Left Out

When I attended graduate school I was taught many different things. Different ideas and ways to think were impressed on me as well. Along the way, morals, beliefs, and political leanings were discussed openly and hashed over. I was taught different formatting skills for every possibility. I learned how to cite from outside sources and how to craft my own work.

I learned to build websites and fill them with appropriate content and I learned that an argument is not really an argument as most folks see it. An argument should put forth new ideas and new ways of looking at things in an attempt to better understand the issues. Both sides bring out their information and try to sway the other side to come over to their way of thinking or perhaps they both learn something and a new way of understanding is achieved.

Whether I was working on websites, written documents, or oral presentations, one concept continually tweaked my brain. Because I am a “doer” and work at whirling dervish speeds, the concept was a little more difficult to grasp than some others. The concept is that the stuff we leave out is just as important as the stuff we put in. GASP! I was being asked to fill page after page with words and ideas and thoughts and charts and headings and, and, and, and they wanted me to think about what I left out when I was struggling to fulfill the assignment by adding all that I could possibly think about.

The more I worked on things, the more I thought about that concept. I graduated and began teaching. The concept became more important as I taught students to pick only one or two fonts at most when I read through resumes or cover letters filled with curlicues, pink text, and many fonts. Then I impressed upon my students the idea that what we leave out can be more effective than the things we leave in.

Amidst all the ruffled feathers of the NFL, the natural disasters, the horrific crimes, and all the Trump bashings on mainstream media, I am even more aware of the importance of leaving things out. Seemingly our culture wants immediate and complete disclosure of every event happening world-wide. At times, our military have been put in jeopardy because of this cry for all information all the time. However, in many instances when more was needed, the information was conveniently left out to the point it is virtually impossible to know what/who to believe.

Last week I read a report showing that cellular usage by teens corresponds with higher instances of teen suicide and depression because so much information is shared publicly. Nothing is left out. Teens make a mistake at school and the whole world knows about it in just a few seconds. Someone breaks up with someone and the cyber bullies are at it before the heartbroken one can even process the news. Images, texts, and thoughts are not edited because it is easy to crucify another when it is “just online.” Everything gets published and nothing is left out.

As I ponder my life these days I am even more aware of the importance of things left out. Perhaps we should keep our opinions to ourselves a little more often and perhaps we should strive to find out all the details before making swift judgments. My sister used to tell me, “No matter how flat the pancake there are still two sides.” Sometimes we don’t have all the information and sometimes we don’t need it. Sometimes, what is left out will hurt others and sometimes what is left out is truly not important enough to mention.

Our world is filled with information and we must act, daily, as human filters. Can we believe this? Can we believe that? What makes this person do this or that? What information don’t we know that would make us think differently?

The concept that we have a choice of what to put in and what NOT to put in can become mind-boggling if we let it. Information is just one area for this concept to work. Our life can be looked at in the same manner.

What do I leave out and what do I NOT want to leave out?

Of course, I would like to leave out ugliness, untruth, and selfishness. I would like to NOT leave out kindness, grace, and integrity.  Like the writer who deliberately leaves out certain words, phrases, and thoughts, I, too, can wake up every morning and make deliberate choices about my life.

Be kind or be ugly.

Be gracious or be an old goat.

Be a whiner or get on with life.

I hope that what you leave out this week will be a blessing to others and I hope that what you choose to leave in this week will be a blessing to others.

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Fall Yuuummm

I love fall. I love the cool mornings with the mist/dew hovering over my plants in the garden. I love how spider webs appear in the light from the sun and the leaves begin their transformation from green to orange, red, or bronze. I especially love the streak of bright yellow as the school bus roars past our house in the mornings and afternoons. Fall is the point of going forward.

We move from growing to harvest in the fall. I love the harvest time because it takes me back to so many good memories of my life. Pulling the baskets off the wall and walking up and down the rows of peas, beans, and cucumbers to bring in the harvest is the best point of going forward. We pick, pull, snap, and shuck so that our families will be fed in the winter. We mash, peel, and chop to our hearts delight in the fall.

Nothing makes me prouder than my rows of red and green filled jars marching along on my pantry shelves. Add in the grape, peach, and cherry jellies and I am ready for anything. Fall brings such a feeling of satisfaction. The cool lifts our hearts and the eagerness of the kids hopping off the bus in the afternoons restores my spirit. Life is ongoing and it is good.

The coolness of the fall also brings about an irresistible urge to bake. Carrot cakes, pumpkin cakes, apple pies, pear/cranberry muffins bring about such memories. My banana nut bread is from an old recipe that I got from my grandmother’s sister. It makes huge amounts of banana bread but I would never use a different one. My peanut butter cookies are from an old recipe my sister gave me. Her brother-in-law was a cook for an old country school and he made these cookies for hundreds of school children over the years. Now I make them for mine. I suppose that over the years of pleasing our families we cook certain things at certain times because the activity and aroma are firmly tied to a memory.

We have certain cookies and quick eats that we only make at Christmas. There is no reason we can’t have them at other times but we have them down as Christmas and that is when we enjoy them. Iced cookies are enjoyed at Christmas and Valentines. Pumpkin pies are just not the same on July fourth as they are on Thanksgiving. Sausage balls are fun to make and eat but we usually only make them at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am sure they are yummy in June but in June we are into melons and berries and sausage balls don’t even sound appealing!

Fall has its own recipes. Apple cake, pumpkin bread, baked turkey, chili and cornbread, beans and cornbread, pineapple upside down cake in the cast iron skillet. Warm things to help us get through the new, chillier evenings. When baking, I almost always bake from scratch and for the most part I use recipes from old as well. Some are written on paper with splots and splashes of vanilla or chocolate powder. Others have been copied several times over onto little cards. Some pages of my cookbooks fall open to selections because of the goo leftover on the pages.

I have little notes written in beside the ones I make the most and if I get a recipe from a friend or relative I usually note the name of the person I got it from. I have snapped many of these writings on my phone and sent to grown kids wanting to establish the recipe into their own homes and memories. Sometimes, I replace the oil with applesauce and sometimes I add in shredded carrots instead of mashed pumpkin or I toss in a bit of cloves with the cinnamon to add a deeper flavor but the basic recipe remains the same. I prefer to use eggs from my own chickens and I believe that all cookies go best with a cold glass of milk.

So, fall is here and my college child came home for her first weekend and asked for my pumpkin cake. “You know, the one you make every year. I can’t wait to have it again.” I hugged her tight and promised her that we would make it before she had to return on Sunday evening.

The Pumpkin cake was delicious and I thought I would share it with you here. On old friend gave me the recipe years ago. I have it written on a little scrap of paper with her name on it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Pumpkin Cake

4 eggs

2 C Sugar

1 C oil (you can use ½ oil and ½ applesauce)

2 C flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon (I add sprinkles of nutmeg and cloves when in the mood)

½ tsp salt

1 can pumpkin (I use the smaller can)

Beat eggs and sugar. Add oil and beat again. Add flour, soda, cinnamon and salt and beat again. Blend in Pumpkin. Spray pans before filling. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

I make mine in loaf pans. This is a thick cake and needs to bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. I also like to use several smaller loaf pans and make smaller cakes. When cool, I wrap them in foil and freeze them. I mark the date on the top and then I send them to teachers or to the office. Unfortunately, there are times that the teachers must wait until the next batch. Enjoy!

 

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Mirror Reflections

 

The players of the NFL continue to disrespect our country by refusing to stand for the National Anthem at their ball games. Last week the Cleveland Browns circled around each other rather than standing. The police union responded by stating that they would not be carrying the flag if the players were not going to stand. Everyone has their opinion – including myself – about the players.

Some have suggested that they be fired immediately or somehow be forced to stand and recognize our flag. Some have suggested that all the fans boycott the games, the television productions, the shirt sales, and every money-making effort carried out by the NFL until they rectify the situation. Some have suggested doing nothing and let it blow over. Others have suggested leaving them alone because they have the freedom of expression.

And freedom is the key to their entire shenanigans. They do have the freedom to disagree. They do have the freedom to protest and mock the very ones who have protected them. They have the freedom to make a gazillion bucks a year to play a game while the military and police who protect and serve them make a fraction of their annual salary.

One of the coaches stated that the players protesting were highly encouraged to make commitments to their communities and to give back. He went on to state that while they were doing that very thing they noticed the disparities and unfairness and that is what they are protesting. What??? A mega millionaire goes into a poverty neighborhood and notices the disparities? What about when he was growing up? Did he notice then? Did he notice others or was he taught that only he and his family were done wrong? Did he notice that kids whose parents worked didn’t get scholarships or handouts? No one bought them fancy shoes or athletic gear either. That in fact, when it came time for college ball many did not get to play or even go to class because there are NO scholarships for kids whose parents work or who are not considered a minority. 

Did these players realize that many service men and women whom they are disrespecting are the very kids who grew up around them in junior high and high school but did NOT receive the handouts and scholarships that would insure they ended up a mega millionaire playing a game for work?

Where is our perspective? Thousands of kids of all races and ethnicities are in foster care. Homeless shelters are jammed tight. Soup kitchens are overrun. Children are abused by the minute. Hate is rampant in our streets. And yet, mega-millionaires are offended because they are asked to stand for the very flag which grants them the freedom to do so.

I have no solution other than the mirror. What have these players done to alleviate the problems? What have they done personally? And I don’t mean with their money. What have they done to promote integrity? What have they done to promote fairness? What do their lives reflect about goodness and honesty? It is difficult to tell when primarily the news surrounding NFL players is about domestic abuse, criminal abuse, shootings, drunken episodes ending in car wrecks or murder. What have these players done to be role models for their young fans? The same fans they are so worried and distressed about?

Perhaps we all need to look in the mirror instead of pointing fingers. Perhaps we need to ask ourselves these very questions. What have we done to improve the lives of others? Have we honored our military? Have we honored our teachers and supported them? Have we helped a child in need? Have we lived a life of integrity?

Maybe they could pipe the Michael Jackson song, Man in the Mirror, over the PA at the NFL games from now on.

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror

I’m asking him to change his ways

And no message could have been any clearer

If you wanna make the world a better place

Take a look at yourself, and then make a change”

 

 

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People Vs. Stuff

The hurricane and flooding in the south of Texas this past week have certainly been something to think about as we watch ordinary people go out of their way to help others and we see others not helping at all. Why is it that catastrophe brings out both the best and the worst in us humans? Floods, tornados, fires, mudslides, hurricanes and other natural disasters break down so many barriers and makes us review who we really are inside.

In difficult times, fancy homes, expensive cars, and STUFF take a back seat to helping others. And it should be that way. Too often in our daily lives we forget about others and rely on our STUFF to make us happy. We rely on our stuff to create a status for us that allows us to congregate with some while snubbing others – just because of our stuff. We often think that our STUFF is life and living.

A week ago, we came together to watch the solar eclipse. The best piece of advice all week – other than to have the appropriate glasses –  was to put away the cameras and recording devices and experience the eclipse. Experience the change in light and temperature. Look up at the phenomenon in the sky. Forget about your STUFF for a moment or two. Congregate with others to share the experience. The solar eclipse was a once in a lifetime event for most and we were being encouraged to live it and share it with others because being there and living through the eclipse itself was so much more amazing than fiddling with a phone or camera and missing it all.

Stuff is cool but it is not life. We forget that sometimes. This week we are inundated with news about the hurricane and rains in Texas. I am from Texas and have family in the Houston area. I have friends/family there and some nearly there and some in the outlying areas who are taking part in the rescuing. I avidly watch the news outlets and have seen cowboys on horseback herding cattle and horses to safety. I saw a pastor swimming down his street looking into flooded cars for stragglers. I have seen boats floating up and down streets picking up people and transporting them to safety.

Donations of time and supplies are pouring in. Police departments, the military, the red cross are just a few who are rushing to the scene to help. Prayers are being said across the nation. Social media is working at its best in finding help for those who are stranded or can’t get through to 911. In short, we are living. We are cooperating with each other. We are helping those who need help.

Some have closed their doors and others have opened their doors. Some have been shamed for their actions and others have been praised for theirs. Either way, catastrophe is a grim decider of who we really are. Who is full of courage? Who is full of good will and grace? Who is all talk and no action? Who gives willingly and who has to be talked into it? Who is a natural leader and who shrinks back in the face of responsibility?

Through the past two weeks of great events – one fantastic and the other catastrophic – people have come together to celebrate and to commiserate. My one thought is why do we humans wait until there is an event to notice each other? Why are we so wrapped up in our consumption of goods that it takes a hurricane to make us meet our neighbor or open our doors to strangers? A few minutes in the work day peering at the sky might be just what we all need to relax and enjoy each other again. It worked last week during the solar eclipse. I did not see a single report on how much money was lost during the workday because people took fifteen minutes to go outside and observe the wonders of nature. 

Instead of worrying about statues and monuments and dissecting every syllable that the president says, perhaps it is time to look around us, at the PEOPLE living around us, and smile and offer our friendship and pledge our help in times of crisis. Perhaps it is time to focus on people and forget our STUFF.

My prayers and thoughts go out to the people struggling in Texas this week and to the people rushing down there to help.

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Number One Advisor

We have had an adventurous summer and now things are coming together for a memorable fall. As a parent of many I am always amazed at the different levels of maturing a child goes through until the day he/she leaves the nest. Some mature early and then put the brakes on for the leaving. Others we pray for constantly and then suddenly they leave and soar with the best of them. Some are middle of the road with the maturing process and with the leaving process. It is all a unique blend of ready, not ready, conquer the world, move back home, “I am Sparta,” and “I’m not sure I am ready.”

Today, my number six will leave the nest. She has been talking about this day since graduation in May. On Monday she watched Netflix and assured me that she would be ready on Friday. On Tuesday, she looked at her “to do” list and watched more Netflix. On Wednesday she washed and packed and cleaned her room and bathroom then stayed up all night fidgety and watching Netflix. On Thursday she made plans, repacked a few things and watched more Netflix.

We had a tiff a few weeks ago, about getting things done and on time. I told her that the first thing I was going to do when she left was change the Netflix password so she could concentrate on her classes and meeting new friends. I had to revive her with smelling salts. And then, when I thought it through, I realized that she would just use someone else’s login and password once she got to school so like a good mother I reversed my proclamation. Now, I am back to worried again.

We all worry when they first leave the nest. Perhaps I worry because I have taught freshmen in college for so many years. I have watched them come in all bright eyed and bushytailed and then drag in three weeks later exhausted and crying from too much excess in several areas. And I have tried my best to get that information across to my number six. I am sure she will be much relieved to have a roommate her age rather than a mother face her each morning.

I don’t believe that the roommate will wake her up early with admonitions to “Drink more water, treat school like a full time job, don’t eat so much sugar, watch your money, and get some sleep.” I am absolutely certain that her new roommate will not say, “Get off Netflix and get your work done!” She will probably watch with her! And so, I will not change the Netflix password on Saturday because I don’t believe it will make a difference.

What I believe will make a difference is all the times I took her to band and tennis and church camp and allowed her to be on her own. All the times I took her to missionary training and tennis and work and allowed her to learn her own lessons. And all the times I listened to her cry over a breakup or a bad grade. I believe the difference will come from the times I handed her my debit card and expected her to run to the store to pick up things for me or to fill my car with gas and go on to the school to pick up the other kids. I believe all the times I let her make her own mistakes and own up to the consequences will make a difference in her college life and in her after college life.

Whether they are going off to college or just leaving the nest, we parents have to believe we did the best we could. No, I couldn’t buy all the things she wanted along the way. And I certainly did not back off every time she thought I should. I was probably too pushy in some areas and not tough enough in others. But no matter what, this little number six knows that I love her dearly and that I woke up each morning and did the best that I could for her and the rest of the herd.

Maybe that is enough. Maybe it is not.

As I told my quilting friends last week, “On Friday I am taking her to college. On Saturday I am going to be bawling my eyes out.” 

 

And I will cry some, but some of the tears will be for joy and thankfulness that I had 18 years getting to teach this beautiful child how to make wise decisions and be kind and give grace where necessary. The rest is up to her.

Sounds so easy.

BUT we all know I will be anxiously waiting for that first call home. She may have left the nest but I am maintaining my Number One Advisor position until further notice.

 

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Lessons From MY Hood

Almost two years ago we moved into a neighborhood. We have always resided in the country or almost in the country, with a few acres for my chickens, cats, and gardens. From the first child down to this last child they have always thought that they wanted to live in a neighborhood amongst other children. So, at last we made the move into town – sort of. We are on the edge and still have an acre for my chickens and cats and all of dad’s trailers BUT there are also neighbors.

The bus for school stops right in front of our house so we thought he could meet all the neighbors whilst standing in line for the bus. Not so. He rides and now and then another girl rides in the mornings. Could be because it is still middle of the night when the bus pulls up but after he gets on and they go around to the next street he reports that there are about ten kids who ride in the mornings.

In the afternoons the parents line up in their cars around our house to get their kids from the bus. Sometimes they venture into our yard to pet the kittens but usually they bolt to the cars and head off into town for some kind of practice or another. We won’t see or hear a peep from them until the next afternoon.

The neighbors directly across the street ran over our mailbox the first day we moved in. The woman hopped out of her Jeep, took a look at hubby and said, “It looks fine to me.” She hopped back into her jeep and drove off. Our mail box now resembles the Leaning Tower of Pisa and they have neither waved nor spoken to us since.

So, after nearly two years of living on a busy corner we still do not know our neighbors, parties on the deck are just a dream, and having neighbor kids come over to swim or throw the football is non-existent. It makes me sad for my kids because they had so hoped for a neighborhood like the fake ones they see on television. And it is not like I am shy and didn’t try to meet our neighbors. Everyone is just busy on their own personal devices. Being an individual and personal.

I lived in a great neighborhood growing up and to this day I keep in touch with those chums on my social media platforms. We were not individual and personal. We were a small community within a larger community. We lived on a busy street not far from the school. Actually one had to cross the cotton field to get to the school but it wasn’t far. 

We lived on a street with many boys. My sisters loved it because some of them were pretty cute. I loved it because they allowed me to play with them and be the tomboy that I was. Phillip Lemmons threw the football to me, in the street, at least a million times. I spent hours running around with John and Joel James. We all played baseball with Kenny and Harlan Hickey – even my sisters. We were a small community. We were back and forth and in and out of houses. Andy and Nancy Woods lived just down by the Lemmons and the Hickeys were right behind us and the Hinds were on the block over.

We grew up together and our parents knew each other. Sure there were fights and eventually we all grew up. Kenny got a motorcycle and drove across country. Some moved sooner than others but we all played baseball together in the empty lots between houses. We rode skateboards along the road by the cotton field. My sister’s boyfriend worked on cars in our backyard. We had a community.

Today, our neighbor will sit in front of his garage while the door opens, drive in quickly, sit in the car until the door closes and I can only suppose that they get out of their car and go in. Their kids are in the same schools as my kids. On the days they ride the bus, they stand apart from us with their backs turned. And yet in school, the little girl will always choose my youngest to be in her group. He says they have a lot of fun in school but she is not allowed to come over to our house.

I find it very strange and yet no one is on the streets in the afternoons throwing the football or gathering up a bunch to play baseball. Today’s kids are busy being carted off to professional lessons or keeping current on their social media sites. Perhaps it is because our society has evolved into a society of fear. Parents are afraid that their child will get dirty or hurt or have some kind of accident. Parents are afraid that their child will get their feelings hurt or come in last or be bullied.

And they will get dirty and get their feelings hurt and maybe get hurt. But that is how we learned to live. Full out. Scratched, dirty, upset, broken fingers, busted ankles, ripped shirts, and a resolve to be stronger the next time. I am so thankful for my old childhood chums. Yes, I knocked out Harlan Hickey’s front tooth with a baseball bat, but it was an accident. Promise. His parents did not sue. We were from the same neighborhood.

I am so thankful for my old childhood chums. I am thankful for the lessons I learned whether I wanted to or not. I am thankful that there were no such things as cell phones, iPads, iAnything and only 3 major channels back then because our community was outside with real people who continue to be part of my life.

Real people – not just a symbol on a phone.

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Braids, Bras, and Brats!

Like many of you, my life has revolved around school in the fall for most of my life. I was an eager student. I loved school and couldn’t wait to begin. When the sister right above me in age left for school, I would stand by the front window just waiting for her to get home. Upon her arrival home she would sit me down in our shared bedroom and teach me everything she had learned that day. To this day I love books and learning.

Seems like yesterday I was walking to school with two of my big sisters. The oldest one was in Jr High and walked a different direction or she would have been there to boss us. My tiny fist grasped my small coin purse with my lunch money tucked in it. We didn’t have that far to walk, only about a mile. We would set out early and laugh and giggle along the way. My older sisters would help me get dressed and then momma fixed our hair.

Momma liked the tight, tight braids with our bangs pulled back into them. We could hardly blink at times. There were days she would cover our heads with polyester scarves to keep the wind out of our ears. I had long, thick hair and the scarf came off about the time we turned the first corner. I wasn’t brave enough to pull out the braids but the scarf did not often accompany me into the school yard. My sister, next in age to me, would keep her scarf on and snivel all the way to school.

“Just take it off. Momma won’t know,” I would counsel.

She would cry harder, “Momma will find out.” I thought she was silly but it was part of learning to be responsible for ourselves. I finally talked her into at least loosening the braids so that her head didn’t hurt. The scarf could be lost if one was willing.

I didn’t have any trouble following my own counsel through school. Some things just didn’t need to happen. Of course, momma had different opinions, especially if she was informed. Along about Jr High, momma decided I had to wear a brassiere to school. I disagreed with that silly notion. I did not need one! As soon as we got to school I would slip it off and hang it in my locker. I thought I was so smooth that no one noticed but one night at supper, momma asked me about what was hanging in my locker.

I gave her my best deer in the headlights look. I could see my just older sister trying to hold in a giggle so I knew she had told on me. Of all things! I didn’t care if she wanted to take off her dratted scarf all those years back so why should she care if I decided I wasn’t ready for a bra? Looking back I can see my mother’s point but my first days of Jr. High were a misery trying to acclimate myself to a new grown up version. None the less, after momma found out I never hung my bra in the locker again.

And now, it seems that kids are being encouraged to be mini adults in their dress but perpetual two-year olds in their behavior. I might have fussed over braids or personal clothing choices but when I went to school, I went to school to learn. If I misbehaved it was ALWAYS my fault. The teacher was never at fault. In fact my teachers and my parents were in cahoots to make me a better person. If I failed to behave in school I had many consequences. First, one of my sisters would tell momma. Second, my teacher would tell momma, and Third daddy would somehow get involved. Then I got in trouble.

I was responsible for my behavior. I was responsible for my homework being completed, hauled to school, and turned in. I was responsible for the way I treated others and I was responsible for my lunch money. If I lost it on the way I didn’t get to eat lunch. My momma and daddy were there to support me right after they supported my teacher.

Yesterday I listened to a young man tell someone else that he was getting a new job because he no longer wanted to be in the classroom teaching. They asked what was wrong and he did not fuss about education in general or the lack of salary or that he had to buy his own supplies. He did not mention that kids were just harder to teach these days. The reason he quit teaching was because of the parents. He stated, “I am tired of fighting the parents. A kid can fail the class and the parent will threaten to sue if the grade is not changed.”

Is it any wonder this new generation does not feel any responsibility for their behavior?

Maybe education does not begin with braids or bras, but the education of our children definitely begins with the parents.

A big shout out to the teachers who have realized that July is almost over and they WILL be called back from the beaches soon.

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