Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Done

"You are such a brute," Jacqueline remarked coolly as she stepped her long, silk stockinged legs from the taxi.

He looked neither left nor right, remaining typically expressionless. Deadly dark eyes silently commanded the driver to continue on to his destination.

"Good evening, Madam," Rico bowed as he opened the door for her.

"Rico," she said curtly.

She trailed a faint smell of cigarettes, booze and Shalimar.

Once in the elevator, she quickly punched penthouse.

The tiny bell announcing her presence alerted the butler. He quickly scrambled to the slowly opening door.

"Madam?" Giles greeted her with a solemn questioning look.

He reached for her coat as she strode by, barely catching the mink before it hit the floor. In the next second, she took off her leather gloves then slammed them to the floor.

"Leave them," she commanded.

"I am done."


This is for Magpie #46. Thanks Willow.
http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2010/12/mag-46.html

Monday, December 27, 2010

'Tis the Season

Another Christmas under the belt. Hooray. WWIII was averted, barely. The only good thing about the holiday season around here so far is occasionally being able to sleep in. Darn it, I feel like I am Bah Humbugging, when everyone on my SpaceBook page seems to be happy and full of cheer. I tried to be like them, but it just didn't work out for me. In this case the social network peer pressure failed to elevate my Scrooge like holiday mood.

It started with a Christmas Eve blowout with the wife. I was in the mood to hang out at home, and watch old black and white movies. She, on the other hand, wanted to go downtown to see a new release movie. Instead of registering my disappointment then pleading for us to have a nice quiet evening at home, I went along with her desire to see a movie on the big screen. We were going to see The Kings Speech. Unfortunately, we started sniping at each other immediately after getting in the car. Apparently, I was taking my bad energy with me, and she wanted me to leave the evil one at home. Fat chance.

After several events en route, wrong turn here, road construction there, parking garage full all the way up to the 6th floor, we solemnly arrived at the movie theater. We could have used Rudolph's red nose to light our way.

We went inside the movie theater. Phyl went to buy the tickets, and I, as was my custom, went to get myself a Chai tea. Before I was able to order, Phyllie appeared like the Ghost of Christmas Past rattling its chains, "The movie doesn't play until TOMORROW."

"Great."

Glumly, we tromped back to the parking garage. After climbing all six flights of Mt. Everest stairs, we drove home. "I should have known we weren't in the flow," was all she said.

I remained silent thinking anything I might utter would undoubtedly be perceived as negative.

After liberating the poodles from their kennels, I sat down to watch a Christmas movie. The title escapes me now, but I was beginning to get into it when the phone rang.

"Hi mom, are you going to get the kids their Christmas jammies? I know you like to give them their Christmas pj's."

After a moment of hesitation, I quickly jumped at the chance to change my negative energy. If I couldn't change it, at least I could share it with the rest of the merry holiday shoppers. With all their frantic shopping for their own loved ones, no one would know it was me bringing the dark cloud of nastiness as I drifted by.

I tried one last ditch effort to get Phyl to participate, "You want to go with me? I am going shopping for the kids Christmas pajamas."

One look on her face told me that was a no go.

When I first entered Kohl's department store, I expected the radar package detector at the door to scream my presence. I felt like a Harry Potter Death Eater in holiday drag. No alarm bells went off, so I stealthily headed to the kids department for a little shopping therapy.

After about 30 minutes of looking for the perfect Christmas pajamas, I had an epiphany. The black clouds of delusion parted, and I realized I had lied on the self assessment survey I took only a week prior.

I am a guinea pig for a local university psychology program. Actually, I will receive some valuable in-service credit towards renewal of my teaching license when I complete this course. The class is supposed to assess how I dealt with stress both before and after reading a book on the subject. So far, I haven't actually seen the book, but I have taken several on-line surveys designed to get a baseline of the coping strategies I use when I am stressed.

I felt pretty good about my responses up until the moment I was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present. I realized without any doubt I had lied about "Using shopping to alleviate my stress." Despite being reassured every time I took the numerous previous surveys that there were "no right or wrong answers," it appears I was quite adroit at lying to myself.

Right there in the department store's children pajama aisle, I realized my Negative Nelly status was being transformed into a Jolly Santa.

Note to self, next time I take that darned survey, mark 5, strongly agree I use shopping to avoid stress in my life. I wonder what the guys in the psych department will do with that discrepancy? Do they have a curve that includes holiday stress? Hmmmmm.

I completed my last minute shopping, and headed to deposit the Christmas jammies at the daughter's house. After a short exchange about her Christmas Eve activities, I headed back home.

I pulled into the garage. I gave myself a pep talk, "No more Negative Nelly. Go in there and have a good Christmas Eve."

It didn't take me long to realize I would never make a good motivational speaker. I couldn't motivate myself.  Well, I did admirably well in delivering the motivational speech to myself, it's the follow through that desperately needs assistance.

When I opened the back door, I could hear the TV blaring. I entered the living room. Phyl sat motionless in her LaZboy recliner with the remote aimed at the TV like a shotgun. Eyes narrowed, laser like, as they scanned the menu.

I tiptoed past the front of the television just as she selected her show. It was the comedienne Monique. Her raw language did not suit my recently hyped up Ho Ho Ho mood. Somehow listening to the language I hear from my students every day brought out Mz.W, aka Thug Nasty.

Mz. W is the persona I use for work. Once, Mz. W appeared on vacation when there were some naughty gangsta children in need of correction. Phyl immediately banished Thug, and the rest of the vacation was saved.


Not so easily done for this Christmas Eve.

I did not miss a beat as I headed into the kitchen to retrieve the tape, scissors, and a hastily made Christmas cheer concoction. After I gathered up the goods, I headed for the spare bedroom. I still needed to wrap the presents for the kids before the morning.

I sipped, wrapped, and mentally went over the day's events. Again, I gave myself a Merry Ho Ho motivational speech.

I ventured out of the back bedroom, and was headed into the war zone. 

Apparently Monique's performance was over, and now it was time for Vin Diesel. I believe it was the movie Fast and Furious, at least that was what I was witnessing on the flash of TV I saw as I furiously replaced the tape, and thankfully the scissors.

I decided it was time to refill my cheer glass.  After the refueling, I grabbed the original version of A Christmas Carol movie I had purchased for Christmas Eve festivities.

Back in my bedroom bunker, I sipped and watched the movie on the tiny TV. I contemplated the numerous times I had seen the movie. I also thought about how many other people had seen the same 1938 movie, or were watching on this Christmas Eve as I was.

I also thought about the synchronicity of the events in the movie as compared to my own circumstances. I could really relate to Scrooge. I did not identify with his stinginess because I am very generous, but I did identify with the feeling he was portraying. I felt like I was separate from what was going on around me. I tried desperately to get on the Merry Ho Ho float, but nothing seemed to work. I could not grab the magic ring.

About a half hour into the movie, my standard poodle, Lula Mae, busted open the door. Tito, her sidekick, was in tow. Both dogs were extremely intuitive about the events going on in the household. It was only a matter of time before they left the living room in search of their other mommy. I guess I had left the door slightly ajar, thus their breaking and entering had occurred.

I welcomed them into the darkened room. Lula put her paws up on the bed, and looked at me beseechingly. Tito gave me a quick drive-by lick, and then he was gone. Lula stayed. I invited her up on the bed with me, and together we watched the rest of the movie.

Without saying another word to Phyl, I decided to call it a night. I went to bed.

In the early hours of the morning I was visited by The Ghost of Christmas Future. At least that is what I prefer to call it. 

I got out of bed, and headed to the shower. 

I like to think of taking a shower as both a physical and a metaphorical cleansing. On this fine Christmas morning, I was not able to wash away my resentment.

Unfortunately, it grew. And it grew. And it grew. To epic proportions.

By the time I finished getting ready to go to breakfast at my daughter's house, and talking to my son who was in Santiago, Chile, I was loaded with nukes.

While I was happily chatting away with my son, Phyl sat in her LaZboy chair, and listened to the conversation. It was she who had now turned into the Negative Nelly. As I lied to my boy, "All was well. I am having a quiet Christmas," Ebinezer, aka Phyllie, lobbed in snipes in a Grinch like voice, "Liar."

When I got off the phone, all the pent up hell inside me broke loose.

We call these types of events in this household, bringing out the BIG energy.

Phyllie and I have, as all couples have, had arguments in the past. This one was a doozy.

I am not proud of myself for unleashing on her like I did on Christmas day. As a matter of fact, I am ashamed I let my little frustrations act like plugs in a volcano. I allowed them to build up until they could no longer contain the red hot lava of hurt, and resentment any longer.

I opened my mouth, and the torrent was unleashed. It was like Mount Vesuvius on Christmas Crack. If Santa had heard me, he and all his elves would have sneaked back into our house, and retrieved all the presents, had there been any to retrieve. 

Weirdly enough, that is not one of the reasons why I blew my top. Phyllie and I decided not to buy presents this year. We we did buy each other one gift. She got me a great Skagen watch which I have been wearing for a couple of weeks. I got her a nice pair of boots. I know, very romantic, but hey, we LIKED our gifts.

Back to Mt. Vesuvius.

I put Scrooge to shame with my torrent of Bah Humbugs. When I completed my rant, I asked Phyl if she was coming with me to breakfast at my daughter's house.

She chose not to come. Of course.

I arrived for breakfast with a false smile on my face. I delivered the presents to the children, my daughter and her boyfriend. 

Everyone wanted to know where Phyllie was. I told them she wasn't coming because she did not feel well. Before breakfast was served, I asked my daughter to broker the deal. "Please call and invite Phyllie over. Maybe she will come over if you invite her."

Thankfully, a detente was called.

Both Phyllie, as well as myself, conducted ourselves as adults in front of the children. I was glad she chose to come over. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I did not want to wage war on Christmas. 

After the official celebration, we decided to take the dogs for a walk. It was a glorious, albeit cold, day. We had to visit several parks before we could find one where they both could run with reckless abandon. When the dogs tongues hung to the ground, and they refused to chase the stick one last time, we headed back to the house.

We decided to try for the second time in as many days to see The Kings Speech. We got ready, headed downtown to the only theater showing the movie just in time to find the rest of the world had come out of their Christmas fogs as well. The movie was sold out.

We got back in the car, and headed home again. The streets were so eerily quiet compared to the day before. Apparently the only place, other than at home playing with new gifts, people could be seen on this day was at the movies watching their favorite flick.

Again, we missed the flow, the magical current of bliss we imagined everyone, except us, floating along on singing songs of merriment and joy. We had started to mend the tectonic plate shift which occurred in our living room. The great divide needed a river of cement poured into it before it would stabilize. We needed more time.

The time came the day after Christmas. 

We started our day off like we generally do on weekend mornings. We got up, took the dogs for a run in the freezing cold, came back and then had some breakfast. We acted as if nothing in the past 48 hours had been real.

After showering, we got into the car and headed for the third time to the movie theater downtown. The trip went smoothly. No bumps, no snipes, no bruises. We found our regular parking spot on the second floor of the parking garage. Phyl bought our tickets, I got my Chai, she got her popcorn, and together we agreed on side by side seats.

The movie was worth the wait. We were inspired by the story of the King who stuttered. I figured if he could overcome such a daunting obstacle, and go on to deliver such an important speech, I could let go of the petty hurts and missteps of the past few days.

After the movie, we went to dinner at a restaurant where the slowly drifting snow flakes piled up on the pines just outside the window by our table. As we chatted about the movie, unpacked the events of the last few days, and planned our New Year's resolutions, I thought what a picturesque setting for a delicious meal.

All was right with the world again. We were in the flow.

Maybe the events of the previous two days weren't real. Maybe all the shit occurred in an alternate universe.

I have this strange idea it's true.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My Life is a Country Song

Yesterday was the first day of Christmas Vacation 2010. The grandkids arrived bright and early in the morning. I was in eager anticipation of the day we would share.

Then it began.

I always get these bright ideas of what to do with the kids in order to keep them busy. On today's agenda was making Christmas ornaments. The grandkids love crafting, and so do I. One of the ornaments we were  going to make together required pictures. Of course we had to take some fresh ones.

Both B and Rach found the Santa hats that are normally atop the statues of lions just outside my front door. I believe everyone should participate in the season, and the welcoming lions look extra festive with their Santa hats perched over their frozen wavy manes. Between the hurricane force winds, and blizzards lately, I decided a few nights ago I needed to bring the hats indoors. Frankly, I was surprised the lions still sported the hats for this long. Usually, the neighborhood hoodlums like to steal the festive hats by now just for kicks. Maybe the blizzard last night swept the little buggars off to visit the land of Oz. I know I had my ruby slippers on when I clicked them together three times and chanted, "I think I can, I think I can." We can only hope.

Back to the hats and the grandkids. Once the kids spied the hats on the sideboard, BINGO, the photo shoot was on. It was a bit difficult for me to get good pictures of Brenden because he does not like to have his photo taken. He typically makes all kinds of weird faces as he skips, dances, whirls then hides his whole face under the hat. No skin off my teeth buddy. You will be the one to reap the rewards a little bit later in life. I did manage to get a few good snapshots. I tricked him into telling me a story, and I was able to capture some good angles.


Rachel was a bit easier. She took only a little prodding. After a few initial shy moments, she took to striking poses like as if she were auditioning to be the next model on Project Runway.


With the photo shoot behind us, I headed to the computer so I could order the prints online. This is where I believe we entered an alternate universe.

The next two hours were filled with a weird series of events. I managed to get the pictures downloaded from the camera card then onto the computer. I even was able to get them uploaded to my Picasa Web albums. I sent a few invites to friends and family to view the little cuties. I always include my daughter because she gets a bit nervous with me at the helm. Poor thing was stuck at work, and we were having all the fun. I had just pushed the send button, when things went black on the computer. Dun, dun, dun.
 
I tried everything to get my internet connection back. Nothing worked. I decided we needed to lock and  load ourselves into the car in order to get on down to Walmart. I was in a hurry to have our prints so we could proceed to the ornament making phase of today's activities. I was positively twitching with excitement.

I told Phyllie of my computer woes, asked her to check out the connection, but in the meantime we needed to get our pictures. 

After getting on the snow gear, the kids and I braved the icy roads. We arrived at our local Walmart in record time considering the snow plows had not yet gotten to our side of town. No worries.

I made a bee line to the photo-mart inside the store dragging the grandchildren in tow. I refused several requests to "get me this, or that." I was a woman on a mission. When I located the proper equipment terminal, I was even able to find the correct hole to put my stick into despite the bewildering array of options. One child sat on the stool with me, whilst another occupied himself by twirling like a dervish immediately behind us. Despite numerous attempts, he was unable to pin down the little old blue haired lady trying to scan her old family photos into her own prompter.

Yes, I am the grandma who only kinda has control of her brood. I think the intervening years between having my own children and taking care of the grandkids have not been kind to my multitasking prowess. I don't sweat the small stuff anymore. My rules for being out in public follow the KISS model. One, stay within eye shot. Two, don't steal anything, and I DO check pockets before leaving any store. Three, try not to get run over in the parking lot. I do not wish to incur my daughter's wrath if I happen to return a smushed child to her at the end of the day. It is a good day when the rules are followed.

Somehow I manage to figure out how to order the chosen photos we need for our project. The processing was a snap. Inside of ten minutes we were back on the road again.

When we got home, time sped up to mach ten.

Two days ago the kitchen sink backed up. It did not stop my maniacal cooking even though I am sick of washing dishes in the bathtub. I called the plumber first thing Monday the morning. Along with the clog which needed to be cleared, I knew we also needed another garbage disposal. When Phyllie and I went over the days itinerary, she willingly volunteered to do the errands while I stay with the grandchildren. While the children and I took photos, Phyllie took the packages to the post office, dropped another by UPS, bought the wine for the dish I was cooking for dinner, and went to Homo Depot to buy us another garbage disposal.

As the children and I walked in with our photo bounty, Phyllie arrived with the garbage disposal. I immediately noticed it was not like the one we had, but she also had all the extra piping needed to get this new one installed. Her face lit up like Tim the Toolman Taylor's did every time he discussed his motorized equipment.

"This thing will chew up a corn cob!!!!" she announced over the din of the children fighting about which movie they would watch first. I knew I should not have let her loose on Home Depot.

The dogs began barking from their kennels as if they were in danger of being left in purgatory for the rest of the day.

And before I could get my coat off, the doorbell rang.

I couldn't decide what to do first. I poked my nose out the door to tell the plumber to hold on because, "It's a bit dangerous at the moment. Hang on, will ya?" His face looked a more than a little bit apprehensive.

I scolded the children for fighting. I pulled out the oldest trick in the book, "If you can't decide which one to watch, I will take ALL of them away from you, and no one will watch ANYTHING. Got it?"

Silence. One blessed moment of silence.

Next, I headed into the bedroom to get the dogs out of their kennels. I shepherded them into the backyard. Knowing we had a visitor, the two stood vigil at the sliding glass door. Tito began his olympic style high jump moves, immediately impressing the plumber. "Boy that guy can jump, can't he?"

"Yes, now can we discuss the plumbing issue? Here is the new garbage disposal. Please check the drain and install this new one, Okay?"

"Hmmmm, well it is like this here. The one you bought doesn't match the one you already have. It's gonna take some changing the pipes down here."

I had a flashback to the conversation with the secretary of the plumbing company earlier that morning. "It's a flat $75 per hour."

"Phyllie, come over here and listen to this. Please explain what you were telling me to Phyllis."

She listens none too patiently. "So what's the problem? Get 'er dun!!!" Phyl can't figure out why the plumber was hesitating about installing her wood chipper.

"Okay. Here, let me draw you a picture explaining what I need to do."

We look at each other, shrug our shoulders, and simultaneously announce, "We don't need a picture. You are the professional. Just make it work."

Roger The Plumber goes to work dismantling the old plumbing job under the sink, all the while mumbling something softly to himself. I think I know what he was saying. Crazy bitches.

He doesn't know the half of it.

Just as he was lying prone under the sink, with various pieces of pipe scattered about, Rachel announces she is hungry. "I want some Raviolios, please."

"Me too," chimes in Brenden.

Of course. Right away. Thankfully, the plumber was gracious enough to leave his legs spread strategically enough apart so I could tip toe between them in order to get the necessary supplies out of the cupboard. I finally get the cans opened, microwaved, and placed on the table.

"Come and get it."

"Thanks grandma. Can I have some juice please? And can I have some milk please?"

Sure thing.

I  deftly fill the cups. I even naively think I get the spill proof lids on correctly. Then I discover otherwise. As I tip toe between the plumber's splayed out legs and awkwardly placed the cups down on the kitchen table, the contents of both immediately splash across the kitchen table.

"Holy shit. I give up. I give up." I am in full meltdown.

The grandkids faces are frozen in fear. Phyl, who was eating her own sandwich safely in the living room, comes to the rescue.

"Here, let me help. Stand back, I can do this."

I head off to get towels. She quickly rescues the laptop which was foolishly left on the table. In seconds flat she has the table cleared. The children are in shock.

The plumber announces sheepishly, "I need that other part, could I possibly retrieve it for him?"

"It's out in the garage. Give me a second, please."

I turned to head back into the garage to retrieve the box which had the missing part the plumber needed when the phone rings.

Just like a Ninja, I snapped up the ringing phone, saw it was my daughter, and grumpily answered it.

"Hey mom. I have a something I need to talk about."

"Well, in the last 15 minutes I ..." and I listed off the events. "You better make it quick."

"Okay. Sounds like you have your hands full. I will call you later."

Smart girl.

It was on my way back to the kitchen chaos when it hit me. I could hear Trace Adkins singing, "You're Gonna Miss This" country song playing in my head.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igm2iGvo-us

Though not all the lyrics were particularly applicable at that moment, the stanza about the plumber was dead on.

That was when I realized I was livin' large. It was that exact moment when time stood still. I mentally stopped the insanity, if only for a tiny second, and just took in the scene. I sighed in a deep breath then started laughing like I was insane idiot. After my stomach started to hurt, I calmly announced, "I gotta write this down. This is good stuff man, good stuff."

Once the bumper car ride of life stopped, there was a strange, even eerie calm which came over everyone. Even the house refused to make a noise.

The excess tidal wave of fluid was mopped. The children happily slathered Raviolios all over their faces, some even made it into their stomachs. The plumber plumbed. Phyllie finished her sandwich, and I got out the computer and began searching YouTube for Trace.

Brenden then offered the best comment of the day as he ate his lunch. He calmly uttered to no one in particular, "That's why we call her Crazy Grandma." 

"I am going to make myself some lunch. I have not eaten anything yet this morning, and I am a raving bitch. Sorry. Hey, can I get you a soda or something?"

Roger The Plumber pointed to his stomach and said, "Does it look like I have missed many meals? No thanks. You go on ahead and make yourself some lunch. I will just get this job done for you, Ma'am."

I warmed up a bowl of soup, found the song on YouTube, and got it going for inspiration. The children were swabbed for any remnants of spaghetti sauce before being shuttled off to watch their mutually agreed upon video. Phyllie took to her favorite easy chair for her afternoon nap. Snoring quickly ensued.

And I began this post.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another Conversation Overheard

Many of you already know I pick up my grandchildren from school two days per week. I look forward to seeing them, and am always ready for what might come out of their mouths on the way home from school.

Today was a gem.

Rachel is 4 ("not 4 1/2" per brother)
Brenden IS officially 6 1/2.

We have our pleasantries first. "How was school? What did you do? How was lunch? Here's your snack."

We are several blocks away from school. Rach has completed her peanut butter snack bar with the always predictable explanation "I can't have peanut butter in class 'cause someone is llergic. I love peanut butter."

"I know Rach. That is why I bring them for you to have after school."

"Well, I CAN. No one is ALlergic in my class (B is always correcting his sister's pronunciation). But today I had to eat half of my sandwich outside."

"Why is that, B?" Hmmmm I wondered.

"Dunno." End of conversation. I decide to let it drop.

Quiet for a few blocks.

Rachel begins rustling around in her book bag pulling out something I can't see.

Not really whispering, but quietly she says to her brother, "I sneeked this into school today."

I immediately scan the rear view to no avail.

"What?" B has that no nonsense sound to his voice.

"This." I still can't see what she is talking about "A ball. I sneeked it in my bag. The teacho didn't see it. Yesterday, a boy in my class brought a ball like this to school. He had it in his pocket. He brought it out on the playground and the teacho didn't see it." he he he he "So today, I brought this and the teacho didn't see it either."

Outraged, B announces loud and firm, "I am a police. I am a school police!"

"So?" Rachel shrugs.

"No really, I am a police. Who brought the ball to school yesterday? Was it (name inaudible)?"

"No."

"Was it (again name inaudible)?"

"No."

"Who was it then? I am a school police!" B's voice is getting louder, and I can only imagine him holding a spotlight shining right in her eyes old school style. I start to giggle uncontrollably. I am desperate not to let them see me. I feign looking out my left window while sneaking a peek in my rear view mirror at the two sitting in their booster seats behind me. I have my right hand firmly planted over my mouth.

"I am pre-school." Rachel announces triumphantly.

I give a snort.

B moves in for the kill. "I am NOT pre-school. I am school police."

"I know. I am PRE-school." Rachel has a little smile, kinda Mona Lisa like.

"Give me that ball." B tries to snatch it out of Rachel's hand.

Rach is sneering at her brother, and holding the ball just out of his reach.

I can't hold it any longer. Streams of tears are running down my face.  I can no longer control the spasms of laughter escaping my mouth.

B is not amused. "You need to stop, grandma."

"I am trying, B, I am trying." I managed to tell him through the gales of guffaws.

What makes this hysterical is that Brenden lords it over on his sister that he is the eldest at every opportunity he gets. This is one of the first times I have witnessed Rachel getting one over on her brother.

My rational mind wonders about whether Rachel will be a follower, doing other nefarious deeds as she makes her way through school. But I can't be bothered with that right now.

All I can say is,

"Let's hear it for the FOUR year old!" ....he he he

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn, Baby!

 
Conceived in the dark of winter, nurtured in utero through spring, and sheltered from the hateful heat of summer, she came into the world on a lovely fall day.

Being born in the season of crisp mornings, warmly spicy afternoons replete with gently falling leaves, she was rained upon by buttery browns, sunshine yellows, and relishing reds. She felt secure. 

Autumn.
The world, for now, was at rest.

Yet the frantic wet of winter was on the horizon. She could see it in the dark clouds rushing the winds, swirling the colors, battering them, muting them. 
But she, being wrapped snugly in soft blankets, held close and warmed by her mother's milk, grew.

Her life mirrored the seasons. 
She, being born in the season of culmination, a child of the harvest, reaped much in her life.
Children, friends, husbands.

But it was only in the Autumn of her life where she came to be fully, luxuriantly colored herself. She quit listening to those who prescribed for her. She claimed her own path.

Soon, she could be seen running with reckless abandon, strewing the richly colored leaves behind her. Racing the winter wind. Daring it to catch her.

"I love you all. You are near and dear to me, but I too do count. Will you run with me?"
They could only watch from the sidelines.

She threw them kisses. 

She danced in the fluttering leaves of her imagination, gathering them about her in nicely rounded mounds. The fallen leaves of a lifetime.

She screamed into the world, "This is me! Take me as I am! All of you!" 

She stomped, she kicked, she trampled the autumn leaves until all was small and quiet again. 

She held herself close, wrapped herself in earthen browns, careened and cavorted in glorious golds, then arrived at her party dressed in her own charismatic crimson.



This is a Magpie Tale. Check out the other fabulous authors at:
http://www.magpietales.blogspot.com/

Thanks, Willow, for another fabulous opportunity to write, and my FAV time of year. YEAH!!!!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Retired

"She is retired now," lamented grandmother
to no one in particular,
 thinking she be alone.
Well, not quite alone,
with me, you see, in my secret little abode.

"You are sparkling, and shiny, and silvery. 
Your work well beyond. 
I no longer need your services,
but I long to keep you around.
Many a dark day,
you saw me through.
Your light 
burnishing bright.

I shall place you right here,
and dust you my dear.
 Your bond with me secure.
Our features still strong.
We both move along.
New faculty to be.
The flames in our hearts,
 say we will never part.
Now, 
We Just Get to BE!"


This is a Magpie tale. Check it out:
http://www.magpietales.blogspot.com/

Thanks Willow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Burlington Coat Factory

Today, I ventured into the Burlington Coat Factory Outlet store to see if I could find something new to wear to work next week. I am tired of what is hanging in my closet. This morning it took way too long to figure out what I would like to wear to work. I am weird that way. If I don't feel good putting something on in the morning, it taints my day.

I always have this issue about this time of year. I absolutely love summer, and with this week's weather hitting the mid 90's all week, I find it hard to believe it is Autumn already. I am told next week it will be in the high 60's. Such schizophrenic weather is usual for Reno. I started noticing the leaves changing about a week ago. The yellows, goldenrod's, and most spectacularly the burgundy's have started creeping over the formerly green trees.

Seeing those colors in my environment makes me want to wear them.

My summertime wardrobe is replete with fanciful colors. My favorite t-shirt this summer was a very bright pink, with a large brush swiped heart shaped graphic on the front. When I felt a little off, you could always see me wearing that shirt.

After work today, on this 95 degree Friday, I decided I wanted something new in my closet to choose from on the promised chilly fall morning come Monday. I was looking for some rich browns, or maybe a burgundy pair of pants. Comfort is number one with me. I went on the hunt.

When I entered the women's section, there was a very tall African-American woman wandering around the aisles with a cell phone held up so close to her face I thought she would eat it any moment. She was not shopping, only wandering around hollering at her not-to-be-seen shopping friend. I was not interested in whatever it was this woman was going on about, so I avoided her whenever I saw her coming down my aisle.

I foraged around the cluttered aisles. I found several prospective pairs of pants, three dresses, and a few blouses. When I finally get myself into a dressing room, groan, I want to do it all at ONE time.

I tentatively asked the clerk standing guard over the dressing rooms, "How many items can I bring in with me?"

"Ten, but if you but them back on the hangers, you can take all of 'em with you," the beautiful young clerk says with an earnest voice.

"It's a deal." I quickly grabbed all sixteen items and dashed  into the nearest dressing room. I had trouble passing through the door because my arms were so full of bounty. After I wrangled my way into the tiny space, I immediately shucked my own clothing. I tried not to look at my nearly naked self with all my lovely imperfections. I wanted to stay focused on checking out how these clothes might look and feel once they covered up my lumps, bumps and dimples. I worked at a fevered pace.

Fortunately, I was spared my usual intense scrutiny of myself because of what was going on just outside my dressing room door. I can't promise quotes I am about to relay are in actual sequential order, but each quote is REAL. I promise.

"Loquitia, what you doin' in there? Come on out here, girl." It's the woman I have been dodging for half an hour.

"Hang on, I gotta get these leggin's on. Lord this makes me look thick.What you think, you think this makes me look thick?" Apparently, it is the never before seen friend, and her name is Loquitia. I peer through the slats in my dressing room door to see her twirling around looking at herself in the mirror.

"Well, I would put a pair of socks with them, and a nice pair of boots. But you know me, that's how I would do it. You go on ahead and do whatever makes you feel good. You look white." The proclamation has been delivered by the woman with the phone who is sitting on a chair directly outside my dressing room door. 

Trot, trot, trot, back to her dressing room Loquitia goes.

"I gotta accep my friends on Facebook. I gotta accep my friends on Facebook. How in the worl can I do it on this phone? Girl, you hear me? EVERYONE could hear her. How do I accep my friends on this phone? Oh lord, looks like the battery is goin. GIRL I am gonna DIE if I can't accep these friends. Oh, I just got another friend request. I am up to 56 and I have only been on Facebook for two days! I just got out a couple a days ago. I been to the hairdresser, Peaches, you know Peaches, she the BEST. High, but she the best. I spent four hours in her chair. Oh lord, oh lord, the battery is goin'. What I gonna do? Hmmmm......" The woman with the phone commands all my attention now. I have dubbed her Facebook Lady. Her voice starts to quiver.

Next, I hear a lot of rustling going on.

I decide not to peek through the slats. It is difficult to pay attention to what I am trying on because I am being sucked into the drama just outside my dressing room door.

"There it is, GIRL how do I change this battery? Loquitia, Loquitia????" Facebook Lady's voice is getting tense.

"I need a shirt to go with these leggin's. Will you get me a shirt, please?" Loquitia pleads with the increasingly more and more frantic Facebook Lady.

"Does that mean I have to get up? Girl, my feet be hurtin'. Get yo own blouse. Now tell me how to change this battery. I will die if I can't get back on Facebook. I have so many friends. I love getting in touch with my friends. Mostly they be the ones I went to school with. Baby, you remember Baby? and what about Bubba Lou?" Facebook Lady seems to be talking to the dressing room clerk.

The young female dressing room clerk asks, "How long you been gone?"

Gone? Hmmmm. Now I am wondering where she has been.  California? Bermuda?

"Six years. I just got out a couple a days ago. They didn't have Facebook when I went up." Facebook Lady sounds positively jubilant.

Now I AM peeking out the slats of my dressing room door and simultaneously wiggling into a pair of jeans. I pray Facebook Lady doesn't see my wide open eyes.

"What you went up for?" The young clerk asks politely.

"Trafficking." Facebook Lady issues a flat statement. She never even looks at the clerk. All of Facebook Lady's attention is riveted on the phone.

Loquitia is apparently on her own. Facebook Lady has commandeered Loquitia's phone as well as her purse, and will hold it hostage until she gets the fresh battery. Facebook lady NEEDS to resume her frantic friend finding.

It is right about now that I have finished trying on all sixteen garments. Only two work. My typical ratio. I am faced with how to get all the perfectly-put-back-on-the-hanger items out of the tiny dressing room. I also am more than a bit leery of walking past Facebook Lady.

I admit I waited until she found the battery, and successfully placed it back in the phone before venturing out of my little cubby hole of a dressing room.

I gave Facebook Lady a nice smile as I walked past. She did not even notice me. She did get another friend request as I walked by.

"So and so told so and so I was out, now THEY want to be my friend. I remember that girl when I was in the first time. Lord she look like she doin drugs. That picture look like she be doin drugs again! Oh, she look bad. Loquitia do I want to be friends with her? Loquitia, you hear me? Loquitia I gotta be home in 30 minutes. They be monitoring me. I told them I was at Western Union. Now I gotta get home. Come on outta there now. I gotta be home in 30 minutes." Facebook Lady is pleading with Loquitia who has been mercifully silent.

I immediately handed  fourteen beautifully put back on the hanger items back to the dressing room clerk. I stashed my two items in the cart, and made a beeline for the checkout counter.

Here's the thing, I work with youth who are routinely in and out of kiddie jail, but seldom am I around folks who have just returned from THE BIG HOUSE. I kept asking myself, How would I act if I had been removed from society for six years? I still don't have any answers. I felt simultaneously sorry for Facebook Lady as well as being highly amused by her antics. I even felt a dash of fear wondering what would happen if she did not find a charged up battery in the bottom of Loquitia's purse.

Am I a bad person?

Really, all I wanted to do is find something new to wear to school on Monday. I did not walk out of Burlington with anything that remotely reminds me of fall. Nothing brown. Nothing orange. Nothing goldenrod. No pants of any kind.

I did come out of there with a great story. A slice of life.

Silently, I wish Facebook Lady the best of luck finding friends again. I hope she said NO to so and so who looked like she was doin' drugs again.

I still keep wondering how it would be to be locked away from society for six years then try to re-enter again with the fast paced, technology filled world we live in now.

Best of luck, Facebook Lady.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ahhh Choooo, Pee Yew

"I can't," she said.
"I can't."
 
Just looking at it
makes my nose wrinkle.
 
"Don't you dare 
open that cap!"
 
Stay back.
Stay back.
 
I know you get a commission,
but not from me Sista.
Not from me.
 
"Ply your wares elsewhere
my dear."
 
Stay back.
Stay back.

This poem was inspired by the weekly prompt at http://www.magpietales.blogspot.com/
Thanks Willow.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Teacher


I heard I was supposed to give you an apple on our first day.
So here you go.
I hope you don't mind, but I got a little hungry
before class started.

Thanks Willow for such a great prompt, 
and so timely too!!!! 
This is something my students would do 
for sure!!!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

School Begins

This morning I awoke to the realization my summer vacation is OFFICIALLY over today. I went back to work in some capacity a couple of weeks ago because my school site had been changed. Apparently our students shall be influenced to behave better if we hold school on Catholic church grounds.

"Many of our students are Catholic. I think they will think more about their inappropriate behaviors when at this site." really? Stay tuned for that report.

I don't mean to complain too much. I wasn't married to the old school site, but I sure did like the perks. cameras in every room, hallways and outside. If our little dahlings misbehaved, we had it on camera. Came in handy quite often the past couple of years.

I am a bit worried though. The question of the hour is, How will the little Sunday school children deal with "Fuck You" printed on desks? (not that I allow such things, but....) as well as the inevitable tagging on the bathroom walls. Maybe the TSK's and crossed out gang signs will be considered another addition to the aesthetic? I wonder if anything other than the plants will be damaged if one of our lovelies takes a bit of offense from another, and they go to blows in the prayer garden?

Then there is the question of the homeless who are allowed shelter on the church grounds. Last week two members of our staff had to step over sleeping humans to get the doors of the school open. The secretary reported being harangued by a mentally ill person as she came into work at seven a.m.Apparently we are to expect such encounters as the church offers sanctuary to the homeless, though they are SUPPOSED to be gone by sunrise.

I understand I should show more compassion in my complaints. I have even had family members homeless. I get it. Everyone needs help at times. Okay, Fine.

But, really. Gang bangers, and homeless? A couple of years ago one of our former students was convicted of beating one of the unfortunate homeless citizens to death.

But the budget crisis being what it is, this is our new home.

Never mind the building still does not have phone service. Let's hope we don't have any crisis on the first days of school. I am charging up my cell phone for sure. With no phone service, we also do not have any internet service. Many folks have been moving heaven and earth TRYING to get our little program up and running for the first day of school. We finally got our server in on Friday at noon. The communication process between service providers is abysmal to say the least.

No, I started school two weeks ago. I got an email telling of the move date. I hot footed it down to the old site to see what was what. We had a summer school program in our building until August first. I did box lots of my stuff up and place it in one of the storage rooms, but I still had lots to go. The grandkids, Phyllie and I boxed all the remaining books (which were considerable) and I pulled the stored boxes out of the closets. I tagged all my things to be moved. I thought I was done.

Until day one.

I felt sorry for the poor custodians. They were tasked with moving our entire school site from the old building to the new one. Did I tell you the new site is on the third floor, and NO elevator?????

Yep, the 50 somethings had to haul all the books, desks, computers, book cases, xerox machines, file cabinets and desks from the old single story school, circa 1990's, up to our new third floor abode, circa 1920's.

I thought the poor guys would have heart attacks. It was 90+ degrees the three days they were moving. I talked to one of them a bit later. Said he lost six pounds in that one week, and he was the fittest of them all.

So, I really can't complain. Except I want to complain. Being the English teacher as well as the librarian, I had tons of materials to organize. I chose to work 'off contract time.' I was the only teacher to do so. Well, one new teacher came in, found no books, and decided to go out the door he came in through. But not before creating a very nasty impression on me as well as our school secretary.

Yes, tomorrow is the first day of school officially. The students arrive, but we don't really know how many, nor what their schedules might be. But we will be there, holding school. I even bought a new first day of school outfit.

Thankfully, I DID decide to go in several days early in order to get my room together. We were told in our teacher's meeting on Friday, "The big brass will be here to visit. We are under a microscope this year."

We were given another news flash at the same meeting, "We don't have a school custodian this year. There will be a cleaning woman come in at 5:30, but if there are any unfortunate accidents, we shall have to clean them up." Lovely. With our high risk crowd, it is not a question of if it is only a question of WHEN.

Recently I kept that fact in mind when I was buying my groceries for the week, I picked up a pair of rubber gloves. With my luck, Johnny will most definitely puke in my classroom first.

I don't know about the rest of my colleagues, but I am as ready as I can be. My room looks good. I have the first few lessons prepared. I just hope we don't have any emergencies, but if we do, school police will be let in the building by means of the fire escape which is located right outside my classroom door. Bonus.

I just have to remember to bring my CHARGED cell phone. My rubber glamour gloves are in the side drawer of my desk, along with the band-aids.

I am prepared.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pride 2010

Today's theme?  Life's celebrations.

My rescue poodle, Lula Mae finally got her heart's desire. The turned out showgurl from Las Vegas, Nevada, made the big time Reno evening news as a proud Gay Pride supporter. Here's how it played out:

I was inspired to have both my human grandchildren, and my four legged doggie children  march in our local Pride parade. I have NEVER marched in a parade in my 50 plus years on this planet. Somehow, this was important to me.

Lula Mae was my muse.

I started on this journey by getting both poodles groomed last weekend.  My groomer, Kristie, told me last year she would be happy to help me do something with Lula's hair for the event. I was hoping she would be as excited this year. The whole shop went into a buzz when I told them what I wanted.

"Let's get the poods in for a grooming. BTW, I want Lula to have RENO on her side. We are going to be in the Reno Pride Parade."

After a bit of dialogue, it was settled. Positive and negative space defined, the head groomer would leave the current hair growth on Lula for the letters of RENO on her right side, while taking down the rest of her fur very short. It took a bit of time for the groomer to decide how best to execute her design, but at the end of the day Lula came home with the letters beautifully matching the Reno arch lettering from the famous downtown sign.

Perfect.

I looked at the haircut all week, but it was only today I started to experiment with the colors. I did some test runs with application of the colored hair spray last night. Lula's tail was cotton candy pink. After a bit of mental tweeking, I decided on the proper way to apply the color to the letters on her side.

Yes, it IS spray paint, not a permanent dye. After being a hairdresser for many, many years, I asked myself this question, What's the difference in performing crazy hair on a dog????

NOTHING....but there were a few emails from concerned friends cautioning me about the hazards of dying doggie hair.

Not to worry my PETA friends. Lula Mae was never subjected to more than five minutes of 'dye' time consisting of noisy bursts from a can of spray paint. I made a template of about a one inch rectangular cut out. I overlaid the template on the RENO letters, which were taped with a low tack blue paint tape. There were three applications in all. The first was purple, second a light green, and thirdly, a pink. Lula Mae received her favorite 'Charlie Bear' liver treats as a reward after each phase. Even the painting of her red toenails never took more than a few moments of time. Lou, despite all reports to the contrary by former owners, was a very willing and cooperative participant.

Apparently, Tito found her irresistible as well. Between spray painting, and toe nail painting episodes, Lula and Tito would run around the backyard like they were participants in the Kentucky Derby.

Never let anyone tell you poodles are 'prissy' dogs. They are consummate athletes. Lula Mae and Tito are both poetry in motion when they are romping though the obstacles in our backyard. Lula Mae is often acting in a temptress mode as she carries some much desired object of Tito's in her mouth, attempting to keep it away from him. Tito will, without any doubt at some time during the running escapade, grab the object of desire and make off with it while outrunning Lula Mae with his easy, long legged elegance. Tito is several inches taller than Lula, but Lu can pour it on with her meaty, muscular frame which gives Tito a run for his stilt like legs.

This morning after the color had dried, and Lula was brushed suitably, it was time to load up.

Bark, bark, bark,rampant running, woofing, and general chaos ensued as I raised the garage door. Before I could get out the slowly rising door, all three dogs were out like a shot. I feebly started shouting from the depths of the garage,  Get into the car!!!! I wondered what in the heck was going on out there.

Generally, there is absolutely no one around outside of my home. Today, as luck would have it, was an exception.

Turns out, my neighbor's eldest son is getting married. She has out of town guests, including an ex brother-in-law whom I am immediately introduced to because he is the one who captured the Yorkie. The Mominator, as she is affectionately known in the household, was trying to eat the neighbor's 60 pound shaved-like-a-lion dog who was minding his own business hanging out with the guys in the driveway. Good thing he is a mellow boy, or The Mominator would have been a nice treat for him, all seven pounds of her. Niceties were exchanged, frothing at the mouth Yorkie returned, and I finally got all three of my four legged babies into the SUV.

With Lula Mae riding shotgun, Tito riding comfortably in the far back, and The Mominator perched atop the grandkids booster seat so she can see out the window, my four legged crew and I head off for the Reno Gay Pride 2010 parade.

Reno may be a moderately sized city, but a very small town when it comes to it's splinter activities. Take for instance Gay Pride. Remember Reno is part of the wild, wild west. We may have gambling, prostitution, and wide open spaces, but celebrating diversity? Only the strong, bold, and defiant participate.

I can't quite figure out which of the three adjectives I am, but most people would probably but their money on defiant.

I get to my destination with a few moments to spare, so I left the dogs in the car which I parked under a lovely shade tree, only a few feet away from the check in station.

Before I continue with the actual Pride day festivities, I would like to tell you about Lula, and hang on, her story is a complicated one.

Our home is her third. I cannot fathom how she could have been thrown out of two households because I know her to be such an awesome, faithful buddy. After a turbulent first year and one half of her life, Lula Mae has found her forever home.

But, let me back up a little bit.

Phyllie, my partner, lost her faithful dog, Buddy, to cancer. She was so sad and lonely, we had to get another dog. After some negotiations, we finally decided on poodles. I am allergic to dogs, and that was the only way I could have another dog in the household again. It took us about a month to find our beautiful four month old black standard poodle boy, Tito. He was such a lovely, bouncing, boy puppy.  But I, Crazy Grandma, feared he was doomed to be lonely. So, with bleeding heart in hand, I started looking for him a mate.

It only took two weeks before Phyllie, always my accomplice in crime, announced "There is an ad in today's paper. 'Standard poodle needs a home. Ten month old female.'" I was ON it. I somehow knew the dog in the ad was THE dog to complete our family structure.

I immediately called the number listed in the paper. The woman who answered my call said the advertised dog, then named Missy Mae, was currently in Reno on an overnight stay. The current owner presumed the dog would be adopted by the person who was currently auditioning her.

I asked a few questions as to the temperament of the dog, and the ONLY thing that stuck out was, "She has a problem with men."

"Then a lesbian home is the perfect home for her, isn't it?" came my quick reply.

Undaunted, I KNEW the dog was slated to be OUR dog, I left a number for this second owner to call me if things did not go as expected on the overnight visit.

A half an hour later, I received a phone call from the white poodle's current owner."The lady did not want to pay for this dog. She will be meeting me at a parking lot in Reno. If you meet us there, you can see her.  I will be in Reno for the day doing errands, and you can take her home to meet your other dog," owner number two sounded very brisk and businesslike.

"I must be able to see if she can get along with our boy." I believed Tito deserved to choose his own lady friend.

After some discussion about the dog all was agreed. I would meet the second owner in the parking lot of a popular shopping mall.

I arrived a few minutes early. I was worried that I would not recognize the vehicles in question. The whole meeting was a bit slip-shod. The setup was something like a cloak and dagger mystery.

I needn't have worried. Mistress Lula Mae showed up with her head poking out of the sunroof of an aging Mercedez. My pretty white gurly had a huge smile on her face as she scoured her moving environment. I paid no attention to the woman driving the car. If she wasn't willing to fork over a few dollars for such a magnificent creature, she most certainly did not deserve to be her master.

The first time I laid eyes on the Mistress Lula, I fell in love. She had an essence. She was smiling with her tongue lolling several inches to one side. Eyes twinkling. Her white fur obeying the laws of physics as the car sped into the parking lot. Immediately, I knew Lula was eager for new experiences. My heart melted.

The pseudo new owner, the lady driving that Mercedes, pulled up two spaces from me in the parking lot. I observed the dog as she surveyed her new surroundings. Lula stood on the arm rest of the driver's side of the vehicle. Her head poked out the sunroof of the car. It was as if she were periscoping her future from the depths of the Mercedes.

I wanted to bolt from my car, instantly claiming Lula Mae for my own. But I knew the lady driving the Mercedes did not know about the secret arrangement made earlier that morning between the second owner and myself.

I waited for the dog's current owner to appear. It did not take more than five minutes, but it felt like an eternity. I ached to get out of my car, and simply go over the the Mercedes, open the door, and invite the magnificent white, four legged lady to step into her future. Coming from a Mercedes Benz to a lowly Hyundai Santa Fe seemed a step down. But, if a Mercedes owner wasn't willing to compensate the current owner of the dog, WTF? Something was definitely amiss there.

I did not have to tolerate my agony for very long. The second owner of the magnificient white poodle appeared. It was clear to me the tail wagging doggy recognized the newly arrived vehicle. When the matronly woman got out of her large SUV, and  immediately headed to the parked Mercedes in the next stall, Lula got very excited. The woman quickly liberated the poodle who, in turn, immediately started circling the large, child filled SUV. The children rolled down their electric windows and addressed the frantically circling poodle.

"Hey Missy, How are you?" the children called from each window to the energetically circling poodle.

The second owner did not look at Lula. She immediately walked over to my car and said, "Please take her. I don't want to see her, nor do I want the dog to see my children. This is hard enough. Please just take her. I will call you later today to see if she gets along with your other dog, Okay?"

Absolutely fine with me. I took Lula's leash and introduced myself to her saying, "I am your new owner. Let's go home, beautiful girl." I grabbed her head, speaking directly to her beautiful, soft brown eyes.

Lula looked a bit sheepish, but she obeyed. She jumped into the back of my SUV with an elegant grace. Off we went. My first stop was to visit my partner at her work.

Neither Phyllie nor I were poodle girls, that is until I developed allergies to dogs. Turns out poodles do not make me sneeze or break out in hives when they lick me. I had a hard time getting Phyllie to accept this breed of dog as a companion, but once we found Tito, we were sold on the breed.

I still had to talk Phyllie into ANOTHER poodle.

Lula Mae and I snuck into the tennis club. Lula walked so beautifully on her leash. She knew exactly how to stride WITH me. I am not a strong girl, and I have NEVER had a dog as big as Lula Mae. I was a bit intimidated, but determined to get a playmate for our sweet, sweet boy.

When I brought her home, Tito literally jumped straight up in the air and started acting like a goofy teenaged boy around Lula. She wasn't too fond of Tito at first. He was several inches shorter than her, but she tolerated him well enough. I knew HE liked Lula, but would Phyllie?

Turns out when Phyllie saw Tito do a back flip, and then start running circles around Lula begging her to play with him, Phyllie just had to say yes.

That was a year and one half ago. Now Tito is several inches taller than Lula Mae. They are fast buddies. Lula has had her ups and downs, mostly involving the eating of socks, but she most definitely has found her forever home.

Back to our Pride Day story:

Today, we walked in the first ever 'Green' Reno Pride Parade. They said it would be a
'Green' parade, meaning no motorized vehicles. There were bicycles, wagons and even a horse, but nothing sputtering fumes.

The grandkids and I wore tie dyed shirts, Lu strutted her rainbow Reno, Tito wore his tie dyed handkerchief around his neck, and Brenden walked little bitty Mominator.

Everyone did just fine. Although there was some concern on my part. Ever try to wrangle two huge, excited poodles, a couple of grandkids, and a full of herself old lady Yorkie?

Well, I did.

Phyllie arrived just in time to get some pics of us as we navigated the parade route.



Lula had lots of pictures taken of her, the grandkids kinda enjoyed walking the parade route, and The Mominator behaved herself.

Later that evening, as we sat watching the nightly news, there she was. Mistress Lula Mae looked directly into the camera, smiled her best smile, and wiggled on by looking for all the world like the happiest poodle in history.

You made it Lu.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Comfort Food

The food debauchery must end. All this week I have indulged myself by cooking, and more importantly consuming, some of my favorite childhood foods. We're talking good ole southern comfort food folks.

I feel myself freaking out because the summer vacation is almost over. My return to the world of work comes in a precious few weeks. I am in an official panic. I was doing fine until I had a meeting last week with my new administrator. It's official, change is on the horizon, and there is NOTHING I can do to stop the train. It is full speed ahead from here on out. Tomorrow, I have to go into the old school site and finish the packing of books. I had hoped I did not have to complete this chore because I had wanted a new teaching position this year.

I searched diligently over the summer, but there were no jobs out there. Well, there were a few, but I am not jumping ship until I get a position that will be better for me in the long run. I prize my time on this earth, and certainly don't want to spend any precious moment of it doing something that makes me miserable.

I have been very fortunate to have found teaching. I am a late bloomer. Didn't even start college until I was 35. I woke up one morning, declared I wanted to become a teacher, and off to college I went. I spent seven years of my life, finally ending that career with a Masters degree in Teaching. I can honestly say I have loved my jobs teaching high school students, all the way up until now.

For some reason I feel like the whole world has changed over the summer. I don't know when this idea blossomed, but I most definitely feel it. My summer has been like most all others in the past 21 years. Yes, I have been on the nine-months-on-and-three-months-off schedule for that long. Hard for me to imagine, but true nonetheless.

My son was 7, my daughter 14 when I began my quest. Now they are all grown up. My son is on a cruise with his lovely wife as we speak. My daughter home with her two little ones on this fine Sunday.

I am home cooking for the unknown number of days in a row this week. I think I came home from my meeting, and immediately started cooking like a maniac. I haven't stopped since.

Apparently, this is how I have learned to deal with stress.

A few weeks ago, when my father called with the news "Your mother has shingles. I could use some help," I jumped in the car and headed over to see them. A trip of about four hours, I got down to about three.

As the eldest child, I have taken on lots of duties of being an adult number one. There are siblings to keep track of, four to be exact. Three brothers, and one sister. When mother became ill, I was the touchstone for all but one of them. The calls came in fast and furious. "What should we do? Should we come over too? What's going ON?????"

On my three hour drive, lots got sorted.  We sibs had a game plan. I would go over, check out the lay of the land, then report back as to what would need to happen next.

When I arrived, I saw my mother in a condition I had never seen before. She was so weak, it made my heart bleed. After I reconned the situation on her condition, what was my first response?

Get in and get cookin!!!!!

For days I cooked. Well, mostly cooked.  Between trips to the store for provisions, my morning cuppa, and  making sure my mother had taken her prescriptions correctly, I got busy. My mother has been a homemaker her entire life. The household froze when she became ill. My father has had numerous illnesses and surgeries throughout their 57 years together, but mother? Never down for more than a few hours with a cold, or something mundane such as that.

The best thing I could contribute, besides keeping a watchful eye on the recuperative process, was get food laid up in the freezer because when I went home, dad would be on his own. He has trouble boiling water. He is a fantastic breadwinner, but cook, ahh not so much.

I started my cooking with zeal. But before I could actually cook, I had to clean out the freezer. I love my mother dearly, but I could not FIND anything in that refrigerator. This is nothing new. I have, for years, visited my parents only to find myself cleaning out, and organizing the refrigerator. My mother has her own filing system, and it suits her just fine, but for this kitchen take-over I needed to be able to reach in and find whatever ingredient I was looking for. The perpetual hunt for the, say mustard for the potato salad, could take precious time when I was in a symphonic frenzy. No, this would not do. I went to work.

I informed my mother there would be a kitchen take-over, and at the end of my stay I would give her back the keys to the kitchen, but in the meantime, don't worry about any noises you hear coming out of said kitchen. None of the other siblings would DARE even attempt a  coup such as this.

My father was sweating bullets over the whole issue. My brother warned, "not to get Mom upset."  Okay, but they fail to understand our relationship. My mother and I are only 18 years apart. We have always been more like sisters than mother and daughter. Once I explained my plan to my mom, she was absolutely fine to let me have control of HER kitchen. It's kinda like how a woman can call another woman a bitch, with no repercussions, but let a man try it, and he gets his balls in his hands muy pronto.

The men never understood how the kitchen take-over would actually allow my mother her solace. They kept fretting each would be on the receiving end of mother's temper should she not be a happy camper in the future.

No worries, I have it covered. Mom handed over the keys very willingly. All she wanted to do was sleep. All she NEEDED to do was sleep.

I was there for an entire week. I alphabetized spice cupboards, cleansed freezers, ordered refrigerators, and lovingly cooked my mother her favorite foods. All the while creating a circle of warmth and comfort around her in order to speed her recuperation. Each day, I would ask her what she felt like eating then I would quickly make it for her. It was very satisfying as I watched her slowly consume her favorite foods cooked especially in her honor. After the meal, I would gently lead her back to her nest, and administer the latest round of pharmaceuticals.

There were moments of sitting with my mother where she needed to express what was going on with her. She did not know, any more than the rest of us did, how to deal with her illness. When she was wakeful, I just sat with her. Sometimes dad would enter the otherwise quiet bedroom, and we both would be crying. This was of great concern to him because he knew mother getting upset would be bad for her condition. He did not know the healing effect of a woman's release of tears.

Mother became very sentimental. She told me of rememberances she had of me as a 'little white headed girl' who was now cooking for her. Caring for her.

"I will always be her for you, mother. I promise."

I knew she would be unhappy with me cooking so much because in her latter years she has pretty much given up the whole cook-your-heart-out scenario. Can't blame her after 50 plus years. A buffet would look pretty good to me too.

But it would never do for me. No, she needed home cooked food, not eating someonelse's energy. No siree bobby. Not MY mommy.

I cooked her talapia with rice (mother loves things that swim in the water). I made her homemade guacamole, chili (yes, she LOVES spicy), fruits and veggies. I made my dad his favorite, biscuits and gravy. I made a pot roast replete with veggies. I had my brother light up the barbecue in 100 degree plus heat. BTW he loved the sweet Italian sausages cooked on the grill. Just plain yummy. The tri-tip sandwiches were a great hit (dad's a real red meat eater). The peach cobbler turned out lovely, a favorite of the 4 a.m. breakfast duo. I even got my thirteen year old niece into the action. She got lots of chopping, "I LOVE chopping," and she learned how to make a chocolate bundt cake complete with chocolate frosting.

All was well in the culinary world. I froze the left overs from each day, carefully labeling each package, and then placing them on a specific shelf in the freezer. All ready to just pop in the micro when the need arose.

Mom told me a little later, "There hadn't been that much activity in the kitchen for a long time. I worry though, you spent too much time in there."

"Never" was my reply.

My filing system came in handy when I was telling mother, over the phone, where to find a particular meal to warm up for dad's lunch one day. "Isn't having a filing system handy?"

"My filing system works just fine, thank you very much!" I feared the phone call was almost over.

"Wait, WAIT, I told you the kitchen is yours, and I fully expect for you to go back to your old habits of opening the door and slinging something in. No worries. I was just glad I could tell you where to find something over the phone, that's all." Whew, I dodged a bullet there. Bro and Dad were right, she is a bit prickly these days. Point taken.

And so, I cook.

It wasn't always like this. When my children had flown the nest, I went on strike. For years.

It has only been in the last couple of years that I have gotten my mojo back. I think the FoodNetwork has had something to do with it. I was initially drawn to Paula Deen because, well, she is Southern.....did I tell you I did not know steak came any other way besides chicken fried until I was 17? True story.

On date with a man who became hubby number one, "Want a fillet mignon?"

"What's that?" she says eyes wide open.

"A steak, duh." His eyes roll. We are at a premiere steakhouse.

"No thanks. I want something, hmmmm, not as greasy. I think I will take a salad."

I have come a long way baaby....

Yesterday, I wanted a lemon meringue pie. Phyllie took me to Marie Callendar's. They had a lemon meringue pie sign on the door, "$6.99" it advertised. "Did you know that?" she asked.

"No."

We bought the whole pie. I ate half of it.

Today, Sunday, I find myself cooking again.

We, my partner Phyllie and I, went grocery shopping today. I love company when I shop. She keeps me moving on because I tend to get lost in the, "what am I going to make this week?" thinking whilst roaming the aisles.

"Get away from the broccoli, we don't need any of that. I want some fudge. Where's the chocolate aisle?"

She is a great accomplice.

We were together for years before I revealed that I knew how to cook. Now, she mourns the start of the school year too. Phyllie loves having a 'wife' in the summer. I have spoiled her terribly.

This week I made her the super duper fried chicken my grannie taught me to make, mashed potatoes, and of course cream gravy made with the drippins.....in other words, a heart attack on a plate. We have eaten it for three meals now. Came out fantastic. With each bite, I reminisced about the times I ate this dinner at my grandmother's house as a child. I could easily see her busy hands stirring and stirring, instructing me on how to do it 'just right'.


This year has been a rough one. Grannie died in January at the age of 92. Until last year, she could have been spotted climbing fences in order to get into the front door because she had somehow locked herself out of the house in the backyard.

Love you grannie.

And so, on another Sunday, I cook.

This past week I made a pot roast in the crock pot too. This time the recipe came from, hmmmmm I don't really know. I tend not to follow recipes, even on the first attempt. Somewhere in my brain I can 'taste' what it will be like, and I tend to make adjustments to the ingredients as I put the dish together. Every time I make something, it is a little bit different. The dish always maintains its core, but the axillary components tend to wander, or I prefer the term, vary.

I like little surprises.

This drives my daughter crazy. She wants exact measurements, and exact 'how to's.' I admit being a frustration to her. Air mommy, Fire daughter. Despite my inexactness, she has managed to become a great cook in spite of my lackadaisical approach to the art.

I tried to get her in the kitchen to teach her how to cook when she was growing up. She had other things to do with her time.

That is until she moved clear across the country from mama, and called one Thanksgiving morn desperately wanting me to teach her how to make gravy.

Try that one on.

And so another digression.

It is Sunday, and I cook.

Today's fare? Pinto beans with ham hocks. I will also fry some potatoes, and chop an onion into the mixture. Peasant food. Delicious.

Phyllie, to be sure, does not share my taste for the legumes, but on occasion, like today, she does not complain when the aroma of beans fills the household.

It is this aroma that transports me. Back to the years of my childhood, and just as suddenly, then a flash forward.

Here I am again. Another Sunday. Cooking.

Wait, Phyllie has just awakened from a deep sleep of a nap. The poodles as well as the yorkie, accompany all trips to napland.

They are all awake. Silence is broken. The feeding frenzy must begin.

Poodles this concoction.

Yorkie that.

Phyllie brings out the pot roast. Warms nicely in the micro.

An afternoon monsoon has begun. The air is filled with anticipation.

And I blog.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Virginia

As was her custom, on lazy summer morns,
Virginia left her small cottage, and ambled down the now familiar path.

She opened the door of the small, rickety shed only a few feet from the main house.

I musn't forget my tools, Virginia scolded herself.

She grabbed for her basket, lodged in the small, dark, weather beaten shed at the foot of the overgrown path.

A pair of worn, dirt encrusted gloves, and her mother's shears were neatly tucked inside the basket.

Just as Virginia had left them the day before,
and every day she had taken her walk.

Virginia was a creature of habit, taking solace in her quiet strolls among the unmanicured grounds of the old estate.


With basket in hand, she followed the trodden grass path from the open clearing as it stretched out in front of her.
With each step, she moved ever more deeply into her sanctuary.
As the path wound through the patchy, wooded area, dappled sunlight streamed through the branches of the maple trees.

Trillium were abundant. Their tiny white heads peeped through the verdant carpet saying Look at Me.

Virginia reveled in the quiet sounds of a light breeze as it whispered through the trees.
The scampering of a ground squirrel made her giggle as it danced in the underbrush.
Virginia's heart was soothed by the cooing of the mourning dove.

Yes, this was peace to her. Necessary unction for a restless mind.

Townspeople claimed it was odd, living as she did,
a young woman alone in the tiny rock cottage her father had built.

Small children were taken by her sweet smile.
Young men lost track of their thoughts when she sauntered by.
Women her own age couldn't help but feel pity for her, alone as she was in the world.

Yet all were mystified when Virginia protested she would never yolk herself to another.
Never bear children.
Never follow the path of womanhood.

Sure, Virginia had been carefully taught how to cook, sew, and tend a house.
She had even had occasion to care for her younger siblings.

That was all before.
Before her father had taken ill.
Then her mother.
Finally, the younger children fell too, in quick succession.

Within a month, Virginia had found herself the sole survivor.
There were no aunts, uncles, grandmothers nor grandfathers to carry her out of her grief.

Only the comfort of nature could reassure her that life was a worthy pursuit.
Every breath a miracle itself.
Every sunrise an occasion for celebration.

It came to be, every day she walked.
Ambled really.
Her senses opened more, and more the further she traveled from the confinement of the cottage.
The deeper into the thicket she went, the more alive she felt.

Virginia spent hours wandering through the now familiar woods surrounding the place where she was born. She would gather fancies to bring back to the residence.

Her mother's shears would cut delicate wildflowers, or snip other foliage Virginia chose to bring into her barren abode.
Her grandmother's basket would be the vehicle to bring all the day's treasure home.

Yes, Virginia's daily wanderings allowed her mind, as well as her body, to ramble.

Today, as she meandered home from an especially heavily wooded path, Virginia was startled to come upon the missing watering can.

Missing since the season before their deaths.

Virginia had a sudden flash of recall.
Her mother, upon returning from her own short walk, complained she has misplaced the watering can somewhere unfathomable.

"I am afraid, my dear Virginia, we shall not be able to water the peonies," was her mother's lament.

Instinctively, when Virginia came upon the weathered vessel, with its patina almost matching the vines that clung to it, Virginia thrust her hand out, grabbing a hold of the weary handle.

Vines had grown in and through the handle, making her attempts at freeing the vessel impossible.
Virginia stopped her vain attempt to loose the imprisoned can.
She stumbled two steps backward, almost fell really, then righted herself as she gently put down her basket of delicacies.

Her body stood stock still, eyes locked onto the image of the vine encrusted watering can.
Her chest, slowly at first then faster as the seconds ticked by, heaved ever more deeply with each breath.
Finally, the constriction eased, her focus widened.

Breathe, Breathe. Virginia coached herself as she attempted to soothe her rampaging thoughts.

It is only mother's lost can. 
Now I have found it. 
Now I have found it.

I shall let it be.
I shall let it be.


This piece was inspired by the photo provided by Magpie Tales at

http://www.magpietales.blogspot.com/
Thanks Magpie!!!!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Untitled

She never knew when he left whether he would return. Windblown, gale ridden, or hale.

The Captain.

She locked away her heart.
Went dancing in her garden.
Merried her way through the days.

If he were to return, she told herself,
her heart would be a just a little more rusted.

Just like the Lock.
                  Just like the Lock.




The dancing ceased.
The garden withered.
Her heart began to freeze in her chest.

The letter, of course, told of her worst fears.
Yes, it said, your Captain has perished.


This was written as a response to a prompt from Magpie Tales http://www.magpietales.blogspot.com/
Thanks for the fun.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Circus

I don't know why, but I had to pee every two hours last night. I know it was every two hours because I looked at the clock beside the bed, like I really needed to know what time it is when I am awakened from a presumably sound sleep to get my ass out of bed and go pee-pee.

I went to bed at 11, and the first pit stop was 1:15 a.m. Fine, I roll out of bed and tip toe into the potty. I hear soft snoring so I know Phyllie is getting her zzzz's. The poods were snug in their beds, and little bitty Mominator, the 13 year old Yorkie, is snoring her head off and it echoes throughout the bedroom. In other words, it is a typical night.

I try like the dickens to get my business done without making too much noise because then the Mominator will want a potty run too. I quietly congratulate myself because I am successful in not awakening other slumbering members of the household.

At 3:15, it's time for round two. This time I get out, pee-pee, and decide to check why the pillows are piled so high up on Phyllie's side of the bed. I climb, and I do mean climb, into bed and pull the top pillow up in the air.

"Huh? What's goin' ON, Eeek, Eeek....What's goin' on?" I am afraid Phyllie is about to haul off and sock me one.

"Ack, Ack," now I am nervous, "Nothin' I was just wondering if you were okay in there. I was just checking on you, that's all." I almost fall out of bed because I think I am about to be punched in the face. I begin giggling uncontrollably.

Phyllie doesn't find my unearthing action amusing in the least.

"Go to sleep. Be quiet," she commands.

I try valiantly, but it takes a few minutes of no sound giggling spasms to get me calmed down enough in order to fall back to sleep. I hear rustling in the poodle den, but thankfully nothing comes of it.

At 5:17 I am awakened by The Mominator. Now it is time for her walnut sized bladder to be emptied. I stumbled out of bed, pull back the small wire fence that curtails the dog roaming in the night, pull Mommy out of her cage, then the three dogs, as well as myself, shuffle off to the patio door.

The poodles stretch and yawn as we lazily head for the back door. Mommy gets a free ride because we are all sleepy and I don't want her itty bitty seven pound self stepped on by the big poodles. Or me for that matter. Once I get the pole out of the hole, high tech security there, the door is slid open. Out go the three of them. Many times Mommy is running for dear life, and the poods will sit and contemplate the morning glow of the backyard before wandering out to find a place to potty.

I commiserate with Mommy. Us seniors don't have the strong bladders as the youngsters do. I swear the poodles could go for days without having to go potty. I always make all the dogs go on a potty run before bedtime in hopes of getting a full night's sleep. The poods frequently refuse to potty before bedtime. Tito is the worst. He will lay on his side, with one eyeball open, looking up at me. It always reminds me of a fish on a plate. Anyway, I do my very best to make the potty run sound exciting, I even offer great cookies for a successful potty. Tito continues to lay there looking at me like I have lost my mind. It's true, but that is beside the point. I don't remember a time when I passed up a potty break, especially if someone offered me a treat to do it....

In any event, the early morning four legged potty run complete, I stumbled back into the nest. Phyl is still snoring lazily. I was so tired I  left the patio door slightly ajar. I heard the Mominator come romping in like she was taking a victory lap, then settle in to a place next to the bed. The poods also came in and immediately head back to their beds.

Apparently, I fell asleep because the next thing I remember was being startled awake by some weird thumping noise. I heard it again before deciding to get my half naked self out of bed AGAIN to investigate. Time? Six something.

I walk into the living room and there it was in the transom window, a bird. This is not the first time a bird has come into our house. I have a horrible habit of leaving the patio door open because I love the fresh air. The poodles have destroyed the screen door, so the house is open to the world. Usually Lula Mae sits with her nose half out the door, guarding the house from intruders, but today she fell down on her duties. Robin Redbreast came a callin' this mornin'.

I blame the misadventures on Fred Ficus. We have this huge, up to the eight foot ceiling and lean over several more feet, ficus tree in our living room. Our house also has those window transoms above normal sized windows. It is excellent for letting light in the house, but the upper transom windows aren't covered in any way. Fred Ficus's lush leaves becon to birds out on the patio. This is especially worrisome during the winter months when Fred's promise of shelter green leaves call to the poor little wind tossed birdies. I hate to hear the sickening thump they make as they fly straight into the window. Thankfully, we have had no casualties to date, only stunned "What the heck happened to me?" bumbling birdies out on the patio.

And several successful fly-in's because, of course, I have left the patio door open.

Today was bird number four or five. I've lost count.

"Phyl, get your ass out of bed, we have a bird in the house!!!!" I break into action. Immediately, I head to the kids play room and confiscate the butterfly net. I think we have caught more birds in this house than we ever have butterflies with the grandkids net. Smart purchase, Grannie.

"What? What are you goin' on about?" Phyl staggers out from the bedroom, eyes half open, curly hair matted into a kinda hampster-like do, and the two poodles are dancing bright eyed behind her. Lula breaks into kill-the-bird mode. I grab her collar just as Phyl starts screaming to get the poodles out of the house. The path, of course, requires everyone to pass directly under the distressed bird banging its head against the window trying like hell to get outside again.

We finally get the poodles outside, Mommy in the bedroom, and the patio door closed. It is kinda like a Laurel and Hardy show. It's barely light outside, and here we are springing into get-the-bird-out-of-the- house-before-it-shits-all-over-the-furniture mode.

The Mominator starts her weird bark/squak because she wants a piece of the bird too.

Immediately on the outside of the patio door, Tito starts his bouncing. He has a smile on his face, but we are in no mood. Tito can easily jump to the top of the patio door. That dog is spring loaded. Lula Mae is growling like Cujo.

Inside the living room, Phyl grabs a chair and I jab the net into her hand. We start trying to calm down the bird as it flops all around the window sill, in and out of the net. Finally, we get the Robin wholly inside the net, and carefully enclosed with a towel. Phyl hands off the net to me in order to get the bird outside. First, we have to let the poodles in the house. Lula wants to eat the bird for breakfast, but I am victorious in slipping past them as they charge into the house.

I get the panicked bird outside on the grass. After a few stunned seconds, the Robin gets its bearings. Off it flies. Presumably, no harm done.

I come into the house to inspect for bird shit. None found.

I try to go back to bed, but on my way climbing in, I step in something weirdly cold and squishy.

Mommy shit. Mommy diarrhea shit. On the carpet. Nice.

Ewwww......I swing into action. Trot down the hall, grab the carpet cleaner, grab a roll of toilet paper and start cleaning up. I used about a half roll of toilet paper. I flushed it down in two or three flushes, but apparently that wasn't enough.

The toilet is now clogged.

Trot, trot, trot down the hall. "Garage door open" sounds the alarm. Trot, trot, trot back into the bathroom, squish/slurp/squish/slurp ka pow. Finally, the toilet flushes cleanly.

Phyl climbed back into bed seconds after capturing the bird.

She starts laughing hysterically, "What in the heck are you doin? All I hear is trot, trot, trot, squish/slurp/squish/slurp. What's goin' on?"

I am none too jolly in my reply which makes her laugh even more hysterically.

"Get your ass out of bed. I am hungry. Take me to breakfast!!!" I command.

"Are you buying me a Starbucks first?" she queries.

"No, YOU are buying coffee AND breakfast this Sunday morning. Get UP!"

By now we are both laughing so hard I threaten to pee on the carpet myself.

Inside of fifteen minutes we are dressed, in the car, and headed to our favorite coffee shop. Right next door is our favorite breakfast place, Peg's Glorified Eggs.

"I want my coffee first," I am insistant.

"I am going to get us a seat. You get the coffees." Phyl is bargaining now.

"Okay, but I know what you are doing. You don't want to bring in a Starbucks into Peg's. You think you are sly, but I am on to you."

Phyllie just smiles. I know her pretty well by now. She has her quirks, and taking food from one place and eating it in another is one of them. I, on the other hand, believe that Peg's should be happy we are eating there, Starbucks in hand. The two businesses go together like peanut butter and jelly. No problem.

Phyl gets our table at the cafe, while I get our coffees. When I arrive, with the lattes in hand, I hear the manager going on about someone, presumably the cook, smelling like tequila.

"Hey, I smell tequila. Had a rough night last night? Is that why you were late? Is that why you told Rodrigo to call you in late to say he was bringing you to work? You are lucky there aren't 100 people in here (there were 6, and we ALL heard the berating). I should send you home." The manager went on and on rapid-fire like a tommy gun. I never heard a reply from the cook.

All Phyl and I wanted was our favorite breakfast. It was 7:30 a.m. and we had already had too much fun and games. Really, how hard can it be? We just want breakfast. I don't want to listen to tequila talk before I have my breakfast.

Eggs Benny, please.

We finally placed our order, and the entire time while we waited for our food to arrive we were riveted to the action in the kitchen. The style of the kitchen was open air, allowing the customer to see, and hear, everything that was going on.  This manager kept going on and on about his cook smelling like tequila on a Sunday morning.

Frankly, I wanted a margarita by the time my Eggs Benny arrived. Sounded like a good idea to me.

We finally finished our meal. The coffee shop was filling up with people, I worried about the cook. As Phyl paid the check I asked, "Did you get the tequila adventure all sorted out?" Hoping the manager would get my drift.

"He is going to hear about this all day long. I bet he NEVER does that again," the manager said with a gleam in his eye.

"I bet he has a bottle hidden under the grill," I snicker to Phyllie as we head out to the car.

After the morning we have had, tequila sounded like a great way to start the day. We settled for mowing the back lawn when we got home.

I am sure the neighbors enjoyed the 8:30 a.m. Sunday morning wake up call.

Welcome to our world.