I am glad you chose to visit! My blog is a compilation of the many hats I find myself wearing. On any given day I may be an encourager, an instructor, or just a lady who is venting. You, dear reader, will probably identify with my triumphs and my tribulations! These snapshots fit into my Life Scrapbook I have named A. McInnis Artworks. I hope you will find something worth your while.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

* I Have Just Spent Almost $200.....

Well, another day at the sausage factory. Today I decided to go online and do something I've been dreading. Our health insurance has a "wellness plan" that encourages (browbeats) you to do all sorts of healthy things...I guess so they won't have to pay out so much on your illnesses. I've avoided their calls, tossed the letters and in general just ignored their endless badgering. But after my close call the other night at Michael's (see Mirror, Mirror On the Wall blog post), I decided maybe they knew what they were talking about after all. So today, I went online and took a look at their babble about controlling your weight.

Why, why, why do I do things like this? Why do I allow others to torture me about something as personal as my weight? I don't know the answer to that, but today was the pits. The very first two questions were 1. What is your weight? 2. What is your height? They didn't give you any place on the questionnaire to explain WHY you were said height and weight. (I have some very good explanations...like my grandchildren love Sonic Blasts and it wouldn't seem right for them to eat one without their old grandmother joining in; or I am now in my twilight years and can't see very well, I had NO idea all that behind me in the mirror was actually ME!) Oh, noooo..they just wanted "the facts, mam, just the facts."

So I gave them the unvarnished truth and the computer sputtered and blinked slightly and then spit out this summary. It went something like this, "You are as wide as you are tall and you aren't going to live very long if you don't do something about it PRONTO! We are reducing your caloric intake to 720 calories per day and strongly advise you to exercise HARD for at least 60 minutes 7 days a week. We want you to weigh between 100 and 109 pounds!"

Who are they kidding? 720 calories a day? I thought that was like criminal or something. Can they be serious? I think people stranded in the desert get more than that. And 60 minutes of HARD exercise 7 days a week? Obviously they haven't heard of the Day of Rest...but really now...60 minutes? And they had all types of exercises they wanted me to begin immediately...strength, load bearing or something, cardio. Another thing, I was to list all the exercise equipment I had access to...If you count the Princess Reeboks I wear every day...that's about it...they asked about stretch balls, bicycles, dumbbells. The only dumbbell I know anything about is me for getting into this in the first place. And what a hoot! 100 pounds?! Yes, I remember being that weight maybe when I was four or five.

For a minute I thought this was a joke. I looked around to see if anyone was watching me and laughing. But after about 30 minutes of this drivel, I found out they were serious as that heart attack they were warning me about. They even had all my meals planned out and get this, my 5 page weekly grocery list was made out! So I took the list home and sat down to make out my real list. The reason this post is so late is that I have just returned home from a 2 hour shopping trip to the Richland Wal Mart (couldn't go to Pearl, I might have been seen). I spent almost $200 on stuff that I've never even heard of and I'm not sure if I can choke down. I had to check the sugar and fat and fiber content of every product before I tossed it into the buggy. I looked down once and it looked like I was buying for a family of 10 instead of just for myself.

When John arrived home from his Tuesday night ballgame, he said, "Why are you still up?" Why, indeed. I had just gotten home from the grocery store and it was 9:15! I'm going to keep you up to date on my progress, but I have a feeling that when all those Weight Watcher Fudge things are gone, that may be the end of this fiasco. 100 pounds and 7 days of HARD exercise...oh, please.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Quick & Easy Autumn Centerpiece

The purpose of this post is to show a layering technique that might be enjoyed in your decorating schemes. Tablescaping is a really fun process. I would much rather plan, gather materials and decorate for an event than to actually go to the event! (I know, it seems rather antisocial, doesn't it?) Anyhooo, this is a quick centerpiece that I put together for a library display of cookbooks and tailgating publications.

I began with an autumn hued plaid tablecloth. I made sure there was enough purple in the plaid to be able to bring in purple berries in the arrangement. I love orange, curry and purple combined. I used a faux magnolia leaf wreath as the base of the arrangement and topped it with a light orange berried wreath. I then inserted into the berry wreath, purple berries, dried hydrangea and feathers. In the center, two gold mercury glass candlesticks were placed and topped with candles. I couldn't find the color candles I wanted, so I just painted some old ones I already had. I sponged on purple, orange and gold. The mottled effect is actually prettier than the picture displays. Around the top of the holder I tied berries, hydrangea, some miscellaneous fall foliage and tied the whole thing with twine. The big puffy bow is that stiff mesh that I spoke of in yesterday's blog. I tied the bow onto the wreath with twine also. Twine is the bomb for rustic decorating!!

Layering is a process that was born out of never having just the items needed for centerpieces!
If you layer and use what you have or what you find around your yard, the effect is usually very pretty. I would suggest a few other things to add to this centerpiece such as this: acorns that have been painted gold or left natural, autumn leaves, McCarty or Peter's squirrels or birds, small deer and/or branches that have silk leaves hot-glued on. If you don't have the wreaths, use a grapevine wreath (and use real magnolia leaves) and buy your silks at Dollar Tree...they have great Fall stuff!

My theory is that you can never have enough Fall! As I've stated before, I begin putting out colored leaves in September, add pumpkins in October and the ever-present turkeys in November. This gives you three good months of warm colors to decorate with and ushers in the Christmas season in a beautiful way.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend Tips of the Week: I've Been Shopping!!!

Picture #1: An old sheet music book of Christmas Carols. (They are NOT normal size sheet music...smaller.)

Picture #2: An old rusted red metal rake head.

Now: Read #1 below.

Two or three things to let you know about!

1. This weekend I visited the Highway 49 and Magnolia Flea Markets. One of my favorite vendors was having a half price sale...oh, YAHOO! I found two things that I have ideas for, but wanted you to tell me what YOUR ideas are for these items...just comment and let me know what you think or comment on FB if you'd rather. I would like to use them for decorating at Christmas...but the rake could be used year round.

2. I have found some more blogs that I thought you'd like, so I am listing them under "About Me". Check them out...really cute, but very diverse.

3. I stopped by a place on Hwy. 49 in Collins, MS that I have often wondered about, but never have taken the time to stop. It's a big metal building on the left if you are heading toward Hattiesburg. It's across from the Antique Galleria on 49. The name of it is Shirley's. I didn't have high hopes when I entered, but it's really a neat place and I wanted to alert you to it. They carry tons of fabric and I love Premier Fabric and I couldn't believe how much they carried. All of the Premier is $6.99 a yard (plus 20% extra off until Sept. 11.) Very good fabric prices and lots of it. ..minky dot in all colors...also upholstery fabric. Also had all that colored stiff stuff that everyone uses for Christmas bows for their wreaths and trees. I don't know the name of it...looks like loosely woven burlap in beautiful colors...about 18 inches wide...7.99 and 9.99 per roll.

4. And THIS IS THE BIG NEWS....I just saw a colored leaf falling from a tree!!! Ya'll, really, I think Fall is breathing down our collective necks!!!!! Yay!!

Sunday at Sunrise

What a beautiful sight...freshly mowed pasture! Sunday morning at 6:00 A.M., temperature was a breezy 68 or so and the birds were eating a big breakfast of sunflower seeds. Peaceful and cool...what more could you ask for? Thank you, Lord, for your magnificent creation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Oh, The Joys of Football Season

Nobody who knew me well could believe it! Angela? Marrying a football coach? What in the world is she thinking? As a high school cheerleader, I never knew what was going on in the game. I'd say "Yay" when the other team scored, I'd say "Boo" when my team did! I never knew what offense and defense even meant. I just liked shaking my pompoms and going to pep rallies. The game stuff was rather boring to me. So when my ever loving soon to be husband proposed (at the Liberty Bowl, no less) the fact that he was a coach didn't matter one bit. I'd learn to love the sport...or so I thought.

Now thirty two seasons later, I still don't understand the game. Wishbone, ham bone...I don't know what all that nonsense means. Wing T, buffalo wings...what is it about the game that is so enchanting? I've tried, heaven knows, but I just don't dig it. I can count on one hand how many games I've actually gotten to attend with my husband sitting next to me. If he were there in the stands by me maybe I'd have a clue about what's taking place. However, sitting in the bleachers sans hubby is NOT my idea of fun. I loyally attended all my son's games and my husband's for over 20 years and one day I woke up and thought to myself, "I can't go to one more game by myself. I'm staying home tonight." Guess what? They won even without me there! I guess I wasn't the lucky charm I fancied myself to be.

I DO know that coaches are a maligned group. Unless you've been married to one, you have no idea how many hours go into coaching young people to do what they are supposed to do so that their performance brings home a victory. Pre-game planning, washing uniforms, making bus reservations, packing equipment, handling injuries, practice, getting the team fed, weight lifting, listening to their wives gripe about how much time they spend away from home and then there's the game! I could get really personal here, but I won't. It's an interesting job, but it's also an extremely demanding occupation. I wish everyone understood that.

Once, my friend Greer and her family took me to Ole Miss to a ballgame. I got extremely carsick and Greer's mom gave me some Dramamine. It knocked me out and I slept with my head on her lap the entire game.. that was an omen. Now I don't have to take Dramamine, turn the game on the TV and I automatically fall asleep!!

Tonight is different. It is a really big game between Brandon and Pearl. A huge rivalry has developed since 1949 and it's a featured game on Fox Sports...it's nationally televised!
So tonight I want to wish the Brandon Bulldogs a victory. I have had a little power nap and eaten my supper. I am ready to watch the Ya'll vs. Us game on Fox Sports South. I will cheer every time I see anyone on the Brandon side cheer and I'll boo every time I see anyone on the Pearl Pirate side cheer. (I have figured out that much.) I hope my husband's linemen do their part to insure a Bulldog victory because I can promise you HE has done HIS part!! Go Dawgs!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Go Forth and Decorate!!

Autumn is my very favorite time of year. (Except for Spring, Christmas,
and Valentine's Day.) I have taken the liberty of showing some ideas that I thought you might enjoy. Please, excuse the sloppy layout. I still can't figure out how to use the image uploader...it drives me whacko!

In the first picture, I have taken a white metal cone and spraypainted it black. I then came back with a rust spray and "hit"it lightly to give it an aged look. I went to Dollar Tree (and promised that I wouldn't spend over $10) and bought 10 flower bushes for a $1 each. I had some of the berries and the twigs. I stuffed the cone full and hung it under my porch light.

In the second picture I have built a vignette for my countertop. I used a glass and metal tray and layered a few fall leaves, a bird's nest with a real egg in it and a Peter's Pottery bird. The candle holder is one that I made in a ceramics class years ago. I placed a Bath and Body Works candle in an orange glass on the candle holder and topped the whole thing with a wavy glass hurricane. The candle's scent is pumpkin, naturally!

In this picture I am unceremoniously captured in the mirror...sorry. This is a small buffet in my dining area. It is backed with a long vertical mirror. On either side of the buffet are two tall lamps with tan polka dot and black stripe shades. The charger in the background is a heavy inexpensive ceramic one that I have had for years. In front is a McCarty Cotton Row vase filled with seasonal bittersweet branches. I found the handcarved chickadee at the Hwy. 49 Flea Market. Nobody noticed it was handcarved and signed but being the investigative spirit that I am, I DID! I bought him for $2. I LOOOOVE a good deal and this was one!

This arrangement is the one that I use most of the year on my dining table, except for Spring, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving. I just added the fall leaves to the berries and feathers already present. My point in all this is that you don't have to spend tons of money to make your house feel like a change of season is taking or has taken place. When I used to teach Foods at the high school, I would ask how many students had mothers who changed the table centerpiece or wreath on their doors seasonally. Years ago, most would raise their hands. As the years fast forwarded, I found fewer and fewer mothers did just that little bit to make their home more welcoming. One girl raised her hand and said, "I always look forward to seeing what my mother finds to put in the center of the table and so do my brothers and sisters."
I always made a big deal of Valentine's Day at my house. Branch with hanging red and white hearts, colorful napkins, a good meal and a little gift for everyone. One Valentine's Day I decided I was just too tired and the men in my life didn't seem to notice anyway. So I did nothing. We sat down to eat and I noticed my son and husband looking at each other. Finally, #1 son said, "Where's the branch?" And husband said, "Where's the gift and the napkins?" OOOOHHHH! so they did notice afterall.

Look, I know we are all busy and I know we are all tired, but a few leaves and pumpkins here and there aren't going to break the bank. And, who knows, when times are tough and children become grown children, the memories you create might just be the thing that gets them over the hump of a bad time in life. Go forth and create a memory today!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Things That Make Me Stop & Say..."Hmmmm?"

As one ages, every day becomes more of a challenge. I used to vault out of the bed, ready to face the day! I charged around dressing, doing all kinds of housework before I actually went to work. I'd leave work and face the afternoon and evening chores like an over caffeined wild woman (and in those days I didn't even like coffee, much less drink it!) I accomplished more in a day than I do now in a week. Hmmmm...we try to stay looking and feeling young...but old age is on our trail, you better get ready...it's coming! And it's NOT going to leap frog over you and hit someone else.

Sometimes now, when my Rainshower CD comes on gently to help me face the day, I am confused and think it's really raining outside. After "coming to" I am almost in a hypnotic state for at least thirty minutes. I can hardly bear to look in the mirror...some old lady is staring back at me and it still scares the living daylights out of me! I don't stride up the hall, I shuffle. I go straight to get my coffee cup and fix myself a cup. It's finally come to this, I think. Everything is just so different "in old age". I make several trips up and down the hall, my houseslippers making that soft shuffling noise. Why did I come in this room? What was I looking for? What day is this? Oh, help me, I am aging...and not so gracefully. Hmmmmm....I am the grandmother...the oldest woman in the family...oh, no...the matriarch!

It's days like this that give me pause to stop and think about some of the ridiculouslessness that goes on in our world. Life did NOT used to be like this. For instance, warnings on your prescriptions. "This medication will help relieve your heartburn symptoms, BUT you may experience increased bloating and gas, severe upset stomach, heart palpitations and in some rare instances, cancer." I'm not sure, but I think heartburn looks like a walk in the park compared to the side effects of the medication taken to prevent it. And then there are the warnings on toys, umbrellas, eggs, pencils, window blinds and assorted other everyday objects that people have used for several hundred years without all this drama! Hmmmm?

Parents who cater to their children like their offspring are royalty. It's like at the magical age of 15 or 16 these kids actually have accomplished so much in their life that they deserve a brand spanking new $30,000 car or truck. Hmmmm?

Of course there are the directions on how to use all the things that make life easier like shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste. Not only are the directions in English, but now they are also in Spanish and French. I have to get on my magnifying glasses to read and then I have to sort through all the languages to locate English. And have you ever had to assemble something and the correct language directions were not included? Try to put together a computer desk with sliding drawers using directions in Chinese. Hmmmm?

People in this country are so desperate to "keep up with the Joneses" that they have charged thousands on their credit cards and then they expect NOT to pay the bills but have the government make the payments for them! Hmmmm?

Now you know I like Bath and Body Works as much as the next girl, but what's with the little plug in Wall Flowers? The "smell good buds" screw in the opposite way. I was always taught Lefty Losey, Righty Tighty...not with B&BW Wall Flowers you don't. Something about Lefty Tighty, Righty Losey that just doesn't seem normal. Hmmmm....The first time I realized it was an opposite screw -in dilemma, I had returned mine for one that worked right. I bet they had a good laugh about that behind the counter.

Have we lost our collective minds in this country? What are we thinking? Have we gotten so technical and so political that we have completely abandoned common sense? A computer goes down and it shuts down the whole business. Electricity is off for a few hours and we check into a motel! Once the lights went out in Wal Mart. I was in the back of the store and I cautiously worked my buggy toward the front. Someone grabbed my arm and a little voice said, "Honey, could I hold on to your arm? I can't see very well." It was a little old lady...talking about the blind leading the blind...she and I finally made it to the check out counter which was mayhem. Nobody could check out because the lasers were off. So there we all stood...paralyzed by non motion...by lack of technology. Something my "non-computer using husband" said suddenly occurred to me. He predicted, " What's wrong with the old ways? One day all the electricity is going to go out and we are going to be in a real pickle!" Well, that day standing in Wal Mart with that lady wrapped around me (the life preserver) I knew exactly what a pickle felt like. It was NOT a good feeling.

All of the above are what I mean when I say, "These are the things that make me stop and say ...Hmmmm?" But what I really mean is maybe it's time we returned to a time of reason and sanity. It needs to start in our own home. Making sure our children understand that a car is NOT a right....making a six figure income is NOT a right....spending like drunken sailors and not paying our debts is NOT a right... we have become an entitled society. Or so we think...."For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Hmmmm?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Try This, For Pete's Sake!

Wondering if anyone else uses colloquialisms as often as I do? (The definition for colloquial is suitable for ordinary conversation but not for formal speech or writing.) See if you can fill in the blank..hmm, my old teaching instincts are returning..Most of mine come from my grandparents' generation, but we still say them in my family.

1. Happy as a dead pig in____________________
2. Hot as a nanny goat in ____________________
3. Full as a ______________________________
4. Tight as ______________________________
5. Blowing off some________________________
6. Take a bird bath ...under__________________
7. All birds come__________________________
8. What goes around_______________________
9. Lie down with dogs ______________________
10. I feel like the last _______________________
(Answers below.)

Now, I'd like you to tell us some of the oddities your family and friends say! In the comment box, add your own. You must do this to give me some new ones!!!

1. Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. (I have NO idea what this means.)
2. Hot as a nanny goat in a pepper patch. (Outside temp or maybe a hot flash alert!)
3. Full as a tick. (After a meal at Applebees.)
4. Tight as Dick's hatband. (As in your clothes are snugggg!)
5. Blowing off a little steam. (As in letting it all hang out for all the world to hear!)
6. Take a bird bath..under tail and under wing. (Also known as a "kitty cat bath".)
7. All birds come home to roost.(As in what goes around comes around.)
8. What goes around comes around. (As in all birds come home to roost.)
9. Lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. (As don't go around with certain people.)
10. I feel like the last rose of summer. (Lashes droopy, gloss all gone, blush faded, all tuckered out!)

I am all "tuckered out" tonight. Husband had to go into town and wanted me to ride. I was TOO tired, but he lured me with a Bop's Snappy Turtle! I got it in Kid's size. I think if you get a kid's size anything, it's ok, don't you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

* Am I the Family Eccentric?

I think I am becoming the family eccentric. You know the one, the weirdo, that everybody dreads seeing at the Christmas family gathering. We love our weirdos even though they embarrass us. In the south, nobody "outside the family" better say anything unkind about them.

Why, you ask, do I think this family title is my fate? The signs all point to it. For one thing the stores in the area are all in "cahoots against me." They are discontinuing all the things I have loved for years. It's happening more and more frequently. Let me give you some ideas of the things that are being deliberately subtracted from my life.

Revlon #110 Chrome Blush lipstick. This is my signature color, they knew that and they have discontinued it. The other day I found myself dumpster diving in a Hudson's bin of leftover Revlon makeup searching for #110. When I found one tube among the 5,000, I grabbed a nearby clerk, screamed "Eureka" and hugged her. I thought she might call management, but when she heard my plight, she "got down" with me and searched for more...We found one more tube which had been opened and sampled..(I usually draw the line at previously sampled lipstick..but if I cut off the top 1/3 maybe it could be salvaged..) "No, honey," said the clerk, "let it go." So with a heavy heart, I tossed probably the only tube of #110 left on the earth back to be swallowed up in a sea of old, outdated lipsticks.

Then there are my white Princess Reeboks. Now, you all know my affinity for them. All of a sudden, they are showing up in Medium widths rather than the Narrow which my petite feet require. (You DO remember about my feet, don't you?) What? We are such a nation of wide feet that we now all require mediums instead of narrow shoes? What about those of us with delightfully slim and trim feet?! I don't know about you, but it's the only petite part of my anatomy left and I'll fight to the death to keep them covered properly. No slouching around in Mediums for me.

And this diatribe wouldn't be complete without mentioning Bath and Body Works. EVERY scent that I have ever loved in that shop gets the ax. If I love it, it's the kiss of death. First, it was Peony...it was heavenly. I had everything in the product line...and boom, one day I walked in and it had vanished. I struggled with buying it on Ebay for months until that source dried up. I could go on and on about B&BW... but they know me and the clerks all run to the back when they see me enter the store. "Oh, no, it's that nut that always complains about the discontinued product lines." They now have a little card they give me that gives me the website name so that I can complain personally to corporate headquarters. (I notice nobody else gets the handwritten card.)

I could continue about the hair setting products, the hair sprays, paint colors, the undergarments and the foods, but I will stop because I am sure that you get the idea. Do these things smack of eccentrism? I think maybe. My husband, ever the voice of reason, says that Revlon has the right to discontinue #110 because reason number one, it's been around so long and number two, they can't make a profit if only one person on earth buys it. He also says that Peony sort of made him sick at his stomach. (Well, that's nice to know since I had it plugged into every socket in the back of the house, showered in it, slathered on the lotion, and misted it on the pillows at night before retiring.) Now, he tells me. I guess he was doing what all husbands of eccentrics do, they just hold their nose and learn to live with it.

I do so hope that my family will remember me fondly and when I go to my place of rest, I pray they will write my obituary carefully. They can word it so everyone "gets" the idea but they don't have to outright say the words. When you read it and it says, "She can never be replaced" you will know those are the code words for "Family Eccentric". They can add this small caveat to the above statement, "She can never be replaced, even though all the products she loved were."

Lessons to be Learned:
1. If you really love a product, buy all of it you can find. You may have to rent a small storage unit but it will certainly be worth it.
2. Do NOT try using canned goods on the top of your feet to make them wider, it doesn't work and the bruises attract a lot of attention.
3. If anyone spies #110 Revlon, buy it and I will pay you handsomely for your efforts. Seriously.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Saturday Tip of the Week: Colors of Fall & Peking Roast

Autumn is such a beautiful time of the year. I enjoy preparing the house and my workplace for it every year. I begin arranging early. The last week of August and all of the month of September, I use lots of colored leaves in my arrangements; October brings pumpkins to work into the mix and November must have the added turkey. (I will post another blog showing the transitions.)

In a recent article I noticed that David Bromstad of HGTV's Color Splash fame gave us the go ahead to mix in some new colors this fall. The colors he mentioned are some of my favorites, so I ran into Wal Mart and picked up some color samples for you to view. (See Pictures above.)

"...hottest fall colors for your home will be vibrant lemon and curry yellow, all shades of purple, dusty pinks, turquoise and grays," said Bromstad. The grays include dove, cloud and charcoal. And he announces that muted greens are the new neutrals. (I could have told you that five years ago. Look for #627 Dried Grass at Wal Mart. It's the greatest neutral green ever! Have used it and it's darker brother, Swallow's Nest forever and recommend it highly.) It's also an extremely durable paint. It looks great with ANY color. (Dried Grass is the top left color in the top picture.)

I also tried a new recipe that I'd like to share: Peking Roast (also from the Clarion Ledger in Jackson, MS.) Particularly easy if you use a Crockpot and marinate the night before.

Take any cut of beef & use a large knife to cut slits into the meat. Insert slivers of garlic &/or onions into slits. Pour 1 c. vinegar over the meat, cover and refrigerate 24-48 hours. Before cooking, brown the meat in oil until it is very seared (or brown). They cooked theirs on top of the oven in a black iron pot, but I used my Crockpot on low. Pour 2 c. strong black coffee over the meat. (They added additional water (2 c.), I just added maybe 1/4 c.) If cooking on top of oven, add water periodically.

Very juicy and tasty! Have a good weekend. Let me hear from you. I love to read your comments and they have been sparse this week!

Friday, August 20, 2010

* Mirror, Mirror On the Wall

Ok, I've just had a really disconcerting experience. I am not sure if there is something wrong with the glass windows in Michael's, but they are going to have to either change all the glass out or I cannot continue shopping there.

Most of you who see me on a daily or weekly basis may have noticed that I've packed on a few pounds recently. I felt sure it was a thyroid condition, so I had that checked...thyroid is fine. I fasted all night and had a blood sugar level checked. Surely it's diabetes...sugar level is right where it should be. I have two doctors. One stays on me about my weight, the other NEVER mentions it...until this last visit. He said he felt the weight gain was not due to thyroid or diabetes but to the Snickers and Cheetos I consume as one of my food groups each day. Now, look, I majored in Home Economics and taught Foods and Nutrition for years. I know how to eat and how much to eat. As long as I was "front and center" in the classroom my weight stayed pretty normal. When I retired from the classroom and became sort of the school hermit...er, librarian, my weight spiraled out of control. A Little Debbie cake here, a pack of M&M's there and before you know it, you are living large.

In addition to a slight elevation in my cholesterol level this doctor's visit indicated I'd shrunk another 1/2 inch. Let's see now...I started my twilight years at 5' 1 1/2 ", this is the second year of shrinking vertically...that means if I continue at this pace, by the time I am 70 years old, I'll only be about 4'6". If I have this figured correctly, if my weight continues to go up and my height continues to go down, I'll be approximately the same width as my height. Well, today in the glass at Michael's I caught a glimpse of what my future might hold.

This summer, I bought what I thought was a very nice knit Liz Claiborne top. I have always held to the belief that if you wear shoulder pads in your clothing, it balances your weight and you look at least 10 lbs. lighter. This particular top did not have shoulder pads, so this morning I decided to hurriedly sew in a pair I had ripped out of a "too small" top. I was running late and really didn't check out the finished product very closely. Now remember, I had worked all day in this attire.

After school I ran some errands and when I approached the front door of Michael's and saw my reflection in the glass, I almost fainted. I looked like a very short fullback for my husband's football team! I backed up and pretended to be looking at the clearance items, but what I was really doing was giving myself a moment to recover before I looked in the glass again. I circled the clearance rack and walked with more dignity and squared my shoulders. Surely this would make me a little more presentable. What in the world was I thinking when I put this getup together? My earlobes almost touched my shoulders. I looked like I didn't have a neck and my earrings of choice looked like silver pigtails flying about.

As I entered Michael's I kept hearing things...were those people laughing at me? No, that wasn't the noise, it was a swooshing sound. I had thought all day that I must be coming down with an ear infection, because I kept hearing the same noise. Then I realized it was the earrings hitting my knit clad shoulder pads. I hurriedly got the items I came for and exited. A man stopped his car and let me pass. Well, of course, he let me pass, he was afraid I might upend the car and stomp it flat if he didn't! When I arrived home, I immediately took the offending top off and ripped out those shoulder pads. There's one thing for certain, the next time I wear it, my shoulders may slope but at least I will be able to hear.

Lessons to be Learned:
1. If you have two doctors, ditch one and choose the one who doesn't hound you about a few extra pounds here and there.
2. Check out your reflection in the Dogwood Michael's glass and let me know if you look like something akin to a circus funhouse figure.
3. If you add shoulder pads to any item of clothing, make sure you have a long enough neck and short enough ear lobes to carry off the look.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Goliath, An Angel and the MRI

I have figuratively "tripped" over some people that have been purposely put in my path to help me along my life's way. It' s funny how you don't realize the number of helpers that have been given to you until they do their job and leave you standing there with an astounded look on your face. I'd like to tell you a tale of such a happening.

Some six or seven years ago I was experiencing a very painful area in my right leg just below my knee. After several months of feeling like there was an extremely deep bruise in this area, I acquiesced and went to the doctor. He checked me out and said, "I think this is nothing to be worried about, BUT (when you hear that word, you know you are getting ready for some kind of test) just to be sure, I'd like to have an MRI done." Uh, oh....MRI....I don't think so. Thanks for your concern, but I don't do well crammed in something akin to a metal sausage. I tend to perspire profusely, panic and lose my breath. (I think that's called PANIC with a capital P.) I appreciated the doctor's concern and told him so, but I thought I'd just pass on the MRI and limp on home.

"I've only seen this type thing twice in my practice. One incidence turned out to be nothing and the other was cancer. You wouldn't want to lose that leg, would you?" he retorted. Hmmm...I began thinking what that could mean...lose a leg? To show you how panicked I was becoming , I began thinking of what I could do to make lemonade out of that lemon. Maybe I could come up with some type of invention...a designer wooden leg. I began to think about colors and maybe a small door could be installed in the leg. You could store your keys, lipstick and license in the little door. "Angela, when do you want to have this done?" he woke me from my thoughts. I went out to the nurses' station, and they scheduled the MRI. The deed was done. I had to "woman up" and get myself together.

On the day of the dreaded procedure, my husband had the inevitable football game, my parents were out of town and I was alone. A friend said she'd go, but I didn't want her to have to take off work because I was the county's biggest weenie. So I checked out of school about noon and drove to my fate. I checked in and sat down in the waiting room. Not one other soul was in the room and I suddenly felt shakey and very lonely. After just a few minutes an attractive woman entered the office, spoke to the desk lady and came and sat down right next to me. She spoke quickly, like she didn't have a minute to spare. "Are you here for an MRI?" she questioned. "Yes," I meekly replied. "And you seem to be frightened," said the mindreader. "I am VERY frightened," I replied. She took my hand and said, "Do you mind if I pray for you?" Did I mind?! You must be kidding, who is this "angel" that has been sent my way? "No, please do," I said with a quiver in my voice.

She prayed the kindest prayer, and I'd like to say that I was filled with courage and that I quit shaking and marched triumphantly forth into battle, but I did feel a little better. Just a moment after she said Amen, they called me back. When the door opened for me to go in, a very tall black man mispronounced my name and showed me to the dressing room. He was gruff and I felt my shakiness return. When he showed me the narrow place I was to lie down, I nearly fainted (again, figuratively). Lie on that narrow board-like strip for 20-45 minutes? Oh, no, this was even worse than I imagined. I truly did know what sausage must feel like when it's being stuffed into that casing.

I hate to admit this, but I teared up. I am normally NOT a crier, but I felt them coming and I couldn't stop. Goliath stopped dead in his tracks and said, "Why are you crying?" "Because I am scared to get in that machine and not have any room over my face!" I was visibly shaking. All of a sudden he morphed into the kindest gentlest person. He said, "Mam, I am going to take care of you. I promise if you need me to stop the machine, I will."

I got onto the narrow gangplank and he came over and positioned me properly. He reassured me that everything was going to be ok. When he began moving the plank into position, he stopped when he got to my neck. He didn't put me all the way in! The loud noise of the machine began and I wasn't expecting it to be so piercing. I nearly fell off the plank I jerked so. My knees hit the top of the tube! The procedure was loud and disconcerting. What did I do to get through it, you wonder. Well, I did what any former Baptist, now Presbyterian would do, I started singing at the top of my lungs..every hymn I could remember was sung while I was in that MRI machine that day. I didn't care what anybody thought, I was going to get through this while belting out Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art! At last, silence came. It was over. Goliath came around and helped me up and said, "I told you I was going to take care of you." I thanked him profusely for not cramming me all the way in the metal tube of terror and got my things together and got out of there.

On my way home I began to think about what had happened. Two people I didn't know from Adam's housecat had entered and exited my life. They made a very uncomfortable time much more bearable. They were kind and I personally think they were sent to that place JUST for me by an unseen Hand who is always looking out for me and for you.

Lessons to Be Learned:
1. MRI's aren't so horrible.
2. There really are some very nice people left in this world.
3. If you are an inventor, designer wooden legs may be something worth looking into.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Men in a Wagon

I am sitting here wondering, if somebody, say me, is not in a great mood and doesn't feel too cheerful and would rather not write, should I do what I encourage others to do (which is "chin up") or should I just fluff out tonight and do nothing? Pastor Shelton used to say, "Your walk talks; your talk talks; but your walk talks louder than your talk talks." Ok, I'll write...but it won't be funny. Tomorrow I'll brighten up, I promise.

I have had a disappointment...should be used to those by now, but ever the eternal optimist...I really do try to see the glass half full...today for some reason, I can't move past "the half empty" level in my life. I am trying to see the best in a situation that is so cloudy that I can't read the road signs. Have you ever been at those crossroads? I am tired and worn down and can't see the forest for the trees.

I understand that life is like a tapestry and it won't be complete until the Lord weaves the final threads, but my question is how do you continue facing turmoil and strife and stand strong until this experience called life is truly complete? Don't be weary in well doing, you say? I know that one, too and I love the verse. All things work together for good to those who love the Lord, you press onward. But today I just feel like my engine has slap run out of gas.

It's days like today that I remember Miss Shields, a dear woman of God who attended my church until the day she died. Years ago when I ran into a brick wall similar to today's, I went to her to seek wisdom. I asked her, " How do you go on? How do you face another disappointment, another heartache, another setback? How do you have the strength to try once more?" Her answer surprised me. She looked at me and said, "When you get to that point, you have to realize that God is enough." What?! At the time, I thought I needed something more than that statement...and now, I find myself standing in the same place again...asking the same question and the same answer comes to mind. "Angela, God is enough." He is bigger than your problems, He's mightier than your foes, He cares more about you and your family than anyone on this earth. He is TRULY enough.

Today I have expressed my disappointment in a not so nice tone. I probably haven't been the best testimony. (You can scratch out the word "probably" in the above sentence.)

I remember a great story about a man walking down the road with a huge heavy pack on his back...a kind man in a wagon stopped and said, "Let me give you a ride, friend." The burdened man gratefully jumped into the wagon and sat in the seat by the driver, but he kept his huge pack on his back. The kind driver said, "Man, throw that burden behind you in the wagon!" The rider replied, "Oh, you were so nice to give me a ride, that I couldn't ask you to carry my pack, too!" That is exactly what I am doing today. I am riding with Jesus and still hanging onto the burden...and that burden must be tossed to the back of the wagon. Christ can handle the weight, I can't. I am weak, He is strong.

I knew the answer to my question before I asked it. I want to make sure you know the answer, too. God IS enough...for me and for you. Brighter tomorrows always follow dark todays. Thank you for listening.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Paradigm Shift of Epic Proportions

When my husband and I had been married a little over a year, we moved to Brandon, MS and we both worked in a small private school. We didn't know many people except the other coaches and their wives. But the town's people were very friendly and before long we felt welcomed and very comfortable in our new surroundings.

One of the teachers at the school "took me under her wing" and she and I became good friends. She had a garage sale once and I bought all her "old" Christmas decorations. She was updating and I LOVED her old ones...big sugar coated pink lollipops and frosted pastel candy canes. With the exception of last year, I have used those same decorations every year since 1979! Everyone was pretty miffed at me last year for changing to a purple and copper theme, so this year it's back to the "candy theme".Through the years she and I have lost touch, but for a few short years we were close, and she was responsible for one of the greatest paradigm shifts in my adult thought life.

During the school's homecoming week, my friend was in charge of the Homecoming Dance. She planned and bought decorations, lined up a vast array of food, contacted the band, secured chaperones and worked much magic on the cave-like atmosphere of the old gym. Anyone who has ever had to deal with a Mississippi Homecoming knows the territory she tread. That night I agreed to help her and when I walked into the gym it really looked very nice. Tablecloths were on the refreshment tables, the punch was in a pretty bowl, lights twinkled here and there and the band was warming up. She was buzzing around all over the place, and I noticed how she kept glancing at the door, waiting for the crowd of excited teenagers to arrive. We waited and waited, checked our watches, drummed our fingers on the table, but they never came. (I recall a few came in, stopped at the door, saw that it was hardly the place to be and left.)

Finally about 11:15 I said, "Do you think we should start putting things away?" She said, "I guess so, it doesn't look like many are coming, does it?" Many?! How about zilch, nada, zero? I was so hurt for her. Now if this had been me and I had gone to all this trouble and nobody showed up, you would have had to take me out in a gunny sack. I said, "I know you are so disappointed. I am sorry. I feel terrible for you." She looked me dead in the eye and without a trace of malice in her voice, she said, " Hey, I did my best. I did my job. They are the ones who lost out on a fun time, not me."

The earth didn't shake, but I did do a double take. That was a profound statement. Could I ever view outcomes in the same way? I posted a FB comment Sunday about a statement I read in the Sunday paper by Dr. Ian Smith. It read,"Base your happiness not on an outcome, but on your contribution or performance in achieving that outcome." I made some crack about not being "happy" with a project that was a bomb, even if my performance was stellar. I had a good discussion with a former student about this and I've thought about it a lot since then. (BTW: this student gave me a big sack of the greatest kindling for my fireplace when he was in the 7th grade. It was his Christmas present to me and I'll always remember that kind gesture, Scott!)

I don't think Miss Upbeat would have been pleased with my crack about the project that bombed. Why should she be? She really meant that statement about when you do your best, you have to leave the rest in the Lord's hands. The outcome is His to determine. And after all, who are you doing this for anyway? NOT for the praise of men, but as unto the Lord should be the answer. She pretty much lived her life that way and she taught me a very valuable lesson that evening.

Lessons to be Learned:
1. Do your part and do it to the VERY best of your ability.
2. Lay the outcome at the throne of the Father.
3. Ask for grace to live with the results, whatever they may be.

My Top Ten "Buggers"

The strangest things "bug" me. BTW: do you know where the expression "bug" comes from? When animals like sheep are being tended, one of the things the shepherd does is put oil in and around the animal's nose. That keeps bugs from buzzing around them and driving them crazy. Thus the expression "bug". Oh, the little pieces of trivia one picks up along the way.

I know these are little things, but for some reason when they are all put together, it makes for a less than perfect day. As I have gotten "longer in the tooth" my list of things that drive me nuts has grown. Some things have rotated off and new things have replaced them. Once I asked my husband what all I did to bug him. Now he's gotten smarter over the years, so he really pondered before he answered. "The only thing I can think of is that you leave your empty coathangers hanging on the doorknob." What?! Of all the nutty things I do, that's all he could think of? Well, he must be delusional. So I promptly went to QVC.com and ordered Joy Mangano velvet coathangers and they cost so much that I, to this day, take really good care of them and NEVER leave them forlornly dangling on the doorknob. Problem solved. I am perfection personified..lol.

My Top Ten "Buggers":

1. Emptying the dishwasher. There's something about that insipid green light that makes me mad. (For the first 14 years of marriage, I didn't even have a dishwasher, now I whine because I have to take the clean dishes out?!) Go figure.

2. Sales associates (we used to call them clerks) who act like they don't really NEED their job and are just working to pass the time of day and sort of look down their noses at you. I'm not sure if they noticed, but I am a paying customer. Advice to clerks everywhere: You are there, you are working, you are trying to make ends meet, can't you just forget your past life as a princess and be civil when I ask you a question?

3. Young people of both sexes and men who do not open doors for older men or women. Ok, I know this really "dates" me, but political correctness aside, it's just good manners. We have become a nation with savage manners. Where is "May I", Please, Thank you? It's time to be polite again, for pete sakes. (Ditto on the toilet seat, please lower it when you are finished!)

4. People who scavenge your desk looking for pens, post it notes...oops, there's a note, wonder what's it's about and then READ it! I have a narrow Body Bubble. When someone gets too close or begins inhabiting my space it really gets to me. I don't mind lending or giving things to people, but they don't have to act like my "area" is their personal Easter Egg Hunt.

5. Certain words. I once knew a young woman who would immediately terminate a relationship with a young man if he ever once uttered the word (are you ready for this one?) "TUNA". I have often wondered if the man she married actually passed the "tuna test". And I taught a young man who freaked out if anyone said any words which began with the letters "qu"...quick, quack, quit anything like that. It was difficult teaching him, I had to always be on my toes lest I spoke a dreaded "qu" word. Today my disliked words are mostly names of people. I won't tell you what they are, but if you notice when we engage in conversation that I never actually SAY your name and just always call you "pet" names, Honey, Sugar, Sweetie and the like, well, your name may be on the list. (I still like the person, it's just that darn name.) A few of my least uttered WORDS are: disgruntled (yuck); veggies (instead of vegetables); grunt and snout (because they are connected with pigs?); sardonic; tuna (in honor of my friend); and the worst, sheath ( now that one brings shivers down my spine.)

6. People who won't take a stand on an issue and then criticize others when they do. I like a little spine on my friends. Nuff said.

7. When my husband throws away the Sunday ads before I read them. Now if you want me riled up just throw away the Harbor Freight Tools ad before I see it. I LOVE Harbor Freight ads!

8. This one has changed dramatically over the years. I used to get my nose out of joint if my husband or sister said, "You are acting just like your Mother." All of a sudden, that has become a VERY BIG COMPLIMENT and I will accept it as such. Thank you very much.

9. When someone makes a mistake and refuses to admit it. What's with that? Haven't you heard the news? Well, let me enlighten you...NOBODY on this earth is perfect! Apologize or admit it and make it right. Good grief.

10. People who know nothing about a particular subject and who have great opinions about it. Look, walk in my Reeboks for at least 10 minutes before telling me how to decorate a Christmas tree, pick out a wall color, mediate family disputes or how to comb my hair.

I could add a few more like not advancing your car promptly in carpool line. The problem with this is that the last time that happened it was because I had fallen asleep and I was the one holding up the line. So that one has dropped off the list.

I know what you are thinking. "Is she for real?" Well, before you copy this post and drop it off at your therapist's office for his opinion, I'd like for you to write down the "buggers" in your life. Examine them closely and see if they aren't as petty as mine.

Lessons to be Learned:

1. Always open the door for me, approach me with a broad smile, don't roll your eyes behind my back, thank me when I do something nice, watch your language, stay out of my things, empty the dishwasher before I come home and keep your opinions to yourself if you don't know what you are talking about.

Thank you for letting me get those off my chest.

Monday, August 16, 2010

* Lights, Camera, Action! Going to the Movies

(l to r: Greer, Beth, Ward, Angela, Martha Ray)

I haven't been to a movie in approximately three years. I can't remember the last time I truly enjoyed one. On my first date with my husband of thirty two years, he took me to see Orca the Whale...since then I could count on one hand the times we've gone to the movies.

Movies did play a role in my childhood. Every Saturday my friends and I would go to the movies or the picture show as we called it. You could buy your ticket, purchase a coke, popcorn or dill pickle and a Slo Poke all for 50 cents. My friend Greer's uncle owned the theater in Grenada. We thought that was great!

Once on a particularly crowded Saturday, she and I got to our seats early. They were good seats and I was excited that we had such a good view. I noticed a woman and her little boy walking up and down the aisle as the lights began to dim. They couldn't find a seat and they must have walked around the theater two or three times. Ever the "bleeding heart", I said to Greer, "Look at that lady and her poor little boy. They can't find a seat." Greer looked at them and I think she knew what was coming next. "I think we should give them our seats," I said. "Why?" she asked. "Because they need somewhere to sit," I replied. So the next time they wandered by, we got up and gave them our seats. BTW: I have always felt personally responsible for the Viet Nam Conflict, if that gives you a sense of where I am coming from.

By the time Greer's mother came back to pick us up, we'd been standing in the back for over two hours. "What are you doing standing back here?" she queried. When we explained our kind deed, she let us know that THAT is exactly why we got there early. So that same thing wouldn't happen to us. Oh, that's how it works...we never did that again.

Now I have already introduced the fourth member of this Merry Group of Girls in a very early post, but if you weren't reading carefully you may have missed her. My friend, Beth was also an only child and of the four of us, she was the most serious. If I had to assign descriptions to each of the four they would be as follows: Greer- mischievous, daredevil; Martha Ray-peacemaker, most sheltered; Me-homebody, artsy/craftsy; Beth-studious, most mature. Even though she appeared quite quiet on the outside, WE knew the truth. Beth was hilarious in a quiet way. You know the type...very dry sense of humor. (Except when it came to the "Beth dropped the cookie episode"...another blog, another day.)

In the 5th grade, Beth and I shared a boyfriend. His name was Ward. I think that secretly every mother of every girl in the 5th grade had their eye on Ward as a potential suitor. His father was a pharmacist and they thought he would be one too, so it was to our advantage to keep our eye on him. On Saturday we'd take turns sitting by Ward at the movies. One Saturday he was Beth's boyfriend and the next Saturday he was mine. We never fought and we weren't jealous of each other. It was understood that on MY Saturday, I got to sit by him and vica versa BTW: neither of us married him and he IS a pharmacist. I could use a good discount on my blood pressure medication about now.

The big night in every teenager's life in Grenada, MS was the night we first attended the MIDNIGHT SHOW. The movie began at 10 P.M. and the first time you got to walk into the Midnight Show with a date was a night like no other. We were all waiting with baited breath to be asked.

I remember my first Midnight Show. You could always tell who were the "first timers" because they'd parade up and down the aisles a lot. Well, I wanted to make certain everyone knew I was there, so I ceremoniously traipsed up the aisle to the restroom The restroom was pretty nice but the floor always seemed slightly damp. As I washed and dried my hands and prepared to flounce back down the aisle before the lights dimmed, I unknowingly had about 6 feet of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

I checked my lipstick, oh, yes, I looked just perfect. I started my victory march down the aisle and never noticed the TP until someone behind me called my name. As I tossed a casual look over my shoulder to see who had seen me, I was horrified to see the toilet paper trailing behind me like a wedding train for my shoes. I tried to dislodge the paper but it was wrapped around one of the legs of an aisle seat. I had to bend over in a very short skirt and fight the paper off my shoes. What began as a titter of laughter spread and swelled to orchestral proportions. Boy, could I make an entrance. See? My friend, Beth would have checked for all those things before she exited the restroom.

My real point in all this is to say how much I miss those days. All four of us living up and down Line Street in Grenada. Going to the movies. Most of the movies were so great! Gone With the Wind, The Ten Commandments, Walt Disney's Fantasia, South Pacific, West Side Story and a host of Gidget & Elvis movies were our fare. You may have paid less, but you sure got more bang for your buck. Very few cuss words, lots of action and the good guys usually won! I know this world is a world away from our children and grandchildren's world, but I can't help but wish for those days again. Life was simpler in so many ways. We didn't have Facebook or computers, but we had radios, black and white T.V. and phones which were attached to the wall!

Once in Cub Scouts, I had the boys try to drop a handful of clothes pins one by one into a glass milk jug. My son looked at me and in all seriousness said, "This is fun! What are these wooden things?" Poor thing. This young generation has missed so much that made America a wonderful country. Not just frills like movies, but the desire to work hard, do a good job and finish it...the way it feels to have roots and when the right day comes (and not too early) to try out those wings...always knowing that they could come back to those roots anytime. Not to feel entitled but to feel truly appreciative for what God has given us. Our world was so different and I think in most ways, better. Lest I sound like a fawning old lady who longs for the past and can't function in the present, let me say that I have really made the effort to "roll with the tide" and stay up to date, but sometimes it just does my heart good to think back to the good ole days....I can't believe I just said that!
Lessons to be Learned:

I think that they are obvious.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday's Post

Please, keep all those who have lost loved ones this week in your constant prayers.

Verses to share:

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled neither let it be afraid." John 14:27

"Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen thine heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord." Psalm 27:14

Friday, August 13, 2010

Saturday Tip of the Week: Let's Get Cooking!

Thought you might like a change of pace, so I thought we would do a little food talking! We have a small community grocery store on Highway 468 named Allen's. The butcher shop in Allen's is great and they have wonderful steaks and roasts.

We also love their pre-cooked roast slices. They cook the roasts "in house". I buy the sliced roast beef (and I believe they use Dale's) and the slices make a really good sandwich. You can cook your own roast, but I make these when I am pressed for time...which is Usually!

Roast Beef Sandwiches:

Slice 1/2 onion and one bell pepper. Saute bell pepper and onion until transparent in a small amount of virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder and freshly cracked black pepper. Set this mixture aside on a plate. Quickly add sliced roast and a touch of Worcestershire sauce to the left over olive oil, stir and warm thoroughly.

Split Pepperidge Farm Hoagie buns. Spread mayonnaise and sprinkle with a little garlic powder. On one half of the bun layer the roast, onions and peppers. On the other side sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese. With the bun still split, run under the broiler until the cheese melts. Easy and really good!

"Broasted Chicken"

If you'd like a chicken that tastes just like the "broasted" ones at Wal Mart, then this tip is for you! I was skeptical at first, so I tried this while I was at home to monitor the chicken!

Buy a whole fryer or hen. Salt and pepper it and put it in the crock pot. Cook on low for at least 8 hours. No added liquid is needed (chick makes its own liquid). The chicken will literally fall off the bone and is delicious! Wonderful for chicken salad.

"Brownie Trifle"

Using a mix, bake a batch of plain brownies. Let cool. Break up the brownies and layer half of them in the bottom of a trifle or glass bowl. Using a squeeze bottle of chocolate syrup, pour chocolate syrup over the brownies. Then top the mixture with some caramel sundae topping. Sprinkle pecans over the mixture (or don't use the nuts.) Cover with Cool Whip.

Repeat entire layering procedure beginning with broken brownies. End with Cool Whip and nuts or "squiggle" some chocolate syrup over the Cool Whip. Refrigerate. The longer it sits, the better it is!

Even though I taught a high school Foods class for years and majored in Home Economics, cooking is NOT my favorite thing to do. Anytime I can find a quick and easy recipe that my family will eat and doesn't cost too much I try it.

If you'd like to post a recipe, please, feel free to. Yahoo!! It's the weekend!!

* Petey the Parakeet vs.The Little Gypsy

Speaking of animals....most of my friends loooovvvve their furry creatures. Because I am not such a fan of sleeping with anything wilder than my husband, I am considered weird. But you must understand WHY our four footed friends don't do much for me.
First, when I was smaller I had several "run -ins" with our hairy friends, and I don't forget "near death" experiences quickly. When I was about four years old, my mother and I were living with my Nannie in Sardis because my daddy was a Naval aviator and was gone from home on a tour of duty. Halloween came and I was dressed like a gypsy. I had high hopes for that night and was ready to go trick or treating.
I was not a typical gypsy. My costume consisted of diamond earrings, a fringed shawl draped around my shoulders, velvet elf house shoes with gold bells on the upturned toes and a very full skirt and blouse. I had on eye makeup and lots of red lipstick. I had a little friend across the street who happened to also be visiting his grandmother that fateful night. His name was Rusty. (Now that's a name you don't hear very often today.) He had very curly black hair, not red as you'd expect. This tidbit of info figures prominently into the latter part of the story.

I was impatiently waiting for my grandmother to take me trick or treating, but we couldn't go anywhere until Petey the Parakeet was fed and watered. Now on a good day, I wasn't fond of Petey. Once he bit my finger and he got seeds all over the place. I liked his blue green colored feathers, but that was about it for me and Petey. That night my Aunt Vera accidentally let Petey get too close to his cage door and out he flew. I was terrified of Petey when he was caged, but when he made the great escape, I thought I'd die. He flapped his wings and dive bombed us and lit on the top of the door. He'd flutter around as I cowered in the corner screaming for somebody to "catch Petey!"

Most normal children would have loved all the commotion...my grandmother trying to catch Petey, me screaming at the top of my lungs, Aunt Vera running around with a fly swatter to "swish" the wild eyed bird back into his cage and my very pregnant mother trying to calm little Gypsy! Just as Petey made another swooping lunge, someone knocked at the door. I broke loose and ran for the door and there stood a 3 1/2 foot tall red Devil complete with mask, horns, and a pitchforked tail! It was Rusty but I didn't know that and with one look I took off running and screaming like a banshee through the house with Petey on my tail! Everyone, including Rusty the devil and his grandmother ran after the hysterical gypsy. I locked myself in my Nannie's room and wouldn't come out.
They finally got me calmed down, promised the devil had gone home and coaxed me out of the room with a bowl of chocolate ice cream. I spent the remainder of the evening in bed surrounded by all the women in my life. When I woke up the next morning, you could still see the traces of red lipstick and the gypsy shawl had been draped over me. Later, the devil's grandmother brought me some candy as an apology gift, which I gratefully accepted.
I have many more stories like this when the animals smelled my fear and advanced on me, but they are for another day. I will end with this to prove that I am not a total wimp when it comes to animals. Once my husband thought it'd be a very educational experience to take our vacation and drive to Texas to the Game Preserve. We drove for what seemed like hours through brush with wild animals leaping and running all around the car. A camel came up to MY window and licked the window. Now that was sure a treat. BTW: why was a camel at a wild game preserve anyway?

Anyhoo, #1 Son wanted to ride a game preserve elephant and it sounded like a great father/son bonding experience to me. But oh, no, you remember Chicken Daddy, don't you? Well, "No!" he wasn't going to ride the elephant. It cost too much to ride. (Sounds like a cop out to me.) So after some prodding, I decided I'd ride with my child. I have posted the picture for verification that I actually did ride the pachyderm and it wasn't a half bad experience! Notice the other picture is Chick Dad coming face to face with something...maybe a buffalo?

Lessons to be Learned:
1. Dress your children in age appropriate costumes. Remember that gypsies and devils do NOT mix!

2. A "bird in the cage" is worth a million dollars. This is a take off on "a bird in hand, is worth two in the bush."

3. If you are "into" riding exotic animals, make sure your camera has plenty of film. You never know when you will have to prove to others that you are really a daredevil at heart.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

* Pint-size Fashionistas

(T) Greer (B) MR

Have you noticed that even very young girls are fashion conscious? They don't have to be taught the concept. The need to be "in style" seems to be inborn. Little boys can naturally make that "vroom" sound cars make and most little girls like pretty clothes. It's a fact of life.

I had a hometown friend named Martha Ray. She was the same friend of "swimming lessons" fame. Her daddy owned a dry goods store so she always had cute clothes. When the color "Magenta" hit the fashion scene in the early 60's, she had a magenta sweater and skirt set to die for. When she would wear it, I just couldn't take my eyes off the color. One of my other buddies, Greer (of Camp Desoto fame) also wore great clothes. When we were all five and in Mrs. Doty's Merry Morning Kindergarten class we had a little practice recital at the City Hall during the Christmas season. Greer and several others girls wore my ALL-TIME favorite dress. It had a very full red skirt with suspenders and a a white blouse with puffy sleeves. But wait until you hear this! Attached at intervals all over the skirt were ribbons with real round peppermint candies tied on. The girls had matching bows in their hair with lots of candy tied to it. I will NEVER forget those beautiful dresses. I could hardly do my dances for staring.

My mother knew me and she was sure I'd probably need a little break from all the tap dancing and ballet moves and that I'd be pulling off the candy and eating it as a snack during Mrs. Doty's mini-recital. So she dressed me in yellow dotted Swiss. Oh, it was cute enough, but it was more suited to Easter, and I stuck out like a sore thumb among all those peppermints.

I have always wanted to look "casually put together." You know the look, like you didn't take two and a half hours and labored to get dressed. You just pulled your thick hair back, slung on some lovely expensive clothes, and tiny bit of natural gloss, a puff of perfume and you were on your way. If I am reading all the signs correctly, that isn't going to happen to me. First, I am too short-waisted to wear expensive clothes. The clothes I like are designed for extremely tall, thin women...I am neither. Next, my hair has to be coaxed into position daily. Once it assumes the position, it can't move. So that casual look has always alluded me.

As a child, my fashion life consisted mostly of drawing clothes for Betty & Veronica paperdolls. But my love of fashion was almost cut short when Martha Ray and I were shipped off to Camp Garraway, a Baptist camp in the Jackson, MS area. Before I was relegated to month long Camp Desoto my parents decided to try out a week long camp. Martha R and I didn't care for the outdoors. We quite enjoyed sitting in her den eating little sandwiches her mother made and cut into little shapes for us. We enjoyed playing the piano in her sunroom and ...singing hymns. We were a lively duo. She played the piano and I howled...oops, sang Amazing Grace with exceptional vigor.

Life was actually pretty good until Camp Garraway. Mother packed my suitcase with coordinated tops and shorts. Socks and underwear were tucked neatly inside each set. Bluejeans were sent as a precautionary measure, as if there might be a cold snap in the middle of July in Mississippi. We arrived at camp and were shown to our tent. Uh, oh. Bunkbeds. I have a fear of heights and for some reason MR didn't mind hoisting upward every night, so she took the top bunk. As thin as she was, the mattress and slats weren't very good and every night when she turned over, my eyes would pop wide open expecting the inevitable crash landing that I was positive was going to take place. (It never did.)
After mealtime, we would have a guest missionary speaker. This first day I was feeling pretty homesick, but I'd look at my cute madras shorts outfit and feel a little better. We eagerly sat waiting on the speaker. She was a nice enough looking woman. Probably mid-forties and I secretly thought she looked like she wasn't very happy. She began her sermon. I was listening intently. The theme was dressing and acting like a Christian. I'm not sure how I misunderstood, but I obviously wasn't listening well and I got confused at what she was saying. Something about wearing shorts and showing off too much leg...a "going to hell" offense. Covered legs=good legs. This isn't what she said, but I thought that's what she meant. I was petrified. I looked down at my shorts clad legs and my heart sank. My madras shorts were surely the ticket to "hades".

The next morning when MR started to dress in her shorts, I stopped dead in my denim tracks."What are you doing?" I gasped. Horrified, I said, "We can't wear shorts!"

"Why?" she implored. "Didn't you hear Mrs. Fire and Brimstone last night? She said we'd go to hell if we wore shorts!' MR was visibly shaken. She said, "Is that why you have on those jeans?"

"Yes! I'm not taking any chances!" I said convincingly. So dutifully, MR put on her jeans too and every day for 5 straight days we wore those bluejeans.

By the time our mothers arrived to pick us up, we were covered in heat rash. However, we were assured that when we arrived at the Pearly Gates, we'd be welcomed in. We couldn't even dare to think of the fate of those half naked heathens running merrily around the camp.

It took quite a while for our mothers to convince us to peel off the jeans. I must admit, I've worn shorts several times since then, but I've never been comfortable in them. You know, "Hot now or Hot later...it's your choice...I'm just sayin'

Lessons to be learned:
1. Look, camp is just NOT for everyone. Don't force the issue. It can do permanent damage to sensitive types.

2. Looking casual has its advantages, but when I've tried it , I look like I've just arrived from the butterbean patch on an all afternoon "pick".

3. Shorts may have their place in the fashion scene, but be careful of how much leg is exposed. Remember: good legs=covered legs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

* For the Love of Strawberry Shortcake

I loved spending the night with both of my grandmothers. One lived in Grenada on Snider Street. She lived in a Tudor home built of stone and she had the most beautiful perfume bottle collection I've ever seen. Two arched built in shelving units were in the living room to house that collection. She collected "IN" stuff before the stuff was "IN". She wasn't very practical though. After my granddaddy died, she promptly put white wool carpet throughout the house, rented the house to people with dogs, and traveled all over the world. That carpet didn't look so great when she came back a year later. She didn't cook much either, but she could make a mean pecan sandwich if her cook happened to be off when I was visiting. I have several of her possessions now and I think of her often.

I loved sleeping in her guest room. It had a four poster bed and the most beautiful rose colored satin comforter I've ever seen. It was "down" filled and you felt like you had settled into a cloud when you got into bed (comforters figure prominently into my life...omen of things to come, I guess.) My grandfather had a closet that covered the entire back wall of his bedroom and there were mirrors on the doors. You could close the doors around yourself and see yourself from all directions. (Today I wouldn't dream of doing that. I haven't looked below my waist in a mirror in 8 or 9 years.) But in those days, I'd close those doors and twirl around and sing to the top of my lungs! I knew I had a bright future as a singer, based on what I saw and heard coming from that triangle of mirrors. Funny how your dreams don't always turn out exactly like you expected.

Isn't it odd what you remember about your grandparents? These same grandparents always had a pine tree for a Christmas tree while everyone else had a cedar. The small tree was always decorated exactly the same way every year, with red feathered birds and "snow". My grandmother wrapped all her gifts very elaborately. One year she wrapped one for me with a velvet hat cut from something and two black eyes and a cotton beard glued on the front. I thought it was just the greatest present ever! I hated to open it and had to be coaxed to do so.

My other grandmother lived in Sardis.You remember Nannie, don't you, the one who thought I'd won the Miss Hospitality pageant? She lived a very different lifestyle. Nothing fancy, but I loved going there, too. She would give me 50 cents and I'd walk to TWL and buy all sorts of little things to bring home, but ALWAYS I'd buy a pack of clay. Remember modeling clay? It came in "Butter"shaped little logs and there were several colors. I'd sit on her front porch and make clay animals...especially birds and birds' nests with tiny eggs in the nests. I also loved to listen to her red Coca Cola radio. When I became a "tween" I'd sit and listen to Rickey Nelson and Bobby Vee. I saw "Lassie" for the first time on her black and white T.V.

Once when I was about 5, she left me at her home with a wonderful black woman named Addie. Addie had worked for Nannie for years and I loved her. She would give me left over pieces of dough and I'd make little pies and biscuits. I liked pretending alongside Addie when she was baking. Well, this day Addie was making strawberry shortcake and as you may guess, I LOVED strawberry shortcake. My grandmother came home from work at noon and we ate our lunch, had our dessert and she returned to work. As soon as Nannie left, I asked Addie for more strawberry shortcake and she complied.

Later that night I was so sick with a stomach ache! My grandmother talked to Addie to see if I might have eaten something that could have made me that sick. Addie replied,"Well, she did eat some more strawberry shortcake after you left." My grandmother continued to probe,"How much?" "Oh, I think she ate about 4!" Addie answered. Four more? How could a little five year old girl consume 5 strawberry shortcakes???!!! (This was also an omen...I could polish off 5 like a snack today.) Anyway Addie's answer to my grandmother when asked why in the world would you let her eat all that was simply... "Miss Angie wanted them." Bless her good sweet heart. Addie always wanted me to have anything I wanted. I can still see her smiling face. She was so delighted that her little dumpling loved her strawberry shortcake! When I was older, I'd come in the house and Addie would say, "Oh, law, Miss Angie, we need to fatten you up! Have they not been feeding you at home?" I have a feeling she would be VERY happy with my figure today.

Now I've entered the realm of grandparenting. I just can't believe one day I'll be the old lady coming down the aisle at my grandchildren's weddings. I hope I can still walk down the aisle. Grandparents are a different breed. Something happens to your senses when you have a grandchild. You morph into "Addie" because you want them to have everything they want! I know it's not right, but something deep inside takes over. It's like this is another shot at getting to parent from a different perspective. You are older and wiser (and need to act that way), but those little chubby hands and someone hugging you all the time just does something to change the way you've looked at things for a long time. I saw little things down on the ground that I'd overlooked for years...ladybugs, tiny blue flowers, heart shaped rocks..all because of the little people who were now walking beside with me.

Once, Ryan (now 13 with a changing voice) brought in a little shovel. On it was a possum "playing possum". The possum was tiny and John was standing there behind Ryan laughing. I was sitting in my chair reading and a sweet little voice said, "Oh, GuGu, I have a little surprise for you." When I saw that possum, I screamed and jumped about 15 feet out of the chair, and Ryan just fell out laughing. I will never forget the absolute delight of scaring his GuGu senseless!

My grandparents played a huge role in my life and I hope I do the same for my two dumplings, Ryan and Gracie. The things I love today were in some measure introduced to me by my grandparents. Music, art, reading, handwork...all were a part of their lives and became an important part of mine. Memories of my grandmothers and my grandfather abound. Whether it was searching for "fairies" around a huge oak tree, singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in my mirrored concert hall or looking at the Madame Alexander bride dolls at Ford's Department Store in Sardis, those are the memories that I cherish. And you know what? NOBODY can take away your memories. I hope you will make some memories for some little person today. You don't have to be a grandparent to do it. Just be somebody who is passing on what has been preciously passed on to your heart.

Lessons to be Learned:
1. Don't eat strawberry shortcakes in 5's. It's best to limit them to around three. (I need to remember that!)
2. Whether you are a grandparent or not, you can be important in the life of a child. Look around, there are multitudes who need you out there.
3. If you have an Addie in your life, one who always wants the best for you, thank them now.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother.....

Twice this week friends have given me something of value. One gift I received was a book composed of beautiful, colorful computer art that the friend had done himself and the second was a handmade memento from a mission trip. Even though the physical value is great, the emotional value means more to me than they know. Both were given by a kind-hearted thoughtful friend.

Friends are very important to me. They always have been, but sometimes I forget HOW important. I have friends of all types, young, old, older...faraway friends in faraway places...close friends...acquaintenances...people who I thought were my friends but proved themselves not to be and those I thought weren't who proved themselves to BE...long ago friends, new ones...all sort of shapes, sizes, personalities.

Friends (like the two who shall remain anonymous)who walked me to my car when we were in the middle of the old BMS parking lot in a wind and rain storm. We had no umbrella among the three of us, but we DID have three white WalMart bags. We put them on over our heads, held them below our chins and when the winds blew, all three of the bags inflated. We looked like giant white cats with pointed ears. We laughed all the way home and sometimes I still laugh at what we looked like.

The one who never tells me I am wrong by saying, "You are wrong." She talks me into saying it myself. One day we were shopping for new purses and I wanted a BIG purse, like everyone else has...ever the fashionista...ha. I picked up one and it was roughly the size of a steamer trunk. I liked the color, it was borderline tacky, but I thought it would go "with everything". She didn't say anything. She just said, "Oh, here's a mirror. See what you think." When I looked at that vision in the mirror, I nearly dropped dead. I looked like a member of the armed services leaving for a six month tour of duty with a duffle bag over my shoulder. That one went back on the shelf.

My friend who says everything I write or paint is "fabulous! Your best ever!" We all need cheerleaders like her. No matter how bad I feel, if I see her coming, I know I'll feel better momentarily.

My "pleasingly plump" friend who always says that she can't tell I've gained an ounce! She knows better, she is a partner in crime (eating things we shouldn't) but IF I do happen to lose a little weight, she always says she can tell that, too.

I have a "pact" with two of my friends..if any one of us has to be put in "the home", the unconfined ones will faithfully come and visit and sneak in tweezers so we can make sure nothing is amiss on the chinny chin chin of the confined one. (This is VERY important.)

I have friends who have cried with me, laughed their heads off with me (and at me), and those who are there, no matter what time it is or what is going on in their own lives. Friends are mega important.

Since I've entered the sphere of blogging and the phenomenon of Facebook, I have reconnected with all sorts of friends. It has been my great pleasure to actually witness how my students have grown up, see their spouse and children, and talk to them sometimes daily or weekly. I love talking to my old hometown of Grenada friends! Church friends from years gone by make my day. Gosh, I even like talking to people I've worked with all day long! It's like going to the mailbox several times a day and receiving a great big pile of letters. I love to sit, savor and then converse with them all. When I hear people say, "Oh, I don't have time to FB." I think to myself, "How could you NOT make time for it?"

My hat's off to you, my friends. The greatest thing about my friends is their real spirit of friendship. You epitomize what friendship is all about. Thanks for being my friend and listening to my nonsense and sometimes to my "sense"! You are all "da bomb" and I love you supremely!

To Encourage & Comfort You Today

Sometimes humor just doesn't seem appropriate.Today is one of those sad days. I keep up with lots of former students, and the ups and downs of their lives is very important to me. From broken hearts to lost lives, seeing young people suffer pierces my heart. I've known some of these adults since they were "children"...literally some since they were born but most since they entered school.

I would like to take a few minutes and say something to all the young men and women who are kind enough to humor me and are reading this blog. (You "oldies" are welcome to read...as you already know exactly what I am about to say.)

For everyone, life merrily skips along until one day you realize that all things aren't good and perfect. It might be in the form of betrayal from someone close, pressures from the world, illness, loss of precious children or parents, anything that suddenly jars you into the reality that while we are on this earth "ye shall have trouble". That's a promise. How morose, you might think, especially if you haven't acquired your battlescars yet. But let me assure you, ALL of us have troubles..it's just a matter of when and to what degree.

My life has been fraught with trouble. I am now 61 and some years are more trouble free than others. There are very few things that you could tell me, that would surprise or shock me. Many days, I have sat in my chair in my living room and wondered, "Why? Why me? Why my family? Why now?"

One day, an answer came. It wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear, but it was clear and it WAS an answer. The answer was this: You are here on this earth, not for your glory and not for your daily gulp of happiness. You are here to glorify your Father in Heaven. You are here to fulfill His purpose, whatever that may be. He has destined you for a time like this. Now, go, help others and do what you are intended to do.

That was what I call "a lightning flash and thunderbolt" moment.

You may think, "Ok, she really is nuts", but whatever you think, the answer is the same for each of us. You will also discover this truth, it's just a matter of time. The good news is God doesn't let you fight the battles of life naked. He has given us specific armor to wear (Ephesians 6:10-20). He has told us how to wear it and to be ready to face trouble when it comes knocking at the door.

We aren't to live in fear. We are to live a purposed life...not always an easy or just a happy one..but a life that is real and encouraging to others. A life of faithfulness. When you "cross over to the other side of the road" and you know you should be helping someone by sharing your own experiences, you are NOT living that life. Take a few minutes today and "think on these things": Be an encourager and share your struggles and how God was faithful to be there even in a terrible time; pray for others when they, like Moses, are too weak to hold up their arms; show others the love that Christ showed you by forgiving. Sometimes encouraging means just being there.

Easy assignment? No. Vital? YES.

P.S. Sometimes YOU will need encouragement...it will come from the most unlikely places. A hug, a kind word, whatever is sent your way by a fellow laborer, accept the gesture and know they are "living the time destined for them to live" in your life at that moment. God strengthen and encourage you today and every day.