Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Chili Nights

It's Friday afternoon, and I'm sitting in Jason's Deli waiting for Elaine.  We get together once a month for dinner, and tonight's the night.  I had some other things to do after work, so decided to stay in town, rather than driving home, and then back down here.  So I'm doing a little catch-up work while I wait.  It smells so good in here, and it is a true test of willpower not to go ahead and fix my plate.  I'm sure that I could graze from now until she arrives in a couple of hours. Management probably wouldn't appreciate it, though, if I ate for two hours before dinner time, and kept on eating once she gets here.  There's only one electrical outlet in the entire joint, and it's where the little kiosk thing is that allows you to cut through the line if you're only ordering salads and drinks.  And it's right by the bar where the food is prepared. #torture.  I asked the nice lady if I could go ahead and pay for my dinner and drink, and just wait about dinner.  An odd request, for sure, but, I'm really thirsty, and wanted a drink while I wait.  And since I never carry cash (right Richard Russell?) I needed to use my debit card.  I guess I have an honest face, because the lady gave me a glass and told me I could go ahead and get my drink.  It's the little things that make me happy!!!  Did I mention that it smells really good in here? Lots of food-food-smells.  Including a big vat of freshly made chili that I see (and smell) behind the bar.  

Here's the latest article from the Barrow Journal.  The story will be familiar to some of you, but for others, this may be your first exposure to my culinary adventures.  The incident is a little less painful for me to remember, as I sit here surrounded by the aroma of freshly cooked food... and chili...


Chili Nights

Fewer things please my palate than a steaming-hot bowl of chili on a cold night.  Topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and saltines on the side, with a giant glass of Diet Coke.  Almost heaven. 

It was a cold winter weekend in the late 90s, when I remembered that it was my turn to feed the kiddos at the Sunday night gathering at church.  My mom offered to do the cooking for me, but after politely thanking her and declining, I forged ahead with my giant pot of chili.  Tons of ground beef, spices, beans, onions (and tears) later, I finally had a nice, giant pot of chili simmering on the stove.  Only problem, it was around 2:00 a.m. before it was done.  Too hot to put in the fridge, and too long to leave sitting out.  The crock-pot theory seemed reasonable, so I turned the stove down to the lowest setting, and put my tired self to bed.  The next morning it smelled delicious!!  I left the stove on while we went to church, figuring I had backed myself into a culinary corner that would require simmering it all afternoon in order to be hot and fresh for the 4:00 feast. 

Something happened while I was at church.  It is the dangdest thing, and I still have no idea what happened.  When we walked in from church around 12:30, the house smelled horrible.  Like a six-month-old litter box in a very damp room.  I removed the lid to find a heinous, frothy substance floating on top. After stirring, I took a bite – which made me gag and immediately spit it out.  Must have been some bad tomatoes or something – but it was a giant, simmering pot of toxic waste.  By now it was 1:00, and I had three hours to come up with something to feed the masses.  Sadly, they had to settle for corn dogs, which my own daughter despises, and wouldn’t eat. 

I had to remove the hot mess from the house, so I set the pot out in the back yard, thinking maybe the neighborhood dogs would relieve me of the nastiness.  Somewhere around, oh, I’d say… March, I remembered the pot, and went outside to retrieve it.  To my surprise, the chili was still there.  Not only that, it had rained and was filled to the top with the rain water, and there were dead creatures floating about in the water.  I checked to make sure I had left my fence gates open to allow the dogs to dine.  Indeed, they were open.  Hmmm.  I guess the dogs saw the dead bugs floating inside and decided it wasn’t safe for canine consumption, either.   Then around, oh, I think it was April, I made a mental note to myself that I must check the pot again, and bring it inside.  But we know how mental notes work. 

One afternoon in….. probably May…. I was sitting at my desk working, when suddenly I heard Whitney come rushing into the house gagging and screaming, “Get it off… get it OFFFF!!!”  Horrified, I was afraid there was a snake, or spider, or space aliens (oh, those screams!) attacking her.  Once she got to me, I realized that she had big globs of the radioactive chili on her shirt.  Holes had starting to form in the shirt, and it was disintegrating before my eyes.  Puffs of smoke were filling the room.   She was gagging and screaming.  We were both gagging.  The smell was akin to what I imagine a forensic crime scene might be. 

Seems she had been in the yard on her bike, and had accidentally disturbed the pot, causing the “chili” to slosh up onto her shirt.  Of course, the shirt had to be incinerated, and she took the longest shower of her life.  We carefully examined her delicate skin to be sure she hadn’t suffered any burns or skin deterioration.  Thankfully, she suffered no skin trauma. 

It became very clear to me that the neighborhood animals and Mother Nature were not going to dispose of the mess for me, and I would have to take care of the disaster myself.  I donned my hazmat suit, protective eyewear, and gloves, and set about the cleanup/decontamination project.  The pot was carefully placed into my wheelbarrow, and very, very slowly, was transported to the ravine that ran at the back of my property.  When the pot hit the bottom, a large cloud of glowing, green vapor arose from the ravine, and before my eyes, the vegetation started to wither and die.  Nearby trees bent over and touched the ground.  Birds flying overhead suddenly fell from the sky.  Little critters were scrambling in all directions, trying to flee their Hiroshima.  Back in my yard, the grass where the pot had stood was gone.  My spring flowers had failed to bloom.  But at least the weapon of mass destruction had been relocated to another area on the property. 

Several years later, I sold that house and moved back to Statham.  My parents were helping me dispose of dirt from old flower pots, dead plants, and we were throwing the debris down into the denuded ravine.  Suddenly, my mom turns to my dad and says, “Look, hun, there’s a POT down in the gully!  Go down there and get it, and we’ll clean it up for Cat!!”  Umm.  No, thanks, mom!!!!!

Indeed, nothing tastes better on a cold winter evening than a nice bowl of hot chili.   Strangely enough, though, everyone seems previously engaged whenever I invite them over to eat some delicious homemade chili!!  

Do you have a cooking disaster story?  I’d love to hear it!!  E-mail me at bencath@aol.com to share yours!! And maybe I’ll e-mail you back with another of mine, because, unfortunately, I have quite a few to share…


Man.  I hope Elaine isn't running late today!  I'm not sure how much longer I'll be able to wait....

Happy Weekend, everyone!!!  

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Most Inspiring People of 2015

Each year Barbara Walters has a show on tv about her most *fascinating* people.  I decided if she could do it, then so could , I, except instead of *fascinating*, I have chosen to list the most INSPIRING people I have met this past year.  This is the first article for the year published in the Journal on 1/6/16.

Hope the new year has started off well for everyone!


Inspiring People of 2015

Here we are, just a few days into the New Year!!  We leave behind the old, and look forward to the new.  2015 was a year of change for many of us.  Many of us lost loved ones.  Others welcomed new babies into their families.  There were weddings, and there were divorces.  Some received devastating news from the doctor, while others received news of hope.  The only thing that stays the same is that nothing ever stays the same.  Whether good or bad, our lives can change in an instant.  

2015 was a year of change for me, too.  At the end of June, my co-workers and I were informed that our jobs were being outsourced to a national agency.  We had the choice of going with the agency for a guaranteed position, but most of us elected to pursue other avenues.  Fortunately, I was able to transfer into the position of medical scribe within the hospital system, allowing me to keep benefits, length-of-service, etc.   

Not only did my job description change, but everything about my work day changed.  I went from working at home in my PJs and fuzzy socks, sitting at a desk all day, to wearing scrubs and shoes, driving into the office, and standing on my feet all day.  From working in solitude, to working with other people.  This was perhaps the biggest change of all.  Spending so much time alone had reduced even more the size of my world, and my small circle of friends and my family were pretty much the only folks I saw.  Sadly, I had also become somewhat cynical through the years, finding it difficult to trust people, and not very willing to share my life with those outside my little world.  I knew that changing jobs would have an impact on my life, but I never imagined how it would change ME. 

Every year Barbara Walters has a special about the people she finds most fascinating, though her definition of fascinating is much different from mine!!!  These past few months of working outside my home have exposed me to some very interesting people, both at the office, and people I’ve come across while out and about in public.  Inspiring people.  I’d like to tell you about a few of them.

One day I overheard an older gentleman speaking to another gentleman.  He was talking about his wife, who is showing increasing signs of dementia, which, understandably, was very distressing for him.  But I was touched to tears as I saw his face light up, and he said, “But, you know, every time I look at her, I fall in love all over again.”  Now, if you’ve had any experience with someone with dementia, or Alzheimer’s, you know what a horrific disease it is, and how it can rob your loved one of their true personality.  Sometimes they are not very lovable, and are difficult to be around.  To hear this man’s declaration of love rocked me, and I will never forget his words.  He inspires me to love, even when it is difficult to do so.

I heard the story of how an elderly, wheelchair-bound, legally blind woman was delivered from a debilitating fear of the dark.  She told how God came to her in the form of light, and she felt Him say to her “Fear not, for I am with you always.”  She was never afraid of the dark again.  How profound – for one who is blind to be delivered of her fear of darkness.  Her faith is real, and I felt it spill over into me.  I am inspired to have faith that my God is with me always, and there is no need to fear.

I met a woman who is facing a terminal disease, and is running out of treatment options.  She is so strong and positive.  She lives every day to the fullest.  Though her reality is harsh, and there are moments of understandable weakness, she pushes forward.  She inspires me to be a better person, to make a difference in the world, and to be thankful each morning for another day in which to be alive.

Then there’s Andy, a patient at our office (name used with permission).  I asked him if I could share his story, and he reluctantly agreed.  I say reluctantly, because he is a humble man, not wanting attention drawn to himself.  I don’t know much about Andy’s history or his personal life, but I look forward to learning more.  He’s a long-time patient at the office, and it is obvious that everyone loves him.  At one of his appointments, he told us about an award he had recently won.  He was chosen at the state level for Caregiver Of The Year.  He was selected from hundreds of candidates, and was honored at a very fancy reception, a stay at a luxurious hotel, a limo ride, a standing ovation, and was presented a token of appreciation by President Carter, and Rosalyn!  What an honor for him!  He was treated like royalty, and was shown great respect.  He was so excited to share the news with us, and we were delighted to share in his joy!!   One again, I found myself wiping my eyes while sharing in the joy of another.  A few weeks later, he came by to tell us that he had been given the award for the Region, as well!!!  It is wonderful to see someone recognized for their dedication and hard work.  The job of caretaker is one of service, humility, and commitment. Andy is a servant, and is willing to do anything he can to help another person in need.  He told me if there is ever anything he can do for me, all I have to do is call.   I know he is sincere, and I know I could count on him.  He is a true hero.  He inspires me to have the spirit of a servant, and to show kindness to others.

Working outside my home has been a huge change, indeed.  But the greatest change has come about inside of me, as I have met these incredible people beyond the walls of my home.  I am finding goodness, kindness, and amazing strength in people, and my faith in humanity is being restored. 

The people who inspire me would never make Barbara’s list.  But the people who inspire me are real.  And I am honored to know them.   They help me to be a better person. 

The New Year ahead is a blank canvas.  Let’s do our best to paint a picture of inspiration for others.  Happy New Year from my house to yours!!

Christmas Articles

It's Saturday night, and the munchkins are sleeping over.  We've been in our jammies since around 4 p.m., had a yummy dinner, and the little ones are asleep.  The first week of 2016 is in the books, and from my corner of the world, it was a good week.  I hope all of you can say the same.

I'm a little behind in posting the newspaper articles to the blog, so I thought it would be a good time to catch up.  Here are the last two from the month of December.  The Joseph one is a re-do from a couple of Christmases ago, so if you were reading the blog at that time, you might remember it from then.

Christmas Cookies  (from the 12/16/15 issue)

My little brother loved to piddle in the kitchen from the time he was a little fella.  I was more interested in eating the food than preparing it.  One day, hunger got the best of me, and I decided to fix myself some tomato soup.  I don’t remember the details, but apparently I wasn’t doing it correctly.  Soon he was beside me with a dining room chair, which was bigger than he was.  He gently moved me aside, climbed up onto the chair, and said “Don’t worry, Cat, I’ll fix it for you.”  What a sweetheart! He fixed my soup for me that day, and he grew to be a very fine cook. 

I, on the other hand, still prefer eating the food than preparing it, so I never really got very good at it.  Shortly after I married in 1980, I invited my parents and my new in-laws over for dinner.  The menu escapes me at the moment, but the main dish was fried chicken.  My mom and dad arrived early to help with the last-minute preparations.  What bride doesn’t wish to impress her new in-laws with her homemaking skills?  I had just taken the chicken out of the pan when my mom got there.  It smelled so good, and was beautifully browned and crispy.  However, when my mom cut into a piece with a knife, it was still pink.  Whaaaat???  She asked me how long I cooked it, and I told her that I cooked it until it was done.  I mean… it was nicely browned and crispy, right?  Thankfully, my mom was able to salvage the chicken, and after we had finished dinner, my sweet mother-in-law had a good laugh as well.  But we didn’t spill the beans until after we had eaten. 

I may never have learned to cook fried chicken, but I did learn to enjoy making snacks, party food, and cookies.  When Christmas time came around each year, I’d rustle up a bunch of treats to share with friends and neighbors.   I’ve always enjoyed this tradition, but never so much as last year when my granddaughter helped me.  All of the grandkids have always enjoyed helping out in the kitchen, but when the pressure is on to produce, it normally worked better to spend my time in the kitchen when they weren’t here.  Sometimes “helping” wasn’t really helping at all.  My youngest
granddaughter has shown a real interest in cooking, so last year I decided to let her “help” me.  To my surprise and delight, she was actually very helpful!!  We made several batches of cookies, candy, and other treats to share.   I could never have done it without her.  We have always been very close, but we bonded in a different way that day in my kitchen – covered in flour, chocolate on our faces, and sticky fingers.  She wasn’t just a cute little girl whose hair I braided, or read bedtime stories, but a young lady learning how to measure ingredients and follow directions.  She was more excited than I was with each batch of cookies removed from the oven.  She even washed dishes!   Precious memories indeed. 

I’m looking forward to time in the kitchen with both granddaughters in the next few days, when it will be time to let the baking begin!!  My oldest granddaughter already knows her way around the kitchen really well, and does a great job.  It will be fun working together.  Not so much with my grandson yet.  We will spend special time together doing something else - just not in the kitchen.  While he sort of enjoys it, he’s rather impatient, and is more interested in the end result and eating the cookies!  Maybe next year he will enjoy the preparation and cooking process as well. What fun it will be to have all three of them “helping” me!!

How about you?  It’s not too late!!!  Drag out those recipe books and whip up some Christmas cookies!!


The True Meaning of Christmas   (12/23/15)

For (hopefully) most of us, Christmas is all about Baby Jesus in the manger. For others, Christmas is simply a time of parties, the madness of retail frenzy, and maybe a warm feeling in the heart.  Not so much about Jesus, yet a happy time of peace and goodwill to men.  For some, Christmas is just a sad time of year to be endured.

Since becoming a mother myself, each year when Christmas rolls around and we focus on the manger, the angels, shepherds and wise men, I have had a much different attitude toward the parents.  Mary and Joseph.  They have become more real to me than before the birth of my own child.  

The personalization of Mary and Joseph seems to become stronger for me with every passing year.  There's a song called Mary Did You Know that has become popular over the past several years.  Another favorite song about Mary is Amy Grant's version of Breath Of Heaven.  

Mary and Joseph were real people.  Young people. And they were real parents. Do you remember how you felt when you first held your own child?  There is no greater joy in the world. Chances are, though, that your red-faced, squirming, screaming little bundle of joy was wrapped in a clean blanket, after a sterile birth in a warm bed with a host of medically-trained personnel orchestrating the event.  Dad may or may not have been present in the room at the time of the birth, but if he was, his only hands-on involvement might have been cutting the umbilical cord.  The responsibility of the birthing process didn't rest on his shoulders, because the nurses and doctors were there to facilitate a safe birth. No doubt about it.  The birth of a child rocks our world, and we discover within us a love that we never imagined existed. 

Mary and Joseph were real people.  I can't imagine how frightened they were.  We women complain about the discomforts of pregnancy.  Can we imagine traveling for miles and miles on the back of a donkey with a baby lying low in the womb?  We have our birth plans all mapped out, and we pre-register at the hospital a month or so in advance.  All we have to do is walk in the door, and our labor and delivery is managed by those trained to assist us.  There was no warm hospital bed for Mary.  I can imagine a frantic Joseph desperately searching for a place to stay as Mary leaned against the smelly donkey, holding her stomach as the pains of birth were upon her.  There were no brightly-lit rooms or warm blankets. There was a dusty barn, likely filled with the smell of animal poop rather than antiseptic soap.  There were no beeps of medical contraptions to surround her, rather the soft breathing of the animals, perhaps the lowing of cattle in the distance, the whinny of horses or bleating of sheep as the background music for the birth of her child.  Young Joseph wearing his dirty travel clothes was her attendant, not a host of nurses clad in clean scrubs.  Joseph, who had no Prepared Childbirth classes, attended Mary as she labored, and at the final moment, received into his hands the Glory of God, as Jesus entered into the world in the form of a flesh-and-blood human.  

I wonder what Mary and Joseph were thinking as they cleaned Him up, and wrapped him in tattered blankets?  Because of the visits from the angels, the immaculate conception, they knew that something Pretty Big was going down.  But.  Did they know?  Did they know What, and Who they were holding? I like to think that God bathed them with grace to protect them from what was coming down the road.  I can't imagine what it would have been like for them to know from the get-go the path that He would take, and what He would ultimately submit himself to.  

There are few things sweeter to me than pictures of a dad holding his baby.  I love a daddy who loves his children, and isn't afraid to show it.  Do we think that Joseph is any different from other dads? Somehow it seems we don't think much about Joseph at all.  He was an exceptional young man, called upon by God to do a crazy thing:  Marry his pregnant girlfriend, with whom he knew HE had never been intimate.  Obedient to the voice of God, he was a faithful servant, and did as he was told.  There were no lights or cameras in the stable, but I imagine that Joseph was as overcome with emotion as any other dad upon witnessing the birth of his child, or upon seeing the baby for the first time behind the glass walls of a nursery.  

As Mary slept afterward, can't you just see Joseph gazing into the face of his child, the way all new parents do, wondering at the miracle of birth.  ESPECIALLY THIS BIRTH!!

Have you heard this song?  It’s called Joseph’s Lullaby.  So amazing.

Go to sleep my son, this manger for your bed.
You have a long road before you, rest your little head.
Can you feel the weight of your glory? 
Do you understand the price?
Does the Father guard your heart for now,
So you can sleep tonight?
Go to sleep my son.  Go and chase your dreams.
This world can wait for one more moment 
Go and seep in peace.
I believe the Glory of Heaven is lying in my arms tonight.
Lord I ask that he, for just this moment, simply be my child.
Go to sleep my son.  Baby close your eyes.
Soon enough you'll save the day.
But for now, dear child of mine.
Oh, my Jesus, sleep tight.  
Wow.  If that doesn't give you a new view of Joseph, I'm not sure anything can. Mary was real. Joseph was real.  Jesus IS real!!  I hope this year it all feels very real for you. 

Merry Christmas, from my house to yours!!