13 November 2017

My daughter’s birthday is in five days.  FIVE days.  She didn’t ask for much, she never does.  A unicorn sweater from the Gap, a pair of footed fleece pajamas, a microwaveable Warmie, and a rolling book bag.  Weeks ago, ahead of the curve, I ordered them and  one by one they arrived on my doorstep, compliments of the digital age and the American Postal Service.  Well, they all arrived except for one, the book bag, the main gift.

For a week now I’ve been expecting the package; delayed, or so I thought, because I had requested that it be monogrammed with her initials.  This morning, in a bit of a panic with no box in site, I checked my email for the transaction information hoping to locate where in the whole wide world my package is.  I couldn’t find the email.  Hmmm.  So I searched the company’s website hoping to pull up my order information.  No orders had been placed.  Hmmm.

Then I spied it, in the inbox, waiting to be checked out, one item, the backpack.  Mystery solved.

So today I’m thankful for next day shipping, even though it cost me an additional $17.00, because my little girl’s present will be here on her birthday.  Parent fail averted.

 

 

12 November 2017

Coming Home.  There is nothing quite like the feeling.

Coming Home for Thanksgiving Postcard.jpg

It is exciting to go, but even better to come home.  The relief you feel on pulling up in the driveway, unlocking the door, crossing the threshold into your house, your space.  The familiar smells, the familiar furniture, the familiar mementos of a life, your life greeting you, welcoming you, beckoning you to lay down your traveling pack and rest your weary bones.

I’ve had many homes in my life.  The home I grew up in, “Andries.”  My college home, Hollins.  My apartment in Jackson, Mississippi.  The first home of my married life in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  My third-floor flat in Heidelberg, Germany.  My sprawling ranch in DeRidder, Louisiana.  And now my two-story in the suburbs of Huntsville, Alabama.

113 Two Horse Trail.jpg

It isn’t the location, because I’ve liked some better than others.  It isn’t the size or the look of the residence, because some have been larger or nicer or simply more my style.  It isn’t the ownership of a place, I’ve lived in several houses that didn’t belong to me. It is simply a feeling recalled by the senses, intimately known by the body.  No matter where I’ve been in the world, coming home to the sanctuary I’ve carved out as my own is the same: a sense of relief, a sense of comfort, a sense of  welcome.

Today I am home amongst my “things,” and for that I am thankful.

 

 

 

11 November 2017

Veterans Day 2017.  Since 1954 it has been a day to honor those who have served in the United States military, and I have many in my family that I honor: my husband, my brother, my father-in-law, a paternal uncle, both of my husband’s grandfathers and on and on and on.  I am grateful for each one of them and their service to our country.

However, before it was called Veterans Day, the eleventh of November was known as Armistice Day, a day to remember the formal end World War I, which began at the eleventh hour of the aforesaid date.  Regardless of the name change, which was spearheaded by Raymond Weeks, a Birmingham, Alabama World War II veteran, I still think of it as a day to remember and reflect on those who served and died in the Great War, the War to end all Wars, the war that didn’t.

Henry Alonzo ” Lon” Onderdonk was one of these soldiers.  The brother of my paternal great-grandfather, he was born in Rutan, Alabama on June 13, 1893.  The son of Benjamin Henry Onderdonk and Orra Rebecca Richardson he was educated at the Healing Springs Academy and Chatom High School.  In April of 1917, heeding the call of his nation, he volunteered for service in the Army.

While stationed at Camp Mills, New York, Lon visited his sister Eleanor Onderdonk Penn and her renowned composer husband Arthur Penn at their summer home on Block Island, Rhode Island around which time the below photograph was taken of the siblings.

Alonzo Onderdonk

This image was mailed in 1921 to Marie Owen with the Alabama Department of Archives and History by my great-great grandfather for inclusion in a proposed book about Alabama soldiers who perished in World War I.   The book was never published and the Archives retained the images. Information about Lon and other Alabama soldiers at http://www.archives.state.al.us/goldstar/info.html.

His leaving at dawn to return to Camp Mills in Long Island, New York inspired Arthur to later write the song “Sunrise and You.”  He penned:

“Dull gray shadows, then a flaming sky, such was the picture when we said goodbye.”

Thereafter, Lon shipped to France as part of the 167thRegiment, Rainbow Division.

BUT Lon never returned home.  On July 27, 1918 he was killed in action at the Battle of the Marne and laid to eternal rest in the newly-established Aisne-Marne Cemetery  near Chateau Thierry, France having given his life on foreign soil to secure what the world hoped would be a lasting peace.

henry alonzo Grave France.jpg

As a child on trips to the Richardson Cemetery in Rutan where Benjamin and Orra are buried, I was shown a marker that the Woodmen of the World had erected  in memory of Lon, but I was made to know that he was not interred there, his resting place being “across the pond.”  So whilst living in Germany a few years back, I made it a point to take my children to walk the ground where Lon and so many others, on both sides of the conflict, fought and died and to personally pay our respects at his graveside, to thank him for his service and sacrifice.

Today, on Armistice Day, ninety-nine years removed from his death, I am still grateful to my great-great-uncle for choosing to don the uniform and for fighting the valiant fight.

 

 

10 November 2017

Coca-Cola.  Ice-cold.  In  a bottle.

 

Coca cola

Edited from a 1961 Good Housekeeping advertisement. “Hot foods call for ice-cold Coke!”

 

Today I had one, which isn’t a particularly special occurrence in and of itself, except for the fact that I had it at the Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia after having met the CEO Sandy Douglas.  I have to admit that at the time when I shook his hand and introductions were made, his name meant as little to me as mine did to him.  I was just another name, another face, another handshake in the day’s litany of names, faces and extended hands.

It is not that I’m not honored for having met Mr. Douglas, I am; it’s not everyday that one has the opportunity to be in the presence of the head of a corporation that has literally changed the world, but I’m not one for being star struck.  What I’m really thankful for is the product.

Coca-Cola has always been a part of my life, well at least the part I can remember.   When I was a child my father used to make my sisters and me coke floats–a glass full of vanilla ice cream floating in fizzy cola.  My mother, on the other hand, introduced us all to peanuts in our coke–the salty orbs floating to the bottom of the bottle soaking up and softening in the bubbling, briny liquid.

I’ve drunk Coca-Cola from bottles pulled from vending machines, from aluminum cans plucked from refrigerated shelves,  and poured from warm two and three liter plastic bottles or out of a fountain into glasses or lidded paper and plastic cups.  At practically every event I’ve ever attended coke has been on offer.  In every country that I’ve ever visited, coke has been for sale.  Afloat on a boat or flying the friendly skies, coke has been served.  And while I haven’t always imbibed, the old refreshing standard has always been available.

I’ve tried several of the formulas, caffeine-free, diet, caffeine-free diet, cherry, vanilla, new coke, but I’m not a fan.  I prefer the original, or what masquerades as the original these days.  I think it tastes better, but then maybe that is because I have so many good memories connected to the libation.  So it was only fitting that today at the Coca-Cola headquarters, I made a new lasting memory, enjoying a frosty bottle of the iconic drink with my husband and laughing over my ignorance of the man behind the beverage company.

For all of life’s little moments with a Coca-Cola in hand, I’m forever thankful.

 

 

 

9 November 2017

 

 

corn cob car

Raphael Tuck and Sons’ “Thanksgiving Day” Post Cards Series #175 

 

When I was “knee high to a grasshopper” my Paw Paw began to teach me how to drive.  Sitting on his lap, behind the steering wheel of his pick-up, I learned how to shift gears, steer and eventually how to use the gas and brake.  By the time I was “legal” I had been driving for years on the dirt roads in the woods around my house.

As a young girl, knowing how to drive was thrilling.    As a young woman, having a license to drive and a vehicle at my disposal was liberating.  Driving to school, trips into town, late nights with my friends, a few exciting road trips.  A few accidents.

The first few involved deer.  Night-driving on rural roads at certain times of the year can be dangerous.  One heartbeat and the road is clear, the next and a hundred pound deer meteoriting from the roadside slams into your vehicle, somersaults onto the hood, windshield or roof, a tangle of hooves or horns, or hooves and horns, the third and you try to stop without slamming on brakes, heart racing, time slowing, life passing.  Slamming on brakes, though instinctual, can get you killed, if the deer through the car or your heart stopping from fright doesn’t get you first.

Another involved an eighteen-wheeler on a snowy road in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  The driver, merging onto the interstate pulled into my lane of traffic, clipping my driver’s side door and “slingshotting” me first into another lane of traffic, then across the grassy median, and finally into oncoming traffic.  Luckily, both my car and I , received little damage, and after an evening’s rest because I was too shaken to travel, I was able to drive away the next day.

I was lucky.

As a woman of middle age, I drive practically every day.  Shuttling my children, our pets, the groceries, the cleaning, myself to the Starbucks, it has become a duty, a chore.  Too many hours in the car and my back and legs ache.  My eyes dry and strain, especially after dark.  My mind dulls.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t appreciate having my car.  I do.  An automobile is an integral part of my life, but these days I am grateful for a day that doesn’t include time behind the wheel.  And today, with a three and a half hour drive in the dark looming in my near future, I’m exceedingly grateful to be a mere passenger.

Day Nine:  Someone else to do the driving.

8 November 2017

Today’s Wednesday’s word and the eighth item I’m thankful for is: “slip.”

I’m not talking about losing one’s balance, although I do that a lot, falling to the floor in an unflattering heap.  That kind of slip is nothing I’m grateful for.

I’m not talking about making a gaffe either, although on occasion I’ve made a few spectacular ones.  And even though once removed from the immediate embarrassing moment these slips have mostly brought immense mirth, they are hardly worthy of admiration.

I’m also not talking about escaping someone’s company, even though I’ve been grateful many a time to do so.

I’m talking about an undergarment.

Full-slip.  Half-slip.  Hoop slip.  Slip.

 

slips rouge

When I was a child and even a teen,  the selections in the Intimates section of the department stores I frequented with my Mother, D.H. Holmes, McRae’s, Parisian, Gayfers, were quite extensive.  In an array of flesh-tone colors ranging from white to black with the occasional splash of pink or red; in an array of lengths, from mini to floor; in an array of fabrics or fabric blends, but mostly nylon; with an array of lace panels, insets and slits, they hung on endless rounder after rounder.

The slip was important.  If you purchased a dress, a suit, or a skirt of any length, you likewise purchased a slip, unless of course you already had an appropriate one at home.  They were essential to dressing properly.

Nowadays true slips (not the “squeeze’ em, cinch ’em, bind ’em” sort that are all the rage), like hosiery, have been pared down to a few paltry selections, because women simply aren’t buying them or wearing them anymore.  But they really, most definitely should.

This is why, and why I am ever so thankful for slips:

A slip helps a garment to hang properly.  Their slippery surfaces enable one’s clothes to fall into place rather than cling to the leg or the thigh, or, God forbid, get stuck in one’s unmentionables.

A slip hides your unmentionables from ogling eyes and prevents bright light from spotlighting every dip, dent and curve of one’s leg all the way up to the hoo haa, a la  Lady Diana Spencer when she was revealed to be dating Prince Charles, but accidentally revealed so much more.

A slip prevents the ruination of fabrics from sweat in the summertime, which even with air conditioning we Southerners know a whole lot about.  And it helps to keep one warmer in the wintertime, by adding an extra layer of insulation.

I know I’m a bit old-fashioned, but any trip away from one’s house reveals the need for the return of the slip.  Bras, panties, or the lack thereof, all on display for the world to see.  Material clinging to lumpy bumpy legs and bunching in obscene places are everyday occurrences.  Panty-lines, muffin tops, cellulite in view wherever you look.

Simply put, a slip helps cover up a multitude of sins.  It helps you look better, and at 42 with a multitude of ills beginning to show on my own body I am grateful for all the help I can get.  I would be even more grateful if more people put them on.

 

 

 

 

7 November 2017

I’m thankful for the picture bouquet of Autumn wildflowers sent by my Dad to my daughter.

My daughter loves flowers.  Like Sister the Third once upon a time, no bloom within my daughter’s reach, whether domestic or wild, was safe.  Left unattended in the presence of a flowering plant she would denude it.  Azaleas, camellias, roses, marigolds, black-eyed susans, dandelions, goldenrod, fake flowers in the Hobby Lobby, she was indiscriminate.  The more the better.

After being caught in the act a few too may times, we had to set a few rules in place.

  1.  You may not pick the faux flowers from the stems.  If you see a bloom on the floor you may pick it up.  Which then lead to:
  2. You may not cause the faux flowers to fall on the floor just so you can pick them up.
  3. If the flowers are still blooming on the plant and the plant is in front of a place of business, your Aunt Leona’s or anyone else’s yard, or located otherwise than our own flower beds, you may not pick them, unless you have been given specific permission.
  4. You may pick up blossoms that have fallen to the ground, unless you were the cause of their descent and demise.
  5. Some flowers are better left in the fields.

Despite these rules, which she has for the most part grudgingly adhered to, although I’m pretty sure that on occasion some of her “ground-found blooms” are actually those she’s caused to be there, her enthusiasm for the blooming arts has not been curbed.  On a walk in the woods, she picks flowers.  On the roadside, she picks flowers.  From the vases of blossoms donning my dining room table, she picks flowers.  From the floors of the stores, she picks flowers.

Now I’m not saying that picture bouquets are going to resolve her flower-scavenging ways, although a few late-blooming hydrangeas owe their extended life on the limb to them, but that’s not why I’m grateful.  I’m grateful, heart-meltingly grateful for the relationship my daughter has with her Paw Paw, my Daddy.

Frequently moving, living hundreds of miles or more away from my parents each time, I never thought either of my children would even remotely develop the kind of relationship I had with my own maternal grandparents.  I figured there would be a few telephone calls or letters and cards each year, an exchange of gifts, perhaps a visit or two, nothing more.  Yes, of course there would be love, a tender spot in their hearts for their grandchildren, at times a wistfulness for fewer miles or more frequent visits, but not the rooted, tended, cultivated affection steeped in constant contact that I experienced as a child.

And yet it has happened.  The two have connected.  Boon companions, peas in a pod,  regardless of the distance, they share that special bond.

So I’m thankful for the wildflower bouquet sent from miles away, simply because they reminded him of her.

 

6 November 2017

I really enjoy cooking, especially baking, but I am also grateful for a chance to “lay down my ladle” so to speak and let someone else do the cooking.  I am blessed with a lot of great cooks in the family, my husband being one of them.  On most weekends and even on occasional weeknights he will take over the kitchen and whip up a delicious dinner.

I am also grateful for leftovers.  Now I know my efforts ultimately made the meal, but an over-abundance at one dinner typically means two for the time and work of one, especially if the man is out of town.  But it could also mean that one delectable dish leads to the creation of another.

An example of this occurs when I make a crockpot full of homemade applesauce, which I wrote about on 2 October 2017.  Mostly I freeze the contents for serving later in the year,  reserving a few cups worth to share immediately.  Sometimes, however, the reserves linger in the refrigerator uneaten, leaving just enough to make these tiny bites of “appley” heaven–Applesauce Mini Muffins.

A recipe I discovered on Cooks.com in  2010, it has been a family favorite ever since.  Of course, as is my want, I have modified the original recipe to my own liking.  The main differences: I add pecans, because frankly I think they make every Fall bread better; I never use store-bought applesauce, because I hardly ever buy it anymore, preferring that which I make at home; and I leave off the cinnamon sugar sprinkle on top, because it makes them too sweet.    Here’s how I do it.

 

1 cup all purpose flour

applesauce muffin (2)

I know I took a picture of my own muffins, but I can’t find it anywhere.  I’ve borrowed this image from Yummly.com until I can find my own.

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon salt

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 tablespoons softened butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 medium-sized egg, beaten

1 cup applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the first four ingredients and then set aside.  (I use a 1/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, but you could use more if you prefer a spicier muffin.)

In a medium bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar.  Then in a separate bowl beat the egg and add the applesauce and vanilla extract.  When this mixture is thoroughly combined, stir it into the butter mixture and then add it to the flour.

When all the ingredients have been well-combined, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped pecans.

Spoon the batter into a well-greased miniature muffin pan.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Yields 2 dozen.

For the abundance, for the leftovers, for the dishes that lead to new dishes I am thankful.

 

 

 

5 November 2017

Hymns.  Old-timey hymns.

Thanksgiving song (2)

My maternal grandfather, my Paw Paw, used to sing them.  A cappella in his truck, hauling young’uns, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and otherwise to visit his good old friends, he would sing.  One of his favorites was Swing Low, Sweet ChariotFor no good reason other than he felt like it he would begin

Well I looked over Jordan and what did I see, coming for to carry me home?

A band of angels coming after me.  Coming for to carry me home. 

and pretty soon we all knew the words and would sing along, joyfully belting out

Swing low sweet chariot coming for to carry me home. 

I’ve forgotten the sound of his voice, but not the feeling of it.

*    *    *

My maternal grandmother, my Maw Maw, used to sing them.  A cappella on her tractor planting fields, or in her truck making her circuit through the woods feeding her beloved herds of deer who would come out from their hiding places among the thick trees at the sound of her voice shrill-calling “Come Here Babies” and feed on the feast she provided.  Amazing Grace was her favorite, but I’ll Fly Away was heard more often on her lips.

Some glad morning when this day is over, I’ll fly away

to that home on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away.

*    *    *

My paternal grandmother, my Nanny, used to sing them.   Then when her mind was ravaged by Alzheimer’s and she had forgotten herself, her loved ones, her words, she would still hum strains of hymns that she had sung through a lifetime.  I wish I had paid more attention to the tunes that managed to escape her mind and move her tongue and connect her to the life she once lived, but alas I can’t remember a single solitary one.  But I remember the smile on her thin lips as she hummed, the gleam in her unrecognizing eyes.

*    *    *

My mother used to sing them.  Again, mostly in the car, traveling to Jackson, Mobile, or Foley in her blue Oldsmobile, singing along to an Anne Murray cassette.  In her sweet falsetto she would join in on  In the Garden

And he walks with me, and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own.

And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known. 

*    *    *

I am thankful for these hymns that connect me back to my grandparents and to happy times spent with them and with my mother.  I am grateful for their words of hope and healing and happiness, and how when the light of everything else dies away that their message can cut through the darkness of a dying mind and bring joy.  I am blessed by these songs and the voices, mostly now silenced, that sung them once upon a time in South Alabama.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 November 2017

Thankful, grateful, truly blessed

by these flowers of faithfulness.

Violets Faithfulness (2)

I grew up with violets.  My mother grew violets.  My father grew violets.  On the kitchen windowsill, in the bathroom around the tub they bloomed.  Pink, lilac, violet, a splash of flamboyant color when everything else was brown.

A little water, a little pruning, a little fertilizer, a lot of sunlight, is really all they need to thrive, but for some reason many people shy away from growing them, intimidated by their care.  If you want a plant you can forget about entirely, a violet is definitely not the plant for you, but if you devote a minute or two each day to it then you can have a beautiful bloomer.  You just need to be a bit attentive, daily devoted…faithful.

These are my two:

Light violet 2Violets dark 2

Found at a yard sale, in amongst the detritus of another’s life, brown, crumbling leaves, root bound, unblooming, unloved.  I couldn’t leave them, destined as they were for the trash heap.   I knew with just a bit of care, they could recover, thrive, become something beautiful once again.  They just needed some devotion, some faithfulness.

Day third:  I’m thankful for my orphaned violets and the lesson about life that they teach.