Sunday, December 27, 2009

Little One's First Christmas: JOY

It is amazing how quickly Little One's first Christmas has come and gone. My family is thankful for so much this season. The Lord has truly blessed us, and we want to remember that the Lord is present in the times of want and the times of plenty. It has been a hard few months for my family and my husband's. We felt joy unknown to us with the birth of Little one and then so much grief with the loss of Mom Peg (Husband's Grandmother) and LouLou (my Great-Grandmother). There have been many tears. It was refreshing to just feel Joy this past month. I am grateful for this feeling as it is not always this way.

Here is a bit of what our month looked like:

We started the month with buying our tree.

We decorated.

We then celebrated with a party at our house. Yes, a party with a 5 week old baby is always interesting. Honey and my husband helped me so much.

Little One went to Honey's along with two uncles (Uncle Bear and Uncle Brother) and baked some cookies.

We celebrated with GiGi and family the Sunday before Christmas. GiGi was so generous and her house was filled with presents and joy.

We celebrated Christmas with the PaP., YaYa and family on Christmas Eve day. YaYa and JuJu cooked a feast, and PaP. gave his amazing assortment of gifts (candles, door stopper, slippers, crazy pacifier for Eloise are just a few of the gifts).

We then celebrated Christmas with the Pappy, Honey, and family on Christmas Eve night. There were so many laughs that night starting with the family attempting to make faces that are genetically impossible (see info below) and the Snuggie gift from Honey and Pappy.

Modeling of the Snuggie can be viewed on the previous post.

Little One is able to raise one eyebrow and frown. We learned this is a gift from her father and not the White family. Here is dad's ability and her Uncie's failed attempt ... mine was much worse and thankfully not captured on film.

Christmas night, Dad, Uncle Brother, Uncle Bear, Pappy and I went to the Titan's game while Honey watched Little One. It was tough leaving Little One on Christmas night but dad convinced me that 1.Little One would not remember and 2. Little One would love some time with Honey. He got me there even though I froze. That evening I ended up having a bad virus, went to the hospital the next morning to get fluids and now am back at home.

Now, we are trying to put away the many gifts and get back to the normal pace of life. It has been a whirlwind but my favorite Christmas thus far. Little One is a gift that I could never have imagined.

It might have been a "Tender Tennessee Christmas" at your house, 
but it was a "Tacky Tennessee Christmas" at ours!

     One of our traditions has always been pajamas on Christmas Eve. I could not resist a slight amendment to the family protocol this year...hence the blue Snuggi's. I even had to purchase a dog Snuggi for Little One which we modified albeit slightly for her to wear. Phoebe the Westie wore it all the next day. The kids roared over this gift and promptly played ham-it-up for the camera. Please note the book lights that came as a freebie with the Snuggi which they pretended were taser guns for a while. We can't decide whether they all look like members of a sci-fi cult or some unknown religous sect of monks, but one thing I know is that they are NOT angels!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas is Calling

     I was an eight-year-old girl sitting in the side pew of the First Baptist Church of Opp, Alabama, that October evening. It was fall revival week and my precious grandparents who loved the church and never missed an opportunity to serve others had taken me each night to the services. That particular evening, my grandmother had slipped out early to help prepare the refreshments that would later be served in the Fellowship Hall. And so it was that I was sitting there all alone. I don't remember the message, I only know that when the choir began to sing the oft repeated revival hymn, "Just As I Am,"  I found myself growing more uncomfortable by the minute. Suddenly my place in the pew no longer felt safe. I looked at the aisle of the church and wondered if I had the courage to get up out of my seat and walk the distance to the preacher standing there waiting at the end of the aisle. As I listened to the words of the chorus, my heart was beating so hard it felt as though it was about to come out of my chest. The wooden pew beneath my hand suddenly felt warm and then hot. I could sit no longer. I don't remember the walk down the aisle, the words the pastor spoke to me as he hugged me hard or the reactions of anyone else. I only remember the words to the song and the fact that from that day to this day 47 years later, I have been different. It was October on the calendar, but it was Christmas for me.
     Emmanuel, God is with us, Emmanuel, God is with me. I wish that I could tell you that I have never wavered, never doubted, never kicked out at God and screamed at Him in frustration, fear, panic, or pain. I wish that in these 47 years I had not been indifferent or apathetic or selfish or just plain mean. I wish that I had loved Him more and myself and things less. I wish a thousand different things about my walk with the One who called me out of the pew that night. But there is one thing I would never change. That night I began to know what it was to be a member of His family, to be His daughter and His beloved.  The Lamb who was spotless and perfect took on the weight of my millions of sins and paid the price so that I could have Christmas.
     I still can scarcely believe it. I know that I was scared that night. My daddy was dying with brain cancer, and I somehow knew that my life would soon change in ways that I could not fathom. But that October night when I left the pew, I left the comfort of the familiar to move into the realm of the impossible....and that is where I will always and forever be. I am a sinner redeemed by the glorious grace, mercy, and love of a magnificent God. I am in His family. It will always be so. He gave me Christmas in October and for me, Christmas it will always be. Emmanuel. God with us....God with me. A truth so amazing, I struggle to take it in.....and yet, for me each day, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas is calling......

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It Wasn't Mama in the Kitchen....

  It wasn't Mama in the kitchen, it was Pearly. She was the queen of the kitchen and everybody knew it, even Mama Frankie, my great-grandmother. Mama Frankie ruled the rest of the house with an iron hand but Pearly outranked even my great-grandmother when it came to that kitchen. Everybody...from the youngest to the oldest knew better than to mess with Pearly's domain. The only occupants who had a standing invitation were those who had not yet reached counter height. I have been back to that house on Main Street as an adult, and I don't know how she did it, but day after day she worked her magic and turned out some of the best cooking this side of the Mississippi River.  I ate my first table food with Pearly...probably field peas mashed nearly to mush accompanied by cornbread softened with a little pot liquor. Pearly was a diminutive woman, but she stands tall in my memory. Her tightly curled hair was cropped short to her head and was already turning from gray to white even when I was a little girl, but I loved the softness of her skin and the way that she always smelled faintly of baby powder. Even today I can close my eyes and see those heavily starched aprons in the tiny muslin print that she wore day after day. They had two deep pockets in the front and when she knew that we were coming, she would hide treats in those pockets -- usually biscuits that were cut with a special glass that was just the right size for tiny hands. She loved for us to come up behind her and reach our grubby little hands around her waist into those pockets. Pearly always acted shocked when we found the biscuits or sugar cookies she had hidden there and for years upon years I thought that we had actually taken her by surprise. I know better now.
   I also sadly know that I did not understand nor appreciate, not by a mile, the sacrifice of time and love that Pearly so generously gave my great-grandmother and our family. I don't think I ever paid a visit to my great-grandmother's house that Pearly was not there. As a child I would walk with my cousins from my own grandmother's house down the street to eat many a hot lunch with Pearly holding court in that tiny kitchen. I am ashamed to say that I did not know Pearly's family or the names of her children and grandchildren. I always assumed we were her family, and she never ever made me feel as if I were otherwise.
   Times have changed and much of the change was far too long in coming. I cannot go back and traverse those roads except in memory. But in my heart I say thank you to Pearly and the women like her who loved children like me and showered us with welcoming hugs, acceptance, and a love that bears a mighty strong resemblance to the love of Christ. Pearly took us, who were not her own flesh and blood, and made us feel as though we were her own. And for a fatherless little girl it was one of the special ways that the Heavenly Father wrapped me in His own loving arms. Merry Christmas, Pearly. I still love you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Merry Christmas to All...

    The little truck in front of me idled as we waited for the light to change. It was so covered in dust and grime that the license plate was almost illegible. It was a humble little truck and totally unremarkable in every regard. Light tan in color and complete with one of those flatbed covers that allows the owner to transport all kinds of things without having to worry about them flying out of the back of the truck, I guessed that the vehicle had weathered at least 15-20 winters for its owner. Despite the fact that I could hear the grumble of the muffler above the sound of my Christmas music, the truck appeared to be an altogether serviceable and road worthy form of transportation. When the light finally changed, I grew impatient as the driver seemed to be taking his own sweet time. We were on an interstate entrance ramp with a short merging lane, and if you were not very careful, it was easy to run out of room. I tapped my steering wheel and thought about blowing my horn but my Southern upbringing almost kept my frustration in check. Despite the fact that I had places to go, people to see, and things to do, I would not be that rude. Yet the guy in front of me was obviously in no particular hurry. Despite my best intentions I rode his bumper hard for a hundred yards or so and then put the pedal to the metal to cross over into the other lane as quickly as possible. I was still too self-righteous to give him a withering look, but as soon as I could, I craned my head to see just who was driving a mere 40 miles per hour on a somewhat dangerous entrance ramp. I should have known better. As we drew side-by-side, the other driver raised his hand in greeting and gave me a winsome smile that creased his cheeks and stretched to his eyes. And suddenly I understood. He was in no hurry...yet...there were still 12 days left until he would be almost an impatient as I. For smiling at me across the lane was a red-coated gentleman with wire-rimmed glasses, a bonafide snowy white beard, and a determined twinkle in his eye. I kid you not. My own eyes nearly popped out of my head. The older man driving the almost ancient truck was none other than Santa Claus. His pace was measured and careful, and he seemed to be in no particular hurry. Of course he wasn't. As our eyes met, I could not help but smile. I even shivered a bit with excitement and chuckled out loud as I returned his generous wave. Suddenly my spirits were lifted and my attitude transformed. And as I passed him I wondered to myself what delights could be hidden in the back of that little Datsun truck....Later that evening, I mused to myself that the dust that coated the truck from head to toe was none other than pixie dust or sawdust from his famous workshop. The sled was still in the shed.......

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Precious Little One

I am sitting on the couch with my husband and daughter. Yes, I have a beautiful daughter that could keep her parents occupied and in awe by just being. It is amazing the way a grunt, a grin, a sneeze, and a lifting of the head can keep you watching when you love someone so much. I had a dear friend ask, "Is it really true that you can't understand a parent's love until you have your own children?" My answer is YES, but I want to give a small amount of insight in my six weeks of expertise, ha. I will also be putting in the random stats on my little one so that I can remember so please bear with me. I also will likely not be using proper grammar which is going to be very difficult for the Scofield side of the family! I better watch out as my mom aka Honey might edit some of this.

Current stats: Little One is cooing and smiling a lot. She will coo back to you when you talk to her. Amazing! She also is tolerating tummy time more and will lift her head and turn from side to side. Last night she slept for 6 HOURS!! Definitely gaining weight and outgrowing all Newborn clothes and in 0-3mths. Still kicks her right leg a lot especially when upset.

Here is a short blip I wrote in November to try to remember the one month mark:

I am exhausted beyond any point that I have ever reached in my life. The level of tired is so much more as it has been long hours awake for one month and not one weekend. Again, worth it. There are small things, like her breath when she yawns, her hair that won’t stay down, her belly button, and her nostrils that are different sizes that I love. Most people won’t notice these small details but her mom and dad do. They love staring at her and do this more than they watch TV. 

Things I love: grunts and noises as she falls asleep and wakes in the morning. her lips that are perfectly shaped and full of color. her ears that are not small but lay down so nicely. her lip quiver. her pouty face that looks like her father and also sleeping with her mouth open just like he does. her long torso from who knows where (ha). her toes and fingers so delicate. her face so beautiful and so feminine. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Christmas Bride

   One of our family Christmas traditions was borne out of desperation rather than necessity as the age-old axiom asserts. In the early years of our marriage my husband and I argued incessantly over the annual purchase of the Christmas tree. It is not that the man was the incarnate Ebenezer Scrooge, but rather the one who tended to view life from an immensely practical side (I suppose ole Ebenezer did too). My husband's point of view was based on the fact that since we traveled 500 miles to spend Christmas with my family of origin every other year, the purchase of a Christmas tree for a house that would be vacant on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was totally superfluous. But I, who was raised by the Queen of Christmas Decor, knew otherwise. It mattered little whether the house was occupied on the actual day of Christmas or Christmas Eve...the tree was an essential component of the festivity and celebration of the season. Yet my husband would not budge. Thus I was forced to badger, cajole, plead and use every resource available to convince the recalcitrant man that a Christmas tree was a vital purchase EVERY single year. Once I had won this battle, I had little time to rest on my laurels before another problem arose. The tree was purchased and firmly ensconced in the living room but alas, there were very FEW LIGHTS and virtually NO ORNAMENTS. What was a girl to do? I was desperate. I had won the right to have the tree each year, but who wants a naked tree in the house...staring at you night after night waiting and begging to be dressed in some appropriate holiday finery. And I knew better than to go to my husband and ask for more money to purchase items that he already struggled to find necessary. And so in my desperation I prayed for inspiration and inspiration I found. The first year I popped popcorn, bought cranberries and made garlands galore until my thumbs were sore from the needles going in and out, in and out as I strung for hours on end. And when I realized the next year that I was in the same boat as before because used popcorn and cranberry garlands are only good for the birds... I prayed once again. On the hunt in our tiny apartment, I dug through an old trunk to find carefully preserved bows, ribbons and leftover tulle from our wedding. I also found a few bits -- a yard or two here and there-- of several laces that I had purchased to embellish a dress or two. Soon these ribbons and laces found their way onto the tree and over time have become the tradition in our home. Now there are ribbons from our daughter's wedding and some gorgeous antique lace given to me by a special friend over 20 years ago that have been added to the original collection. Each year these ribbons and bits of lace more than garnish our tree-- they serve as the tree's primary decoration and help to make each one a object of beauty. When my daughter was about six or seven, she was helping me drape the tree in its finery when she turned to me and said, "Look Mommy, our tree is a bride." And I stepped back and squinted my eyes just so. And then I saw it. The tall green lady in her odd bits of lace and ribbon had suddenly become a very beautiful bride. And so it has been for the past thirty-five years that all our Christmas trees are brides. Each one different and each one beautiful in her own right. I love it. For me, it is another extension of the picture of Christ and his love for his people, the Church. We are His bride and He is the Bridegroom. And each year when we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the mystery of the unlovely who become the lovely by the grace, mercy, incarnation, and sacrifice of God. And each year our tree stands in her bridal glory as a tangible reminder of that glorious and powerful love.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Giving Myself Grace to Grieve

     I feel as though I have lived a lifetime in the past two weeks. Time has both compressed and lengthened itself into a unending ribbon of a road. There have been blessings and glimpses of the Glory of God that have nearly taken my breath away, but with the passing of days has come a deep weariness that is settling over my soul. I know that I need to grieve and unfortunately, for me, this is problematic. Even though I firmly believe in the Biblical truth that there is indeed a time to rejoice and a time to mourn, in my family of origin strength is considered paramount. Any sign of weakness is often suppressed or carefully disguised. And so that makes it very difficult to grieve. Part of me wishes for the days when one could put on sackcloth and ashes and rend one's garments. It was an outward sign of an inward condition. The garments were torn because the heart was torn. And today my heart is torn. I am sad. I know all of the right things to believe and say and do, and yet, I am still sad. I miss the presence of a person that has been in my life for as long as I can remember, and I am doubly sad as I am watching my 80-year-old mother cope with her own defining loss.  In my head, I can work it all out neatly and tie it up with a bow, but in my heart, I just hurt. So today I am bathing myself in the grace of God that says when we are weak, He is strong.

Two grandmother's and my mother's...
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This Is the Day that the Lord Hath Made

    All through the night last night my thoughts and even my dreams were drawn toward my grandmother. After I received the call from my sister this morning, I know why. The veil has thinned almost to the point of transparency and after 103 years upon this earth my precious Lou Lou is about to see her Lord and Savior (the Dear Lawd as she lovingly referred to him) face to face. It will be a glorious moment and part of me wishes I could be there to see her as she enters through those glorious gates and into the light. No more darkness after battling almost total blindness for many years. No more infirmity after breaking her hip this past spring only to find herself confined to a wheelchair and then to a bed. No more struggling to remember with a mind that has grown dim and foggy where once it was so sharp and wise. No more sorrow, no more grief, no more pain.She will be like Him. And she will enter into a glorious inheritance that has been set aside for her. All because He called her unto Himself with loving kindness.
     And I know even now that He is drawing very close to that hospital bed in that nursing home in Geneva, Alabama. He has his eye on his beloved daughter who is resting on that bed. He is longing to take her up into His arms and usher her into all that He has prepared for her. My heart is torn. I will miss this tiny 4'll" woman of incredible strength and vitality who taught me poetry, a love of family and an appreciation of beauty in the world surrounding me. I ache for my own Momma who has been my grandmother's right hand for so many of the years. It will be a loss that will pierce us all deeply. But though the night is upon us, the dawning of the day is bright and clear. One of my grandmother's favorite scriptures has always been the familiar, "This is the day that the Lord hath made, I will rejoice and be glad in it." I can hear her saying it even now. More than likely this is the Day appointed for Louise Frances Brooks Rushing and before it closes, I know that she will be rejoicing in a way that she has never known before. I will miss her terribly but I would not hold her back for a second from the glories that await her....Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor mind conceived all that He has prepared for those that love Him...and that is you precious, LouLou...

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Grandmother's Dilemma

    When I visit Babies R Us or Pottery Barn Kids or Target or Wal-Mart, I stand amazed that I could even raise my children from infancy to adulthood. The rampant materialism to which many Americans fall prey (myself included) could not be any more obvious than with regard to the baby product industry. Enter one of these baby stores, and it feels a little like "shock and awe." I am in awe at the marketing, the diversity of the options open to parents, and the sheer volume of the products available (for example, there are more car seats available than would fill a grocery store aisle), and when I look at the prices of the car seats, the baby beds, the strollers, and more...that's when the shock comes. I must confess that despite my best intentions, when I enter these stores I find myself immediately beset with a wanton desire to spend more money than I actually have to buy the enticing and engaging products that bear the label "Award Winning" or "Parent's Choice" or endorsed by the "American Association of Pediatricians"  but somewhere in the back of my mind lurks the knowledge that if I do so, I am succumbing to the hype and the hucksterism, and am becoming a victim of the very greed and tendency toward excess I so disavow. I talk big but the truth is that I am probably as guilty as anyone else in the store who is agog at the beauty and the plethora of choices. It requires a great act of will to close my mouth, shut my eyes, clamp the lock on my wallet and walk empty-handed out of these places. Truth be told, sometimes I win the battle and sometimes I do not.
   So I guess that I should be thankful that I did not even have the choice of a pack-n-play that vibrated, played animal and soothing nature sounds and included a mini-changing table and an infant seat. I was actually grateful for the hand-me-down swing I inherited from a friend that lasted through all four of my babies despite the fact that it was the old wind-up kind that made a screeching sound that woke up the baby whenever you turned the little crank handle. I also should be thankful that I did not have a video monitor and had to rely on my own two legs to get me up the stairs to check on my child with my own two eyes when he or she uttered a peep or worse a heart-wrenching cry.  And in my day, the word organic applied only to the food that I spooned into my toddlers' mouths. I did not worry about BPA free bottles, the paint on the baby bed, or the weight limitations on my rudimentary car seat even though if I had known then what I know now I probably would have. There was less to worry about because there was less to know.
   I also decorated my first child's room in yellow because I had no clue as to the sex -- unless you count all of the unsolicited advice that said "high and to the front it's a boy, low and to the back it's a girl" except that the other lady in the checkout line sized me up and rendered the opposite prediction, "high and to the front it's a girl, low and to the back, it's a boy." Thus I spent endless days and nights (9 months of them) wondering whether or not I would be blessed with a boy or girl. And I was never disappointed, no not once. In my day, to some degree ignorance or the lack of  knowledge really was bliss.
   At the very least, I am just glad today to be a grandmother who can shower and spoil my little granddaughter with a totally free and unlimited supply of hugs, kisses, and Honey love! Though I will confess I still drool and obsess over the baby product catalogs that cram my mailbox these days.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Over the River and Through the Woods

   Even though I find myself caught up in the throes of planning the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast at our home which I have now totally embraced, it was not always so. Growing up in a southern clime, it seemed a bit absurd to sit inside around a dinner table when mid to late November days in Southern Alabama count themselves as among the most glorious on the planet. Hence the tradition of a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal and family gathering was birthed in my family.
   The day would dawn and I would shiver with anticipation. I would be up with the birds hoping that we could get an early start on the journey to Lake Frankie. But first the seemingly endless dishes of food must be prepared and made ready. Thankfully, my mother had made most of the preparations ahead of time. I would be impatient as the food, the quilts, the folding chairs, and the clothes were loaded into the trunk of the car, but it would not be long before we were headed up the road to the family farm outside a tiny town in Alabama where we gathered for our meal. My uncle would have moved most of the cows out of the pasture and even mowed an area near the body of water that had been lovingly christened Lake Frankie after my beloved great-grandmother, the erstwhile matriarch of our voluminous clan. I only realized in later life that Lake Frankie was in fact not a a lake at all; but the lack of size was not important or apparent to me as a child or teenager. And in a family where story-telling and exaggeration are a finely honed art form, Lake Frankie it was.
   I had my own preparations to make. It was imperative that one always pack at least one change of clothes because you never knew if you might "accidentally" fall in while fishing or otherwise somehow manage to get wet. We began bundled up with lots of layers of clothing because though it might start out and end up cool or cold, there was usually lots of warm Alabama sunshine in between. There would be sawhorses with plywood that served as the makeshift banquet tables with multicolored quilts spread over them to hold the burgeoning feast. The food that would appear as if by magic was a continual delight. With no ovens, no running water, and only a bonfire nearby, the meal always took on the feel of a down-home gourmet camp-out. Instead of turkey and dressing (those foods were reserved for the Christmas meal in our family) there would be platters of fried chicken, sliced ham, field peas, squash casseroles, green beans, potato salad, congealed salads of every known color and variety, cornbread, hoe cakes, and a multiplicity of pies, cakes, pound cakes, and finger desserts of enviable delight. Some years there would be a man shucking oysters out of the back of a truck and children lined up with adults to swallow them on a saltine cracker with a little shot of Tabasco as fast as they could be shucked. There would be quilts aplenty on the ground for napping and the eating was not confined to a particular was more like contentedly grazing from noon until dark. There would be horses to ride for the brave of heart or the accomplished for these were not pleasure ponies but working quarterhorses that had been trained to herd and the rider must be aware that his or her horse could take out after an errant cow like nobody's business -- nearly jerking you off the saddle if you weren't prepared. There would be john boats for those who wanted to fish and cane poles of every size with weights and bobbins and hooks galore. And if someone forgot the worms for bait, there was always something that could be pilfered from the table when heads were turned. It was my idea of heaven, and one that I will never forget.
    Even now when I set my table with the fine china and the flat silver and drag out the platters for the turkey along with the gravy boat, I find myself longing for the smell of wood smoke that clung to me for days or the warmth of the sun on my face as I lay on the quilts with my momma, my sisters, cousins, and aunts for an afternoon nap. I chuckle when I remember that my husband who had never baited a hook in his life threw in his line to catch the largest trout of the day on his first Thanksgiving feast with my family. He called it beginner's luck and decided to end his fishing career then and there. It is a story that has been told and retold so often it has become a legend in my family to this day.
    I am almost certain that the memories are more than likely more glorious in some respects than the actual event ever was. I remember no arguments, no bickering, no whining or disgruntled feelings at all. The day is always beautiful, the food is always good, and the sense of community enduring. But that is the best thing about remembering, is it not? You let go of the moments that were less than perfect (did I mention that there were no bathrooms around?)...and hold on to the treasures that you take from the day.
    And in the passing years, time works its magic and the memories become ever sweeter. It is for me what family and the love of God are all about. So over the river and through the woods to Lake Frankie's is a place that I shall always love to go....and perhaps after all, it was not so very far from heaven on earth.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

With Apologies to Julie Andrews....
       Double Ovens. There is something wrong with the picture of a husband and wife getting up at 4:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day to wrestle a greased and herb encrusted fresh turkey into a Reynolds Turkey Bag and then wrestling the bag filled with said turkey into a large roasting pan...a process that must be repeated 3.5 hours later with a second fresh turkey...both of which must be cooked and carved before twelve noon when the hordes descend. So you can understand why for past two years I have said Thank You Lord for the double ovens that replaced my 1970's single oven. They certainly have made life easier for me! Do I hear an Amen...
     Turkey Rice Soup. This is a family recipe belonging to a dear friend that has become the traditional meal of choice in our home for the Friday (late breakfast, lunch, and dinner) after Thanksgiving. We have devised our own variation of this delicious soup which is basically the reason that I have to cook the second turkey on Thanksgiving Day. If I were to describe the laborious process involved and the caloric level of the ingredients, you would have a heart attack. Literally. But my children love this soup (they call it turkey rice porridge) so much that they have been known to hide containers of the soup where they think no one else will find them.
    Lou Lou and Nanny's Dressing. I grew up eating Lou Lou's dressing and was scared to death when I moved to my husband's hometown and attended his family Thanksgiving that I would have to eat some type of prepackaged dry stove top cornbread stuffing (I hope I am not stepping on any toes here). Being a polite Southern bride, I had steeled myself to smile nicely and take a minimum of three bites.  I need not have feared. My husband's mother and my grandmother must have had some sort of primal connection because thankfully, their dressing recipes were remarkably similar. I knew that I was at home when I entered the house and caught the whiff of that moist homemade baked celery,onion, white bread, cornbread, and biscuit mixture that both of our families adore.
     The conversation, the laughter, the pitter-patter of little feet and the profound sense of gratitude that infuses my soul. When the Thanksgiving meal is over, I am more than exhausted. Yet though my body is tired, my heart is always more than full. As a middle-aged woman who has buried people whom I love deeply, I understand of the fragility of life and the fact that it is the Lord himself who gives us life and breath and everything else. I look around the table at the faces of my family and extended family and I find myself echoing the words of the old hymn, "Count your many blessings, count them one by one..." When I go to bed that night, I whisper the name of each loved one and ask the Lord to hold them tightly in the the palm of His precious hand. And I am thankful for another year with each one.
     My husband's prayers. The man is notorious for preaching the gospel in his prayers. A six to ten minute supplication is the norm rather than the exception. But these prayers come from the heart of a one who has been profoundly changed by the mercy and love of his Savior and knows it. The turkey might get cold and the gravy congealed, but my husband will not be hurried. No matter how much I tease him, I dearly love his prayers. The funny thing is that he almost always forgets to bless the food; so I always chime in with this part. But he covers the most important things, no doubt about it. And for that I am more than thankful.
    These are what Thanksgiving is all about: Good food, family, love, and laughter and the understanding that we owe it all to the faithfulness of our God. To Him be the Glory, great things He hath done.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Handing Over the Coupon Queen Crown To My Daughter

    My advice to you when you start to become a Coupon Queen is to come up with a couple of organizational tools that will be beneficial to you:

  1. Get a large enough box (think shoe box size) to accommodate your coupons.
  2. Separate your coupons into categories based on types of items that you routinely buy and use little dividers to keep everything in the right me, this will keep you from having to flip endlessly through your coupons to find the one you want. If you want to get obsessive about it, you can arrange them within the category by expiration date (this did not work for me) or by level of interest in the item (this is how I organized mine).
  3. If you NEVER buy a product, don't save the generally will not try something new just because you have the coupon. The exception would be a type of product to which you do not have a "must have this brand only" affinity. Example: Facial tissue or hand soap -- because I would always buy the cheapest. If I know I would most likely not buy the featured items, I put these in a share with others category.
  4. Use dividers and labels and change them as needed. You will definitely need a Baby Supply label and category, but obviously that won't really work for me.
  5. I always had an "About to Expire" category in the front of my box.
      Set aside one hour of the week to do your couponing. I always did this on Sunday afternoon (because the Sunday paper was my primary source for coupons), but now the internet will likely be your primary source of coupons. The nice thing about Sunday is that it was a time that your dad would be willing to help me (while we watched football games). At one point, he really got into this with me! If you do not set up a regular time to do this, you will find that this process can clutter your mind and take over your life!

In addition to my larger shoe box, I had a smaller wallet size holder with a few dividers in it. I think I bought mine years ago at the dollar store. On grocery day, I would make sure that I had pulled the appropriate coupons out of my larger box and transferred them to the smaller holder which I kept in my purse or the door of my car. I also tried (not always successfully) to read each coupon carefully before I got to the store. Reading them in the store never works (especially if you have a baby with you or are pressed for time). It gets tricky sometimes when there are combinations of different items or specific sizes that must be purchased. There were times when it was simply not cost efficient for me to buy three boxes of a certain cereal to get one free!

Realize that the picture on the coupon does not always tell the story. Sometimes the coupon can be used for several different products, not just the item pictured. That's why reading the coupon is important!

If a store has sold out of an item, ask for a raincheck at customer service. If it is a product I always used (like detergent or dishsoap) then it is worth the time that this process takes.

Find out if your church or community group has a coupon swap. It only takes 15 minutes to set up and complete a coupon swap before a regularly scheduled meeting. Also, we always used to give coupons with baby and shower gifts...especially for the formula, diapers, or baby products our kids did not use.

Last but not least, and probably the most important money saving step for me was to arrange my grocery list and meals for the week around my best coupons (I put stars or used a highlighter on grocery items I knew I had a coupon for). It sounds a little strange to build your menus and meal shopping around your coupons, but it really works. For example, if you have great coupons for Ragu or Hunt's tomato sauce, then definitely make spaghetti that week or a tomato based vegetable soup!

Have fun and enjoy being a good steward of the brains, the savvy and the ability to save that the Lord gave you!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Somewhat Important Things My Mother (and Grandmother) Made Sure I Knew

I must add that I have taken significant editorial license-- translate that to greatly expanded upon the truth -- to elaborate upon my "ideal" of the Southern woman in one of her multivarious forms.  

1. The correct way to set a table. Not just the plate, the napkin, the knife, the fork, and the spoon, but the salad fork, the butter knife, the butter plate, the dessert spoon, the dessert plate, the individual salt cellars and the way one must leave the silverware on the plate when one is finished eating. This is something that every Southern girl is taught practically from birth. For example this year at Thanksgiving, the toddler table will not be complete without its own miniature sterling goblets, Bunnykins china, and the Chantilly and Strasbourg youth sets. I mean really.

2. To know the difference between china and China; china is from the Far East (made in China or Japan) and has not been around for at least 100 years. China is usually handed down from mother to daughter or better yet, from grandmother to granddaughter. Any Haviland pattern will do (since it is most certainly French Limoges) but there are a few other exceptions to the rule, and most of these are patterns that are European or British in provenance. Remember to always encourage a bride to select a China pattern, even if she is tempted by price and style to choose one of the other types of china (little c). I nearly made a fatal mistake when I married many years ago because I selected one of the unmentionable brands of china (I am still guilty of not always listening to my mother's sage advice), but my faux pas was redeemed years later when my dear mother bequeathed me one of her prized sets of antique Haviland china.

3. Silver is never out of style. Despite the fact that most women have their flat silver (the proper use of the word flat could require another entry altogether) safely hidden away where thieves cannot break in and destroy and only drag it out (laboriously polishing it until it looks new and shiny) for the most auspicious of occasions, it is indeed an unfortunate woman who does not have at the minimum eight place settings and preferably twelve. There are many acceptable patterns of sterling silver for Southern ladies (among them Chantilly, Strasbourg, Buttercup, Francis the First, Repousse, King Richard the Third), but believe it or not, the Gorham name in flat silver is ranked higher than flat silver from Tiffany's. I know it may seem strange, but it is true. Pacific Cloth is also a word that every Southern woman knows well, and she will likely prize the little drawstring bags for her sterling goblets almost as much as she prizes the goblets themselves.

4. Finger bowls and bone dishes may no longer find their place at most dinner tables but every Southern woman of breeding knows exactly what these dining accoutrements are and where they should be placed and that which should be placed in them should she ever encounter a finger bowl or a bone dish at a State Dinner. At least that is what my grandmother always told me. These days I doubt any of the occupants of the Governor's Houses or even the White House would know a finger bowl or a bone dish from Adam. Again, that is what my grandmother says, and she is nearly always right.

5. Fine linens are another "must have" for any Southern gentlewoman. Monogrammed linens should always bear the woman's initials with the man's handkerchief the sole exception. Nothing should ever be monogrammed with a His or Hers (this is definitely considered tacky) or with combined initials, i.e., monograms that combine the woman's first name, the man's first name and the last name. An acceptable monogram bears the initials of the lady's first name, her maiden name, and her husband's last name. It is also appropriate to use Great Aunt Mattie's monogrammed linens even if her monogram bears no resemblance to yours, because these are "family" linens. It is also imperative that one must know and be able to tell at a glance the difference between a dinner napkin, a luncheon napkin, a tea napkin, and a cocktail napkin. Fine linens should be laundered by hand and the secrets for removing stains from said linens are carefully handed down from generation to generation. I chuckled a few years ago when I found a product entitled, "Grandmother's Antique Linen Cleaning Solution," and discovered it to be a mixture of Ivory soap and lemon juice. Those ingredients plus sunshine were among my family's trade secrets for cleaning fine linen.

6. Good breeding has nothing to do with the contents of one's bank account. Interpretation: you can be rich and not be well bred (a fatal flaw for a Southern woman); however, you can be poor (translation: have fallen on difficult times) and still be well bred. However, the absolute perfidy is to be poor and ill bred -- a condition from which one is likely not to ever recover.

7. It is acceptable for a Southern lady to do her own yard work and despite what one might think, most Southern women who are members of Garden Clubs actually have gardens of their own that they tend. Given the emphasis on keeping up appearances among women of genteel breeding, this might be considered somewhat contradictory, but Southern women have long been known for their extensive rose gardens, the beauty of their camellias and the prolific nature of their daylillies and azaleas. Southern women always arrange their own flowers and consider this not to be an art, but a necessity.

8. Long before Alex Haley made the movie Roots, Southern women made the study of ancestry a full-time occupation. Every young woman knows who her "people" are and from whence they have come and will be expected to answer extensive questions about her beau's "people" if she is to bring him to her home.I can distinctly remember my grandmother asking me with great seriousness about my future husband," Exactly who are his people?" And when I told her that his people were friends of dear friends who had rented my Great Aunt Willy's beach house for a number of years, it was somehow an acceptable explanation of the nature of "his people." A bit crazy and convoluted perhaps, but true.

9. Blood is always thicker than water. I heard this my whole life and did not understand just how deep the feelings for family run among Southern women. Southern women may turn their backs on their husbands but they will "nevah evah" turn their backs on their own flesh and blood (i.e., children or parents or brothers or sisters). Husbands might possibly be dispensable, but blood kin is not.

10. When naming children family names are the only acceptable choice. Southern bred women do not look through baby books for names, they study the family tree. As long as the name appears in a family tree somewhere, it is deemed appropriate. It is most common for girls to be named after the mother's family; while sons will draw their primary name after the father's family (though according to my grandmother, giving a son the mother's maiden name as a middle name is a lovely practice.) When a Southern woman marries, she takes her given name, her maiden name and her husband's name, thereby dropping either her first name or her middle name to keep the name that she is called. She takes her maiden name in deference to her own father and thus ensures that his name will be handed down in the family in some fashion to be taken up by future generations.

A tongue-in-cheek elaboration of all that we Southern women have supposedly learned at the hands of our mothers and grandmothers!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

In Honor and Loving Remembrance

   Today I read the Declaration of Independence. As an elementary student I had memorized the famous memorable single sentence of the document that states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights..." Yet I am ashamed to say that I had never read the Declaration in its entirety. When I read through to the last sentence before the signers affixed their names to the document, my heart was pierced:  "as Free and Independent States, they [we] have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." the British the Declaration of Independence was an act of treason punishable by death, so the men who so boldly pledged their Lives, their Fortunes, and their sacred Honor had already counted the cost. From that day forward to the present day, there has been no turning back.
    I am a citizen of the United States of America. I have lived so long in the land of the free and the home of the brave that I have neglected to thoughtfully consider the cost and the sacrifice of those who have gone before me. This is Veteran's Day, the day when we pay tribute and honor those who are called to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States. Ponder those words: called to serve. Called to uphold duty, honor, and country. No matter the cost. The cost was high last week in Fort Hood, Texas, for thirteen men and women. The cost will be high today in Afghanistan and Iraq and places near and far when men and women wear the uniform with dignity and pride. In a nation that tends to politicize every action of every sort and thereby polarize the people, I plan today to do neither. I will get down on my knees and thank God for a father, a father-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces, grandfathers and countless others who have answered the call of duty to serve our country. I will also thank God for those born and yet unborn who will also serve. I will pass no judgment on those who cannot serve or are opposed to the military for today is not a day to stand on one side or another. Today is a day to stand together and to say thank you....for as long as there remain those who will pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor in defense of a country that they hold dear, then you and I will be able to live in this land as free men and women.

In honor and loving remembrance of my father, Thomas David Scofield, United States Air Force (1927-1962), Veteran of the Korean War, West Point Class of 1950.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A Honey of a Day

     A little person has come to live in my heart. She has taken up permanent residence and is very quickly carving out her own special space in my life. If I am not careful, the love I feel for her just might consume me. When I birthed my own children and looked into their faces for the first time, it was if time stood still. I was overcome with the depth of the love I immediately felt for the tiny dependent creatures in my arms, and while I trembled at the the joy of discovery that awaited me, there was also that overwhelming sense of responsibility and the nagging fingers of fear that would assail me at times throughout the years. Almost from the beginning I was aware of my own inadequacy long before my children discovered it, but thankfully, I trusted a God whom I believed could and would transform, redeem, and renew my ineffectual attempts to love my own flesh and blood with a Holy love. It is His truth, His grace, and His provision that have helped me through many a sleepless night.
   Yet something different happened two weeks ago when I held my first grandchild in my arms. It was a glimpse of glory the likes of which I had heretofore never known. It was like the first white snowdrop that lifts its sweet head after the hint of spring thaw. It is the fragrance of the narcissus as it speaks to us the promise of all that is to come. To watch my daughter with her daughter is so much more than bearing witness to the hope that the continuity of the generations brings. It is a something greater and more elemental that carries within it the essence of the holy and the sacramental. As I delight in the love that I see reflected in my daughter's eyes for her little one, I  know that I am seeing the faithfulness of God reaching to the heavens.
    I am a blessed woman indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Today marks the 103rd birthday of my beloved grandmother, Louise Brooks Rushing. She has been an inspirational force not only in my life, but in the lives of many. From her I have derived a great love of language, a desire to speak and write with precision and clarity, and an enjoyment of fine literature. It was Lou Lou who first introduced me to poetry at a young age and who inspired her grandchildren (of whom I am honored to be the oldest) to memorize her favorite poems in order to be able to recite them with her. Even now I can close my eyes and hear the cadence of her husky Southern voice as it rises and falls -- the words falling from her lips in a sibilant pattern that draws me in -- and then my voice as it follows hers, faltering, and wavering, but with the nod of her head in encouragement, our voices blending and moving together as we perform the timeless symphony of the works: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Wreck of the Hesperus, Walt Whitman's O Captain, My Captain, William Wordsworth's Daffodils, Oliver Wendell Holmes' The Chambered Nautilus, John Masefield's I Must Go Down to the Sea Again, Edna St. Vincent Millay's Renascence, and Joyce Kilmer's Trees are but a few of the poems I carry with me still.

And tonight, in her honor, I speak aloud one of Lou Lou's favorites:

Rudyard Kipling's L'Envoi:

When Earth's last picture is painted, and the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colors have faded, and the youngest critic has died
We shall rest, and, faith we shall need it--lie down for an aeon or two,
'Til the Master of All Good Workmen shall set us to work anew!

And those that were good will be happy: they shall sit in a golden chair;
They shall splash at a ten-league canvas with brushes of comet's hair;
They shall find real saints to draw from--Magdalene, Peter and Paul;
They shall work for an age at a sitting and never be tired at all!

And only the Master shall praise us, and only the Master shall blame;
And no one shall work for money, and no one shall work for fame;
But each for the joy of the working, and each, in his separate star,
Shall draw the Thing as he sees It for the God of Things as They Are!

Thank you LouLou. Yours is a life well-lived.