Monday, January 31, 2011

Excerpt From My Journals

On September 11, 2001, the day of the terrorist attacks, I was in Maine with two of my friends.  I kept a written journal so I would never forget the emotions I experienced being so close to where all of the horror was happening. 


Shore Path
looking south
 Four days after the attack on America, I spent the afternoon by myself along the Shore Path in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Private land-owners allow this 100+ year path to be walked by the private individual seeking solitude.

Sitting on a park bench beneath a shade tree facing the bay, I wrote this poem....


Reverencing the sea's majestic hypnosis
   While slow, methodical splashes
Of sea water wipe across bare rocks
   And return back into the bay.


Islands in view, studded by tall pines,
   Reaching as though needing to
Escape the grip of rocks
   Cemented in the sea.

Buoys bounce, lobster boats go out to their traps
   For the generous catch to haul up
To the lobster pounds to get monetary
   Reward for their arduous labor.

Bar Harbor's mansions paint a landscape
   Dotted with wealth and prominence
Down-East hospitality brings a twinge of guilt
   For the culture from whence I come.

Nowhere have I felt the sacred peace of soul
   As in the State of Maine
Where the path of simplicity and sheer beauty
   Pledge a vow to comfort the resident.

Seaweed garnishes rocks protruding from the sea floor
   Drying to an amber hue
A lone kayaker paddles slowly along with
    windjammers, catamarans, lobster boats,
Motor boats and military cruisers on active duty.

Dear heart, you lay claim to the possession
   of the sea
No matter where I may live,
  you will remain in this charismatic cove of content.

One has only to indulge the senses
   And give reign to the sixth
Which connects with the ethereal
  Always beyond one's reach.

I sit where the sun rises first
   Tomorrow I follow its westerly way
I engrave the shoreline
   Onto my soul to take home with me.

A long ledge of fragrant roses
   Fog horns echo across the bay
Where the continent begins
  America the Beautiful has suffered sorrow.

Courage, hope, and determination embraces
   This Land's horizon and clings tightly
To each individual heart bruised by
   The terrorist attack.

From this sea to the other sea,
   We grasp hands
Pleading for peace and freedom
   From the evil that has stained our soil.


My Heart Lives in Maine

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Staying On Track

Silly me.  As I snuggled myself in the blankets last night, a thought came out of nowhere about the number of roles My Creator has given me in my life.   

When the doctor slapped my butt and I took my first breath, right off the bat I was a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and cousin.  Quite a heavy load for baby shoulders.  But, at that stage of the game, all that was expected of me was to be cute and cuddly.

At age 5, my parents shipped me off to kindergarten, and things started heating up when I became a student, a classmate, and friend.  The shocker came in high school when I realized I was a girlfriend.  Just imagine, somebody, outside my family, actually liked me for who I had grown to be.

My Creator cast me into the roles of sister-in-law and aunt.  I took auntship extremely serious, because this meant it was my turn to bestow love onto new lives and show them what I had learned on the paths of babyhood, childhood, and up to adulthood.  At age 21, I could write Mrs. in front of my name, as I was proudly a wife and daughter-in-law.  The workplace defined me as an employee and co-worker.  I was beginning to feel the demands that were placed on me and the effort it took on my part to keep doing all that I was supposed to be doing.

When we settled into our home, I became a next-door-neighbor, town citizen, church parishioner, and volunteer.  Great-aunt and parental caretaker came later on.

A person doesn't stop to realize how many responsibilities we assume along the way.  I know now that my downfall was giving 100% of myself and loving others too much. When one invests oneself too much in others, only one thing will happen.  One will get hurt. 

We go about living life, devoting our waking moments tending to our respective responsibilities and playing out our assigned relationship roles, and then suddenly we realize that Our Creator is starting to take back His blessings when we least expect it.  The day I was no longer a granddaughter, the heartache about killed me.  Years later, when I found myself no longer a daughter, well, I had lived long enough to know that loss is a constant companion in life.  We experience tiny deaths, not necessarily physical deaths, but loss of life as we knew it.  Change.  Honestly, it took me decades to realize that the only way for me to learn Acceptance and Perspective, was for me to adapt myself to new circumstances, fumble around in darkness for awhile, and quit wasting precious time feeling sorry for myself.

The way I personally stay on track is to remember these things......
  •  No matter what problem I have, there are at least a million other people in the world who are going through the same thing, or something similar.
  • My very best, most trusted, and loyal friend in the world is me.  The second is that high school boyfriend who liked me so much that he wanted to marry me.
  • Money and personal possessions add zero value to my character and integrity.
  • Job titles, degrees, certificates, medals, and trophies add zero value to character and integrity.    
  • One year from today, I will have either taken 365 steps toward my life goals, or 365 steps in another direction, or none at all.  It's all up to me.
  • There is no yesterday or tomorrow.  The only life I have is the present moment.
  • It is possible that my life could end today, tomorrow, next week, or a month from right now.
  • It is possible that the life of someone I love could end today, tomorrow, next week, or a month from right now.
  • No worries about past mistakes. 
  • The overwhelming majority of what I have worried about never happened, except those things that I gave my overwhelming attention to and shouldn't have.
  • What I choose to think about is a choice completely controlled by me.
  • If I choose to think negative thoughts, I will get negative results.
  • If I choose to think positive thoughts, I will get positive results.
  • The only mistake I can ever make is not trying or giving up completely.
  • Failing is a normal part of any process of achievement.  When I screw up, I try again.
  • Strength is developed by staying on course toward what I want, regardless of what obstacles are in my way.
  • The measure of who I am as a person is in my ability to stay on track, regardless of whether I have support and encouragement from other people.
  • With any new undertaking, I have to go through a time of awkwardness before I will become competent.  Then I have to go through a time of being just competent before I become darned good.
  • Courage cannot be gained intellectually.  It can only be gained through action.
  • Courage is not the absence of fear.  Courage is going ahead anyway, even though I'm really scared.
  • The most important key to being me is being grateful every single day for all the good things and the good people in my life. 
Last night's fleeting thought stirred up quite a lot of dust.  Now I know why some days I'm weary and tuckered out.  When we look back on all we've been through, all we've lost, the burdens we carried, well, it's no wonder that as retirees, it feels so good to lay on the couch, cover up with a fleecy blanket and take a nap.  My Creator knows just how hard I've tried to responsibly fulfill the roles he asked me to play, and I guess if He knows......well, that's all that really matters.

Tata for today.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Poem by Shel Silverstein



Sick
'I cannot go to school today,'
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
'I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I've counted sixteen chicken pox.
And there's one more...that's seventeen,
And don't you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut.  My eyes are blue.
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I'm sure that my left leg is broke.
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button's caving in.
My back is wrenched, my ankle's sprained,
My 'pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow's bent, my spine ain't straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is....what?
What's that?  What's that you say?
You say today is ....Saturday?
G'bye, I'm going out to play!'


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Optimist and The Pessimist

Two children were brought to a child psychologist.

The first child was an incurable optimist.  The second child was a total pessimist.  The pessimist was placed in a room full of toys.  The optimist was put in a room full of horse manure.  The two children were closely observed.

The psychologist watched the pessimist child pile all the toys neatly and then sat on the opposite side of the room.  When asked why he did this, he replied, "Some of the toys have sharp edges and they might hurt me." 

Then the psychologist observed the optimist kid who was throwing the horse dung all over the place in utter glee.  When asked why he was doing this, his response was, "With all this horse s__t, there's got to to be a pony in here somewhere!"


Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Game Called "Outsmart"

Yesterday we had our annual finance review.  The day we both gather around the kitchen island with computer, printer, and calculator.  We gather totals of expenses for the last year, 2010, sorted in categories, such as Electricity, House Heat, Medical, Dental, TV/Internet Service, Groceries/Necessaries, Phone, Vehicle Gasoline, Vehicle Upkeep, House Insurance, Vehicle Insurance, Boat Insurance, Health Insurance, Cancer Insurance, Real Estate Taxes, Eating Out, New Purchases, such as furniture, Water/Sewer/Garbage, and Miscellaneous. 

I'm an aggressive record keeper, complete with year-end pie graphs and charts. This helps us see where we are at with our income vs. what it costs us to live.  About ten years ago when my husband had a severe health problem and could not continue at his workplace, I turned to the Internet and furiously studied the art and importance of family frugality.    

When we notice that one expense category goes up, or when we have an unexpected expense hit us, then we call a family meeting, and seriously come up with a plan of how we will outsmart the system. Then we get to work.  By that, I mean we balance a price hike with an equal cut back.  Then there is no change to our retirement plan, and we can adjust our living accordingly.  We both see eye-to-eye when it comes to living within our means, so this has actually become a fun game of Outsmart for us. 

There isn't a household that isn't feeling the back lash of the recession.  All of us are.  A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about plastic toothpicks.  She said to me, "I'm surprised you don't wash 'em off and use them again."  Hey, I was tickled that my Ph.D in Frugality shows, and I'm darn proud of it.  There's no sense trying to pretend we are millionaires when we aren't.  Neither of us came from wealth, neither of us had high-falootin' jobs, neither of us had college educations, so obviously we are common middle class citizens.  So far as we're concerned, Show and Tell belongs in kindergarten. 

This morning our grocery list is pretty long, and we're soon heading to a nearby city to replenish the cupboards.  Both of us will take a shopping cart, divide our list in half, and go out to find the best deals---for us.  There are tons of grocery store secrets, such as lower prices are on bottom shelf, store brands will save us money, every coupon counts (if you really use the item), big brand labels are shoppers-bait, and the pricey frills are found on the inside aisles. 

Frugality is getting more popular, as it should be.  It's wise to save for the future, because one day "the future" does arrive, holding hands with old age.  Both sneak up on us.  I might be old-fashioned about money, but be that as it may.  Every dollar I save here, is a dollar I can use over there.  My pockets are full of "outsmart secrets" that I use all the time.  And, once a person gets in the game of outsmarting the system, well, it puts a whole different slant on things.  All merchandisers have tricks, but we consumers can fire back with some of our own.   

So, today we're off for the grocery aisles, but we're going out for lunch first.  Otherwise, our ravenous appetites will kick up fits when we're surrounded and tempted by rows and rows of food. We Americans are incredibly blessed to have safe and delicious foods available to us, and we must be thankful first and foremost.  We middle-class shoppers simply have to keep our eyes open to the cost challenges that are only getting worse.

And, by the way, if you see me stop to pick a penny off the ground, please don't laugh at me.  I don't pick them up because they will bring me good luck, but rather because a penny supposedly marks the spot where an angel has just been. 

Tata for today.     

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wacky Cake

During the Great Depression following WWI, out of necessity, someone figured out how to make a moist and delicious cake without eggs, milk, or butter, because those ingredients were expensive and hard to get.  With today's rising cost of groceries, maybe now is a good time to bring this cake back to our kitchens.  And, we don't even need a mixing bowl.

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 T. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
 2 cups cold water

Directions
Sift flour, sugar, salt, soda, and cocoa together into an ungreased 9 x 13 cake pan.  Make three wells.  Pour oil into one well, vinegar into the second, and vanilla into third well.  Pour cold water over all, and stir well with fork.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.   Dust with powdered sugar.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I'm So Grateful....

"In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."  Albert Camus

"There is a privacy about winter which no other season gives you..... In spring, summer and fall, people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself."  -Ruth Stout

"One kind word can warm three winter months."  - Japanese Proverb

"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."  -Gertrude S. Wister

"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."  -Vita Sackville-West

"To read a poem in January is as lovely as to go for a walk in June."  -Jean-Paul Sartre

"There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow.  It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance."  -William Sharp

"Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together."   -Vista M. Kelly

"Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face."  -Victor Hugo

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude.
  -William Shakespeare

"Winter is an etching,
Spring a watercolor,
Summer an oil painting, and
Autumn a mosaic of them all."
   -Stanley Horowitz

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Stroop Test

By the time the two football games were over last evening, I thought my brain needed a brisk walk.  I always say, if my body got as much exercise as my brain.....I'd weigh about 36 pounds.  Regardless, I came across the Stroop Test by Alvaro Fernandez, Sharp Brains.  This test is used to measure one's mental vitality and flexibility and requires paying strong attention. 

Explanation:  Quickly, say aloud what color you see in every word, not the word you read.



At first, I thought it was easy, but then something changed and I was saying the word, not the color.  It wasn't long and my brain begged to be left alone.  I went to bed. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mathematical Phenomenon

This morning I received the coolest email forward from my cousin MH in South Dakota listing the four unusual dates this year.....1/1/11,  1/11/11,  11/1/11,  11/11/11.   Now, go figure this out.....take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it will equal to 111.

Number curiosities, such as this, intrigue me to no end.  Math was never my strong skill, so the solving of this phenomenon is too far out of the ball park for me.  Who comes up with this stuff, that's what I'd like to know.

Here's another one for you.  Grab a calculator. 
  1. Key in the first three digits of your phone number (not the area code).
  2. Multiply by 80.
  3. Add 1.
  4. Multiply by 250.
  5. Add the last four digits of your phone number.
  6. Add the last four digits of your phone number again.
  7. Subtract 250.
  8. Divide number by 2.
  9. Do you recognize the answer?
That's it for today.  My little family is going to burrow in, as it's just a titch above zero where we live.  The furnace is running, the Sunday Paper has been delivered, and then there are the two big football playoffs this afternoon to see who will play in the Super Bowl.  It's hilarious that I make money bets on the Super Bowl every year, even though I don't really follow the game of football.  It's sort of like these mathematical equations.....they're a whole lot of  fun, even though I don't really understand them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

ET and Deliverance

Have you ever walked out of a cinema before the film was done?

Yes.  The movie was ET.  For the life of me, I simply couldn't figure out why the poor little alien had to be so ugly.  I remember sitting in the theater wondering why I couldn't find ET lovable, because everyone around me seemed to like him/it.  When I couldn't stand it any longer, I nudged my matie and told him I wanted to leave.  Thank god he felt the same as I, and away we went.  

What was the worst movie ever?

Deliverance.  That movie scarred me forever, and it took years before I regained any sort of admiration for Burt Reynolds. I'll never know why I didn't walk out of the theater on that one.  It was nightmarish and haunting and scared me into never ever wanting to vacation in Georgia.  And, to this day, listening to Dueling Banjos gives me the willies and shivers!  

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy 9th Birthday, Little Sweetheart!

I Love Going for Drives
My New Puppia Harness
Birthday Present from Daddy and Mommy

Shoe Fence

Life is one adventure after another.  When we least expect it, something will pop up and strike us as worthy of that second and third look.

Just like the other day.  We were dilly dallying down a curvy country road, the snow crunching under the tires, when we came across this unusual shoe fence.  It sits out in the middle of nowhere, minding its own business, yet asking for something as silly as new shoes.


My first inclination was to take off my shoes and tie them onto the wire.  But, with the ditches level with snow, that would have been a rather ridiculous effort on my part.  However.......come spring, I just might rummage through my closets in search of a no-longer-worn pair and add them to this collection of forgotten footwear.

Just for the adventure of it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Orphan Trains

Yesterday morning I was rushing around the house when I tossed a John Grisham paperback into my shoulder purse. We were heading out for my husband's 8 o'clock appointment to have his eyes examined.  Driving with dilated eyes is something neither of us care to do.

We arrived four minutes late.  I sat down in the waiting area.  Craving a cup of coffee to go with my book.  When I saw another waiting-wife go into the small room next to the reception area and come out with a cup of coffee, my heart made a somersault.  A Starbucks machine and a stack of Styrofoam coffee cups saved my day!  Considering the price of eyeglasses these days, a free cup of coffee is a good customer-relations gesture.

A mother with a 6-month-old baby girl, dressed in a pink sweatsuit, came in with her husband and joined three of us wives, all there for the same purpose.  Naturally, the baby immediately became the center of our attention, and the young mother willingly started sharing baby stories as she bounced her little girl on her knee.  I sipped my coffee and listened to the three women visit about the motherly frustrations involved with getting up every two hours with a newborn. 

Orphan Train
This motherly chit-chat turned serious when one lady started talking about the Orphan Trains in America.  Between 1854 and 1929, there were thousands of orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children living on the streets of New York City.  A couple of charitable organizations tried to help these children by transporting them on trains throughout the country and giving them away to families, some good and many not so good.  (www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan)

Listening to this pitiful story, I couldn't help but notice the young mother squeeze her little girl a little tighter and place a lingering kiss on the top of her head.  A few minutes later I understood why.  She herself had been a foster child and understood the plight of those homeless children.  She, too, had been given away several times when she was a little girl and knew what it was like to have to go and live with strangers.

The time went by fast, and before we knew it, our husbands were finished with their eye exams, putting on their jackets, and waiting for us to leave.  One wife reluctantly put on her winter coat and said, "This has been the most interesting coffee clutch, we should meet back here again tomorrow and continue our talk." 

It goes without saying that the Grisham novel stayed tucked away inside my purse.  I didn't need to read a drama.   A genuine one had just unfolded right next to me, and I couldn't help but think, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story."  -Mary Lou Kownacki

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

National Popcorn Day

For some really good popcorn recipes, go to http://www.popcorn-recipes.net/.


"Of course life is bizarre, the more bizarre it gets, the more interesting it is.  The only way to approach it is to make yourself some popcorn and enjoy the show."

"I live for meeting with men in suits.  I love them because I know they had a really boring week and I walk in there with my orange velvet leggings and drop popcorn in my cleavage and then fish it out and eat it.  I like that.  I know I'm entertaining them, and I know that they know."  -Madonna

"Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn."  -Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

"Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn't pop.  I'll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them."   -Orville Redenbacher

"Rap music.....sounds like somebody feeding a rhyming dictionary to a popcorn popper."  - Tom Robbins


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

French Bread Pizza

Guess what!  My brain is suffering from 'writer's block,' and I need someone to crack me over the head to jar some ideas loose.  D (my hubby) keeps telling me I should carry a notebook with me, or otherwise I forget the things that pique my interest when we're out and about.  When am I ever going to listen to him!

I've been sitting here flipping through the pages of the cook book I received for Christmas.  I came across a recipe for French Bread Pizza.  It's really simple and doesn't require making a crust.  Fry the hamburger/sausage, onions, add favorite pizza sauce, warm thoroughly.  Split the French Bread in half length-wise, put the meat and sauce on the bread, and then top with personal choice of veggies, and top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 until cheese is golden brown.

Around the holidays, our small town suffered a real loss.  The only convenience store/gas station in town closed its doors and left its 400+ residents without those services.  The one thing we really miss is their homemade pizzas.  Whenever we'd get unexpected company, we'd call over for their large supreme.  Within a half hour, we would bring home the best pizza, and our guests would rave about how good it was.  Guess maybe now I'll have to keep a loaf of French Bread in the freezer to whip up this super easy pizza for those times when the door bell rings and we're not prepared.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2011 Teux Deux List

My inner voice is constantly pestering me with things I "should" be doing.

I think I'm a fairly good troubleshooter when it comes to solving my own problems.  That's why today I am openly declaring my "2011 Teux Deux Project."  As of now I promise myself that I will try my best "teux deux" one extra task every day for one year.  My goal is to keep an ongoing record of my efforts between now and January 17, 2012.  Just think how much I could improve my life if I actually do this. 

Just between you, me and the tree, I am content to simply lounge around the house.  My whole life was dedicated to taking care of others, working full-time in a stressful workplace, and trying to keep my head above water following tragic events.  And, now that we finally put our feet across the finish line into retirement, it feels positively luxurious to be able to sit down and indulge myself in one of my hobbies, read a book, or cuddle up in a fleecy blanket and take an afternoon nap.  The weight of the world has literally been lifted off my shoulders. 

After I finish today's blog, I'm going to choose one of the many spiral notebooks I have around here and label it "2011 Teux Deux Project."  My next step will be to zero in on today's extra task, buckle down and do it, and write my first entry.  As my list grows, hopefully that annoying voice inside my head will go away and leave me alone.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Daily Prayer

We Americans have been immersed in gut-wrenching sadness this past week following Tucson's senseless shootings.  Like innocent children, we all need someone to reassure us that everything is going to be okay.

Prayer is a sweet and simple form of poetry that can help us reach out for more strength and understanding.  The nice thing about prayer is that we can say it in a way that relates to our daily routines and responsibilities.....

Monday - Wash Day
Lord, help me wash away all my selfishness and vanity, so I may serve you with perfect humility through the week ahead.

Tuesday - Ironing Day
Dear Lord, help me iron out all the wrinkles of prejudice I have collected through the years so that I may see the beauty in others.

Wednesday - Mending Day
Oh Lord, help me mend my ways so I will not set a bad example for others.

Thursday - Cleaning Day
Lord, please help me to dust out all the many faults I have been hiding in the secret corners of my heart.

Friday - Shopping Day
Lord, give me the wisdom to shop wisely so I may purchase eternal happiness for myself and all others in need of love and understanding.

Saturday - Cooking Day
Help me, Lord, to brew a big kettle of brotherly love and serve it with clean, sweet bread of human kindness.

Sunday - The Lord's Day
O Lord, I have prepared my house for you.  Please come into my heart so I may spend the day and the rest of my life in your presence.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Kodak Moments

Good morning from my home to yours.  The three of us are where we usually are this time of day, one reading the daily newspaper, one blogging, and one snuggled close to my leg.  It's snowing ever so lightly, and there's quite a lot of commotion going on around our bird feeder.   

A loaf of bread is raising on the stove top, getting itself nice and puffy and ready for the oven.  There's nothing quite like the aroma of fresh bread baking......tweaks and tickles the nostalgic nerves just a bit.

Gotta share some pictures we took yesterday.  This shows what my little corner of the world looks like this time of year......



Brick silo still standing faithfully next to the barn.
Mother Nature Freezes a Waterfall

Deer Watching at Dusk



Bridge view of open waters.


Friday, January 14, 2011

My First Driver's License

The year was 1962.  I was 16.  Mother had driven me to a neighboring town to take a driver's test so I could get my first driver's license. 

Things were so different back in the 60's.  There were no Driver's Ed classes.  Instead, I learned how to maneuver a car up in the oats field, where my brother showed me how to execute turns around the shocks of oats that stood randomly out in the field.  I was supposed to pretend they were cars.  Before we could obtain a driver's license, we had to pass a written test plus prove to a law enforcement officer that we knew and understood the rules of the road.

Well, my official driving test was about to begin, and I wasn't in an oats field.  I was in a town with all kinds of signs and streets and an officer who had just made himself comfortable in the passenger seat of daddy's yellow and black 1956 Chevy.  He closed the passenger door and looked at me.  It was just the two of us.  My muscles were on severe alert, and surely the officer sensed my almost debilitating panic.  Varieties of fear were racing through me...fear of getting all rattled and doing the wrong thing, fear of not understanding his orders, fear of simply being in the same vehicle as a breathing officer of the law, fear of smashing into another vehicle, plus I felt a huge obligation to my mother.  This was an opportune time for me to show her how incredibly intelligent I was and make her proud to have me for her only daughter.   There was definitely a lot at stake for me.

My mother had given me solid instructions on how to parallel park.  She told me to look in the store windows for a reflection of where the back bumper was situated so as not to hit the car in back of me.  So, I soldiered my way through the parking part of the test.  Successfully.  He was impressed, I think.

To make a grueling story short, I passed both the written test and the hands-on test and was granted my driver's license on my first try.  My heart pounded with indescribable joy, and I saw my mother wearing that certain smile of pride that mother's wear when their children actually accomplish something worthwhile.  My greatest reward was when mother handed me the car keys and asked if I'd like to drive us back home.

The excitement was almost too much.  I got behind the wheel, cautiously wiggled our '56 Chevy out of the courthouse parking lot in case the officer was still watching me, and followed the streets that would take us out of town.  Naturally, my mind was all over the place as I basted my ego with slathers of self-confidence.  Then came the scream.  I slammed on the brakes as mother yelled at me,   "You just ran a stop sign, for god sake.  Get out and let me drive."

Well, my happy bubble didn't last long as I sadly and tearfully relinquished the driver's seat, but I held onto a tiny bit of gratitude that it was my mother in the car with me and not the police officer when I committed my first violation.  At least I still had my license in my billfold, and, believe me, that one careless mistake taught me more than all the driving manuals ever printed.     

Knock on wood, but in all the 49 years since that highly overwrought day, I have never been stopped by an officer, nor have I received a traffic citation.  And, I still hold the coveted title for being the most skillful parallel parker in the Midwest.  Or so I like to think.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts About This and That

My mind is acting like a ping-pong ball, going back and forth from one possible blog idea to another.  There are so many issues at the forefront right now, it's difficult to settle on only one. 

A half-eaten chocolate chip Kwik Star muffin sits beside me next to my half-full cup of coffee.  Came downstairs this morning at 10:15.  Yup, I slept late, after staying up last night to watch CNN's replay of President Obama's memorial speech in Arizona. 

Yesterday my husband and I went on a date.  First, I called for an appointment to get my hair cut.  Actually, I got it restyled.  I might be in my sixties, but I got one of those really short spiky cuts.  When I walked into the salon and the new stylist came for me, I fell in love with her youthful cut and asked her to perform a magic act and give me one just like it.  The cut is versatile, because I can spike it or wear it like normal people my age wear their hair.  Will see what I end up doing with it.

From there, we went out for coffee, cookie, and conversation at a coffee shop to fill the hour gap until 4:45 when Little Fockers started at the local cinema.  We bought our senior citizen tickets, two for $10.  A bucket of popcorn and two drinks cost $12, but we didn't partake in that because after the movie we were heading to a local Chinese restaurant for their buffet. 

By the time we got back home and turned on the television, President Obama's speech was well underway.  It felt good to see his audience of 13,000 give him a standing ovation and support for his comforting and uplifting words to the families and to the rest of us.  "Let's make this nation one that Christina would be proud of." 
  
Our leaky vehicle is still at the dealership.  We called over to check on why it's taking so long and were told that they still haven't been able to locate a replacement for the defective transmission seal, because it's become a nation-wide problem with that particular vehicle.  They tell us it may be the end of the month before we get our vehicle back.  As I've noted before, they gave us a 2010 Escape with 24,000 miles to drive in the interim.  Later this afternoon we plan to go for a drive in the bluff country.  Both of us are nicely entertained by the sights, sounds, and structures that Mother Nature always seems to have waiting up ahead and around the corner. 

When I was a little girl, I would go road hunting with my parents.  I was relegated to the back seat, and it was my job to watch the fence lines for the brightly colored rooster pheasants.  My dad would watch me from his rear-view mirror and verbally nudge me to be on the look-out and not fiddle around like little girls are prone to do.  So it is easy for me now to be a nature watcher simply by habit. 

These nature jaunts are so much fun.  One day last week we were out driving around when an opossum crossed the road in front of us, and we also saw a turkey up in a tree.  Sometimes we're able to capture a photo, and other times we aren't quick enough or quiet enough.  But, that's okay, cuz they're securely saved in the mega-byted data bases of our minds.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

National Geographic Offer

In case anyone is interested, there is a number to call to have telemarketer calls blocked from your cell phone.  That number is 1-888-382-1222.  The instructions are clear and concise. 

I try to pass on information like this, simply because not all of us are aware of some of the services available.  And, if you feel like I do, it's better to prevent something than complain about it.

Twenty degrees above zero this morning, with bright sunshine.  Other parts of the country may be getting more snow today, but our state is being spared.  Life can go on as usual, without school closings and social postponements. 

In yesterday's mail we received an envelope from National Geographic offering a 12-month subscription for $12 plus $3.95 shipping and handling.  The annual newsstand price would be $71.88.  Plus, with a paid order we'd receive a free gift....a world map. 

Am seriously contemplating a subscription.  Mainly because National Geographic features magnificent photos of world wonders and focuses on key global issues.  I like reading about diverse cultures, animals of other countries, exotic places, and other marvels and mysteries.  The Internet offers us all of this, but sometimes it's nice to have a magazine tucked in my purse for those times when I have to wait.  I'm not one who can idly sit and wait, without doing something with my mind.  I've got to have a crossword or a book with me to tame the lapping brain waves.

Magazines have gotten fairly expensive to buy by the single issue in the grocery store or newsstand.  Some are as high as $8 or $9 for one issue.  Every page would have to be filled with photos of Richard Gere for me to pay that kind of a price.

We share our magazines and the daily newspaper with our neighbors.  When we're finished reading them, they get delivered next door.  Isn't there an old saying......The waste of plenty is the resource of scarcity

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1-11-11

Have been experiencing some problems with the comment section of my blog.  Am pleased to say that I've now zeroed in on the scampy cause and all is well in my blogsphere once again.  Whew!

We just finished a late breakfast of bacon, eggs, rolls, o.j. and coffee.  That will tide us over until suppy time.  The bacon really wasn't very good.  It tasted old, or a bit rancid.  My plate went back to the kitchen with uneaten bacon, and that will be donated to the Feathers and Fur Food Bank back of the house. 

We must have about four inches of fresh snow, and flurries are still in the air.  A good day to hunker down here and play the game of retirement.  How well I remember sitting at my desk all those years, dreaming of the day when I could stay at home on a wintry day like this and do whatever I darn pleased.  I'd better be grateful for answered prayers. 

Every January I devote one day to review and summarize our year's expenditures, print them to an easily accessible hard copy, and file in a 3-ring binder.  This binder serves as our entire record of insurances, bank accounts, investments, any and everything that our beneficiaries would need to have in the event of our untimely passing.  Having no children, we almost have to have something tangible for our beneficiaries to hand over to a lawyer to settle our estate.  How else would they know what companies they will need to deal with and what benefits would be due them.

My hubby is outside with the snowblower clearing our walks before the kiddies walk home from the school bus stop at the end of our street.  He lowered our flag to half-staff per President Obama's Proclamation that flags be flown half-staff until sunset, January 14, 2011, as a mark of respect for the victims of the senseless acts of violence in Tucson, Arizona, on Saturday, January 8, 2011.


A Sad America

Monday, January 10, 2011

Easy Gig

I better get outta here. 
That guy is looking at me kinda funny.
Don't think he likes me!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Tucson Tragedy

Who among us this morning isn't saddened by yesterday's outrageous killing of 6 and wounding of 14 in Tucson.  Anger is the only word that describes how we Americans feel toward the person(s) who did this.  All we can do is pray.  Pray for ourselves, because the killer is one of us.

In time to follow, we will devour what the news reporters toss out for our hungry minds, and then we will make our own judgments accordingly.  My first thought was......what is the background of this 22-year-old?  is mental illness involved?  illegal drug usage involved?  what and who influenced him to do this?  was he getting the help he needed?

This is America.  A concerned Congresswoman was simply 'bringing Congress to her corner' to listen to what ordinary people had to say.  That's exactly what we here in America want.....our leaders to bring themselves down to our size and simply listen to us and then go to Washington and fight to protect our interests.

Today's blog isn't meant to recap the media, but I have to talk about it.  Sitting here in my home, I feel so sorry for the families and friends of the victims whose lives are changed forever.  I know firsthand what the horrific pain of an untimely and wrongful death feels like.  There's no describing it.

The rest of us in this country need to take a good look at what our young people are seeing and hearing during their formative years to reach a point where they feel the need to go out on a rampage to set things straight with a gun.  Migod, something has to be radically wrong.

Maybe deep down I do have an axe to grind here.  Is it possible that our media is partially to blame for the continuous slam-and-bam reporting?  Pick up a newspaper, turn on the television or radio, and the first thing one hears or reads is one congressional party slamming the other.  All we see them do is fight, argue, and bicker while the middle class is slowly sinking into oblivion.  Why in hell can't the two parties put all their educated heads together to solve our problems instead of ramming their heads together like a bunch of billy goats. 

Oh, I'm fully aware that the party differences have to be made known to us, but what are the young people learning by watching this stupid foray?  Where do respect and honesty come into play?  It's sad that it takes an unspeakable tragedy like this for a Republican to openly say something positive about a Democrat. 

Each of us will form our own private opinions about the killer and his insane reasons for doing what he did.  All sorts of blameful issues will come to the top, like cream.  But, if every single legal American citizen would make random efforts to be respectful and honest....in the arena and outside the arena.....maybe we could bring this country back to where it needs to be.  Perhaps that sounds like I'm a naive ninny, but be that as it may.  All one has to do is stop and take a good look at our social problems, and it's scary.  I've always professed to be a die hard optimist and defender of our justice system.  But, while the Republicans and Democrats are busy acting like spatting little children, we just might have the rug pulled out from under us.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Winter in Arizona

 Last evening we received a phone call from our dear friends who are leaving this morning to winter in Arizona.  I couldn't help the tears that fell down my face as we said our good-byes.  Then I told myself, oh, for heaven's sake, girl, get a grip.

There is a peace and order to knowing where our friends live.  We don't need to communicate every day or be together.  We just know they are at their home, we are at ours, and all is safe and well.

But, when that scenario changes, and our friends leave their home even for a few months.....well, something just doesn't feel right.  The worry for their safety on the long drive down there bubbles to the top, and we realize just how much our friends mean to us.

We did bridge their four-month absence by making plans for a day trip together when they get back home in April.  It's kind of interesting how we are able to put a band aid even on our emotions.

So it is that we wish our friends a wonderful time in the warmth of the southwest.  We ourselves don't leave home for winter, but we love hearing about the fun things that they do while they are away.  One of their yearly events is to go out into the desert with their friends, pack a picnic to share, and sit out in the dark of night under a full moon.......and howl.  They say it's the wildest, wackiest, and most fun thing ever to experience.  Now, that's what I call living the moment and casting all cares to the coyotes!

Technology will keep us connected, despite the distance.  They will be reading my daily blogs, we will be calling one another on our cell phones, and then there's e-mail.  We are so fortunate to live in a time when it's so easy to give long-distance hugs.

So, MJ and CN, you be safe in your travels, take pictures to share this summer, and have fun in the retirement you both worked so hard to achieve.

Ta-ta from our home to your temporary home in AZ.  And, be sure to give out a healthy howl for me!

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Ten Things That Mean the Most to Me

As I sit here, at an early morning hour, a thought darted through my mind for whatever reason......If I had to hurriedly leave my home forever, what ten things would I absolutely have to take with me?  (In no particular order)

  1. Mom's prayer book and rosary.
  2. Christmas village that I painted.
  3. Two mosaic espresso cups I bought in Italy.
  4. Gramma H's garnet engagement ring she gave me when I was a little girl.
  5. Daddy's favorite flannel shirt that still hangs in my closet.
  6. My Gramma B's English tea pot.
  7. The priceless Scandinavian hearth-stool that my hubby chip-carved just for me.
  8. My first dolly that Gramma H made for me.
  9. My little rocking chair that Mom painted white and put decals on for me.
  10. My four 3-ring binders of single-spaced, typewritten notes from my year's study of the Bible, OT and NT, and my other writings from over the years, published and unpublished.
Looking at my list of treasures, I guess you might call me a sentimental sally.  Sure hope I don't ever need to make a hasty exit from my home, because there are a whole lot of other things around here that mean the world to me.  But, these are the top ten.  Maybe I should put them all in one place so they'd be easy to grab, if need be.  Hmmmmmm.  Not a bad idea.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

God's Way

The man whispered, "God, speak to me."

And a meadowlark sang.  But the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, "God, speak to me."

And the thunder and lightning rolled across the sky.  But the man did not listen.

The man looked around and said, "God, let me see you."

And a star shined brightly.  But the man did not see.

And, the man shouted, "God, show me a miracle."

And a life was born.  But the man did not notice.

So, the man cried out in despair, "Touch me, God, and let me know you are here."

Whereupon, God reached down and touched the man.  But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

The good news is that you are loved.  Don't miss out on a blessing because it isn't packaged the way that you expect.

-Author unknown

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Inexpensive Home Remedies

One of the negative side effects of winter is the dry air in the house.  The red lights on our 5-gallon humidifier seem to always be on, begging for more water.  Adding moisture makes for much easier breathing, yet we must watch carefully that there's no condensation on our windows.

My two pet-peeves about winter's dryness are sore nasal passages and static cling.
When my nose discomfort reaches total misery, I seek out the trusty round red and gold tin container that lives at the bottom of our bathroom drawer...the McNess Mentholated Ointment.  With a couple swipes of this magic salve in each nostril overnight, the next morning my nose feels a hundred times better. (http://www.mcness.com/

Then there's that darned static cling when my slacks look and feel like they've been haphazardly glued to my legs.  My remedy for that is taking a dryer sheet, such as Bounce, and rubbing it on the inside of the slacks.....a simply easy fix.  Oh, I know there are specific sprays for this, but we have to remember that frugality plays a part in everything I do.

Don't we all remember having colds when we were kids and our mothers rubbing our chests with Vicks VapoRub and then putting a warm cloth over it under our jammies. It smelled awful but yet felt sorta good. Over night the vapor fumes would soak down through our skin into our bronchial tubes and up our nose to help clear up our breathing and coughing.  When Mom reached for that cobalt blue jar, we knew we were going to be basted and marinated.....and, there were no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Dr. Mom knew the tricks to her trade, and back then we knew better than have a hissy fit in protest.  It was much easier to cooperate, because deep down we knew she was only trying to help us.  Such sweet, mentholated memories.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Tale of Terror

Holy Moses, what excitement at our house last night!!!!!

After a day of celebrating the anniversary of our first date, we came home and collapsed.  We had eaten a big lunch out, so we weren't very hungry at our usual supper time.  Hubby hit his recliner, and the fuzzy one and I took the couch.  The television was turned to Mute, and we were doing our daily bit on our laptops.  It was about 9 o'clock when I let out the first scream!

Some thing was flying from the living room into the den, tried to dive bomb me, and then flew back out of the room.  The thing was black.  It wasn't a bird.  It was a frickin' BAT.

Thank heaven the hubby was home.  He bounded out of that recliner, went to the kitchen for a towel, and all hell broke loose.  He was swatting the towel and bravely trying to follow the flight pattern of the crazed creature.  I, of course, was thinking maybe the weaponry was a tad on the frail side, but he assured me death was close at hand.  All I could do was put a pillow over my head, while the terrified fuzzy one frantically barked at the frenzied state of our otherwise calm family household. 

After a few futile swattings, finally the bat met its untimely demise and hit the floor behind the rocker in the living room.  My hero carefully removed the corpse from the house, and a state of normalcy sort of returned.  My first question was:  where the hell did it come from?  It's January, for god sake.  We figure the bat snuck in the house while we were fumbling around with our packages when we came in the front door after dark. 

I'm not bat-phobic, but they carry a nasty stigma.....all I could think of was the bat getting tangled up in my hair or the bat attacking the fuzzy one.  Only one person remained in complete control of the situation.  I asked myself what I'd have done if I was home alone with this thing.  My plan of attack would have been total retreat to the upstairs bedroom, locking the door, and staying there until the rescue squad would arrive.

After such an experience, a person can't help but keep a wary eye out for those clever little entry artists.  Only one other time did we have a bat in our house, and that was when our nieces were little girls.  We were having a picnic on the back patio when one of them came out of the house screaming her head off, "There's a bat in your house!"  That time a tennis racket was the weapon that saved all of our lives.  The same little niece came up to me later and said, "Auntie, your house is just like Creature Feature!"

Guess it still is.

Monday, January 03, 2011

A Dream and a Slow Dance

Man alive, what causes a person to have dreams!

This morning I woke up after spending the night fishing, of all things.  I was fishing off of a floating dock with my trusty rod and reel, pulling in fish that were so huge that my dad had to help me pull em in.  Then my dream switched gears, and all the boats were gone and the water was rapidly rising, and I was in serious trouble.

I told my hubby about the big fish I was catching overnight, and wouldn't you know it.  He smarted off, "Well, if you can't do it, you gotta dream it!"  What a skunk.  Always teasing me about my fishing abilities.


Today is a pretty special day in our household, cuz 47 years ago we went out on our first official date.  We went to a teen hop to see the Trashmen who sang, "The Bird."  I can't help but wonder what it's like these days to look for a mate online versus the rigmarole we went through back then.  One thing for sure, though.  There's no way that our first slow dance could ever be experienced over the Internet.  And, let me tell you, it was s---l---o---w!

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Puffy Pastries

Just because the holidays are over, doesn't mean we don't have other things to celebrate.  For instance, today is National Cream Puff Day. 

Mom used to make cream puffs for us when we were on the farm growing up, and I can still see her standing by the stove stirring her homemade vanilla filling.  The puffs were hollow, just waiting to be filled with a spoonful of the luscious creamy pudding.  Then she'd sprinkle a dusting of powdered sugar over 'em.

I've never made cream puffs, but that shall soon be remedied.  I found a recipe in the new cookbook I received for Christmas, and it's so simple.  Put 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup butter in a pan until boiling.  Add 1 cup of flour all at once, and stir until dough leaves the sides of the pan.  Remove from heat, and add 4 eggs one at a time, beating between each egg.  Drop small spoonsful onto a greased baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes at 450 degrees.  Turn heat down to 300 degrees and bake additional 30 to 40 minutes.

Sorry to say, my cream puffs will be filled with a store-bought vanilla pudding mix.  Trying new recipes is one thing, but I'm simply not domestic enough to fiddle around making a pudding from scratch.  I must be missing the wooden-spoon gene, or something like that.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

First Blog of 2011

A fresh new year called for a fresh new blog start.  So, hope you like my nature-influenced background.  Me and rocks......well, we rock!

The old temperature gauge took a dive overnight, with a current reading of 2 degrees above zero.  What else can one expect right smack dab in the middle of a Midwest winter. 

We stayed up to bring in the new year.  Just as the years traded places, a blast of fireworks went off in our small town.  We could see the flash of light through our east living room window.  Pretty neat. 

Today we're off to a house party.  The hostess calls it a 1-01-11 party starting at 1:01 in the afternoon.  Hubby fixed a crock pot of his delectable chili to add to the food buffet.  Instead of the usual kidney beans, maybe he should have used black eyed peas.  In many cultures they are considered to bring good luck and symbolize prosperity.  Greens are often eaten with them, as the peas represent coins and the greens represent paper money.

Cabbage is another food eaten on New Year's Day, as it also represents paper money.  Many cultures believe that any food in the shape of a ring will bring good luck, as the closing of the ring means 'coming full circle' and represents a fresh start.  In Japan, people often eat long noodles, as they represent a long life.

Oops, gotta go watch the New Year's Day parade on the telly!  Have yourself a great day.....

Ta-ta.