You Are Free to Live, Not to Live Free – Economical White Bean Chicken Chili and Cornbread

Hard earned money going towards a spice I’ll probably never use again? No way!

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If you read my last mushy blog, you will know that I just started a new job in Houston, TX for an engineering co-op. I am still a college student (part time) taking online classes, but am working 40-50 hours a week. I have my own apartment that came fully furnished and the rent is subsidized, so I don’t pay full price. On top of that, I am making pretty good money! $20 an hour? Heck yea! I am getting so rich for this 8 month co-op.

So I thought.

Did you know taxes are a real thing? I thought it was some imaginary concept that was created by liberals to impose on right wingers. I never thought they were that big of a deal when my paycheck only amounted to $150 and $14 went out to taxes. I felt like I was giving to charity in a way. My first week here at Daikin, I worked 35 hours, so my paycheck came to $700. Not to bad. Then taxes knocked me back to $582. $66 to federal tax, $43 to social security, and $10 to Medicare. It’s not like they don’t tax everything else I buy. I don’t even have insurance in Texas! Thank God they don’t tax groceries. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the taxes are just built into the price we are paying for the groceries since they are so expensive.

I am starting to see why people gripe about taxes, and I see why people who don’t work, or work low end jobs, are so easily advocates for taxes. There needs to be a better system for this whole “paying for your public goods and services” requirement.

Rant over.

In honor of trying to keep my health in check while still keeping on a budget (yes I had to create a REAL budget (not the cute budget with only 3 parameters)), here is my $ chicken chili recipe with cornbread. Feeds ~5 people.

White Bean Chicken Chili ~ $5.75

  • 1 big frozen chicken breast – $.90
  • 2 cans of white navy beans – $2.00
  • TBS chicken bouillon – $.25
  • 4 oz cream cheese (I used low fat) – $1.00
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or I used 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt – $.30-.60
  • cup of water (thin to your like, I like mine thick)
  • Season with salt, pepper, and tsp cumin – $.10
  • optional: Add a sautéed dice green bell pepper, can of green chilis, or cilantro – $1.00

Directions:

Bake your chicken breast at 380 for 15-18 minutes. I pre-slice mine so it bakes faster. While it is baking, in a large pot add all the ingredients, and mix until incorporated over a medium heat. Once the chicken is done baking, shred it and add it to your soup. Serve with cornbread.

Corn Bread – $1.54

  • One box of Jiffy – $.50
  • 1 egg – $.12
  • TBS flour – $.02
  • two dollops of sour cream or plain greek yogurt – $.60
  • milk as directed by box – $.30

Mix all together and add to a greased and floured pan. Bake at 385 for 12-15 min on high rack so bottom doesn’t burn.

So for $7.29 you have a meal that feeds 5 people, or yourself for quite awhile. So on a night you feel like eating out instead, try this cheap, easy, and quick meal. You’ll be glad you did! You might even find you have money (and calories) left over for dessert. 😉

 

 

 

Priming For the Tie That Binds

The Hearts Way of Saying, “I love You”.

Say, helping me move ~1,000 miles away from home while I was sick, staying in a sleazy motel, buying my groceries, doing my laundry, rubbing my back. What does that make us?

Yes you are my mate nonetheless, you are my boyfriend. A friend first and foremost who I happen to enjoy particularly well. Don’t get yourself confused with being a boyfriend though. I’ve had boyfriends, and they were always a boy first. At some point as of recent, you became something more than all of the above. You became reality.

When I was a little  girl, I always said no one would ever love me or want to be with me forever. I was so scared of being alone, so when a boy would pay attention to me, I felt like I was worth something. Worth does not come from physical touch or dates. It comes from showing sincere love. It comes from truly making yourself equal with someone. To find someone who not just makes you feel loved, but makes you feel worthy, you begin to etch as a permanent part of yourself.

I recently had a job opportunity that required me to move to Texas from Indiana. To no surprise, my wonderful SO, Jake, readily began planning to help me drive down and get settled. I came down with a horrible viral flu the day before I was due to leave. On top of preparing for the trip to leave, I had several phone interviews lined up to take place during the trip down to Texas. Honestly, I felt overwhelmed for I had not the energy to do everything I needed. Jake made up for every part of me that was missing. When I needed help with dishes, or going to the store, he was there. My family dog Ringo passed away Christmas Eve, 2 weeks before I was due to leave. (This is the dog on my blogs banner). Jake was there to help during the process of putting him down. He was there to make me feel as at peace as possible through and through.

After I got moved into my new apartment and had the weekend with Jake, he left to fly back home. It was on a Monday, my first day of a new job. My last physical touch with him was a hug and a kiss in front of the apartments. That was only a week ago. It feels as though that was an eternity ago. I realized this while cleaning my apartment. In this realization that it was only such a short time ago, it made me realize how much his worth is really worth to me. I never have questioned my love for him or wondered if we are good together. It’s just like coffee. How much is coffee worth to you in the morning? In the morning coffee is equivalent to the need for the next breath of oxygen for many of us. Just because the worth of coffee is high in the morning, does not mean we go all day worshiping the thought of coffee. That is because we know it will be there again in the morning, black and steaming hot.

As I was organizing my laundry, I realized the one thing my homey apartment was missing. My person. This is more than just the heart growing fonder. This is realizing the value of one and understanding how rich I am because of him. How wonderful indeed. In fact this is me just understanding what this sort of love means. It is the stepping stones to an ultimate devotion. He gives me time and I will find my way back to him, putting us near to the tie that binds.

A poem to my world, the one who makes me feel as wonderful as the stars with universe as her audience.

Thank you Jake

 

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No Such Luck; A Sob Story and a Comfort Food Recipe – Sweet Potato Cookies?!

Riding this ride just for the sake of riding. Really I just want to be left alone, but there’s no place I call home.

O.K. all humans get in weird funks from time to time right? No real reason to justify feeling like falling off the earth.  For some reason I feel like there must be a reason. It isn’t like me to let a black hole in my heart hold any weight with how I interact with others. Not knowing your heart can be a most frustrating thing. Thank God for music…

“Yeah, watch how low I get
Yeah, get much lower yet
No depths where I won’t go
Thank god I’m built so low”

-Paw

When I get this reegremotional turmoil inside me, I want to run. Run, run, run. Run away, but run to, and run from, but not run with someone. I want to be alone with my loneliness. I want to be only. Only me, not lonely me. It’s hard for me to tell someone I need them. Really to get better that is what I need to do. Feel okay with leaning on them. What hurts is when I say I need help expressing my concern, and they brush it off and tell me, “You’re o.k.”. I’M NOT O.K.?! I’m sad, and feeling lost, unmotivated, fed up, tired. I want you to listen to me and help me feel myself again… You don’t just wave a magic wand and tell someone they’re o.k. and expect them to be alright. Stop.

 

This is why I bake…

As an artist, I like to express my emotions through actions and creations. From drawing to cooking, I feel I can’t express myself adequately. So I just bake cookies because they make great emotional band aids…

Sweet Potato Cookies

Ingredients

  • •1 sweet potato
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup stevia baking sugar (it’s a 1:1 ratio to sugar, or just use regular sugar)
  •  ½ cup light butter
  • ½ cup coconut oil (or just do 1 cup total of butter)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp salt
  •  ¾ cup craisins
  • optional, I used 1 TBS black wall nut crumbs, or ¾ cup of any nut would be good. Black walnut is a very strong flavor

Directions

  1. Cream butter, coconut oil, and sugar. Beat in egg, cool mashed sweet potato, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in a seperate bowl and mix it up. gradually add this to the butter mixture. Don’t over mix. Add the nuts and craisins (I folded it in).
  2. Put spoonfuls on a cookie sheet (1 inch space). Bake at 375 for 11 minutes. They will brown slightly.

The Right Here and Now

“Come take a glass of wine and fortify your soul
We’ll talk about the world and friends we used to know”

Put car in reverse.

“I’ll illustrate, a girl put me on the floor
The game is nearly up, the hounds are at my door”

Put car in drive. Drive.

“Like the fox (like the fox, like the fox) on the run”

Same driving maneuvers, same radio station. Just like a million times before.

September 27th. One of those days where you’re just too busy to take a step back and examine how defeated you really feel. Until your brain comes in and says, “hey, I am NOT o.k.” I was driving to my S.O.’s to go out to dinner. He had just received his pilots licence, and a congratulations was in order. Before meeting him for dinner, I got him aviator sunglasses as a token of my love. All pilots should have a pair of aviators anyways. I was so excited to give them to him and tell him how proud I was. I was so proud. What does proud even mean? What is happening?

Just about a mile from my house. my brain clicks on and starts thinking. I remember suddenly my stomach feeling like a stuffed bird and saying out loud “What am I doing?”. My lips became lifeless, numb-like. All of a sudden, my foot stopped applying pressure to the gas pedal. My grip fell and all the noise from the radio sounded like nothing but mindless noise. I began to feel like a fool. Suddenly I felt like I was getting ready to go perch up on a grand stage to perform tricks and become a laughingstock. I guess a situation like that would make a person say, “What am I doing?”.

I begin to feel like I am of a different level. Not that I am better or worse, just different. I begin to believe that possibly through others eyes, I am just the entertainment. I am the right here and now girl. Already losing its luster and shine, like a bird with clipped wings. Pretty while sitting in its cage, but somewhat of a disappointment when you ask it to fly. I start to feel like I need to turn around. I begin formulating ways to escape this night. As always, I march forward. I have never been one to be selfish.

I put on a smile as I always do. I attempt to provide for the best evening, and I think I delivered sufficiently. I drive, buy dinner, give more of my vulnerable heart. I leave feeling disposable. I leave feeling like my all isn’t enough, or it is just for granted. Maybe I am not pretty enough, thin enough, funny enough. Surely I give enough. I think I have had enough. It is time I retract my heart to the confinements in which it is comfortable and safe. Where solitude is a problem is when one believes having a companion will provide comfort, warmth, and safety consistently. Everywhere and always is simply right here and now. It seems to be all the human heart can selfishly quantify in regard to developing anything meaningful with another of its kind.
This is how the evening wrapped up with a couple texts:
“Home, thanks for a fun night”
“I’m glad you’re home safe, thank you again for everything”
Seems I’ve heard this once before. Maybe not these two exact texts, but the moment of realization of time over for me, right here and now.

Eyes Turned Skyward

Risking the Fall Just to Learn How to Fly

This life has brought a host of experiences; from choosing a college, blundering fools for dates, and changing my entire lifestyle completely. All of these things have shaped me in some way or another. Like one day I went to a professors office hours to ask for help. He looked at me and said, “you get D in class”. This experience definitely contributed to my decision to switch colleges. Another example, I dated a nice guy when I was younger, but he got into the habit of standing me up. I let it happen approximately 20 times (I was 16 and in looove). Well, now if I am even remotely close to being stood up, I forfeit any future dating with that guy.  Regarding my life style, the point that showed an obvious change was needed was when I would go shopping and be absolutely dissatisfied with what I saw in the mirror. I wanted to change my looks. That led to years of bad dieting that didn’t work. Eventually I adopted a lifestyle that centered around just feeling my best, and in turn have slowly grown into a decently rockin bod. It’s stronger than I ever imagined it’d be, that’s for sure… Oh, but then there’s my favorite example. A study abroad trip to Europe. How it has changed my life, inside and out, as well as the way I view love and passion in all it’s complex glories.

In the spring I went on a study abroad trip to Germany, Czech, and The Netherlands through Purdue University. This trip was comprised of other students selected from the other Purdue extension campuses. There was one other student going from my campus, but I had never met him. The only reason I went on this trip was because they needed one other girl to go (there was only one other girl whom needed a roommate), and Purdue offered a scholarship. I had never flown in a jet before, so I had to get a passport put together, extra money, and still concentrate on classes, all in just a couple short months. I was excited none the less.

To be honest, I was filled with the most bitter mix of emotions regarding the trip the day I left home for the airport. I threw a fit, cried, said I wasn’t going… I wasn’t scared of flying (I love aviation), I was scared of the people. I was scared I wouldn’t fit in, and be stuck with a group of people who wouldn’t include me. I arrived to the airport in a big over-sized sweatshirt (that way I could hide in it like a turtle I guess was my thinking), nerdy  glasses, and my luggage. Meeting my group at the gate was nerve racking. I was the last one to show up, and I made certain to portray myself as having it all together. Everyone introduced themselves to me one by one and I forgot their names as soon as they told me. I was really a wreck on the inside with emotional turmoil. Little did I know, this group would become very close friends of mine in less than 48 hours. Little did I know, in less than 72 hours I would, well you’ll have to just read it for yourself…

When we were waiting to board the plane everyone was noting their feelings towards travel, past flights, and other air port stories. The other guy who went to my campus, named Jake, was abounding with excitement for the whole trip and it’s entirety. Or maybe he was just entirely excited about flying. He briefed me that his mother worked for Delta Airlines and he has loved aviation since he was a little boy. He explained to me how the whole commercial plane thing worked since I had no idea, but, as we were boarding the plane, he said he was excited for me. He said he couldn’t wait to hear what I thought after our flight from Indianapolis to Washington airport. All the worry and sickness left my stomach.

I was lucky enough to have a window seat on both flights. I had to sit next to a really old, ancient scented, man on the first 1 hour flight to Washington. He was kind and was shocked to hear that it was my first time flying, all the way to another country. The things I remember most about that trip was going down the run way and quickly looking up at the sky, observing it get a deeper and deeper shade of blue. Looking down at earth was alright, but looking up seemed to make it that much more real for me. I was not scared, but excited, in love with being high. After we landed, I felt pretty strange from it all. My ears and throat were soar and my head felt like a ball balanced on a pin. I was ready to get on the big boy plane to take me to Germany. Of course, everyone asked me what I thought of my first time flying… and I wanted to act reserved, so I said, it was alright.

The Boeing 777; XL twin turbofan engine jet made for traveling over 8,000 nautical miles, capacity: near 400 passengers. Three rows of 3 seats. This plane is it.

4,000 miles out from Germany, I was 10,668 meters in the air, flying at 613 mph. I watched the little map on the back of the seat in front of me the entire time. I’d get a little excited with altitude changes. What could bring me down at this rate? (As I was thinking this, there was a little virus making the move on my system that I would soon feel on my third day in Munich, losing my voice entirely). I sat next to another trip mate on the flight, Ben. I was so nervous to even attempt sleeping before anyone. Snoring, or looking half dead probably doesn’t make for a real cute impression. To sleep, I folded the table down and slept on that. I did not suffer from jet lag surprisingly. I could see Jake was a row behind me and one aisle over. He was reading a book the whole time. Cool calm and collected. How I envied that calm. I was bursting with infatuation for flying on this air worthy jet. If I wasn’t people watching, I was looking at the sky. How deep it looked, like if we climbed a few more feet, we’d be riding the mesosphere. While I will not go into all the good times experienced while in Europe, I will share some developing feelings that really thicken the plot to a simple study abroad trip.

May 13th we actually arrived to Germany. May 14th was a lot of exploring and getting to know my group VERY well. Boots of bier makes anyone a good friend I guess you could assume. May 15th, Ben, Jake, and myself went on a self guided adventure via u-bahn to check out a local grocery store outside of the main hub of Munich.
 I got to know Jake and Ben a little more personally this way. May 16th was the last hoo-rah for us in the city of Munich before departing for Prague. My back was in horrible pain (walking ~10 miles a day on old shoes), all I wanted was a good massage and rest. Well, Jake took me to get my first real Moscow mule and have deep discussion over life in general. That will forever be my favorite mixed drink. I found we had much in common, in the way we viewed the trip as a short escape from our reality back home to simply listening to Dwight Yokam. Just like that Moscow mule, things were mixing just right for us.

Jake wanted to become a commercial airline pilot. That was his dream, his goal, and the forefront of his thoughts. This deer hunting, country music listening, boy wanted to fly planes for a living. I wanted him to fly every bit as bad. You see someone light up when they talk about their passion, and you just want to see them submerge in it entirely. Something about that boy loving planes, made me love his dreams every bit as much.

 

Europe was a great learning experience about culture, business, and feelings. I had a s/o back home that made the trip less than easy. I did suffer culture shock pretty harshly sometimes, like when I went to the Czech Republic. A touristy place filled with an oddly familiar bitterness and turmoil by the elder Czechoslovakians.

 

There were times I felt scared or even angry.

 

 

 

 

I tried to reach out to home nearly 5,000 miles away, but I got shut down. I got put down. I got told to put up with it. I got hurt more and more. I naturally leaned on the one person who made me feel safe from the start, and I am filled with gratitude for that. It was nothing like falling in love. It was like ascending in a plane. Reaching the altitude in which you wish to fly, trimming it out perfectly, and someone telling you to bring it right back down. Instantaneously. That is how my trip ended with Jake. It was 2 weeks of high flying you could say. Although, I flew home from Washington to Indianapolis a lot more confident than I was 2 weeks before. My heart had change, as well as a realization of what I deserved, and needed to feel optimal in life. I could envision what I’d like to be happy.

Returning home was sweet but tinged with sadness. I was filled with an everlasting love of flying though. I was ready to take to the sky again. Going to Europe showed me that I am alright in solitude. There is no body anywhere on this earth that I need in order to be complete, and with that said, there is no single human on this earth that can take anything away from me. All too often I let people mar my life with thoughtless words and actions. All too often I find myself asking how I can do more to please others. Europe showed me that the world is just that, the world. The earth is meant to be toured and the best way to do it is by plane I say. So I took to the sky.

I thought of Jake often after the trip. I had hoped that following our many of long talks in Europe, he felt my yearning to see him fly and would do just that. As Amelia Earhart said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it”. He did it too, and quickly. I’d like to think that I said something that made him feel air worthy himself in signing up for the lessons. I could see it in him from the first time I met him. I went into engineering for aeronautics, my dream is to work in the space program for NASA. In a way I want to fly too. Just in the exosphere that is. His passions about his goals got me thinking about mine. I wanted to feel like it was okay to be that passionate about something. Not all astronauts are pilots, but it sure helps. (From NASA’s mouth). It almost seems uncanny. It’s like I saw someone want to do something so bad, and I wanted to see them follow through with that dream just to see it be done. It gave me the courage too. For once, I felt so encouraged. I am very much encouraged.

Currently I am pursuing my private pilots license, the idea of flying a jet sounds absolutely amazing, and I will take that offer if it comes down the road for me to do so. Contentment comes with being able to proudly do something that is for you and you alone.

Over the summer, the Europe group stayed in contact, sharing stories, memories, and occasional drunk messages. Forever I will cherish these people. They were all so good to me. As summer came to a close, my 21st birthday fell on the last Saturday before the fall semester started up. Oddly enough, Jake suggested we all meet up for my birthday at a German restaurant downtown. I got to reconnect that night with what felt like an old dear friend. All the emotions, comfort, and warmth – still vivacious. He gave me a book for my birthday. Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker. He said it was one of his favorite books. I opened it up even though I could feel tears just welling up inside of me, and there was a picture of the two of us in Europe. On the inside he wrote, ” I can’t wait for the day we are flying together again”. Same here, and something tells me that next time will be soon.

This is My Journey With a Pilot

 

 

 

 

Persimmon Pudding Recipe; Fruit of the Family Tree

Food connects us with loved ones and helps us open our hearts to our heritage.

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Summer is a great time to start new projects (or finish up ones from last year), find new hobbies, or reconnect with friends and family. With the kids out of school, families are traveling and taking time out to have a good time together. Except for business owners in the HVAC industry. Air conditioners never stop breaking down, and people never stop calling. (Like 8 p.m. on a Sunday night type of never stop calling). It keeps you busy and on the go all the time. I know this since I work with my dad part time as a technician. Sometimes though, it is necessary to make time for yourself.

My dad wanted to take a weekend trip to Southern Indiana to visit some family from his mother’s side (who passed when I was a baby). Taking time to see family and visualize where your heritage lies is important. In fact, after this weekend getaway, I feel connected to my past that runs a lot deeper. My roots start in a small town in The Hoosier National Forest known as Valeene. “God’s Country”, they call it. The way of life is different here. My dad told me stories of playing in the Patoka creek in the summer, and getting a pickle from a wooden barrel at the small grocery store. You can go for miles, from town to town, and only pass a couple gas stations. Although it might seem desolate on the open roads, zooming though the rolling hills, it is nothing short of welcoming inside these southern homes. I was so inspired by my family’s heritage (I will talk more about after the recipe), I did a little archiving.

Look at this from the Indianapolis Star in 1971:

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Valeene is not a place to be reckoned with.

When we arrived, Doris, my great aunt in-law, greeted my father and I with smiles and hugs. I greeted her with a Persimmon Pudding I had made with leftover pulp from last fall. Persimmon Pudding is one of those Southern things that is treated like a delicacy. My dad always keeps his eye peeled for persimmon trees around town (rare here in the North), and will bring my these bitter little fruits after a the falls first frost. He used to do this as a kid for his mom when he was a little boy he told me. He had an old Valeene cookbook with a couple really great Persimmon Pudding recipes in it. After making a dozen puddings myself, I have tweaked and formed my preferred Persimmon Pudding. I was a little nervous taking this to Southern Indiana though. Here is where the Persimmon Pudding began, the place where the best is to be had.

Doris cooked up a hardy meal of chicken and noodles, with her mashed potatoes, green beans, fresh garden tomatoes, homemade coleslaw, and her vinegarized cucumber slices. It was all a treat to me since I gave up my hardy southern cooking style about a year ago. Doris surprised us with homemade ice cream and fruit cocktail cake. I knew I had a sugar free detox diet to stick to, but this was less about indulgence in flavor, and more about indulgence in sharing meaningful food with family. I quickly grabbed a piece of my persimmon pudding to at least taste test it. I was delighted as I usually am. Then everyone else started taking bites, and everyone was very pleased. The texture was denoted as wonderfully smooth, and dense with a hardy persimmon flavor. I am sure my Southern family is no stranger when it comes to this delicious dessert, and I was so glad they were delighted with it. I was gasping over the fruit cocktail cake Doris had made. It was quite the remarkable dessert itself.

After our bellies were full, and the plates were cleared from the table, we sat around sharing recipes, gabbing over old times past, and the change of times. Doris gave me another Valeene cookbook to take back home. I’ve already read every recipe. It was so nice to share this experience with my family. I will always correlate persimmon pudding now with that warm feeling of being surrounded by good people. This might not be a sugar free recipe, (although you could make it so), this is the recipe I shared with my great aunt Doris and the others in the little far-away town of Valeene, Indiana.

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Left to Right: Second Cousin Cathy, great aunt in-law Doris, myself, father Rich Simpson

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(As you can see I use my Valeene cook book quite often, as my grandmother and great grandmother had done so before myself (Notice my great grandmothers name “Grace Stroud” elegantly wrote))

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My recipe varies slightly from the one found in the Valeene cookbook.

Persimmon Pudding

Makes 12 servings (9×13 pan)

Ingredients

  • 2 ¼ c. persimmon pulp
  • 2 c. sugar
  • ¼ c. butter melted + an extra Tbs. or two for love 😉
  • 3 eggs, yolk and whites separated
  • 2 c. goat milk (you can use regular, but this is all I had on hand and it tastes great!)
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

I like to go ahead a beat the egg whites till they’re decently stiff, 2 min on high.

Mix together the dry ingredients, don’t worry about sifting, but go ahead if you must. I didn’t.

Mix in another LARGE bowl persimmon pulp, melted butter, egg yolks, and milk.

Mix the dry into the wet a little at a time, then fold in egg whites last. Pour into a greased and floured 9×13 baking dish. Bake at 360° for 45 minutes, or until a pick comes out with tacky crumbs on it. It is a pudding after all.

This pudding will look pretty in the oven, but it WILL DEFLATE. Don’t panic, that’s just how southerners like it. It’s not a crumby dessert like brownies or cake, it’s dense like fudge, but light like pudding.

 

A Closer Look Into the Story of My Awe-Inspiring Grandmother – Goldie (Stroud) Simpson

City life can be hectic, busy, and feel a bit congested sometimes. Many times, ideal vacations entail getting away from the hustle and bustle. Being in Southern Indiana made me feel like I had escaped my crazy life back in Anderson. Valeene was even more disconnected in the 1940’s when my grandmother Goldie (Stroud) Simpson was growing up there. It made me wonder though, why did she leave her family down south and start a new city life up north? I always figured my grandmother gave up her life in South to come work in the booming GM factories up North. This weekend trip shed some light on the subject, as I learned what a strong-willed woman my grandmother must have been.

I had only met my great aunt and second cousins when I was just a little girl, so my memory of them was faint at best. I remember “mooing” at the cows on the farm and crossing a little bridge on their driveway. The farm was originally home to my father’s grandmother and grandfather (where his mom grew up). Later, one of the boys took over the farm and lived there with his wife (my dad’s aunt in-law, Doris), making her my great aunt in-law. Doris (Free) Stroud still lives there today. The other faint memory I have is attending her husband’s funeral. This would have been my great uncle Wayne Stroud. I remember being so sad, because at the time of the funeral I was aware and remembered the time I had visited him as a very little girl, and riding in his truck in back country. Those memories have since passed my brain.

My dad would always remanence about how much he enjoyed weekend trips to southern Indiana as a kid with his mom and dad to visit his grandma, uncle Wayne, and aunt Doris. It appeared to me country life the way they had it was so much better. I learned though, in the 1930’s and 1940’s, it may not have been so great for women. My dad told me that his mom’s father was a mean old man. Goldie was the only daughter of 4 children. She spent her days working with her mother on the family farm doing house chores. You can imagine the loads of laundry a bunch of farm boys would make. Once she reached high school age (16), she was told to drop out of school and help at home full-time. While she would work long and hard days, the boys would get away with goofing around and taking day trips to the city of Paoli. The little house in the country on 140 acres of farm land that I thought was simply quaint, was a place of desolation for my grandmother. The house had a little well at the bottom of the hill where they got their water, and an outhouse for the bathroom. Who could blame her for making a run for it?

She took a chance and moved to Anderson, Indiana to work in the GM factories. Her father disapproved of her leaving, and he let her know it for the rest of her life. He never gave her a welcome when she’d come to visit, and even acted bitter towards her children, his own grandchildren. When he died, he left her nothing. Her mother was always kind and empathetic. She’d always do what she could to make right her husband’s wrong doings. Goldie met my grandfather, Paul Simpson who passed before I was born, and had four boys. In Goldie’s father’s eyes, Paul was a no-good city boy, but Paul treated her with love and respect.

She was regarded as a home maker, but she is more than that to me. In a time when women weren’t encouraged to think for themselves, she did, and I praise her for her courage. She beat two types of cancer when the doctors said she wouldn’t. She also raised my father, who is a mighty great father because of her. I know now where my resilience and drive stems from. I hope to live a life she’d be proud of. I am a survivor, just as she was. Just as her story is in my heart.

 

My Beginnings; Aspiration After Aspiration

Children aren’t irrational, the
world is…

Children are simple. Simply complex with beautiful fragile minds. Just as we always feel pity for helpless animals, I feel an inclination to take extra care with children too. Unlike animals, children can’t always preserve the sort of innocence and dependency as animals do. We expect them to grow up, pay taxes, and raise children themselves someday just like the rest of us. Most children don’t even think about this phenomenon at a young age. Most children never think about being done wrong or intentionally hurt. Of course, there’s always some that do, like myself.

I came into this world with an alcoholic and drug addict as a mother. No number of cute giggles, amount of baby’s breath, or crocodile tears was going to persuade her to change her ways. I was the last of four children she brought into this world. The three before me are of a different father, who has since passed. I was, and am still, very fortunate to have a spiritual father that has pushed me in every aspect of my life. His goofy quirks like singing silly songs, or cooking bacon and eggs every Saturday morning, let me live out a happy childhood. My mother and father finally split when I was around 13 years of age. By this time, I had come accustomed to life giving liberally handing out lemons. Shortcomings were something I just assumed happened in most situations, and I was prepared for anything life had to throw at me.

As a little kid, I was very observant. I took notice of everything that went on around me. I would analyze things, and take them apart to understand how they worked. I didn’t just pull the tape out of cassettes for fun. It started with me looking at the wheels and wanting to get a better look at the whole mechanism. Oddly though, when I started school, I struggled academically. My mind couldn’t focus in on tasks and executing what I was told to do. Eventually I got better at this and learned how to be task oriented. When I went on to middle school, I struggled with math. I was always angry, moody, and sometimes down right depressed. The last thing on my mind was pre-algebra. I found more pleasure in being a free wild spirit. Heaven forbid someone suggest I sit down and study for an hour. I rather be consumed by the drama, and be a headache to some of my teachers. This isn’t an odd way for children to behave, especially for kids with a troubling background.

It all changed luckily. I went in with the same attitude of “screw it”. Dropping out did not sound like such a bad thing to me, for I knew that the world sometimes cradles individuals that faltered in life. I saw it all the time with my mother. She never seemed to reap any consequences for her actions. I knew it was unfair, but I had no real intentions of being much better. That was until my first day of 9th grade algebra. I had a teacher who told us, “Today you make the decision to do it right. Take AP dual credit classes now. Don’t wait till 10th grade to get with the program. Desire to achieve beyond all expectations today”. Those words were a wake-up call to me. For some reason, they resonated. I didn’t want to get into 10th grade, falling short in required credits to graduate. For once I felt scared, but hopeful, and in control of my future. I decided then, I wanted to have a future of endless possibilities. I cleaned up my act and attitude. I began to respect others, and in turn, found how to fully respect myself. I didn’t feel such a need to be the center of attention.

By my senior year of high school, I had 37 AP credits, a 4.6 GPA, and a bunch of dreams considered unattainable. I had been flying through high school with straight A’s and finding success in every venture I took until approximately 3 months prior to graduation. I had held valedictorian all through my high school career. The vice principal informed me that they decided to count 8th grade mathematics for high school credit. The same class I couldn’t care less about. This kicked me back to 3rd. There were several girls in high school that had a bit of a vengeance against me because I would always hold the pole position. I didn’t really care too much about what the rank was, but I was applying to colleges like University of Chicago, North West University, and Harvard. I wanted that rank to prove I could do it. With a class of over 400 people, I worked my hardest to obtain it. I told myself I wouldn’t settle for less than Ivy league or at least something close. I felt like I deserved it, but those schools didn’t think the same.

This blow was the first big blow I encountered and had to swallow since I was a little girl. It reminded me how unfair life can be. I have always loved art, as it was an outlet for me to be free. I feel like that is my true calling, to create beautiful products from my own troubled heart. I knew that in high school. That is why I applied to The Chicago Institute of Art along with all the Ivy Leagues. I was accepted with a good scholarship into their Interior Design program. I decided to pursue engineering by the time I received my notification of my acceptance to this prestigious art school. I knew I was good at math and science, but there’s a bit of a darker reason I chose this path. I would sit in the calculus room during lunches and study during my senior year. One day, a representative from the Indianapolis art institute came in to speak with the teacher about providing information regarding the art school to the students. He brushed her off and told her to come in during his remedial math class. “I’d be happy if those kids did anything with their life. Art school would be better than them being delinquents”, he said. That was when I decided, I won’t go to art school.

I muddled with a college selection all summer. I was considering Pepperdine for economics, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. Both were going to cost a lot of money, and I knew I had a full ride to any Indiana state school. I realized by about July that I messed up. I made a last second scrambled and applied to Purdue University as Exploratory Studies. It wasn’t a matter of choice; the engineering school was filled up. The collegiate experience, I will leave for another blog. It has a whole host of other life lessons. I eventually switched schools. Guessing I reapplied to art school, right? Well wrong, I decided to pursue Mechatronics Engineering at Purdue Polytechnic Anderson. I found a happy place with a promising future.

The take away here is, I was once a child. I could dream and push and SUCCEEDE. Not all the time though. I set myself on a path of success just to see myself pile on more bigger and better dreams. My dreams were pure and untouched by negativity, even though I came from such a scary past. My grit, the drive to become my best, came from a few positive motivating words. A life time of hurt didn’t keep me from pursuing my full potential. A few words though were enough to make me question my true talents and the opportunity to hone in on my best skill sets. Children are fragile, but they are equipped with the ability to heal. I wish the Courtney in 2nd grade would have been sitting in that calculus room during lunch my senior year. When the teacher made the remark about art school being for dead enders, I wouldn’t have even digested those words.

Although it is easy to think that way, I have developed new dreams and goals around my reality. I hope to work in the aviation field someday. I would love to work with a company like Airbus or Boeing, but my dreams don’t stop there. I have always loved the stars. I hope to be a part of Space Exploration in some way or another. I’d never turn down the opportunity to engineer for NASA or float around up in space. I went to Spring Mill State Park during my weekend getaway. I had to stop at the Gus Grissom Museum. He was a graduate of Purdue University in Mechatronics Engineering, and flew up in space on the Gemini III, Molly Brown. That was his most famous voyage. This ship, along with his suit was on display in this little museum. I asked myself if I could climb into this tiny capsule and put my faith into a tin can. Of course, I know I could. I’ll shoot for the moon, and even a new universe, and I’ll get there. A little tin can (and a lot of fuel) got Gus Grissom out of earth’s atmosphere and back home safely. That was just one of several successful voyages. I think my faith in my own voyage will take me even further.