Just can’t have anything nice (2/24/2016)

Much akin to Jeff Foxworthy’s cry when his mother’s Elvis Jack Daniels decanter was broken, my grandmother declared she couldn’t have anything nice.

This, of course, was after her porcelain praying hands statue had been knocked to the floor to break for the umpteenth time.

Whether it was Mama and my doing or Mama’s cat, Bennie, has long been forgotten as we usually rotated who got to break the sacred hands every month.

I thought Granny was just being a tad bit overdramatic and embellishing the facts -hereditary problems among the women in my family – but alas, the old gal spoke the truth.

I even discovered as hard as I tried, I may not be able to have anything nice either.

It’s an odd thing, actually.

I think it may actually stem from living in your own home. That seems to be the best way to cause things you like to get damaged, broken or destroyed.

Mama asked me if I still had my coffee on the porch every morning in my rocking chair.

When I told her I hadn’t done that in years, she wanted to know why.

“Doodle ate my chair,” I answered.

She literally cut her big pup teeth on the wooden rocker, eating the wicker seat until she fell out of it.

She ate a table, too.

I’ve had people tell me they wouldn’t have dogs who ate their furniture, shoes, floor, cabinets and all the various other things my girls have eaten.

The husband has broken more stuff and I haven’t taken him to the pound yet.

On the porch is also an antique farmhouse table – I have no idea how old it is, but I bought it from a friend who is an antique dealer. It’s primitive, roughhewn and beautifully simplistic.

My husband thinks it is a good table to hold various cans of lube, grease and God knows what other bicycle paraphernalia he has put on it.

“I can’t have anything nice,” I muttered when I saw the bike stuff on it.

It’s not a matter of being materialistic, because really – I’m not.

I just have discovered that there is a correlation between the nicer something is, the more likely it is to get broken.

Cheap stuff or stuff you don’t really like, you can’t get rid of, no matter how hard you try.

It’s like dinner plates you hate the pattern of – they never break. I had a pattern I absolutely loved before and I had to replace them within a year.

The shoes I splurge on end up getting stuck in something and breaking a heel.

The dress or pants that fit perfectly (and make me look thin) get splashed with bleach or a pen explodes on them.

“I think Granny was right!” I told Mama one day.

“About what?” she wanted to know.

“Well, everything really,” I said and meant it. “But you know how she said she couldn’t have anything nice? I am wondering if I can either.”

I ran down the list of things I had that had been broken, eaten, and had grease stains on by way of a bicycle.

Mama understood.

She remembered putting down brand new flooring once and someone tracked mud in on it the minute the installers were gone. For someone who hated vacuuming, easy to maintain flooring was Mama’s idea of “nice.”

“Maybe you should put everything up you want to keep,” she suggested.

I could but it’s hard to do. It may mean about 80 percent of my belongings will be in some storage box, shoved in a closet.

“I don’t know if that will help,” I said. “I think I am just going to have to learn how to not have any kind of attachment to things. I want to have nice things but at the same time, I don’t want a house that me and my family and dogs can’t live in.”

Mama agreed.

While I was telling Mama all of this, Cole was desperately trying to get my attention. I kept trying to signal to him I was on the phone. When I finally hung up, he told me quite frustrated that Doodle had eaten another shoe.

“Mama,” he began, exasperated. “I tried to tell you while you were on the phone, but you wouldn’t listen. So you can’t blame me for this. If you had paid attention for just a few minutes, I could have told you Doodle was eating these.”

I sighed.

I can’t have anything nice – and I only have myself to blame.

Find out more with the Dawson County News!

Handmade Love (2/17/2016)

“Do you know who Granny made these quilts for?” Mama asked one day.

She had been trying to go through some of Granny’s stuff and found some quilts that evidently Granny had not told her who they were for.

“No, she gave us all the ones she made for us,” I said.

Granny made the most gorgeous quilts, and took great pride in giving them to people she loved.

Countless hours went in each of her quilts and she took care to make one with the intended person’s favorite colors or pattern.

“Are you sure?” Mama questioned. “I don’t know who she could have made these for.”

I wasn’t sure either.

Then suddenly, I had a flashback.

It was sometime in the early 90s and Granny had been told about some craft festival.

What had piqued the old gal’s interest was that the person who mentioned it to her, told her she could set up a booth to sell her quilts, pillows and pillowcases.

“You can make some big money, Helen,” the person told her. “Probably more than you made in a week sewing at the Carwood.”

Now, Granny didn’t even make “tiny” money when she worked, but she was proud of it and stretched it to get a buggy full of groceries at the Piggly Wiggly with some left over to get me whatever I hadn’t begged out of Mama that week. So hearing the words “big money,” made Granny think she was going to hit the jackpot.

She was going to be rich.

She had visions of what she was going to do with that money – it involved new carpet and maybe even a new couch.

She was so excited she was almost pleasant.

Since she was told way in advance of the event, she sewed every day and finished two quilts – gorgeous quilts – and several pillows to match to sell.

She made extra pillows, in sets of two, in case anyone wanted to buy just the pillows.

She had enough to fill the trunk of her Oldsmobile by the time the event rolled around.

She paid $25 for her booth rental, which included her table and chair.

I had asked her if she wanted me to go with her and she declined, saying she didn’t want to make anyone else give up their Saturday.

Don’t think for one moment the old gal was being considerate; she was just scared she was going to have to spend some of her profits on getting me a funnel cake and a Coke.

The event was supposed to be all day; Granny was home by lunch.

“Did you sell out of everything?” I asked her, thinking that was the only way she would be home so soon.

Granny threw her purse on the couch and said a bad word.

“No! And I ain’t doing another one of those cussed things again!” she said.

“What happened?” Mama asked.

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Granny began. “I had my quilts set up, had my pillows out, and had my prices out there and had these people come up and ask me if I’d take less for them. I told one lady it wasn’t a dadblamed yard sale!”

She snorted in anger.

“Then, I had one lady tell me how pretty my quilt was, ask me if I sewed it by hand, how many hours was in it – then, she told me she could get a cheaper one at Walmart. So I snatched it out of her hands and told her to go see if she could find one at Walmart that was handmade!”

We felt so bad for her. She had poured so much love into making those quilts.

Not only had it helped keep her mind off my grandfather being sick, we knew she was terribly disappointed it had panned out as she hoped.

“Granny, if they can’t appreciate your quilts, then they don’t deserve them.” I meant it, too.

If someone couldn’t appreciate the time and work – and love – she put in one of her quilts, they didn’t deserve them.

She frowned.

“I ain’t doing that nonsense ever again. I coulda been in my garden instead of having someone try to get me to give away my work.”

Years passed and I tried selling a few on Ebay for her; no luck.

“Maybe I ain’t supposed to sell them,” she said one day. “Maybe I am supposed to give them to people who need them.”

“But Granny, if they need a quilt, they will just go buy one,” I said.

“Not one of these,” she said. “I put love in my quilts. My quilts are going to who needs that love; not who buys them.”

She may have been right.

She always felt like her quilts were almost magical and even told me whatever was dreamed under a new quilt would come true. When I tucked Cole in under one, I told him that little myth and he giggled himself to sleep.

“Could these maybe be for Cole?” Mama asked, interrupting my trip down memory lane.

“No, she gave Cole all the quilts she had made for him.”

She had made him a few full-size quilts for when he was grown, telling me to take care of them in the meantime.

“So I am guessing these were the ones she made and didn’t sell,” Mama said. “I don’t know what to do with them…”

I did.

“Put them up for me, Mama,” I said. “I want them.”

If they were made with my Granny’s handmade love, I knew the only place where they could go to be valued and that was with me.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18562/

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks (2/10/2016)

Much to her irritation, Mama was told by her insurance company she needed to get a checkup.

She hates being told what to do, particularly by some stranger informing her she needed to get poked and prodded for blood work and to have her insides examined.

“I’m 70 something years old and I feel fine,” she argued to me one day. “I don’t want to go to the cussed doctor.”

Hey, I don’t blame her. I don’t like going myself.

She wasn’t complaining of anything other than the regular old people stuff.

But to the doctor she went.

The doctor was surprised Mama wasn’t on a bunch of medication and told her that.

“That’s easy, I stay away from doctors,” was Mama’s reasoning. “Best way to get on a bunch of prescriptions is to go to someone who will prescribe them.”

But the doctor wasn’t satisfied – how could this 70-something year old woman not be on a bunch of meds?

So she ordered some more tests.

“I can’t eat after midnight,” she complained one afternoon.

Nothing makes you want a sandwich at 11:58 p.m. like knowing you can’t have anything after midnight.

She just knew she was going to starve between midnight and 9 a.m. when she was scheduled to have blood work drawn.

The results were unnerving.

“The doctor said I am close to being a diabetic,” Mama announced.

“Oh,” I said.

“I don’t believe that,” she huffed. “I am fine.”

This is the woman who still insists the food pyramid she was taught over 60 years ago is accurate and chided me over giving my child organic yogurt and sunflower seeds as snacks as a toddler.

“Mama, you do eat too much sugar,” I said.

She snorted at me.

“I do no such of a thing! I’ve cut way back on my Pepsi so I am barely have any sugar at all.”

“Mama, sugar is in things other than soft drinks.”
She didn’t want to hear it.

According to her, she wasn’t eating anything that tasted good as it was – she wasn’t going to give up her occasional candy bar or milkshake.

“Do you think maybe it may be you eat too much protein? Or bread?” I suggested.

She scoffed at this notion.

“You can never eat too much protein.”

“Actually…you can,” I tried to tell her.

“No, you can’t. Your body needs meat. Are you going all vegetarian on me again?”

When I announced I wasn’t going to eat anything that gave birth at age 13, my mother rolled her eyes, fired up another Virginia Slim and told me that was the craziest thing she had ever heard and was terrible for my health.

“I have omitted red meat from my diet,” I explained.

“You’re going to get rickets,” she declared.

“No, I am not. I feel fine and we don’t need as much protein as you think. You are always in fear of not getting enough protein and having excess protein is just as bad as not having enough.”

“Your grandmother was nearly 93 years old when she died and she ate fatback and biscuits every day until she died,” was Mama’s argument.

Granny did eat fatback and biscuits. She also didn’t graze like Mama did or eat as much bread as Mama.

“If you think you will have some massive protein deficiency, maybe you should try limiting your bread. I think that is a contributing factor of a lot of your problems. Celiac is hereditary….”

Mama thought I was being ridiculous.

Similar to our conversations when she smoked years ago, she was not going to listen to any of my suggestions- no matter how valid they were.

The doctors were not done. She had more tests. This time, she was told she has three hernias and would need surgery.

“I don’t want surgery. I feel fine,” Mama insisted.

I didn’t know what to tell her. I worry about her, more than she worries about me now.

“Mama, I really think if you lost some weight, it would help this,” I said.

“Maybe,” she said. “I have lost 2 pounds since I went in December.”

“That’s good, Mama,” I said. “But, I think you may need to lose more than that.”

“I don’t think I eat that bad now,” she said forlornly.

“Would you consider doing what I suggest?”

Reluctantly, she agreed. She would try. But I better not expect a whole lot.

I sent her my copy of “Wheat Belly,” to give her some insight into the way the grains are different now and tell her how maybe her eczema and other skin issues were caused by the bread.

I also sent her a few other health books.

I have had her on aloe vera juice for over a year, but I was going to get her on some other supplements, too. Surely, surely, a better way of eating would help.

When she got the book, she read a few chapters before she called me.

“I’m kind of understanding some of this,” she said. “I admit, it does make sense. But it’s hard to give up bread.”

Yeah, I kind of knew about that.

I heard her chewing on something and asked what she was snacking on. “Oh, I got the best bread earlier – it’s a cinnamon raisin swirl bread, and I toasted it with some butter and jelly.”

“Mama,” I began.

“What?”

“It’s bread.”

She paused.

“Oh. Yeah, well. But it’s good for me bread. It’s got raisins. That’s a fruit. It’s fruit bread. Right?”

It’s hard to make a lot of changes, especially when it comes to what we eat. But one day, she’d get it.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18528/

Sometimes all you need is a good cry (2/3/2016)

The only times I saw Granny openly cry was when my grandfather had brain surgery, when he died, and when her beloved German shepherd, Bo, died.

That was it.

The rest of the time, the old gal was as stoic as a tree trunk.

Her favorite emotion, of course, was anger, complete with her own brand of hellfire and brimstone.

Until one day, I found her sitting in her chair, looking out the window. When I spoke to her, I saw her wipe her face with her hands quickly before she spoke.

Was she crying?

“Are you OK?” I asked her.

Did someone pass? Was something wrong?

“I’m fine,” she said.

Even her voice had a catch in it that normally wasn’t there.

“No, you aren’t. What happened?”

She let out a deep sigh, wrought more from having to admit any kind of weakness than frustration.

“Sometimes, I just cry.”

“What do you mean you just cry? Is there something wrong with you?”

Granted, she complained all the time – and I mean all the ding dang, ever-loving time – so we knew every ache, pain and inconvenience that came her way. But was there something else going on that would make her cry?

She shook her head.

“Nothing’s wrong, I just sometimes cry to feel better.”

For someone in their early 20s, this was a foreign concept.

“So, you just cry?”

“Yeah,” she said simply. “I just cry and it helps.”

I’d later learn that certain days hit her harder than others – my grandparents’ anniversary, my grandfather’s birthday, some days that just made her miss him more.

The day I graduated college was another because she said it was one day he would have loved to see.

She would just sit in her chair, and look out the window and let her tears come.

She didn’t want to talk about it. She didn’t want to discuss it. She just wanted to have her moment and move on.

I would let her have her peace and not bother her until I knew she was ready for company.

I don’t even know if I ever told Mama or Bobby about her crying; maybe they knew and didn’t mention it. Even the toughest Steel Magnolia should have their moments.

I didn’t understand why she felt crying would make her feel better until later.

It was after I had experienced some of those things that life hands you – when you deal with loss, worry, fear, anxiety and dozens of other things that make you stronger than you want to be – and there’s times you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders that a cry can do you good.

Or, it’s when you finally got through a perilous time and the relief of it being over can be celebrated with a cry.

And then there are the times you are going about your day and just get hit with a flash of grief where you miss someone so badly you have no choice but to sit and cry.

If anything, now that I am older and a mother, I have learned Granny was right and those random cries can make you feel much better.

One day, Cole realized I had been crying. It was one of those out of the blue moments, when I had just been overwhelmed and when I had a moment, the frustration resulted in me having a brief cry.

“What’s wrong, sweet girl?” he asked, rushing to my side. “Are you OK? Are you upset with Daddy?”

I shook my head as I wiped my face with my sleeve. I never have a box of Kleenex near when these moments hit and now, can appreciate Granny keeping her tissue stuffed in her shirt, or toting a roll of toilet paper with her whenever she felt a good cry coming on.

“I’m fine, baby,” I said.

“No, you aren’t,” he said, concern creeping into his voice.

“Who did this to you? I will take them down!”

I gave him a tight squeeze. “I promise you, I am fine. I sometimes just cry to feel better.”

He gave me a puzzled look. “So no one hurt your feelings and nothing bad happened?”

Oh, goodness.

If I allowed it, my feelings would be hurt on a second by second basis and bad stuff happens even more frequently.

Maybe that was why the crying helped – we were bombarded with those feelings and emotions and had to let it all out?

“No, no one hurt my feelings and nothing happened,” I said. “It’s good to just release some steam by having a good cry sometimes.”

He nodded slowly, not sure he understood. “Mama, not trying to sound disrespectful or anything…but is this a girl thing?”

To be honest, I wasn’t sure but maybe.

“So, you are OK, and I don’t need to hurt anyone?”

I squeezed him again. “I promise, I am fine. And there is nothing wrong.”

I didn’t understand when I was younger, so I can’t expect my son to get it. But sometimes, truly, all you need is a good cry.

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/18503/