Tuesday, April 27, 2010

An Ode to Motherhood

   My mother and I are radically different in many regards, yet you only have to be around us for any length of time to see that there is an undeniable connection that binds the two of us together. It is more than just the DNA we share. It is love born of sacrifice; love tempered and honed in struggle, hardship, and difficulty; it is love that sings of the sweetest joy imaginable; and love that can withstand any tragedy or triumph and retain its constancy.
   Despite our sometimes profound differences I have always known that my Momma loves me, and I can unequivocally echo that I love her. I always say that she survived the teenage years with me. And for that and so much more I am grateful.
    My Momma is a perfectionist who loves symmetry and uniformity. Her house is immaculate and everything has its place.
    I, on the other hand, would rather do just about anything than clean and my house and my desk and my closet (Oh Lord, my closet) certainly bear witness to this fact.
    My Momma likes order and predictability and finds joy in planning ahead -- traits that served her well in her life-long career as a teacher, librarian, and  media specialist.
    I am the counselor who will drop everything or anything the moment a student with a need hits my door. My sense of order is minimal at best. I actually work best under deadlines and pressure, find a certain symmetry in chaos (a good thing since I raised 4 children and had three of them under four years of age), and love to do things that are last minute or spur of the moment.
    My Momma is a peacemaker who abhors conflict and unpleasantness, and she will go to great lengths to avoid any hint of this, especially among family members.
    As you might surmise, I love ideas of all shapes and sizes and actually relish a good debate, love to stimulate a hearty discussion, and enjoy nothing better than engaging in a good argument.
    We are both utterly convinced that we are right ALL OF THE TIME!
    Unfortunately, when I was a teenager, our lack of understanding about the nature of one other's gifts led to quite a few disagreements, and in my case, resulted in acts of outright disobedience coupled with a disrespectful know-it-all attitude. But time has a marvelous way of bringing things full circle. When I raised my own teenagers, on more than one occasion I found myself wishing that I could go back and have a "do-over" with my own mom because I suddenly found myself taking a position or saying something that eerily sounded just like my Momma would have said to me--something I would have taken an oath would NEVER EVER happen.
     As a teen and young woman I struggled against my mother's nature for it only seemed to exacerbate my own sense of inadequacy and intensify my weaknesses. Now as a middle-aged-woman, with grown children and a grandchild, I marvel at the perspective and wisdom that more than a few years under my belt have brought. I am profoundly grateful that I have come to see and appreciate the intrinsic beauty of my relationship with my Momma and to understand that the depth of our differences has been deeply enriching for us both. It is a humbling place to be. It is also interesting because I am not unaware that my own children frequently misunderstand me; find me frustrating, manipulative, and controlling at times and there are many little things and certainly some big things that I do that drive them crazy, yet on the whole I am thankful that they have been generous with their forgiveness and unfailing with their love. I have learned a lot from them -- and the least of which is how to love my own Momma better.
     I look at my Momma now, and I can see she is getting old. The passage of time is deeply etched upon her face, yet I find her more beautiful than ever. The years have not been easy for her. By the time she was in her mid-fifties she was twice-widowed and was destined to live out the better part of her life alone. In addition, she faithfully cared for the needs of her own mother who died at 103 this past year, something that has taken a significant emotional and physical toll on my own Momma. Yet my Momma is not one to complain. She has always taken what life has offered her and tried to live each day to the fullest. I have learned perseverance, dedication, and an understanding of the nature of true sacrifice from her. She also taught me the importance of family, the need to respect one's elders, and the resilient nature of commitment and love. I have always known that my Momma loved me. Even when I drove her crazy. She has always been there. I can count and rely upon her love. I know that I have taken her for granted and not told her enough that she influenced and shaped me even when I resisted and kicked like some willful toddler. I don't think I could ever tell her enough that I finally get it. I could roam the whole earth and not find a woman who could have given me the love, the faithfulness, and the measure of sacrifice that she has. She is my dear Momma, and I would have no other.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Big House

    Here is where it all began. It is just a cottage constructed of timber and lots of pine, but it ranks up there with the Taj Mahal in my mind. It is certainly one of the seven wonders of my world and will be until the day that I die.
Originally built as a fishing shack by my great-grandmother, Annie Frances Smith Brooks (Mama Frankie to us) in 1926 on the then-hard-to-reach Cinco Bayou, this humble Big House, as it came to be known, was open each year for family gatherings from Memorial Day to Labor Day. There the Brooks-Scofield-Banks-Rushing Clan would gather. And gather we did. My great-great aunts owned homes on either side of the Big House and afternoons and evenings were where we all found ourselves firmly ensconced  in lawn chairs under the live oak trees in front of our house. It was there that I learned to appreciate our family history (some of it colorful and much of it embroidered I am sure). It was there that I found sanctuary, community and a respite from the struggles of life. It was there that I found peace and much joy. The relationships forged with cousins and family have more than stood the test of time. So it was fitting when the five cousins got together for our first-ever Bosom Bottom Buddy Club reunion, that we should once again visit this place where it all began.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Reunion Food

   We are definite foodies in our family. When we talk about bringing it on, we are usually talking about food. I spent this past weekend in a walk down memory lane with my two sisters and two first cousins as we gathered together for the first ever Bosom Bottom Buddy Club Reunion. We arrived from far-flung locations at my younger sister's beautiful Gulf-side beachhouse on Friday. Our time together included a trip to the bay house on Cinco Bayou where we spent every summer until we each went to college or were gainfully employed. However, before we arrived at my sister's we were instructed to bring our beverage of choice and both a salty food and sweet food to share. It looked like we had emptied the neighborhood Publix when we unloaded all of the food; there were some variations on tried and true family recipes and the introduction of some new cuisine as well. I gained no less than FIVE pounds in a 48 hour period. You can guess if we had a good time.

Lou Lou's Pimento (pronounced puh-men-ah) Cheese
My grandmother was famous for this recipe which is best slathered on whatever you happen to have on hand, whether it be humble saltines, Wheat Thins, sourdough bread or thickly sliced homemade bread, but even a few slices of the good ol standby, white bread, will do in a pinch. This past weekend I am sure I saw one of my beloved family members using her finger as a scoop on this family favorite when she thought no one was looking. Even southern bred novelist Reynolds Price understood the importance of pimento cheese in the southern food pyramid as he ranked it up there with fried chicken and deviled eggs. I wholeheartedly concur. In addition to using it as lunch food, I frequently put it out at parties and serve it as a dip.

Lou Lou always made sure that the flavors in her pimento cheese had time to meld together, and she kept it on the counter in a bowl covered with cheesecloth (in the olden days) so that it would be soft and spreadable at all times.
       2 cups finely grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese (You MUST grate your own.)
       Medium size jar of red pimentos
       3/4 cup or more of real mayonnaise (no diet or low fat will work)
       Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
    Grate cheese into bowl and lightly drain pimentos and mash with a fork on a plate; add mayo and pimentos to cheese. Season to taste.

Belly Buttons     
My baby sister brought this intriguing and cute snack that was a huge hit with each of us. Besides being delicious, this treat packs easily and kids of all ages are sure to enjoy.
Recipe: 1 package medium size pretzels
            1 package Wilton vanilla white chocolate disks
            1 package assorted M&M's
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Lay out the pretzels on a large jelly roll pan
Place the white Wilton disks in the center of each pretzel
Heat for 5 minutes maximum
Remove from oven and immediately press an M&M in the center of each softened disk.
Let cool and then pack in a sealable plastic container.

Babs' Lavash Pizza
This was a new food for all of us and and is a great twist on a old favorite. Try your own variations until you are satisfied. The lavash bread is thin and crispy and oh so delicious! I even think it qualifies as low fat but by the time you put on all of the cheese and assorted toppings, the whole diet idea goes out the window.
Recipe:  1 package lavash bread from Whole Foods (other brands don't work as well)
              olive oil
              small jar marinara sauce (optional)
              assorted grated and crumbled cheese
              toppings: artichoke hearts, turkey pepperoni, roasted red peppers, olives, fresh basil (you get the idea; be really creative here!)
              pizza pan with holes ( A MUST)
(photo courtesy of ravenouscouple blog)
Lay out the lavash bread on the pizza pan. Coat lightly with olive oil. Toast in 375 degree oven until golden brown. Immediately top with marinara sauce if you want red pizza and then add grated cheese and assorted toppings. If you prefer white pizza, you may also omit the marinara sauce and just use the cheese and assorted toppings. Return to the oven if necessary for a few minutes to melt the cheese and ingredients together. Slice with pizza wheel into small to medium squares. Serve at once!

BaBa's Pecan Pie
(Okay, I cheated. I bought my pecan pie at The Puffy Muffin bakery here in Nashville, a great place that uses family recipes.) But if I had made my pie, this is the ONLY recipe that I use. My Momma got it out of the 1986 Southern Living Best Recipe book, and we have been enjoying it in our family for over 20 years. I guess that makes it tried and true. I like to take the time to lay out my pecans in concentric circles on the top of the pie. It makes for an elegant looking dessert, but once you taste it, the idea of elegance goes out the window. You want to dig in and savor every is lip-smacking good.
      1 cup light corn syrup
      1 cup brown sugar (packed)
      1/2 cup melted butter
      3 large eggs, lightly beaten
      1/4 tsp salt
      1 tbsp vanilla
      1 cup unbroken pecans (may need a few more or less)
      1 unbaked pie shell
  In medium saucepan melt together light corn syrup, brown sugar, melted butter. Remove from heat when sugar has dissolved and butter has melted; stir in remaining ingredients (being careful to temper eggs so that the yolks will not curdle). Pour into unbaked pie shell and top with whole pecans in concentric circles. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 mins to an hour or until pie is set. Serve warm with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream. Do not refrigerate the leftovers, just leave 'em on the counter 'till they disappear.

Friday, April 16, 2010

I am so thankful for the varying friendships in my life. I have friends that I literally have known since birth and others that are fresh from my prior employment.

Girl's Weekend @ the River House (missing one)

One of these dear friendships started when we grew up while living across the street from each other in Temple Hills. We imagined we were in a home cooking away when in reality we were sitting in a tree; we dressed up a patient cat as a baby doll; we ran across a golf course to watch fireworks; we concocted delicious pies in a sand box; and discovered a treasure box of jewelry from her grandfather. We now live in different cities yet our hearts will forever be linked.
Another friendship began when my friend and I were peering around the skirts of our mothers and another when we found ourselves sitting together in a bathtub (this was the reading tub) in our school classroom. The three of us have braved the death of a mother, severe depression, and the loss of a first love. We bore one another's burdens and are stronger because of it. We have suffered and rejoiced with one another. We have also been a part of the joys of life including weddings (one about to occur!) and the birth of a child. The Lord has been so sweet.

Another friendship started with competition but has been redeemed. How beautiful of the Lord to change our hearts. She is a friend that is present. Even when exhausted, she is there and speaks much needed truth into my life.

Two others began in college. One a roommate and the other a bride of one of my husband's best friends. I love how lives collide. These two friends are so much like me that they could finish my sentences. They are passionate and loyal. Even though we will most likely never live in the same city, we will always make time for a trip to be in each others presence.

Girl's Weekend at the Farm

Two other dear ones live up North now (that far away and mysterious place to us Southerners :). One I knew as a child but did not come to appreciate and adore until later in life. What would I do without her? Another, makes me laugh harder than any other yet has the tenderness and gentleness of a young child. She is precious. One more friend that moved back from up North (NYC) is one who is the best hostess around which is saying a lot in the state of TN!
At the Tomato Festival in E.Nashville
Recent Visit in Our Home
A friend from church that I could talk to for hours and never grow tired ... our poor husbands. We are learning to let them talk but there are so many things to talk about!

Recent Wedding
And friendships that have started at work. These people understand a part of you that many cannot. They understand why I have entered rooms where children have been abused, women have been hit, and poverty consumes a life. They understand that burning need for change and justice. Three girls in particular have listened to my anger at injustice and have allowed me to cry when overwhelmed with others' struggles. No matter where we work or volunteer, we long for dignity in all lives.

Bagels and Coffee @ Bongo East
All of this to say, where will Little One find her dearest friends? What hardships will link her to another? What joys will she always hold dear because a friend shared that moment? I am so thankful for the friendships I have and will pray that Little One is as blessed as I have been.

One of our favorite "older" buddies who lives close by

Little One with one of her first boy friends
Little One with one of her walking buddies

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Treasure

   I have in my possession a precious gift from my Daddy's mother, whom I lovingly called Mama Julia. It is a dog-eared once white leather King James Bible with my name embossed in faded gold on the front. In addition to the words of Christ which appear in red letters, this Bible is filled with beautifully colored illustrations. There is a letter in the back that my grandmother wrote to me when she gave me the Bible on my fourth birthday. In it she tells me that I should get my parents to read to me from this very special book, but when I grow old enough, I should read the stories for myself. And she closes with these words: "I pray that before too long, you will come to know your Savior, Jesus Christ." At some point I scribbled in crayon on this page and on a few others as well. The cover of the Bible is worn and even torn in a few places and when you hold the book it seems to fall open to a few of the well-handled and thumbed illustrations. As a child I even remember repeatedly kissing a picture of Jesus -- one where He was surrounded by children from all over the  world. I wanted to be the little girl who was leaning up against Him just so. I am especially thankful that this particular Bible is as familiar to me as the topography of my own hand. It even has a smell that evokes the memory of times long past. I am also grateful that my Momma and Daddy did not keep the Bible tucked out of sight or put up out of harm's way. Obviously, they let me carry it around, read to me from its pages, and encouraged me to take its words to heart.
     We moved around alot as children, and I did not accumulate a lot of possessions from my childhood (I have compensated for this fact with an abundance of memories!) Among those I saved are a ragged and lifeless stuffed Humpty Dumpty, a handwoven wicker baby basket, one Madame Alexander ballerina doll, a musical jewelry box (the kind with the spinning ballerina inside), and my little Bible. These things all carry special memories but none except the Bible ranks up there as a bona fide treasure. 
     In Psalm 145 it says, "One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts." And Psalm 22 tells us, "Posterity will serve Him, future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn -- for He has done it." This particular verse of the scriptures is one I prayed over each of my own children before they were born: the proclamation of his righteousness to a people yet unborn. I felt keenly the need for this because I understand that I have been the beneficiary of such a marvelous grace. I was taught and told about His goodness and His mercy from an early age. I learned of His love and His faithfulness from my own Momma and my Daddy, from Daddy Dewey and Mama Julia, from Lou Lou and Daddy Dykes and from countless others who reflected His love and faithfulness into my life. I seldom can remember a time when I was not aware of Him and of His love for me. Unfortunately, this fact does not mean that I always heeded His call or listened to Him as He called to me. Sad to say, I am the prodigal who ran away, yet I am blessed that like the father in Luke's parable, the Father lovingly welcomed me home.
    I did not mean for this post to be about me; I wanted it to be about the treasure. The treasure described  in a little white book. A treasure that rightfully shakes the whole world to its core and changes the course of men's lives. It is a treasure that has the power to set a captive free or to heal the deepest and darkest diseases of the soul. I so want Little One to know this treasure. It is one of the things I pray for her each and every day. Some days I would probably rather pray for her happiness and for her to have a life without loss or pain, but this is not likely to happen. So instead I call upon the One who is faithful, and I simply remind Him of His very own words: "The promise of salvation is for you and your children and for all who are far off -- for all whom the Lord our God will call." I am trusting that He will call this precious one quickly and while she is still young. It is the cry of this grandmother's heart.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Top Dog

    Even though Little One certainly reigns our world as "top dog," we have received and returned the affections of some fine furry friends through the years. I have searched the scripture, and as far as I can tell, the Word of God is unclear as to whether our pets will one day join us in heaven. Interestingly enough, by far I am not the only one who has pondered this dilemma for I found the concept of the redemption of animals worthy enough for the likes of C.S. Lewis among others. I don't know whether my reasoning is exegetically correct, but I think that a God who said that he would use the very stones to cry out the name of Jesus, would give more dispensation to pets than stones. I also trust the vision promulgated in Isaiah 11 where the wolf and the lamb lie down together. Sounds to me like heaven just might be the most gloriously redeemed zoo (no bars or cages for sure) known to mankind.
    Needless to say, whether or not our dogs make it into glory, I will testify here on earth that they have brought us joy and delight through the years. It all began with Jose, a mixed breed puppy that my husband and I took home from the pound nearly thirty-four years ago. From Jose we moved to adopt Trouble, another mixed breed aptly named because we had to take him to the pet emergency hospital ($$$$) after he broke his leg on the very first day of his adoption. After Trouble came a succession of Black Labrador Retrievers (all of them male). Also around this time, we made our foray into the cat world with the adoption of none other than Rocky Balboa. Somewhere along the line we began to allow our children to select the name for the pet, an honor that was uniformly rotated from one child to the next. I make this point specifically because it was our daughter's turn to name the animal when the cat came onto the scene. After much deliberation she announced her choice for a name in the family meeting: Queen Esther. Her father looked aghast. He quickly moved to exercise his parental authority and veto the name by saying, "I simply cannot go to the back door and holler for Queen Esther on a regular basis." My daughter, after significant bribery accompanied by theatrical pleading by her brothers, agreed to allow the next-in-line to name the cat and thus a female tabby named Rocky Balboa came to live in our home.
      The Daughter did indeed have the choice of naming the next animal: a Black Lab upon whom she bestowed the name of Luke. When Luke died, we took another Black Lab into our hearts: Bo Jackson (yep, you guessed of the boys picked the name.) Bo made the move with us to the house we live in today. When we sent him to live on a farm after aggressive behavior toward a neighbor, we switched breeds and adopted our beloved LuLu, a Golden Retriever.
    LuLu was the dog of dogs and every member of our family had tears to shed when we were forced to put her down after 13 years of mutual adoration. We are convinced that a finer dog has yet to be found. She was loyal, gentle, and loving to a fault. She never met a stranger and endeared herself to the neighborhood at large. She had treats waiting at many a back door and regularly accompanied one neighbor on his early morning runs.We even had a family call to see if they could be allowed to formally adopt her and simply "share" her with us. We said no.

   When Lou Lou was still in her prime and our house almost empty of children, we took in a Border Collie by the name of Sarah. She was the smartest dog I have ever been around (Sorry had the heart, but not always the brains). She was intuitive, perceptive and absolutely and utterly terrified of thunderstorms. After LuLu began to age, Sarah's energy level began to get the best of all of us so we placed her with a family who was familiar with the special needs of Border collies. LuLu grieved the loss as terribly as did I. Together we contrived to get my husband to give me a puppy for my birthday
Phoebe MacKenzie, a West Highland Terrier, came into our lives four years ago.LuLu was utterly convinced that she, an aging Golden Retriever, had given birth to this puppy and she watched over tiny Phoebe like a mother hen. But in typical terrier fashion,Phoebe quickly established herself as the Alpha dog in our household yet she always treated the Grande Dame LuLu with the utmost and well-deserved respect.. 
   The day after we put our beloved LuLu down, I answered an ad placed by a woman seeking to place a Cavalier in the right home. The owner was dying of cancer and needed to find homes for her menagerie of pets before things got worse. Despite the fact that 96 people responded to her ad, we were
somehow selected to give Wilson a home. So once again our personal menagerie is complete (and I hope stable for a time). My husband and I love our dogs. We are no longer cat people but certainly understand people who are. Our pets are important to us even though we realize that they are not real children, but furry substitutes who don't talk back or require the payment of college tuition. And in the end, they are not people, they are simply dogs.
    However, you can rest assured, when we get to heaven, the Husband and I will be whistling and hoping that a troop of beloved pets come running at the sound of our call with LuLu leading the way!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Spring is Here!

We had an eventful March and early April. Little One was baptized (actually end of February), I finished my month back at work, Little One and I went on a Girl's Weekend with college and high school friends, we went to some dear friend's wedding, our family hosted a surprise engagement party for another dear friend, and we celebrated Little One's first Easter.

Little One and I are loving the Spring weather and try to walk several times a week. Little One continues to be very social, smiles a lot and babbles just like her mom. She recently started sitting up with minimal assistance and seems to be really proud of herself. She has not really liked rolling over so I was excited when she started sitting up. Being a mother can be humbling as you want your child to be ahead of the curve, just the right size, and smarter than even children older than her. The Lord is teaching me to rest in His love and know that He has created her to be just how He wants Little One to be. I will not lie, it is a struggle to not compare, but I want to learn this lesson early!

My favorite time is walking into her room in the morning as she talks to herself. I peer over the crib and she gives a smile that uses her entire body. We then play for around an hour upstairs. This is her prime. I am so thankful to be able to enjoy these moments at this time in her life. I am so in love with this girl! It also has been so sweet to watch her dad walk in after work and swoop her up into his arms. Don't get me wrong, we are exhausted but so blessed.

Here are some pictures of the last month. I took a bunch today so bear with the same bubble outfit as you will see a good bit of it!

4 Month Shot while wearing a dress from Aunt Janna.

Bath time with dad. Little One definitely laughs the most when Dad comes home.

Today, Little One enjoying her Easter basket from Mom and Dad.
Of course, Honey and Pappy gave her the "super basket" which will be posted later!

Just had to post this one as I love it!

Here is Little One sporting her socks and diaper.
She is so curious and wants everything in her mouth to find out what it is.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hallelujah, What a Savior!

   One of my friends from our Bible study gave me a copy of a delightful book for me to read to my granddaughter, The Jesus Storybook Bible, with the sideline: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones. Reading it (to myself mostly at this point) has quickened my heart afresh to the Good News that has come to all men.
    In particular I am drawn to this description in the book of Mary just after she has met Jesus in the garden surrounding the empty tomb, "Mary ran and ran, all the way to the city. She had never run so fast or so far in all her life. She felt she could have run forever. She didn't even feel like her feet touched the ground. The sun seemed to be dancing and gleaming and bounding across the sky, racing with her and shining brighter than she could ever remember in the clear, fresh air. And it seemed to her that morning, as she ran, almost as if the whole world had been made anew, almost as if the whole world was singing for joy -- the trees, tiny sounds in the grass, the birds . . . her heart."

     Ahhh yes, most of all her heart. I am in love with a Savior who can take a heart of stone and make it come alive under His powerful redemptive and Holy touch. I am thankful this Easter for so very much. For my salvation. For family and friends. For the rebirth of the earth as it comes each spring. For pear trees dressed once again in fine white bridal finery as if anxiously awaiting an immortal bridegroom. For birds that greet the dawning of the day with joyous song. For a little granddaughter with chubby arms that she opens up to greet a great big wide world.

    Behold, He has come to make all things new. You. Me. Hallelujah, He is risen indeed. What a Savior, what a Savior, indeed!