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!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Death By Baby Gate

I would have shared this with you yesterday but thoughts about my youngest daughter turning 21 took precedence over this story. Besides, I am more able to write this now that I have had another night of miserable unrest, which caused me to lie awake for long periods of time, listening to Rocky snore.

As I lie awake in bed I usually think about deep and meaningful things such as, "Hmm, I wonder if my toilet tank freshener has dissolved and needs to be replaced!", but last night I couldn't think about anything but my Big Guy who kept tossing and turning incessantly, beside me.

It's possible my Big Guy is having a nightmare which includes being lured into the darkness, murdered violently and his body never being found.

Ok, I know what you're thinking, especially if you personally know my Big Guy, "How could a body that large, ever be hidden or lost?", right? Oh, you're wondering why he would be dreaming, or night-maring as the case may be, about being murdered!

Well this may surprise you, but it all started one beautiful, starry filled night as we were traveling down a dark and desolate road in the Flint Hills. I was driving and he was in the passenger seat, which for my Big Guy is very uncomfortable since he likes to have control, but I insisted on driving this particular time. 

I had heard earlier that day about the Aurora Borealis being seen from our area if you could get to just the right location. I know we are about a million miles away from the Arctic Region, where this breath taking phenomenon occurs on a fairly regular basis, but a little country gal can hope!

I'm not usually that romantic either, that's Big Guys forte', and knowing this I guess I can understand where his mind was that night. But let me fast forward just a few years to the present so you will know why I am writing about this now.

In the early morning hours of the night before last, I woke to a very strange sound. I thought I heard the baby gate fall and CRASH, the sound of multiple, foofoo doggie toenails TICK-TICK-TICKING on the laminate hallway floor and the quiet M-O-A-NING of someone who may have been in pain. As I laid in bed trying to decide whether to go back to sleep or allow my curiosity to continue to keep me awake, the moaning finally subsided, and so did the toenail ticking; but I couldn't stop worrying about the baby gate.

For a few nights, off and on, I had placed a baby gate across the door way at the end of the hall so Cookie could not roam freely throughout our home during the night. That way I could leave our bedroom door open to allow the heat to distribute better. I read somewhere that it saved on heating cost. 

The baby gate was purchased for $19.99 plus tax just 2 years ago and I really liked the easy access lever, (I highly recommend it for anyone with small children or four-footed furballs), anyway, I hoped I wouldn't have to replace it. So my curiosity won the "to sleep or not to sleep" battle and I crawled out of bed. 

Upon reaching the end of the hall, I could hear the early news playing on TV and see my big Guy sitting in his Tall-Man Lazy Boy out in the Family room watching it. The baby gate was leaning against the wall near the hall doorway, where it normally is placed when not being used. As I approached my Big Guy, I asked him what had happened and he began to fill me in on his awful ordeal.

"I didn't know the baby gate was there and I fell over it," he told me with a frown and his bottom lip somewhat protruding, "but lucky for me I was able to keep from landing too hard."

I walked back over to the gate, examining it closely and then the doorway. "It looks like you pulled some of the trim off the bottom of this doorway, Hon!" I exclaimed.

With a little frustration in the tone of his voice he said, "My gosh sweetheart, I could have died and you're worried about a little door trim?"

"Died!" I looked across at him, "How silly, you didn't even fall as far as I did that time when I was changing the light bulb in the Kitchen ceiling light and stepped backwards off the wrong side of the ladder, remember how I hit my head on the table on the way down and bled all over the floor? Now that was closer to dead!" I countered with my bottom lip somewhat protruding too as I nodded to him.

"I think you put that gate there to try and kill me!" He stated, matter-of-factly. "You want the insurance money!"

He was being so silly and I knew that was my cue to jump in his lap and hug his neck, giving him a sweet, sloppy kiss. Soon he was hugging me with those Big Guy arms of his and we were laughing. And this is what made me think of that night in the Flint Hills as we drove down a dark desolate dirt road. 

As I said, I am not usually the romantic one of this relationship but this particular night I really wanted to see those Northern Lights and thought it would be fun to share them with my Big Guy. So after supper I suggested we go for a little drive and I said I wanted to drive. He reluctantly agreed and soon we were on that dark, desolate road, deep in the Flint Hills, exactly where, I wasn't sure. I just kept driving, looking for a perfect spot with a view that I could see the vision of beauty I had hoped to see. But it wasn't working out very well and every time I slowed down to check a spot, Big Guy would get really tense and ask if I had a reason for wanting to be out there, and if there was something he should be looking for too. 

As we traveled even farther and he kept asking, I kept answering that I would let him know when I found it. It didn't occur to me what this poor man was thinking. Then finally, after driving for almost an hour and not seeing anything that remotely came close to the Aurora Borealis, I finally pulled over and stopped. Then my Big Guy who was looking at me wide eyed, quietly but frankly asked this question: "Are you going to kill me?"

I don't think I had ever laughed so hard about anything before. Even as I was laughing this silly, wonderful man that I love more than life itself, was giving me the "deer in the headlights" look as if any moment I was going to pull out an oozie and gun him down.

As I finally composed myself enough to speak again, I explained about the Aurora Borealis and how I was hoping to surprise him. I told of how I had hoped we would snuggle together on a blanket at the top of a hill, really romantic like, and enjoy the beauty of the light show with him. Finally he breathed a sigh of relief and we laughed about the whole thing together. I repeated all the way home, while he drove this time, just how much I loved the big dope and how silly he was for thinking such a horrible thing, but I knew where he got the idea.

When Big Guy and I were first married, we lived in a house across the street from a fairly famous police officer. The crime this police officer was instrumental in solving ended up as a made for TV movie. The movie was about a real life murder that happened in the town we were living at that time. If you ever get the chance to watch, "Murder Ordained", you will understand why my Big Guy would think what he was thinking. 

As for surprising my Big Guy like that again, you bet I did and what a great story I have to tell you about in another post!

My Big Guy's Prayer
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep
but if it takes a baby gate, to break my neck and seal my fate,
I will not blame my loving wife, who placed it there to end my life
and should I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No More Mersydotes!

Today I am officially free of the responsibility for a child. Yes, according to the laws of the land, I am free.

For nearly 39 years of my lifetime, that's more than 3/4th's of my entire life, I managed to: 


breast feed; 

wipe runny noses; 

teach how to tie shoes; 

sing "Mare's Eat Oat's"; 

explain that the words are not "Mersydotes"; 

bake and decorate theme birthday cakes involving Mermaids, Winnie the Pooh and Super Mario;

host parties which involved sleeping bags and turning off the TV at 3am while carefully stepping over the lifeless bodies of teenagers on the floor of our family room, (kinda' sounds like a horror movie doesn't it?); 

worry about someone contracting one of the 3 "m's"-mumps, measles or mononucleosis; 

purchase prom gowns, wrestling head gear or endlessly searching for that perfect pair of cowboy boots; 

plan, stitch together and fit home-made Halloween costumes for every devil, vampire, California raisin or other character asked for; 

revel in the joy of a new puppy with; 

clean up after that new puppy; 

cry with over the new puppy who was accidentally run over by a car when someone who should have taken him out on a leash but chose not to ended up learning a very important lesson about puppies; 

hold tight to and silently thank God that, the someone was not running after the new puppy, while carefully explaining that the puppy was now in Little Dog Heaven; 

lie about the fact that I had a perfect childhood and always listened to and did everything my parents expected of me; 

share every sneaked candy bar, soda pop or HoHo I was caught red-handed with, (notice I said was caught with); 

travel hours in a mini van with a team of giggling, secret telling, 12 year old softball players and biting my nails to the quick while watching that same team of softball players in the eighth inning of the World Series, tie the game only to lose but then travel hours back home with that same team of 12 year old softball players while they continued to giggle and tell secrets;

spend a quiet moment one on one with someone I once gave birth to, possibly high on a hilltop, while explaining the entire universe, as in, why fish don't clouds are formed...and why babies really are found in a cabbage patch; 

and probably the biggie of all: 

having heard those famous never last words while traveling anywhere at any time by any means, "Are we there yet?".

And I will dearly miss every single moment!

Happy 21st birthday to my last and final baby... now bring on the grandchildren!

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Daydream Believer in Tornado Alley

The wind has blown hard here this past week, with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour. We were lucky that the closest of last week's tornadoes touched down about 40 miles southeast of us, but so sad for the people who lost their lives or homes. Living in the Midwest for nearly my entire life, I can tell you a thing or two about wind and tornadoes. I can tell you I'm thankful this area is lush with farmland crops and tall grass for if it were desert, we would be living like prairie dogs and building our homes out of dirt.

As reports continued to come in of areas that were hit by tornadoes across the Midwest and a climbing death toll, the news of 60's TV and music icon Davy Jones, who died of a heart attack at age 66, was added to the growing list of lives taken away too soon.

Davy Jones of the Monkees was the heart throb of every young girl in the mid to late 60's and the Monkees were a hit TV series about four funny guys, trying to make it onto the Rock 'n Roll scene. Even though the TV series only lasted two short seasons, it left many of my generation singing song's like, "Daydream Believer" and "I'm not your Stepping Stone", for years to come. I even had a Monkees record, "The Last Train to Clarksville", that had been cut off of the back of an Alpha-Bit's cereal box. Of course after it had been played redundantly for a week or so, the needle had dug a deep groove into the cardboard and instead of Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith's clear, high pitched back-up vocals singing, "Oh No- No- No...", mine now played a slow and garbled, "Ohhhh... Noooo... Noooo... Noooo...".

Eventually the small cardboard record became useless, was thrown away and forgotten by me until now. Because now, in between the tornado warnings, I  hear remnants of the familiar Monkees tunes being played in tribute. It's strange how some memories can be triggered due to tragedy, and even stranger that memories of a particular time in my life seem to be intertwined with the events going on now.

On June 9th of 1967 the Monkees appeared at the Hollywood Bowl to begin their first tour and on that same day an F2 tornado tore through our town, removing roofs off of houses and uprooting trees everywhere. One person died and many were injured. I can remember almost every detail as if it had happened yesterday.

I was just about to turn nine years old and was hoping to have a birthday wish fulfilled. My dream of having a real pony was the one dream I wished would come true.  As I played in the front yard, pretending to ride my new pony, I heard my grandma calling from her front porch.

"Get in here before the Twister comes and kills us all!", she hollered.

Our little stucco house was just two houses down and across the street from my grandparents home and when ever the weather looked bad, my grandma would pace on her front porch. I don't like to call my grandma a worry-wort, because she had seen a lifetime of tragic events and never hesitated to remind us of each and every one, but it seemed like just another day in the Midwest when the weatherman claimed "conditions favorable for tornadic activity", which was an almost every day occurrence from March to September.

But this particular time my grandma was right and before I knew it my family was being shuffled into my grandparents basement and mama was trying to keep us kids away from the small windows even though she continued to peer out at the rain that was suddenly falling.

Grandma stood at the top of the stairs, hollering and pleading to my grandpa, who was still watching from the front porch, "Stop being an old fool and get in here!" she scowled at him. Soon my grandpa joined us and with-in seconds the scene outside the windows went completely dark, the howling wind became a freight train that shook the house and the basement lights flickered and then went out.

What seemed to last for a long time, actually was over with-in a few short minutes. Grandpa looked out one of the small basement windows before heading back upstairs, much to grandma's disapproval, then I shot past grandma who was now standing guard again at the top of the stairs. I ignored her warning cries for me to come back. My grandpa opened the front door, only to find the tree in front of the porch had been uprooted, mangled and was now laying on the roof. Grandpa pushed back limbs in order to get outside and when I pushed through to join him, we both stood looking out at what had just a few minutes before, been a neighborhood of neatly manicured lawns, quaint and cared for houses; a neighborhood to be proud of.

The street was covered in tree limbs and a neighbors car was no longer in their driveway but could be seen at the end of the block, on it's side. The yards were littered with broken off trees, pieces of shingles and other debris. Some of the neighbors that had also taken cover, were now coming out to assess the damage. Many were coming together in the middle of the street and some got busy immediately, like my grandpa, removing the limbs and debris from the street and making piles on front lawns. Sirens could be heard in the distance from police and other emergency vehicles. Faces were somber as neighbors discussed the electricity being down and telephone lines as well. Thankfully the tornado had hit during daylight hours and just as quickly as the dark clouds had rolled in, they had now rolled out and the sun was showing itself again.

I discovered a mama bat clinging to a tree branch in Grandpa's front yard. Sadly, the three tiny babies that she must have tried to protect under her small wings, didn't survive. We found something to collect the bat's small, weakened body into and quickly went to look through our primitive form of "Google" known as an encyclopedia, in order to learn how to care for the bat.

I helped grandpa pick up tree limbs, looking for more bats that I could save but before long mama was calling for me to come across the street to our own home. 

Our tall cottonwood trees had lost some limbs and the snapdragons that Kathy had planted along the west side of our little stucco house were completely gone, but as for the roof missing a few shingles, everything else remained Ok.

That night we went to sleep by candle light and sometime the next morning the electricity was restored. In the days to follow, we visited our cousins who lived on the other side of town in a newer housing area. The tornado had lifted the entire roof off of their beautiful new ranch style home and placed it in their backyard as if removing a lid off of a pot. Many of their neighbor's homes were completely devastated and yet there would be a single home in the midst of all the destruction, that was hardly touched. Everyone was sad for the loss of items dear to them but so grateful to be alive.

A few weeks passed by and soon we had decided the small mama bat was strong enough to release back into the world where she belonged. I placed the bat high on the trunk of our largest cottonwood tree, then laid back on the grass at the foot of the tree and watched as the bat slowly climbed the trunk. There was almost no sign of debris left by the tornadoes destructive path. Rebuilding, patching roofs and landscaping was well underway. My ninth birthday had even come and gone and although I had dreamed of a pony, I received a toy Pokey horse minus his pal Gumby. Not the pony I had hoped for but a pony never-the-less. I watched until the bat, now almost too high in the tree to see, flapped her wings and flew away. 

Then the months passed and soon an entire year had gone by. There had been other tornado warnings but none that touched down near our town. The Monkees were now ending their second TV season and I often woke up in the morning hearing my mama belting out the chorus, "Cheer up sleepy Jean, Oh what can it mean to a Daydream Believer..." only she would alter the lyrics by changing Cheer with Wake and use my name instead of Jean. But that wasn't the tune I woke up to on this hot July, Sunday morning.

"Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you! Happy birthday..." my mama was singing to me as I rubbed my eyes and tried to see through a mess of auburn hair covering my face. I stretched and yawned then finally pushed the hair aside to see her smile as she said, "Wake up Susie Q, we have things to do, places to go and people to see." She often called me Suzie Q, an endearment that I rejected. I constantly told her that I preferred "George" but then she would remark, "Ok Georgie Girl", determined to remind me of my gender. Us tomboy's had to have a good, guy nickname and since my best friend's nickname was Sam, I was George.

I sat up in bed and watched as my mama disappeared through the door and into the kitchen now humming the tune of "Hey there Georgie Girl". The mint green walls of my small bedroom were glowing due to the sunshine leaking in between the slightly parted curtains that hung on the north window. It would be another hot one today and at this early in the morning I could already feel the sun burning through the window with nary a breeze or breath of any air to be felt.

The only air conditioning in our little stucco house was the old water cooler in the east living room window. To save on the energy bill, we shut it off at dark and waited until we knew we would be spending a great deal of time at home before we turned it back on.

My mama slept in the living room on a sofa and gave us kids the only two bedrooms; she always put our needs first. I didn't realize or understand her selfless sacrifice until many years later, after becoming a mother myself. As a child I guess we just don't consider these things and I was so happy to finally have my own bedroom since I had shared a room with my younger brother and sister as long as I could remember. The small mint green room had been my older sister Kathy's bedroom, but she had moved out when she turned eighteen earlier that year. 

Kathy had started working as a projectionist at the local movie theater and her boss allowed her to rent a small apartment in back. Sam and I loved to visit Kathy and since Sam was the theater owner's daughter, we spent a lot of time climbing the cat walks behind the stage and watching matinees from the third story balcony that was closed off from the public.

Sam had been my best friend for almost a year and we were inseparable. We both played guitar and harmonized, singing the song Kumbaya once for our grade school's PTA meeting. We played on the same girls softball team that summer, the Boyd Oilers, started dressing alike, and even had the same short, boy-cut, hair. My mama wasn't any to happy about Sam's dad cutting my hair that spring, not because he almost clipped my ear off in the process, but because she had worked hard to keep my long locks to help give me some aspect of femininity that I sorely lacked.

We spent countless hours together pretending to be cowboys and dressing the part with our blue jean cut-off shorts, bright red bandanna's and cowboy hats. We would fold up blankets to make saddles and drape them over the railing of Sam's front porch then tie a belt in the front for the reins. Together we would ride our "porch rail ponies" across a make believe prairie.

I was hoping that we could take Sam with us to Leonard's farm, but it was Sunday and we were leaving right after church. Leonard was a wonderful man who had been dating my mama for almost two years. I had introduced him to my mama at my school carnival after she had told me she would only remarry if she met a "tall, dark and handsome" man. When I saw Leonard at the ticket booth, I thought he fit her description perfectly. He was tall compared to my mama who only stood about 5 foot and his skin was very dark due to his farmers tan and as for handsome, I thought he was handsome so after he answered no to my query as to whether he was married, I grabbed his hand and quickly led him to my very embarrassed mama, telling her, "Mama, I found you a man that's tall, dark and handsome!". The rest was history.

Leonard owned a farm near a tiny town about a half hour south of ours. He had cows and sheep and rabbits. He was part of the reason I dreamed of having a pony someday. I loved to visit the farm and couldn't wait to see Leonard either.

The inside of Betsy Lou 2, our two-tone aqua and white '58 Chevy Delray, was really hot and the bottoms of my legs were blistering as I tried to slide quickly across the vinyl seat to the opposite side. My little brother and sister climbed in after me and mama tried to place a small blanket underneath as they bounced around like Mexican jumping beans.

We stopped at the theater to pick up Kathy who always sat in the co-pilot's seat and mama, of course, was the pilot. I often pretended we were actually in an airplane and on our way to some magical land, places I had only heard about in books or movies. I loved to look out of the Chevy's big back window, bending my head as far back as it could go until I see nothing but the sky. "I'll be travelling up there with you someday, I just know it!", I told a group of puffy clouds that passed by. I dreamed of flying to Holland and picking tulips for my grandma. I dreamed of windmills and wooden shoes and visiting Sweden too, that's where my grandma's parents had come from. I hoped to fly all over the world someday. I also dreamed of going to Disneyland and seeing all the wonders I had only seen through my View-Master and Disney photo reels- a Christmas present from my cousin who lived in California. Dreams of so many places to see by a small town girl who just turned ten.

As we drove into the dusty dirt driveway and rounded the side of Leonard's old farm house, I noticed an unfamiliar pick-up truck with a small horse trailer in tow. I knew it wasn't Leonard's, so I surmised that Leonard had a visitor. The Chevy stopped and almost before the brake was locked, my little brother Danny had flown open the back door and was already running circles in the dirt. My little sister Jill was right behind him and I quickly slipped out of the hot seat too, thankful for the shade of the trees and a very slight country breeze.

Leonard was talking to a scruffy-looking old man who walked to the back of the trailer, opened the door and led out the most beautiful pony I had ever seen. She was the color of ginger root and covered all over in tiny silver specks. In the sunlight, her coat was very slick and shiny, her mane and tail a lovely flowing silvery flax. I watched eagerly hoping what I had no right to hope for. "Is she mine?" I thought, but feeling the unlikeliness of the situation and remembering last years gift of a toy Pokey horse, "No, I'm sure there's another reason." I decided to myself.

"Hey Suzie Q, come see what you think of this here horse!", Leonard motioned me to join him and my sister Kathy, who was now holding the pony's reins. The old man was getting into his truck and starting it up. "Think this one will do?" Leonard asked with a big grin. I had learned to love that grin these past two years and had hoped it would be added permanently to my daily routine someday soon, just like my mama's morning wake-up songs. I didn't even mind, for some reason, when he called me Suzie Q.

"Th-th- th- ho-hor-rse!" I stuttered. "Is she ma-mine?" I stammered.

"Happy birthday, Suzy Q!" Leonard proclaimed, still grinning from ear to ear. "Of course if you don't like her...", I didn't give him another second to finish before squealing like a stuck pig and running to hug the neck of the pony, the beautiful pony I had been dreaming of for years.

On my last birthday, the first one since my mama and Leonard had started dating, besides the toy Pokey horse, I had also received a guitar. Leonard had gone shopping in the big city with my mama and helped share the cost, but the pony was all from him. I wanted so badly to hug his neck tight and tell him how much I loved him and I wanted the word Daddy to be a part of that, but something inside of me held back. Instead I shot him a more than grateful look and asked if I could ride her.

"What are you gonna name her?" Kathy asked.

"I don't know, maybe Queenie like mama's old pony!" I said excitedly as I patted the pony's neck in sheer disbelief, thinking this was just a dream and I would wake up any second.

I studied Kathy's face as she pondered the name Queenie. Her eyes traveled to the back of the pony where I was struggling to climb on. "No, this pony needs her own name. We need to give it more thought." she said as she helped me onto the pony's back.

At first I just rode as Kathy led her around the farm yard a while and finally I was able to take the reins myself and gently steer her up and down the drive. By the end of the afternoon I was riding like a pro and when mama came out to call me in for supper, I said, "Look mama, I'm Patsy Montana!", and then I started singing while pretending to strum an invisible guitar, "I Want to be a Cowboy's Sweetheart...".

Mama laughed and then agreed that I was definitely Patsy Montana before telling me again to park the pony and come in to eat. My mama had played the part of Patsy Montana in a remake of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show when she was just a young girl about my age. She could yodel and play the guitar while singing and we loved listening to her. I tried to yodel like her but never could get it right.

Supper was fine and I was anxious to taste the delicious birthday cake but first Kathy surprised me with one more wonderful present, a very small and very beautifully wrapped box.

"I hope you are mature enough to understand the value in this gift." she warned as I began to slowly pull off the bow and unwrap the beautiful paper. I opened the small box and there inside was a ring. It was gold and had a small red stone in the center. It was beautiful as it sparkled in the light. As I slipped it on my finger she continued to tell me about the importance of the gem. "It's your birthstone, ruby, for the month of July. I know it's a little big but that's so you'll grow into it.".

It was pretty loose on my biggest middle finger but I loved it and felt like I must have done something really good to deserve such a wonderful birthday. First the pony of my dreams and now a real ring! The only ring I had ever had til now, had come from a penny gum machine.

We headed back into town right after supper; mama didn't want to drive after dark. I had said goodbye to my pony and wondered what I would name her. I couldn't wait til the next weekend when we could come back. I stared at the ruby ring on my finger and thought about my dreams that were coming true. I barely heard the conversation between my mama and sister in the front seat and hardly noticed the fight that was ensuing on the seat beside me between my little brother and sister over a pillow. Again my eyes were turning towards the skies where a thick cloud was creeping near. I wondered if on my next birthday more dreams would come true, if Leonard would be my tall, dark and handsome daddy, if I would be flying to the land of windmills and wooden shoes, but just as I began listening to my sister singing, "I'm a Believer", along with the car radio, an announcer interrupts with a warning that conditions are favorable for a tornado and mama says, "Here we go again!".

You Might Be A Midwest Farmer's Daughter...

If you pronounce creek, crick

If your early mornings during childhood involved, milking cows, gathering eggs or bringing in the sheep, and all before the school bus arrived at 6am

If you had a pet chicken named Henrietta

If you ate fried chicken who you once knew as Henrietta

If you ever rode a cow on a dare

If you rode a horse bareback on purpose

If you ever took a nap and woke up with straw face

If you once had a pony named Queenie, Blackie or Sham

If your first kiss was in the hay loft from a kid named Chuck who lived on a dairy farm half a mile away

If you had a bucket full of tadpoles that you watched become frogs and not because of a school science project

If you made jewelry out of stalks of wheat, dandielions and fireflies

If you looked forward to the annual greased pig contest and tractor pull every summer

If your Barbie Doll rode a toy John Deer Tractor

If your favorite foot wear options were, Barefoot or Cowboy Boots

If you tried "City Life" and still long to be back in the "Country"

...then you might be a Midwest Farmer's Daughter