Thursday, December 23, 2010

...Make Cornbread Dressing Like My Mother-In-Law

Merry Christmas!  I love this time of year when we gather together to celebrate our Savior's birth.  It's so much fun to shop for family and friends, to go to church for special services and for the regular ones, and to eat.  I've been making fudge like there's no tomorrow this Christmas season.  My aim is to make everyone fat for Christmas.  I think I may succeed!  But the thing that I really hoped to master this year is my mother-in-law's cornbread dressing.  She always made the best dressing and we all love it.  I've tried in the past, but it just didn't measure up to hers. 

Since the kids will be home for Christmas this year and I'm doing the cooking, the dressing is a necessary part of the menu.  Mim, my MIL, isn't able to stand in the kitchen and cook for long periods of time, so she told me how to make it the other day.  I wrote down the instructions and gathered all the ingredients and decided that today was the day.  As she said, it will be better after being refrigerated for a couple of days to let the flavors marry.  Also, it gave me an extra day in case I really messed things up. 

This morning I woke up early and laid in bed thinking about what was on my to-do list today.  That's when I remembered the dressing, and then I remembered the cornbread.  I had to get that cornbread made so it could cool!  I got up and made three pans of cornbread and let them cool.  After Frank woke up I boiled my chicken breasts to make broth.  I waited until he was up so that he wouldn't smell boiled chicken first thing in the morning.  That wouldn't be fun.  Then, I got out my other ingredients and the instructions from Mim, and prayed. 

Guess what!  It turned out good!  Frank did an official taste test and pronounced it not only edible, but quite tasty.  I was so excited that I called Mim and told her that I had done it!  She was proud of me.  Now we'll see how the rest of the family likes it on Christmas day.  That will be the test.  Frank already has plans of me making it with a roasted chicken sometime that's not a holiday.  If he wants me to make it again, that's confirmation that he really does like it.

I can't wait to have some dressing with a huge dollop of cranberry sauce, with some turkey, peas, kale, and sweet potato casserole on the side.  And let's not forget the rolls. 

I'm going to try my hand at a coconut cake for dessert.  This will be Jesus' birthday cake.  Y'all pray, because I'm not a baker.  But, since I've done the dressing I'm feeling brave.

May God bless you and yours with the merriest of Christmases ever, and may we all remember that Jesus is the reason we celebrate.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I've had sinus surgery twice in a year and a half.  My family has suffered from sinus problems forever and my daughter had terrible allergies when she was growing up in Baton Rouge.  Everyone there has sinus trouble because of the air pollution.  When we moved to Oxford fifteen years ago we hoped that would all end, but it didn't.  It's just different.  Can't tell you how, but it is.  We don't have the pollution from factories and heavy traffic, but we do have a lot of trees here.

My sinuses got so infected last year that medications didn't help at all, so I had to have surgery.  This was to rid my body of the infection so that I could have both hips replaced.  That's another story.  I had the surgery and it was a success.  For a while.  I still had to take medicine, rinse like crazy, use a nebulizer to keep from taking oral antibiotics, and it cleared up for a few months.  Those few months felt like a reprieve.  Then it started again. 

In July I went outside.  I should never go outside.  I got a sinus infection and nothing worked to clear it up, so in October I had surgery again.  This time, all my sinus cavities were filled with polyps.  The doctor got all of those out and told me that polyps are usually caused by allergies.  Nice.  I'd been tested for allergies twice before, but we thought it was worth another shot at it in case I had developed them since the last time I was tested. 

Last week I went for the allergy tests.  They did scratch tests on my back - 20 for pollens and 20 for foods.  Then they did intradermal injections - 12 of them - to test for dust mites, molds, dogs, cats, and some other things I don't remember.  I didn't react to a single thing. Then I had to have blood tests.  The nice lady at the lab took nine vials of my blood and sent it away to get it checked.  The doctor called me today to let me know that I'm not allergic to anything at all.  Nada.  Zilch.  I could have told him this and saved a boatload of money.

So, we're back to the same old, same old routine.  Medications and rinsing.  It's my life.  I'm glad those options are available. Now that it's cold weather I feel like I have cotton up my nose because of going outside in the cold and back inside where it's warm. 
One day I'm going to breathe freely again without taking sinus medications or using an inhaler to clear my chest.  I know this because I have faith that God is going to heal me.  In the meantime...sniff, sniff.

Monday, December 6, 2010

...Have Fun Like a Toddler

This weekend our daughter, Jen, and our grandson, Dean, came for a visit.  Marcus had to work, so they decided to get out of the house and come see Grammy/GoGo and Papa.  (The jury is still out on my official grandma name.)  We had such a wonderful time going to the park, out to eat, playing in the yard and in the house, going to the Arts and Crafts Fair at our church, and visiting Santa Claus at a local store.  But, the most fun of all came on Saturday night when a friend of ours who is playing Santa this year at parties came by our house to surprise Dean.  We were all surprised! 

We had just come back from looking at Christmas lights around town and were in the kitchen making faces at each other.  Judging by Dean's laughter, I make the best faces.  Through all the laughter, we heard a loud, "HO HO HO!" from the living room, went in there, and saw Santa Claus right in our house!  Dean was a bit shy at first.  I wonder what was going through his mind. He sat in Santa's lap, but he wouldn't look straight at him for a few minutes.  But, Santa talked to him and Dean quickly warmed up to Santa.  They gave each other high fives and fist bumps and it was so much fun to see them interact.  Santa told Dean that he'll be visiting him at his house and at our house this year.  Wow!  What kid wouldn't love that?

The visit was as much fun for the adults as it was for Dean.  We got some great pictures so that we can hold on to this memory.  Thank you, Santa, for making our Christmas merrier this year.  We love you.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

...Bake Something Good.

The baking gene skipped me.  Both of my grandmothers were really good at baking, and my Grandma Netta lived with us.  She kept us in cookies, cakes and pies.  I don't remember a time when there wasn't something sweet to eat in our kitchen.  When I was eight, she let me help her take cookies from the oven for the first time.  I burned my arm by touching it to the oven.  That should have been my warning. 

My mom bakes all the time.  She will tackle any recipe, the more challenging, the better.  I wish I had her patience when it comes to measuring and mixing.  I just get flour all over me and the kitchen and get frustrated.  The fact that Frank doesn't care for sweets has kept me from trying too hard, too.  When I was in home ecomonics class in high school, we had to make biscuits.  Mine turned out hard as rocks.  My dad laughed and said that I needed to practice or I wouldn't be able to find a husband.  I told him that I'd find a man who didn't like homemade biscuits.  He said it couldn't be done, but I did it.  Yes, Frank likes those nasty canned biscuits better than homemade ones!  Those I can handle, but he even does those better than I do.  Sad. 

Jen is a baker, too.  She even has Dean helping her bake.  He's two.  Has his own apron with his name on it and a chef's hat.  He's really good at placing the paper liners in the muffin tins and he loves to pour the ingredients from the measuring cups and spoons into the bowl.  In fact, he's gotten so confident that when Jen tries to help him pour, he tells her, "No, Sugar. I do it."  I love the fact that he calls her "Sugar".  It fits her perfectly!  Jen bakes cupcakes and cakes for anyone and everyone.  If she's ever met you and finds out that you have a birthday coming up, she'll bake you the cake of your choice. 

Now, there's one cake that I can make and it always turns out well.  It's a Baby Food Cake.  Sounds strange, but it's basically a spice cake made with plum baby food.  You can use applesauce if you prefer.  It's baked in a bundt pan (no layers for me), and has a delicious lemon glaze.  Good stuff.  I used to bake those all the time when I needed something to take to a potluck.  I also baked them for Jen and her friends when she was in college and grad school.  It made me feel so good when Jen reported that the cake was gobbled up instantly.  But, her friends also gobbled up the slice and bake cookies I sent.  I guess they were just hungry students who would eat anything and everything. 

This week I've made quick breads for a sale our Sunday School class is having to benefit the daughter of one of the couples in our class.  She is leaving in January on a mission trip - eleven countries in eleven months.  We're hoping to raise a good bit of money for her.  I admit that I cringed when I found out that we were only doing breads and not cookies and such.  But I can do muffins, so I made cranberry orange muffins and one loaf of cranberry orange bread.  Yesterday I turned out three loaves of pumpkin bread.  All are in my freezer waiting to be sold next Saturday.  None of them stuck to the pans or broke in two, and I didn't even burn myself!  Maybe there's hope for me yet.  Maybe I can get these two to help me learn to bake something more difficult.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

...Be Like My Mama

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope that you and your loved ones have had a good day and that you've taken time to count your blessings.  I believe in counting my blessings each day and think that every day is Thanksgiving, and I know it may sound strange, but the holiday of Thanksgiving is just not a big deal for me.  Our family is scattered, so we sometimes get together and sometimes we don't.  In fact, for the past few years, my husband and I go to Cracker Barrel to eat with whoever is around.  There's no shopping, cooking, or cleanup, and the food is good.  You see, my health has been bad for the past six years, so I haven't been up to cooking a big meal, and my mother-in-law, who lives near us, is legally blind and suffers from other health problems, so this is just the easiest solution for us.  She used to be the one to cook the big holiday meals.

My mother, on the other hand, is a dynamo.  She is 73 years old, works four days a week managing a store, helps out everyone she can, and comes to take care of me every time I have surgery or have to go in the hospital for some other reason.  That's been a lot over the past few years.  Since 2005, she's been here to help my husband take care of me when I started peritoneal dialysis, had a kidney transplant, had a rejection episode, had sinus surgery and two total hip replacements (those three took place in a five-month period), and then when I fell in the hospital here and had to be airlifted to UAB so that my transplant doctors could oversee my care.  You'd think she'd be sick of me by now!  After all, most 54 year-olds are taking care of their aging parents, not the other way around.  I'm so very thankful for Mama.  She's the best.  And did I mention that she fractured her hip, had pins put in it, and then had it replaced the following year?  Strong woman!

She's starting a new phase in her life tomorrow.  She's moving.  This week she's been packing her belongings and will load them on a truck tomorrow with the help of her nephew and some other dear relatives who live near her. Her sister died last year, and my cousins have offered to let Mama live in my aunt's house rent free.  That is a great blessing!  She'll be next door to one of my cousins and her husband, which gives us peace of mind knowing that she will be near family.  Her remaining sister lives near her now, and they are very close, and they'll still see each other often.  They go to church together, buy groceries together, and just do fun sister stuff.  They'll be living farther apart now, but I know that nothing will separate them for too many days in a row. 

My mom not only has physical stamina and strength, but she also has the strongest faith of anyone I know.  She's such an encourager and friend, and she has a positive attitude about everything.  In times when I could have given up, she wouldn't let me.  When I'd get frustrated because I couldn't do something due to physical limitations, she would make me stop and listen while she talked to me about what I could do and helped me focus on that and working toward what I couldn't do at the time.  She has taken such a load off my husband by being here with me so that he didn't have to take off so much time at work. 

Mama would have made a great nurse.  In fact, I think that someone should make her an honorary nurse.  You see, on December 13, my younger brother, Mark, will have a kidney transplant at UAB.  Mama will be there to take care of him after his surgery because his wife, Michelle, will be his donor.  Another blessing!  After they are discharged from the hospital and move to the apartments near the hospital for three weeks, she will stay and take care of them there.  That's at least a month that she will be off work with no pay, but it's what she wants to do, and what she does so well. 

She took care of our dad, who was on dialysis for about ten years.  Daddy had two kidney transplants at UAB, a year apart.  Our other brother, Randy, gave him a kidney, but due to complications from the surgery, Daddy didn't leave the hospital with the kidney.  The following year, he got a cadaver kidney, but rejected it before he was able to go home.  Mama stayed with him in that tiny hospital room both times for four long weeks.  A testament to her strength is the fact that kidney transplant patients are still put on the same floor Daddy was on in the early 1980s.  When we'd walk the halls after my transplant, we'd pass the rooms Daddy was in, and she'd point them out to me and talk to me about their stays there.  Daddy passed away in 1988.  Frank and I were amazed that she could pass by those rooms and have all those memories rush back at her and still hold her head up and keep going, encouraging me the whole time. 

My daughter, Jen, had surgery a couple of weeks ago, and the mother in me wanted so badly to be there to take care of her.  Before she told Frank and me that she was having surgery, she and her husband, Marcus, had already lined up child care for Dean and had everything arranged.  She knew that I wasn't able to go and take care of her and Dean.  It hurt me to know that I couldn't do it, but I'm so thankful that they have friends who stepped in and helped them, and did a wonderful job.  They made it through a rough weekend with the help of those kind friends and lots of prayers. 

I see other moms, daughters, grandmothers and wives taking charge of situations and stepping in to handle things with such grace and strength, and I wish that I could do that.  But, I know that there are things that I'm just not able to do, and have to accept that and do what I can.  I pray a lot.  I feel like this is the ministry that God has given me and it's something that I can do whether I feel well or not, whether I can walk or not, and I can do it from any place at any time.  This is something else that my mama and daddy taught me. 

So, if you have a mother who is always there for you the way mine is for me, I hope you'll let her know what a blessing she is to you and how much you love and appreciate her.  I'd give anything to be able to help my mom move this weekend, to pay back a small fraction of all she's done for me.  But, as I told her earlier, since I can't be there with her, I'm praying for her.  It's what I do, and I'm honored to be able to do that for her.

I love you, Mama.

Dean, Jen, Mama and Me

Monday, November 22, 2010

... Have a Purple Purse

For years and years I wanted pink shoes.  I have narrow feet that are hard to fit and have to buy expensive shoes, so I usually stick to black or navy.  Pretty boring, I know.  It was my heart's desire to own a pair of pretty pink shoes one day.  I even told Frank about 20 years ago to bury me in pink shoes because they wouldn't hurt my feet if I'm dead.  Morbid?  Yes.  But that seemed like the only way I would ever get them.  Well, lo and behold, the spring before my transplant, I found a pink suit and, yes, pink shoes!!! I was so excited to wear them.  It made me feel good because I was very sick at the time, and any little thing that made me feel pretty was encouraging.

As far as purses go, I usually stick with black or navy, too, mostly so that I don't have to keep changing them between casual and dress clothes.  Changing purses is a pain, especially when it's time to leave for church and I've been using some other purse that just won't go with what I'm wearing.  I have bought purses for summer that were cute and colorful, but being the stick in the mud that I am, I always come back to black for fall and winter.

My mother-in-law always gives us money for birthdays and Christmas because she is sick and can't get out and shop any more.  This is very sad because she was a super shopper in her day.  She bought me some of the most beautiful clothes when she was in her prime.  And they always fit!  She gave me some money the other day for my birthday, and I went shopping on Saturday.  There are some major sales going on right now and I took advantage of them.

Besides being a stick in the mud, I'm also cheap.  I'd say frugal, but cheap fits me better, particularly when it comes to purses and earrings.  I refuse to spend more than $10 on a pair of earrings unless I'm using someone else's money, and my limit on a purse is $20.  I also use a purse until it's falling apart, and it was time to let go of the one I had. So, I was scouting for a purse, and told Frank to help me look, bearing in mind the price limit.  He quickly lost interest and wandered to the men's department, leaving me to search for my own cheap purse.  I found it!  It was the only one on the rack that was marked down, so I wondered.  Always the skeptic when it comes to price tags, I carried the purple purse around and thought about it, looked at the ugly black ones that were large enough to use for a diaper bag for my grandson, and decided on the pretty purple one.  I know.  Daring, right?  I had chosen a top with purple in it and some jewelry to go with it, so I thought, why not?  I love it!!  It's perfect, and I can't wait to use it.  I was able to find slacks and a sweater to complete the outfit - not purple, but gray.  Can't be too daring!  Besides, I couldn't find any in purple. I put the outfit on and went to my MIL's house to show it all to her.  She was thrilled to say the least. 

The best part of all of this is what I paid for this purse.  It was $35 and marked down to $13.99, well within my price range.  Then when we got to checkout there was an added discount with the coupon my husband had, so the final price was - wait for it --- $5.41!!  I know!!! I could hardly believe it, either!  I love a bargain and you can't beat that one with a stick.  It doesn't take much to make me happy, as you can see, so I'm ecstatic about this lovely new addition to my wardrobe.  Now to find a lightweight jacket...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

...Sing Like Those People I Heard Last Night

Last night, Frank and I were treated to tickets to see the musical, "Oklahoma!" at the Gertrude Castellow Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss).  What a treat!  I love that musical, and the touring troupe we saw last night was great.  Now, our daughter and son-in-law work in theatre, so we have a special place in our hearts for those who work so hard to bring good productions to town.  They blew us away! 

Frank and I are both singers, although he's so much better than I am that I mostly listen to him.  We sing in church and do mostly Southern Gospel music, our favorite.  I used to be better before two sinus surgeries.  In the first one, the surgeon repaired my deviated septum and now my voice has changed.  It's nasal and I hate it.  With so many sinus infections, it actually hurts to sing.  I know that one day God will give me my voice back.  Until then I'll just make joyful noises.

But, back to the actors.  It was such fun watching and listening to them.  Their energy amazes me.  The fact that they can do this night after night along with traveling to different venues is amazing in and of itself.  My daughter tells me that she gets new energy just walking into a theatre, and then when she's in the stage manager's booth, everything else falls away and she's in her zone.  She's really good at her job, partly because she loves it so much, partly because she just so good!  Her husband is a director/actor/stage combat instructor/fight captain, and other things that I don't even understand.  He teaches all of these things at a university, too.  There's a lot of talent between the two of them.  It makes me wonder what my grandson will do when he grows up.  He's already showing a great sense of humor, a bit of drama, and he's singing. He knows how to work a room! 

I'm not comfortable on stage, but Frank is.  He's so good in front of a group, whether singing or talking.  I like to have him standing beside me when I sing for support.  But, I can do it, and love it once I get started. 

I hope to be able to sing again soon, because God has blessed me so much and I want to sing His praises forever!