Oh, the allure of early spring.
Those fresh, brisk, promising mornings of pastel…peeps. Like the baby chick kind of incessant peeping.
More about that in a moment.
First, an introduction to my late grandma Moravec who, along with grandpa Moravec, were significant influencers during my formative years since they babysat me while mom either taught school or took summer classes. Grandma was our go-to Einstein who always got the call when something went awry, a pet was sick, or we just didn’t know what else to do.
To set the scene, my paternal grandmother, Helen Nell Pliva Moravec, was a full-blooded Czech and damn proud of it. Think of a stocky eastern European woman with her babushka (scarf) tied tightly beneath her chin, framing the ever-present scowl. Then, put a jolly smile on that full face and you’d have my grandma Moravec.
While grandpa Moravec was a quiet mystery, someone you hardly even knew was there, grandma—similar to her son, my Uncle Frankie Moravec—was the life of the party. Nobody ever messed with grandma, or she’d lop your head off on the bloody tree stump with the dull axe she used to cut off chicken’s heads on butchering day, then throw you in the boiling water, too, feathers and all. She was the one relegated to do the chicken butchering and fish massacring, but she was constantly smiling.
However, I remember grandma most as an amazing cook.
Czech main dishes have five primary ingredients: lard, flour, eggs, salt and some type of meat from a sacrificed critter from the chicken coop, county fair, or Uncle Frankie’s cow pond. A few hours before mealtime, grandma would take a package of meat out one of her three freezers and set it on the counter to defrost.
When it was time to cook, she would flop each piece of meat around in egg wash, then dredge it in flour/salt/pepper, then crowd it in with other pieces of meat in a pre-heated fry pan of lard approaching the boiling point. No steaming or baking here.
Next, she would reach for the 2 lb. paper bag of Morton’s salt from under the kitchen sink, scoop out a generous handful, and release hearty portions of salt from her fingers over each piece of meat. A few minutes later, she would turn over each piece with a fork, reach for another handful of salt, and release the same amount of salt on the other side. Pure sodium chloride bliss.
For those who are unfamiliar with lard, here’s the low-down. Generally, lard is fat from the abdomen of a pig that is rendered and clarified for use in cooking. We used to be able to find it in the big glass jar under grandma’s kitchen sink. Think Crisco, but lumpy and a nearly-translucent creamy-yellow color. Killer pie crust!
In the spring, one of life’s little miracles would unfold at grandma and grandpa’s. Her annual shipment of baby chicks would arrive in the mail. Seriously. In the mail. The arrival of the big box of chicks was just one of the many reasons it was great that dad was our town’s mail carrier. I remember one year he took me to the Cotesfield Post Office to sort mail when the chicks arrived. In the corner of the damp, dusky wooden Post Office was a cardboard box with air holes, about 4 feet wide by 3 feet deep by 1 foot tall. And it was chirping! Do you have any idea how much noise one cardboard box full of two-day old baby chicks makes? It is deafening.
The reason why new-born baby chicks can be delivered through the mail is because for the first 3 days of their life they are still ingesting their yolk sacs, a membranous sac that provides early nourishment in the form of yolk in a variety of species, including birds.
Once the box full of chicks was delivered to grandma’s house she took them straight to their dedicated chick coop, complete with fresh straw on the floor and multiple overhead heat lamps to keep them warm. Grandma would feed them some type of chick food mash that reminded me of wet Grape Nuts cereal. They would walk through their food dishes and water dishes, traipsing water and goo and straw wherever they went. They were fuzzy, yellow, chirpy creatures that—like puppies and kittens—stayed cute for about a week.
And then spring was over.
There’s much more non-spring info to share, so it’s speed-round time. Here we go!
In early March I participated in a three-day workshop called “Soul Speaks from the Stage,” part of the marketing mastermind I referenced a few months back. We learned about speaking circles and how making individual eye contact with members of the audience while speaking helps make public speaking more soulful and meaningful. I told four stories over the three days, culminating in an 8-minute story the final day that explained why I believe cancer’s emotional scars deserve tailored, intuitive healing opportunities. It was an emotionally triumphant experience, to say the least.
Yikes! I am grateful to the other founding members on the Survivors Committee who are breast cancer leaders and advocates. Here’s a wonderful website for an organization founded by Dr. Laura Carfang, a fellow founder, that offers a wealth of online breast cancer educational information and support opportunities, ranging from podcasts to yoga to book clubs: www.survivingbreastcancer.org
Speaking Gig in Castle Rock – and You’re Invited!
For those in the Denver area who might be interested in attending, I will be the keynote speaker at the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce’s spring Women of Influence Luncheon on Wednesday, April 27, at The Oaks, 321 Players Club Drive, in Castle Rock. Although there is a cost involved, this one will be fun, and I promise to bring my A game! More info, including registration details, here:
Prayers for Peace
In closing, spring rekindles our hope, but this year’s spring is also heartbreaking. Prayers of peace for the citizens of Ukraine who have been invaded and violated in unthinkable ways. Their stories of courage, grit, and determination are once again a reminder of our world’s fragility and the seemingly endless tests of our faith.
Like the tulips that will soon peek through the soil to remind us another season of renewal is here, I believe these struggles — in all their sadness and grief — also build resilience. Resilience and the belief in the strength of unity.
We are in this together. And for that, I am exceedingly grateful.