Worth the Fight

On this weekend which generally represents the precipice of summer I sit here on my porch pondering. All of the little everyday pleasures I enjoy, and often take for granted, are borne on the backs of men and women spanning our history. These walls were erected only a short time after our Civil War. I imagine through the time spanning just shy of 150 years these bricks have observed gains and losses worthy of the red, white, and blue banner that still flies outside today. 

This day also marks my parents anniversary. I’ve had the privilege of being raised by two people who have loved each other throughout my whole lifetime. They are together today having withstood hardships of everyday life which can take a toll on any couple. Before they met my dad served this country in Vietnam-during a time when we stabbed our own in the back showing them little thanks or respect for the atrocities they’d faced. They returned scarred only to be further beaten by reproach. My dad is quiet on the subject, but I know it effected him along with so many others.  He was able to continue on after his unwelcome arrival home and live a “normal” life.  The same cannot be said for all in his position during that era. 

Its these scars of war, the living losses, I think about most this weekend. I honor the dead, but also the living, who live their lives with buried pasts. I drink my coffee on the front porch without loss of limb, peace of mind, or flashbacks. These men and women who give all of themselves for a span of time by becoming the property of Uncle Sam and then at the end must figure out how to be normal again- how to hold down a civilian lifestyle- as if that chapter were behind them. But it never really is because it is now who they are. Because of them we are who we can be.

For the service man/woman who have returned to build a life, a home, thank you. And thank you to those who are too scarred to do so. I’m sorry. My debt to you is great as you’ve given your peace for mine. To those whom have never come home: tearful gratitude to your families. May our future generations continue to mark your passing.  May they remember how our homes here in the US came to be and that as the saying goes “Freedom isn’t Free.”

As one storm passed leaving a rainbow over our flag I couldn’t help but acknowledge the irony of yet another storm moving in. So it is with our freedom: a wave of storm, peace and hope, and then another wave to fight. Its a constant flow in humanity..you must fight for the peace youd like to keep.

No Flights Today

It is 10 am Monday morning, and though I like to write my blog in the quiet of a Sunday lull that didn’t happen this weekend. Mostly because there was no lull. So here I sit with coffee cup number two while waiting for my son to finish his hour long breakfast. It consisted of an egg with cheese bagel and a cup of milk. An hour folks. He is still reeling from his birthday celebration yesterday. It was a late night with lots of sugar and the thrill of new toys. Not sure how any form of focus will be achieved today. There is too much to tend to.

If that were all we did this weekend we might not be so divided. We’ve been running non-stop for over a week now. Envision a woman with a distracted child in tow running frantically through an airport in efforts to catch the next flight: that’s me. In my own home. Everyone is taking separate flights in different directions and the departures are marked on the side of the fridge. 

I am trying to finish up the tail end of second grade with one child while running 40 minutes each direction to fetch another from his summer job to connect with his drivers ed classes. Throw meals and some necessary laundry in there and the days are gone before I know it. Grocery shopping filled one entire afternoon. This is what the last week has consisted of. 

Saturday we spent our day with a family we love celebrating a graduation. It was a sweet time filled with joyous smiles. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Yet, during a quiet moment between conversations, my mind panicked at what was waiting at home. I needed to be there. To catch that next flight. I would have Sunday School to prep for and a party to pull off afterward. But not before cleaning up the house along with the remains of 1000 purple sprinkles I had on the floor from said graduates cupcakes I had decorated. In that moment I had to intentionally breathe and choose to enjoy the day I had right in front of me. I couldn’t clean my house or throw laundry in the machine while at the party anyway. I had to choose to be present.

I get so frustrated with my boy who dawdles at an extreme. His focus level is at a 0 today. It turns out that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I have age (for sure) and maturity (I think), yet still find myself fighting the same battle. There is no flight leaving this house today. We are grounded for repairs. Thank God. Any departure may crash land at this point. It is now 11:30- still doing that math lesson. Another cup of coffee anyone?

On Being “Mom”

When Mothers Day dawns all sunny and bright marked by vibrant florals and sentimental cards it may be possible to forget for the day how hard motherhood can be. Carrying the name “mom” comes with joys and sorrows-thank God there’s usually enough of each to balance out. One thing’s for certain, not much else on earth will test you as a human like trying everyday to be worthy of the title.

Growing up it was just my younger sister and I with two parents who loved each other and us. Our home wasn’t perfect, but the older I get the more I see the cracks that exist in us all. No-one is perfect so I never expected my parents to be. They did what they could the best they knew how. My mom would cry at her failures. Though there were some, it’s mostly the blanket tents she’d build for us, the way she would get down on the floor and play, and the handmade gowns she made for our Barbies I remember most.

One of the many ensembles mom made for us..complete with little tiny handsewn seed beads.

She was present. There wasn’t a basketball game she didn’t attend to watch us cheer for….and I still hear her screams echoing from the bleachers. Most importantly, her love for Jesus still echos in our hearts. That counts more than anything.

We hold our mothers, more than anyone else, to unrealistic standards. We forget they have lives outside of their children..and their own pieces to hold together as well as everyone else’s when life falls apart. Everyone needs their smile, grace, and strength..but they need those things as well. They have lives they lived before us. Behind the scenes they were a person we may never know. There are things they hide in hopes we don’t fall into the same patterns, and things they reveal for our betterment. All of us mothers are woven with the same colors in different patterns needing and wanting the same things. We all want the best, deep down fear the worst, and pray to God He answers somewhere in the middle. We try our hardest; sometimes to our own detriment. We look forward to hopefully seeing our children grow into better humans than we are. We cry. We laugh. We love deeply. We are mom.

A Daily Chore

One part of my Sunday routine is to map out some basic form of meal plan for the week ahead; not because I’m super organized or even an amazing cook, but because I don’t want to go insane. If I do not do this one simple task my weekday evenings all look about the same. Come about three o’clock I start pacing the kitchen mumbling incoherent phrases about having no idea what to make for supper.  I have this ingredient but not that one. I could make this if only I had started at 11 eleven in the morning. If I had thawed that last night then I could make that recipe….by four I’m in panic mode throwing some potatoes in a pan to boil while I prep some kind of stove top mush to go with it. I apologize at the dinner table and popcorn is popped at around 8 to make up for the poor meal.

When I have a simple strategy things go so much smoother, and tastier, at mealtime. I jot down the days of the week on a piece of paper and think about what’s in the fridge or freezer. Day by a day a simple note lays out what meats I’ll be using (so I’ll actually have them thawed), and a possible side dish to go with. Its amazing how a little less brain work around mid afternoon makes the day brighter as well…for me anyway.

My favorite meal day of the week is Saturday. Its like the <free> space on a bingo card. At our house it’s pizza. Every week. Winter, spring, summer, and fall. The only exceptions are possibly holidays, special events like weddings falling on a Saturday, or lake days when the grill is the only answer. This routine started years ago for us, but began on Friday’s. At that time we had three small children and a pizza budget wasn’t an option every week so I found a recipe in my bread machine booklet for pizza dough. Bread machines were ever so popular then so I put mine to use. It was simple…but I still had to buy sauce, cheese, toppings…it was cheaper than a weekly Dominoes run but I did some more thinking.

We’ve always had a garden and extra tomatoes that I never knew what to do with. Lightbulb-pizza sauce. That next summer the recipe for my own sauce was born by adding what I liked and subtracting what I didn’t have from three others. While the process is basic it is time consuming. There’s nothing like going to the basement in January though and finding a jar of homecanned sauce which I know is healthy and cost me almost nothing to make.

So I have my own dough, my own sauce, and we just have to add whatever toppings we want with cheese every Saturday. Over the years I’ve tweaked and perfected until now I don’t even use the breadmaker. My kitchen aid and a cotton towel are all I need to make a perfectly rising pizza crust. I’ve also been able to adapt when necessary using different flours and no sugar versions to meet dietary restrictions.

So as I sit here looking at the week ahead I see Brats that really need to be used..let’s put those on a busy day because they’re easy. I have 5 pounds of chicken breast so I will thaw three and make what our family lovingly refers to as “chicken bla bla bla”. Seriously…born out of one of those freak out evenings when I didn’t know what to make. Its cubed chicken sauteed in garlic and butter then cream of chicken soup and 8 oz cream cheese. When cooked through I add mixed veggies to make a creamy version of pot pie like filling and serve with baking powder biscuits on the side. Its accidentally became one of my daughter’s favorites. Anyway, we also have a roast to use and maybe we’ll have hamburgers one night too.  I’ll have 2 pounds of the chicken left so by weeks end I’ll use it up in a big chicken salad. And Saturday is pizza. See, done. Easy peasy.

Now for the prep and cleanup. But as for me the hard part, the brain work, is done.

If interested in making your own yummy pizza here’s the recipe to my favorite dough which makes two large pizzas:

  • 6 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups tepid to warm water
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix yeast with warm water until dissolved in mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients on top of yeast mixture and then pour oil around the edges. Now mix all together until ball of dough is formed. This can be done with a heavy duty mixer and dough hook or by hand. Once dough ball is formed cover with cotton cloth and let rise in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled.

Divide into individual pizzas and press to smooth to edges. If dough is a bit sticky just spread some flour onto pizza pan or stone before spreading. We also like to add a bit of butter and garlic salt to the outer edges of the crust before baking as well.

What I saw in a Scone

I spent about an hour of my afternoon making Loaded Bagel Scones from a recipe in a recent publication. They turned out lovely- light, flaky, and loaded with flavors of butter and garlic. Yes, you may have guessed it. I’ve been stewing over something for almost a week now. My jumbled thoughts spilled into the mixing bowl along with oats and spices. Now they’ll continue to spill onto you.

How easily this pretty creation flaked onto my plate..

In our self absorbed, instantly gratified society it’s easy to see how marriage after marriage crumbles from golden perfection into pieces barely recognizable. All it can take is a little pressure. The crisp outside image gives way and the delicate heart is left exposed. It happens everyday. Love has been deemed disposable.

I have never known a couple in trouble who didn’t start off well intentioned. Our goals are similar with vows: To love and to cherish; For richer or poorer; In sickness and health; ‘Til death do us part….but even at the altar I question if the bride and groom will be able to see past their own heart into that of the other. At that moment of pituresque wedded bliss it’s all about hopes and dreams.

Fast forward. What happens when the dreams fade and hopes are dashed? When real life kicks you with any number of things? Will the crumbs you cling to be kept moist and sustaining or will you allow them to be exposed, dry, and lacking substance?

Selfishness. That’s what I see. The questions I hear couples asking are if they feel happy, fulfilled, maintained. All too soon the focus on what is missing becomes the entire scope of a lifeless marriage and there’s a reaching for what is lacking somewhere else. It may not even be conscientious at first. Under the radar the attention you crave becomes a pull in the wrong direction. Some affairs are physical in nature, but others stay hidden in the heart or mind and manifest in a variety of ways. They all are wrong. They all can be avoided.

I’m not a marriage guru pretending to have the answers. I am deeply saddened by what I see all around me and am not afraid to share what I know. 

  • Love is fragile. When it is nourished properly it grows strong and deep, but it is never impenetrable.
  • Having God at the core of a relationship is key- but even “Christian marriages” turn ugly fast. When ministry trumps your spouse in any way you’re married to the wrong thing.
  • What God knows, your spouse is entitled to know. No secrets. Accountability is crucial.
  • Silence is golden. (this one has taken me a long time to learn) Words spoken cannot be retrieved so think hard and pray first…especially when angry.
  • The whole marriage is 50/50 bit-ya but no. Sometimes it’s 70/30, other times it’s 90/10, but rarely is it truly 50/50. Giving to each other’s needs throughout life the scales won’t always be tipped the same direction. What one bears at one stage in life the other may take on more heavily later on. Its a constant ebb and flow that sometimes doesn’t seem fair…but theres that selfishness again. Marriage isn’t about fairness.
  • Never let divorce be an option. If it’s an option, then it’s an option. Too simple? Let me rephrase…don’t even look up a divorce attorneys phone number ‘just in case’ toying with the idea of how your life could be better without your spouse. A seed that is never planted cannot grow. That goes for about 1000 Other scenarios as well.
  • One of the biggest oversights I’ve seen seems so small, but ultimately is the single largest source of infidelities. Don’t allow yourself to be alone with another man/woman. I don’t care if you know each other and have been friends for years. You’re not as strong as you think. Don’t even allow a suspicious opportunity. That’s just appropriate wisdom. 

There are so many helpful ideas, dos and donts. Many of them are found in scripture and still more learned just through life lessons. What I’ve learned I’ve chosen to apply with discipline. The stakes are high and I don’t want to lose.

Our wedding day was horrible. I’m not kidding. It was cold and monsoon raining. The tension was tangible as we drove to grandma and grandpa’s old church with stained glass windows that I’d always dreamed I’d be married in. We were in the back room getting ready when I learned a family member had predicted us for divorce within the year and yet another more or less cursed the whole thing along with the ‘bastard baby’ I was carrying. You read that right. Apologies to anyone I may have just offended but that is the truth of what happened that day. Here I was a good little Christian girl carrying a baby and a whole load of criticism and judgement down the aisle with me. As the tears ran down my freshly made up face I heard a voice on the other side of the room divider. I wasn’t supposed to see him before the ceremony but shoot, I figured if bad luck existed I’d already evoked It anyway so what did a peek matter. There he was smiling, laughing even, and I knew he was precious to me. It didn’t matter in that moment if the whole world had doomed us to failure. We already knew the odds were stacked against us. We faced head on the fact that we had everything yet to gain if we didn’t continue to fall prey to the traps set for us. Here we are half a lifetime later and I’m more in love with that man today than I was the day we looked everyone in the face at the end of that aisle. In that span of time we’ve seen many couples close to us fall; Those who had great starts and “had it all together”. We are aware that every little thought, every word, every action is important.

Maybe the fact that we began with crumbles rather than a picture perfect scone was a blessing in disguise. It may have been easier to build our life when everyone’s expectations weren’t high to begin with. Its also proof that God can take a situation and turn it around when we allow Him full access to it. We’re living proof.

Our Little Farm

Just shy of twenty four years ago the love of my life and I moved into a small rental on my families farm. Within a few years time we had a little boy and a puppy. Then we added a daughter, a series of dogs and cats, another son, and chickens. When our little girl caught horse fever we arranged riding lessons…and subsequently added three horses to our family as well. Within a few months one of the mares gave us the gift of a little one. The next year there were two more. (Are you doing the math here?) By this time it was painfully obvious we had filled every spare square inch of space inside and out allotted for our use, plus some, on the dear old farm. When I also found out I was pregnant with our fourth child I laughed; telling God He’d better have something planned because keeping a baby in the bathtub as a crib simply wasn’t an option. 

So two adults, three children, six horses, two dogs, a whole colony of cats, and a coop of chickens made our way to a new home two weeks before Christmas 8 1/2 years ago. The newest addition wouldn’t have to sleep in the tub when he arrived after all. He could have his very own little nursery. That summer, overwhelmed by a new baby and a whole new environment, we chose to sell the two youngest colts. Even after gaining ground for them to run and also to grow hay we needed to weigh all we had taken on. The scales tipped too heavily against us. A bittersweet balance was restored with their sale.

I guess after a few years balance felt boring so the decision was made to take on a couple of feeder calves for my dad. Kind of a pet project for our outdoorsy teenage son, we thought it would be a win /win situation. We would have a freezer of meat while he learned how to manage life. My dad would also profit from the sale of the extra meat. Fast forward a couple more years to the present. 

When people ask if we live on a farm I usually answer no. There are farms all around us with livestock, barns, tractors, and fields. We just have a few acres and some animals….make that two horses, 4 dogs, 6 cats, 18 chickens, and 6 Scottish Highland cattle- with two more on the way. We have a field of hay, a couple of pastures, and barn with a lean to, chicken coop, feed wagon, and a large garden in the midst of it all. The reality is that I have been lying to people. I live on a farm…or a small zoo. Not sure how I will answer next time I’m asked.

Yesterday I stood there and watched as the cattle ran through the gate out into the pasture in pure joyous abandon. It brought a smile; for a moment. The new baby was in the mix and very curious about her new surroundings. I then watched as she ran right through the hot wire fence and panic ensued to corral them before they all broke through. For a moment I asked how this has become my life. How did I become a mini farmer who chases cattle on a beautiful Saturday afternoon? I always knew I’d live in the country with a few chickens, some flower beds, and a garden…but huge, hairy, long horned cattle? That image never entered my dreams. Not once.

These are my son’s project- In cahoots with the love of my life and also my father. I just go along for the ride. These adorable beasts quickly become my project each time the guys are gone and I see the neighbor chugging across the yard. Her kitchen window faces the pasture so when something is amiss she’s the first to see it. Thank God for her vantage point and her willingness to alert me. It never fails I’m in the kitchen hands covered in something mid recipie. I shudder to know what she thinks I look like all the time based on what shes seen. Her official contact name on my phone is “the cows are out”. I wish I were kidding but I’m not.

So at this stage in life, while others are prepping for their children to leave the nest and lessening their load, here we are still growing. Biblically I should view us as blessed like Abraham, but he had servants, and cattle wranglers. I shall pray for such things. I don’t know what the future holds, but at this rate I’m thinking I need to invest in another pitchfork, a straw bonnet, and a new pair of boots instead of a retirement villa. Silver lining is that we are kept very active and our children know the meaning of a good days work. On the days when our little wooly mammoths aren’t trying to escape I enjoy them.

A Very Good Friday 

Today is Good Friday and as I went about all matter of Easter prep today I kept bringing my mind back to the meaning of this day-Not the pies my little helper made with me, not the chocolate Easter eggs we’re excited to eat, and not even the time that will be spent celebrating with our families. 

The first thoughts of course were thanks for the suffering Jesus willingly endured for my benefit that I might be saved for eternity. As the day continued on and things fell apart around me little by little I also found myself thankful for other things this day has given to me…yes, I’m going to heaven but I also get to take a deep breath and thank God He gives peace in every situation. 

As my little man helped a little too eagerly with baking pies I was able to look Up for patience. When the pies spilled over in the oven I could laugh instead of cry. When I finally got the wet laundry out to the line (after three hours waiting in the washer for me to clean the other messes) I said thank you to the One whose death enables my physical body to carry the load. He is my healer.

When the phone rings with a heads up telling me my working son and husband are running a little late but are on the last job, I’m thankful we have a Provider. And then, when I finally sit for a moment alone behind a closed door only to hear “mom, the neighbor lady’s walking over. You’d better come out!” Ya, our youngest heifer was loose in the field…and I’m alone with a seven year old. At this point I’m ever so thankful I have a personal relationship with Jesus. I can One on One approach heaven’s gates knowing God hears me. I can call out for help to the only one who in that moment could calm a crazy scared 1000 lb. beast. He’d send angels if necessary to keep her hemmed in until my relief arrived..and that’s quite possibly what happened as she stood there staring at me with fear in her eyes.  I know she saw the fear in mine. I’m also thankful for cell phones and fast old trucks.

Yes, eternity, where we’ll spend it, is of utmost importance. Daily living counts just as much. I cannot imagine life without all that a personal relationship with Jesus offers. Good Friday marks the day He gave everything to care for me, and for you.

The Necessity of a Flower

The week before Easter there are so many things I could be writing about. My heartbeat can be captured in one thought as of late. In a recent publication of The Magnolia Journal there is a page I tore out and then framed: a quotation from Claude Monet, “I must have flowers always and always.” Though we have lived in two different lifetimes I feel his pulse.

There is something about flowers that not only enhances, but at times defines seasons and events. A birth-flowers. A wedding-flowers. A death-flowers. The colors, the scents; each vibrant or soft depending on the emotion or event. They evoke joy in celebration and comfort in sadness. 

Many items have filled my plate over the last month. Some good, some bad. Each adding up to an overwhelming pressure building up inside. The rain this last week was endless. The cold air pressed down like February. My flowers bowed their heads, and some even tucked themselves tightly within, to hide. They do not have personality or feelings yet they respond in every climate. A flower can be an amazing portrait of life itself. Each is beatiful and different blooming in the way it was created until after its short duration gives way to the ground…but not before reproducing itself in some amazing way. While they are able to withstand more than we think bearable at times, (hyacinths in the snow), still inevitably there are some who are wounded or even lost to the elements. A few of this year’s tulips are marked by frost and torn by the wind, but given the current warming trend will show their color in a few weeks. When I see them I smile. The browned tips have added character. And so it is with each of us.

I previously mentioned my full plate-one shifting like the earth itself building seismic pressure. Yesterday my loving husband took me to the store and purchased mulch for me. During the course of the afternoon I dug, weeded, dumped bag after bag of mulch, and hand filled areas around hundreds of new blooms. He instinctively knew the therapy I needed. I cannot remember a time in my life I didn’t gravitate towards a sunny bloom.

As a child I picked violets, dandelions, and clover by the handfuls creating boquets several times a day as soon as they blossomed. (My. Poor. Mother.) With summer came the wild scent of climbing roses in the woods mixed with fresh hay in the field which would draw me down the long farm lane. My retreat. Through weekly roses purchased from my high school horticulture class my husband won my heart. No surprise I chose to be a florist as a career, and now create just for sheer pleasure.

So by writing about flowers, I’ve just written about our lives this week. We need the rain, the cold, the pressure, the sun…we hide, we bloom, we create seeds and new life, we provide sunshine and joy, and then we decline making room for what comes next. In a flower we can see the Creator of it all whom we celebrate this Easter week. 

“I must have flowers always and always.”

Unpopular Decisions on a Popular Weekend

Since Christmas time we have had very few activities on our social calendar. No birthday/anniversary parties, baby/bridal showers, weddings…It has been up to us to create our own enjoyment. Each weekend has been filled with work or our own play. About a month ago the invitations began to filter in. Each had one thing in common: the first weekend in April. No kidding. When it rains it pours. This may sound like a grand entrance into spring activity, but for me it carried the dread of deciding whom I needed to offer apologies to because I haven’t yet discovered a way to be omnipresent. All of the activities were within a 60 mile radius and spread over three days time, but multiply that times 6 and you’d have our weekend itinerary.

I used to try to make everyone happy-burning the candle brightly for each while my own wick flamed lower until there was barely a flame left. While each person we receive an invite from is important in our lives, (hence the invite), I have gotten over the urge to be there for everyone, but still don’t have the ability to forgo the guilt. 

I would have liked to stamped at a friend’s home (…like with other women, who talk about women things, and enjoy doing things I like to do), but I could not tell my son I wouldn’t be there for his parents day 4H shoot. Today was the church potluck (which we’ve missed two times prior), simultaneous to a family baby shower. There is usually understanding and grace given by the unattended party, but not always. 

Sometimes there is an underlying “shaming”.  A questioning of how my priorities fall. As a general “peace-maker” this is where the guilt pours in. There are those who may never understand why 6 activities are too many for one of our weekends…but I may never understand how some can run without end and appear none the worse for wear. Everyone has to snap at some point. But to each is given different lenths of energy and abilities at various seasons in life. Right now I have a thin short band to stretch and what we chose to include in our weekend was enough to fondly remember for years to come without the reaching a breaking point I couldn’t quickly recover from. 

We’ve celebrated 16 years of one of our children’s lives and hosted a small party in his honor. A family member who we see only a few times a year traveled just under five hours to be here. We watched our children shoot at candy on targets and giggle as they hit (or missed) them at their 4H party. Afterward we had pizza and played out in the retreating sunshine with puppies. My family and I worked together to make dishes to pass, and then took them to a potluck to visit with a few faces I don’t get to regularly visit on a normal Sunday. These are the things we chose with intention. 

Each day I struggled with what others would think of me because of what I couldn’t do. I enjoyed the things that we did. Now rest has come with all of it over with …until next time when I ask God to help me choose again. Our family alone has four birthdays spanning the next two months so we created some of our own springtime calendar congestion. Add Easter, graduations, and weddings..There will be more choices ahead for sure.

Birthday face full of smiles
Got the pups together for a playdate

Not Your Average Sucker

One of the best ways to create a lovely home is to leave it occasionally. Not to grocery shop. Not to run errands. But leave; intentionally. For fun. It is refreshing to leave normal behind for an adventure and then to return grateful for what you’ve experienced.

A few days ago my youngest and I left this house with dishes unwashed and laundry piled undone for a field trip. Bright morning sunshine led us southwest across about 50 miles of US Hwy 127 to the beautiful little city of Bryon, OH. We traveled acres of fields through burgs barely assigned a map dot.

Here the road literally split the lovely farm in half…apparently it couldn’t swerve into the open fields all around

 If you look up Spangler Candy Company you’ll discover an 111 year old business which supplies the world with Dum Dum suckers; amongst other well known candy treats. Here in Bryon is where it all began in 1906 as a family business selling baking supplies such as Gold Leaf baking powder. A short time later they decided to make the sweets themselves.


Museum displays noting the beginnings of the local candy empire

For a modest fee we hopped on the trolley tour which lasted a half hour and took us through the packaging and distribution center. Visitors are no longer able to watch the actual candy making process due to health regulations but an informative video presentation filled us in. It was a nice little tour that included the history of the company, and told us how the famous Dum dum sucker got its name. You’ll have to take the tour to find out for yourself.

My single largest take away that day was that Spangler is still a privately owned business which is hugely successful despite remaining in a farming community. While most modern world success stories include buy outs and corporate compromise this company has remained single minded in its venture. Another thing I noticed on the tour was that most of the employees were middle aged or older. I imagine them returning from work each evening to rejoin family at the dinner table for pot roast simmered in a crock all day. It seemed as though the ‘little guy’ still matters.

While my son saw only candy canes and suckers, I saw that it is still possible to succeed in your own backyard with hard work and a great idea. Sometimes I forget when looking through the same glass each day that the view out of someone else’s can be very similiar. A family in an old home surrounded by fields began a venture that is still going strong today. It has taken twists and turns, it has grown while remaining focused on what matters, and it remains today where it was rooted over a century ago.