The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 4, 2014

Appreciating the little things

By Peggy Goodrich, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Do you appreciate the little things in life? Think about it.

Of all the things I remember about my youth, it is the little things that mean the most. We did big things too when we went on trips, accomplished huge projects, and contributed to making a living. However, the things that mean the most to me, and that helped shape and mold who I am today, were the little, insignificant interactions with my parents and grandparents and siblings.

As I have told you before, I had a rich life ... rich in love, but not in things. We had plenty to eat because we lived on a farm/ranch and had our own meat, eggs, milk, and enough money for staples. We never went hungry. We had clothes to wear. We utilized hand-me-downs a lot but we didn’t mind at all. We liked to give and get them.

We lived in a warm house with enough room that we did not get on each other’s nerves. Luckily, there were five of us girls, so we “took over” the entire upstairs. We shared bedrooms and everything. We had the warmth of a wood-burning heater in the dining room/living room so we had a cozy place to back up to and get warm. The rest of the house, except the kitchen, was cold enough to hang meat in. Everyone else lived like that.

In later years, we got electricity and propane, but we still lived very simply. We were one of the first to have electricity and it cost three dollars for all the “juice” we could use. We had our chicken house, garage, barns and yard lighted. We thought that was wonderful and up in the world.

Until I was grown and looked back over my life, I never even knew we were poor. We were not poor ... we just didn’t have any money. I never once heard my parents complain or grumble about their circumstances or lifestyle. They just continued to work diligently day after day to make a living for us seven children. I am sure there were dreary days but they never whined about it. They were too busy to stop and worry.

It was only after I was grown that I realized just how hard my parents worked for us to have a good life. They were positive and found fun things for us to do. Even painting a garden gate turned into fun. Picking blackberries, even with all the stickers and chiggers, became an adventure. We powdered with sulfur to keep the chiggers off. It didn’t work entirely, and we smelled to high heaven, but it was fun to pick (and eat as went along) blackberries.

Gardening brought great satisfaction. Canning fruits and vegetables was very rewarding. I loved canning days, because Grandma would come over and help us prepare the fruit or vegetable and we laughed and talked while we watched the pressure cooker. I still like to can apple butter, pickles, and anything/everything. I am thrilled to death when someone calls and says they have an abundance of any fresh produce. What I cannot can in jars, I freeze and enjoy later.

The thing that stirs me most about my youth were the joys we experienced. We were allowed to be kids. We could explore and play in the meadow and pick flowers and hunt rocks or bugs. We could catch lightening bugs in the evenings. We could go barefoot in the soft dirt on a summer day. We could wade in the puddles when it rained. We were free to be kids. It is the little nothing things that bring joy when recalled.

I remember the cookies we made or helped bake. We made candy but were not allowed to stir it on the stove until we got big enough to be careful of fire. That does not mean we did not get to help. We got to do the best part ... beating and licking the kettle. We made and pulled taffy. We made popcorn. We dried apples. We had fun doing the things that needed done anyway. The thing that make it all unique was that we enjoyed all this as a family and learned to appreciate life. We had fun.   

I certainly do not mean to brag about my family situation. Every family was in the same boat. We just always handled things in a positive way. We made everything count for something. We had little, but we learned to appreciate the little we had. From our meager living, we learned to share, to not complain, and to be content with our lot in life We didn’t waste anything, including time.

Those lessons and characteristics have carried over into our adult lives. And we cherish those values. Those traits echo the old pioneer spirit brought to this land by our grandparents and carried out through our parents. I am grateful and blessed.

Speaking of appreciation: One of the many advantages and joys of going to Jim’s rehab is that we exchange recipes. Today, I share two with you that we have enjoyed many times. The first is shared by Jane, our wonderful care-giver and encourager:

Jane’s Tex-Mex Spaghetti

• 1 large can of Hormel chili without beans

• 1 jar salsa, strength depends on your family’s likes

• 1⁄2 pound Velveeta cheese or grated cheddar cheese

• Cooked spaghetti

Heat chili and salsa together. Add cheese. Serve over cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss all together for a great casserole dish. (Sometimes I bake it and sometimes I serve it straight from the kettle.)

If you bake it, cook it only long enough to heat through in 350-degree oven. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad. Yum! Yum! Now for this great dessert shared by another friend from rehab:

Anna’s Tropical Dump Cake

1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple

• 1 15-ounce can tropical fruit (not the same as fruit cocktail)

• 1 package orange cake mix

• 11⁄2 sticks of butter

• 1⁄2 cup instant oatmeal

• 1 cup coconut flakes

Dump both fruits and juices into 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the dry cake mix over the fruit and spread out evenly. Mix oatmeal and coconut and sprinkle over cake mixture with fingers. Melt butter and pour on top evenly. It should cover the entire cake. Bake in 350-degree oven for one hour. Serve with ice cream. What could better than this?

Enjoy the little things of life, for one day, you may look back and realize they are the big things.

Send your comments to: Peggy Goodrich, Food for Thought, P.O. Box 1192, Enid, OK 73702.