Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bye, Bye Holidays

This year was hectic. Illness prevailed.  Gifts purchased with little thought. The “real looking” tree remained in its box.   And, to confess to all, there’s no desire to celebrate holidays. Two out of four weekends in the month of each year my family of husband, daughter and two sons, one grandson, a daughter-in-law, and a mother-in-law have eaten together or gathered in one room to visit. Now it’s time to celebrate “together” again. Wasn’t it last week we ate pasta together?

Can’t I have Christmas my way?  With Son 2 here this year, the evening  of the 24th begins the magic: sitting in front of fire drinking hot apple cider, nibbling cheese on fancy crackers, and snuggling with pets Ace, Deuce, and Scratch.  Laughing at the funny events of Christmases past. Reviewing old snapshots, laughing at the hair styles.  As the night wanes we’re relaxed. Then to bed to arising Christmas morning at our own time, teasing with the few gifts remaining under the tree, finishing off the cider, selecting a rum muffin, a boiled egg and returning to the fireplace. The afternoon is spent having friends and family share a glass or cup and catch up on each of our lives.

Son 1 and his family live nearby and have their customs.  We shared their customs for several years. Who can say which side of the family has better celebrations? They wish to include us gathering on Christmas Eve for a great meal, watching the grandson open his gifts early the next morning, having a light breakfast, leaving around noon to return to a family house a few hours later for a festive meal is eye-appealing and too much to digest.

How often we’ve reminded Son 1  with his family he has his customs, we have ours. He wants both but has to make a choice. How many other sons and daughters have wrestled with where to go on Christmas? I don’t want to be a part of that decision.

Blame this on age. Younger folks do not understand how aging begins to rob us of the ordinary. We must refocus on new conditions that we can handle.

Age has lessened the excitement of riding around the neighborhood looking at the holiday lighted decorations. Age has tired me of p & b sandwiches. Age has frozen my need to create a meal.  Age has eliminated the act of rising before six a.m.  Worst of all, age has interfered with my typing. My fingers like to wander to other keys than the ones I prefer to tap.

I didn’t know age would insist I nap more frequently, have an empty pantry of hostess delectibles,  take away my social life, suck energy from my body, or  allow me to ignore the messy living room that could never be on the cover of Architectual Digest. Traditions and obligations have become stressful with age.  How difficult  it is to maintain an outward appearance of enjoyment with a pain pulling here and there.

After 30 years of meeting work schedules, husband R and I want to live each day the way we choose: sleep late, eat when and what we enjoy, and wear our robes all day, if we so desire.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A Zoo in My Backyard

I recall when we spent summers in the Delaware Recreational area  how often we saw wild animals. Bears, coyote calls nightly, eagles, wild turkeys, and deer to name a few.  Becoming conscious of where we walked on the hillsides, guarding our garbage from bear intrusions, mysterious crunch-crunch outside our shed nights. . . all so mysterious to us town folk.

Since returning to our subdivision in Mississippi surrounded by loads of forested areas and a small bit of the historical Natchez Trace crossing our land, so far we had to watch out for alligators living in our lakes. Our house sits on a rise, away from the lake, so an alligator may have to be truly interested in meeting us to travel the distance.

We get emails occasionally about an animal showing up nearby. The latest came yesterday. It read something like this:" Those living on Mescalero, Kiowa, and Arapaho and Village Drive be careful that all pets must remain inside due to coyotes traveling in pairs seen on these streets. For them to be  traveling must mean they are hungry. Don't leave anything out and drive safely nights down these streets."

Lordy me! Those homes sitting near the lakes have had such trouble with the huge alligators until they were caught. Now we have coyotes. It isn't unusual that deer are seen on Village Drive, which is one of the entering and exits of the Village. My neighbor artist who often is up early likes to let me know how many deer have traipsed up our driveway. I informed him we give free breakfast if they'll eat and then leave.

We don't have to travel far to see a collection in a zoo. Visit our Village and you'll have fun finding them,


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Am I Getting Too Old?

I no longer feel excitement when holidays roll around. The need to give gifts to others whom I admire seem insignificant now. When the holiday arrives, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Valentine's Day or whatever, I think of it as another day. Another time to sit at home doing what I enjoy: reading, writing, watching a movie.

My daughter reminds me I've had my time with necessities and if I want to do nothing on those days I should feel no qualms. But I do. I feel I'm hurting someone's feelings if I don't accept a lunch or dinner invitation, or a gathering to watch popular football teams play.

What I dislike is the strain of conversation. So few I know like to speak about the latest book, a headline from the newspaper, or world affairs. No, they talk about their kids, gran'kids, next door neighbor, the latest Bunko group, or their latest surgery. Forced conversation with people who have nothing in common with me creates a tired brain. I check my watch  slyly. I give a nod to my husband that says "For goodness sake, let's get out of here!" I'd even play a game of Scrabble if offered rather than sit and listen to oohs and ahhs about the latest baby present.

Oh, I do remember those who aren't able to celebrate. I've friends who live too far away for me to spend time with. I'm not wooden headed about other people, it's the forced manner of celebrating the same way we've done for the last 50 years. Nothing surprises me much anymore.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

It's Nut Time Again

Fall is giving Mississippi a preview of coming events. Cool mornings and evenings, a welcome relief from the humid temperatures.

Received my first catalog from Sunnyland Farms in Georgia. Again I turn each page hungrily anxious for my first autumn taste of pecans.

We enjoy the ride to nearby Raymond, Mississippi to a retail pecan grove  bursting with ripe nuts. Human pickers and machines gather pecans, sort them and place them in large bins inside the store. Inside the small frame building, the nuts are divided into the types of pecans and displayed. First time I visited I recall how confused I was with the differences in pecans. Wasn't there just a good pecan?  

 Each variety has a distinct taste and chew. Luckily, you can take a sample, crack it, and try it for the kind of taste sensation you prefer. Some of the kinds I recall from my last visit were Stuart, Cape Fear, Desirable, Forkert, and Excel.  Every year a new type appears.  If you can go to a grove in your area, choosing your favorite pecan taste is an education in itself.

Just as most everything else in the food world, Indians ate pecans. The word is Algonquin meaning " hard to crack, needing a stone to open" Maybe those early ones were hard to crack, but today, some, like the paper-shell type, can be cracked in the hand.  I think of the hickory nuts Mother loved. She used a hammer, put the nut on the sidewalk or a large stone, and hit several times. The result was a constant picking out of the meat which didn't want to give up its warm bed. Too much work for the rest of the family who stuck with pecans.

We've always ordered pecans in the shell and had them cracked there at the store. There's such pleasure to sit in front of the television set with a bowl of cracked pecans in your lap, picking off the shell. The act of working for the meat is satisfying. You're not eating them too fast, tasting slowly with delight. Not the same satisfaction as reaching for a handful of  shelled meats sitting ready in its tin.  Try it.

One occasion we sent cousins in Virginia 10 lbs of pecans, cracked. When they received the package they were horrified that the package had been through some melee to have broken the pecans. They almost complained to UPS before they called to verify the condition.

We in the South say pee Kahn', not Pee' kans.   Check the dictionary.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Where Are the Writers?

I recently attended a local writing group. We met in a loud, crowded cafe at a table in the middle of incessant conversations and eating. Two of us wear hearing aids and the sun pouring through the windows blinded those of us facing them. Finally I saw the attendees and heard them speak after the lunch crowd had dispersed.

No order nor business was conducted. This was a "casual" meeting of writers. So what did I learn at that first meeting? One writer was working on a screenplay. He got to tell us where he got the notion to do so and that was his one minute of attention. A late comer H, an excited new writer joined us wearing the joy and excitement of having put together something of which he was proud. I glanced through his picture book with prose adjacent and knew he needed work to put depth into his prose, but on the whole he needed support. "Anyone, please look at this and tell me if I'm on the right track." No one took up the mantle of support. One visitor, who says he's an intellect without a Harvard education, isn't a writer. He calls himself a physicist who likes to tell everyone about his favorite subject. I call him a "tag-along." He gave a critique for the visitor that was out of the ballpark. In the first place, he didn't know what he was saying. Second, he kept trying to tell the newbie how to write it the way that was already written.

I left shortly thereafter, thinking an hour with this group wanting to stay connected with each other wasn't doing much in the surrounding din . I took away the plea of newbie, "Help me." Unfortunately, I left without his contact address. His cry is the same for many who need help with their writing. A writing group should have time to give help to the new writer who lives in his own small world and wants to expand. But how? Where?

So many people are writing nowadays who'll never get their work published on the mass market. They'll write and behave like they will, but everyone except themselves won't  see the shallowness of their work as others do. Someone once proclaimed "Everyone can write." That isn't a blanket that covers you with ideas and thoughts you hammer out on the computer or with the stub of a pencil. Everyone can write but not without guidance. We need a writing group to help fledgling writers.

 Everyone can write their stories for their loved ones. You simply begin to put your thoughts on paper. Even if you don't know the fine points of a good story, you allow your mind to open to experiences and stories locked in your head. Writing by hand, on typewriters or computers, anyone can write remembrances. No mass marketing, no hard copies, they produce nothing more than typed papers connected with a paper clip. These are the writers who'll achieve success in small ways because they have reachable goals.

That's my job nowadays. I push adults in a free library series to probe their memories and write sentences, paragraphs, or pages about their growing up. I insist they are writing the past for the future generations. I believe what I'm saying, and the teaching of such subject reinforces my belief. I've had wonderful stories come from numerous adults who are writing about their first loves, early childhood, marriage, divorce, parental relationship, career choices, war time and other eras of history. The group remembers the polio shots (as one participant wrote), first toy they ever owned, first time to eat margarine, ration books of WWII, first car they bought, and so on. There is no limit to what memory dictates as stories.

Somewhere near their writing space I've asked my students to print this sign and read it daily:


Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Cause for Celebration

Two dear friends recently married. I was as happy as a mother could be, as I knew they had wished for this for years. They are F and B. Together for over 20 years, this duo happily has lived and traveled with all the spirit of happiness.

We met these two when I was working summers in my son's business, Kudzu. They had stopped on their way to their Pennsylvania summer home from busy Staten Island for a look-see at the old redecorated gas station sitting on the side of the road just outside Barryville, NY. After  introductions and a quick chat on a lazy Saturday, they stepped out to their rental car to continue their journey. However, unknowingly, the automatic doors locked. B had left the keys in the ignition. What to do in a teeny town with no locksmith around? Call the local gas station. This particular one did everything and had the knowledge of breaking into cars like the police. However, it took four hours. In that time of waiting F, B, my husband R, and I learned a lot about each other. Two southerners talking with two New Yorkers produced some stimulated conversation. We became fast friends.

We spent breakfasts together, dined together, saw this couple throughout the summer. Returning home to  Mississippi, we kept a steady correspondence with pictures, F sharing his trips with us. F is above 80 years of age and looks 60. He has a special formula he's created for a breakfast that he emphasizes giving him the strength and youth. We enjoy his tales of travels to the ends of the earth, his multitude photos shot in exotic places, and the fact he's enjoying life to the fullest. B, the silent one, is the steady rock who cares for F like a dear husband should.

Congratulations, F and B. We love you and wish now you can find that freedom of living publically as a married couple.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Persistent Telephone Calls

Despite our having ID on our phone, most times we are in the habit of picking up on the first ring. As a result we get caught with a beggar on the other end.  How often we've discussed how to handle these persistent callers. Some friends say they don't give the caller much time to identify himself, then hang up; another said she'd heard to blow a whistle into the receiver would stop that caller; someone else said he picks up the phone and if there's a second of silence, he hangs up.  I have tried and used the last suggestion. But after much thought about those calls from organizations I know are worthy, I've adopted this remark:

"Now who are you calling for? Oh. You know, this is a difficult year for us and we can't contribute as we should. Thank you for calling."  Guess it's the southern hospitality that creeps into my voice that I can't use the second of my expressions:  "You know, you've called just too many times and I've told you to take my name off your political list.DON"T CALL HERE AGAIN!" I feel good with that last remark.

Once a politico called asking to support some man running for senator. I asked, "Where is he from?" The state was Ohio. "Now, do you suppose I want to support a man I don't know with my hard-earned money? You must be kidding." Caller paused and said, "I guess you're right about that" and hung up. I have to argue sometimes with the sense of a request.

After the conversation I visualize the caller and remind myself they are trying to supplement their earnings to pay a bill, buy books for school, add to the grocery money desperately needed. For a few minutes I am ashamed. But that thought disapates in a few minutes. That caller should know that no one likes a call asking for money.

I make up for contributions to the fallen policemen, the veterans, the Southwestern Indian tribe, the light bulb company, the crippled children's hospital, the political groups and all others who represent large bodies. I look around and find someone locally I can help, like the young woman whose pay goes to defray a bail for her son, the woman who struggles to keep alive a school to teach children to obey the laws of man and God, offer a loan to someone needing ready cash to pay on a medical bill, or clean out my closets to provide a girls' group with needed clothing.

That kind of contribution is satisfying because I know where the goods are destined.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

LIfe Changes

I used to wonder, when my parents were in their eighties, why they wanted to stay at home, not having the urge to shop, wander through the park, or walk the streets of our subdivision. Dad would sit in his favorite chair and watch sports on television for hours on end, sometimes falling asleep during the third quarter of a game.

Mother, who no longer could remember how to get from one room to another without getting lost, didn't watch television, but would nap all day long. Whenever I suggested to her to watch a favorite show, she'd reply, "I'm into interested in that anymore." Or she'd suggest "go riding." She didn't have to think or listen to anyone but me when I took her for a ride through the countryside. She'd ride to the ends of the earth without complaining, as long as she was moving without trying.

I was only 20 years younger than my parents, but still I couldn't understand their desire to do nothing.

Today I do. However, what is nothing to you is something to me.

I am now 20 years older, the same age as my mother. Luckily, I have a few sit-down hobbies I enjoy. But I don't look at television. Why? Because the speakers on the programs are talking too fast. Is this typical of us Southerners, that at an older age when we are so immersed with the slow language of the South,can't understand anyone from any other part of the country because they speak too fast for us to register the words?

I've become more fond of the bed for afternoon naps than any other time of my life. A short time in exercise, followed by running errands makes me tired. I flop down on the bed and have the best sleep of any withing 24 hours. Despite chasing ancestors,viewing a good movie on my Kindle, or reading the latest crime novel, I can be engaged all afternoon, but at 5 p.m. I notice I've missed my nap and fall into a stupor of two hours.

If it is true about napping extending one's life, I should hang around doing the same thing past my 100th. I've always said I hope to live to 140 because there are so many areas I want to cover. At the rate I'm going now with these naps, I can certainly count on additional years being added to my present age.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


I don't suggest everyone  follow my lead and write their life's experiences, but when you think of the history that will be unknown by many of your family members  generations to come, I wonder if you wouldn't get the fire started underneath you.

I'm teaching the second part of a two-part series of "Mining Your Memories --Writing Life's Experinces." It is a free course held once a month for four months and is divided into two parts: birth through elementary school and middle/junior high to young adulthood.

Because I am a self-starter, I have been writing various stories of happenings in my life thoughout the last 15 years. I realized early that some people need to be pushed. They need reason and a prod of their memory banks. I always thought of my brain as being like the post office boxes from the rear: series of slots where adventures, experences, important dates and such were slips of paper lying inside the slots. When the slots got full that part of the brain shut down until another slot opened up. In class I direct the adults to think by giving them situations or key words that put themselves into a time frame when they can remember a place and activity.

So with the support of a local library I set up free classes and have had good results.

For example, when we entered seventh grade, we signed Valentine cards with trite sayings we haven't used since that time: "Be mine to the end of time,""You are my sunshine." We began with everyone writing their own obituaries. Yes, I emphasized  a good obituary is self-written and should be an historic account of themselves. In elementary school we drew a houseplan where we lived at that time. That alone prompted many stories from the class. One student called his "My House of Memories".

There are lots of books one can follow, but sometimes sitting and reading the hundreds of questions printed one after the other becomes daunting. We discuss the time period, putting ourselves into elementary. junior high and high schools by describing what the buildings looked, where one's classes were located, who the teachers were, favorite classes, etc. We remember polio shots, favorite music, how we dressed, the way guys wore their hair, and the like. Remembering is the best way to appreciate the past.

We are in a small way contributing to the mass history of the 1930s through the 1970s. You may not ever read these accounts, but hundreds of family members will.

I felt comfortable about starting this class and sure enough in the middle of an hour someone will speak up and say, "I can't believe I can remember this." I hand out personal essays of friends who've captured that time and period, thus giving the class an opening that allows them to remember.

This is fun for me and for them. At the same time at home I'm typing as fast as possible to write the same assignment. From the accounts we write we'll find nuggets of stories we can expand on and create funny incidents to captivate their grandchildren, neices, and nephews. Learning to tell the story is just as important as writing them.

Eventually a small group will continue to write and our goal is to see that everyone prints up his own life's stories in a manner they can distribute and leave as a legacy.


I'm on a new diet. It's diet or nearly die. Nearly die means weeks and weeks of honest-to-goodness illness that is Not death-defying, but it feels like it. Part of my new diet is the ugly concoction at left. 

Can you guess what it is? I have it three times a week. Egg whites with either cheese or turkey sausage and  added Spirulina, the green ugly stuff.

Dr. Seuss must have been eating spirulina when he wrote the successful Green Eggs and Ham. Since this has been added to my diet I have discovered that the book is listed as No. 1 on the Book List of Wall St. Journal.  

The above illustrates how the egg begins in the skillet. When it is cooked it looks a bit better:

I must admit I closed my eyes eating this the first time, but as each breakfast arrived, I found myself adjusting to reading the newspaper and looking only occasionally to be sure my fork had a good helping attached.  I couldn't complete the Seuss meal with ham, since that is off my list of OK Foods. And ham has always been my favorite. 

Feeling the need to quote part of Dr. Seuss' famous poem, I have to resist due to restrictions. But for all of you who read it to your child or had it read to you, you know he made the dish sound delish!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Following Health Rules

As a retiree I have time to read a lot of online news. One of my favorites is one by Dr. Andrew Weill. Perhaps its because if I follow his advice, I'll live to my goal of 140 years old. Of course, I know I can't do that, but by putting the age at the impossible, I always have that optimism I need to carry on.

However, in this quest to live a long time in decent health, I'm committing a terrible body sin: sitting too much. With little interest nowadays in shopping (if I do, it's online), more interest in reading and exploring subjects on the Internet, completing a family tree, writing family stories -- you got it. I sit down a lot, a whole lot. And Dr. Weill says that's not good for the aging body.

I change a bit. I get up and walk around, sip water, check the weather out doors, and return to my book or computer. Another four hours and I do the same. Mind you, I sit up straight so there's no stress on my back. But how can I find an activity to limit my seating? I feel pressed for time to complete all that I want, despite the 140 time limit. I could go tomorrow, this afternoon, next week. Then all my diligent work will remain incomplete. And that's where I get anxious.

My neighbor down the street would love for me to visit her often. Secretly I'd count the hours I'd was separated from my writing. I procrastinate to push myself to grocery shop. I don't want to leave the house. Have I become agoraphobic? Not really. There's no fear of the outside. In fact, once I'm out I truly enjoy having made the decision, but not when I'm searching for avocados.

Don't get me wrong. I do go to exercise classes three times weekly, but exercise at home? My mind's elsewhere.

Frankly, I don't think I'll change. The clock is ticking. Let's face it, I'll be good for 90 years, but don't  tell me I have only 10 to go.