52 Faces: 5/52 – Jacob

My brother, Jacob, is honestly one of the most laid-back and genuine people you could ever encounter. I’ve often said that he is the reason why we hardly ever fought when we were growing up. For every tendency of mine to be overbearing, overly dramatic or adamant to have things my way, he is equally calm, patient and often puts the needs/wants of others before his own desires. This is, in no small part, why he is now such a great husband and father. 

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Hometown:  Century, FL. Currently residing in Madison, AL.

Education:  Bachelor’s Degree in Physics, from Auburn University; Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from Auburn University; just a few credits shy of a PhD in Plasma Physics from Rice University (don’t even get Marina started on the fact that he didn’t finish…for the record, I’m #teamJacob on that one.)

Occupation: Test Engineer at Marshall Space Flight Center. He puts loads on rocket parts to make sure they will not break during flight.

Personal:  Married to Lindsay for 8 years. Dad to Helen (6), Elizabeth (4) and Maxwell (22 months).

Fun Facts:  He once got in trouble in middle school for picking a lock to a classroom with a thick blade of grass…his reason for wanting access was innocent…he just wanted to get his books. His many hobbies include playing rugby, violin, woodworking, hunting, fishing, cooking, whiskey making, gardening, archery, blacksmithing and rocketry.

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What is one of your first memories?- “Being in the backyard of Ms. Gann’s house, our babysitter. There were several of us that she kept during the day…and I remember the garbage man coming by on trash day. We would run to the fence and shake it, chanting ‘We want toys!’..I’m not sure how it started. But, sometimes he would give us little rubber balls or hot wheels.”

Growing up, who was the stricter parent?- “Can’t choose one, off the top of my head..the only thing I remember getting in trouble for at home was not finishing my homework. But, I do remember being at MawMaw’s house and her threatening to use the peach tree switch on the top of the fridge if any of us got out of line.”

What’s a memory you have of growing up with me?- “I remember dad letting us put on raincoats to go play in the front yard during one of the (not too serious) hurricanes. We would spread our arms out and pretend like the wind was going to take us away. Mom wasn’t too thrilled to discover what we were doing…”

And, your most memorable vacation as a kid?- “When I was 10 or 11, we went on a cross country road trip with our Showalter Grandparents and Mom. I remember loving the Grand Canyon..and the image of a mountain goat perched on one of the cliffs there stuck with me. During the same trip we also ventured into Mexico for a day, which was fun…you talked Mom into buying you a sombrero.”

If you could go back to any age, what would it be?- “I’d go back to being around six years old. I remember loving hiding in cabinets at that age…it was one of the simple pleasures of childhood. Six years old is great because you are capable of doing a lot more than when you were smaller, but you don’t yet have much responsibility or concern for the future.”

How did you decide on a field of study/career?- “When I was younger, I read a series of books by Isaac Asimov about physics..I guess I was between 8-10 years old. They were called ‘How Did We Find Out About _____?’. Each one had a different topic, ex: ‘How Did We Find Out About Electricity?’.”

What was your first job?- “My first real job was when I was a student at Auburn. I was a student programmer for the physics department. I wrote code that took data from a satellite and analyzed and made pictures from it. It was called ‘IMAGE’ which stood for ‘Imager for Magnetopause to Aurora Global Explorer.”

How are you like your father and/or grandfather?- “I think Dad and I both share a love of nature. I think that, physically, I am a lot like Granddaddy Showalter.”

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What are your 3 best qualities?- “That’s hard…I would say that I am intelligent, responsible and resourceful.”

And, your 3 worst?- “I can be sarcastic/irreverent, I’m somewhat of a procrastinator, I start too many projects at once.”

What is your favorite book?- “I have a LOT, but I really love Jonathan Livingston’s ‘The Seagull’. It’s uplifting.”

Would you prefer to know the future as it relates to your descendants specifically, or the fate of mankind in general?- “I guess I’d rather know the future of humanity…because I’m an optimist, and a general knowledge of our future has a better chance to make me proud. There’s a 50/50 chance that specifically knowing the future of my descendants would either be favorable or disappointing.”

What’s one thing that you have always wanted, but still don’t have?- “A motorcycle.”

Who do you most depend on and trust?- “That’s easy. My wife.”

If you could solve only one problem in the world, what would it be, and why?- “I would figure out a way to harness nuclear fusion as an energy source. It could provide energy for humanity indefinitely.”

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52 Faces: 4/52 – Roy

The next person in my 52 Faces series is my dad. I’ve written about him before, which you can find here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you: Roy.

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Hometown: McDavid, FL

Education: B.S. in Forest Management from Auburn University

Occupation: Happily Retired…now pursuing all of his hobbies without the hinderance of a 9-5. He is a tender of chickens, lover of nature and animals, avid gardener, motorcycle tinkerer/rider, wonderful musician, nature guide to anyone who asks…and also a happy host to absolutely any friend of mine that should cross his path.

Personal: Married to my mom, Marina, for 39 years. He and my mom met in their early teens, and to hear him tell it, he’s been smitten with her since day one. If anyone wants a lesson on how to love someone with wreckless abandon, you should take notes from my dad. He is the dad to my brother (Jacob) and I. Poppa to Helen, Elizabeth, Maxwell and Adelaide.

Fun Facts:  The youngest of five children, he was the president of his high school senior class. After high school, he went to Jump School at Fort Benning with the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division…willingly jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. After his time in the Army, he married my mom and moved to Auburn to get a degree in Forestry. They eventually settled down in Century, FL, just a short drive north from where he grew up…and the next few decades were spent raising my brother and I. Once we had flown the nest, my parents bought some land in Brewton, AL…on a gorgeous creek, with an unfortunate name (Murder Creek). There they built an amazing house, and now spend much quality time on the various porches…listening to birds, sipping a cold drink, grilling delicious dinners, keeping company with their dog (Jenkins) cats and chickens…and welcoming any friends or family who should come their way.

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What is your first, most vivid memory?- “Playing in the yard at Maw’s house..my mother’s mom…while she shelled pecans for us.”

What was your first job?- “When I was young, I delivered papers for the News Journal. I also worked in the ice house in Atmore, AL. We pulled ice and delivered it…to places like the vegetable markets that needed ice to cool their produce for shipment on the railroad.”

What made you want to become a forester?- “I always liked the natural world, so a career like that appealed to me. I had a high school science teacher and counselor named Ann C. Hall. She graduated with my daddy…she was valedictorian, and he settled for salutatorian (even though they had the same grade point average). Her husband, Mr. Key, was a forester who also served in the 82 Airborne Division in WWII. I was one of five kids, and there wasn’t a lot of extra money…but, I knew I wanted to go to school, even though I wasn’t ready. Mrs. Ann encouraged me to enlist in the Army, and that I could try to go into the Airborne (which I did). That enabled me to get a college education in Forestry.”

What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted, but still don’t have?- “I don’t wish for a whole lot of things, so I don’t really know of anything I’m longing for.”

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You always have a great joke, saying or life lesson to share. Give me one.- “Well, I was telling your mom the other day to beware of the clowns and chameleons in life. The clown will want you to think that they are someone that they are not. The chameleon will change, depending on where he is. Clowns and chameleons: you gotta watch ’em.”

Who is someone you greatly admire, and why?- “That’s hard, I admire a lot of people..so, it’s hard to pick one above all of the rest. But, if you’re asking me to name one, I guess I’d say Mother Teresa. It didn’t matter how dangerous or unpopular something might be…she was going to go and do it, if it helped someone. And, unlike a lot of folks, who like to sing their hymns but are really trying to lay up wealth…well, I don’t think a piece of gold would have meant much at all to Mother Teresa.”

Do you have a favorite quote?- “Do what you can…with what you have…where you are…in the time that you have.”

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52 Faces: 3/52 – Elizabeth

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Elizabeth is my brother’s second child. She turns five this year (I still cannot believe that!). She is sooooo full of personality and spunk, and she’s been letting us know that she has a mind of her own for as long as I can remember.

She has such a vivid imagination, and a flair for dramatics. You should see her version of “Let it Go” or hear her sing her preschool’s Christmas song. Although, don’t expect to go to any school production and see her full performance. Elizabeth does not perform on command.

My favorite (most recent) Elizabeth story: her Grandma Margo was trying to get her to put her coat on, and she was refusing. Margo tried to convince her by telling her how cold it was outside that day. Elizabeth’s response?

“The cold never bothered me anyway.”

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Hometown: Born in Waco, TX…now gracing Huntsville, AL with her presence.

Education: Planning to start half-day kindergarten in the fall, where it looks like she’ll be the only girl in her class. She’ll have all those boys whipped by day two.

Occupation: Middle Sister

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What’s your favorite food? “Macaroni and cheese.”

Favorite color? “Purple. Like you!”

Team Elsa or Anna?  “Elsa.”

If you had to pick one, what would you say is your favorite toy? “Mermaid.”

But, I thought Babydoll was your favorite. “Aunt Hannah! Babydoll is NOT a toy…Babydoll is a person.”

Ok, right..sorry, I forgot. Who is your best friend? “Babydoll…and Emma and Lily.”

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52 Faces: 2/52 – Marina

For this week’s 52 Faces Project (which is really last week’s…because it’s not even February and I’m already behind..), I’m interviewing the one and only Marina.

My mom is a character. When she took the Myers-Briggs personality test, her results showed that her level of extroversion was high enough to “be offensive to some”. If you’ve been around my mom, you’ve no doubt left feeling like you’ve heard a lot of words. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up. And, she’s prone to venture into some topics with a new acquaintance that you’d normally only discuss with a close friend.

However, one of the things I have to say about my unique and completely wonderful mom is this: her unapologetic tendency to boldly be herself is quite refreshing.

Oh that we would all take a lesson from Marina and let down our guards every once in awhile…and also? She’s gorgeous.

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Hometown: Century, FL

Education: Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science (psych major, sociology minor) from Wesleyan College, Master’s Degree in Education in School Counseling K-12 from Auburn University

Occupation: Guidance Counselor at W.S. Neal Elementary…She has been a school guidance counselor for 34 years..6 in high schools, 28 in elementary schools. She’s also been a church choir director in the past…for 11 years total, and is currently a pianist at a church near where I grew up.

Personal: Married to my dad, Roy, for 39 years. Mom to my brother (Jacob) and I. Grandmother to Helen, Elizabeth, Maxwell and Adelaide.

Fun Facts: She went by her first name (Donna) until she started elementary school…and changed to Marina because Donna was too popular. She was the valedictorian of her senior class in high school. She plays a mean flute! Her knowledge of vocabulary words would put most people’s to shame…

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What do you do for fun? – “I like to hang out in the yard with my husband…go kayaking…camping (although lately I haven’t done that as much as I’d like)…reading…but mostly, I adore being with family and close friends…and playing with my grandchildren.”

In what ways do you think you are like your mom?- “I like things to be orderly. I’m very family-oriented…being with family is extremely important to me. We both have a strong faith in God. We both have a love for music..a love for singing.”

In what ways are you like your dad?- “He was very interested in politics and history, as am I. And I, like him, have a fiery temperament when something seems unjust…I cannot just let it go.”

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?-  “When my husband tells me that I was a good mother. And, when my co-workers say that I am funny…”

What have been the three biggest news events during your lifetime?- “I’d have to say, the assassination of JFK..and the assassination of MLK both left a huge mark on me. I was young when they occurred. Also, the events of 9/11.”

What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted but still don’t have?- “Ha! A Horse…I’ve always wanted to have a horse.”

What’s your most cherished family tradition?- “Having big family get-togethers and celebrating the holidays.”

If you had the power to solve one and only one problem in the world, what would it be?- “I would eliminate child abuse and/or child neglect…and closely related, I would eradicate fatherless homes… Maybe a broader problem is family dysfunction…it’s a huge problem that I’ve seen in all my years of counseling. Lack of a mother and father raising children in a calm, nurturing, stable environment…if that could be righted..then so many other issues in our society would be resolved.”

What is the best thing about being a grandparent?- “The joy of watching a beloved child grow and develop into their own person…and seeing how your own children parent, seeing differences and similarities in how you parented. It’s quite fascinating to me.”

Favorite Quote- “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

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52 Faces: 1/52 Adelaide

My goal for 2015 is to do a weekly portrait of someone in my life, be it family member, friend, acquaintance, or someone I haven’t officially met yet. Of course, the easiest place to start is with the tiny person I spend most of my time with.

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Adelaide is over five months old now, and showing us more and more of her personality every day. John and I are in awe of how sweet-natured she seems to be. I often wonder how her cheeks don’t ache from smiling so much (I know mine do).

She’s recently discovered that she can put her feet in her mouth, and she’s absolutely delighted by it. Her feet have become her favorite thing. When they are zipped away in her sleepsack for the night, she looks at me with a perplexed expression…as if to ask me where they have gone. When I unzip her in the morning, and she rediscovers her two, pudgy-toed companions…the look on her face is like someone who has been reunited with a friend she’s been separated from (for much longer than she intended to be).

Adelaide loves to study things…I can see such determination in her bright, blue eyes.

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These five months with my sweet girl have been challenging, in a sleep deprived, life altering kind of way. Becoming a mother changes pretty much every aspect of your life in some regards…and no matter how prepared you are for it, it’s hard. But, for every hour I’ve lost in sleep, every shirt that’s been spit up on, or every dinner out that has now become a dinner in, I’ve gain so SO much more…

This baby of ours is worth every hard thing. Every. Single. One.

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Marina’s Biscuits

For as long as I can remember, my mom’s biscuits have been a weekend family staple. I don’t care much for most breakfast foods. I’ve never eaten eggs willingly….I do not understand the point of grits, nor do I find joy in a bowl of oatmeal.

But, there is one glorious exception to this rule: Marina’s biscuits. I started making them in college, much to the delight of my roommates…and, it’s become a Saturday tradition at our house now to have a big breakfast, complete with biscuits fresh from the oven. So…even though it will be somewhat embarrassing to admit how easy they are to make, I thought I’d share the magic. Merry Christmas!

Here is your cast of characters:

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I don’t typically measure, but I did for the purpose of sharing this recipe. This will make enough biscuits for 2-6 people, depending on how ravenous you are.

  • 2 cups Martha White self-rising flour (if you can’t find this flour, don’t bother with this recipe…trust me)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (let’s pretend that’s buttermilk and not skim milk that I had to borrow from my neighbor)
  • 1/4 cup crisco (I use butter flavor, because…C’MON)
  • Butter (have I mentioned that these biscuits are buttery?)

Preheat your oven to 480 degrees. I know, I know…that seems excessive, but that’s what will make the magic happen.

Dump your crisco into the flour, and use your hands to cut it in.

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You want it to be well mixed throughout the flour, so you may determine that you need more or less crisco. It should form little pebbles here and there, but some of the flour should remain powdery…Does that even make sense?

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Slowly pour the milk in, while folding it into the flour mixture with your hand. I’d be doing that here, but John wouldn’t get off the couch to take this picture for me.

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I guess this is the part that will take some trial and error to figure out. You want the dough to be moist, without it becoming too wet. If it seems too wet, feel free to add more flour. You also want to avoid overly mixing it, or your biscuits will turn out more dense and less fluffy. I’ve found, through the years, that if you’re questioning whether or not you’ve mixed it enough you’ve probably mixed it the perfect amount. Leave it alone!

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At this point, you will have the equivalent of 1-2 biscuits stuck to your hands. If you’re my mom, you’ll proceed to touch everything in the kitchen with those hands in the next 30 seconds. It’s some sort of superpower that she possesses. There will be biscuit dough on the sink faucet, the refrigerator door, the milk jug, the utensil drawer handle….it’s a strange phenomenon.

I recommend washing your hands, but: to each their own.

Two things to do before moving on: take some crisco and grease the bottom of a cast iron skillet, and get about 1/2 cup flour in a little bowl. (If you don’t have a cast iron skillet ask Santa for one for Christmas you can use a cookie sheet.)

Now it’s time to do what Marina refers to as “patting out the biscuits”.

  1. Get some flour in your (clean and dough-free) hands.
  2. Pinch off some dough, it’s really your preference on how big you want to make each biscuit. (Although, these are traditionally called “cat head” biscuits..I think because they are meant to be as big as a cat’s head. Isn’t THAT appetizing?)
  3. Gently roll it into a ball, but do not overwork it. It’s fine to have some bits of crisco that still aren’t mixed in, etc.
  4. Place the biscuit gently in the skillet. I prefer to start in the middle and then fan out from there.
  5. Do not smush it flat, but do gently “pat” it a little to flatten the top.
  6. Between forming each biscuit, re-coat your hands with flour to avoid the dough from sticking.
  7. Place a sliver of butter on top of each one before baking. This will give them a golden, crunchy top.

(butter not shown here, but don’t forget it!)

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Now, place that skillet on the medium rack of your oven, and go kiss some baby toes if you’re lucky enough to have some nearby.

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Baking time is the cook’s preference. I prefer my biscuits to juuuuust be beginning to brown on top and to be super light and fluffy on the inside. This usually takes about 20 minutes. My dad and I disagree about cooking times and the level of “doneness” that defines a perfect pan of biscuits. To each their own, I suppose. But, if you’re ever at my house on a Saturday morning, this is what we’ll have:

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Be sure to eat them while they’re hot! Bonus points for spreading Muscadine jelly on them beforehand…


Balance

IMG_4057Adelaide will be ten weeks old tomorrow! Where has the time gone?? I have absolutely no recollection of August, which is fine with me. August is always my least favorite month. The heat, the humidity, the increased traffic when school starts back, everyone pushing scarf and boots weather when it is still in fact VERY MUCH shorts and tank tops weather…

………where was I?

For the past ten weeks I keep meaning to blog more. There’s all this pressure in my head to start something like a weekly or monthly letter to Ada…or to take a specific series of age progression pictures…or come up with some other Pinterest-worthy idea and carry it out to fruition. A friend recently said to me that she hadn’t officially revealed the gender of the baby she is expecting because she hadn’t come up with an idea of how to announce it that seemed good enough. Isn’t it sad that we live in a world where everyone feels pressure to make every single thing a thing?? Social media and mommy blogs can make you feel like an inferior mom if you aren’t doing something spectacular to document every second of your child’s life. But, like Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  

I’m choosing not to consent.

The thing is, before she was born, I swore I wouldn’t be that mom who suddenly bombards people with pictures of her baby. I pretty much blew that abooooout two days after she was born..can you blame me? Look at this FACE.

IMG_4229However, I’ve also stepped back and tried to evaluate how I feel about the culture we live in that makes us feel as if a moment isn’t complete unless it’s documented and shared on some form of social media. I’ve recently made it a point to put my camera and/or phone down more often than not…to relish interacting with my sweet baby girl and not focus on the next photo op.  Pictures capture memories, but I don’t want the only memory of the moment to be all about the picture…if that makes sense. And, I don’t want to write a letter to her or any other blog post just for the sake of sharing it with others. I want certain things to be just for her, just between the two of us and her daddy.

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So, I’ve been pondering how to proceed in sharing my baby girl with the world at large (at least when it comes to the internet and my group of “friends” on various social media outlets). I’ll continue to blog…but I’ll let go of the feeling that I need to.  I will most definitely still overshare on Instagram, because my mom would kill me if I didn’t. (Hi Mom!) It’s all about finding the balance of public versus private…in parenting and life in general.

And, I’m not saying that what I choose to share or not to share is what’s right for everyone. Just like how I choose to parent may or may not be how you would do it, or how your mother did. Etcetera, etcetera.

Let’s all give each other a little more grace as fellow mothers. You may never post a single photo, you may write an eloquent monthly letter to your child that is bound to make the rest of us cry happy tears or laugh hysterically, maybe you’re the type of mom who fills out the baby book completely and in a timely fashion.  I may barely get around to a post a month…which may be short enough to have just been a tweet…  The moral of the story: to each their own*.

So, if you feel like you’re not documenting your baby’s childhood enough…and, like me, you start getting “mom guilt” for whatever reason, be it the lack of professional pictures taken, blogposts left unwritten, journal entries never finished, baby books with blank pages.. Or, if it’s something else like heaven forbid a store bought Halloween costume (gasp!) that you buy on October 31 at 4:30pm because you never got around to crafting one of the 50 or so from your Pinterest board…  take deep breaths and realize that it’s all going to be ok. We turned out just FINE and our mothers didn’t have Pinterest or Etsy or the ability to take a picture every second of every day or constantly compare their mothering to hundreds of other mothers on social media.

I could go on and on, but I bet everyone stopped reading this a paragraph or so back, am I right?…

Now, feast your eyes on this FACE.
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* The only exception is if you update your Facebook status every two minutes with what you and/or your kid is doing that second (to which I must jump in and suggest that you DIAL IT DOWN A NOTCH).