Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Small Talk & Appetizers

This is the week when many bloggers do a recap of their year.  I don't remember much of mine.  It's a fascinating blur of going to work, cleaning, paying bills, and remembering to not throw my new favorite shirt in the dryer so it wouldn't shrink.  It was hair appointments for cut and color, a tooth that wreaked havoc for months, some blood work and a mammogram.

It was Montana in July.

The biggest blur was this month.  It was seven parties with a couple more on the books for New Years.  We each had our work parties to attend while the others were dear people whose homes we were honored to be invited to.  That is a lot of parties but at no time did it ever occur to either of us that we could decline any of these invites unless there was a conflict.  Maybe my mom's words echo in my mind.  "If you say no too often people stop inviting you."

And now that it is all winding down I am worn out.  I have eaten too much, drank more than I should have and spent too much on party clothes.  If left alone at a buffet table I could clean a hostess of her plate of olives and wipe out the Chex Mix, and yet those aren't even my downfall.

On Saturday we were at a party and Mark was doing a show and tell of a 3-D printer anthrax toxin protein.  Our hosts were the parents of a high school girl who worked this summer in his lab and she was daily involved in this undertaking.  She beamed with pride seeing the outcome of her work while Mark was in his element explaining their science project. 

Somebody asked me if I ever know what my-husband-the-scientist is talking about.  I usually do not.  I told them about the dinner in Montana for an infectious disease conference he was attending.  Terms about Ebola and MERS were thrown around so casually they made my head spin.  At one point I wondered, "Is there anyone here like me?  Is there an introvert with a splash of social anxiety who wants to keep me company?"

Maybe not that time but as soon as I said that on this Saturday night I was met with some like-minded souls who answered with a resounding "me too."

Now the time has come to close out this year and ring in the new one.  Let's kiss and hug the ones we love and hope for the best year ever.  Then let's stay inside, pull up the covers and dive into our stack of books so that next December we can take our shy selves to our parties and say to the stranger next to us, "Have you read........."

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Should The Fates Allow

On the Sunday before Christmas I spent a little time shopping.  Mostly last minute things that I knew where to get instead of the frantic quests for the perfect gift that seemed to be surrounding me.  It is what I also did on Saturday until I ran out of steam and came home to the safety of our house, our tree and our calm.

Mark napped on Saturday afternoon - the perfect wintery, gray day that begs to be napped in after getting up early to meet the boys for a bike ride and breakfast.  I napped Sunday, and while there are gifts to be wrapped and a Christmas card that isn't even ordered (New Years perhaps?) I felt no guilt surrendering to my weariness.

Prior to that, though, I flipped through the channels and found The Family Stone was playing and there went any plans I had for getting anything done.  The movie stars Diane Keaton, Sara Jessica Parker, Craig T. Nelson and Dermot Mulroney among many others.  It came out nine years ago and Mark and I saw it in the theater.  It is the story of a raucous family coming home for Christmas and one of the siblings is gay.  He brings home his significant other.  That relationship is a very small part of the movie, but it was only a few months after we had found out our own son was gay and so it holds a special place in my heart.

I cried for the normalness of the portrayal of the Stone family and thought "that is us, that is this family."   I knew when that movie was over that in time we were going to be just fine and every single time I see it I cry. Last year, Will and I watched it together and he said, "I love this movie, Mom. You remind me a lot of Diane Keaton."

Oh geez, kiddo.

On Saturday night, Mark and I went with some friends to see Wild.  It is the book I have talked about most in the last two years since I read it.  Prodding, begging and cajoling anyone and everyone to read it. I don't think a single person has taken me up on my recommendation but it doesn't stop me. One of the security guards at work talks about books with me all the time.  "Wild," I say.  Read it and then we'll talk for hours."

So with just a few days left until Christmas my mind is a confused mess of happy and sad, of loving the people who are with me and missing the ones who aren't.  Of being thankful one minute and empty the next.  Of overdosing on food and drink and company but mostly wishing to catch a glimpse of the hawk perched on a light pole like I did on another wintry Sunday last year.

Christmas...you do me in.

I am well aware that there is a glut of blogs out there and some really, really good ones at that. Someone I met recently asked me how I make mine stand out.  I wish I knew what that secret is. Four years later I keep showing up and muddling through, for it has always been in words that I have sought and found redemption.

Thank you for muddling with me through the light and the dark.  Now let's go have ourselves a merry little Christmas.

xoxo





Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crafting Towards Christmas

This Christmas season has been off to a slow start for me.  With only a mere two weeks until Santa comes, I hadn't even begun to shop.  This would normally start a panic inside my anxious brain, but the elves had taken over both hemispheres and were banging so loud I couldn't hear the clock ticking.

Youmustcraftyoumustcraftyoumustcraft.

I needed to make some crafts.

Easy crafts and in blog wonderland I stumbled upon this printed cuteness here.

Chalkboard printables?  Yes, the elves said.  Make that.  Who should I make them for?  Every person you ever met the elves said, and so I started printing faux chalkboard merriness faster than a drug cartel launders money.  As each one spitted out of the printer I would think of someone else that needed this cuteness.  MOREMOREMORE the elves screamed as I watched my ink levels plummet.  Who cares?  It's Christmas.  Of course you're supposed to go over budget.  Then I sat all afternoon at the dining room table cutting them out and not thinking about presents and the elves and I were happy and content.

But what about the frames I asked the elves when the cutting was over.  THEDOLLARSTOREYOUIDIOT they answered and so me and The Big Daddy headed off for a plate of wings and a beer and then to buy a pallet of frames.

*****Side story to the story:  We're in The Dollar Store where I always buy reading glasses by the dozen. I am sitting on the floor with my file folder of printables trying to decide on gold/silver/gold silver combo/mat gold/mat silver.  Ask The Big Daddy the elves say up inside my head and so I say to him, "Which of these do you like better?"

And he says, "I don't know.  How much are they?"

"They're a dollar."

"A DOLLAR," he yells back.

"Yeah.  We're at the Dollar Store."

"I know, but how much are they?"

"They're a dollar cuz we're at the Dollar Store."

"You mean everything here is only a dollar? Like this candle is a dollar," he says holding it up.  "And this vase.  This is a dollar?  What about this mirror?  I bet this isn't a dollar."

"Yeah, Forrest Gump, it's all a dollar."

"Holy shit," he says.  "I have to look around some more."

I. kid. you. not.*****


I'm in my house on Saturday when my neighbor, Marianne, comes in.   Breathless and excited because the elves have been banging in her head, too.  "The tree trunks," she says.  "I know what to do with them.  You drill a hole in the trunk and shove a Christmas branch in it.  So cute," she says.

And the elves up in my head that have been dormant for all of thirty minutes wake up and start running around like somebody just pulled the fire alarm.

*****Side story to the story:  We're at the hardware store buying our tree off the lot and I am chatting it up with the woman in front of me.  "See these little pieces of trunk they cut off and throw in here.  They make cute little candle holders.  Kind of woodsy looking.  And these extra branches?  They throw those out.  Do you know how many places you can use these?"

Marianne and her husband drive by.  Her husband says, "Hey, isn't that Kathy Fisher?"  Marianne says, "No!  That looks nothing like her.  Why would you think that?"

Her husband says, "Not that one.  The one with her head in the garbage can."

And Marianne says, "Stop the car I have to see what she's getting."

We both starting rummaging through the discarded branches and trunk shavings and put some in the back of our cars. The kid working at the lot looks at us like we're the batshit crazy hoarders that are on TLC with our roaches and maggots and smelly stuffed animals with the feces on them.*****

Hush now, Teenage Mutant Hardware Boyman with your hair paste and six-pack.  We are not hoarders.  We are women of a certain age  You can't shame us.

We're brilliant.

The elves up in our heads have been telling us so for years.

Now cut some more branches off for us.






Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dropping Jesus

Mallie Bee has always been a tiny one.  When I put her in Mother's Day Out she was with the one year olds even though she had already turned two.  This had been overlooked by the staff for months until one day when all the little ones were in their cribs for nap time.  Each time one of them would fuss, Mal would stand up, put her finger to her lips and say "shhhhhhh" until they laid back down.  Her teacher loved her and her advanced vocab skills.  When they figured out that she was with the wrong age group her teacher asked me if it would be okay if she stayed there until the end of the year.

"She's my little helper at nap time.  We don't want her to leave."  And so it was that at two years old, Mal was the room mom for a group of napping babies every Thursday.

A few years later she would be in the pre-school Annual Nativity Play.  Each child got a part and there was lots of practice before the event that was on the last day of school before Christmas break.

"Mallory has been chosen to play the part of the Virgin Mary," her teacher said and I glowed.  Glowed.  Our Mal got the lead role? We didn't have lead role kind of kids.  We Fishers are more the supporting actor types.  Sheep, if you will.  I wondered if it had anything to do with me.  Surely they had noticed my stellar mothering skills over the years. I polished my halo and got ready for the big day.

In the kids paraded.  The donkeys and wise men, the angels and Joseph.  Mary.  My Mary with the blue pillowcase bobby-pinned to her head.  While the teacher read the story of the Nativity, my Mary held the precious baby Jesus in her arms with all the tenderness she'd seen a million times from her own blessed mother.

But after a long ride on a donkey and no room at the inn, my Mary got overwhelmed and rolled Jesus out of her arms and into the manger with a thudding face plant.  There was a gasp.  I tried to make eye contact with her.

Mallory pick up the Jesus.  Pick him up and hold onto him for just a few minutes and then you can have a cookie and a juice box.  Please. Just. Pick. Him. Up.

The donkey and angel and wise men parents looked at me smugly as if to say, "Well, well, well.  You don't see our kids with their small insignificant roles dropping Jesus on his face, now do you Mother of Mary?"

Mal was unconcerned.

She'd had enough of mothering for one day.  She was tired and needed a nap, and so she stuck her thumb in her mouth and sat and waited for the whole thing to be over.

Many a day she might have seen her own mother do that.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Half & Half

We shook things up a bit this year and went home for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas.  This had more to due with juggling conflicting schedules of a very large family and trying to get the most bang for our visiting buck.

We have not been home for Thanksgiving in more than twenty years.  It was divine.  Without the stress of gifts, holiday exhaustion or snow, it was far more relaxed and filled filled with gratitude.  I would be a fan of skipping the December drive and doing this every year, but it was a hard sell within some of the tribe so we shall see about next time.

When we do go home, Mal and I stay with my mom while everyone else heads a couple of miles over to my sister's. Though I talk to my mom many times over the course of a week, when I go home I get an overload of her and her of me.  It doesn't take long for us to get on each other's nerves.

Our politics are as far apart as they can be, and thankfully she doesn't subject me to Fox News while I'm there.  The t.v. or radio, however, are on all the time.  Her house is nursing-home-hot.  Our conversations rarely scratch more than the surface.  I eat my feelings from her very stocked fridge.

She weighs just over a hundred pounds.  She doesn't eat her feelings or talk about them.

Ever.

My sister and I once joked that if Mom ever said "I love you" our first thought would be that we must have terminal cancer and nobody told us.

Both of my sisters and one of my brothers live close to Mom and help her with anything she needs. I owe my siblings a lot for that. While I went off for a lifetime, they stuck close by and do all the things for her that I am not there for.  As a result I think their relationship is different.  Close in proximity makes for close in heart?  Maybe.  I'm the one who shows up once or twice a year and tries to pick up where I left off and it doesn't always work out so well.  And if I'm thinking Mom will confide in me about her loneliness since Dad died or her worries about getting older, that just isn't going to happen.  Nor would it with any of her other kids, but I often wonder if that's the kid I wish I was.  The one who secretly knows her troubles and drives off with them for safekeeping.

Instead I call her often and tell her about things around here and listen when she tells me about her pain-in-the-ass neighbor who calls her for everything.  She is irreverent and sassy, even at 87 years old, and I am always amused by her.  We trade our stories over the phone and I try to keep my spot warm even though I'm the one that left it empty more than thirty years ago.

*****

"The coffee's made, Kath.  If you get up before me just plug it in."

"Okay, Mom, but you know you'll be up first," I answer back.

"Oh damn.  I forgot to get you half and half.  I meant to do that today when I was out."

"It's okay, Mom.  Really.  Milk is fine."

*****

I wake the next morning to the sound of the garage door closing and hear her come in.  It's early.  I put a sweater on over my tshirt and go out to the kitchen.

"I ran to Walgreens to get you some half and half.  I knew you'd rather have that than milk in your coffee,"

I love you too, Mom.  Even if neither one of us knows how to go about saying it.



Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Anne Said

On Wednesday I went with a friend to see Anne Lamott for the third time in about ten years.

There were thoughts of meeting other friends for drinks before we went to see her but it is November. It is the season of cold and dark and hibernation rather than random acts of frivolity.  One thing a night, Friend and I decided. Only one thing and then we can go home to our pajamas and warm bed.

All along I wondered if seeing the same writer three times was a good idea.  Even though she's my favorite author, was I tempting fate and maybe falling out of love with her if she, too, showed up with the same November apathy that I was wearing?

Thankfully she was not, and although she tends to look like she rolled out of bed and picked her outfit up off the floor, she brought her energy and love even if she had to dig deep on an exhausting book tour to find it.  In her rumpled, dreadlocked self she stood on stage and told her stories.  She is funny. Hilariously funny in the most self-deprecating way that makes her all the more endearing.  In between the funny is the profound, and if you know about her younger self you also know that her physical, emotional and spiritual well-being were hard fought for and never taken for granted.

She read a little from her latest book, skimming some stories and at one point going back and saying, "Oh wait.  I have to read this part.  I love this part."  I got teary-eyed when she said that.  Years of writing, millions of books sold and she sounded like so many of us sitting there who become charmed by the magic that happens when the sequence of words is just so.

That sealed my fate with Anne LaMott.  I will remain her groupie for a lifetime.

The next day at work I emailed a friend telling her about my night.  "There were so many good stories, Gee," I wrote, "but my favorite was about the bees."  She related the story her pastor tells of how easy it is to catch bees.  "All you do is put some nectar in a glass jar and you've got them.  They crawl around bumping into the sides over and over until they eventually die. They never look up and if they did they'd see the escape hatch is right above them.  We have to remember to look up.  That's where the stars are."

Gee wrote back.  "I love that....really love that."

"I know, Gee.  Right?  We have to stop running into the same walls doing the same thing.   We have to look up and find the stars."

And then Gee had the most brilliant plan.  Let's find her.  Let's find out where she lives, break into her house and hold her hostage.  We could break her legs so she can't go anywhere and then make her tell us story after story. Let's do it.  We should wear Depends for the road, don't you think? We want to get there as soon as we can and not worry about getting slowed down by pee stops at rest areas and gas stations where the creeps and felons hang out.

That Gee.  Not only do her emails save me from feeling like I work in a coal mine every day, but she always has the best ideas even though they sometimes involve the possibility of consecutive sentences at the Big House.

"I'll bring the Capri Sun and the beef jerky," I wrote back.

A dismal, cold November has been replaced by something much more exciting.  Two friends shedding the bees in their bonnets and looking up at the stars.

We owe it all to Anne.

We can't wait to tell her.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some Enchanted Evenings

The purpose of my new writing space was to, ummmm, write more.

Peoples.  It is so cold.

This space is over the garage and has never been what you'd call toasty (except for June, July, August, and half of September) but these past few days it has been downright frigid in here.  I can think of an excuse every day not to write so it was a given that I would not be creating in long underwear and gloves. Add to that my work buddy had to go and leave me for a few days and so I was bored and depressed day and night.

She came back today and yelled from her office when I arrived, "Did you miss me?"  I wanted to jump in her lap and lick her face but she might have thought that was weird.  And maybe crossing some boundaries.

People who need people......

I cranked out the work during the day and brought a space heater into my writing room when I got home.  It was time to get back to business.

*****

On Friday I had a dentist appointment to get my teeth cleaned.  "Are you doing anything fun this weekend," my dentist asked.

We were.  We had a soup night with new friends and never-met-friends and a dinner party on Saturday.  The dentist, the hygienist and I talked about entertaining.  Why, oh why, we wondered is it such a big deal to have people over?

I told them about being a little girl and my mom and dad having couples over for dance parties on Saturday night. The women would wear dresses and Mom's lipstick blotted toilet paper would smile from the bowl before company came. She'd spritz some Avon on and Dad would say, "Well, don't you look like a million bucks?"  Then the other couples would arrive with their lipstick and dresses and go into the garage turned dance club while Dad poured the scotch. Mom once said, "The great thing about being friends with the chief-of-police and his wife is that you won't get in trouble if the neighbors call the cops because you're too loud."

Mom would let us sit on the stairs in our pajamas for a little while to watch and then shoosh us off to bed.  I remember falling asleep to the sound of talking and laughing and Frank Sinatra and I thought being an adult must be the best thing ever.

There have been plenty of parties since then but it seems that an abundance of social media these days has replaced real conversation with real people.  It's all so out there all the time that maybe it seems unnecessary to have people over when they've already seen your vacation photos on Facebook.

But this weekend we shared stories and food with people we knew a little or not at all. "Where did you go this summer because I want to come along next time?" Debra asked me before soup was served.  "Montana and it was perfect," I answered.  And her and I talked about being in nature and realizing how small you really are compared to your surroundings.  After the soup and dessert the Tarot cards came out and I was nervous because Mom might have implied way back when that a good Catholic wouldn't dabble in that sort of thing.  I'm a lousy Catholic these days and so I tapped the stack three times to remove the energy and picked three cards.  I am on the brink of something big.  Mark followed me and picked his three.  His cards said that something he's been working on for a long time is about to bear fruit and I was more excited for his predicted good fortune than my own.  We left with plans to make soup on Friday a standing date once a month and I felt grateful to be included in the maiden voyage.

At the following night's dinner party we knew only the host and hostess and broke bread with some people who had the most incredible stories of love and life and cancer and healing and art.  All day Sunday Mark and I looked at each other and said, "Who gets to meet these kinds of people?"

How very small we often feel to ourselves when we are surrounded by the barrage of Facebook feeds and breaking news, but such compelling stories we walk around with every day in our own back pockets.

They deserve time to be unfolded, smoothed out and lingered over.

They deserve to be invited in and served with soup or steak....and a side of Frank.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Room Of My Own

I had grand plans a few weeks ago to repaint and redecorate a neglected room in the house.  All started well enough but I got sidelined by a cold then some other annoying health thing and so things moved along slower than I thought they would.

Or maybe my age means I can't redo a room top to bottom in two days like in the olden times.  Alas, I pulled it together this weekend.

The room is connected to our bedroom (by that door on the left) and so it needed to work with what is going on in there.



It also had to cost me practically nothing.  We have spent plenty around here lately so I bought the white paint, and the gray on the window frame and dresser was a sample pint I bought to try out on the outside of the house. I spray-painted the knobs a couple of different colors and then wiped them with stain to get the bronze look I wanted.

I stole from every room in the house to fill it.  Thank goodness winter is coming and I could take many things that normally would be on the screened porch.

The top two levels over the dresser I bought a few years ago.  I love work tools and then last year my mom acquired my grandfather's toolbox.  The bottom level was his and his initials are on it.  The old pyrex bottle with the mini lights in it came from an estate sale.  I saw it and loved it and went back the next day when it was half off.  My niece's speckled trout artwork has a proper frame now.

The wallpaper hanging table that I am using as a desk I got about fifteen years ago at an estate sale.  I paid $65.00 for it and have used it in every way imaginable.  The legs fold down and then the table itself folds in half so it has been easy to store when I haven't needed it.

The cabinet on the desk I got on the last day at Good Company - a vintage shop where I used to have a booth.  It was marked down to $30.00.  I had no idea where I would put it but I loved it and brought it home.  I filled it with my nature stuff - turtle shells, rocks, bird's nest, antlers, feathers, driftwood.  I recently told a coworker how I like that kind of stuff inside my house and the look of horror on her face cracked me up.  I thought about painting it but Will yelled, "Everybody needs to stop painting stuff."  I'm glad I heeded his advice warning.

I need a few more things on the wall but other than that it is done.

Sheesh.

I'm inspired and content every time I look at it.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Conversation About Race

I got a new coworker many months ago.  We went through a dating period for awhile as we got to know each other and we were on our best behavior.  I don't know when the good manners slipped away and we started acting normal, but eventually we did and now we are work buddies.

She is smart.  So smart.  I couldn't even tell you how much I've learned from her.

I am in and out of her office all day.  She peeks over my cube wall.  We're snarky.  We're irreverent.  Every Thursday afternoon she says, "Please work tomorrow.  It's so boring when you're not here."

On Friday she texts me.

Wednesday morning I sat down dejectedly in her office.  My flaming liberal self was completely shot down by the election returns of Tuesday night.

"Can you even believe that last night," I said to M.  I mean, geez, we had a senator reelected that hasn't lived in this state for years.  How can that happen?  I never even knew he was married until his acceptance speech last night.  Shouldn't you know something like that about the guy who has been representing you for years?  What is wrong with people?  Why did they vote for all these idiots?"

I boo-hooed in my coffee.  "I never talk politics at work," she said, "but you are down-to-earth and I feel like I can say this to you.  I look at this president and think of all the possibilities and then I think back to those men standing there saying they would do anything to defeat him.  As soon as he started the job they said that.  We will defeat you. We will make sure that you are not successful at anything.  And in many ways he has been successful despite them.  But oh how things could have been if only they had changed their mission.  It all seems very racist to me and I hope you are not offended by me saying that."

"Well, that would be hard since I agree with everything you said," I told her.  "And now the most vocal one of those men is getting promoted to Boss of the Senate. It's not right, M."

We talked about the thing everybody avoids talking about.  Race.

She told me about going to Memphis and seeing a museum exhibit on the slave trade.  "So many of those men brought from Africa died on the ship because the conditions were so brutal.  They'd unchain the shackles and throw them overboard.  One after the other like they didn't even matter.  It changed me when we went down there.  It wasn't that long ago and you know what else happened when we were in the South?  Little white kids stopped and stared at me like they'd never seen a black woman in their life before."

I told her about going to the civil war battlefields.  "Not even the width of your office, M.  That's how close the North and South were when they were shooting each other.  And you know what, M,, I felt them.  The spirit of those Union soldiers fighting for the freedom of slaves seeped into every part of me and I have never forgotten it."

"Yes, I know what you mean.  That's exactly how it was when we were in Memphis.  I felt those slaves."

I told her about the time we were driving to my Grandma's house a few weeks after Martin Luther King died and the street was lined with protesters.  Mom's fear filled the car but Dad said, "Now, Ger, nobody's out to hurt us.  They're upset and they have every right to be.  We're all going to be just fine so relax."

"The Underground Railroad couldn't have happened without white people," M. said.  "Did you know that?  White people were instrumental in helping slaves escape.  I bet your Dad would have been that kind of white person.  An Underground Railroad kind of person."

I don't know.

I know that every single day when I feel overwhelmed M. comes along with a lantern to light the way.  I think she would say the same of me.

Two woman.

Two backgrounds.

One a descendant of slaves. The other a descendant of slave owners.

Each helping the other get to the railroad.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Devil's Holiday

When I worked at my favorite store, I had an equally favorite store next door.  It was a home d├ęcor and furnishings business that was filled with vintage and new wares.  Their displays were so inventive and creative (and even more so for the holidays) that I would often wander over when things were slow at our place.  These two businesses were the perfect neighbors - creative and arty in every aspect.

I wasn't the only Nattie that shopped next door.  Often on the way back and forth from the parking lot to the store, one of us would say, "Have you seen what they've got in the window now?"  That would cause an exodus to check out their newest display that often resulted in returning to the home base for a debit card.

I got a vintage chair reupholstered in houndstooth as a Christmas present one year.  Two days in the window and I brought Mark by and said, "This.  This is all I want this year."  It has been in my living room ever since and is still one of my favorite things.

One day when my mom was visiting I took her up to the shopping center to meet my coworkers.  "We have to go next door, too, Mom.  You have to see what they do."  My mom doesn't share my love of vintage, but she is game and acts enthused when I gush over rust because she is a mom and that's in the job description regardless of the age of the kid.

The owner happened to be in and I introduced her to Mom.  Her and one of her employees were in the process of taking down the Halloween decorations to get ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

"Oh, I just hate Halloween," Mom said. 

"Me, too," the owner said.  "You do know it's the devil's holiday, don't you?"

Among the skulls and bats and other ghoulish decor, Mom said, "Oh yes, of course I've heard it referred to as that. But for my husband and me it was more about trying to come up with costumes for six kids every year.  That was long before you could actually buy a costume like you can now.  You had to be creative with whatever you had on hand."

Her six kids could vouch for that.  We spent years being ghosts (hello white twin size sheet) or Mom's personal favorite - a hobo.  None of us actually knew what a hobo was, but Mom sure did and she could blacken a wine cork and smudge your face dirty like a hobo pro. 

"I don't like it," we all said to her at one time or another.

"You look great," she'd say shoving you out the door with a brown paper grocery sack and a bandana hanging from a stick over your shoulder.  And when the neighborhood kids would ask you what you were supposed to be and you said "hobo", they would look equally confused.

But at that point it no longer mattered.  With no curfew, supervision or limits on radius or neighborhoods, what mattered most was how many pounds of candy you and your costumed cohorts could haul home before your overladen paper sack would tear and spill all that sugary goodness onto the the sidewalk.

It was the most perfect day to be a kid.

"Didn't you love that store, Mom?" I asked as we headed to the car.

"It was fine," she said.  "I have to say, though, that that woman sure doesn't seem to mind making a buck off the devil's holiday."

That's when I knew that despite what she always proclaimed, Mom had secretly been on the side of her six, little devils.....even if it meant losing her marbles for weeks before.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Dream Catcher

When Mark is out of town I like to surprise him with a decorating project upon his return.  One time he got home in the middle of the night and ran into all the newly rearranged furniture. 

He might have cussed.  I might have said, "But don't you think it looks so much better?"

He tends to think everything is just fine the way it is and often doesn't understand my need to change things up.  I put a new-agey spin on it to justify my thought process and say, "This wall color and couch is stagnant much like my life right now.  We need gray everything.  Look at these swatches.  Which do you like better?  Storm cloud or anonymous?  They might look different but they're not so really look at them."

His defense mechanism is to leave town to escape the madness.

My current project is my writing-bill-paying-clothes room.  It hasn't been painted in years, and come to find out, no furniture has ever been moved and vacuumed behind.  Little no dusting has occurred either.  I had a consult with my designer son and decided to go way out on a limb and paint the walls white. 

I need calm.  I need to bring up my six foot wallpaper hanging table that is about eighty years old and spread myself all over it.  I need my nature chotchkes and favorite books close by and my clutter gone. 

As is my style, I grossly underestimated how long this thing in my head would take to come to fruition.  Three days, max, I thought.  But the Royals are playing in the World Series and they need me to cheer.  Then I caught a cold.  I am far from done and Mark will be home in two days.  It is chaos in the bedroom where everything has been put so I have room to paint.

Welcome to my cluster, honey.


******

When I worked at the bank, Phyllis asked me if I wanted to be on a softball team.  I declined.  I had never played before and went through four, long years of high school being called "Peeps"(even by the gym teacher) because I ran like a chicken.

That really was enough humiliation to last a lifetime.

Phyllis was relentless.  "You don't have to be good.  It's just for fun." 

I joined.  She was a big, fat liar.

These women were competitive.  Long-time softball players who could knock the ball to the next zip code, they were out to kick ass, take no prisoners and win.  I was there to have something to do a couple of nights a week and drink beer afterwards because my husband often worked late.

It didn't take long for it to become apparent that I had no softball skills.  Even though I had three brothers that played Little League and we always played ball in the backyard, it all seemed hard and foreign to me.  I became the catcher because the furthest I could throw the ball was back to the pitcher and that was on a bounce and a slow roll.  I frequently made it on base because I hit the ball so softly that no infielder was expecting a baby bunt when nobody was on base.

Towards the end of the season, a batter from the opposing team sent one sailing out to left field.  Our player chased it down and sent it back to me like it was shot out of a cannon.  I was terrified because that ball was coming for my face and I knew I sucked, but Lord Have Mercy I caught that thing and tagged the runner out at home plate. 

We whooped and hollered even though we lost the game because not a single person on that team, especially me, ever thought I would catch that ball.

*****

We were at a wedding last weekend and a darling, young girl sat down beside me and said, "I feel like a stalker and we've never met but I read your blog and I wanted to tell you that I love it.  I know you're not from the south but you write like a Southerner.  Like William Faulkner.  In fact, I've told all my friends and they read your blog too."

That's when the room started to spin and I felt faint. 

Then I got awkward and dorky and Peeplike and talked too much.  "Did you read the one......." I asked.  "Oh, I've read them all," she answered."  And it felt like the holy spirit scooched between us to say, "Listen up, girl" because I have struggled mightily to get something written once a week. 

"My daughter says I need to write more," I said.  "I would be in agreement with her," my new friend said.

The next day I decided that the place I write has to reflect the expectations I have of myself going forward.  It has to be serene with the things I love close by and I have to show up more for practice.  It has to be dusted off now and then.

When it's done my old wallpaper hanging desk will look out onto the fall trees, then the bare, snow-covered ones that will give way to spring.  My goal is to spend time there every day.  I can picture it all just like that ball sailing towards me at home plate.

And guess what?  I can see me catching it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wild Card

I once read that kids find a way to connect with their fathers by pursuing their dad's interests instead of their own.  I'm not sure if that is always true but it certainly was in my case.  A mild interest in the Cubs that was fueled by a trip to Wrigley Field when I was about ten and the deal was struck. 

Dad's team became my team.

We would arrive early enough to watch batting practice with a picnic lunch in tow.  Mom and Dad would get a beer or two from one of the vendors to wash down the ham sandwiches, and my sisters and I would get peanuts and cotton candy.

I dove head first into my new obsession, clipping newspaper and magazine articles for a scrapbook I kept.  I made a rug with the Cubs logo for my bedroom.  When I was in high school my mom got tickets to a luncheon for Cubs fans and I got my picture taken with Fergie Jenkins.  I once saw Ernie Banks on the streets of Chicago and ran back to my office so I could call Mom and tell her.

My interest in baseball ebbed and flowed over the years depending on how busy my life became.  When I met Mark I made him watch the World Series with me and explained everything my Dad had taught me.  The strategy, the signals, the base runners.  He grew up on hockey and so this was new turf to him. He loved it, or maybe he tolerated it and loved me more.

Sitting at home on the couch one can almost smell the crisp, autumn air of a World Series game that makes the sound of the ball pop when it hits the glove of the catcher, or the crack of the bat as though it is across the street instead of thousands of miles away.

And then there's Vin Scully.  The play-by-play announcer that has made a career of putting poetry to baseball.

This year the Kansas City Royals are going to the World Series.  In a wild card and playoff series that often went past midnight, this bleary-eyed city woke to win after win and collectively said the morning after, "Did that really happen?" 

Kansas City is also home to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and it is a cultural gem.  When I went I happened to be following the current director and was right on his heels as he gave a tour to two women.   He was a wealth of knowledge about a time long gone when there was a white league and a Negro league, and never the two should meet until Jackie Robinson came along.

Vintage photos of the Negro League games show crowds in their finest apparel.  Most games were on Sunday afternoons and so fans would walk from church with their picnic baskets and then sit in the stands to cheer for the Kansas City Monarchs.

In a football season that has started with more violence than most of us can stomach, this team has been the antidote.  The MVP smiling while clutching his trophy and then beaming when he was cradling his newborn son.  They are our gentleman players - the Sunday-after-church kind that seem grateful enough to tip their caps and thank their moms.

My dad used to run training sessions for lineman at Commonwealth Edison in Chicago.  One team knew how much Dad loved the Cubs and bought him a coffee cup with the names of all the bullpen pitchers on it.  "You have it, Kath," Dad said.  "You love them as much as me."

That's what I drink my coffee from each morning, and though it traces back to 1969 and seen better days, my love of the game has the best days ahead of me this year. 

While an entire city cheers the Royals on it almost seems a certainty that the spirit of those dads who rooted for the Monarchs or the Cubs, the ones who patiently taught the intricacies of the national pastime to their eager kids, will be right beside us.

So close in fact that it wouldn't seem the least bit odd to say aloud after a diving catch in the outfield, "Can you believe this game, Dad?"
 

Monday, October 13, 2014

God Loves A Terrier

The very first dog we owned after we got married was a terrier named Clem.  I went with a friend to the Humane Society and fell in love with him.  He did a frantic search of the place when we got home and then curled up and napped like our apartment was where he was always meant to be.

Every night after work I'd walk him in the cornfield across from the complex we lived in.  Mark was in graduate school and Clem was my company on those long nights when Mark was still in the lab working.  So connected that dog and I were that one day for no reason he lifted his leg and peed on Mark's lazy-boy in the living room.  It was as if he'd read my mind and knew how much I hated that chair. 

And then after a few years things got turned upside-down for me and Clem.  I had a baby.  Three weeks later Mark started a new job on the East coast.  I was alone and I could not figure out how I was supposed to walk Clem, take care of a newborn and prepare to move thousands of miles away.  I was overwhelmed. 

Mark was equally overwhelmed trying to adjust to a new job in a new city and in his off hours find us a place to live.  Finances were really tight and any apartment that would accept pets was too high for our budget.

Clem would have to stay behind.

I place an ad in the paper and an older man came to look at him.  "Mind if I take him for a walk," he asked.  "Please," I answered.  "He has been neglected in that department lately and next to ice cream it is his biggest joy in life."  They both came back and the deal was done.  No money was exchanged and I gave him Clem's bed, food and water bowls and leash.  Off Clem went wagging his tail and I closed the door and cried for hours.

The next night the guy called me up and said, "Ma'm, this is the sweetest dog I've ever had and I feel like I should give you some money to compensate you for him.  I'd like to come by with a check."  I cried again and told him he had no idea how happy it made me that Clem was going to be okay.

We've had two more dogs since Clem but no terriers.  "If we ever get another dog," I announced after we put Henry down, "it will be a terrier."  So for the last couple of months I've been scouring the pet rescue sights looking for another Clem.  They go fast and a couple of times the dog I went to see had already been adopted by the time I got to the place.

Two weeks ago I found my terrier.  A seven year old Yorkie that was turned in by a breeder.  "He'll take some patience," they told me.

To say I didn't know what I was in for would be an understatement.  He doesn't know how to walk on a leash even after dozens of attempts.  He stays in his kennel a lot even though the door is always open.  He likes dogs more than people.  He has barked once.  If you pick him up and put him on your lap he can't wait to get off.  The only time I've seen him wag his tail is when he's running in the yard with Maggie and Nate's terrier.  When he feels brave he sits by the front door but will run away and back to his kennel if anyone comes near him.  He brings anything you give him into his kennel.  He is a hoarder .

I sit on the floor outside of his kennel many times a day and talk to him.  I look at that cute face, scratch him under the chin and say, "Who's the best dog ever?"  I set treats out and coax him from his self-imposed jail.  When his food bowl is filled I put the cat outside so he won't help himself to it before our shy, scared dog gets a chance.

He's my rehab project but he's got a shitload of trust issues that so far prevent him from letting go of his defenses and surrendering to all that the world has to offer.

Oh little Wrigley.........welcome to the club.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

This Little House of Mine

When it comes to making improvements and spending money on this house, Mark goes into denial, followed by the fetal position.  Anything that has more than one zero after it gives him the shaky shakes.

I, on the other hand, plow forward with blissful, ignorant optimism.  Deep into a project and waaaaaaaaay off the mark on the actual costs involved, I take the plunge and grab him kicking and screaming all the way to the edge of the cliff I intend for us to teeter on.

For the last several years I've been saying that our tired, old house needed a paint job.  The side that gets baked by the sun all day was a peeling mess.  Some of the trim had no paint left on it.  We had wood rot.  When I would point it out to Mark and plead my case he'd say, "Nah, I think we're good for another year," and go back to puttering in his jungle garden. 

He. Cannot. Deal.

I couldn't imagine what another cold and snowy winter would do to our already compromised house, and so I took matters into my own hands and called a number scribbled on scratch paper in my phone book.  Not entirely sure if this was a painter, a handyman or a landscaper I dialed.  Beginner's luck!  On the first try I was talking to the painter we had used years ago.  I considered this me lucky charm and a few hours later he was at my door.

The initial quote made me gasp.  Maybe I actually did audibly.  I cannot remember.  He came down $400.00 on the spot.  I was thinking more like "divide by two" but it's been a long time since we had a paint job and I tend to think inflation applies to other people's houses and not mine.  That night he called and came down another $300.00.

Now I had a more palatable price and selling point to present to The Big Daddy.  "He said since we're returning customers he'd knock $400.00 off.  Oh, I didn't bite at first, Mark, so then he came back with even more off.   You should have seen me in action, Mark.  I held my ground."  This made it seem like I was more like Hilary Clinton brokering a deal between Israel and Palestine than a dumbfounded customer whose only skilled tactic was to be too stunned to speak.  Whatev.

He nodded and made a counter-offer.  "I'll see your house painting and raise you gutters.  I want new gutters."  I nodded back.  "Sure.  What's a few more hundreds of dollars?"  We had struck a deal.

These painters had their work cut out for them.  Painting, caulking, wood repair.  A leaking screened-in porch that needed a rehab.  Mark's jungle garden to work around.  They set up camp and have been here so long I'll almost feel a little sad when my FEMA team hitches their trailers and moves on to the next disaster.

In the meantime, the dishwasher started making a weird sound.  "It's not draining," The Big Daddy declared.  "I think it's leaking," I declared back.  He must not have heard me as he headed off to Lowe's to buy a pallet of drain cleaners.  He firmly believing that blasting pipes with toxic chemicals will solve all plumbing problems.  "Toxic chemicals in the dishwasher with plates and cutlery we eat off of?" I inquired. "Ack!!!  There's more chemicals in strawberries than in Mr. Plumber," he said waving me off.  While the noxious fumes may have killed every bug in the basement it did not fix the dishwasher that had now begun to leak under the kitchen floor.

I called Bernie - my appliance repair guy who has been to our house so many times he doesn't even need to write the address down.  He took the panel off, got on his belly on the floor with a flashlight and stated dishwasher time of death as 4:21 p.m.  "You can claim this on your homeowners and they'll pay for your floor to be replaced," he told me.  "Well, we've got two auto claims in there now for car mishaps with one unnamed child so I'm stuck with my oceanic floor," I said hopping over the laminated waves. 

The next night we went back to Lowe's and picked out a new dishwasher.  Six months no interest!!!  Yippee!!!  Then we waited ten days for the install, washing dishes like the Pilgrims.  "I'll be a little late to work tomorrow," I gleefully told my boss one day. "Our new dishwasher is coming.  No more washing the dishes in the sink!  I bet we're going to be amazed at how clean our dishes are going to get.  And quiet, too.  I've heard the new ones are really quiet."

Not. So. Fast.

The installer looked at our old school rigged up Kenmore and said, "Hold your horses, Luck-Be-Any-Lady-But-You. You need a shut-off valve for the dishwasher and your electrical isn't up to code.  When that gets done I'll come back."  Off he went into the gloomy, thunderstorm that had descended over our house and like Rose on the Titanic I clung to the door, lifted my pruney, dishwashed palm into the air and whispered, "Come back."

I called a plumber for the second time in a month.  All will be fine I told myself.  I'd have him fix the tub faucet upstairs while he was here and check that off the list of "good stuff gone bad."  He did those repairs and at the last minute I remembered that there was a drip behind the downstairs bath faucet.  "Can't be fixed. ma'm.  You're going to need a new faucet," he said.  Of course we did.  I wrote him a check.

I made a call to the electrician.  All will be fine I told myself.  I'd have him fix those two basement lights that haven't worked in eons and check that off the list.  Two hours and do-you-seriously-really-make-that-much-money and my electrical problems were fixed.  I wrote him a check.

Finally, an early morning jaunt to Mark's jungle garden resulted in me getting stung three times by hornets.  I lost my shit.  My patched, primed, caulked and no longer optimistic shit.

I tended to my stings and made another call to someone who will come out, haul away the crap from the Frankensteinish Laboratory out in back and get it ready for next spring's grand plan.  I will write one more check and then I will go into hibernation.......keeping my misguided exuberance in check until a season or two has passed and our savings account is replenished.

Until then I will swoon over the handiwork of the pros who made our little, pricey charmer shine once again. 

I still love her but if I think she needs anything else I'll save my husband the trouble and tell myself to shut it.






Tuesday, September 23, 2014

To The Moon, Alice

We have a darling young couple that moved in next door.  They are freshy-faced newly married and oh-so-good-looking.  The guy's father had owned the house and had been renting it out for the last few years.  The Freshy-Faces decided that they wanted to move from downtown to our area and for months months there was a parade of service trucks in the driveway fixing the place up for the new tenants.

I felt like the jealous old hag next door.

Now they're painting.  I bet they're getting the kitchen and floors redone.  We'll never be able to do that.  I bet his father is footing the bill.  Don't you think, Mark?  Mark?  The power company was here, Mark.  For hours.  What do you think they were doing, Mark?  I bet they're getting their own service line so that when the power goes out they can still watch t.v. and mock us on Facebook.

And Mark said, "Stop looking out the window, Gladys Kravitz."

Then I actually met the Freshy-Faces and I liked them so it was kind of hard to dog on them and their reno'd house.  It occurred to me that the stories I made up in my head about things being so great over there might not have had much accuracy. Or any.

On Sunday Mark and I were going to go out for a walk when I noticed the Freshy-Faces in front of the house.  She was walking ahead of him and neither of them looked happy.  I told Mark we had to give them a head start because I didn't want to be all up in their business if they were arguing.

And they were.  Around the side of the house and back to the front of ours.  They were yelling at each other and so we decided to sit tight for a few minutes until things cooled off outside.

But part of me wanted to yell out the window, "Ummm......kids, we don't really spill out onto the street in this neighborhood with our ugly differences of opinions."  The other part wanted to say, "Ummm.......kids, can you yell a little louder so we can hear."

Then Mr. Freshy-Face threw his hands up in the air, saying to her as he stormed off, "What's your problem??!!!"

By afternoon they were planting flowers and being a team again.

They probably had make-up sex after that.  Don't you think, Mark? I think he seems like kind of a jerk don't you, Mark?

And Mark said, "Let it go, Gladys."

That night in this basement the Stale-Faces were going at it over the multitude of rags coming from the dryer that were used to soak up the latest leaky overflow.

The Speckled Trout roll or The Big Daddy fold?

There was no declared winner or loser.  Nor was there hot make-up sex afterwards like in the old days.

Just two people still still trying to hash things out with a pile of rags close at hand for the next meltdown.  Some folded, some rolled.

A fascinating difference of opinion and compelling arguments on both sides that any passerby would surely want to listen in on.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Twenty & Four

Sometimes my sister, Ann, and I will sit around and talk about how long Dad's been gone.  It usually starts with the same question.  Was Dad there when.......?

Then we start ticking off the the things that have happened that he wasn't around to see.  Weddings, weddings and more weddings.  Babies being born, babies growing up, babies graduating from college.  Funerals for dear friends and relatives - his little brother last year.  The Hawks winning the Stanley Cup and the White Sox the World Series, but no such luck for his hapless Cubs.

At some point the conversation will trail off to nothingness because there's only so much you can scoop from the well of absence.

Now we're past the two decade mark.  Decades?  Really?

I remember watching t.v. with him the year before he died.  The Berlin Wall was coming down and there was live coverage of it with Peter Jennings.  "Well I'll be, Kate," he said.  "In a million years I never thought I'd live to see that."  The dashing network correspondent would die as well, and do kids these days even know what the Berlin Wall was for?

The day after he died Ann and I drove to the mall.  Since Mark and I had only planned a four day trip home that would stretch to two weeks, I had nothing to wear to the funeral.  We took note of the clouds along the way.  Fat, huge, fluffy clouds and we both wondered if Dad was "there."

I ponder the there a lot.

Mark and I were lucky to have Mom and Dad be our first visitors a few months after we moved to Maryland.  They were going to a convention with friends and stopped to spend a few days with us.  While Mark stayed behind to work at his new job, Maggie and I went with them to Mt. Vernon, Annapolis, Williamsburg and Monticello.  Being #4 of six, it was the first time I had my parents to myself and I loved it.

A few weeks later I got one of Dad's long hand-written letters thanking Mark and I for our hospitality.  He wrote, "A good home can surely be an elusive thing.  It should have an air of calmness and tranquility about it.  It should convey a spirit that projects an understanding of what is most important and worthy in our lives.  It is our observation, Kath, that you understand those ingredients very well and are weaving them into your home life."

For a guy with only one good eye he noticed a lot.

When I look at my own kids, two of whom weren't even born when he died, I see pieces of him.  The smile, the eyes, the gentle touch with strangers.  They are inordinately kind and their dad and I can't take all the credit for that.  It was their grandfather that walked the walk.

The Mister and I have a rather spotty record in that regard.

After decades of pondering as if I had a say in the matter, I would like my soul to resemble a sparkler on its exit.  I hope "there" is where Dad landed - in everybody he loved and who seek to understand that which is worthy.  That the pieces of light fall far and wide and are scooped up and saved for the babies of the next generation.  That what is no longer needed finds a calm and tranquil home.  That a tiny flame stays lit to guide the way.......

And that life goes on.

And life goes on.

And life goes on



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shouldering On

There is a drugstore near our house that has been in business for over fifty years.  It is in the old school category.  Women who worked there were required to wear skirts or dresses up until a few years ago.  There is a free delivery service if you're too sick to pick up your prescriptions.  If you live in town (and produce a driver's license verifying your address) you can get a bottle of cough syrup with codeine without a prescription.

When I worked at one of the shops in the center, a customer told me about a face cream they carried that was like "a facelift in a jar."  I became a loyal purchaser of that cream until the company closed due to retirement, and though I searched every internet cranny I never found it again.

The face cream was the beginning of my loyalty to that drugstore with its selection of obscure lines and products that I had never seen anywhere else.  The mainstay at the register in makeup was 87 years old.  She had been full-time there for years until she broke her pelvis and had to cut back on her hours.  She still worked the night shift, though, preferring to start at 1:00, work until nine a few days a week and then stop at the Quiktrip on the way home for a coffee.

She loved to talk and would tell you about her deceased husband, the accident that caused her to break her pelvis and why she likes gas station coffee.

It was like paying a visit to your grandma if you stopped in to pick something up.  Her coworker was a good decade younger than her and at some point must have had a mild stroke.   She is the sweetest thing in the land, calls everybody "honey" and always says to me, "Now how did you get so lucky with all those curls?"

Those gals are my geriatric posse of love.

This past week I have taken some big action on my ridiculous hurting shoulder.  It's either going to be my cure or my undoing.  I've got my fingers crossed for the cure but since I have only gone once it's too soon to make any predictions.

On Friday night, though, it was making me crazy.  I never got around to ordering the heating pad I pined for on Amazon and I was in a world of ache.  I went to my favorite drugstore to get another one.  They had a good selection with some intense heat ranges and when I checked out a new-to-me woman was at the register.  She was on the young side of seventy.

"Oh dear," she asked, "are you hurting?'

"Yes.  My shoulder is making my life miserable," I answered.

We talked about her hip, my shoulder.  It was a mini AARP convention at the back of the store.

"It always bothers me," I said.  "But tonight it is worse than ever."

"Well, that's because it's raining.  Didn't you have a grandma whose bursitis acted up whenever rain was close by?  I did.  She knew when it was going to rain better than the weatherman just because of her aches and pains."

Ah yes.........the barometric pressure decided to take me for a ride.

It didn't seem that long ago that I was a hip forty-year-old.  When I turned fifty that was no big deal because actually that was the new forty and not really fifty.  But what do they say when sixty is hot on your tail?

They say you can predict the weather, that you'll frequently need a heating pad with an ibuprofen and Salon Pas chaser, and one day you'll be just the right age to work the makeup counter at the local drug store.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Whiskey & The Devil

When my Grandma lived with us I would take her to church at 7:00 every Saturday night.  I liked to sleep in on Sundays and she couldn't get her ninety-plus-year-old body up and moving very fast first thing in the morning when Mom and Dad went.  Even at her age with her crippled back and other ailments, she wouldn't dream of missing church.

If you passed by Grandma's room at night she'd invite you in to talk while she poured herself a shot of Rock N' Rye.  Then she'd ready herself for bed, rosary in hand with the intent of praying herself to sleep.

During the week she liked to turn the t.v. on and watch the Reverend Ernst Ainsley.  Long before Jimmy and Tammy Fae Baker slicked up the production of religion, The Reverend operated a church where tuning in to him and his relationship with The Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was the answer to life's weekly woes.  Pacing the sanctuary and clutching his Bible, he'd deliver his fire and brimstone preaching and the congregation was spellbound.

So was Grandma.  He was the Liberace of televangelists.

If Dad was passing by when this was on he'd mutter under his breath, "She better not be sending money to that horse's ass."

If Grandma heard she never let on.

For all of The Reverend's oratory skills, the show didn't really get started until it was time to heal and/or cast the devil out of the afflicted.

The sickly would line up with their walkers and wheelchairs.  Dewy-eyed with the possibility of being healed, they would tremble when it was their turn.  Reverend Ainsley would ask them if they renounced the devil.  "I do," they'd say.  "Louder," he'd bellow.  "I DO.  I DO.  I DO RENOUNCE THE DEVIL."  Then the Reverend would smack them in the forehead and say, "HEEEEEEEEEEAL IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST."  The smacking was a forceful kind of remedy as some fell back into their wheelchair or needed help steadying themselves, loopy in the head from the healing powers of The Spirit.  Then they were quickly shooed away by the church bouncers for the next sufferer.  Holy healing powers were on a tight televised time schedule.

Not all that needed Reverend Ainsley's healing powers were physically impaired.  There were some that had their problems between the ears and they, too, would line up for some of that miracle that flowed from The Reverend's hand.  He would smack them in the forehead and yell, "DEVIL BE OUUUUUT," and pull his hand away really fast.....as if in fear that the devil just might jump from them to him and then this healing gig he'd secured would be over and he'd be back selling Amway door-to-door.

Getting the devil out took a little more doing than healing the infirmed.  Sometimes the devilish would start to fall and their kin would surround them and help them to the ground.  Other times they would land right on the floor and shake and roll their feisty devils out.

Spent from all that healing at the end of the show, Reverend Ainsley would soften his voice, look into the camera and say, "I need your help to keep this good Christian ministry going.  Even the smallest amount will allow me to continue the healing power of the Lord.  You saw what happened here.  You saw it, didn't you?  Jeeeeeeeeeesus did that."

The crowd would nod "Amen" and fan their sweaty faces with their hankies.  At home on the couch Grandma would say, "He sure did."  Then she'd get up off the couch, grab her cane, hobble back to her room and close the door.  Whether it was to get an early start on a shot of whiskey and clicking her rosary beads, or to write the Reverend Ernst Ainsley Ministries a check, her family would never know.  

That was between her and God.




Monday, August 25, 2014

Hi*Med*Lo

Before we got married, our families threw us a bridal shower in the basement of my brother's house.  Nothing catered or extravagant, but rather a simple party for family and friends to celebrate our impending vows and outfit our new home - a basement apartment near the University of Illinois campus that was empty save the roaches.

But we didn't know that just yet.

We got the practical things of the early eighties that everyone needed.  Mr. Coffee.  Bath and dish towels.  T.V. trays.  Pots, pans and gadgets.  Folding lawn chairs.

We got a heating pad. 

The t.v. trays and lawn chairs would be our dining room set for months.

The heating pad would be the third person in this marriage. 

Through cramps, pregnancy, surgeries, root canals, bad days and good, I have used that heating pad.  Sinus headache?  Fold it in half and put it on your face.  Hangover?  Don't fold.  Lay it right on your face, put a pillow on top and go back to bed.  Backache?  Lay the heating pad on the floor.  Lay your bad back on top.  Really bad back from hauling chubby toddlers?  Take the cover off the heating pad and grill those tense muscles.  Neck ache?  Wrap around a rolled towel and lay your head down.  Bum knee?  Roll around and secure with a rubber band.  Cold feet?  Put at the end of the bed, bend your knees, place on top and read a book.  Wonky atmospheric changes that are making you feel out of sorts?  Heating pad and power nap. Toothache?  Ibuprofen, call the dentist and put the heating pad under jaw.  Bum shoulder?  High every night for years.

There was a lull in the dating life of me and my heating pad during The Menopausal Years except for the coldest of nights, but we got back together cuz I just can't quit that thing.

One night when it was on Mark's side of the bed he took a good long at it and said, "I can't believe you're still using this thing.  It could burn the house down."

I knew that my 20+ year old heating pad might be a fire hazard but I couldn't give it up without a fight.  "I think it'll probably just smoke," I answered.

And then that beautiful thing just stopped working and I was brought me to my creaky knees.

Since then I have replaced it twice.  Drug store Sunbeams that the lawsuit industry prevents from getting anywhere near the sizzle temperature of my old one.  It's better than nothing but not by much.

I went shopping on Amazon for an industrial-sized heating pad.  A model that sells for $60.00 had plenty of admirers in the reviews.  "It's heavy but a good heavy.  The heaviness pushes the heat straight into your muscles."

The caveat?  It reaches a high temperature between 145-155 degrees.

A mere five degrees away from the optimal temperature for pork tenderloin.

I think I have found the one for whom my heart loves.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

Seizing The Day

I work Monday through Thursday, and though it's only a part-time gig, my brain is pretty spent when I get home.  Any intentions I have of getting much done other than making dinner go by the wayside.

Ahhhhh........but Friday.  I always have a three day weekend and I live for Fridays.

If I don't have a frequent dentist or hair appointment, a car repair or lunch date I am in heaven.  The whole day to get caught up on everything.  Everything!

That's where I found myself this past week.  I talked myself out of getting routine blood work first thing in the morning from a physical that was done in April, and ignored a change oil and low tire pressure light on the dash of the car.  This Friday was going to be about me doing what I wanted to do.  Me!

Oh the thoughts swirling all week on the possibilities.  No grand projects this time.  No sirree.  I would clean the house, get some bills paid and enjoy not being committed to anything all day.  While the laundry was going maybe I'd maybe make some zucchini bread with all those veggies coming from the garden and finish a sewing project.  Or make some calls for estimates on painting the house that we've been talking about.

Maybe I would write.  Ack!  Not that! 

I started with the sewing project - valances for Maggie's kindergarten classroom.  I'd already cut the fabric.  I just needed to pin it and sew it up.  First, though, I needed to read the paper and check out Facebook, Pinterest and Huffington Post.  And eat.  Yes, I needed food to keep me energized for the tasks at hand.  This took longer than expected.  Finally, I sat on the floor with the box of pins and turned on the Young and the Restless while I worked.  Who are these people?  Jack has a fiance?  But Jack's married to Phyllis In The Coma For The Last Year.  The deceased daughter of Sharon and Nick has come back as a barmaid who seems to be in love with Nick?  What a tramp that one is!  Paul has a son that looks to be five years younger than him?

When was the last time I watched this show?

I put my project down.  This required my full attention.

And a snack.

When that was over I plugged in the sewing machine and got busy.  Piece-o-cake.  I'd be done with this project in no time.  I finished the first two and then took a little break.  I checked out Facebook, Pinterest, Huffington Post and Craigslist.

I had a snack.

The seam ripper I needed to open up where the rod needed to be inserted was nowhere to be found and so I used teeny scissors that were bent at the tip from being smashed in the drawer.  This was making the job much more time consuming.  How frustrating!

I needed a break and a snack.

By this time it was early afternoon.  Had I even brushed my teeth?  I couldn't remember.  Maybe some personal hygiene and makeup would help this Friday Attention Deficit I seemed to have.  I got out my makeup bag, sat on the bed and turned the t.v. on while I beautified myself.

It was The Talk.  Sherry explained that she had bladder leakage and that one in four people have this.  One in four!!!  What's the answer to chronic bladder leakage?  Why, Depends, silly girl.  After an explanation on the leakage holding ability of Depends there was a fashion show.  Four men would walk the Depend Fashion Runway and the women of The Talk had to guess which one was wearing the man diaper.

After the second guy I turned the t.v. off.  Bored out of my Friday gourd, even I couldn't watch this humiliation and call it entertainment.

So I checked out Facebook, Pinterest, Huffington Post and a few blogs.

Maybe I needed to get out of the house?  Of course I did.  I decided to go to the shopping center.  After all, I needed navy pants for work.  Yes.  That's what I need.  I already felt more energized just driving there.  I had a plan.

The store I often find pants that fit my shortyness was having 50% off the entire store.  50%?  The whole store???

I bought two pair of colored jeans that I cannot wear to work and a black cardigan because I only have twenty of those and I needed twenty-one.  I went into another store and after they promotion-assaulted me with a dozen deals that I couldn't keep track of they called me "sweetheart" more times than I have cardigans.  I had to leave.  I cannot be the sweetheart of a high schooler.  There are laws against that.

The last store I went into was having 40% off the entire store.  40% off?  Even sale stuff?  I took some things into the dressing room and tried them on.  I would get completely dressed and undressed three more times.  I was getting confused on what I didn't need but had to get anyway because it was on sale.

I had a talking to myself on the way home about my behavior so far that day.  There was still time to finish something I started and to make some healthy choices when it came to my Friday Frequent Eating.

"Okie dokie", I said back to me.  "When I get home I'll have an apple with my cup of tea and kick it into gear."  I walked in the door, dropped my bags down and went into the kitchen to make my healthy snack.

Mal had made cookies.

I ate four and checked out Facebook, Pinterest, Huffington Post and Ann Taylor Loft (where, in fact, I had just come from).

Then I put a fork in my productive Friday.

It might not have been done but I was.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Suffer The Children

I was not raised in a military family.  My dad was in the Navy, but with the exception of a few uncles nobody else followed suit.  Dad kept detailed photo albums of those years with every buddy named in each picture.  They are in a box in Mom's basement along with his uniform and Navy manual.  I like to sneak down there when we're home, sit on a plastic tub and look at the remnants of an era gone by and the only evidence of a part of my dad's life that I know little about.

I'm not sure if what I know about combat and the military has come from movies or the nostalgia that sweeps over me when I open those boxes and pull out the brown photo albums with each snapshot secured by a black triangle in every corner.  Newly made friends at basic training smiling in front of tents with their arms wrapped around each other.  A stray dog adopted by men who were just boys a few months earlier.  Living at home with a mama who woke them up for school with the smell of bacon and eggs and now learning how to use a scope and rifle.

This is what I know about getting ready for duty.  Young men in black and white photos.

Is it that nostalgia that makes me think children were off limits in the rules of war?  Does the musty smell of another time make me believe that honorable men did everything they could to leave the future out of the carnage of the present?  Was just the opposite true and I didn't know?

Today's conflicts and wars show no signs of rules.  Bombs hitting elementary schools in Gaza, shelling and poisonous gas in Syria, a passenger plane scattered in pieces in the Ukraine, thousands of people forced into the mountains with no way out in Iraq. 

The eyes of traumatized children staring into the camera.   

A reporter asked some six year old boys in Syria what they wanted most.  "Peace," they said and collectively wept for none of them had a father still alive.  A little girl in Gaza picked through the remnants of her home, crouched down and clutched a rock.  "All my grandparents died today," she cried with her head in her tiny hands.  "All of them."

In the newest conflict in Iraq we are air lifting water and food to a mountaintop where thousands are stranded.  Are we the good guys?  Weren't we the bad guys for a decade?  Bombing a country day in and day out where civilians surely bore the brunt of the modern weapons of war in the name of democracy.

In our own country where thousands of immigrant children made a harrowing journey to escape the violence of a drug culture fueled by Americans, we scream at the desperate with their backpacks of worldly belongings to get the hell out of here.

A daily onslaught of despair fills the news and my stomach twists in knots at the brutality of these times.   

PleaseGodpleaseGodpleaseGod.  My constant prayer over and over and over.......

.....because if I stop for one minute I think my soul will be crushed by the burden of bearing witness to what we are doing to the most innocent among us.



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Anger Management

The Big Daddy and I are working on controlling our moods.  Angery moods like yelling at the newspaper when we read the letters to the editor.  Or hissy fits when a screw falls out of the bathtub faucet for no apparent reason and the replacement doesn't fit.

"Look, Kath," The Big Daddy said, "it's too big even though it's exactly the size the original paperwork says will fit."

And I lean over his shoulder and look at the faucet while in my head I'm saying, "Well, isn't that just the greatest?  What are we supposed to do?  Buy a new $300 faucet because the seventeen cent screw won't work?  Well why the heck not?"

Out loud, though, I say, "Perhaps we got the wrong size screw from the hardware store."  Because getting mad is counter-productive to a happy life.

Or so they say.

All of this would be so much easier if there weren't faucet conspiracies, we didn't have to work with, you know, people, or there weren't so many Republicans in Kansas.

Since exercise is a good mood stabilizer we try to go after dinner for our twoish mile walk.  On this day it was hot and humid.  So humid it felt like we were doing laps in a swamp.  Mark chatted with some bike buddies and we ran into an old classmate of Will's and her mom.  We saw an owl on the ground near the golf course and tippy-toed closer for a look.  Near the end we saw our friends and told them where to look for the owl.

All in all a good way to end the day.

We walked our drenched selves home and just spitting distance from our own yard a pickup truck drove by.  The kid hung out the window and screamed WOOT.  It scared The Big Daddy and I so that we jumped a foot.  The kid laughed and slapped his steering wheel as he drove off.

And I yelled back "F*** YOU."

The Big Daddy turned around.  "I can't believe you said that.  No, wait, let me take that back.  I can't believe you screamed that.  In broad daylight."

Technically it was pre-dusk and not broad daylight, and upon reflection it did seem to be one of those things that might fit into an angerish column.

But why did that little hooligan have to go and ruin my zen mood?  Why take the call of the mighty owl we had just seen and use it to scare us?

Our long-time Republican senator who hasn't even lived in this state in years is beating the tea partier in the Kansas primary tonight and I'm sorta okay with that.  It's like having a deadbeat boyfriend.  You know he'll never do a single thing to make your life easier but at least he won't burn the house down while you're off working to pay the bills.

Lookie there.

I just managed some anger.

Woot.  Woot.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thoughts From The Road

The Big Daddy and I logged 3000 miles on the car and more gas station and rest area stops than we could count.  All that time in a car watching the scenery gives one more than enough time to observe some things.

Hay
This must be hay bailing season from here to Montana.  We saw all shapes and sizes of hay bales.  Stacked, rolled and pancake size.

Cowboys
I only saw a few (one especially handsome one on an ATV repairing a fence) and have but one word to describe them.  Hubba hubba.  So cute I had to use the same word twice.

Fences
They are essential to the farm/ranching life and are like hay bales......unique to each place and daily being mended.

Sagebrush
Believe me, this seems to be the only form of vegetation in the entire state of Wyoming.

Highways
We did little interstate driving and more highway roads.  Some were so desolate that I prayed for me and the few people we passed that they have no car problems.  There isn't a mile marker, a water tower, a town or business for miles and miles to even guess where a tow truck would find you.  That is if you could even get a two truck to help you out.

Little Towns
We passed so many of these.  One had a sign with a population of 35.  How in the world???  I couldn't imagine where you grocery shop, get your hair colored or send your kids to school.  Remote, isolated, small.  Maybe the point in some cases is not to be found.

Gas Stations
Some looked liked they'd been around since The Flintstones.  Regardless, they are a welcome sight and despite sometimes having more than half a tank stopping and filling up is a given as God Only Knows when you will come across the next one.

Liquor Stores & Casino
They are one in the same.  What could go possibly wrong with that?

Littering
I cannot remember the last time I've seen someone throwing garbage out their car window but we followed two yahoos in Montana who decided to clean their car of Dorito bags and other snack trash.  It is a disheartening experience to see someone toss their garbage onto such a pristine place.

Hotel Pillows
I thought about bringing our own pillows but talked myself out of it.  Next time I will think better of it.  Regardless of the price, from a Motel 6 to the Hilton Garden Inn, hotel pillows are crappy, flat things that will make your neck do funny things for days.

Wild Animals
Mark wanted to see a bear.  I wanted to see moose.  His wish came true when twenty miles from Glacier a black bear crossed the road in front of us.  I never saw any moose but we did see lots of deer, prong-horned antelope and buffalo.

Farm Stands
The entire western half of Montana has roadside stands selling cherries.  Closer to Glacier they sell huckleberries.  We stopped at one that was selling three varieties of cherries, bought six pounds and ate every single one.

Climate Change
It is most undoubtedly here.  Once we left the midwest we saw evidence of forest fires EVERYWHERE.  Massive swaths of burnt trees as far as the eye could see.  And Glacier National Park?  We didn't see any glaciers though a few still exist.  At one time there were 150 in the park.  Now there are 25 and they aren't expected to be around much longer.

Fracking
We passed a water truck which we first assumed was headed to Washington State due to their forest fires.  In reality, though, these trucks are used for fracking.  While proponents of fracking say that it uses less water than the average household (and this is true), water used for fracking can never be reused.  The water we use in our homes is always being recycled.  Water that has been used for fracking then becomes toxic.  In a time when so many states are in dire drought conditions it is disturbing to see trucks of water tanks going to support such a controversial and environmentally harmful endeavor.  

Marriage
We not only survived eight days together in a car, we had a really, really good time.  That's not to say we didn't have our moments but they were small and insignificant.......which is fitting under the majesty of nature's handwork.

Big Skies & Starry Nights
Without a doubt, Montana has the biggest sky, the brightest stars and freshest air. 

I am smitten.




The answer to fracking?

Almost to Idaho so no sagebrush.
My sherpa.