Monday, December 31, 2012

The Wishbone

Clearing off the kitchen counter to rid it of the stack of empty cookie containers, morning coffee cups and breakfast cereal bowls, I noticed something resting on the lid of the small green atlas jar setting behind the double sink. It took me just a second to recognize its familiar bony shape. There it was, hideous and dried up; the wishbone from last Thursdays Christmas eve dinner. 

"How could it have gone un-noticed by me for that long?", I pondered as I stared at it for the moment. After all  my OCD has never allowed anything to be out of place for much more than a minute. But never-the-less it was there, left where I had set it to dry. I thought perhaps my husband and my daughter would later that day share in the tradition of each grabbing an end and pulling quickly to break the bone apart so that the one of them who ended up with the largest of the broken piece could tease that they had won and their wish would come true. 

But somehow that day had come and gone so quickly now that I could hardly remember setting the wishbone aside. As I reached for the thing to toss it into the trash, something came to mind and I found myself unable to grasp it. Instead I continued to stare at it as if I was seeing it for the first time. I must've been about seven as I stood in Grandma's kitchen inhaling the delightful aromas' of well seasoned homemade stuffing, fresh baked banana bread and apple pie. Grandpa had been picking off the last remnants of what Grandma proclaimed was the "Biggest Bird" we had ever had. Of course every year the turkeys seemed to get bigger and Grandma always fussed about how she would fit each one into her old black granite roaster. As the last few pieces were plucked off, the carcus was exposed to leave ones imagination as to what the turkey once had looked like and then the process of removing the wishbone without destroying its integrity was all that remained. I watched as my Grandpa carefully separated the thin piece from its points of connection. "Now we need to set it in the kitchen window so it can dry before we get to use it!" he warned. "How long?" I asked, hoping it would be sooner than later. "Time will tell." he stated as he left it in it's place on the window ledge and went about gathering the remaining carcus to be carried out to the trash. 

Grandpa wasn't one to sit for very long and in some ways I had always been able to relate. He spent much of his time helping out with any chore that needed to be done and definitely wasn't the type to procrastinate. Even as he sat back in his rotatable rocking chair to enjoy a good Wrestling match or The Red Skelton Show on tv, if he spied a speck of dust on the carpet, he would quickly leave his comfort zone and whisk it away to the trash can in the garage. But Grandpa also had plenty of patience and the understanding that good things always come to those who wait patiently. 

Finally by supper time the taste of leftover cold turkey sandwiches in buttered white bread would remind me that there were wishes to be made and the "snap" of a small, thin bone to be heard. From it's place on the window ledge to my anxiously waiting fingers, Grandpa had finally retrieved the wishbone and asked, "Well which side do you want?". I carefully looked over each bony side and after deciding which looked the sturdiest to grab hold of, I made my choice. Grandpa reminded me that first the wish and cautioned never to tell or it would not come true. Then as he held tightly to the other end, we closed our eyes, he counted to three and the breaking of the bone commenced. I can still remember the feeling of victory as I held up the larger piece tightly between my thumb and pointer finger for everyone in the room to see. I know I probably wished for something like a pony or another unobtainable thing that I had wanted, but that part I don't think mattered to me as much as the actual tradition of breaking the wishbone. 

In my family, most of our traditions would be considered fairly "normal" American traditions. Some of them were based on our family's religious background and some were a matter of repeated behavior. The celebration of Christmas was of course from our religious belief. There would be the live manger scene at our church on Christmas Eve and all the little girls wished they had been chosen to be an angel so they could wear the wings. I can remember a time when even our grade school had a Christmas program and "Hark The Herald Angels Sing" was one of many songs we would collectively carol together in the school gym. Boy have times changed! I had always known that we celebrated Christmas because of the birth of the baby Jesus. Away in the Manger was probably the very first song I had ever learned to sing. During the Christmas holiday, there was always a small manger scene decorating a side table in our home as well as the manger scene snow globes that had once been given out at Sunday school. One year while living in Holland, I had sent my Grandparents a lovely manger scene. It was so large that they decided to proudly display it by setting it on a glittered cotton cloth atop the console tv set in the living room. I think it took them a while before they realized that the little light hanging over the baby Jesus actually lit up if you added a battery to the plastic casing in the back. Grandpa wouldn't let it be lit long anyway since he couldn't see wasting the battery. It had a music box hidden in the roof that when played, chimed a lovely Christmas tune but sadly I have forgotten which one. 

Music was abundant around our home and at Christmas time even more than normal. Joy To The World, It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, Good King Wenceslas, Oh Christmas Tree and countless other songs came from our voices, radios and endless Christmas programs. One year at a church Christmas program where my older sister Kathy was to be singing in the acapella choir, I wore new white tights and saddle shoes with my Christmas dress. I remember the thrill that came from seeing my sister among the choir and hearing their beautiful Christmas cantata. I remember thinking that maybe someday it would be me up there singing. 

Some of our Christmas traditions involved eating special things. The yummy spritz and sugar cookies decorated with those little silver and gold balls, (I'm pretty sure I read sometime back that those little balls caused cancer in laboratory rats); the ice cream Santa's and Christmas Trees that came in a package of only 6 and were so expensive but somehow we always managed to have them; the assortment of fruit pies that Grandma baked, putting such care and love into each one that it made even the most simple of pie recipes taste incredible, and of course the turkey. There was one food tradition that Grandma held dear from her Swedish roots and even Grandpa seemed to enjoy, but I'm not sure if the taste for it resonated much farther down the family tree. The stinky Swedish dish, "Lutefisk"! Lutefisk is a traditional Scandinavian dish of lye-cured cod, usually served at Christmas (by and to those who can stomach the stuff). It's served with boiled potatoes, a white sauce, lots of melted butter, and pepper. I can still remember the awful smell of the thing as it sat on a table in the garage where it had been quarantined so as not to stink up the whole house. 

Grandma used to tell me the stories of when she was young and the men in the family would bring home a cedar tree from some nearby farm pasture and then her and her sister would decorate it with candles. I had always known that sometime after Thanksgiving my Grandparents would go down to the Christmas tree sales on the sidewalk in front of Boogarts grocery store and pick out an inexpensive Douglas Fir. The tree was never too big since the trunk had to fit into the small opening of the metal stand and be framed by the large picture window in the living room. It couldn't be too tall because the living room ceilings were not that high and also Grandpa being the main person to decorate it was only five foot himself. The decorations were mostly of fragile, painted glass and of many various shapes and sizes. I recognized a few from the trips I had gone on with my Grandparents each year to a local greenhouse that would sell beautiful and sometimes very expensive ornaments during the Christmas season. Grandma would delight in picking out just one or maybe two "new" ornaments to adorn her tree. One year a bubble light ornament caught her fancy and became one our favorites to watch as it did it's thing once plugged in and heated up. The brightly colored large screw in light bulbs, angel hair carefully draped across each limb and homemade felt tree skirt made the tree feel like an old friend returning each year for a visit. 

I have read different stories about the origin of the Christmas tree over my lifetime; everything from it being part of a pagan ritual in the 7th century where a monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God to some Druids, to a sappy story of how it was a small, ignored tree growing in a forest among many tall and beautiful trees but was glorified by a family who cut it down for their Christmas celebration. I never questioned why we chose the tradition of having a Christmas tree in our home but rather accepted it as just something we had always done, just as I accepted many years ago the story of the baby named Jesus and why we celebrated his birth on December 25th each year. 

The tradition of the wishbone for me started with Grandpa. I never thought to ask him why we did it or if his Grandpa had done this with him. Looking back now I can see where that was a mistake but many things are a mistake in retrospect. Things like not telling someone you have loved, how much they mean to you or setting aside the time just to share a moment or a memory. We all have done that and knowing we have, we still lead ourselves to believe that there will yet be another chance, another tomorrow. The world is always changing and so many things that are coming our way seem to be getting in the way of what matters the most. 

This years Christmas wishbone is still sitting on the lid of the green atlas jar on my kitchen counter. As grotesque as a bone may become, I cannot bring myself to throw it away. It needs to be wished upon! It needs to be broken! It needs to be held up high in joyful exclamation! If it were to be thrown away without being shared, I fear that in some ways the closeness, the enjoyment and even the love that comes from the simple pastime of making a wish over a funny shaped turkey bone, may become one more lost tradition. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Not a good way to clean out your Ventilation System!

I know I've been gone for a long time; at least a month or maybe even two! I have been so terribly busy I'm not even sure how long it's been since I've had the chance to spend more than 15 minutes at this computer. But tonight my Big Guy is in another town doing his thing as the "Very Friendly Train Engineer" and I am finally free from work to take a couple of hours for myself; I guess if you count the three loads of laundry I'm working on, making out the paychecks to give to the crew tomorrow (Payday every Friday) and trying to groom the knots out of Cookie's neglected hair as my time. Anyway, here I am finally pecking away!

I wanted to tell you about something that happened about a week ago and still has me pretty shook up when I think about it. I have taken on a property management position that keeps me hopping and I'm constantly rushing here and there to get things done. Our poor little FooFoo doggies and our youngest daughter's Chihuahua Rocky have had to keep each other company while I am working although I do come home at least once every day, usually at lunch, to take them out to potty and make certain they are happy. After working a full day, I came home to find Chrissy acting like a total spaz, running around in circles, barking hysterically. Of course she does this sometimes when she just needs to go potty but this time it seemed different. She didn't head for the door like she normally does and her barking was more like a warning.

In the midst of her crazy barking I thought I could hear Rocky's muffled bark and as I followed Cookie, who had finally stopped jumping on me like she always does when I enter the house, down the hall to the bathroom where the muffled barking seemed to be coming from. I thought perhaps Rocky was stuck behind the toilet again. This has happened quite often since he has lost his hearing and his sight. Rocky will wander aimlessly until he reaches a spot that he gets stuck in, becomes confused and then he will just bark until he is rescued. 

But as I entered the bathroom I was shocked to find the floor vent cover flipped off of the hole and laying nearby and the muffled bark was coming from inside the hole!

At first I thought there was no way Rocky could have fit down into that small space but reality set in when again I heard the bark from the hole. I felt the cold burst of the air conditioning and ran quickly to turn off the unit. Then, going back to the bathroom, I laid down on the floor and tried to look into the hole but could not see anything. By now the barking was becoming almost a sorrowful sound as if he had been crying out for quite some time and was giving up. My heart was sinking at the thought of what this poor little guy, blind and deaf, not to mention probably freezing from the cold air blowing continuously on his very short haired body, must have been feeling.

I flattened out on the floor as best I could and slipped my arm into the hole, extending and stretching as far as possible. Nothing on one side so I changed positions and tried the other side but felt nothing there either. He had to have been at least three feet from the hole. 

A really sickening thought of not being able to get him out was entering my mind but I just started praying that God would help him and then I remembered that Rocky usually feels vibrations so I began to tap on the bottom floor of the vent. I continued to tap and pray and I must've been tapping and praying continuously for at least ten minutes when finally I felt what I thought was a small cold nose. It was Rocky's nose and the tapping had worked, but I still had to get a hold on him somehow so I could pull him out. I tickled his chin with my fingertips, hoping he would crawl closer and when he did, I pinched the end of his muzzle between my fingers and pulled.

Eureka! I was able to inch him closer and soon Rocky's head was almost completely in view. As I reached with both hands to try and pull him by his head, I realized he barely fit into the vent. Then I had to twist his body while pulling him out and he cried as his chest came through almost like birthing a baby!

When he was completely out, I sat on the floor holding him tight while his small body quivered. As over-wrought as I felt about the whole ordeal, Rocky surely was even more scarred by it. I stared in disbelief at the hole in the floor and wondered how he could've possibly gotten into it. I had noticed that due to his unusually curved nails, sometimes he had caught them in the vents when walking over them, but I had never dreamed anything like this could happen.

Once I thought he was ready to be let loose, I realized I would never be able to leave him to wonder throughout the house again so I quickly looked on Craigslist and found a 20" by 30" metal crate with a tray floor, large enough for his small bed and still room to move around if he got up. I called the number and to my surprise found the seller lived only a short distance from here. After putting Rocky safely into his small travel crate, I went to buy the larger crate and it has worked perfectly.

We were very fortunate that this bizarre happening did not end up as a tragedy. I wrote a short post about it on my Facebook page to warn friends and even had a response from one of them that their cat had crawled into their ventilation once and they were able to get her out. I can see a curious cat wanting to explore a small space like that and easily finding their way out again, but a deaf and blind little dog finding his way back, that had to be a small miracle!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Job Blues

My dear Blog, I've missed you so
but to a job I've had to go
 and work my fingers to the bone
texting notes, computer, phone.

It's been great and somewhat new
with lots of things to learn to do;
my own desk from 9 to 5
see me here, I'm still alive!

And as I swivel in my chair

and twirl a finger through my hair
I think of where I'd rather be
and all the sights I'd like to see,

the flowers blooming on my farm,
the sunshine out there looks so warm;
my foofoo doggies on a walk
or maybe just to sit and talk

and then those things when you're at work
those things you need to do will lurk
and haunt you when you try to sleep
so you just wish that they would keep

then tax day came and quickly went

and now I need a place to vent
since I was not so well prepared 
I woulda', coulda', shoulda' cared

and maybe I won't be here, sigh,
when Mr. IRS comes by
to ask me for his huge percent
when I can hardly pay the rent

but then again I have this job
so yes, I guess I shouldn't sob
when there are those who get no pay
I'm sure they'd trade my place today

and now I'll leave you with this thought
"I hope I'll have time to Blogspot!"

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Golden Ticket Is Not What You Think

When I heard the winnings were over 600 million dollars and everyone in the Continental United States had bought a ticket except for us, I told my Big Guy that he should go buy one too.

"Why don't you buy one?" he asked.

"Because you're the luckiest one of the two of us so you should do it!" I told him.

"You're right", he told me, "I am the luckiest man alive because I got you!"

I think I've heard him say these words at least a mega million times by now, but I have always known that even though I rarely win anything, Big Guy has been my greatest prize and has always given me a reason to feel lucky. So with a sparkle in his eye, he gave me a quick peck on the cheek and was off to buy a lottery ticket among other things.

I've never been very interested in gambling. I know there is a certain amount of gamble in almost any financial venture, I know we even gamble on friendships, relationships or whether a recipe we've never tasted will turn out as good as the picture looks. And even though I've read the Robert Frost poem many times, when making a decision to take the road less traveled rather than the one that you could see was a sure path, I tend to take the sure path.

This could be the reason why I am not filthy rich but also why I'm not dirt poor. It could also be the reason why I still wear the same pair of Nikes that I bought over 8 years ago and noticed last year that the heel is separating from the shoe but I still continue to wear them. I know that probably doesn't make much sense, but if you get to know me, you'll know much of what I say doesn't make much sense.

Growing up in a family who put the most emphasis on being together and eating good food together, I always find myself feeling family and food rich. Non-useful things were never that important to our family and since they cost money, we never wasted any of ours on much of anything that wasn't necessary. 

I mean, sure, there were occasions when something would be bought as a gift that might not be a useful item, like a cut glass unicorn lamp that sparkled pretty and a certain someone had begged for it for months, but birthdays and Christmas' gifts usually were a great way to get a new waffle iron, a new pair of much needed socks or that "special occasion" outfit.

My Grandpa had these awesome sayings and it wasn't until I moved out on my own and had to fend for myself that I began to understand their importance.

"Don't count your chickens before they hatch!" was probably the best one and then "A fool and his money are soon parted!" was another.

Grandpa had this great little ditty that he said often and I love it for it's rhyme. 

"See a penny pick it up, all day long you'll have good luck. See a penny, leave it lie, opportunity may go by!" 

This is why my Big Guy and I always race for the penny we spot at the same time and we probably look a little strange grappling in the McDonald's parking lot but I always feel good about it when the penny is retrieved even if my knees are skinned.

I haven't always been this frugal, in fact, there have been some pretty scary episodes of buying in my life that would frighten Suzy Orman or Dave Ramsey to death! The fact is I should own at least 50% shares in the Dilliards Company and should have been made CEO of Talbots due to the amount of outfits I own. I won't go into any more details now, let's just say I am still going through the twelve step program and only shake occasionally at the sight of a 75% off sale sign.

But going back to this Mega Lottery ticket that Big Guy bought. Sure, we did the little "dream session" about what if we actually won almost $200 million dollars and where we would hide out for the first year after claiming the prize; there was a trip planned to Switzerland, being generous to loved ones, giving a nice hefty tithe to our church and then what everyone wants, the home of our dreams; and then we forgot about the whole thing as we went on with our lives. 

Three bouncy castle parties, a huge weekend sale at the trade shop, a few hours of work at the office, church, our annual amusement business meeting-party and Desperate Housewives all went by before we realized that the lottery was over and people were saying someone in our area had won but had not come forward to claim the ticket.

Big Guy hadn't checked his ticket!

I have to admit that even though the odds were somewhere around 1-176 million that we had a snowballs chance in hell of winning, (I was looking for the chance to say that), a little voice inside me was still saying, "You'll be taking that trip to Bern Switzerland very soon!".

"Honey," Big Guy looked at me with those sweet steely blues after checking his numbers, "I'm sorry, but you're not married to a multimillionaire!" He drew me close to him and seemed a little sad.

"Hey, that's OK! I never married you for your money anyway!" I said giving him a squeeze and not really feeling too much disappointment except for the fact that I wouldn't be hiring my new maid, Zelda, to clean the cobwebs from behind my refrigerator.

Then he continued to tell me as he held me in those big strong wonderful arms, "I may not be able to take you to Bern Switzerland, but we could take a trip soon to Bern Kansas to see some of my relatives there and eat at the little cafe?"

All I could say was, "We are food and family rich and I am the luckiest woman alive, when can we go?".


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where No Man Has Gone Before!

I am trying to keep this blog non-political and non-judgmental, but something I heard this morning really got the gears between my ears going and I feel I must share.

I woke up at 6am to my wonderful, trusty Chihuahua alarm and as I entered the kitchen, I found Big Guy pouring me a cup of  OJ. Then I slipped on my sloggers, (rubber garden slippers for those of you who aren't garden savvy) and took out my furry alarm to potty. When I finally joined Big Guy in the family room, we enjoyed our coffee while watching the morning news.

The news seemed to be all about the Health Care issue, of which I have an opinion just as I'm sure many if not all of you reading this have as well. I promise not to bring you down by ranting about mine, but something one of the guest commentators said about free food for everyone reminded me of thoughts I once had as a child.

When I was about 10 years old, (keep in mind I had just heard a Miss America contestant say she wanted peace and love for the whole world), I thought how wonderful it would be if everyone could live in a nice home, have a dappled pony and eat chocolate pudding with candy sprinkles for breakfast every morning. 

In other words, I envisioned a perfect world, (and not just because of my OCD), where every living quarters looked the same, every person wore the same outfit and all we had to do was push a button to be automatically served any kind of food we wanted. Kind of like Star Trek!

My thought was, if everything that we needed to survive was automatically provided for us, then no one would be unhappy, no one would starve and no one would need to be mean or nasty. Yes, people had been mean and nasty to me and I'll bet they were to you too!

I lived in one of the smallest and oldest homes in town and there were quite a few homes like mine sprinkled throughout, but there were also some really nice, newer and much larger homes as well. I spent days dreaming about and drawing pictures of my ideal home; a home where everyone had their own bedroom and bathroom so they wouldn't need to share or worry if the hot water was gone after waiting for a turn in the bathtub. I had never actually been in a home that had more than one bathroom, but had heard they existed.

I knew our old Betsy Lou was not a great looking car but it got us safely from point A to point B. It didn't have air-conditioning and I really wanted a car that had air-conditioning like my friend's did. Dreams of a brand new 1970, hot pink-flocked Mach 1 Mustang with a front air scoop and rumbling V-8, hadn't happened yet. 

I also knew that most of my clothes and toys were second hand-hand-me-downs or bought as birthday and Christmas gifts from rich relatives. The Sears "Dream" Catalog was exactly that; a dream! 

We always had great food to eat though. My grandma made the best meals of any that I had ever eaten. No matter where we went to eat on Mother's Day, which was just about the only day of the year we didn't eat at home, there wasn't one place that cooked food as good as my grandma. I thought how wonderful it could be if I could just share her cooking with the whole world; if every day could be Sunday Dinner at grandma's house; if her incredible home-made chocolate cake or apple pie could just magically appear with the push of a button.

Grandma's cooking, perfect houses, dappled ponies, store bought clothing, cars with air-conditioning and unlimited amounts of hot water baths...

Utopia! My Utopia!

I realize now just how silly this whole idea was. 

I know that there are still people, whole communities of people, who don't have hot water much less a bath tub to put it in, but it's the culture they live in and they have lived that way for centuries. 

I know that there are people who don't own nor have they ever owned a vehicle much less one with air-conditioning; my friend in Holland for one, who rides a bicycle or takes the public transit. 

As for ponies, I'm sure there are plenty of people who own computers who have never even seen a live pony. 

And as for "perfect houses", I couldn't even tell you what a perfect house consists of today since a person's home is the nest that they feather and everyone feather's there's differently. 

Of course there was never a way until Facebook and Pinterest that I could clone my grandma's cooking or at least come close to making it possible to share it with the whole world!

But this I know for certain...Star Trek is not real. 

For some of you Trekkies this may be hard to swallow but it really is just a TV show from the 60's. Think about it; everyone has these perfect bodies with outfits that all look the same, they all sleep in the same little cabin's with very little personal effects and they all work for the United Federation of Planets. They all get to push buttons for any thing they need and no one ever has to worry about medical care because Dr. McCoy can laser you and make you instantly healthy.

The problem with this is where does all of their stuff come from and who is paying for it?

Where do the goods, building materials, etc. come from and who does all of the work gathering these things, building these things and operating them? Do they just collect a lot of weird space rocks that are valuable to Ferengi and then trade for stuff? Or maybe they have robots do everything but somebody had to build the robots at least until the robots could start building themselves and that's a scary plot to a really good movie starring Will Smith.

On Star Trek the incentive for a job well done always means "Vacation" time on some exotic planet with half naked but extremely perfect looking people who cater to your every need. No one ever buys anything but sometimes they go exploring and find some strange artifact to take back to the ship. Then the artifact ends up being a scary alien and invading and, well it just would never work. We have to be paid for a job and we have to be able to buy things with our earnings. And we all must do this! 

Why you ask? Why must we all work and be paid and then spend what we are paid to get what we want, desire, choose, need or just have to have?

Because if these things are just given to us, we will have no appreciation for them. And what incentive would there be for those who create, serve, build, nurse, doctor, teach, etc., if the reward was the same every time for everyone? That sounds more to me like the "Collective" and that's one scary Borg Queen who like it or not is insisting that you will be assimilated because resistance is futile!

Free food for everyone! I don't know about you, but I don't want to be stuck on a star ship going "Where No Man Has Gone Before"!

Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm Lucky to be Alive!

Yes, lucky!

As many times that I have injured myself, placed myself in really bad situations and just by the grace of God, have survived, it amazes me.

When I was about 4, I tried to off myself by flinging my small body from the swing I was soaring in, onto the hard dirt ground. I think I thought if I went high enough, I could fly. I obviously survived with only a broken arm and a slightly bruised spirit.

A few years later on a school playground at the age of 9, I tried to hang by my heels just as I had seen the circus performer do the night before; obviously there was a trick to it because no sooner than I let go of the bar with my hands, I fell onto the hard blacktop and by no means did I hang by my heels! I ended up with a slight concussion, a few stitches along my hairline and a dislike of circus performers.

Then there was the time when I was walking home from school, I believe the same year as the heel hanging performance, and this was probably when I first discovered my OCD as well. Because I was so worried about stepping on any cracks in the sidewalk, I didn't look up in time to stop myself from walking head first into a hard metal sign post. Do the lyrics, "You can ring my bell-e-ell, ring my bell!", mean anything to you? Well, they did to me!

About 2 years ago I tried again to break my head open while changing a light bulb above the kitchen island. I stepped off the wrong side of my small utility ladder and flew headfirst into the edge of our oak breakfast table. That took a few stitches right above the right eyebrow and I had a great "Pirate" scar for months after.

I know you're wondering what brought this on all of a sudden, well, it has to do with the sharp pain I get some times when I grab something with my left hand and lately I've been feeling that pain a lot. You see, a few months back I tried to cut my left hand off with a steak knife.

No, I didn't do it on purpose but sometimes I don't think things out really well before I act and especially when it involves chocolate, caramel or anything sugary and sweet. In this case it was a caramel apple and I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into it, literally!

Every Fall season I get a terrible hankerin' for a big, juicy, Granny Smith apple dipped in that creamy caramel delight and hardened just enough to almost pull your fillings out. On this particular day I had made several of these wonderful mouth watering orbs and had decided to remove them from the plate I had placed them on in the fridge to harden. Big Guy had left earlier to meet up with our set-up crew for a church festival that we were working and beside's the FooFoo girls and Rocky, I was at home alone. 

So here I am, I have the plate of yummy apples sitting on the kitchen counter and I try pulling them off by their sticks first. When that doesn't work, (at this moment I'm wishing I had used a lot more butter on the plate), I decide to try prying them up with something but looking around I'm not sure with what.

Then I get this idea that I need something flat that will slide between the apple and the plate so I grab a metal spatula out of the drawer. After struggling for a while and finally realizing that the spatula is not going to work, I start to think that if it had a smaller edge it might get under the apple easier so I grab the next item I can think of with a small edge which happened to be a very sharp steak knife.

Yep! A very sharp steak knife! This is where all of my logic leaves my brain and is replaced with sugary goo!

I can almost taste the delicious, gooey caramel melting away between my tongue and palate as I hold the plate in my left hand and plunge the steak knife with my right hand, and I do mean plunge! 

(WARNING: if you get squeamish at the sight, thought, vision, sound, etc. of blood, you may not want to read on!)

I scream like a banshee, (in Irish folklore: a spirit in the form of a wailing woman who appears to or is heard by members of a family as a sign that one of them is about to die) only in my case, I'm the one dying and there are no family members to witness it, as the knife slips past the apple and into my hand. 

The knife's tip has penetrated deep, barely missing the Radial Artery, which is the main blood flow that comes from the arm and circulates blood throughout your hand. I quickly yank the knife out which allows blood to spurt across my kitchen counter but try to keep it away from the caramel apples, (even though I may be moments from death, I'm still thinking of sweet stuff). Feeling like I am going to pass out, I grab the nearest towel, wrap it around my bleeding hand and hold my arm above my head. Then with my right hand I reach for my cell phone, which luckily for me was on the counter just a foot away, and I start to call Big Guy. I stop before pushing the speed dial, however, when I realize he would probably panic if I told him I was bleeding and I didn't want him to drive like a maniac to try and save me, so instead I speed dial our crew chief, Kenny. This is how the conversation with him went:

Me: "Hi Kenny! What are you doing?", I ask trying not to sound in pain but in between fast breaths while trying desperately not to pass out.

Kenny: "Hi, I'm on my way to the church to meet up with the rest of the crew, why, am I late?

Me: "No, no you're just fine but would you say you're close to the house by any chance?", I ask now trying to balance the phone between my right shoulder and ear so I can turn on the faucet and get cold water to wet another towel to catch the blood now flowing down my left arm. "Could you stop by here first?" 

Kenny: "Is there something wrong?"

Me: "Oh just a little accident and I didn't want to bother the Big Guy but thought if you could stop by and also I knew you had first aid training..."

Kenny: "I'm on my way!", he cuts me off and I hear him telling his wife Jen to hang on because I'm in trouble.

Me: "Don't speed or do anything to get in an accident, please!", I'm begging him since I realize now that he has his family with him.

Kenny just hollers at me from his cell phone which he probably has dropped in his lap, to hang in there and that he'll be there shortly. 

As I try and put the now throbbing and still bleeding left hand into the sink under the cold running water, I feel myself again starting to pass out. I re-wrap the hand and place it above my head once more. Then I hear a car pull up in front and people running up the sidewalk to the door. Kenny opens the door and comes quickly to the kitchen with Jen and kids following right behind. He assesses the damage to my hand, tells me I'm lucky it pierced me where it did and not a fourth of an inch to the left and then let's me know that I will live this time.

Soon I'm no longer bleeding like a sieve, hand bandaged really tight and ready to roll. 

So as I sit here with this pain in my hand, I wonder if God didn't spare me in order to keep me around as a lesson to others. Here are the lessons I feel I should share:

  1. If you want to fly, use an airplane; swings are great for launching things but what goes up without wings, will come down like a rock.
  2. If you want to be a circus performer, join a circus; they have nets.
  3. If you have OCD, better to stay off of cracked sidewalks.
  4. Let your tall husband change the ceiling light bulbs and if you don't have a tall husband, buy a two-sided ladder.
  5. When dealing with sticky caramel apples, by no means ever use a knife of any kind to try and pry them up off the plate; butter the plate better!
Oh, and you're probably wondering how I finally removed those stuck caramel apples aren't you? You know I did! Well, after Kenny left and I had sterilized my kitchen thoroughly, I went back to the apples that had been sitting out for well over an hour by now and discovered that the caramel had softened just enough to allow the apples to be pulled off of the plate by their sticks. Duh!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Big Guy's Birthday, Breakfast, Bed Bugs and Bingo

This past weekend we celebrated my Big Guy's birthday. 

I woke up early and got busy making Big Guy's favorite cake; German Chocolate. I let him sleep in.

Well, he didn't really sleep in since he could hear me banging around in the kitchen and taking doggies in and out. Because he was awake, I asked him if he wanted me to fix him a nice breakfast, (obviously not breakfast in bed like I had so many times in the past), or go out somewhere.

Big Guy suggested going out, so as soon as the cake was done, we were off to a favorite restaurant.

We were lucky enough to be seated in a booth right under a lovely art photo taken in an area where my Big Guy grew up. The photo depicted a beautiful sunrise over the flint-rocked hills as seen looking out from between some trees and over an old, barbed wire fence. It was truly a vision of "God's Country" which was what my Big Guy always called this area.

We were also lucky to score our favorite waiter; a young man who we had known for several years.

After a fun discussion about whether or not he was old enough for a Senior Citizen's Discount, Big Guy ordered his favorite and I chose my usual. We visited with another friend seated nearby, until the food came.

The food was delicious as always but while we were enjoying it, something unexpected happened. A waitress was walking by, trying to juggle a few too many items, when just as she started to pass our booth, her juggling routine went awry and everything tumbled out of her arms spilling to the floor with the exception of a small pot of very hot "tea" water; it ended up splattered across Big Guy's bare forearm!

Big Guy immediately checked to see that the waitress was Ok, since the brunt of that very hot water had tipped over on her hand as she had tried to catch it before it fell. Then every other waitress/waiter headed to her rescue and helped clean up the mess. Each one noticed the water splattered on his shirt and asked my Big Guy if he was Ok and of course he wouldn't even acknowledge that it had touched him, much less the fact that he had been burned. 

Anyway, breakfast continued and Big Guy seemed pleased then we paid the bill, left a good tip and were headed for the parking lot where he beat me to the passenger door and had it open and waiting for me to climb in. When we were finally seated in the truck, I asked him how he would like to spend his day and he said maybe we could go play Bingo.

Bingo! We hadn't played Bingo in years. In fact, I can count on one hand the times we had played in the past twenty five years.

We never really had been Bingo Fanatics but enjoyed playing for fun. In fact, the first time my Big Guy and I ever played Bingo together is still fresh in my mind.

During my second year of college, we had become good friends due to many theater play's we were part of and the fact that we were also the college billiard champs and spent a lot of time together playing in tournaments and practicing. One time while we were at another college tournament, Big Guy asked if I would ever consider going out with him on a date; a real date and not just to play pool to practice for a tournament. It didn't take a second for me to tell him, "I would like that very much!". I had already become terribly fond of him by now and could tell by his subtle teasing that he liked me too.

It wasn't until that following Spring, however, and after Big Guy was attending another college, when he called me up and asked if he could take me on a date one weekend while he was back for a visit. If you have read the story I posted on here, "A Big Black Hairy Valentine", you will know a little about how we communicated during this time period.

Excited about our date, I asked a friend if she could babysit my three children for the evening and then commenced to try on an assortment of outfits until something finally made me feel date-worthy. I even fussed over hair and make-up, which for me was normally only done during college plays. I was a no-fuss, no-frills kinda gal but I hadn't been on a real date probably ever so I wanted to look nice.

When Big Guy drove up, I barely allowed him time to knock on my door and sprang from the house to head for his car. He quickly cut me off so he could play the gentleman and open the door.

"You don't need to do that, I'm perfectly able to open my own door!" I said as I reached for the door handle.

"Please, I want to!" he said as he also grabbed for the handle with a giant hand.

Trying hard to pry his giant hand off of the handle, a small wrestling match begin to ensue, "No, really, I am a capable person and don't understand why you should feel the need to open my door when I could just as easily open it and save you from getting out of the car!", my voice started to escalate.

Because he was much stronger than me and able to gently take over the handle, he opened the door, "Please allow me to treat you like a lady, at least for today!" my poor confused Big Guy pleaded with me.

With tightened lips and squinted eyes I agreed, "Ok, you did it this time but just remember I am perfectly capable of opening my own doors!" I scowled at him most un-lady-like.

Then I climbed in and he proceeded to drive.

"So where are we going?" I asked, wondering to myself if we would eat dinner somewhere nice, maybe see a movie or go to the only club in town to dance.

"I wanted to take you some place where we could have fun," he began, "so I thought we would go play Bingo!" he seemed rather excited and happy with the idea.

"Ummm, don't only old people play Bingo?" I asked with some skepticism.

"Oh no, of course not! There are a lot of people our age who play!" he smiled.

Now with a concerned expression on my face, "I've just never heard of young people playing Bingo and only remember my grandparents playing.", I reasoned.

Of course I didn't know much about Bingo since the only time I had ever played was in grade school for a holiday party and we were given dry beans as markers. I didn't win either since I was too shy to yell out even if I had a Bingo and the prizes were always a new pencil or an eraser. But he seemed so confident that we would have fun and continued to assure me that there would be lot's of people there in their twenties like us.

We drove downtown to the Elks Club basement where Bingo was being held and to my Big Guy's surprise, not a single person under age fifty five was present. Yep, everyone was either gray haired or bald!

I laughed as the lady selling the cards explained that this was "Senior Citizen Night" and then she admitted to Big Guy that there were just a few young people who attended even on regular nights so it was almost always Senior Citizen Night. 

When Big Guy explained to the lady that we were on our first date, she allowed us to play anyway and then she told the fellow with the microphone who called the numbers and he shared that information with the entire room. 

We had so much fun with all of those elderly people who smiled sweetly at us throughout the evening and though neither of us Bingo'd, it was the best date ever!

So here we are, nearly thirty years later, planning another Bingo date. But Bingo wouldn't be starting for at least another two hours, so to kill some time, we drove out to our farmstead and walked around, enjoying the gorgeous spring weather and looking over the blooming annuals and Red Bud trees. Then Big Guy suggested we go back into town and check out an auction down the street from the Bingo hall. 

Even though we arrived hours after the auction had started, there were many interesting things left including some antique items, hand made quilts and vintage clothing. After looking through the musty smelling, but beautiful old quilts, we gravitated towards a table with shallow boxes full of costume jewelry. I picked up a really pretty pink necklace and showed it off to Big Guy, who insisted on bidding on it for me. I told him not to bid more than eight dollars for it but he won it for ten.

After deciding there was nothing else we wanted to bid on, we payed for the necklace and headed back to the truck. As I climbed into my seat, Big Guy again holding the door open for me, I glanced into the visor mirror to look at the necklace. Suddenly I notice a small tiny black bug, crawling slowly on my neck. I screamed and pinched the bug between my thumb and forefinger and jumping out of the truck I flung it into the air and shook my whole entire body wildly. I'm sure, anyone watching probably thought I was having some kind of a fit or seizure! My Big Guy came running and I told him that we needed to go home immediately. I didn't know what Bed Bugs looked like, but now I was certain I had them. 

Poor Big Guy kept trying to assure me it was probably just a bug from the farm but I was so convinced it was a Bed Bug from all those smelly old quilts and when we got home I stripped my clothes off and tossed them in the laundry, jumped in the shower and scrubbed my head and body frantically. Then when I was done, I had him look me over, head to toe to make certain there was nothing crawling on me anywhere. He joked about me inspecting him as well so I told him that wasn't a bad idea since he had also been looking at those old quilts. When he removed his shirt, to his dismay, I screamed again and plucked another bug just like the one I had found on me, off of his bare chest. I tossed it quickly into the toilet and flushed and then insisted he shower as well. 

In an hour, we had showered, washed our clothes and inspected each other thoroughly for any more bugs and then when finally satisfied that they were all gone, we were off to play Bingo. 

Bingo was like we had remembered. Mostly all old people. I stared at the young couple who were seated across the room from us and smiled as their expressions changed while they played their cards together. I even won a game but only because I switched cards with Big Guy right as the game was starting, but don't worry, I gave him the winning money since it should have been his Bingo.

Three things I learned this weekend: 

First and because I've had time to look them up, the bugs were not Bed Bugs but merely small American Spider Beetles and could have come from anywhere and are basically harmless. 

Second, when Big Guy and I go to Bingo from now on, we are no longer considered young people, but still find ourselves having just as much fun.

And third, even though I have shared nearly thirty of Big Guy's birthdays with him, he has not changed. He is still the wonderful, considerate and gentle giant that I fell in love with, who concerns himself with the pain someone else might be going through more than his own; he wishes to make someone else he loves happy even when it should be his turn and he still insists on treating me like a lady even when I do not deserve it most of the time.

I love you Big Guy! Happy birthday and many more Bingo's!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Oh Danny Boy!

The song "Oh Danny Boy" will always cause my throat to close tight and eyes to tear. As I sit here today trying to put my morning thoughts in order, I hear this familiar and oh so lovely Irish tune being sang incredibly by the Celtic Woman. I wish I could tell you the whole story of why this song has a special place in my heart, but for now I'll just give you the short version.

Danny was my little brother. He was born when I was about three years old in 1961 and sadly died six years ago in 2006. He had a very troubled childhood that continued into his teenage years. Soon after his eighteenth birthday, he set out to find our father who lived at that time in California. When he arrived in California, unfortunately, he was involved in a very bad car accident that almost took his life; in many ways it actually did take his life but not in the ways we normally think. 

He was injured so badly in the accident that he would never again walk, be able to feed himself, dress himself or hold a normal conversation. You might think that his life story found him to be a hero in some way since most stories about those who have had their lives altered by tragedy usually come out later as victorious in some aspect, but not in Danny's case. The hero's in his life story were people who cared for him and took so much time from their own lives to show him love and give quality and dignity to his life. 

I don't know why his short life was so different than mine. I don't know what makes a person born in the arms of a loving, caring mother, different from another person born in those same loving arms. I don't know why some people have a different outlook on life than another who comes from the same family with the same upbringing. All I know is many years ago, I had a little brother who I played Tonka trucks and Hide and Seek in the backyard with and now he is in Heaven. I will never forget him and will continue to tear up and become speechless when I hear the song, "Oh Danny Boy".

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Galloping Grasshoppers and Jockey Ants (poem story)

A fun poem to read to your kids or you can just read it to yourself if you like. Who knows, you might relate if you've ever eaten spicy Szechuan Beef just before going to sleep! 

Galloping Grasshoppers and Jockey Ants

While tripping through the woods one day,
I heard a robin singing gay.

I turned to see him in his song,
but quickly found that I was wrong.
Twas not a bird was singing there,
instead it was a Panda bear.

I lingered on into a field 
and quickly found that I must yield 
a six foot grasshopper galloping past
with an ant for a jockey holding on fast.

I followed them into a cave;
to my surprise, there was a wave
of water coming ten feet high
and goats on surf boards surfing by.

I grabbed a board to hitch a ride
and as we floated with the tide
we passed a sailboat sailing near
who's captain was a white-tailed deer.

He steered his boat on out to sea
but to the beach, continued me 
and finally reaching sandy shore
I saw my grasshopper once more.
He galloped past me oh so large
with the jockey ant still in charge.

Quickly I chased him to a lake
and there I met a talking snake,
wearing a sock on the tip of his tail 
while giving a speech to an African snail.

As I was listening to his speech
I heard the most horrendous screech
and pulled the sheets above my eyes,
but finally from my bed did rise
to push the button on my clock
until it sounded just tick-tock.

I laughed about these things surreal;
the funny way they made me feel,
and how they really made no sense
but couldn't bear them as past tense
and hoped I'd see them through my day
but I guess dreams don't work that way!