Connie A Thompson

Author Archives: Connie

Happy Mother’s Day!

Family6Last night as we had dinner, I watched as mothers and daughters paraded in two by two. All I could think was I wish I could have dinner with my mother. We lost her eight years ago. The funny thing about grief is losing someone is like having an injury that seems to heal, you begin to believe there will be a scar, and then the wound reopens.

It was late April and I wanted to get my brother a birthday card. I walked into the card store and Mother’s Day assaulted me. Cards, gifts, and displays about Mother’s Day were everywhere. I walked out and I’ve always avoided the card store and card aisles from April until after Mother’s Day. I usually get my brother’s card in March.

Yesterday I went to help my daughter. She has three children and the youngest is only three weeks old. Sleep comes in only brief stretches of time and it isn’t always possible to sleep when the baby sleeps especially with a two-year-old and a seven-year-old. I brought the makings for breakfast and we had blueberry pancakes, eggs, and bacon. “It’s been a long time since you made me breakfast, Mama,” my daughter said as she ate her pancakes (sans blueberries since she isn’t a fan).

After breakfast, Daniel and I went to the store in search of a Mother’s Day gift for his Mom. Small displays of cards stood in the aisles. I wouldn’t be able to work up to it, Mother’s Day was everywhere. In that moment, I didn’t think of my mother, I thought of myself. I remembered those first few months of motherhood – the lack of sleep, the overwhelming fatigue, the insecurity and anxiety, and the worry.

How was it possible that I was now responsible for a tiny human being? I did the only thing I could think of, I began to imitate my mother. Somewhere along the way, I became a Mom.

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I helped my grandson select a card. Of course he chose one with Elmo. He held it proudly. He held it close, and then he licked it. “For Mommy,” he said giving it to me.

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I watch my daughter struggle, and I remind her sleep will come. The baby will grow. He will sleep through the night. Of course now she knows the great secret, you need sleep because the child becomes mobile. You spend the next several years chasing after, scolding, and attempting to keep him unscathed. At least this time she’ll have a little help as the youngest grows. Siblings are your greatest allies, friends, and enemies.

Last night, one of my brothers posted about missing our Mom. When I think of her, I think of her smile. I think of her laugh. And while I am sad that she is no longer with us, I am thankful that I was blessed to call her Mom.

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Being a Mom is more than giving birth. I’ve acquired two daughters over the years. One through marriage and the other through circumstance. There is a great secret that all mothers know, your love for one doesn’t lessen with the addition of another. Love grows and expands. There is always room for more in your heart.

hp photosmart 720Today we’ll have Sunday dinner, continuing the tradition begun by generations of my predecessors. My sweet husband is will be cooking hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. I’ll serve Grandmother’s applesauce cake for dessert.

Last week we lost a great woman, my mother’s sister. My aunt always had smile on her face. She made sure to send cards for your birthday. There is so much I could say, but I’ll save that for another day.

If your mother is here, cherish those moments and tell her what she means to you. If she’s passed, remember her. Today, I’ll be cherishing memories while making new ones.

 

Review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

9781616203214_p0_v2_s260x420Sometimes you find a book that remains with you long after you’ve read the last page. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is one of those books. You’ll want to tell your friends about it. I think you’ll find it is one of those books that beckons to be read more than once.

I have to admit when I first saw the cover and title, I wasn’t intrigued. And yet, once I read that first page, I tumbled into the world of A.J. Fikry and the characters that frequent the bookstore of Alice Island.

A.J. is a grieving widower. Sales in his bookstore are suffering from the lack of his late wife’s enigmatic personality and the rising popularity of e-readers. A.J. has one treasure possession, one that will save him, offer him an alternative life, free him of the bookstore. He owns a rare and precious original copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry. One night he feels sorry for himself, drinks too much, and takes his treasured copy from its safe. The next morning, it is gone.

Changes are coming for A.J. He finds a toddler left alone in his store. She is brilliant. He can’t bear to turn her over to social services. Can a self-absorbed widower adopt? He begins to connect with the people in the town. He reads a memoir suggested by a literary rep, and is surprised to find himself absorbed in the story. They begin to talk. It doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes. A.J. He invites the author to speak at his bookstore. He hasn’t had an author visit since his wife died.

Each chapter opens with A.J.’s thoughts on a book. How better to understand someone than by knowing what they read.

The cover and title may not grab you, but the story will. I encourage you to pick up a copy today. Join us over at www.shereads.org where we will be blogging about the book. There will also be giveaways.

A Simple Sunday Dinner

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Loves Chocolate

I always loved it when my Grandmother made brownies for dessert. You could smell them the minute you walked through the door since she always waited until Sunday morning to bake them. In Sunday school, I could still recall their welcoming beckon and I hoped there would be leftovers since we often came back to her house on Mondays for those.

I now realize that while they were a treat for us, they were an easy dessert for her to make. She favored using just regular boxed brownies. Add a little water, oil, eggs and then stir until mixed. Thirty minutes or so later they are ready. Dessert is done.

Cooking Sunday dinner actually begins the day before as I walk through the grocery store gathering all the ingredients. If the vegetable stand is open, I go there first. I’m waiting anxiously for that first batch of homegrown tomatoes, okra, and corn.

Some prep work is done on Saturday. On Sunday morning, the cooking begins. Potatoes have to be peeled. Macaroni noodles have to be cooked. The meat has to be prepared. It has taken me a while to understand the timing. The first few weeks I did it all myself, things weren’t all ready when they should have been. I’m sorry to say I never really paid much attention to the timing. My Mom picked up where Grandmother left off. She could be like a drill sergeant dictating what needed to be done. And when everyone arrived, the dishes began to appear on the make-shift sideboard, which was a specially cut wooden board my Uncle Buck fashioned that went over the sink and counter allowing all the dishes to be set out buffet style. I’m lucky in that I have a little more counter space than she did.

Today I’m lucky. My sweet husband, Chuck is doing most of the cooking — burgers and hotdogs on the grill. I’m in charge of the baked beans, corn on the cob, hash brown casserole (pregnant daughter’s request), and making sure tomatoes are sliced, onions are chopped, and all the condiments are ready.

Sometimes I wonder what Grandmother would have thought about our variations on Sunday dinner, but I know ultimately that it was the opportunity to gather and spending time with children and grandchildren. And when my grandson comes running through the door telling me he is ready to “Eat, eat,” I am so thankful for the legacy these wonderful women bestowed upon me.

Snappin Beans and Washin Dishes

Holly and Connie

Holly and Connie

It was Saturday evening and my cousin, Holly and I were visiting our Grandmother. I think I must have been around five-years-old. It was rare to have time away from my parents and siblings.

We sat on Grandmother’s porch snapping beans. You would hold a green bean, snap both ends off discarding them and if the green bean happened to be exceptionally long, you would break it into smaller pieces.

Grandmother told us stories about her childhood. She had a little sister, Sarah Jessie, who died from an illness at two-years-old. I remember how Grandmother’s eyes glistened as she told stories about Sarah Jessie.

We helped Grandmother frost the cake for the following day’s Sunday dinner. I think we ate more chocolate frosting than we put on the cake.

Grandmother taught us to wash dishes. (For her, wash was pronounced warsh.) We were delighted to put our hands in the soapy water and then rinse the clean dishes. We loved washing dishes and she laughed telling us that it wouldn’t always be so.

For Sunday dinner, we’ll be having hamburgers with mushroom gravy, macaroni and cheese, green beans, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, rolls, and strawberry cake.

Sunday Dinner: Peep Cake

Peep_Sunflower_CakeMy mother loved all holidays, dessert, and sunflowers and when I saw this cake, I knew I had to make it. Mom adored those yellow marshmallow Peeps. I know you know the kind I’m talking about. The woman had four children and I don’t think a one of us cared for them, but every year without fail, we would find them in our Easter baskets.

I came across this last year. Don’t you just love Pinterest? I know my daughters and I do. This is so easy and great dessert you can serve as long as you can find the Peeps. So before they all go missing from the shelves to sit in Easter baskets, go out and get you a few.

You’ll need: A box cake (any flavor, but my family loves chocolate, chocolate frosting, chocolate chips, and around 18 to 20 Peeps – they come in packages of 5).

Bake the cake as directed.

Frost it (you can used a serrated knife to give you a straight workspace, but I usually flip it over an frost the bottoms).

Add Peeps (their heads should be facing inwards and you can leave them together).

Place chocolate chips in the center. I’ve seen people take their time and meticulously place each one and others just toss them in. Your choice.

With the sunflower Peep cake, I’ll be serving Barbecue chicken, macaroni and cheese, green beans, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, and I might just make my brother some fried okra (frozen since it’s not in season yet).

On Cooking My First Sunday Dinner

One of the first Sunday Dinners at my home. Grandmother with two of her great-grandchildren.

One of the first Sunday Dinners at my home. Grandmother with two of her great-grandchildren.

It wasn’t much different for me than it had been most of my life. I got home from church in time to make the cornbread and assist my Mom in preparing dinner. Grandmother moved from her home to live with my mother and stepfather. She needed daily assistance and living alone was no longer an option. Mom claimed her house was too far away for anyone to come to and informed me we would now meet at my house.

My Saturdays were filled with cleaning and a trip to the grocery store. I warned my teens to clean their rooms. They did as they usually did and shut the door. My Mom and Grandmother got onto them.

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Decorative plates that first hung in Grandmother’s kitchen.

photo 1-3 Since I would now be hosting Sunday dinner, I had many of Grandmother’s things: pots, pans, casserole dishes, bowls, etc. I’m sorry to say that most of them didn’t survive a house full of teenagers. There are three things that survived, two plates and a biscuit cutter.

Grandmother's biscuit cutter

Grandmother’s biscuit cutter

There we all were on that first Sunday, a different place, but it became the new home of Sunday dinner. It isn’t the location; it is the people.

At my Grandmother’s funeral, I thought that’s a tradition I can let go of for awhile. I considered convincing my family to meet a restaurant. In the midst of my grandmother’s funeral, the preacher sought me out. He spoke of Sunday dinner and what it meant to my grandmother. He challenged me to continue her tradition.

Seeing Life Through the Eyes of a Two-Year-Old

Today, I’m not cooking Sunday dinner. Most everyone had plans, and my father encouraged me to take a break from cooking. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do today, but I plan to enjoy myself. I’m sure at some point, I’ll see that special two-year-old, who brings so much delight to my life. I thought about how he views the world.

Riding A Stuffed Animal

Riding A Stuffed Animal

There are so many things that make my grandson laugh. At two, he knows I’m there, but he still delights when I cover my face and then call out, “Where’s Grandma?”

Chasing him through the house saying, “I’m gonna get you.”

Tickling. Obvious, I know. He loves it. He’s two.

Pulling him across the floor by his ankles.

Stickers.

Playing.

photo 4-3At two, he has the ability to live in the moment. As adults, we forget to do this. There are so many demands, imposed and/or self-imposed.

Sometimes we should stop and look at the world like a two-year-old. Enjoy the moment. Quit obsessing over what we need to do. Put away our smart phones. Turn off the television. Experience the world. And enjoy the company of friends and family.

 

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

LOST-LAKEKate Pheris finally woke up. A year after the loss of her husband, she awakens from merely going through the daily motions of life.

In that year, her highly successful realtor mother-in-law, Cricket has been taking care of things: selling the family home, caring for Kate’s precocious daughter, Devin, and preparing to move Kate and Devin into her home. She has a film crew waiting to record their entrance to their new home. A recreation of a successful past media campaign, which transformed her real estate company by featuring a series of commercials chronicling their “moving on” after the death of her husband. Kate’s late husband, Matt hated those commercials.

Kate and Devin take off to Lost Lake, Georgia, an enchanted vacation spot, where 12-year-old Kate spent the best summer of her life. She reconnects with her Aunt Eby, a caring vibrant woman shunned by Kate’s mother due to a family squabble.

Lost Lake has many wonderful characters. Lisette is an aging French woman still haunted by her past. Selma is an aging red-haired siren looking for a man, who will be her last husband. Bulahdeen has wit and practicality. And then there is the local handyman and pizzeria owner, Wes, who shared that magical summer with Kate.

Lost Lake is no longer the profitable vacation spot it once was. Eby plans to sell the resort. She longs to return to Paris, where she spent her honeymoon with her late husband.

There is also an alligator seen only by Devin.

All the characters of Lost Lake are in a state of flux. Can Lost Lake’s enchantment change their lives?

Sarah Addison Allen delightfully presents a wonderful story with notes of magical realism in a beautiful setting  with characters struggling through the difficulties of life. They learn the best way through difficult times is with the help of friends.

As a graphic artist, I always pay attention to book cover designs. I feel this is a cover, which will appeal to women and encourage them to take a look. The multi-colored lanterns and landscaped path make me want to take the road to Lost Lake.

This is Allen’s first novel after battling breast cancer and being declared in remission. Lost Lake is full of loss, hope, and finding a new direction in life.

If you follow Sarah Addison Allen on Facebook, she has a fun link, where you can find out which Lost Lake character you are.

Lost Lake is the March selection at She Reads. Join us for giveaways, blog posts, reviews, and recipes this month.

Do you cook out? Grill? Barbecue?

Here in the South, or maybe it is just my family, but we call it cooking out. It usually involves a nice day, and today we have blissful sunny temperatures in the low 70s. It also involves a grill, ours is charcoal, and freshly patted out hamburger patties and hot dogs. Sometimes we do chicken or steak, but when feeding the clan, it’s usually burgers and hot dogs. For my nephew, my husband is sweet and grills is hotdogs on a layer of tin foil to keep them from getting grill lines and burning. I know. Picky kids, but the family is full of them (some adults too). I can’t complain too much because I was one of them. I empathize and it’s my house, so I’ll accommodate their likes and dislikes when I can.

photo-12My sweet hubby prepared the grill and cooked the hamburgers and hot dogs to perfection.

We had corn on the cob, baked beans, and potato chips. For dessert, I served chocolate chip cookies and Dad’s favorite white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

We never cooked out at my grandmother’s for Sunday dinner. And I never remember my grandfather even working the grill. This included when he had his own restaurant, now called Ike’s Korner Grill. My cousin, Neil and his wife, Angela run it now. They’re still serving hand patted burgers and chili made from Grandmother’s secret recipe. It was so secret that when my uncle asked Grandmother to write it down for him, she couldn’t. She just knew how to make it. My uncles spent a couple of days in the kitchen with her, measuring out spices and watching the master cook until they had the recipe just right.

We had a great time today. I’m looking forward to this summer, when cooking out will include fresh locally grown tomatoes, corn, and watermelon.

Thanks for stopping by. Check back tomorrow for my review on the latest Sarah Addison Allen novel, Lost Lake.

Celebrating 25 Years of Amanda

Our first family photo

Our first family photo

This past Friday my daughter, my baby turned 25. How can that be? It just seems like she was in my arms, learning to walk, singing to Disney movies. When I woke after giving birth (they used to put you under for a c-section). I waited to hear if it was a boy or a girl. I had only had one ultrasound and it was too early to tell the sex of the baby. I hoped for a girl for I knew this would be my last pregnancy. I cried when they told me it was in fact a girl.

Having a daughter was never what I thought it would be. I imagined frilly dresses and doing her hair. Of course my daughter was and still is her own unique person. She rarely follows the crowd. She does things her own way, and she always has.

At 7, I took her to get her haircut. I thought I would let her have some input. I asked her how she wanted her hair done. “Blonde,” was her answer.

As a little girl, she loved playing with Barbies. Unfortunately, she didn’t care for them to be clothed. She had a vast Barbie nudist colony.

When she turned 13, I quickly became the dumbest person she knew. This phase would last quite a while. Shopping with her was awful. We never agreed on clothes. Not long ago as I shopped, I watched another mother and daughter going through a similar awful shopping experience. The teen kept rolling her eyes. The poor mother. I wanted to tell her that one day it will get better. That little girl that thought you had all the answers will one day return, but it will be a while.

My daughter dropped by yesterday after having pregnancy photos made. She’s scheduled to have a c-section in April. She had her hair and makeup done. She was so happy. I was shocked. It was almost like looking at my former self. She laughed and said, “Yeah I know, everyone says I look just like you.”

Today we’ll celebrate her 25th birthday. We’re having her favorites: baked ham and macaroni and cheese. I’ll also be serving green beans, pinto beans, mashed potatoes, and rolls. And of course we’ll be having birthday cake. Happy Birthday Sweetie!