Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Aunt Shirley and the Dees Women

Last weekend, my mom and I joined two of my aunts (Peggy and Patt) and a cousin (Susie) to spend a day cleaning my Aunt Shirley's house. As a child, I never imagined my feisty, sharp-tongued, hardworking aunt would ever need my help.

Here she is about three years ago along with my Uncle Bully.  (Yep, that's his name, and well-deserved!)

Now she suffers from a form of dementia. She has a lost look in her eyes. When my Mom told her I was along for the day, she asked me who I belonged to, though I spent many weeks at her home through the years. (The "who do you belong to" question is a common one among us cousins, but I've never been asked that by an aunt or uncle.)

But that's recent history.

Way, way, back, in rural south Georgia, there was a young woman who was one child of ten. She grew up in various places, mostly in and near Worth County. Her father was a sharecropper, and later worked on dairy farms.

There were lots of kids at home and not much - if any - money. But they always had clothes to wear and food to eat. My mom says she never felt deprived since they were like most everyone else around them. They were taught (mostly by example...and switches they selected themselves) fear God, work hard, and take care of family.

Aunt Shirley is the one on the back row, second from the left. Aunt Peggy is in the front on the left. My mom is in the front, far right. If you know my family, you'll see how much my niece looks like my mom here. (I love that about family: the resemblances pop up everywhere!)

I love this picture. I love that my older aunts (married, with kids of their own by then) are dressed as if for church, and my uncles look a little more casual, including the baby, Uncle Robert. All of them are fun, friendly people, which does NOT show up here. I guess having your picture taken was serious business in 1953!

Later, apparently bouffant hairdos were all the rage.

My Grandma Dees is seated, and from left to right are Mom, Aunt Shirley, Aunt Margaret, and Aunt Peggy.  I'm going to guess this is the late 60's since my Mom looked like this when I was born. I don't actually remember it, of course....I've seen pictures. ;-)

These women have had a lot of influence on my life and who I am today. A LOT!  Among a million other things....Grandma taught me to show hospitality and love through food; Mom taught me to value family; Aunt Shirley taught me to work hard; Aunt Margaret taught me to sacrifice for family; Aunt Peggy taught me the value of having someone who will always think you're perfect just the way you are.

That was the 50s and 60s. Here they are in the late 90s!

In the background is Aunt Shirley's house. I've always loved it.  It's sad to see it in disrepair now. I used to imagine how I would live in it someday.

That, of course, was before I realized that I'm not the fixer-upper type. Well, and that pesky little detail of actual ownership....

OK, one more picture. Here are Aunt Patt (a voluntary Dees by virtue of marrying my Uncle Wallace), Aunt Shirley, and my cousin Susie. This is at a baby shower for my sister. Since Grayson is almost 12 now, you can do the math.

It was Susie's idea for us to get together at Aunt Shirley's last weekend. She's a super hardworking wife and mom who has, by necessity, learned patience through life's challenges. And the woman is a cleaning machine! 

Many summers, my sister and I spent a week at Aunt Shirley's house. We helped pick vegetables from the huge garden (while whining), clean the house (while whining), hang laundry out on the line (while whining), shell peas (at least we got to sit down), and shuck corn (you guessed it - while whining). OK, before you judge, let me tell you there was no air conditioning in the house, and when you shuck fresh corn outside, the silks stick all over your sweaty self and there are WORMS!

A couple of those years, Susie came too. (I think she now goes by Susan, but she's still Susie to me!) Those were the special years, when we had someone else to help come up with new things to do. And as it turns out, when three little girls whine about shucking an entire truck bed full of corn, something magical happens and your uncle tells you to JUST GO AWAY! And, because you are little girls, you DO! And without one bit of guilt.

Anyway, although last Saturday at Aunt Shirley's was hard, it was also wonderful. I spent a whole day with some of my extended family. We worked together, laughed together, were sad together.  We shared a few meaningful glances and found that it's still hard to get much past Aunt Shirley. We remembered our times together, and worried about the future together. And that's the key; we were together

These days, when we are so busy just getting from one day to the next, we don't always take time to just be together. Cleaning and organizing is physical work, but we are quite capable of talking and catching up at the same time. And somehow, even if we aren't talking about deep, personal issues, we're still bonding. My Aunt Shirley didn't always know who I was throughout the day. But she knew that I was family. And that she is loved. 

Maybe that's the secret of Aunt Shirley and the Dees women. They aren't touchy-feely. They might not sit around and share their deepest thoughts, fears, and triumphs. They probably won't ask you, "How do you feel about that?" when you mention your latest struggle. But they will pray for you. They will come alongside you and will often offer practical help. Just know, if they offer advice, it's likely to be of the "buck up" variety. 

I'm glad I went to Aunt Shirley's last weekend. I hope I remember its lessons.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Choose Your Companions

"Choose your companions before you choose your road."   
Mark Burnett

I heard this quote last week and it immediately resonated with me.

Now, as a believer I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to choose my road first. You know, the straight and narrow. But well, I guess I did choose Jesus first, so maybe it works after all.

Anyway, I have some great traveling companions in this life: husband, family, friends, coworkers. They make all the difference.

First came the family. I had two hardworking, loving Christian parents who only wanted the best for us. I have a sister I love and with whom I played house, school, Barbies, Lite Brites, and Monopoly. She's added a great husband and two amazing kids to the family. My mom has even recently added to our number by marrying into the Knowles clan, which is full of fun, friendly people. Not to mention the nearly innumerable aunts, uncles and cousins we already had!

Of course, I didn't choose them; I'm just blessed to have them.

I did choose my husband. Or maybe he chose me. Whichever it was, it's worked out pretty well! He loves and supports me, works hard, and is lots of fun. He knows the worst and loves me anyway. I am a better person today than I would be without him.

I've had some great friends all along the way, from childhood to now. They have encouraged me to good behavior and embarrassed me out of bad. They have told me the truth, and laughed and cried with me. A big part of who I am today has been influenced by my friends.

I even get to work with great people, many of whom are also my friends. How often does that happen?

Back to the quote. It means that who you're with is even more important than where you're going. Again, I'm not completely sure it holds up if you take it literally, but I love the sentiment. The people with whom we choose to spend our time influence us greatly. They can encourage or discourage, support or undermine, energize or drain, build up or tear down, exhort or criticize, love or hate. It's important that we choose our companions wisely.

But, you know? It's also important that we are good companions. Could those around me say that I make them a better person just by knowing me? Do I bring out the best in them? Do I "rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep?" (Rom. 12:15) Do I consider others more important than myself? (Phil. 2:3) Do I act with kindness and forgiveness? (Eph. 4:32) If I'm honest, I have to say not often enough.

How about you?

Monday, August 5, 2013

DIY Terra Cotta Servers

I like crafts. Unfortunately, mine can often be mistaken for 3rd grade vacation Bible school projects. So, it was really brave (or delusional) of me to plan to use homemade projects as serving pieces at a shower we gave recently.

I was watching "The Chew" and saw them making serving pieces of terra cotta pots. Here's the link to the segment:

I made a few minor changes in mine. Theirs had the pots turned right-side-up, but I thought they would be more stable with the widest part of the pot down. Also, I tried to make the pots as small as possible compared to the saucers so I would maximize serving space, but still maintain stability.

I went to Home Depot and Pike Nursery and bought saucers and pots. No one seemed to mind as I used a space on the shelf to try out pieces for my servers. I mixed and matched pots and saucers until I had what I wanted. I got materials for one three-tier server with each tier smaller than the one below, one two-tier server with saucers of the same size, and one plain saucer to use as a tray.

I washed all of the saucers and pots with soapy water and let them dry for a day.

Next, I realized I wanted to seal the terra cotta so it wouldn't stain with moisture, and also to produce a consistent color.

I got a spray can of terra cotta sealer at Michael's. An employee said the sealer was food safe, but the can didn't mention it at all. I decided I would line the servers with cloth napkins, parchment, or saran wrap just in case.

When it came time to seal the pieces, I started to spread paper on the garage floor. Then I thought, "Why should I be uncomfortable in my crafting?" I set one cardboard box on top of another in my basement utility room. The room is not quite climate controlled, but it's close enough and there was no breeze to blow the spray around!

I used two coats of the sealer.

Once the sealer was no longer tacky (within one hour), I assembled the servers.

I plugged in my new mini glue gun so it could begin heating up.

A glue gun is pretty important in the crafting world!

This one worked fine but leaked a little. Yeah for paper towels!

My impatience sometimes works against me, as it did in this instance. I didn't take the time to mark the center of the saucers so I could center the pots inside them. I decided to just eyeball it.

(Hmmm, could this have something to do with the often childlike quality of my crafts?)

I started with the two-tier server. I set out the bottom saucer, then added hot glue to the rim of the pot that would sit on top.

Working quickly, I set the pot  in the center of the saucer and pressed. The glue dries really fast, so hurry!

Then I added glue to the other end of the pot.
I quickly placed the other saucer on top to form the top tier and pressed firmly.

This one turned out fairly even and centered. 

Next, I used the same method for the three-tier server. I had three different sizes of saucers and two sizes of pots. This one did NOT turn out quite so centered, so we had to place it strategically on the table so as not to call attention to its wonkiness.  

Mark the center of your saucers (on the top and bottom as appropriate) if you do this! I think the drainage holes in the pots would make it fairly simple to line up by eye.

Anyway, here's the three-tier one on its good side!

Obviously nothing more than glaze was needed for the serving tray.

A few things I learned and am passing along to you:

1)     As already stated, mark the center point on your saucers. To be really accurate, you could run a small dowel (or chopstick) through the drainage hole of the pot to help line up the hole with the center mark.

2)      After the shower, I was loading the larger server into the car and the top two tiers fell off of the base. Nothing was harmed, but I realized that for longevity, I should have used an adhesive made especially for ceramics.

3)     If possible, pass up pots that have stickers on them. One of my pots had a sticker-shaped mark left on it even after it was washed and sealed. I used it anyway. (Once again, childlike quality.....)

Anyway, overall I was very happy with how they turned out and how easy they were to do. I highly recommend this project.

Here's a picture of the table at the shower.

Go forth and craft!