More Thoughts from a Daymaker

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on December 27, 2012

Clouds for Five More Minutes With

In a previous post, I introduced a book called “Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Making Someone Else’s Day,” written by David Wagner, and promised I’d share a few choice bits with you.

So here is some food for thought. . .some of my favorite excerpts from David’s inspiring book.

“It does not take a lot of effort to be a Daymaker. Just behave in a caring way and watch what happens. Your life will begin to fill with perfect moments that serve the highest good of all.”

“Perfect moments are not rare for a Daymaker. They happen all the time.”

“You have not lived a perfect day until you have done something for someone without expecting them to pay you.”

Do you live your life this way? Are you conscious in the way you treat others?

In today’s world, where people are so self-involved that they are often downright rude, even simple words such as “please” and “thank you” go a long way in making someone’s day.

More stories from: Editor's Notes,Featured Story

Families with a Missing Piece

Written by Braiden on November 19, 2012


Earlier this month, a wonderful article entitled, Families With a Missing Piece, ran in the Wall Street Journal. Several family members and friends forwarded it to me because the premise of the article was similar in so many ways to Five More Minutes With.

As the lead to the article says, “For adults who were children when their parents died, the question is hypothetical but heartbreaking: ‘Would you give up a year of your life to have one more day with your late mother or father?'”

The article goes on to state that one in nine Americans lost a parent before the age of 20. When polled, 57% of adults who lost parents during childhood said they would give up a year of their lives; a whopping 73% said their lives would be “much better” if their parents hadn’t died young; and 66% said “they felt like they weren’t a kid anymore” after their parents’ death.

Luckily, there are support groups, such as Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit provider of childhood and adult bereavement camps, that can help people work through their grief.

“Touchstones”, such as writing memories of their parents in journals, listening to favorite music, and looking at old videos with surviving family members, were cathartic ways that adults who lost their parents while they were children use to cope with their loss.

More fuel for the fire that Five More Minutes With can be a useful way to process grief and help deal with the loss of a parent or other loved one.

So won’t you take the time to share your Five More Minutes With story today?

Grandmother Looper

Written by Braiden on November 15, 2012

Grandmother Looper Photo

That’s me at three years old, looking unimpressed by and a bit dubious about the arrival of my baby brother, Brad. Grandmother Looper gazes at the newborn adoringly, while my mother beams proudly after the arrival of her newborn son.

Inez Ellard Looper, my mother’s mother and my maternal grandmother, was a real Southern belle, described as a wonderful woman or a real ball buster, depending on which family member you get to reminiscing about her.

Afraid I didn’t know her well enough to form my own opinion. But I do know she and I shared something in common. . .our love for the kitchen.

As a little girl, I loved watching her in the kitchen when we’d visit her home in Georgia, after the long train ride all the way from Philadelphia.

Biscuits were her forte, ooh-ed and aah-ed over by friends and family alike. My poor mother never did pick up the knack, a fact long-lamented by my biscuit-lovin’ father.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see her arthritic right hand, the one with the same crooked index finger as I have, as it moved in and out over the biscuit dough, kneading gently and knowingly until it was just the right mix of butter, flour, and whole milk.

Her biscuits were light as the proverbial feather. She claimed that Clabber Girl Baking Powder was her secret, as she preferred that brand to Calumet. I think her real secret weapon was making her biscuits with lots of love.

I also remember my grandmother’s cornbread, the thick batter poured into well-seasoned and  -greased cast-iron pans. The molds in the pans were in the shape of corn cobs, so the cornbread sticks were especially fun to eat (with lots of butter, of course!).

My grandmother was also well known for her Japanese Seven-Layer Cake, her rendition of the popular Lady Baltimore Cake. Grandmother’s version featured spicy layer cake with raisins, boiled sugar icing, pineapple, and copious amounts of coconut. I wish I had a slice right now.

So what would I tell my grandmother if I had five more minutes with her? I’d tell her I wish I had known her better and that she’d lived longer so that we could have been friends. I’d tell her about how watching her as a child may have inspired my cookbook and food-writing career.

What would I ask my grandmother if I had five more minutes?

I’d ask her for her recipe box so I could continue her legacy of love in the kitchen.

Grandmother Looper Photo

Mom, Grandmother, and me–gotta love the pillbox hats and the mink stoles, as un-P.C. as they are today

Grandmother Looper Photo

My grandparents, brother Brad, and me in front of our house in suburban Philadelphia circa 1962

Braiden Rex-Johnson Second Birthday

Toddler Braiden swiping some icing off the big birthday cake at Grandmother’s home in Dalton, Georgia. I don’t know what happened to the sideboard, mirror, or framed botanical prints, but one of the pink vases still graces my office. . .a fond reminder of Grandmother and childhood visits to Georgia.

Why Write a Five More Minutes With Story?

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on November 12, 2012

On April 24 in my Editor’s Notes, I shared thoughts from Carole, a fellow food professional who’s also a fellow writer and friend. Carole submitted stories about her mother and her dog, and I shared her experience of writing for the site and the way it helped her release pent-up feelings about two pivotal departed loved ones.

Here are some further thoughts from Carole, which were just too good not to share.

“Your site is such a great idea, I imagine many people will have epiphanies as I did. Come to think of it, it was more therapeutic than all of the psychoanalysis I’ve done!

“I was reflecting how this came about. I first saw your tweet about the featured story of the adopted girl’s first dinner with her father. I read the story (the picture of her in her little high chair sooooo precious!), but didn’t realize the site was yours—I just read the “first dinner with dad” story/post and moved on.

“Then I saw another Tweet from you about, which took me to the site itself, where I read all about your story and your dinner with Spencer and Bo-Bo and the emergence of the idea for the site.

“It was so charming and such a wonderful idea, I posted the info on my “Cheap” blog, which you saw and thanked me for…to which I responded and told you I was thinking about a story—vaguely assuming that I’d get to it ‘someday.’

“You responded again and encouraged me to write.

“It’s like I was getting nagged by God/TheUniverse/Karma about the site, to the point where I had to drop everything and write my stories.

“And it all started with a Tweet! Who knew?

“So yes, definitely tell people these ‘back stories.’ It will help them—as it did me—to bring it to the surface. It’s a wonderful way to use modern communication technology to do an age-old thing. Share stories and pass them on.”

Five Years Without My Mother

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on August 13, 2012

Julia Looper Rex Photos

Editor’s Note: This blog post first went up on August 13, 2010 in honor of the five-year anniversary of the passing of my mother, Julia Looper Rex. I am reposting it today since the words ring more clear than ever. Missing you today, and always, Mom!

I’m thinking about my beautiful mother today, exactly five years since her death.

This is a tough time of year for us, with our darling Bo-Bo’s death date on August 10 and Spencer’s mother’s death date yesterday. Interestingly and coincidentally enough, my mother and Spencer’s shared the same birth date. . .February 25. . .then died within a day of each other, although one year apart.

And my parents’ wedding-anniversary date falls next week. They were just short of 60 years of marriage when she died. . .

I have lots of Mom stories in my head that I want to share, and will write more about her as I am able. But today I want to share a life-changing experience I had almost a year to the day after she died.

In my vivid, oh-so-lifelike dream, Mom was propped up in her canopy bed in a pink nightgown looking regal, in just the way she always did.

She raised her hand and waved–queen-like–and I woke up.

I knew it was her way of passing over–or at least my brain’s way of putting me at ease–that she had moved on and was okay.

I have only rarely dreamed about her since. . .strange because the months following her death were especially sad and difficult ones for me to endure. . .and the dreams have been beautiful and most welcome.

Thanks, dearest Mom, for being the inspiration behind Five More Minutes With. We are thinking about and missing you today. . .

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom

More Thoughts on “My” Glacier

Written by Braiden on January 30, 2012


Last week, one of our Featured Stories centered upon my experience with the Marjorie Glacier in Alaska. I noted that as much as I enjoyed watching the giant glacier calve, it also meant that (sadly) she was dying.

Today, on a happier note, I’d like to share with you another way in which I enjoy spending a stolen moment or three with “my” glacier.

Any time (and there are many!) I feel unhappy or stressed out, I visualize Marjorie–her quiet strength and sheer majesty–and feel suddenly transported.

Do you have a glacier, sunset, sunrise, or mountain top you can visualize in times of trouble? I hope so, as I think that everybody needs such a place of solitude and comfort.

More stories from: Featured Story

Saying Goodbye…Looking Ahead

Written by Tammy Redmon on January 9, 2012

Saying Goodbye…

Last month our family lost it’s matriarch. My Grandmother, Beverly June Vance, went home to heaven and to her long-awaited dance with my Grandpa Archie.

While this passing was filled with emotions and left us all feeling a great loss, it was the reality of this signifying an end of an era that shook us most of all. My grandmother was the last of her generation in our family.

Beyond the significance to our family, it is also significant to the community in which she grew up. Everyone has moved away now and all that remains are memories. As wonderful as they are, the reality is that the future generations will not know of the history that left us on July 18, 2010.

I am not one to be saddened by death; in fact, I tend to look at the passing in a way that honors history and life. With this one however, it struck me in a different way than ever before. It made me think of (as it does for most) my own legacy and the design of my life.

It is a gift in my mind to have the rich family history that I have, and it struck me as sad that my own children may not recognize the same for themselves. It begged a question. How do we honor the past as we grow into our future?

Looking Ahead…

We live our lives from day to day, often by accident. It’s not a normal behavior to plan for intentional experiences that create legacy. So much has been created for us, we now are simply going through the motions of keeping all things moving in an effort to keep afloat. But, what if it all ended tomorrow? Who would know of your effort?

When we joined together as a family to honor the life my grandmother lived, we could only think of the past. To honor a woman who lived life with joy and with intention. Today, I can’t help but feel a compelling call to action for my own life and children, to live with intention for the moment. To worry less about staying ‘afloat’ and more about living with joy. To make a difference here and now in the lives of those close to me. Not waiting on ‘someday’ for that perfect timing.

That was my Grandma. She lived with intention and with a constant desire to give to others. To nurture. Whether through her freshly baked cookies or the best ever hot fudge sundaes, she put her heart in all things. Especially when they were for her family.

The only “someday” she lived for was the day she could try a new recipe on the family or sew that matching shirt to her dress for Grandpa.

I know that you may be thinking, in death people think of life. And, while that is in part true for me today, more over I am thinking of intentional legacy. The intentional actions I make today can change many tomorrows. My grandmother’s actions changed my life for the better and gave me perspective on the choices I make today. While I will miss her deeply, I am forever blessed by who she is in me. That part of my heritage that I have a compelling call to honor and take forth into my everyday living.

What does intentional living mean to you?

How might you find yourself waiting for ‘someday’ and yet missing your today?

Might I encourage you to reflect on how you are spending your days and living your life? It shouldn’t take us to reflect in death how we want to be living in life. My grandmother lived fully and was her feisty self right until the end. She modeled the way very well; now it’s my turn.


Written by Debbie on December 29, 2011

Dear Mom,

How loyal you were to us all.

How you would love your granddaughter Olivia.

I apologize for not being there to take care of you more when you were fading away. Like dust–the universe carried you away–but unlike dust you are forever engraved in my life, my heart, my mind.

Is this life worth living to make you proud of me, or is it worth dying to be with you again?

I don’t succeed but try to live to make you proud of me.

Though we had our scrapes, I always knew you loved me and would die for me.

I am sorry you will never get the chance to see Olivia, but I feel you live through me when I take care of her.

I understand now what you felt when you looked at your four children and hurt when they hurt, worried when we were out late at night, and anguished over the mistakes you made.

Your beauty was never lost on me. Though we fought, your love lifts me up always and forever until I leave this earth.

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Mom

Thanks for Worrying

Written by Jill on December 12, 2011

On Father’s Day (June 15, 2008), my Dad shook my hand and told me what a great daughter I had been for the past 27 years.

A week later, at 11:30 a.m., on June 22, 2008, I went towards our backyard to swim. Dad warned me to be careful, as it was 90 degrees outside and very humid. About 15 minutes into the swim, Dad instructed Mom to walk into our dining room to check on me. She snapped a picture of me, floating around the pool and fine. Dad was comforted.

At 3:30 p.m., that same day, Dad–who had begun feeling ill–walked to our living room, sat on a stretcher, laid back his head and died, a mere four hours after worrying about me, one last time.

If I could say one more thing to my Dad, I’d say, “Thanks for worrying, from day one–when I was a preemie–and all the way to the end.”

More stories from: Featured Story,With My Dad

The Telling Detail

Written by Braiden on December 8, 2011

In journalism, there’s something called the telling detail. It’s what professional journalists do when they observe the person they’re interviewing and writing about, or the place where a crime or fire has taken place, or a restaurant they are reviewing.

So if the person you are interviewing has a photo of President Obama in a frame on her desk, that might be a telling detail about the power and importance of the interviewee. Or if a 20-something sports an antique ring, that might be her telling detail. Or if a middle-aged man’s hair is dyed purple, that might be a clue as to their personality.

Today I’d like to invite you to start seeing the world through its telling details. Really look into a person’s face. . .study his or her eyes. . .remember the hair color and the way their hair is parted.

Smell the air as you walk the city streets. Notice how it changes from sea-salty to grease-trap to whiff of cologne, all within a block or two.

Look at the sky and watch the ever-changing colors and cloud patterns.

I guess I’m saying, just BE MORE AWARE of the people and places that surround you.

More stories from: Featured Story
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