Category Archives: Blog

Thanks Giving

I don’t hear much talk about giving thanks this year.  We seem to consumed with our problems.  And there’s a  lot to worry about,  not the least of which are the divisions in our country and families.  In fact, some  are  “skipping” Thanksgiving this year to avoid  further division  fueled by heated arguments  around the family table.   If only things were different, maybe we’d feel more grateful, be more in the mood for Thanks Giving, It take a lot of  energy to be grateful when we’re preoccupied with  what we don’t have,

Growing up, the family always came to the farm for Thanksgiving.  I looked forward to having the cousins visit, but  I envied  my “town friends” Thanksgiving dinner of  turkey, pumpkin pie, cranberry dressing, sweet potato casserole with pineapple and marshmallows on top.  Exotic dishes like broccoli casserole  and Wonder Bread rolls with oleo. (For those less than a “certain age,” that’s margarine, sort of.)  Ours was a simpler fare consisting almost entirely of what we raised on the farm; chicken and corn bread dressing, hot corn bread  in iron skillets, creamed corn,  pickled peaches and deviled eggs, sweet potato and pecan pie.  Not cool.   My childhood favorite, because none of it came from the farm,  was my Aunt Katherine’s lime jello mold  with pecans (ok, these were ours) celery and  pineapple.

Imagine.  Nowadays, this menu would be considered gourmet! (With the possible exception of the jello salad)    Free range chicken, home churned butter and whipped cream from whole, non pasteurized, non GMO  milk of  placid free-ranging cows. Fruits and vegetables canned from our gardens and orchards.

It was better back then, right?  The family was united. The food was simple and fresh.  There were no hard feelings, no rancor. Smiles all around the family table.  The kids weren’t hooked on electronics, didn’t interrupt and always said “please and thank you.”  We didn’t watch TV, we talked to each other.  We were poor but happy.  Norman Rockwell would have loved us.  Oh, for the good old days.

Now looking back with the perspective of years, I  see a very different picture. The food really was great even if I couldn’t see  past the envy of  my friends’  Wonder Bread rolls  and pies made from canned pumpkins grown in the midwest.  And we weren’t characters  out of a  Norman Rockwell tableau.  Some family members were estranged, some battled carefully disguised addiction and  depression.  All struggled against an economic system controlled by a  privileged  few that perpetuated poverty in our family through generations as far back as we could remember. (Sound familiar?) Tacit agreement on certain topics that were never discussed, especially race and politics.   All presided over by my grandfather, the unyielding and stoic family patriarch.

Luckily, our family today agree for the most part on things political and at worst tolerate each other’s beliefs.  I’m not worried about heated arguments around the Thanksgiving table.    But it won’t be a  Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.  Some of our family live far away and some have lost touch.  We have our allotment of disease and dysfunction and some of us are just plain weird. (Depends on who you ask.)

This Thanksgiving’s food will come from chain stores, not  the garden.   Some of us are vegan, others lactose intolerant, allergic to gluten, cranberries or chocolate.  Some have wine, some abstain.  For a moment, I will long for  the simpler days of real butter and cream,  fresh fruits and vegetables,  and sweet potato pie.  But only for a moment.  We always make it work and it’s always  delicious.

So really, not much has changed.  It’s a different family now, but just as then, we  love each other in spite of, and sometimes because of, our weaknesses and foibles, struggle with our  demons, tolerate our differences and enjoy Thanks Giving  dinner together.  And I don’t intend to waste another minute thinking about what might have been.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Betrayal

 

 

The unkindest cut.  The one we never expect because only those we trust can betray us.   It happens to all of us.

I hadn’t thought about her for years until I ran across an annoucement about an award she had recently received.  I was surprised at how quickly the old painful memories replayed themselves in my mind.  The initial shock and disbelief,  stabs of disappointment,  rushes of anger, and eventually, more in my interest than hers, forgiveness and acceptance.

She was my student, my star student at the time.  The one for whom I had such high hopes.   The one I rescued from the slums and nurtured. Supported, financially and emotionally.  Provided a network.  Advocated for.    Defended.

It was wonderful to watch her grow and flourish.  She was like a kid in a candy store.   Everything was magic for her; the university, her classes and research, the malls, the internet,  even the night-time sky.  She glowed with happiness.  We were a team.

Until she found a brighter star and  moved on to follow it, leaving behind a trail of lies and broken promises.

Shades Down Tight, Ashley Adcox

Painful as it was, and uncomfortable as the memories still are, I am grateful for the experience.  It taught me  that my expectations for her were a heavy and unjust burden.  No one has the right to require  loyalty from another person.  In spite of and maybe because of,  my good intentions, I caused her harm.   And probably more importantly,  it brought me face to face with my own past betrayals and the lies I told myself to justify my cowardly behavior.

She must have carried a heavy burden of guilt.  It’s the only logical explanation I can think of to explain the  smear campaign she launched  among the faculty and students.  I never knew the specifics or the extent of it, but the averted glances and hushed whispers told me all I needed to know.

Make no mistake; the release that comes with  betrayal exacts a heavy price.   A plausible justification for  cowardly behavior must be fabricated and a web of lies concocted.  The  guilt of my betrayals will always follow me,  nipping at my heels,  threatening to expose my lies,  until I finally face them and the people I harmed.

Each of us has the right and the responsibility to be true to our own convictions, even though acting on them may take all the courage we can muster.   And if this means severing ties with another human being,  we harm ourselves most of all if we hack them apart in the  dark corridors of betrayal.

It’s been said that in order to know love, we must first know pain.  It follows that in order to trust, we must travel through  betrayal, be crushed by it,  burn in its crucible, and be released.

There will be another friend, lover, child, to love in the light of day, free from the dark spectre of betrayal.

 

Home Going…

Happy to be home for my high school reunion to connect with old friends, but sad to remember all those we have lost along the way. Here’s a tribute to a lost loved one that puts life and death in beautiful perspective. Thank you, Camilla.

Camellia's Cottage

IMG_3292My father in law would have loved his funeral last week… I know, I know…he was ‘absent from the body but present with the Lord’.  Still. If he could have been in the body, he would have loved his Home Going – all of it. But then I’m getting ahead of myself… Wallace Wyatt, Sr. was my father in law for decades, he lived to be 93 years old- he had a long, well lived life. He was born in Cool Springs, then made his life just a few miles over in Beaver Valley- in his beloved St. Clair County. A county older than the State of Alabama, where he served the people for 14 years as their Judge of Probate. I remember he told me once that being Probate Judge was the closest thing to the role of a pastor within our government- with duties ranging from adoptions, marriages, guardianships and of…

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You Know You’re in the South When….

 

 You order iced tea and your server responds, “Sweet or unsweet?

A stranger strikes up a conversation with you at the produce counter and you don’t look for the manager.

It’s hard to find parking in the church parking lot on Sunday.

The ONLY dressing is cornbread dressing.

 

The  “ballgame” means football.

 

 

Mama is a force to be reckoned with.

 

Men look forward all year to a weekend on a freezing lake in an outrageous contraption hoping to bag a duck or two.

If you visit, you have to eat.

 

And family is forever.

 

 

 

 

When everything goes wrong

An only child and the oldest granddaughter I was overindulged and sheltered by adoring  parents and relatives.  And  when things went wrong for me, I just picked up my toys and went home.

That didn’t work so well as an adult.

And things aren’t going so well these days.  Political turmoil, war and poverty,  mega fires,  devastating floods, social upheaval, financial instability.   And I must admit, my first reaction isn’t to charge headlong into the battle, but to hide, the adult version of  “picking  up my toys and going  home.”

I hear a lot these days about people  fleeing the country in desperation.  I understand  and share their  frustration.  We have a huge drug problem, our infrastructure is failing, our schools are falling behind, the middle class is struggling, our immigration policies don’t work, our racial divide is widening.  Not to mention mass shootings and  natural disasters.   I hear all that.

But  I have to wonder how many of those  thinking of leaving the country  have lived in or  visited other countries for extended periods of time.  One look at the nightly news shows us that these are not problems specific to us;  they  exist the world over.  No country  is exempt from problems and even if there were such a Nirvana, there is no way to hide there.  Our community is global.

 

Besides, we have so much to fight for, so much we take for granted.   Our public education, flawed, but still a route out of poverty for  (I’m a case in point).   Freedom of speech.  No one is imprisoned  for criticizing the government or attending religious services. Our cities have clean water and our children are vaccinated against deadly diseases.  Our breathtakingly beautiful national parks are open to everyone.  For starters.

But it’s not free.  To quote Edmund Burke,

                     “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is  for good men to do nothing. “

 And it all counts.  Every thing we don’t say, every seed not planted, word not written,  neighbors’ pain ignored, adds to the turmoil, desperation and fear around us.  It might be uncomfortable, even dangerous to face our problems.  But we can’t afford to  pick up our toys and go home.

D

Mind Your Manners

When I left home for a visit,  my mother’s parting words were always “Mind your manners.”  Except for the  basics such as,  don’t chew with your mouth full or reach across the table to take the last biscuit, she wasn’t talking about table manners.  At our house, we  weren’t concerned with the etiquette of fine dining.  She was talking about behavior:  “Say please and thank you, don’t interrupt your elders when they’re talking, wait your turn, be polite,  pick up after yourself, say “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir;” when addressing adults.  In other words, simple courtesies.

Some of my non-Southern-born-and-bred  friends tell me that “Yes Ma’am” and “No Sir” makes them feel old.  OK, so maybe it’s just a Southern thing.  And, really,  it’s  not such a big deal with me.    But  it is not OK with me  when the teenager with green and purple spiked hair, decked out in four inch platform boots and a T-shirt with ” NOPE ” in block letters across her chest yells across the hair salon, “Louise! Ready for ya!” It’s not about her attire; that’s her space and I respect it; I only ask that she respect mine.  We call that being polite.

Although Southerners are nothing if not traditional, my mother’s insistence on good manners was not just about tradition.  In our rural farming community; short on funds, long on pride;  manners were much more than that.  Poor manners signaled “poor breeding.”  There was no shame in being poor, but to be poor and poorly brought up was unacceptable.

But that was then and this is now.  There has been a  dramatic shift in our societal norms.   Rudeness seems to carry little if any stigma. Adults interrupt their conversations to answer the whining toddler tugging at their sleeve, drivers honk their horns and  yell obscenities at the slightest provocation.     Lyrics of popular songs are laced with profanity.

 Sadly, we have allowed, even welcomed this, for whatever reasons;  entertainment, vicarious revenge,  the love of a good fight, or just plain apathy.   Between 70 and 80% of respondents in a recent survey (1) believed that lack of civility in our society has risen to crisis proportions.   And yet  in that same survey, over  90%  believed that they are “always or usually” respectful and polite to others and 75% said they are” willing to set a good example by practicing civility. ”  Hmmm.  Somehow the math doesn’t work. In the words of the immortal Pogo:  ” We have met the enemy and he is us.”

 

The fix is so simple as to be embarrassing.  Any first grader could tell you the answer; The Golden Rule,  plain and simple:

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you. (2)”

 

How hard is that, really? And the best part?  Good manners cost nothing.

 

(1)  Civility in America VII: The State of Civility,  2017 Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate

(2)  Matthew 7:12 NCV