Face Fixing

makeup.jpgMother would be proud of me. I “fixed” my face today. Lately I’ve become a little lax about girl things like makeup and hairdos. It isn’t that I don’t like these things. It’s only that it doesn’t seem as important to me as it once was. Maybe we spend too much time worrying about appearance and not enough worrying about the things that really matter.

When I was a child I used to stand wide-eyed watching my mother sit at the dresser putting her makeup on, and I could hardly wait until I was old enough for the mysterious chemicals of beauty that transformed ugly ducklings into swans. Occasionally, mother would let me have a bit of her lipstick on my lips just to pacify me, and I pranced around feeling very grown up.

As an adolescent, I could hardly wait to start wearing makeup. I would sneak and use mother’s liquid makeup long before I was old enough for mascara. Mother only used drug store makeup. “Use the best makeup you can afford,” mother would say. “The cheap kind from the Five and Ten will break out your face.”

It didn’t seem to make much difference, however, whether I borrowed mother’s drug store makeup or used the cheaper kind. My face still broke out. I think acne had a lot to do with hormones and not much to do with makeup.

What we call “blush” nowadays was called “rouge” back then. It came in a small red cake in a tiny round box and was rubbed on the cheeks with a tiny power puff. Mascara was even stranger. It was a cake of black stuff in a square box, which was applied with a tiny brush combed through the eyelashes. The way to apply mascara was to spit on the brush to wet it, then rub it on the black cake and apply to eyelashes.

Eyebrow pencils were wooden and trimmed with a sharpener or a knife to reveal the black pencil. Mother had thin, light eyebrows, which were always darkened with a pencil. This was an important part of the makeup application routine. I used eyebrow pencil for years until a professional make up person told me my eyebrows were dark and I didn’t need it.

Mother always did the makeup routine like a movie star going on stage and would not consider being caught in public without makeup. She could never go any place until her face was “fixed.”

I read all the glamour magazines and conspired with girlfriends about which makeup was best and the correct techniques to use to apply it. We thought we were very glamorous in those days, in spite of the acne underneath our camouflage. I became an artist at application, trying all colors and shades. My eyelids were green one day and blue the next. My lashes were thick, velvety and non-smearing. My lips were pink and dewy or later, frosted as the style of makeup changed.

It isn’t that female things don’t matter to me any more. I like to dress up and wear makeup for special occasions, but I’ve become less and less concerned about it. It seemed to fall by the wayside and other things in life took priority. First the lipstick went, then the eye shadow, and mascara. I’m down to foundation now. Somehow, I just can’t seem to get past the need for some camouflage, but probably it isn’t going to be long before I’m going totally barefaced.

Is something wrong with me? I don’t hot curl my hair any more; much less use the old fashion rollers. Remember those pink foam ones that were such an improvement over hard plastic because they were soft to sleep on?

Somehow, I’m sure that mother is some place right now with full makeup on, a bit of cologne behind her ear, and her hair perfectly curled whether she is going out or not.

I’m sorry, mom. I know I should do better. But at least you can be proud of me today. I’ve “fixed” my face.

Copyright 2002 Sheila Moss

Do you (or wife) wear makeup or prefer the barefaced natural look?

Posted in Family, Fashion, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dishwasher Disaster

dishwasherWell, it finally happened. My poor old dishwasher died in a poof of smoke. The last couple loads had an unusual smell. I optimistically attributed it to something plastic touching the heating coil. Funny, I never could find anything. I attempted to give it one last chance, but the old dishwasher rebelled. Smoke bellowing from the vent in the door made it apparent that it had seen its better days.

I briefly considered calling a repair service person. But water had been leaking out from under the door onto the floor for some time. The dishwasher and I had reached a compromise about the water ages ago. I put a dishtowel on the floor to catch the drips, and it continued to wash the dishes just as good as ever. Counting back the years until I ran out of fingers, I realized just how old this particular appliance was and wondered that it was still working at all. No wonder it was ready for Depends.

Time to visit the friendly local appliance store. But the store no longer sold appliances. Shows how long it’s been since I bought anything. Another appliance store, however, had gleaming rows of all sorts of items: refrigerators, stoves, and washing machines. It was an appliance jungle. The salesmen stood around like vultures waiting for raw meat. As soon as we entered the door, they descended.

“How can I help you?” asked a salesman with teeth even shiner than the appliances.

Err… I need a dishwasher,” I admitted, looking for the emergency exit in case I needed to make a fast escape.

“What kind?” he quizzed, naming off about a dozen brands.

Figuring my old one had lived far past its normal life expectancy, I opted just to get the same brand again.

“Those are down at the end,” he sneered, proceeding to show me the top of the line models instead. “These have stainless steel interiors, water at the top and bottom, and a dozen cycles.”

Those dishwashers had more buttons and gadgets than an airplane’s dashboard. I only wanted to wash and dry dishes. I figured with that sort of price tag, it should cook dinner, clear the table, put the clean dishes in the cabinet, and give me a neck massage.

“My appliances are tan,” I said. “Do they come in tan?”

“Oh, you mean biscuit,” he said with a pained expression, acting as if I had asked for avocado or purple.

“Black is the standard color. You can get white but it costs extra.”

White costs extra!? Gosh! It’s been a long time since I shopped for appliances, I thought. I really need to get out more.

I finally selected one of the lower end models, which came with few extra buttons – whether I needed them, or not. Why a dishwasher needs to do anything but wash and dry I never could figure out – just more gadgets to break down, I surmised.

With a flash of his gleaming teeth, the sales clerk entered the sale into the computer, gave me a delivery date, and whisked me and my checkbook out to the cashier. It was all over in a couple minutes. Boy, doesn’t take long to spend money, does it?

So, I am now the proud owner of a shiny new, black dishwasher. I think I will go push some buttons. Let’s see, where is the one for the neck massage?

Copyright Sheila Moss 2001
Posted in Humor, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Are You a Nerd?

nerdIf you would rather play with your e-devices than watch football,

You might be a nerd.

If you own more than one cell phone,

You might be a nerd.

If you buy extra cartridges for your printer before you need them,

You might be a nerd.

If you spent your vacation at a electronics trade show,

You might be a nerd.

If the trade show was the most exciting vacation you’ve ever had,

You might be a nerd.

If you sometimes forget to leave work at quitting time,

You might be a nerd.

If your tie and socks match,

You might be a nerd.

If you like programming more than you like people,

You might be a nerd.

If you have a spare pair of horn-rimmed glasses,

You might be a nerd.

If you have more than one desktop computer and use them at the same time,

You might be a nerd.

If you spell check your “to do” list.

You might be a nerd.

If you sleep with a smart watch on,

You might be a nerd.

If you save your brown paper lunch bag and reuse it,

You might be a nerd.

If you work for the government, an accounting firm, or a bank,

You might be a nerd.

You think accuracy is more important than speed,

You might be a nerd.

If you never forget to charge your cell phone,

You might be a nerd.

If you download online crossword puzzles,

You might be a nerd.

If your favorite TV program is the Weather Channel,

You might be a nerd.

If you wear your work ID card at home.

You might be a nerd.

If you have any friends that are auditors, programmers, or embezzlers,

You might be a nerd.

If you always remember to floss when you brush,

You might be a nerd.

If you understand the metric system, quantum mechanics, and HTML,

You might be a nerd.

You have a dozen electronic gadgets and actually know how to use them all,

You might be a nerd.

If you have a picture of your mother as computer wallpaper,

You might be a nerd.

If you are allergic to cats, plants, mold, dust, and latex,

You might be a nerd.

If your emergency supplies include an Allen wrench and a tiny screwdriver,

You might be a nerd.

If other nerds envy your taste in pocket protectors,

Might as well admit it, you’re a nerd!

Copyright 2000 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Work Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Daily Commute


One of the best things about being retired is I no longer have to commute to work everyday of my life. I did it for a long time. Sometimes when I think back about it, I remember it as if it is happening today, instead of in the past. This is what it was like:

I’m spending too much time commuting to work. One day I looked out the back door and began to wonder how my driveway could suddenly become 20 miles long and six lanes wide. Actually, I don’t spend too much time at home, because with traffic what it is, by the time I get home, it’s time to turn around and start back to the office.

I know more about what happens on the Interstate than the local traffic copter. I am beginning to like the smell of exhaust fumes, and that really worries me. The other commuters are my only friends. I am starting to recognize them on the Interstate and memorize their license plates.

I have personally paid enough gasoline tax to resurface the entire Interstate between my home and office. In view of this, I do not understand the highway department’s negative attitude about giving me a designated driving lane of my own. The gasoline station down at the corner holds a second mortgage on my home, and I think the truck drivers are beginning to know me too as they always wave when I drive by.

I have an assortment of coffee car mugs for all occasions. Who needs a radar detector? I know all the Smokey’s hiding places. There are only so many billboards and bushes they can hide behind. I know all the exits and how much distance between each one in miles and metrics. I change lanes before I even see the road sign. If it rains, I know where every puddle in the road will be.  I think I may be developing a racing strip down my back from spending so much time on wheels.

NASCAR driving would be a piece of cake after fighting the traffic on the Interstate every morning. Actually, I can’t imagine anyone getting a speeding ticket because the traffic creeps along at 30 miles per hour. I have driven through snow, rain, hail, and wind and still managed to make it to work five minutes before the boss. My recurring nightmare is not being able to get into the right hand exit lane and having to circle the city for days on the inner loop. I carry a road map just in case I’m forced off at the 440 bypass and end up in Memphis. I could show up at work five years late one morning mumbling, “The commute was really hell today!

I keep snacks in the car for traffic jams, and I know all the DJ’s on the radio and their call letters.  I keep my driver’s license close to my heart, and a picture of my family on the dashboard so I don’t forget what they look like. I probably should have my vehicle registration matted and framed. My car is actually my next of kin. It has a name and my honey accuses me of loving it more than him. I should probably mention it in my will, perhaps leave it a set of jumper cables or an oil change or two for loyal service.

I don’t have to check the gas gauge as I know how many trips I can make before I have to fill up again. If cars had automatic pilot, it could drive itself.  Like a faithful horse, I’m sure it knows the way. I don’t measure distance in miles, I measure it in commute time. I am a daily witness to road rage, accidents, breakdowns, and stupidity. I see women putting on their makeup and men shaving at 70 mph. There are more single driver cars using the HOV lanes for passing than carpoolers using it for commuting. I have learned to cope with traffic frustration because there is no place to get off the road and have a nervous breakdown. If I did, I’d never be able to get back on.

Well, I better leave and start driving. If you need me just call me on my cell phone.  I gotta turn on the radio and get the traffic report.  Wave if you see me on I-24.  My car is the one with the vanity license plate “COMMUTER.”

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss
Posted in Automotive, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Fast Woman

Remember when you got your first computer, how you didn’t want to eat or go to bed at night? It was almost the same sort of infatuation all over again when cable internet first came along. No more waiting, everything there in a flash.

I had never thought of myself as a fast woman until cable internet came along. Once I had a new cable connection for my computer, however, I definitely qualified as speedy. No more dial up, no more being disconnected, just zip, zip, zip! Pages and graphics loading in a whiz.

I was movin’… I was flying… I was lightning!

When cable first became available in my area many years ago, I went over to the friendly local computer store for a free demo – no obligation. They had old 133 MHz computers all wired up to cable. Those worn out nags were running like racehorses with a shot of the new technology. Of course I wanted it, just like they knew I would.

Expense, of course, was the main obstacle – I couldn’t seem to justify the expenditure when I could dial up and connect to the net so much cheaper. But prices soon came down. Sales people were quick to point out how cable with one phone line in your home was cheaper than two phone lines, one for calls and one for the computer. Or how you could connect two computers at about the same price as dial up with home networking. When I got that card in the mail about the free installation and the rebate of $100, it was the final straw.

Everybody was getting wired with the new wide band technologies. Speed demons like cable, DSL, satellites, wireless and ISDN phone lines left me eating dust with my dial up modem. I never seemed to be able to stay connected. Even with a high-speed processor, my computer was dragging its tail with the entire Internet trying to squeeze though a phone line.

In a computer class I took, the lady next to me leaned over to confide, “I’ve got cable and I’m so spoiled.” Boy, was I ever envious. I wanted to be spoiled too. So , I joined the 21st century. My computer also was cruising the fast lane on the information highway. Wonder I didn’t get a speeding ticket. Trouble is the Internet is very addictive, and even more so at high speed.

I did miss the screech of the modem dialing up. I had become sort of used to the repulsive sound and the little ecstatic musical chimes when it finally connected. The “mail truck” announcement, the ugly blue and yellow start page set up so carefully with all my personal preferences and my familiar email address, were all are gone.

My dial-up service provider had been good to me. They held my hand while I learned to walk, and then I ran away and left them. I missed them – but not enough to give up my amorous affair with cable. It’s was sort of like getting a new home and leaving the old one with all the associated memories, or trading in the car that became a clunker for a slick new model, or dumping an old boyfriend for a new lover.

My computer was always connected ready to rumble. It was waiting for me and blowing the horn. Gee whiz, it was a wonder my monitor didn’t melt at warp speed. There was email to check and surfing to do.

Life was demanding for a fast woman.

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss

Today we take high-speed internet for granted. It hasn’t always been that way. Do you remember dial-up connections?

Posted in Humor, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Learn to Laugh

clownObviously, you are a person who enjoys humor or you wouldn’t be reading this blog. A little laughter goes a long way toward relaxing your mind and body. The effects of a good laugh last up to 45 minutes and can lower your blood pressure. I don’t know about you, but my blood pressure needs all the help it can get.

Can you believe people who have heart disease are 40 percent less likely to laugh at funny situations than those without heart problems? Maybe laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter should be thought of as heart-friendly, better than a low-fat and low-carb diet, or at least another method to improve your health.

funnycatExperts who study this sort of thing say stress is reduced within minutes when you laugh. Notice how a stressful situation is relieved when someone makes a joke. Everyone laughs and relaxes. Laughter helps give you a positive attitude and feelings of happiness. You feel better when you laugh a lot and others feel more comfortable. Wouldn’t you rather be around someone who is funny and has a positive attitude than someone who does nothing but complain and criticize?

Laughter reduces wrinkles and makes you look younger. That alone is enough reason for me to work in as many laughs a day as possible. Ever notice old people with frowns permanently frozen into wrinkled faces? When I get old, I want my wrinkles to be smile lines instead of frown lines.

Here are a few ideas to help you get started laughing:

* Look for funny videos on YouTube and post them on Facebook.
* Download a comedy movie to watch or watch one on TV.
* Look for books of cartoons on Amazon or at the library.
* Spend time with friends who make you laugh.
* Write your own funny captions for cartoons or family photos.
* Act goofy or make a face in the mirror.
* Put a funny screensaver on your computer.
* Play a silly joke on your kids or friends.
* Subscribe to joke lists and humor columns.
* Recall a funny situation or embarrassing moment and share it.

grouchoIt may seem a bit silly to seek opportunities to laugh, but why not if laughter is good for you? You are improving your health and well being and having fun at the same time. Laughter relieves tension and helps pain. Laughter is a workout for your heart, diaphragm, and facial muscles. It improves your attitude. Laughing and learning to appreciate humor will improve your social relationships.

Some people have suggested taking time to deliberately try to laugh as an exercise. Take a deep breath and say “ha, ha, ha” as many times as possible. The forced laughter will soon become the real thing, especially if done in a group.

Accept that you don’t have to have a reason to laugh and just laugh. Learn to laugh at yourself and your own short-comings. Being a happy person is sometimes a matter of choice. Make a choice to have a positive attitude and to be a happy person. It can make you live longer and help you enjoy the life that have.

Posted in Health, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I Resolve

timeIt’s time to make New Year’s Resolutions again. Everyone is feeling a bit guilty about all those calories consumed over the holidays. The beginning of the calendar year always seems like a good time to get a fresh start.

Looking around, I see other people with innumerable things that need changing. It seems as though it might be easier to make resolutions for other people than for myself. I fight mental block and grind my teeth. There must be SOMETHING wrong with me. After all, nobody is perfect.

Reluctantly, I resolve not to drink so much coffee. Guess three pots a day is a bit excessive. Wonder if that has anything to do with the anxiety I’ve felt lately? Nah, it’s probably something else.

I resolve to get more sleep. Go to bed earlier? Why, that’s unthinkable. That would require missing the end of a TV program that I’ve only seen once or twice before – or, even worse, not reading all my email.

I could spend less time on the computer and more time on self-improvement type activities? Ha, don’t be ridiculous, how can I know what to do to improve myself if I don’t look it up on the Internet?

I would resolve to stop smoking, but since I am a non-smoker, maybe I’ll just resolve to remind everyone else that they should stop. Boy, that ought to make me really popular!

I might resolve to be neater and to organize things better. Of course, I would have to wait until I have time to get organized before I could do this one. Compulsive neatness makes people uncomfortable anyhow. I may need to prioritize on this one.

I could resolve to work harder and be more efficient. But to be efficient, I need to have some time off for relaxation and recovery. How can I be more efficient without rest?

I might resolve to take an educational improvement course of some type. Let’s see, cooking? No, I already know how to cook. Golf? I’m not interested in hitting balls around. Music? It takes too long to learn. I just can’t think of anything that I want to improve enough to devote the work necessary to do it.

Probably I could eat more nutritiously and cut down on fats and calories. Of course, I’ve been trying to do that for years anyhow. Besides, everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions to lose weight. Nothing creative here. Maybe I could resolve to GAIN weight. Then if I don’t keep my resolution, I would be better off instead of worse off.

Maybe I could resolve to drive more carefully and always obey the speed limits. I do this one already. Ha, ha, just kidding you law-enforcement officers. (Whew!)

I could also resolve to relax more. Of course, just deliberating the need to relax makes my heartbeat faster and my blood pressure rise. Face it, if I relaxed any more, I’d be a couch potato. Pass the remote control, would ya?

Everyone resolves to save money. But, what’s the point of saving money unless I want to buy something with it? And if I’m going to spend it anyhow, why bother to save? All I do is eliminate the middleman by spending it as soon as I get it.

How about if I resolve to be more productive? I never did know what I was supposed to produce to be productive. Is it possible to be productive without a product, or is productivity itself a product? It all becomes very confusing.

That is the whole darn troubled with New Year’s resolutions. If you can, you already are. If you can’t, then why worry yourself to death with resolutions?

The best idea of all still seems to be the classic one of resolving not to make any New Year’s Resolutions.

Copyright 2001 Sheila Moss
Posted in Holidays, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The “S” Word


The official snowflake has fallen. Winter is here! People in the city all rush to the windows to see. Skyscrapers lean under their weight.

“Is it?”

“I think it is!”

“Yes! It’s a snowflake!”

Magnifying glasses are brought out as everyone gathers around to observe the first snowflake of the season. They shake their heads in wonder and exclaim in unison, “It’s SNOW!”

As realization sweeps over them, panic sets in. A snowflake could have relatives. Heads turn skyward to see. Cars on the interstate, impatient for the bad weather that is sure to come, begin to crash into each by the dozens even before the snow starts to fall.

In the suburbs, herds of housewives flock to the grocery store in four-wheel drive vehicles. They quickly clean out the bread and toilet paper aisles and then move on to the non-perishable goods. Country mentality still prevails in the South. Stock up “just in case” you are snowed in.

Wheels spin and skid as the second tiny snowflake of the season is crushed unnoticed under the wheels of the vehicles. The herds stampede home in caravans with supplies to stock the cupboards for the rest of winter while they wait for “The Big Snow.”

It is not until the grocery store is totally empty that the weather reporter announces that the winter storm warning has been cancelled. It is difficult not to wonder if weathermen and grocery stores could possibly be in cahoots, periodically announcing a snow panic just to move merchandise.

Winter in the South – how I love it! Southerners do not have a clue about how to drive in snow. The wise bubbas stay at home out of harms way. The less astute take to the roads in their light-ended pickup trucks driving like rednecks will, spinning out at every bridge or icy spot. The ditches are soon full of abandoned vehicles.

Even those southern residents who have lived in the North where it snows all the time take their lives in their hands driving on snowy roads in the South where precious few have any snow driving experience.

The last “real” snow, an inch or two, was a few years ago and it took me over four hours to get to work that morning, a normal drive of about 30 minutes in rush hour traffic. The mere mention of the “S” word is enough to give any commuter a migraine sufficient to call in sick over.

Kids love bad weather, of course. As soon as the media mentions the “S” word, the schools are instantly closed. The kids stay home to write fan letters to TV’s Snowbird, who announces the latest school closings. It was a long, long, time ago, but everyone still remembers the horror of the year it snowed after the kids got to school. Not to worry, that will never happen again.

The best thing about snow in the South is that it doesn’t last long. Most people don’t even own a snow shovel. They just wait for it to melt. Why bother when it will probably be in the 40’s tomorrow? Snow blower? What’s a snow blower? Snow plows? Don’t make me laugh.

Oops! I think I saw another flake of snow. Wake up the metro salt crew and tell them it’s time to order salt. Looks like it’s snowing. Speaking of salt, we never waste it by salting a bridge before it is slick. We save it until we are sure it is really needed.

The snow is really starting to fall now. The weatherman predicted, “NO SNOW.” That makes it certain there will be several inches, at least. It’s the snowstorms they DO predict that never come.

Excuse me now, I feel a headache coming on

Copyright 2000 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Weather | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Ready or Not?

road.jpgThe Christmas crazies are over for another year.  The gifts have been opened and the wrappings hauled away by the trash men to contribute to the cities’ waste disposal problem or burned in the fireplace to contribute to the world’s pollution problem.

Amateur time at the mall is over and the pro shoppers have returned to scratch for bargains. At the local Walmart there are more return lines than there are check out lines and everything purchased in the final days of wild “gotta get something” spending has been returned for something useful.

The talk now is all about politics, what is ahead of us as we anticipate the beginning of a new era with a new type of President in charge. Some are predicting the worst and even preparing for a potential disaster with supplies of food, water, medicine, cash, gasoline, flashlights, batteries, cooking and heating supplies. Sounds like we are expecting the end of civilization.

I wonder how we ever made it back in the olden days before modern conveniences?   Of course, we were geared for a different sort of existence then, weren’t we? I thought about getting extra wood for the fireplace, and thought about stocking up on canned goods, and managed to come home with two extra jugs of bottled drinking water.

I’ve heard that old-fashioned oil lamps were a popular Christmas gift this year. Lucky me, I already have an oil lamp, maybe two if that decorative one in the living room still actually works. I even have a flashlight for emergencies; of course, extra batteries might be a good idea.  I don’t think the little AA ones that we keep around for the clocks and beepers are the right size for anything much.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Red Cross advise everyone to be ready for an emergency at all times as the possibility of a natural or man-made disaster is always present: tornados, wildfires, hazardous material accidents, earthquakes, hurricanes, or floods — not to mention terrorism, riots, or acts of war. They publish lists of the items to keep on hand in case  of evacuation or a shelter-in-place warning.

It all gets very confusing. Do I buy candles and food or just forget it?  Around here we still remember the big ice storm of several years ago when half the area went without electricity for weeks and weeks in the middle of February and the electric company wouldn’t answer the phone.  But the general mood seems to be one of cautious optimism.

Is anyone actually stocking up, other than survivalist types who probably have it all anyhow?   As usual, the prepared people are ready and have their shotguns loaded.  I’ve never quite figured out why the survivalists need guns.  Guess they are afraid that everyone else will mob them and attempt to take it away.  Personally, I think I’d attack the grocery store or food warehouse first, but what do I know?

Survival around here would be a short-term thing.  We are too dependent on the necessities of modern life, the artificial environment we have created for ourselves.  Like most of us, I will believe those who say that nothing will happen, problems will not be severe or widespread, nothing disastrous will happen and life will go on as usual. But the more I think about this stuff, the more nervous I feel.  Let’s see, I could always use the extra food later if the world doesn’t end.

I’d like to speculate a bit more on all of this, but I think I’d better run over to Walmart and see if I can find D size batteries, “just in case.”  I don’t really think anything bad will happen, of course.

Copyright 1999-2017 Sheila Moss
Rewrite of prior story
Posted in Humor, News & Current Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Mind Your Peas

black-eyed-peasHave a bad year and are wishing for better luck next year? Try eating some black-eyed peas. Black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day are a southern tradition. There seems to be little agreement on how this custom began, though, or why a food as humble as black-eyed peas might be considered lucky.

In some places, black-eyed peas are called “cowpeas” because they were once only used as fodder for the cattle. Some believe the custom of eating black-eyed peas for luck started during the Civil War when southern troops under siege had to exist on what was available and considered peas lucky because they prevented starvation.

Others believe the custom was started by poor folks who learned to “make do” with whatever food they had available. Some of the creative recipes born out of necessity and poverty were quite delicious and these “soul foods” became a part of southern culture. Due to scarcity of food in winter, it was considered lucky to have a plentiful supply of peas at the beginning of the New Year.

It may be that the association of luck with black-eyed peas is much older than American history, however, and goes back to times of the past. The first visitor of the New Year in some cultures was thought to determine the luck of a household for the following year. A gentleman considered lucky was invited to accompany “lady luck” and welcomed with a kiss and a bowl of black-eyed pea soup.

It is sometimes alleged that what is done on the first day of a new year will be continued for the entire year. Believing this, it becomes important to eat lucky foods to ensure a good year. In addition to the peas, southerners may eat cooked greens or cabbage, which represents money or prosperity, and cornbread which represents gold. Black-eyed peas, however, are always fundamental.

In the winter, black-eyed peas are usually found as dried peas that must be soaked overnight in water before cooking. Usually the peas are slow simmered or cooked in a crock-pot on low heat until done. Black-eyed peas are usually seasoned with salt-pork, jowl, or even the hambone from a country ham. Southerners have learned not to be wasteful, especially with food. Rice, another lucky food, is added in some regions, along with sausage and tomatoes to make a dish called “Hoppin’ John.”

Black-eyed peas have a distinctive flavor that not everyone appreciates. Some people will not eat them at all, saying that eating black-eyed peas is just a superstition and they don’t believe they bring good luck. Probably most people eat the peas now less out of superstition than because it has become a custom ingrained in southern culture.

Outside of the southern states, people sometimes don’t even know what black-eyed peas are. However, they are easy to recognize because each pea has a black spot or “eye” where it detached from the peapod. Southerners eat black-eyed peas year long and just consider them “good eatin.”

My southern mama always made black-eyed peas. I hated them, but choked down a bite or two for luck on New Year’s — just in case. I swore I would never eat another black-eyed pea when I became an adult, lucky or not. However, I have learned to cook frozen black-eyed peas, which taste much fresher and less starchy than the dried ones, and now I almost like them.

Whatever other foods are eaten, black-eyed peas are a comfort food that has become a necessity in the south for welcoming in the New Year. It is often believed that you should eat 365 peas on New Year’s Day to ensure luck for each day of the coming year.

So, here’s wishing you joy and prosperity for the coming year. May you have good health, good fortune, and may your home be as filled with luck as a pot full of black-eyed peas.

Copyright 2006 Sheila Moss
Posted in Food, Holidays, Humor, Southern Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments