My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm — IV

A Snowy Nostalgia

by tkbrown

20 February 2021 — Growing up in the Ozarks, I was so blessed to experience four distinctive seasons each year. The snows blanketing our country during the past two weeks brought back memories. Just prior to the onset of winter storms Uri and Viola, one of my siblings and I were talking about the winters of our youth bringing much more snow than we have seen in recent decades. We were a bit nostalgic about the memories associated with those snows–at times they were two feet deep or more with drifts three to four feet deep. One Christmas Eve, an older sibling drove in from another state and parked their Volkswagen in front of the house. The next morning, there was just a big hump in the front yard–no visible evidence of the car buried beneath all that snow.

Winter brought with it the excitement of holidays, snows and ice coated trees which I thought were absolutely beautiful with the sun shining through them early in the morning. Riding the bus to school, I often commented on how much I loved seeing that aspect of winter. Other bus riders could not see what I saw. I suppose, in their minds it was too early in the morning and they were still snug in bed and fast asleep. They wanted no part of my icy reveries which threatened to eject them from their warm ones.

On days when conditions were too dangerous for the busses to risk the drive to school, and on weekends, etc., I could enjoy the evidence of Jack Frost’s visit during the night. The etchings on our windows boasted designs far more intricate than most paintings. The beauty of winter escaped many, but I never missed a beat of its cold heart. I loved looking out the windows to see God’s handiwork. Even having to carry in wood and coping with one side of me getting too toasty as it faced the old wood heater while the other side froze could not diminish its value in my heart. To me, even during the season others viewed as representing death in life’s cycle, nature’s beauty surpassed any ugliness that came with it.

My heart goes out to those who suffered hardship and loss during the past couple of weeks. I understand the blessings of modern technologies have allowed many of us to advance beyond the primitive realities associated with the wood heating of my childhood. However, news of the suffering many endured due to the overwhelming frigidness of the temperatures and accompanying snows brought back memories of always being able to stoke a fire in that old wood heater or turn-on the gas heater and kitchen range even as the electricity failed us. Living on the coast and enduring a number of hurricanes, I loved being able to cook a pot of beans and rice or cornbread on that gas range for us to eat until. We never missed a hot meal during a power outage. That is one part of having less than others I have never regretted.

As the days of my childhood grew warmer and steadily longer, springtime dropped in for a visit. When the dogwoods and redbuds began to bloom, I knew spring would soon be in the air. Our springs were long enough to truly enjoy the rebirth of life associated with the cool days of fragrant, variegated greens and yellow greens. The fresh bursts of color in both nature and homestead, and the planting of seeds–as the days grew warmer–from which we would enjoy the produce over the coming year. These were fertile reminders of life budding anew. Springtime in the Ozarks is a rebirth of every aspect of living.

As school let out, days were becoming hotter and longer. Soon, summertime was in full swing. The heat–sometimes blazing heat–in luscious green surroundings seemed to embrace me with appreciation for the growing and reaping to be done. The mouth-waterin’ vegetables, fruits, and berries we harvested each year were my favorite part of livin’ off the soil. I looked forward to the watermelons, the peaches, and other produce peddled to locals by other locals because these were never locally grown in sufficient quantity. The annual hog-killin’ in late July or early August with the fresh tenderloin to follow at breakfast the next morning was usually assisted by cousins from other states. Afterward, we would all gather ’round to enjoy a feast of fresh pork and fresh vegetables from the garden. If we were lucky, the activities of this day coincided with the peach purchase mentioned above, thus prompting a bowl of peaches ‘n cream for dessert. Summertime food was always so delicious. To this day, I love the abundance of produce available during spring, summer, and fall. UUMmMmmmmm!

Fall in the Ozarks blanketed the area with bursts of color on every hillside–red, yellow, orange, and crimson mingled with green and brown–with the cedars etching a bit of evergreen and each frost increasing the browns. Vegetables that had not been harvested from the garden were brought in, preserved, and stored for winter. The Halloween Carnivals (now Fall Festivals) and Thanksgiving only added to the excitement and anticipation of Christmas ahead.

Now, we cannot forget the annual harvest celebration in a neighboring county. As we grew a little older, we could most always see a slew of people we knew at the Hootin’ ‘n Hollerin’ celebration. The Hog Callin’ contest was the most sought after prize of the day. Usually, this prize was taken by a woman ’cause she had looootts o’ practice from callin’ her husband in for supper every night.

When I was young (early childhood–preschool age), the fall also boasted an Annual Pie Supper to benefit the school. I was too young to participate, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching older sisters baking pies to be auctioned off and eaten with the highest bidder. Some of those pies were well-known and sought after–bringin’ a right-good price to compliment and redden the face of some young lass.

Then there was the Annual Talent Show. Local talent turned out in droves to assist in raisin’ funds for our school. As I mentioned above, I was too young for the Pie Supper, but Mama and Daddy were sure to sign me up for the Talent Show. I began singing at the tender age of three. The Pie Suppers and Talent Shows fell by the wayside by the time I reached school age, but I remember the fun they provided all who participated. All of the excitement added to the bliss of those fall days, which were cooler and reminded me of the holidays and winter wonderlands yet to come.

I look back on my growing-up years, and although there were bad times, I do not remember too many of them. I always felt blessed somehow to be a part of all my surroundings–family, neighbors, friends, and nature. I learned so very much from all that I experienced. You just had to be there and see it through my eyes to understand the level of nostalgia felt at times when engrossed in reminiscing those days of yore.

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Photo at the Top: by MikeGoad @pixabay.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Writing Interrupted

~~ by tkbrown

21 January 2021 — I want to apologize for being absent so long. My computer was hacked and contracted a Trojan virus in early December. I just now am back up and running. It has been an interesting experience. I won’t bore you with the details. But, I will say I am learning a lot to facilitate my writing in the future. Each day brings new lessons in Internet Technology (IT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and a host of other concepts.

I was beginning to feel lost without my computer and the ability to write productively. I find I must type when I write. When I try to write my thoughts by hand, my brain goes much faster than I can write. So, I tend to lose a lot of my thoughts before I can put them to paper. When I sit down to type, more often than not, my thoughts seem to flow through my fingertips to the keys beneath them. Thus, another thing I have learned during this time of absentia is that my computer is a great writing companion.

I see that many of you have checked daily for my return, and I am very appreciative of your loyalty. You are each a true blessing to me, and I will do my best to make up for my absence. You have shown me, beyond any doubt, the true allegiance of your following. When I said I needed to take time for the writing of my books and not make quite so many posts, I did not intend to go a month or more between postings. Thank You for bearing with me.

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Photo Above: by Aaron Burden @Unsplash.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm – III

~~ by tkbrown ~~

16 December 2020 — My recent experience with a hot water heater that suddenly died in the middle of a shower on a cold winter morning brought back memories of growing up on the farm. During my seventeen and a half years of living at home, we never had running water. Until seventh grade, we lived in the clapboard house on my uncle’s forty acres with the back forty belonging to our family. While there, we carried water from an old dug well, which—I am guessing—was about one-hundred yards down the hill. The well was twenty to thirty feet deep and about six feet in diameter. The walls were rocked in and a concrete slab had been poured across it with an opening about two-feet square over which we kept a wooden lid laid atop the concrete. We used a two-and-a-half-gallon galvanized bucket on a chain to draw the water from the well. Then we poured the water into water buckets (of same or larger size) and carried them up the hill.

By the time we moved, I was just developing enough strength to think about carrying a bucket on each arm—but I was still carrying only one bucket. My older sister carried two five-gallon buckets at a time. Inside the home, we would fill two water buckets and one or two ten-gallon-cans for use the next day. The next night, it was all to be done again.

After meals, we heated water on the stove to wash the dishes and the milking vessels. Water was also heated each morning for old-fashioned sponge-baths. This did not present much of a problem except during the cold winter months. Our bedrooms were not heated; so, we learned to do a very thorough cleansing (from our face to our toes) in a hurry. Then we ate breakfast and readied ourselves for the bus on weekdays.

On Saturdays, we usually washed clothes outside using our old Maytag wringer washer with two rinse-water tubs. An aunt and uncle had a portable crank wringer which we borrowed and placed between the two tubs to wring the water from the clothes after each rinse. Then, they were hung on the line to dry. Prior to the actual washing of the clothes, the water to fill the washer and the tubs had to be carried up the hill too; after which we heated water for the wash on the old wood cook stove.

Things moved along rather smoothly for the most part during the warmer months, and the clothes were soon dry. During the winter months, the clothes froze-dry on the line. They would literally freeze, then the wind would dry the ice from them. After bringing them in from the lines, we would fold and store all other than the outer-wear garments. Those, we sprinkled with a water and starch solution and stored them in a plastic bag to keep them from drying again before we could iron them. I started sprinkling the clothes when I was about seven or eight. When I was nine, I began to learn how to iron—beginning with men’s dress shirts. After sprinkling all clothes to be ironed, the ironing began for the week ahead. If the task was not completed by end of day, the remaining clothes in the plastic bag were stored in the refrigerator until more could be ironed.

Our sprinkler was an old two-liter Coca-Cola glass bottle—lightly tinted green–with a sprinkler stopper that fit perfectly in the top. After ironing, some of the men’s dress pants were hung with stretchers in the legs. This kept the creases in place.

Our well was spring fed. During the hottest months of summer—sometimes June, always July and August—it would dry up. When this happened, we took the back seat out of our old ’46 Mercury and put ten-gallon cans in the back to haul water for us and for the animals unable to go to the pond on the back forty. Then we made our daily trip to the spring down by town where a rectangular concrete box had been poured around a living spring that never went dry. We were not the only ones needing this water during summer. This spring supplied some of the coldest water I have ever drank for my family and for many members of the surrounding community.

As I mentioned earlier, we moved to the home forty when I was in seventh grade. There, our well was ninety feet deep with a cylindrical shaft about five or six inches in diameter. We had a wooden frame built over the hole from which a rope and pulley hung with a cylindrical bucket on the end. We let this bucket down to the water level. The catch at the bottom of the bucket released and water filled the empty cylinder. When we began pulling the bucket back to the surface the catch closed the opening at the bottom, and the water was held inside. Once above ground, we released the water into the buckets and carried the water a quarter mile back to the house. This was the routine until my second year in high school when we had a well drilled in the yard on the east end of the house. After this, we went to the pump house when we needed another bucket of water. There was still no running water, but this option was much easier than the other two.

The Saturday wash routine continued until the summer after my second year in high school. That summer, I began working in the superintendent’s and principal’s offices where I went to school. I worked twenty hours a week on a program for disadvantaged students. During the school year, I worked ten hours a week. I assisted their secretaries with various office related tasks. Since I was working and going to school during the school year, we began going to the laundromat on Saturdays to do our washing, and I would help pay the cost. This allowed me to have the weekends free to work on the Sunday School lesson I taught on Sunday nights.

Growing up with these routines for fetching water, I learned to appreciate running water as an adult. Rarely have I had to go more than a day without it—which also means, I have rarely gone without hot water for more than a day other than the winter when my second child was a baby. Then, our water froze and stayed frozen for a month. We carried water from the milk-barn for our daily necessities during that time.

So, my lack of hot water the past few days has not been a major inconvenience. I have heated water on the stove in my water bath canner and continued to do as needed. It is times like this and the winter mentioned above when I truly appreciate the lessons of my childhood. Needless to say, it is good to have my hot water back—it was repaired this evening. Many thanks to those who made this possible. Now, I can begin my cooking for care packages I plan to send some family members later in the week.

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Picture Above: from WorthPoint.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Tears

Tears of Grief — Grief of Tears

~~ by tkbrown — ≥∑

28 November 2020 — The worldwide loss associated with the Covid-19 pandemic has, is, and will have far more impact on us as individuals, as families, as communities, as states, as countries, and as a world than we might ever imagine. There is nothing to reference in responding to these losses. Yes, there have been pandemics before, but the world population, the interaction of countries around the world and the commercial interdependence around the world are far greater than ever before, so the impact of this type of phenomena is unprecedented.

The manner in which some of the losses have occurred, the extent of loss one individual must bear, the burden on families trying to somehow fill the shoes of a person, or persons, no longer with them–these are just a few of the personal losses being experienced. Similar losses have occurred in the professional/work realm, and at the governmental realm–and we are far from done with the related losses.

I believe these losses may be part of the impetus behind the need to protest to such extent as we are seeing in society today. There is no visible, touchable culprit causing these losses in our lives. There is not a “person” we can blame and vent upon, because it is not a person who caused the losses. This invisible force is ravaging our world, and the only way we know to let others know how much we are hurting is to savagely molest something that physically represents some other area in which we feel an intangible loss.

I would encourage caution in this approach. The one thing our families, governments, world do not need right now is another area of major loss. We need to shore each other up and find healthy outlets for our grief. A house divided is a house that falls. The same applies to governments and countries. Learn to grieve in healthy ways rather than creating more pain and grief. I know the tendency may be to lash out at the first possible expression of tangible loss. Remember, this only creates layers of losses. Do what you can to relieve the situation rather than add to it.

True grief, the cleansing kind of grief, involves the shedding of tears. If we do not ever cry, we can never release all of the negative. This release allows us to truly hold the good close to our heart. Many times, I have cried for the loss of someone I love. Many other times, I have told myself to “suck it up and be and adult.” Big girls don’t cry is the message I was sending myself. The question is: “Why did I send myself that message?”

Society teaches both girls and boys not to cry. “Big girls don’t cry” and “Big boys don’t cry” are phrases children are taught as they grow. No one wants to deal with a whiney crier, so it is deeply ingrained into a person by adulthood. We all “need” to cry sometimes. When we experience a loss, it is oft important to acknowledge that loss with tears. If we do not do this, we are never truly cleansed of the negativity associated with the loss (i.e., self-talk: “I can’t go on without _____.” “I can’t do this alone.”). There are any number of negative things we may say to ourselves when loss occurs.

This, “big boys and girls don’t cry” is much more deeply instilled in boys than in girls. It is generally acceptable for a woman to cry–sometimes. After all, women are the weaker sex, so we cannot be expected to go through life without crying. Men, on the other hand, have to “suck it up.” The message sent to men says it is never ok for them to cry. To that, I say: “Hogwash!”

All of us need to cry sometimes to release the pain associated with loss. Men hurt, too, when a loss occurs. We need to make a special effort to teach boys and girls it is ok to cry when we are deeply hurt. We also should accept that there are times tears are shed from joy or gratitude–and that is ok too.

The grieving process in the loss of a dear loved one is never complete until tears are shed. If we want to let go of the negative aspects we associate with that person’s leaving us, we must release those associations with our tears.

When my Daddy and Mama died, I didn’t cry at all until the funeral (just before–on the way to it) for Daddy. When the tears started, they would not stop until I had emptied those feelings of loss and–yes, deprivation–I was feeling. I cried so hard it worried so me who were there. I knew I would never be able to see them, hug them, tell them I loved them–ever again. The pain associated with knowing this had to be released. Only then could I know I would always be able to talk to them, because they are both a part of who I am.

Just as God dwells inside me because I am His temple, there are bits of the people I have lost inside me too. It matters not whether they are family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers–whatever the interaction that made us care for them as a person–to some extent, we need to release those feelings of loss. The death of a loved one–other than Mama and Daddy–has never pulled so many tears from me before I could stop them. Yes, I love my siblings–and I cry when they die–but it is not as intense as losing Mama and Daddy. The important thing I must stress here is: the tears did not occur with that intensity again. Yes, I would tear up occasionally; sometimes, I would cry for a minute or two, but I never cried like that again. I released the intensity of the loss with those tears. This left me with the ability to remember the good parts of my life-giving interaction with them–to hold those parts of them close to my heart. It also left me able to meet the responsibilities of job, family, etc. in the days and months that followed.

This need to cry when loss occurs applies to men too. It is not likely they will cry as hard as I did, but they may. It depends on the extent of loss they are feeling. The loss of some loved ones is no less painful for them than for a woman. Society tends to instill the “no tears” approach much more deeply in men. Whether it is the loss of a person, a thing, or a place–either permanently or for a time, tears may need to be shed. The more dearly and more closely held to our heart, the greater the need for tears. This is true for men as well as for women.

I believe this message allowing tears to be shed at times can be conveyed through learning, in books, the media, social studies, and via other means. It can begin during early childhood and progress into adulthood. In this way, we can give each other–both male and female–permission to release the pain through tears. It is when this is not allowed, the grief of tears becomes a negative concept–so we learn to “suck it up, be an adult.”

The grief of unshed tears can be far more damaging to our psyche than tears of grief ever could be. Tears held in and never released may sometimes be seen as anger toward self or others, negative views of self and/or others, or in other ways too difficult to explain or discuss in a brief manner. It can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and require the need for extensive processing to facilitate the healing of release. Whatever the setting, eventually those tears of grief must be shed or the grief of tears begins to become the norm.

If we think we cannot release our grief–that it must be held in until it is gone–we will never allow ourselves to properly grieve. It will not go away if we hold it in. So, if we can ever truly overcome our grief, the freedom and permission to cry will be a part of the path we take to the ultimate, healthy acceptance we desire to achieve. Healthy acceptance will never mean we do not miss the object of our loss. It means we accept the loss and its importance in our lives; we give ourselves permission to grieve for that loss when the need arises. This allows us to move past the grief and back into productivity.

I know, we don’t typically think of our familial and friendship relationships as an area of productivity, but a lack of productivity in these areas means those relationships die. Thus, a lack of interaction with family and friends–when it is within our ability–signals the probability of a loss that has not yet been resolved within. An unwillingness to interact signals that irreparable damage has been allowed to develop at some point in time. If not addressed and worked through (processed)–with or without the other person–healthy relationships are not likely to occur in the future because there will be a lack of trust. This lack of trust will impede the closeness of all relationships.

So, when loss occurs, give yourself permission to cleanse the unhealthy pain by allowing the tears to wash it away. Holding that pain in will cause its own grief–separate and apart from the loss. Big girls and boys do cry sometimes. These tears allow us to go on meeting other responsibilities so long as they do not dominate our life. Don’t allow your tears of grief to become the grief of tears not released.

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Sources:

Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth & D. Kessler. (2014). On Grief & Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. Scribner. New York.

Kirby, Stephanie. Med. Rev. by Santa, Melinda. (17 September 2020). “The 7 Stages of Grief and How They Affect You.” betterhelp at betterhelp.com. Mountain View, California: betterhelp.com. (28 November 2020). https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/the-7-stages-of-grief-and-how-they-affect-you/?utm_source=AdWords&utm_medium=Search_PPC_c&utm_term=_b&utm_content=80082676786&network=g&placement=&target=&matchtype=b&utm_campaign=6459244691&ad_type=text&adposition=&gclid=Cj0KCQjwqrb7BRDlARIsACwGad7NNf5XmV3-_em0YWLV2asKoQx8ZSJ4JJZ5K4bxBrDIFplE2zwlaWoaArSQEALw_wcBl.

Eds. Web MD. Reviewed By: Goldberg, Joseph, MD. (13 April 2018). Grief and Depression. WebMD at webmd.com. (28 November 2020). https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/depression-grief#3.

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Photo Above: by pen_ash at pixabay.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm — II

~~ by tkbrown —

27 November 2020 — One of my Daddy’s favorite stories to tell of my childhood was a day we were all outside, gathered round bunches of corn that had been allowed to harden on the cob. This corn was used for grain to be fed the chickens and other animals. I remember, Daddy kept a huge wooden barrel outside the fence of the pig sty. When we were fattening a hog for butchering, he kept sour-mesh in this barrel. The sour-mesh stunk–oooooohhh, did it stink–due to the fermenting process taking place. At the time, I did not understand the reason behind that odor. I just knew it stunk. Some of the corn we had in the midst of our circle on this particular day would later make its way into one of those barrels of sour mesh.

I was about four years old, so all but a couple of the older siblings were still at home. We, along with Mama and Daddy, were outside, circled around a pile of corn with the shucks still on. We were shucking corn. One of the neighbors drove by enroute to see someone further down the road. As he was driving back toward his home, he noticed we were still engaged in the shucking process, so he pulled into the drive, got out and ambled over to where we were gathered. As he talked, we continued with our work. After a while, I looked up at him for a bit, then back to the cob of corn I was shucking. After repeating this observation process several times, Daddy said I reached into the pile of corn, pulled out two cobs, one for myself, and the other I handed to our neighbor. I told him, “Everybody works at our house,” then continued with my work. Daddy said our neighbor continued talking, looked at me briefly, then shucked the ear of corn, made his excuses and left.

One of my chores during these early years was to feed the chickens. During evening chore time, I would meet Daddy at the feed house, and he would give me a bucket of mixed grains and pellets. I would take the bucket to the general area where we fed the chickens and commence calling to them. “Heeeeeerrrreee chiiiiiccccckkkeeeeee. Heeeeeerrrreee chiiiiicckkkkeeeee.” I would begin slowly taking handfuls of feed and dribble it over the ground as I walked in odd-shaped circles. The chickens came running. By the time I dropped the last of the feed from the bucket, most of it had already been consumed. Those chickens obviously relished this treat at the end of the day.

Then, Daddy–or one of my older siblings–would go round the farm with me looking for eggs. There were some places where the hens laid their eggs regularly. Occasionally, one of the hens would strike out on her own in an attempt to find a place to lay a bunch of eggs and set on them. These settin’ hens wanted to raise a brood of baby chicks. Most of the time we would find them, shew them off the nest, and get the egg(s). The hen would continue to lay and try to set on the eggs. Sometimes, she would move her nest and finally succeed.

During calving season–when the cows were birthing babies–as the calves reached weaning age they would be fed with bottles. At this time, the cow would return to being milked with the other milk-cows. They ate their grain while being milked. Milk was taken from the bulk for the calves until they were placed on a special feeding formula which was mixed with water to replace the milk in the bottles. This continued until time to either take them to the sale barn or to mingle their feedings with the haying of the general non-milking herd.

When the weaning process began, the calves were separated from the general herd so they would not feed on the mother’s milk. They would pasture in a different area during this time. As the calves grew older, we would oft have to go find them at end of day as feeding time neared. Usually, they roamed the pasture together, so it was not typically difficult to find them. A few years later, after I had started school, it became one of my chores to find the calves and bring them in for feeding.

During these early years, we cooked on a wood cookstove. So, it was also my responsibility to help carry in kindling and wood to fuel the fire while we cooked. In winter, when we also heated with wood, I was to help carry in heating wood too. At the time, I did not realize it, but this method of cooking is truly an art–especially as it pertains to baking. The oven on a wood cookstove has a temperature gage on the door. The fire in the fire box has to be kept at a steady burn to keep the oven temperature constant. This burn in the fire box is managed by feeding wood into the fire and by manipulating the damper on the pipe which exits the house via the flue.

When one grows into the cooking process in the presence of someone who manages the fire for cooking, it becomes second nature and is not viewed as requiring particular skill–but skill it does indeed require. Looking back on those years, I can see what a talent this would take. As I learned to cook on that wood cookstove, I thought nothing of it. By the time I was nine, I was quite adept at baking in that oven and tending the fire to keep the temperature constant.

So, by the age of seven or eight, growing up on a farm during the mid-twentieth century, I had learned to help with the gardening and with preserving the produce in whatever form it would be needed at a later date. That corn we were shucking earlier was also shelled from the cob so it could be bused as grain for the animals without having to stop and shell it then. I had learned to feed some of the animals, to gather eggs from the chickens and to bring in kindling and firewood for the cookstove and for the heating stove during colder months. Thus, my comment to the neighbor was never meant to be rude. It was the blatant honesty of a four-year-old who had been taught everyone works together when living on a farm.

My Morning Do . . . Inspiration

~~ by tkbrown

20 November 2020

The Written Word

The night is all around
as it seems to wrap itself
about my soul . . .

a security blanket of sorts
keeping the unwanted out
and filtering in

that which is welcomed with
wholehearted abandon, a muse
of the written word.

I look inward, toward the words
waiting to be shared with
the world this day,

and putting pen to paper
I create something, anything
of import and hue.

Once created, I give it
some time to breathe
before viewing it

to edit and tweak
until it seemeth a clue
worthy to share

as it reveals to you
a bit of the "what" and "who"
that maketh me.

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Sometimes, the words within just seem to flow from me, through the pen and onto the paper without any effort on my part. These are the times when writing is pure joy and inspiration. These are the times when I am amazed at the finished product, usually completed in a matter of minutes. These are truly what I believe the muse considers to be, “My Morning Do” . . . tidbits to be shared with those who can appreciate the meaning behind the creation, the feeling behind the words, the “want to” behind the need to put pen to paper.

And so, this is today’s “My Morning Do” . . . I share it now with you in the hopes that you might see a little bit of you in these words that share a little bit of me.

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Photo Above: by Duo Chen @ Unsplash.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Down on the Farm — I

~~ by tkbrown

19 November 2020 — From time to time, I begin to think anew upon the days when I was young, the things I did, the things I learned–things most folk today would have no idea how to do. I am thankful for those days, and I have fond memories of the learning, the doing, and the being a part of . . . whatever process was taking place.

I grew up on a farm in the middle of Brown Hollow in the heart of the Ozark Mountains–Southen Missouri, USA. We worked eighty acres–the back forty belonged to us, and the front forty belonged to my uncle. My uncle’s forty acres had an old clapboard house that served as our home. Life was not easy on the farm. We grew most of our food, herded cattle, sheep, a pig sty, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, guineas–you name it, we probably had it at some point in time–not really, but it often seemed to be the case.

Each summer, we grew a ten-acre garden and a small (probably an acre or so) kitchen garden right behind the house. Five acres of the main garden were dedicated to vegetables of various sorts. Each year, this section included some new vegetable. My Mama loved trying new vegetables–most often chosen from the Henry Fields Seed Catalog, the Burpee Seed Catalog, or from a brother or some neighbor’s son who were selling seeds as an FFA Project (Future Farmers of America). Through her venturesome nature I got my first exposure to Kohlrabi, Rutabagas, Peanuts, Beets, and learned of the many and varied types of tomatoes, green beans, etc. When it came time to plant or hoe, those rows seemed to never end. The remaining five acres were planted in corn and potatoes. The corn was mainly used to feed the stock during the colder months, but part of it was put into the freezer or canned to be eaten with family meals.

The potatoes were one of our staples. Our evening meals almost always consisted of cornbread and potatoes along with other filling, stick-to-the-ribs type foods–i.e., beans of some sort. The potatoes were typically boiled–with or without the jackets (peels)–mashed, fried, or creamed. We never had fancy food, but what we had was prepared and served with love. Since I was the seventh of nine living children, we all pitched-in and helped cook and clean up afterward. Teaching us how to cook took much of Mama’s time, but she made it seem like we were learning on our own–I still have not figured out how she did that.

My earliest memories of cooking began around the age of four. We had an old round oak, pedestal table where Mama did most of her biscuit making, and other baking preparations. When family would come from out of state or out of county, they always asked for her hand-slung biscuits. Each was about three inches in diameter and about three inches high. In a 9 x 13 baking pan, she would cook twelve biscuits–four rows of three. Mama was famous for her biscuits.

We had an old empty lard can big enough to hold about forty to fifty pounds of flour. With nine people to feed, that did not last long. Many breakfasts boasted Mama’s biscuits with eggs or gravy–or both. During the winter, we usually ate oatmeal with those biscuits.

When seh was prepping food to cook, I would sit on the lard can–which also served as my seat at the dinner table–and watch her prepare those biscuits. She would let me dip the flour out of the can for her to sift, and as I learned the process, I was allowed to sift too. When she made short-bread or cornbread, I could help stir. I have no doubt this was the beginning of me loving to cook. As I was learning to cook, I took the experience outside and blended it into playtime by making mudpies and all sorts of goodies to be served to a make-believe family at a make-believe table. As I grew older, instead of mudpies, I made cakes, pies, cookies, coffee cakes, etc. which were eaten at my real-family mealtime. I became known in the community for my cakes. There were those who would make a special trip to get a piece of cake if they knew I was baking. This was quite a feat in a rural community with very few telephones. This says even people from the community encouraged skills which were above average. Cooking has been a hobby of mine since that time.

I remember when I was four years old, we were preparing for an especially difficult winter when the money was tight. Daddy went to the old smokehouse and brought-out an old, old, hand-grinder for corn and other grains. We used it to grind corn for cornmeal. The grind was very coarse, more like grits than cornmeal, but it worked. It was an interesting learning experience for a four or five year old.

The old smokehouse was built using 1/2 inch x four- or five-inch boards about seven feet long. These were nailed side by side onto the frame. The roof was aluminum colored tin sheets nailed to the trusses which were cross braced with 2 x 4s cut to fit. The wood was very porous from age and weathered to a gun-metal gray. When Daddy was a child (during the early twentieth century), the old smokehouse was truly used as intended–to smoke meats. It was one room with a flue in the roof which allowed the smoke to escape. I seem to remember, when I was very young, the door was attached with straps of leather. At some time during my early years, those straps were replaced with long, angled, black-looking steel hinges attached to the outside. During my childhood, the old smokehouse served as a storage shed for tools and other items that were beloved but no longer used. This is also where we kept the gardening tools–i.e., hoes, rakes, spades, picks, shovels, etc. Gardening was hard work, but the fresh produce was wonderful. I loved it.

The eggs we had for breakfast were most often laid by hens on the farm. They were grain fed, free range. We found laying nests in some of the strangest places, and the eggs were delicious. Sometimes, they were quite large. Once in a while, we would get one that had two yolks, These were typically a bit larger than the regular fare. When there was an excess of eggs, Mama would break enough for a meal of scrambled eggs into a plastic freezer container and freeze them. In wintertime, when the hens were not laying many eggs due to the cold, we would use those eggs–usually on the weekend.

Mama and Daddy would purchase two or three flats of baby chickens each year. We would tend to them as they grew. When they were about six weeks old, they were good to eat as fryers. We would kill, pluck, clean, cut and freeze enough to last most of the summer. During the fall, we would repeat the process with older hens and roosters which were used for chicken soups, chicken and dumplings, and fried chicken during the colder months.

We had a small herd of beef cattle and a small herd of milking cows. Daddy and my brothers would milk the cows each morning and night. We took out what we needed for the family, and the rest was stored in ten gallon cans which were kept in a cooling tank. The milkman would come twice a week, pick up what we had in the cooler and leave the empty cans for more milk. The cream on this milk ranged from an inch and a half thick on top of the milk to three inches thick. We skimmed most of the cream off to make hand churned butter. We often kept a gallon or two in the freezer. When Mama made grape dumplings in the winter months (using the half-gallon jars of grape pulp she had canned the previous summer), this frozen cream was scooped out and served atop the dumplings. Mmmmmm!!! This was some good eatin’ on a cold winter night.

There is so much more I could tell, but this gives a general synopsis of life “Down on the Farm” when I was young.

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Photo Above: by Gabriel Jiminez @ Unsplash.com.

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My Morning Do . . . Creative Minds

~~ by tkbrown

I have read a number of posts recently on the topics of hope and gratitude. During times like the world has been experiencing through the Covid19 pandemic, it is important to keep fueling both. It may take some effort to do, but the end result is worth far more than any wrangling we may encounter during our endeavor. Making a daily effort to review our sources of hope and the things we have to be grateful for helps too. Faith, too, helps give the strength and resolve needed during times of trial and adversity. My faith in God and Jesus Christ has pulled me through much in the past; so, I can and do always pull strength from the spiritual resources and values in my life.

It is difficult when jobs are lost, income is non-existent or mostly so. Oftentimes, we do not think to be grateful for our work, but it provides much hope in our lives. Subconsciously, we know, so long as we are able to work or have a job to go to, we can get through most anything. When the monetary needs are met in our lives, it reduces the stress level astronomically.

Sometimes school is our main activity. When this is the case, it is important to view it as our job. Our attendance and learning are fuel for our future work lives. School attendance helps one to be in the habit of getting up and getting out–typically on a daily basis. This prepares one for the daily attendance required in work schedules. Lack of attendance in either results in failure.

Even though the need for some required classes cannot be seen, each has a reason for its inclusion. The most prevalent example I saw during my college years was a lack of understanding for the need to take Algebra. Oftentimes, I heard classmates say it would never be used, but its value is in day to day activities. Most never relate the two, but: 2(a+b) = 2ab is nothing more than, (a = the cost of a can of corn, b= the price of a loaf of bread). When these are added together then multiplied by 2, perhaps we are looking at the cost of our weekly need for these items. Algebra is utilized in budgeting among other things. So, it is important to realize that even though school can be humdrum, it is necessary to future needs.

Hobbies are also a source of strength during times of trial. I love to knit and crochet. The idea of taking a straight piece of string and creating something beautiful and lasting has always been intriguing to me. Sewing has a similar effect. Taking a flat piece of cloth and creating a beautiful dress, blouse, shirt, pants, or suit–even something for the home–is a skill to be extolled. Creativity has no bounds in the needlework hobbies. This also rings true of playing a musical instrument, reading, researching, cooking, painting, photography, and the list goes on.

Having something one values in life makes times like these bearable because the voids can be filled with something vital and useful via our hobbies, work, school, faith, family, etc. If one does not stay busy doing something, the desire to live slowly drains from us. This is seen in severe depression. The hopefulness and helpfulness has been lost and must be found again if the desire to live is to be regained.

If you, or someone you love has lost hope due to the downside of the lockdowns and shelter at home orders, seek help from a professional who is trained to help you through this. Above all, do not lose gratitude for what you have. Most cannot honestly say they have nothing for which they can be grateful. If this is one’s view of things, it is time to make a conscious effort to regain gratitude for what is in our grasp. Make it a part of the daily routine to name things for which you can be grateful. Then, it is important to reach out and engage whatever is within your grasp to fuel a new hope for the future. Don’t give up, keep putting one foot in front of the other until you are through the swamp and can see the other side.

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Photo Above: by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash.com.

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My Morning Do . . . In Memoriam

Mac Davis and Helen Reddy

~~ by tkbrown

30 September 2020 — Two very potent Singer-Songwriters in the United States Country-Pop Genre of the 1970s have died: Mac Davis and Helen Reddy. I graduated high school in May 1972 and married in June 1972. I am a country girl through and through with a bit of pop, Rock ‘n Roll, Jazz, Rhythm ‘n Blues, Hard Rock and even Heavy Metal; I guess the biggest influence on me as a person has come from Christian Hymns. I grew up in the country, and like Barbara Mandrell — “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” With all of this musical influence in my life, how could I help but write poetry and song lyrics too?

The influence of Helen Reddy’s song, “I Am Woman,” cannot be ignored. I think she stirred a tiny bit of rebellion in me. Her song made me realize I was strong and could survive whatever came along! I remember cooking and cleaning while singing this song when my children were young. She was among the first women to write and sing about the strength women possess.

Mac Davis’ “Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble,” was a song I heard at least several times a week. He wrote at least two of my favorites recorded by Elvis Presley: “In the Ghetto,” and “A Little Less Conversation.” He wrote for many of the top names in Country Music; so, many of his tunes were among those I sang regularly at home.

For the two of them to have died on the same day is a bit uncanny, and it touches my heart. I have always loved to sing. I grew up with sisters and a mother who all loved to sing; so, we turned on the radio, and we sang. I love the oldies. I love the songs my Mama loved. I love the songs my Daddy loved. I love the songs my siblings loved, and I love the songs my children and grand children love and have loved. So, the deaths of two of my favorite Singer-Songwriters creates a bit of nostalgia for me. I guess I am getting old, huh???

Thank You all for putting up with my memories today! Blessings!!!

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My Morning Do . . . Grief and Depression

~~ by tkbrown

25 September 2020 — A few days ago, I discussed the reality of grieving not only individually but also as a society. Depression is an important part of grieving because how you cope with your depression determines the extent to which you and those around you are impacted by all stages of loss and grieving. Depression slows you down and requires that you face the loss. Denial, anger, and bargaining typically precede depression, but in societal grief there may be no way to predict how society, or individuals, will progress through the stages. So, we must develop compassion and tolerance for the suffering.

However, we must also draw a line to stop the violence and mayhem assault on others–it is not a part of grieving. Creating more grief does not resolve your own suffering or that of anyone else. It causes post-traumatic-stress disorder for all victims. Do not kid yourself! Those inflicting the harm are not the sufferers. There should be swift legal action and reparations against all who cause harm to another person or to another person’s property.

When the coronavirus hit, individuals began grieving the loss of family and friends. Those losses were not a long time in coming. Some had only a day or two of illness in the family member or friend before death caused a forever separation. Loved ones in the hospital were unable to see family and friends face to face due to the contagious aspect of the pandemic and self-quarantining required by our expert health officials. Some were able to talk on the phone with a loved one, but many could not arrange this contact due to the loved one being too ill to talk. As if these atrocities were not enough, the loved on died without being able to get a hug or hear the words “I Love You!” in a face to face visit. Some were even unable to arrange a funeral due to the virus. No technological contact can ever replace the healing power of face to face care and love.

Those who did have loved ones who survived were still not able to see them due to “stay at home” restrictions on society. The loved one may have continued to suffer problems from the illness after recovery. He or she may still be suffering. The long term impact of having the coronavirus is still being learned. How does one help a loved one when it is not possible to be there in person. The problems associated with the illness and or loss of a loved one only scrape the tip of the iceberg in dealing with losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Many have lost jobs because of the contagion causing too much illness in the workplace and decisions to close in an attempt to prevent the spread. Some were fortunate enough to be able to transfer work responsibilities to home via online portals. This provided some relief from the stressors involved, but not for all. Job losses presented the problem of not enough money for food, housing, utilities, clothing for growing children (some can grow several sizes in two to three months). The food assistance, rental protection, work position furloughs, extra unemployment compensation, student loan deferrals, and other forms of assistance provided by the federal government helped keep many from falling through the holes in the sidewalk. Others, who had no benefit of unemployment may have been buying a home instead of renting. How was this to be managed? So many question with no answers because no one can predict how long this will continue.

Add to these, the fact that a lack of immune response safety means visiting family members and friends has been largely rendered impossible unless you live close to them. Even in this situation, it must be limited in duration and frequency due to the risk of passing the virus to each other. Social distancing and face masks are another adjustment when in groups. Thrust into these restrictions without warning, without a plan for addressing the contagion or the ramification it presented–because nothing like this has ever happened before–having to keep children home from school, daycare, sports, church and visiting friends have all taken a major toll on everyone.

Shopping for groceries, cleaning and hygiene supplies, personal care products, and other essentials became a major challenge. Frequency of shopping excursions had to be greatly reduced and when in the stores many products were sold out. Production plants had been closed due to too many afflicted by the virus.

Only essential services were allowed to remain in service unless the work could be done 100% online. Some of these situations are historical firsts. They, in some ways, resemble when the Black Plague ravaged Europe, when the flu of 1918 ravaged the world, and when the Great Depression of the 1930s oppressed people everywhere. How does society go on? We have gone on here in America, and we have–so far–survived one day at a time, thanks to our Presidential Administration in Washington D.C. and to our Representatives and Senators both State and National. Even with all of the loss, and grieving, the world is surviving. This will be recorded in history books as a time of recovery even as the virile pandemic ravaged the world. The problems we are facing are normal for the extent of loss and grieving in the world. Everyone, every town, every state, every nation is suffering continuing loss and grieving. What is normal? What is not? When will it all end?

Depression is common amidst society throughout the world at present–with everyone suffering for the same or similar reasons. There are some who suffer chronic depression who should be monitored by a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or a counselor. This is due to the need for some to take antidepressants and to be monitored for problems needing special support–especially during this time of great loss. Those not needing professional assistance to wade through the daily muck are also suffering depression to some degree due to loss and grieving. No one is immune–no one will make it through this pandemic without being personally impacted in some way. This is called reactional depression. It is normal depression which occurs during times of major adjustment to loss. It is a part of the grieving process. No, it is not considered the “first stage” of grieving, but I would suggest there are some who become depressed on the first day of grieving–whatever the loss. Some work through other stages first, but with everyone in the world affected by this loss and grieving process, the stages of grief are going to vary greatly, and some will be working on more than one stage at a time. The overlap will vary but it will be there.

There is a tendency to minimize suffering associated with grief because the suffering is not seen. People go on with life unless they are overwhelmed by the losses. The same applies to societal losses and grieving. It is minimized. How soon did we see people breaking the call to self-quarantine and limit group gatherings to less than ten persons. Some were gathering in larger groups the first week even though each gathering caused spikes in the local number of people who contracted the virus.

We have death and dying all around us, and some said during the first week: “We have to move on!” “We will not be imprisoned in our own homes!” “We will not be told what we can and cannot do!” No concern existed for the safety and lives of others involved. So, the deaths and losses mounted–one upon the other. I would suggest the levels of depression in many individuals–while a natural response to the situation–are phenomenal. Thus, I have decided to discuss depression. This will require several posts to address concerns and to make suggestions for coping with loss and grieving–your own, or that of someone you love and /or care about. If you have need for coverage of some specific area of grieving and loss, and do not see it covered in the next several posts, please place a request in the comment section with a ping-back to your blog so I can address it.

Blessings to all during this time of great oppression!

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Photo Above: by pen_ash at pixabay.com.

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