Hobo Kitty (lower left) had a litter of kittens almost two months ago. About three weeks later, this little one (right) showed up right along side of her. Since we're in the country and all kind of critters are around, we thought that maybe the others didn't make it. We named the little one Bo, and mama kitty's name, well, we shortened to Ho. Yes, we're bad.
A week later, a jet black one with white socks appeared.
And just yesterday, two more appeared. Both looked to have had bad hair days since birth.
This morning, little Bo's screams led us to the front porch where his hind leg had become tangled in the yarn which Ty left as a toy. Len scooped him up amidst the screams and tantrums (Bo, not Len), and brought him into the house for the first time to operate. Once free from string, Bo took to us nicely, even slept a little while I fretted that in a few moments, I would have to let go.
I let go and he's back with the three others that have long scampered back underneath the chest on the porch. Bo did look back. In my mind, he said, "Thanks. Let's do the holding part again. It really wasn't so bad." Then, he slipped quietly underneath the chest with the others.
Kind of like mama's do - they let you play at will. They pray that if you get in trouble, there will be someone to scoop you up, fix the boo-boo, and then let you be on your way once more. Soon, you'll begin to trust those who have been kind to you. You'll remember them fondly and understand where you can live without fear. Open your eyes to all the possibilities and the people in your world. But you'll never forget that mama that made you do and go and be what you never dreamed possible.
"Thanks, mama. Let's do the holding part again, soon."
There are people reflecting all over the place - on Facebook, even in my mailbox that sits at the edge of my driveway. We get letters from friends and family, exuberantly shouting their accomplishments which include obtaining their third doctor's degree, incredible jobs with six-figure salaries and announcing their ump-teenth grandchild. They are proud, and rightly, they should be. However, since none of those broadcasts make my list, nevertheless, I am still proud of where I find myself on the last day of 2015.
It's not "Look at me" but "Look at how far I've come." I am not where I once was nor will I ever be at this point again. I am moving forward, adding to my list of triumphs, which to others may seem insignificant, but to me, monumental. I am making myself accountable for four of my best efforts this year. These feats make me proud. 1. I wrote a book and a publisher wanted it. I dare say I might not get to say this again, so I'm putting it right out front. I did it. I'm not sure how, but the words came, and so did the people; 2. I learned to shoot in manual mode, thus taking control of my photography which led me to my kick-ass 5DMarkiii (a.k.a. Kimsey); 3. I broke into a new travel market (my editorial complemented by Len's photography) with my first major international publication and million+ audience; and 4. I am realizing (albeit a continuing struggle) my place in this world - partner, employee, entrepreneur.
What makes you proud today?
It's the day we give thanks. In all honestly, we should do this everyday. Not just one day a year. We're hundreds of miles from those we hug on, but no matter what, we know how lucky we are. So, in honor of those organizational fools like myself, here's a list:
1. (Len) I'm thankful that we get to travel together.
2. (Judy) Totally agree. I'm glad you're the other half of Two Coots.
3. (Len) I'm thankful for communication with my sons, that I'm able to build a relationship again.
4. (Judy) There's nothing better than a do-over, a second chance. I'm so thankful that you are my second chance at love.
5. (Len) I'm thankful for our good health, which makes us able to enjoy all this.
6. (Judy) I'm thankful that you're the one with the good eyes, good body, good mind, good feet, good pipes. At least one of us should have clear sailing in order to help the other. Leaning is a good thing.
7. (Len) I'm thankful for you because you bring out the good parts in me cause Lord knows they are hard to find.
8. (Judy) Love makes that possible.
9. (Len) I'm thankful for the stories we get to share and the images we are privileged to capture. They will live forever for these people and that's an honor. Long after we're gone, our photos will be hanging on someone's wall. What an honor to have someone look at them and smile.
10. (Judy) What a privilege to share stories and moments. Not everyone gets to look in like we get to.
11. (Len) I'm thankful for Bear, our kitty. When we come home, he yells at us, but I'm thankful he's there to yell at us. He doesn't like us to leave.
12. (Judy) He's a pill, that cat. My shadow. Not many cats get a book dedication.
13. (Len) I'm thankful for Thanksgiving lasagna. Cooking is a great way to remember people and traditions. When you stand in the kitchen and cook what your parents did, what your mom made, what better way to have them with you forever.
14. (Judy) I'm a coverted Thanksgiving lasagna lover. Brings out the wanna-be Italian in me. Food is one of those ultimate connections. My mama made me tomato soup when I was sick or sad. It's been 8 years since I've tasted her comfort.
15. (Len) I think that's all the highlights, dear.
16. (Judy) A good list that is sure to grow.
17. (Len) One more, I'm thankful for family and friends that we have re-connected with. It's great to be welcomed home. And the people we've met along the way, so amazing.
18. (Judy) It's staggering to think of the experiences we have shared and the people we have met simply because three years ago we decided not to sit still. Take that, old age!
They say that gratitude produces happiness. We are happy UP TO HERE! With gratitude . . .
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i like endings because as sure as rainbows follow rain, a beginning is just around the corner. i'm one of those crazy women who loves a new calendar. the crisp, white paper screaming for me to deface its surface, with highlighters and off-the-wall colored inks, to make lists and appointments, followed by fruitful mark throughs and completed to do's. here lives proof i made a goal and its success [or failure, in come cases] is in black and white.
it's the last day of 2013 on mayne mill and the heavens are a little cloudy and i'm beginning taxes and finishing laundry. oh, the envy i sense in your eyes. i'm recalling a few of those lists and goals during the year that was and all of the good things that happened, the adventures taken that were not even anticipated this time last year, the children who broke my heart for the millionth time and those who stopped me in my tracks with utter amazement, friends who came and went and those who reappeared when my heart needed them the most. there were journeys to places i had only heard about from others and now, i stood on the same island where wild horses roamed, the same bridge where forest gump crossed, the same doorway through which a governor traveled each night. quite spectacular for this old coot.
remembering is a powerful tool, one that should be used for good. to learn. to change what went wrong. to build upon went right. however, don't let the past interfere with the present, i tell my children, for if we let it, it most certainly will take over today. i teach them that it is important to revisit the past for only one reason, as a reminder of what will happen if our actions never change. if we allow people to run over our emotions and thoughts, then they will. if we put ourselves in precarious situations, more than likely, we will fall. if we fail to use common sense, well, we deserve what we will eventually get. if we don't put ourselves first, no one else will. those are some fairly simple certainty's that took me a half a century to nail down. in the course of a year, i tend to forget them. but on this day, when all is said and done, i reflect and remember, and most of the time, i kick myself in the butt for not listening to myself. i like to blame it on menopause.
i look forward to a new year. i predict 2014 will be good. i'll share just a bit of my calendar ink with you:
i can feel a beginning on its way. i guess whatever kind of beginning is up to me. happy 2014 and here's to all the full calendars and fruitful mark throughs.
there comes a point when we all have to run away. for me, it's this thanksgiving. this is the year when the two of us pack up our sicilian lasagna and meatballs - along with homemade resee cups and peanut butter cake (the closest thing to southern tradition in our home) - and head to the north georgia mountains for cold air and renewal.
the drive reminds of many i once made. as a college student and newlywed, i'd always travel to clarkesville to see mama and daddy and be renewed by mama's orange slice cake and dried apple pies. years later, there's the one i always made the tuesday before the traditional thursday to pick up my aunt sophia and her decadent chocolate cake. we'd always stop by KFC on the way home for hot wings; that was our secret.
for this drive, it was only one cooler filled with pasta and sweets.
now it's thanksgiving morning and the parade is over, the fire is blazing, and memories are invading. len is talking to his northern family - in animated italian - and becoming the talker he swears he is not. i claim the fire and think of my children. we're spread on different continents, but even distant cities might as well be a world away. thanksgiving will live primarily in my mind for the majority of years to come, a realization that i'm not sure i'm ready for. my children and len's children lead faraway lives, our parents are gone and the immediate family are not close. so we will hold memories close and even though it's just the two of us, i'm beyond thankful. i'm grateful for the life i'm so privileged to lead.
so wool socks, keep me warm! memories, keep me warm! it's almost time for lasagna.
the sound jarred me. heavy metal combining with concrete. i expected horns and tires screeching in downtown snellville, georgia, but not a sound so out of place.
i stopped at a red light on a hectic street, taking a look at my phone for anything urgent, when a sound startled me. i looked in my rear view mirror thinking initially someone had rear-ended me. nothing there except a car at its proper distance. but out of the corner of my eye - two lanes over, i noticed a man and woman on the sidewalk, just a few inches from the path of cars. in their fifties or so, dressed in jeans, not looking out of place. for a brief moment, his hand reached around her waist, pulling her closer, protecting her from the dangers of traffic. she looked up at him, thanking him with her eyes. tucked safely under her right arm, the woman held a rolled up blanket. odd, for sure, i thought. he let go, bent down, and she watched as he began his work. hoovering over a manhole, he picked up the heavy cover that lay askew. he heaved with all his might, and he shoved it to the side, crashing against the concrete. this time, it had fallen far enough away to expose the entire cavern.
and then my mouth dropped, and i forgot about the traffic.
as the man watched protectively, the woman slipped into the darkness, deep inside the ground. once she was inside, he followed. the heavy cover moved, swallowing the couple.
i sat in my car. in my warm car, sipping on my starbuck's latte and feeling ashamed. a horn from the impatient driver behind me urged me to move along. i wondered if they had witnessed the two people? did anyone else see? they had to have seen. most were lots closer than i, but as if it had been an illusion, traffic picked up and life carried on.
i've been back to that intersection a couple of times, hoping to see them again. i haven't. i still wonder who they were and why they were there. i remember their faces. not a sign of despair, only concern and worry for the one beside. i still feel ashamed of my unfettered whimpers.
so this thanksgiving, i will remember the out-of-place sound of metal. i hope that if ever i get to the place in my life where blankets and beds are luxuries rather than necessities, i will approach each day with gratitude - no matter what the situation might be. if god forbid, a hole in the earth becomes my sleeping quarters, i will be strong and hold on to my partner for strength. i will not care what others say or see, but will keep my eyes fixed on the one who loves me, for therein lies my hope. i will not be ashamed by what i must do for love or for survival.
my heart tells me its time to take another trip to snellville, just on the off-chance they are there. i hope they aren't. i hope they are inside four walls this thanksgiving, enjoying each other without the trappings of metal.
There were only three of us for the holidays - me, mama and daddy. In fact, it was always just the three of us. And that was just fine by me.
As each year came to a close and the north Georgia mountains took on its icy glaze, I was certain of a few things.
First, it was time to kill the hog, and that meant, all the fresh sausage I could hold. Biscuits and thick, bubbly sausage gravy with tidbits of meat weighing it down as only mama could make. Daddy preferred the red-eye gravy, and mama would make it for him. I would turn up my nose and reach for the creamy goo instead.
Then, there were fried pies. In the fall, mama would dry the apples on tattered, discarded front door screens. After a few days, she would gather, then freeze them in the little quart boxes for a winter treat. I couldn't stand it. Inevitably, within a couple of weeks of stacking the boxes neatly in calculated rows in the freezer, I would drag out a box and beg for fried pies. She'd roll out a dough, cut it hap-haphazardly, stuff it with cooked apples, and with bubbling oil in the iron skillet, she'd drop them in. I'd hold my breath until I finally saw the edges turning brown. She would scoop each ready one onto a towel and simultaneously give me the evil eye. I had to wait. Not long, but I still had to wait. Finally, she'd nod and I'd grab. The taste of that first bite would hold me all winter.
Finally, her orange slice cake. We hated fruit cake, but there was something about this cake - even though it had most of the same ingredients - that had the perfect crunch, the perfect flavor. I honestly can't remember taking part in the baking, but I do remember the moment she took it out of the oven. She'd pour the glaze onto the steaming cake, and it inhaled the orange juice mixture. I'd watch puddles form on the plate, and it took all the strength in me not to run my finger around the plate's edge. Again, it was the evil eye.
For those fruit cake haters, here's a variation that just might turn into a tradition. A couple of things to keep in mind: it takes forever to cook and it weighs a ton. As for the evil eye, you will have to work on that one yourself.
Juette's Orange Slice Cake
For the cake:
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (12-ounce) box dried dates, chopped
1 pound orange slice candies, chopped
2 cups pecans, chopped
1/2 cup flour for dredging
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup orange juice
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan.
For the cake: In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In a separate bowl, dissolve baking soda in buttermilk. Add flour to butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. In another bowl, toss dates, nuts and chopped orange slices in 1/2 cup flour until coated. Stir in coconut until well-combined. Add to batter and mix until well combined.
Bake in a prepared pan for about 2 hours or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (I had to add an extra 45 minutes to baking time; of course, it could be my ancient oven.)
For the glaze: Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar and orange juice in a small bowl until smooth. Remove cake from pan and cool cake completely. Drizzle glaze over cake. Or, when cake comes out of the oven, use a toothpick to poke holes and pour glaze on cake. Let cake stand in tube pan overnight before inverting.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.