Here Comes the Bride

My niece Chelsea is getting married next Saturday.  I have dreamed of this day since she was born.  Not just the wedding but a lifetime of happiness that she would find my marrying her Prince Charming.

Chelsea has found her guy and together they will bring their two daughters together to form a new family.

Ever since she was a little girl, Chelsea has been an independent, strong-willed mix of tomboy and girly-girl and she has found the perfect guy to embrace everything that she will bring to a marriage.

I have always heard that girls marry their fathers, well Chelsea is definitely doing that.  Brett, the groom, is a know everything, right-wing, sports loving, debating, strong willed guy just like his future father-in-law.  More importantly, like his father-in-law, he is a hardworking, protective, dedicated family man who will move mountains for those he loves.

We are fortunate that Chelsea found Brett and thankful for the family he will bring with him.  His mom, Baboo and daughter Jaydynn complete us.

Chelsea and Brett have a great relationship that is built on love, respect and commitment, values that I know will carry them into old age.  They both have strong alpha personalities, so that love and respect will come in handy when paired with their stubborn streaks.

Brett’s only real downfall is that he is a Georgia Tech fan, but we are working on that and know that soon he will see the error of his ways and come into the light, we’re a DAWGS family and have a hard time comprehending blue and gold over Red and Black!

As the days grow close to their wedding, I am sentimental about the little girl who has overcome challenges, excelled as a mom and flourished through life.  I am proud of the woman Chelsea has grown into and look forward to seeing her in this next chapter.

The wedding will be beautiful, sitting on the banks of a river with all of Chelsea’s touches making the day special.

As they walk down the aisle to marriage, I hope they both think about those who have lifted them up through life.  The ones who celebrate their marriage in heaven and those who will be with them on their day.

I pray Chelsea and Brett have a lifetime of happiness and their girls, Jaydynn and Hadley know that they were chosen in love and good fortune.

I wish nothing more than a world of happiness for Chelsea and Brett.  There will be great times and difficult times for them to maneuver through the next 50 years of their lives together, but when their commitment is built on God, family, love and mutual respect there is nothing they can’t overcome together.

Except maybe that Georgia Tech thing….. he REALLY needs to fix that quickly!

Cheers to Brett and Chelsea, may your lives be filled with adventure and I pray the happiness you find as you approach your wedding will carry you through all the days of your lives.

Life’s Playlist…. Luck Be A Lady performed by Seal

The day I won the lottery my life changed.  Twelve million dollars tends to do that.

As I read the numbers off my sheet and saw each one match, I couldn’t believe my luck and had no idea what to do first.

I called my parents and shared the good news, then my brother.  Being the sensible ones in the family they advised me to put the card away for safe keeping and not to tell anyone else about my good fortune.

As it was a Sunday, I wouldn’t be able to cash in the winnings until the next day.  I taped the sheet to the back of my dresser for safe keeping and locked myself in my apartment out of fear that someone out there knew that I had won.

I spoke to my family a couple of times during the day and arranged for them to drive down the next morning and we would go to the Lottery office together to claim our winnings.

I barely slept that night.  I was convinced that every noise was an armed robber coming into my house and stealing my ticket.

At 29 years old, I knew that my life would never be the same.  No financial worries would allow me to do what I wanted with my life, start businesses, help other people or do nothing.

What I knew was the my family would be taken care of, there may not be enough to help others, but for us, we would now live on easy-street.

By the time my family arrived on Monday morning, I had my plan in place.  Half the money would be mine, my parents would receive 25% and the final 25% would be split between my brother and a foundation we would start to help other people.

As my mom, dad and brother came bounding into my tiny apartment, we all embraced and laughed at out good luck.   It was one of the most exciting moments of my life to see them so excited!

They asked to see the ticket and we all went into my bedroom where I dug the ticket off the back of my dresser.  We compared the numbers and again celebrated when I called out the sixth number on the roll.  We were winners!

Too nervous to drive, we piled into my brother’s car and started to make our way towards the Georgia Lottery Office in downtown Atlanta.  It was only about a fifteen minute drive from my house, but as I held that jackpot in my hands it felt like a lifetime.

Once we reached the offices, the numbers were verified over and over again.  It was now official, I was the latest winner of the Georgia Lottery.  When the Executive Director came in to meet me, she said “congratulations, you are Georgia’s newest millionaire!”

Within the next hour, the funds were deposited into my checking account, it was done by draft so that I didn’t have to worry about carrying the check to the bank.  When the deposit was made, there was $38 in the account, needless to say that changed dramatically!

Shortly after the funds were deposited I was presented with a ceremonial big check and my family and I took questions from local media.  It was all overwhelming.

Once the formalities of the cash out was over, my family and I went to lunch.  I had barely eaten all day on Sunday and hadn’t eaten anything on Monday, so I was famished.

We went to TGIFridays for our first millionaire meal, obviously we were not accustomed to the high life yet.  When the bill came, for the first time in my life, I bought for my family, it was an awesome feeling.

After lunch we went back to my apartment and soon my family left to make the two-hour long trek home.

Once they were gone, I took a huge sigh and sat on my couch, Georgia’s newest millionaire, alone in a one bedroom apartment.

Day 12 of the Jeff Goins – 500 Word Writing Challenge…… TELL A LIE!

Life’s Playlist….. Word Crimes by “Weird Al” Yankovic

Day 10 – Jeff Goins – 500 Word Challenge….. Write About Writing.

When I saw today’s assignment terror flushed through my body.  What do I know about writing?  I write, but do I really write?

I know that I get a rush of excitement when I sit down and look at a blank screen and start writing, for me it is a rush.  I love to see the words show up on my screen as they flow from my fingers.  But the constant fear I have had since I actually started writing is…..”is this any good?”

I started writing this blog in 2009, it was originally posted on a “Blogger” profile http://notesfromasouthernkitchen.blogspot.com/.  You would think that after nine years I would have it figured out by now…. I don’t.

I started writing “Notes from a Southern Kitchen” as an experiment.  I hadn’t done a lot of “real” writing up until that time.  I wrote a lot of Press Releases for my job, but nothing just for enjoyment.

As my mom’s health began to fail, I thought the blog would be a nice way to help her remember family stories from my perspective.  The experiment worked, she loved the blog and read every post. After she passed away, it was difficult to write.

I wrote sporadically, but the joy was gone.  Over the course of a year, I started posting a bit from time to time and near the end of 2011 I moved the blog to this WordPress format.

After moving over, I started to write a bit more, not usually family stories but my views on pop culture, food, politics and the like.  I found I didn’t enjoy those posts nearly as much as I did the stories and moments of life that impacted my days.

Once I moved back to God’s Country, I started having a renewed story to tell, a return to my hometown after being away for over 30 years.

I started to find my joy in writing again and with that joy started writing a monthly column for an area magazine and sharing more here on the blog.

I started writing a novel and then switched over to a life-story and then a second idea for a novel.

I’m now concentrating more on the novel, although the life-story book is almost ready to go, I have a mini-meltdown every time I think about sending it off to a publisher.

You see, quite frankly, I am petrified to finish up any of my work and send it in.  I fear the rejection, I fear that the book in my brain simply isn’t as good on paper as it is in my head.

When I write, I still see those red-marked grade “C” essays from college.  I am afraid I still haven’t learned where to put a comma and where to leave one out.  Are my sentences mature or do I write like a fourth-grader, do I ramble, do I repeat and on and on and on, I know it is fear that holds me back.

Then I start worrying, what if it is good, what if it is published, what if people like it, oh my, fear really is my worst enemy!

‘All these thoughts hold me back, fear, doubt….. ugh!

I’ll just put it out there, I would love to write books and columns and human interest stories.  I think I excel in that homespun writing that leaves people with a lump in their throat or a swelled heart filled with pride.

Now if I could just get past my fears and have enough faith in my ability to find out if I “have it” or not, maybe this would all be easier.

Writing is my joy, my excitement, my best friend.  Writing is also my insecurity, my fear and my dread.

Oh Calgon….. take me away!

Life’s Playlist….. Teach Me Tonight performed by Phoebe Snow

Today is my Day 9 of the Jeff Goins – 31 Day Writing Challenge, 500 words per day.

My assignment today is to “teach you something.”

Quite a broad topic at hand and my thoughts on what to teach are all over the place.  I could teach how to ride  bike, but doesn’t everyone know how to ride a bike?

I could teach how to print a design on a direct to garment t-shirt, but I have enough competition for that, I don’t need to give away anymore secrets!

Maybe I could teach you to hula hoop, if only my stomach didn’t get in the way.  Or I could give an awesome demonstration on how to take a selfie, nope not good with that.  Swim the length of Lake Burton, no one wants to see me without a shirt and it is WAY too cold.

So I guess I will fall back on something I know and I’m actually pretty good at, something from the kitchen, one of my favorite dishes a simple banana pudding.

Banana pudding is a southern delicacy, some people eat it as dessert, I eat it as a side with my main course.

My mama used to make a real banana pudding with real meringue and it would be devoured as soon as it hit the table.

Several years ago my cousin gave me a recipe for a simple banana pudding that I have now made consistently and gotten the same results as the one my mama used to labor over, so here goes……

Simple Banana Pudding:

The ingredients needed for a simple banana pudding are short.

1 – 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 cups of water

1 small box of vanilla instant pudding

1 cup of whipping cream

1 cup of sour cream (this is the surprise ingredient and definitely makes it!)

6 – 8 bananas

1 box of vanilla wafers

One of the most important things you can do is your first stop in making this dish.  About an hour before you are ready to prepare the dish, put a large bowl and the beaters from your mixer in the freezer.  Just let them stay in the freezer, it will be important that they are super cold when it is time to bring them into the mix.

Now that all the preliminaries are done… it’s time to put this dish together.

In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, and water.  Mix these ingredients well.

Mix in the pudding and whisk until there are no lumps.

Once these ingredients are mixed, put the bowl containing them in the refrigerator to sit.

Now, remember that bowl and beaters you put in the freezer to chill?  It’s their turn, take them out, if you left them in for at least an hour, they should be nicely chilled.

In the bowl, pour in one cup of whipping cream and with the mixer, beat until it is thick and starts to peak.  Warning…. don’t beat it too much, you will know when it is right.

Once the whipped cream is ready, fold in the sour cream and then combine your two mixtures, the pudding and cream bowls.  Mix them together.

Now you are ready to put this masterpiece together.

Cut the bananas into thin rounds and break up the Nilla Wafers, not too broken, you will want some chunks but broken enough so that they are easy to eat.

In a clear bowl, you will layer the different ingredients.

Layer one, pudding mix.

Layer two, vanilla wafers.

Layer three, bananas.

Repeat and then save a few of the Nilla Wafers for topping.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, the longer the better so that everything can set up.

And now….. eat!

Life’s Playlist… God Bless the Child performed by Vivian Reed

Day 7 – My 500 Words Challenge by Jeff Goins.

Write a letter to my children or my younger self.

On the surface it appears this should be a simple assignment for me, since I have no kids and at 53 that doesn’t look like it will change. Logically I should write to my younger self.  However, logic isn’t something I always follow, with that said, I write to the children I will never have and only dream of having.

Dear Child of My Dreams,

First and foremost know I love you, or I should say, I love the thought of you.  I would always have loved you and there is nothing that you could have ever done that would change that fact.

You would be my greatest gift from God and I know I would have been humbled that he allowed me to be your parent.  I was blessed to have amazing parents and I would only hope that I could be half as good as they were.

I never doubted my parents love and if I did nothing else right, I would want you to never doubt mine either.

If I were lucky enough to have been a parent, I would have told you that there are a few things you should know.  I would stress to you that you can be anything in this world you want to be, the sky is the limit and dreams are meant to be followed.  You should never let anyone devalue your dreams or think you can’t do something, you can, you just have to set your mind to it and make it happen.

When I was younger I had dreams that I didn’t express out of fear, I hope you would never do that.  Unfulfilled dreams or adhering to the life you think someone else wants for you will never get you to where you truly want to be.  I have regrets about not expressing my own dreams and would never want you to fall into that place, GO FOR IT!

I would tell you, if a dream feels far-fetched voice it, we would find a way to make it happen, together, as a family.  Nothing is impossible!

As wonderful as dreams are, I would also stress that, you have to know there are responsibilities that go along with those dreams.  Work hard, study, and never give up.

When I was a child, there was one rule in our house, it would apply to you too.  My father always instilled in me to “never do anything that would embarrass my mama,” we would revise that a bit and say never do anything that will embarrass your family.

For me I would want you to understand that it is important that as a family, we hold this cornerstone of responsibility, I would stress that you need to be a good citizen, you should care for and take care of others and you should always think of your family when making decisions, it helps you stay on the straight and narrow.

I think the greatest gifts you can give a child is to know if they are loved, dream big and honor family there aren’t a lot of things that can go wrong.  However, I would also stress that life isn’t always fair and things happen.  Things will go wrong, the child I can only dream of would sometimes fall short, they would face disappointment and heartbreak, unfortunately that is part of life.

What I would tell my child is that I would walk beside them through difficulties.  I would hold their hand and I would be a shoulder they could cry on.  I would stress to my child that I am available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every second of every day, no one is more important than you are.

From the day they were born I would make sure my child knew that their name is inscribed on my heart and I will always be your number one cheerleader.  No problem is too big or too small to bring to me and when asked, I will be honest with you and give my opinion; however if you choose a different path, I will respect your decisions.

For the child I can only dream of I would let them know, God has given you to me for a finite amount of time.  I want to make every moment of your life wonderful, I know I can’t do that, but what I can do is love you today, tomorrow and forever.  My child would know that I prayed for you before you ever arrived and will continue to pray for you until my last breath.

Finally, I would want my child to know and understand, you are the legacy I will leave to this world, just as I was for my parents.  Live big, live bold and just be YOU, there is nothing greater and I would expect nothing less.

If only I could say for real, I love you to infinity and am proud to call you my child.

Love,

Dad, to the child of my dreams