The Garden Stone

Stephen and Charlotte 1-1-11
Stephen and Charlotte 1-1-11

This is the story of two people who were destined to be together nearly 100 years before they ever met.  A love story, replete of hometown history and family.

Charlotte, a fiery, petite beauty with dark hair and big, brown, almond-shaped eyes, and  Stephen, a handsome Greek, a brave US Marine , met 10 years ago after Stephen had returned from his first deployment to Iraq.  Both living in the Dallas area at the time, they were introduced by a mutual friend. Their relationship flourished and when Stephen left for his second deployment, Charlotte waited for him.  By the grace of God, he returned.  They were reunited and spent much of their time together.

Their story is beautiful, alas, it is a private affair.  I will just say that they found out they love each other.  And when Stephen asked Charlotte for her hand. She accepted, happily.

Charlotte’s grandparents have almost always lived in Milam County. They had a farm in Cameron during the early years of their marriage, and moved to Rockdale later on. About 15 years ago they decided they would spend their golden years at their nearby property in the country. There is an old school here. They built a nice home on the old playground, amidst a grove of tall oaks.

Charlotte is my daughter.  I live here also, with my love, Glenn. We actually reside in the old school.  It was built by the local men as one of FDR’s work projects back in the era of the Great Depression.  It burned to the ground before they ever held a class and they built it all over again. They carried on the business of education here for many years, but eventually the old school closed down and they began busing all the children to Rockdale. It changed hands a couple of times before my Dad acquired the building at auction about 45 years ago.  He converted some of the classrooms into living spaces, and Glenn and I have a comfortable home here.

Charlotte lived in Rockdale until she was four, when our family moved to the Dallas area.  But the first time Stephen came to visit and met the family, we learned that he too, has roots in Milam County. His grandfather actually grew up in Cameron.  Furthermore, Stephen and Dad compared military records, and found many similarities. Both are marines from the 4th division, who specialized in communications and reconnaissance, and proudly wear the purple heart medal. It was a great visit.  We all liked Stephen, and I felt very happy for Charlotte.

Now, Glenn likes gardening and one day he decided to make an asparagus bed. There was a row of huge old piers bordering a flower bed in our front yard, probably 10 of them.  Dad had put them there soon after he bought the building. They came from the foundation of the old gymnasium which had been sold off separately and moved before he ever acquired it. That spot is now home to our vegetable garden.

The piers really didn’t look that great in our front yard. So Glenn decided to make a raised bed with them for the asparagus.  It required a tractor to move them. So one by one, he picked them up, carried them to the garden and sat them down at their new resting place.  He made a rectangular border and filled it with rich, black dirt that he found down by the pond. We bought nice, big crowns and he planted them just exactly how his research told him to, by digging a trench and making hills for them to rest on. We had ferns in no time. And now, this garden produces a lot of asparagus.

Luckily, my Dad is a very observant fellow.  One day he was out watering the asparagus, when he looked down and discovered that on the right, front cornerstone of the border that Glenn built, there was something inscribed in the cement.  He splashed water on it, as to read it more easily.  Written on the stone was “YA Gjeddi 1929”. He thought about this for a minute and recalled that Stephen’s mother was a Gjeddi.

So we asked her about it.  It turns out that YA, also known as Yancy Gjeddi, was Stephen’s great uncle!  There were eight Gjeddi boys that grew up in Cameron back then.  They were all adopted and all went by their initials. My mother went to school with these boys. And Stephen’s grandfather was one of them.  It’s been said that the Lord works in mysterious ways, I believe this!

Almost 100 years ago, Yancy must have worked at the place where that cement was poured.  I wonder if he knew it was important that he inscribe that stone? Glenn never saw it, he just stacked the stones at random.  But this wound up on the right, front corner, facing outward!!  And was discovered around the time of Stephen and Charlotte’s wedding, two people who met in a totally different part of the state, and never knew before, of all these amazing coincidences. Perhaps Yancy wanted to express his approval of this union.  I find it amazing and beautiful.  I wish I had a photo of Yancy.  If I ever find one, it will go here.

Christmas Traditions

I don’t know a whole lot of Christmas traditions, just the ones we use in our family. But I’m always interested in learning and sharing ideas for making the most of the holiday season. Listed here are some of the ways we bring tradition into our holiday.

Simple Popcorn Garland
Simple Popcorn Garland

Decorating:  I have always loved Christmas decorating though I try to keep it pretty simple. Many years ago I started making popcorn garland for the Christmas tree. Very delicate, very pretty. It takes about 2 hours to make everything I need for our medium sized tree. So it’s not a big time issue, nor does it require a lot of expense.  A little work and you have something very special, that cannot be easily found in a store . I use a hot air popper and fishing line, and I turn the country Christmas tunes on satellite. Before you know it, I’m putting it on the tree.  You end up with something very, very pretty and unique. Glenn and his sister share this memory from childhood.  They always strung popcorn garland with their mother and other siblings, and they added cranberries here and there. That sounds lovely, I never tried cranberries. But I think I will add them next year. And perhaps my grandchildren can get in on the fun! When the season is past, and it is time to put things away, I cut the line. The popcorn slides right off to feed the birds, out in the  yard.

Cornbread Dressing
Cornbread Dressing

Cooking:  I am always asked to make the dressing for the family Christmas dinner.  I enjoy doing it because I have been trying for 20 years to learn how to make good dressing.  It’s difficult when you only make it once a year. Though dryness can be a problem, mine seemed to always to be a bit on the wet side.  A couple of years ago I stumbled across 2 techniques that have enabled me to make good dressing, reliably. These are very simple tips worth sharing.

  • I used to make up the cornbread several days in advance and let it dry out on the counter, but this presents some problems.  One year it molded before I got the dressing made, so it was a total flop before I could even get started. Also, it is always possible that a little mouse could get in the house or a roach and they would make a beeline for that cornbread. I now prefer to make it the night before, cutting it into 1 inch squares and keeping it overnight in a sealed container. This is safer and more sanitary. On the morning before the meal, I pile it all on a broiler pan and dry it out in a 225 degree oven, along with the white breads, stirring every hour. The white breads (placed on bare oven racks) only take an hour and they are like croutons.  The cornbread takes about 3 hours.  It’s fresher! And since all the moisture which will go back into that bread is made of broth, rather than just water, this method makes a richer, tastier dressing.
  • Estimate the amount of broth you think you will need, add it to the dried out breads and the rest of your recipe, and stir it all up. Allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Afterwards, inspect your raw dressing and use clean paper towels to soak up any excess liquid (puddles), before dumping everything in the dish for baking. This is a fail-proof method for eliminating the problem of heavy, soggy dressing. And since I have been doing this I have been able to produce a much better result. It may also work well to dip out the dressing into the baking dish, using a slotted spoon. This might eliminate any hidden puddles and I am going to try it this year.
Family time at Christmas.
Family time at Christmas.

Family Socializing:  A few years ago, my sister began a really nice tradition for our family Christmas gathering.  Early in the year, she solicited our help through email, asking us to send her our family stories.  When Christmas came, she had compiled them and made a game with them. She presented a sketchy event and we all guessed who it was about. After we found out, that person told the full story and we all learned a lot about each other.  We have played this game several years now and it is a lovely tradition.  The first year was absolutely magical!

Where do I want to be, this time, next year?
Where do I want to be, this time, next year?

New Years Reflection:  I never plan to, but the last 10 days or so, of each year, I find myself thinking a lot about the year to come. What are my hopes for the new year? Where do I want to be, this time, next year? I don’t try to figure out how to make any of it happen at this point, but I spend time thinking about my hopes and dreams.  I may even make a list, so that when the new year does arrive, I have something to look at and start working on.  It helps me decide my direction for the next twelve months; it keeps me in a positive, forward-looking frame of mind; it inspires me toward the coming year.

Have a very merry Christmas!
Have a very merry Christmas!

I am having  fun with my new blog and I want to thank you for reading and commenting.  Wishing you a merry, merry Christmas and a joyous, new year!

Ho-Ho-Hum

The reason for the season.
The reason for the season.

My young cousin was just saying on Facebook that their home is now, officially decorated for Christmas.  And she added how much she loves to decorate for Christmas, it being her favorite time of year. Immediately, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, I have to do that too”! Honestly, this was the first time I had even thought about it.  That’s really weird, because I used to be just like my young cousin when it comes to Christmas decorating.  This year it has lost it’s place in my priorities.

Now-a-days, I stay on guard over stress issues, trying not to over-extend as much as possible.  The kids are grown, the grand-kids aren’t coming this year, and there are several things on my agenda that take priority over Christmas decorating; things I am not willing to sacrifice. I’m not going to rule out the possibility, but it may turn out that I do not get it done this year. It’s been a tradition, so I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Several things would have to come to pass before I would even be ready to decorate. I would have to get the house clean, and I am behind on that. As I recall, the lights on the tree need some repair. I have outdoor decorations too, so I would need to clean up the yard and the porch, and I would have to work around the weather. I was really kind of focused on other projects! We are getting ready to move my new quail from the brooder to the cages and we are setting up a new automatic watering system.  They have grown up and are cramped in the brooder.  That whole project absolutely must take priority, but we can’t do it until our supplies arrive in the mail on Monday.

To be honest, the whole task of Christmas decorating would probably only take about 7 hours of my time.  Taking it all down might require another 3.  Then we could enjoy the nice ambiance for the  duration of the season.  And when my daughter comes to visit this year, she will truly enjoy it.

I remember Christmastime when she and her brother were little. Great times!! We would decorate the tree together, each of us taking care of the portions we could reach, while their dad climbed on the roof with staple gun in hand, to hang lights off the eaves. We had a huge calico cat named Patches, and after the tree was decorated, but before we put any presents under it, she would spend time lying on her back on top of the tree skirt and stare up through the middle, seemingly mesmerized by the affect of the lights. The kids would make  cute little handmade decorations in school, and bring them home to brighten up the house. And I always found them the cutest little Christmas pjs that they wore during the season.  We read books at bedtime, with great expression.  A favorite was “T’was the night before Christmas”.  Another was “The Velveteen Rabbit”.  I remember staying up all night on Christmas Eve with their dad and putting toys together. And seeing their bright eyes and happy faces at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning,… mountains of used wrapping paper all over the den, after they opened their presents. Times like these pass too quickly.

Charlotte and Dusty in their   Christmas PJs.
Charlotte and Dusty in their
Christmas PJs.

Christmas is a special time of year, and Christmas decorating is a kind of magical, creative endeavor.  It is not an absolute necessity, but for those who love a warm and comfortable home, a few hours of effort will brighten the spirit of the holiday for everyone it reaches, transforming everyday surroundings into a place of loving warmth and beauty. It will touch the child within us and remind us of days gone by. It is one way some of us give of ourselves throughout the holiday; an expression of our love for Christ.

I suppose I can re-arrange my schedule  :)

A Fish Story

89 years old
89 years old

written for Father’s Day 2015

When I was in my early 40’s, and after my world had turned upside down, I found myself living with Mom and Dad again.  They had welcomed me home with open arms, and never once complained. But it seems like, as old as I was, the whole situation put them in the position of having to raise me all over again!   So once again, Dad was boss!!

…One day, after a deluge of rain had fallen the night before, Dad came to me and said, “put on your rubber boots, i need your help”.  I pulled them on, we went out and drew up buckets of water and put them on the golf cart.  Then he drove me out to the large area where the pond had gone out way beyond it’s banks. The water had already receded somewhat but everything was still quite wet.  And there were puddles, little and big, everywhere we looked.  He showed me that in these puddles were little fish, up to 6 inches long, that had gotten out of the pond and had become trapped after the water had gone back down.  He reached down and began picking up the fish and putting them in the buckets.  They were still alive!  So, that’s what we did that day!  Picked up fish, put them in the buckets.   Then when a bucket got full, we took it to the pond and let them go.

We did that for hours… :)  My Dad, the naturalist!  A great memory I will always treasure!!  I love you Dad, Happy Father’s Day! :)