Strong Women

This last Saturday, my family celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday. I am 48 and I still have my grandmother. Not only is she still alive, but she is LIVING. She works in her garden, goes to church, mows her yard- she is still living. We share a lot of interests- gardening, reading, and cooking. I am her oldest grandchild.

She has a sister who also lives around the corner from her. We call her Auntie (said Ain-tee). She makes the best cakes and pies of anyone I know. She also loves to read and for several decades was the librarian at the Junior High School in our small town.

I am her oldest great-niece. I have learned a lot from these two ladies. Mostly, I learned what it looks like to be strong. Both have suffered loss and faced difficulties in their lives. They both raised a large family and loved hard. My Auntie had four boys and my grandmother had 3 girls, 1 boy, and 1 more girl. I had 3 girls and 1 boy- had I had one more I am certain it would have been a girl. My mother and all my aunts showed me what strong looked like, as well. We are all Texan born and raised.

Not only did they live examples of strength but they told stories of the women in our family that handled their stuff. One great-aunt got tired of a drunk and abusive husband. She waited till he passed out, sewed him in a sheet, and took a broom handle to him. Things greatly improved in their marriage. As a kid I thought, “Oh, this is how you handle that situation.” Another great-aunt got tired of her husband running around on her. He woke up with this petite lady sitting on his chest and a .45 aimed at his face. He straightened up. Again, I was taking notes.

Now, I have never had to use any of these particular lessons. I married a great guy who is a faithful man. However, I have tools in my toolbox and this is empowering. As a matter of fact, Tony worked with a guy who didn’t see anything wrong with a little “extra” on the side. He had a very sweet wife who just kept paying for all his toys and putting up with his behavior. One day while they were on duty at the fire station this guy looks at Tony and says, “You mean you would never sleep around on your wife. Why?”

Tony replied, ” Because its wrong. AND because my wife isn’t as nice as your wife.”

Guy, “What do you mean?”

Tony “I mean my wife isn’t a nice as yours. She’ll take a sledge hammer to my knees while I sleep.”

He was not wrong, I am not that kind of “nice”. I come from a long line of women who don’t put up with that kind of mess. Boundaries matter, it’s also good to understand what happens when lines are crossed.

Now, some of you are having issues with my words. I mean how can a decent person advocate such violence. I am a God-fearing Christian, how can I advocate such violence? All I can say is that sometimes, violence is the answer. I know this just seems wrong, but how many times have people needed to get out of an abusive situation and had no help from law enforcement because a crime had not been committed or there was a crime and the abuser paid bail and was back on the doorstep within hours?

Sometimes you have to be your own hero.

Here’s the thing- I have never had to get physical in defense of myself or my family. I even tried once and the girl wouldn’t engage. Some punk beat up my younger sister on the bus. I wasn’t there and the girl, who was close to my age, jumped my sister who was 4 years younger. That would not stand. I chose to ride the bus to school the next morning. We exchanged nothing but words, however she did not hit on my sister again. Bullies know who to target. They target those they can attack without any repercussions. I am not one of those people. I may wear an orange jumpsuit for a time, but there will be repercussions if you mess with one of mine.

This cute little lady in the pictures above drove a school bus for a couple of decades. She drove a bus in the more “questionable” parts of Dallas. When my grandmother married my granddad, she was 5’4″ and weighed 105 lbs. By the time I was riding along on her bus routes, she weighed a little more but was still a small woman. This particular day, she was running a route that was predominately high school kids from a rough part of town. One boy mouthed off at her and I was like “uh-oh”, where I come from you do NOT mouth off to the women. I was also scared because she was going to need back-up and at around 10 years old (when I married I also weighed 105 lbs. and was 5’4″), I wasn’t going to be much help. So she looks up in her mirror at this kid and says, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t bad. I’m bad, now turn around and shut up.” I was in awe. He did it, too. The whole ride was calm and no-one gave her any trouble. Again, I was taking notes in my head and I thought “That is how you handle your stuff.”

So, now here I am at 48 and I write books with strong lead females. I don’t know how to write anything else. The women handle their stuff, they love hard and value their husbands and their families.

I am so grateful to have had my grandmother in my life this long. I am grateful to have been raised by a strong woman and been in the company of strong women my whole life. I am also grateful to have raised strong women, as well. Pictured below is five generations of the oldest daughter having an oldest daughter. The line goes back for seven generations.

Gratin Dauphinois- The Best Potatoes!

Food is essential to romance. Regardless of where the food comes from- a fancy restaurant, a cool dinner, or from home. The old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” has a lot of truth to it. I don’t know many women who are impervious to a man who cooks for her- or at least brings her tacos.

In A Marine for Christmas, Lucas is no different. Dixie blows his mind with Gratin Dauphinois and Beef Carbonnade. What good love story doesn’t have good food? I love cooking, I love growing food, and I love serving that food to those I love. So, my characters do as well. I hope you enjoy the recipe I have included for you!

You could call these scalloped potatoes, but Gratin Dauphinois has so much more flair!  It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, they are a humble food from the earth that need only a little dressing up.  You will be hard pressed to find a menu that can’t be complimented with a potato dish.  With the potatoes cooked in the oven with milk/cream, butter and a little garlic, the simplicity is deceptive.  This taste is subtle but engaging, the texture is smooth, and the experience is wonderful.

This dish complimented the Beef Carbonnade the family greatly enjoyed at our Christmas Dinner.  There was not a bit left after dinner, always a compliment to the cook!  Unless of course there is none left because the cook did a poor job of planning for her guests, but that was not the case- this time.

The humble potato!

Gratin Dauphinois

3 pounds of boiling potatoes– peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (the food processor works great for this)

1 cup of whole milk – I like to mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup cream- adds to the richness and wonderful texture.

1 clove garlic– pressed and spread on bottom of a buttered flame proof baking dish- I prefer a deep dish 9 inch cast iron skillet

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for greasing the bottom of the dish.

Once you have buttered the cast iron skillet and spread the pressed garlic, place the potatoes in the skillet spreading in layers.

Season the milk with salt and pepper, pour over potatoes.  Add more cream until the milk is 3/4 of the way up.  Place on burner and heat just to a simmer- this is a very important step so that the liquid and potatoes come together in the oven.

Distribute 3 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine) on top of potatoes.

Bake in a 425′ oven for about 25 minutes- until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Serve and be happy!  That is some flat out good food!  Great food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.

The Most Powerful Woman In America

time coverAs I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day, Time magazine caught my eye.  An attractive woman was on the cover with the line “Don’t hate her because she is successful” and under it was her name and claim that she had “a mission to reboot Feminism”  I guess being the top dog at Facebook gives her that authority.

I am struggling to order my thoughts as I am writing even though I have written this blog in my head a hundred times.  The problem I am having is that this cover stirs up so much in me I can’t decide which dog to turn lose first.  So I think I will just start with the first thought that popped into my head.  Those of you who know me might have just cringed.

Thought # 1– Why does feminism need a reboot?  It seems to being going strong, every day I see angry women raging on the news with their tight lips, unhappy eyes, and scowling faces telling me that I would be happier if I put myself first and through off the out of date ideas that children need a mother and that I need a husband.  (Which I do need him, he is my rock and I am not ashamed to admit that I am happily dependent on him).  I really can’t understand why they think that smart, intelligent women who are happy with their lives of raising their babies, have happy marriages, and are content to be busy making a home would want to trade that kind of contentment for raging, angry tirades.  This particular woman was thought to be a shinning example because she is running facebook, really- what eternal value does facebook have?  I’ll take Mother Teresa any day.

Maybe it is not a reboot that feminism needs it is a revamp- to embrace those traits that are truly feminine.

Thought #2– Where do they get the term “feminism” anyway?  I mean really- to be considered feminine is have certain traits about you.  To be soft ( not weak, picture a fist of steel wrapped in velvet and satin) and kind, to be smart, and attractive (not just in looks, but in your demeanor, people want to be around you), to be dignified and refined, to be fierce- like a mamma bear when her cubs are threatened.  All of these traits I see in Godly women I would like to emulate, not in the forerunners of this movement who demand this and that, who are angry and fierce- the scary kind of fierce that won’t tolerate anyone who thinks differently than they do.  These women who demand the right to kill their unborn children because they have a “Choice”- yes, you do have a choice to wait until you are married to have sex, simple as that- are not examples of what I want to be as a woman.

These women are not feminine- they are the very opposite of what we females were designed to be.

Thought #3– What exactly is their problem and why do they think feminism needs a reboot?  I think many of their issues rest in the fact that women still make up a small percentage of the “high up” positions in the work force.  Have they ever stopped to consider that maybe the numbers are what they are not because women “can’t get the jobs because they are female” but because women as a whole will not sacrifice their families for their career.  This thought will greatly chap the hides of a lot of  the “feminist” movers and shakers but it seems to me that there are too many women who have achieved their goals of getting to the top for it to be an impossibility.

“”Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13

Matthew 16:25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.

Mark 8:35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

The Bible is full of references to sacrifice, dying to your own desires and then finding fulfillment on the other side.

 

Thought #4– Who is the most powerful woman in America? or the World?  It is that woman who lays down her life to nurture, raise, and guide the next generation.

Society is a fabric- each thread woven together is a human life, each human thread is spun at home.  When society has the awful problems with school shootings, teen pregnancy,  greed, abuse and violence the problem is not with society in itself, but a breakdown in the home.  So the women that are choosing to put the next generation first whether that be by staying at home full time to be a wife and a mother or being that teacher that gives of herself above and beyond against the odds, or the working mother who turns down a promotion so that she won’t have to sacrifice her time with her children, or in any other facet where she finds the ability to make a difference- these are the most powerful women in America and the World.

I do not reject the idea that women are capable of great things outside the home, that they have the abilities to work at the highest levels or even that some women are called to do so.  I reject the idea that if I choose to lay down my own pursuits to put my husband and children first in my priority list that I have some how fallen short of what I was designed to be as a woman.  It takes a very strong woman to be secure in herself, to take on the challenges of building a healthy marriage and raising the next generation and to stand against the current that is telling her to abandon her post, and to trust her God to take care of all the things that she cannot control- that is femininity at it’s highest.

I know I sound a bit angry in this post, but that would be because this issue does make me angry. The home has been in large part abandoned and children are left to parent themselves with the help of “Jersey Shore” and “16 and Pregnant” while both parents pursue their own lives and we then wonder why there is a breakdown in society.  The home is worth fighting for and I am tired of listening to those that are wrong say they are right.  Instead of looking at it as an unfair yoke, being the gender that was trusted with bringing forth the next generation and having the fate of society & the world rest in your hands should be revered as the highest honor on the planet.