Category Archives: Life

Pass the Hushpuppies

Among the reasons I love Fall, the number one is oysters. Cooler weather means oyster season. The oyster is the ugly, stinking of mud bivalve. I love them. They are by far my favorite thing to eat and have been since I was 6-years old. The only thing that comes even close is my grandmother’s collard greens. But that’s another culinary story.

Coastal North Carolina is fortunate to have what are called barrier islands. They protect the main coastline and provide inlets, waterways and protected waters from the harsh wave action of the ocean. Along these waterways, in the muddy shallows, my favorite delectable bivalves reside in the luxury of mud and seawater, living and multiplying as the tide dictates.

My earliest recollection of eating oysters was at our house at Lake Waccamaw circa 1975. We ate them inside the house! Something we never did again once we moved from the lake to where my parents live now. I still love their taste, but I first fell in love with how hard I had to work to get the tasty little morsels out of their shells. Mainly, because I was good at it.

I see people shuck oysters with gloves and rags, but from the beginning I held them in my bare hand and, at first, had only a butter knife to use to open them. My stepdad encouraged me as often as possible to slow down, eat a hushpuppy, take a break, but I loved just shucking and chucking.

Photo Credit: Oyster Cluster & Oyster Knife by Doug DuCap

News of possibly having a couple of bushels while we’re in NC for the holidays has me reminiscing about cold evenings standing around a table in my great grandmother’s smokehouse, now a garden shed, and shucking with aunts and uncles. Even before that, we ate them in a more modern shed my stepdad had elevated on railroad ties to protect from the tidal Thally’s Branch, the creek that runs behind their house.

Our family eats oysters on a wet roast, meaning they are steamed over a pot of water over an outside fire until their shells pop open just a bit. Well, most of them do any way until they start getting cold again and close up. My favorites ones are 4″ long and juicy. No sauce, lemon or fancy fixings are needed. I love them warm enough for their salt juice to sweeten with the meat. Their color ranges from beige when swollen from their hot juices to mud gray well, because there’s still mud inside the shell. Somehow the grit never bothers me.

Holding an oyster to shuck it isn’t for anyone not wanting to get their fingers dirty or cut. When they close up, a simple twist of a good oyster knife or even a sturdy butter knife opens up the most stubborn oyster like turning a key. The edges of the shell are sharp as cut glass at times.

Waiting between pots once you’ve eat the previous pot is the time to socialize, pass the hushpuppies and empty the full buckets of empty oyster shells. If it is cold, it’s a good time to warm up wet, cut hands by the fire but also down a good bit of Southern sweet tea to cut the salt puckering the soft tissue of your mouth. The last pot is always something to savor and it is customary to slow down to let the cook catch up on a few.

No, there’s nothing quite like shucking wet, muddy, sharp oysters in 35-40 degrees standing at a table covered in newspaper and saltwater. Many Fall and Winter weekends of my youth have left me with what feels like a thousand papercuts on my hands and a belly full of muddy, salty, slimy, chewy scrumptious oysters.

I can’t wait!!

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Filed under Beautiful, Family, Life, Past

Books: Our Defining Choices

     Madeline Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was my very first science fantasy read. I remember it because it hooked me into reading science fantasy rather than the silly pre-teen angst novels my friends were reading. It defined me as different.

     After a friend introduced me to Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon in high school, I fell in love with post-apocalyptic novels and how mankind survives near annihilation. Take everything away from a person and throw them into survival test after test. What happens to ensure success? As fascinated as I am by the stories, I’m not sure I’ve learned anything from the books.

     I discovered hard science fiction in college. Stories spun by turning known scientific theories on their head. Settings created unlike anything we know on earth. Time travel. Alternative universes. Space and planet explorations. Changes in human anatomy. Communication without words or speech. When I want to put my mind at ease, I dive into science fiction.

Some choices over the years…

     Reading more non-fiction than fiction, just a few years ago I got on a kick of reading about Henry VIII’s reign after seeing the Elizabeth: The Golden Age movie. I wanted more background on her, her family, her rise to the throne. As a degreed Americanist historian, I always felt I needed a more thorough understanding of the passions behind the Reformation that eventually pushed the Pilgrims to America.

     Then I found a writer that wrote non-fiction of that era as well as fiction. Her books are fiction in the sense that the dialogue is made up yet set in real historic facts. Historic fiction can be difficult for a historian to read, yet I have let it incite a passion that I had buried deep inside my mind: to write my own science fiction, alternative history, time traveling, post-apocalyptic, historic fiction novel.

     Choices going back to 3rd grade have defined my current desires. Be careful in what you choose to read. It might determine what you do tomorrow.

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Filed under Books, Decisions, Life, Passion, writing

Hate

Merriam-Webster defines hate as intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

There are very few things I hate for one primary reason. It takes too much energy to work up all that fear, loathing or anger. I see it as a total waste. But, I do severely hate something that made this past week more difficult than most others: birthdays.

I don’t fear growing old though I have difficulty embracing it at times. My anger about birthdays has subsided with time, 30 years to be exact but the deep scars of hurt linger. Each year with the arrival of my birthday, the wounds reopen. Each year I struggle to find a way to erase the memories that I hold onto as if they were all that I have. Well, they nearly are.

My 10th birthday party my Dad threw for me was the most awesome birthday party I ever had, ever attended or dreamed about. I saw him the following year but my 12th birthday came and went without any acknowledgement. Lost, confused and dejected, I turned the anger and disappointment on myself.

I’ve hated birthdays ever since.

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Filed under Birthdays, Failure, Family, Happiness, Life

Signs, Signs Everywhere


Another day, another week full of errands on the to-do list of life. Nothing extraordinarily different about the roads I set out to travel this morning but something made me stop and think maybe there IS something different about today.

I planned to make my way to the post office but a left hand turn onto a street said, “Street Closed.” I didn’t hesitate a second to go another way. Easy decision and not really inconvenient, just different.  When I continued my journey closer to work there were more signs at the street where I usually make a right turn. It was one of those big electric blinking arrows instructing me to merge left not so subtly with its orange cones. I quickly made the decision to make a right turn one street before that blocked intersection.

How easy it was to make those decisions to change my immediate plans! I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop and grok on that for awhile but my arrival at the office was imminent and unavoidable.

The way before me is full of obstacles, interesting side roads, bumps, those irritating slow-down grooves and best of all, signs. Lots of signs. Just like on the streets this morning, I need to always be prepared to make decisions as easily and seamlessly for whatever I may encounter on the road before me. Don’t we all?

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Filed under Decisions, Life

Surviving Summer by Saving

There are many reasons why summer is my least favorite part of the year. Holding my breath while opening our power and water bill (it is combined in our city) is something I don’t realize until I see the numbers. With 31 days of 100+ heat and water prices doubling this year, I think my family has done an excellent job of conserving energy and water. Yet, spending extra money on trying to remain comfortable irritates me and I hate summer for it.

Upon changing our AC system filter this afternoon, I thought about all the other little things that we’ve done to help with the costs this hottest summer on record in Lubbock, Texas.  Things like cooking enough at one time to eat 2-3 meals on so I don’t have to heat up the kitchen again or keeping curtains and blinds drawn to block the sunlight seem like no brainers. But, I check and recheck to see where else I can save.  Here are some others I realized I needed to be more aware of and just maybe we all do:

1) Thank “The Fokkers” for this one, albeit Medieval approach, to saving water: “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” I’ll have to admit the practical appeal of this solution though it offends the modern sensibilities. I’m sure it is illegal to dig a latrine within city limits so there are few ways of saving water and money in regard to dealing with our elimination needs. Will humans eventually consider litter boxes to save our most precious of resources? I wonder. (Say it, “Ewwwww!”)

2) Unplug those devices you are charging once they are fully recharged. If you don’t, they’re sucking up juice they don’t need. This includes mobile phones, laptops, ebooks, tablets, game controllers and electronic games. But don’t forget that electric picture frame, coffee pot, microwave, rechargeable hand vacuum, lamp or the tool battery pack in the garage. Yes, anything plugged in is drawing current and making that meter turn. Unplug!

3) I’ll admit how lazy, impractical I can be at times: I use a clothes dryer when I do my laundry. I know I could save money by hanging my clothes on a line outside in my backyard where it hasn’t rained since last October and the humidity is around 6%. But, I don’t. I could even hang my dark colors in the shade so they don’t get faded by the sun. Why don’t I? My underwear are pretty enough.

Well, those are just some thoughts while I’m milling about the house getting some work done. Do you have any tips on saving energy and water?

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Filed under Conservation, energy-saving, Life, summer

Your Power, Your Choice

(I wrote this last week before seeing the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2 movie. My son asked what was my favorite part of the movie. It was all so good but I told him it was when Harry went back into the fire to save Draco Malfoy, who had just tried to kill Harry. It goes back to what Dumbledore told him in his second year at Hogwarts, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” I know that is true.)

Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not. – Samuel Johnson

The above quote was stamped on my heart long before I ever read it or knew it was attributed to Mr. Johnson. Not long ago I had a surprising opportunity to live this quote. Let’s look at it closer.

If you’re not sure about the beginning of the sentence’s difference from its end, think of it this way: never, ever does someone’s actions, words or personality dictate a change in yours. The damnable thing is that we often let them. It is an easy, bad choice to make.

If there is one choice in the world that belongs to you and no one else, it is the choice of the kind of person you want to be. Don’t let anyone take that away from you with stupid words, ignorant actions and impossible personalities.

It’s easy to desire it, to say it and even commit to it until you’re face to face with your own judgement of that other person. How you react, respond and treat a shallow, pitifully ignorant, hypocritical, soulless shell of human tissue is not about them. It is about you.

It is in your power to be you no matter how other people treat you. Seems like such a simple choice until our natural instinct of defense, retaliation or revenge kicks in. Who is to say kindness is not a defense?

 

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Filed under Life, Uncategorized

Redundancy: Sharing on Social Media

We all know what social media is and what it can do. These are just some of my thoughts about it.

Current TV spots running for Toyota Venza exemplify how different generations define social, active and engaged. With Facebook leading the pack at over 750 millions users, effectively there are over 750 million different definitions of being social, active and engaged in social media just on Facebook alone.

Some people share minimally who they are and what they do on social media while others are all the way off the hook. You probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes at various levels regarding work, personal life, relationships, product and service experiences, pets, vacations, spilling your coffee in your lap on the way to work and who didn’t kiss you last night before you forgot to wash your face when you fell asleep crying in your pillow. I digress but you get my point.

Evident by Deborah Kogan’s story, sharing on social media can be an awesome thing. It has value at the same time, risk. The decision to share, what to share and to what extent is up to each user. Really no different from anything else in life, it requires common sense, risk of missteps, reward of not being alone and connecting to something bigger than ourselves.

Kogan expresses what many of us went through when joining a social media platform. Do I really want to, need to engage with people that may be spammers, stalkers or cyber bullies? She will say now that the risk was worth it. The few bad stories that get all the press and get our attention do not outweigh the family we can stay connected with, renewed friendships we gain, information and events we can know about and the sense of the huge community of mankind we are connected to. (Yes, that sentence ends in a preposition. Get bent about it.)

Social Media IS sharing. There, I said it. To be social, whether in person, on the internet or a sticky note, is to share something of ourselves with others and accept sharing from others in return. If you think as a member of mankind you stand alone, you are more than sorely mistaken. No man, woman or child stands alone in their existence. Social media has convinced me of the value of sharing. Yep, that’s redundant!

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Filed under Connections, Life, social media