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The Worst Christmas Presents Ever

The Worst Christmas Presents Ever

by Peggy Browning

worst Christmas presents ever

Life is good. Live, laugh, love…and enjoy it. But don’t give this cup as a Christmas gift.

 

Ho ho ho. So here it is…that most jolly of seasons when everyone is merrily skittering around…filling their shopping baskets with gifts for giving to others. They are happy and excited, trying to choose just the right gift. Unlike me, they are not giving the worst Christmas presents ever.

They’re choosing presents for people they love, people they like, and probably for a few people they don’t even like, but feel obligated to buy a gift for.

They are buying wrapping paper and tape…ribbons and bows…and festive Zip-Loc bags to wrap up all those precious presents they are sure the recipients will love…or at least like…or not exchange for a gift card.

I don’t like gift giving season. In fact, I kind of hate it. I suck at gift giving.

I’m serious. I am a terrible gift giver. Nobody wants to get a gift from me. Because I give the worst Christmas presents ever.

No one wants me to draw their name from the Christmas hat. No one want s me to be their Secret Santa. Even my kids don’t like to get gifts from me.

I am notorious for giving bad gifts. I have no excuse for it. I’m just truly bad at it.

One year, I gave my grandson a huge package of various sized batteries, a battery organizer, and a big orange box to store his other junk in. He loves batteries…he needs batteries for many of his toys…he loves to put stuff in boxes…orange is his favorite color.

So that’s what I gave him. I was so pleased with myself for finding that battery organizer and the orange box.

Needless to say, the gift was less than impressive. My present was questionable among all the other packages. The faces of the adults present said “What the hell, Grandma?”

OK…so I give the worst Christmas presents ever!Whaddya want me to do about it?

Last year, the same kid won an award in Cub Scouts for baking cupcakes or something. I was so proud of him!

So I made him an apron and bought some cake mixes and cans of icing and mailed them to him so he could bake cupcakes in style. Little did I know that the Cub Scout thing was a one-time activity to earn a cooking badge.  He’s not that fond of cooking and the gift of that manly-looking apron elicited another look of, “What the hell, Grandma?”

So that apron landed on the list of one of the worst Christmas presents ever.

One Christmas, my son Ben asked me, “Are you giving us more of that home-made crap this year?” He was about 19. So…no…there was no home-made crap that year. Honestly, until that time, I had thought my hand-crafted gifts were appreciated. . C’est la vie…you never can tell.

Fewer people are traumatized by my presents these days because I have stopped giving Xmas gifts to people who are not my grandchildren.  I do still try to give them something that makes them smile.

So I give them what I loved as a kid. They get a new pair of pajamas, a new Christmas tree ornament, and a flashlight.

I loved my warm pajamas. Our house was always cold because we had open flame butane heaters and my mother was afraid we would die of carbon monoxide poisoning if the fires burned after we went to bed. Flannel pajamas were greatly appreciated. (and lots of heavy quilts.)

I loved our Christmas tree as well as the old glass ornaments. We didn’t buy new ornaments every year, nor did we decorate with a theme. Our tree had ornaments that had weathered many a Christmas season. Each one was unpacked and hung on the tree with a child’s wonder. I still have my very favorite one…the one with Silent Night and a frosty old church inscribed on it.

I loved flashlights. We lived in the country, where the nights were dark and the stars shone bright and the Milky Way was visible. We didn’t have mercury vapor lights way back then…or at least we didn’t. So if you needed to check on a sound outside, or walk to the barn to check on a cow, or make shadow figures on the ceiling…a flashlight was a necessary part of life.

Here’s my wish for everyone on my very small gift list: Be warm…Be happy and filled with wonder…and Let your light Shine.

So that’s what my four favorite people get. Warmth, Wonder, and Light.

Everybody else gets…well…nothing. Settle down…I’m saving you from experiencing the worst Christmas gifts ever. Don’t be disappointed.  At least you didn’t get any home-made crap from me this year!

Is Your Mental Health my Responsibility?

Mental Health… is  your mental health my responsibility? If it is…then you’re screwed.

by Peggy Browning

your mental health

Please don’t allow me to be responsible for your mental health.
stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

I must ask again…is your mental health my responsibility? Please, I beg you, don’t make me responsible for it.

You will be sorely disappointed. And I’m sorry for that. Please don’t take anything I say as a personal affront. My opinion doesn’t matter…well, it does in my life, but my opinion does not matter to your life!

I am not an unkind person. But I often say the first thing that pops into my mind. Wild and crazy words race to my mouth, totally unfiltered and I say them. If you are standing in the way of this verbal barrage, then you might be wounded. Not mortally wounded, but you might be a little bit stunned.

Believe me, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I wouldn’t be mean to you on purpose…ever. But my smart mouth gets me in trouble all the time. And I usually don’t even recognize that what I said was offensive to you.

If you are a store clerk or a waitress, you might want to check your mental health before you wait on me.

There’s a reason for this.

So here’s what happened today.

I went to the local JC Penney’s store because I wanted to look at the dresses and see what’s available that I might squeeze my plump hiney in for my daughter’s wedding in August. I know…I have about four months, but I just wanted to see what’s out there that’s considered fashionably acceptable.

As soon as I stepped inside the store… I mean, the door was still swooshing shut behind me…a young woman said, “Hello, honey. How are you today?”

And I said, “Well, I’m just fine, Sugs. How about you?” (Sugs – noun. Pronounced shoogs if you’re from the South or Texas)

She looked at me like I had slapped her. I didn’t even know I was being offensive, but her look told me differently. I was just being a smart ass and answering her like she had addressed me. I had expected her to laugh. She didn’t.

I guess she thought “honey” was a proper, even friendly, way to address an older woman. Perhaps her supervisor had even told her to call older women sugary, stupid names. I don’t blame the clerk…but I don’t like to be called honey and sweetie and baby. Ma’am works for me.

I don’t know of any woman my age who likes to be called those names. It feels condescending and like clerks and waitresses are trying to convince themselves they like you well enough to wait on you.

But back to the story… I felt like I had damaged this woman’s mental health (at least for 30 seconds or so) because she seemed hurt when I called her “Sugs.” And this is the lesson I wanted to teach, but didn’t because I didn’t dare to hurt her feelings any more than I already had:

Don’t let your self-worth or self-esteem be measured by what someone else says even if they are an asshole (especially if they are an asshole.) And never, ever, ever, ever put your mental health and well being into the hands of someone else. That is your own treasure.

Don’t let the careless words of someone who doesn’t matter to you at all harm you. Let it pass, their opinion of you doesn’t matter. And neither does mine.

I went back to Sugs’s register after I looked at dresses and chose a t-shirt for my grandson. We ended up laughing about silly stuff…I told her about my grandson talking about farts all the time which is pretty funny if it doesn’t annoy you to death.

I don’t know the state of Sugs’s mental health when I left, but I hope she doesn’t hold me responsible.

 

National Teacher’s Day: My Favorite Teacher

National Teacher's Day

National Teacher’s Day
Image by Paul Gooddy/freedigitalphotos.net

Most of us have a teacher who encouraged us to become our best. On National Teacher’s Day, I wish to honor my favorite teacher, Mrs. Wilma Skinner.

by Peggy Browning

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” — Carl Jung

National Teacher’s Day Tribute to Mrs. Wilma Skinner

I have no doubt that teachers make a difference in children’s lives. Mrs. Wilma Skinner was the teacher who made the biggest impact on my life. She died twenty years ago at the age of 68 from complications of a stroke.

Mrs. Skinner’s death  was properly noted in the obituary section of this newspaper. The notice named her loving children, the time of the funeral service and a few of the accomplishments she achieved during her lifetime.

When I read the announcement of Mrs. Skinner’s death, I could only feel that the obituary was incomplete. It correctly stated that she was a retired teacher who taught at Midway and Bellevue Schools and Midwestern State University but said nothing of what a wise and wonderful woman she was. It never mentioned the impact she had on the lives of at least two generations of students from the tiny country schools where she taught.

Perhaps that was because there isn’t enough room in an entire newspaper to tell what Mrs. Skinner gave her students. A few inches in the obituary section certainly couldn’t cover the importance of her influence in our lives.

To fully describe Mrs. Skinner would have required interviews with all the people who loved her. And there were many of us.

Simply put, Mrs. Skinner was the best teacher I have ever known. I had the good fortune to be her student for several years. Mrs. Skinner taught fifth and sixth grade reading, handwriting, and grammar at small, rural, Midway School situated between the communities of Joy and Bluegrove, Texas.

I loved my first grade teacher, my second grade teacher, and my third grade teacher. I was afraid of my fourth grade teacher. In fifth grade,  Mrs. Skinner became my most very favorite teacher ever and she remains so today. I mourned when I had to leave her class to go on to the  7th grade even though at Midway that meant that you only moved down the long hall to the other end of the school.

And then I rejoiced in 8th grade when Mrs. Skinner “graduated” to high school where she became the junior high and high school English teacher.

Mrs. Skinner had that rare ability to detect your hidden strengths and praise you for them. She challenged  us to do our very best, but never chastised us if we fell short of her expectations. She knew our talents and she had faith that eventually we would recognize them too..

I feel like Mrs. Skinner taught me almost every important thing that I know. She certainly gave me many of the skills that I use every day. She taught me everything I know about writing: correct usage of grammar and not to add a bunch of baloney to your story just to fill up space.

Mrs. Skinner shared her love of the written word with us and allowed us to develop our own love of it. She encouraged us to find words of our own and gave us the knowledge we needed to do it.

I have many beloved memories of Wilma Skinner.

I remember her patience while she tried to teach me the finer points of handwriting in 5th grade. I remember that she practiced with me after school to prepare for the district spelling bee. I also remember my pride when she reported in her current events section on the blackboard that I won 3rd place in that competition.

I even remember her amused expression when she explained that “motley” had meanings other than this little country girl’s definition of an “old, motley-faced cow.”

I remember her merrily singing “O, Henry “ at the top of her lungs on the school bus during annual class trips to Wichita Falls. And I remember her laughing after Junior Smothers told a ribald joke in the school hallway when he thought she was out of earshot.

Mrs. Skinner introduced us to Shakespeare and William Faulkner, Sara Teasdale and the Bronte’ sisters, Edgar Allen Poe and Christina Rosetti. She showed us a world beyond the dairy farms and ranches where we lived: a world of dreams where anything we aspired to was possible. She showed us our potential and gave us the belief that we could accomplish whatever we desired to do. And she did so with compassion and understanding.

12 book categories to read this year

Mrs. Skinner shared her love of the written word with us.
image by freedigitalphotos.net

Mrs. Skinner understood that we needed to know more about life skills than about language skills and she proceeded to tell us some of the lessons she had learned.

National Teacher’s Day

When I had a mad crush on a boy who had more looks than brains and who didn’t reciprocate my affection, Mrs. Skinner kindly told me that boys don’t like girls who are smarter than they. She added that I should never pretend to be dumb, but instead to look for boys who were as smart as I.

Once when I was still in “flower child” mode, she and I debated over the goodness that I believed existed in everyone. She believed the opposite. In the years after high school I often thought of that when I encountered those people who are not inherently good. Only then did I appreciate her wise counsel.

Mrs. Skinner was not the teacher to whom you went with your problems, although you could have done that and she would have listened.

No, she was the teacher with whom you shared your dreams and knew she could give you credible advice and would never make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable with your feelings. She was the one who validated your ticket to fly among the stars.

I still cherish a worn piece of paper with a descriptive essay written upon it. Not because I received an ‘A’ on my effort, but because Mrs. Skinner  added “beautiful”  next to the grade. It is tucked away among my treasures because her favor is still valuable to me.

I always felt like I was Mrs. Skinner’s “special student.” So did everyone else.

She had the gift of making all her students feel special. Perhaps it was because she really believed they were.

Years after I graduated from Midway High School and became a teacher myself, I asked Mrs. Skinner how she always managed to treat her students with such respect and caring. She told me she prayed every morning for them and asked for wisdom and the ability to teach them the things they needed to know.

I hope she rests well knowing her prayers were answered.

 

Why do we wait until National Teacher’s Day to honor our favorite teacher?

See You Are Safe with Me

Change of life … what matters to me now

Change of Life … what matters to me now

by Peggy Browning

Peggy Browning

Planting a tree in Costa Rica.

It’s time for a change again. Honestly I go through a major change of life about once every 5 years or so.

However, in the last five years, I have made more changes than I thought I was capable of. I sold the house I loved, moved to another state, quit the job that was supposed to give me pension and sustain me through the rest of my life.

Almost five years ago, I started a blog written specifically for women who were over 50. I wrote a book about how turning 50 had given me a boost toward living a fuller life. I wanted to share that little bit of insight with other women.  I was a bit before my time, as I usually am with any good idea that I find I want to do.

Being “before my time” doesn’t mean I’m a great success at anything. It usually means that I start a project…nobody likes it…I quit…then other people come along and make a success of a version of my idea. Not that they are stealing my idea. It’s not that at all. It’s just that good ideas are floating out in the Universe and lots of people pick up on those ideas.

What I’ve found out about the over-50 blogs is that they are a lot like Facebook. Everybody has an incredibly fashionable, totally spiritual, amazingly healthy and happy life on their blog. They eat off the good china, have goddess spa days, and treat themselves like the special people they are. The life that’s being touted as aging with style, aging with panache, aging with youth and vigor intact…well, it’s like a Being Over 50 is Great club. Clubs have rules… like how to look younger, how to have better sex even though you are not that interested but you know young people are so you try to be too, how to dress appropriately, how to wear your hair, and how to apply your make-up.

I’ve spent my life trying to wriggle free of rules. I see no reason to start following rules now. It takes all the fun out of things.

Change of life. Again.

Anyway…I am now 60 years old. And I’m feeling very  different than I did ten years ago. I feel like I’ve been there, done that, settled a lot of questions about life and love and whatnot. I’m now tired of encouraging women to seek their own way, to be mindful, and to follow their dreams.

My unsettled thoughts and feelings are now suddenly settled since this last birthday. When I was 50 and 50+ I was trying to follow a dream and re-set my life’s course. And I did it.

Now I’m tired of talking about it. I just want to live this crazy little life I’m engaged in. I’m having fun.

Another Change of life

Peggy Browning author

My 1955 name is Peggy. It was #51 in popularity that year. In 2015, I would be named Hailey, which is also #51 in popularity for this year.

Maybe 60 is the Magic Age. Could be.  But, I won’t be talking about how great being 60 is. I’m just going to enjoy it.

So I’m changing the premise of my website and blog. I’m just going to write about what I want to write about. That means I’ll be posting stories about where I go and what I did and what I read and what I cooked. I’m just writing about what I enjoy.

And I enjoy a lot of things.

I enjoy exploring this new place where I live. I enjoy meeting new people and hearing their stories. I enjoy following the crazy politics of the state of Oklahoma. I enjoy writing and telling stories.

And one more change of life.

I will no longer be telling anyone how to age gracefully and gratefully. I’m just going to live my life and write about what concerns me.

And the rest of you folks under 60 are on your own because I’m not making any rules for you to follow!

Go forth and be happy. Or don’t. It’s your choice…and I have no advice to give you about how to act, dress, or have sex.

Stop by and visit with me sometime.  I will be right here, telling long-winded stories about the things I see and the people I meet and the things that matter to me.

Breastfeeding in public: Don’t be boobs about boobs

 

breastfeeding in public

Breastfeeding in public
image by freedigitalphotos.net

Breastfeeding in public

by Peggy Browning

So here’s what I’m thinking about breastfeeding in public: everybody should just calm down and shut the hell up. Don’t be boobs about boobs.

Breasts were made to feed babies. They really are nothing but a set of fatty mammary glands. Their purpose is to nourish our young. All mammals have them. Last I checked, women are mammals.

Cats and dogs and cows and goats and monkeys and giraffes have teats. That’s the body part they use to feed their babies. Women have teats too. Yes, they do. And that’s the part of their body intended for feeding their babies too.

I’m long past the age that anyone is going to look at my mammary glands and the bags of fat surrounding them. However, when I was a young mother, I regularly whipped the girls out for their god-given purpose. My middle child was breast-fed until the age of 14 months. The reason I stopped at 14 months was because I started a demanding job and was just too stinking tired. Plus he was eating real food by then.

Breastfeeding in public is not a shameful act.

Breastfeeding in public is necessary if your baby gets hungry while you’re in…oh, you know…public.

Anyway…I can’t remember feeling any shame about breastfeeding that child, or for breastfeeding my youngest child for 4 months. I also didn’t go to a restroom and sit in a stall to feed my baby. I was a modest person, as I still am, and I discreetly lifted my shirt, positioned my child, and covered us with a light blanket. Mothers learn to wear big t-shirts and easily re-positioned clothing.

I did it in restaurants (although we didn’t go out much and never to any place other than the Dairy Queen). I did it at the park. I did it at the mall. I did it while sitting on a curb on the sidewalk at the spring festival in Wichita Falls, Texas. I did it as I drove down the highway in a 1973 Volkswagen Beetle. (What? My baby was hungry and car seat laws weren’t in effect back then.)

No one ever told me to get out of their place of business. No one ever said anything to shame me. Most likely they didn’t even notice…because I was discreet.

 

breastfeeding in public


freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

freedigitalphotos.net

If you are offended by the photo on the left, but not the one on the right, maybe you should re-think things.

 

 

So here’s the deal…if  you are sexualizing mothers who are breastfeeding in public, maybe something is wrong with YOU. How about you just accept that YOU are an idiot and keep your mouth shut.

 

It is necessary for mothers to feed their babies when they are outside their homes, whether the milk comes from a breast or a bottle. It is not necessary to shame them for that act.

 

Even Mr. Rogers talked about breastfeeding. Here’s a clip from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood:

 

 

A breastfeeding mom took to Facebook to share a story about a museum manager telling her to go somewhere “private” to nurse her baby.

Source: Museum Apologizes For Asking Breastfeeding Mom To Move Scary Mommy

World Poetry Day : My Favorite Poem…The Swing

Today is World Poetry Day and I’m Celebrating my favorite poem.

Every day is poetry day, but on World Poetry Day the whole world celebrates.

Celebrating World Poetry Day. How do you like to go up in a swing ? Image by Vlado/freedigitalphotos.net

How do you like to go up in a swing ?
Image by Vlado/freedigitalphotos.net

The poem is “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson.It reminds me of my Mama and my youngest granddaughter. It was my mother’s favorite poem and swinging is my granddaughter’s favorite activity.

Santa Claus brought my youngest granddaughter a swing set for Christmas. And I have been putting it together since then. I finished it last weekend with some help from her Mommy, her Uncle Rob, and her. It only took us 3 months or so to get it all put together.

The SwingIt is more than a swing set. It has a little trampoline, a slide, and a teeter-totter in addition to two swings.

 

 

Every time I started to work on the play set, my little helper sprang into action.

The Swing

“Look Grandma! I did it!” she said as she put some springs in the wrong place on the trampoline.

The Swing

Sitting in the box. Pretending it’s a boat. I stopped working on the swing set as we pretended to be floating down a river to find dinosaurs.

 

“Move over, Grandma. I can do it,” she said as she climbed on top of my back while I was trying to put the screw in the ever-so-slightly-off-center hole to attach a leg on the slide.

the Swing

An ever-eager, helpful little person just trying to assist Grandma while I screwed the damn slide together.

“I don’t want to stop, Grandma. Fine. I’m going in the house. You made me sad, Grandma,” she whined as she stomped away (because I told her to get off of me)…in to the house…slamming the door and accidentally locking me outside and in the backyard where we keep the gates locked to keep her in. With no house key, no gate key, no cell phone, no way to get back in.  I had to climb over the fence to go to the neighbor’s house and have him call 911 for us.

Thank you, Officer Jarrett of the Police Department and Mr. Webb our neighbor.

Anyway…now the swing is finally set up and she loves swinging. “Swing me high, swing me high, Grandma!” she says now. “Let’s go out and swing a little bit, Grandma. I can’t do it without you. ”

And she sings as she swings: “I love to swing! I love to swing! I love to swing! In my backyard!”  She giggles and squeals as she flies through the air. 

That’s her way of saying “I do think it the pleasantest thing ever a child can do.”

Find your favorite poem and Celebrate World Poetry Day.

The Swing

HOW do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall, 5
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown— 10
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

And here’s a talented little boy who loves to swing and sing, too.

Cooking with Friends

Cooking with Friends

I love cooking with friends.

I love cooking with friends.
image: stockimages/freedigitalphotos.net

Today I spent time cooking with friends. So…today I renewed my spirit and soul . Cooking with friends is like that, you know…it fills you up, satisfies your heart, and nourishes your soul.

Today was a deliciously delightful day because it’s been a while since we’ve been together. Prior to the Christmas holidays, we spent hours on end preparing yummy dishes for other folks.

The last time we cooked together we spent about 26 hours over the span of two days…making meatballs, bacon wrapped chicken, chocolate sheet cakes, iced cookies, and decorous cupcakes. We prepared big fat strawberries and set up a chocolate fountain to dip them in.

Then we served all that deeewicious  food to people at parties and weddings at elegant venues.

I work part-time for a catering service. We cook, we serve, we load the van, we unload the van, we clear the tables, we load the van again, unload the van again, and we wash the dishes and greasy pans. Then we put everything back on the shelves, and sweep and mop the floors. Then we stock the van again with all the gear we’ll need next time.

It’s a lot of fun, but it’s hard work.

So when everybody else was finished with their celebrations, we washed the dishes and went back home to celebrate our own holidays by kicking off our work shoes and sitting a spell.

Goodness knows we needed a little rest and recreation time.

Cooking with Friends …

I dearly missed my friends and was so glad to see them again today. We hugged and smiled and asked about kids and grandkids and caught up on news. Then we pulled out the cream cheese and the recipes and got started once again.

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to gear up for weddings, spring banquets, retirement parties and what not. Wherever there’s a need for tasty cakes and beef tenderloin, we’re there.

We’ve got a big shindig for 450 people tomorrow evening. It takes many hours for the four of us to prepare the food. It takes even more hours to set up the event with chairs, tables, tablecloths, and centerpieces. I love doing this. I love it all, even though I am exhausted when we’re done.

I love that we all work together…I love that we laugh and giggle and wish the very best for each other. I love working beside my friends…the friends I didn’t even know four months ago…while we prepare good food for other people to eat while they celebrate an important milestone in their lives.

We build a bond while we are cooking with friends. Sharing food and recipes…warm dishwater and stories…time and love…builds a special friendship that is remembered and cherished long after the dishes are done.

 

heart & soul food cooking with friends

Heart & Soul Food
Tales of Food, Family, and Friends
perfect for cooking with friends

It’s National Pie Day … Bake One for Someone You Love…

Today is National Pie Day.

by Peggy Browning

National Pie Day

Today is National Pie Day. Bake a pie. Eat a pie. Give someone a pie.

It’s National Pie Day. How will you celebrate this most special of all special days?

As for me… Imma eat some pie. Chocolate cream pie to be specific. Home cooked/home baked/from my Mama’s recipe.

There’s no better way for a proper Southern woman to express her undying love for someone than to bake them a pie. You need to bake one today…and maybe Every Day.

Because every day should be Pie Day.

Pie for National Pie Day

Chocolate Cream Pie

1 cup sugar

3 TBSP corn starch (or flour)

3 egg yolks

2 cups milk (I used 1 ½ cups of 2 % milk and added a ½ cup of cream)

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1/4  cup cocoa

1 pre-baked and cooled pie crust

Meringue

3 egg whites

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • I use a store-bought pie crust. I prefer the Pillsbury brand found in the dairy section. It’s already mixed and rolled out. All you have to do is place it in a pie pan and bake it according to directions

Directions:

For the pie filling: Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe

Slowly heat 1 ½ cups of milk in a 1 ½ or 2 quart sauce pan. Do NOT let it boil.

Mix sugar and corn starch in a bowl. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks well then add ½ cup cold milk. Stir together.

Add dry ingredients to eggs and milk combination. Mix well. (Should make a nice smooth concoction, like a smoothie)* This is the secret to the creaminess of this pie. Do not skip this step.

Now add the mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly until it is the consistency of pudding.

Pour into the baked pie crust. Spread meringue on top and bake at 350 degrees until meringue is lightly browned at the peaks.

*You can also put this chocolate cream pie filling in a graham cracker crust. Let it cool, then top with whipped cream. The pie filling can also be eaten as pudding. Delicious.

Chocolate Cream Pie Recipe for National Pie Day

I have Become My Mother…

I have become my mother.

by Peggy Browning

I am reposting this in honor of what would have been my mother’s 101st birthday. She was born on January 14, 1915 and married my Daddy in April, 1935. She went to Heaven in June, 2005 at the age of 90. She lived through two World Wars, and cooked on a wood cookstove. She and Daddy farmed with mules and drove an old Model A. She used coal oil lamps until the Jack-Archer-Clay Electric Cooperative was created and electricity lighted up the country-side in 1947. She got her driver’s license at age 45 and was finally legal to drive everywhere she had already been driving. She drove a tractor, raked hay, and worked alongside Daddy every day. She made our dresses and shirts and baked a pie darn near every day. In the later years of her life, after Daddy passed away in July 1985 shortly after their 50th wedding anniversary, she started traveling with her older daughters and their children and her sisters. She enjoyed airplane trips and she loved talking about a helicopter ride she took with her grandson, Keith and his wife, Teresa. 

There is so much more to tell about my Mama, but it is enough to know that she lived a good, long life. She is missed every single day. 

 

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.”  — Abraham Lincoln

Uncle Pete, Aunt Lizzie, Mama, Aunt Durelle, Aunt Pauline, Grandma, GrandDaddy

 

“I have become my mother.”

I often hear women my age…and women who are younger than me…say that. Sometimes they say it jokingly; sometimes they say it disparagingly.

They almost always say “I have become my mother” like it’s a bad thing.

Maybe it is a bad thing…if you had a mother who lacked good qualities.

That, however, was not my experience. Perhaps other women  had mothers who lacked good qualities. I did not.

When I say “I have become my mother”,  I am hopeful that I have, in some good way, emulated her.

I had a very good mother. I aspire to be as much like her as I can be. I fall short every day.

Mildred Viola Martin Browning was a good woman, a good friend to those who were fortunate enough to know her. She was a faithful, loving daughter to her own parents. She spoke highly of her own mother. She was the middle child of five and her love for her three sisters and baby brother never wavered.  She was a wonderful mother and grandmother. Her love for her offspring never wavered either.

Mama was a good wife and helpmate to my father. Together, they made a living by farming. My mother was an excellent farmer. When she was asked to describe herself, she said “I am a farmer.” In her opinion, being a farmer summed up her life.

It sums it up in my opinion as well. I believe that being a farmer is the purest calling in life. If you can farm, you can do anything and everything.

I believed my mother could do anything and everything, too. She was not boastful about her abilities. She simply did what was required of her lifestyle. And she did it well.

When I came of age during the era of women’s liberation, I wondered what all the fuss was about.

Equality was not a question in our home. My mother could do anything my father did and more.  She did not do it with pride or arrogance. She did it with quiet grace and aplomb.

Mama could work hard in the fields, then come to the house and harvest the crops from her garden and use them to cook our meals. She sewed our clothing, washed all the laundry, kissed all the scraped knees, raised chickens and gathered their eggs and wrung their necks and fried them in a cast iron skillet, milked the cow and fed the hogs, put three meals on the table every single day and then told us a bedtime story before turning out the lights and saying “Good night. I love you very much.”

Mama was more than equal. And my Daddy affirmed it again and again to us. He did not undermine her authority; he demanded that we respect her. He showed his children how to do that by loving and respecting her himself.

My mother was kind. She was firm but gentle. She was a great story-teller. She was an excellent farmer.

She loved her family: her husband, parents, children, sisters and brother, nieces and nephews, grandchildren and great- grandchildren. They all loved her, too.

My mother is the best example of fulfilling womanhood that I can summon. If someone were to tell me, “Peggy, you are just like your mother,” I would be flattered and pleased. I would be honored to even come close.

“I have become my mother” are words I would be proud…oh, so very proud…to say.

Retail Hell

Retail Hell

Christmas Eve… Just another day in Retail Hell
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Retail Hell

by Peggy Browning

On Christmas Eve, I walked out of Retail Hell at 7:12 p.m and I never looked back. I was not shopping; I was the person behind the counter ringing up totals for ice cream and milk and eggnog and listening to people complain because the store where I work didn’t have all the ingredients for the pie they wanted to bake.

It’s Christmas Eve. Maybe you should have planned ahead, fool.

I am convinced that anyone who works retail is a special kind of person. Actually, I am convinced they are saints. I’m not a saint; I’m a full-on sinner. I have no place in retail sales. I hate every minute I am working because, basically I don’t like people all that much.

Here’s a sample of what I endured on Xmas Eve in Retail Hell.

A woman purchased a gallon of milk for $3.36. Her change from a five was $1.64. I placed the paper money in her hand and put the coins and receipt on top of it. She grimaced.

I said, “Is something wrong?” “Yes,” she said. “That’s not how you are supposed to return change. I was taught that you put the coins in the hand first, then the paper money.”

I asked, “Is the change correct?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, then.” Next…

“I got the last eggnog on the shelf,” my next customer said.

“Well…it’s your lucky day, then!” I said.

“No it’s not. I have to pay $4.29 for it and that’s before tax.”

“Actually, the price has gone down and is only $3.99 for a half gallon, so with tax it’s only $4.34.”

“That’s still too high.”

“You don’t have to buy it; I can put it back on the shelf if you don’t want it,” I said.

Then we had a staring contest….I guess I won because he finally broke and said, “My wife wants it.”

“Okay, then.”  Next….

More than one frantic woman yelled… “You don’t have any frozen pecan pies!”

“No. We sold out early this morning.”

“What am I going to do?! I depend on you all to do my baking!” (No, folks, I am NOT exaggerating this.)

And I said, helpfully I thought, “How would apple pie work for you?”

“No, no, absolutely not. We always have pecan pie. It’s our tradition.”

And I thought, but didn’t say…shitfire, lady, it looks like it’s time to start a new tradition. Frozen pecan pie sucks.

My register went down….it stopped scanning on the biggest order of the day while people lined up past the frozen pizza section. The manager fixed it by re-starting the computer because they don’t trust us to re-start it even though every clerk behind a register knows how to do it. Then it stopped weighing bananas…and, well, let’s just say, lots of folks might have received a banana flavored Christmas miracle.

On Christmas Eve in Retail Hell, our store ran out of half-gallons of whole milk, eggs, half-gallons of 2% milk, sausage, canned biscuits, frozen pecan pies, and whipping cream. People begged me to go look in the back storage refrigerator for them.

At first I tried to console the shoppers and offer alternative suggestions.  But after five hours of pouty, whining customers asking me to do the impossible, I finally broke.

“I’m mad at this store,” said a relatively sane looking man. He was dragging along his tween-age granddaughter and both were sucking down milkshakes. I hadn’t had a sip of water for five freaking hours.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you’ve only got gallons of whole milk. And I need a half-gallon. Would you go get me one out of the back?”

“We don’t have any.”

“Why not?”

“We sold out of them. We’ve been very busy today.”

“And you don’t have any in the back?”

“Sir, I assure you we don’t have any in the back. We are not hiding anything from you.”

“I’m not getting any then. My wife told me to get a half-gallon.” He scowled and lingered at the register.  He shouldn’t have stayed.

“What can I say, Dude? We had them this morning. You should have come in earlier.”

I could have said so much more, like…suck it up, whiny-butt….do I look like I care?…sir, you need to get out of my line before I stab you in the eye with a spork… but I didn’t. I kept my thoughts to myself.

I’m sure his wife dealt with him later…because she needed more milk, obviously,  and wouldn’t have cared if it was in a gallon or half-gallon.

Next…

Some really nice folks came in. Some wished me a Merry Christmas. But the experiences with rude jack-wagons far outweighed the nicer ones.

Moral of this story: Hell is real. You can experience it in any retail business on Christmas Eve or the day before a major snowstorm is predicted. Be nice to the person behind the counter; don’t be a jack-wagon and you might get free bananas instead of a spork in the eye.

 

Save me from Retail Hell next year…I’m begging you! …Please purchase my books!

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