Courage

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Photo credit: Tasha Tolliver

So, what exactly is courage? I’ve just spent more than a few minutes looking at definitions of this noun. I believe that if I found just the right one it would have this woman’s photo next to it.

According to Oxford English Living Dictionaries on-line, courage is defined as:

  • the ability to do something that frightens one; bravery
  • strength in the face of pain or grief

Meet Lynda Harrison Hatcher. Because of Lynda I stayed up way too late last night. I could not stop reading her memoir until I had read the final words and then the acknowledgements.

mothering addiction

There is no ending to her story, at least not yet. And at the end of the book, she questions why she wrote it all in the first place. If it was hell for me to read every word of every paragraph of every chapter, I can’t imagine what kind of hell it was to write or to live, for that matter.

I might never have come across this book if not for the BFF. She and Ms. Hatcher were college friends. The BFF was in her seemingly fairytale wedding and she watched her sail off into the sunset of her imagined perfect life.

Not to be. Not in the cards. Not what the universe had in store for her.

If there is anyone in America whose life has not been touched by an addiction of some sort, I don’t know him/her. We can all put on a good face, pretend it hasn’t happened to us, throw disbelief and scorn at those who do admit it, all the while saying “Bless her heart.” And maybe even delivering a casserole, hoping to catch a glimpse of grief or heartbreak up close.  Kind of like watching a car wreck. How many of the people we interact with on a daily basis are either the victim of an addiction or the family member or close friend of an addict. I cannot imagine a worse hell than being the parent of an addict. With the all-consuming question “What did I do to cause this?” All the while trying to keep up the façade, keep a child out of prison and/or alive, protect the addict’s siblings, the other children who need their parents. What about having to give up on the dreams you have had for that child since he/she was handed to you just seconds after arriving in this world? A mother’s instinct is to try to create a Disney-like childhood, never yell, let alone have a complete screaming breakdown with the windows open, never be too disappointed or to disappoint your children. To protect him/her come hell or high water. To be a fierce fixer.

But what if we aren’t in control? How much is personality and /or genetic? The old nature vs nurture debate. What’s best? What will keep a child from becoming homeless, a dealer, needing an intervention involving his grandfather who used to take him fishing? If only I had… or If only I hadn’t…

I can’t even pretend to understand what Lynda Harrison Hatcher’s life must be like. Daughter of an alcoholic? Not the same. Aunt to a young man in prison for five years for dealing and possessing guns? Nope. It has to be a whole different level of hell when it is a child. And you are not in control and you can’t fix it.

While looking for a definition of courage, I came across this–

“We take so much of our strength and resilience for granted. Courage isn’t about being a battle-ready soldier; some days there is courage in saying, “tomorrow is another day”. We show courage on a daily basis because our lives and the lives of those we love matter to us. When we feel deeply passionate about something, we find courage easily — for example we find superhuman strength to protect our children. So let us find that same passion and courage for ourselves, trusting that whatever our circumstances are right now (and regardless of whether we feel courageous), we can find a valuable seam of courage if we dig just below the surface.”  –Rebecca Perkins, The Real Definition of Courage

I have nothing to offer. No advice. Just admiration for Ms. Hatcher. I would like to thank her from the bottom of my heart for having the courage write this book. Anything that I choose to read now will pale in comparison, I’m afraid.

Son #2 has sent me a couple of adorable photos lately of his and his GF’s pets. Need some cuteness? Well, I have some for you…

Meet Charlotte, Charlie for short. She was a stray in Charlotte where Son #2 lived for 2 years. And where he met GF.

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“She is either very sweet and loving or possessed by a spawn of hell. Not much of an in between yet, Mom.”

I guffawed. Thank you for making me laugh, Son #2.

One more cute photo.  Of Couper and Charlie. What must Couper be thinking?

couper and charlie

I don’t know about you, but I need a recipe for comfort food. Mac and cheese is my go-to favorite.  This recipe has been on the blog before, in a 2015 post about resiliency.

 

Comforting Mac & Cheese

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or a mixture of cheddar and Monterey Jack)
16-oz. macaroni
Salt, pepper (black or white), ground mustard or Texas Pete sauce can be added.  Or a combination of all.  Today, I decided to add bacon that had been cooked to crispy and then drained on paper towels.

Cook macaroni in salted, boiling water until it is al dente (for small elbows, about 9 minutes).
Drain, rinse, and set aside.
Melt butter in large pan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and combine well.  Cook for about a minute to remove the flour taste.  Gradually add milk and continue to whisk.  Cook until the mixture thickens into a creamy roux.  Add seasonings and whisk well.  Remove from heat.
Add 2-1/2 cups of the cheese and stir until melted and combined.
Put macaroni into a buttered baking pan.  (I cooked the bacon in the cast iron pan and left some of the drippings in for flavor, so I didn’t need to butter the pan.)  Pour cheese sauce over the macaroni and stir well.  (I added the crumbled bacon at this point, reserving some for the top.)
Top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. (My grandmother always topped hers with bread crumbs or crushed crackers.)
Bake in pre-heated 350˚F oven for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is bubbling.

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Bon appétit, Lynda. I have so much respect for you and the lessons you have learned and are trying to pass on to the rest of us. May you find peace and self-love. Thank you. Be courageous, mes amis. Seek help and find even just one or two friends who get it and will always be there for you. Everyone needs their own Book Club. And I think that this book is definitely worth reading, whether you are mothering an addict or not.

Small things, great things, great love

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It is hard to believe.  September has arrived.  It came in rainy yesterday here in my little corner of North Carolina. Hurricane season. My thoughts continue to be with the people in Texas who lost family, pets, and all of their worldly belongings. Stuff is stuff and can be replaced, but some of the stuff has sentimental value and losing it can be traumatic. And it always seems that the ones who can’t afford to lose it all, often do. With no insurance or savings accounts to help replace the stuff or even enough to find a dry place to sleep. Heartbreaking circumstances. During Harvey’s devastation, I had a small personal tie to it through Son #2’s GF. I texted her daily (and confessed to being a worrier) to get updates on her family and friends in Houston.

Bravelets, a company that sells jewelry, mostly bracelets, and donates a portion of the profits to charity, has a Texas bracelet and necklace for sale with 100% of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross Relief Fund for Hurricane Harvey victims. There will be scammers out there, I am sure there already are, but the Red Cross does good work.

bravelet

This morning during our therapy session (AKA our morning 3-mile walk), the BFF told me about a great idea I want to share.  Undies for Everyone.  This was posted on their Facebook page just a few minutes ago–

Due to your overwhelming generosity from all over the world, we distributed over 30,000 pairs of underwear today alone to Hurricane Harvey families in need! As we receive shipments, we will continue to provide new underwear to survivors of the hurricane all over South Texas.

Nice, clean underwear is something quite a few of us don’t have to think about, right? We take it for granted. I am pretty sure that Son #1 and Son #2 dashed out to Target or Walmart to get new ones more than once when they had no clean ones.

I think that it’s now time for a What Am I Reading update. I haven’t done this in a while and I have indeed been reading. Every day. Usually for an hour or two before I fall asleep. Here’s what is on my bedside table right now.

Currently reading-

Mothering Addiction: A parent’s story of heartache, healing and keeping the door open by Lynda Harrison Hatcher

The BFF is a college friend of Ms. Hatcher. She was even a bridesmaid in what appeared to be the perfect wedding of the perfect couple. As those of us who have lived long enough know, perfect doesn’t exist and Ms. Hatcher takes us through what it is really like to be the mother of a drug addict. Her perfect life and marriage crumbles. I can identify, albeit in a small way compared to the author, as the aunt of an addict who is currently sitting in jail, headed for a 5 year prison term after a plea bargain. I went with Mama Mildred to visit him this summer. Talking on a phone to a loved one through plexiglass was only a movie scene in my mind prior to this visit. Mama and Moo go faithfully every Saturday. There is a line in the book where either the author or one of the members of her “Book Club” (really a support group of mothers of addicts) says that at least she knows where her child is when he/she is in prison/jail. Mama said the exact same thing. I can’t send care packages, only books shipped directly from Amazon. I highly recommend this book. With the drug epidemic in our country, most of us are touched by addiction in some way. Addiction is difficult to understand. As the child of an alcoholic, I have grappled with understanding it my entire life.

Waiting in the wings-

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I swore to myself that I was not going to read this one. I can be a bit touchy by the label hillbilly with my background as a proud child of the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I get tired of Deliverance jokes and those who whistle the tune for me. I do not enjoy comments made about those people. When you choose to make holier-than-thou remarks about dumb inbred hillbillies, you are talking about my people and I do not like it. I recently read a review of this book and had decided not to read it, but it was a summer reading choice for teachers at my school. After hearing about the discussion some of the readers had, I borrowed it from one of my colleagues. I read the first few pages and have decided to give it a go. I am still not sure that I will appreciate the memoir of a 30 something who did not grow up in the mountains, but my mind may be a bit more open now.

Recently finished-

Dimestore by Lee Smith

I have been a huge Lee Smith fan for many years. She writes with the voice of a Southern Appalachian woman. She is a Virginian, hailing from Grundy and this is her memoir. How she grew up, the demons her parents faced, and how she found that voice so many of us love. I have met Ms. Lee and attended more that one of her readings. Her voice reminds me of Arles Lucy, another Virginian. (I wish you could hear Arles Lucy say that word. It sounds as sweet as honey tastes.)

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell.

I have read quite a few books about French artists, trying to see them as real people, not just masterpieces. Even after reading this one, it is hard to wrap my head around Claude Monet as a dirt poor, struggling artist trying to support his family and sell his work, surrounded by Bazille, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro and Manet, mentored by Boudin. This centers on his relationship with his first wife, Camille Doncieux, a woman about whom little is really known. As we all know, Monet lives long enough to see his work appreciated and he is able to live comfortably in his home and gardens at Giverny. This haunting painting of Camille on her deathbed is part of the story.

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Image: http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/events/exhibitions/archives/archives.html?zoom=1&tx_damzoom_pi1[showUid]=99997&cHash=398d90108b

I love the Musée d’Orsay and visit it almost every time I am in Paris. I want to come back as an artist in my next life.  Or a French cat.

Murder in Saint Germain by Cara Black

Probably my favorite series, the 17th book takes place in a neighborhood I have recently been roaming around in as much as possible when in Paris. I love Aimée and have watched her struggle with love on all fronts, from being deserted by her mother, to losing her father in an explosion to her relationship with her godfather to the bad boys she chooses as boyfriends. She gets herself in hot water in a different neighborhood in each book.  Keep them coming, Cara. S’il vous plaît.

Play Dead by Harlan Coben

Several years ago, I fell instantly in love with Coben’s character Myron Bolitar, a former Duke basketball player drafted by the Boston Celtics. Bolitar blows out his knee, has to give up his hoops career and becomes a detective. Play Dead isn’t a Bolitar novel, but it is a slam dunk. (Clever, n’est-ce pas?) Basketball is front and center, with a star Celtic and a super model as the main characters. I couldn’t put it down. Lots of twists and turns and an ending that I didn’t see coming. M. Coben is very popular with my Frenchies. One of his books, Tell No One, was made into a movie in France, Ne le dis à personne. I even saw Coben interviewed on French TV once a few years back! (He had a translator.)

See Me by Nicholas Sparks

If you’ve read any of his novels, then you know that his stories are good escapes. And hard to put down, at least for me.  This one takes place in Wilmington, NC and revolves around a wealthy reformed bad boy and the successful daughter of Mexican immigrants who own a local restaurant. Some bad guys are out there and threaten their hard found happiness.

The One Thing More by Anne Perry

This novel is set in France in the time of Louis XVI with his execution on the horizon. There are those calling for his head and a few others who think that worse will happen if they do indeed send Louis to the guillotine. Célie, the main character, gets brought into the secretive fight to save the king. I thoroughly enjoyed this work of historical fiction, my favorite genre.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

This is the best book I have read in a long time, maybe ever. I gave a copy of it Mama Mildred for either her birthday or Christmas last year (who just this morning tried to tell me that she thinks she read it– not believing she really did, she probably lent it to someone or someone “borrowed” it)

From Picoult’s website–

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

As I was reading this book, I attended a workshop on racial equity here in Durham which coincidentally was held on the morning of the white supremacy march in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Groundwater- Intro to Race Equity workshop was sponsored by the Racial Equity Institute of Greensboro. I fully intend to take another of their workshops to learn more about how to be a part of the solution.

Picoult is an amazing writer. She takes real events and turns them into stories told from all sides, even if you do not really want to know what white supremacists think and how they recruit new members. At one point, I thought that I would not be able to finish the book because of the couple’s hatred based solely on the color of Ruth’s skin. Ruth has done everything “right” in her life and is working hard to provide for her son and teach him that the world is fair and the color of his skin doesn’t matter. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Here you can find an excerpt and also Jodi’s story of how the idea of the book came about. The title of the book comes from a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way” 

It also reminds me of a Mother Teresa quote:

“There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.”

I have read other books, but I will end with that one. I hope that Mama Mildred finds her copy. If she doesn’t, she will probably get a new copy for her birthday this year.

Today I plan to make a new recipe, one that I’ve been thinking about for a while.  I’ve been thinking about it since I ate this dish at Luna Rotisserie in downtown Durham. Every time I go there I promise myself I am going to try something new, but, no. I cannot resist the sides– black beans and coconut rice, spicy bacon collards, pan-roasted succotash with smoked bacon and my favorite…pimento hominy “mac and cheese.” There is no “mac” in this dish nor does there need to be. I ate a lot of hominy growing up, but not once did it occur to me that you could add cheese to it and bake it. I wonder why. I have found a recipe and am off to the grocery store to get some hominy now.  Back in a bit. Oh! But first… do you know what hominy is? Do we only eat it in the South? Just in case, here you go– basically, it is corn soaked in lye. It turns white and soft and plump. My Granny used to make her own. If you want the long, drawn out, actual scientific explanation, click here.  It is also ground up to make grits, another thing we love in the South. Now I’ve made myself really hungry.

I really am going to the grocery store! See you soon.

Okay, back from Food Lion.  I cheated. My favorite brand of ready-made pimento cheese was sitting there waiting for me… with bacon already in it, no less.

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Baked Pimento Cheese Hominy with Soul

by The Nutty Vegetarian at food52.com

4-6 servings

(I apologize to the NV in advance– I plan to put bacon in mine…)

8 ounces Cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded

1/4 cup mayonnaise (I only use Duke’s)

4 ounces Pimentos, diced into small bits

2- 15.5 ounce cans of Hominy, cooked

Crisply fried bacon

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly butter an ovenproof baking dish.
  2. To make the pimento cheese, combine the shredded cheddar, mayo and pimentos in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste and gently mix in the hominy.
  4. If adding the bacon, crumble it up and mix it in with the hominy and/or sprinkle some on top.
  5. Spoon into the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top is browned.

baked hominy

 

Bon appétit, mes amis!  Keep reading good books and serving up good food to your family and friends.