Piano Lessons And Bread Making

31 05 2008

I enjoy playing on the piano that my father gave my mother about l948.  As a little girl I was fascinated with the piano.  My mother gave my older brother lessons.  However,  she didn’t think I was old enough to teach.  I used to open the beginner book and teach myself the very basics.  My brother only got through  John Thompson’s  first grade book. The allure of playing neighborhood baseball with all of his friends took precedence.   My parent’s marriage was crumbling and music lessons of any kind ended.

My mother moved our family to her hometown in Kentucky.  The piano was shipped and we were all excited when it arrived.  Mother never enjoyed playing the piano again.  She rarely played for her own joy.  A cousin taught me how to put my two hands together.  Later, mother let me take piano lessons.  However, most of what I learned came from my own teaching.  Later in college I took lessons once again.  The icing on the cake for me was to take from a very professional teacher for about four years and polishing that off with a year of professional music studies at Austin Peay State University.  This was in my late forties and early fifties.  Inbetween all of this training I played the piano for several churches.  I studied organ with my professional teacher and substituted for him at his church for three summers–as he  and his wife spent each summer in Maine.

Now I’m trying to build a small business out of my home.  I keep my prices very modest because I want to attract either young people who can’t afford music lessons or older adults who would never pay the professional price to learn.  My nitch is teaching older people or young adults.  Word is spreading and I’m getting more students.  I have two inspirations.  One is a lady of 68 who is taking piano to keep her brain in good shape.  When she came to me in January– she knew very little about music.  Now she is learning all kinds of musical concepts.  My other inspiration is my daughter, Vera.

I taught Vera when she was a small child.  Her interest waned and thus we stopped.  I’ve discovered a wonder series for adults.  It is the Alfred series.  By the time one is finished with the first adult book–one will have learned  a great deal about music theory.  Vera took herself through the first book.  She really didn’t need my help.  In fact, she didn’t need my help until about the middle of the second book.  Now I schedule her in like I would any other student and help her fine tune the pieces she is working on.  She has accomplished all of this in eleven weeks.  However, she has spent about an hour a day on the piano.  I love teaching young and older adults.  I try to stress the joy of music first and foremost.  Probably none of my students will ever do professional things with their music.  But they can feel good about themselves for learning a new skill much later in life.  And there is another skill worth learning for people of all ages.  That is the skill of baking bread.

My bread making started in my early married years.  I failed in making yeast bread.  My attempts always met with defeat.  I finally gave up and just made dessert breads with baking powder.  Later, I learned that one can make yeast bread in a crock pot.  I ordered a bread and cake pan to go in my crock pot.  I then had success with making yeast bread.  However, I yearned to be successful with kneading dough.

I attempted this again in 2004.  I devoted an entire summer to learning how to make bread by kneading the dough –then letting it rise.  I had some real disasters at first.  Cookbooks make it look so easy.  They fail to give little tips.  One day when I was browsing through books at a Goodwill Store , I found this book:  Beard On Bread by James Beard.  He gave steps and tips that are just not available in the general cookbook.  The primary reason many yeast breads fail is because the temperature is not correct for the yeast.  The temperature has to be just warm enough to dissolve the yeast.  Sugar then has to be added.  He says to wait for a couple of minutes after the sugar is added.  Bubbles will pop up all over the place.  When this happens the other ingredients can be added.  Bread is always messy at the beginning stages.  Another tip I found was to put my bread batter on floured wax paper.  Keep a cup of flour ready to deal with stickiness.  Eventually the sticky dough will give way to a smooth satin like quality.  It will be easy then to knead.

I made all of our bread when Jim was off work for four months recovering from major surgery.  Then when I went back to work as a substitute  teacher–bread making ended.  I lost interest for almost two years.  However, a couple of weeks ago the desire came back.  In a sense I am working about 25 hours a week between my piano students and taking care of my grandsons.  So time is still a factor for me.  I’m using an old recipe from a l960’s Betty Crocker Cookbook.   The recipe is for  Potato  Refrigerator Dough.  It is wonderful because I can make the dough up after supper and it rises in the refrigerator all night.

I’ve made these  adaptations to the recipe.  It calls for 2/3 cup sugar.  I use only 1/3 cup of sugar. It also called for 2/3 cup shortening.  I use 2/3 cups of olive oil.  So here is how I make it.  Before supper boil some water and mix with enough instant potatoes to make one cup of potatoes. Let it cool while you are serving supper.  Then dissolve 1 package of active dry yeast in 1 1/2 cups of warm water.  Add 1/3 cup sugar.  Wait for it to bubble.  Pour this into a large bowl.  Mix with the 2/3 cups of oil, potatoes, 2 eggs, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and four cups of flour.  Then add  another 3 cups of flour.  Put wax paper down and flour it.  Place this mixture on the waxed paper.  Keep a cup of flour handy.  Work with this sticky dough until it becomes like satin.  Then make a ball out of the dough.  Spray it with vegetable oil and play in a large bowl that has also been sprayed.  Cover it with dish towels and place in the refrigerator overnight.

In the morning punch down the the dough and divide it into two balls.  I place each ball on waxed paper.  I roll it out flat then roll it into a cylinder shape.  Pinch the ends and place in a greased pan.  Once again, cover the dough with a dish towel.  Let it set for an hour and half.  I bake it slowly at 300 degrees.The bread is done when it has a nice brown look.  I would rather do this than have it accidently burn.  The bread comes out beautifully.  It makes wonderful toast.

Happy Breadmaking!



Another Mennonite Story

28 05 2008

My mennonite visits are nearly always associated with the community that my daughter, Maria, lives in.  Maria comes to our town once or twice a week because there are no places to shop where she lives.  There isn’t even a gas station. Sometimes, I take her visits by our home for granted. Moreover, I don’t make enough effort to visit her these days. 

Last Friday, she called and asked me to spend the day with her.  She wanted to make homemade laundry detergent.  She said:” It’s just no fun making laundry detergent by myself.”  I  hestitated because I was thinking about all the things I wanted to accomplish.  That is getting to be a real hang up lately for me.  It seems like I’m not as sharp as I used to be and I’m struggling to find my ground in keeping up with my priorities.  I had plenty of excuses to stay home but I relented and told Maria  that I would take her up on her invitation.

Dealing with cancer has slowed me down.  I take a very heavy duty pill each morning called Arimidex.  I’ve noticed some real personality changes in my life.  There are times when I don’t want to be around or talk with anyone. My energy is not the same as it was before I started taking this pill.  However, I don’t want to whine or make excuses for myself.  It is a battle that I fight and hope to make progress.  So it was very important to take the opportunity to visit Maria.

When I arrived –I told Maria to jump in my car.  I wanted to visit my Mennonite friend, Rebecca.  I had not visited her home since last summer.  Each trip I made to Maria’s–it just seemed like we were to busy to visit Rebecca.  Rebecca was working in her garden when we arrived.  The youngest daughter was carrying around a baby goat that was just a few days old.  The other little girls went and got a couple of their puppies and showed them to us.  Rebecca took a break from her gardening.  We all went inside for visit.

The girls seemed so happy to see me.  Maria had been down to their home twice that week.  Rebecca’s family who live in Pennsylvania called Maria to tell her that a sister had died of cancer.  So Maria delievered that message early in the week.  Thus, we sat and talked with Rebecca about her sister.   Her sister had won the battle with cancer and had some goods years. Then a couple of months ago–cancer raged through her body once again.  She didn’t feel strong enough to go through treatment again .  Sadly, she died within a couple of months of finding out she had cancer again. 

While we were talking, the girls were wrapping their puppies up in little receiving blankets and putting them in the little doll beds.  The family is training a miniature pony.  They had to go get the pony to show me.  They also had two sets of kittens in the barn.  We were on our way to the barn to see the kittens–when  Rebecca stopped me in the doorway and told me that she had a lump on one of her breasts.

I talked with her about the importance of getting the lump checked out. Right now, she is too afraid to seek medical help.  I offered to come get her and take her to the doctor.  I told her I would try to help her find just the right medical help each step of the way.  Rebecca just can’t face dealing with her breast lump for right now.  I know that I will pray for her and at some point go see her again.  Most of the time–by the time one finds a lump–the cancer has become way beyond stage I cancer.  My heart really aches for Rebecca.

Maria and I did make our laundry detergent.  We each got a real big bucket of detergent from our efforts.  We ate a nice lunch then I was ready to go home.  We did drive down to another Mennonite  family’s home to buy some strawberries.  Then I dropped Maria off at her house and drove home. 

By the way –for those who remember that Kirk and Maria almost lost their trucking business–they are doing great now.  KIrk has signed on with another company and is making some good money these days.  Maria is getting more work as an assistant postmaster  in another little hamlet.

Cancer is not something that we can ignore.  Please, my readers, if anyone has a lump or something strange going on–get the medical help that you need.  And if anyone has a similar experience with the cancer drug , I Arimidex, I would like to hear your story.

God bless each of you!

For Those Who Suffer With Cancer

21 05 2008

My heart is heavy today for those who are battling with terminal cancer.  My daughter, Sandy, has enjoyed her elderly neighbors–who live behind her for years now.  Mr. B is one who loves to grow a garden–especially tomato plants.  I remember talking to him on the summer evenings that I would visit my grandsons when they were young.  His wife, Mrs. B, was operated on Mother’s day weekend.  She had been suffering with pain for a long time but didn’t go to the doctor.  When the operation was performed–she was found to have a stomach full of cancer.  She died this past weekend.  Her husband of 61 years was devastated.  He suffererd a stroke and is now in the hospital as the funeral proceedings are taking place.

I took care of my grandsons yesterday.  Sandy came by to pick them up early so that they could go to the funeral home.  Their regular caretaker was taking the other children to the funeral home.  Mr. B came to see the children each day.  He really loves all of them so much.  It is only right for the children to share in his sorrow.  John and Alex have had a great deal of experience with funerals.  They have had so many loved ones die on their father’s side of the family.  They have actually had more experience with funeral homes and funerals that I have.  So they were not afraid. They thought it was the natural and right thing to go with their mother to the funeral home.

My sister-in-law , who lives in Iowa is a terminal cancer patient.  She has been battling stage 4 cancer for quite some time.  In September of 2007–she was given only 3 to 6 months to live.  She is still with us.  She is a trememdous fighter.  She has so much to fight for.  She and her husband are helping to raise their grandchildren.  Their daughter is due to have another baby any day.  They all live together in one household.  Children , I think, help us to fight a little harder.  The joy of the children is tonic to this family.  I pray each day that my sister-in-law can continue to fight this battle with her cancer.

And finally, my friend Shadowlands , www.shadowlands.wordpress.com  is writing a series of articles of how difficult her journey is lately– with the  taking care of  her terminally ill husband.  She manages to squeeze in a few moments here and there to share with us her travail.  And it is exhausting and dark.  Please visit her site and give her some encouraging words.  She needs our love and prayers more than ever.

Each of these families are battling great darkness.  Take some time today to pray for them.  And pray for those in your life who are suffering.  Each one of us needs to reach outward and give to the world.  I wasn’t at my church this past Sunday but Jim and Vera told me that our priest gave a homily which stated that when we do evil it affects the entire cosmos(world). Likewise, when we do good and speak kindly –the entire cosmos is affected .  So may our kindness and love affect the cosmos today!

God bless each of You!

Our Grandson,John, Graduates From Kindergarten!

19 05 2008

Now John didn’t attend preschool.  He stayed with his next door  neighbor the first five years of his life. It was and still is a great environment but nevertheless it wasn’t a preschool.  So John was a bit behind when he started kindergarten at a private Christian academy last August.  He cried a great deal those first weeks.  It was very tough going for awhile.  Nevertheless, he finally adjusted.  Then he became one of the most outgoing little boys imaginable. 

I started a new adventure by taking care of John and his little brother Alex after school each day.  Since John’s birth, I had spent at least one evening a week with him and likewise –when Alex was born.  And last summer, I picked them up from their sitter to spend a whole day with me.  John didn’t want to work on preparing for school.  He told me that he was afraid to start school and he didn’t want any school type activities during the summer.  So I didn’t push him. 

I kind of tricked him though when school started.  For every unit of study John was learning–I tried to supplement it at home.  I spent a great deal of time teaching him how to draw apple trees and pumpkins during the fall. Then we learned how to draw turkeys and snowmen during the late fall and early winter.  I went on to teach him how to draw valentines and Easter bunnies in the winter and early spring.

Vera and I worked with him as he began to get real homework.  And the homework became very difficult by the last quarter.  John learned fast. And by graduation–he was a great reader.  The system of phonics that they used to teach the children was excellent.  John will have a head start knowing how to sound out words.  The public school system no longer teaches phonics.  As a former substitute teacher–I was shocked how many high school students just couldn’t read basic material.  John and his classsmates will not have that problem.

Graduation was on May 15th.  Their theme was Jesus is Something to Buzz About.  They had a processional to the tune of the Flight of the Bumble Bee.  They wore little bumble bee hats and had bumble bee t-shirts on.  They recited the pledge to the American Flag, the pledge to the Christian Flag and the pledge to the Bible.  How precious to see these little ones reciting these pledges.  Then they sang some cute songs:  If I Were A Butterfly and I Hate Bugs.  They had a word from their headmaster and sang one last song: He is Something to Buzz About.  Finally, the headmaster presented them their certificates and then a closing prayer was said.

Little brother, Alex, will be attending the 4 year old program at this private academy in August.  John will be in the first grade.  I will be picking them up from school each day and keeping them until their mother, Sandy, gets off from work.  This summer I will have John and Alex on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I look forward to being a “child at heart” with them.  We will have all kinds of adventures. 

Jesus loved the little children of HIs day.  The Bible tells us to cherish and love children.  They are truly gifts from God.  Being a grandmother, I admit–it is a little easier not to get angry and lose patience.  Afterall, they are not my sole responsibility.  However, dear parents–try to enjoy your little ones for they soon slip away and grow up.  It happens quicker than you can possibly imagine.

God bless each of you!

The Story of Vera and Her Family, Chapter 18

19 05 2008

The Tragedy, Part 2

It was the longest ten mile ride home I had ever experienced. I continued to feel very frozen. When we arrived home– Sandy was watching television. When we told her what had happened, she broke down crying. Ben was not home. We could only guess that he was with his three best friends who were also brothers. I told Sandy that we had to hurry and pack our suitcase as we had a 90 mile drive to Evansville, Indianna. There were three paper routes that had to be delivered each day in spite of this crisis. I knew that the brunt of it would fall on Maria’s shoulders. I left Sandy and Maria the best instructions that I could to keep our household running smoothly. We were in hurry-we had to be with you, Vera, as soon as possible.

When we arrived at Welborn, they were just beginning to rip off your clothes. They literally had to cut all of your clothes off. You were then put through a catscan to assess your injuries. We were instructed to the waiting area. What a pleasant surprise when your pastor arrived. It was so comforting to talk with him. He prayed for you and for our family. He told us that he would be back when you were ready to have visitors.

Vera, you were in intensive care for two days. They were still trying to develop your treatment plan. Because you landed on your feet and fell backwards -you were spared from any head injuries. No emergency surgery had to be done. You broke your lower back, your right wrist and both of your ankles. They kept you on morphine and you were only slightly able to talk with us. It tore me up to see you in so much pain. We had to keep rearranging your pillows for your back. There was a waiting room with comfortable recliners that your dad and I used for our naps. We took turns being with you during the nights.

By Monday evening you were in your own private room. Phillip had been staying with Ben, Sandy and Maria. Evidently , Ben and Maria got into a big fight. Phillip called to tell us that it was more than he cared to handle. So Dad had to drive home that night and find out what was going on. We never really got to the bottom of the real situation. I think your dad lost his cool with Ben and greatly exaggerated the situation. Ben was so angry that he bashed his hand into the porch light. Your dad had to take him to the emergency room. Dad called me to say that he didn’t want Ben in the household until he could learn to show him respect.The fiasco resulted in a double tragedy. Ben went to stay with his friends for a few days until the situation cooled down.

I couldn’t break down because I knew I had to take care of you. I knew that no nurse or nurse’s aid would have the time to meet all of your needs. I was grateful for the very large hospital room you had. I was grateful for the comfortable recliner I had to rest in. Thus, began ten days of nursing you. I always got up about 5:30 a.m. to shower. The ladies Auxilary had their coffee and donut cart out each morning at 6:00 a.m. They gave me a newspaper, coffee and donuts each morning.  After my shower-I would go to the cafeteria and eat my breakfast. When I returned –I bathed you and then  put a clean gown on you. We developed a pattern of bathing you while watching reruns of The Waltons.

The doctors always made their rounds in the morning. We were told that you would be fitted for a back brace. You already had your casts on your ankles and your wrist cast. A nice young lady measured you and you had your cast that very afternoon. You were not allowed to sit up without wearing your back brace. I had to learn how to put it on you without hurting you.

You remained very uncomfortable despite all of the pain medication that you were on. I had to keep arranging your pillows. Finally on Wednesday morning, your doctor took you off of all pain medication. You were not allowed to go off of it gradually. It was a nightmare. You screamed and cried with pain. Furthermore, life was not going well on the home front. How much more could our family deal with? I was about to find out.


Double Check Your Internet Sources

12 05 2008

We were so happy that our daughter, Vera, got a teaching position at a junior college.  She is currently teaching Business English.  Vera often shares the interesting information that she is teaching.  Jim and I learned how careful one must be on one’s own website.  The popular My Space  web pages are now viewed by possible employers.  When one makes an application for a job–employers now are standardly checking to see if the applicant has a web page.  If the web page is full of pictures of obsene things–then the applicant most likely will not obtain the job.  Even if a young teenager matures and no longer is into immature postings on a  My Space page–the postings will follow one through their college and job searching days.  So beware and be alert!  Be responsible with your blogs and other kinds of web pages.  Don’t write anything that you would be ashamed for the entire world to know.  Don’t post any pictures that you will later regret posting.  Leave a little mystery in your blogs.  People don’t have to know everything about you or even your real name to enjoy your blog. 

This morning before Vera left for work–she showed me how to tell whether a website was really authentic.  When she was in graduate school, one of her professors used a well known website to prove that even the most authentic looking website can be a hoax.  Vera typed in www.dhmo.org  to prove her point.  There were all kinds of articles and warnings about the substance dhmo.  This website even had an online shopping place where one could purchase t-shirts and other items warning against dhmo.  In reality, dhmo is simply water.  The whole thing is a hoax.  One can go to www.wikipedia.org. and obtain the history of this false webpage. 

Vera is teaching from the text: Essentials Of Business Communication by Mary Ellen Gruffey.

Ms. Gruffey says this about webpages:

” Many users think that documents found by a World Wide Web search tool have somehow been previously validated by a trustworthy authority.  Others think that, because the Web is the most current and most accessible source of information, its documents must be the most reliable available.  Wrong on both counts!  Almost anyone with a computer and an internet connection can publish almost anything on the Web.  In every Web domain, reliable sites and unreliable ones compete for your attention……To use the Web meaningly, you must learn to scrutinize carefully what you find in the documents it offers.”

I’m not going to try to give her list but will give her categories.  One must check for authority, currency, content, accuracy.  One can find help by continuing to use search engines for suspicious findings.  One can use www.wikipedia.org but that is only as good as the people who make contributions to this online encylopedia. 

The bottom line is that one must always be savy and smart about using internet sources.  Common sense and further searching are often necessary.  So have fun with the internet but do be responsible.

Happy searching!



An Anniversary and Mother’s Day Get Away

12 05 2008

Jim was elated that he was not on the weekend list for work.  He had worked twelve straight days.  This information was posted on Thursday.  When he got home from work, we decided to check if there were any rooms available at Lake Barkley Lodge.  There were a few left.  So we reserved a room via the internet for Friday evening.

Since November of 2007,  Jim has had varied work schedules.  Rarely does he get more than one weekend a month free.  Sometimes we just don’t have enough time to talk about serious matters or just have a little fun.  So we decided we better take advantage of the weekend since our 34th anniversay and Mother’s day were coming up.

We had such a great time at Lake Barkley Lodge.  All of the rooms have a lake front view.  We spent hours just walking along the lake front and talking.  We occasionaly sat for awhile on a bench to rest.  It was fun seeing all of the boats out.  Folks really had fishing fever. 

We reviewed all of the changes that have taken place in technology since our marriage.  There were no home computers in l974.  So neither of us grew up with the internet.  There were no cell phones.  My first awareness of VCR’s was about 1980.  They cost anywhere from about $800.00 to $1000.00.  Microwave ovens also became popular in the early l980’s.  They were as costly as VCR’s.  Thus, we had no opportunity to purchase either of these technological wonders. 

Home computers started being available about l982.  Again, one had to have a very nice financial lifestyle to afford a computer.  We purchased our first computer  and printer in 1995.  The computer cost $2000.00 and the printer cost $500.00.  In l997 we decided to pay for internet service.  We had the old fashioned dial up internet.  It was such a pain to have the phone line tied up that we paid for a second phone line.  That eventually got too expensive and we dropped the second line.  About four years ago we upgraded to high speed internet.  And most recently we upgraded another notch.

The word digital was virtually unknown in the l970’s.  Now everything is becoming digital–even television.  The new thin screened tv’s are the style now.  We don’t have one and won’t get one until the prices go down.  However, soon we will have to purchase an adaptor to watch television.

In my cancer group, I learned from a visiting cancer doctor that by the end of 2008 — our hospital will be all digital.  The days of doctors reading xrays from the actual film are soon to be over.  When radiology is done –one will have a disk to take to one’s doctor.  The doctor will then read the disk via computer technology. 

Jim and I could never have imagined debit cards as a way of paying for our purchases.  We could never have invisioned online banking.  We’ve become used to using these services.  And there are pitfalls to them occasionally.  Last week, I checked my bankline and discovered that someone had stolen my debit card number and had tried to make a purchase.  I caught it the very day this person tried to steal from our account.  In fact, the purchase was still listed under “pending”.  I called and canceled my bank card and ordered a new one– with a new pin number.  That purchase  never showed up the next day on my account.  Perhaps my quick action prevented their purchase from going through. 

Jim and I like living in 2008 .  We are thankful for all of the improvements in the world of technology.  Most of all we are thankful to have an enduring marriage.  We are blessed with four children who have grown up to be contributing adults to society.  And we adore our two grandsons.  Life has been good to us in spite of many hard times through our years.  I hope that each individual reading this post will take stock of the changes and blessings in his or her life. 

May God bless each of you!