One good tern deserves another, or take your tern

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Family Heirlooms: The jewelry of the women

Today’s post is for Katie over at A Virginia Writer’s Diary. Even though there are many years that separate us, I find I often sense a commonality in things we like: writing, wine, Martin guitars, and now, our family costume jewelry.

When Mother moved into assisted living and Sis and I started the overwhelming task of clearing out the lifetime accumulation of 71 years of marriage, we sorted through jewelry. I brought these pins home to check and see if any of them might have value as vintage jewelry. I hung them on the doll coat hanger–mother made porcelain dolls and their clothes and of course, they had to have someplace to hang their wardrobe.

Several of them were actually worth more than I would have thought (around $70 based on selling prices on various vintage sites) and I let Mother know. She said, “I don’t want to sell them, I want you to have them.” On the hanger they stayed and have been ever since. While I was still working, I wore a couple of them, clipped onto a silver choker I wore with different pendants–also from mother.

Once again, I find myself in the process of inventorying the things I brought home to check about. Mostly, I have enjoyed learning the history of the items. Now I have to set to the task of our dispersing items that my nieces, cousins, and great-niece might want. It is rather like a last walk through the memories of the life I recall with my parents, and it brings pleasure this time around.

Posted in Texas, Young County | Tagged | 9 Comments

The 37th Day…1,095 days later

It has been a bit over 3 years since Dad crossed over to the ancestors, and almost 2 years since Mother joined. I was looking back at previous January posts, seeing what was going on then, and the 37th Day was my last post at the original Suzassippi’s Lottabusha County Chronicles.

January 14, 2018

I am propped up in Dad’s bed, eyes scanning the gravel drive for Dad’s doves.

He always watched them pick at the bits of rock for their craw,
flying up to rest on a limb before alighting for another round.

The tree branches are bare, grasses brown and covered with the last of the fall leaves.
Sun is shining today, scattering faux diamonds amidst the icy blades of little prisms
reflecting hope back to the window.

This view was Dad’s world for the last 5 years.  A Mirror of his changing mind,
dually kind and cruel.
A hunter by necessity as well as sport in his younger years, his thinking evolved as his disease progressed.
One day I remarked,

Look at all those dove–

 I should get one and cook it for dinner.

No!  I like to watch them, we can’t eat them!

I guess we’ll have chicken then.

I have slept in here for 8 nights now, my gaze settling on every angle from one position moving only my head or eyes.
While I cannot comprehend his perception, I experience every thing–the sounds, the cold or warmth, the leaves blowing across the yard.
Trucks one after the other whizzing east to Jacksboro and beyond
heading west into Graham from nearby farms and ranches.

I will take Mother to the doctor this afternoon and listen as she tries to explain she ‘is not any better’ and she ‘cannot stand this much longer.’
It is easy to feel her hopelessness and helplessness in the face of change–to her.

I wonder what causes some people
to seek the magic bullet for every life challenge
While others just shift into low or high gear and start the climb up or the descent down.
Dad was always the stoic one–just doing what had to be done because it had to be done.
No point in whining or complaining–neither got the job finished.
In the end, he sought the simple pleasures of watching the dove strut and feed,
commenting on how pretty the flowers or Mother looked.

Until the last few weeks, he laughed more, regaled us with his stories of growing up,
his years in India and China during World War II–something he had never talked about,
of being a young father, struggling to make ends meet, wanting a better and kinder life for his children.
It was as if all the joy and fun he never permitted himself came bubbling up when the time came he could no longer work.
Sis and I reveled in it, understanding how it mattered to him and to us, folding and tucking those moments into our heart pockets.

Once again we face uncharted territory as we (and Mother) enter this new stage of the unknown.

I have spent a lot of time of late pondering how we have disenfranchised our brain from reality until it is like an engine backfire.
Wires crossed, frayed, shorting out from overload
No longer able to repair and reconnect overnight because there’s no dark anymore to permit regrouping and healing.
No reset button due to chemicals and drugs to regulate everything.
A gentle loss of coping capacity or willfulness that eased into our lives and now entrenched,
controls us to the point that half of us cannot think how to solve a problem
and would rather blurt out an accusation of blame or mindless ‘explanation’ for all that’s gone wrong than spend time in Mindfulness, seeking understanding of how to become a more effective human being.

Uncharted territory.  We each have to map it as we walk it.

© scwallen01/03/2018
Graham, TX

Posted in Country Philosophy, Texas, Young County | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Weather Prediction: Lots of snow pictures today

Yes, it is time for the first snow of the winter, and the resulting flurries of snow pictures. This is what amounts to a big snow day here on Taylor Hill. Hopefully, the rest of us do not have to work this hard for breakfast today.

Posted in Ecosystem, Mississippi | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Off to Larson’s for the makings for Stuffed Spaghetti Squash


Three generations of the Larson family have been in the grocery business since 1948 when James Larson opened his first store in Water Valley, 18 miles south of Oxford. The Oxford store was opened under the regional Big Star franchise, but became a Cashsaver a few years ago, as did the store in Water Valley. The concept is the customer pays the same cost as retail, plus a 10% markup at checkout. The store has been pretty much “no frills” until recently, when they installed new vegetable and refrigerator bins, upgraded the entire store’s refrigerated storage, and re-organized the location of some items.

The meat counter is the most impressive part of the store to me–best prices in Oxford by a long shot, but the meat is truly the best as well. I have never ever gotten a steak or chicken that was tough–and that is saying a lot these days. The pork is outstanding. They stock Mississippi catfish and fresh salmon. They also have a deli that is said to serve the best food in town (and I can attest their pies are yummy), plus they have a huge selection of craft beer and ale in addition to the Coors, Miller, and Budweiser for the ‘regular palate.’

Like any self-respecting grocery in Mississippi, they will have an ample supply of collard, mustard, and turnip greens, but they also carry kale, organic lettuces, and spinach. They sell local produce when available, and stock the local Brown’s Dairy products. They make a biscuit and a yeast roll ready to pop into the oven that is perfection without having to get flour on my hands or roll dough.

Pictured above is a spaghetti squash, stuffed with a mixture of kale, Great Northern white beans, fresh garlic, and smoked sausage. The dinner was inspired by a recipe I ran across in the Washington Post a few days ago by cookbook author and nutritionist Ellie Krieger. I omitted the onion, and substituted smoked sausage for the Italian-style sweet chicken sausage, reduced the amount of fresh garlic to only 1 clove, substituted kale for escarole, and the Great Northern beans for the cannellini called for in the recipe. These changes were necessary to accommodate the food peccadilloes in my family who do not eat onion, and do not like chicken sausage or cannellini beans, and not overly fond of garlic. The result was delicious, creamy, and filling.

Brush a tablespoon of olive oil on the cut sides of a seeded spaghetti squash and roast at 400 degrees F. While the squash roasts, saute the garlic, chopped sausage (I used 1/2 link of a two link package) and kale (I used 3 large leaves, chopped) in one tablespoon of olive oil, and then add:

1 cup chicken broth

1 14 oz. can Great Northern white beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp dried sage

Simmer on medium/low heat until the squash is done (about 40 minutes for the squash)

The simmering will result in a smooth and creamy sauce of melded flavors. Spoon over the squash and top with grated Parmesan cheese. I enjoyed primarily plant-based eating during the months of March-May while we were on stay home status. Now seemed like a good time to return to that strategy and I have found some new recipes that use the InstantPot, rice cooker, or at least take very little time on conventional cooktop or oven. This item will remain in the repertoire!

Posted in Food and Wine, Mississippi, Oxford | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Welcome to the Hardin-Simmons 1946 Junior Banquet

The scrap book was a window into my mother before she became a wife and mother. I wonder who was her date? Where was the banquet?

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“Dauen: To become day, grow light in the morning”

In one of those coincidences in time where PeggyJoan was addressing sunset and sunrise yesterday, I was up earlier than usual thanks to Steffi deciding she wanted to go out before 7…way before 7. As I stepped onto the porch, the sky was so vividly red I thought it was on fire [which these days seems imminently possible]. Now as I had Steffi’s bowl in one hand, and Steffi dancing at my feet, I could not run back in to grab the camera. As soon as she wolfed down her food and I let her into the back yard, I made a mad dash for it.

There is much to be said for greeting the day before everything mucks it all up. Ya’ll all enjoy your day now, ya hear?

Posted in Acts of Restorative Kindness, Ecosystem, Mississippi | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Mother’s Scrapbook

The year my grandparents sold the house in town and bought a small travel trailer, I stopped by while Mama was cleaning out the house. In the pile of trash she had tossed into the yard I spied Mother’s scrap book and rescued it. It was from the final year of high school through her junior year in college. I was stupefied that Mama still had it, and that neither she nor Mother thought it worth saving. Sunday while cleaning out a stack of items stashed in bags in the linen closet, I found the bag that had the remnants of the scrapbook, either having long since forgotten where I had put it or simply had not had time to think about it. Most of what was in the bag was trash–things I had saved like the notebook from my student teaching in 1973 (and I have no idea why I would have thought it worth saving, let alone bringing to Mississippi 30 years after the fact).

I carefully sorted the empty pages to throw away (the tie that held the book pages together had long ago fallen apart) and looked at the pages for photographs or other items I wanted to keep. I had seen the sketch below several times, glued to a scrap book page. The artist seems to have been a woman named Daphne (the signature with its big looping B, y, D, p, and e) appears to read “By Daphne.” Based on the dates in the scrap book (1944-1947), it could have been a high school friend or a college friend. The woman has hair, eyebrows, and clothing typical of the 40s. Short box jackets of shaggy knit or fur were popular, as were sweater clips. While her wedge, ankle strap open toe shoes were also the style, can you imagine this young woman trying to walk on feet this tiny? This was the era of pin-up pictures and the glamorous movie stars–several of which were in Mother’s scrap book as well.

It is not as well-documented as A Hundred Years Ago and Sheryl’s grandmother’s diary, or Merhling Muse and Anne’s letters from England. There have been so many things I have thought of in the last 3 years of “I should have asked Daddy about that” and “Why didn’t I ask Mother about that?” I know a lot about my family, but there is much more I wish I knew.

Mother in her yearbook pictures as high school freshman, college freshman, sophomore, and junior.

Posted in Elbert, Texas, Throckmorton | Tagged , | 13 Comments

Waterford Winery near Stellenbosch, South Africa

Hottentot Holland Mountains near Waterford Winery

This post is for Jean over in Ireland via Social Bridges. Yesterday, we were conversing about Waterfords–the one in Mississippi, the one in Ireland, and the one in South Africa. I said if I could choose to live anywhere, it would be at the Waterford Winery. I spent 3 months in Stellenbosch/Cape Town/Port Elizabeth on my sabbatical in 2002.

While I was there conducting research on the changes post-Apartheid to achieving economic development and equality, I also had opportunities to learn about and enjoy the diversity of culture, meet many amazing people working for a better South Africa, and learn about the many different cuisines of the area. I dined on street food, poor people’s food, “American” take-out, Cape Malay cuisine, and on occasion, high end dining in fine establishments. We also cooked in our flat, generally staples like butternut with feta, spinach with feta, or other things we could manage with a microwave and electric skillet. I did develop quite a skill for adapting my own repertoire of meals and awed my friends on occasion with some of my specialities, all prepared in one electric skillet.

I fell in love with people working for social justice. I fell in love with the wineries, and found some that were also working toward social and economic justice. I fell in love with the mountains and the oceans. I fell in love with the resilience and resolve and creativity of the women raising children in poverty, seeking a better life for them. I also fell in love with the Waterford Winery.

On occasion we would eat lunch there, out in the courtyard. We enjoyed wine tastings in the great room with its large fire place and comfortable chairs. Waterford was one of the wines I brought home with me and one of the wines we purchased for our evening meals in our flat.

I brought home a 1.5 litre bottle of the Harvest 2001 and saved it for another year. We opened it in the summer of 2003 for our going away party when we had family and friends gathered together as we prepared to leave Texas for Mississippi. I have been back to Waterford on every trip to South Africa since then. Since Jean told me one of the wine shops in Waterford, Ireland carries Waterford Wines, I have moved Ireland up on my post-pandemic bucket list. It is a lot shorter flight and I have after all been to South Africa but not Ireland. As we say here Jean, keep the porch light on for me.

Posted in Diversity Equity and Inclusion, Food and Wine, Social and Economic Justice, South Africa | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

Ego Integrity vs. Despair: Suzassippi, Artist-in-Residence 2021 at Taylor Hill Cottage

Chicago Cityscape

Erik Erikson’s psychosocial theory of human development has often been criticized as we learn more about the wide variations in human development.  It is one of the first theories I learned as a social worker, and while it—like all theory—has flaws and is not totally universal, it also has been useful to me.  I have been thinking a lot about developmental stages of late.  The final stage Erikson discussed was 65+, Ego Integrity vs. Despair.  Essentially, ego integrity is acceptance of the life one has lived and that it enables us to feel whole, complete, and satisfied.  If not, and having seen our lives as unsuccessful in the sense we thought it should be, feel dissatisfied, leading to despair.  Despair = loss of hope.  Hope is the ego quality of the first stage of development: Trust vs. mistrust.  If our needs are met, we develop a sense of trust that the world is a safe place and we will be okay.  Hope is the quality that enables us to persevere, even in the face of failure or loss.

It is not that one at this stage of life has only the option of ego integrity or despair, but that like all of life, it is a balance, sometimes perhaps skewed in one direction and at other times going the opposite way.  We are never completely all one thing or nothing.  Erikson described his theory as “a tool to think with rather than a factual analysis” (Erikson, 1964 as cited in McLeod, 2018).

The stage just prior to Ego Integrity vs. Despair is Generativity vs. Stagnation.  I see these as intimately connected, and indeed, we know that stages of development are not linear, or steps that lead to the next level the same as climbing stairs.  We might get on and off a step, perhaps hang out on a landing for a bit as it were. 

This year I decided to make Christmas cards.  At first, I only sent a couple to my long-time friend, and in the first one, noted that “Yes, I am still pretending to be an artist.”  On the next one, I signed it “Mississippi Artist-in-Residence.”  Then I started making them and sending them to all my friends.  Christmas is over, and I am still making cards for Happy New Year notes.

I cannot see myself ever becoming stuck in stagnation.  There is far too much that interests me, challenges me, and the generally present desire to make a difference and matter—to leave things better and to nurture a world where we all feel supported and loved and safe.  Sometimes that is due to my academic work, my practice of social work, and more so of late, my desire to create art in whatever way appeals to me.  I am drawn to shape, color, texture.  As I have continued, I find things that work for me and others that are just practice gone awry even with the best of intention and desire.  It brings me joy either way as I continue to strive toward where ever it is that I am going with this. I am blessed to have this time in my life and I shall treasure it.  I feel happy…and when times come that I am not, then I will feel that feeling, too, knowing as always that the balance is necessary and I can weather the storm.

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