my best gifts given, part one

In fourth grade our student teacher, Miss Trillman, got married mid-semester.

As a wedding gift from the class, our regular teacher gave us each a 3×5 index card and instructed us to print our favorite recipe on it. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it was our favorite. As I recall, every one of my fellow classmates gave Miss T the most complex recipe their mom was able to prepare. The cards were carefully printed, and no doubt just as carefully chosen, by their mothers. I took the idea to heart and instead got my mom to calculate the ingredients for my absolute favorite meal of all time, bologna & cheeses.

These aren’t simply bologna & cheese sandwiches, sliced and placed on bread. They are made from polish sausage, cheddar cheese, onions, ketchup and probably one or two other things I don’t remember, all put through the meat grinder and turned into a gooey delight. When Mom suggested B&Cs for dinner, the whole family went shopping with her, just to make sure she didn’t forget any of the ingredients. Each of us had one thing we picked out and brought back to the shopping cart, making the trip a quick one. Heaven forbid Mom should have too much other shopping to do. Our patience was limited.

Once blended, the mixture was then spread on lightly toasted bread (both sides) and broiled until it bubbled a little and the edges and part of the top turn just a little black. It takes a little practice to know just exactly how thick to spread it — too thin and it’s dry, too thick and it’s, well, too thick. But this is the best sandwich ever for kids and adults alike. It takes ordinary ingredients and turns them into something with a sharp taste, better than spaghetti or hamburgers.

If you’re a ten-year-old girl and have just an average appetite, you eat two. If you’re ravenous, you eat three and maybe regret it a little, because it’s too much in the end. The best part is, no matter how hungry the rest of my family was, the recipe made enough for plenty of leftovers, and bologna & cheese holds up well for a couple of days. So two more days of great lunches to look forward to, and you’re still not tired of them.

Miss Trillman, who became Mrs. Peck (distant relative to the actor Gregory Peck), told the class my recipe was her & her husband’s favorite. They all protested because their recipes were fancier and therefore, better, but she told them mine was best because it was perfect everyday food and besides, her husband was a big man with a big appetite and these sandwiches easily filled him up. Another bonus, he liked preparing them, and after a long day with 30 fourth-graders, she didn’t always feel like cooking. We groaned at that comment, but frankly, I’d never doubted my choice would win out over the others.

Image Credit: © Graphic Stock

honda heaven and beyond

Photo credit: top (sky background) © Andrii Salivon -

My 1996 Honda Accord gave up the ghost, so to speak, and left for Honda Heaven earlier this month.

I bought it six years ago after my 2000 Corolla (which I’d bought brand new in 1999) was totaled. I was oh-so-fortunate back then, the proceeds from my crushed and crumpled Corolla just exactly covered the cost of the Accord, so I haven’t had a car payment in about ten years. Now, at a time when I’m both out of work and out of savings, I needed a new car, and I needed a way to finance it.

I should say, I’m actually underemployed, not unemployed. I work part-time and knew I would barely make enough to scrape by with a car payment and the higher insurance cost. Up to this time I’d been modestly comfortable with my limited income in that I haven’t struggled to pay my bills or purchase food. That would change. The loss of my Accord meant more than just losing a vehicle, I was losing a lifestyle, as modest as it was. Finding a new job has been incredibly difficult for me, and I didn’t expect that tide to turn immediately.

I didn’t relish the thought of going back to where I was before I got this job. There were days, weeks even, when I’d be stuck at home because I didn’t have enough money to put gas in my car to go anywhere. I barely had enough to buy essentials such as toilet paper and laundry soap. I gave up cable TV a long time ago, although right now I can afford Netflix — most months. So now, even though I’m working, my expenses would go up radically (given my limited income to start with) and I’d be back where I was a year ago. Scary, depressing.

Looking into what was out there was exhausting and I proved to be a car salesman’s dream customer, someone who just wants to get the deal done and drive off in her new — or used — car. Fortunately, I had a co-signer with a stake in this who put the brakes on and forced me to ask around to make sure I was getting the best deal possible. I hated every second of it and more than once tried to tell him I just wanted to take the deal and get it over with, but he wouldn’t do it.

It isn’t easy when you know one of your inherent characteristics may lead you to be taken advantage of by someone trained to do just that. I had to tell myself, be thankful there’s someone willing to show you how it’s done by taking the time to do it himself. Sit back and relax. Get a good night’s sleep before you make any decisions. Listen to the wisdom of someone who’s been there before you. I had to set aside doubts such as, his information is outdated, they do things differently these days (turns out they don’t). My anxiety was getting the better of me and making me look for the quickest way out. Problem is, that way out can lead to the wrong path.

PriusRemarkably, my co-signer/fairy godmother found an incredible deal that allowed me to drive off in a brand-new Prius at a price I could afford. So today for the first time in years I found myself driving a car I can take outside the county limits, because I don’t need to be within calling distance of friends or family when (not if) it breaks down. The maintenance agreement even covers oil changes for two years. My costs have gone up and gone down at the same time, although on the balance they do remain higher.

The remarkable end to what seemed like an impossible situation — finding a car when I had no credit and a limited income — has given me the courage to search for a job more appropriate to my education and experience. I’ve been held back by legitimate barriers, too complex to describe here, but the time may have come to knock them down. I’ll wait a few months so I can make at least one trip to see my mom, who lives a day’s drive away. Of course saying that almost certainly guarantees a job opportunity too good to pass up will come my way sooner. I can only hope.

Photo credit: top (sky background) © Andrii Salivon –

resolutions and revelations

I’m not motivated by New Year’s Resolutions. No surprise there, most people aren’t.

No surprise what does motivate me either: trying to impress someone important to me is always a big one. Problem is, that comes and goes. Here’s the reason that actually works: finally realizing my life is truly better and I’m going to attract better things when I do things the right way. And typically it has taken failure in my life, and some humiliation, to get to that realization.

My friends say, oh, we each worry about those things a lot more than others do. After all, we have to liyou bought me the bookve with our own failings, our stupidity, our repeated efforts to resolve what’s gone wrong with yet one more foolish gesture.

Right now I’m faced with what seems to me to be huge failure brought on by circumstances I had no control over. Wisdom from others tells me to learn to control what I can and live with what I can’t, but what I can’t control has taken over and felled me. Now I need to stand up and return to where I was only a short time ago. But will I fall again? Probably. That which I do not control will always be with me, and I fear that those I care about will leave me.

So I must do what I can to perhaps ward off the beast that follows me everywhere for longer than before. I must learn from this and pray I have another chance that will allow me to succeed. I weep at the thought I won’t, and realize I now have little control over that, but in and of itself there could stand a truth I need to learn. Truth that belies what I have held so dear for so long.

I face difficult yet not insurmountable odds. I tell myself I can take advantage with hard work and fierce resolve, with fortitude and purpose. No trite quotes for me, but strength of mind and character prevail. This year was better than last. I can’t guarantee next year will be better than this, but I’m hopeful it will be.

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