Getting Old is a Pain

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“…There will be no more…crying or pain…”  Rev. 21:4

I’d like to introduce you to my two new best friends.  Say “Hello” to Mr. Heating Pad.  I couldn’t ask for a better friend.  He’s soft, warm, and doesn’t talk too much.  Not exactly a bosom-buddy; more like a butt-buddy.  In fact, we’ve been together so much lately, you could say we’re attached at the hip.  My second friend is not as soft, but always seems to come through when I’m really hurting.  Meet Ms. Ibuprofen.  I always seem to feel better when she’s around.

It all started the day after Christmas, when, without any warning, I awoke to pain only a champion bull rider should experience the day after being thrown to the ground by a black bull named Tornado.  But, instead of riding a bull on Christmas Day, something even more horrific happened to me.  I got older.  In spite of my best efforts to act like a kid at Christmas,  my body wasn’t buying it.

The reality of getting older is the pain we’re feeling today, was actually caused by something we did many years ago.  I remember my grandfather saying one day, “If I’d known I’d be living this long, I’d taken much better care of myself.”  At the time, I didn’t know what he meant.  Now, his message is painfully clear.

So, here’s a partial list of the injuries I’ve endured over the years.  There was the groin injury in my twenties, the result of an overzealous aerobics instructor.  And, then there’s the professional masseuse, so impressed with my flexibility that she lifted my left leg next to my right ear.  I found out later she was a scout for the Cirque D’ Soleil.  After that, there was the skiing accident.  The first of many skiing accidents.  It was the first day of our vacation and happened on Robert Redford’s lovely Sundance Ski Resort.  I should have stayed home and watched  The Way We Were  on video, instead.  Fortunately, I’d only torn a few ligaments or tendons in my knee, a mere flesh wound.  So, no surgery was necessary.

My husband, in his infinite wisdom, decided to go on another ski trip the following year.  This time I was able to enjoy the trip, except for the last night.  He decided he wanted to go night-skiing.  I have trouble skiing in the daytime, so don’t know what he was thinking.  Falling off at the beginning of the ski lift should have been my first clue.  But no, I had to get back on and try again.  This time, I rode to the top of the mountain alongside a rookie snowboarder.  We both made it off the lift, then, Wham!  She slammed me into a wall, where I heard the sickening sound of my knee snapping.  The trip wasn’t a complete bust, though.  I got to ride in a bone-sled pulled by ski patrol going a hundred miles per hour down a snow-covered mountain at night.   I was strapped in so tight, thankfully, all I could see was the stars flying by as we made our way down the length of the ski run.  The highlight was being shoved through the square in the door of the emergency building just big enough for the bone sled to fit through.  I now know what a pizza feels like being slid off a paddle and into a brick oven, except I was freezing.

Which brings me back to today’s pain.  Evening is when the pain gets worse.  I start moaning like Randy on Christmas Story when faced with eating a plate of meatloaf.  Know what, Randy, I’ll trade ya’.



Happy Hoppin’ John Time!

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Verse:  Save now, we beseech You, O Lord; send now prosperity, O Lord, we beseech You, and give to us success!  Psalms 118:25(Ampl. Bible)

It’s New Year’s Day, and in a short while, probably between college football games, I’ll begin preparing a meal that’s been a family tradition for years, Hoppin’ John.  According to my mom, Grandpa Zach began serving Hoppin’ John to his family on New Year’s Day.  He believed eating it would bring more luck, money and prosperity to them in the coming year.

This is a tradition I carry on to this day.  I decided to do some research on Hoppin’ John, and discovered its roots began in Southern states during the mid’ 1800’s.  One story behind the unusual name recalls how an old man named John hobbled through Charleston selling rice and peas.  But, most historians believe Hoppin’ John is actually derived  from the French term for dried peas, “pois pigeons.”

Here are the main components of Hoppin’ John.  Black-eyed peas are the star ingredient in this scrumptious concoction.  The peas symbolize pennies or coins,  and part of the ritual is placing a coin either in the pot, or under your bowl.  I prefer the “under the bowl” method, since there’s less risk of accidentally ingesting the coin.  I use a penny, and have too much respect for Lincoln, one of my favorite presidents, to put him through that particular ordeal.  Eating peas is believed to bring both prosperity and luck.  Rice, another component, represents good health, along with pork, thought to bring even more luck.  Here, I’m a divergent, preferring to use smoked turkey sausage in place of ham or bacon.  I think it tastes better.  Hopefully, this minor alteration won’t diminish the luck factor, and might positively benefit my health.  Along with black-eyed peas and rice, greens are served alongside the main dish.  Apparently, any type of greens work, as long as they are, well, green,  the color of currency, and represent wealth.  Mac and cheese, for instance, though served in many Southern restaurants as a vegetable side, won’t work, unless, of course, they’re green.  And, if they are green, better eat more rice for better health!

Like Sandra Lee, I opt for semi-homemade recipes, emphasis on the semi, not homemade.  I generally slice up some smoked turkey sausage, and sauté it in a pan with a little oil.  Then, I add some chopped onion, and sauté them together until the sausage begins to brown.  Next, I drain a can of black-eyed peas, usually flavored with jalapenos for extra spice, and add it to the pot.  I then add rice, and love using microwavable rice, for ease, choosing a wild-rice, brown blend, for more interest and flavor.  Next, stir, and the Hoppin’ John is done.  I like collards as my green accompaniment.  My mom always serves spinach, another flavorful choice.  There are some wonderful canned preseasoned collards available, like Margaret Holmes.  They’re absolutely delicious, and inexpensive, too.  Last, I use a boxed cornbread mix, Jiffy cornbread, that’s cheap, fifty cents a box, simple, with a slightly sweet flavor that perfectly complements the rest of the meal.  Of course, you could make everything from scratch, and some may derive pleasure from doing so.  Not me.  So, in an effort to at least begin the year on a positive and peaceful note, I choose the easy preparation method listed above.  The only thing left to do is sit down to a lovely, comforting meal, absolutely perfect for chasing the hangover/blues away.

I love eating Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day, a tradition passed down from my grandfather.  As far as I can figure, I’ve had it every year for over fifty years.  I wouldn’t be surprised if my mom served pureed black-eyed peas to me as a baby.  And, even though my brother Rich is not a big fan of them, he manages to ingest at least one of these lucky, coin-like peas on New Year’s Day, figuring a little luck is better than none.  All this talk about Hoppin’ John is making me hungry.  I better get to cooking.  And, whether or not I’m more prosperous, I’m definitely more satisfied.

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