Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Raisin Sauce

     In nineteen seventy one, I was attending college at Angelo State University.  I had never hardly been out of Menard.  I had never gone in a restaurant that had a real life chef serving you the meat, complete with a white chef''s hat.  I was impressed.  Now at the time, I never realized this was a fancy eatery at a retirement center for the rich or well off.  I might not have been as impressed if I had realized this was kind of a glorified nursing.  But, it was a fancy place at that time.  It was called the Candlelight Dining Room.  They were serving ham that first day I ate there.   The chef served me a big slice of ham on my plate.  He next deposited a large scoop of raisin sauce over my slice of ham. This began my love affair with raisin sauce.   I loved it.  I thought to myself, I can make my own raisin sauce at home.  So, I did.  It soon became a family tradition.  But, WE didn't just put it on ham, we put it on everything.  But, our favorite thing to put it on was dressing.  So, it has now become a family tradition to always serve raisin sauce over dressing anytime  we serve turkey and dressing.  So, I have been asked to put my recipe for raisin sauce on my blog by my wonderful daughter and daughter - in- law.  so here it is.

First you need about two cups of raisins.  Place them in medium size sauce pan.  Then, cover them with water.  Add about a cup of brown sugar if you have it.  If you don't have brown sugar, use regular sugar.  Let boil until it has thickened considerably.  Then add on half stick of butter and about four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Let it simmer until it thickens to the right consistency.  You want it to still have quite a bit of liquid in it, but you don't want it to watery.  If it is still to watery, you can always add a little cornstarch.  Trust me, it is really hard to mess it up.  Whatever you do, it is still going to taste like raisin sauce.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

4. My favorite season.

     My favorite season of the year is spring.  Being a carpenter's son in a small town, in the sixty's and seventy's, was not a real pleasant experience.  During the winter there was never enough work for daddy to do, and if there was any work, the weather was usually so bad that it was a very unpleasant experience.  Unlike some people that were raised poor but didn't realize it, I realized we were poor from an early age.  So, spring meant better times, more work, and more money to do things.  It meant baseball season was starting, and yes as a kid I loved to watch baseball with daddy.  It meant summer was just around the corner. It meant my birthday.  It meant the Pierce reunion would be here before I knew it, and I always looked forward to the Pierce reunion.  I meant the wild flowers would be in full bloom.  It meant it was time to take a trip to Garner State Park.  It meant thunderstorms and going to the storm cellar.  It meant Easter.  It meant it was time to plant a garden.  It meant I would be getting up early and going to work with daddy.  Spring brings back so many memories.  Some are very fond memories and some are in a way a little sad.  I realize most of these experiences I will never have again.  But I am thankful that I have all of these wonderful memories.  I wouldn't change a thing if I could.  These memories are part of who I am today.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

3. Favorite Foods

Food.  It just has to be one of my favorite words.  In my younger days, I used to drink a lot of beer.  So, food was not as important to me then.  But, after I quit drinking, over twenty five years ago, food suddenly became more appealing.  It was my new addiction.  I have since learned that controlling my food addiction is almost as hard as controlling my alcohol addiction.  Ha ha just kidding.  My nephew David Pierce once said that Pierce's were just natural born pigs.  I am inclined to agree with him.  Well, here is a list of some of my favorite foods.
     I will start with my favorite meat.  My favorite meat is barbecue brisket.  I don't mean this market trimmed brisket.  I mean good old fat barbecued brisket, cooked slow for about twelve hours.  There is nothing better in the way of meat.
     The next food category I will talk about is my favorite side dishes.  I love any kind of beans, and of course barbecue brisket is not complete without some kind of beans as a side dish.  Another favorite side dish of mine is good old potato side.  I am not picky about what kind of potato salad it is, they are all good.
The smell of potato salad just screams picnic or family reunion.  That smell brings back many pleasant memories.
     The next category of food I want to talk about is vegetables.  Even as a kid, I always loved vegetables.
I planted my own garden when I was eleven years old.  I raised a garden every year until we moved to our present home.  The soil here want grow anything, and if it did, the deer would eat it before it got started.  So, I now have to rely on store bought vegetables.  I have many favorite vegetables, but probably my favorite is squash.  There many ways to cook squash and I like them all.  Squash is also something that brings back many pleasant memories of family reunions and other summer activities.  Another one of my favorite vegetables, is turnips.  Unfortunately, Loveta hates turnips with a passion.  So, I don't get to eat them very often.  I really can't think of a vegetable that I hate, so I will pretty much eat anything you put in front of me.
     The next category of food is sweets.  This is without a doubt, my favorite category  of food.  Anyone who really knows me, knows how much I like sweets.  So, here is a list of a few of my favorites.  I will start with cobblers.  Now how can you go wrong with a cobbler?  It does not matter what kind you make, you know its going to be good.  My mother-in-law used to make a cobbler out squash.  Guess what, it was delicious.  My next favorite dessert is coconut pie.  I have never tasted a bad coconut pie.  Some are better than others but to me they are all good.  I also love lemon pie, and just about any thing with lemon in it.  One of my all time favorite desserts is plain pound cake with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of it.  Hard to top that.   I get pretty excited when I talk about desserts as you can probably tell.  Last but not least, I love ice cream.  The best is Loveta's home made ice cream, but there is no such thin as bad ice cream.  It's all good from the cheapest store brand to the most expensive.
     Even though barbecue is my favorite meat, my favorite food category is without a doubt, mexican food.  If anyone suggest we go out to eat, and they ask my opinion, nine times out ten I will pick Mexican food.  I just like every thing about it.  I love chili, cheese, beans, and tortillas.  I could virtually live on these four things.  I might not live very long since that would not be a very healthy diet.  But, I would enjoy every bite.
     Well, I could go on and on about food but I am going stop for right now.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#2. Love

     I have always thought the word, "love", was impossible to define.  Anyone who attempted to define love was just foolish.  But, as I have gotten older, my views about a lot of things have changed.  I have learned that, yes, I believe love can be defined.  So, I am going to make a attempt to define love as I see it, even with the risk of being called foolish.
     W hen Loveta first mentioned love as one topic we should write about.  I thought to myself, "That want take long".  But, knowing my past writing experiences, it takes me a lot of words to say anything.  So, lets hope I can keep this short.
     My dad used to say, that love was so close to hate that it was hard to tell them apart.  When he would say this, it would infuriate my mother.  I guess she wondered which way it would go, in regards to his feelings about her.  I never quite understood what daddy meant by this statement.  These are both very strong emotions and I kinda understand where he was going with this.  I know my dad had a very hard life, filled with sadness and heartache.  I know he had been hurt and betrayed several times by those that he thought loved him.  So, perhaps these made him have such a harsh viewpoint about love.  Fortunately, I didn't inherit daddy's viewpoint about love.
     To me there are several types of love.  One type of love is the casual feeling of love and commitment we have for our friends.  We wish the best for them.  It would hurt us if any thing bad happened to them.  They a important part of our life.  But, they are not family.
     The second type of love is the love we have relative.  They are blood kin and yes blood is thicker than water.  So, we love them.  But we don't see them very often.  So, its a different kind of love.
     Next, we have the strong love and affection we feel for our parents and all of those family members who were there when we were growing up.  Even though this is a very strong love, it is natural for us to feel like we are going to out live our parents.  So, we spend a good part of our life preparing for them to pass from this life before we do. I don't in any way want to diminish the love I had for my parents.  But, I knew that more than likely I would out live my parents and have to make a life of my on after they were gone.  When I was young I worried about what I would do when they were gone.  They have been gone for many years now, but I still miss them and occasionally still dream about them.
     Next, the love you have for your spouse has to be one this strongest forms of love known to mankind.  The Bible tells us to leave our parents and go out into the world and find a mate.  We are supposed to cling to that mate and become one and nothing is supposed to separate us except death.  What a beautiful plan.  Unfortunately it doesn't always work out that way.  From the moment we are married we face the things that life throws at us.  We laugh together, we worry together, and we cry together.  We endure every hardship together.  It makes for a love and closeness that endures forever.  A love that is tested by the trials and tribulations of life.  A love that endures until death.
     The last form of love I want to talk about, is the love we have for our children, their spouses,  and our grandchildren.  You think you know all about love, until you have a child.  Then, you learn a whole new level of love.  All of a sudden your whole life revolves around a little baby.  Nothing else matters except the welfare of that little baby.  It is a love so strong that you can't imagine ever living a moment without that baby in your life.   That love you have for that baby never diminishes no matter how old they get.  It only grows stronger as the years go by.  It is indeed a love that I thank God that I have been fortunate enough to experience.  Not ever one can say this.  I am truly a blessed man.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

#1. Life Changing Moment

     Several years ago, while the kids were in college, Loveta and I decided to write a list of different events in our lives that have have been instrumental in shaping the course of our lives.  We decided to make a list of pivotal moments in our lives.  We decided we would write all of this down and present it to our two children for Christmas some day.  So, after we are dead and gone they would have some sense of the events in our lives that made us who we are.  But, were never got around to it.  So, recently, Loveta discovered this list and we decided now is the time to do this.  But, we have decided to do it on our blog instead of writing it on paper.  So, here goes.
     I have had several life changing moments in my life.  So, I can't seem to narrow it down to just one moment.  I am going to list three of the most significant life changing events in my life.  There are more life changing events, but these are what I feel like are the most important.  I will warn you that these are not all pleasant experiences.  
     I will start with the first life changing experience, when Loveta and I got married.  I had never met her family until the day before the wedding.  Loveta,  had a huge family,  and I was scared to death.  I never slept one minute the night before we got married.  It was not that I dreaded it.  It was just that I didn't know what to expect.  I had never had to be responsible for anybody but myself.  All of a sudden I had to be responsible  for someone else.  I had to grow up and be a man.  When I met Loveta, I had just about given up on ever getting married.  I had several bad experiences in my relationships up to this point.  So, I had virtually given up on finding the right mate when I met Loveta.  She swept me off my feet, and turned my world upside down, in a good way.  I never had a sister, so sharing a house with a young lady was a learning experience.  I was totally miserable in my life before I met Loveta.  She suddenly made my life worth living.  I may have made my share of mistakes in my life, but marrying Loveta was not one of them.   
      The next life changing moment in my life was when John Carol was born.  From the time I knew Loveta was pregnant,  I stressed about something happening to that baby or Loveta from that day forward.  Loveta would get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I would wake up and remind her not to fall.  I did the same thing when she was pregnant with Kalyn.  I will never forget the feeling I had when the nurse first brought John Carol to me to hold.  I had never held a baby in my life.  I was scared to death.  But,  I will never forget the feeling of love and overwhelming feeling of  responsibility I had for that little baby boy.  By the time Kalyn was born, I had the same feeling of love for her that I did for John Carol, but I was much more at ease holding a baby.  I have learned that you never loose that feeling of love and responsibility that I felt when I held John Carol and Kalyn for the first time, no matter hold old they get.  
     The next life changing experience I am going to tell about is when my drinking habit finally caught up with me.  It was nineteen eighty eight.  I had just started to work at the Menard Manor.  I had a drinking problem that I had managed to hide from the public.  I had only been working at the manor for a few days when I got really sick .  I woke up with with chills in the middle of the night.  I was literally too sick to get ready to go to the doctor.  I had already had pneumonia once that year and I really never got over it.  I finally made it to the doctor and he said I had pneumonia.  He put me in the hospital and I was in there for ten days.  I feel like this was the closest I have ever come to dying.  While I was being treated for pneumonia, I endured all of the very unpleasant effects of having to deal with my drinking problem.  They told me if I didn't quit drinking, It was going to kill me.  I decided they were right.  From that day on, I have never took another drink of alcohol.  I would be lying if I didn't say it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do in my life.  I felt like I owed it to my wife, kids, and to myself to try to get healthy and live to take care of them.  I am proud that I made the right decision.  
     There are several other life changing events in my life, but I am going to stop there for right now.    
        

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Earnestine Alexander Williams Menzies

     Anyone who has been around Menard for any length of time, knew Earnestine Menzies.  I literally knew her my entire life.  I was born April the fifth nineteen fifty two over what is now the city hall in Menard.  Earnestine was the nurse who helped deliver me when I was born.  She gave me my first bath and put on my first diaper.  So, when she said she had known me for my entire life, I knew she was telling the truth.  Even though I had known Earnestine my entire life, I really didn’t get to know her until she moved into the retirement center at the Menard Manor in the year two thousand and one.  I didn’t realize what an important part of my life she would become in those eleven years she resided at Menard Manor. 
     Without a doubt Earnestine was one of the most unique individuals I have ever known. She was without a doubt the pickiest eater I have ever known.  She did not eat eggs, ground meat, or chicken.  She did not drink milk or water.  She sucked on ice all day except when she was asleep.  She went through at least three or four pounds of ice every day.  The only food she really liked was chips and any type of junk food.  As soon as she crawled out of bed, she would grab her a hand full of chips and open a coke.  She would eat the chips and drink the coke, and then she would take a shower and get dressed for the day.  She told me this was pretty much her daily routine since she was a teenager.  Earnestine was a creature of habit.  Once she did something she liked, she thought she had to do it every day for the rest of her life.  She would tell me, “I don’t know how I have lived to be this old. All I have ever eaten is junk food”. 
     Earnestine was a person who virtually didn’t like anyone.  I don’t even think she liked herself at times.  She told me one time that, she bet her two husbands, Clarence and Alex, were glad to die to get away from her.  She didn’t mind sharing her opinion no matter whether they hurt someone’s feelings or not.  She didn’t care who it was or what it was, if she didn’t like someone or something, she didn’t mind telling them.  Pete Davis had known her since they were children together.  He lived across the hall from Earnestine, in the retirement center.  He told me one day, “John, I have known Earnestine since we were kids, and I have come to the conclusion that she is the perfect blend of good and evil.”  I have thought about what Pete said that day, and I believe he gave the perfect description of Earnestine Menzies. 
     In spite of Earnestine’s outspoken personality, she was one of the most liked individuals I have ever known.  When her birthday would come around, she would receive thirty or forty birthday cards.  I would be lucky to receive two cards on my birthday.  She was truly one of a kind.  When I mentioned Earnestine’s name to someone, they would often say, “They broke the mold when they made Earnestine.”  Maybe that uniqueness was what drew people to her like a moth to a flame.  She had so much charisma that people couldn’t help but love her no matter what she said.
     Earnestine had a deep abiding love for her family.  But, that did not mean they were immune to her criticism.  If company over stayed their welcome.  She would tell me, “I have enjoyed the visit, but it is time for them to go.  All they do when they are here is stand outside smoking.”  I remember one time when her granddaughter and grand son- in- law had been visiting for a few days and Earnestine was getting tired of having to entertain them.  So, they were finally getting ready to leave.  They were in the manor lobby and Earnestine hugged them goodbye and told them that she loved them.  They walked out the door and she turned to Pete Davis and said, “Thank God they are finally gone.” 
     One morning we were sitting in Earnestine’s room visiting and we looked outside and we saw someone walking down the sidewalk towards Earnestine’s room.  Now I want say who this individual was, but it was someone Earnestine liked very much.  But, it just so happened she was not in a visiting mood at that moment.  When Earnestine first saw her coming down the sidewalk she said, “I wonder what she wants?  The last thing I want right now is to have company.”  I feared Earnestine might be rude to this person.  So, the lady came on in the building and when she opened the door to Earnestine’s room, Earnestine said, “Well hello sugar, come on in.”  I thought to myself,  this makes me think that Earnestine is a little two faced.  I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what she thought when she would see me at the door.  But, this was just vintage Earnestine. 
     As I have said before, Earnestine was a picky eater.  She complained about the food at the manor until the day she died.  This was not because the food at Menard Manor is bad.  She didn’t want anything to eat but chips.  Earnestine had taken some kind of food preparation course at Texas Tech when Clarence and she were living close to Lubbock, Texas.  This boosted her ego to the point that she felt like she was the only one in the world who knew how to cook.  She was a fabulous cook.  But, she never could realize that there were other people who knew how to cook.  So, she was constantly criticizing the dietary supervisor and all of the cooks in the Menard Manor kitchen.  She would take food, she thought was badly cooked, and she would save it and take it to the administrator trying to get dietary in trouble.  I am sure they did not appreciate this.  Anyway, Earnestine got sick and had to go to Shannon Hospital for a few days.  When she finally got back from the hospital, she told me she wanted to talk to the food supervisor.  I knew she wasn’t impressed by the food at Shannon, so I thought she wanted to give the dietary supervisor a compliment, by telling Rose that their cooking was better than Shannon’s.  So, I went and found the food supervisor, Rosemary Gonzales.  I told her that Earnestine wanted to talk to her.  She came to the room to see Earnestine.  Earnestine told Rose to come over to her chair and she reached out and held Rose’s hand.  I thought to myself, she is finally going to give Rose a compliment on the food in the manor kitchen.  Earnestine said, “Rose, I just want you to know that the food at Shannon is just as bad as it is here.”  Rose just laughed.  I told her later, “You do realize, that was as close to a compliment as you will ever get from Earnestine.”
     As I have stated in the past there very few people that Earnestine liked.  But, there were two people that she hated more than anyone else.  I am never going to reveal the names of these two individuals.  Many times when she was particularly mad at one or both of these individuals, she would tell me, “John, if I don’t make it into Heaven, it is going to be these two peoples fault, because they are standing between me and the gates of Heaven.”  I would remind her that as Christians we have to love everyone.  She said, “I know John.  So, I just have to ask for God to forgive me for what I am thinking, every night.”
     I can’t put into words how much Earnestine meant to my family and I.  The night she had her stroke, I went down to take her little dog out to potty.  I visited with her for about forty minutes that night.  I marveled that night at what a good mind she still had at the ripe old age of ninety seven years old.  She had a wedding card for my son and daughter-in-law that she wanted to give me that night.  The card also had a fifty dollar bill in it for a  wedding present.  She told me to be sure and not forget it.  I told her if I forget it, I can always get it in the morning when I come in for work.  She said, “If something happened to me tonight, they would never get this card and money.  So, do not forget it.”  I didn’t forget it.  I look back on that night, and I realize that she must have had a premonition that something was going to happen to her that night.  For some reason that night we got to talking about funerals.  Earnestine had always been adamant about not having any kind of funeral service.  She said she didn’t want people coming to view her body and talking about how pretty she was in the casket.  She said that would be a lie because she knew she was just an ugly old woman.  She stated that she didn’t want any kind of a death notice in the paper.  I ask her about that during our conversation that last night.  She said, “I guess you could put a little notice in the paper.  But, if you do, I want you to use my full name.  I want you to say Earnestine Alexander Williams Menzies died, and that is all.”  I asked her what about her middle name.  She said it was Mildred.  But, she said I never did like that name, so don’t list it.  After she died I conveyed this message to her granddaughter and they honored her request. 
     I could go on and on about Earnestine.  What a interesting and unique individual.  You might not agree with everything she said or did, but you could never accuse her of being dull.  If she saw something she thought wasn’t right, she didn’t mind voicing her concerns.  In many ways I admired that in her.  Some people are afraid to speak up when they see something that is not right.  It never occurred to Earnestine to be afraid of what people might think. 
     If life was getting me down, I could always go visit her and we would talk out whatever problem I was having.  If I was angry and upset about something, there was nobody better than Earnestine to have a griping session with.  I know she wasn’t perfect.  But, there is not a day goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her so much it hurts.  She meant so much to not only me but my entire family.  She was one of the last people alive who knew my parents and grandparents.  When she died, it severed that last link between myself and the folks who raised me.  She was such an interesting person.  I may write some more on her later.  But for now, that’s all folks.       

My Childhood in Abilene, TX

     When I was a child in Abilene, I attended the second, third and fourth grades.  For some reason we moved, every summer.  So, I attended three different schools.  This was very traumatic.  Just when I would make some friends, we would move and I would have to start all over again.  I was painfully shy.  I had to deal with all of the things that make childhood miserable such as loneliness, feelings of rejection, and bullies of course.  I remember roaming all over the neighborhood on my bicycle.  Mother never seemed to worry about where I went.  Sometimes I would be a half mile away from the house.  It is a wonder I didn’t get abducted by a serial killer.  But, things like that were rare in nineteen sixty.  We were extremely poor.  Daddy worked for the city of Abilene as the city carpenter for one dollar and sixty cents an hour.  That was what we lived on.  Someway we managed to get by.  I don’t remember ever getting hungry.  But, I was smart enough to know that we were poor.  I remember sometimes we would have treats such as cheese.  Now I loved cheese.  Sometimes mother would buy me a small strawberry sundae.  This was a rare occasion.  So I vowed that when I got grown, I was going to buy myself as many strawberry sundaes and as much cheese as I wanted.  I have kept that promise. 
     I remember mother, my older brother, and myself riding on the city bus to the Taylor county fair one time.  We got to see Brenda Lee sing.  She was just seventeen at the time.  I remember getting lost from mother in the crowd.  I was lost for a good while.  But, I decided I would try to get a closer look at Brenda Lee.  So I went to the front row of the crowd.
  Mother had to get the police to help find me.  She was almost hysterical by the time they found me.  We finally moved back to Menard in nineteen sixty one, when I was in the fifth grade.  I haven’t left Menard for any length of time since.