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 18-20 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