Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mom's Fruit Cocktail Cookie Recipe

A good friend suggested that I might want to change things up occasionally on my blog by offering a favorite recipe. I thought that was a great suggestion, so Gabrielle, this is my favorite cookie recipe in the whole world -- and the recipe makes a ton of cookies. Unfortunately, I can't give credit to the person who created this masterpiece. My mother gave this recipe to me many years before she passed away, and I don't know where she got it. The pictures here are my mom, dad, and older sister.


1 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons hot water
1 cup raisins
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (drained) fruit cocktail
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and vanilla. Fold in raisins, fruit cocktail, and nuts. Dilute soda in water and add to mixture. Add flour. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What NOT to Say to a World War II Veteran

Clayton Jr. High School, Reno, Nevada, about 1967. Band and chorus were taught by Mr. and Mrs. Kneller, respectively. The Knellers were an odd couple, but extremely enthusiastic. They knew how to get even the most introverted kid (me) involved in music.

The Knellers had lived for a time in Japan. Somehow the subject of Hiroshima came up. Mr. Kneller pointed out that I was pronouncing Hiroshima improperly. I pronounced it "Herosheeeema." However, it is actually pronounced "Heroooshima." Being stupid, I went home and told my father (who spent 26 months in the South Pacific during World War II) what I had learned in school that day. Okay, so that was not a pleasant experience! The lecture was long, heated, and certainly a blood pressure pumper. Moral of the story: World War II veterans can pronounce Hiroshima any darn way they please -- they've earned the right -- and I learned a great lesson that day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The TV That Wasn't

The first years of our marriage were pretty lean. We didn't have money for nice furniture -- okay, we didn't have money for furniture at all. We had a very small black and white television set that belonged to my husband before we were married. In order to get "watchable" reception, it was necessary to wrap the rabbit ear antennas in aluminum foil and move them around until they were in just the right spot.

Someone gave us a nice color television with a huge big cabinet -- you know, a real nice piece of furniture. It worked for about a week and then died. Looking around at the lack of furniture in my living room, I just couldn't let that nice big piece of furniture go to waste just because the TV inside was dead.

Warning: Kids, don't try this at home! I took my hammer and smashed in the entire TV. I cleaned out all the broken parts and threw them in the trash. I found a couple of pieces of scrap lumber in the garage and made a little stand to sit inside the TV cabinet. I set our little black and white TV on top of the stand and centered it (because it was smaller than the original set in the cabinet). I found some scrap paneling out in the garage, and framed the little black and white TV inside the cabinet. The cabinet even hid the ugly rabbit ears and aluminum foil. Suddenly I had a nice piece of furniture that actually worked. Friends visited our home and didn't even know it was a fake.

As the saying goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blast from the Past

I just realized I have letters saved on my computer (transferred from two previous computers and orginally in DOS) that I wrote to my stepson in 1992 and 1993 when he was on a church mission in England, and to my oldest daughter in 1999 when she was on her mission in Boston. Very interesting reading!

While Matt was in England on his mission, I was becoming active in church after a long absence. When Molly was in Boston, my stepson's wife was taking the missionary lessons. It's like reading a journal -- which is nice since I don't keep a journal. I knew there was a reason for keeping the letters!

Life sure changes how we think and feel about things. I was an adult with four kids when I wrote those letters, but I'm sure not in the same mindset about some things now. This was the perfect time, however, for me to find these letters. I've been questionning my parenting skills lately. Reading those letters made me realize that I'm not crazy -- I really did try to be a good mom.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What Is Love?

How do you explain what real love is to a group of children 3-11 years old? This was my dilemma some years ago when I was Primary President in church teaching children. I had a lesson planned, but something just wasn't right. The night before I was supposed to teach, the inspiration came to me. I scrapped the entire lesson and started over.

The children already knew from prior lessons that my father was a very eccentric man. I often used my father's life stories to demonstrate a principle, and they seemed to love hearing about this strange little man. So when I began to tell yet another of my father's stories, they settled in to listen.

My father had an aversion to tissues. He had been raised in the era of handkerchiefs. For Dad, it was a "man thing." It seems only women were supposed to use tissues. When my husband and I were first married, we were gathered as a family at the family cabin. My husband used a tissue and then disposed of it in the wood stove. My father made a comment about men and handkerchiefs. As a newlywed, I felt compelled to defend my husband.

I explained to Dad that for sanitary reasons, I preferred my husband use tissues. I told Dad how awful it was as a teenager washing his white handkerchiefs in the same laundry load as my white underwear. My sister chimed in by telling how awful it was to hang laundry on the clothesline and get "slimed" because it didn't all come out in the wash. I went on to complain about having to pick the leftovers off of the handkerchiefs prior to ironing them. My sister and I really razzed Dad pretty good about the whole thing -- all in good fun. Then I promptly forgot about it.

Fast forward a few years. My father had passed away. Mom and I were talking about how in the end Dad did a few strange things (even for him) because oxygen wasn't getting to his brain. I told Mom that one day I walked into the bathroom to find Dad standing over the toilet picking "buggers" (for lack of a better word) off a handkerchief into the toilet. Wrong thing to say! Mom went into this tirade about how THAT wasn't Dad's lack of oxygen -- that was my fault and my sister's fault! She reminded me of the incident at the cabin, which I had totally forgotten about.

Apparently, Dad thought a lot about what my sister and I told him. He went out and bought dozens of brand new handkerchiefs. You see, he was too set in his ways to use tissue, but he found a solution to the problem. He loved my mother enough that he didn't want her to become the victim of the "slime" my sister and I had portrayed. From that day forward, he saved his handkerchiefs in a canvas bag until they were completely dried. Then he would carefully "debugger" them into the toilet prior to putting them in the laundry.

I completed my lesson by asking the children how much love they had for their family members. Would they go to that much trouble to protect a family member?

As I finished telling the story, the adult teachers in the room looked at me like I had really "lost it". The children, however, got the message. Several of those kids (now adults) have told me how much that lesson meant to them. They really did get the point.

I'm not sure what this says about kids. As my Dad would have said, "First you have to get their attention."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sleep and Marriage

There's something to be said about sleep and a good marriage. I know the old saying, "Never go to bed angry." The idiot who said that apparently never considered that lack of sleep may very well be the cause of (or at least contributing factor to) the argument! The smarter person said, "Everything looks better in the morning."

I believe I have a pretty darned good marriage. I'm not going to lie and say that we've never had a single argument. If someone says that to me, my first thought is "chronic liar." My husband and I have had lots of arguments in the last 33 years. I commend him for at least fighting fair -- and I'm not always sure I've done the same.

One thing is for sure: if we have an argument at night when I'm tired, nothing is going to get accomplished without a good night's sleep. As a matter of fact, if I don't go to bed, it is guaranteed the argument will escalate into something extremely ugly.

So to my posterity: know your body and when it requires sleep. Forget the "never go to bed angry" thing. Everything always looks better in the morning!

Covenant of Self-Reliance

WHEREAS I've spent the last thirty-three (33) years of my life with one goal at the forefront: Being the best wife and mother I can be.

WHEREAS children don't come with a book of instructions, and all parents handle parenting to the best of their abilities and skill sets.

WHEREAS my efforts have apparently not been in vain because I have four healthy, happy children who have never been to jail, never taken drugs, don't smoke or drink alcoholic beverages, have never had a child out of wedlock, have never had a sexually transmitted disease, all are active in church, three have served missions, three have been sealed in the temple, three have lovely families of their own, and the fourth is coming right along.

WHEREAS despite the success mentioned above, my children have decided that my efforts in parenting have made me evil, and a person who they could never live with in a crisis.

WHEREAS my only desire is to make sure that my children remain happy and I don't desire to make their lives miserable for even a nanosecond, despite their making my life a living hell for the last thirty-three (33) years.

WHEREFORE I set my hand this day on this my covenant that in the event I grow old and cannot take care of myself, I will not live with any of my children, but will find other means of support and care or take care of the problem by other means necessary.

Executed this 20th day of February, 2010, in Sacramento, Sacramento County, California.

________/s/Laurie E. White_______


Monday, February 15, 2010

What I Learned in a Wheelchair

Clumsy me. I managed to fall down a flight of stairs while leaving the office in April 2009, breaking both ankles. I'm not sure what happened. I was upright, and then I was not. The irony is that I always took the stairs instead of the elevator to be "heart healthy". There was only a minor fracture of the left ankle, but the right one needed a metal plate and nine screws. The injury obviously could have been much worse, and I'm grateful that I only broke my ankles. Recovery was stifled somewhat by two bouts of pancreatitis and gall bladder removal. While I despised the set back, I'm also grateful for it. My gratitude extends deeper than that. I'm also grateful for three months spent in a wheelchair. I learned a lot about myself, my family, and my friends. I don't recommend throwing yourself down a flight of stairs, but the experience did teach me a few things.

This is what I learned:

1. I'm not a very humble person. It took every ounce of energy within me to let others help me. Using a portable commode and depending on family members to empty and clean it was the most humiliating experience of my life. It was a humbling experience. It was also humbling to let others help bathe me. I became pretty adept at getting around in a wheelchair, and found it difficult when someone wanted to push me. It was humbling to realize that sometimes even when I can do something for myself it is wise to accept help from others.

2. Being a hermit is not for me -- actually, I always thought I would be happy as a hermit; now I know differently. To say that I had cabin fever is the understatement of the century. I've always been pretty happy to stay home, but I always had options until the accident. I need options.

3. My friends truly care about my needs. I was floored at the generosity of my friends. It wasn't just a get well card, or a flower arrangement (although there were those also). My friends really analyzed my needs and what they could do to help. One good friend came to visit and brought me one of those things with claws on it so that I could reach things for myself. I no longer had to ask a family member to jump up and bring me a pillow if it was within reaching distance of my little claw. I learned to use my little tool to clamp onto the arm of the wheelchair and pull it toward me from across the room. I was able to pick up things that I dropped without asking for help. Another friend loaned me her laptop computer -- which saved my sanity -- and probably my marriage. I was connected to the world, even if I couldn't leave my home. Another friend built a wheelchair ramp for me so that I was no longer a hermit. Another friend came over every couple of weeks and sat with me for several hours and just let me talk -- and oh, how I needed that release!

4. I learned that I can survive a rough period without being too much of a whiner. I had my whiney days, of course, but I learned that I was able to keep them to a minimum by keeping myself busy with the laptop computer and word game books.

5. My kids love me, even if they don't realize it. When push came to shove, they all found themselves in my court. Mom often has to be the bad guy, and my husband and I usually end up playing "Good Cop/Bad Cop" -- and guess which one is me? In the end, I learned that even the Bad Cop is loved. That was nice to learn.

6. My sweet "Good Cop" husband can be an angry black bear coming out of hybernation if he thinks someone isn't taking good care of me. I saw him stand up for me in the hospital when stupidity was running amuck -- and suddenly the head of the department was doing my gall bladder surgery.

7. I'm stronger than I thought. I've always been accused of being hard as nails, but most of it is a show so I don't get hurt. I learned that when I need real inner strength, I do have it in me.

8. Prayers are answered. I always knew this, but this was reiterated to me many times during my recovery. My Heavenly Father and my Saviour are there for me always.

Yes, I'm grateful for three months in a wheelchair. While I'm not looking forward to my old age, I now know that I will survive it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Peace on the Hill

I was on a short deer hunt with Dad. The rest of the group were on the mountain somewhere. Dad and I were supposed to flush out the deer on one side of the hillside. We hiked for a few minutes and then Dad told me to lie down on my back under a tree, and I obeyed. He then directed me to look up. As I looked up at the sky through the autumn leaves, it took my breath away. It was like a glimpse of heaven. Those moments of pure peace are so rare in this life that 40 years later I can still picture it in my mind. I can almost grasp the feeling again. I don't think I ever thanked Dad for those five minutes; I wish I had.

Sometimes the Answer is "No"

Answers to prayers are sometimes no. We may never know why Heavenly Father says no, but sometimes we get a glimpse.

When Danny and I were raising our children, we talked about how wonderful it would be to raise them in a small town where life would be a little simpler, and hopefully they would have fewer temptations. Danny began applying for all Caltrans landscaping and maintenance jobs that became available in small towns. There was one particular interview that was quite promising. The kids and I took a road trip with Danny to this interview. We dropped him off at the interview and we checked out the little town. When we picked him up later, I quizzed him about the questions that were asked, and the answers that he gave. The more he told me about this interview, the more excited we both became. He gave the perfect interview. We just knew he had the job. In fact, I was so sure that he had aced that interview that I came home and cleaned my oven for the move -- which admittedly is something I never do!

In the end, he didn't get the job. Danny's score was within .01% of another applicant's score. Ultimately, it was the foreman's call, and he chose the applicant with whom he could commute.

We were devastated. It had seemed like this job was the answer to prayers. We couldn't figure out why this had not gone the way we wanted and expected it to go.

Two years later, there was a devastating earthquake in that little town, Coalinga, California. The neighborhood where we would have lived was completely leveled to the ground.

Sometimes, it is best not to question Heavenly Father's reasons. Sometimes it is best to just trust that he knows what is best for us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Danny's Turkey Find (Take Two)

NOTE: In honor of my husband this Father's Day, I'm re-posting the very first story I published on my blog (when I had no readers). This is my favorite! I've always felt it a shame that I didn't wait to publish this story until I had readers -- so now you get a second chance for a great laugh. Happy Father's Day, Danny! We love you!
Caltrans freeway finds were always the highlight of my children's day. They would run to meet Dad when he came home from work to see what he brought them home from the freeway. We never bought a bicycle, tricycle, hot wheels, balls, etc. At our house, Dad provided with freeway finds. We still use a blanket on the beds that says "U-Haul". There was the 80 pounds of green bananas, the gallon jar of green olives, and then there was the classic Caltrans freeway find: the frozen turkey.

The unwritten rule amongst Caltrans landscapers was that if you were paired up with a partner on the road, the first one to see the find had first pick. Danny was working with Jeanne Holcomb on the highway this "lucky" day. Jeanne saw two frozen turkeys that had fallen off a truck. Jeanne picked the turkey that still had the wrapper on, and Danny came home with the turkey without a wrapper.

Now, imagine my surprise when he walked in with an unwrapped turkey covered in freeway gravel and asked me if we could wash it up for Christmas dinner. I love the man, and I didn't want to hurt his feelings, but I just didn't see that this was possible. In desperation, I went next door to get Alma. I was hoping Alma could gently set him straight -- and save my marriage. Oops! I forgot that Alma grew up on a farm in Kansas. Her mother died when Alma was in the 8th grade, and she quit school to take care of her 8 brothers and sisters for her father. There was NO WAY Alma was wasting that meat! She said, "Oh, sure, we'll just quickly rinse off the dirt, re-wrap it, and freeze it quickly. It will be fine. I think I probably looked at her like she was crazy, but the two of us set to work washing the turkey off.
Now, we were not going to be in town for Christmas, so we really didn't need a turkey right away. A few days later, Danny WON another turkey in a Caltrans raffle. Then, the church gave us a turkey because we were the poorest family in second ward. We lived in first ward boundaries, but for reasons I won't get into, we were attending second ward. We had been the "rich" family in first ward because at the time it was made up of mostly law students. We were about to have the best Christmas we'd ever had -- and our new ward was giving us a turkey.

At any rate, the following Easter Mom decided we should all get together for Easter at her house. I said, "Great, I'll bring the turkey." Now my mother had cooked turkeys for years and years. She always said that a turkey was done when you could wiggle the drumstick and it moved easily. So when she tested the drumsticks and they moved easily, she took the turkey out of the oven. We mashed the potatoes and had everything on the table ready to go -- then she cut into the turkey and discovered it was still raw. She couldn't believe it, but since we had dinner already on the table, she sliced enough for us to eat, and put it in the microwave, then she put the rest of the turkey back in the oven.

We soon found out why the drumsticks wiggled. Every bone in that turkey's body was broken. We each took a bite and discovered gravel between our teeth. That poor turkey must have been hit by every car on the freeway because the gravel was embedded deep in the meat. And my Dad laughed and laughed. You see, Dad sold meat for Swift and Company for 20 years. He also had a favorite motto: "Never turn down anything that's free." Dad had been bed ridden for quite some time, and it was really good to see him laugh like that! It was worth eating gravel to hear that laugh! That was Easter, and Dad passed away the following July. Danny really made the last big family dinner special -- but we've never let him live that turkey down!