Last Fall our family received word that Jack was entering into his last chapter of life… he had told the family he wasn’t feeling well, they went to a few Dr appointments, ran several tests and he told the family that he didn’t want to know if he was dying. He didn’t want to know if he was sick. He just wanted to be comfortable… we started counting the days.
I spent weeks thinking about summer vacations at his house, his jokes, his love for his dear Joann (he was so steadfast during her years of illness)… weeks went by and I reminisced.
Within a few weeks I ran across an article about a high level executive who retired and spent the next year travelling to visit those who had left an imprint on his life … I can’t find the article now (or the name of the book that was written about his journey). But the concept is this: he made a list of 15-20 people who had left a deep imprint in his life. He sat down and wrote letters to those individuals, thanking them for their influence in his life and citing examples of why he was thankful for their presence in his life.
I too wanted to do this… I started with a letter to Jack…
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Greetings from Southern California! It got down to 41 degrees here last night… made me think of a wintry Oregon. And of course I thought about my favorite Oregonian…
Was hoping to get a Thanksgiving card in the mail to you… but the more I thought about it I wanted to write you a note. And this “note” wouldn’t fit into a card. So here is a letter I’ve spent some time thinking about for several days.
You’ve known me since I was … oh about, 11 days old. You’re like a Grandfather to me. And whether you believe it or not your influence on my life has been monumental…
Not that you need to be told… but I want you to know that your life, your existence, has touched mine. That your desire to do what’s right and be a decent human being is leaving quite a legacy for more than just your immediate family. Your day-to-day “walk” has left footprints in a lot of lives.
Let’s see if I can do your legacy any justice by sharing what it means to me, let’s see if I can find the words …
– Your work ethic has long been an example to me. That stinky egg ranch, and your tedious care for your business, left an indelible mark on my childhood and into my adulthood. For quite a few summers, Loren and I reaped the benefit of your hard work every time we swam in your pool or chased the dog around your never-ending yard or vacationed for a few days with the Wyne family. The Wyne legacy lives on even stronger today… in our childhood we had no idea how much work went into running a ranch and household of that size. Looking back on it now… we wonder how you and Joanne did it. You would rise before the sun (which I now do on a daily basis) to tend to your responsibilities. With great precision you would hit the “to do” list to get done what needed gettin’ done. Every day… you got up, you put your shoes on, you went to work. Thank you.
– Your wacky sense of humor, and overall view on life, has helped me get through some tough times as well as everyday life. From time to time I’ll say something silly to someone and they stop and look, mouth hung open, at me as if I just fell off my rocker… and I giggle inside and think of you. Thank you for your realistic, wacky, shocking sense of humor. Your sheepish grin will live on in my memory FOREVER. Every day … you made numerous people laugh and/or smile and/or cause some major annoyance. Thank you.
– Your devotion (and love and care and tenderness) to your wife simply goes unheralded. What an example of a Godly man/husband/father. I remember vacation mornings when Joanne would be in the kitchen working on breakfast and you’d come in from outside and plant a kiss on her shoulder or grab her and give her a hug. As a kid I remember looking for that look you two would give each other… for a picture of the love you two shared. Over the next 20+ years you cared for her, met her every need and comforted her through some very rough times. She loved you for it and so do your kids. Few of us got to see that softer side of Jack in action… I’m lucky to be one of those people. Thank you.
– Your “oomph” for life gives the rest of us (your immediate and extended family) desire for life. You know how to be serious (although some people may not believe that), you know how to have fun, you know how to work hard and you know how to make an impact on others. Thank you.
We are all better people for knowing you and loving you.
Fast forward to July 25, 2011. I awoke with a sudden feeling… and for some reason wondered if we’d be saying goodbye to Jack this week. 4 days later I received the phone call … RIP Jack.
I had the honor of reading this letter at his memorial service, his crazy wacky memorial service… one that will go down in history!
As I read the letter I saw tears streaming down the faces of those present… and I knew that my perspective of Jack was unique. Quite the joker he was… but I got to see that softer side. And then I got to share it with others…
Jack – you left quite the impression… we love you for it!
As part of my healing process I’ve been reminiscing… I’ve been keeping myself busy by scanning old family photos and slides. Some of them date back to the late 1800’s… and they’ve been hidden in an old trunk. I’ve never seen most of these pics. So this was like a treasure chest!
The family photo storage bin has been endless… I believe we have scanned well over 5000+ images!!!
As a lover of both history and photography I find it so important to preserve this history. A big priority has been to make sure all of the family members get copies of these digital files. At some point in the future I hope to start an ancestry.com account soon to link up our family history with distant relatives.
This process has taken months. Endless hours have been spent on this project. Scanning. Digitally re-coloring, adjusting tone, cropping. Renaming files. Burning discs for family. Backing up files on disc. Phew… my computer and fingertips are worn out!
But it’s a process I wouldn’t trade for the world. Can I put a dollar amount on the amount of time I’ve spent on this? No.
The best part of it all? Finding some gems, in the form of photos, of my grandparents in their dating days… priceless. Simply priceless!
I no longer carry my phone w/ me everywhere… expecting THE phone call at any moment.
I no longer wake in the middle of the night and look at my phone … to see if I missed THE phone call.
I no longer jump to answer the phone when it rings… thinking it’s THE phone call.
I no longer drive 30 miles south a few times a week… and no longer get to have Saturday morning breakfast with my Grampa.
I no longer have that extra quiet time in the car… to process the daily grieving and think through the family issues related to Grampa’s end of life.
I no longer spend extra money on gas… and yet in a heartbeat I’d spend it all over again for one more trip south to see my Grampa.
Having family around more often over the past few months has been cathartic.
Even in the hard times we were laughing… that’s just how we roll.
The laughter with the family will resume… once we come together again to spend time with each other.
Until then… it’s quiet these days.
So in the absence of the phone ringing (and long conversations with family) and the long drives and the enjoyable & necessary family time… I now catch up on “reading people and meeting books”.
These were just a few of the things on my ‘to do (eventually)’ list… and now my time has been freed up a bit so that I can resume checking off the list. This week alone I have taken 3 naps, finished 3 books I was in the middle of and have actually made dinner every night…
Other items on my ‘to do’ list: scan in old family slides, host a girls’-only dinner in the backyard, enjoy my Saturday mornings at home (my favorite time to be at home – if you know me well you know I protect this time as much as possible), etc.
Life resumes… but now without Grampa.
And while I miss him dearly everyday I’m kind of jealous that he has been reunited with Gramma. We love you both and know that you have smiles on your faces once again…
It was his muffled response to my “I love you, Grampa!” I kissed his temple and brushed his hair back over his forehead. I was saying goodbye for the day, a short visit. But an important visit.
The next day his body fell into a deep sleep, his body fighting for the next 72 hours. All the effort his body could give … it was focusing on his heart beat and his breathing. He was with us for a few more days… but he never awoke again.
Sitting next to him, off and on for several days, singing “Amazing Grace”… praying for him… hoping his last breath would be peaceful… sharing fond memories… laughing to him as I recalled funny stories… hoping my meager efforts could make his last few days as comfortable as possible.
Family came and went… we laughed, we cried, we loved him.
We were ready to say our “goodbye” and longed for him to be in a better place.
And in his last minutes, when his breating was long and labored, it was still peaceful. He took a breath… and then there wasn’t another breath.
We gathered ’round and cried a bit. We said “Thank you, Jesus!” And eventually we resumed laughing. (Some might think this is inappropriate… but that’s how we handle this thing we call “life”.) More than anything… we are happy he is in a better place.
I would like to introduce you to… the V-E-R-Y best cookie I’ve ever had!!! They are flaky and light and buttery and sugary… and THE perfect little cookie!
You’ll want to make these for yourself… you can thank me later.
These are cookies are a family tradition … my Gramma Helen bakes these every year at Christmas time. (And thinking back on Christmases at her house, when I was a kid, I could often be found sneaking to the pantry to find the large coffee tin that hid the extra stash…)
But let me digress for a moment… take a look at my small kitchen workspace. I keep all of my baking goods in that green basket. And when I get ready to bake I pull it out, along with my canisters of flour and sugar and what not. Immediately to the left of the basket is the sink (which is directly under the window). And to the right of the espresso machine is the corner of the kitchen where I have a marble block that holds the utensils, knife block, salt/pepper and cooking oils.
As you can see, I have VERY LITTLE counter space to work with. But I make the most of it…. I love the tiles: that old school pattern speaks to my soul. (And I’m not going to comment on how horrible the grout looks… I’m just not. That’s another blog post altogether.)
So now that we have THAT out of the way… let’s look at our ingredients.
BUTTER and SUGAR! Duh… canola oil, eggs, powdered sugar, cream of tartar, vanilla and almond extract, flour, baking soda and kosher salt.
When baking cookies I always start by combining the dry ingredients first. Always. I just like to get it done and get those ingredients taken care of and out of the way. This way… when it’s time to add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients it’s all ready.
Cream together the butter, oil and sugar…
Next? The eggs, almond and vanilla extracts…
… and in small batches, add all the flour and combine until well-mixed.
Then the dough gets chilled, for at least an hour. While you’re waiting for the dough to chill call your Gramma/Mom/Aunt/Sister and tell her how much you love her.
The reason I needed to chill the dough is because of the next step.
Using the flat-bottom mug and the plate of sugar it’s sitting on (above) I flattened each dough ball…
… until all of them were ready to go.
Into a 325 degree F oven… and 15 mins later…
Then you won’t be able to resist yourself.
You can thank me later… after you call your personal trainer or join the gym again (‘cuz you’re going to eat so many of these that you’ll feel guilty).
Now if I can just find an old coffee tin so I can stash these in the pantry like Gramma used to… it’ll be just like the good ol’ days.
I love you Gramma… you rock!!!
(Note from Lori: this isn’t your typical decorate-with-colored-frosty-and-sprinkles cookie. It’s a VERY flaky buttery cookie that doesn’t need any frosty or sprinkles. Just trust me on this one… )
Gramma Helen’s Sugar Cookies Recipe courtesy Gramma Helen Haraldsen
Ingredients 1 cup butter ¾ cup canola oil 1 teaspoon salt 2 eggs 1 cup sugar 1 cup powdered sugar 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon cream of tartar 4 cups flour 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon almond extract
Instructions Cream oil, butter and sugar. Blend well. Add eggs, vanilla and almond extract. Sift dry ingredients and add to mixture. Chill dough for at least an hour before baking.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Form in small ball (teaspoon size) or place on cookie sheet with teaspoon. Flatten with bottom of glass dipped in sugar. Bake 15 minutes or until slightly browned.
I was going through some storage boxes several weeks ago…
And stumbled across this letter from my Grandmother Ruth. It was written in 1994…
Upon seeing her handwriting, my sorting stopped. I sat there and looked at the writing… not reading it, just looking at the curves of her “L”… the slant of her “H”… the loop under the “G”… and I started crying.
I desperately miss my Gramma Ruth. One Thanksgiving week she lost her battle to cancer. Now every Thanksgiving, several times throughout the day, we’ll talk about Gramma. How funny she was. How her house smelled. How she made a new dessert every night with dinner. How she loved her Franciscan Apple dinnerware.
When she was dying I was in “a bad place” of my life… and I didn’t visit her very much. I couldn’t deal with losing her. And so I acted as if she’d already passed. Oh how I regret that now…
This picture was taken at their 50th anniversary celebration. We were at Anthony’s Fish Market in Chula Vista. We enjoyed time together… in true Marshek tradition, over food. But we knew her days were numbered…
Gramma was only with us a few more months after that picture was taken. And we sure appreciated the time together.
She took care of her family the best she knew how. She loved many children… hers and those that God alowed to pass through their lives (through the foster system). But most of all… she loved my Grampa. And for that I’m grateful. My Grandparents are leaving quite the legacy for the family to carry on…
It happened several weeks ago. The day was August 28, 2010…
Heading south on the 15 freeway, on the way to day #2 of a ridiculously fun weekend with a great group of girlfriends! It was early on Saturday morning… and there were few people on the freeway. I was in “still-waking-up” mode, sipping on my iced coffee and probably singing along to some tunes. My SUV was “flying” down the freeway (however I will not admit to my speed on the grounds that it might incriminate me).
And then … the truck in front of me changed lanes.
::: we’re going to take it in slow motion from here :::
As the driver hit a bump in the road the ladder in the back of his truck popped up off the rack and was airborne! I heard a crash, a scrape and the sound of metal crunching against metal.
And the driver kept going… no brake lights… no nothing (yes, the driver was a “HE” – how do I know?! because he was clueless of the problem happening behind him!)…
Still parallel to the ground, the ladder flew into the front grate of a work truck in the lane to my right… I had just passed the truck next to me, so it was slightly behind my right bumper.
It all happened so fast, but it looked like the ladder flipped, and then got run over by the truck. Immediately the driver hit the brakes and veered off to the shoulder of the freeway. How he didn’t hit someone else in the process was a miracle… thankfully few people were on the road so early in the morning.
In my mind, as I replayed what had just happened, I watched that ladder fly by my passenger window. It dawned on me that IF it had flown out while that truck was still directly in front of me it would have hit my vehicle at a higher elevation than it hit the truck next to/behind me. Could it have potentially gone through my front windshield?!
Thankfully, there are only a few times in my life that my livelihood has flashed before my eyes. But everytime that “flash” happens, well… I thank the Lord on High for not taking me home to Him yet. (Not that I’d complain if He did… selfish me just wants to stick around here a bit longer.)
I love my life. I love my work (on most days). I love my husband (except when he … well, enough said). I love how I’m finally meeting some of the goals I’ve had for a long, long time.
When it comes down to it, while I believe I would “be ready” when that day comes … this was yet another reminder that my days are numbered (as if the time the door flew off the minivan while I was waiting to cross a busy intersection downtown San Diego wasn’t enough… or the time I stopped on the side of the road to stop a man trying to choke his girlfriend, to death… or the time… well, you get the idea).
Am I living how I’m supposed to live? Will I leave behind the legacy meant for my life? What else does God intend for this life before He calls me to His side?
Here’s why: she makes Bierocks !!! (Actually, to be honest, she rocks for way too many reasons to count… but today this is why I’m bragging on her…)
Let me tell you something about bierocks… they’re delicious! That’s all there is to it. She explains that she got the recipe from a friend. And I say “THANK YOU TO GOOD FRIENDS!”
She started by making a buttermilk dough – which she says is easy. (I’ll have to take her word on that… because I’ve never made them before. One of these days I’m going to learn it for myself.)
Then the kneading begins…
I love these hands… to me they represent the Proverbs 31 woman. Nothing could state it any better than that.
She explains that she knows it is done kneading when the dough feels like silk. Next step… letting the dough rise until it doubles in size.
For the filling? Ground beef, onions and cabbage…
By now the dough should be ready. So she got her aggressions out by punching down the dough… then she rolled it out, cut it into small squares, transferred a large spoonful of filling into the middle of the squares and closed up those pouches.
She transfers them to a slightly oiled cookie sheet and into the hot oven…
If only you could taste these (and smell this kitchen)!!! For the record, our family knows full well exactly how blessed we are to have this woman in our lives.
Proverbs 31:28a “Her children (and grandchildren) arise and call her blessed…”
I love you, Gramma! Thank you for teaching me … thank you for loving me!
—————————————————————————– EDITORS’ NOTE:Gramma just sent me her bierocks recipe… here it is!(updated 6/14/10)
Recipe courtesy my Gramma Helen Haraldsen
NOTE: This recipe is a 2-step process: 1) Make the biscuit dough and 2) Make the filling. So the
5 Way Buttermilk Rolls
Ingredients 1 quart buttermilk
12 cups of flour (approximately)
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup shortening, softened (or butter)
3 packets of yeast
1 tablespoon salt
Instructions Warm buttermilk in microwave (or in a double broiler on stove). Then add: sugar, baking soda, shortening and finally yeast.
Stir in flour (1 cup at a time) to make a soft sponge. (This will be very sticky at this point.) Add salt and more flour to make a soft dough that you can turn out on a counter to kneed. Continue to add flour (1 cup at a time) until dough is not sticky and kneed until it feels velvety in your hands. Put into a greased bowl (in a warm spot), cover with a damp cloth and let rise, punch down and let rise again. Keep in a warm place.
Filling for bierocks
Ingredients 3 pounds ground beef
1 ½ pounds onions, chopped
1 ½ pounds cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions In the meantime, cook ground beef and chopped onions until slightly browned and juices cooked down. Add salt & pepper or seasoned salt to taste. In a separate kettle cook shredded cabbage until soft. Add the cabbage to the meat mixture and stir all together.
This is where the two steps merge…
After the bread has risen the second time, punch down slightly, divide into 4 sections and roll out with a rolling pin as you would for cinnamon rolls. Cut the dough into sections about 5″ square. Turn the meat mixture into a colander so any juices will drain away, Put 2 or 3 tblsp. of meat onto each square; bring up corners to center and press together. Pour some oil onto a cookie sheet; dip the bottom of the beirock into the oil and then turn over with the pressed edges underneath. You should be able to get 10 or 12 of these rolls on each cookie sheet. Let them rise. Bake about 30 min. in a 400 deg. over and enjoy.