Wednesday, April 25, 2012

If you are poor then you are obviously lazy, and you are not getting my hard earned money. . . .

Lately, I have seen many advertisements, facebook statuses, mass emails about how all our money is going to the poor and it has to stop.  The internet is filled with blogs about how 40% of American's don't pay taxes, about how the biggest drain on this country are all those people living on welfare, people stating that America and the American dream will collapse if we take from the rich and give to the lazy poor.  I have read article after article and blog after blog about how all these people not paying taxes and getting welfare are lazy and should not be rewarded for their laziness, and those who aren't poor work hard and that is the reason they are in that top 1%.  Well - this blog will be my opinion on the matter.

First, let me state that politically I would be considered a Conservative Democrat, or a Liberal Republican.  I know - those words usually don't go together.  I vote by person, not party, and I will happily vote for who I deem the better candidate, regardless of their party.  I grew up in generational poverty, raised by my widowed grandmother and single mom in the 70's, when being a single mom really wasn't that common.  Through education and hard work I worked my way through college and I now live a middle class life, not upper middle class, but struggling middle class.  No one paid for my college - I had to work for it - take out student loans - earn grants and scholarships.  My parents couldn't afford to help.   My husband works while I stay home with our four children.  Until May of last year I worked 8 1/2 years at a health department in Northern Michigan as a WIC and medicaid dietitian, helping families with young children who were on medicaid.

So, all these blogs and posts I have read bother me some.  It seems to be all or nothing.  If you are middle or upper class then you must work hard.  If you live in poverty than you must be lazy and made poor decisions.  I read an article today from one of the major news medias about how the 1% go to college and work hard at a job, thus the reason they are that 1%.  Reading all of these things just makes me realize that people have false assumptions about those living with medicaid, food stamps, and WIC.  All of my opinions here are based on Northern Michigan poor - where you live things may be different - but Northern Michigan poor is what I know and I am betting it is similar to all rural poor in America.

First, let me say that growing up and my time at the health department I did come across abusers of the system.  People selling their food stamps for 50 cents on the dollar.  People having more kids to get more money.  They are out there - they do exist.  Able bodied people who don't work because they don't want to.  I went on home visits where people lived in nicer homes than I did, had new cars out in the driveway, and received food stamps that doubled my family's food budget in a month.  I was saddened by that.  My husband and I had four college degrees between the two of us - and my husband was working full time at a job while going to school full time for his master's degree - yet we were struggling more than some of these families where there was no working adult in the house.  My four children were being raised by daycare so I could earn enough money to feed them.  I will admit - there were days I was very angry about that.

Then I stopped and thought about it.  95% of the families I worked with were not like the people I described above.  95% of those families were struggling, just like we were.  Most of these people have at least one job, or at least had a job until everything in Northern Michigan collapsed.  People who had worked at a factory for 15 years, and suddenly their job was gone and they could find nothing to replace it with.  Many families who were middle class, like us, until the economy collapsed.  People with PhD's begging for secretarial work.  There were those others who were doing well and married, then their spouse either died or just left for someone else.  There were several who were disabled and were unable to work, but they did their best and would try to pick up babysitting jobs from home.  A job was a job and 95% of my clients knew that working was important.

I realized this - of all the people I know, the people who honestly work the hardest are the poorest people I know.  The vast majority of the people I know who work 80 or 100 hour weeks are doing it for minimum wage (or less - yup - there are lots of jobs out there where they can get away with paying you less than minimum wage), where most of the people I now living in middle class work 50-60 hours a week.

America is supposed to be a society that allows those who work hard to get ahead.  In the day of our Grandparents, and our parents you could work hard and live a middle class life.  You could graduate high school and get a job at generous motors and do well, support your family in a comfortable middle class lifestyle and save for retirement.  You could afford a home and a car and food.  Today, in my opinion, to rise up from poverty to middle, or upper class is much harder.  It is much harder to get ahead without a college degree today.  It can be done, but it is much more difficult than it was in the past.  There are still opportunities out there - Zuckerman didn't have a college degree and look what he did (but I think the college he dropped out of was Harvard so I am kind of betting he didn't grow up in poverty.)  I realize had I been born in Russia, or China I would not have had the opportunity to go from generational poverty to struggling middle class - and every day I am thankful to be where I am.  I worked hard to get where I am, three jobs at a time in college.  Good grades in college.  My husband and I worked hard for him to get his master's degree - him working full time and going to school full time, while I worked part time and was (for the most part) a single parent to our four kids.  It was hard and I am so glad it payed off - at the same time I do realize we - in all our hard work - still haven't worked as hard as the lady I know who is a single mom and works three jobs (two full time and one part time) just to support her daughter and herself.  The mom who gets medcaid for her daughter, since not one of her jobs has health insurance, and WIC for her daughter.  Her jobs are very physical, yet she does them without complaining, she is happy to have work.

Again, the people I know who work the hardest are the poorest.  So my thoughts on this are this - not everyone is cut out for college.  I loved school and learning, I could happily spend the rest of my life in a class learning something, but that isn't for everyone.  Heck, most of the people I knew in college didn't have this love for learning, they were in college because that was what you did after high school, and that was what you needed to do to get the job they wanted.  There is nothing wrong with college not being for you.  We college people need to realize that we could not function without those people who have these low paying jobs.  Do you think that person who takes your money at the grocery store is paid anything but minimum wage?  That guy who changes the oil in your car, what do you think he earns.  The waitress who takes your order - she gets paid way less than minimum wage.  The person who works on the farm to produce you food, the person who milks the cow for your milk, the person who cleans the bathroom of your favorite store, the nurses aide who takes care of your parents in that nursing home, what do you think they earn?  That person who builds your house, the house you are going to live in the next 30 years, that person who drives in your nails and puts your roof on, do you think they get paid anywhere near as much as the dude at the bank who approves your mortgage?   Yet I am betting the work done by the builder will have a much longer effect on your life.

I know in America, working hard is what is needed to get ahead, but I am not ashamed to admit that I know I haven't worked as hard as many of those I know who live in a lower socioeconomic level than I do. I know my husband hasn't worked as hard as a great many of them work, and I damn well know that Mitt Romney hasn't worked as hard as they have.  Poor does not mean lazy, it just means poor.  It doesn't mean ignorant, it just means poor.  9.5 times out of 10 these people that you are condemning and stating you don't want to help work as hard, if not harder, than you do (or would if they could find a job). 

My own personal believe is that there needs to be a change in the social programs system.  Find a way to reward those people who are working hard, but their wages just aren't high enough to survive on.  Why should that person working 80 hours a week starve - they are working hard, are they not?  1 out of every 5 children in America is food insecure, and the vast majority of these kids live in homes where at least one person is working.  1 out of 5  kids don't know where their next meal is coming from.  How can that be in America?  We are not talking about adults, we are talking about people who have NO control over their environment or status in life.

I know - I am just like every bleeding heart liberal, trying to take your money and give it to those who haven't worked as hard as you have.  That is the issue - most of these people who get some sort of help, medicaid for their kids, food stamps, WIC, or FIP grant have worked as hard as you have.  Many of them are still working hard everyday, they would love to find a job that pays more, but the either lack the skills to do so or the opportunity to do so.  Many of them worked hard their entire life, then it all collapsed out from under them and they are trying to start over.  Why base your opinion on what 5% of a population does. . . why not stop and actually get to know some of these people you don't feel your money should help.

I am not saying those that have should give it all away, but I believe those who have really need to stop and realize that those who have not are not lazy and worthless.  Most of them are hard working people who just want to provide their family with a better life, but through luck, lack of "desirable" skills and lack of opportunity they are unable to.

To send or not to send, that is the question

Education, I take the education of my children very seriously.  Without an education it is very difficult to be successful in this country.  In fact, I read a statistic that stated more people in America believe the moon landing was a fake than believe you can become middle class with only a high school education.  We want all our children to do well in school and we want them all to go off to college.  Plus, since we have four children, hopefully they will be bright enough to get scholarships to help with college.

We demand a lot out of our children in school.  The two who are there should do well, they should be getting all A's and B's, which they are.  We know where a B is acceptable and we know where they should have a A.  We always want to be a part of their education.  We want to know what they are learning and what we can do to help them learn.

We have toyed with the thought of homeschooling for a while.  Honestly, before we even had kids I had this romantic ideal of me with a pile of kids all working together on their education, they would be excited to learn, we would have fun with it.  Then I had kids - kids who all talk at the same time and all fight with each other.  The reality of what it would really be - me trying to teach them while they are all fighting with each other and screaming that they can't learn because the other child(ren)'s heart is making too much noise while it is beating.  Overly dramatic girls who love to make noise and a very intolerant son who demands to be the center of attention.

The last couple of years have been challenging for us, to say the least.  Gabe is getting older.  In his mind he is even more different than other children his age and he doesn't like it.  He takes all forms of criticism to heart and it upsets him.  He comes home every night angry and lashes out at everyone.  Weekends are him being angry because on Monday he has to return to school.  Summers are so pleasant, school time is terrible.

This year has been the worst of all.  Initially he seemed to have the easiest time with the transition from Buckley to FishHawk.  He was excited by all the other kids (ie, hot girls) around him.  Then the first couple of weeks ended and the reality hit.  Now, he has about 10 kids that he gets along with and 1400 kids who laugh at him and make fun of him.

So here we are, living in FishHawk, the best schools in the county.  The day is usually pretty happy, until 4:30.  Everyday at 4:30 the front door slams and the words, "SHUT UP EVIE!" are screamed at the threshold of pain (even if she isn't even home).  The bag is thrown, and the yelling starts.  Somebody did something in gym/lunch, and he has a ton of homework, and lunch was bad, and it is hot out, and why do the twins have to be so loud, and what ever I am making for dinner is disgusting. . . . for the next two to three hours this is what we hear, then for the remaining 2 hours of the night he is very loudly talking about cars and his hair while he is screaming at Evie and the twins for everything they do that might make him not the center of attention.

Now, you may be reading this and thinking, "Dang, what a brat.  You need to spank/timeout/punish him."  First - we do punish him.  He loses his 1 hour of game time a night.  He has to do chores for negativity.  We have spanked him (but we don't like to).  He has to stand in the corner.  I have even had him put a bar of soap in his mouth for a minute.  Most of this stuff doesn't work.  I know, you say, "Of course it works, you must be doing it wrong."  Well, for Gabe it usually just makes it worse.  Gabe is autistic, and unless you have had experience dealing with kids who are autistic you really don't get it.  Gabe is very high functioning.  He is in regular classes - actually he is in honors classes - but Gabe is autistic.

During the summer 95% of these behaviors are gone.  He is pleasant, for the most part.  He plays.  He reluctant helps around the house.  He still fights with his sisters, but not like when school is going on.

Lately he has been telling us more and more about what is going on at school.  Gabe is in middles school this year - 6th grade, but a 6th grade middle school.  Life has not been fun.  Gabe is in all the regular classes, but like I said, Gabe is autistic.  He talks VERY LOUD, even when he isn't meaning to.  He ALWAYS sounds angry, even when he is happy.  He has never been able to make the tone of his voice match what he is feeling (except anger - because his tone is always nasty and angry).  He has ticks with his hands.  He has a throat grunt that he makes.  He blinks a lot when he is nervous.  When he gets very nervous he picks his nose and . . . well. . . he eats it.  Nothing we have done, no counselors he has seen, have helped him with these things.  So now he is in middle school.  A large middle school.  With kids who haven't grown up with him and grown accustomed to his Gabe-ism's since 1st grade. 

School is a nightmare for him.  He is called gay.  He is laughed at for his clothing and shoes.  He is laughed at for his hair.  He is laughed at because we are his parents.  He has been hit/pushed.  He is forced to do other humiliating things like crawl between people's legs and be slapped on the bum.  He is taunted for his weight.  Every lunch time he is laughed at because he eats in the first place.  His name is a source of endless taunting, "Gable is a Gay Bull".   He is told he will have his throat cut in his sleep.  He is jumped on by boys and screamed at, "I rapped you, you faggot."   We have gone to the school, and that always just makes it worse (the kids always figure out who it was that "told" on them).

Every day it is worse and worse.  Every day he comes home angrier and angrier.  Every day his already low self-esteem just seems to get lower and lower.  Every day he is meaner and meaner to his sisters.  And every day our home life is worse than the one before.  It is like this terrible cancer that is destroying our family.  So, like if we were to physically find cancer in our body we will removing this cancer from hour home.

At this point I only see two ways to cut this cancer from our lives - 1 - send Gabe off to military school so that he isn't with us, or 2 - don't send him to school next year.  We don't want to send Gabe away.  We love him.  He is our family, so we don't see that as a viable option.  So that leaves us with not sending him to school next year.  Gabe needs an education, and we do realize that a huge part of Gabe's education is his socialization.  That is what makes this hard - where do you draw the line?  Where do you say, "This is doing more damage than good?"  Gabe is the type of person who would happily never leave the house or interact with another human in a day.  He has to learn how deal with people.  He has to learn how to survive in society.  At some point he will have leave our home and get a job and work in society.

So here we sit - trying to figure out what to do.  Send Gabe back to Randall next year, and just hope it will get better (it is middle school, it won't get better), or just chuck it and home school him until high school.  I am pretty sure I could home school him.  I have a BS and I did fairly well in school.  It is middle school, not high school, so the math and science should be fine.  What did we really learn from middle school anyway?  I know what I learned was that I was a greasy piece of garbage that was worth-less.  It was in middle school that it was pointed out that my parents being fur buyers was "worse" than if my parents were on welfare.  It was in middle school where it was pointed out to me that I was fat, ugly, and had big boobs and terrible teeth.  In middle school I learned that I should do my best to be invisible, because when people noticed me I was made fun of.   No, Gabe is not me and I know that.  I would shrink away and happily never be noticed(even at home), Gabe keeps it in and than comes home and EXPLODES.  My fear is this, at what point will his explosion cause him to harm himself?

We do realize we can't protect him from the world.  People can be mean and terrible creatures.  People have been known to not accept those they see as different.  There are many times we see his autism as a gift (he is so bright and high functioning - he really has the world open to him), but we realize that he will be autistic for life and people will be making fun of him for the rest of his life.  He needs to learn how to deal with it.  Then again, at what point do you see that the harm that is being done now may cause him to close off his own future?

So again, here we sit, trying to figure out what to do.  We know this is a catch 22.  Their are issues with no matter what we do.  We know that many people will not agree with the decision we are about to make.  We know this will be difficult, but looking forward we have to do what is right for Gabe, and for our family.  We are hoping the decision we are about to make will help him and allow him to become a successful adult, because we know he is smart enough to go off and do whatever he puts his mind to but we have to get him past this portion of his life without imploding.  Our decision is made a little easier when  we think back to that morning two years ago.  That terrible morning that started out fine, and then turned to Gabe getting upset.  That day when I had to pretty much pretty much drag him away from that gun under the bed, carry him to the car, and drag him to the hospital.  That day, sitting in the suicide room I told myself we would never, EVER get to this point again.  I will do everything I can do in my power to keep him from being so unhappy that the only option he saw that was available to end  his pain was to end his life.

What is better, being schooled the way everyone else is being schooled yet being so miserable you can't take it anymore, or being schooled from your kitchen and missing out on that much needed socialization but actually being happy and relaxed?  At this point I know what we are going to choose.  Hopefully public high school kids and their increased maturity will be better to Gabe, because I refuse to make him spent the next two years going through the hell he is currently going through.  What did you really learn from middle school anyway?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Buttcheeks and 50 cent pieces (otherwise known as our trip to the mall)

I decided to take the kids to the mall today.  For the most part I detest the Brandon Mall.  It is just skanky in my opinion, but I figured it would be OK today since the teens were pretty much still in school for the day.  The kids love the mall and they had some Easter money burning holes in their pockets, figured it would be a great way to spend it.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was the new trend of short shorts.  We saw a couple of shorts for sale at Abercrombe, $60 for a pair of shorts that looked too small for my twins.  I lifted a pair up even - thinking, "Dang, $60 for this little amount of fabric, and who the heck would fit these?"  Now, I know I am a big girl and people probably pick up pants in my size and think, "Dang, this is like the size of a blanket that would hold 6 people under it," but I seriously do believe these shorts would have been too small for the twins to even wear.

We began to wander the mall and I was able to see these shorts in use, first hand, with several females that were past the 18 year range of age.  Thank the lord that most of these females where younger than me (I say most, because there was one that made me really cringe and be embarrassed for her.)  I have several thoughts here - first - I know I am probably a prude, but I can say I really have no desire to see someone's butt cheeks hanging out the bottom of their shorts.  I don't care how nice your body is, your shorts should at least cover your butt hang.  Second, if you have already had a child do not go into Abercrombie, or Hollister and wear their clothing.  You do not have the body to wear that, and even more so if it is shorts that show butt hang off a 16 year old.  You do not have a 16 year old butt.  You have two butts (one in front and in back) - cover that up.  Third, you may want to be young again, you may want to feel pretty again, but if you were born in or before the 70's this is not the style you should be sporting.  Just saying.  Fourth, as a parent of three girls, there is no way any of these girls would leave my home showing butt cheeks out of the bottom of their shorts, and if I ever find out they have changed their clothing into something like this after they leave my home they better run because they are going to be in so much trouble!!

We continued our excursion at the mall.  Gabe decided he wanted to look in Hollister (he is so into the name brands right now).  He found something he wanted to purchase.  He has been saving his cash for a while, so he had some dollars and change that exactly equaled his purchase.  We were waiting for him and it was taking forever so the girls and I decided to go in and check on him.  What we found was, well , scary. . .

Gabe tried to purchase his hoodie with his cash and coin.  The first lady saw him pull out all this coin and said, "I am not going to count that" (OK, it was $6 in coins with the smallest coin being a dime - so we aren't talking about pennies).  I came up to the counter just as she said that.  Another associate, a male, came up and asked her what is wrong, "He has all this change and I am not going to count it.  Either you take over or he is not getting his shirt."  What the heck, this is money, how can the refuse a sale?  Before I unleased that line on her the male associate said he would take over and he started to count the change.  He was doing fine until he came to the 3 fifty cent pieces.  He stared at them for a minute.  He leaned over to another associate and said, "What are these?"  She said, "I don't know."  He stared at them for a minute more and the manager came by and asked him if he needed help.  He pointed the coins and said, "What are these?"  She got all huffy and said, "Those are $1 coins.  Pretty sad that you don't know what our currency is worth."  and she huffed off.

Thus I wanted him count up the change and hand Gabe back $2.  I stopped him at this point and told him, "No, those are fifty cent pieces."  "Huh?  They made those?"  Wow and dang.  I mean I am not a member of MENSA or anything, but the ignorance of this guy, and his fellow employees just astounds me.  How a - do these people survive on a day to day basis and b- how do these people find a job.

After leaving the mall today I have decided that we are the normal ones, it is everyone else who is a freak!

No one will ever love me like my Grandma. . .

For 36 years of my life I had this amazing person that I could count on no matter what.  If I needed someone to talk to, she was always there.  If I needed a hug, she was always there.  If I needed someone to tell me it was all going to be OK, she was always there.  She laughed with me when I laughed.  She cried with me when I cried.  She prayed with me when I prayed (and prayed for me all other times).  I could tell her anything without being judged.  Grandma was just pure love.

Then on April 11, 2011 my beautiful Grandma passed away.  It wasn't like it was a surprise, the last couple of years were hard for her.  She really couldn't see or hear anymore, and with the loss of her vision and hearing her mind would play tricks on her.  She lost her ability to care for her family, the one thing she always did.  She hated that we had to care for her, she didn't like the roles reversed that way.  The last year things were so hard for her, moving was painful.  She missed Grandpa and Aunt Mary tremendously, and although she didn't want to leave us she really wanted to be there with them.  We all knew in our minds that she would eventually join them, but Grandma was a super human and I think most of us also had it in our minds that Grandma would somehow out live us all.

366 days ago (gotta love leap year) my Grandma left this world.  366 days ago my best friend, my biggest supporter, the strongest person I ever met in my life left this world.  Two Easters have happened since then.  A summer, a fall, a winter, and now a spring.  Everyone's birthday has passed.  Thanksgiving and Christmas has passed, all without Grandma.  New family members were added, and there was no Grandma there to give them a wet kiss and pat their diapered bottom.  So much has happened in that time, and Grandma has not been here to share it with.

During these 366 days we also found out a lot about Grandma that we didn't know.  We found out she was stronger and more amazing than any of us thought.  We found out that Grandma was what she always told us she was, "The richest woman who ever walked the earth", because she truly had a treasure, and to her that treasure was us - her children - her grandchildren - her great grandchildren - her great, great grandchildren.

For me, the last 366 days have required me to reinvent myself in a way.  I don't like this world without my Grandma in it.  This isn't really a world that I enjoy living in.  So much of my life is the way it is because of her.  I went to college because of her support.  I went into dietetics because of her.  I am the mother I am because of her.  Without her, I feel lost.  I feel like a huge part of who I am is missing.  I imagine this is how someone who loses a limb feels - they have this part of them that they have used for support their entire life and now that part is gone and they have to learn to function in a new way.  You may learn to function with out that limb, but no matter what it just isn't the same.  That is how I am without my Grandma, I am learning to function again, but it will never be the same and I will never be complete.

In these last 366 days I have had to deal with a lot of guilt (gotta love that Catholic influence in my upbringing).  I have thought of all the times I should have visited with her, but didn't.  All those times I could have but didn't.  All those times when I did visit that I didn't stay as long as I should have.  Had to get home and do something I thought needed to be done.  All those lunches I didn't take the kids to because I didn't want them to terrorize her house.  I didn't go to because I didn't want her to worry about having to make a gluten free food for Gabe.  She would have been fine with her house being terrorized and she would have loved to make a gluten free meal for Gabe.  All those things I look back on that I wish I could have changed - those things I would have done anything to change.

I have tried to focus on all those summers we spent together.  All the holidays I spent there.  The trips to Ohio to visit Mrs. Gordon.  The trips to Indiana to show her the Abshire cabin and the old Abshire land.  I cherish all the times we grocery shopped together.  All the lunches we had together.  Christmas shopping together.  Buying those little items that I knew she loved but would never purchase for herself.  No one was more fun to buy things for than my Grandma.  No one was more fun to do things with than my Grandma.  Even when she was mad she was funny!  I can't tell you how many times she would be angry about something or someone and it would end with us just laughing.  I focus on the way her face lit up that last Thursday before she passed away.  She was herself totally again that day, and when she saw it was me her face lit up.  We spoke about us moving to Florida.  She told me how much she was going to miss me, and even at that time I was thinking that it was me that was going to miss her.  She told me about when her and Grandpa lived in Pensacola, and how much she loved it there.  I try very hard to focus on those good times, and not think about the things I can not change.

I focus on the moments I when I know she was with us in this last year.  The dreams where she was so real in my dreams that I woke and still felt the warmth of her arms around me.  I try to remember that she is no longer in pain in that chair.  She isn't blind or deaf anymore.  If the Christian heaven exists like she believed it existed I know she is there with my Grandpa and Aunt Mary.  Somewhere she is taking care of babies and playing with children.  Her joyful spirit is gracing heaving, and maybe every now and then she can see and hear me when I talk to her.

I will try to spend my life remembering who she was and the things she taught me.  I will teach her legacy to my children and my Grandchildren.  Not long after she passed away and we found out more about her history I decided that this was a story that needed to be put in writing.  Her story needed to not be forgotten, even if it was only for her family to remember.  I am finally at a point where I think I can begin compiling this story for the family to have.  My promise to my Grandma is that I will never forget her, Grandpa, Aunt Mary, and all those family members who were gone long before I was born yet she spoke about to me.

Grandma's strength will not be forgotten.  Poverty, hunger, loneliness, health issues, loss - they did not destroy by Grandma's spirit.  It did not break her faith.  All the things that my Grandma went thought that would break a normal person's spirit did not break my Grandmothers.  Grandma still had joy and love and she passed that joy and love on to us.  We were her riches and as long as she had us that was all she needed to be happy.

Grandma taught me to see people as they are.  In this world where a person's worth seems to be so tied to their wealth, Grandma taught me to look deeper.  We are all people.  Just because someone is wealthy doesn't mean they worked hard for it, and just because someone is poor doesn't mean they were lazy.  I know in my life the hardest working people I have ever met live paycheck to paycheck.  Life is what it is and chance is what it is and just because you are smart and hard working doesn't mean life will turn out a certain way for you.  The greatest people who ever walked the face of this earth have never been on the cover of a magazine, they don't live in mansions, or have massive bank accounts or expensive cars, instead, the greatest people on this earth are the ones who support and love each other.  They are the people that keep joy in their life even though from the outside there appears to be nothing to be joyful about.  They are the people who stay true to themselves and to those they love even when this world says they are wrong.

No one will ever love me the way my Grandma loved me, and I shall never love another person the way I loved my Grandma. . .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Country Fried steak, ie. . . there will be no leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

When I think of Country Fried Steak I think of the steak covered in this thick breading and covered with the white gravy.  I have never really liked that.  Then I looked in the Green Cookbook and found the recipe for it.  So different and so good.

First, I feel I must describe the Green Cookbook.  That is not actually the name of the cook book, the real name is Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, put together by Meta Given's.  The first copyright is in 1947, ours is the 1952 copyright.  This book has a story behind it as well (like everything!)  When my husband went off to college his mother handed him this cookbook to take with him - figuring this is all he would ever need for cooking.  He loved this cookbook for it really has everything in it (which I will get to a little later).  His mother used this book when he was a child, and when she passed away in '97 this cookbook became even more special to him.

After we were married for several years my FIL came to visit.  He and my MIL were divorced long before I ever met my husband, and he had remarried a wonderful woman named Jake.  They were visiting for a few days.  During that time we went to the mall where they had an antique show of sorts going on.  My FIL purchased a book from one of the vendors.  We we got back to our home that evening he pulled out the book, and it was the green cookbook.  He told us the story of how his mother, who passed away in '96, gave him this green cookbook when he went off to college.  He was sad that at some point he had lost the cookbook, because it was such a wonderful cookbook.  My husband then went into our kitchen and produced the cookbook that he was talking about - the actual one that was given to him.  After discussing it we thought it would be best if we traded, sending the original cookbook back to its owner.  Thus we still have this cookbook, and my FIL has the book his mom gave to him.

Now on to the cookbook - this thing is like a photo book into history!  Those who personally know me know that I am a dietitian - now my heart is a public health pediatric dietitian - so I love anything that revolves around food or nutrition.  This book is really like a step back in time.  It has a full years worth of menus.  A FULL YEAR!  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are in this menu, and it goes by date.  For example here is today's menu in the book:
Tomato Juice
French Toast
Stuffed Baked Potatoes
Creamed Peas
Bread, Butter
Canned Cherries
Braised Oxtails
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Buttered New Cabbage
Bread and Butter Pickles
Glorified Rice
That was for today!  I personally believe you can tell a lot about a person by the way they eat!  That is why I became a dietitian, I am such a food geek!  Reading this really makes me realize that women of this time period spent the entire day in the kitchen!

This book starts right out with "The Meal Planner's Creed.", then goes into diet patterns!  There are the ten classifications of food that you should serve in a day, then it further goes on to discuss each vitamin and mineral.  I know - I am such a geek that I am captivated by this - but it is just so cool!  In here for each section it also discusses how to shop, how to tell if fruit is fresh, how to tell if meat is fresh, it really is a great cookbook for someone to follow to figure out what they are doing in the kitchen.

And the recipes - all I have made are great.  They are old school, Grandma like, comfort food great!  1699 pages of greatness in this book!

So now I will get to the country fried steak.  We started making this when my son was on a gluten free diet.  Everything we made then was from scratch and this cookbook was a really great place to go to for home cooked recipes.  I didn't have high hopes for it when I first made it, thinking of how much I didn't like the country fried steak I have had in the past, but then I made this one.  I can say it is always a hit and there are NEVER any leftovers.  It doesn't matter how much meat I use to make this - 1 1/2 pounds (usually what I make for our family of 6) - or the one time I made it with 3 pounds of meat - there is never any left and  the kids ALWAYS fight over the last piece.  Here we go - the recipe is typed as it is found in the cookbook.

Country Fried Steak
  • 1 1/2 pounds of steak, cut into card size pieces and pounded to almost paper thin.
  • Flour
  • Salt
  • Bacon fat
  • Water
"For frying, have steak sliced from boneless chuck or top round of beef of grades no lower than US Good.  If buying lower grades, use sirloin, porterhouse or club steaks.  Allow 1 1/2 pounds, cut into 1/2 inch thick for 5 people.  Pound with a wooden mallet or edge of heavy saucer until almost paper thin.  (Many butchers have special mallets or machines to prepare "cubed" or "minute" steaks.)  Dredge in four mixed with salt, allowing 1 teaspoon salt for each pound of meat.  Heat 2 tablespoons of shortening (I use bacon fat here) until sizzling hot in a heavy skillet;  lay in steak, and brown quickly on both sides.  It should then be done.  Transfer to a platter and cover to keep hot.  Make pan gravy from the residue in the pan (p. 1000 - I will add that here at the end).  Steaks are best when cut in serving portions before cooking."

Pan Gravy (as found in the cookbook)
"This type of gravy is never thickened.  It may be made from the drippings and residue left on the rack and drip pan in the broiler, or from drippings left from roast, fried or pan broiled meat.  All excess grease should be poured or skimmed off.  Then a small amount of water poured over the racks or into the ban with any browned residue, and the pan or rack is carefully but thoroughly scraped with a wooden spoon to loosen the particles.  When all the this residue is removed, the rack may be taken off the broiler pan.  The gravy is then stirred into the broiler pan, or skillet over low heat until all the particles are dissolved.  Taste to decide if gravy must be concentrated for best flavor, or if more hot water is needed.  Season if necessary.  Heat to boiling and pour over the hot meat or serve in a separate heated gravy boat."

Beef Glop - a family favorite!

I know, a name like Beef Glop is not appealing.  The photos make it look even LESS appealing, but let me assure you this is yummy, comfort food yummy.

This dish had its origins.  When I was a kid I went mostly to a small school called Manton Consolidated School.  It was a K-12 school in the small town of Manton in the northwestern lower peninsula of Michigan.  Each grade had about 50 students - so it was pretty small.  I went there from second grade through graduation (moved away a couple of times but always came back) - thus from '82-'92 (really dating myself here!)   Those were the days when the school cooks actually cooked the lunches.  We did have pizza on Friday, we did have the breaded and fried meat sandwiches on Mondays, but our school cooks actually cooked a lot of our food, and some of that food was really good.

The school made something called Tater Tot casserole.  As an adult I realize that tater tot casserole was not a rare thing that my school made up, it was something that had been around for a while, but the schools was the only time I ever had this yummy recipe.  I  loved the tater tot casserole that my school made, it was my favorite item on the menu!

Fast forward several years.  I was in college at Purdue and my husband and I were living in Lafayette, Indiana.  One day I started craving my school's tater tot casserole.  These were the days before internet recipes were everywhere, so the only thing I had to go off of was my memory.  This was were beef glop started, and I will say that everyone who has ever tried it has loved it!  It doesn't look pretty, it doesn't sound pretty, but it sure tastes good!  Here is the final recipe that we ended up with!

Beef Glop 
This will feed six people with some leftovers
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained(make sure this is the smaller box not the larger bag)
  • 1 bag of Tater Tots (I like to use onion flavored, but regular is just fine as well)
  • 1 cup shredded co/jack cheese
  • 2 small cans of cream of mushroom soup
  • milk - to the right consistency.

To begin, open your bag of tots and put them on a baking sheet.  Set oven to 400 and put tots in the oven right when you set it.  Meaning, don't preheat the oven first, put the tots in there while it is preheating.

Next, chop your onion and put in a large frying pan (I use my electric frying pan for this dish).  Add your garlic and ground beef and cook.  Now, I usually use 96/4 ground beef so there isn't a lot of fat, if you use a higher fat content ground beef at this point you will want to drain off some of the fat, but not all.  You want a small amount in the pan.  With the 96/4 beef I don't drain it.  At this point pull your tots out of the oven and add them to the pan, using your spatula to break them up into small bits.  When those are broken up and mixed with the beef add your chopped spinach.  Mix together and cook for about five minutes, stirring often.

Now add your cream of mushroom soup.  Mix together well.  Add some milk and mix.  I never measured my milk, I just added "enough" to make it not soupy but moist.  Finally add the cheese and mix well.  Once the cheese has melted you are done!  All my kids love this, such an easy way to get spinach into my children's diets!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tex Mex rice and a beautiful walk!

Living in Florida really does mess with your head as for what time of year it is. My mind keeps telling me that the kids have to be out of school soon (like in the next week or two) since it has already been in the high 80's for about a month and it is prime pool weather. The calender tells me something different.

Well I took the dog for a quick walk this morning. It was so beautiful. The humidity of the day hadn't hit yet. The air was warm but had the cool dampness of the morning. I am always amazed at what a beautiful world God created for us.

Thought I would share a family favorite - Tex Mex Rice. I found this recipe many years ago in a Kraft magazine. Kraft would sent out a free magazine to anyone who subscribed - and this was one that most of my family loves. Super easy. Works great on a week day night when you don't have a lot of time to cook. Really isn't the healthiest food ever, but it is way better than burgers from a fast food joint! We added a side salad with this one.

Tex Mex Rice
This makes enough for the six of us to eat our fill plus some leftovers!
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 T chili powder or Taco seasoning
  • 1 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups instant white rice
  • 1/2 jar of Cheez Whiz
  • Shredded lettuce
  • chopped tomatoes
  • Sour cream
Brown meat and drain off excess fat.
 Add chili powder, water, and broth to meat.  Bring to boil.
Stir in rice and Cheez Whiz.  cover and simmer on low for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When plated, top with lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.  


Monday, April 2, 2012

Shrimp and mushroom pasta

OK - I know - there are a thousand food blogs out there.  This isn't really a food blog - it is a "I want to share this stuff with people" blog.  To be honest I am kind of seeing this as the stuff I would talk to my Grandma about.  I still do walk around here and talk to her - but this is my public "Dear Grandma" letters, so I will be sharing my the yummy recipes I find on here.  I do so miss taking Grandma my leftovers - she would get so excited to try the food I made.

Well I came across a version of this on pinterest, and it looked so GOOD!  I put it on the menu for Saturday.  Initially it was for dinner, but the kids had soccer and after an argument over where we were going to eat lunch after soccer I just decided to make this for lunch.  I changed the original recipe some - since we are a family of fat people and we really like food (OK - my kids aren't fat but they sure do eat a lot!).  Everyone loved this meal.  It is NOT healthy, so wait to eat it on a day you have exercised, but it was so good!">

Creamy Shrimp and Mushroom Pasta

Serves 9 hearty eating people
  • 16 oz fettuccine or linguine
  • 20 tbsp butter, divided (I know this is a lot, but it needs it)
  • 16 oz fresh, sliced mushrooms
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 6 oz cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 cup boiling water (from your noodle pot)
  • 2 lb cooked shrimp (feel free to buy frozen-gasp!)
  1. Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook your pasta.
  2. While your pasta is cooking, cook your shrimp if necessary and reserve.  If your shrimp are pre-cooked and frozen, quickly thaw them under running water.
  3. In a large skillet melt 4 tbsp of butter over medium heat and saute mushrooms until soft and brown.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Reserve cooked mushrooms and melt remaining butter in the skillet.  Add minced garlic, cream cheese, and herbs.  It doesn't look pretty right now - but it will come together.
  5. Simmer cream cheese mixture until well blended. Get a scoop of boiling pasta water from your noodle pot and mix it in, stirring quickly to smooth out the sauce.
  6. Keep sauce hot and add shrimp and mushrooms, mix well and simmer (stirring often) until everything is hot and thickened, about 10 minutes.
  7. Toss sauce with cooked noodles and serve.