Friday, November 18, 2011

Our pal taught us gratitude

Recently, a candidate endorsed “believing in sound fiscal principals.”  All principals  (school administrators) should be fiscally sound, especially when spending school money.  But everyone—including principals—should believe in sound fiscal principles (ethical standards.)
Spell check doesn’t help with these words. Remember: “The principal is our pal because he teaches honest principles.”
I was too busy trying stay out of his office to think of my grade school principal as a pal.  But Darrell Moss was a pal to hundreds of students in Teton City and Wilford, Idaho.
On the first day of school, Mr. Moss gathered grades one through eight in the gym for an assembly. First he taught us to sing, in rounds, with gusto: “Sweetly sings the donkey, at the break of day. If you do not feed him, this is what he’ll say: ‘Hee-haw, hee-haw, hee-haw.”  Braying like a donkey made bullies and bullied, dimwits and teacher’s pets laugh together happily.  Our pal understood the power of music.
Then he reminded us to use our time wisely, quoting Horace Mann: "Lost, yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever." 
My siblings and I, grousing about the burdens of school, recited this quote in deep-voiced, dramatic parody of Mr. Moss.  We thought we were funny.
Yet now, when I spend too much time on Facebook or watching ridiculous movies, I think of the golden hours and diamond minutes I’ve wasted. 
Finally, Mr. Moss shared this poem. Internet sources attribute it to Og Mandino (adapted from original by Red Foley) or to that most famous poet, “Unknown.”

Today, upon a bus, I saw a lovely girl with golden hair,
I envied her. . . she seemed so gay. . . and wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch; but as she passed. . . a smile!
Lord, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs.  The world is mine!

I stopped to buy some candy.  The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him.  He seemed so glad.  If I were late, t'would do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me, "I thank you.  You have been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you.  You see," he said, "I'm blind."
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes.  The world is mine.

Later while walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play.  I stopped a moment.
When I said, "Why don't you join the others, Dear?"
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears. The world is mine.

With feet to take me where I'd go, with eyes to see the sunset's glow,
With ears to hear what I would know.
Lord, forgive me when I whine.
I’m blessed indeed.  The world is mine.

I can be a world-class whiner. But because of Mr. Moss, when I whine, inevitably I think of someone worse off than me.
Here’s a Thanksgiving exercise. This week, when you start to whine, gripe, or moan, think or say:  “Lord, forgive me when I whine, I have________________.  The world is mine.”  Fill in the blank with “a car that runs,” “a refrigerator full of food,” “good health,”  “a loving husband, wife, child, sister, brother, or friend” or any blessing of your choice.
Happy Thanksgiving, from my pal, Mr. Moss, and me. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

“Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven” Pillsbury Doughboy

When I was a kid, on “Saturday Night at the Fights,” two boxers feinted at each other while a referee held them apart. After letting suspense build like steam in a pressure cooker, he yelled, “Gentlemen, shake hands and staaaart fighting!” They shook hands, then attacked each other.
My brother gave me similar workouts (without the handshake) so I never watched past this point. 
The fighters provided an enduring family saying.  After the last dish was set on and the blessing was said, someone was sure to shout:  “Shake hands and staaaart eating!”
As we approach that food frenzy called  “the holidays,” here are phrases that make us salivate just hearing them:
“Soup’s on!”
“Let’s eat!”
“Name your poison!”  We used this bartender’s phrase in sentences such as, “Name your poison—pancakes or waffles!”  It offers a nice, self-deprecatory tone for the modest cook.  (With my cooking, though, ‘poison’ comes too close to the truth!)
We were crazy about the Pogo Possum comic strip. Walt Kelly had Ma Groun’ Squirrel say: “The way to a man’s heart is through the soft underbelly!”  We seven girls said it when we made cinnamon rolls or cookies for boyfriends.
However, I rebelled when Mama said, “We’ve got to feed the men.”(Usually prefaced by, “Put that book down and peel these potatoes!”)  I didn’t want to cook for my Dad and brothers, who were capable of both feeding themselves and cooking the food to do it. 
She let me vent, but made me cook, reminding me that Dad and the boys worked hard to provide the food on our table.  Life has proven that as chauvinistic as her saying was, it’s true that every five to six hours, men, women and children eat.  And at my house, it’s usually up to me to make sure they—and I— have something to eat.
Dad cooked. Grandma taught him so he and his brothers could live at the “batch house” on a remote part of their farm.  He made delicious stews, roasts, ham and beans and our favorite, large quantities of cake doughnuts for the holidays.
My brother cut this recipe from a metal Raleigh’s nutmeg can and bent the edges, impressing them into a hand-carved wood plaque, which he gave to Dad for Father’s Day. It hung in our kitchen for 40 years.  I’ve added extra spices— Mama’s secret for doughnuts and pumpkin pie filling so good I wanted to drink it out of the blender!

Wayne’s Doughnuts
Flour, sifted - 4 cups
Baking powder - 4 1/2 tsp. 
Cinnamon – 2 Tblsp.
Nutmeg – 2-4 tsp. to taste
Mace  - 1 1/2 tsp. to taste
Salt - 1 tsp.
Shortening- 3 Tblsp.
Sugar - 1 cup
Eggs, well beaten - 2
Milk - 1 cup

Sift together 3 1/2 cups flour with baking powder, spices and salt. Work shortening with spoon until creamy; add sugar gradually while beating with spoon until light. Add eggs and beat well with spoon.  Add sifted flour mixture alternately with milk, blending well after each addition. Add enough of remaining flour to make a soft dough easily handled. Roll or pat on floured board to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with floured doughnut cutter.  (Kids can do this—we cut a circle with a large tumbler and used an Alka Seltzer bottle to cut out the holes.  Rather then re-roll the dough, which would make tough doughnuts, Dad fried the scraps and called them “critters” – they look amazingly like antlered beasts!) Fry in any hot fat—but lard produces doughnuts like Dad’s!  Drain, then shake well in a paper bag with ½ cup sugar and 2 Tblsp. cinnamon. (Another kid job!)
As Julia Child’s family says,  “Bon app├ętit!”