Margie moved in next door to us a few years after we moved into our home in Ashland. She was in her eighties and was still quite spry. You would see her out in the yard pulling out weeds and doing other chores that much younger people would have long forsaken. She was a grandmother and she loved the location of her home because she could hear the sounds of children as they walked to and from school. Best of all, Margie loved living next door to a family with small children. That turned out to be an incredible blessing for me.
At that time, I was working early mornings as a baker and would leave for work before my children were awake. When I came home from work, I still had a lot of work ahead of me – as many mothers do. My saving grace was Margie. When I was at the end of my rope and my kids were needing attention I could call upon Margie. I might ask my kids to go ask Margie for an ingredient for dinner or I might send them to bring her something I had made that day. My children looked forward to spending time with Margie – she had toys for them to play with, she loved hearing about their days, and now and then she offered them a sweet treat. She was their next-door Grandma – and she was a lifesaver for me. She gave me a break when I most needed it. And I am forever grateful to her for that.
This weekend, Margie’s family is gathering to celebrate her life. I delivered a lovely Strawberry Rhubarb Pie to Margie’s daughter, Katharine, so that she could share it with her siblings and their families. I hope they know how lovely it was to have Margie as a neighbor and a friend. We will cherish the memory of her always.
One night about 23 years ago I was watching television and an M&M’s candy commercial came on. It featured two children in yellow rain slickers wearing galoshes. The kids saw a puddle ahead and they looked at each other and then jumped in it. I sat there watching the commercial and began crying. “Dear God, what is wrong with me?” I thought. The very next day I made an appointment at the college health center and it was there that I met Lois. I told her that I was extremely emotional and did not know why. She ran some tests and then returned to the room and said “I’ve got good news. You’re pregnant.” At that point I began crying again. Lois looked at me and said, “What’s wrong? Didn’t you say that you were married? And that your relationship is good?” When I could speak I replied “Yes.” Lois asked again, “Then what is the problem?” I sobbed “I wanted to be perfect before I had children.” Lois looked at me with a smile and said, “And when was that going to happen?” She may have been kidding but her words were a great relief to me. It was wonderful to know that I wasn’t expected to be perfect – I could just be me. Similarly, my husband’s grandfather told us “If we all waited until we were “ready” to have kids, we’d never have any.”
Every day of our lives we interact with people. Sometimes we know the people we meet but other times we deal with strangers. Do you ever wonder if something you say or do will amount to anything? I believe it – and try to be present so that I can recognize those opportunities. It’s not easy but now and then, you will find that you can really make a difference to someone.
Today I brought Lois a quiche – and my timing couldn’t be better since her kitchen is being remodeled and she has been unable to cook. How about that? Sometimes things work out perfectly after all.
“Life is short. We have not much time to gladden the hearts of those who journey with us. Therefore, be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”— Henri Amiel
One night long ago I woke up with what I thought was the most profound news: We are here for each other. I’ll say that again: Our reason for living is to be there for one another. Can you imagine a world where people lived as if this was true? How wonderful a place would that be? We would have support when we needed it and could support others when we were able. We would never feel alone because we would have a caring community around us.
Support can come in many ways – a shoulder to cry on, an ear to lend, a hand to hold. Or maybe a quiche to savor when life is the most challenging. It is the least that I can offer, and I do so with love.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
It’s funny that I have known Jon longer than I have known my husband… and we met at the same place, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. It was my first time living away from home and I was a little shy. Jon was friendly and funny and helped me feel welcome. We were both part of a “block” of seventy six students. It was a great group of people and we spent a lot of time together even when we weren’t in school.
After our first year of classes, I left school due to lack of funds. After a few years I did return to finish my degree but I didn’t think I’d ever see my former classmates again. In the next few years, I met and married my husband and in 1986 we moved to Ashland to attend Southern Oregon State College. One night, while I was working at a restaurant, I brought two men to their table. One of them looked at me and said, “I think you were in my class.” Oh boy, I thought. Was this a line? I said, “You may be right” thinking that perhaps we were in the same computer lab. And then I really looked at them… and there was Jon… with Tom, another classmate from the CIA. How could that be? We were three thousand miles from NY and it had been 7 years since I’d seen either of them!
We still live in the same town and even though I don’t see Jon often, we have remained close. Though he is always busy, he is the kind of person who really listens when you tell them something. He is also an amazing Dad to three boys. And I know that he would argue if he heard me tell you this, but Jon is one of the most generous people I have ever met.
Today a Dutch Apple Pie was delivered to Jon’s house. I wanted him to know that I am proud to call him my friend.
Before I woke up, I knew what type of pie I would make today. A recipe for Ricotta Cheese Pie had been sitting on my counter for a week. The recipe combines ricotta cheese with fresh apples in a pastry. It sounded wonderful. And it is. The finished pie looked and smelled delicious -(one drawback when you bake a pie for someone else is that you don’t get to taste it!)
Her name is Amy but some of her peers at The Ashland Library suggest we call her “Olive” because she is the one with “all of” the information. I first met Amy a number of years ago when she was helping with an election. She was outside the library at night receiving ballots from those of us who are last minute voters. I remember that she was smiling and amiable. And it was evident that she was dedicated. She may have been working but I got the feeling that she’d have been there even if she wasn’t paid.
Over the last few years, Amy has asked me to provide food for several library functions. As you can imagine, her budget is limited. What I like is that Amy just gives me the parameters and then leaves the rest to me. It gives me an opportunity to create a lovely meal for a group of people who are incredibly appreciative.
And it is my way of thanking you, Amy, for your commitment to your community.
There are people we know who are part of the fabric of our lives. Carolyn is one of those people for me. She has a daughter who is the same age as my daughter. Over the years we spent many hours together working on school related projects whether they were fundraisers, yearbooks or celebrations of one kind or another.
If you had a child in Mt. Ashland‘s MARA program a few year ago, you know Carolyn. She spent many a weekend in the ski lodge at Mt. Ashland helping with the various races that were held and she didn’t even ski! She was there for your kids and mine as they tested their skills on the challenging race courses of Mt. Ashland. She gave up much of her free time to help with this sport. Sure, she was there to support her kids, but at the same time she was there supporting countless other kids as well.
This morning I brought Carolyn a quiche as a small token of our appreciation of her service to all of us. Carolyn, thank you for your gentle nature and your giving spirit. The world needs more people like you.
And to everyone, Happy Easter.
Saturday is a good day for yard sales here in this little town and today I found a sale on Craigslist with the Y.E.S. logo. That can only mean that Claudia is at it again. Claudia is the proprietor of Y.E.S. which stands for Yard and Estate Sales. She has been helping people sell their belongings for a long time and is the quintessential professional. Her task is a fine line to walk and she does it with respect and grace.
An “estate sale” usually means that the person who once owned the items is no longer living. For me, it is necessary to be respectful when walking through the home of a person who has passed on. I feel as if the person’s space is being invaded and you may be forgiven for being there if you maintain a certain decorum. Heaven forbid if you are rude or make fun. Let’s not forget that one day someone may be perusing your “stuff.”
Estate sales are fun in an anthropological way in that they can tell us a lot about the person. Did they like to cook? or read? Were they a film buff or maybe a gardener. We leave all of our belongings behind when we die and they tell a story about us. Look around at the items on your shelves… what do they say about you? Perhaps if you are lucky, someone as nice as Claudia will handle your belongings with the love and care that you would give them.
For Claudia, and her lovely helpers, I brought a warm Marionberry Pie. Thank you for your kindness.
Sometimes when I begin to bake my “pie of the day” I don’t know who will be the recipient. Today, as I prepared the crust and filling I felt that I was waiting for “inspiration” or some kind of message. It seemed as if the pie itself was uncertain as to who it would be taken to. As I finished the pie and popped it into the oven the owner of the pie was still unknown.
I began to think of the people I still wanted to thank and began jotting names down. And then I wrote down “Andy Burt” and I knew I had the answer. Andy was my son’s teacher for three years in middle school. He was steadfast and honest and willing to be himself with his kids everyday. He helped the ones that needed it and even those that thought they didn’t. Remember, in middle school you think you know it all. A Mark Twain quote comes to mind, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he’d learned in seven years.”
My son was fortunate to have Andy as his homeroom teacher. Andy cared and showed it but he would also call his students out on behaviour that was not acceptable. And while parents have to do that all the time, sometime it takes a person outside the family to really have an impact. As a teenager, you may think you are fooling your parents, but when another adult looks at you and makes you think that you can be somebody, well, maybe you can begin to think it too.
Today I honor another teacher that helped my son on his journey to the person he has become. Andy, I am forever grateful for the effort that it took and hope that you know what a difference you made.
Did you ever wonder where your ideas have come from? Especially those ideas that hit you suddenly and in an instant you decide on a course of action to take? Are these thoughts really our own or do they come from somewhere outside ourselves? Perhaps, if we are open to them, we can be a part of something wonderful.
A while ago, I was working as a baker and noticed that we had a lot of leftover bread in the freezer. I remembered that there was a shelter nearby and so I packed up the bread and drove it over to them. As I walked through the door the receptionist asked what I needed. I told her that I was bringing her some bread. She stared at me for a moment. I asked if she needed any and she said,”Just a moment ago I told the coordinator that we did not have any bread for lunch and you walked in with a boxfull.” That felt just a little bit strange but it also felt pretty cool.
Today while I was making another pie I thought of Judy, the nurse at Ashland High. Earlier this week my son had gone to see her with a case of Poison Oak and she had helped him out. I thought of how many kids she sees in a day and the range of problems that she helps them through. Most of all I thought how thankful I am that our kids have a compassionate, trained nurse available at the school. I’ve said it before, we are lucky to live here.
When I called upon Judy to deliver the pie she was definitely surprised and asked why I was giving her a pie. When I told her how much I appreciated her dedication to our kids she was truly touched. I was very pleased to be the one to bring her a gift and happy that I was in the right place to “catch” the idea.
Each day I am reminded how fortunate I am. While I may complain about the rain or other such things, I want you to know that I am very aware of how very lucky I am. My family is healthy and has always had enough of life’s necessities – good food to eat, a warm place to sleep, work to keep us going. We are surrounded by people that care about us and would willingly go out of their way to help us in an emergency. Best of all, we wake up each day and live in this beautiful valley.
How did I get to be this lucky? Was it just an accident of birth that I was born in this country to people that wanted me and were able to take care of me? It’s funny how sometimes you can forget about your good fortune. It’s easy to do. We tend to think that everyone is like us, to some degree or another; that we share similar experiences. I remember a few years ago I was asked to teach a class on cake baking at the high school. As part of my introduction, I talked about the type of pan one might use for the recipe I had brought. My intent was to let the kids know that the recipe was able to be used in a number of ways. Later, the instructor told me that some of the kids in her class probably did not have access to cake pans because they were “couch surfing“. The term was new for me. Here I was worried about how they would make a cake and some of them didn’t have a permanent home.
It’s strange to think that this sort of thing is true. How can we let it happen? Why is this not high on our priority list? Like many, I do what I can to help others – because I am able and because I think it is important to do. An earlier post included the quote by Anne Frank “No one has ever become poor by giving.” This, by Winston Churchill, is equally profound “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
On this cold, wet day a lovely quiche was delivered to a man who has been without a home for many years. It was a small gift but received with great appreciation. And somehow I feel more blessed than before.