Don’t Play With Your Food

Big goings on happening this weekend.  A family hootenanny.  Great fun.

And so, in preparation for the gathering, I’m making Granny’s coconut cake.

And potato salad.

As I pulled out the potatoes to peel and put in the pot, a memory came to mind from when I was in fourth grade.  About potatoes.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Potatoes getting ready to go in my potato salad for the big family Hootenanny.

Each Monday I spent all day in a classroom with a group of students from fourth and fifth grades, different from my classes Tuesday through Friday.  That was the classroom I first heard about the concept of nuclear war, learned the word “nefarious,” and worked with manipulatives meant to foster creativity.   In the middle of the school year, sometime after Christmas, my teacher requested that we all bring in a bag of potatoes.  She wanted us to learn to make potato prints from them.

So yeah.  Art.  With food.


My Daddy was not impressed.  He not only did not send a bag of potatoes but he took time to write a rather lengthy letter about the cost of potatoes, the potato famine, and spoke out against “playing with our food.”

Naturally, at the time, I was mortified.

But today?

I get it.

I didn’t grow up knowing or even thinking about whether we were poor or not.  We had food on the table three times a day, a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. Our clothes more than likely were not name brand, and Mama shopped the clearance racks at Sears and waited for items to be put on the 75% off rack many times before she’d even think about buying a shirt or pair of pants.  My shoes never had a swoosh on the side until I was grown, had a job, and was buying my own shoes.  And they were on sale.  We didn’t hurt for anything, not that my parents ever let on anyway. It was because Mama and Daddy were frugal people with simple, reasonable tastes, and they didn’t waste things.  Still, I’m thinking that a bag of potatoes was not an expense they could have easily afforded at the time for something that seemed as frivolous as print making.

Daddy used to tell me that every generation wants the one after it to do a little better, to have a little better life than they did.  And I really believe he wanted that for each one of his four children.

Just as I think his parents wanted that for him and his siblings.

But there’s a fine line between “better life” and excessive lifestyle.

For Daddy that line was crossed with potato art–playing with one’s food.  Using a bag of potatoes to be cut up, painted, and then thrown out–when that bag could have fed his family for at least two meals?  No.  It was beyond what he would call better–it was wasteful.

I think about that sometimes, about how my Daddy went against the grain and stood up for what he believed in.  No matter how embarrassed I was at the time, it made an impression on me, and I try to be as strong in my own convictions and as willing to say what I think when I perceive a line being crossed.

I want a better life for my three children.  I want them to succeed and reach their goals and not have to struggle for everything.

But, forgive me, I do want them to have to struggle for something.  I want them to have to make an effort and to work hard.  And to learn what I learned from my Daddy and Mama–figure out what you believe in and stand strong upon it.

Things that come too easily are not as easily appreciated as those things we work hard for.  And wanting for something rarely if ever really hurt someone.

They’ll survive.  Just as I did.  It didn’t hurt me that I was 16 when we got our first color TV and 17 when we got our VCR.  I grew up sharing a room and so much more with Sister, and things were never just handed to me.

Today I’m thankful for all of those things.  I’m thankful for parents who tried to teach me to be a good steward of what I have and don’t have.  I give thanks for a Daddy who wasn’t too embarrassed to say what he thought.  (And a Mama who was even more so that way.)  Most of all, I appreciate being told all those years, “You’re under (12, 18, 25, 42…..) and your wants won’t hurt ya.”

Yeah.  That.

And you know what?

They were right.

Love to all.  Hope your weekend is full of fun and maybe even a hootenanny or two.  😉



Wanted: A Grateful Heart and a Satisfied Soul

This afternoon after our Sister Circle was over at Daybreak, I saw my friend Mr. B sitting in one of the comfortable chairs in the gathering area.  He waved me over.  I was glad to see him.  He had heart surgery before Christmas and wasn’t able to get his medicine filled until January 1.  (Oh the things we take for granted.)  He smiled his wonderful smile and asked about my Fella.  They became good friends when the Sunday night suppers were being served each week.

The last time I saw him he was staying at one of the overnight shelters.  I asked him how he was doing, and he said he was still staying there.

“I’m okay, though.  I don’t mind it at all.  You know, I was thinking about this the other day.  You know how when Jesus was here?  Walking around on this earth?”

“Yessir.”  I nodded.

“Well, think about this.  Everything around him was His, belonged to Him.  EveryONE around him belonged to Him really.  But the Son of Man had no—”

“place to lay his head.”  We finished together.

We both nodded.

Mr. B continued.  “So then, who am I to want stuff?  When God’s son Jesus didn’t even have anything to his name, why should I spend my life wanting stuff?  Why shouldn’t I be okay where I am?”


It was more than a good sermon.  What he didn’t realize was he was calling me out.  Me, who does love her GW Boutique bargains and who spends way too much energy mooning over pretty scarves and cool handmade jewelry and things I have no real need for.  Who has a hard time letting go of “stuff” that has a story behind it.  I stood there looking him in his precious face and thinking of how I have failed and how much I want to have the heart this man has.  A heart not weighted down by stuff.

It was a surreal afternoon.  When some of my friends who live in their “camp” close by asked what the weather is expected to do the next few days, I looked it up on the Weather Channel App.  My heart sank as they groaned at the lows the next couple of nights.  As we said goodbye, we waved once more, and then headed across town.

But it might as well have been to another world.  So much of my life is filled with this grotesque contrast between the world of the “haves and the have nots.”  I found myself sitting in a lovely office with amazing chairs listening to someone who knows how to handle finances and all of that “stuff.”  As we visited, the word “stuff” came up.  He laughed and asked if we had heard George Carlin talk about “stuff.”  I have.  This comedian described our houses as piles of stuff with tops on them.  That we have to lock so no one will come in and get our “stuff.”  And when we run out of space for our “stuff,” we have to buy a bigger place to hold our “stuff.”  The funniest part to me is when he mentions that there is a whole industry devoted to taking care of our “stuff.”  *sigh*  Funny but sad.  Because it’s true.

Tonight I’m thankful for a friend who knows what it is like to be satisfied where he is.  He is not wanting more stuff.  I want his focus and faith and heart.  And I want to share it with my children.  Christmas is not even a month gone, and I’ve already heard a want or two.   I am ashamed to share that.  It breaks my heart.  Did they learn that from me?

I want to raise children who are thankful and satisfied–to be adults who are thankful and satisfied…..and not always wanting “the next big thing” or “more stuff.”  I could blame it on the commercial and advertising we are exposed to, but in reality, I know it’s not completely their fault. I need to set an example of a grateful heart and a satisfied soul.  Like my parents did before me.  Live simply within my means and be thankful and take care of what I do have.  That’s what I want for my children as well.

Tonight I am thankful for those around me who show me what it’s like to be satisfied, and I’m thankful for the stuff I do have…..but I really want to let go of the wants and focus on the good of where I am right now.  Wherever that might be.


Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Luke 9:58 NIV

Full of Hope and Possibilities

Yesterday my BIL Leroy called and asked what I was up to.  “Cleaning up areas and stuff that no one will notice at all.  And it’s looking worse before it can possibly look better,” I sighed. Leroy replied, “Well as long as you notice that’s what counts, right?”


Still, it’d be nice if SOMEONE would say, oh wow, the way stuff’s not pouring out from under the desk–yeah that–that’s pretty awesome.

Not meant to be though.

So as I was wrangling dust bunnies big enough to choke a horse out from under my desk, I found this little guy.

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

Rescued this little guy from the attack of the dust bunnies under my desk

He really doesn’t have much left in him, poor thing.  Once you start sharpening the labelled part, well, it’s getting close to time to start scrambling for a new pencil. It reminded me a of a boy I went to school with–we’ll call him Buck.  We were in school together all twelve years.  In the early years, we had all our classes together.  I remember him writing with pencils just like this one more often than not.  How he did it, I do not know.  But he did.

I thought about the short pencil, wondering if Buck always had to use the short ones or if it was his preference.  I knew children who often seemed to be short on school supplies.  At the time I took it for granted that I never lacked the pencils and notebooks and paper and other supplies required by my teachers. If I had to borrow paper or a pencil it was because of my lack of planning, not because we didn’t have it.   Today I realize that my parents made our education a priority, and though we didn’t have a lot of extras, they did make sure we had what we needed.

The end of summer meant picking up packs of paper and pencils.  I even remember the year I got to pick out a Trapper Keeper because it was there was a big sale at the KMart.  It had a horse on the cover.  I was on Cloud Nine.  Decisions were made about whether a new lunchbox or lunchbag was needed each year.  We made trips up to my aunt’s in Griffin, so Mama and my aunt could go to the Sock Shoppe.  New underwear and socks also marked the beginning of the school year, because well, you know.  No I’m not really sure, but why not?  It was as good a time as any, I guess. I loved the shopping trips because it meant playing with my cousins at the house while the shopping was done.  (And yes, I loved my new aforementioned items too.)

We got new bookbags as needed, but the one I remember most was one Mama sewed for me–two-tone blue denim with all kinds of pockets.  Mama did not find much pleasure in sewing but she was an excellent seamstress.  That bag held up for quite a while.

Today I am thankful for my parents who made choices that assured I was never without what I needed for my education.  That was a precious gift because I know there were times that were hard, and they had to cut corners.  I am lucky that I never had to worry about how I would get the posterboard for my projects or if I had enough notebook paper to finish the school year.

The public schools here start in the next couple of weeks.   After finding the pencil yesterday and thinking back over how fortunate I was, I have been thinking about the children who won’t have it so good.  Those who will start the school year without the things they need.  They start their year already two steps behind.  That breaks my heart–the children whose families are affected by the furloughs or whose breadwinners have lost their jobs or who are moving from place to place without a real place to call home.  We have the power to change at least this need for them.

Many stores have dropboxes for supplies that will be distributed to children in need.  Local programs that work with homeless families or spouse abuse shelters, Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Rescue Missions–all of these have children in their midst who could use a hand up as school starts.  If you were lucky enough to have what you needed or if you remember what it was like not to have those things readily available, and you are able to pick up a few extra things in the next couple of weeks, will you join me in helping change their future?  Let them know someone cares, and send them off on their big day with all the things they need.

Nothing opens up possibilities like a fresh box of crayons–so much one can create and do–so full of hope.  (And remember the boxes with the sharpener built in?  Fabulous!) Let’s show them they’re loved.  I know it’s a cliché, but these young people whom we have a chance to help today are our future. Let’s make it a bright and hopeful one.  We can do it.  One pack of paper or box of pencils at a time.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.

Full of hope and potential, just like the children who need our help.