Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

Rearview Mirror

By Katie Austin

As I log into my laptop to write my next Every Woman Blog article, I close my eyes to allow my mind to wander as I try to come up with a topic to write about.  It feels good to sit still, thinking about life in general. It’s not often that we find those quiet times in our busy days to just think without having a deadline or having to be somewhere.   I try to come up with something and look at my calendar to see if there are any life events coming up I should write about.

Then it hits me.   The day on the calendar is the only one I see.   It’s like there is a glow around it and my mind begins to race, my emotions flooded with memories of that moment.  When my life stood still and everything changed.

I will never forget that day.  It was Friday, March 5th 2010 and the time was 11:15.  My parents and I were at the house waiting for a phone call.  You see, I had a diagnostic mammogram, ultrasound, and a biopsy the day before and the hospital’s breast health nurse navigator, Kelly Jeffcoat, was planning to call me by 11:30 with the results.  I already had a feeling there was something wrong just by the reaction of those around me the day before.  I tried to take my mind off things all morning but all I could think about was wanting to know.

Then the phone call came.  Nothing can prepare you for that moment.  I actually let it ring two times before picking up because I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.  I needed to know but I knew picking up that phone could change everything.   I was right, my life was going to change forever with that phone call.   I was told that I had Stage 2 breast cancer.

From that phone call, I underwent eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy, surgery (lumpectomy), 26 days of radiation, and then another six months of chemotherapy (Herceptin).  Shortly thereafter I had my port removed and then was on medicine to lower my estrogen levels for almost five years.   I met the most amazing people along the way and their friendships continue to this day.

Katie-Sharon

Katie with Sharon Nipper (her infusion nurse)

KatieBrandy

Katie with her breast friend Brandy

It’s hard to believe that on March 5th of this year it will be eight years since I was diagnosed!   As I let my fingers move across the keyboard, I think back to the day I rang the bell and how much I couldn’t wait to get back to normal.  Over the years, I would try to motivate myself to get healthier and it would work, but then I would fall back into the same habits.  I would allow myself the excuse that I am lucky to be alive so I shouldn’t worry about that.  But that’s not true.   It’s been almost eight (8) years since that fateful day and I am no closer to finding that new normal than I was then.

rear-view-mirror-quote

I spend more of my time thinking back to when I was in shape, when I felt better, when I had more energy, when I didn’t have cancer.  As I type this, I realize that during my cancer batter I had to be strong.   After my treatments were done, I had to be strong and to get back to life I had to put those feelings aside so that I could enjoy myself again.  I realize now I never dealt with the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the diagnosis.   I need to take the time to deal with those emotions.  It’s ok to think about and miss my survivor sisters who are no longer here.  I need to be ok with being afraid of my cancer coming back but not allow it to hold me back.  I need to put God first and my health needs to be a priority.  I want to be ready if/when my cancer rears its ugly head

As I sit here writing down my thoughts, I realize I wrote quite a bit and my next blog post 🙂

I can’t change my past but my future is what I make of it.  I can’t expect things to work out on their own.  Sometimes they do, but for the most part I know that I need to heal before I can move on.  Then I will be ready to take on the changes I need to make in my life.

Life isn’t how quick you get there, but the steps taken to get to where you want to be.” – Katie Austin

Wishing each of you a great day and I look forward to seeing you back on the Every Woman Blog,

Katie Austin

 

Penny Candy, Souse Meat, Liver Pudding & Bologna

By: Chaunte McClure

Last week I took a trip down memory lane, making a stop at the cinder block pale yellow or beige building on the corner of Highway 908 and what is now Paul Richardson Road. It was one of the mom and pop stores in Britton’s Neck where residents could conveniently buy general grocery items locally, since the nearest grocery store was almost 30 minutes away.

I spent many childhood summer days riding my bicycle to the Richardson Store, as my family affectionately called it. Grandma rarely sent me to buy anything, but I wanted to go sometimes to rack up on penny candy. I shamefully admit that I used to rob my aunt’s Maxwell House jar of the old pennies and other coins she collected in it. (I confessed my theft to her years ago, but it’s not like she hadn’t already figured out why her penny jar was dwindling.) I would take the time to count and wrap those pennies to present them to Ms. Mary or her husband, owners of the Richardson Store, to pay for my penny candy, Now & Laters and other cheap sweets that, over time, contributed to my cavities. I’d buy as much candy as I could for a dollar and share with the other grands at Grandma’s house.

I miss stores like the Richardson’s where you could go to the counter and ask for $2 dollars worth of souse meat, liver pudding or bologna. Let me tell ya, the pan fried bologna cut in the center would make for a good bologna sandwich. I remember for supper some nights we’d have just grits and bologna. It was filling and something quick and easy for Grandma to prepare.

Curious of whether my Facebook friends remember the mom and pop stores, I invited them to share in my nostalgia, posting a related question one night and surprisingly, many of them replied with places in the Columbia area where one can find fresh cut souse meat, liver pudding and bologna. Places like Conwell’s, Caughman’s and Mr. Bunky’s made the list. One day I’ll make a stop at one of those community staples and share my experience with you.

What were some of the mom and pop stores in your community?

Memories, Traditions and Possibilities: A Deal At Just $5.99

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary Pat Baldauf

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. When the clerk rang up the crayons, she shook her head, “5.99 for a box of crayons.”

Not being a regular crayon shopper, I don’t know whether that’s high or low or whether I could’ve gotten them cheaper someplace else. The way I look at it though, $5.99 isn’t bad for a box of Crayola crayons. 64 pack. With the sharpener. And that’s because in addition to housing 64 magical dream sticks, there’s a lot more in that box. A box of memories. A box of tradition. And a box of possibilities.

A box of memories? Yep. When I crack open a box of crayons, I get a neuron-splattering head rush. I am transported back in time to…

…the first grade, when we used those fat crayons that were flat on the bottom so they wouldn’t roll of our desks.

…to 208 Holly Avenue, where my sister and I made masterpieces with crayons and Fall leaves. You did these, right? We’d pick the most colorful leaves from the woods across the street and bring them home. When Mom was busy, we’d pull out her wax paper, fold it in half and place the leaves on one side. Then we’d take old crayons and use a knife to cut shavings onto the wax paper. We’d fold the wax paper over, and when Mom wasn’t looking, we’d iron the paper until it turned into a beautiful stained glass creation. We usually got in trouble for getting Burnt Sienna and Maize on Mom’s iron, but it was worth it.

…to summer YMCA camp when we made what I know as scratch art. We’d color a piece of paper with bright crayons, then cover it with black paint. When the paint dried, we’d use a toothpick to create a design. Those were the days.

A box of tradition?  Uh huh. Binney and Smith created Crayolas in 1903, and since then, generations of children have played with them. Crayons are universal; they are the great equalizer of humanity! Babe Ruth? Probably used crayons. President Obama? Bet he used crayons. Prince? Purple crayons, for sure. And then there’s little old me. I most certainly used crayons!

A neat thing about crayons: even though they’ve been around for more than 100 years, they’ve changed just enough to stay relevant. I’m a purist – I like the colorful wax sticks wrapped in paper, but today there are specialty Crayolas: twistable, washable, dry erase, even multicultural. And those big flat ones I used in first grade? They’re now triangular. (Easier for kids to hold.)

Lastly, there are crayons that mark changes in our culture. The crayon once known as “Flesh” was voluntarily changed to “peach” in 1962, partially as a result of the U. S. Civil Rights Movement. The crayon I colored with as “Indian Red?” It was renamed Chestnut in 1999 in response to educators who felt some children wrongly perceived the crayon color was intended to represent the skin color of Native Americans.

A box of possibilities? You bet! A new box of crayons is fresh and perfect. They’re all pointy, lined up in order, bright and, well, perfect. A box of crayons contains the colors of an eye popping sunset, the thousand colors of the sea, the brilliant colors of a rainforest.

Speaking of colors, do you remember the name of your favorite crayon? Mine was Carnation Pink, a color that was introduced in 1949 and is still in that orange and green box. I asked my sister this morning. Hers was Maize, which was retired in 1990.

A funny story about crayon colors. Through my work with the APWA, I travel to their headquarters in Kansas City once a year. Kansas City is also home to the country’s only Crayola Store, which is connected to the hotel.

On my first visit – I visit every year – I asked the clerks about their favorite crayon colors. The first one hemmed and hawed, then finally said that blue was her favorite.

“Blue?” I asked. “Cadet Blue, Cornflower, Denim?”

“Just blue,” she said.

The second clerk’s answer was no better. “Green,” she said quickly.

“Green?” I asked. “Asparagus, Fern, Blue Green?”

“Green,” she answered.

Not very good Crayola ambassadors, if you ask me.  If Crayolas are boxes of possibilities, they were a dead end.

I bought a box of crayons yesterday. Not just any box of crayons, but Crayolas in that familiar green and orange box. A 64-pack. With the sharpener. $5.99 for a box of crayons. And memories, tradition and possibilities. Not a bad deal.