Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Moving Day....

Notes from a Southern Kitchen has moved.  You may now find us at

www.notesfromasouthernkitchen.com

Come check out our new house, it is bigger and hopefully you will like it there!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Geronimo......

It started out innocent enough, a discussion of "Bucket Lists" over Christmas Eve dinner.  Sam, Chelsea, Zachary and me, all had something in common.... skydiving. 
The next thing you know, someone has the great idea that we should all jump together.  Then we started looking at dates and before you knew it, we had all agreed to skydive together during the Summer of 2011.  YIKES!

Truth be told, I think one of us certainly thought we would come to our senses and find the reason that this couldn't happen.... it never did. 

Before you knew it Zachary had made the reservations, Chelsea had taken off work, I had planned a trip to Georgia accompanied by Aunt Beck and we were at the point of no return.

Zack had kept the heat on through the winter and spring, this would be a Rumsey family outing that none of us would ever forget.  We encouraged each other and by the time Aunt Beck and I arrived in Clayton we were all psyched for the big jump.

Now Aunt Beck had no intention of jumping, but she also had no intention of missing out on our jump.  We arrived on Wednesday and scheduled the jump for Friday, July 22nd. 

The focus of Thursday was to convince daddy and Donna to go with us for the jump.  Both of them had been clear, they had no desire to join us, had no desire to see us jump and thought we were all stupid for considering the jump.

Aunt Beck on the other hand made it clear, she couldn't wait to see us jump and if she were 20 years younger she would be jumping with us.

Friday morning arrived, bright and early Sam, Chelsea and Zack picked us up for the drive to our jump site.  Nervous energy was obvious, chit chat and excitement filled the car.

The drive to our jump site was almost 3 hours, we would be stuck in the car for 3 hours taunting each other along the way.

The closer we got to the jump site, the quieter Zack and I got.  We are the most "talkative" of the family and our nerves manifested through our silence.  You would have never known if Sam and Chelsea were nervous as they continued with their enthusiastic banter.

Finally, our car filled with thrill seekers ventured off the main road and into a pasture.  A pasture with a small landing strip, wind sock and metal building.  Gravel driveway, rolling hills and the gentle hum of a single engine airplane completed the scene. 

Once we checked in we began the process of signing our life away.  Basically the documents we signed said we could not hold our hosts responsible for a hang-nail, much less a 10,000 ft fall to our demise!

We watched with excitement the videos of other jumpers and sized up the other jumpers in our vicinity.  Hey that guy over there is at least 70, if he can do it I can do it...right!?!?!?

Two things made me the most nervous and both of them had to do with Sam.  First, my weight.  The website stated loud and clear that if you were over a certain weight you had to pay more to jump.  I knew if I hit that weight limit, my loving brother would never let me forget it.

The second thing that had me nervous was the weather.  The website also said that if the weather were clear and pretty you could extend your jump, from 10,000 feet to 14,500 feet.  I knew Sam would go for the higher limit if possible.

We step up the counter, Sam first, he weighs and I will not say what happened.  Then the rep told him that the weather was beautiful and that was all it took for Sam.... here was the extra $10 to get him up to 14,500. 

I stepped up on the scale and held my breath, hallelujah blessed Mary and Joseph, I was under the weight limit!  (Seriously, I don't know how and I know I wouldn't do it today, so don't judge!)  I think I was so excited about making the weight that I didn't even argue about the extra 4500 feet.

Now it was time to meet the person who would be strapped to my back with my life in their hands.  I had a nice guy, mid-20s who had jumped numerous times in the past.  He was no-nonsense and wasn't really interested in hearing the fears of a fat dude that is old enough to be his dad.

Chelsea, who had flirted with all the instructors, and enjoyed their flirting in return got Woody for her instructor.  Woody was a  super nice guy, about my age who appeared to have enjoyed the 70's A LOT!

Flights were called and Zack and Sam were on the first flight, Chelsea and I on the second.  Nervously waiting for our turn to take to the skies, Chelsea and I enjoyed watching Sam and Zack float to the ground.

Now it was time, we loaded into the plane and prepared for our jump.  The instructors had given us our instructions, the videographer was filming the trip and it was now or never. 

We climbed to our jump level and my instructor moved me to the door.  I was standing in the door of an airplane looking out over 2 miles off the ground and suddenly, every nervous moment I had disappeared, I was ready.

Seconds later, I was falling through the sky at 120 mph and loving every second of it!  We did flips and I have never felt as free in my life. 

After just 75 seconds the free fall was over, my instructor motioned me that we were going up and within seconds we were jerked up into the heavens and now we floated.... floated through the clouds and skies. 

As we floated I could see the beautiful Georgia landscape and then I could see Chelsea floating through the skies as well.

As quickly as it all began, I could now see our landing spot, I could see Sam and Zack and Aunt Beck all cheering us down.

That day I felt alive, it was amazing to face this incredible fear and conquer it.  Sometimes you need to do something that may not be your smartest move in life, but it's just needed... for me skydiving was just that.

I now look at other items on my bucket list and see them as things I WILL do instead of things I would like to do.... big difference.

Friends ask me, would you do it again?  The answer is yes, I would do it again, but I don't HAVE to do it again. 

I'm so happy I did it and even more happy that I did it with my family.... it was a jump I will never forget!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Charmed...

There are certain possessions that we all have in life that mean much more to us than their value.  Items that "in a fire" you would grab. 

Besides Lita, I have a few things I would try to save in case of an emergency.....  the framed baby outfit I wore home from the hospital when I was born, a quilt made from my parents clothes when they were children both of which were Christmas gifts from mama and daddy.

I would try to grab family photos and my "important documents" box, but before any of those other "things" in my life (excluding Lita) I would reach for the charm bracelets.

In my living room, in a special place of honor are two framed charm bracelets, costume jewelry that means more to me than anyone else.  These charm bracelets belonged to mama and ma-ma.

When I was a very young child I used to spend a lot of time with ma-ma and gramps.  We had kind of a routine that included continuous pampering and exploration of my imagination and creative personality. 

Ma-ma was the perfect homemaker, she could bake, cook, clean, sew, garden, arrange flowers, craft, she could do it all and she loved having a little one tugging at her apron strings offering to "help."  I love pulling those apron stings, so we were a perfect pair!

One of my favorite things to do with ma-ma was to have her tell me stories,  stories from the charm bracelet. 

Ma-ma's charm bracelet was gold and from my childhood memory it had what seemed like hundreds of charms.  Each charm held a significance, the sewing machine, the thimble, a head for each child and grandchild, a replica of her brother's Bronze Star, Virginia, Puerto Rico, Florida;  all remembrances of trips taken through the years. 

For a young boy filled with an unquenchable imagination, that bracelet and the stories that were told about each charm could entertain for hours.

Many years later, when ma-ma died, I knew there was one thing I really wanted, I wanted that bracelet.  I hadn't seen it in years and when I mentioned it no one knew where it was. 

Through the days of purging ma-ma's belongings someone found the charm bracelet and gave it to me.  As an adult, it wasn't as impressive as it was when I was a child, you could see some of the charms were missing and it was tarnished, but just seeing that bracelet brought back a flood of memories and times spent with my grandmother that I would never be able to replace. 

Mama's bracelet was different.  Mama's bracelet was silver and only had 5 charms on it... one for daddy, one for Tom, one for Sam, one for me and one for herself.  Four male heads and one female.

On the front of each charm our name and birth date was engraved.  On the back of Tom's was his death date.

Somewhere through the years mama lost her charm bracelet she would mention it from time to time and how much it meant to her. 

One year, when I was about 16, I knew exactly what I wanted to give mama for Christmas.  I had worked all summer and saved some money and knew that this would be the year I was able to give her the special gift.

When we open our Christmas gifts each year, we try and hold one back for the grand finale as we know it is going to be the "special gift" for that year.  This was my first year able to give the "special" gift. 

I planned for weeks, I got mama's gift, I made sure everything was perfect and on Christmas Eve, I proudly put that gift under the tree. 

As we unwrapped the gifts my excitement built and for the first time, this year the excitement really wasn't for what I was receiving, but what I was giving.

When the time finally came and all the gifts but one were opened, I proudly handed mama her beautifully wrapped package.  I sat nervously beside her and as she unwrapped the package, our small family watched in anticipation.

When the package was opened, there it lay a silver charm bracelet, just like the one she had year's before.  Five heads, each engraved, a simple gift that meant more to my mama and I than any expensive gadget could.  To this day, the most special gift I have ever given anyone.

Mama and I both cried.

Through the years mama wore that bracelet everywhere and she made sure not to lose it.  She added three more heads through the years, Donna, Chelsea and Zack. 

When mama passed, there was one thing I wanted.  Before I left Clayton on my way back to Florida after that horrible/wonderful week, I went to mama's jewelry box and collected the charm bracelet.

Not long after I got my grandmother's bracelet, I decided to have it framed.  I lived in Atlanta at the time and had a friend who was a framer, he made sure that it got the attention it deserved and did a beautiful job with the presentation. 

After mama died it took me almost a year to have her bracelet framed.  It hurt too much to think about finalizing it and putting the bracelet behind glass. 

Finally, as the 1 year anniversary of mama's death approached I took it out and went to my local framer.  I carried ma-ma's bracelet with me to show the framer what I wanted. 

Thankfully, the framer saw the importance of this project and gave it his attention and dedication.  We picked out a frame that complimented ma-ma's.  After finally, pulling together the strength to take the bracelet to the framer, I waited with nervous anticipation for it to be completed.

When I got the call that my frame was completed, I went to pick it up with excitement.  When I saw the frame opened, again I cried, just like the first time I saw it opened and just like the first time, I knew my mama was right beside me admiring the bracelet as well.

Today those two bracelets sit in a place of honor in my living room.  On a small table, two pieces of costume jewelry that mean the world to me.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bucket List

Life is filled with day to day, the mundane challenges that consume us.  While we move through these day to day hurdles the mind has a funny way of adding new challenges to our psyche.

I like to think these challenges created in our minds are part of our bucket lists... the things we aspire to before we move on to our next life.   Bucket lists are funny things, they are often very personal, private, sometimes far fetched, sometimes simple... always individual.

My bucket list is extremely diverse, I want to attend the Winter Olympics, I want to sing a song on a Broadway stage, I want to visit Australia and scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef.  I want to hike the Grand Canyon, walk the red carpet at the Academy Awards and publish a novel.... like I said, diverse. These are just a few of the items on my "list."

I admire people who check off things on their list, my niece Chelsea has really done an amazing job of checking off items on her list.  Some things are easier than others to check off, some just take the nerve to make it happen, sometimes you just need a good kick in the pants to say... go for it... that is the stage in my life that I find myself.

As a middle aged, overweight, bald man it is easy to sit back and let life pass you by.  Work is great, I love my house, have amazing friends and family, enjoy my position as Vice-Mayor and find myself watching life pass me by.  It is time for a quick kick in the butt.... this Friday that kick will happen.

Over the winter, Zack, Chelsea, Sam and I were having a conversation and realized that sky-diving is on all our bucket lists.  Sky-diving... 47 years old, overweight, bald.... life passing me by... yep, that sounds like the perfect kick in the butt that I need.

During our initial conversation back in the winter we decided to jump together, a family outing.  Reservations have been made and good Lord willing, this Friday, July 22nd, I will step out of a plane with a perfect stranger strapped to my back and float through the heavens and safely down to earth. 

Skydiving... ok, sure I could have made reservations to go to the US Figure Skating Championships, yes, that is on the list.  I could have taken scuba lessons, yes, that is on the list.  I could have spent an entire weekend riding roller coasters, yes that's on the list too.... HOWEVER, would any of those things been the kick in the butt that this middle aged, bald, overweight guy needs to get out and stop letting life pass me by... I don't think so.

It's time and I hope this leap of faith will help change my psyche.

As I have told my friends about the jump, many have looked at me in disbelief.  Some have questioned my mental capacity to manage my own life moving forward, others have just looked at me like I am crazy and some have even come right out and called me crazy.  I have heard story after story of how my friend's neighbors, uncle's, wife was sucked up into a cloud and never seen again after she jumped. 

I admit it, sky-diving may not be the smartest thing in the world to be doing.  But is letting life pass me by any better?   I don't think so, I think it is time for a good kick in the butt, it's time to live a little and cross off a MAJOR item on the bucket list.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Elivs has left the building...

Often times we mark the seasons of our lives by where we were when history happens.  I wasn't born when JFK was shot, but daddy tells the story of walking across the lawn of Wilcox County High School and hearing the news.

Mama was at home sick on the day Reagan was shot, she called the school to let Mrs. Snyder know, who passed on the word to the Principal who passed it on to us. 

I was in Mrs. Weatherly's class when Frank D. Smith died, he was my Elementary School Principal and beloved by so many.

I stood in the living room of my friend Pam Suttle's apartment in Statesboro, GA as we watched the Space Shuttle blow up killing all on board.  We left the television to go to an Editorial Writing class, where our instructor Ernie made us write an editorial memorializing the astronauts.  I thought the assignment was unfair at the time, not much later I realized that was the job of the editorialist, a lesson I learned when I least expected it.

I was on a bus returning from a band competition when I heard about Belushi's OD.  I was recovering from foot surgery when I heard about Versace and later Princess Diana.  Eating dinner when Michael Jackson died. 

I was in the break room of Carey Limousine when the OJ verdict was announced.  I was in Centennial Park just hours before the bomb went off and on the phone with mama when the first plane hit the Twin Towers.

These moments of our lives are ingrained and for some reason we know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news. 

During the Summer of 1977, I was 13 years old and preparing to go into 7th grade.  The sleepy days of August were about to be turned upside down by a scream from Becky Ramey, a scream that was echoed around the globe.... "ELVIS IS DEAD!"

Becky was the Rogers' baby-sitter.  Today, Becky would be called the nanny;  back then she was the baby  sitter while Mr. and Mrs. Rogers were at work. 

On that late August afternoon, Becky's scream echoed through our quiet neighborhood creating a frenzy of activity that would continue for several days.

I didn't realize Elvis was such a big deal, I knew he was a singer and all, but really within minutes of the announcement that he had died, grown women and some men started acting like a close relative had been lost. 

Television news showed scenes of grieving fans from around the world mourning.... especially in Memphis, Graceland, the home of Elvis.

Little did I know how soon that mourning would hit home.  When Becky left that afternoon she didn't return for almost a week.  She returned after making her pilgrimage to Graceland for the Elvis funeral.

Becky's mother was a HUGE Elvis fan and his death was especially hard for her, so that night she and some friends along with Becky took off for Memphis for the King's funeral. 

The pilgrimage continued as Gracie, our friend from south Georgia, along with her friends showed up at our house late that night.  There for a stop over, long enough to get a quick night's sleep before moving on to Graceland. 

As the days continued hundreds of thousands of people from around the World descended on Memphis.  Television cameras were trained on the action as huge lines formed to view the casket.  Television cameras carried the funeral and burial, it was all Elvis all the time.

After the funeral and burial, the throngs left the King behind, returning to their homes with a heavy heart.  We heard stories from those who went to Graceland about how moving it was.

The pillars of the fence surrounding his home was covered with written condolences, written in magic marker or chalk, fans just wanted to leave their mark on the event.

Somewhere on that fence there are notes from Rochelle and Clayton, GA, I have no idea what they say, but I can tell you they were left by women who loved their Elvis and were broken hearted when he died. 

The summer of 1977, one of those moments I will always remember where I was.  The summer when Elvis left the building for good.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Things my daddy taught me....

It's Father's Day weekend and as the day rolls around it makes me think back on things my daddy has taught me through life. 

As with most father's daddy taught me respect, honor, pride and love.  In addition to those normal lessons in life he taught me a lot more too, on Father's Day I like to look back on those things....

A look is more powerful than words  Growing up daddy had a "look" that you never wanted to see.  It was stern, solid and unflinching.  The look said more than words ever could.  The look would tell you to sit down, keep your mouth shut and pay attention.  The look would say, don't ever let me see you do that again.  The look would ask, what did you say?  You did NOT answer the look!

As I have grown older I have perfected the look.  I use it in business, I use it in my political life, I use it with the neighbor kids, I use it with my staff.  I try to be selective in my use of the look and only pull it out when absolutely necessary, but when I want to make sure my point is perfectly clear, I just remember a lesson from my daddy and give the look.

Some sugar is sweeter than others.  All my life I have heard my daddy tell people to "give me some sugar."  I learned long ago he wasn't talking about the white stuff you put in tea, but he was talking about a kiss.  Usually a kiss on the cheek, but it could mean a hug or both.  There is nothing better than a hug and kiss from a friend or loved one.  To my ears, give me some sugar is the ultimate compliment!

Family First.  I don't think that lesson is anything out of the ordinary for most people, but my daddy lived that motto on a daily basis.  After Tom died our family could have been torn apart, daddy made sure we weren't. 

On more than one occasion I heard my daddy make the comment, "I have already lost one, I won't lose another one."  By that I think he meant that he would fight for us and make sure that we did not leave the "family."  He would fight our enemies and protect us whenever needed to keep us together.  That role model is something that we all take with us in our family.  We may bicker and argue, but when it comes down to it we are family and will not be torn apart.

Woman's work is just.... work  Daddy used to joke that cooking and cleaning was "woman's work."  Early on in my life I learned that woman's work is just... work. 

Mama was sick and hospitalized a lot when I was young.  The wreck, the hospitalization after Tom died, migraines, she was sick a lot.  Early on, daddy learned to cook and clean and keep a perfect house.  When mama was sick that didn't mean we ate out, it meant we all chipped in and cooked dinner.  Daddy is one of the best cooks I have ever known, the only thing my mama could ever cook that he couldn't match was biscuits, so to make up for it we had a lot of cornbread.

Long before the women's movement, long before stay at home dads, long before Mr. Mom, there was Ray Rumsey.  A clean house, excellent meals, perfectly washed clothes, organized birthday parties and all the other typical "woman's work" chores around the house became just work in our house.  He was a trend setter long before it was considered cool, in our house it was just necessity.

A chicken ain't nothing but a bird.   Daddy has always has a way with words, but this is one of my favorites... a chicken ain't nothing but a bird.  Whenever I have been afraid to try something I have heard it.  Seven simple words that are very powerful. 

When you take the fear out of life it makes everything possible.  There is no room for being a chicken, after all a chicken ain't nothing but a bird.

Life lessons aren't taught in books.  Daddy was a school teacher and football coach.  He still teaches and coaches today, not in the formal sense but the life sense. 

Daddy taught 12th grade American Government.  I'm not sure we ever opened a text book during his class, but the life lessons that were taught in that class far outweigh any chapter and verse on the Constitution or rules of Congress than we could have ever been quizzed on.

Don't ever do anything to embarrass your mama.  I have mentioned this one many times in this blog.  It was the basis of my life and I still carry it with me today.  The greatest lesson my daddy ever taught me, because it was the hardest to live up to.

My daddy is an interesting character, someone who has touched the lives of many, someone who has always taught and someone who overflows with love.  I'm lucky and proud to call him my daddy.

Happy Father's Day.... I love you!




Sunday, May 8, 2011

Through Thick and Thin

Bert has Ernie, Abbot has Costello, Oprah has Gayle and Felix has Oscar..... I have Andrew, my best friend.

I have known Andrew most of my life, he is a year younger than me and we were casual friends as youngsters, that all changed around 13 or 14.  I remember we were at the Halloween Carnival in the old Rabun County High School butler building and for some reason we ended up hanging out together that night. 

A lifetime friendship was born.....

From that day forward Andrew has been like a brother to me, I seek his opinion, his advice, when something good happens I want to share it with him and in tough times I know he will be there.

As we grew up, Andrew became a part of my family and I his; Dr. Pete and Janie were my second mother and father, Ray and Martha were his.  We were usually at one house or the other.

Andrew was with us on family vacations, I rushed the field of the Sugar Bowl with Andrew when Georgia won its one and only National Football Championship.  We have raced down ski slopes, sprayed each other with water skis and shared bottles of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill together. 

Sadly as I graduated from High School and the following year Andrew graduated, we lost contact.  I blame myself for losing contact with my best friend.  Through those years we both grew up a lot and went our different directions. 

Good and bad times for each of us, difficult times that the other could have helped with and unfortunately we weren't there.  I know I missed so much of Andrew's life and I will always regret that, but even when we were separated I kept up with him and I know he kept up with me.  Even apart, we were part of each other's lives. 

Over the last seven or eight years Andrew and I started to reconnect.  Slowly at first and then with more frequency.  I met his wife, his kids and his family came to Florida for vacation and we were able to reconnect.

From the moment we reconnected it was as if we never were apart, conversations flowed effortlessly.

Now I am happy to say we speak often, while we don't see each other as often as I would like we are part of each other's lives now.... I am immensely thankful for that.

When mama died, I told Andrew that he didn't have to travel back and forth from Atlanta for the viewing and funeral and he said to me "she was like my mama too."  Yes she was and I was incredibly thankful that Andrew was there with us.

Best friends are a funny connection, we may part but thankfully we come back.  Best friends are chosen not assigned, I am thankful that I chose a smart, funny, dedicated man who has become an amazing father, husband and businessman, I am thankful for Andrew.

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