Granny’s Way of Making Me Stronger (4/13/2016)

Granny often lamented that my generation was not made of tough stuff. She grew up during the Depression and said it taught her how to persevere and made her stronger.

“I don’t want to be stronger,” I told her. “I think this whole ‘struggling’ thing is over-rated.”

She snorted. “Yeah, you better get stronger than what you are or you gonna be a goner.”

Part of Granny’s innate strength building character meant she re-used everything she could; when I informed her she was environmentally conscientious when she reused Mason jars and tin foil, she rolled her eyes at me and replied, “My generation always was a little more worried about the environment than yours is – we depended on it to survive. To you’uns, it’s disposable like everything else.”

Of course, her homemade recycling system meant at any given time you could open her fridge to find 15 different Country Crock containers and open 11 before you finally found the margarine. The rest were leftovers she had forgot about re-serving because they weren’t labeled.

Not that there were many leftovers. Granny was not wasteful when she cooked and if she did cook extra, it was because it was going in something else – like cornbread for dressing, or roast beef for soup.

But sometimes, her ideas of things were a little odd.

“Like what?” Cole asked me.

Like the way the old gal would cook sausage for breakfast. I wasn’t sent off to school with a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, which I would have preferred. Nope, Granny got up and made sausage and homemade biscuits for us.

If there were any sausage left over, she put them on a plate on the back of the stove and left them there all day.

All day.

Not even covered up.

“Did you get sick?” Cole asked.

I can’t remember. As a fat kid, I usually ate a bunch of stuff that made me feel queasy on any given day – watermelon, ice cream and funnel cake did it one day; watermelon, ice cream and cat fish did it on another. Maybe it was the combination of watermelon and ice cream.

But I never once thought it had anything to do with Granny and her sitting-out-all-day sausage.

Come to think of it, Granny left a lot of things sitting out that probably could have darn well killed us.

She would make potato salad with onions and leave it out after Sunday dinner. No one realized it was the onions you needed to be concerned about.

Back then, people worried about the mayonnaise going bad and I told her as much.

“You’re trying to give us food poisoning,” was my actual statement.

“I ain’t trying no such of a thing. It is fit to eat.”

When I tried to throw away a can of pudding – chocolate, no less—because there was rust on the can, I received a stern admonishment. “That pudding is fine; the rust is on the outside.” I still didn’t trust the pudding.

“She’s gonna give us botulism,” I told Mama one day. “We’re gonna die from botulism.”

“Maybe not,” Mama said, not too sure herself.

When Botox came out rooted in botulism, Granny was the first to let me know. “See there; you just a-knew I was gonna kill you and it turns out rich folks are getting that stuff shot in their wrinkles to look younger. When you’re 40, you’ll be wishing you had ate that canned pudding!”

Now that I am in my 40’s, maybe I should have ate the pudding.

Mama called to warn me about yet another food recall the other day; this time, it was on what she calls, “those little trees.”

I assured her I didn’t buy broccoli.

“Oh, good,” she said. “I didn’t want y’all to get sick. I know you make broccoli slaw sometimes and I know how sensitive you are to things.  You try to keep up on those recalls don’t you? It seems like it is always on the stuff I know you get. You know, healthy stuff. Like spinach and stuff.”

I told her I tried to keep up with it but had to agree: it seemed like the healthier and more natural the stuff was, the sicker it made us. At least nowadays, anyway.

I used to worry about sausages and potato salad sitting out all day, covered with a dish towel for protection. I don’t recall getting sick off that but I can guarantee you I will check the recall alerts before I make a salad, a lesson I learned years ago, even though we didn’t get sick.

“You eating all that stuff didn’t kill you like you thought it would,” Granny told me one day when she learned how we survived the spinach recall. “I was just building up your immune system.”

Perhaps that was just Granny’s way of making me stronger after all.

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.

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some assembly required

Some assembly required (4/8/2015)

IKEA, I will never darken your doors. Never, not ever.

In fact, if I bring home anything else that has instructions in the box, I may be divorced.

It all started years ago shortly after we married, I decided I had to have a baker’s rack and brought it home for Lamar to put together.

Lamar, who had a nasty case of road rash following a bicycle crash two days after we married, loaded the thing up and took it back to the store and swapped it out for one that was already put together.

Considering how painful it was to put on britches just to go in the store, he displayed his distaste for products requiring assembly.

“Don’t go buying cheap furniture that has to be put together,” he has said.

He’s a man of few words so for him to make such a proclamation was a pretty big feat.

I ignored it, of course, and brought in a few things that have required power tools. He has not been too happy with me, either, but has obliged, giving me a heavy sigh and a hairy eyeball all the while.

What can I say? I live in a small cabin with little storage and a lot of stuff.

I decided I needed one of those corner shelf thingies to go in the shower to hold my extra shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deep hair conditioner, extra soap, soap that smells good, soap that cleans well, soap to soften, soap to moisturize, shaving cream for sensitive skin, shaving cream for irritated skin, shaving cream that smells like flowers, and shaving cream that has some kind of chemical to keep me from shaving my legs every day.

Like I said. I have a lot of stuff.

We wandered around Bed, Bath, and Beyond for 40 minutes, looking at all the possibilities.

I found a corner shelf thingy and was deciding which finish I wanted when my dreams were ceremoniously dashed.

The corner shelf thiny needed to be put together and was $49.99.

“For 50 bucks, that thing better wash my back,” I muttered.

“I got an idea that will save you a bunch of money,” Lamar said.

“What?” I wanted to know.

“You quit putting so much junk in the shower. No one needs that much shampoo, conditioner and all that other junk that ends up falling on my head. Just put one bottle of shampoo, one conditioner, one bar of soap-and do you really need body wash if you have soap? Just leave all that stuff outta there and you won’t need a corner shelf thingy and I won’t have to put one together.”

Did I really need body wash if I had soap? What in the world was wrong with this man? Was he out of his ever loving mind? Did he not know that you washed with the soap first to get clean, then you used the body wash to make your skin soft and luxurious and smell good? How could he even suggest I not have soap and body wash in the shower?

Lamar had a near death experience then and there in Bed, Bath and Beyond and didn’t even know it.

“I want a corner shower thingy and I am going to get one,” I declared.

Maybe not a $50 one, but I was going to get one.

Finally, weeks later, I remembered my declaration in Walmart. I found one with four shelves that seemed big enough to put all my shower goodness in for $19.99.

Yes, it needed to be put together, but for $19.99, it was a bit more reasonable.

Lamar groaned when he saw what was in the buggy.

“Don’t get something I am gonna have to put together,” he pleaded.

“I will put it together myself,” I said resolutely.

I could.

I was able to figure out some stuff, surely I could figure out a shower corner shelf thingy.

But I couldn’t.

I dumped the contents into the floor and studied the instructions.

For some reason, the pictures labeled the pieces, but the items themselves were not labeled. Nothing matched up on the instructions either. The instructions didn’t make any kind of sense and I am pretty sure they were in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Lamar watched me from the couch, silently, then turned up the volume of some documentary to drown out the clanging metal sounds.

I thought I had managed to put it together, until Cole asked me what I was supposed to do with the two pieces lying to the left of me.

I realized I had the shelves on wrong and the pole was upside down. How did I do that?

“There should be a pole in it with a spring so you can fit against the tub and ceiling,” Lamar advised from the couch.

I am not sure if he was amused, felt sorry for me or was just glad he wasn’t sitting amongst 57 pieces of cheaply produced metal.

“This one maybe?” I asked, holding up a piece with something loose rolling around inside of it.

He said nothing, just frowned and turned back to his history documentary, because finding out about the downfall of a civilization is far more important than helping put together a corner shelf thingy.

“Maybe it will fit anyway, without the springy pole,” I said.

I wasn’t too sure, but wasn’t about to ask him to help when he had invoked an embargo on putting stuff together.

I was defeated and felt pretty pitiful, being bested by something that proclaimed “easy to assemble” in big, bold letters on the front.

“I will finish it for you tomorrow,” he said, not even looking up from his program.

But the next day, Lamar met the same frustration I had.

“Last night you had leftover pieces, today, I don’t have enough!” he said.

He told me there were supposed to be some whatchamacallits that were not included, too.

I decided to just take it back.

Maybe Lamar was right and I could make do with one shampoo and one conditioner in the shower. Or just one shaving cream.

When out antiquing – I did have $19.99 plus tax burning a hole in my pocket – I found a cute little table I could use in the bedroom. I texted Lamar. “Should I get it?” I asked.

Minutes passed. I knew he wouldn’t care – especially if he didn’t have to refinish it. But maybe he was mad at me for the corner shelf thingy after all.

“Do I have to put it together?” was his reply.

“No.”

“Get it. Get everything you want as long as it does not have to be put together!”

Finally – a win-win for both of us – and no assembly required!

http://www.dawsonnews.com/section/30/article/16280/