BEYOND OUR CONTROL

BEYOND OUR CONTROL

The rising sun was blinding me on that Spring-like February morning last Friday, & I was thankful for my RayBans as well as for the beauty of nature as I navigated the road heading up Red Mountain towards a commercial real estate conference when suddenly, as I rounded a curve, I noticed what appeared to be several large, black trash bags haphazardly strewn across my lane. I felt a tad bit annoyed that someone had not secured them to their vehicle better as I double checked the lane beside me to make certain that it was safe for me to move over to avoid them.


I was horrified as I began drifting over, because as I drew closer, I noticed the bags were MOVING!! What in the world could possibly be in them?!? I was even more horrified as I hit my brakes & slowed to a crawl to match the traffic in front of me when I discovered that it was not a pile of trash bags, but a man – a motorcyclist – wearing all black leather, laying there on the road beside his black bike, writhing in pain! 


Traffic halted for an instant, & I assessed the situation. Several people jumped out of vehicles, including the drivers of the ones he had been sandwiched in between that had caused him to fall. I think someone had not been paying attention coming down that mountain curve, & rear ended him into the car in front of them in the slowly moving rush hour traffic. What the heck? The sun was in MY EYES, not the eyes of the people in the opposite lane! Was the driver texting? Changing radio stations? Taking a business call? I was filled with assumptions about how the accident happened, but my mind quickly shifted to the welfare of the victim.


As is my personality, I wanted to pull over, jump out of my vehicle, & somehow help him! But though I have had basic first aid training, I am no doctor, nurse, or paramedic. Had no one else been present, I would no doubt have tried to see if I could have helped in some Good Samaritan way anyhow, but a crowd was already gathering around him, & the sound of the emergency vehicle’s siren was rapidly getting louder, meaning they would arrive momentarily. No, it was best for me to keep on going up that road, as soon as traffic would allow.


Like a train wreck you did not want to witness, but could not seem to tear your eyes away from, mine stayed glued to the figure on the asphalt, who was still writhing in pain. He is someone’s son, I thought, & as my mind drifted to my own son who had just moved almost 600 miles away, I wanted to run over to him, cradle him in my arms, & tell him everything was going to be all right, that he was not alone. Why aren’t they taking off that black helmet, so he can get some air?? Oh, yeah, possible spinal cord injuries – best to let the emergency personnel do that always, I silently reminded myself. 


My mind flitted to the heartbreak I had during the past week: besides my son moving away & a relationship of sorts ending with a gentleman I had been seeing off & on for over a year, I had news that not one but two of my friends’ sons had passed away. My heart was broken over the voids that the deaths of these young people had left in my friends’ lives. Hopefully this biker would make it, I prayed, so that some other Momma’s heart would not be broken that day. Perhaps he was also a husband, fiancé, or boy friend? A brother? Or a father? As he twisted & turned on the black asphalt in the growing morning light, I did the only thing I could do – I prayed.

With trepidation I lifted my foot from the brake pedal as traffic slowly inched forward. I did not want to leave him. But it was not my place. I was not the best qualified to help him. I was powerless. So I moved on, praying as I left. 

The sun blasted my vision again! How could that driver have been so careless?!? I reminded myself that I had not witnessed the accident happen, arriving apparently mere moments after it did, instead. Maybe the biker was the one at fault, as he darted in & out of traffic, running late for an early morning appointment? Or perhaps no one was really at fault, because the sun, though it was in the other direction, was bouncing off some shiny object, blinding the driver in front, causing him to slam on his brakes? There were several potential scenarios, & I had unjustly been blaming the driver in the back in my mind. (Knowing that rear ending someone is the person in the rear’s fault, but acknowledging that there may also have been extenuating circumstances.)

Sometimes accidents just happen. Blame shifting would not save this man’s life, & it will not make our every day lives any easier, either. More important to assess situations, decide how we can help, & then spring into action. Or, conversely, to determine that our assistance is neither wanted nor needed, & that the best thing we can do is stay out of the way. There will arise circumstances out of our control – if not today or this week, then sooner or later we will each be faced with predicaments about how to act, what to do, & when to do it. 

When you have a heart for people, walking away from someone that is hurting can be very difficult, as it was for me,last Friday morning. And as it also was for me earlier in the week, when I had to walk away from someone whose destructive behaviors is slowly destroying themselves. There are some things which you just cannot fix, no matter how much you wish otherwise. 

I do believe that my God can heal, if He chooses to do so. I believe that he can redeem any man or woman, if they choose to accept it. But there is only so much that we, as limited human beings can do, & acceptance of that is a sign of emotional maturity. 

Typically outgoing, I have been described as vivacious, but I was feeling anything but that as I pulled into the parking garage at The Club. There is a cardinal couple – red birds – that have taken to visiting me every single morning in my backyard, & they are chirping even now, as I write these every words over my second cup of coffee. I feel it is an assignment I must complete before I can go sell some real estate. Though they are very cheerful & beautiful, I’ve almost started taking the daily visits from these birds for granted. But that morning I had awakened at a hotel in downtown Birmingham, & after the scene I had just seen, birds were the farthest thing from my mind. Yet as I pulled into the space in the concrete parking garage overlooking the treed mountainside, there he was, bright, red, & beautiful, a male cardinal, fluttering about in the trees a few feet before my very eyes! Once a person who literally despised birds because of  nightmares induced by watching a rerun of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds” when I was a little girl, they have come to mean so much to me, as I have found not just God’s handiwork, but His timing, to be an amazing thing in the ways they have soothed my soul during my loneliest of seasons. 

You see, I once thought the cardinals, who are monogamous, & who mate for life, were a symbol to me of a mate that would never leave me. Yet here I was, breaking up with the second prospect for a serious relationship I had since my divorce, & those darned birds just kept coming to my yard anyway. Obviously the wrong interpretation I had! 

One day it finally hit me, though, that perhaps they were meant as a sign that God is the faithful one, the one who will never leave me. So when I saw that cardinal, I was reminded that, in each of the circumstances I have described – my son’s relocation, my being all alone now that my kids have each moved far away, the loss of a romantic interest, the deaths of my friends’ sons, & this dreadful motorcycle wreck – even in all of those things, God will be faithful!

I waited until the bird disappeared, & was thankful for the cold, crisp, morning air which hit my face as I got out of my car, because it made me feel alive. I went inside, checked in, & grabbed a cup of coffee, before scoping out a seat towards the back of the room. Normally one to be more towards the front, I was feeling a bit unnerved & out of sorts, & that seat not only afforded me a tremendous view of downtown Birmingham to lift my spirits, but it also was beside an outlet to charge my phone on. At breaks, many people would file right past me to gain access to the patio for fresh air, & as it turns out, I got many sorely needed hugs that day because of this seat, which I had chosen to, presumably, be alone, & go unnoticed. 

I only told two people at the conference, attendees from my own hometown, about the accident I had just witnessed, & by the time of the first break, I was feeling much more sociable. I have lived long enough to know that life goes on, whether we want it to do so, or not, so we might as well make the most of it. Grieve when we must. Lament loss as it happens. But we must never stop living. 

It was a good conference. I ended it with dinner with my son’s girl friend & friends, so it almost felt like I was with him. Though it had started out in a bad way, it ended up being a good day.

Though life may start out in a bad way, God will be faithful to see you through. Little things like unexpected red birds, hugs from acquaintances, & beautiful views can brighten your day, if you will but focus on them. You cannot prevent bad things from happening. You cannot fix every situation that goes awry. You cannot heal nor save those that refuse healing & redemption. 

But you can make the most out of the moments you have been given, & enjoy the sting of the cold, crisp, morning air on a Spring-like February day. Maybe you will be lucky enough to have a red bird serenade you when you are all alone, like me. Or maybe God will send you some other comforts to cheer your day. Watch for them! “If you seek His face, you will find Him!”

– Lou Lehman Sams 

LAST LOOK

LAST LOOK

Do you ever take that one,  quick, last look in the mirror before you head out the door for work or to an event? You want to look and make sure that your tie is on straight, or your hair is just right, or your lipstick is not smeared. 


Sometimes you’re very pleased with what you see, and you walk out the door with vim & vigor & confidence. Other days, you try to take one last blot at your lips or adjust your tie before rushing on out the door. But either way, bad hair day or not, you have to leave, because the clock waits for No One.


And that’s sort of what the dawn of the New Year is like, as well. We each look into the mirror of Our Lives, for one last glance before we head into the next appointment. For we all have an appointment with 2017, & like an impatient date, it will not wait.
There is nothing wrong with reflecting. In fact, it is necessary and cathartic for our souls.


Many are writing and posting about what a dreadful year 2016 was for them, and I am right there alongside of them. My horoscope at the beginning of the year said that it would be the luckiest year of my entire life. Ha! This year alone was enough to debunk any inclination towards believing in horoscopes. For it was unlucky for me in many ways. Or was it? Perhaps the opportunities that did not pan out, or the relationships that fell by the wayside were really  lucky things, instead of unlucky ones? Perhaps it was God saving me from something that would hold me back, keep me from fulfilling my potential, or in some way actually harm me? 

For me, as with some of you, I’m certain, the very best thing about this past year is simply that I survived it. Life threw me some completely unexpected curve balls, & though I may not have come out the most valuable player,  I’m a winner, because I’m still in the game. And so are you!


Whatever the case, there were many good things that occurred this past year as well: I made new friends and new co-workers. I got a new position with a new company about which I cannot say enough good things! I got to spend time with friends at the beach, visit my daughter in Oklahoma, & fly out to Texas and stay with my “sister” & her girls.  My son graduated college and got an amazing job which he will start in February! 


I got to spend time doing  one of my very favorite things, and that is  giving of myself in service to others and my beloved community. I chaired a task force for the Board of Realtors that resulted in a new committee being formed. I got to be on the planning committee for a Welcoming Home Ceremony for returning soldiers. I wrote articles for an online veterans newsletter, and did other volunteer work. I’m not listing these things to toot my own horn, but rather as a reminiscence of some of the things that brought me the greatest joy for the past year. For when I tell others that the best thing that they can do when they are feeling down and out is to go out and do something for someone else, I really mean it! I have lived it. 


At the end of the year, the epiphanies I had in relation to others which caused me not to continue down the path with them has not led me to be bitter towards them. But it has caused me to be better myself. For I have learned that it is indeed best to accept the things you cannot change. I have learned that I am stronger than I thought. I have learned that no matter how much you may care for someone, their destiny may not be intended to be your own. 


There are so very many other “negative” things that occurred in 2016, but a laundry list of them is unnecessary. It serves no purpose. Long story short, it was one of the most challenging years of my entire life. I think that every single aspect of my life had bad happenings. From having to get 6 new cell phones & 3 new laptops to being told I had a mysterious illness which debilitated me just as I was gearing up to go full steam ahead, and eveything in between, 2016 tried really hard to kick my butt. 

But looking back, I know that it was like being squeezed through a birth canal: the months of gestation in the cozy womb of my life compared to the pain and the process of transformation as I passed from one version of living to another one. I no longer lived within a safely contained womb where all of my needs are met. I had to learn to walk and talk and think again all on my own.


And is that not what we are all created to do? From the moment we are born, we are challenged with one hurdle after another one. We drink milk before we eat meat. We crawl before we walk. We walk before we run. I felt as if I was crawling along for most of 2016. But now, my friends, it is time for me to run!


If 2016 was also a difficult year for you, consider it a part of the transition process – that last painful push, to start you on your way to being a self-sufficient soul. For when you are free of that deep, dark, constricting place, then it’s time to breathe on your own. The very first thing you have to learn to do is just breathe. Sometimes, the deep, dark and constricting places in our lives are relationships, jobs, or addictions that we need to just leave behind.


This New Year’s Eve, I am taking a deep breath, and I am reflecting. For I know in 2016, the struggles that I have undergone this year were just a preparation for the race which I will be called to run in 2017. And that is exactly what I intend to do: I’m going to stretch my muscles, and start the real race for which I was intended. I look forward to seeing you at the finish line!

– Lou Lehman Sams 


THE PEOPLE IN LINE

THE PEOPLE IN LINE

I was having guests in my home for Christmas Day lunch – a group of people who, like myself, were single, & who had no plans to be amongst family. It was a last minute gathering, & I had forgotten to buy foil, which would be necessary for sending home leftovers. And though I do not particularly like beer, I knew that a couple of my guests liked it. Christmas morning I put the finishing touches on my makeup, & noting that I had a few minutes to spare, I called the local super store, then the local supermarkets, only to find that they were closed. On a whim, I decided to jump in the car & go in search of a gas station that might be open. Sure enough, one within 2 miles of my house was not only open, but had a constant flux of people who, like myself, were rushing to get to holiday gatherings.

As I approached the door, I felt a twinge  of guilt for patronizing a place that made their employees work on Christmas Day. But as I rushed up & down the tightly packed, crowded aisles inside the convenience store, I cringed even more as I overheard not one, but two people in a row say rude & hateful things to the elderly woman running the cash register. “How could they be so inconsiderate & demanding,” I wondered? But quickly I chastised myself as I was reminded of times in my past when I, too, had been perhaps a tad unnecessarily rude to workers when I was stressed to the max – facing illness, challenging issues at work, sick kids at home, deaths in the family, & going through a divorce are just a few of the things which we all face at some point in time, & which can cause us to be uncharacteristically short with others, even strangers.

I entered  the huge walk-in cooler where they sold a wide variety of beers, wondering which one my guests might enjoy? “No wonder the aisles are so crowded & hard to navigate,” I mused, “they allocated all of the floor space to this big refrigerator.” I stood there, tightly gripping the last box of foil that was left in that little store, & was a bit daunted by all of the beer choices. Light? Dark? IPA? What to buy?? What was the name of that one someone told me about the other night? I needed to get a move on, because one of my guests had arrived to watch a football game with me not too long before this day, only to find that I was still not home from the store! I remember feeling mortified when she called me from my driveway that day to see where I was, though I was only two minutes away. I did not want to risk that happening again!!

 It was so cold in there, & my search for aluminum foil had made my time run short, so I grabbed a carton of beer I saw that sounded upscale rather than redneck, & headed out to get in line. I lifted the carton up to the half dozen people that were in line as I passed, & asked whether they thought that would be a good beer to serve guests? But most of the hurried & harried customers in that line were frowning, & ignored me altogether. (Nothing wrong with rednecks, or redneck beer, either, but I was trying to make the dinner special by making my guests feel special.)  Finally, an older black lady smiled feebly at me, & said, “Honey, I don’t drink beer, but if I was coming to your house, I’d drink that. So nice of you to go to so much trouble for your guests.”

It was no trouble, but I was beginning to feel a tad bit troubled that I might be at the store when the visitors began arriving, & impatience was beginning to creep in. But my own lack of patience rapidly dissipated as I noted that yet another customer in line in front of me abruptly grabbed their merchandise, & quickly fled, ignoring the clerk’s bright & cheery greeting of, “Merry Christmas!” There were people lining up behind me now, but the line was moving smoothly & quickly. There was no reason, really, for all of these people to be so annoyed. 

Finally, it was my turn to pay. I looked at that older lady, & with an expression that was half smile, yet half frown, I said to her, “Thank you so much. I am so very sorry that you are having to work on Christmas Day, but I appreciate your being here for us to pick up last minute things. Thank you!!” Her mouth dropped open, & she stopped punching buttons for a moment, obviously startled, & with a wistful look on her wrinkled face, she replied, “Thank you for saying that. It’s my job. I’m just surprised at how many people are so very cranky on Christmas!” 

“I know. I’m so sorry. Maybe try to remember that some of them are sad because they have lost loved ones, or sad because they are all alone,” I gently reminded her. She did not appear offended as she replied to me, “I know. But some of them are downright rude. But I will try to remember!”

I felt a tug on my heart strings as she looked back down to complete my transaction. I wanted to give this stranger a hug, & invite her to join us for lunch. But I knew she had to work. Instead, I reached into my wallet & withdrew a twenty dollar bill. Still in divorce recovery mode, I really need that money, I thought. But as she placed my aluminum foil into a paper thin plastic bag, I decided that this woman needed someone to show her some semblance of kindness more than I needed to eat lunch out in the coming week. So I held out the bill in my extended hand as a Christmas gift & token of my appreciation. 

She stood stock still, mouth agape, & time stood still for a slight moment, as I waited for her to return my debit card to me, & take the money from me. In the minuscule space of that awkward, pregnant pause, I was painfully aware of the five people waiting in line behind me, cognizant that they, like me, might also be in a hurry. I turned to glance over my shoulder, but instead of scowls, I saw smiles.

“Oh, no! Thank you, ma’am, but I am not allowed to accept that. But it means so much that you would offer it!” She handed me my debit card, with a smile now brightening her formerly grim face. On impulse, without thinking that it might be inappropriate, I literally crawled halfway across the counter as I leaned in as far as I could, arms open, to give her a big hug, which she returned in full force. “Merry Christmas to you,” I told her. “MERRY CHRISTMAS, MA’AM!!” 

I grabbed my small bag in one hand, & the beverages in the other, & smiled to myself as I turned to leave. I heard her tell the next customer, “Merry Christmas!” But I turned to glance back when I heard that lady reply in like kind, & saw the remaining four customers in line grinning broadly. “Yes, it looks like this little lady is putting the “Merry” back into Christmas, one greeting at a time,” I thought happily to myself. 

As my car flashed back to life, I saw that I barely had a few minutes to get home before guests were set to arrive. I slid into the garage as if I was sliding into Home Plate, stuffed the beer bottles into the fridge, & ran to the back of the house to use the restroom. I hurriedly washed my hands as I heard the doorbell ring. It rang again before I could get to the door. There on my porch was the very lady whom I’d been late to meet a few weeks prior, along with another guest. As I flung open the door, the wreath clattered with the forcefulness of my hurried state, & with a small laugh she said, “There you are – I thought you might be at the store again!” Keeping my secret, I brightly said, “No, I’m here. Merry Christmas!! Come in!!”

Just as the first two guests were settling in, another one arrived, carrying a hot casserole. After she set that down in the appointed spot, I asked her what I could offer her to drink: “Poinsettia punch, cucumber infused water, bottled water, coffee, sweet tea, or BEER?” She reached out her arms to encircle me, & said, “I want a hug first!” Gratefully, I accepted it, before serving her some punch from my grandmother’s antique Christmas punch bowl. As I handed it to her, I wondered how many times my grandmother, with her twinkling eyes & merry spirit, had handed punch to her guests over the years. I bet my Daddy, my aunts, my cousins, & grandparents had shared Christmas cheer from those exact same punch cups over the years. That thought made me happy, for it made it feel as if my own family was, in a way, present with me, in this group of friends that I was entertaining.

More importantly, I felt that the true spirit of Christmas had been infused into my day. For I had been given smiles, hugs, & a sweet remembrance of loved ones long gone from earthly celebrations. 

Afterwards, my guests used that foil to take home leftovers. But that beer? It cluttered up my refrigerator, for no one opened a single bottle. Instead, they preferred the punch I made in the old punch bowl. Perhaps it was that sweetness of the Christmas spirit from Christmases past that it contained? 

But that beer was worth every penny, for it reminded me to be kinder & gentler to those who must serve  us on the holidays when most of us are off of work & spending time celebrating with family & friends. And there are many of them: convenience store employees, waitresses, utility workers, firefighters, & law enforcement officers, to name a few.

The holidays are not yet over. No matter how stressful our days, let us remember to be kind to those who are serving us, not just on the holidays, but every day of the year.

– Lou Lehman Sams

CAGE OF ACQUIESCENCE

CAGE OF ACQUIESCENCE

It was a gray Sunday afternoon in the Fall of the year, the sky was pregnant with cotton candy clouds, & there was a slight chill on her face when the Epiphany burst forth on her, like crepuscular rays from a cloudbreak. She looked down at her wrists & her ankles, & was amazed to see that they were unchained, that every single link to past disappointments, hurts & fears had finally been broken, & she felt the balm of forgiveness that can only come from above bathe her wounds like a powerful healing salve.

 Then she realized that, not only had her chains been broken, but that the door before her, the one which was opened with a key to her present, stood wide open, & that all she had to do was walk through it toward the road to the future which was just up ahead, steeped in a light far brighter than she had ever imagined. Slowly, she took a tentative step, but then she stopped, turned, & waited for him, as the deep compassion which enveloped her heart like a cocoon was tightly bound, & prevented her from leaving without him. But he took a step backward into his past, rather than one towards her, & her Epiphany revealed that, though God breaks every chain that binds you, it is up to you, & you alone to walk through the door to escape your prison cell.

 Rather than follow her into the light of day, he retreated into the darkness, where she was disheartened when she saw him deliberately pick up his chains & close the shackles back shut. He was too weak to flee the bondage of submission, & years of acquiescence had desensitized him to the joys & opportunities that were his for the taking, if he would just find the courage to break away. In his brainwashed existence, he believed that it was better to sit there, like an obedient puppy awaiting a command, than to think or feel things for himself. He had rather feel the pain & hurt of their friction than risk leaving them behind, & she felt the sting of a thousand sadnesses prick her spirit.

 But she had taken a step forward, & she knew that, once one has tasted Freedom of the Soul, anything else is just too bitter to swallow & very unsatisfying, as well. And she knew that she was finally free to love without exception, to be loyal without doubt, & to commit without reservation. 

So slowly, she walked out of that prison cell – it was far too small for more than one person, anyway. She felt the sunshine on her face for the first time in months, & the wind whisked away the sorrows that had taken their place like a heavy mantle that was too cumbersome to wear any longer. She turned once, intending to wave good-bye, but his chains were too tight, & she knew he was unable to reciprocate the gesture. Part of her wanted to stay there with him, to comfort him in his hour of misery, but her Life was beckoning her to go forth & explore & partake of the adventures that the Universe had set aside just for her. 

The single tear that silkily slipped unbidden down her cheek contained all of the remaining hopes she had carried within for so long, but when finally it splashed onto the ground at her feet, like a raindrop from a celestial sky which cleanses & washes away past regrets, she felt unburdened at last. A gentle breeze tickled her wings, & she knew, at that moment, that she was born not just to walk out of that cell, but to run, & yes, to fly. And fly she must, for to stay one instant longer in that place would have meant a return to prison, & she was tired of the confinements of the guilt, misery, & fears of each of them that had paralyzed her for far too long.

 Like a baby bird preparing for its first solo flight, she hesitated, then spread her wings, & off she went, into the expansive, limitless horizon of the sky, which was now the deepest cerulean blue, as that same wind which had blown away her cloak of worry had pushed the clouds away. As she began to soar, she looked down, & saw him there, still in his cell, chained to his past, & she offered up a little prayer that the next time God allowed his chains to be broken, that then he would, somehow, find his courage & thus his way out of that cage. She did not know what he would do, should that ever happen, but she did know that some people are afraid of the wind beneath their wings, & prefer instead the safety of the floor of the cage beneath their feet. 

But she was thankful that her own time had come, for she could never have flown so high with the chains of the past weighing her down, & oh, what a view she had now!! She could see things in ways she never had before, could see what treasures lay in wait atop the mountains she wanted to climb, as well as what lay on the other side of them. And, being unfettered, she was happy, for there were many roads from which to choose, & now she could actually see the choices that she had. She looked forward to, whenever she decided to do so, scaling the peaks that presented themselves in the near distance. But for this moment in time, she simply chose to FLY!!! And that is what she did!

– Lou Lehman Sams 

December 2014

TOO MUCH

TOO MUCH

Too shy, too bold
Too young, too old
Too hot, too cold.

Too weak, too strong
Too right, too wrong
Too short, too long.

Too happy, too sad
Too good, too bad,
Too joyful, too mad.

Too lovely, too plain
Too real, too feign
Too crazy, too sane.

Too little for anyone,
Too much for someone ,
Just right for the one.

– Lou Lehman Sams

10 THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS

1O THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS

1.) Being alone is no excuse for not celebrating the gift of life which you have been given.
2.) There is no such thing as too many ornaments on a Christmas tree.
3.) The smile on someone’s face is priceless, compared to the cost of the gift that you give them.
4.) An invitation is the single best gift that you can give to someone who is alone for the holidays.
5.) Calories which you consume in holiday goodies are especially stubborn, but are worth every ounce.
6.) It is not the number of parties in your life, but the life in the parties you attend that makes them fun.
7.) The best presents are sometimes disguised in the worst wrapping paper.
8.) Disappointments in people & events during the holidays can only happen if you do not manage your own expectations of them.
9.) It is not how you spend them, nor even who you spend them with, but the amount of love that you share with others that is what counts the most.
10.) Leaving Christ out of Christmas is like leaving the groom out of the wedding.

– Lou Lehman Sams

SWEETS FOR THE SWEETS

SWEETS FOR THE SWEETS
As I disengage steel beater from the electric mixer and begin to lift it to my mouth in order to get a taste of the raw cookie dough, a voice from my past comes back to haunt me. The voice is mine. I recall telling my own children many times not to eat raw cookie dough, lest they get salmonella poisoning. Back then I dared not tell them that was one of my favorite things to do whenever my grandmother made homemade cookies or candy: I always licked the spoon and sometimes even took my fingers and scraped the bowl clean, licking my fingers until they, too, were clean. She would chuckle, & with that angelic smile of hers, say with a twinkle in her eyes, that we were making, “Sweets for the Sweets”, meaning that we were making sweet treats for sweet people to enjoy.
It has been quite some time since I have worn my domestic goddess crown. OK, so maybe I didn’t have a crown. And I was not exactly a goddess, either. Nor was I a domestic engineer. However, I have long had a domestic streak, though, harkening way back to high school. I’ve always felt great satisfaction in serving others. Sometimes I try to hide that though, behind my business persona, or tough girl facade. How well I also remember how crestfallen I was back at a class party in German class when the dark headed, blue eyed boy with dimples who was my high school crush took a bite of a homemade cookie I had brought in & commented that I was going to make a great Grandma one day. Not exactly what I was going for – didn’t someone say that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach? Apparently that does not fit 16 year old hormonal boys, I have since learned. Well, unless you are their Mom, or their Grandma. Not so much if you want to be their girl friend. Funny, but years later, when I realized that boys wanted more than culinary skills, we ran into each other. Apparently I was a little more palatable to him, in my tight Calvin Klein jeans, button down shirt, & high heels. We exchanged some memories, & yes swapped some sweet kisses, too, & though he was as cute as ever, I realized that high school crushes belong back in high school. Some things just aren’t meant to be, with or without homemade cookies or the latest fashions.
Nonetheless, I did take many of my own cues from my beloved grandmother, who made the best homemade divinity with pecans from her own tree in the back yard. It was the kind that melted in your mouth & the absolute best that anyone on Planet Earth has ever tasted. Every holiday season I delighted in helping her make this & other tasty treats. When I grew up & had a house of my own, I made 12 dozen cookies every single year, & took festively wrapped plates of them to 11 of my neighbors, always keeping a plate for my family. Date nut cookies, Snickerdoodles, & of course, sugar cookies shaped like Santa, reindeer, stars, & bells, always made my list, along with whatever cookie happened to capture my fancy from Southern Living’s Holiday issue that year. 
My daughter somehow inherited a love of baking. Not from me – although I do not mind it, I am more about the entertaining aspect of the meal than the baking part. When she was little, it would take an hour or more to clean up all of the flour strewn across the butcher block countertops, the icing smeared on the sink, walnut pieces scattered across the vinyl floor, & the overall mess that accompanies letting a child do most of the mixing all by herself. But many fond memories were made, & pack rat that I am, I still have those plastic Christmas cookie cutters – somewhere.
Sometimes we would make homemade cookies for no particular reason. But as time went on, and my job got busier, the kids got engaged in a variety of extracurricular activities, & the opportunities to make homemade cookies other than at the holidays became fewer & farther between. They would beg me to buy the slice and bake variety of cookies at the grocery store. A particular favorite of theirs were the Nestlé Toll House turtle cookies. They had caramel in them, and came in a package where all the kids had to do was break them apart and pop them into the oven. This was fantastic on those days when I was tied up with clients and they needed a quick snack after school. One day my daughter came home and said that her science teacher would give anyone who brought food in that week some extra credit. Now, my daughter was a straight ‘A’ student, and didn’t need the extra points, but she really liked this teacher, and she really wanted to bake him some homemade cookies. Unfortunately, my schedule would not permit me to supervise her, so I suggested she make some of those slice and bake cookies. She did so, and came back saying that he really loved them. Of course, I thought he was just being nice, until I was up at the school doing some volunteer work and this particular teacher went on and on about how much he enjoyed those cookies! I could tell by his comments that he sort of thought that they were homemade, & I just did not have the heart to correct him, though it was never our intention to pretend we had made them from scratch. But he really loved – I mean REALLY LOVED – those cookies!! So whenever she needed to take cookies for her class party or project, those are the ones that she took. I’m certain she must’ve taken that particular science teacher a batch of those cookies at least once a month for the rest of the year.
For a while real estate was really booming and I would work 14 to 16 hour days. So whenever I had to take something to a family who was dealing with a death or illness, I would take a chocolate pie from Gibson’s, instead of something home baked. In more recent times, I have become known as the one who brings the key lime pie from Publix. Hey, they make one far better than I could ever do, with a lot less mess and a lot less time! Gone were the days of homemade cookies.
Well, that is until this evening. I no longer make batches of cookies for all of my neighbors, because since my divorce I barely know the people who live around me in this new neighborhood. There are some super nice people here, but they are busy raising their families and not particularly interested in forging friendships with single women. I’m not sure how some of these ladies would feel if I showed up and handed their husbands a plate of freshly baked cookies. I say that only half tongue-in-cheek, ha ha. Being divorced puts you into a different category, no matter how virtuous you may be. My kids are grown up, & though my son is home for the holidays, neither of us eats that many sweets. Well, I do, but I am trying to cut down, at least when I am at home.
While I have never been one to pass off store-bought food as homemade, despite the cookie debacle from the seventh grade of my daughter’s middle school years, the thought of those slice and bake cookies was especially appealing today as I was debating what type of cookies to make for a cookie exchange I am attending tomorrow. But my integrity is of utmost importance to me, so I asked someone for suggestions as to a very quick and easy cookie that I could make instead. Snickerdoodles are especially easy, but bring back memories I don’t really want to get into at this point. I was referred to a webpage that had a chocolate chip cookie recipe on it. This recipe is supposedly fail safe. It even has a video showing you the precise steps to take in the making of said cookies.
At first I started to make the cookies with my phone in hand, but decided I didn’t want to risk ruining the phone, so I emailed the recipe to my tablet instead. I like to think that I am progressive enough to keep up with the latest technology, but truthfully, I was missing the old fashioned written recipes as I watched with dismay the video for a second time, acknowledging that my batter did not look like the one in that demonstration. “It is just chocolate chip cookies, I’ve made them many times in my life. They have never intimidated me before now. I mean, how hard can they possibly be? And what is so special about this particular recipe, anyway?” All of these thoughts and more crossed my mind as I proceeded to make the cookies.
Finally, I had two pans with two sets of cookies on them. The first set actually looks similar to the ones in the video. But somehow, the second set looks entirely different. Perhaps it is the difference between the two pans? Or the fact that I ran off and got occupied with another activity and left the second set in the oven longer? Regardless, I was thankful that they were going into two separate tins. Until I realized that neither of the tins which I had purchased would hold a dozen cookies. Fortunately, I had another tin in the pantry. So one of my dozen cookies is divided between two tins, with the other dozen being in a separate tin.
Longing for the good old days, when we had no videos to show us whether or not we were messing up on our cookie baking, it hit me what an effect that modern technology has had on our lives. With the advent of Pinterest and other such websites, we feel that the packaging has to be better than the actual product. Everything from weddings to birthdays to baby announcements to memorials is compared to our friends’ and neighbors’ similar items via social media & other sites. I’m most thankful that no such thing existed when I took my imperfect cookies on holiday paper plates or in cheap plastic containers from Wal-Mart to my former neighbors’ houses. I’m not sure I could have handled the stress of trying to make the packaging picture perfect whilst working all of those hours, shopping for & cooking family meals, & attending ball games & dance recitals. How do these younger women keep from having nervous breakdowns?
I did partake of a bite of that raw cookie dough tonight, thankful that my kids could not see me do so, as I am sure they would remind me of the many times I deprived them of such a pleasure. I quickly cleaned up a few flakes of flour & wished, for just a moment, that I had a huge mess to cleanup instead, as that would mean that I had little hands helping me with the baking. But alas, that was not the case.
Tomorrow I will arrive at the cookie swap with my cute little tins filled with my imperfect and inconsistent cookies. They will not be in packaging which is decorated to win a Pinterest contest. But at least they are homemade. And I relish the smell of freshly baked cookies wafting now through my home. I set aside the 13th cookie in the Baker’s dozen for my son when he comes home later this evening. My only indulgence was a swipe at the cookie dough itself.
Yes, I think that one day I will indeed make a great Grandma, as I’m sure I will have more patience the second time around for the gigantic messes that can happen when you let little kids make cookies. No, I am not a domestic goddess at this time of my life. Not even close. But I am enjoying a little slice of domesticity for a change, & I am thankful for dear friends to swap homemade, if imperfect, cookies with tomorrow. Perhaps one day I will get married again, & have someone to cook dinner for, or bake cookies for, but if not, perhaps I will one day have grandkids with which to enjoy those things. Perhaps.
 But if not, I shall be content to reminisce about days gone by – stirring divinity with my grandmother, cleaning up messy counters with my little girl, delivering plates of cookies sealed with well wishes to neighbors, & slice & bake cookies quickly fashioned for a young science teacher. The only thing that really matters in those memories was the smiles, laughter, & joy that accompanied the process. No matter how easy or how difficult the task of making those cookies was, the feelings of joy that accompanied making others feel loved & appreciated was worth every second. On second thought, maybe it is time I took out my old cookie recipes – the well worn handwritten ones, & the ones clipped from magazines, & start baking again. And if time does not permit, there’s always chocolate or key lime pies to be bought. As my grandmother used to say, “Sweets for the sweets.” Why yes, I think I shall …
– Lou Lehman Sams