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Family Recipes, Life

Grams’ Turkey and Cornbread Dressing

As we are getting ready for the Holiday Season, I’ve been on the phone a couple of times with my daughter, Gina, getting ready for the preparation of my family-famous Cornbread Dressing. She is taking on the task this year of preparing the dressing for our family gathering. Over the years, I’ve had a few people ask for my recipe so thought that now is as good a time as any to share that with you.

Grams’ Turkey and Dressing

Let me first say that this makes a LOT. I do not know how to make a little bit of dressing. Since we normally have between 10 and 20 family members present, we need a LOT. If you don’t need a LOT, then you will have to figure out how much of whatever is needed to make what you need. Good luck and have fun. I must also say that in the past couple of years, certain family members (Will, Gina) have asked if they could have their own personal pan of dressing with gravy to take home (they don’t want to have to fight to make a plate for themselves as normal people do), so I may have to increase my normal recipe listed below to make that possible. No one said this was a healthy dressing — it’s just my family’s dressing that they love and covet and beg for and better learn to make themselves because I’m not going to live forever.

Shopping List:

Largest Turkey I can find
2 large bags Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Dressing (Gold Package)
3 Boxes Jiffy Cornbread Mix
3-4 Large Onions
6-8 Large Colored Bell Peppers – 3 Red, 3 Yellow, 2 Green
1 Container of Chicken bouillon Cubes
6 Cans Chicken Broth
2 Turkey Legs
1 Turkey Breast
2 pounds Butter
2-1/2 Dozen Hard Boiled Eggs
Salt, Pepper

Gallon-size Freezer Bags
Thick Aluminum Foil

Additional items that make all the craziness not so crazy:
1 bottle of Kahlua
1 quart of Half and Half
1 Jar of Maraschino Cherries

Day Before:
1. Mix a White Russian (Kahlua, Half and Half, and a couple of cherries) to sip on while doing your preliminary cooking. When finished, make another.
2. Put Turkey Legs and Turkey Breast in oven to cook. Use 1 stick of butter to cover them well. Add salt and pepper as needed. Put foil over meat to keep from drying out. When baked and cooled well, strip meat from bones for use in dressing and gravy. Place in a storage container (I normally use gallon-size freezer bags) and place in fridge. You will need to divide these so that half can be used in the dressing and half in the gravy. Place drippings in a jar and place in fridge. Keep bones to throw into the pot while making the broth.
3. Hard boil, cool, peel, and chop the 2 dozen eggs. Place in a gallon-size storage bag and place in fridge. You will need to half these, half go in the dressing, half in the gravy.
4. Cook the 3 boxes of jiffy cornbread according to package directions. When cooled, break up well, place in storage bag and save for dressing.
5. In a Large pan, melt 1 stick of butter. Chop the onions and bell peppers and sauté until tender. You may need to add more butter. You want the veggies coated well. When done, place them and all drippings in container and place in fridge. You will need to separate these, using ½ for the dressing and ½ for the gravy.
6. Around 10 – 12 that night, I place my turkey in the oven at 250 degrees. I pat dry the turkey, salt and pepper it well, and place into the pan. Make sure that you have lined the bottom of pan well with thick tin foil. Use plenty so that you can totally wrap turkey and seal it well before placing in oven. I add one and a half sticks of sliced butter inside the turkey. I add another stick or sometimes more butter to the top and into leg cracks of turkey. I add about a 12 oz. cup of water to the bottom of the turkey pan. Place in oven and leave it alone until the next morning. Depending on size of turkey, it should be done first thing in morning. Remove from oven and let cool. Reserve all drippings.

Thanksgiving/Christmas Morning:

1. Mix a White Russian (Kahlua, Half and Half, and a couple of cherries) to sip on while doing your cooking. When finished, make another.
2. Remove turkey from oven. As soon as possible, drain all drippings from pan and re-wrap turkey well so that it will remain moist. Depending upon how much meat I got from legs and breasts, I sometimes need to use a bit more meat from the actual turkey to put in the dressing and gravy. It’s your decision as to how much meat you use for what. We like a LOT of meat in our dressing and in our gravy.
3. Using a large pot, add water and 10 – 12 bouillon cubes to make additional broth to be used in dressing and gravy. I normally add the turkey leg bones to the large pot of water and bouillon cubes while making additional broth. Let this simmer for an hour or so. Keep an eye on it so that it stays full. (Add additional water as necessary and maybe more bouillon cubes. You want this to be strong.) Sometimes, I need to make more so make sure you have plenty of bouillon cubes on hand. If you made this last night, hopefully you placed in fridge before bed to be used when mixing up dressing.
4. Mix up dressing – In an extremely large container, mix Jiffy Mix cornbread, Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix, half of the pepper/onion mixture, half of the chopped eggs. Mix these items until well combined. Add chopped up turkey meat from the legs and breast. Mix again until well combined. Add salt and pepper as needed. Don’t need much salt, but we like a lot of pepper. Do this for your own taste. Place this mixture into your butter-greased baking dishes. I normally get 2 – 3 of the largest baking dishes and then several smaller dishes of dressing. (We like to have extras for folks to take home.) Once placed into the baking dishes, start pouring your broth into the dishes. I will use some canned broth and some of the broth I made using the bouillon cubes. I normally will use more canned broth for the dressing and save a good bit of the home-made broth for my gravy. Use whatever you like, though. You will want the dressing to be soupy. Very soupy. So soupy so that when you place a spoon on the top of the dressing, broth will fill into the spoon. That soupy. I then pepper the top and cut up a stick of butter (at least – depends on how big your casserole dish is) to place on the top of the dressing before cooking. You want a LOT of butter. Act accordingly. This will be baked in a 325 – 350 degree oven until browned and juices have been absorbed. Do NOT overbake. I am terrible at saying how long to bake something. I don’t measure time; I just watch it and take it out when done, but it’s probably 45 minutes to an hour for a large pan. For a smaller pan, you figure it out.
5. It’s probably time for another White Russian (or a beer, or sweet tea, or wine – whatever floats your boat.)

Gravy

I use my largest soup pot to make my gravy in, but start it out in a large chicken fryer. Using your drippings that you removed from the turkey legs and breast pan, as well as the drippings from your big turkey, place them in the chicken fryer. Heat and make a roux using flour and water and add slowly to the drippings to thicken it up. When at the right consistency (you decide what that consistency is), add a can of broth. Mix well and let it heat up well before transferring to the large soup pot. At this point, just start adding stuff. I add the chopped up turkey from the legs and breast that I made, half of the chopped eggs, and half of the onion/bell pepper mixture. This is where I decide whether or not I need to strip more turkey meat from the big turkey. Do so if needed. Did I say that we like LOTS of meat in our gravy? Add broth as needed. Do this slowly so that it doesn’t become too watery. Sometimes, I need to make more roux to add – depends on how crazy I’ve gotten in making too much. (Although Will says that you can never have too much gravy.) Continue to let gravy simmer, stirring occasionally and slapping people’s hands when they decide to just eat spoonfuls of gravy. Add salt and pepper as needed. (Sidenote: A couple of years ago, my grandson, Jake, asked for a bowl after everyone was finished eating. When his mom asked why he needed it, he said that he wanted some soup. Upon questioning, he pointed her to the gravy and said that he wanted a bowl of Grams’ Chicken Soup. Go figure.)

At this point, it’s usually pretty crazy in the kitchen so it’s most definitely time for another White Russian (or a beer, or sweet tea, or wine – whatever floats your boat. Shoot, it may even be time for a nap.)

Cook on, people.  Cook on.

Now, it’s time to bring on the fixings — Cranberry Sauce, Sweet potato casserole, Mashed potatoes, Mac & Cheese, Broccoli salad, Squash casserole, Pickle tray, Ambrosia, Assorted pies, cakes, cookies, or Pumpkin rolls, Hot rolls and butter, and whatever else you happen to come up with.  Oh, my gosh, and we can’t forget Sandra’s famous Green S*it.  It wouldn’t be a holiday dinner without it.  (And that’s a story for another day.)  After all the prepping and cooking, it’s time for all that family fun and tummy stuffing.

No matter what you cook, what you buy, where you go, or who you are with — I hope you have a Blessed Thanksgiving holiday.

Depression, Encouragement, Family, Life, Mental Health

Another Year, Another Prayer

It’s been 52 years now since I whispered in your ear for the first time.  That whisper was, “Happy Birth Day, sweet little boy”.

On October 5th of each of the last 51 years, I have whispered a short prayer in my heart.

On this 52nd year, I again whisper the following in my heart:

Happy Birthday, Allen Lee.

I pray that you are healthy.

I pray that you are happy.

I pray that you are safe.

I pray that you Believe.

I pray that you are loved.

I pray that you love.

 

 

Changes, Depression, Encouragement, Life, Mental Health

You Can’t Skip Chapters

Pillow Thoughts 2 by Courtney Peppernell

After yesterday’s post, I thought it was interesting for this to have shown up on my FB page.  Lots of thoughts these days about life and about the ultimate ending of it.

I think most of us wish we could go back and skip some of the tough chapters. But, what would have happened if we had done so? Would we still be the person we are now? Of course we wouldn’t. Which chapters made us who we are?  Which chapters were just fluff?  Without those tough chapters, we would not have learned — about strength, about courage, about love, about losing, about envy, about fun, about sadness, about winning.

Without having experienced these chapters, we would all be a bunch of spoiled, spineless people who think of no one but ourselves. We want to think that if we only had good in our lives, we would always do good in our lives. Very few people can live up to those expectations.

We are a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It almost makes our lives sound like an old western movie, doesn’t it?

If that’s the case, I want to be Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.

~~ Betty

God, Life, Mental Health

You Are Gonna Get Got. Don’t Ever Doubt It.

If it’s not something we’ve eaten, it’s something we’ve drunk, or maybe something we smoked, or something in the air, or something in the dirt, or something that seeped into our bodies from the clothing we wore, or some other bad habit we had, or someone with a gun, or someone with a knife, or someone driving while drunk, or by the hands of a loved one, or by the hands of an enemy, or by the hands of a stranger, or something that goes wrong during surgery, or from a reaction to some medicine, or from a bee sting, or from a shark attack, or from a hurricane, or from a tornado, or from a bear attack, or from a mosquito bite, or from tripping over your cat and breaking your neck, or from being in a plane crash, or from drowning, or from choking on a pickle, or from being bucked while riding a horse, or because we were speeding, or because we were using our cell phones while driving, or from a flower pot that falls off a 4th story balcony while we were walking down the street, or from being run over by a bus while jay-walking, or by suicide, or from a frillion other reasons, or just from being old and our bodies wearing out — we are all going to die. Nobody escapes this thing called life. It may just be because the good Lord decides it’s your time. But, you are going to die. No exceptions. Make sure you use your time here on Earth wisely and appreciate the life you have been given. Because of Something, somewhere, somehow, sometime — we are all going to die. The longer we live, the more things or reasons that people can think of are going to be said to be the cause of your death. Don’t think you’ll get out of it. You won’t. And I won’t, either. Make sure you are ready when it happens.

Depression, God, Mental Health

How to serve God

How very true this is. In order to be an effective Martha, you must first be a Mary. It looks so simple seeing it written that way, but it’s so very true. I think this may be one of my problems; I want to “do” but I’m not allowing myself the luxury to first “be”. Thank you, Evonne Tirado, for stating this important piece of the puzzle so simply.

Reblogged

Perfect Love

I sat in heavy meditation today wondering if I was a Mary or a Martha. This is a question I’ve always asked myself since first hearing about them. First my middle name is Martha so I can’t help like feel as if I was destined to be a Martha. I know my relationship with God calls to be a Mary yet , that’s super hard for me at times. Martha is a servant but grows weary and irritable she allows the actions of others to upset her. While Mary simply sits in the Lords presence and builds a relationship with him. There’s something amazing to learn from Mary who sits in the Lords presence. Sometimes we need to be still to be reminded how God works in our lives. The stillness could be uncomfortable for the Martha’s of the world yet in order to be an effective Martha we need…

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Depression, Encouragement, Mental Health, Suicide

Those Dreaded “Copy and Paste To Show You Care” Posts

For those of you with a Facebook account, I know that you have seen the following post.  It’s been around for quite some time. 

“Maybe if people’s heads weren’t buried in the sand of ignorance and they took the time to understand, instead of judging and thinking it won’t happen to them because they have the perfect family, life would be a little bit easier for people that do experience this! This hits close to home for me, for family and friends who live under this shadow. The days of ‘it’ not being talked about or being taboo should be over. In the most difficult moments of life you realize who your true friends are, and the people who really appreciate you. Unfortunately, most social media ‘friends’ aren’t true friends. They will send you a “like” here and there, but, they do not take time to read your status if they see it’s lengthy. More than half will stop reading right here, or have already scrolled on to the next post on their page. I decided to post this message in support of all those who continue to battle with their mental illness. (Suicide is at an all time high). Now, let’s see who will have taken the time to read this lengthy post right through to the end. If you have read everything so far, please “like” it so that I can put a thank you on your page. More mental health awareness is urgently needed. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering. Please, try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk (about anything). Talking can help us all to cope a little more, keeping things bottled up just makes it worse. Most people will say, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there to help you” but will they? I believe a select few of my friends will post this, to show their support for those who may be struggling. You just have to copy and paste rather than sharing. I’d like to know who will take a minute out of their day to read this all the way to the end and then copy and paste it to their page, will you? If so, please write “done” in the comments. Thank you! Maybe if people’s heads weren’t buried in the sand of ignorance and they took the time to understand, instead of judging and thinking it won’t happen to them because they have the perfect family, life would be a little bit easier for people that do experience this! This hits close to home for me, for family and friends who live under this shadow. The days of ‘it’ not being talked about or being taboo should be over. In the most difficult moments of life you realize who your true friends are, and the people who really appreciate you. Unfortunately, most social media ‘friends’ aren’t true friends. They will send you a “like” here and there, but in reality they do not take time to read your status if they see it’s lengthy. More than half will stop reading right here, or have already scrolled on to the next post on their page. I decided to post this message in support of all those who continue to battle with their mental illness. (Suicide is at an all time high). Now, let’s see who will have taken the time to read this lengthy post right through to the end. If you have read everything so far, please “like” it so that I can put a thank you on your page. More mental health awareness is urgently needed. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering. Please, try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk (about anything). Talking can help us all to cope a little more, keeping things bottled up just makes it worse. Most people will say, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there to help you” but will they? I believe a select few of my friends will post this, to show their support for those who may be struggling. You just have to copy and paste rather than sharing. I’d like to know who will take a minute out of their day to read this all the way to the end and then copy and paste it to their page, will you? If so, please write “done” in the comments. Thank you!”

Each time I see someone post the above message, I have the same feelings.  I think it’s unfair to many people.  And it’s not the people you think – it’s not those who are suffering – it’s those who are in the dark.  I think it’s unfair to them.  Let me explain how and why.  And remember, these are MY thoughts.  If you don’t agree with them, that’s fine.  We are all entitled to our own thoughts. 

1.      I think the post is judgmental.  I remember the first time I saw this post and read the first line, I thought, “Well, geez, aren’t you just the perfect one?”

Is Mental Health something that should be understood by more?  Of course.  But accusing them of burying their heads in the sand of ignorance is not going to make them want to research anything.  And blaming their lack of knowing on the fact that you think they have a perfect family or life is not going to endear them to you.  I don’t think that many people are won over by a challenge to them to get smarter from someone on Facebook.  We all pretty much think we are smart enough and don’t like others telling us that we are not. 

2.     I think the post is one of those threatening posts in which the poster shames the readers with that old “copy and paste and if you don’t do so, it must mean you don’t care”. 

I hate those copy and paste threats.  I think it’s because I’d rather use my own words.   If there is a topic that I feel the need to share on Facebook, why would I use someone else’s words to do so?  Most of the time, if you read through those things, they are filled with errors, make statements that everyone knows have nothing at all to do with you, and are just so insincere.  It’s kind of like those aggravating private messages that people send you because — this is something that you MUST know, it’s VITAL for you to know, or IT’S GOING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE.  Well, dang, if it’s that darn important, why are you sending the message just to me, why not send it to everyone from your Facebook wall?  And why not use your own words to let me know that it’s coming from YOUR heart?  I detest those boilerplate warnings or threats or life-saving messages.  My friends know that I’m a real big proponent of “Use your own words.”  

3.      Now, for the meat of the post – Mental Health. 

Yes, I absolutely think that Mental Health has gotten the raw end of the deal as far as Medical Advancement goes.  However, through some of the recent books I have read and some of the documentaries I have watched lately that deal with Mental Illness, we have come a long way.  It wasn’t that many years ago when people were sent to Mental Health hospitals just so that someone in the house could get a break.  Doctors have most certainly diagnosed and treated mental conditions with medicines.  So, yes, advancements have been made. 

Are there still millions who have no clue?  Absolutely.  How do we change that?  I think that the best way to change this is for those who do suffer to talk or write about our experiences.  I know that it makes it much more real for me to hear about something happening to someone who I know and care for.  It makes it REAL.  I can read books about faraway people all day long and it doesn’t make an impact on me.  But, let me read something about someone I know, and I’m all in it.  I want to find out about what it is they are suffering from.  It connects me to them.  And by making that connection, it becomes MY problem, too.   

We must make Mental Health REAL to others so that they see the importance of education.  We must make it REAL so that they can see the actual suffering.  We must make it REAL so that it becomes their problem, too.  Perhaps by making it REAL to others, we can share our suffering in such a way that it lessens the impact it has on us.  

4.       So, in the end, do these “copy and paste Facebook threats” do any good?  Maybe they do.  Maybe they encourage those of us who live with Mental Health problems to share with others on a one-to-one basis.  Maybe our friends who never imagined that we suffered will become aware of what a nasty thing Mental Illness can be.  Maybe it will help others to learn.  Maybe these posts are not so bad, after all.  Who knows?  Maybe I’m the one with the wrong ideas about them.  Maybe. 

~~Betty

Depression, Mental Health

I’m Getting Better. Then It Got Worse. Then It Got Better. Then It Got Worse Again. Now, It’s Getting Better Again. Ok, ok. I’m Getting the Message, God.

I’m Getting Better —  Another “suck and dig and burn” session today.  In fact, it was session #2 for this week.  I had three new gobs of fungus on Monday that had to be sucked and dug out and then cauterized.  Ugh!  Then today, there were two new gobs.  More sucking.  More digging.  More cauterizing.  So, looking at the numbers, I’m getting better.  Yippee!  The problem is that these are growing at the top of the ear canal and it’s very hard to get the anti-fungal medicine to coat the top of the canal.  I’ve been told to put the drops in and then position my head upside down and let the meds soak for 10 minutes.  I guess that position sounds easy for Dr. M.  But, it’s not for me.  That’s the problem.  Do you know how darn hard it is to keep your head upside down  for 10 minutes?  In case you don’t, let me tell you — it’s hard.  I’ve found the easiest way is to sit on the seat of the commode and put my head between my legs and then sit there.  Staying in that position makes me extremely dizzy and I’m scared to death I’m going to topple over and smash my head against the tub.  To make it worse, my crazy dog thinks that she’s supposed to communicate with me during that time.  I have to keep my eyes closed to help with the dizziness and Bella constantly runs in to lick my face.  Pain in the butt dog.  But, I guess if I want this fungus to die its well-deserved painful death, I’m going to have to continue to do this 4 times a day.

Then It Got Worse — As I got off the Interstate today and headed for Dr. M’s office, I noticed that my car began to bounce and shake.  Damn.  I slowed down and it got worse.  I sped up and it didn’t help.  Still bouncing.  Still shaking.  Thank goodness at this point I was only about a block from the doctor’s office.  Made it there and had to ride around the parking lot a few times waiting for someone to leave so I could park.  Got out, looked at the tires, kicked them all a few times and decided I’d worry about it when I got through.  Did a lot of praying to God that He work his miracle so that when I come back out and get in my car it would be all better.  Great idea, but it didn’t work.  As I drove off, car was still bouncing.  Decided I’d try to find a tire shop and let them look at it before I tried to make it home.  My fear was that I’d get on the interstate and have a blow out or something horrendous.  And as much as my ear was hurting, I knew that if that happened, they would have to send the men in their white coats to get me.  Did a google search and there was a tire store just 3 blocks from the hospital so I figured I’d head there.  No deal.  It was boarded up.  Then decided to just go to Washington Rd. — surely there would be one on that main road.  Lucky me.  Pep Boys was right there.  Went in and explained what the car was doing and the guy told me it would be $89.95 for them to LOOK at the car.  Dang!  But, what do you do when you are by yourself and are 90 miles away from home?  You say, “Sure, please look at it.”  He said that they were currently working on a few cars that would be ahead of me.  No problem.  I’ll wait.  What options did I have?  None.  So, I sat down and started running all sorts of scenarios through my mind (while my ear was throbbing and meds that Dr. M. had filled my ear with were constantly draining) and was on the verge of tears when a sweet young lady named Sammy who worked at the counter came over and said that she was going to send a technician out to just check the lug nuts to make sure that I didn’t have a loose one.  She said that if that was the problem, I could be on my way a lot quicker.  Nice man came out and asked me to take him to my car.  Nope, all lug nuts fine.  Dang.  He said, “Let’s take a ride and let me see what it’s doing.”  Before we even got out of the lot good, he said that it felt like my right rear tire had a problem.  We rode down the road a bit and he said he was pretty sure that was the problem.  Back to the shop we go.  He said as soon as he had a lift empty, he’d get my car on it and let me know.  So, back I go to the waiting room to wait and ponder.  About 30 minutes later he came out and said that he had been right, the right rear tire had a huge knot on it causing the bumping.  New tire needed.  Sure.  I’m made of money.  Let’s get a new tire.  Another 30 minutes or so later, Sammy walked over to me and said, “You look like you need a hug.”  And she bent down and gave me a big hug.  Waterworks!  Waterworks!  We sat and talked for a few minutes and she told me that it shouldn’t be much longer.

Then It Got Better — The technician pulled my car up to the door (it had begun to pour rain while I had been sitting there and I’d rather take a beating than to have to drive in the rain) and I went to counter to pay.  Sammy told me that she was going to give me a 25% discount as a “Welcome to Augusta”  and “Sorry for your Problems” so she was going to waive the $89.95 fee.  Bless her heart.

As an aside, a few weeks ago, while browsing YouTube, I ran up on some Dave Ramsey videos. I’d heard of him and knew he dealt with money stuff, but had not heard how his program worked so I watched a few videos.  As those of you who know about Dave Ramsey know, he says the first thing you should do in your financial life is to have a $1000 Emergency Fund.  Sounded good to me so I started stashing some moolah into a special new savings account.  Since I had the debit card with me for this account, I decided that this was a perfect time to use this Emergency Fund.  After all, here I was, stuck 90 miles from home with a new tire being purchased.  Sounded like a perfect Emergency to me.  So, even though I certainly didn’t want to have to use it, it sure was nice to know that I could easily pay for this dang tire.  Swipe!  Done.  Woo Hoo!  Thanks, Dave.  Now, I just have to drive home in the rain.  Ugh!

Got back on I-20 with no more bumping and just like that, it quit raining.  Thank you, Lord.  Then, the traffic just about came to a stop.  Piles and piles and piles of people with North Carolina and South Carolina tags were heading west, out of harm’s way from Hurricane Florence. And we were all on I-20 together.  I surely didn’t want to drive in this awful traffic in the rain.  God knew that.  He stopped the rain.

Then It Got Worse Again — Two hours of awful traffic, ear throbbing, and legs that had been in the “down position” since 10 a.m. (it was now after 4 p.m. and I hadn’t even gotten to the Ft. Gordon area yet) were beginning to swell.  And I could feel them.  I could feel my heart beating in my ear and now in my ankles.  It was a miserable trip home.  And all I could think about all the way home was that I have to do this again in two days.  Geez, I’m so sick of driving to Augusta.  And who knows what the traffic or weather is going to be like on Friday.  I’m a pretty smart gal and I know that everybody and their brother is going to be on I-20 on Friday afternoon and I know that it’s going to be raining in the Augusta area.  But, I HAVE to be here on Friday.  The last time I waited a week to see Dr. M., the fungus had gone crazy again and we pretty much had to start over with the sucking and digging.  I don’t think I can do that again so I have to be there Friday.  I had a long talk with God while driving and have explained it all to Him so I’m going to just have faith that He helps me out with the weather and the traffic.

Then It Got Better Again — I made it home safely.  I propped my legs up and took a three-hour power nap and didn’t feel guilty one bit when I took a pain pill.  Life, for today, is better again.  I’ll worry about Friday on Friday.  And my sweet friend, Dru, has said that she will go with me Friday so I don’t have to deal with it all by myself.  So, while today has been one with a bunch of ups and downs,  it’s ending on an up.  That makes it better.

~~ Betty

Depression, Encouragement, Good News, Mental Health

My Days in the Georgia Department of Corrections

A friend had posted a video this morning of the abandoned Rivers State Prison in Milledgeville. Seeing the video brought back many sweet memories of my time spent with the Georgia Department of Corrections Educational Department.

Ahh, so many memories. My first experience with GDC was teaching a class for GMC at Rivers on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I remember those long, dark, dingy halls that were shown in the video.  I remember the clanking of the metal doors as I went from one area to another.  I remember the students who worked hard and who appreciated the opportunity to continue their education.  A couple of years later, I learned of a job opening for a full-time teacher with the GDC and applied.  I became a full-time teacher for GDC for 5 years, teaching at Hancock State Prison, Davisboro Women’s Prison, Frank Scott State Prison, and Bostick State Prison.  I remember those days well.

I was teaching at Bostick when Gov. Zell Miller decided that inmates no longer needed to be educated and fired all teachers in the Georgia Department of Education on Dec. 30, 1997. During the month between the announcement of our firings and the time we left, Human Resources so graciously met with all teachers to give us information on how to find a new job and how to apply for welfare and food stamps. Mighty kind of them, huh? I remember that during that month, I had sent hundreds of letters and faxes to newspapers, tv stations, and to every governmental official in Atlanta. I remember being called into my Deputy Warden’s office to be told that I was not to speak to another tv reporter about our “situation”.  When I asked what would happen if I did, I was told that a decision had not been made yet, but that I probably wouldn’t like the results.  Hmmmm…… I was on Channel 13 news that night explaining why we needed teachers in the prison system.  I got several dirty looks the next day at work from the administration, but nothing happened.  At least not that day, anyway.  I also remember a group of us going to Atlanta to meet with the legislators and then trying to see the Governor. His aide told us no, that the Governor was too busy to meet with “you people”.  One of the group told the aide that we had some really important information that we’d like to say to the Governor. The aide then looked at the gentleman and said, “Sir, do you happen to know a Betty O’Steen?” Gulp, I was standing right there. I must admit that at that moment I wasn’t sure that all those letters and faxes had been a smart thing.  Our spokesman said, “Yes, sir, I certainly do know her.” The aide then said, “Well, sir, if you know her, you must also know that there is nothing that any of you can say to the Governor that Ms. O’Steen has not already said.” At that point, he turned around and walked off, leaving us standing there and leaving me extremely happy that my letters had indeed evidently reached the Governor’s desk. But, we still got fired.  Oh, yeah,  I found out what the Deputy Warden had been talking about if I spoke to any more reporters.  As I was leaving work on the very last day, I was stopped at the gate and was surrounded by several correctional officers and the administrative staff.  My belongings were searched and I was accused of stealing state property.  Little stacks of items were placed to the side as the search continued.  I was accused of stealing things like eight paper clips (that happened to be in a personally owned container that still had the Walmart sticker on it), paper that had been used to make worksheets for my students (all in my own handwriting, but yes, the paper had belonged to the state), and several other items.  After being held outside for about 45 minutes, the DW who had warned me not to talk to anyone and who was leading the search, looked at me and said, “See?  I told you.  But, we’re going to let you go and you can take all your goodies with you.”  He then walked off and told them to open the gate for me.  And people think that the inmates are the bad ones in the prison system?  I beg to differ.

I must say that my absolute best memories of all my years of teaching were of my students in the Georgia Prison System. I have memories of Mr. George who will always be with me, with an inmate who spent two solid months learning the letters of the alphabet and how to write his first and last name so that the letters were in the proper places, the 76-year old female who, for the life of her, could not master my last name, no matter how hard she tried and how many times I said it to her, it always came out as Ms. Oppersteen. Memories of two students, one at Frank Scott and one in Davisboro, who I had originally taught at Coffee High School in Douglas, GA, only to run back into them again while incarcerated. Memories of the day that I fell on those highly-waxed floors at Hancock SP and the educational aide rushed over to help me to my feet, only to be yelled at by the CO and my falling again when he let go of my arm.  Dang, those floors were slick as glass.

My one and only really scary moment was the day that a student walked up to my desk and towered above me (he was about 6’6″ and weighed a ton) and asked me what I’d do if he reached down and slapped the s*it out of me.  He  was upset because as I had walked by his desk, I had reached over and had taken a picture he was drawing when he was supposed to have been working.  Of course, when he asked me that,  I froze and had to do some quick thinking. I had noticed that a couple of students had turned to look at us, so I loudly said to the student standing in front of me, “Excuse me, what did you just say to me?” That got all of my students’ attention and they were all watching us at that point. The upset student stood there, quite mad and repeated his original question, “What would you do if I reached down and slapped the s*it out of you?” At that point, every single student sitting at their desks, rose and came toward my desk. The all got between me and the upset inmate. One student left the classroom to go get the guard and they did not let the student get close to me. After he had been taken out, I thanked them for helping and one of them said, “Ms. O, there’s no way we were going to let him do that to you. We need you here for us.” My heart filled with thankfulness at that moment for those inmates, who society had thrown away, but who had just taught me once again that there was good in their hearts.

Then, more memories of being called into the Warden’s office at one of the prisons because an inmate had written a complaint saying that I had “never written up a white guy in any of my classes”.  The Warden asked if that was true and I had to admit that it was most definitely true; I had not written a Disciplinary Report for any white students. After being yelled at and being told that I was a racist by the Warden, my Ed Supervisor pulled out my class rolls to show the warden that although it was true that I had never written up a white guy in my classes, it was also true that there were absolutely NO WHITE GUYS IN ANY OF MY CLASSES. — I was the only white person in there.  I still chuckle over that one.

And my best memories were those times when I could actually “SEE that light bulb go off” over my students’ heads when they finally understood fractions or some other concept. Oh, the joy that we both felt when that happened! Remember Mr. George I mentioned? Well, I will never forget the day that he brought me a letter he had received from his wife in which she said how proud of him she was because she had just received the first letter in 17 years that he had actually written to her in his own handwriting (he normally had others in the dorms write his letters home for him because he didn’t know how to write). She told him that after she had taken his letter to church to show off, she had had it framed and had it hanging on her living room wall.

Folks, that’s what teaching is all about and I’ll always treasure my moments in those dark and dingy halls inside the Georgia Department of Corrections Educational Departments.

Depression, Mental Health

There’s a Fungus Among Us

Little bit of history here.

I swam a LOT as a child.  Swimmer’s ear was a constant companion to me as a child.  Way back in 2002, I began to have some severe problems with one of my ears.  My hearing was almost nonexistent in my right ear and I was having gunk constantly drain from that ear.  I was also able to hold my nose, blow, and my ear would whistle.  In fact, it was so loud that one day in my classroom, I told my kids to listen and they all heard the ear whistle.  It was time to figure out what was wrong.

During a visit with my ENT he said it looked like there was a lot of fluid in my ear and began to suction it to see if he could clear some of it.  After a few minutes, I heard the doctor say to the nurse, “Oh my goodness, come look at this.”  Then there were several “Ooh” “Ugh” and “Oh gosh” comments from him and the nurse had a terrible look upon her face.  I remember telling him that even though I couldn’t hear anything from my right ear, all those Ughs were traveling around to my left ear and I could hear each time he said something and that he needed to stop because he was scaring me.  At that point, he stopped and told his nurse to go out and give some Dr. M. a call to see if he could work me in the next day.  After she left the room, he told me that he was going to have to send me to Augusta to an ear specialist because there was “something in there.”  So, the next day, a quick trip to this Dr. M. took place and I was in surgery the day after that to remove a cholesteotoma.  After a lot of quick research I found out what it was and that it was most likely due to the many ear infections I had had as a child.  After surgery I learned that it had destroyed all the middle ear bones and a large portion of the mastoid bone and that plastic implants had been put in.  Healing took place and a bit of the hearing was restored in ear.  However, during surgery the doctor evidently implanted some crazy little man who is practicing for a horn-blowing competition because he blows his horn 24/7.  This has been an on-going problem since the surgery.  Occasional trips back to the ENT took place for ear maintenance and life carried on.

Present Day Status

A couple of years ago, I started having problems with the ear again.  There had been constant draining and pain.  Back to the ENT.  He has worked on it for these two years with no improvement so I finally gave up on him and went back to my Otolaryngologist to get an answer.  And, Lord, did I get an answer.

Here’s my answer.

  1. I have an aggressively-growing fungus in my ear.  This requires the following procedures each time I see my doctor (2 times a week for now – 180 miles per visit):  suctioning, physical removal of fungus by digging it out, cauterizing of raw areas, and application of fungus medication.  Seven trips so far and each time, more fungus has grown back.
  2. Once all fungus is finally gone and ear is completely healed and is clean and dry for at least two weeks, surgery can be done on this ear.  That surgery will consist of repairing the damage to the ear drum, repositioning of the plastic implants that had been placed during original surgery, and the building of a new air space behind the implants that will allow them to work.  This is due to the fact that because of the size of the fungus masses, the ear drum was pushed back into the canal, pressing upon the plastic implants causing them to invade the necessary air space behind them.
  3. At-home drops to the ear every 4 hours of an athlete’s foot medicine and of an antibiotic.  (Just thinking that I’m using the same meds that someone uses for athlete’s foot just blows my mind.)

That’s the answer for my “bad” ear.”  Now, for the answer about my “good” ear. (And I didn’t even know there was a problem with my “good” ear.)

  1. I have a cholesteotoma in my “good”  ear that must be removed.
  2. We won’t know until surgeon gets in there as to whether the middle ear bones are still intact and working.  If they are damaged, he will place plastic implants in that ear.
  3. Maintenance visits for both every 3 months to Otolaryngologist, NOT to an ENT.

And all of this because I used to swim every day, twice a day, as a child.  Sigh………….

This ear crap is doing nothing to help with my depression.

~~ Betty