Life’s Playlist….. Every Day by Rascal Flatts

Thanksgiving reminds us of the unsung heroes, people who step up in big and small ways to save us.

Strangers, family, friends, first responders, the people who innately are there when we need as shoulder.

It’s a good time to say thank-you for these people who save our lives… Every Day!

Life’s Playlist….. Simple Gifts from Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring

As we enter the week of Thanksgiving, I always think of this section of Aaron Copland’s masterpiece “Appalachian Spring” the section of this symphony is one of the most beautiful I have ever heard.

As the music builds towards it greatest crescendo, I “feel” the joys of Thanksgiving, the simple pleasures and the simple gifts.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving melodies is this beautiful suite from the larger symphonic piece….. Appalachian Spring.

 

The Colors of Blessings

As the display of Fall color bursts upon the mountains and valleys of God’s Country it is always a sight to behold.

As I wrote in my October column in “Georgia Mountain Laurel” magazine I didn’t really appreciate the beauty of the season until I had moved away and become an adult.

For much of my life, the leaves changing color was just something that happened.  However as I have grown older, the changing colors represent more of a feeling, a feeling of blessing, reflection and joy.

This year, the weather leading up to peak season has been iffy.  We have had warm weather, cold snaps and everything in between, it seemed like the colors of Fall may skip us this year….. but oh, what a surprise the landscape had in store.

Earlier this week it happened, as if overnight, the leaves all changed and what a magnificent change it is.

Today the weather is damp with fog and mist making the colors explode on the landscape, the oranges, yellows and reds glisten in the moisture like a Monet or Picasso.

As I drove home from Church this morning, I stopped my car and just looked.  I soaked in those colors and let the beauty of the scenery in front of me wash over my soul.

It occurs to me that the colors of leaf season are a perfect prelude to Thanksgiving and Christmas.  A time to be thankful for the blessings in our lives and remembrances of those who paved the pathways that we now walk.

Those colors, like the blessings we all enjoy, explode in goodness and are tucked away in our memories through the seasons of life.  At times of darkness we can draw upon those memories to keep us moving forward and to rejoice in the blessings of life.

Like the seasons of our life, the season and colors of Fall renew the spirit and provide a joyous point leading up to celebrations yet to come.

I appreciate the colors of this season and the promise of what is to come.  During dark days it is good to know the colors will return and provide hope for our next blessings that lie ahead.

 

** Thanks to Kevin Croom for the Photo Reminder.  KCCPIX

Dished

These dishes were my grandmothers.  She called them her “evaday” dishes, not everyday, but “evaday”.

When my grandmother passed away my mother took them.

They have been in my parents kitchen since the day my mom took them home.

Last Friday my niece called to tell me she was redoing her kitchen, she said, “do you want these,” before the final word was out of her mouth I said YES!

It’s not that I need the dishes, I have my own.  I have my own “evaday” dishes, two sets in fact, I have my grandmother’s china, I have Christmas dishes, I have more dishes than any one person needs.

I didn’t need the dishes, I needed THOSE dishes.

You see, those dishes represent much more to me than a plate to put food on.  Those dishes represent memories of the two women I loved most in this world, my mother and my grandmother.

The set isn’t perfect, there are some chips and there are six sets of some, four of others and seven or eight of others, but to me, this is a perfect set.

I remember sitting with my grandmother at her kitchen table, mornings when it was just the two of us.  She would drink her coffee and in a matching cup cover the bottom with a few drops of that decaf and fill the rest with Pet milk for me. Over our morning coffee we would talk.

These same plates served our family countless Sunday dinner’s as we crowded around my grandmother’s dining room table.

Fried chicken, chicken casserole, ham, turkey, fresh vegetables from my grandfather’s garden and dessert, my grandmother always made dessert!  But it wasn’t so much about the food, it was more about the family time we shared there.

When my mother took the plates I had already left home, but for years mama would set the table with these plates.

Over the years we have eaten everything on these plates, but the plates really don’t matter, it is about the memories that were created at the tables where they were used.

Memories of family times, times that included laughter, tears, arguments, debates, deep conversation and lots of love.  Like the simple design featured on the plates, we bloomed at those tables where we came together to eat, we grew strong and in our own ways beautiful.

I’ve now washed the plates and will put them in a cabinet in my kitchen.  I don’t plan on using them, it is just comforting to know they are here.

I have a feeling on one of those days when I am desperately missing my mom or craving one of those conversations with my grandmother I will pull one out.

I’ll place my meal on the plate and I will remember and I’ll feel closer to the two women who helped to shape my life and made me appreciate the simplicity of a plate and the incredible gift of the memories they represent.

Family Reunion – We’re Going to the Elk’s Lodge

Next weekend my extended family on my mother’s side will gather together for a long planned reunion.

Cousins that I haven’t seen in many years will gather from around the country.

Unfortunately due to other commitments many of us will not be able to attend, but when I think about these events, my mind is taken back to the “Elks Lodge” in Elberton, GA where we gathered many times in the past.

Today, I hope you will enjoy a remembrance of those days that I wrote back in 2009.

For my family that will gather and those of us who can’t, I love you all and send prayers and blessings your way.

We’re Going to the Elk’s Lodge

My family is big on tradition. We follow the same routine for Christmas, birthdays were always a big deal, Thanksgiving dinner has been the same since I was a child and today I cook the same meal in my own home. I love the traditions that were set forth by my parents and in many cases their parents before them.

One such tradition was the Clark Family Reunion in Elberton each summer. Elberton is about an hour from God’s Country, but it is where ma-ma and her brothers and sisters grew up. Known for its granite businesses, Elberton is a big producer of tomb stones. (Somebody has to do it!)

Ma-ma came from a big family and each year the descendants would descend on Elberton, The Elk’s Lodge to be exact and reunion.

Going into reunions I was never excited. As the youngest of the grand-children I didn’t have a lot in common with my cousins. More precisely I was closer in age to many of the second cousins, which kept me in limbo. I was too young to hang with my peers and the younger kids were too young to do much, which left me clinging to ma-ma and mama most of the day.

Reunion would begin early in the morning. These gatherings were pot luck, so mama would get up early and start putting together her contribution for the meal. With mama’s penchant for extreme cooking, she would usually prepare enough for a small army, when it comes to cooking for groups she has never understood the concept of everyone bringing something, she always wants to make sure there is enough just in case someone isn’t able to bring their share.

Daddy wasn’t much into these family reunions, but he would always go and put on a happy face. By the end of the day, daddy would be in full spirit and entertaining the masses with his stories.

By the time mama was finished preparing her dishes the four of us would load up the car and start our trek to ma-ma and gramps house, about 30 miles away. Like mama, ma-ma would over indulge in the cooking department as well. There was always homemade chocolate cake, usually fried chicken, okra, corn from the garden and peas. Ma-ma would prepare for days for the reunions, these events were what she lived for. Getting together with her brothers and sisters and showing off their families.

Sam and I would always get a lecture in the car. No fighting and be on your best behavior, we were NOT to embarrass ma-ma in front of her family.

Off we would go, gramps, daddy and me in the front seat, ma-ma, mama and Sam in the back. Dressed in our new reunion clothes, a Bonneville filled with enough food for a third world nation and two kids threatened within an inch of our lives to behave.

Elberton is about 30 minutes from ma-ma and gramps house, not a far journey, but when it is made in a car that is over packed and over stuffed by six people in dress clothes on a summer day with the sun beating through the glass it isn’t always a pleasant trip. By the time we reached Elberton, we were all ready to get out of the car and stretch our legs.

Family reunions were held at the Elk’s Lodge, a rustic old building just off the main road. Without fail, the first person we would always see standing out waiting for the family would be Uncle Chester. If gramps would have had a twin it would have been Uncle Chester, although they were only related by marriage the two men were the mirror image of each other. Tall, lanky, distinguished southern gentlemen of few words, impeccably dressed with a sly smile and twinkle in their eyes. Gramps and Uncle Chester were the kind of men people gravitated to, not to be entertained but to learn from.

After the parking lot greeting, Uncle Chester would help us unload and move into the Elk’s Lodge. The interior of the lodge was exactly what you would imagine, one big open room with a kitchen in the back, a large rock fireplace, linoleum floors and dark stained panelling.

Aunt Laura Bea would be busily working when we came in. Setting up the buffet with her load of food big enough to feed an army, she would stop the pace of activity just long enough to greet us all with a hug and kiss, always stating what fine young boys Sam and I were.

Like ma-ma, Aunt Laura Bea was short in stature but big in personality. Like ma-ma, immaculately dressed and with a quick catch up story of where all her family was, what time they would arrive and who was bring what. Between ma-ma, Aunt Laura Bea and mama, the buffet was arranged and in place before anyone else could arrive to help.

Throughout the late morning and early afternoon, the other families would arrive. Our glamorous Aunt Frances and her family from South Carolina, the Virginia Clark’s and the Maxwell’s.

As the families arrived and the buffet grew to embarrassing proportions the sounds of laughter would echo through the Elk’s Lodge. Cheeks were pinched, kisses exchanged, hugs enveloped us all and the Clark Family Reunion would be in full swing.

Like other traditions passed down from generation to generation, Uncle Chester would round everyone up when it was time for the feast. Families would encircle the room, all holding hands and Uncle Chester would bless the meal.

Mealtime would find one big family, all mixed together around long tables in fold up chairs, enjoying the foods of our ancestors and recipes from the current Southern Living magazine. Laughing, joking, catching up and reminiscing about the years past and ancestors lost.

After grazing for what seemed like hours, the families would then move to the front lawn, games were played, conversations took place and pictures were taken. Instamatic cameras would be pulled from every purse in the crowd and every configuration of family was photographed. First cousins, second cousins, immediate family, family with grand parents, grandparents with children, grandparents with grandchildren…. pictures, pictures and more pictures. Creating memories that would carry us through to the next year’s reunion.

After a long day, after the last picture was taken, the lodge was cleaned and the last hug exchanged we would once again pile into the Bonneville. Stuffed bellies and empty dishes but most importantly complete, filled with shared moments, family traditions and the love of extended family.