Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nancy J. Ring: One Year Without You Here


Forks, bends, detours, scenery, and fellow travelers I've discovered while Exploring the Path Home.
It's been a year since Nancy went home to be with Our Lord. I'm sure she feels as if she just got there and the joy must be overwhelmingly wonderful. But back here in our lives, we still miss her! And we miss the things she would've had to say about so many things that have happened. We want to talk to her about them. We want to ask her for her opinions and hear her jokes. We want to see her beautiful cat's antics through her eyes. Anyway, I couldn't let this day pass without a nod to missing her.

From March 13, 2010:
This is what you'll find on freelance writer and community mental health counselor Nancy J. Ring's blog. That, and a whole lot of wisdom and truths that just leave you breathless. I am having a tough time telling you just one post to read, so let's just say that you should read the whole thing including quotes, favorites, and  things. Nancy found the ultimate path Home on March 13, 2010.

A native Chicagoan, she graduated with a Master’s in Community Counseling  and held her Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) certification. She worked with adults who have severe and persistent mental illness, so she knows a lot about how it can be tough to find the path home. She worked at the same place for nearly 10 years and loves that her work focuses on helping people achieve their vocational goals, as well as working on emotional health and well being. Besides work she also volunteered in her church and worked on setting up a food pantry.

When asked about how all of this affected her writing she said,"Helping people become who they are meant to be is a theme that runs through my writing, my counseling, and my ministry."

I know I gain many insights into myself and my own writing from Nancy and her blog and I will miss her so much in our group where we shared so much. She is in a great place now and wouldn't want to come back, so someday I will go to her and that comforts me somehow. She has been a writing buddy in my Struggling Artists of Literary Talent (SALT) for many years, so I love her as a sister, and my fellow SALT sisters are suffering today along with me. We got together over 10 years ago to critique each others' writing, but we bonded as sisters and cared about and prayed about every aspect of our lives. She was the youngest of the group, but seemed wise beyond her years.

Nancy wrote nonfiction articles for women, adults, and teens on all kinds of inspirational, Christian living topics. She's  also written Sunday School curriculum for her church and award-winning grants for her vocational program at work.

Her blog started as a way to get back into writing after she had finished graduate school.
Nancy said, "It’s helped me find my voice, connect with other writers, and helped me identify writing topics I might not have otherwise considered."

Sometime back I interviewed Nancy for my blog, When I Was Just a Kid. I think it's appropriate to share that interview again. I want to celebrate her life, which was lived to the fullest. Amen.

Childhood Ambition: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a doctor, a gymnast, a scientist, and an artist. Sadly, I wasn’t very good at any of these things. When I discovered how much math was required to be a scientist or doctor, I ditched those goals right away.

I still like gymnastics and art, and I’m still not good at either one of them.

Fondest Memory: Ok, I’m having trouble coming up with one stand-out memory. I think it’s mostly the little memories that I’m fond of. Our family Christmas traditions, getting ice cream or Gene & Jude’s hot dogs when me & my brother had good report cards, and having my aunt’s family over for brunch after church on Sunday. I’m sure there’s more extraordinary memories, but these are the ones I recall at the moment.

Proudest Moment :A lot of my proudest moments seem to be related to academics. I guess I’m a nerd. When I was in 7th &  8th grade, I won 3rd place in a spelling bee. At the time I was disappointed that I didn’t place better, but I’m proud of that now. I was also a finalist in a regional story writing contest. I’d been interested in writing ever since I’d read The Hobbit back in 3rd grade, but this was the first time I received real, genuine, encouraging feedback about my writing. Even though I was only a finalist, I was proud of this at the time. Go figure.

Biggest Challenge as a Child or Teen: Most people would think my biggest challenge was growing up with a disability. Spina Bifida has always been a part of my life. I’ve never known life to be any different, and being disabled is only an issue when it’s an issue. Snow on the ground creates an unpleasant experience, but it’s hardly the biggest challenge I’ve ever encountered. The quadratic formula, now that’s a challenge. Does anyone know why we needed to learn that thing anyway?

My First Job: My first job was as a telemarketer for a basement waterproofing company. Cold calling at the age of 14. Despite the fact that most of the calls were rejections, we had fun in the office. Our boss was young himself & would do all sorts of goofy tricks to try to keep our spirits up. He taught me to think outside of the box when you need to address a problem. And if that doesn’t work, go next door to the Hostess shop and buy everyone Twinkies.

Childhood Indulgence: As a kid I was always asking to stay up late to read “just one more chapter.” Also, when my dad was working overnights as a paramedic, on Fridays Mom & I would get pizza and a movie. I looked forward to those nights all week.

Favorite Outfit as a Child: Well, there’s the tea bag Halloween costume my mom made me out of pillowcases. (No, I do not have a picture). I also had a mint green Easter dress I loved when I was about 5 or 6 years old. It had pink ribbon, and lace, and a layered, pleated skirt. I loved that dress.

Favorite Childhood Movie: I loved The Muppet Movie. I still do. Kermit the Frog is wonderful.

Favorite Childhood Book: I read all the time when I was a kid. My mom would buy me chapter books at the beginning of a shopping trip to keep me quiet and by the time she finished shopping I was always asking for another one to sustain me over the car ride home. So while it’s hard to pick just one book, I’d have to say my favorite is The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. This was the book that made me decide I wanted to be a writer. I remember reading the opening paragraphs and trying to figure out what the magic stuff among the words was, what made those words do what they did.

Favorite Childhood Activity: Well, there was reading, of course. And playing on the swings. I still loved to do that. The neighbors across the street had a swing set, but we never did. When my parents did some renovating in the backyard I lobbied for a swing set. Instead, they put up a 2-car garage. My beloved lilac bush was also sacrificed in favor of this ugly, mustard yellow & brown monstrosity. Mom would say that it was “her” lilac bush, but it’s not like she lobbied to save it from the invasion of the garage.

Childhood Hero: I think my favorite childhood hero would have to be Jim Henson. I mentioned this at work the other day, and several of my clients laughed at me. I just think the guy was a creative genius. Kermit the Frog & I seemed to understand each other, and that was very important to me at times when I was growing up.

Favorite Childhood Ritual: Well, there’s the pizza & movie nights with Mom that I mentioned. At Christmas, our family would also hold auctions, where the kids would get to bid on dime store items. For some reason, that was almost as exciting as opening presents. I think I liked knowing that it was something special about how our family celebrated the holidays; something other families didn’t do.


Sample of Nancy's Writing Expertise:
"The Need to Be Needed," reprinted for Ministry in Motion
She has also written for Discipleship Journal, Young Salvationist, Christian Standard, The Christian Communicator, and other publications.

Nancy says about her development as a writer, weaving in all aspects of her life and her philosophy behind it:
"Both my jobs (writing & counseling) are driven by a passion for communication. I’ve also recently discovered the art of making handmade books. I’m very interested in how making books can be used in a therapeutic manner. I think handmade books can be a great bridge between my interests in writing and counseling."

Here's a rainbow from her balcony in Chicago that God hung just for her.

Anchors, Signposts, &  Wanderings

Here's a few of Nancy's favorite things from our photo album:

Bears (these are real bears in fellow SALT sister Paula's yard in Alaska, but she also had a collection of stuffed bears!)

Nancy was able to adopt a gorgeous gray velvet cat whom she named Katerina. Her tales of Kat's adventures kept us entertained!

Nancy was very creative and was able to sell some art. This is a "star book" she created.

This one above is entitled, "She wondered if her eggs would hatch" and has "faith, hope, love" on the eggs. Nancy definitely hatched those three eggs in her own life.She had a delightful sense of humor and whimsy that came through everything she did.

This is Nika, her dog who went on before her. Maybe even now she is running with Nika in heaven. It's a heartwarming thought for me.

Nancy loved periwinkle, bears, her Katerina the Kat, lilacs, JRR Tolkien and The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, Kermit the Frog, purple, Levenger pens, Alaska, moose, writing, making art and art books, butterflies and rainbows, as well as her friends and family. A fascinating person, full of warmth and wisdom and whimsical dry humor, I will miss her but am reminded of her each time I encounter any of these things.

And a quote from Nancy:

 "Well, as Kermit the Frog would say,'Time's fun when you're having flies.'”

Missing you, Nancy J. Ring
January 21, 1974-March 13, 2010

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Recipe to Die For?

Just a Few of My Recipe Books

Recently in Dear Abby a gentle reader complained that a family member wouldn't reveal the "secret ingredient" to a much-loved pancake recipe shared at breakfasts attended by family. She was quite angry about it. How could she force the woman to give it to her? Could Abby give her a "shame on you" word of advice to the offending woman? The subsequent letters to Abby both defended the offending family member and chastised her and they offered what they thought the secret recipe ingredient was.

Recipes. When is a recipe a recipe to take to the grave? When is the time a recipe is protected to the point where it becomes not only a guarded secret, but also something that is given under lock and key to an heiress (or heir) during the reading of the will?

My brother, mother and me at home for a special dinner (dad took the photo)

I own maybe 100 cookbooks. Yes, I know. A serious addiction. I have stacks of recipe cards and a computer folder filled with recipes I've been given. I've even written a few down of my own making. However, never have I felt I needed to guard a recipe and refuse to give one to someone who requested it. I have a really good friend who is an amazing cook/baker. She not only will ask for a recipe or technique, but generously gives out any recipe if you ask her. Will she be remembered for her Honey Cookies (a recipe she got from my mother-in-law?) Probably. Will my mother-in-law who gave the recipe to many people, including my friend, be remembered for Honey Cookies? Well, yes, I think so.
Books and recipes just go together--Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck

We associate the recipe with the person who not only shared the recipe, but shared the finished product. Some of my recipes have been requested by local bed and breakfast establishments. While I never got credit for it, I had the heart-warming satisfaction that these people loved the product. Plus, if I ever lost the recipe, I just give my friends a call and say, "I lost it. Can I get it from you?"

But not everyone is so generous, and I respect if those people have their own reasons for not giving it out. Still, I have a difficult time understanding the motive. When that person is gone, what happens to the recipe? I can understand if it's a recipe for your bakery or restaurant or for a contest, but what if you're just a matron of the family fixing meals for family, friends, the church potluck?

Here's something I will lose when my nearly 93-year-old mother-in-law dies(her birthday is April 1st.) Not some recipe that can be forgotten, but a special woman whom I cannot duplicate no matter how many of her recipes I have and cook. No matter how hard and how I try to duplicate her pies, noodles and potato rolls, I miss an ingredient that only she possesses--that special spice that is contained in her soul. The prayers she says over the food as she joyously prepares the dish, and the love she sprinkles into those things that she's not that crazy about eating, but knows we love to have them. And while I cannot duplicate her recipes exactly, I will always try to duplicate the love and generosity she put into them with a warm, sweet topping of nostalgic remembrance.

So, share those recipes. It's a legacy of love. Here's a favorite concoction for Sunday dinners!

Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings recipe: From the Kitchen of Imy Miller
Preheat oven to 350, or 375 for crispier dumplings.

2 apples cored and sliced into 6 to 8 pieces each depending on # of rolls in tube
2 cans croissant rolls
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
2 tsp cinnamon
1 can Mountain Dew(TM) soda

Wrap 1 apple slice in each raw croissant triangle and place in 2 rows in 9X13 pan.
Melt and mix sugar, butter & cinnamon together and pour mixture over dumplings.
Pour partial can of Mountain Dew around the perimater only.
Bake for 30-45 minutes depending on whether you like the dumplings crispy or soft.
Serve alone or smothered in vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Sherbet Punch recipe:
2 liter bottle of Ginger Ale
2 liter bottle of either 7 Up or Sprite
1 container of red Hawaiian Punch
1 block of frozen rainbow sherbet

Mix together in a punchbowl, serve & enjoy!

Crystal Miller