Thoughtful Thursday

Soggy Southern Comfort

While visiting my parents, in the wonderful Deep South of the Mississippi Delta, the idea of what to prepare for dinner was hanging in the air as thick as the humidity itself. Hmmm …

Me: Liver & Onions?

Mom: No. Your dad won’t eat that.

Me: Cabbage & Chicken?

Mom: Nah. I really don’t want any chicken. Tired of it.

Me: Ham & Potatoes?

Mom: No. The ham you are referring to has gone bad and needs to be thrown out.

Mom: Ah! I know what I want. Buttermilk & Cornbread. We eat that all the time.

Me: Ok. Great. Dinner mystery is solved. I will have a bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, thank you.

Where did this soggy concoction come from? From my father’s experience he provided the following story …

Our family was not rich and there were a lot of mouths to feed. It was 13 of us and our parents were tenant farmers living out on Zimbro Plantation that was owned by Mr. Smith. We raised cows for milking and we would sell milk and milk products like butter. We always had milk and we always had butter. My mom would make a huge pan of cornbread and we would pour that fresh buttermilk over the cornbread and then pour some sugar, molasses, honey or Brer Rabbit Syrup over it if we had any because the buttermilk can have a bitter aftertaste.

Initially my mind rejected the idea of crispy cornbread and cold buttermilk. But after hearing my father explain this part of his journey, I was intrigued. I am just going to have to try a bowl of this southern fare before heading back to Virginia. Stay tuned, for I am sure there will be a follow up for this one that will include pictures and an explanation of Brer Rabbit Syrup!

Friday Feature

Anthony Ray Hinton’s Memoir

The Sun Does Shine:

For three decades, an innocent man sat on death row in a 5′ by 7′ cell. Not only did he sit there in solitary confinement, he was approximately 30′ from where more than 50 men were executed. Hinton, would move from unbelief to anger, when he decided that he was not going to speak to anyone, sort of a shut down. But because of a still small voice of compassion that was ushered in by his mother, Mr. Hinton could not let the sobbing man in the cell next him lie broken in spirit and not reach out to help him. A man also on death row.

Almost 15 years later, hope would come. An attorney by the name of Bryan Stephenson with EJI (Equal Justice Initiative), agreed to take on Mr. Hinton’s case. It would take another 15 years for him to be exonerated. A life interrupted for 30 years. A journey that was filled with emotional and mental torture. This was not an easy read for me for many reasons. When I started listening to this book I knew two things: he was innocent and he was from Alabama. I grew up in Mississippi. I was born in 1986. He was convicted in 1985. Surely, by the time I was born, this type of racism, lack of compassion and dangerous thinking was not still among us. My friends, I am afraid, it was and still is in many places the world over -to be looked at and treated worse than cattle being led to slaughter. To be in a position of authority and to be a coward and filled with little regard for the sanctity of human life, is a life full of sadness and dishonor.

From 1985-2015, the world has moved ahead in many ways especially technologically. Life nor death stops for anyone, including Mr. Hinton’s mother. But how, did he come out of such an institution, bruised but not broken? What kind of resilience carried him through such a painful tormented journey. His life was stripped away from him as he knew it but Anthony Ray Hinton decided that he simply had a choice to make.

“Despair was a choice. Hatred was a choice. Anger was a choice. I still had choices, and that knowledge rocked me. I may not have had as many as Lester had, but I still had some choices. I could choose to give up or to hang on. Hope was a choice. Compassion was a choice”.

Anthony Hinton, The Sun Does Shine

Still, I believe that as dark and trying as his days were, he managed to add more value to the lives of others and himself than the average man filled with liberty and freedom for an entire lifetime. The body can often be constrained and confined but the mind is free to roam the universe. And having books can make it all the more sweeter. Mr. Hinton read books and inspired others to read them and for a time he held a book club -while on death row. This I am sure helped to ease the minds of many who were left to contemplate death every single day -especially if the person was innocent. Mr. Hinton’s mind took him to visit the Queen of England, to marry and divorce and even play at Wimbledon. In the midst of tragedy and despair, I am sure these thoughts were of a welcomed reprieve from the current circumstances. To stay in the state of mind that encompassed bitterness and anger would allow the grounds of unforgiveness to fester. In an interview, Mr. Hinton stated, “My mother raised me to forgive and I have a God who forgives”.

Accused and convicted of murder, his life imbued kindness, love, forgiveness, and compassion because he chose; he decided that that was of most value to others. This is a must read for anyone. I have tried not to tell you too many details as I do not want to ruin it for you. I can also go on into a diatribe of the justice system and racism and prison system and even death row, but that will prove of little, if any significant change from this post. Each of these items can bear a post and discussion all of their own. For the sake of this post, I would like to call your attention to the infrastructure of Mr. Hinton’s life may that have helped him when all seemed lost. First and foremost, I believe, was his belief in Almighty God, it was also the values that were instilled in him at an early age by his mother. The friendship of friend, Lester, who always came to visit no matter what was going on. Lester was there when Mr. Hinton was convicted and released. His boisterous sense of humor; sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Finally, his character, he did not quit on life or his fellow men. He was able to change the hearts of many and allowed himself to transformed as well. A man of integrity, not willing to take a plea that would certainly spare his life but would like him sitting under the umbrella of guilt.

You, like I was, perhaps trying to figure out the title to his book and its meaning. Per Mr. Hinton, “For 30 years the sun did not shine, I never saw much or any of it aside from being let outside a few minutes a day, in a cage”. Upon being outside when he was release, Mr. Hinton looked up and simply stated, “The Sun Still Shines”.

On May 19, 2019 Anthony Ray Hinton was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by St. Bonaventure University in New York.

Thoughtful Thursday

There are seldom, if ever, any hopeless situations, but there are many people who lose hope in the face of some situations.

You have probably not been down this road before. Your life -like my life, has taken a drastic and sudden change. Isn’t it amazing how abruptly life can sometimes change? Not sure how you handle it but I usually prefer a tad bit more notification. But this is the change that life has dealt us and this is the hand that we must play. And I am willing to bet that you are not liking this hand any more than I am.

Perhaps, a few months ago, you were a two parent family and now you are a one family parent. Perhaps you have lost one of your two incomes or even both (I shutter to think so). Maybe your home has become a different type of sanctuary -perhaps it is now an all-inclusive cauldron that you did not order -working from home, home daycare, home school, band hall, break-room, after work happy hour, band practice, lunchroom, movie theater, spa -I could go on and on but you can imagine for yourself or add your own experience. Perhaps you are isolated and everyone you encounter is behind some kind of protective shield -gloves, masks, plexi-glass (can you even recognize a smile if someone is wearing a mask?). Whatever the case, life has dealt us a swift blow to the gut and we have no idea when the tides will roll normalcy back in our direction.

So how are you doing? How are you handling today, -just today -because today is all we have. Is there any possible way to choose joy in the midst of all this? Can you truly say, I’m ok, when the cabinets and refrigerator are getting bare or when you have to prepare 3 meals, 2 snacks, 4 baths, 3 boo-boos, Timmy’s trombone practice, zoom meetings, technology glitches, cat throw up, your daughter’s freshly cut bangs that she did herself, your son’s meltdown because he cannot play with any of his friends and his birthday party will not be at miniature golf but in your dining area with virtual friends -maybe; and to round out day, your husband thinks he is constipated and needs to nap the rest of the day. All of this under one roof in at 24 hour period … really -how are you? Find yourself needing to runaway for a day? Sorry to report … everything is closed -no spa, no parks, no retail therapy, no sitting in Starbucks with your friends. Do you ever feel like life is a merry go round and you just want everything to stop spinning so that you can just get off, even if it is only for a little while? Ahhh, only if we could, right?

Who are we now and what on earth are we going to do? How are you gong to rise? Better yet, how are we going to move forward and keep our family intact? By now I think most Americans are finally getting to AA (acknowledging & accepting). They acknowledge the change and accept that this is going to be different and that we are going to have to learn to adjust; as this is not turning out to an easy quick bump in the road. This journey has turned into the one that has some real curves and growing pains in it that we will have to navigate one way or another. How will we ever get to the other side? Beloved, I like the way Max Lucado put it best in his book — ‘You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for your Turbulent Times.

You’ll get through this. It won’t be painless. It won’t be quick. But God will use this mess for good. In the meantime don’t be foolish or naive But don’t despair either. With God’s help, you will get through this.

‘You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for your Turbulent Times.

You may be feeling like the walls are closing in and will collapse on you, you may not feel like getting out of bed or even feel as if the pain will never cease. But through all of this, we can choose to get back up again and find our ‘new’way. A way that surpasses materialism. Is there a new tradition we can forge for our families, ourselves, our friends? Anything but sitting still and dwelling on what is no longer within our grasps. Ideas?

  • breakfast on a Friday night
  • sending letters/notes/pictures to friends, family or even people you don’t know
  • family movie night
  • facetime/phonecalls to grandparents every Sunday night
  • bake an old family recipe … share it with someone
  • morning walks and actually wave to people as you pass by their homes
  • become creative with environmental stewardship -recycling
  • clean the garage/spare room and create a fun space to just hang and play music
  • Do your children know what an album is? Music or photos? Try it.
  • Yoga anyone?
  • Been fishing lately?

My point is that we must be resilient and we must keep moving forward. Did you notice some things on my list were about helping and caring for others? I believe that when we focus on the care of others, we begin to see the turbulence in our own lives in a different light. Try it and prove me wrong. I dare you. I am changing as you are changing and my view on this journey may look different from yours and that’s OK. I am here on my highly introverted journey choosing to extend a hand to another and make the choice to keep pushing. It is alright to cry, to get angry, to get tired, to be scared, but I implore you to push until something happens. Push until you are firmly on the other side. Don’t quit, you cannot afford to quit. I need you and you need me. Together, let’s pray and push!

Pandemic Life II

Here we are in the midst of change again as some states in the U.S. decide to try and reopen its business and resume life. I am still trying to get used to wearing a mask while I am out. I do not have a problem wearing it but man this thing is hot and itchy. I mostly stay home. I have gone to the grocery store and to a local farm to get supplies. NO! I have not stock piled on toilet paper. I did have to pick up more paper towels though. I do not have a ton of disinfectant wipes or cans of Lysol. I have what I normally have. I am still using the masks we bought last Fall for our outdoor work and allergies. I clean my house the same way I did before. The only difference is that now I have more time to clean and it is time to Spring clean! I will sorely miss going to buy my plants for the planters but will still work in the yard and see just how creative I can be. I am going to call some church family and friends and ask if they would like to thin out some of their Black-eyed Susans and Bee Balm. I will divide hostas for some areas and finally plant my hydrangea that I got for Valentines Day.

I do not like tuning in to see so many deaths and people without food. It really makes my heart sad. I still do not understand the depleted store shelves and panic that I witness over social media. It is bad and may get worse. Take precaution, stay still and reach out to others. Get to know your neighbors; to which you can do and still respect social distancing. We cannot police everybody. Some people you see will not wear masks or gloves and we cannot control them. We can only protect ourselves as many believe that the protective measures are out of proportion. What I do know is that I will take the precautions given and stay home as much as possible without complaining. And yes, I am unemployed like millions of others. I chose to cancel my Hulu, Netflix and magazine subscriptions but decided to keep my Apple Music and Audible for now. I even washed my own car, did my own hair and prepare foods from scratch in many cases. Leftovers are put in containers and packaged as meals that are labeled, dated and placed in the freezer. This is in an effort to stop wasting food. We were throwing out way too much food!

Do not let my contentment fool you into thinking that I do not miss some aspects of life before. I sorely miss camping and traveling and entertaining in my backyard. So everyday I make sure I sit outside and listen to and watch the birds. I go for a walk and trying to increase the distance and time so that I will be able to resume hiking when it is due time. I choose to be content. When this is over, I plan to be the best me possible to face whatever the journey that is ahead.

Two questions that I get asked almost everyday now are: What are you doing now that you are not working and why are you not making masks? To the former question I remind folks of who I am. I am a goal-setter and certain routines are my friends. They help to keep me on target and remind me why I set the goal in the first place. I took my three most urgent goals and set a morning and evening routine that would support them. The hours in between will allow me to do other things. This way I keep first things first. To the latter question of mask making, I refer the answer of the first question. It is not a part of my initial goals. To accommodate that would be to let something that is a higher priority go. There are a lot of people making masks and commoners like me can use many household things to make masks. I checked to ensure that my family and friends had masks and we ordered some if necessary. I appreciate the fact that before others would buy masks from someone else, they would check with me to see if I was selling them. If I was, I would probably give them away or charge a very nominal price to cover supplies.

When you choose to be pleasant and positive in the way you treat others, you have also chosen, in most cases, how you are going to be treated by others

Zig Ziglar

Friday Feature: Ida Keeling Autobiography

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down is the title of Ms. Keeling’s Autobiography. At the beautiful age of 103, Ms. Keeling; still vibrant and active, penned her life story of triumph, tragedy and overcoming. The daughter of immigrant parents, she comes during an era that I personally call ‘The era of American Grit’. During this era, people appeared simply not to possess the ability to lay down and quit. To me, there would have been plenty of resolve to do so but the example of resiliency ran strong across the country and superseded race, location, and gender. Not that those things were not a factor, but those factors seemed to propel them into a greater sense of purpose, determination and growth. From 1900-1950 there were huge shifts in the American culture -from agriculture to skyscrapers; from horses to subways; from peace to war; from small homes to huge apartment buildings and then on to suburbs and the ever evasive thief of racism. Life, even today, consists of one main thing: change.

Ms. Keeling’s book gives a view into her past that will help us to truly appreciate her life today. At the writing of this post, Ms. Keeling should be 105 years old as her book states that she was born in 1915. I was first introduced to her while doing a google search on ‘aging actively’. I then went to YouTube and sure enough -there she was in several videos (to which I am trying desperately not to spoil it for you). Not thinking her life then or now as extraordinary but rather one filled with obstacles and the resolve to press on because she simply knew no other way. Staring at life in a new country in the Burroughs of New York, racism, the depression era, fighting the poverty line, divorce, single-motherhood and the murder of her two sons are a few of the major obstacles in her life. Interestingly, her focus is more overly on the God who saw her through the circumstances. God would prove time and time again that she had what it took make it again and again.

Growing up in a Christian household and holding to those values when she married and had her own children, she fondly tells of her favorite biblical character and his story -Job. Job, a man upright before the Lord, lost everything he had within 24 hours. He struggled, but his faith remained in the Lord. Job would later gain many times over what he had lost. Ms. Keeling would remark on Job’s character and strength not realizing that one day she would be able to sympathize with Job on a new level at the loss of her sons just a few short years apart. This would lull her into a deep depression. Her daughters saw her despair and were troubled by her blood pressure that skyrocketed and would not come down. One day, one of her daughters would ask her to come run a 5k race with her. Ms. Keeling was very active and walked a lot and her daughter knew she could do it. So at the ripe, young and tender age of 67, she laced on a pair of shoes and began to run her way out of her depression. It is almost unfathomable that that first race was well over 30 years ago.

In her many interviews that I watched, a quote that resonated with me the most was: “God gave you your body and it is your responsibility to take care of it”. I also loved her resolve that even though she was slowing down and some days were hard, she was still doing more than the couch potatoes that were half her age and filled with complaining and excuses. (I realized that she was talking to me because i was almost exactly half her age, sitting at my desk, lamenting -needlessly!) She has a exercise routine that she follows and has always eaten well. She is well aware that life if fleeting and wants to do as much as she can just like the people she admired who trod along before her like Harriet Tubman and Toussaint Louverture.

After reading the final chapter, I put my book down, laced up my shoes and went for a three mile walk. My crisis? My health. This is my body that God gave to me and it is my responsibility to take care of it.

Well done Ms. Ida. Well Done!

Thankful Thursday

Ever notice how rain and cloudy days are often looked upon as bad days. Rainy days really do serve a purpose besides replenishing the earth’s water table. Have you ever considered how a child would have no puddles to splash in if it never rained? It is often the simplest of things that bring joy to so many. For rain, water puddles and children’s laughter, my heart is truly grateful.