Thursday, October 30, 2014

THIS TIME OF YEAR: SQUIRREL WITHOUT UMBRELLA

I love fall!

My newest habit is a result of cooler weather.  But a warm front came along, throwing the digits back into the miserable eighties.  Really?  At the end of October.  But that is just October.  My favorite month.  Apple pie.  Football.  State Fair.  Reading a book sitting by an open window.  The sun changing.  Baseball.  Caramel.

A cool evening draws me out outside. Faithful pup runs up the stairs, stomping in the leaves just beginning to fall.  Happy for company, he grabs a twig to catch my attention.  But I am busy lighting a candle, setting down a mug of marshmallow overflowing hot chocolate to strike the match.  A perfect fall evening of solitude.  No air conditioners, just a low current of night time noise. I pick up my phone and begin my latest obsession - Spider. Peace, quiet and relaxation.  A tonic for a goodnight's sleep.

Then the artillery begins.  The thawacking sound of an acorn letting loose, dropping through levels of leaves, ricocheting off the roof.  I raise my hand to my head as minimal protection.     

What goes up must come down.  A girl, a bow, an arrow.  Standing in the middle of a quiet street, she leans back, shooting the arrow up into the blue.  Gravity sends the arrow back down.  Her little brother picks up the fallen arrow and the process begins again.  Up it goes and down it comes.  At some point, he questions the operation and is running around with a dishpan on his head.  "Where is it?  Where is it?"  He stands next to her, sticking to her like glue.  He can't see the arrows whooshing down through the leaves.  She is not afraid, then, now or ever.  Until one of the arrows hits the roof of a car parked at the curb.  They retreat quickly into the house. A dishpan is not quite the perfect accessory when the sky is falling.     
   
This was just a little thing.  But I am into little things.  Last week, I was in traffic on a four lane thoroughfare, a major east west connector and also a primary exit off the interstate.  This road runs through red lights, past strip shopping centers, churches, schools, drug stores, banks, the gym I sometimes think about, local and chain eateries, the vet's office, the grocery store, my favorite antique mall, apartments, entrances to lovely subdivisions.  

There are trees everywhere.  And poles connecting this to that with wires crossing the street.  A wire was silhouetted in the sky.  A little squirrel was running across with a mouthful of acorns or nesting material sticking out of his mouth.  Zippity Do Da.  Zinging across the certain canyon of death as thick traffic traveled below.  One slip of a little foot.

But he was on a mission.  Building a nest and gathering supplies.  He may have the advantage of not sensing the perilous situation.  He just did what he had to do.  No quibbling.  From watching squirrels in my backyard, I doubt he gave a second thought to jumping out on that wire.  He didn't test the tension with his foot or grab an umbrella for balance.   He didn't stop to consider the traffic below.  He was moving along even though the very scary was right below.  A squirrel has to do what a squirrel has to do.  I think that is amazing.  The something inside of him that says nuts to gather and nests to build.  This is that time of year.

His sky is falling.  Acorns.  Manna.  Provision.




Revision. Previously published 10/20/14.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

WOO PIG SOOIE PIES


Please don't tell Martha I renamed her lovely Pumpkin Whoopie Pies.  She is quite the stickler for details.  While I know she has heard of Arkansas, I don't know if she has actually been here.  And I'm almost certain she has never seen a grown man wearing a Hog Hat cheering like crazy in a stadium full of other fans.  Of course, she is
WOO PIG SOOIE PIES
an expert on almost everything.

Although Martha has cooked a truckload of hog products, from bacon to ham to tenderloin to chops, I can't really see her calling the Hogs, throwing her arms straight into the air and wiggling her fingers while screaming Woo Pig Sooie.  Around here it is common knowledge the call came from folks calling their pigs (Hogs) back to the old homeplace.  As a national producer of pork products, the little piggy that stayed home is definitely a bit sharper than the little piggy hurrying to market.

This delicious Whoopie Pie answers the quest for the frantic fall search for all things pumpkin.  And a tasty addition to any tailgate party whether outside in the elements or around a coffee table.

Honestly, the recipe is labor intensive but always worth the effort.  I finally got smart and fixed the cookies ahead of schedule and stuck them in the freezer until needed.  Great idea.  On party day, I thawed them in the fridge.

Anything with cream cheese frosting is worth the effort.  The butter, cream cheese, vanilla and powdered sugar are meant to be together.  

But I'm not the Queen of Piping which is a talent Miss Martha can do with her eyes shut.  I try. When you don't have an industrial plastic bag dedicated to frosting frufru on cupcakes and rolled out sugar cookies, but you have the whole tipping caboodle leftover from the happy homemaker days of piping as a way of life when necessary, you improvise.  I don't have an assistant to run out and purchase emergency supplies in the middle of creaming butter and cream cheese.

However, with six finished, piped, filled cookies, I paused to think that my improvisation using a storebrand baggie might not end well.  It didn't.  I resorted to my handy dandy multifunctional iced tea spoon for plopping cream cheese frosting.  I don't know which would have troubled Miss Martha the most, using a baggie for a piping bag or the improper usage of my tea spoon.  Here is the delicious, worth every effort, fallish, pumpkin recipe.

PUMPKIN WHOOPIE PIES

Cake Ingredients
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 can pumpkin filling, chilled
2 eggs
TO THE RESCUE
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling Ingredients
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and cloves together.  Set aside.  In a stand mixer, mix brown sugar and oil until well combined.  Add pumpkin filling and mix well.  Add eggs and vanilla until well combined. Sprinkle flour mixture over pumpkin mixture until fully incorporated.  Drop heaping tablespoons of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Bake until cookies are just starting to crack on the top - about 15 minutes.

Sift confectioners' sugar in a large bowl.  In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment beat the butter until smooth.  Add the cream cheese until well combined.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat just until smooth.  Transfer filling to a disposable pastry bag and spread a healthy portion on the bottom side of one cookie and place the second cookie on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
*******

Using culinary flare, arrange the finished Woo Pig Sooie Pies on a plate, in a basket, or atop a mini hay bale.  Accent with mums, daisies, acorns, leaves or mini pumpkins and gourds.  Place on a handwoven, hand dyed with berries from your summer garden, tablecloth.  Watch the pies disappear!






Thursday, July 17, 2014

OH SAY, CAN'T YOU SEE?

Being from Maryland, she called a cab based in Maryland.  Although, I tell people you can see Washington D.C. from her kitchen window.  Looking through the side yard of her backyard neighbor is a boundary street.  She walks to work in Washington and returns home to Bethesda. Someday she will appreciate this unique experience. For now, she only thinks about it when I visit and get excited  to see car
lights going down a street in another city!  But you can see Washington D.C. from her kitchen window.

The Maryland cab is prompt.  The car is clean and cool.  Another good visit is over.  Almost five years ago on a sunny August morning, she and her new husband packed up all their hopes, dreams and worldly possessions into one car and a rental van driven by her helpful brother-in-law.  Two full days and one night later they arrived in the city of their new beginning.  Jobs, education, friends and one dog - five years later, they are off to a great start.

I can't help it.  Everytime we part, I cry.  I tell the cabbie I'm just saying goodbye to my girl.  Not sad at all.  Just tears for the visit ending and the distance between us.  I am very happy for their place in life, as long as we get regular visits.  He turns on the music, afraid to hear anymore of this sob story.

We drive down Embassy Row, blocks of United Nations, in brick and mortar.  Down Rock Creek Parkway along the Potomac River, always full of joggers and bikers so steeped in routine that the history across the river is invisible.  Maybe.  I always feel lucky to be able to visit my nation's capitol.  In four days, these parks and streets will be filled with celebrants waving Old Glory.

I comment on the preparations being made and he mentions how busy work will be until the Fourth of July.  He works all of the time.  But on that afternoon, he will finally take off and head to the national fireworks with a group of friends from his apartment building.  They go early to get a good place.  He says they will spread out a picnic and just relax.  He breaks out in a big smile, turning back to tell me what a wonderful thing it is to see such fireworks.  I tell him I will think of him when I watch the show on t.v.

He is not from here but he has been in America for fourteen years.  He is from Togo.  A cousin in Nebraska helped him get his green card.  But Nebraska was a hard place to start - too cold and too much competition.

I ask him if more family is here in the states.  No, his wife and children are still in Togo.  Once a year he is able to return.  But he wants to bring them over.  He really wants them to get their education in the States. We have been talking over the radio.  As if on cue, I realize I'm hearing John Lennon in the background, singing  "Imagine".  Not one of my favorites.  But the song totally changes for me, in that instant.  "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one."  The exact lyrics when this man from Togo tells me he is dreaming of the day he can bring his family to America.

Hours later, I 'm on my last flight.  I feel like the plane is trying to catch the sunset, flying from the darkened east westward, towards a still coral sky, narrowing.  Below, the ground is darkening as schools, houses, grocery stores, lose their recognition.  A hieroglyphic alphabet, known only to city planners and linemen of the county, is stitched neatly with punctuations of gold and white beads.  From above, the message only reads the size of the community below.  In the totally dark areas, the edges become lightly scattered with a bead or two or a handful, as letters begin to appear again.  A place begins to tell its story.

The interior lights are dimmed.  My seatmate and I start a casual conversation.  I noticed him earlier.  He was carrying a car seat down the aisle for a young mother who was already loaded down with a little baby and a bag.  Helping a fellow traveller.  He and his wife are traveling to see another son having just left one in Virginia.  This man is the second person on my return flights home who is flying as the parent of an airline employee.  He is grateful to have such an opportunity which helps him come back to the States two or three times a year.  Originally from Chile, he is now a U.S citizen.  But his mother is in her nineties.  He and his American wife have retired in Chile.  He is glad not to miss the Fourth of July here at home.  The grill is his territory and we talk about all of the meat he will prepare for his large extended family.  Telling me about his family, he clasp his hands together.

For thirty-seven years, he looked out the windshield and across the engine of an 18 wheeler, traveling all over the U. S. and Canada.  We have lived in the same city for over three decades and have two things in common - Catholic High School for Boys and a former neighborhood.  Everytime he gets excited he clasp his hands with a clap.  But not loud enough to wake anyone.  Most people are feigning sleep anyway, in order to avoid the mid-air nighttime snack of  pretzels and a glass of water.  I think milk and cookies would be more interesting but at this hour, why bother?

This man has loved traveling the country.  The joy for his chosen nation is refreshing.  The pride he has in his American born children and their success in life is evident.  While he has been very successful in returning to Chile, he will come back to the U.S. someday, to stay.

He proudly volunteers his voting record and still remembers his first elections.  Even though he is in Chile, he always votes.  And being from Arkansas, we share our mutual admiration of Bill and Hillary Clinton.  I have a feeling that this "full of life" man makes a contribution wherever he is headed.  He is excited to be a part of this American Dream.

I couldn't believe my day's good fortune.  I began my day in Togo and finished up in Chile.  Two men from two different worlds.

Having just returned from the home of news junkies, I am aware of the newest situation along the U.S./Mexico border.  I was raised in a border state in a different time.  I went to school with children who were from Cuba and Mexico.  I do remember names.  There are so many sides of this issue and I'm not an expert in any area.

I cannot see another city from my kitchen window.  Only the house to my east.  I know these neighbors.  If I walk into my kitchen in the middle of the night, their motion light shines into my house for a few seconds.  Another lot backs up, adjacent to the east.  I can see a ceramic dog on their window sill in the kitchen, over the sink.  There are no blinds. I only know these neighbors have a yippy dog.

As a mother, I have done a lot of thinking about what it would take to put my child on a bus, alone.  What the living conditions would be like to send all my hopes and dreams with my precious eight year old.  The trust I would give to another person.  The hope I would place in any information.  The money I would save to buy the possibility.  The time invested in planning, praying, preparing.  The nerves of steel for a selfless mother to push a crying child on the bus, not knowing.  As a parent, always trying to do the absolute best thing for our child.

No matter the politics, these are precious children.  Even in keeping the laws of the land, we must first protect these children.  They have not been thrown away but sent on a hopeful journey.   However we feel about the situation, while they are our guests, we must treat them as we would our own.

Oh say, can't you see?  How a mother could look through a fence and see a wonderful life on the other side.  Just backyard neighbors.






'Good fences make good neighbours.'...
'Why do they they make good neighbours?...
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.

from Mending Wall by Robert Frost



      

Monday, June 23, 2014

AN ODD COUPLE: A DESIGNER HANDBAG AND A RECALLED FROZEN DINNER

Running by the grocery store is usually very uneventful.  In this case, it was uneventful but with a twist.  I marched through all of the proper steps and then returned to my car, shook my head and wondered.

The Bible talks about entertaining angels unaware.  The people who cross our path on a daily basis or the quick chance encounter with a stranger.  This wonderful army of angels is out and about checking up on us and our kindness to strangers.  Of course, it's more than that.  I like to think of heavenly angels and their place on this earth.  I never stopped to think that maybe this world was like getting the short straw.  Anything in heavenly glory, shining gold, would have to be better than keeping up with faulty folks.

Or a customer using the self-help line.  I have never liked the do it yourself version of anything.  The minute those new fangled checkouts came along, I sensed an immediate panic in the job security of the hard-working  employees.  Checking out with less than fifteen items has never been a goal of mine because I try to get everything I need in the near future, and anything that strikes my fancy for meal preparation three months from tomorrow.  I may not be organized but I am prepared.

Two yogurts.  A quart of milk.  Eggs.  Vitamins.  Dog food.   A trip to the pharmacy finishing with groceries. I never remembered the bread.  The entire quickie checkout section was open except for one person already checking out.  I had to go around him.

(I forgot to mention I had just returned from a quick trip to my mother's.  After thirty years, she had gotten a pet, Sally.  I had gone to meet the new kitten and take pictures.  My camera case was in the passenger seat but I thought to put it behind on the floor, under the umbrella.  In the past few weeks, a band of thieves has been breaking into cars in busy parking lots in broad daylight.  Summer seems to bring out the best in purse snatchers.)

Not being an expert in the serve yourself grocery genre, I was careful and deliberate.  There was only the one person behind me on another machine.  My cash back, eight five dollar bills, was so fresh the drying ink had caused the bills to stick together horribly.  I counted the money and put it in my designer handbag.  Two twenties would have been an easier transaction.  As I was finishing up the transaction, a different color had come up on the screen and a recorded voice was saying something I wasn't paying any mind.

I really didn't want to be bothered for a 25 cent off coupon or take the time to figure out what was most likely some sort of pitch from the store.  My purchase was paid, bagged and in my cart.  An ever ready employee, with expertise in the quickie lanes, pulled off my receipt and was folding it up and down to find the proper information.  She crisply folded the paper IMPORTANT RECALL NOTICE.

My first thought was "how creepy."  We still had not gotten to the bottom of the situation but I was creeped out to think this major gigantic grocer was still peering into my purchases, weeks later.  My assistant read out loud, "Important Recall Notice.  Valued Customer : You may have purchased the products....."  Then I saw the product listed and remembered buying it recently.  I laughed and said I was just wanting to try something new - Chicken Pad Thai.  She still had the receipt in her hand, once again carefully beginning to read the Important Recall Notice.

In my mind, I was beginning to have a not very polite conversation with this helpful person, wondering if I should just snatch the receipt from her hand.  She took her ink pen and circled the lines without leaving any ink.  I was trying to appreciate her sincere effort at educating me and her obvious need to do her job well.  She still had the receipt, creased at the "Important Recall Notice" but gathered up gently in her hands.  One last time, she suggested I might want to highlight this section. I thought she would never stop.  This was a comedy skit in the making.  And she was standing in my personal space.   She asked me if I still had the original receipt.  (Okay?  How do I know?  This was a wild purchase to try something different, something Thai.)She finally gave me the receipt and I thanked her but I was thinking unkind things about her education level.

After a couple of minutes being held hostage over a recall notice (who notices those anyway?) I zoomed my buggy out of the store.  Freedom.  On this hot Sunday afternoon I was glad to have gotten such a good spot, one closest to the store which was not designated handicapped.  In my family, we call it a "must be living right" spot, a silly sign that we must be doing something right.

Walking out of the store, I felt a sense of hovering, someone else in my larger personal space.   I realized the only person who had been checking out next to me in the self serve section was still behind me, even after all of my Important Recall Notice- Notices.  My purse was securely tucked up on my arm but I turned around enough to see he was hanging back, with just a small paper sack wrapped around what appeared to be a soft drink.  The lot was full but there was a lull in customers coming and going.  I turned around again, hoping he would realize I knew he was still there.  The rear gate of my car lifted as I put myself between the car and the length of the buggy.

Nothing eventful happened but I couldn't shake the feeling he had been following me.  It was all very odd.   He never got into a car but walked down the lot to the street, looking side to side, walking past a soft drink kiosk at the edge of the parking lot.  If he had walked out with a real bag of groceries, I probably wouldn't have thought anything strange.  

Next time, I won't flash my five dollar bills but I will still be wary of something out of place, trying to hone my sense of something not right.  Standing up straight, looking back twice.  Whatever it takes.

However, isn't it always after the fact we realize an angel was entertaining (helping, tolerating, guiding) us and we were terribly unaware, standing in the quickie check out lane, irritated with someone suggesting we highlight these lines as she carefully folds the receipt in just the right spot.  In exasperation, making us pause for a minute, looking around at the people in our surroundings.  


"Angels of the Lord camping in my yard,
burning midnight fires to keep away the bears."


My own translation of Psalm 37:4
 













Sunday, June 15, 2014

EAGLE EYE

EAGLE EYE



Art glass and yard art are two of my favorite things.  A thirty year collection of cobalt glass lines a windowsill, hangs across a window top like a blue valance and dots the landscape of my home.  Hand-blown art pieces, sitting pretty, hold candy and fresh flowers except for the show-off basking in the study, proud of her curves and pedigree beginning.  A schmaltzy, whirlygig backyard has always tempted my landscaping dreams.  But to date, my only yard expression is my Francis of Assisi statue, a cobalt colored birdbath and an art glass garden stake.  Taller than me, it has a curly cue at the top with six diamond shaped blocks coming down the wrought iron pole, which pounds into the ground for secure footing.  The artist has filled each block with a thick piece of colored glass; red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, from top to bottom.  I’m not superstitious but my friend says it looks like something to ward off the "evil eye".  Growing up, I had my own personal watch, Eagle Eye, a  long-time nickname for my father.

The American Bald Eagle is the only eagle unique to North America.  One amazing feature of the eagle is its incredible eyesight.  The eagle eye is almost the size of a human eye but it can look forward and to the side at the same time.  The eagle’s visual acuity is over 4X that of a person with perfect sight.  With such clarity, the eagle can see danger and track a moving animal almost a mile away.   

My father sang in a church choir for almost all of his life - from his hometown church to a Navy chapel. Wherever he was a member, his regular place of service was standing on the back row praising God in full voice.

His reputation as Eagle Eye began when my sister and I were little.  Children's Church had not been invented.  We started out in the Cradle Roll where babies, "so fresh from God" were presented, on their first visit to the church nursery, behind a special curtained window where the church family could oh and ah over the little babies gussied up in lacy bonnets or bitty baby shoes.  A few years later, the three and four year old children would walk into church, thus beginning their education in proper sanctuary behavior.

I know I date myself but learning how to sit still during any occasion is a learned activity and obviously a lost art in many venues.  In my opinion, no matter the age, sitting with family and friends, experiencing God in all of His Awe and Wonder through music, scripture and preaching is much more of a worship experience than being sequestered in another room participating in material that has been watered down to appropriate age levels.  As an adult, I really don't mind how many dropped crayons roll down the floor or innocent questions are asked during a worship service including the entire family.

Sister and I shared the pew with our mother and our aunt and uncle.  Our only form of entertainment was a pew pencil and the church bulletin which we used to perfect pencil drawings to amuse each other.  I always drew Iron Poor Blood and Iron Rich Blood (from Geritol, a sponsor of The Lawrence Welk Show seen on Saturday night), my tale of a rich girl and a poor girl.  Once, I drew pictures of visiting family members, giving them animal characteristics. This artwork almost got me jerked out of church.  The object of the game was pain or laughter, whichever would cause an uncontrollable outburst in a church with almost 1,500 people listening intently to the sermon.  Pinching and nail gouging were also successful.  My father’s eagle eye was usually trained on our behavior and "discussed" after church.  His eyebrows were permanently raised for much of my childhood. 

From the Doxology to the Majesty and Glory, over time, my ear became trained to hear my father’s strong bass voice.  Even in a new state and church, Eagle Eye’s job was not over when we hit high school, which was good as we considered introducing a whoopee cushion to one morning service.  From his perch, Eagle Eye kept me in line with just a look.  He was always watching and knew who talked too much, sat too close or moved around too long.  Eagle Eye saw all.

With time and his age, we reversed the keen gaze, eagling in on his own actions while sitting in the choir loft. During a prayer, he would casually but with great stealth find his nail clippers and to our horror, commence an underhanded little snip here and there after the amen.  Or pause to refresh his eyelids during a long sermon.  Then we were the ones with raised eyebrows and the Sunday noon chat.   

When the bald eagle became the national symbol in 1782, there were almost 100,000 nesting eagles in the country.  In 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of American Bald Eagles remaining, extinction was dangerously close.   The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines "endangered " as a species which is considered to be close to extinction in most or all of its range.  The Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966 protected the species.  By 2007, the American Bald Eagle was removed from the list and continues to increase. 

The choir loft was only a classroom for  my Daddy's discerning eye.  While his eyesight was not quite as good as the eagle, his lifelong devotion and life lessons were just as important to me as the catch of the day on the talons of father eagle swooping down to his little eaglet.  Sometimes one might think the sharp Eagle Eye type of father is endangered.  But a look around reveals Old Eagle Eye is still thriving - looking down from the choir loft, catching a child landing in a pool, applying the imaginary brake on the passenger side of the car driven by a new driver, throwing a gentle pitch into little hands, questioning "Talks too much" on a report card, kissing the forehead of a sweaty five year old, flinging a house shoe down the hall just to hear his daughters laugh.  The loving, watchful eyes of exceptional fathers. Oh, that all children could be so lucky!     

HAPPY FATHER'S DAY IN MEMORY OF THE BEST!

                      

Friday, May 30, 2014

FRIDAY FRENZY : THE ELUSIVE WANNABEES



            The elusive wannabees.  No, not the Brazilian African Honey Bee invading America via grapefruit transported innocently across the Mexican American border at the Matamoras/Brownsville crossing by a sixtyish matron dressed in a pressed jean skirt carrying a paper bag on her way to the bus stop where a city bus will pick her up and  deposit her at a sprawling  ranch home.  The bee will fly out when she puts the bag on the kitchen table and grabs the fruit to rinse it off before slicing the coral orb.  Around the corner and down the hall to the last bedroom, the home’s occupants will wake to the piercing smell of fresh cut grapefruit which will be set out in cereal bowls on breakfast linens accompanied by serrated grapefruit spoons and fresh hot coffee set on a well-polished mahogany dining table in a beige dining room diffused with the early rays of a Texas morning falling through paned windows onto the flat beige carpet that runs throughout the 3500 square foot home.

            Eating a section of grapefruit, the man chews the semi-sweet fruit while reading the headlines of the morning paper, which jump out in big black letters Elusive Wanna Bees Invade America.  A type-o, he says, out loud to the other person at the table who is engrossed in watching Good Morning America on the TV which has sat on the sideboard in the dining room ever since a silver and white anniversary present was unwrapped three years.
            Yes, she says, dabbing her nose with a breakfast napkin where the juice of a wild spurt leapt from the mother fruit and the biting edges of the serrated grapefruit spoon.  She places the linen napkin back in her lap, relieved to know Joan Lunden won’t catch her with grapefruit juice splashed across her washed but unmade face.  While the couple finish their grapefruit and toast, the morning program dives into the topic of  “Wanna Bees” with an expert who has recently published the book Wanna Bees or Will Bees : A Self Help Guide which will be in bookstores next week. 

            Oh, I get it, she says, not even noticing a bee perched on her grapefruit shell, instead brushing toast crumbs into her napkin with the unconscious precision developed over years of cleaning up after men and children and dry, unbuttered toast, a light sweeping action by a hand beginning to tighten up, with nails tipped in a classic shade of pink beige which is slightly chipped after the previous day’s gardening, putting out new tomato plants for her famous chicken salad stuffed tomatoes served on lettuce leaves for a luncheon with intimate friends who will linger after the last Club cracker is gone, sitting back in the mahogany dining room chairs talking about new grandchildren over the tinkling of ice cubes melting in sparkling crystal as sugar and lemon are splashed together with a long, slender ice tea spoon indigenous to a proper silver place setting which is included in the dowry of every proper Southern bride or wrapped in a soft blue felt bag tied with string waiting in a dark drawer in a side board owned by a much-loved grandmother who no longer drinks ice tea.     

            A much-loved grandmother who never worries about wanna bees invading her home.  She just is where she is, every day and that is enough.  She doesn’t know her granddaughter lies in bed at night dreaming of what she wants to be, glancing at the clock as the hour changes, less time left to sleep before the baby wakes.  Not ready to get up and not ready to quit thinking, the new mother never realizes or stops to remember that a year ago she lay in the same brass bed feeling the movement of the baby close to her heart, wanting to be a mother, ready to be a mother.  A year later, an evening’s entertainment is spent sorting through old magazines tearing out pretty pictures of perfectly decorated rooms that she wants to have someday.  Another torn out stack of recipes she wants to prepare and taste someday.  The baby sleeps but rolls over, a little foot moves against her lullaby lambie-pie turning a wind up key into a brief sleepy note or two, assuring that the baby is still breathing and moving quietly under her blanket.  In the next room, the granddaughter/ new mother lying awake in the dark, rearranging furniture and picking paint color for the inspiration needed to clean out the extra bedroom now piled with everything which was in the nursery – the exercise bike, the card table, the broken club chair, two milk crates full of albums which don’t sound good anymore because of the strange crackle in the right speaker sitting on the dresser missing a leg but propped up with a textbook from the bookcase full of used textbooks which is next to the old broken down sleeper sofa used for company. 

            Three hours distance down a two lane highway running into a town overpassing the train tracks, taking the third left road which travels on the west side of the big white two-story house the much-loved grandmother “who just is every day and that is enough” is lying in her bed listening to the clocks in four different rooms chiming at four varied times the same early morning hour.   The tick tock chants “go to sleep” but she ignores the clock which came from her girlhood home.  Bats.  Wasps.  But the wanna bees have never invaded her home.  She is elegant and simple, simply elegant with a quiet style which doesn’t need flash to be noticed.  She hasn’t needed wanna bees. 


            The granddaughter hangs pictures in her sleep on newly painted walls - by spring.  And something clicks while she’s lying there next to a snoring husband.  Your wanna bees should be where you are right now.  The self-acceptance of   “just being where you are every day and that is enough,”  like the much-loved grandmother who has been chanted to sleep by the tick tock of her clock sitting across the room on a maple dresser by the door.  A good role model for solid guidance,  instead of reading in the newspaper or hearing on the TV while you wipe grapefruit from your chin that wanna bees have invaded America.    

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

#HAPPY BD FAVORITE GIRL


Although you are young, Facebook, cell phones, Instagram and Twitter are even younger!  This is my snapshot of your life as if it were recorded on FB and a blog in real time.


WELCOME TO THE WORLD BABY GIRL!  You arrived early but who is complaining?  Your Daddy fashioned this pic into a tie tac and wore it to work for a few days.  As your birth announcement read "Nothing this great has ever happened to us!"









THERE SHE GOES!  We call her Baby Bird because she is just like a little bird in the nest, always going peep, peep, peep waiting for the next bite.  She is a delight!







MY FIRST MOTHER'S DAY!  I absolutely love being your mother.  I can't believe you are almost a year old (and still not walking!)  But you are already talking.  We have had a wonderful year, all three of us.











CHOCOLATE HEAVEN!  This is her first birthday.  I think she loves chocolate! We had lots of family and more cake the next day.  She loves to wear her party ribbons in her hair!





THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME - DOROTHY
Can't believe we just celebrated three years!  This was the year we discovered The Wizard of Oz (at least 2x a day).  Glenda The Good Witch made sure you had your very own custom pair of ruby red tennis shoes just in time for your party.  A big wind blew up during your party and we thought "Oh No!"





AND SPACEMAN IS DRIVING ME CRAZY!  And you are wearing what we call a Get-Up as you tell anyone who will listen about the adventures of your life as Spaceman's wife.  Definitely a fashion maven ahead of her time!


Age seven









DANCE, DANCE, DANCE
We have survived our first dance recital.  Pure misery until our little precious hits the stage!  She is 4 1/2 and wants to be "a doctor, a ballet and a dancer."  Last night we were singing Christmas carols and she wanted to know what "joyful, triumphant and faithful" meant and then asked me "What color is God?"




THIS IS PEPPER!  We finally got a dog!  Tonight, you asked your Daddy where our new puppy came from - before we got him at the Humane Society.  He told you it rained cats and dogs one night and that’s where Pepper came from.  “No it didn’t” you said, but not sure.  You ran to me.  “Mama, it didn’t really rain cats and dogs?”  Then you told your Daddy you believed only me because I know everything in the world.  Ha!!














SIXTEEN YEARS FLY BY!  That was fast!  All of the sudden, it's high school and driving.  It just seems like yesterday.......We must be very careful about how we behave when we are in public together.  She makes us tow the line.








???????   She met this boy over the summer at Governor's School.  He is very nice.  They are always laughing and having fun.  They are so young but when she came home and said to me, "Mama, there is this boy...."  We'll just have to wait and see.














OFF TO THE BALL.....She is off to the Debutante Ball, standing next to the pics of me and another Ball a few years ago....Love her red silk chiffon number.  And you know who is her escort!














WPS!!!!!!  Enjoying the game, all four of us!  (But too hot!)













MR. AND MRS.  "Mama there is this boy...."  and they lived happily everafter!









PRINCESS TO PRINCESS    Where does she get this "shoe" thing?  She knows she can't afford one but she can hold one!  Someday......Known to follow the daily fashion trends of Princess Kate !

CHRISTMAS 2013   Bringing the Zeke home to meet the family!



HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FAVORITE GIRL!   


   *

Monday, May 26, 2014

TO A SOLDIER KILLED IN THE BATTLE OF ARGONNE



                                   THE STONE SOLDIER


In a country graveyard
near two centuries old
One monument catches every eye
A Soldier made in stone

He died for "Peace on Earth" they say
But where on Earth is peace today
Man kills man in war and then
It must be done again again again
What was he thinking
in that faraway land
There by War's chance
     surrounded by Buddies in Argonne France

              As he stands in lonely vigil
              could we see a stony tear  
             For all the stones about him bear
           no name of wife or children dear.

       NRE  
          

"For Amy" written by my grandmother, February 12, 1995
                                                            The Stone Soldier was a relative.
The Stone Soldier died October 1918 of injuries received in the Battle of Argonne Forest, France.)








Saturday, May 24, 2014

JOPLIN MEMORIAL DAY 2011 - BOX OF PRECIOUS - Part 2



We arrived on Friday night, Memorial Day weekend, driving to the home of the one aunt and uncle who had not been in the path of the tornado.  The weakening tornado had been just a few miles to the south but still close enough to leave pieces of debris in their yard.   From their house, we drove into Joplin.  Heading west, our first view of the damage in the city was at the intersection of a once bustling commercial area and a four lane highway.  There is a slight rise in the road just before the traffic light.  As far as we could see to the west, it was black, as if we had left a campground and climbed up a hill, looking down on the campground where most of the fires had been doused and the only glimmer was from banked ashes at a few of the campsites or the glow of a flashlight in the hand of the last one turning in for the night.  You could hardly speak.  In the dark, there appeared to be no shopping centers, neighborhoods, nothing.  For miles.
Neighborhood around St. John's Hospital.  Hospital on the far left.  Electrical plant to the right of hospital.  
                               
                   
                                                                       
In the light of morning, as we drove back into town through a security checkpoint, my heart ached for our aunts and uncles and my husband's parents and the tremendous loss they were processing. Thankfully, no one had been injured in our family.  A large part of their hometown, the part central to their growing up days, gone, almost unrecognizable.  At certain points, a maze, as every natural and man made landmark was blown away or partially hanging on, except for the concrete streets still attached to the earth.

Tornadoes have always been one of my biggest fears. You really can not imagine such a scene until you are there. I have not written about the experience because there was not enough time between the words and the world that stopped on that Sunday afternoon.  The worse pictures I took from inside the car.  Still, I felt intrusive, capturing somebody's tragedy.                     


A green jacket and a black coat wrapped around trees.
Going back and looking at my pictures, I remember a house where people perished.  In thirty-eight minutes, the twenty-two mile long tornado had taken 161 lives*.  When we arrived on Friday, there were still people missing.  Clothing was caught in the limbs of bare trees.  Any spot of water might reveal a lost person.  I had a fear of seeing something but also the thought that it would help a family. Horrible things happened.  A baby was pulled from its mother's arms.   The tornado pulled a high school senior from his car as he raced to get home. He and his father were returning from the graduation ceremony. His body was found on Saturday.


Five days out, the main storm streets had been partially cleared.  6, 954 homes** were destroyed along with churches, schools, shopping centers, large and small businesses and the hospital.  An iron cross still stood straight next to an almost demolished St. Mary's Church and school. Mangled cars littered every scene, pitched and tossed at odd angles which would speak volumes about the safety of any vehicle during such a storm.
Convenience store where people took cover in the cooler and lived.

National Guard Hummers blocked off the very worse areas.  The law enforcement presence was huge, joined with local, statewide, and assistance from states and cities from around the country.  Insurance companies, non-profit organizations and church vans were set up in the parking lots of areas in town not affected by the storm, cooking food and taking donations.  Semi trucks full of food, water and clothing seemed to be on every other corner, out of the zone.  Additional satellite tents were within the zone.  Back-hoes were everywhere.  On through streets that were open, cars lined both sides as city officials and utility workers walked around taking care of business in their dayglo vests and hard hats.

In this part of town, there was no power although company trucks were everywhere.  Only daylight through the window.  One room was missing a part of the roof.  And yet, in another room lifetime treasures were in pristine condition as we worked to pack away the possessions before the home was declared unsafe.  We were lucky.  There were possessions to pack.   It was strange to walk in one part of the house where everything looked normal except for knowing it had been lifted and ever so slightly put back down.

Any room with a broken window or windows looked as if someone had stood in the middle of the room, spraying the walls and surfaces with sporadic coats of a brown substance like partially dried paper mache - everything the tornado had churned up and pulverized.  In some places, shattered glass, as fine as sand, could be shaken out of belongings just like sand from a blanket at the beach.

Saturday afternoon I took a break.  I stepped out back.  The air smelled different, all the broken trees and the exhaust from saws.  We are not used to seeing destruction of this magnitude.  I don't know how first responders and others, who work in these areas for weeks following such a disaster, are able to handle the constant immediacy of need.  It is just a small part of my history, very small when compared to the thousands who survived it.  But still closer than I ever want to be again.

My precious area
I looked down at the ground littered with paper, junk, pieces of wood.  Everything coated in the brown muck. A picture caught my eye.  Amazingly, a small black and white picture with the old fashioned decorative border was still intact.  I kept looking.  Glass was everywhere.  Of course, I knew to watch every every step in order to avoid a nail or another sharp object.  On my first hunt, I didn't even take gloves.  The collection grew as I carried it caught up in my t-shirt like I was harvesting wild berries.  Almost as soon as I first leaned over to pick up a piece, my mind hit on the term "Precious."  I was gathering precious pieces of  lives upended.

The precious pieces became almost sacred to me.  How would I feel if everything I own had been blown away?  Especially the pictures.  I wanted to gather up even the small bits.  A picture with a family but only one with half a face.  A cheer team from the 1970's.  The only intact photo was the older one.

I picked up half of a five dollar bill, wondering if the storm had ripped it in half, so neatly.  A child's plastic ring, possibly a favor from a birthday party.  Each item had been a possession.  A "No-Fail" chocolate chip recipe cut from a Blue Bonnet Margarine package.  A puzzle piece - the State of New Mexico.  A torn page from a personalized child's story book.  "Y le dijeron sus siervos: Que es esto que has hecho? " 2 Samuel 2:21, the page ripped from the Bible and folded up in the storm.  Probably from an attic, a twenty year old canceled check for a car payment on a '93 Lincoln.  The baby blue one inch square tile. One and a half ducks marching across a shard of pottery looking for coffee.  How far did these pieces travel?  If these are the pieces, what about the kitchen and the attic and the child's room?  Hard questions. That is why they are precious to me.  Someone should save them away, to mark the place and the time.  Souvenirs.

The last piece I picked up from the pile of a house that had been finished off by a bulldozer.  This was another visit. Weeks or months later, it doesn't matter.  But the white piece of curled wrought iron was picked up as a token of the place - the house Burt remembers as a child.  The house his grandparents built and owned while their daughters were young.  Pictures of two sisters posing, in front of the stone fireplace, wearing beautiful, new formals.  Dances, parties, weddings.  A grandson playing in the basement.  A home full of memories.
Only one story.

Much of what I found was unrecognizable - a mere fragment.  I didn't keep those pieces.  The picture pieces I found, I sent to a clearing house in Joplin which was posting lost pictures.  Heirloom family pictures.  Recent pictures. Wedding pictures.  Graduation.  New house pictures.  Sports pictures.  Cemetery pictures.  Disney pictures. Lake pictures.  Baby pictures.  Every part of life caught for one second of preservation.

Just pieces.  Precious pieces that speak of a place that existed on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011.   Missouri has the reputation as the "Show Me" State.  I think the city of Joplin has turned it around.  Ever since the disaster, people have worked to rebuild the city in new ways and different areas.  Yesterday, The Resilience Butterfly Garden and Overlook was opened at Cunningham Park - at the same time the tornado occurred three years ago.   The day after the tornado, the people of Joplin rolled up their sleeves and said "We'll show them!"  We'll rebuild - piece by piece.

Rangeline Road







*Beloved family pet, Grady


 **http://www.crh.noaa.gov/sgf/?n=event_2011may22_survey


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

MY BOX OF PRECIOUS - Part 1

My box of precious


I have seen the very spot, the very start of something awful, afterward.  The beginning of endings.  A notorious addition to the history of horrible things which can happen to a nation, a state, a town, a street, a home and a life.  Spring may be a season when the heart turns to love but the warming weather which brings greening grass is a different kind of season for those living in and around Tornado Alley.  A season of waiting.

Not everyone is waiting.  There are folks who scoff at the plethora of meteorologists adept at issuing the weather notifications.  The state map laid out in county lines like a patchwork quilt - pieces of green, blue, red, and yellow depending on the weather of the moment - hail, wind, thunderstorm, tornado.  But once you have experienced a tornado or have seen the destructive aftermath, the watches and warnings become a saving grace, giving you time to take appropriate action.

 Just weeks ago, an EF-4 tornado (10 MPH short of an EF-5) devastated two nearby towns.  My plane was boarding when I got the call that the tornado sirens were going off at home.  The bright Texas sun was setting behind me as I looked out of my window.  To the north, mountainous storms climbed higher than we flew.  Gold lightening played across the storm face, weaving in and out and down.  The cabin lights were dimmed except for the individual lamp overhead.   The pilot announced we might have turbulence and everyone was to stay seated.  The man across the aisle from me was sitting with his head in his hands.  I told myself I wouldn't scream if we were to plunge a few hundred feet.  In my head, I tried to say the books of the Old Testament (bad student) and sing Dan Fogelberg songs (good student.)

Never one to hide my eyes, I looked out over the wing only to see the engine bobbing through wind and rain.  Moving up and down.  With much metallic give, I could only hope.  I really didn't want to be on that plane but there I was.  You could almost feel the plane sigh in relief when the pilot announced we were making our descent.  Our descent - we were all in this together.  No problem.  When I walked out of the plane, I told the attendant to kiss the pilot for me.  If he had been standing there, I would have pecked him on the cheek.

As the plane taxied to the gate, word of the tornadoes and power outages spread, upsetting those living near the affected areas.  Of course, right after such an event, nobody really knows what is going on. Strangely and thankfully, my most eventful moments had been while up in the air.  Preferably, nothing eventful in the air or on the ground would have been best.

The media coverage of the devastation brought to my mind the tornado in Joplin.  Not that I really needed reminding.  It is unforgettable.  The people in the nearby towns affected this spring will always know where they were.  The pictures in their mind will become before and after.

I took plenty of pictures Memorial Day weekend 2011.  But I hadn't looked at them in over two years. Maybe three years is enough time to write about it, complete with pictures.  I opened the file. Viewing the still shots and especially the few videos, brought new tears to my eyes.  I had never resided there but I had shared hundreds of hours visiting and staying with my husband's family.

On Sunday, May 22, 2011, the news broke while I was watching another program.  We were able to call a relative and find out they were okay but had a lot of damage, then the call dropped.  The rest of the night we waited for information about other relatives in town.  I turned on CNN and began watching.



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THANK YOU FOR 4000

A place to call home
Just a quick note of thanks.  Today my blog, RANDOMONIUM, hit 4000!  That is 4000 more than the years I didn't have a blog.  And this is not me, going back and re-reading and re-reading, paying others to re-read and re-read.  Okay.  It is maybe not huge numbers by a huge blog.  Just a start actually.  But everything has to start somewhere.

I have published 71 posts about all kinds of different topics.  I won't go into detail, I'll save that for the anniversary date.  For me, the most important thing is the sitting down and writing part.  The practice of the process, the focus and determination to work my craft, woven in and out of the life I have lived since beginning.  While some of these posts are easy and quick, most spend considerable time bouncing around in my brain.

I'm sure my Mother will roll her eyes when she sees this pic of my office I'm offering up to Blogland.  But this is just a "before" shot.  Spring cleaning has not made it to this room, yet.  But it is in the works.  And I didn't show everything such as the ironing board, the spring wardrobe being unpacked and the papers and various cross-stitch pieces (not stacked under books) piled on the floor.  There is some semblance of order in my mind.  But that's Randomonium.  Random pandomonium.  But just to the casual observer.  I know what I'm doing when it comes the subject.

Doing the work required to post on a blog is time consuming.  The wonderfully surprising part is that someone has taken the time to hit that button.  Over and over, writers talk about the loneliness of the process.  It is not a bad lonely but a creative lonely.  I have loved every "view" recorded.

Consider this a big WOW of amazement and thanks.  I'll save the cake for a later date.

And also, thanks to the person who I suspect pushed the number to 4000 with one view.




Monday, April 21, 2014

PROPER EASTER EGG CONSUMPTION: THE DEVILED EGG

Easter has come and gone.  But the memory lingers.  Sticky half eaten Peeps have fallen to the floor and the dog won't even eat them.  Under all the purple grass in the green basket, wayward MM's have hidden until another day.  But other items won't be so delish if hidden for too long.  I am here today and in the next few days, to offer my considerable knowledge in the course of proper Easter Egg consumption.

Shells, shells, shells.  Peeling eggs is a thankless, non-ending task.  Tap the bottom and roll the sides.  The rest is pure luck depending on if that little bitty piece wants to let go.  Nothing worse than a bit of shell in anything involving the eating of eggs.

Always count the hard-boiled, dyed in the nick of time, Easter Eggs BEFORE hiding.  Without much wiggle room, hunting eggs should be an outdoor activity.  In case of a rainy day, real hard boiled, dyed eggs should only be used indoors with extreme caution.  This is one item not to be accidentally rolled under the sofa only to be discovered days later.  Surely, somewhere in the world there might be a blizzard on Easter.  I don't have experience with frozen Easter Eggs but we all know about the Blessed Frozen Azalea and Dogwood Festival which can occur just as Easter is approaching.

After dyeing, hiding, finding and refrigerating, the Easter Eggs are ready for preparation.  In a large family, the abundance of said product can be overwhelming.  Have no fear.  My lifelong prowess (and those before me) in the kitchen has endowed me with the authority to help you produce one of the most satisfying finger foods picked off a platter.

Mayonnaise and eggs go hand in hand.  They are related.  In this case, the egg came first and then the mayonnaise.  Don't even mention the "other" in my presence or I will pack up and leave your kitchen. Kind of like becoming enraptured of a Pepsi product when I have just poured you my last Coca Cola and I have to be nice.  Because I will be nice, because you are my guest and the guest should rule in any proper home.  Just like white shoes and Labor Day.  Just don't.

Ingredients for Basic Deviled Eggs

                             7 boiled eggs                               
                                                      Mayonnaise                                                       
Salt and pepper
Dry mustard
Onion
Bread and butter pickles
Hungarian Paprika
Cayenne Pepper


When I peeled these happy eggs, they revealed an additional surprise.  Despite the whites being dyed to match, no harm has befallen anyone who consumed these colorful wonders.  My foray into Easter Egg land produced two products, thus far.

I started off by peeling seven cold, boiled eggs, rinsing them under a gentle stream of water to dislodge any last bit of shell.

Half each egg lengthwise.  Pop the egg yolk out into a small mixing bow.  Place the egg white on a plate for later use.

Mash the yolks with a fork.  Do not use any power stronger than your hand. Mash. Mash.  But not completely.
Now comes the mayonnaise.  Today I was using special kitchen measurements.  I added five nice dollops from an iced tea spoon to the lightly mashed yolks.  Found in every proper Southern home, this piece of flatware is an implement devised for the addition of sugar to an individual iced tea glass when the home folks are not serving sweet syrup disguised as iced tea.  I doubt that those located in more northerly regions have use of such.  The recipe for the perfect glass of iced tea can be found on my blog   http://tocatchathought.blogspot.com/2013/08/perfect-iced-tea-even-in-morning.html.  It may also be used to annoy any other diners within earshot when you stir the sugar into the cold tea.  However, good manners insist the proper method is silent.

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Also a good sprinkle of dry mustard.  Next, add essence of onion.  For this delicate procedure, I placed my Microplane over the mixture and gently scraped a peeled onion twenty times (I counted) across a two inch area of the grater, tapping the scant juice into the egg yolks. Remember, essence only.  Mix nicely.

Prepare bread and butter pickles (not dill or pickle relish), finely minced, 3 Tablespoons.  Add the pickles to the mix.

At this point, I halved the mixture into two bowls for two different preparations.  Set one bowl aside.

Piping or spooning could be a great debate.  On occasion, I have piped meringue into little boats and homemade icing onto cookies.  But given a choice and in the interest of ease, I usually spoon.  Place a heaping spoonful of the basic deviled egg mixture into each of the seven halved egg whites.  (Another good use for the iced tea spoon!)  Arrange on serving platter.  And yes, I do have a deviled egg plate, somewhere.

I sprinkled half of the eggs with paprika and the other half with cayenne pepper.  Just a light sprinkle. I especially loved the eggs with red pepper, just the essence of heat.


A perfect Devilishly Good Curried Egg

Additional Ingredients for Devilishly Good Curried Eggs

Curry
Peanuts
Flaked coconut
Chutney, optional

To the other bowl of basic deviled egg mixture, add 1/8 teaspoon of curry, mix well.  To this mixture, add 2 tablespoons of finely minced peanuts.  Spoon the curried mixture into the remaining egg whites.  Top each curried egg with just a few coconut flakes.  I would also have used a dab of chutney but my pantry was bare (of chutney).  This matter is a true shortfall for someone who loves Major Grey.  The bread and butter pickles do go nicely with the curry.

The finished product!  While any deviled egg can be made up and served rather quickly, I found these delicacies to be supreme even hours after refrigeration. 

Deviled eggs are tremendously easy.  They are also easy on a budget.  But most of all, extremely well-received.  Have you ever seen a platter offering deviled eggs (done well, of course) sitting full at the end of a potluck or holiday meal?  Enjoy!

   














Monday, April 7, 2014

BECAUSE OF SPRING CLEANING

At our house, the welcome mat is always out.  As the saying goes, "If you are coming to see my house, please call first.  If you are coming to see me, come on over."  But in reality, calling is a good idea.  Because. Because gone are the days of instant clean when it took just a couple of well invested hours to cover the house with the fresh, clean scent of a fresh, clean house.
soote Aprile flowrs

Ye Law!  I am feeling every bone and muscle in my body right now.  I have paused for a Coca Cola break, sustenance before the last bath.  And I am not finished.  The guest room bed is made and the room is totally uncluttered.  The lamps are dusted, polished and shined.  All the wood is sporting new lemon oil.  A new picture is on the wall.  The "guest register" is waiting for cheery comments.  The bottled water and peppermints are ready for inspection.  The floor is the only item needing attention which it will get when I vacuum the house, if I am still standing.  This is my glory room of inspiration, the what can be, the medal of all elbow dust cleaning bees.

Busy as a.....what was I doing all week long?  Why did I wait until one big effort to get it all done?  Because. Because it takes more than one try.  The study has languished since Christmas.  I still found wayward Christmas tree needles hidden near the edge of the sofa.  Not anymore.  I moved a two drawer mahogany (supposedly) file cabinet in and out of its usual place and discovered new muscles in my back.  At least half way through the endeavor, I thought to take out the files.  Duh.  There was a decayed bug and I couldn't get to it but I knew my company would discover it.  It has been vamoosed into oblivion.

Ah, the sweet days of Saturday afternoon cleaning at the cottage, listening to Prairie Home Companion whilst I powdered the tub with Comet, enjoying the patterns made by the bristle scrub brush as I leaned over into the old porcelain tub which could hold me, a child and an unwelcomed water loving mutt jumping into the bubbles.  At the time, I remember thinking, "Someone should invent a long handled scrub brush."
My soote Aprile flowrs

Where, oh where, have all the rented floor polishers gone?  Laying down paste wax and then holding on, spinning around the wood floors with occasional intervention.  This was a carpet free house and provided endless hours of necessary dancing.

Putting a cassette tape in and rocking to the 70's (a recent decade at the time) while my head was stuck in the oven, holding my breath against the noxious fumes as I plied away months' old grime.  (Obviously not my favorite job.)  Crusty drip pans, another favorite item, soaking in Comet water in the kitchen sink.  And I haven't even mentioned my cobalt glass collection which needed soapy water or a good swipe with the Windex rag.  It seemed endless but it was doable.

And after all of that activity, we would grill hamburgers and serve them up with baked beans and coleslaw, sometimes potato salad, and maybe homemade salsa.  I'm tired just typing the words.  Because.

Because that was a few years ago and while not gray, this thoroughbred has gone around the racetrack a few times.  A few times, I have employed help which ranged from good, mediocre, wonderful and dear friends.  Oh, and my personal favorite, thieving.  Once.  Because when leaving the house and locking the door and discovering I had left my rings on my bedside table, I didn't go back in and retrieve them.  Because this person had been coming for years.

Kiss it goodbye.  They were gone when I returned home after working all day.  My mother's gifted half carat diamond and my wedding band.  Two rings totally undiscovered after hours of turning the clean house upside down and going through the huge city provided garbage bin with rubber gloves.  Sifting the fine dust of the vacuum cleaner bag.  We looked everywhere and then some.  I always hoped when we moved they would fall out of a piece of furniture.

This will make you think twice before finding assistance.  Fortunately, I've only worked with amazing, hard working friends since this time.  But on days like today, now that my trusted friends have retired or moved on to less physically demanding occupations, I would love to be able to call someone up to share my load. The long handled scrub brush has finally been invented but of course, I still lean over the tub on occasion.  Because sometimes elbow grease works best from a short distance ratio.

I have dealt with the realization that the house will not be entirely ready this time when company arrives.  But I have a very good start and a few rooms for new inspiration.  And still rooms for perspiration.  But next week I am not waiting until the last minute.  I will jump in with renewed vigor Monday morning.  Because the best part, they will be back through by this weekend.  When they come in the door this time, they will need to keep their sunglasses on.  Sparkle and shine will be reflected all over the house.  Of course, they may need a key.  Because I will be immobilized propped in my chair in my office, passed out on my laptop
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with apologies to Chaucer