The Pleather Labyrinth

This past Shabbat, a friend at church looked at my purse sitting on the table and said, “You’re quite an organized person, aren’t you?”

I pulled my beloved purse toward me, smiled proudly, and said, “Yes, yes I am.”

Allow me to explain. Two weeks ago I went on a day trip with two close friends. When I stepped away to powder my nose, fashionista friend said to mischievous friend, “Ugh… I really need to give her a new purse.”

I am not into purses the way the majority of women seem to be. I find a purse that meets my size requirements and compartment needs, and I carry that baby until tidbits of pleather flake off the handles exposing the fabric beneath and the lining rips out. I loathe purse shopping. Besides, the stupid things are so freaking expensive for something that’s going to be chucked into the back seat of my car, flung into a shopping cart, and occasionally forgotten at Home Depot or a restaurant.

I actually do have a lovely, leather purse my mother brought me from Italy, but it’s only big enough to accommodate a whispered secret and a tissue. Not practical. I carry it to weddings, funerals, and really fancy lunch dates.

What probably tipped fashionista friend over the edge was my horror story of how I once stapled the broken strap of a favorite purse and went right on carrying it. No doubt this is what prompted her to ask me upon exiting the bathroom, “How do you feel about black and white herringbone?”

A moment of confusion overcame me until mischievous friend spilled the beans on fashionista friend’s disdain for my bedraggled purse.

“Are you embarrassed to be seen with me and my purse in public?” I asked, laughing.

“Yes,” fashionista friend replied emphatically. She descended to the Fashionista Cave where she stores a bin of spare purses. I believe said bin has a keypad lock (with a code known only by her), is wired with explosives, and is guarded by a German Shepherd. Upon her return, she said, “I chose this one for you because I knew you’d like all the compartments.”

“You want me to switch out purses before we leave, don’t you?”

From the look on her face, I’m pretty sure that was understood. I plopped down on her living room floor and began sorting stuff into all the wonderful compartments of my lovely new purse. It was amazing. Everything just fell into place as I separated the most important items from those used less frequently. I even cleaned out a bunch of garbage I’d been hauling around and tossed it into a plastic shopping bag for disposal. Fashionista friend granted me one pardon when she allowed me to cut the handy little license holder from the old purse and slip it into the new one. Then she threw my old purse away, and we left.

Skip ahead to the next day when my husband noticed the new purse. I swear purses are like magnets for men in the weirdest way. They spy your purse, and suddenly they need something out of it. Of course, I couldn’t have hubby rooting around in my new purse like a warthog grubbing for food. Men are notorious for turning purses into disheveled messes as if a bear pawed through it.

For a microsecond, I entertained the thought of explaining to him how the setup of the new purse really wasn’t that different from the old. Inside the main zippered section (always the largest) was a tiny zippered section where cash and credit cards are stored. That was the same as was the open portion where lipstick, Chapstick, cough drops, and tissues were tucked.

The new purse also had a middle section with a place for my cellphone, check book, and sunglasses. So, slight up grade. Actually, super, awesome terrific upgrade because there are two zippers to this compartment that only need to be opened halfway to reveal a particular side. Lovin’ it!

But wait, there’s more. The next level down is yet another zippered section with a metal zipper pull where I store my keys. Husband should be kissing the ground where fashionista friend walks because in the past two weeks, I haven’t misplaced my keys once since I’ve owned this purse all due to the special place in my purse for keys. “Why did she mention the metal zipper pull?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because my metal keys go in the section with the metal zipper pull. See how that works. Easy enough for any husband who needs to put gas in my car to remember in which section he can find my keys.

Oh, but that’s not all. The whole back of the purse is open, so incidentals like brochures from gourmet olive oil shops and the business cards of women trying to sell me Viking refrigerators land there. No zipper or snap ensures that they fall out which is actually my goal.

There’s a tiny pouch with a snap where my business cards live and another with a zipper where gift cards I have yet to use and restaurant rewards cards are tucked. Brilliant, isn’t it? A place for everything and everything in its place. Did I mention that my lovely, new purse has handles and a shoulder strap? What’s not to love?

But just try explaining why things are where they are to a man, and the whole system breaks down. A woman would look at my purse and know in seconds where to begin searching for whatever she needed. Not that a woman would rummage through my purse without asking. Oh, no—that’s the sort of criminal behavior only men would commit.

Now I know there are many jokes about how scary the inside of a woman’s purse is. There’s even a stupid song about it. I am here to tell you that’s no accident. If we could fit a Minotaur in our purses to keep men out—or at least deter, possibly maim them for tossing it like inexperienced burglars—we would. And don’t bother suggesting that we draw them a map or label the compartments. Our husbands would ask us to store the map in our purses, and it’s not as if we’re going to number the compartments with a black Sharpie.

So now you understand how the friend at church pegged me as an organized person. I like to think she was a little bit envious of my purse. I’m going to carry this one forever, and when I say forever what I mean is until tidbits of pleather flake off the handles exposing the fabric beneath and the lining rips out.

True Grit

Memory Makers Masquerading as Cats

I love blog posts about the magic of ordinary days. You know the ones that expound upon the grit in our daily lives as if it’s some sort of fairy dust sprinkled over us that makes everything perfect and wonderful. This blog post is about the true nature of grit.

If you have ever owned cats or know anything about their personalities, you know they are thieving, little devils. They develop weird passions for things like pens, pencils, Q-tips, etc. Basically, anything they can swipe off a table, out of a cubby in a bathroom cabinet, or from the trash. My three cats (Henry, Simon, and Freddie) crave pencils especially if I’ve placed an eraser cap on the end. They usually chew off the eraser that comes with a pencil (I have found gnarled pieces of metal left as evidence of their handiwork) necessitating the addition of an eraser cap. I believe they work in concert to ensure this happens, and then they celebrate by waiting until I go to bed to work the pencil out of the jar in the living room, the wire spiral of my notebook, or from the side of my laptop cooling station.

Looking for one of my lost pencils is what prompted this blog post. I was on my hands and knees in the kitchen with the three offenders watching my progress as I laid my head parallel to the floor to peer beneath the printer table. I spied a popcorn kernel, and my mind flooded with memories of teaching Joshua how to make popcorn on the stove. I retrieved the kernel and sat back on my knees as I recalled what a great day that was and how many more like it we’ve had since. But I didn’t find the pencil.

I looked into the corners of the fireplace mantel also in the kitchen. A two by three piece of grey Lego was wedged behind the antique wood. It has been years since my kid played with Legos. He started by building every kit according to instructions, but his best creations were those he made up without the benefit of a pattern. The Titanic with a removable panel to simulate destruction by an iceberg, the Iron Giant, a mask similar to that worn by General Grievous, an M1 Garand that ejected the clip, a three-level ship longer than my kitchen table, and a working crossbow were among my favorites. Still no pencil.

Under the stove I found a cap from a bottle of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. How my cats managed to get the bottle cap was beyond me, but its discovery prompted the memory of a wonderful, teen-free evening spent with my husband. The night was outrageously hot and the light beverage tasted delicious and refreshing. Husband and I felt like newly-weds again as we whiled away hours in each other’s company doing absolutely nothing and loving every moment. Again, no pencil.

I crawled all over the house looking for my pencil. I could have simply used another one, but it was a matter of principle now. The cats trailed me with mild interest, and I swear they nodded their heads toward their litterbox as if suggesting I look there. Little creeps.

Every room received a thorough search, and along the way tidbits of stuff located beneath furniture or in corners prompted memories of the past twenty five years. At times I fretted over scuffed baseboards and the scars of puppy-chewed carpet, a house that looks quite “lived in” and the realization that I need to sweep more often than I already do! (A wise friend once said, “If you have pets, you’re going to have pet hair.”) But every inch of every room in our home offered up life that was and still is sound and stable. I cast a glance at my cats who sat just out of reach watching me. Their smug faces seemed to say, “You’re welcome.”

I eventually found my pencil inside the cooling station where a clumsy paw had pushed it in an effort to snag it off the table. I threaten to beat their hides every time one of my pencils goes missing, but I have to admit the process of looking for it adds to my memories most positively. Someday—hopefully not in the near future—my broken heart will reminisce Henry, Simon, and Freddie, and I’ll be most appreciative for the days they decided to steal my pencils.

Tumbler Roulette

I am seriously considering the switch to disposable plastic cups. I originally wanted to do this because both of the men in my house, husband and son, are notorious for grabbing a clean glass when they have one right in front of them. The amount of dirty dishes they produce in a day is staggering, but at the forefront of the parade of crockery and glassware marching into my dishwasher is always the humble tumbler.

They recently earned a reprieve in my campaign to get them to reuse a glass when illness took America in its grip. Just today I logged on Facebook to see that several more friends were either succumbing to the creeping crud or finally recovering from it. Because I am somewhat of a germaphobe, I granted husband and son amnesty during the periods of sickness that took down the Gibson Household not once, not twice, but three times.

But my men, God bless them, aren’t always diligent in following my gently applied guidelines when it comes to glasses. For example, I love to keep a glass by the sink full of ice cubes and fresh water so I can grab a drink whenever I’m thirsty. We don’t own one of those fancy refrigerators with water and ice magically spewing from the door, so this practice served me well until my son decided to indulge himself in my thirst quenching drink. I cannot tell you how many times the water-thieving twerp has guzzled my beverage moments before I reached for it. Adding insult to injury, he left the empty glass full of ice cubes right where I placed it.

Husband, on the other hand, is actually quite good about not drinking from my glass except that he forgets which glass is his and exactly where he set it. His mistake results in another lecture on the evils of the “community glass” replete with examples of how drinking from someone else’s glass is just plain gross.

“Guys, my glass is the one with the pebbled texture on the inside, okay?”

“Oh, I drank out of that one,” says the son who came home from school with the sniffles.

Big sigh as I empty that glass and place it in the dishwasher. Then I fill another glass, this time one with a lovely pattern resembling tartan plaid cut into the glass, and fill it with ice and water for me and me alone. Except this is also the pattern of the glass husband, who is recovering from illness, has decided upon, and now he can’t remember where he set his glass, and maybe he drank out of mine, maybe not. Two more glasses enter the dishwasher to prevent the spread of germs.

Three new glasses are procured for dinner, all different in pattern and color, and we agree to keep an eye on them for later use. Except my guys don’t, and to make matters worse, they cleared the dinner dishes, mixed up our glasses, and forgot which belonged to them. So you see I simply have to switch to plastic for the good of all mankind or at least to maintain my sanity.

The run on drinking glasses became so bad that we started using mugs. Not that this kept my boys from mixing up which one they had used to begin with. And I even caught the younger one drinking from mine again. I had to abandon my lovely glass (or mug) of chilled water waiting for me on the sink in favor of all three of us grabbing a fresh glass (or mug) every time we wanted a drink. And let me tell you, we’re water drinkers at the Gibson Household…which I suppose is a good thing especially when one is trying to push fluids during an illness.

But seriously, I’m switching to plastic cups. It’ll be me and Solo against all the tree-huggers who claim the popular red receptacle is a hazard to landfills. I can no longer play Jacob in trying to sort out the speckled and striped glasses and who drank out of which one. Procter & Gamble will no longer receive my money for countless boxes of dishwasher detergent every two weeks. Now, I will support Dart Container in my effort to stamp out germs.

In the words of Toby Keith, “Proceed to party!”

Let Them Eat Cake

The last recipe I’d like to share with you from our Hanukkah celebration is one that always popped up in church cookbooks.  Unfortunately, those old cookbooks are disappearing and no one seems to produce them anymore.  I held on to this recipe and tweaked it a little by using raw sugar in place of white and dark brown sugar instead of light brown.  The changes make for an even richer cake that still receives lots of praise.  Not to mention I love pulling out this old recipe to share with people who’ve never tasted it.

I made this cake to share at my writers group.  Even though a few ladies took two pieces, there was plenty left for my boys.  And then it was game on.  They ate it for breakfast with coffee, as a midday snack, and again after dinner.  I had to battle them to get a piece myself.  The only thing to do was make another which worked out for me as I needed one more blog post this week.

This easy, delicious cake would be great on Christmas morning while opening gifts or to have on hand for when friends stop by during the holidays.  The ‘everything mixed in one bowl’ batter and topping along with ingredients one almost always has on hand makes you look like a culinary genius when the guests taste that first bite.

Old-fashioned Oatmeal Cake

1 ¼ c boiling water

1 c oats

1 stick butter, unsalted

1 c sugar (I use raw)

1 c packed dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 t vanilla

1 ½ c flour

½ t salt

1 t baking soda

1 ½ t cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Pour the boiling water over the oats and allow them to stand for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the oats are cool.  Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter, both sugars, eggs, and vanilla.  Add the oats and mix thoroughly.  Sift the flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and blend well.  Pour the batter into a 9 x 13 inch pan that has been greased or sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 350° for 35 to 40 minutes.  A knife inserted in the center should come out clean.

Five minutes before the oatmeal cake comes out, prepare the topping mixture.

Topping:

½ c dark brown sugar

½ stick of unsalted butter, softened

¼ heavy whipping cream (can substitute whole milk)

1 c chopped pecans or walnuts

½ c flaked coconut

½ t vanilla

Mix all ingredients together and spread carefully over the hot cake so as not to tear the surface.  Work with small dollops of topping.  Heat from the cake will melt the butter and sugar as you spread.

Enjoy!

Oy Olé!

As we continue our Hanukkah celebration, I have to laugh because yet again the Gibson Household is experiencing What I Like About Being American.  By that I mean we enjoyed another, non-traditional yet delicious meal.  We love to include the best a culture has to offer, namely their food.

Mexican Family Skillet was invented a few days before I was due to grocery shop, and I needed to extend a pound of ground beef to feed and satisfy two hungry men as well as myself.  A little scrounging through my pantry shelves and spice cupboards, and a new dish was invented.

I don’t doubt that it’s a much Americanized version of Mexican cuisine, but the blending of cultures through food produces peace in a way that is often overlooked.  While it may sound too common to be served for a holiday, it still draws my family together over dinner, and that’s what really counts.

Mexican Family Skillet

1 lb. ground beef

6 green onions, the white and a small portion of the green, diced –OR– 1 small sweet onion, diced

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can corn, drained and rinsed

1 can petit diced tomatoes, DO NOT DRAIN

1 T chili powder

¼ t garlic powder

¼ t onion powder

¼ t crushed red pepper flakes

¼ t oregano

½ t paprika

1 ½ t ground cumin

1 t sea salt

1 t black pepper

1 – 8 oz. block of cheddar, shredded

Sour cream, guacamole, chopped avocado, optional

Cook the ground beef in a skillet with the onions until the meat is no longer pink.  Drain the mixture thoroughly and return to the skillet.  Add the black beans, corn, and tomatoes with their juice.  Stir to mix.  Add the spices, stir, and heat through.

Serve the meat and vegetable mixture in tortillas.  Top with cheddar cheese.  Sour cream, guacamole, or chopped avocado is optional.

Enjoy!

The Meat of the Matter

Here at the Gibson Ranch, we like to step outside the corral of meat and potatoes to try a little something different.  For Hanukkah this year, we indulged in one of our favorites:  Lebanese meat pies.  They’re perfect as an appetizer, a side dish, or even a main dish.  It’s all a matter of perspective, what you’re serving them with, and how many you want to eat!

This easy recipe is a great introduction to Middle Eastern cooking.  I’m sure you’ll end up making it part of your holiday traditions, too.

Lebanese Meat Pies

2 lb. ground beef or ground lamb

¾ c pine nuts, toasted

2 large sweet onions, diced

Juice of 2 lemons

½ – 1 t sea salt

½ t black pepper

Hearty dashes of cinnamon

Slight dash of allspice

36 frozen dinner rolls (I used Rhodes)

Egg white for glazing

Prepare the dinner rolls the night before.  Place them on baking sheets coated with cooking spray taking care to leave room for rising.  Cover with plastic wrap also coated with cooking spray and place the trays in the refrigerator.  The rolls will defrost in the refrigerator, but you will need to let them rise at room temperature until they are at least doubled in size.

When the rolls are ready, preheat your oven to 450° degrees.

Toast the pine nuts in a toaster oven at 325° for 5 minutes stirring at least once.  Pine nuts burn easily, so start with 5 minutes and only cook in additional minutes, if necessary, until they are golden.  You can do these in a conventional oven, but keep an eye on them.  Set aside to cool, and then chop or grind coarsely.

Dice the onion and place it in a skillet with the ground beef.  Cook until the meat is no longer red and the onions are translucent.  Drain thoroughly; there will be quite a bit of liquid.  Return the meat/onion mixture to the skillet and add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice.  Stir to mix and warm through.

To assemble the meat pies, take one roll, stretch it out round, and place a spoonful of meat mixture in the center.  Fold one side in toward the center, and then fold up another side.  Pinch the seam shut between the two sides.  Fold up the third side, and pinch the other two seams shut as well.  You will end up with a triangular-shaped pie.  Some people bake them seam down, but I’ve always baked them seam up.  If your seams are secure, I’ve found it really doesn’t matter.

Brush the sealed pies with beaten egg white taking care not to rip them open.  Bake for 10 – 11 minutes until golden brown, ending up more on the golden end of the color spectrum.  Depending on your oven, you may go 12 – 15 minutes, but do not burn the bottoms or overbake the tops.

Enjoy!

Holy Macaroni…and Cheese

I love the craziness that is planning for Hanukkah, especially the food.  Traditionally, fried foods are consumed as part of the commemoration of the Maccabees not having enough oil for the menorah which miraculously burned for eight nights despite the small quantity.  Why fried foods you ask?  Because it’s fried in oil.  Get the connection?

We’ve tried an all-fried or mostly fried menu in the past, and our stomachs lived to regret it.  There are, however, many delicious recipes one can make for Hanukkah that aren’t fried.  They also probably aren’t traditional, and may raise a few eyebrows, but good eating is part of what it’s all about for us, and Adonai has blessed us richly!

So don’t laugh when I tell you the Gibson household will be dining on my homemade macaroni and cheese for Hanukkah tonight.  It’s so rich and cheesy that it’s almost sinful.  Fear not, we pray over it before eating to counterbalance that last point.

HL’s Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

1 – 1 lb. box of elbow macaroni

½ c (1 stick) unsalted butter

½ c all-purpose flour

4 c whole milk

3 – 8 oz. blocks of cheese, shredded

Salt and pepper to taste

½ – 1 t dry mustard, optional

Side note:  I start with blocks of cheese over pre-shredded because it’s creamier.  The pre-shredded stuff always seems dry to me.  Also, I suspect the quantity isn’t exactly what the packaging says.  You’ll want at least six cups of cheese, however, I’ve found that a little more never hurts which is another reason I prefer blocks of cheese.

When choosing cheeses, I like to include at least one orange cheese to make it look like traditional, American mac-n-cheese.  However, an all-white version is just as tasty and visually pleasing.

Consider mild, sharp, or extra sharp orange cheddars, NY white cheddar, mozzarella, Gruyère, Swiss, Monterrey Jack, Colby-Jack, Longhorn, etc.  I know some of these are considered to be the same, but I’ve found subtle taste differences that make choosing half the fun.

Recipe:

Preheat your oven to 400°.

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions until al dente.  Drain thoroughly as macaroni holds a lot of water in the crook of the elbow.  While the macaroni is draining, use the hot pot you cooked it in to melt the butter over a low heat.  Add the flour and whisk until smooth.  Cook for one minute and do not let it burn.

Slowly add the milk, whisking thoroughly, and cook for another minute over medium heat.  Add all but a half cup of the cheese by handfuls, stirring after each addition.  Continue cooking until the cheese melts and becomes stringy.  Not all the cheese may melt, but this is acceptable.

Add the drained macaroni to the mixture and stir to coat.  Carefully pour the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 13 glass baking dish.  (Do not panic if it seems soupy.  The extra liquid will be absorbed and make the mac-n-cheese creamy.)  Top with the last half cup of cheese.  Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until the cheese on the top browns and bubbles.  Let it sit for ten minutes before serving.

Options:

I’ve chosen all Italian cheeses, added ½ – 1 T of Italian seasoning, grilled chicken, and topped  with slices of provolone.

Bread crumbs tossed with parmesan cheese is also a delicious topper.

Uncured turkey bacon, cooked and diced, tastes wonderful stirred in.  We use Applegate.

Nuttin’ but the Best

Most of the recipes I supply are connected to my writing, but this time I’m offering a favorite Gibson Family recipe just because.  Well, that and we’ll be eating it for Hanukkah this year.  This recipe comes highly recommended by my husband and son, and it’s super easy to make.  Factor in the deliciousness, and you’ll want to make it part of your holiday traditions, too.

We’re ice cream freaks at the Gibson household, and nothing makes ice cream a little tastier than a homemade sauce.  With that thought in mind, what could be more American in flavor than peanut butter?  The following recipe is one we enjoy time and again on chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  It’s also good on waffles, pancakes, banana bread, and shortbread cookies.  I’m sure you’ll come up with a few places to try it, too.

Peanut Butter Sauce

1 c smooth peanut butter

⅓ c sugar (I use raw)

¾ c heavy cream

2 T butter

¼ c light corn syrup

1 t vanilla

If using raw sugar, place the heavy cream and sugar in a small saucepan over the lowest heat possible.  Stir constantly but gently until the sugar dissolves.  This step is necessary to melt the larger crystals.

If using regular white sugar or a small-grained, organic sugar, place all the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-low heat.  Stir until the ingredients are combined thoroughly.  Do not boil or overcook as this will make the sauce too thick.

Cool the sauce slightly before using.  I’m told you can store it covered in a refrigerator for two weeks, but ours never lasts that long.  You can reheat the chilled sauce in a saucepan on a low heat.  Thin it with 1 – 2 tablespoons of heavy cream if necessary.  Do not microwave the sauce or it will become grainy.

Rewind to the Future

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times:  there are advancements to technology, but they aren’t always advancements to the quality of our lives.  Yet every day I find myself more dependent on some form of technology, and I must admit that a few have become quite the convenience.  Take my laptop, for example.

About six years ago, my parents surprised us with a laptop because our son had reached the stage of his schooling where he needed one to complete his homework.  Then there was the fact that the school insisted communication with students and parents be conducted mostly, if not solely, via e-mail and homework sites.  We had an old desktop model, but it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Since the generous gifting of the laptop, I have come to enjoy it for online banking, communicating with friends (although I still argue that social media makes people who once met for socializing somewhat lazy), watching movies, and my favorite, ripping CDs into custom-made playlists.  And then one horrific day, the DVD/CD drive thingy stopped working.

At first I couldn’t open it.  Not even with the cool trick using a paperclip the guy at the store showed me.  And when I placed a DVD or CD inside and shut the drawer, the laptop no longer read it.  Imagine my dismay.  My playlists would grow no more, and worse, it may be time to look for another laptop.

There was the option of an external drive, but even the sales clerk thought the price his employer was charging to be a little outrageous.  He suggested I try shopping online if I absolutely needed one.  At least he didn’t try to sell me a laptop I wasn’t prepared to buy at the moment.  Our finances aren’t ready for that commitment yet.

I’m not exactly technologically challenged, but I’m not savvy either.  Perhaps with all this streaming, DVDs and CDs were going by the wayside.  One day while running errands, I consulted our in-house IT geek also known as our son.  When I posed this thought to him, he agreed that an external drive would simply be a convenience for old-schoolers like me.

“You could rip all your CDs, Mom.  They even have external connections for those other things you and Dad have.”

“What other things?”

He cupped his left hand with a U-shaped slot between his thumb and fingers and inserted his other flattened hand inside, mimicking something.

“You know, those square things.”

Images of 3.5-inch floppy disks sprang to mind, but they had nothing to do with our discussion.

“What things, Joshua?”

Again, and with much exasperation on his part, he mimicked some bizarre function by rotating his index fingers in circles going the same direction.

“Those things that are square and go ‘round and ‘round.”

“You mean…cassettes?”

Let the laughter begin.  I rarely get one up on this kid these days.  He’s a titch smug from time to time with all he knows technologically, so when I have the opportunity to laugh (and I’m talking Precious Pup, wheezing type laughter as I’m driving) I take it.  Joshua is a good sport, though, and after turning beet red, he joined in the hilarity.  Still, he’ll never know the satisfaction of saving a favorite cassette from destruction by rewinding it with a pencil.

When Maturity Strikes

I have to admit, we have a pretty great kid.  True, the teen years have been trying at times, but every now and then our son, Joshua, takes a giant leap of maturity.  We first witnessed this when he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in October 2016.  What an amazing day that was as we watched Joshua, no longer a little boy, stand before his leaders and peers and promise to do his duty to God and his country and to serve other people.

Of course, being an Eagle Scout wasn’t a magic fix against the angst of the teen years, and once in a while his Dad and I had to be the heavies in a situation.  People have complimented us on how well we raised Joshua, telling us what a pleasure he was to have around.  We tilted our heads, plastered on a smile, said thank you, and thought to ourselves you only say that because you don’t live with him.  We’ve learned to chalk it up to Joshua being a typical teen.

On occasion, however, he does something that shocks his father and me to the point that we can’t quit talking about it.  Like today, for example.  Joshua works at a local grocery store one or two days a week.  It’s his first job, and he takes it quite seriously.  Already he’s making comments that let us know the good work ethic we instilled in him is paying off.

As if working hard and earning his first turkey this Thanksgiving (he was so proud) wasn’t reward enough for me and my husband, Joshua said to me, “Hey, Mom.  Why don’t you give me the grocery list, and when I get off work, I’ll do the shopping.”  Imagine the few stunned seconds that preceded, “Oh, okay…”  Where did that come from?  I know he’s extended his employee discount to us (another fact about which he was proud), but to actually expend his own time and energy shopping for the family?  Has the lesson of caring for others finally sunk in?

I made an extremely detailed list for him including brand names and item counts.  He laughed at me, but he folded it up and placed it in his wallet.  We made sure he had a secure form of payment, another thing for which he must display the ultimate responsibility, and then his father dropped him off at work.  And as I mentioned above, we could not stop talking about it all day long.

William repeatedly wondered aloud what made him offer to do the shopping.  I got tears in my eyes and immediately envisioned Joshua as the CEO of a major corporation sitting behind a mahogany desk in his top-floor office with a picture of him working at his first job in a frame with a photocopy of his first paycheck.  If you don’t understand my leap in logic, you’re probably not a woman and possibly not a mother.  In any case, I built a little wiggle room into the grocery list in case he makes a small error, and I left the choosing of flavors for certain items up to him.  Let’s pray my coaching on how to pick a good apple sticks.

Now if we can just get him to pick up his room on a daily basis.

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