Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Cookies

Who would have thought that one simple moment would cause me to break down so easily? Certainly, not me, but it did happen. Throughout the twenty three years that we have been together, DJ has never asked for or gone after the little blue tin full of butter cookies that he did while grocery shopping the other day. And, I have to ask myself why on this day, this year, did he decide that he wanted to grab that little blue tin and place it in the cart? He certainly could not have gauged my reaction to seeing the tin, nor could he have expected the gesture to flood my mind with the sweet memories that brought tears to my eyes. Now, I have cried over cookies in a grocery store before, but that is a different story about pregnancy and Grasshoppers. Maybe, I will tell you that story some day.

Looking down in the basket at that little blue tin, a realization struck. I will never have another Christmas with her. Many little blue tins like this little blue tin spent their lifetimes in a closet holding buttons to place on clothing, beads to make jewelry, receipts for important purchases, and crayons broken by children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Those little blue tins sat on a kitchen counter, anxious to be opened by anyone that crossed the threshold into the warm kitchen and home filled with love. The sweet taste of butter and sugar awaiting to be chosen by the people that she loved more than anyone in the world, her family.

Sweet memories of an entire family gathered in a home completely crowded, full of laughter, and the spirit of Christmas filling the air struck my mind so quickly, that I could not contain the emotion. Flashes of a beautiful aunt with an infectious laugh, always happy and always proud, taken far before her time. Flashes of my father's freckled fingers, nimbly reaching down into that tin to grab the cookies with the little chocolate bits. I think I get my love of chocolate from him. Flashes of small children running to the counter and snatching a cookie and shoving it in their mouths before anyone could stop them. So much love and so much warmth could be found in every Christmas in her home, and every Christmas, that little blue tin of cookies sat on that counter and waited for all of us.

Christmas does not seem to be anywhere close to the same as it did when those little blue tins sat on her counter, and that chapter in my life has come to a close. So, today, it is time for me to create my own chapter and try to make my Christmases special in their own little way. Although my heart is heavy with the loss of so many people that I love, I will always remember that I carry them all with me, and they will always influence how I chose to celebrate my Christmas this year and all of the years to come, with love, laughter, and the spirit of Christmas.

Friday, November 10, 2017


The matriarch of my family, Mary Frances White Bartley Kierepka, has moved on from this world, and I still see her each and every day. Over the last several weeks since her passing, the smallest things remind me of my beautiful grandmother. Although I have come to realize that I mention her more than once a day, people have told me that I have always done that. Maybe I just notice it more now because she has stayed continually on my mind. I will truly miss the influence that she has always had on both my boys and me.

When I see Grandma, it is in the little things that many people take for granted in their daily lives. However, she is the one that taught me those little things are the most important things that you will always have. So, it is those little things that I will never let go of.

I see her when I see my youngest son dance a silly dance with me as the stereo blares. My grandmother taught me to Jitterbug and Swing Dance at a young age. I always looked forward to overnight stays where the TV was often turned off and the music danced through the air. Children's laughter could be heard through the halls of the house, as Grandma grabbed a tiny hand and twirled her babies around. I have had the opportunity to hold on to some of those precious memories with my children due to modern technology, and they are now some of my most prized possessions.

I see her in my oldest son as he tames the feral kittens that live in our neighborhood. I think that the people of Haskell, Texas just knew that if they dropped a kitten off in front of Grandma's house, it would be taken care of. As the years passed, more and more kittens were born, and my grandmother made sure they had a warm place to sleep and food in their bellies. Over my lifetime, I watched my grandma handle the wildest of kittens, who were completely calm when she neared. They did not bite or scratch. They surrounded her just for that moment of a warm embrace or a gentle back rub.

I see her in the wild flowers that grow almost all seasons in Texas. Grandma had the most wonderful green thumb. She could take a limp plant that was barely clinging to life and nurse it back to health. She would pinch off a bit of a wild ivy to grow in her garden, and every single one of her plants would thrive. She had the sweetest most unique flavored tomatoes that grew in her garden, and I have yet to find a tomato that I loved as much as the ones that I would spend my days with her harvesting. What most of us saw as weeds, she saw as a valuable staple and refused to cut down. Whether it was dandelion greens, lambs quarter, prickly pear, or wild garlic, it was all used by her. She taught my children that they could live off of the vegetation of the land if they just new what to look for.

I see her in the birds that most people find annoying and a nuisance. The memories of her special bird feeders, and the boys begging her to let them feed the birds flood my mind. This was something that they loved to do with her every time that that visited. Even though they often overfilled the feeders and ended up spilling more seed on the ground than in the feeders, she indulged them in that little pleasure. She taught all of us that nature is a thing to be treasured and enjoyed. We loved the visits to her home where we could take in the solitude and smell the crisp fresh air. It was a place away from the blaring lights and noisy city that we have come accustomed to. So now, when I see a Blue Jay or a Cardinal, those feelings of peace and contentment wash over me, and my heart is filled with joy.

I hear her in the words that I speak to my children when they are upset with one another. "Things can be replaced, people cannot." These words of wisdom are words that I have come to live by, and I have tried to teach my children to live by. I know that they have heard her when I see them give up what little they have to make sure that those less fortunate have more. I know that they have been influenced by her when their hearts break for people that they do not even know. When life becomes tough and overwhelming, I remind myself, "God only gives you what you can handle." Those words are the words that got me through raising a son with autism. In my self-pity, I would remind myself that if my widowed grandmother could raise three girls and a disabled son on her own, I definitely could do it with my husband's help. I have learned from her not to sweat the little things, and I have taught my boys, "You can handle this," because I know that they can.

Although her words of wisdom hang in my mind, and I carry so much of her with me; I still wish I had more time with her. I wish for that moment when she became overjoyed and filled the room with laughter, and the thought that I will never hear that again breaks my heart. I wish for those peaceful mornings filled with the smell of biscuits cooking in the oven and the smell of International Delights filling the air. I wish to hold her once again, my arms wrapped tightly round her as the smell of rose scented perfume dances about. I wish for one moment to do all of the things that I used to do with her, but I know in my heart that moment will not come, and the sorrow weighs down my soul, and the tears sting my eyes. But, I can handle this.

Although my precious grandma has moved on from this world, through the little things, joy, compassion, nature, and wisdom, I do feel her presence enveloping me every single day.