Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday Thanksgiving 2010

Post-Thanksgiving tree-trimmers celebrate success
Our family got together the day after Thanksgiving, and we were able once again to engage our five oldest grandchildren in decorating Baboo and Nana’s Christmas tree, with a little organizational help from the adults.
Daughter-in-law Katie hands out ornaments to our youngest tree-trimmers.

Observing Thanksgiving the Friday after the official Thursday holiday is close to becoming a tradition with our children and their families. We were so happy that Walter’s mom, Grandma Sugar could join us.

Whether they realize it or not, our family’s tree-trimming was a much-appreciated early Christmas gift to me – the gift of precious memories of this Thanksgiving. A few of those memories:

Little faces intent on the task at hand . . .
Grands Nate, 6, left, his sister Stella and cousin Molly Kate, both 2+

Young hands working to position an ornament just so . . .
Grandson Luke, at eight years old, deftly hangs ornaments.

Grandsons stretching to hang ornaments high on the tree . . .
Nate was determined to reach as high as his brother and rocked the tree a couple of times.

A granddaughter’s tree-trimming attire . . .
Four-year-old Charlie raided the dress-up box and decorated herself first with a tulle party dress and elaborate hair accessories.

The decorating strategies of children . . .

When you’ve found a good spot, why not put as many ornaments in that spot as you can!

Son Jeremy led the charge again this year with son Walt providing the photographic documentation of grandkids that appear in this post. Thank you, sons!

These newer memories join older ones that our tree always conjures up for me: our sons' growing-up years, our travels as a family and as a couple, and the generosity of relatives and friends who have brightened our Christmases with handcrafted ornaments or tree-trimming treasures from their own faraway travels.

The top third of our tree, beyond the youngsters’ reach, remains undecorated. In the next day or so I will finish decorating. And I will relish counting my blessings both past and present all the while. Thanksgiving is one holiday that never has to end!
Related post: Friday Thanksgiving 2009

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving treats

A café that husband Walter and I both wanted to try in NOLA
A packed schedule this year condensed our usual five-day or more pre-Thanksgiving travel. Our idea of an overnight stay in New Orleans turned into a 45-hour vacation from our everyday eating habits.

We started Monday evening, before we had even packed for our trip to New Orleans, with a 6 p.m. reservation for dinner at Mary Mahoney’s Restaurant in neighboring Biloxi.

After breakfast at home the next morning, we loaded up and hit the road. Less than two hours later, we both were hungry and stopped for a quick breakfast burrito each at Mickey D’s. After all, it was a vacation day!

For lunch we stood in line at Central Grocery in New Orleans’ French Quarter for a muffuleta. I love theirs more than any other I have tasted, but we have learned to order a half. A fourth each is a meal.

For dinner we continued our sandwich theme at the Marigny, an establishment we had noticed a number of times on our way to the heart of the French Quarter. Both Walter and I had wanted to give it a try, but the timing had never been right before.

Wednesday morning we followed the continental breakfast at our hotel with a walk through the French Quarter AND 
. . . beignets at Café du Monde. 
Hey! You can’t mess with tradition. It is a required stop.

We ended our eating vacation with a panini – shared – at our favorite coffee shop, Coffee Fusion in our own hometown.

More Big Easy words and photos to come! Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

What I’ve been reading lately

In my read-through of the Bible, I am now in the part about the Israelites’ battles to take control of the land God had promised them. During earlier chapters and ones I am reading now, God’s instructions include admonitions not to follow the idol worshippers’ practice of sacrificing their little ones to the idols. Reading about that has always made me wonder about God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the son that fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham and his barren wife Sarah.

Since God’s instructions to Abraham's descendants repeatedly show his condemnation of such sacrifice, how did Abraham know it was God and not some mental aberration or evil influence putting ideas into his head? Finally. . . duh, it dawned on me recently. He recognized God’s voice; he knew it. God had spoken to him before, and Abraham had committed his life and the lives of everyone he cared about to follow whatever path God commanded. God had already done the impossible with the birth of Isaac, and Abraham trusted God in this situation, too, although he couldn't possibly understand why he was commanded to do such a thing. Wow!

Makes me think hard about how well I recognize God’s leadership. What things in my life distract me from Abraham’s kind of awareness? What kinds of things interfere with the growth into the relationship that God wants me to have with him? More thinking about that – and hopefully change -- ahead!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Character revealed

Chance encounters with two young women this week left a huge, and positive, impression on me. The latest encounter was at my doctor’s office this morning. A young woman was the sticker in my bloodwork process. In the course of our chatting about Thanksgiving and families, she mentioned that she was graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi – on her birthday – with a degree in Public Health.

I had already learned that she was a mom and the holiday go-to person among her numerous siblings and their families. We had just met, but I was so proud of this strong woman who was working full time, taking care of her own family, keeping ties tight with her extended family, and earning a degree.

The other encounter was during this week’s regular pilgrimage to Hattiesburg to visit my mother. On shopping excursions, Mother at 91 years old is often invisible to cashiers, although she is paying her own way. I am so thankful on those occasions when personnel at the various stores acknowledge her existence, are respectful and – that important element for Southern women of my mother’s and my generations – friendly. On a trip to Wal-Mart this week, we had successfully gathered up all items on Mother’s list and headed to the check out.

Mother was not invisible to the young woman at the register. Neither was she talked down to but was treated routinely as any other functioning, intelligent adult. The young woman was courteous and efficient, pleasant without being chatty. She also had on an attractive top that was black with gold stars and a gold belt.

“I love your top. It looks so Christmasy!” I blurted. Alas, I AM chatty and I love Christmas and it has been on my mind since before Halloween. Not everyone shares my enthusiasm, however, and I instantly started mentally scrambling around to do damage control. Not to worry.

“Thank you,” she said with a smile. “I love Christmas!”

“We have been playing Christmas music since October,” I confessed.

“I already have my tree up,” she admitted.

We smiled. A satisfactory Wal-Mart transaction completed. And she and Mother completed the monetary transaction just fine, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Around the neighborhood

Congratulations! You’ve been flocked!
Early Tuesday morning our neighbor a few doors down had pink visitors on his lawn, planted in the dark of night as part of a fundraiser by the local high school band’s indoor percussion group.  The flamingoes disappeared by the end of the day, presumably migrating to another yard specified by a donor to the band’s fund. I wonder how many variations on this fundraising activity exist. My nieces and nephew’s youth group in Virginia “forked” church members’ lawns in their version of the fundraiser. I saw a couple of the forked yards, resplendent with hundreds of white plastic forks poked into the turf. It was hysterical looking.

These leaves fell in our yard as a result of rain Monday. Does that make them “fall color”?
I have seen lots of fall color on blogs I visit, but our color on the coast here hasn’t been that vivid. Yesterday on a trip to Hattiesburg and the return trip today, I did see single trees here and there dressed in flaming red and orange. The angle of the sun this time of year seemed to make the leaves stand out individually, embellishing them with sparkling highlights.  

Mr. Raby shares his harvest.
Neighbors are not always on your same street, or even in your same town. Mr. and Mrs. Raby are good neighbors that I am proud to know. They and my parents struck up a friendship more than 40 years ago. They shared a love of God, family and fishing. And yes, I do have that in the right order, even though my mom, dad and Mr. Raby really, really looooovvved fishing. On their fishing trips together when my father was living and Mother was still able to fish, I think maybe Mrs. Raby was a cheerful participant and a good sport, but not a fishing addict. She is a master at serving up the catch, however. 

I was fortunate enough today to be included in the lunch date the Rabys and my mother observe almost weekly, a tradition that started early in the two families' friendship. This time lunch was at the Raby homestead. The meal was a visual and taste treat with veggies from Mr. Raby’s garden and fish that he had caught, all prepared with Mrs. Raby’s special touch. And I left with a mess of mustard greens and turnips fresh from the garden. This non-cook will be cooking . . . uh . . . attempting to cook greens and cornbread tomorrow! Thank you, neighbors!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A peek at the past

Oh my goodness! Is that me?
Finally got around to looking at some photos a relative loaded onto my computer during a Spring 2009 reunion of my maternal grandmother’s family. I would have posted them earlier, but it took me awhile to get off the floor.  Help! I’m laughing and I can’t get up.

Both photos are of my mother and me. The one above must have been in the early 1970s, about 1973 probably. I was obviously due a hair makeover.  The one below is about a year later. Just noticed it looks like my mother has on the same dress both years. My guess is she was prepared for the fact that there was no air conditioning in the old cafeteria building of the school-turned-community center where we gathered for several years. 
NOTE: My husband and I were sitting in our favorite coffee shop when I first posted the above. When I looked at a post he just now finished, I had to link it. More pix from the pre-gray past, 2008 and earlier. We didn't discuss what we planned to post. What a coincidence. And by the way, if you click on his post, it may not come up. He is still working on getting some kinks ironed out with Blogger. Sometimes it comes up; sometimes not, just a message that the Website is unavailable or some such text. Any advice anyone?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What I’m reading lately

Wishbones by Carolyn Haines was an entertaining read I borrowed from the bookshelves of a local coffee shop. I’ve posted before about my frugal reading habits, and nothing has changed there. “Frugal” means I rarely pay for books and also avoid checking out books from the library because I never seem to get them back on time, and when the overdue notice comes I can’t seem to find them, and then the fines add up and up and up. You get the picture. I am an irresponsible reader. I cannot be trusted with a library card.

Anyway, Wishbones is the 2008 entry in Haines’ "Bones" series starring Sarah Booth Delaney. A child of the Deep South, Sarah Booth takes a leave of absence from her P.I. career, her beloved family mansion and her friends to snatch a chance at fulfilling the acting-career dreams of her younger self. She shines in the Hollywood screen test for a steaming remake of the movie Body Heat. Her fast track to stardom, however, is beset with a dangerously tempting leading man, a corpse, freak accidents, deadly threats and ghostly visitations.

This is my second taste of Haines’ "Bones" series, and I do enjoy the pace, dialog, humor and characters she creates. The villain and motive were identifiable pretty early. I am not a die-hard mystery buff, though, and there was plenty to keep me interested. Yes, I confess. I like light, easy-to-read, escapist literature, and I will be reading more of the "Bones" series. Plus, it is great to see a girl from the southern part of Mississippi make good. My husband Walter even worked with Haines on the Mississippi Press in Pascagoula, MS, for a brief time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The big FIVE O

My brother Mike, his wife Sonya and offspring Amanda, Matthew and Becky
Today is a special anniversary . . . my only sibling’s 50th birthday. I had longed for a sibling for 13 years when we finally adopted Mike. He was and is a joy. I was so proud of my baby brother. I liked hauling him everywhere, even during the terrible twos, although I don’t remember their being so terrible. I do remember taking him with me regularly to the nearby grocery store and dime store (remember the days of “dime stores”?) on errands for our mother.

And there WERE the occasional tantrums, lying down on the floor wherever we were and refusing to budge while emitting indignant screams. Of course, that was me. Just kidding. It was Mike.

I don’t remember it bothering me. I would just pick him up in the middle of his passive-aggressive limp, dead-weight strategy. I would flop him stomach down in the crook of my left arm with his arms and feet dangling and go on about completing our mom-directed mission. I don’t think that stage lasted long, but it makes me laugh every time I think of those trips to Delchamps and Morgan and Lindsey 5 and 10.

My friends and I had outgrown dolls, and Mike became our new toy in his early years. Mother and Daddy never insisted I babysit, but watching out for my baby brother was a privilege that I relished. When God answered prayers about a sibling, his answer was better than I ever imagined. I am so thankful. Happy birthday, Liddle Brudder!

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Hands that I have encountered recently have entertained, intrigued or tugged at heartstrings. Here are a few:

Hands young and tender

Hands healing

Hands big and small

Hands all about John Deere

Hands busy

Hands taking a break from painting

Hands bearing badges of years of loving, giving, helping

Friday, November 12, 2010

Go to God first, not last

I am reading Joshua in the Old Testament, New International Version, now. Since I am a natural fraidy cat, I love the fact that God is continually reassuring Joshua and the Israelites.

Joshua 1:9 in various forms appears frequently in this book. It is one of my favorite verses:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I just finished Chapter 9, another favorite part of the book of Joshua that struck me forcefully as a young adult. The episode where the Gibeonites pull a fast one on Joshua and the leaders of Israel helped me realize that God is interested and willing and ready to help us make decisions. Again, that has helped me since in the decision-making process my natural inclination is to be “FIRMLY wishy-washy.”

Joshua depended on his advisers and what he could discern with his physical senses when he agreed to make a treaty with the emissaries of Gibeon. Oops! The crafty Gibeonites looked the part of travelers from afar. They probably smelled like it, too, from the description of their preparations in Joshua 9:3-6.

The stakes were high. Peoples living near the lands God promised the Israelites were to be destroyed; a treaty was a possibility for those living farther away. Joshua 9:14 indicates the Israelites checked out the condition of their visitors' provisions such as bread that was moldy, supposedly from days on the road, but didn't seek God's leadership.

I find it comforting that in today’s world, as in the book of Joshua, God is with me wherever I go and whatever decisions I face. I can "inquire of the Lord". . . and if I goof up, he is still with me.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A salute to veterans

My mother adds her mementoes of husband and son to a Veterans Day display.

Residents and staff of Provisions Living in Hattiesburg, MS, were preparing for observance of Veterans Day yesterday. Staff members were helping arrange photos, newspaper clippings, medals from residents’ own war experiences or from the military experiences of loved ones.

The Wikipedia description of the Nov. 11 federal holiday noted that it is also celebrated as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, falling on November 11, the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended World War I. According to the Wikipedia entry, the German signing of Armistice formally ended the major hostilities of World War I at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

Although I don't know about World War I veterans in my mother's and father's extended family (one more thing I never asked about), Mother and I spent a few moments just now tallying up those in our family who served in World War II. There were my father and three of his brothers, my mother's two brothers, the husbands of three of her sisters, and three of my father's nephews. 

All those young soldiers came home about the same time after the war and a crop of babies inevitably followed. I grew up thinking every child had dozens of cousins about the same age. I also observed at a young age the lasting scars war inflicts, even when a soldier escapes physical injury.

God bless veterans and their families.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One more about Peter Anderson Festival

My happiness pitcher
As soon as our six grandchildren and their parents departed after a weekend with us, husband Walter and I collapsed. We loved every minute. Now, thanks to some lazy Sunday afternoon downtime, I’m loving that my batteries are recharged, well, almost recharged.

We did manage, at the last minute Sunday, to dredge up enough energy to make a quick trip to our town’s Peter Anderson Festival. With a mutual desire to downsize and simplify, my husband and I have become more browsers than buyers. Actually, we have always been browzers. We visited a leather sofa in a furniture store for about three years before we ordered it.
Mississippi artist Beth Sartin

That said, last year in the closing moments, I picked up a pitcher by Mississippi artist Beth Sartin and couldn’t put it down. It was the first time I had seen her work.

She credited the abundant daylilies in our town as her inspiration for that particular pattern. She applies it on a variety of decorative and useful items. With our limited space, any purchase, whether new or previously loved, has to fulfill a purpose and speak to me, promising continued delight. My daylily pitcher now holds spatulas and other cooking utensils. The saucy, vibrant colors and flowing lines of the daylilies give me a lift every time I see them, which adds up to many times each day.

I made it too late Sunday. Beth had practically sold out of everything. She rated her 2010 festival experience as excellent.  

Artists usually like this festival. People come ready to buy, returning again and again to their favorite booths. Whether I am just looking or actually buying, I enjoy the Peter Anderson event. It appeals to all my senses: live music, the aromas of great food wafting around the booths, tempting me to taste, and the treat of seeing and touching the creative ideas expressed in tangible form by gifted artists and craftsmen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

This festival means family

The 32nd annual Peter Anderson Arts and Crafts Festival is more than just a major event in our town. It also brings our eldest son and his family home from Georgia for a weekend. The festival is held in honor of the potter who was the driving force behind Shearwater Pottery that opened in Ocean Springs in 1927. Shearwater is still in operation with son and grandson continuing the family tradition. The Nov. 6-7, 2010, festival showcased about 350 artists and craftsmen from the local and state arts community and beyond.

Our son and daughter-in-law almost always leave with new treasures for their home, one-of-a-kind clothing for their two girls and rustic toys for the two boys. This year was no exception.

An extra special addition this year was our younger son Jeremy and his family who joined us Friday evening. While Jeremy hit the road for the 90-mile drive to pick up my mother Saturday morning, son Walt and Sarah headed downtown to the festival for serious shopping. Husband Walter, Jeremy’s wife Katie and I worked on keeping the chaos at an entertaining and safe level at home with the six grands.

We were all back together for lunch—four generations that ranged in ages from 91 years old to 5 months. Our mothers, used to a bit more quiet, handled the boisterous occasion with grace. Husband, AKA Baboo, as usual added his own contribution to the excitement, serving whipped topping to the boys Baboo-style.
Luke, left, and Nate open up on command.

When the boys clamored for more, this was the result:
Whipped topping surprise

The entire weekend was like a giant sleepover. Ten extra bodies definitely required a bit of coziness in sleeping arrangements. When we waved goodbye to the last load of loved ones, Baboo and I were tired but buzzed with happy and hilarious memories that we shared as we replayed the weekend. I wouldn’t mind at all if festival + family = a new tradition.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Over the rainbow

Two of our  mini-tornados celebrated Halloween as Dorothy and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz. Granddaughter Molly Kate actually chose to wear the bows that went with her costume instead of the Minnie Mouse ears she insisted on earlier (Oct. 26 post).
Our little Dorothy with Toto, basket and her beloved “red shoes”

Walker seemed a little bemused about the whole process. . .but maybe he was trying to stay in character as Dorothy’s pal Scarecrow.
Five-month-old Walker, intent on figuring out this Halloween business

Oh, right! Now I've got it figured out! Halloween is super!

Now Nana just needs first-person reports of Halloween from our four Georgia grands the next time we get together. . .soon, I hope! The photos above are borrowed from daughter-in-law Katie’s blog, The Daily Skup. Photographs by our son Jeremy. Thanks, Katie and Jeremy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lessons list: Refrigerator-door worthy

A recent post on a blog that I visit often featured a reprint of "The 45 Lessons Life Taught Me," a column attributed to Regina Brett of the Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio.  I think I may have read these some years ago in print, and the more recent column was an update. As things often go in the blogosphere, the column has gone viral. The fact that she was writing with such energy at 90 years old blew me away.

I had to google her. Turns out that somehow age “50” became “90” when her column was passed along on the Internet. She had updated her list of life lessons from 45 to 50 in celebration of birthday number 50. When I first saw her photo, I was still under the impression she was 90. Awe and, I admit it, jealousy! Regardless of her age, her life lessons are worth a second look, a third look, or maybe a look every day, no matter how many years’ you have experienced.

A few samples:
Lesson 15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

Lesson 21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special. (The version of this bit of wisdom that I grew up with was “Use the good dishes. Who are you saving them for, your husband’s second wife?”)

46. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

The pithy list of “lessons” articulated many of my own life lessons, learned from the consequences of wrong choices or selfishness, some from just living and some from the wisdom shared by loving parents, husband, relatives, friends and even my children.

For more -- and the complete list -- from this gifted writer:

Thanks to Kris at A Shelter from the Storm for alerting me to Regina Brett’s “lessons.”