Category Archives: Everyday Living

Easter Revisited

Easter was a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lovely family day, where on a beautiful spring afternoon, my daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters met in Charlotte for lunch and some sweet outdoor visiting time.  A couple of days later, I saw something on Facebook asking what was your most memorable Easter? so I thought about a few of mine.

For many years, my family went to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, enjoying the big family-style Easter dinner, seeing the Easter Bunny and little girls and boys in their Easter finest gathering brightly colored, barely hidden eggs, visiting the farm animals, especially those comically adorable baby goats!  When my first granddaughter was 1 or 2 years old, she participated in her first Easter egg hunt and fed the animals, giggling at their tongues licking her hand to get every last bite of corn.

One Easter I spent in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dinner was homemade and delicious, including bread made by Eastern Orthodox Church women. We didn’t have lamb as I expected we would, but I was glad.  Then we took a long afternoon drive out in Amish country, which was picturesque and quite charming. Lots of people must have been visiting friends and family because many buggies were on the road that day.  Just as we arrived back to the house, there was a thunderstorm, and we stayed in for a cozy evening with leftovers. It was also Eastern Orthodox Easter. Though the two don’t always coincide the same week, that year they did, so at midnight, very early Easter morning, after dying eggs, we watched the darkened church across the street as its members held their candlelight procession around the church singing and chanting, before coming back to enter a lighted sanctuary and proclaim Christ is risen indeed. Religions have fascinated me most of my life.

Going back further, I spent a couple of Easters playing the baritone horn for the the Moravian church at the Easter sunrise service in Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  We went to bed early, got up in the wee hours to play on the streets of neighborhoods, different bands doing this all over the city, before meeting up at Home Moravian Church for a big early breakfast and going out to the graveyard (God’s Acre) to play for the sunrise service.  Even though I don’t take the Easter story literally, I still have affection for Jesus and what his story represents.  Hearing the music of all the instruments playing those ancient tunes and the birds singing as the sun came up, with that proclamation heard round the world that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed,” gave me goose bumps and was a moving experience.  We then went on to play again in a small church cemetery.  Easter afternoon consisted of dinner, followed by a long nap, as we were all exhausted, but happy.

This brings me to my most memorable Easter ever, and the one that makes me teary.  Seven years ago, after a six-week stay in ICU, my dad passed away peacefully in a regular room (three days after taking him off the ventilator), on Easter Sunday, surrounded by his closest family.  He had been in a coma almost the whole six weeks, suffering from an infection that went from his lung to his brain.  There had been hope he would recover, but when the last shunt change didn’t help, we knew it was time to let him go.  I read him the Easter story from his Bible.  I don’t know if on some level he heard me or not.  Easter morning, we took some pretty flowers from my parents’ yard to his hospital room.  The doctor came in and listened to his lungs that morning and said something had changed.  “I think today will be the day,” he told my mom and me.  My daughters and son-in-law got there, and as if he had waited for us all to be together, which maybe he did, soon afterwards he took his last breath.  It startled us, although we had been listening intently to his breathing and would hold our own breaths when it seemed it might be his last, then he would breathe again, and so would we.  But this time there was no mistaking that for my dad there was no other breath to come….he turned blue almost instantly.  I had never seen a person die before.  We were sad, of course, and yet relieved, too, in a way.  He wasn’t going to get better and none of us wanted to see him that way.  It wasn’t the life he wanted, and we had each been preparing for it in our own ways already.  We sat in his room for awhile, quiet, crying, then after making a few phone calls and going through some red tape, we left the hospital and went to Cracker Barrel and had Easter dinner.  It is exactly what he would have wanted us to do, and I think we all felt his presence and energy there with us in some way or other.  We were able to talk and laugh and share memories.  The more intense sadness and reality hit later, as it usually does, when we were alone or when in doing normal everyday things, we remembered he wasn’t there.  After that, we took a little walk down by the river.  It was a beautiful day and a heartbreaking one.  I wouldn’t trade that time with my dad as he breathed his last breath for anything.  It was a precious moment and by far my most memorable Easter.

Even though I’m a Pantheist now for many years, I still consider myself religious.  I love Easter and what it symbolizes, what the crucifixion and resurrection can mean even to a person who is no longer traditionally religious but carries those old rituals in their memory, part of their very being.  It’s rebirth and the spring season both in the natural world, of which we’re a part, but also within ourselves.  It’s about hope, and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate those things about Easter along with all its pagan elements.  People have loved symbols and rituals pretty much as long as they’ve inhabited this planet, it would seem.  I have cherished memories of lots of Easters over many years, shared with special people, all held close to my heart.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Cornbread and Milk

Sometimes Facebook conversations turn into blog posts.  Recently, it was the anniversary of my dad’s death, and soon after that, I saw an article about Cornbread and Milk: It’s A Mountain Thing”, written by Kim Holloway Stalcup in “Appalachian Magazine.”

I shared the article and wrote the following:

This definitely reminds me of my dad. He loved his cornbread and milk on the occasions my mom made cornbread, and would even bring home leftover cornbread from dinner at a restaurant to have later as a snack in a glass of milk. Interestingly, the woman who wrote this article is from Cherokee County, NC, for a few generations, which is where my dad was born and raised. I think my dad grew up having cornbread every day and they certainly had milk every day, living on a farm. My grandmother never threw food away, so even the tiniest piece of cornbread got saved. I guess to a little boy growing up with nine siblings, and he was next to the youngest, that seemed like a wonderful snack. He might have been lucky to get it lol. Both my parents loved milk, though my mom didn’t do the cornbread thing. But they would each have a glass of frozen milk at night sometimes, chopping and chinking away at it, just plain milk, which is when I knew for sure I was in a weird family lol. I didn’t know any other people who did that, so it definitely seemed strange to me. A lot of work for little reward. For some reason, though, I always hated milk.

Interestingly, that share got more comments than anything I’ve posted on Facebook lately.  People love hearing about folksy, homegrown things like this.  People shared their own memories of cornbread and milk, white bread and milk, warm bread, brown sugar added, and as for the frozen milk, I agree with a friend who said it needed sugar, chocolate, something.  And in regard to buttermilk, which people seem to either love or hate, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of middle ground there, one friend shared her suggestion for using it to clean out your septic tank!  While I like cornbread, I never ate the cornbread and milk because I only drank milk if I absolutely had to, like at school or my grandma’s house (unless I could get to the fresh grape juice first).  I never did become an expert cornbread baker either, though I’ve made my share through the years, but not like my grandma would have made it.  I have eaten quite a variety, liking it best very hot, slathered with butter, and maybe a side of beans and chow chow (by the way, I now use Earth Balance for the buttery component).

Cherokee County, North Carolina, includes Murphy and Tomotla and my grandparents’ farm, divided among their many children after their deaths, part of it sold now and developed with new houses.  But the last time I rode over that way, the house was still there, barely, and overgrown in weeds and brush, with a family who were friends of one of my uncles still living there.  They lived with him during the last years of his life at the old home place.  Thinking of trips to Murphy when I was much younger, they had to include a stop for a chili bun (hot dog with all the fixings but without the dog even back then) at Nabers Drive-In in Bryson City, a ride through the Nantahala Gorge, sometimes accompanied by a little carsickness (did you ever see the Andy Griffith Show where his date, Lydia, had to hang her head out the window “like a dog”)?  That was me on more than one occasion.  I’m reminded of taking a walk on the property when we’d visit, swinging on the porch swing, drinking cold water out of a long-handled dipper, helping gather eggs when I was a little girl, chickens all over us when we got out of the  car (which my mom hated, but I thought was kind of cool), walking across the old swinging bridge with a cousin over the Valley River down the road apiece, the route my dad would walk to school as a little boy, an old out-of-tune piano I’d try to play, with half of the yellowed keys sticking, my uncle strumming the banjo or telling a story, and my grandma showing me how to make those delicious boiled chocolate oatmeal cookies, the ones everyone thinks is a special recipe that only their grandmothers make.  She was a quiet, sweet, but no-nonsense woman.  It’s also where my love affair with cats began when I brought home my first little black and white kitten, Bootsie.  My grandpa died when I was young, and while I do remember him, the memories are few.

We usually just visited for the day, rarely spent the night, but we did eat lunch and sometimes supper, and there was always cornbread and real butter (made in a round mold with the imprinted flower design) and, of course, always green beans and corn, too.  I remember seeing my grandma churning butter a long, long time ago.  After we ate, I’d help clean up, and every little dish with even just a spoonful of corn or three or four green beans got saved in the corner cabinet for the next meal.  My grandparents were hard workers, and with ten children and two adults to feed, they wasted nothing.  The milk came fresh from their cows, and I hated it.  I would drink it down with one gulp, holding my nose.  But I understand where my dad got his love of cornbread and milk.  Yes, it’s probably mostly a southern thing, but from what I’m hearing it’s also a mountain/country thing, not fancy, but something good to fill the bellies of a lot of hungry mouths.  I never gave it a lot of thought, but for my dad, that was probably comfort food that reminded him of long-ago times with his family, his Mama and Daddy, brothers and sisters, growing up on the farm.  It was a hard life in rural North Carolina, in the twenties, thirties, and forties, but my grandparents, like so many others similar to them, originally hard-working tobacco farmers, filled their home with faith, lots of love, good fresh and filling food, laughter, music and games, and some happy memories, and seven of those children went on to graduate from college and become teachers.  Food really is powerful beyond satisfying our physical hunger.  It’s about family and love and connections.  It’s nourishment for the soul and the body.  I was grateful for the reminder of my own sweet family memories from an article about cornbread and milk.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge

(I’m hoping to find a couple of photos to scan soon to add to this article)

One Man’s Trash

….is another man’s treasure. I’ve heard that saying all my life. I have experienced it myself, being someone who likes to walk through antique malls and flea markets. I’ve found some pretty good deals and found some rustic benches and crates and various other items to decorate my house. I like things that look old and have dings and scratches and even a little rust on them. Enamelware coffee pots, bluebirds and irises and yellow roses, tin and glass, window frames, and I like them looking used and worn. in the past, my dad would often offer to paint something for me or suggest it be painted, but I like things rustic.  My house feels warmer when it’s filled with “things” that have a story, relationships, history, and aren’t brand new and perfect.

A few years ago, I was hauling off the remains of an old desk that was in pieces, no longer usable at all, and I also took a lava lamp – well not a real one but an imitation that was pretty and colorful but a little noisy, and I just didn’t need or want it around, plus a little water fountain that had one chip up on the corner, and a swan-neck floor lamp.

I pulled up to the dump/recycling center and proceeded to haul the pieces of the desk into the appropriate bin, then I set the 2 lamps down in a different place, kind of a “swap shop” where you put things that still work and are still decent that someone might want. That day there was a young guy working there, his girlfriend,  and a couple of other men.   They were all just sitting there laughing and talking and watching me dump those pieces of broken desk, but when I set the lava lamp down and was walking back to my car, I heard the girl say, “There’s a lava lamp,” and before I could get the next piece of trash out, her boyfriend had the lava lamp in his hands and was walking towards the office with it, going to try it out, I guess. Then finally finished with the trash, I set out the water fountain. I asked them if I should leave it there for someone to pick up or just dump it in the trash since it was chipped on the corner, but the young woman came up and was asking me about it. She seemed fascinated by it and I told her it still worked. Her boyfriend asked her, “Do you want it?” and she clearly did and took it in her hands and they walked off to the office again. I heard him tell her to come check out the lava lamp, that the colors were pretty. I thought he was kind of sweet to her, like he was giving her a very special and expensive gift. She seemed as happy as if it really was.

I was smiling because this time my trash was their treasure. They seemed as pleased as they could be with the lamp and the fountain, and I’m reasonably sure the other lamp (which also worked, as I had checked it out before I took it) didn’t stay there long either. I’ve had that happen several times in the past, too, with some lawn chairs once that I didn’t even get set down on the ground. A lady took them out of my hands and put them straight into her car because they were in good shape, I just didn’t need them anymore, and also with a coffeepot and a printer.  Once, a couple of people almost got over an argument over a couple of pieces of Fiesta ware I was leaving.  I should also add that I’ve been on the other side of the swap, too.  I drove up one time just as someone set out two checkered-fabric-covered rocking chairs, and they were exactly what I was looking for, right color, style, everything.  Somehow I managed to get them both in my car.  The friend I was with looked a bit embarrassed, but I didn’t feel bad about it at all.

I have so much stuff that I don’t use (some of it is my mom’s from when she lived here with me), stashed away in closets and cabinets and drawers, and periodically I make a real effort to clean some of it out and if it’s anything I think someone else might like or want then I take it to the “swap shop” or the hospital auxiliary or donate to my parents’ church for their flea markets. I think it’s good to circulate “stuff” around and recycle it and make new uses for things. I like the idea of old things and sometimes try to imagine who used it before, what kind of people they were, or what kind of house they lived in, and now I also try to get rid of some old items before I buy new ones to bring into my house so I don’t get overtaken with too much clutter and too many “things.” After all, you just never know what will strike someone’s fancy, and I was glad that day I had made that young couple pretty happy with an old lava lamp and a broken water fountain. I hope they enjoyed it. I told a couple of people about that experience and one of them asked me if it made me happy to see their excitement about those things, and I said yes, it really did. I was smiling when I drove off that afternoon. The other one asked me if they had thanked me. I said No, they didn’t. I didn’t really expect it. After all, I wasn’t really giving them anything; I was dumping it, and they just picked it up. It kind of made me think, though, about how someone can be so excited by or satisfied with something that I thought was too broken to use or too noisy. One woman’s trash truly is another woman’s treasure.

The original version of this post was written back on June 22, 2006, and posted in a different blog I had back then.  But in light of a recent discussion about recycling, it seems just as relevant now as it did those years ago, maybe even more so, because I think more and more people are latching onto the idea of recycling and re-purposing and decluttering.  Living a more simple life can be liberating, I’ve found, and makes me feel good to be living a little lighter on the planet

~Sharon
Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

More About Eating Meat

The Universal Pantheist Society has a “Ning” site and we have a group about Ethical Eating.  There was a post with the following quote:  

“Food for us comes from our relatives, whether they have wings or fins or roots.  That is how we consider food.  Food has a culture.  It has a history.  It has a story.  It has relationships. ”  (Winona LaDuke, Honor the Earth)

Here are some of my thoughts about it.  I get that about our food having wings or fins or roots and have lived it for my whole life, albeit with some years of inner turmoil over the suffering, the violence. It just no longer serves me and my inner peace to eat food that causes suffering to a creature who can look at me, hear and respond to me, feel pain, suffocate, cry, mourn, smile, or sing.  And how do we as a society, or an individual, decide which animals are fair game for food and which are not?  Which are okay to wear and which are not?  In the last few weeks and days, I’ve made a decision to change my eating habits, not perfectly enough to suit hardcore vegans in terms of every single ingredient or item in my house, but certainly a big change in what I feel is the right direction for me and the animals and even the planet.

Years ago, my now ex-husband was a deer hunter. By the time the meat got to the table it was packaged in various forms. I cooked it and ate it and enjoyed it. Then one day he brought home the whole dead deer, and I saw that beautiful face, the eyes still open, and that was it for me and deer meat. Never again. We each have our moments. I have not eaten veal, the other side of the dairy industry, or pork for years. I know my daughter stopped eating pork when she read how intelligent pigs are, like a 3-year-old child. We each take our steps and have to live with ourselves. But I seriously do believe that eating food that’s a product of violence contributes to overall violence on the planet.

I’m just here to share my own position and any info I may have picked up along the way, not to convert people, at least not yet as, again, this has been a serious and big struggle for me for years and isn’t an easy thing, and I get that.  Like many others, I’ve gone back and forth, guiltless for awhile, then racked with guilt. But now my physical and most importantly mental/spiritual health depend on me making a change.  Each person has to decide for themselves about the food they eat and the clothes they wear, but I can provide facts and my perspective.

Regardless of what we eat, though, I think it’s good to sit down to our food with an air of gratitude for all that went into it, human and other animal efforts, earth, sunshine and rain, everything.  Here’s a special grace that I love and have shared with Pantheists before:

“Bless our hearts to hear in the breaking of bread the song of the universe.” 

(Father John Guiuliani)

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Dairy and Milk

Earlier today I read an article about the dairy industry.  You can read it here:  Free From Harm: 10 Dairy Facts.  A lot of this information I knew already, but some was new to me and was certainly the kick in the pants I needed.

Dairy is such a cruel industry and makes no sense. As the saying goes, cow’s milk is for baby cows. Humans are the only animals who continue to drink milk as adults, and from another species yet. It’s pretty crazy, but we have been convinced by a billion dollar industry that milk is the perfect food for everyone. So far from the truth unless you’re a baby drinking mother’s milk. I never drink milk, I hate it, always have. It creates a lot of mucus in the body, which leads to infections, and I already suffer with a lot of nasal allergies and ear problems. I have some unpleasant memories of having to drink milk as a kid at school and at my grandmother’s house on the farm. At her house, though, if I was lucky enough to say no to milk before it was poured, I got homemade grape juice, but if the milk was poured already, I was expected to drink it, and this was fresh milk from their cows.  I would literally hold my nose and drink the whole glassful down in one long gulp.  I do admit I’ve been guilty of eating cheese, ice cream. I love ice cream as long as I don’t think about what I’m eating, and I love pizza, but there are lots of good nondairy options here now, and I have no more excuses. Besides, I adore a good almond milk/peanut butter/banana smoothie anyway. And many of us have given up veal years ago, which I never liked so I didn’t actually eat it to start with, but because it’s the other side of the cruel dairy industry, the babies. I no longer want to contribute to a business based on forcing cows to be pregnant all the time, then taking away their babies. Mother cows cry and mourn for their babies when they are taken away like human mothers would do. Then when they’re old and worn out, the mothers become hamburger. I’ve known a lot of this for awhile and have abstained from dairy intermittently, but then slowly compartmentalizing the cruel facts in some hidden part of my brain, that cognitive dissonance thing, away from the pleasurable taste and texture, I went back to my terrible habits, oblivious to my contributions to animal cruelty. I’m not proud of it and I can’t do it any more. It’s killing me inside. Reading articles like this one and facing the facts is uncomfortable, I know, but for me things must change. I must change.  It’s good for animals and it’s good for the planet and it’s good for me.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Rainy Night

Another late night, early morning really, and I’m having trouble sleeping. I have no trouble at all falling asleep on the couch trying to watch a movie, but I get in the bed and I’m wide awake. But now the rain has started falling, a nice gentle rain like we need. Sounds so peaceful and cozy it almost makes the insomnia worth it just to be able to hear it.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Sunday Morning Thoughts

It’s Sunday morning. Years ago I would have been getting ready to go to church. I’m so glad that I learned about Pantheism 15 years ago. As a religious path it’s for anyone, young or old, rich or poor, the well traveled or homebodies. No more creeds to mindlessly repeat. I’m still lying in bed and I can hear birds and an occasional crow of a rooster down the road, the sunlight streaming in the windows this morning. Soon I’ll look out the kitchen window while I make coffee and watch the chickadees and cardinals at the feeder, see the colorful blooms on the trees and shrubs in the yard, then wander to the porch and feel the wind and sun on my face. This is my church, my Sunday mornings now, and I love that. I’m really thankful that in my small southern town, where little churches are all over the place, many of them Baptist (though I was Methodist myself), I found a new way to be religious, to connect to what I call God, that works so perfectly for me.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(also posted in Universal Pantheists Facebook Group)