Monday, January 31, 2011

FriedOkra's 365 Project, Day 31

Working on my 365 Project this month has brought me so much unexpected joy. I'm not an expert photographer, by any means, but there's much more to it than that, to me. In these first 31 days, I've found that the project allows me to learn and express things about myself in a way that asks for creativity as well as discipline -- a unique marriage, at least in my world.

I'm more proud of the quality of a few photos than that of others, but overall I'm just thankful to have images of some of the things that have inspired me, made me happy, or caused me to stop and examine the world around me more closely, whether visually or spiritually or both, all month long.

(Clicking anywhere on this collage will take you to the larger images I'm posting at my 365 Project blog.)

One more photo to take this month, and then I move on and begin to photograph February!

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Staying in the Tracks

Peabody's finally better after a many-day bout with an upper respiratory virus, so I drove him to school in a snowstorm this morning.

The snow falls harder than the plows can keep up with, and roads are unusually thick in white, with dirty gray cuts, two side-by-side, from the car that bore the person who braved the journey just ahead of me. I know, after five winters here, to stay in the tracks. Stay in the tracks, focus on the road ahead, creep slowly along, feel the road beneath me and respond methodically, never let it surprise me, never make a sudden move, never let down my guard. The quick, guttural reaction is my enemy - for outside of the tracks lies a slippery slope.

This is the how-I-am for now. I stay on my life-track, my mind focused on this day, this task, these people in front of me. I don't veer to Owen's diagnosis, my grandmother's death, my mother's pain; slippery slope-fall, avalanche-shove, flood un-dammed.

I do what the tracks tell me to do (I try to do it with love, although I admit that in certain moments the tracks are dirty gray), and never, ever veer.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Together Again

My sweet grandmother is in heaven with my Grandaddy as of this morning. It's been a tough few months for my family to say the least. I will miss Grandmama so much, but I know that she has been ready to go since her husband died, and I'm choosing to look at her gentle, peaceful passing, only ten weeks after his, as a very clear example of God's never-failing love and mercy.

Really, we should all be so lucky.

What shall I do with all the days and hours
That must be counted ere I see thy face?
How shall I charm the interval that lowers
Between this time and that sweet time of grace?

~Frances Anne Kemble

Me, Grandmama, my Mom and my sister Jackie, November 2010

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Little Bit For My Sister, A Little Bit for Me

Hi again.

I'm thinkin' a lot about my sister these days.

I mean, I think about her a lot normally. See, (And this is completely unrelated to the point I may or not be on my way to making, because maybe I just feel like talking right now and being here seems like a good excuse to do just that. It's my blog, after all, and I never, anywhere on my blog, have promised than I seriously plan on ever making any kind of point about anything whatsoever, now have I?) (I'm just sayin'.) we've got this weird culinary bond that makes us both cook the same things on the same days, even though we live seven hundred sumpm miles apart, so usually when I'm cooking, I wonder, "What's Jackie cookin' today?" Twice in the past month, I've mentioned what I'm making on Facebook and she's posted, "I AM TOO!" And if I could go back and compile the volume of our emails and our Facebook chats from the past 5 or 6 years, I bet I could make it into a cookbook. Seriously. We talk food and recipes alla time.

It's in our blood, too, because when I talk to my Mom? We always ask each other what we're cooking and what we're eating. Y'all know I live in my kitchen, pretty much. And I've been talking to my Mom quite a bit lately because she just had that back surgery so I have to check in on her two mebbe three times a day because my Mom? Does not sit still. Ever. And she needs to be sitting still. So from time to time, I call her up and yell at her. And she yells back at me, because that's just what we do. And anyway the past about eight times I've talked to Mom on the phone, she's asked me (after we've been over what we've both cooked or eaten since we last chatted), "What is all that NOISE?" and I say, "I'm emptying the dishwasher." And she says, "Megan Carol Ferree, you are ALWAYS emptying your dishwasher!" and I say, "You are NOT KIDDIN', sister." I swear I think I empty my dishwasher six times a day.

Who in de hayull is putting all that stuff in dere?

And now I completely forgot where I was going with this and I was going to talk about my sister and now we're talking about my Mom.

Hi Dad!

(Just seemed like I ought to bring him in on this, as well.)

(Gang's all here!)

Okay seriously. What was I doing?

Oh yeah. Well I didn't really need to say anything about Dad above because now I'm gonna say this:

When my sister and I were little girls. And medium-sized girls! We listened to a lot of music. My dad LOVES music , and my Mom does too but she was never much into technology so she only listened to it in the car, but my Dad ALWAYS had music playing loudly in our house. And my sister and I would sing and dance and play the banjo on the old black metal popcorn popper we kept by the fireplace, and we'd giggle and laugh and act crazy and just have fun together. We listened to blue grass and clogged, we made up dances to Dobie Gray and John Denver, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, the GREASE soundtrack, the Annie Original Broadway score, Olivia Newton John, Sonny and Cher, Simon and Garfunkel... I could go on and on. We got exposed to all kinds of great music, and we loved it all. Those times dancing and singing with Jackie are some of my happiest childhood memories.

We were just happy and carefree little girls then. Good, good times.

Dad and Mom both loved the Smothers Brothers back then, and by default (and because they were truly hilarious to us) Jackie and I loved them too. We'd put one of Dad's old vinyl records of the Smothers Brothers on and lie on the floor with our heads together and listen just HOWL at them, until we had tears in our eyes and we were laughing so hard we couldn't breathe.

And right now? Do you know what I'd give to be able grab my sister out of where she is right now and take us both back, for a few minutes, maybe an afternoon, and just let us be those two carefree little girls, twirling and singing and playing that popcorn popper for all we're worth and laughing our heads off to the Smothers Brothers? Nothing to worry about, no responsibilities, no sick kids, no hubbies, (And do I even have to say that I love our kids and our husbands and I'm not talking about pulling a Thelma and Louise deal here, just about havin' a momentary escape?) no hospitals or chemotherapy or computers or phones. Just the simplicity and blissful naivete of being about 6 and 9 years old, hearing pots and pans clanking and smelling Mom's cooking from the kitchen, seein' our Dad with his head thrown back and his eyes closed, him playing along with us on his air guitar, and us just easy and free.

Well. I'd give a lot, is what I'd give. A seriously, really, rilly lot.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011


So, I've been MIA for awhile.

You will hug me first before I start talking, yes?

Aaaah. Thank you. Can't seem to get enough hugs these days.

So. Now I will dig right in.

After a week or so of my 8 year old nephew not feeling well, last Saturday my sister took him to the hospital. Upon examining him and diagnosing congestive heart failure, doctors sent him via helicopter to a nearby children's hospital for treatment and further evaluation. After draining fluid from his lungs and around his heart and getting him stabilized and comfortable, doctors set about the task of discovering what was behind these symptoms.

After two days of testing, doctors told my sister and brother-in-law that my nephew has Texas Precursor T-cell ALL (Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia), which is a genetic form of cancer that effects the blood and/or bone marrow, and that has led to the formation of a large mass in his chest that involves his heart, lungs and windpipe.

Treatment began yesterday with the installation of a port in the little guy's chest, and the administration of the first round of chemo drugs. Our boy is in good spirits and acting like his normal self, according to his Mom and Dad. He's eating, watching movies, reading, and joking around with the nursing staff and he's had a few visitors, even.

We'd love to have your prayers for our boy's comfort and healing, and strength and peace for his whole family including the grandparents on both sides, and especially my other nieces and nephews, along with wisdom for Owen's doctors and nurses.

I'm probably not going to be talking much about my nephew's condition and treatment here on the blog in order to respect my sister's family's privacy, but I know you guys will pray with us even if you don't know every particular every day.

Here's who you'll be praying for and thinking about.


We are all hanging in there. My sister and brother-in-law are tired and overwhelmed but thankful to have a diagnosis and a plan of attack. My Mom can't go be with them because she just had back surgery, as you'll recall. I know this frustrates and saddens her, and I'm certain my Dad is aching with a similar feeling of helplessness and grief. Al says he has never been so sad in his life, but he's doing beautiful job of just BEING AL for me, which is exactly what I need. I haven't said too much to Bean about her cousin, but I do plan on filling her in on some simple details so that she can begin to share in helping keep his spirits up.

As for me? People keep asking me, "How are YOU?" Even my sister, bless her heart, asked me that. And the answer is?


And I really don't CARE how I'm doing, if that makes any sense at all.

I'm staying busy. I'm praying. I'm doing what I can do from here, even though I'd much rather be there. My big prayer, besides to ask for healing for my nephew, is that God will help me do whatever I can do to alleviate some of the burden and hurt and worry and fear from my sister and brother-in-law's shoulders. Oh, and I've also prayed that God would divide my cells and make two of me, one to stay and take care of my family, and one to go help take care of my sister's, but so far, He's not done that. I think He may have thought I was kidding. GOD? NOT KIDDING!

But He has been so faithful in providing many good, loving family, friends, and neighbors to do what needs to be done for them, so I'm letting Him get by with that for now.

Honestly? This is the first time I've thought about how I am. I guess I'm trying hard not to dig too deeply into my own mind right now, because what good does that do anyone?

I am POSITIVE that my nephew is right where he needs to be, getting exactly the right treatments and care, and that he will FULLY RECOVER from this disease. I truly believe that. (You believe it along with me, okay?) I HATE what he'll go through to get there, and I can't even think about my sister and how this must all feel to her -- watching her child go through this -- without falling completely apart. I both love and hate how easily I can relate and go there with her in my own mind. A rare blessing-curse of motherhood and sisterhood, I guess.

And I know that I've told y'all over and over again what amazingly wonderful friends and neighbors I have been blessed with, but I have to say once again that the women I've come to know over my lifetime, whether I've known them since childhood or just met them a few years ago, are absolute angels. They are rallying around all of us, even though most of them have NEVER EVEN MET MY SISTER or her family, and I can't even express the gratitude I feel for everything they are doing/have done/are planning to do for them. (And me.) If you are one of these people in my life, let me tell you now, I love you and admire you appreciate you more than you will ever know, my heart is too, too full, and I will never be able to put it into words. EVEN ME! NOT ENOUGH WORDS!

That's all I have for now. Thanks for listening, my friends!

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Processing, Photo and Otherwise

Yesterday was Thursday, and so I owed y'all photos from my 365 photos project. But yesterday was also my coming-home day from being down in South Carolina with my Mom (she's doing well!), and the travel took all day long, until nightfall, so when I walked through this door and saw those faces, and heard those giggles, and felt those hugs and kisses, I forgot all about pictures and floated off on a cloud of reunited bliss.

I am a lucky woman.

(With a camera.)

(And a busy, busy brain.)

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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

Made muffins for my kids' breakfast this morning, with plenty of the teeny home-baked Mama-kisses left over for them to eat next week while I'm gone.

I said ... WHILE I'M GONE. (Quake!)

Yes. I'm leaving my chiddren and my precious honey-wunny-bunny-cakes to go down to the native-land and take care of my Mom who's havin' back surgery on Monday.

(Much, much more quake!)

They'll be fine. She'll be fine.

And I? Will cook.

I've been cooking for my four-day absence here for oh... seven days? There's enough home-made goodness in my fridge and freezer right now to feed about 908 people for four days. But the good news is that, except to thaw and reheat stuff, I won't have to set foot in my kitchen again until March.


And when I get to Mom's? Won't have my suitcase up to my room before HER oven'll be fired up and mixing bowls and whisks and mandoline blades'll be flyin' around like gnats on a July afternoon in Doraville.

'Cause that's how I roll, up in here, my people. If I'ma abandon you, I'ma do it leavin' you standing on the front porch holding an Igloo cooler the size of a stretch Hummer, and it'll be groaning uncomfortably under the burden of all things braised, basted, baked and battered. And if I'ma take care of you in your convalescence, you better be ready to do some serious chowin'. (Unless you have stomach flu, in which case, I, personally, am not giving you anything to eat, ever again. Period. I hate cleaning up my own cooking after it's been partially digested. Allow me this one little idiosyncracy*.)

(*Name that hilarious new sit-com.)

Cooking calms m'nerves. Keeps me from FREAKIN' RIGHT OUT, y'all.

And then there's this: Food = Love

But I did not come here to tell you about my love-'em-with-the-oven disorder. I came to tell y'all how to make these cute little goodies.


Cinnamon Mini-Muffins

Oven 375°

1 stick salted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (plus a few drops for the icing)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (heaping, please - it's really more like 3/4 tsp. cinnamon)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. milk, divided
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar

Using a whisk (you could use your mixer, but you don't have to, and if I don't have to? I don't. Do you?) cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and continue whisking until smooth. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl with a clean whisk or a fork, combine the flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Add half of this mixture to the wet ingredients and stir just to mix. Add 1/4 cup of the milk. Mix. Add remaining dry ingredients and another 1/4 cup milk and mix just until everything is smooth and combined.

Place muffin papers in a mini-muffin tin. Fill cups with muffin batter. Bake at 375° for 13-15 minutes.

For glaze, mix together 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar, a few drops vanilla extract and milk, one teaspoon at a time, until the glaze is about the consistency of Elmer's School Glue. (YUMMY, huh?) Remove muffins from oven and onto a rack to cool. Drizzle the glaze over the muffins from the tip of a spoon while they're still warm.

Makes 18 mini muffins.


Hmmmm.... I guess I just loved on y'all a little, too, now didn't I?

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Many Little Things of Varying Degrees of Significance

1. I loved Steph's post i hate it when i fall up the stairs today. (I always love her posts, but I loved this one especially much because I totally relate to a gigantic chunk of it.) How is it that (so many, judging from the comments on her post) people can feel almost the exact same way and yet fail to connect their common dots? One of life's somewhat tragic little ironies. But rectified, here.

I consider myself blessed and surrounded by awesome friends yet in the same breath I start to feel insecure and wonder why anyone would have me. And why does my inbox have an echo? And my mind starts to go there and then I feel so alone. It's so silly because it can't be true.


-- Steph (Adventures in Babywearing)

Go read the rest!

2. The small version of my 365 photos weren't making me happy, and I'm not ready for a blog re-design yet, so I rigged up this bare-bones box of a blog, all stripped-down like a stolen Chevy, and I'll post the bigguns there, if you're ever in the mood to see mediocrity in MUCH! GREATER! DETAIL! There's also a link over there ------> for yer clickin' enjoyment, any time you like!

3. I triple-fantastic-over-the-moon-love this song and I absolutely dare you to listen to it and not smile! Especially when you get a load of the precious new fluffy baby fox that has affixed itself to Art Garfunkel's head.

I wish y'all a groovy Friday!

Y'all can subscribe to FriedOkra's feed here.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

FriedOkra's 365 for 2011: Photos 1-4

Hey! Missed y'all!

I'm doing a 365 project this year which means on Thursdays I'll be regaling you with my sub-par attempts at faincy photography - one for every day of the week. I started New Year's Day and I'm already enjoying the heck out of how it makes me really LOOOOOOOOOOK around harder than ever to see what around me is beautiful, or interesting, or meaningful, or funny, or whatever. My camera's even more a constant companion than ever, too. Case in point, when I went to lunch with the girls on Tuesday, I arrived fully accessorized by Canon. Well the girls wasted no time in pointing out, Megan you look like a Japanese tourist.

Hey, I'm okay with that. I played a tourist in my high school's 1984 production of South Pacific and I have to tell you, I ROCKED it. For every one of the 11 seconds I was on stage. With my bugged out eyes and my amazed gasp and my chest-clutch and completely improvised slightly startled half-step back.

(Acting is Reacting, my friends.)

Those girls are incredibly lucky they had the opportunity to witness the reprise of my performance.

Look. We live in the sticks. You have to appreciate live theatre when you can get it, people.

Also, if I hadn't had my camera, we wouldn't have captured THIS precious moment to enjoy for many years hence, now would we?


Here are my shots, though, from January 1 up to yesterday. Prepare to be underwhelmed!


Saturday January 1 - Cozy. I decided in December to make a few of the simple, tied fleece blankets, and finished this one for our new "cozy room" just in time to enjoy it on a sleepy, lazy New Years Day at home with Al and the kids. I love the colors and the pattern, and I imagined so much snuggling - all of us - as I tied each knot.


Sunday January 2 - Saying Goodbye. We un-decorated in the afternoon, but as I spent the (sunny) morning with the kids in the family room, I enjoyed the tree and lights and ornaments for a few more hours. Sniffle! I'll miss it.


Monday January 3 - The Leftovers. All of our other Christmas decorations are down as of yesterday, but I asked Al to leave these lights up so I can enjoy them from my kitchen windows at night. We had a few very warm days last week and all of the snow has melted, so everything is dull, drab brown, but I loved seeing the many strands of lights and these fading red crabapples, still managing to look almost lively and festive up close.


Tuesday January 4 - Concentration. After Bean's first day back at school yesterday, she's re-focusing on reading, reading, reading! Watching a child learn to read has been a close second favorite to watching one learn to talk. (I'm lucky enough to have BOTH going on in my house right now). I've learned so much about how her mind works, what motivates her, and HOW she learns.


Wednesday January 5 - Breathe. One of my favorite times of each day. We've just tucked both kids into bed, and Al and I walk down stairs together and finish getting our dinner ready. He pours our drinks, and I serve the plates, and we meet at the table and SIT DOWN, which always feels so heavenly after those crazy, chaotic afternoon hours, packed too full with snack, homework, tired little people and their steadily declining moods, dinner preparation, mealtime and bathtime. Seven forty is the evening sweet-spot at my house. God bless you, seven forty!

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

My Life, +1


My mother wrote this simple equation in the sand one afternoon this past October on our annual trip to the Isle of Palms, South Carolina.

Megan = Mom + Daughter + Sister + Wife she carved out, her hands quietly, thoughtfully etching the tale and value of my adult life there on the beach, me standing beside her, looking down at it, not a word spoken until long moments after she'd dropped her driftwood pen and looked back out at the water. Simple gesture, simple words, enormous meaning. A pivotal moment of reflection and renewal in the life of a girl gone woman in the time (it felt) it takes for a breaking wave to wash away a such a ponderous shoreline message.

(I would add to my tale and value + Friend.)

In 2011 my one wish is just to place my days' work, my mind's focus, my heart's purpose into the addends of this equation and have the sum be a better me: ever more present, more a blessing, more an example, more a source of joy, peace and light to those I love and serve and count as my own blessings.

And to be more real, more honestly Megan, more naturally giving, more freely-flowing out the talents and unique gifts my Father wrote into His original formula for Me.

Happy New Year.

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