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WSFE: Hope like a ton of bricks

Stephanie Hill-Frazier Special to The Star
The Star

“Lord save us all from old age and broken health and a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.” - Mark Twain

I was sitting at my desk at work earlier today, writing news stories and clipping videos, as I do on a daily basis. I am so blessed to have a job I enjoy so much here in Texas. Though Northwest Florida is my home, I enjoy learning new things, meeting new people, and having new professional experiences, and Texas has been a great professional fit for my husband and for me.

Anyway, there I was, reading and clipping and minding my business in the newsroom, when a video scrolled by on one of my computer screens. It was a video made by Parker Productions and hosted by Catherine Bouington, my friend Mitch’s daughter from St. Joe. Of course I stopped for a moment to see the video she and some friends had made to submit to a show called Home Town on HGTV, in hopes of winning a “hometown takeover” by the hosts of the show, Erin and Ben Napier, and their HGTV staff. If any town or region in America could use a hand up, it’s ours.

I was excited to see what these young minds had come up with for the video submission. I clicked play, ready to be inspired, hopeful, and to catch a few glimpses of the hometown I love so much and long to return to the moment I’m away from it and back at work.

Instead, I wept. Right there at my desk inside the newsroom in a tv station several states away.

It wasn’t Catherine’s fault. She did a great job talking about why Port St. Joe is called the Constitution City, about how yellow fever and then the Great Tide wiped the original town of St. Joseph out, and so forth. Of course those things were terrible, and I’ve read about them many times over the years. It wasn’t that which made me cry.

It was the scenes from Hurricane Michael’s aftermath. It’s not that I haven’t seen the videos that filled our Facebook timelines for months after the storm. It wasn’t that I haven’t been home myself to help dad clean up his damage and so forth. I’ve seen the tragedy first hand. But seeing the video from immediately after the storm again today brought so many feelings to the surface, and then dropped them on my heart like a ton of bricks.

I thought of each one of you living in our area, from Franklin County to Gulf County to Bay County, as well as the counties northward, that were hit so cruelly by that dreadful storm. You have been seeing the damage day in and day out, with few breaks. Some of you lost your homes. Some of your businesses are gone. Some of you, like my dad, had repairable damage to your home or property. But the emotional healing … well, that’s going to take more time, no matter what.

I guess that the sudden onslaught of tears, or anger, or depression, is to be expected after one survives something like a Category 5 hurricane, even after 16 months have gone by. That’s why looking at it in the face once again as I did in the Home Town video today brought those feelings right back to the surface, causing them to flow right out of my eyes. I bet you’ve experienced the same thing when you’ve driven by some missing landmark’s spot, or see your church standing empty and unrepaired.

If you’re not a cryer, you may feel yourself just shut people out, or you may get angry or depressed. Those diagnoses are from me, a non-professional counselor, of course. But I do think that as we weep over the life we had, we don’t weep like those who have no hope.There is hope, and if we focus on it, the belief that something good is going to happen, it will begin to change our outlook. Working on things one day at a time, things will get better.

Of course, if you’re struggling with feelings of despair and depression, I encourage you to acknowledge that there is a good reason for it and take care of yourself. Go talk to a friend about it. See a counselor or a pastor in your neighborhood. Don’t suffer alone in it, friends. There is hope. Latch on to it. You are needed here.

If I were there with you today, I would give you a hug and a cookie. That’s how I love on my people. Maybe you do the same thing! If so, here are some easy no-bake cookies that you can make and share. They are so good to me because they take me right back to my 1970s says in the cafeteria at Highland View Elementary School. I loved things like these chewy, sweet cookies. I stepped up the recipe just a bit by adding dark chocolate chips, because dark chocolate is said to be a mood booster (and even if it isn’t, it’s delicious.)

No-bake peanut butter-corn flake cookies with mini-chocolate chips

Ingredients:

6 cups of corn flakes

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup light corn syrup

1 cup smooth peanut butter

1 cup mini chocolate morsels

Method:

Spread out some wax paper on a countertop or cookie sheet. Place a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot on the stovetop.

Add the sugar and corn syrup to the pot, stirring to combine. Turn the heat under the pot to medium-high, and stir continually until mixture comes to a boil. Immediately remove from heat.

Stir in the peanut butter, making sure it is completely combined. Add 3/4 cup of the chocolate chips, then the cornflakes, mixing into the peanut butter mixture with a spatula. This takes some arm work, so you may have to get some help if you’re tired. But these are worth it, trust me.

Finally, while the cookie dough is still warm, scoop out onto the wax paper using an ice cream scoop or cookie scoop. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips over them, pressing into the tops to adhere them, as necessary.

Cool, then store in a sealed container or ziplock bag. Share and enjoy!

(If you are feeling suicidal or in emotional distress, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. In emergencies, dial 911.)

Stephanie Hill-Frazier is a writer, food blogger and regional television chef, whose on-air nickname is “Mama Steph.” She grew up in Gulf County, on St. Joe Beach, a place she will forever call home.

She is married and has three young adult sons who have never met a cookie they didn’t like. You can find more of her recipes at whatsouthernfolkseat.com.