Monday, September 26, 2016

A Cat Story

I'm sure you all watched the debate tonight and, if you're like me, you could use a diversion from all of the commentators and social media feedback. 

How about if I tell you a cat story?

Disclaimer: No animals were harmed in this blog post. 

On Thursday, I started getting texts from the three gift shops.  They were sending out the SOS.  Everybody had received big Christmas orders from UPS and the boxes were stacked high.  About seventy boxes at each location.  Yes, that's a seven and a zero.  Cardboard mountains that needed to be conquered.  So, I'd decided I'd make the rounds, helping them get a handle on the overwhelming situation.  I headed out to the first store and, on the way, made a stop by McAlister's to get food for the troops.  I knew it was going to be a late night. 

I got out at the restaurant to pick up the order and I heard a "meow" but I didn't think much about it.  I went in and came back out with the food and I heard another "meow".  Well, I knew that this particular McAlister's had a stray cat that liked to hang around the outdoor eating area and so, again, I just assumed he was close by.

I got back in the car and headed to the store which was about a 20 mile trip and, when I got out there, I heard the "meow" again.  "Oh, shoot," I realized, "there is a cat somewhere in this car!" 

So, let me just stop here and insert some information.  I'm not a cat person.  I'm a dog kind of girl.  For the most part, there are two kinds of people in the world....the cat people and the dog people.  I am the latter.  The dog people are a little freaked out by cats.  It's not that we wish cats any harm.  They just sort of give us the creeps with their claws and sinister eyes and menacing strut.....and, well, the way they look at you as if you are a complete idiot. 

So, now that you have that background information, we'll get back to the story.

I listened for the distressed "meows" and tried to determine where they were coming from. I popped the hood and looked around and all I could see was a black tail sticking out between the whatchamacallit and the thingamajig.  I'm quite knowledgeable of all things under the hood, you see.  Anyway, I knew exactly who that black tail belonged to.  My neighbor's cat!  I'd recognize that tail anywhere.  I could see that the cat was clearly stuck and I was definitely over my head in the world of cat extraction so I went in the store to get some help.

The pharmacist and one of the pharmacy techs came out to assist me with my feline crisis.  The tech, Katie, well, you could tell this wasn't her first rodeo.  It was obvious that she had removed a cat or two from the innards of a car in her day as she was unscrewing thingamajigs and pulling out whatchamacallits all while assuring me that she'd put my car back together once the cat was dislodged.  Did I mention the smell because if I didn't then this would be a great time to do that.  Thursday, being the first day of fall in Mississippi, was a comfy 97 degrees and the cat, in all of its emotional and physical distress, had pooped all up under my hood. Let me tell you, cat poop which has been baking in the combined heat of the Mississippi sun and a Toyota motor, well, that will fortify a dog person's preference to canines.  If for no other reason, for their total disinterest in infiltrating one's transmission.

Anyway, Katie's arm finally came out with a cat and, just as I suspected, he was my next door neighbor.  I took him and held him as far away from my person as I could because, again, cats give me the creeps.  I knew I had to get the cat back to my neighbors' house.....which was 20 miles away.  Or did I?....asked my evil twin.  Well, yes, of course, I did! 

The cat smelled horrendous and, since he'd been sitting in his hot poop, I knew one thing was for sure.....he wasn't getting in my car without some means of confinement.  I grabbed a box.....we had 70 of them so that wasn't a problem......and after giving him a quick drink of water and an explanation as to how this was going to hurt me more than it would hurt him, I proceeded to stuff him into the box.  I instructed Bonnie, my co-worker, to run some tape over the top of the box while I punctured air holes all around the sides.  Well, that worked for about 2 minutes and then.......

He popped his head through and leaned it back in a dramatic fashion which is so typical of a cat as if to say, "I've had just about all that I can take in one day,"  Well, at least, he and I had that much in common.  I gently pushed his head back in the box as I tried not to gag at the smell.  So, we got him back in the box and got it all secure.  I put him in the back of my Highlander and I cranked up the air conditioner so he'd be nice and comfortable and to keep my nausea at bay.  I mean, I just wanted to minimize his and my additional discomfort at this point.  I needed to get the cat home. 

He meowed and meowed for several miles and, then, it stopped.  I thought, "Well, this can mean one of two things....(a)The cat has fallen asleep from sheer exhaustion after this traumatic experience or (b) the cat is dead."  That possibility brought up a whole host of pet etiquette questions.  How does one return a dead cat to a neighbor?  I don't think I'd ever been taught that.  I think my Mama failed me there.  Do you ring the bell and run?  Attach a post-it note to the box saying, "call me."  Oh, I prayed the cat was just asleep. 

Well, I started talking to the cat in hopes of getting a response.  "Hey, Kitty Kitty."  I didn't even really know how to talk to a cat.  Still, nothing.  Then, I saw a black head peek over my back seat.  No, no, no!  The poopy cat was free in my car!  He slithered over the seat and crawled over the bags and boxes I had back there and he was headed straight for me.

He sat his poopy booty on the console next to me and began to rub his head all over my arm.

"AAaaaahhhhhh!  No, kitty.  Go away.  Shoo."  I'm not sure if he was thanking me for saving his stowaway tail or jinxing me with some kind of ominous black cat curse.  His singed whiskers were the scars he bore from the 20+ miles he'd spent under my hot hood.  I rode the last 5 miles home being rubbed by a cat. Eeeww. 

We drove up in his driveway and no one was home.  I opened the car door and he couldn't get out fast enough albeit with a few more holes punched on his 9 lives card.  I texted his "daddy" and explained why they might notice that their cat had scorched whiskers and was exhibiting symptoms of post traumatic stress.  I did some disinfecting and threw away the box and, upon inspection, I saw that he'd executed his escape by enlarging one of the air holes until it was about the size of a softball.  I don't know what he used......maybe a file from a cake or my oil dipstick or something.  I don't know.  But, that explained his silence.  He was busy. 

I headed back to work with the smell of charred cat poop still stuck to the inside of my nostrils......and a life or two poorer myself. 

The moral of this story is......well, I don't know the moral of this story.  But, maybe it got your mind off of politics for a few minutes. 

Y'all have a good day, cat and dog lovers alike.            



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Day I Tried on My Wedding Dress

Davis and I got married in February of 1992 and the body-sized acid free box in which the cleaners stored my wedding dress has moved with us from our first starter home to our second house to an apartment, where we lived while we built, and then, finally, to our current home.  For 24 years, it has been under our bed, wherever our bed might have been.

Well, I've been doing some Christmas shopping.  August is the month when I typically start and so, by now, I've already marked many people off of my list.  Well, I had one gift, in particular, that was long and bulky and needed to be hidden, so under the bed was the obvious choice.  I decided my wedding dress had taken up too much space for far too long.  I mean, what does one actually do with her wedding dress anyway?  Blair so gingerly informed me years and years ago that she didn't think it was her style.  I suppose the 90's wedding fashions have been slow to circle back around with their puffy sleeves and nauseating levels of beadwork.  Anyway, I decided the space was too valuable to reserve it for something that was just collecting dust and would never be used again so I got it out from under my bed and dusted it off.  Yes, I know it pains my mother to know that (A) I have dust under my bed and (B) that I would admit that on the world wide web but I digress.   

Anyway, I had pulled the box out and put it in the guest room for the time being and I didn't think of it again...until last night when it caught my eye as I walked down the hall.  I thought, "Wouldn't it be fun to try on my wedding dress as a 48 year old woman?"  I didn't have anything better to do so I called Blair in so she could witness the event.  I thought it was the sort of thing that a daughter ought to share with her mother.  I mean, watching your mother try to squeeze into a dress that she hasn't put on in 24 years could prove to be not only entertaining but perhaps foreshadowing for a young woman.

So, I got the scissors and carefully broke the seal around the edge of the box.  That box contained another box.  A shiny gold box.  It gave the appearance that it was housing something super duper important.  I felt like I was opening a time capsule.  I removed the gold lid and there was another lid under that one.  My goodness gracious, the cleaners don't play when they preserve your wedding dress, ladies.  I opened that lid and there it was under a layer of tissue paper.  My dress.

It looked a little creepy laying there as it had some cardboard inserts in the bodice to help maintain its shape.  The sleeves were stuffed with tissue and so it was just a bit eerie.  The swath of feelings it spawned was a cross between looking into a coffin mixed with a visit to Liberace's museum.
Well, it was go time.  I took it out of the box and unstuffed it.  I was feeling a little nervous because the last time I put this dress on, I had a stomach so flat you could use it to roll out biscuits and I weighed 105 pounds soaking wet and, well, I'm just a little over that now....even though I only recently changed my driver's license weight this past renewal.  Until August of this year, I was still 105 lbs. as far as the Mississippi Highway Patrol knew. 

Anyway, I stepped in and, to my surprise, pulled it up over my hips with no problem.  I began to have pride in my heart and I'm sure the good Lord saw my prideful spirit and chuckled to Himself as He knew what was coming.  I reached into the sleeves and pulled the dress up to my shoulders.  "Well, this is going way better than I ever expected, Blair," I said with an air of cockiness. "Ok, go ahead and zip 'er up, baby girl.  Go ahead.  Come on.  What are you waiting for?"  I heard a lot of grunting and mumbling coming from back there. There appeared to be a struggle going on.  "Um, Mom, I zipped it as far as it will go," she said.  "Well, that's weird because I feel a lot of air back there," I said in a puzzled tone.  To which she replied,"Well, that's because it only went up about 2 inches."  "Here, let me pull it up more and hold my arms over my head so you can get the zipper started good," I suggested.  But, after several attempts, I had to come to grips with the fact that I was not the same woman that I was 24 years ago.  I was about 12 inches of zipper shy of who I once was. 

Well, Blair and I had a big laugh.  And when I say a big laugh, I do mean a big one.  It was one of those laughs that tests the limits of your bladder control and, at 48, that can be scary...thanks to her big head which traveled through my birth canal.  We gained our composure and I had a mini bridal photo session which I would post but there's way too much of me showing and, well, this is a family blog and we try to uphold family values here.  I mean, you know, there was some spillage that just refused to be covered by the fabric on hand.  Anyway, after we laughed and snorted, Blair went and dragged Davis off the elliptical to see his lovely bride in her dress once again.  He looked at me with the sweetest smile.  I'm not sure if it was him being flooded with love and memories or just compassion and pure horror but, either way, he had the most dear look on his face.  I'd like to think that his breathlessness was brought on by the comely sight of me but I'm pretty sure it was the half hour of aerobic exercise from which he'd been pulled.  Sweet Carson told me that even though it didn't fit, I still looked pretty.  Be still, my heart. 

So, through my mixed emotions and laughter, I told Blair to unzip me.....and, well, that didn't take long.  That got us to snorting all over again.  I have to say....that was one of my very favorite mother/daughter activities that we've ever done together.  And believe me, we've had some good ones.

Trying on your wedding dress at 48 can teach you some things.  A lot changes as your age doubles.  Babies have a way of moving body parts around and they don't always go back the way they once were.  Life is celebrated around the table.  The kids' Halloween buckets call your name.  So many birthday parties.  Sleepless nights.  Hormones ebb and hormones flow.  Life is lived on the run.  Most of our time is spoken for.  And before you know it, you can't fit into your wedding dress.......and the weight on your driver's license is so, so wrong.

And as I placed my wedding dress back in the pretty gold box, I thought, "A lot of life has happened since I could fit into this dress.  Life has been good.  God has been good.  And I wouldn't change a thing." 

Y'all have a good Thursday.  It's almost the weekend! 





Monday, September 19, 2016

What's for Supper?

Well, I'm rounding the corner to my busiest time of year.   We're gearing up for the retail holiday season.  New merchandise is coming in on a pretty regular basis at the stores now and I've tried to insert a little fall feel into the stores' décor even though, in reality, it feels just as miserable as it did back in July around here.  No, really, the temps have plummeted from the upper 90's to a now chilly lower 90's.  Nothing says fall like the lower 90's, people.  Still, I wait with much anticipation for the fall to feel like fall.  It could be a lengthy wait, I'm afraid, as 90's are forecasted as far as my Weather Channel app will take me. Sigh.  Yet, I try not to lose hope.   

Oh, but all the promising signs are there.  The shadows are a tad bit longer.  The sky is bluer.  An ever so tiny bit of breeze is in the air.  Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are in the shape of pumpkins.  The harvest moon has risen.  Vern and Gary's annoying voices are back on the television.  And social media is all ablaze with SEC smack talk.  If the temperatures would just follow their lead.

Oh, how I long to make my first pot of chili.  A good, hearty stew.  I want to make red beans and rice.  And soup, soup, and more soup. 

But, I must wait for this heat to break.
I'm trying to get a little more organized with my meal planning since it's going to get more and more hectic around here.  This summer, I got so lazy about cooking and the lack of motivation has lingered over into "fall".....if that's what you want to call this.  I can't think of anything to cook.  I don't want to cook.  Nothing sounds good to cook.  I'm not inspired to cook.  And as a result, we have eaten out more than usual over the last few months, so I have got to get back in the game.

The main problem is I've been going to the grocery store without a plan and I'd just throw things in the buggy and try to piece it together later and make something out of it.  I mean, a southern girl can come up with something to cook if she has enough cheeses, Campbell's soup, rice, ground beef, onion, Ro-Tel tomatoes, oil, garlic, potatoes, pasta, sour cream, butter, and chicken, right?  Our mamas taught us that those are the building blocks of meal preparation. 

Well, that "throw it in and figure it out later" plan wasn't working so well for me.  I'd come home and stare into the freezer at frozen slabs of meat with very little inspiration to actually transform them into something edible.  So, I'd just shut the freezer door and suggest we go out to eat. 

I used to go to the grocery store with a detailed shopping list and specific dishes in mind and I've decided I have to get back to that.  So, today, I printed out all of my family's 20 favorite recipes and made a shopping list for each one.  I've decided to do them on some kind of rotation basis and go to the store armed with my list.  I'll let you know where this goes but it has to go somewhere other than where it's going now.....which is nowhere but the nearest Mexican restaurant.

Whether you call it supper or dinner, it is the perpetual, universal question at the forefront of all of our minds each and every day....."What am I going to feed these people tonight?  May you be vigilant in your quest for the answer.  And always know that I feel your pain. 




Thursday, September 15, 2016

These Hands of Mine

I'm sure you're like me. You can pinpoint a certain thing about your body and trace it back to one of your parents or a grandparent or even an aunt or uncle.  It's pretty cool how one part of you can be so characteristic of one side of your family and other parts can be so obviously from the other side.  Well, I have the same skinny legs as my Mama's sister, my Aunt Gloria, and we come together and lament over that curse from time to time.  And my Daddy always said I reminded him of his sister, my Aunt Frances, because I'm practically-minded and laid back like her. I'm flattered to take after them both.  Genes are pretty cool things and you never know when or where or in who they'll make an appearance.  We're all just a mixed bag put together from very different people. 

One thing's for sure....I've got my mother's hands.  I've got very pronounced veins that stand at attention at all times.  A lab tech's dream, really.  The tendons are really well defined, too.  I guess we're just lacking in hand padding or something.  Between the tendons and the veins, we've got a lot going on with the back of our hands.  I've started to see the beginning of a few brown spots like she has.  They've crept in over the last few years and let's not forget that a couple of my top knuckles also swell and get sore with arthritis from time to time.  Just like hers.  I look down and see my mother's hands more and more every day. 

I never liked the vein thing as a kid.  I was always self conscious about that.  I mean, I noticed that none of my friends had veins sticking up on the back of their hands.  And to be fair and balanced, while I didn't mind the head full of thick hair I got from my Daddy, I sure wasn't fond of the accompanying fur that covered the rest of my body which comes along with having the said thick hair.  It's bad when you're only 9 and three years away from shaving your legs and you already look like Maxwell Klinger in a dress.  My solution to this was to wear TWO pairs of pantyhose on Sunday.  My goodness, sometimes, beauty hurts. 

Anyway, we were talking about hands, so let's get back to those. 

The thing about my hands is that they can be traced back for, at least, three generations before me.  My hands are my mother's hands which were my granddaddy's hands which were my great-grandmother's hands. All the same hands on different bodies living in different times.  Even as a child, I remember noticing those different generations of hands and I'd look down and I could recognize the similarity. 

My mother has used her pair of hands to love and nurture her kids. They rocked us and felt our foreheads.  She used them quite well to cook wonderful meals, make holidays special, and take care of our household.  Her hands faithfully cared for her mother, daddy, and husband in their last days. They're used to love grandchildren, play the piano, and write sweet cards and letters.  She uses them to teach Sunday School and to minister in quiet ways. Her hands are always ready to be used for the benefit of others.  They do some of their most beautiful work behind the scenes.  There isn't a selfish bone in those hands.  Not one.   

My granddaddy used his hands to farm.  He used them to work in a manufacturing plant and tend to his cows, hogs, and chickens.  He used them to rob bee hives and sell honey.  His hands tilled, planted, and harvested crops.  They bailed hay and mended fences.  His hands worked in Germany, France, and Austria in communications in WW2.  They built his family a house when he returned.  He loved his wife, children, and grandchildren with those hands and even some great-grandchildren.  His hands served as deacon and a Sunday School teacher.  He used his hands to fish and find ballgames on the radio. And they turned the pages of the Bible every night.    

My great-grandmother used her hands a long time.  She lived to be 106 and her hands were busy most of those years.  Her hands did their part during the Depression.  They knew how to prepare good food.  They cooked and sold plate lunches.  They were used at the local high school where she was the dietician.  Her hands raised babies, made their house a home, and took her family to church.  Her hands baked cakes, grew African violets, and fed her singing canaries. They loved to stay busy.  Those hands lingered long enough to enjoy the warmth of five generations.  Her hands persevered through a lot of history.    

My hands may look just like my mother's which looked like her daddy's which looked like his mother's but my hands are different.  They're not equipped to do the same things theirs have done.  They won't experience the same things theirs did.  In some ways, they have it a lot easier.  In some ways, they may not have it as good.  They've used inventions that some of their hands never even dreamed about.  They have their own strengths.   They have their own weaknesses.  They enjoy advantages that theirs didn't have. They'll never know some of the pain that theirs carried.  They may even feel inferior in comparison to their predecessors.  But, they're made for a different time. They'll be called to different tasks. They're fashioned for their own purpose.                 

Every day when I look down, I see the hands of my past.  They're familiar.  They're comforting.  They're the hands I remember.  They cooked for me.  They loved me.  They taught me.  They held me.  They brushed the hair away from my face.  They are the hands that God chose to place me in when He made me.  They are part of who I am.

I have to choose what I want to do with my hands. As much as they look like all the others, they have to find the work that they were made to do.  My hands have to find their own way to serve.  Their own way to love.  In their own moment of time.   

God gave me these hands.  What will I do with them?  
Ya'll have a great weekend! 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

September 12

I was 33 years old at the time.....a stay at home mom with a minivan, who'd dropped off my second grade daughter at school and had the news turned on in the background as I did housework.  My one year old son was taking a nap in his baby bed.  My husband was at work.  Everything was right in my little world. 

I was in the kitchen when I could tell that some kind of major story was developing on the news channel, so I stopped what I was doing and sat down in the den to watch.  It was a plane that had crashed into one of the twin towers and the talking heads speculated that it looked to be some kind of bizarre accident.  I watched the building as smoke and flames poured out of the gaping holes left by the jet and you couldn't help but think about the people....the moms and dads and sisters and brothers...... who, on that typical Tuesday morning, were sitting at their desks on those floors where this plane had accidentally flown into this building. 

As the cameras rolled through the dark clouds of jet fuel smoke, another plane came on the screen and flew into the south tower......and things changed.  We changed.  There I sat in that burgundy, wingback recliner with a damp kitchen towel still in my hand......with one child sleeping in his room and the other at her school and, as their mother, I changed.

That morning, the cable news frantically jumped from one breaking story to the next.....bouncing all over the country covering the seemingly endless trail of tragedies that knocked us all off of our feet and made it impossible to breathe.  I sat in that chair stunned.....wondering when it would stop.  Would it ever stop?  How many planes could there be?  Where would the next one crash?  I'd never felt that unsettled in my lifetime and haven't since then.

It was a chilling day.  Almost too much to bear as you watched people forced to choose their means of death as they hung out of  the smoking windows.  I will never forget the ties and skirts that flew up in the air as, one by one, people made their decisions to jump.  I remember thinking...that's someone's mother, friend....favorite uncle.  This can't be happening in America.
From that day on, mothers couldn't think about their children's futures without a looming uncertainty casting a shadow over their thoughts.  There I sat with dreams of my little girl's proms, graduations, and being mother of the bride, one day.  I couldn't wait until I could watch my son's little league games, see him grow taller than me, and take him for his driving test.  That second plane took away our innocent belief that nothing could happen to us here.......our unblemished look towards our children's futures and the world into which we had brought them. And for just a moment, on that day fifteen years ago, we began to question all of that.  What did all of this mean for them?  Mothers, aunts, godmothers, grandmothers......we thought of those young faces that we loved and felt responsible for and, on the 11th, we cried for them most of all.
But we caught our breath and then came the twelfth.  The twelfth brought resolve, determination, unity, and story after story of heroism.  The twelfth brought out what makes us America.  We raised our flags.  We searched and rescued and dug with our hands.  We stood with the grieving and gave respect to our dead.  We reached into our pockets for the fatherless.  We cleaned up....piece by piece by piece.  We started to rebuild.  We felt renewed patriotism.  We filled church pews.  We sent up prayers.  And on the twelfth, we got up and sent our children to school and we went to work.  We refused to give into the fear.  We refused to let evil win.

I don't guess I've ever seen a more unified America in my lifetime as I saw post 9/11.  Seems like that horrific attack gave us a real sense of connection with our fellow Americans.  It made us more protective of one another.  I suppose we felt more united because we all were all feeling the same vulnerability.  The same anger.  The same sadness.  Maybe in some strange way, we felt a bond in knowing that our neighbor was feeling just as shaken as we were. There's a real connection between people who are experiencing the same pain in life. There was an overall sense that we were in this together and we were going to have to look out for one another.  No matter how many racial, political, economic, or social differences distinguished us, the transcending bond was that we were all Americans and we'd been attacked. That was all that mattered. 

I think about the firemen and policemen who ran up those steps toward the peril and how most of them didn't make it back out.  About the stories of the young man in the red bandana and others working in the buildings who'd escaped the danger and were home free but went back in to help their fellow man.  In the end, saving others but not themselves.  I think about the guys on flight 93 who acted quickly to keep their plane from becoming another missile used to strike a U.S. target.  They chose to die on their a desolate field in order to save lives somewhere else.   I think about the people who dug through the steel, the concrete, and the dust for months and months after the attack.  Many have since died and continue to die from cancers and other diseases related to their work there.  I think about the soldiers who've fought in retaliation against those who attacked us and continue to plot attacks on our way of life.  Some came home in coffins and others with life changing disabilities. I think about the families and children of the military and police officers and firemen whose lives were also changed.  So much given.  So much loss.  So much sacrifice.   

On this anniversary weekend, our little Mississippi town lost a firefighter in a crash while answering an emergency call to help someone else in trouble.  And on professional football fields all over the country, some players who make 150 times what that fireman made thumbed their noses at the very country which has given them so much for doing so little.  What a dichotomy. 
Division is rampant.  Patriotism is on the verge of becoming a bad word.  Concern is increasingly turned inward.

We've come so far in these last 15 years. 

So far in the wrong direction. 

But, tomorrow is the twelfth.  And we have a chance to get up with the same resolve and determination that we had back then.  We have the choice to resuscitate our love of country or throw our hands up and let complacency win.  We have the chance to do more giving and less taking.  More responsibility and less demonstration.  More working and less shouting.  More being useful and less being offended.  We can use our hands to get busy again.  To reach across lines.  To love our neighbor.  To pull our weight.  To distribute more respect.  To clean up the mess we've made. 

And to pray to our God for healing and mercy. 

What will we do with the twelfth?        



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It's the Cheesiest

I love the new Little Debbie commercials where the lady's eight year old self comes up to her at the grocery store with a bag of powdered donuts and tries to convince her that she should get some by reminding her how much she once loved them.  And the truck driver's younger self suddenly appearing in his passenger seat with a box of Little Debbie Honey Buns trying to entice him with those little treasures he'd forgotten about in his adulthood. 
Well, a couple of weeks ago, I ran to our neighborhood Dollar General as we were getting low on dog food, milk, and aluminum foil and no one should ever risk running out of those three things.  I was pushing my buggy through the store and, on my way back to the register, I cut through one of the grocery aisles and that's when it happened.  My eye caught the blue box macaroni and I became entranced.  Sure, I see Kraft Macaroni and Cheese all the time at stores but this time was different.  It was like the cardboard box was calling out to me.  Or like, in the Little Debbie commercial, my younger self was standing there waving it in front of my face, reminding me of it's sharp cheese sauce derived from the glowing powdery substance and the way it would cling to the tiny macaroni noodles.  Mmmmmmm.  "Please, please, please, can we get some? Can we get some?" she pleaded. "Oh, all right," I said as I gave in and grabbed a box....even if it had skyrocketed from the once 4/$1 to $1.50 each now.  Highway robbery. 

Anyway, the blue box and I have a long history together.  It was one of my favorites growing up and I personally thought that it paired especially well with a hot dog.  A hot dog and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  Oldies but goodies. My favorite lunch.  I ate many a plate of that delicious combination as a child.  I consumed enough of the orange paste to paint most all of the Home Depots in the Southeast.

Well, on that particular day when I dropped that blue box into my buggy, I knew in the back of my mind that we happened to have some hot dogs in the frig which is a pretty rare occurrence because, well, cholesterol, nitrates, processed meats linked to cancer, blah, blah, blah.  While there are many hot dog snobs out there, I feel a good hot dog is one of life's tastiest treats..... no matter how many times my nutrition major daughter shows me the video of how they're made from a pink paste.  I tell you up the grill and throw on some beef dogs and top with homemade chili, sautéed onions, and cheese and that's some mighty fine pink paste in my opinion.  I don't care if there are chicken gizzards and toe nails in there.

Well, a few days later, I was home alone at lunch time.  I ripped open that blue box, boiled up those noodles, got out the butter, and made myself a batch of the neon pasta along with a hot dog and I don't know if it was just a sweet memory flood or what but even my more sophisticated taste buds had to admit that they enjoyed it an awful lot.  It was every bit as good as I remembered.     

You know those foods you used to like when you were a kid and sometimes nostalgia takes over and you think you want to try it again to see if it was everything you remembered.  Here are some other childhood favorites that I've gone back and tried over the last few years...

Peach Nehi- Peach Nehi was my all-time favorite!  My go-to drink at the convenience store.  It quenched thirst like nothing else in my book.  I still have to say that they're really, really, really good but just a little too sweet for my more mature palette at 49 grams of sugar.   

Now and Laters-  I loved these jewels.  And you got five pieces in a pack for only a nickel.  As soon as I wrote that, I realized I sounded like a great-grandma recounting how she could get a Coke, a hamburger and see a picture show for only a quarter.  Last time I tried a Now and Later for old time's sake, I got a small chip in one of my bottom teeth.  It's like chewing on Legos.  They're sweeter than I remembered, too.  I thought they were more sour back in the day but they're still mighty tasty. 

Charms Sour Pops-  Loved these so much that I shoplifted a red one from a convenience store at the ripe age of 4.  Yes, I knocked off a convenience store as a preschooler but I really think it was a turning point in my life as my mother made me return it and apologize.  She took me home and I was rehabilitated.  A few times when I've wanted to revisit the wilder side of my youth, I've looked for a Charms sucker but I can never find the sour ones....only the sweet pops.  Just not the same.  They're not worth stealing.    
Chef Boyardi RavioliRemember how your Mama would heat up a can for your lunch?  You ever tried that as an adult?  Tastes like pasta and rust.  I'm going to have to give this an adult thumbs down. 

Freezer Pops-  As an adult, those taste like frozen Robutussin, Dimetapp, and Benadryl....depending on which color you get.

Fish Sticks- I suppose they are the equivalent to hot dogs in the fish world.  Comprised of fish eyeballs, egg sacks, and goodness knows what else.  I was never a big fan of those when I was a kid especially if I bit into one of those dark spots you'd come across, every now and then.  I revisited them when my children were small and they were just as "eeeww" as I remembered. 

Tang-  I remember the cabinet where my Mama kept the Tang.  I can't say that I've tried it as a grown woman but, as I remember, it was the perfect blend of the orange zest of baby aspirin and the biting tartness of lighter fluid. 

Sugar Daddy-  These things are still as good as you remember but, unless you have a good dental plan, don't try one.  Your old teeth can't handle it.  They will pull your fillings out so fast, it will make your head spin.

Bugles- Yep, still good as I remember.  They just don't fit on your fingertips as well as they did when you want to pretend you're a witch and, well, that's a bummer. 

And we can't forget Little Debbie'sThey graced every lunch box on the continent back in my day.  My mother always bought the Oatmeal Crème Pies.  I suppose she thought she could read some health benefit into them since they contained oatmeal but I'd say that would've been a stretch.  Star Crunch and Nutty Buddies also showed up a lot in our lunches.  Personally, the Donut Sticks were my favorite and, even now, if you put them in the microwave for about 8 seconds, they're still mighty good eatin'. 

We've all gotten older and now we have to watch our triglycerides, cholesterol, sodium, blood sugar, weight gain, saturated fats, blood pressure, gluten, carbohydrates, additives, preservatives, chemicals, pesticides, dyes, growth hormones, antibiotics, and a bunch of other stuff we were blissfully ignorant of as children.  But, every now and then, it does the soul good to let the younger you throw a little something in the buggy for old time's sake.  Lick some Cheetos dust off your fingers.  Get a red Kool-Aid stache.  I mean, how could you resist that face?     

Y'all eat something today in honor of Way Back Wednesday and let me know how it goes. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Victory is Sweet

Today is September and I feel like I've just finished a race.  Not one of those kinds where you glide across the finish line with the graceful stride of an Olympian with your arms stretched up into the air in celebration of your impressive performance.  No, this was more like hobbling over the finish line with bleeding blisters, shin splints, severe dehydration, heat exhaustion, and hallucinations.  Then, collapsing to the ground and crying until snot runs down over your lips and onto your chin then falls in blobs down to your sweat-stained race bib. 

Sometimes, you just can't worry about how you look when you're on the race course.  You can't get bogged down in what others are thinking about how gracefully you may have performed or how foolish you may have looked.  People will talk and they may even laugh at how awkwardly you competed.  Let them talk. The important thing is that you finished even if you dragged several hurdles along with you and your electrolyte imbalance was at life threatening levels.  Not all wins are picturesque.    
Today is a mental victory.  It is a day that signals triumph.  September 1 means that I have survived all that the Mississippi sun and southern humidity could throw at me and I have limped, without the tiniest shred of dignity, over the finish line.  It wasn't pretty.  It wasn't even bearable to watch.  You might even say that it was a downright ugly performance.  But, I finished.  June, July, August.....the trilogy from Hell.  Done.

Now, I'm not delusional.  I know that, for Mississippi, the summer sun has a lot of tricks left up its sleeve.  Just because Brach has shipped the candy corn and mellowcreme pumpkins to Wal-Mart does not the cool weather bring.  The southern seasons don't take their cues from the sudden appearance of cinnamon brooms at Hobby Lobby.  We must not lose sight of the fact that there is still much hardship to endure.  But, the worst is behind us. 

In the meantime, the jack-o-lanterns and cornucopias at TJ Maxx will replenish our fluids.  The sound of college football on our televisions will help us recover our strength.  The addition of pumpkin spice to every possible menu item will restore our will to live.  Fall-toned M&Ms will help us to lift our heads and want to race again, one day.  And the first leaf we see fall, even if it was burned slammed to death by the hellacious heat and was literally scorched from its branches, well, we will still find victory in its descent to the ground.  We don't so much care about why the first leaf falls, only that it falls.   

So, that's where I am.  My steps are a little peppier.  My voice is laced with more excitement.  My outlook is brighter.  My confidence is high.  This is my time.  A lot of sweat and tears have gone into this victory.  A lot. You all know this is one of the most difficult races for me.  Thank you for your support. 
Y'all have a good holiday weekend!