Remembrance

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A prayer card from Grandma's funeral

A prayer card from Grandma’s funeral

Grandma's prayer book

Grandma’s prayer book

A bookmark grandma received in seventh grade

A bookmark grandma received in seventh grade

The back of the bookmark Grandma received in 7th grade. (her maiden name was Kutcha)

The back of the bookmark Grandma received in 7th grade.
(her maiden name was Kutcha)

How do we remember those who have gone before us?

When I was just a little girl of about four years old, after Grandma had said my prayers with me and tucked me in to bed on the couch with the plastic bags over the cushions “just in case”, I tiptoed back into her room. I wanted a glass of water, or some such thing to prolong the going-to-bed process. There she was, kneeling down by her bed and praying. In front of her, she had a prayer book, a rosary, and many of the prayer cards one receives at funerals. By four years old, I had learned to say the “Our Father” and “Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts…” the prayer we said before dinner most nights at our house. I didn’t understand how she could, or why she would pray so long and for so many people. I was much too young to have a theological conversation about praying for souls in purgatory, or whatever it was that she was praying about, but I never forgot the image of her there, on her knees, with all those prayer cards laid out on the bed.

Sometimes, after Mass on Sundays or holidays, Grandma and my parents and I and some of my aunts and uncles and cousins would go to St. John’s Cemetery and put flowers or a wreath or a “blanket” on family members’ graves. I didn’t know any of those people. My first experience with losing a loved one would be losing Grandma the October when I was four years old. But I learned by watching the actions of Grandma and Mom and Dad and my aunts and uncles, that remembering someone who has died, is an important thing to do.

I think it must have been in January of 1982, nine months before her own death, Grandma said to me, “Angel, today is your Grandpa’s and my wedding anniversary. He went to Heaven a long time ago (it must have been about 15 years) but we would have been married 45(?) years if he was still alive.”

I remember thinking that 15 years was so many years ago and I wondered why, after all those years, it would still matter. I didn’t say so. I knew that if it was important to Grandma, it must be important. Now, almost 32 years after her death and on the 13 year anniversary of 9/11/01, I realize how very insignificant time is when it comes to dulling the pain of a great loss.

In the Catholic Church, believers pray for “Eternal Rest.” In the Orthodox Church, when someone dies, the faithful chant, “Memory Eternal.” To me, these are very special and important prayers for us, and about those who have gone before us. We should remember them in our words and our actions so that the lessons they taught us and the love they gave us will never die.

I am lucky enough to have inherited Grandma Tylutki’s very worn prayer book and many of those remembrance cards. They are an important reminder of how love goes on, long after someone has died. It is my hope that my children will learn to memorialize loved ones by my actions as I learned from my elders.

Today’s post was going to be a recipe…but as I sat down to write, I decided another zucchini recipe could wait and this could not.

Love to all of you from Down to Earth Angel

 

The Humble Clothesline

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Yes. This post is actually about clotheslines. But it’s worth it. It’s chock-full of good ideas and is entertaining. I promise. 🙂
Downtoearthangel.com is all about taking the best of the past for the present, and the clothesline is quite under-appreciated by too many people. So, I thought perhaps I would remind my readers about this blast from the past.
Now, don’t get me wrong–on rainy days and in the wintertime, I genuinely appreciate my gas dryer. And although this post disparages the dryer to a degree, there are things I do appreciate about it. But the clothesline is about freshness and nature and organization and all kinds of awesomeness. 🙂

I love my clothesline because it gives my clothes a smell that Downy just can’t replicate: a sweet mixture of grassy notes, hints of flowers, trees and sunshine (don’t tell me sunshine doesn’t smell). Even with dryer sheets, the dryer makes them smell, well, boring.

Clotheslines make clothes look almost ironed…even if I leave them out longer than I need to. I do not have time to keep checking the dryer to see if the clothes are just at the right amount of damp-dry to shake them and put them on hangers to avoid the ironing board. Most of the time, I’ll put in a load and not get back to it until it has cooled down and set all the wrinkles in quite permanently. Who has time to iron? Not I! Yuck. But I also don’t like sending my brood out looking like they just rolled out of bed. Solution: clothesline.

Speaking of ironing, I love my clothesline because I will never, ever, EVER, in a million years, iron my sheets; but my clothesline makes them feel like I did. They even dry faster on the line than in the dryer. The dryer wrinkles them up in a big tangled mess and leaves the inside wet while the outer part gets over-heated. 😦

Additionally, my clothesline, adorned with sheets and blankets, makes awesome tents for my four little children to play in. They wanted to play astronaut in the dryer, but I had to put the kibosh on that. Something about a deathtrap…

OK, let’s just get this out there: I’m a penny-pincher. Not using the gas and electricity saves me money and is good for the nature! Three cheers for free solar and wind power for drying the clothes. HIP HIP HOORAY (x3)

UV light naturally kills germs. Did I mention I have four small children? Enough said.

Sorting clothes from the dryer is kind of a pain. We have six people in our family and having a folding table big enough to properly sort clothes as I fold them is a challenge. With my clothesline, I play a little game where I run around and take down and fold all of one kind of clothing for one child and then proceed to the next. That way, I don’t have Johnny’s underwear mixed in with his shirts. They’re all nice and neat and organized making them easy to put away. Fabulous. It actually saves me time.

Dryers emit positive ions. It sounds good, but it’s actually bad. Positive ions make you feel yucky and depressed. Ever walked into a laundromat and felt better than being outside? Nope. I didn’t think so. “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” Don’t take my word for it, ask John Denver. Oh wait, he died. Well, anyway, we have it on RECORD. OMG I’m so punny.

Sorry, I had to.

Well, that pretty much sums it up. I’m sure more reasons I love my clothesline will pop into my head soon, but I’ve got laundry to do. 🙂

Now, before winter creeps up and freezes clothes on the line, go enjoy some sunshine and make laundry day a happy day. 🙂

p.s. To my dryer, I’m sorry for picking on you. But you have to admit, you kind of had it coming–if for nothing else–then at least for creating black holes that swallow the children’s socks. However, I like the way you dry the towels and make them fluffy.

Somebody Vs. Nobody

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A young friend of mine wrote this on her blog http://www.ellieshack.wordpress.com and It contains so much wisdom of the ages that I just have to re-post it for you all to read.
Thank you, Ellie!

ellie shackelford

A paper I wrote for my sophomore English class in the second semester:
If you’re reading any media aimed at teenagers, what is one piece of advice that is sure to be squished in somewhere? “Be yourself.” This seems like pretty solid advice, but the problem is that at this age of maturity, nobody knows what being his or herself even is. I certainly don’t. We have slivers of ideas of what ourselves are, some contradicting themselves, some short-lived, some spot-on. How is “be yourself” good advice?
Certainly “be yourself” assumes that I am somebody.
As people, we have a natural sense to be known by others, to be “somebody” to others. People think that doing something will get them something in return, sometimes, an identity. We are known for what we do: a teacher teaches, a mathematician does math, a writer writes, an artist makes art, a liar lies…

View original post 696 more words

Breezy

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If you could just understand
how much I really do love you
Then I think you’d never
feel unloved again.

If I could reach out and touch you
Across the miles that divide us
I’m sure you would
never feel lonely again

Because I’m your friend
No matter what life may bring
No matter what storms may rage
I’ll always be here for you

You put your smile on and say that you’re fine
But I know that there’s sadness you’re hiding inside.
How I wish you’d admit that you’re hurting
and let me hold you.

Because I’m you’re friend
No matter what storms may rage
No matter what hurt you hold
I’ll always love you

You put on your brave smile
because you’re who they’re counting on
You rush and you work and you fight ’til you can’t go on
You say Easy Breezy but I know there’s a struggle inside

‘Cause I’m your friend,
No matter what storms may rage
No matter what lies ahead
I’ll always be her for you.

So when you feel you’re drowning
and can’t go on
Please reach up and grab my hand–
I’m reaching for you.

Please know this: I know that you love me too
You think you’re protecting me when you go inside you.
Come back soon. I need you to know that I need you too
When you hide from me, I am weeping for you.

I’m your friend
No matter what storms may rage
No matter what fear is inside
I’ll fight them with you

So fight! climb up! And when it is hard to do–
You must know I’m fighting here on your side
I know all the good in you and
I’ll ALWAYS love you
Cause you are my friend
I’ll always love you
No matter what storms may rage
I’ll always love you.

About the song:
In Grandma’s day, too often, people hid depression, bi-polar, and other mental illness the best they could. Many today still do. But one thing that I learned from Grandma is that loyalty is prized in a friend and love is the strongest force on Earth. This song is dedicated to my friends who have ever felt alone, who have struggled with depression, anxiety, mental illness, shame or guilt or anything that they felt they had to hold inside. I’m here for you. I’ll be your listening ear, your shoulder to lean on, cry on, or your hand to hold. Because you are my friend and I am your friend and I will always love you.

Copyright Angel Haggar August 31, 2014
This song may be shared ONLY on this original blog page unless specific, authentic permission is granted in writing by the author.

random thoughts and good advice

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Me:  What is it that I really want? Are there new houses on Realtor.com? How many people like my blog? Maybe I should try a new recipe for dinner tonight. What dress should I wear to church tomorrow? Ugh, I don’t want to mop the kitchen floor AGAIN! I don’t want to put away all those clothes. I washed them, I dried them, I folded them and I’m still not done. It’s Labor Day weekend. I should be having fun. But I need to clean. Blah. OMG?! How much time am I wasting thinking about random, stupid stuff and playing words with friends and checking to see if anyone commented on my blog? Why can’t I seem to keep a clean house?

What I imagine my mother would say: Get off your ass. Your arms work. Your legs work. Go wash your windows and clean your house! Put away the laundry. Quit worrying and just work. If you get your work done now, you can relax tomorrow and Monday. You think too much. Work more. Or think while you work, but work! For crying out loud!

Me:  Oh, OK.

I just ate WHAT?!

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One of the most important things we can glean from the past is eating close to nature. I highly recommend the book NOURISHING TRADITIONS by Sally Fallon. Go to http://smile.amazon.com and type in the title. Will someone teach me how to embed a link with a cute little title? Seriously. Anyway, this book has really become a food bible of sorts for our family.

In order to eat close to nature, we really need to go before our grandparents (unless they only ate what they grew on their farms and didn’t use all the fancy pesticides available like DDT) and closer to our great-grandparents’ generation and farther, because the food industry has been royally screwing up our food for a long time.
I cook a lot of natural and organic food from scratch but I know that this is not always an option for my readers. It’s not even always an option for me with four hungry kids in the car going from school to work to soccer practice and chess club and the chiropractor and what-not. So, we have to eat conveniently sometimes. I won’t shame you for giving your kids McDonald’s for a treat. Most of us do from time to time, but the more I learn, the less often I give in to the fast-food frenzy and the more I tend to plan ahead for healthy meals and snacks on the go. I don’t like asking the title question.

BUT…what if the food from our fast-food restaurants and convenience stores could be healthy? Well, there is a woman named Vani (aka FoodBabe) and she is working to create a world with safer food. Here’s a link to one of her latest posts.

You’ll Never Guess What’s In A Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte Hint: You Won’t Be Happy.

It’s a good read and you can follow her to join us in the movement to put pressure on Big Food to clean up their act! It’s working 🙂

Stone Soup

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I thought of calling this “FREE SOUP” but I decided a plagiarized title might catch your eye. 🙂

Having grandparents who lived through the Great Depression can teach a girl a lot if she will only listen. Here’s something I’ve learned:

When you buy chicken, buy the whole chicken.
Roast it for dinner and save the carcass and the juices. If you’re not ready to make soup, freeze the carcass and juices. OK, they didn’t have many freezers during the Great Depression, but this blog is subtitled “Taking the best of the past for the present” so just go with me, here.

When you cut up vegetables, wash them well and save the bits, peels, and ends of carrots, celery, potatoes, and onions–even onion skins, herbs and whatever else suits your fancy. Freeze them, too.

Boil the chicken carcass with your saved vegetable peels and ends and salt for about an hour, then take it out and let it cool a bit, take all the remaining meat off the carcass and set it aside in the refrigerator. Put the bones back in the water and boil everything either in a crock pot or on low for 24-48 hours, adding water as necessary. Or, if you have a pressure cooker, you can use that instead for probably 30-45 minutes.

Pour everything out into a big bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Let it cool and then skim some or all of the fat off the top according to your taste. You can use that chicken fat to cook other things in if you like. You can give the carcass to the dog now, he won’t choke on it because the bones should be very soft. Toss the mushy, overcooked veggie peels and ends into the compost. Do not eat them. All their nutrition and flavor is now in your stock.

You now have the most fantastic broth you can imagine. It is full of gelatin. That is why it looks like chicken jello in the refrigerator. THIS is the kind of chicken stock that cures colds. Not that crappy chicken water you get in a carton or can from the grocery store.

Next, take the chicken that you’d set aside plus the prettier bits of vegetables you’ve saved and/or fresh ones. Add more salt to taste and some noodles (you can make noodles by just mixing flour with egg and a tiny bit of water, rolling it out and slicing it up) or rice and voila…almost free soup.

It’s delicious.

You’ve made a huge pot of the most nutritious soup for next to nothing, reduced your garbage output, increased the quality of your soil by composting, and given your dog a free meal.

Hooray!

Not a Knight

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You were not a knight in shining armor
I was not a captive princess
You did not rescue me from wickedness
I did not wear one glass slipper

Fairy tales and happily e’er after
Cannot be the reality
I know. I watched for them from my window
When I looked up from my Snow White

I am not as naive as I once was
But I am not jaded. I love you
More than a feeling, Love is a knowing
A fact, and yet, a dream come true

After the illusion of perfection
After we began to see faults
We still love each other better than before
Even if mice can’t be horses

There is so much more than romance
So much more than passion
Laughter, dancing, children, even bills
You are my perfect companion

While some will spend years wondering
Where is happily ever after?
My love for you is abiding
Better than a fairy tale

What’s Missing?

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Anything Grandma and I did together was fun, but the “What’s Missing?” game was one of my favorites. After dinner, we went into the living room and sat on one of the 1960’s style flat brown couches that I thought were UGLY then, but have recently come back into vogue.
She laid a variety of tiny items in front of me: a pearl earring, a spool of thread, a tiny dancer broken off the inside of a music jewelry box, a building block, a collector’s spoon, a nickel. Every time we played, she chose different items, but it was always fascinating for me.  Next to the little assortment, she had an old, black clutch purse with the little brass clasp on top that you had to pinch to undo. My four-year-old fingers weren’t strong enough, but that didn’t matter. She could do that part. Let the game begin!
“Angel, are you ready? Close your eyes. No peeking!”
“Can I open them?”
“Not yet. Be patient…OK, now! What’s missing?”
I concentrated, trying to figure out which of her little trinkets she had hidden in the purse. “The ballerina?”
“What else?”
“The money?”
Grandma smiled her warm, wide, beautiful smile at me. She clicked open the clutch and dumped the tiny dancer and nickel back onto the couch. “You’re such a smart girl, Angel.”
We took turns for a long time–I could have played all night. I suppose at some point she grew tired of it, but never let on. She just smiled and asked, “Would you like some ice cream?”
“Yay! Can I have the special hard chocolate?”
“Of course.” She scooped the ice cream into a small bowl and I got to be big and pour the Magic Shell chocolate on top and watch it freeze. I loved how it broke when I pressed my spoon into it. I ate my ice cream and played with her little white china cats and kittens while she watched “Dallas” on the big console TV, and then it was time to get ready for bed. Daddy and Mommy would pick me up in the morning.
I’d forgotten my toothbrush, so she put a little bit of toothpaste on my finger and told me to rub it all over my teeth and she let me use her WaterPik to squirt and rinse my mouth. That thing was SO NEAT!
Then we went into her room and knelt down at the bed. We said the “Our Father” and asked God to bless Mommy and Daddy and all the aunts and uncles and cousins.
Then Grandma put plastic bags over the couch cushions “just in case” and covered it with a sheet and laid out an afghan and a pillow for me. She tucked me in with a kiss and a hug and we said goodnight. A few minutes later, I wanted a drink of water so I went to her room. There she was, still on her knees at her bedside, with her prayer cards with pictures of Jesus and Mary and angels.
“Can I have a glass of water?”
Ever patient, she took me into the kitchen and gave me an half-pint jelly jar half full of water and then tucked me back into bed. “Pleasant dreams, Angel.”
I fell asleep, and I’m sure I dreamed pleasant dreams because I was wrapped up in so much love.
My children love the “What’s Missing” game now and playing with them brings back such fond memories. I’d be lying if I told you it doesn’t bring tears, too. They’re flowing as I write this. Grandma died that next October at 63 years old. Now, when I play with my kids on my brown couch and look up at her picture that hangs on my living room wall, I hear her ask, “What’s missing?”
And all I can answer is, “You.”

Playpens

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Note to readers:
I wrote this post once already…and it was terribly witty. Right as I was ready to hit the button to publish it, my dog literally pulled the plug on it. She did. I swear it. She lay on the computer’s electrical cord and pulled it out of the wall. My entire post was lost. What you see below is my attempt to re-create what was going to make you laugh, nod in agreement, and write wonderful notes to me at 1downtoearthangel@gmail.com. You see, my blog is about the lessons and values I learned from my forefathers and foremothers and so I press on; because “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

HERE IS A NICE HAIKU 🙂

Playpen

mesh and metal box
limits liberty and toys
clean, organized, happy home

When my grandmothers were bringing up my parents, aunts and uncles, they used collapsible, thinly padded playpens made of netting and metal to contain those children from destroying everything that they could get their grubby little fingers on. Today’s experts pontificate that the least restrictive environment is best for babies’ development. Today’s experts apparently have one child each–and a nanny.

As I was sitting down to post something creative, insightful and amazing on this blog last week, I heard a clanging sound. It was coming from the living room. One of the twins had overturned a basket for toys and used it instead as a stool to climb up on so she could reach a picture frame. The clanging sound was the babies sitting happily on the carpet, playing with the broken glass. My creative, insightful thoughts went skittering out of my brain as I cleaned up the glass.

Neither baby was cut and the frame is replaceable. The twins were understandably angry with me for taking away their cool new toy, but I placated them and got them situated and came back to the computer to give you something nice to read. (I’m working on a new song about friendship. You’ll like it. But it’s not ready yet. But I digress…) In the middle of that, I went to check on the little darlings again. Rebecca had got the nipple off her bottle and had dumped eight ounces of apple juice onto the carpet AND taken off her diaper and marched around the living room, marking her territory. Skitter away again, creative thoughts…

So, I put the babies down for a nap and pulled out a sharp utility knife and my trusty “do it yourself” attitude passed down to me from my parents and grandparents and proceeded to tear out all the carpet in my living room and hallway. My ugly carpet is a thing of the past and we are walking on a painted plywood sub-floor until we decide and can afford what is next. Walking on sub-floor isn’t exactly how one ‘keeps up with the Joneses’ but I couldn’t care less. I imagine Grandma would have said something like, “Clean and ugly is better than dirty and ugly.” Anyway, that’s what I say and I have hated that carpet since we moved in. I could never keep it clean and it was a hideous 1990’s mauve-pink color. Plus, it gives me a good reason to work faster on my braided rug (another lesson from the past, YAY!)

The babies are napping which has given me the opportunity to write this blog post (Twice!See note to readers above) but the living room sub-floor is covered in toys and I know I’m about to run out of the time I need to mop the kitchen floor before they wake up and start terrorizing the house again…so, does anyone have a giant playpen that my little raccoons–ahem, I mean babies–can’t climb out of?