Remembering The Price of Freedom

This post was originally published five years ago today. But it’s still very relevant today. So I’ve updated it slightly to reflect Veterans Day, 2021.

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough. They have a unique understanding of the ways of the world that we who have not served cannot begin to understand.

To all of those who have served or are still serving, we owe you a huge THANK YOU for the time and sacrifice you, and your families, have given, and are still giving, to this great nation. You leave home and family behind far too often to serve your country because that’s your duty and your chosen profession. You and your families are invaluable to this country.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983

Birthing a Book

A mother usually only carries her baby for no longer than nine months.

I carried one for over five years.

Five long years of starts and stops. Reliving so many painful memories that I thought at times I couldn’t do it. At times I almost gave up, and almost pushed the “delete” button.

I wondered what in the world had ever made me think I could carry this baby to term. Because when I’d begun, I had no idea what was involved. No real idea of what it took to do this project

But I persisted. I wrote; scratched out words and paragraphs; added stories; rearranged chapters; changed names; and finally had it finished.

Or so I thought. Little did I know I’d just begun. Or that that first draft was just that. A first draft, and nothing like the now finished product.

Of course after I finished that first draft, I gave it to my husband and daughter to read, and of course they thought it was great! They had very few suggestions, and urged me to go ahead and publish it.

But I knew it wasn’t time; it wasn’t ready to be born yet, because it wasn’t fully formed. It couldn’t yet breathe on its own. It still needed work.

After letting it “rest” for a while, as I’d been told by other writers to do, I picked it back up, and decided it needed some help. So I re-wrote again, moved parts around, added more stories and more advice, and wondered if I was totally crazy to attempt such a project. Who’d want to read it, anyway?

So I finished it. Again. And once again I took advice from other writers and found a friend who volunteered to read it and edit it for me.

THAT was scary! Someone was going to read it that wasn’t a family member. Someone who’d be brutally honest and tell me if it was good or bad, and show me places I needed to change. Oh. My. Gosh! Was I ready to hear the criticism and negative comments I KNEW I’d get?

I held my breath when I got that first email with her comments. I almost didn’t open it, because I KNEW she’d been sitting at her desk, reading it, and shaking her head at how amateurish, how bad it was.

But surprise! She liked it, and even complimented me on many different passages I’d written. Sure, she also told me what I needed to fix, and why, and she was right. On every point.

So I bravely once again went chapter by chapter, rewriting, and reorganizing.
That, I have to tell you, was not easy. At times I felt like I couldn’t do it, but I was encouraged by my husband and other friends, so I did.

And finally, I was done. I ran it through several spell checking programs, grammar and punctuation programs, until I knew I had to stop before I messed things up.

It was time to give birth. I’d talked to several publishers over the last few months, and selected the one I wanted. Now, let me say this; sending off that manuscript, along with the photo I wanted to use for my cover, was difficult. Scary, in fact.

What was I doing????

Then, a few days later, I received an email with the initial draft of the cover. Already. I cannot tell you how I felt seeing the title and then my name on a book cover. I almost cried.

I only hope my mother would have been happy with it. And I so wish she could see it.

Then a few days later I received the actual book layout. Another “wow” moment. It’s one thing to write it, to see the proposed cover, but another to see the manuscript actually laid out for publication. And to suddenly realize “I did this!” This is actually what it’s going to look like.

That was nothing compared to how I felt when I saw the final cover design. Front AND back. The detail was amazing. The front cover background reminded me of my grandmother’s lace tablecloth I use on special occasions. And the back…you’ll have to buy the book to see the detail for yourself.

But the final and most amazing part of this process was getting the author’s proof copy in my hand and actually holding the finished product. A five year journey culminated in a real book…with my name on it as the author, and my picture on the back cover.

All I could say was, “That’s me. It’s really me. I did it. I wrote a book and it’s being published. I’m a real author.”

book-announcementAnd now, it’s finally available for purchase. You can buy my book and read my story and enjoy poignant moments from my mother’s life; encouragement for getting through the tough times of dealing with parental aging; and receive inspiration and yes, even hope, in the knowledge that even though we eventually lose our loved ones, we continue on, and we survive.

My book has been born. My five year dream realized. What an awesome gift!

You may purchase my book directly from my publisher, Easter Press, as well as on Amazon.

I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to contact me and share your thoughts and stories as well.

Thank you Mom, for being who you were, and for inspiring me to write about the things held deep in my heart.

December 10, 2016

What to Do About Thanksgiving?

Some families have the same traditions year after year. There’s an established routine that just doesn’t change. Everyone gets together at a particular person’s home to celebrate together. It’s been that way forever; no need to change it, right?

Everyone brings their favorite dish to share. You may not like Aunt Bessie’s collard greens, or Aunt Cora’s onion cheese casserole, but they’ve always made it, and it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them, whether you eat those dishes or not!

When I was growing up we always had certain dishes on the Thanksgiving table that made the meal complete. Especially my mom’s special cinnamon buns, my aunt’s oyster dressing, and my grandmother’s pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving wasn’t complete without them. And yes, if you click on the links, you can find the recipes! I don’t mind sharing!

But Thanksgiving isn’t all about the food traditions. It’s certainly a big part, but it’s also about family and friends getting together and enjoying a special time of fellowship.

But as the years go by, families are sometimes separated; by miles, by careers, or even worse, by family conflicts that have occurred and festered over the years…conflicts that just can’t be suddenly fixed by getting together around a dining table for one day and pretending everything’s okay. But that’s a story in itself, and one to be told another time.

Thanksgiving is hyped in the media, in the newspaper and radio and TV ads, as a magical time of family reunions with everyone sitting down together in their best clothes and being a part of a picture perfect display.

Is your Thanksgiving like that? Is anyone’s really like that?

Certainly no one I know.

Ever since my mother died ten years ago, Thanksgiving has never felt right. We lost the stability of a place to call our Thanksgiving home. We went a different place each year, joining friends’ celebrations, but it just didn’t feel right. We were there, but we weren’t family, and we couldn’t share in the reminiscing about other holiday memories, because we hadn’t been there with them. As nice as it was to have our friends include us, it just wasn’t “home”.

Even the last few Thanksgivings spent with our daughter’s husband’s family still didn’t feel right. Because it wasn’t OUR family. And as much as they wanted us to feel comfortable and fit in, we always felt like that piece of a jigsaw puzzle that looks like it should fit in a certain spot, but no matter how you try to force it. It just doesn’t quite work.

What to do this year?

We have choices.

Some of our friends are going to a restaurant with their extended family and their kids. We tried that one year. And we won’t do it again. It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving. The food was good, but not the home cooking we were used to. There were a lot of dishes to choose from, but you can’t take a bag of leftovers home from a restaurant. Plus it was a bit expensive, because after all, it was a holiday.

We talked about just going away somewhere. Renting a cottage on the beach or somewhere in the mountains. Or finding a bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. After all, we haven’t had any kind of vacation in several years. But then we probably wouldn’t have the kids with us, and I’d miss the Black Friday shopping that Ashley and I traditionally do every year.

But this year will be different anyway, because we are now blessed with our first grandchild, and even though Rachel Isn’t old enough to eat regular food, we want to start our own traditions this
year. Traditions that can be carried on year after year, with just a few new additions as she gets older, and is hopefully joined in a few years by a brother or sister.

So this year we will have Thanksgiving dinner at our daughter and son-in-law’s house. Chris will deep-fry the turkey, and Ashley and I will do the rest. She’ll make her grandmother’s special cinnamon buns, that she’s so good at doing. I’ll make oyster dressing for Chris, since he and I are the only ones who like it, and we have to continue a few of my family traditions! We’ll eat at their dining room table with Rachel in her high chair watching us. And I’ll wish my mother were still here to meet her great-granddaughter.

We will have created our own tradition that in years to come Rachel will remember and one day duplicate in her own way when she’s grown and married. It won’t be the same as we’ve done in the past, but I’ve come to realize that sometimes traditions must change with the times, and with growing families. And it will be perfect.

So what are you doing about Thanksgiving this year?

The Lost Grandmother

About a month ago a very close friend of mine lost her mother. Theirs had not always been the best of relationships, and she always told me she’d envied the relationship I’d had with my mother. Last week I received this letter from my friend in an email, and she has given me permission to share it to show that even a badly broken relationship can be healed, as long as both parties are willing to work towards it.

This is an excerpt from her story that has been included in my book, “Memories in a Daughter’s Heart,”  due to be published by the end of November.

“Dear Children, I wanted to write a little bit about your grandmother who passed away.

As you know she was my true mother, and the mother of Ken, Craig, and Elaine. She was blessed with four children. She lost custody of my brothers and me when I was five years old, and Elaine had short terms in foster care.

Through the years, and with Grandpa’s multiple marriages and long term relationships, you met a few “mom’s” who were actually stepmothers. You called them “grandma.”

My real mother loved her children; however she had multiple emotional problems that made mothering too challenging and overwhelming for her. She suffered, among other things, from mental illness, narcolepsy, and manic depression which actually required shock therapy several times in her life.

Back in the 1950’s, mental illness was not fully understood, and most people were not equipped to deal with a young mother who was so depressed she was unable to properly care for her babies and young children. We went hungry; our diapers were often unchanged; and the house was usually completely unkempt or not cleaned.

Unfortunately my dad did not have the patience or understanding to help my mother or cope with her problems. She became addicted to prescription medications, specifically amphetamines and barbiturates. When our dog had puppies, they were named after the drugs. Isn’t it weird that I remember that?

My father was not easy to be married to; he had a very harsh side, and was cruel to my mother. He must have taken her to a doctor for her to have gotten those medications, and tried to get her help, but she needed much more than that.

My brother Ken, being the oldest, remembers the most of it, and the traumatic childhood experience left scars on all of us as well as a sense of fragmentation.

My parents divorced when I was about 5 years old, right after my kindergarten year. My dad was awarded custody of us. At first we were able to see my mother, but not very often. After one of our visits to see her, something bad must have transpired, because after that visit I did not see my mother for 9 years until I turned 15.

My mother did finally marry again to a nice man named Tom, and they had my sister Elaine.

Through either my dad’s own doing, or whether on advice from an attorney or psychiatrist, he stopped allowing visitations with my mother. To my knowledge this was not done through any legal channels or court order.

I sneaked around to try and communicate with her, and when I was in high school, I had her send her letters to a friend’s address.

Growing up, I never heard a good word ever spoken about my real mother. I grew up afraid I would be like this person who was spoken about so negatively. I tried to overcome it all and prove my stepmother wrong.

grandmotherWhen I turned 18, I could openly begin communication and establish a relationship with my mother, and finally get to know my sister.

Many years went by where we only talked by phone or through letters, but not many personal visits, as I didn’t have finances for such travel. Though we didn’t see each other often, we became better and better acquainted; while we didn’t have the “normal” mother-daughter relationship, but we had a love for each other.

When my father died seven years ago, I had to sort through all of his papers. My dad had saved everything. Among those papers were letters from my mother to us; beautiful, eloquently written letters that were never given to us. If we had been given our letters, we would have known our mother loved us; that we weren’t abandoned, like we’d been told. I truly believe it would have made a big difference in our growing up to have had that security and knowledge. Why he kept them, I do not know.

There was even a letter from my mother’s mother to my father begging him to not take the children away from her. In that time period, that was how people handled these situations, and they believed it was best to sever all ties.

Yes, my mother was flawed, and did not have the easiest personality to live with. She could be difficult and self-centered; she certainly had had a hard life, and had to do many things to survive and sometimes made the wrong choices.

When Elaine called me and told me the medical team that had been caring for her had said nothing more could be done, and were recommending palliative care for her; I was compelled to go there to be with her. My mother and I had come a long way in building our relationship, and I wanted to say goodbye to her, and be there for Elaine, too. Your dad encouraged me to go. So I went. And I’m so glad I did.

Alone in my mom’s room holding vigil, I had a compelling moment; I needed to forgive my mother. I laid my hands on her forehead, and said, “Mother, I forgive you, and I love you.”

My mother passed away the next morning; I will always believe she was waiting for me, and waiting to hear those words.

I called Ken and let him know that our mother had passed away. Regardless of their broken relationship, I wanted him to know. The next day he called me and said, “I’m not a praying man, but I said a prayer for her that, “I hope she is in a better place, and I forgive her.”

The power of speaking those words of forgiveness cannot be adequately expressed with my words.

I am sorry you could not have known her as your grandmother, and become more acquainted. My mother always asked about all of you; she was interested in your lives’ and cared very much about you. All of your pictures were in her room. She was proud of each of you.

I fortunately learned to embrace the good things about my mother these last few years, and learned not to dwell on her shortcomings. After all, we all have them. I am so thankful I was able to do that and finally enjoy a good relationship with her in these last years. We had so many fun, memorable days together, and I wouldn’t have traded any of them.

My beautiful children, there is always something good, and very much to be thankful for.”

Nothing more needs to be said after this, except, “It’s never too late.” Thank you my dear friend, for writing this to your children, and thank you for sharing it so that perhaps someone else may be able to salvage such a relationship before it’s too late.

Pumpkins, Candy and Dressing Up

It’s that time of year once again. The time when there’s that little nip of coolness in the air, especially the first thing in the morning. Even the sunlight seems crisper, giving us a hint of the chill that’s soon to follow. Yes, it’s that time of year that shuffles in the true end of summer. And shuffle is a good term, because I always go into it dragging my feet, kicking and screaming, because as I’ve said many times, I’m a spring/summer/flip flop type of girl!

We can feel the chill in the air every morning, even though it sometimes warms up in the afternoon. The trees turn into a palette of new colors; oranges and yellows and reds. And all those leaves begin to fall all over the yard, getting raked into piles of crisp color that we adults are just a bit tempted to jump into it when no one is looking, like we did when we were children!fall-leaves

Yes, I will admit, the colors are really pretty, and can be breathtaking, depending on where you go to see them. My husband likes to drive over to the mountains and enjoy the spectacular views. And they are pretty. But if it’s up to me, I’ll look at other people’s pictures on line and think how pretty they are, and then dream about how long it’ll be until it gets warm again.

Then there are the pumpkins. Everywhere. In store and even restaurant displays, and piled along those roadside stands. Some even have carved faces already, and yes, I’ve been tempted to buy a couple of them to carve, but our granddaughter isn’t old enough this year to appreciate them. (Next year!) I remember growing up and my uncle making the most beautiful jack-o’-lanterns. Over fifty years ago, he was painting faces and other designs on the pumpkins rather than carving them, because they’d last longer. He was certainly ahead of his time, and if he were still here today, I’m sure he’d still be doing it, only more elaborate.

And speaking of pumpkins, don’t you think the pumpkin craze is getting a bit out of hand now? I do like pumpkin pie, but pumpkin spiced coffee? Pumpkin glazed donuts? Pumpkin flavored pop tarts? Pumpkin flavored Oreos? Please, no……
However. There are a few things that I can appreciate about this time of year.

candy_0For one, there is a LOT of candy on sale right now. And I do like to keep my candy bowl on my desk filled with all kinds of wonderful chocolate candy bars, miniature ones of course, just in case I get an urge during the day for a quick pick-me-up! Chocolate can do that, you know. And I’m sure many of you reading this are like us, and buy your supply of Halloween candy based on what YOU like to eat, and not necessarily what the kids are going to want, so you can enjoy the leftovers! Is there any other way to buy it?

And I have to admit I do enjoy seeing the costumes the kids are wearing when they come to our door to get their candy. The little ones are always adorable, and this year I’ll certainly be looking at them in a different light, since next year our granddaughter will be old enough to be dressed up her own costume; maybe a ballerina, or a bumblebee, a princess, or maybe even a butterfly! Now that will be fun! Of course, I’m sure her daddy will want her to be dressed in camouflage, but I think Mommy and Grandmom will have the final say on that one…at least for next year!

pauline-and-fowler-halloween1951In fact, when I was growing up, most of us dressed up for Halloween, but very seldom in anything scary or spooky. My hometown had an annual Halloween parade, with several of the main streets blocked off so the participants could march around our little business district and the county courthouse. Children and adults paraded around streets in costumes and competed for prizes, and the streets were filled with onlookers. My aunt and uncle actually won first prize in the adult division one year, dressed as Raggedy Ann and Andy. Weren’t they looking sharp? (How many of you know who Raggedy Ann and Andy are?) And if memory serves me correctly, I think some of the local churches sponsored the parade and contributed the prizes!

I can’t remember the last time I saw a Halloween parade. But they were a lot of fun! At least to us kids, and the adults who still acted like kids. It was just a fun time to enjoy ourselves, and get candy, of course!
So I guess I’m sort of stuck with it being fall. I can’t change it, so I guess I have to make the most of it. I can wear my jeans and sweaters with my boots, enjoy our toasty fireplace with a glass of wine, and count the days until Thanksgiving and Christmas.

And I can remember that spring is, sort of, just around the corner!

4th of July Goodies

In celebration of the 4th of July, we always had family cookouts when we were growing up. Along with fireworks my uncle set off in the field beside our house. When fireworks were legal, of course, way back long ago!

I can still remember the Roman candles he’d set off, making sure we kids were well out of their range, and carefully aiming them away from anything that could catch on fire. (In case you’re wondering, my mother’s house was just outside the town limits, so we didn’t have to worry about any restrictions.) We also had strings of regular firecrackers, cherry bombs, and colorful sparklers that we loved to swirl and make designs with in the air, long before it became fashionable to use them for weddings! And of course, there were those round snappers we threw on the sidewalk so they’d make a sharp “bang”, leaving a tiny trail of smoke.

Oh, the fun we had…..!! And none of us got hurt, thank goodness! Would we do this for our kids now?! Heck, no!

But first of all we’d eat our dinner of charcoaled burgers and hot dogs, with my mom and my aunts contributing homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, coleslaw and of course potato chips and baked beans, with an occasional plate of freshly deviled eggs! What a treat it was, especially combined with Mom’s homemade iced tea punch that I’ve forgotten (sadly) how to make. Although I think it included grape juice…maybe I’ll attempt it if none of my fellow Eastern Shore friends have a similar recipe they can share.

Anyway, nothing could compare with those burgers cooked on that old charcoal grill. It was a great taste treat, with just the tiniest hint of a bit too much lighter fluid thrown on the charcoal briquettes, which somehow always added to the taste to the meat.

Dessert was usually fresh homemade ice cream, the kind you could get a massive brain freeze from if you ate it too quickly. And we usually did! With plenty of strawberries thrown over that pile of frozen vanilla goodness!

119601For years my mom used an old wooden ice cream freezer to make her homemade ice cream. I’m not sure, but it must have belonged to her mother at one time, because even back then, its once bright green paint was almost gone. The inside can had a wooden paddle inside, and we used to argue over who would get the chance to lick that paddle once the ice cream was finally frozen! We’d fill the bucket with rock salt and ice, and turn the handle, only stopping when it would barely turn any more, which meant it was finally ready! There have been many times I’ve wished for that old ice cream maker, because even using her recipe, the ice cream just doesn’t taste the same in the newer, modern appliances.

There’s just something to be said about some of those old vintage products!

Yes, those were the days, as the saying goes! And sometimes I long for those days, to just be able to re-live a few of the good times, to see if they really were as good as we remember them!

So in celebration of this year’s 4th of July, I’m sharing our family recipe for homemade ice cream. Just remember, it may not taste the same if it’s not made in that old wooden ice cream maker, but since most of us don’t have one any more, let’s just see if we can bring back a little of the old time memories, and calories, just for old times’ sake!

Mom’s Homemade Ice Cream
15 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 c. thin cream
1 c. cold water
1 tbl vanilla
Dash of salt

Mix ingredients together. Fill inner metal container about 2/3 full of ice cream mixture and place paddle in the middle; cover tightly so rock salt (ice cream salt) won’t leak inside.

Pack alternate layers of ice and rock salt around the metal container until the bucket is almost full. As ice melts, replace if necessary, adding any necessary salt to the mixture. Turn the handle and crank away. (It’s a good idea to have a helper or two lined up in case you get tired!)

When handle will barely turn any more, it’s ready! Remove the handle, carefully remove the cover on the inside can, and place paddle in a bowl to be enjoyed by the kids! Place ice cream in freezer until ready to serve.

Note: This makes a wonderful vanilla, however, if you wish, you can add crushed fruit of your choice, but we usually ate it with the fruit generously spooned over it.

Enjoy!

Happy July 4th!

Leaving a Legacy

Legacy: a heritage; something transmitted by an ancestor.

But a legacy means so much more than this definition.

We recently attended a celebration service for the father of some friends we’ve known for several years. We’d known their father, although not as well as we’d liked, and he had indeed been a wonderful man. A devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. He was a talented jazz musician who played the trombone in his church’s orchestra, as well as singing bass in their men’s vocal group for as many years as we can remember. He loved the Lord, and instilled that love in each of his children, and in their children as well. He had loved his wife of over 65 years, and her death the previous year had not quenched that love.

We have never heard anyone speak a bad word against this man. Unpretentious to the end, he would enter a room and greet those already there not by saying, “I’m here!” and wanting people to pay attention to him, but by taking someone’s hand and telling them, “I’m glad you’re here!” And he made them feel as if they were the most important person in the room at that time.

His adult grandchildren spoke about him at the service, along with two of his children, choking back tears as they recounted stories about him, all with one common theme. His unfailing love for them; his devotion to family; his willingness to reach out to anyone who needed him; and a faith he was not hesitant or embarrassed to proclaim. Even in the last week of his life he was
praising the Lord with his family as he listened to some of his favorite music.

And when his casket was rolled out of the service, the trombonist played “When the Saints Go Marching In”. We all clapped in rhythm; some danced in place. Because we could all picture him marching through heaven’s gates, his new heavenly trombone in hand, waiting to greet his Lord and reunite with his beloved wife who left him a year previously. We could also hear the Lord telling him, “well done, my good and faithful servant…”

He was a gentle man, not rich in wealth, although he always provided for his family, but rich in his love and friendship to everyone around him. Rich in the number of lives he touched, and the number of lives he’d made a difference in. Rich in family and friends.

This 95 year old man left behind an amazing and powerful legacy to be remembered by all who knew him.

You see, a legacy is not measured in terms of money, your last title at your job, how many homes you had, how expensive your car was, how many vacations you took, or how famous you may have been.

Legacy is passed on from one generation to the next, or in this man’s case, to several generations. Your legacy is how you lived your life, and what you taught others about how to live theirs. How many lives you touched and impacted. By example, by actions; not by mere words.

Your true legacy cannot be left to others in a will. It is not tangible; you can’t hold it in your hand or deposit it in your bank account.

Your legacy is remembered, and reflected in the lives you touched. It is reflected in their works and how they live their life patterned after yours. This man left a true and remarkable legacy that is lived out every day in the lives of his children and their children and grandchildren.

I only pray I am able to leave behind a small portion of the type of legacy this man left behind.

Well done, good and faithful servant.

Featured Image from http://www.EmbeddedFaith.org

BBQ – Chicken Eastern Shore Style

Summer is finally here! Thank GOODNESS!!! It’s been ages, at least.

Which means backyard pool parties, trips to the beach, grilling out as much as possible, lazy evenings on the porch, and lots of family, friends, and fun!

When I was growing up we had lots of family cookouts every summer. Of course we used charcoal grills, since the propane ones weren’t around yet, and I have to say that for burgers and hot dogs, and steak, charcoal far surpasses the gas grills in flavor!

But barbecued chicken is great on either grill type…especially with this recipe!

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, I seriously never had any other kind of barbecued chicken except with this recipe. My mom or one of my aunts would make up a huge batch of it, and one of my uncles would tend the grill out back, constantly turning the pieces and basting continually until they were blackened and done! Sitting down to eat this culinary delight with homemade potato salad, macaroni salad, and fresh tomatoes was a treat beyond compare! Followed by fresh homemade ice cream, of course!

Oh, the wonderful memories….

When I first met my husband and took him to the Shore for a family cookout, I told him we were having barbecued chicken. He was anticipating the kind he grew up with in Kansas City, with their traditional red sauce, and what a surprise he had! But Ben, who could honestly eat chicken every day, actually liked it, even though he continually says, “it’s not barbecued!”

Yes it is. And every summer the highways all over the Eastern Shore are filled with BBQ Chicken fundraiser meals to go, made with this same style of sauce. It’s a tradition, and I have to say, those roadside meals are out of this world!

So here it is….there are slight ingredient measurement variations in each Shore family’s recipe, but they all taste pretty much the same. So kick off your summer grilling and enjoy a new treat! Or, if you’re from my area, see how your recipe varies from mine and throw some chicken on the grill.

Happy Eating!

1 1/2 c apple cider vinegar
3/4 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tsp pepper
3 tbl salt
1/2 tbl poultry seasoning

Mix all ingredients and either shake well, or blend with an egg beater. If not being used immediately, refrigerate til ready to grill. (Any leftover sauce can be refrigerated, but use within two days.)

Place chicken pieces on grill and baste continually with sauce, turning every 5-7 minutes, basting as they’re turned.

Enjoy!

Back in Grandmom’s Kitchen

Grandmom’s kitchen was always a special place to be. I can still remember what it looked like, although I doubt it was really as big as it is in my mind. After all, the last time I was in it I was only eleven years old. There were actually had two separate “rooms” to her kitchen; one where she actually did most of her work, and the other being a huge pantry, complete with sink, electric stove, and numerous cabinets full of all kinds of cookware as well as the typical baking and similar goodies. Canned goods and vegetables were stored in her “root cellar” which you could only access from outside the house (and as a kid, I didn’t venture down there; it was dark and musty-smelling, and just looked scary!). That pantry was also where my mom and my aunts would help out with the family meals while Grandmom worked in the main kitchen.

But what I remember most about Grandmom’s kitchen is the big old woodstove she had against the middle of her back wall in the main kitchen area. The pantry room had been added on many years after the original house was built, but Grandmom’s original kitchen was the heart of her home. And that old woodstove was the heart of her kitchen. I cannot even imagine how many meals she cooked on that stove.

And the stories that old stove could’ve told…..

wood stoveWhen my mom and her four brothers and sisters were growing up my grandfather was working his farm every day, and had several hired hands helping him. In those days, the farmer’s wife cooked and served lunch for everyone. My grandmother was no exception, and although I don’t really know how many men Granddaddy had working for him, I’m sure that on most days there were at least four or five extra mouths at that lunch table, so that woodstove got a workout!

I can’t even begin to imagine how many huge kettles of jams and jellies were made on top of that stove. How many “messes” of turnip greens were cooked up. Plus I’m sure there were lots of cast iron skillets full of cornbread baked in that oven. And, since they were a farming family who raised hogs and chickens along with corn, potatoes, and soy beans, this memory wouldn’t be complete without mentioning how my grandmother used to fry up the pigs’ ears and pigs’ tails for my youngest aunt when she was a little girl. To me it sounds awful, but my aunt said they were delicious! I’ll just take her word for it.

woodstoveI cannot imagine the skill it took to prepare a meal on a woodstove. There was virtually no way to control the amount of heat, either on the top burners or in the oven. How in the world my grandmother managed to bake pies, cakes, and cookies without burning them up or ending up with a glop of under-baked dough, I have no idea. But I’m sure that’s why a lot of her handwritten recipes that I still have don’t have an oven temperature on them, or a cooking time! She just knew what to do. How she was able to fry chicken and pork chops and have them turn out juicy and golden brown, I cannot say. (I can’t get them to turn out well on a modern gas stove!) Roasting a turkey or a chicken in an oven where you can’t control the heat? I have no idea how she did it, but she did!

And this made me start thinking even further. How in the world do you actually manage to cook a meal on a wood stove? You can’t just turn on a burner and cook some vegetables or scramble some eggs. The fire has to be started, stoked, and established. Depending on what you wish to cook, you have to somehow adjust the heat accordingly. Not an easy thing to do, since it’s very difficult to control a constant temperature. Wood needs to be added continually or the fire will go out. It’s a matter of trial and error guesswork, in all honesty.

Grandmom didn’t use that stove very much by the time my cousins and I were growing up, since she had her other one, and the woodstove was quite a bit of work to keep operating. But we always begged her to make us toast in it when we came to visit. That stove made the very best toast I’ve ever had! There was just something so special about the flavor of sliced bread toasted in that oven and then slathered with real butter; I can’t describe it. I’ve tried to duplicate it many times, but you just can’t re-create the flavor that came from that wood fire.

Unfortunately Grandmom’s woodstove was sold along with the house and farm after my grandfather died and my grandmother came to live with my mother and me. I hadn’t thought about this in years, but now I’d really like to know where it went. Not that any of us in the family would have used it as a stove, but wouldn’t it have made a wonderful conversation piece in someone’s family room?

Oh, the memories…..

The Price of Freedom

The price of freedom cannot be measured monetarily. It is measured by the sacrifice of the lives of the men and women who defend it.

Today is Veterans Day. The day we thank all of those who have served and are currently serving in our military. Their bravery and dedication to duty is not appreciated nearly enough.

My father served in the Army during World War II, however, because of a bad knee that he had originally injured playing football in college, he was sent home with an honorable discharge and a knee brace.

My uncle also served, however, he did not get home until the war ended. He was quite fortunate. Although I do not know his entire story, I will relate what I know of it, because in my eyes, he was one of the heroes.

Fowler Cottingham joined the Army as a young man barely 18 years old. He was trained as a crewman on the fighter planes, and consequently sent to Germany, where he flew in several successful missions with his crew.WW2 Plane

The morning of the day he flew his final mission was most likely just another day. Clear skies; light wind; a perfect day for flying. I can imagine the crew loading the plane, going through their pre-flight checklist, making sure their parachutes were ready, and most likely cracking jokes and talking about what they’d do when they came back from their mission.

Flying over enemy territory was never safe. Most of us have probably seen movies of the allied war planes heading out for missions over Germany. What the movies don’t adequately show is the danger our men faced during each of these missions.

They didn’t have all of the sophisticated equipment in 1945 that our armed forces have now. There were no computers, no GPS; only a navigator with paper maps showing where they were supposed to be flying. There were gunners who fired their weapons without fancy electronics to assist them. They had to judge where to aim, and when to pull the trigger, based on what knowledge the officers and ground troops had been able to discern. It was much different than today. But they had courage, and a sense of duty. They had volunteered to serve, and knew the risks involved.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but my uncle’s plane took a hit from a German warplane. Fortunately they were all able to parachute out, and landed in a wooded area somewhere behind enemy lines. They had only a few supplies, and had no idea where they were. And no idea whether anyone else had any idea where they were, or even if they were alive.

Shortly afterwards they were captured by German soldiers and marched to one of the POW concentration camps. Capture was certainly better than being shot, which I’m sure they were all afraid, would happen. As brave as these men were, just remember, they were all in their early 20’s, the beginning of their lives. They all wondered if they’d ever see home and family again.Blanches Banques POW Camp

Over 93,000 men were held as prisoners in the German POW camps in World War II. They were held in drafty wooden buildings, with uncomfortable cots, and only a thin blanket for warmth. They were fed one or two meals a day, usually some type of thin soup and stale bread. Their only utensils were a tin spoon, and a tin cup for water. One day they were given a treat…candy bars which they quickly bit into. And then saw the worms inside.

My Uncle Fowler and his crew spent six months in that camp, guarded by armed soldiers and German shepherds. They never knew when or if the guards would come for some of them to question them, torture them, or kill them.

There are some experiences that are just too terrible to discuss because they bring back too many nightmares. My uncle would never discuss any of what happened, other than what I have written here; not with his parents, his wife, or his two sons. After his return, and until the day he died, he was scared of German shepherds because he had seen them tear hands and arms off of prisoners who were trying to escape.

How did these men survive this ordeal? And where was the Lord in this? I’m sure the men wondered many times where He was. Even at the young age of 20, when he was captured, my uncle was a man of faith, and I’m certain his faith helped sustain him.

Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” The Lord was watching over them the entire time.

Yes, their plane was shot down, but the crew survived. The Lord directed the German bullets away from the fuselage so that the plane didn’t explode, which would have killed them all. When they landed in the woods, they had no idea where they were, and no idea where to go. The German soldiers could have killed them, but instead they were captured and allowed to live. Many other soldiers spent years in these concentration camps before being freed; these men only had to endure for six months. Many died in these camps, but these men all survived, because the Lord had plans for them. My uncle had a young woman, my aunt, waiting to meet him, fall in love, and marry. The Lord had plans for all of them and made sure those plans were carried out. Prayers for safety were answered; just not the way that was expected.

I wish I knew the names of my uncle’s crew members, but I never had the opportunity to find out. I would love to thank them as well for serving with him, and being part of his support system while in the camp.

And again, to all of our veterans and those who are still serving, and their families, Happy Veteran’s Day. Thank you for your service. May God bless you all, and keep you safe.veterans_day_thank_you-1940983