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Saturday, February 12, 2022

The Joy of Cooking

 Although the Joy of Cooking was the title of one of my first wedding gifts many moons ago, I will admit willingly that I am not a cook. I’ve never claimed to be a cook. In fact, everyone who knows me would agree with that undeniably. I might have enjoyed it earlier in my adult life had that part not been so crazy and more than a little distressing.

Nonetheless, even though I was convinced that I wasn’t a good cook, I managed to get by for myself and two sons, whom I raised on my own in the late 70s and early 80s.

And then I got lucky. I met a man. I fell head-over-heals at age 36! I seriously had no idea what a great cook he was. After our marriage, he slowly (and gently) just began to take over those duties, much to my delight. I always cleaned up afterwards, happily!

The funny "family story" (actually not so funny to me) is about what occurred when I took my two sons to his family’s huge Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. As we were sitting around the table, my youngest son just blurted out, “We were so glad that Mom married Dean. Now we get to eat real food.”

WHAT? “Mac and cheese” is not real food? Frozen pizza? Popcorn? I was mortified. I wanted to crawl under the table. The only good thing that came out of his declaration was that none of the women in the family ever asked me to help out in the kitchen.

My husband cooked for the rest of our lives together until he became ill, and then I panicked. Luckily, I had a group of wonderful friends who came by a few times a week bringing casseroles, meals, etc. (Did I say that everyone knew I didn’t cook?)

Eventually, I began to take over myself and realized that I actually could cook. I cooked for the two of us and almost enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed using my old slow cooker. Even I could make the best pot roasts in that!

After he passed away, that enjoyment of cooking left. Who wants to cook for one? Not me. I am now the queen of heating up things that have either been frozen or brought in from someplace else, prepared by someone else.

Today, however, I was watching “Good Morning America” on TV. There was a segment on the show featuring all of these neat new cooking gadgets and kitchen implements. I found myself intrigued and almost thought about getting some of them. I could see myself using them, imagining all of the wonderful meals I could prepare. And then I stopped. Reality set in.

Let’s don’t get crazy. Where’s the phone? I need to call Panera.

@2022 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland 


Monday, December 31, 2018

Goodbye 2018 and Good Riddance!

One of our favorite movies this past year was Wonder Woman. It came out in 2017, but we didn’t see it until last year. She became my (s)hero! I bought the Hallmark Keepsake Ornament of her and stood her on the table by my couch/bed to valiantly fight off the evil that might come my way this year! She will stand her ground - of that I’m sure.

I love to write. I’ve missed it. I was telling someone that just the other day. Writing is my favorite way to express my thoughts, feelings, and enthusiasm about various things. I love to bring people, ideas, histories, etc. to life with words. It’s why I have two blogs – a Writing Blog and a Family History Blog.

But I’ve not been able to write much lately. I’ve not been able to get “that feeling” together inside of me – that passion that brings enthusiasm to a subject; the one that can paint a word picture for others to see and understand.
That feeling left me about four years ago when we learned that my husband had a rare neurocognitive disease called corticobasal degeneration (CBD). The odds given to us on his life expectancy at that time was about five to eight years. News like that just sucks the life out of you. Everything else becomes meaningless. I’ve honestly not felt much of a passion for writing about any subject since receiving that news.
But now I have a craving, no really a need, to write about something. That something? The Dreaded Year 2018, probably the worst year of my life. I have to get my thoughts about it written down while they are still fresh in my memory – and before the new year begins.
As I sit here writing, I find myself hoping beyond hope that most of you reading this have actually had a fairly good year. No year is perfect. There are always ups and downs for each of us. But I wouldn’t wish the pain and suffering that has overwhelmed our house this year on anyone.
The Dreaded Year started out with the ever-frightening visions of days looming ahead; days dealing with yet another year of my husband’s disease. How would we deal with it if it got worse? How bad could it get? All the questions that had been plaguing us for the previous four years were evident when I couldn’t even wake him up to celebrate the ringing in of the New Year. That had never happened before. In years past, we either stayed up together, or he had to wake ME up! But last year was different. I should have heeded that warning and been prepared for the days ahead.
The Dreaded Year saw me plunged almost immediately into Physical Therapy for problems with my back and shoulder, only to be literally kicked out of PT because my blood pressure was ‘dangerously high.’ They wanted to send me to the ER. I didn’t have time for that. I remember going home, taking my emergency BP pill (one of the six I was already on) and calling the doctor to schedule an appointment with a specialist. Got that done; got new meds; got my BP under control. That only took about three months to complete – you know, just most of the first part of the year. Not too bad, I guess, all things considered.
I suppose the stress of the situation at home was getting to me. Seriously getting to me. In the course of a few months, I saw my husband go from being able to walk (not well, but at least a little bit) to hardly being able to walk at all. He became dependent upon being rolled around the house in a wheelchair and could rarely go outside anymore. He went from eating with utensils, and then with his fingers, and finally to being unable to feed himself at all. In those rare moments when I had a respite caregiver come in, he began getting extremely agitated if I was gone for more than an hour or so. Can you go to the grocery store and shop for everything in an hour? I learned to be very quick. I kept saying that I was going to use one of those services where the store did the shopping for me, and I could just go and pick it all up that same day. I never managed to do that. My mind seemed to have been put on remote control, and I was just doing things in the moment, whenever they were needed.
What I did know was that I had become my husband’s main link to the world, and I knew how important it was for me to be there with him as much as possible. More stress? Oh, yes indeed.
In June, all of my sons and daughters-in-law gathered together for a week of fun and family time. But the “horribly bad, really terrible” Dreaded Year that was literally half-way over had basically just begun for us. Only a few days after my two sons who lived out of town had gotten home, we received news that the Mother of one of my precious daughters-in-law had passed away suddenly and tragically. What a devastating time; a quick, hectic and heartbreaking trip back for them…and many, many tears. Grief Counseling had begun in this family.
By August and early September, it was evident that my husband’s condition was changing rapidly. The dementia part of his disease (which hadn’t really been too bad at this point) set in almost overnight, and so did the loss of his ability to move at all. It was necessary to hospitalize him (we thought for only a little while), but we soon found out that he also had Stage 4 small-cell lung cancer. They gave him two to four months to live on that diagnosis. We thought he still had a year or two left with his original diagnosis of CBD, so this was a complete shock. He spent a month in the hospital, was transferred to a nursing home, and died after being there a day and a half - one day before his 63rd birthday. He didn’t even get to live out those two to four months. It was a nightmare.
Family gathered around from all over the country, plans were made for the Memorial Celebration, and somehow, with the love and help of family and friends, we got through the most horrible week of my life. I’m truly not even sure how. But we did. Grief Counseling called again.
But the year wasn’t through with us yet. Another daughter-in-law saw her Father’s cancer worsen quickly and unexpectedly, and he passed away in November, just weeks after the death of my husband. Grief Counseling? It just goes on and on for us.
I had honestly begun to feel as if this Dreaded Year had tried to personally beat me over the head, but in December I was actually thinking that I just might find that “new normal” that the Grief Counseling experts go on about. I thought I was doing fairly well, considering everything that the Dreaded Year had brought. I soon found out that it wasn’t through with me yet.
Last Thursday I began the day running some errands and attending the memorial service for an “Unclaimed Veteran” here in town. It made me feel good to be there, knowing that it would not only be an honor to that Vet, but also an honor to my husband, who was himself a Veteran. Somewhere around noon I began to feel a slight cough begin, which managed to settle deep into my chest by that very afternoon, saw me at the doctor’s office the next day getting a shot and meds, and then saw me get even worse by Sunday. The doctor told me that the third day would be the worst. It was. The Dreaded Year gave me an upper respiratory infection that tried to pick me up, shake me by the collar, and throw me down. It has tried its best to do me in. I have fought it every step of the way, just as I have fought every step and every day of this entire Dreaded Year.
After all I’ve been through, this illness has been almost like a pesky little fly that I have to simply shoo away.  I’m a bit better this morning. Not great, but better.  It’s New Year’s Eve, and I can’t wait for this day and this year to end.
I’m looking forward to 2019. There’s always an excitement to a New Year. What will it bring? What opportunities and challenges will there be?
Here’s what I say to 2019: Bring it on – I am ready for you!
Happy New Year, Everyone! May it bring you happiness and fulfillment – and maybe even a little bit of excitement!

@2018 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Monday, August 11, 2014

Moon of My Life...

My husband and I are “late-comers” to the exciting and extremely popular TV series, “Game of Thrones.” Over the past few years that it’s been on TV, we’ve both separately and unknowingly tried to watch an episode or two and were both left with the idea that it really seemed like a great show, but we had no clue what was going on. Naturally, we just didn’t try to watch it again.

The fact of the matter is that this is a series that you really must see from the very beginning in order to understand it all. (Cautionary note here: This is most definitely a ‘Rated R’ series.)

Because of recent events in our lives (which I will refer to later), my husband and I decided last Spring to watch the series together beginning with Episode One to try to catch up…and catch up we did! In fact, we caught up and are now among those with “game-of-thrones-withdrawal syndrome!” Seriously, we caught up during the last season and found ourselves having to wait from week to week to see what happened next just like everyone else. That was not fun.

Basically, when we were “catching up,” we would find ourselves watching two or more episodes at a time, and sometimes (even late at night) would make the decision to watch “just one more!” The series is that good.

We were so immersed in the show that I began calling my husband, “Moon of my life… My sun and my stars.” This is a line that one of the leading actresses called her husband. At one time I started calling him “My Lion,” but when “what’s-her-name” betrayed “what’s-his-name” (I’ll not give away the plot here), I dropped that one like a hot potato!

My husband and I have always had pet names for each other, so my calling him these things really isn’t as strange as it might seem to others. He calls me his “Angel,” and also, lovingly, his “Princess PITA” – an acronym that I just won’t go into at this point. (But you might be able to figure that one out fairly easily!)

The reason we began watching this series together is because my husband has developed a health issue that may stay the same for a while, may advance slowly, or may advance rapidly. We just really don’t know.

What we do know is that we are spending much more time together - quality time that is anxiously wanted by each of us. None of us ever knows what tomorrow will bring.

I’m writing about this in my Writing Blog because this is the place that I chose to write down my “thoughts on life, family, and a whole bunch of other stuff.”

These are my thoughts right now:

“Moon of my life…My sun and my stars.” How will I live when those glorious and wondrously glowing lights begin to flicker out and finally dim forever?

@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

I'll Be Home for Christmas

Home. It’s where we live. If we’re lucky, it’s where our family is and where our hearts truly are. It’s a place full of memories and, hopefully, full of love. I have and have had homes like that; places where I raised my sons and later saw them leave to begin their own lives and ultimately create their own homes.

But I have a secret to tell here. When I think of “home,” I most often think of the four-room apartment where I grew up in mid-town Memphis. There were five of us living in that apartment, but the rooms were huge and we never felt crowded. I lived there with my Mother, my brother, and my grandparents until I was almost thirteen years old. It’s where those solid, ingrained memories are, and it’s where I travel to so many nights in my dreams.
We lived on the second floor of a three-story apartment building on Madison Avenue. It was an unusual type of building with two sets of apartments located on each floor at the front of the building and two sets similarly located in the back of the building. Our apartment was in the back. The front set of apartments and the ones in the back were not connected except by the hallway on the first floor. Needless to say, that was one long hallway! I used to love to roller skate down it and even ride my bike, but that was amazingly often discouraged by the doctors and dentists who mostly made up those first floor suites. I really never understood that. It was my home, after all!

And home it was. My Mother had to move the three of us in with my grandmother (Babby) and my step-grandfather (Poppy) when we were very young. They never complained, and I think even enjoyed the fact that we were there. I know Babby did. She loved to cook and bake, so having more people around to eat her scrumptious food made her feel wanted and useful.

As I mentioned earlier, the rooms in this apartment were enormous. We had our own long hallway to connect the front rooms (living room and eat-in kitchen) with two enormous bedrooms in the back. The bathroom with its classic four legged bathtub was located half-way down the hall. The hall itself was wide enough that my brother and I could play ball, build forts and even put in the dollhouses which he would sometimes make for me out of cardboard boxes.

There were two special features of the apartment. One included a screened-in porch that was accessed through French doors leading from the living room and that also had a door leading into the kitchen. It was a great play area for us. In the winter, we used a special plastic covering to go over the screens that would allow us to play and be fairly warm. The porch itself was as big as the kitchen area, and our imaginations allowed us to create all sorts of wonderful places on that porch.
The other distinct addition to the apartment was the fire-escape landing that we shared with our neighbor across the hall. It was off of our ‘back door’ and was large enough to have seating if we wanted to, but we never did. We did, however, have a clothes line strung from one side of the building to the other and which we used each week. There were two; one was ours, the other our neighbor’s. My brother and I would often take bread crumbs out to that landing after meals to feed to the birds in the winter months. We never did that, of course, if there were clothes on the line!

One of the two large bedrooms had a fireplace in it. Unfortunately, it was unusable, but the mantel and the fireplace itself were still beautiful. My brother and I would hang our stockings on the mantel in that room every Christmas waiting for Santa to come, and we’d always worry how he was ever going to make it down our chimney, since it was blocked. He always managed to get there, however, and one night I even heard him! I actually woke up in the night hearing sleigh bells, but when I told everyone the next day, nobody believed me. I knew after I grew up and know even today that it couldn’t have possibly happened, but I will swear till my dying breath that I heard those bells. I can still hear them now if I close my eyes and think about that night.
I’m not sure how Mama did it, but every year we got almost all of the things we had asked for from Santa. Looking back, I think she must have saved up all year to do that. I never asked her about that as an adult, and I really wish I had. Nevertheless, she made sure that Christmas was exceptional for us. There was always a real Christmas tree that my Poppy had helped her carry down that great, long hallway and up the stairs into our apartment. This event would occur after we’d gone and chosen one at least a week before Christmas. There’s nothing like the smell and the look of a real tree. It had to be cared for very specially, and each of us took our turns so that it would still be beautiful even after Christmas day. The decoration of the tree was a special event, which involved everyone in the household and took time to complete. Mama always decorated the apartment herself, often with beautiful things she had made.

Every Christmas morning was a true time of wonderment for us. On that morning, I was always the first one to awake. (I still am!) Mama would wake up immediately afterwards and make us wait in our beds as she went to "prepare" the living room. She would turn on the tree lights and put on Christmas music to add to the atmosphere as we walked into that room to see our long-awaited gifts. A huge Christmas breakfast would be prepared by Babby, who would turn around almost immediately to begin the dinner preparations. She was such an outstanding cook, a quality that I really wish I had inherited.
I know that everyone has their own memories of Christmases past - some good and some possibly not. But the love that we five people shared in those "growing up years" in that apartment made each Christmas a very unique and amazing experience for me and for my brother.

“Still, I suppose we all see our youth as the Eden of perfect days…”¹  Perhaps my memories are a bit distorted by time, but that apartment is still and always will be my “home,” and I will always be certain that I heard those sleigh bells on that glorious Christmas Eve!

Yes, I’ll be home for Christmas. I’ll be here in the home I’ve created and where I’ve lived for almost thirty years. But I’ll also be in that heart-felt home of long ago – most certainly in my dreams. 

¹McCrumb, Sharyn, King’s Mountain: a Ballad Novel, St. Martin’s Press, NY. 2013. Page 63.

 @2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Friday, October 18, 2013


Autumn has always been a time for change. The weather changes, the leaves change, and I arthritis sets in with a vengeance.  At least that last change isn't as bad as it actually is when Ol' Man Winter comes to visit, so there is something to be said for that. But the changes begin with the chill in the air. Even with that in mind, autumn is still (as I've said before) my favorite time of the year.

With the idea of change came the decision to re-work the title of this particular blog. I still had the words 'history and genealogy' as part of its description, and I really want this blog to be separate from my genealogical research and writing blog. I want to "just write" as the former title stated, but I know that I need to add just that little bit o' sass to my completely classy thoughts.

Yeah, yeah. I can hear you laughing. I've always loved to rhyme my words, and the particular phrase I'm using as my title has been floating around in my head for a while. I don't know where I first heard it - or if it just came to my superior witty mind out of the blue. I did do a Google search on the phrase and found a few mentions of it, but nothing that actually had this exact phrase as a title.  So, I'm claimin' it!

I intend to continue to write inane thoughts about my family and friends and in particular, life in general. Don't, however, expect tips on scrumptious southern cooking or anything of that nature. Domestic Goddess I am not.  Goddess, maybe...just not domestic.

Do expect more stories about my dysfunctional family and the thrills of life that come with our "two steps forward, three steps back" routine. It's hard to keep up with the delights of everything breaking down or going wrong at once, but I think that maybe if I just keep a sassy journal about it all, maybe the class will show itself somewhere. Ya think?

Ah, well. One can only hope.

@2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Autumn Leaves...

When I was a little girl, there was a beautiful song that was very popular. It's title was Autumn Leaves.  Every time I heard that haunting melody, I would think how wonderful it would be to have beautiful Autumn leaves drift by my window.

That really never happened much here in Memphis. We have Autumn (or Fall, as we call it), but the season is short and when the leaves fall, it seems to happen so fast that the leaves end up on the ground quicker than you can say, "Jack Rabbit!"  No drifting here. On the trees one day; on the ground the next. Every year I hope for a longer Autumn, and every year I hold out hope for the leaves to stay that beautiful color and not hit the ground so quickly. That rarely happens.

Nevertheless, Fall is my very favorite time of the year. The air is crisp and cool - not too hot and not too cold. I think I've always preferred it over Spring because of the fact that it meant that I would be going back to school. Yes, you heard me. I loved school. I guess that's why I became a teacher.

This year was the first year in sixty years that I didn't return to a school somewhere, either as a student or as a teacher. I didn't realize how much that would affect me. And in truth, it's only been since the weather here has turned a little cooler that I've actually thought about that and have become a bit melancholy. As long as it was hot and humid and didn't feel like those memories I have of returning to school in sweaters and new shoes, I was perfectly okay.

Not so much now. The high here in Memphis today was about 70, and the low tonight will be in the low 50s. I can hardly believe it. It's been beautiful, and all I can do is think of chalk boards, wooden floors, textbooks, and tons of friends. Did I say I loved school?

I think I need to go out and look for some leaves to rake.

@2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

The morning started out as a relatively normal day within our increasingly dysfunctional household. If I were to go into a litany of the ‘things’ that have gone wrong for us in our house lately, I’d be here for much longer than I want to right now. This is just a short ode to “Making Lemonade out of Lemons.”

Around 9:00 this morning, I made a brief run to the drugstore to pick up prescriptions and then went on to the library to drop my already-overdue books into the book slot. With those errands completed, I pulled back into my driveway with a happy heart and a whole list of chores in my mind that I was going to get done today. That was before I walked into the kitchen.

Water was pouring out from under the refrigerator. I yanked open the freezer door and saw that it was all coming from our icemaker. I closed the door, checked the temperature (which should have been under zero for the freezer) and was shocked to see the freezer numbers at 35! Not a good sign, for sure. The refrigerator had stopped working.

I called my husband on our phone intercom system and woke him from his sleep. He’s a late sleeper; I’m the early bird. He was not a happy person, but when I described what was happening, he hurried downstairs. (A few tears and frantic pleas for his help didn’t hurt either, I must admit!)

I started clearing off the top of our small side freezer in order to put as many of our frozen foods into it as possible.  That would have been nice if it hadn’t already been full. What do two people need with all of that food? I couldn’t get much into that freezer at all. I even drug out one of our larger coolers, emptied what ice that was left into it and put as much into the cooler as I could

And why do we keep everything in the world on top of the side freezer? Just clearing that off was a chore in itself. You might not do that, but we certainly do. Furthermore, it didn’t help any that we had already been to the store this week and our refrigerator freezer was completely full. All of that newly-bought food was thawing and melting, including the one frozen pizza that we had bought just for the heck of it. We haven’t bought a frozen pizza in years and had decided that we would try a margherita pizza, since we liked that type so much. The pizza wouldn't fit into either the cooler or the side freezer.

As we worked frantically to make sure that the refrigerator would come back on (my husband has done this before), we saw that pizza sitting there thawing and both of us had the same idea at practically the same time, “Pizza might taste good right about now!” Of course, the words we said were different, but the idea was the same.

So as my husband continued to work on the refrigerator (a light bulb broke, too, of course!), I turned on my ‘new’ oven.  Okay, it’s not new. It’s two years old – but I’ve never used it. That's right...I'm not a very good cook. My husband is the cook in our house, so the idea that I was going to cook anything, even a frozen pizza, was a bit daunting for me.  After all, this oven has digital numbers and all kinds of fancy things that I had no idea how to use.  But I persevered and managed to overcome that “new-fangled thang!” By golly, I cooked that darn pizza and it was darn good!

I only wish the refrigerator was. Not sure what’s going to happen with that, but I’m not going to let any negative thoughts into my mind. I’m going to dwell on how much fun my husband and I had taking a break, eating that pizza, and making lemonades out of lemons.

As to the rest of the ‘things’ that want to go wrong, I say, “Bring it on!”

Oh…wait. I really didn’t mean that. The refrigerator hasn’t come back on yet.  We need some good karma here.