Category: Family – JoAnn

Biscuits and Gravy


Sometimes you just need comfort food! Food like your mama or grandma made for you as a kid. Food from a favorite restaurant, or junk food from a gas station. Anyone who likes food has a favorite or two. On a stressful day, or even a cold day, certain foods bring comfort. Just like ice cream hits a special spot on a Summer day, hot soup warms you to your toes on a Winter day.

There is no better comfort food in the world than one that brings back fond memories of special days. Why do you think the traditional Thanksgiving dinner is such a favorite? I have yet to find anyone who doesn’t want the same dinner with all the fixings every year.  It brings them pure joy.  

My absolute favorite comfort food is one my mama made us almost every weekend.  Usually on Sunday morning.  It’s gravy and biscuits.  Any time I miss my mama, I get a craving for her biscuits and gravy.  Her creamy gravy, made from a bacon dripping roux, and rich milk, was smooth as silk.  She always added extra black pepper for me.  That hot gravy poured over her light as a feather biscuit, was a meal to die for!  It’s no wonder it was a family favorite.  And no wonder it gives me so much comfort when I am missing those precious days.

I was talking to my daughter Christine this week and somehow the conversation landed on cooking.  She was explaining to me that in Maine, she cannot find the flour or cornmeal that she was used to using here in Tennessee.  Christine is a very good biscuit and cornbread maker, and those are two of her favorite things to bake.  Our conversation then led to gravy and biscuits.  It turns out that is also her favorite meal.  A girl after my own heart!

Gravy and biscuits are certainly not on my weekly menu as it was growing up, but I do indulge now and then.  A couple of weeks ago, with the mornings turning cold, I had a hankering for my mama’s breakfast.  I found a new bacon brand that is, in my opinion, the best I’ve ever tasted.  I saved the drippings and made plans to make my mama’s gravy.  I decided to just use store bought biscuits, as I could never duplicate my mama’s anyway.  But I made the gravy just like she always did.  It was wonderful!  As I ate that meal, even the aroma of the rich, peppery gravy, brought me back to sitting around the table with my parents and siblings.  It not only warmed me up on a chilly morning, but it also filled my tummy and heart with the love I felt way back then.  Now that is comfort food at its best!

Hello Doc

A while back I had an appointment for a regular checkup with my doctor.  Every 3 months I go in for blood work, refills on my medications, and a general check on everything going on with my body and mind.  Having Lupus, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid, and Type 2 Diabetes, it’s important for me to stay on top of things.  All of my adult life has been filled with regular and not so regular medical appointments.  As you can guess, that doesn’t mean I like it!

Being sick is nothing new to me.  I was a sickly child in my younger years.  Back in the 1960s, little was known about the autoimmune diseases I would later be diagnosed with in my twenties.  I absolutely hated going to the doctor as a child.  Most children from my era will remember that almost every doctor’s appointment would end with a shot!  I would either get one for infection or an inoculation.  I felt like a human pincushion as a kid.  And so, began my life- long dread for doctor appointments, and my sometimes- overwhelming anxiety to keep them.

When I was around 19, I remember a friend of mine encouraging me to visit a doctor for a chronic sore throat.  She made a statement that stuck with me. She said, “Wait till you have a baby, all your inhibitions about going to the doctor will end.” She was right. After carrying a child for 9 months and being poked, and looked at by a room full of strangers, you tend to let your guard down.  

However, something changed after the births of my first two daughters.  I felt overwhelming fatigue, joint and muscle pain, low- grade fevers, hair loss, digestive issues, mental problems, and constant infections. These symptoms were chronic and on some days debilitating. It was very difficult to care for my young children and keep up with our home. I felt like I had the flu, and it would not go away. I was miserable. 

Thus, began the long process of seeing doctors for an answer. I just needed to know what was wrong with me so I could deal with it! The family doctor I was seeing at the time told me it had to be stress. He said I was too young to be so physically ill that my being home 24/7 with 2 babies was too much. I knew he was wrong. So off I went to find another opinion. And another, and another. After getting a referral from a friend, I made an appointment with a female physician. I was told she was easy to talk to, and God knew I desperately needed someone to listen.

I went to my first appointment with Dr. Jennifer with a long, handwritten list. I handed it to her and said, “These are my symptoms. We have great insurance and meet our deductible for the year. Do every test you can think of and don’t stop until you can give me a diagnosis. I am SICK, and I cannot live like this anymore!” She listened, really listened! She was the first person I had spoken to for months that truly believed me. It wasn’t all in my head, as one doctor had told me.  It was real, and it was ruining my life.

I literally went to every specialist known to man and endured every test they felt necessary. There were three full months that, in every single business day, I had a test scheduled. I knew my way around the hospital like I worked there. It was hard at times, of course, but I knew something was wrong, and I was determined to find an answer.  

After a year and a half of visits and medical tests, Dr. Jennifer called me to her office. This lady was a pro. I have never met a doctor since with her incredible thoroughness and caring bedside manner. She truly loved her patients and wanted the absolute best for them. There were several times that I made an appointment with her at the last minute, upset and weary from my plight. She had instructed the front desk to fit me in any time I called. On three occasions she didn’t charge me for my visit. Now that is a dedicated, caring doctor!

When Dr. Jennifer & her nurse came into the room where I was waiting, she looked at me and began to cry, and then the nurse began to cry.  Dr. Jennifer said, “It’s Lupus.”  I did not know what Lupus was or what a long road I had ahead of me. She informed me it was mainly affecting my Central Nervous System, but I was also having Lung and Kidney involvement. All the other symptoms were just par for the course with Lupus. My body was literally attacking itself, which explained the constant infections. I had a lot of inflammation inside of me. That explained the unrelenting pain.

That was in the 1980s. I am so very grateful that now in 2021, almost anyone you talk to knows about Lupus. When I was diagnosed with Lupus, it was still being called a death sentence by many doctors. Thank God with research and new medications, that is no longer true for every Lupus patient. 

With all the doctor appointments and tests I have had in my life, I still DREAD it! I go through so much more with the dread and anxiety it breeds than I ever go through with the actual visit. Why? I do not know.

I know I’m not alone. There are people who refuse to see a doctor even when they are sick or in pain. My most recent appointment gave me anxiety for over a week. Yet the appointment itself went perfectly! It was pleasant and quick, yet thorough. I told one of my daughters that I spent more time dreading it than the actual visit lasted. It’s all so silly to do that.  

If you are not familiar with Lupus, I would like to ask you to take a few minutes out of your day to educate yourself. There are over 15,000 new patients diagnosed with Lupus each year. That means millions, upon millions, of Lupus patients out there are dealing with this chronic disease every day. Someone you know and love may be suffering, and you don’t know it. People with Lupus often look perfectly healthy. Having loved ones who at least try to understand what we go through is part of our ongoing battle.  

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you are well.

The Mask …by JoAnn

I think it would be safe to say that we have all been touched in one way or another by the COVID-19 Pandemic. I have stayed home more than ever before in my lifetime. I’m not complaining, for I consider myself one of the blessed to have not caught the dreaded virus. Each day I read or hear about another family who has been left to grieve for a loved one lost to this ugly virus. This week it was the loss of a beloved pastor who was well known in our area. I attended a church when my children were young, where he ministered. I always enjoyed hearing him, not only preach, but share his talent of singing. I learned a lot from him and was very saddened to hear the news of his passing. This ugly monster named Covid took this dear man in less than three weeks. He was only 45 years old. He passed away in his home, unable to breathe. He left behind a wife, four children, and two grandchildren. What a tragedy.

A loss like this one makes me question, yet again, why so many people are complaining about wearing a mask in public, or around others. It astounds me that people are so selfish, or ignorant. It is difficult to comprehend someone being ignorant after all the months we have had to educate ourselves on the protocol. Every time I turn on the television, someone is talking about Covid and its dangers. Every time I open my laptop, the virus is headline news. Unfortunately, I have also watched many videos online of people having complete meltdowns in public places just because they were asked by management to put on a mask. Grown adults acting like toddlers who don’t want to give up their toy. I don’t understand.      

It has always seemed to me that wearing a mask is one of the simplest things each of us can do to protect ourselves and others. Nurses and doctors have done it forever. What’s the big deal, right? Well, apparently there are just as many people who don’t want to wear a mask, for whatever reason, as there are who are willing to wear a mask.  

I live in a small rural town, surrounded by many other small towns, and even though there is a sign posted on every public building explaining the need to wear a mask inside because of the mandate, I have witnessed with my own eyes, more people unmasked than masked.

I do not know exactly why the rules are not being followed or enforced. 

I can’t help but wonder if just one person had worn a mask, would that lovely man still be here to minister to the flock he so dearly loved?  That is a question for which we will probably never know the answer.  

I hope each one who reads this is taking the simple precaution to stay safe and wearing a mask. My purse holds extras. 

Oink, Oink! …by JoAnn

I have always agreed that chores are very important for children. They are never too young to learn the importance of picking up after themselves and helping as a family member to take care of their home. I had chores as a kid, and I taught my own daughters to have daily chores as well.  

My three girls will tell you that they dreaded certain chores. One would say cleaning the bathroom, one cleaning the kitty litter box, and the other would say washing dishes. If someone asks what was the one chore I dreaded the most as a kid, one memory always comes to mind: Slopping(feeding) the hogs! 

Daddy made a pig pen that allowed keeping two hogs at a time. He would fatten these hogs until the time of year for them to be slaughtered for their meat. I didn’t realize all of that at a very young age and I’m happy that I didn’t.  

One day Mama said she needed my sister and I to slop the hogs. I had no idea what that meant, but my older sister seemed to, so I took her lead. I was always game for anything that would take us outside for a bit. Mama then hands my sister a bucket full of food scraps.  

Off we go, down the hill, just inside the edge of the woods where the pig pen was located. It looked like a cute little house. I was intrigued. Maybe we could pet the pigs who lived inside. Maybe they would be friendly like the “Three Little Pigs” storybook my sister had read to me.

Suddenly I hear this horrible sound. The closer we got to the pig pen, the louder and more frantic it became. Then I saw them. These weren’t cute little pink pigs. These monsters were HUGE! The closer we got with that bucket of scraps, the more aggressive those guys became. I thought for sure they were going to break through the walls of that cute little house and eat us both alive.   

I began to cry. I didn’t like those “hogs”. My sister quickly poured the scraps down the feeding shoot, and we ran as fast as we could back up the hill. I think Mama had to have been just a little entertained at our reaction to our new chore. But she didn’t want us to continue being afraid. So, she had Daddy take us the next time and explain things more thoroughly to help us overcome our fears.  

I won’t lie. I never became comfortable with the hog slopping. My sister and I did the chore as we were told and got much better at it. But one day the hogs were gone, that chore was done, and I was one happy camper.

I never questioned why we weren’t slopping the hogs anymore, or where they went.  I was just glad it was over.  Until I came home from school one cold Fall day, walked into the kitchen, and found quite a surprise.  Sitting on the edge of my mama’s cupboard, on a huge platter, was a HOG’S HEAD!  You can probably guess how I reacted.  Mama immediately began to try and explain why it was there in hopes of educating and calming me down.  She had to prepare it to use in sausage, to freeze, etc.  She kept trying to tell me this is where our food comes from, it’s all okay.  I remember clearly her explaining how she was going to cook the tongue and how tasty it would be.  Oh, the horror!  How could she have something so disgusting in our kitchen!  And, doing it on the Hoosier cabinet where she let me sift the flour for us to make biscuits together! Needless to say, it took me a while to forget about the hog’s head and stop asking questions.   

As I got older, I understood about the food chain and was okay with it, but I never seemed to have the stomach my mama did for being a farmer’s wife.  I never had the desire to raise my own chickens for eggs and then kill the birds to freeze for chicken dinners.  I never wanted to marry a man who would be raising livestock that would then fill our deep freezer.  I am surprised that I never became a Vegan after being so traumatized from what I witnessed as a child.  I think my love of eating something tasty, always won out.  And if I’m being honest, it still does 😊.


Laundry Day

How many of you grew up with your family’s laundry being hung outside to dry?  I imagine several hands are going up.  It’s a nice memory.  Remember the breeze blowing those cotton sheets in the fresh air, and how those sheets felt and smelled on our beds that night?  Oh, it was wonderful!  An electric dryer has never been invented to duplicate it.

But how many of you remember what happened before the clothesline.  When the laundry was washed, it brought back an entirely distinct memory.  That memory would be filled with some elbow grease, sweat, and tired muscles.  Not to forget the time needed to wash enough laundry for a family of five like mine, or even bigger.     

I remember well my mama washing our laundry in what they called a wringer washing machine.  It was electric but needed a lot of physical help from the user to get the laundry washed.  She was proud to have it though, because without it, she had to wash every piece of laundry by hand in a washtub!  I remember well her excitement when Daddy brought home the used wringer washer.  No longer did she have to deal with bending over that big washtub outside.  She could use the electric wringer on the back porch.  I remember her specifically telling my sister and me to keep our hands away from the wringer part as not to mash our fingers.  But we would help her with the wet clothes.  No matter how much she put items through the wringer part, it never wrung out enough water.  So, the laundry would be dripping wet, which made it heavy to carry outside to the clothesline.  Then it took some muscle to hang everything on the line.  Especially sheets.  It was horrible if something got dropped into the dirt below.  As wet as it was, it would be muddy by the time I picked it up, and it would need to be washed again. 

Most homemakers had specific days of the week that were designated laundry days.  My mama washed on Monday and Thursday.  On laundry days she would push other chores aside to allow the time needed to get all the laundry caught up.  Supper that evening would either be something that could simmer all day, like soup or beans.  Or a quick meal like fried potatoes and cornbread.

One morning, when I was around 4 years old, my mama was hanging laundry on the clothesline as I played nearby.  Suddenly she screamed.  She had stepped on a rusty nail that had been in the ground.  She was only wearing thin flip flops, and that nail had gone all the way through her foot!  As she cried in pain, she made the huge mistake of pulling the rusty nail out of her foot.  Of course, it bled heavily when she did that.  She yelled for me to go in the house and get her a towel.  My legs were like two wet noodles.  I was so nervous for her and didn’t know how to help.  I took her a small hand towel, which of course wasn’t enough, so she sent me back for a bath towel.  She wrapped it around her foot and somehow made it into the house to call for help.  I remember the towel being soaked with blood.  That is my last memory of what happened that day.  I don’t remember who came to help Mama, or who took care of me.  It must have been traumatic, and it has since been locked away somewhere in my brain.  Thank God she did get the help she needed, and a Tetanus shot.  Daddy cleaned thoroughly around the clothes lines.  I remember Mama’s foot being sore and her needing to prop it up on a pillow.

Fast forward about six years, and we are now living in a big city where my daddy had to go to find work.  The old wringer washer was no longer with us.  We now lived in an old 1930s home that was renovated into a duplex for renters.  We had the upstairs apartment.  Unfortunately, Mama had to go back to her old ways of hand washing all the laundry.  She used the old, and deep, claw-foot bathtub.  This had to have been extremely difficult for her.  Not only was she washing our clothes, sheets, and towels, but also Daddy’s greasy and soot covered heavy work clothes.  I remember they seemed to be soaking in the tub all day, every day, in hopes to get them clean enough.  

Sadly, a couple years before we moved to the city, my mama had experienced symptoms of Arthritis.  Hand washing laundry every day in a bathtub, then carrying it down a flight of stairs to hang on the clotheslines in the backyard, quickly took its toll on her hands and knees.  That is when Daddy got Mama her very first automatic washer from Sears.  My mama was in love with that machine!  Never in her life had laundry been so easy to do.  Soon she had a dryer to match.  Many years later, when Daddy retired from that job, he and Mama moved back to our country home.  That Sears washer went with them and continued to work for many years to come.  It must have been over 30 years old before it needed to be replaced. 

I have always been very thankful to have the convenience of a good working washing machine!  I think watching my mama work so hard on laundry was enough for me.  I never had the desire to repeat her plight, but I know how to if it’s needed, and have washed a few things out by hand when necessary.  Just goes to show, you’re never above your raising.