Getting the band back together

It’s that time of year again. Spring is springing and the thoughts of a young man’s fancy turn to…blogging. Or writing in general. Or maybe it’s just starting something. Whatever it is, it’s led me back here to the blog. Once more into the breach…

Of course, I don’t necessarily have anything to write about. Or maybe I have so much to write about that I just can’t focus on one thing. Or maybe I just can’t focus because I spend too much time online and my attention span is shot.

I suspect that last one is it. I find that, as I age, my attention is more easily scattered and harder to pull together.

No matter. Practice will pull me back together, I’m sure.

More to come so please stay tuned.

The Song in my Head: Theme from “Alice”

File this under “the brain is a weird and wonderful thing”.

I don’t know about you guys but I suspect I haven’t watched an episode of “Alice” since the early to mid-1980s. I don’t spend a great deal of time pondering the show but I have to admit it’s come to mind at least twice in the last year. Once when Vera died and once because Linda Lavin played a small role in “The Intern“, a really crappy De Niro film my wife made me watch with her. I do also tell people to “kiss my grits” every now and then.

Still, waking up with the the theme from “Alice” in my head was unexpected. It proves the brain is capable of doing some really throw-back things early in the morning. I woke up singing, “there’s a new girl in town [and she’s feeling good]*. She was just passing through buuut if things work out, she’s going to stayyyy!”. I had to Google the lyrics just to make sure it actually was the theme from Alice.

Anyway, if you are unfamiliar with the song, you may watch it below. God bless America for inventing Youtube.

* Not an actual lyric. Brain was filling in gaps, apparently.

New Rituals

Good morning, Internet. I know you’re surprised to see me this early in the morning. I’m trying to start a new pattern in my life. I’m trying to start my days differently and, hopefully, spend my days differently.

My typical morning starts with me rising with my daughter and starting the day with her. She has been our morning alarm and, thankfully, she’s a good sleeper. She doesn’t typically wake until 7:30 or so. This morning, she gave us a gift and slept in until nearly 8:30. But this morning, I had been up nearly two hours before she awoke. (One of life’s great joys, by the way, is waking up before my daughter just to listen at her door, listening to her talk to her stuffed animals in the morning. I can’t pretend to understand everything she is saying but she sure has a constant stream of it. She does the same thing at bedtime.)

I’m trying to get up earlier just to spend quiet time alone. When I rise with my daughter, my morning begins full and I don’t have time to spend in my thoughts or alone with God. As I alluded to in my earlier post, I miss periods of reflection in my life. I spend so much time consuming the news or Facebook or cute kitten pictures that I don’t even know how to think anymore. I used to sit for long periods of time absorbed in my own thoughts. My writing used to spring from those thoughts. It’s no wonder that I write less on this blog these days. I don’t have any thoughts worth sharing.

Judging from the time I spend on Facebook, no one else does either. It’s all moral outrage and kitten videos and pithy wisdom that make a small ripple in your soul before being crowded out by all the noise.

Anyway, I am trying to remove all that from my life. I do like checking in on my friends and family and I like knowing what’s going on in each and every one of their lives. But I am very mindful of all the wasted time and wasted thoughts. The clock is ticking and life is passing in a steady stream. I don’t want to waste it in mindless consumption any more.

I hope that means you will find me here more often. Even that is a challenge, however. It means I have to spend some time in thought and reflection in order to have a thought worth sharing. And then I have to fire up the laptop and ignore Reddit and Facebook and my other typical news sources in order to come here and write it all down. Today I was successful-ish but one day does not a pattern make.

For those of you who came here to read this today, thanks for consuming my little piece of the internet. Ironic, isn’t it? ūüôā

Father’s Day Musings

Hello and happy Father’s Day to all. I sat day-dreaming of writing all through church this morning and I’m hoping that the inspiration will not leave me now that I’m actually in front of my keyboard. I find that my computer (and my phone) has become such a tool of consumption that I have a difficult time using it for creation any more. I find myself endlessly distracted by Facebook and Reddit and the consuming of news. I’m trying desperately to rid myself of those distractions so I can be productive and creative again. I have gotten so used to consuming everything in sight that I can’t even let my mind wander in reflection any more. All the things I dream, I fail to create. I miss being reflective and generally miss day-dreaming.

So what’s on my mind? Family mostly. Life. Creation. I guess I was day-dreaming of what I want my life to be from here on out. I am nearly 46 and I know that I don’t have forever left to me. I hope I have a goodly amount of time left but you never know. My father passed last year at the ripe old age of 81 but he spent the last 15 years of his life in declining health from Parkinson’s. The last time I saw him alive was Father’s Day of last year. From some of his behavior, we knew he was declining and didn’t have long. My siblings and I made an effort to travel across the country to be together as a whole family one last time. Thankfully, we were all able to make the trip as he passed away not two weeks later. I think of him often and have been thinking of him much over the last two days. I miss him very much.

Anyway, If I am as blessed to years as was my father, I could only have another 25 years or so of good health. The way I feel sometimes, I wonder if I have that many left. I don’t have any major health problems but the minor ones make you think something is out there waiting for you. With my remaining time, I want to spend as much time with my family as possible. The times when the whole family comes together are not as often as I would like. We used to find a week every year to gather at the beach or at the lake but even an annual gathering of the whole family is tough these days. Busy schedules and long distances intervene to keep us all apart. I am sure it’s been over a year since I saw some of my nephews and the last time I remember the whole family being together was two years ago in April.

I also want to create something. I don’t know what exactly but I have visions of creation all the time. If we are indeed made in the image of our Creator, I think the desire to create (and procreate) is possibly the strongest evidence of it. I think we all desire to make something, however small. That is the echo of God in us all.

So my day-dreams are filled with ways to shrink the distances and make the time. They are filled with things to create. Most of them seem so plausible in the midst of the day-dream but so tough to make real when you sit down to the keyboard again. But we’ll see. Maybe if I can cut out distractions and start creating again, I can live the creative life I imagine.


Happy New Year, everyone. With the start of the new year come the inevitable flood of resolutions to begin life anew. New year, new you! I suppose it’s as good a time as any to try starting up the blog again.

I’ve been thinking of starting the blog again for some while. Years, probably. My latest abortive attempt came around Halloween. It’s not that I don’t have time to write, honestly. It’s that I struggle now for things to write. After an extended layoff, I also struggle with my writing “voice”. I’m out of touch with it and things just don’t flow like they used to do when I was a younger man.

I wonder if writing isn’t an occupation for the young. I find that writing takes a certain amount of energy and I just don’t seem to have the energy for it that I used to have. I don’t feel “in touch” with the words in the same way. I can obviously still write but I have to pull the words out rather than having them flow. Maybe all it takes is practice. Maybe using it will help me reestablish the connection with my inner voice.

One of my other struggles with writing is attention span. After years of consuming the internet, I find it difficult to focus on producing for any length of time. I passively consume the news, Facebook, Reddit, Youtube, movies, games, etc. While it’s entertaining, it’s also addictive and ultimately an empty pursuit. I stare into my phone all day and it pulls me away from the important things in my life; My family, my friends, my work and my purpose. One can easily while away a life in bite-sized chunks of mindless consumption and empty entertainment.

Excuse me a moment while I switch over to my Facebook for a few minutes. I find it nearly impossible to do only one thing at a time. It’s a struggle.

Anyway, I supposed this is all on my mind because I know that time is a finite thing and it passes so very, very quickly. It seems just yesterday that my wife let me know she was pregnant. At that moment, I thought of all the things I needed to write. I wanted to capture all the thoughts, feelings and moments of my unborn child’s journey. I wanted to pass all those moments on to her. She’s almost two now. Better late than never, I hope.

With my father’s passing, I’m beginning to be more aware of the time left to me and how I spend it. Personally, I have gifts, like the gift of words, that I haven’t used as I should have done and it’s high time that I do so. So, I resolve to consume less and produce more. Wish me luck.

Oh, I also resolve to eat better, lose 10 pounds and be generally more healthy in 2016. How about you?

Ghosts of Halloween

Greetings and Happy Halloween! ¬†I’ve been thinking about getting back to my blog for some while now and have finally managed to find both the time and energy to do so. ¬†After several attempts to remember and reset my blog password, I log in to find a draft post from the last time I attempted to restart the blog. Ironically and amazingly, the draft is from October 31, 2009 and it is the exact same subject matter that has been running through my head today, more or less. ¬†I find I’ve only managed to procrastinate for the last 6 years or so. ¬†Perhaps the post is even more appropriate now than it would’ve been 6 years ago.

I’ve been thinking of Halloween’s past and Halloween’s present. Since last I updated this blog, I have had the joy of becoming and being a father. Experiencing Halloween as a father is totally different from experiencing Halloween as a single person. You come close to experiencing the same sense of wonder you had as a child, seeing everything new again through the eyes of a child.

Since last updating this blog, I have also lost my own father. He passed earlier this year after years of suffering from Parkinson’s. Watching my own child experience Halloween, I am reminded of my own father and mother and the childhood rituals of the holiday.

I specifically remember a single Halloween, maybe the first one that I really remember. I have seen pictures of my brothers and I dressed up for Halloween but I don’t tend to remember those events much. The first I really remember was the Halloween my oldest brother dressed up in a circle of chicken wire overlaid with burlap. ¬†On a platform on his head, he wore a plastic jack-o-lantern such as kids use to collect candy even now. ¬†There was a flashlight inside the jack-o-lantern. I guess the costume was some kind of pumpkin-head.

I don’t remember my own costume though this may have been the Halloween that I dressed as Spiderman. ¬†If so, the costume was nothing like the Spiderman costumes they have today. Mine was a short-sleeved plastic wrap-around that tied at the waist. It came with a plastic mask that had a little slit at the mouth and was kept on with a elastic band. Not nearly as realistic as the super-hero costumes of today. And don’t think I didn’t realize it. ¬†Of course, this could’ve been the same Halloween that I dressed as a hobo. I don’t know. I just remember my brother’s costume.

I remember it because all the kids we passed were terrified of him. He got a great kick out of the sheer number of children that went away crying. Or maybe it was just one boy that was terrified. I remember one, at least.  He was not amused by Jack Pumpkinhead.  I remember wondering why the little boy was frightened. I cannot recall ever being frightened on Halloween. It was always a time of joy and wonder for me.

Halloween for me was always Dad “helping” us carve the pumpkins or Mom finding a costume for us to wear or Mom putting makeup on our faces to turn us into clowns or hobos or vampires or something similar. Halloween was freshly popped popcorn and lying on the floor watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Halloween was the sense of magic in the stillness of the night under the humming streetlights. It was never scary for me.

Maybe because I knew my father was there with us. I remember that same Halloween that my father went out trick-or-treating with us. It struck me for some reason but I’m not exactly sure why. I remember him helping my brother into his terrifying costume. I remember my sense of…security? contentment? surprise? that my father was with us as we went from house to house. Maybe I was never scared by Halloween because Dad was always there with us. Maybe I just didn’t know any better.

I remember specifically going to Mrs…Edwards? house. We always went there first, I think. She has a special treat just for us every Halloween, homemade Divinity candy. ¬†Maybe she gave it to everyone but I always assumed we were special because we went to her house first and she gave us homemade candy. I seem to recall her having to step away from the door to get the “other” candy when she figured out who we were. ¬†I also remember not being particularly fond of her Divinity, even while acknowledging it as special.

That Halloween may be the last in which Dad ventured out with us. Maybe he continued to escort us for a few years but the other Halloween’s I remember tend to be ones where my friends and I left family at the corner and roamed all over town collecting candy until late in the evening. ¬†We covered an amazing amount of ground, using pillow cases for our candy haul. I seem to recall finishing my Halloween candy somewhere around Easter at least one year. ¬†We were so excited to be independent and free. If I had to do it over again, I’d take my father by the hand take him house to house, never leaving him behind.

Those Halloween memories are faded and thread-bare these days but I still cherish them and I like to pull them out this time of year. I’m glad that they will be supplemented by new memories of Halloween joy and wonder. I’ve introduced my daughter to Charlie Brown and jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating. ¬†Whether or not she finds Halloween terrifying or magical remains to be seen.

There was one incident that might make Halloween more scary for her than it ever was for me. The second house we visited had a large, hairy, foot-pedal activated jumping spider. I made mistake of stepping on the foot pedal, clearly marked “Step Here”. I knew as soon as I stepped on it that I had made an error of judgement. The spider shrieked and jumped and my daughter’s instant¬†reaction can only rightly be described as one of pant-sh*ting terror. ¬†That might color her view of Halloween for a long time. ¬†Maybe my own view of Halloween would’ve been different if they’d had motion-activated nightmares when I was a kid.

Anyway, she wouldn’t approach another house until we tore open a package of M&M’s and introduced her to candy for the first time. The promise of more M&M’s did get her to screw up enough courage to at least be carried to more doorsteps. ¬†Good old M&M’s.

I hope future Halloween’s are more magical than frightening for her. ¬†I know the number of Halloween’s I’ll get to escort her are limited. One day she’ll go out on her own and revel in her own freedom and independence. ¬†Until then, I’ll bask in the warm glow of my own Halloween ghosts and cherish each and every magical moment.

Bad things, Good people

Hi. I’m back. Did you miss me?

I know it’s been a while since I posted in this space but I feel like it’s been a long time since I had anything particularly worthwhile to say. Since my niece stopped swearing, stories worth telling have been few and far between. Or I just haven’t felt much like telling them. I have been enduring a period of enforced quiet. Something like that anyway.

Hopefully that period is behind me now and I can start writing again. I have thought about it several times but could never muster the energy or the time, at least not together. I have been thinking about it more lately and would like to tackle some more Christian themes, I think.

One of those themes is the age-old question of why God allows “bad” things to happen to “good” people. I got to thinking about it after I read a post over at Stuff Christians Like this morning, a post about why “bad” things happen to “good” people.

I use quotation marks there because I believe, as humans, we do not have the capacity to distinguish good from bad.* Typically, we perceive circumstances to be good or bad. But those circumstances that we perceive as bad or negative frequently have long-term effects that are neither. Being limited in our perception of time and space, we don’t have the ability to foresee outcomes, as much as we would like to believe otherwise. We fret and worry and try to control everything around us, whether those things be circumstances or people, in order to achieve certain outcomes we deem to be “good” or, at least, good for us.

When the outcomes are not what we thought or hoped they would be, we’re bewildered, wondering why pulling lever “a” didn’t shift pulley “b”. Rather than realizing that life is much more complex than that and giving up control to God, we run around looking for other levers to pulls, hoping to achieve the outcome we desire. Unfortunately, or fortunately, neither life nor God is that simple.

The whole debate reminds me of two different passages of scripture that I’d like to share. The first is from the book of Job, a must-read for anyone interested in the whole debate of why bad things happen to good people. Job, for those unfamiliar with the tale, is a “good” or righteous man that God allows Satan to torment. There has been much, much debate on why God would ever allow Satan to torment a righteous man. I’m not going to touch that here. But this is what Job has to say about it:

…But how can a mortal be righteous before God?

3 Though one wished to dispute with him,
he could not answer him one time out of a thousand.

4 His wisdom is profound, his power is vast.
Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?

5 He moves mountains without their knowing it
and overturns them in his anger.

6 He shakes the earth from its place
and makes its pillars tremble.

7 He speaks to the sun and it does not shine;
he seals off the light of the stars.

8 He alone stretches out the heavens
and treads on the waves of the sea.

9 He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion,
the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.

10 He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted.

11When he passes me, I cannot see him;
when he goes by, I cannot perceive him.

12 If he snatches away, who can stop him?
Who can say to him, ‚ÄėWhat are you doing?‚Äô

13 God does not restrain his anger;
even the cohorts of Rahab cowered at his feet.

14 “How then can I dispute with him?
How can I find words to argue with him?

15 Though I were innocent, I could not answer him;
I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.” – Job 9:2-15

Who can understand the purposes of God? No one. Who can dispute the will of God? No one. Even if we’re innocent, Job says, we could not give answer to God. Even if we were innocent.

But are we? I know that I, in my pride, have told myself I was righteous, innocent or good but it was a lie. My pride was in and of itself a sin and perhaps the greatest sin or all. It kept me from examining my own behavior more thoroughly and acknowledging my own sins and shortcomings. 1st John 1:8 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”

So, no, we aren’t innocent. If we could not answer God in our innocence, how are we to answer him in our guilt? How are we to proclaim to him what is good and what is ill? We simply cannot.

Lastly, we are none of us “good”. We say things like “I’m a good person” or “I try to be good” but it just isn’t true. It’s incredibly humbling to think that not even Jesus, who was without sin, considered himself good. (Mark 10:17-18.) If even Jesus did not consider himself good, how can we ever consider ourselves so?

And if we cannot consider ourselves to be good, how can we even begin to consider whether the situations we face are good are bad? They may be painful and difficult to face in the moment but there may be outcomes that we would consider good that we never get to see. We all know it to be true but it is very difficult to remember when you see or experience pain and suffering in the world.

Of course, this isn’t to say that there isn’t evil in the world or that pain and suffering are good. I only suggest that we, as humans, cannot see all the connections and how good might come out of the heartache. We, like Job, cannot fathom God’s purposes. But we can rest in what Jesus affirms in Mark 10:18. God is good. Always.

* (Please note that I did not use the words “good” and “evil”. I do believe we have the capacity to distinguish between those two. Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so, inherently, we must, assuming you believe the tale. If you don’t, pretend it’s a metaphor about man’s relationship with God. Maybe I’ll discuss that whole topic here another time.)

The Other WTF

So I’m sitting at the dinner table with my two-year old niece, happily consuming Thanksgiving leftovers. I’m reading my book while she pokes and prods small slices of pumpkin pie. Ollie, being a relatively chatty toddler, prattles on to me, herself and the pie in no particular order.

“Unk Cha-e”, she hails from her high chair

“Yes, Precious?”, I ask without looking up from my book.

“Wha’ da f#ck?”

I am brought up short. Laying my book down, I finally concentrate my attention on her. Slowly, I answer. “What’s that, baby?”

“Wha’ da f#ck?”, she asks, confirming that I did indeed hear what I thought I heard the first time. I’m torn between giggling and calling her mother to task for the child’s foul language.

Suddenly, she whips her fork from under the table and raises it high above her head, shouting in triumph, “There it is!”

I’m so amused by the whole exchange that we end up playing “Where’s the Fork” for another 15 minutes.

In Which Daddy Gets a New Pair of Shoes

It’s a true statement to say that a man will go to great lengths when he wants to impress a young lady he finds attractive.

Generally, it starts with little things, things to get a girl’s attention. A new haircut. A fresh, clean shave on a day he might have otherwise gone unshaven. A spritz of cologne whenever there’s a remote chance that the young lady in question might be near. In some more advanced cases, the spritz of cologne turns into a few extra spritzes and worrisome questions that “maybe I used too much”. And, as is generally the case with these kinds of things, if you have to ask the question, you probably did.

In more extreme cases, a man might set about remaking himself entirely, just to make himself more attractive to her. He might join the gym and lose 30 pounds. He might throw out all his old, frumpy clothes and buy an entirely new wardrobe of slightly more stylish clothing. He might buy a new house or a new car in order to upgrade his life. He might even go back to school in order to improve his job prospects, just so he’ll have more to offer.

Of course, those are extreme cases and I don’t know that I’d ever go so far myself.

Not again, at any rate.

But I did once buy a new pair of shoes to impress a Cute Girl. The year was 2003 and there was this fancy function to attend and I knew the Cute Girl was going to be there. I had a small crush on the Cute Girl and was hoping to impress her enough to at least score a date. Doing what guys do, I went out and bought a new shirt, a new pair of pants, a new wallet, a new belt and a new pair of shoes. Not a whole wardrobe, mind you. Just a new…outfit…for lack of a better word.

Aside: I do not like to use the word “outfit”. The word is not meant for guys. Guys don’t wear outfits. We wear…clothes. Sometimes those clothes match. Having our clothes match doesn’t make those clothes an outfit. Outfits are for girls or for children.

Second aside: More often than not, our clothes do not match. Usually it is because we picked them out ourselves, without appropriate female supervision. When our clothes do not match, it’s okay to refer to them collectively as a “getup” as in, “take a look at that guy’s getup.” But it still isn’t an outfit.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. So, I bought this new…set of clothes…in order to impress Cute Girl. And I went to the highfalutin’ affair in my new clothes, on which I’d spent a decent amount of money and, as luck would have it, she wasn’t even there. Typical.

Kindof aside: I did eventually manage to set up one date with Cute Girl. We planned it right before I went out of town for an extended vacation. I call it vacation but it was really just a long, paid leave-of-absence from work so I could go to a family reunion down in Mississippi. My parents wanted me to drive down from North Carolina with them because they were nervous about making the long drive themselves, they being old or something. So I take use my vacation time to go to Mississippi for a family reunion for 10 whole days.

Aside from the aside
: I don’t know if your parents are like this but my parents love some Cracker Barrel. I swear, over two days of driving for that trip, we had Cracker Barrel for seven meals. I kid you not. It was all I could do to get them past an exit with a Cracker Barrel. Mom got “Uncle Herschel’s” for every single meal.

Another aside: And don’t get me started on how often we had to stop for pee breaks. OMG. We broke the trip up into 30 mile segments. We went from Cracker Barrel to Rest Stop to Cracker Barrel in rapid succession.

Anyway, when I get back, Cute Girl is dating some other guy, the guy to whom she is now married. I think they have like two kids or something. I dunno. Utterly freaking typical. And my parents want to know why I haven’t given them any grandchildren yet. Two words for you, Ma and Pa. Family. Reunion.

End Asides.

Anyway, the whole point is that trying to impress a girl by buying stuff was and is a total waste of time and money.

Except that I still have the shoes from that particular purchase. As you might imagine, they’ve seen better days. They are scratched and scuffed and haven’t been my dressy black shoes in many years. After six years, they’re getting to the point where I really shouldn’t be wearing them at all. As comfy as they are, I feel poorly put together when I wear them.

Like I did yesterday when I wore them to work. I felt so poorly put together that I decided then and there to buy a new pair of shoes. I went to Zappos and I ordered a new pair of Giorgio Brutini’s.

The experience was so positive that I had to blog about it. As per usual, I got an email stating that my order had been received and was being processed. An hour later, I got an email stating that my already-free shipping was upgraded to “expedited” shipping at no charge to me, by way of saying “thank you”.

I was, of course, pleased and thought I might return from my Thanksgiving holiday to find a new pair of shoes waiting on my doorstep. Imagine my surprise to find a new pair of shoes waiting for me when I got home from work today, not even 24 hours after placing my order. Free overnight shipping. Zappos rocks.

I was already a fan of Zappos because of their excellent customer service on previous orders. They do not charge for shipping to you and, more importantly, they do not charge you for shipping any returned merchandise to them. My loyalty to Zappos is that much stronger now that they’ve given me a free upgrade to overnight shipping.

If you don’t want to get out and brave the Black Friday crowds after Thanksgiving, you might check out Zappos for shoes, clothing and other fashionables. If you’re a guy, you might even find something to impress the Cute Girl in your life. But, whatever you buy, remember this.

It isn’t an outfit. Ever.

A Thanksgiving Tradition

It is not often that you’ll find me talking about my experiences in the kitchen here on this blog. Well, you might find me talking about my experience in the kitchen but that is just what it is: talk. I do not go into my kitchen very often and, when I do, it is generally for something simple like coffee, milk or cereal.

It’s not that I’m uncomfortable in the kitchen, necessarily. It’s mostly a consequence of being a bachelor. Cooking for one is about the most unrewarding task I can imagine. It’s inefficient, given that you can produce a meal for three or four using the same amount of effort and the same number of dishes as you do when cooking for one. Sure, I know some singleton’s that really enjoy themselves in the kitchen and find it to be relaxing and enjoyable. I am just not one of those people.

Thanksgiving is typically the one time of year in which you might find me in the kitchen doing something more complex than scrambling an egg or frying up bacon (two things of which I am mightily capable.) The reason behind this is that there are typically an assortment of pot luck affairs to attend and I find myself shamed into doing something more than bringing some form of frozen desert.

But, also, I really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, really enjoy it. If I can, I will enjoy it many times before and many times after the actual Thanksgiving holiday. In the past week, for example, I made a special trip to Boston Market for a turkey dinner with all the sides and I took advantage of the turkey luncheon at work. It’s like practicing for actual Thanksgiving.

In that vein, I have another practice session to attend tonight. A couple of my very good friends are hosting an early Thanksgiving potluck tonight and I’m preparing the one dish of which I’m capable: sweet potato casserole.

At least, sweet potato casserole is what my mother calls it. The rest of the family refers to the recipe as “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”. The recipe entered Stafford family lore way back when I was in high school. High school was when the Stafford children began to invite various and sundry sweethearts to Thanksgiving dinner at Che Casa Stafford. Being steeped in Southern hospitality, these sweethearts would generally bring a dish to share.

This particular dish was brought to the table by Black Sheep’s high school girlfriend, Pat, using a recipe handed down to her from her mother. (Some of you know Black Sheep as “Frankenberry”. That’s another story for another time.) It was hugely popular and, for a number of years, thrust aside the simpler and more traditional sweet potatoes and marshmallows. Ever since that day, we’ve referred to the dish as “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”.

And, ever since Black Sheep and Pat broke up, mom has been trying to get us all to stop calling it that, especially since Black Sheep’s wife is not named Pat. Mother doesn’t seem to understand that, once the tradition is set, it cannot be changed. That’s why they call it “tradition”.

Anyway, it is my favorite Thanksgiving dish and it’s the only one I learned to make on my very own. It’s like sweet potato crack and I’ve never known it to be unpopular. I’m pretty sure it’s the only reason I have things like measuring cups in the house. I know it’s the only reason I own a potato masher. It’s that good. I make it at least once a year but have been known to make it twice in a season. It’s good for Christmas potlucks too.

From my Mama’s cookbook: (I just noticed that my mother titled her cookbook, “Your Mama’s Cookbook”. It reminds me of endless “Your Mama” jokes. I snicker at my own wit.)

    “Sweet Potato Casserole” (a.k.a. “Pat’s Mom’s Sweet Potatoes”)

    I have served this casserole for several years at Thanksgiving and will likely continue as long as I am able, as no one will allow me to change the menu. Double the recipe for a large group.

    Boil sweet potatoes until they are easily speared with a fork (estimate 1 large potato per cup for recipe).

    Melt 2/3 cup of butter and divide it.

    Mix together the following:

    3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
    1 cup sugar
    2 eggs
    1/2 cup evaporated milk (like Carnation or Pet)
    1 tbs.vanilla
    1/3 cup melted butter

    Pour this mixture into a 2 quart casserole dish and then mix the following:

    1/3 cup butter
    1 cup shredded coconut (I use the frozen kind)
    1 cup pecans
    1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
    1/3 cup flour

    Spread this mixture over the first and bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.