Updated: Sep 29, 2022
Preface: an introduction to an introduction
Sometimes when you meet someone for the first time you just know you'll be good friends. Probably because the initial reaction when you meet isn't with stupid, fake or extra bubbly pleasantries. It's just "hey, nice to meet you." and you go about your way. You just know when a sarcastic comment is heard in the first ten minutes, they're your kind of people. Nothing fake about them.
That's how it was when I met my friend Jody Thornton-Powell. She wasn't like "oh my god, it's totally so nice to meet you! I love your outfit; you look so pretty, and can we be BFFs?" (Channel your inner valley girl)
Our friendship grew over several years working closely together with the
girls' basketball team where she was coach, and I was booster president. Our tenures there are both over and still we've remained very close friends.
I've gotten to know her extended family through her many family functions and her family's support when she coached at the local high school.
So, I thought it most fitting to have Jody introduce her sister, CarolOfMoon's newest contributing writer, Deb Willig.
Although I've known Deb through the years, I don't know her all that well. At parties she's talking with family or doting over her grandkids. And she makes wonderful desserts for every occasion. At functions, like pink out games or fundraisers, she's always won multiple raffle baskets or 50-50. (How in the hell does she do it??). She supports her family well and who would know her better than her "baby" sister, Jody.
By the way, Jody is also a great cook and even better friend and game partner you may ever find-- cause she's competitive as hell!! She makes cupcakes weekly for her husband's football players and she whips up one helluva jalapeño ham dip. Just don't mix it with Pinot Grigio and stool dancing at a birthday party. (Apparently, I can't hold my liquor as well as I once thought.) Nightmares are real!!
by Jody Thornton Powell
I grew up in the Mount Oliver section of Pittsburgh steeped in its tradition of pierogies and St Patty's Day celebrations. I was the youngest of seven and although some may balk at being the "baby" of the family I reveled in it. With four brothers there was no shortage of rough housing and never any tears. My two sisters were 9 and 10 years older than me, respectively so although I was too young to hang with them, they were no less instrumental in shaping the person I have become.
My eldest sister, Deb, was the one that kept our household alive with decorations for every occasion. My mom was always so busy keeping us in line and my Dad took care of the church and the school that we all remember as being so expansive and beautiful. So, Debbie was always available to read to me, teach me how to bake and even found the time to be my first CYO basketball coach when I reached third grade! Some say there was bias involved with my selection to the sixth-grade team as a third grader, but I call B.S. on that!
My fondest memories with Deb have less to do with homework and basketball however, instead they are warm hot chocolate and taffy apples to welcome Fall. Having the crap scared out of me on Halloween when she would hide in the closet then jump out with eyelids flipped up while holding a flashlight under her chin! (What is wrong with some people?!?) Being covered in flour and powdered sugar as I "helped" her make Christmas cookies with Karen Carpenter singing in the background. To this day hearing the Carpenter's music makes me feel so warm inside.
Deb inherited her love of music, parties and sharing good food from our parents. The Thornton house was located next door to our church (and the place where Dad worked) and with an always open door, became a regular stop for many, many parishioners on their way out of midnight mass for a warm drink and a Christmas carol or two.
Deb adopted that love for hosting family and friends and became the go to party planner of the bunch. She continued her love for denoting the change of seasons and celebrating each holiday after starting her own family.
I became the go to babysitter during my teenage years and essentially got to feel what it was like to be the oldest of the clan instead of the youngest. The age differences between me and my nieces and nephews are similar to those of me and my own siblings. I was there to witness her strength as she worked inside and outside of the home while she raised her five children right down the road in Carrick. She was always on the go and it wasn't unlike her to stay up until wee hours of the morning after a long day of work to make sure that her house was the one the neighborhood kids were just a little leery of when approaching for a true trick or treat experience!
In addition to work and motherhood she found time to become an expert baker and has created magnificent cakes for special occasions such as weddings, graduations, retirements and many others.
Deb has since retired from her career with the Pittsburgh public schools and spends her days enjoying her family, especially her grandchildren.
She still never misses a chance to spread love and spark nostalgia with amazing aromas from favorite dishes or desserts from our childhood.
With much love,
-Joann "Jody" Thornton-Powell
PS. Deb will be sharing one of her favorite recipes, corn meal mush. This delicious, sweet treat reminds her of her dad, and all the fond memories of growing up in Mt. Oliver section of Pittsburgh.