Gather in Your Hearts

Not being with family this Thanksgiving is a bummer.

We have alternated that holiday between our two families for many, many years. When both of our parents lived in the same city, we actually shared a meal in both homes on Thanksgiving Day. That was too much and I wouldn’t recommend it.

This year it was my family’s turn. We had decided it would not be wise to get together with parents, siblings, kids, and their kids. Goodness, that was sad. (Not so much for Jacob. He doesn’t enjoy a crowd and prefers to hide out.) Too many of us to safely share a meal. That hurt. But not as much as it would have hurt had an outbreak of COVID occurred amongst us afterward.

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect. The slower pace forced on us this year, this season, has given me plenty of time for that.

A month ago, we got a call. The call. ‘It’s chordoma cancer.’ A small tumor had been found and my husband’s biopsy confirmed something we were hoping not to hear. Not just the word cancer but the type—chordoma. Crazy, rare. One in a million.

I started reflecting on the last 12 months that led to that diagnosis. Below are the things that lead me to say, Thank You, Lord. Most occurred in the last two months.

Mike experienced enough pain to see a doctor.
An oncologist friend.
A MRI that covered the entire hip region, which isn’t always the case.
A deductible met.
Mike researching and asking the right questions. Many times.
A surgeon friend that didn’t agree with a radiologist report.
A local orthopedic oncologist.
My one in a million man.
A stash of homemade sourdough bread for Jacob, from Granny.
Localized cancer rather than spread to other areas.
Getting biopsy results over the phone to prepare us for the appointment the next day.
A friend’s shoulder to cry on.
A grape-sized tumor rather than the size of an orange as when typically found.
Assurance of prayer by family and friends.
A friend agreeing to stay with Jacob at the last minute.
No radiation necessary prior to surgery.
No chemotherapy necessary at this point.
Sufficient time to set up sitters for Jacob.
Sitters that love us well and go the extra mile.
Bouquet of fresh flowers and cut herbs hand-delivered to us.
People we don’t know lifting us up in prayer.
Jacob accepting my explanation of cancer and pushing me out of his room.
Surgery at an area hospital rather than option #2 which would have been 900 miles away.
Hearing the words, ‘the tumor is out’.
Out of recovery, Mike wasn’t groggy, grumpy, nauseated, or writhing in pain.
Nausea patch. Pain meds.
A two-night hospital stay that could have been four or more.
Mike’s sense of humor remained intact.
Technology of FaceTime and texting to keep us connected.
Second son helping out at hospital and at home.
Friends that provide. I’ve lost count of the number of meals and sweet treats!
Many, MANY cards, calls, texts, emails, and stopping by to wish us well.
Jacob has been great. Content and happy!
Minimal pain which is hard to believe considering what the surgery entailed.
A bag full of magazines, for Jacob, dropped at the front door.
Retirement came for me the same time the diagnosis did. Not having work to worry about was just what I needed.
A surprise of cinnamon rolls (plain because as you know, he doesn’t like rainbow ones), chocolate, and fast food gift card all for Jacob.

There are many other things for me to be thankful for this season. I’m focusing on the cancer and how we’ve been blessed around every corner. I have, no doubt, failed to list a kind deed or a God arranged circumstance. But, I won’t forget. And, I’ll pay it forward as I thank God for the many, many blessings poured over us.

Make you own list, whether in your mind or on paper, of things you are thankful for. It will make this holiday better.

This year our Thanksgiving will just be the three of us. But, I have already gathered each person, each family represented in the list, in my heart. So, it turns out, we are going to have a really, really big day with very full hearts.

Won’t you Gather in Your Hearts with us?

Work Ethic

Work ethic means different things to different people. Obviously. My parents didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in their mouths. Quite the opposite. Their parents’ generation experienced hardships around every corner. But, they did what they knew to do. Kept going. I watched my grandparents live with determination and honesty in every aspect of life. That included providing for their families.

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.

Proverbs 12:11

My dad was self-employed. While the thought of ‘being your own boss’ sounds appealing, it isn’t easy but he did it well. Both of our parents demonstrated a positive work ethic. The four of them exhibited the above traits. That display trickled down to us.

I was blessed to be able to stay home once Jacob was born. My only employment outside of our home, before then, was with an insurance company in the Claims Department. When our second son was born I started teaching a few aerobic classes a week. I could either take the boys with me or I’d teach a night class after Mike got home from work. I did that until burn out struck and then found a new career. It was always great to be able to get paid while doing something I enjoyed.

We are in an interesting season of our lives. Retirement. Put in the time and now the time has come for a change of pace. When I think of retirement, I picture friends who are empty nesters. My mind goes to traveling for weeks on end. That doesn’t describe us and we won’t be traveling the globe. But we will find satisfaction, at a more relaxed pace, exploring new adventures.

Not going into the office, nor taking calls, and the work email account disabled, all those things have already proved to be a welcome respite. And, I think we’ll transition easier than most since we’ve worked from home for most of this year.

This is a blog about our autism journey. How did I get sidetracked talking about work ethic?

Working outside the home brought me pleasure, challenge, spending money, friendship, etc. But, let it be said that the most rewarding and by far the most important ‘job’ title I’ve held is Mom. Being a homemaker and mom to special needs, I often feel that my real work is never done. I won’t be retiring from that role.

When I was an Aerobic Instructor, the team did secret pals. In the reveal party one year, M.K., who had drawn my name, had written a poem. It was beautiful and touching. I won’t share the whole thing, but this part came to mind:

While tackling each endeavor she never forgets
To look to the heavens for the guidance that is sent.
This year has been trying with two special boys in her life.
One placed in a gifted program and the other gifted not once, but twice.
Yes, you should have guessed. Both boys gifted.
Because God searched for a mother as special as you to be uplifted.

I hope it is always evident that my guidance comes from the Lord above. Yes, I have learned from my grandparents, parents, family, and friends but ultimately my decisions need direction from God. I feel like an ordinary person who has been gifted with an extraordinary life. What a blessing to be lifted up in so many ways along the journey.

This poem speaks about Jacob’s brother being ruled eligible for the gifted program. I suppose every parent thinks (and should, to some degree) that their child is exceptional. Somehow, Josh had what it took to succeed. Hopefully our values, morals, beliefs, and work ethic trickled down to him, too. There is certainly nothing exceptional I can claim that I did in raising him. Other than to admit that he was sometimes left to his own devices because Jacob needed the attention. And here’s the crazy thing, at under 40 years of age, he retired the same time I did because his work ethic created a marketable business that others wanted. The only thing I can boast, is to proudly say, ‘that’s my boy!’

And, Jacob. Sweet Jacob, gifted twice means exceptional ability and disability. Gifted in some way but faces learning or developmental challenges. Gifts that some considered exceptional and others a disability. He was never ruled a savant but that doesn’t mean he has no skills. While there is disconnect in his brain, he has proved there is so much more to him than could be reflected in a test score. Unfortunately, nothing that we’ve found that could strengthen a work ethic. His major challenges kept him from interviewing for a job or pursuing work.

I think a retired life of luxury is more what he has in mind.

And, I’ll repeat with pride, ‘that’s my boy!’

Good Job!

In special education school programs, daily living skills are often the focus. That was great and necessary but Jacob just did not see the point in learning to make a bed. Oh, that he could one day live on his own and decide for himself whether or not he’d ever change the sheets or make his bed! Super important skills, such as using a fork, never came easy for him.

Once he was out of high school and started attending a day program, the focus shifted to some sort of work training. It might be sorting bolts or stuffing envelopes. Something to give them a task to learn and complete.

In the program he attends now, they had a shredding business when Jacob first started. Although, he wasn’t interested and couldn’t be coaxed to participate. The manager would tease about Jacob’s office and that he wanted to be in administration. We’d all smile because that seemed as likely as making his own bed.

Not long ago, Jacob was doing everything he could think of to annoy me. I had just finished folding laundry and had a basket of his clean clothes ready to be put away. It dawned on me to get him to carry the basket. Excellent. That would give him something to do which in turn would, hopefully, get him to leave me alone. He took the basket and headed to his room. I was sooooo proud. And he was too. I saw a sense of pride in him that isn’t often caught.

Jacob is pretty good at doing a job if you encourage him along the way. He isn’t going to take any initiative, but given instructions, he may follow through. Pick up your shoes. Bring me that cup. Put this in the refrigerator. Pick up your toys:

I am guilty of doing it myself because that is easier and faster. He doesn’t believe ‘if you pull all this out, you’ll have to pick it up’ because too many times, I’ve had to finish a job such as him pulling out every shirt to find the right one and then him putting them away, looks like this:

Another day and a basket of clothes and Jacob was just the fella to do it. Nicely carried the basket to his room and watched as I got them out.

This may sound silly but it makes me sooooo very happy when he helps in a simple way. Truly couldn’t wait to show his dad photos of him carrying a laundry basket. My expectations are low but I’m not doing him favors by always waiting on him hand and foot. Only so much can be taught but I’m determined to require more him.

Good job Jacob! I’m proud of you.

P.S. The same day Jacob helped with the laundry recently, I heard a commotion and went in the kitchen to find Jacob moving a plant. The one circled here weighs 13 pounds. It’s a heavy pot and he had it by the top edges carrying it about 18 feet. He barely got it on the counter when I intervened. No time for a photo when a pot full of dirt is about to fall!

We have had that potted plant for a long, long time. But, I had moved furniture around and he noticed it. He was clearing off the wooden trunk so he could see what was inside. Soooooo, if you need something moved, Jacob is your guy! Sorry, but we cannot guarantee his work! He is not licensed, bonded and insured.

Stinkin’ Thinkin’

Does not get you anywhere! Ya hear me?

I take that back. It gets you depressed, sad, angry, and isolated. Sometimes those emotions are motivation to make a change. Or get help. Hope so.

Do you have that internal chatter? ‘This is your fault.’ ‘You should have thought about that.’ ‘Why me?’ ‘Why now?’ ‘This is your punishment.’ ‘If you had (or hadn’t) done_________ , then ________, wouldn’t have happened.’

The devil is on your shoulder causing stinkin’ thinkin’! Realize it for what it is and stand your ground! Turn and run from anything or anyone that weighs you down with negative thoughts.

Ten days ago, we got some tough news. Hard to hear and harder to process. Sinking into despair sounded simple.

But, there were good things to count. Some were evident immediately and some came over the week. I wrote them down to remember. It would have been easy to embrace a negative attitude if I hadn’t tried to focus on God’s strong arms around us.

Looking for the positive is hard when you’ve had a blow. But while you are down, look up. You’ll see hands offering assistance. The sun peeping through the clouds. Caring hearts holding yours.

As we methodically moved forward with bothersome information, it dawned on me that Jacob had been more fussy than usual. Was he bothered by our conversations? You better believe than he’s taking it all in whether he appears to be listening or not. Did his meds need adjusting? He’s now been away from his day program for eight months. Maybe he is just TIRED of us. Who can blame him? How could I help him?

Many years ago, I started hearing the word, gratitude.

grat·i·tude /ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od/ noun – the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness

I’ve not been good at consciously writing down something every day that I’m thankful for. I think this is the year for that, whether you create a gratitude journal or jot down thoughts on scrap paper. With Thanksgiving being three weeks away, why not try it?

I thought about how God blessed me with three guys. So very thankful for my husband and two sons.

And, How wonderful life is while they’re in the world!

If you express thankfulness, your view will change. If you show appreciation, your joy is magnified. If you give kindness, it will find it’s way back to you.

So, appreciate what you have.

Try to find contentment where you are.

Don’t forget to say, thank you.

Look for the good.

Reach out to someone hurting.

Make eye contact and let your eyes smile.

Commend someone out loud.

Pay it forward.

Be nice.

How can I help Jacob? And the rest of my family? Defy despair and turn stinkin’ thinkin’ into winning thinking!!

PFP Fan Club

The other night I watched Jacob happily entertaining himself at the bar in the kitchen. He was wearing a t-shirt that was a surprise from a friend. He was playing with a pop-up card that he had gotten in the mail. And my heart smiled knowing he is loved by others. I reminded him that he has a following of people that are ‘for him’.

The next morning it dawned on me – Jacob has a FAN CLUB! Yes. He. Does. The Problem Free Philosophy Fan Club. You can be a member without paying a dime! Although you won’t get a bumper sticker, glow-in-the-dark necklace, or other fun stuff.

Anybody here members of any fan clubs in your younger years? Or even now? Maybe they aren’t much of a thing anymore. My parents certainly didn’t let me join any club I had to pay to be a member of. Celebrity or not!

There was one I would have joined, if allowed – The Bobby Sherman Fan Club. Yep, I, like every other tween/teenage girl in the late 60s and early 70s, thought I’d marry him one day. If I remember right, my cousin had a poster of Bobby Sherman in her bedroom. If not him, maybe David Cassidy.

Ahhhhh, this isn’t about them though, it’s about my boy and his people who follow this blog. Thank you for making his days brighter and my heart smile bigger.

I got a text one afternoon from a friend – “I’m going to leave something for Jacob on the front porch.” It was this fun treat bag. He tore into it – as you can tell. And immediately went for the Hershey Kisses. I couldn’t get them unwrapped fast enough.

As you know, mail is fun. There are days that he is much more interested in the penmanship of the sender than he is curious about the card. It isn’t unusual for him to not want the card opened at first so he can study the envelope, his address, the stamp, etc.

Not too long ago, I sent this text to my sister-in-law: “I’m going to have to ask you to come rescue us from this card.” “Just kidding! In his life, I don’t know when Jacob has enjoyed a musical card more. Mike and I agree that at least the theme from Rocky isn’t annoying! And it’s a good thing because we hear this a lot!”

He was so excited to see what was in the big envelope with his name on it.

This card from Granny and Granddaddy took some effort to write. It was days before he’d let me read and sing to him!

He is reaching for me to tell him about the sender of this intricate card.

From one of his #1 fans!

Another sweet surprise. He loves red and blue. And this shirt is soooooo soft. A winning combo!

More fun fan mail.

He is usually checking out his mail while he is eating.

Three months later, the ‘Rocky’ card is still going strong.

Seriously, we are blessed beyond measure. Side note – looking at these photos would leave you to believe, Jacob eats a lot of potato chips. And you’d be correct, some days.

PFP Fan Club! Is that Problem Free Philosophy or Pigford for President?

You decide!

All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallows’ Eve falls on the 31st of October each year, and is the day before All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints’ Day in the Christian calendar. The name derives from the Old English ‘hallowed’ meaning holy or sanctified and is now usually contracted to the more familiar word Halloween.

Jacob is not into ‘dressing up’ for any occasion. I don’t know what he is supposed to ‘be’ below. He is either a hobo with rosy checks or a cute clown? For some reason, I rarely put a costume on him.

He didn’t ‘get’ trick or treating. He didn’t understand the fun of Fall Festivals, either.

Basically, the only part of Halloween that he has ever gotten excited about is the candy.

I began to wonder about the reason for the holiday. I won’t go into the history, you can do that research on your own. I’ll briefly cover my take-away. It started as a holiday to honor the dead. Hallowed means ’saint’. I can get behind remembering those that have gone before me. Grandparents, friends, parents.

Not too many years ago, I dropped Jacob off at his day program on a rainy, October 31st. We’d been told that the staff would be dressed up, there would be candy for everyone, and to wear a costume, if desired. We were met by various creatures and characters as he entered.

Later that day, I was to meet a friend for lunch. On the way, I got a call, “Jacob is having a really rough day. We have not been able to calm him down. Do you think you could come get him?”

I phoned my friend to cancel our plans and went straight away. He was okay by the time I got there, but was definitely ready to go home.

I started analyzing what had upset him. Was it the barometric pressure? Maybe it bothered him that people, who he ordinarily knew, were dressed as witches, ghosts, and scarecrows making them hard to recognize. Or, possibly he was frustrated that he couldn’t take all the candy, in sight, for his own. I believe that it was all of the above that caused him stress.

Since then, I’ve made a point to keep him home on the day of a Halloween party. I wish it was something that he could enjoy like so many others, young and old. He doesn’t. And, that is perfectly okay.

Because of the confusion and undue stress, we don’t light our home to welcome trick or treating. Between Jacob wanting all the candy or curious every time the door bell rings and two dogs that go nuts, we pretend nothing is happening on the outside.

But it doesn’t mean he doesn’t get his share of candy. He does. Every day of his life. And some years even a brownie jack-o’-lantern.

Here’s what you need to make a Brownie Jack-O’-Lantern for your family:

1 brownie mix (9×13-inch pan size)
1 (16 oz.) vanilla frosting
Orange food coloring
Assorted candies

Prepare mix according to package directions. Spread batter in a 12-inch, greased pizza pan. Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 15-18 minutes.

Allow to cool completely.

Put frosting into a bowl and tint with food coloring to desired shade of orange. Use a spatula to frost brownie and smooth to look like a pumpkin.

Here are some ideas for decorating: M&Ms, Candy Corn, sprinkles, chocolate chips, and nuts.

Enjoy!!!!! Note – I put lots of candy corn and M&Ms on this one because he loves those candies. He picked them out and didn’t want them! Keeps me guessing. All of the time!

In the photo, above, of Jacob wearing a scout uniform (that belonged to his daddy), we had taken him Trick or Treating to his grandparent’s homes. This was at his Mamaw and Papaw’s house. (He was most interested in finding the keyboard!)

Next week, I’ll remember Mamaw and the smiles, that were hers, seeing Jacob dressed in something she had saved for years.

Take a moment to remember a friend or family member that isn’t here this year. And as you approach All Hallows Eve, take it a step further and express thanks for them being a part of your life.

If Not for Jacob

Since mid-March, I’ve connected weekly with a small group of friends. Sometimes we talk 30 minutes and sometimes we talk 2 hours. We’ve only been together in person 2-3 times. We have mainly met via Zoom or a FaceTime group call. It’s been amazing to have a group to talk openly and honestly with on a consistent basis. It is one of the biggest blessing from this 2020 ‘lost’ year. I may have lost some experiences but I have gained so much in opening my heart and headspace to weekly conversations. Pre-Covid-19, I’d tell myself I was too ‘busy’.

Here’s the deal—each one of them are friends that I would not have, if not for Jacob.

Our friendship formed from attending the same church. The church we moved to, in 1983, because of their Special Ministries program. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the way our Good, Good Father works. Follow me? If we hadn’t left where we were comfortable to find the best place for Jacob, I dare say, I wouldn’t know any of them. Of the group, they didn’t get to know Jacob at church. Different paths and different hours meant they didn’t see him. But, we did get to know each other.

None of them have been around him a lot. And yet, they have gotten to know Jacob, indirectly. From this blog. From our weekly conversations. From me asking them to pray. Because they are willing to hear the hard stuff. That’s a friend I want to hold close.

They understand our family who can sometimes be misunderstood. They offer support when discouragement strikes. They offer a helping hand when ours feel tied. They listen and remember. They agree in prayer. They are real—no pressure to be something we are not around each other. They are loyal and trustworthy.

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you

For Good, written by Stephen Schwartz, Wicked the Musical

We all have other friends, some super close. Some we’ve know much longer than any connection here. But, I do believe we were led to each other for a reason.

On an April day that we were to zoom, Jacob had an especially rough morning. He was mad at the world. Me, being his world. By noon I was spent. Exhausted. Just wanted to curl up and have a good cry. I texted my group: “I’ll try to get on. Jacob has been yanking my chain all morning and has gotten the best of me. Hoping Mike can take over shortly.”

To which I got various sweet responses that summed up to, ‘we can another day’.

A little while later, I sent this text: “I’m going to today. Jacob’s time-out gave him a temporary attitude adjustment and allowed me to relax a little. Mike says he is where he can take over and for me to lock myself in our room! I need y’all and would love to connect today.” THAT. I knew I needed friends that would lift me up and cheer me on. And they did.

While we all need a friend or friends probably more than we realize, I’m suggesting to make being a friend, a priority. You never know when someone needs just that. Friendship is a two-way street. Being there for someone goes a long way toward moving in the right direction.

A year ago, we had a few couples over for dinner. One of the men walked in with this picture of Jacob and Pooh. He had recently read the blog post about friends – The Dreaded Question: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2019/08/29/hard-question/

The creator is many things including a preacher, an artist, an author, and a teacher to name a few. This sketch by http://joemckeever.com/wp/ is in Jacob’s bedroom and is a sweet reminder that a true friend will be there for you.

In the ’80s, Contemporary Christian artist, Michael W. Smith, co-wrote a song that became popular and crosses all musical genre lines, called, Friends.

And friends are friends forever, if the Lord’s the Lord of them.

In the Father’s hands we know, that a lifetime’s not too long to live as friends.

There may be a move or a death or other event that separates us for a season. But this I know, as friends who share in our faith, we are promised we will be together forever. Maybe longer.

Yes, forever with our Good, Good Father.

Thank you Jacob, for bringing such faithful friends into my life.

Adiós Casio

Jacob loves a keyboard. LOVES. Before we got a nice sized one, he always had a variety of small musical keyboards in the toy box. I blogged about our Keyboard Inventory here: https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2020/02/06/keyboard-inventory/

It’s been said that, “all good things must come to an end”, and it seems our relationship with Casio has done just that.

Jacob got in the habit of breaking keys off a while back. Funny thing was, missing keys didn’t bother him as much as it bothered me. At first I saved them thinking somehow we could reattach. No. I was wrong. What he mainly used, for the music, was a couple of buttons to play programmed songs. As long as those buttons worked, life was good.

I was almost embarrassed that his keyboard was down to 5 keys. “Get him a new keyboard!” Ya know, the creature of habit wouldn’t accept just ANY keyboard. And, as long as he could push a button and hear a certain song, he did not care. Plus, THAT model was hard to find.

But then, daily I was picking up pieces of pointed plastic that broke off, from him shoving it against the wall. Hard pieces, with sharp edges. Notice how the left side, doesn’t really have a front corner anymore? Yes, that was slowly broken away along with parts on the back and other side. I became worried he was going to get hurt. The day came, I knew it had to be taken out.

The next morning his ‘stand-by’ became his only. He was NOT happy. I heard commotion to find him trying to hide the replacement keyboard in his closet. Did not want it in his room but while it was attached to the stand, it was too hard for him to move out completely. So, he got it off the stand as you can see below.

Held our ground that it was this one or nothing. Within a day or two, we’d hear him playing it. At first, it was like he didn’t want us to know he was ‘okay’ with the new one.

Little by little he was. It’s sounds silly, but I am almost giddy when he finally accepts and enjoys something new to him. It is pretty awesome.

Acceptance doesn’t come easy for him. But, goodness it feels great when he gets to that point.

Adiós Casio. It was nice knowing you. Thanks for serving us well for many years. Maybe we will meet again one day.

Waiter! Waiter!

I hope you aren’t one of those people who always gives the waiter or waitress a hard time. Sure, there might be something that needs addressing with them. But, often, they are doing the best they can.

I run a little diner. It’s really great having my own kitchen. Long hours and open every day. But cooking brings me joy. And, serving others, something that makes them smile, doubles the pleasure. Okay, okay, I know that you know. It is my home and I’m the cook, sous chef, porter, dishwasher, and waitress.

Here’s the problem—I have a customer who frequents my diner that can be hard to please.

He will finish a sandwich and order another. Waiter, I’ll have another sandwich. While I am preparing it, he is handing me his cup, I need a refill. Immediately! As nicely as I can, I say, “I’ll get right to you, let me get your sandwich made.” “I can only do one thing at a time.” More, cheese! Demanding. More chips! That’s him.

Often he will order something, to only change his mind. And do it again. Frustrating.

He’s been known to literally turn his nose up and walk away at the House Special. https://problemfreephilosophy.blog/2020/09/10/surely-not/

He waits until I am on my break to come in. I think he has a radar that tells him when I need to get off my feet. He’s making sure I don’t leave the kitchen unattended. Long.

Oh, and get this – he’s one of those that expects a discount. Something for nothing. Good thing for him, I’m nice that way and give in.

I’ve tried getting him to help with the kitchen crew, thinking maybe he’d be more inclined to show some patience. Some respect. Nah.

I’ve seen these signs:

Doesn’t work around here.

Good thing is, I’ve run this kitchen for so long, I do know his favorites. So, I try to make a point to serve those often. And this is one makes him a satisfied customer and me a pleased cook.

Recently he ate four. I couldn’t get them made fast enough. Similar to Sloppy Joes, give ‘em a try.

SKILLET BURGERS

1 lb. Ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mustard
1 teaspoon salt

Brown beef with onion and bell pepper. Drain. Add other ingredients and cook over low heat about 10 minutes. Serve warm over toasted buns. Yield: 4-6 burgers

Note: Double or triple the recipe as the meat mixture freezes well.

It seems I am his favorite waitress. I should be flattered. I have a waiter who helps out, but this customer will often stand by until I’m on duty to place an order. However, he never leaves a tip. No tips. Can you believe it? Seems his parents should have taught him better.

Oh. I am his parent. And, he is my favorite customer.

Because when he is content, sitting and eating while he browses a catalog (or uses his favorite as a placemat), sways while he listens to music, maybe catches up on his mail, it makes any frustration disappear. They are all the tips I need.

Then that handing me his plate, a slight smile, or sweet hug, make me hope this diner stays open for a long, long time. Waiter! Waiter!

#familycookbook #makitplate #jacobsproblemfreephilosophyonfb

Completely Unaware

I’ve never been one who prided myself on always being ‘in the know’. Sometimes being ‘in the dark’ has it’s benefits.

Often I wonder what Jacob thinks about. A conversation he overheard? What our dogs are barking at? When will he go back to his day program? Who? What? When? Where?

He lives a fairly sheltered life. He can choose what channel he wants to watch on TV (within what is available in his room). He mainly chooses children’s shows. Sometimes the weather holds his attention. But he rarely watches the news. Not interested. Who can blame him?

Catching the news wasn’t a priority for me until about 4 years ago, leading up to the U.S. Presidential election. Also didn’t read the newspaper much either (only the Food section). I actually felt ignorant when it came to world news.

It seemed, on a daily basis, I was taking in and processing all I could. Figured I’d hear something when I needed to. I’m sure some of you have gasped at my lack of interest. No haters, please. While I’m being all transparent, there is not a single sport that warrants my time sitting in front of the TV. I heard that! I am the completely unaware one when it comes to sports.

I realize there are an incredible number of happenings, worthy of being reported. Stories that need to be told. Events that deserve close examination to learn more. Catastrophic pain. People close to home and far away that need our support in various ways. To share with and pray for. I’m not saying my choice was right to ignore, but I am saying that was my choice.

When our boys were little, we sheltered them from violence, abuse, foul language, etc. as much as we possibly could. While realizing they would and were exposed to those things as they got older and were out from under our wings. The good and the bad help you learn your place. How to stand up for who and what you believe in. To see right from wrong.

When our first granddaughter came along, I became highly sensitive to what was on the news. All of a sudden my awareness was magnified, wanting to shield her innocence. And not wanting her to hear about a school shooting or other things that nightmares are made of. It’s our job to protect eyes and ears, as much as possible.

Then this year we started hearing about Covid-19 and became glued to the news. Jacob’s life would certainly be affected by this pandemic. All of ours would. Even though he didn’t have a clue about the seriousness. What all the graphs meant. And certainly, wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet from anyone wouldn’t make sense in his mind. The only thing he realized, was it meant more time playing at home.

And as we watched/listened, stories didn’t match up, and it became hard to know what and who to believe. Seemed so much of it wasn’t factual news but stories to sway us one way or the other. To pit us against each other. I found myself back in the ‘rarely watches the news’ category. And, it was okay. It brought a sense of ease, even peace. Ignorance is not bliss. But I would go so far to say unawareness is. Especially when you put your trust in the God of all the universe.

If you aren’t on social media or tuned in to nightly news, you may not know about local, national, and world news. I would argue that at times, it might be just the prescription for mental health. Worry and anxiety come from all of the ‘what ifs’.

It’s pretty nice that Jacob is completely unaware. Social injustice doesn’t mean anything to him. He doesn’t fear being hurt because he heard that someone, like him, was. He doesn’t worry about getting sick or us running out of toilet paper. I don’t know if he’s ever thought ‘what if?’ about anything. Living in the moment matters to him. Not the future.

He is never going to play Trivial Pursuit or be a contestant on Jeopardy. He’ll never vote in an election. He needs peace rather than confusion. There are enough other things that stress him without hearing nightly news.

And that is fine with me.

Unaware: oblivious, out-of-it, ignorant, innocent, uninformed, unknowing, blind, inattentive, out-to-lunch, unmindful and negligent.

Those descriptions are hard to embrace. I have turned a blind eye to what is hard to watch. Been oblivious to ‘what doesn’t touch my family’. The truth is, maybe I’ve accepted – Ignorance is Bliss – because I can’t worry about what I don’t know about!

I choose to focus on what I do know, and that is, God is in control. Only God can heal our land. Only God can change hearts. And while you may feel completely unaware or have a firm hold on reality, I’d encourage you to listen closely to the words of this 3 year old. Yes, out of the mouth of babes, God speaks and we would be mindful to listen.

“We don’t know, we don’t know, but if you read this Bible…..”

Don’t be unaware of the truth of the good news. Shared by the precious one that made us grandparents.

“It will talk to you about, Jesus.” “That You love us.” “All the time.”