Growing up, my mother’s cooking mimicked that of her mother… Country! In fact, my mama cooked more of what most would know as Soul Food. Growing up as the youngest of 12 siblings during the Depression in the poor mountains of East Tennessee, she had learned to take very little of something and feed a large family.
Mama grew up eating more homegrown veggies than anything. The fruit wasn’t always readily available. The veggies were canned in Mason jars during the summer to feed the family during the winter. The meat wasn’t always available or affordable. Mama grew up on cornbread, biscuits, fried potatoes, beans, and greens. All seasoned with fatback cause it was cheap.
Something Mama knew nothing about were other cuisines. She only knew the way of her upbringing when it came to cooking and eating. Mama had never tried anything out of her norm. She was not interested in seafood, Chinese, Japanese, or even Italian recipes.
I was more than okay with how my mother cooked for us growing up! She was excellent at her craft. She fed us very well, and we never had reason to complain. I, for one, would try anything she put in front of me just because I knew how good she could cook. Nineteen times out of twenty, what I would try would be delicious! To this day, I have never made a biscuit or skillet of cornbread as good as hers, and I doubt I ever will.
My brother was 11 years older than me. He has always been a foodie and enjoyed trying as many different cuisines as he could experience. It was the 1960s, and other cuisines were gaining popularity. One day he brought home something my sister and I had never seen or even heard of. He brought home a large pepperoni pizza from a local pizzeria that was popular with his high school friends.
My dad took one look at the pepperoni pizza and exclaimed, “It looks like an open sore!” He certainly wasn’t going to try it. Next, my mama followed. I, the little chubby kid who would try anything edible put before her, was absolutely going to try it. And I loved it! Thus began my long-lived love of pizza. There was a time when I had pizza at least once a week. Now that I’m older, my body tends to complain somewhat if I eat it more than once every couple of months.
My love for pizza made me much more interested in whatever else the Italians had to offer. When we were teenagers and my sister got her driver’s license, we made it a weekly sister date to go out to one of our favorite pizzerias for dinner. There I sampled other Italian dishes. I loved them all.
When I grew up and had a family of my own, I often made Italian recipes. My sister-in-law had taught me how to make homemade spaghetti and lasagna. I perfected both. One summer, while visiting my parents for the summer, I offered to cook them my spaghetti. At first, they were reluctant. But knowing that I had three little girls who loved it, they agreed. Much to my surprise and joy, my daddy and mama loved my spaghetti. In fact, every time I visited from then on, they would ask me to make it for them.
To my knowledge, neither of my parents ever ate seafood, Chinese food, or any cuisine other than Italian for the remainder of their lives. All I can say is that they surely missed out on some good eating!
I have always loved hot dogs. I come from a long line of hot dog lovers. I can eat a hot dog with any kind of topping you want to give me. Any type of bun too. Heck, I like a hot dog wrapped up in a slice of cheap white bread. I will never turn down a hot dog.
I know all about the science behind the hot dog wiener and why it’s an unhealthy food choice. But people have been eating hot dogs for hundreds of years and love them. I know I should be more careful with my diet and cut out many “bad” foods. I no longer eat pizza regularly. Since I live alone, ordering pizza, or even making a frozen one, ends up with me eating far too much. So I wait and enjoy it with my grandchildren when they have Pizza Night. That way, I only eat a couple of pieces and go home feeling fine.
Although, I have not cut the all-American dog out of my life. I have no plans to do so since I enjoy it so much. I can usually control myself to only 1 or 2 wieners for a meal. My usual toppings are chili sauce, sweet onion, mustard, and ketchup. I enjoy a serving of hot french fries with a chili dog, but I have also cut those out of my diet.
Hot dogs are a very economical meal for someone who lives alone. A single package of 8 wieners is 4 to 8 meals. Chili is cheap, and it is quite nourishing if you buy the right kind. I found my favorite sliced bread to be the perfect wrap for my hot dog. So I save money not buying specific buns. I always add a fresh onion which is also healthy. My point here is that the hot dog can be an economical and healthy meal. Have I won you over yet?
When I was growing up, the whole family made the trek to the grocery store. Once a week, we would pile into my dad’s 57 Chevy and ride to the local Giant’s or Farm Fresh. After Mama had finished shopping, we headed home to enjoy our lot. It never failed that grocery day was also hot dog day. Mama wouldn’t do her usual home-cooked meal on grocery day. It was her time for a well-earned break, and something quick and easy was in order. Everyone loved hot dogs, especially my daddy. So chili dogs and potato chips or french fries were on the menu.
When I lived in Tidewater, Virginia, in the 70’s & 80’s, there was this place called Hot Dog King. Just a little place, nothing fancy. We loved their hot dogs. The chili, the steamed dog, and the bun were absolutely perfect. You could also order your dog grilled. I believe that Hot Dog King is now in a much bigger location and may have a couple more open in the area. I was happy to learn that their business hung on and even grew over the years. There was also a place called Monty’s. Monty’s was first and foremost famous for its ice cream. But they had the best Foot Long Chili Dogs you could find anywhere! When I was pregnant with my second child, I craved Monty’s foot-long chili dog with extra onions weekly! Followed by a banana split! Yes, I had heartburn for 24 hours after, but it was worth it. Monty’s never disappointed in soothing my craving.
I just can’t see giving up something so beloved for so many years. The hot dog has been a proven winner for too long in my book, and I refuse to let it go. So that leaves me with my final question… How do you like your hotdog?
It appears that I am still in the downsizing phase of my life. Just as I think I’m nearing the end, it becomes clear that I still have plenty to go. I have written about this before, and with each missive, I have thought it would be my last. But here I sit, mulling over how to lessen my load yet again.
Since this task seems to be never-ending, I decided to get some help. I reached out to a Facebook group whose members are going through the same thing I am. Many of them have it a lot worse than me. They are in the phase I was in many years ago. This group helped me to know that I am not a bad person for having too much stuff! Just about everyone on this earth has too much stuff. The members encourage others to vent about their stress, ask for and give tips on how to handle the problems in downsizing, etc. It is sad to hear of someone struggling to rid their home of items they have had for many years. Even more tragic is the mental hold these objects have over them.
Old folks used to call it “breaking up housekeeping .”Since I’m an old folk myself, I finally realized what they were talking about. It’s getting rid of all the things you used when raising a family and now no longer need. You no longer need the boxes upon boxes of items that you mentally labeled “just in case .”No one but you is in your home to use them. So the chance that they are still needed is zero. And as far as someone else in your family wanting the items, that is at zero too.
It was a hard pill to swallow that one of my three daughters or two granddaughters would probably not want any of my collectibles after I’m gone. But I had to face the truth. When my own mother passed, she had hundreds of collectibles accumulated over the last 20 years of her life. I now own 1 of her items. The memories are what I hold dear. I never knew I would feel that way until after she was gone. The things just don’t matter. Oh, I am sure there are others who collect antiques and rare items that are handed down from generation to generation. But usually, that’s not the case.
So I finally realized that when I leave this earth, I cannot take my earthly possessions with me, and no one I leave behind will want them! So I am holding on to items that make me happy NOW. All others are either thrown away or given to Goodwill. My youngest daughter has graciously been helping me sort through and clean as I go. My home will never be the large house where I raised my children. I will likely remain in a small apartment like I am now, and I do not want clutter. Let’s face it, too much stuff is too much.
Through this long process, I learned something vital: to not just “organize” your clutter but get rid of it! That was the most freeing lesson I have learned thus far. I used to think I needed to buy as many plastic totes and bins as I could get my hands on. All I was doing was organizing stuff I would never use again—what a waste of precious time. Getting rid of it is so wonderful. It really takes a load off.
I am happier now than I have been in a very long time because I have finally gained control over this part of my life. It truly does become a burden. If you know someone who is struggling with this problem, do them a favor, and offer your help. Never judge; just lend a helping hand wherever they need it. The more my daughter helped me, the stronger I became, and now I don’t need her help to decide whether I need something or not. I can easily let go and feel happy about it.
For months I knew that I would be leaving my apartment for an extended stay at my youngest daughter’s house. I would be house/dog sitting for Chelsea and her husband Jake as they took a long road trip from Tennessee to Virginia. At the same time, my apartment would receive some much-needed repairs to my living room floor. It seems like perfect timing for both, doesn’t it? But for months, I had been worrying about one little thing, my cat Paisley.
I adopted Paisley when she was five weeks old as a birthday gift to myself. She is now four years old. She has never known anyone but me, has never been outdoors, and has only ever lived in our apartment. I live alone, and when someone does come to visit, off to hide under my bed, she goes until she is sure they are gone!
In 2020 when everyone was indoors because of the pandemic, Paisley and I became very attached. She is my best little buddy. I talk to her as though she is human. She gives me great company. I never feel lonely because she is here in my home with me every moment. Not to mention she can be pretty entertaining as well. She has a wonderful personality. Unfortunately, she has chosen only to share it with me. She acts almost as bad as a feral cat might to everyone else.
I have had cats as pets my entire life. Because of this, I have much more patience with Paisley than the average person might. I wonder if she adopted me because of this. They say you don’t find a cat for a pet, they find you. I believe this to be 100% correct. Maybe Paisley was born with the personality that she would not be a lover of people but would prefer just one human. So, as a result, she picked me.
All of this is just fine with me until there is a reason that Paisley needs to leave the apartment. When she was a kitten, it was pretty easy to take her to the vet for her medical needs. But around age one, things changed. Paisley has been an extremely healthy cat. She put up quite the fight when I needed to take her to the vet to be spayed. When putting her into the pet carrier, I referred to her attitude as the Tasmanian Devil. I knew we would not be making trips anywhere unless it was an emergency. Lucky for us both, there never was one.
So the morning finally comes that Paisley must be taken to the vet to update her vaccines and boarded for ten days. To say I prayed over our situation, I mean I prayed over our situation! I was most nervous about getting her into the car than any other problem. I had been dreading it immensely for weeks! Knowing how much she hated the pet carrier, I could not let her catch a glimpse of me near it, or she would think something was up and hide somewhere that I couldn’t get to her. This cat is smart, and I give her all the props. But I have learned to be a pretty good actor around an animal if need be. Paisley was not the first cat I needed to trick, and she probably won’t be the last.
So I took advantage of Paisley eating her breakfast, a can of Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers (her favorite!) and very quietly positioned the carrier so I could put her into it as fast as possible. When I was done, there she was, looking around the corner at what I was doing. My heart sank. I went on about my business like I do every morning, acting as though nothing was out of the ordinary. She went into the other room and saw the carrier. She sniffed, walked around it slowly, and sniffed some more. All the time, I acted as though I was doing something else.
Next, I picked up a clean bath towel and waited for her to return to the kitchen to finish her breakfast. When she did, I opened the towel, scooped her up tight, and rushed to the pet carrier fast as I could! I dumped her in head first, towel still wrapped around her so she couldn’t claw me, and inside she went. It was a real struggle to get the gate latched because she was doing her Tasmanian Devil imitation as soon as my grasp loosened.
I pick up the carrier by the handle, with Paisley thrashing about and meowing a loud hideous sound, and off pops a bolt. Oh no, I thought, she’s going to break it open. I sat it down and quickly got the bolt tightened back in place. With her still thrashing about and sounding like I was trying to skin her alive, I managed to get her into the backseat of my car.
A feeling of elation came over me. What I had worried about and dreaded for weeks was done! I thanked my heavenly father for answering even the smallest of prayers and was on my way to the vet. Once there, Paisley quickly received her yearly shot and was off to the kennel. I knew she would be well cared for, for the next ten days. She wouldn’t be happy at all, but she would be safe and fed.
This morning I picked her up. I was eager to find out how she had responded to living the last ten days in an environment with strange humans and many strange animals. I prayed that this experience would help her become more social and open her world up to more than just our apartment.
As I waited anxiously in the waiting room, the vet assistant came out without a pet carrier. She told me that Paisley was being extremely aggressive and if it would be alright for me to come back and see if I could get her out of the kennel. Of course, this is how Paisley would end her lengthy visit. I laughed inside. This is so her, I thought.
When I got to the kennel, Paisley was in a hunched position against the back of the kennel, her eyes were thin slits, giving her an angry-looking face, and she was growling. I said, “Paisley, it’s Mommy. It’s okay. I’m here.” I said this four times, and on that last time, her face softened, and her eyes opened wide, she stopped growling, and I reached in and took her. That time, she was glad to be in the pet carrier because she knew she was going home.
We left the vet’s parking lot at 8:30 a.m. Paisley meowed from the moment I put her into the car until she finally laid down to rest at Noon! It was as if she were talking to me the only way she knew how and was filling me in on all of her experiences and complaints for those ten days. It is now 2 p.m., and she is still sharing her opinions with me. My guess is she will continue to “talk” until she decides she’s ready to stop. No telling how long that will be, and I’m prepared. That’s just how she is, and I couldn’t love her more!