Southern Living

Home on the Range

My third grade teacher died at 91-years-old a few months back. His name was Mr. Panman, a WWII Nazi camp survivor from Holland, and one of the best teachers I ever had. I’ll never forget the emotions I felt the day he told us about running from the Nazis and tearing to shreds his back by crawling under a barbed wired fence. I cried in class while I heard his living history. I loved him so much. He always played the piano in class and he often sang us the song Home on the Range.  The class quickly learned the lyrics and always sang along while thoroughly enjoying the musical break to our daily studies. Oh the good old days. I swear if I am ever a teacher, I would employ this simple form of educational entertainment.

Oh give me  home, where the buffalo roam,
where the deer and the antelope play.
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day.
Home, home on the range.

I’m sure Mr. Panman is roaming free on a very vast range that includes a piano. Love you Mr. Panman. I can’t go to a place with buffalo and not think of Mr. Panman.

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On Saturday, while at Antelope Island, I had to break the law and get out of the car to take the photo above (of the buffalo – and the family, actually) The law-abiding family was in the rental van freaking out. I just laughed while I shot away. I was pretty sure I could outrun the buffalo just 20 feet away. The kids were begging LG to make me get back in the car saying I was going to get arrested. He assured them, “I’m staying in here with you, so one adult doesn’t get arrested.” Bella put two and two together really quick. (We were in the rental van that only I am allowed/insured to drive.) “But Dad, if mom gets arrested, who is going to drive us home?”

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On the way home we met up with Amy and Tyler and went to our favorite family restaurant. It was such an enjoyable dining experience with the cozy atmosphere, big fire, good food, and kids all getting along.

We love you Cracker Barrel. Our waiter, Kyler, was the best waiter I’ve ever had in my entire life.
I just got off the phone with the store manager to let him know to keep that kid around. I wish I would have got his photo. I guess we’ll just have to go back.

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Have a great Monday wherever you roam the range.

Feel free to sing along with your munchkins. Mr. Panman would very much approve.

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Snow in Appalachia

My daughter Abigail gets so mad when she has to correct people on the correct pronunciation of The Appalachian Mountains. Out here in the western U.S. everyone seems to think that everyone should say App a Lay shun.

Abigail knows with every fiber of her being that the correct pronunciation is App a La (a like apple) chin. I mean, Hello, everyone knows that! But people out here in Utah don’t know it and they do dare correct her all of the time. She tells them they are ignorant which I think is pretty awesome and kind of ironic. I would discourage her from the fight, but I am proud of her Southern blood and she did live in TN for eight years of her life so I understand it’s kind of her duty.

Check out this picture of a family friend who dressed up with her husband as rednecks. They nailed it with the crashed NASCAR and everything. Man, I miss the south. I especially loved its quirky sides. I miss blogging about it.

In the last twenty-four hours there has been a lot of buzz about how the South is full of a bunch of idiots who can’t navigate the road in bad weather. It really upsets me. Anyone who dares criticize has never had to navigate a shady icy windy holler with ditches on both sides. Trust me, it’s not a fun experience.

If you don’t believe me, go check out this video of a very long traffic pile-up in Atlanta. Count how many truck-trailers were involved and remind yourself that these guys drive all over the United States….they know how to navigate in the weather…they just can’t possibly keep their vehicle under control on a road that was covered in ice then piled with snow that will not be salted or plowed…and even if it was, it still may not free it of ice.

Because I have lived in the South, I want to stand by my daughter in defense of the Southerners…sometimes Appalachian Americans are smarter then you babbling Yankees…sometimes you really are the ignorant ones. I know it’s hard to swallow. I’m sure you feel kind of how I felt the first time I tried out one of their fancy rest-stops…total mind-blown.

To be fair though, sometimes Appalachian Americans can be total idiots, just like the rest of us. Here’s a good joke.

Two rednecks were given a special SAT test to meet their admission requirements to the Military Academy. Soon after the test began the first guy turns to the second guy and asks, “Old MacDonald had a what?

The other replies, “He had a farm.”

The first asks, “How do you spell it?”

To which the second replied, “E-I-E-I-O.”

Perhaps, the thing I love about Southerners the most is that they laugh freely at themselves. I sure miss that.

Oh and I have to add this. I also love how Southerners aren’t afraid to trash talk especially when it comes to their abilities in college sports.

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Book Review: Cold Sassy Tree

Cold Sassy TreeCold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding a book good enough to go into my most favorite of all time folder seems to get more and more rare the older I get, but this book made the cut. I absolutely loved it. I wish I still had a bookclub so I could discuss it with girlfriends. It was so emotionally powerful.

Will Tweedy is just a teenage kid living in Cold Sassy in the 1920’s. Yes, he’s fictional, but he is real to me, and will be to anyone else who reads this book. Written by Olive Ann Burns it’s more than amazing how she pulled off writing from the perspective of a Southern teenage boy. She nailed it. Not that I’m a teenage boy to know, but I feel like I could be now because Will shared so eloquently and honestly his feelings about everything.

And everything was the content of this book. From teenage fantasies, to soul-searching theology, suicide, farming, all the way out to a housewife’s cleaning regiment, and funny funny practical jokes and stories, Cold Sassy Tree touched on so many entertaining and thought-provoking subjects.

The author explored the hypocrisy of Christianity and brought to the light what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. Will Tweedy’s grandfather, Rucker Blakeslee, although non-religious and somewhat sacrilegious, was a man with sound character and a love for others and he became a real hero to me in my reading of this book. Funny that the books basis is the fact that Rucker married a Yankee hussy three weeks after the death of his widow: what an unlikely hero. But, a hero he is. And Will Tweedy told his story just right, especially by using all that southern tuh-wang in the writing.

Go back to this post for a reading of the book if you don’t mind a spoiler.

A God of Grace

I try to apply
a good
Southern saying
into my life
daily.
It helps.
A lot.
For instance:
when your 13-year-old
has lost yet one more thing.
This time it’s a $30
memory card
that holds all of her photos
for photography class.
You worry that she’s never
going to be organized enough
to get into college.
You start to edge out onto
the cliff of anger
and desperation
and are about to go crazy
with the lecture
and the screaming,
but you take a step back
and pray
instead.
God’s got this.
See how that works?
Worry.
Gone.
Just like that.
It works on the big things too.
Like when you are on the verge
of divorce
because your husband
has quit functioning
all together
(I can say this
because it has been years now)
and you can’t go another day
with a broken man.
God’s got this.
And he did.
And it wasn’t up to me.
It never is.
I am not the healer.
I do not control anyone
or anything.
All I can control is me
and my choice to be happy.
That’s it.
And the best way to be happy
is to know
God’s got this.
Because he always does.

Where Jesus Eats

My friend Amanda is an amazing person. I mean an AMAZING person. I feel so privileged that not only did our paths cross while I lived in Tennessee, but that we became good friends. She, like many other Tennesseans, is exceptionally spiritual and extraordinarily kind.

Back in the beginning of 2012 (yes this post has been sitting in my inbox for that long) Amanda won a contest put on by a local radio station.

“What would she do with 500 chicken
 sandwiches from Chick-Fil-A?” 

Her winning answer will tell you much more about the kind of person Amanda is than I ever could.

“Distribute them to the homeless in Knoxville.”

It was no surprise that her answer won from all the entries. Chick-fil-A is well known as a Christian establishment and I am sure whoever chose the winner of the contest, chose correctly in Amanda. The homeless population is extremely high in K-town.

Here is a photo from back in February, of Amanda’s three kids handing out sandwiches. 

Amanda explained to me that she had romanticized the whole thing thinking she could pray with each individual and tell them that people cared about them.

Instead her mini-van was mobbed until every last scrap was gone (including her kids lunchbox leftovers) in only a minute and that they were then asked to leave by The Salvation Army who informed them that they were breaking some kind of law.

Amanda and I exchanged an e-mail the other day. I wanted to make sure she was still o.k. with me writing about her experience after all the backlash Chick-Fil-A had received lately. Here is her response,

“Thanks for reminding me of promises, I’d made 6 months ago. It’s so easy to let our personal busy take over and not do good on the follow-through. I don’t mind a bit if you blog about it and I’m not worried about any backlash. God’s got this and He will get all the glory. What we did with Chick-Fil-A was not a publicity or political statement it was a chance to love on people in a very real, practical way.” I just LOVE that Amanda. I love how much she cares for others. I love how much she gives her life to others. I love that she is always actively looking for ways to help others and that she goes around constantly making promises to God, even if it will be hard to keep them. I love it that her “fail” is mightier than anyone else’s “success.”

Real quick I wanted to share a funny story that Amanda told me:

This weekend I was privileged to spend 3 days with our Middle School Ministry at our church.  We had this incredible speaker, Acton Bowen.  Acton is a past youth minister, speaker, and Christian correspondant for Fox News.  He was talking about meeting with one of his friends who was a member of the Black Ops team in the US Armed forces and telling of his many missions.  Acton said that they met at Chick-Fil-a which is “where Jesus eats”.

You all can hate on a place because of their stance on gay marriage, that is your prerogative, but please realize that this restaurant is a lot like Amanda. They are always doing a whole lot of good. Oh, and their food is also like Amanda too:
A – MAZ – ING!

Here are a few other good recent news stories about Chick-Fil-A.

Here is a recent car-line in Waynesboro, VA taken by my cousin Jarrett. Chick-fil-A had committed a good portion of their profits to the family of Ethan Blevins, who had recently passed from leukemia complication.

How about the time they opened their doors with free meals to police officers after the Colorado movie theater shootings?

As for me? I love my gay friends. I truly do.
But I want to eat where Jesus eats
and I hope they can be o.k. with it.

For some chick-fil-a funny,
check out this old post.

Laugh Out Loud

Thanks to Jennifer
for facebooking  this one
from Crossville, TN.
Living vicariously
here in Utah,
is the only way
I can get my 
church sign fix.
There are so many things I miss about the South.
My in-laws.
My sister.
My friends.
The kids’ schools
and the familiar faces there.

Today I am really missing
Sister Schubert’s rolls.

Yesterday the girls were
making a fuss over a bug that
got into the kitchen.

LG reasoned with them.
“C’mon guys,
you grew up in the South,
this little bug is nothin’.”

I made a mental note
to enjoy Utah’s
buglessness
a little more.

Movie Review: The Help

The book The Help by Kathryn Stockett was life changing for me. 
The movie was a great review for why it was life changing.
I am not usually one to compare the movies to the books.
I like to read books first because I then get to imagine them unfolding 
untainted by another’s interpretation.
I then like to take in the movie as a whole different experience.
However open-minded I tried to go into this movie experience, 
I have to say that The Help was more like what I imagined 
while reading than any other book/movie experience.
My hat is off to the producers, directors, and actors.
You nailed it.
Head on.
Bravo.

I busted a get. Especially when it came to the terrible awful.
I cried a bucket. The complexities of humanity are so emotional.
I jumped in victory when Skeeter’s mama finally figured things out.
I revered and honored Milly and Abileen in that little black church.
I searched myself once again. 
Wow, I have such great ambitions yet fall so short.
I want to be the best mama.
I want to be the best writer.
I want to stand for something important.
I want to love and be loved.
Go see this movie. 
If my hubby and I both laugh and cry, you know it won’t disappoint.
And just a sidenote: When I first moved to Knoxville I had the horrifying experience of listening to four born and raised Southern whites embarrass themselves as humans. They were so racist and were proud of it. At that dinner, there was even a comment about how the blacks had brought all the troubles on themselves. I was appalled. I stood my ground. I told them they were absolutely wrong. Seven years later, one of these racists had become my best friend. I saw her befriend her first black. People can change. If they haven’t, they should. Not because I told them so, but because it’s the right thing to do to love our neighbors. I was proud to take a stand against racism and to be a part of making the world a better place. A place where everyone is loved and appreciated. Call me Skeeter.

Sooo Tennessee.

If this photo wasn’t taken in Tennessee,
I would be very very surprised.
Looking at this photo,
I can’t help think back to the beginning of our journey in Tennessee,
when I helped LG write his entrance exam for law school.
And remember when I confused Juris Doctorate for John Deere.
I wasn’t born in the South, but I got there as quick as I could.

Just last week, LG and I went to a wedding reception,
where we sat across from a couple that remembered me
from my mission.
I had taught their family and two of their sons were baptized
while I served my Mormon mission in South Ogden, UT.
While we chatted,
she chuckled at me several times 
and told my husband that I hadn’t changed a bit.
When she e-mailed me this photo earlier today,
I chuckled. 
No wonder I had hit if off with their family so well.
God sure knows what he is doing.