It’s Fruitcake Weather . . .

Not your old dried fruitcake with dried candied citrus.

I’m thinking of those old hangover memories from many long years ago when people still consumed fruitcakes, largely homemade and a gift signifying abundance for everyone who receives it. And when I read the book, A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, it increased my love of the tasty treat.

So for several years now, I have adopted the philosophy that fruitcake is indeed a sacred treat and must be treated as such. Therefore, it is a treat that requires special ingredients and the timing must be well-thought-out to have it ready at just the right time. When you make a fruitcake, you cannot just throw the ingredients together. You must go out and gather the ingredients in the most meaningful ways you can, and you also should not be afraid to experiment with the ingredients. And in the end result, your fruitcake needs to be like a cake and not a bowl of soup.

Here is a recipe for one of the special fruitcakes I have made for this special time. It is from my book, Pumpkin, Pumpkin: Folklore, History, Growing Hints and Good Eating, 3rd Edition. The book actually contains a whole lot more than what the title implies, but it could have filled up the cover with the title, so I have kept it shorter intentionally.

Pumpkin Fruitcake

1 c. canned pumpkin; 4 c. all-purpose flour; 1 c. buttermilk; 4 eggs; 1 c. brown sugar OR 1/2 c. brown sugar & 1/2 c. molasses; zest of one lemon and one orange; liquor of choice for soaking fruit

Juice of 1 lemon and 1 orange; Enough rum, brandy or liquor of choice mixed with juice of the lemon and orange, to cover the fruit; 1 1/2 c. pecans or walnuts (I like the whole halves or 1/4ths, but you might want to chop yours up more except for some halves for the top); 4 c. mixed dried fruit (dried apples, apricots, pineapple, cranberries, raisins, figs, dates or any combination you like); 1 tsp. baking powder; 1/2 tsp. baking soda; 1 tsp. ea. cinnamon, allspice, ginger (I add other spices as they occur to me by my choice – the recipe will not fail if you do not use others); salt (salt is very personal and will not make a difference whether you use it or not; if you have ever experimented with salt, you will know how this works).

Put all dried fruit into a bowl and cover it with a mixture of orange juice and rum or brandy, etc. to your taste. You need enough of the liquor to cover the fruit. Soak for at least 24 hours. I always add the liquor to what feels right to me personally. Remember that you are going to keep this cake in a tin until nearly Christmas (if you can do that), so you can add more along the way to make it better.

Preheat oven to 350o. To make the cake, mix all dry ingredients, and then add the pumpkin, eggs, and buttermilk. When mixture is consistently blended, pour in the rum soaked fruits.

Bake about 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. This cake can sit out, covered in a lidded tin container, and it will just keep getting better.

For me, the making of the fruitcake comes from the line in the book uttered by one of his beloved relatives, “It’s fruitcake weather.” It is how I love to celebrate my autumn. I hope you will find some good ways to celebrate yours as well.

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

Ingredients for Peace

Make Peace, Not War by Anne Copeland

It really isn’t a difficult recipe. In fact, it is probably easier than a recipe for making bread.

Ingredients: Respect, Dignity, Peace of Mind, Liberty for ALL, and throw in Cooperation, Understanding, Open-mindedness, Oneness, and perhaps Sharing. Can you think of any others? Why should these things be so difficult? How could we make them easier for everyone everywhere?

I would love to hear your ideas on how we could bring peace throughout the world while retaining who we all are. Is it possible or a dream that can never happen?

Writing Your Obituary

Courtesy Pexels

It seems an odd thing to think about when we are still alive and perhaps still young. Writing your obituary is a good idea though because if it is left to others to manage, they may write things that you would not have wanted to have written about you, or perhaps they would leave out things that were important to you.

It is a good way to remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished in your lifetime, and to remember people who others might not remember who were important to you in life. We don’t have to be thinking about dying, but we don’t really know what life has in store for us.

I often think of the story of Anne Frank, and how her story of her life in those last days was captured and has been an inspiration for so many people because it is the story of someone who lived a life with such meaning in just little everyday things. That is something I think it would be very difficult for another person, no matter how close they were to you, to capture your life the way you would have thought of it.

I think of my father, and I have not a photo or anything left of his life. He was not a role model for a father in some ways, but he did take care of us to ensure we had a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothing always. He once got me a Ford Taunus, and I drove it out to White Sands Proving Grounds with him, and it went on the fritz out there. I could only drive the whole way back in 1st gear, not being able to shift at all. It seemed that drive was forever, and I never wanted to drive that car again. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and I wonder how I might have written his obituary while he was still alive. I think the same for all of my relatives who are gone now, and those I particularly loved, and I so wish now I had captured their lives for my own children and their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps this is a good way to spend a bit of Father’s Day. If you can’t capture the life of your own father, perhaps you can capture your own growth from being a child to growing up and then becoming a father. I know someone will be glad someday to read about who you were as a human being and the things and people that were important to you in this life.

My Shoe’s Got Soul . . .

By Yours Truly

This is who I am. I love to recycle things that have meant something to me. I found these shoes in a thrift store years ago. I fell in love with them because the shoe brand was something like Sam and Jane and they were about the most comfortable shoes I ever had with a soft sole and leather that seemed to breathe. The original shoes were brown, not gold. But one day as I went to get my shoes to go someplace, the sole of one was literally falling off of it. Of course I was heartbroken, but then I had this idea to make a play on words and to give one of the shoes a whole new life, so I came up with this idea.

The “wings” are on a base which is made from the sole of one shoe, and I found the most wonderful colored organiza with a nice stiffness to it that allowed me to cut out the little leaves. The leaves seemed appropriate to me because shoes wouldn’t tend to go up in the air (except for the kids who throw them over the telephone lines). And I remembered in the compass of my soul how much fun it was as a kid (and ok, I confess, as a grownup too) to jump in a pile of leaves). And I had to make her a happy and bright color full of life, for that is how I remembered those old comfy shoes.

It’s so many years later since I made her, “My Shoe’s Got Soul.” She’s still with me, and I imagine that she will still be when I take my last jump into those leaves. And it’s funny because she led me to write a story called “Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot” about ten orphan shoes who live in a trash dump, and every Saturday, the animals up in the meadow above hear “sootspeak” because the dump is putting out ugly smoke and it is mixed with the angry and sad words from the ten orphans arguing because they were just thrown away like they never mattered after living lives with adventure. They were never appreciated for who and what they were, and the dump is a horrible place to live.

The Skittyfoot is a little boy with red (really red) hair who comes to visit the creatures in the meadow every day, and the little boy can talk to them and they to him. They tell him about the Tenshoes, and that they want him to go and rescue the Tenshoes from the ugly dump and bring them up to the meadow where they can live safely. But before they can come up to the meadow, they have to find things and fix themselves up as best as they can. Just because they are orphans doesn’t mean they cannot have pride in themselves.

So the Skittyfoot goes down to the dump, and ultimately gets the tenshoes to clean and fix themselves up, and help each other, which they do. Ultimately they go to the meadow with the Skittyfoot, and the little creatures in the meadow all make them welcome and they will have a forever home where they are loved and treasured.

No, I never published Tenshoes and the Skittyfoot though I guess I could have. Some things just live on in our hearts and in the compass of our souls. I’ve been a sort of orphan too, and it took me awhile, for I didn’t have a Skittyfoot or other orphans like me to help, but I fixed myself up nice and clean (there is not and never has been anything related to drugs or other similar things but a transformation from being a childhood orphan), and now I can make things like “My Shoe’s Got Soul” to help others to feel good about themselves too.

Isn’t it strange how life brings little things into our consciousness to help us learn to grow and to care for ourselves, even if we were a kind of orphan in our younger lives? And using art to fix up an old shoe that brought happiness to a life can be a symbol of that. We don’t have to find fancy things or to do anything special to make it up to the meadow from the dump. The recognition of value in little things is what brings a true transformation to us in our lives. Your life, no matter how small you may think it is, is a miracle. Live it like the true gift it is.

Talking to Rocks

A rock is a rock, but is it?

Today after a doctor’s visit, I was sitting out on a little circular border surrounding a large tree. It was just about the right height for a bench so I sat on the concrete flat area that seemed made to sit on. Inside that was a ring of rocks. To look at them at first, they were all about the same size and most were round and there was a bit of change in color. I picked up one and began to study it carefully. This one seemed to have one end cut or broken off, and it revealed a much darker and varied , somewhat smooth surface, as if I were looking into it. Down one side of that top area, extended a crack that seemed as if another part of it might split off. And crossing that seemed to be attempts to cut it with a sharp object diagonally.

Something drew me to pick up other rocks in that circle and to look at them. I guess sometimes it seems that, for example, perhaps all grains or sand, or in this case, all rocks in a group are similar in size, shape, color and texture. But in this case, the more I examined the rocks, I saw how distinctly different each one was. And I began to think about how each rock might have formed and what must have transpired to make it so different from all the rest. In my mind were so many questions coming forth, seemingly spilling out like a dam that was overflowing. How could it be that stones that likely all came from the same source/location could all be so different in texture, colors, shapes and sizes. Where was this magical place and what other surprises did it hold?

As I was pondering all these wonderful mysteries, my Lyft showed up and honked for me. I grabbed the one rock with the top seemingly cut from it and put it carefully into my pocket. I wanted to look at it once again at home and I wanted to ask it questions. One thing I learned today was that we should never even take a tiny grain of sand for granted. There is mystery and magic everywhere in this world.

A Prayer for Our Memory

I have seen too much for my young eyes.
Oh God, I come to you this day, my head bowed in sorrow.  You created this magnificent world. And look what we have done to it and to you.  Today, we celebrate Memorial Day to honor the soldiers who died fighting, each side with their own belief systems, somehow mistakenly believing that they were fighting for what was right.
We fight each other believing that we are fighting for freedom, but as long as we continue to fight, we will never be free.
When we think of the day of Memory, we need to remember not only soldiers who gave their lives, but for the millions of everyday citizens of countries who died, and especially the children, because the children are the future. The children are not old enough to understand the meaning of war. And yet they too lost their lives, or suffered physical and emotional damage that will follow them all the days ahead.
You gave us this abundant world, God, with enough food and resources to feed each person on this earth, and yet so many are going without food or warmth, or thirsting because we have failed in our ability to nurture the world instead of fighting to gain control over it.
Oh God, I pray to give us wisdom, and most of all, God, help us to learn compassion for all the others in this world and to see them as we see our own selves. We are all sacred because we are in you as you are in us. This I pray in your Memory.