Happy Birthday Daddy!

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We celebrated my Daddy’s 85th birthday this week. Christopher and I made him a cake—that totally fell to pieces! Funny about that…I was the only one who worried about it.  Daddy ate it with a spoon and proclaimed it good.  And all Christopher cared about was the candle stuck in the mess that he could help Granddaddy blow out. So, all in all, I guess the cake worked.

When I asked him how he wanted to spend his day, he decided we should go buy apples so he could give bags of them to several of his friends and neighbors. It was an easy day of buying apples, eating out, and enjoying the beautiful fall weather. 

Yesterday we had dinner with family and celebrated some more. It was good to spend a relaxing afternoon visiting, eating, watching the game, and visiting some more. Christopher got to help blow out more candles, and we got to listen again to stories of Daddy’s growing up years—stories that remind us all of how good we have it today and of the fortitude that our ancestors needed just to survive each day.

One story he tells is of when his Papa had typhoid fever. His Mama waked Daddy to go get the doctor in the middle of the night. This meant he had to walk several miles–and he was only ten or eleven years old.  I can’t even imagine that! Of course, he was able to ride the buggy back with the doctor. And, he was used to that walk—he did it every day to and from school.

I think of all Daddy has seen in his 85 years.  He’s seen the first televisions and flat screen HDTV—and everything in between. He’s watched education progress from a one-room school house to online degree programs. He’s also seen hard-working simple lifestyles develop into high-stress, often frenzied attempts to do and have it all. Yep, things have definitely changed! I don’t know if I would have adapted to the changes as well as he has. He’s earned every one of his 85 years!

Happy Birthday, Daddy. I love you and feel so blessed to have you here!

What is that wonderful smell?

Crisp mornings, chilly nights, brightly colored leaves that flutter to the ground, the wafting smell of a nearby wood fire…What are 4 things to love about Fall?

On these cool evenings I often grab my favorite sweatshirt—the one I only wear around the house—and sit in my front porch rocker and just take it all in.  The way the sky looks different than any other time of year; the feel and smell of the air; fat, cheery pumpkins and pots of mums. Most years I enjoy watching the squirrels that live in my trees as they industriously hoard pecans for the winter; but this is one of those years when the pecans are strangely absent—not a one in sight. So, not so many squirrels either. I wonder how far they had to travel to find this year’s supply?

Fall makes me want to cook, too.  Real food, like hearty soups, roasts, baked apples, sweet potatoes, greens…stick-to-your-ribs food that warms your heart as well as your stomach. More of those smells!

Isn’t it amazing how smells can evoke feelings and memories? I never smell fresh yeast rolls without thinking of my grandmother, even though she only made them for holidays. Honeysuckle makes me think of my childhood. The smell of kudzu blooms takes me back to high school years in Madison. If you’re not a country girl you’ve probably never appreciated that part of that vine!

Other smells are a bit sneakier…a scent that someone special always wore, the distinctive smell of newly sharpened pencils, mothballs, freshly turned soil, or just-mown grass. These smells can leap up and surprise you at the most unexpected times. I’ve been around doctor’s offices and hospitals so much that I’m usually completely unaware of any particular smell, but every so often, I get a whiff that sends me to the memory of my pediatrician’s office when I was really young.

Aromatherapy may be a relatively new concept in stress management, but it’s really been around for a long time.  And we don’t usually have to create the smells; they are there already. We just get too busy or our senses are too overwhelmed to appreciate them.  Fall is a good time to reawaken our appreciation of the comforting smells around us. Roll down your car windows. Sit out on the porch. Take it in. Make time to stop and smell the Fall! 

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The Table

family June 2013Christopher watched for them all day, and was so excited when they arrived. The whole family, came to visit! Usually, we are minus my nephew, Luke, and his family from Florida. They’re only able to get up here a couple of times a year. So, this was a big group.  Carla’s husband, JP, was a little late and missed the picture, but that’s the rest of our motley crew.  Look fast…the little one might jump up and disappear before your eyes. She was like lightning!

I love having people in my home, especially family!  My favorite rooms of my house are the kitchen and the dining room.  Feeding folks soothes my soul and warms my heart. The first thing I got when I knew I was buying this house with big old rooms was the dining table. It has gate legs and opens to seat 10 – 12 people.  We could actually seat most of us, with food on the table, and pass it around. I think I just sat there the first meal and watched! No one was running back and forth to the kitchen to get refills or something they forgot. We could all be together.

We’ve grown since that first meal. So we can’t quite all fit anymore.  But the room is big, and everyone is still able to sit nearby. We can still be together, hear conversations, get wet when someone spills a drink, finish someone’s few remaining bites, and pass that last biscuit. What is it about sitting around the table that breaks down barriers and links us together?

Memories are made at tables.  The table was a constant when we were growing up. We were usually all there, except when my brother and sister were in sports.  We all had our regular places. We had a big round table with a lazy Susan. It always held good food.  My mother was a great cook. I didn’t always like what we had. I can remember some liver burgers, and oatmeal and corned beef hash that I just never learned to like. But there was some good eating around that table.

Another important table in my memory was at my grandparents’ house.  Many, many Sunday dinners were eaten there. Always a big meat (ham, fried or roasted chicken or roast beef), several vegetables from the freezer, potato salad, or deviled eggs, or congealed salad, corn bread AND biscuits, and of course dessert.  Grandmamma was always prepared by keeping her freezer stocked—mostly with beef they had raised.  And cabinets were full of canned tomatoes, vegetable soup, green beans, jellies, and relishes that she put up from the garden and fruit trees in the yard. If you’ve never had homemade biscuits with homemade fig preserves…well, I’m just sorry for you!

But meals are so much more than food. It took a lot of work to put those meals on the table.  And it still does. I believe it is more than cooking, more than feeding, more than entertaining.  It’s love.  Of course you want the food to be eaten and enjoyed. And compliments are always nice.  But, for me at least, it’s about sharing.  It’s about nourishing more than the body. The spirit gets fed as well. Sitting around the table with others during a meal makes it easy to be relaxed and open. It’s SHARED time. It’s memory making.

I cherish my table memories. And I feel blessed to be able to help make new memories for my family and for me by having a welcoming table.

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Today I had a mammogram.

Today I had a mammogram. I confess, I was a few months overdue. Don’t know how that happened; I guess time was passing faster than I thought. Anyway, as I waited for the afternoon appointment, I pondered the many words that run through my head when I think of the word mammogram: pressure, stress, worry, pain, deodorant, unnecessary, necessary, revealing, bad news, relief, intensity, modesty, size, density, technology, pink ribbons, oncology, yearly…
I have been fortunate not to be included in the 1 of 8 American women who get invasive breast cancer. But it is in my family, and it niggles at the back of my mind. My mother had it, my grandmother had it, my great aunt had it, and some distant cousins, too. Some were survivors, some were not.
I can’t count the number of friends and acquaintances who have had or do have it. Some of these women felt a lump themselves. Some found out through their mammogram. I saw one of those women, a survivor, in the waiting room today. She was there for her annual mammogram, too. She is doing well, and expressed her excitement at “only” having to come in once a year, now. Success!
The survival rate for breast cancer is good. In 2011, there were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors—that’s in the US. I let my mind wander today to those women in other countries, especially those who don’t have modern technology, like mammography; or those who don’t have oncologists or chemotherapy or radiation. What must it be like for them? It makes me thankful to live in this age of technology and advanced medicine. And to live in a county where it is used. And, that I am privileged to have insurance to pay for it.
So, I guess my gratitude today is for the gifts of technology in this time that I live. I am thankful for every woman who has survived breast cancer. I am also thankful for all who suffered, but contributed knowledge to the doctors who cared for them—knowledge that is reducing the incidence a little bit more each year. Thank you Aunt Ett, Jacque, Dianne, and so many others who stood strong until the end. You were warriors to be admired and emulated through the battle.
Have you had your mammogram this year? Make your appointment today! And, with every squeeze… be thankful…squeeze…for the gift…squeeze… you’ve been…squeeze…given.

Welcome to my new blog!

What’s on my plate–not necessarily a question. I’ve wanted to start a blog for some time, and the other day this perfect blog name came to me. I have lots on my plate—on my dinner plate (because I love to cook, collect recipes, watch food network obsessively, and eat). And lots on my figurative plate—my family, friends, job, hobbies, church, hopes, dreams, plans, and prayers.
So, this blog will be about all those things I have on my plate. Everyone who knows me is quite aware of my gift of gab. And so, like many of you, I’ll use this venue to share whatever is on my mind and heart at the time I write. Blogs are a great invention, don’t you think? In times past, we wrote letters. Now, not so much. Of course, we email and occasionally send cards, but rarely take the time to put on paper (or the digital screen) more than the briefest thoughts and feelings. So…we’re off!
This afternoon, I listened from another room as Christopher had a guitar lesson. This is about the 4th lesson since he began a couple of months ago. Christopher is my very handsome, sweet son. He loves, no, he is obsessed with music! He has a multitude of instruments, and turns non-instruments into music-makers whenever he thinks about it. He sings all the time, and can match pitch perfectly. He comes really close to dancing with the piano in our Southern Baptist church. And he still wants me to sing to him when I am driving or when he goes to bed at night.
He got the guitar for Christmas. You should have seen his face when he opened the gift! His guitar teacher is a music therapist, with talent and patience galore. He’s creative, loving and a gifted musician.
Today, as I listened to this fourth lesson, I heard things begin to come together. Christopher settled in and seemed to really listen and follow directions. I heard music! Not a tune anyone could recognize—that’s still a future dream. But, as he moved between two simple, adapted chords, there was melody and rhythm. At the end of the lesson, I went in to see what he had learned. This is my favorite part of the lesson. He loves to perform, and he loves praise! So, Christopher proudly showed me how he can play these two chords (with many verbal cues from his teacher), and waited for my applause. Proud? No concert classical guitarist has been prouder than Christopher was today.
Aside from my eternal salvation, I have received no greater gift than the gift of my son. The simplicity and innocence of his spirit is a constant reminder of how we should face life. I am really good at making things complicated, of getting bogged down in busyness, or worrying too much about details, or trying to get everything “just right.” Christopher reminds me that life is meant to be enjoyed without all the fuss.
So, for this week, I plan to keep things simple. I’ll listen to the music. And I’ll try extra hard to hear the melodies that I usually miss. My prayer for you is that you’ll hear those melodies, too.