Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Horseradish Jello

Horseradish Jell-O

In 1962, when I was 4 years old, I was in the newspaper. Granted, it was The Muscatine Journal, in the small Iowa town where I was born, but still. The Journal featured an article about my family with brief descriptions of each of us—Dad, who worked at the Heinz factory, Mom, the homemaker, and all five of us girls.

The real star of the show, though, was a recipe my mother shared. A recipe for Cottage Cheese Horseradish Salad. And what the name leaves out is that it was a Jell-O® salad. Horseradish Jell-O.

I like horseradish. With meat! But Horseradish Jell-O? I don’t think so.

Fast forward to May 2020. Going through some family files, my sisters and I found a black and white 5” by 7” print of the photo from the newspaper and the article clipping. The article states, “All of the girls seem to agree that Mother is a good cook and that her cottage cheese horseradish salad is especially tasty. Jeane’s recipe for this tangy dish is as follows.” The recipe wasn’t saved in the newspaper clipping, but thankfully Mom had it in her recipe book.

Cottage Cheese Horseradish Salad

1 sm package lemon Jell-O
1 1/3 c hot water
Dissolve Jell-O in water. Chill until beginning to set.
1 c cottage cheese
1 c crushed pineapple (drained)
¼ c horseradish (don’t drain)
¼ c pimento or green pepper (chopped)
1/3 c whipping cream (whipped)

In the photo we’re all smiling sweetly as if this were our favorite recipe.

It was not.

I don’t remember ever eating it, actually. I ate plenty of Jell-O growing up. It was the ‘60s. I ate Jell-O with carrots and celery. Jell-O with marshmallows and whipped cream. Jell-O with fruits and nuts. Jell-O with carrots, celery, marshmallows, whipped cream, fruits, and nuts. And, at Granny’s house, I had my own yellow measuring cup of plain Jell-O because Granny knew I didn’t like stuff in my Jell-O. (And maybe because I was the baby of the family. Maybe.)

After finding the newspaper clipping, I decided it was time to try Horseradish Jell-O. Maybe it was something that appealed to a grown-up pallet. Maybe it was like peanut butter and cheese sandwiches, an unusual combination that sounded horrible to me until my husband persuaded me to try it. I liked it. Hey, Mikey.

Shortly after rediscovering the recipe, my sister Nancy and her husband, John, came through town for a brief visit and I decided it was the perfect opportunity to make Horseradish Jell-O. My husband, Doug, and my son, Eric, persuaded me to make a quarter of a recipe so there wouldn’t be much to finish up. Or throw out, depending.

As I was putting together the ingredients, Eric said, “This is like Green Jell-O’s evil twin.” Green Jell-O is a family favorite, another holdover from the 1960s. (Recipe below.)

That evening, our dining table was surrounded by Doug, Eric, Nancy, John, and our elder daughter and her husband, Abby and Aaron. As we started our meal, I told everyone the story of the 1962 newspaper article, the horrible sounding recipe, and passed around the photo.

Then I presented the small, glass bowl of yellow fluff.

“I want all of us to take a spoonful of Horseradish Jell-O, hold it on your spoon, and we’ll all eat it together,” I said.

Everyone played along. Aaron said, “It smells a little like jalapeno jelly, which I like.” Hmm, maybe there is hope, I thought.

wanted to like it. Really, I did. It had such a wonderful story behind it. But it was Horseradish Jell-O. With green peppers. And horseradish. In Jell-O.

“Okay, everyone, here we go,” I said, and we all ate our spoonful of Horseradish Jell-O.

And . . . it wasn’t bad.

Everyone seemed to agree that it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. Not great, perhaps, but not bad. I wouldn’t eat it by the yellow-measuring-cupful, but it wasn’t bad.

“Try it with some chicken,” Nancy suggested. And that really worked. I like horseradish with meat.

It was, well, “tangy.” Hey, Mikey.


Lime Jell-O Salad (Green Jell-O)

1 3-oz pkg lime gelatin
1 20-oz can crushed pineapple, drained (save the juice)
1 c cottage cheese
1 c whipped cream
1 c miniature marshmallows
1 c chopped walnuts

Heat pineapple juice until hot but not boiling. In a two-quart dish, dissolve gelatin in juice. Allow to cool and set slightly. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Allow to set up completely before serving.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Be Inspired Post #3

The Quiet Girl Who Found Her Voice

If you believe the word on the street, most of us are afraid of public speaking. It’s called glossophobia. One young woman named Claudia suffered from glossophobia to such a degree that she let her grades slip during her senior year of high school just so she wouldn’t have to give the valedictorian address at her graduation. Little did she know just how public her speaking would become in the years ahead.

Claudia was a bright child, but quiet. She preferred spending time outdoors, and grew to love the tall pines and bayous of East Texas. Her mother died when Claudia was only 5 years old, and Claudia inherited a fair sum of money. Not a huge fortune, but enough to open some doors for her later in life.

When Claudia got to college she began to change. Her friends noticed she was more confident, more outgoing. She set her sights on a career as a newspaper reporter and completed a degree in journalism. She also received a teaching degree while she was at it.

But her career dreams were put on hold when a friend introduced her to a tall young man with political aspirations. She said she was drawn to him “like a moth to a flame.” He proposed on their first date. But she held out. She didn’t want to rush into anything. She made her new boyfriend wait ten whole weeks before the couple became officially engaged, and then married a short while later.

Claudia invested some of her inheritance money in her husband’s political aspirations and financed a run for office. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and later the Senate representing the great state of Texas and went on to serve more than 20 years.

Ten years into their marriage, Claudia used another piece of her inheritance money to buy a radio station and later a TV station, despite her husband’s protests. She reasoned that her inheritance money was hers to spend how she wanted. The success of those ventures made her a millionaire. Quiet Claudia had found some courage after all.

Claudia and her husband eventually had two children, and Claudia continued supporting her husband’s political career. At one point, this woman who had avoided a small-town valedictorian address gave 45 speeches over five days to help her husband’s campaign.

Her husband eventually became vice president of the United States. Then, after a tragic day in November 1963, he became our 36th president. The nickname Claudia picked up as a child suited her perfectly, and Lady Bird Johnson demonstrated grace and beauty during some of our country’s darkest hours. And as our First Lady, she championed the cause to transform our nation’s capital. Her efforts resulted in hundreds of landscaped parks, and the planting of thousands of daffodils and flowering trees that endure to this day. Her influence is credited with preventing the construction of dams in the Grand Canyon and creating Redwoods National Park.

Lady Bird showed us all how to overcome our fears, how to invest in the things we care about, and how to use a personal passion to change the world around us. She is quoted as saying, A little beauty, something that is lovely, I think, can help create harmony, which will lessen tensions. 

It seems the quiet girl found her voice.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Be Inspired Series #2: Oseola



Say the name aloud. It sounds like the name of a flower. Like silk, like perfume, like pink pearls.

In fact, it’s the name of a simple woman from humble beginnings who worked hard her whole life and had something to show for it when she died. Oseola McCarty.

Oseola, conceived in rape, was born in rural Mississippi in 1908. She was raised by her mother, grandmother, and her aunt who all made their living by cleaning and cooking for other people. The family of four moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, in 1916 and Oseola lived there the rest of her life.

As a little girl, Oseola was drawn to washing clothes. Her mother let her start on simple things like washing socks. Then the older women taught her how to iron. When she was around 10 years old, her teacher privately asked her who ironed her clothes. When Oseola said she did it herself, her teacher asked what she would charge to iron a linen dress.

“Ten cents,” came Oseola’s quiet reply.

But when the teacher saw her dress freshly washed and pressed, she paid Oseola a quarter. After that, “the work just seemed to come,” Oseola said.

Oseola’s aunt became an invalid when Oseola was about 12 years old and Oseola left school to help care for her. She fell behind in school and never returned. But she found joy in doing laundry. “I knew there were people who didn’t have to work as hard as I did, but it didn’t make me feel sad. I loved to work, and when you love to do anything, those things don’t bother you. Work is a blessing.”

From the beginning Oseola was a saver. As a child she tucked her earnings in a doll baby buggy her grandmother had given her—the previous owners were going to throw it away. Then one day, she walked past a bank and decided her money would be better off there. She opened a checking account (though she only remembered writing one check). Every month she’d pay the bills, put a little bit in the collection plate of the Friendship Baptist Church, and take anything that was left to the bank.

Eventually her friends at the bank advised her to put her money in a savings account where it would earn more interest. Then they suggested Certificates of Deposit, known as CDs.

She lived frugally, wearing hand-me-down clothes, taping together the pages of her worn Bible. Never owned a car. “My secret was contentment. I was happy with what I had,” she said.

By the time she was 60, her grandmother, mother, and aunt had died. “I was alone, except for the Lord,” she said. In her 80s she finally quit working; the arthritis in her hands was too painful.

“Hard work gives your life meaning,” she said. “Everyone needs to work hard at something to feel good about themselves. Every job can be done well and every day has its satisfactions. If you want to feel proud of yourself, you’ve got to do things you can be proud of.”

And again her bank had a conversation with her. Knowing she had set aside a tidy sum, one of the bank officers asked her what she’d like to do with her money. Being sure she had the resources she’d need to live, he gave her ten dimes and had her divide up her money by designating those dimes to the people or organizations she would like to support.

She set aside one dime for the Friendship Baptist Church.

A dime for each of her three cousins.

And six dimes for a dream she’d treasured for years.

“I want to help some child go to college,” she said. “I’m going to give the rest of my money to the University of Southern Mississippi [in her hometown of Hattiesburg] so deserving children can get a good education. I want to help African-American children who are eager for learning like I was, but whose families can’t afford to send them to school.”

The contribution totaled $150,000. When the people of Hattiesburg learned what Oseola had done, they added to her contribution, more than tripling her original endowment.

Word of her unusual generosity spread widely until even President Bill Clinton learned what she had done. He presented her with a Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second highest civilian award, Other awards and recognition followed.

But what mattered to Oseola was that she was going to make a difference in the lives of young people in her hometown. Today, the University of Southern Mississippi presents several full-tuition scholarships in her name every year.

She told one interviewer, “I am proud that I worked hard and that my money will help young people who worked hard to deserve it. I’m proud that I am leaving something positive in this world. My only regret is that I didn’t have more to give.”

Oseola. Say it aloud. Let the name remind you that work is a blessing, contentment a multiplier, and generosity a reward.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The "Be Inspired" Series

Hero of the Class of '62

High school reunions. You either love ’em or hate ’em.

Piqua Central High School in Piqua, Ohio, takes reunions seriously. Especially the class of 1962.

Piqua is a small, blue-collar town on the banks of the Great Miami River in west-central Ohio. The close-knit class of ’62 holds a reunion every five years.  Each time they gather, they put up a memory board honoring their classmates who have died.

At their first reunion in 1967, the name Bill Pitsenbarger was one of those memorialized. He died the year before in the humid, dense jungles of Vietnam. Bill, or “Pits” as his friends called him, was an Air Force medical specialist.

Pits was aboard one of two Huskies helicopters sent to rescue wounded soldiers from an intense fire fight some 35 miles outside of Saigon. The Huskies would lower a metal basket, called a litter, into a battle zone and hoist up the wounded. Pits could see that the men on the ground were having trouble loading the wounded into the litters, so he voluntarily rode a winch line 100 feet down into the middle of the conflict. He helped several men into the litter and repeatedly refused evacuation so he could continue treating the wounded.  

Pits was the one man on the ground who could have left, and he chose to stay. Near dusk, as the Vietnamese launched another assault, Pits was shot and killed.

Soon after the battle, his Air Force commanders nominated him for the Medal of Honor, but their request was denied. Someone higher up recommended that the award be downgraded to the Air Force Cross because he found the documentation of Pitsenbarger’s heroic actions insufficient to warrant the country’s highest recognition of valor on the battlefield.

Pits’ friends from the Piqua Central High School class of 1962 didn’t think that was right. At each reunion they talked about Pits, and while planning one of their reunions in the early ‘90s, they decided to do something about it. They started a campaign to convince the Pentagon that their classmate deserved the Medal of Honor.

Meanwhile, the class of ’62 did what they could to honor Pits in their hometown. In 1993 they persuaded the Piqua city officials to name a park after Pits and it became the Pitsenbarger Sports Complex.  A granite marker and bronze plaque were installed, paid for in part by donations from the class of ’62.

They continued efforts to get Pits his Medal of Honor. And it turns out that they weren’t the only people in the fight. The men who witnessed his heroism were talking to people, too. The Piqua chamber of commerce spoke up. And two historians from the Airmen’s Memorial Museum near Washington, D.C., conducted exhaustive research on Pits’ last mission and collected statements from the other men who were there. They sent a nomination package to the Pentagon.

Finally, on December 8, 2000, Pitsenbarger’s father was presented with his son’s Medal of Honor in a ceremony at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Pits was also promoted to staff sergeant.

Pitsenbarger was the first enlisted Air Force man to earn the Medal of Honor.

You might think that would have ended the campaign to honor Piqua’s favorite son. But it wasn’t enough for the class of ’62. On April 7, 2001, Piqua held a community celebration of Pitsenbarger’s life and heroism, marked by the unveiling of a replica of an Ohio historical marker. There also was a fund-raising dinner for the William H. Pitsenbarger Scholarship Fund, established in 1992 by Pits’s father, William, and his late mother, Irene.

A sports complex, a bronze plaque, a historical marker, a scholarship fund—all in addition to the posthumous Medal of Honor.  But even that wasn’t enough. In November 2015, the town of Piqua unveiled a life-sized bronze statue of Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger. The local news estimated there were 300 people in attendance. I’m pretty sure many of them were from the Piqua Central High School class of 1962.

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Baby Jesus

One day, when she was around three, Abby stood next to me in the bathroom as I fixed my hair. It was near Christmas and she was singing a song she had learned in Sunday school. I listened to her sing and realized she was a bit confused.

She sang, "Always in a manger, no crib for His head..."

I swallowed a laugh and told her, "No, Honey. It's not 'always,' it's 'away in a manger.'"

"Okay," she said, and started in again. "Away in a manger..."

But it made me think. Always in a manger. . . .

It's appropriate to celebrate Jesus' miraculous birth. God Himself marked the event with an angel choir. But we can't leave Jesus there, in a manger. His birth was not the whole story. He came to Earth to grow into an extraordinary youth who dazzled priests with His knowledge; to become a teacher who fed multitudes; and a Redeemer who sacrificed His life for our eternal salvation.

It's easier to think about the baby Jesus. It doesn't require much of us. Granted, it takes faith to believe in His virgin birth, but there is nothing about His birth that makes us consider ourselves, our sinfulness. It's Jesus the Man who demands something of us. His death on the cross—we have to do something with that. We can choose to ignore it, we can dismiss it, or we can be changed by it.

Christmas is a time of joy and gladness—it's good news that Jesus came. But we can't leave Jesus in the manger. He didn't come to Earth to be a baby. He came to Earth to be a Savior.

December 22, 2004

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Hand to Hold

Abby's first high school choir concert was a lesson in friendship. Abby was in the jazz choir, an all-girl group that sang more contemporary music and often incorporated choreography.

Part way through the jazz choir's portion of the program, Abby and her friend Christine stepped over to the mike to sing a duet. They sang Grown Up Christmas List, a sweet song about what adults might ask Santa to give them for Christmas.

They used a prerecorded accompaniment track. Abby started the song alone and came in a bit early. It sounded okay, and most people probably couldn't tell she’d come in wrong. Then, she forgot the words, stopped singing, stepped back, put her head down ....

Seeing her friend in trouble, Christine slipped her hand into Abby's and started singing with her. That got Abby back on track and they did fine the rest of the song. When they were done, Christine reached over and gave Abby a hug—right there on the stage. I cried through the whole song—it's a mother thing—but seeing Christine's love for Abby made me a blubbering fool.

When I falter, I count on my friends to reach over and take my hand. I need them to sing with me and give me the courage to go on. And give me a hug when we make it through.

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win,
And love would never end.
This is my grown up Christmas list.

 Grown Up Christmas List by Linda Thompson-Jenner, 1990

December 22, 2005

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Who Gives This Woman?

Doug and I saw both our daughters get married in the last three months. I feel like I should have something profound to say about such a happening, but I find myself oddly “wordless.” Usually, I am compelled to write about such things. I often begin writing in my head as events are unfolding. I’m sure my writer friends can relate.

But this experience was different. Perhaps it is because this was not a “writer” moment for me. It was a deeply “mom” moment. Even as I write those words I feel the tears welling. It was both a great joy and a great sorrow to see my girls get married. Abby and Kate both married fine men in Aaron and Tony. Seeing how much those young men love my girls—it makes my heart sing! That’s the joy part. And it is great joy!

But in stating their vows, in creating their own families, Abby and Kate removed themselves from me somehow. They are establishing their own homes, and in so doing become a little less part of mine.

It’s difficult to express. I know I’ll always be their mom, they’ll always be my daughters, and that my family has increased—not decreased! But I still feel like I had to let my girls go . . . and that makes my mama heart a little sad.

“Who gives this woman to be married to this man?”

“Her mother and I do.”

Yes, I gave them willingly, happily. And yet sadly.