Southern Sayings That Never Get Old

I arrived in my hometown for the holidays and it took only moments for me to feel completely at home. I went directly to an event and heard a family friend declare, in that precious Appalachian twang, “I swanny.” If you do not know, “I swanny” is a Southern exclamation  akin to “I do declare” or “I swear.” My Grandmommy was partial to the term and it always reminds me of her when I hear it. She had a way with words and her favorite sayings have been adopted by my Mommy, Sister, and me. Grandmommy was funny, direct, and very-southern. We buried her 12 years ago tomorrow: December 31, 2000.

Grandmommy holding me on Easter Sunday long ago.

Grandmommy holding me on Easter Sunday long ago.

In her honor, I give you twenty of my favorite Southern sayings that I hear when I am around home (I’ve included a little context for fun).

Wishing your evil boss would take a hike? Grandmommy might say, “well, old devils never die.”

If you find out that they sent your redneck cousin to finishing school, then you’ll probably hear “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Upon seeing so-and-so’s new toy-sized dog Dad would say it is “ugly as a mud fence.”

At my house if you are a smart aleck you will be told to “hush or I’ll box your jaws.”

I’ve lost some weight and my mother, who was walking behind me through a public parking lot said, “your daddy must be a coal miner, cause you have some slack in your britches.”

The Bible says “you reap what you sow,” but my Mommy says that “the mill stone grinds slow, but it is always grinding.”

When you tell my Mommy about your dad, brother, husband, or boyfriend getting up at 3:00 a.m. to sit in a tree stand for hours in the cold, she might say that “men lose their minds when hunting season starts.”

My father constantly teases my mother about buying him a truck; she now responds without fail or hesitation “I tried to get you to buy a truck.” Who knows if this is true.

Got an ex-boyfriend who won’t work? Grandmommy would say that “he’s about as useful as a tit on a boar hog.”

Beware entering the presence of an older Southern woman when looking tired, unkept, or sick, else you are likely to hear “I swanny, you look rode hard and put away wet.”

My Auntie O was always extremely thin and she used to complain that my Daddy would tell her that she was “so skinny she could use a clothes-line as an umbrella.”

If you threw away Daddy’s plate before he was finished with it he’ll be “as mad as a wet hen.”

My mother buys groceries as though the store will disappear tomorrow; so, when you find a rotten cucumber (the worst) in the back of the fridge it will “gag a maggot off a gut wagon.”

The next two are not particularly kind, but often used regarding someone’s boyfriend, kid, neighbor, or husband. Lord forgive us. “That baby looks like someone beat it with an ugly stick” or “He looks like he fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch.”

Remember the aforementioned boyfriend who would not work? Well, it might be because “he’s as dumb as a box of rocks.”

Everybody likes fine things. Not everyone can afford them. Around here that is having “champagne taste on a beer budget.”

In my Southern home laziness was shameful and you never wanted to be accused of sitting “there like a bump on a log.” I had a high school algebra teacher who was missing two fingers on one hand. She used to pound that fist on her book and tell us not to sit there like a “bump on a pickle.” She, too, was not a fan of laziness.

Long engagement? Taking too long to make a decision? If so, then Mommy would say that “it is time to fish or cut bait.”

The most Southern phrase of all: “Bless your heart.” This phrase, or the just as effective variation of “Love your/his/her heart,” can and often precedes a compliment, criticism, or tall tale. Other times it is an exclamation, a thank you, or a sincere prayer.

What phrases or euphemisms remind you of your family?

Bless your hearts for reading and have a happy and safe new year!

A Hunter’s Daughter: Common Sense and Guns

One Christmas my Daddy’s big gift was a new rifle. Another year it was a fancy scope. When I was 9 I learned to shoot skeet with small shotgun. I was 13 when I completed the Hunter’s Safety Course taught as part of my physical education class in junior high school. I am not sure how old I was when Grandmommy let me clean out her revolver off the back porch, but she made sure to remind me not to hit the cats. A mounted deer head hangs from the wall in my parents’ family room. A trophy from years of hunting. Eight points. Daddy likes to say it was “harvested” not killed. It made several great dinners. I was 32 when I bought my own gun, a small attractive five-shot revolver.

Where I am from hunting is a serious hobby for most men, young and old, and guns are points of pride and collectibles. In November you see many truck tailgates down displaying the morning’s “harvest.”

My father, a sharp-shooter in the Army during Vietnam and an avid (this may be an understatement since he owns enough hunting camouflage to dress an entire brigade) hunter since he was a kid. He is a serious hunter and by serious I mean tree stands, hours of preparation, deer urine, and hours spent sitting quietly in the freezing cold. The guns that came into our home were for utility – what he needed for hunting and what the house needed for protection. Nothing automatic or with a clip. Daddy would probably say to that – “why would I need a magazine, it only takes me one bullet.”

A typical scene in my Daddy's vehicle. Turkey calls - never leave home without them.

A typical scene in my Daddy’s vehicle. Turkey calls – never leave home without them.

He treats his guns with caution and respect. They are neither toys nor trophies. He taught us, even before my state school system provided training, how to hold, clean, and store guns. He used the often quoted common sense approach – “you do not point a gun at anything that you do not intend to shoot.” If we wanted (I did, Sister not so much) he let us shoot them so we would know the proper way to do it. He did not want us to be scared of a gun, but respect its potential power. He did not say this but it was evident in his attitude and instruction.

I grew up with guns. I am not scared of guns. I believe I have the right to legally possess my gun.

However, in the wake of last week’s tragic shooting in Connecticut and the intensifying debate on gun control, I find myself thinking a lot about guns, freedom, and my life and where those things intersect. This is not the first time I have considered this issue. A school shooting occurred in my hometown and three people, who I knew or had met, were killed. I grew up in Virginia, only a couple of hours away from Virginia Tech where over 30 innocent people were murdered with guns. I work in higher education and have had to address this issue as an administrator considering the safety of students and employees.

I find that my thoughts and opinions are not new or revolutionary. In fact, they seem like common sense to me. In the words of West Virginia (can you say hunting state) Senator Joe Manchin, who has an NRA “A” rating, “I don’t know anyone in the sporting or hunting arena that goes out with an assault rifle. I don’t know anyone that needs 30 rounds in a clip to go hunting.” I would add to that, I don’t know anyone who needs an semi-automatic weapon to defend their home from an intruder. Common sense.

Yet, so many people believe that the right to own a gun is somehow an unlimited right. I am a lawyer, but certainly no Constitutional scholar, and I am pretty sure that is not what the Second Amendment says or was intended to mean. Apparently, some people think it means arming civilians (teachers, principals, employees, etc.) to stop gunmen that enter schools and businesses. As I type this I don’t understand how that makes sense. Really? Do we want our schools and workplaces to become the wild west? It makes me angry.

It makes me angry because so many families from so many senseless tragedies will never be the same. That little boy on Friday who so bravely and innocently told his teacher “I know karate, so it’s OK; I’ll lead the way out” will never be the same. That little boy will never forget that day, the sounds of the bullets, the sobs of his classmates, the terror on the faces of adults, and the inexplicable loss of his friends. Senseless.

I am not naive enough to believe that semiautomatic weapons ban will stop these attacks, it may not have stopped the attack in Connecticut knowing what we know now. There are so many facets to this problem – weapons already in the stream of commerce, illegal sales, and a broken mental health system, to name a few. We must, however, start somewhere and start now.

Why not start with common sense?

If you are not a soldier then you don’t need anything resembling semi-automatic weapon and a high volume clip.

This post was featured on The Huffington Post. You can read it here.

Gluten House Arrest

The gluten drama continues.

You may recall that recently I droned on about how great I feel now that I am gluten-free. All that is still true. No bloat, thin is back, along with more energy. Great. So what can mess that up?

One blood test.

Blood Test

I had my first follow-up antibody test after my diagnosis. Not good. Four months later and my levels are still elevated. Now a non-perfectionist, rational person who did not have expectations built around this test would not have been devastated. That person would not be me. I fully expected to see a within normal range result (0-10). Nope, in four months I am still not “normal.”

My gastroenterologist has a kind and super competent nurse, Tina. She gets me. She knows that I will ask a 100 questions, so before she calls me back she always talks to the doctor so she can give me the best information possible. Love her. After this unfortunately blood test she and I had a chat and she suggested that I remove any gluten from my beauty regime and she scheduled an appointment with my doc in about 30 days. So, me being me, I made a complete and comprehensive list of everything that I come in contact with on a daily basis that could end up in my mouth and ultimately my guts. I called manufacturers (thanks a lot Clinique – I’ll never use you again), read labels, did research and in less than a week my bathroom, laundry room, medicine cabinet, and cleaning products were confirmed gluten-free. Fine. Surely this will help.

Thirty days later I went back to the doctor. He gets me too. He never rushes me, he answers all my questions, and always asks if I have more questions (God bless him). He also is not offended when I mock him. Like when I reminded him that when he diagnosed me he said in response to my reaction “no, this doesn’t suck, you can easily manage this with a gluten-free diet.” Oh, really? He has now conceded that for “most people” it is easily managed. Folks, I am not “most people.” When I have a condition I am always the 1% that has it the worst. I go all out. Thank the Lord none are life-threatening. Not shockingly, we seriously suspect that I am one of those celiac patients that is super sensitive to the smallest amount of gluten. An over-achiever once again.

How do we fix this? The doctor suspects I am eating out too often and that is where I am getting glutened. Who knew that eating out two times a week is a lot? The plan: stop taking all supplements and NO eating out for four months (until the next appointment). Seriously? Is this a joke? Yes, I can stop my supplements and work them back in one at a time to see if one of them is causing a problem even though they are allegedly “gluten-free.” But no eating out? That is too much. Not fair.

I am on gluten house arrest.

For those of you who think I am over-reacting here, stop a minute and think about it. I am single, have an intense need for being social, and I love food. Now, when I meet someone out for a visit I have to run home and eat first or have another KIND bar. I have to cook in bulk so I am never left with nothing to eat. I have to go to the grocery at last twice a week because now the food I have to buy is all perishable (when you are really gluten-free it’s basically a whole foods diet. The boxed and bagged gluten-free food is not good for you and real food rots). Oh, and I now always have a banana, apple, or pear in my purse. Next thing you know I’m going to have tissues stuffed up my shirt sleeves.

The doctor, in reaction to me spewing some version of what I just typed at him, calmly reminded me, as he looked at my evenly spaced and spell checked typed list of all my gluten-free products, that I am “doing everything I can do and I have to live.” He then said, if you have to travel and can’t eat at home just be extra careful and take your Imodium with you. Sage advice.

At the end of this appointment he sent me to have another round of blood work resulting in more bad news. After 30 days of no gluten-free product touching my skin Tina reported that all levels are still up and mostly unchanged. Sigh. She sweetly offered to have the doc call me and listened while I declared that this is “hopeless” and I “am giving up on the titres.” God bless her heart.

It took a couple days, but I have calmed down. My non-perfectionist, rational side has woken up and I realize that I am not killing myself and that this is a process. Not a contest. Having normal titres is just going to take time because, well, I am special. I have to stop looking at it like some sort of goal that if I don’t accomplish I am a failure or loser.

It is just a blood test is my new mantra, or something.

Ultimately, my little rule-following and people-pleasing (including my doctor) self will behave and do as told. So, it looks like the only answer for the next four months is to make my kitchen foodie-worthy, carry-in my dinners to restaurants (classy), and become smug about my super healthy food lifestyle (or not). Maybe my next career with be gluten-free chef . . . talk about unrealistic expectations!

Thank the Lord gluten-free house arrest doesn’t involve some sort of tracking bracelet.

Boston in Pictures

I just made my first trip to Boston. It is nothing if not charming. I stayed in the theatre district and spent two days walking the city. The location was perfect and Boston was easier to navigate than I expected. It was interesting, beautiful, and fun.

The Boston Common and Public Gardens were the perfect introduction to Boston. You get the history, the pretty, and, if you are lucky, nice enough December weather to be outside.

After a tour through the Common I wandered through Beacon Hill. It is a lovely urban community. A cross between Colonial Williamsburg and Manhattan with super cool doors.

Next, I picked up The Freedom Trail at the Massachusetts State House. It was getting dark at this point and I was hustling to see as much as possible before dark caught me, especially the burial grounds at the Park Street Church. This is when I punched myself in the stomach. Seriously. I was crossing the street from the Common to Park Street Church. Rather than watch where I was going I was taking a picture AND walking (see the picture below) and walked directly into a huge green rib-cage-level pole in front of two lanes of traffic. Full speed. I have never been punched in the stomach but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I was embarrassed but could not be too concerned about the gawking bus driver and passengers since I could neither breath nor stand-up straight. So, for a time I sat at the foot of the Boston Common sign trying to decide if I was really hurt or if the pain would pass. I was not and it did. I just felt stupid. Live it, learn it.

My last day was spent wandering through Newbury and Boylston Streets doing some window shopping and taking in the view. This is where I learned that I sound Australian, at least to a sales representative at Brooks Brothers. Maybe she had talked with the taxi driver from the day before who asked me if I am British. Who knew the Appalachian twang was so hard to decipher?

The storefront used in Cheers made this leg of the tour as did the view from the Prudential Tower and the Boston Public Library.

No trip of mine would be complete without some food pictures . . . the eating is good in Boston. I planned dinners at Market by Jean-Georges and Nebo, but oysters at Neptune was an impromptu stop and by far the best eating I did the three days I was there and I just had oysters. Super good.

There is plenty more of Boston to see, but for this first trip I feel like I covered some serious territory in a day and a half. My muscles are still sore and my feet are still recovering. I will go back, if only to hear someone say “wicked smahhrt.”

Home Ownership Lesson #10

Shut up, accept and be grateful for help.

When I bought my soulless house in my little subdivision I never expected that it would see a real holiday event or celebration. Why? As I have said many times, holidays only happen at my Mommy’s house. Turns out, that is not true any more.

Sister, Brother-in-Law, The Princess, and the Benevolent Dictator decided that they would spend Thanksgiving 2012 in Vegas. My parents opted out of Vegas and instead they packed up half my Mommy’s cooking supplies, various ingredients (bring your own homemade cranberry relish), a giant sack of canned goods, and the dog and came to Fort Wayne.

Have canned beets, will travel.

Have canned beets, will travel.

On the surface this was the perfect plan. The parents still get to do a little traveling but we get to have a home-cooked traditional Thanksgiving feast (including a 17 pound turkey for 3 people). For me? I get to not drive to Virginia until Christmas. Everyone is happy. The devil, however, is in the details.

Five days, three people, two dogs, a small house, and no cable. Do you see where this is going now?

The dogs missed cable as well.

The dogs missed cable as well.

The key problem here, upon reflection, is the lack of cable television (meaning no Thanksgiving football). This forced us to talk, walk the dogs, burn things, then we resorted to rummy. I think the rummy could have gone on longer had I not beat the parents unmercifully and bragged about it (a trait I get from my father). As the rummy showdown wrapped up I went to the bathroom. When I returned my father was standing in the kitchen with the ladder. That is how long it takes. Why? He bumped his head for the second time (gasp!) on the low hanging light fixture in my kitchen. It was too much – he could not take it any more. By “it” I mean not having anything to do, but he probably meant the ill-hanging light.



Enter gratuitous holiday home improvement.

Now, in my family every group project is an opportunity for a fight. I am surprised my parents have remained married for 43 years. This little project lived up to those low expectations. I was irritated because I really had not planned for electrical work and this was not my idea. Mom went along with it, my guess, because that is easier. I have not gotten that smart, yet. So, at this point he is frustrated because I am irritated and not helpful. For instance, I refuse to go turn the power to the lights off because I don’t want to do it wrong and electrocute my father. I’m a total grown-up.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy's little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Me being unhelpful. Note my Mommy’s little feet standing on my kitchen table.

Daddy the electrician

Long story short, 30 minutes later – after having to redo the entire wiring once because someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to put a washer back on – the light is up and working. The end result is a huge improvement – no one can hit their head and it looks better (even though the fixtures are ugly and I want rid of them).

So, who feels like giant a@! now? Me. But you know what, it was a holiday and somebody has to be “that person.” Might as well be me. Hopefully I won’t win that prize at Christmas too.

Thanks to my Mommy and Daddy, who still love and are willing to continue “raising” their willful, independent, short-tempered, and high-strung 35-year-old child.

Happy Holidays!