Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Double Standards

Indulge me for a moment and watch this short video, entitled "What Kind of Asian Are You?"

Silly that we are so quick to judge appearances isn't it?  And quick to be offended when it's pointed out to us, too!

Why is it so hard to just accept a person for what they are right now?

Yes, this is my blog post about Paula Deen.

I think it's probably fair to start by telling you that I grew up in a sheltered time and place.  The racial mix in my home community was mostly white, white and white.  It's notable that there were a few people there with Hispanic roots and exactly 2 of my schoolmates were Native American.  The only black people I saw until I was well into my high school years were on television, and as a child I was not entirely certain that their color wasn't as pretend as the program they appeared on.  I'm sure I heard some of the adults around me use racial slurs to describe these actors because I am familiar with the words even though they don't evoke any strong emotions in my psyche.

The first time I saw a black person, I know I stared.  I tried not to, but it was awfully hard not to be fascinated by a complexion the color of smooth, rich, milk chocolate.  And I admit I wanted to touch their face and know for myself that they were real.  I didn't.  But I sort of wanted to.  Later on in my adult life I asked myself if I was racist because of my lack of exposure to people of this particular ethnicity. Ultimately I decided no, I am not a racist.  I am not racist because I don't view a person as good or bad, better or worse, or any other comparison, simply because of what shade of brown their skin happens to be.  I connect to people on the level of the heart... by their character, not their appearance.  If you have dark hair and eyes, yes I see it.  But it's just part of who you are in the same way that my brown-ish hair and blue eyes are part of me.

But, I guess not everyone sees it that way.  There's a double standard in America.  And it troubles my heart.

And this is where Paula Deen comes in.

Paula Deen is a celebrity chef from Savannah, GA.  She is currently being crucified in the media because she admitted in a legal deposition that she had used the word "nigger" in a private conversation with her husband almost 30 years ago after she'd had a gun shoved in her face by a bank robber while she was working as a teller.  The robber was a large black man.  That incident isn't even the meat of the lawsuit for which she was being deposed, but came from background questions to determine her attitudes toward other people.  It is, however, what the popular media has chosen to focus on almost entirely.

One word.  Spoken decades ago in a moment of stress, fear and anger determines your character forever.  Seriously?

Admitting to that one word seems to be enough in some minds to destroy her and everything else she has accomplished.  No kudos for being a poor single mother who pulled herself up by the bootstraps and built a wildly successful business empire?  No mention of the charity work and support provided because of that success?  No one cares about the jobs she created in her community?  Apparently none of that matters because she once said a word that is banned from the vocabulary of people whose skin is the same shade as hers.

Contrast that with today's so called primarily young and black "ghetto culture" where the same word is a common reference to one's comrades.  Turn on some rap music, which seems to be anthemic to them, and really listen to the words.  Yes, you might think your ears are bleeding and you might walk away so offended you twitch for awhile, but it is very educational.  Did you hear people who look like Ms. Deen referred to as "whitey" or "cracka?"  Did you notice how every woman is a "bitch" or maybe the extended vowel version "be-otch?"  If that's not double standard enough, did you catch how "nigger" and "nigga" is bandied about as a reference to one's own self and one's friends?

Except that it's not funny, it's almost laughable that anyone can point a finger of condemnation toward Paula Deen for having said it once a long time ago.  Why is the word acceptable in one circle but not the other?  That's the double standard.  And it should not be tolerated!  That it is, I believe, is one reason racism lives on.  A reason why people with different skin tones can't quite lose their distrust of each other.  Something as simple as language will divide black from white and keep the goal of one equal America just out of reach.

And that makes me tremendously sad.

End the double standard.

And look at the sum of a person's life before you condemn them.  Counting back on my fingers, I'm guessing her comment was made somewhere around 1986.  Are you the same person today that you were in 1986?  I know I'm not.  In that much time, I would hope that she's learned and changed and become a better human being, too.  And I'd hope that I'm not judged today by a stupid comment I said then.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

We're The Same, Just Different

WARNING:  This is going to be one of those cutesy relationship posts I once swore I'd never write...  If that sort of mushy stuff makes you gag, step away now.  Or, if you're game to read it, here's 15 ways Derek and I are different:

He likes brand name products - a self-described 'brand whore.'
I have almost zero brand loyalty and couldn't care less what the label says.

He likes cheddar and provolone cheese.
I've never met a cheese I didn't love!

He's a night owl.
I'm a morning person.

He hates Mexican food (except his own chicken and cheese quesadillas).
I would kill for a real chicken burrito smothered in chile verde right now!

He watches car shows on tv.
I watch HGTV.

He snacks on sweets, specifically chocolate and peanut butter flavored sweets.
I want chips or pretzels more often.  And more variety in the sweet flavors, too.

He likes to have a fan going full blast in the bedroom.
I wake up with a pounding sinus headache when wind blows in my face all night.

He's into takeout.
I prefer dine-in.

He looks at the plants along the roadside as annoying weeds.
I'm watching for the blackberries I see growing to get ripe so I can go pick some.

He uses Jack Daniel's BBQ Sauce and Tony Chachere's Seasoning on his burger.
I like the full range of condiments.

He orders (or cooks) his steak rare and burgers so well done they're almost burned.
I prefer both with just a hint of pink in the middle.

He has a Facebook account and never logs in to it.
I see Facebook as my connection to family and friends that are far away.

He plays computer and video games.
I feel neglected now and then because of how much time he spends with them.

He screams and runs for cover when a spider scurries by.
I've been known to 'catch-and-release' if I know they're non-poisonous.

He believes in God, just not organized religion.
I enjoy Church services.

And so we compromise on the little stuff... at least we agree on the big things that matter in life!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cookies... Gimme Cookies!!

Way back before Christmas I posted the recipe for some bomb-diggity chocolate chip cookies that Derek's Dad made when he was home for a Christmas visit.  (He works out of state.)  I made them again last night, except we didn't have enough chocolate chips... so only half the batch got finished according to the recipe.

I just took half of the dough out of the bowl before that final step of adding the chocolate chips.  So we got some chocolate chip cookies and some not at all chocolatey ones from my little burst of kitchen creativity.

Using the 'plain' dough, I then formed walnut-sized balls.  Then I rolled them in cinnamon sugar and placed on a baking sheet.  Finally I used a fork and squished them down nearly flat.

And guess what?

That same recipe (minus the chocolate and adding a little cinnamon and sugar coating) makes some stinking dang good Snicker Doodles!!

Click the link above for the recipe.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Story of Us

Photo credit:  http://pinterest.com/pin/547680004654339661/
I've alluded to it a time or two, but I don't think -I've ever told you the story of how Derek and I became such an unlikely couple.

Last Wednesday, we celebrated his 28th birthday.  I'm 49.

I didn't know that when we first met...

And learning he was so much younger was a shock to my system that almost ended things before our romance even took off.  But I couldn't stop thinking about him.  And so, like a moth drawn to the flame, I kept getting closer.

Just like Taylor Swift says... "It's a love story.  Baby, just say yes!"

A little before my mom's final illness, I'd randomly clicked a Facebook link for a game.  I did it because a guy at work, a guy I kind of had a bit of a crush on, teased me incessantly about not playing games.  He probably thought I'd choose something like Farmville to master, but oh no... not me.  I clicked into a medieval war game.  In the game we sort of chose teams of other folks we wanted to be on our side in the waging of these imaginary wars.  People who would advise, help defend us and join in attacks of our pixelated imaginary enemies.  After a while, when mom needed 24/7 care and I'd had to leave my job to take care of her, the game, or more specifically the people from the game, became my link to the outside world.  I spent a lot of time there.  Finally Derek and I ended up on the same team.

Much of this game moves very slowly and huge amounts of time are dedicated to building cities, researching technologies and recruiting armies.  It left a lot of time to chat.  And over this game chatter we became friends.

And the friendship started spilling out into real life interests and plans.  We had a lot in common and even on the things where we are different, much of it is complimentary.  Then I noticed his age and had an epic meltdown.  I told myself he was just too young... it could never work... and horror of all horrors - his mom graduated high school the same year I did!!

It took some convincing, but we finally got back on the romance track.  Ask him.  He'll tell you he had to work at chasing me.

Several months after my mom passed away, he flew out to Salt Lake City to meet me and we decided there was a little spark and we really wanted to be more than just friends.  I'd decided to take 6 months to a year off after her passing to kind of recover mentally and emotionally and regroup and decide what I wanted from the rest of my life now that it was finally mine to live.

With no close family giving me roots to stay in Utah, we decided I would be the one to move.  But...

You knew there was a 'but' coming, huh?

But he didn't want to live in Salt Lake and I didn't want the lifestyle we'd have if I moved to metro-Washington DC where he lived.  We toyed with it both ways and it kind of came to a stalemate until we started looking in the smaller communities just outside of Atlanta.  Derek has family here so it felt like a natural move for him.  And the more I saw, the more I liked it.  (That hasn't changed after being here for 8 months now!)  We agreed to both make a move.

Planning began.  Oh, we had such grand plans!!  Although absolutely nothing has gone according to those plans...  There's been a lot more bumps and rough patches and scrambling to figure out what to do with a new set of circumstances than either of us could have anticipated but we're happy and together and writing our very own love story!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tree Sleuth

For awhile I've been, with varying degrees of effort, trying to find out what some of the trees in our yard are. I recognize the leaves of the oaks and maples and the needles of the pines and cypress but there are more that are a complete mystery to me.  It was made a bit more urgent today when I pried an immature fruit/nut from one of the unidentified trees out of Lightning's mouth.  Luckily I happened on a website called Native Plants for Georgia and found some quick answers!

They identify this as a Tulip Poplar, a member of the magnolia family, and is one of the leaves I've been curious about.  I've seen 3-4 of these in the edges of our woods.  All but one of ours are about 2 feet high, but the website says they can grow to 80-100 feet and have these orange-yellow tulip-like flowers in April and early May.

The green nut I took away from the dog appears to be from a Mockernut Hickory tree.  At least it's not something that will poison them!  Two of the three trees nearest the house have leaves like this (the other is an oak) and have been dropping green, though growing, nuts when the wind blows the last week or so.

I also learned we have one or more Sweetgums, most easily identified (to me, anyway) by these spiky seed husks that I think will make great additions to pine cone laden Christmas wreaths!

And our plentiful pines are Long Leaf Pines.  Their habit of only having needle bundles on high branches, an environmental adaptation from enduring fires on the coastal plains, makes them a good canopy tree in our woods.  Unlike the shallow root ball I'm accustomed to seeing on pine species, these have a deep tap root.  Learning that makes me feel better about a couple of them that are clinging to the edge of where a former inhabitant of this property graded for better drainage around the house.  Their large cones will also make welcome addition to the wreaths I'm dreaming about making for the coming holiday season.

This leaf was a contender when I was trying to identify the figs... which I'm beginning to doubt are in my yard.  It's a Sassafras tree.  Best collected in the fall, the dried and crushed leaves can be used to flavor gumbo.  I'll have to keep that in mind and gather some...

And it seems we have 2-3 different varieties of oak. Some produce acorns of a good size and others are so small that 3 will fit on the surface of a quarter... Another interesting addition to the holiday wreath building.

As you can see we have a pretty diverse woods.  And I'm excited to see that many of the trees have leaves that turn colors in the fall.  I bet the display of yellow, gold, amber, and red will be beautiful!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Thoughts on Electrocution

Had 'get electrocuted' been an item on my bucket list, I could check it off today!  Generally, it's not an activity I'd recommend... unless you're a convicted murderer, rapist, pedophile or someone of that ilk.  Then I'd be quite pleased if you did!

Here's how it happened to me:

Early in the afternoon a fairly strong thunderstorm rolled through the area.  There was a bit of that low rumbling thunder and some short bursts of heavy rain (see the video clip below taken with my Android phone about 15 minutes prior to the electrocution event).  Then bam!  All within a second or two there was a loud snap from lightning and thunder so loud that the house shook and Derek and I both got zapped by an electrical current strong enough to make us jump off the couch staring at each other confused and gasping and wondering 'WHAT THE HECK?'

So much for the basement being the safe place in the house during a storm!

We both got zapped enough for it to hurt and then felt the after-effects of a faint sort of nebulous ache for a few hours.  I say faint and nebulous because more than actually a painful ache it was a feeling of not right-ness.  Derek felt it in one leg and his chest; my area of discomfort was my right hand, primarily the two middle fingers.

It's the weirdest thing to try to explain.

We had this completely real and physical experience with an electrical current traveling through our bodies but there's absolutely no evidence anywhere in the house that anything happened.  Neither dog, and both of them were on the couch with us, yelped.  The tv kept going with its program, the fan churned air... not even a flicker in the lights!  The house and roof look fine outside and there are no char marks on the ground or in the trees.

It feels almost unexplainable...  It's certainly beyond my ability to comprehend.

I can hardly even believe it.

And it happened to me!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life's Lessons

You know those 'Life Lessons' pictures and posts you see make the rounds on Facebook?  Sometimes thoughtful, sometimes amusing, often trite... they usually just annoy me.  So along that vein here are some things I've learned, so far, in my own life:
  • Only your dog loves you unconditionally, accepts each day for what it is and is happy to eat exactly the same thing for every meal.
  • Most people don't want to hear about your problems... that's when you nod like a bobble head and just move on.
  • The people you expect it from the least are usually the ones who are there when you've failed and need help picking up the pieces.  And failing is part of life so just accept that it will happen to you now and then.
  • Having relatives and being part of a family aren't the same thing - blood may be thicker but water surely tastes better!
  • Money can help soothe misery but it can't buy you happiness.  Happy and 'not miserable' are not the same thing either.
  • Please and thank you are truly magic words when spoken from the heart.
  • Take the risk!  Stuff that scares the crap out of you usually isn't that big of a deal once you actually do it.
  • The voices inside your own head are always your harshest critics.
  • There will be times when you feel like you just can't catch a break and times when it seems like everything comes easy.  Remember the easy times when life is hard but even more, remember the hard times when life is easy!
  • The men in your life will leave the toilet seat up.  It's no bigger a deal for you to put it down than it is for them to put it up every trip to the bathroom.
  • Own up to your mistakes.  Being honest is a heck of a lot easier than keeping all the lies straight.
  • Learn to pick your battles.  Quite often whatever someone has done to make you angry is very very far from the worst thing they could have chosen to do.
  • Yell, scream and stomp your feet very very rarely.  It's only effective when it's a surprise!
  • Practical help always trumps good wishes.
  • Sometimes what you get is not what you give or deserve.  There's a reason 'karma' isn't referred to as an angel...
  • Smiling is a great reaction no matter what the situation.  It may not solve the problem, but it doesn't make it any worse and you get to make people wonder what you've got up your sleeve!
  • The little things in life are the important ones.  You take care of the details and the big picture will take care of itself.
  • When you are totally distracted by what you want now, you'll lose out on what you want most.
  • Learn to talk with anyone and appreciate their life story.  There's less difference between you and them, no matter who they are, than you think.
  • Never think you've seen it all.  Life takes that as a challenge!
(All photos without attribution on Pinterest.)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Adam's Skivvies

Adam might be right at home here. I got his favorite undies in the back yard... The first man wore the leaves to hide his nakedness once he realized his junk was out there but I don't recall that the Bible says he ate the figs.  He might have.  Lots of people do.

I don't.  At least I never have.  And I don't think I'd like them much.

Or maybe I'm judging them unfairly?

The only fig I've ever tasted, as far as I know, is one of those dried up brown chunks of yuckiness you find in the grocery store's produce section wrapped tightly in plastic on a little meat tray during the holidays.  I did not like it!  Not even a little bit.  I don't like raisins or dates, either, so not liking the figs could be anticipated.  But maybe there's still hope!  I'd venture a guess that it's all the extra sugar, but I don't mind a Fig Newton now and then.  Can't say those are ever my first choice in cookies, but they're not terrible by any means.

And I'm not really sure I've ever seen a fresh fig.  In pictures, yes, but not up close and personal. Figs were just not a fruit crop that grew in Idaho or Utah... but apparently they are in Georgia.

On several occasions, I've spent a little time talking to one of my neighbors.  He's quite the gardener and an awesome source of knowledge about the neighborhood, stuff that went on in this house before we bought it, what kinds of plants grow wild in the woods, Civil War history, and all sorts of other stuff.  A couple of days ago, he told me he was sure I'd find some wild fig trees somewhere out in the wooded section of our back yard because he has some.

Which, oddly, he keeps even though he says he doesn't care much for the fruit.

I say keeping them is odd because he told me he had more than 40 trees removed from his lot so you'd think a couple more that he doesn't really love would be no big thing.  He may keep them for his mom.  He did say that sometimes she comes and gets enough to make a batch of fig preserves.  She likes the stuff.  I'm sure (at least I hope) it's very much tastier than I'm imagining right now.

But I digress...

I've been wanting to go look for these fig trees so I can keep Derek from chopping them down before I get a chance to decide if I want one.  Or two.  Or maybe even three since more trees give more coverage from looking through to a neighboring house on the other side of the woods.

And them looking through at us... eek!!

Here are a couple of pictures I found to help me know what to look for:

Photo credit: http://allotmentheaven.blogspot.com/2011/01/fig-ficus.html
Lot's of good info on figs in that blog post!

Photo credit: http://allotmentheaven.
There are a few trees with similar leaves out there.  Guess I'll just have to pay attention and keep looking for fruit.  I learned today that they don't flower first; the blossom is inside the fruit and never emerges into the daylight.

Adam might have found them to be his comfy clothes but I like a bit more coverage than these leaves would provide!  While the leaves of what I think might be fig trees out in our woods are somewhat bigger than on the surrounding trees, they're just not enough...  Guess I need to do my shopping at the plus-size fig tree!!

Any thoughts how I use figs? Favorite recipes?  Gotta decide if they earn a spot to stay!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

5 Products I Wish I Could Find

Obviously I found them... What I REALLY wish is to find them in my local grocery store in Georgia.

Photo credit:  Amazon.com
Cinnamon Bears
Even better, but I can make my own in a pinch, would be Chocolate Covered Cinnamon Bears.  I do occasionally give in to the craving and drop $20 for a 5-lb bag on Amazon.com then ration them out to myself a handful at a time for the next few weeks.  But it would be so much easier to pick up a little bag now and then at the grocery store...  Before giving in to Amazon orders I searched Publix, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Walmart, Target, Dollar Tree, Dollar General - basically every store with a candy counter that I stepped foot in for over a month.  No one had ever heard of them.  And more than a few looked at me like I was a little nuts claiming there was a bear-shaped candy that tasted like an Atomic Fireball and had the consistency of a Swedish Fish.

Photo credit:  Amazon.com
Redmond Real Salt
I love this for cooking and the occasional sprinkle on food at the table.  The package claims that it tastes different.  And, like a lot of people, I thought that was a bogus claim until I did their test and tried a few grains of regular salt on my tongue, big drink of water, and a few grains of Redmond Real Salt on my tongue.  It was different.  And better.  And so pretty with those pink and copper colored mineral inclusions.  Also available on Amazon.com... one day I will get some!  And then replace the salt in every shaker in the house!!

Photo credit: http://www.brandeating.com
Claim Jumper Chicken Pot Pie
Sorry Marie Callendar... I get yours as a substitute once in a great awhile but only because I can't get Claim Jumper's here.  That makes me sad, even now, during the much too hot to eat pot pie summertime.  Claim Jumper's pot pies just taste so much better to me!  Better seasoned filling with more chicken and a flakier crust.  And usually a bit cheaper price tag, too... sigh.  Baking them is the best, but I usually couldn't make myself wait and microwaved them and that was perfectly acceptable.

Photo credit:  grandmaspasta.com

  Grandma's Frozen Egg Noodles
  Or any frozen home-style noodle, for that
  matter.  The days last   week when it was chilly
  and raining so hard I wanted with every fiber of
  my being to make a pot of chicken noodle
  soup.  I didn't do it.  And the only reason was
  because I'd have to either drag out the pasta
  machine and spend half a day making them
  first or use those dried egg noodles and that
  just sort of ruined the whole appeal of even
  making soup.

Photo credit: http://www.coxshoney.com
Creamed Honey
As a child I learned that the flavor of honey depended a lot on the food sources available to the bees.  Growing up in Shelley, ID the main source of food for those bees was clover.  And it made for the absolute best honey in the world!!  I admit, I've bought some pretty decent honey here in GA.  It works fine on toast, or in tea, or to cook with.  Perfectly palatable!  But runny honey is just not quite what I'm craving...  (And terms like "creamed honey" and "runny honey" get me that questioning raised eyebrow look from the grocery manager!)  All I need is money, and I'll be placing an order.