From the Heart

Today, I could not help but want to repost this old Valentine’s day blog. It truly is one of my fondest memories of William. Thinking back on that visit with him always makes me smile. He was the master of fun surprises.

I continue to be inspired by his amazing brave and caring energy which brings me to this weekend’s TEDx talk. Truth be told I wasn’t exactly sure what a TEDx talk was when I accepted the invitation. I just knew it would be one more way to celebrate Will’s life, so of course I said, “yes”.

Little did I know that being invited to do a TEDx talk is kind of a big deal. Little did I know just how terrified I would be as I prepared for it. In between panic attacks over the last several weeks I prepared 7 pages of my thoughts. Too much I fretted, so whittled it down to 4. I attempted to memorize a speech. Practice, practice, practice. It felt like I was jumping out of an airplane without a parachute. It felt all wrong.

Several supportive friends suggested, “just speak from your heart”. I am taking their advice and feeling less anxious. To just simply speak from the heart feels right.

To further ease my anxiety I thought it a good idea to bake cookies for all 300 people in the TEDx audience. Baking cookies is much more therapeutic than public speaking. Just sayin’. I’m bringing the original Sweet William’s Inspired and Spirited Chocolate Chip Cookie and a Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread because I wanted a heart shaped cookie.

The cookie dough for the shortbread contains no salt, so don’t hesitate to generously top each cookie with a good sprinkle of finishing salt. I highly recommend The Spice & Tea Exchange Chocolate Sea Salt for its sweet smokey flavor.

Salted Chocolate Whiskey Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon whiskey (Jack Daniel’s recommended)

4 cups all-purpose flour (King Arthur Flour)

1 cup chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

Chocolate Sea Salt or your favorite finishing salt

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. On low speed, add egg, vanilla and whisky; blend well. Gradually add flour until fully incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Dump dough out onto some plastic wrap. Gather it up into a flat disk. Wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350F. On a silicone mat or lightly floured surface roll dough to 1/8-1/4-inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Re-roll dough scraps as needed to cut out more cookies. Sprinkle cookies generously with finishing salt. Gently press salt into cookie with your fingertips. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes for 1 1/2-inch size cookies or until edges brown. Cool. I made about 200 cookies with a small heart shaped cutter.

On this Valentine’s Day I hope you are surrounded by those you love most. ❤

Thank you 2018

Thankful for a year that brought me more peace than ever. The best news is learning the US Navy has recognized sleep deprivation as a rather big cause of military accidents on ships and across the board has put some rules into place to prevent further tragedy related to lack of sleep. It was early on in my blogging when I first wrote about that issue here.

I also enjoyed some really fun food experiences traveling to Oregon compliments of my Saucy Mama friends then to Alabama for the World Food Championships and most recently to New York City for a holiday baking challenge sponsored by Kellogg’s cereal where I got to hang out with these two.

My next big challenge happens in February and I dare say I will truly be out of my comfort zone. Have you heard of TEDx talks? I’ve been invited to give one at Furman University. The talk is titled, “How to Celebrate a Life A Food Blog”. Never in a million did I think this blog would lead me to the big stage. Surely taking the road less travelled and going public with my grief has allowed William’s light to shine brighter. May it never dim.

Happy New Year and thank you for hanging out with me.

Today I want to tell you about a letter I received from my sister in-law Maureen. Maureen has always kept the family close through her letters. She along with my brother in-law raised four strong, generous and successful children and it was through her letters I got to know them well as distance and work did not allow for frequent visits. Her letters continue to be filled with powerful messages about her love of family and strong faith in God.

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She writes, “I am a big believer of angels. I seek help from them on a regular basis.” She goes on to say that on July 8thwhen the Thailand boys were trapped in the cave and needed a special rescue team that she called upon my William. Out of all her list of angels he was the only one qualified to help in this situation. He had the military skills, the strength, ability to swim and the compassion to help those in need. “I had never asked anything of Will before. I started crying. I then felt this huge warm physical embrace.” Later that day, the first two boys were rescued.”

Maybe it’s a coincidence? Maybe it is just nonsense? But maybe, just maybe, his presence is here just in a different form? Praying to angels is a hopeful practice. As Maureen writes, “I sense them and get strength from them.” Maureen made one more comment about my son that really made my day. In fact, it was something that had never occurred to me. She said, “You made him available.” I’m so very grateful that he is felt in so many places and that his spirit is strong, loving and active.

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The Keys clan Thanksgiving 1981

Have you written a letter today? Are you thankful and filled with love and gratitude? May those you love most this holiday season surround you, but if not get out your pen and paper and tell them how you feel. It’s the best gift ever. I love you, Maureen.