It's been a couple of weeks since I posted. Sometimes you are just cruising along in life and, all of a sudden, you meet with an obstacle that makes you feel like you've entered a fifth dimension in a faraway galaxy. That's what happened to me. I was just going along doing what I do, when I began to realize I was entertaining a visitor that I had neither invited into my home, nor did I want him there. It was Influenza B. I know there are much worse things on this earth than Influenza B, but in my own personal findings in my own personal experiences, I have met few entities that have demanded my attention more than Influenza B. He jumps on for a ride when you least expect it, stays longer than you ever wanted him to, and leaves you feeling weak and vulnerable when he finally departs. For 10 days it is a trip to hell and back (or somewhere close to hell). After multiple prescriptions given me by my doc and one trip to the ER for a breathing treatment and fluids, I finally have begun to come back around to a land where people smile and laugh, eat good food, and basically enjoy being alive.
Can anything good come out of being sick as a dog with type B Influenza? Well, if you know me at all, then you know that I believe EVERYTHING in life serves a purpose, good and bad. The things we experience on our journey -- good, bad, sad, indifferent -- somehow miraculously fuse together to make up the persona we address as "me, myself, and I." We are able to sympathize with someone who's going through a divorce if we've been through one. We can relate to someone experiencing pain when we have shared the experience of that same pain. I haven't had the flu in a very long time (if ever). They say as you get older, things affect you more adversely, and I believe that sometimes to be true. As we age, we may not have the stamina we once did. I for one, think that I do however and probably am healthier in a lot of ways now than when I was in my thirties. I try to take care of myself -- eat decently, exercise, get plenty of rest, stay positive. So I guess that's a good thing, or else the ol' man flu might've taken me on out of this world. The headache, the severe sore throat and horrible cough, the body aches and pain, the general feeling of malaise...if I hadn't known better, I would've thought I'd gone back to the days of chemo treatments and the bone pain that comes along with it. Ugh. I DO NOT like to be sick. Being sick is (literally) for the dogs. Being sick stinks. Being sick is something I never want to endure again.
I guess you could say that if we are never sick, we can't really appreciate being healthy. I don't know of anyone who would dare complain of being too healthy, do you? I think a better way of saying it would be this: Being sick reminds us how wonderful it is to feel well and reminds us to appreciate the times when we are walking in good health. That's true as well for any of life's problems, hardships, and challenges. When we face adversity, it's in getting through those difficult times that we are made stronger, more resilient to the hard times that we all, as human beings, face in life. Kind of like a scar that forms after an injury, making that tissue many times stronger than it was before. And, after all, it's a good thing because it is a hard knock life, right? Life has a way of knocking you slap off the horse sometimes, but then it's that love for riding that jerks you right back up into the saddle and finds you galloping through the open fields once more. And it's in looking back on the hard times, the times of vulnerability and struggles, that we find strength and dignity once again. Let's face it, no one ever hung over the toilet vomiting with dignity. It just ain't dignified no matter how you look at it.
So I wish you good health today, strength for struggles and unconditional love, beauty in life and hope in insecure times. I wish you all the beautiful things that Spring in the south has to offer: Temps in the seventies, breathtaking flowers, gentle breezes, glorious sunshine, and vibrant green pastures. And I wish you this more than anything: The completion of the winter of 2015 where you did not -- I repeat DID NOT -- have a visit from Influenza B. The good thing that has possibly come out of my visit with this intruder? Next fall, when the media, the health professionals, and everyone and their neighbor is dutifully getting their flu shots, I will be standing in line waiting my turn.
Influenza B shot? Yes, please. Move over, you, it's my turn next. Hit me with your best stick! Give me the blankety-blank shot!
Not long after my son got married, Angela asked me for the secret to my famous spaghetti sauce. Well, I'm not sure if she called it famous, but she confided in me that her spaghetti sauce didn't taste quite like mine when she made it. What exactly did I put in mine? Ha! How many women have been asked that question by their new daughter-in-law and, out of trying to stay one step ahead of their new "daughter," given her the recipe but conveniently left out the one ingredient that sets mom's apart from the rest. Like tabasco sauce in tuna fish salad. I actually read that one recently in Southern Living magazine, and may have to try it sometime. I love tuna fish salad, and I could see tabasco sauce taking it up a notch (famous chef talk from Emeril). But as you probably know and, if not, I'll clear it up now: I am not -- I repeat NOT -- a gourmet cook, a food blogger, or anything that resembles either of the two. I learned to cook from my sweet mother, Beverly Rae, who learned to cook from her sweet mother, Ella Mae, who learned to cook from her sweet mother, Charity Arnold. The three of us have always been just basic home cooks. Well, it's just me now because all three of these wonderful ladies before me have gone to their eternal home. But they did -- and I do -- cook basic food...you know, meat loaf, pot roast, mashed potatoes, potato salad, green beans -- just typical everyday food with a Southern twist to it. And by that I mean Paula Deen style -- lots of mayo, lots of butter, lots of cheese and sour cream, pork in our vegetables. When my kids were coming up, I did place my own personal spin on these beloved family favorites in an effort to make them more healthful for my young family. I substituted peanut oil for the pork in veggies, ground turkey for ground beef, baked and broiled more than fried. And hopefully, those small changes made a difference in the way my girls eat today because they both are very conscious of what they put in their bodies. My boy, on the other hand, not so much. He'll take his ranch dressing and cheese with a side of lettuce, please.
But back to the spaghetti. After much thought and prayer, I told Angela that I would indeed give her the special secret ingredient to my spaghetti sauce. But I made her swear with lifted hand never to repeat it or, God forbid, give it away. She agreed. But now that time has passed, and I feel it's my duty to the world to let the family spaghetti sauce secret be known. Or maybe I just wanna come clean. So here I go...
It's ketchup. Whuuuuut? Angela laughed. Yes, ketchup, I said. Then I commenced to spill out the long complicated story of how my "ketchup spaghetti" came to be. If I remember correctly, I was preparing spaghetti one night and realized I needed more sauce (My sauce of choice? Plain old original jarred Ragu). I was in a time crunch to keep dinner on schedule, so I reached for the only thing I had in the fridge that would sub -- a bottle of, yes, plain ol' ketchup. Of course I told no one but, to my delight, the sauce was some of the best I'd ever made. I mean, what isn't made better with a little sugar added? It also gave the sauce a texture that was pleasing -- smoother and creamier. So this is the actually "rather-short" story of my famous (or not) spaghetti sauce and how it came to be. I believe Angela added this special ingredient for awhile to her sauce, but hopefully in recent years she has had the good sense to leave it out. Actually, as long as I'm confessing, I might as well tell it all. I still put ketchup in my spaghetti sauce and no one, not one single person, has ever complained. But I'm sure many would find it ridiculous with all the really good sauces out there on the market, and the fact that you can make a perfectly delicious sauce with a can of Hunt's tomatoes and a few spices. But I happen to like my sauce with a side of high fructose corn syrup. I guess my son comes by it naturally. Don't judge.
The moral of this story? First, men are to never, ever compare their wife's cooking to their mother's. It's the first and sometimes last mistake made by newly married men. Ladies, pass this truth on to your husbands, your sons, your nephews, anyone of the male species who might ever possibly take a bride. Second, ladies, never, ever lie to your daughter-in-law. Just ain't the Christian thing to do.
Even if, however embarrassing, your claim to fame is ketchup spaghetti.
The distant blowing of the train whistle breaks the present silence as I sit on my sofa deciding what I will do next on this Monday. My options are varied. I've been working on a new study we're starting for my ladies group at church tomorrow and I need to prepare for a birthday dinner I will be attending later this evening for a couple of my besties. And, yes, I always need to do laundry. But the familiar sound of the train lures my thinking to a day long ago, and here I am once again writing down my thoughts.
A very, very long time ago when I was in the seventh grade, I was selected as a safety patrol. Most elementary schools don't have safety patrols anymore, but back then it was a way to honor good-grade makers (what can I say?) by awarding them with the title of Safety Patrol. The duties consisted mainly of just standing in the hallway, reminding our peers not to run, not to talk, and to follow all the rules. And we wore our badges. That badge was a big deal. I'm sure the safety patrols at Laurel Ridge Elementary were sorely loved (ha!). The highlight however of being chosen as a safety patrol was the trip we were able to take. Every year the safety patrols were invited to take a trip to Washington D.C. and New York City. I still to this day can't believe my parents let me go to New York City with a group of seventh graders, but they did and I will never forget that experience. Of the attractions we visited in Washington, our visit to the Capital remains in my mind something very special. We took a group picture on the massive lawn, a bunch of ragtag seventh graders visiting the country's most important city and the most important law-making building in the land. While in New York, we visited the Empire State Building. I remember thinking in my 12-year-old mind as I peered off the top of the building from the observation deck that I had never ever seen so many buildings spread so far in every direction. We rode the Staten Island ferry and saw the great Statue of Liberty that, before then, most of us had only heard about. We completed our trip to New York with a stay at the famous New Yorker Hotel. Such a wonderful memory that I've carried with me over the years.
But another thing that made that trip so many years ago memorable was that we traveled by passenger train. Even in the sixties, trains were still a common way to travel. Not so much today, but I have read that passenger trains still run and there are trips to places all over the world you can travel by train. I find it very exciting to travel by train. Zipping along the countryside from state to state is a great way to see some of the best scenery the country has to offer. Today Europe has more of a legacy of train travel than the United States. When my daughter backpacked in Europe after college graduation, traveling by rail was the preferred and sometimes only budget-friendly mode of transportation between countries. My experience in seventh grade pales in comparison to her excursions in Europe at the age of 21. To this day, I am glad I didn't know everything that happened on that trip until after she returned. I found out after she got home that she saw and experienced some things I would be nervous about even now at my age. Once she and her traveling companion missed their train and spent the night in a Belgium train station. The day we picked her up at the airport, she came walking up dressed in jeans that had not been washed in a month, brown as a Brazilian coffee bean with her nosed freshly pierced. She had completed a life experience that she too would never forget, but that's a story for another time. Even though I have never been to Europe, I find it very interesting that short train trips can bounce you from one country into another. In the United States, you can drive for thousands of miles and still be in the U.S. Sometimes we forget the expanse of soil this great nation covers.
Many movies have been made with trains at the center of the plot. Murder on the Orient Express and North by Northwest are a couple that come to mind. The Polar Express has become a classic for children. But if you are an old-movie lover, you know that most of the movies filmed in the forties and fifties have a train in them somewhere. It was a common way back then to travel for business and pleasure. For me, trains carry with them a certain mystery and the possibility of endless adventures and tales to be told. And what could be more romantic than meeting a fellow traveler aboard a train and having it turn into a "traveling romance" or the friendship of a liftetime? Years ago, it was considered a bad investment to buy a house too close to the railroad tracks because no one wanted to be awakened by the blast of a train horn as the cars cruised through town at 3:00 a.m. But my house is a safe two to three miles from the track and the comforting bellowing of that horn at various times of day and night pleases me in a wonted kind of way. Even though the trains that pass through my town are not passenger trains, there is an affection as well for those vehicles of transportation that have been around for a long, long time and still play a huge part in commerce and distribution in our country.
If you have ever visited Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta, they use to have a train ride that took you around the foot of the mountain. On the ride, you experienced an old-fasioned western show, complete with cowboys and indians and gunfire and damsels in distress. I don't know if they still have it, but I remember it being a fun thing to do with my family growing up and with my own children when they were young. There is also a train ride from Blue Ridge, Georgia to the neighboring town that families pay well to experience. Trains have always held that romance of adventure and mystery for me, and I hope one day to take a long train trip on a luxury passenger train to experience the eating, drinking, sleeping, and sight-seeing that only a train trip can implement. It would be magical to glide across the Swiss alps or to zip through the British countryside, absorbing the breathtaking scenery.
Heck, in reality, I'd just be happy to soar along the Blue Ridge Parkway or take in the mountains of Virginia once again ending up in Washington, D.C., if the trains still accommodate that route. But until then, I'll just enjoy the music of CSX humming along, as they move goods down the line to my friends in the next town...and ride the rails in my dreams...
Social media has been and will continue to be the wave of the future.
I can remember a day (don't be making fun, now) when no one had cell phone. When everyone started getting them, I for one did not see the need. Then I got a cell phone. It was mainly to keep in touch with my kids and to have a way to call for help in the case of an emergency, especially when traveling. Down the road I decided that absolutely no way did I need a smart phone. All I needed was a dumb phone and it did everything I required of it, which was not much. Then somewhere else down the road, I don't remember exactly how or when or where it happened, I surrendered to my first smart phone. I see now why they call them that. It is like having a mini computer at your service in your hand all day long. Do you need to carry on a short conversation by text when you don't have time for a lengthy call or just want to highlight the basics of meeting up with someone or see how they're doing? The smart phone is your friend. You can text with most phones now if you have a minimal data plan, but you can't access fun apps like Emoticons. Those little smiley faces make my day! Do you want to go on the internet and look something up -- say, directions, an event such as a movie or live theatre, a restaurant, even the meaning of life? Thank you, my sweet and helpful secretary, Smart Phone. How about keeping every single thing in your life organized by date and event and having alerts to remind you of those dates and events? The smart phone has unfortunately become my most coveted daily companion. I take her (or him--don't know which) with me everywhere I go. Even on my walks, because he (in his great love for me) keeps track of how many steps I take in a day. It's a little bit scary how dependant I've become on my smart phone. If you want to go completely off the grid, don't -- I repeat don't -- take your smart phone. Even though I am nowhere nearly as agile as most people when it comes to maneuvering my smart phone and downloading the apps that will benefit me most, I find that my present-day 21st century life is made much more efficient, and I am daily finding new ways for my smart phone and its many applications to make life easier. I have always been a PC kind of a girl, but my smart phone of choice is the iphone. Ever since I became a smart phone user, the iphone has hands down been the easiest to operate and clearly is user-friendly for the electronic-illiterate such as myself. This is not a plug for Apple, just trying to keep it real here (you can thank me later, Apple).
Early on in my quest to become smart phone literate, I stumbled upon Instagram. I think my daughter introduced me to it, and I fell instantly in love. Because of being a photographer and my love for taking and editing photos, I am able to do that very thing straight from my phone -- take and edit pictures -- and immediately post them to a stream that is connected with others of like interest. Unlike Facebook and Twitter (sorry, guys) where people constantly update you on everything in their life with play-by-play commentary or choose to vent their deepest aggressions (you know that's a pet peeve of mine), Instagram is much gentler, more uplifting. Most people post short, inspiring images with limited captions. One other thing I love about Instragram? You have no connection with friends of friends of friends. You choose who you want to follow, and that's it. You follow them, not all of their friends by way of them commenting on a comment that you commented on that you -- well, you know what I mean. Instagram affords me (just like Facebook, but way better) the opportunity to not only follow my family and friends if I choose, but I follow people I will probably never meet personally who inspire me every day with their short, amazingly insightful posts. I follow a girl who shares her unbelievable weight-loss journey. She has lost over 320 pounds and her posts never cease to impress me. Like to travel but, like me, don't get to do it as often as you'd like? I follow an amazing Australian photographer who just happens to be living in Paris at the moment. Talk about motivation...her pictures move me to be a better photographer, and fuel my love of travel (not sure that's a good thing). She reminds me that beautiful images are there for the making, even if you don't live in Paris. And then, of course, I have a couple of celebrities I follow just out of sheer amusement (I love Michael Buble...he's talented, a world-traveler, and hilarious!).
So I truly would like to put in a plug for Instagram. Take a look and see what you think. What I think is you'll really enjoy the short, uplifting, truly I-took-my-time-and-thought-about-it kind of images. Of course, you'll have to be watchful for those who post a hundred million pictures of their kids (I try not to post too many when mine are in town), and those who love their own faces a little too much. But if you do tire of these infractions, just mosey on over to your profile page and click "don't follow." It's that simple. Keep it short and sweet, people!
Follow me on Instagram @cprestonphotography
Posted by CC
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