Hey,Hoss...Lemme Tell ya Something, You Gotta Look Sharp to be Sharp!

August 28, 2014

Anyone who went to T.R. Miller High School when Donnie Rotch was there, felt his death like that of a family member.  Coach Rotch couldn't have been taller than 5'9"-  if he stretched.  Maybe I'm wrong, but that is my memory. His personality, however, was at least 6'5".  Coach Rotch always had his hair just right, was clean shaven, and he always was dressed to perfection.  He had larger than life personality to go with his perfectly starched shirts and hurried walk, and he was an icon in Brewton.  Ask ANYONE who grew up when I did or thereafter to give you a one-liner from Rotch, and it might start with "Hey, Hoss..lemme tell you something."  His death shook the community to its core.  Everyone living there, and everyone who had lived there, loved him and respected him. I loved him.

In 2006, I was filming an audition film for a design show and had to have shots of my hometown, so I went to Brewton and asked Coach Rotch if he would be in my video.  He said he'd be honored. When I got there, and walked into the doors of the high school, the person with me filming immediately knew who the principal was, because he had on a coat and tie.  Rotch was all business and he understood how to command respect, and run a tight ship.

As I find out more and more things that have happened and that are going on at my alma mater, my heart just hurts.  I have thought about Coach Rotch- that's what we called him, not Mr. Rotch like the latest generation- he was always Coach Rotch.  I think about Coach Rotch and wonder if he can see all of this, and I wonder what he is thinking as he's looking down from heaven? I think he'd say "What kind of Molly Pop operation are they running down there at my school?"

He taught health one semester and driver's ed the other.  He was the baseball coach, and he was the offensive line coach. If there is a major league baseball field in the country that is more well-kept than Rotch's high school field ever was, I would like to see it, because I used to wonder if he didn't secretly sneak out to the field at night and trim it with scissors.  He loved that field.  He loved T. R. Miller.  He loved the kids who went there.  I remember vividly, being in band early one morning- first period, when the band practiced in the outfield.  A few clarinet players ended up taking a shortcut and were walking through the infield.  I seriously thought that Rotch might hurdle the chain link fence when he came running out like an Olympic medalist yelling "Hey...hey, band people...get off my stinkin' grass! Don't you people know that you don't walk on my baseball field?"   It was his baseball field and he maintained it with pride.  He had a group of football players and baseball players that we called "Donnie's boys" that he recruited to keep the fields maintained and to keep everything looking pristine. My husband was one of Donnie's Boys, and he will tell you that Rotch worked him in the dirt, but that he learned invaluable lessons about pride and excellence and just hard work. Jimbo always jokes that if the baseball team had been as good as they looked, they would've been state champs every year.

In the tenth grade, I was talking in his health class.  Robin and I were talking - softly- when Coach Rotch came over and said..."What's so important ladies?  Anything you might want to share with the claaaaass?  We said "No, sir"  and he proceeded to write a special assignment on a square piece of paper. We were to write 400 sentences.  The piece of paper he handed me said "I will not talk in Coach Rotch's fourth (spelled out) period health class." I still have that note somewhere in my yearbooks, because like a smart-ass, I wrote the sentences with "Spelled out" in the sentence.  I was in the library with two pencils taped together so that I could knock out two sentences at a time, when from over my shoulder, like a gust of wind, Rotch swooped down and snatched those pencils out of my hand and said "There ain't no shortcuts in life, so I guess we're just gonna have to start over with these sentences."  I was reassigned 800 sentences- just in case I taped my pencils together. They said "I will not talk in Coach Rotch's fourth period health class, and I will not tape my pencils together."

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience.  My husband has a similar one about skipping baseball practice that was held during spring break, when he and a buddy decided to go fishing.  He lied to Rotch and immediately, without hesitation, even though Jimbo was one of his good players, Coach Rotch kicked him off of the baseball team. There was no warning, no second chance, it was done.  Jimbo went back every day begging to get back on the team. After running the ball bag for a week - and Rotch almost physically breaking him down to tears- Coach Rotch let Jimbo back on the baseball team.  Jimbo will be the first to tell you that he never considered skipping a practice, or a day of work, or a meeting, ever in his life.

We both do Coach Rotch's voice and every now and then- especially when a life lesson comes up with our kids. Sometimes, while we are cooking and listening to music, if we break out into some disco, we talk about Disco Donnie and his Disco lessons at the Brewton Country Club, where my husband and his friends would go watch Donnie taking Disco lessons through the window.  It was unfathomable for them to believe that he might actually have a life outside of school, and that he wasn't a tough guy all the time.  In their minds, he was a four star general, not Disco Donnie.

I will never forget the year that Coach Rotch recruited a bunch of girls to help sell oranges so that the baseball team could get jackets that looked like the Dodgers' jackets. The girl who sold the most oranges also got a baseball jacket. Wendi won, and she was so proud of that jacket.  Coach Rotch was so proud of those jackets- it was like Christmas morning when they arrived.  When the matching hats came in, he said "Hey,you see this right here-  seb'm stitches, that's how you know a good hat.  These are sharp and hey hoss, you gotta look sharp to be sharp."  I can't tell you how many times I heard him make a boy tuck his shirt in and say "Hey, Hoss...tuck in that shirt and look sharp."  When he was in charge, things were different.

Anyone thinking of of walking on the grass on campus instead of the sidewalks needed to think twice, because that just wasn't happening.  There needs to be no further explanation of this, it was the law- period. We didn't have to have an eight foot tall fence around our school to keep us there, we had Coach Rotch, and we had Mike Hathorne, and we had Frank Cotton.  You didn't want to EVER be in the hallway, where you had been sent out of class, when any of them was making the rounds- and they made the rounds, regularly. That was the T. R. Miller that I knew.  I think that is the T.R. Miller that was so great.  T. R. Miller can be that again.  There are great parents and great students who know what we had back then and they need leadership.

I think if Coach Rotch was alive today, he would be outraged right now and his heart would be broken.  I can't speak for him, and I can't guess what he might say, but this morning in my best Disco Donnie voice, while talking to a friend who has kids at TRM, I said to her...

"Get in there people, and take back your stinkin' school. Hey hoss, you gotta make some noise. What you waiting for, a miracle?"

It Didn't Happen to my Child, so...

August 23, 2014

A few years ago, my daughter's best friend died of a heroin overdose.  That sweet, funny girl, whom I dearly loved, had shown up at my house at a baby shower, high.  I tried to take her keys when she tried to leave. She fought with me and got into her car and drove away.  But, I tried.  Did I continue to try and intervene on her behalf?  I did call her mother, but I didn't want to interfere in another person's family, that wasn't my place.  I didn't check on her enough after that, I didn't support her mother like I should have because I had enough problems raising my own teenagers.  I didn't try to reach out and talk to her and find out what was going on. Would it have mattered or made a difference?  Would it have saved her life?  I don't know if anything I could have done for her or her mom would have made a difference, but I will always wonder if I could have done more and I truly wish that I had been educated enough to understand what was happening right in front of my eyes.

What happens in a community when an epidemic like drugs takes hold of our children? What do we do as parents to come together and try to eradicate the problem and seek treatment for our kids? What do we do?  We must educate ourselves and we must be proactive.  

What do we do in a situation, like the one currently presented to my home town, where 8- possibly more students have been sexually violated by a teacher?  I mean, is it your responsibility to get out of your comfort zone and rock the boat if it didn't happen to your kid?

As communities, we are all quick to call a group of children "Our Kids" when they win a state championship. They are "Our Kids" when they win Science Olympiad or a Destination Imagination competition.  They are "Our Kids" when they bring home superior ratings at a band competition. So, aren't they still "Our Kids" when tragedy strikes and they are hurting?

It's easy to stand up and call them "Our Kids" when they are winning on a beautiful fall day and the stars line up and the Universe serves up perfection.  But, it's difficult to think of the collective as "Our Kids" when tragedy strikes and it isn't at your house or my house.  Then, "Our Kids" become "Those kids".  "Those Kids" should have known better, "Those Kids" blah blah blah.  I've read some things regarding "Those Kids"- and how they have been put in a position of blame that have made my stomach turn.  "Those Kids" are "Our Kids".  "Those Kids" need advocates.  "Those kids" could have been YOUR kid.

So, let's pretend for a moment, that one of "those kids" was your kid.  Let's pretend that you are the parent who has to ask the hard questions and are wondering how the system failed your child. Imagine that you are at home questioning your own parenting abilities and wiping your tear stained face and trying to read what people are saying about your child through swollen, red, eyes. How could you have missed teaching your child about predators, how could this have happened and you never know? I would be asking-  Why didn't I check her text messages more regularly? Why didn't I ride by that night to make sure she was where she said she was?  Why didn't I stay after late and get there early?  Why did I trust ANYONE to be alone with my child?  Why didn't I put a microchip in her forehead?  Why didn't I see the warning signs that something was wrong?  Why didn't I know something had happened to my child? I would be asking all of the crazy questions right now and punishing myself over and over in my own mind if I were in "those parents" shoes.

So think about it for a second.  Let's pretend.  Now, you are in the position of "those parents"  so that would make THAT child-YOUR child that has been violated.  Where would you begin?  What kinds of questions would you want answered from the school system where this happened?  What kinds of procedures and policies would you want now implemented to protect your child from this ever happening again.

I would want to know the following:

Why does the principal or the superintendent still have a job? If there was one child who had been violated, it would be one thing, but we are talking about 8- possibly more children.  Epic fail- epic. If you failed a private corporation in this manner, your head would've been on the chopping block the minute this news was released.  So, why do we allow educators any more slack than we would in a business? If your job is to make sure that children are educated, safe, and protected and you fail- then you failed your job and you should be replaced- period.  It's simple, really.  I've failed at plenty of things in my life and there is no forgiveness in a world that has no tenure.  Do you think that the manager of Walmart would still have his job if eight women had been sexually violated on the job there? 

What are the procedures for reporting a situation that involves violence, bullying or sexual harassment at the school? 

Can students report things that are suspicious, anonymously, so that they don't feel like they will be singled out?

What is the policy regarding teachers or staff members violating the confidence of a child who has made a claim against a particular educator or another student? Such as- calling the student out in front of other students to shame the student?  A ZERO tolerance policy regarding this should be in place immediately.

Who is ultimately responsible for reports made to the guidance counselor or principal's office? Is there a grievance council that is made aware of these complaints that is made up of a student advocate, a counselor, and the principal and possibly an educator?  This way, checks and balances are maintained to make sure that what is reported is addressed and not swept under the rug.

What is the written policy regarding bullying?  Is it in the school handbook at the beginning of the year?

What is the system's plan to implement a mandatory class on sexual harassment and sexual violence that would be required by all students to attend in order to teach the warning signs of inappropriate behavior by staff or other students?

What is the policy on campus when it is reported that an educator or staff member has been seen engaging in inappropriate activity with a student- sitting in the teacher's lap, kissing, touching in an inappropriate manner.  What is the method of investigation?  Are parents immediately notified? 

And why weren't parents notified about any of this information prior to the children being notified? Wouldn't it have made sense to address parents so that they could be prepared to speak to their children? When does the school system plan to address the concerns of parents in a public forum and how do they plan to share information with them regarding this situation?

Is there a procedure or plan of action in place to ask if there are any further students who have information or want to come forward regarding any other possible situations on campus? 

What outside group will be investigating the school system by doing an internal audit from the top down to find out who knew if anything was going on regarding this situation and when?

Since these are all our children, why wouldn't we all want these questions answered?  As a taxpayer, you have a right to question the people who, at the end of the day, work for you- for all of us.  You aren't being disrespectful to people you have grown up loving and respecting to ask hard questions.  

When there are answers, then your questions merely reinforce the fact the someone has done their job.  If there are no answers or policies, then you need to demand that policies be changed. Demand that people entrusted with your tax dollars and our children do their jobs.

Taking a stand, one person at a time, adds up. Phone calls demanding answers add up. One person alone won't cause change, but one person can be the catalyst for change.  You can encourage your neighbors and together you can make a difference in the lives of all of our children.  And hopefully if everyone does that, there will never be questions that you ask yourself as you lie awake at 3 am wondering what you could have done to have been more informed.  And hopefully, you will never have to ask the question that "those parents" are asking and that is "How and why did this happen to my child?"

Problems That Only Big Boobed Girls Have

August 8, 2014

Freya bikini top available at www.biggerbras.com

When I hear women talk about getting breast implants, I just shake my head.  I don't get it.  I will never get it if I live to be a hundred years old!  I've had boobs since I was eleven.  When my Grandmother and I went to Hawaii, shortly before I turned thirteen, I was asked if I was there for the executive secretaries' convention. It has pretty much been downhill ever since, other than my junior prom when all of my guy friends actually realized that I was a girl.

Don't get me wrong, there have been  a few times that big boobs have had their advantages, like job interviews in my twenties, and well, job interviews.  Here are some big boob problems to consider before going under the knife to buy yourself some problems.

1.  No matter what I wear, I look like I weigh thirty pounds more than I do because unless I wear something clingy, I look like a box.

2.  If I do wear something clingy, I look like I'm preparing to audition for the role of Roger Rabbit's girlfriend.

3.  I don't go around asking men if their lower backs hurt from carrying around those gigantic beer guts, I wish they would stop asking me if my back hurts from carrying around my breasts.  And yes, for the record, my back does hurt sometimes.

4.  At least once a week a stranger asks me "Have you ever considered having breast reduction surgery?"  Of course I have.  But, have you seen the scars?  And do you realize that it is a major surgery and that you could die?  Not sure that I'm that vain, if I were, I'd be a lot thinner.  And, I'm a chicken- a BIG OLE CHICKEN!

5.  Doesn't it hurt to run with those things?  Yes, it does.  Not running is part of how I gained the weight that I am fighting presently.  It does hurt to run, but if you don't, they WILL get bigger.  It is a slippery slope. RUN through the pain and give up everything that you love to eat, and they MIGHT shrink a little.

6.  There are no bathing suits available over the counter.  You practically have to have a prescription for a bathing suit that fits.  AND, if it fits your gigantic boobs, chances are the bottom won't work in a one piece. Hellooooo weird looking two piece bathing suits that aren't bikinis.

7.  You can never get sassy matching bras and panties like you could when you were a 36C (high school)- throw that dream out the window!  Well, you can, but never on clearance or on sale...you can pay $150 for a matching set and even then, you have to order them online or from a specialty store. So basically what  I am saying,  is that the opening scene from Devil Wears Prada, won't be happening for big boobed girls unless you have a trust fund or an underwear sponsor.

8.  Everything that I eat, eventually ends up landing on the shelf that is my chest.  I can never cheat on my diet without my husband knowing, because I am usually wearing my lunch.  Clumsy + big boobs= wardrobe disasters.

9.  No, I'm not "advertising my goodies", I'm just wearing a shirt.  It just so happens that have ridiculous cleavage in everything I wear.  I'm not any more excited about it than you are, but sometimes it's hot and a girl wants to wear a v-neck t-shirt.

10.  Do you have grooves in your shoulders from carrying around those huge boobies? What do you think?

11.  I would never go up to a strange man and ask him about the size of his parts, but for some reason, men, whom I have never met in my life, feel that it is completely appropriate to approach me and ask "So, what size bra do you wear?" Unless you are considering purchasing a $100 over the shoulder, boulder holder, it is really none of your concern- leave that to the expert, my fitting specialist.

12.  Women with large breasts aren't "easy"; they aren't any more sexual than women with small breasts.  As a matter of fact, most of the larger breasted women that I know are more self- conscious about their bodies than our skinny, flat-chested counterparts, who seem to pull off any outfit with the ease of a super model.

13.  No, I never worked at Hooter's in college and no, I don't consider that an opportunity missed.

14.  There isn't a strapless bra made that will hold up boobs that are over 36C- I don't care what anyone says, those bras don't work and you end up with boobs everywhere- or they can morph into what I call a uniboobie.  They can also look like four boobs once the bra begins to slide.

15.  I've would never go up to someone and ask...how much does your jello arm weigh?  Or how much do you think that gut weighs? So, I don't know why people say to me "How much do you think they weigh?"  More than your brain, I am quite sure.

16.  Jewelry is limited to a choker or a necklace that is higher than the cleavage line.  Otherwise, you end up with pendants swooshing around and hypnotizing every person that you meet over the course of a day.  This could be used to your advantage if you swing the necklace back and forth in front of your boss and say "You're giving me a raise...you're giving me a raise..."

So...before you consider going under the knife to look like Pamela Anderson, think about it.  There's a lot more to the big boobies than just having big boobies.

We're Praying for you...

August 7, 2014

We're praying for you, sometimes actually means just that- at least with my friends.  But, other times in the South, it's what self-righteous people say to you when they are judging you behind your back and quite often to your face. It seems to be more of a small town thing, but I think it crosses all lines.  "Hon, we're praying for your son (to turn straight) or Hon, we're praying for you (to stop being a Mary worshiping Catholic and get right with the Lord because you ain't like us) or Hon, we're praying you find a good man (that ain't a drunkard like that last one you was married to)..." Notice the grammar in these prayers.  Are you starting to see where I am going with this?

I was born going to a Pentecostal church with my Great Grandmother who grew up Church of Christ, and then I went to a Catholic School. In third grade, I went to a Lutheran school for about four months. I went to a Baptist church for youth group and I was a summer camp counselor at the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints.  I baptized my daughter in a Methodist church, I was baptized Catholic, I was married the second time in an Episcopal church, and I have a Presbyterian Aunt.  I think I've covered my bases in the Christian arena.  My parents started dragging me to a Pentecostal church when I was in high school and that is where they met Brother and Sister So-and-So.

The So-and-So  family "prays" for me. I love the way that they look at me and cock their heads to the side and roll their eyes up  little when they say "Hon, I'm praying for you."  I love the matriarch of this family and I truly believe that she is the most sincere, kind, and precious woman who has ever lived.  She truly is zen and practices what she preaches. Her family, though, looks down on others who aren't as "holy" as they are. Her children and most especially, her husband, have always looked at me like I wearing the scarlet letter and even more so since I converted to Catholicism. Lord knows, I've made my share of mistakes in this life. I know that I am a sinner and that grace is all that I've got going for me in this world.  I know where I have fallen short of living up to my faith, and no one has to remind me of my short-comings, and for grace I am grateful and thankful every single day.

I saw the So-and-So's  at a recent function where the Patriarch of their tribe looked at me with utter disdain and said "We been praying for you, Miss Holly".  You know how you always want to respond with something witty and clever and then always think of that witty and clever response during the car ride home?  Well, here is my response:

"Brother So-and-so, thank you so much. I've been praying for you too.  I woke up this morning and asked Mary, the mother of Jesus, to intervene on your behalf.  I prayed for your daughters who have always judged me, and especially that one who had those marital problems that time when her husband was addicted to porn.  I have also been praying for her daughter, the one who seems to have an affinity for the marijuana and fornicating; I don't understand her being a missionary and spewing judgment toward me on facebook when she's running all over the world getting high and sleeping with strangers. Thank the LORD she shows up on Sundays and does that interpretive dance for Jesus, I know that He appreciates it.  And hey, if us Catholics can drink all we want and repent on Sundays, I reckon y'all can too (that's what they really think).  I pray for your daughter- the one who says to her children "Just because I can't see you, Jesus can..." and I have prayed for years for that son of  hers- the one who tried to feel up my daughter on the school bus that time when they went to Six Flags (I know Jesus saw THAT).  I don't think I have ever apologized properly for the fact that she might have sterilized him when she kicked him in the family jewels. I've also been praying for the spirit of gossiping that seems to run rampant in your family.  I pray that you, Brother So-and-so, will learn to practice what you preach by taking a stand for what is right ALL the time and not overlooking adultery when it affects your hunting lease.  I pray that your personal morality won't have such a cheap price tag on it. I pray that you will overcome your ignorance and realize that your church isn't the only one going to heaven. I pray that you will realize that not only your prayers make it up the chain . And I pray that even though I don't jump pews and act like a crazy person who has been released without their meds on a three day pass, that God will hear my prayers as loudly as he hears yours.  I hope that one day you realize that Jesus isn't a jerk and that he actually did love EVERYONE- ALL THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD- red and yellow, black AND white.  Love doesn't have colors at my church, your Granddaughter and her boyfriend would love it here. And I want you to know, Brother So-and-so, that I will keep you in my prayers every day and I pray that one day you may find true peace in God's arms and that you will one day understand His love to be without bounds and limitations, even for sinners like me. I also pray that you learn to tie a Windsor knot so that clip-on ties will no longer be necessary for you."

And the people said, Amen.

Granddaddy and Keeping it Real

August 6, 2014

“A man who denies his past is a man who truly denies himself a future, for he refuses to know himself, and to deny knowledge of oneself is to stumble through life as handicapped as the blind mute.” 

By the time that I was born, Granddaddy was getting older.  He was 66 when I came into the world and we were immediately best friends.  He retired in 1977 against his will, kicking and screaming. He was 71 that year and it was time.

Always an amateur gardener, he took gardening to a new level once he retired.  We had banana trees with baby bananas on them by the pool and there was a pomegranate bush underneath Grandmother's window.  Mind you, all of this was years before pomegranates were en vogue as a super fruit.

Granddaddy's apple trees were my first example of rhythmic design, and they grew in two rows behind the banana bushes.  By June, they were loaded with tiny crab apple fruit that Bigmama would peel and cook in butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon when she was visiting.  There were rows of pear trees, blueberry bushes, plum, and peach trees.  My Granddaddy created his own Eden in the midst of flat, hot, south Alabama and turned the ten acres that defined his yard into a veritable outdoor marketplace.

We would pick plums warmed by the sun and have the juice running down our chins. When I was with him, manners flew out of the window.  I could slurp and make all of the gross noises that I wanted as long as my Grandmother wasn't around.  He taught me to drive when I was eleven,  and I was allowed to drive his car back and forth to my house that was three miles away-  all by myself.

He called me "Boy" until he died.  I was twenty-eight when he passed.  I had been married, divorced, given birth, and still, to him, my name was "Boy".

I spent a lot of time helping him tend to fruit trees and grapevines, fertilizing them, pruning and picking them.   I probably learned more during those days about who he was than any other time I spent with him.  Granddaddy had an unquestionable work ethic. He would work you in the dirt, but only after 11 a.m., never during the Walter Cronkite news hour from 5-6 p.m, and then again from 6 p.m. until dark.

I believe his penchant for acquiring 8-10 hours of sleep per night is why he lived so long, in spite of the abuse that he did to his body in his younger years running a hospital and rarely sleeping.  I never remember him doing much before 10 a.m. other than eating the Raisin Bran Grandmother put out at his placemat every day.  Every morning, Grandmother would arise and head down the hall in her satin peignoir set. She always had the most beautiful pajamas. As she sacheted down the hall with the grace and presence of  a 1940's Hollywood movie star,  she was glamorous. She still is everything that can be defined as glamour.

Once the coffee was perking, Grandmother made Granddaddy's cereal and put it at his place at the table.  Like clock work, she would go back to her dressing room and put on her face for the day, while leaving his cereal to soak for at least thirty minutes (he had a hernia). I know, gross, but that's how he rolled for breakfast.  After over forty years of marriage, my Grandfather never saw my Grandmother a single morning without her hair and makeup.  She never emerged for anyone to see her before her "face was on".

She would emerge a picture of perfection, and he might or might not change out of his pajamas all day long. When Granddaddy was practicing medicine, there were many days that he went to work in his pajamas. Pajamas weren't a far cry from scrubs, were they?  Granddaddy believed in comfort and marching to his own drum- and he marched to his own drum better than anyone I know.

He always had time for me and I spent many days sitting on his desk with a prescription pad learning to write my name, while "helping him" with patients.  He was Dr. Holley, and I was "Dr. Holly". Granddaddy did exactly what he wanted, exactly the way that he wanted to do it, and apologized to no man for the methods to his madness.  He was an inventor,  a genius- who had an obsession with quantum physics, and believed that a perpetual motion machine could be invented. He was constantly working on  his "wheel".  I believe that if he had lived long enough to truly enjoy the miracle of the internet, he could have solved the energy crisis by defying the laws of physics.

I can remember patients coming from hundreds of miles away to see him.  They would sign in at the small waiting room and sit in their cars in the driveway at my Grandparents' home.  Sometimes Granddaddy would see seventy patients in one day.  All of those people, in their cars with picnics waited in the cold or heat to get in to spend ten minutes with him.  Unlike today's general physicians, mired in malpractice insurance and regulations, he gave of himself freely and never charged for office visits, only for procedures.  If a patient couldn't pay, he saw them anyway.  Granddaddy's mission was to provide care to everyone, regardless of their financial situation.

Back then, people who couldn't pay would bring vegetables, chickens, pigs, goats, cows, you name it!  Most of the furniture that I had when I started out was from people who brought furniture to pay their bills.  He would tell his patients that he didn't want their bedroom furniture or trinkets, and they would drop it off in the yard anyway and leave it with a note because that is just how country people were back then.  There was this one particular wash stand that had been a poor, country lady's prized possession.  She had died owing my Grandfather for a procedure.  When she passed, her husband showed up with that wash stand and said that it was her dying wish for Dr. Holley to have that piece of furniture for all that he had done for her.  That piece of furniture is probably still at the farm today.

Granddaddy struggled with many things in this life. He lost his father when he was fairly young and had to drop out of high school for a year and run the family's drug store. His mother died when he was in his fifties and I know that he always missed her. He suffered from milk leg that was a result of some kind of fever he had as a teenager. During the war years, he was one of the only doctors in town, and kept the hospital running.  He rarely slept and carried a huge burden for my hometown until the other doctors returned from WWII.

What Granddaddy didn't struggle with was his faith.  He knew the Bible backward and forward and shared with me from every page.  I think we probably read it through at least twice together.  He was consumed with end times prophecy and had me convinced that the world was going to end in 1985.  Because of his faith, I think that Granddaddy had an unwavering ability to keep it real.  Dr. Holley never mixed words much.  If you didn't want to know how he felt, you probably shouldn't have asked. If he thought you were heading to hell in a hand basket, he would tell you, and and then share the love and forgiveness of Christ.

Jehovah's Witnesses met their match in my Grandfather.  He LOVED for a JW to visit the house. The conversation always began with "I tell you what, I will listen to your Watch Tower business, but only after you let me share my Jesus with you."  He beat them down to a point that most of them conceded that he was correct because he could match them verse for verse and trump whatever they said. They finally stopped sending people to our house.  I think they lost too many members. Later in life, I met a really nice guy who was a Jehovah's Witness and I just couldn't date him because I knew that I would win every argument that we ever had about religion.  I had seen this movie and truly had an unfair advantage.

I missed him today terribly.  There are so many things that I want to share with him, so many questions that I want to ask him.  I want to tell him that his great-grandson Paul looks exactly like him, and that his grandson, Nicholas, has his sense of humor and is maybe the funniest little boy that I have ever met.  I hope he knows that his granddaughter, Camille, is a math wizard and is what he would've looked like as a girl, and that my daughter, Mary Catherine, just graduated from nursing school and finally SOMEONE went into medicine!  I wonder if he knows that his granddaughter, Danielle, is a special education teacher who has the patience of a saint and that she truly is called to do beautiful things and that her brother Trey is going to be a physical therapist and is a healer as well. I wonder if he knows that my stepchildren are working on their doctorates in cellular biology? He would be so proud of all of our children.  I think of the strawberry milkshakes (with ice cream in them, as he would say) that we drank, and the Monte Cristos that we smoked (while hiding from my Grandmother), and all of the hours that I danced on his feet to Frank Sinatra and Guy Lombardo, and I long for those days.  And I truly, truly hope that his version of heaven is right and that one day we get to dance in our pajamas together again.

The Kitchen Chemist: Deciphering Grandmother's Lemon Meringue Recipe

August 3, 2014

Grandmother (left) and her first cousin, Jody, at Grand's 85th birthday celebration.

     Anyone who has ever eaten my Grandmother's cooking will tell you that she is arguably one of the best cooks in the South. I will put her head to head with Paula Deen any day.  She's pretty much a super hero and I'm not sure if she has alien DNA or what is in her body, but she never ages.  She runs on a treadmill every morning for about an hour, climbs ladders to change her own light bulbs, and is offended when I tell her not to do something because of her age.  She has no limitations and never has.  Sort of the Ketut Liyer of Damascus, she is always smiling, always has a positive attitude regardless of the situation, and just flat out tells it like it is. You NEVER have to wonder where you stand with her because when she has had enough, she will just hang up on you- period, the end.

     Replete with wisdom and one liners, my morning phone calls to her every day are usually the highlight of my day.  She has lived her life marching to her own drum, and has never cared much about what people think about her or how she lives her life.  With a name as unique as her approach to living, Lenis has made things work for her, regardless of her situation. To have been born shortly prior to the crash of 1929, she is a very unconventional woman who has been breaking glass ceilings and boundaries that most women of her generation dared not dream touch.  From having a pet pig that could swim, to painting the letters on the county buses as as summer job when she was sixteen, she has always done things her own way.

     Of course, this would apply to recipes- which she never follows.  All recipes are in her head.  Every year, we grab a bottle of wine, have a few glasses and then call Grandmother to get her cornbread dressing recipe.  And each year, I write it down and laugh that it is just a "little bit" different than it was the year before, and she always says "To be a good cook, you have to experiment and taste things as you go.  I'm perfecting things constantly."

    I woke up this morning thinking of Lemon Ice Box pie and looked in my trusty recipe book to find her recipe.  I looked at what I written down and then had to call for clarification.  Here is what it read..and then I will tell you what she said.

3-4 yokes
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c Lemon Juice (4 lemons) rind
3 beaten egg whites 
1/2 cream of tartar
1/3 c   or 2T/ egg - sugar
1/2 t vanilla
Graham cracker crust, just a dab of sugar and enough butter.

This is what her recipes look like.  I had no idea what the hell this meant.  So, I dialed up the kitchen chemist and it went something like this.

"Who told you to put 1/2 t of cream of tartar?  Good Lord!  That is too much.  You don't need more than a 1/4t. Be careful with that vanilla.  And I don't make that crust homemade anymore when there are good ones at the store, but you do what you want.  I have no idea how much butter it takes to make the crust if you are going to make one homemade. Can't you figure it out while you are putting it together?  You should know by now when there is enough butter to make a crust; you cook just like I do. And you'd better use the Eagle Brand milk because it makes a difference.  Don't get some sorry store brand or your pie just won't turn out.  Don't grate all four of those lemons or your mouth will be puckered up.  Just use enough zest to give it some flavor.  How much is that?  Well, I don't know- just zest one of those lemons.  Now days, they say to cook the custard for the pie, but none of us ever died from salmonella and this makes a wonderful pie- the one that you all love so much and fight over.  Don't put the cream of tartar in until the end when you finally get peaks.  Make sure you use those good Honey graham crackers now, don't use some other brand."

So here we go- if you want the recipe, this is it:


Preheat oven to 350.

Crust:  Get some graham grackers - try a sleeve of them- cause I can't remember how many it takes..but start with this: 
See, I am more like her than I think sometimes.
Mix in about 1/4 c of sugar and then melt a stick of butter.
Crush the graham crackers in a ziplock bag, add in the sugar and pour the melted butter in with the crushed crackers.  It should form a ball and you should be able to spread it out in the pie plate to make a crust.  I like mine thick.

Lemon Pie Filling:
Separate 3 egg yolks and put the whites over to the side for the meringue later
Mix in 1 can (14oz) of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
Juice abour four lemons- or however many it takes to come up with 1/2 c of fresh lemon juice.
Prior to the juicing, make sure that you zest/ grate the rind from one of the lemons (gives it a little extra punch)
Mix with a wire whisk until it's all blended and it's all mixed well and looks creamy and consistent.
Pour filling into the crust.

Take your 3 egg whites and add in 6 T of sugar and
1/2 t vanilla extract (not flavoring)
Beat on medium until the whites begin to stiffen, then add in 1/4 t cream of tartar
When you finally get firm peaks that stand up on their own pour the meringue on top of the lemon filling and use a spoon to make pretty peaks all over the pie.  You want one pretty curly peak in the center because that always makes me smile.

Bake 10-15 minutes at 350 until the meringue starts to brown.  Watch it carefully and do not let it burn.

I have really been struggling to eat clean and vegan and without sugar, but I think a lemon pie is calling my name.  I am going to set a goal for myself this week and if I meet it, I might make a pie.  Happy baking if you decide to use the recipe. If you do make this lemon pie and love it, please leave a comment for my Grand.  She loves it when I share her recipes and people enjoy them.

Love y'all,

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