Play With Any Toy


“Nana?” she asked, “Do I have to play with boy toys if I don’t want to?” I was surprised at the question, she is all girl, and only has pink toy cars that match her Barbie stuff. “Why?” I asked her. “Well, Papa said that sometimes girls play with toys boys like more than girls do. I don’t like boy toys, they’re boring and dumb. I want to play with girl toys because I have fun pretending with them. And I love my babies. (She is crazy about baby dolls.) So I don’t want to play with boy toys.” I assured her that she didn’t have to play with boy toys if she didn’t want to, but if she did she could. It didn’t matter one way or the other. But it had to be her choice what she played with and when. She was satisfied with that and went off to play with her Barbie doll house. Later, I got the whole story from her.

Come to find out, it is a big issue at school from last week. There was a deep discussion between the other kids sitting at her table. There are four of them two girls, two boys. One of the boys was playing “house” with the mostly girl group. He was “the dad” and he was babysitting so the “moms” could go grocery shopping. All normal play as far as I am concerned. They were mimicking their home life. Sounds a lot like our house too. At one point one of the girls said that the boy was silly for playing with a doll because it was a girl toy. This led to a huge discussion about what a boy toy or girl toy was, and why it was fine for anyone to play with either. Except for one small group of girls who insisted that boys who played with dolls were sissies and not acting like boys. Addie, who has been raised in a traditional family that has no such rules was confused. She was raised to think that she could play with any toy, and even if boy toys were boring and dumb, she could still play with them.

The play ended with a young boy with hurt feelings, and several snippy little girls feeling smug and superior. Addie felt bad for the little boy, he sits at her table, and he is her friend. The next free play time, she went to play with him and his boy toys. They had fun wrecking their trucks. Then they decided to organize the baby stuff so that everyone could find it and play with it. They were happily folding “laundry” and putting everything away when another girl started in on the boy again about being a sissy. Addie stepped in and told her she was being a mean bully to the boy. He quietly walked away and played with the boys again. The girl and Addie ignored each other the rest of the week. Apparently, it really bothered her. Enough that she sought out adult opinions from the Mr. and I.

She told me that when she went back to school, she was going to tell the boy and the mean girl that anyone could play with any toy they wanted to, and it didn’t mean they were anything different than anyone else. She was indignant for her friend, which makes me proud of her. My problem is simple, what kind of home life does the little girl have that it gives her the idea everyone has to be the same, and if anyone is different at all, then it is okay to ridicule them and call them names?

I don’t believe in forcing my kids to play with gender specific toys, who knows, my girls might want to be mechanics, and my boys might want to be a kindergarten teacher for all I know. It is sad enough that men are denied the opportunity to work with and be around young children because the are automatically suspected monsters due to their gender. Now other children, who have been brain washed, want to control a boy’s instinct to parent by telling them doing so makes them suspected in some way as abnormal. Why? At this rate, boys will grow up to be men who are afraid of being involved with their own children for fear of being labeled as predators, homosexual, or inept as males.

I am proud of Addie for standing up for her friend. I am glad she felt able to come to us and ask about something that really bothered her. I hope we gave her an answer that would help her navigate the social issues of kindergarten children. Most of all, however, I hope that girl has zero influence on Addie’s acceptance of everyone just as they are.

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Your Attitude Makes or Breaks the Vacation.


While on the cruise recently, I was amazed at the number of children on board. Over seven hundred in all. They came in ages from tiny babies (Why anyone would do that is beyond me) to teenagers. The thing I found interesting, is that with all those kids, there were very few meltdown tantrums among them. Generally, when kids get over tired, over stimulated, out of their normal routine, or in a strange place, tantrums, tears, meltdowns, and stubborn acting out ensues among them. We didn’t see that in the smallest kids, nor in the kids between five and twelve. However, teenagers of all ages and adults were absolutely invested in tantrums and meltdowns from the first moment we were at sea.

Couples were arguing with each other, parents were telling off children for no apparent reason, and teenagers, well, you know teenagers, everything that wasn’t on their phone or tablet was a reason for meltdowns and irritation. Shocking. Annoying. Hilarious. Immature. Generally undeserved by the person whom the tantrum was directed at and embarrassing to watch an adult act like a tired two year old on too much sugar. I don’t get it, really, I thought a family vacation was supposed to be relaxing and fun. Apparently not for anyone between thirteen and fifty, according to the melt down count down.

I expected frowny faces and bad attitudes in children, but it was the parents who had the, “I hate the world” faces. Unless, of course, they were eating, drinking alcohol, or hanging out in the smoking areas. It was easy to tell that most of the parents couldn’t wait for the Kid’s Clubs to open so they could park their progeny there until meal times and escape to do adult stuff. Teenagers clumped together in pools of dissatisfied texting groups as long as they had access to the ship’s texting program, and when they didn’t they sat in glum silence playing games on their phones, ignoring the swimming pools, mini golf, and other activities available for them from dawn to dusk. It was as if they wanted to be bored and dissatisfied with everything. I don’t get that either.

We had a great time from playing with Addie in the pools to mini golf, to talking to the server in the buffet room who chatted with us about Philippine food for a good half hour. Addie loved the Kid’s Club, and while she was making friends there, we had a good time relaxing and wandering around the ship. We laughed a lot, held hands, teased each other, chatted with other passengers, and simply allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment. When the three of us were together, it was clear that I was the odd one out since Addie is in the “I Adore My Papa” stage of her life, so I read a book and let them rush about doing things like water slides and such. And the bonus was that Addie didn’t have one single moment dedicated to being in a rotten mood. She was dog tired by bedtime, but there were no complaints. She would climb into her top bunk, roll over and go to sleep in moments. She did get up one night to go have pizza and ice cream in the “middle of the night” around ten p.m. She got a huge kick out of that. Even after pizza and ice cream, she climbed right back into bed and went to sleep in five minutes.

Meanwhile, every time we took her to the Kid’s Club, there would be a parent there ranting about something, embarrassing their child who couldn’t wait to escape mom or dad and go play somewhere stress free. The last time we picked Addie up, the ladies who worked in the Club gave us a note telling us how much they enjoyed time with Addie. She was polite, kind, sharing, and friendly to everyone and she was very respectful to the adults working in the Club. Everywhere we engaged with crew, they always complimented us on Addie’s behavior. Our server in the restaurant made her origami dinosaurs and the steward for our room went out of his way to make her adorable towel animals on the bed everyday. I know they must miss their children terribly since they are at sea for nine months at a time. Addie was unfailingly polite to all the adults with whom she interacted. We raised her to be polite and kind, and to always use her manners. The rest is all her doing.

I am not saying she was the best kid, there were lots of kids who were good. There were also rude and mouthy kids who talked back to adults, didn’t listen to the crew when they were told not to do something or to do something, and who ran wild because their parents didn’t care what they did as long as they didn’t bother them or get into trouble with the crew who would then bother them. That I really don’t get. As a parent, grandparent or guardian, I want to know what my kid is up to every second of the day. They don’t have to be under my feet, and I don’t hover, but I keep an eye on them. It is very easy to injure themselves on a ship filled with stairs, heavy doors, and over three thousand people on board.

I suppose people brought their daily issues to the ship with them. We try to leave all that on the shore and have a new and exciting experience. This was Addie’s first cruse, we wanted it to be positive, fun, and something she would want to do again. I guess we did it right. She can’t wait to go on another one as soon as possible. As for the grumpy folks who turned their holiday into a whine fest, I’m sorry they were such a miserable group. They missed an opportunity to have a great time. Especially the teenagers who were determined to hate everything from not having internet connections to having to be around their parents and siblings for more than five minutes a day. Oh well, what goes around comes around. Next time they want to have a good holiday, Mom and Dad have an excuse to make it as miserable as they possibly can just because they want to.

Meanwhile, the Combs Family will be the three people trying to catch the wind while walking on the deck or eating ice cream and pizza at ten at night just because we can.

Ornaments and Traditions


Every year since we got married in 1971, the day after Thanksgiving is when we start decorating for Christmas. No matter how broke, despondent, worried, angry, or disappointed our life is at that moment, we begin to build our home into a happy place designed to celebrate the traditions of our families and the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, we have collected many decorations, some made by our children and grandchildren, some bought in the far off places we have lived and traveled to, some handed down from friends and family. Each one is a treasure, carefully packed away every year to be brought out and rediscovered the following year. As time goes by, some of them get a bit worn and tattered, but they still go on the best place for them on the tree. As I see them being hung by my family and myself, memories flow through my mind about how and when they came to be part of our tradition.

I have twelve cloisonne bells that were given to me as a gift when we lived in Hong Kong, each one has a slightly different sound when it rings. I have a set of lovely hand carved Angel ornaments that I bought when we were visiting Bruge, Belgium. And the lace ornaments that I bought in different countries to make a special collection is beautiful. But the ornaments that I love the most are the ones made by my children and grandchildren, and now, great grandchildren. Some were made at school, others were made in scouts or as projects we did together as a family. They aren’t fancy, and they aren’t perfect, but they are unique, one of a kind, filled with love and memories. I have hand prints in paint on plastic bobbles, I have ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. I have drawings on paper, hung carefully next to the crystal angel that I bought for my first grandchild’s first Christmas. It doesn’t matter what they are made of, they are more treasured than the most expensive ornament on the tree. Because my babies made them, I would rather have them than any other treasure on my trees.

Now I have two trees, one for my fancy store bought and gifted ornaments. It is lovely to behold. Sparkling and glittering with lights and special stones. I put it up in my home office, where it can be seen from the front of the house. It is an addition to all the sparkling lights outside. The other tree is for all my special treasures from my family. It is in my living room, and it glitters and sparkles unlike any other tree in the world. Each ornament is a memory or a story to pass down to our progeny. Each one is a part of our traditions, sacred, and delightful. Usually, the youngest in the family puts the star on the tree, but the one on the tree is built in now. This year, the youngest will be eight hours away, he is two, the perfect age to start telling the stories about each ornament. Instead, our five year old will do the honors when she comes to visit this weekend. She gets a kick out of decorating the tree her way. Meaning most of the purple ornaments are at her eye level, in one place on the tree. She has a thing for organizing colors that way. If she can’t reach a place she wants an ornament, either her Papa or I patiently position it until she is satisfied. Then we have hot chocolate and play until bedtime.

As the days lead up to Christmas, our entire house is decorated inside and out. While I do the baking creating goodies to share with friends and family, the Mr. hangs lights and swears under his breath every time he has to repair another string of lights. When we are done, our home looks like a place of joy, it smells delightfully of chocolate and fresh baked goods, and the music of Christmas fills the air with both sacred and fun sounds of happiness and celebration.

Traditions bring us together as a family. The stories bring us laughter and teaches us through example. The decorations remind us of the past, the people, and the love we all share one generation to the next. I love Christmas, it completes my life, just as the month of December completes the year. Merry Christmas One and All. God Bless Each and Every One of You.

Feeding the Multitude


The Mr. and I went on a cruise to Mexico, out of New Orleans. We took our five year old great granddaughter with us to see how she would cope on a ship. She had a blast. Loved every minute of it, especially the kid’s club (power name for baby sitting so parents could have some down time). We have gone on a lot of cruises over the years, and one thing is constant on every cruise except for the adventure cruises, people eat all day long. They don’t just have three meals and a snack, they belly up to the trough twenty-four hours a day, every single day of the cruise. When they aren’t eating, they are at the bar knocking back drinks or in the casino gambling, smoking, and drinking like they are going to be executed the next day. And the majority of them are gargantuan in girth. I am overweight, but some of those people put the word to shame.

I watched with shock to see a woman in her forties fill two platters, yes platters, to overflowing, stacked six inches high and carry them back to a table with a single setting. She put her food down and got up to get four glasses of lemonade to go with it. I sat and watched her eat every single scrap of food, drink all her drinks, and go back for dessert and more drinks. It was a buffet, passengers could go back as many times as they wanted, it wasn’t going to escape, nor would they go without. She wasn’t the only one. There was an entire table full of people – a family of twelve – who ate that way. I swear that they ate an entire ham between them. On the cruise ship, there is always something available to eat. You can get pizza and ice cream twenty four hours a day, room service is the same, and chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven are always available. All of the food is free of charge, lemonade, water, and ice tea is free, but all other drinks cost money. Some of the passengers were non stop eating machines. Just because it is available, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Really. It doesn’t.

Then they would put on swim suits designed for people who are fashion model thin and strut about with all their extra skin hanging out of all sorts of places it shouldn’t. I won’t even wear a swim suit in public for any reason because I am overweight by about 25 pounds. With them, not an iota of modesty existed. I was constantly drawing Addie’s eyes away from an X rated sight so she wouldn’t start asking questions at the top of her lungs. (Like most five year old kids, she has trouble modulating her volume of speech when she is surprised by something she doesn’t understand.) It was embarrassing to me to see huge women wearing bikinis with the top barely, and I mean barely covering their nipples. The Mr. ended up looking at the floor or out to sea when we had to be near the pool areas.

I have nothing against obese people, most are simply fat due to diet, medications, or their inherent DNA. Losing weight, even ten pounds, is hard for everyone. But acting as if they are starving to death and they have to eat constantly isn’t going to do their health any good. Hello heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Good bye long life.

It wasn’t just a gender thing, race thing, or age thing, the uncontrolled eating covered all of those areas and then some. The Mr. and I ate normal meals, no extras or constant eating. Addie was the same. I weighed as soon as we got home, fully clothed and I weighted exactly the same as when I left home. Tomorrow I will find out if I lost weight when I weigh without my jeans and sweater on.

Despite the shocking display of over eating, we had a wonderful time as a family. Mexico fascinated Addie, and all three of us really enjoyed the Myan Museum and learning about their culture. Their art is deeply moving. More on the holiday later. Right now I want to go lie down. I need a day off from my week off. We all do.

The Seasons of Mississippi


We live in Mississippi right at the top of the state. We get four seasons, only not as distinctly divided as folks up north. We have spring, sort of. Meaning it will warm up to the mid 70’s, trees and flowers will bloom, then it will rain and rain and rain making the world a mud pit, followed by heat. Lots and lots and lots of heat, which, with the rain, makes everything humid, sticky, and the mosquitoes are very happy.

The summer has arrived. So spring lasted all of four weeks between the middle of March until the middle of April, and sometimes a bonus week just to confuse things even more. With summer, nature is a bit more accommodating. It stays hot, from mid April right on through until the end of October. Sometimes we even get a bonus week or two into November. Because, well, it is Mississippi and she does what she wants to do.

Along comes fall. It is still hot, cooling down to all of 80 degrees or so, at night. This last for about two weeks. The leaves turn yellowish, then brown, then they all fall down (rumor has it that is why it is called fall). This happens within a week of cooler weather, sometimes it all happens within a day, if the wind blows. The leaves around here are not used to wind, it scares them right off the trees. Within two weeks, the trees are bare, the grass is brown, and all the flowers, except for the vastly confused azalea in the corner of yards, die. The wind blows harder, and it rains and rains and rains until the cold gets here from up north or back west. Then it is winter.

It stays cold, it keeps raining leaving everything floating in a pit of mud until a miracle happens. It ices over and it snows. For one day, maybe two or three on a bad winter. All the natives freak out, rush around buying out the grocery stores and filling all their extra fuel cans while driving like completely out of control children. By the time they get home and put everything away, the snow is melting and it starts to rain again. If the sun comes out, people act like they have no clue what the big yellow ball floating in the sky is supposed to do or why it is there. Everyone becomes hermits except between six and nine AM. and four and six PM. when they rush between home and work or work and home. It is winter, and it might, gasp, get down to freezing by dark.

Then we are back to spring and rain. The whole process starts all over again. This is in Mississippi, where everything but summer is pretty mild compared to most of the country. Summer is our own special version of hell on earth. I don’t know why we get punished, but we do. Every. Single. Year. I can only imagine how folks from here would cope in places like Minnesota where there are two seasons, winter and June. Or how they would cope with some place like Florida where the climate is pretty much the same all year long – only with bugs the size of Volkswagen Beatles, and mosquitoes the size of B52 bombers. I say we are spoiled, and some folks have lived here so long they actually love the summer heat.

If you must come to Mississippi, do it in the two weeks of spring before the rain and after the winter mud. It is a beautiful place for those few days. Really. Just watch out for the tornadoes.

How Do You Do It?


My friend asked me, “How do you do it?” “Do what?” I replied. “Keep your marriage growing.” “Ah, well, its different for everyone. I can tell you what works for us, but it might not work for you.” She thought about it for a minute, “So tell me anyway. I want to know, maybe it will give me inspiration so we can make it as a couple for 47 years too.” I asked her to give me a few days to think about it. I am not a marriage counselor, I am certainly not a shrink. I’m just a quickly aging female who isn’t willing to sit down and shut up when others don’t want to hear my opinion. And, as my dear friend Bryan said, patience is not one of my attributes. He knows me far too well.

So, here we go. Stop here if you do not want unsolicited advice from a great grandmother.

I can tell you that there are hundreds of books for sale that will tell you their version of the truth. Most of them, however, will simply add to the confusion. At the end of the day, it is up to the couple, whatever that looks like, to find their own path. But they MUST find it together if they want marriage to work.

The first lesson is to Know Thy Self. No I am not quoting the scriptures to you, I am seriously saying, you have to know yourself before you can learn to love another. What you like, what you need, what you want in a lover, spouse, and the best friend you will ever have. And most of us poor saps haven’t a clue before the age of thirty. By then, of course, most of us are committed, and we love the person we chose to live our lives with. Sometimes deeply, sometimes conveniently, but we are committed.

Lesson Two, Keep your business between the two of you, and/or a professional counselor.

As you grow you change, sometimes in the most profound ways, sometimes superficially, but we all change. With change can come distance between us and the love of our lives. That leads to frustration, miscommunication, downright anger, and feelings of isolation. Now here is where most people, male and female, make a huge mistake. They take it to the gossip mill. Instead of going to their spouse or partner (I will use spouse to make typing easy) and talking things through, they go to their best pal, coworker, or family member if your a guy. A woman goes to her best friend, the ladies at the nail salon, or, heaven help all of them, their mother or sister for advice.

At this point, everything gets confused and every opinion will muddle things up even more. There is nothing that will strain an already difficult situation than for a woman to say to a man (or whomever), “Well My Mother Said…” The immediate response is generally, “You told your MOTHER?” It works the same from the other direction. There is a reason why “mother in law” is a dirty phrase in nearly every culture in the world. Because I can guarantee no one can stick their nose in and stir things up like a mother in law. Sure we all need someone to talk to. I suggest making it a professional who doesn’t have a personal interest in your life. Someone who isn’t going to take sides and pony up excuses instead of practical advice.

Lesson Three, Always put each other first. I can hear the shocked gasps from here.

Before children, before parents, before extended family, before friends, before jobs, before church, before Friday night poker games that have been ongoing since high school, your spouse comes first. Why? Well exactly who do you expect to spend the rest of your life with other than your spouse? One day the kids will grow up and leave home, hopefully. Your friends will drift away, your family will die and leave this mortal coil, and you two will be sitting across from one another, all alone, on your phones, ignoring each other. Okay, maybe not on the phone, but you will still have nothing to talk about if you don’t start building memories and adventures today.

Lesson Four, Kiss the Girl, or Guy. For no reason other than they still ring your bell. Go on, kiss her, in front of the kids, or anyone else standing there. Whisper loving words, or even silly words, in his ear. Make a promise for mind blowing love making, later. Make eye contact across the room, then smile, yes, that smile. Remember what made you want him or her in your arms and hang on to that memory as tight as you can for the times when it seems like one or both of you have lost interest. Take home flowers for her just because, or cook her a special meal, or give him a back rub while he complains about work. Do the little things that require physical contact. Fix his tie, smooth his jacket, hold her jacket for her, smooth a wayward lock of hair into place. Find any excuse to touch. Hold hands, Every. Where. You. Go. If that attraction fades away completely, you are in deep trouble and the further you drift, the harder it is to find each other again. Of course, there are couples that are destined to separate and divorce. It takes two in the endeavor, and if one is unwilling or unable to take part. The marriage will drift into the doldrums of the family court system.

Lesson Five, Dance in the Kitchen. My husband has two left feet, no sense of rhythm, and doesn’t understand the art of dance, At. All. But when I get upset or down, he puts on our favorite slow song, and we dance in the kitchen. Really, he just holds me and we sway to the music, but it is how we dance. I know this is his way of comforting me, he knows after I settle down, I will tell him what is hurting me. We are communicating love, comfort, and compassion without words. Maybe you won’t dance in the kitchen, maybe you will go out and shoot at tin cans, or make pizza together, or go for a walk, but each couple needs to find their comfort mechanism. That one thing they only do together that brings them close to one another, communicating without words. It’s a good thing.

Lesson Six, Take private time for romance. A weekend at the hotel down the road is good enough, if you don’t want to get too far from the kids. Why? Because every couple, admit it or not, need the excitement of a romantic get away. Give the hotel number to the sitter, turn off you phones, better yet, leave them in the car or at home. Spend the time alone, on a honeymoon, or if your having issues, as a marriage get away to talk things through. Romance is vital, VITAL to a lasting marriage. Once, my husband took me to Paris, France (We lived in London at the time.) and he kissed me in the rain, on top of the Eiffel Tower. It wasn’t an all out, I want to bed you right now, kind of kiss, it was a, soft, romantic, I love you, I’m glad I found you, kind of kiss. One that used to make ladies in a movie audience swoon. Now that is romantic. For me. For you, I have no idea what constitutes romantic, but make sure it stays alive between you all your lives.

Lesson Seven, Words Mean Things. Don’t say it unless you mean it. Even in the heat of a knock down drag out screaming argument, Don’t Say It unless you mean it. Because you can’t take back the hurt and shock of whatever it is, and once said, it has meaning that can resonate for years. Just don’t do it, words hurt more than a sharp sword. The damage can be fatal to a relationship. Dead and buried isn’t how most people want their marriage to end. Sometimes it is necessary, especially if there is infidelity or violence in the relationship. Being angry does not give a person the right to try to destroy another person with vicious words, lies, and gossip. Anger is not communication. Words mean things, good and bad. Be kind or Don’t say it.

Lesson Eight, Be gracious, be noble. When we first got married the Mr. and I would argue over stupid things. If I turned out right, I would gloat and rub it in that I was right. If I lost, I would pout and resent him. Talk about twisted. Be gracious in apologizing if you are wrong. Be noble in accepting that apology. Even if you insist you are right, be gracious and let it go, unless you love screaming at him or subjecting her to the silent treatment. Be noble, be willing to be wrong, be willing to apologize. Let go of the need to always control things, to always know everything. Men and women see things from a totally different point of view. I am five feet three inches tall. My husband is six feet one inch tall. I do not see the world from his perspective, nor does he see it from mine. Not unless we are willing to trade perspectives. I climb on a ladder, he sits in a chair, but come on, who always has that available? So we accept that each of us sees something differently, and we nobly, with grace, let it go. (Unless I get into a stubborn mode. You would think I would know better by now.)

Lesson Nine, It’s Okay To Cry. Nothing makes me cry faster than seeing a strong man cry. Because, ladies especially, for a strong man to cry, he has to break social expectations and give in to emotions. Men do NOT like that. They want to see a problem, analyze it, and fix it. If it is something they can’t fix, it confuses and frustrates them. It emasculates them in the deepest part of their foundation. We lost our son. It was horrific, sad, shocking to know a 21 year old was dead. Just gone. His life over. My beloved husband couldn’t fix it. He slid into shock, then into rage, then into a deep, long lasting depression. I got angry, got things done, buried our boy, and picked up the pieces of our life because that what a woman does, even while crying her eyes out. It wasn’t until my husband broke down and cried that I knew there would be a chance for our marriage to survive. He couldn’t fix it, he had to learn to accept the pain, the loss, the sorrow, and still go on living. It has made him a more tender, loving man. So, fellas, its okay to cry. The strongest of men are those who will allow themselves to cry in sorrow and in joy.

Lesson Ten, Nobody is perfect. No, you aren’t. Because if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need to be here struggling on earth. (Okay, there was a God pitch there, deal with it.) Both people in a relationship are flawed human beings. We say stupid things, do stupid things, hurt each other unknowingly and make mistakes. It isn’t a mistake to forsake your marriage vows, or try to maim one another, those are choices designed to end a marriage. Period. A mistake is making an inappropriate joke, telling your spouse something that will hurt them, and being so obtuse not to know. Imperfect means forgetting to say I love you when your spouse needs it. Imperfect is missing the cues she sends out that she is in need of a little tender loving care, and imperfect is to expect a man to catch those cues when they need explicit information to know how to act. (Note to females: Most guys only need to be told the parameters once, with an example, and careful instructions. From then on they will only need to be reminded with a code word.) Imperfect is to expect a man to understand female emotions, and imperfect is to expect a woman to understand that a man needs to FIX things instead of simply understanding and listening. But both come close to perfection when they try to see things as they really are and not through a cloud of emotion.

There is a lot more, small things, significant things that make a marriage work. Sometimes it requires judicial use of blinders, and a boat load of forgiveness. Sometimes it requires a huge sense of humor, and sometimes a hard line drawn in the sand. But, give it time, and most things can be sorted out. Two things are unforgivable: Physical or emotional violence, and infidelity. Either one is a deal breaker, and it can and will end a marriage.

To all my friends who are reaching the breaking point, breathe, look at your spouse, some where, deep inside both of you are the two people who fell in love once upon a time. Dig them out, dust them off, and let them rediscover each other in the older, wiser version of you.

And, that my friend, is how the Mr. and I manage to stay married after all these years.

Bon Appetite!


I am cooking today. Real cooking, from scratch, no boxes, cans, or frozen stuff. Just fresh ingredients and spices. Every now and then I get the urge to do this sort of cooking. It is always an all day thing, and I make a huge mess for the Mr. to clean up after. He is the official dishwasher in our home. I cook, he cleans. He says its worth it because he gets to eat delicious food in return. Not sure how delicious it is, but he likes it.

I started cooking simple things when I was around ten years old. By the time I was fourteen, I could make a descent cooked breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I got married at sixteen, and I had to learn to cook even better, so I started collecting cookbooks and recipes. Eventually, I took a year of cooking school to fill time while my boys were in school. I learned to love to cook. I will never be a real chef, but I am a good cook.

Women in my family have always been good cooks. Sometimes in the most difficult situations. My maternal grandmother used to work at a laundry in town. In the evening, she would come home and do her farm chores and then cook on a wood burning stove. She cooked simple things, but we always had biscuits. I don’t know how she did it, but she made the best biscuits ever. (Scones to the British out there.) They were warm, with melted butter and homemade jam, or sometimes served with sausage gravy. Either way, or plain, they were good. My fraternal great grandmother made the best vanilla cookies. She used to let us “help” her bake them, and we got to eat them fresh out of the oven with cold milk. Grownups got coffee instead. Grannie always smelled like vanilla cookies and coffee, two of my favorite aromas to this day.

My mother had to feed a family of six on a shoestring budget. She makes the best goulash, a recipe she got from another Army wife when we lived in Germany. Her potato salad and deviled eggs are beyond merely good, they are in a class all their own. Her biscuits are top of the line too. My husband nearly drools when he knows she is making breakfast because he know biscuits and gravy will be on the table along with sausage and eggs. I grew up on plain food, nothing fancy with odd named ingredients. We ate a lot of vegetables, very little meat (that’s probably why I love it so much), and pasta.

Interestingly enough, none of the women in my family who taught me to cook baked all that much. Dessert wasn’t on the table daily, dessert was a special treat – except for Grannie’s cookies. Learning to bake from scratch was a hit and miss thing for me for years. After cooking school, I got better at it, but we still don’t have dessert on a daily basis. Part of that is because when I bake it barely makes it from the oven to the plate before the Mr. or one of the kids finds it and spreads the word. When our youngest was a teenager, he and his friends would turn up out of nowhere every time I baked brownies. I always made a double batch because I knew that somehow, somewhere, the whole bunch would turn up at the farm in the middle of nowhere within half an hour and power through the brownies and two gallons of milk. I had to hide some for my husband or there would be nothing for him by the time he got home from work. That is one of my happiest memories, all those boys (ten or more) filling my house with laughter and loud noise as they wrestled over “Mom’s Brownies.”

Food is a common denominator in every culture. Feeding guests is a time honored tradition everywhere. We have lived all over the world, and no matter the culture the first thing we are offered is something to drink, followed by an offer for food. In some places refusing is rude, in some it is expected until your host convinces you to eat. The food, no matter where we were, was always amazing. I could eat my weight, and it is considerable, in the rice Florence Kaulu used to bring to our church pot luck meals. I could eat jerked chicken until I couldn’t move. I could eat any traditional Chinese food that Winnie Mak made, and I am downright addicted to Adobo from the Philippines. I love English scones, and Yorkshire pudding – which isn’t a dessert, but a roast beef meal. And bread from Bird’s Bakery on the high street in Debden, England is to die for. Okay, I have an issue with Carbs, so sue me. Food is something we all need, why not enjoy it?

As I age, I cook less, and we tend to eat out more. Lately, however, it has become boring to eat out. The majority of restaurants are chain restaurants, and the food is always the same. I would love to find a mom and pop greasy spoon old fashioned diner, with good food from old recipes. Or a new twist on traditional food, or an honest to goodness old fashioned Southern restaurant that serves fried chicken like we could get back when. And I don’t mean KFC or Popeye’s, I mean pan fried chicken like Grannie used to make on Sunday afternoon. Real food, not the la-di-da meals served in fancy places where you leave as hungry as you were when you walked in. I want something different, or traditional, like they always have on that TV show Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives. Not bar-b-Que, heaven knows I can get that anywhere in Mississippi or Tennessee, but real food.

One of my soap box issues is how so many younger people simply haven’t a clue how to cook, unless they nuke something in a microwave. Most folks under 30 are clueless when it comes to making a meal from scratch. Teaching a child to cook is a great bonding moment, it is also beneficial to the child because some day they will live alone, or with a partner, and someone needs to know how to feed the family. I regret that I didn’t do more of that with my children and grandchildren. My boys learned enough not to starve or to have to eat cereal every day. My oldest granddaughter is learning how to cook on her own, she too, is collecting cookbooks. I really need to start teaching my great granddaughter more. She loves to “help” me bake now that she is five.

I better go give things a stir, get the bread in the oven, and figure out dessert. No, it isn’t a special occasion, but if one makes a full dinner from scratch, dessert is a must. Bon Appetite!

All You Need Is More Than Love


I saw a sticker on a car that said, “All You Need Is Love.” It was printed with a tie-dye design, with lettering circa 1970’s. A very nostalgic, Magic Mushroom, vibe was attached to the meme like design. At first glance, it is a neat saying. But like most bumper sticker/meme tag lines, it falls down when logic is applied.

First of all, to whom or what does the “you” in the incomplete sentence apply? Me? People? Dogs? Aliens? What kind of love is needed? Is it needed, or wanted, and how will it change anything? Exactly what is the expected outcome of the love? How will it change or complete the life of the “you” mentioned in the blurb? I don’t know about most people, but I need a lot more than love in my life to exist, survive, be at peace, and live a healthy life.

To begin with, I need all the basics of survival. I need air, water, food, and shelter. Without those, love isn’t going to do me a bit of good. It won’t replace the need to breathe, and it sure won’t give me the moisture I need to replace what my body has to have to live. Water is one of those things that is more important that love. I can’t live without food either. Love won’t replace the energy I need to do things like walk and hunt for food and water. I can do without shelter as long as it isn’t too hot or cold. But if the weather changes, I need a place to get warm, and a fire will trump love in a contest of survival.

Love is a luxury when it comes to survival in the harsh reality of life. Before love became a “thing” everyone strives for, people came together who were compatible to survive together. A woman looked for a man who was strong, capable of protecting and hunting for the survival of the woman and offspring. It didn’t matter if he was sensitive and understanding, it didn’t matter if he was as ugly as a mud fence. It didn’t matter how well spoken, or how well dressed he was, what mattered was if he could do his share of work for the family. A man looked for a woman who could gather or grow food, medicine, and herbs that she would use to feed the family. She needed to know how to help dress out the animals he killed, build a fire and keep it going, cook, and take care of the illnesses that might come along. She didn’t have to be sexy, pretty, or wear the hottest new clothes. She needed to know how to nurture the family and the man who helped provide for her. They bonded by surviving and bearing children together. They took care of each other, and love wasn’t even a word in their vocabulary.

Love was a luxury between men and women who mated with each other via marriage and ceremony right up until the twentieth century. Only once survival wasn’t tied to living from hand to mouth, hunting and gathering, did love become part of the lexicon for couples. Oh, yes, it was bandied about for centuries, but when it came right down to it, survival was always more important. Women married successful men or married into successful families, men married for social advantages, and often for money. Love was for mistresses and lovers, not the spouse. Fidelity was a fluid commodity, often something that applied legally, but not morally, throughout many societies.

Then along came modern love. No longer did men and women need to marry or mate for survival, Movies, books, advertisements, media all made love a glowing part of finding a spouse or mate. Linked to that love was romance and sexual attraction. Suddenly the way a woman looked was more important than how she acted and what she could do. Men needed not only to be successful, they needed to be handsome, well built, and oh, my, sexy. When the two of them met, they had to be eye-crossing sexually attracted to one another. Then boom, love was in the air. That trend has continued since.

However, human beings cannot survive on love alone. We still must work together as a couple, whatever that looks like, to have air, food, water, and shelter today just as we have from the beginning of time. The way we get those may have changed, but we still have to support our partner and they have to support us in those endeavors. Many people still marry for protection, many join each other to maintain a healthy way of life. Some people marry because they are lonely, some because it is expected. At the end of the day, love is still a luxury, even a necessity, but everyone needs much more to survive and thrive.

This is one of my favorite love songs, from Fiddler on the Roof, Do You Love Me? Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSF8l_Yh_gY

How Weird Is That?


I woke up very early this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. What woke me was a dream I was having. I was teaching a class of first year college students (do they still call them freshmen?) and we were discussing who the real protagonist in Romeo and Juliet was. I had a list on the board, The fathers, the prince, Romeo, etc., ending with the Friar. After a minute everyone got a wrong answer so I told them it was the Friar and launched into a dissection of the history of England, the anti-Catholic sentiment of the age and how Shakespeare used his plays to promote the propaganda of first the Queen and then the King of England against the Catholic church. I won’t go into the entire lesson, it is one that I taught several times during my teaching days.
 
One way I kept younger kids, meaning teenagers, awake was to compare the feud between the families to modern day gang wars and how the warring factions of the government today were much like the war between the King of England who was also the head of the Church of England and the Catholic Church in other countries and the Catholic Kings. The kids ate it up with a spoon.
 
After waking up, I lay in bed contemplating Romeo and Juliet and other Shakespeare plays where the bias was blatant if one knew the history of the era in which it was written. Personally, I like the comedies best because he used outright parody of the pomposity of the gentry versus the vitality of the commoners to poke fun at everyone from royalty to the servants, merchants, and country bumpkins. He walked a close line between mocking and sneering and lecturing against the unpopular ideals of the King and his Lords.
 
What I find interesting is that after all this time, I remember all the details of the lesson, history, and play and could stand up in front of a classroom and give it again with a few peeks at the play to get my quotes right. How weird is that? No really, I wonder how weird it is.
 
Anyway, now I have Shakespeare on my mind. And I really, really miss teaching.

Despicable VS Decency


I have always maintained that politicians are in it for themselves and their pocketbooks. The people they are supposed to represent are simply an inconvenient part of the deal to go to Washington D.C. to make money for themselves and their cronies. Sitting on important committees is the main goal, because that is how they meet the movers and shakers with whom they make backroom deals for power. The longer they are in office, the less the people they represent matter and the more power has a hold on them. Those who are already corrupted become even more corrupt over the years and anyone who got into the game with an honest desire to help their state or country becomes more corrupt the longer they hold power.

Those backroom deals are their life blood, they are supposed to win every race, fulfill every deal, pocket money and power for the people who pull their strings. If they don’t, they lose what power they have, and money stops flowing into their hands. They will do anything, destroy anyone, climb over anyone in their way, just to keep their deals. Power and money are deeply addictive things, there is never enough of either for politicians and their backers.

The average American wants a good job, a place to live to call their own, and a safe, decent place in which to raise their children. They want their kids to have a good education, and to retire some day with a way to live comfortably. They want fewer taxes, less intervention from Big Brother Government, and to pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness. They want their Constitutional Rights, including freedom to bear arms, worship as they wish, the right to free speech and a vote as a citizen of the United States of America. All are concepts we took for granted since the founding of our country until the 1970’s or there about. Something we no longer have because the leftists have spent the past forty plus years slowly and methodically taking those rights away from citizens under the guise of equality, fairness, and social adjustments in the way we live our lives.

No longer are we encouraged to excel, it makes it unfair to those who don’t or won’t have the self determination to do so. Therefore we must all fall to the lowest common denominator. No longer are we allowed to think for ourselves and form our own opinion and ideas. In fact, with common core forced into every level of education, our children are actively discouraged in their desire to standout or think critically among their peers. The outcome is making our young adults and children into fearful, inept, indoctrinated zombies to the system. The very things that made America stand out as a world leader in science, technology, art, music, intellect, and inventions are squashed in all children before they get out of elementary school. If Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and their generation were being educated today, there would not be Apple or Microsoft, because they wouldn’t have the stepped outside the acceptable lines and developed their products. That would be the job of the government, after all.

This past week we saw, the world saw, the way in which politicians will go to any lengths to maintain power and control the country for their wants. We saw how bitter losers of the last election are desperate to hang on to their control rather than allow a man who, by everyone’s definition, is a brilliant judge who lives by the laws of the Constitution become a Supreme Court Justice. They tried desperately to destroy a descent, honest, faithful husband and father, by refusing to follow the standards and rules of generations in the choice of a Supreme Court nominee. Instead of following the process, they used despicable, dishonest, disgusting methods to try and undermine a good man rather than lose yet more control to the opposite side. It was horrific to see a man have to try to defend a negative in front of his wife, parents, and, worse, his children.

The Senator who started this entire debacle, Diane Feinstein the senior Democratic Senator from California, purposely withheld information from the Committee to use as a last ditch effort to derail Mr. Kavanaugh’s nomination and approval for Supreme Court Justice. In doing so, she exposed not only Mr. Kavanaugh to ridicule, she also exposed Dr. Ford to the world as a slightly mad, angry woman who is obviously is in the control of the Democratic Socialists who will do anything to regain control of the country. Dr. Ford is now despised and held in contempt by any reasonable, thinking people not under the same control of the party of hatred.

There is no proof of the allegations, there are no corroborating witnesses, and there isn’t anything more than her non-specific, vague, recollection of a drunken teenage party in which she claims someone tried to sexually abuse and/or rape her. Suddenly, according to the leftists, an accusation is equal to proof, therefore the accused is automatically guilty of said accusations. There is no due process, no investigation needed, if a woman accuses a man, he should automatically admit wrong doing and pay the consequences of the accusation. Facts don’t matter, nothing matters but the word of a drunken woman thirty years after the supposed event happened. Thanks to the lies and what many consider criminal behavior of Diane Feinstein, Dr. Ford, and the Democratic Party, the rights of women have been set back three generations because now the real victims of sexual assault and rape will have an even harder time convicting those who are sexual predators.

Regular Americans, unless indoctrinated by the leftist education and the leftist government of past years, are watching the whole abomination of the actions of Diane Feinstein and her cronies in horror. Men and boys are now victim of a witch hunt that marks each and everyone of them as predators, no matter how circumspect they are in their behavior. If this keeps up, men will simply stop asking women out, and if they have needs will go to a professional sex worker rather than take a chance on being accused of something they did not do.

I find it profoundly embarrassing that Senators of our great country are willing to squabble like a bunch of idiots over how much a seventeen year old boy drank thirty years ago. The fact that they are willing to stoop to digging around in a High School yearbook and trying to make sexual innuendo out of what some teenager wrote in it thirty plus years ago is disgusting. I am horrified they are doing this in front of the world stage, and still expect to be treated with deference and dignity. They are becoming the laughing stock of the world.

I, for one, believe Mr. Kavanaugh is innocent of the charges, he has proof of where he was and what he was doing that long ago summer, unlike his accuser who can’t even remember when and where the incident took place. I think Dr. Ford was, and is, a patsy for the desperate leftists. Shame on her, and shame on them. May God Bless him, and anyone in the Senate with an ounce of common sense will stand firm and vote for Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court Justice. And once he is on the court, I hope he continues to be a fair, descent, protector of our Constitutional Laws. Should he not be confirmed, I hope he sues everyone involved into the ground for defamation of character and anything else he can. But, he won’t do that. He is too descent a man.