Tuesday, August 22, 2017

When Life is Like Wilted Flowers


Recently I brought home a pot of miniature daffodils from the grocery store. The anticipation of pert yellow blooms gave me hope for spring and warm sunshine. Though we’ve had more rain than snow this winter in Atlanta, I needed a boost of hope.




For several days, I watched them grow and then bloom as they sat on the corner of my desk. Whenever I looked at them, I smiled.

And then… they began to wilt. The leaves turned brown and drooped until wrinkled and faded blooms lay helpless on my desk.



I no longer smiled when I looked at them. I pined for the days of perky yellow happiness.

Then I realized… I can relate to how the flowers must feel about their decline.



I’ve had a tough year or so. I’m getting old. My prime is passed. I have wilted.

Circumstances beyond my control have left me drained...

Tired...

Weary...



Is my life almost over, too? Can I only expect to be treated like a flower that no longer matters? Will I be snipped off and tossed in the trash? Dismissed and forgotten?

And then, I remembered…

The flowers may be gone, but the plant is not dead.

The bulb, the life source, is still as strong as always.

After a brief rest, new stems will emerge from the soil and new flowers will bloom.

Just like me.

My life source is still strong and alive and growing, even though I feel the effects of my current wilted existence.

I have more flowers to share. All I have to do is rest and let my power source take over for me, to re-charge me and revitalize me.

I don't know when those new flowers will grow and bloom,

BUT THEY WILL BLOOM!



The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. —Exodus 14:14

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- CRICK

Did you ever play in a CRICK?

Some of my most wonderful memories of childhood are times spent wading in a CRICK, splashing in the water, lifting rocks to see what was hiding beneath, and wiggling my toes in the pebbles that usually covered the ground.

Know what a CRICK is now?

I'm not talking about the CRICK in your neck when you sleep wrong. Or when you spend a couple of hours craning your neck to watch a TV screen in a restaurant because your favorite team is playing.

I'm talking about the CRICK out back that splashes white water as it rushes across smooth rocks and stones as it flows. The CRICK that washes away your troubles by the sound of its rushing. The CRICK that cools your toes and your whole being on a steamy summer day. The CRICK where you and your childhood friends gathered and spent hours together laughing. A place where memories were made.

Family reunion at the CRICK
My family used to take a picnic lunch down to a CRICK in the mountains. We all sat around on rocks and ate our food. The children played in the CRICK. It was the place to take visiting family members who had moved away from the mountains.

The CRICK whirls through your mind and takes you to a place where everything in your life is happy and carefree--even if for a brief time.

I remember the more seasoned residents of our town saying "Lord willing and the CRICK don't rise" in response to making plans to see each other again. Of course, if heavy rains caused the CRICK to rise, you couldn't get to the other side. It would turn muddy brown, the power of the water would possibly knock you down and carry you along with it, and your footbridge across the CRICK could be swallowed up by the water.

A few years ago, I attended a writers workshop at Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. Behind the school, Troublesome CRICK flowed gently past. I never knew why it was called Troublesome until one afternoon when the clouds opened up and added so much rainwater to the CRICK that stirred it up muddy, caused it to overflow its banks, and spread out onto the property. Truly a Troublesome CRICK at that point.

CRICK flowing from mountain
There are days now when I dream of a CRICK. A CRICK that originates from an underground stream that flows down the side of a mountain and gains speed to propel it through the holler. When life's troubles overwhelm me, I search for a CRICK. The place where I can relax, splash in the cool water, and let the CRICK wash away all my troubles.

Do you have a place you go to wash away your troubles -- like a CRICK?

Do you need a CRICK today?

CRICK behind my first apartment in Cumberland, KY


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- TATER

One of the most versatile staples in our Appalachian family was the TATER. Easily accessible and cheap, the TATER easily adapted to nearly every meal.

No matter which variety of TATER we used or what we did to it, it excelled as a lip-smackin' part of the meal.

My brother or I often had to make a quick trip to a nearby roadside store to pick up some TATERS for dinner. Dad usually told me to get Arsh (Irish) TATERS. Sometimes he preferred the I-dee-ho (Idaho) TATERS. There were other varieties for special times--like new TATERS and sweet TATERS.

Fried TATERS
One of my favorite methods of cooking TATERS was fried TATERS. Mom always sliced some onions and put them in the iron skillet with the TATER slices. Oh, my goodness, what the fragrance would do to my nose and stomach!

We mustn't forget the other fabulous TATER dishes, though. Mashed TATERS are necessary for chicken or turkey meals. A baked TATER is a perfect side for a pot of homemade chili. Diced TATERS add the filler for a pot of homemade beef and vegetable soup.

French Fried TATERS
Of course, when we got to go out to eat at Creech Drugstore or the counter at Newberry's 5 and 10, we loved getting an order of French Fried TATERS and dipping them into ketchup. Later, when I was at school and could go out to eat lunch at Goldie's Corner Store or Mike's Drive-In, I loved having a corndog, hamburger, or hotdog with an order of steamy hot French Fried TATERS sprinkled with salt.

Whenever I was sick, my mom made a big pot of TATER soup. It seemed that when nothing else would go down -- or stay down -- that soup would hit the spot and heal me. Still today, when I feel under the weather, I yearn for TATER soup.

Homemade Fried TATER chips
Dad used to make a special treat for us by slicing TATERS really thin and dropping them into our deep fryer until they were golden brown. Yep, homemade TATER chips. Even Grippos don't compare to my daddy's TATER chips.

On those rare occassions when we had leftover mashed TATERS, Mom would use them the next day to whip up some fried TATER cakes. Oh, my, they were amazing with their pieces of diced onion and flour mixture, fried until golden brown in an iron skillet.

It's disappointing that as I age my dietitian instructs me to severely limit my intake of TATERS. I pray that when I get to heaven TATERS will once again be readily available, with no limitations. I'm dreaming of a breakfast of fried TATERS smothered in gravy.

What's your favorite TATER recipe? Do you have a special memory of a TATER dish?



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week - TAR

Do you know what a TAR is? I don't mean the tar you use to turn a gravel road into a paved one. It's also not the TAR they used to use to patch holes in the roof or make TAR paper. Man, that stuff would stink to high heaven -- kind of like a polecat (we talked about those a few weeks ago).

I'm talking about the TARs you put on your car to make it roll. If you're not from the mountains, you might call them tires. When I was a kid, I wouldn't have known what you were talking about.

TARs stink, too. I remember going with Daddy to buy a new TAR at the Sears a couple of times. Those TARs were stacked up all over the place and they stank like crazy. When I go to a TAR place to get my new TARs these days, the memories of shopping with Daddy come back. After all these years, TARs still smell like TARs. I'd much prefer the smell of fried chicken to a room full of brand new TARs.

I do enjoy the memories, though. Like when Daddy got out with his sledge hammer and beat on the old TAR to get it off the rim and then had to put the new TAR on. It was hard work. He'd be sweating streams that dripped off his face and his white t-shirt (they called them wife-beaters back then) would be soaking wet.

That reminds me of some of my friends back then who misbehaved so much that their dads beat the tar out of them. I think they meant a different kind of tar.

TARs on a bicycle
TARs are used on more than just cars. We can't forget that bicycles, motorcycles, and even tricycles use TARs.

Used or damaged TARs that were past the ability to re-tread didn't end their usefulness, though. My mom convinced my dad to cut a zig zag design into the inner edge of a couple of old TARs for her. She put them in the front yard, filled them with dirt, and planted flowers in them. I'm sure it wasn't her idea originally and she'd seen them in someone else's yard first, but they were rather pretty. I especially liked the spicy smelling petunias she planted inside.

One year she saw some painted white TARs in somebody's yard over in Corbin, KY and decided to paint hers, too. It did freshen up the old black TAR look a bit.

TAR Swing
Old TARs are often used to entertain the kids, too. All you have to do is tie a rope through one and then hang it over the limb of a big tree. That TAR swing gave us hours of fun.

Sometimes I wonder if I went into a TAR store here in Atlanta and asked for some new TARs for my car if they would know what I meant. I might try it if I need some amusement one day.

Do you remember TARs on your car? Do you still call them TARs today? Do people know what in the world you're talking about? Did your family have a unique use for old TARs? I'd love to hear about it.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week - GAUMED UP

Have you ever heard the term GAUMED or GAUMED UP?

Although it can refer to a lot of things, my dad used it most when he worked on his cars.

He would go out and buy a car from somebody for practically nothing and tow it home by a rope or chain. They very rarely ran, so he couldn't drive it into place in the garage to work on it. Somehow, he managed to successfully get it into our driveway and positioned just right in our little garage. He had to either back into it and push it backwards with a car that ran or get out and push it in--all by himself. My dad wasn't very tall, about 5 foot 6, but he was a determined sot. Sweat was his cologne.

I remember watching him as he started working on a new car. He rigged a wench in the garage to pull the engine out of the car so he could get access to everything. As he took the engine apart, piece by piece, he complained. "Just look at that mess. It's all GAUMED UP. That man didn't know how to take care of a car.
Dad used gas to get things UNGAUMED

Then he'd get his gasoline can, an old worn out t-shirt he had ripped into rags, and a stiff metal brush and go to town cleaning the GAUMED UP part. To me, it looked like black sludge. I didn't think he could ever get it clean, but he did. By the time he finished, that engine was shiny and new looking. No GAUM anywhere. He always got it running, too.

When he ran out of gasoline, instead of going out to buy some more, he'd siphon a bit out of his working car. I remember him sucking on that hose until he got the gas coming out into the can. Then he'd commence to spittin' and sputterin' until he got the gas out of his mouth. Nothing stopped my dad. Not gasoline in his mouth or GAUM in his car.

Of course, GAUMED doesn't only refer to filthy grease or caked on crud in cars.

GAUMED UP house
after the flood of '77
I remember how our house and yard got GAUMED UP after the flood of 1977. It was a real mess. All the furniture was GAUMED UP with river sludge. Actually, the entire house was GAUMED UP with it until Daddy took up some floor boards and shoveled it under the house. Then he nailed the boards back in place. He and Mom scrubbed the GAUM off of the walls and floors and hosed down the house, inside and out.

Children have a special gift for gettin' GAUMED UP with food and anything dirty. My little sister had a knack for gettin' GAUMED UP with her food. It was especially disgusting when she got hold of peanut butter or chocolate.

A lot of adults get their houses or storage buildings all GAUMED UP with stuff they should have thrown away a long time ago. I suppose my son would put me into that category, too. I guess he'd be right. Seems the older I get, the more GAUMED UP my house becomes. My excuse is that it's getting too difficult for me to gather it up and UNGAUM my life on my own steam.

GAUMED UP house
Do you have things that have GAUMED UP your life? How about we all try to get UNGAUMED a little bit this year? It can be the nastiness that needs to be cleaned up, the stuff that slows us down and keeps us from being productive, or it could be the GAUMED UP relationships that make our lives miserable. If those GAUMED UP people aren't willing to clean up themselves and keep trying to put a nasty GAUM all over us, maybe it's time we kicked them to the curb, too. Of course, we should first offer them some gasoline and a stiff wire brush to clean up their act.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- GIGGIN'

Do you know what GIGGIN' is? Have you ever been?

GIGGIN' was a favorite pastime for my dad when the weather was right. He pulled on his waders, grabbed his can of carbide to put in his miner's cap, grabbed his GIGGIN' pole, and went hunting.

You may be asking what he went hunting for. Bullfrogs, of course. One of the delicacies we enjoyed in Appalachia was fried frog legs. The bigger the bullfrog, the legs. And yes, they tasted a bit like chicken.

Frog GIGGIN' pole
I remember those nights my daddy went out GIGGIN' and he came home with a large bucket full of bullfrogs. I knew we'd have a mess of frog legs for dinner the next night.

Now, when I was a little kid, I loved frogs. I searched the mountain side behind our house for frogs of every size. I played with them, even though my mom said they would give me warts. I never had a wart, by the way.

My biggest joy in life was finding a nice juicy frog, putting it into my shiny black pocketbook and taunting the boys. I offered to show them what I had inside and when they got really close, I'd open my pocketbook and show them my frog. I laughed at the boys who jumped back and let out a yelp. One of the worst was my uncle Jerry. He was a sailor and supposed to be a tough guy, but when I sprung my frog on him, he yelped like a girl and ran away.

Playing with a bullfrog
Apparently, Mom and Dad bored of my games because one night when Daddy went GIGGIN' he managed to catch a huge bullfrog without having to GIG it.

He put it in the bucket with the GIGGED ones and brought it home. The next morning he told me he had a surprise for me. Daddy thought he was being so smart. As Mom looked on, he told me to get close to the frog bucket, which was really an oversized fish bucket with a lid. Just as I leaned over, he flipped open the lid to reveal the giant bullfrog.

Bucket for collecting frogs while GIGGIN'
I squealed. Not because I was scared, but because I was thrilled! Before you knew it, I had that Goliath out of the bucket, tied a string around its neck (or as close to a neck as it had) and commenced hopping him throughout the house.

Right about then, Mom and Dad shook their heads and probably wished Daddy had GIGGED that bullfrog.

So, did you ever go GIGGIN'? Did your dad? Have you ever dined on fried frog legs? And did you know frog legs jump when you fry them?


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Appalachian Word of the Week -- LIGHTNING BUGS

You're a child in the mountains of Kentucky and the sun is setting above the western ridge. You've spent the summer day playing games, going fishing on the Cumberland River, walking or riding your bike to meet up with friends, reading a book, or another way of whiling away a steamy summer day.

With the setting of the sun, though, comes one of your favorite activities. Catching LIGHTNING BUGS. You get an empty Avon jar from your mother or a mason jar. I liked the Avon jars best because they were usually translucent white, pink, or another color and when you put your LIGHTNING BUGS inside, the entire jar glowed.

Giggles filled the growing darkness as you and your friends rushed across the yard to locate the last flash you saw and swoop up another LIGHTNING BUG.

One thing I learned quickly about LIGHTNING BUGS--they stink. When you get them on your fingers, your hands stink like crazy. But it didn't matter. We ran across a lot of stinky things in the mountains.

LIGHTNING BUGS are blessings
After you gather your jar of LIGHTNING BUGS, you sit in the grass or on the porch swing, while other flying bugs are attracted to you from your sweat and take a bite out of you, and watch the miraculous show from a little bug.

When boredom sets in and you are tired of the biting bugs, someone comes up with a great idea--making sidewalk art out of the LIGHTNING BUGS.

Now I hate to admit I participated in this activity. It's a shame. It's also probably one reason why we don't have as many LIGHTNING BUGS these days as we did back then.

Usually, a boy started the whole thing by taking a LIGHTNING BUG and smearing its glowing tail across the concrete, road, or front porch. I admit it was pretty to see it glow like neon glitter. But, it also meant the death of a LIGHTNING BUG. The evening darkness helped us ignore that part of it. We wanted to see the pretty glow.

When mamas called the children inside for the night to take a bath and wash off the grime of the day, I often took my jar inside and placed it beside my bed so I could watch them flash as I drifted off to sleep. My nightlight. The next day, I took my LIGHTNING BUGS outside and released them to flash again.

LIGHTNING BUG earrings
Recently, my first book of Appalachian Fiction sold. The publishing company's name is Firefly Southern Fiction. I thought that only fitting. I recently celebrated my dream-come-true by purchasing a new pair of earrings. LIGHTNING BUGS, of course.

Did you catch LIGHTNING BUGS as a child? Did you slime the sidewalk with LIGHTNING BUG essence and murder them? Did you teach your children about the glories of LIGHTNING BUGS?

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