Dream On

 

“Cancel subscriptions to Southern Living, Veranda and Southern Lady magazines”

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– I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

In Flagg’s book, the main character, Maggie Fortenberry, is making plans to kill herself, but she just can’t leave the world without putting everything in order first, including canceling her magazine subscriptions. I am familiar with all three of these magazines; in fact, Southern Living and Southern Lady are both published right here in Birmingham. In another fact, I worked for Southern Lady for two whole weeks. But, that’s a long story for another day.

The bad thing for me about magazines like these is the desires they stir up. Everything is lovely and perfect… and usually expensive. Granted, there is a lot of good information between the pages, such as gardening tips and recipes. But, then again, I don’t have a green thumb and don’t cook like I used to. Maggie Fortenberry didn’t really garden or cook, either. So, why do we get these magazines?

Sometimes it’s fun to just dream. We think about houses we’d like to live in one day, places we’d like to visit, clothes that are lovely. Others of us get inspired: I could make a table like that; I could paint my room that color; I could visit that town on a budget. There is a lot of potential good if we peruse the pages with a little common sense. Or, we can just cancel those subscriptions altogether.

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I’ve Been Set Down

 

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Birmingham, Alabama

 

This post was originally written three months ago. I was  ruminating on friendships past and future; looking for words of wisdom from scripture and finding nuggets in unexpected places. Surfing the net sometimes provides providential words of encouragement and exhortation.

There is no ideal place for us to serve God except the place He sets us down. We are not to run from it on a whim or sudden notion, but we should serve the Lord in it by being a blessing to those among whom we live.  -Alistair Begg

I have been set down in Alabama; deposited in this south deeper than Florida. Here the grass is softer and the roads hillier; the accent thicker and the seasons more varied. Tornadoes have replaced hurricanes and I have discovered white BBQ sauce. But, God is the same. No matter how much I vacillate, He is the same.

And to quote a fictional character:

 God will put you in the right place. Even if you don’t know it at the time. –  Alec Hardy (quoting his mother)  in Broadchurch

So, I believe I’m in the right place, no matter how I “feel” about it. Maybe I have not yet seen why. But, in our pursuit of becoming foster parents, I think perhaps this is our right place. In taking the steps to follow our desire to foster, it’s been like “going down the chute”.

You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute. – Tina Fey

Bama Books

I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.

I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa

Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.

I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg.  This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month.   😦

Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL need to go to the cafe in Irondale!

Previously published @ Carry Me Home 6/20/17

 

Monday Music #1

I have a playlist on Amazon that I call Sweet Homes. Not all the songs are about Alabama, though, because I’ve had other homes. And I’m attached to some places that are or have been homes for my loved ones. I’m starting out this first installment of Monday Music with a song simply titled Birmingham by Randy Newman.  Newman is a prolific songwriter with numerous awards for his work.

 

Birmingham

Got a wife got a family
Earn my livin’ with my hand
I’m a roller in a steel mill
In downtown Birmingham

My daddy was a barber
And a most unsightly man
He was born in Tuscaloosa
But he died right here in Birmingham

Birmingham Birmingham
The greatest city in Alabam’
You can travel ‘cross this entire land
But there’s no place like Birmingham

Got a wife named Mary
But she’s called Marie
We live in a three room house
With a pepper tree
And I work all day in the factory
That’s alright with me

Got a big black dog
And his name is Dan
Who lives in my backyard in Birmingham
He is the meanest dog in Alabam’
Get ’em Dan

Birmingham Birmingham
The greatest city in Alabam’
You can travel ‘cross this entire land
But there’s no place like Birmingham

Written by Randy Newman • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Merge Ahead

After more than three years of keeping up with two blogs, I feel it’s time to combine them. My other blog, Carry Me Home, was originated to help with our transition to Birmingham. I later tweaked it, still keeping the focus local when possible. I think it has run it’s usefulness, so over the next month I will attempt to combine them. This will include reposting some entries from the the other site to this one.

Thanks to all who read and encourage me!

 

The Vine That Ate the South

I first became aware of kudzu traveling the highways and byways of Georgia. It was a mystery to me; I just knew it grew like crazy and looked lovely. I even included it in a poem I wrote back in September of 2012; a play on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

The Roads Taken

Two roads converged in a Georgia town

And seeing that both I could travel

At the light I looked around

Nothing there could make me frown

But my plan would soon unravel

Mapquest said there would be a turn

Trusting still I ventured on

Many were lessons I had to learn

Though blessed by views of kudzu and fern

I felt my path was lost and gone

Backtracked that morning more than twice

Turned around on roads of clay

The air still crisp and oh so nice

With music as my only vice

I saw how way leads on to way

I am now telling with a sigh

At last I made my destination

O’er valleys low and hills so high

Beneath a cloudless southern sky

I found a bit of relaxation

 

Two months ago, as I explored a new trail at Red Mountain in Birmingham, I came upon an area covered in kudzu. This was my first real close up and I discovered the blooms that are lovely.

 

 

Right after this I realized that it was overtaking the fence that runs across the back of our yard. Sitting outside this week I kept smelling a wonderful scent. I went to investigate and it was the kudzu blooms. They have the most wonderful aroma – correctly described by others as smelling like grape soda.

 

I did a little research and found out that many parts of the plant are edible. The leaves can be eaten like spinach and the blooms are used for jams. Bees frequent the blooms more during a drought and it is believed they are the reason for a rare purple honey. I may try a recipe one day; a few years ago after reading about dandelions I did eat them. Once.

Known as “the vine that ate the south”, kudzu can grow up to a foot a day. Originally meant to feed livestock and fight soil erosion, it has outgrown its initial usefulness. I’m sure there are many metaphors that can be made of kudzu. Here’s one: facebook is kind of like kudzu – it looks good and smells good, but it can choke out the the things it wraps it tendrils around. So take care – whack away at it when you have to!

Truer Than True

 

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I love to read statements made by authors (or their characters) that are even more true today than when they were written. The following examples are some that have jumped out at me in the past couple of years. I have ordered them backwards chronologically.

⇒  “I wouldn’t be surprised if a show about nudists was a hit…_ “ – I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg (2010) 

Now we have Dating Naked, Naked and Afraid, and a host of others

⇒  “Look at television, Father had said- Dad is shown as a dummy who stumbles around and breaks things and gets into trouble, usually to be rescued by a small child or a pet. Children watch hours of this junk every week.” – Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor (1985)

A 2001 study by Erica Scharrer in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media found that the number of times a mother told a joke at the father’s expense increased from 1.80 times per episode in the 1950s to 4.29 times per episode in 1990.

⇒  “We aren’t persecuted very much nowadays, we Christians, at least not overtly. But in point of fact there is a good bit of sub-rosa persecution, ridiculing if not reviling. In children’s books, death and sex used to be taboo, Now death and sex are “in”, and Christianity is the new taboo; other religions are appreciated, Buddhism, Hinduism, the pre-Christian Druidism; Christianity is not tolerated. And not only in children’s literature. It has been made taboo by those who do not understand it … of course we intelligent people don’t need God and we certainly aren’t interested in the cross. Only those poor people who aren’t strong enough on their own go in for the false promises of religion. – The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle (1977)

All I can say is this is even more prevalent today than ever before. I see it not only in children’s literature, but on TV programs, in the news, on social media.

⇒  “We have – particularly in the United States, particularly in the suburbs – allowed ourselves to live in a child-centered world; the children have become more important to the parents than the parents are to each other; and suddenly the children grow up and leave the nest and the parents find themselves alone with each other, and discover with horror that there is nobody there.” – A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle (1972)

Wow! It was surprising to me to hear her talk about a child-centered world in 1972. Today’s world is even more child-centered, from play-dates and birthday party productions to travel sports teams.

⇒  “When a city begins to grow and spread outward from the edges, the center which was once its glory is in a sense abandoned to time. Then the buildings grow dark and a kind of decay sets in; poorer people move in as rents fall, and small fringe businesses take the place of once flowering establishments.” – Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck (1961)

I’ve seen this happen in Jacksonville and have seen the results of it in Birmingham. Both of these towns have and are making efforts to bring people back to the city centers.

⇒  “Today, the language of advertising enjoys an enormous circulation. With its deliberate infraction of grammatical rules and its crossbreeding of the parts of speech, it profoundly influences the tongues and pens of children and adults.” – An E.B. White Reader, from the chapter titled “Prefer the Standard to the Offbeat “ by E.B. White (1959).

Here are some examples of intentional infractions in advertising:

“More power. More style. More technology. Less doors.” – Mercedes breaks the grammar rule that says “less” is used with mass nouns and “fewer” with countable nouns: “Door” is a countable noun; ergo, we’re obliged to say “fewer doors.”

“For hair and/or body, or both.” (Old Spice)

“Got milk?”