You better get all prayed up, brothers and sisters, 'cause hell is freezin' over. I went shopping yesterday and found three, count 'em, THREE, pairs of jeans that fit well. Of course, I had to try on eighteen pair, but nevertheless I found three pairs of jeans I really liked. It's a dadgum miracle. Buying jeans is right up there with buying bras and bathing suits. I'd rather get jabbed in the eye with a red hot poker than try them on. And don't even get me started about the lack of comfortable, well made pantries for women who fall somewhere between hoochie mama thong and granny panty. You just can't find a good panty these days. I was beginning to think it was just me, and then I struck up a conversation with a 40-something stranger at the underwear clearance rack at Wal-Mart who was complaining about the same thing. I felt much better about myself afterwards. However, a couple of minutes later when I was squatted in the floor looking for my size in the Hanes cotton low rise briefs, I witnessed her nearly get into a fight with a lady who walked up to her and said, "Karen told me at the cookout you wanted to whoop my a**." And then the other lady said, "Noooo, I said I didn't want to be around your a**." They went back and forth with some attitude, and there was some ugliness tossed around about panty lady's recent stint in jail, so perhaps she hasn't always made the best choices. However, I do not believe that incarceration should affect your ability to judge a good panty, so I still feel confident I'm not alone in my frustration to find adequate drawers for the middle aged woman. By the way, the police were called to that little catfight before it got out of hand, so I slipped around the corner and down to the grocery department before I witnessed something I had to testify to in court. That was two days before Christmas. So much for peace, love and kindness for your fellow man.
Teen Angel and I spent yesterday shopping. We didn't buy much because the sales were somewhere between fair to middlin'. I saw better buys before Christmas, but we did find a few bargains, and I scored big time on some capris for our upcoming cruise. Plus, we had some tasty Chick-Fil-A and good conversation. All was right with the world. It was a nice way to wrap up the holidays.
Christmas was good. All was calm, and all was bright. That's not always the case with Hubby's family, so we considered it a successful holiday. Santa was better to us than he should have been, but he didn't get too carried away. I got a new rolling hard case which holds all of my cameras, lenses and photography gear. No more lugging around three backpacks. Also, I got a new suitcase with 360 degree wheels. I can't tell you how excited I am about that. That one made it on my wish list this year after Teen Angel and I lugged our suitcases across Europe, up and down steps in buildings without elevators and across crowded airports last August. Exhausted, we were sitting at the airport in Paris for our flight home, when a lady in high heels went gliding by us with her spinner suitcase, pushing it effortlessly and acting like it was the easiest thing in the world. I looked at Teen Angel, pointed at her suitcase and said, "I'm gettin' me some of that." Besides, I needed a new suitcase anyway. Hours later, when we picked up our luggage in Dallas to go through customs, mine wouldn't roll right, and it was like draggin' a dog without legs on a leash. I finally stopped and looked at it and realized that one whole corner, wheel and all, was busted off that bag. I didn't know whether to thank the baggage handlers at Charles DeGaulle or Dallas International. I had to drag that heavy thing through customs, recheck it and drag it through the Nashville Airport with one wheel. It was a joy, I tell ya'. On the bright side, the bottle of French red wine we had shoved down in the middle of the bag made it through both flights in one piece. Salute!
I'll get to use that new suitcase in a couple of weeks when Hubby and I take off for Mexico. We are taking a cruise with several of my cousins and their spouses, and it should be fun, fun, fun. There are a million things to do between now and then to make sure that Papa T., the diabetic dog and Teen Angel are all taken care of while we're gone. We are spending one night in New Orleans before our ship leaves port, and it should be interesting. That happens to be the night before the LSU-Alabama BCA Championship football game. Every redneck in the southeast will be in NOLA, trolling Bourbon Street. I told Hubby it should either be very exciting or a good opportunity to get in the middle of some kind of street fight. You know us, we seem to find excitement wherever we go. I better where my clean underwear incase I'm in some sort of accident. Let's hope I find some decent new drawers before we go.
I didn't get Christmas cards done this year. They kind of went by the wayside in the midst of all the work, family and photography craziness I've had going on. I did manage a little verse that I jotted onto plain paper and mailed to our friends and family. It was the best I could do. I will share it with you my internet friends because you all brighten my life and make it richer. Some of you I feel as if I've known for years, and I would mail this to all of you if I knew your real names and addresses.
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. May you find joy in this season and many blessings in the new year. Now, get off the internet and go do some Christmas!
O Christmas Card, O Christmas Card
We meant to make a Christmas card, so pretty and sublime
but we couldn't get our act together and now we're out of time.
We even took a family photo, with plans to share with you
but frankly, it was crappy, and simply wouldn't do.
Our hair was kind of messy, our smiles were quite a wreck,
When Olan sent it to us, we said, "Mercy, what the heck?!"
We scrapped that plan and bought some cards, with plans to add a note
a letter telling about our lives, our plans, our year, our hopes!
But things got kind of crazy, we didn't get it done
And Christmas is a week away, this card thing isn't fun.
"Oh, snap!" we said. "What should we do? How shall we cover our butts?"
We decided to whip up a poem, something cheery without any smut.
Hang onto your seats, this is gonna be fast, we've got more shopping to do,
Christmas is kicking our fannies this year, did it come this fast for you?
The year's been good but kind of wild, it kept us on our toes,
It had some highs, some big adventures and even a couple of woes.
We laughed, we cried, we chased our tails, we even traveled the world,
we rate it an eight on a scale of ten, with two thumbs up and a swirl.
We gazed at Big Ben, saw the Eiffel Tower, and flew to the Big Apple in May,
we bought fake purses in China Town, even learned to pronounce si'l vous plait.
T.A. graduated high school, her honors were high, she made her parents' hearts swell,
She's studying nutrition to be a dietician, let's hope she finds work that pays well.
'Cause her parents are broke from purchasing books, and buying her new shirts and pants
not to mention the bucks that we blew in August when we took our graduate to France.
We lost Mama J., two uncles died too, we had to put the cat down,
we shed lots of tears for the ones that we lost and had our fair share of frowns.
But we patched up our hearts, said a few prayers and dusted off our blues
'cause life goes on, work's never done, and sometimes this place is a zoo.
Mom's taking pictures, weddings and such, it gives her some traveling dough
And Dad stays busying looking after his pop, 'cause he needs lots of care don't ya' know.
The year ahead will probably be crazy, we hope it's a good one for you,
with blessings and laughter and lots of good cheer, maybe a surprise or two.
We wish we had something besides this plain paper, with nary a pretty design
but we didn't have time to get to the store, so plain will just have to do this time.
May God bless you and keep you in the palm of his Hand, and calm all your worries and fears
Merry Christmas to you, Happy New Year too. Maybe our card will be better next year.
I have only two emotions during the Christmas season, blissfully happy and sad to the point of tears. There's no in between, and I can jump from one to the other in a heartbeat. I'd like to blame it on my mixed up hormones, but I've been this way for several years. The death of my nephew probably has a little to do with it because Christmas just isn't the same after you bury a child. However, I think I just have to chalk it up to me being me. As my grandma used to say, I'm just tender hearted. I wear my emotions on my sleeve, and I just can't help it. Those of you familiar with the Meyer's Briggs Personality Test will find it no surprise that I'm an ENFP. For those of you not familiar with that test, just know that it means I'm off the charts in the "emotional" part of my personality. Gold star, A+ with a smiley face on my paper off the charts. I'm an empathizer, a sympathizer and a sap. I'll laugh with you, cry with you and take on whatever emotion you're likely to be feeling at any time. Which means I can be moved to loud laughter, tears or jeers without much effort. And sometimes it drives my family crazy, although they've gotten somewhat used to me crying at the drop of the hat. They just shake their heads when I cry in church or at the movies or while watching a touching television commercial. Sister mercy, that commercial that's running right now that features the soldier in some far off country reading the Christmas book his child has recorded is killin' me! Killin' me. And I don't dare linger over the Hallmark Channel. Stopping on that channel is just asking for trouble. In fact, when there's a Hallmark Hall of Fame special on CBS, Hubby just groans because he knows I'm going to want to watch it, and I'm going to cry before it ends. I have to keep tissues in the house just in case there's a Steel Magnolias marathon on TBS. As Truvey says, laughter through tears is one of my favorite emotions. And that pretty well sums up the holidays for me.
I find plenty of joy during December. There are get togethers with loved ones, parties with friends, and I love the children's programs. I ran the audio/video booth at church the other night during the preschool program, and it was a doozy. I haven't laughed that much in weeks. They were just cute, cute, cute. But at the same time all of this is going on, I can't help but see the stark differences between the haves and the have not's as daddy calls it. Christmas is an economic divider. No doubt about it. While some are blowing money to the four winds on lots and lots of presents, there are so many people who just don't have money to buy necessities. Some of them can't afford their electricity or their medicine.
There are children whose Christmas dreams will be disappointments. A local gentleman who portrays Santa at local events came to our Stuff the Truck event. He's a wonderful fellow who has a radio call-in show for children who want to talk to Santa. He gets calls from all over the world each Saturday, and recently he asked a young caller what he wanted for Christmas. The little boy asked why it would matter because he didn't get anything last year. Not one single present. It broke my heart to hear that. It broke Santa's, too.
I've seen people in recent weeks who literally had no food on their shelves at home and had no idea how they were going to feed their children. While I'm sitting around dreaming about how I can wrangle a trip to Italy, there are those who don't have enough to eat. And there are those who are alone. A FaceBook post by a friend this week made me think about the number of people I know who lost parents or loved ones this year. Just this morning, I talked at length with a friend who lost her mother. It was about the fifth time this Christmas season that I shed a tear or two. I haven't even begun to think about the emotions that will be rolling through my soul on Christmas Day when Mama J.'s not around. Christmas was a very big deal to her, and Sunday will definitely be different for us than it has in the past as we feel the family circle on Hubby's side getting smaller and smaller each year.
And I'm not really sure where I'm going with all of this other than to say I hope you have noticed, too. You all seem like good folks, so I imagine you have. I hope in the midst of all the hustle and chores and shopping madness, you've noticed the folks among us who are in pain this season. The people who are spending their first Christmas without a loved one or dealing with the dysfunction in their families. When I went to Al-Anon, I learned very quickly that Christmas is a combustible time for many families. There are many people out there, some that are likely your friends, who are just trying to get through the 25th. I can't help but think of that line in that old Emerson, Lake and Palmer song, Father Christmas, "They sold me a dream of Christmas". Movies, television and stores sell us the idea that the holidays are joyous for everyone and that our families, homes and gifts should all be perfect. We can never measure up to that image of the season, and frankly, I've quit trying. I love Christmas folks, but I feel your pain.
I'm lucky, I have a wonderful family, and I find true joy in family and church at Christmas. When we're together this weekend, we'll get to talking about old times, and my peeps will probably make me laugh. Laugh until I cry.
People fascinate me. I love talking to people, quizzing them about their past and generally just learning what makes them tick. Maybe it comes from working in journalism all those years. Or maybe I'm must nosey, but I love learning new things about people, especially those I've known for a long time.
Last Friday, we went to the tiny town of Hazel on the Kentucky/Tennessee border to meet Papa T.'s brother, and sisters-in-law for lunch. We met at the only restaurant in town, Anne's Country Kitchen, where they have some great catfish. It's a good thing their food is good, 'cause it helps you to overlook the fact that the building hasn't been dusted since 1987. It's the kind of place that serves hot coffee, plate dinners and mile high meringue on their coconut cream pie. While we waited for our food, I quizzed Aunt Kay about her brother, Byron who is a well known record producer in Nashville. We've been hearing Byron's name thrown around on awards shows over the years. As mama says, he's a pretty big deal. I knew what he did but I had never heard how he made the leap from the family farm in Puryear, Tennessee to making records with some of country music's biggest stars.
It seems Byron got a guitar when he was young and plucked his way through his teenage years with a little band that played at local events and clubs. He eventually won a songwriting contest that earned him a trip to Nashville to record it. The song didn't get him any real attention but it did get his foot in the door with the recording industry. He wrangled an introduction to some performers, and eventually Charley Pride hired him as a songwriter. He worked for Pride for many years and along the way honed some producing skills. One day, he was approached about producing songs for a new, up and coming singer who was expected to do well. He accepted. That singer was Tim McGraw. Yeah, that was a good decision. He produced Tim's first hit, and that was the start of a long and prosperous business relationship. Tim got hitched to Faith Hill, and Byron started producing her music, too. In fact, he won a Grammy for co-producing her big album Breathe. He was Billboard's Producer of the Year in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Not too bad for a country boy, huh? A little while back, he was asked to take on another promising act that record execs had high hopes for. Again, he said yes. Their name? Sugarland. The man knows how to pick 'em. Just a few years ago, he started a recording company with Tim McGraw, so he's doing pretty well these days.
I was completely fascinated by his story, and obviously, Aunt Kay is very proud of her baby brother. She loves to share tidbits about him. Not in a bragging way. She would never do that. It would be unseemly. Aunt Kay is very genteel. Picture Olivia DeHavilland as Melanie in Gone With the Wind, and that's Aunt Kay. Always sweet, always gentle and never boastful. She's a southern lady through and through, so she would never toot Byron's horn very loudly, but she's thrilled with his success. And it's led to some interesting experiences for her, like that time she went to a baby shower at his house in Nashville and met Faith Hill.
But the icing on the cake Friday came near the end of the Byron stories when a friend of hers walked by our table and said, "Hey, there's one of those famous Gallimore Sisters that I saw on the internet." He started talking about a video of her he saw on YouTube, and I almost fell out of my chair. I didn't even know she knew what YouTube was. Come to find out, when Aunt Kay was very young, she used to be part of a trio with her sister, Carol, and her cousin, Annie, that performed at events around the community, had a weekly local radio show and even sang at the Junior Grand Ole' Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. Carol still lives in Puryear, not far from Aunt Kay, but Annie's been traveling the world for years under the name of Rattlesnake Annie, recording music and sharing a microphone with people like Willie Nelson. Last fall, Carol, Annie and Aunt Kay were sitting around the kitchen table, when Annie broke out a cheap recorder and recorded them as they sang together for the first time in years. Aunt Kay doesn't think this is a very good recording because they were just goofing around, but obviously, the ladies know how to harmonize. (Aunt Kay's in the middle.)
Now, I knew Aunt Kay had a great singing voice because I heard her sing a few years ago at a family wedding shower. I was bent over the refreshment table at the back of the tiny church we were at, when I heard her and her two daughters comment on a religious painting on the wall. The picture reminded them of an old hymn they used to sing in church, and the three of them spontaneously broke out into that hymn. It was some of the most beautiful harmony I'd ever heard, and I stopped in my tracks to listen.
However, I had no idea she used to perform publicly, and not only that, she dropped this little nugget on us Friday. Back in the spring, she made professional recordings of some songs with her old trio buddies. She has no idea when or how they are going to be released, but I found it very exciting. Not because she might get some kind of airplay for it, but simply because she's still nurturing a talent that she used so much when she was young. Can you believe it? Aunt Kay, the sweet beautiful lady who spent the last fifty years quietly raising her family in the country town of Puryear, used to perform at the Grand Ole' Opry and is now on YouTube. You just never know what you're gonna find out when you ask someone what they've been up to lately.
One of my favorite things about late December is the Year in Pictures post that MSNBC does on their website. You can find them here, and I encourage you to check them out. There are actually several such posts on various websites around the world, and I enjoy everyone I see. I could sit and look at those pictures all day long, studying the composition and the lighting and trying to figure out what shutter speed the photographer was using or more importantly, what was going through her mind as she snapped the shot. So many of them are graphic and emotional, capturing a significant moment in history involving a war or a natural disaster. I can't help but imagine what it would be like to be standing behind the lens at that exact moment. To personally witness such a spectacular moment, and as soon as I snapped the frame, know that I had just captured an important glimpse of mankind's triumphs or failures.
In fact, I think about it often. I dream about traveling the world and photographing its people. Not posed pictures with special lighting or effects. Just honest pictures of everyday people in their natural settings. Children in Africa. Dancers in Bali. The women of Afghanistan, and fishermen off the coast of Italy. Oh, I'd also want to capture the sights and sounds of exotic places. Sunrises in Tibet. The blocks in the Great Wall of China. Whales off the coast of Alaska. The Eiffel Tower in the snow. But it's mostly people I crave to capture with the lens. The people of the world.
They say the difference between people who dream and people who make those dreams come true is a plan of action. I believe that. I dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower and the streets of London, and I made that happen with a plan this past summer. I'm not sure how I'm going to find the money to travel the world and take pictures when I retire, but I'm working on a plan, brothers and sisters. I'm working on a plan. In the meantime, I'm honing my skills, looking at other people's pictures. And dreaming. Always dreaming.
Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the holiday season. For the last four years my employer has challenged area schools to collect canned good for local food pantries. The school that collects the most pounds of food per student wins $1,000. One school gets a nice prize, we gather more food than we could ever buy with $1,000 and the kids get a wonderful lesson in giving. The first year we did it, I was in tears before the end of the day because of how touched I was by the children's generosity. Of course, I was also having an emotional time with Sissy, and Christmas kind of makes me cry anyway (I'm such a sap.) Nonetheless, it was a very moving experience, and since the Challenge has grown each year, it's just a wonderful day when we collect the food. The linemen help me. We get two trucks with lifts, some pallet jacks and extra collection bins and we hit the streets for a day of holiday spirit. Arriving at each school is like opening a present. We open the doors and peek into the hallway for what is almost always a great surprise of more food than we expected. I can't tell you how joyous it is to walk into a school and find food stacked up on the floor and spilling out of bins. Joyous, I tell you. Joyous. It's the usually the day of the year when my Christmas spirit starts to kick in, thanks to all those kids. This year was no different.
This year, we had ten schools participating. When we were finished gathering up food, weighing it and loading it into a semi trailer, we had collected 22,520 pounds of food. Yeehaw! We filled that semi trailer full. And rather than rattle on and on about it, I thought I'd just share with you a video I made from snapshots our crews took along the way. And ya'll, I'm so proud of myself. I made it all the way through the day without crying. Although I did get a little misty when I launched into that little pep talk with those fourth graders about the power of one person when he joins with others to work toward a common goal.
Pray for me, brothers and sisters, that the wheels don't come off my wagon this week as I'm busier than a one legged man in a butt kickin' contest. And if you find my mind, let me know because I apparently lost it about last Thursday. I spent two days last week looking high and low for a gift card and a DVD that I bought online and had tucked away for safe keeping until I could wrap them. I looked through all of the other gifts that the wonderful Amazon fairy has been sending to my house. I searched in drawers and cabinets. I emptied the 50 gallon recycling bin onto the garage floor and dug through every piece of cardboard and paper we had. And we had a lot.
I finally decided I had accidently thrown away both small items. And then one of them came in the mail the next day. And the other showed up the following day. It appears I just imagined I had received them and tucked them away for safekeeping when they hadn't even gotten to my house yet. Oy vey, pass me some eggnog and make it spiked. I should have my shopping privileges revoked.
Oh, and if you see the gift card I bought at Sears the other night, let me know. I put it away for safe keeping, and now I can't find it. I think.
We had to put the cat to sleep today. Sabrina's condition deteriorated over the weekend to the point that we felt she was becoming very uncomfortable. In fact, I was almost afraid to check on her this morning for fear that she had died in the night. She had lost so much weight in the last two weeks, and she stopped eating this weekend. Her breathing was very labored. We called the vet this morning, and when he came to the house at lunchtime, he confirmed what we had expected. It was time to let her go so she wouldn't suffer any more. Her big yellow eyes looked at us pleadingly, as if to say, "Make it stop". So we did. And boy, was it difficult. It was one big sob fest as the vet started the anesthesia. Our pets are our family. Some folks aren't that way, but we are, and we don't apologize for that. They bring us great joy, love us unconditionally and make our lives better. We try to show them great love and kindness in return. We gave Sabrina two good years, and hopefully, that helped to make up for the first eight that weren't so good.
Sabrina was Sissy's cat. That's part of why this is all so painful. Sissy adopted Sabrina after Sissy's son drowned. It was a way for her to liven up her empty home and give her some much needed company. It didn't work that well, though. Sissy embraced her depression, and spent eight years spending money and using all sorts of vices to fill up the empty hole that was once her heart. It didn't work, and when Sissy killed herself, she left Sabrina, who had basically been a stranger in her own house. Sabrina never really got much attention from Sissy, and she was left for long periods of time in the house with food and water but without company. She was bounced around a couple of kennels for long periods of time each time Sissy moved. It wasn't a great life for her.
We weren't looking for another pet when Sissy died, and we initially looked for a new home for Sabrina. But she was an older cat and pretty unsociable, so no one wanted her. We knew if we took her to a shelter she'd end up euthanized, so we reluctantly gave in when Teen Angel begged to keep her. Sabrina didn't even like us at first. I think she didn't know how to receive love and attention. She had never had any toys, so she didn't know how to play with them. We would shake a toy mouse at her, and she'd look at us like we were crazy. Initially, we left her at Sissy's house where we'd visit her every day and then we brought her to our house where she stayed in Teen Angel's room for a few weeks. She was scared to leave Teen Angel's room, especially with the dog around. Eventually, she got the nerve to venture into the rest of the house, and we kept trying to show her some love. Then, one day, it was if she'd made up her mind that we were okay and that she'd be okay, and she climbed up on the sofa and made herself at home. She never looked back. For the last couple of years, she's been Teen Angel's buddy. She's been sassy and irreverent. She has smacked the dog's jaws on numerous occasions and she has given us a lot of laughter as we watched her priss around as if she owned the place. She would daintily dip her paws into the water bowl and dab her wet paw to her mouth instead of drinking out of the bowl. She would sit just so from her perch on the back of the couch, and she groomed herself religiously. Teen Angel and I, on a daily basis, would make up conversation based on what we thought she would say if she could speak. "Ooh Nana, can't we get rid of that dumb dog?" and "Is that cream I see in the refrigerator? I do loves me some dairy." We have gotten a lot of joy out of her, and while she was never an extremely loving cat, she had obviously begun to love us and would cuddle against us at night or crawl into Hubby's lap for a good nap. She was an interesting cat, and we were very attached to her.
I don't know if this would have been any easier if she had not been Sissy's cat. There is obviously an emotional attachment there that made this situation unique. Taking care of Sabrina was a way to cope with Sissy's suicide, and letting go of Sabrina is almost like letting go of a little piece of Sissy. We've had so much loss in the last few years that it's hard to take any loss at this point, especially so soon after Mama J's death. It starts to feel as if you don't have much control over your life and that about the time you think you've gained control again, it slips from your grasp in a slippery kind of way. Kind of like when you pick up a chunk of hard sugar with your fingers. It's hard when you first touch it, but the minute you grasp it, it drops into a thousand tiny kernels that fall through your fingers, and there's no way to catch them before they spill. We spilled many tears today when we laid Sabrina on her soft pillow in that sunny window she likes so much and stroked her while the vet injected her with the drugs. She drifted off to sleep, leaving us with an empty spot in our hearts but hope that she learned what love was all about before her life ended. The ground on our property is very hard right now, despite all the recent rain, so we are having her cremated and will figure out what to do with her ashes later. Ironically, the funeral home that provides that service is the same one that handled the funeral arrangements for Sissy's son. It's funny how life turns. And it's funny how you just don't see some of the curves ahead until you're right in them. How we negotiate those curves is what's important, and while we'll muddle through as always, I'm ready for a good straight stretch of road.
When you have a blind dog, funny things happen. Jack has adapted pretty well to his loss of vision, but he still has issues getting around sometimes. Like last night, when he was sniffing for crumbs in the kitchen floor, hoping someone had dropped a tasty morsel while fixing or eating dinner. From the living room we could hear was him bumping repeatedly into the cabinets like a steel ball in a pinball game. He did it so much it got funny. Sometimes he gets stuck in a closet or bathroom and can't figure out how to get out so he gets mad and starts barking in a dammit kind of bark. And if you're not careful when walking him in the yard, he'll run into a tree 'cause he gets so excited about going outside that he runs without caution. If they made helmets for pets, we'd buy one.
Well today, Teen Angel texted me this picture of Jack snoozing on Sabrina's bed, next to her kitty toys and a couple of feet from her water bowl.
While the cat is in the habit of stealing Jack's pillow because she's ornery that way, he NEVER EVER wants anything to do with her, let alone her bedding. I mean never. From the moment we moved her into the house, he has pretended she doesn't exist. So this picture means one of two things, either he got lost and wound up in the wrong bed or someone's having an identity crisis.
1. an act or instance of humiliating or being humiliated.
2. the state or feeling of being humiliated; mortification.
1350–1400; Middle English < Late Latin humiliātiōn- (stem of humiliātiō ). See humiliate, -ion
2. degradation, dishonor. See shame.
Used in a sentence: "The humiliation Hula felt when tripping on a rug in a dark hallway and falling spectacularly while going to pee was nothing compared to the embarrassment she felt when she realized it had been caught on the security cameras at work."
From now on, Hula will turn on the light when dashing through the building at night.
Has it really been Thanksgiving since I last posted? I think that's the longest I've gone between posts since I first started this blog four years ago. I have just had a couple of the busiest weeks of 2011 at work and home. Whew! This is always a busy season for me at work because of the holiday related community events my employer participates in, but sister mercy, it's been busy at home, too. Yesterday was the first day since before Thanksgiving where I could just sit for a few minutes, unwind and make a list of all the little things I need to catch up on. And that list covers a whole page. So what's new? Dear Lord, please send me two extra legs and more hands. Amen.
Here's what the Hula-gen's have been up to:
-We got Papa T. out of the hospital and back home with some physical therapy and home health. About the time we thought he was back on the right track, he had a very light stroke that sent him back to the hospital for two days. Fortunately, there was no damage to his speech or mobility but it certainly did give us a bit of a scare for a few hours. And it happened while I was in the middle of shooting a wedding, so I couldn't leave and help Hubby at the hospital. Aye, yi, yi. It all worked out though, and Papa T. is back home feeling pretty good and may I say just a little sassy.
-The photography business has been very busy in recent weeks. I had four family shoots and a wedding all squeezed into a three week period. I spent every spare minute this past weekend editing photos and uploading them to my photography site. I am now caught up, except for the wedding, and those pictures aren't due for a couple of more weeks, so I'll be working on those over the course of the next few nights. Weddings are hard work, but I do love seeing the bride and groom enjoy their big day. It brings back good memories. I'm lovin' the photography for pay thing even though it does consume a fair amount of time. Can you say vacation money? Dear Lord, thank you. Amen.
-Speaking of vacation, we are going on a cruise in January. It's been planned for quite some time, and we'll be on the same cruise as several of my cousins and their spouses. It's going to be a blast, and Hula was very proud of herself for scoring $62 planet tickets for the flight to our port city, New Orleans, and $59 tickets for the flight home. But she got a little greedy and was holding out for a great deal on a hotel room in New Orleans for that night before our boat leaves port. And then LSU got a spot in the BCA Championship game. In New Orleans. On January 8th. The night we're staying there. And suddenly the hotel rooms got scarce and expensive. Holy hurricane, Batman! A room at the Marriott Convention Center that was $149 a night three weeks ago is now $445 a night, and most of the mom and pop bed and breakfast inns have a four night minimum stay that week. After an hour and a half on the phone and online I managed to find a room for $111, three miles from downtown New Orleans in a hotel that is not next door to a crack house. I'll take it. It's better than renting a car at the airport, driving out of town to a hotel and driving back in the next day. And we won't have to stay with Madd Maxx and his family in Baton Rouge, which was going to be Plan B, even though he doesn't know that yet. We're still close enough to the French Quarter to boogie on over there if we want, and it occurred to me today that perhaps we should actually try to go to the game. Whatever we do, I'm sure New Orleans will be rockin' that night so it should be interesting.
-In the category of bad news never seems to be far away these days, we got word last week that Teen Angel's cat, Sabrina, has cancer. In fact, she doesn't have long to live. Her lungs are full of tumors so she probably has only days left. She doesn't seem to be uncomfortable yet, so we are keeping an eye on her and lavishing her with lots of attention. One of two things will likely happen in the next week. She will either start to hurt and we'll have to put her to sleep or she will die in her sleep. Every time we walk into the house we run to check on her and hope she hasn't died. This death watch thing is kind of hard. It's compounded by the fact that Sabrina was actually Sissy's cat. Sissy adopted her as a kitten right after Sissy's son died, and we adopted Sabrina when Sissy died. There's a unique attachment there, and it just makes losing Sabrina even more difficult than it normally would be. Dear Lord, please stop with the bad news. It's getting old. Amen.
-And on a really positive note, one of the things we do at work this time of year is to hold a two day event with the local hospitals where we try to stuff a semi truck full of canned goods for local food pantries. The event started last Tuesday with a bang, and then quickly slid downhill when the weather turned to poo. It rained early, turned to wet heavy snow, sleeted, rained some more and then turned very windy. As in it turned over our pop up tent. It was just miserable, and as I huddled with the other volunteers in the back of that cold wet semi last Tuesday night, I thought we were certainly going to go home with much less food than expected. But then the sun shined the following morning and cars started streaming to the truck. Hours later the truck was full, and we had more than 17,000 pounds of food. I couldn't believe it. I guess that's why they call it faith. Dear Lord, thanks for the affirmation that the world is not going to hell in a hand basket. Amen.
There is a row of five trees on one of the main streets in town, right in front of our local health department. They are large and provide a great deal of shade in the warm months, but they aren't that noticeable. Until fall. And then they put on quite a show. Those ginkgo trees turn a stunning shade of yellow that coats that whole side of the block. For a couple of weeks they shimmer and shine and light up that little section of downtown until they shed their lovely coat and get naked for the winter months. When in their prime, they beg to have their picture taken, and of course, I oblige.
But it occurred to me the other day how subtle and quiet they are for the other fifty weeks of the year. How funny that something so plain and simple the rest of the year could bring such joy and beauty to my life and the lives of others for just a handful of days. It made me think about the other things in my life that are that way and how perhaps, I take them for granted. Simple pleasures that beautify my days and lift me up.
For instance, Teen Angel's laughter from another room. I love it when I'm sitting on the couch, and I hear her chuckle in her bedroom over something on TV or the phone. How poor is the man who lives in a house so big he can't hear his peeps in the next room?
The warmth of my dog's body against me when he snuggles with me on the couch. The unconditional love of a dog is why I will never truly be a cat person.
The brightness of new grass in the spring. It's so green. Vivid even, and it's as if a big eraser has wiped winter from my front yard.
Taking pictures of other people. I think I've figured out why I enjoy taking pictures for people. Whether it's a bride dressed as a princess, a family celebrating a new baby or parents marking their child's birthday, people having portraits made are usually marking a special moment in their lives, and it's a privilege to be a part of that. I feel like an invited guest when I look at them through the lens. This Saturday, when I shoot a wedding, I will be the only extra person in the room when the groom gets his first look at his bride in her wedding dress. What a special honor to be entrusted with that moment. Maybe I've just been lucky and worked with only great people so far, but I have really had a lot of fun with each and every photo shoot I've done, and I've had several lately.
The touch of my husband's hand. It's not uncommon for him to grab my hand when we're walking across a parking lot or into a store. And sometimes when he crawls wearily into bed at night he lays his hand on top of mine as I drift off to sleep. That touch says so much. Likes those ginkgo leaves. Sparkly and warm and beautiful. Even if the moment is fleeting. It's memory is not.
I looked up and suddenly it was Monday morning. And I wasn't sure how I got there. Seriously. I had a three day weekend, but I ran the entire time, starting at 8am last Friday. I finally sat down last night around 9:30am and said, "Self, what was the name of that hurricane that just rolled over my fanny?" Just for fun I decided to name him Phillip 'cause that was the name of the ex-boyfriend that was the biggest pain in my backside way back before Hubby and marriage. He was about a category 4 and left my heart in quite a shambles. I stumbled across a picture of him on Facebook not too long ago, and he looked old and haggard, so I was pleased that the hex I put on him on 1986 must have worked. That noise you just heard was Jesus smacking me up the side of the head. He's probably starting to think I'm slow.
Try as I might, the feeling that the next month and a half is going to overwhelm me is starting to creep into the recesses of my feeble brain. I'm trying to pace myself but Lord have mercy, that train called the Holiday Express is picking up speed. I have several big projects at work involving multiple volunteers which will all culminate during the holidays, and when you combine that with the family Christmas festivities and a dose of what the heck do we do about Papa T. in the midst of everything, it is enough to make me want to curl up in the corner with a 2 liter of Coke Zero, a Pall Mall and reruns of Gene Simmons' Family Jewels. And I don't even smoke. Did I mention I have a droopy bra strap today, too? Somebody remind me to buy new underwear after Christmas.
As I type this I'm baking cornbread so I can dry it out in time to make dressing for our Thanksgiving meal. We have decided the time has come to relieve mama of having to do most of the work. We've been dividing up the dishes over the last several years, but she ends up being the one who does the most cleaning and baking so we told her this year to just show up at SuperCop's house with a ham, and we'd do the rest. I'm on dressing, cranberry relish and pie detail while Mrs. Scrubs, SuperCop, HandyMan and his girlfriend are doing the rest. SuperCop is frying a turkey breast in that new fryer of his, so y'all say a prayer that he doesn't burn down his garage in the process. Nothing puts a damper on a holiday meal like having to call State Farm. Mama tried to downplay the relief in her voice when I told her we were taking the reins this year, which told me we should have probably done it sooner. Oh, she pretended to be a little let down that she wouldn't have to clean up a kitchen, set the table, peel sixteen taters and roll out a gallon sized pot of chicken and dumplin's, but I could hear her humming the Hallelujah Chorus under her breath. We didn't let her completely off the hook, though 'cause it is not a holiday meal in our family without her ham. We cook a turkey at Thanksgiving but that's really just for looks. We nibble on it, but we're pork people through and through, and Mama is queen of the hams. I mean that in the best way possible.
We will gather with Mama and Daddy Wednesday night because of everyone's work schedules, and then we'll take Papa T. to my brother in law's house Thursday. That's two more pies to bake. Just call me Mrs. Smith. I actually love Thanksgiving. It's like Christmas without all the pressure and hoopla. You don't have to worry about gifts, you don't have to spend and arm and a leg (unless you're traveling) and you get to wear your stretchy pants without shame. Can I get an amen on the stretchy pants?
After Thursday, things will get really crazy for me at work, and somewhere in the next few weeks I'll have to do some Christmas shopping. Amazon here it come! I am not a Black Friday shop 'til you drop person. There is nothing at the mall I want that won't wait until 10am. Frankly, there's nothing at the mall I want, but my family does like a couple of presents under the tree, so I'll make an effort at some point. But it won't be on Friday morning. Teen Angel will be there at some ungodly hour with bells on while I will snooze in my bed until the dog wakes me up.
I'll put up the Christmas tree Friday and do my best to keep up with the crazy mishmash of events that will unfold in the next few weeks whether I'm ready for them or not. Somewhere in the midst of all the fanfare and busy- ness I will try to find some quiet time to reflect on the season and to look ahead to next year. I doubt things will slow down much after the first of the year as Papa T's care is still pretty intense, and I don't see that changing any time soon (another post for another day), but it should get a little better once January arrives. We have a little vacation planned then, and we're sure to need it. In the meantime, I'm battening down the hatches and hunkering down for this wave of craziness. My blogging may be a little erratic in the next few weeks, but if you miss me, check the cellar. I'm probably riding out the storm down there in my stretchy pants.
Used in a sentence:"Hula's attempts to do her Christmas shopping early this year were thwarted by the fact she can't remember where she hid the two lone gifts she bought on clearance immediately after the holidays last year and hid from her family." It appears she hid them from herself as well.
Well, I wanted to use a bridal picture I shot recently, but we are still hiding those from the groom, so I'll use my favorite little person instead. I still can't believe this little stinker is three years old.
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I got my mammogram last week, and while I don't mind doing it, I'm always a little amused by the whole process. I'm sure it's not remotely funny if you're dealing with a health scare, but on run of the mill mammogram days I can't help but smile when I do it. Some women claim that it hurts. I've never had that experience, but perhaps you need more boob for that. The office that does my mammograms is wonderful. They are very caring and professional, and I get to wear this spiffy robe throughout the whole thing. They don't make you wait around forever for your results either. Within a few hours of mine, I had a text message saying mine was A-okay. Of course, that text was from Mrs. Scrubs who works in that office, but they were always prompt and doting before she started working there.
I guess it's a lack of maturity on my part because in all honesty, every time I step up to that mammogram machine, that old saying about gettin' your tit hung in a wringer goes through my head. Over and over again. Throughout the whole lift this arm, move forward, don't breathe thing. It's all I can do not to laugh. Then there's all the tugging and pulling, the mashing and smashing. I started to make some smart aleck comment to the nurse the other day about pulling taffy and then I thought better of it. Believe it or not, I do manage to stop this mouth from running overtime on a rare occasion. (And that noise you just heard was my husband snorting.)
Among the other thoughts that went through my head the other day was God bless the flat chested woman who has to endure the nurse trying to stretch every inch of flesh she can in between those two plates. And where's the lattes? Every other professional office is trying to wow me with their customer service these days by offering me a milky coffee I'm probably paying too much for, so why can't they? Oh, right, it's supposed to be about the TEST. Which brings me (finally) to my point. If we can spend so much time on figuring out ways to make medical tests much more pleasant like robes, and potpourri and mood music, why can't we spend a little more time on improving the tests themselves? There is probably a lot of research like that going on now that I just don't know about it, but it sure seems to take a long time for us to find a better way to probe the human body. Take the rectal thermometer and babies. How long did we use that method before someone finally said, "Let's just use the temperature in the ear and adjust our scale accordingly." I remember a time when I was a kid and mama would holler at me to go get the thermometer, and she'd have to remind me to pick up the oral thermometer, NOT the rectal thermometer. Wouldn't that be a bad mistake?
And then there's the way we come up with the ideas to begin with. Who decided that the best way to determine body temperature was to shove a glass capsule full of mercury up your backside? It's an issue that plagues us in these modern times. I'd love to have been seated at the table when someone in the group of people studying the colon said, "Hey! I got it. Let's give someone explosive diarrhea, clean 'em out real good and then run a camera up their fanny! They're gonna fart like crazy when it's over with, but I think it'll work." I'm not even gonna' touch on the issue of pap smears except to say that those little brushes may LOOK like Q-tips, but they don't FEEL like Q-tips.
A man is credited with developing the mammogram, which does not surprise me. No woman would have ever volunteered for getting her tit caught in a wringer...I mean, mash her boob really hard between two plates. I suspect that if we developed a prostate test that involved mashing the genitalia of a man between two plates and telling him to stand on his tiptoes and hold his breath, we'd have a better test within months. Now, wipe that visual image out of your brain with some eye bleach.
No doubt about it, medical care is invasive. It's humbling to be poked and prodded in the name of staying healthy. Just ask Papa T.. And I will gladly line up for my mammogram each year. But barring any surprises, I am just two and a half years away from my first colonoscopy, so I'm hoping they've developed a better way of performing that little chore before I have to have one. Besides, contrary to what I tell my family, I do not fart rainbows.
Papa T. got to come home this afternoon. Yay! He had to come home with oxygen. Boo. And that could be permanent. Oh my. We're not sure yet. We'll just have to wait and see, but it's definitely a possibility, and if that's the case, Lord help us all 'cause that oxygen tube up his nose has been a thorn in his side since he got to the hospital. He hates it. But as Hubby says, it is what it is, so he may just have to get used to it. Easier said than done probably. We're hoping that now that he's home, he will actually improve. His progress at the hospital had plateaued, and the doctor was a little stumped by that, but we really think that he will improve now that he's back to his house, his bed, his surroundings and his routine. And UK basketball. Go wildcats. One thing's for sure, we will celebrate for the next few nights with some of his favorite dinners, which basically means any combination of home cooked vegetables with a side of any kind of bread.
It has been a long seventeen days, and some of those days were good, and some were downright depressing. Taking care of old folks is hard work, and it can be very stressful when there are issues like blindness and dementia involved. Daily, I spent the drive to work praying for patience and strength and healing and a sense of humor. Five mornings ago, when I was having a particularly stressful spurt and I was more than a little tired, I caught myself asking the good Lord to give me a good day. And when I realized what I was doing that old Don Williams song rolled through my head. Before you know it, I was singing Lord I Hope This Day is Good for about three miles. And I don't know all the words, so it was a lot of "Lord, I hope this day is good" and a fair amount of humming. I thought how appropriate that song was for this particular moment in my day to day life.
"Lord, I hope this day is good. I'm feeling lonely and misunderstood" and "Lord, have you forgotten me?"
How honest is that? And it's a real toe tapper, so that was kind of uplifting. I downloaded it from Hubby's CD collection, and I've been playing it since. It shall be my theme for the time being, and that leads me to the question of the day, my friends. What song would be the soundtrack for YOUR life right at this moment? Shout it out 'cause I'd like to know. And in the meantime, here's to home cooked vegetables and heartfelt music. Yay!
It's been a busy week at the Hula-gen ranch. Papa T. is still in the hospital. This was day sixteen, and he cannot get home fast enough. He is much, much better, but his pneumonia has been a bit slow to clear up. More worrisome than anything though, has been his thinking skills. This whole bout of sickness has done a bit of a number on his thinker. Most of the time it's been due to his low oxygen level, but sometimes he gets fuzzy when his oxygen is fine, and we're not sure why. He'll start a sentence with one thought and wander into another. As Winnie the Pooh once said, "“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” Papa T. has always been a bear of very great brain, so it has been frustrating to see him so confused. Yesterday he was completely out of his head. Today he was clear as a bell. We're just not sure what to think about it. Nevertheless, his lungs are clearer, and we're hoping he might go home in the next day or two. Please, Lord, let him go home. We are all tired of the hospital. These past two weeks have certainly verified for me that I have no business working in the medical field.
Hubby is worn out. His patience is shot, and he needs some alone time that doesn't include napping in a hospital chair. He's a good man to take care of his parents so well, but it is hard. It really does take its toll after a while. One of these days, I'm going to write a book on taking care of the elderly. It will be an honest account of the stress, frustration and humor involved in nurturing another human being. I want people to know that they are not alone when they feel all of those mixed emotions. God bless people who make a career out of it. As far as I'm concerned, they get the Fast Pass into heaven.
I had one of those don't give a fig days. I suspect it's just welling up from a very tired place somewhere within my being, and it shall pass in a day or so, but right now, I just can't get too worked up about anyone else's problems. I'm too mired down in mine. I'm a bit snippy, too. I noticed it right off the bat this morning when, less than a half mile from my house, I glared in the rearview mirror at the SUV tailgating me and hollered at its driver, "Do you want to buy the arse of my car?!" I must have looked like I meant business because he backed off. Way off. And to be completely honest, I'm still not sorry about it. What's that line in the Rickie Lee Jones song, "A little lonely, a little sad, a little mean." Ha. That's me, minus the lonely and sad.
What makes us that way sometimes? Why is it so easy to resort to mean and ugly when we're feeling sorry for ourselves? Papa T. had a couple of days like that last week. In fact, we had a little come to Jesus meeting last Wednesday 'cause his attitude was all wonky, and it was making us and the hospital staff very cranky. But I get it. I get why he was taking it out on us because I'm guilty of doing the same thing. I just don't like it when someone does it to me. Will there ever be a day when I'm mature enough to get past that kind of behavior and just clamp my mouth shut when mean and snippy is at the back of my throat? And listen more than I speak? Probably not. If only I could be more like Pooh. “If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.”
Papa T. is still in the hospital, and he has a way to go before he's truly well. The poor man has been through the wringer in the past week and a half. As the doctor explained it, we got Papa T. to the hospital just as his pneumonia was starting so it had to settle in and get worse before it got better. And it did get much worse. In fact, about last Thursday, we were starting to worry that he wasn't going to get better. His oxygen level was really low, causing him to be very confused and to talk out of his head. You never knew what he was going to say. At one point, he was trading two cows for a sitting hen and another time he was hiring teachers. His speech got somewhat slurred, and we got scared.
He has slowly gotten rid of a great deal of the pneumonia, but he's weak and will need some rehab before he can go home. Shhh. Don't tell him that just yet. He's going to have a fit when he finds out, and it's best not to upset him until we have to. The bottom line is that in a couple of days they will likely move him to the rehab floor of the hospital where he'll stay several days, and when he goes home he'll have to have some nursing care. We've already hired someone to sit with him at nights while he's in the hospital because one thing's for sure, Hubby can't hold out much longer at this pace. It's just too overwhelming, and it's time for more help. The doctor says it will be five or six weeks before he's back to normal, which prompts me to say to all people over sixty, GET YOUR PNEUMONIA SHOT. Sister mercy, it's crazy how fast pneumonia can overtake a senior citizen. It really scares me. My uncle who recently passed away developed pneumonia after a fall, and after several days he started looking and feeling good, sat up in the bed and laughed with us and then his family was told the next morning he had less than a day to live. He was dead within twelve hours. That s**t kills, so don't fool around with it brothers and sisters.
It looks like we have several more days of sitting by his bedside, trying to convince him to eat hospital food and getting acquainted with every nurse who works the third and/or sixth floors of the hospital. If we're lucky, they'll have that roast beef special in the cafeteria at least one more time. Ug. I took one look at that and swore I was back in college as it definitely looked like something good ol' Winslow (Winslop) Cafeteria served up back in the day.
We've already had plenty of time to experience just about every aspect of the hospital in the past week and in the doctor's offices in the adjacent building since I had my yearly physical there this week, and I have a couple of suggestions for the folks in charge.
1. Can we not get a better hospital gown? I know the patient has to be accessible, but those gowns reveal way too much way too easily. I've seen more of Papa T.'s lower half than I ever wanted to see. I love him, but there are just some things better left to the imagination.
2. Is there a reason patient doors aren't closed more often? Everybody else has on that same gown, and just going from the elevator to Papa T.'s room every day for the past eleven days I have seen more hoo hoo's and wee wee's than I can count. And they don't offer eye bleach for hospital visitors.
3. Is it really necessary to put someone on a cardiac diet if he's tip toeing toward death's door, and you want him to eat SOMETHING, anything? Really, how much does trans fat matter at a time like that? If you want someone to eat so he can get his strength back up, for the love of Mirtle, don't give him dry chicken and tuna salad every day. I'm thinking of sneaking in a little serving of green beans cooked in hog jowl with a biscuit for Papa T.
4. Don't they make some kind of seat warmer for those exam beds they make you lie on in the doctor's office? I was laying under my lovely paper gown at the gynecologist's office yesterday (and can I just say my jewelry accessorized very well with that gown), freezing my patookus off and wondering why on earth they can't heat those things. I mean, we heat car seats now. Why can't we apply that technology to those beds? You don't have to use them on people with a fever, just those of us with thin blood.
5. Also, doctor's office staff should probably quit trying to be so politically correct when handing you those crazy paper gowns to put on. The nurse gave me a "vest" and a "skirt" yesterday. I promptly ripped the vest which was certainly thinner than a Bounty paper towel, and then I had trouble covering up both cheeks with the so called skirt. I told the doctor that I had cocktail napkins at home bigger than that skirt and offered to bring them next time. She didn't think I was nearly as funny as I thought I was. Perhaps, I should have offered to trade her two cows for a sitting hen. Maybe that would have made her smile.
Here's a little video someone made about the trick or treating event I told you about yesterday. I thought you might enjoy seeing it. Keep in mind that this is all done by private home owners. Oh, and the guy in the red vest is our mayor. The gentleman standing next to him is a friend of mine who is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, even when he's not building mad scientist labs.
In recent years, one of our busiest residential streets in the heart of town has developed a trick or treating tradition that has grown to the point that the city shuts down about a half dozen blocks of that street to safely accommodate all the little goblins and ghouls that will traipse through there tonight. They expect somewhere around 3,000 kids to show up. Whew! Wouldn't you hate to buy candy for that many kids?
It started when a couple of houses on the block got a little carried away with decorations, and before you know it, everyone else was getting into the spirit and now, every Halloween, the yards are filled with elaborate decorations that even include a real coffin or two. Some of the houses start getting ready a couple of weeks prior to Halloween, giving you sneak peeks of what's to come. Since I run on that street just about every day during lunch, I get to watch the decorations come together, and today that street was a beehive of activity as homeowners got their houses ready. Some houses go the traditional route:
Others create mazes that will likely be kind of dark and scary at night.
Others, like my buddy D. and his wife, build mad scientist labs, complete with old freezers and fake body parts.
In fact, there were fake arms, legs and heads scattered up and down that street today, tucked into bushes and peeking out from under flower beds.
My favorite house changes themes each year and they usually lean toward whimsical. Last year, they went with Peter Pan. This year, they teased us for the last several days with a big sign in the yard inviting everyone "to tea", and today, Alice and her buddies were setting a table and getting ready for company.
So cool. The Hula-gen's do not go to extremes like that, although I might throw on Teen Angel's bumble bee costume for answering the door to trick or treater's. With Papa T. still in the hospital, we're lucky we have candy. Thanks goodness I bought it two weeks ago because I had coupons. And thank goodness, we won't have 3,000 visitors. I didn't have enough coupons for that many goblins.
Thursday, we had the Business and Professional Women's Luncheon where they named the winner of the local Business Woman of the Year award. I was one of sixteen finalists. Hubby and Teen Angel were there, along with mama and daddy for moral support. You couldn't keep mama away from something that recognizes one of her babies. In fact, if it had been some kind of election, she would have wrapped up enough votes for me to win two weeks ago. She's been campaigning for me since the nominations were announced. Despite her efforts to tout my achievements to anyone in three counties who would listen, I did not win. Another very well deserving colleague of mine did, and I couldn't be more happy for her.
I did not expect to win, and that's the gosh honest truth. Hand to God, I was just very honored to be included on a list with such wonderful dynamic women, and it was great to have my family there to share that joy. It truly was an honor just to be nominated. My family though, was convinced I was going to win. Hubby swore the day before that I would. Right before the luncheon, daddy so cutely whispered to me, "Now the only one I'm worried about is Mrs. ****. She's got a pretty good resume." And THEN after the winner was announced and had made her speech, mama leaned over to me, patted me on the leg and said, "Well, you're number one in OUR book." And she meant it.
And that, my friends, is why it didn't bother me that I didn't land on that podium last Thursday. I had already won before I walked in the door.
So, last night I read Super Cop's comment about my post on throwing up in the car when I was a kid and got just as tickled as he did. In fact, an hour later when I was laying in bed trying to go to sleep, I got to laughing about it again and laughed so hard I shook the bed. Fortunately, Hubby was so exhausted and sleeping so soundly he didn't notice, but I had to put my hand over my mouth to keep from cackling out loud and waking him up. I had forgotten how annoyed Daddy was with me that day and how much he griped about it when it happened. As I recall I threw up right after we got in the car to go home, so everybody had to deal with the smell and mess for most of the thirty mile drive to the house. Nice. All because I didn't have the sense to realize that if you eat a hot dog right before you try to set a personal record for Tilt-A-Whirl rides, that dog is likely to come flying back up later. Or that I probably should have given everyone a heads up that maybe we might want to wait a few minutes before getting into the car so I could throw up OUTSIDE the vehicle. But ya' know, when you're a kid on an amusement park high you get a little addled. It was the one day of the year we got to ride all of the rides in that park free, and I took full advantage of it. If memory serves me correctly, that was also the year one of us won a sleeping bag with pictures of Dots candy all over it during the picnic's Bingo games, so the excitement was overwhelming.
Now, some of you without children might be wondering why daddy wasn't a little more sympathetic to my plight, but those of you with children fully understand his response. It was one of those moments when your children have driven you crazy all day, danced on your last nerve and then pushed you right over into delirium. The things that can fly out of your mouth in those moments rarely make sense.
There's no accounting for your reaction to some of the things your kids do. I've had many of those moments myself, so that's probably why I find it so funny now. Honestly, I found it pretty funny back when I was driving my parents crazy. There were many times when I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud at daddy's response to something we did, or anything that caused a mess daddy had to clean up. Like that time we stopped at Stuckey's and Super Cop begged for the large grape drink, even though he couldn't drink a large drink. He whined until he got it and then promptly spilled it all over the floor before we got to our table. Nothing brings down a road trip like spilling a sticky drink in front of a restaurant full of people. To this day I cannot see a grape soda without smiling.
One of the times I saw daddy get the most frustrated was when we were headed to my aunt's house for some kind of family meal, maybe Thanksgiving. We had a large crock-pot full of baked beans in the back floorboard, and daddy turned a corner too sharp and turned over the crock-pot. Baked beans were everywhere, and for some reason us kids thought that was funny. I mean, who doesn't laugh at beans? Daddy, that's who. There we were, pulled over to the side of the road with all three of us kids rolling in the backseat and daddy flinging beans onto the ground and swearing like a sailor. The fun didn't end there though. He was never fully able to get that bean smell out of the car. For as long as we owned that Chrysler, whenever it rained and it was damp outside, you could get a faint whiff of beans in that car. And every time we smelled beans, we would laugh and say, "I smell beans." Daddy would say something not family friendly.
And then, there was the time Daddy had a little trouble fixing the brakes on the car. He did all of the repair work on our cars, and I seriously did not know until about age thirteen that you could pay someone to fix your car. Whenever he worked on the car, one of us was expected to stand close by and either hand him tools like a surgical assistant or hold the work light above his head with your outstretched arm like one of those infernal lawn jockeys. The best job though came when he put on new brake shoes or pads because that required him to be under the car while one of us sat in it and pumped the air out of the brakes. That basically involved scooting up to the edge of the seat, hanging onto the steering wheel and mashing the brakes with the enthusiasm of a jack rabbit until you couldn't press the pedal to the floor anymore. It was great fun. On one particular day I was the designated pumper, and daddy was having a terrible time trying to work on the brakes. I could hear every word he said and in between pretending like I was driving and playing with the cigarette lighter I picked up on his growing frustration. He finally bailed out from under the car, threw a rag on the ground and shouted, "I wish Ralph Nader that this emission control thing shoved up his a**!" It was a great moment in family history, and I slumped over and buried my face in the seat so he couldn't see me laughing.
Teen Angel has been laughing behind my back for years, and I have no doubts she will laugh in the years to come about stupid things I've said or done when she was growing up. I've had more than my share of delirium during her growing up years. In fact, if I had to guess which moment tops her list of my goofiest gaffs right now, it would be the time when she was approaching middle school age and had told one butt joke after another. I finally got my fill of telling her to stop when I barked out, "Enough with the butt cracks!" I paused, realized what I said and started laughing. And I'm not really sure, but I think I caught a faint whiff of beans at the same time.
In the interest of keeping things lively around here, we like to work in a trip to the emergency room every now and then, preferably when the ER is at its busiest. Despite a great Saturday evening that included Teen Angel taking him to dinner, Papa T. woke up Sunday morning feeling like he had been run over by a bulldozer. He hurt so bad he was moaning, and had he not had a fever I would have blamed it on the jumbo sized platter of catfish and gallon bucket of coleslaw he ate the night before. We thought he might have an infection of some sort, so we loaded him into the car, throw up bucket and all, and headed to the hospital. By the way, why is it you can go for years without transporting a nauseous person in your car, and the minute you buy a new car, somebody has to puke while riding in it? I rode in the backseat with him all the way to the hospital, shoving the plastic garbage can under his nose every time he groaned. It took me back to that time when I was about twelve and got sick on the way home from the company safety picnic due to a hot dog and too much Tilt-A-Whirl. Tip: Do not eat a hot dog covered in ketchup and ride the Tilt-A-Whirl seven times in a row. And then drink a big Pepsi.
We made it to the hospital without any big messes, and much to our surprise, Papa T. had some pneumonia, probably a result of that bad cold he had a couple of weeks ago. He was very weak and achy, so they admitted him, and he'll likely be there for several more days. And I'm not namin' any names, but when all of this is over, somebody is gettin' a pneumonia shot whether he likes it or not. Although, after the catheter incident, getting a needle anywhere close to his body will be a big achievement.
This means a week of running back and forth to the hospital, which really isn't as bad for me as it is Hubby. The poor man is exhausted from staying at the hospital. He has the brunt of the work. Teen Angel and I just fill in the gaps as needed. It also means a week of erratic meals. So far this week, I've had for dinner: Popcorn, Sunday night and a salad with a side order of mashed potatoes last night. That still beats the steady stream of fruit salad, tuna sandwiches and chicken breasts Papa T. is getting on his cardiac diet. I don't know where hospitals get their honeydew melons, but they are like green bricks. Papa T. is not the most patient of patients, so it should be an interesting few days. If I'm lucky, tonight's special in the hospital cafeteria will not be tuna.
Because of his vision and hearing issues, Papa T. is pretty limited in his entertainment options. They pretty much amount to books on tape, which get a little old, and debating politics with me and Hubby, which is downright dangerous. He also spends a fair amount of time with the radio, listening to talk radio and various ballgames. He's mildly entertained by local high school football, but he's about to get really wound up because basketball season is about to begin. Around these parts University of Kentucky basketball is huge, and he is a card carrying member of the Big Blue Nation. As in he's been known to jump out of his recliner and say bad things when the Cats lose. Kentucky is ranked number 2 in the nation going into this year's season, and he couldn't be more excited. We ordered him a subscription to Cat's Pause, the team's monthly magazine, and a copy of the 2011 Wildcat Yearbook, thinking he would enjoy that. And the yearbook arrived in the mail the other day.
And because I apparently have the best enunciation in the family, I have been elected to read it aloud to him. All 300 plus pages. Folks, by December, I may be the only person who doesn't watch college basketball who can recite every stat on each Kentucky player. Ask me how tall Eloy Vargas is. Go ahead.
Driving through the countryside on the way to the little cemetery where we buried my uncle we passed by this old store.
Even though it's tucked in the middle of nowhere with just a grain bin and a couple of houses for neighbors, at one time, it was a very busy place. When I was a kid, daddy would sometimes take me there when he stopped in to see his farmer friends and fill up his gas tank. Regular or ethyl? Those stops usually resulted in me savoring a strawberry Crush and a Hostess cherry pie while he played cards with his buddies. If those old walls could speak they would crackle with the voices of farmers chewing the fat and solving the world's problems over lunches of ring bologna, crackers and ice cold Pepsis drawn from the chest cooler that hummed in the corner. They would spill the secrets of country wives picking up sugar and gossip and the bark of the neighborhood dog who reigned over the long gone porch. If I close my eyes and listen hard enough, I can hear the ding of the gas pump bell and the slam of the rusty screen door. And I can taste the stickiness of that cherry pie on my fingers and the tingle of that liquid strawberry as it slides down my throat.
Why is it we want certain things connected to our childhood to stay the same? Is it comforting for some things to be immune to change, to remind us of that wonderful time of life when most of us had fewer worries and challenges? As I drove to my uncle's funeral in my old hometown yesterday I drove past my grandparent's old house. I had not done that in a long time, and I felt like wading through memories a little.
For the last twenty or so years of their lives, grandma and grandpa lived in town, having moved from the family farm for their senior years. When grandpa passed away, grandma stayed there until her health forced her into a nursing home for the last months of her life. Her house was a small green structure with a wide front porch flanked by matching hydrangea bushes. It sat on a quiet street, populated mostly by widows who tended to their flower beds and kept their yards neat. It was nice, the badge of people who were not wealthy but were proud for carving out an honest living in between the Great Depression, a World War and Watergate.
When I was a child we were usually there at least once a week while Daddy mowed grandma's yard or helped around the house. I played up and down that street, bouncing between the nearby tennis courts and the alley that ran behind her house. There were a couple of kids who lived on that street and grandchildren who visited their grandparents, too. We played in backyards, chatted over fences and made playhouses out of carport sheds. It was a time when kids could play out of the sight of their parents for hours on end without the fear of abduction or the distraction of computer games. Occasionally, the ice cream truck came by and brightened our day. I have fond memories of time spent on that street. It was an enchanting place for a little girl who grew up out in the sticks with few neighbors and nary a Wal-Mart in sight.
As I turned down the street yesterday, I slowed to a stop and took a minute to absorb what has happened on 9th Street in the last decade or so. Now, I know nothing ever seems as big or grand as it did when you were a kid, but things really have changed there. It seemed so different. Run down even. Some of the homes are in disrepair, including grandma's. The beautiful hydrangeas are gone, the yard was a mismash of broken toys, and the neat little white house that used to sit across the street was gone. It seemed dirtier. The pretty brick home that used to seem so fancy when I played there with my friend K. now seems small and common. Gone is the old grocery store with the big screen door just up the block where us kids trudged up the hill with penny change in our hands to buy small pieces of candy. Time has changed the street so close to my heart, and that heart got heavier and heavier as I eased up the street.
Later at the funeral, my mind drifted briefly back to the other changes that have occurred in that small town of 6,500 people since I moved away 25 years ago. Storefronts have changed, the full service gas stations have moved aside for self service convenience stores and familiar buildings have disappeared.
On the twenty mile drive to the cemetery, the town gave way to trees and pastures as we rolled through the countryside. I saw parts of the area I haven't seen in a while but remembered as the miles ticked by. The stomping ground of my youth. My uncle was buried in a small rural cemetery that sits close to a nature preserve, the same cemetery where my other uncle was buried just a couple of weeks ago. It was a beautiful October day, the kind of day when the sky is sparkling blue with wispy clouds and the foliage is the prettiest colors in the crayon box. The weather was fitting I thought, for a man who loved the outdoors and the farmland of his southern Illinois upbringing. Perfect even. And as we drove along, every car in the oncoming lane pulled to the side, out of respect for a sweet, gentle man they didn't know but honored because it was what they were taught to do. A good old fashioned tradition that you don't often see anymore. And when I say every car pulled to the side of the road, I mean literally, every car along the thirty minute drive. Some turned on their headlights.
As we turned onto the narrow dead end road that leads to the cemetery, cheerily named Sunflower Lane, John Denver came on the radio and Back Home Again serenaded me. I smiled at the irony of that moment. When I hopped out of the car I automatically hit the door locks and then almost laughed out loud at the ridiculous need to lock a door anywhere within fifteen miles of that place. My uncle was buried with military rites since he was a World War II veteran. With the sharp crack of the rifles and the words, "A grateful nation", the soldiers honored him with their words and prayers as they gently laid the American flag in my aunt's weary hands. Most of the gentlemen were elderly, performing their duty at the funeral very seriously but very gently. Not a sound was heard while the commander spoke, except for a lone cough from the crowd, and I couldn't help but be grateful for those men who, on any given day, take time out of their lives to honor one of their own in front of grieving families. It seemed such an old fashioned and honorable thing to do. And it occurred to me on the drive home that while the buildings and streets of my childhood have changed, the people haven't. They are still hard working, common folks who hold onto traditions and rituals that are dear to them, and they care deeply for those they love. My uncle died peacefully at home because his wife and daughters worked very hard to take care of him there during his last days. Some things change on the outside, but the things that count the most don't, and for that I'm grateful. This is the stock from which I hail, and for that I'm proud.