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This picture of Hankins Store, taken by Delana Epperson and used with her permission, is indicative of my childhood. The store was in the curve on Hwy 14, in Oil Trough, where my grandparents lived. We drove past it once a week, as we went to visit. We frequently stopped to grab a drink on the way to or from, and watched the old men gossip on the front porch. This store has many happy memories for me, because it was there when my grandparents were young, when my daddy was young, when I was young, and then when both daughters were very young.  Photo by Delana Epperson, used with permission. Hankins Store by Delana Epperson used with permission

800px-BOYS_WITH_AIRGUN_AND_BIRD._THESE_FISHERMAN'S_SONS_LIVE_IN_BAYOU_GAUCHE,_DEEP_IN_THE_WETLANDS_OF_LOUISIANA_-_NARA_-_544194 wikicommonsThis photo is representative of my brothers, David and John. They both inflicted lots of pain on me when I was younger, and then on each other as well. My mom really needed OxiClean, which did not come out for several years. Photo from WikiCommons.

 

Front Street Newport Arkansas photo be Delana Epperson used with her permission

My mom and I spent Saturdays on Front Street in Newport, Arkansas. This was truly mommy/daughter time, and I remember these Saturdays fondly. The downtown area was really built up when I was y0unger and I can remember the many stores that we had, and being excited to go into them to find new treasures. Photo by Delana Epperson, used with permission.

 

Cropduster by Delana Epperson used with permission

My daddy was a cropduster when I was a child, and this photograph is representative of that. Each summer, he took time off to fly for his friend, and fertilize fields, or exterminate “yellow moths” that liked to eat soybeans. Daddy loved to fly, and I just remember how happy he was when he got to spend the day in a plane. It was a deep contrast to later years, when he could no longer fly, due to open heart surgery, and therefore was very sad. Photo by Delana Epperson, used with permission.

 

Newport_Bridge_(Arkansas) wikicommons.jpg

This bridge is the “blue bridge” over the White River on Hwy 14 in Newport. The road leads to Oil Trough, and also to Bradford on the “old highway”. Many was the time we crossed this bridge, either to Oil Trough to see my grandparents, or to Russell, to see my uncle. This bridge terrified me as a small child, as my dad threatened to jump off of it once. I blame this bridge for my fear of heights now. Photo from WikiCommons.

 

1280px-Boeken_Kringloop_Woerden_02 wikicommons

Through everything above, books have played an important role in my life. No matter what has happened in my life, I have had a book in my hand, grounding me and keeping me happy. Books make sense to me when the rest of the world does not. Photo from WikiCommons.

I am a daddy’s girl (cropduster photo), a small town girl (Hankins Store), a baby sister (photo of two brothers), a mama’s girl (Front Street photo), a scaredycat (bridge), and a book lover (book photo).

It’s been a while, so please forgive me for the soap box.

There is really no arguing that Josh Duggar is troubled. Yet, the so-called outrage amid some Christians across the country is, I fear, not outrage per se, but a secret glee. Mind you, I am not defending the man, but I do think that we need to address our own motives for gossiping about this, because James 1:26 says “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Do I fail at this? Yes. But that’s not the point of this writing. This is not a blog about Josh, but a blog in support of Anna Duggar.

Duggar’s wife is a victim to her husband’s infidelity, and if you want to listen to some people, she’s also victim to God, because she believes in following the Bible as it was written, without adjustments for modern day thinking. The Bible states in many places that the man is the head of the home, and wives will submit to their husbands. The way it appears, Anna is truly a Godly woman, because she has submitted to her husband and her God, by following His Word.

I have heard that “poor Anna” cannot even divorce him because of her religion. Is that what Christians are supposed to wish upon other Christians? A divorce? I am divorced and I would not wish it upon anyone. Divorce is painful and awful, for all people involved – the husband and wife, the children, and the parents of the husband and wife. Harvard sociologist, Armand Nicholi III, says, “Divorce is not a solution, but an exchange of problems” (Rainey, Family Life). I would be lying if I did not admit to feeling somewhat ostracized at times because I am divorced, but mostly, I feel guilty, because I think I failed. I have lots of negative feelings about my own divorce, and so as this story unfolds, if Anna Duggar chooses to stand by her man and turn to God, I for one, will applaud her for her beliefs.

It is confusing and difficult to be a Christian these days. Too many either take the Bible as is (like the Duggars), or pick and choose the sins they believe to be sins. (Homosexuality? A sin to many Christians, yet divorce seems to be skipped over time and time again). As I have said before, I was not raised in church, but I did go on a spiritual journey after Chris died, having read my Bible repeatedly since then. I am sure I interpret most of it incorrectly, but I do so without specific denominational biases. I am not a great Christian, which is why I am choosing to write this. If I can stand on my side of the “back-slid Baptist” line and see how wrong it is that the public at large wishes Anna Duggar to get a divorce, then it should be obvious to better Christians than I. What Christians should do is pray for Anna, Josh, and their children, as well as the rest of their extended family. The ease and speed with which our country has turned on the Duggars exemplifies how hard our hearts have become.

**Disclaimer: foul language ahead**

Modern technology is GREAT! Communication is instantaneous, no more wasting time waiting on a phone call or even an email, why not send a text?

Texting, social media, email…all these have brought dating to a whole new level. This can be both good AND bad. Let me explain.

Before, you had a date, usually someone you met from work, or a friend of a friend (uh let’s not go there, shall we?) You met, usually very awkwardly, and sometimes had to struggle to make small talk. Sometimes you “clicked,” other times, you did not.

Introducing text messaging. “Hey, I have a friend I want you to meet. Can I give him/her your number?” Sure. So, numerous texts follow, ending with a “I’m tired of texting, can we talk on the phone?” ALL IN THE COURSE OF A FEW SHORT HOURS. Texting lends you something of an anonymity that you do not have with a face to face first “meeting,” and leads into a smooth phone conversation, which can lead into a really good first date. From what I have heard (because as we know, I do not really date), texting cuts the courting time into at least HALF. You can send quick texts throughout the day, getting to know each other, again under the guise of electronic communication that seems somewhat sterile and anonymous. People in this technologically advanced society get to know each other so much faster. So…good, right?

Well, maybe not. PEOPLE GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER SO MUCH FASTER. The mystery is gone somewhat from this constant electronic exchange of information, and Heaven forbid you follow each other on Facebook. Do we really need this constant deluge of information from our closest Facebook friends and potential partners? I am somewhat reserved on Facebook and Twitter, although I do post a lot, its like I am the Seinfeld of Facebook posters: my posts are typically about NOTHING. Except I do post about food. And homework. And housework. And TV. And what my kids are doing. So…my “nothing” apparently is “something.” What about these people who are constantly posting about their ex’s, their jobs, their financial and/or health problems? Too much of a good thing, can seriously be too much of a good thing.

Then, there’s the demise of a relationship. It’s so easy now to do it in so many different ways. First, there’s the fade, aka, the “ghosting” method. This is where someone just kinda stops exerting any effort and completely breaks communication with their boyfriend/girlfriend (I hate those words, but sounds better than lover or significant other). This is shitty, people. Just f*cking tell them, “It’s not you, it’s me. Oh wait, it’s totally you.” (Fairly Oddparents, Phillip the Nickel, Cosmo broke up with him. I totally used that line once, and still regret it…NO I DON’T! I STILL LAUGH MY ASS OFF WHEN I THINK OF IT…As a matter of fact…listen to some music, I’ll be back, giggling too hard). Okay, I’m back, sorry about the technical difficulties, folks. The point is, when most of your “dating” is done electronically because of time, distance, or both, it’s easy to just sever that tie without repercussions. You walk away feeling pretty smug, without any guilt, while the person you just dumped is wondering what the hell they did, or IF YOU ARE EVEN STILL ALIVE!!!! Cowardly bastard.

Another really shitty and chickenshit way to break up with someone is via text. You know what, you might have dated for three weeks, but it rates a phone call. Five minutes. FIVE MINUTES. That’s all it takes. FIVE minutes to just tell someone, “I’m sorry, it’s just not working out.” Okay, look, that took two seconds to type. I bet you could say it faster. Please don’t use texts to breakup with someone. Seriously? WTF?! And don’t EVEN think of doing it via email, Snapchat, or Facebook message. Seriously? Let’s just forget for a minute about the pain that you could potentially be causing. It’s just f*cking RUDE. Okay? I know, who wants to have someone weeping on the other end, but take responsibility. Maybe you will get lucky, and the other person will not weep! But steel yourself to do this, at the very least on the phone, if not in person.

Before I wrap this up, let me just remind everyone of another danger of electronic communication that has evolved in recent years: CATFISHING. I can pretend to be someone I am not, just rock your world electronically, then ghost you. Beware when meeting people online, please. Even my youngest daughter understands catfishing and worries about it. Okay, wow. Mouths of babes and all that.

Let’s just step back a minute and remember the good ole days of dating, when it was face to face. You seriously waited a day (at least) to get a phone call, and did not receive a text within seconds of your date ending. It’s great, I LOVE texting (because I do hate talking on the phone), but texting is taking away our common courtesies and manners (you do NOT want to get me started on people who send text abbreviations in work emails!!). As human beings, we should all have some level of empathy for our fellow homo sapiens, and treat them like we would want to be treated. Plus, what kind of example are we setting for our children? THIS is the way they are learning to break up with people and end relationships. It’s sad. This is NOT the way to teach them responsibility for their actions – this is just teaching them we can ignore things or that we can be crappy to people and walk away relatively unscathed.

We need to be better.

(End disclaimer: ghosting can happen when you are not in a real relationship or just amongst your friends. I am guilty of this at times, it’s shitty and I am trying to be better. I sometimes get so wrapped up and involved my version of life with my kids, work, and school, that I often build walls. I shouldn’t do it, and that old crap line about knowing is half the battle is well…crap. My apologies if I have semi-ghosted you.)

We all know being taken for granted sucks. Being forgotten, left behind, ignored, or not being recognized for all the little things. It’s one of the leading causes of breakups of all kinds of relationships, people just forget to really acknowledge their partner/parent/friend and so on. Worse yet, when people talk down to the people in their lives because they are just too “familiar”. Before long, resentment builds, feelings are perpetually hurt, and the relationship falters…then fails.

But, I think it’s even more detrimental when we take OURSELVES for granted. Constantly focusing on the negative, staying in a comfort zone, never forcing ourselves to “think outside the box,” or challenge ourselves, either physically, emotionally, or academically. Any challenge is MENTAL, anytime we step outside our comfort zone and try something new, we are calling upon mental resources to make it through that challenge. We need personal challenge to grow as people.

But not only that, what about the names we call OURSELVES? When we screw up that dinner, mess up that paper, can’t finish that workout, we berate and belittle ourselves, we call ourselves stupid, lazy, worthless. It’s okay to do this occasionally, in order to push ourselves even more, but some of us cannot let it go. It begins to taint every fiber of our being. We take our decisions and failures to heart.

I think this all comes full circle though. We beat ourselves up, consider ourselves worthless (whether we admit aloud to our friends or even ourselves), and then allow people to take us for granted, for the small feeling of self-gratification we receive by shining those shoes, or cooking that special dinner, or anything else we might do for the people in our lives. We want to feel good, so we have to try to make them feel good, and they seize on that, and a vicious cycle is born.

I think in order to love your family, friends, significant others, you have to love yourself first. You have to get out of this mindset that you are worthless on your own, and need someone else to validate your worth. You have to shake things up, get out of your comfort zone, set goals YOU want to do – YOU own your “bucket list” and what’s on yours is not necessarily on anyone else’s. Challenge yourself with things YOU enjoy, or you are setting yourself up for failure.

Love yourself. Yank your own chain, if no one else is going to. Pat yourself on the back. Be happy. Quit letting people walk all over you because you might get five minutes’ worth of satisfaction out of it.

***This message was brought to you by the softer side of Sears. Oh, wait. No, this message was brought to you by someone who is constantly evolving, changing, growing, challenging, and still missing the mark on my feelings of self-worth and happiness. ~ Suz***

I know people just do not “get” me at times.  Many wonder why I am still single all these years after being divorced (it’s coming up on nine years I have been single after marriage #2 failed).  Many do not understand why I am going to graduate school, hopefully in the fall.  Part of this can be explained by what is on my mother and brother’s shared tombstone “They Marched to the Beat of a Different Drummer.” They both did – neither of them were followers or even leaders – they were content to do what they wanted, without worrying about what people thought of them.

I know I am the same way.  Mom tried to encourage me way back in high school to be more of a follower as opposed to being a “unique individual.”  I didn’t do it then, and doubt I do it now, at my age.

But I have discussed this “single thing” until I am blue in my face.  So, we are going to discuss the grad school thing now.  Yes, it is going to be difficult, shuffling schedules with my classes and my teenager’s dance practices and games.  Considering I am still going to be working full-time (good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise!), it is definitely going to be challenging.  But, I have great friends who can help when I need them, and I have a great daughter who will adapt to the couple of nights a week that I am going to be sitting in a classroom.

Why, though?  Why add the stress?  Why not just take the Bachelor’s Degree with honors and call it done?  First, I cannot do what I want with my BA.  I want to teach, preferably at an institute of higher education – and I *can* teach at a 2-year school with a Master’s Degree…while I work on getting my Ph.D. to teach at University.

Second, I have set myself a goal, and if I just give up, I honestly will not be able to look myself in the eye.  Nothing in life worth having is easy – childbirth bears this theory out.  I enjoy learning, I truly do.  I feel alive in a classroom, whether it is an online classroom or an actual classroom.

Third, my daughters.  If I just give up before I even try, how can I expect them to look me in the eye?  How can I expect them to ever finish what they start, or at the very least to pursue their dreams and goals?  Plus, my teenager will be graduating in the not so very far future, and I would like to have my higher degrees to teach at least part-time.  That will be “downtime” for me.  And since she is a teenager, then truthfully, I need something to fill my time when she is with her friends, too.  (I do enjoy hanging with my friends, but our schedules are so crazy, it’s not always possible at the last minute to get together).

So, I know some people do not get it.  I am driven – I honestly do not understand where that necessarily comes from, I just know that I want this degree, and I want to keep going.  I truly do not believe it is a negative, but some people do.  Some people think I should just skip it and “relax.” Actually, my two best friends said, “But you THRIVE on stress, you love school, and the headaches that come with it.” (Said by two different people at different times, there you go!)  I am NOT trying to prove myself to anyone except myself.  The only time I took classes to “prove myself,” was when a former work colleague told me I could not carry a full load and work full time.  I did it every semester, including summer terms until I graduated, even carrying 19 during one semester.

It’s me. I have so much more mind to improve, and I really do not care who gets their panties in a wad while I do it.  How can it possibly be wrong, trying to improve myself and thereby, improving my daughters’ lives?  I do know this, these people who are so critical should maybe look at improving their own lives before criticizing mine and my choices.  People in glass houses and all that rot!

Enough ranting for one day….I have a grad school application to look at again.

The subject of friendship has been on my mind this weekend.  My youngest daughter is approaching the teen years (in a few months!) and is reaching that age where friends fight, come and go, hurt your feelings, don’t include you, gossip about you….well, you know how it goes, either because you are a female reader or a male who has females in his life. 

My friends are important to me.  I have no great words of wisdom for my child, other than people grow apart.  It happens in all relationships.  Most friendships can predate and outlast romantic attachments, especially in her teen and young adult years.  I have some friends I have had longer than BOTH marriages combined. 

This is what I try to explain to both daughters:

Friendship begins because you have something in common.  It could be an activity in school, a class, another friend…the list is endless.  So, what happens when that ends?  Some friendships can endure this separation, some cannot.  Some friendships actually cannot handle too much togetherness.

Some friends you will talk to every day.  Some friends – sometimes the BEST friends – are the ones you talk to periodically, but when you do talk, it can seem more meaningful, because you both took the time out of your busy lives to make that connection. 

Friendship can take a hit when friends start dating others, because there’s simply not enough time for a budding romantic relationship AND a friendship.  This is hurtful, there is no denying that, because often when the relationship hits a rock, the friend wants solace from the one they have been shunning.  But to be a good friend yourself, you look past that and you offer the solace they need.  Some day it might be you.

You’re going to trust people and confide in those people, only to have that trust broken and your confidences shared.  You have to be the judge of character for those people.  Get to know someone before you reveal your life’s secrets. 

A true friend is not going to get truly mad at you if you have a bad day and snap at them.  No, a true friend is going to realize it’s not like you to be like that, and ask “What’s wrong?”  Don’t act like that all the time, or you will find yourself friendless.  And, remember when they snap, to take the time to ask what is wrong.  Good friendship is based on empathy.

You’re going to have acquaintances, friends, good friends, and best friends.  Treat them all with respect and kindness, and never play one friend against the other.  Do not gossip about your friends to mutual friends – because remember, if they are talking about your mutual friend with you (like you are), then what are they saying about you behind your back.  If a friend did something bad or underhanded to you, talk it over with someone other than a mutual friend.  It could be a case of your friend having a bad day and you don’t want to start rumors or malign their reputation.  You can always talk to mom.

I wish I could tell my girls that friendship gets easier as they get older.  It does not.  I believe it gets harder.  As we grow up, we begin differing from our friends, in small ways.  We might marry someone they do not like.  New friends are made at jobs and through our children.  Things change.  That is one of the few guarantees in life.  I still trust the wrong people, lose friends, make new friends, and try to stay in touch. 

Just be a good person. Your friends might not always be “good” but you are going to have bad days too.  It’s part of human nature.  We all screw it up sometimes.  Just don’t hold a grudge against those who do screw it up. 

I received my first Nature Box today.  This is what I thought of the entire experience.

I ordered my box two weeks ago, on a Sunday.  My account was charged the next day.  I received my box, today, February 11.  Two weeks and two days later.  The reason it takes so long is because they use the most economical method of shipping available, and they ship from the West Coast, through FedEx to the post office.  Well, I don’t know about you, but in this day and age, I feel like paying for something I do not get until two weeks later is crazy.  So, that’s annoying.

Cue the music, I’m opening the box!

I originally ordered: Sunshine Chips, Lemon Pucker Pistachios, French Vanilla Almond Granola, Lemon Tea Biscuits, and Salted Caramel Pretzel Pops.

First, the Sunshine Chips, which are supposed to be a healthy alternative to an ordinary potato chip.  They are squash, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes and taro (what the hell is taro?  Did they mean Karo??)  If anyone knows me, they know I’m a borderline health food fanatic, and so yeah, I snapped these up.  They have great reviews and I thought if it could help me curb my potato ship frenzy, that would be great.  Let me say:  NOTHING IN THIS BAG WOULD EVER, *EVER*, EVERRRRRRRR MAKE ME GIVE UP THE LUSCIOUS GOODNESS OF POTATO CHIPS.  I felt almost like I was eating a spoonful of lard.  I think that might have been the taro (whatever the hell that is).  When I’m feeling braver later, I will attempt a green bean chip.  Maybe.  Or I could find a dog and see if he would eat a green bean chip out of this bag.  <Ewwwww>  If that’s what sunshine tastes like, I’ll continue eating snow.

The Lemon Pucker Pistachios.  Okay, this is brilliant.  I LOVE lemon.  I LOVE nuts (I really just said that).  The two together is a stroke of genius.  Nuts are high in protein, which I fear I lack in my diet.  Anything to help me incorporate more of that, is a good thing.  These were delicious!  Delicious, I say!  They somewhat made up for the yuckiness that was a sunshine chip.

The French Vanilla Almond Granola is some of the best granola I have ever eaten.  It was so fresh, not chewy at all, which frequently happens when you are buying granola.  I can’t wait to put a handful in some Greek yogurt and wait for the magic.  If it makes it that long.

The Lemon Tea Biscuits were so very delicious! I will literally have to pack a serving size and have my kid hide the big bag, or I would eat them all at one swoop.  They are lemony and buttery, and remind me very much of Walker’s Shortbread with a smidge of lemon in it.  Just the RIGHT smidge of lemon, mind you.  Not overpowering, but enough to know it’s there.  The problem is, I think all Nature Box subscribers adore this snack, and so it’s out of stock right now.

The Salted Caramel Pretzel Pops.  Hmm, when I think of salted caramel, I think of it as being lightly salted.  But, I do need to add, I am not a huge salt eater, at all.  I do only *lightly* salt anything as I am cooking it, preferring to add more after it’s done.  You can add, you can’t take away.  Back to the caramel pops.  They were so salty, I honestly thought I had just poured salt into my hand and eaten it straight out of the box. I could barely taste any caramel at all, and the pretzel bit was lost on me as well.

The bags varied in size from 4 to 6 ounces.  They were smaller than a regular bag of Bear Naked granola.  The Lemon Tea Biscuits, Lemon Pucker Pistachios, and Sunshine Chips were all in bags measuring 4 ounces.  The Salted Caramel Pretzel Pops measured 5 ounces, with the French Vanilla Almond Granola weighing in at 5.9 ounces.  Honestly, at $19.95 a month, these bags seem somewhat small.  But, I really think you’re paying for the service, not so much the size.  I have to consider taxes and then the time it would take for me to find these snacks in a store (some of which are produced only by NatureBox), plus gas getting to said store, plus all the other stuff I would buy while I was in the store.  This equals out to about $4/bag, so once you figure in the taxes and stuff you would pay if you went to WalMart, not to mention the quality of these snacks, then I think these are worth the money.

I would also like to say that Nature Box has the best customer service, period.  Don’t like a snack?  Email them and tell them, and they will give you a credit.  (At least right now, I’m sure they are trying to build their customer base).  They are very friendly and helpful, and that, more than anything will keep me subscribing for now.  (And the Lemon Tea Biscuits).