pimento cheese

One day at lunch a friend who had moved here from “up north” commented to our group, “I decided I wanted to become more southern, so I made up my mind to eat pimento cheese. I really wanted to like it, because it is such a southern thing. So I ordered it for lunch one day. But honestly, I just couldn’t eat it. I could barely swallow that first bite, and I couldn’t take any more. It was just awful.”

“Oh my goodness,” I said, taking a taste of my delicious pimento-cheese-on-a-roll. “Maybe you got a bad batch. Here, take a bite of mine. This is scrumptious.”

“No, I couldn’t. It’s just not for me. I guess it’s just a southern thing.”

Well, maybe so. But I can tell you that it takes a lot more than a love for pimento cheese to be a southerner. It takes a warm heart, good manners, loving God, putting family first, and being loyal to a fault.

I know some people will never understand what it means to be from the South. And some folks will never like pimento cheese. That’s OK, we’ll love them anyway. Bless their hearts.

unwinding

Ahh, summer! Time to relax, get off the regular schedule, and be carefree. What delight!

Well, after a couple of weeks, that is. It just takes time for some people (namely me) to make that change.

Crazy, I know. But that’s just the truth of it. I can’t move quickly from the run-you-ragged pace of teaching school and working-in-a-life-around-that to the more relaxed pace of summer. I wish I could, but it’s never been possible for me.  Sadly, the reverse is true as well. Come fall it takes me a while to get back up to speed, although that seems to happen more hurriedly, because then the pressure is definitely ON.

This is not altogether a bad thing. I use those first two weeks of summer to accomplish things that have gone undone throughout the school year, albeit at a more leisurely, enjoyable pace. So things do get done, and I slowly unwind. In fact for me, the last two weeks have been mainly filled with vacation – a week at the beach, and most of this week at our cabin. Now I am almost good for nothing, but it sure feels good.

But that brings up another problem. Even when I am fully engaged in summer, it takes a couple of days for me to get used to the all the more laid-back flow of days at the beach. There is a flurry of activity getting ready to go on the trip, so the first day or two there I spend thinking about what else I need to do. Then by the time I realize I don’t HAVE anything to do, some of those precious days have slipped away. And then the rest of the week flies by and BOOM! It’s time to go home.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful. I am extremely thankful for the way the days of my year play out. I just get aggravated at myself sometimes. For a while I had convinced myself that everyone did this, but when I mentioned my thinking to my husband, he responded, “Are you kidding me?” Maybe we should discuss this further so I can get a few tips from him about how to more quickly slow down.

another (good) day older

Getting older is yucky, no doubt about that.  Old age comes with stiff joints, poor eyesight, wrinkles, and more. Some things you get used to, but it can be discouraging. However, today I found that being old can definitely have its advantages.

I went to the phone store to get my iPad added to our data plan so it can work with 3G service. If I had been younger, I might have felt intimidated to ask for help, or I might have just tried to do it myself online and messed it up. But, being older, I didn’t have any problems at all getting them to do it for me.

It actually made the customer service employee happy to be able to help me and answer all my questions. (Or at least she made me feel that way – thanks, Kim.) And I felt good because, as I was waiting, I heard other people ask questions that I already knew the answers to (or at least I think I do…). Plus I learned some other tips incidentally by listening to those young employees that have the technological knowledge and experience I lack.

So now I have a 3G connected iPad and a better attitude about embracing where I am in life. What a good day!

a different kind of beauty

I am not a pretty turtle. Some of my cousins have a nice shell, or sparkling eyes, but not me. I am a softshell turtle with a long neck and a pointed nose that ends with what looks like snorkel gear. My legs are more like flippers, and I am usually a brown or greenish color. My shell isn’t really too soft, but it has a leathery feel.

I live in the water of course, as all turtles do, and I can swim very fast. I can also move quickly on land –for a turtle, anyway. But I stay in the water almost all the time, unless I happen to bask in the sun on a warm day.  I prefer calm, still water, like a pond or a swamp, rather than moving water, such as a creek or a river. And no salt water for me – I am only a freshwater reptile.

I do love to eat, and meat is what I crave. I can eat fish, or frogs, or insects. I also like crayfish when they are in season. Once I found some duck eggs, with a couple of the ducklings already hatched, and they made a tasty treat for me. Just thinking about food makes me hungry, as I love to eat.

I live in a pond in Florida with five other softshells. There’s a fountain there that shoots water into the air, day and night. We can’t get close to the fountain because there’s a rock wall around it, but we like to swim in the area where the water cascades down and pretend it is raining. It’s actually quite eye-catching at night when the fountain lights up.

There’s a lot of activity around our pond, but we have gotten used to it. A boardwalk juts out into the center of our pond and often people walk out there. They look towards the ocean, and eventually they look down into our pond. When they see me or one of the other turtles, they stare. I guess we look different from what they were expecting, because as I said, I am not a pretty turtle.

You may wonder why I keep coming back to the boardwalk and letting these people gawk at me. Well, sometimes they bring food, and as I said, I do love to eat. So I keep coming back when I hear their footsteps, and sometimes I get lucky and get some food tossed to me that I don’t have to catch myself.

I don’t mind a little staring if there’s a tasty treat at the end.

Besides, I am not too self conscious about my looks. I am used to it, of course, plus I know how valuable my unsightly features are.  My flippers help me glide through the water, and they also help me walk faster than most turtles on land. My long neck enables me to reach in holes and grab some food. That unattractive snout allows me to spend more time under the water.

My shell may not be as beautiful as some, but it protects me where I need it most. There are some scratches and nicks on it, but they are well earned, reminders of near misses and battles won.  I know there are other creatures like me, not as attractive as some, but doing our part to make this world a better place.

I heard one of those people on the boardwalk read something from a book one time and I think it applies to me.  She said, “Oysters are a lot like women. It’s how we survive the hurts in life that brings us strength and gives us our beauty.” * Exactly – except she could have said soft shelled turtles in place of oysters. Then again, it helped me know that I am not alone.

If you visit me at my pond in Florida, try not to stare. Or maybe, now that you know my story, you might see the beauty that lies behind my appearance. And please bring treats. Remember I do love meat.

* from Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

the end is the beginning

Beginning

Searing heat

   burning the air

Brown grass

   crispy underfoot,

Withered shrubs

   with sunburned tops,

   planted with green hope

   in the long-ago showery spring

Curled leaf edges

   on the ground, or

   still hanging on

Parched air

   hanging still

   or blown by dry wisps of breeze

Crawling bugs,

   with no mosquitoes

   breeding grounds vanished

Gaping lines in the dirt

   cracked earth with dusty cover

Cloudless blue sky

   relentless

Monotonous repetition of days

   ever hopeful,

   never satisfied,

   unfulfilled.

 

Middle

White spotted sky

Green dotted radar

Promising winds

Gray leaf backs

Dark heavy clouds

No rain.

 

End

A distant rumble

Dark skies to the west

Gathering wind

Waiting…

 

Birds fly to nests,

Shadows blocking sunlight

Powerful winds

Trees sway and bend

Whistling, moaning, blowing

Shivers on the spine

 

Drip,

 Drop,

  Plop

   Plink, splat,

    plop, plop, plippety plop

     rat-a-tat-tat

WHOOSH

Pouring, rushing currents

Down and down and down

Gulping soaking sponge-like ground

Hammering roofs,

Overflowing spills,

Across roads and out of gutters

Walls of water

Carrying on

  and on

    and on

Answered prayers.

crossing the tracks

Pick up your feet.

Hold your breath.

Cross your fingers, if there’s time, just for luck.

This was our ritual when I was young. Every time the car we were riding in crossed the railroad tracks, we made a wish. Every time, and always. No exceptions. Then we waited, tentatively, hopefully. Could it come true?

I wished for new clothes, a fun trip, a good grade on a test. Or for a certain boy to like me, for my best friend to ask me to spend the night, for a new pair of cute shoes. I wished that I wouldn’t really have to clean my room right when I got home, or for my grandmother to have chocolate cookies when we got to her house, or for summer to last one more week before we had to go back to school.

So long ago… How many wishes came true? Who knows, but more than my share, I’m sure. And others, thank goodness, never materialized. Sometimes our childhood wishes and teenage dreams are picture perfect, and sometimes they are somewhat misguided. Luckily, the railroad track ritual wasn’t always a guarantee.

There don’t seem to be as many railroad crossings these days. And maybe I feel like now I need to be more the master of my own fate – no time to be wasted on wishing, when there’s doing to be done.

But if I could still lift both feet, hold my breath, and cross my fingers just for good luck, what would I wish for now? Definitely a big dose of happiness for my family and friends. Dreams fulfilled for those I love. A little more money would be nice. Certainly good health would make the cut, too.  But the necessities are already surrounding me.

So the next time I cross the tracks I think I’ll try going through the motions, but in place of greedy wishes, I’ll whisper my gratitude instead.

passing journey

sugary sand,

radiant whites,

cascading waves,

foamy water,

swirling greens,

azure blues,

freshening breezes,

seagull calls,

sun-sparkled water,

coconut sunscreen,

sunkissed hair,

sunburned skin,

rippling umbrella edges,

passing beachcombers,

tideline treasures,

broken shells,

skittering crabs,

diving pelicans,

refreshing drinks,

windblown seaoats,

smiling faces,

colorful floats,

airplane banners,

skipping children,

canvas chairs,

bright towels,

family laughter,

bright sunlight,

sunset pinks,

complete relaxation,

deep contentment,

fleeting days,

seaside times,

brief escape,

cherished time,

enduring memories,

precious blessing.

missing maggie

Her food and water bowls are both dry. I should have put them away, I guess. And there’s a big vacant spot in the kitchen where her bed has always been. There are so many empty spaces.

As I got out of bed this morning I looked to make sure she wasn’t lying there on the floor so I wouldn’t step on her. But of course, she wasn’t there. She wasn’t on her bed in the corner of our bedroom, either. And when I got back into bed for a few minutes, her sweet face wasn’t at the side of the bed, and she didn’t look at me with her big brown eyes. She didn’t jump up on the bed and snuggle, either.

Later as I walked back up the stairs, I heard her licking on the landing above. I jerked my head to see her, but that space was bare, too. I thought I saw her sitting at the front door, looking out the sidelights and searching for squirrels and rabbits to chase, if she could only get out there. Or lying on the floor in front of the TV. I really could almost see her there, but it was just a memory.

When I came in through the garage door I imagined her whining and waiting on the other side of the door, or “whistling” as we call it, because that’s what she sounds like when she is so excited to see us come back home. But it was very quiet. When I dozed off on the couch, she didn’t come and nuzzle my arm for one more trip outside. There were no dog hairs on the cushion, which always gave her away when she tried to sneak and sleep on the couch when we were gone.

Maggie is so much a part of our lives now. She was just perfect for us, even though we weren’t quite sure at first because she was so hard to get to know when we “rescued” her. But she filled up all the spaces of our lives. Maybe she rescued us from self centered activities and empty nest longings.

Tomorrow I will “rescue” her again, first thing in the morning, as soon as they open. We boarded her while we went on vacation, and there’s no pickup time until Monday morning. We can’t wait to see her again. I expect she’ll do some “whistling,” too.