Clattering Pots and Pans

One of my favorite childhood memories of the holidays is hearing the clattering of pots and pans in both of my grandmother’s kitchens. The myriad of wonderful smells. Licking the spoons. The singing. The sounds of love.

Once Tony and I started dating, I heard them in his grandmother’s kitchens as well.

I started cooking for Thanksgiving day. Your normal staples: dressing, chicken and dumplings, green bean casserole, mac and cheese, butterbeans, and Tony’s favorite buttermilk pie and peach cobbler. While I felt the void of some of the strongest women in my life, I also felt their presence. Using both Tony’s paternal grandmother and my grandmother’s cast iron skillets, singing like my father’s mother used to, and remembering things Tony’s maternal grandmother taught me. I thought of Tony’s mother and how she would be asking all day if it was ready yet if she were here. I felt myself tear up a time or two, but mostly I felt the love they’d given me my entire life. 

Later, I didn’t feel well, and Tony took over. He cooks like I do with all the knowledge that the strong women in his life left with him. A few tricks are his own like the juicy whole chickens he cooked on the grill. 

We ate at home quietly at his grandmother’s kitchen table. 

We both lost our last living grandparents this year, but above the ache left in their place, we’re also thankful for their love and the years we spent listening to their clattering pots and pans.

Bettie Jones Odum
Mary Helen Green
Hilda Allen
Marie Fortenberry
Tammye Allen

I Got Only Love to Share

Lately, I don’t know what to write about or even what to read. My thoughts bounce around inside my head, and while some of them are good, they never seem to make it to the page. This entire year has been nothing but sadness and disappointment for myself, for my family, for my friends. Covid19 has taken so much from so many people. Not just lives but life experiences and dreams. It’s become an integrated part of our everyday lives. I noticed at work the other day that, by habit, I reached to put on my mask as soon as I stood up from my desk. I’ve already developed the muscle memory for it.

I try to write and the words seem lost, like they’ve wandered off and don’t answer when I call. I try to read and the words all run together. My brain is so focused on everything else that I read an entire page and don’t retain any of the information. I feel betrayed.

I forced myself to sit and type all this just so that I could feel like I could breathe. Writing is becoming like air, and I feel deprived. I think maybe it’s because it’s the one thing in my life that I still have control of.

I’ve been filling my free hours with tv and mindlessly scrolling social media. I don’t know why because social media is lousy with politics and arguments while all I’m looking for is a little peace and something to occupy my brain.

I have a list of things I should be doing with my free time outside of work. Like the yoga I’ve been promising myself I was going to start practising again and the meditating to calm the jumbles in my mind. Cleaning is another good one. I think things won’t feel right until I get the world out of my head and reclaim it for myself. I need to steer clear of the mess that people are making of the world and put my own world to rights.

The older I get, the more I long for peace. I can’t handle the ugliness of hate and conflict. I crave the quiet. I can’t deal with angry words and spite. I long for harmony. I’m more sensitive to negativity. It drains me and weighs me down.

I’ve been trying more to be kind with my words, still smile behind my mask, and hope to gracious goodness that it will spread. Hate spreads like wildfire. It seems kindness seeps. I still hold out the hope that all is not lost and goodness will prevail.

In the meantime, inhale the good, exhale the bad. Spread kindness and let conflict end with you. Hold onto peace and rebuke hate. If I sound like a hippie, well then, good.

In the words of The Avett Brothers: I got only love to share.

There ain’t no man can save me

There ain’t no man- an enslave me

Ain’t no man or men that can change the shape my soul is in

There ain’t nobody here who can cause me pain or raise my fear

Cause I got only love to share

If you’re looking for truth I’m proof you’ll find it there

Is and Was

Since my grandmother passed a few days ago, I’ve answered what feels like a copious amount of questions.

Is she your grandmother on your father’s side?

Was she sick for long?

Is she related to..?

Was she close to you?

My favorite companions, words, have seemed to fail me. Some questions I don’t have answers to. It’s been emotional in so many ways. Mostly in that I haven’t seen her in months due to Covid19, and in the end, after being such a fighter her entire life, Covid19 is what caused her to pass.

My grandfather, her husband, passed three years ago in December. For the last week of his life, we knew the end was near. I was there during the evenings to talk to him, sing to him, and hold his hand. I think it was a comfort to him. We played his favorite music and reminded him of days gone by. I was able to say goodbye properly.

With my grandmother, that was not at all the case. I told her goodbye through a window and went home and fretted because that was all I was able to do.

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes it doesn’t go as we intend. Sometimes the was seems so much better than the is.

Some of my best childhood memories are being at my grandparents’ house. Paw snuck us junk food. Maw pretended that she didn’t see it. We spent our days riding our bicycles everywhere, working with Paw in the garden, eating green plums off the tree and ripe tomatoes off the vine, eating watermelon in the summer, coming home as filthy as pigs, watching Saturday morning cartoons while eating cereal, and living the good life that country kids enjoy.

As for Maw, she lived through hard times. She buried two of her children, and then her husband. She had several back surgeries, health problems, and still worked hard in spite of those. She was from a different time when you got it done no matter what. She was tough as leather.

Even after a stroke slurred her speech and impeded her ability to walk, she did everything she could. Until she couldn’t.

When she closed her eyes for the final time on Earth, she was free. She is with those children she buried and reunited with my Paw. Her is is so much better than her was.

I’ll miss her, but I’d never be so selfish as to wish that away from her. She’s earned her is. I’ll cherish the was.

History & Memories

A customer reminded me the other day how important it is to document even the little things. She told me that she felt her descendants might not appreciate the closet full of journals that she’s filled over her lifetime and will someday leave behind. I told her that I would be thrilled to find that type of treasure written by my grandparents or any other member of my family.

It’s like my paternal grandmother’s recipes. Each one is a memory. Each recipe is a reminder of when we were all together and how that felt and what it meant. That’s why her hand written recipes would be worth more than gold to me.

The beauty of history is the story, the retelling in one’s own words of things that have taken place. The scholar’s recording of facts is important, no doubt, but to know how a person saw it, what they felt, their thoughts at the time, and personal descriptions make it a story.

After the passing of my maternal grandmother, we found she and my grandfather divorced at one point and remarried. I’m sure there are stories there. A journal or diary kept at that time would tell us. I would know how the each of them felt, where they thought the fault was, the whys, and the emotions behind it all. While some might deem it personal, I believe it to be part of my history.

Personal accounts are important and significant to history, no matter how insignificant the writings may seem at the time. I wish I knew more about my grandparents and great aunts and uncles when they were growing up, the details of their every day life. I want to know about the people they saw, how they felt at times in their lives, the good and the bad, and all the intricate details in between. These matters are imperative to writing good fiction.

I suppose it’s the writer in me. It’s how I create fiction or recreate life. Stories are how the past lives on.

I’ve been failing at keeping a journal. I need to make more of an effort to do so. Maybe one day, a generation or two in the future, I’ll have a descendant that will appreciate the details of my life. Maybe even some random person who finds a journal in a thrift store. Either way, I want to make more of an effort to put my thoughts, feelings, and life happenings in type. The stories of my life will one day tell my history.

A Little Brick House

I was a child when I first saw it. A nice little brick house in a nice little neighborhood where a nice little family lived. Well, most of the family was nice. Their son, my now husband, encouraged me to eat ants the first time I stepped onto the carport. I declined with a snort. He had a friend there, and being the only girl, I was the odd one out. He had no idea then how his feelings for me would eventually change.

Years later, it was from the little brick house that he got up the courage to call me for the first time. There, in the smallest bedroom, he sat with the phone to his ear listening to how my spring break was and the goings on of myself and my friends.

It was there he called me from almost daily for the next year. We talked about everything there was to talk about. The walls were witnesses to all the words that passed between us. His eyes must have roamed over every inch of the ceiling as he lay in bed and discussed life with me. We shared music and stories, quiet secrets whispered and hopes conveyed. I read him my most private poetry, and he was the first of my friends that knew I wanted to be a writer.

It was in the smallest bedroom of that little brick house on a quiet November night that he told me he loved me for the first time and held his breath for my response. It was there we went after our first date, sitting in his room, listening to music. It was in that house that we shared our first kiss and many more after. Many times, we sat in the backyard looking at the lake behind the house in quiet companionship. It was in that small kitchen that he introduced me to his family. It was within those walls that we fell in love.

Not much has changed with the little brick house over the years. The once blue shutters are now white. I hope to paint them blue again. The flower beds need love that I will happily give. There is work to be done. The walls still know our teenage secrets. The memories made there are fresh and long lasting. The biggest change is that we now live there, and it feels right.

Writing Your Life

I’ve been thinking about how our lives will one day become stories. Stories are wonderful things. I love hearing them and telling them. I love different perspectives on the same story.

My life is my story. I think it’s important to journal our thoughts and feelings and the way we view the seasons of our lives. Those who come after us can learn about the today that we live in. They can see how things were viewed and learn about how different our current situation is to how theirs will be. I wonder all the time how my grandparents and great aunts and uncles viewed the world they lived in. I wish I knew more about the things they experienced.

I made several pointers for myself in writing my life. I thought I might share them with you.

Plotting: What I’ve recently come to understand about plotting is that you may decide how you think things will go, but it’s never set in stone. Be prepared for changes and scenes that don’t quite fit. In this, I see that writing is a lot like living.

Writing: The crux of everything. The living of your life is the writing of it. You must live it to write it. What are you doing today that is living your life? Would it be enjoyable for someone to read it later? Live a life of adventure and joy. Make your story colorful with experience and vibrant characters. Let the people you surround yourself with be interesting.

Editing: Edit often. Cut out what doesn’t fit, doesn’t enhance your story, or doesn’t make sense. Your story, your life, is too short for things that don’t benefit it. You are the only one with the power to change or edit your circumstances. You hold the pen, and history shows that it truly can be mightier than the sword.

I’ve been telling myself that I need to start journaling. I need to start making note of the story my life will tell. I will make more of an effort to turn it into something worth reading. I hope you’ll consider doing the same.

I’ve Got Something to Say

I’ve been doing more writing than reading.

I type this with a sigh, a good sigh. It feels good. Reading is and always will be my first love, but it is essentially admiring the world another person has created. That’s wonderful, and I love it. However, there’s something about stepping into a world of your own making. Seeing life stories play out in your head and pouring them out on paper for someone else to admire is something I’ve always wanted to do. Getting to know my characters has been my favorite part. It’s like sitting down with an old friend and hearing how their life has been going up until now. Characters can certainly be demanding. I might have a touch of schizophrenia, but there have been several times that I’ve felt a character nudge me and say, “Nope. That’s not me. Fix it.”

I’ve written stories before that have started out strong but fizzled out before I really got to the meat of it. This one, though, has kept me on my toes. It’s in my head, in my dreams, and is taking over. I don’t know if the difference is that I have a friend reading it as I write or if it’s just time.

I’m hoping for good. I’ve used the backspace button as much as any other key on my keyboard. This story has me writing everyday. I’ve been reflecting most days as I write on the lessons I learned from On Writing by Stephen King.  One of the things I have struggled with, he addresses in his book. He noted that:

“Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation, Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sort of writing as ‘good’ and other sorts as ‘bad’, is fearful behavior. Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.”

Overcoming fears has been a lifelong endeavor. Fearing being adventurous with what I’m writing has been dragging me down as a writer. The other day I wrote my first intimate scene between a couple. While to most this doesn’t seem like a step outside the box, for me, it absolutely was. When I, blushing furiously, sent it to my friend, I got good feedback. She assured me it wasn’t cheap or tasteless. I’m pretty pleased with the review.

Another pointer I’ve been pulling from the King is writing what you like is as important as writing what you know. In the King’s book, this quote is one of my favorites:

“Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationships, sex and work.”

A point my reader made was that writers tend to over describe characters and settings. I make a conscious effort not to do that so that I don’t do all the work for readers. I want them to form their own view. My job is to define my characters and settings, not completely describe them.

This dream has been accumulating in my heart. Now, it’s up to my mind to bring it to fruition.

I’m enjoying stretching my writing legs and hope to one day run marathons. All in all, I’m learning that what my characters say is all to do with them, but what my writing comes down to is what I have to say.

 

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

I’ve been writing a story. That’s really no surprise to anyone. I’m usually writing a story all the time. What makes this story different is that I’m letting a friend read it. It’s about 20,000 words worth of me so far.

For full disclosure, it is a romance. Well, more like life with a healthy dose of romance. Since I knew that was her thing, I sent her a message. Actually,  I typed it, deleted it, typed it again, read it twelve times, and finally sent it. She replied within minutes.

I emailed her the first few chapters of my story and waited. I can be pretty patient. However, when you’re waiting on judgement, minutes stretch themselves indefinitely.

When she told me she loved it, I got emotional. I know that she’s honest and has no problem telling anyone what she thinks. This made her perfect for honest feedback but also very scary. She said it definitely needs some editing, but it’s good.

I’ve invested hours into this story. I’m not sure what will come of it. That’s the part that’s exciting but also terrifying. This has me thinking that I may want to put myself out there soon. My inner introvert is shaking her head and looking at me disapprovingly over her glasses.

I was brave when I started this blog a few years ago. I was a nervous wreck when I published the first post. When my most popular post hit 5000 views, I jumped up and down and then plopped back down in fear. I’m doing much the same with someone reading my story.

I am learning to be open and put myself out there. I’m understanding that my words might mean something to someone even if it’s just one person.

Tony has been pushing me. I hear almost every other day that I need to get on my novel. He’s got this steady, unshakable faith in me that has been a solid rock in rough seas. Now, my friend has read what I have of my story and has the same faith. I’m honestly a bit shaken.

My mind is telling me to not get my hopes up. My heart says we’re due for a leap of faith.

Just One of Those Days

Today has just been one of those days.

You know the ones I’m talking about. Nothing goes right. Life is coming at you full speed, and it seems like you can’t get a decent breath to save your life. Anxiety is the ocean, and you are the Titanic. Overwhelmed is an understatement.

I’ve made stupid mistakes all day. I just have to chalk it up to lack of a decent night’s sleep, hormones, and just not thinking. My day has been filled with fumble fingers, a sluggish brain, and I feel like I need a reboot. I can see Friday on the horizon, and it’s a lovely sight.

September was mostly a blur. It felt rushed, but October is here.

If October was a person, it would be a favorite aunt with comforting hugs. If it were a food, it would be chicken and dumplings (If you’re from the south, you know what I mean). If it were a day of the week, it would be a slowed down Sunday. It’s a month that feels like that time of day when the light slants just right through the windows before the sun sets. October seems gentle. It’s a milder month. It’s the gateway to the end of the year, and the calm before the storm that is the holidays.

The month begins with our anniversary on the first. This year made sixteen years. I’ve been a wife for sixteen years. It seems like just yesterday that Tony was a shy fifteen year old boy telling me that he was going to marry me. It seems like we should still be riding around in his loud truck with the windows down on back roads while singing along with the radio.

October usually ushers in some slightly cooler temperatures. I’m hoping this one does. The sky was beautiful this morning and was a positive start to the day. My pecan tree is already shedding leaves. I’m hoping to gather up some pine straw for my flower beds soon.

I haven’t been writing or reading as much. I’m sure that has something to do with my “off” feeling. That’s probably why I’ve been on edge. Some people need warm bubble baths, others need a glass of wine, but give me some peace and a good book. It centers me. Now, all three of those things together seems a bit like paradise.

I could use a bit of that right now with the day I’ve had. My feet hurt, my mind is jumbled, and my emotions are high. I’m going to remedy that now when I go find my peace.

It’s just been one of those days.

 

Where Were You?

Every year on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism our country has ever seen, possibly thousands of people answer the question, “Where were you?”

Where were you when life for an entire nation changed so drastically on what seemed to be an ordinary Tuesday morning?

I woke up that beautiful morning, had breakfast, and got on the school bus. I imagine I chatted with my friends on the bus and then at school. I imagine people in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia did much the same; got up, talked to loved ones, commuted, started their day.

I was in Ms. Sherman’s class when someone ran in and told Ms. Sherman that we needed to watch the news. When the TV illuminated, we saw the first Tower in flames. It was startling. I remember this cold feeling running through my body as if I had ice water in my blood. I was a week away from turning fifteen and had no idea at the loss of life or how many people were even in a building of that size. I’d hardly been out of Mississippi.

The second plane hit the Tower’s twin a few minutes later. That’s when it began to be clear that this was not a random accident. This was an attack.

By the time the news announced that the Pentagon had also been hit as well as a plane going down in a field in Pennsylvania, I was trembling. I remember students being all around, laughing, talking, and going about their day. I didn’t know what this would bring about, but I knew it was incredibly horrific and sad. The newscasters talked about the loss of the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people. My teenage mind couldn’t comprehend.

When the Towers fell, I remember watching the TV in horror with my heart pounding. Surely, I thought, anyone left alive in the buildings were able to evacuate. At fourteen, you still see the world as a movie. You hold out the hope that there’s always a hero to save the day. Many lives were saved that day by brave souls in uniforms as well as civilian clothing.

When I got home from school, I spent the evening hours on the phone with Tony. He was my best friend at the time. We hadn’t yet started dating. We watched the news and talked about the horrific the events of the day. Hundreds of people were missing. Their loved ones begged for any word of their fate and showed pictures of the missing on the news. Those photos showed people smiling during happy times. They were hearts and souls with dreams and hopes. They were gone in what seemed like an instant.
I searched the internet that night for information about the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The sheer size of the buildings left me reeling. I think that was when it began to register for me just how many people would have been inside, around, and involved with the Towers that morning. The Pentagon was left with a gaping, burning hole.
Ground Zero was still burning that night and would for the next 100 days. Videos of those who threw themselves to their death to escape the heat and flames haunted me. The thought of those trapped terrified me. What they must have experienced still makes me ache to think of it. Over the next months, I read the stories online. I read of people lost, those who were lost saving lives, and those who lived because someone saved them. I heard of people who heard last moments over the phone. I was shaken to my core.

Last night, I was thinking of the final count of the lives lost on that day.

2800+

I was living and going to school in a very small town on September 11, 2001. The town population was a little less than 2500. On that sad September day, there were more lives lost than there were lives in the town I lived in. That absolutely astounds me.

The losses continue after that day. There are those who can’t live with survivor’s guilt and those who develop illnesses from dust and chemicals.

Those who were lost lived, loved, were different races, genders, and lifestyles. They had children, were someone’s children, and left a staggering void in the hearts of those who knew and loved them. I hope they know the flood of love and unity our nation experienced after their losses. I hope they know that people like me who never knew them, have read their names, said a prayer for them, and remember their stories. After all, at the end of our lives, we all become stories. As long as I live, I’ll remember their stories.