Saturday, December 31, 2011


We have a cat named Smokey. We, well Roger, brought her home on  our anniversary in 2009 Someone had left her tied in a Walmart bag at the dump where we take our trash. Roger picks up around the dumpsters when he goes there, because that is the sort of person he is.The bag moved when he picked it up, and he heard a small pitiful cry. This was taken the day he brought her home. She was so adorable, litter trained in one session, and has slept with and on us ever since. She has been outside maybe four times.

Fast forward two and a half years. She is now the undisputed empress of the Apple household, as you can see from this picture of her sitting atop her throne (the Royal blue easy chair with golden fleur-de-lis scattered about). As you can see, there is an obscene number of empty cardboard boxes on our living room floor. This is because Her Highness demands fresh cardboard to roll about in at her whim. 

She sleeps in them, and hides in them to jump out at us as the mood strikes.You will also notice a fuzzy pink toy on the floor. (The pile of debris on the floor to the lower right is part and parcel of Roger's art - I will share more of that later) The fuzzy pink toy is a battery operated pig that offers at times an entire 15 minutes of distraction for Smokey. That is a long time in cat-time. The pig oinks and the tail twitches as the pig walks around in circles. Smokey perches on the arm of her throne, contemplating the interloper. I actually do not think cats have a very good long-term memory, because we can play this scenario over again with her in two weeks and she still jumps like she has never seen the fuzzy pink pig before, ever! Two 53-year-olds can be amused rather easily in our house because we will sit and laugh like crazy when the pig is running in circles. 

She will hide in a corner, and pounce on the fuzzy pink pig after determining the pig is in fact a danger to her monarchy. She is the best inside stalker ever. She has honed this skill by waiting patiently for me to get out of the shower and make sure I was not replaced by an alien while shampooing my hair.

Of course, all of her hard work is not as physically draining. One of her easier tasks is making sure Roger sleeps well. She will sit on his stomach and keep watch over the tall human whose rescued her from the evil place. She really is our baby.

One of my internet addictions ...

My Last Day with Catholicism. Our Last Day with Project Conversion.

The last day in a fascinating personal journey bravely made very public.

Some Memories of My Father

My father (born in 1915) had a brother, JT Smith, who owned a farm on Paintlick Mountain in Tazewell County. After he retired from N&W, Uncle T farmed fulltime. We lived in town, and Daddy was disabled (diabetes and congestive heart failure). He would call Uncle T several times a week to chat, and I was home one rainy & chilly February day when he did so. Now Daddy did not take well to the touchpad phone, he really missed the dial. He misdialed the number that morning, and did not realize. When the party on the line he actually dialed answered, Daddy said, "So, tell me. What does a farmer do on a rainy morning in February?" The lady whose number he had dialed in error shrieked in his ear, and called him an old pervert. I died laughing!

People tell jokes frequently about the travelling salesman and the farmer’s daughter. Well. My father was a salesman, and my grandfather was a farmer, and my parents met in a hayfield. So truth can be as funny as a punch line to a joke.
Daddy was a very sarcastic person. He liked to embarrass others as well, usually his children. My younger brother was in his teens, and had a bad case of acne, as did one of his best friends, Bill. One day Ed and Bill were sitting in the front yard in lawn chairs and Daddy was standing at the front door, watching them. I was in the easy chair reading, and I glanced up and saw that look on his face. “Daddy, what are you going to do? Please leave him alone.”  “Oh, hush. Let an old man have his fun”
“Hey, Eddie!” his voice boomed.
“Yes, sir!”
“Quit picking at your face. I told you what was going to happen if you kept playing with yourself.”
Bill’s face turned red with embarrassment, and he abruptly jumped on his bicycle and left. Ed came running in the house, looked at Daddy and said, “You are a mean old man! I hate you!” Then he went to his room and slammed the door. Daddy just chuckled.
Every year for our birthdays, Daddy would give us the same thing. A dollar coin and a half gallon of Fudge Ripple ice cream. He gave us Fudge Ripple because it was his favorite. He would open the carton and use an iced teaspoon to tunnel out the fudge, when you went to get ice cream it looked like Swiss cheese.
Were we the only children whose father would steal all of the Kit Kat and Reese’s Cup candy bars from their Halloween treats and say it was so we didn’t eat any bad candy?
 We ate our evening meal at 6:00 sharp. The television would be on in the living room, and the only talk was “pass the bread, please” and “may I be excused, please?” Daddy had to listen to the local news, then the Huntley/Brinkley Report on NBC. He would get irritated at the commercials, though. Once time he remarked how nice it would be to have an evening meal without side dishes of Preparation H and Kotex.
My father was not prone to great expressions of affection, but he loved his family dearly. My grandparents lived within eyesight of us, and he went every evening to give my grandmother an insulin shot before he came home. I guess he must have felt lost when she passed away in 1972.  I think he continued to go check on his father as frequently as possible, until my grandfather opted to go to a nursing home for his final years.
Daddy was one of eight children, and the first to pass away. He spoke with his five sisters and two brothers frequently. Five of the eight stayed in the county they were born in, and a sixth moved back home in her later years. We would have these big family reunions, usually the first week in August. Even as the family scattered and the siblings aged, we would gather at an aunt’s house in the summer. One of my first cousins still has reunions.
I have had these memories of Daddy tonight because my grandfather passed away the week between Christmas and New Year in the mid ‘70’s. I suppose I shall always be a Daddy’s girl. He left us just days after his seventy-first birthday, in April of 1986.

Friday, December 30, 2011

On Being Too Connected

I used to work at a call center for one of the top cellphone carriers as a customer service representative. Over time, I was privileged to become close friends with several people with whom I ate lunch most days. We would often go to a local park, weather permitting, and sit in a picnic shelter rather than stay at the call center or go to a restaurant. Our lunch break was later in the afternoon, and we greatly enjoyed the respite from people. This picture is the view we had from the shelter.

There were usually four of us, and even as we ate our burgers and fries and chatted about the things co-workers are wont to chat about, at least 2, sometimes 3, occasionally all four of us would have our smart phones in hand. Texts. Emails. Web browsing. Facebook. Weather updates. Calls to and from friends and family.
We were not looking at this.

It faded to the background.

Now the four of us no longer work together. Two us have left the company, the two remaining are not able to have their meal breaks at the same time any more.

We should have been paying more attention to this
Or taken a late afternoon drive just three miles away where we may have seen this, because we live in a beautiful place.

This is actually one of my favorite pictures, taken one afternoon as I was driving home. 

I feel certain we would be able to say now, "Remember how beautiful the sky was that afternoon?" or "I only need close my eyes and I can hear Big Cedar Creek behind us as we ate lunch."

I can't tell you who I was texting last week, or what about. I do not have a clue why I save most of the emails that I have *starred* in my Gmail account. But I can tell you how inspired and blessed I am by the place I call home, and the people I count as friends.

Think about this the next time your phone is ringing or beeping or buzzing and you are with a friend or loved one. The world will not stop if you forget to tag your location on Facebook when you eat lunch. Trust me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Schoolhouse Rolls

I like to cook, I always have. I can remember when I was as young as first grade, watching my grandmother make homemade buttermilk biscuits in her farmhouse kitchen. She had a cabinet that I believe is commonly referred to as a Hoosier cabinet. There was a section that held flour, and a dough board that stored under the work surface. My memory is not photographic, but this image I found on Google is close:

Baking is my favorite part of cooking, and breads are my favorite thing to bake. I am not a fancy baker. I am a home cook, no formal training, raised in the comforting embrace of the Appalachian mountains of southwest Virginia. My grandmother, Ethel Slade, and my mother, Janet Smith, both made rolls for family consumption. Additionally, my grandmother baked rolls for dinners for the Masonic Lodge in Bluefield, Va. during the 1960's and into the 70's.

I took a job at in the cafeteria of my alma mater, Richlands High School, after I had graduated and quit college the second time. ( One talent I definitely have is dropping out of college) I learned there to make bread on a commercial level, and through the years have fine tuned my homemade bread, which friends insist on calling Schoolhouse Rolls. These pictures are the rolls I made for Christmas dinner this year.

The recipe will yield approximately 4 dozen rolls.

Combine in a bowl large enough to hold the dough after it has risen to double the original volume ( I use a Tupperware bowl I have had for over 20 years, I believe it was sold as part of a salad or popcorn set - I use the lid to cover the dough as it rises )

3 cups very warm, but not hot, water or milk that is warm but not scalded
1 tablespoon rapid rise yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 stick room temperature butter or 1/2 cup solid shortening such as Crisco
2 eggs
2 cups of bread flour taken from the approximate 2.5 pounds you will need

Whisk until the flour is well incorporated and the butter has started to melt in as well.

At this point walk away for about 15 minutes. When you come back, the magic will have begun. The mixture will be a foamy sponge which means the yeast is happy and growing and emitting lots of gas.

Next get a sturdy wooden spoon and the rest of the flour. Begin beating in the flour a cup at a time. After a while, the dough will be too thick to use the spoon and you will need to use your hand. I use a fold and stir motion, to fully incorporate the flour. I am sure you could use your Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough hooks for this, I just do it by hand, and the kneading is part of the process. I do not "let the dough rest" as virtually every recipe instructs. When the entire dough masses together and is no longer sticky you are finished. I used to describe the consistency of the dough as being similar to that of a man's scrotum, but that seems to offend the sensibilities of people, so just erase that from your mind if you are unfamiliar with a man's scrotum.

Using solid shortening or vegetable oil, grease the dough on all sides, cover and sit in a warm place to rise until double, about 1 1/2 hours.

Shape into rolls by pinching off golf ball sized pieces of dough and smoothing well. Place on  greased sheet pans or in 9x13 cake pans. Be sure to leave space for the rolls to double in size.Let rise a second time, and bake at 400f until beautifully brown. Brush the tops with melted butter and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A New Adventure Awaits

I keep saying I want to write, that I have it in me. From time to time I fumble around the keyboard long enough to have a few words...

Recently I started reading blogs via www.BlogHer, and am inspired, or shamed, to put the keystrokes where the dreams lie. A small commitment to myself. I spend far too much time on a daily basis on the computer, so I may as well make it worthwhile and blog once a day for the month of January. I am such a neophyte at this I am not even sure I have set this up correctly, but I can put the badge/widget thingy and the URL on here, and I will see if I can get my pitiful little writing on their site within the next five days.

That said, the next question would be what shall I write? Write what you know is always a good axiom, so I shall rant a bit, post maybe a picture or two, tell about my husband, my family, my beliefs, my foibles and failures, maybe even friends, though I shall have to remember not to use names unless I have permission. Blogs in many ways seem to be self-indulgent on the surface, but I know that writing is anything but that. Writing is difficult, messy, painful, never the way you want it to be. Much like life.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on the 10 of cups

I am invariably contemplative after reading your posts, Beth. I have a special affinity for this season of the year, being a Sagittarius. Hope and optimism are emotions that seem to come easily to me, yet they feel so fragile in the face of the pessimism I am faced with in my daily life. There are people I am in regular and close contact with who are so prone to ride the doom and gloom wagon. Every conversation feels to be nothing save a litany of the bad and sad and dead. In the face of this, I cast about far and wide to replace the dark they dwell within by calling forth the happy, the good, the love and light I see all around.
There seems to be such a damaged aspect in people at times, and it pains me. Sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure. All are life. Life is a wonder, a gift, an opportunity. The key for me is to look forward, toward that rainbow, into that beautiful sky filling with light. I cannot change what has been, and much of what is rests at the feet and in the hands of others. What I can do, must do, is strive for better, glean the good and move ever forward.
I live and love and laugh. Because being able to do thus, and forcing the attitude when the darkness looms, is a change I can be for myself and others.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

To do vs. To be

Written as a comment on the blog for Beth Owls Daughter

I feel at times I am such an observer of others lives. Television and the internet amplify this a great deal. Whether it be the reality of the times in which we live, or my sensitivity to such questions, I feel increasingly that people spend and consume and *do* with such intensity that they forget to *be*. Be in the moment, be who and what you are. Be content. Be aware. Do not wait until you wake up one day and wonder where all of the time and money went, and ask what you have to show it ever was. We spend our time wishing our time away, turning the page on today to speed up tomorrow before we have experienced and appreciated yesterday.
I honestly do not recall this frantic pace of life from my childhood. I was born in 1958, and grew up in a small town in a time that television was not a 24-hour marathon of news and entertainment. A great deal of the enjoyment of life was in the process and pace.
I have a nephew who is a sophomore in college, and he lives his life in public on Facebook. He is always wanting today to be over, waiting for tomorrow. He bemoans the things he has to accomplish, then complains of boredom when he has rushed through all of his tasks. He wishes away days and weeks, wanting summer vacation then hating the heat. Wanting the holidays and snow then being too tired to enjoy and frustrated because the snow keeps him at home, apparently the worst thing imaginable for a 20 year old.
Beth, as you can see this post really struck a chord with me!
As always, thank you for your insight and clarity.