Monday, December 02, 2013

A Love for the Game

For as long as I can remember, college football has been a staple of my recreational diet. From donning the white and gold cheering on my Dad's beloved Georgia Tech Yellowjackets to living in Starkville, Mississippi and rooting on the Mississippi State Bulldogs during my younger years. My parents instilled in me a love of the game. Not just the pomp and circumstance but the actual game itself. I took pride in being one of the few girls in my circle that could tell a spread offense from a run and shoot and knew that a shotgun formation had nothing to do with firearms.

Along with the knowledge and appreciation for the game came a passion for the experience itself. To me, nothing holds more promise than a crisp Fall day on a college campus filled with a sea of fans wearing their team's colors, enticing aromas wafting up from BBQ grills, footballs flying through the air and the faint sound of a drum line in the distance. I'm energized by the excitement and anticipation of a solid match-up and do my share in making as much noise as humanly possible to try and affect the opponent's mindset or ability to hear the call. And, I am equally saddened if my team comes up with an "L" in their column at the end of the day. But someone has to lose. That's just part of the game.

But, for the first time in my forty-two years on Earth, I am feeling a little disappointed in the sport that I love so dearly. This past weekend's much-hyped Iron Bowl where my Alabama Crimson Tide played the Auburn Tigers for a chance to go to the SEC Championship lived up to the expectations of all (well, at least in the hype department anyway). Besides having a pretty hefty case of bronchitis, I was like a skittish cat the entire game. Maybe my intuition had kicked in once again-- who knows? Sure I threw high-fives when we'd score but I was otherwise on pins and needles a majority of the time. Then came THE PLAY. The game was tied at 28-all with one second left on the clock and we attempted a 57-yd field goal for the win. And, when it fell one yard short, it happened to fall into the arms of a very athletic running back who ran 109 yards down the field to secure the Auburn victory.

I was heartbroken. Stunned. Speechless.

Do I question a few of the calls made by our coaching staff leading up to that point? Perhaps. Would it have changed the final outcome? I have no idea. What I do know is this:  it is JUST A GAME. And the disappointment I referenced a moment ago has nothing to do with the outcome of the game but instead the level of vile, offensive, derogatory, vicious  and just downright hateful verbal attacks that have occurred since the clock hit :00.  To be fair, this includes verbal attacks by Alabama fans towards coaches and one of the kickers as well as hate-speak from fans of other teams that had no dog in this hunt whatsoever.

There is simply no excuse for fans being so nasty to members of their own team because of a loss. This includes booing, insults and even worse in this case-- death threats. But as for other fans resorting to insults based on stereotypes, this is an obvious, but often-overlooked fact:  every fan base has classy fans as well as the crude and obnoxious ones. Every fan base has a spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds and people with varying degrees of dental insurance. So it saddens me to read statements about Bama fans being nothing but inbred, mullet-wearing, toothless idiots. Criticize the coaching decisions, the play calling even the uniforms if fashion is your fancy but let's keep it classy. Let's focus on the fact that in a split-second national championship dreams can be dashed and players on both sides of the field played their hearts out last Saturday.

The Alabama Crimson Tide had a spectacular year and this year's Iron Bowl, as gut-wrenching as it was in the end for the boys in red, was college football at its finest. And, for that reason, I will dust off the pom pons next year, load up the tailgating supplies and head back to Tuscaloosa to start all over again. Because as much as college football can trample my heart, I couldn't part ways with it no matter how hard I tried.

Roll Tide.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Giving it a (Pinter) Rest...

During a discussion on transparency tonight at small group, we discussed how people often exaggerate themselves to others. I immediately answered "by acting like their lives are one big, perfect Pinterest board."

I, of course, would be the THEIR I was referring to.

Like a lot of folks, I do surf sites like Pinterest looking for yummy recipes or decorating ideas. Sure I do. But I also admit to feeling the bombardment of how "pretty" my life should be. How organized my home should be. How coordinated my wardrobe should be. How clean my house can be. Those images feed into the part of me that craves acceptance and approval and any reason to not feel like a schmuck on a daily basis.

But that's not the real me. So, I think the best thing for me to do would be to create the Real Katie Pinterest board. Images divided into the same kinds of categories:  Housekeeping, Cooking, Wardrobe, Organizing, etc. Real-life images of my home would be posted. You know, like the ring in the boys toilet upstairs or the baskets of un-put-away laundry in my laundry room. Need socks, boys? Why look in your sock drawer when Mommy has these baskets downstairs conveniently loaded with your clothes. I know the socks aren't matched up but who can resist a little underwear treasure hunt every now and then, right?

And let's not forget about the real-life-Katie organization board. There's the picture of the empty boxes in the pantry floor so I'll remember which snacks we're out of (why make a list? A stack of empty boxes is so much There's the stack of items on my desk I need to file away and the drawers of my bedside table which contain random papers, magazines and an astounding assortment of pen caps that would rival any museum collection. Not that there are actually museum collections of pen caps but if there were, this one would rival it. You betcha.

Although the cooking thing is getting better, I won't even touch the real-life wardrobe Pinterest board as most of my clothes are sequestered in a storage facility waiting to be unpacked sometime before the youngins graduate high school.

The bottom line is that any picture of a cake that might have been made at 10:00pm the night before a fall festival is a rare moment in an otherwise unorganized and procrastinatory (is that even a word?) lifestyle. It will be the anti-Pinterest... designed to make you feel OH-SO-MUCH-BETTER about your own life.

Cause I'm me. In all my unorganized, undomestic, chaotic glory. It ain't pretty most of the time but its who I am.

So y'all excuse me while I go dig out some pajamas from the laundry room. I'm plum beat from all the sheer awesomeness I've exhibited today. ;)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Goin' Bananas for Some Dessert Y'all

Every now and then I'll actually tap into my southern roots and produce a meal of home-cooked veggies. Tonight it was slow-cooked Northern beans with ham, fried okra (thinly sliced and fried in cornmeal), marinated carrots and potato salad (both of which were hijacked from my inlaws' church homecoming Sunday). Oh and cornbread. Not Jiffy-type cornbread which is sweet and easy to make. Oh no-- the real stuff. (Insert me turning up my nose here. So much for my southern roots).

Although veggies are yummy and all, I found a new dessert recipe that is hands down, slap-your-Mama-or-someone-else-really-special-to-you good. I had to share the recipe because IT IS THAT GOOD. I stopped at one serving because I am Clearly A Picture of Restraint and Willpower but it is now sitting there atop my stove beckoning me, whispering to me in its sweet little cobblery voice to partake of just one...more...bite. 

But I resist. Instead, I race upstairs to the computer to share this recipe with you. Yes, folks, I am that selfless. Or full. OK, it's because I'm full. But, nonetheless, here's the recipe:

Banana Bread Cobbler
Banana Bread Cobbler

1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk (OK, I might have used half n half)
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 ripe medium bananas, sliced
Vanilla ice cream, if desired  (If desired?!! Oh recipe, you crack me up.)

1.  Heat oven to 375. Spray 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.
2.  In bowl, mix 1 cup of flour with white sugar and milk with whisk until just blended. Stir in melted butter and pour into baking dish.
3.  In another bowl, mix brown sugar, the remaining 1/2 cup of the flour and the softened butter. Mix with a fork until crumbly, Stir in oats and pecans . Arrange banana slices over batter then top with oatmeal crumb mixture.
4.  Bake 50 minutes or until golden and bubbly (covering with foil last 10 minutes to prevent excessive browning if necessary). Serve warm with BLUE BELL HOMEMADE VANILLA ICE CREAM. (or whichever brand you prefer. If there is any other brand. I heart you Blue Bell).
5.  Say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that you read this blog post and made this dessert. Savor. Get seconds. Be happy. :)


Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Science Project or Wednesday Night Supper: The Canned Salmon Virgin Speaks

I hate salmon.

There's no beating around the bush on this one, folks. It's just plain, well, YUCK.

However, my oldest child loves salmon and requested it for dinner so I broke out in a full panic. The only thing I could think of was this salmon croquette thingy that my Mom made when I was a child. Trust me, I can stomach just about anything if it's coated in some yummy bread crumbs so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

But that's when I made a startling discovery. The recipe called for two cans of pink salmon. So naturally I'm thinking I will be opening the lids to find fluffy pink chopped salmon waiting eagerly to be transformed into perfect little salmon cakes. 

Um, no.

The first line of the recipe should have tipped me off:  "remove skins and large bones from salmon."  HUH? I didn't charter a flight to Alaska and snatch this ingredient out of a cold stream... I bought two cans of the stuff at Kroger. Why is it calling for me to field dress the fish? I was bewildered. Then I opened the cans. 

:: insert gagging noise here ::  

From the top it looked like an organ contained in a jar in my 7th grade science class. But, then I dumped it into my mixing bowl. What awaited me there was part horror show, part organ transplant special on Discovery Health. The slimy carcass that awaited my attention in that bowl was horrifying. A slippery black and silver skin was dripping off an oily rounded blob of fishy smelling meat with little bones sticking out everywhere. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I had to be on camera. This was surely a prank. I opened the bulbous glop of meat to find a crumbly center "spine" that disintegrated into hundred of little bones with the slightest touch.  I do not remember my Mom dealing with this while the Carol Burnett Show played in the background. She made it looks so easy. Thinking about the meal tradition I was carrying on for my child, I perservered.

I guess it took me about 10 minutes to remove all the bones and achieve a bowl full of fluffy, pink, ready-for-breading salmon meat but it was worth it in the end. Once the patties were made up and breaded and sitting in the oil in my pan, I felt the presence of my Mom in an unbelievable way. Mashed potatoes and peas rounded out the straight-outta-1977 menu complete with a lime jello mold made my Jacob and me. She was very much there and it cemented my transition to motherhood as I imagined her standing at the stove making the same meal for me.

I still do not like salmon. But it was well worth a little bone-picking and patty-making to bring a smile to my child's face (and to see him clean his plate to boot!) Finding new things to cook every night has certainly been a challenge for this recovering restaurant-four-times-a-week gal but I'm pleased to say that Salmon Croquettes might have to make a return appearance. I may see if I can pay $10/can to start off at the pink and fluffy stage but hey it's baby steps!

"BONE" appetite, y'all.

Monday, August 26, 2013

One Part Peanut Butter, Two Parts Love

Since I made the decision to be a stay-at-home Mom, there have been several times when I have glimpsed my own mother's hands when doing seemingly trivial tasks. Cleaning off a counter top, folding a dish towel... but none more so than making an after school snack for the boys this afternoon.

I met the bright yellow bus that carried my youngest son at the end of our street and slung his Angry Birds backpack over my shoulder as we made the short walk home. We had no sooner passed through the front door when Jacob sprinted into the kitchen to choose an afternoon snack. Little did he know several of the items we had purchased at the store the day before were ingredients for a very special snack I wanted to share with him.

When I was his age, my Mom would take a box of saltine crackers, spread them with peanut butter and let me plop a marshmallow on each before broiling them to a golden brown color. Then, she'd take a spatula and smoosh down each one into a yummy smores-like snack-- fresh from the oven.

As I gathered the items we needed, Jacob looked at me curiously and asked, "what you doin' Momma?" "

"We're making a special snack your Grammy used to make for me when I was in school, " I replied.

His eyes lit up like Christmas trees and he jumped up and down eager to help with the assembly process. One by one, we smeared peanut butter on a cracker then, just like I had done as a young girl, he delighted in sticking a fluffy marshmallow in the center of each cracker. The oven hot and ready, we placed them on broil and watched in awe as the crown of each marshmallow transformed into the perfect golden brown I remembered as a child.

Now I'm fully aware that this treat is not some gourmet culinary discovery. "Inside smores" (as I call them) have been around since the beginning of time I'm sure. But the beauty of this moment was the realization that I was walking in my Mom's footsteps. I was as excited about making my son an after school snack as I had ever been about any 5-star hotel I had visited or perk I had received as an event planner.

Because, there at my feet was one of my greatest accomplishments, scooping off a now-melted peanut butter cracker with perfectly-roasted marshmallow goodness smooshed down on top. Sure I was not dressed up and I hadn't earned a nickle all day to put into the bank. But on a Monday afternoon, I channeled the love and energy my Mom once poured into me and my sister by making the seemingly simple things special.

And to this girl, that makes life as sweet as an ooey gooey peanut butter cracker.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day 2013: The Little Things

I knew as soon as I logged in that my Facebook feed was going to be a barrage of Mom pictures, sentiments and status updates. For a brief nano-second I actually considered staying off the site for the day. But, I quickly realized that it is not the celebration of mothers on one special day that makes me miss my Mom so much, it is the little parts of every ordinary day where her presence is missed.

It's funny to me the things that I remember and miss about her most. The most vivid image that has stayed with me lately is the slant of light that would pour out of her "recovery room" each night. Living in an old antebellum house, my parents were blessed with enough "empty" space that Mom was able to create her own getaway--a Mom cave of her own--where she surrounded herself with her favorite things. Paintings, pictures, music, books and of course her big comfy chair with a side table and lamp for reading. She called it the "recovery room" during her battle with cancer because that was her place of solace and relaxation. On most nights, I'd find her there curled up in that chair, her legs tucked up underneath her reading and munching on a bag of Skittles that she always had tucked in the drawer of her side table. And, although I didn't realize it then, I found immense comfort in this scene.  That little slant of light in a darkened hallway was a sign that she was there if I needed her. If I needed to chat or simply steal a goodnight hug (and maybe a few Skittles in the process). I miss that very much.

I could recount a blue gazillion things I miss about my Mom but the hole I feel the deepest lately is needing her advice and guidance in my own motherhood journey. The fact that she never knew either of my boys is mind-boggling to me. As I watch their personalities develop, I see things that she would love about each of them. Jacob's tender heart and shy mannerisms would endear him to her while Daniel's quick wit and humor would thrill her to no end. But on those days when the normal frustrations of motherhood wreak havock on my already tired brain, I would give anything to pick up the phone and talk to her-- if only to find out I was the same exact pain-in-the-rumpus to her as a child.

So many memories flood my mind today. Yellow daffodils, lemon ice box pie, John Denver and Neil Diamond blaring on the stereo. Vanilla Fields perfume and big floppy purses. The Carol Burnett Show playing as the smell of hamburger steak wafts in from the kitchen, the familiar whir of a sewing machine and the sound of her laughter as she watched a favorite episode of Seinfeld or Designing Women. And, perhaps my favorite sound of all...the way she would sing my name "Kate-a-laaaa" when she needed me.

I celebrate all those things today. But, most of all, I celebrate the thing that Pat Trotter did better than anything else in her life... she was a Mom. She was my Mom. And I miss her so very much.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. This Skittle's for you.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Unexpected Sunshine

As I wove my car in and out of the various lines of traffic, navigating the bustling streets of Nashville on a Tuesday morning, I rattled off my to-do list in my head and sang whatever song randomly appeared on my iPhone. But as I cruised up the ramp which would lead me into downtown, it hit me. Like the proverbial "ton of bricks" an overwhelming need to talk to my Mom took hold of me.

In the ten years since she's been gone, I've often felt melancholy and wished that I could pick up the phone and call her or share a particular milestone or happening in my life. But this was different. This was a numbing, urgent desire to talk to her, to hear her voice. After her death, I found a book titled Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman. One passage really stuck with me as she described a time many years after her mother's death. She was simply crossing an intersection and was suddenly gripped with grief. In her words:
“When a daughter loses a mother, the intervals between grief responses lengthen over time, but her longing never disappears. It always hovers at the edge of her awareness, prepared to surface at any time, in any place, in the least expected ways.” 

As I turned off the ramp onto Broadway, my mind flooding with thoughts of all the many things she had missed over the past decade, the playlist switched to its next song. As soon as I heard the opening notes, tears welled up in my eyes and began to spill over onto my cheeks. "Sunshine, on my shoulders, makes me happy...." The sound of John Denver's voice quickly faded into that of my mother's. It was the song she used to sing to me as I would fall asleep. I could actually hear her voice as I drove through downtown towards my office. It was as if she were wrapping her arms around me and speaking to me with those lyrics I had been marinated in throughout my childhood.

"If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way..." 
She was there. She was listening to me talk about the stresses of my job and raising a family. She was counseling me on love and loss and fear and contentment and all of the things I struggle with on a daily basis. She was flopping down her oversized purse on my couch and sitting with her legs tucked underneath her ready to listen to all the thoughts I wanted and needed to share.

I am blessed with many dear friends with whom I can open up and share life's challenges. And, I like to think that I've done pretty well trying to balance and be a Mom without the guidance and wisdom of my own to reply upon. But sometimes I long for her input and counsel, for the touch of her petite, yet strong, hands on my arm providing what I'm sure she always considered unwelcome motherly advice. Perhaps that's why her presence was so strongly felt on my drive to work this morning.

It was a nice visit and, as I made the last turn into my office, I wiped the tears from my eyes. With a little help from my Mom and John Denver, I had a renewed feeling that it was all going to be okay.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Unexpected Joy and Plastic Eggs...Life is Good.

I just found myself in one of those rare life moments when I was overwhelmed with happiness. Sheer joy. Did I win the lottery? No. Did I open the front door to find my sister on a surprise visit from Florida? No. Did American Idol host Nicki Minaj finally get her roots done? No.

Instead, I found myself standing in the living room in my old terrycloth robe holding a jumble of men's shoes, a flyswatter and a race car watching my two boys giggling and laughing as they searched for the Easter eggs that my oldest Daniel had hidden for his brother. Clad in a t-shirt and running pants with a crocheted elephant hat on his head, my youngest Jacob took to the hill in our backyard with the might of a mountain climber on a once-in-a-lifetime expedition. An Easter basket shaped like a basketball draped over his forearm, the excitement in his eyes was heartwarming. As was the joy with which his older brother encouraged him along, dropping hints to help him find the big purple one stuffed with a Hot Wheels car or the grand prize-- the gold egg that lay perched on the front windshield of my car.

You see, this week has been trying to say the least. Job stress, some behavior issues with Daniel at school, Keith traveling and me single-handedly keeping the Kleenex Corporation afloat with a yucky head cold, I awoke this morning with a sore throat and a foggy brain. But as I was picking up around the house, I caught a glimpse of the boys playing together and genuinely trying to make each other happy. Words can't explain what that did for this weary Mama's soul.

Sometimes, it's the little things that bring the greatest joys. Sometimes it's the unexpected rays of sunshine that pour in through a window at just the right time. And sometimes, it's the laughter and giggles of two sandy-haired boys--one in a yarn hat, the other smiling proudly at the fun he had created--that makes life so sweet. It didn't take a trip to Disneyworld or even Chuck E. Cheese for that matter to generate those smiles. It didn't even take me telling them to go play outside or to be nice to each other. This moment was a gift... a slice of brotherhood in which there was no arguing or fighting. Just two kids thankful to have each other on an otherwise dreary Saturday morning.

Unexpected joy. Doesn't get much better than that.