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All Is Well

Let me tell you about one of my birthday presents.

My children, Travis and Kelsey, discussed what to give me for my birthday this year and agreed on a necklace that would say a sentiment such as “I love you”.  After further thought, Kelsey suggested the phrase “All Is Well” and the two immediately knew that was the perfect choice.  Travis, along with my husband’s help, combed through my mother’s handwritten study journals (which she began doing in the early 1970s) and found where she wrote the words “all”, “is” and “well”. They took pictures of those words, sent them to Kelsey who hired an artist to create from my mother’s handwriting a personalized necklace with the phrase “all is well”.


When I opened the box and read the phrase I teared up and then when I learned all that my family did in thinking of this idea and making it happen, my heart melted even more.  Travis said to Kelsey after seeing my reaction that it will be hard to top this gift.  I agreed but told them it was always worth trying 😉

The significance of the phrase brings even more sentiment to the necklace.  On my mother’s blog she wrote:  “All is Well. I love the way this song expresses both the message of joy of the arrival of God’s salvation and the sense of peaceful calm that joyful message brings. It was both those aspects that led me to choose this song to be played at my mother’s funeral service. Both these songs are on Michael W. Smith’s “Christmas” album.”

After selecting songs for my grandmother’s funeral, my Mom recognized what a large challenge selecting songs for a loved one can be so she began gathering songs that she wanted me to know were her favorites.  She placed copies of the songs in one of two folders on her computer, one labeled “Donna’s Motivational” and the other “Donna’s favorites”.  Knowing the day would come when I would be selecting songs for her, she specifically encouraged me to consider All is Well.  That time came much sooner that we expected when my mom died November 25, 2014.  I spent hours deciding and planning her memorial service and one of the songs I selected was All is Well.  It’s beautiful, peaceful and powerful.  I hope you take the time to watch, read and listen to it.

The phrase “all is well” represents my mom’s beliefs.  My mother often said phrases such as “it’ll be fine”, “I’ll be okay”, “sounds good”, “I’m flexible”, or “things work out”.  Once when we were passengers in a vehicle with a poor driver on a snowy mountain she responded to my fears by saying to me “Sweety, it’s okay.  If it’s our time to go it’s our time to go.”  At the time all I could say was “oh great, that really helps me.”  During a different and rough time at work many years ago she made for me a small poster with the quote “You cannot direct the wind but you can adjust your sails”.  In time, I began to understand the message she was teaching me was really always the same.  So, for you Mom, I believe “All Is Well” and now I can wear it as a reminder of my family’s love and all you taught us.


Hear the Melody

It’s a birthday week in my family so Friday I pulled out the pineapple upside down cake recipe.  I am happy that I asked Mom about it last year so I have her input on how she made it. Little did I know at that time how much that would mean to me a year later.  I sang Happy Birthday to them while they lit and then blew out the candles and then we ate the special birthday cake. 2015-01-09-12

Friday we interred Mom’s ashes; another step to this very surreal situation.

The step required a decision that has been difficult for us because we don’t know all of her wishes.  We only know her view that she didn’t care whether she was buried or cremated.  For her it was about the economics and the emotional needs of those making the decision.  My brother and I discussed our personal opinions and the critical piece for us was that we make a mutually agreed upon decision.  The first decision whether to bury or cremate was fairly straightforward for us.  We made the decision to cremate.

Then a few weeks ago we received Mom’s cremains.  So now…what do we do with them?  We needed to answer for ourselves a few questions: What can we do from an emotional standpoint?  From an economic standpoint?  From a legacy standpoint?

  1. Emotional standpoint:  We needed to do something we considered respectful of Mom.  We didn’t want to keep the ashes in our homes or wear or carry them nor did we want spread them.  In researching ideas for dispersing cremains the list seems endless.
  2. Economical standpoint:  When we buried our grandmother in 2007 we learned that there was another space in that family plot.  Mom said that space could be used for her since all other members of that family had made other arrangements.  So, from an economic standpoint, we already owned the space and the only fee was $200 to open and close the grave.  The rules of this particular cemetery allow for a husband and a wife to have their cremains buried in one space and then must have one double headstone.  Mom wasn’t married when she died so that means the space would be for only her cremains.  For me the difficulty with this was that I don’t really think it is economically smart to use a full space for one person’s cremains.  In considering other ways to disperse the cremains the economics of them ranged from free to costly and none really seemed meaningful for our situation.
  3. Legacy standpoint:  Over the years Mom became interested in genealogy and visited cemeteries to gather information from headstones, which she recorded on and in her genealogy program.  I believe she came to value headstones in a new way.

Our decision:  Pay the $200 fee to open and close the space in the family plot and bury the cremains then place a headstone there.  This decision met our emotional, economic and legacy needs.

Great.  Now, all the decisions are made, right?  Nope.

  1. Choosing a container in which to bury the cremains:  The cremains came in a plastic bag inside a small cardboard box with Mom’s name and date of cremation on it.  Some cemeteries require an urn others have no requirements.  Our cemetery had no requirements.  Ultimately, we chose to place the cardboard box with the cremains in a decorative chest that we found at Mom’s house while we were cleaning it.  We used that chest in the memorial service for her and placed treasured items in it.  So, it has symbolism and meaning.2015Jan09_0018a
  2. Choosing a headstone:  What size, color, cost?  What do you include on it?  Do you want to include her middle name and maiden name?  Do you want to include her full birth and death dates or just the years?  Do you want any engraved image on the stone? Do you want an epitaph?  These sound simple in some ways but each person has different thoughts and emotions to consider.  My brother and I worked through each of these and made our decisions together.  I think one of the toughest parts in choosing a headstone was writing an epitaph because as my brother said “I just don’t know what to say that will epitomize Mom in 5 or 6 words.  It’s not much space to put all your feelings of a lifetime into.”
    • Writing and choosing the epitaph:  There are two types of epitaphs 1) an inscription on or at a grave in memory of the person, i.e.: beloved mother.  2)  a brief statement epitomizing the deceased.   Originally I was writing the second type and it seemed to me that my brother preferred the first type.  We spent much of a day texting one another and sharing ideas and definitions.  Music was important to Mom and we know she believed we each have a voice – a special melody that is our own.   Knowing that helped us recognize and identify with certain words.  One quote I shared with my brother was “When we hum or whistle to ourselves, it is melody that we hum or whistle, our recollection of the melody helping us to recreate in the mind’s ear as much of the whole piece as we can. — Walter Piston, author”  So Mom’s melody recalls all of her, the whole piece.  At the end of the day, my brother and I had written an epitaph that is better than either one of us would have done on our own.   We chose:  “Her melody, faith, and love lives within us”.  I love what my brother said of it:  “I like that one.  That one sounds more like how I feel.  It covers the most of who Mom was in just a few words, and also includes the people who love her as a testament to what she instilled in us.”

Today we:

  • celebrated Dad’s birthday
  • celebrated my brother’s birthday
  • ate a cake I baked using the steps Mom shared
  • sang a song
  • took pictures & video
  • spent time together
  • interred Mom’s cremains
  • visited the cemetery where my great grandparents, grandparents, infant son and now my Mom rest

Snow & Sprinkles

It’s snowing today.


The snow from the cat’s perspective.

Friday my kids turned 22!  Since both of them were busy all day, I planned on baking a cake for them within the next few days.  It turned out that Travis got off work much earlier than expected.  So, I  made a blueberry mug cake for him and put some ice cream on top with a candle. He made a wish, blew out the candle and ate every drop of his birthday dessert.

Kelsey unhesitatingly requested a Funfetti birthday cake.  Travis had no preference until I mentioned the Funfetti cake and then he said “Yes, those are awesome!”  Now I realize that all those colorful sprinkles are very festive looking but I don’t care for the boxed Funfetti cakes.  Since I wanted to please them and it wasn’t my birthday, I compromised by making the recipe I found for homemade Funfetti cake at Sally’s Baking Addiction.   With more sprinkles on top and the squiggly candles, it really does look festive…and the cake was good.


Iron Skillet and a Birthday

What’s your favorite cake?

When I asked my Dad that question I was amazed at how instantly and without any hesitation he exclaimed “Pineapple Upside Down Cake”!   I had forgotten that was his favorite cake and haven’t baked or eaten that type of cake in probably 30 years.  Since his birthday was only a few days away and I wanted to bake him a cake, I looked through my family recipes just knowing that I would have the recipe that Mom used many, many times.  But I did not have it.  Thankfully, Mom came to my rescue by providing me with a scanned copy of the recipe from her cookbook along with some family history about it.  We all know that the messiest pages in the cookbook have the best recipes on them and this is no exception, just see for yourself from the scan.


This is another one of those recipes that conjures up sweet memories of parents and grandparents.  Once I read the recipe, I had to ask Mom some specifics about the ingredients and process so she shared a few other tidbits:

I always used maraschino cherries – I have a slight recollection that mother may have once or twice used whole pecan pieces in the pineapple holes rather than the maraschino cherries. I never added whipped cream to it and can’t even imagine why anyone would. I always used the skillet to make it.  It was a perfect fit for the amount of pineapples in the can – after I broke the last one or two into quarters to fit in the spaces left by pineapple circles next to one another.  I can remember worrying when I first used the skillet whether the handle would survive the oven temperatures or not; fortunately, it did. I don’t recall what mother baked hers in but the picture of the cake in the recipe looks to be similar in size to the one from my skillet. I rarely had patience to wait very long to eat a dessert, so we likely always had a piece before it got fully cold but I doubt that I ever ate it hot (pineapple would likely burn the roof of your mouth).

I don’t remember, as mother indicated, that she baked it in a skillet and that got me wondering about the history of this cake.  Upside down cake history goes back to when cakes were cooked in cast iron skillets.  The oldest printed recipe for the pineapple upside down cake is dated from 1925 after canned pineapples became popular. (1, 2)  So, I decided to make this recipe and bake the cake in an iron skillet.  I’m not sure whether the cake was any more delicious because of the iron skillet but it certainly helped make the caramelized crunchy edges, which are the very best part of the cake in my opinion.


Happy birthday to my brother whose birthday was also this week.


  1. “The History of Pineapple Upside Down Cake.” The Kitchen Project. Stephen Block, n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <>.
  2. “Keepsake Cakes.” The Many Sides of Upside-Down Cake. Therese, n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2014. <>.

36|2013 …And Counting (September 23 – 29, 2013)

Monday Keith and I celebrated 24 years of marriage.


Wednesday, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s birthday.  Happy B-Day cookie decoration specially hand-made by my brother-in-law.



Over the weekend a group came down to our lake place and went fishing on Saturday.  Then, on Sunday, we had a fish fry and enjoyed eating and visiting in our  screened in front porch.


32|2013 A Piece of Cake and More (August 26 – September 1, 2013)

Wednesday evening after work Keith and I drove to our lake place for a 6 day vacation.  Our plans included scanning photos & painting.  Of the 700 photos I did get about 500 of them scanned!  Keith painted the south bedroom, which is the last room in the house with the dark wood paneling.


We love the new look!


Saturday was my birthday and we went to Catfish Platter with some friends and Keith made a delicious peach cobbler.  My Mom made a chocolate cake and I got to eat a piece of cake with my Mom and Dad on Sunday.  It was a weekend of many sweet things.

Sunday afternoon while Keith was out on the lake he loaned a life vest to a woman.  To express her appreciation she invited him to a cookout held annually called The Festival of the Testicle where they serve calf fries, as they are called here in Oklahoma.  Keith was thrilled to get an invitation so we went and met a whole bunch of really nice, friendly folks.


While there Keith got a special t-shirt to remember the event:


31|2013 Sliding Into Another Year (August 19 – 25, 2013)

Earlier this month my Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday, which is on the 31st.  I told him a fabulous gift would be for him to get with his sister and arrange for me to borrow the old family photos that are on slides so that I can digitize them.   Within a few hours Dad had made arrangements with my aunt to get together on the 24th.  They worked together and gathered the slides then made sure the slide projector worked.  My plan was to make a video recording as we watched all the photos.


Some of the food included: Ice Box cookies and a cheese ball. Notice the projector, projector screen, films, and slides.

When I arrived at my aunt’s house, I was surprised by a few more guests, dinner and dessert.  The dinner was a lovely meal that my husband and Dad bought and my aunt made the desserts, which are family heirloom recipes.  We had cookies that included Ice Box cookies, a cheese ball and a Chocolate Upside Down cake.  Those desserts are especially significant since I am creating an heirloom cookbook.

It was a priceless gift to share the evening with my aunt, uncle, cousin, Dad, brother, sister-in-law, nephew, husband and son.  Since my nephew’s birthday is  just a few days before mine, we blew the birthday candle out together!


Blowing the birthday candle  out that’s in the middle of the Chocolate Upside Down Cake.

Now, I have about 720 slides to scan, so I’ll be busy on that for a while.

2|2013 Twenty-one! (January 31, 2013)

It’s official, our kids are 21 years old.  We celebrated with the requested meal of prime rib, baked potato, hot rolls and broccoli.


To accommodate the group, we put the extra leaves in the table.


The food smelled delicious and we were eager to enjoy it.


After the meal, we sampled some wines.


Next they blew out their candles and we sang “Happy Birthday” to them.

Blowing out their 21st birthday candles!

For dessert we had the very rich Oreo truffles, which I had arranged into a yin-yang design.


Spending time with our kids makes a day more perfect.

35|52 Another Year Older (August 27-September 2, 2012)

As I walked to my car Monday morning I paused to take a picture of the lovely (not) water hole in our front yard.  Keith put a pot in it upside down and a pole to make sure no one fell in it.  A pipe had a slow leak that was fixed on Thursday.


My birthday was Friday and I spent the morning with my uncle, aunt and cousin going to garage sales.  While there weren’t very many, I did buy a few things and had a fun time with my family.  When we finished I played with the birthday present my husband got me, a fisheye lens, by taking pictures at my uncle’s home.  It’s pretty cool how you can get such a wide view.


Friday was also a blue moon, meaning it was the second full moon in the month.  Keith and I went to a local park and I took a few photos with my fisheye lens.  You really can’t even tell that it’s a wider view, which is really nice.


I also took some photos with 18-250mm lens.


Saturday my nephew had a skating party and I used my new lens a bit more.  I’ll be really playing with it more soon and learning when and how to get the most out of it.


My nephew and I are a year older and both in our double digits!


5|52 Birthdays Galore (Jan 29 – Feb 4, 2012)

We celebrated our kids’ 20th birthday on Tuesday! The kids came over and we went out to Jamil’s Steakhouse for a delicious dinner and then came home.  I made the requested Hello Dolly bars and we put candles on top for Travis and Kelsey to make their wishes.


Yesterday I attended another birthday celebration for a cousin who will soon turn 9 years old! I got to take a few photos of her and her brother.


Sometimes I take photos with my iPhone and don’t publish them here or on Facebook so for those who don’t have or are unable to use you can also follow my instagram photos on the web: