“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

SPECIAL NOTE 2

Spittin Grits is currently UNDER CONSTRUCTION. This process should be completed by Friday, June 5. Thank you for your patience.

Mother’s Day 2009 Minus Thirty-Four

Mother’s Day 2009 Minus Thirty-Four

In mid-December 1974 my sister called to tell me that mom was sort of dragging a leg. I said, “What? What do you mean?”

I was 31, nine months pregnant, and due for a scheduled Cesarean section on January 6, a day before my mother’s 57th birthday, which she would comprehend only through a darkened veil between life and death.

“It’s like she has had a stroke or something,” was the only way my sister could explain it. I don’t remember that I talked to dad.

In the next two short weeks, we would learn that mom had brain cancer; we would spend Christmas Eve and Day and following week at the University of Alabama Birmingham medical center (UAB), with mom under the knife and care of one of the top neurosurgeons in Alabama. A week later, early January 1975, she turned 57 and I had my daughter; by the March anniversary of my brother’s death in Vietnam five years earlier, she would be dead. I would spend the rest of 1975 in an emotional swamp, shut down, when I should have been nurturing my baby rather than existing in the robotic fog that substituted for life that year.

March memories bite twice.

No Hallmark Card

My memories of my daughter during 1975 are cloudy. That Mother’s Day is blank. I spent these intervening 34 years trying to make up to her for that lost year, until now.

On this Mother’s Day 2009, reality has balled itself up into a neutron star, so dense and heavy with mass that tears can’t wash it away.

This Mother’s Day 2009, my daughter is not with her own two-year-old daughter because she is in jail. This makes how many times she has been in jails for drug related crimes? I’ve lost count. Reality just keeps crushing the stuff in its path.

Irony, reality’s doppelganger, is a rubber ball. It rolls and rolls and bounces, hits a wall, and comes back to you. My husband and I have custody of our daughter’s daughter. She is with us. And there’s no card celebrating being a parenting grandparent, especially if the reason is because of her mother’s drug addictions.

Motherhood Minus Generations

I can’t speak to Fatherhood, but Motherhood is so idealized that it’s hard to know what to do with reality when it doesn’t fit the beliefs. Deny it? Feel guilty? Feel ostracized, like some kind of freak?

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My grandmother, Lillie Belle Smith (Granny) at age 2.

My mother drank herself into alcoholism; she had always been a heavy smoker. She carried secrets, some even from herself, I think, even when others knew it anyway. Like the fact that she despised her own mother. Who would blame her? Granny was a mean, bitter, damaged woman.

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My great-grandmother, Tommie Smith, from Prattville, Alabama

Her mother, Tommie Smith from Prattville, Alabama, mother of about eight children – too many for the pocketbook, had in essence given her to Tuttie (Sudie) and Uncle (William), who were wealthy, childless, and adored Lillie Belle -- Granny. Nevertheless, Granny never got over it. She infected her own daughters, including my mother.

As Lis Belkin’s New York Times’ blog Motherlode for May 8 noted, the mother-daughter relationship is “perhaps the most complicated of relationships.” (http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/08/mother-daughter-tension-on-mothers-day/#more-2253). It seems to me that being a mother is always tears: Tears of joy; tears of despair. I wonder if anyone has ever cried each kind into separate rain gauges and measured them.

Family garbage rolls through the generations. I made it my quest to stop the garbage in its dirty progress.

Instead, as my daughter’s and my relationship deteriorated, I believed I was simply rolling the garbage along on its generational path. The pain and guilt of it was threatening my very existence. As it turned out, I was fighting a battle I had no knowledge of – drug addiction in my own daughter. It was a losing battle. So I cried a lot.

At best, motherhood exacts so much, sometimes too much, from a woman: it is both her essence and her parasite.

But drug addiction is a vampire, sucking blood from both the ideal and the real, from mother and daughter. From everyone near it.

If I can do anything for my granddaughter, besides loving her to pieces, it is to empower her with the confidence and ability to understand that she in no way caused the breakdown of her relationship with her mother and to stop the garbage from rolling through any more generations.

THE LAST VICE, PART I

Tight-lipped Cheney transformed just after Obama’s inauguration from the “run-and-hide Vice during the Bush administration into Chatty Cheney, the Predictor. Words, words, words have been spewing from those thin lips for months.

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His eight-year game of hide-and-seek began in the 1980s, according to Jane Mayer in her 2008 book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, with his participation in simulated survival scenarios. (See a review at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/22/books/22schuessler.html and an interview at http://www.democracynow.org/2008/7/18/the_dark_side_jane_mayer_on.)

As far as we know, he then headed for “a secure, undisclosed location” in October 2001, and it became his on-and-off location during the rest of his tenure.

Anchors and pundits have reacted for months, talking about his political polarizing, his philosophical bent as being a little right of Attila the Hun, his moral compass being stuck on cold-as-a-stone, and more. What if none of those is on the mark? Or if one has been neglected?

Leaving No Cold Stone Unturned

There’s one place we haven’t looked: The mind.

Here are some interesting symptoms from Psychology Today online that indicate a specific personality disorder: (http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic.html):

· Overreacts to criticism, becoming angry or humiliated

· Uses others to reach goals

· Exaggerates own importance

· Entertains unrealistic fantasies about achievements, power, beauty, intelligence or romance

· Has unreasonable expectation of favorable treatment

· Needs constant attention and positive reinforcement from others

· Is easily jealous

These symptoms, indicating a NARCISSIST, are screaming Che-ney, Che-ney, Che-ney. Could it be? Cheney, a narcissist? All along he was just acting true to his nature?

The Real President

The chatting began with an interview with Rush Limbaugh for Politico.com (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1208/16594.html) in December before he left office. Then came a 10-minute Special Commentary by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29040063). After that, it was off and running at the mouth.

“Vice” began his series of predictions by telling Limbaugh that that the president-elect will thank him and George for expanding executive power as they did. “Once they get here and they're faced with the same problems we deal with every day, then they will appreciate some of the things we've put in place,” Cheney said.

This sounds like fantasizing about his power and intelligence.

“We did not exceed our constitutional authority, as some have suggested,” Cheney added. “The President [Bush] believes, I believe very deeply, in a strong executive, and I think that's essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not likely to cede that authority back to the Congress. I think they'll find that given a challenge they face, they'll need all the authority they can muster.”

“The President” in that last paragraph must be a Freudian slip. He really meant himself as the main President. Is this using others to achieve goals? I think maybe so.

Besides, isn’t it the PEOPLE who grace the President with authority?

In a February interview, again with Politico, former Vice predicted: there is a “high probability” that terrorists will attempt a catastrophic nuclear or biological attack in coming years, and said he fears the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.

Whoa. He wins. I’m scared. Oh, the POWER he wields!

“Whether or not they can pull it off,” he continued, “depends [on] whether or not we [sic] keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States.”

Who is the “we” he refers to? Does he mean he is still President?

More Parts coming in future Spittin’ Grits posts.

Grits: First Food, First Family

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 Grits Ascending

Grits is ascending. No, grits are ascending. After a long hibernation, the Grits Grammar War could be on again, thanks to FLOTUS (First Lady of the United States) Michelle Obama, who let the cornmeal out of the bag during a kitchen tour before a state dinner the same night as the 2009 Oscars (http://www.c-spanarchives.org/library/includes/templates/library/flash_popup.php?pID=284232-3&clipStart=&clipStop=).

When one of the culinary students asked her what were some of her favorites from the White House chefs so far, she said she has liked everything made in the White House kitchen. The chefs have come up “with some mean waffles and grits that have become a regular staple for some of us,” she answered. Her emphasis on “some of us” suggests it’s POTUS who is the grits eater.

Whoever it is, the lights are on grits once again. Is/are grits singular or plural? This is the meat of the Grits Grammar War.

 Grits Descended

It’s been a cold winter for grits in the White House. It was Jimmy Carter who brought grits into the media’s sun. But as longtime New York Times food guru Craig Claiborne reminded us (June 23, 1976; for purchasing at $3.95), Thomas Jefferson MUST have eaten whole hominy and grits, as well as cornbread made in a black skillet, as part of the Southern staples from his kitchen.

Myrecipes.com offers a gorgeous Carter-era grits recipe (http://www.myrecipes.com/recipes/gallery/0,28548,1878766_1842974,00.html), adding, “Whether a visitor hailed from south Alabama or the South of France, they were often treated to a heaping bowl of grits, baked with cheese, during trips to Carter's White House during the breakfast hour. Serve the morning favorite for dinner, topped with country ham and wild mushrooms.”

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For the specific recipe: http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=522146.

First Food First

President Barak Obama has spent the greater part of his first 100 Days in office repeating one theme over and over: We must all take responsibility.

I am going to do my part by attempting to re-educate the American public – without taking ANY of the Stimulus Package or TARP money – about one of America’s First Foods, grits. In future Spittin’ Grits posts, I will offer the most interesting grits and hominy recipes I can dig up.

America probably owes its historical existence to Capt. John Smith, who knew enough about wilderness survival to be saved by Pocahontas and then to save that original handful of people who settled in Jamestown. In the fall of 1608, only 45 people of the original 144 who set sail for Virginia were alive. By the following spring and summer 1609, everyone would likely have been dead if Smith had not bargained with the native Indians for corn. Much of this bargaining took place on the Chickahominy River with the Chickahominy, which translates “the coarse ground corn people” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chickahominy_(tribe).)

Americans are nothing if not ingenious, so with corn in hand, could meal, hominy, and grits be far behind? Future posts will untangle the complex world of hominy and grits.

Linguistic Grits

Cornmeal is ground corn; hominy is (are?) dried, hulled corn kernels; grits is (are?) finely ground hominy. You have to boil grits in water to make a kind of porridge; you used to be able to buy #2 cans of hominy, but I don’t know if you still can. I will find out my next trip to Piggly Wiggly.

Southern storyteller, writer, and photographer Kathryn Tucker Windham explains a rather weird, if not disgusting to modern pallets, hominy recipe in her 1967 cookbook Treasured Alabama Recipes (http://www.amazon.com/Treasured-Alabama-Recipes-Kathryn-Windham/dp/0873970098):

One of the oldtime foods seldom prepared at home any more is lye hominy made with nut flavored kernels of tender corn. It is available in cans at grocery stores, but somehow the “boughten” variety lacks the rich flavor of the lye hominy made at home. . . .

First, she says, you have to have this big iron pot for boiling. . . .

Well, never mind. I’m not doing that and you probably won’t either, because she is talking about real lye. She offers a recipe for Dressed Up Lye Hominy Casserole using bacon, mushroom soup, cream, butter, and almonds. Eat your heart out, Paula Dean!

If this is a must-have for anyone, post a comment and let me know. Craig Claiborne grits recipes will follow in future posts, as will the status of the Grits Grammar War. Stay tuned.

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