License to Smile

A cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.~William Arthur Ward

Anyone who knows me well would almost certainly label me an optimist. I believe in embracing hope and finding something positive even in the most difficult circumstances. My own optimism stems from a strong, personal faith in a loving God who I believe is very interested in the personal details of our lives, not just the “big stuff.” I also believe that things happen for a reason and that if we keep our minds and spirits open, our invisible God often becomes visible, sometimes in ways that are quite humorous!With that being said, even optimists can temporarily lose hope. This was the case for me on a particularly cold and gloomy January day. I felt overwhelmed by the painful challenges I was dealing with in my personal life. Marital, health, and financial struggles had joined forces to create a tornado of emotion that threatened to crush my spirit. I felt angry, frustrated, burdened, and distanced from the presence of God. The weather seemed to reflect my mood—the gray sky blocked even a single ray of sunlight. As I drudged through my workday, I just couldn’t shake a sense of hopelessness and despair.About midway through the day, I left work to get some lunch. Still feeling pessimistic and negative, I noticed that the sun had come out for a brief moment. I began to think about my negative attitude and reminded myself that I was responsible for choosing my state of mind. While I could not ignore the pain I was going through, I could choose to dwell on the negative or I could choose to shift my thinking to a more positive focus. Even as I consciously reminded myself of this truth, I felt incapable of making the shift. So I gripped the steering wheel and prayed an honest, heartfelt prayer. “God,” I cried, my tears ready to spill out, “where are you? I don’t want to feel this way but I am miserable and hopeless today. Please lift me out of this dark, gloomy place!”As I stopped at a red light, I looked at the car directly in front of mine. The personalized license plate caught my eye—it read “SUNZOUT.” This brought an immediate smile to my face. It felt like a reminder from God that the sun was shining after all, and in the midst of the longest, darkest, coldest winter in years, this in itself was a blessing. But then my eyes moved to the car that was perfectly parallel to the SUNZOUT vehicle. The license plate on that car read “GROUCH.” So as I read these two license plates side by side, I said out loud “SUNZOUT, GROUCH.” This brought more than a smile to my face as I laughed out loud! Seeing the two very opposite license plates right next to each other at that exact moment in time also strengthened my previous recognition of my ability to choose my outlook despite my circumstances. I felt my spirits and mood lift as I made the conscious decision to choose a positive attitude.I returned to work and shared my story with several co-workers who responded with warm laughter at what I referred to as my “message from beyond.” I learned that day that when we are feeling too discouraged to bring ourselves out of a state of negativity, relief is only a prayer away!~Julie A. Havener

Cherry kuchen bars

What You’ll Need

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (21-ounce) can cherry pie filling

What to Do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter, shortening, and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly beat flour mixture into butter mixture until well combined. Reserve 1-1/2 cups of dough; set aside. Spread remaining dough in a 15- x 10- x 1-inch baking sheet.
  4. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and spread pie filling over crust. Spoon reserved dough in small mounds on top of pie filling.
  5. Continue baking 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is lightly golden. Let cool, then cut into squares.

Black Jellybeans By Margie Seyfer

I’ve never read an official study on the matter, but I’ve Noticed that in animal shelters, black cats are the most overlooked. Black seems to be the least preferred of cat colors, ranking below All combinations of white, orange, gray, spotted and striped. Black Cats are still stereotyped as Halloween cats, creatures of bad luck, More appropriate on a witch’s broomstick than curled up on your Pillow. To make matters worse, in cages, black cats become close to Invisible, fading into the dark shadows in the back of a stainless-Steel cage.For eleven years, starting when I was ten years old, I Volunteered at an urban animal shelter. It always struck me as Particularly unfair that, time after time, I’d get to know Affectionate, adorable black cats, only to watch them be passed over By adopters merely because of their color. I assumed there was Nothing that could be done.One day, many years into my work at the shelter, I spent a fewMinutes petting a sweet, black half-grown kitten, who had been found As a stray and brought to the shelter. The slender thing purred Warmly at my attention, gently playful as she patted my hand with one Paw. I thought about what a shame it was that the kitten was already Too big to be adopted on baby-kitten appeal alone, and so solidly Black that most people wouldn’t even pause in front of her cage. I Noticed there was no name written on the informational card on her Cage. Since volunteers were welcome to name the strays that came to The shelter, I thought for a moment about what I could name this Black kitten. I wanted to think of a name that could give the kitten The kind of appealing “color” that might encourage an adopter to take A second look. The name Jellybean popped into my head, and I wrote It on the card, just as I’d named thousands of cats in the past.I was taken entirely by surprise when, later that afternoon, IOverheard a woman walking through the cat room say, “Jellybean! What A wonderful name!” She stopped to look more closely at the kitten, Now batting at a piece of loose newspaper in the cage. She asked me If she could hold Jellybean, and, as I opened the cage, I sheepishly Admitted that the kitten didn’t know her name, as I’d named her just Hours before.I lifted her into the woman’s arms, and the kitten leaned into The woman, looking up into her eyes with a purr of kitten bliss. After a few minutes, the woman told me that she’d like to adopt this Black kitten, and, when the paperwork was approved a few days later, She took Jellybean home.I was pleased, of course – adoptions were always what nourished My soul – but I chalked it up to a lucky break for one black kitten, And moved on.I was surprised again a few weeks later when the woman came back To the shelter. She found me refilling water bowls in a cat room and Said, “You were the one who helped me adopt that black kitten a few Weeks ago, remember? Jellybean? I know you were the one who named Her, and I’ve been wanting to stop back to thank you. She’s the Sweetest thing – I just love her to pieces. But I don’t know if I Would have noticed her if she hadn’t had that great name. It just Suits her perfectly. She’s so bouncy and colorful – I know that Sounds crazy. Anyway, I wanted to say thank you.”I told her I was touched that she had stopped by and thrilled to Hear that Jellybean was doing well in her new home. Then I explained How I thought black cats were often unfairly overlooked and admitted The name had been my conscious attempt to get someone to notice a cat Who would probably not have been adopted otherwise. She said, “Well, It worked! You should name all the black cats Jellybean.”I smiled politely at the suggestion, thinking to myself that thisWoman knew nothing of the harsh realities of animal shelters. JustBecause I named one kitten Jellybean and it had gotten adopted didn’t Mean anything – it had just been a stroke of luck. Black cats were Still black cats, after all, and most people didn’t want them.As the day went on, I kept thinking about the woman’s advice: “You should name all the black cats Jellybean.” As crazy as it Seemed, I decided I had nothing to lose. Pen in hand, I walked along The cages, looking for a black cat without a name. There was only One, a small black kitten alone in a cage, sleeping. I Wrote “Jellybean” on its cage card.Later that afternoon, someone came along and said they’d like to adopt that little Jellybean. Well, I thought to myself, that wasn’t really a fair test – it was so cute and tiny.A few days later, a nameless black cat came along, fully grown. I named it Jellybean. It was adopted. Days later, another. Adopted. The process repeated itself enough times that, after a while, I had to admit that maybe there was some magic in the name, after all. It began to seem morally wrong not to name black cats Jellybean, especially ones who had a bounce in their step and a spark of joy in their eyes. Although I’d usually refrained from using the same name for more than one cat, after a while, my fellow volunteers ceased to be surprised when they came across another of my Jellybeans.Of course, we’ll need more far-reaching solutions to ensure thatevery cat has a home. But for my black Jellybeans, sitting in sunnywindows, sniffing at ladybugs walking across the kitchen floor, snuggling in beds with their adopted people, a name made all the difference.”Jellybean” allowed some humans to see beyond a dark midnight coat into the rainbow of riches in a cat’s heart.

Lemon and blueberry bread

1-1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp. flour, divided

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup oil

1 tsp. lemon zest

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup blueberries


Heat oven to 350°F

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

Whisk eggs, sugar, sour cream, oil, lemon zest and vanilla until blended. Add to flour mixture; stir just until blended.

Toss blueberries with remaining flour; stir gently into batter.

Pour into greased and floured 9×5-inch loaf pan.

Bake 1 hour to 1 hour 5 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 min. Remove bread from pan to wire rack; cool completely.

Potato Salad and PicnicsBy Nancy B. Gibbs

Life is like potato salad; when it’s shared it becomes a picnic. When my three children were young, my husband Roy and I were very busy. He was working on his masters degree while working three jobs and I had three jobs of my own. There was very little time that wasn’t crammed with stress, busy-ness and term papers. “Can we go on a picnic, Mama?” my six-year old daughter, Becky begged. “Please.” I had said no so many times in recent months, I decided the usual Saturday morning chores could wait. To her surprise, I agreed. I prepared a few sandwiches and filled a cooler with ice and drinks and called Roy at work. “Meet us at the college pond for a picnic at twelve o’clock sharp,” I said excitedly. My eleven-year-old twin sons loaded the cooler and the picnic basket in the trunk and off we went to spend some quality time together as a family. I glanced at the kitchen counter just before heading to the car and spied a package of stale hamburger buns. I thought about the family of ducks living at the pond. We stopped and picked up a bucket of fried chicken at a fast-food restaurant on the way. Becky and I spread the tablecloth on the cement picnic table while Brad and Chad tossed a football back and forth. In no time flat the ducks joined us. Becky squealed with delight as the ducks begged for breadcrumbs. About the time I got the lunch spread out on the table, Roy arrived on the scene. We joined hands and bowed our heads. As the wind blew and the ducks quacked, he thanked God not only for the food but for our family. That was one of the happiest meals we ever shared together. The gentle breeze God sent our way caressed my face, as the sunshine warmed my heart. The meal was graced with giggles and laughter. We felt a closeness that had been hidden by work and school-related responsibilities for so many months. Once the food was consumed, Roy and the boys skipped rocks on the lake. Becky continued to feed the ducks and I sat quietly on the picnic table, thanking God for blessing me with such a wonderful family. Too soon, Roy had to go back to work. The kids continued to play together while I watched. I put the many things which I needed to do on the backburner of my life and simply enjoyed sharing the day with my children. Seeing the joy on each of their faces made me smile. When we got into the car to return home, Becky crawled in the front seat with me. “Here Mama!” she exclaimed. She was holding a tiny yellow wildflower. Happy tears came to my eyes as I reached out and took it from her. When we arrived home, I put the tiny flower in a toothpick holder and placed the remaining food into the refrigerator. That night as I tucked our children under their covers, I kissed their cheeks and realized what a wonderful life I had. “Thank you for the picnic,” one of the boys whispered. “My pleasure,” I whispered back. As I walked out of the room it dawned on me that even the busiest lifestyle could become a picnic when it’s shared it with the ones you love. Even though the kids have now grown up and moved away from home, I can still remember how I felt that day while sitting on the picnic table. Maybe today would be a good time to cook potato salad, call all of my grown kids, feed some hungry ducks and throw a few rocks into the lake. Since life is like potato salad, let’s make it a picnic.

The Old Man & A Bucket of Shrimp

It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean. Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier.. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now. Everybody’s gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts…and his bucket of shrimp. Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier. Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a smile, ‘Thank you. Thank you.’ In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn’t leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place. When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home. If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like ‘a funny old duck,’ as my dad used to say. Or, ‘a guy who’s a sandwich shy of a picnic,’ as my kids might say. To onlookers, he’s just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp. To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant …. maybe even a lot of nonsense. Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters. Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida . That’s too bad. They’d do well to know him better. His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero back in World War II. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft. Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were. They needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft.. Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck.. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal – a very slight meal for eight men – of it. Then they used the intestines for bait.. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait…….and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued (after 24 days at sea…). Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull… And he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’ That’s why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

Oatmeal Peach Crumble Bars


Oat Crumble – Crust

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ⅓ cups rolled oats
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup unsalted buttermelted and cooled completely

Peach Filling

  • 2 ¼ cups peaches peeled and cut into small pieces (4-6 peaches, depending on size)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt optional (brings out the flavor more)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice can also use orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 inch baking pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on each side for easy removal after it’s baked.

Peach Filling

  • Chop the peaches into small chunks about a ½ inch to 1 inch thick. Larger chunks result in peaches not being cooked through.
  • Mix the peaches with lemon juice and vanilla extract. Next, add in the cornstarch, sugar and salt (optional) and toss together. Set aside.

Oat Crumble – Crust

  • Mix the flour, rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, and salt well in a medium bowl. Then add the cooled melted butter and stir with a spoon or spatula to mix together. Will resemble crumbles, but will stick together.
  • Place ⅔ of the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Spread and press the mixture evenly using your hands or the bottom of a measuring cup.
  • Next, cover the crust with the peach mixture, spooning out the peaches by leaving most of the juice in the bowl as much as possible. Over excess juice is not needed, so it’s better to drain the juice off.
  • Sprinkle the remaining dough over the peaches. Use your fingertips to press to the crumbles down a little so they can stick to peaches.
  • Bake for 35-37 minutes until the top becomes golden brown and the crumbles are crunchy.
  • Let cool at room temperature for almost 1 hour.
  • Keep bars in the fridge for extra 1,5 hours until it is completely cool so you can have nicely cut bars.

Spinach artichoke quesadillas


  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup cream cheese
  • 1 tsp garlic minced
  • 8 oz artichoke hearts chopped and drained (1 cup)
  • 2 cup baby spinach leaves
  • 2 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese shredded
  • 2 large tortillas


  • In a large 12 inch frying pan over medium heat combine olive oil and cream cheese until cream cheese has melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Stir in minced garlic, artichokes, and spinach. Cook until spinach starts to shrink, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add in mozzarella and parmesan cheese and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
  • In a clean and dry frying pan over medium heat, place one tortilla in the pan. Scoop out ¼ of the spinach mixture and spread it out across one half of the tortilla. Fold the other half of the tortilla over the filling side. Heat for 1 to 2 minutes per side, until lightly browned.
  • Cut into 3 triangles. Repeat steps with remaining mixture and tortillas.
  • Serve hot or warm.


Use a dry frying pan because the tortillas would soak up any grease. A dry pan ensures a crispy quesadilla.Be careful not to overfill the tortilla to ensure the filling heats evenly and doesn’t ooze out the sides.Tortillas burn easily; fry on medium heat. The result will be golden, crispy outsides, and melty insides.

Lemon Pie Love

If God had intended us to follow recipes, He wouldn’t have given us grandmothers.~Linda Henley

Many years after my grandmother passed away, I received a gift in the mail from her. I was about to turn thirty and my mother sent me an envelope. “I know this isn’t her famous lemon pie,” my mother wrote, “but it is the next best thing.”Everyone eats cake for their birthday, right? Well, not our family. All we asked for was Grandmother’s famous lemon pie. This was the one thing she wouldn’t teach anyone, not even me. She was tight-lipped with this recipe. When asked what was in it she would say, “A little of this and a little of that.”Inside the envelope was a small index card. My throat tightened as I viewed the handwriting. “Famous Lemon Pie” was the title. Measurements were scratched out and rewritten. Clutching the card, I went to the kitchen to call my mom.“Where did you get this?” I asked when she got on the line.“I was cleaning out the attic and found a small box of her things. From the looks of it, she wasn’t even sure what she put in that pie,” my mother said.My grandmother was famous in her circle of friends. She was known for her handmade crafts, her acre garden that all the neighbors helped with, but most of all she was famous for her baked goods that she shared with everyone. The best thing about my grandmother is that she taught me everything she knew, almost everything.When I work on a craft, I feel her words of approval tickle my ears. Tending to my small but rewarding garden, the sun kisses the top of my head and I can feel her happiness wash over me. However, I never feel her presence more than when I am in the kitchen whipping up one of her favorite desserts.Now I was determined to have her lemon pie for my birthday. I lined up all the ingredients on the counter and began to work. The first pie was soupy and sloshed in the crust when I pulled it out. The second pie began to burn even before it was cooked through.I made lemon pie over and over, observing every little thing she scratched out and recalculated. By the time my husband got home from work, the kitchen was a minefield of defective pies. It looked as if each and every ingredient had abused me. I lost control when I saw the look on his face.“What happened here?” he asked.“I just want lemon pie for my birthday!”“I will buy you a lemon pie.”He didn’t understand. I left the kitchen and ran upstairs with a dusting of flour trailing behind me.I went to bed that night with the feeling of defeat. Why did my mother have to send me that recipe? I drifted off to sleep with pieces of crust still in my hair and lemon scent on my hands.My dreams were filled with memories of my grandmother and that pie. I kept trying to see what she was putting in it but she hid it behind her back. “Please tell me what is in that pie,” I begged. She smiled as the dream dissipated.I trudged to the kitchen the next morning and all the pies had been carted out to the garbage. The counters were spotless. It was as if the pie incident had never happened.The next day would be my birthday and all I wanted was lemon pie. I pulled the ingredients back out of the cupboard. “I can do this,” I whispered to myself. There are two things I pride myself on. First, I am the best baker in my circle of friends. Second, I don’t give up.I started mixing the ingredients and when I got to the cornstarch I couldn’t scrape enough out of the box for the pie. Doubt was creeping into my thoughts. “I can do this. I can do this,” I repeated to myself as I grabbed my car keys.I stood in the aisle looking at the multiple brands of cornstarch. What was I doing? I felt like I was having a mini meltdown over a pie. I pulled a box off the shelf and rolled it around in my hands as I walked to the register. My eyes settled on the recipes on the back. Lemon pie. Maybe I should use this recipe. I looked closer. It couldn’t be.I rushed home to view the precious index card sitting on my counter. I scanned the ingredients as I looked from card to box and back to the card again. Impossible! Was it this easy? I could see my grandmother smiling as I figured out her secret recipe. It seems it wasn’t a secret to anyone who had bought this brand of cornstarch.For my birthday, I made not one but two lemon pies. I was so pleased with myself as everyone inhaled the pie and dished out the compliments. Now I have a famous lemon pie recipe, but I’m not sharing!~

Helen R. Zanone

It’s A Monk’s Life

In an ancient monastery, a new monk arrived to dedicate his life to God and to join the others copying ancient records. The first thing he noticed was that they were copying by hand books that had already been copied by hand. He had to speak up. “Forgive me, Father Justinian, but copying other copies by hand allows many chances for error. How do we know we aren’t copying someone else’s mistakes? Are they ever checked against the originals?” Father Justinian was startled. No one had ever suggested that before. “Well, that is a good point, my son. I will take one of these latest books down to the vault and study it against its original document.” He went deep into the vault where no one else was allowed to enter and started to study. The day passed, and it was getting late in the evening. The monks were getting worried about Father Justinian. Finally one monk started making his way through the old vault, and as he began to think he might get lost, he heard sobbing. “Father Justinian,” he called. The sobbing grew louder as he came closer. He finally found the old priest sitting at a table with the new copy and the original ancient book in front of him. It was obvious that Father Justinian had been crying for a long time. “Oh, my Lord,” sobbed Father Justinian, “the word is ‘celebrate’!”

Stairway to Heaven-By Sylvia Gardner

When I was growing up back in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, Mother prided herself on preparing us kids for anything life might send our way. Her own mother had suffered a massive stroke when she was only five years old. As the oldest of four children, my mother professed that it was hard work and a strong faith in God that got her through those rough years. She was a shining example of Yankee faith and fortitude, and she passed along those values to each of us.

Still, nothing could have prepared me for the void that Mother’s death on October 14 would cause. She’d lived 96 healthy years and passed quietly in her sleep after enjoying a wonderful visit with the four of us. I was grateful for that. But now the person who’d helped me get through everything was gone.

Never again would I dial her telephone number after a difficult day on the job as a nurse practitioner at the VA Medical Center. Never again would I hear the dearly familiar pearls of wisdom that had shaped my life.

Sometimes when a patient was going through a trying time, one of Mother’s little sayings would come to mind and I’d share it with them. I remember the first time I met Mr. Sampson, a World War II veteran with emphysema and arthritis.

I’d just moved to Appalachia from upstate New York, and my accent quickly branded me as a northerner and the new kid on the block. Mr. Sampson wasn’t at all happy I’d been assigned to his care. “I’m short-winded and can’t get around good anymore,” he practically barked at me. “It takes me twice as long to cut the grass as it used to. And then they give me some foreigner like you.

After an introduction like that, I said a quick prayer, and all of a sudden a memory of Mother and me on our dairy farm back home came surging back. The minister had stopped by for a visit; our big black and white Berkshire pig that thought he was a watchdog had gotten loose from his pen and wouldn’t let the minister out of his car. Mother and I leaped over the barbed-wire fence to catch it. I didn’t quite make it.

I had a six-inch gash in my left knee after my attempt. Mother rubbed some of the same Bag Balm we used on our cows on my cut, taped it up just so, and pronounced me as good as new.

“Can’t someone else milk the cows, just for today?” I pleaded.

“You can do it, Sylvia,” Mother replied in her no-nonsense voice. “It may take you a little longer, but you can still do it. The angels will help you.”

The message was simple, and it had gotten me through more than a few hard times in nursing school.

That memory of Mother and the Berkshires was all I needed. I shared the story with Mr. Sampson and even showed him the scar I still have on my knee.

Turned out, he, too, had been raised on a farm and had a mother whose practical faith was a lot like my mother’s. When he left my office, he was still laughing about that pig and was reciting Mother’s words and promising to put in a garden.

Next time I saw him, he was loaded down with tomatoes and green peppers for our entire department. The only thing he requested in return was another installment of Mother’s faith-filled counsel.

But with Mother gone, her words of wisdom seemed empty. The evening of her funeral, my husband and I drove through a misty rain just as the sun was setting below the trees somewhere between Chambersburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I felt completely overwhelmed. “God, where are You?” I prayed.

“Please let me know that Mother is with You.”

All at once, the rain stopped and the most spectacular neon light show arced across the sky. Vibrant red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple—the colors were every bit as brilliant as the highlighter pens I used to mark points I needed to remember in my nurse practitioner journals.

The display reminded me of a time when I was nine years old. Mother was driving us kids to the Eastern States Exposition to show our Holsteins when this huge, beautiful rainbow lit up the sky. She pulled our 1936 Buick off the road, and exclaimed: “Kids, whenever you see a rainbow, that’s God’s angels dropping down His stairway to heaven for someone who has died.”

As I recalled that unforgettable day, tears fell down my cheeks, blurring my vision. I did a double take, stunned by the sight, for there was not one, but two, rainbows spread across the sky. It was so spectacular that cars began parking along the side of the road to take pictures. My husband and I kept on driving, seemingly forever, toward Mother’s double neon staircase and God’s unmistakable sign for her doubting daughter.

When I returned to work after Mother’s funeral, one of the nurses tapped on my office door. “There’s a man out in the waiting room,” she said. “He keeps telling everyone he’s got to talk to Sylvia.” She pointed to a gray-haired man in khaki slacks. I recognized him right away, Mr. Sampson. I hadn’t seen him since he moved several years earlier and he looked terrible. He must have gotten some really bad news, I thought.

When I called his name, he looked at me and began to sob. I wrapped my arm around him and led him to a chair in my office. “My mama died October fourteenth,” he told me. “I came back home for her funeral and to get the farm ready to sell. She was my best friend in all the world, Sylvia. I know how you loved your mother, so I knew you’d understand.” Tears glistened in his eyes as he fixed his glance on an educational poster hanging on my wall. “I’ve got to have one of your stories, Sylvia . . . one of your mother’s sayings about God’s angels.”

My words came out barely above a whisper. “My mother died the very same day as yours did, Mr. Sampson. But there’s something she used to say that I believe might help you.”

When I told him what had happened and Mother’s angelic philosophy on rainbows, Mr. Sampson’s face lit up. “You’re not going to believe this, but I was driving to my mama’s funeral that same day. And there were two rainbows in the sky for me too. I didn’t know rainbows meant anything. I just thought they were pretty. I guess God must have thought He’d better send us a pair of them, as hardheaded as we can be. Huh, Sylvia?” He paused, his eyes filled with peace.

“Can you imagine what a great time our mamas are having in heaven right now?

While we’re down here worrying how God’s going to take care of us. We’ve got to start living what our mamas taught us. We’ve lived off their faith long enough.”

And that’s what I’ve done ever since. For I know firsthand that no matter how far away we are from our loved ones, God and His angels are always near. And whether by a spectacular show in the sky or a whisper to my heart, He will find the perfect way to send me a mother’s comfort and guidance when I need it most.

Until my time on earth ends, and His angels drop down His stairway for me.

Bisquick apple cobbler


  • 1 c . sugar
  • 2 tsp . cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp . cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp . allspice
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp . butter
  • 5 c . apples sliced
  • 1/2 tsp . grated lemon peel
  • 1 c . homemade bisquick mix
  • 1/4 c . milk
  • 1/4 c . sugar
  • 2 tbsp . butter melted
  1. FILLING: In a sauce pan, blend sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add butter, apples and lemon peel. Pour into a buttered baking dish.
  2. TOPPING: Mix bisquick with milk, sugar and butter until well combined. Drop by spoonfuls on top of apple mixture.
  3. Bake Bisquick Apple Cobbler at 350 F (175 C) for 35-40 minutes (fan oven 25-28 minutes) or until golden brown.

Bisquick peach cobbler


  • 3 cups sliced fresh peaches
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 cup homemade Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup milk, any kind
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar, packed
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 K).
  2. Combine peaches, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cornstarch, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon zest.
  3. Mix together bisquick, milk, butter and brown sugar. Add mixture to 7″ (18 cm diameter; 4 cups volume) baking pan. Pour fruit on top of the bisquick mixture, do not stir.
  4. Bake Bisquick Peach Cobbler for 45-60 minutes. Serve warm or cold, with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

More Whipped Cream

One day I had a date for lunch with friends. Maea little old “blue hair lady” about 80 years old came along with them — all in all a pleasant bunch. When the menus were presented we ordered salads sandwiches and soups except for Mae who said”Ice cream please. Two scoops chocolate.” I wasn’t sure my ears heard right and the others were aghast. “Along with heated apple pie” Mae added completely unabashed. We tried to act quite nonchalant as if people did this all the time… but when our orders were brought out I didn’t enjoy mine. I couldn’t take my eyes off Mae as her pie a-la-mode went down. The other ladies showed dismay. They ate their lunches silently and frowned. The next time I went out to eat I called and invited Mae. I lunched on white meat tuna. She ordered a parfait. I smiled.. She asked if she amused me and I answered”Yes you do but also you confuse me. How come you order rich desserts while I feel I must be sensible?” She laughed and said with wanton mirth”I’m tasting all that is possible. I try to eat the food I need and do the things I should…but life’s so short my friend I hate missing out on something good. This year I realized how old I was. (She grinned) I haven’t been this old before. So before I die I’ve got to try those things that for years I had ignored. I haven’t smelled all the flowers yet. There are too many books I haven’t read. There’s more fudge sundaes to wolf down and kites to be flown overhead. There are many malls I haven’t shopped. I’ve not laughed at all the jokes. I’ve missed a lot of Broadway hits and potato chips and cokes. I want to wade again in water and feel ocean spray on my face. I want to sit in a country church once more and thank God for His grace. I want peanut butter every day spread on my morning toast. I want un-timed long distance calls to the folks I love the most. I haven’t cried at all the movies yet or walked in the morning rain. I need to feel wind in my hair. I want to fall in love again. Soif I choose to have dessert instead of having dinner then should I die before nightfall I’d say I died a winner because I missed out on nothing. I filled my heart’s desire. I had that final chocolate mousse before my life expired.” With thatI called the waitress over…. “I’ve changed my mind” I said. “I want what she is having only add some more whipped cream!”

The Worm by Julie Long

I couldn’t put the worm on. I prided myself on being a tomboy – I hated Barbies and baths, and loved climbing trees and playing with Tonka trucks – but something about sticking a hook through a wiggling worm gave me the heebie-jeebies. Dad had somehow understood, but how could I tell old Mr. Lyons, who never had any kids? I almost hadn’t gone fishing with him because of it, but Mom talked me into it. Then, the closer we got to the river, the more it worried me.It was nice of Mr. Lyons to take me fishing. Since my dad had died the fall before, it was just my mom and us four girls, and I knew we wouldn’t go fishing or camping or canoeing anymore. I missed my dad and had taken to hanging around Mr. Lyons’s yard as he worked on building his houseboat. I loved the smell of sawdust and stain – a scent that was fading from my dad’s unused workshop. I think Mr. Lyons liked my company, too. He’d be hammering a nail or planing wood with his eyes squinting in concentration until his dog Brownie would announce my arrival with a bark. When he’d look up and see it was me, he’d set his tools down and scratch his gray, scruffy chin and say he was glad I came by because he needed a break.Mr. Lyons had finished the houseboat in the spring, and he’d already taken it down to the river. He pulled the truck up next to the houseboat.”Well, how’s she look?””Real nice, Mr. Lyons.””We’ll just fish right off the front bow. It’s nice and shady there. The fish’ll be keeping cool and waiting for a worm to wiggle on by.”We got the fishing poles out of the bed of the Ford. Mine was just the bamboo pole I had dug out from the camping supplies in the basement. Dad had tried to teach me how to cast his rod and reel but I had tangled the line up something awful. Maybe now that I had turned eleven I’d have better luck.Mr. Lyons reached back in the truck bed for the tackle box, then reached in again and handed me the Styrofoam container of worms. I followed him down the bank and onto the boat, keeping an eye that the lid stayed on.Once on the bow, Mr. Lyons started getting everything set up. Any minute now I’d have to admit to him my aversion to worms. Then he’d probably never ask me to go fishing again. He handed me my pole, then set the container between us and fished out a worm for his pole. Then, just when I was ready to confess, Mr. Lyons confessed to me instead.”Always hate this part,” he mumbled as he held the worm in one hand and his hook in the other. “It’s silly, but stickin’ the poor little guy with a hook makes me feel, I dunno what you’d call it. . . .””Like you have the heebie-jeebies?” I offered hopefully.”That’s it exactly. The heebie-jeebies. You get ’em, too?””A little,” I admitted, relief washing over me.”Yeah. I guess sometimes we gotta go through the bad to get to the good. Want me to hook your worm for ya?”There it was. My way out. All I had to say was “yes” and I’d be off the hook and my worm would be on. But I felt bad making Mr. Lyons put the worm on if he hated it as much as me. So I reached into the cool dirt and picked up a fat worm between my fingers. I tried not to think about how slimy it felt as I quickly poked the hook through its middle and wiped my hand on my jeans.I had done it! It definitely gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I had gotten through it. I looked up at Mr. Lyons. He gave me a wink. I grinned with pride and tossed my line in the water. The bad part was over.Today, of course, I realize my mom must have shared my problem with Mr. Lyons; I’m fairly certain he didn’t have a case of the heebie-jeebies at all. But I also know that he helped me grasp, on a child’s level, the principle of persevering through the bad to get to the good. My mom and sisters and I never did fish together again; the days of camping and canoeing died with my father. But we struggled through the grief and, when we got through the bad, we eventually found other good times to enjoy as a family. And I continued to fish with Mr. Lyons . . . And bait my own hook.

BUTTERFLY DUST by James “PoppyK” Kisner

Remembering when I was young so many years ago,About the things that kids will try because they want to know.Someone had told me way back then of something I should try,Then I could flap my arms and fly just like a butterfly.I didn’t know if it was true or if he fibbed to me,But I had to try because of curiosity.He told me if you caught a dozen butterflies or so,And gently rubbed them on your arms and legs and let them go.The dust that was upon their wings would start to make you light,And if you caught enough of them the dust would give you flight.So all day long out in a field I did what I was told,And thought of being Peter Pan when I was 5 years old.I caught the little butterflies and rubbed them on my skin,My arms and legs and everywhere, I even rubbed my chin.He had said a dozen but I strived for even more,I wanted more than I would need so I could really soar.Late that afternoon I felt that it was time to try,I now had all the powder of a giant butterfly.Excitement overwhelmed me as I climbed upon a fence,In my mind it had to work, it had made so much sense.So standing on the fence post with my arms outstretched and tight,Planning all my destinations on my maiden flight.Should I go see Mikey and land in his yard some place?Or should I just fly by my mom so I can watch her face?Maybe I should just take off and plan it in the air,Once I get the hang of it, I can go anywhere.Now the moment has arrived; I leap and look around,But suddenly I find myself just sitting on the ground.I must have done it wrong, I should have flapped my arms I know,Even butterflies must flap their wings to make them go.So on the fence post I would go and find the secret power,Trying everything I knew which took almost an hour.Finally sitting on the ground after my last try,I faced the grim reality that it was just a lie.Dusting myself off and sadly going on my way,I realized at that young age to watch what people say.Thinking back over the years the lessons I have learned,Thinking of that first time when my trusting heart was spurned.Realizing now as then some people can be cruel,Getting much enjoyment out of making you the fool.But such is life and as we age we learn from our mistakes,Sometimes trusting brings you joy but other times heartaches.But trust we do and trust we must to live in harmony,Realizing in this life that what will be will be.Life is never what we want or goes how we have planned,Sometimes life will throw you curves that we don’t understand.Sometimes in our happiness our life comes crashing down,And in our pain we feel as if we’re sprawled upon the groundOne day we feel as if we soar like eagles in their flight,When everything that life can bring seems beautiful and right.But in a moment life can change; the pendulum will swing,And painful heartache mixed with tears is what the day will bring.As life goes on you realize that everyday is new,And what you thought was in the future now comes into view.Life has a way of fleeing by before our very eyes,And suddenly we realize it caught us by surprise.So as you plan the future and whatever comes your way,Don’t forget to take the time to just enjoy today.Tomorrow is not promised it is just a future plan,Today the sun is shining so enjoy it while you can.Then as you do remember life will sometimes bring you pain,But always brings experience and wisdom we can gain.So as we travel through this life we live and love and trust,And smile and know that sometimes life can be like butterfly dust.


Sister Mary sat at her battered old desk holding the stack Of bills in her right hand and her imported wooden-bead Rosary in her left. She had been in these predicaments before and had always Managed get through them. Plus she knew worrying Would not make them go away. And as much of a believer as she was, she didn’t think she Could make the unpaid bills disappear with prayer alone. She knew it would take more, but at this point, she didn’t See any miracles on the horizon. The knock on her door was a welcome interruption and Sister Angelina entered carrying a small box and the daily Mail. “Sister Mary,” Sister Angelina began, “There is an old black Dog at the back gate and I do believe he is hungry. May I Take some of our leftovers to feed him in the backyard?” Sister Angelina loved all animals. She knew that they were God’s way of bringing comfort and companionship to people. She kept the bird feeders filled in the gardens and always Left out food for any stray animals that came by St. Patrick’s Hospice Center. The nuns at St. Patrick’s were a dedicated group serving The needs of people who were at the end of their lives. They carried on a tradition of dignity with peace for the Families and friends of the loved ones who were about to Leave this earth. Sister Mary replied, “Of course feed the dog! Would you Ever expect me to say no? Sister Angelina, did you see What is written on this box?” “Yes Sister, it says to be opened only after the death of MARTHA MARY MILLS.’ Mrs. Mills is one of our patients In the hospice ward. Perhaps you should ask her what Is in the box,” she said while walking out the door.Sister Angelina let the black dog into the kitchen. She Had placed the leftovers on a tray on the floor in front of The pantry where the elderly dog began gobbling up the Food. “Well, Buster (that was Sister Angelina’s generic name For all male dogs, two-legged and four-legged alike) looks Like you haven’t eaten in a week.” The black dog, a Lab-Terrier mix, looked up at her, Barked once, and then continued searching the tray for Any remnants of food. When he had licked all of the Plates clean, including the tray, Buster sat on his Haunches and looked up at the nun. His graying muzzle Gave him a dignified air. “Buster, do you want to follow me today on my rounds?” The sister knew that most legitimate therapy dogs have To pass a course, be up-to-date on their shots, and be Bathed. But she also knew that most of the patients at St. Patrick’s did not have a lot of time left and petting An animal was a great source of comfort and solace. She Would take care of the bath and other things tomorrow. So she invited the dog to follow her and he did. After visiting some of the other residents they arrived At Mr. Franklin Thomas’ room. Buster immediately Stood and put his front paws on the side of the bed, Turned toward Sister Angelina and barked. “You want up with Mr. Thomas?” she asked. Buster Barked again. The nun picked up the small dog and placed Him next to Mr. Thomas on the bed. Mr. Thomas stirred. “You have a visitor, Mr. Thomas. Someone who would Like a little petting,” the sister said to the still man. Sister Angelina did not know if Mr. Thomas could hear Her but she never let an opportunity to speak with the Patients go by. Sometimes she felt compelled to shout But she always wanted them to know that there was Always someone near. Instinctively the old man’s hand began to move seeking Out the small black dog and started to pet him. Sister Angelina was amazed. She left the room to seek out the Sister-on-duty. When she returned a few minutes later with Sister Bernadette all was still in the room. Buster had his Head on Mr. Thomas’s leg and he was whining softly Almost like a crying baby. Sister Bernadette checked Mr. Thomas’s vitals but there was no sign of life. He Had passed on sometime after Buster had gotten on the Bed. Sister Angelina picked Buster up from the bed and put Him on the floor. She looked at him and said, “Well I Guess you knew his time was coming, didn’t you?” Buster barked back at her. Sister did not think of it as A reply, but rather as an acknowledgment that she was Speaking to him.Sister Mary walked down the hall toward the infirmary. Mrs. Mills’s room was coming up on the left. She hesitated outside the door not knowing what she would say or would ask. She knew Mrs. Mills was cognizant of her surroundings at times but she was also going in and out of a coma at a regular rate. Finally she knocked softly and let herself into the room. Mrs. Mills was awake listening to the soft music serenading the room. “Mrs. Mills, I received a package today — from you. Can you tell me what is inside?” “It is something special for St. Patrick’s. Someday, Sister Mary, we’ll share a little secret, but for now let me get some rest.” That was the last thing she said before entering a coma.Sister Bernadette let Buster into the backyard for his nature call and waited by the door until he returned. Buster raced down the hall to Mrs. Mills’ room, sat, and barked to be let into the room. There again, he stood and placed his front paws on the side of the bed. Sister Bernadette picked him up and placed him next to Mrs. Mills on the bed. Buster lay quietly beside the comatose woman and never moved. Sister Bernadette checked on them both every 30 minutes. Buster would open his eyes but he would never raise his head. This went on all night long. At sunrise, when Sister Bernadette came into the room, Buster was whimpering again as he had in Mr. Thomas’ room. Mrs. Mills had passed on sometime between her visits to the room. Sister picked up Buster and placed him on the floor. She did not speak to the dog and the dog did not bark but followed her as they both left the room.In the hall, Sister Bernadette looked at Buster and said, “Let’s go see Sister Mary.” Buster’s nails clicked on the shiny linoleum floor as they walked the infirmary halls to Sister Mary’s office. The sister knocked softly and an immediate reply to enter was forthcoming. Sister Bernadette said, “I believe you can open that package now. Mrs. Mills has left us.” Sister Mary opened her bottom desk drawer and took out the small package and opened it. Two small pieces of paper fell out of the box and onto her desk. “For my fine care during my final moments, a gift for St. Patrick’s,” signed by Mrs. Martha Mary Mills. Sister Mary sat at her desk holding the gift from the lonely old woman. She had never seen so many zeros in one place — a cashier’s check made payable to the St. Patrick’s Hospice Center for $1,000,000. “Well, Sister, looks like this will put St. Patrick’s back in the black. And, Buster, I guess there’s an extra boneor two in this for you too!”~James Colasanti Jr~