Tuesday, September 29, 2015


My last entry was about my birthday plate (among other things.)  I'm busy writing stories remembering the time of growing up.  I feel ashamed, in one way, that I've spent so much time about myself, but I span 50 decades of changes in daily and world-wide operations. I want readers of the future to know what someone in the "dark ages" felt, thought, and acted.

Today I want to share a common recipe with readers.  If you grew up in a rural area during the Depression or a time when money was less than usual, your mom/granny/auntie/ or that wonderful person who cared for you surely made HOE CAKES.  I put my sample photo on Instagram only to find some similar ones showing a hoe cake dressed up.  I made mine from cornmeal mix and made them thin as were the old-timey ones.

The two best ways to eat these, warm or cold, is to have on hand old fashioned butter like the brand put out by the Amish.  Tastes like the kind my grandmother made when she churned.  She made a lot of these hoe cakes. She put them on top of the wood stove, which held heat, and any time of the day, family could grab one, slather it with cane syrup or use the home made butter.  

For a memory lift I warmed two and poured local-produced cane syrup, dark and thick, over the cakes.  A treat that carried me back to age five.  This is easy to make with a mix.  However:

Hoe cakes, according to dear Mother, were made with plain cornmeal and water.  Nothing added like baking powder results in a flatter cake. She related her job as a pre-schooler of taking lunch to her brothers and the field hands in a metal bucket.  Most ate with nothing added, as utensils weren't handy in the cotton field.  The field hands in the early 1900s had nothing more to eat than that for their evening meal.  At lunch they ate a slab of meat and a couple of hoe cakes and kept working throughout the afternoon.  When we kids were left to our own play, we stopped long enough in the afternoon to snatch a hoe cake, swat it across the butter still sitting on the dinner table, and run to finish our game.  Biscuits from breakfast were available until noon.  Biscuits were big enough for us to punch a hole with our forefinger and fill with syrup.  Umm, makes my mouth water.

The next time you are in a restaurant and hoe cakes are on the menu, chances are the chef has dolled them to resemble a taste of corn bread smothered in seafood, roast beef, onions, and served it for a price that is ridiculous.  Try them yourselves, give them a topping, and show them off at your next meal.

Friday, August 28, 2015


Someone asked me last week “How are you celebrating your birthday?” I said “No special way. No one notices my date except a few close friends, my Sis, and my adult children.”  As I reflected, I thought how important Mother made of Sis and my birthdays.  She even had “Happy Unbirthdays” to celebrate with us. She loved giving us gifts like a bracelet, a book, or a new dress.  She reminded us weekly, if not daily, how much she loved us. Throughout my growing years I wanted a cake baked by Mother to sit on the tiny footed cake plate she bought for me.  It had to be decorated in pink letters made of sugar that said, "Happy Birthday  Vivian."  That plate is still as colorful as when the first cake sat there eighty years ago.

I married a man who rarely remembers dates of any kind. The few times he has and has produced a gift, I’ve been surprised.  Early in our marriage I usually got a flower pot or something worth giving Goodwill. I decided I didn’t need any more flower pots so I insisted he not worry about my special date. Then he began taking me to dinner. That lasted three years.  Here’s a man who, with each of three children born, gave the hospital nurse three different dates for my birthday. We had been married five, six and ten years at the time. The fact that he’s still living and talking to me every day is gift enough.

Sunday I’m turning 83 and I don’t care about a present. I need a hug and a vocal “Happy Birthday, love you”.  I don’t mind if they add, “Old gal.”  I’m excited to be my age and in decent good health.  That is the best gift I could receive.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


   In the last years of my life I’ve had to make sacrifices. The material kind. Moving out precious memories in the forms of travel items, writing materials, cooking vessels — about anything I’ve accumulated in sixty years of marriage and eighty years of living
   Today I spied a white box sitting in the living room.  I intended checking the contents and discarding any and all within. Inside were the best annuals I’d collected from my own school and college attendances. Also were a number of yearbooks from the various school in which I’d taught.  For the next hour I revisited those schools, remembering the students I either taught or  with those I came in daily contact. I mulled over each photo on every page.  I searched the faculty and could count most of them had passed.  Only a few like me were still functioning. 
   Yearbooks are memories we want to cling to.  High school was a remarkable experience. In her article “Why You Truly Never Leave High School,” published in New York Magazine (Jan. 20, 2013), Jennifer Senior makes these observations based on studies by sociologist, developmental neuroscientists and psychologists:
   “Not everyone feels the sustained, melancholic presence of a high-school shadow self. There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that’s that. But for most of us adults,s the adolescent years occupy a privileged place in our memories, which, to some degree, is even quantifiable: Give a grown adult a series of random prompts and cues, and odds are he or she will recall a disproportionate number of memories from adolescence.”
   Senior goes on to state the music sung and danced to as adolescents remains with us throughout life.  Oh,  I’m happy to know that music of the 1930s and 1940s I still enjoy listening to is okay.  I can sing almost every line of every song written and performed over the radio. I’m okay, the writer says, since neuroscience has proven this.
   To round out my family stories I searched Google for a list of 100 songs of the 1940s and spent  time going through the list singing as many lines as possible.  I thought printing that to include with my memoirs would tickle the readers who take my place in this world.  
   Who writes songs with titles like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” Ac Cent Tchu Ate the Positive”, “Shoo, Shoo, Baby,” or “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy?”  These songs covered all aspects of living. Also during WWII love songs and patriotic songs kept our spirits high.
   So it is with the yearbooks I’ve kept from 1949 until 1994.  They comprise pictures of life which swirled around me as I grew to became an adult.  They comfort me, more than reunions with people I don’t recognize but once taught or shared a classroom.  My hope is my descendants will hold onto these memories as a keepsake of what life was like in “the old days.”

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Changing Gears

Our house was built in 1968.  Today inside has numerous spots that need improving: painting here, plugging holes there, repairing this and screwing that.  To say our house is falling apart -- no. It's in need of a makeover.  R is too weak to worry; I'm too weak to worry.  What a spot we're in.

When we built the house we had two sons and one daughter living with us. We arranged the rooms to give the kids their own space with two exits to the back yard.  Our area had none. We had to go into the living room, through the dining room to two exits.  Perfect set up.  We planned to live in this house forever --whatever that means.  We didn't take out nursing home insurance nor life insurance.  We planned our demise in this home with its now too large of a yard.  One weekend our daughter and son-in-law visited us and announced, "We want to buy your house." Like manna from heaven, those words seemed.

We whipped out some plans. R and I had space to live in until we moved out.  No big changes would occur unless we all agreed.  A lawyer drew up the papers.  Our daughter began her plans to move into the area she and her brothers once inhabited: two bedrooms and a bath.  We'd have the same area we used: bath, study, bedroom.

However, we had the responsibility to pare down our belongings. You've had to do that also, haven't you? Loads of clothes, books, souvenirs from previous travel, collections of dishes --all disappeared within weeks.  The most difficult goodbye was to dishes I'd collected from my mother's day, some she'd used. Nothing fancy.  She bought them at the grocery store. Yes, even in the 1940s grocery stores offered dishes a piece at a time.  Long before this time I had given away our orange juice glasses that once held jellies; my first set of dishes, picked out before our wedding; vases and pots picked up at some Indian post out west; all difficult to whisper  "goodbye."

Several years ago I gave to oldest son the set of Lemoges china my parents bought directly from the factory in Paris on one of their last trips abroad. I was always afraid to use the pieces because if one broke there was no replacement, so I thought.  A few years ago in a shop in New Orleans I watched as the clerk in a china shop unpack a set of the same pattern of Lemoges I owned.  Their price for a set of six, with all serving dishes was $100.  I was anxious to buy the set.   I'd always have a replacement.  However, the wise old man with me put his foot down.

I've not decided what to do with my crystal dishes.  They are beautiful.  They mostly are for serving.  There are some dessert cups and small plates.  Right now they are lined on every surface of my bedroom.  In fact, the bedroom has everything I've no other place to store.  We sleep surrounded by mountains of down comforters, precious books, high school and college yearbooks, boxes of snapshots taken over fifty years, and loads of memorabilia saved for genealogy.  In short, our bedroom is a MESS.  However, since we are asleep most of the time while there, we don't worry about moving anything --yet.

Separating oneself from precious collections is no easy feat.  The easiest ones leave in boxes bound for Goodwill, the dearest ones sit quietly and unobserved until the pass-along fever hits. Not one to sit dripping from heat during a garage sale. In a few days I don't remember what I once owned.

In fact, this situation happened when my parents no longer could take of themselves. They moved in with us and said farewell to those ugly lamps, a collection of salt and pepper shakers,  pots and pans, dishes, and Daddy's clock repair tools. Occasionally, one would say, "I can't find that book on the Civil War." and I'd remind that a it sold at a library sale. So now R and I are repeating their experience and everyone else's who've had to move and pare down.

This move is no different from the need of our having to change environments.  What's important is to cooperate with our new owners, share in housework, eat what is served, and not worry about a dripping faucet, the failure to mow the yard, put out ant poison, or any of those natural responsibilities.  As our daughter says often, "It's your turn to sit back and relax. We'll take over."

Truly a beautiful feeling.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Perils of Growing Older

For years I've related to friends, doctors, dentists, nurses --practically everybody I've conversed with - that I'm planning to live to be 140 years old. I didn't announce this because I was attempting to equal or compete with the oldest man in the Old Testament; no, I needed a goal.

Yes, I saw those within my bragging circle grin  slyly when I announced the high number. I knew the age was unattainable, that no way in this world I'd reach that goal. I felt enthused, full of life, until that day arrived when I turned eighty years old.

You don't look eighty, says the cashier at Walgreens, as she notices the anti-wrinkle cream I'm buying; Are you sixty? asked the movie ticket seller when I ask for the discount ticket; or former students from the 1970s and 1980s whose eyes turn the size of plates when we meet at a 60th reunion.  I acknowledge I take after my mother who remained young looking.through her eighties.

The years following eighty seem to plow through my life like a runaway car with me in the back seat. There's this sniffle, that leg pain, this fatigue, that catch in my knee.  Why, I ask myself, why is this happening to me?

I retired at age sixty. The first appointment I made was for an exam to understand  how good or bad my body was behaving. I entered the waiting room of a new doctor and what did I see? Everybody over the age of ninety -- or so it seemed.  I asked the Doc "Hey, I've never seen so many old bodies in one waiting room. What goes?"  I went on to say "I thought when we reached retirement age we had a yellow brick road to skip down."

He smiled. "Every illness and pain you had as a child returns in your later life. Most of those folks out there can relate their troubles now to what a they suffered from as youths.  I'll bet after our visit here you'll agree."

Later at home I dug deep into my mother's diary. Her words reminded me of the illnesses that plagued me since birth. Stomach problems heads the list.  No local doctor could tell her why my stomach ached so often. Mother found through a friend of an Indian doctor south of town who could "cure" anyone. So we traveled to Magee to see this doctor from India. He wore his turban, which to my four-year-old eyes made him interesting, not scary.  As I recall he turned off he lights in his exam room, sat opposite me on a stool. After a few questions he reached over and punched around on my stomach, saying "Does this hurt here? Here? Here?"  I shook my head no.

As we drove home Mother said the Doc told her I had worms. Well, I did go barefoot often. I don't recall any medicine I had to take but to this day I know "worms" wasn't my problem. The term for my  problem was not found until I was thirty years old. And it was in a magazine advertisement.  Prior to that my internist of 20 years insisted I drink less milk. Milk was my favorite. drink, especially in milk shakes.  But the advertisement claimed a new over the counter pill would solve disgruntled stomachs. Lactose. I sent the coupon in for a free trial, used it after that for many many years. Voila! I had been lactose intolerant since birth.

Beginning with  junior high school years I had aches in my joints. No MD seemed to know why. I'd never heard of arthritis in the 1940s, but a visit to an ophthalmologist one summer in NC where I was a camper, revealed his opinion that my weak eyes (I'd worn glasses since grade one) caused the aches. I took tons of pills which seem to ease the pain. The aches lasted through college and suddenly disappeared. At age 65 joint aches rejoined my seemingly healthy life.

A point I want to make is that those of us who were born before medicine had a good foothold and prognoses depended on the Doc's education, most of us didn't know what we know what was w wrong with us unless it was heart trouble. As we age if the Doc doesn't tell you what is wrong with you,  you'll find your answer your on Google!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fleeting Invention Ideas

We had the greatest idea. Our imaginations ran wild. We’d have tee shirts, buttons, flags with our logo. Logo. What could we use as an identifying reminder of our idea?

The above conversation began after a birthday dinner in which the family sat in an upscale restaurant (for our area it was “upscale”.). The members turned to me and said, “Did you hear our conversations?” I replied “No, but I got the gist of it.”

Son 2 said he knew then how difficult it was for me to hear (a) between walls (b ) in a crowded place (c) around corners (d) and everywhere in which no one was facing me. So began the process of helping me enjoy family get-togethers in the future with ideas flying left and right.

After figuring out what the logo would be, Son 2 went to Google, “Just to be sure there’s not one already.” There was - - not just one but variations of the standard logo for impaired hearing. We were disappointed but happy. Disappointed we didn’t think of printing tees and buttons and signs and whatever forty years ago when my hearing problem was in its infancy; disappointed that we hadn’t learned the symbol wasn’t used more often in public; disappointed that I had lost so much enjoyment in the myriad of table conversations.

We found a company that printed anything you want on tees and buttons. I ordered several buttons with nifty statements. From the logo alone to a few words. Each button makes clear the message I need to convey when the cashier babbles incoherently (I think) “Thatistwentythirtytwo.”  Maybe she’ll read on my lapel “Speak a little louder and more clearly.”I won't have to ask for a repeat several times.

  What would you as a hearing-impaired person choose to wear?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Making Choices

Today's market of giving the customer his/her choice in whatever is offered, especially in restaurants, is becoming too much for an old lady who grew up taking what was offered. Take for example:

I drop by a sandwich shop for a quick pick-up . I order a tuna melt -- do  I want lettuce, tomato or not? wheat, rye or sourdough? I ask for iced tea -- do I want lemon or not? I add a cookie,-- do I want it in a bag or not? I pay for the order thinking that if I'd  shaken my head si or no, I'd leave with a headache.

However, if I were to buy a car, the scene would be about the same. Do I want a 4-door or a 2-door? Do I have a preference of make/model? Would I prefer a particular color? What about mileage? and the list goes on. The next time I purchase a car I'm going to hand the salesman a paper written with my preferences:

 white, specialty wheels, gas saver. soft top, white or black, leather seats, stick shift, automatic windows, compass, bright interior lights (did I leave out something important?)

A quick glance and if the salesman is a good one, can immediately inform me yes, no, or maybe. This time he makes the choice.

Of course, life isn't that easy. Next time you go somewhere, check yourself how many times in one trip you have to make choices. 

I Know I'm Getting Older

On two occasions when my husband and I wanted an item from a store, no clerk seemed to know what we were talking about.

R ran out of cotton handkerchiefs. He went to a large store, WM, found a clerk and asked, "Where are men's handkerchiefs?" The clerk looked into the air, apparently searching for an answer, then said, "I think you can find them in the bedding section."

Had handkerchiefs gone out of existence?

I ran into our popular McAllister's for two sandwiches one evening. I gave R's order, a tuna on rye; then I said "Let's see (thumbing through my mind of what I can eat, ignoring that fact and ordering anyway), " I'll have a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich on white." The youthful clerk wrinkled her brow and said, "I don't think we have those." The older clerk standing nearby said, "Hon, that's a BLT." "Oh," she smiled sheepishly and completed the order. I learned a lesson on keeping up on vocabulary.

R found his cotton handkerchiefs online. Six for $4. A steal. He didn't have to shop in person any more.

The kind of vocabulary I seem not to understand or use relates to the computer. After many hours spent with a tech online following instructions, I have to stop him and ask, "Now what is a router? Is it the big box connected to my screen?" or "Let me repeat your instruction so I understand: you want me to unplug the black cord from the big box and keep it off for 30 seconds. How fast can I count?"

I know I'm getting older.