Tuesday, January 8, 2013

I'm a Bobcat now, Dr. Williams said so...

(stock photo)
I sat in the library at Jones County Junior College awaiting a counselor to set a class schedule.  To kill time, I took out the twenty-six year old college transcript from The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.

The coffee became very heavy as an empty gut wrenched, knotted, twisted, and turned;  my face flushed.  It's 2013:  the year of no excuses.  Yet, looking at semester after semester of poor academic performances, excuses were the only things coming to mind.

To say I was sheltered as the youngest of five children and the only daughter would be an understatement of epic proportion.  I was.  Those years made the caring, sharing, loving person the writes before you.  It also, once high school graduation commenced and ended, gave me the feeling that much had been missed -- and I was determined to learn what that was.

I enrolled in college and late-night (or rather, early morning) life where much consumption of beverages of the alcoholic sort and socializing were the norm.  Eight o'clock classes were seldom met and certainly not the boring ones.  I'd graduated sixth out of a class of 63 in high school.  Chemistry 101 was held in an auditorium with 250+ students.  Why go?  I wouldn't be missed.

Daddy and I had began butting heads continuously after the first grades came in.  He began to hinder party mobility by not allowing use of the family car.  I viewed his restrictions as a way to bridle a new, free spirit; to suppress ideology not in accord with his own... I didn't like him very much at all.

Kicking and screaming, I returned to boring Greene County to teach piano lessons and help work the farm.  Daddy and I came to a sort of cease fire of hostilities and worked shoulder to shoulder under a hot March sun laying corn by and staking tomatoes in a splendid early garden one fine Saturday.

He died of a heart attack in his sleep that night.

You'd think I would have buckled down harder than ever, returning to college, to attend class, study, and make him proud of me.

I didn't.

Thrown, nay, hurled into a sorrow and depression not understood, roll playing games, committing the entire dialogue from Rocky Horror Picture Show, and drinking as much apple schnapps and beer as possible became a life for which thought was unnecessary.

Am I making excuses?  Not at all.  I'm letting y'all know I was ignorant of the blessings of my youth.  Gratitude for an incredible environment of loving, living, and learning meant nothing.  Denial and self-indulgence were once a way of life for this (now) middle-aged Southern gurl.  I'm reminded that "where sin increased, grace abounded all the more."  

I'm fessing up to a couple of years of hard living (some college friends are amazed to find me still alive).  I'm not proud of them, but they, also, have shaped a person more determined than ever to use a talented mind to do something.
I have no clue what the last word of the graphic is supposed to be.
You'll have to ask Dr. Williams.

There are no excuses.  It is what it is;  or what it was, a feeble dismissal of events and a weak excuse in itself.  A past was exposed today.  And the truth has set me free.  I'm a Bobcat now.  Just ask Dr. Williams...
Watch out, folks.  I'm running with knives.  Stick around and
learn with me!
Thank you, Dr. Williams, for taking on this non-traditional student with scheduling;  for listening;  for knowing;  for leading Jones County Junior College in the state and nation with non-traditional student services.  Your encouragement and patience were invaluable in keeping emotions from running high and helping to keep an addled mind focused.  I can't thank  you enough and look forward, not only to your tutelage, but friendship as well.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


An odd thing happened during church today.
I'd finished playing the Doxology:
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Removing myself from the piano bench and getting situated on the pew (second on the left), I caught a glimpse of Mrs. Johnnie, three rows directly behind, her white hair, bright smile, and twinkling eyes giving a nod as I sat.
She wasn't there, of course -- hadn't been there for many years, having entered the Sabbath Rest like so many beloved others of our small congregation.  Her soft voice reached through memory, "You get on back to school, Missy.  You'll do just fine."

Perhaps it's the anxiety of being a non-traditional student at a junior college at this late date in life that summoned other voices, long quiet, to calm and strengthen a hesitant soul.  Daddy's clear tenor quipped, "Time to do it, Shug.  Fix us a pot of coffee and figure that out."

Tears were fought to keep from falling as Thomas' exposition of Genesis 3: 15 and an Old Promise for a New Year continued.

Billy's sweet spirit touched lightly, "You're my favorite aunt.  Make me proud."  John's no-nonsense words rang true to his eldest sibling position in the family.  "Be careful on the road;  lots more idiots than you out there.   Don't be quite so much yourself.  Just because you can speak doesn't mean you have to.  Study.  You're smart enough."

It was odd, all right.  Was I visited by spirits during church?  No.  Did this soul, spirit, and mind manufacture necessary words of selective encouragement in the one place of Ultimate Encouragement?  Yes.

An Old Promise for a New Year concluded.  I play and we sing, "Then in a nobler sweeter song I'll sing Your power to save, when this poor lisping stammering tongue lies silent in the grave."

Lie silent now.  And thank you.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Oven Roasted Rutabagas and Mr. Van

**sigh**  I don't suppose there's a single food consumed here that doesn't bring back a memory or two.  Even rutabagas bring back thoughts of great fondness from young family days lived in Oxford, Mississippi and our next door neighbors there, Mr. Van and Mrs. Faye.  Mr. Van loved rutabagas, too;  Mrs. Faye didn't like to cook them, didn't like the way the smelled up her house.

It's the nature of a Southern cook to cook too much.  Store bought rutabagas this time of year are gargantuan, compared to those grown in home gardens in the area.  And there's no such thing as cooking only half a rutabaga.  We hadn't been living in Oxford long before I'd bought one and cooked the huge pot of them, plenty enough to share with the neighbors we were still getting to know, along with a half-pan of cornbread.  Mrs. Faye was pleased to have a neighbor that could cook but Mr. Van was one very happy retired truck driver with the gesture.

They became a part of our lives and Mr. Van became a fixture in the kitchen.  Several times a year, he'd bring over a rutabaga and, with a sly grin ask "You reckon it's fit to eat?"  His tall, lean person, topped with a shock of white hair and ever-present hat would offer the vegetable and usually a small portion of salt meat.  "I don't know, Mr. Van,"  I'd say, "But I reckon we can find out."

Friends come and go, moving in and out of our lives but good neighbors, I find, are hard to replace.  Mr. Van died several years ago.  Mrs. Faye and I talk several times a year.  They'll always be our neighbors, though.  And I'll always think of Mr. Van with every rutabaga.

Tonight I've cooked oven-roasted rutabagas.  They're super easy to prepare;  the ingredients list is short; and take little time to cook.  AND they're heart friendly, with no saturated fats whatsoever.

You'll need a rutabaga, coarse salt, and extra virgin olive oil.
Preheat oven to 500 F.  Yep.  500.  It's not going to take this deliciousness but 30 minutes to cook.

Peel and cut rutabaga into huge steak-fries size, roughly 1/2 into to 3/4 inch sticks.  I'd been gifted these locally grown rutabagas.   I was going to can them but decided to have them for supper instead.
This is a 14 X 18 baking sheet.  I like to line it with foil
because it is one of the cake pans.  The foil
assures that there won't be any funky stuff
to have to scrub before a cake gets baked in it.
And it makes clean-up a snap, too.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.  How much?  Use enough to oil to coat the rutabagas (maybe a half-cup?) and roughly a tablespoon of salt for this big pan full.  They can be salted after cooking, too, but I enjoy having the seasoning braised right in to the vegetable.

Cover with foil and put on lowest rack in preheated oven for fifteen minutes.

Take foil off rutabagas and turn/flip/maneuver them over.  Put back into oven for another fifteen minutes.  You can hear them sizzling and the aroma, I must disagree with Mrs. Faye, is far from undesirable.  

Ding!  They're ready!  Be careful, you'll want to sample them right out of the pan before they ever reach a serving dish and wowzers are they hot!  
See how nice and brown?  MMmmmmmm...

Tadadaaaa!  No sugar is necessary to sweeten them, no other fats needed to flavor them.  They're a little different from traditionally prepared rutabagas but if you love rutabagas like me and Mr. Van, you'll still enjoy them.

And don't forget to share...