Mock Pecan Pie and Making Do

It was covered dish night at Evening Prayer.  Because of the food allergies in our family, I try to prepare (okay, or purchase) food so my people can eat and be satisfied.  I was taking a crockpot of macaroni and cheese, so after I got that started I began thinking about what dessert to take.

Desserts are pretty important, because I don’t ever want my girl to feel slighted or left out.  And let’s face it, when you can’t have dessert, that can make you pretty sad.

I pulled out one of my Mama’s cookbooks–the last one she got,  I’m pretty sure.  I flipped through.  I thought about a cake and then about cookies.  I love to bake, but nothing was suiting me.  Then I flipped through and came to pies.

Pies.

I haven’t made one in quite a while.  I like to make pies, and if I wasn’t mistaken, I had two pie crusts in the freezer.

WIN.

Then one recipe caught my eye–“Mock Pecan Pie.”

Wow.  What?

Since the advent of food allergies, we haven’t had one of those.  IN YEARS.

I read through and was pretty sure I had all of the ingredients.  The story behind it was what reeled me in and sealed the deal though.

It usually is.

I found a story that told how during the Civil War folks were short on pecans.  Since their families loved pecans and pecan pie, the women did something that I grew up watching my Mama do.

They made do.

And improvised.

Beautiful.

I love stories of people who make incredible things happen even when maybe they don’t–at first glance–have all they need to have to bring it to fruition.  Those are the best stories.

As I began to mix the ingredients, I realized I didn’t have white Karo syrup.  Actually, in all honesty, maybe I shouldn’t say I didn’t have it–the truth would be that I couldn’t find it in my pantry.

Rather than give up the plan, inspired by the ingenuity of my foremothers and my own Mama, I looked up alternatives and used the right proportions of water and sugar and voila!  We had a pie mixed up and in the oven.

I usually don’t do that–take something I’ve never made before to a public gathering.  The fact that I did is a testament to the spirit of the people I sit with on Sunday nights.  They are adventurous and gracious and loving.  And I hope truthful.

Because they said it was wonderful.

The best part was the look on my girl’s face when I put a slice on her plate.  Dessert?  Yes, please.

I will make the extra effort every single time, just for that look on her face.

Tonight I’m thankful for the women and men on this journey who might be slowed down by the situation or by what they don’t have, but who are rarely stopped.  And never for very long. They make do and create beautiful things despite their hardships or lack of the traditional set of “tools” in their kit bag.  Most of all I’m thankful for a recipe found at just the right time and for the smile that pie put on my girl’s face.

May we all have a “make do/can do” spirit that makes this world a better, happier place for all of us.

“Pecan” pie from oatmeal?  Who’d a thunk it?  And, as my dear friend pointed out, add a few banana slices–it can make a pretty wholesome breakfast too. (Bread, oatmeal, eggs, fruit…..right?) Delicious and versatile.  It doesn’t get better than that.

And because I love y’all, here’s the recipe for you to give a try.

Oatmeal Pie (Mock Pecan)

2 eggs, beaten
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. melted margarine (1 1/4 sticks) *I used butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 c. white Karo syrup
2/3 c. oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake about an hour at 350 degrees.

Doris Jackson, Gracewood Baptist, Memphis, TN, from “Simply Southern” for the The Vashti Center in Thomasville, Georgia

(I doubled this and made two because #whynot. This is a case of more is better. Also I saw a recipe on-line that suggested adding coconut.  Oh my stars.  That’s next on the agenda–because I found two more pie crusts!  Life is good.)

Love to all.

FullSizeRender-2

An Angel in the ATL

Today we made the trek up to the big ATL, Atlanta, the big city, for a checkup with a specialist.  Me, being me, I underestimated the time it would take to get there.  I also was not up to date with the information that they had moved offices.

So while it was very near 11:00 a.m., our appointment time, when the Fella dropped me and the littles off at the door so he could go park, it was nearly 11:25 by the time we got back in the vehicle, drove up the road three blocks, and he dropped us off again.  At the correct office.

And unfortunately, doctors don’t sit around waiting on patients as much as one might hope.

Yeah, we’d been scratched.

Which I totally understood, but the thought of traveling back up there AGAIN in the near future stressed me out to no end.  I asked if there were any options for us.  The office staff there were fabulous.  The office manager came out and explained that if we came back by 1, the nurse practitioner we were seeing would try to work us in between 1 and 1:30.

It was above and beyond really.  They didn’t have to do that.  But there I was in one of my least favorite situations–in a town where I’m not very familiar with the eating establishments and needing to feed my child with severe food allergies.

I hate food allergies.

For a number of reasons, but mostly because of the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I have to figure out what to do about eating safely.

I asked the office manager if there were any places to eat close by.  She talked about some places that sounded so trendy and different and wonderful that I would have loved to go.  However, I needed a place we’d been before so we could do a dash in, dash out and get back to the office.  And know the meal was safe.

I asked about a particular restaurant that we eat at here at home.  She and the registrars looked at each other, shaking their heads.   From what they were saying it sounded like it was pretty far off.  I thanked them for their time, and told them we’d see them again before 1:00 p.m.  I did appreciate their willingness to help us out.  It would have been well within their rights to reschedule us for another day.  I am so thankful they didn’t.

As I was waiting on some information about our referral, a gentleman sitting behind Cooter turned around in his seat and quietly said, “There’s one over on the next road over.”

“I’m sorry?”  I asked.  It didn’t register with me at first that he was rescuing me from the grip Anxiety Girl had on me.

“The restaurant.  There’s one close by.”

“Really?”  I felt like hugging him.  He proceeded to tell my Fella how to get there, while I finished up with the registrars.

While we gathered our things together, I saw him leave the office.  Interesting, since he had just been sitting there with us and he hadn’t had time for an appointment.

As we walked through the parking garage to our vehicle, I heard someone calling out to us.  “Hey!”

I looked over.  It was our new friend.  “Did they get y’all settled? Are you going to get back in?”

I smiled and waved.  “Sure are.  Thank you so much!”

“Good.  I’m just heading down to the 2nd floor parking deck to pick up my wife. Y’all take care.”

“You too!”  We all waved our thanks.

And then I thought–wait.  What?

Why had he even been on the third floor office where we had been waiting?

I have no idea, but I do know I stand by what I told him after he gave us directions to the restaurant.  “You may very well be a human, but right now, I only see an angel.”  An angel who eased my burden and made my heart light.

Tonight I’m thankful for the presence of an angel–or a man who made himself interruptible to help someone he saw in need.  Both are kind of one and the same for me today.  I give thanks for a doctor and her office staff who treated us as people and not as numbers.  The grace they showed us today was not merited but it was much appreciated.  Because of that, I was a better person for the rest of the day.  Or at least I tried hard to be.

May we all take the opportunity to help another when we see someone in need.  May we all offer grace to another every chance we can.  It just makes the journey better all around, don’t you think?  We need each other, y’all.

Love and grace to all.

The Hug That Got Me Wet

As I sat listening to the conversations around the tables, two arms reached around me and hugged my neck from behind.  Before I could fully appreciate how sweet it was that Cooter wanted to hug me, I felt his wet shirt against my back.  He hugged me even tighter and the wet clamminess began to seep through my own shirt.

Ah.  That’s what motivated him.  Not love.  But mischievousness.

Either way, I took it.  And was glad to get it.

On this beautiful summer evening, we gathered with our little community at Evening Prayer for food and fellowship.  It was a special evening as we were having a sendoff for one of our own.  This sweet young woman who has spent countless hours entertaining my children and others on Sunday nights, playing with them, making them behave, and keeping them safe–she is leaving us to begin the next part of her life.  As we went around the room naming words that described her, I heard fun, funny, nice, strong, light, makes us mind, and others.

She will be missed.

In celebration tonight, the idea of a water balloon fight had been tossed around and brought to fruition.  My littles were very excited about it.  My friend and I walked around outside to watch the fun.  Despite the best efforts of some, we did not get wet.

The same thing cannot be said of my little guy.  Cooter was drenched.  But his smile was dazzling.  He was THRILLED to have been soaked.

And that’s why he came up a few minutes later and hugged me from behind.  That little bugger wanted to get me wet too.  If I had jumped out of my chair, crying indignantly about getting wet from his hug, he would have laughed all the harder.

But here’s the thing.  Tonight was a reminder of how fleeting this life is.  How quickly people come and go, precious people, ones we love and will miss so much our hearts will ache.  It was joyful and joy-filled, but it held a tinge of sadness as we stayed a little longer after, acted a little sillier, and laughed a little harder.  We took more pictures and selfies and “us-sies” than ever before.  It’s all going by too fast.  The days and nights and hours and minutes and this whole life.  And friends.  Who are like family.

And that’s why I didn’t make him move his little wet and clammy self and let go.

Because time is spinning out of control it seems and as long as he wants to hug me, I’ll take it.  No matter how wet or sticky or dirty or cold or hot or whatever I get.

Because it’s a hug.  From my baby.

Tonight I’m thankful for those we share this journey with.  The ones who laugh at my crazy and still love me anyway.  The ones who love my children and care for them and keep them safe.  The ones who have grown up with my crew and will keep doing so, only through photos and shared posts now.  So many farewells this summer, so many tears, so many wonderful memories to tuck away and pull out when the sadness is overwhelming.

May someone surprise you with a hug today.  I hope it won’t be a wet one, but even if it is, I promise you–you’ll dry.  And you’ll have a precious memory to hold on to.

Love–and hugs–to all.

Photo by Michelle Grewe via Wikimedia Commons
                  Photo by Michelle Grewe via Wikimedia Commons

It Doesn’t Get Any Easier

“Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.”

“Don’t eat too many strawberries.”

“You know, you shouldn’t take any pain relievers at all.”

“Why didn’t you take something for your headache?  A bad one’s not good for the baby.”

“You should sleep more.”

“You should really be exercising more.”

“Be careful how much you are exercising.”

And it went on and on.  All of the advice and wisdom shared—most of it well-intended—while I was pregnant with my first child.  Everyone everywhere had something to share.  From the library to the grocery store to the women at work and the people at church, it seemed like I could not go anywhere that someone didn’t share his or her opinion on childbirth or child-rearing.

“You’re going to stay home with the baby, aren’t you?  Attachment is so important.”

“You really should go back to work after the baby comes.  You don’t want it to get too attached to you.”

“You’re going to breastfeed exclusively, aren’t you?  That’s the only way.”

“You’re not going to depend on breastfeeding all the time, are you?  How will anyone else be able to bond with the baby?”

Oh me.

It was enough to make my head spin.

Fortunately, I had parents and folks I trusted who helped me sort through the advice echoing through my sleep-deprived brain.  What I chose might not have always been right, but it was right for me and my baby.

My baby who is now 19 and just finished up her sophomore year in college.

It has occurred to me the past few months the words of wisdom that I never heard.

It doesnt get any easier.  

As in, when they get a driver’s license and can drive themselves places.  Not easier.

When they turn 18 and can make choices for themselves and the doctors will ask you to wait in the waiting room during an exam, NOT easier.

And when they are 19 and making wise choices and doing all kinds of things to make you proud, it is not easier.

Because #OtherPeople.

After I gave birth to my oldest child, the first grandchild on my side of the family, my Daddy told me, “No one is going to help you raise this child.”

It was a cryptic message.  Especially considering that when she was a few months shy of 3 years old, she and I moved back in with him and Mama.  They helped me tremendously and a huge part of the good person she is can be attributed to them and the way they helped raise her.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I understood what he meant.

There are times it seems as though the world is working against me.

And I’ve come to realize that the easiest time of raising a child is pregnancy.  Even with all the worries and uncertainties and discomfort—it’s still easier.

After I brought each one of these three precious ones—first my daughter, then nine years later her baby sister, and two years after that, my baby boy—I could no longer protect them.  I couldn’t prevent them from hearing and seeing things that would break their hearts and hurt them beyond measure.

Like the first time my littles, now 8 and 10, asked me why people ever thought it was okay to own other people.  Or when I have to tell my younger daughter she can’t go somewhere because of her severe food allergies.  Or seeing the disappointment in their eyes when something they’ve worked so hard for still eludes them.

The moment I had to tell each one of them that first their Cap, my Daddy, and then fifteen months later their Maemae, my Mama, had passed on from this world tore me apart.  I would have given anything in that moment to shield their little hearts from the pain and loss and brokenness.

How time and time again ones who should have loved them most let them down.  By choosing poorly or having other priorities.

When my oldest went off to college and turned 18 all within a couple of months, folks were congratulating me.  As if I had completed “something” and could check that off my list.  I had gotten her to where she was supposed to be, I suppose, and so good on me, I was done.

Hardly.

The thing about parenting a young adult that might be the hardest is the realization and acknowledgment that they do indeed still need parenting.  There is no magic veil that is lifted when someone hits the age of 18 or 21 or starts college or graduates from college or gets married—no magic veil that lifts and reveals ALLYOUEVERNEEDTOKNOW.

My daughter has needed more strength and wisdom and patience and guidance and PRESENCE from me since she moved off to college than she has ever needed before.  Because while the veil doesn’t lift and reveal all you need to know, it does seem to lift and reveal so much you have to deal with.

People and their prejudices.  People and their poor choices that, unfortunately, affect all those around them.  Societal norms that go against all your raisings.  All the gray that exists in between “all good” and “all bad”—two extremes which do not exist by the way.  Choices and decisions where there’s not a clearcut right or wrong, but yes, they do each lead down a separate path.

The fact is, we are never really done parenting our children.  As I think on the past two years of being Mama to a young adult whom I’m more proud of each day, I wonder what it was like for my parents, watching the hard things I went through, the things that brought me back home with my child in my arms.  I wonder if that was when they realized what I now know.

We are never done.

Shoot, I still need parenting myself from time to time, and I’m not the young adult I used to be.

And in those moments, my parents are there.  I can feel them with me.  Or hear their words in my heart.  Or one of the people who are still here, the ones my folks made sure I loved and knew and trusted, listens and cares so much I am able to take the next step and do what needs doing.

I think that’s what parenting a young adult is about.  I can’t really ground her anymore or take away her TV privileges. Well, I suppose I could, but I don’t think it would have the desired effect it did ten years ago.  What I can do is earn her trust, respect her opinions and what she wants in life, listen and tell her often there is no story she can ever bring home to me that would change my love for her.

It doesn’t get any easier.  There’s no form for me to turn in and be signed off as her parent.  It’s a job I took on for life from the moment she was formed well before her birth.  It’s not what I was expecting, but the rewards of being a Mama of a young adult far outweigh the hard stuff.  She is an amazing person, and I will be here for her and her sister and brother as long as I have breath left in me.

Because a Mama’s job is never done…..and it’s rarely easy.

But it is always worth it.

By Øyvind Holmstad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Øyvind Holmstad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Still Squaring Up…..Thirty Years Later

There has a been a lot of pain and joy and violence and heartbreak and celebration and divisiveness and reunification in the past two weeks.  Almost more than I can begin to take in and really wrap my brain around.

It has me feeling a bit discombobulated frankly.

Or maybe that’s the headache.

This afternoon I went into my bedroom to get something I’d left in there, and as I rounded the corner of my side of the bed, I heard the voice in my head.

It was from over thirty years ago.  I guess I must have tucked it away really well, because I haven’t thought about this in years.  But today, with all of this that has been going on–people posting and shouting and crying out to be heard and understood and others crying out for things to stay the same and just folks crying in general–it all came rushing back.

And it near about sent me to my knees, weeping.

I was in elementary school.  In the county I grew up in, there were two towns.  The one I grew up just outside of and the other one where everything happened.  This was where the 4-H office was, and it was also where the old school my Daddy attended growing up was.  The 4-H group used an area in that school for their Square Dance classes.

When I first heard of the classes, I was excited.  When I was in third grade, only a select few had been allowed to go to the gym to learn square dancing.  I was too young to understand why, so I can’t answer that question now.  I just know I was not one of them.  So when this opportunity came about to learn through the 4-H club a few years later, a club I was involved in at my own school, I was elated.

My parents were willing to take me, something I don’t take lightly now, being a parent who is part taxi driver much of the time.  Daddy took a book and would sit in the car reading, as best as I can remember.  As I was the only one from our town attending, I didn’t know anyone else there.  There were three girls who were welcoming to me, and I was so thankful.  When the caller announced, “Square up!” the four of us stood waiting for partners to join us.  And off we went.

I loved it.

My Mama made me a couple of skirts and a crinoline.  I loved the feel of flouncing around in them and my bright white tennis shoes.  I had found something I truly enjoyed.

Then one night one of the ladies who was volunteering as chaperone called me to the side.  She quietly suggested maybe I’d want to square up with someone else for a change.  I can hear her voice now, but I can no longer see her face.   I can still see the dimly lit room and that tile floor, all scuffed and dull from years of use, but her face is gone.  Which is probably for the best.  Some things are better left forgotten.

She was strongly suggesting that I change.  While she didn’t say it in so many words, it was very clear to me, shocked as I was, that she thought I should leave my three friends because they were black.  African-American.

I was in shock.  Speechless.  Broken.

That’s what drove me to my knees today.

I had forgotten what that felt like.  To have someone in authority telling me whom I should be friends with, hang out or associate with, whom I should care about. For someone else’s prejudices to be inflicted upon me.

And here we are.  Over 30 years later.  We are still seeing this happen today, and it is heart wrenching.  People who are so certain that their way of thinking is the only way–the right way–that they believe everyone else should abide by their beliefs as well.

I don’t remember exactly what I did in that moment, except that I do remember feeling sick.  And dirty.  And I remember going back to my friends.  And squaring up.

Because that’s what you do.  Stick with your friends.  Even when others suggest they are “less than” or you could do better.

What I’m having trouble remembering is whether or not something was said to my Daddy, or if I ever told my parents myself.  I can only imagine what my Daddy, who came up during segregation, would have said–the man who told me later in life that when I was in high school, he searched his soul and decided that if I ever brought home a boyfriend of a different race, the only thing that mattered was if that person loved me and treated me right.  The same man who also shared that if one of us came home in a serious relationship with someone of the same gender, he would be okay then too.  As long as we were loved and treated well.

Because he loved us.  And that’s all that mattered.

Mama too.  She was all about loving folks.  And feeding them.   But that’s another story.

Tonight I’m still a little shaky.  For a few minutes today I was a pre-teen and had my world rocked all over again.  I was overwhelmed by the shame of feeling like I was doing something wrong, and yet also confused because I was pretty sure I wasn’t.  Once again I feel the weight of being responsible for little people and shaping their thoughts and hearts.  I don’t want to mislead them.  Ever.  I’m thankful for this memory resurfacing today, painful as it is, as it has reminded me to guard against prejudices–those get passed along very easily, even when we aren’t trying.

I want to take a page from my parents’ book on this one.  Love all.  And let my children know again and again there is never a story or person they can’t bring home to me.

Let’s go out there and make this world a better place.  PLEASE.  And please someone show me that we have moved beyond where we were thirty years ago.  My heart really needs that right now.

Love to all.

By le vent le cri (Love you!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By le vent le cri (Love you!) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The One In Which I Drone On

Almost two weeks ago, when we were in Texas, there was a story on the news that I was paying no attention to.  I was moving between the rooms in the place we were staying, doing my usual–gathering up, throwing away, tossing in the washer, and generally trying to make sure we wound up leaving with everything we brought–mostly by keeping things from getting lost under the couch or bed or whatever.

Cooter found some unfortunate child’s little tractor under a chair while we were there, so we know it can and has happened.

But this news story, though it did not capture my attention at all at first, did grab me right at the end.  Something about drones and how people were worried about them being a serious invasion of privacy.

I found myself shaking my head.  All political issues and whatnot aside, all I could think was–

How about I’m just trying to live my life such that if those high-tech drones, or you know, God, were watching closely, it would still be good.  

And I continued on with the task at hand–taking care of what needed taking care of.  Because if those drones or my Mama are peeping in, I don’t want to be caught with a mess for all to see.

Tonight I’m thankful for laughter and thoughts that seem to come out of nowhere and share some brevity when things get so serious.  I give thanks for a Mama who taught me to dance in this life like nobody was watching but reminded me often that there was nothing I could ever do that she wouldn’t find out about.  (She wasn’t joking–I grew up in a very, very small town.)  That sort of parenting prepared me for living a life that is viewable.  Not that it always is–I have my fair share of moments that aren’t for public consumption.  But for my Mama’s sake, I try.

As for those drones?  Send ’em on, I guess.  Just be sure they swing by Amazon and pick up a thing or two off my wish list to bring with them.  At least until Amazon gets their own drones, like they said they would.

It’s a whole new world, y’all.

Love (and wishes for a little privacy) to all.

Parrot AR Drone via Wikimedia Commons
Parrot AR Drone via Wikimedia Commons

play ball

in all the hot summers of playing softball
under the bright summer sky
and watching baseball games
and coaching tee ball

the two rules I remember best
are don’t throw the bat
and keep your eye on the ball

all those little hands throwing balls
looking first to see that the person on the other end
was ready to catch
prepared
watching
aware

part of being a good team player

if only we were as careful,
intentional,
and deliberate
as we tossed our words around
at others

instead of hurling them
without looking
across the room
that is our playing field–
with no referees to call
us to sit the bench for our callous
or unsuitable behavior

we hurl
we hurt
and we lose the game

via Wikimedia Commons
via Wikimedia Commons