Who’s Your Momma?

Shirley Tedesco has her hands full with eight children ranging in age from five to sixteen, but she loves being a mother. She’s also very practical about the whole endeavor and readily distributes hugs or spanks as needed to keep her brood of eight angels/hoodlums in line. In the chapter of my novel, The Tedescos, titled “Soul Food,” Shirley is feeling like less of a mother than she normally does. Her husband, Joe, knows she’s experiencing a bout of the blues, and his heart breaks for her. Joe springs into action with a Mother’s Day celebration sure to lift Shirley’s spirits and quite possibly earn him some points.

While writing, I knew that Mother’s Day had been established long before the year during which my novel took place, but the research provided some interesting history with which I’d like to honor mothers everywhere.

One of the earliest example of celebrating mothers came about with the Christian festival known as “Mothering Sunday.” This holiday fell on the fourth Sunday during Lent, and it was once a major tradition in England and parts of Europe. Faithful church attenders would return to their “mother church” (the main church nearest their home) for a special service.

Over time, Mothering Sunday became a more secular holiday. Children began presenting their mother’s with small tokens of appreciation or flowers. This custom started to fade in popularity, but it eventually merged with the American version of honoring mothers, Mother’s Day, in the 1930s and 1940s.

In America, the origins of Mother’s Day date back to the 19th century. Prior to the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a resident of West Virginia, helped start the “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” in an effort to teach proper childcare to local women. Later, the clubs served as a unifying force in areas of the country still divided by the Civil War. In 1868, Jarvis promoted reconciliation between mothers of Union and Confederate soldiers by organizing “Mothers’ Friendship Day.”

Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist and suffragette, also provided an important aspect to what would become the modern Mother’s Day. In 1870, Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation.” Her call to action asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873, she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Reeves Jarvis, was instrumental in promoting the official Mother’s Day holiday in the 1900s. After her mother’s death in 1905, Anna Jarvis regarded Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.

John Wanamaker, a Philadelphia department store owner, provided financial backing for Anna Jarvis allowing her to organize the first official Mother’s Day celebration in 1908 at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. Thousands of people also attended a Mother’s Day event at one of Wanamaker’s retail stores in Philadelphia.

Anna Jarvis, who never married or had children, started a massive letter writing campaign to newspapers and influential politicians in an effort to have Mother’s Day added to the national calendar. By 1912, many states, towns, and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Anna Jarvis established the Mother’s Day International Association to assist with promoting her cause. Her perseverance paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure to officially establish the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

There is no set way to honor and celebrate mothers and motherhood. My experience has been that small, private celebrations or those grounded in faith touch a mother’s heart the most. It isn’t about what you can give to and/or do for your mother; it’s about maintaining the relationship throughout the year, and then taking one special day a year to say an extra “I love you.”

The Artist’s Corner – Cooking With Priscilla Smith

I’ve mentioned before that I have a tendency to feed the characters in my stories.  In fact my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, is replete with the mention of food prompting the sharing of recipes.  So when I began The Artist’s Corner, it made sense to feature someone who enjoys the art of cooking as much as I do.  I don’t believe Priscilla has ever cooked for a fictional person, but if she did, they would enjoy her talent as much as the real people for whom she cooks.

Hello and welcome to the Artist’s Corner.  Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Well, I’ve been married for fifty-one years, and I have two children and two grandchildren.  I have enjoyed being a homemaker for the better part of my marriage.  I was heavily involved in raising my family and my children’s schooling, but I also worked in the banking and legal industry as well as a volunteer at the fire department.

How/when did your love of cooking develop?

I learned to cook under my mother’s instruction, but growing up in West Virginia didn’t expose me to a variety of foods.  My basic cooking skills didn’t develop until my high school home economics class in Ohio.  My final project was to collect recipes, and I gathered some good ones, but they were basic.

I honed my skills through my relationship with my oldest brother’s wife.  Inta is Latvian, and she introduced me to other foods and methods of preparation.  I fell in love with cooking and realized I could do this, too.

Do you consider the food you prepare art?

All of it.  From the first steps of preparation to the finished meal is the creation process resulting in edible art.  That’s why I take pictures of it and put it on Facebook!  At first I thought just the fancy stuff and my baking was art, but I realized it all is.  The quality of the food contributes to the finished product.  Homemade food is art with love infused.  In fact, something as simple as fried green tomatoes when made with good ingredients and love are impressive.

And don’t forget that the table setting is part of it.  Presentation plays an important role.  You eat first with your eyes, then your sense of smell, and finally with your mouth.  Sure, it’s the same food when you hastily prepare it and eat right out of the pans, but beautiful dishes, large platters, place mats, candlelight, napkins, silver, and crystal:  all this enhances the food.  You make it worthy of being presented in a magazine.

Do you put yourself into your cooking?

Absolutely.  How I season, what I choose to cook for a particular meal, how I approach the preparation process:  this is me infusing myself into the food.  I love to cook what I enjoy eating for other people.  It’s a small expression of my personality that I can share with others.  And you really can’t go wrong when you’re cooking something you like to eat; it’s like giving a present of yourself to someone.

My accent is on good, solid food.  Not necessarily fancy, but I’m not afraid to try something new.  Thai food has been of interest to me lately.  But if asked to prepare something that I’m not particularly fond of or have never made, I’ll still make every effort to please whoever I’m feeding.

I don’t consider myself a chef by any means, but I consider myself a cook, and a good one.  I have training in life experience with cooking.  My education comes from searching through cookbooks, vintage recipes, online, and word of mouth which usually provides the best recipes.  And I can never leave a recipe alone; I always tweak it!  Sometimes my recipes are never the same twice, but they’re always good.

What other cooking experience have you had?

On a whim, I took a cake decorating class with women from a craft club I attended years ago when my children were young.  A bunch of us went.  I fell in love with the art of cake decorating and started making my kids’ cakes, cakes for neighbors, cakes for family functions.  I realized I could channel my talent into a small business.  With a lot of practice, I worked my way up to wedding cakes and was quite successful.

Did your non-cooking work experience lead to the pursuit of cooking?

Not exactly, but cooking for my family fed my interest.  I’ve never even been a waitress, but I’ve been involved with hosting tea parties (in my home, at church, and in other people’s homes), guests breakfasts for Pastor Appreciation, luncheons honoring staff or administrators at schools, catered wedding receptions, wedding showers, baby showers, conference luncheons for two hundred people at churches, a week’s worth of meals for an equestrian group with special dietary requests, and company Christmas parties.  In each instance, I worked with my client(s) to create a full menu that would be visually pleasing and delicious, and then I prepared the food.

What or who is your inspiration for cooking?

Julia Child, Ina Garten, and Martha Stewart—they cause me to rise up to their standard of cooking.  I love watching them and reading their cookbooks.  Factor in Graham Kerr and Justin Wilson.

What do you enjoy cooking?

It would be a lot quicker to say what I don’t enjoy.  My favorite things to cook are my childhood comfort foods which are brown beans and cornbread, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  Simple desserts like Crazy Cake and fudge.  Really, it’s hard to say any one thing since I like to make big meals and serve people.  I love to make pasta, beef roasts, chicken in many forms, roasted vegetables.  I love baking pies, breads, cookies, and cakes in that order.

Do you still cook for others as a business?

No, now it’s all for pure pleasure.  Well, actually, I’d take small jobs for close friends or family.  I’ve done everything I want to do business-wise with cooking.  I could turn all my handwritten recipes into a cookbook.  I could see a market for it based on people’s positive reaction to The Pioneer Woman and Paula Deen.  People like well-prepared, basic food that tastes good and isn’t difficult.  Food you already have in your cupboards.

Have you ever competed in a cooking contest or bake off?  If so, how did you do?

I baked for competition once.  When I was a young mother, I made candy apple pie for a local grocery store’s competition.  I took second place and received a ribbon!  I love watching the competitions on television and thinking, I could beat Bobby Flay, but cooking shouldn’t be under pressure or about throwing food around.  I’m not going to cook octopus, but if Bobby and I competed at potato soup or chili, I know I could take him down in a heartbeat.

How have you shared your cooking skills?

Lately, I’ve been teaching a young girl how to cook because she’s homeschooled.  Her mother asked me if I’d teach her to bake cupcakes and cookies because she’d tasted my stuff.  We slowly progressed into pies (double crust and with meringue), and she’s made palmiers, pudding, and angel food cake.  Next she’s going to make cheesecake.  We keep progressing with more and more difficult techniques.

What’s your opinion on the removal of Home Economics from school, specifically cooking?

It’s sad because young people don’t know how to cook.  They come home from work and buy something frozen or already prepared.  And I’m not talking about just girls.  Boys need to know how to cook, too.  My one grandson is prime example that boys can learn how to cook.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but they need to learn how to feed themselves.  Breakfast and dinner are essentials because that’s usually when they’re home.  Lunch is often eaten out, so they need to learn how to choose wisely.

How is what you cook for yourself different from what you cook for other people?

If I’m making a grilled cheese for myself, I’m going to grab a couple slices of bread from the fridge, use American cheese, and the fanciest thing I’d include would be a slice of tomato.  But if I’m making grilled cheese for someone else, I’m going to use seven-grain or homemade sourdough bread, gruyere, fontina, or a combination of exceptional melting cheeses, spread one side with Dijon mustard, and put a slice of roasted red pepper on that baby.  Still grilled cheese, but see the difference!

No doubt you’d work presentation into this simple fare?

Absolutely!  And it’s not just dressing up ill-prepared or tasteless food.  Make no mistake; it all starts with delicious food, quality ingredients.  Even how you refer to it is important.  Simple things like cutting the crust off toast or sprinkling chopped green onions over an omelet and serving it on pretty dishes can go a long way to turning the eggs and toast you always have for breakfast into something special.

What’s your favorite meal to cook?

Passover.  I love cooking for Passover.  When I’m cooking the Passover meal, the whole experience becomes holy.  Of course the Seder is beautiful; it’s for Adonai.  It can be quite long, so people are getting hungry.  You’d better serve them your best, and I do.  What I hope they know is that I’ve given my best to them because of my love for Adonai.

What’s your dream meal?

To have lunch with Martha Stewart, but I prepare the food.  There’d be a salad involved, probably a soup and sandwich combination.  The time of year, whether spring or fall, would influence the menu.  And I’d make homemade pie, probably lemon meringue because my crust is excellent.

What’s your biggest complaint with cooking?

The cost of good ingredients can be prohibitive.  One meal could be outrageous.  I’ll buy organic when it’s feasible.  My concern isn’t just for myself, it’s for everyone.  We live in a country that wastes too much food.  The GMOs bother me, too.  Whole foods and organics should be available at reasonable prices to everyone.

So do you have a recipe to share with us?

You know I do!

Homemade Potato Dumpling Soup

6 – 8 Redskin or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

3 – 4 ribs of celery, sliced

Medium sweet onion, chopped

4 eggs, beaten

1 ½ c flour

½ t salt

Stick of butter

4 – 6 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned (enough to cover, depends on the size of your potatoes)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 quart half-n-half

Place the potatoes, celery, and onions in a large pot and cover with the broth.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover while you’re making the dumplings.

Combined the eggs, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl and stir thoroughly to make a thick batter for dumplings.  Take a large spoonful of dumpling mixture and cut off pieces with a butter knife, dropping them into the hot soup.  Add a stick of butter.  Cover and let the dumplings cook for 5 – 8 minutes.

Turn the heat off and add the half-and-half until there is plenty of liquid around the ingredients and the soup looks creamy.  Taste to see if you need more salt, then season further with salt and pepper.

My family likes to top the soup with small chunks of Havarti, let it soften ever so slightly, and then eat it!

The Music of Life

the-music-of-lifeSeveral years ago while shelving AV material at the library where I used to work, I came across a CD titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions. What caught my eye, besides the unusual title, was Yo-Yo Ma on the cover. I was familiar with Yo-Yo Ma as a classically trained musician, but here he was featured on a CD devoted to music of a completely different genre. Without hesitation, I checked out the CD and couldn’t wait to listen to it on the drive home. What I heard started a love affair with a type of music I’d previously tiptoed around.

Probably what kept me from exploring this genre earlier was the fact that much of it was labeled Bluegrass. My opinion of Bluegrass included all things twangy and hick-i-fied. Yes, that is a word. What I discovered that day was something called Classical Crossover. Classical Crossover is a genre that hovers between classical and popular music, and is usually targeted at fans of both types of music. In the most common type of crossover, classically trained performers sing or play popular songs, folk music, show tunes, or holiday songs.

Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Stuart Duncan also contributed to the CD’s eleven tracks of music based on English and Irish fiddle music that gave birth to what we know as Appalachian fiddle music. The closest I’d ever come to anything like it was the little bits of fiddle I’d heard in songs by Clannad and The Chieftains.

After listening to The Goat Rodeo Sessions, I went in search of other CDs by the same artists or those featuring similar music. I discovered Appalachian Waltz, Short Trip Home, Appalachian Journey, and Heartland: An Appalachian Anthology all of which are now in a playlist that became the soundtrack of my mind as I wrote my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles. One song in particular, “Sliding Down” featuring Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Mike Marshall, epitomized John Welles’s experience in the later years of his life.

By the time John lived in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, his life had taken so many downward turns that he believed he’d never dig himself out from under them. Yet through it all, he retained a shred of hope buried deep in his heart. “Sliding Down” is the musical representation of what John felt during those years:  melancholy with a touch of optimism on the horizon that he was too afraid to reach for.

Other tracks from the above-listed CDs also played perfectly to the scenarios I wrote whether it was John as a boy on the family farm, as a student at the University of Maryland, during his relationship with the beautiful, enigmatic Garland, or the months following the D-Day Invasion. I don’t doubt that the music shaped what I wrote as if the songs were indeed a custom-made soundtrack. However, I finished writing over a year ago, so I haven’t accessed my Appalachian playlist in some time.

Last week, I had the opportunity to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird. It had been over thirty years since I had done so as an Honors English student in high school, but thanks to one of my book clubs, we revisited the classic. During one scene, Scout mentioned that Atticus liked listening to fiddle music on the radio. Suddenly my forgotten playlist rushed back to my memory. A quick check on Google confirmed that the Appalachian Mountains extend as far south as northern Alabama. As I read, all my favorite pieces became the background music for Scout, Jem, Dill, and Atticus’s adventures, and I listened to my playlist for two days straight.

By the way, the term goat rodeo refers to a chaotic event where many things must go right for the situation to work, a reference to the unusual and challenging aspects of blending classical and bluegrass music. Yo-Yo Ma described a goat rodeo saying, “If there were forks in the road and each time there was a fork the right decision was made then you get to a goat rodeo.” In the case of The Secrets of Dr. John Welles and To Kill a Mockingbird, the right choices weren’t always made, but somehow life worked out for the majority of those involved. This fact further reinforces my belief that the music of Appalachia is truly the music of real life.

Bean There, Done That

bean-there-done-thatI probably have as many memories of my mother telling me how she ate brown beans and cornbread as a child as she does instances of eating them. From what I understand, the humble meal was a staple among those living in West Virginia who were not financially well-off. Sometimes, they only had sliced white bread with their beans. To hear her tell it, though, you’d think she had eaten a meal fit for a queen such was her childhood love of brown beans and cornbread. Even her cousin, Ellen, and my Great Aunt Edie, also a former resident of West Virginia, speak of the meal as if it was manna from Heaven.

I grew up eating brown beans and cornbread though not with as much enthusiasm as my mother. They were okay, but as a child of the seventies, hotdogs, grilled cheese, and Kraft macaroni and cheese rounded out much of my diet. Besides, I was a somewhat finicky eater as a kid, and my appreciation for brown beans and cornbread didn’t develop until I was an adult. Now when Mom makes a pot of brown beans and a skillet of cornbread, you can bet my family, her cousin, Aunt Edie, and other relatives will trail in throughout the dinner hour to dine on the simple fare.

With all that being said, it just made sense to have Bea Turner serve brown beans and cornbread at the diner she owned. My protagonist, John Welles, had to eat them at least once during his sojourn in West Virginia. Even though the meal is mentioned only once in my novel, I suspect Dr. Welles developed a love for brown beans and cornbread and probably ate them quite often.

The recipe for brown beans is kind of like those for apple pie, meatloaf, or macaroni and cheese. Every family has their version of how the old familiar dish should taste. Often, finances dictated what went into the pot. At its most basic, brown beans were cooked in water with either a piece of salt pork or dollop of bacon grease, salt and pepper. I’m going to provide a recipe that is a little more elegant but not alter it so much that connoisseurs of the dish won’t recognize it.

Bea Turner’s Brown Beans

1 – 2 lb. bag of brown beans

2 – 14.5 oz. cans beef broth

2 – 14.5 oz. cans chicken broth

1 large carrot, diced

1 sweet onion, diced

1 – 2 stalks celery, diced

1 t thyme

1 T parsley

Dash of garlic powder

Couple dashes of Worcestershire sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

½ stick butter

⅛ c olive oil

Cover the beans with enough cold water to allow for absorption and soak overnight. Drain and wash the next day. Place the beans in a Dutch oven with all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Test for doneness at this point, and cook in thirty minute increments until the beans are tender, probably no more than 2 – 2 ½ hours total cooking time.

Ladle the beans over slabs of cornbread and serve.

Enjoy!

Masking the Truth

Clove Gum 2Everything seemed peaceful for Dr. John Welles in August of 1952. Despite a lifetime of dealing with secrets, whether keeping them for the sake of a loved one or generating secrets of his own, Dr. Welles believed he had finally found sanctuary in the hills of West Virginia. But it wasn’t to be.

By helping Bea Turner, who had become quite dear to him, John made a deal with the representatives of evil itself: the Ku Klux Klan. In his naiveté, he underestimated how truly wicked the Klan was and promised a favor in return to be fulfilled at the Klan leader’s whim. The day the favor was called in set John on his most destructive path so far. He turned to alcohol as a stabilizing factor in his downward spiraling life, yet he was unable to retain any sort of control. Alcohol claimed Dr. Welles for its own, and by submitting to the influence, he continued to lose what was dear to him.

One way the doctor kept people from discovering his alcoholism was to chew strong clove gum. Although I never mentioned brands, I always had Adams Clove Gum in mind for John when masking his drinking. He wouldn’t have been the first to do so.

Clove gum was first manufactured by the Thomas Adams Company in 1914. After working as a photographer and glassmaker, Adams tried his hand at inventing. The only thing he invented of any worth was achieved in the 1850s. While working as a secretary to the Mexican President, Antonio López de Santa Anna, the pair attempted the business venture of using chicle as a cheap alternative to expensive rubber tires. After a year of trying, the project was abandoned, and Adams eventually realized he could use chicle to produce a better type of chewing gum. He formed a company that by the late-1880s was making gum sold across the country.

In 1899, Thomas Adams became part of a new company called American Chicle Company which merged the six largest American chewing gum manufacturers. He remained a member on its board of directors until 1905 when he died. American Chicle Company was renamed Adams in 1997, and The Adams Company has since been acquired by Cadbury. Today it is known as Cadbury Adams. Cadbury Adams continues to use the same packaging used in 1914 to capitalize on the nostalgia factor, and the formula has remained essentially the same as well.

Commercial production of gum dates only to the mid-1800s making clove gum one of the oldest, continuously sold flavored gums on the market. It was especially popular in the Prohibition era, when people believed that they could cover up the scent of alcohol on their breath by chewing it.

Every few years, Adams Clove Gum makes an appearance on the market and is scooped up by longtime fans ensuring that candy and gum sellers run out quickly. The Internet helps when looking for new suppliers, however, my recent tour around the Internet didn’t reveal any sources at the moment.

While many young people today haven’t heard of clove gum, among its devotees, Thomas Adams will forever be remembered as the father of the modern day chewing gum industry.

Bea’s Diner-Open For Business

In the summer of 1948, Dr. John Welles is the newest resident in Addison-on-Gauley, West Virginia. He’s still reeling from his brief experience during World War II, the effects of which will haunt him for many years, and seeks refuge in the small town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains. His role as the new doctor provides the perfect camouflage for the emotional scars he carries and allows him to hide behind his mask of professionalism. Only one person in the town can’t be fooled.

Bea's DinerBea Turner, the voluptuous, cigarette smoking diner owner, takes a fancy to John which he returns in kind. They become close during his initial trip into town, an event that makes John the butt of an unexpected joke, and their relationship grows through many hardships and trials. Their love for each other is recognized in town as something akin to marriage. They alone believe they’ve kept their liaison under the radar.

The sassy restauranteur serves John a bacon sandwich and tomato soup for lunch during his first visit. He doesn’t enjoy the meal surrounded by the more gossipy members of the town, but having Bea in his presence eases the awkwardness. The biggest surprise comes at the end of lunch when somehow John gets stuck with the entire check.

Bacon sandwiches are easy to make and don’t require a recipe. Two slices of your favorite bread toasted to your desired darkness, add as many slices of cooked bacon as you prefer, top with lettuce, tomato, and mayo—Viola! Bacon sandwich. I’m sure there are people who choose other condiments, vegetables, dressing, relishes, and those who leave off everything except the bacon. Really, the humble bacon sandwich is a matter of preference.

As for the tomato soup, while the majority of the items on Bea Turner’s menu are homemade, one place she cuts corners is by using good ole Campbell’s Tomato Soup. She is, after all, the only employee in her own restaurant.

I’ll not enter the debate on the sodium levels in canned soups and how Campbell’s added high fructose corn syrup to their soup to appease the American sweet tooth. I’d like to believe that during the summer of 1948, when John visited Bea’s diner, the soup was wholesome and tasty and the can wasn’t lined with bisphenol-A.

As recently as 2012, Campbell’s Tomato Soup still ranked as one of the top ten selling dry grocery items in U.S. grocery markets. It’s fairly healthy, too, for canned, modern industrial food. No fat, no cholesterol, no fake colors or flavors, laced with minerals, iron and Vitamin C. A two-serving can is only 270 calories before adding a bacon sandwich as a side.

There are organic choices on the market now as well as lower-sodium varieties and those made without high fructose corn syrup. Whichever option you choose, remember to add a tasty bacon sandwich, or the traditional grilled cheese, and enjoy your meal.

Quit lolliking about an’ read this!

Gladstone_Pottery_Museum_Stoke-on-Trent_450Today’s The Weight of Words blog post began as tweets between me and my brilliant, artistic friend, Michael Ferguson. Mike lives in England, and right before the holidays, he came across the word crimbo in his tweet. I had a pretty good idea of what the word meant, but it generated a LOL and the request for an explanation.

This prompted Mike to go all ar ter toke crate on me (I still have no idea what this means!) and provide a link that would help me decipher what he was saying. At least in theory the link was to have done this.

Since The Weight of Words, Writing Toolbox, and Research Road are all present to assist other writers in need, I thought the link Mike sent would prove most helpful to anyone wishing to write in the language of the Potteries, a North Staffordshire Dialect.

As I scrolled through the list, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find that I recognized several words and phrases because I have heard them employed throughout my lifetime. I always believed them to be West Virginia-isms, but now I’m curious as to how these odd turns of phrase ended up in the mouths of my Mountain State ancestors when they have been credited to Stoke-on-Trent, England, and not Camden-on-Gauley, West Virginia.

Perhaps we shall never know…

Parlez Vous West Virginia?

Have you ever wondered as a child where all those weird things adults would say actually came from? I’m speaking of the oddities my mother and grandmother used to express which I later labeled West Virginia-isms after their home state. Things like dead in Hell with your back broke and this life, the next, and the ironworks. What do they mean?

Then there are two not suitable to be publicly blogged, but I will e-mail them to you upon your request. Everyone should have the opportunity to experience them at least once in his or her life.

Taken out of context, these phrases are rather odd. Having grown up with them, I understand that to be dead in Hell with your back broke is worse than your current situation so shut up and quit complaining.

“I don’t like cleaning the cat box.”

“Well, you could be dead in Hell with your back broke.”

On the other hand, it could be preferable to your current situation.

“I’d rather be dead in Hell with my back broke than stay at this party one minute longer.”

If you think it’s bad now, there’s this life, the next, and the ironworks. Things are pretty hopeless when you reach this state.

“Dang, I hate my job.”

“I know, but there’s this life, the next, and the ironworks.”

Not everything filtering down through the generations of my family was negative. My grandfather used to say something was prettier than a speckled dog under a red wagon. Hmmm…they were poor and lived during a simpler time. Maybe that’s the prettiest thing he had to compare.untitled (4)

I came across a saying close to this but was unable to determine the origin of the similar expression prettier than a specked pup in springtime. Locale probably determined which one you used, and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they came from yet another comparable phrase.

I’m not crediting my family or West Virginia for the creation of these colorful sayings, but I can appreciate how realistic they make dialog sound when reading or writing. You can’t help but speak them with a slightly southern accent. Go ahead and try; I dare you.

The great thing about them is that no editor could ever claim they are clichéd!

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