Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tattoos, Appalachia, and a Little Lipstick

I just finished the book The Coal Tattoo by Silas House. Mr. House is a local regional fiction author from Kite, Kentucky. For clarity, “regional fiction” deals with issues of the area, in this case, strip mining; and “local” means residing within a two hour drive of Northeast Tennessee. Folks in my neck of the woods consider you local so long as you live in the Appalachian Mountain range and understand our history. Anyway, a coal tattoo is the bluish tint of skin that coal miners get from working years in the mines. The coal dust seeps under the skin and leaves a permanent discoloration. The phrase “coal tattoo” can also be a metaphor and in this particular story represents the love of a region when it seeps into your soul, never leaves your heart and always draws you back. Therefore, metaphorically speaking, I have a tattoo! This story is about sisters who were born and raised in a small coal mining community, their love for each other and their land. What makes this book special is Mr. House’s beautiful writing. I love Appalachian stories and Silas House captures the heart of Appalachia respectfully which is important to anyone living in this area. His other two books, Clay’s Quilt and Parchment of Leaves, are worth the time to read especially if “you’re lookin to learn yourself somethin” about the Appalachia region. For other really great reads with roots in the rural areas of Appalachia check out David Baldacci’s Wish You Well, Sharyn McCrumb’s The Songcatcher, Robert Morgan’s Gap Creek, and to make you laugh out loud, Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap series (BTW, her main character and I both wear Revlon's Cherries in the Snow lipstick), and for heavens sake if you want to amount to anything when you grow up, read all of Jan Karon's Mitford Series at least twice!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Because I Can

Because I love to read and because I want others to love to read and because I have created a list of favorite Rosie Reads and because I can't figure out how to link a web page to each title yet, I am going to give you my opinion on each book because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want. Sadly, there aren't many areas in my life I can give the "because I can" answer, so I am going to use this tremendous power here --- why? Well, because I can!

My favorite book and first on my list is To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Because I am from the South, I love good southern fiction and this is the epitome of southern fiction. Many authors have tried and have mostly failed to capture the simplicity and complexities of what makes this area of our country great. If you have not read this book, and I can't imagine that you have not, run as fast as you can to your local library or bookstore and secure a copy of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel before another day passes. I was in the eighth grade the first time I read this book and the story captured me from the first word. I devoured the story of Jem, Scout, Dill (who is based on Truman Capote, Miss Lee's childhood friend) & Boo Radley. I read this book every summer afterward until I was an adult and each time gained a new appreciation for the characters and plot, but it wasn't until I was an older and wiser young woman that I found the character of Atticus Finch so profoundly compelling. This story changed the way I thought about racism and the power of justice. Even now, when I read Miss Lee's flowing words, I am somehow changed. Besides the Bible, Mockingbird is the only book I've read several times and if I could write a book, this is the book I would write. If you can't stand to read, shame on you! At least find a copy of the old black & white movie with Gregory Peck. This is one movie that adequately does a book justice.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sure Cure For Tired Feet

After a hard days work, tired feet need a little pampering. Fortunately, I have my own personal foot masseur who gladly gives me a pedicure when I need it. And yes, I realize I have little toes.

Well, really it is more like a "Pet-a-cure" but who is keeping track, right? And it gives new meaning to the phrase "Kiss My Foot."

What a Handsome Boy!

Isn't he the cutest thing?

We had a likeness of Oscar carved in stone.

Just kidding! The concrete dog was a Mother's Day gift from my other boys.

He has his father's nose.......

He has his Mother's sparkling eyes and sneaky smile......

And he has all our hearts. Awwwwwwwww!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Girls, Lilies and Dishes

Our family was in Banner Elk, NC, last week for the annual Youth Choir Trip. MDH and I have traveled with this group for the past three years as the official cooks. I cook every day at home, but usually not three substantial meals per day. While we are on this trip, MDH and I cook breakfast, lunch, dinner and a late snack for around 20 people. We are worn out by the end of the week and I always declare I will not do it again next year! Not only that, our room is full of giggling, squealing, wiggling, boy crazy middle school/high school girls. There is not one minute of peace the entire week, yet it is such a sweet time especially because two of those giggly girls are my nieces. Since I don’t have daughters, all of these girls become mine for the week and they run to me with everything. I forget that teen girls are soooooooo dramatic. Everything is enormous in their world from a spot on a shirt to a hair out of place; they simply can’t be seen looking less than perfect because a cute guy might be within two miles. It is hilarious and tiresome at the same time. After a week like this, I am always thankful I gave birth to two boys. They are very even tempered creatures that could care less if they have a zit, dirty clothes or stink. Boys are just much easier and I guess the Lord knew I couldn’t handle all the drama that comes with teen girls since I create enough drama of my own, especially when my sister is around. Anyway, we survived the week and if you are looking for a place to take a group of kids or just a quiet vacation for your family, check out Blue Ridge Village in Banner Elk, NC. It is a resort and they have every activity you can think of on their beautiful grounds including tennis courts, basketball courts, putt-putt, ping-pong, indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, paddle boats, board games, and daily activities all of which the kids enjoyed and MDH and I didn’t because we were cooking 14 hours every day. Plus the small college town of Banner Elk is full of quaint shops and bistros. You also have the towns of Boone and Blowing Rock, NC, within easy driving distance and the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain are also close by. The mountains of North Carolina are without a doubt, the most beautiful area of our country and having just traveled across the desert Southwest, I can say without question, it is a tropical area in comparison.

We took the group to Grandfather Mountain and spent the afternoon on Wednesday. MDH and I set up a picnic for them and we all had a great time climbing on the rocks, walking the trails that meander through the trees, viewing the breathtaking scenery, fighting the wind, fleeing from the rain, and playing together. After a couple of hours, MDH and I left the kids with the other chaperons and visited a Day Lily Farm. I was hoping to purchase some bulbs, but I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty and variety of the lilies. The whole time I was walking through the fields of lilies the verse from “Afternoon on a Hill” by Edna St. Vincent Millay kept going through my mind -

“I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one.”
While standing in the field of lilies we could see and smell a rain shower coming. We ran to the car only to be caught up in what makes the mountains of North Carolina so green and lush. I then had visions of being on an estate in the English countryside where springtime showers wash the landscape on a daily basis. Cup of tea anyone? Yes, I do have a vivid imagination!
With visions of tea and crumpets on my mind, this led me to visit an antique shop where I found and purchased a gorgeous set of yellow bubble dessert plates with cups and saucers (22 pieces) for cheap! I see chicken salad croissants, petite fours, sweet tea and girlfriends in my future. Would you like to join me? I don't really "collect" dishes, but when I run across a good bargin I can't resist. Plus I use the excuse that these will go to my future daughter's in-love.

Last year, while out cruising a local antique mall, I also ran across a green set of Anchor Hocking King's Crown dishes for $24. After all, I have two sons which means two future daughters. What can I say! I'm a southern gal!

I also have a ruby set and a small blue set that was given to me from an aunts estate but those are mine, mine, mine forever and ever. Amen!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July! We are positively patriotic at the Parker place.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

True Confessions #2 - I Have A Twin Sister

I have a twin sister that visits me once a month. She is no fun to be around and we are glad that we don’t see her more often. In fact, those who know her say she is the most unpleasant person they have ever met. “How” Those near and dear to me ask, “can a person as sweet and kind as you are have a sister like that?” I just smile and shake my head. “I don’t know.” I say. “It is a mystery.” She is an embarrassment to the family. I won’t reveal her name, because you might know her and I wouldn’t want you to pass her on the street and whisper, “There goes Reading Rosie’s crazy twin sister. I’ve read all about her. She needs to be in therapy.” But, because I care about you and just in case you ever do meet up with my twin sister, here is a little advice.

First, she is ugly. I know that isn’t kind to say, but it is the truth and you need to know it to prepare yourself. She has pimply skin and little hairs that grow on her chin. I’ve known her to go several days without bathing, brushing her hair or shaving her legs and underarms. If you point this out to her, even in the kindest of way, she might hit you. It is best not to act shocked at the sight of her. Smile, nod your head, try not to make eye contact, look away, and run.

Secondly, she is moody. If you are lucky enough to catch her in a good mood, you might be able to joke and laugh a little with her. But if you are like most unfortunate souls who encounter her especially between the 2nd through the 6th of the month, there is really no way to know what you might experience. It’s possible, because I’ve seen it happen, that she might hit, kick, spit, or throw any large object that is available in your direction. I’ve seen her kick a Monopoly board that was in her walking path across the room. Money, houses, hotels were scattered all over Timbuktu. And once, she took a metal mop and pounded it on the floor until it bent in half. When she is in this mood, speak softly around her and stand at least 10 feet away. Be very careful not to criticize anything remotely related to anything she does. She can cry over not being able to open a pickle jar; but don’t sympathize; because she “Doesn’t need your help!

Thirdly, she is part animal. Growling, biting and scratching are not out of the question. Don’t poke her in the ribs, tickle her on the neck, pull her big toe, or stick your finger in her ear. All these things tend to exacerbate the problem. It is similar to poking an angry bear with a stick. When she arrives at our house, the dog whines and hides under the bed. The boys lock themselves in their bedrooms and MDH wants to check into a hotel room but I will not let him because I need someone big and strong to protect me. She can smell fear, so don’t act intimidated.

Fourth, she struggles with an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. She "Likes Order!" in her area, so don't mess with her area.

Finally, don’t let her near anything that contains the slightest traces of sugar. Do you remember the movie Gremlins? Sugar has the same effect on her that feeding a Gremlin after midnight does. All sugar is hidden during her visit unless she stomps her foot and screams, “I need chocolate!” Then, of course, she gets chocolate. Well, actually chocolate is tossed to her from across the room. But in your case, don’t hold out, give her all the chocolate you have down to that last junior mint at the bottom of your purse and you will be okay.

Fortunately, for my family, she only blows into town for a couple a days each month and just when we think we can’t stand her one more minute, “Poof” she is gone! If she ever ends up in your home, don’t be afraid to ask her to leave. As awful as she is to my family, she is fairly respectful to my friends. Anyway, her departure always makes the birds sing, the squirrels scamper, the children sweet and MDH whistle. All is once again peaceful in our “normal” home. Life is good!

PS: Happy 4th of July! Celebrate safely and take the time to thank God for the freedoms we enjoy in this country! As imperfect as our nation is, we still are the greatest nation on the Earth! God Bless the USA. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

True Confession #1 - Barbie Dolls

I awoke this morning thinking about Barbie Dolls. I must have dreamed about them last night. With Barbie on my mind this morning I thought now would be a good time to make my first "true life confession." I played with Barbie Dolls until I was a sophomore in high school! Gosh, it feels good to let that out. Very cleansing. My first Barbie was one whose legs didn't bend. She was fun, but I could never really get over her sitting with her legs sticking straight out. My next Barbie had a pull cord that would make her talk. I didn't like that feature because I wanted to make her talk myself thus the cord didn't get pulled often. I still have them both. One is bald and the other one is duct taped together, but they are dressed and in my curio cabinet. The dolls I loved and played with almost every day were the Malibu set from the early 70's. You remember....they had a tan and came with swimsuits, sunglasses and a beach towel. I had Barbie, Ken, Francis, PJ and Skipper plus the Barbie Country Camper with all the little camping supplies, etc. I loved this set. In the summer I would take the whole lot outside and play under a shade tree all day and then in the winter I would clear out our fake fireplace in the living room and make that their home. My Ken and Francis dolls were stolen from their camper one day. I was heart broken and I just knew one of the kids in my neighborhood had came into our house and took them because they were so jealous of my Barbies. I cried and mourned and wouldn't drink my milk until my Mom bought me a new Ken and Francis. But they weren't the Malibu set. This Ken didn't have a tan plus he had long black hair (he was modeled after Warren Beatty in the movie Shampoo), not the molded plastic blond hair. And Francis, bless her heart, had wiry hair that could be rolled and pale pasty skin, not the flowing blond locks and sun kissed look I knew and loved. I liked them, but it was never the same. At least not until I got the Barbie Town House for Christmas the next year. I was uptown now! Also, I began collectin Dawn Dolls during this time. They were similar to Barbie Dolls, only smaller (about six inches). I loved, loved, loved, these dolls and eventually acquired 17 of them. At this point I need to tell you that I developed breasts early in life. By the time I was in 6th grade, I had large breasts. I hated them, they were in my way, but because of this phenomena, boys took an interest in me early. From the sixth grade forward I always had a "boyfriend." I would be playing happily with my dolls in the evening after school and a boy would call. I would be mortified! I would beg my older brother to please, please, please don't tell him I am playing with dolls. This gave my brother lots of power to torture me emotionally. As I got older I was so embarrassed about playing with my dolls, I would go into my room, lock the door, pull my shades and tell my family that if a guy called, I was not available. Eventually, I packed them up and put them away only because my friends were making horrible fun of me. Peer pressure had won out! But secretly, in my innermost being, for years after, I still had the desire to get them out and play and pretend. Now, of course, I realize that was the maternal part of me coming out early. I eventually married my MDH who loved me despite my doll affliction and who didn't laugh when I unpacked my dolls, cleaned them up, washed and ironed their clothes and sewed on the loose buttons, matched their shoes and eventually placed them in a curio cabinet to admire and occasionally take out and touch. I dreamed of having baby girls so that we could play dolls together. Don't ever let anyone tell you God doesn't have a sense of humor because He does and in a big way. Instead of girls, He gave me two rowdy boys and from there I had to learn to play with GI Joes and Star Wars action figures. BTW, I'm counting on my grand babies to be girls! I received a surprise a few years ago when my crazy brother showed up with a brown paper bag and handed it to me. "Don't ask me any questions," he said. Inside were my Malibu Ken and Francis dolls. I shrieked with excitement until I realized all these years I had blamed the little neighborhood kids for their disappearance while it was actually my reprobate big brother. I occasionally still give him the "evil eye" because of this incident. But sometimes, after dark, when the guys are in bed, Barbie, Ken, Francis and I laugh about it.