Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BIRTHDAYS

There are disadvantages and advantages to having a birthday in the month of November.

Some of the disadvantages are
The last one in the gang to turn 13
The last one in the gang to turn 16
The last one in the gang to turn 18
The last one in the gang to turn 21
It’s too close to Christmas
You tend to be forgotten because of the holiday rush
A turkey is more appealing than candles and party hats

On the other hand, there are some advantages to a November birthday:
The last one in the gang to turn 50
The last one in the gang to turn 60

It warms my heart when I receive a lot of cards in the mail during my birthday month, sending me best wishes for a wonderful birthday. I have them lined up all around my desk so I am constantly reminded how loved I am. The cards so far this year are from my insurance company (it’s their job to keep track of people’s age), Talbot’s, SW Airlines Rapid Rewards, Hallmark Stores, DSW Shoe Factory. I can’t wait to check the mail tomorrow.

I have had some memorable birthdays.

Like the one when my children were still living at home – they were teenagers – and you’d think they were capable of thinking for themselves. It must have been on a weekend, because I remember painting the bathroom. I know, I know, who the hell paints the bathroom on their birthday – I can assure you, that will never happen again. As I was sponging along, dap by dap…sponging? the newest craze in decorating…I realized the sun was going down. Pretty soon the family will stand in a line outside the door with their smiling little faces and say, “Mom, stop painting now, we want to take you out to dinner for your birthday.” 5:30…dap, dap, dap...6:00…still painting...6:30…football game just ended, here they come. At 7:00, I was pissed. So I got down off the ladder, changed my clothes, and announced that I was going to go get Chinese – by myself. The family told me later they didn't think I wanted to be interrupted from my project. Yeah, right – it thrills me to death risking my life on a ladder that’s too short, getting paint all over my hands and face, and choking on fumes in a tiny cubicle with a toilet when I could be drinking apple martinis. A mother never forgets.

Turning 50 can be very traumatic. I certainly did not want to repeat the bathroom debacle, so I made sure there were plans in the works for dinner out with friends. Yes, smiling faces all agreed, so we set the date and time to meet at the friend’s house before heading out to the restaurant. I had no clue what was awaiting me. When we arrived at the house, twenty people yelled “Happy Birthday.” My first surprise party ever – thanks to the work of my daughter. She had made invitations, gone through my rolodex of names and addresses, and had everyone sign a little wiener autograph dog. The biggest surprise of all came when my mother and brother walked out of the bedroom door – they had flown over 400 miles to celebrate my half-century mark. I asked my daughter when she managed to pull off the perfect surprise party while we lived under the same roof, and she said it wasn’t easy. Since I am a bit of a night owl, she had to wait until after midnight when I went to bed to use the computer. Turning 50 wasn’t so bad after all.

However, turning 60 brings the realization that time will not go in reverse and being viewed as a senior citizen has reluctantly arrived. People in the stores behave a little differently. They talk louder and slower. They ask if you want help out to the car. I didn’t want to let go of my youth so quickly, so I requested 3 things for my birthday. I wanted to go dancing, I wanted to shoot pool, and I wanted to go to a piano bar. Once again, the children were full of surprises - with a party bus that took me, my family, and my friends out on the town. The party bus was equipped with a wet bar, sparkly decorations that screamed 60, and mood lights strung all over the black interior. First we dined on Mexican food, complete with a mariachi band and ma├«tre d’ who tolerated the noise. Then off to Mill Avenue in Tempe - the Avenue where ASU students stumble in and out of pubs on Friday and Saturday nights – OK, every night of the week – after all - it is ASU. First we attempted to shoot pool, but the players heard there was a Farr on site ready to hustle so they got cold feet and monopolized the tables. Then we went dancing and had a few fluffy drinks at Fat Tuesday’s. After that it was off to the piano bar where they played Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” and I danced on the stage along with the other birthday boys and girls who were a mere 39 years younger than I. Reminded me of my college days dancing on the tables. We finally rolled home around 2 am. Gosh, 60 is going to be fun.

What do you have planned for my 70th, children?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

TRADITIONS

You can always tell the beginning of the holiday season by the displays of candied cherries and blocks of mincemeat that you trip over when you walk into the grocery store the day after Halloween. What the hell is mincemeat anyway? It’s not little tiny cut up pieces of beef. It amazes me how anyone would think the words “mincemeat pie” would sound appetizing enough to eat. This blog is about holiday traditions – and eating mincemeat pie has never been a tradition in our house.

I noticed today on the holiday display at the grocery store the bags of Pepperidge Farm dressing – now that is a tradition in our house. It’s been my custom to mix the herb stuffing and the cornbread stuffing, and it has to be Pepperidge Farm. That’s what my mother used, so that’s what I have to use. Such a simple task is not so easy. Safeway has not only one type of herb stuffing, it has two – cubed and crumbs. However, the cornbread stuffing is nowhere to be found. That means it’s off to another store to find the cornbread. After forty years of preparing a holiday meal, it has occurred to me that everyone must have the same food traditions – five women grabbing for the last tube of Pillsbury Crescent Rolls is not a pretty sight.

The next tradition is to make green pepper jelly to give to neighbors and friends. It’s not really hard to make – a little time consuming perhaps – and husband does not like the smell of vinegar and peppers simmering, so I have to burn lots of candles and open all the windows. Then there is the task of finding the right jars. If I wait until after Thanksgiving, there are no jars to be found on the grocery shelves. My pepper jelly contains fresh jalapeno peppers – yum. However, one must be careful when taking out the seeds, because if one scrapes out the seeds with one’s fingers, and then scratches a delicate orifice such as an eye or ear (or wherever it may itch), one will truly suffer with a burning pain. I found this out the hard way – so I am armed now with gloves when cutting and slicing the jalapenos. My pepper jelly is fun to give – until I opened a friend’s refrigerator last year and there were two jars of it just sitting there from the last two holidays. Maybe it’s time to make fudge as a give away.

Our Christmas tree has the same type of lights that my parents used. As a matter of fact, I think I have 2 strings that adorned my mom & dad’s tree 30 years ago. This is why we have the fire extinguisher sitting in the living room on Christmas day. Preparation is the key to trimming the tree. First, put the Christmas carols on to get into the mood. Second, check the strings of lights to be sure the bulbs all light up. Third, fix myself an eggnog and rum. The size of the tree determines how many eggnogs & rum it’s going to take to decorate it. I always start stringing the lights from the top, or else I will have to get a designated driver to climb up the step stool. By the time the tree is finished, the eggnog has kicked in, and I really do not care that I have put all the red bulbs on one branch - and Bing Crosby begins to sound pretty good.

And finally, the obligatory Santa’s hat. I make my children wear their Santa hats while opening their stockings – so every year I have cute little pictures of the children in their Santa hats. My “children” are 28 and 33 – maybe it’s time to re-think that tradition.



So, whatever your traditions for the holidays are, enjoy them, make new ones, and be sure to buy the French Fried Onion Rings early.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...

I am at that age when I look in the mirror and wonder, “Who is this person staring back at me, and what did she do with Barbara?” I know reality shows are all the rage now, but I am not ready for the reality of seeing myself age. I still have in my mind’s eye the 20-year old with long brown hair who weighs 120 pounds (Ok… I’ve never weighed 120 pounds, except for one week, and that was because I had been on a starvation diet.). So it’s a little frightening to look in the mirror and see another face in the reflection. I made the mistake of buying one of those lighted make-up mirrors that magnify at 15X. What was I thinking? I thought I had stopped growing hair because I don’t need to shave my legs as often, but now I found it growing on my chin and on my earlobes. I’ve even discovered that I should have been plucking my eyebrows – heaven only knows how long those hairs have been poking out there. It appears that the hair is transferring from the top of my head to the bottom part of my face – damn gravity. And what’s with all those brown spots that are scattered around on my face? They sure aren’t freckles. Even Mary Kay can’t hide those – according to my new mirror.

I guess my best asset has always been my hair – long and straight. I could always seem to tease it with just the right amount of height (I didn’t even need the original “bump” As Seen on TV). I still have fairly long hair (kind of a middle-aged, shoulder-length, stringy do), but I think I’ve stressed it from all the back combing because my mirror is telling me that I am going bald. Horrors!! Bald!! Women who are bald are the ones who play witches at Halloween!! I must find a product that will grow hair back. I thought the little skunk streak of gray sprouting up from my widow’s peak was bad – now I have to contend with bare skin.

The lighted, 15X mirror is going back in the box, and back to the store. I’m exchanging it for Rogaine. God has our eyesight fail for a reason – I’m not arguing with God.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I’ve always wanted to accomplish something in my life. Granted, I gave birth to two exceptional, talented, and successful children, but that was their doing, not mine. I’ve managed to stay married for 40 years, but that was because my husband and I can’t imagine life without each other. I’ve always been “Chuck’s wife” or “Jackie’s mom” or “Brian’s den mother” or “Chris’s friend” or “Jennifer’s teacher.” Yes, I can cook a pretty tasty turkey at Thanksgiving, or make sure the family room stays dust free, but I wanted to have the accolades of truly accomplishing something that would bring me notoriety, recognition, and a feeling of success.

Today we celebrated the grand opening of the first student-run credit union on a high school campus in Arizona. I wrote the proposal for the school district, and I worked with the credit union in order for this to happen. It took a year and a half to bring this to fruition. Today’s ceremony was filled with “congratulations,” “job well done,” “you really accomplished something.” TV channels 5 and 12 were there to capture the event on tape (or digital, or whatever is behind those huge lenses). I couldn’t count all the cameras that were flashing to record this “historic” event. At the VIP luncheon, I sat with the school’s principal, the district’s superintendent, the director of public relations, and the administrator for continuing education. This was way out of my comfort zone. So there. I guess I can say that I accomplished something in my life.

But the purpose of this blog is not to pat myself on the back. Quite the contrary. For one thing, it took a committee made up of credit union representatives, marketing personnel from the school district, students, security, and maintenance to pull this celebration together. It is truly amazing to see the end result of a lot of little pieces put together – like one of those jigsaw puzzles that cover the top of a card table.

What is most humbling for me is not the notoriety, the recognition, and the feeling of success; it is the support from my family, friends, and colleagues. My husband left work early to attend the ceremony and hang around in a world unfamiliar to him. My friend left work in the middle of the day and drove 20 miles to sit in the audience. And my colleagues made a card that they all signed with words of praise. All this meant more to me than the flashing cameras, the handshakes, and the attention. I know now that my life will change. I will show my family how proud I am of them. I will be sure that I celebrate the accomplishments of my friends. I will congratulate my colleagues for a job well done. I appreciate their support more than any accolades received, and I will in turn support all of them and revel in their accomplishments.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Fine Art of Cooking

My abasement began when we were only 5 months into our marriage. I cooked a beef roast for the first time in my life. I had wanted it to taste just like the roasts that my mother used to make every Sunday when the family came over for a mid-afternoon dinner. I followed Betty Crocker’s directions to a T, smelled the savory juices as it simmered in the oven all day, and waited in anticipation as I set the table for two. When I put it on the platter, surrounded by baby onions, red potatoes, and carrots that I had pared myself, I noticed something odd on the top of the roast. It was the little sponge of a pad that the butcher had put on the bottom of the packaging to soak up the blood from the hunk of meat. I had cooked the little pad along with the roast. I was about to take it off when my husband walked in and noticed it too. Of course, he thought this was very humorous, so he snatched the platter from me, to my screams of protests, and said he was going to take a picture of it. He locked himself in the bathroom, placed the beef platter on the toilet lid, and proceeded to flash away. From thence forward, I have never been renowned for my roast beef dinners.

This disaster has not hampered my obligation to preparing dinner. I don’t abhor cooking – as a matter of fact, it gives me a welcomed release at the end of the day where I can do something that I want to do instead of grading papers right away. And, I always prided myself on having a dinner with a protein, a starch, and a vegetable on the table for my family every night. Maybe that’s why my kids aren’t drug addicts or in prison right now. Plus, my husband has never cooked, has no desire to cook, and probably would starve if something ever happened to me. He can open a can of soup, however. Split Pea with Ham forever. I have to buy 10 at a time to last for at least 2 weeks so he can have lunch when I am at work. It is fairly safe to assume my husband is not attempting covert operations in the kitchen.

But, a Julia Childs I am not. I do not wish to attempt a knotty recipe. If the recipe has more than 5 ingredients, I don’t make it. I cower away from layered things or meatballs too. I cooked lasagna tonight and ran out of the cheese layer before I was done layering, and only had two noodle strips left for the top. And meatballs - who has time to roll 100 little balls of meat in my hands.

Nothing I have prepared has been noxious – unless you want to count the numerous spoons-full of cookie dough I have consumed over the years. This action may even have engendered me to have a high tolerance to salmonella. However, I seem to be off on a tangent now.

So much for my cooking tales. I promise that none of the above verbiage has been plagiarized, and I hope you can find the fine nuance in my narrative about my husband and me. It is an abrasive fact that some people actually make fun of my cooking dinners every night; however, I am placid in the thought that remuneration comes to me for my teaching abilities, not my cooking abilities.

The end – thank God.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bathing a Dog

It's time to bathe the dog. This requires skill and patience - and a dog. My dog is a Golden Retriever with a mind of her own. She is also 13 years old, but doesn't slow her down at all. Here are the steps I just followed to Bathe the Dog.

First you must brush the dog. This is done outside so hair does not permeate into the furniture. A soft brush is the best. Brush the dog from the neck back to the tail. The dog will run away. Call the dog. Wait for the dog to come. Brush the sides of the dog. Dog runs. Clean out the brush. Yell for the dog. Brush faster. Dog runs away. Catch the dog and corner dog between the shed and the wall. Finish brushing top, sides, and tail. Dog really does not like the tail brushed and runs away, pretending to sniff for squirrels. Yup, squirrels in Phoenix - once upon a time. Clean the brush and now I am ready to bathe the dog.

The bathing process is done outside also, since the dog is too big for the tub or shower. Who wants dog hair down the shower anyway. Not me. I check the temperature outside because I don't want the dog to get cold. It is 5:30 pm and 110 degrees. Good enough. Remember, we live in Phoenix - it's August - 'nuff said. Not only that, but I need an adult beverage before confronting the dog. Fix myself a nice, cold adult beverage.

Because the dog likes to run away, I have placed her chain around her neck and tied her leash to the lawn chair. I have a handy, dandy little spray nozzle screwed to the hose so I can adjust the water coming out and squeeze it whenever I want to rinse her off. I spray the dog, getting her nice and wet. She is not real fond of this, but can't go anywhere. Because the adult beverage is kicking in, I taunt the dog with the spray of water, experimenting with the different settings. She runs away, dragging the lawn chair with her as she prances across the back yard.

After chasing the dog around the yard and corralling her back to the bathing spot, it's time to add the doggie shampoo and rub it in really well. Since this is medicated shampoo, the instructions say to leave it on the dog's coat for 10 minutes. Ten minutes is like an hour to a dog. But, I sit in my lawn chair and wait, sipping in my cold drink and enjoying the heat rising from the lawn. The dog is not going anywhere - she is not happy. How could she not be happy. It is hot and I have just sprayed her with water numerous times.

So now it is time to rinse the dog. I rinse and rub, rinse and rub. I lay the nozzle down on the ground, and it sprays up at me, getting me all wet. Ok, I can handle this - it's 110 degrees outside and I am beginning to feel a slight buzz. Once the dog is squeeky clean, I feel it is safe to undo the leash and let her run. Not only does she run, she rolls around in the grass to dry herself off. Calling her by her full name, I dry her off myself with the towel I grabbed from the garage.

Now the dog is clean, dry, and happy. She goes bounding around the yard, barking at nothing. I go inside to refresh my adult beverage. And that is how you bathe a dog.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Art of Showering While RVing

You have to be very careful when taking a shower while traveling in an RV. For one thing, you can't just take a long, hot steamy shower in your trailer, RV, or bus. The hot water tank is minuscule and your shower will turn cold quickly, particularly if husband has taken a shower first. Long showers are not possible either, because the holding tank will fill up. There are two holding tanks on an RV - one is called the "gray water tank" which holds water from the sinks and shower, and the other is called the "brown water tank" which holds water from - well, I think you can figure that one out. The procedure for taking a shower in an RV goes something like this:

1. Turn water on and wait until it is lukewarm
2. Spray water all over body
3. Turn water off
4. Lather entire body with soap
5. Turn water on and wait until it is lukewarm
6. Rinse off entire body
7. Turn water off

The water is turned on and off more frequently if it happens to be wash-your-hair day.

This is why it is very exciting when RVers pull into a trailer park for the night. You can actually pad down to the shower building with your flip flops, towel, and bag of clean underwear and use the campground facilities. I have encountered some very interesting showers in my travels.

Closet Shower: This shower is the size of a small Kenmore refrigerator box. The shower head is permanently positioned to spray on the top of your head, and since there isn't any room to move around, it is nearly impossible to work up a good lather to wash your hair. And you have to end the shower prematurely in the event you drop your soap.

Buggy Shower: This shower is inhabited by an assortment of unusual insects, depending on which humid Midwestern state you are visiting. Residents could include Daddy Long Legs, June Bugs, and spiders. One will not linger in this bathroom for fear the audience will begin to creep down the wall into your space.

Shooting Fountain Shower: This one is tricky because the water shoots outside the shower curtain into the changing area. It's a good thing the proprietors had the foresight to put a drain next to the changing bench.

Peeping Tom Shower: This shower is not for the modest. The shower door is hung about a foot too short. Either they ran out of wood while building the facility, or they didn't think people taller than 4 feet like to keep clean. You have a choice here; forget the shower for the night and put up with the smell, or take a record-setting shower, praying no one walks by and peeps over the door.

Balancing Soap Act Shower: It's amazing what people do to cut costs when building showers. This particular stall had no soap dish. Hmmmm, a quick look around suggested either placing the soap on the floor of the shower - which could be dangerous, depending on how lithe you are on your feet - or balance the edge of the soap on the 1/4 inch handle that stuck out of the wall. Either way, visions of feet above head with buttocks on the shower stall floor came to mind.

Buddy Shower: You have to really like the people who decide to shower the same time as you because the set up for this facility is like a locker room. There are 4 shower stalls surrounding a common area where there is one bench and 3 hooks on the wall for your clothes. I made sure I locked the main door when I went into this shower building.

Push Button Shower: It took me awhile to figure this one out. There is no handle to turn the water on - instead there is a button on the wall. Aha - you push the button and out comes the water. And just when you have lathered up, the water shuts off. Then you push the button again. I suppose it is for water conservation, but most people would just keep pushing the button - so I'm not sure how much water is really saved.

And my personal favorite...

Pay Showers: The first time I encountered one of these, it took me by surprise. I padded down the line of trailers to the shower room, closed and bolted the door, got my soap, shampoo, and conditioner in place, set my clean clothes out on the little bench, hung my towel in a handy location for a quick grab, stepped into the shower, and discovered there was no handle to turn the water on and no button to push. Peeking out of the shower curtain, I saw what looked like a gum ball machine attached to the wall. Damn, I have to PAY for my shower. OK. Step out of the shower, put clothes back on, pack up soap, shampoo, conditioner, clean clothes, and towel and pad back down the line of trailers to get a few quarters. One quarter equals 5 minutes of water. I actually got pretty good at taking quick showers. Unless, of course, you have to let the cold water run before it gets hot. That will take extra quarters.

One time in Wisconsin, husband and I drove down to the showers for a nice, long hot shower. Uh oh, a gum ball machine on the wall. Not to worry, I have come prepared with quarters. I was all ready to step into the shower and inserted the first quarter. The knob twirled around, but the water didn't come out. I could hear ticking, so I knew my 5 minutes had started - yet, no water. Dang it, just wasted a quarter. Ok, I can do this. I inserted another quarter, turned the knob, and went to work. I was lathered up nicely when the water all of a sudden shut off. I stood there in shock. That was my last quarter. I listened for any other bathers to see if I could bum a quarter - crickets - silence. Vanity went down the drain with the last drop of water, and I stepped out of the stall, slid my clothes on over the soap, and with shampoo dripping on my shirt, went to look for husband. I didn't explain...he just stared...and I begged for more quarters. Back I went to fight with the gum ball machine and finish my shower.

Balancing soap, counting quarters, ducking fountains of water, and ignoring critters (both 2-legged and 6-legged) all prove that there is definitely an art to showering.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fishing in Minnesota

First - Most - Biggest. This is the fishing challenge - $1 for the first fish caught, $1 for the most fish caught, and $1 for the biggest. So far I am about $50 in the hole - even though I have caught the biggest on numerous outings this summer. The trick is to catch the first - that puts pressure on the opponent to hustle and try for the most. The biggest is mostly luck.

Before I go on with my story, I must digress with Bass Fishing 101. There are 3 varieties of Bass - Largemouth, Smallmouth, and Rock Bass. Largemouth Bass are the challenging ones to catch, and according to one fisherman up here, Rock Bass shouldn't even be allowed in the count because they are the smaller of the three and are scavengers. Smallmouth put up the biggest fight. Bass usually reside in shallow water where bullrush, cattail, or lily pads grow just off the shoreline. The best bait is either plastic worms with really wiggly tails that move as you reel the line in or plastic lizards that have four legs and a tail that wiggle - a real attraction for any fish. This bait comes in an assortment of colors, spots, textures, or ridges and may even contain oils, salt, or scents that can hardly be resisted. The technique is to cast your wiggly little morsel into the bull rushes or under the lily pads and reel in slowly. If attracted, the Bass will attack - then you set the hook. On a slow day, your arm gets plenty of exercise.

Back to my story. On Monday, husband and I went to Sauer Lake for a few hours of Bass hunting. We can hardly contain ourselves to get our lines in the water so we can claim the first fish. I won. I tried the bullrushes, and they weren't doing much for me except snaging my hook, so I tried deeper water just behind the boat - and wahlah - the first Bass. Cha Ching. (For the PETA sympathizers, this was a catch and release day. No fish were injured or eaten.) Then I caught a second - and then a third Bass. Husband was getting a little irked. Then he caught one too - let the games begin. My next two catches were little Sunfish - which husband wouldn't count in the haul. "Anyone can catch a Sunfish." Bass catching cooled off a little, so we went to another lake. This is where my luck soured - husband pulled in the kingfish of all - the biggest. He made me take a picture - which I will post - some day. And so, husband rules again with the most - 10 in all to my 6 (it was really 8 with my sunnies) but at least I caught the FIRST.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

FOURTH OF JULY

The Fourth of July is a day to honor our country, celebrate with friends, and drink America's finest beer. But wait, America can't claim a beer anymore - our great American beers are owned by foreign countries. OK, then we can be patriotic, socialize, and drink anything we want.

On the Fourth of July, husband and I visited 3 different houses and met many new friends. We were very patriotic - husband in his flag look-a-like polo shirt and me in anything I could squeeze into. (note to self - buy something red, white, and blue with stars and stripes for 2010)

The first stop was a cottage on Lake Sallie - the mission was for husband to talk golf with a pretty young thing who was a golf star in high school and college. I talked to the mom and got a tour of the beach. Loved it - want to buy the cottage and the pontoon that was parked at the dock - not for sale - will be passed down to children. We sat there for awhile, soaking in the sun and the crystal blue water, and rubbing the ears of an adorable Golden Retriever.

Then off to a house across the street for a bar-b-que with a man we met playing golf. (golf is a great social networking medium - and you don't riddle your conversation with LOL and OMG - but that's another topic) This man, John, has a live menagerie of animals that he inherited when his wife passed away a few years ago.

There is Gimlet, a parrot, who is 40 years old (did you know parrots can live to be 80 or 90? - one must make sure they are named in the trust) Gimlet was a little shy. She did not like all the people invading her space. And, according to John, she was a little pissed at him for taking her from her Arizona environment she knew so well and transporting her to Minnesota. She punished him by destroying her perch. However, she enjoyed the rib he gave to her at the party. She held it in her claw, ate all the meat off with her beak, and then ceremoniously threw it on the floor - kind of like in a Jewish wedding. She did the same with the corn on the cob.

Then there were the 3 cats, Taffy, Casper, and Mulligan. Taffy was the same color as her name, and she disappeared shortly after we arrived - I hope it wasn't my perfume. It might have been husband's vibes as he glared at her sitting on the counter precariously close to the food. Casper was enjoying a ripe old age of 17 and spent most of her time nestled in her comfy bed under the end table. She ventured out to eat and then wash her face back in her nest. Mulligan had a deformed left leg, but was able to get around as well as any of the other cats. She was rescued from some insane two-legged animal who had thrown her out into traffic to get rid of her. She was definately enjoying the last laugh.

Then we walked out to the porch and encountered two Doberman Pinchers. After we were properly introduced to them, we became their best friends. The large one - like a small pony - was named Bear. Bear and his smaller twin liked hovering around the men who sat outside and told golfing lies. The women remained inside gabbing about books, gift stores, and food preparation. I preferred playing with the pets.

After dinner husband and I ventured over to Lake Pelican to visit Jeff and another couple. Lake Pelican is like the Scottsdale of Arizona. Jeff was entertaining another couple with red wine and a beautiful sunset on his porch. The wife of the other couple has a PhD at some Iowa University. I put on my best academic personna and held my own conversing with this woman who was dressed in an all white linen pantsuit with a white and red shawl draped around her shoulders. She had the perfect hair, milky complexion, and diamond baguettes on her fingers. In her ears were the striped portion of the flag - in rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. I felt a little underdressed.

Somewhere between the sun going down and the moon coming up we climbed aboard Jeff's pontoon, bottles of Cabernert in hand, and set sail with the other residents to the north end of the lake for the fireworks display. It was quite a sight. The moon was bright in the sky, there were fireworks going off all around the lake's perimeter, and lights shone in the castle-like homes along the beach. When the main display started, we tuned in to a radio channel that played patriotic songs (unfortunately, no "Coming to America" by Neil Diamond) We had awesome front row seats and the wine even mellowed Ms. PhD. Once the grand finale was over, we slowly crept back to Jeff's house, unable to find it in the dark. It's amazing how wine can press against your bladder when you know you can't make it to the bathroom. After a few passes along the beach, we docked under the canopy and ran to the house.

New and old friends, cold beverages, and a land we love, all make for an awesome Fourth of July.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Shit

My mother's favorite word was "shit" - as in, "Shit, I just dripped mustard on my blouse." or "Shit, the dog threw up again." My father disclosed this surprising tidbit to me one day when I became middle-aged. It's funny the things we learn about family when we become adults. My mother would have never used the shit word in front of the children - in fact she never shared the not-so-nice words and happenings in the family with her only daughter. My favorite expletive as a teenager was "crap" - as in "Crap, my hair looks awful." or "Crap, I can't find my keys." My mother hated it when I said crap, and admonished me with a stern "Barbara!" Crap is a word used for simple adolescent inconveniences and just doesn't have the same emphasis that shit does. Crap is too quick, hard, dried up. Shit, on the other hand, kind of rolls off your tongue and you can daw it out for emphasis, like shiiiiiiiit. You can even make it a two-syllable word, like "shee-iit." Shit is the graduate word for crap. It is fresh, to the point, and saying it makes you feel better, no matter what the problem is. Then there are the phrases "holy crap" and "holy shit." Both have a bigger bang to them. "Holy" is sacred - it's righteous, and is used when there is a need to emphasize a revered situation. When used with crap, the phrase emulates a feeling of astonishment, amazement - such as "Holy crap, do you mean she ran the entire 26-mile marathon?" or "Holy crap, I can't believe my cell phone charges are that much." On the other hand, "holy shit" is used when something is to be sanctified or blessed. It stirs up a steamy freshness in our emotions; for example, "Holy shit, Rachael on 'Days of Our Lives' just died!" or "Holy shit, there was another plane crash!" My daughter recently said to her mother, "Holy shit, Michael Jackson just died!" Choose your expletives well.

A Dilemma

For the past 4 weeks I have walked the treadmill at 4 mph for two and a quarter miles, done 20 sit ups, and worked my arms, waist and legs with free weights every day. In addition to all of that, I have cut my consumption of food in half and walked 18 holes of golf whenever the weather cooperates. But, alas, alak, my shorts are still tight. Ok, I confess that I did have a brownie fudge blizzard on Saturday (it was yummy) and had a few slices of pizza last week (the best cheesy pizza ever), but those minimal indiscretions should not keep the fat cells packed tightly on my belly and buttocks. The culprit could be old-age hormones (or lack of) kicking in - damn hormones. But then again, it might be the extra calories in the adult beverages I've been enjoying during happy hour. Maybe that is the reason my jeans and capri's do not stretch as much as they used to. So, my dilemma is this - do I give up the bottles and cans for a more svelte body - or resign myself to being a happy and healthy, chubby old lady and just buy bigger clothes. I'm blaming it on the hormones.

Golf in Minnesota

Playing golf in Minnesota is challenging, to say the least. The day can start out beautiful, with blue skies, puffy clouds, a little breeze, and temperatures in the 70's. Then a storm will blow in and drench us with rain. There is one executive golf course that husband and I play. The first day we played, the rain started to pour when we were on hole #7. We slopped our way through #9 back to the truck. The other day we made it to #11 before we felt the little drips of rain, and made it back to cover before the downpour. Last week we actually completed the entire 18. That day happened to be a bit muggy and warm. Actually it was extremely humid and hot. Along about hole #6 - when it would normally start to rain - I was met instead by a small deer fly. I must have smelled particularly sweet with sweat that day. These little creatures love to torment you by circling around and around your head, coming close to your ear so they make sure you know they are still there. You can swat the air, jump up and down, and even run like a maniac, but the persistent pest continues to circle your head like a halo. At times, they will nestle in between your ear and hat and take a ride for awhile. The golf course deer fly thought it was such fun tormenting me, he called his friends and family in for the ride. The entire network of deer flies continued their game of touch and go with my arms, neck, and ears until I was ready to roll around on the grass. Then I discovered that after they suck the blood from your veins, they become somewhat lethargic. That's when I would swat them and scurry them off to the insect-maker in the sky. Despite the halo of deer flies, I managed to par holes #16 and #17 and - no rain.

Why A View From My Window?

When I wake up in the morning I open all the blinds so the beautiful ouside can enter into my life. I love looking out windows - any windows - windows that look out on to a sparkling swimming pool - windows that have a view of majestic mountains - windows that celebrate the setting of the sun - windows that bring the colorful flowers into the kitchen - windows that spy on the neighbors. I have a little window by the head of my bed in our trailer. I open that window at night so I can smell the cool evening air and gaze up at the sky filled with twinkling tiny dots that grant wishes. I wish for happiness for my children - I have wishes for my future - I wish for good fortune and good health. Sometimes in the morning, swift clouds wipe away the tiny dots and a bright blue sky peeks through - the dawning of a new day. Wishes are tapping on the window and sometimes they come in to the world inside. The view from my window may be filled with wishes, consumed by ideals, and enhanced by an imagination, but this is my view, and I embrace it.