We will continue to do puzzles until our eyesight and/or backs give out. It’s our new normal, and remember, we’re all in this together.

Our stack of puzzles which we received at Christmas. I think our family knows us pretty well!

A Lot Has Happened in Ten Years

This week I’m celebrating ten years of blogging! Ten years! That’s kind of a big deal for me. Of course, there are other things I have kept up for ten years.

  1. Marriage for 45.5 years
  2. Been in the same church for 27 years
  3. The same hairdresser for 25 years
  4. Same writers’ group for 18 years
  5. Dieting for the last 45 years, well, more or less.

In 2011, I never dreamed I’d still be blogging in 2021. I didn’t think much about what the next ten years would bring when my friend Debi (of The Romantic Vineyard) sat down with me on my back porch and helped me set up everything.  Thanks, Debi! And thanks to all of you who stop by. I’ve “met” some of the most interesting and kind people as I share life on the lighter side.

Ten years has brought a lot of change in my life. My husband and I have three more grandchildren added to the family. Plus, we have another daughter-in-law.

Five years ago we moved to our present home from our home of 32 years – the home where we raised our four children. We had anticipated my parents moving in with us and knew a new configuration would be helpful. Seeing to that and getting a home with a screened-in pool off the back of the house was the only way I could manage moving from all those memories. (We had lived in Florida for way too long without a pool.) Mom has been with us for over three years and has a part of the house that’s all hers. It’s such a blessing!

Here’s something that I would not have thought about ten years ago: Going through a pandemic and the attempted vaccination of every adult on the globe. Even one year ago I’d never have thought about that as we scrambled for toilet paper and jigsaw puzzles. Nevertheless, here we are. Thankfully, it is a decision each of us can make for ourselves.

I made my decision somewhat hesitantly. I thought I’d have a little more time to think about it and come to a conclusion based on all of the myriad of facts which Facebook and the media provide, but then, out of the blue, they lowered the age of eligibility. I was forced to talk to real doctors.

Hopefully I won’t have to keep wearing a mask for much longer!

Well, I had my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine last week, and I’m giving it one thumb up. I’d give it two, but my left thumb is killing me (too strong a word?). I read about all the possible side effects, and I cannot find anyone who has experienced thumb problems. They do mention possible joint pain or swollen lymph nodes, but no mention of swollen fingers, particularly left thumbs. Somebody has to be first. I’m sure our crazy, changing weather or my pruning of the rose bushes had no bearing on my problem whatsoever (she said as she pulled giant thorns from her thumb).

For now, I’m avoiding shuffling cards, thumb wars, and hitchhiking. I’m sure I’ll be fine. Maybe when I get the second shot it will clear up. I’m just glad I can drive myself to get it since hitchhiking is no longer an option.

Firsts and Lasts (and a movie review to boot)

This week Bob and I ventured back to the local AMC theater. This was our first movie in over a year, (thank you, COVID.) Frankly, I have not missed going to the movies, but Bob really has. That is why I conceded to go to a movie called Chaos Walking starring Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley. It also featured David Oyelowo, whom I loved in A United Kingdom. (You should watch that one.)

This was the best choice available for us; but as we watched it, I felt like we chose the runt of the litter. Yes, it was a movie and was pretty clean, but it was Sci-Fi, which would be okay in a lot of movies, but I lost track of the sci-fi-edness of it fairly early on.

What was it that I hated about this movie? As I’ve thought about it, my dislike of this film has grown since we saw it on Monday night. That night I thought it was just “meh.” I gave it a C-. By Tuesday I dropped that to a D+, and now I’m having to wonder why I was so generous in the first place.

To quote IMDb, this movie is “A dystopian world where there are no women and all living creatures can hear each other’s thoughts in a stream of images, words, and sounds called Noise.”

I should have read that before going, but I focused on Daisy, whom I liked in Star Wars, and Tom was a good Spiderman, so I was open to giving it a try. One positive note, I will never again struggle with what dystopian means.

I asked Bob later – what made us want to see a movie about an imagined world full of fear where you can hear the noise in each other’s heads? Don’t we get enough of that on the news and social media?

He did agree, but I know deep down in my heart that it was worth it to him to sit and eat popcorn with me in a darkened theater while safely distant from the other four people who plopped down eleven bucks for the same experience.

SPOILER ALERT: By the second act of the movie, surprise, women were found not too far away. They were running the show in their community because you couldn’t hear what the women were thinking. Selective communication was a big plus. The men’s thoughts were shouted from them in an annoying din. They separated the living areas by gender because the ladies couldn’t stand the noise. I get that – I felt the same way from my seat in the theater.

This was the only thing suitable to talk about after the movie. The “noise” had gotten on my last nerve. Sometimes I can barely stand the noise in my own head much less watch and hear the noise of every male in this movie. I surmised that maybe the women’s thoughts weren’t heard because as a gender we can have more of an emotional base. I don’t know; and whatever the reason if they even had one, they never told us. They didn’t even hint at it. Worse still, we didn’t care.

You’ve been warned.

That was my first for the week. I likely won’t return to the theater until the next James Bond movie debuts.

I also had a last this week, which ties to my age, and that age also means I get to sign up for Medicare this year. I thought it was a reason to celebrate, and I suggested that to my gyn after completing my yearly exam, but she had a full afternoon ahead of her. Aren’t we supposed to celebrate the little things? Yes, we are! Can you guess what was my cause for celebration and why I thought this was the fitting way to celebrate? (Hint, I don’t think it’s lady-like to mention this in mixed company or on a format that would make my sons roll their eyes and say, “really, Mom!”) Cheers!

Products - Pabst Blue Ribbon : Pabst Blue Ribbon

We Make Our Plans, But God Orders our Steps

What fueled my impromptu visit to my favorite birding place last Sunday?

It began on Saturday. It was a lovely day, and we had no plans. We decided to stay home and enjoy the quiet. By late-afternoon, I was restless. I wished we had gone outside on a bike ride or a drive or anything! But it was too late in the day to begin.

Sunday morning I checked my Facebook page and read that roseate spoonbills were spotted at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive (LAWD). These tall, pink/white birds with a spoon-shaped bill are typically found in marshes along the coasts, so that got my attention. Also at LAWD, thanks to some amazing and giving artists, there are painted rocks to be found. I have been trying to find one for years, so between the spoonbills and the thought of finding one of those illusive rocks, it could be a good day for a drive.

I thought about staying home. Bob left at noon to play golf. My mom didn’t feel like going on the drive with me. Did I really want to go alone? It was too late to find a friend and get there with enough time before it closed. These thoughts didn’t sway me, so I headed to Apopka.

The spoonbill-spotter reported that they were seen about a mile into the drive. I set my trip gauge.

I have done this drive many times, and I have never encountered such a long line of cars. Were they all searching for spoonbills? Unlikely.

I don’t mind driving slowly there. The speed limit is 10 mph. The slower you go, the more you see. But this was crazy. At the half-mile point, I entered a pull-out and parked. Excitement was building inside me – surely all this slow traffic was due to people photographing the spoonbills.

View from near the entrance

The one-way road is not really made for walkers, but there’s room. On each side of the elevated road is swamp land and marshes. This is a prime spot for water birds and marsh birds, and it goes on as far as the eye can see. It is also frequented by alligators, though not as much as farther down. With so many cars, I felt safe.

This big boy was enjoying the sunshine farther down the drive.

I walked a quarter mile and became convinced that these were new folks who were not accustomed to the idea of pull-outs to allow traffic to move along. At that point I was passing the slow-moving cars, so I turned around.

I felt like Forrest Gump when he had been running around the country. Do you remember? Suddenly he just stops and says he’s tired and thinks he’ll go home.

Me at Forrest Gump Point, Mexican Hat, Utah, 2019

I walked maybe a tenth of a mile when right in front of my eyes, a car moving towards me, in line with the traffic, caught my attention. The driver’s door opened, and a woman fell out and rolled on the dirt and gravel road. Her car was still moving! I barely had time to process this, but I ran the short distance and jumped into her moving car. It has been a while since I felt that kind of adrenaline rush.

There were elderly people inside and the woman in the front had attempted to grab the wheel and steer, but she would have been unable to get to the brake. I got the car in line, applied the brake, and put it in park. Someone asked me what I said to the people in the car and I really don’t remember. I wish I had said, “Hi, I’m Bonnie, your new driver.”

The poor woman who had fallen out was trying to get up and brush herself off. Thankfully, she was not hurt other than road rash and a few bruises including her ego. She was probably ten years my junior. We introduced ourselves. Debbie thanked me profusely and told me that I had saved her life. I assured her that I had not saved her life. I pointed to her car and said, “maybe theirs,” with a smile.

Before I left Debbie, we had a conversation. I was oblivious to the fact that we were holding up traffic, but I had to tell her that I believed that God had me at that place at that time. There were no other people walking along the road. I had gone to the drive with no prior planning. I had wanted to take my mom with me, but she wasn’t up to it. I never would have taken that walk if I weren’t by myself. Anything could have changed the timing, but the timing was perfect for me (or whoever God used) to be at that place at that exact time. I had to praise Him.

As I walked back to my vehicle, I experienced a parade of thumbs-up and accolades from the cars and trucks I passed. I have never been called a hero before and it felt weird.

I saw Debbie and her parents a few more times at pull-outs. It was her first time at LAWD, and she joked about having another birding mishap. She thought she had put the car in park before getting out to take a picture. The movement of the car had knocked her off her feet when she attempted to step out. I told her that she did a perfect tuck and roll.

I can’t tell you how humbled I was that God would place me in that place for Debbie’s benefit. He orders our steps. Sometimes we don’t realize it. Sometimes we do.

The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

The blessings God had in store for me were not over. I stopped at a pavilion to observe the alligators across the way, and there was a painted rock!

Taco Rock

Then I ventured down the drive and at one of my usual stops, I saw the most famous of the resident birds. Meet Crooked Neck. He is a great blue heron who apparently has recovered from a broken neck. He is often featured on the LAWD Facebook page and is somewhat of a celebrity. Yet, until Sunday I had never seen him. Thank you, Jesus!

Crooked Neck and the incoming paparazzi

On the last part of the drive out, I saw a raptor fly overhead and land in a tree. I pulled over and observed a beautiful bald eagle. I watched him for five minutes as he soared above me. Breathtaking!

There is a lot to behold out there! Things that make my heart sing and lift my spirits. Things that get me out of my own head and humble me. The God and Creator of all this cares for you and me. I’m thankful.

Seasons and Sneezins (or Issues with Tissues)

When Bob and I were first married back in 1975, our budget didn’t allow for frivolous items such as Kleenex or napkins. We bought toilet paper and paper towels, and they did double-duty, i.e. paper towels were used for napkins and toilet paper was used for Kleenex. Of course, never reused, especially after attending to the “duties” of life. (I thought I’d throw the word “duty” in there for my adult kids who still smile or chuckle when they hear the word. Confession: I do, too. Duty.)

Kleenex, like the word Xerox, is a brand name, which I was not aware of until I had to shop on my own and realized there was a generic version of tissues at a friendlier price. I have retrained myself to call them tissues out of respect to all the tissues who were miscalled Kleenex. That’s a lot to bear for a product. I’ve been called by my sisters’ names for my entire life, so I know how they feel.

Early on, I only bought tissues for “company.” Bob and I continued to unroll T.P. whenever our noses ran, but I would draw the line at getting a roll out for guests wearing short sleeves who happened to sneeze while they visited us. That, my friends, is what hospitality looks like.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

By the time we were raising our four children, I saw the wisdom of having real tissue boxes instead of the kids unrolling toilet paper every time they had colds. I was smart enough to dole them out as needed.

When I became a grandmother and the kids or grandkids got sick, I would send care packages consisting of Lysol, Gatorade and tissues, because I knew they would not own a box of tissues. They had to go through the toilet paper for Kleenex stage of their life like all of us do. By this season of my life I bought tissues from Costco, so I always had plenty.

Fast forward: Bob and I became empty nesters in 2015. We kept that title for about eight months before a parade of friends and family lived with us off and on culminating in my parents moving in back in 2017. Mom continues to live here.

We’ve been helping support our elderly parents for ten years, and we’ve learned a lot. One of the most important things is that you can never have enough tissues and it better be the good stuff. None of this sandpaper-rough one-ply garbage.

Mom told me she was running low on Kleenex (she doesn’t use the word tissues and that’s okay). I pulled the remaining three boxes from the linen closet and gave them to her. Before I handed them off, I said, “You can take the box from the kitchen if you want.”

She likes having a box there. That generation likes having a box everywhere. I’ve learned that this is part of their wisdom. They don’t move as quickly as we do, and a sneeze can surprise you. Nobody wants that.

Out of curiosity, I thought I’d take inventory of our boxes that are in use. Now I, too, have had my eyes opened to the wisdom of having tissues around. Not only for sneezes, but sad movies and books, bad news on the phone, watching the nightly news – all of these can have me reaching for a tissue.

Counting the boxes was one of those moments of self-assessment and contemplation. I have lived through so many different tissue seasons in my life. I’ve gone from zero boxes, to one or two, and now to ten open boxes of tissues. Ten!

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

What has happened to me, I asked myself. I must be either a hoarder or we’re a family of perpetually runny-nosed people. There is a box in each of our three bathrooms. (Since COVID, I don’t want people using our precious toilet paper for anything except its designated use.) Basically, any place where someone can sit or lie down in our house has a trusty box of tissues right there.

Is this the person I have become? A hoarder or one who lives in fear of runny noses or errant sneezes and panics over the thought of unpreparedness?

Or perhaps there is a third option. Maybe I’ve simply entered into a new tissue season – one that could involve having tissues up my sleeve at the ready for whatever the day may bring.

Nay. I refuse to go there. I will never be that woman. I may be what Southerners call a “seasoned” citizen and I am a magician’s daughter, but you will not find me pulling anything out of my sleeve no matter what the future may bring.

I don’t mind getting older, but thinking that I could be on the precipice of that time of my life where tissues have such elevated importance is enough to make me cry, but no worries, I have tissues right here beside me.

The Long Winter of 2019

Have you ever considered the uniqueness of the seasons? Do you have a favorite? Mine used to be fall with its lush array of colors – burnt orange, vibrant yellow, ruby red. It’s the crescendo before the leaves drop and winter enters.

The bleakness of winter has a unique beauty all its own and it doesn’t just include snow. There is a silent beauty reflected in the bare limbs of trees and gray skies, but for me, that beauty can drag on and lose its appeal.

I think we have an inherent desire for sunshine. I know I prefer brightness over darkness. While I love a beautiful night sky, I want to live in the bright sunny light of day.

Currently, my favorite season is spring. By the time the winter holidays are over and the Christmas decorations are packed away, I am ready for renewal both spiritually and in creation. I rejoice in the emergence of fresh green shoots from tulips or hyacinths even if I can only find them in the grocery store due to Central Florida’s subtropical climate. When they are in full bloom, well that’s something to stop and appreciate.

Spring comes early here, but our short, Florida winter does its best to hold on or sneak back on the heels of a cold front as it did a few days ago. I’ve been contemplating winter. It’s the only season that has a presence twice in one calendar year. It’s the bookends season. The winter of 2019 began on December 21, 2019, but the bulk of it fell in 2020.

In many ways, 2020 was a year full of dreariness. A winter of sorts was present even during spring, summer, and fall. There were threatening clouds hovering over us. I had to remind myself to look up. To look away from my circumstances and the circumstances of the world. To not just pray for needs but find something to rejoice about. There is more to life than waiting for the sky to open up. So much more.

It may be because it’s been chillier than normal here, but I am full-on longing for spring, that renewal I referred to. I don’t want to be cold anymore. I found a glimpse of that in a book that my mom gave me. Images of Faith by Miriam Huffman Rockness is a simple but profound devotional that encourages the reader to notice God everywhere. He is seen in the beauty of creation and in the lives of people around us. These are beholdings, something you’ll learn about and appreciate more as you read this inspirational book.

In case you never read the book for yourself, it was the following passage that made me think about the beauty of spring after a long winter. I was raised in Maryland, so I am familiar with the changing seasons, but that was a long time ago.

“The long hard winter had broken at last – not as yet in much sign on the earthward side but in the late afternoon yesterday the great cumulus clouds sank away, and in their place lay long horizontal bars, one above the other, dove-grey touched with pale apricot, upon the tender eggshell blue of the eastern sky. They are a harbinger of spring out here, that I have never known to fail.” From Lilias Trotter’s Diary, January 24, 1927, as included in Images of Faith, page 55.

I’m keeping an eye out for a harbinger of spring, and I know I’ll find one. Through the year I need to remind myself to look up and not let 2021 be another long, weird winter, no matter what it holds.

Right now, I want to enjoy the variety of migrating of birds that call Florida home in winter. They show off God’s creativity so well. When it’s April, I want to celebrate Easter and remember the resurrection of Christ that paid my ransom.  When it’s August, I want to look for God in the sky, in the heat, in the sound of children playing in the water.

I am determined not to allow winter to overshadow this year. I want to learn from last year. I can only do that by looking up to God and remembering that I’m his daughter and he loves me. I put all my trust and hope in him.

Isaiah 40:26 – Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Psalm 65:8 – The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, and evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.

Happy to Take out the Garbage

Every Tuesday and Friday morning you can find me taking the garbage to the curb. It is a mundane kind of task, but I like doing it. (Don’t tell my husband. When he retires later this year, he might try to take this away from me.)

There is something satisfying about getting the trash out. But more than that, it gets me outside in the early part of the day. I’m far from a morning person, but God often shows me stuff on my way back from the curb. Sometimes I stop and cut a rose to bring into the house. Mornings are best for that.

On Tuesday I stopped and noticed how beautifully blue the sky was. It was perfectly blue. Not a cloud to be seen. How does that happen? It was breathtaking. The green trees popped off that blue canvas with a symphony of birds chirping lending a score to all that beauty. So many shades of green anchored to tree trunks of so many shades of brown. So much to take in.

Tuesday was chilly; and when I went inside, I poured myself a cup of coffee and opened my Bible to Psalm 19 which fit my morning to a tee.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” Psalm 19: 1-2

It’s always good to look up from the garbage of life and see the glory of God’s handiwork.

Have a wonderful day looking up.

January is Mean

January may be the first month of the year, the month when fresh starts typically are at least contemplated, and the month of new gym memberships and linen sales, but to me it’s the month that reminds me why I live in Florida.

It doesn’t bother me in the least that you or anybody else knows that I’m pretty much a wimp. Truth be told, people knowing that makes my life simpler.

My preference, though, is not to use the word wimp. I do have some adventure in me, and I don’t really want people to think of me as a namby-pamby, milquetoast, yellow belly sissy.

That’s why I love reminding my sweet husband that I am a delicate flower. It sums things up so much more in my favor. Here’s a look into a recent conversation of ours where I am once again compelled to remind Bob exactly who he is married to.

delicate Hydrangea flower

Scene: We are in the bathroom, getting ready for bed. I am brushing my teeth while hovering around the space heater.

Me: It’s so cold.

Bob: It’s not that bad.

Me: I hate January. January is the worst. We live in Florida, after all. It’s not supposed to be below 45 outside.

Bob: But we’re inside.

Me (as I look at the bathroom thermometer which I keep in there just to make a point when necessary): It sure doesn’t feel like we’re inside! Have you forgotten that I’m a delicate flower?

Bob: I haven’t forgotten. It’s just not that cold to me.

Me: That’s because you’re not a delicate flower. You’re a tumbleweed.

Bob shot me a look of pain revealing that I had wounded him deeply. Words cannot express how bad I felt at that moment, even though I did chuckle a little.

Bob: I’m not a tumbleweed. I’m more like a… a bush. Yes. I want to be a bush. They’re sturdy, dependable.

Me: I didn’t mean tumbleweed as a bad thing. They roll with the punches, go with the wind, keep on going no matter what.

Bob: No. I want to be a bush.

Me: Okay. Okay. But you gotta admit, you do roll with the punches, my sweet, crazy tumbleweed – I mean bush.

Bob gave his famous eyeroll and we went to bed. Him under a sheet. Me under the same sheet with two blankets on top. Both of us muttering how we can never move any farther north than Orlando. That’s how we roll, and it’s all January’s fault.

Photo by Luismi Sánchez on Unsplash

Joy in the Little Things

There was joy in Target this week as I ventured there to make a quick purchase, which of course I could not find. No big deal though as I strolled down the cereal aisle and found this!

It takes me back to raising my kids when anything Star Wars was an extra treat. I believe the force was with me, guiding me to find the only remaining Mandalorian Cereal in Central Florida!

I had to go through an asteroid field to get to the cash register, but I assure you that no people were injured during the purchase of this cereal. To me, that was a little Christmas present.

I was also super excited earlier this month when I found Elf Cereal. I snatched up two boxes – one for each set of grandkids that I’d see in December. I’m not sure who gets more excited about it, them or me. Honestly, it’s probably me, and that’s just fine. It truly is the little things.

With that in mind, I present:

An Ode to Cereal

Twas the week of Christmas; I was in my car

Shopping for presents, both close-by and far;

I stopped in a Target and there on the shelf –

Mandalorian Cereal – so proud of myself.

The grandkids are coming much to my delight;

But only one box might just trigger a fight.

No worries, they’ll share. It’ll all be just fine,

With Santa Claus coming they wouldn’t dare whine.

Besides there are other breakfast treats, it’s true.

Like this pretty green box of Elf Cereal. Whew!

These are two of the small things that bring me great joy.

To me they’re better than a fancy big toy.

The grandkids may protest and might make a face,

So we bought them other presents, just in case.

Target wasn’t the only joy filled store for me this week. I waited at the check-out in Publix as the store manager bagged my groceries. One of the employees came up to him:

“There’s no soap in the ladies room. I mean no soap. Like somebody took the soap dispenser.”

“That’s a new one,” he replied. “I think we have a spare. Who does that kind of thing?”

I replied, “I’m not sure who did it, but one thing’s for sure. You’ll never find them because they got away clean.”

Merry Christmas!

The Old Family Recipe

The year was 1975, I was a newlywed and would be spending my first Thanksgiving with my in-laws and away from my family. What would the holiday be like without my mom’s stuffing, not to mention without my mom and dad? I’m not one to be dramatic, but it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving.

Bob never really cared about stuffing. This was one of the many ways we differed. To me, the stuffing was of more importance than the turkey, which simply served as an elaborate, weird, stuffing cooking device. I never thought about how disgusting it was for people to prepare food to be inserted into a turkey cavity, only to be scooped out of said cavity and served in a fancy china bowl to their loved ones. Pretty gross, but I digress

By mid-October 1975, I was contemplating making my own stuffing, but alas that was among the many, many things that I was clueless as to how to cook. I waited until a Sunday afternoon to call my mom for help. (This was way before cell phones, and long-distance calls were cheaper on Sundays.) In those days, we corresponded via letter through the Post Office, so she said she’d send me the recipe.

Mom’s letter outlined the intricacies of her prized stuffing. I wish I could tell you that I made it and it turned out great, but I chickened (or maybe turkeyed) out. In hindsight it was probably a good thing that I didn’t try to compete with my Home Economics mom-in-law’s cornbread stuffing. What woman wants her cocky new daughter-in-law to bring in a superior stuffing as a holiday icebreaker? And in my hands, who was to say it would have been superior, or even edible? But when I tasted hers that Thanksgiving afternoon, I understood why Bob wasn’t wild about it, and shed a little tear as I thought about what used to be.

Forty-five years later, I still have that letter. It is precious to me. Every year I get it out and read it. I love hearing how my nephew, their first grandchild, walked for the first time. It’s a sweet walk down memory lane. I have often thought I should frame it and hang it on my wall.

Since that time, I have made this stuffing dozens of times, and Bob loves it. I’ve tweaked the recipe a little, but it’s basically the same. My sister, Chris, and my daughter Dena both continue with this same recipe. It’s a cherished family tradition.

This Thanksgiving my mom sat at our kitchen table and watched me chopping celery and onions and making bread cubes. We chatted and I read her the letter. “This recipe is from Aunt Audrey, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” Mom replied. “I think I got it out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook.”

“No, no, no. It’s from Aunt Audrey – not Betty Crocker. It’s a family recipe! I think I remember you telling me that,” I pleaded.

“I’m pretty sure it’s from Betty Crocker,” she said.

I was crestfallen. Betty Crocker! I’d been living a lie my entire married life! I spiraled into an identity crisis wondering if this woman sitting here was really my mom. Could Betty Crocker be my mother? Did she abandon me at birth and present me to my “parents” along with a recipe for turkey stuffing?

I pulled my own Betty Crocker Cookbook from the shelf. It was a wedding present and taught me a lot, but I didn’t want to give Betty credit for the family recipe. I wanted that to be from Mom or at least Aunt Audrey. But there it was on page 281 of my tattered cookbook.

I read from the book and then read from Mom’s letter. I had to admit they were the same. “…Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients…”

I looked at my mother, who was unphased by the unearthing of the largest plagiarism plot I had ever been exposed to, and said, “Why didn’t you just tell me it was on page 281?”

I guess we’ll never know. Please, don’t tell my sister and Dena. Sometimes it’s better to live with a wonderful illusion.