One Smart Cookie

On the first day of Christmas vacation during seventh grade, I found myself with a whole day of nothing to do. I took my mom’s stained Betty Crocker cookbook out of the drawer to see what I could make that would shock and awe all of those who would receive her annual cookie tray that year.

I stumbled upon a gingerbread boy/girl recipe that was intriguing because I had not made those before. I checked to be sure all of the ingredients were in the house, and I rummaged around a drawer until I found a cookie cutter that was in the shape of a traditional gingerbread person.

As I went over the recipe and looked at the cookie cutter, I decided that just one batch was not going to be enough. I wanted to be sure we had plenty to give away. I decided to double the recipe just to be safe.

I gathered up all that was necessary and began an afternoon of what I was sure was going to be the best experience ever. The recipe called for seven cups of flour, but I was doubling it, so I had to measure out fourteen cups. That should have been an indication to me what was to come, but I did not take heed. I happily went along mixing, measuring and stirring.

I did each ball of dough in two bowls so I would not lose track of what I was doing and accidentally omit an ingredient. I decided that one bowl would be for gingerbread boys while the other would be for girls.  After chilling the dough for an hour, I preheated the oven and took out one bowl to begin rolling, cutting and baking. I pressed raisins in for eyes, noses, mouths and buttons. While one batch was in the oven baking, I was sweating it out attending to the next assortment.

My parents were going to a Christmas party that evening, so when they left, I was in the middle of production.

“How many of these are you making?” she asked as they left.

“I don’t know. I doubled the recipe so I’m not certain.”

With that, they departed for dinner, and I was left with a monster I was creating.

By the time I finished baking, the entire kitchen table, dining room table and an extra table I had to set up in the living room were covered with baked cookies ready to be frosted. I had not taken a minute to eat and had worked all evening in an attempt to use up all the dough I had made.

I cleaned up all the baking dishes and plunged into making a huge batch of white frosting that I split up for pink and blue frosting.  I followed the instructions in the cookbook by trying to make neat fringe around the wrists and ankles of each cookie followed by a hat.  My hand grew tired after the first few, but I looked up at the sea of naked cookies around me.  I couldn’t stop now.

As the hours wore on, my eyes were beginning to droop.  I heard the garage door go up signaling the arrival of my parents.

When my mom opened the kitchen door her mouth popped open and she froze in place.  She scanned the dining room and the kitchen with a look of amazement. Not the good kind.

“What is going on?  Are you still baking?”

“No,” I said trying to be optimistic.  “I am frosting.”

“Have you been doing this all night?”

I glanced at the clock.  It was midnight.

“I guess so.”

I went back to the cookie in front of me.  Over the moments spent with them, I silently vowed I would not eat any because I was so tired of looking at them.  After I finished, I was going to part ways with them for good.  My neck and back were developing stiffness and pain from hunching over cookie sheets all night long.

“How did you end up with this many?” she asked.

“I doubled the recipe.  I didn’t think I was going to have enough.”

“What?!”  She went over to the drawer, pulled out the Betty Crocker and found the recipe.

“Did you use fourteen cups of flour?”

“Yes.”

“What?! Fourteen CUPS of flour? Really?”

I put my head down and kept going.

“What are we going to do with all of these?”  I didn’t know.  My job was to bake them and frost them.  After that, my duty was done.

When I heard a gasp followed by the exclamation,

“There is more out here too?!”  I knew she was putting away her coat in the living room closet and had walked past the extra table that held more.

I kept quiet and continued on with my self inflicted slave labor.

I believe I finished just before 2 am and stumbled off to bed not caring what would become of my creations.

The next morning, she had packed all of them into multiple empty ice cream buckets and put them into the freezer until she assembled her trays to give away.  For weeks she brought them to work just to rid our house of them and by the fourth of July, she finally threw them away as everyone had lost interest.

In the years that have lapsed since then, I have only made that type of bakery good once with my daughters.  And, I did not repeat the mistake of doubling the recipe.  In my attempt to control what I thought was going to be lack, I created a mess that would never have transpired had I stuck to the original recipe.

This is exactly how life becomes complicated.  When a person entertains limiting thoughts or has a fear of lack, and she uses her own will power to remedy this false belief, all sorts of trouble can happen. I found out that trying to manufacture an abundance of something by my own doing was not a blessing at all.  It was a nuisance that I could not free myself from soon enough.

In the same way, when we find ourselves short on material resources, we have a tendency to give less and hoard more. However, this flies directly against a well known passage that states: Give and it shall be given to you.

It is a bit frightening to give a hand out when you are terrified of going under financially.  However, it can be exhilarating to actually follow through, put it to the test, and see how it not only brings a blessing to the receiver but also to the giver.

To rest in a state of peace even when it doesn’t seem like you have enough isn’t easy.  To laugh when you should cry, to sleep peacefully when you should be up all night worrying and to give a gift when you don’t think you can afford it, are signs that you believe all is well.  It shows that you are in agreement with God, and that is the sweet life of one smart cookie.

 

ginger

In Hot Water

I had just looked at my bank account and felt a momentary sense of peace and calm come upon me.  At this time of the year my thoughts begin to turn to the holidays that are coming and added spending that I will do.  I was contemplating how much money to put into my savings when my phone chimed with this text from one of my daughters:

“Not sure if you know this, but I just took a shower and the water was cold. I had the thing all the way turned over to hot because I was freezing and it was just warm not hot. I turned on the bathroom faucet all the way to hot and it was the same thing as the shower. Kitchen sink too. Saying this just to tell you not to worry you.”

This began a chain of events including finding the number to the utility company to see if someone could come and check on my water heater. This was Thursday, and I was told no one could help me until Sunday. I was prepared to tough it out for three days, but by evening I discovered a puddle of water around the tank that indicated it was leaking, so I called again and was told someone would be out by morning.  Amazing how when something leaks it gets quick attention.

A friendly and knowledgeable man showed up promptly the next day and informed me that a new water heater was in order.  Not really surprised, I spoke with a man in the service and parts department and was told the amount that I would have to come up with to cover the replacement. Because hot water is a necessary commodity, I gulped down my astonishment and gave the go ahead for the new item to be placed in my home.

By afternoon, two men had arrived armed with tools, a garden hose and other equipment that would suffice for the dismantling of the iron monster that had decided to spring a leak.  In less than an hour, I was signing papers and was being shown how to locate the pilot light.

While running errands later with my two girls, I found myself silently muttering over the cost that I had just been charged. I was not really fretting or all out worrying but just not comfortable with the idea of that much money flying the coup at once.  I didn’t dwell too long on this inward conversation with myself but made the conscious decision to forget it and move on.

The girls and I decided to go into a gas station for a fountain drink.  When I spied the cookies in the display case I said,

“Who wants a cookie to celebrate my new water heater?”

As the three of us were standing in front of the well stocked shelves someone coming in the door to my left caught my attention.  I thought he was standing behind us but found that he had gone into the aisle directly behind me.  When I turned to look at him, I saw his hand reach out to the candy bars and move toward his coat pocket.  He saw me looking at him and quickly put it back.  He moved on, and I turned my attention back to the cookies.

For some reason, I turned around again and noticed him reaching for the same item, and when he saw me looking, he threw it back again.  I noticed that his hands were jumpy and his movements were quick and nervous.  It dawned on me that I was witnessing a potential shoplifter.  I turned away again and felt I was to remain quiet and not confront him.  We have had a series of robberies occurring in gas stations where guns have been drawn.  With my two daughters beside me, I felt a calm knowing that I was not to cause any kind of disturbance.  I felt like I was being given a command to sit and stay.

As we picked out our selections, I heard a cellophane wrapper behind me.  I glanced back to see him making quite the show of getting a rice krispy bar.  I was still uncertain if he had put anything in his pockets, however.  He walked past me and our eyes met.  He shifted his away quickly as I watched him go up to the cashier.

I was conflicted as I stood in the next line over.  Had he really been stealing?  Why would a shoplifter be purchasing something if he had intended on not paying in the first place?  I took out my wallet and stood with it close to my face but peered over it so I could see what he was doing.  The cashier slumped across her register as he began patting himself down for loose change.  He emptied out his pants pockets but not his jacket.   I could have sworn I saw a king sized Reese’s candy bar go into his left coat pocket earlier.  I wondered when that would come out to show his thievery.

He glanced at me sideways.  He knew I was watching! I began examining my bank card closer.  In normal situations I would have offered to help him pay for whatever item he had, but I knew he was stealing and he knew that I knew! He threw his change on the counter and when the girl thanked him for it, he dashed for the door.  I stood in my line still wondering what he had taken that didn’t belong to him.

“I can help you over here,” she said.

I walked over to where he had been.  On the counter were his eye glasses, a screwdriver, a bag of fruit snacks and other items he had set down in his haste to find money in his pockets.  She looked down and said,

“Oh, no.  I should go get him.”

“No you shouldn’t,” I said.  “Was he having trouble paying for what he got?”

“Yes.”

“I believe he was stealing.  Let him come back himself.”

I went on to tell her what I had witnessed.

“Please don’t accuse him of it until you have proof though, ” I said.  “I didn’t want to say anything to him until I knew for sure.  I couldn’t tell.”

“I will review the video and see if he stole anything, and if he did, he will have to give all the items back if he wants his stuff back.”

Another lady wandered over who was an employee of the gas station.  She had overheard our conversation.

“I thought he was stealing earlier.  I saw him put an ice cream cup into his pocket, and I asked if I could help him.  He said no and put it back.”

When she said that, I knew that my observations were not wrong.  He had left in such a frantic hurry not to get caught that he left what little he owned spread all over the counter.  I paid for my items and decided not to wait around to see the outcome.

When I got home, and before moving on to my next task, I took a moment to soap up my hands with an antibacterial that promises the smell of fresh ocean breezes.  I turned the hot water on and made a huge lather between both hands.  I began sending up my praises for the use again of both faucets in my house.  No matter the cost, I am not to fear how I will pay.  A way is always made for me when I ask for help.  I wish the man in the gas station was aware of this power that is available to all.  It doesn’t have to be taken under cover, but it is given freely out in the open for anyone who asks.

If he only knew that circumstances could be different so he wouldn’t be in a gas station doing illegal acts that could eventually get him thrown into jail. What pressure to exist under knowing that at any moment he could be caught red handed.   I only feel sorrow for such a man who is living life in such hot water.

waterheater

The Magical Jar

One evening three years ago, while living in Arizona, I was talking to my youngest daughter about the cookie jar that used to sit on my Grandma Hazel’s counter. With my eyes closed, I could vividly see the tiny kitchen where she had spent so much time baking and cooking.

“Her cookie jar had a pink heart on it and was covered with cutout cookies,” I said.

“Like this?” she asked showing me a picture that she had googled.

“That’s exactly it! Where did you find it?”

“I looked it up under ‘cookies all over cookie jar’.”

We went on to read that it had been manufactured in the 1950s by a Japanese company named Napco and given away as a premium gift. Back then, if a housewife saved up enough stamps from purchasing certain items, she could buy a gift for free. Most of the jars for sale on Ebay were either damaged or too highly priced.

I kept looking online once in awhile as the idea would come and go. Last year, during the early summer, I began to think of it again and searched for something that would be affordable and in good shape. As I looked at various pictures by sellers, I was transported back to her house and the days when I would come in from swimming in the community pool that was across the alley. We always took advantage of a swim as she didn’t have air conditioning in her old house. North Dakota summers can get extremely hot especially in July so a soak in cold water could keep a kid cooled off for awhile.

I was usually greeted on her back porch with a glass full of cherry kool-aid and peanut butter cookies from the jar on the counter. It seemed as if that jar never was empty even though we ate one cookie after another. It was as if by magic it refilled itself.

During the time she was moved from her home into assisted living, items were auctioned off, and I regrettably did not ask for it as a keepsake. My hunt to own one was slightly marred by the fact that it wouldn’t be the original from my grandma’s house, but at least I could have the good memories to go with it.

One night about a week before my birthday last year, I began my search again in earnest. I thought it would be special to have it as a gift, but my pursuit was coming up short. Exasperated, I looked up to heaven and said,

“Grandma, if you want me to have this cookie jar, then bring it to me!” I closed my eyes and saw myself standing in her kitchen next to the cookie jar on the counter. In my imagination, picked it up and held it in my hands.

Before clicking out the light, I did one last search. Up popped a seller in Mesa, Arizona. I was surprised because moments before, it had not been there at all. The next day, I passed on the information to my best friend who has relatives in that area. After a few attempts on his part to contact the seller, we thought it had been sold because she wasn’t returning his calls.

I made the decision to drop the idea. If I was to have it, I would. I was not going to struggle anymore to get it. My birthday came and went without the jar in my possession, but I had completely put it out of my mind. In October, I drove to the airport to pick up my friend from his short stay in Arizona. When we arrived at his house, he got out of his car and said,

“I have something for you in the trunk.” I knew he had gone to the massive flea market that they have in Mesa so I said,

“Did you get me some of those really good scrubber things for dishes? Mine are getting old.”

He opened his trunk, pulled out a carry on bag and unzipped it. From where I stood, I just saw a bunch of his socks. My first thought was that some laundry needed to be done. I was shocked when he pulled out the possession I had been so desperately seeking.

“Happy Birthday,” he said handing it to me.

I could not comprehend that I was actually holding it in my hands with the matching lid that has a walnut on top. He had gotten in touch with the woman in Arizona who hadn’t returned his calls.

“She had this in a box labeled ‘Grandma’ and she told me that no one wanted it.” A coincidence that it had that label? I think not.

It was long past my July birthday, but the gift came at just the right time. My mom had been admitted to the hospital a few days earlier with complications due to a severe case of shingles. I had been running back and forth to visit her multiple times, and getting little to no sleep. As I had sat by her bedside watching her rest, I had often thought of my grandma and how she and my mom had kept in touch while living so far apart. They had written letters back and forth to each other over many years until her death. I felt her presence so strongly as I sat during the quiet times in my mom’s room.

Every morning I wake up, look across my bedroom and see the jar sitting on my shelf. (I am that protective of it..it will never be near the kitchen.) And I often wonder, where did the desire come from to track this down? Was it my own or did someone who dearly loves me from the other side want me to remember those hot, happy summers that we spent with one another? To some it would be an antique, and to others it would be perhaps an ugly piece of ceramic. But, to me, it is Grandma’s magical jar.

cookiejar

.