Sunday, October 16, 2011

GRANDMOTHER'S LIBRARY: "They Popped My Hood and Found Gravy on the Dipstick" by Todd Barnes

If you want a book that will have you doubling over with laughter, THIS is the book to read!

It is an inspirational yet funny book about Todd Starnes' journey through heart surgery and weight loss.  I'm just going to quote some of my most favorite parts of the book here.

     "I hate butter!"
     My declaration was met with stunned silence around the Starnes family table.  I was just a little boy, not even seven years old, and my taste buds had not yet adjusted to the taste of cold yellow slabs of butter pasted onto fluffy biscuits.
     Mom was flustered.  "What do you mean you don't like butter? Of course you like butter. We're from the South. We're supposed to love butter."
     Indeed a Southern boy not liking butter is akin to a kid in the Bronx not liking the Yankees.  Uncle Jerry was so shocked he stopped gnawing on his pork chop and declared, "There's something wrong with that boy."  Uncle Jerry is from Coldwater, Mississippi, and folks there are prone to say things like that. "I told you that boy was too skinny."
     After recovering from the initial shock of the moment, Mom did what any God-fearing mom would do.  "We should pray," she said.
     "But we've already prayed, honey," said Dad, "Besides, the potatoes are getting cold."
     But when Mom said it was time to pray, it was time to pray.  The entire family joined hands and bowed our heads.  "Dear Jesus," Mom petitioned the Almighty, "thank You for butter.  Thank You for giving us the cows that gave us butter.  And thank You, Lord, for buttermilk biscuits on which we can place a dollop of butter. Because, Lord, we know that somewhere in the world tonight little children are going to bed without any butter at all. Amen."
     Well, good grief!  I was just seven years old. I didn't want to disappoint my mom and I sure didn't want to disappoint Jesus. So that day I started eating butter -- and never stopped.

   I just LOVE this chapter!  Another favorite part from this chapter reminds me of ME and my 'Fry day."  I used to fry up fish and/or chicken strips. And since the grease was hot, I would add fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried dill pickles, fried cheese, fried squash, and french fries.  I had a friend's family over one time for lunch and she is the one who termed my day the 'Fry day'.  And one time a guest to one of my fish fries say she could feel the grease just dripping out of her pores.  I don't have these so much any more, but this sure makes me want to get out my 'Fry Daddy' and cook some chicken and fries.  This excerpt is from page 35:

     I'm not quite sure how we manage to do it, but Southerners have figured out a way to deep-fry the entire food pyramid -- from fried pork chops to deep-fried green beans.

     Hehe. I just get a kick out of this. And (although I did not attend the fair this year) I hear they had deep fried BUTTER!! What a HOOT! I should have gone just for THAT.

     The next chapter is about the author's move to California. He says "There are no fat people in California. I'm not sure why, but it could have something to do with their steady diet of tofu and tree bark.  And a fairly sizable chunk of the state appears to be the offspring of George Hamilton.  I've never seen so many well-tanned Americans.
     "And then, there was me -- a three-hundred-pound white guy with a pale complexion and a Southern accent.  I could just imagine the horror at the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. 'Well, there goes the neighborhood.' I felt like a catfish at a sushi bar."
    When Starnes talks about trying to find his new apartment, he said he asked the policeman who said that Starnes must not be 'from around here,' he answered "What gave it away? My weight or my pasty white skin?"  Luckily the policeman didn't take offense and answered "Your license plate."
     And what a wonderful support system the author has in his friends and church family.  One gal organized a party to celebrate his surgery, calling it the 'Last Supper.' Almost sounds morbid, but it seemed like a fun idea for friends to help relieve the tension and fear that Todd was feeling before his surgery.  He even had a friend come spend a couple weeks with him before the surgery, and two couples who 'adopted' him for his after surgery care.  Todd is really a lucky man.

     Another hilarious part of the story is going in to take blood tests after the surgery. His blood has to be thin in order for the valve to work right. Anyway...

     My first visit did not go so well.  On paper, the Coumadin test isn't so bad.  The nurse pricks my finger with a tiny needle, draws a small amount of blood, and slaps on a bandage.  Unfortunately, I have a problem with needles.  As soon as she poked me, I passed out.  I fell right out on the floor. It was quite a scene.  The next week, it happened again.
     During my third visit, the nurse closed the door and gave me a stern look. "Mr. Starnes. I'm having a difficult day, so if you plan on passing out you'd better tell me now."  Would you believe I stayed upright? Who says tough love doesn't work? After my test, she even treated me to a lollipop.

     Starnes is not a married man, but wanted to find someone.  After his surgery he recalls beginning to date:

     The object of my affection was an amazingly beautiful and kind girl who worked at a coffee-house near my apartment.  She was always friendly, and it turned out she was also a Christian.  And when it came to making coffee, she really knew how to put the froth on my latte.  The hard part was figuring out how to invite her to dinner.  The first effort resulted in total failure. I worked myself up into such a frenzy I had to take a nitroglycerin tablet.  i regrouped and, the next morning, I found the courage to invite her to dinner.  When she accepted my invitation, I walked outside, slumped onto a park bench, and popped another nitroglycerin tablet.  "Sweet mercy," I said. "Dating is awesome, but it's going to kill me."

     The author then accepts a new job in New York. He uproots himself once more, and heads back east.  Thinking of all his wonderful friends who helped him through major surgery and recovery and helped put him on the road to weight loss and healthier living, he began feeling a bit sad.

     Boy, I sure could use a good dose of comfort.
      And a few miles down the road, my prayer was answered.  There was a larger-than-life sign on Interstate 40: CRACKER BARREL -- NEXT EXIT.

     Cracker Barrel is an inside joke with a circle of my cousins, having stopped at all the Cracker Barrels on our road trip.  Makes me smile every time I see a Cracker Barrel.  And this passage in the book really brought a smile to my face.

     I have just thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  It is filled with fun anecdotes weaved into the success story of Barnes' road to recovery from heart surgery, weight loss, and a healthier lifestyle (which included running in a marathon.) He gives all the credit to the Lord, and his good friends (who are the kind of people we should all strive to be).  This is a 'must own' book: Spiritually uplifting, full of encouragement and laughter.


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