Friday, March 30, 2012

Fine China Friday

This week I'm linking up with Jana over at Jana's Thinking Place in celebration of Fine China Friday.

Growing up in rural Alabama, we never really had any reason to use fine china. My mother kept her china in the china cabinet and took it out maybe once or twice a year to wash it. It was for looking at not for actually using.  Until a couple of weeks ago, I was guilty of the very same thing. I had my china in a cabinet in the dining room all organized to look beautiful. And now, when I remember, we take out the china and use in on Friday night for dinner. I could probably even agree that the food tastes better when eaten from the fancy pants plates. 

But my favorite pieces of china aren't from the set that I have in the cabinet. My favorite pieces have, until this point, stayed wrapped up in tissue paper and tucked away in a box of styrofoam peanuts. They were too special to have anywhere that they might get damaged even a tiny bit.

When I was a freshman at Auburn, Dr. Gary Waters was the Associate Dean of Undergraduates in the Business Program. He took special interest in me and suggested that I apply for a scholarship. Scholarships are awarded to the business school on an annual basis, and I had just enough time to get my application completed before the deadline (interestingly enough, Dr. Waters helped me fill out a good deal of the application). I didn't actually expect to receive a scholarship. Despite my 4.0 GPA, I wasn't especially sure of myself when I was a freshman. When the invitation to the scholarship banquet came in the mail, to say I was happy would be an understatement. I had been awarded the Anne Phillips Pearson Endowment. Anne Phillips Pearson had worked for Auburn University for years and years in various and sundry departments, including the accounting department (which was extra special because I was an accounting major).She had passed away years before, but her niece, Barbara, always met with the reciepeints of the scholarship at the banuqet. She had loved her aunt so that she always wanted to meet the people that their family was helping.

The endowed scholarship was a four year scholarship, so Barbara and I really got to know each other. She took me out to dinner for my birthday every year. She gave me Christmas presents. She called me during the week just to check on me to make sure I was doing okay. Since she lived in Auburn, on days that I wasn't busy I would go to her house to visit. On one such visit, she pulled out a box. In that box was four dessert plates. Her Aunt Anne had given them to her and she wanted me to have them. She said that Anne would have loved me so and would have been happy to know that I had something that had been hers.

In the Master of Accountancy program at Auburn is a non-theses master degree. Instead, we have to do a giant group project and presentation. The night before my group was to present, Barbara's husband called me to let me know that Barbara had passed away. She had been diagnosed with cancer weeks earlier. She had one chemotherapy treatment and died the next day. I attended the visitation and then the funeral. I lost a special part of my Auburn experience, but I will always have the memories of our time together. And I will always have my four little china dessert plates.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Crocigator

There's not a lot that I remember about my childhood. I had a brain injury when I was 10 years old, and almost everything before that is kind of a blur. Except for one distinct occasion that stands out in my mind: the day I was almost eaten by a crocigator.

I'm sure you're probably now scratching your head. Well, let me explain. A crocigator is half crocodile and half alligator. It has the head of each, one on one end of its body and one on the other end. And wowza is it ever a mean creature. Seeing as how it has two heads and no back end, it has to no way to use the bathroom; therefore, it is a terror to encounter. The threat of a crocigator attack was always summoned when I was misbehaving as a child. Now granted, you probably didn't need a mythical creature to ensure your good behavior, but I was, and still am, a handful.

So, back to the day I came close to being eaten by the crocigator. I was probably about seven years old the day it happened. My daddy was cutting hay in one of our pastures and my sister and I had been tasked with picking sticks up out of the pasture so that they didn't dull the blade on the hay cutter. We were busy little bees for the first, maybe five minutes. But then, I noticed the flowers in the pasture. Oh, they were so pretty. And lo, my daddy was going to cut them all down. Obviously, I could not let them be destroyed so I began picking them for a bouquet. My mother noticed that I was not picking up sticks and admonished me to get back to work. I returned to my appointed task for perhaps a minute or two, then I was right back to picking wildflowers. I'm not sure how long I was picking flowers when I heard a loud shout from my Great Uncle R , "hey, watch out, the crocigator is about to get you!!" Thankfully, with his warning I was able to take off running at a breakneck speed and get away from the crocigator. I was so close to being eaten that day but my Great Uncle R saved me!

Until the day that cancer had so riddled my Great Uncle R's body that his memory was basically gone, he reminded me of the day he saved me from the crocigator. But honestly, that's not the only time he rescued me. He was quite a character. He was a combination of smart and mean that made lots of people not like him. But he picked me as his special project. He was not going to let me settle for mediocrity. He was going to make sure I succeeded. He reviewed every test that I took. If I got a 90, he wanted to know why it wasn't a 100. If I made a 100, he wanted to know why it wasn't higher than a 100 (as if I could conjure extra points). He reviewed every report card that I brought home. A report card with all A's earned me $20, in high school it was bumped up to $100. If there was a single B, there was no reward. My sister, bless her, got the short end of the stick on almost every report card. As high school drew to an end, despite the fact that my parents could have never afforded to pay for me to go to college, there was never a question of if, or where, I would attend. Great Uncle R had decided when I was a child that I would go to Auburn, his alma mater, and he started putting money away for my tuition. We graduated from Auburn forty years apart, to the day.

Had I not been able to attend college, I would probably still be trapped in the same small town that so many of my classmates couldn't escape. Now granted, I have friends who still live there because they want to, but small Southern towns have a way of holding their people back. I was able to escape because my college degree opened me up to options that I would have never had without it. I owe a lot to my Great Uncle R. More than I could ever repay really. But I will try at least. He didn't save me from the crocigator for nothing!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Middle

So, we're several weeks now into the Lenten season. And I have to admit I have done very well thus far keeping up with my challenge to myself. I have not missed a day of reading my Bible. I have however, realized something important. I think that when you read something when you are younger that you don't really get the full meaning of what you are reading. Like I have read books recently that I read when I was younger and they have so much more meaning to me now. However, reading the Bible now as opposed to when I was younger has just confused me.  I mean, yes, it is the word of God. But if I had not grown up in church and been taught by some increcdible preacher teachers, I would have a hard time with a lot of what I have been reading. And honestly, despite the fact that I was brought up in church, I am still having a hard time with some of it.

I haven't been following any kind of plan, I've just kind of been picking a book and reading. First, I read the entire book of John. Oh, how I love the book of John. It is so affirming and freeing. And I read a good deal of Psalms, which fills my heart with joy. And then I started reading the book of Luke. And I have to admit, the book of Luke makes me concerned that we're all going to hell. It is not an affirming book. It is terrifying really. It makes me think that there's nothing that we can do to get to heaven outside of nailing our own selves to a cross. I just can't see much grace in the book of Luke. I just see lots of work that you have to do to get to heaven. Maybe it's good that I've fallen under conviction reading this. But, I don't really know what to do exactly. I mean, I read the parts about picking up your cross and following Jesus, and I don't know what I need to do. And then I read the parts about having to hate your own family. And I don't know how to apply that to me. I don't think I can hate my own family. Sure, they drive me nuts sometimes, but I couldn't ever hate them. Maybe I"m taking everything much to literally. I'm not sure. I'm going to keep on reading the book of Luke, because I've read it before and I know it ends with the cross and the resurrection. And I know there's grace in the end. It's this middle part that's causing me to struggle.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Why My Chickens Matter

Anytime I bring up the fact that I have backyard chickens, I am generally met with one of two reactions: either people love the idea of the chickens or they are completely baffled. I've had lots of questions as to why I would want to have chickens in my backyard. Well, let me explain why my chickens matter.

I grew up on a farm in East Alabama. My daddy, his two brothers, and their uncle (my great uncle) all worked on a farm together raising feeder calves. For the uninitiated, feeder calves are baby cows that my family would fatten up to be butchered. However, the calves weren't fattened up with corn in barns where they had no room to roam around. All of our cows were pastured. They were all grass fed. And the only medicine they received was for de-worming. My family wasn't on the forefront of the grass-fed movement. They just couldn't afford to raise the cows any other way. And, according to my daddy, only sick cows need medicine, not well ones.

I helped with the cows from as early as I can remember. My sister and I even got to name the cows (the ones having babies, not the ones that would be don't name an animal you're going to eat). We had cows such as Apple Eater and Apple Eater's Baby (yes, we were very, very original). I can remember getting up to see snow on the ground only to have my daddy load us all up in the truck to go check on the cows. I can remember driving around the pasture counting the number of cows that were pregnant, or just counting the cows in general in the event that a coyote had been spotted in the pasture. Our cows were (and still are) treated well.

Of course, that's not why my chickens matter. There's more to the farm story, obviously. Before I go on, I would like to say that I've not seen any of the movies or read any of the books as to why factory farming is bad. I don't have to, because I lived it for a couple of years. When I was in high school, a friend of my daddy's who had some chicken houses got to an age where he could no longer take care of them himself. So, he hired my daddy to do be in charge of the chicken houses. If you're not aware of what a chicken house is, it's kind of like a barn, a little over the size of a football field, that usually had about twenty thousand chickens in it. Since my daddy was in charge, my sister and I got to help (I say got to help as if we had a choice in the matter). When the chickens first get to the houses, they are tiny little babies and have plenty of room. After about four weeks, the chickens are full grown (thanks to the food full of hormones they are eating). So, just imagine, 20,000 full grown chickens running around with basically no room to run. It wasn't pretty. So, every day, my mom, sister, daddy, and I would head over to the chicken houses to pick up the dead chickens. We would also have to check through the chickens to see if there were any with deformities or limps...because we would have to kill them as well. It wasn't a glamorous job. And I'm not exactly sure why my daddy took it to begin with, other than the fact that we probably needed the money. It was years after the chicken houses were sold before my sister and I could eat chicken again. I still am unable to eat chicken that has a bone in it without gagging a little.

So, why do my chickens matter? Well, I like to know that the animals that I'm relying on for food are treated well. I like to know that my eggs aren't laid by chickens that are full of drugs. I like to know that every day, my chickens get to run around the yard, scratch in the leaves, eat my grass, and chase after bugs. I don't like the way animals in our food chain are being treated, so I'm putting my money where my mouth is. And you can too. You don't have to raise chickens in your backyard, but you can vote with your dollar. Only buy from sources that raise the animals in humane ways: cage free, free range, grass fed, pastured, etc. The only way we can make a difference is to force the market to change. My chickens matter, because I have made the choice to have the change that I want to see start with me.

Friday, March 2, 2012

If you say gullible really slowly, it sounds like orange

When I was in the second grade, I was tested for and accepted into the gifted program at school. I graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA. I graduated from the undergraduate program in accounting with a 3.89 GPA. I graduated with a Masters of Accountancy with a 4.0 GPA. I passed three out of four sections of the CPA exam the first time. (And I will always contend that the only reason I didn't pass the fourth part of the exam the first time is because I was so sick when I took it that I don't actually remember taking it.) I'm kind of smart is what I'm saying.

However, I think that when God blessed me with this intelligence, He knew he was going to have to balance it with something. You know, so that I didn't get too cocky. Oh did He ever balance it. I am what you might call gullible. It's not a naive type of gullibility. It's more of a, if I believe that you know a good deal about a subject, then I will believe what you tell me is true. This has lead to countless $100+ oil changes. I mean, it got to the point where I had to just say to the person changing my oil, "I want an oil change. That is it. Do not come at me with any other suggestions. I will not fall for this anymore."

Jeremy, my new fella, seems to take a special kind of joy in pulling my leg. And it started pretty much right away when we started dating this past summer. Of course, as everyone knows it's hot as four blazes in the South during the summer. I had long wanted a ceiling fan for the bedroom; however, my ex was anti-ceiling fans. Thankfully, after he was gone, Home Depot had a great price on a ceiling fan. Jeremy was in Texas working and the following g-chat conversation took place while I was in Home Depot:

Me: Now I'm gonna get a ceiling fan!

Him: : Awesome. Make sure it turns the right way for the northern hemisphere. They could be intended for places below the equator where the Coriolis effect works the other direction.

Him: Which would explain the low price.

Me:  Are you pulling my leg or are you for real!?

Him:  What do you think? Airplane propellers don't stop and reverse direction, do they? No, they change pitch. You can't spin an airfoil backwards and have it work efficiently

Me: :I don't know! You're making my brain hurt! Also I sent you a picture.

Him: So make sure they are intended for the North American market.

At this point in the conversation I was so aggravated that I called him to tell him that I couldn't find a sales person, and there was nothing on the box that gave any indication as to whether or not it was for the North American Market, and that I was just going to go home and not get the ceiling fan. And then I hung up.

I immediately received this message:

Him:  And I was just kidding. Pretty good BS work though, you have to admit

I bought the ceiling fan. And I kept dating Jeremy. So, it was a win for both of us. And now we get to tell this story to our friends and make them laugh. I mean shoot, even I think my gullibility is funny. Because what kind of life would I be living if I couldn't laugh at myself?